Sunday, October 31, 2004

Is That a Tootise Roll? (Or: Don't Step on the Poop!)

My husband, The Pastor, is sick. He has a cold and has taken to our bed (actually my side of our king-sized bed because it has a better view of the television). Yesterday, he rested most of the day and this morning, he nearly didn't go to church. As chance (?) would have it, he didn't have to preach this morning, so he went, faked it and came home, back to bed. I stayed home with all the kids because Babygirl is recovering from her cold and sounds like she is coughing up a lung and her spleen, too.

Meanwhile, I'd invited my sister and her family over for an early dinner and trick-or-treating. This obviously meant that I had to clean off my dresser and pick up all the books scattered on YoungestBoy's floor. All the toilets needed scrubbing, all the floors had to be vacuumed. The piles of laundry had to be washed and the dishes had to be put away. I had to cook. I had to bake homemade butter cut-out cookies shaped like pumpkins. I was nearly finished mixing the dough (which had to chill for one hour), when I realized I was a quarter cup short of flour.

Please. Why don't I plan ahead? Check ingredients? Miss Huson, my seventh grade home-economics teacher, would be so disappointed in me. So, I joind a bunch of other people who do not plan ahead at the grocery store this afternoon.

I did have a slow start this morning, but then I worked all day (hello? Day of Rest? Where is my Day of Rest?). How can a medium sized house with only four children and three cats and one husband degenerate so quickly? If only the Second Law of Thermodynamics (The "Law of Disorder") hadn't been debunked with statements like this: A typically erroneous quote from a high school chem text is: "The law of disorder states that things move spontaneously in the direction of maximum chaos or disorder." First of all, there is no such law of disorder for things. But the worst here is how the sentence misleads students about things moving by themselves when the author puts in that word "spontaneously". That defeats understanding of how the second law works. Molecules tend to become random spontaneously by themselves, but things do NOT.

For one glorious moment, I thought the Second Law explained everything! The reason for scattered socks! For crumbs on the floor! The disintegration of anything resembling order in this house.

I put the boys to work cleaning and running the vacuum cleaner. Everything did come together--even with the unplanned grocery store excursion. My sister and her family were an hour and a half late (typical!) which I had anticipated, so when they arrived, it was 4:30 p.m. and just about time to eat tacos.

I had originally intended to leave Babygirl home with my husband, but since he wasn't feeling well, I took her trick-or-treating, too. She was enthusiastic about the idea of going outside in the dark. Since the moon eclipse, she wants to go into the night every night.

I dressed her as a Seahawks cheerleader, completely with homemade pom-poms (made from yarn). She even let me put yarn ribbons in her hair. Her pink coat covered her costume, but I took pictures of her first, which really is all that matters. YoungestBoy went as "Flame," an alter-ego he created himself. He had a black cape with "FLAME" in prominent yellow felt letters. Most importantly, he had red hair, thanks to red hair gel.

We live on a circle, so we hurried from house to house. Babygirl is a cautious soul and has refused to be held by another adult since she was three months old. She scares easily. But not tonight! Tonight she jogged in the dark streets and even went into some homes to snatch candy from their over-sized bowls. She said "trick-or-treat" when we were in the street and then at the doorsteps, she just said "Pleeeease!" And then "thanks!" The people in our circle are generous because we don't have many trick-or-treaters, so they gave the kids handfuls of candy.

When we came home, we stood for a moment in the doorway, Babygirl and I, and I caught a glimpse of a chocolate colored mound in the entryway. I said to no one in particular, "Is that cat poop?"

Our mutant cats occasionally leave a random log of waste . . . it's as if it sticks to their posteriors like some kind of stinky velcro and then falls off. I didn't really think it was poop, but then TwinBoyA said, "Yes!" And I said, "Get me a tissue!"

Then I stood guard, holding Babygirl. The kids--my three boys and their two cousins--were high on the excitement of full candy buckets. They were circling around like vultures, scurrying like ants carrying a giant grasshopper corpse and then YoungestBoy stepped up to me and said, "Look, Mom!" And I said, "No, no, no, no, don't M O V E!" And then, "NO NO NO NO NO NO! I SAID D O N ' T MOVE!"

And then he pranced, mushing that cat poop into about five different spots which I hollered, "WHERE IS THAT TISSUE!" I keep a tissue box as mere six feet from the front door and TwinBoyA had been gone for a long, long time, much longer than necessary. I didn't dare grab a tissue myself because I was guarding the cat poop--and doing a--excuse me, I can't resist--a crappy job of it.

My husband crawled out of his sick bed and came downstairs to see why I was yelling. I explained that there was CAT POOP all over now and I was waiting for a tissue--and here TwinBoyA calmly walked up and handed me a measly wad of toilet paper--not a tissue, as I had requested--and I made some kind of gutteral animal noise of disgust and horror and pain.

Then I took the smelly cat-poopy shoes to the bathroom and scraped them and cleaned them and rolled my eyes. I cleaned the carpet (yes, carpet in entry way, how stupid, huh?).

When I went upstairs, my husband said, "Are you finished yelling?" And I said, "You would have yelled, too!" He denied that. I contend that it's only natural--and right--to yell when you have kids milling about a live grenade "cat deposit" and when you can see with x-ray vision that someone will STEP IN IT and the universe holds its breath for just a second while it waits for you to intervene. Yelling is a perfectly appropriate response.

You try it. And let me know if you yell. Place a chocolate-colored roll of cat poop in your entryway as five children stomp about and the doorbell rings and you are holding a two year old and a candy bucket and then let me know if you YELL when someone steps in it and grinds it into the carpet five times before he stands still while you wait for a tissue which should have arrived in seconds, not minutes.

Yeah. See? I'm right again.

And thus ends another Day of Rest. Bring on the week! I'm so refreshed.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Out To Dinner

Last night, we had dinner with two other couples at someone's house. Everyone was older than me and, in fact, it seemed that one of the men has had nine lives. Each story began with a different description, like "My roommate at Dallas Seminary . . . " Or "When I lived in New England . . . " Or "Back in Seattle . . ."

I felt so completely beige, as if I had nothing interesting to say because I've had no interesting experiences (which is not true, not really, but "interesting" is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?). And when you are a mother who stays home and takes care of her children, people assume you are a blank, dusty chalkboard. Sometimes you are, but I like to think there is more to me than fixing grilled cheese sandwiches and refereeing fights over Nintendo.

Fortunately, I have a stock answer to the question he asked: "What is your favorite movie?"** And I hated both of his favorite movies ("Somewhere in Time" and "Chariots of Fire"), but I wisely kept my mouth shut.

The conversation was lively and soon we'd spent three hours chatting and so my husband abruptly said, "Oh my, it's 11 p.m., we must get home to our babysitter." And we all left at once since we rode in the fancy-schmancy vehicle belonging to our dinner companions.

Tonight, I went to dinner with three women friends from church. I was by far the oldest at this dinner. I could be the mother of one of the women, in fact, if I'd had a child while I was a teen. Because I have a two year old, I find myself rubbing shoulders with other mothers of two year olds, but they are usually more than ten years my junior. I am so haggard and aged.

I asked S., "How long have you been married?" And she said, "Ten years." D. has been married seven years, and A., a mere one year. I've been married seventeen years. That's a long time.

After dinner, I ran a few errands and ended up shivering at the local outdoor produce store, searching for a pumpkin to carve. From the road, it looked like there were a bunch of pumpkins, but upon closer inspection, they were all rotten and cracked and mushy. I had neglected pumpkin hunting earlier, so I settled on two medium white pumpkins and one oblong orange pumpkin. The pickings were mighty slim, which is what happens if you wait until October 30th to find a pumpkin. Lesson learned.

We may or may not go to church tomorrow. Babygirl is recovering from a sudden and vicious cold. I think she'll be all right, but you never know. But this is my favorite night of the year, better than Christmas Eve! It's the night we get an extra hour of sleep . . . or in my case, an extra hour to read! (Now, please, someone send the memo to my children. They usually fail to observe the "extra hour of sleep" rule and just get up at the regular time (which is now an hour earlier!).

**My favorite movie? "Schindler's List," which is profound on so many levels. I love the story of redemption it tells.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tell Me More! Tell Me More!

At 5:40 p.m., I was hunched into a small, blue, first-grader-sized chair. Next to me, Miss B. sat quite comfortably. She is the first-grade teacher, a small woman with a quick smile and teeny-tiny little hands that reminded me of my college roommate. (My college roommate was 4 feet 10 inches tall and wore a size 3 shoe. I am 5 feet 7 inches tall and there's nothing size 3 about me.)

Miss B. began by telling me what a joy it is to have YoungestBoy in her class. She told me how once, at the beginning of the school year, she found him disoriented in the hallway, lost. She reminded him where the room was and he laughed and said, "Oh yeah! Short term memory loss." We both laughed out loud.

Then she pulled out a paper which listed an assessment of his knowledge so far. He excells in every area--except penmanship. He needs to work on that. But today, he received a Student of the Month award for "Amazing Writing." He loves math and shows an unbelievable aptitude for numbers.

