His First Tea Party


Tonight was the Mother’s Day Tea Party at my son’s (sweet, adorable, fantastic) preschool. I am feeling SO full of gratitude and love at the moment (and the 2yo is SO full of cookies and tea!) – please remind me of this moment next time I mention he threw a tippy cup at one of his sibling’s HEADS because they didn’t share this toy or this book…

Planning For Paris: Lessons From Iceland (Part 1)

Herein, find several tips for traveling internationally with kids - kids who may or may not like extra long flights or eating anything other than pizza once they arrive in those horizon-expanding destinations...

My daughter, at the airport, on her way to Iceland. She didn’t sleep a wink on the 7 1/2 hour red-eye flight… Because sleep is totally overrated for pint-sized international travelers… Right?!

Holy WOW. I did it. Last week I booked two round-trip tickets for Paris! In slightly less than three months my 10yo daughter and I are leaving for Paris. Yes, PARIS. Paris, FRANCE.


(Ooh, sorry… that high-pitched sound you just heard through your computer screen? That was me squealing. With glee. GLEE I tell you!! Wheeeee!!!!!)

Seriously, I am almost vibrating with excitement. I honestly can’t get my brain to concentrate on anything else (I mean, c’mon! Do you really expect me to remember to pick up my kids from school, on time, or, and it gives me a headache just thinking about, do my taxes when there are photos of Paris to pin on Pinterest or style blogs to read about what is – and perhaps more importantly, what is not – acceptable to wear in Paris??). So far I have checked off the three biggest items on my planning to-do list: I found an AMAZING apartment for us to rent for our visit, and have even paid the down deposit; I woke up in the middle of the night the week before last to go online and nab (just barely, too!) our fancy-schmancy tickets to the Paris Opera Ballet, which, as a huge ballet fan, I actually built our entire trip around attending; and now I have two non-stop tickets (non-stop!! I’m sooooo in love with non-stop flights…), with confirmed seats and everything. The only thing left to do, now, is plot out the smaller, day-to-day details, like exactly what Paisley and I will be doing while we’re there… Maybe we’ll spend a delightful afternoon at, gasp!, the Louis Vuitton flagship store on the Champs-Elysees! And maybe we’ll take three whole days to explore the Louvre!! And maybe we’ll dine at Le Jules Verne, the legendary restaurant at the Eiffel Tower!!!

I’m sorry, but did you just SNORT with laughter?! You did!! Well. That’s not very nice of you… Honestly, can’t you just let me have my dreams for FIVE MINUTES?! I mean… I know. I do! I KNOW: I’m traveling to Paris, one of the most important and significant cities in the world, a veritable treasure trove of history and culture, the capital of Romance with a capital R, THE City of Lights… with my TEN YEAR OLD.

Not exactly a second honeymoon (or even a first honeymoon, for that matter, since Bill and I decided to move across the country from Seattle to North Carolina instead of booking a romantic getaway to Paris, or anywhere else for that matter; ahhh… someday)… I know, I know

Which leads me back to my husband’s trip with Paisley, to Iceland this last summer: the inaugural expedition in our family’s plan to travel with our three children around the world, once each of them becomes old enough to a) travel long distances comfortably (and without making me or Bill – or everyone else on the plane – want to commit ritual suicide; honestly, I don’t care how many times I hear or read about people who travel around the world with their youngest munchkins and have the absolute greatest time – bully for them, I say – I personally think traveling 12+ hours on a plane with a 2yo toddler sounds like a circle of Hell straight out of Dante’s Inferno) and b) to actually remember all, or most of all, the horizon-expanding adventures we wish them to experience (and just spent a whole lotta cash on procuring). Being the first international trip for both of them (Canada doesn’t count – sorry, Canada), we knew there would be quite the learning curve with this trip; and indeed, Bill was a wonderful guinea pig (or should I say canary in a coal mine?!), bringing back a wealth of fabulous lessons learned from his one week stay in Iceland – and which I have taken to heart while planning my upcoming trip to Paris.

As I don’t want to make you feel like I’m forcing you through one of those slide-shows old Aunt Edna and Uncle Chester made you endure when you were in middle school and would rather be doing ollies on your skateboard or cruising the mall for the perfect pair of neon-colored hoop earrings to match your very trendy neon-colored jelly shoes rather than hearing about what kind of birds nest on the top of Teddy Roosevelt’s moustache on Mount Rushmore, I’ve broken this blog post up into several parts, or “lessons” if you will, which you can read at your leisure… say, in between Instagramming – is that even a word?! I’m making it one if it isn’t already; feel free to alert the OED – pictures of your adorable kids doing ollies (because, let’s admit it, when you do ollies anymore your knees kill and you can’t walk up the stairs for a week… unless you’re Tony Hawk, in which case your ollies, and knees, are just as fine and Instagrammable – another new word! – as your adorable kids’ ollies and knees…), or internet shopping for the perfect neon-colored clutch to match your very trendy neon-colored strappy platform sandals (so very retro, and absolutely necessary for the spring cocktail party to which you’ve just been invited!). Granted, these are lessons for my family, and we’re a bit crazier than most, so some – or possibly all! In which case I humbly apologize for taking up your time which could have been better spent reading about Taylor Swift’s latest conquest and/or breakup – of these “lessons” might not apply to you and your precious little angels… But, in the belief that a few of you have angels who sometimes occasionally act like MONSTERS normal old kids, over the next few days, or possibly weeks – I do actually have to pick up the kids, on time, from school (they’re so demanding!), and my taxes, as much as I’ve beseeched the folders of paperwork sitting on my desk to do themselves, are stubbornly not complying with my wishes (how very rude!) – feel free to peruse, adopt, and/or adapt for your own family vacation planning, Bill’s top four lessons about traveling with kids…

Spoiler alert: yeah, it’s looking pretty doubtful that three whole days blissfully meandering through the rooms of the Louvre is in my near future… And Louis Vuitton and Le Jules Verne?? C’est impossible, aussie.

Le sigh…

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at the next few blog posts:

Lesson One: Context is Critical Everything
Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are
Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime

And here’s a mini-slide show that would do old Aunt Edna and Uncle Chester proud:

What do you do when you get off the plane at 6 a.m., and your rental apartment won't be available for several hours, and neither you nor your kiddo has slept at all on the plane so you're both a little punchy from lack of sleep? Why, you make sure your first stop is at the local "hot pot," of course! Iceland is a geothermal wonderland, with an abundance of natural hot springs in which to soak away the afternoons; when in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in Iceland, do as the Icelanders do... and splash for hours in your favorite hot pot (Bill and Paisley recommend Laugardalslaug)!

