Monday, December 31, 2007

You know you've left Texas when...

You ask for "tea" and they offer "hot or iced?"

You ask for Dr Pepper and they say, "we have Mr.Pibb" as if it's not an insult.

And you know you're in California when they mock you for not recycling your can at a party.

Friday, December 28, 2007

telltale signs

You can always tell a child who has new scented markers by the multicolored dots under their nose.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


There are televisions in my grocery store. Every aisle, they are advertising something at me. Telling me to clean out my refrigerator before I grocery shop, telling me to buy Chee-tos, telling me to buy, buy, buy.

It's new, this grocery store television thing. They are attached to each aisle, two per aisle, right at smack-me-in-the-forehead-while-I'm-buying-cereal level. I couldn't tell if what they were advertising was aisle specific (though the Chee-tos ad was in the vegetable section...) or if it was just throughout the store, like watching thirty solid minutes of advertising that I couldn't escape.

I object. Really, it wasn't terribly obnoxious or loud, it was just constant, pervasive messing with my subconscious, attempting to derail my plans for my coupons and list.

I suppose, with a Super Wal-Mart and a Super Target right down the street, they have to do something to boost their numbers, and they certainly weren't going to head down the "good customer service" road, so they are trying this. And it might just do the opposite of what they are intending. At least for me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wheee!, I mean, Wiiiiiiii!

So this Christmas, we dove into the video game world for the first time since the Atari. And, seriously? It's fun. So fun.

I'm terrible at it. I can barely play, much less beat the little people in the house. I'm guessing that the dog could probably beat me. Sarge is pretty good, and the kids seem to have a innate ability to know what to do. Except when the middle one was attempting to bowl and she apparently threw the bowling ball into the crowd rather than down the lane.

Did you know that the Wii will "boo" you? Yeah, it's boo-d me a bunch of times, too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

wedding gifts

A long time ago, I got married. In fact, it was nearly 12 years ago.

Today, as I was mopping and scrubbing my kitchen floors, I was reminded that the very bucket that I've been using for the last twelve years (not really as faithfully as I should...) was a wedding gift.

My twenty year old self thought it was by far the strangest wedding gift. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I didn't appreciate it. I can only imagine the thank you note I wrote:

"Thanks for the mop bucket. It's such a nice cream color and I it's such a useful gift. My new husband and I will enjoy the time we spend together using it."

However, my thirty-two year old self defininitely appreciates that gift. In fact, I'm glad it was given to me, and I'd almost like to go back and write another thank you note for it.

It's like when you have your first baby, the shower gifts that you love the most are the ones that you never use. They're so pretty and useless, but you know that with the second baby that you are all over that diaper shower. And onesies. And burp cloths.

People should get another wedding shower, but after they've been married about 10 or 15 years. I've not used all the gorgeous chrystal candlesticks or bowls. Or really even any china. And lets not even talk about the lingerie.

This time, I would be grateful for all the towels in the world. I wouldn't even care that they didn't match, I'd just be glad they didn't have holes in them. And potholders and tupperware and corning ware dishes. Oh, and recipes!

But I wouldn't need another mop bucket. The one I've got has a lot of life left in it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Very Busy Doing Nothing

We've been very busy around this household, but when I sit down to think about it, I can think of nothing that we've done that I can write about without sounding lamer than usual. So I'll make a list instead.

