Thursday, December 20, 2012

40 shades of crazy

  Today I read a great blog piece entitled "46 Reasons Why My Three Year Old Might Be Freaking Out." You can read the entire thing here: http://jasongood.net/365/2012/12/46-reasons-why-my-three-year-old-might-be-freaking-out/#.UNNwrny9KSN , but it's a laundry list that includes such gems as "He's not allowed to get in the oven" and "A balloon he got six months ago is missing."

So much of it was spot on and really applies to children of any age, as far as I can tell. And also, adults. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel (blog?) and post variations on why MY children might be freaking out (near as I can tell, "Thursday" is good enough justification), I present:

40 Reasons Why *I* Might be Freaking Out. Some of these have actually happened recently, many are from today, some are conglomerations of several events. Nevertheless:

1. It's 5 a.m. and I got to bed at 1:30 after individually baking, outlining, flooding and decorating six million Christmas tree cookies for teacher gifts because money is tight and it seemed like such a good idea at 5 p.m. the day before.

2. It's 6 a.m. and I have discovered the royal icing is still not dry.

3. I had a dream my husband cheated on me and I can't be mad at him because "I'm not responsible for what I do in your subconscious." Really, is an apology so much to ask for? Men.

4. I just found my hand wash only sweater in the dryer and now it fits my five year old. I am the only one who does laundry.

5. The dishwasher sounds like a trash compactor all of a sudden.

6. When it brakes, the car now sounds like the city bus when IT brakes.

7. The baby pushed the last yogurt onto the floor. 

8. We are out of mop pads. (Goes with 7)

9. I just found a pile of Christmas cards I thought I had mailed out and some of them are international. Happy Valentine's Day, NZ.

10. The electric company wants more money.

11. The city is insisting we now pay to use water.  Jerks.

12. I discovered my three year old does something called "pretend bathroom" about 50 percent of the time I remind her to go, which answers the burning question, "How the hell did you just have an accident when you went to the bathroom 10 minutes ago?" HAHA, Mommy, HAHA.

13. It's time to plan dinner, again. I forgot to thaw anything, again. It's spaghetti, kids! Again.

14. My kids suddenly hate spaghetti.

15. My kids are asking for spaghetti when I have presented them with something they ostensibly don't hate.

16. Guess what? They hate that.

17. The jerk who refused to pay for an item I sold on eBay is taunting me.

18. The good angel on my shoulder has talked me out of mailing her a box of dirty cat litter.

19. The phrase "I don't want to hear tattling" is followed by "ANNA TURNED OFF THE LIGHT! I'M SERIOUSSSSS!"

20. I have heard the following for the 18th time this afternoon: "You're mean, I'm not playing with you!" "Fine, I don't want to play with you!" "MOOMMMMMY, MARY WON'T PLAAAAAY WITH MEEEE!"

21. It might be 5 o'clock somewhere but it's only 3:30 here and that's way too long until bedtime.

22. The Elf on the Shelf is mocking me.

23. The cat has picked the exact moment the baby is finally asleep to try and hunt something directly under her window.

24. If the world does end tomorrow, my hair and eyebrows are a total mess AND there's no wine.

25. My ADHD meds aren't working.

26. My ADHD meds are working too well and I'm trying to re-wire the house.

27. I don't know where the Easter baskets are. (See, 25 or 26)

28. I feel fat.

29. I want to eat all the cookies that are waiting to be frosted.

30. I'm at the point in Doctor Who where Rose is gone and Martha is a whiny pain in the ass.

31. There is no more Gossip Girl.

32. The radio is playing "Christmas Shoes."

33. The radio is playing Kid Rock.

34. The radio is on commercial.

35. I have forgotten, apparently, that I have a device with both tons of MP3s and Pandora. 

36. Pandora plays "Christmas Shoes."

37. Mary wants to know how Santa will know the carrots are for the reindeer.

38. Mary wants to leave Santa a three course meal.

39. Anna wants to eat Santa's cookies when they are put out.

40. Lily is trying to climb out of her crib. It's only a matter of time.

41
Or, you know, the balloon I got six months ago is missing. 

It could always be that, too.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reaction

  As a parent, I cried on Friday when the news reports started rolling in. I looked at my five year old and was glad she wasn't at school - not because I feared the same event occurring, but because I needed to hug her, give her a cuddle, tell ehr how much I loved her, watch her look back towards her movie and squirm out of my arms because she knows I love her, hug her all the time, and darn it, Mommy, you're taking me away from Tinkerbell. I needed that moment of normality. Needed to remind myself that I am so very, very blessed, that even when I am angry because the girls are fighting, or waking their baby sister, or arguing with me over another cookie or a later bedtime, that I have them. The children that, at one point, I thought I was never going to be able to have, are here, so very real, so safe in our four walls.

The biggest thing my daughters fear is timeout. 

I don't have to worry about "how to explain this to [my] kids." My kids are 5, 3 and 1 and we don't have traditional television. I don't have to worry about Mary going to school Monday and hearing her classmates talk about it because I know her teachers won't let that happen. My kids get to be innocent for a little while longer, thank God.

But as the weekend went on and the news got worse, not better, I felt myself starting to wrestle with what I was seeing. First the numbers, far greater than the single digits first reported. The pictures of parents wailing outside the school. The names and faces. The stories of the teachers who gave everything to save even one student. My husband asked why I was reading about those teachers, those innocent babies, if it made me cry.

"Because this is their story," I said. "They won't get to tell their own anymore. These are the stories their parents want told. Emilie Parker's dad wants me to know she loved her sisters, liked to color, hated trying new foods. This teacher here was going to see The Hobbit on Friday night. These are things people want us to know."

I don't care about gory details. I don't need traumatizing pictures and if I never hear the gunman's name again, I'll be fine. But the names, the faces of these children, I want to know about them. I want to hear their stories because those are the only stories they're going to have anymore.

Then I look at my own children. My own colorers and picky eaters and movie watchers. And I don't want to send them to school this week.

I know I have to. I can't live in a culture of fear, can't put that on my kids, have to rely on statistics that schools are generally safe, that this was an isolated incident, that my children are going to grow up and make me crazy and have kids of their own one day. But it's so hard.

Today Tim took the girls to church. Lily had a cold so I stayed home. Just at the time church was starting, I got a call from my husband.

"What's going on?" I asked, because he should have been in a pew at that point. My pragmatic, level headed husband was quiet.

"They're not having Sunday School today," he said. "They're having a p-a-r-t-y in the hall across the street."

"So?" I asked. "Have fun!"

"I couldn't do it," he said, and it dawns on me this was not a church wide party but an all ages Sunday School gathering. "I couldn't leave them in a huge hall full of kids without being there. Not after Friday. I know that's silly and they'd be fine but I couldn't do it."

As he said the last part I felt a knot in my stomach that I didn't know was there relax.

"Thank you for not doing that," I said. 

"We're going to go do something fun," he said. "I'll see you later."

I don't know what the answer is. Mary will go to school tomorrow because she loves school and I know she'll be okay, but I wonder when I'll no longer feel relief when I go to her door to pick her up. When it will become commonplace again to just drop her off and get her, my biggest worry being whether she ripped her dress or talked during rest time.

I know it's illogical. I know it's so incredibly unlikely anything will happen, to her, at school, ever, and especially this Monday when everyone will be on high alert. 

Those parents in Connecticut never saw this happening, either, and the part of me that's a mother cries with them whenever I think about it. My girls are so blessed and don't even know why. 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Swamp Mushy Muddy

Yesterday was a gray, dreary day, which made it the perfect afternoon for...


In case you're unfamiliar, Muddy Buddies are the crack of the snack world. They're these chocolate-peanut butter-powdered sugar-Rice Chex confections that take about 15 minutes to make and about 5 seconds to consume in their entirety.  If you want to make this yourself, I wouldn't rely on the following "recipe" I'm about to post, but Google is your friend in this instance. First, gather your ingredients:


Assemble your helpers:


(Please note: Helpers may be a bit over excited. Usually best done when the baby "helper" is napping.)

Pour your cereal into a large bowl and set aside:


Pry chocolate from hands of preschooler:



Combine your chocolate, butter and peanut butter in a microwave safe dish, heat until smooth and stirrable, add your vanilla. Make sure to leave some chocolate out for quality control purposes:


Pour mixture over cereal, mix well until all pieces are coated. Expect smaller helper to completely lose interest at this point:


Once mixed, allow older helper to pour powdered sugar into bowl, mix well. 


(Two notes here. First: The recipe tells you to put the mixture in a two gallon freezer bag and toss the sugar in there. I didn't have one of those and spaced on buying them, so I just divided the mixture into two bowls and stirred well. Second: Five year olds are nearly incapable of smiling normally for photos. This is doubly true if sugar is involved.)

The recipe concludes with "spread Buddies on wax paper, allow to cool.

Funny, waiting was the hardest part of the whole thing.






Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mama Grinch

  It's almost 8 a.m. here in Casa Trois and Anna is dancing around the Christmas tree, making up her own words to "Deck the Halls."

"The-se stockins ARE FOR SANTA!" she belts impressively, before looking over and seeing the snack I'm handing Lily.

"CAN I HAVE A GRA-AHAM CRACKER? PLE-E-E-E-EASE?"

I satisfy her craving for Nabisco and watch her prance near the tree. After last night I'm just glad she's not hiding from it.

But to explain last night, first we have to go back to the weekend. 

I explained in a prior post ( http://athreeringcircus.blogspot.com/2012/11/do-they-know-its-christmas-time-at-all.html ) that we don't really 'do' Santa, preferring to explain it as a fun game, and that, despite the creative ideas rolling through my head, Tim was ambivalent about spending $30 on the Elf on the Shelf. Not that I blame him. That's a lot of money for some felt and plastic, even if it does come with a book. I consoled myself with promises of after-Christmas sales (white tree, you will be MINE!) and let it go.