What do you do when you get off the plane at 6 a.m., and your rental apartment won’t be available for several hours, and neither you nor your kiddo have slept at all on the plane so you’re both so punchy from lack of sleep you can barely see straight? Why, you make sure your first stop is at the local “hot pot,” of course! Iceland is a geothermal wonderland, with an abundance of natural hot springs in which to soak away the afternoons; when in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in Iceland, splash for hours in your favorite hot pot (Bill and Paisley recommend Laugardalslaug)!

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church and is one of the most impressive landmarks in Reykjavík; it can be seen from most places in the city. In front of the church is a statue of Iceland-born Leif Eriksson, who is considered to be the first European to discover America (sorry, Chris Columbus!) around 1000 AD. The steeple at the top offers an impressive view (there's even an elevator, so you don't have to worry about your kid whining on the way up)!

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church and is one of the most impressive landmarks in Reykjavík; it can be seen from most places in the city. In front of the church is a statue of Iceland-born Leif Eriksson, who is considered to be the first European to discover America (sorry, Chris Columbus!) around 1000 AD. The steeple at the top offers an impressive view (there’s even an elevator, so you don’t have to worry about your kid whining on the way up)!

For the most part, our family prefers vacation rentals, like this adorable second floor apartment where they stayed in Reykjavík, to hotels... For WAY less than a boring old hotel room, Bill got this flat where he and Paisley had their own bedrooms (meaning, Bill didn't have to turn the lights out when Paisley did; he could stay up and read and enjoy all the benefits of jet lag on his own), plus a kitchen where he could stock up on cereal (and other kid-friendly necessities) and his beloved coffee beans (and other parent-friendly necessities), and a dining table - with a chandelier! - at which to enjoy it all.

For the most part, our family prefers vacation rentals, like this adorable second floor apartment where they stayed in Reykjavík, to hotels… For WAY less than a boring old hotel room, Bill got this flat where he and Paisley had their own bedrooms (meaning, Bill didn’t have to turn the lights out when Paisley did; he could stay up and read and enjoy all the benefits of jet lag on his own), plus a kitchen where he could stock up on cereal (and other kid-friendly necessities) and his beloved coffee beans (and other parent-friendly necessities), and a dining table – with a chandelier! – at which to enjoy it all.

Þingvellir, or Thingvellir, National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of three major tourist attractions right outside Reykjavík called the Golden Circle. The tectonic plates that form North America and Europe actually meet here (and if you're not like Bill - visiting as a single parent with a non-PADI certified child who you don't feel comfortable dropping off with a complete stranger - you can actually scuba dive BETWEEN the two continents, if you're so inclined!), and Iceland's parliament was founded in Þingvellir back in 930 AD.

Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of three major tourist attractions right outside Reykjavík called the Golden Circle. The tectonic plates that form North America and Europe actually meet here (and if you’re not like Bill – visiting as a single parent with a non-PADI certified child who you don’t feel comfortable dropping off with a complete stranger – you can actually scuba dive BETWEEN the two continents, if you’re so inclined!), and Iceland’s parliament was founded in Þingvellir back in 930 AD.

After a few days in Reykjavík, Bill and Paisley drove to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur where they rented a cabin for a couple of nights to explore Vatnajökull National Park (Europe’s second largest national park, covering approximately 13% of Iceland). Paisley loved her sleeping loft: if you look closely, you'll see her HUGE grin!

After a few days in Reykjavík, Bill and Paisley drove to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur where they rented a cabin for a couple of nights to explore Vatnajökull National Park (Europe’s second largest national park, covering approximately 13% of Iceland). Paisley loved her sleeping loft: if you look closely, you’ll see her HUGE grin!

Jökulsárlón,  the glacial river lagoon found on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, has to be one of the most majestic sights in the world. This photo doesn't do justice to the scale of this glacier-fed lake: a tourist boat (which you can take if you visit), literally looks like bath toys when compared to the size of the icebergs. Jökulsárlón is a 3-7 hour trip from Reykjavík, depending on how often you and/or your kiddo(s) need to stop for potty breaks!

Jökulsárlón, the glacial river lagoon found on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, is truly one of the most majestic sights in the world. This photo doesn’t do justice to the scale of this glacier-fed lake: a tourist boat (which you can take if you visit), literally looks like a bath toy when compared to the size of the icebergs. Jökulsárlón is a 3-7 hour trip from Reykjavík, depending on how often you and/or your kiddo(s) need to stop for potty breaks – or just to see all the pretty waterfalls along the way!

With all the waterfalls, you might think Iceland is a tropical paradise... Paradise? Yes. Tropical? Not so much! Bill and Paisley visited at the end of August; while the kids and I were happily splashing in the kiddie pool on the deck in the sun, Bill was wishing he'd brought their winter jackets instead of their light weight rain coats, and I don't think Paisley took her fleece hat off the entire time they were in Iceland. If you go, dress warm! (Here, Paisley and her hat are at Skógafoss, a beautiful waterfall carved out of a cliff which was once located on the coastline, but is now about 3 miles away from the sea!)

With all the waterfalls, you might think Iceland is a tropical paradise… Paradise? Yes. Tropical? Not so much! Bill and Paisley visited at the end of August; while the boys and I were happily splashing in the kiddie pool on the deck in the sun, Bill was wishing he’d brought their winter jackets instead of their lightweight rain coats, and I don’t think Paisley took her fleece hat off the entire time they were in Iceland. If you go, dress warm! (Here, Paisley and her hat are at Skógafoss, a beautiful waterfall carved out of a cliff which was once located on the coastline, but is now about 3 miles from the sea!)

The Blue Lagoon (and no, I'm not talking about the 1980 Brooke Shields/Christopher Atkins movie!) has to be one of the most amazing "hot tubs" in the world - an industrial accident that has become the country's most popular tourist destination. In 1976, while searching for a new, reliable, geothermal energy source, a local heating co-op drilled deep wells in a lava field for a new power plant, and let the factory excess runoff back into the ground. But, surprise!, the runoff had a super high silica content, which sealed up the rocks with a slippery white coating and created a natural reservoir of 104˚F water, just perfect for soaking in... even with your kiddos!

The Blue Lagoon (and no, I’m not talking about the 1980 Brooke Shields/Christopher Atkins movie!) has to be one of the most amazing “hot tubs” in the world – an industrial accident that has become the country’s most popular tourist destination. In 1976, while searching for a new, reliable, geothermal energy source, a local heating co-op drilled deep wells in a lava field for a new power plant, and let the factory excess run off back into the ground. But, surprise!, the runoff had a high silica content, which sealed up the rocks with a slippery white coating and created a natural reservoir of 104˚F water, just perfect for soaking in… even with your kiddos!

It was hard to leave, but a long soak in the Blue Lagoon before boarding the plane for the 8 hour flight home was a pretty great way to say good-bye. Both Bill and Paisley are planning on going back... I just hope they'll bring me and the boys with them!!

