28 August 2009

She's In Touch With Her Towanda

Just walked past my 2-year old daughter. She's been super rashy lately, so I didn't re-diaper her screaming bottom this last time...thought I'd air her out a bit. When I passed her just now, she had located a hand held mirror and was crouched over it, investigating her interior from below.

Next thing you know, she'll be slamming into some rude person's car in a crowded parking lot.

Go Towanda!

* * *

27 August 2009

The Dulcet Tones of Children

"I hate you, Mommy."


"This family drives me crazy."

"You are so mean."

"I want to run away."


"I hate school."

"I hate soccer practice."

"I hate her!"

Ah, the love. The pure, sweet words of children. I would like to say that the preceding diatribe occured over the space of days, or even one entire day. Alas, these words were all voiced between 3:30pm and 5:30pm yesterday, by various children in my family. That's quite a bit of vitriole for a two-hour time slot.

There were tears. Punches were thrown (not by me, I assure you). People did a lot of yelling (including me, I'm sorry to say). One of my favorite dishes broke, which was pure accident and not the result of anger or tantrum, but it made me cry anyway because there were too many other things happening at the same time that made me want to cry as well.

Yesterday was also the first full day of school: COINCIDENCE? I think not. Transitions are hard for everyone, I guess.

One of my kids in particular has really been struggling with the start of school. I find one of the most difficult parts of parenting is being patient with their struggles.

Does that sound awful? What I mean is that when I am trying my best to support them and be encouraging to them and show them options for dealing with something difficult, and when they at the same time are too deep in their struggle to accept much help at all, I get frustrated because they cannot at that moment take the help I am giving.

It's at those moments that I need to remind myself that I am, first and foremost, a farmer. My job is to plant the seeds and nurture them, care for them even before their tender green shoots break the surface of the earth. A farmer does not stick a seed in the ground, pour a little water on it, and then throw her hands up in frustration because the damn plant isn't growing yet. She is patient. She tends to her harvest daily, hourly. She trusts in the work of her hands, long before the fruits appear.

The work is messy, difficult, time-consuming, and charaterized by delayed gratification. The fruit, when it comes, is sweet and lovely and redemptive. Mercy, but I need help remembering that.

* * *

25 August 2009

And You Can Kiss That One Goodbye

Well, it's happened again. Another child has started Kindergarten. Yes, I'm relieved for school to start, and yes, I'll go along with the jokes about "four down, one to go," and yes, it's nice to have my house sort of back after summertime.

But you know how I really feel? Deep down? That I've lost another one.

She's only four years old. She was ours, all ours, to have, to hold, to shape. She was ours, all ours, to share with the world as we wished, or not. We decided where she went, with whom, what she saw, what she didn't see, what she heard about, what we could keep her from hearing.

That's over. We now share her with the world, and the world will now have a much bigger hand in raising her with us.

She is ready. She was born ready. I've known this about her since she was around 14 months old, and she walked into our back yard full of about 40 or so strangers who were touring our garden. She had no idea they were there, and while her older sister took one look at the crowd and made a bee line back into the safe confines of the empty house, Elizabeth took one look and saw a party starting, stretched her arms out in front of her, smiled her wide and crazy smile, and ran into the crowd. She loves the world and all of the people in it. This, of course, baffles both of her introverted-leaning, slightly-suspicious-of-humanity parents, but she will not be stopped.

I am not worried about her or how she will do. I know she will thrive. But I am already nostalgic for her baby days, for her toddler days, for her daycare and preschool days, for her days when no one spent more time with her than I did.

Was I patient enough with her? Did I read to her enough? Did I let her watch too much TV? Was I too hard on her, or not hard enough? Did I feed her well enough?  Did I feed her on my dreams, the ones she picked, the ones I'll know by?

So yes, I am muddled. And to completely indulge my muddle, I am enjoying a glass of wine and an Elizabeth Retrospective:

I just love her, and I have a hard time sharing.

* * *

23 August 2009

Late Night with Daddy

It's the middle of the night. A few minutes ago, I was awakened by something that sounded like water spilling. My head slightly off the pillow, I waited. Then, a little gasp of breath from the next room, and I knew: a child was throwing up.

One day before school starts, and we've got a barfer. Fantastic.