  • We had sleepovers on Friday night. Well, the oldest two did with friends and I did with the littest one because he was whining he didn't have a friend. So I slept in his bed. Or tried to.
  • We didn't get much sleep on Friday night. I wonder why?
  • It could have had something to do with the icing the children ate (that was being minimally supported by a cookie) right before bedtime. I have no idea who's bright idea that was.
  • The middle one was sad all day Saturday that her friend was no longer here. Even though she nearly refused to play Barbies with said friend, even though that's all she ever wants to do when no one WANTS to play Barbies with her. Apparently, given a willing participant, it takes a little cajoling from mom before she'll play. But I did have fun making the Barbies have a knock-down-drag-out over a pair of shoes. And it made the girls laugh and decide to play (I only have a few years before I'm not cool. But I still am! Yipee!)
  • When it was bedtime, the girls and I decided to scare the boys. Who had already gotten themselves all worked up over BigFoot. Then the boys and I decided to scare the girls back.
  • I don't know how many more years I can do sleepovers with multiple genders in the house. It seems that after a few more years it's going to get weird. Something I never considered until Friday night.
  • I finally got my act together on mailing Christmas gifts. Or shall we say "Day After Christmas Gifts" because holy highway robbery, Batman! To get something 500 miles in three days apparently has to be individually driven by a monster truck and they'd still make a profit.
  • I've been mending clothes lately, and I'm afraid that only the pajamas are going to be socially acceptable. You know the look of pants that have been let out? Good idea in theory, but it looks terrible. And the jury's still out on the giant patchwork flowers on my daughter's knees. But the good news is that the 6" long tear in the seam of my son's favorite pajamas has now been fixed and we don't have to see his underwear every night anymore. I did draw the line on the hand-me-down underwear that had holes in it. I decided that the littlest one really did have enough underwear and that repaired underwear was just unneccesarily embarassing.
  • Oh, and the holes in my daughter's shoes. I'm afraid with the mending and the holey shoes we're going to end up on some charity list this year. Add that to the fact that my daughter keeps saying she hopes Santa will bring her new sneakers this year, and the whole guilt factor's WAY up. But, oh, I want nothing less than to go to the mall before Christmas.
  • I've managed to keep one of Sarge's three gifts a surprise this year. I was going to be two for three, but he got the mail the other day and spotted it. And there wasn't any guessing as to what it was. Darnit. And all he has to do is ask any of the kids and they'll probably tell him. That's how I know what I'm getting.
  • Oh, and the cleaning. That's more than just list worthy. But I've been doing a lot of it lately, and as much as I hate it, and as cracked as my hands are, I love having a clean and tidy house. Which annoys me. Because why can't I enjoy the cleaning and the clean? It seems unfair. But it makes my husband positively giddy.

So there. That's me being very busy doing nothing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

four-year-old worries

After school one day, the littlest one informed me that he didn't think he'd ever be able to go to Kindergarten.

"Why not?"

Saddest face ever, "Because I can't open my chip bag."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lists for Santa

So there's a certain item on my daughter's Christmas list that she will NOT be receiving this year. Or ever.

It's a charming toy called Squawkers McCaw. As if the commercials weren't annoying enough, the genius marketing people make sure it's on an endcap at the store. Kids notice it, sure, but what they forgot about was that even when you walk by it without your children it still talks to you. Several of them all at once. Repeatedly. And to the person in front of you. And the person behind you. In the most horrible Gilbert Gottfried voice.

And no amount of wailing on Christmas morning is worse than owning the most annoying toy ever made.

On elevators and dating

When my husband and I met (almost fourteen years ago! gasp!), I was Catholic and attending a Jesuit university. It was Lent, and the tradition is to give something up. Feeling rebellious, I wanted to give something up besides chocolate or dessert or boys (that would have been a disaster!). So I gave up elevators.

For me, in this life that I live now, that would not even affect me. At all.

But at the time, I was living in a dormitory, on the fourth floor. I was all young and fit and so it was no big deal. But then, when I met my new love interest, I had to explain to his Southern Baptist self what I was doing, and NO, I was not crazy, just Catholic. I even would tell him he could take the elevator and meet me at the top - he hadn't given up elevators. But he was trying to impress me, I think, so he went along and took the stairs. He would even carry my groceries.

It's a wonder he stuck around. Maybe he only stuck around to harass me about it. Fourteen years later.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Almost Nine...

is apparently how old they are when they are no longer able to kiss or hug their mothers goodbye in public.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

new chair

The other day, I mentioned that I had purchased new-to-us chairs. Two of them.

What I didn't realize then was the treasure that I'd purchased.

One of the chairs I purchased is a 60's era sewing chair. A real, honest-to-goodness, made for sitting by your sewing machine chair. Not folding. Not dinging. It's petite - small in stature, but a nice solid weight. It has a lifting-up seat. Covered in a bad fabric, but that's easily fixed.

