Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmastime is here.

The last few years I have been a real scrooge about the holidays, which is unfortunate, because now is the time I have the pleasure of sharing Christmas with my small children, and it should be magical and wondrous as I see them see Christmas.  While there have been moments of warm fuzzies and yuletide glow, I have certainly not been the best at seeking them out, or maybe even noticing them when they are in my midst.  I don't handle stress well, ask my husband - I cried the other day because we had to change our dinner plans - and while I know it is irritating most of the year, it becomes a real stumbling block during Christmastime.  Especially after we left Colorado.  Organizing travel, scheduling when we would be where, who we would be seeing for what part of the day, how to ship gifts from here to there, and there to here, shopping for gifts (my LEAST favorite - I don't like the pressure of the expectation of gifts), it all was way too much, so I was crabby, and definitely not in the Christmas spirit.  Even when we still lived in Colorado, I got so wound up over having to split a holiday and try to make sure each set of family got their time with the girls, and whatever other special holiday thing they wanted to be done.  This year has had it's share of stress - two moves, new schools for the kids, a couple of big exciting trips, a couple of heavy hearted trips that no one had planned for - and I was sure, especially since going home for Christmas was not an option this year, that scrooge would rule my attitude.  I was planning on having a crappy Christmas.  I was going to be sad, miss my mom, hate shopping for gifts, not make Christmas treats because what's the point, and just try to hurry through it and get it over with.  How could I enjoy Christmas?  My kids would miss out on opening presents with their cousins, we'd miss out on dinners downtown, my husband would miss out on his mom's traditional Christmas foods, there were so many things that would be missing from our Christmas.  The girls started bringing home the usual "winter" activities from school, and started talking about Christmas coming up.  They asked if we would be going to Colorado, and I told them that this year, we'll be having Christmas in Florida by ourselves.  "Just us?" they asked.  "Yep.  Just a quiet Christmas at home."  A quiet Christmas.  There it is.  It dawned on me that we have never had a quiet Christmas, and never at our home.  As much as Colorado is home to us, the holidays we spend there are at someone else's home, doing the things they have done Christmas after Christmas, and they lovingly invited us to be a part of it.  My thinking changed as I realized that all of the things we'd be "missing out on" would still be there - for the people who celebrated them.  We would be here, and we would not be missing out on what's here.  We would have our own, quiet, happy Christmas at home.  Thankfully, this change of heart came with plenty of time to enjoy it, and while I am still aching to spend time with our family and be a part of their Christmases, it is easier to be present here.  To be hanging paper snowflakes, to be baking those one cookies, to be thoughtful in our preparations for Christmas rather than rushing through them to get to the modest stack of packages under the tree.  I regret any bah hum bugs that may have gotten between myself and the quiet miracle of Christmas in the past, but I know this year, it will be treasured and savored, and stored away for days when clouds roll in. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving thanks.

I have been avoiding this.  For a few weeks.  I knew it was going to come, but I really didn't want to have to do it.  Even if I needed to.  I do need to.  The problem is, I am having such a hard time formulating how I want this to go, and even now, I only have a vague image in my mind of what will be said.  Raising three girls has been interesting to me, primarily because I was the only girl in my family, so watching sister relationships form is not as terrifying as I am sure some people would presume it to be.  Most days.  In my mind, having brothers was quite unfortunate, but by the grace of God, my cousin, who was only three months older than me, was also unfortunate enough to have a brother.  And so we adopted each other as "sister-cousins", which, as a teen, sounded totally dorky to say, but in all honesty was the best way to describe our relationship.  It was all the best parts of sisterhood - secrets, sleepovers, sharing make up (against my aunt's advice - I just had to try her blue mascara!), and most importantly, an ally and immediate friend - without all of the sisterly drama.  Usually.  When we were little, we lived farther away, so summers were spent trading houses for a week at a time, and any family gathering that would have otherwise been soooo boring became an opportunity to reunite with a treasured friend.  In high school, her family moved literally one neighborhood away, and their house was the first place I drove to when I got my driver's license.  We have always been very different, different enough that I wonder if we would have chosen to be friends had we not been related.  It doesn't matter.  Our differences made our relationship even more like sisters - we shared a deep history, and although there were times as we got older things like college, marriage, jobs, and babies made it hard to see each other often, or even call sometimes, any time I knew I'd see her, I felt just as giddy as I did when I was seven.  Having a sister-cousin was awesome.  Two Februarys ago, our family's heart broke.  She was diagnosed with Leukemia.  And I moved away.  She started chemo three weeks before my husband's job took us 1900 miles away, and it hurt me to the very core to be absent at a time I knew she really needed a sister with her.  Phone calls, texts, emails, became more regular, and I realized that although we were so far apart, I was feeling closer to her than I had before.  Most of our conversations were how you'd imagine two twenty-something gal's conversations to go, but sometimes they were hard, and sometimes they were just quiet.  Being on the phone together and not saying anything was enough.  I have to stop here before I go on and say that I played a very small role in a vast support system she had.  Our family is amazing, her community is amazing, and there were so many people that rallied around this person so precious to so many, that my own impact, although significant to me, was small among the great net of hands that vigilantly held her up.  I feel selfish only telling my own part, but it's the part I know best, the part I can share honestly.  Any time we traveled back to Colorado, I always made sure some bit of time was set aside just for her.  There were good visits, where we went to the movies and she dragged me all around the mall for an iPad charger, and there were quieter visits, when she was too tired to do much more than just sit together, which was fine with me.  Her journey with cancer was a roller coaster.  Things would look great, and then back track, and then look great again, and then another set back, but through all of it, I saw this person I had known my whole life transform before my very eyes - she became a vision of faith and quiet fortitude, even in her own struggle, reaching out a hand to lift those struggling around her.  It was humbling to see God working so clearly through someone I loved so dearly.  Her illness took a turn this past October, and I made the trip home I had hoped so much I wouldn't have to.  I held her hand, kissed her head, and felt privileged to stand alongside her sweet husband and my precious Aunt and Uncle and her dear brother as we gathered to love one who had loved so many.  My Aunt put it beautifully when she said that she found her miracle in Heaven.  I just loved her so much, and wanted to be able to put into words what she meant to me, but it has eluded me.  And then I was reminded, with Thanksgiving coming this week, of something special our family shared that would be just the way to say what I need to.  When we were maybe nine years old, my cousin and I decided to jazz up the Thanksgiving table with fancy name cards for each family member, but of course, we had to make it more interesting, so we gathered the name cards and each person randomly drew a name and anonymously wrote inside the card why they were thankful for that person.  When we sat down to eat, everyone would read their card aloud and try to guess who wrote it.  Some were simple ("you make good mashed potatoes"), some were hilarious ("you're such a bad-ass"), and all were genuine and sincere.  The tradition stuck, and every year, she and I wrote and passed out name cards, and we all looked forward to guessing who had made each of us feel valuable for being ourselves.  Ironically, over all of those years, I don't think I ever once drew her name.  So this year, I cheated.