Thinking with fear of the waves of vomit that could be headed our way as some nasty virus makes its way through five children, and thinking hopefully that this turn-of-stomach resulted from too much junk food at the soccer game last night or from start-of-school nerves rather than from physical illness, I mused to Rick:

"If a kid gets sick from nerves or junk food, can the other kids catch it?"

Rick: "Only if they reach down and cup their hands."

The true measure of parenting is whether or not you can make a joke in hell. That man is golden.

* * *

21 August 2009

Wealth Management

In a not-so-rare wistful moment, Rick remarked to me this morning: "We have five kids. We are rich."

So true. Now if I could just find a nanny to help me manage all that wealth, maybe my risk load would decrease a little bit. As it is, I run the risk of losing my mind, if not my children, on a daily basis.

In 20 or 30 or so years, I ought to know what the return on investing in human beings is. It's the only riches I will ever see, so let's hope it comes with big dividends.

* * *

20 August 2009


Thank you, Teacher Mommy, for bestowing upon me the following award:

That, in itself, is pretty awe-summ. So here are the rules:

1. List 7 things that make me Awe-Summm
2. Pass the award onto 7 bloggers that I love.
3. Tag those bloggers to let them know they are now Queens too, and link back to the Queen who tagged you.

Soooooooooooo. Seven Things. Hmmmm.

One. My hands, which I use each day to make meals for my family and which I manage to control each day, such that I do not strangle said family when they do not eat the meals I make for them.

Two. My voice, which can be surprisingly loud and also surprisingly sweet. I am especially thankful for the loud part, because I can bring a room full of savages to a halt with a well-placed bellow.

Three. My kids make me awe-summ because each day they provide me with countless chances to do what seems impossible, and no matter how much I suck at that on any given day, on the very next day I get to have a whole passel of new chances too be awe-sum to them. How awe-summ is that?

Four. My ability to go without sleep. Also a curse, which may, in fact, kill me someday, but for now it comes in quite handily.

Five. My guacamole. Nothing is quite so satisfying as hearing your child say that no one makes better guacamole than mom. (It is damn good, truth be told.)

Six. My friends, because they bring me out of myself and keep me from wallowing in a little shallow pit of isolation, loneliness, and woe. I'm actually kind of funny around the right people, which always makes me grateful for their existence.

Seven. I made it through 7 awe-summ things, which I didn't think I could do, which is, after all, awe-summ.

As for this tagging business. Now that's the part that really stumps me. I am not all that keen on the idea of passing on the love in quite this fashion. Soooooooooooo, instead, please take a look at my side bar, under the heading "Have you read these?" and visit these blogs. They are all more than awesome.

Thank you for indulging this list.

* * *

19 August 2009

Thank You, Barney Frank

Barney Frank speaks the truth. Can we have a little more intelligence in this debate, please?????

I am shocked that the effort to improve health care in this country is being greeted with such fierce, nasty, ridiculous opposition. What planet indeed?

* * *

A Real Question

Can someone please enlighten me? Why does it make sense for health care to be subject to market forces? Why do people object to more people getting health insurance? To those who oppose the public option, why is it acceptable for one person to have access to cancer treatment while another person must suffer through cancer without health care?

I do not understand how the free market can possibly be more important than the health and the very lives of our citizens. Shouldn't the free market serve the people, and not the other way around?

* * *

17 August 2009

An Occasion to be Grateful that Parenting is not a Licensed Endeavor

Dumb, dumb mom: boiling water for macky*, washing dishes in a frenzy, trying to get too much done in too little time. I put a clean dish in an apparently precarious position on the stove and turned back to my manic dish-washing. 5 seconds later, the precarious dish came sliding off of the stove and hit the pot of boiling water on the way down, which went flying across the kitchen. Boiling water averted Child #2 and Child #3, tucked in the computer corner. Boiling water averted Child #4 and Child #5, both of whom who had skittered past the stove moments earlier. Boiling water also averted Child #1, who was on a bike ride.

Boiling water scalded the wood floor, making a pretty pattern that will be around for a long time and remind me to never, ever do something so careless again.

I shudder to think of what could have happened.

Sometimes I can’t believe they issue licenses for driving a car and permits for building, but they’ll let any ole yahoo raise a human being.


* * *

15 August 2009

"Thing, Mommy!"

