29 April 2010

Idaho?

My kids call homeless people hobos. This may or may not be sensitive, politically correct, or kind. I'm not sure. I used to work in homeless shelters, so it's important to me that my kids learn the whole story behind homelessness, and that they see people on the street as human beings with dignity who deserve compassion.

And still, my kids call them hobos. I do not love this, but this whole teaching them compassion thing is a process, and I'm trying to place this in the larger context of how they see us, their parents, talk about and treat poor people. I'm working towards getting them to drop "hobo" from their lexicon.

But they have taken things a step further. In one of those twists of language that is a hallmark of childhood, they think that the epithet "HO" is a shortened form of hobo.

And to complicate matters, we have good friends who moved to Idaho.

So, when we talk about our friends who moved, the kids invariably dissolve into a little back and forth:

"Idaho?"

"No! YOU DA HO!"

They repeat this several times. I cringe.

This is wrong on so many levels I am just not sure how to address it. Do I stop them, and explain what is actually meant by the term "HO?" Um, no. Do I let them essentially poke fun at each other by calling each other hobos? Is that being compassionate to homeless persons? Um, no.

Usually, I just grip the steering wheel a little tighter, and try to think of some distraction to change the subject.

What language mishaps have your kids gotten into?

* * *

28 April 2010

Preparing for Mother's Day

I am getting wistful about Mother's Day.

I produce a monthly newsletter for a local parents group and for the May issue, a handful of mothers answered two questions:

What is your favorite thing about being a mother?
How do you keep sane while raising your children?

I did my best to answer those questions, and the process really got me thinking. Sometimes, the annual Mothers Day platitudes leave me cold. Perhaps that's because nothing can truly describe being a parent. It just might be the most elusive activity on the planet, the most impossible to capture completely in words. Of course, I love cuddling with my kids, I love the messy handprint works of art, I love hearing them say "I love you, Mommy." And many, many times, those things are enough reward and enough fulfillment for a busy day spent raising children.

And yet, it doesn't quite get there, does it? Am I the only one for whom those wonderful, warm things are not always enough?

Here are my answers to those two questions:

My favorite thing about being a mom is watching my kids interact with the world. I love hearing them talk to other people, seeing the things they create, hearing their responses to the world, answering their deep questions about life, and learning from them how to stay curious, hopeful and responsive. It’s the most rewarding thing I can imagine, and I feel so fortunate to have a front row seat.

I try to stay sane by taking delight in the many sweet and funny things my kids do. Yesterday, after Rick built a vegetable box and placed it in the ground, my 3 year old came to me, very seriously. “Mommy, we all forgot to do something. Come see.” I was busy and distracted, and didn’t want to stop what I was doing, but she was insistent. So I took her hand, and she pulled me into the back yard and pointed to the empty garden box and said with great concern: “We forgot to put stuff in there, Mommy.” That delighted me, and made me glad I had stopped washing dishes (or whatever) to follow her. Those moments keep me sane and happy in the midst of mayhem.


Those words are true.

But it can be hard work to keep them in mind when I'm in the trenches and feeling -- sometimes -- like a failure. Perhaps the best way to celebrate Mothers Day this year, for me, will be to try very hard to see beyond the difficult and celebrate the people in my family, to focus on my children as people whom I love instead of as people I need to raise every minute of every day. Because you can't put people into words either -- but I sure do love them.

* * *

26 April 2010

Stop Searching For Elmo!

Last year, I wrote a silly post about Elmo, about how I had not realized how controversial Sesame Street actually is. Hadn't considered how Cookie Monster thwarts our every attempt to teach our children good nutrition habits. Hadn't recognized the "partnership" between Ernie and Bert. Hadn't realized that people actually hate Elmo.

In the past few days, however, I've started feeling a certain antipathy towards him myself.

Apparently, the image I grabbed and put on my blog for that post has moved into a position of prominence in the Google Images search. A gazillion and a half people have been clicking on that 6 month old post because they are searching for a picture of Elmo and they land on And I'll Raise You Five.

My stat counter has been going bonkers.

At first, I was elated. Wow! So many visitors! I must be even more eloquent than I imagine! I'm so impressed with myself! (Given another of my antipathies, this one for the exclamation point, that's sayin' somethin'.)

