Friday, February 27, 2004

My Font

When you are preparing to host a birthday party for 10 six year olds, what do you do?

Here's what I do:

1) Leave house at 7:30 p.m. to buy cake at Costco and pizza and Capri Sun drink pouches;
2) Head to Toys R Us for present and themed napkins and tablecloth.
3) Get home at 9:45 p.m., discovered chocolate cake has strawberry filling and wonder if ultra-picky birthday boy will notice.
4) Make cute schedule of party events, including stuff to do tonight and tomorrow morning.
5) Sweep and mop.
6) Wrap gifts. Check out Bingo game (my main party entertainment).
7) Moan about complete exhaustion.
8) Eat some of the miniature chocolate bars intended for the pinata.
9) Watch guy on news who tried to kill himself by jumping off Space Needle this afternoon. (He changed his mind.)
10) Read email, read message board, check journal for comments.
11) Wonder about font. Is this better? Worse?
12) Wonder if anyone reads this.
13) Decide remaining party preparations can wait until tomorrow and go to bed.

In twelve hours, it'll all be over. Woo-hoo! Now, that's something to celebrate!

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Billy Baldwin and My Unicycle

I have a cold. I was so tired, but I slept so poorly. I kept peering at the clock and saw when it was 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Sometime after 4:30 a.m., I fell asleep long enough to have the following dream:

I enter a large auditorium-like room, which is the location for a reunion of some sort. (Not my high school reunion, because in my dream I compare it to that situation.) I decide that the best thing to do is to ride a unicycle into the room, but not just any unicycle. No. This is a 30 foot tall unicycle, which brings me right up close to the popcorn-textured ceiling and deeply recessed lights.

I realize, of course, that I cannot get down, so I holler to the people on the ground that I need help. Who appears to rescue me? Billy Baldwin, of course.

I say, "Hey, aren't you Billy Baldwin?" I am dangling with my arms locked through the recessed lighting fixture.

He grins and his eyes crinkle into upside down moons. "I sure am!"

I say, "You know what would be cool?"


"An all-Baldwin Mole!" (As in the television show, "The Mole." On the "Celebrity Mole", Stephen Baldwin has been a contestant twice. My dream-self thought it would be fun to see all the Baldwin brothers compete.)

He agrees, then somehow I am lowered to the ground, where my dream ends.

Unfortunately, the dream ends because my alarm rings at 6:20 a.m. and fortified with very little sleep, I have to face a day filled with runny-nosed toddlers and laundry.

We aren't really celebrating YoungestBoy's birthday today, but I did make him a sweatshirt last night that says, "TODAY IS MY 6th BIRTHDAY!" I want everyone at school to be attentive and sweet to him. I'll probably make cupcakes while he's at school and we'll have pizza--his favorite--tonight.

Six years ago today, I was walking around my house, having contractions. YoungestBoy wasn't born until 11:42 p.m., after 43 hours of labor. He was born into the birthing tub, surrounded by a whole crowd of helpers. His twin brothers were sound asleep. What a blessing this boy has been.

Now, onward with my day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I need a waaaaaambulance!

I wish I could stay in bed all day without responsibilities. Yesterday my throat began to feel scratched, literally like someone scratched the roof of my mouth in the back. During the night, I woke repeatedly and realized that I have caught the same cold the babies have. Ack! This is the major downside to taking care of a daycare baby. My own family is never as sick as other families. Last year Babygirl didn't catch a single cold. Since DaycareKid has started coming over, she's been sick about four times. At least.

Anyway, so I feel whiny. I don't want to take care of runny-nosed kids. I don't want to make dinner. I certainly don't want to balance the checkbook.

The worst part of it is that YoungestBoy's birthday is tomorrow and his party is on Saturday. I have to get creative and come up with some fun party activities. I need decorations, supplies, food. I found a brand-new Bingo same on sale for a dollar, so I bought it last week. At least I have one thing planned. Last year's party was so much fun. It was Sponge-bob themed and everyone had a blast.

Here's YoungestBoy last year:

But, this too, shall pass. I will be healthy again, someday. The party will come and go. YoungestBoy will only be five for one more day.

Oh wait. It really is too much to bear. My baby boy cannot grow up. Waaaaaaaaaah!

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Weekend

Is Monday night too late to write about the weekend? I hope not, because here I go.

My husband's weekend was jam-packed with funerals and memorial services and a sermon and meetings. My weekend was full of kids and grit on my kitchen floor. No matter how much I "swiffer" the floor, I have grit. This is because I allow my children to go outdoors, dig in the mud and wear shoes, both indoors and outdoors. But. I digress.

On Saturday, I decided to rearrange the boys' bedroom. This involved removing a lot of books and plastic bins from a huge shelving unit and using brute force to inch it to its new home. I moved beds, chairs. I vacuumed repeatedly. And, of course, I did all this while taking care of Babygirl and three big boys. After Babygirl napped, I took all the kids on a walk to 7-11 again for Slurpees. The weather was lovely, sunny and in the fifties.

Saturday afternoon, my husband calls and says, "Hey, when I get home later, you can go to a movie or something if you want." Isn't he thoughtful? I begin to look forward to escaping the four walls and gritty floors of my home. Half an hour later, he calls again to say, "Hey, let's go to a movie together!" I say, "Oh. Okay." Now, I have to finish my rearranging project, clean up the rest of the messy house which I've neglected while devoting time to my project, feed the kids, clean the kitchen, make myself presentable, bathe the children and put the baby to bed. All alone. By seven. Then when the babysitter arrives, I will go pick him up from his office and we'll go from there.

