Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

When Nate get older he's going to be the one folks want to hang out with on New Year's Eve.

Hope everyone has a fun and safe time tonight.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Even if I use no flash, Andy makes the squinty "cheese" face.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Face Maker

Nick won't smile for the camera any more. He either makes a silly face or he makes a "Cool" face, which looks to me less like cool and more like deranged.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I'm out of practice. I mean at having the kids at home. Sure, they live with me, but usually our lives are peppered with activities, such as school, or gymnastics, or even Story Time at the library. These things keep us busy.

Without them, I'm at loose ends. We wake up, and I can't think of a reason to get dressed, or not to turn on the TV. It's too cold or wet to go out, so we sit in all morning and the boys aren't tired at nap time. They play with their toys very well, but small arguments have begun to erupt - or perhaps they are just playing, and I can't tell the difference.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Santa's Aftermath

As you can see from the above photograph, Santa was much more reasonable this year. In terms of the number of gifts a family with small children are supposed to be able to tackle at one sitting, that is. Last year was ridiculous, and although I realize that last year my family shipped their gifts and this year we 'll be getting them in (the future) person, I still feel better. I don't want my kids to get spoiled and think they'll get everything they want, and I do think there is such a thing as having too much.

In the lull between Christmas and the next thing, I'm busy getting ready for next year. I'm making lists of things I want to do, rooms I want to paint, closets I need to clean out. I'm planning ways to work on my budget, my diet, my workout plans.

Just this morning I got back on the treadmill for the first time since I've been sick. I wanted to go five miles, which I used to do quite easily in just over forty minutes, but which I haven't done in awhile. Because I usually don't even have forty minutes, there are other things I want to do, and the boys have a hard time waiting for me. Even with the TV on, they fight over every scrap of paper there is down there. Andrew discovered the light switches and was turning the lights and the fan off and on. Nathan casually tossed my nine-pound weight onto Nick's lap, and I made it almost three and a half miles.

The boys have actually been pretty good playing with the toys they got. They exercise selective hearing, and don't always hear me when I ask them to get dressed/ clean up/ wash hands/ come eat/ go to bed, but overall they've been quieter, and that's almost the same as being good, right?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mourning Christmas

There is often something melancholy about the day after Christmas. It's kind of like how I feel on Sundays. I'm well aware that I have time off and that I still can enjoy myself, but I can already se Monday on the horizon. And although the tree is still up (although mostly just bare branches at this point) and the boys still have a good chunk of vacation, I can see February hovering in the distance. The party is over, the cold winter is ahead, and there's almost a year until Christmas.

OK, OK, I'm being dramatic, but you know what I mean.

We had a lovely day yesterday. Nicholas was up before 4am asking to open his gifts, and we were only just able to hold them back until 6. There was a whirlwind of paper, a whooshing sound, some shouts, and the living room was completely trashed before 7. Lillian came over, and she helped Steve fix a wonderful meal. We are an incredibly lucky bunch.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Gift ( would you like to hear a poem?)

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except for Steve's mouse.

The stockings were hung
By the pellet stove with care
With great hopes that Nicholas
Would let them stay there.

With the shopping all over
And the feasting gone by
We all settled down
For a little shut-eye.

When down in the kitchen
Gunther made such a clatter
That I rose from the bed
To see what was the matter.

It was Santa himself
That plump jolly old elf
And he laughed when he saw me
In spite of himself.

I was dressed in my jammies
My hair mussed from the bed
I looked drab right next
To his ensemble of red.

"Santa!" I whispered
"Seein' you here is great,
But could you please keep it down
So the kids will sleep late?

"I know that they won't
'cause kids don't work that way,
But let's give it a try.
What do you say?"

Santa laughed once again
Then he quieted down
And although he worked swiftly
He never did frown.

And I thought to myself
How lucky am I?
For in every way,
Every day that goes by

Is a gift unto me
'Cause there's joy in each one.
If you know how to look
Then you'll find the fun.

And the kindness and love
That so many find sappy
Can often be just the thing
That keeps it from crappy.

And so then Santa winked.
Up the chimney he rose,
And I dabbed at my eyes
And sniffled my nose.

And I wish that you all
May have joy and good cheer
And happiness to last you
All through the year.

If I could wrap it all
Up in a bow
It's just what I'd give to
You each, don't you know.

But I can't, so
You'll all get snuggies instead.
And I am now going back
Up to my bed.

My family's so great!
My friends, out of sight!
Merry Christmas to all,
And to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

As you can imagine, I'm a little busy these days, and struggling not to forget anything.

Yesterday, while I was away, the cleaning people came to clean my house. They currently come every three weeks and give me a week off sucking up the dogs hairs and cleaning the bathrooms, although I am still not convinced that I don't do a better job. Regardless, I love when they come because it gives me a little free time.

Yesterday one of the ladies brought Gunther a Christmas treat. A whole box of them, actually. Or so I was told. I never actually saw them because, when she got here, she placed them on the counter. And when Steve walked in a few moments later, they were gone.

That's right. My dog ate a month's worth of treats in one sitting.

The poor woman was horrified, but Steve assured her Gunther has done worse. Which he has.

And yesterday night when I walked into the boys' room to read them a story, there was a huge puddle of dog vomit. And this morning another in one of the other rooms.

I spent this afternoon lugging out the carpet cleaner to get out the stains. So much for a time saver.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Strain Of Simple

It's Christmas this week.

This is when the panic really hits.

This is the week that I'm passing out the teacher gifts, and leaving little somethings for the mail person, the trash guys, the women that come in and clean my home every three weeks.

This is the week when I start to realize that some of the gifts I have are sorely lacking, especially for a few special people, and I rack up rush delivery fees and run around like a headless partridge in a pear tree. There is no way to grab anything really special at this late a date, but at least I can pile on a huge load of mediocre or tacky.

This is the time when I remember that I never got anything for my husband.

This is the week when the decorations start to fail. The pine needles fall off the tree almost faster than the boys can knock them down, and the candles I place in the windows burn out bulbs at a rate of two a day. The tree decorations mysteriously move higher and higher up the tree, and the candy canes simply disappear.

This is when I realize I usually shop for groceries on Friday, only this year that day is CHRISTMAS! And now I not only have to find the time to squeeze in a shopping trip with at least two hyper and overly sugared children, but I need to make a list and figure out what it is we will eat all week, and on Christmas day, and on Christmas eve!

Not to mention what I'm going to make the kids for lunch tomorrow.

Does anyone know what this is all about?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Real Santa

It gets harder to get a good picture with Santa every year. Andrew was about ready to run. I had to stand next to him. You can see my foot in the picture. Let's hope that this guy was the Real Santa!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Cheer

One thing few people associate with Christmas is catastrophe. Catastrophe comes in many forms, and thank goodness I'm not referring to anything too serious. But last year we did have that ice storm that left us without power for over a week. And as I type this many people are buried in snow without power or the ability to leave their homes. So much for their Holiday gatherings. I hope they finished their shopping.

Something else people rarely think of with Christmas is illness. It just doesn't fit into the Holiday Picture. But as it is just a regular day, and illness can strike at any time, people sometimes are too ill to join in. We did have a Christmas once when I was a child where everyone had the stomach flu.

Well... I'm sick now. My throat hurts. My ears hurt. My muscles and joints hurt. Watching TV makes me restless and moving around makes me dizzy and tired. In fact, it could snow or not snow, bury us or pass us by completely, I do not care. I can't even think about wrapping gifts or cleaning my home or getting the teacher gifts we made to our much appreciated teachers. I just want to fall asleep and wake up cured.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Short Term Memory

I recently filled out a passport application for Nicholas. Not a real one, no. One for his Kindergarten class. They are in the middle of a special "travel" project. On certain days, the kindergartners visit a different classroom, and each kindergarten teacher does a little segment on a different country, and the kids get a stamp in their passports.

"We visited a different class today, Mom!" Nick said when I picked him up from school.

"Where did you go?" I asked.

