Thursday, April 29, 2010

How To Make An Apple Pie From Scratch

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

The other day, I saw this video, We Are All Connected, for the first time. And it amazed me. Let me be specific. The little brushes of science and scientific quotes in it amazed me. The clips all put together amazed me. The fact that someone strung them all together to make music, or something like music, amazed me. I find it fascinating.

Then again, I could never resist a montage.

I don't think everyone will be as swept away by these videos as I am. But I'm too taken with them to care. I think they're great.

This, and others, can be found at a site called Symphony Of Science. Here's one with quite a bit of Dawkins for you, Mom, called The Poetry Of Reality.

And here, for you questioning souls, is A Glorious Dawn, where you'll learn how to make an apple pie from scratch.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crazy Fun

Today we went to the Boston Children's Museum.

I can't remember even going to places like this when we were kids. I'm not sure they existed back then. Not where I was. Or maybe it was just seen as not necessary. But let me tell you, this place was awesome! I had the best time watching the boys climb and blow bubbles and get excited over golf balls on tracks. Even Andrew was able to enjoy himself.

There is a climbing structure in the middle that goes up three stories. Andrew climbed up and conveniently forgot the way back down. He kept crawling around in circles and laughing at me as I tried to wave him down the right passageways. Nick finally had to go in to get him, and a wonderful staff member let them out at the third floor emergency exit.

All three kids fell asleep on the way home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pass The Popcorn

Steve and I had the opportunity to watch The Young Victoria the other night. I shouldn't need to tell you that we both approached this film from different angles.

While Young Victoria was attempting to distinguish friend from foe, Steve was at his computer saying "They were House Of Wessex, then Denmark, then Wessex and then Denmark... blah blah blah, seized the crown, blah blah blah Tudors, blah blah Hanovers..."

And every so often I would interrupt. "Look at her pretty dress!" or "Could you imagine having to wear all those clothes?"

Monday, April 26, 2010

Little Chef

I keep taking these children's cookbooks out of the library. I mean, who can resist? I pick one up and I get images of me cooking quietly with my boys, preparing food together, and then sitting down together for a meal my boys are proud of and then eat.

I never learn.

In fact, the boys get pretty excited when they get to choose what they want to cook. And each boy remains enthusiastic up until five minutes into the process. At this point I realize it's going to take a LOT longer to make dinner than usual, and I begin to feel rushed. Then, as I am instructing Nick on how much cheese we need (half a cup, the one slash two, it has a green circle on it) Andy comes jogging into the kitchen in only a diaper, which obviously needs changing. While I quickly try to clean up the two-year-old, I shout instructions out to Nick. "Put it in the bowl, and then measure out the other kind of cheese."

When I come back out, I find that Nick has ignored the bowl I placed out for him, and instead mixed the cheese in with the yeast, which he was NOT supposed to do. Also, when I said used the measuring cup, I was not specific. He used it, but it was only about a third full.

Nate will refuse to touch the chicken he chose to cook. Nick will insist on cracking the egg but will miss the bowl. Twice.

And then. And THEN. And then And Then AND THEN...

The stupid rolls will take twice as long to cook. The chicken breading will stick to the pan, even though the book said they wouldn't. I will end up shuffling through the cookbook, trying to figure out what I missed. The boys will be watching TV. I will be struggling to follow the directions in The Toddler Cookbook.

So... cookbooks lie. If your kids won't help you cook normally, a cookbook of smiling children will not change that. And the pizzas may be made into smiley faces, but really the food is just as complicated to make. Even more so, because you have to deal with your kids at the same time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pencil Me In

I've recently realized that I don't do scheduling very well.

Suddenly all of our activities are overlapping. For example, next weekend we have church with youth choir rehearsal at the same time as my writing group, which also interferes with a birthday party Nick is supposed to attend, which runs into Nick's T-ball practice. On a day when Steve needs to be at the boat.

We have a week to spend at a house on the Cape, but I can't decide which of the available weeks are best. The last week of school? The first week of school? Is it better to miss the doctor's appointment or the last week of T-ball?

I think it's just priorities, but each person in this house has a different set. When I am met with a list of our commitments I freeze up. I am unable to make any decision at all. Instead, I worry about it, picking it apart in my brain, imagining worst case scenarios and trying to find a solution where time will magically bend and all activities will fit into our lives in a simple "click."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Attack of the Washcloth

I have a lot of photographs of me as a child where my hair is a knotted mess. It wasn't that I never brushed my hair. I did. Well, my mom did. But my hair never stayed brushed for more than thirty minutes, I swear.

