Wanted: Your Expertise

We are out of the house all day today and I can't get myself together to finish one of my more interesting (?) posts, so I thought I'd throw this one out here, since it's looming large on my calendar. I'd love it if you could help a girl out!

I'm teaching a "Laundry 101" class for Relief Society (our church's women's organization) next week and I need some good material! I'm mostly focusing on stain removal (I've done a lot of it at my house, as you can imagine), but I want to expand the topic to include some of the following:

whiter whites
preventing fading
sorting simplified
keeping dirty laundry from piling up
keeping clean laundry from piling up
storage (folding, hanging, etc.) for the best wear of clothing
systems for hand-me-downs
ironing made easy
getting kids to help out in the laundry department
preventing the single sock syndrome

I would love to hear anything that you do in your home that makes your laundry-doing better. Feel free to leave it in a comment or give me a link to a post if you have already posted or decide to post now about this.

Oh, and just out of curiosity: Do you do laundry on a certain day of the week, or almost every day as it is needed? Does that work for you? Why?

And is anyone interested in the "talking points" or links for the information I teach at the class? If so, I'll post it when I'm all through...

Thanks, everyone! Happy Monday.


Little Nothings

I'm getting my blog back on and have a couple posts in the works but just a little bit of non-cohesive miscellanea before I head into the weekend. Hope you don't mind...

I really appreciated the thoughts and comments on this post Wednesday. It's something that has kinda festered in my brain for a while and I was hesitant to click "post." Thanks for having my back, girls. Real (aka Beautopotamus) had some great thoughts and I loved the link to one of her previous posts on the subject - it's worth a read, I think. My friend Aimee brought up a really good point - the unwanted and sometimes hurtful opinion-spouting about number of children goes both ways. A family is a family - and a mom's work and influence is boundless whether she has one or twenty children.

Also, one of the most appalling things I've observed are "innocent" comments to long-married couples who have no children - often without knowing much about the couple at all - about why they don't want children. Um, excuse me? How is anyone to know what struggles or health issues or reasons they have? It's a remarkably painful topic in the case of not being able to have children, and, at the very least, nosey and judgmental if the couple has other reasons for not having children. Bottom line, it is an intimate, personal decision that no one has a right to comment or ask about, joking or otherwise, unless the couple involved begins the discussion and wants to talk about it.

But what I really want you all to know is that having more than two children is actually my way of showing off my extreme wealth. I'm flaunty like that.


Webkinz are the new bane of my existence. We succombed to peer pressure last week so the boys could have Webkinz like Lily. (Don't worry - I made them think of creative names because there is nothing more lame than a snake named Snakey and a Kangaroo named Kanga. Perhaps the "B day" lesson remains unlearned?) Anyway, the logging on and helping them to find "their room" and trying to explain to them why if they spend all their money on fancy beds and clothes and new rooms they won't have money for food and telling them for the eighty bazillionth time that we can't get a new Webkinz every day because they cost fifteen real-life, actual dollars and trying to fix the preferences on my computer every time they are done with their click-fest is just a little more than I thought I was taking on when I adopted Sydney the kangaroo and Sylvester the snake. No more pets. I can't handle the responsibility or the time commitment.


We went to get passport photos Wednesday. I was expecting fiasco city because my boys hate picture taking and have yet to sit still for a professional photo. But Dad went first, then Calvin hopped right up on the little stool and smiled, then Henry, then I held Charlie from the background while he stood and stared blankly at the camera. Hilarious little mugshot. But Calvin and Henry's pictures are probably the most beautiful pictures I have of them. I'm not joking, and it doesn't mean that all my snapshots have been so horrible - it means that these pictures are seriously sweet. I know - they are passport photos, for crying out loud - what passport photo ever looks good? I'm just saying that my boys pulled it off. And yay! We'll have passports in a few weeks! We really might be going somewhere sometime soon!


My houseguest has told me a million times that I can and should get a nanny when we are in Kiev. (I would really start to doubt her opinion of my competence except that she is more than happy to let me tend her little boy and she has that wonderful Eastern European bluntness that mostly doesn't mean to be impertinent.) I was thinking more a long the lines of a cleaning lady. The idea sounds super appealing because of the time it would free up and because there is no one that cleans a house or coddles a kid like a Ukrainian babushka. And you can't beat the price.

And then I think, but what would I really do with the free time? Kiev isn't exactly the mani-pedi capital of the world. And I would feel totally sheepish having someone working in my house while I take a nap or whatever. When I was a nanny one year, there was a cleaning lady who came every Friday and I felt so guilty even though it wasn't my house or my job to clean the house and I knew she was getting paid well for what she was doing. So I cleared out of the house on Fridays so that I didn't have to feel like a sloth, playing silly games with the kids or reading books while she swabbed toilets.

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to get over this hesitation. I'd be glad to take suggestions on filling my time. What is there to do if I'm not dying for sleep, wiping bums, running laundry loads, cooking food or refereeing children and taking care of Webkinz? What would you do with a hands-free hour or two?


