Monday, September 29, 2014

Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday.

At the end of kindergarten, Mary started talking about what kind of backpack she wanted for first grade. At which point I crushed her dreams of owning an overpriced Target princess special by reminding her that she had in her possession a very nice, very durable pink backpack from LL Bean that had practically cost an internal organ and had her name on it. 

I began to wonder if I was in the minority until a friend Facebook messaged me asking if I was planning on buying the kids new backpacks. My response was a swift “nope, she’s got a really good one.” My friend’s response was something like “thank you!” - because apparently her son was also vying for a new backpack, though probably not in a Sofia the First or My Little Pony theme.

Mary mentioned a new backpack a couple of more times, but I held firm in my resolve. When the backpacks went to $12 on clearance, I was momentarily swayed, but it wasn’t until I was in Target this weekend and saw  Miss Sofia, in all her purple, plastic, glittery, probably poorly made glory, beaming at me from a backpack reduced to $4 that I caved. I stuck it in my cart and was pleased to have gotten a jump on my Christmas shopping.

Of course I forgot to take the stupid thing out of the car and when I got Anna from preschool, I heard a joyful “hey! A Sofia the First backpack!” from the backseat. I had forgotten Anna’s love of searching the “way back” for cast off toys before buckling into her booster.

“Oh, that’s a Christmas present for Mary,” I said as I started the drive to Mary's school. “We can’t tell her about it, ok?”


I picked up Mary and the girls spent about a half an hour on the playground before we walked back to the car.

“Now Mary, don’t look in the back,” Anna said when we got to the car. 


“Why can’t I look in the back?” Mary asked, as I opened the back and deftly moved some things to cover up the gift. 

“Anna’s just being silly,” I said, and started buckling Lily into her seat.

“We don’t want you to see your new packpack,” Lily offered brightly.

“Silly Lily, Mary’s ‘packpack’ is in the front seat!” Mary was eying me skeptically.

“Lily you ruined the surprise!” Anna said indignantly. “Well at least she didn’t tell her who was on it.”
At this point I was seriously considering banging my head on the side of the car when I remembered that Mary’s birthday was in a few days. I hadn’t forgotten, exactly, but she wants to go see a musical instead of having a big party and because the tickets aren’t on her birthday…okay, I may have momentarily forgotten. I reached in the back and grabbed the backpack.

“Look what your sisters got you for your birthday!” I exclaimed. Mary beamed.

“Wow, thanks guys!” she squealed, examining it from every angle.

“You’re welcome Mary,” Lily said.

“I’m so glad you like it,” Anna added. “I picked it out myself. And I painted that picture on the front for you too.”

“Anna, stop it,” I said.

“Yeah, okay. Mommy painted it for you. Not me.”

“You did, Mommy?!” I should point out here that the front of the backpack is not even remotely painted looking.


“Well I love it!”

“I’m so glad, Mary. Happy early birthday.”

So the lessons I learned today are:

  1. You can’t half ass hiding the presents anymore.
  2. Anna is an awful secret keeper.
  3. Lily is worse.
  4. Anna is apparently really, really good at making up stories off the cuff and Mary is apparently really, really credulous. This does not bode well for their teen years. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Lord of the - well, you know.

As I may have mentioned once or a hundred times, I love summer for the simple fact that we can be outside, which is a lot less crazy making than all four (sometimes five, sometimes six) of us daytime house dwellers bouncing off the walls.

Unfortunately, all of my kids hate bugs. I mean haaaate bugs. Lily freaks out at the sight of ants, and points angrily at the sidewalk.

“The ants can be outside, Lily. They live here.”

“No. You make them go away.”

“Ants are fine, Lily.”

“Dey not gonna eat me?”


“I no yike them. I step on them.” Repeat as often as you see ants.

Today, though, all three girls suddenly ran past me in the front yard and into the house.

“Wasps!” Anna yelled as she slammed the screen door.

“What?” I looked around. I saw no wasps.

