Friday, December 18, 2015

Life with a Toddler

It is slightly amazing how much I repressed or forgot about Charles’s and Jamie’s toddler stages as they have grown older.  There’s always so much going on, and they’re so interesting to me now, that the previous developmental stages have sort of faded into the background until, occasionally, I realize that I don’t have to do *that* anymore (nurse while cooking eggs, puree baby food, stop sixteen times to go potty on the way to the grocery store).  Except that Freddie is now a full-blown, speed-demon, illogical toddler with the advantage of two older brothers to distract his parents.  I should have realized by now that I need to do *that* again, whatever *that* is (lock up the dog food, for instance, because Freddie is intent upon feeding Buster the ENTIRE CONTENTS of his food drawer every time I turn around and so help me God, I cannot stand another episode of dog flatulence in MY ROOM in the middle of the night).

Signs You’re Living With A Toddler:

The toilet paper in your bathroom has had the top twenty yards unrolled and then rerolled recently.

Toothbrushes are scattered throughout the house and most of them look like they’ve been used to brush the dog’s fur.

Does is smell like poop in your house?  Or at least in one room?  You can’t tell anymore, but your guests always wrinkle their noses upon entering your home.

Mouthfuls of food are seemingly dropped at random, leaving a disgusting Hansel-and-Gretel-like trail to follow, the end of which is NOT a gingerbread house, but rather a small person who somehow gained access to a stash of peanut butter pretzels.

It requires advanced knowledge of lock-picking to access any of the toddler-proofed cabinets, especially where you store the alcohol.

Toddler-proofing the alcohol supply seemed legit at the time, but has turned into the worst idea ever.  You’re basically brain dead at the end of the bedtime routine, so gaining access to the liquor cabinet is of the utmost importance and also has turned into a bizarre Olympic event with one spouse straining to de-childproof the damn lock and the other spouse alternately whispering encouragement and offering criticism, neither of which is well-received.

There are smudgy fingerprints all over your glasses… and your walls… and your windows.

If you lose focus on your child for five seconds to do some important dinner preparation, the child will vanish, only to reappear at the top of the stairs with several pairs of your panties and a bra on his head.

Your shoulders are like an abstract art installation that is also a visual history of what your child had to eat today.

Your child prefers to eat all meals sitting in the middle of the dining table, digging his hands directly into the bowl of spaghetti or cauliflower or salad.

Your daily physical fitness routine consists of bending over to pick up the truck/cup/bowl/paper/ball that was tossed on the floor a second ago with an insufferably cute “uh-oh!” but is now vital for the continued existence of the universe.

It’s always loud.  Until it is quiet, and then you just know that someone small has discovered where you hide the Band-Aids and is busy covering himself with them.

Nothing in the whole damn world is as sweet as that littler person laying his head on your shoulder for a snuggle, wrapping his sticky fists in your hair.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Yes, We Will Talk of Poop

I do not understand why “potty humor” is humorous, but let me tell you, my kids understand.  I have come to accept it, and I think that’s all we can really expect of this poor, outnumbered soul (ME) whose days are filled with fart noises and peeing contests (their favorite thing is to cross the streams while peeing into the same toilet or onto the same patch of grass – it always makes me think of Ghostbusters).


In addition to the funny stuff, we have many serious discussions about poop in our house.  Did you go today?  Does it hurt when you go?  Are you done yet?  (Honestly, WHY does it take the male half of the human race SO LONG?  Do they want to hang out with their own stink for half an hour?)  Since this summer presented my children with some constipation issues (not enough water, among other things), we have been militant about fiber and water consumption and as a parent, I’ve been on a crusade to make it all work out, so to speak.  We’ve seen the chiropractor, the kids take supplements, and then there’s this:



Each person in our family now poops with a stool under his or her feet (with the exception of Freddie, for obvious reasons), and I can assure you that the whole process is much faster and better.  The problem, of course, is that one of my children is too short for his feet to touch the ground in a public restroom and is no longer willing to poop without a stool. 


So guess what?  I get to be the stool.


photo (48)


I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to kneel on the floor in a public bathroom stall just so my kid can poop happily.  If that’s not a mother’s love, I don’t know what is.


I did, recently, find one poop experience funny: I had made some beet salad and was enjoying it when Freddie reached for some.  I let him try it, thinking that I would be treated to another of his “what the hell, mom?” faces, but instead he started shoveling in pieces of vinegar-soaked beets hand over fist until my lunch was gone (another example of maternal love: foregoing lunch for one’s tiny monsters).  We all know what beets look like, umm, later, so I warned Tony not to be surprised (spoiler: he was surprised).  After dinner, in a shocking display of good timing (for me), I left the boys to bounce off the walls together (I used to think that was just an expression, but oh no – it’s literal) while I ran an errand.  When I came back, there were purple spots all over the carpet, along with rags and carpet cleaner just waiting for a break in the action to be used (or, more likely, waiting for me to come home and deal with it).  Turns out the beets went right through Freddie and the resulting, fiber-rich movement could not be contained by his diaper.  I know I shouldn’t laugh at my husband’s distress, but I couldn’t help imagining him wandering around the house, wondering why on earth there was purple shit all over the floor.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Detritus of My Brain

Here are a few odds and ends of late:


Tony’s birthday was yesterday, but despite his best effort to be enthusiastic about his gift (a T-shirt for him that says “Sleep Deprived” paired with a onesie for Freddie that says “Sleep Depriver”), it was an utter disaster and we’re staging a re-do tonight.  You see, my dear husband was sick yesterday.  Violently ill is not something anyone wants to be on their birthday, so we’re planning the steak dinner and candles in the chocolate chip cookies for tonight.  I think maybe he doesn’t much care about birthdays anyway, but the kids and I do.




Charles and Jamie have been working on their Christmas lists all year long.  Their most-desired items:

  • A rocket launcher
  • Night-vision goggles
  • A jet pack
  • A skateboard
  • Rocket shoes


I’m thinking there’s going to be some disappointment on Christmas morning.