All too soon, it was over and she asked if I had any questions. I didn't. But I wanted to clutch her half-sized hand and beg her to tell me more about my brilliant, darling son. I wanted to sit on that little chair and compare stories and discuss his cuteness, his charm, his unintentionally hilarious comments. I told her one story about last Friday. I'd rented a video game for him the night before, so Friday morning he came to me and said, "Mom. My nose is stuffy. And (small fake cough) I think I should stay home." I said, "Really?" and kind of laughed and he said, "Okay. Well, that cough was fake."

I told Miss B. that I've come to the conclusion that if I only had YoungestBoy, I would be a smug parent, a condescending parent, one of those mothers who thinks she is the reason her child is so . . . everything.

But, I have the twins, and they have challenged me every step along the way. They hate to write, their handwriting is illegible, they dragged their feet through every grade. The other day, they actually came to blows over Play-doh. They are average. Average is all right, but average is not perfect. And that's okay. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

If I only had YoungestBoy, I would claim credit for him. But I have his brothers. They keep me humble, while he buoys my spirits.

And it's not all about me, anyway. My job is to keep them safe, to nourish them, inside and out, and to help them reach their potential. Sounds simple, right? If only.

I sometimes think I'm the only mother who looks around at the bedlam and the mess and thinks, Am I doing all right? Is this how it's done? Have I ruined my children already? Is it too late? Why did I ever think I would be good at this? Would they be better off without me? Sometimes I long for the days when I worked for Blue Cross--at least then, I got a regular job review and a raise. I could measure my productivity against the company standards. At the end of the day, I could walk out to my car and not look back. Of course, back then I was a clock-watcher and I yearned for the days I have now.

I just thought I'd have perfect children who would love to play checkers (without fighting) and read by the fireplace and sit quietly at the dinner table where they'd eat brussel sprouts and discuss scripture verses. I thought they'd be darling marionettes and I'd be the master puppeteer, handling all those strings without ever getting tangled.

It turns out that life can't exactly be planned, children are individuals, not accessories, and the kitchen counter will always attract stacks of paper. And that's okay. As long as some of those papers have YoungestBoy's name on them and a shining star from his teacher to show that she is extremely impressed. (He's mine! I gave birth to him! Isn't he sweet?!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Making Kids Sleep

To file under "Ideas Which Failed":

Remove all lamps from twin 11-year-old boys' room in effort to make them sleep.

Next plan? Barbituates. That's not illegal, is it? Ambien?

You can send a kid to bed, but you can't make him sleep. This is one thing I know for sure.

Lunar Eclipse

At 6:45 p.m., I said to my mother in the kitchen, "We have to go check the moon." And I snatched up Babygirl and we hurried outside. When I saw that the moon was partly obscured by a shadow, I ran back down the driveway and alerted the boys so they, too, could see the last lunar eclipse until 2007.

We stood in the street and watched the shadow creep so slowly across the nearly full moon. Babygirl was not content to sit on my hip, but wanted down. Disregarded good sense, I placed her on the street and she toddled off in her footy-pajamas to peer at the moon from a closer vantage point.

The boys sat in kitchen chairs they'd carted outside. They kept up a steady, inane chatter. Behind us, the twin girls who are seniors in high school snapped photographs and the flash illuminated the shrubs and probably our backsides, too.

When the moon was fully engulfed by the shadow of the earth, we waved bye-bye and went back inside where we warmed our noses and toes. Except for me. My toes stayed perfectly toasty in my black scuffs, which are perfectly acceptable to wear in the street while watching a lunar eclipse. Trust me. I know.

I Missed the Memo About Pink Scuffs

A few weeks ago, I herded my kids into the car to go to the bank and realized a few miles down the road that I was still wearing my black suede scuffs, a distant cousin of the house-slipper. They are all cozy and lined with something a sheep probably lost its life over. I wear them all day to keep my feet warm and my socks dry. But when I leave the house, I change into actual shoes with laces. It seems only right.

But maybe not.

Apparently, it has become acceptable to wear slippers in public. Did I miss a memorandum or something? Last night, I stood in line at the video store behind a woman in scuffs that appeared to be crocheted out of pink yarn. In walked another young woman wearing hot pink leopard print plush scuffs (paired with some clown-like spandex--we all turned to watch as she sauntered by). In Target the other night, I saw another pair of slippers--and not in the shoe department, either, but on a harried-looking woman's feet.

Is it just here? Is it just me? Or are people everywhere throwing caution to the wind and wearing their slippers in public? What's next? Pajamas?

If you see a woman in a battered, lilac-colored robe with gigantic pockets full of tissues, that would be me. Testing the new boundaries of fashion. Check out my slippers! They almost look like shoes!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Reading Buddies

Babygirl and TwinBoyA reading happily together. Her choice? "Uh-Oh, Gotta Go!" His choice? "Charlotte's Web."  Posted by Hello

My Lovely October Girl

Babygirl can barely stand still long enough for a picture.  Posted by Hello

About the Socks. And a Little About Trains.

Marguerite wants to know what is holding the socks onto the fireplace eight feet up. Good question.

My boys have discovered that cloth will cling to the fireplace bricks--kind of a velcro effect. They also figured out that the teeny-beeny-baby snake will also stick and have spent many happy moments flinging that snake at the fireplace wall.

Today was my husband's day off and I was truly jealous gratified to see him sleep in and laze around until 10:00 a.m. At that point, he came downstairs showered and bright-eyed and announced he'd be leaving to run errands. I gave him film to develop and TwinBoyB's broken glasses so he could see if Costco could fix them. (They could not.)

I kept the coughing and sneezing YoungestBoy home from school today. The twins worked extremely hard on their math assessment and then worked even harder on their writing. I gave the toddlers Brio train tracks and trains to occupy them. They hadn't seen them before, so this tactic was good for about twenty minutes of peace. The phone rang. And rang again. I have never been so relieved to lay down with Babygirl for her nap as I was today. Schooling kids, feeding kids, doing laundry for kids and trying to get kids to pay attention is wearing me out. Especially because I must stay up until midnight reading Jane Smiley's Good Faith. (Jane Smiley is a genius and worth losing sleep over.)

Then, the phone rang twice, the doorbell rang twice and my husband peeked in to tell me that the newspaper delivery-girl was at the door and needed a check and someone please explain to me why the newspaper can't seem to get my subscription information correct. I WANT TO PAY BY MAIL! I switched places with my husband, so he tricked Babygirl into finally falling asleep and then I discovered DaycareKid was softly crying as if his heart was broken. I paid the newspaper-girl, held DaycareKid awhile and then convinced him to sleep.

My husband had teased me with the tantalizing prospect of leaving the house for a bit when the toddlers napped, but as it happened, it took Babygirl so long to finally fall asleep that I ran out of time. At 2:45 p.m., I was sitting with my twins in a conference room with their "mentor teacher", a man with copper hair on his arms, dull copper and gray hair on his head and a beard that reminds me of my dad. He's a coach and science teacher and thwarted writer. He tends to go off on many tangents, which causes my boys to go off on many tangents, which causes me to wish I had my novel in my bag so I could open and read at such times. Today, at least twice I had to stop myself from breaking eye contact to dig in my purse for my cell phone so I could check the time.

I wanted to go to the library before returning home, but it was too late.

I am becoming convinced that TwinBoyB has some kind of neurological processing disorder. He's a smart boy, but his work does not reflect that. In addition to that, my boys require so much direct supervision. If I am not monitoring every move, they revert to smacking each other or sword-fighting with pencils. They can't stay on task. If they were a train, they would be forever falling off the tracks, spilling hazardous chemicals and shutting down neighborhoods.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, here is a photograph of our three mutant cats, enjoying the view from our hideous hand-me-down-couch.  Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Socks on the Fireplace: Pantyhose in the Nursery

Sunday Night
What distresses me is not the dirty white crews socks which are stuck to my living room fireplace approximately eight feet up. Nor, am I all that worried about the stacks of folded laundry which perch on the sectional.

What bugs me are the popcorn fragments scattered across the family room, because I vacuumed yesterday and by some grand delusion, I believed that my floor would stay acceptable through the beginning of a new week.

Alas, it was not to be.

Martha Stewart, felon, did not seem to have this problem, even when she was a free and productive member of society. I bet she did not have socks stuck to her fireplace or crumbs on her floor--because she did not have boys. Do you like how I blame everything on my boys?

I did have a moment tonight, just a while ago in the kitchen. My youngest boy came downstairs to inform me with great glee that his nose is so stuffy he couldn't sleep, "and I think I should stay home from school tomorrow!" His smile was so wide, his cheeks so flushed, his hair so blond that I just really saw him for a second, really noticed how tall he's getting and how big. Time is so fleeting. Tonight he was standing in my kitchen in his footy-pajamas that zip all the way up and next thing I know, he'll be accepting a diploma and driving off to college.

TwinBoyA, meanwhile, is in a reading frenzy. He's read three of the Harry Potter books in four days.

TwinBoyB spends his days watching the cooking channel.

My house is full of scritching noises tonight. YoungestBoy just came downstairs, dragging a pop-up tent that his brothers left in his room. It's 10:07 p.m. I opened the twins' door and when I do that, TwinBoyA always scolds his brother, his way of attempting to deflect any scolding that may come his way. They've been staying awake later and later, so I figure I need to start waking them earlier, more deliberately.

