26 February 2008

How Will They Ever Survive?

By 8:45 am this morning, I had already decided that I suck as a mother. It was that kind of morning. Here are the things that led me to this conclusion:

• It started last night, when I was too tired to give the girls a bath. I decided that I would give them a bath in the morning, before school. Who was I kidding? When exactly was that going to happen? What was I smoking? Anyway, the bath did not happen, big surprise, which meant that I had three little girls who were overdue for a bath and all of them would be out in public today.

• I couldn't find a hairbrush to save my life, which meant that I had three little girls, plus one bed-headed mommy, who were going to go through the day with little rats' nests on top of their heads. I used a comb on Lola's hair -- one of those thick ones with teeth that bow out slighty on alternating sides of the comb. It's slightly better than a regular comb, but it was still just this side of torture on her poor little head. I pulled the mess up into a pony tail and called it "barely acceptable." I ran out of time to make any attempts with Elizabeth or Tallulah. Or me.

• I put the two littlest girls in the car without shoes, because I knew they had left their shoes there last night when we got home. Elizabeth's were still there, but I couldn't find one of Tallulah's...so she went to daycare with no shoes. I searched that damn car forever. Well, as much of forever as I had.

• Tallulah managed to get most of her breakfast all over her nice clean shirt before we left the house, and I managed to not notice until we were already gone.

• In the rush of getting out the door, Lola burned her finger on the toaster. Did I pay appropriate attention to this? No, I did not. Just got her in the car and off to school. At which point, she told me how much it hurt. When we got to school, I saw how bad it was -- she had a big ole' burn blister on her knuckle. I took her to the school office to get a bandaid, feeling sheepish that I had not taken care of this at home. This is the second day in a row I had to ask the school office for a bandaid. Yesterday, it was to cover the healing cut on Tallulah's forehead where she got the stitches, because I had not remembered to put sunscreen on it as the doctor has instructed me to do daily for one year.

Just a recap: I was bringing my kids to school with dirty, unkempt hair; one had no shoes and a filthy shirt; one had the same Disney princess dress she's been wearing FOR WEEKS, complete with about 10 rips and myriad stains; one had an untreated burn on her finger. The boys? They were fine, just mad at me for yelling at them during the rush to get everyone out of the house. No good-bye kisses for me this morning.

Of course, while standing on the school yard, I remembered where one of the hairbrushes was. Remembered that yesterday when I was cleaning up, I put it back in Lola's top dresser drawer, WHERE IT BELONGS. And of course, I didn't look there because it is so rarely where it belongs that I am not in the habit of checking there. I just have to ask: why oh why couldn't I have remembered this when it would have helped?

Also while standing on the school yard, I had to wrestle with a stubborn, squirmy Tallulah, who was bound and determined to get down on the black top and run, while I was bound and determined to keep her unshod feet off of the ground so that I could drop her off at daycare with clean socks at least. Also while standing on the school yard, another mom mentioned in passing something about the 2nd grade project that is due on Thursday -- which of course reminded me about the project in the first place as well as the fact that I have not worked with Vincenzo to do ANYTHING for this project yet.


The one thing I did manage to do was to get the girls to daycare WITHOUT their blankets because they were so filthy I was worried about exposing the daycare kids to some funky science experiments. Somehow, they didn't ask for them and I avoided that particular struggle.

And Tallulah's shoe? Another mom found it on the street near the school, near where I had parked YESTERDAY, and recognized it as belonging to one of my kids; she gave it to one of the teachers, who gave it to me when I picked the kids up at the end of the day.

Got the blankets washed and the girls bathed tonight, so hopefully tomorrow will be better.

I was feeling pretty lousy about my mothering skills, until I ran into a friend of mine with three kids of her own. I asked her how the kids were doing and she said: "They're all doing fine. Heck, if they can survive me, they're all doing great!"

That made me laugh. And made me breathe more easily for the first time all day. Days like this are the reason why Rick and I do not have college funds for the kids: we have therapy funds for them instead.

25 February 2008

I'm Not Ready for This

My son is in 3rd grade. THIRD GRADE. He is 9. Most of his classmates are 8, turning 9. He is young.

So I am not ready for the things that are happening in his "social circle." He struggles a little bit, socially; he has a couple of great buddies, but he's the kind of kid who really cares what other people think, so he worries about whether or not the kids in his class like him or not.

There is one kid in particular whom he has a hard time with. Today, he told me that this kid is his friend now. I asked him how things changed. He said that most of the kids in his class don't like him and that this kid (I'll call him Bobby) is helping him get the other kids to like him. OK, unpleasant enough. But what was next?

"Bobby says I need a girlfriend."

Me: "Why?"

"Because if I got a popular girl to like me, the way that girls like 'Bobby,' then I would be popular too."

