Friday, March 29, 2013

If you like pina coladas

  I have three small children. (If you are surprised at this you have clearly not been reading this blog well.) My furniture and walls, despite my best efforts, are "loved." So while our living room sofa had decidedly seen better days, I was hesitant to shell out any kind of money for decent furniture, at least until the smallest ankle biter is past the "crayons for all surfaces!" stage. My fear of bedbugs keeps me from buying used unless I know the person already, so I had resigned myself to our living room furniture.

Lucky for me, my parents, having no ankle biters in the house and only well-behaved animals, decided to replace their family room furniture and today my dad drove up, leaving me the proud recipient of two extremely comfortable pieces of seating and making the girls thrilled at the visit from Boppa. In fact, the couches were scarcely in place and lunch had barely been eaten before they were begging my dad to take them for a walk. 

"That sounds fun," I said. "I'll put Lily down for a nap and you guys can have fun." I took the baby into my room to rock her and the girls headed out. 

In no time, Lily was fast asleep and I ventured out into the main part of the house, where I saw a CVS bag on my dining room table. Next to the bag were, in no particular order, a whole coconut, a small awl and a Gymboree coupon my mother had received in the mail. I smiled at the sheer randomness of the items and waited for the kids to return.

"Boppa said he has a treat for us!" the girls squealed as they ran up the front steps. We made our way inside where my dad proceeded to use the little awl to poke holes in the coconut and drain the milk. I actually like drinking coconut milk, but this looked a little cloudy to me. Thinking nothing of it, we made our way outside with a hammer, where my dad proceeded to sit the now-drained coconut on the front step and bash it with the hammer.

Immediately, the outer shell flaked away, the coconut split in half and the white, round coconut slithered out of the shell.

Yes, you read that right.

No, coconuts do not "slither" under normal circumstances, in fact, one of the ways you can justify consuming all those "good fats" is the fact that you have to perform an aerobic workout just to get to the meat normally.

"That doesn't look right," my dad said. He hit it one more time, the rest of the shell flaked (yes, flaked) away, revealing a greenish gray mottling on the white meat.

"Ew," I said.

"COCONUT!" the girls cried, clearly knowing no better but trusting their mother and grandfather would not give them the runs just in time for Easter.

"Sorry," my dad said. "We can't eat this. Boppa wanted to bring you a nice treat but this one is no good. We'll try again another time."

I looked at the dismal faces of my two oldest and decided to play Supermom.

"Dad, watch the kids for two minutes," I said. "I'm going to the grocery store."


I go to the car, drive to the store, fight the Good Friday crowds, remember I needed apples for a baking project, grabbed an on-sale pineapple because I am horribly easily influenced, selected a coconut and got out of Dodge. 

"Homemade pina coladas tonight?" the cashier asked, seeing my purchases. 

I walked into the house and the girls cheered - quietly, because Lily was still somehow asleep.

We went back to the kitchen, Dad cleaned the awl and jabbed at the coconut. 

"That went in awfully easy," he said. He tipped the coconut and a few drops of cloudy liquid dripped into the glass.

"Hm," he said. I sniffed it.

"God, that's pungent," I offered diplomatically.

"Round two," my dad said, and we headed out to the front steps, where by this point the neighbors were glancing at us sideways. My dad struck the coconut.

My dad struck his thumb.

My dad managed not to introduce my kids to any four letter words (I would not have been so controlled) and struck the coconut again, which split easily, cracked easily, and revealed a gray-green fruit.

"Ugh," I said.

"Sorry kids," my dad said. 

"Screw that, I'm returning it," I announced, grabbing the putrid fruit, ignoring the glass of what I was now calling "coconut vodka" and trying to find which plastic Shaw's bag under the sink had my recipet before deciding it didn't matter and heading back to the store.

This time I walked up to customer service.

"Hi," I said to the twelve year old behind the counter (okay, I'm just getting old, she was probably 19 or something obscene like that). "I just bought this, I don't have a recipet, but I need to exchange my coconut," I announced, handing her the bag.

"You...just want a new coconut?" she asked.

"Right, because this one looks like this," I said, yanking back the shell and peforming a Phantom of the Opera-esque reveal. She recoiled.


"Right, I can't cook with that," I said. She told me to get another, and when I returned, a small crowd was gathered around EbolaNut. 

"She just bought it," one whispered.

"Ew," echoed another.

"Have a nice day," the girl said, bagging my new nut.

Return home, Dad finds it harder to get the awl in the coconut, which we find reassuring. We return outside, where Dad has a hell of a time getting the shell to crack, and hey, who'd have thunk it, non-rotten coconuts don't slither.

Back inside with our prize, the girls proceeded to eat it like it was going out of style. 

But I saved enough for a homemade pina colada.

We earned it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

In the name of the Father

For a variety of reasons, Mary attends a parochial preschool a few days a week. We wanted something full-day because she missed the Kindergarten cutoff by about three weeks and the child was ready for a bit more school than the two hour, two day a week program we'd had her in. By the time I realized that the readiness test that used to allow Kindergarten admittance to those with later birthdays had been completely abolished in our city, it was June or so and the only preschools that didn't laugh us out of the coatroom were religious schools. 