I am an exhausted, sweaty mess with a bad attitude by the time I pick him up. And the house isn't tidy. A girl can only do so much.

The other thing is this. I like movies that my husband would not like. I wanted to see "Against the Ropes" with Meg Ryan. I like literary movies, dark movies, psychological thrillers, critically acclaimed movies. We saw "Welcome to Mooseport."

I must be very difficult to amuse because I did not find the movie funny. The audience was laughing, guffawing, chortling, giggling. I was shifting in my seat, trying to get comfortable. I thought the cast of character actors had been plucked straight from community theater. They were so overwrought, so unbelievable. And Ray Romano, bless his heart, was just Ray Romano. I don't think he can act. He is just himself. Maura Tierney was exactly the same as she was in News Radio and on ER. Gene Hackman--yawn. I liked Marcia Gay Harden. The rest? Oh please. I wouldn't even watch that on network television. It was so boring, so predictable. So not funny.

But as I said, I must be difficult to amuse, because my husband liked it. Everyone in the theater seemed to like it. Maybe I just have PMS.

Sunday was my day to be the volunteer nursery attendant. I don't really mind since I usually end up in there anyway, sooner or later, with Babygirl. Two of the toddlers, though, had runny noses! I cannot understand why a parent would bring a runny-nosed kid to a church nursery. I am the nursery coordinator and I need to make a giant sign saying "This is a Mucus-Free Zone." We had seven toddlers in attendance.

My husband worked all day--he had a memorial service and then meetings. We spent a lot of time outdoors in the afternoon. I trimmed a thorny bush by the gate and the kids dug another giant hole and then asked if they could fill it with water. They love to build lakes and streams. I allowed it, even though I was not in the mood for mud. At least they were getting muddy with a spirit of cooperation.

Some time over the weekend, I peered into mirror in the boys' brightly lit bathroom and spied a strangely colored hair. I plucked it out and examined it. The pigment faded along the shaft of the hair and I couldn't decide, but I think I may have found my first gray hair. I wanted to save it and immediately realized how neurotic and insane that idea was. So I just let it drift out of my hand. I've reverted to my natural color and now it is going to betray me? How is that right?

Speaking of hair, I came across a box of pictures and letters from and to my dad, which led me to another box of his family tree paperwork. And then I found the old envelope I'd searched for a few weekends back which contains a golden-red lock of hair. The outside of the envelope says in faded fountain-pen ink: "Gary's hair." Sure enough, I held this silky lock of her grandfather's baby hair up to Babygirl's head. Her hair is the exact shade. I snipped a curl off the back of her head to save before she up and leaves home for college. The days are long, but the years are short and soon enough she'll be earning her Master's degree and calling me once a week.

Last night, she woke up before 11 p.m., which is strange. I nursed her and put her back to bed and then dreamed all night that I heard her crying. Sure enough, she woke up stuffy this morning. She caught DaycareKid's cold from last week. Sigh. DaycareKid still has his runny nose, too. I hate colds.

My husband has started taking Mondays off. So, he had today off. He took a load of stuff to the thrift store for me and then hung out. He read the newspaper, talked to me while I was trying to watch a show during naptime and took a nap. I'm glad he gets a true day off now--when he was taking Fridays off, he almost always ended up working.

I still haven't painted my wall red. But I did iron my husband pants for the week, so he won't have to go to work clad only in his underwear. I do have my priorities.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Stuff I Hate

In no particular order:

1) Getting out of bed in the morning;
2) Raw tomatoes;
3) Macaroni and cheese, especially Kraft;
4) Stupidity;
5) Paying bills;
6) Telemarketers;
7) Wearing pantyhose;
8) Pet birds;
9) Stepping in dog poop;
10) Sticky kitchen counters;
11) Stepping into something wet with stocking feet;
12) Dusting;
13) Long car rides;
14) Paying for car repairs;
15) Inconvenient parking places;
16) Losing things;
17) Clutter;
18) Going to the dentist;
19) Being too hot;
20) Thieves and liars;
21) My ex-sister's behavior;
22) Divorce;
23) Bad breath;
24) Pretentiousness;
25) Big, loud parties;
26) Feeling ill;
27) Failure;
28) Being ripped off;
29) Disappointing my children or my husband;
30) Losing my train of thought;
31) Wearing a hole in the knee of my jeans;
32) Licking a popsicle stick or wooden spoon;
33) Hearing a fork hit someone's teeth while they eat;
34) Cold sores;
35) The monotony of housework.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Stuff I Love

In no particular order:

1) Chocolate chip cookies, freshly made;
2) The smell of lilacs floating in the spring air;
3) My husband;
4) Sleep, especially after the alarm rings;
5) Well-written novels;
6) Music, especially James Taylor, Carole King, Chicago, Norah Jones, Dan Fogelberg;
7) The Daffodil parade;
8) Eating dinner in a nice restaurant and paying with a gift certificate;
9) Buying a nice item on clearance;
10) Hunting for treasures at garage sales;
11) Working on scrapbooks;
12) Clean, folded laundry.
13) De-cluttered and tidy, clean house;
14) Vacations without children;
15) Quiet;
16) Fine chocolate;
17) Good hair days;
18) Comfortable shoes;
19) The first signs of spring;
20) Watching YoungestBoy dive into the pool in the summer;
21) My baby's grin;
22) Moments when my twins cooperate with each and play happily together;
23) Email;
24) Daisies in bloom;
25) Sunshine;
26) The beach, especially the Oregon coastline;
27) Taking a really great photograph;
28) Finishing a project;
29) Laughing so hard my face hurts;
30) My kids, even when they smell;
31) Friends who know me really well and still like me;
32) Excellent dreams;
33) Perfect timing;
34) Homemade muffins;
35) School supplies.