"We pretended to go on a plane, and we flew flew flew across the ocean!"

"What country did you fly to?"

"Um... what?"

"What country did Mrs. M. talk about?"

"I really don't remember."

So he has no idea which countries he's been hearing about. But I know that some things must be sticking, and he's getting used to seeing places on a map.

I feel like this is important because so much of my family is far away. And this brings me to today's Holiday Tradition: Holiday Cards.

There is no link to follow, here. Truth be told, I think Holiday Cards are mostly out of style. It has to do, I think, with the rise of modern technology. People send out emails, e-cards. They post a "Merry Christmas" status on Facebook or texts their friends and call it square. This is the modern way of doing things.

But I'm still old fashioned. I like to send out cards. And every year I have a few moments where I ask myself why I do this. Gathering addresses, running out of stamps... it really does become a pain. So why?

Well, I really do think there is something special about getting a card in the mail. Maybe other people get real mail in their boxes, but what I get is usually junk mail or bills. Unless it's from a dentist, I always get a good feeling from a holiday card. And this is why I send them. Because I figure other people might feel the same way. Especially people that I don't get to see often.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Time Flies

First off, I have to make a confession. The gingerbread train I posted a picture of is NOT MINE! Which is to say that we made it, but it was from a kit. It's a pre-fab train. And although I'd love to take the credit for it because it's so much more original than the pre-fab house (which I also purchased for an activity earlier next week), I can't take the credit for it. I am simply not that creative.

And it is already not as intact as it used to be.

But what today's post is really supposed to be about is time. Because today was Andy's second birthday. My baby actually turned two today, making him the oldest "baby" I have ever had. And although he's only just two, emotionally he's way ahead of himself. He's been throwing "Terrible Two Tantrums" now for months, and has passed the "No!" stage. Now he's moved on to "No Way!" As in "Andy, would you like a cracker?" "NO WAY!"

This month also happens to be the fourth birthday of this blog. I have been posting for four years. FOUR YEARS! If you've never tried to keep a blog before then you have no idea how challenging it can be to come up with topics to write about, or words to write them with, even if the content seems fluffy or repetitious and is poorly written and filled with typos.

So I'd like to take you to take a few steps into my time machine, make yourselves comfortable, and travel back with me... back, back, back....

To this day last year. We had no power because of the ice-storm, and Andy's birthday was celebrated thanks to a generator and cupcakes that Lillian bought.

And now let's go back even further, to before Andrew, when we were just wondering what he was going to be like. And oh, how things have changed.

The year before I was just learning to cope with two boys and getting ready for Christmas.

Oh! That reminds me - we visited Santa today! All three boys. And at some point I'll post to picture. After all, taking your kids to see Santa is a huge tradition that should at least get a mention. And as for a link.... well, you'll just have to accept this, one of the very first photos I posted on this blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yummy Time Of The Year

Gingerbread houses are over rated. We like Gingerbread trains.

We added the gingerbread guy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And Now... Real Life

It's very tempting, at this time of year, to think about Christmas all day long. And sometimes it feels like I do. I make lists of things I need to buy. I string up lights, and more lights. I watch holiday specials and put them on for the boys. I listen to the music while I write cards. But as much and I love sweeping up pine needles and trading wish list emails with family members, real life intrudes.

I still have laundry. I still need to make dinner. I still need to get on the treadmill.

And we still get sick.

I am not sick. I am merely very tired. So tired. So tired, in fact, that I couldn't think about anything else beyond how exhausted I was when I picked the boys up from school, and again when I took them to gymnastics.

No, the boys aren't sick, either. It's Steve. Steve got sick over a week ago, and I knew it was serious when I got out of bed (I sleep in Sundays) and Steve told me he had made a doctor's appointment. Steve. To the doctor. Steve had been to the doctor exactly once since I met him, and that was when he almost cut his finger off in the lawn mower. (OK, twice if you count getting the stitches removed.) So when he told me he had made an appointment, and on a SUNDAY, I knew it had to be bad.

And he's still sick. I mean, in some ways he's better, but it's been over a week and his voice is gone and he can't hear anything because his ears are clogged so I have to YELL everything TWICE, and he's been coughing like a creature is going to start climbing out his throat, which is gross.

I have no idea why this makes me so tired, but it does. You would think he'd be the tired one. Huh. How 'bout that.

Anyway, today I helped the kids put the finishing touches on the teacher gifts we're making. See, this time of year people give gifts to their kids' teachers. But when you add up the gym teachers, the sunday school teachers, the storytime teachers... for three children. It adds up. Even a small box of chocolate per mentor skyrockets holiday costs. And not everyone appreciates chocolate.

So this year, we are making our teacher gifts. We are making salt dough ornaments. A highly salted cookie dough, some cookie cutters, paints, glitter.... I'm even punching a hole through a small photo of the boys to write the "Happy Holidays" on. It's cute, more personal than chocolate (not as yummy, though) and costs a lot less.

I didn't get this idea on my own, by the way, which brings me to todays link, and one of my childhood favorites: Arthur's Christmas Cookies. Boy, I always felt so bad for Arthur. Nothing ever seemed to go his way.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gift Guide

Someone told me today that, to give the best gifts, one should first make a list of the best gifts they have ever received. This is supposed to give some idea of what the giver thinks is important in a gift.

So... here goes, just a few, in no particular order.

- Into The Woods CD. My brother gave me this for my fifteenth birthday. We had seen it together on Broadway, and I fell in love with it. To this day it is one of my favorites.

- The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson. I love that book.

- Personalized bottles of wine - when Steve and I married we got five bottles of homemade wine with personalized labels, each intended for a different anniversary. Now, the wine is not the best, but I really felt that gift was heartfelt. And I still have the last two bottles (10 years and 25 years.)

- A few times I've actually been able to go on trips without my children. Overnight trips, mostly to warmer climates. I really appreciate the people watching the kids when I took time for myself.

- Disney World. Magic. 'nuff said.

- The letters that I got when I was at college, most of which were sent by my Aunt Frances. Even if I never wrote her back, she always wrote to me. It let me know she would always be there, no matter what.

OK, so there's no way I can remember every gift I've ever gotten. But I guess the overall idea is in there, somewhere.

Giving gifts can be frustrating. Because everyone wants their gift to be one of those gifts. The gift of all gifts. The Ultimate gift. But sometimes... sometimes there is just no way to know what to get some people.

So... Today's Holiday Link is Skipping Christmas, a short book by John Grisham. I have never read it, but it's supposed to be funny. And I have seen the movie based on it, Christmas With The Kranks.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Celebrating Early

Andy doesn't turn two for another few days, but we celebrated today anyway, along with putting up our Christmas Tree.

We made cupcakes in the morning and put up the tree.

I know he knew what was going on because I caught him practicing blowing out his candles when I put him down for his nap.

After nap, Lillian and Nancy came over and helped us trim the tree and Andy blew out his two candles and opened gifts, and the boys spent the rest of the afternoon playing.

Then we watched the Muppet Christmas Carol. Meg mentioned it in comments the other day, but I never watched it as a child, mainly because it wasn't made until I was in college. I don't have a clip from it to show you today. Instead, I'm going to show you THIS, which my boys love, and which is the reason that Andy spent a full five minutes shouting "BEEKAH! BEEKAH!" at the screen.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Trains, Balloons, Books, Dreidles

I decided to celebrate Andy's birthday the day we decorate our christmas tree, which is tomorrow. And I also thought he should have some balloons, because he always points them out, and almost stole one from the house of the last playdate we all had.

So this afternoon I packed all three kids into the car and headed to The Party Store. And at The Party Store we purchased three balloons - a big Thomas The Tank Engine balloon, and two smaller Thomas balloons.

Ever since we got home, Andy has been walking from room to room with his big balloon. He screamed when I made him let go to take a bath. He DID, however, hand it right over when it was time for bed.

Gunther, however, is terrified. He's always been afraid of balloons, even as a puppy, even before hearing his first one pop. So he's within two feet of me at all times. If I take a step to get something and then try to step back, I trip over him.

