Thursday, June 27, 2013

Duck weather

Today was the first day all week I woke up and wasn't immediately wishing for (Sunday and Monday) or turning on (Tuesday and Wednesday, thank God we finally got it installed) the air conditioner. The weather was nice, not too humid, and I hustled the kids outside to play.

Of course, it had rained the night before and no one wanted to play on the grass. Yesterday when it was boiling and I was worried about them being in the heat too long they were DYING to play in the sprinkler and dump the wading pool and roll around the lawn, but I guess it's not as fun if it doesn't result in a dramatic spike in the water bill. When the mosquitos started in, I asked who wanted to go inside.

"Me!" Mary said, abandoning her attempts at making a "fairy garden" out of sticks and clover in my as yet unplanted corner garden. (Tomatoes. Someday. Maybe.)

"I go inside" Lily babbled, heading for the gate. "I go inside. SHOES! SHOES! SHOES!" 

"I want to stay out here," Anna said. Now, our yard is totally fenced and Anna can't work the gate on her own, so I gave my consent, reminding her that the door to the house was open and I'd be watching her through the window (so for the love of God, leave the hose alone). 

We weren't in the house five minutes before I heard Anna come in, stop, and then open the door again.

"Anna! Enough with the door!"

"I gotta get Ducky!" she called from the yard. "Ducky needs to get warm!"

"Ducky is a stick she found," Mary informed me. "A little stick."

Fine, okay, whatever. You have rooms of toys but you want to play with twigs, go for it. The other day Baby G licked the fireplace. You learn to roll with it. 

I should have seen it coming. Anna came in with Ducky. Mary and Lily then decided all of the toys in the house paled in comparison to Anna's arboreal offering. I was down the hall but I could hear the arguing begin and it wasn't even lunchtime.

In case you were curious, no, we do not in fact live in an area devoid of trees and foliage. Ducky was not the only stick in the yard, but it was THE only stick worth fighting to the death over.

The other two lost interest relatively quickly but Anna ran around for 15 minutes making quacking noises before curiosity finally got the better of me and I wanted a closer look. 

"Anna, come here for a sec," I called. I had already posted on Facebook about Ducky and wanted to take her picture. She came down the hall, proudly holding her twig aloft. 

"Quack quack," she crowed. (That sentence looks like it shouldn't make sense but it's totally what she did.) I looked. And damned if that stick doesn't look like a duck after all.

Sorry, kid. Mommy just thought you were nuts. I know I'll be going nuts when, inevitably, at some point today the wail goes up: "Where's DUCKY?" Because these are my kids and Mary still mourns her missing fava bean from November. 

Quack quack, kid.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Don't call us

"Mommy, can you play with me?"

I looked up from my Very Important iPad Time and regarded Mary, who had just whirled into the living room like a tiny blonde tornado. It wasn't even noon yet and she and her sisters had already been outside for hours, had a snack, destroyed two bedrooms (my God...the toys...I swear they're breeding at night) and gone through the bookshelf.

"Sure, honey, what are we playing?"


I smiled. "Princesses" with Mary still mainly revolves around saying which princess you are, talking about your dress and then forgetting the game entirely in favor of something else. (Goldfish crackers, puzzles, tinfoil...)

"Okay, who am I?"

"You can be Rapunzel! And I will be Ariel. Do you know the Rapunzel movie really, really well?"

No, honey, that was someone else who sat through "Tangled" seventy five thousand times before you finally turned your affections to "Brave."

"Sure, Mary," I reply, thinking, well, maybe this time we're actually going to play something. 

"Okay, because you have to do the right things, just like in the movie." Okay then!

"In the movie, Rapunzel's hair glows," Anna said, eyeing me critically from her position at the other end of the living room, where the Little People princesses were sitting around a toy table, upon which several of the Seven Dwarves were perched in a bizarre tableau. 

"Her hair. It glows." I could see her assessing my shoulder length red hair for long, blonde or glowing qualities and it coming up lacking.

"It's okay, Mommy, you don't have to do EVERYTHING like the movie," Mary assured me, tilting her head and smiling sympathetically. Lily and Gigi continued playing with the toy house, ignoring this casting session gone awry. 

"Thanks Mary," I said, as she skipped off. "Um...where are you going?"

"I'm gonna go play Hi-Lo Hamsters," she said brightly.

Game over. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cake Wars

Real talk here: I'm not about to start calling myself Betty Crocker by any stretch of the imagination, but in general, I'm pretty decent in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking. I'm not the world's most intuitive cook, but give me a recipe or some basic directions and what comes out of the oven is probably going to look and taste basically like it's supposed to.

I'm in a play right now and have rehearsal three nights a week. One of those nights - tonight - is Tim's birthday. So I planned an early dinner at a place he really enjoys but that we rarely visit because it's out of the way and not really my cup of tea, but the problem remained with the cake. I had planned to bake it with the girls this morning, but then realized that we were probably going to have to do the whole cake singing extravaganza after lunch in order to get to dinner on time. Plus, I have Baby G today. I decided to make the cake after rehearsal on Tuesday and make the frosting with the girls in the morning.