Friday, February 20, 2004

World's Worst Mother

I am the World's Worst Mother.

Today was my day "off" from watching my daycare baby. I mentioned by phone to my husband that I needed to go to Home Depot to buy some clog remover for the shower drain at some point. Since we have one reliable vehicle, I wondered if he would be staying in his office today or if he needed the car. He called me back later and offered to come home from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and stay with YoungestBoy so I could run my errand. I said, "Great!"

At 10:45 a.m., he returns home and at 11 a.m. on the dot, I was in the car with baby Babygirl, heading for Lowe's. I wandered up and down the aisles, looking at hardware and furniture and shelving units and boards and doorknobs and cabinets. I found exactly what I needed and after wandering some more past doors and plastic pipes and sand, I paid and came home. I did not need the full two hours and was home by noon, so off my husband went, back to work.

YoungestBoy leaves for kindergarten between 12:25 p.m. and 12:35 p.m., depending on when the neighbor arrives to pick him up. At 12:25 p.m., without my prompting, he appeared with his jacket and backpack on. Then he stood in the living room, peering out the window, waiting for his ride.

Babygirl was watching television and I was sitting at the computer, waiting for YoungestBoy to leave so I could put the baby to bed for her nap.

At 12:30 p.m., YoungestBoy says, "Will she be here any minute?" And I said, "Yes."

At 12:37 p.m., YoungestBoy comes into the family room and says, "I don't think she's coming." I swivel and look at the clock. Twelve thirty-seven? Oh no!

At that moment, I remember that Beth, the neighbor, had mentioned yesterday that she would not be able to pick up YoungestBoy, but she would bring him home from school. I said, "Oh, you're right! She's not coming! We're going to have to walk!" School starts for afternoon kindergarteners at 12:40 p.m. He would be late, but not much. No big deal.

I grabbed Babygirl (who was not even wearing shoes) and my jacket and a set of keys and off we went. The school is a five or ten minute walk from our house. The sun shone and I was thankful that it wasn't raining. As we left our driveway, YoungestBoy said, "I sure would be sad if I died today."

I said, "I would, too. I'd be sad forever." Then we had one of our usual discussions about death and he said he would be glad he'd be with our deceased cat, Millie, again. And then he said I wouldn't be sad anymore when I got to heaven because then we'd be together again. Then he chattered on and on about the two little white terriers who live in our neighborhood and how he misses our big dog, Greta, who was sent away after she bit him last September and on and on.

We came down the hill through the woods and wound along the chainlink fence until we reached the teacher's parking lot in the back of the school. They keep the back door locked, so we had to walk around the school to get into the office. When I signed him in, it was 12:48 p.m. Eight minutes late.

I walked him to his classroom and we went in. The children were gathering on the carpet for the morning circle routine. Three excited boys rushed towards YoungestBoy and said, "You were going to be the Helper today!" And his face lit up. "I am?" And they said, "No, you were, but you were late, so Lauren's the Helper."

They were gleeful, thrilled to deliver this bad news.

Being the "Helper" in kindergarten is the biggest honor and the best possible day you can have as a kindergartener. The Helper gets to help the teacher, be first in line, pass out papers, and best of all, have a "Daily News" written about him or her. The "Daily News" is a piece of butcher paper that records the weather, the letter of the day and a sentence about the honored Helper. There is nothing bigger than being the Helper in kindergarten--with the possible exception of being the Birthday Boy or Girl. Being the Helper is like winning the Lotto. Big. Exciting. Random.

I handed the aide his tardy slip and she asked for his red folder, so he retrieved that. His face was flushed and I knew he was using all the self-control he had. I whispered, "Hey, are you okay?" and he fell apart. His whole chubby little red-cheeked face contorted in grief. He said, "I--w-a-n-t (sob) t-o (sob) g-o (sob) h-o-m-e." Great shuddering intake of breath. I said, "Let's go outside for a second."

So, in the hallway, I hugged him and he said he needed to get out of there. We walked down the corridor and he stepped into the brisk air and walked in a circle. Then I said, "Okay, are you ready to go back in?" He said, "Yes." He wiped his eyes and composed himself.

Back we went. He clenched his mouth and marched towards the carpet where the kids were talking about the weather. He almost reached them and then he turned back and ran toward me. "I can't do it!" he cried.

I said, "That's okay. Come on." We went back in the hallway and he insisted he just couldn't stay. I said, "Are you sure you want to miss a whole day of kindergarten?" He loves kindergarten. He adores school. He thinks recess is great. "Yes."

I went back inside to grab his coat. When I came back out, he had a hand in his pocket and he was fingering his six quarters. Fridays are popcorn day. Twenty-five cents a bag. "Can I still get my popcorn?" he said. I told him I couldn't interrupt the teacher. I thought maybe we'd find them selling popcorn in the multi-purpose room, but we did not.

He's still sobbing as we walk down the corridor towards the office. The principal says hello to me and I tell her what's happening. I ask if it's possible that we get some popcorn. She says, "of course" and makes a phone call. He says, "This is the worstest day of my life!" We wait for the popcorn, then leave the building.

I tell him I'm so sorry. He says with reproach and sorrow, "Why didn't you remember that Beth wasn't coming?" I said, "I don't know. Do you think you can ever forgive me?"

He says, "No."

I say, "Your dad is going to be so disappointed in me." He would never make his beloved boy late for kindergarten. Being late is a mortal sin in his book (if he had a book and if sins were classified in it).

As we cross the parking lot and head for the chainlink fence and trudge back up the hill and through the woods, I say, "This is all my fault. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?"