I am thankful for Jenny because she humors me and lets me lead.  She is intelligent, but also spacey enough to be entertaining.  She rarely giggles, and only really laughs if something is very funny, so I'm thankful that she laughs at me.  I am thankful that she doesn't mind when my kids are noisy on the phone, or in person, and I am thankful that she loves them.  I am thankful that Jenny likes mint chocolate like me.  I am thankful that our husbands don't mind when we tease them.  I am thankful that she confides in me.   I am thankful that she always sends me a birthday gift, even though I never remember to send one to her until it's a Christmas gift anyways.  I am thankful that she never lets me mess up her beautiful hair.  I am thankful for the one time that she did.  I am thankful that we never not liked each other.  I am thankful for Jenny's beautiful voice.  I am thankful for Gunther Toody's birthday breakfast.  Any breakfast together, really.  I am thankful that she taught me how to play rummy in the camper while it was raining outside.  I am thankful that I did not ruin Logan's proposal, but that I got to be the first to congratulate them.  I am thankful that we tried that soup.  It was delicious.  I am thankful that she keeps track of things.  Better than I do, anyways.  I am thankful for Caboodle cases full of tiny nail polishes.  I am thankful for sleepovers.  I am thankful we stopped to get candy.  I am thankful for blips.  I am thankful Jenny's dorky Santa purse.  I both anticipate and enjoy it.  I am thankful we remember the same things - basement skating, leaf houses, losing the neighbor kid, the Nutcracker - and we remember them the same way.  I am thankful I was unfortunate enough to have brothers.    If I had a real sister, I might have missed out on a sister-cousin.  I am thankful for every family function she came to.  I am thankful she is honest, both in word and in action.  I am thankful we changed other plans to get a few hours here and there when I visited.  I am thankful you waited for me.  I am thankful you will be waiting for me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stuck in the middle (of my heart).

Well what do you know, it's October.  My precious little brunette angel baby turned four last week, and we celebrated with a glittery bow and arrow and my sorry attempt at a purple "ombre cake".  She couldn't have cared less about the cake; it had chocolate frosting and marshmallows on top, so who cares if the innards have been Frankensteined back together because of failure to spray the pan (oops).  She called it a "white forest cake", which doesn't really make sense, but she stuck with it, and so will I.  At four years old, the brunette is as snugly and tender as the tiny little thing she came in to the world as.  Add in some odd vocabulary (remnants of ancient language ingrained in her subconscious???), the most hilarious face contortions, epic tales of shark encounters and miracle third arm growth, and the occasional fish flop in a fit of emotional distress, and there you have my darling daughter.  She is a child of her own, and my husband and I always talk about how there's just something special about the brunette - of course we love all of our children, but if you met this one, you'd say the same thing.  I've tried my hardest throughout her short life to not treat her like a middle child - to not give her special privileges to make up for her lot in the birth order universe, but also not to deny her special privileges and cultivate the very middle child syndrome I dread.  So far, I feel like it stresses me out more than it needs to, and I am feeling like I am way over thinking it all and she is who she is regardless, and simultaneously because of, being a middle child.  She had the benefit as a newborn of having a mother who was not a fretful first time mom, but more comfortable and more likely to follow her lead than go overkill on worrying about milestones, baby food, baby gear, all of that.  She was a happy baby and an easy baby, and I really think it was because she came second.   As she gets older, being second in line has made it easier for me to teach and discipline her, as I have already worked out the kinks with the blonde (sorry baby, it's hard to be the guinea pig), but I know she struggles with seeing her older sister get to do things that she can't yet.  Fortunately, she does get to be bigger than the baby, and it pleases me so much that she is a generous and loving big sister.  She and the baby play so nicely together, and she is patient and gentle (aside from the occasional altercation, i.e. this girl's got a solid right hook), and when she could easily take advantage of being bigger, she doesn't, and I believe it is because she knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of a bossy big sister.  I just love her so much, she is beautiful and silly and a joy to spend time with, and as much as I try to even the playing field for all my girls, there is just no such thing.  They all are different people, with different personalities shaped by different experiences in our family, and the only thing I can guarantee will be the same for all of them is that they will each be loved eternally.  And that is not a bad deal.  But let's not rush eternity, I'd like to hear some more stories about the sharks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tell me about your day.