For me, the most exciting part of the afternoon was after the balloon purchase, when we went to the closeout bookstore next door. We weren't there for me, but for a birthday present for a girl in Nick's class. But as soon as we walked in, each boy shot off in a different direction and kept bringing me back different items. I kept saying "No! No! Andy, come back. Nick, no! Nathan, put it back, Back! Nick - Andy! Let's go over here. Let's go, Andy! Let's go. THIS WAY, NATE!"

Seriously, I must have sounded like a madwoman.

And a lot of the items were scuffed a little, or smushed, or not perfect, but I did manage to find a few good things, and then a few more things, but I had no idea how much anything actually cost. And I was irritated because my kids were... see above.

Anyhow, I was jabbering on and on, like a crazy lady, in the checkout line. Yammer yammer yammer... and the lady checking me out then says "That will be two seventy."

And I fell silent. I mentally tallied my purchases - five items. The lady must have made an error and only the price of one of them went through, and she's tired and had a long day and isn't picking up on it. Should I say something? Should I let her know? I glanced at the receipt. It showed all five items. Each for less than a dollar.

My first instinct was to turn back and buy one of everything my kids had asked me for.

I didn't.

And to honor that, I'm now posting The South Park Dreidle Song. I love this song for all the different parts, but it does have some profanity. And... well, it's South Park. Really funny, though.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

1 of 8 Crazy Nights

I went and bought the boys Advent calenders at the supermarket. They cost a dollar each, there's a picture of Santa, and 25 little flaps with 25 waxy chocolate flakes in them. I figured the chocolate wasn't too much, and it would give them a chance to count down, to recognize the numbers, and to wait the wait.

But there's a problem. There are too many treats around this time of year - the cookies, the gingerbread houses, the candy canes - and this one thing they know they can have every day. So every day begine with a "Can we have our advent calender now?" starting about thirty seconds after breakfast.

At Church school, Nick made an advent calender in his class. I like his a lot, and I might just make some here next year. Each day has a sticker on the number, some smelly stickers, and a task or activity. Like "Load the dishwasher!" or "Write a letter to a friend!" And I know it's cheezy, but frankly it had me at "dishwasher."


While we whip ourselves into more and more of a frenzied meringue over a holiday that is still two weeks away, I thought I'd mention one that is... well, it's now.

Tonight isn't actually the first night of Hanukkah. It's tomorrow, the 11th. But I figure most people read this blog the day after I post, so... there you go.

I don't actually celebrate Hanukkah. But I enjoy the music. What music, you ask? Well... to be honest, I can't think of a lot, besides the Havenu Shaloms. But unless you've been living under a rock, you'll enoy this Hanukkah Song.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bah, Humbug!

There's something about the light bouncing off the snow that makes snow photos just glow. It doesn't, however, let you see Andy's eyes under his hat. The poor kid gets outside and he can't see where he's going and his boots keep falling off. It made it very difficult this morning when I bundled the three kids up so that I could shovel our driveway. We do have a snowblower, but Steve was away this morning, and was going to have to pick him up from the bus station. And I don't know how to use the snowblower yet.

I suppose I could have left it, but it was supposed to snow and snow, then rain, then freeze and ice. And the last thing I wanted was five inches of icy slush in my driveway.

Fortunately for me, the neighbor has a plow and was neighborly and plowed for us. Santa should bring him lots of cookies!

So here we are - first real snowstorm of the season, first snowday, and I'm already grumpy about it. It seems like a perfect place to post one of my first impressions of A Christmas Carol. There are three billion versions of this movie including many modernized versions (Scrooged), a musical (Scrooge!), and this one, one of the very first versions that I saw, and so much more interesting than the boring black and white ordeals - A Christmas Carol.... with Rich Little. In every role.

I was such a strange child.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Holiday Train Derailed

I am a bit disappointed at myself for falling down on my Blog Holiday Decorating. I had intended to positively pepper it with tips and links and little bows and Christmas kittens. But you have to take my word on this - it's a lot harder than it sounds. Santa's Beard! I have been dry of ideas for days!

Over the next few days I promise to research more links, to post holiday craft photos, to give gift giving tips and gift wrapping advice, and to take deep, cleansing breaths. Everything will fall into place. It will all be OK. All will be calm. All will be bright. Ommm.....

And for todays link, kind of a cop-out re-link. But what better way to say Merry Christmas than with The Can-Can ?

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Challenge

Parenting has been more of a challenge these past few weeks than it ever has been. It's been harder than when Andy was an infant, and even though I'm getting more sleep, I do think I've been shedding more tears over the boys.

I'm not sure what is causing it, but I think it's a combination of the approaching holidays and Andrew turning two.

It's not just the "NO" factor, either. Andy does say "NO" to everything. Even if it's something he wants he says "NO" first and then quickly amends his reply with a "yes." But getting anything done with him - a diaper change, getting dressed, putting on a coat, putting away a toy, going up the stairs - usually requires a good deal of distraction, manipulation, and coercion. Also, he's a climber and a meddler and likes to remove clothing. I'll be trying to get the boys ready for school and Andrew will be writing on the walls with a crayon found under the couch, or grabbing a spray bottle of cleaner from the counter and "cleaning" the living room rug, or scrambling onto Steve nightstand and tipping it over, knocking everything to the floor, including a full humidifier.

Add to this Nate's insistance on being called "Starscream" and Nicholas's obsession with putting coins in his pockets and you have chaos. And this is before the boys all want to play with the same toy at once and hit each other over the heads.

All this has gotten worse with the holidays so near. There are so many special things, so many events, parties, concerts, gifts, traditions... I can hardly blame them. But I stil wish they'd cut it out.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Snuggies for Everyone

Today I went Christmas shopping.

This is actually a big deal for me. You have to remember that, even in the slowest of retail times, I usually refuse to do any shopping on the weekends. Why bother when I can go during the week, when many people work or go to school? As a result, whenever I go shopping and have to wait in a line consisting of more that 1 person in front of me, I consider it a long wait.

But I needed to do some shopping without children. So I waited until Steve could be with them.

I consider a Christmas Season a success if I do not have to go to Toys R Us. If taking this into account, I can consider this shopping season a bust. Because I went there today, not once, but twice. Once to look for a toy I couldn't find anywhere else, and the second time because I found it somewhere else for considerably less, however the other toy I was looking for at store #2 wasn't there, so I made an exchange. I NEVER return items or make exchanges. I am more apt to just keep what I don't want and give it to someone else as a gift later on.

I went not to one mall, but to two, walking around both of them.

And I still have 5 people I need gifts for.

Some people dislike the music at Christmas. Others tacky decorations. I can live with them both, even though I have my dislikes in both categories. What I hate most is trying to find gifts for the same people year after year, and getting stuck on the same people year after year. I hate asking people what they would like and getting no reply. I hate thinking I've found something suitable and finding it on a shelf, in the packaging, when I come visit. I like giving gifts, but for some people it's a lot easier than other people, and a lot more rewarding.

After my crazy day, please enjoy listening to my song of the day, and imagine me singing it. It shouldn't be too hard to do, as I've come pretty close once or twice.

Friday, December 04, 2009

This Little Light Of Mine

I put up some decorations today.

I do love Holiday decorations and Christmas trees, but I tend to lean away from the huge blow ups of Homer Simpson-dressed-as-Santa-going-down-the-chimney and bright pink or flashing lights. I favor green pine boughs, red ribbons, and simple white lights.

I put single candles in each of our windows, which I do every year. It's kind of a pain, because they are plug-ins, and I need to go around plugging them in and unplugging them before sleep, not to mention watching the boys to make sure nobody picks one up to play with it or knocks it to the ground.

But this year I splurged and put a wreath on the door, and even purchased some shatterproof globes which I hung on the tree at the foot of our drive. Except it's not a pine tree, it's just a regular small tree which happens to be naked at the moment. And s also too tall for us to reach the higher branches, so most of the ornaments are sadly clustered near the bottom, which the boys could reach. Still, I like to think of it as mildly festive, in a Charlie Brown kind of way.