Until sometime over the weekend, when I was indulging in some wine with friends, and a Facebook notification popped up from another friend, alerting me to a Barnes and Noble sale where said elf and book was $13. I got excited and immediately ordered. (Okay, in the interest of full disclosure I may have been sliiiightly tipsy and I may have had to try two or three times to successfully complete my order, and I may have babbled about it to Tim juuuust a little too much, but the point is, that was a really good bargain and the Internet Deal gods do not wait for perfect sobriety.)

Fast forward to yesterday, when I got the shipment e-mail. I decided to try and get the kids ready for the elf's arrival, which I decided we would name Sprinkles. (Yes, I know, you're supposed to let the kids name it and maybe I will, but when I was pregnant with Lily, Anna wanted to name the baby nothing and Mary was lobbying hard for Apple Juice. I'm not optimistic about the next several years with Poopy the Elf or somesuch.)

I gave them the basic gist. I made sure to use the key words "story" and "fun game." But you know, at that age, they don't really separate reality from fiction so well. Mary was looking at me with shining eyes.

"It's AN ELF?" she squeaked. 

"Yep!" I said, glad she was enjoying the fun.

"And it goes back to the NORTH POLE?"

"Yep!" I replied, and she grew even more excited.

"AND IT PLAYS JOKES ON US?"

"It does!" I said, practically glowing with the pride of a Good Mother Who Has Given Christmas Magic. Anna piped up.

"Is it gonna eat us up?"

I paused. I told her no. Then I realized that she was grinning at me, and that this was one of Anna's "jokes." (Other "jokes" that day had included announcing she really has to poop while at the playground, less than 10 minutes after our arrival, whereupon I loaded everyone up and rushed them home, only to discover the clever ruse. So this was at least funnier than that, which made me wish I could start drinking at 4 p.m.)

The evening carried on. I went in the bedroom to put away some laundry and came out to discover Anna had quite literalyl started taking apart the Christmas tree. She was holding a bough in her hands and reclining back on the other lower branches, sitting on lights and displacing the few ornaments I'm silly enough to leave at child level.

"ANNA!" I exclaimed. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

"Nothing," she smirked, as I tried to fix the tree.

"Ohhhh Anna," I muttered, and then turned and winked at her. "Maybe I *should* let that elf eat you up." I smiled at her. The look of absolute horror that she gave me told me that earlier had not, in fact, been a joke.

"I DON'T WANNA GET EATEN UP!" She wailed.

"Oh honey!" I said. "It's not going to eat you up! The elf is a story! It's pretend!"

"I DON'T WANT THIS CHRISTMAS TREEEEE. I DON'T LIKE CHRISTMASSSS ANYMOREEEE."

"No!" I said desperately. "Honey! Listen to Mommy! Mommy was kidding because of your joke! The elf is a story! A game!" She started to calm down. She eyed me.

"It's just a fun Christmas game," I said. "It isn't real. Like Santa."

From behind me, I heard Mary gasp.

"SANTA ISN'T REAL?"

I whirled around. I couldn't tell if she was serious or not.

"Honey, Santa is a game, you know that. Mommy and Daddy told you that. We visit Santa at the mall and write letters but it's a game. It's a lot of fun, but it's a game. You know that." 

"Ohhh," she said. "Wow, I can't wait to tell all my friends at schoo-"

"No way. You do NOT tell the other kids that. IF YOU DO THAT I WILL GET YOU NO PRESENTS."

"Fiiiine."

Anna stopped crying. Mary wandered off. I'm not sure if she believes in Santa or not, but I think she's cool as long as there's something under the tree with her name on it. I kicked myself for being the worst mother EVER and bought about $25 worth of baking supplies to make Christmas treats today to make up for it.

Muddy Buddies make everything better. 

The "elf" should arrive any day in the mail. I showed Anna pictures this morning and she seemed okay with the idea. 

"That elf looks nice," she said. "I like that elf. Not like that other elf. He hits me."

I decided to leave well enough alone there.

Fa la la la la.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lather, rinse, repeat

It's the holiday season, and as those of you who follow me on Facebook know, "Santa" has been quite busy trying to track down Anna's number one Christmas wish: A "working owl."

Preferably purple.

I know what purple is. I have no sweet clue what "working" means in this context.

"Is it a wind up toy?" Mary asked Anna.

"Yes," she said.

"Does it walk?" Mary asked Anna.

"Yes," she said, and I started Googling wind up toys from the '70s on eBay.

I found a couple, but they were tiny. As in, "Lily will eat them and we'll spend Christmas at Hasbro Children's Hospital" tiny. And about $10 each. Then a friend linked me to a plastic toy owl that, when pressed, sang a couple of notes.

"Anna," I said, "What if your owl sang instead of walked?"

"That could be cool," she said. I began to "buy it now."

"And I want it to walk AND I want to sleep with it so I want it to be soft."

"Anna, they don't make that toy. Santa doesn't make that toy. What about just a soft owl you could sleep with?"

"Okay," she said. I sighed in relief and paid $7 for a stuffed owl on Amazon.

And the singing owl, just to be sure.

They both arrived today and I think she's going to be thrilled. If I don't kill her first.

Because if Santa were to make a "working Kim" toy that said fun phrases, these would be my top 10 for today.

1. Stop Fighting

2. Work it out. Stop tattling.

3. We don't hit.

4. Go potty.

5. Just try. GO POTTY.

6. STOP FIGHTING.

7. Get down the hall, Lily is sleeping. (to be repeated LIKE A BROKEN RECORD)

8. Don't be sassy.

9. Stop slamming the door.

10. STOPFIGHTINGGOPOTTYGOPLAYBEFOREILOSEMYEVERLOVINGMIND

...an that's the family friendly version.

Is it bedtime yet?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Having worked retail off and on for the past five years, you'd think I would stop being surprised at the earlier and earlier arrival of "Christmas" in stores. It makes sense at craft places and seeing literal "Christmas in July" in the aisles of Joann's or Michael's doesn't faze me. When I walked into Target and saw the fake snow and Christmas decorations set up against a spooky Halloween wall mural, though, I rolled my eyes. Too early, Target. Too early.

But it's almost mid-November and I have to start our holiday season if I don't want to be a crazy person by Dec. 12. And with three kids to buy for, it helps to spread out the damage some.

Take Lily. Lily is 14 months old. I could get Lily nothing, or a hundred things, or a package of baby wipes and let her pull out every single one (actually, that's not a bad idea...),  and she wouldn't know the difference. In fact, it will probably take a true Christmas miracle to divert her from undecorating the tree every five minutes during present opening. So I should be off the hook with a new sippy cup and maybe a doll, right?

"Mommy, what do you think we should ask Santa to bring Lily?"

Wrong.

We take a loose approach to Santa. I've made comments that Santa is "a fun story" and "part of Christmas tradition" while suggesting Santa isn't exactly real. But Anna especially thinks, say, Elmo is real. She sees it, it's talking, and she's three. Mary has a bit better idea of things but then she sees Santa in the mall, and it's not a guy "in a costume," a la a mascot, it's a real person, and anyway, Santa still brings presents. (Granted, since I'm not 100 percent committed to preserving the myth, Santa's gifts are in the same wrapping paper and the tags look a lot like my writing, but whatever.)

Either way, if Santa, "Santa," or The Flying Spaghetti Monster brings Anna and Mary toys, so too must Lil have something to open. And it has to be better than a "coupon" to splash in a newly disinfected toilet or something, which is all she really likes to do anyway if someone leaves the door open.

I settled for some Little People sets I know everyone will enjoy. Lily is done, the other girls have a few things each and I'll chip away at the rest between now and mid-December.

Then my OCD kicks in and poor Tim is forced along for the ride.

"Honey, let's do Elf on a Shelf!"

"What the heck is Elf on a Shelf?"

In case you are uninformed, Elf on a Shelf is a horribly overpriced plastic bendable elf that comes with a story book that informs you on the cover it's "a Christmas tradition!" Which pretty much means it's made up to make someone a lot of money. But I started seeing all these cute things you could set your elf up doing and thought it would be fun.

"...and you tell the kids that he's from Santa..."

"We don't even really 'do' Santa, do we?"

"Sure we do," I glossed. "And you tell the kids that he's Santa's helper and you can make him play pranks and do cute things and then he reports back to Santa!"

"What? You want to tell our children some creepy ass plastic toy is WATCHING THEM?"

"It's not creepy!"

"Jeez, Kim, why don't we just tell them there's something watching them from the closet?"

"It's not LIKE THAT!"

"Creepy. Creepy Plastic Elf, Creepy Plastic Spy Elf. We can only get it if we call it that. How much does it cost?"

"$29."

"FOR A CREEPY PLASTIC ELF? Let's just get a candle and tell them the candle is watching them. You have lots of candles."

He may have a point there. I gave up and started angling for a Pottery Barn Kids Christmas tablecloth.

Or the tree.

Last year I started eying the WalMart $89 special pre-lit Christmas tree we bought the first year we were married.

"Our tree is horrible," Tim agreed.

"I want a white one and lime green and aqua ornaments!" I said.

"Um..." he mumbled. "What?"

"Retro! Actually, I want one of those '60s aluminum pom pom trees."

"The kids would kill themselves on that," Tim, ever the voice of reason, said.

Turns out those old trees are stupid expensive.  But this year - THIS YEAR - I am totally getting my white tree at the after Christmas sales. Because NEXT YEAR - I hope and pray - Lily will stop trying to eat the decor.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Goes well with...

On Friday, I went in to pick Mary up from school as usual, but this time I had to make sure and talk to her teacher about something minor but important (the all-imperative Friday pizza order form). I walked in the door and was accosted by a little blonde tornado.