But do these gazillion new people click on anything else? Nope. They probably spend half a second on my blog, long enough for them to think Good Good, anyone and everyone has a blog these days, and this crap is not what I'm searching for, and then they move on. No comments. No piqued interest leading them to other pages, to more compelling posts. No uptick in my small band of followers.

Elmo is not sharing the love. Many, many people search for him, find me, and leave me in their dust. They love him enough to search; they do not love me enough to stay for awhile.

My stat counter is completely unreliable now, since the vast majority of my hits are really hits for Elmo. I can't even get excited about the climb in numbers; Elmo has rendered it meaningless.

Stop searching for Elmo people!

And no, I am NOT linking to that earlier Elmo post, because half of the blog-reading world has already read it and I'm sick to death of it.

* * *

22 April 2010

The Fort That Love Built

A couple of days ago, I posted about my aversion to fort-fun in my living room. My friend Kerri's response deserves a post of its own. Here it is:

Whew...thank you for posting this. I loathe the explosion that comes after cleaning a room. And the clean space begging for a fun mom to build a fort....I usually try to turn a blind eye and let 'em at it, but secretly I'm cringing while ignoring, wishing that I had the "fun-ness" to join them.

A wise older friend told me a long time ago, when I was in a cleaning frenzy before some guests came, people don't come over to see your house, they come to see you. Have a big kitchen and plenty (food, wine, love, advice, stories) to share. So let the bomb drop in my living room....I've got cellar full and a fridge that's stocked. We can all hang out inside the fort that love built.



Thank you, Kerri! And just in time for me to have the right attitude for getting the house ready for a First Communion party!

* * *

21 April 2010

The Little Things

Rick took the four olders to school today. My job was to get the littlest muppet out the door and to daycare. Early this morning, I made a list of things I must accomplish today, this being one of the three days of the week I have no kids with me. That list is sitting on my dining room table growing fangs, hair and teeth.

Pressure. Pressure to get things done, to do things well, to go out into the world with confidence.

My response: "Ah, screw it. I think I'll read to Tallulah instead."

Well, that sounds more noble than what actually happened. What happened was my 3 year old TV addict was begging to watch "sumpin" before going to daycare, and I was standing firm: no TV before daycare. After 15 requests for TV, she switched to asking for a book. I tried to say no, I really did, because I was feeling rushed. But I figured, damn, I really should encourage the whole reading thing. So a little reluctantly, I sat down on the couch to read.

One book later, repeated five times, and I found myself stuck to my couch, cuddling with Tallulah and Bob Dylan, covered in a cozy blanket, and playing silly games. Oh, to clarify, Bob Dylan is her stuffed monkey. Anyway, her most favorite thing these days is for one of us to be Bob Dylan's voice and to have goofy conversations with her. Today, Bob talked about her recent pink eye, where she does (and maybe should) go poop, polka-dotted seals, his favorite food (bananas, of course), and how much he loves her. He lamented the fact that he cannot use medicine for pink eye, like she did recently, because, as she pointed out, he cannot blink his eyes for the eye drops.

They hugged each other many times. They kissed a lot. She was exceedingly happy.

I was half an hour late dropping her off at daycare. The to do list is now growling and throwing china.

It was worth it.

* * *

20 April 2010

It is No Fun Being a Fun Mom

I just finished cleaning up -- at warp speed -- my kitchen, dining room, and living room.

A clean space invites children to play. I should remind myself of this before being inspired to clean. That noble sage, Phyllis Diller, has spoken eloquently on this topic; see my side bar. I should know better than to ignore her wisdom.

No sooner was the living room room clean than my three adorable daughters decided it was the perfect space to make forts. They all need a separate fort. There is much moving of chairs and dragging of blankets and propping up of cushions happening in my living room as I speak. I am waving a white flag. It was clean for less than five minutes. Why, oh why, do I bother?????

* * *

My oldest daughter was so excited to be making forts. She came to me all a-twitter. "Mom, can we make FORTS???" I groaned audibly and put my face in my hands. "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeze, mommy? I'll clean up right after! I promise! Pleeeeeeeeeze????" What kind of ogre says no to that? At the expense of my own happiness, not me. Forts were approved and forts are under construction.

