29 January 2010

7 Quick Takes: Vol. 3

1. I read a beautiful post this week from Kelly at Student of the Year, a nice reflection on winter. Give yourself a treat and read it. You'll probably find yourself hoping for a little more cold weather so you can snuggle up with blankets, pillows, and people.

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2. This is sort of reverse book review. As in, I'm looking for people who have read NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, since I have not...yet. I admit that all I know of it so far is the blurb I read that goes like this: "[The] central premise is that many of modern society’s strategies for nurturing children, from toddlers to teens, are backfiring – because key twists in the science have been overlooked." I hope to get the book soon and give it a read. Just that blurb alone seems to match many of my recent thoughts about raising kids. I've become increasingly convinced that much of what we do in the name of our kids is a load of crap. My new insight is that we need to treat our children like people we love instead of like people we need to raise every minute of every day. If you are familiar with this book, please let me know what you think.

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3. We watched Inglourious Basterds the other night. Wow. It was quite different than I expected. What did you think of it?

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4. This week, we say goodbye to J. D. Salinger. When I was growing up, possibly the most dog-eared book in the house, beside The Red Pony, was The Catcher in the Rye. Hats off to The Onion (America's Finest News Source), for the best tribute to Salinger I've seen in the past two days. I am looking forward to re-reading the Salinger canon, and I've done my share of speculating: maybe we'll get some more treasures published posthumously? Wouldn't that be something?

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5. My 3-year old demanded The Beatles this morning in the car. Further proof that I may, in fact, be doing something right with these kids. If she grows up to read The Catcher in the Rye and The Red Pony, I can call my work with her a success. One out of five ain't bad.

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6. I still haven't sent out my Holiday cards. I purchased them, addressed them, and sealed them. I have yet to put stamps on them. If you're in my address book, look for a great picture of the kids sometime between now and July 4th. I'll do my best.

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7. On the way to school this morning, my kids were loud. This is absolutely nothing new, of course, but I was trying to be more accepting of it this time. They were having a great time, being goofy and fighting and telling me fascinating things like "Mom, did you know what the Vanderveer Collection is? A collection of DIAMONDS!" and elbowing each other and generally being both hilarious and exasperating. Lots of times, I yell at them in the morning because the noise is hard to take. This morning, I tried really, really hard to think about what my car is going to be like in another few years when I have teenagers. Silent and sullen, I'm guessing. I am sure I will miss this mayhem then. So I just tried to ride the wave.

I had also driven them to school in my PJ's, so I didn't get out of the car this time, just pulled over and let them tumble out in a big pile before they disentangled their arms and legs and backpacks and lunchboxes, blew them kisses, told them I loved them, told them to have a good day, and then sped away with my last remaining tot. The sudden silence made me laugh...which prompted my 3-year old to look at my strangely. And now, I am spending the morning still in PJ's, in a warm house, watching Flipper with Tallulah. And blogging. Noise and quiet: both are beautiful.

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Go visit Conversion Diary for the original 7 Quick Takes, and links to others.

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25 January 2010

Hallelujah, She's Learning

My 3 year old has taken awhile to get used to the whole "Mass behavior" thing. By this, I mean that we go to Mass every most Sundays, and while I would hope she would be used to the routine by now, she seems to be stuck with the idea that the pews are her personal jungle gym and the high ceilings are her personal echo chamber. The climbing is one thing, a nuisance to believers in our immediate vicinity. The loudness, however, well, she shares that with everyone from the slackers in the back to the cantor to the altar servers.

But this week, I finally saw some progress. She still tried to climb, although maybe not quite so much. But the beauty part? As she sat in my lap, squirming away and trying to charm the folks behind us, she kept coming in close to my face, taking my face in both of her hands, and then leaning up to my ear to whisper, mercifully, "Yo-wuh breath smells so gwoss." Approximately 8 or 9 times.

It's true: I ran out of the house without brushing. She was right. I am so glad she didn't feel the need to make the rafters ring with her proclamation. I said a few heartfelt prayers of thanksgiving for her hushed tone.

She is, ever so slowly, becoming civilized. I, on the other hand, am backsliding. Ewww.