We're not Catholic, but I went to a great Catholic high school and loved it, so when a Catholic school fit our scheduling needs and budget constraints, I didn't hesitate. It's March now and for the most part I've been very happy with things. Mary has apparently gotten her father's love for all things church (not that I don't have faith, but this child actually begs to go to church when it's not Sunday, whereas when the Seventh Day rolls around, I am picking out tights and dresses and hair bows but longingly eying the cozy bed) and has embraced the Catholic rituals with open arms.

To wit:

There was a school-wide Mass in December, and out of hundreds of kids through eighth grade, when the priest asked, my five year old is the one who knew the answer to the question. I found out when I went to pick her up and one of her teachers accosted me in the cubby room.

"And Father asked who knew what the pink candle meant, and Mary is the only one who had the answer!" she crowed, watching my face for the joy she was waiting for.

"That's great!" I said enthusiastically, frantically trying to recall my religion classes from high school and failing. "I don't know how she knows that, because I sure don't."

Wrong answer, Mommy. 

"Joy!" the teacher and Mary answered in perfect unison.

Well, joy to the world!

Then there was the time at dinner when Mary asked if she could say grace. Of course we said she could, and she promptly taught her three year old sister how to properly do the sign of the cross. 

"Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts..." she sang. It's cool, we'd already heard her cantoring one night when she was supposed to be asleep, so it wasn't *that* impressive. (Sarcasm doesn't translate well in the blogosphere, so insert a little winking smiley here or something so you know I'm not a bad mother.)

But nothing beats this afternoon. I picked Mary up and we came home, at which point the girls settled down to color at the table. All was well until Mary and Anna got into a knock down verbal war over who got to use the yellow crayon at which point, culminating in Mary being quite rude to her sister and getting sent to her room.

"I DON'T LIKE MY ROOM!" she yelled from her prison down the hall. "Can I come out now?"

"You still have three minutes," I said, checking the clock. 

"I don't want three minutes more! I want it shorter!"

"You're five, you get five minutes," I replied in as neutral a tone as possible.

"Well God made me and God made me to want less time SO YOU HAVE TO LET ME OUT."

Ave Maria, she'll either be a nun or a lawyer at this rate.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do I want to be a Pinterest mom?

  Somewhere in the archive of photos at my parents' house (and by "archive" I mean "large boxes full of photographs") there exists a picture of me, probably around Mary's age, in a totally '80s sweatsuit, jumping on my parents' bed and wearing a bright green plastic derby hat. 

I was a random kid and for all I know that picture was taken in July when it was 87 degrees outside, but the hat was something my grandmother bought, probably at Woolworth's, for me for St. Patrick's Day. In those days, that was probably pretty "over the top." I remember scrounging to find something green to wear to school because I didn't own a lot of green, and the teacher sticking leprechaun "feet" - just two of them - on the wall for us to find in the week or so leading up to St. Patrick's Day. That was it, and it was exciting.

For Valentine's Day, my mom and I would pick out a kit at the store. Bonus points if it came with super cool stickers. There was an afternoon devoted to making a "mailbox" in school out of a Kleenex or shoe box, the more paint, the better. And then you got 20-something little cards and took them home and made your parents look at each. and. every. one. with you, complete with detailed summary of why each one was funny. ("It says 'I choo-choo-CHOOSE you!' And there's a picture of a train!")

This year Mary and Anna got Cinderella Valentines with my mom. They were thrilled because they came with stickers. We signed their names and sent them off to school, and I was patting myself on the back because I didn't forget and actually sent them to school in red clothing. Mommy points for the win!

And then they came home. There were a few drugstore cards in the bunch. Mary even brought home another Cinderella card, proof that at least one other family in her class has been through the doors of a WalMart at some point. And then...there were gift bags full of candy. From individual students. Pencils. Crayons. Hair clips from Gymboree. Enough candy between the two of them to almost fill a trick or treat bucket halfway. I've been doling it out a bit at a time for weeks now. They've mostly forgotten all about it, just in time for Easter.

When did this happen? I'm not begrudging parents who have the time or inclination (or money, for me, it's less time and creativity and more the inability to shell out $30 on Valentine's treats for a classroom), but when did goody bags for 22 become the gold standard in Valentine's Day giving? Since when am I supposed to build a "leprechaun trap" in my home, bedazzle the place in green glitter and scatter gold coins? 

I have no idea but my message boards, Facebook wall and Pinterest were full of "good" mommies who had set traps, dyed foods green, scattered candy. I suggested dying the milk green "for fun" and my husband looked at me like I had suggested becoming a swinger.

There's the Elf on the Shelf, which I admit I participated in, but I still don't fully understand it. The kids had fun, though, and that's what counts, but I devoted maybe five minutes at the end of the day to that.