And "thing" I do, every single night during teeth brushing time:

When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to 1
And you want to have a little fun
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch

When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to 2
And you want to find somethin' to do
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch

When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to 3
And your mind starts hummin' fiddle-dee-dee
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch

When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to 4
And you think you hear a knock on the door
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch

When you wake up in the morning, and it's quarter to 5
And you just can't wait to come alive
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch
You brush your teeth
Chh-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch-ch

Thank you, Raffi. I am at once mind-numbingly sick, tired, bored and loathsome of this song AND eternally gratefully for its silliness, which for me is going on 10 years of coaxing wee ones into healthy dental hygiene habits.

Every night, Tallulah takes position, standing with her back to me, leaning back into my lap, with her head tilted, her mouth open, and says: "THING, MOMMY."

I wonder how many times I have thung that song. Best I never know.

* * *

12 August 2009

A Sad Commentary

On her way to the backyard and through the garage, my four-year old daughter stopped suddenly and with alarm.

"Mom, what's wrong?? What happened in here??"

"What do you mean, honey?"

Said with considerable panic: "Why is there space in here? Did you clean or somethin'?"

There you have it folks: cleaning is cause for alarm at Casa Alatorre.

* * *

09 August 2009

Of Garden Apples and Maternal Neurosis

We have a wonderful apple tree in our backyard, and this year it is producing well: the apples are incredible, sweet and sour at the same time (just enough sour), crispy and juicy, and the kids are loving them. It's a special variety called Anna Israel from a nursery called Trees of Antiquity (looking for a rare tree? Try them!).

Today, Elizabeth asked me for "a garden apple." This struck me as so adorable: she knows the difference between a store-bought apple and a home-picked one, and she knows which one she prefers. It was lovely to be able to step out into the warm day, pluck the ripe apples from the tree, retrieve a few that had already fallen, and slice them up for lunch. Here they are:

Warm from the sun, nothing beats a garden apple.

While picking apples, I thought about how this was just the perfect kind of thing for someone's blog. Someone else's blog. Someone who takes beautiful food and cooking photos; someone whose garden is always in picture perfect condition, whose kitchen is always ready for whipping up amazing dishes, and whose personal style is classic and comfortable. Someone who walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to slow, local food.

That someone is most definitely not me. I, like my kitchen, am always a wreck, never prepared for meals, dashing around like a looney trying to get decent food into people's stomachs, wishing I had more time and skill to cook good food, with local and organic ingredients. I look at people's blogs, with pictures of the scones they whipped up that morning, with the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges of the bell peppers that went into their enchiladas, and I know: They must have better lives than I do. They must really have things together. I bet their kids even eat that delicious looking food, without spilling anything, without complaint, and with pleases and thank-yous sprinkled throughout.

The recipes, which the uber-bloggers always include, sound easy. So I try them, and the food comes out OK, but the process is total chaos and angst for mama. I cannot document the cooking process, cannot photograph my kitchen while I'm cooking: it's a horror show.

But then: a glimmer. Hey, I can stage a photo as well as the next blogger, can't I? I can zoom in on one little corner of the kitchen and crop out any sign of reality, right?

A friend of mine gave me a lovely plaque that I keep on a built-in in my kitchen. It and its wise message have lately been obscured by a trophy hospital (where broken trophies wait for krazy glue), a few thomas trains, some phone equipment, and a couple of cracked picture frames. So I simply moved the junk out of the way, swiped the surface with a baby wipe, and placed the garden apples just so.

Ignore that bit of electrical cord that didn't quite get tucked into the drawer. Instead, read the warm words of "The Real To Do List," imagine the curve of a garden apple nestled in your hand, and think of me, slicing apples to Mozart and handing them to angelic, grateful, loving children.

I am empowered. Armed with a blog and photoshop, I can crop the neurosis right out of my life.

* * *

Mermaid Cake

Here it is! My mermaid cake for Lola's birthday party last weekend. Computer troubles have prevented me from posting this photo before today. Very fun cake to make...now, if I could figure out a way to plan well enough that I am not making cake at 1am the night before the party, I would be golden. Maybe someday...

* * *

07 August 2009

Milk and Beer Do Not Mix

When I was a breastfeeding mother, I did not abstain from alcohol. I didn't party like a college kid, but I didn't deny myself the glass of wine or bottle of beer that I am known to enjoy a few times a week.