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22 January 2010

7 Quick Takes: Vol. 2

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1. I had a rather nice idea last night, as my daughter was having difficulty going to sleep. I thought it would be nice to give her some ways to help herself to get to sleep, instead of falling back on my usual "GO TO SLEEP NOW!" refrain. I, in my most encouraging voice, said "Why don't you make up stories in your head? Or think about things you want to do? Or think about people you love?" Nice, right? Well, she picked the story idea, and then came out of her room every few minutes to tell me another story she had made up. All of them involved a princess and her dog. Sometimes the dog was named "Ruff." Sometimes the dog was named "Ruff Ruff." It sort of backfired on me, and kept her up for more than two hours past her bedtime. It ended with me losing my patience. It was not pretty. Note to self: Do not encourage creativity past bedtime.

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2. My son went on a two day trip with his 5th grade class to the Marin Headlands, for a little outdoor education. There were many highlights of the trip, but for me, the best is that he came home and announced that being outside in a place like that is way more fun than playing video games. Right on.

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3. My youngest is almost totally potty-trained. This is mind-boggling. I've been trying for over 6 months to accomplish this. As it turns out, it's hers to accomplish, not mine, and this latest attempt has been awesome. I am -- she is -- so close. What am I going to do with all that money I'll save not buying diapers? I guess that means I can increase the amount I put aside each month for the kids' therapy fund. College? They're on their own. But I'll pay for the damage I've done over the years with that fund.

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4. My five year old wants to be a cheerleader when she grows up. See? I must be doing something wrong, which necessitates the fund mentioned above.

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5. I find myself completely overwhelmed by freelance projects at the moment. It's going to be a wild ride between now and mid-March. If you are the praying kind, please pray for my kids for the next 6-7 weeks, as their mother will be even more crazed and scattered than usual. I am hoping I at least remember to feed them more frequently than my 9 year old remembers to feed Beans and Bella, his fire-bellied toads. Those things are practically on a starvation diet, and he doesn't even DO freelance work. I'll report back in mid-March on how many of the five kids have survived.

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6. Dinner tonight: Mushroom Barley Soup. Good for the soul. Having a spouse and two kids that love it as much as I do? Even better for the soul. The other three will exist on toast and bananas tonight, as far as I can tell.

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7. Tonight we were sitting in front of a fire with our brood. It was total chaos. It was nice, but it was chaos. One kid was cuddling up to dad, one was jumping up and down on the couch singing for Simon Cowell, one was talking jibberish on purpose LOUDLY, one was yelling from the next room for someone to rescue her from the bunk bed (she can climb up, but not down), one was jumping up and down on dad, and one was playing a computer game with the volume up too loud. Wait, that's six kids. Well, I swear all those things did happen, maybe not at the same time. Rick remarked: "This is the stuff we can't explain to anyone, isn't it?" Yup, that's the stuff. The level of crazy love and activity. This family is not for the weak or squeamish or lazy. Except that we're kind of lazy sometimes, hence the state of the house. But otherwise? This is hard work. And it was still nice to sit there together, and let the loudness wash over us, and look at each other like "What the hell is going on here," and hear stories about the trip to the Marin Headlands and kissing a banana slug, and let this family moment happen. Soon enough, the kids were arguing over the wii, and mom and dad were off in different parts of the house trying to ignore the fighting. For a few minutes, while the mushroom barley soup was simmering, we savored the chaos.

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Go visit Conversion Diary for the original 7 Quick Takes, and links to others.

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19 January 2010

Teach Your Children Well

Here is a question. To smuggle, or not to smuggle? Do you take snacks into the movie theater? I did, yesterday. I was taking 5 kids to a movie, and seriously, the total cost of providing movie concession snacks and drinks to five mouths might have landed me in Chapter 11.

So my choices were: (a) take them and do not let them have anything to eat or drink; (b) take them, and smuggle; or (c) don't take them. I went with Option B.

This is against the rules. A more obedient member of society would have paid through the nose or disallowed snacks all together for her young charges. Come to think of it, "through the nose" is an apt phrase, since I'm guessing the price of cocaine might rival the concessions prices at the Century Hilltop Theater. Just a guess, of course.

You know how Parents Are Their Kids' First Teachers? Apparently, that includes being the first to teach them how to get away with something.