Just today, my daughter asked what I was going to put in the seat of my chair. I told her I wasn't sure, but I knew I couldn't put anything in there that I needed all the time, because I'd be sitting on it!

Just like that, it came to me. I told her I thought it should be our mailbox. That we could put notes to each other in it. Whenever we feel like it, we'll put a note in there. It's an idea I've been toying with - I'd heard of parents sharing a notebook with their kids - a place to put thoughts that is placed under the intended reader's pillow when someone had something to say or a question to ask. Questions would be answered, thoughts would be responded to, and the notebook returned to the original sender's pillow.

She loved it. She skipped off to write me a note. As I sat sewing, she came to me with a paper in her hand and explained to me that I needed to get up, but not look at what she was doing (she's as good at surprises as her father and I are). And after she'd done what she needed to do, I sat back down. She looked at me expectantly. "Should I look in the mailbox?" I asked. "Only if you want to." was the answer. I got up and looked. I pretended to be surprised (it's just what we do - Sarge will look surprised when he opens his Christmas gift, too.). Then she asked when she could expect mail to be delivered for her.

I wrote her a note, placed it in the chair and she came around looking not too much later. She told her brothers, one of whom left me a sweet note.

This is so much more than a sewing chair.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

he knows.

The littlest one knows when the other pillow in my bed is empty. Sarge has been gone the last few days, and I got a visitor every night between 2 and 4 in the morning. Sarge returned yesterday, and I promised him that the littlest one would come visit between those hours, usually having removed his pull-up and changed his pajamas. I was so sure.

No visitors. Until after 7am. Bliss.

And, because Sarge had been busy being spoiled rotten by his mother for the prior four days, he bathed the children upon his return, put them in bed (except for the parts I wanted to do - bedtime kisses!) and got up with them this morning.

Double bliss. Life is good.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

from one extreme to the other

The littlest one is feeling better. Unfortunately, it took a round of oral steroids to make that happen for us. I have a love-hate relationship with steroids.

I love them because they likely have saved my son's life a time or two. This was not one of those times, but seeing your child's face in a shade of blue is something that you'll never get out of your memory. So I really do love them.

BUT, times like these, when they didn't save your kid's life, they just improved it, I really waver on whether or not to give them to him. For example, this morning, I told him I would play with him when I got the laundry in the washing machine. A task that was not 15 feet away from him and would likely take less than three minutes. He had an all out crying, yelling, temper tantrum. Complete with throwing toys. I didn't play with him.

Then, we went to Costco and I wouldn't buy him pizza, simply because I wasn't carrying enough cash to purchase it. I didn't have a chance to explain why, because as soon as he heard "no" he started crying and yelling "I want pizza" over and over and over again. Until we got home. I put food in front of him -- on a dime, he stopped crying and began eating.

That's the other thing about steroids. As it is, on a normal day, the boy eats and eats and eats. But on steroids? Forget it. He is STARVING ALL DAY LONG. He's not even five, but when he's on them, he consumes teenager-like quantities of food. It frightens me.

It's nice to know that we're on the other side of this illness. For now. But I'll be so grateful when we're all the way done and I can stop going on and on about it. And I can start going on and on about how organized I am these days. And that I'm a cleaning machine. And how I just bought the coolest chairs on craiglist and it's the end of the ding ding chair as we know it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Have You Ever...

tried to go five days without making a four year old cry?

Things like this happen:

We showed up at the doctor's office today and he had a giant sucker in his mouth. When I asked the doctor if his throat was red, he paused. I asked, "Do you think his throat is red from the sucker or because there's something wrong with it?" He laughed. He was pretty sure it was just the sucker.

Sarge came home from work and found that his spot in the bed was occupied, so he slept on the couch until we woke up.

We watch Power Rangers in the middle of the night.

I'm not even sure I should admit these things. But, you see, I hate vomit more that I hate all of these things. And when he's sick like this, often times he'll projectile vomit everything he ate in the last twenty-four hours, simply from the force of coughing. And since I was traumatized by bacon the last time, I'm really not prepared for vomit, if I can avoid it.