“They’re going to suck my blood!” she continued, while they all three ran dramatically around the living room. Five seconds in and I was pining for the great outdoors.

“Wasps are tiny and they suck my blood,” Anna informed me.

“Oh! Those are mosquitos!” I said, relieved that I was not going to have to hunt for a wasp nest any time soon. The one in our shed last summer was fairly exciting. (Protip - poison ivy killer will not kill wasps and that’s saying something. Poison ivy killer WILL kill poison ivy and grass and any other nearby plants like a BOSS.)

“Mosquitos!” Mary said, in an “I can’t believe I forgot this!” tone of voice. “Are they like flies?”

“Well no…not exactly.”

“Why do mosquito bites itch? Why do they drink blood? Do they only get a little at a time?” Mary continued. I attempted to answer the first, then moved on to “because it’s food for them” and concluded with “well, yes, but they’re tiny so they only need a little at a time.”

Mary nodded.

“So they’re pretending to be flies?” Anna asked.

“No, honey, they’re different insects.”

“But they fly and -”

“Yeah and they’re not smart like flies,” Mary added with finality, at which point they were done with the conversation and moved onto other pressing topics like the color of the stripe on Snow White’s dress. (It’s not yellow and Mommy clearly lacks brain cells for thinking so, in case you were wondering.)

Well, not all of us can be as smart as flies, I guess.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Another season, another post.

Welcome to summer 2014, where the kids are old enough to play in the fenced backyard without constant hovering supervision as long as the pool isn't inflated. It's glorious. I mean, I still have every single chore I had over the winter and spring, and then some (hello dirt and sunscreen residue on every available surface!) but NOW I can tackle those without three sets of feet running past me at warp speed. I can actually walk from one room to the other and return to find it not destroyed. It may be the Twilight Zone around here.

Of course with the summer, which has finally arrived after an exceptionally cold spring, comes the humidity and air you could cut with a knife. And that makes for cranky kids about 1 p.m., so I wasn't surprised when Lily came stomping in the living room where I was folding towels, hair plastered back from her face with sweat, little fists clenched, jaw set.

"I quit!" she announced upon seeing me. I blinked.

"You - quit?"

Angry nod.

"What? Why?"

"Because ANNA drank all the water!" she protested, motioning to one of the six million cups that float around this house in their own orbit. This one was empty. "Now I don't have any!"

Oh, the warped sense of justice you have when you're almost three. (Almost three. How did that happen?)

"Well, don't quit. I'll get you some more." I abandon the towels, pick up the cup and walk into the kitchen, grouchy preschooler hot on my heels, a skeptical look on her face. I filled the cup, put the top back on and handed it to Lily, who took a long drink and grinned up at me, all traces of angst gone.

"Fank you, Mama!" she said joyfully, then handed me the cup and went back outside to join her sisters, the screen door slamming loudly behind her.

Well at least she decided to stay.

Monday, March 31, 2014

On Easter and IQ

Putting my children to bed is a predictable, if extensive, process. There are water cups to provide, extra hugs, the inevitable second trip to the bathroom a mere three minutes after the "last call, oh my WORD just GO" trip, and prayers that "the white elf" doesn't come "hit" one of them in the middle of the night. (And an extra prayer for Mommy who still has no idea what that means and is a little scared herself.) And, like clockwork, Lily and Mary will conk out about 10 minutes after the last goodnight and Anna will sit on her bed for approximately seven hours talking to her toys before collapsing on top of them, not so much having fallen asleep as run out of steam.

So tonight when I heard Mary railing in her bed about the injustices of school, and how she never wants to go back, EVER!, I went in to see my normally enthusiastic kindergartener to ask what the issue was.


"Why? And don't say because "it's boring" or "it's dumb," because first of all it's not true and second of all, that's life and you have to go. So what's the problem?"


I paused. I bit my tongue. I rejected the first three thoughts that popped into my head.

"What happened, Mary?"

"Well, I don't want my sisters to hear, but you know, most of my class believes in the Easter bunny and I know he's not real and-" she started crying. I winced.