It was hard to leave Iceland, but a long soak in the Blue Lagoon before boarding the plane for the 7 1/2 hour flight home was a pretty great way to say good-bye. Both Bill and Paisley are planning on going back as soon as they can… I just hope they’ll bring me and the boys with them!!

Lactose Intolerance

On the evening of Saturday, January 12, 2013 (the date will live in infamy, at least in the blackest part of my soul), while I was clearing the dinner table and Bill was reviewing the pictures he’d taken that day while hiking with the three kids (so I could work – seriously, how do I nominate him for a Hubby-of-the-Year-Award??), the youngest child (read: the smallest gremlin in the house) got mad (read: really really really really mad) at his older sister for not sharing her toys with him. So (naturally), he picked up her unfinished glass of milk and… threw the milk at her.

Yes. Really. He did. He THREW the milk at her…

(Go ahead and visualize the rich, creamy, white stream of delicious, wholesome, organic 2% milk arcing ever so gracefully through the air and…)

SPLASHING her right in the face. Totally drenching her… And the table… And the floor… And Bill… And, oh yeah, drenching the CAMERA, too.

Oh, my, YES, you read that correctly: drenching the CAMERA (on which Bill was reviewing the pictures he’d taken while hiking that day). The BRAND NEW CAMERA.

Yes, the brand new camera, all of 19 days old, that was my birthday present (I’m a December baby) from Bill… and my Christmas present from Bill… and Bill’s Christmas present from me… all rolled into one tidy, and expensive (at least for us) package (which I quite happily wrapped, and then unwrapped three hours later, on Christmas Eve).

Our big Christmas (and my birthday) present: a new DSLR camera! We give each other GREAT gifts... Just sayin'.

RIP, Nikon D5100, we hardly knew you… (12/24/12-01/12/13)

Turns out, in case you were wondering, cameras don’t really care for milk.

My brand new camera hadn’t even survived ONE MONTH in our household.

And that’s when I cried. Really. I did. I CRIED over spilled milk (though not when the kids were looking; that’d set a bad example – I quite responsibly waited until I was alone in my bathroom later that night… to cry big big big tears).

I actually started this post the day after the milk incident. And yes, it’s taken me more than six weeks to write, mostly because every time I even think about my not-working-brand-new camera my stomach gets all tight and I just want to (and I’m sorry to say it, but there’s no delicate way to put this) throw up.

To be perfectly fair, there is a slim (and I mean miniscule) possibility that the milk wasn’t the culprit – the camera battery didn’t seem to love the cold weather up on the mountain during Bill’s hike, and drained within a few short hours. And I’d had a bit of trouble getting the LCD monitor to work when the camera was in manual mode (though this could be because I’m a complete amateur, and just don’t know which button or menu item to turn on or off).

But the likelihood that the spilled milk did the damage – and that, therefore, the toddler killed my camera and we, as his adult representatives, would be responsible for paying (through the nose) for said damages (or even having to buy a new camera altogether) – is pretty dang high. (And the 2yo is just LUCKY he’s TWO, and that he’s CUTE… and that he ran away as fast as his little legs could take him, once he threw that milk… AND that he’s pretty fast…)

Looks can be deceiving...

Don’t let his look of innocence fool you; this kid is a cold-blooded camera killer who laughs diabolically whenever I bring up anger management classes.

The thought of the repair bill, or worse being told the camera was beyond repair… ugh! It took me more than a month to finally send the camera to the Nikon repair shop (really! I just couldn’t bear to even look at the poor thing let alone break it down and pack it up!), in hopes that my brand-new (did I already mention that??) camera could be, you know, FIXED.

Two weeks ago I checked my email as usual and – ooh boy, I actually got flustered and jittery – there were two (not one but TWO) emails from Nikon. With the estimates. For repair. One for the camera body and one for the camera lens. Oh, Holy Crappola. This wasn’t going to be good…

I didn’t open those emails then… No, I didn’t. Instead, I took a lunch break. And a dark chocolate break. And then I folded some laundry. After that I briefly contemplated dusting, but then rolled my eyes – like I was going to dust!! I think I actually snorted at myself in derision – so I reluctantly returned to my computer and opened the email…

To learn that the bill would be a whopping $0.

I know, right??!!

I’m not kidding, it took me 15 minutes to start breathing again, and then another 15 minutes of looking through the fine print for any reference of an unidentifiable sticky white substance shorting the wiring, or a note explaining that anyone with children under the age of 10 automatically voided any and all warranties, to finally believe that I wasn’t going to have to pillage my children’s college savings in order to cover the repairs or buy a new camera (an especially problematic solution given that the children’s college savings is currently nonexistent).

Of course, I still didn’t have my camera… I did, however, anxiously track the progress online daily – my stomach in knots every time, in fear that the $0 charge line would abruptly change to $699.99 or that the (fairly serious sounding) note stating the repair was a Category B2 “Moderate Repair: Major Parts Replaced” job would suddenly read “Category Impossible: Toss This Baby Out” – and tried to remind myself that repairs take time.

And then last night, at about 8:30 in the p.m., the doorbell RANG, prompting the dogs to start yipping and barking and running around and sliding on the floors like a swarm of killer bees was chasing them, and making me want to punch in the throat whoever was trying to sign me up for more magazine subscriptions at this time of night, while at the same time sending up a silent prayer to my toddler – the lightest sleeper in the entire universe – to NOT WAKE UP because I desperately wanted at least one glass of wine before having to put him back to bed for the eighty-ninth time. I felt bad for such violent and mean-spirited thoughts, however, when one of our neighbors (being, you know, neighborly) handed my husband a package that had been delivered to his house by mistake.

I opened the box… and found MY CAMERA!! (Oops… I mean, OUR CAMERA!! Sorry, honey!) And then I giggled. I did! I LAUGHED!! And it felt good, too. I did a little happy dance and put all the pieces back together. I had my camera back, I had my camera back!! I turned it on and… and…and nothing. What the heck?! Bill walked by and nonchalantly asked if I’d recharged the battery. Ugh! Does he HAVE to be so irritatingly smart sometimes?! I’m so taking back that Husband-of-the-Year nomination… So I plugged in the battery…

And now that I see it’s fully recharged, I think I will finally power up my big bad camera… and CELEBRATE!

And I do believe the occasion calls for something just a wee bit stronger than milk

Now, where’s that Nestlé Quik??

School Daze

The 2 1/2 yo and his trusty backpack, ready for the first day of preschool.

The 2 1/2 yo and his trusty backpack, ready for the first day of preschool.

