Monday, January 28, 2013

Chicken little

 It's no secret that I am genetically predisposed to hate grocery shopping. My mom hates grocery shopping. I remember her   various attempts to make grocery shopping more enticing when I was growing up (coupons! But not just coupons, couponing parties with best friends and group trips to Stop and Shop - the BIG Stop and Shop - to shop together and see who could save the most money!) and it never worked. I used to beg to go with her and she'd look at me like I was nuts. I don't know if it's because she couldn't imagine why I would willingly want to go to the grocery store or if it was because once in the grocery store, I would start angling for Kidz Kuisine (which I would then never eat because they tasted like crap), expensive sugary cereal ("If you want a bowl of food dye and sugar I can give you that at home for free!") and books ("But mo-om, this is the Babysitters Club where they intercept a sex trafficking ring!").

Now that I have kids, I realize that it's a little of column A and a little of column B, with an extra dash of "doing anything with even one kid increases the errand completion time exponentially" thrown in for good measure. Then you add in the facts that we're essentially a one-income family with three kids and that even the "cheap" groceries are now blindingly expensive and it's a perfect storm waiting to happen. The kind of scenario when you eye the thermometer (freezing!), look at your kids (bouncing off the walls!), check your bank balance (haha!) and debate whether making mac n' cheese for a second night in a row will put you straight on the Mommy Bus to Hell (probably, especially when you're out of peas to go with). 

Today I had to bite the bullet and just go already. Our larder was making Mother Hubbard look like a hoarder extraordinaire and Shaw's was having a decent sale on chicken and beef. And frozen vegetables. And some random deal where if you get two frozen pizzas you can get two bottles of soda for a penny. (Frozen pizzas are GREAT for nights when I have an early call and Tim is stuck with dinner duty. Soda is great for company. There's my junk food justification of the week. Ta-da.) 

So we dropped Mary off at school and headed to the supermarket. It was a good time to go. I only had two kids with me, the temperature was actually in the double digits, and it's pretty quiet in the aisles before 9 a.m. Which was good because we started out with Lily in the cart and Anna walking alongside, and that lasted until we got to just outside the entrance.

"Mommy, can we use that cart? Please? I LOVE IT."

Parents reading this blog probably know exactly what cart Anna was pointing at and are cringing along with me. For those not in the know, "that cart" is one of the behemoth carts that has a plastic car stuck to the front, with two seats and two steering wheels, complete with beeping horns. It steers like a Mack truck, and that's when the wheels are all in alignment and not completely wonky, which never happens. It shudders and rumbles and takes up the entire aisle. And usually I have to remind Anna that beeping the horn loudly and shouting "OUT OF THE ROAD! BEEP BEEP! CAR!" is not polite. 

The store looked pretty empty, so I signed, tranferred Lily from one cart to the other and let Anna climb in to the car portion, where she immediately dropped her coat on the filthy floor of the vehicle. The static electricity made her hair stand up  completely. Mercifully, the horn appeared to have been broken by one of the local miscreant youth. I performed a 27-point turn to get it out of its spot, and we shook and rattled our way through the produce section. Stock clerks turned and watched us rumble past. Lily shouted. Anna turned the steering wheel. We were off.

We picked up jelly and cilantro and basil. I grumbled to myself that it appeared the cost of jelly that was not 99 percent corn syrup had gone up again. I picked up bags of carrots and potatoes (free with purchase of chicken) and vowed that this time I would actually remember to use the potatoes before they went bad. 

Grabbed the pizzas, checked out the reduced price freezer section (or, as I fondly call it, "the scratch 'n dent") and stuck a bottle of chocolate milk in the cart for a treat for the girls. Noted the bakery scratch 'n dent had already been picked over by the earlybirds and that the grocery SnD contained only cleaning products. Found a mismarked roast for $1.89 a pound, and mentally paired it with some of the potatoes. Picked up some ground beef. Felt like children would no longer starve (I'm weird like that). Cart got stuck approximately 1,001 times. Got a bunch of frozen peas and made our way to the checkout.

Somehow I wound up trapped in front of the cart, reaching over the ridiculous car to load the grocery belt. My purse remained at the back of the basket, just out of reach, taunting me.