The difficult thing about these conversations with him is that I feel like anything I can think of to say just falls short somehow. I asked him if Bobby generally behaves in ways that he (Samuel) thinks are good, knowing that the answer is no. So after he admitted that no, Bobby is generally a jerk, I suggested that a jerk is not necessarily a reliable source for getting advice on how to behave. I also tried to suggest that a person who gives you advice like that is not really being a good friend, that his other buddies wouldn't ever tell him something like that. Both Rick and I reminded Samuel that he has really good friends in his class, both boys and girls, and that it doesn't matter what other people think or say, especially if those other people aren't very kind.

Most of our words just sort of went splat. Didn't seem to register with Samuel or make any difference to him.

The thing is, I think Samuel is well-liked in his class. Not by everyone, of course, and there are some kids he has trouble with, but he is generally well-liked. The school is small, and focuses on community; they try to emphasize good ways of treating each other. It disturbs me that this particular class doesn't seem to be learning this very well; this little episode is just one of many I have heard, from Samuel as well as from other kids and other moms.

Samuel has a story of questionable social interaction at least a few times a week. Today, it's the girlfriend advice. Yesterday, it was the kid using the F-word with the teacher. Yes, with the teacher. Last week, it was some of the boys imitating those wonderful role models of the NBA: "You're in MY HOUSE!" *Sigh.*

I think this is one of those moments when parenting is mostly about faith, that the seeds we plant are taking root and will grow with proper care and nourishment. We cannot see the fruits yet...we have to trust that they will be there someday. This is why parents get heavy-handed: because they think that if they do not HAMMER HOME THE MESSAGE, then the message is not going to be received. We are guilty of that as well. But I'm trying to lighten my touch. I'm trying to talk and listen and listen and talk, and trust that what I say in love and with quiet confidence will take root and grow.

That and raise a little cain at the school and find out why there is so much cattiness, so much "flirting" going on, so many instances that make me say, "What is going ON over there?"

24 February 2008

Fun Monday: Raising 5, Feeding 5

Fun Monday for today, hosted by Mariposa, asks us two questions: Where did the name of our blog come from, and what is our favorite or most common dish.

OK, so the name of my blog comes from the fact that I am raising five children. There, wasn't that fascinating? Well, I guess there is a teensy bit more. When I first started blogging (not that long ago, just this past September), I was feeling like I stumbled on this amazing world of blogs and every where I turned, I was suddenly noticing blogs. So I started blogging with the name "Here a Blog, There a Blog, Everywhere a Blog, Blog." Kind of long, kind of obvious. I didn't really like it.

Then one night my husband, who has given me lots of good ideas for this blog, suggested the name "And I'll Raise You 5." I immediately liked it and changed it. Since lots of what I write about, and most of what I think about, and most of how I spend my time is related to those five little gems, it seemed fitting that the Blog Name should reflect them somehow.

And I will admit that there can be an ever-so-slight edge, a slight sassiness to the name. We have heard more than our share of comments - some polite, some impolite, some curious, some nosy, some inappropriate, some well-meaning but intrusive anyway -- about the fact that we have five kids. We would never in a million years say to someone we didn't know well: "So, why did you decide to have just one child? That's amazing!" And while I am aware that five children are rare and that it is amazing to some people, I have experienced some weariness as a result of having to listen to people's full range of reactions to my large, young, beautiful family.

And I had a great picture of all five of them -- that I cannot find anywhere. Argh.

* * *

As for what my favorite dish is...or what my family loves. That's a tough one, because, as I've posted before, my family is hard to feed and I usually feel like I'm not doing such a good job at it. We don't have a dish that we all love. Someone is always complaining about whatever I prepare; fun for me, eh?

So I'll answer for me. My latest favorite is something I call taco casserole. It is YUMMY. I first came to know it after Tallulah was born, and a friend brought dinner over for us. It was this delicious casserole, and I've made it several times since. The first time I had it, it was made with ground beef, but because of health issues in this household, I usually make it with ground turkey.

This recipe calls for browning your meat in taco seasoning. Again, because of health concerns, I can't use the taco seasoning you can buy in a packet. WAY too much sodium for my husband, whose blood pressure is high. We are constantly watching the sodium intake around here. So I found a GREAT taco seasoning recipe on America's Test Kitchen website. Here's what you do:

• Meat seasoned for tacos (see ingredients and instructions below)
• pasta
• corn (canned or frozen and thawed)
• black beans (canned)
• tomatoes (canned or fresh)
• Shredded cheese

Don't ask me for quantities -- use about one can's worth of each...

First, make your taco meat:

Beef Filling
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
1 small onion , chopped small (about 2/3 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
table salt
1 pound 90% lean ground beef (or leaner)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
Ground black pepper

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking meat up so that no chunks remain, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Next, while the meat is cooking, make pasta; I usually do elbows. They are about the right size and shape for this dish.