We were at dinner the other night, talking about robots (as one does).  Jamie had been on a big trip with Grandpa Roger to pick up a large toolbox at Harbor Freight Tools for my business.  He got to watch the forklift unload the toolbox and was super excited about all of the new tools and claimed that he was going to go to the office to build a robot with all of those new tools.  Charles was excited at this prospect, too, until Jamie exclaimed, “Yep, and my robot will pick you up and put you in the garbage!”  Best purpose for a robot ever.




We have an Elf on the Shelf named Cheese (curse you, Liz, for starting this time-intensive tradition).  Much like Toy Story, the damned elf comes “alive” every night and encourages lying to my children in the name of Christmas.  They love the fucking thing.  Most nights he just moves from place to place throughout the house, but since this is the first holiday season in a LOOOOONG time that hasn’t been plagued by illness, pregnancy, hospitalization, or a major business event, I’ve started to get a bit more creative.  Thankfully, I have boys, so if Cheese the Elf’s antics reflect my disdain for the added stress of creating elaborate scenes for an inanimate object, they think it’s hilarious.  Pretty soon, the Elf will devolve to drinking whiskey with a straw.  Cheese was already strung up in Spiderman’s web (dental floss) the other night; even our other toys are already tired of Cheese’s shit, and it’s only December 2nd.




I continue to amaze myself with the words that come out of my mouth.  A few recent gems:


“Don’t sit on your brother’s face!”

“Don’t lick your shoe!”

“No, you may not pour syrup on the dog!”




My life is so glamorous.  The other night, as the kids were winding down before bed, I curled up in the recliner with a book.  Charles climbed in with me to snuggle and read his own book.  Just as I was thinking, “Ahh, this is so nice, the two of us snuggling and reading together,” he farted on me.  Loud and STINKY, I had to abandon my perch quickly or risk passing out.  Charles laughed uproariously.  Tony lectured him that farting on people is rude (speaking of conversations that I didn’t think we’d ever have: that bit or politeness seemed self-evident), but just as I began to breathe normally again, Charles came over, apologized, then FARTED AGAIN and laughed like he was the funniest person on the planet.  I screamed and began to asphyxiate on the indescribable stench – I swear, that kid can compete with the stupid dog for a stinky flatulence award, and if you have a dog, then you know how bad dog farts can be.  Then I promptly sent him to bed so as to confine the reek to his room.  Poor Jamie.  His dreams were undoubtedly noxious that night.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writing About Vomit AGAIN

Three things I learned last night:


1. I have super vomit hearing.  The moment a child of mine begins to hurl, I pop wide awake, even from a dead sleep.  No baby should have to puke without the comforting presence of a parent to hold them, so I instantly wake up and then I immediately elbow Tony in the ribs so he runs to the sick child.  Tony was barfed on three times last night, I wasn’t barfed on at all, so I think that makes this a superpower.


2. Freddie doesn’t chew his food.  The first bout of stomach upheaval reminded all of us that we had chili for dinner and had me and Tony picking up whole beans from the floor and out of the bathtub (the bathtub is a convenient place to hold a puking child).  Granted, Freddie doesn’t have many teeth, but I thought for sure that he gummed more of his bites than that.


3. Buster values his sleep.  Not even the nearby chunks of baby vomit or the frantic activity of two parents waving their hands over a sick baby will get that dog to move from his convenient sleeping spot in the middle of the hall.  He snorted at us a few times, though, obviously perturbed by the activity.




Poor baby.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Installment of “Being A Parent Is Awesome”

My car smells faintly like vomit.  It’s as awesome as it sounds.


Jamie was the first to vomit in our car, almost a year ago, but this time, I was the hurler.  I came home from work, felt fine, went for a run, felt fine, picked up Charles, started to feel bone-tired, jumped in the van to go pick up the kids and all of the sudden was NOT FINE AT ALL.  I called Tony to go get the littles from daycare as I was going to turn the car around and hope to make it home before I spewed.  No such luck.  In an act of extreme disrespect for the dead, I started vomited just as I passed the cemetery.  I pulled off on the next street and finished the job while Charles and Buster hung their heads out the window, trying to get away.


In my defense, I had a plastic bag (hello, I drive a van, of course I had a plastic bag), but driving and vomiting is a tricky act, and I missed.  I drove the last quarter mile home with a sack of puke in my lap, riding the high before the next wave.


When you’re the mom, you have to clean up after your own damn self.  You have to rinse off the floor mat, you have to grab the windex and the paper towels, even if you still feel terrible.  You have to start the load of laundry after you strip your barfed-on clothes and shoes in the laundry room.  You have to make sure that the dog gets out and the children are okay before you can lie down and moan.  And then later you get to clean the toilet and then the car again and do the puke laundry and wipe down all door handles to inhibit the spread of germs.


I think we can all agree that life was better when our moms cleaned up after our sick messes. 


Much like the last time I got food poisoning (what did I eaaaaaat???), I have vowed never to get sick again.  It’s perhaps the main reason we’re not having any more children.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mr. Seven

Sometimes I look at Charles and I see how small he still is.  He still has a roundness to his cheeks, a softness to his skin, and the movements of a little guy: he throws his whole body into action, whether he is bouncing on the pogo stick or climbing a tree.  He has none of the physical reserve and caution of movement displayed by, say, a ten-year-old.  But then sometimes the juxtaposition of this 52-inch tall boy with his younger brothers hits me right in the heart and I see him for the big kid he is: reading chapter books with frenzy as if they were as important as breathing air (they are, my young bibliophile), building LEGOs for hours on end, talking seriously with me about math homework or foster care or Minecraft.


2015 11-08 Dad's camera 570


He’s seven years old now, and he’s not screwing around anymore.  He’s serious.  And God help the person who doesn’t take him seriously.



He actually said that to me.