Good thing the weather was bad, because we really needed those heavy coats to conceal our six cans of root beer, junior mints and red vines. There I was, stuffing soda cans in my son's jacket, advising him NOT to zip it up, because it would look bulkier, counseling them as to WHEN they could unload their pockets and when they most definitely could not. There I was, giving my daughter the once over to see if she looked like she was packing, and adjusting her here and there to achieve the desired effect. I found myself giving them instructions: "Just don't talk about the snacks, don't mention them to your friends (whom we were treating and therefore, bringing the goods for) until we are sitting down." It's like I was training Ozzie and Harriet, or Ringo and Yolanda. I might as well have said stay cool, honey bunnies.

But I just can't bring myself to pay those prices. Can't do it. Can you?

And I would have been even more outraged if I had paid those prices after seeing the mediocre Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Apologies to those who enjoyed this movie, and I know you are out there but GOD I could actually feel my brain cells giving up the ghost. I have got to stop getting the short end of the stick when it comes to kids' movies: Rick took them to Up; I took them to G-Force. Rick took them to The Fantastic Mr. Fox; I took them to the Squeakquel.

My only regret is that the root beer was warm by the time we got to drink it.

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And also, I learned something else new today, from my oldest.

Son: "Mom, did you know that great white sharks reach the age of sexual maturity at 16 years old?"

Mom: "No. No, I did not know that."

There is something vaguely disturbing about hearing the words "sexual maturity" come out of my 11-year old's mouth.

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15 January 2010

7 Quick Takes

Today, I am joining in the fun of 7 Quick Takes Friday, hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary. I've always enjoyed these on her blog and on Suburban Correspondent's, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

1. We have nothing to fear. These words were spoken to me on Tuesday evening and have stayed with me all week, reverberating like a bell inside my heard. Think about it for awhile. Given that I usually behave as if the opposite is true, this, for me, is a revolutionary thought. We have nothing to fear. Try that on for size and walk around with it for a few days.

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2. I am within weeks of not having to change diapers anymore. I did the math on how many diapers I have likely changed in the past 11.5 years, and it's definitely hovering around 18,000. Don't think about that one for very long. It doesn't lead anywhere nice.

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3. Bonfires make everyone happy. We had another one in the backyard last night, and I swear it was good for the soul. The kids played and played and were happy and not bickering. Who knew that the secret to a happy family is a very cold night and a very big fire? (It wasn't actually a bonfire: just a huge fire in a metal drum.) Here is some art from my 2nd born that captures the evening.

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4. I am learning that I am not very good at the "quick" part of 7 Quick Takes Fridays.

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5. If you live in the Bay Area, and would like to listen to beautiful music while supporting Haitian relief, check this out: The San Francisco Boys Chorus and Oakland Diocese Respond to Haiti Earthquake Disaster with Benefit Relief Concert. Tickets can be purchased at that link.

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6. When we had our first child, we were very, very disciplined about what we let him watch (nothing) on TV. Now we have five. My fifth child's brain cells are dying by the minute with the amount of TV I use to babysit her let her watch. If I am very quiet, I can actually hear the synapses in her head collapsing. It's kind of a pphhhtttt sound.

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7. I got a flat tire on the freeway the other day. That was an adventure. But the good news is that had it not been for that experience, we would never have learned that 511.org offers a free road side service to help people with things like flat tires. Rick came to my rescue, but it was raining and miserable out (why is it always raining when you get a flat tire?), so I took the kids home and left him on the side of the road to struggle with the tire. A 511.org guy happened by and helped him! Just think, we got our tire changed and our faith in humanity restored, all in one afternoon! So if you find yourself in need, call 511 and get some help.

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Thus endeth my inaugural 7 Quick Takes Friday.

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14 January 2010

Where Enthusiasm Gets Scary

My youngest helped me make dinner tonight. I started to wisk the eggs, but she got all excited that she wanted to do it. "ME ME ME ME, Mommy, I DO IT !"

Sure honey, you can do it! Here you go, here's the wisk, here's how you do it. Good girl!


She is truly terrifying.

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Where Stubborn Meets Ridiculous

First of all, I kind of can't believe I haven't already told this story, but I searched my blog this morning and couldn't find it. If I somehow missed it, and I'm repeating myself, please have mercy and remember that I've lost more and more brain cells and memory space with each child and I'm lucky I remember my own name half the time. Caveat issued.