We went swimming yesterday at the amazing huge fun, fun, fun swimming pool that Calvin has been dying to go to since we went once last summer. It really was fun and refreshing, since the Virginia swelter has officially begun now. We were getting away with a rather pleasant spring, but I think that's all over now. The thick heat sets in. Anyway, I coated the kids with sunscreen and then the can of SPF 50 petered out when I got to myself. I tried to wear a cover up as much as possible, but spent most of the time in the sun and water since that's where the boys wanted to be. So I'm pretty miserable today. Not as puffy and red as at the end of the day yesterday, but...crisp, and a little nauseous. So I'm calling it a stay inside in the A/C and watch movies (or blog while the kids watch movies) day.


I've read some really good books since summer began. But I'm kinda at the end of my short list. I think I'm going to dive into the Harry Potter books because - can you believe it - I haven't read any of them. I know I'm way behind the curve on that one. I don't know why I never picked them up before. Maybe it just took Henry saying "Hawy Potto is my favewit" to get me on it. Have you read anything lately that you would recommend? I really liked The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and I'm reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - it's an oldie but his prose is fascinating and the idea is very intriguing. What books are on your short list?


Charlie has taken to compulsively tapping one finger of his right hand on the palm of his left hand. I think he picked it up from "mark it with a C" in Pat-a-cake, but now he does it all. the. time. It's so cute and makes me wonder what he's thinking about it.

He also screams exactly like a monkey when I put him in his chair and ask if he wants a banana. Truly - it starts out as a little, "Hmm, mmm. Ah, ah, nana," then changes to a slightly louder, "oooh, ooh, aaahh, ah!" and then escalates to a full-on primordial screech, "Aagh-aagh-AAAAAAAGGHH!" And all the while he is bouncing up and down in his chair, reaching, while I peel the thing and give him a chunk. I'm contemplating teaching him to beat his chest along with it.

It also hasn't taken him very long at all to go from toddling tentatively to running "the circle" right behind the big boys, very nearly keeping up. I can't believe how fast he is growing.


I'm excited for next week - my favorite holiday, Independence Day! Love it, love it, love it. I'm trying to think of something fun and easy but memorable to do to celebrate - we won't be here for the next two...Hmmmm.


And at the beginning of August, we will be at the beach for a week! We can. not. wait. Yay for summer!


Only I Can Call Me Crazy

So we did a house-/child-sit stint last week for Auntie S. We stayed at her house and watched over her youngest girls, ages 11 and 4. We've also been watching the little boy of our houseguest while his mom gets situated in a new job, etc. So, lots of kids, a little bit hectic, I've had a few ugly moments and I really am running mostly on empty, just tired. Not a big deal. Really, it comes with the territory.

The thing is, each time I've had one of those moments that the houseguest has witnessed, she makes a comment like, "And you want to have more children?"

Every time.

And she has even said a couple times that I must be crazy. It may be only jest, and the first few times I laughed along. But then it started grating, even though I know where she is coming from, as an overwhelmed single mom. But the fact is that she's not the only one who thinks a bad day with the kids is a signal that you are insane to be doing it or that having more would be a huge mistake.

Maybe I'm just sensitive because I grew up as the oldest of seven hearing people actually say to my mom with clever little hahahas in their voice, "Don't you know what causes that (meaning pregnancy)?" or, "I don't know how you do it - I can't even handle the one I have!" (To which my mom would mutter, "That's exactly why you can't handle it - because he's only one and doesn't think anyone in the world matters as much as he does." But I digress...)

It never ceased to amaze me - or to really hurt and embarrass my mom - that people actually felt OK saying what they did about the number of children in our family.

So will you allow me to froth a bit here? Thanks.

A. It's no one's business except me and my husband's whether we want to have more children. But if it was anyone else's business, the answer is, yes, we do. I don't think I'd adopt internationally on the eve of giving birth to twins or that I'll have fourteen children. But that's just it - I know my personal limits, and they are none of anyone's business or concern.

B. The children are not a problem. They might exacerbate problems and emphasize problems, make it difficult to deal with problems sometimes, but they are not a problem. They are people, members of the family. Do we really believe that a child-free life is a trouble-free life? Last time I checked, there are phases in everyone's life that are hard to make it through. I'm personally glad that I have someone (even lots of someones) to share those times with. My life would not be better or easier and definitely not happier without them.

C. Children are not a liability, either. Yes, life is more expensive and taxing (on a number of different levels) with them in it, but they are not a damper on my existence. They don't hinder my longterm progress and they haven't derailed me from doing anything that is truly important. They might infringe on my alone time - heaven knows that's the hardest thing to cope with - but the truth is that there is nothing I want more than, or instead of, them in my life.