I want my kids' childhood to be a time of excitement and wonder, but when every holiday is a 10 on the grandeur scale, when does it stop being exciting? If I go all out on St. Paddy's Day, what happens two weeks later on Easter? Is that even exciting anymore? (We'll leave the religious aspect, which I do try to promote above all else, aside for the moment.) And how do I explain that some kids get bikes from the Easter bunny, and my kids get Palmer's chocolate in a basket? Will they start expecting gifts for the Fourth of July? Labor Day? Just when did Easter become a "gift" holiday and how did I miss that memo in the first place?

Do I blame Pinterest? Parents who have more money than I do? Parents who have more time and only one child? Parents who had childhoods full of wonder who feel they owe the same to their kids? Parents who had their elementary years marked by deprivation who want better for their children? 

I don't want to be Scrooge Mom, but I don't want my kids to expect a ticker tape parade for every "day" on the calendar either. Nor do I want them to feel left out if their friends' experiences far trump their own. At the same time, do I really want to commit myself to years of elves and gold coins and presents from the tooth fairy? 

What does one wear for Arbor Day, anyway?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Snapshots of a month or so

  I am completely ashamed that I've gone so long without updating. In my defense, I am a big believer in writing only when you have something to say - sure, I could update you every day with a random picture and a few lines, but does anyone really want to read that?

So it's been awhile and Casa Trois has been in a bit of a winter slump. We've had a lot of days where it's been damp and therefore not really great for outdoor play (cabin fever!) and a few days where I have seriously contemplated going on a road trip. By myself. Until May. Or at least until the new Doctor Who episodes come out. Geek > stress, I guess.

What else? Doing a show. Again. I'm sure you're shocked. Registering Mary for kindergarten this week and Anna for full-week preschool. I can't believe they're so big already but I am also looking forward to Mondays and Fridays, when Lily and I will have mornings just the two of us. Mary got a ton of that for the first 21 months of her life, Anna got a few mornings a week when she was almost 2, so now it's Lil's turn and I'm anticipating it. 

So here are a few snapshots of the past few weeks in our crazy life.

Last week I had Mary's parent-teacher conference, where I learned Mary is a bright student who will likely do well in kindergarten, who enjoys making people happy and wants to help all the time. She really is a good, easy student and her teachers informed me they were looking forward to having Anna next year. I just smirked, because Anna, while an absolute delight, is the antithesis of "compliant," "easygoing," or "flexible." Mary is my little mommy, Anna is a future Fortune 500 CEO. 

Case in point:

We were driving to school the day after the conferences and I started talking to Mary.

"Mary, your teachers told me you are such a helper with the other kids," I said. "They said you help them out when they need it and are very polite. That makes me so happy!"

"I do help," she crowed. "I tell them about understanding things, and tell them how to do things if they are having trouble, and tell them about learning!"

"And *I'm* gonna tell them about my rock," Anna said, opening her palm to reveal a small stone she had stolen from the driveway.

Well then.

Lily has put together her first sentence besides "NO NO MAMA NO NO NI NIGHT" or "WUV YOOOOOOO." 

It is "I bite."

(She doesn't, by the way.)


Tim got a new doctor and went in for his first appointment. When he was there he mentioned that he was born with an immune deficiency. They coded it wrong and his follow up letter included the line "Patient conditions: Acquired Immune Deficieny Syndrome." Instead of telling me they made a coding error, Tim chose 10 p.m. to open the mail and announce to me in a frustrated tone, "Oh, God, they think I have AIDS." 

When my heart started beating again I told him he really has to work on his delivery.

Mary has turned into a total kid overnight. When she was first born I joined a particular message board and would read these parents' stories about their five year olds and the seemingly grown up things they were into, and would shake my head and think "five years old is so young, why are they wanting their kids to grow up so fast?" 

Now I realize that while five years old *is* young, it may not have been the parents. Mary wants an American Girl doll. She is obsessed with trying to figure out how my phone works. She got a Leappad for Christmas and calls it her iPad "like Mommy's." She has informed me that one day, she will want to live in her own house, and am I okay with that?  She wants my makeup and to use my hair brushes, she asked me when I would let her dye her hair red like I do. (Answer: never, kid.)

Anna, after a bath, looked down at her skinny three year old torso (I love how they hit that stage where they have those skinny little chests where you can practically see their heart beating, but still have a pudgy little belly and baby arms), looked at me and said "I can't wait until I have boobs like yours."

Ohhhhh, kid. Yes, yes you can. 


As the girls are getting bigger, Tim and I have had several life discussions, mostly about where we want to be living by the time Mary is in middle school (answer: not here), but also about where *we* want to be in 10 years, what my plan is for once the girls are in school (answer: I will also be in school, getting my BSN if at all possible), but, most importantly: what we will do when the RAV4 either gives out or gets too small.

Answer: minivan. And for some reason this no longer makes me twitch.

I always figured I'd be a grown up when I had a house and kids and paid my own bills, but maybe it's actually the moment where the idea of dual sliding doors, captains' seats and a generous cargo area in a color that won't show dirt and stains no longer gives you dry heaves. 

All I need to do is enroll one of them in soccer and my transformation to PodPerson will be complete.