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A few months ago, I was manning the controls of a routine school-night at our house. This involves making pasta, scaring up a vegetable, and keeping the little kids somehow occupied while helping the older kids do their homework. It's quite a juggling act.

At one particular moment, I was chopping carrots, correcting 4th grade math and helping my oldest figure out his science homework, when a blood curdling shriek interrupted the proceedings. I turned around to see my youngest, standing absolutely rigid, with a look beyond terror on her face, and a sound from the depths of hell spewing forth from her throat.

She was not standing near anyone, so no one could have hurt her. Everyone else was accounted for, so they couldn't have swiped a toy or lovey from her. She wasn't crumpled on the floor or recovering from a great fall. There were no tools or other implements near her. She was either in extreme pain or extremeley pissed off at someone, and I couldn't figure out what had happened.

I tried asking her what was wrong, and got screamed at for my troubles. I tried to comfort her, but she put her arms out in front of her and spit out several guttural NOs!, which I took to mean: Stay the hell away from me, lady!

Everything and everyone came to a halt. Good God in heaven, what is the matter with this child?

Diaper rash? Checked it out: all clean.

Tortured by siblings? Checked it out: they were all baffled and concerned.

The screaming continued, the rigidly stiff body remained so.

Is she hungry? Um, no, she just threw the crackers we offered her at my head. Thirsty? Um, she says no, and I'm not giving her a heavy sippy cup just to be sure, as I think it will end up in a trajectory towards my head.

Does she need her blanket? Not providing relief.

Tired? Just got up from a nap 30 minutes ago.

All I could do was gather her in my arms and hold her, screaming, angry, inconsolable child that she was. After resisting that for awhile, she finally let me. She settled a tiny bit, but was clearly just furious with the world.

With no idea how to help her, I rubbed her back, and tried to get back to homework help. After about 20 minutes, she was still distraught, and I had to do SOMETHING to break this cycle.

When in doubt, change a diaper; at least it gives you something to do. Maybe it's pinching her skin? So I took her upstairs and put her on my bed and proceeded to do the job.

When I lifted up her legs to pull the (clean!) diaper off, I got a look at the bottoms of her feet. There, lodged nice and firmly in her left foot, was a push pin. The neat red circle was flat and flush against her skin. It took a fair amount of digging to dislodge it.

OK, now tell me: WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS KID? Wouldn't a normal child indicate to her mother that her foot hurt like a mo-fo, and ask me to make it stop? She's verbal, she's not shy, she's clearly able to obtain things she wants from me, her dad, her siblings, her daycare provider, the neighbor, the mailman, and the grocery store clerk. She is, usually, the tail wagging this family back, forth, up, down, and sideways, and yet, and yet...

She left the damn push pin in her foot for over 20 minutes while I was quite obviously trying to make every effort to find out what was wrong and make it better.

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W. T. F.

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13 January 2010

Give. And Pray.

Haiti needs us. I cannot fathom what I am seeing on the television and on the internet. We are so incredibly fortunate here in the United States. We experienced our own tragedy back in 1989, so we can relate somewhat. But our earthquake then was bigger than the one in Haiti yesterday, and the devastation there is immeasurably worse.

Haiti needs us.

The pictures speak volumes of the suffering.

We can't do anything at all except give money. So if you can, give to Doctors Without Borders, a trustworthy non-governmental organization with a proven track record for providing real help and real relief to people who are suffering.

And pray. And keep these people in your minds and hearts. Let them know that the people of the United States are with them.

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It's All A Big Joke To Her

Two toddlers walk into a bar...

... and proceed to compare stories of the ridiculous things their parents do in the name of potty training.

The ridiculous things I'VE done are paying off, I guess, sort of. The crazy bargains and the stupid songs I am ordered to sing while we are sitting, just sitting, waiting for something to happen. The time I spend sitting on the edge of the bathtub. The wierd way I end up talking about just how fabulous voiding is, and how wonderful life will be when she voids appropriately. The fact that we now visit the public bathroom everywhere we go, just to keep the conversation going and to prove that she truly can go anywhere she happens to be.

This is day three of The Great Underwear Campaign. A few accidents. A few successes. Quite a bit of time sucked up and away and out of my life, never to return.

She thinks the entire proceedings are hilarious. She thinks it's quite funny to tell me she has to go pee, and then sit there for 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes with nary a tinkle.