He is wailing and crying and red-faced. "No."

Then he stops. "Well, there is one thing. If I could have a Crunch bar when I get home, that would make me feel a little better."

I say, "Well, that I can do."

He resumes crying.

I have caused my almost-six year old precious child to have the "worstest" day of his life. What kind of mother am I?

When we returned home, he ate his popcorn and Crunch bar while I put the baby to sleep. (She even napped in her crib. Hooray.) When I came downstairs, I said, "Do you want to play a game or something?" He said, "Yes. I want to play Shipmates."

So, we played Battleship. He won, even though we didn't finish. Fortunately, he finished crying.

Then we played Uncle Wiggly. I made sure he won, without letting on that I was reverse-cheating. In fact, he won twice.

Eventually, he even forgave me.

I talked to his teacher on the telephone and she was sympathetic and kind. She promised that he can be the helper on Monday. I love her now. (She's brand new. YoungestBoy's original teacher is on maternity leave and until today, I'd never even seen his new teacher.)

In the backyard, YoungestBoy practiced riding his bike without training wheels for the first time. The trauma of the morning seemed forgotten.

I tell myself that if this is the worst day he'll ever face, he's a lucky boy, indeed.

However, I could still slap myself for being such an idiot. As my husband would say (if he was insane enough to comment on this issue), I should write these things down! My memory is not what it used to be! Make a note! (He's learned to just not comment, though. Even though he doesn't comment, I know what he's thinking, though, which is kind of funny, when you think about it. He knows me well enough not to comment, but I know him well enough to know that he is commenting silently inside his head. Six of one, half dozen of the other.)

Tomorrow will be better. For one thing, there is no school.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

My Cute Little Baby Face

Babygirl is boycotting nap-time. Instead, she's putting a red and white checked hat onto her head, then flipping it onto the floor and laughing maniacally. She's watching Teletubbies do some kind of scary dance and occasionally she falls down, too. I just took her picture with the red hat over her face and the flash distracted her, so she dropped the hat and ran across the room with great glee. Now, how can a child who would not nap today be so cheerful?

The boys will be home from school and alas, I have turned into Old Mother Hubbard and my cupboard is bare. I need to go to the grocery store. My husband has had meetings at night for so many days in a row. I will have to go tonight. I'm going to make Hamburger Helper tonight. How pathetic is that? I won't eat it, of course, but my kids like it. And it cost a dollar on sale.

Today is the 100th day of school. YoungestBoy took one hundred Pokemon cards to school. His homework was to draw what he would buy with one hundred dollars. He didn't even consider spending his fictional one hundred dollars on anything but 25 packs of Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I hate Yu-Gi-Oh cards so much, not only because they are addicting to small boys, but also because I despise Japanese Anime'..

My family room, the central room in our house, is in complete disarray. My computer desk has accumulated papers and magazines and a newspaper from last week, in addition to a small pile of used tissues. DaycareKid has a runny nose, again. There are scattered Cheerios on the floor, the toybox has been emptied and there is a precariously stacked pile of folded laundry on the back of the couch. The wall still needs to be repainted red. The dry clothes need to be folded and the wet clothes need to be put in the dryer and the dirty clothes need to be washed.

And here I sit because all these tasks never disappear. They reappear just like those horrible birthday candles that you can't blow out. I often tell my husband it's like pushing a boulder up a hill, just like that Greek guy I can never remember. (Remind me to take a course on Greek Mythology in my next life.) Click here if your knowledge of Greek mythology is as deficient as mine..

Okay. Time to speed clean. 1 - 2 - 3 - GO!

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Nap Update

Apparently, the screaming wore her out and she fell asleep for about twenty minutes. I'm not sure. All I know is that she suddenly screamed out again, and when I went to get her, she had a red area on her face and she looked like she'd been asleep. She did not escape, nor did she fall to her death.

Nap time

I am so depressed. My baby stopped napping for four months, starting here: October 15. That was the day she stopped napping. Her naplessness lasted for four months, give or take.

Then, almost two weeks ago, a miracle occurred and she asked to be put in her crib. Then she went to sleep. That continued until yesterday when she popped back up when I put her to bed. She screamed for half an hour until I picked her up. Last night, she went to sleep at 6:20 p.m.

Today, same thing happened. She fell asleep, I laid her down, then she popped up, screaming. I let her cry for thirty minutes. She's quiet now, so she either jumped to her death or fell asleep.

Let's hope she's sleeping.

Where I've Been

How cool is this? You can make your own map showing the states you've visited! I've been to all the red states.

You can make your own map. Just go here: Make Your Own Map.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Happy VD

What a day. Just like any other, only more.

The baby's decided that 5 a.m. is a fine time to wake up for a ten minute snack. It's sort of okay with me because that means she'll sleep until 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. I literally staggered out of bed and to her room this morning for ten minutes, then back to bed for more glorious sleep. You'd think I'd go to bed early since I love to sleep so much, but the thing is, I love to sleep in the mornings! At night, I'd rather be awake, being uninterrupted and quiet.

The twins had a friend sleep over last night, so first thing this morning, my husband bought a dozen donuts. I had finished showering by that time (with Babygirl in the bathroom with me throwing extra washcloths into the tub and flinging the shower curtain open and getting sprayed with water). Dear husband took her for a ride in the car so I could finish getting ready in peace. Then he returned my baby to me and went to work. Yes, it's Saturday, but yes, he worked, as usual. He tends to wait until Saturday to write his sermon, which tends to bug me, but what can I do, really?