"Anna, stop, we are not here for candy. Lily, sit down. Lily, stop trying to touch the raw meat. Hi," I said, finally, to the woman at the register.

"Do you have your Shaw's card?" the cashier chirped, as I attempted to wedge myself between the cart and the candy rack, nearly removing a rib in the process and causing Anna, who was lovingly petting the bags of M&Ms, to retract her hand in a hurry. 

"Maybe," I said, digging through the abyss that is the bottom of my bag. "Maybe. No. Wait, wait, yes. Yes I do," I said triumphantly, producing.

"See?" the cashier said. "I knew you could do it! Never doubt yourself."

"Oh man," I said, bagging my groceries and attempting to pay (protip: accidentally selecting the 'cash back' button not once but three times will delay this process). "I have three kids. Most days I doubt my ability to remember pants."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It starts with a bang

  My day began at approximately 6:30 when I heard Lily hooting like a monkey and blearily crawled out of bed to attend to her every whim. The temperature outside was a balmy nine degrees and I was moving like a sloth after a night punctuated by Lily's outrage at cutting yet another few teeth. 

"NONONONONO," Lily caroled, chasing after the cat.

"I'll be out in a minute," Tim called from the shower.

"No one is calling you," I said. "You're fine. Lily's yelling at the cat."

So Tim was hustling to catch his train and in my mind I was already ticking off the schedule for the morning: Get kids up, start breakfast, greet Baby G, make Mary's lunch, track down socks and shoes for all, find missing mittens, remember to warm up car well in advance. I was picking out clothes in Lily's room when I caught an unmistakable alert: Someone, and I won't say who or get into graphic details, had had far, far too much fruit last night and I was going to pay the price before the sun was even up with a ServPro-level cleanup job.

"Tim," I called, banging on the door. "Now I need you out. Get out of the bathroom!" Clearly I had agreed to live in this house with one cursed bathroom before knowing I'd be stacking children like cord wood within its walls. One. Bathroom. 

"Coming," he said.


I run back to the bedrooms, collect the offending child and walk her to the bathroom. Tim comes out, takes one look and is probably immediately grateful that no, he really can't do this one, he has a train to catch. Mentally, I am also dashing for that train, but physically I am warming water, wetting washcloths, cleaning someone. My God, the mess. The mess defies the laws of physics, chemistry, every science I either didn't take or barely passed in high school. I clean, I strip beds, I almost throw up.

"I have to leave," Tim said, giving me a kiss as I jab buttons on the washer. Sanitary cycle. Sanitary with an extra hot extra rinse. Hell, can I just burn the bedding and start over? "Have a good day."

"Have you been here for the last five minutes?" I mutter, still groggy, still mentally in a warm bed or on a fast train bound for a city far away for the day. "I think the tone has been set." I start washing my hands like Monk might. 

But surprisingly, the day picked up. I don't know if it was because it could only get better from there, or because I was trying my hardest not to let Casa Cirque be forever mired in the morning of Gross, but breakfast went off without a hitch. No one fought or complained about clothes, teeth and hair were brushed with minimal screeching and no one had a messy diaper two minutes before we had to leave for school. (I love baby G to death but I swear, that child can sense something in the air when it's 10 minutes until we have to leave, and, no matter what time it is, create a fantastic mess for me.)

When we got back to the house, Baby G had fallen asleep in her carrier and I settled her in a quiet, dark room. Lily rubbed her eyes, cuddled into me and fell asleep in five minutes. I sat on the couch, checked my e-mail, Zulily and various sales (oh, J Crew, how you taunt me!) and Anna came into the room.

"I need a snack," she said. We negotiated Goldfish and she went off pushing a doll stroller with more "babies" than a Duggar Christmas special jammed inside. 

A few minutes later she was back. I looked at her dark little bob and those huge, blue eyes. She was adorable in her little cotton dress and brown boots.

"Anna Beans," I said fondly.

"I need another snack," she announced, not one for beating around the bush.

"Come here and give me  hug," I said, and she did, climbing onto my lap and resting her head on my shoulder.

"Mommy loves you," I said, breathing in the scent of her shampoo (horrible fake strawberry from Target, but on her, it's sweet).

"Yeah, except guess what?" she asked, pulling back. "I'm still hungry. I need a snack."

I laughed and pulled her in for another hug.