We are a week into Kindergarten, and were fortunate enough to find a preschool (finally!) that is lovely, clean, kind, convenient, and available!  The brunette was so very very very happy to hear that she really truly was going to school - it had been up in the air until the very last minute, and it made my heart ache to watch her sad little face while big sister prepared for school and she did not.  But here we are, praise the Lord, she got to start her first day of preschool this Monday.  She was bright and cheerful and didn't let on if she was feeling any jitters, while I, on the other hand, was throwing up in my mouth.  The first day of Kindergarten didn't rattle me nearly as much as this did.  I think I knew that the blonde had been to school before and wouldn't have a problem being away from home or anything, and while Kindergarten would be much different, we had had plenty of time to prepare for it - but preschool is kind of optional, and I had almost resigned myself to the brunette not being able to go, so changing gears threw me for a loop!  Preschool drop off went very smoothly, no tears, only smiles, and she even remembered the name of the teacher we had met on our tour, and aside from the fact that my husband was upset that she went to school in clunky rain boots (which we got a lot of good feedback on - "what cute boots!", by the way...), it went off without a hitch!  It was odd, and yet quite enjoyable, to scoot around town with just one little smiley two year old.  We ran all sorts of errands, and the baby was just a chatting, charming little thing!  She nibbled goldfish crackers and made small talk with old folks, and was just generally pleasant company.  It was so great, any time I get to spend with just one child at a time is so precious, they are completely different little people when they don't have to compete for attention, space, input, the rights to the Jasmine figurine that rolls around the floor of the car - it was just great.  It was equally thrilling to pick up the brunette from school and see a happy, cheeky face going on and on about Shirley in her class (really?  Shirley?), learning about the letter F, sharing princess books, making chicken Marsala (say what?), and a myriad of other way cool preschool things, many of which she later retracted and confessed to being made up, so I guess I really have no idea what she did at preschool all day.  Whether the events of the day were true or not, her attitude was one of genuine happiness, and I'll take that any day of the week.  Later, after moving through the surprisingly efficient pick up loop at the elementary school, a sad faced blondie climbed into the car with a heavy sigh.  Not a good day at Kindergarten.  I know not every day will be awesome, but it doesn't make it any easier when one of my babies has a bad one.  Kisses and hugs and reassurance and an under the table chocolate from my secret stash were all in order, and thankfully, she perked up, and was still looking forward to trying again tomorrow.  The best part of the whole day was listening at dinner to all of the girls asking and telling each other about their day - it was, now that I think about it, the first time in a long time that all three of them had been doing different things for the day.  It was so amazing to hear them take a real interest in each other's day, asking questions, giving praise to each other, comforting each other, just talking and caring about what is happening in their sisters' lives.  My husband and I said very little, and just listened - how could we interrupt such a beautiful little exchange?  It was just so... hard to put into words, just a good moment to be a parent.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A change.

My baby starts Kindergarten next week.  So far, her behavior has made it easy for me to not be an emotional wreck.  ("Is time for you to go to school yet?")  And yet...she's my baby.  My very first little precious tiny, wispy haired, round eyed baby girl.  The first person in the whole world to call me "Mama".  I tell her that all the time, that she got to call me Mama before any one else ever did, and I think, that even though she acts crazy and burps in my face, that is a special thing to her.  She is such an interesting person to love - she has an odd and witty and surprising sense of humor, and is so smart and clever, and charming and weird all at the same time.  She is so different from her sisters.  The world is her plaything; everything is a prop or a character or an inspiration for some complex and wonderful imaginary scene she participates in, and while it takes convincing to get her to participate in the daily grind, she does it with flair and attitude, which can be both frustrating, and delightfully entertaining.  I briefly considered homeschooling, but this child cannot be contained, and this Mama does not have enough water in the world to quench the thirst she has for learning and doing and trying and making and meeting and growing.  So, I send her out.  She'll be fine.  She's ready.  She's capable.  She's excited.  Although, I think school supply shopping was a bit of a let down for her.  Four boxes of crayons, some glue sticks, and a box of tissues just doesn't really let her express her "style".  But she's excited anyways.  And she reminds me.  That school is starting, that she is big now, that she can do things herself, that she might save her green blanket for watching movies and not keep it in her bed anymore.  She is so lovely and goofy and everything she should be, and I will miss her while she's at school, but that just means it will be exciting to pick her up.  My mom told me once that she always remembered my brothers and I as different sets of children - the kids as babies, the kids in school, the kids as teenagers - and it is a perfect way to explain how I am feeling about Kindergarten.  I am realizing my little baby blondie is gone, but here in her place is this new child that I already know so affectionately, but have so much to get to know and learn about.  My sweet girl.  My first big kid. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bon appetit.

My children are not great sleepers.  The blonde was the fussiest sleeper in the history of the world (look it up), and the other two girls were not a whole lot easier, except for the fact that they were able to sleep in their beds and not in my arms in a recliner at three in the morning.  Finally.  Anyways, my point is that in exchange for poor naps and almost never making it through the night without someone getting up, I have been wonderfully blessed with excellent eaters.  From the very beginning, all three girls have at least been willing to try, and often enjoyed, many different types of food.  I think part of it is that I was either too absentminded to buy enough baby food, or too lazy to make some, so more often than not, I just smashed up whatever we were eating and gave it to the kids.  Of course I made sure it was something they could actually eat (I'm not going to give a baby hot wings, but don't ask my husband the same question - have you ever seen a baby eat wasabi?  They don't like it.  And neither do their mothers.), but I wasn't one to deny anything if they seemed interested in it.  As a result, the girls are both hearty, and enthusiastic eaters, and often, they are best behaved at restaurants because, well, they are eating.  (The shoe store is another story, but I'm not ready to talk about that yet.)  The blonde is perhaps the most adventurous.  While the other girls will try what is offered, the blonde is forever seeking the "alternate menu".  On many occasions, she has ordered for herself from the appetizers because "she's in the mood for frog's legs".  Um, ew, I don't even eat frog's legs - they still look like frog's legs!  Her obsession with food has even moved into her leisure time - Bizarre Foods trumps My Little Pony's for air time, and has inspired her to hope to try fried iguana if she ever makes it to Barbados.  She even reads cook books on the side.  We have one called "500 Cupcakes", and you can bet she doesn't miss a page.  This book stays in the back of our car and gets read aloud anytime we go anywhere.  "This one is an oatmeal raisin cupcake, with vanilla frosting and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  This one is a key lime cupcake with whipped cream and a slice of lime on top.  This one..."  As interesting as it is to hear about 500 cupcakes every time we go anywhere, it is not nearly as interesting as when the three of them begin to improvise recipes.  "This one is a chocolate cupcake, but I think it would be better if you cut it in half and filled it with jello and sprinkles, and then put it back together and covered it with cream cheese frosting and put jello cut in the shape of a star on top, and then sprinkled some cinnamon on top, and then brought it to the pool for a pool party."  And the brunette adds, "Or, what if, you made a majana cupcake, and put some cherries inside, and then took the majana, majana is like bread, and then covered it with cherry flavored whipped cream, and them dipped it in gombooli, and then ate it at school."  Hmm, sounds exotic.  The baby, not to be left out, contributes her own recipe, "What if, you make, and then, and banilla, and top, and eat at school!"  A mysterious treat.  These little conversations start innocently enough, but the longer the car ride, the weirder the ingredients - I'm talking grass and wolf meat.  Where can you even get wolf meat?  Aren't they endangered?  Would these be black market cupcakes?  Their cooking creativity is, well, very creative, and while I'll never take for granted that they all share both an interest and enthusiasm for trying new foods, we might put off cooking school...for now.  Maybe wolf meat will be more readily available in twenty years.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Vacation's all I ever wanted...