"Did you tell your class the Easter bunny wasn't real?"

Sobbing and nodding.

"MARY!" I scolded. "We tell you the truth when you ask because we trust you not to tell the other kids! You know that! You don't spoil the game for other people!"

"I know," she wailed, climbing into my arms. "I'm SORRY!"

"You told your whole class there was no Easter bunny? Go to SLEEP, Anna!" I called into the next room. Anna flopped down on her bed and pretended to snore, one hand inching towards the millions of stuffed toys surrounding her.

"No, I told my two friends and they said I was wrong and I said my daddy TOLD ME-" another cringe from the Mother of the Year - "AND THEN THEY TOLD THE ENTIRE CLASS THAT I DON'T BELIEVE IN ANYTHING EXCEPT HALLOWEEN AND THAT ISN'T TRUE!"

At this point my bewildered husband has put down his work and come to join in the conversation. I can see him holding back a smile, which is doing nothing for my ability to contain my laughter.

"Mary," he said, "We want to tell you the truth about things when you ask but the other kids get to find out the truth from their parents, too - when their parents think that's right. You don't get to do that."

"I know," she said. "I'm really sorry."

"I know you are," I said. "Tomorrow, you can go to school and you don't have to say you changed your mind. But you can tell your friends that people believe all kinds of different things and that's okay - and that the Easter bunny is a fun thing to believe in."

"They don't listen! They say I'm wrong and I'm not and-"

"Oh yeah," I added. "You aren't smarter than everyone in your class. There are people there who probably know more than you do and there are people who know less than you do and that doesn't make anyone bad or good, it's just how it is. And believing in the Easter bunny in kindergarten doesn't make you smart or du-"


At this point I was shaking and had to leave the room. Tim tucked Mary in and no more was said about imaginary holiday mascots or the perils of addition.

I went in the other room and called my mother.

"Is it too early to start drinking?" I began, as soon as she said hello.

"Of course it is, it's only Monday!"

"I was asking if 7:30 was too early..."

"Oh." There is silence from Connecticut. "So how was your evening?"

My evening was two Sam Adams' worth of parenting hurdles, and yours?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

This entry not kosher

This is still not the "I have been sweeping up the same Cinderella head for a year" entry (though I have. And recently did again. Her body resides in the doll house awaiting the fates to align and the head and the tube of super glue to materialize at the same time and it never happens). Actually if you read the aside there, that's pretty much the whole entry. Hi, I suck at housekeeping, toy maintenance and keeping track of dangerous substances like super glue. And I'm a nanny!

Ahem. Sidestepping the myriad of issues I just left laying around and moving on to the real entry! Last night Tim and I took advantage of the fact that the older kids were out of the house and set up the Christmas tree and lights, nativity, stockings and various other little holiday knick knacks. Despite having a smallish house with little available surface space, I love Christmas and decorate accordingly. Then I stuck Sprinkles (the Elf on the Shelf) on top of the undecorated tree and eagerly anticipated the girls' arrival home. 

I missed the girls' arrival home. I was at the grocery store. Tim tells me there was much squealing, dancing and clapping, especially when Sprinkles was noticed. 

"I wonder what tricks she'll get up to this year!" Mary exclaimed.

Heh. So does Mommy, kiddo. 

Of course the rest of the day was mayhem as I tried to keep the kids from undecorating the little tabletop white tree. They managed to find a couple of stray ornaments - we were keeping the big box for later - and put them on the tree. And take them off. And try to crawl under the tree. And take the ornaments off. And on. And off.

"Don't touch the tree! Stop! No! Leave the ornaments, don't knock into it, stop trying to pull on the lights..." - insert a kid's name here, because they all took turns. I began to wonder if we could wrap presents that night, convince them Sunday was Christmas and take the whole thing down Monday while they were in school. Finally, by dinnertime, Anna was out and out not listening and messing with the tree. Tim called her over.

"Anna. Anna listen to me. You need to stop touching the tree. Do you want it to fall over and hurt you?"