My boys don't have long hair. Even Nate, who has hair that sticks right up, has his hair cut short so that I don't have to wrestle with it each day. Because there is no point.

Now I know there are children out there that are kept neat and clean. They wear clothes that match and keep their hair in pig-tails or braids, and when they drink their milk or eat their food they either do so very carefully or wipe after each bite, because their faces are always clean.

These kids are robot children purchased by uppity snobs to make the rest of us look bad. Or maybe just me. Maybe I'm the only one that will now look bad. Maybe I'm that paranoid.

Because my kids always have food on their faces and stains on their clothes (which are too big or too small or ripped and never match). When the boys finish eating I need to chase them down to wipe faces and hands, but I really do have to chase them. And when I catch them I have to struggle to hold them and get all the food off a moving target with eyeballs while ignoring the high pitched scream it is emitting. Nine times out of ten, once I finish wiping, the boy will immediately go back for another round of jam, or decide to brush his teeth (toothpaste!)

And clothing, too. Seriously, Nick rips the knees of his pants faster than I can replace his pants. And most of his shirts are stained. Thanks to the Easter Bunny and lack of listening to me about putting the silly putty back in the egg, we just lost another round of clothes to a laundry disaster.

I watch other kids eat, and I wonder why they are so neat. "You have boys!" many of them say. But it can't just be that. Not all boys would rather walk around with pizza sauce in their hair than let their mothers wash it out with a washcloth. Would they?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spoonfull Of Sugar

One of the things I have completely failed to do as a parent is teach my kids how to clean up after themselves.

Occasionally, when I was a kid, my mother would have to remind us to do something that should be second nature. Like close the car door behind us. And I find myself echoing her words thirty years later. "Who do you think you are? The president? SHUT the DOOR!" And my boys give me the same blank look we probably gave my mom. "What? Who me? Door? What door? This door? THIS one? The one right here behind me?"

Getting the kids to clean up a whole playroom full of toys so that someone can actually vacuum the floor takes the patience of a saint. They forget that they are supposed to be cleaning and begin taking things out instead of putting them away. (Andy) They want to keep everything out as a "special toy" to be played with immediately once the chore is done. (Nate) They are insanely worried that they might do a small fraction more work than either of their brothers. (Nick) So picture it. Andy pulling bins out and Nate playing loudly as Nick shouts "ANDY! NATE! CLEAN UP! CLEAN UP!"

I end up directing from a chair, sitting as long as I can before popping up to help out and just get us through the process. "Nate, pick up your shoes. Andy, pick up the car. The car. That's a book. Get the car. It's next to your foot. See? Pick it up. In your hand. OK, not put it in the bin. The white car bin. Where is the car bin? Where is it? Right! It's over there. Put the car in the bin. That's right. Put it in. Good job! No, leave it in there. Leave the other cars in there. Go get something else. Nate, I said pick up YOUR SHOES!"

I blame myself. If I made them pick up more often, they would get used to it, right? It would become less painful, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

40 days and 40 nights: A Challenge

I have another blog. There' s a link to it in the list on the right. It's a fairly dull but heartfelt record of my efforts to become more ecologically responsible. This post is a direct cut and paste of today's post there. I welcome feedback and ideas and tips, both on writing and on my way to playing nice with Mother Nature.

No, this isn't about the flood.

This is about the Earth. The planet you live on. The planet we share. The planet we are changing every day by small and large actions of irresponsible neglect or disregard.

I first heard about Earth Day when I was in the seventh grade. I had never heard of it before, and the whole idea seemed very strange and "out there."

And now I'm an adult. And I know a lot more. And I am responsible for a lot more. And maybe because I have three small children, I have more of an eye on the future of this planet.

Earth Day is neat. I use the opportunity to try and teach my kids a little something about our effect on our environment. I usually make a trip to the grocery store so I can get a free grocery bag (they give them out on this one day each year.) And all over, a handful of responsible people do things they find good for the earth. They walk or bike to work. They turn off the lights and the TV. They take steps.

And then the next day, they wash their hands of it, and feel good about themselves. They pat themselves on the back for having done something, and go back to driving and keeping all appliances on.

My point is, if you can do something for one day, you can do it for two. If you can do it for two days, you can do it for a week. A month. A year. Yes, it might actually take effort. Yes, it might be inconvenient.