We have been very busy lately.  We moved (to a house! hooray!), took a trip out to Colorado, and brought some cousins back with us for a visit here in Florida.  Needless to say, there has been a lot going on.  Our moving timeline was not as smooth as we had hoped for (we literally closed on the house the night before our Colorado trip!), so by the time it was all wrapping up, I was ready for the trip out to visit family, which translates to me reading magazines on my mom's couch while the girls coerce my parents into feeding them cookies and blowing bubbles.  (There is just something about being around another responsible adult who loves your children that gives you permission to check out and ignore the commotion for a while - thanks ma.)  We had lots of fun, saw lots of family, had a bridal shower for my sister in law, played with some old friends, drank home made root beer and had an all around lovely visit.  After a week and a half, it was time for us to go back to Florida (my husband was here all alone, probably just drinking beer and eating pizza every night...lucky), but we had a nice little treat for the trip back - my cousins, who are 17 and 9, got to come with us!  Hooray!  Free help!  I mean, how exciting for them to have a nice relaxing trip ahead!  It was a pretty big deal, the big girls don't get to travel much, and my little girls were super excited to entertain them in our new house.  My Aunt, although equally excited, was also perhaps a bit apprehensive about sending her babies 2000 miles away.  I reassured her that we have traveling down to a science (we have gained some good experience over the last year of going between Florida and Colorado, and the girls know the routine - there is no funny business at the airport), but, understandably, she wanted to go through the airport with us to send the big girls off.  Now, we don't mess around at the airport.  There is a system, and the system works very well.  Baby in the stroller, the blonde and the brunette each get a small backpack and hold on to one side of the stroller, I have my back pack, and we walk quickly, and we don't talk.  This is the system.  Unfortunately, probably because I had failed to make sure our new travelling companions were aware of it, my Aunt did not know about the system.  In line to check bags, she lovingly asked the girls about their visit, tried to hold their hands, offered to help, but to no avail.  The girls were in airport mode, and both ignored and resisted her advances of affection and disruption.  It was awesome for me - the system is chink proof! - but, I feel bad for my Aunt (they really do love you and want to hold your hand, just not at the airport).  When we made it to the gate, they did finally give her a hug and say goodbye, so hopefully the good squeezes made up for the cold shoulders.  The flight was lovely (as lovely as a flight could be), and everyone had a really great week showing off toys, swimming in our new pool (oh, I didn't mention it before?  Yeah, we have a pool now, no big deal), taking a day out at the beach, and generally smothering the visiting big girls.  It was great, and I think my Aunt will be pleased with her choice to let the big girls come out for a visit, because I am pretty sure all the hollering and pants peeing and crying and needing of attention that my little girls shared with her big girls was like a giant gift of free birth control.  Abstinence!  We were sad to see them go (my girls are already asking when they get to come back), but it is nice to take a breath now and do some normal stuff before school starts (kindergarten!).  Lazy summers?  A thing of fiction.

Monday, June 11, 2012

This just in...

When children are very small, they generally believe everything you tell them - you are, after all, pretty much their main source of information and direction, so there is little reason for them to doubt you.  As they get older, their variety and quantity of sources gets larger, and so, they begin to question you.  This is ok - it promotes exploration of their world and the way it works, it inspires investigation, trying to see if they can find their own answer to questions about their environment, their family, their world, but it also creates skepticism.  You tell your child not to touch the stove because it is hot and will burn them.  At two years old, like the baby, they pull their hands in close and back away, fearsome of the terrible hot thing in the kitchen, both believing that the stove is very hot, and that you are so wonderful and nice to tell them, and also magical for having the power to touch it yourself.  At four years old (the blonde, not too long ago), they begin to wonder "is it really hot, or is this large person just telling me that it is to keep something awesome away from me?".  The doubting child lingers, weighing the probability of whether or not the stove actually is indeed hot, and how she could possibly prove to the obviously ill-informed large person that the nature of the stove's hotness is questionable.  She lifts a finger, slowly drawing it near to the stove, hesitates for a moment, the large person tells her "don't touch it, it's hot", thus reminding the child of her quest to disprove said stove's hotness, and she quickly snaps her hands out to the stove, touches it, and invariably finds out that the large person is much smarter than she thinks and had been correct in the assertion of the stove's hotness all along.  This is when you, as a parent begin to see that statements of truth are no longer enough to convince your doubting child of your own knowledge.  You need proof, or, at very least, an outside source.  You start saying things like "well, your teacher said..." or "I learned it in school" or "it was on the news".  This last little bit about the news is particularly useful in cases of outside activity.  Here in Florida especially, swimming is available most of the year, and the girls love it, so their requests for trips to the pool come frequently.  Now, I love swimming, too, but sometimes, the work to get all of the children and their accouterments to the pool is not worth the ten minutes they last in the pool before they want to go home and have a snack.  Also, afternoon thunderstorms are common here, and no one wants to run back from the pool dragging three kids and fourteen pounds of towels and floaties and mermaid Barbies.  That said, there are times I have to say no to pool time, and in response to their "Why?  We want to!" I often back it up with a solid "the news said it's going to rain".  This is usually true, I don't ever (well, rarely) say it just because I don't feel like swimming, I only use it when I don't feel like swimming in a thunder storm.  Typically this gives me enough outside source credit to quell any protests, and so the worst I get is a smug face and a threat that tomorrow's weather better be sunny, or else.  Now, ironically, the same time when children begin to doubt their parents is the same time they start to lie.  I don't know what it is - there must be some sort of truth lobe in their brain that goes haywire between three and five years old - but along with their own doubts of my truthfulness, comes doubts of my own about theirs.  Generally, it seems, they more often lie to prevent themselves from getting in trouble - the classic "Who broke this?" "Not me!" routine - or to get something they want, or just because they can.  The brunette in particular is not only a frequent fibber, but an unshakable one.  She could have frosting all over her face and would deny to the grave that she had anything to do with the missing cupcake, and I have to say, she keeps such a stone face, I might believe her.  Even with clear evidence, it takes a lot of coercion to get her to admit to the truth.  Lately, though, the tables have turned.  Just as I have beefed up my arsenal of persuasive tactics, she, too has been working some out.  A topic will come up, like what to do today.  She'll suggest the playground.  I'll answer that although that sounds super fun, it is raining at this very moment outside, and so the playground is not a good option for today.  She rebuffs with "well, I heard on the news that it is not raining."  Oh snap, she's catching Channel 9 when I'm not looking!  I open the blinds to show her that it is in fact currently raining as we speak, but she insists, "the news said it's not."  I try to explain that some weather prediction can be wrong, and that while Doppler radar has greatly improved meteorological forecasts, there are still instances in which the news may be incorrect, as is shown by the weather situation at this time, and also, I'm pretty sure you didn't really watch the news.  "Well," she starts,  "I'm pretty sure the news said it's not raining.  And the news said that Ariel is going to be there."  Umm, what?  She even puts her shoes on here.  "What news did you watch?" I ask.  "The news."  Well, duh, THE news.  I tell her that I'm very sorry the news said there is no rain today, but I can see it outside right now, so we are going to have to go to the playground another day.  Smug face, crossed arms, disappointed brunette.  "You know, " I say, "I think the news did say that it's not raining tomorrow." 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Love and affection.