Much like his parents, he prefers to be busy all the time.  He reads, builds LEGOs, plays outside, plays inside, or loudly complains of being bored, at which point I make him vacuum or unload the dishwasher (it’s working – he doesn’t complain of being bored much!).  He would rather that we always, ALWAYS go somewhere to do something, and that preference is rubbing off on Jamie, who asks me every night as I kiss him goodnight, “Mom, what are we doing fun tomorrow?”  Indoor bike park, outdoor skate park, Children’s Museum, Jungle Playland, outdoor park, swimming, costumes, LEGOs, train sets, Lincoln Logs… it’s downright exhausting being their mother.  For his birthday, he chose roller skating because it’s not much of a party if we’re not sweaty and running into each other.




Charles, of course, doesn’t run into anyone.  His best friend beat him in the race, and he humbly congratulated his buddy, but now he’s even more determined to practice.


2015 11-08 Dad's camera 554  2015 11-08 Dad's camera 514 


He chose pie instead of cake.  My kids might not look much like me, but they are mine.  They choose pie for their birthdays and they love to read.  Blood will out, as they say.


2015 11-08 Dad's camera 548


I guess the best endorsement for our parenting is that Charles is wonderful kid.  He loves his brothers and works hard to make them laugh and take care of them, he has kind friends, and (other than in photos) he smiles a lot.  His occasional tantrums and frustrations serve to remind me that he is still a little boy and he still needs his mom and a gentle touch.


Sometimes.  Other times, he gives me a look and says, deadpan, “Mom, thank you cards are LAME.”  So there’s one fight I get to have this weekend.  Thank you cards for birthday gifts might be a bit late, friends.


*Thank you, Joe, for the lovely photos.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Squishy Squash

My children love squash.  I told Charles once, long ago, that it was “nature’s candy” because it was so sweet and I guess that convinced him.  He will happily request it as a vegetable with dinner and he laments the summers when we can’t buy acorn, delicata, or carnival squash.


I really, really like butternut squash, but it’s a bit more difficult for the kids to enjoy.  It’s more dense, for one thing, and not as sweet, for another.  Charles and Jamie gamely make their ways through a serving of butternut squash, but never a very big one, and never seconds.  Smaller, sweeter varieties are where it’s at for my boys.


The last butternut squash I cooked was HUGE, so there were lots of leftovers.  Despite the looks of disgust on my older boys’ faces, I made muffins with that leftover squash and I am now claiming to be a genius of the highest order.  I’ll share my magic with you because you, too, deserve to eat awesome (healthy-ish) muffins.




Butternut Squash Muffins


2 Cups cooked butternut squash

1 Cup milk (I used whole milk)

1 1/2 Cups whole wheat flour

1/2 Cup sugar

2 Teaspoons baking powder

1/4 Teaspoons salt

2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 Beaten egg

2 Tablespoons melted butter


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Puree squash with the milk (an immersion blender works nicely for this).  Add egg, butter, and squash puree to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Spoon mixture into lined or greased muffin tins.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I could use some more coffee right now.

Before I had even turned on the car to take my littles to preschool this morning, I had screamed, and I mean screamed, at my kids twice, taken away Jamie’s toys for the rest of the day, soothed a devastated Charles after Jamie soaked his favorite shirt in an unauthorized (of course) water fight, mopped the bathroom after said water fight, and given Freddie his first taste of chocolate chips in an attempt to distract him from the horrifying contusion on his hand after Jamie shut it in the car console.  It was a shitty morning, made more so by an intense, although abbreviated due to child-minding, self-hatred session in front of my mirror.  All of my sweaters and leggings are still on my bed, the bedding from both bunks and the dog bed are strewn around the house, and the sink is piled high with dishes.


Jamie is just so four years old and I am running low on patience.  When Tony is there, we balance each other – I can see him getting stressed and impatient, so it keeps my own frustration in check.  Likewise, when I am at the end of my rope, Tony calms me and steps in to keep the kids on track.  Those days are few and far between; we are in the midst of the busy season of life, marked by long and stressful hours at work and multiple family demands.  Stress takes its toll, and more often than not, we have to captain this ship of fools alone.  I feel like I’m holding a bag of rabid, screeching, flapping bats closed and losing my grip.


The negative self-talk doesn’t help, but it’s absurdly difficult to stop.  Sometimes, I feel decent-looking.  Yesterday, even though my skin is more awful than usual and trending toward the most awful skin time of the month, I felt pretty.  Today, when I looked in the mirror, I felt haggard and old, droopy and saggy.  I want to be fashionable, but my body type is not fashionable; ten years ago, my silhouette worked well with midi-hem skirts and boot-cut jeans, but in the modern era of skinny jeans and maxi- or mini- skirts, my pear-shaped form simply looks ridiculous.  Shopping for clothing that is both fashionable and not cringe-worthy on my form takes time and money that I don’t have.  I am getting old, and my skin, breasts, and belly show it.  I exercise all the time for minimal results, and I bear the consequences of each missed workout or run in the fit of my jeans the very next day.  If only I could reconcile the instant gratification of chocolate and alcohol with the self-deprivation truism, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”


I wish I didn’t blow up so often, but it happens.  And then I apologize.  And then the kids apologize.  Then we talk about why I got frustrated and what we can all do better tomorrow.  Then I feel terrible, the pit in my stomach growing with each daily confirmation that I am a despicable parent.  I kiss and hug and reassure them of my love, berating myself in my internal monologue.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  I’m hopeful for a better day tomorrow, and the crazy thing is that somewhere in the deep recesses of my soul, I actually believe it could happen.  Like, one magical day, my clothes will all look good and my kids will do what they’re told and we’ll have a totally harmonious morning and I’ll think, “Ahhhh… this is the life!”  Dreams: they keep me going almost as much as caffeine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


It’s National Chocolate Day.  We interrupt our usual complaints about life to bring you these important chocolate-related distractions:


Mug Cake.  I probably don’t need to say any more.  I mean, those two tiny words imply volumes.  Cake?  In a MUG?  Yes, and in the microwave, too.  I *might* be the type of person who eats her feelings, and this cake has served as a “fuck you all, I’m having cake” cake and an “Aaaagh!  I can’t take it anymore, I need cake” cake.  Other occasions for mug cake include: “I’m exhausted,” “I hate ironing,” “These fruit flies are seriously driving me nuts,” “Why won’t the dog stop barking?” and “I’m pretty sure there’s something spilled under the couch but I just can’t right now.”