My head has been in a total fog all day… I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the fact that my youngest child just started school. Okay, granted, it’s just preschool, and it’s only two mornings a week, but, still… I have three kids who are all old enough to be IN SCHOOL. Which means, I finally have (hold on, let me get my fingers out… that’s one, two, three hours each day… times two days a week, that’s…) SIX WHOLE HOURS A WEEK WITHOUT KIDS. My head is spinning…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t sign my 2½yo  up for preschool just so I could finally get rid of all my kids at the same time (not that I either judge or begrudge any parent who does so just to get some alone time!). Indeed, I worried a bit that he’s still too young; with the other two kids, I waited until they were a bit older before enrolling them in school, and I really do prefer (most days anyway) having them home with me while they’re little. No, I decided that Broder, who absolutely adores his 10yo sister and 6yo brother and does absolutely everything they do – regardless of whether or not he’s old enough to, say, walk out the front door without a parent (oh yeah, he pulled that one over the weekend… while I was oh so conveniently downstairs folding laundry; luckily, Liam saw him head out and chased him down the sidewalk (he’s fast!!), dragged him back in the house kicking and screaming, and then quickly tattled on him – that’s what I call a goooooood big brother) – could benefit from some time with kids his own age, and engaging in a bit more of, shall we say, constructive play than oh, I don’t know, beating on his (very influential older) siblings with a Jedi sword or two (and I haven’t even let him watch Star Wars yet!).

So last week we went to visit the small Montessori preschool where three of his friends already go. It’s nothing big or intimidating, just the daylight-basement of his teacher’s home; very inviting and comfortable, full of fun toys and pet fish and various projects and happy kiddos going about their work. He seemed enthralled, and explored the place like he’d been there every day of his life, happily eating some goldfish crackers right out of one of his friend’s bowl (naturally!). So far, so good…

But having gone through two “first days of school” already, I had enough experience to know that it wasn’t going to school that’d be the issue. It would be me leaving the school that could potentially bring on the drama-slash-waterworks. So, all weekend I reminded him that I’d be saying “bye-bye.” Was he going to be okay with that? And every time I asked, he’d happily nod his consent. Hmm. I’d believe it when I saw it.

I woke up this morning, his first day of school, both excited and a bit conflicted; I knew preschool would be good for him, but I am really (really really really really) sad that my baby (my baby!!) is “leaving home” already! Broder, on the other hand, was only excited when I brought out his backpack. NO nerves there! He put it on right away, and ran downstairs to – very proudly – show it off to his big brother and sister, turning for them like a model on the runway (I’m not kidding, he even sashayed!). They, of course, being very smart siblings, applauded and cheered for him, and he quietly beamed with pleasure. Bill left with the 10yo to take her to school (recall, Paisley has an 8:30am drop off time), a few minutes before our own scheduled departure, and Broder stood at the door, with his cute backpack on, staring outside, ready to go. I gulped down – I mean, delicately sipped – the last of my coffee and hoped his positive attitude would last…

Broder leading the way to his new school. He's running, if you can't tell. RUNNING. What a tease!

Broder leading the way to his new school. He’s running, if you can’t tell. RUNNING. (What a tease!)

We arrived at the school and were the first ones there. He walked in like a boss, ready to own the place. It was awesome. I literally had to hold him down to get his coat off, and then had to chase him down again to get his shoes off (which, by the way, his papa had put on the wrong feet – I only mention this in retaliation for some text messages said Papa sent my way this afternoon; I’ll get to those in a minute…). His enthusiasm didn’t wane as some of the other kids came in. I chatted with his teacher for a few minutes, and all looked very promising for an easy drop off (Wait – did you just snort with laughter?! Not nice! Not nice at all…). As he darted by me on his way to the next shiny item that caught his eye I said “bye-bye” – and watched him stop as abruptly as if he’d hit a brick wall. Oh, dear… He spun around on his little sock-clad heel and walked to the door, ready to go with me. His hand was on the door knob when I reminded him of all our conversations over the weekend and how Mama had to say “bye-bye” and take Liam to school (recall, Liam has a 9:30am drop off time – Broder’s drop off is 8:45am; and yes, I want to stab myself in the temple with a fork whenever I think of trying to juggle three different drop off times – and three different pick up times – at three different schools for the next several months). Apparently he didn’t remember us having these little talks. “Me go,” he claimed. “Me go, too! Go go go!!” And his “Go go go!” just kept getting louder as I pried his sweet fingers off the door handle, gave him a kiss and passed him off to his (thankfully very calm and been-there-done-that) teacher and walked out the door…

And listened to his “Go go go!” all the way down the sidewalk…

Feeling like the WORST MOTHER EVER.

Of course, I’d felt this same truly terrible feeling twice before, on my other kids’ first days of school, but when it comes to saying good-bye to your child (whether they’re crying or not) for an extended period of time, well, let’s just say practice doesn’t make perfect. The first day of school (or daycare or nanny-care or any length of time that will persist for several days a week for what feels like eternity) is ALWAYS HARD, for everyone involved. I felt so bad for Broder, and for myself!, and I don’t even know how I got Liam to school; I can’t remember which route we took or how long it took. I do know we got there on time, and that I actually deposited my child in the right place (thank goodness!), because as the final bell was ringing I had a total mini PANIC ATTACK (yes, yes I did) as I looked around for Broder, my suddenly missing constant companion, before I remembered that he was at his own school. Heart still racing, I was in a total daze by the time I walked through the front door after dropping off both boys.

At which point, realizing I didn’t have a child to feed, entertain, or put down for a nap, it finally dawned on me that I had THREE WHOLE HOURS (okay, really two and a half, given the driving time to and from, but still!) without any kiddo interruptions. W. O. W. What to do, what to do??!!

What I should have done is gone upstairs and jumped on the bed in excitement (though as I’d already made my bed this morning, this might have been quite the psychological struggle, and I confess, I don’t think I could have done it had I thought of it); or have called a friend to meet up for coffee (there must be someone I know who doesn’t have to work or take care of their kids… though, I can’t think of anyone right now); or gone grocery shopping all on my own (truly, as anyone who’s taken three kids – or heck, even just one kid – grocery shopping can attest, shopping all on your own is a little slice of Heaven on Earth); or gone shopping-shopping (wow, what a novel concept: actually browsing in a grown-up department store, where I can find clothes in my size, and without getting bashed in the face, over and over again, by the free balloon from the kids’ shoe department – which for some reason I’m always carrying, what’s up with that?! – the balloon which I freely admit I use to bribe my child/ren with whenever I attempt to shop with any of them in tow; it’s a stupid idea shopping with your kids, I know, but sometimes it must be done); or just curled up in my big comfy chair with a big delicious cup of coffee and a big thought-provoking novel (I’m thinking it’s about time I actually managed to finish a book for Book Club again; just a thought …); or, if I wanted to go the responsible adult route (I know, I know; who wants to be a responsible adult?! Boo hiss!), started on some of the large-scale work projects that are lurking on the horizon (like a complete web site redesign; can we say “hours??”); or even tackled some of the pesky “spring-cleaning” (okay, fine, “year-round”) tasks around the house (all of which feel rather Sisyphean in nature, but at some point I actually *do* need to sort through all the kids’ clothes and shoes – as I’m pretty sure my 10yo hasn’t worn the size 4T dresses still hanging in her closest in, oh, you know, a couple of years – nor is my kitchen pantry going to rearrange itself into a more useful organizational system no matter how many times I beg it to); or (perhaps the very best idea), just TAKEN A NAP (sigh… doesn’t that sound ridiculously decadent??)