A FUN mommy would jump at the chance to promote such imaginative play. A FUN mommy would help drag out blankets and pillows. A FUN mommy wouldn't feel the need to pop open a beer just to get through the fort-play.

It is NO FUN to be a fun mommy. Fun mommy's don't get what THEY want, such as a clean living room.

When is it time for me to get my way? Don't answer that...I'm not in the mood to cry.

* * *

19 April 2010

The Idiot's Guide to Knowing When You Are Really, Really Tired

You might think that being tired is fairly obvious. You might think that only an idiot would not be aware that she needs more sleep. Such is the nature of sleep deprivation, that those who suffer from it for long enough forget how important sleep is or how much they need it. But then, something usually happens to break that cycle and bring home the point that we mere mortals do need to sleep.

Here's how it happened for me:

My son goes to soccer practice in Alameda, a good half hour away from our home. Getting him there means hanging out in Alameda for two hours, rather than heading home only to turn around and go back when it's time to pick him up.

Which is how I found myself last Friday afternoon in Alameda, toting my 5 and 3 year old daughters with me, after dropping Sam at practice. I was looking for a Chase Bank, so I spent the first 30 minutes or so driving around, passing several watering holes and watching with envy all the after-5-on-a-Friday revelers, talking, laughing, drinking and relaxing on one of the first nice evenings of the Spring. In contrast, I was trapped in a mini-van with two complaining, restless girl-children who were picking at my nerves with abandon.

I finally found the bank, hauled myself and two wee-ones in and back out, loaded 'em back in their seats (my most favorite thing to do 10 times a day!), and started looking for a place to get them something to eat. I ended up, somewhat unimaginatively, at Starbucks. I got myself a tea --BOOOOORING -- because I really wanted a latte, but it was, after all, 6:30 in the evening and that would have been nuts. I got the girls some fruit and cheese trays and some chocolate milk boxes, and we set up shoppe at a little round table with a cushy bench.

The warm, yellow light of the April sunset streamed through the wooden blinds of the west-facing cafe windows. My two tired girls were mellowing, with food in their bellies and sunlight on their feet. One sat heavily on my knee, leaning comfortably into my chest; the other curled on the cushion next to me, her head resting on my unoccupied knee. All three of us sat hypnotized by the sunlight, the half-empty cafe, the lateness of the afternoon, and the soft music wafting over our heads. We sat for awhile in a very peaceful kind of state.

Which is what got the water works flowing. The very unfamiliarity of simply sitting and listening to music made me absolutely wistful for days gone by. (Even piped in Starbuck's music!) Rick and I really used to enjoy listening to music at cafes and bars, especially our very own Murphy's Irish Pub, back when my parents owned it. I have great memories of taking the boys there when they were babies. We were so much more mobile when we had two kids; now, the younger ones have no idea how much fun we used to be.

That made me sad for them, and sad for us, that we don't or can't make time for those kinds of simple pleasures any more.

And then, through the Starbucks speakers, came this song, one I have always, shamelessly, loved with that crazy sappy folk-music kind of love. And I started to weep. Couldn't stop. I buried my face in Tallulah's mass of curls, and let her hair soak up my tears. I'm sure I looked like quite a sight. Two strung out little toddlers in need of baths draped over me...crumbs splayed far and wide from their less-than-civilized eating habits...kid blankets, backpacks, books, detritus everywhere. I may have looked like a woman who grabbed her kids and the clothes on her back, and fled a bad scene, using Starbucks to plan her next move, figure out where to crash, or where to drive the camaro for the night.

This is how I came to realize how numbingly tired I was. Am. I'm a sucker for sappy music, but this was ridiculous, even for me. Right out there in public, I let memories, regrets, hopes, fears, a lilting guitar and some wicked harmonies get the better of me. A little time and space and quiet came up behind me and knocked me off my game, rendering me defenseless against the possibility that I'm not a perfect mom. Somehow, in that little world, all of the things I want to give my children seemed fleeting, like the afternoons spent watching Sam dance to fiddle music at Murphy's, gone and not appreciated nearly enough when they were here. So I cried and cried, and sniffled, hiding behind Tallulah and listening to Emmylou.