My challenge, to anyone who stumbles across it, is this: Pick one thing. One small, entirely doable thing that will help the planet. Do it for forty days. Don't drive for forty days. Keep your TV off for 40 days. Try not to use plastic bags for 40 days.Run your dishwasher only when full - just try it for a little over a month. It just might become a habit and you'll stick with it for the rest of your life. Or you might stumble back into your old ways. But 40 days is 40 times better than one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sweet Dreams and Delusions

Steve occasionally goes away on overnight business trips.

When he plans on being gone, I begin making plans. I think about all the things I will do with my time once he is not there. I plan on cleaning out closets, washing windows, writing my novel finishing my quilt. As though his being here were actually stopping me from doing those things in the first place. As though once he left, time stopped in our household and I could complete thirty seven projects while living my daily life.

The result is that I do not sleep. Where I am usually in bed by ten, when he's gone I keep myself busy until past eleven. And then I don't sleep as well, because he's not there, and when the zombies come I'll be the only adult around.

And when he comes home, I think about all that I did not accomplish. But I fall back into our routine, glad to slow down at the end of the day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Easter FAIL

For Easter, I charged up my camera battery and had it ready so that I could take pictures. I took it with me to church and to Lillian's. It was there, in my bag. But people, just carrying the camera around doesn't assure that photos will be taken. When I went back to look at what my neglected camera held, this was it. The lone photograph capturing Easter, 2010 : Andrew discovering a mountain of peeps sitting on Steve's computer.


I have to get better at this.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mr. Sun

I love Mr. Sun. But he doesn't spend a lot of time in New Hampshire in the springtime. He might drop in, but most of the time it's RAIN.

Ah, well. April showers and all that.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

Heartfelt Apology

Nathan is a funny, smart kid. But sometimes he can be a handful. Like when I'm trying to convince Andy to get out of the bathtub and he decides to pour water out of the tub. Not directly out of the tub, but on the SIDE of the tub, so that half of it ends up on the floor, but it looks like it's an accident. Except it's not the first time he's done it.

Nate is hard. He get frustrated easily and he is quick to yell and blame others for his problems. He's not dressed? Nick wouldn't let him. He's dawdling at breakfast? He told me he needed more MILK! It's all I can do not to set him out on the curb for the trash guys.

But tonight, after bath, I was getting the boys into jammies. Everything was fine. We were all calm and seemed to be getting along. And Nate said "Mom? I'm sorry for all the bad stuff I did."

And there you go. Instant melted heart.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


For two days now, Andy has been carrying around a purple plastic egg full of play dough, calling it his "baby." He'll drop it on the floor and start to fret. "Baby! Baby!"

I guess we've over-read "Are You My Mother?"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reason #68

Every week, when I come home from choir practice, I take the trash out for the trash collectors the next day. And that can be a bit of a pain, especially when it's cold, or there is snow.

But when I look up, know what I see? Thousands and thousands of stars! Take THAT, city people! We've got STARS here! There are NO stars in the city. Well, unless you count the planetarium. But you have to pay an entrance fee, and here they are free. Sure, you have to get the weather just right and not overcast.

Honestly, looking up at the stars is overwhelming. I wish I could find other constellations besides the big dipper. It's just that none of them look like what they are called. Big Bear? Really? Orion's Belt? What?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Face Plant

Yesterday I kept Nate home from school, worried he had the evil thing I had. I was wrong, apparently, because he spent the morning climbing up onto the counter to reach the Easter Candy I stored on top of the fridge, and splitting it with Andy.

Hey, at least he was sharing.

So this morning, when Nick told me his stomach hurt, I took into account the number of times he's told me he hates school. I told him he could get back into bed, or go to school. He chose school. And thirty seconds after stepping outside to wait for the bus I turned around and he was laying in the driveway. Face down.

So, no school.

And what followed was a day full of fighting about food.

Nick refused to eat anything all morning and at lunch. Nathan kept asking for Easter candy and stole juice out of the fridge when I was looking the other way. After nap, Nathan sneaked his whole Easter bunny. It was a big bunny. It's gone now. Nick threw up, and less than ten minutes later was telling me he was hungry and wanted candy. I said no. He then asked for an apple. I gave him apple sauce, which he then told me he forgot, but that he didn't actually like. So I gave the rest of it to Andy, and he painted it on the kitchen table. I gave Nick a banana. He ate the banana, drank half a sprite, and cried because I wouldn't let him have Easter candy.