"Forever and ever," I said.

"I love you too, forever," she said. "And I'm still hungry. Can I have a snack now?"

She's two feet away from me, eating an entire apple. And when I say the entire apple, I mean when she's done she'll go to the trash and toss out a few seeds and a stem. 

"I'm gonna go throw this in the trash," she just announced. "Then I gonna want another snack. I'm still hungry."

"No more snacks right now," I said. "Come get a hug."

"Okay. Can I have a drink? How about some juice? Can I have some juice?"

Well, we all show love in different ways, I guess.

It's going to be a nice day after all.

Friday, January 4, 2013

You mean Oreos aren't health food?

  Today was a relatively kid-free day. Mary was at school, Baby G goes to her grandma's house on Fridays, and Tim took a vacation day and wrangled the remaining two monkeys because I had a slew of random appointments that were better attended sans ankle biters.

One of those was a trip to my doctor. I know I've written here and there about my ADHD (as if my writing itself weren't a dead giveaway and speaking of giveaways if anyone knows of anyone looking to get rid of an Ikea Expedit shelving unit, let me know because I want to put one in the family room and...right. Anyway), and right now I am attempting to get the right dosages straightened out to make me a saner, more functional individual. So we meet fairly regularly and discuss how things are going, tweak things, adjust or leave as-is accordingly, etc. Simple, fast, and the most painful part is usually the co-pay my insurance insists upon every. single. visit.

Today, as usual, I met with the medical assistant before seeing the doctor. She asked me how I was doing, asked me if I had any pain (I'm still not sure why they ask me every visit, but that's okay), took my blood pressure, and while that was merrily turning my arm purple, she pressed the button on the electronic scale. It beeped. The numbers on the blood pressure readout spiked just slightly.

"Are you weighing me?" I asked. 

"Yes," she said, disconnecting the cuff. As my arm returned to normal, I leaned over to take off the huge, heavy winter boots and mentally kicked myself for wearing a heavy sweater, jeans, big old belt and probably a cinder block, and stepped on the scale. (While I am comfortable with my body image, I do not enjoy being weighed at doctor's appointments. Towards the end of my pregnancies, I would thank my lucky stars that it was warm weather so I could get away with thin shorts, a tank top and flip flops. Yes, I did look classy, why do you ask?) Despite the heaviest garments in my wardrobe, the scale read five pounds less than my last physical. 

The medical assistant looked at the number, walked back to the computer and input it. 

"Make sure you get the point-two," I said, referring to the decimal place, because surely that was important. (Heavy sarcasm.) At this point, the MA obviously got some kind of new screen, because she began reading off of it.

"Do you feel it is important to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into your daily routine?" she asked, almost by rote. I cracked up.

"Aw, your computer is telling you I'm fat!" I chuckled. She looked up in surprise and gave me a half smile. What? I know I'm not skinny. Whatever. (Insert appropriate body image comments here along with the footnotes that I'm also pretty damn physically strong and have had no complaints in the appearance department from those who are interested in such things.)

She waited for my answer. Apparently she couldn't move on until I provided one.

"Yes," I said. "Yes I do."

"On a scale of one to 10, how committed would you say you are to providing healthy food at home?"

What, seriously?

"Um, eight, I guess? I mean, I cook dinner every night and try to avoid processed foods (except for these dinosaur chicken nuggets BJs sells because they are so. damn. good., but the package says 'all natural' so let's just go with it)..."

"On a scale of one to 10, do you think you will be successful in this goal?"

"Sure, I guess, why not?" 

"I need a number. Seven? Eight? Nine?"

"Sure, any of those. Eight? Surprise me." We have entered the Twilight Zone, people. I am tempted to say my Healthy Food Give a Damn meter is set squarely at zero and I consume only cans of refined lard that I get from behind the TGI Friday's, but something tells me that's not going to go over well.

"And is there anything in your way of acheiving this goal?"

"No?" I mean, I have a three year old who thinks the epitome of fine cuisine is a jelly sandwich, but she'll eat peas and stuff, and my five year old seems to think candy is a food group but I don't give her that much and the baby considers food to be concept art.


"Food is expensive?" I offer, and she types something in. "Hey, I've lost weight since my first appointment," I add, and kick myself for saying so. She can see that. It doesn't matter anyway.