During Babygirl's nap, I worked on the wall in "her" room which we are currently sleeping in. It needs to be painted before we move the crib back in there and move our bed back into the master bedroom. When she was born, our sleeping situation was completely jumbled up. I slept with the baby in the master bedroom, while YoungestBoy was moved (he begged to move) to the twins' room. My husband slept in YoungestBoy's old room on the king-sized bed from the master bedroom, while I slept on the queen sized bed in the master bedroom with Babygirl until the day she fell off the bed. Since then she's been sleeping in the crib.

Right before Christmas, we bought new twin beds for the twins and moved them downstairs to the spare room. YoungestBoy got their old room all to himself with the queen sized bed, Babygirl ended up alone in the master bedroom with her crib and when Babygirl started sleeping through the night at 11 months, I joined my husband in the king-sized bed in the baby's new room (which was YoungestBoy's old room). We didn't move the crib into that room because it needs paint. And I know if I don't paint it before we move the crib in, we never will. Who wants a baby to breathe in paint fumes?

And why have I procrastinated on painting? Well, one wall (where the window is) was covered with two layers of hideous wallpaper which was then covered with even more hideous fabric which was stapled on. The entire mess had to be removed, then the wallpaper paste had to be removed and the staples pried out and the holes filled in. I ripped the wallpaper off years ago (literally), but the staples and a few strips of wallpaper paste remained until today. During her nap, I got out the Diff to remove the final remnants of paper and got out a utility knife and needle-nosed pliers and pulled out the staples. It took two hours, long enough to watch almost all of the horror movie about Chucky the doll. I'd never seen it before.

Being the horrible mother that I am, my boys were downstairs watching television the whole time I was upstairs working. They were quiet, too, which was a miracle. I finished the job just as Babygirl woke up.

Early this morning, we received a phone call that J. had died in the wee hours of the morning. J. was an 85 year old man from our church in good health until suddenly he was diagnosed with widespread cancer. Being a pessimist, when I originally heard the diagnosis (after he had a CAT scan), I said, "It's going to be days, not weeks" or "It's going to be weeks, not months." I can't remember now, but sure enough, it was barely more than a week. This was exactly how my dad died. His liver was riddled with cancer and he slid into death very quickly.

J.'s son and daughter-in-law are close friends of ours. Our kids all play together, so this afternoon when my husband visited the family, he offered to bring the kids to our house to play for the afternoon. So again, I had a houseful of kids. They all played well together (if you call tackling each other in the muddy backyard playing well) and had a good time.

When the baby went to bed tonight, I went out shopping. I went to Old Navy and bought a bunch of shirts and pants and two baby gifts--all on clearance. I love the clearance racks. Then I went to Marshall's and shopped the clearance racks again and came up with a pair of sunglasses, a pair of sandals, a gift for my mother, a pack of 12 board books, a computer game for my son's birthday, a two-pack of black tights for me, and a shirt, all for $50. The man behind the register commented on my optimism--buying sunglasses on a rainy, February day. Doesn't he realize that it will be summer in approximately twenty minutes? That's how fast the seasons change in my world.

I finished up my adventure at Target, buying boring stuff like laundry detergent and napkins.

So, Happy VD. That's Valentine's Day, for the young and romantic. For me, just another day, only more. Don't get me wrong. My sweet husband remembered to remember me with chocolate, flowers, a teddy bear and a card. He's a good guy. I'm just a low-maintenance girl who is happy just to shop the clearance sales.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I Live in a Shoe

This afternoon, I found myself in my own backyard with three fifth grade boys, an almost-six year old boy who was desperate for the attention of the fifth grade boys, and three babies, ages 15 months, 16 months and 17 months. My cordless phone rang in my pocket and I said, "Hello?" and my husband said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm in the backyard with seven children, wondering how I ended up here!"

He laughed from the quiet safety of his book-filled office. I called him back later and asked if he'd bring home pizza. It was that kind of afternoon.

Actually, the children were all well-behaved. I only watched the 15 month old for three hours, and one of the fifth grade boys was only here for a couple of hours. But still. I feel like the Old Woman Who Lives in the Shoe. Only I can't spank all the children and put them to bed. Isn't that how the poem read?

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread,
Whipped them all soundly and put them to bed

I can understand why women pay other less-educated women $3 an hour to watch over their children so they don't have to endure the thankless monotony of keeping children alive. But the thing is, I believe that wiping a nose with love is different than wiping a nose without love. I believe that taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves is as important as making a lot of money and having adult conversations. When did childhood just become a pointless stretch of time that parents can ignore if they can pay someone else to do the grunt-work?

Well, maybe I'm jealous of women who wear pantyhose and go to offices and talk to adults all day and have lunch breaks.

Wait. I used to be one of those women and I watched the clock. I had to put in 7.5 hours a day and I started counting down at 6.5 hours. Only 4.5 hours to go, just 3.75 hours left, just 2.5 hours, only 1.5 hours, I think I'm going to make it. I wanted desperately to be at home with babies. (I never thought about being at home with ten year olds, though. How short-sighted of me.) I just knew that the work I was doing for a paycheck wasn't meaningful. My dad's death during that time only reinforced my feelings that life was too short to sit in an office and watch the clock. He was only 47.

So, I want to be home. I want to be the one who reads my baby's mind. I want to be the one to monitor the snack situation when the boys come bursting through the door at the end of the day. I want to be the one who rolls around on the floor with my kindergartener. I want to be in the backyard.

Every once in a while, though, I'd like to be the one waving good-bye and blowing kisses. My day will come. (I did the math the other night while I was trying to fall asleep and realized I'll be 56 when Babygirl graduates from high school. My mother is just turning 61 this year. I am an old mother. A very old mother.)

Here's a weird thing.