Sunday Morning

This morning, I gave ample warning to all the children. I am leaving at 9:30, I told them. I dressed YoungestBoy, Babygirl and myself and headed out the door. TwinBoyB couldn't find his shoes. I said, "That's a bummer for you. I hope you figure out a solution," and went to the car. We sat about five minutes while he found his shoes. His hair looked like a rather unsuccessful Chia pet. I'm trying to not micromanage the older boys. Hair like that makes it tough.

I settled us into the second to the last pew in church, pleased that I was on time. Then a man came and whispered to me that there was no nursery volunteer and since I am the coordinator, I had to go. I actually said out loud (with no one around), "Yes, I love to get dressed up in pantyhose to sit in the nursery!" as I tromped downstairs with Babygirl in tow.

I found only three kids in the nursery, a three year old, four year old and five year old. They all left for their classes when the sermon began and then a visitor came in with a two year old boy named Zion.

Zion's hair reminded me of the story of Samson in the Bible. I wonder if Samson's locks hung in his face, though? Zion wasn't quite two, but he was way bigger than Babygirl and had huge feet--or maybe just enormous shoes. Who knows? He never spoke, but he did grab and shove. His mother left and then returned with her baby, a girl named Anaya.

Babygirl immediately begged to hold the baby. The baby's mom generously handed over her five month old chunk of sweet baby pudge with straight-up-in-the-air black silky hair. This baby almost weighed as much as Babygirl, but Babygirl did not let this deter her. She adores babies, any size, any type.

I had a lovely conversation with the mother of the children. She recently moved with her family from Hawaii. I had such a great chat that I regretted my stinky attitude about being relegated to the nursery yet again. I always enjoy visiting with the other mothers, even while I am wearing pantyhose which I am pretty sure are part of the Curse.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Fun With Toddlers

Yesterday, DaycareKid arrived a little late, so I took the opportunity to replace the fallen towel bars in the bathrooms. For some reason, my 11-year old twins have been using those bars as handles, apparently attempting to rock-climb the bathroom walls. How else to explain the inexplicable fallen racks?

I fixed the towel rack in the downstairs bathroom and before I could go upstairs, DaycareKid arrived. I welcomed him and he and Babygirl went into the family room to reunite after a long night apart. She's always so happy to see him.

The upstairs towel bar refused to budge--I need to find the really tiny screwdriver that the children have "borrowed"--and so I returned downstairs after only a few minutes. I'd left three bowls of oatmeal on the kitchen counter to cool--suddenly, I've turned into The Three Little Bears. Only one bowl remained.

I thought, Oh, my son ate his oatmeal already, but I realized immediately that 3-1=2 . . . and so where was the other oatmeal bowl? I glanced over and saw DaycareKid and Babygirl, both standing in the family room holding bowls of oatmeal and gigantic spoons.

Babygirl said, "We eat moat-meal!" Remarkably, they hadn't spilled a glop. I could only smile at her resourcefulness at finding the oatmeal, carrying it one bowl at a time, sharing with her friend, digging around in the forehead-height-to-a-toddler silverware drawer for spoons.

Today, while I sat at the kitchen table, discussing poetry with my twins, I became vaguely aware of the toddlers talking about the potty. I paused, listened and heard "He play with the potty!" I jumped up and said, "OH NO! Oh no, no, no, NO!" I hurried over to find DaycareKid sitting a few feet away from the toddler-sized potty which we keep in the family room. Babygirl had peed in the potty earlier and I hadn't immediately emptied it.

I know. How disgusting, right?

DaycareKid had been dunking Pokemon cards into the urine in the potty. When I knelt to investigate, I felt a wet spot on the knee of my well-worn blue jeans where he'd dropped the soaked cards. I gathered the cards up--ewwwwww--and carried them to the trashcan. I told myself, "Urine is sterile," but--ick. I washed his hands in warm water, told him, "NO NO NO NO NO NO!" I emptied the pot. I can't believe I had to say the sentence, "DO NOT PLAY IN THE POTTY!"

It reminded me of the time I heard myself say, "Do not pee on your brother!" That was way back in the days when the twins were three and I thought my life was hectic. Ha ha ha.

Who Are You?

I've been watching too much Winnie the Pooh--not the new-fangled shows you find on the Disney Channel, but the original Winnie the Pooh movies. We have three-in-one, called "Pooh's Grand Adventures." My favorite is all about the blustery day.

But here is what I have come to realize. I am Rabbit. I am the one likely to scurry around saying, "Oh no, no, no, no! My precious carrots!" And "my beautiful garden" in great dismay upon finding it trashed by the irrepressible Tigger. I am not simple and sweet like Pooh. I am not timid and fearful like Piglet. I have never been happy-go-lucky and energetic like Tigger. I wish I was Kanga with her June Cleaver voice and her broom, or Roo with his happy childhood. At one time I was gloomy Eyeore, watching my house fall down around me, but now? Now I am Rabbit, the party-pooper, the worry-wart, the one who freaks out upon finding a Pooh Bear stuck in the doorway of my house.

I have watched so much Pooh lately, that I've even decided that it would be a good quiz: A "Who Are You? Winnie-the-Pooh?" quiz. Guess someone else beat me to it!

(I just took the quiz I linked up there and it was obviously wrong because it said this:
You always like finding new stuff and you have alot of friends.You love everyone and like helping them but you worry too much about your food..
Winnie the Pooh^_^You always like finding new stuff
and you have a lot of friends.You love everyone
and like helping them but you worry too much
about your food..

Which Winnie the Pooh character are you ? (with Pics)
brought to you by Quizilla)

And I took another one for kicks and this time it said this:

Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!

I guess I don't know myself as well as I thought. . . or perhaps the Internet is not full of truth and beauty as I previously believed! I don't care what the Internet says. I am Rabbit, neurotic, long-eared, crazed Rabbit. Send carrots.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Self-Esteem Prodigy

I asked my youngest son, "Who do you think is the best reader in your class?"

He said, "Me!"

I said, "Who is the best at math?"

Again, he said, "Me!"

Then, I said, "Well, who has the most friends in your class?"

Without pause, he said, "Me!"

If I could package and market this child's self-confidence and optimism, I would be a very rich woman, indeed.


My twins spent several hours today after finishing their school work building a "clubhouse," which involved carrying every blanket and afghan they could find into the dining room. Their design relied heavily on draping these blankets on chairs. Then, TwinBoyA stretched out on his stomach and read the first Harry Potter book. Again. He decided to read them all again for the third time. He started reading it yesterday and I think he'll finish it tomorrow.

The neighbor boys came over and all the boys spent a great deal of time assigning roles. I heard TwinBoyB informing the neighbor boy that he had to be a guard and go through beginning guard training.

The neighbor boys come over every day and want to stay late. My boys sometimes don't really want to play with them, but YoungestBoy said he doesn't want to make the boys feel bad by refusing to play. We need to figure out a way to preserve some space around my sons while reaching out to the neighbors at the same time.

Tricky stuff, this child-rearing. At least one child--the YoungestBoy--is making me look good! He's gotten four perfect spelling tests, despite the fact I haven't helped him study his words yet. Now, if I can remember to give him popcorn money tomorrow, all will be well.

Free Time

I remember free time. Free time in third grade meant reading the library book I always kept on my desk, or drawing elaborate pictures of my black puppy, Midnight, while I waited for my classmates to catch up. It meant wandering my cul-de-sac and neighborhood on my bike. I used my free time to squish along the banks of the creek at the bottom of the "big hill."

Free time in junior high meant riding my bike up and down the hills of my hometown. Free time meant hours spent in the public library, perusing bookshelves and striving for invisiblity while I stuck my nose in a book. I baked cookies and took piano lessons and grew nasturtiums outside my bedroom window.

I managed to get through high school with a straight-A average, yet found enough free time to be a hospital "Volunteen" on the "broken bones" unit at our local hospital. I wanted to be on the maternity ward, even then, near the tiny babies. I'd peer through the windows at the extremely premature babies. Then I'd return to my assigned floor, pass magazines to people immobilized by casts and fill water carafes.

As a high-schooler, I had enough free time to babysit, play the piano, read, participate in youth group activities, work part-time at Taco Time and work with children at church.

And then, there were summers. Remember summers? When you never saw mornings at all? I'd pry my eyes open at 11:00 a.m., then roll over until noon. I'd chat on the phone, ride around with my best friend, Shelly, in her canary-yellow Volkswagon bug. We'd jump waves in the Pacific Ocean and wander the waterfront in Seattle. We'd whittle away entire days, doing nothing.

I was so eager then for my "real life" to begin. I couldn't wait to be grown, to be in charge, to be responsible.

I used to have free time before I had children. For nine anxious months while we lingered on an adoption waiting list, my husband worked and I was unemployed. I ate chocolate covered raisins, watched deer outside my back window and watched reruns of "thirtysomething." I saw movies during the day. I can hardly imagine the bounty of free time that I squandered in those days.

Now, I must shove stuff out of the way to get free time. Sometimes, quite literally. I'll push aside the malignant paper pile on the kitchen counter so I can open the front page of the newspaper and read while the babies eat noodles for lunch. I will become temporarily blinded to the unfolded laundry while I sprawl on the recliner and read. I will leave my house in complete disarray without a drop of much-needed make-up on my pale face so that I can drive in silence.