D. I'll be the first to admit that the addition of a baby increases the demand on time and energy, there's always an adjustment, and sometimes it's hard. Each successive pregnancy gets a little more difficult for me to handle gracefully or comfortably. But, really, since when is wanting something wonderful so much that you'd do anything for it, crazy?

E. Children are a gift and a blessing, whether they are hard-won and long-awaited or whether they come pretty easily or unexpectedly - they are an absolute miracle no matter how you look at it. Every time I've given birth I've felt the gift each one was that God saw fit to give especially to me, to teach me and show me things that nothing and no one else ever could have. Most of all, they make me realize there are higher powers and greater needs and more important goals in the universe than myself. They help me get over myself. (Something a lot more people in this world could use...) They show me how to be more patient, more faithful, more trusting, more curious, more adventurous, more loving, more spontaneous, more desirous for good in the world. Not crazy.

F. Each child shows me how great it is that even though I am not a big famous someone to everyone, I am very nearly everyone to each one of them. Who wouldn't want more of that?

G. Mostly, I just want to say that I think it stinks that for every other profession in the world, it's OK to occasionally express frustration or disillusionment or exhaustion or...overwhelmedness and no one suggests that you were crazy to embark on that profession in the first place or that you are maybe too fragile or worn out to take on more. They just talk you through your rough day, call it what it is - a bad day, and that's that. In fact, they often encourage you to work harder and push through it, to ask for a raise or promotion or more responsibility, and remind you kindly that your office is lucky to have you on their team and it will get better, you didn't make a mistake in choosing your career, just keep keeping on, there will always be a learning curve and personality conflicts to work out...

Yet it seems that when you're a mom and you have a hairy day or sometimes cry about it, very few people understand how you can love what you are doing, that it's what you want to do, and even though it doesn't have a paycheck, it is real work and you can't quit. Sometimes they even think they are empathizing when really they are minimizing the choice to mother children, the 24/7 work that it involves, and a person's ability to do it.

Wouldn't it be great if more people said to a mom, "You're having a seriously bad day. But you're doing a great job - your kids are lucky to have you, and in fact you are so good at what you do that you should have a million kids if you want. You could totally do it. And you know you really love it. So don't give up. You didn't make a mistake, there's always a learning curve and there will always be little personality conflicts to iron out, but you can do it!"

I'd just like to be able to have a bad day (week, month) sometimes without people blaming my number of kids for it or telling me that wanting more is crazy.


The Monster In All Of Us

Kids bring a lot of monster out in a person. Today I'm not talking about the frothing, slowly going insane kind of monster that we sometimes turn into when people won't let us into the turn lane or the kids smear desitin all over everything. I'm talking about the monster kind of parent who just wants everything for their child, and sometimes can't help becoming a mother bear or sometimes can't draw the line or see what is really good for their child over the long run.

A couple weeks ago, David told me about this article and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. For some reason, it just captured my imagination and my sense of irony, and it makes me laugh and cringe.

If you didn't click the link to the article, let me tell you the main story: At a school in Japan, the students were doing a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Except all the parents went toxic and insisted that it wasn't fair that only one person got the lead role. The pressure they put on the teachers and administrators resulted in a show in which all twenty-five students played Snow White. There was no witch, there were no dwarves.

That is what makes me laugh, just picturing that - all twenty-five of them saying the lines together and singing all of Snow White's songs, without a plot whatsoever. Hilarious and ludicrous on several different levels. For one thing, who wants to be Snow White anyway, with her tweedling, "Some day my prince will come" hang-up? And for another, what kind of story do you have when everyone plays the exact same role as everyone else? It's difficult for me to even picture. And yet it has all the makings of an analogy to life. "When everyone is super, no-one will be."

The really interesting thing about it is that the parents who created this situation did it as part of a societal response to years and generations of being submissive to authority. They are rebelling against forced conformity. And yet the conformity they've created with their children on the stage is chilling. Not to mention the entirely false messages that are conveyed to the next generation: "There's only one acceptable role for you...The only way you are going to get that role is if your parents go in and force it to be given to you, because you can't make the cut on your own merit...Love, recognition, success is a zero sum equation: if someone else gets the limelight for a moment, that means there is no limelight for you..." etc.

When David and I were talking about it, we laughed and said that we would be the parents who
would go in and insist that if all the other kids were going to be Snow White, we wanted our kid to be the Wicked Witch. And then we'd just see who was the real star of the show...

Like I said, I haven't been able to get it out of my mind, picturing twenty-five Snow Whites. But then our conversation about wanting our kid to be the Wicked Witch made me start thinking about my own form of monster parenting. It has already reared its ugly head once or twice on the preschool level, as much as I am loathe to admit it.

Let me give a little background: I have a thing about conformity, mostly about popularity and the "in" crowd. I am grown-up enough to admit that it's largely the result of insecurity and failed social attempts when I was younger, but I am also grown-up enough to see that being "all that" among one's peers, especially when young, is not all that it is cracked up to be. In fact, I've seen it be a huge detriment to those of my classmates who were big fish in a little pool in high school and then couldn't ever function as regular (or even small) fish in the world outside little Colorado town.