"Mommy!"

"Hi, sweetie. Let me talk to your teacher for just a second, ok?"

"Mommy look, I have homework!" She is waving a sandwich baggie so fast that I can just barely make out what appears to be a bean with a face drawn on it.

"Hi," her teacher greets me.

"Hey," I start. "Do you know where I can get another copy of-"

"AND WE CAN'T PLANT IT!" Mary is saying over and over. "It's my PET BEAN!"

"Okay, honey," I say. "You can tell me all about it in just-"

"AND IT'S FOR ADVENTURES!"

"...can print another one on the web site..."

"BUT WE CAN'T PLANT IT!"

"...needs to be in by Wednesday at the latest..."

"MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY!"

It took a few minutes but in the end I had sorted out the fact that the teacher had no additional pizza order forms and the onus was on me to go online and print another AND that the preschool children had been given charge of a fava bean and a small white bean (the "pet" and its friend) and were to take it around with them for the entire long weekend. Then they were to "draw a picture or dictate a story" about said bean and its adventures (presumably with the "friend" bean).

Outwardly, I smiled. Inwardly, I had already tried to estimate the number of times one or both beans would become lost (approximately 18), whether Anna would insist she, too, get a pet bean (yes, and thank God I had a bag of dried beans in the cabinet that I had meant to cook up when I purchased it approximately 17 years ago) and whether there would be drama over Lily trying to grab the baggie containing the beans (yes, yes, a thousand times yes).

We arrived home. In between attempting to cook, sort out toys and games and chores, and generally keeping the house standing, I photographed the "pet bean" (known now as Ellie, the "friend" being Kacey) "meeting" Mary's miniature Lalaloopsy collection. I documented Mary attempting to feed Ellie a large carrot. I took the container that had held fresh cilantro, cut the top off and trimmed up some cloth from the rag bag to make the beans a bed (also photographed). I attempted some chores.

"Mommy, I can't find Kacey! Kacey is goooooooone!"

Head, meet wall.

"Did you throw it away?"

"NO! It's MY PET!"

"Did Lily eat it?"

"...no..."

"Then it's somewhere around here. Find it."

Miraculously, she did. Again and again for the rest of the night. She slept holding the little plastic bag.

The next day went well with one notable exception: When Tim dropped Mary off at ballet, the bean was at home. Evidently, she refused to dance without it and pouted. She's lucky her father dropped her off and picked her up, and that's all I'm going to say about it.

Oh, and when she got to her grandmother's house, she reminded my mother in law approximately 205 times not to cook her bean.

...that one may be my fault. I may be too sarcastic for preschool pet bean homework.

If the teacher doesn't collect them back on Wednesday, I anticipate at least a month of fava bean excitement.

I'd better pour myself a nice chianti now.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Keep it clean

My kids love bath time, especially Mary and Anna. They like that I put a little of the baby's bedtime bath soap into the running water so their tub smells like lavender. They like pouring water out of the rinse cups, playing with bath toys, making hats out of the washcloths and "swimming like mermaids" because their hair fans out in the water.

As a parent, I do not herald bathtime with the same glee my children exhibit. For me (or Tim) it's another task to tack onto bedtime every other night, something that takes up time and keeps Lily awake as the voices of exuberant preschoolers echos off the tiles in the room that is directly across from the nursery. But for them, I try. Or, I try to pawn bathtime off onto Tim as often as possible.

"I'm with them all day," I rationalize to the man who has just walked in from twelve hours out of the house, when you factor in train time. Yes, he works and works hard, but I've just put in a full tour of duty at Camp Crazy and am ready for my day pass. "They want to spend time with you."

And he sighs and at least pretends to buy my stupid excuse and relieves me of bathtime duty. Usually he tries to save time and give them a shower instead. They protest the lack of bath but then they get over it.

Earlier this week I decided to put on my big girl pants and tackle bath time. Tim had had an especially long day and I had just bathed Lily in the sink and was therefore already drenched. I ran a bath and helped two excited little girls hop in.

I washed hair. Mary reminded me no less than 17 times to use conditioner. Anna flipped out because she's convinced the tear free shampoo still hurts, somehow. They splashed. I got a washcloth ready and scrubbed Mary down, then handed it over to her so she could "do it myself." Anna was pretending to be a frog in the tub next to her sister.

"Okay Anna, your turn," I said. "Do you want to do it yourself first, or let Mommy go first?"

"I peed," she said simply.

"You what? You peed? In the tub? Just now??"

"Yes," she said, as though I had asked her if it was dark out. "I peed. I peed IN THE TUB."

At this point I am frantically draining the tub, standing girls up and rinsing them with water from the faucet. Anna got the fastest scrub down in history.

"Where's my bath going?" she said as the water drained.

"You can't have a bath when you pee in the water!" I snapped. "You know better, Anna, that's gross. WE! PEE! IN! THE! POTTY!"

And from the dining room, my husband chimed in.

"Don't yell at her," he said.

"SHE PEED IN THE TUB!"

"Yeah...you should probably yell at me," he said. I paused.

"...why...?"

A pause.

"I...may have told her she could pee in the shower," he said meekly.

"THAT'S GROSS!" I said, mentally recalculating how much more often I needed to start cleaning the shower.

"It's not that bad," he said.

"THAT IS SO BAD," I said. "WE NEVER PEE IN THE TUB," I added for the girls' benefit, casting an extra long glare at my husband's back.

Tonight was bath, or rather, shower, night again. I made doubly sure they had used the potty before things got going.

"Hey, it's raining," Anna announced, looking up, clearly missing the concept of indoor plumbing.

I suppose as long as she doesn't think it's an outhouse, we're all good.

Monday, October 22, 2012

This is Halloween

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the leaves, the way the light looks golden, the crisp mornings. I have fond memories of being a little kid and tromping around the neighborhood with Mom or Dad on Halloween night, in a costume Mom usually made (except the year I begged to be B-list cartoon star Lady Lovelylocks and they caved, shelling out probably far too much for a plastic tie-over-your-clothes bib dress and garish mask that somehow didn't scare the crap out of my little brother), getting far too much candy and talking to the neighbors.

Needless to say, having little kids has brought out the Halloween excitement in me. I have three girls who can all walk, and my mind was running rampant with various "theme" costume ideas. Two years ago Mary and Anna were Glinda and Dorothy and they were so cute. This year my ideas ranged from the funny (rock, paper, scissors) to the uber-nerdy (five of us, five original alien races from Stargate!) to the adorable (Busytown Mysteries featuring Lily as Lowly!).  Then I remembered I had this cute plush chicken costume that Mary wore when she was Lily's age, and started planning a farm theme. I had visions of Mary as a cute little farm girl riding her bike "tractor" around the block, Anna as a cute pink pig or a pony.

I approached the kids.

"So Halloween is coming," I started.

"I'm going to be a PINK FAIRY!" Mary yelled excitedly.

"I wanna be a blue puppy with floppy ears," Anna said. Lily started, mute.

"Really?" I said. "What about-"

"And my fairy will have GLITTERY WINGS, and SHOES, and-"

"My puppy will be soft," Anna smiled.

I gave up. I enlisted some costuming help from my mother in law and consoled myself with the idea that there's always next year, since Lily probably won't be awake for trick or treating anyway this time around.

Weeks passed and the girls started reading Trick or Treat and Halloween themed books in their respective schools. Mary reminded me of the importance of bringing a flashlight and only visiting houses we knew. Anna reminded me about candy. A lot.

Tim and I were sitting on the couch, fall scented candles burning, when I realized that only one of us could take the girls. Someone had to be home to pass out candy. And I knew which job both of us wanted.

"Girls," I said, "who is going to go with you trick or treating?"

"Mary," said Anna.

"Anna and Lily," said Mary.

"No, I mean, Mommy or Daddy?"

"Daddy!" said Mary.

"Mommy," said Anna. Across the couch I saw Tim's gaze drop in disappointment. I knew he'd give in. I also knew his childhood featured fond memories of the neighborhood fathers bringing scads of kids up and down the street (and can neither confirm nor deny that beer may have been involved on the parental side).

"Which do you want?" he asked me.

"You take them," I said. "I'll hand out the candy." He brightened.

"Okay, Daddy," Anna said.

"Yay!" Mary exclaimed. Then she sobered up.

"Daddy," she said very seriously, "I know it's your first day. But don't worry. I'll help you know what to do."

I certainly hope he's up to it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

And your little dog, too

We were driving out of the neighborhood to take Mary to preschool when Anna piped up in the backseat.

"Can we see the witch?"

"What witch?" I asked. It was October but to my knowledge none of the neighbors had done much in the way of Halloween decorations yet, save a large inflatable pumpkin structure and a couple of signs. (I need one that says "Trick or Treaters welcome, stay the hell away, politicians and Jehovah's Witnesses.")

"The witch," she said simply, and I assumed I had just missed it.

"Honey, I have no idea what you're talking about," I said.

"It's a scary witch," she elaborated.

"Mary, do you know what she's talking about?"

"She saw a witch at someone's house," she said, which didn't really help.

"I want to see the witch," Anna insisted as we neared the preschool.

"Anna, I have no idea where it is," I said. "When we drive back home, point it out to me so I know what you're talking about."

"Okay," she said.

That agreement lasted through Mary's drop off and until we were in the car, now heading merrily towards Dunkin Donuts for a coffee (me) and munchkin (Anna).

"Where's the witch, Mommy? I want to see the witch!"

"ANNA. I HAVE NO IDEA. WHERE. THE WITCH IS," I said.

"Drive by it and I'll show you," she offered.

"Is it near our house?" I tried in vain.

"I don't know," she said. "It's just a witch, that's all."