I suppose within the next week we'll be getting a tree. If I had my own tree I would use only white lights and simple and tasteful ornaments. However, I am outvoted in this house. Everyone else involved in the tree-decorating process prefer colored lights, and ornaments double as toys, despite my protests.

Regardless, the decorations make me happy, just as happy as seeing other lit windows as I drive down my street in my car. There is a warmth to them, and a glow, and a certain peace.

I wasn't going to out up a link today. Then I was, then I wasn't and you'll see why, but here I am, putting this link up here anyway. I couldn't find the actual video of it, so you'll have to read it. But please enjoy these Decorating Tips. I crack up every single time... No personal comments, please.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Warm Breeze

Today we woke to pouring rain, but by the time we went to wait for the bus it was sunny and solidly in the sixties. Windy, but warm. I was glad to not be freezing, but tired because I stayed awake watching bad TV. Also, I decided to go to Super Wal-Mart with Nate and Andy to get one item for Nate's class's Holiday Performance, and regretted it a billion times over.

This is late notice, New Yorkers, but if you can snag a seat to The Last Cargo Cult (playing until Dec. 13th) you should.

Today's Holiday Item is "The Christmas Chronicles", by Jeff Guinn. There are three books in the chronicles, and my favorite by far is "The Great Santa Search," which is just fun. But it might be confusing without the first book, which actually contains a lot of fact about the REAL SANTA! But you have to decide what is fact and what is fiction. I have never read the second book.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It's The Little Things

The movie "Stepmom" begins with Julia Roberts trying to get her soon-to-be step children ready for school. And there is immediately a problem because it is purple-shirt-day at the girl's school, and Julia has not washed the girl's purple shirt. And then, almost from out of nowhere, Susan Sarandon pops in, purple shirt in hand.

I am sometimes surprised by how many details there are in the boys' school activities. Not only is there the simple day-to-day of getting the boys dressed, to school, to gym, to storytime, but there are the little things. The snacks, the books to return on time, gym clothes to pack and take with us.

And then there are other things. The third Toddler Storytime is a joint party and starts 30 minutes earlier. Nicholas has to keep an alphabet breakfast chart and record what he eats. For awhile each week had a "color" day where they were supposed to wear a specific color. I needed to send in chips for the Halloween party and then something for the trail mix they made before Thanksgiving, but nothing with nuts. HE has a playdate 12/9 with another "Nick." Nathan needs antibiotics each morning (nothing to do with school.) I sometimes sign up to read a story to his class. I had to remember to bring in a gallon of cider the Monday before Thanksgiving, and need to send in a wrapped and labled book for the book swap on Friday. His Holiday concert is the 16th at 9:30. I also need to remember to return the "guest at your table" box at the church, and to select some mittens off the giving tree at the Library (each mitten has a gift request for a needy family or child.)

Is anyone else feeling rattled yet? Because that doesn't count the time I scheduled to bring the car in, my choir rehearsal, my bringing in writing prompts for the writing group, the christmas shopping, wrapping, Andy's birthday, holiday cards, holiday gatherings, and the occasional shower.

It all seems to get mixed up and crazy. Which is why today's Holiday Link is for my new favorite version of the 12 Days of Christmas. If you haven't heard Straight No Chaser, give them a shot. The whole album is really good. It makes me wish I could sing a capella. And also that I was a guy. In this group.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Elves

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

If you've never Elfed Yourself, you should try it out. When I first learned of this, my computer was too old to run the program. But these days I can make five different elves, create up to five dances, save what I make, dowload it, email it, post directly to facebook, or directly to, say, a blog.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It Is Upon Us!

I hope everyone has had a good Thanksgiving. I know we did.

Yes, the Holiday Season is officially here. After Thanksgiving, we no longer need to apologize for Christmas shopping, or decorating, or blasting the 24 hour Holiday Music station from our cars. It is now acceptable to wear Santa hats and string lights up all over the place and to hand out candy canes as if they were.... um... candy.

As you can tell from certain obnoxious changes in this blog's format, I am embracing Christmas is all it's joy and tackiness this year, and my my goal is to spread the joy. But to do that, I may need your help. Let me know your favorite and least favorite Holiday songs, books, movies, and games. Leave them in a comment, email me, Facebook me, whatever, but let me know your favorite parts of this time of year and your least favorite parts of this time of year.

Today's Holiday Link is for the Festival Of Trees. The one we go to in in Methuen. We go every year, and once we even won a tree! (I think we won it because Nick was sticking our raffle tickets in every boxhe could reach and nobody wanted this tree because it was boring and irritating, but still!) I suggest you look around and see if there are any similar events near you. It's worth it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

List For Santa

Dear Santa

I hope this letter finds you well, and that you were able to enjoy your Thanksgiving, as I know things get very busy for you at work on Black Friday. Since you have so much to do and so many many people to think of, I thought I would help you out and eliminate some of the guesswork in getting gifts for our family, in the case that we would be receiving gifts from you this year.

We'll start with the kids. The boys love and appreciate, but do not need toys, so please don't feel pressured to go that way. They also love clothing (sizes below) and have asked for bathrobes and slippers. They also all like books, posters, soaps, and art supplies. Anything, really. These guys are easy to please. I might request no weapons or war toys, and please, please, please try to remember to hold back on the stuffed animals, unless it's a Pillow Pet. We have enough. Really, really. We do.

Andy - (who in case you forgot, Santa, turns two on the 17th, and might like a card or phone call)
Sizes - 2T pants and shirt, 7 shoes.
Loves Thomas the Tank Engine - He's getting a big one for his birthday, but anything with his picture on it, including books, would be loved. He loves Elmo, and also loves tickling people - so Elmo tickle hands might be a good choice if you're really stuck. He loves cars, and music.

Nathan - (who will be four January 16th, and same thing goes with card or phone call)
Sizes - 4T pants 4T/5T shirts, 11 shoes
Has requested a penguin Pillow Pet. Loves Transformers, Digimon, Bakugan, Star Wars. If you happen to have an Optimus Prime talking helmet, he really might like that. Or roller skates. He's mentioned the Handy Many workbench, but it may be too big for your sleigh.

Sizes - 5T pants and 5T / small boys shirt, 12 shoes.
Has been asking for a dog Pillow Pet since the summer. Loves Bakugan, Pokemon, Etc. He would like anything Bakugan, Roller skates, Legos, and "Touch 'n Brush." He has also asked for Chuck-E Cheeze coupons.

If you're still stuck on things to get the kids, check out some of these places:
Mabel's Lables
Pillow Pets

I don't have a lot of ideas here, Santa. I'm sorry. But he just got a boat, so anything to do with sailing? He likes bars of soap, good steaks... tell you what, ask me in a few days and maybe I'll have pried something out of him.

I don't need anything. Honestly, if you give my kids a gift, its a gift for me, too. But if you cannot help yourself, here are more than enough ideas:
- CD cases - I need a few of these, big ones and little ones.
- New dish towels, not kidding
- Organic Bath Products (Burt's Bees is my favorite, and I always need shampoo)
- Clothing: the clothes you get me are much cooler than the clothes I buy myself. I have no style.
- I still do not have winter boots.
- I left my hair straightener in Santa Fe and could use a new one.
- The crock pot I hauled back from NY was never even used before the dog knocked the lid to the floor.
- Chocolate?
- Pens
- Diet Dr. Pepper. I'll smile.

That's about it, Santa! Remember, a visit is just as good as a gift. I hope you have a safe Holiday season, and that you are able to enjoy yourself a little.