Use a big mug.  One of those stupid, oversize ones that are only ever used for soup and novelty gifts (or use a soup bowl, but don’t use a standard mug) (maybe this should be re-titled “bowl cake”).  Mix 1/4 C flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 T cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and a pinch of salt together.  Add 3 T melted butter, 3 T whole milk or cream or half-and-half, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp vanilla, a handful of chocolate chips or a big spoonful of nutella, and 1 T of water and mix.  Microwave for 80 seconds and eat the WHOLE DAMNED THING BY YOURSELF.


Red wine is starting to give me headaches the morning after I drink it.  I still buy it by the box (so classy), but I’ve cut my consumption like crazy.  I feel better, and I’ve slimmed down, but sometimes a girl needs a little something to pair with those milk-chocolate-salted-caramels she buys at Costco (God help me).  Here are other drinks that go with exhaustion, laundry, and chocolate at the end of the day:


  • Scotch
  • Spiced Rum over ice
  • Rum in hot tea
  • White Russian
  • Tequila – sip to savor, shoot it if your day’s been tough

Brandy, nicely warmed

  • Port, in one of those nice crystal port glasses you got as a wedding gift but never use


Need a midday boost?  I like to put a couple of scoops of chocolate ice cream in a pint glass and then pour the rest of the morning’s cold coffee over the top.  I let it sit for a minute, then I stir it around to make a nice, caffeinated coffee shake.  Pairs well with the shattered dreams of all you thought you’d accomplish today but didn’t and counting down the rest of the busy hours until you can make that mug cake and a drink.


National Chocolate Day.  National Chocolate Life more like it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

AWOK (Away WithOut Kids)


My husband, God bless him, is not a gift-giver.  I used to really like receiving gifts, so this was tough on me early in our marriage.  I buy little gifts all the time and I save up big gift ideas for Christmas and birthday, which, in Tony’s case, come back-to-back.  Often, however, Tony will ruin my gift-giving ideas by just going and buying himself whatever he wants when he wants it.  Clearly, he does not punish himself with delayed gratification like I do.


When Tony does give a gift, though, it ends up being super thoughtful and extravagant.  Gorgeous sapphire drop earrings one Christmas, pretty, delicate wine glasses one birthday, and then, for no reason whatsoever, a night away from the kids and the house last weekend.


Okay, it’s not for no reason whatsoever.  It’s because I’m going batshit crazy.


It’s because Charles throws a tantrum about stupid math homework every other day – he could breeze through it in 30 seconds, but he thinks it’s so. stinking. dumb. that he has to do counting and basic addition and subtraction problems that he whines and cries about how he wishes he could go back in time and stop the first teacher who ever assigned homework from doing so, thereby preventing this demonic concept of “homework” from ever being invented.  Guess who gets to be the homework parent right after school each day?  Yep, me.  I talk that kid off a ledge all the time about that ridiculous homework and honestly, I think half of the reason I have so much trouble is that Charles thinks that I am possibly too dumb to understand his homework.  He won’t listen, no matter how I try to explain the concepts.


It’s because Jamie’s emotions outrun his reasoning skills 8407256 times each day, and I have to employ every negotiating tactic I’ve ever learned from watching formulaic cop-dramas (“Put the stick down so we can talk about it, Jamie.  Why don’t you come over here and give me your list of demands?  You don’t really want to hurt anyone, so just let go of your brother’s ear and walk away.  Time-out is no fun, kiddo, put the rock down.”) just to get through the day.  He’s often in time-out and he often loses privileges.  He just as often snuggles up to me and asks me to read stories, but geez, it would be nice to have some middle ground between “infuriating” and “sweet as sugar.”



It’s because Freddie never sleeps and he never, ever wants to stop nursing.  I can’t really remember what it feels like to be well-rested.  At this point, it would take me a month just to fill the giant hole of sleep debt in my life.


Tony, apparently, has been making plans for me to have a night away with some girlfriends for MONTHS.  That’s love, people, plain and simple.  My friend Jodi picked me and two other friends up on Saturday morning and drove us to Canada.  I felt like yelling to my children, “Sorry, SUCKERS.  I’m going to be in A DIFFERENT COUNTRY for the next 36 hours!”  Oh, sweet freedom.  We drank all day long, soaked in a hot tub, went shopping and walking, shared laughs, and gorged ourselves on fantastic sushi.  And then I didn’t get out of bed to nurse a screaming child once, all night long.


36 whole hours of ADULT TIME.  Best gift of the year.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nurse Freddie Helps Out

My mom had hip surgery two weeks ago and I haven’t quite recovered.


She, on the other hand, is recovering quite nicely.


The surgery was September 30, and we decided to go ahead and do a big strategy retreat for our business a few days later.  The beginning of the month is always busy for me at work (bank reconciliations, sales tax returns, etc), but then we talked our way into a huge list of new tasks and undertakings at that meeting.  Additionally, Freddie has decided that he will never sleep again, so I face a raging sleep-deprivation-induced migraine every day while Tony steadily gets angrier and angrier.  We look like raccoons, so deep are the shadows under our eyes.


Mom came to stay with us a few days after her surgery, right after my in-laws came to stay for a day, which was right after the surgery and right after my dad was here for a few days while mom was in the hospital (that’s a lot of houseguests).  We kept mom in the basement, which sounds bad.  And maybe it was, but she had bathroom access and it was all one level, straight from the garage to the elevated couch (here’s a tip: if someone you know has a total hip replacement, raise your couch up several inches – six or seven – so they can easily get on and off of it).  Charles practiced piano for her, Buster guarded her during the day, and Jamie and Freddie were mostly out of her way.