I scanned the street. I saw nothing that remotely resembled a witch. She had just spent the day with my mother in law that prior weekend, maybe she knew. I called her. No answer.

"Mommy, I want to see the witch!"

We obtained coffee and drove away, Anna still asking about "the witch." I called my husband.

"Hon," I said. "Anna is going on and on about a witch. Do you have any idea what she's talking about?"

"Yeah," he said, and I nearly drove off the road in surprise.

"Thank God," I said. "Where the hell and what the hell is she talking about?"

"It's a scary, scary, scary witch!" said Guess Who.

"It's on the way home from the train station," Tim said. "We saw it after you dropped the girls off to me yesterday and I drove them home." (For explanation, we've been doing the "passing in the night" routine as I have been doing run crew for a production that just went up this weekend. I'd drop the girls off to Tim as he got off the train and take his car to make call.)

"Great," I said. "Where?"

"Um..." he said. "Maybe near the high school? Or near-" and here he named a landmark that is a good five miles away from the high school.

"That doesn't help," I said. I had been so close.

"Mommy, what about the witch?" Anna insisted.

"The witch is asleep!" I said.

"Nice cover," Tim put in.

"Well, you're no help," I said.

"Asleep?"

"Yep," I said. "She's asleep right now. Daddy will take you by her on the way home from the train tonight!"

"Why do you hate me?" Tim asked, probably wishing he'd never answered his phone to begin with.

"Don't worry," I said, "It's somewhere between High School, Random Landmark and home. You'll be fine."

We got through the day with Anna only asking about the witch every time we drove in the car, or saw the car from the front window, or saw another car pass by. Finally it was five o'clock and time to get Tim off the train, and we headed out the door, drove down the road, and eventually passed Random Landmark, next to which was a home, a home we had passed earlier but at which someone had evidently come home since, as a hideous, large, inflatable lawn structure now hovered by the street.

"Anna, quick, look out your window!" I said. "IS THAT THE WITCH?"

"YES!" she said. "It's scary!"

"But that's the witch? You've seen it?"

"Yes, that's the witch! She's awake!"

"Um...yes," I said, continuing on to make the train.

"Can we drive by it again?"

"Later."

Not five minutes went by.

"Mommy? I want to see that scary, scary witch again. Can we drive by it?"

That was last Wednesday. I have heard about this witch every time we get into the car, or someone else gets into the car, or an errand is mentioned. Sometimes we drive by the house and it's not inflated, which prompts requests to go back later and "check."

I don't know what I'm going to say when Halloween is over. Let's hope for a garish, inflatable Santa to keep peace on earth this holiday season.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cinco

"Anna, it's my birthday!"

That was how I woke up yesterday. Mary was five years old and thrilled about it. In a rare moment of good parenting, I got out of bed, sang her "Happy Birthday" and offered to make her scrambled eggs for breakfast.

"Can I help stir them? Since it's my birthday?" she asked.

"Sure," I said.

"It's my BIRTHDAY!"

"We need party hats," Anna said, reaching into the cabinet and producing a colander and large sauce pan.

"You do not need hats," I said, attempting to take back the sauce pan and colander. She managed to slip away with the other colander while I wasn't looking.

This year, Mary requested she be allowed to have her ears pierced in lieu of a big party, since I told her ear piercing was expensive. Before I had kids I had big stances on cosmetic procedures for kids, now that I'm in the thick of it I find I really don't care anymore. She's old enough to not yank them out and old enough to let me take care of them so we're going with it, assuming I can find an actual piercing place to do her ears. (My issues with malls and guns have not lightened up.)

"Can we get donuts on the way to drop Anna off? Can I get a pink one? Since it's my birthday?"

Are you sensing the refrain of the day? Mary was delighted it was her birthday, looking forward to her family party on Sunday, and was thrilled to find out the dress up dresses she had worn exactly one day before still fit "even though I'm five now."

J came by to drop off Baby G around 11.

"Do you have a present for me, Auntie?" Mary asked.

Along with not magically outgrowing dress ups, new five year olds do not magically download etiquette tutorials, it would appear.

"Mary, we don't ask that," I said.

"Sorry, Auntie," she answered. "I'M FIVE TODAY."

Really? I'd forgotten.

The day continued with calls from her daddy (who left before she woke up), grandparents, Uncle Brian. She got Facebook messages. (No, my daughter does NOT have her own Facebook page.) She was queen for the day and she knew it.

As the day stretched into afternoon, I asked Mary what she'd like for her birthday dinner.

"Mac and Cheese!" she said. "The orange kind!"

"The orange kind," in case you are wondering, refers to the Kraft blue box spectacular, as opposed to my homemade variety with freshly grated cheese and a homemade butter crumb topping. The one that my husband adored and my kids poked at as the adults attempted to not eat the whole pan.

"Really?" Tim asked when he called. "She doesn't want, say, pizza...?"

"No," I said firmly, "she wants mac and cheese."

Resigned, he ended the call.

"Mommy, when is it going to be Sunday? That's when I get presents, right?" At this point I was halfway kicking myself for raising what appeared to be a rather entitled little girl and halfway kicking myself for not having anything for her to open on her actual birthday.

"Right," I said. "Friday, we're going to try and get you earrings. Sunday is your cake. And Monday, you are going to lunch with Daddy. You get a birthday week, kind of!"

"Is it Sunday yet?"

Other facts about new five year olds: Cake > all.

"Soon, Mary. Want to help with dinner?"

"Yes. Oh, and you can just call me Birthday Girl."

You got it, Birthday Girl.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Annaisms

This morning the kids and I were up and rolling bright and early, with plans to jump in the car and meet my parents at a halfway point so Mary and Anna could spend the night with them in Connecticut. Of course, Lily spent most of last night teething and expressing her separation anxieties in decibels loud enough to notify Providence, so I was a little slow moving, but nevertheless tried to sow enthusiasm amongst the troops.

"Mary, go use the bathrooom! Anna, come here, I need to tie your shoe!"

"So we can go to Mime and Boppa's?"

"Yep! We're going to leave in just a few minutes!"

"But I want to live here!"

I paused, mid tie.

"Anna, you do live here. We're not giving you to Mime and Boppa. You're having a sleepover and Mommy and Daddy will see you in the morning."

"Oh," she said, as if I had corrected a great misunderstanding. "Okay then."

Crisis averted, we managed to get baby, preschoolers, overnight bag, purse, assorted bedtime stuffed animals and sippy cups and all manner of of miscellany into the car and were on the road within five minutes of my desired start time. Anna, no longer convinced she was about to be adopted out, was quite chatty.

"Why're we going to Mime and Boppa's?"

"You're going to spend the day and have a sleepover," I reminded her. "Then tomorrow Mommy, Daddy and Lily are going to come to Mime's house. Mommy and Daddy are going with Mime and Boppa someplace and Mime's friend Miss Audry is going to watch you. Do you remember her?"

In the rearview mirror, I saw two little girls shake their heads no.

"Miss Audry is really nice," I said. "And she's going to bring her little girl, too. Well, her big girl. Rachel is eleven."

"Will she play with me?" Mary asked.

"She sure will," I said. "She wanted to come, she likes little girls."

"Is she dis many?" Anna asked, holding up three fingers in my mirror view.

"No, honey, she's not three," I said.

"Is she my age?" Mary asked.

"No," I reminded her. "She's eleven. If you wanted to count that on your fingers, you would need both hands plus an extra finger to get to eleven!"

"And if we wanted to count on our TOES," Mary said giggling madly, "We'd need all our toes and an extra toe!"

"Why?" Anna half muttered, half mumbled from her car seat. "Is she barefoot or somethin?"

I snorted. I assured Anna her soon to be new friend wears shoes.

"She doesn't have shoes," I heard her mumble (or something like that, I was too busy trying not to crack up.)

We continued. Somehow, Mary and I got on the subject of race cars.

"You know what Mary?" I said. "Mime's daddy, my grandpa, who you never got to meet, drove race cars!"

"HE DID?" she asked in awe.

"He did," I confirmed. "And Mime, when she was a little girl, she used to help build them with my grandpa!"

"REALLY?!"

"Really," I said, to Mary's delight.

"Can we do that today?" mumbled Anna.

"Can we do what today, honey? Build a race car?"

"Yeah!"

"Uh...no, baby. You're going to Mime and Boppa's. We're not going to build a race car."

"Pleeeease? Just ONE?"

Well, sure, kid, if it's just one, but you know, stock cars are kind of like potato chips, I don't know if you can build JUST ONE.

We arrived at the meeting point, whereupon Anna announced she had to go to the bathroom, and of course, the restaurant wasn't open yet. Mom assured me she had it under control and there was a place up the road that they could visit.

I wonder what Anna had to say about that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Zip

My morning schedule looks like this:

6:45: Alarm goes off. Note that I did not say "I wake up." If I am actually still horizontal when my phone starts chirping, it means someone did not get me up at dark thirty, and it's a miracle.

6:50: Have gotten myself reasonably presentable in that I am wearing jeans and a T-shirt. No hair or makeup, and my glasses are on, but I can answer the door. Change baby, start breakfast. This means on days when I have not gone grocery shopping and the fridge is down to condiments I will be met with requests for Greek yogurt, and on days when we are really running behind I will be asked to cook oatmeal or eggs or somesuch. It will also mean the baby will want to try and feed herself.

By 7: Kids are eating, kitchen is tidied up, I've probably swept once already since my floor starts churning out crumbs the minute the kids' feet hit it, I am picking out clothes for the day. Start packing Mary's lunch on days she has school.

7:15: Baby G arrives. Chat with Baby G's mom for a few minutes, say goodbye.