And so I avoid it. And pay for it when he's well again and he thinks that he can have chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

check mark for tuesday

The kids were drumming on some Christmas tins, in the kitchen, right next to me. And yelling. Or singing. Whatever they called the racket they were making.

"Please stop! You're making me crazy!" I shouted over the din when I couldn't take any more.

The oldest says, "Well, put down a check mark for Tuesday!"

You've got to love that kid.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

RSV, or Why I Won't Hold Your Newborn

The little one is sick again, and everytime he gets sick, I think about our time we've spent battling his breathing, or lack thereof.

The first time he was in the hospital was arguably one of the most stressful times in my entire life.

When he was 39 days old, I discovered that I'd made a HUGE mistake. We'd simply forgotten to put him on my husband's insurance within the 30 days after he'd been born. I was informed of this by the cardiologist that he was supposed to see for a mild heart murmur. And again by the surgeon who was supposed to repair his dual inguinal hernias. I spent the next couple of days begging human resources and the insurance company to help me. They couldn't, or wouldn't.

A woman, sent to me by God (there's simply no other explanation), struck up a conversation with me over the weekend after my three days of begging. She's the only other person in the world I've met who did the same stupid thing. She explained that they got catastrophe coverage from their Allstate agent, for peace of mind.

Peace of mind, apparently, was the least of my worries. That Monday, I went to my Allstate agent, applied for the coverage for my little baby with a cold. It went into effect on Wednesday at midnight. I called the new pediatrician on Wednesday morning for advice for my baby who couldn't breathe. They explained that I should care for him at home with saline and humidifiers. He's 46 days old, just shy of seven weeks old. I was sleeping on the couch with him at night so he could sleep upright and begging him to nurse.

That was also the day that my husband got a vasectomy. I wouldn't ordinarily mention this, but the man had been promised 72 hours of sitting on the couch with a bag of frozen peas and a wife at his beck and call. He was not that lucky.

Thursday morning, I called the pediatrician again. They reluctantly agreed to an appointment that afternoon. I knew nothing of breathing troubles. I knew ear infections inside and out, but this was all new territory. Knowing what I know now, we would have already been at the emergency room, as he was in severe respiratory distress. I just didn't know it. All I knew was that each breath seemed to be a full body effort and that he hadn't had a good meal in days.

About 30 seconds after I arrived at the pediatricians office, he was given a breathing treatment with 100% oxygen. About ten minutes later, they were walking me and the baby, still on oxygen, over to the hospital, pushing my other two children in the stroller. The pediatrician asked me if I was worried about my insurance - apparently my face registered concern. I said no, I was worried about how on earth I was going to call my husband and ask him, 36 hours after surgery in a delicate place, to help me. I had promised that I wouldn't need his help for 72 hours, that I surely I could do it on my own for three days. But here I was, needing him like I'd never needed him before.

I waited about three more hours before I called him, and he didn't even complain once. He limped to the hospital, got the other two children (who were 20 months and 4, mind you) and called his mother. This was one of the times she rescued us.

But inside the hospital room, with my tiny baby, I still didn't know what was going on. I didn't know what the monitors were saying, I didn't know what was wrong with him. It felt like hours that we were in that room monitors were beeping (I had no idea that that number that was 76 should have been a 100. I had no idea that when the monitors beeped you had to go hunt down a nurse, that they didn't come to you). I didn't understand why they had to wait until the end of a shift to get a NICU nurse to put his IV in - the regular nurses tried and tried, but he was so small and dehydrated that they couldn't get it. The NICU nurse couldn't go back to the NICU after being near him. I didn't understand any of that, and none of it was explained to me.

They suctioned him and suctioned him. They explained to my broken heart that if I'd let him stay in respiratory distress much longer that he would have gone into cardiac distress. They gave him oxygen and medications that I didn't recognize. They xrayed him and hydrated him and suctioned him some more. And gave him breathing treatments every two hours. I tried to sleep, in my clothes, and picked at the hospital food.