Take Care,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Multi Tasking

- prepare surface for rolling out pie crust

- place pie crust on surface to warm from fridge a bit

- take toilet plunger away from baby

- wash hands

- let dog out

- pick up bowl with cake ingredients in it, and stir

- take baby out of laundry room and turn off empty clothes dryer

- roll out pie crust

- change baby's diaper

- wash hands

- let in the dog

- fill pie and place in oven

- take broom and dustpan away from baby

- spend fifteen minutes tracking down bowl with cake ingredients

- locate bowl with cake ingredients in laundry room, on top of dryer

- wonder why it was that I thought making a pie, a tart, and a cake in one day was at all possible

But guess what? It was.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful For These Things

As Thanksgiving draws closer, the day becomes less and less a historical celebration or a day of gratitude and more and more a day about pie and mashed potatoes. But I would like to take this opportunity to list a few things I am thankful for, and that had me so overcome with wonderful that I was in tears on the way home from Nate's school.

Andrew loves gymnastics. A lot. In the morning I usually have to run him down to get him dressed, but this morning all I did was mention his gym class and he ran right over. When we get into the car to take Nate to school he says over and over "Gym! Me! Gym! Me!" I am so glad that he not only loves it when he's there, but loves it when he isn't there, and talks about it.

Nathan can spell his name, and write it.

I caught Nicholas reading this morning. Not just looking at a book, but holding a reading flash card and sounding out the letters. He read "CAR," "CORN," "CUP," and "COOKIE." With a little help.

Steve called a place that sells our model of treadmill and ordered an emergency stop for me. This guy can wait for months before throwing out an empty propane tank, but I didn't even have to ask him to call this place. He just did it. Hooray!

Now I shall go weep tears of joy into a chocolate cake. That I'm making, not eating.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nowhere to run

This morning I hopped on the treadmill for a run and realized that the Emergency Stop was missing.

For those who do not know, the Emergency Stop on a treadmill is a magnet on a string. If you start to fall or need to stop suddenly, you are supposed to pull on the string, and when the magnet pops off, the treadmill stops. It's so you don't pass out while the treadmill keeps going and rubs away all your skin. But the important thing in this case is, the treadmill does not work without it.

The kids used to like to pull it off and pretend to fish with it. After all, it's a weighted string. It's interesting when you jerk it and swing it. And if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times - it's NOT A TOY! So you can imagine my frustration when I discovered it missing, looked around for it and couldn't find it, and finally tried replacing it with magnets from our fridge, but failed.

I moaned and pouted and sulked and lectured the kids. When I picked Nick up from school I told him what happened. "It was Nate," he said. But when I explained it to Nate he said "It was Andy." Oh, the unfairness of it all!

But then I got over it... kind of. Because if this is my biggest problem right now, then I should be pretty happy with my life.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Nicholas is a very sweet little boy. He is always the first to say "I love you" or to offer a compliment. Sure, he's very sensitive,and sometimes I think he's really a hormonal teenager stuck inside a five-year-old's body. But I think it has something to do with being five.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thankful Bags

I gave the boys some paper bags to decorate. After scribbling on his, Nicholas declared that he was going to put items in his bag that he is thankful for. Apparently he is overcome with the spirit of Thanksgiving. He brought me back a bag full of buttons and a stuffed sea turtle.

Then Nate started talking about what he was thankful for, so what you get is the tail end of that conversation, and then Andy being kind of cute.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fog At Sunset

Today was a very hard day.

There is something about these kids. It's almost as though they need me to do every little thing.

Oh, some things they do just fine on their own. Nick usually gets dressed with few issues, for example. But the other things that he does on his own aren't always things that I want him to be doing. Such as fixing his brothers' toothbrushes (toothpaste all over the counter and floor) or getting himself a drink of water (climbing on counter, water on floor) or juice (climbing in the fridge. Or getting a toy off a high place.

Nathan absolutely refuses to do anything he's asked. He doesn't say no, he just avoids it. "My name is Megatron!" And getting him to get dressed or pick up a toy usually involves a lot of crying and counting.

And Andy just says no, runs away, then cries. But he does try to be helpful. A few second ago I had to stop writing this because he was trying to clean the toilet and got water all over the floor in the process. Also, he had dragged the sit-n-spin into the bathroom. When I came out, he had opened the drawer I keep all the extra keys we might find a use for someday and was putting them in his pocket one by one.

When I do have a moment of quiet it is usually interrupted by a scream because someone took someone else's toy, but usually before I can intervene the screamer hauls off and whacks his brother anyway. And that makes me so angry. If he wanted to solve the problem by himself, why scream? Just smack your brother and give me a few extra seconds of peace!

This, and the boys seem to think I should be fetching glasses of water and juice all afternoon. Give someone a cup, and soon I'll be getting two more, unless, of course, I get them before I'm asked, and then they will request milk, or juice, or some sort of snack because they are feeling rather peckish. I do give them snacks, but they don't seem satisfied.

Anyway, Steve has been on a trip since Sunday and is finally getting home tonight, thank goodness, because I really need another adult I can send the kids to when I start thinking the best way to solve the problem is to pock them each in different rooms forever and slide pancakes and American cheese under the doors so they won't starve.

Deep breath... deep breath... calm... calm...

After all, now that Dad is sue home in two hours, they are playing nicely in the next room.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Andy has gymnastics on Wednesdays.

He absolutely loves his class. He might cry when I leave him with Lillian or Steve, and he might wail when I leave him in the child care room at church, but at gymnastics he runs right up to the teacher and walks away without turning around. Although he does wave to me every five or ten minutes. "Hi Mom!"

I cherish this time because, I am ALL ALONE! I have no other child to watch, so I am free to pay attention to Andy's antics, to chat with other mothers, and to use the restroom without company.

Today, a woman settled in next to me and started talking. I had never seen this woman before, nor had I noticed her son who she assured me has always been in the 3-year old class. By the end of the forty five minute class, however, I knew quite a bit about her.

I know that she works in retail and would rather be in bed to sleep as much as she can before Black Friday. I know she used to have a really great job in the midwest, but the company closed, and thank goodness she was renting, not buying. I know that her mother is planning on moving in with her next year, and that she sometimes keeps her son up until ten. I know certain details about her divorce, including how much child support her husband pays and how many hours he works. I know facts about her cervical cancer, her menstrual cycle, the biopsy she's soon to have, that she's getting her tubes tied, and that she had words with the nurse who kept asking "are you sure you want to do this?"

You think I'm joking, but I'm not.

Part of me thinks this woman was totally inappropriate, and is half afraid she will track me down and insist we become best friends, because why else would you share those details?

But another part of me thinks she might not have been able to help herself. There have been times when I've found myself in the middle of some story with a person while at a class or in a line, and I think "I should not be sharing this with anyone." But another part of me thinks it feels good to talk about it. And who is this other person? Probably someone I will never see again. I don't have the time to develop a relationship slowly until we reach the level of intimacy where it would be appropriate to talk about how often I shower. I have to jump right in, or these things will remain unspoken!

I may never see this woman again. Her son also does soccer, and his father usually brings him, anyway. I know quite a bit about this woman, you see. Except her name.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stage Whispers

I've been discussing Christmas and gifts with the boys quite a bit. My secret quest is to find out what they really want as opposed to what they think they want, or the last commercial they happened to see on TV.

All three boys were sitting in the bathtub when Nick started mouthing words at me. "What?" I asked. I bent closer, and I could hear Nick whispering, but I couldn't hear the words. Finally Nathan realized something was going on and quieted down.

"I want to get Nathan a special transformer for Christmas," Nick whispered. "It's cool, and had two different color legs."

"OK," I whispered.

"Yeah," Nate whispered. "One leg is green and the other is yellow."

"Nate, you aren't supposed to whisper. It's a surprise for you," Nick whispered.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why We Don't Homeschool

We got this book at the library called "My First Picture Math Book" or something like that.

It's a great book, actually. It has bright and colorful pictures, and it asks the reader to do things. For example, it will ask "Which number is the pink house?" And they will be in order - 6, 7, ?, 9. And Nate took one look, placed his finger on the pink house and said "Question Mark!"

But the best part was on one of the last pages. "How many more players are needed to make a team of ten?" was the question. And underneath are six shiny soccer players. Nate's face was a blank. I could see he didn't understand the question - after all, he's three. So I tried to help him out.