And I would have happily done any and all of these should-have-dones (well, I wouldn’t have happily started organizing my kitchen pantry – that just sounds horrible – but I would’ve at least enjoyed the satisfaction of having an organized kitchen pantry…), IF my brain wasn’t still with my baby boy… Three measly miles away. So, instead, I cleaned the breakfast things from the table while fretting about whether or not my little guy was still crying; and constantly checked my phone to see if the ringer was on; and checked again that the ringer was turned up loud enough so I could hear it in case Broder’s teacher needed to call me and tell me to come pick up the UNHAPPIEST CHILD ON THE PLANET right away; and texted my husband when the phone didn’t ring (which totally didn’t help comfort my jittery nerves, as he simply said that Broder would be fine, if maybe a bit mad at me, and reminded me to not forget that Broder likes to throw things – like his very hard plastic tippy-cups – at those unfortunate souls who do make him mad, and maybe I shouldn’t turn my back on him this afternoon; thanks for that, honey – really, thanks! – kisses!!); and basically watched the clock slowly slowly slowly tick-tick-tock its way toward the time I could get back in the car and drive to the new school and pick up my little sweet pea and hug him and hug him and hug him.

And then come home and put him down for his nap.

So I could finally get some work done! Assuming that my brain would no longer be in a worried fog…

I was ten minutes early picking him up. I tried to stay in the car, but I had a hard time concentrating on people’s Facebook posts on my iPhone… so I gave up and went inside…

To be told by my love bug, my youngest child who had cried and cried and cried and WAILED and broke my HEART into itty bitty little pieces when I left that morning, that he didn’t want to go home.

Are you KIDDING me??

What a stinker!!

And that’s when my brain finally started kicking in (well, what’s left of my brain, anyway; after 10 years of parenthood, we’re not talking Mensa-quality here, but, hey, it’s all I’ve got). Well, fine! Two can play at that game…You had fun? Fun?! Now it’s Mama’s turn…

That’s right, baby. Time to take a nap (sigh…). Time to read some (what I call) Bad Mama Books (yeah, you know the ones; the books, sanctioned by Book Club or not, that you can’t put down even if your kids are clubbing each other with a baseball bat you mistakenly forgot to put back in the too-high-to-reach-even-if-they’re-standing-on-a-chair-hiding-spot while in the same room in which you’re sitting and reading). Time to email the graphic artist and web programmer (done!) about that new web site design and skip off to Nirvana, aka Nordstrom’s shoe department (I’ll even take a balloon for myself, thank you!). Time to forget about getting this house in shape (because, like, that’s going to happen!) and even forget about going to the grocery store and head off, instead, to find the perfect Americano.

So, who wants to meet me for coffee? I’ll see you on Wednesday morning…

Right after I get done jumping on the bed.

The Icing on the Cupcake

Birthday Cupcakes!

Homemade White Cupcakes with White Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

As far as my children’s birthday parties were concerned, I used to be perfectly content making brownies from a box for classroom celebrations and buying jumbo-size sheet cakes from the nearest Costco for birthday parties. Such pre-packaged goodies were tasty, cheap, and – of the utmost importance in my chaotic life – QUICK. But now? Now there is PRESSURE.

I blame Pinterest.

Also Instagram. And the Food Channel. And even cookbooks.

But mostly, I blame all those (indecently) savvy food bloggers out there, toiling away at creating such pinnably delicious recipes, and all those (obnoxiously) talented friends of mine (you know who you are – and really, how can you call yourself my friend and torture me so?!) who happen to be (offensively) ingenious bakers; especially those (annoyingly) gifted bloggers and friends who upload beautiful mega-pixel photos – nay, photographs – of their drool-worthy sugary confections and mouth-watering baked ooey-gooey goodness on all the social networking sites I can’t keep myself from haunting on a daily (okay, hourly) basis.

So when my youngest child’s 2nd birthday rolled around last week (2nd birthday?! How did that even HAPPEN??), I knew in my heart of hearts that I could not, COULD NOT, buy a store-bought cake this year for his birthday party.  I felt compelled to bow to the pressure of all those Kitchen Gods and Goddesses and make something from the HEART with my very own HANDS.

But here’s the thing. I’m a terrible baker. Baking is a science (which is SO not my subject; I’m a language arts kinda gal…) where even a pinch too much baking soda or folding in the wrong size eggs (really – until recently I thought all eggs were the same size… who knew?!) can relegate an entire batch of butterscotch chip cookies straight to the compost bin. I’m way better suited to the world of COOKING, where an extra dash of salt or some spilled tarragon won’t ruin the dinner I’ve just spent an hour making (which my children won’t eat, anyway, but that’s another matter altogether).

So, I’m taking baby steps in the baking arena. Thanks to Pinterest (I fully acknowledge my addiction to this site; someone should probably stage an intervention), I discovered a yummy (even if I do say so myself) cupcake recipe that modifies a boxed cake mix. Yes, yes, a box is pre-packaged, and that’s BAD, but I give myself credit for going “homemade” – even if not fully from scratch – because the recipe still takes FOREVER to make.

Which brings us to the night before the party (you obviously know that nothing in my life goes smoothly… so here’s the fun bit…). I tucked the youngest two kids into bed (Bill had taken the oldest to roller derby practice), and poured the cake mix (the kind with pudding in it – did I say yummy?), into a mixing bowl. Just as I was about to add the other ingredients, I remembered the sage advice of the expert-level food blogger who provided the recipe, and set out the buttermilk and eggs (two large eggs, if you were wondering) to warm to room temperature before starting. Baking is so NOT a quick process… So, I poured some wine (just my first glass, I swear!), and sat at my computer to work (finding my dream wardrobe on Pinterest) for the duration.