Well, mostly.  Freddie liked to visit for a second at a time.


Leland had a hard time seeing our mom in the hospital and then in recovery at home.  I understand it – I mean, no one wants to see their mom as an invalid, in pain, unable to walk.  But after some self-examination (am I so hard-hearted that I was emotionally unaffected by mom’s state of health?), I realized that I was totally cool with this whole surgery thing because, more than anything else, it indicated that our mom was healthy and on her way to getting healthier.  Nursing a post-op patient is so much different than nursing a terminally sick one.  There were no big issues of life at stake here.  Rather, there is nothing but hope in her convalescence.  In a few months, mom will walk better than she has in years.


This is not to say that it was easy.  Caring for anyone is hard work.  After I safely delivered mom to dad (with the help of afternoon coffee on the long drive, something in which I don’t usually indulge), Freddie and I proceeded to clean house, grocery shop, and cook a dozen or so freezer meals for my parents.  Well, I did those things.  Freddie took care of grandma and practiced his cute.


mom3 mom2

photo (45)


So here it is mid-month and I’m still doing beginning-of-the-month stuff at work, Charles has early release all week so I go home early after not finishing my work at the office, I haven’t had time for a run in almost two weeks, and I am completely out of ideas for dinner.  No matter what I make, the children complain about it.  So, you know what?  I’m fucking done.  Breakfast for dinner and all the vegetables shoved into a smoothie.  I hope my mom gets better soon so she can come visit and take care of me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Boys Are Gross, Entry #9143

I don’t know how they figured it out, but my boys now know that I am disgusted by the sound of gargling.  I tried not to let on, to disguise my flinching when they would gargle their saliva as I brushed their teeth, but they figured it out.  And now they gargle their own spit ALL THE TIME.  It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.  Gargling water is not so bad, or even orange juice or milk, but saliva?  *Shudder*  So. gross.


It wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t know that I hate that sound, but they do.  It’s become apparent to me over the past seven years that you must not, as a parent, EVER let on that something weird bothers you.  Your children will exploit your weakness long past the point where it is funny to ANYONE except them.  Vultures.  Tiny, adorable vultures.  Tiny, adorable vultures who GARGLE CONSTANTLY.




What is it about babies that makes them instantly shove their fists down to their butt as soon as their diaper is off?  I swear, I no sooner get the diaper unsnapped than Freddie shoves his baby-strong arms down so he can grope himself, poop and all.  I can’t hold his arms up and wipe him down and change him simultaneously, of course (where is that third arm when I need it?), and he’s started to do that thing that all babies do (don’t you dare tell me that your sweet, little muffin doesn’t do this – I don’t want to hear it!) where if he’s not actively grabbing at his junk, he’s squirming his little butt right off the changing table.


It seems cruel to handcuff a baby to a changing table… and yet.  Have we invented baby handcuffs yet?




We all went to a little girl’s birthday party on Sunday: pink and ribbons and My Little Pony and a craft with glitter and stickers.  We also swam, and my boys pretty much ignored the pink things and made their own fun by kicking around a balloon and eating copious amounts of popcorn and Red Vines (it helped that they absolutely adore the birthday girl).  As all the kids were huddled around the birthday girl, watching, rapt, as she opened her presents, Charles surreptitiously put his hands up to his face and started squeaking out fart noises.  Quietly at first, then louder and a little longer on each “fart.”  Pretty soon, kids in front of him began to look around to see who was farting.  Adults behind him, those who couldn’t see his elbows raised straight out from his face like wings, began to wonder who was tooting up a storm.  One dad was silently laughing so hard he was red in the face and looked like he was suffering from a seizure.  At that moment, Tony and I decided it had gone on too long. 


“Charles…” we both said, in that adult warning voice that you know you all do, stretching out the syllables so the kid knows he’s going to get in trouble if he keeps it up.


He turned and looked at us with a mischievous grin.  So hard to ruin his fun when I was dying with laughter inside, too.


Many of the other adults laughed out loud, though, thereby reinforcing his behavior.  I anticipate many more stealth fart symphonies in the future.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sleep Wanted


Before his haircut… clearly, it was time.


Every once in awhile, one of my friends talks about how their child didn’t sleep through the night until he or she was four months old and it nearly killed them.  Like, the parents in this situation nearly died because they were so tired.


I am so jealous of them.  When I think of the things I could do if only I could get enough sleep…


photo 3 (99) Riding at Grandma’s


A couple of weeks ago, after YEARS of sustained sleep deprivation, I texted Tony at about 5:15 PM, begging him to come home from work so I could take a nap.  I did, then I got up around 7 and ate dinner, then went back to bed around 9 and slept until 9 the next morning, except for the three times I had to get up in the middle of the night to nurse Freddie.



Sure, HE gets plenty of naps.


Yes, he’s still nursing.  All night long.




You know, most people get over the “baby brain” thing when their children start sleeping through the night.  It’s no wonder I’m such a scatterbrain all the time; I’ve had “pregnancy brain” or “baby brain” for over 7 straight years.


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It’s a damn good thing that my children are so cute and lovable because mine are trying to fucking BREAK me.  A day in the hospital?  A tantrum about wanting to eat “two halves” of a banana instead of a whole banana?  Climbing onto the chair and rocking until it falls over every time I turn around?  We’ve got it all in this madhouse.


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Especially the climbing, both on and in things.  Climbing everywhere.




I shouldn’t complain.  I mean, just look at these cute boys:


three boys


But I sure would like a little more time to read, maybe even relaxingly enjoy some free time, instead of falling onto the couch in an end-of-day stupor, unable to focus on, well, anything.