"Look, Nate. We need ten players for a team. How many are there here?" We counted the six players. "Is that enough?"


"So how many do we need?"


"OK, but we only have six, so let's count and my fingers will be the extra ones, OK?"

And together we counted to six, and then I placed my fingers on the page next to the picture of the shiny players as we finished counting to ten.

"So Nate, how many fingers do I have?"


"Um, OK, but how many players do we have?"


"OK, there are six on the page, and then we counted to ten with my fingers, see?" I wiggle my four fingers. "So how many did we end up needing?"

"Ten! Mom, why are you laughing?"


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Potty Talk

Yes, it's everyone's favorite subject!

Actually, I'm not going to go into this much, today. After all, I haven't really started potty training Andy yet, as he's not even two, and Nate's been potty trained for over a year now.

The thing is, every once and awhile there is some, um, backsliding. And Nathan will decide he doesn't really need to go use the bathroom until he really needs to use the bathroom, and then he doesn't get there in time. And this may happen three or four times in a 48 hour time frame.

The most unfortunate part of this backsliding is that there is suddenly a lot more laundry to do, especially if sheets and mattress pads are involved. Additionally, some times Nate tries to get away with not telling me, so puddles do not get cleaned up, and then they dry, and I get to walk around the house sniffing, trying to figure out what part of it to clean and disinfect to make the smell disappear.

So... yeah, I lied about not going into it. I totally did. Sorry.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Is there anything worse than having to share your stuff?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stop-The-Crazy Cure

There reaches a point every weekday morning when I've got five minutes to put my clothes on, get shoes on the kids, pants on the baby, pack a snack for Nick, and get outside so Nick can catch the bus. And when I glance at the clock I'll yell out something like " Guys! We have five minutes until the bus comes, so lets hurry!"

And as soon as I say it Nathan will launch himself down a flight of stairs head first, or Nick will bonk his head on something, and they will begin crying, and need to be held and comforted, and all that takes time. Time we don't have if we want to make the bus.

Nick's gymnastics teacher once remarked that Nick should slow himself down. "That way he won't get hurt as much," he said. And it's true, Nick does seem to injure himself in gymnastics a lot. Not seriously, or in the way you'd think, but by stepping on people's hands, or jumping into other people, and once even kneeing himself in the head.

When I was a kid I read all the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. If you haven't read them, well... Mothers have troubles with their children they can't solve, but they call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a friend to all children, who gives them cures - either in advice or medicinal form. And one of these cures in one of the books was for a girl who was always running late and seemed to break everything she touched and injure herself constantly. And the cure was some sort of drug (probably illegal) that slowed her down. She couldn't move quickly if she wanted to. And oddly, she began getting everywhere on time. She no loger fell down, stumbled, forgot anything, or knocked things off tables.

Yes, I know, my mind is a maze of useless information.

Anyway, all this junk is going through my mind and I started to wonder: would the boys would hurt themselves if I never asked them to hurry? And even if we didn't, would Nick still make the bus?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Buried Lead

I had choir rehearsal, so it is later than usual, and I would like to read a little of my Margaret Atwood novel before bed. Coupled with the fact that I can't think of anything relevant or interesting to write, this means I am left with two choices.

1 - see how long a post I can make with no content whatsoever, or

2 - don't post.

As you can probably tell, I opted for #1. Why, you ask? Well, I get to tell someone I'm reading The Year Of The Flood.

Also, my cousin Hillary had a baby girl today! Her name is Charlotte. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thomas Off Target

I do a fair amount of shopping at Target. I like it there, as I can buy many of the things I need in the same location: clothing, school supplies, toiletries, cat litter, bacon.

Target likes me so much that they are always sending me flyers and, in some cases, actual coupons that I can use to buy even more items. And last week they were kind enough to send an entire flyer with coupons dedicated to TOYS.

The boys looked through it, and looked through it again. They pointed out what they wanted, and then pointed out other things that they wanted, and then showed me new things they never knew existed that they also wanted.

And so this morning, after Nick left for school, I clipped a few of those coupons and packed the younger two kids in the car, heading out for Target, the Big Red Dot. After all, not only is Christmas only a little over a month away, but Andy's birthday is right around the corner, and then Nate's!

(Santa, if you are reading this, I'm writing you a letter and it will go out right after Thanksgiving, OK? Don't worry, I won't leave you guessing.)

While I was there I happened to see something that I wanted to get Andy for his birthday. It's a Thomas the Tank Engine, which talks and whistles and responds to your child. Andy also saw it, and seemed to like it, and I had a coupon for it, so I tried to discreetly place it under the cart while the boys were looking in other directions.

The trouble was, it responds to movement and loud noises. And I couldn't find the off button. So every time I made to put it underneath, it started talking. "Hello! I'm Thomas! Welcome to Knappford Station!"

I manged to direct the boys to the noisy Transformers and stuck it under then, but it was hard to ignore the whistling that was coming from under the cart as we were checking out. "Choo choo?" Andy asked. I shook my head. "No!"


And Andy knew it.

As soon as we got the the car the thing started talking and I couldn't get it to stop. "Choo choo? Choo choo?" Andy was saying over and over. And the stupid thing is saying "Let's take a trip! My name is Thomas!"

Finally I wrestled a screaming Andy into his car seat and left hi there, sobbing, as I stood in the parking lot and ripped the box apart so I could reach the stupid off button! BAD ENGINEERING! ALWAYS put the OFF switch where the people can SEE it. On the OUTSIDE of the box. At least if you are going to make a noisy toy with the words "TRY ME" on the box.

Anyway, he seemed to forget about it after awhile. I also managed to get the boys new bike helmets, and Andy was distracted by that. When I made him take a nap after lunch he sobbed and pointed to the garage. "Bike! Bike! Bike!"

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Poke In The Eye

This is Andy on Halloween. (I haven't taken any photos since then.) He's carrying one of the little glow sticks that Aunt Nancy got the boys. Nick ad Nate immediately began fighting with them and calling them "Life Savers." You know. Like Star Wars, but for kids. And Andy immediately began sticking it in his eye.

I have no idea why, but he kept doing it. Slowly, deliberately, repeatedly.

And in other news, yes, I have had a birthday, which is why I didn't post (taking the day off, you know.) This year I can no longer pretend that I am in my "early thirties" and must admit to being in my "mid-thirties."

You know, I don't feel old. I don't feel geezer-like or any more out of it than I have always felt. I attribute this to the fact that I was never that fond of popular culture or doing what young people do. OK, I'm a lot more tired. But that's the kids, right?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

If I Lived In New York...

... here's what I'd be doing:
Yeah, I know, you can't read it. Me either. But you wish you could. It's tomorrow afternoon, reservations can be made right here.

Also, I'd be going to see this. If you're looking for something on Wednesday night, check it out. If you live in NY. If not, we're in the same boat.

Friday, November 06, 2009

No Dick Tracy! No Dick Tracy!

At one point the summer I was fifteen, there were eight or nine children living at our house. Maybe not all at once. But there certainly seemed to be a lot of kids there. And a lot of doing things that kids do, not bad things, just things that aren't very considerate of other people who have to cook, clean, do laundry, share the same space, etc. And my mother might have had a nervous breakdown or two, threatening to withold certain outings, one of them being the movie Dick Tracy.

We still make fun of her. "No Dick Tracy! No Dick Tracy!"

I managed to see the movie twice that summer, don't ask me how.

Really, this post has a relevant, more recent point.

In the movie Dick Tracy, there is a little boy who is constantly eating. As soon as he finishes one thing he tosses the container of his shoulder and shouts out "When do we eat?"

This is Nathan.

Five minutes after a snack or a meal, he tells me he's hungry. If I do not respond in some way, he usually manages to steal something out of the fruit bowl - a pear. A tomato. And this afternoon, a lemon.

And each time I track him down and wrestle the lemon out of his hands, or pick up a tomato to cook with and find it riddled with teeth marks, I feel like shouting. "No Dick Tracy! No Dick Tracy!"