We are a loving and affectionate family.  We give hugs and kisses, snuggle for movies, and say "I love you" often.  However, each girl gives and receives affection differently, which is to be expected, since they are all very different people.  The blonde, while not really a snuggler (she even told us the night before her birthday that once she's five, we can't hold her anymore...sob sob), is quick to say sweet things and compliment her family, often offers to help or do nice things for you, and rarely turns down the offer for a soft tickle on her back, or the chance to have some alone time with you.  The brunette must have some sort of telepathy - as soon as anyone sits down on the couch, she suddenly appears, ready to take up the cozy spot under your arm or in your lap, and just melts into any crevice she can wiggle into.  She is very tender, and whispers that she loves you while her sticky hand gently smooths your hair.  The baby is just as sweet, always taking breaks from whatever she is doing to give a good squeeze and a little peck of a kiss, but what sets her apart from her sisters, is that her most loving and affectionate time is always in the most unusual of places - the toilet.  Although she is always referred to as the baby (and probably always will be), she does actually do big girl things, and is completely potty trained, but she doesn't often like to go the bathroom by herself.  She always asks you to help her, and while she sits there, doing what one would do on the toilet, she tenderly reaches out to hold your hand and smile at you, and bat her little eyelashes, and occasionally, requests a hug.  I know it seems weird, but she's just so darn cute, who can turn her down.  Sometimes, I think it's for...support, if you catch my drift (or wait a minute and catch a whiff), but I also think that for her, it's a time that she gets your full attention, and since she's got you to herself, she might as well be getting some lovin' out of it.  Before my folks came into to town for a visit, she even chattered about how Meemaw would get to help her go potty, and she would hug Meemaw's legs.  I don't know why she finds the bathroom to be the best place for hand holding and snuggles, but as long as she keeps it up (and we all wash our hands), I will take love and affection wherever it is offered.

Monday, May 7, 2012

That'll do, dog. That'll do.

We have a dog.  He is a small terrier thingy that someone gave us when the brunette was a baby, and while I don't despise him, he's not really my favorite creature.  He's cute and smallish, but he barks, jumps, scoots, and does this weird grabby thing to everyone's feet that is both unsettling and annoying (how can he wrap his paws around an ankle like that?), and he won't eat crumbs off of the kitchen floor.  Really, what kind of dog doesn't eat kitchen crumbs?  What else do you get a dog for?  Nevertheless, as annoying as he may be, he has more than secured his spot in the family by simply putting up with the girls.  He patiently sits through makeovers, costume adjustments, and bless him, he even wore a baby doll diaper the other day without so much as a nibble to get it off.  They carry him around, put him in boxes, under laundry baskets, into strollers, wrap him in blankets, and although it is done with loving intentions, I wonder how often the dog daydreams about keeping the kids hostage under a laundry basket.  My personal relationship with the dog is one of duty.  I feed him, I walk him, I bathe him, I pet him when he isn't busy being tied to the Barbie car, and I do it because it's the responsible pet owner thing to do to.  I think he feels similarly towards me - he knows I will provide nourishment and outside time, and occasionally respite from the smothering arms of the girls, but he doesn't really crawl into my lap and lick my face or anything.  We tolerate each other, and I don't expect much from him, but today may have changed my feelings for him.  I was sitting quietly, darning socks, as I usually do on Mondays (ok, I was Facebooking), and the dog came at my feet yipping and doing the weird grabby thing.  He does not often yip, he usually just goes for a solid bark, but this was, in fact, a yip.  He hopped toward me, kind of spazzy, and then jerked back and ran to the kitchen.  "Dumb dog" I think to myself, and go back to my work.  But here he comes again, yipping and jumping at my feet, then running back to the kitchen, and then back again to paw me.  Obviously, he is either starving, or is trying to tell me something.  Did I feed him this morning? Did Timmy fall in the well?  Either way, empty food bowl or neighbor boy in well (darn neighbors), I decide it is probably worth investigating and follow the dog (well, not really follow, there is a lot of weird foot grabbing here, so I mostly try not to step on him or trip on my way to the kitchen) and find out what the fuss was about.  There at the dog dish is the baby, with her head bent into the water bowl, scrubbing away at her hair.  She looks up at me, water and kibble crumbs rolling down her face and says, "me just wash hair".  The dog does a spectacular leap into the air and high fives me, landing with a keen nose pointed right at the mess that has become his water dish.  He is tattling!  And is happy to be doing so!  Well done, fine dog friend, you have a found a use beyond merely keeping the kids entertained.  I feel a bit of admiration towards this hairy little fella, and am quite pleased with him.  I clean up, refill the water dish, and give him a good scratch.  Maybe later I'll let him sit on my lap.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A father's gift