I try to imagine my life in a few years, when Freddie is finally sleeping through the night and I have all three children in school.  I can’t, though, because other than on a few isolated vacations, I haven’t had a full-night’s sleep in so long that I can’t accurately predict what that will feel like.  I could be a totally different person!  Maybe, underneath these under-eye circles, I’m the type of person who does the NYT crossword every day!  Or someone who learns to play the piano in her 40s!  Or someone who has time to do volunteer work at the humane society!  Or someone who learns a third language!  Or someone who gardens seriously!


In all likelihood, behind the sleep deprivation is a mom whose voice is a little less shrill, whose patience is a little more consistent, and whose car is a little less dirty inside.  Only time will tell, but I have to live that long, first.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Worst Kind of Rush

My train derailed at 8:42 yesterday morning.  That was when Charles suddenly started wailing, and I mean wailing, about a tummy ache.


I did the normal mom things (have him drink a glass of water, have him try to go poop), but Charles went from zero to doubled over in excruciating pain in about three minutes.  By 8:45, we were headed to the Emergency Room.  Charles couldn’t walk, so I carried him, all 68 pounds of him, from the couch to the car and the car to the ER, his shoes in my purse.  He screamed like I did when I gave birth.  His hair was sweaty.  He writhed in pain.


Charles Hospital


I thought, for sure, that we were headed for surgery.  Appendicitis?  Bowel obstruction?  Testicular torsion?  The doctors didn’t know either.  After pain and anti-nausea medications were administered via IV, he began the rounds of testing: blood, urine, x-ray, ultrasound, and finally, a CT scan.


I spent six hours alternately praying that he would be okay, holding back tears as I watched him struggle against the pain, and reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader when he was awake (I was hoarse after a couple of hours).


Charles Hospital 2


At 2:45, we got the results of all the testing: mesenteric adenitis, an inflammation of the intestinal lymph nodes most likely related to constipation.  We were instructed to treat the constipation aggressively and the adenitis with pain medication.


The doctor looked at me, somewhat worse for the wear after six hours of adrenaline and anxiety, and stated the obvious because I clearly hadn’t internalized the results yet: “This is a good thing: no surgery.”


The relief was profound.  I left the hospital in a daze.  Charles was able to walk out.  He hadn’t eaten all day and he said he was hungry.  I administered my first ever (and his first ever) suppository and I was still so shell-shocked from the day and the fact that I wasn’t wringing my hands while my baby underwent surgery that I didn’t even bat an eye.


He’s mostly fine now.  I, however, have an adrenaline hangover. 


That’s a real thing, you know, an adrenaline hangover.  I treated it with a giant glass of wine and an early bedtime.  Tony treated it by tending to Freddie in the middle of the night so I could sleep.


Today, I’m simply grateful.  Grateful for the first-class hospital and the first-rate doctors and nurses and other medical staff.  Grateful to God that my child doesn’t have to have surgery.  Grateful for the continued health of my family. 


No surgery.  Those are beautiful words. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The OTHER Response

Sometimes, when the kids talk to me, I have an entirely different conversation with them in my head than what I actually say.




Charles: Mom, what’s that?


Me (what I wanted to say): That’s a type of French cheese called brie, and it is a great demonstration of the virtue of patience.  I bought this round of brie six weeks ago and I have resisted the urge to sample it until now because I knew it needed to ripen in the refrigerator.  See the orange-y tint under the rind?  See the gooey center?  Smell the subtle bouquet?  Taste the complex flavor?  None of that would have been possible if I had been impatient and consumed it a month ago or even ten days ago.  But now!  Oh, how glorious!

Me (what I actually said): That’s a type of French cheese called brie.


Jamie: I want to try it!


Me: Charles, do you want some, too?


Charles: No, it looks gross.


Jamie: I don’t like it.


Me: More for meeee!




Charles: But Mom!  It’s not fair!


Me (what I wanted to say): No, Charles, what’s not fair is the ENORMOUS amount of time I spend reminding you to complete normal daily operations, like getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and putting on shoes before school.  What’s not fair is that you complain about what I make for dinner every. single. night. without fail.  What’s not fair is that I still experience teenage-level acne as a 34-year-old adult.  What’s not fair is that chocolate and wine have calories.


Me (what I actually said): Charles, this is fair.  You made a poor choice, you deal with the consequences.




Charles:  Mom!  I’m bleeding!  There’s blood on my hand!


Me: Where?


Charles: Right here!


Me, barely noticing his tiny wound, a pinprick of blood on the palm of his hand: Oh, no!  Charles is bleeding!  SO MUCH BLOOD!  Call the newspaper!  Call the doctor!  Call the President!


Charles: Mo-om…


Me (what I wanted to say): Honey, I’m on the second day of my period, and it’s like Carrie at the fucking prom up in here.  You have no idea what bleeding is.

Me (what I actually said): Honey, you’re fine.  You don’t even need a bandaid.  Go play.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Shouldn’t Be Surprised

You know how there’s always that one idiot friend in college who, love her though you do, is always doing stupid shit when she’s drunk?  Not, like, dangerous stupid, but potentially dangerous stupid and just plain make-sure-the-sober-sister-watches-out-for-her stupid.  It’s the girl who insists on insists on attempting feats of skill and strength while inebriated, such as climbing a giant metal sculpture of a horse.  It’s the friend who thinks she’s an amazing dancer (she’s not) and persists on loudly singing her own tune while dancing in the middle of a residential street at 2 am, despite her friends’ attempts to shush her.  It’s the girl who convinces everyone that it is a wonderful idea for someone else to push her around campus in a shopping cart while wearing a motorcycle helmet she found in a res hall storage room.  It’s the friend who thinks she’s hilarious and sneaky when she finds some poor child’s abandoned sidewalk chalk while walking home from a party and proceeds to tag the sidewalk the entire 1/2 mile walk home with illegible Strongbad quotes and sorority symbols.  It’s the friend who wants to make pancakes while totally sauced and begins by placing a bag of flour on a hot burner.*


Toddlers are like that drunk friend (except, of course, that they’re not drunk).  They throw food on the floor.  They are loud at the most inappropriate of times.  And they cannot resist doing stupid shit.