When I was born, my grandma was 59.
When Babygirl was born, her grandma was 59.
When my mother was born, her mother was 37.
When Babygirl was born, her mother (me) was 37.

That hurt my brain. Not a good sign. That's what seven children in one day will do to an old woman!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


I never really played charades when I was growing up. I'd see them played on television and I knew the gist of the game, but we never played at home. But now, oh boy! Every day is a new opportunity to play charades. And not just charades! No way. I get to play Baby Charades.

Babygirl is a pretty agreeable baby, as long as you do things her way, of course. She says a few key words, but more importantly, she nods. She's been nodding for months now and mostly her nods mean "yes." If she means "no", she just looks at you blankly like you need a new brain or a translator or at least electric shock therapy. Then, the charades begin.

She leans in a runner's stance, rocking towards her target. "You need something?" She nods. Then she points. I say, "You want to go into the kitchen?" Big emphatic nod. "Okay," I say. "Let's go." Then, she gestures towards the refrigerator. "Oh," I say, "You want cheese?" "Chhhzzzz," she says and nods. "All right," I say, "Here you go!"

She points, she leans, she grunts, she squeals, she nods, and occasionally, she'll turn her head away or just fling herself to the ground to kick and holler. I'm a little scared that I can just look at her and know she's thinking "I need a drink of water, you idiot." My husband cannot do that. Understand, I mean. He certainly can think "I need a drink of water, you idiot" but he does not have the ability to send or receive telepathic messages. It's something that seems to come standard with the uterus.

About a month ago, we had six inches of snow. This was Babygirl's first experience in the snow. Here is the way she said, "Mom, I hate snow. Get me out of this stuff now. Snow is bad!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Happy Rain

Last week, Babygirl learned an important skill. YoungestBoy taught her to jump in mud puddles. Here they are, stomping with glee. I am the kind of mother who says, "Hey, it's washable," and then I take pictures. This philosophy has carried me through many messy times. I have pictures of a baby with paint on his whole face (TwinBoyB), a picture of twin babies with poop smeared all over them and the carpet (The Poop Incident) and of course, random pictures of kids covered in mud.

Today, the sun shone and Babygirl insisted on going outside. She's learned to climb onto the Little Tikes plastic slide contraption and then she sits and slides. When she lands on her bottom she says, "Uh-oh!"

The days have been so much more pleasant since Babygirl has resumed napping. I almost feel like a human again.

TwinBoyB and YoungestBoy went to the dentist today for check-ups and cleanings. I was relieved to hear that they are both cavity-free. YoungestBoy had a lot of dental work the year he turned four, so I always worry about his teeth now. My husband took them and reported that YoungestBoy entertained everyone in the waiting room with his math skills.

Last night I goofed off so long talking about my red wall and my mother's hideous fashion sense that I never painted the wall.

I just realized that I need to run to the store for milk and bread, so I leave you with a raindrops-keep-falling-on-my-head shot of YoungestBoy:

Monday, February 09, 2004

Painting the Town Red

Glory be! The baby still takes naps! She goes to bed awake with no fuss! I feel like I'm on perpetual vacation, all because the baby has embraced naptime again. I hardly know what to do with myself, so today I painted the wall behind the recliner. I layered on a second coat of tan and tonight, I will paint it red.

My family room has red walls next to the fireplace, then red stripes on the long wall. The more tactful visitors tell me it reminds them of "Farrell's", an ice cream place we used to have in this area a long time ago. The less tactful visitors say with awe, "Did you paint all those stripes?" I don't care. I painted red stripes to give the room a little zip, a little pizzaz, a little whimsy. At least it's not boring. When you can't afford a room makeover and Trading Spaces is not coming to your rescue, you improvise with a can of red paint.

So, tonight I shall paint the wall red. This will be not quite as fun as painting the town red, but not as bad as falling into a giant vat of red paint.

Which reminds me of my dad's song. He used to sing: "I fell into a vat of chocolate. I just fell into a vat of chocolate. What'd you do when you fell into the chocolate? I yelled, FIRE, because no one would save me if I yelled, CHOCOLATE!" At this point, he would shout with laughter. We'd all laugh along, too, because we could not resist him when he laughed.

I know. He was a wacky guy.

I don't watch The Seventies Show. I lived it. This is me in the middle and my dad:

My grandma (still alive at almost 98 years old) sewed the hideous green dresses, complete with scratchy lace at the necks. I hated that dress. (Notice my clenched fists.) A lady named "Freida" (who had hair down to her backside) fixed my mother's hair at the dining room table. Then, my mother would sleep very carefully with a satin wrap around her head so she wouldn't muss the style. My brother is on the right. He's sixteen months older than me, and my ex-sister is on the left. She's sixteen months younger than me. I was so jealous of her young beauty--she had blue eyes and blond hair which was longer than my straggly mop. Being the vindictive type, I talked her into cutting it all off when she was a little older. I told her she'd look really cute with a shag. That was a lie, but at least my hair was longer then!

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Early Release

I feel like I've been paroled. Suddenly, out of the blue, the key turned in the lock and the door clanged open and I'm blinking in the light of freedom. Yes. Freedom. For now, my baby sleeps. She points to her crib and wants to nap. She sleeps for two hours! At night, defying all laws of logic and fatigue, she wants to go to bed even though it's not yet 7 p.m.--and even though she actually napped--so I put her gingerly into her crib and cover her and close the door behind her and blink in the light of Freedom at 6:40 p.m.