I got home around 10:30. By the time I had straightened up a little, assembled my ingredients and said goodnight to Tim, it was 11. I pulled out the recipe and realized that I had very little cake flour.

Now HERE is where I should have stopped, decided that I could hit the supermarket in the morning and just called it good. But no. That would imply a degree of reason and forethought that I just don't possess. Well, no, to be honest, I did consider that possibility, I just rejected it outright because I had decided to bake that cake right then, dammit. Instead I went online and found a web site that would give me the cake flour to multipurpose flour ratio and converted away.

I should have known something was up when the cake batter seemed too thick. It was almost...gelatinous? I have no idea. "Cake is done when the top is springy and the edges are pulling away from the sides of the pan," said Recipes for Dummies. Pulling away? My batter seemed loathe to even touch the sides of the pan. It jiggled and mocked me as I attempted to spread it. SPREAD IT. When was the last time you had to spread cake batter? But it tasted okay and it smelled fine - amazing, even - as it baked and in the proper amount of time it rose and looked just great, so I considered the whole thing a success. I pulled the cakes out of the oven and waited for them to cool a bit so I could pop them out of the pans.

Oh, right, that takes a long time and here it was around midnight. I sat on the couch and surfed the Net. My eyes got heavier and heavier. The pans were still warm. Finally I just covered the pans with Saran Wrap, put them up out of the way and fell asleep.

You can see where this is going, can't you? This morning when I went to pop one cake out of the refused to budge. At all. Even a little. I ran a knife around the edge over and over. Tried again. Nothing. Turned the pan over onto the desired surface and gave it a good hard whack, trying to evenly distribute the pressure over the bottom of the pan.

Three pieces of cake fell out, one big, two small. I glared at it, then at the pan, where a sticky film of cake clung stalwartly to the yes-I-DID-grease-and-flour bottom. I decided that would be the bottom layer. 

The second pan yielded worse results, if that was possible. 

"DAMMIT!" I yelled. A little blonde head peeked around the corner, just up from bed. Tim came into the kitchen behind Mary.

"What happened?"

"YOUR CAKE FELL APART AND I DON'T HAVE TIME OR INGREDIENTS FOR ANOTHER," I ranted, dropping hunk after hunk of cake into a large mixing bowl. "I can't frost it, it's too dense, and I ruined the whole thing."

"It's fine," Tim said, trying to hug me and backing up when he caught the look in my eye. "It's FINE. We're still going to dinner, we can do cake another time..."

"Mommy next time it'll be fine!" Mary chirped. "We can make it again. I can help you! We can try it again and I'll help and then it will be-"

"Mary, don't talk to Mommy right now," Tim advised sagely. 

"Your cake is in a bowl!" I raged.

"Yeah but it still tastes good," he said, helping himself to a small piece, then a larger one. Mary, and now Anna and Lily, eyed the bowl. I gave up and put a small piece on three small plates.

"Cake for breakfast," I sighed. I sensed a trip to the grocery store for an ice cream cake in my near future.

"YAAAAAAAY!" Mary and Anna squealed. 

"I like bowl cake," Tim said, wandering off to get ready for the day. "Let's have it every year."

Friday, June 14, 2013

It takes a village in light up shoes.

Mary's last day of school was last Friday, but thanks to a series of commitments and work, today was the first day I didn't have to be both awake and presentable by 6:45.  (Don't worry, the kids took care of making sure I was up at an eye-blearing 6:15 or so.) I enjoyed a lazy morning - feeding the kids oatmeal in my scrubby pajamas, leisurely cleaning up the kitchen, and eventually making my way to the shower at 8.

At approximately 8:01 I remembered I had a 9:20 appointment on the other side of the highway, which requires at least 40 minutes of driving for what would normally take 15, and therefore I had 29 minutes to shower, dress, get the kids dressed and brush their hair and teeth and somehow wrangle a snack for them (Dunkin' Donuts to the rescue).

I hopped out of the shower at 8:05, which must be some kind of record now that I'm no longer sporting a haircut that would make K.D. Lang look like the feminine one, pulled together presentable outfits for the kids, made sure everyone was brushed, washed and had gone to the bathroom and somehow got out the door by 8:30. They even had matching socks, which is a real accomplishment around here. (If anyone really likes pairing up socks, I have a laundry basket with your name on it and all the coffee you can hold.)

Somewhere around three minutes into the drive, my pulse returned to a somewhat normal rate, despite Anna and Lily in the backseat gleefully kicking the back of the front seats to make their shoes light up. Mary looked at Lily's "new" shoes, hand me downs from Anna?

"Do Lily's shoes have light ups too?" she squealed as only a five year old girl can.

"They do!"