By 7:30: Baby G is eating her bottle, Lily is ready to throw down because someone else is getting attention from me, the kids are requesting shows, or that I tie their shoes, or asking to play dress up. I remind them they have lost TV for abhorrent behavior the day before, that you can't put shoes on until the rest of you is dressed for the day and that no, you can't play dress up now, we have to be out of this house by 8:15.

Realize bottle is either faulty or not put together properly because formula has leaked all over my only pair of clean pants.

Get kids dressed. Last night I was lazy and instead of planning a cute, put together outfit for Mary, I chose an old hot pink Hello Kitty T-shirt that she loves and some basic jeans. Dress Anna. Wait until last minute to dress Lily because she likes to remove her socks. Do hair. Listen to Anna freak out. Offer to cut her hair if she doesn't stop flipping out. She flips out over the idea. Instead of doing Mary's hair in some elaborate style, today I throw it back in a half pony and plan to give her a clip at the last minute to keep her whispies out of her face.

Put Baby G in high chair with some toys, park her where I can keep an eye on things, run to get myself dressed in something non-scrubby that can pass muster at pre-school drop off and carry me through a morning of errands. Remember all pants are in hamper except for stylishly "distressed" "boyfriend jeans" which, after two years, are now far too ripped to really be fashionable, but it's that or a pencil skirt. Go for the grunge look in absence of stockings and insanity.  Put in contacts, since my glasses don't stand a chance against two babies. It is 8 a.m.

Sit on toilet seat to braid back my hair, since we are running late and there's no time to straighten it. Remind myself I have a coupon I want to use for some sweaters for Mary. Think about when the coupon is valid. Wonder why "September 26" is sticking in my brain.

Realize with 10 minutes to get out the door and one baby who still needs to be dressed that it is school picture day.

Rush to find form. Rush to find checkbook. Glance over and realize Mary looks like a hobo with most of her hair out of her half ponytail and in her face. Realize screen printing on shirt (how I loathe screen printing) is cracked. Have an internal freakout. 8:05.

Rush to Mary's room. No time to find skirt and cute matching knee socks, the jeans she has on will have to do. Thank God they are at least the new jeans without any weird fading or holes yet. Grab a cute shirt and sweater. Throw them on Mary, which messes her hair up even more. Calculate we can leave at 8:20 and still make it on time.

Run Mary to the bathroom. Baby G is looking at me like I've lost my mind as I babble incoherently, trying to entertain, watch, and do hair. Plug in my hair straightener.

"Hi, Hair Straightener!" Mary crows. Back when she had to be in a wedding for some friends, I had had to blow dry and straighten her hair. I knew she'd hate the noise of the dryer because she always had, so I had put on a funny voice and made it "talk" to her. Now we can't do anything without Mary wanting to have a conversation with various personal grooming products. Ask me about Hairbrush's personality sometime.

"No time for that, Mar," I say, wetting the top of her head. I decide to do a quick French braid up top and then straighten the rest just a little, on low heat, to take the frizzies out.

When we are done, Mary looks like one of those Fundamentalist kids on TLC. I cringe and take out the lopsided, too poofy, still whispy, braid. I attempt a side braid. It sticks out at a strange angle like a bizarre appendage. Remove that. Finally pull the hair that's always in her face to the side, secure with a small elastic, spray the hell out of it with hairspray ("Hi, Hairspray!"), put protective spray on the ends, straighten them, and send her out warning her not to touch her hair at all, ever, ever.

8:13. I slap on some makeup of my own to try and look less like death warmed over, fill out the picture form, throw the baby's clothes on amid protest, get Baby G into her seat, carry her and Lily out at the same time, asking Mary to shut the door behind me. The second it latches and we are at the car I realize her backpack is still on the piano. Curse. Buckle everyone in, dash in for the backpack, am back in 10 seconds flat. Achieve the whole thing with minimal screaming and crying (on my part).

We get to the school at 8:29. The teacher looks down at Anna, Mary, and sees Lily in my arms, Baby G in the carrier car seat in my left hand.

"Who's this?" she asks. She hadn't seen us last Wednesday, when Baby G came with us at dropoff.

"Baby G," I say. "I watch her a few days a week for my friend."

The teacher looks from kid to kid and shakes her head.

"You're amazing," she said, as I fix a clip that matches the sweater applique exactly into Mary's hair and send her on her way.

Ha.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Swamp rock

Tonight I tried a Zumba class for the first time. I am supremely uncoordinated, to the point where, as a child, I was asked to leave a ballet class where I was the oldest because I just wasn't getting it. The fact that I survived tap dancing in 42nd Street is nothing less than a miracle. Still, someone I know runs the class and I figured it would be as good, if not better, cardio than doing my Couch to 5k program in my neighborhood at dusk, where motorists view a runner as some kind of moving target. Most drivers in most cities would slow down for someone jogging where there are no sidewalks. In my little piece of paradise, they speed up.

I arrived, workout clothes on, hair braided back, proper footwear. I figured, an hour of dancing. I can do that.

Fifteen minutes in I was sweating. Twenty minutes in and my face matched the magenta shirt of the girl next to me. By the half hour mark I stank. I gulped water in between songs. I got most of the steps, gave up on 90 percent of the arm movements, and desperately moved back and forth to Rhianna, Gloria, and a whole bunch of other people who sing really, really fast songs.

I survived. My legs feel like jelly. But it was a nice end to a long day, one where my daughters alternately made me crack up and want to move to Istanbul. At one point one of them told me she hated me because I wouldn't let her watch Pingu on Netflix. (Guess who lost television privileges for tomorrow as well?) At another, I had both of them on my lap, asking for cuddles, while Lily toddled all over the living room and the newly teething Baby G kept surreptitiously trying to sample my arm.

At 1 p.m. I surveyed the scene. The older two were watching TV (this was before IHateYouGate). Lil was crawling all over and staring at the door. Baby G seemed up for anything and it was a gorgeous day. I snapped off the TV and told everyone to go to the bathroom, put on shoes, we were going to the playground.

Much rejoicing was heard as we drove away from the house. I walked with the babies while Mary and Anna played. I noticed a couple of free baby swings and loaded Lil and Baby G into one each. They giggled and chortled as I pushed them.

"I want to swing, too!" Anna called over to me. There was one swing left, but there was a kid between Anna and the babies. I loaded her up and started jogging between swings, pushing Lily who screamed for more, gently nudging Baby G who liked her thrills on the tamer side, and convincing Anna that she did not, in fact, need to be death defyingly high to have a good time.

"Me too!"

"Mary, you're too big for a baby swing."

"Well what about those swings?" She pointed to the regular swings, about 15 feet to the right of the baby swings. I sighed and helped her on. I gave her a push.

"Mommy, I not high enough! I goin' slow!" I ran back to Anna, pushing Lil and nudging Baby G on the way.

"Higher, Mommy!" Back to Mary.

"Mama!"

At this point I was debating even going to Zumba later that evening, since I was clearly getting my cardio in and amusing the heck out of the other playground goers as I ran back and forth like a demented hamster.

Then Baby G had had enough. She started fussing. I held her. No good. I put her in the stroller and pulled the sun shade down. Absolutely not. Finally, I had no choice.

"We have to go," I said, over mild protests. I performed car and booster seat maneuvers and set off down the road.

"Mommy, are we babysitting?" Mary asked me.

"We are."

"Mommy?"

"Yes?"

"Sometimes..." she sighed. "I feel like I am inside an alligator."

Me too, kid. Me too.

Friday, September 21, 2012

School days

Today seems relatively boring by my normal standards - I only have two kids running laps around the house and they're both mine, so I should be motivated to get some badly needed errands done, or at least get off the computer and do something meaningful with said progeny.

Instead I'm parked right here, chatting on Facebook and putting together my dream cool weather wardrobe.

Hint: Yes, it is possible to be a stay at home mom and have a "lazy day" from time to time, today being the perfect example. No, it is not possible to be a stay at home mom and buy whatever your heart desires from the J. Crew and Banana Republic web sites. But in my dreams, I have a closet full of shrunken blazers and silk tops, to be worn with the perfect fitting trouser, boyfriend and skinny jeans and accessorized with lovely costume jewelry. Of course, these dreams also include children who would never dream of running up to me and hugging me before announcing "I have jelly all over my hands!", or removing their diaper necessitating an on-my-hands-and-knees cleaning extravaganza, or coming up and biting my leg for the hell of it. I also have closet space in this dream. And the inclination to do things like deep clean the baseboards. And bake homemade treats. And, and, and...

Right, so the lazy day we're having. Anna is a totally different child when she's not bouncing off the walls with Mary. And she's a combination of devious, outgoing and outright hilarious. To wit:

"Mommy. can I have some animal crackers?"

"Yes, in a minute, once Lily is asleep."

"She's asleep!" Lily, who was sitting my arms and violently protesting the idea of going to her crib, seemed evidence to the contrary. I told my middle child as much and she slinked back to the play room, a sly smile on her face.

I rocked Lily and heard Anna's very noisy zoo toy go off, at top volume, jazzy Alphabet Song tune ringing out through all corners of our house. (In my dreams, there is a greater distance between playroom and bedroom. And closets. Did I mention the closets?)

"Anna, turn that off!"

"THE ELEPHANT SAYS-"

"Anna! Turn! that! off!"

"CAN YOU FIND THE MONKEY! OOH OOH! OOH OOH!"

"ANNA TURN THAT OFF!" (Apologies to my voice teacher, who told me I needed to stop yelling to maintain optimal vocal quality.)

"I AM!"

Silence. I started rocking Lily. I laid her in her crib.

"MOMMY I JUST GOING TO THE BATHROOM OKAY?"

Lily finally conceded the battle and went down for a nap. About time, too, considering between a cough and teething she had slept for maybe five non-consecutive hours the night before. (ASK ME HOW I SLEPT.) I got Anna some animal crackers and apple juice.