I often tell my husband that what takes him two seconds to teach the girls typically takes me two weeks to un-teach them.  Inappropriate jokes, quotes from inappropriate movies, punching at inappropriate times and for inappropriate reasons...I think you get the idea.  Don't get me wrong, my husband is a loving and responsible father, it's just that he can't resist stirring them up, and I think he enjoys the rise he can get out of me when I hear one of our precious children hollering "say hello to my little friend!".  While some of the "wisdom" he imparts upon our offspring is purely for his own enjoyment (see Scarface reference), some of it is actually valuable, like how to throw a proper punch.  The problem is that once the skill has been taught, he and the kids get to practicing and skip over the part of the lesson in which one would usually outline when and where would be an acceptable time to put this skill to use - i.e., not at the kitchen table while we are eating dinner.  One particular skill that he has demonstrated for the girls has seemed to gained favor with them, as they see any time as a good time to use it - spitting.  I'll take a moment here to say that I do not hate that he showed the girls the right way to spit.  I was (and still am) one of those dorky kids who ended up fishing watermelon seeds out of my shirt in the summertime while trying to hide the long dribble of spit hanging off of my chin because of my inability to spit for anything.  Honestly, I still miss the sink when I brush my teeth.  It's a tragedy, and downright embarrassing.  However, as useful as it is to spit, there's something...hillbilly...about just doing it to do it.  A few weeks ago I picked up the blonde from school and as we were walking back to the car, she turned her head to the side, cleared her throat and hocked a loogie right there on the sidewalk.  I was stunned.  Here was this blonde little pigtailed girl in a rainbow skirt and fashion boots (her words, not mine) slinging loogies like it's nothing.  She didn't even think anything of it, just kept walking to the car as I stood there staring at sizable, bubbly spit right there at my feet.  Gross, and yet, astonishing.  I could never spit that coolly - it would be a big production for me to work up a good spit in the first place, and then to spit it all out at once, without any of it dripping down my front or getting in my hair on the way would be a miracle, and besides that, she was walking at the same time.  Remarkable.  Once I got over my amazement at the fruit of my husband's teaching, I realized I should probably address the spitting at school, particularly since I wasn't the only mom who saw it, and I was the only one who was impressed.  I told the blonde she shouldn't spit on sidewalks where people walk, and should try not to do it at school, unless she really must spit, then she should excuse herself to the bathroom and spit in the sink.  MISTAKE.  I should never have even said anything, because as soon as I drew attention to it, she took it as a sign that I had acknowledged her role as a "spitter", and now she must honor this designation by going into the bathroom regularly to spit into the sink, and eventually to spit into the toilet.  Naturally, the brunette takes notice and decides that she, too, must spit - only, bless her heart, with a bit less finesse than the blonde.  And a bit less concern for where she spits.  She spit on this very keyboard.  No joke, just came right up to the computer, and let it go right here on the semi-colon.  Wiped her chin and left it at that.  Now I am faced with the terrible dilemma of frequent spitter children, and the constant worry of putting my hand in a loogie.  We've long since passed the two week deadline to un-do my husband's handiwork, but I have to say, I might just deal with it for a while longer.  I hear county fair prizes are pretty sweet for long distance spitting.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ha ha ha