"I need to take your blood pressure again, it seemed a little high," she said. 

"Well that's probably because you told me you were going to weigh me," I offered helpfully. The next readout is a nearly perfect 115/78. 

"That will do it," she said with a smile. "The doctor will be right in."

We chat, we troubleshoot, we come up with a plan that should correct some of the minor issues I've been having with my current dosage. She makes no reference to my weight, gives me a new prescription, tells me to call her if I have questions and sends me on my way.

On a scale of one to 10, how random was the fist portion of my appointment?

I'll give it a six and go grab some chips. But the baked ones. Because I am Committed to Healthy Eating. I'm at least a seven.

And seven eight (ate) nine.

Nine chips.

No one can eat just one. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Today was a stressful day. Not because of any one thing, or any big thing, but rather a bunch of tiny things that wore away at my sanity little by little.

There was paperwork to compile for an appointment tomorrow. There was the knowledge that I had managed to book an 11 a.m. appointment and a noon appointment 15 miles apart, and neither could be moved.

There were school runs to do and gas tanks to fill and budgets to mend in the aftermath of the holidays.

And my girls, in true kid spirit, ignored me much of the day until those crucial moments when I had a phone in my hand, trying to sort out paperwork, switch our homeowner's insurance, make appointments. When Baby G had gone home and Lily was finally napping, I stretched out myself, knowing a nap was out of the question but trying to relax, only to be bombarded with multiple requests to play Memory or to 'snuggle' (which sounds cute but is about as relaxing as cuddling a whirling dervish when Anna isn't really tired). I got texts with things that had to be handled immediately, followed by phone calls, until I gave up on relaxing and started dinner.

But in between, there were some wonderful moments.

I was driving Anna to school and Mary was fiddling with my phone, which she knows she's not supposed to do.

"Mommy, that thing kind of looks like a snail!" she announced. I had no idea what she was talking about so I just went with it.

"Nice," I said. "Mommy likes snails." (I do, and have for years. I have no idea why. I also like llamas and owls, in case you were wondering.)

"ME TOO," she said with joy. "I love them because they're all slimmery."

I couldn't help but grin. It was such a random, made up, perfect word for a snail. I laughed.

"AND SLIMY!" continued the girl who hates to be dirty or sticky or unkempt.

"I like them because they carry their houses on their backs," I said.

"They do," she confirmed. "So if they get scared, they can just pop back in! They don't need to run home, they're already there!"

She sounded so confident in her assessment and proud of herself that it made my morning and I insisted we call grandparents so she could share her knowledge.

This afternoon Anna brought delightful randomness. It started when Mary approached me and asked if it was true that you should never tell secrets.

Now, I'm a child of the 80s. I was raised on Stranger Danger and all the paranoia that goes with it. Yes, I know statistically the odds of a kidnapping and such are low, but that doesn't stop me from worrying. So I started in.

"Well, sometimes," I said. "If it's a fun secret, like a birthday present. (It should be noted my kids are crap at keeping presents secret.) But if it's a secret that could hurt someone, you should always tell Mommy or Daddy so we can help."

Mary nodded solemnly.

"And if there's smoke, get on the floor!" Anna muttered as she walked by.

Thank you, Fireman Sam.

Then I walked down the hall and saw that the dress up tote had exploded all over Lily's bedroom floor. Anna was in a state of disrobe and Mary was walking on discarded dresses.

"No!" I said. "Pick up in here, and Anna, put some clothes on. Put on a dress up or put on your school clothes, but you can't be naked."


"Put some clothes on or you're going to lose a privilege."

She glared at me but pulled on her shirt and leggings.

"Thank you Anna," I said. "Do you want a tutu?"

"No, I want three," she said, tugging on her shirt.

And suddenly, I wasn't annoyed about clothes anymore. I tried to suppress a smile (when Anna is growly she does not like to be laughed at).

"Okay," I said, "but do you want your black tutu skirt?"

"No fanks," she said, and wandered off, bad mood forgotten.

And somehow, dinner got made and appointments were confirmed and bills were paid and documents were collected. They even managed to sneak in a game of Memory with Daddy while I was on the phone handling insurance stuff.

And we have a new word to boot.