"THE ELEPHANT SAYS!"

"Anna. Turn it off!"

"I did!"

The fake wolf howls erupting from the armchair told a different story and I switched it off.

"Oh."

Oh, indeed.

Now, the snack rules in our house are clear. You get one snack at snack time. It might be a pretty big snack if you didn't eat a great breakfast, but you get one portion of animal crackers, one glass of juice, etc. There are always exceptions, but that's the party line and we hold to it. Sounds harsh, but otherwise, they don't eat lunch.

I heard the episode of Diego end, and the next thing I knew, Anna was at my elbow with her empty cup and bowl. She had her sly grin again.

"Hi Anna," I said. "Put your bowl in the sink, ok?" The girl who could live on nothing but donuts and apple juice if given the chance paused. She thought it over. She knew her chances of getting more juice were nil.

"Mommy can I have some milk-" and here she attempted to act casual - "with my more animal crackers?"

Three year olds don't do casual well.

"You can have water," I said. "But no more crackers. If you're still hungry you can have carrots."

"WATER!" she shouted, as if trying to wake Lily. But she'd never do that, would she?

Lily eventually woke up of her own accord and I brought a smiling, happier baby into the main part of the house.

"Anna, look, Lily's up!"

"Oh good! Now I can be loud!"

Really?

And it's not even noon. 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Anna goes to school

If my post last night, written after the kids were tucked safely (and quietly!) into bed, was nostalgic and sentimental, this morning was the exact opposite. There was a lunch to pack - tuna or cheese? But no Miracle Whip. There was breakfast for two preschoolers and a baby intent on feeding herself her oatmeal. There was hair to brush, outfits to don, shoes to tie.

I knew my stress had gotten to be too much when I decided to try and get all three girls in one picture out front (yes, I am crazy) and wound up hollering at the baby because she wouldn't keep her cute knit hat on. Yes. You read that right. I yelled (well, not really yelled, but you know what I mean) at a baby. For not keeping a stupid hat on her head. I may also have expressed my frustration at Anna for looking everywhere but the camera and saying "cheese" but somehow managing to not smile whilst doing so. I wound up apologizing to them all as I buckled them into their respective car seats. Anna and Mary said "that's ok." Lily looked on with a blank expression, because, of course, she had no idea why I was apologizing. Which is why it's stupid to be annoyed at her for ripping off her hat in the first place.

I'll admit it, I was nervous. Not for Mary. Mary's a rockstar. I knew she'd be great. (And sure enough, when it came time to say the final goodbye and walk out of the school, she practically shoved me out the door, giving my a glancing hug while eying the giant play house area. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)  No, I was nervous because the parents' informational night the week before had showed me that the vast, vast majority of the parents sending their children to this particular school had Their Stuff Together. Good outfits, expensive (and probably immaculate) cars, perfect hair and makeup (mothers only). Since I seem to exist in a perpetual state of Whirling Dervish, this disparity concerned me. I didn't want Mary to be The Girl With No Playdates because her mother was a little on the nutty side of ADD.

We arrived about five minutes early, along with most of the other parents. However, the school is very strict about its start time and we were not permitted out of the cubby room and into the school until exactly start time.

"Mommy, can we go outside?"

"Not right now Anna."

"But I want to go on the playground. Please? I asked nicely!"

"No, honey, not today."

"Can I stay and play with Mary?"

"No, baby, you don't go to school here," I said.

"Next year!" said a parent, trying to be encouraging. I didn't have the heart to tell her my July baby would not be taking an extra year of preschool and would therefore likely stay right where she is now until kindergarten.

Mary was talking everyone's ear off, getting to know her classmates, and I saw the room mother and her son approaching.

Now, I don't know this woman from a hole in the ground and I'm sure she's very nice. But it was 8 a.m. and she was dressed perfectly. My feeble attempts at fashion at the crack of dawn paled in comparison. Also, I had heard she had volunteered to be Room Mother, which meant she was some combination of highly motivated, organized, and possibly completely crazy. I stood up straight. I willed Mary to be polite.

Her son walked into the cubby room, dressed like all the other little boys in a polo shirt and, I think, shorts. His hair was done in one of those adorable faux hawks that I would so inflict on an imaginary son. Heck, I'd give one to Anna if I thought she'd comply.

Speaking of Anna.

"Hey!" she said, noticing the boy, who had just walked in and noticed an entire room full of people. "I see a shark!!!"

Silence. The boy, possibly taken aback, possibly terrified of a shark, possibly just wanting to spend his time in the fresh air instead of the tiny, overpacked cubby room, backed out as quickly as he'd entered.

In her defense, his hair was kind of fin-like.

I decided to let it go. Kids say silly stuff all the time, right? Right?!

Until that afternoon, I thought maybe we'd have a chance at being the normal family.

"Mary, what did you learn today?"

"That if my cheese falls on the floor, I shouldn't eat it."

Did I mention Room Mom does lunch duty?

It's going to be an interesting year.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Nostalgia

Tomorrow Mary starts her new preschool, having missed the kindergarten cutoff by about a month. This one is an all day program, a couple of days a week, but it's the first time she'll be away from me on a consistent basis for that length of time.

Back in the spring I was pushing for kindergarten. She's emotionally and academically ready for sure. But it didn't happen. A couple of weeks ago I posted on Facebook that while people's walls were filling up with sad posts about sending their children off to school, I was silently grumbling that we had another year to go.

Tonight I'm wistful. She loves her new school and I'm surprised she went to bed as easily as she did this evening. There's a chill in the air, summer is over, and tomorrow, my first baby starts out on her own little journey.

I don't remember my own first day of nursery school, or kindergarten, except that on my first day of my public school career this five year old selected the craziest print dress known to man and wore it with bright red tights. I do remember the day before my brother's first day of school, though back then in our town kindergarten was a half day affair. I was in line at the Ben Franklin with my mom.

"School tomorrow," the cashier said. My mom confirmed she did, in fact, also have the ability to read a calendar.

"But don't worry," the cashier said. "Don't be sad. Pour yourself another cup of coffee and ENJOY IT."

I don't remember what my mom said. Probably that she wouldn't cry. (Which probably would have been a lie. This is the woman who predictably cried when I tried on my wedding dress but also, less traditionally, cried when I opened towels at my shower.) I don't know how she acted once those school bus doors closed on Steve and I that September morning. But I do know that tomorrow, when I leave the cubby room, Mary is going to be a bundle of energy and joy and I'll probably get a little misty. I like to pretend that's not who I am, but you know, sometimes the chink in the armor shows in the light of day.

Five years ago I was counting the days until my due date, then the days I was past due, until at 3:02 in the morning in early October, they handed me Mary. I know the exact time because I had to get a copy of her birth certificate for the school, and it was there, in bold type.

"Is this the long form? Will she be able to run for president?" I asked the City Clerk. I had to ask her something, make a bad joke, I was getting wistful just looking at the stupid thing. 3:02 a.m. in Warwick, this ridiculously wonderful and crazy journey began. It's been a blur ever since. I find myself looking at old pictures, willing myself to remember stories, everything I can from her babyhood. I hate when something slips by. Three kids in four years has been a wonderful blessing, but it's also made for a very rapid passage of time. How did we get here so fast? Wasn't I just putting her into a pink Red Sox bodysuit yesterday, holding her as they won the Series? Weren't we just sitting there, a family of three with a grey cat under a glowing tree, 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, letting a wide awake two month old "open" her presents?

Today I watched her at a birthday party, running an obstacle course, all legs and arms and a loud laugh, blonde hair in a french braid that hung to her waist, asking for another cookie, a juice box, a ride in a red wagon. Yesterday she and her best friend picked apples and danced in a sudden rainstorm. How did we arrive at this place already? How will she not always be this innocent, this happy? How did I get so lucky not once, but three times?

Tomorrow she starts school. Not even real school, not even all week, but she has a backpack with her name on it and requests for a lunch. (A juice box, a string cheese and a cheese sandwich, according to my four year old menu planner.) She has a towel for rest time and a cubby with a spot for a special stuffed animal just in case she needs it. Tomorrow will be full of new things and every day things and, yes, probably multiple cups of coffee. And pictures. So many pictures, just in case one day I can't remember it all as well as I'd like to.

Someone compared parenting to a marathon, and we're passing another marker on the trail.

Here we go onward.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The nanny

Long time, no blog, I apologize. I blame being in two shows concurrently (why yes, I am insane) and having taken on the exciting new role as nanny to the adorable six month old who lives next door. (Perhaps I should have saved the "insane" disclaimer until after that last statement.)

Honestly, it's great. Once you've broken the golden rule "never let 'em outnumber you," additional kids seem to just kind of fall into the mix. It's just been this week so far, but I'm optimistic. My kids love her. Well, the older two do. Lily seems unsure of just who this person is who gets bottles when she doesn't, and who gets to sit in her high chair, but she's coping. Yesterday, when I was giving Baby G her afternoon bottle, Lily crawled over, pulled herself up on the couch and screeched "MAMA!" joyfully. Baby G, being an only child and therefore unaccustomed to the default level of LOUD that this house operates at on a daily basis, freaked out momentarily but then went back to eating. Indoctrination: complete.

So today I got brave. There was a "creative movement" class at the library for three and four year olds, and it was raining hard. So we decided to brave the weather and head out. I loaded four kids into the car. Performed three car seat maneuvers and helped Mary with her booster. Made sure Baby G could see her car seat toys, handed Lily an animal cracker, handed Anna something, and fielded six million questions from Mary on the three mile drive to the library.

We arrived, and it was still pouring. I unbuckled Mary's booster, and as I did, the key in my hand went flying. I reached out uselessly as it arched over my hand and landed...somewhere. I looked in the backseat. I couldn't see it. I looked on the floor. Nothing. I got out and crouched over in the rain to see if it was under the seats. It wasn't.