Anyone who spends even a small amount of time with a small child can easily discover that children often go to extremes in expressing their emotions.  It is understandable that as a new member to society and it's emotional waves, a child may have a difficult time translating what he or she is feeling in an appropriate way.  After all, it can be devastating to wrap a little mind around the tragedy of a case brimming full of donuts at the super market and not one of them getting to be eaten by you.  A tantrum is an easy example of this dilema.  In a mere moment, a docile creature becomes a raging beast to be reckoned with, and just as quickly as the beast appeared, it dissolves into a whimpering puppy-child, large teary cartoon eyes and everyting.  Heartbreaking.  And also kind of inconvenient, because aside from not knowing how to properly show emotion, kids are also oblivious to the notion that Target is not really the place to do it.  There is one emotion, however, that I really think benefits from their exaggerated range of expression - amusement.  Have you ever heard a kid laugh?  It is awesome.  Not only will a kid laugh at just about anything - a dog with it's tongue hanging out, farting and burping, the word "tortilla" - but when they do laugh, they really put a solid effort into it.  There's no demure giggling or lighthearted chuckling, it's a real, forced, highly entertaining laugh.  Whenever the blonde laughs at something lately, she really goes for it - throwing her head back, falling on the floor, clutching her stomach - and she sounds like a weird combination of Ricky Ricardo and a sea lion.  It is both odd and also entirely appropriate, because her sister trying to put chapstick on is just that funny.  The best part is that when the blonde has finally caught her breath, she stands up, rolls her eyes and lets out a good long sigh.  A satisfactory laugh.  The brunette, as usual, does absolutely nothing even remotely similar to the blonde, so when she finds herself tickled by something, she generally breaks into hysterical giggles followed by a piercing scream.  Not my favorite, but she has a pretty cute bubbly giggle, and I generally expect the scream, so I just make the necessary prepations for it.  The baby is especially funny, and I think part of it is because she has always kind of laughed weird, and now it's hard to tell if this is just natural, or if she is tapping into everyone being amused by her and milking it.  She starts out with a regular chuckle, and then it takes a turn for borderline worrisome as she sticks her tongue out just a tiny bit, leans her head forward, and lets out a motor-coughing sound, followed by a brief moment of just holding her breath (this is where I always begin to question "Is she laughing? Is she choking?  Oh, no she's fine") and a long gasp.  So, um, weird, but her sisters all think it's a riot, so as long as she doesn't ever pass out or anything, I think we'll just let this be what it is - hilarious.  As animated and over the top as they are, one thing is for certain - whether they are throwing a tantrum or rolling around laughing, there is nothing more amusing than a crazy child.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Among many other things happening in recent weeks (potty training, a trip to Colorado, frequent nervous breakdowns over the impending end of our lease) we have decided to finally get new beds for the girls.  I know I have mentioned it here in the past, and I am proud to say that after much deliberation and teary sad mama reflection (I was sure that if I kept them in small beds, they'd stay small forever, but alas, they continue to grow), the blonde and brunette each have their very own twin bed, complete with box spring and metal frame of death.  The blonde informed me that while she was pleased with the new furniture, it was really unnecessary, as she does not sleep.  No, she just lays awake in her bed all night while her sisters sleep - she just waits for it to be morning and occasionally rests her eyes, which is not to be mistaken with falling asleep.  Yes.  This is not the first time she has mentioned this little tid bit of information, and I have even heard her tell other people, which of course leads to a judgemental "you let your child stay awake all night?" raised eye brow face of disdain.  No, she does not really stay awake all night, and if she did, it would not be because I am "letting" her.  It would be because she is too sneaky about it for me to find out.  Either way, sleeping or not, as long as there is quiet, I won't complain.  Now, if they are getting out of their beds, that is another story, and it is proving to be quite a problem for the baby.  Since her sisters got new beds, it is only fair that she would also get an upgrade, so the crib came down and she moved into one of the toddler beds.  At first I was very excited for this, because typically in the mornings, all of the girls would wake up and leave the baby in the room alone, crying in her crib until my husband or I came in to free her from crib prison, since she, or her sisters, for that matter, never ventured to attempt climbing out of the crib on their own.  In a toddler bed, she could easily get out of bed in the morning with her sisters, and maybe I could get an extra minute or two in my own bed while they play quietly before breakfast.  Apparently I had failed to connect that getting out of bed in the morning goes hand in hand with getting out of bed at nap time, bed time, in the middle of the night, and any other time the baby gets an urge to be up exploring.  And by exploring, I mean cleaning out the dressers.  In the first day alone, every time she came out of her room when she should have been sleeping, she had a different combination of clothing on, none of it her own, and flittle of it on the right body part.  After light scolding and reminding her that even though she can get out of bed, she must stay in it to sleep, she eventually got tired enough to give up, albeit only half in the bed.  The next day, I was a bit more prepared and started nap time with a firm reminder that she must not get out of bed.  Success!  She didn't come out one time, and the room was so quiet, there was no way she could be up to trouble.  Fast forward a couple of hours, and I decide I can't contain it, I have to see for myself that my tiny baby is sleeping in her big bed, so I gently open the door and look to the bed, but there is no baby.  Instead, there is a fountain of clothing streaming from the dresser drawers down to a pile on the floor, in the midst of which lies the baby, sleeping, with her sister's shirt on, an exposed little behind, and one leg in some pajama pants.  Naturally, I tell my husband to come see, and we stand in the room quietly cracking up, and trying to find the video camera to document the shenanigans for future blackmail purposes.  We leave her on the floor, not willing to risk moving her to the bed, and close the door so she can finish her nap.  As is expected at this point, the spends the remainder of the week falling asleep on the floor mid-mischief, and her sisters ignore her as they enjoy the novelty of their own new beds, sleeping, or not sleeping, growing all the while.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The witching hour

Without fail, four o'clock in the afternoon comes around and my children transform.  Whatever kind of day we had been having up until this point, whether is was a magical day full of glorious motherhood moments, a lazy stay at home and play nicely day, or a day spent out around town in the party van, four o'clock turns a switch in the girls' programming and they unleash their inner animals.  Their behavior during this time is not necessarily bad, it is just wild and uncontrollable, and of course, it coincides perfectly with the unavoidable slump in my energy that follows a day of good old fashioned child rearing.  Usually, this is the time of day that any attempt at living media free falls apart.  Sure, I begin the morning telling myself that we will spend the whole day without watching television, because there are so many marvelous ways to be creative and make our own fun, and sometimes I manage to stick with it...until four.  The natives over take me and I submit to their chanting and clawing, and those little friends with the awesome dance moves regain their rightful place in our family home.  Even with the sweet drone of irritatingly catchy fresh tunes, the shenanigans are not entirely avoided.  Mere moments ago, the blonde and the brunette were working affectionately together to build a pillow house to share, but the clock chimed four and suddenly the blonde's work must not have been up to code, because the brunette smashed and destroyed the whole thing (see last post for more detail on her destructive nature).  Unsurprisingly, a fight broke out, much to the amusement of the baby, who both cheered and reprimanded from the safety of the top of the kitchen table, shouting out "one meenut, one meenut!".  They scratched, they kicked, they shouted, and what did I do?  Well I already turned on cartoons, what else do you want from me?  A joke, people - obviously I hollered for them to stop.  They ignored me, I got the baby off the table, she got in a few swings, and it fizzled out on it's own.  After this, DVD shelf wreckage is likely to ensue, follow by couch jumping, crying, yelling, throwing, and the like.  But I have a theory on the purpose of what is known around here as the witching hour - while it does no favors for me, it does wonders for my husband.  As soon as he walks in the door, the chaos halts and the girls run happily into his arms, relieved to have a parent home who is not at their wits' end - he is fresh meat for their play schemes and tea party rotation.  I, of course, push the kids out of the way to run into his arms (not really push, just side step and nudge), relieved to have an adult home to talk to me about something outside of the realm of princess fantasy land.  I begin to wonder, is this his own elaborate scheme to stay at the top of our favorites list?  Does he have some sort of mind control powers that set us girls in a state of frenzy at the stroke of four, stirring up a mad house for him to sweep in and turn around upon his awaited arrival home?  As suspicious as it seems, I have little evidence to go on that would suggest trickery on my husbands part.  Whatever it is that sets the witching hour in motion, it is in full swing.  He should be home in twenty six minutes...