She mocks me.

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12 January 2010

De-Lurk, Early and Often

Today is National Delurking Day.

So get with the program, peeps. Comment.

Early, often, politely or not.

There's a reason why Nike makes more money than God: Just do it.

Scroll through my posts; I'm sure you'll find something to say. It need not be something nice, although nice is...nice. The important thing is to join the party and add your voice to the mix.

Thanks ever so much!

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And There Was this Girl Named Rosa

Breathe. On a day like today, I need to remind myself to breathe.

On a day like today, I will repeatedly need to tether myself back to earth, to prevent myself from completely flipping out over the competing interests pinging around in my head.

On a day like today, I should keep a picture of my five treasures close at hand, to remind me what all this craziness is all about.

Because today, here is what life looks like:

To baseball or not to baseball? Competitive soccer? Which level? Which kid?

Our 7 year old is making her first confession tonight. I love this first sacrament -- I think its lovely and holy and, well, sacred. It's a big moment for her, and for us. She's not even nervous about it, or so she says. I'm nervous for her, so we've got the nerves thing covered. Oh, and "parents are encouraged to show their children a good example and go to confession as well." So maybe I'm not really so much nervous for her as for myself.

To Avatar, or not to Avatar? We are naturally suspicious people, especially when it comes to popular culture. Do we let the boys go see Avatar? Normally this would be a no-brainer: we wouldn't even consider it. But a friend has offered to take them, which has me thinking about my naturally suspicious self, and reconsidering my non-consideration of this movie. Always good to check those assumptions.

Our 9 year old is starting an art class today. Not such a biggee, right? Well, our 9 year old hates his 4th grade life these days, so this will hopefully be some kind of balm for his 4th grade wounds. He is crazy about art, loses himself in art, comes alive in art. I'm totally excited for him. It's a biggee.

Our van needed a bazillion dollars of repair this month. That just completely threw a wrench into our world. Actually, it threw an entire toolbox right at our heads. That's been a hoot. Still working out the details...still existing on cars that don't actually fit all of us. More hoots.

Oh, and our 11 year old has a basketball game tonight. Routine stuff, except: is it our turn for snack? Excellent question. Must find answer.

Work decisions. Many, many work decisions. What will or should our working life look like? How should we set up this whole self-employed thing so that it operates more smoothly? It's time to think about this: we've been self-employed for almost five years now. We can't be rushed.

Oh, and did I mention potty training? Yeah! With some actual success, though, so that's HUGE. Incredibly time-consuming stuff, this potty training deal. But off she went to daycare today in underwear. What do I care, someone else will be handling the accidents, and she gets one more day under her belt of being a big girl. It's all good, and exhausting.

And the conversations! Oh, the conversations: "No, junkies are not called that because they, as people, are junk." "No, homeless people are not, in and of themselves, scary; they're just poor. Some of them are sick, some are addicted, some are just dirty because they have no place to live. You can't always tell by looking at them. And there are plenty of very rich people who are scary as all hell get out."

Highlight, from the 5 year old: "Mom, did you know that a long time ago, black and brown people couldn't sit anywhere on a bus, but they had to sit in the back? And there was this girl, named Rosa, and she was really tired, and all the seats were taken, and she didn't want to stand up, so she sat down in the front, and she wasn't doing anything wrong at all, and the police arrested her? Did you know that mom?"

Logistics: How to feed seven people, and get them all where they need to be: 3:45-5:30 for one kid...5:30 to 7:00 for another kid...7:30-9:00 for another kid...throw in one 3 year old who morphs into Linda Blair past 5pm, and one trooper of a 5 year old who will do her best until she can't take it anymore and ends up openly weeping because she can't find her straw. Plus, we'll have to make sure four of them do their busywork homework.

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And on a different plane of existence: Yesterday, a dear friend of ours lost her mother to a long battle with cancer. I am overwhelmed with thinking about this loss and about what this day must be like for her. If you see this, my friend, please know that I am so honored to have been able to hear your stories from this past week, and that I hold them close to my heart. I met your mom just once, but was delighted with her, and enjoyed so much seeing her have fun with my girls. She was lucky to have you; I'm certain that you made this past week a blessing for her.