I looked at the rain. I looked at the kids. I had no food for the older girls, only a bottle for Baby G, we were three miles from home and all I had was a debit card. The buses are e-fare or cash only. I got Mary onto the sidewalk and moved her booster. Nothing. I got Anna to stand next to her - nothing under her seat either. I moved the babies around like jigsaw pieces. Nada. The key had, for all intents and purposes, disappeared into the ether. And the rain, which had temporarily abated, started up again.

Defeated, we entered the library, Mary and Anna getting in the way as I juggled Lily on my left hip and Baby G's bucket on my right arm. I fired off a text to my husband in Boston, though he was hours away by train. I sent a text to my friend venting.

"I'll call you back," she said.

So I sat back, hoping that when the class was over some librarian would take pity on me and watch my kids so I could search the car Canadian Border Drug Patrol Style. Lily crawled around, Baby G fussed a bit in her carrier, so I swung her.

"Are they all yours?" a mother asked. I looked at Lily, clearly not much over one, and Baby G, clearly not a newborn, and decided I didn't have it in me to be too snarky.

"The older three are. I watch my neighbor's baby during the week."

"I was wondering how you'd managed to have two babies so soon!"

Occam's Razor, this town does not know it.

My phone buzzed. My friend Paula.

"Is it on a keychain?"

I realized that my friend was taking a massive one for the team and searching my car and I almost wept in gratitude. A few minutes later, another text: The key had been found wedged between the seats between the two car seats. How it managed to obtain enough force to do that, I have no idea.

"You need a key chain, Miss Kimberly," Paula laughed at me. She's entitled.

Back in the class, Mary was enthusiastically participating. Anna was somewhat participating, but giving everyone a good suspicious look for good measure. The babies were having a bottle (Baby G) and trying to get in everyone's way (Lily).

"How old are they?" another mother asked.

"A year and six months," I said. Her eyes went a little wide. "They're not both mine."

"Oh!" she laughed.

"Yeah, I've got this gestation thing streamlined to five months," I said. She got the joke. Thank God.

Class ended, we loaded back into the car, came home, did lunch and now everyone is, for the moment, peaceful and quiet. Outside it looks like nine o'clock. It's starting to feel a bit like it to me, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Herd immunity.

Last year, before I started this blog, I was kind of concerned about Miss Anna, because while we knew she could talk, and she did talk around the house, she almost never talked to anyone who wasn't a close family member. Everyone, including her pediatrician, told me to give it time, and sure enough, within the year she had started preschool, come out of her shell by a mile, and was much more social.

Today was Anna's three year checkup and Lily's one year checkup, so the whole bunch of us, minus Tim, went to the pediatrician's.

"Hello Mrs. Cirque," the receptionist greeted me. I don't have an uncommon last name, but with three kids under the age of five, even just well visits make us frequent fliers at the doctor's office, and they recognize me by sight and, when I call in, by name.

"The circus is in town!" I announced, walking up to the window and forking over far too much in co pays and receiving forms informing me, that once again, our insurance was being wonky and insisting Lily wasn't covered by our plan. And then we waited.

"Mommy is this doctor for kids?" Mary demanded as I tried unsuccessfully to keep Lily from attempting to crawl into the bathroom, the office, the hall to the exam rooms.

"Yes it is," I said.

"THEN HOW COME THAT GUY-" she pointed obviously, "IS HERE WITH NO KIDS, AND WHY IS THAT BIG PERSON HERE?!"

The father who was waiting for his teenager tried not to smile. The late high school boy sitting nearby looked ready to sink into the floor. I tried to explain how you could see the "kid" doctor until you were out of college if you wanted, gave up, and was grateful when we were called into our exam room.

The girls were weighed and measured. Lily babbled and cooed at the nurse. Anna eyed her suspiciously but acquiesced to stepping on the scale and being measured. And then we waited for the doctor.

"Let's see how Anna's doing," he said in a friendly voice. Anna looked at him with trepidation but to her credit didn't hide in my shoulder.

"Does she sleep well?"

"Yes," I said.

"Does she know her ABCs and count?"

"Yes," I said. "Anna, want to count my fingers?"

"One, two, fee, four, five!"

"Very good," the doctor said. "Does she-"

"I WANNA COUNT YOUR OTHER HAND! One, two, fee, four, five, SIX!"

"Er...I think you counted Mommy's thumb twice," I said, as it was now the doctor, and not Anna, giving odd looks. She managed to not make me the Six Fingered Man this time around and all was well.

"Does she eat well?"

"Anna, do you like to eat?"

"Can I have a juice box? I want a juice box," she muttered to me.

"She eats well," I confirmed.

"CAN I HAVE A JUICE BOX?"

"Later," I whispered. "Later."

"Great," The doctor said. "Does she-"

"I want a juice box with lunch like we had yesterday. We have juice boxes at home but not in the car," she said to the doctor.

"Oh," he said.

"So I want a juice box. I want a juice box. Mommy, can we have a juice box? Can we have one now? Later? I want one now..."

Somehow, we got off the juice box tangent and made it through the exams. And then it was time for vaccinations. Being a good mother, I had anticipated Anna needing some sort of booster and had bribed her with a McDonald's hamburger (don't judge!) if she didn't freak out too much.

"Do you want to do flu vaccines for everyone today?"

"Please," I said, as we are looking at a long year of a new preschool for Mary. He moved towards Mary first, explaining the FluMist was just drops in your nose, it just tickles, one, two, three, all set!

"AAAAAHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAA IT HURRRRRRRRTS!" Mary started screaming. I tried to talk her down. Nothing doing. I tried consoling her. Nope.

Lily got two shots, plus her flu vaccine, and cried. I hugged her. She tried to eat my hair and stopped almost immediately. Mary screamed on.

Anna got her FluMist and started to whimper, but didn't cry. She got two other needles and cried. I hugged her and petted her hair and said she had done very well and we would absolutely go to lunch. Mary screamed on.

She cried as we left the room. She cried as she received a sticker. She sobbed as I said goodbye to the receptionist and sniffled to the car. I told her only girls who didn't scream got treats for lunch. She screamed on. Anna got a hamburger. Mary hollered. She finally calmed down a half an hour later and had some non-hamburger lunch.

"I didn't like that," she said of the FluMist, after we were back home and I was attempting to talk to her about what had happened.

No kidding, kid.

I guess we know which one got the theater major genes.

I just can't wait for her checkup in October. It's going to be epic.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The blog returns at dark thirty

Lily started crying at 3:30 this morning. I was able to settle her until 4:30, and then again at 5. At some point Tim took her until he had to go to work. That's when we heard Mary.

"Daddy, can I wake up now?"

"No," he muttered blearily.

"Go hug Daddy and get back to bed," I said, desperately clutching my pillow and praying for sleep. She did so. Lily was less compliant. At 5:40, as Tim was pulling out of the driveway, Lily started crawling all over me (she has her own crib but by this point I was hoping she'd just sleep next to me) and babbling and touching my face, and I admitted defeat.

My eyes were slits as I laid her on the couch and changed her diaper. Lily babbled happily and cheerfully, as bright eyed as she would be at noon.

"You'll probably be ready for a nap at 7:30 right when your sisters get up," I thought as I cleaned her up. "I'll give them breakfast, settle them in front of a show, maybe I can grab a few minutes on the couch-"

"MOMMY IS IT MORNING YET?"

Or Mary can wake up right. now.

"Anna, Anna, it's morning!"

"Mary, just come out and let your sister sleep," I said quietly, desperately.

"No, I wanna come!" Anna said, hauling herself out of bed. "I didn't poop!"

Kudos, kid.

Mary came barreling out to the sofa. Anna joined her. It was 5:55.

"Hey, you're right, it's the middle of the night!" Anna chirped from her perch, looking out the window. You could still hear crickets. I gulped from my coffee cup.

By 6:00 they had dragged out noisy toys. By 6:05 they were fighting over them, Anna overtiredly sobbing because Lily had the audacity to play with one of her own toys. Mary started whining.

"YOU CAN ALL GO BACK TO BED IF YOU'RE GOING TO FIGHT LIKE PSYCHOS!" I snapped from my vantage point at the dining room table, guzzling caffeine like there was a ban going into effect.

By 6:07 Anna was still whining, this time because Mary had turned her back to her and announced "I just want some time alone with Lily, you can't play, Anna!"

"Heck no, Mary," I said. "You all play together or you go back to your room."

Mary started sobbing. Loudly. Dramatically. Shrilly.

My coffee cup was empty. I eyed the Keurig. I eyed my daughter. Anna started to sob. Again.

"Back to bed, Mary," I said. She opened her mouth and began wailing loud enough to wake the neighbors, of whom I was supremely jealous at the moment. I carried her down to her room. Anna, free of torment, settled down on the couch. Mary hollered from her room for a few moments but quieted down.

It's 6:13. Mary may be asleep, but I don't think so. Lily and Anna are copacetic for who knows how long. I am presently unable to make out what I am typing.

"I WANT TO COME OUT I DON'T WANT TO BE IN HERE!" (Mary)

"BWARRGHATTTTAAAA!" (Lily)

"You're right there, you're right there, you're right there, she's right there, she's right there, she's right-" (Anna)

"LOUD TINNY CLASSICAL MUSIC, FOUR MEASURES ON REPEAT WITH FLASHING LIGHTS!!!" (Take Along Tunes toy)

And then Lily scooted over and began poking a clothespin into my side, over and over. It's happening as I type this. 

Bedtime is in 13 hours, 46 minutes.

But who's counting?

Monday, August 6, 2012

I don't know how she does it.