At supper, Nick cried because we wouldn't feed him a whole Steak, and Andy cried because we only made enough toast for Nick. Nate ate all his food, and Steve rewarded him by giving him some Easter Candy.

I can't wait until I don't have to deal with this any more. When does that happen?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Time Out

So last night I got sick.

As I lay there in my misery, I thought about which would be worse, food poisoning or a stomach bug.

A stomach bug would mean that other people could get it, and it could spread to the kids. That would mean laundry, comforting small children when I'd rather be sleeping, etc.

But if it was something I ate, then I was stupid enough to eat it. And what's more, I probably cooked it. And since we all eat meals as a family, chances are someone else ate it, too. (Unless it was the fish. None of the kids touched the fish.)

Anyway, here we are, the evening of the following day. No one else has gotten ill. I still feel achy, as though I've been hit by a truck, and then immediately gave birth to twenty pound triplets. And I can't smell food without gagging. Making lunch for the boys was really fun, let me tell you.

Being sick with kids is just no fun. There is no respect for you or your time, or your need to sleep, or not to smell pizza cooking. But the kids were really kind of good today. And Nick even wrote me a Get Well card, in words, and of his own volition.

I kept thinking I should call Lillian for some backup, but lunch was really the hardest part. We just sat and watched TV and napped all day. And I keep telling myself I'm all better and I'll be fine. And then I stand up.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nate Vs. The Squid

During one of our trips to Target, Nate fell in love with a squid.

It's a toy, so please don't panic. It's blue and makes noises and it different from many of the other toys out there. And Nate LOVED it. Every time we went back to Target, he asked to visit the squid.

I have sworn off buying toys for the kids for no reason. We have so much already, I just can't justify it. I give the boys an allowance, and they are supposed to buy the things they want with that money. It's just that they are very young, and Nate only gets a dollar a week, which would mean he'd have to save for about thirty weeks before he could afford the thing. So what could I do?

Well, I used it as a bribe.

I've been trying to get Nate out of pull-ups at night forever. At least two years. I know that pushing him will do no good, he'll get there when he's ready, blah blah blah... but even with pull ups, when he goes at night it leaks through and get his sheets all wet. Not often, but enough to be a bother. And he IS dry most mornings... So I thought a little extra motivation wouldn't hurt.

I bought the squid. And I told Nathan he could have it WHEN he went five days in a row without wetting at night. I know he can do it. So far he's gotten as far as four nights before peeing at night. And every morning he asks about it and I tell him when the deadline is - three more nights, two more nights...

We're back to the start, and I'm starting to wonder if I made a mistake. I should have set a lower goal, or waited until it happened without telling him. What was I thinking? All I know is that I really really want him to get this prize.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Andy's Head

The other day I was waiting for the school bus with Nick. Since the weather has been nicer these days, I've been letting Nate and Andy ride bike until the bus comes. Andrew came up to me, pushing a Tonka dump truck, and when I looked down at him, his hair was red. With blood.

Apparently Andy had fallen and cut his head on his life sized Thomas the Tank engine earlier in the morning, when I was in the shower. I had no idea. But apparently he cut himself, and it bled.

Head wounds bleed a lot. It's scary. Especially when the head involved is rather small and rather blond and belongs to a two-year-old.

Andy had gym that day. I had already told him he was going to gym class. So, two hours after he hit his head, I pulled into the gym parking lot. Even though his head was still bleeding. A little.

I never know what to do with head injuries. I never know if I'm over reacting, or under reacting, or of there is some middle ground I should be following. Do I need the emergency room? No? Then can I take him somewhere where he can jump up and down and do forward rolls?

If someone knows where I can find the handbook on dealing with little boys injuries, please let me know. I would love to have a copy.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Nicholas is almost six.

I worry about Nick a lot. Maybe because he's my firstborn.

He's such a daydreamer. I watch him in gym class, and he's usually staring off into space, waving his arms around, absolutely not interested in anything going on in the class. And I know he's the same way in school. I know he is, because I was the same way.

I identify with Nick a lot. I know he wants to fit in with the other kids, and I see how he looks at them. Today we went tot he park and he couldn't get anyone else to play with him. And I have to give him credit, at least he asked them. I can't remember ever wanting anyone else to play with me. I just wanted them to leave me alone and Id play with my brother and sister. Anyway, when the time came for us to leave, Nick cried because he hadn't found anyone to play with yet.