It went on for awhile. The girls were so sleepy themselves, I don't think they noticed. Or else they were just all "Oh, mom's crying again. Who broke something?"

Pretty soon, one of them had to pee, and the trance was broken. But the mood stayed with me for the entire ride home and on into the rest of the evening. I was suddenly, acutely aware of just how exhausted I was.

And that, my friends, is how you can tell when you need a little sleep. Or at least, that's how I was finally able to tell. I refer you to the title of this post.

Maybe I should go get some sleep?

* * *

Patience, Patience.

It's Monday again. Sigh.

* * *

18 April 2010

How Exciting is YOUR Chicken Dinner?

Last night, I purchased a rotisserie chicken from Raley's for dinner. We've been working in the garden all weekend, and haven't had any time for, you know, cooking food. So I bought this chicken and brought it home to the troops.

We also watched Up together as a family, a first time for me, a repeat performance for everyone else. It just might have been the first time EVER that we watched a movie without having to shush people every few minutes, or settle "her-feet-are-touching-me" disputes, or pause every 10 minutes for some annoying reason. We watched, we enjoyed, it was great.

Mid-way through the movie, Lola whispered to me that she was still hungry and was there any more chicken? I told her to go help herself, and off she skittered. A few minutes later, she was back. In the dimly-lit living room, I could see the look of glee on her face. Smiling broadly, she showed me her plate, and pointed to the chicken she had served herself. The hole where the rotisserie rod had been was smack dab in the middle of her piece.

Lola, with breathless, whispered excitement: "Look, mom! I got the bullet hole!"

I'm not sure what it is about shooting her dinner that is so enthralling to her, but I'm thinking she may one day try her hand at big game hunting.

* * *

Also overheard while the family watched Up: I mentioned to Rick that I wanted to pause the movie because I needed to go to the bathroom, and my little cartoon-voiced three year old squeaks: "I'll take you, Mama."

It's nice to know she's willing to help. Should I live long enough, I'm sure she'll get the opportunity. I wonder if she'll still want to help me then.

* * *

16 April 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 6



1. As I was leaving my daughters' room this evening after putting them to bed, my five year old yelled, "I don't like you!" and the three year old chimed in, "Neither do I!" What a lovely way to start the kid-free portion of my evening. I must be doing something right.

OK, I did make them mad right before departing, but this was AFTER a good 10 minutes of kisses and cuddles and squeezes and I love yous and all manner of cute nonsense. It was also after my parting shot, which was: "You MUST stay in your beds tonight, I do NOT want to put you to bed multiple times!"

* * *

2. I saw a sign today that said HAVE A GREAT DAY! IT'S UP TO YOU! I wanted to slam into it with my mini-van. I'm all for a positive outlook, but sometimes, there are forces out of my control, such as a three year old who picks the last possible minute before the family has to leave the house before filling her underwear with stuff that definitely shouldn't be there or an eleven year old who picks the last possible minute to realize that he doesn't actually like the shorts he's wearing and do I know where his blue ones with the white stripes are or a five year old who can't find her shoes but CAN find the wherewithal to writhe on the kitchen floor in lost-shoe-agony until I carve out five seconds to walk in her room and see her shoes RIGHT NEXT TO HER BED IN PLAIN SIGHT.

Sure, I can have a great day. Someone needs to tell my kids that I deserve one and they better get with the program.

* * *

3. The other day, my son created an elaborate machine works contraption in his room. He rigged up a xylophone, propped at an angle against a tall building block, down which he slid a mason jar full of rocks, so that the jar hit a video cassette, which then hit a rubber duck, which moved forward and knocked over a book standing on his desk, which hit a series of square blocks set up like dominoes, the last of which fell off of his desk and into a box on his bed, landed on a ramp in the box, slid down the ramp and ran into a pair of scissors that were set up JUST SO, with a piece of ribbon laid between its blades. While the end of the ribbon lay across the scissors, the rest of it wound all the way up to the ceiling. Just before reaching the ceiling, a small pencil was tied into the ribbon, with the end of the ribbon taped very lightly to the ceiling.