"Would it hurt Sprinkles if it fell?" Tim sighed.

"She could fall over, yes. You could get hurt. The ornaments could break. You need to stop touching the tree. No one should touch the tree."

"Mama touches the tree."

"Okay, only grownups. We're going to decorate the tree soon but ornaments are for looking. Messing with the tree is a big person's job."

"When I'm bigger...?"

"When you're older you can touch the tree," Tim promised.

"Will ham make me older?" I almost choked. Tim was silent for a moment.

"Will - what, honey?"

"Will ham make you older? If I eat ham will I be older?" Anna fiddled with the hem of the Christmas dress she had insisted on wearing.

"Well, ham is good food and it will make you bigger and stronger..." Tim started, maintaining his composure far better than his wife, who was biting back hysterical laughter.

"Because," Anna kept on importantly, "last year I ate some ham on my pizza and now...well anyway can we have some pizza with ham on it?"

"Sure, Anna," Tim said, giving up.


"No, honey, we already had dinner. But sometime between now and Christmas we will eat ham." She brightened.

"But you still can't touch the tree," he finished.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Riddle me this

Just so you are all aware, I have an entry percolating right now that includes the phrase "I have been sweeping up the same Cinderella head for about a year now" but surprisingly, as true as that statement is, constructing a post around that is going to take some thought. And after this morning, I want to write about Mary anyway.

My kids are all approximately two years apart. Mary is only 21 months older than Anna. I love that - they compete for my attention like any other siblings do but there has never been a time when Mary remembers being an only child. As far back as she can remember, Anna has been part of her life and, as much as they fight sometimes, Mary still calls Anna her best friend. (Anna will say the same, unless she's trying to get Mary's goat, in which case she will smirk and announce LILY is her best friend and SHE ONLY HAS ONE, but I digress.)

On the other hand, being the oldest and having two younger sisters right behind her, Mary is in some respects young for her age. She's bright and ridiculously articulate, but, for instance, last Christmas she still wanted a Little People set. She had no idea who "Justin Beaver" (yes, really) was until sometime late in the school year. (For the record, I am totally fine with this, especially now that the young man has decided to become Canada's Most Humiliating Export.) The concepts of One Direction, Bratz and even Barbie were totally foreign to her until she started kindergarten at almost six. Again, this doesn't bother me in the slightest - her infancy and toddlerhood seemed to go by at the speed of light and I know it's not going to slow down any time soon. But it does provide me ample opportunity to be surprised by her. 

I took this shot before a ballet class a couple of weeks ago. It was chilly in the studio and she'd asked to wear my coat. I took a number of silly pictures of her - posing, mugging for the camera, goofing off with her sisters - but I also got this shot and my heart skipped a beat. There is no "baby" in this picture, no chubby preschooler, barely even a kindergartener. Suddenly I could see the young lady my oldest is becoming and it was breathtaking. 

She is six. Sometimes she acts so grown up and other times she acts, well, like she's six, with all the glorious moods and FEELINGS the age implies. It's unpredictable and sometimes frustrating but often, often, leads to little moments you never would have seen coming. This morning, in the car, she piped up. 

"Mommy I made up a joke!"

I have to admit, I cringed a little inside. The "jokes" Mary and Anna usually come up with are of the totally age appropriate but awful "knock knock! who's there? MACARONI!" variety, which wouldn't be so bad except they will repeat them constantly, expecting uproarious laughter every time.

"Oh yeah?" I asked, carefully backing out into the preschool parking lot. Small lot, lots and lots of giant SUVs, a million parents who's schedules are all the most important things in the world - stress! 

She paused. I could see the anticipation bright in her eyes.

"What kind of flowers can blow bubbles?" she asked, barely containing her excitement.

"I don't know, honey, what kind?"

"TULIPS!" she crowed, dissolving into giggles. I joined her. 

"Mary, that's really funny!" I said. "Did you just make that up?"