Friday, January 13, 2012

The destroyer

My middle daughter, the brunette, is three now, and whoever decided to call it the terrible twos, obviously hadn't seen three yet.  Three is challenging.  When the blonde was three, she was defiant, resistant to both the toilet and time out, a master of temper tantrums, and a although a novice, a regular back-talker.  There were days I just wanted to leave her on the front porch until her father came home (but of course, I'm a responsible parent and never did - besides, sitting out there from lunch time until my husband came home is an awfully long time).  The brunette, while sharing some of these frustrating talents, has found her own special way to leave her mark on the third year.  She is a destroyer.  Of all things, both nature and man made.  A lovely flower in bloom?  Not for long - petals are not merely plucked, but shredded, and a twisted and lifeless stem is left shriveling on the sidewalk.  Junk mail left on the counter?  Make that microscopic pieces of paper strewn wildly throughout the house.  An awesome new toy?  Scrap plastic.  It is amazing, and not merely because she is demolishing everything in her reach, but because she does so without the slightest change in temperament.  Normally, a person would think tearing things apart and smashing stuff would be a sign of frustration or anger, but the brunette is a stoic angel - who is pulling a pillow inside out.  And it is not just dinging things up, it is breaking, dismembering, picking apart, utterly destroying things.  If she could, I'm sure she'd find a way to set it all ablaze at the end.  Yikes, right?  My only comfort is that I'm pretty sure she is not doing it with malicious intent.  After all, more often than not, the things she is choosing to destroy are her own things.  She doesn't take her sisters' toys captive, and so far, all of our electronics are safe.  I suppose she cold just have an interest in mechanics - how does the play mixer work?  Let's smash it to smithereens and find out!  Or maybe there's an underlying interest in anatomy - it might explain all of the Barbie heads and miscellaneous limbs from other toys at the bottom of the bucket (Dr. Frankenstein?)  Maybe, she has super human strength and isn't really meaning to break everything but just hasn't yet learned how to harness her awesome powers and use them for good.  Maybe.  Until she either gets called to join the X Men or grows out of it, I'll just try to look on the bright side of this destructive phase - the sooner she destoys all of those kids meal toys, the sooner I'll get to throw them out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Ask anyone, and they will tell you how incredibly creative and artistic I am.  It's my "thing".  I was terrible at both sports and social interaction as a child, and so, whether by default or actual skill and interest, I took to creating craft projects alone in my room.  It was heaven.  I was a whiz with the glue gun, and could turn any shoe box and scrap of fabric into a four poster Edwardian Barbie bed.  Magic.  Obviously, Barbies are only cool until you're fourteen (right?....), so I eventually evolved my crafting into actual art projects, using actual art supplies.  My parents lovingly accepted and encouraged my interest in art and resulting rejection of socialization, and didn't question my home-made, sometimes fashionably questionable additions to my hair, backpack, shoes, whatever.  If I could get my hands on it, I Modge Podged the living daylights out of it.  My then-boyfriend and now-husband (yes,we're high school sweethearts, how cute, it happens in real life) found it endearing (I think) that I'd show up with hand crafted tokens of teenage love for him, and would trail behind me at art museums while we we dating.  I even made it through three semesters towards an art degree before morning sickness and the prospect of diaper changing trumped my indie hippie art maker tendencies and turned me into the respectable conservative I am today (ha ha ha ha ha, irony at it's finest).  Of course, babies need crafted tokens of love, too, so I left one medium for another, and turned to knitting crazy things and painting super cool murals on my kid's walls.  I dabbled in arts and crafts when I found the time and energy, trying to stay fresh and have a good outlet for the mama crazies (you know what I'm talking about).  As the girls got bigger, I got excited thinking about all the awesome art projects and crafting skills I'd impart on them.  Starting small and easy, I got crayons, stickers, colored paper, stuff like that, and then when it was all set up and I had finished my model, I let the girls join.  Right away, something was not right.  Instead of being the free spirited fun loving who cares if there's a mess we are making art magic mom I had thought I'd be, I found myself hovering and anxious about crayon getting on the table, stickers over lapping and improper use of materials (i.e. as food items).  What is happening?  They are not making art, they are making a mess!  I'd panic and cut it short, and of course, the girls would be disappointed.  Every time the girls would ask to "make projects", I would have a terrible nastiness welling up inside of me, thinking about all of the stuff I'd have to get out, all of the stuff I'd have to clean up, and all of the stuff I'd have to put away.  It didn't help, either, that their skill levels were completely different, so while the blonde could handle a glitter pen fairly well, the brunette could not, but would want to because her sister did, and I would have to intervene to stave off glitter clumps.  The baby just ate stuff and stood on the table.  It made for a stressful endeavor.  I knew this was awful, this was not the kind of mom I wanted to be, but I just couldn't shake my aversion to making crafts with the girls.  In an attempt to change it, I got the blonde a craft supply bucket for Christmas last year thinking that the new materials would make it more fun for both of us, but it turns out I dreaded puffy balls and popsicle sticks more that I hated watercolors.  On the other side, this craft bucket opened the blonde's eyes to a whole world of crafting possibilities, and her natural interest in art projects grew.  Every day, she would ask to do a project, and most times, regrettably, I'd either sneakily put it off until it was too late to get out the craft bucket, or I'd get it out and hover irritably over every drop of glue.  Not fun.  Not for me, anyways.  The blonde was well aware of my hovering, and did not like it.  She had her own vision, and I was ruining it, and one day, she simply reminded me "I can do it myself".  Bam.  Right in the heart.  She can do it herself.  She can do it well, even, for a four year old.  Alright then, here's some paper, some paint, some glue, feathers, puffy balls, have at it.  And how nice it was.  She thoroughly enjoyed crafting on her own, and I enjoyed just watching.  We chatted about whatever she was making, and although the brunette still required some assistance, I began to remind myself that she, too, can do it herself.  Mostly.  Kind of.  She was only sort of interested anyways.  Slowly, I am finding myself relaxing a bit over the prospect of crafting, and the blonde has made out this Christmas with a new plethora of art supplies and craft projects, so I will have plenty of opportunity to remind myself that hovering is not required, and kids art supplies are washable.  I know it will get easier as they get older, but who am I to deny the joy of being creative now.  I can say one thing, I am grateful that my parents were supportive of my interests as a child, and I hope to do the same for my own children, but I can't help but wonder if the fact that I crafted alone in my room made it easier for my mom to be encouraging - she never saw the hot glue on the carpet or the bottle of sequins spilled down the vent.  Well, maybe as soon as we get over the scissors hump, my girls can craft in secret, too.