After a few minutes (and some really adorable striped dresses pinned to my style board – I’m way into stripes these days), I heard this odd, repetitive sound… it was like a lick-lick-lick sound, but not “wet” (no sloshing or slurping) if that makes sense… not quite like sandpaper, but (Ooh, that’s cute… every dress should have pockets…) – what WAS it? It’s not outside… it’s in the house… I pinned another dress (or maybe it was a fedora – but am I really brave enough to sport a fedora?), and got up to solve the mystery of the dry lick-lick-lick sound that wasn’t stopping. I wandered into the kitchen…


I almost had KITTENS, I swear. I’ve never heard my body make the kind of noise that burst out of my mouth. The stream of curse words I used should’ve woken the children (and scarred them for life), I was so loud. My 80-pound dog lifted his huge head out of the mixing bowl, his big brown nose smeared with white powder (like a canine version of Al Pacino pulling his mug out of a giant pile of cocaine in Scarface…), saw me (in crazy lady mode) coming toward him (I do crazy lady a little too well I fear), and, dropping to all fours, couldn’t follow my directions to “Get out, get OUT, GET OUT!!!!” fast enough, scurrying past me on his way to the back door, cowering, his large body somehow now the size of a tea-cup Chihuahua…

It was 8:00pm. Bill couldn’t run to the store for me, and wouldn’t be home from Paisley’s practice until 10:30pm. Also, he had the car. Even if I DID have the car, I couldn’t GO anywhere, because it’s not like I could leave the boys home alone (not that I didn’t think about it! I know… bad bad bad mama!). I needed to make two batches of cupcakes (for 48 total cupcakes) before I went to bed, giving the cupcakes plenty of time to cool before frosting them in the morning (turns out, frosting is very good at melting into, and sliding – yes, sliding – right off the top of, any cake product that has even a touch of warmth left from the oven… a lesson, if you were curious, I did indeed learn the hard way), before taking the birthday boy to the zoo after his nap. And the dog had just eaten, in essence, half the cupcakes…


So there I was, hyperventilating into a brown paper lunch sack (okay, not really; I was just guzzling my wine, which looks way more pulled-together than the paper sack thing…) when my best friend from high school, who was visiting us for the weekend with her daughter (quick aside: it was SO nice to see them, and not just because of the service they were about to render), came home from touring some of the local sites. They kindly offered to stay at the house while I walked to the grocery store a few blocks away. Phew! Maybe I could pull this fancy-schmancy cupcake thing off as planned!

I got to the store (luckily the perpetual rain had finally stopped, so I wasn’t soaked to the bone in the process), and guess who didn’t have the cake mix I needed? Naturally…

So I walked across the street to the big chain drugstore, hoping that just maybe they had the cake mix with the pudding in it… No luck – they only had the chocolate version, which my tricked out recipe didn’t call for…

Okay, all of you (outrageously) overly-accomplished bakers out there, I know what you’re thinking: I should’ve just made the cupcakes from scratch!! First: baby steps, remember? Second: Hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t have time to scour the blogosphere for a new recipe! And what if the new recipe called for some elaborate pantry item that I didn’t have, like fresh lemon zest or vanilla extract imported from Madagascar or strawberry preserves that I had canned myself from last summer’s bountiful harvest (and I don’t even grow strawberries!)?? I needed that cake mix, I needed the cupcakes made, and I needed them NOW.


At this point, my lovely friend, seeing that I was totally about to crack, or perhaps just worried about the health of my liver if I kept guzzling wine, offered to drive to another grocery store to find me the elusive cake mix with pudding. And now you know why she’s been one of my dearest friends for more than two decades: the gal who memorized Lita Ford & Depeche Mode lyrics with me in high school (her hair was even bigger than mine – she rocked!), who survived a firetrap of a roach motel in Amsterdam with me during college (honestly, one of the scariest nights I’ve ever experienced – I still get shivers down my spine thinking of that place), who sent me a “mama care package” that included a fashion magazine and Skittles (my faves; she knows me so well!) in addition to her handmade baby gift on the arrival of the soon-to-be birthday boy (yeah, she’s one of those exasperatingly talented friends I mentioned; she bakes, too… sigh), was now helping me indulge my (completely irrational, if hopefully endearing) need to make not-quite-homemade, but-totally-from-the-heart cupcakes for my son.

The best part? She’s vegan; she couldn’t even eat the (I did mention yummy, right?) white cupcakes with (insanely decadent) white chocolate buttercream frosting I spent the rest of the night making and the next morning frosting. She was just willing to help out an old friend, and celebrate the life of my child.

Which is what it’s all really about, isn’t it? I mean, yummy food and decadent desserts are wonderful and all, but birthdays (and baby showers, and anniversaries, and graduations, and holidays, and all those other festivities that call for an abundance of goodies and treats) aren’t about food and desserts – about how gourmet the pizza was (or not, as the case may be – look, I used up any kitchen skills I had with the cupcakes, okay?!) or how “from scratch” the cupcakes were – such special occasions are about families and friends coming together, about celebrating togetherness, about honoring the milestones and accomplishments of those people we want to be together with

Me with the birthday boy.

Celebrating the 2yo’s birthday at the zoo! After raining all morning, the skies cleared up just as we arrived; it was a lovely afternoon…

For a few minutes there (okay, a few hours, but who’s counting?), I lost sight of the important stuff: the day wasn’t about how scrumptious or photo-worthy my cupcakes were or weren’t; the day was about how joyful we were that Broder came into our lives TWO fantastically fun-filled years ago and how grateful we were to celebrate his birthday together with beloved family and friends.

The cupcakes (somehow and rather shockingly, I know, given my utter ineptitude when it comes to the science of baking) came out just like I wanted – yummy, pretty, plentiful (I was forced to hide the cupcakes in the oven to keep them away from the still-opportunistic pets; and in case you were worried, my dog suffers from no Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or any other ill consequence engendered from my little crazy-lady outburst: his big brown nose, licked clean of all white cake powder, was in the compost bin only an hour later…), and even photo-worthy (even if I do say so myself!).

But as delicious and photogenic as the cupcakes were, it’s Broder’s smile, his happy face, his giggles of appreciation and delight that make the photo… and the day. The enjoyment he took in seeing the penguins and jaguars and elephants on our trip to the zoo, the pleasure he expressed in playing with all the friends who came over to our house to share the occasion with him, the awe in his face as he stared at the two lit candles atop his cupcake, were the real icing on the cake…

A birthday party for a 2yo!

“For me?!”

In less than four weeks, Liam will be celebrating his 6th birthday (6th birthday?! How did that even HAPPEN??), and I know that I will once again feel the PRESSURE (and as much as I’d like to blame Pinterest and Instagram and the Food Channel and cookbooks and all those indecently, obnoxiously, offensively, annoyingly, outrageously, and exasperatingly savvy, talented, ingenious, gifted, overly-accomplished Kitchen Gods and Goddesses – bloggers and friends alike – that fill my life and computer screen with drool-worthy and mouth-watering culinary images and recipes, I know I, and I alone, am responsible for my own freakish, obssessive, borderline-OCD ways…) to avoid the pre-packaged, store-bought, and QUICK dessert options.

And really… How hard can it be to be to make those handmade, from scratch, definitely not store bought, chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches (with the ice cream edges rolled in mini-chocolate chips – so decadent!), the recipe for which I just strategically pinned to my Pinterest board?