There are of course exceptions to that rule, but in general, I don't ever want my kids to feel like what they own or what they wear or what they do is necessary to "fit in" with the crowd, that "fitting in" is the most important thing, or that it is who they really are. Lots of things that are "cool" are illicit, dangerous, habit-forming or just plain stupid, so it's better to not feel that being popular is the end-all, be-all of existence. I also think that most things that are "cool" are much like the emperor's new clothes. I want my kids to grow up being individuals who are fully clothed in "the real thing," and who have friends who are true friends.

This is not to say that I don't ache to be accepted or admired or that I don't worry about my kids fitting in and making friends. And it doesn't mean that I'm a rebel or deliberate social misfit, either. (That kind of rebellion against the norm makes me laugh, too, because so many of those kinds of rebels think they are so different, but they end up looking and acting exactly like their "rebel" friends...)

Anyway, I want my kids to think about what they really like and what they really want, and to not be afraid to think it or do it. It took me too long to figure out that I didn't have to follow or comply or agree for people to like and respect me. In fact, I wish I could remember more often that being true to myself and a little bit assertive sometimes makes me a lot more confident than any kudos I might garner from the "in" crowd.

So, having said all that, I have a confession to make about the monster parent in me. It was not a big deal, just a little faux pas, really, but it made me feel like the controlling, overbearing parent that I truly don't want to be. I knew I needed to adjust my anti-conformist scope a bit...

Every week during the school year, Calvin's class had sharing day. Most times, they had to bring something that started with the letter of the week, but other times there were themes. Anyway, "B" week came along and Calvin was insistent on taking a stuffed bear. I don't know why, but that bugged me and I wanted him to be more creative. "Everyone is going to take a bear," I said. "Think of something better." I did. I really said that.

I went through everything I could think of that started with a B that I felt was more interesting and unique than everyone and their bear. Calvin just kept saying, "But I want to take a bear." And I didn't listen. It became this crazy matter of principle to me. Finally, he agreed to take a picture of his brothers for B day.

We pulled into the preschool parking lot and one of the teachers was dressed in a bear costume. I actually thought to myself, "See, everyone thought of bear."

After school, I asked Cal if everyone liked his cute picture and he told me yes and that there were lots of bears at school that day. I felt smug. My boy wasn't like all the other sheep. Yay. I'm such a good, stand-out, be-your-own-person kind of mom.

A couple days later, I was cleaning out the car and found a half-sheet of paper from their school under the back seat: "Remember to bring a bear on B day for our teddy bear picnic!"

I literally had not gotten the memo. I wanted to cry. I had sent my boy in without something his teachers had asked him to bring, and something the whole activity of the day revolved around, something they had talked about and planned all week. I thought of him having to say that his mom didn't want him to bring a bear. Besides being embarrasing, that was so sad to me.

What would it have hurt anyway, even if it hadn't been teddy bear picnic day and he had brought a bear like everyone else? I asked him if he had felt bad that he didn't have a bear for the picnic and he said no, because someone shared theirs with him. Ouch.

He was totally cool with the situation, but I realized I needed to chill. out. It was my own parental form of rebelling against submission and conformity, not entirely unlike the Japanese parents of twenty-five Snow Whites. I realized that my thing doesn't have to be inflicted on my kids. They have a lot of natural curiosity and creativity and individuality and all I need to do is be excited about it and encourage it and love it. I don't need to force it.

By talking him out of what he wanted to do and pressuring him to be different, I was actually forcing him to conform to my thinking instead of what he knew or wanted for himself. And I know if I keep doing that, pretty soon his personal little compass won't work when he needs it to, for more important decisions that I won't be around to make for him. Yikes.

Hopefully I've learned that lesson well enough from a preschool B day that I won't have to learn it more painfully over larger choices later on.

Have you ever recognized a bit of a monster parent in yourself? You know, have you ever been that one who wants your kids to do or be or have a certain thing, or who gets a little out of line in behalf of your kids without realizing that you might be undermining them more than you're empowering them? What did you do? What did you learn?


Read My Other Post Today First

In addition to Calvin's sweet nothings during our bedtime game, he surprised me a little while ago with his outright scarey smooth talk. I was yanking on the top of my ridiculous low-rise pants and pulling my shirt down over my baby leftovers belly and the top of said low-rise pants for the millionth time today, just like I do every day (when will anyone start selling pants with a reasonable rise again?!), and Calvin glanced at me. Mostly because he was wondering why I paused in mayonnaising his sandwich. Just as I finished the final tug on my shirt, he said, with a sidelong glance, "That's a sexy shirt, Mom."

Wha...?! Did I just hear the word "sexy" come out of my five-year-old's mouth? Honestly, where does he get this stuff? He has more Casanova in him than one would think. (I have to add that he has always given very juicy and passionate kisses...it's a little creepy, really...)