Free time comes in incremental moments or very late at night. Sometimes, I'm just too weary to embrace the free time that drifts my way. Sometimes I miss the window of opportunity.

Often, I long for the bulk of free time that I had in my youth. That kind of time is shattered now into a million shards, mostly too small to use. Is it possible to even foresee the loss of free time that occurs when one becomes responsible for the feeding, care, and toenail clipping of four children?

I don't think so.

Because if you realized that clipping forty kid-toenails would cause you to neglect your own toenails--which sport summer's polish at Halloween--you might pause. You might wonder how much, exactly, the going rate for "free time" is.

Free time here costs me sleep. That's the price I pay for "free" time. A girl has to have her priorities, after all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

In Case You Were Wondering

I haven't crashed into anyone's living room. (See post immediately below if you haven't been following along. And if you haven't been following along, why not? Where have you been? I couldn't wait all day for you!)

The Deathtrap only cost $43.00 to repair.

So, really, it was a comparatively good day. I'm reading Left for Dead by Beck Weathers which tells the story of how he was left for dead on Mt. Everest during a tragic climbing expedition. Severals others were killed, including some elite mountaineers. Reading about some guy eating raw bacon to fuel him on his quest to reach the South Pole tends to put your own life in perspective.

I'm fine. We're fine. So what if it's dark when I wake up and drizzly most of the day? So what if Babygirl inexplicably peed her pants in the dining room where I have brand new carpet? So what if there are six baskets of folded laundry to put away?

At least I don't have to sleep in a tent on a frozen mountainside.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Breaking Point

I can hear my husband's snores, even though the television news is on. The boys finally stopped talking and fell into a sloppy sleep. The little kids sleep quietly and soundly and I haven't heard from them in hours and hours.

Tonight, before I left for Weight Watchers, I asked my husband if he could put Babygirl to bed for me. He said he could if I wanted. So, off I went to my meeting and received news of a gain this week (what do you expect when you are lingering between two plans, not doing either of them?) and afterwards, I went to Target to get dishwasher liquid.

I felt like crying. I feel like a tree bending in the wind, just before it snaps and crashes into someone's living room. In other words, I am a woman who is hormonal.

When I pulled into our driveway at 8:11 p.m. (eleven minutes past Babygirl's bedtime) her bedroom light was on. I came into the house and she was halfway down the stairs, joyously announcing, "Mommy's here!" I could not understand why I was seeing her cute little face when it was past her bedtime and I'd asked my husband to put her to bed.

I went into her room with her, watched her video with her and wept. I cried because I have too much to do and I didn't stay on the Weight Watchers program and I can't seem to find time for myself until my youngest child/ren are three years old and by that time, I'll be over 40 and our trip to Walt Disney World is next summer and will I actually be the fattest mom in the Happiest Place On Earth?

Then I plopped Babygirl into bed. She protested, until I offered her the choice, "Would you like Mommy or Daddy to cover you up?" She thought a moment, then gave up and let me cover her. She stopped crying just as I closed the door. So did I.

I'm still typing (my transcription work) because I agreed to transcribe another tape. Why? I have clearly lost my mind. This afternoon, I cooked an entire dinner and then gave it away to my friend who has a newborn. Then I cooked again for my own family. (I know. There would have been a more efficient way to do that, but I hadn't planned ahead because I'm a dunce.) I feel like I washed every dish in my kitchen--twice. I also think I washed, dried and folded every item of clothing in this house. So how it is that I still have dirty laundry on the laundry room floor?

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Breaking the Silence

Don't you hate when you check a blog, but the blog-writer hasn't written anything? For weeks? Or days? Or hours? Yeah, me, too.

So, I'm popping in at midnight on Saturday to say a couple of things.

I agreed to take a transcription job, so I've been typing furiously when the kids go to bed. It's kind of boring and whenever I agree to type for pay, I suddenly get crazy ideas like: Oh, I should put all the Christmas china back into the hutch. Then my storage room would be cleared out a little. Or, I should paint the entry-way and I wonder if that wall in the kitchen should be red? Or, Today, right now, I should put out Halloween decorations.

But, of course, I can't do any of that. I have to type. I can do nothing but type or I won't possibly be able to meet my deadline. Tomorrow, I will have to fit in four hours of typing. Why do I do this to myself?

Today, when Babygirl went to sleep, I went to Joann's Fabrics--a brand new store with wide aisles and a take-a-number system for the fabric-cutting station, so customers can take a number and wander the store rather than standing impatiently in line. Oh, I loved that! I could live in a fabric store, easily. Just walking into one makes me want to drag out my sewing machine (I need to have it fixed) and learn to knit and resume my scrapbooking. Fabulous store. I bought black material to make YoungestBoy a cape for his Halloween costume. He's going to be a character he created called "Flame."

I went to the grocery store afterwards and came home to a house full of kids. When I drove past my living room, my baby was peering out the window, waiting for me.

DaycareKid's birthday party is tomorrow. We are invited, Babygirl and I, but the last time we went to a birthday party, Babygirl freaked out and we had to leave before it began. I've been preparing Babygirl for Sunday's party. I told her a few days ago and she said "birthday cake?" Today, I told her that tomorrow we're going to church, then after we rest, we're going to DaycareKid's house. She said, "Party?" She's probably no smarter than the average two year old, but I was impressed that she remembered why we're going. I hope this means she will not be frightened and that we can stay for the party.

I love to go to other people's homes, even though it makes me suddenly self-conscious about my own humble home.

Well, the clock strikes twelve and I've turned into a pumpkin. (By the way, we saw "Friday Night Lights" on, well, Friday night. Loved it, and my husband loved it even more. He grew up in Texas, playing high school football and read this book years and years ago. Great movie.)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

It Could Always Be Worse (Or Why Mothers Compete)

In Five Year Increments: My Life Is Worse Than Yours

When I was fourteen, getting up and arriving at school on time--with obedient hair and fashionable clothing--consumed my energy. My parents were divorced. My hair was frizzy. I had no social life, but I was a Babysitter Extraordinaire. I had to ride my bicycle to school in the drizzly rain that characterizes the Puget Sound.

When I was nineteen, pining over college boys and studying hermeneutics kept me awake at night. What would I be when I grew up? Would anyone truly love me? Why did he talk to me, but not want to date me anymore?

When I was twenty-four, my customer service job at Blue Cross filled my days. My baby sister's hijinks involving methamphetamines and my dad's death broke my heart. A decision to conceive a child with my husband of two years proved to be the Impossible Dream, leading to severe heart bruising, and not that kind that heals with rest.

When I was twenty-nine, our adopted one year old twin boys wore me out. I no longer had time to read or exercise or write. Our family life revolved around these children, the very center of our universe. I orbited around them, anxious, attentive, devoted. We had no money. We had noise. And diapers. And chaos.

When I was thirty-four, God was still laughing at His surprise. I had another year old baby--a "free" baby I grew myself--and suddenly I wondered how it had seemed stressful to take care of twins. We left our home of four years and moved across the country with three children stuffed into the backseat of our car. Now, we were a family of five. I was tired.

Now, I'm thirty-nine. I have another child, another shocking miracle. She's two now. I used to think I was busy. Even back when I was fourteen! And yet, every step along the way had added more, more, more. More laundry, more decisions, more expense, more children.

Last night, upon hearing that I'd agreed to take a transcription job for my occasional-boss, the private investigator, my husband said, "Did you not have enough to do? Shall I pick up an application from 7-11 so you can work the night shift?"

I have a 2 year old.
I have a 6 year old.
I have 11 year old twins. I am schooling them at home.
I babysit another 2 year old, nine hours a day.
Today, I watched a third 2 year old for two hours.
I typed tonight.

And today someone dared tell me that a 2 year old is easier--way easier, much easier, so easy, compared to having a teenager.

That is not what I need to hear two short years before I have two teenagers.

It reminded me of this lady I met at a writing class way back when I was a young woman, on a waiting list to adopt a baby. She heard about my situation and told me in a girlish voice, "I have nine adopted children. Worst mistake I ever made. I had no idea what I was doing. I totally regret it."

Well. Um. Thanks for the encouragement.

Is it just human nature that we play this weird competitive game? "My Life is So Much Harder." Or "I Know Someone Who Has It Worse?" Or "You Will Hate That. Don't Try!"

I used to feel burdened by the pressures of junior high. And the rigors of college life nearly broke me. And the early days of marriage when my dad died and my responsibilities increased and my reproductive system wouldn't work knocked me down like a runaway boulder.

And then motherhood. Oh, motherhood! These children obviously hadn't read "Martha Stewart Living" or her companion magazine about children. For one, they hate wearing sweaters. And then, they hate art projects. They wouldn't pee in the potty until they were three and a half.

Life was difficult. And then I had another child. And another. And more kid-debris and more bills and this part-time gig babysitting.

But I would never tell a new mom, "Oh just wait. It gets worse. Much, much worse. You might want to rethink that second kid. Stop while you're ahead."

I live by two slogans: This too shall pass and things could always be worse.