Finally, the next morning, they gave me a name for what was wrong with my baby and a tiny amount of information. For someone who wants to know every detail, it had been torture for me. He had RSV and he would be fine. Except for that some of these babies have a hard time with their breathing for a very long time. I naively thought that I would not need my nebulizer for my infant for longer that the 10 days.

Since then, I've learned that insurance is a beautiful thing (between that hospital stay and the hernia surgery and all the other garbage from the first eight months of his life, that stranger saved us over $35,000). I've educated myself on my son's breathing and his medication and what oxygen saturation is and how it relates to his heart rate when he's monitored. I've learned when I can handle an illness at home, when I need the doctor and when I need an emergency room. I've learned to not let them put the IV in his left hand, even though it's his best vein, because if that boy can't suck his thumb in the hospital everyone will regret it. I've learned not to forget his woop. I've learned how much I hate steroids, but how I'm so grateful to them. I've learned to always bring the nebulizer on vacation, because if I don't bring it, we'll need it.

I've learned that information is power. And that my husband will always rescue me.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cleaning, part 2

So I've decided that it's time to start chore lists in my house. Not just for the children, unfortunately. I think part of it was that I had a particularly busy week last week and things seemed to be rather out of control on the home front. With that supposedly being my primary job, I was feeling a little defeated.

But I also know that I'm a terrible housekeeper and that I'd much rather do fun stuff than clean, dust, vacuum, wash dishes or any other chore. Alas, the definition of chore, I'm thinking, is pretty far from "fun" or "favorite thing to do" for anyone, not just me. Yet they manage to get their house clean, dishes washed or papers filed.

In just more than eighteen months, I've managed to move into my larger space. I used to have a, um, cozy thirteen hundred square feet, which I was able to make work for my family of five and a smelly dog. But here I am, with nearly three thousand, and there's junk everywhere. I've spread my mess to fit the space. Which is something that I really wanted to avoid. Even the rooms that I've promised would stay neat and tidy (my bedroom) have succumbed to the piles (mostly laundry in there). I'm frustrated, mostly with myself.

In fact, the middle one asked me this evening, "Mommy, why is the treasure chest [the coffee table - a story for another day!] always so messy on top?" "Well," I answered, "mostly because everytime I clean it off, y'all add more junk on the top of it." Which I can actually blame on them. Unfortunately, I can't put the blame wholly on them - they are modeling my behavior.

Back to the chore lists. I'm going to give it a shot. And while I'm at it, I'm going to give some to the children. But really, is cleaning out the trash cans weekly really necessary? Can I make it monthly? I'm having a terrible time deciding if the lists I'm making are too ambitious (which I'm sure they are for someone like me, not so for the average human being!). But is vacuuming weekly enough? Do I allow myself some flexibility or just stay on task on the right day, no matter what?

And then I could spend so much time obsessing over the list that I just avoid the actual chores themselves. Hmmm. That might just be a plan....

Friday, December 7, 2007

cleaning confessions

This one's for my mom.

I decided that it was time to clear off my desk before it toppled over, or just collapsed under the weight of the junk that was on top of it. I found some horrifying things.
  • I was saving a ziploc baggie of about five water bottle lids. Apparently my daughter was starting a collection on only got to the starting part. And I was saving them for her. In a drawer.
  • I had coupons laying in some prime desktop real estate that expired this summer.
  • I had receipts from over a year ago in the basket on my desk.
  • I found three business cards from my dog kennel, each from the new owners when it has changed ownership.
  • I found medical bills from 2004. I was saving them in case the insurance company didn't actually pay them. I'm pretty sure they've paid them by now. I mean, some of them took over a year, but even health insurance companies usually don't take three years to pay. Or the hospitals would have come to take my child as collateral by now.
  • More thank you notes than any one person should actually own. Well, certainly someone who clearly doesn't actually use them.
  • This years and last years school pictures of my children.

Why is this one for my mom? Because she gets upset sometimes because we harrass her for being disorganized and having canned peaches from the eighties in her pantry. So, Mom? Now you know. I'm the pot, you're the kettle.