He could tell I was a little taken back, and I think he was a little worried about using a word without knowing all of its implications, because then he backpedaled a little: "Just kidding...Ha!...I just like it."

I'm not sure if I need to let him know that telling little girls on the playground that they have a sexy shirt might not go over well.

My Budding Marxist Casanova

When I was on a mission in Ukraine not too many years after the Soviet Union disintegrated, I was riding the tramvai with a Ukrainian friend of mine. She was a philosopher of sorts and she suddenly held up a tattered little kupon, the transitional currency of Ukraine - it said 1,000,000 on it but was the equivalent of maybe $5.00 US.

My friend started talking about how, when you think about it, it's disgusting that we use money - dirty, tattered, paper money to trade for things like beautiful red, juicy apples. She waxed positively poetic about the beauty of produce and the yuckiness and valuelessness of money. I was taken in. I felt she was right. Why don't we trade beautiful produce for beautiful produce - why does money need to be involved at all?

I later realized in my reading of the Communist Manifesto and the German Idealogy that she wasn't being poetic; she was just regurgitating Marxist philosophy from her school days in Soviet wonderland. And then I married David and now I think a little bit more clearly about it all: The poetry breaks down terribly when you consider the guy who needs potatoes to feed his starving family but all he has to trade is shoes and the potato man doesn't want his shoes. Filthy ugly money could really help a guy out in that situation, unless of course he knows how to make shoe soup. It's also easier to keep cash from spoiling before you can exchange it for things you might need later than it is to keep your apples from spoiling.

But...rational observations about social economy aside, I still think about those beautiful apples she talked about and especially how pathetic and dirty that kupon seemed in comparison to the wonderful things we trade it for.

So I was busy in the kitchen the other day when Calvin came in and laid a dime on the counter. "Mom, how can we buy things with money? Like this dime. Who wants a little piece of metal? That's all a dime is. Dirty metal. And it's little. How can we buy things we actually want with a little dirty piece of metal?" Hmmm. He hasn't even gone to real school yet, and definitely hasn't been exposed to any Marxist poetry in our house. I'm a little concerned. (*wink*)

Last night he convinced me to "snuggle him to sleep." He doesn't get much of that anymore, but apparently really craves it. So I climbed up on the top bunk (my main reason for not snuggling him more often) and he started the million questions. I swear he ponders the things of the universe every minute...I decided to get him to unwind a little bit by playing a game his dad and I used to play when Cal was a baby and wouldn't go to sleep: The Goodnight Moon game.

I should really post a whole thing about this game, because it one of my sweet memories from our early parent days...but the jist of it is that you lay in bed with a restless fussy baby and rub the baby's back while the two of you say goodnight to everything you can possibly think of. You take turns and add adjectives or descriptive phrases to the items you are saying goodnight to: sometimes funny adjectives, sometimes tender adjectives, sometimes sarcastic little complaints about life...

"Goodnight, brainless temp job that I have to go to again tomorrow because my resume keeps disappearing into a black hole where no one responds to it..."

"Goodnight, pile of laundry that I'd like to get to sometime but sleep is more important..."

"Goodnight, aggressively floral curtains that I will never replicate whenever we have a house of our own..."

"Goodnight, squirrels with a death wish..."

You get the idea...No "old lady whispering 'hush'" in our game. David and I would giggle about the random things we would think of, and the baby Calvin would slip off to sleep while we were quietly trading "goodnights."

So anyway, I was telling the five-year-old Calvin about this game and I got us started. He would giggle at my funny things and try to think up his own. Then as he was getting more and more calm and quiet, he started saying things like, "Good-night, little growing tree in the back yard..."

And then, without warning: "Good-night, beautiful, beautiful face of my mother..."

It was dim in the room, but light enough that I could see his melty eyes looking into mine, his voice was so suave, and when he put his hand on my cheek as he said it, it actually gave me butterflies and a lump in my throat.

Be still my beating heart.

I'm pretty sure the world does not need apples or dimes. It just needs to be wooed by a little boy.


The Magical Fruit

Let me preface this by saying that one of Henry's unique talents is that of smelling stuff. His favorite thing at preschool was the set of "smelly" markers - he liked to color with them and guess what flavors they were. He is always sniffing something out and is fairly accurate at identifying strange and far away smells. Of course, sometimes he is a little far-fetched and a little imaginative and likes to make up silly smells or fancy names for what he is smelling. We often say to him, in the style of Super Why: "Super Henry, with the power to smell!!!"

So last night, I decided that I would go a super easy route for food today because I have so many strikes against me at the moment. I threw a couple ham hocks and some pinto beans in the slow cooker overnight and was happy to once again be (in some small way) following in grandma's footsteps. (Incidentally, ham hocks are super cheap and give such a nice flavor to beans...Grandpa used to drown a thick slice of bread with beans and Grandma served fresh from the garden tomato slices on the side. The perfect summertime lunch.)