The object of this whole project was to get the pencil to fall on the floor by sliding the mason jar down the xylophone. If everything went as planned, the scissors would cut the ribbon and the pencil would fall.

It took him about 12 tries, but it finally worked, and I got to witness it. It was awesome. Oh, and he wouldn't let me take a picture. PTHPT to him.

* * *

4. The only reason the machine work contraption was possible, and the only reason I found my daughter's shoes in five seconds, is that THE KIDS CLEANED THEIR ROOMS ON SUNDAY. Earth, commence spinning once more. Netherworld, stoke those fires, to thaw the recent freeze.

Bribing them that they would get to go to a movie if their rooms were clean did the trick. I haven't seen the floors in those two rooms in weeks. It's nice to have them back.

* * *

5. Have your kids seen the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie? Oh, I highly recommend that they do! My kids saw it, and the best part was that my husband took them, giving me 2+ hours in my house with only my youngest daughter, and I got so much done. That's what I call a GREAT movie. I LOVED it, without having to see it!

* * *

6. I am trying to go to bed earlier, so that I can get more sleep. I am truly amazed at how hard this is. My younger kids go to bed between 8 and 8:30, my older ones sometime between 8:30 and 10:00. We're flexible like that. Everyone sleeps through the night. We succeeded in kicking strays out of our bed in the middle of the night. I could potentially be getting more sleep than I've gotten in years. 11.5 of them, to be exact.

But I don't. I don't put myself in bed. I stay up way too late, often watching stupid television, sometimes working on a freelance project, sometimes blogging or surfing the net. Occasionally reading The New Yorker. Or sometimes, like tonight, I go to bed too late, and then, have so much on my mind that I wake at 2:30 in the morning and can't go back to sleep, so I creep down to the kitchen and drink multiple cups of tea and surf blogs and get ideas and decide what is wrong with my parenting style and resolve to get the damn chore chart in place and operational...and do many, many other things less important than sleeping.

I always think that I can't afford to sleep because I will be so far behind tomorrow if I don't get more laundry folded (my watching stupid tv activity) or if I don't do one of the things nagging me from my to-do list. I am fairly certain that starting the day with enough sleep under my belt might do as much, if not more, for my productivity level, but I can't convince my body to rest when it's time to rest.

What is up with that? Why do we resist doing things that we know will be good for us? Truly one of the great mysteries of life. Please, share any wisdom you have on this topic. Because I like to read your comments after my kids have gone to bed.

* * *

7. And I conclude today's post by stealing a quote from Conversion Diary, the host of 7 Quick Takes Friday, because I have been thinking lately about how to teach my children to consider other people's feelings and thoughts more and also about how to let go of my own self-interest. This one is a beauty from Thomas Merton:

To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.


Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or, just ponder it for a moment.

* * *

Happy Friday to all.

* * *

14 April 2010

Weeds

When I was a child, I did a lot of weeding.

When I became an adult, I put away weeding-ish things.

That lasted for over 20 years. But now, I have come full circle, and have become, to my surprise, a weeder. Dad, if you are reading this, I do apologize for not ensuring you were in a sitting position from the get-go.

* * *

I recently left my part-time job at a wonderful landscape architecture/design-build firm, primarily because it was too far away from my home and was therefore not proving to be worth the drive and being away from home and our home-based business two to three days per week. So hubby and I conferred: if I started doing some of the maintenance work for our clients (read: WEEDING), and if I had more time to devote to running the day to day office operations of our fledgling (but shouldn't be fledgling because we've been at this for five years now) business, then I could very likely help bring in at least the same amount of money as I had been making at this other job.

So I left.

Which is why, on a sunny Thursday afternoon a week or two ago, I had the great good fortune to be weeding a client's garden overlooking San Pablo Bay, with water lapping against the beautiful houses, boats motoring by, sea gulls calling overhead. There I was, doing the work I hated doing as a kid, and enjoying it. Not just enjoying it, but discovering an entirely new experience in it. It was glorious and peaceful.

And extremely satisfying. You see a weed. You pull it. it is gone.