Right now, I am in the midst of finishing rehearsals for a show that includes a children's chorus. The kids range in age from around five years old to a couple of middle schoolers. So, unable to keep my mouth shut for any appreciable length of time, I've chatted with some of the other parents as I wait to be needed for whatever number.

One mom comes with a small child who is probably two and a half, unlike my small children, he is capable of sitting quietly and watching the musical unfold. I think his sister is in the show, and his mom looks to be in my general age range.

"So you have three kids?" she asked me one day recently.

"I do," I confirmed.

"And they're how old?" This is not uncharted territory for me. I look younger than I actually am. When Mary was born, the nurses treated me like I was on the show "16 and Pregnant," addressing questions to my mother or mother in law instead of the woman in bed holding the baby. I think they reviewed diaper changing 101 with me each time Mary required it. So I smiled and rattled off their ages once more.

"Almost five, just turned three, and almost one," I said.

"And you're in this show? How do you do it? I haven't gotten time to myself in years. How do you get away all by yourself?"

The question wasn't rhetorical. She actually wanted to know. The sarcastic answer: "Well, I'm actually in three shows right now and I'll probably be divorced by Thanksgiving" seemed too flip. The obvious answer: "I have a very supportive and loving husband," seemed too simplistic, though it's completely true. I couldn't pursue any of these hobbies like I do without Tim, who works his butt off to allow me to be a stay at home mom and who also supports a lifestyle that pretty much means Mommy exists only in theory during tech weeks.

But the long answer is much more complicated than that. I do it because I need to. I do it because after a long day, I need a break from being Mommy. I need to do something that reminds me of the person I was before deciding to become a parent, that thing that was part of me before kids, before marriage, the thing that helped define me. I'm a different person now, but one day, my kids will be different people, too. They'll be more independent, have different interests, and, as hard as this can be to contemplate on some days, will eventually move out and have their own lives. Maybe it makes me selfish, but I can't define myself only as "Mary, Anna and Lily's mom" because they will never define themselves solely as "Kim's daughters."

When I was at my baby shower for Mary, the guests were asked to write down some parental advice on an index card. Some were silly: Tim's grandmother advised me to "give her whatever she wants." (That's your job, Nana. My job is to raise her to not be a jerk.) Others reminded me of the importance of a healthy church upbringing. (Note to self: You are failing in this department and don't really want to be, so get on that.) But the one that stuck with me was from a woman who, instead of something off my registry, gave me a silky, pretty bathrobe for the hospital and some really nice, scented body lotion.

"Make sure to take time for yourself."

As a fairly self centered person by nature, that didn't strike me as radical advice, but it wasn't until I was knee-deep in Mommyland that I realized just how important it was to follow. For three years I did the Mommy thing all day, worked at night, and came home in time to fall into bed. Then I quit, and got pregnant. When I could finally leave the baby and audition for a musical, I was so ready it was almost painful. Getting back on that stage reconnected me to something I had lost, and even Tim noticed how much happier I seemed.

So when I was at a baby shower this past spring for one of my best friends, and the advice book circulated, I glanced at the other tips. "Relax." "Read to your baby." "Take lots of pictures, it flies by." All excellent advice. And then I added my own.

"Remember at least one thing that you enjoyed before you became a mom. Find a way to make time for it."

It doesn't have to be big, or expensive, or time consuming, or even the same thing every time, but it should be something.

How do I do it? I don't know, exactly. But I do it because I have to.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The line in the coconut

"What's that, Mommy?"

"This is a coconut," I reply, referring to what might as well be a hair-covered ball of solid steel for all the luck I'm having with it. I bought something labeled an "easy open" coconut at the grocery store on a whim and have successfully drained most of the water from its insides.

"Can I eat it?"

"Not yet, Anna, ok? Mommy has to open it first."

"How you gonna do that?"

"I'm not sure yet."

I know the most common way I've seen coconuts open involves a large kitchen knife and a hammer, but the black hole that exists somewhere in this house appears to have eaten the hammer, so I am a bit at a loss. I turn to my friend the Internet. The instructions for said "easy open" coconut tell me to tap lightly around the groove someone has already cut into the thing. As far as I can tell, they have cut nothing and have drawn a line around it with a pencil, for all the good it's worth.

Someone recommends simply hitting the coconut against the ground "once or twice." I immediately dismiss this someone as a potential moron. I could park my car on this thing and be no closer to breaking it open.

Someone suggests just whacking it with a kitchen knife. I attempt to do so and am rewarded with a shrapnel-like bit of husk narrowly missing my eye, but no cracked coconut.

Someone else suggests a mallet and chisel. I know we don't have a chisel.

A third said she got her coconut to crack open by placing it in the sink and beating the crap out of it with a meat tenderizer. That, I know I have, and since I'm the only person who ever uses it, I even know exactly where it is. Coconut goes in sink, and I start whacking it like I'm trying to kill it. The sound reverberates around the sink, but the coconut remains closed.

Mary wanders in.

"Mommy, do you hear banging noises?"

"Yes," I mumble, staring at my hairy nemesis chilling out in the sink.

"What do you think is making it?"

"Mommy, trying to open a coconut."

"A coconut? Let me see! Can I eat it?"

"Not until Mommy gets it open," I mutter, starting in on the thing again. My wrist begins to hurt.

"Hey Mommy," Mary says in a kind of gentle, instructing voice, "I don't think that hammer is working. Let's think of another tool to use. I know, a knife!"

"A knife isn't going to work, Mary," I reply.

"No, it will, and it won't make that banging noise either. Knives are quiet. You're hurting our ears with all that banging."

Another video seems to suggest placing the coconut in the oven for some reason, but I have no speakers on this computer so I have no idea why, or how hot, or how long. Find a site in English, preheat oven to 375. I am instructed to heat it for 10 minutes "or until you see a crack appearing." I am assuming they mean something deeper than the Sharpie line someone, somewhere, got a good laugh over drawing before slapping an "easy open" sticker on the stupid thing.

I am starting to hate coconuts, especially since I bothered to look it up and one tiny piece is about four Weight Watchers points. Not that I'm doing Weight Watchers, exactly, but it seems important.

Also, coconut water is gross.

But I am committed.

"We need a knife to do it," Mary reminds me. "But we can't do it, 'cause knives are sharp."

For my kids, I will do this. When I was a kid I was obsessed with coconuts and always wanted to buy them at the supermarket. I don't think we ever did. I think I know why.

"Mommy, can I watch you open the coconut?"

"Sure, Mary. I have to stick it in the oven first."

"Now that's a good one!" Mary said, as if I were doing a standup routine. "Is that HOW you open a coconut? Cause I don't know. What's in it?"

"Coconut meat," I say. "Boppa (my father) eats it. What did you think was in it?"

"Milk," she replies.

Smart kid. Anna has completely given up on us at this point.

We wait for the oven to preheat and wait the requisite 10 minutes. There is no crack. I resume my meat cleaver activities. Just as I'm starting to think I may never have feeling in my wrist again, it splits in half cleanly.

"AHA!" I say, excitedly.

"It's empty in there," Mary said critically. I started prying the coconut meat away from the shell, and I will say, the oven makes it come away cleanly.

"I TOLD YOU you needed a knife," she said, triumphantly. I offered some coconut to Mary. She shook her head.

"I want some!" Anna cried. I handed her a piece. She licked it and put it on the counter.

"Maybe I save it for lunch," she muttered, and walked away, abandoning it forever.

From here on in, we're sticking with bananas.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

9 lives

We do not have outdoor cats. Believe me, I would love to get rid of litter boxes and all the joy they entail, but our house is situated near both a busy road and a couple of homes with absolute psychos inside, so it's a no go. Mary is still upset over the family cat who ran out and got hit by a car and that was almost two years ago.

So while the cats alternately bring me happiness and drive me crazy, I have their best interests in mind and keep their fuzzy butts indoors. The cats, being cats and also some of the dumbest examples of the species I've ever seen, have no such sense of self preservation and attempt to run outside at every opportunity. Figaro, the Fat and Dumb, will go on the front step and immediately turn around and come back in. Pamina, the Tweaky and Stupid, will run out and get stuck in a tree for five days before animal control finally finds her and sends her home, much to my kids' delight and my husband's consternation. (Totally happened last fall.)

Yesterday we were preparing to head out for art camp when I realized there was no furry entourage helpfully "guarding" the front door.

"I letted Pamina out so she could go peed," Anna announced, as if sensing my confusion.

"Anna!" I exclaimed. "You know you can't do that. Pamina can't go outside!"

"She had to go peed," Anna said simply, as if announcing the weather.

"She has a litter box for that!"

I swear to God, the kid shrugged.

"She no like dat," Anna said.

"That doesn't matter, she goes to the bathroom in the litter box, not outside."

"Figaro, he throwed up outside."

Which is true. Since I can trust Figaro will not leave the front walk, once, when he started in on yet another completely gross hairball adventure, I put him on the front lawn to save my couch cushions. He completed his disgusting journey, crouched under a bush and glared at me and then came back in.

"Yes, but Mommy was there and Figaro doesn't run away, honey. If Pamina gets out, she might get into trouble. She could get hurt."

"She could go in the road," Anna confirmed. "She could get hit by a car and go up in the sky to God." As I stated, the pain and trauma from our cat Jack's death in 2010 has been passed on to Anna via Mary.

"She could," I said, trying to convey with my voice how sad that would be. "And then you would be sad."

"Cause she would be with God and we wouldn't see her no more," she said gravely.

"That's right," I said, glad things were sinking in, after a fashion.

"Well," she said, her tone reverting back to completely pragmatic, "If one of our kitties gets hitted by a car, we will still have one kitty at home. His name is Figawwo," she added helpfully.

Life lesson failed.

Some parents save for their kids' college funds. Some days I feel like I'd be better suited getting her a good attorney on retainer.