And please, I'm begging you, just tell me I'm right. Things are going to get better, easier, or at least that my boys will stop spitting popcorn kernels at each other.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Magic Hurt

October has surprised us all with its glorious, warm afternoons. Last night, after dinner, I prepared to sit in the backyard to watch Babygirl and YoungestBoy play while the sky faded to black. I'd been peering at them out the window and had seen YoungestBoy wielding a garden hoe suspiciously close to the area where bees have plagued us all summer. He'd crept close to the corner of the wooden playhouse, trying to peer around the edge where the bee-line began.

Before I even sat down, he came running fast toward me, shaking his hand, yelling that he needed a Band-aid. His actions indicated that he'd had his finger amputated and I expected to see dripping blood, but I saw only a little red dot. I said, "What happened?"

He said, "I was smacking the hoe on that stump and then my hand got hurt by magic!"

He was hopping from side to side, shaking the injured hand. I said, "Okay, go inside and get a Band-aid." I figured he had a sliver or a tiny little cut. I didn't even think of the bees.

My husband of seventeen years and three months came out a short time later. "Did you know our son is hurt?"

I said, "Yes. I sent him in for a Band-aid."

He said, "Well, you should take a look at him. He's on the couch, crying."

Rather huffily, I tossed my newspaper aside and rolled my eyes and went in. I found YoungestBoy writhing on the couch, shaking his hand as if he could shake off the pain. Still, no blood. No amputation.

"Did a bee sting you?"


"Did you hear buzzing?"


"Honey, I'm trying to figure out what's wrong with you. Let me see." I saw a tiny red dot surrounded by a whitened circle. Looked like a bee sting to me. I tried to pick at it to see if that red dot was really a stinger.

He yelled, "NO!"

My husband came in to supervise. I said, "I think it's a bee sting."

He said, "Give him pain reliever."

I said, "Hold on." I went to check my medical book. Should I tweezer out the stinger? Was that a stinger? I wanted some information.

I'm like that. I need a lot of information before I am comfortable making a decision. And I don't want hearsay. Or old wives' tales. Or stories of personal experience. No. I want the cold, hard facts. And lots of them.

As I was rummaging through my book, looking for the information on bee stings, my husband appeared again and said, "Just give him some pain reliever!"

I'm thinking, "Bee stings. Bee stings. Where is the section on bee stings? Should I use ice?"

With great exasperation at this interruption, I stomped into the kitchen and grabbed Tylenol and Advil and with my mouth pursed into an angry line, filled a glass of water. My husband, now sitting at the kitchen table and observing my unmistakable expression said, "What are you so mad about?"

I said, "I need information! And you never let me get the information I need!"

He said, "You can make us both happy."

I said, "Oh, that's funny. I can make us both happy by doing what you want?!"

He said, "Just give him medicine and then look up the information."

I rolled my eyes again (they're going to stay that way!) and delivered the medicine to my still red-faced, crying kid. Then I went upstairs to find the information I needed.

I came downstairs awhile later, put ice in the bag and soon, YoungestBoy forgot about his pinkie because it's so much fun to nibble a corner off the Zip-loc bag of ice and suck the water out.

This incident reminded me of my honeymoon. My husband and I foolishly went to Mt. Rainier to honeymoon for a few days before we moved from Washington state to Connecticut. Neither one of us were avid hikers, but staying in the mountains had sounded romantic. Next time, we're staying in a city by movie theaters and restaurants. You can only get to "know" someone for so long before you need diversion. Trust me on that.

So, the first day, we headed up to Paradise, the highest spot you can drive on Mt. Rainier. We decided to go for a hike, so we headed toward the trails. Right at the base of the trail was a handy map, showing an assortment of trails, the mileage of each trail, the elevation, and other fascinating stuff.

I studied the map, trying to pick out a trail that wasn't too steep, one that was a round-trip trail, one that had a good destination.

My new husband said, "Let's go!"

I said, "Um, let me look at this map first."

He said, "Let's go!"

I said, "Okay."

Then we headed straight up a steep trail with no destination in mind. I was discombobulated, seething, annoyed. Who starts a hike without any information?

This has been a problem for me ever since. I need a lot of information to make decisions. My husband only needs someone to say, "Hey, I liked that!" I need to read books, to line things up in my mind, to sort and examine and measure. He'll base a decision on his friend's dad's recommendation. He trusts people's opinions. I think people might be morons and I want the facts. A lot of facts.

You can see how this would be problematic.

What's funny is that even seventeen years and three months into this marriage, we still view obstacles and problems and situations from vastly different perspectives. He's ready to spring into action and I want time to consider options.

And yet, he can't diagnose and treat a bee sting without my involvement.

And he thinks I'm the neurotic one. Ha.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Movie Review: The Forgotten

Saturday night, 9:25 p.m, found me sitting in a movie theater, popcorn bag in my lap, Diet Coke in the arm rest holder, waiting for "The Forgotten" to begin.

In front me of sat three teenaged boys, spaced out with a seat between each of them. I thought they were saving spaces for three of their friends--thus the spacing--until I sat three girls walk in. The boys gestured wildly at these girls. Watching them, I could tell immediately that only one of the boy-girl pairs was a couple. The others were along for the ride. I thanked God Almighty that I was no longer a teenage girl along for the ride, sitting next to a boy, too distracted to actually watch the movie.

I didn't have a burning desire to see "The Forgotten," but I had a burning desire to get out of my house without a child and this movie was the only one that sounded remotely interesting that my husband doesn't want to see. He wants to see "Ladder 49" and "Friday Night Lights" (he read the book years and years ago), so I won't see those without him.

The movie itself was put together well enough. Better still were the shocking moments--one that caused me to shriek and clap my hand over my mouth. The entire audience tittered with nervous laughter for quite some time after that. Several moments followed that were surprising, but nothing as heart-stopping as the first moment.

You can read reviews of the movie's plot and such elsewhere. What I have to say is this: JuliAnne Moore looked way, way, way too good for a woman who hadn't showered for a few days, who was on the run, who was coping with a crisis of unbelievable proportions.

I haven't looked that good on the best day of my life. If I went three days without a shower, birds would start building nests in my hair because I'd be banished to the backyard where unclean animals must stay.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

A Hodgepodge

This will be a hodgepodge, a mishmash, a jumble of thoughts. Run along if cohesiveness and a witty ending matters to you.

A baby born Thursday morning came to church this morning. Babygirl was itching to get her hands on that real, live baby. "Hold a the baby? Hold a the baby?" The baby's mother (looking much too rested and beautiful) was breastfeeding her infant daughter, and when she finished, my daughter said, "Baby all done! Hold a the baby?"

I asked my friend if my daughter could hold her (three day old!) baby. She looked a little hesitant, and I said, "I won't let her cough on the baby and I won't let her touch the baby's hands." We moved closer and Babygirl suddenly shied away. I said, "Here, let me have her," and practically ordered my friend to hand over that little one. I cradled her in my hands--so small! How can human beings be so small? My daughter refused to hold the baby, then, and I had to hand her back to her mother.

I still don't want another baby, however. I guess that's how you know you are done. You can cuddle a newborn without a longing that claws at the inside of your heart. You just hand the baby back and thank God you don't have to be up every two hours at night feeding that baby.

The baby's mother joyously told me about her job offer. After being a stay-at-home mother for the past two years, she's going to work on November 1. She and her husband have felt the pinch of tight finances--it's so hard to live on one income--and finally, she decided she must work. The baby will be a little more than two weeks old on November 1.

I couldn't do it. That's why we drive a very old car and live in a pretty old house. That's why my blue jeans have a hole in the right knee and our furniture is hand-me-down. That's why we have debt. Some day, I will work outside the house and get a paycheck. But not while my babies are babies. Not while there is so much to miss. I've been here almost twenty-four hours a day for the past 11 years and I still feel like I've missed so much. It's gone by too fast and I didn't take enough pictures and I was like a saturated sponge and I couldn't soak any more in, so it just ran off, unabsorbed.

After church, while I was "napping" with Babygirl (I try not to fall asleep while I try to get her to fall asleep), I heard the boys' friends arrive. Twin boys and their sister . . . so today I had seven children here again. As you might remember, this is wrong, as today is my day to have five children. Tomorrow I should have four, by Tuesday, only three, then by Thursday, I'll have an only child, followed by Child-Free Friday. Ha! A girl can dream!

Anyway, the kids made signs for a car-wash they planned to have. The other kids are raising money to buy a puppy. My kids volunteered to help at this car wash. Nevermind that it's October and people don't usually look for car washes on residential streets. Their father picked up his kids and two of mine. My twins didn't come home until 6:15 p.m.

YoungestBoy was feeling glum that he wasn't invited, so I suggested that we go to the beach. Babygirl was thrilled with the idea, so off we went.

Here are things at the beach that scared Babygirl:

1) The slides/climbing toy filled with other kids.
2) The swing. I pushed her one time--apparently too high--and she held on for dear life and grimaced in such a way that I thought she might be having a stroke. When I reached out to stop the swing, I could feel her shaking and her heart beating. No more swings for her!
3) The shoreline, even though the waves were placid and glassy.
4) The train with its loud whistle.

What did not scare her:
1) The big Husky-mix dog she kept petting.
2) The burly, bearded man who owned the dog.

Now, finally, I'm just wondering. Is it just me? Am I the only one who finds the relentlessness of housework and childcare to be just about more than I can stand? People in other professions must deal with monotony . . . does it drive everyone crazy like it does me? The monotony, I mean?