All done, so I’ll throw it on the floor!


Freddie, in particular, likes to stand or sit in things.  Buckets, boxes, bowls… Things with the potential for “in” hold a powerful attraction for that boy and, consequently, I am always pulling him out of the dog dishes or the plants or the toy box.


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The real reason he goes through so many clothing changes each day




And then there’s the stove and any cupboard, but especially those with harmful chemicals, that any of us have been stupid enough to leave open.  He climbs in, on, and over anything and he will do it repeatedly and with gusto if he is told “no.”  Especially if he is told “no.”



I know you said it was hot; I just want to see!


Of course, Freddie has two excellent examples of ridiculous behavior with no attention to consequences.



There was a dirt pile – no other reason necessary.


You think you have escaped the drunk friend when you leave college, but really, she just lives on in her children.  Of course, this time, I’m dealing with them, instead of someone else dealing with me.


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Right before he decided to throw all of the cereal in his bowl at the dog.


*Only one of the “friends” in the anecdotes above was not me.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Delight in the Drudgery

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The boys recently gave Tony a Darth Vader shirt with the words "Number 1 Dad In The Galaxy" emblazoned across the front.  Charles understands the joke, but Jamie just thinks Darth Vader is cool.  Their excitement over seeing him wear it and now calling him “number 1 dad in the galaxy!” at high volume is a good reminder to Tony, too, that our children love him. Not that he doesn't know, but I think he sees them so little and gets to do so few fun activities with them that it's important that he know, and that the boys demonstrate, that they think he's amazing.

I don't envy Tony, though I know many women who are jealous if their husbands. I am simultaneously the "fun parent" and the "mean mom" by virtue of how much time I spend with the kids. Tony is often tired, having worked a nine- or ten-hour day AND studied for his master's classes AND helped with Freddie in the night, so he gets frustrated easily. We all know that small children are nothing if not frustrating.


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Charles didn’t like dinner last night, and he chose to tell me in the most constructive manner possible.


I get to teach those boys to be good citizens, often enduring endless tantrums in grocery stores.  Like today, when Jamie pulled the water bottle out of Freddie’s mouth while we were making our way through a busy Costco and then started screaming when I told him that he had lost his treat (bribery: it works!).  Then Freddie started screaming and Charles started bragging about how well he was behaving. 


The root of all my bad habits is boy children: gross amounts of coffee, chocolate addiction, wine consumption…


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Then again, I get to see them develop their passions.  Charles loves anything physical and is happy when we can spend a few spare moments at the skate park.  Jamie, on the other hand, is so enamored with airplanes that he would happily spend all day watching them take off and land.  Lucky boy got to tour a B-17 last weekend at the Skagit Regional Airport.


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Tony misses out on a lot of fun moments and a lot of difficult moments, but he also misses out on seeing our children deal with setbacks, be kind to their friends, or play nicely with one another.  They’re growing and changing and developing their personalities and it really is a trip to watch those small changes every day.


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Charles, who goes to first grade next week, has come with me to my office all week while his brothers are in daycare. Instead of complaining, he has crept around the warehouse with the airzooka, eaten his weight in pretzels, and constructed books full of "evil plans" out of copy paper for each of my employees.  He's a delight, that kid, and that's not something Tony gets to experience very often.


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Yesterday, I initiated Charles into the fine art of folding laundry. All I asked him to do was fold his shorts an his underwear.  He complained, threw himself on the floor, and got perilously close to throwing a screaming fit, something of a rarity these days.  He'd folded one or two pairs of shorts when I pointed out that most of the underwear in the pile in front of him was inside out.  He was mad and frustrated and he picked a pair of underwear up in anger, pushed it down on his head and over his eyes, then flipped it back up over himself so that it was right side out.  Then he threw it on the bed with an UGH!, crossed his arms, and looked at me defiantly.  I couldn't help it, I burst into laughter.  Then Charles started giggling, too. The ham proceeded to fold all his underwear in this manner, giggling the whole time.


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I am thankful for this time I have with my children, even if I feel guilty for not being at work more.  Perspective, man.  Sometimes it just hits you over a pile of clean underwear.  I might not be the number one mom in the galaxy, but I get to laugh with my kids daily.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

There Is No Competition

I’m having a really tough day/week/month/summer and I feel, every day, as though this might be the breaking point.  What would it be like to go completely insane?  What is it like to have a nervous breakdown?  Is there relief from the anxiety and the stress and the guilt?  Could a nervous breakdown really be so bad?  But who would take care of the kids and the house and the dog?


I’m going through hell, so, as the saying goes, I guess I’ll just keep going.  But it’s awful.  And it’s difficult.  And it hurts.


And then I read the news and see that three firefighters have died in a blaze not far from my hometown and people have lost their homes in devastating wildfires and I think, “What have I got to be upset about?”


The thing is, though, that it’s not a hardship competition.  Someone somewhere, indeed many someones, are having a much worse time of it right now than I am.  There are people starving, people engaged in war, people sick.  I don’t want to seem callous – because I’m not; I care deeply about the strife in the world and do my best to address it in small ways like charitable giving, educating myself and my children, and prayer – but the terrible suffering experienced by others doesn’t mean that what’s going on in my life is any less difficult and painful.  I know I am better off than so many.  AND, I know I’ll get through it, so it seems stupid to whine about it.  I feel guilty for even thinking of asking for help, whether of the tangible variety or in the form of prayers or good juju or whatever.  I worry that I’ll be judged and shamed.  I ask Tony for help but he has none to give, and then I feel even guiltier for burdening him with my agony.


But allow me to write it out again, in big, as much for myself as for anyone reading: THERE IS NO HARDSHIP COMPETITION.  Someone else’s hardship does not negate my hardship.  Having things better than someone else does not mean that I’m not suffering or that it isn’t FUCKING HARD to be me sometimes.