Anyway...Henry was up in the middle of the night to "snuggle" and after a minute or two of wriggling into my space in the bed, said to me in his loudest of whispers: "Mom! I think Charlie pooped!" In my trying-to-go-back-to-sleep state I knew what the real smell was but Henry wouldn't leave me alone until I explained that Charlie is behind a closed door, he doesn't do that in the middle of the night, and that what his super sniffer was whiffing was just the yummy beans cooking downstairs. Great, I thought...it's going to be fun convincing him to try them tomorrow. (They really are delicious comfort food. And I was sure that no matter what Henry said, they did not smell like Charlie's diaper.)

So this morning I turned the beans off, David packed some in his lunch, and I had a few for lunch myself, and enjoyed them. The boys opted for PBJs. Then about fifteen minutes ago, I smelled the beans again. Oh shoot, I thought. Didn't I turn those beans off? They're going to be mush! I checked the slow cooker and it was off. And then I realized that Charlie (who, it should be noted, has not had any beans) was at my feet, smelling like our house did in the middle of the night.

I think I'm having a PBJ for dinner.

Quadruple Whammy

1. Charlie is teething. In the most major way I have ever seen a baby teethe. My others had at least four teeth by age one, and were fussy when they came in, but it was nothing like this. His gums are bulbous and he is cranky, cranky, cranky - so TOTALLY not like him. Poor baby. But it also makes me SO totally not like him. I'm not sure what to do for him - Tylenol hasn't helped much and he's having trouble sleeping. It's very sad.

2. I am tired. Partly because of Charlie's waking, but also because of crazy insomnia and then fatigue and knowing I'm exhausted but not being able to do anything but watch the minutes on the clock tick by at 3:30 a.m. and then 4:42 a.m. and then 5:57 a.m. and then I drift off and then the boys are there wanting breakfast.

3. Charlie and Henry are both having separation anxiety. Charlie's is a little earlier than it usually hits - Cal and Henry both had theirs pretty much at exactly eighteen months, right when they were old enough to finally go to the church nursery. Charlie is seriously bereft when I even walk out of the room, crawls after me wailing and desparately clinging to my legs. This is distinct from, but probably exacerbated by, the teething thing - it started a while back but has escalated in the past few days. Maybe the one year perfect baby contract just expired. Whatever it is, I pretty much either have to stand and hold (sitting doesn't work) him all day or else listen to him cry, hard and extremely pitifully.

Henry's is somewhat of a regression more than separation anxiety, I think. He has started needing help with things that he has long since been able to do by himself. And he needs a million hugs and kisses and goodbyes when I just leave to run an errand. And he will only allow one person to do things for him (like wipe) - and that one person is ME. Lucky me. I believe in validating and acknowedging and meeting needs. I'm not the best at it, but I do try really hard.

These last few weeks have just been especially taxing. I get really grouchy about neediness sometimes and it makes me feel really guilty because I remember being little and just needing. I mostly wonder what the neighbors think when every time I walk out the door, there's at least one small child running out after and practically chasing the car, screaming for one last kiss and to tell me good-bye and that they love me before I can leave them - with their own daddy - for a fifteen minute errand. The drama. I thought I was exempt from that since I don't have girls, but no.

4. We do have a more masculine type of drama happening as well: a real-live alpha male competition at our house. I honestly never seen anything like it. Long story. Can't put it all here, but a single mom friend and her little boy needed a place to land. I didn't really think there would be any major issue - Calvin and her son are a week apart in age and have played together before, I've babysat, etc. I guess it's a whole new story when someone moves in.

The boys have had two all-out brawls since Saturday, even with me right there trying to stop it before it begins - both times it's been the other boy getting a little aggressive to start it, but Calvin doesn't have a high tolerance for turf invasion (I promise, we're working on it). I understand the psychology behind the other boy's behavior - only child, lots of change and uncertainty in his life, stressed out and distracted mom. I am extremely empathetic and am inclined to take his side. Which creates a weird dynamic anyway.

Calvin and Henry work out their stuff in a totally different manner so I have no idea how to remedy this situation. It is shocking to me - I know that boys play surprisingly hard and now I know that apparently they fight hard, too. Both times I've pried these boys apart from each other (risking minor injury to myself), their fists and feet flying and teeth gnashing, my intervention has not been satisfactory to either party. (I'll be honest: Calvin gets mad at me because he was winning before I got involved and the other boy is mad at me because really the whole point is that he needed to try to show what he was made of without someone's mom saving his butt. Maybe I can get them to get along by becoming their common enemy...?) I'm almost to the point where I want to let them have it out (that's what my husband says needs to happen), maybe just take them to the ER when they're done...except I don't want my boy to think that's the best way to solve a problem, and I don't want a guest in my house - especially a little boy who needs TLC more than anything - to feel scared or uncomfortable. It is ugly and I'm at a complete loss.