I am more suited to an academic calendar. Work hard when the leaves fall. Dig in and study your brains out until Christmas. Sleep for two weeks. Burrow in with books until the snow melts and the tulips bloom. Stretch your arms and finish up your exams as the sun warms. Slow down through summer, put your brain on vacation, but work hard, play hard, get sunburned. Then get ready to study again when the air cools.

This every-day-is-the-same-stuff is driving me insane. It's all the same, except for the regular interruptions of bill-paying time and illnesses.

And the details are falling through the cracks because my brain is full. I have so many projects that need my attention, but I don't have any blocks of time.

Oh! I just remembered what else I wanted to talk about, but my eyes are burning and I need to take out my contact lenses. Tomorrow, then, same time, same place, and I'll tell you about going to the movies.

Oh Gnome!

My six year old son came rushing into the room yesterday, a stricken look on his face. "Mom, are you going to kill me? Are you going to take all my allowance?"

"What happened?" I said.

"I was looking out the window in the baby's room and I accidentally broke her gnome. I didn't mean to, mom!" Gnome had been sitting in the windowsill, right before he plunged to his death on the wooden blocks below.

Babygirl sat on my bed pillows, blissfully unaware of this tragedy. I hurried to her room and picked up the shattered pieces of the gnome and had YoungestBoy vacuum up the shards. Out of sight, out of mind. So far, Babygirl hasn't noticed.

I guess I'll be gnome-shopping in my spare time.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


If you find my mind, will you please UPS it back to me? Thanks.

This morning at 8:15 a.m., I agreed to watch a friend's two sons (ages 3 and 4.5). The husband said, "What you doing from 9 to 1?" And I said, "Just hanging out." And he asked if I would watch the kids from 9 to 1:30 or 2:00. (Did you notice how the time immediately changed once he had me committed? Guess what this guy does for a living?**) I said, "All right, no problem," because I had no plans to go anywhere anyway. I'm just a glutton for punishment.

My house has scattered debris as if a volcano exploded and spewed random toys and papers and pencils and dirty dishes and grimy socks everywhere. So, I showered and did my best to straighten the area of the house visible from the front door. So, I've spent my morning and now my afternoon with six children. Yesterday I had seven children here. I hope tomorrow I will have five or less and if the trend continues, by the end of next week, I should be child-free. A girl can always hope in the laws of logic.

Anyway, I was sorting through kitchen-counter papers and when I thumbtacked a birthday party invitation to the crowded bulletin board, I noticed with horror that the school picture envelope and accompanying paper is still there. It very clearly says, "CHILDREN WITHOUT PAYMENT ON PICTURE DAY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ORDER PICTURES LATE. NO EXCEPTIONS."

So, last Thursday when I carefully dressed YoungestBoy and combed his hair and sent him off for Picture Day . . . yeah. I didn't send the payment. Luckily, there will be Make-Up Picture Day for kids with idiots for parents.

The phone rang at 2:00 p.m. exactly. My friend, the mom of these two boys, said they are running late and is that all right and they should be here by 3:00 p.m. I have been waiting to put Babygirl to sleep until they left. I'm not sure now if I should even bother getting her to sleep at 3:00 p.m. That's when she normally is waking up.

My husband's been gone most of the day. He took YoungestBoy to a soccer game this morning, then was home long enough to shower and dress for the wedding at 1:00 p.m., which will be followed by a baby dedication. He still has to type his sermon for tomorrow.

I still have to find my mind. You know how severely sleep-deprived people forget details and are less efficient and apt to make errors? Well, turns out that's how I am, only I'm just time-deprived and overloaded with responsibility. In my next life, I am definitely going to be a . . . well, I can't think of what, but someone with fewer demands like a neurosurgeon, maybe.

(**That's right! Sales--the dad is a salesman!)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Six Year Old Kids

I woke to the sound of pouring rain this morning, which is the perfect time to snuggle deeper under the covers and sleep more. Only, my husband was already gone (he left for an all-day conference north of Seattle) and I had to be a grown-up and face the day. And the children.

When I'm done showering lately, the mornings are still dark. I remembered this morning how I used to wake up with the sun slanting through the drapes, sometimes even shining in my eyes. That seems like a hokey made-for-television movie now. How could it be possible to wake up to gentle morning sunlight? It's all about fog and rain and clouds and gray skies now.

Today was a no-school day for my youngest son. I'm not sure why. They have half-days and days off all the time for no apparent reason. My schooled-at-home sons did not appreciate the fact that I intended to make them do lessons today as usual. "That's not fair!" they cried. But, oh, it was fair, because their curriculum didn't arrive until two weeks after YoungestSon started school. They've had their days of leisure.

I did have some mercy on them, however, and we only tackled three subjects. I can't bear to describe how agonizing that was for me. Let's just say that TwinBoyB's strategy for hurrying through his work--both history and composition--involves skipping most of the work. He attempted to answer history questions without reading the material. For a sequential learner like me, this is nonsensical! It's unthinkable! It's crazy!

When we were waiting to adopt, I worried. I worried that I'd adopt an ugly baby. I worried that my baby would be affected by a birth defect. I worried that my baby would be physically deformed.

I never worried about stuff that came true.
I never worried about bladders which don't work right.
I never worried about stepping into wet, murky things on the floor.
I never worried about children screaming "I hate you!" to me.
I never worried about having non-sequential learners who do not appreciate the beauty in order and in reading directions and in printing with beautiful handwriting.


While I was directing the children through their lessons, the doorbell rang. The neighbor boys arrived to play. It must have been 9:30 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. They announced they could stay until noon. I said, "Oh, but the twins are doing school today. They can't play." They said, "That's okay. We'll play with your other son." I said, "You have to be very quiet. You have to play upstairs. You have to be good."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Well, the lessons dragged on. Babygirl wanted attention. DaycareKid wanted snacks. Controversy arose over a GameCube game and I yelled at the neighbor kids, "This is his game, his house, his rules! If you don't like it, you can go home!"

Can you believe that? The child wailed, "But my GameCube is broken!"

I said, "Well, that's a bummer for you." He stayed until noon, and then said reassuringly, "I'll see if I can come back after lunch."

I said, "No. The babies will be napping."

He actually argued with me and whined at me and frankly, if you aren't my kid and I'm not being paid to listen to you whine, please just shut up.

I didn't say that, but oh my.

Finally, school-at-home ended. I fed everyone lunch. I put DaycareKid to bed. I tricked Babygirl into napping. I ate lunch! Then, everything reversed and Babygirl woke up, DaycareKid woke up, and we all got ready to leave the second DaycareMom arrived at 4:30 p.m.

I whipped together a birthday present for YoungestBoy to take to his party. I packed a bag of extra clothing for newly potty-trained Babygirl. We dropped the twins off at their friends' house and headed for the birthday party at the Germ Party Place.

On the way, I said to YoungestBoy, "So tell me, how do you want to dress for Halloween?"

He explained how he wants flame pants and flame shoes and a black cape with white stripes and red spiky hair. And a weapon, a large sword, preferably made of metal. He said all the boys at the costume party would be dressed in stuff like that. I said, "I bet some of them will be other things, like pirates or Mario [from Nintendo] or cowboys."

He practically snorted with contempt and said, "Mom, we are talking about six year olds here. None of them would dress as a pirate. That's for, like, four year olds. Everyone will be dressed like zombies or vampires and stuff like that."

Well, excuse me! How archaic of me! I am so out of touch with the young generation, I guess.

But I have Babygirl and I am pretty sure she'll be a princess when she is old enough to decide. I bet we'll collaborate on beautiful costumes, the two of us.

Tonight, after we dropped YoungestBoy off at the birthday place (Germs at no extra charge!), Babygirl and I went to Toys R Us to buy some play kitchen stuff. She has a "new" Little Tikes kitchen and was in dire need of accessories. I found a play iron for her and some dishes and she picked out a dolly. She wanted to hold all the dollies and I managed to thrust a small $4.99 dolly into her hands, which satisfied her. I hurried out of there before it cost me more than twenty bucks.

In the car, she sat holding dolly, gazing at it lovingly and saying, "I like dolly." She was so pleased with this plastic baby. We checked in on YoungestBoy and went a few doors down to get frozen yogurt while he finished partying. Babygirl put Dolly in a chair and fed Dolly frozen yogurt. Having a girl is so completely different from having boys.

We returned to the Party Germ Place in time to watch YoungestBoy use up his last tokens. He had such a blast. We sneaked a few tokens so Babygirl could play a few games, too. We didn't get home until almost 8:00 p.m.

That was one long day. And it's still raining, though the deluge has lightened to a drizzle.

My friend had a new baby girl yesterday morning. My husband went to the hospital to visit. Last night, I jokingly said, "So, did it make you want to have another baby?" and he said, "It did. She was so cute with all this red hair, and so small."

But as we all know, babies grow up to be kids who shout and overflow toilets and tell you what a rotten parent you are. We are in no danger of romanticizing newborns around here. Even if their tiny little downy heads smell like heaven during springtime.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

What Thursdays Mean To Me

What Thursday Means to Me
I failed to plan dinner for tonight. Why do I always forget we have to eat dinner on Thursdays?