So today I’m putting it out there for the world to see: I’m having a tough time right now and I’d appreciate your help and consideration, in whatever form that takes.  And you, you beautiful person: your troubles are valid.  I am giving you permission to feel the full weight of your burdens without guilt today.


Let’s take the old “everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” aphorism from the source, The Homely Virtues by John Watson, Courtesy, 1903:


This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.


We all have burdens.  Instead of trying to outdo one another in the arena of suffering, how about we just deal kindly with those around us?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Since Charles was about two years old, I have loudly and often declared that my primary job as a parent seems to be exhausting him (and now his brothers) before bedtime.  It might be time to pull back on that.


Did I ever tell you about the time Charles had double-vision for an entire week?  Turns out he was just really, really tired.


The whole story is scarier than that, of course.  He first mentioned it on a Friday, after a long week at school this spring. 


“Mom, when I look at that tree, all the other trees around it are two.”


“They’re two?  You mean, they’re double?  Side-by-side or one on top of the other?”  (I can’t imagine how that question would have made any difference to me, but ask it I did.)




I admit, we were so busy, I just let it go for a bit.  Then he mentioned it again at bedtime.  Then again a couple of days later.  Finally, I got him into my eye doctor for a medical visit.


His vision was completely normal.  Verdict: he was tired.  I took him home and he slept for the rest of the morning, missing an entire day of school just to rest.  It was so totally weird.


Charles is my big, bold kid.  He rides his bike, jumps on his pogo stick, and climbs trees.  Until this past year, he was rarely still.  But occasionally, even he needs a break. 


This summer has been go-go-go.  Without Tony to help much, I’m responsible for getting the kids where they need to be on a daily basis, which means that they all get to go places while one of the other brothers gets dropped off.  Charles has been in camps all summer, outdoors and active for 8+ hours of each day.  Then we try to do fun things, like go swimming or visit the library, every week.  And of course, there are the things that I want or need to do, like exercise or go grocery shopping, plus the family things we try to do together, like go on walks or camping (where no one gets to bed early) or fishing (where no one gets to bed early and everyone gets up early).  When the kids finally get home after these busy days, most of the time they go off to play by themselves.  Solitary activities like LEGOs or reading have taken the place of elaborate games of tag in the front yard.  And I get it – as much as I love to see them be active and play with each other, the boys are around other kids and they’re moving all. day. long.  They need a chance to recharge their batteries.


Recently, Charles was again showing signs of exhaustion.  He chose to go to camp every day last week, but I forced him to sit and watch cartoons on Saturday and Sunday mornings (what an ogre I am!) and go to bed early.  I have decided to keep him home from daycare during his last week of summer next week.  He’ll have to come to the office a couple of days, but for the most part, he can play in an unstructured way.  Maybe he’ll even get a little bored.


I’m obviously still learning how to parent these kids.  Balance, we’re all seeking balance.  I haven’t found it yet, but I’m getting closer.  At least I know to watch Charles for circles under his eyes and to reign in his natural impulse to do it all.  I wonder where he gets that trait?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

He Walks

Freddie started walking this weekend, which is much cuter than I ever imagined it would be.



Isn’t that always the way: lack of sleep shades my expectations until I’m so sure that everything will either suck or at least be just another boring, exhausting life complication.


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I’m reasonably certain that Freddie could have walked a month ago, he just chose not to.  He’s already a pro at it, but he takes these big, wide turns to change direction that are just so funny in their inefficiency.  And he’s delighted by the whole darn thing.  Walking?  Turns out we’ve been doing it all wrong for all these years.  You’re supposed to laugh and smile about your very ability to do it at all.


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This summer is dragging on into one of the most difficult years I’ve ever experienced.  It has to do with a lack of hope for the future and a lot of drudgery right now that I’m not sure will ever pay off (see: lack of hope).  I’m wrung out stressed out and out of ways to fool myself into thinking that everything is wonderful.  But then the baby smiles like the goober he is, or Jamie sings songs throughout dinner, or Charles runs up to me at the fair and gives me a giant hug, only to zip off with his camp counselor, out of sight in a flash, and suddenly fooling myself isn’t so important.




This life I lead is difficult and unglamorous, but it’s filled with many blessings among the hardships.




This is what makes life worth living, not the deadlines, cash flow problems, mistakes, dirty dishes, nor sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice.  All that other shit sucks balls, but it doesn’t really matter.




I have hope for their future, and in resigning myself to the Sisyphean tasks inherent in giving them a future, I should try to remember that they will bring me joy as they grow.  I don’t have to seek it elsewhere and though I might never learn to love the sacrifices I have to make, I do love the results those sacrifices produce.


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I don’t know if the balance of good and bad will change in my life anytime soon; frankly, I don’t think it will.  We’re not getting enough sleep, Tony will finish his insane studying schedule just in time for tax season to start in January, and my business is growing in a stressful way right now.  But I get to have stinky boys cuddle me all the time, and that keeps me going.




Who would have ever thought I’d get so lucky?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

More Conversations with Jamie

While my last post was an entirely imagined conversation between myself and my one-year-old, Jamie actually said the following things:


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Jamie: “You don’t want a penis on your head.”


Me: …


Jamie: “Because then you would pee in your hair!”


I suppose someone has to think about these things.



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Jamie: “When I’m big like daddy, I’m going to live here!”


Me: “With me?”


Jamie: “Yep!  But we need to get a bigger bed.  This is a double, but we will need a triple and I will sleep on this side.  You will sleep in the middle.”


My future is awkward.


Jamie: “I want my name to be JamieFour.”


Me: “JamieFour?”


Jamie: “Yes, I want the whole world to know how old I am.”


Me: “So next year, would you be JamieFive?”


Jamie: “Yes, and then JamieSix, then JamieSeven, then JamieEight, all the way to JamieTwenty!”


Presumably, after age 20, people will just think he is “old.”