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So there is much in my mind today. A day like this, well, it's what life is all about, I guess. People growing up, people dying, people needing to be fed while all the rest is happening. Cars crapping out and children learning about civil rights. Little kids peeing in the potty and a child making confession for the first time. Bills that need to be paid and friends that are calling and emailing. Always, work to do to feed the family, and loved ones to stay present to.

I'm not a fan of the word intense. But find me another one that captures this day. This day, that finds me holding on by my fingertips and hoping I land in my own bed, underneath warm blankets, by sometime late tonight.


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11 January 2010

Question to Ponder for Today

Why is it that commercials that advertise household cleaning and kitchen products frequently feature men with British accents? Are British men the best domestic role model for American housewives? Do British men really hit that target demographic?

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10 January 2010

I Can Only Enforce the Rules If I'm Awake

We have been trying to rid our bed of little people.

By early every morning, we've got a minimum of two extra people in our bed, people who stretch, kick, move blankets, and enjoy lodging knees and elbows in inconvenient spaces.

It's super annoying.

But then, there's the cuddling, which I admit, I am a complete sucker for. Because I (and my spouse) are conflicted about the cuddling, the situation has gone on way too long. One of the downsides to this state of affairs is that we don't get good sleep. We are always half-awake and half-aware of which elbow might get away from its owner and whack us in the head.

We hit our limit recently, and laid down the law with the girls: "Starting tonight, if (and when) you come up to our bed, one of us will bring you back downstairs and put you back in your own bed."

There were questions. "What if I can't get back to sleep?" "Why can't I stay in your bed?" "What if my sister comes, but I don't?" "Don't you love me anymore?"

OK, we handled all the questions. We patted ourselves on the back for being proactive and for addressing the situation directly with the girls.

So why did I wake up with a bed full of girls?

My five year old reported the following: "Mommy, when I woke up last night, I came upstairs and asked you to bring me back to my bed and help me get back to sleep, but you were asleep and so went to daddy's side of the bed and I asked daddy to help me but he was asleep and you both stayed asleep and didn't hear me and no one answered me and I didn't know what to do, so I got in your bed and went to sleep."

Note to self: Stay awake so that you can get rid of the kids so that you can get a good night sleep.


This is going to be harder than I thought.

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09 January 2010

I Can't Believe I Fell for This

No, not a "Dear Sir or Madam" email from a Nigerian who politely seeks my assistance.

Here's what I fell for: "Hey mom, say the initials of International House of Pancakes, and then say 'ness.'"

Much hilarity ensued.

Gotcha, mom.

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Time for a Stretch

Thank you Viv for this award!

In return, I am charged with being grateful.


Isn't that kind of antithetical to all the bitching and complaining I usually do?

Only some of it ends up on this blog, but the rest of my dissatisfaction with life is strewn liberally across my kitchen, where I spend so much of my time, and I'll have a job clearing it all to the side to find those gems of gratitude buried around here somewhere.

It is a well documented truth that the only motivation strong enough to make me clean my house is the threat of visitors. Now it seems the same is true of my head and heart: the only thing motivating me to clean them up today is the prospect of visitors to this blog. That plus the gauntlet thrown down by this Happy 101 Award.

So, thanks to Viv, I will now search my head and heart to find 10 things that I am grateful for, that make me happy. (I considered using spots 1-5 for each of my five kids. But that's a little bit of cheating right there, plus, they're driving me nuts, so it wouldn't have been incredibly heart felt. They are up too early, and they are clamoring for food, wii-time, and valentines print outs. The three little ones are giving me approximately -1 centimeter of space in which to move. Why is that the under 10 set does not understand the concept of personal space? Or perhaps they understand but do not care?)

OK, back to the task at hand. S-T-R-E-E-E-E-E-E-T-C-H!

1. I am grateful for my parents. They are really wonderful to my children and very supportive to Rick and me. They host sleepovers, take the kids to movies, do art with them, ride bicycles with them (bicycles they purchased!), and come to their sporting events. Plus, every year on my birthday, they renew my subscription to The New Yorker. Which is good because I spend so much time doing mind-numbingly mundane tasks that without a little high-brow content to read, I think my brain would have been mush a long, long time ago. Thanks for keeping me smart, mom and dad!