"Oh," she sighed sweetly. "I love those little shoes." I couldn't help but smile. The rain was letting up, the sun was starting to peek through and here was my oldest, acting like a kid from those chapter books I always hated because the little girls were always so much better behaved than I was. 

"Mary, you're a great big sister, you know that?" She beamed at me. "You get so happy for your little sisters, it's so nice!"

"Yeah..." she said reflectively. "But sometimes I get mad at Anna."

"That's okay," I responded, embracing the Teachable Moment. "It's okay to get mad. She gets mad at you, too. And one day, you'll probably get mad at Lily."

Mary paused.

"Mommy...I do get mad at Lily. A lot. You know why?"

"Why, baby?"

"Because she's the littlest and so she's the hardest to control!"

At that point I almost lost control of the car and drove off the road. I bit back laughter and tried to keep a neutral face. It almost worked.

"Who told you that, hon?" The cadence of kicking feet continued in the backseat. The line at Dunkin Donuts was too long and I mentally calculated the amount of time it would take to hit the next one.

"Mom-my," she laughed. "No one had to tell me that! I've been working with Lily for a long time now!"

Kick, kick, kick.

The next Dunkin Donuts had a long line but since traffic had been okay, we waited it out and were rewarded with fresh donuts, which in turn rewarded me with a chocolate covered two year old upon pulling into the parking lot. 

When we got to the doctor's, my blood pressure was a good 20 points higher than normal.

I have no idea why.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Herding cats

Going someplace with four children under the age of six is always an adventure, particularly when two of the kids are alarmingly close in age and infants. Sometimes you get polite comments, sometimes you get stares, very occasionally you get outwardly snide comments. My Facebook friends know how I dealt with the last one - a big dumb smile and a cheerful "Boy, I wish I knew what caused that!" I don't mind the social commentary but regardless, schlepping four kids anywhere is a chore I prefer to avoid at all costs.

Sometimes, though, you have to bite the bullet. Today I realized that despite a run to the grocery story the day before, I had forgotten to buy bread. I also had to get over to the elementary school and pick up a packet of information for incoming Kindergarten students (which - can you believe it? NO). Neither of those could wait until Baby G went home or Tim arrived after work, so away we went.

I considered driving to cut our time out of the house, but it was a mild day and there were two other contributing factors: I had a quarter tank of gas to last me until Friday and the scale has not budged since I closed Sweeney Todd a month and change ago. In fact, it may have crept up a pound or two. How long can I blame that on "just water?" So we started walking.

Walking anywhere with four kids is an exercise in multitasking. Mary wants to run ahead and is built like I was as a kid - tall with all her height in her legs. Anna wants to run ahead and "race" but she's built like a spark plug - tons of energy in this compact little body that doesn't stand a chance against her older sister at this point. So eventually she gets annoyed and walks next to me, or lags behind, or wanders out into the middle of the road before I can frantically call her back, at which point she will turn to me dreamily and start dawdling back to the sidewalk before I grab her arm and yank her to safety.

"Hey, don't pull me!" she snaps indignantly, as though not wanting her to become a cartoon pancake version of herself is an unreasonable goal for motherhood. 

It's true, though - I'm quite unreasonable. Don't walk through the puddles in your light up sneakers. Stay on the sidewalks  - don't walk on people's lawns. Unless there are no sidewalks, then yes, on the very edges of the lawns but DON'T try to balance on the curb (whyyyy?) and stop picking the leaves off of people's trees. Yes, even if you can "really really!" reach them. Don't make eye contact with the man smoking pot in his garage in the middle of the morning. When I pull you off the street for the thousandth time as a BMW goes roaring by at 40 mph, pointing and saying "hey, Mom, look, a car!" is really just stating the obvious, my darling.

So the older girls raced and Mary won 99 percent of the marathons between stop signs and cross streets. Anna only won when I happened to tell them to stop for some reason. She would listen, wait until I was done, and then yell "Go Mary!" and take off before Mary could stop staring at the grass, or her shoes, or the stroller, or absolutely nothing. 

Lily co-operated today and did not protest her clothing, her shoes, her socks or the indignities of being strapped in a stroller. She did sit there like a tiny dictator and mimic me by yelling "STOP" at the girls when they ran ahead and arrived at the next stop sign. The hand wave and finger wagging was a nice addition to the repertoire.

About halfway through the walk, or The Point of No Return, Anna will invariably announce she's sick of walking and demand to get in the "cawwidge." The "cawwidge" is full of babies I wouldn't trust walking down a sidewalk if you gave me a million dollars so I deny her. She sulks for a moment and then will run ahead, legs akimbo, red faced, arms flying free, until the next stop sign, where she will reiterate her desire to not walk, be home, be in the carriage. 

This will last, in quiet fashion, until the grocery shopping is done and we are leaving the store. Then the following happens:

Mary: Where are we going now, Mommy?
- Home, to make lunch.


Mary: Can't we go someplace else?

- No, we need to have lunch now. Come on, hold hands until we get to the sidewalk.



All the way home.