But this time? This time I think I’ll ask the birthday boy to make those ice cream sandwiches with me. I’ll even let him eat a few of the chocolate chips. And maybe a chocolate chip cookie or two (hey, I might be new to this whole baking thing, but I still know I need to make sure everything tastes good, right?!). Just as long as we’re enjoying the process… and having fun… Together…

(The dogs, however, can wait outside…)

Kiss and Tell

Broder's Kiss

A big, ol’, wet, open-mouthed, sloppy kiss from my baby boy: the best! I include this picture to give you a visual reference for this blog post’s dramatic finale…

A handful of years ago – actually, before we even had kids, so “a handful of years” is a rather generous term, but I don’t like to dwell on how old I’m getting so we’ll stick with it, if you don’t mind – I went to a wedding where a Young Child, around 5yo or so (old enough to know better), was truly and epically defining the phrase “running amok” during the reception. It. Was. Monumentally. Bonkers. Young Child was running and hollering around the empty dance floor like a particularly defective wound-up toy; bouncing his way through the formally-set tables, bumping into chairs and knocking guests (even grandparents got a knock or two) so hard they spilled their drinks and dropped forkfuls of food on their tables, laps and floor; and hanging – yes, hanging!! – from the table holding the wedding cake. THE WEDDING CAKE. You could hear the collective gasp ripple through the dining room during that one… And at no time, NO TIME, did his mother (one of the bride’s best friends!) come and collect him, talk to him, recommend he refrain from screaming like a banshee, or ask him to behave himself and be considerate of those around him; she was much too busy talking with the others at her assigned table and sipping at whatever drink she was enjoying. It was like she had blinders on (and ear plugs in); she was either completely oblivious to the Tasmanian Devil act Young Child was performing, or she just didn’t care. As he went careening across the room, the entire assembly of well-dressed onlookers (with the possible exception of his preoccupied mother) audibly inhaling as Young Child yet again came within millimeters of toppling over the wedding cake (I honestly can’t believe that cake survived), one of the guests at our table (the minister who had conducted the wedding ceremony, of all people), stated with quite an impressive amount of confidence, “Now that is a child just screaming for some boundaries.”

And I took his words to heart, remembering them as advice to live by when I became a parent. More than a decade later, as a parent who struggles to create safe and realistic boundaries for her own (loud, rambunctious, Tasmanian Devil impersonating) children (who all too often run amok themselves), I am reminded of Young Child from the wedding reception every so often, most recently a few days ago when my 23mo toddler and I went to coffee with one of my dearest friends and two of her children.

My friend, being brilliant, recommended a kid-friendly coffee shop near her house that has a play area in the back – a BIG play area (it was impressive). While parents drank their beloved little cups of caffeine (well, my little cup of caffeine is beloved… I shouldn’t speak for anyone else, I suppose), they watched (or didn’t watch as the case may be, but more on that in a moment) their happy tikes gambol and frolic on a little stage (perhaps one time a nice place for a local small-timey band to play a lively set or two for coffee-drinking and cupcake-eating patrons, it’s now a total kid-zone) stocked with toys of every shape and color: a table-top train set, two or three large shelves full of dolls and books and large Lego pieces, an old-fashioned wood rocking horse, and even a green Hulk action figure that my son enjoyed trying to give to some random father on the other side of the dais (thankfully this father knew to keep giving it back). Among and amidst all these fabulous “new” toys to play with were probably a dozen or so children, ranging in age from not-quite 2yo (I think Broder was one of the youngest) up through around 4-4½yo. Enter into this story Young Child’s doppelganger, Little Boy (maybe 4yo, he was one of the oldest at the café), who was, shall we say, screaming for some boundaries… And his mother? Not so much watching her little tike gambol and frolic… Rather, she was happily chatting away with her friends at a distant table, completely oblivious to the tug-of-wars and squabbles her child was creating (I saw her check on him just once the entire time we were there).

For the record, I’m all for letting children have a bit of independence while learning the ways and means of social interactions and negotiations, but I do tend to get involved (call me overprotective, if you wish) when there are tears or the threat of physical violence. So does my friend. Our involvement, it turned out, was required more than a few times between our children and Little Boy.

It started out with me eye-balling the troublemaking urchin (I’d already seen him take toys directly out of the hands of other children, who of course promptly burst into befuddled tears, so I was aware of his, shall we say, lack of impulse control) when he came over and started driving three Matchbox-size monster trucks in and out of the rooms of the three-story dollhouse where Broder was happily playing, galloping a My Little Pony around the “yard” of the house. The dollhouse was set on a small table, and when Broder dropped his pony onto the floor, Little Boy – I’m not kidding – looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching (he somehow missed me, perhaps because I was at that moment taking a long sip of delicious latte from my bowl-sized mug), and, oh so nonchalantly, PUSHED THE DANG TABLE ON TOP OF MY TODDLER.

I quickly unpinned (the very confused) Broder from the table, and (using my Pleasant Mama voice, I might add) informed the troublemaking urchin that Broder was just a little guy, and he needed to be careful with smaller kids. Little Boy just nodded, and resentfully watched Broder dust himself off and return to galloping his pony around the table… I sighed, knowing this wouldn’t be the end of it, and returned to my chair.

As I sat back down, I saw Little Boy’s mother drinking her coffee and smiling with her friends – she hadn’t seen a thing. I cut her a little slack: sometimes you miss things as a parent. I get it.

Broder moved on from the dollhouse, and away from Little Boy (who’d pushed a table on top of him!), and I thought, “Good.” Broder found an old-fashioned school desk, and for quite a few minutes seemed perfectly content just sitting and smiling. Until… Yep, you guessed it… Until Little Boy decided HE wanted to sit in the desk and started inching his way toward Broder. I took a sip of coffee and continued chatting with my friend, but prepared myself to intervene; sure enough, Little Boy finally made a move to PULL Broder out of the desk chair. Before he could pull my son’s arm out of his shoulder socket, I had my hand between the two of them, forcing Little Boy to let go of Broder and give him a little space. I then explained (again with the Pleasant Mama voice, though perhaps a little strained…) that yes, waiting was hard, but Broder was taking his turn, and when Broder was done, Little Boy could have a turn. Little Boy looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, then, sulking, put his back against the wall to wait his turn. I again returned to my seat (why did I even bother??), and was astonished (though I really shouldn’t have been) to see Little Boy ever so very very very slowly start to sidle his way closer and closer and closer to Broder. He was creeping so slowly (the better to avoid detection, you know; very discreet), that it took a couple of minutes for him to finally get close enough to my son that I finally, yet again, abandoned my beloved little (okay, huge) cup of caffeine and moved to intercept… The whole time Little Boy was making his (very slow) move, Broder sat in the coveted school desk and watched him with a look of growing astonishment (“What IS he doing?!”), and regularly turned his big innocent eyes to me, just to see if things were on the up and up. Finally Little Boy could take the slow progress no longer, his need to possess the chair palpably overcoming any self-control he possessed, and he leapt toward Broder, rapidly closing the remaining distance between himself and my son, and JUTTED, yes JUTTED, his face directly into Broder’s face, nose-to-nose; the move was so quick and aggressive, I actually expected Broder to swat him in the face, or, if not swat him, to roar like a lion (swatting and roaring being Broder’s most common responses when confronted with a sibling or other child who does something he doesn’t like; the roaring like a lion bit is remarkably effective at making other kids BACK UP quickly, just in case you were curious). But no, Broder didn’t swat or roar at Little Boy… No, he did something infinitely better… Broder KISSED HIM. He kissed him! Little Boy pulled his face back so fast, you’d have thought a snake bit him; the look of shock on his face (I’m sorry to admit it, but there you have it) was just priceless. Little Boy looked at me, his eyes opened as wide as they could go, and quite calmly stated, “He just licked me.”