This is quite different than, say, seeing a stray pair of shoes in the living room and asking the person whose feet fit in them to put them away. You see the shoes. You ask a kid to put them away. The shoes stay right where they are. You ask again. The shoes remain. You raise your voice, aware that it is taking some effort to mask the building rage. The kid skitters by, ignoring the shoes and the mother. You expend precious, un-renewable energy screaming at the kid about the god forsaken shoes. The shoes do not move. Exasperated, and convinced of your abject failure as a parent, you storm over to the shoes, pick them up with a ferocity that unnerves you, and blindly fling them -- hard -- into the kid's room, unsure if you care if anyone is in the path of the projectile footwear.

See? Very different.

So now, I have become a weeding fool.

Our annual garden tour is in 2.5 weeks. But that weekend is huge for a handful of other reasons as well: family visiting from out of state...three soccer games on Saturday...an annual and absolutely not-to-be-missed party at the San Francisco Exploratorium, hosted by a company we do lots of business with...and the father-daughter dance at the girls' school. So we cannot, as in years past, be gardening by head-lamp the night before the tour. We must be done by at least Wednesday of that week, which means we have TWO WEEKS.

In times such as these, it's helpful to have a weeding fool in the family. I have been doing so much weeding lately, that when I close my eyes, I see weeds spiraling around in pretty, dizzying patterns. When I am running errands, I notice all the weeds in the cracks of the sidewalk, or in a store's planter boxes, or even on the side of the freeway, and my fingers itch to pull them.

I have discovered that weeding suits me. I sit down on my gardening cushion, armed with a small trowel, and give a long hard look to the patch in front of me, messy and overgrown as it is, weeds taunting me, boldly defying that they can be conquered. But give me enough time, and the weeds are defeated. What is left is a clean patch of dirt, or a clean bed of gorgeous and varied California native plants: rosy buckwheat, California poppies, Douglas Iris, salvia.

For those who complain about the Sisyphean nature of weeding, I say that for mothers, repeated weeding is no burden. The amount of things I have to repeat in a day, or even in a hour, have forever changed my perspective on things I need to repeat once a week or a couple of times a month. Give me a house full of kids who listen to me the very first time I say something and then MAYBE weeding will seem like a chore.

But no. Tending our garden is a joy, one that provides me with a little time and space to think and breathe fresh air. And maybe that's the biggest reason I have enjoyed this new task so much: it's been a long time since I had time and space and fresh air, and I have welcomed them all back with open arms.

I leave my thoughts on weeding as life metaphor for another time...they are far too deep and profound (or is it murky and unformed?) for current publication.

Happy Spring everyone!

* * *

11 April 2010

What Ails Me?

I have lost the ability to see my crazy life as humorous. Hopefully, this is temporary. I read other blogs, and laugh at the antics, or the craziness, or the stinkbugs, and I think: "Wow, my pink eye, barf, broken appliances, broken bones, flooded garage, and garden-that-needs-a-radical-transformation-before-our-annual-garden-tour-in-3-weeks could be funny too! Why can't I find the funny? Why, instead, do I feel the need to bury the details of this miserable happy life so far from view that they all might just disappear if I wish hard enough?" I think this is why I haven't been blogging. I start to write, and then I hit the delete button very hard about 200 times, curse at the computer, curse at the laundry, and go feed people instead. Because I can always count on someone needing to be fed, or wiped (as in as I type this right now).

But as Spring Break limps to a close, and I'm both more than ready for the kids to go back to school AND not ready because uniforms aren't clean and backpacks from 10 days ago still hold lunch boxes from 10 days ago (one smells extremely citrus-y), I would like to get back to this blog.

So, as Spring Break limps to a close, I will limp back to my blog...hoping to find the funny, and the sweet, and the beautiful.

Right now, I am going to go out in the rain, to clean toys off our lawn, so that Rick can re-seed it and put down a layer of soil. This must happen in the rain, because we have to have each and every day of the next three weeks bring us closer to a show-ready garden; rain cannot stand in our way. If I find anything funny while I'm out there, I'll be sure to write about it.

* * *

09 April 2010

Good For What Ails Me

God, grant me the valium
To put a happy face on the things I cannot change,
The liquid courage (I prefer Guinness) to force the children to do what I want,
And the wisdom to know when to put myself in a time out.