In Other News
I just realized something. Blogging for me feels like coming to a party late. Seems like everyone and their dog blogs already. They have existing blog rolls and links, they already have big old archives, they own domain names, everyone knows who is "cool" and who is not, and basically, I'm sitting in a corner (actually hovering near the food table) trying to be invisible, all the while, wishing I could sidle up to the laughing crowd in the middle of the room and join in the fun. Except I'm kind of shy. And I came late.

But I write, so I have a ticket in the door. And that's better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

My Mother

Way back when I started blogging (almost a year ago), I eagerly emailed my sister the URL. I also mentioned it to my mother, but I can't remember if I sent her the URL, too. I specifically told my sister not to send it to my other sister, the one who stole pictures of my unclothed backside while I was in the process of birthing my daughter. Now, I never mention the URL to anyone here in my real life. I kind of want to pretend that I'm an island, writing to the wind, free to say whatever. Even if I don't.

Anyway, my sister, R., promised she would never share the URL. My mother never mentioned my blog--ever--and I am fairly sure that she forgot about it, if, indeed, she ever did know about it in the first place. My mother is not exactly technologically savvy and in fact, she keeps sending me forwarded urban legends in the guise of helpful advice. I keep directing her to, not that it helps. This week, I learned not to fall for the old car-jacking trick where someone puts a post-it note on your back windshield after you have put gasoline into your car, because then you will get out of your car, leaving the keys in and your purse just sitting there, to remove the note and voila! A thief has your car and your purse. Which hurts a lot if you spent a lot of money on it. Which I do not. The purse, I mean.

But I digress.

So, I can't talk much about my mother here, because she may (or may not) have the URL. My mother is dear to me and I love her whole-heartedly, but I could tell you stories that would make you weep. I can tell you those stories about my dad, because he is no longer here, snooping on, but my mother? She might someday become acquainted with, so I will just zip my lips.

But I do have to say a couple of things.

A few weeks ago, my mother had stopped by to visit. It was a Wednesday evening and the boys had all gone to church. Babygirl and I were just getting ready to go upstairs so Babygirl could take her nightly shower, so Babygirl was undressed completely. She loves to wear her birthday suit. Without socks. Or shame.

So, she's unclothed and my mother and I and Babygirl are in the living room, chatting. Babygirl sits down and pokes around and says, "What's that?" while she plings a fleshy bit in her lower regions.

Stricken, I think of two things.

1) My steadfast policy to use correct terminology.
2) My mother's presence.

I glance from my mother to my daughter. And back. Meanwhile, my daughter looks up at me again and says, "What's that?"

With a sidelong glance at my mother (who never had a "talk" with me, who threw a razor onto my bed without comment when I was a hairy young pre-adolescent, who failed to prepare me for the start of my menstruation as a--gasp--fourth grader), I say to my daughter, "That's your vulva."

Which it was. And is.

But. I said. The word: VULVA!! In front. Of. My Mother.

I was suddenly a child again, red-cheeked and embarrassed to be naming parts "down there" while my mother listened. It's like that moment when you realized that your grandparents had relations, that they "knew" each other, in the biblical sense. Probably more than once. Especially if they have more than one child.

But that's kind of the reason I want to call a spade a spade. Or a vulva a vulva. I want my children to have unvarnished, plain words for their body parts. I don't want them to call "it" a silly name like "teapot" or "woo-woo."

Still. When Babygirl asked again that night, still wiggling the part back and forth, I said, "That's your bottom. Want to go have a shower?" It's hard to be plainspoken and matter of fact when your mother sits there watching, judging, listening.

Tonight, my mother was telling me about a friend of hers. This friend married a loser a couple of years ago and now they are separated. The friend told my mother that she stays for financial reasons and, as my mother reported to me tonight, "because the sex is good."


Please, Mother! I don't even want to hear those words come from your mouth again. As far as I am concerned, you never had s-e-x and neither did I. I don't want to visualize you doing that, and, in fact, as far as I'm concerned, you don't, haven't, won't, ever again. And as far as you are concerned, I don't either. I haven't. I won't. Let's promise to never swap stories or tips.

There is a line between my mother and me and I never want to cross it.

Meanwhile, my daughter comes in contact with her own delicate parts more than ever these days and guess how she pronounces "vulva"? That's right. "Voo-voo", which sounds exactly like "woo-woo."


I outsmarted my daughter. I gave her a choice: "Would you like to nap in your bed or mommy's bed?" She chose my bed.

I plumped my pillow, curled up, pulled the afghan to my chin and closed my eyes. She said, "I am going to sit up." I opened one eye to see her sitting like a little princess on a purple pillow. Soon, she stretched out on her back and "read" her book for a few long minutes. I rolled over so I would not be an audience and soon she snuggled against my back and was still. Then I stifled a coughing fit. You know how the more you try to not cough, the more your throat tickles and tortures you until you at least clear your throat? Yeah. That was fun. But still, she slept.

Ha! I tricked her into napping two days in a row!

When she woke up two hours later, she came down the stairs, hair tousled, and stomped one foot and said, "I don't want to go night-night!"

I know how she feels. I never want to go night-night, either, even if I am dead tired, because when I wake up, the cycle starts all over again.

Our history curriculum arrived, so we did the first lesson today. TwinBoyB did his typically poor-quality work, but unfortunately for him, this is not public school and I noticed and immediately requested that he do the work correctly and completely. He's been cutting corners and flying under the radar for so long that I'm sure it's painful for him to do what he is expected to do.

I hope that he soon realizes that doing the work right the first time is easier than half-heartedly doing it, throwing an emotional fit, crying and then having to do it right. I'm growing weary of his dramatics. At this very moment he is shouting, "OH, MY TOE!" as if the toe has been amputated.

Monday, October 04, 2004

I Have a 26-Pound Problem

I am fairly unflappable, though I do admit to the occasional flailing of arms as I say with gritted teeth, "I am losing my mind!" But I am stoic in the face of exploding diapers and shattered glass and odd noises in the black night.

But add a mere 26 pounds of sugar and spice and everything nice and my sturdy demeanor begins to crack. Babygirl just completed Day Five of a Nap Strike.

If I could find the bargaining table, I'd be there. I'd give her as many paid days off as she needs. "No problem. I'll throw the books on the floor myself. You don't need to come in on Mondays. We'll find someone else to smear food on the high chair tray."

Money? More money? More benefits? No problem. I'll double her pay. No! Triple it! Free doctor's visits! Free toothbrushes! Whatever it takes! You want a better job title? "Crown Princess of Peeing in the Potty"? "Supervisor of All That is Messy"? Flex-time? Just let me know. I will make it happen.

Why? Why, oh why, oh why? Why has she stopped napping, when she very clearly needs a nap? Yesterday, she did fall asleep for an hour in my bed, but unfortunately, so did I, so how did that help me? Today, we "napped" together on my bed, but as I half-hallucinated, half-dreampt, she thrashed and kicked me in the stomach and knocked her cement head into my nose.

I can do a lot of things. I can make pie crust from scratch. I can sew a Halloween costume. I have a ham radio license, which means that at one time I could copy Morse Code at the rate of 13 words per minute.

But I cannot tolerate this lack of naps! Lack of naps means lack of breaks. Lack of breaks means I stay up too late. Staying up too late means I wake up exhausted. Being exhausted means I am crabby. Being crabby means I am an irritable mother. Being an irritable mother means I am a failure as a human being. Being a failure as a human being means I should sign up for Extreme Makeover, but I can't because as I may have mentioned, Babygirl cannot be away from me for even one moment or her head comes popping off. Imagine six weeks away, getting revamped, coming home with a tummy tuck and a new nose. By then, my entire house would need an Extreme Makeover or a Clean Sweep, and my husband would probably have appeared on A Wedding Story by then with his new bride.

You can see my dilemma, right? Babygirl needs to nap. Babygirl refuses to nap. Tonight at 6:30 p.m., Babygirl was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I said, "Okay, let's go put on your diaper and jammies," and she said, "No! No diaper!"

I went to her room anyway and, of course, she followed me because I am the magnet and she is the metal. I sat on the floor, spread out the diaper and invited her to sit down. She stomped her feet in rhythm and cried while I watched with an impassive look on my weary face. I have such dark circles under my eyes these days. She carried on, screaming, marching her displeasure. She threw the diaper. Occasionally, I mentioned how I'd like to put on her diaper and jammies and that there would be "mama milk" when she cooperated. This infuriated her, so she shrieked more.

Then she hit me.

So, I picked her up and plopped her into her crib and walked out.

I sat on my bed for exactly two minutes while she exploded like they tell us Mt. St. Helens will do any second. (Those harmonic tremors? That was my daughter, not the mountain.) When I returned to her, she was compliant and allowed me to diaper her and zip on her lavender pajamas. She was in bed by 7 p.m.

Yes, boys and girls, that means I was with my darling daughter for twelve solid hours. This is my 26-pound problem.

And in only eight hours, it begins again. Oh joy.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

School at Home

Before my twins were old enough for school, I figured I would homeschool. I'm a homebody, a crafty soul, an excellent student who rarely missed a spelling word and was the first person in my third-grade class to memorize the times tables. How hard could it be, really?

But as my twins grew, I realized that they are not me. They hated to color. They rebuffed my attempts to teach them to write their names. They displayed complete apathy where art projects were concerned--unless it was paint, and then they painted their arms and occasionally their faces.