And did I mention that I'm too tired to sleep, let alone function rationally? I hope we can all make it through this week.


Lyric Revamp

In real life, I'm probably the last person you would expect to listen to Alanis Morissette. I mean, I'm not an Alanis groupie or anything; I probably couldn't tell you more than a handful of her songs. But back in my younger life, I liked to listen to her music. It was therapeutic and made me feel rebellious - it drives my mom crazy that Alanis has an entire song that uses the word "ironic" completely incorrectly. (Isn't that ironic?) Some of her songs are just catchy and apt (one of my favorites is "Head Over Feet,") and many of her lyrics are good food for thought. Anyway, now you know that little old Code Yellow me has a weak spot for late-90s grunge.

The other day I needed to make a stop at Home Depot which I had already procrastinated too long in the hopes of being able to go without the boys. There are no cart stalls and rarely a close parking spot at that place. Plus, there are always huge "workerman" vehicles going in and out, backing up with who-knows-who in their blindspots. Not my favorite place to get out of the car with three uncontained children. I realized too late that the stroller was not in our car because we had taken it for a stroll and not put it back the evening before.

I needed to get this project done, so I propped the baby on my hip and grabbed Henry's wrist (the boy will NOT hold hands) and told Calvin, "Put your hand in this pocket of my jeans and don't let go until we're inside the store. There's lots of trucks pulling in and out here and I need to know you're right beside me."

About halfway to the door, all the noise and hurry and worry kinda dissipated as I held a baby in my arm, a 4-year-old by his arm, and had one hand in my pocket...The thought of the play on Alanis' words made me smile and I wanted to find my Jagged Little Pill CD right away...and if I'd had a free hand, I'd totally hail a taxi or play a piano or give someone a high five, because everything really is going to be fine, fine, fine.


A Whole Year

It's been a whole year since I first saw you and fell in love, since those first couple of quiet nights in the hospital when it was just you and me...

It's been a whole year since you arrived and snuggled right in to our crazy, noisy world...

It's been almost a whole year since your first Independence Day and the first time you shared your sparkler of a smile...

It's been a whole year since you charmed us all with your sweet disposition and cuddly ways and big brown eyes...

It's been a whole year since the first day Calvin decided he was going to teach you everything he knows...

And Henry first knew that he was going to be the one who watches out for you and keeps you safe...

It's been almost a whole year since the first time you played with us on the beach and I realized that as wonderful as the beach is by myself, it's perfect with my little boys sleeping under the sunshade and playing in the sand all around me...

It didn't take a whole year for you to want to be right where we were, taking it all in...

And you know how to carve out a place for yourself without anyone being bothered by it...

And when to ask to get out when other people are in your space...

Every day for this whole year I have loved the times you curl into my lap or lay on my shoulder or touch my face - you are the most loving and snuggly person I know, and it's delicious...

You have learned to play games, and taken your first steps, and made us smile and laugh, and for a whole year shown us how delightful it is to have another little guy in our house...

Happy first birthday, Charlie! This whole year has gone by in a flash. You are amazing.



Just a couple to write down for posterity...

Henry likes McNuggets with "barbucan" sauce.

And, if he tells you something and you act incredulous or say, "No way!" he will respond with, "See-yes-ly! It's true!"


I Don't Teach Them Anything They Know

When we were in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, walking around downtown, we passed a group of suited men. David dropped back to talk to my sister and me: "Did you see that guy that was with those other guys, walking out the door as we came in? The one in the suit?" Uh, no. We were busy talking about...stuff. David, completely undeterred at our lack of observation skills, continued, "He looked exactly like the former prime minister of Australia, John Howard." Wha...?!

I am sorry to admit that my sister and I laughed. Um, because we don't know who the current prime minister of Australia is, let alone the former one. Um, maybe we don't even know Australia has a prime minister. Let alone what he looks like. We also laughed because if there was ever a person who would recognize the former prime minister of Australia completely out of context and know his name as well as various and sundry anecdotes from his prime ministry, and get as excited about him as some people might get about say, Tom Crazy Cruise, it would be my husband. It's from all the hobnobbing he does with these types via the Drudge Report.

Anyway, when we got home, the husband googled the man and found that he was indeed in Salt Lake at the same time we were. Can you imagine? We were in the presence of the former prime minister of Australia!!! Can you believe our brush with celebrity and our complete unknowingness? (That was sarcasm...) Just so you don't repeat the same mistake, I am posting here, a picture of John Howard, former prime minister of Australia. So that when he walks by you someday, you don't unwittingly fail to recognize him. Don't say I never helped you out.


In another tale of random knowledge, I put on my amber necklace that David brought back from Moldova a couple years ago. I love it. My husband has exceptional taste in jewelry. He says he doesn't buy it for me very often because I don't wear it very often. Hmmm. Well, that's how this conversation started out - someone pulling on my somewhat fragile amber necklace (the reason I don't wear jewelry much) and David telling them to be careful, it's fragile, it will break, just look at it because it is pretty. At which point Calvin interjected: "Yeah, and it's made from tree sap from when there were dinosaurs on the earth." So...I think, "Amber," and my child thinks, "Rock hard tree sap from dinosaur times." Love that necklace.