Thursday, November 05, 2009


It's winter. I have dragged humidifiers out of the closet, closed storm windows, put away the summer clothes, and set out the basket of hats and gloves. I hung the heavy curtains and banished the sunscreen and bug spray to a high shelf.

Kids are not so quick to catch on. Nick keeps trying to sleep in only his Transformers underwear, and Nathan has been asking to set the table since 4:15.

"It's not dinner time," I tell him.

"It's getting dark," he says.

The boys are ready, though. They've been trying to go out in their boots ever since I let them wear it in our "snowstorm" that one time it snowed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

About Last Night...

Last night was one of the most horrible nights of my life. As far as sleep is concerned, that is.

I fell asleep quickly enough, but I woke up an hour later feeling just terrible. I kept running to the bathroom, but this malady called for me to feel sick without actually being sick. What's more, I had this sense of panic. Whenever I would relax enough to think I was actually drifting off, I would think I had forgotten something - left a burner on, a child in the oven, one of those things.

Steve snored a bit, then coughed a lot, then had a massive nosebleed. Puck somehow got himself shut in Steve's closet and meowed loudly until I let him out.

Thank goodness the boys all took good naps this afternoon so I could catch up!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Cooking Advice

When making chili, please be advised that 2 canned chiptole peppers are not the same as 2 cans of chiptole peppers.

It's a good thing I tasted the chili before it was done, because it would have been cruel to serve something this hot to a child, and we also had time to order pizza.

Steve liked it, and kept taking bites and then rushing around trying to find things to cool down his mouth.

If I were more familiar with peppers I would have realized my error earlier. Too bad.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Last night was a perfectly wonderful Halloween. We went to Lillian's for dinner and Trick-or-Treated in her neighborhood, where the houses are much closer together, and there are more children. The 70 degree weather, the wind, and the leaves made it a perfect night.

Once Andy realized there was Candy, he let me put his costume on. Nick and Nate would say "Trick Or Treat!" and Andy would say "Me! Me! Me!"

Things have been a lot harder for ma lately. Not unhappy, just busy. I reach the end of the day more tired and frazzled than I feel I have been. Maybe some of that is the weather, or our busy schedule. But I attribute a lot of it to the fact that Andy can now open doors, drawers, and reach counter tops. If I turn my head for a minute to load the washer or put something away or pee, I may come back to find a running sink and a soaking floor, or broken glasses, or... well, see above.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reverse Trick Or Treat

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Today I would like to offer you both, a trick and a treat.

First, the trick. This year, we are practicing Reverse Trick-or-Treating. See, at church (here we go) I picked up five of these cards with little bits of chocolate attached. When the kids go from door to door with their bags of candy and their UNICEF boxes, they are supposed to hand one of these cards back as a "Thank You."

Steve hates this idea. He sees it as pushing our ideals and being "hippie dippie." But the cards say nothing about God, nothing about our church. Instead, they are about Free Trade - October is Free Trade Awareness month, among other things. It explains that many chocolate products we buy come from cocoa supplied from farms involved in Forced Child Labor, and it encourages people to consider buying Fair Trade Chocolate in the future. I like it. But I can see how it does push "hippie dippie" ideals. What do you think?

Second, the treat:

I made a jack-o-lanters a couple of weeks ago. My best, ever. It was from a kit marketed for 6-year-olds. My level, it turns out. Of ocurse, by now the teeth have turned in and it looks like a lunatic Granny-with-no-dentures. Still scary, but in a very different way.

And we are off to Trick-or-Treat. Andy refuses to wear his costume without flailing around in tears. He will have to go as "Naked Baby" or maybe as "Screaming Baby." We'll see. Maybe once the candy starts being deposited in his Elmo Bucket he'll forget he's wearing a cape?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is There A Cream For This?

I can't tell you why, but my job has become much more difficult as of late.

This morning was chaos. The boys have been waking up earlier and earlier, despite the fact that the time change hasn't even happened yet! I don't know what we'll be doing this time next week - waking up before bedtime? Possible.

Despite the early wake time, Nick and Nate were very helpful, and even motivated, to a point. They both got themselves dressed right away, with no help from me. But then I told Nick to make his bed, and he informed me that I was supposed to change the sheets today - even at five, Nick knows Thursday is change-the-sheets day. And then Nate informed me that his pull up leaked last night. And I started stripping the beds. Andy was still in his PJ's, and I thought this would be a good time to encourage him to undress himself. So I did. And he did - he took off his pants and his wet diaper, and I sent him off to get a new one as I kept changing the sheets.

The next thing I hear, over the sound of Nick and Nate playing with Bakugan and ignoring my repeated directions to go brush teeth, is Andy shouting "Poop! Poop! Poop!"

And what can I tell you. There's a reason the kid is still in diapers. I just wish he'd have figured it out earlier so that he wasn't in his room, with the rug. He gets some points for traveling to the bathroom, but not many, as I then had to also clean up the hall.

By the time I got to the bedroom I had a choice - I could get dressed, or the kids could wear shoes, but there wasn't time for both before the bus. Thank goodness the boys have two parents. I threw on some clothes and Steve helped Nick get ready and stayed with the youger two while I walked Nick out.

I like waiting for the bus with Nick because we can talk, and Nick tends to be silly and adorable. I got down to his height and explained that I had been frustrated because I was doing all the cleaning up. "There are five people in this house," I said. "And I am cleaning up for five people, and doing laundry for five people, and cooking for five people, and picking up five people's things off the floor every single day."

Nick threw his arms around my neck. "I love you, Mom!" And I hugged him back.

Then Nick pulled away and pointed at my face. "Why do you have wrinkles in your forehead?"


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Toy Purge

I got this book called "Too Many Toys" by David Shannon. It's a bout a boy who has too many toys, and his mother decides to get rid of some of them. The boy in the book has a LOT of toys. "Does this remind you of anyone?" I ask, waiting for the obvious response.

"Logan!" Nick didn't even hesitate. Well... not the response I was hoping for. Logan has a lot of toys. And I'm not getting into a who-has-more fight. But Logan has a playroom. We do not.

Our home has gotten completely out of control. When the boys don't pick up their toys, I have a habit of boxing them up and putting them away, to be returned when they show be they can pick up their toys. We've never really gotten that far. I had four boxes stored in the basement, and every floor was scattered with spare parts. I had no more boxes to put them in.

So, knowing that birthdays and Christmas are right around the corner, I decided to go through them all.

I made two piles: one to keep, and one to give away. (Honey Bear!) But two weren't enough. I had to make one to throw away, for broken and unusable toys. And then another, for toys the boys weren't excited about anymore but that I refuse to give away, ever.

I lined up all the stuffed animals and told each boy they could pick ten. I tried not to feel hurt as they selected McDonald's give aways and left adorable bears behind. Then I let myself select ten, too. Then I selected a couple more, because I knew the boys hadn't chosen well. And still, a huge box of stuffed animals waits to be given away, some of them really cute.

I think this was harder on me that it was on the boys. I can throw away toys when they are broken, but I have a really hard time giving things away. Especially when they were given to the boys from someone other than myself. And almost all of our toys were gifts. So what if a really nice puzzle of the US is missing a few states? Do we really need Iowa?

So... we still have a lot of toys. But I have thrown out a bunch. I'm going to go through them tomorrow with the boys and we're going to find a home for everything. With any luck, it will at least be a little bit easier to pick everything up, since the toy bins won't be overflowing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Defender of the Fridgiverse

Steve and I just managed to sit the boys down for afternoon TV (The Thomas Movie, much to Andy's delight.) We walked into the kitchen talking about grown-up things, when I stopped and screamed softly at the sight of the block boxes, I mean the containers that the blocks go into, and an empty cardboard box some diapers came in, and a small plastic wagon, all stacked in front of the fridge, blocks pouring out onto the floor.

"Nathan!" I called out calmly, pushing the wagon against the wall. "You have to clean up the mess you made."