My heart broke. Just a little. I feel like he just wants someone to like him. He needs someone who is his own age to like him, to want to play with him. I know it probably eats him up. When he spaces out during class he's probably dreaming of how he would play with his friends on the trampoline and the rings. Meanwhile the other kids in the class are cutting him in line.

Now, I could be projecting, here. But I also might not. It tears me up. Mostly because I know it's only the beginning. I know it's only going to get worse. And there is nothing I can do to make it easier for him.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The New Deal

The other day I went back to look at the year 2006. It's quite easy, with this blog, to go back and figure out just what it was we were doing a year ago, two years ago.... four years ago now, on this very day.

I used to be a better writer. Or if not better, my posts back then were longer, had more content. I had more to say, and I had more passion to say it with.

Or at least more time.

I'm very busy now. I'm so busy that sometimes it takes me days to figure out that I'm worried about something, such as my five-year-old never learning to read, or my cat getting sick and dying. And my kids are getting older now, and their battles are getting more private. It's one thing to write about getting your toddler to stay in his own bed. It's another completely to spout off about a four year old wetting the bed or a five year old's social skills. At this point all of the boys become embarrassed and ashamed, and I want to respect their privacy.

So the other night, when I was trying to figure out what to write about that would be engaging, fun, cute, or at least mildly entertaining, and I clicked back through time and read about getting babies to sleep and saw the cute photos of toddlers, my heart began to ache. Not only at the loss - the fact that my kids are now hulking giants who like to play fighter games and frequently use the word "poophead." But because I used to be able to write about things.

So please, consider this post a kind of disclaimer. And I shall try to make things, if not more interesting, at least more real.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Build Up

There are some jobs I just hate to do.

Emptying the dishwasher is one of them. I can wash dishes by hand. I can dry them. I can load the dishwasher. I can do all of the above. But I will let dishes build up in the sink for a whole day simply because I am putting off taking the clean dishes out and putting them away.

I'm the same way with the laundry. I load the washer up. I either put them in the dryer or, on sunny and warm days, put them out in the sun to dry. I can then fold them up, and place them in the laundry basket. But getting them from the basket to the correct drawers is... painful. I hate it. As a result, the clean laundry sometimes builds up until we run out of clothes in the drawers or until all the baskets are full and I need an empty one.

Why? Why do I resist these particular jobs? I mean, by then most of the work is done, right? It's like doing the research, writing the paper, and then just not spell checking because you're too tired.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Details, details...

I have very little to say today. It's not that there isn't anything going on, it's just that... well, it isn't very interesting. I'm working in the yard, I found a tick on my back, I made vet appointments for all the pets. Yawn. The kids are getting on at school, Andy wants to go, Nick is reading well, brag brag brag.

One day I'll think up something that is interesting and post it here.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Begin Anew

I try not to go off on the sermons I hear at church because I don't want to be "one of THOSE people" who spouts out religion all the time. And also because I want to have my own ideas, not paraphrase the minister each week.

But today is Easter. And the minister spoke about how it is a time of rebirth, but also a time of starting over after a loss. Of picking up after the death of Jesus, or starting spring after the long winter. Of accepting loss, and moving forward with our lives, appreciating all the little moments it gives us.

And I couldn't help but remember the egg hunt we had this morning, and the candy and chocolate I had already consumed. And I thought about the loss of the control I had around cake. And then I rejoiced at the thought that my diet could start over again tomorrow, as I partook of the chocolate and jelly beans that would come into my life today.

I love candy.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Floor Of Heaven

When Nick was born, I got all sorts of cards congratulating our family. One of them had a baby sitting on a floor littered with toys and blankets. "This is what the floor of heaven looks like." The card said.

There are times when I stress out with all the clutter and the objects that hide my rugs. I got twitchy, and start flinging toys into bins, clothes into hampers, or yelling at the people that are supposed to be doing those jobs.

I forget.

Yesterday I stepped out on the deck to fold laundry as the boys were napping. We had been playing outside, and toys were scattered all over. But it was quiet, and all I could hear were birds and a faint sound of construction somewhere. The sun was shining. It was warm.

And I realized that the mess was a symptom of a good thing. How lucky I am.

Not that I want to keep the mess.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Some Kind Of Joke

It's amazing. One haircut and he suddenly turns into a big kid.

You thought he'd look like a baby forever, didn't you? Maybe it was just me.