A while back I was telling someone that Charlie knows how to go up the stairs but doesn't know how to go down, so he climbs to the top and hollers for me to come get him. Someone - either my grandma or my mom - asked if I had shown him how to turn around and come down on his tummy. I told them that no, I enjoy traipsing up the stairs eighty-nine billion times a day to bring the child down. And when I'm not doing that, I rather like the thunk, thunk, thunk scream sound of the baby falling down the stairs before I can catch him - I think that's a good learning experience for all of us.

The falling thing has only happened twice, and I was right there to get him, moving in slow motion with that deep, low, "nooooooooooooooooo...." coming out of my mouth as my hands reach for him and my cheeks flap unnaturally behind my face because I'm moving so fast but time is going so slow and the baby is falling and crying and I'm getting him but not soon enough for the miraculous save...Then I start crying harder than the baby.

Anyway, I just want to say that most times I follow him right up. And yes, I have tried showing him how to turn around and come down safely, but he wants none of that. (My other two learned really quickly and liked sliding on their tummies once they learned.) We have tried to deter him from the stairs, but he crawls faster and more recklessly when we come after him, which makes it less safe. We haven't installed gates because we are moving soon and there is a railing in the way at the height of the gate so it would involved a lot more construction than we want to do. Plus, our other boys are likely to injure themselves jumping over messing with gates on the stairs. Charlie just prefers to climb up to the top and holler for me to come get him. So I comply.

When we are upstairs, he likes to sit on the edge of the top of the stairs and toss things down, just to see what happens to objects when they go down the stairs. He drops his paci, he brings stuffed animals and blocks from the boys' room and throws them. He leans, leans, leans over to see how far they go bouncing down. Then yells because he can't reach his paci - or whatever he tossed overboard - and needs someone to retrieve it for him.

The other morning, he got a big toy truck, rolled it to the top of the stairs and pushed it, sideways, off the first step. Since it wasn't on its wheels, it stopped at the second step with an anticlimatic thunk. And Charlie - I'm not joking - sat there, looked at it, and harumphed in dissappointment. He pulled the truck back by its window, set it up properly on its wheels and pushed it as hard as he could. And it went rolling, bouncing, banging, crashing all the way down to the middle landing. Charlie looked at it and looked at his dad (who was supervising this experiment in physics) and squealed, laughing and clapping.

And so now he knows: Other things going down the stairs by themselves - awesome. Me going down the stairs by myself - not so awesome; makes mom cry. That, my friends, is useful information. And he figured it all out on his own.


Walking On His Knees REDUX

Our computer is back to limping status, but at least I can get an upload out of it now. Yay for youtube, too. I actually had to get Charlie to knee walk again because I couldn't resurrect the other video I took. I forgot to take his paci away, and the picture is fuzzy, but you can still get the idea. Sadly he has almost outgrown this now and prefers to walk like the rest of us do. Clapping for himself at every step. I'll have to capture that on video soon, too, I suppose.

Here's another of Charlie's awesome tricks. Just ask him to give you kisses, and smack your lips together a couple of times, and every now and then you get this: (Yay me! I caught it on camera!)

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

I haven't decided yet if he would count as cheap entertainment or very, very expensive entertainment. Either way, totally worth it.


Sweet Homonymy

A long time ago, not too long after he started talking pretty well, Calvin learned his first homonym.

It was accidental, really. One day, we read a story book that had a fuzzy little forest creature - a mole - in it. A couple days later, a friend gave him a book all about big machines and trucks in it. One of the big machines was one that burrowed huge deep holes for tunnels underground - a mole. And a couple days after that, Calvin was poking and messing with a little raised brown dot on my neck and asked me what it was. "A mole," I told him.

When he recapped all the moles he had learned about in the past few days with a big, if somewhat perplexed, smile on his face, I was surprised at how he had catalogued them already. I hadn't even noticed that we had told him three different things that were called by the same word.

Recently, he has discovered that there are words that sound alike but aren't spelled alike. It really irritates him because he's having a hard time organizing the rules for the English language in his mind. But he still gets a kick out of homonyms. At least once a day he comes to me with a new word that he says there are lots of different "kinds" of.

There are two kinds of bark: The bark a dog makes, and the bark on a tree. There are two kinds of chip: You can chip something that's made out of glass, and you can eat a potato chip. There are two kinds of park: You can park a car and you can play at the park.

The best one was today, when he told me there are three kinds of cool. This is what he told me:

There's the cool like, "That's a cool trick." And there's the cool like, "Ice keeps things cool." And then there's the cool like, "I'm cool."

Trust me, that is a whole different kind of cool.