Oh, and the final confession? I've started a seed pile of junk that I just can't deal with right now. Any takers on bets that it will be there the next time I clean my desk? In 2009?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

confused conversations

We had two interesting conversations over dinner tonight. Apparently the youngest had a little bit of a hard time digesting the two.

Daddy went to the dentist today. Just a regular checkup, but also checking out the dentist to see whether or not they would be suitable for our children to also visit. So we laid it on the kids that they would soon be visiting the dentist, and that it's important to brush your teeth twice a day so you don't get holes in your teeth.

A little later, we were trying to gently explain to them that Mommy's uncle is very sick. That he has something called cancer and that it's in his brain. And that the doctors aren't giving him any more medicine. But that he could walk and talk. And laugh. But also that it's the kind of germs that aren't contagious, that you could hug him and sit with him and that you wouldn't get cancer. And that we didn't know how he got it, just that some people just do.

I'm sure the questions will keep coming. Already the middle one is playing "brain cancer Barbie." I wasn't really prepared for the first delayed question, though, from the youngest.

"Mommy, did your uncle get cancer in his brain because he didn't brush his teeth?"

my daughter, the control freak

A little. Well, more than a little. She likes to be in control of her environment, including, but not limited to, her brothers.

An example. The remote. When the three children are watching TV, she's holding the remote. Not necessarily watching the show of her choosing, but you'd better believe that she's the remote master. It even goes with her to the kitchen table, the bathroom and sometimes to the computer, which is nowhere near the television. Because someone might dare to change the channel without her knowledge or written authorization.

We had the opportunity to go to a restaurant recently where we were given a buzzer-thingie that tells you when to go get your food. It was in the center of the table. She spotted it, nonchalantly grabbed it and placed it near her food. I, being the troublemaker that I am, waited until she wasn't watching and stealthily moved it back to where it was. As soon as she noticed it had moved, she popped her little hand across the table and put it next to her. A little closer this time. In case.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What do you want for Christmas? What? Nevermind. Forget I ever asked.

My poor husband. I asked him, jokingly, the other day, "What would you think if I asked for jewelery for Christmas?"

His answer surprised me -- he said, "I'd be relieved!"

You see, I'm a fairly straightforward gal. If I say, "Don't buy me anything" for a specific holiday, it means, "don't buy me anything." If I say, "surprise me, here's the budget" it means, "surprise me and don't spend more than that."

But this year, when he asked what I wanted for Christmas, I think he immediately wanted to take the question back.

I asked him to paint our bedroom. I even provided the color I wanted.

Later, we were talking about it, and he told me that he might need my help. No worries, I said. The gift is not doing it by himself, it's doing it cheerfully. Not complaining. At all. Or at least very little.

He'd rather buy jewelery.

But I do want a puppy for my birthday. Don't tell the dog.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Herbivores don't eat little boys, I promise.

We came home late Saturday night, and by late I mean after dark. This is unusual for us, though. As I pulled into the alley behind my house to park, I spotted the rabbit, right near the hole in our fence. I backed up, pointed it out at the children and tried to point my headlights at it.

It dashed under the fence. Into my vegetable garden, where my broccoli was finally starting to recover. Dangit.

Imagine my surprise, when, in our conversations as we pulled into the garage, when the littlest one appeared nervous. Not nervous like the middle one, about letting the dog out into the yard (that dog's so old and fat the bunny had NOTHING to worry about. Even when she was young and lean, she was stealthy like a jet plane.) He was worried that the bunny was in our yard, and that it was going to come and get us. In our sleep.

He asked how high it could jump. And what it ate. We talked about what an herbivore is. He asked if it could crash through windows. And doors. He asked about it's teeth and what noises it would make. He asked each of these questions at least four times before bath. And then again as I was putting him to bed. Terrified of a cute little broccoli eating bunny.

When Sarge came home, I told him that I would bet that it was one of the first things the little one would tell him about. Even before the fun kid-centered late night activity we'd attended. True to form, the little one told Sarge all about the "stupid bunny in our yard" but the fear had subsided with the daylight.

Even at lunch today, Sarge brought it up again, and he denied being scared faster than the older one denied playing with Barbies. We'll see what the sunset brings.