Nick looked up from his spot in front of the TV, and to my surprise, claimed the mess. "Oh, That's Voltron!" he cried, rushing over. "Hey! Who took his lifesaving sword?"

It was very imaginative. Still, I never thought "Do not build Voltron in front of the fridge" would need to be one of our house rules.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Joke's On Me

The boys are into Knock Knock jokes. Nick is getting the hang of it, and understands that some things are funny, and some things are not. Nate just shouts out anything. Who's there? R2D2! Ha ha HA!

Today was kind of a crazy day. The house is a mess. Football on TV, so I was grumpy. The kids have been super whiny and grumpy because they've been getting up at 5am for the past week. It's reached the point where I don't know what to do because there is so much to do and even being in my house is irritating. When I do try to do something productive, like clear the kitchen counter, the boys begin smashing their fingers in drawers, bumping their heads on counters, and Andy takes that time to feed the dog, or remove the tuna steaks from the counter, or rifle through the knife drawer.

So this afternoon I decided to forget about it all. I took the boys outside and sat on the rocking swing listening to Nick cry on the hammock and yell at Nate to "Leave me ALONE! Get AWAY from me!" while Nate hit the hammock with a bat.

Andy sat next to me, eating cheesy puffed rice cakes out of the bag. Suddenly he looked up and me and said "Knock knock! They errr!"

It was the funniest joke I had heard all day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Spitting Into The Wind

If you haven't done so already, you should go read my last post and the comments. Now.



Nobody is punching Zalewski in the face! I just needed to get that out of the way. Don't worry, Zalewski, Jamie would never punch anyone. Linda might, but not while Jamie was watching.

Zalewski read my blog post! How odd and bizarre. I have to admit, even though the internet is a huge place, I find myself thinking I'm writing letters to myself more often than I should. I can't always remember that family and friends read this blog (sometimes). So it shocks me that someone I have never met would find my rantings on his article. I am flabbergasted. But, you know, it's a small world, 6 degrees and all that. So. I should have known better.

How sad and embarrassing to not have caught the humor in the piece. Is this what I am reduced to? Someone with no sense of humor? Joyless? Like Annette Benning in "American Beauty" but with a not-as-great body, no job, and longer, rattier hair? My apologies to Zalewski for not getting it and for jumping on the defensive train. Even before reading the entire article, I might add.

I think one of the reasons I did NOT get it, is because there are people out there who judge. Simple as that. Everyone has an opinion, it is always different from yours, and the worst offenders of the "My Way Is Right" campain are other parents. When Nick was 4 months old two other mothers watched me try and calm his wailing self and asked "When is his naptime?" You should have seen the looks they gave me when I said "He doesn't have one yet." It was the same as the looks on some parent's faces when the boys mention they had McDonald's.

And, to be fair, probably the look on my face when the teacher casually mentioned that the "heathy snack" a classmate's mother had prepared was chocolate covered rice-krispie treats, or anytime we get an invitation to a birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheeze.

See, we all judge, as parents. It's really hard not to. Because every path that isn't ours is one we have elected not to take. We judge in defense of our own choices. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying we do it. And I've noticed, and I'm sensitive to it. And that caused me to over-react to this totally amazing article on children's books - a different subject almost entirely, which I should probably go back and re-read with these new glasses on my brain.

In conclusion, I would like to quote my sister Emily in wondering which goes best with humble pie: sheepish ice-cream or decaffeinated gratitude?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hands To Myself

The other dayI happened to read this New Yorker Article and I have to say it hit me the wrong way.

This was the clip I read from Mike Daisey's site:

Children’s books, parents, and discipline : The New Yorker:

So what should you do when a child throws a tantrum? Many parents, determined not to be cruel or counterproductive, latch on to pre-approved language from books. Walk through a Manhattan playground and you’ll hear parents responding to their dirt-throwing, swing-stealing offspring with a studied flatness. A toddler whirling into a rage is quietly instructed, “Use your words.” A preschooler who clocks his classmate is offered the vaguely Zen incantation “Hands are not for hitting.” A kid demanding a Popsicle is given a bland demurral: “I’m sorry, but I don’t respond to whining.” (The preferred vocal inflection is that of a customer-service representative informing an irate caller that the warranty has, indeed, expired.) The brusque imperative “Say ‘please’!” has been supplanted by the mildest of queries: “Is there a nicer way to say that?” The efficacy of this clinical approach has not been confirmed by science, but it certainly feels scientific, in part because the parents conduct themselves as if their child were the subject of a peer-reviewed experiment.

I bristled immediately.

I have had a few days to cool down, reflect, and gather my thoughts. I have decided not to take the article personally. Because, actually, it's a very good article.

I disagree, however, with a lot of what the author says. I agree, children's books have changed. The characters are different. But where Zalewski finds bratty children in need of discipline, I find active and highly imaginative children who act before they think. He thinks the things these children say are cheeky. I think they are innocent comments that happen to be funny. And also, I like these books. They are not boring. The kids in the books, be they monster or pig, act more like the real children I have encountered in my life than, say, Little Bear or Caillou, both of whom I would like to banish from my home.

Zalewski is right about one thing. Walking through a park in the city, or almost anywhere, and you'll get the above scenario. He's right about the emotionless distance, the toneless quality in many parents voices as they repeat these seemlingly meaningless phrases. "Use your words." "You get what you get." "This isn't a choice." I say each of them hundreds of times a day.

But please don't judge too harshly. Perhaps Zalewski has no children, or perhaps he has one, a very calm, silent, do-as-you're-told type who never pushes limits. Or perhaps he has a child that magically eats everything he should and has a schedule that ensures she's never late for a nap. Because sooner or later every child throws a tantrum, pushes back, and expresses discontent in a way that is inappropriate for the adult world.

Maybe that woman who is staring off into space as her child screams for a popscicle is actually counting the glasses of wine she will consume once she has put her child to bed. Maybe that odd, disconnected tone of voice that mother is using as she says "we do not hit our friends" is actually a vallient effort to cover up waves of rage at her hyperactive four-year-old. Perhaps, if she didn't turn into a robot, someone would have to call social services.

My point is, parenting is hard. These tactics exist for a reason. Yes, sometimes their points are lost. But at others they really do work. No parent is perfect, and we're all, most of us, doing our best to raise our kids and not go crazy.

And if that means I can pick a story about a pig that fibs during her Summer Vacation Oral Report, then I'm going to go ahead and do that. I don't think my kids are any worse off for it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not Tonight

I have a headache.

I tried to write a serious post for tonight, but I got too carried away, and I didn't want my point to get lost, so I'm putting it off.

Instead, here's a photo of Andy turning off the lights.

Monday, October 19, 2009

American Girl

I don't know why I get half the catalogs I get in the mail.

For instance, for the past year we have received the American Girl magazine. If you are unfamiliar with American Girl, you need to check it out, because if I told you, you wouldn't believe me.

I consider getting American Girl magazine an insult, of a kind. Somebody rubbing it in. Not only do I not have a little girl to buy one of these dolls for, but I also never had one of my own.

My sisters did - I know Emily did. I think she got Molly, the WWII doll. But Emily was never that into dolls. I was, alas, too old to be into dolls when these first came about.

But now, we get this magazine, and I pour over it, looking at each overpriced item, at each outfit for each doll, and I wish I had a reason to get them. I don't feel I can justify buying any of it for any of my sons.

And alas, this American Girl's magazine announces that my favorite doll, Kirsten, is going to be retired. This is the last time she is featured. I don't know why she's my favorite. Probably because she's from Sweden and celebrates Christmas with one of those candle wreath thingies on her head. And has loopy braids. I was horrified. How could they do this! She was one of the original three! But then I realized that Samantha, another original, was also missing from the line-up. When did this happen? How could it?

Anyway, I considered buying myself a Kirsten doll, just because. Then I decided that I didn't really want her, I just liked the IDEA of her, and all of her cute accessories. And maybe I was sad because, when I look through that catalog, I remember what it was like to be a little girl. Maybe THAT is what I'm really missing. Being a little girl, with a new doll.