Oxford English Dictionary, I'll be consulting you about adding 'slimmery' to next year's edition.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dreaming of a white Christmas

  Yes, I know. I have been a very, very bad blogger. Blame it on ADHD. Blame it on four kids, the holidays, four shows at the same time, the cats (we blame the cats for everything anyway), blame it on the cold weather. I have slacked.

The holidays at Casa Cirque were wonderful, busy, full of light and noise and craziness and I am exhausted. I love hosting Christmas at our house. My husband, who gets to put up with my obsessing over menus, and domicile cleanliness, and decor, for weeks ahead of time, is slightly less thrilled but enjoys not having to drive anywhere, so he goes along.

So a quick catch up and then I promise I'll give you something interesting to read tomorrow.

Mary and Tim sang "Do You Hear What I Hear" in church on Christmas Eve and let me tell you, I might be veering sharply into Mama Rose territory, but I was so stinking proud of my little girl. She practiced her heart out, and then literally five minutes before she was supposed to sing, something broke on her brand new doll and she started to cry. I sent her in the back with Tim, hoping she'd calm down, but I wasn't too optimistic. At the last second, I got the doll's skirt fixed (my dad is the real life version of MacGyver and every now and then, a glimmer of it manifests in my gene makeup) and showed Mary. She dried her tears, walked out in front of a packed church, and sang like nothing had happened. She was on key, she was cute, she smiled, and I would have cried except I was also trying to keep Anna and Lily in the pew. 

Christmas morning Lily woke up at a quarter to five, raring to go. She was grinning, she was chatting. I gave up and started breakfast, and we were opening presents by 6:30. Around 8 I totally crashed and took a nap before my parents and brother and sister in law arrived at 11. 

No one got food poisoning. No one fought. Nothing broke. Anna got her "working owl" and was thrilled. My brother made the girls a doll house and they spent the next four hours playing in peaceful bliss. Seriously, there was not one time out on Christmas and that right there is a little miracle in and of itself. 

The tree came down on December 26 because I put it up way earlier than I usually do and it was making me twitch to see it in the corner once the holiday had passed. I was somewhat tempted to take it down after the girls went to bed on the 25th but I was too tired.

OH. OH. On the 26th I went out in search of my white Christmas tree. I knew a full size one wasn't in the budget this year, because even at half off the ones I liked were still going to be close to $200. I went to Target, where they had had cute little two foot tinsel trees. None, and the place was a madhouse. I went to WalMart where it was also a zoo and the only white trees they had were tall, expensive and looked like you'd expect a WalMart tree to look on a bad day. I got some wrapping paper for next year and called it good.

I tried HomeGoods and found a cookie cutter for $1 but no tree.

TJMaxx had nothing. 

Then I ventured to Kohl's. I was on the phone with Tim.

"I see a pink tree. They have a pink tree and it's little but no white tree and- OH MY GOSH THEY HAVE A WHITE TREE I GOTTA GO."

There was one. Just one, and it was a floor model, about four feet high and thin. A table top tree. I looked at the boxed trees. The two foot trees were $6, but they only had pink and blue. The four foot boxed trees were either pink or gold. I hailed two clerks before someone could help me. By then I had pulled it off the display and was holding it.

"So can I just bring up a pink boxed tree and have them scan that?" I asked.

"Um...I guess..." said the guy who looked like he was in college and wanted to be anywhere but working retail the day after Christmas. (I did it for years, friend, I understand.)

"Will that mess up your inventory?"

"Maybe...I don't know. They'll sell it to you, though."

"Good enough!" I said, grabbing a boxed pink tree. It was hard to hold them both. 

"Do you need, like help?" I tried to make eye contact around the boughs and nearly lost an eye.

"No, I'm good," I lied. "I'm good. Just gotta grab a cart." I tilted and veered to the front of the store, bushy white branches blocking my view. People stared. I put them in a cart. The top of the tree stuck out merrily. I went back and grabbed some mini purple ornaments and a little teal garland and called it good.

The sales clerk at the register looked at me like I was nuts but gave me a small "floor model" discount. I gave her a boxed pink tree. 


I got all of it for $15.

Sure some of the lights don't work (as in, the top half of the tree). I don't care. It's cute and light and I love it.

And I'll probably leave it up until August at this point.