"Yeah!" she said, and I could hear the pride in her voice. She knew she had gotten it right, that what she had come up with was truly funny. She told the joke again, and I laughed, again. We drove off to Dunkin Donuts to get a caffeine (me) and donut (them) fix before I had to take her to school and she laughed the entire way. 

"Welcome to Dunkin Donuts what can I get for you today?"

"TULIPS!" Mary screamed happily from her booster. 

"Hi I'll have a medium iced caramel swirl -"


"-skim milk no sugar and -"

"TWOOYIPS!" Lily screeched, getting in on the action. 

"- one-"

"Tulips," Mary said happily to herself, grinning. 

"-no, two, old fashioned donuts."

What can I say? It was a celebration.
Just don't grow up too fast, kid. Mommy won't be able to take it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Planes, trains and Tinkerbell

I don't want to think about how long it's been since I've blogged. It's not that I think anyone is waiting with bated breath to see what shenanigans my kids have got up to (though I think my mother might be, but that's more out of a sense of karmic justice than anything else). Mostly I like writing so I can look back on the days with my kids, but then the day ends and I'm tired and vegging out in front of Netflix with a Sam Adams seems like a much more appealing activity.

But I digress. 

We live close enough to the school that we can walk Mary to kindergarten every day. It's worked out pretty well so far. The kids race to the next stop sign or crosswalk, look out for seasonal decorations, walk on rock walls. I've met more neighbors in the past two months than I think I have in seven years of residency. And hey, free exercise!

This morning was crisp but still above freezing. The light was beautiful and golden. I put kids in hats and coats and we strolled off. Anna was enjoying a day off from preschool because we had a play date planned with a friend she hadn't seen in awhile and you're only four once. (Although, mothers of other four year olds? It's kind of a long age, am I right? I feel very, very tired some days.)

We walked to the end of the block and found our first "regular" - the absolutely terrifying large dog that seems barely contained by a mishmash of fence pieces and possesses a menacing bark. Mary and Anna shied away to the inside of the sidewalk, as far away from the yard across the street as possible. Lily leaned forward in her stroller and shook her hand towards the fence.

"SHH DOGGIE!" she admonished. "BE QUIET! SHHH DOGGIE! Doggie yowed (loud)," she informed me sagely, shrugging her hands and facing forward once more. 

We turned the corner and Anna found a giant puddle left over from yesterday's rain.

"No," I said quickly, seeing the glint in her eye. We already have a pair of sneakers drying out from yesterday's adventure, thanks. The girls raced ahead to the next stop sign, announcing loudly that they had both won. Lily sat in her stroller, content to wake the dead by announcing every vehicle that drove by.


If the neighbors aren't morning people I apologize. 

Finally we got to the school, where the crossing guard greeted us warmly. No, seriously - she is the nicest person I think I've met in a long time and she's cheerful despite standing in the middle of the street in some pretty lousy weather. 

"Hiiiii!" Lily called from her stroller, waving like the Queen. 

"Good morning cutie," she replied. 

"Mommy how come she's wearing GLOVES today?" Mary asked me, referring to the guard's bright green gloves in the same shade of "see you coming" green as her (uniform?) jacket.

"Because it gets chilly standing outside for a long time," I said.

"Why do they match her coat?"

"Well see how she's waving at the traffic? It's probably so the drivers can see-"

"MAYBE SHE LIKES GREEN A LOT JUST LIKE TINKERBELL, MARY!" Anna shouted, loud enough that several teachers turned around. 

"Oh, okay," Mary said complacently, walking ahead and greeting approximately 3,000 Kindergarten friends as Lily continued her traffic narration and Anna continued waxing poetic about Tinkerbell. The bell rang, the kids filed in, and we left the school yard.

We went home, had a nice play date and a lovely morning and afternoon. When we left to pick up Mary, Anna was wearing her pink coat, a blue cardigan, jeans and floor-length Cinderella costume. For the fourth time this week. Except this time she had also added a magic wand to the getup.

And I'm surprised the crossing guard remembers us.