So where exactly is the line at which combining drinking and breastfeeding becomes a bad choice? Like pornography, I think I'd know it if I saw it, or came anywhere close to it. Certainly being drunk while breastfeeding is a bad, a stupid choice. But criminal?

I found a post today on a local parenting blog about a young mom who was arrested for drunken breastfeeding. She lost custody of her child.

Should she have lost her baby for this offense? Is it criminal or just bad parenting? Aren't we all guilty of bad parenting? I would never do what this woman did, but I've made plenty of bad choices as a mom.

Is it better to criminalize this woman? Or give her support, resources, options, directions, possibilities to make better choices?

Is that too bleeding heart liberal of me?

I may sound like I know exactly what I think of this question, but I really don't. I'm horrified by the visual picture I have of a drunken woman with a babe at her breast, disgusted really. Is it criminal?

Go read this post. Then come back. And tell me what you think.

* * *

05 August 2009

The Tooth Fairy Doesn't Strike Again

This morning, my son announced that he lost a tooth last night. Grinning proudly, he displayed the tell tale empty spot. He looked sneaky.

"Last night??!" said I, making a mental note to have a couple of $1 bills on hand for after bedtime. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I wanted to see if the Tooth Fairy was real."

More grinning, the "a-ha! I caught you" kind of grinning.

I was stumped. What could I possibly say to that? If he is conniving -- I mean clever -- enough to test the Tooth Fairy, then he's probably going to see through any of my usual ploys to fool my kids into doing or believing something.

Rick tried: "She is real, but there's a protocol you have to follow. You broke protocol." Relishing his win, the kid just walked out of the room, self-satisfied.

I resisted the urge call after him "well, the cash is real, isn't it, buddy? You can still buy a pepsi with Tooth Fairy money, even if she's a fraud!"

I do not enjoy being stumped by my offspring. I vastly prefer being the one with the tricks up her sleeve, who can hustle Tallulah into her car seat and Elizabeth into cleaning up. I loved it when this same son drew a picture of a "super creature" and put eyes in the back of its head, "just like you, Mom!" I revel in the way the little ones get excited and celebrate when the "Music Truck" rolls through the neighborhood.

My parents had a classic one: on our way to visit my grandparents, the road took us by Casa de Fruta, cash-trap extraordinaire and much loved by us kids. It did not occur to us as strange that Dad just happened to see deer on the opposite side of the highway on the exact same stretch of road on every single trip. But we fell, hook line and sinker, and would line up like trained monkeys on the left side of the car, faces pressed to the window, scanning the hills for deer. We were always unlucky and missed them, while our VW van merrily scooted past Casa de Fruta. Chalk one up for the 'rents.

So when the kid starts turning the tables and being sneaky himself, well, I think it's cause for mourning. An era comes to an end, a cosmic shift in the parent-child relationship takes place, it's curtains for the parent-trickster.

Whatever will I do when all five of them are on to me? I am doomed.

On the bright side? I can spend my dollar bills on my tall non-fat latte. That'll teach him to be clever.

* * *

01 August 2009

Gems From Lady E

Two Elizabeth Gems from today.

First, she didn't want to go to the playgroup we sometimes visit on Friday mornings because "it's for babies." I let this go for awhile, but when she kept objecting to having to play with "baby stuff," I finally said "Fine. Then you don't have to play with anything."

Her: "Are you testing me?"

* * *

And then this. Rick and I took everyone to the park tonight for some family fun. On the way there, and much to her siblings disgust, Elizabeth did a little diggin' for gold in the ole nasal cavaties.

She did, in fact, strike gold, and she then placed her treasure upon her lip.

She did not eat it, she did not dispose of it. She stuck it, very deliberately, to her lip.

Her siblings were completely grossed out. One of them was so severely disgusted we thought we might have to pull over to let him vomit. She, unphased, left the little treasure in its place.

When we got to the park, the older kids piled out damn quickly: I think they really wanted to flee from the booger. The little one dashed out as well, and I was left with Booger Lip.

Why would someone stick a booger to their lip and leave it there, protect it even? Well, she told me. She wanted everyone at the park to think she had a lip ring.

A lip ring. A booger lip ring. I can't quite express the pride I feel in her creativity and moxy, except to say that it is something akin to horror.

* * *