I kind of waste my free time, though. I'm like a parolee who sits in his jammies watching cartoons instead of reading the classified ads. Today I read the newspaper and a chapter of a book and then looked at websites about Vacation Bible School and marveled that some fanatics not only have already constructed 10 foot replicas of volcanoes--they have also created websites on which to display their handiwork, complete with complicated directions. I'm more of a "read the directions and slap it together, how hard can it be?" kind of VBS director.

At any rate, tonight while my husband was gone at meetings, I read YoungestBoy two books and then came downstairs to watch the Grammys and paint the wall. The wall behind the recliner (also known as Command Central) had two gigantic holes punched into by the force of our ex-dog, Greta, a Newfoundland of great glee and even greater strength who used to run laps in the living room and into the kitchen. Then she'd come flying back to the living room where she'd land in the recliner with force great enough to break the wall. After an obscene amount of time passed, my husband finally finagled a repair by asking a handy friend we know if he could borrow some tools. (The oldest trick in my husband's book, but it works every time. His alternate trick is so ask a friend for "help." Then he stands around and watches the friend work and possibly holds a tool and chats.)

So, the friend came and fixed the wall and for weeks now, maybe a month, the wall has been staring whitely at me, begging for paint. While I was painting, YoungestBoy popped into the room, surprising me, and said, "Excuse me, Mom," which caused me to scream a tiny scream. "Yes?" I said. "Mom, can I read the B Book, just for one or two minutes?"

Of course I said yes.

Then, more painting and another appearance by YoungestBoy. "Excuse me, Mom?"


"I just counted to 500!" He's an enthusiastic numbers guy.

"Good for you. Now go to bed. I love you!"

After I'd finished painting, he came downstairs one final time to tell me that he'd counted to 1,000. I told him it was 9:30 p.m., time to stay in bed. He wanted to know if he could count to 3,000 and I said, "I don't care how much you count. Just don't come downstairs again."

My husband likes to think that all of YoungestBoy's good characteristics are genetic, that they, in fact, directly passed from father to son. I'd like to think that he is a shining example of my exceptional parenting skills, but then I remember I have two other kids who are not shining examples of my parenting skills. So, it probably is genetic, but I'd like to think that my genes have made YoungestBoy who he is today. Okay. Well, at the very least, I did carry him in my womb. That's got to count for something.

Here's my boy, last year:

Saturday, February 07, 2004

As Good As It Gets

I woke up at 8 a.m. from the strangest dream. We'd moved to Michigan and were living in a large, rectangular, two-story farmhouse. In the dream, I was adamant about moving furniture downstairs from usptairs and at one point, I was insistent that the bedroom furniture be placed on the front lawn, in the lacy shadows of a large tree.

Then, I saw the view from the upstairs bedroom window--Mt. Hood! (Which, of course, is located in Oregon, not Michigan. But no matter. It was a dream.) However, things took a strange turn when I was suddenly having an ultrasound done to see if I was, indeed, pregnant. And not just any ultrasound. No sir-eee-bob. I had to walk from the waiting room to the ultrasound area naked.

Thank God my husband said, "Hey, do you hear the baby? She's awake."

My husband worked again today until 4 p.m. I cannot actually remember the last day he took off from work. I think it was at Christmas. While he was gone, the most remarkable thing happened. Babygirl took another nap in her crib. She nursed, sat up and pointed to her crib. I said, "You want to lay down in your bed?" She nodded. She actually slept about two hours. I read a chapter in a book, listening for her to cry out. When she didn't, I went downstairs and cleaned up the kitchen. My basic cleaning turned into Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder cleaning in which I picked out color crayons from the baskets and discarded them based on how dull their point was. I banished all the "RoseArt" crayons, too. I threw away an old lipstick I found in the kitchen counter basket which collects all manner of flotsam. I tossed an errant lego, a choke-chain for the dog we no longer have, two dried up glue-sticks and more.

Then I decluttered the "junk" cupboard which overflowed with tape dispensers (Costco sold tape in packs of 8), combs, paint brushes, post-it notes, nail clippers, pens and yes, more. Stuff, junk, do-dads. I have no shortage of clutter around here. Part of it is my fault--I save it if I think it has value, even if that value won't occur for ten more years. And then there are the kids who have vast stores of treasures, which cannot seem to stay put. I find Pokemon cards and plain-old playing cards and legos and balloons and tinkertoys and papers and books and dirty socks everywhere. My husband would like nothing more than to live in a home decorated in Early Dorm Room, so the baggage that comes with a family of boys and a baby assaults his senses.

When I finished throwing things away, I turned my attention to my sooty kitchen window. The candles purchased at Christmas-time smell great and leave a filmy coat of gray on the window frame and window. I washed the white paint, scrubbed the window and shook out the valance.

Puttering takes so much time and before I knew it, the baby was awake again. How satisfying, though to see my streamlined cupboards and baskets and unsooty window.

I told the boys we were going for a walk to 7-11 to buy Slurpees. They cooperated quickly and we were off, Babygirl in her stroller, Youngestboy by my side, chatting the whole way, TwinBoyA on a scooter and TwinBoyB on his bike. When I told my husband later, he exclaimed that such an outing was too dangerous! He's Mr. Caution. I told Mr. Caution that the road is wide and there is a bike path and we were perfectly safe walking half a mile each way. The skies were mostly sunny and the temperatures were in the mid-forties and it almost felt like spring.

Tonight, Babygirl went to sleep at 7:15 p.m. For the fourth night in a row, she pointed to her bed and when I asked if she wanted to lay down, she nodded. I love having a nodding baby. Even if she doesn't mean to say yes, but nods, it makes me feel like she is so agreeable.