I might have homeschooled them from the very beginning if we'd stayed in rural northern Michigan, in a town with a horrible school district. But we moved just in time for them to start kindergarten in our new local public school, a place with an excellent reputation. I was happy to send them to school because by that point, I had a 7 month old baby. I couldn't imagine teaching them at home. Just the logistics made me dizzy.

They are boys, rowdy boys, with no interest in scholarly things. Did I mention that they are very different from me?

Anyway, TwinBoyA has always been a competent student, though he suffers from seriously bad handwriting. He is a voracious reader and has a shockingly complex vocabulary. He never stops talking and he is particular about everything. He's bossy.

TwinBoyB has always hated school. When I picked him up from school when he was in first grade, he'd chant all the way home, "I hate it, I hate it, I hate it." His handwriting was spidery and illegible and often backwards. He never caused trouble in his classroom, though. He qualified for additional help in reading one year and in math another. He slid by, doing as little as possible, and for quite a while, the teacher wouldn't even really notice that he was essentially failing the class. As he got older, he'd "forget" about projects and assignments and at the last minute, I'd be involved in his desperate attempts to do a two-week school project in one night.

He's bright, but he's distracted. He loses stuff, he loses his train of thought, he loses track. It's as if his brain is a shelf which can only hold one item at a time. You put a second item on the shelf and the first item falls off. This is a problem when you ask him to remember concurrent things. He just can't. School has been a challenge he hasn't been able to master.

So, he's grown to feel like a failure. He has no confidence in his intellectual ability. And somewhere along the line, he's become a target for bullies, and so has TwinBoyA, though I can't figure out why. They are just ordinary boys.

Last year, on the last day of school, TwinBoyA wanted to wear his hair "spiked." So, he used gel and fixed his hair until he thought it was cool. When he came home, I said, "So, did anyone say anything about your hair?" He smiled, sort of, and said with a shrug, "Well, let's just put it this way. Sticks and stones can break my bones . . . "

Last fall, I eavesdropped on a kickball game, and my heart broke to hear how the other boys treated TwinBoyB. He never did confide in me about that situation, and I've come to realize that there have been many other similar situations in which he is mocked, ridiculed, and left out. He never lets on. Neither does his brother. But there have been very few birthday party invitations over the years, and few playdates.

I don't know why.

We have done our best not to make them The Pastor's Weird Kids. They play Nintendo and sometimes they wear sweatpants to church. We let them play with Pokemon cards and Yu-Gi-Oh cards and we do our best to make sure they experience a normal childhood without the added pressure of worrying that they are making their dad, The Pastor, look bad. We try to be normal, whatever that means. We are normal. (What am I saying?)

And yet, they haven't been very successful making and keeping friends in their school classrooms. Oh, they do have some friends, but as time has passed, it seems that the bullies outnumber the friends. Couple that with TwinBoyB's difficulty achieving academically, and we felt that middle school might be a catastrophe for him. Middle school years can be so cruel--the cool kids get meaner and the kids on the fringe become more marginalized. We didn't want him to become that kid smoking in the parking lot, skipping class, wasting his life.

So, we decided that TwinBoyB needed more attention academically and protection socially during these especially difficult years. TwinBoyA decided he'd like to school at home, too. Then our school district decided to implement and start a virtual academy. We were delighted to be able to participate in this pilot program.

So, how's it going, you ask?

The materials, the curriculum, the organization of K12 is fabulous. As the teacher, I love how everything is prepared for me. All I have to do is consult the schedule and follow the plan.

TwinBoyA performs extremely well. He's cooperative and eager to learn. TwinBoyB gets easily distracted, makes careless mistakes and then gets angry with me when I attempt to help him figure out the correct answers. He spends a great deal of time and emotion goofing off and I sometimes find myself yelling at him in frustration, to my dismay.

Last week was particularly bad. I was sick with a cold, Babygirl was still feeling the symptoms of her cold, as was DaycareKid. So the toddlers were more demanding than usual, and the boys dragged their feet. Babygirl is newly potty-trained and at one point, I was in the kitchen, working on lunch for the toddlers, while my twins were working on schoolwork at the table. They were both speaking at once and then Babygirl cried out, "I peed in the potty!" My head was about to explode from too much input at once.

Peeing in the potty still requires a great deal of pomp and circumstance. She peers right into the pot, nose practically wet, and unassembles the potty-chair and sloshes to the bathroom with the pot. I have to run to her to make sure the carpet stays pee-free, plus she is tiny and needs help flushing and washing her hands. It's quite an ordeal.

So this particular day, I was sweaty and DaycareKid was fussing and Babygirl needed me for the Potty Ritual and the boys were talking and I was sick and the phone kept ringing and it was just too much.

Some days are like that.

But, the routine of schooling is getting easier. The boys are learning what to expect and they are complying fairly easily. I love the materials. I am so thankful that my boys aren't being called names and feeling icky about themselves because some cruel seventh grader senses fear and pokes at an easy target. The toddlers do complicate my mornings, but fortunately there is always Sesame Street (on twice in our area) to distract them.

We are still waiting for the History curriculum, and we haven't started Art and Music, yet, but everything else is going well.

I don't think of myself as a homeschooling parent. (Even though I have friends who homeschool, I still have a stereotype of a homeschooling mom in my head and frankly, I'm just not her.) My kids are still enrolled in public school. My first grader is an excellent, happy student in public school. I believe in public school. I know many of the teachers in my district. I hope my boys will be competent and confident enough to return to public high school.

But in the meantime, this is the right choice for us, even though selfishly I wish I could send them out the door to be educated in a regular classroom. It would be way easier for me if that worked for us. But it wasn't working well enough and my kids only have one childhood.

My kids are not isolated. For instance, tonight, they are having their twin friends (from church) sleep over. They go to youth group once a week. The neighbor kids come over almost every day to play. They have siblings to play with and cousins, too.

I wish there were a guarantee that if you did X,Y and Z, your kids would turn out and go to college, get a good job, meet a great spouse and live happily ever after. But it's so much more complicated than that and sometimes the uncertainty almost undoes me.

I dream of a life someday without children constantly stepping on my feet and interrupting my thoughts. My thoughts are like little ants, stepping in orderly lines, heading for their destination--and my kids are like kids who interfere with the progression of the tidy little ant-line. My thoughts get scrambled and regroup, and the line resumes, but a few of the little ants get smooshed in the process and sometimes it takes a long time to say in my head, "Now, where was I? What was I thinking?"

I like to think.
No. I love to think.

But these kids! They just want to talk, talk, talk, wrestle, wrestle, wrestle, holler, holler, holler. I'm told I will miss this, but I'm not so sure.

Anyway, that's how it's going. It's hard work to school two reluctant pupils every day while meeting the needs of an irrational Babygirl and DaycareKid. Especially since Babygirl is on Day Four of a Nap Boycott.

Send chocolate.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Pastor's Wife Takes a Night Off

So, I emailed The Pastor and said, "Look, I need to get away. Friday night is a "purse party" at 7 p.m. Does that work out for you?"

Of course it did, him being a superior husband and all, so at 7 p.m., I picked up my purse-loving mother and went to said purse party. Although I adored seeing my friend's house (I know her from church) and I loved checking out her bookshelf (we seem to like the same books), I'm not much of a purse girl.

I have a purse that I picked out for myself last December as a gift from my husband. "My husband" did an excellent job of finding this Liz Claiborne purse on sale (original price $54.00, sale price $16.00). "He" knew that I needed something with a long strap for slinging across my body, a place for my cell phone and sunglasses, a zippered compartment for important stuff, and side pockets for stashing things (babies need a lot of crazy stuff when they travel). So, I have this black purse. Why would I need another?

The purse party featured tables covered with extremely expensive purses with designed names (Prada, Tod, Coach, etc.) and inflated prices. I would never in my wildest dreams pay $75.00 for a purse. Never. So, we milled around with a bunch of strangers (oddly featuring similar blond highlighted hair, making me think of "The Stepford Wives") and peeked into the kitchen and chatted with the hostess and after half an hour, we left.

What a strange "party" that was.

Anyway, I took my mom home, checked out her garbage disposal, determined I could not fix it and then left as quickly as I could. It was only 8:22 p.m., so I called my husband and told him I was going to a movie.

I saw the most ridiculous, yet surprisingly entertaining movie: Cellular. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be afraid or if I was supposed to laugh. Mostly, I laughed in short bursts at improbable lines and situations. And I wondered what kind of lipstick Kim Basinger wears because her lips managed to look defined and plumply burgundy through the whole movie, despite weeping, being smacked around and facing certain death.

It's midnight now and I have way too much caffeine in my system (could those drinks be any larger?), but I need to sleep so that tomorrow I can handle going to a surprise dinner party for my 41-year old brother, followed by my twins' long-awaited and much anticipated sleepover with their twin friends at our house. They prepared for this exciting occasion today--the bought lots of sour candy and Cheese Puffs and movie-theater buttered microwave popcorn. They rented a video game and a movie. Oh joy. My husband, The Pastor, wisely has chosen to go to the church to study tomorrow night.

Now, if only the children will sleep past eight tomorrow morning, I will be the happiest woman on earth. Even if my lipstick does wear off in one hour.
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