2. I am grateful for the very wide circle of friends Rick and I have. We have been showered with so many kindnesses, so much generosity, and so much plain old love, that no matter how stressful and difficult things may get while raising five children and working multiple jobs, I am forced to recognize that life is good, the world is full of beauty, and that people are truly wonderful. We are blessed.

3. I am grateful to the writers and actors of the show Friday Night Lights. They make me happy, after they rip my heart out with their story lines. What a great show.

4. I am grateful to the writer of the blog pantrymd.com. Check her out. She gave me the idea for kale chips, which my kids actually fight over. Kale. They can't get enough. That makes me incredibly happy, and gives me hope that these kids might just turn out to be successful, happy adults.

5. Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

6. I am grateful for the internet, just like Viv, because it connects me to so many people and interesting ideas, and because I love to blog. Stay-at-home-parenting can be so isolating. The internet gives us that white picket fence of yesteryear -- a place to lean and chat with neighbors. (Thank you to my friend Gabriele for that image!)

7. I am grateful for the jobs Rick and I have. Work is a good thing, especially given that we are both self-employed.

8. I am grateful for hot showers, and I don't get nearly enough of them.

9. I am grateful for sour dough french bread.

10. I am grateful to Viv, for giving me this exercise to do. My mind and heart really needed the workout.

As for the passing it on part. Funny, I always enjoy getting these awards and the invitations to write about something, but I am entirely uncomfortable with sending them. So I guess I will instead invite everyone to consider what makes them happy and do a little posty-posting about it. Take the Happy 101 image from the top of this post, and join the party.

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06 January 2010

House Devils and Street Angels

I am pleased to say that I hear many wonderful reports about how well behaved my children are. Teachers, friends, random strangers smile and tell me what a beautiful family I have, how good they are, how pleasant.

They have never been in trouble at school for behavior-related problems. They are polite, respectful, kind and fun to talk to. Or so I've been told.

At home, there is another reality.

At home, they are evil to each other, and sometimes to me. Take today, for example. Since we got home, 34 minutes ago, I've heard yelling, screaming, crying, howling, door-slamming, stomping, whining, accusations and insults.

And there are multiple fronts: two are going at it in the dining room, one is running back and forth spewing venom and slamming doors, and one or two seem to be loudly proclaiming some injustice that the universe is guilty of.

If I could isolate the problem, I might be able to do something about it. Instead, I sit here blogging because I cannot be in three places at once, using my depleted motherly skills to negiotiate multiple peace settlements simultaneously. I am, for the moment, defeated.

On the one hand, I am thinking of starting my own 12-step group, YA: Yeller's Anonymous. "Hi, my name is Monica, and I'm a yeller."

On the other hand, how can a person be expected to spend any amount of time around the vitriole my children are subjecting each other and me to and NOT yell? I would talk in a calm, even, low-toned voice if anyone could hear me over the fray. This is not the case. The only way to be heard around here is to be louder than everyone else.

Am I really the grown up here? Am I the one in charge? What the hell am I doing wrong, then, because it appears that the natives have taken over and chaos is reigning.

A friend of mine once referred to the phenomena of having well-behaved children outside of the house and ill-behaved ones at home as having "House Devils" and "Street Angels."

That's great for the rest of the world, but right now, my future depends on my making a deal with the devil. Or rather, five devils.

Chances are very slim that I will emerge unscathed.

However, as Elasti-girl says in The Incredibles, "it's time to engage." Wish me luck: I'm going in.

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05 January 2010

She's Good

The other day, my 3-year old daughter catapulted herself through the kitchen and collided with the doorjamb. Her head, her shoulder, her hip all hit, and hit hard.

I held my breath.

I waited.

She teetered, stunned, for a minute.

Time stood still.

Then she turned to me, flashed a 1000-kilowatt smile, put her hands up, palms forward and said: "I'm good!" She then dashed off to resume the catapulting.

Thank you, Pepsi Max.

Apparently, 3-year old girls can take anything too.

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04 January 2010

I Can See the Finish Line. I Just Can't Get There.

I have been a mother for 4,111 days.

That's how many days I have been changing diapers. I would do the math to figure out how many diapers that translates into but (a) I would cry and (b) I would give all those environmentally-minded, population control people way too much ammo. (Just an aside: the water required to launder cloth diapers cancels out the landfill impact of disposables. Did you know that?)