I left the house at 8 p.m. and spent two satisfying hours at Barnes and Noble. I had a gift card to spend, but I wanted to spend it wisely. I bought four books: Sue Monk Kidd's "The Secret Life of Bees", a book about keeping a journal called "Leaving a Trace", a funny book to send my friend, Diane, for her birthday, and Elizabeth Berg's "Never Change." My stack of books to read gets higher and higher and probably one day it will collapse and render me senseless. Maybe even paralyze me, which will be okay if I'm not blinded. Then I will be helpless, but still able to read.

I can always hope.

Friday, February 06, 2004


Here's a photograph of Babygirl, which I took when she was about seven months old. (How about that? I can put pictures here!)

Beauty Sleeping!

Well, miracles never cease.

I have moaned and belly-ached and griped and complained and whined about my baby's lack of naps. She quit napping sometime last October, when she was just a little more than a year old. This was not at all okay with me, but what could I do? I could not bear to plop her into her crib and let her scream for an hour, so I went with the flow. I adjusted my expectations and decided to just enjoy nursing her and holding her while she napped for thirty minutes each day.

Today, I nursed her, as usual, in the gliding rocker in her room. After a few minutes, she sat up and pointed to her crib. I said, "You want to lay in your bed?" She nodded. I said, "Okay," and put her in her bed. She laid down and I covered her up with her afghans. Without a pause, I walked out and closed the door, fully expecting to hear her protests.

But no. She napped! She napped for a full hour in her crib. I read a chapter in a book, read a message board, wasted time. I really did not know what to do with myself, but I didn't want to make a noise or do something to jinx this miracle (like starting a project that required a measure of time to complete).

Tonight was the third night in a row that I've put her to bed fully awake. Each night she has gone to sleep without another sound.

A baby finally figuring out how to sleep well on her own is a miracle in its own way. After all those weeks and months of staggering through the day in a sleep-deprived haze, I sleep again.

Now, if I could just get my husband to stop snoring, I'd be all set.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Tedium

What really gets to me is the tedium, the monotony, the grinding routine of doing the same stuff over and over again, every day. Each day, I'm crestfallen when I remember I have to think up dinner again. I just made dinner last night. I pick up the same toys. I wash the same clothes. I flush the same toilets, which surprisingly enough, the boys always forget to flush. I wear the same clothes. The only thing different each day is my stupid hair, which has a mind of its own which is in cahoots with the weather.

I hate the alarm ringing in the morning. I hate waking up in the dark. I hate mornings.

The sad thing is that this is what life is made of--the small stuff, the boring stuff, the routine stuff. Sticky floors and unfolded laundry and a stack of papers on the counter are my life. I am the Queen of the trivial detail, the Servant of the household demand, the Slave to the kitchen.

I need a make-over!
I need a chef!
I need a vacation in Tahiti!

But I'd settle for two hours at Target on Saturday. Without a baby in my cart!

Monday, February 02, 2004

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Lately, I have been thinking about my dad. He died when I was 24, which is now 15 years ago, though he died in September and my birthday was just a few days ago. So, I was 24 and a half. He was 47, just barely.

I miss him so much. He never got to experience Seinfeld or the internet or being a grandpa. And that's just the beginning of all he missed.

But this is not about missing him. This is about the time he took me out to have pie.

When I was about 10 years old, he invited me to go with him to have a piece of pie. This invitation struck fear into my cautious little heart. My dad had never taken me anywhere alone. He worked the graveyard shift and slept all day and hardly ever sat at the dinner table with us. I was a little scared of him because he was a tall man who was never home. He was stoic and unaffectionate.

And then he wanted to take me out to eat pie. I was suspicious because I'd already found a spiral bound steno pad under the couch with my mother's handwriting in it. There were two columns: "His" and "Hers." She had divided up their meager possessions into these two lists. I realized with horror what this list must mean, but I shoved it back under the couch without a word and figured if I pretended I hadn't seen it that my world would not spontaneously combust. But, of course, I was wrong.

On the way to the restaurant, my dad asked if I'd prefer to eat or talk first. I said eat. So, I choked down pie. I can't remember any small talk. I can't even remember the pie. What I cannot forget, though, is my dad telling me that he and my mother would be getting a divorce. "We still love you," he said. As if that made the catastrophe somehow better. Yes, your world will collapse, but we still love you. Okay, then. I will just stay here buried under the rubble while you love me. Thanks so much.

I used his hankerchief to wipe my tears and snot. You'd think that a father informing his daughter about his divorce from her mother would remember to bring a box of tissues, but no. He was not the kind of dad who would think of that.

They were divorced when I was 11. And I'm still not a big fan of pie

Sunday, February 01, 2004


It's nearly 11 p.m. and the weekend has come to an end. My family room floor is littered with junk food crumbs from our very loud Superbowl party. If you can call it that. Friends needed childcare for a couple of hours this afternoon, so we had our kids, plus their three kids. Yes, that means twin 10 year olds, a 9 year old, twin 8 year olds, a nearly 6 year old and Babygirl. You would not even believe the level of noise. None of the boys has an "indoor" voice. They had a great time, though, and happily, they were outside during the half-time show which featured Sean Puff P. Diddy Daddy Combs (whom I despise) and his crotch-grabbing friend, Nelly, (my great-aunt is named, Nelly) and Janet Jackson's bare right breast.

My husband worked on Friday (his day off) and Saturday (his sort of day off) and then, of course, today. He hasn't had a whole day off in weeks. Every one of my days looks exactly the same. Entertain the baby, sit outside while she plays in the cold chill, figure out how to keep everyone fed, wash and dry and fold laundry, pick up toys so no one trips . . . the monotony drains me.

But here's the good news: everyone is healthy this week! Last week was a horror of sore throats and fevers.
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