Once the meat is ready, and the pasta is cooked, combine seasoned meat, pasta, black beans, corn, and tomatoes in a casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese. Bake in an oven at around 350ยบ until the cheese melts.

I don't know what it is about this dish -- I think it's the apple cider vinegar and the brown sugar, plus all the yummy seasoning -- but this is truly comfort food for me. I'm sure part of it has to do with a truism I learned from my husband: Food really does taste better when someone else cooks it. I first had this dish cooked by someone else, and it just hooked me.

My picky children won't eat it, past the taste I make them have of each dinner I serve. And when I cook this dish, I don't mind so much, because it means there will be more leftovers for me.

Happy Fun Monday to all!

22 February 2008

Independence is Annoying

Here's a little piece of advice for those of you just starting on the parenting journey, and looking forward to the joy of sharing new experiences with your baby, of watching her learn how to do new things. DON'T RUSH IT.

Independence in a toddler can be a frustrating and annoying reality.

Tried to have a nice time tonight with the girls. I had a mountain of dishes to wash from the minestrone soup I made for dinner multiplied by all of the lunch and snack dishes undone all day. And I thought it would be fun to put on some dancin' music and rock out with my daughters while gettin' busy with the suds. A few weeks ago, I taught Elizabeth how to use the remote control to the radio/CD player in the kitchen, thinking it was so cute how she could make the thing work on her own. The chickens came home to roost tonight, though, and made a mess all over my dance party.

We were having a nice time, but then she decided she needed "some animals" and she put the music on pause. Which made me pause. Knowing her as I do, I thought to myself, "this is not going to end here." I was right. A few more bars of music, and now she needed her blanket. Music: pause. Blanket: retrieved. Music: play.

Dance Dance Dance.

Music: pause. "I need something!" Music: play.

Dance Dance Dance.

Music: pause. "Now I need yadda yadda yadda." (can't hear her as she is headed the other direction in search of some stupid toy or something.) Music: play.

She repeated this about 20 or 30 times. I stopped dancing. I stopped caring. I just washed the damn dishes and listened to little feet pounding back and forth retrieving multiple items I had heretofore not known were necessary for kitchen-dance-parties.

Parenting could be so much fun if it weren't for the children, and those pesky little minds of their own.

Even the best of music is untolerable if it starts and stops like the family VW van during my first few driving lessons.


20 February 2008

Just Say No to Exclamation Points

Note to self: Avoid exclamation points! Or rather, avoid exclamation points. I have decided that this seemingly innocuous punctuation mark is evil.

The other day, right after the big beef recall, Rick and I were watching the news reports about the inhumane treatment of the cattle, and the station we were watching flashed large letters across the screen reading: "POSSIBLE CONTAMINATION!" The use of the exclamation point seemed manipulative; it made the news feel more like propaganda than news, and we were both turned off. I suppose that news companies are trying every which way they can to grab their share of the market; I just wish they could do it without exclamation points. Don't exclamation points convey a touch too much emotional energy to have a place in objective journalism?

A day or two later, I was making my to-do list, which is, as usual, way too long for one mere mortal. Good thing I am actually a superhero; according to Lola, I am ElastaGirl (from The Incredibles). I wish. After creating a list that is so large I can actually roll it up and use it to beat myself over the head and into unconsciousness, I sat there in a state of shock looking at it and slowly realizing that unless I change my mind about the ethical implications of cloning, I'm never getting through this list.

Then I noticed the exclamation points. I had added these little babies to the items that were most pressing, or that seemed the most daunting. The effect? Each one of those little points increased my anxiety level about ten-fold. It was like the list I had written was yelling at me. It sucks to get yelled at by a piece of paper you have created yourself.

Each time I looked at an item with an exclamation point, my heart raced a teensy bit and the little screws on each side of my head turned an eentsy bit. Before I knew it, I was furiously scribbling out the exclamation points, taking aim at their insistent little shapes, and ripping holes in my list as I did so.

I rewrote the list, sans exclamation points. Somehow, I felt more confident looking at a list that said: "Reschedule Sam's dentist appointment" rather than "Reschedule Sam's dentist appointment!!" So there was one small source of pressure I was able to remove from my day.

I wish I could figure out how to neutralize all those other anxiety-producing experiences in my life; if I could figure that out, market it, sell it and make millions, I could cross out that pesky "work for a living" item on my to-do list.

12 February 2008

Talking to Myself

I can be the kind of mother I want to be, the kind I know will raise my children to be well and happy. That kind of mother is somewhere inside of me.

Take time to talk and listen.
Don't yell.
Don't scream.
Be patient: they are still learning.


Don't fight them. Help them negotiate the world by giving them confidence.
Give them confidence by making them safe.