My youngest is over 3, and there is no nice way to put this so I'll say it with asterisks: she is f***ing with me. She knows what she needs to do. She just refuses. She's got the physical control. She knows where the job needs to be done. She'll even sit there every so often. She claims to be a "big girl." She claims that she uses the potty. She is a great big huge flaming liar.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, she won't go to college in diapers, yadda yadda yadda. I don't even want her to go to the grocery store in diapers, and we're leaving as soon as I finish this post.

I am so ready to be done with this phase of parenting, I can almost smell the fresh air. I am so tired of the wrangling, the smell, the disposing, the managing, the cajoling, the training, the waiting, the rewards, the disappointment, the frustration, the patience required of the mother of one who is potty training.

And the child in question? What does SHE think of the whole subject. I think this photo sums it up quite well.

Further proof. She hates me.

* * *

02 January 2010


1. He teaches us soccer moves. • 2. He read Little Women to me. • 3. He takes us to Fenton’s for ice cream. • 4. He’s the milkshake parent. • 5. He creates beautiful gardens. • 6. He takes us to In-n-Out. • 7. He makes us warm fires in the winter. • 8. He finds stuff for us at Thrift Town. • 9. He tells mommy she is beautiful. • 10. He wrestles with us.

11. He gave us Bob Dylan. • 12. He brings me ribs from T-Rex. • 13. Two words: Top Dog. • 14. He draws pictures with us when we are doing art and on the menus at Fatapples. • 15. He read Shakespeare to me when I was really little. • 16. He says sorry. • 17. He tells us he loves us every day. • 18. He carried all of us kids in the backpack when we were little and let us all drool down his back. • 19. He loves to take naps with us. • 20. He reads Always Room for One More and One Morning in Maine to us.

21. He likes to make us laugh. • 22. He read The Phantom Tollbooth and The Hobbit to us in the evenings on mom and dad’s bed. • 23. He makes us delicious paella and pizza. • 24. He goes on our field trips when he can. • 25. He takes me to play soccer at the park early in the morning before school. • 26. He makes mom yummy Old Fashioneds. • 27. He makes sure we always have the right soccer shoes. • 28. He writes poetry for us. • 29. He takes us on the train in Tilden Park. • 30. He reads and learns all he can about coaching youth soccer so that he can be the best possible coach for our teams.

31. When we were inconsolable babies, he would pack us into our car seats and drive around for as long as it would take for us to settle down. • 32. He likes to watch The Incredibles with us. • 33. He takes us to the lawnmower store (Urban Ore). • 34. He has an amazing collection of weird and funny faces. • 35. He (and mom) got us a Wii for Christmas. • 36. He makes “bonfires” in the back garden. • 37. He takes us to see professional soccer games. • 38. He’s a cuddler. • 39. He makes coffee for mom in the morning before she gets up. • 40. He makes sure all of the doors are locked every night.

41. He takes us to Albany Memorial Park. • 42. He makes sure mom remembers the whipped cream when she buys stuff to make hot chocolate for us. • 43. He takes us to the Botanical Gardens to find lizards. • 44. He’s the teeth brushing parent. • 45. He gave us lollipops with bugs in them. • 46. He gave us life. • 47. He brought us to his classroom while he was teaching and let us draw. • 48. He works hard each and every day to take care of us.


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01 January 2010


My son was invited to a friend's house earlier this week to play. He was reluctant to go. It wasn't that he didn't like the kid or the family -- he loves them. But he is my home-body, my stay-in-pajamas kid, my "I prefer my family" guy. I am happy to give him plenty of time and space to just "hang" on vacation, but I really wanted him to go because I knew he would have fun and because I thought it would be good for him to get out of the house after several lounge lizard days in a row.

I forced him.

He was unhappy with me, and called me the meanest.

Nothing I said could convince him that he would have a good time, not the possibility of a hike with a dog, nor the possibility of a visit to the California Academy of Sciences. Nothing.

But then, he found his own motivation: "OH YEAH! Last time I was with "Joey," we were trying to figure out the DNA of a booger! We can do that today, too!" And just like that, he was chomping at the bit to get over to his friend's house.

Whatever gets you off the couch, buddy.

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May we all find our own personal reasons for getting out in the world, spending time with friends, and discovering new things in 2010.

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