* * *

07 April 2010

Good For What Ails You

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.



* * *

What Has She Got Against Easter? And Other Thoughts on Spring Break

Last year, we had a very interesting Easter. This year, we're stretching the fun out over the entire week, it seems. Our washing machine broke on Friday, sending us into the weekend with no way to wash clothes or towels or peed upon sheets or socks. (Side note: Socks, I think, will be my final undoing. I hate socks. Socks hate me. We are locked in mutually assured destruction.)

Not only did the machine break, but it spread water all over our garage as well. I do thank my friend Tina for pointing out that there is reason to be thankful that our laundry room is not in our house. On the other hand, I want to smack Tina and all her silver lining brethren, as I look at the boxes of books we have strewn about our garage, which are now soggy and soft.

So the good news about the washer is that we have a friend who is a handyman, and he fixed the thing relatively easily and for very little money. So that's done.

But I should know by now, having been through a few of these things called Family Holidays, that the fun was not going to end there. Lola, apparently, has decided to mark the Resurrection of Jesus with an annual visit to the Emergency Room. This year, she was one day late, but we still managed to spend 3 hours at Children's Hospital, waiting to see if she had, in fact, broken her finger. The verdict: she has a very tiny "chip fracture" in her left hand ring finger, at the joint between her phalange and her metacarpal. A weird place to break a finger.

So we did the ER thing, and it was a fairly mellow experience. Upon coming home at 11:30, I was feeling rather proud of myself. We got our washing machine fixed and handled our first broken bone, and we're doing just fine! Everyone ate dinner, the washing machine and dryer were whirring away in the garage, doing their thing, and all was right with the world.

Please, someone, clonk me on the head when I think we've got everything under control, please.

Today dawned bright and beautiful. Today is closing on a barfing three year old with a fever of +103 and goo-infested eyes, one sinus-clobbered husband, a girls' room that sounds like a TB ward, more loads of dirty laundry than I started with and a wii-obsessed tween. (And thanks for nothing, those of you who assured me that the wii-obsession would wane, who breezily gave me false hope that I wouldn't have one of of those kids, the kind that can't put down the almighty wii remote, the kind whose eyeballs turn into TV rectangles, the kind who forsakes food, family, nature, literature, and daylight for the virtual crack that is the infernal wii. Cuz you lied to me.)

Today sucked just a little bit.

* * *

I am seriously starting to fear the teenage years (recent FB posts notwithstanding). My tween is becoming a monster right before my eyes, and I can't even blog about most of it because he'll say to me, with his eye rolling backwards and his posture slumping in disgust: "You're not gonna put this on your blog, are you? Don't put me on your blog!" So I'll have to think of creative ways to tell his stories and seek some feedback from others.

* * *

I have a friend whose 11-year old son is evil. He is sucking the air out of the family home. He is making it difficult for his mother to remember what a fantastic, beautiful kid he is. What should I tell her?

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My three year old is a handful. I've been known to speculate that had she been the first, there would have been no more, so abhorrent is some of her behavior. She's a force of nature, and I find myself mentally trying to prepare myself for extended periods of time in her presence, trying to fill my arsenal with tactics to control her and to help her siblings deal with her shenanigans, trying to anticipate and head off difficult situations. But tonight, as she lay in a fever-induced lump in my lap with her swollen eyes crusting over and her fever heating the house better than our 65 year old furnace, I realized that I prefer her nice and fiesty, thank you very much. Seeing her with no pep was unsettling to say the least.

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I drove the kids on an errand this afternoon (before I realized that I was carting Typhoon Mary around). We drove through some nearby hills, and shouted MOO at the cows like we always do, and Vincenzo said "Hey Lola, you like steak so much, there's some steak!" I said "Yeah Lola, here's a fork, there's your dinner!"

Lola: "HAND ME A GUN, MOM!"

She seems so mild-mannered and sweet. She's fooling everyone.

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This has been random, sleep-deprived thoughts from a woman who should never, ever underestimate just how off-kilter life can get. And one who cannot get the smell of barf out of her nostrils.

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