You have NO idea how hard it was to keep a straight face, to not burst out laughing. Oh goodness… IT HURT!

“Yes,” I explained, again in that Pleasant Mama voice I’m trying to perfect (I had lots of practice during this particular excursion), “yes, that’s how he kisses. He’s still learning to kiss. His kisses are a bit wet, huh? But wasn’t that nice?”

Completely taking me by surprise, Little Boy broke into a HUGE GRIN and triumphantly declared, “YEAH!!” And then, before I could do anything to stop it, he took me unawares again by JUTTING his darn little face directly into Broder’s face, nose-to-nose, AGAIN! What the-??

Ooohhh… Oh. I see… Oh…. He just wanted another kiss…

And my heart melted. Right then and there I realized my precious, sweet toddler was my hero – indeed, he was my role model. Yes, Little Boy was a troublemaking urchin with impulse control issues who was screaming for some boundaries (as was Young Child before him), but what Broder knew, and what I had missed, is that sometimes a troublemaking urchin needs MORE THAN boundaries. Sometimes when a child is acting up and running amok, that child just needs some good, old-fashioned ATTENTION. Some honest to goodness AFFECTION. A tight squeeze-y hug. A big, ol’, wet, sloppy kiss…

So, next time my kids go all Tasmanian Devil impersonating, troublemaking urchin on me (ooohhh yes, my kids can give Little Boy and Young Child a run for their money on any given day of the week), hopefully I’ll remember the valuable lesson my not-quite 2yo son taught me this week. Next time one of my kids JUT their face into my face, and decide to go toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with me (probably about me insisting on them putting on a rain coat since it’s raining, or actually eating some type of vegetable matter during the day), instead of reminding them, in my best Pleasant Mama voice, of the safe and realistic boundaries their father and I have set, I’m just going to lean over and give them a big, ol’, wet, sloppy kiss.

Or lick their face…

Either way, it’s sure to halt the running amok, if just for a moment. And hopefully it’ll make them break into a huge, heart-melting grin. And hopefully I’ll remember that, when my kids are acting up and screaming for some boundaries, what they might really need is just a little loving attention FROM ME.

But if their running amok is endangering any nearby wedding cakes or involves pushing another child under a table, I think I’ll take my loud, rambunctious, Tasmanian Devil impersonating, troublemaking urchins to another room before giving them that big, ol’, wet, sloppy kiss…

Mumbo Jumbo

The toddler with yogurt in his hair.

Nope, that’s not styling gel in the toddler’s hair: that’s yogurt. Lots and lots and lots of yogurt. What’s that you ask? Why, yes; he did smell DELICIOUS after waking up from the 3 1/2 HOUR LONG NAP he took right after I snapped this picture!

I am not a very superstitious person by nature.

There are no horseshoes above my door. I do not throw spilled salt over my shoulder (I’ve already made one mess to clean up in this scenario, why on Earth would I create a second mess to clean up??). I walk under ladders if they’re in my way. I do not pull on a “lucky” pair of socks that haven’t been washed since the Carter Administration in attempts to ensure my beloved Tar Heels an NCAA Championship win (I only wish I had that kind of power, because I’d wear those darned socks until they disintegrated off my feet…). I do not forward chain letters that declare I will waste away in the pits of Tartarus for all eternity (or perhaps just get a foot wart) if I don’t email it to a dozen of my closest friends within the next 24 hours (note to my dear friends: as much as I like new ideas for what to cook for dinner, I also don’t forward on recipe chain emails – that has nothing to do with superstitions, though; it’s just pure laziness on my part – my apologies). And I don’t use a complicated algorithm of family birthdates and number of pets I’ve had in my lifetime when I buy lottery tickets (well, I don’t buy lottery tickets – this does not, however, keep me from being deeply disappointed when I don’t win the Mega Millions jackpot).

No, I usually don’t put much stock in such mumbo jumbo. But, for this last week and a half, I’ve become, if not a true believer, increasingly superstitious…

You see, I’ve been paying attention (I know! Apparently all that coffee I’m drinking is working!), specifically to my 23mo’s nap schedule, and I’ve realized that if he eats a container of YOGURT before I put him down for his nap he sleeps for 3 – 3 ½ HOURS. If he doesn’t eat YOGURT, then he sleeps for, at most, 2 hours. I realize that 2 hours is a great nap, but do you have any idea what I can do with that extra 1 – 1 ½ hours?? I have learned to become extremely efficient in completing chores, work tasks, and various other projects that need to be completed during nap times in the last nine-plus years since the arrival of my first born (well, let’s be honest, last eight-plus years; it took me a good year to even get dressed before 3pm, let alone get any work done, after I had my first child…), but that extra bit of time is, in my world, as fantastically exciting as if I really did win the Mega Millions jackpot (well, now I’m exaggerating, but long naps really are much appreciated and pretty thrilling in my world – and yes, I realize I should get out more often).

The problem is, the yogurt-eating sessions are REALLY REALLY MESSY. While spooning in huge mouthfuls of creamy, strawberry or blueberry or peach deliciousness, the toddler (still working on those fine-motor skills) inevitably drips and drops a bit of (read: lots of) yogurt on the table. This, in turn, becomes a wonderful opportunity for finger-painting on the table. And for styling his hair. And for throwing at the cat. And then, of course, the sticky hands need to be wiped on his pants. And on his shirt. And on his face. And in his hair (again). All of which necessitates the use of too many rags, towels and wet wipes to count to clean up the child, the table, the floor, the cat, and, more often than not, leads to an entire change of clothes (and an ever increasing load of laundry). But, I have come to realize, I am more than happy to sacrifice an endless supply of wet wipes and organic yogurt at the altar of the sleep gods if it results in (much appreciated) 3 hour long naps…

I know it’s ridiculous. I realize that yogurt itself has no correlation to length of naptime AT ALL. And once, at the beginning of the week, I even tried to root this (much appreciated) phenomenon in more scientific soil by switching up (wait for it…) “the variables” (See! I did pay attention in that science class I was forced to take back in college, even if it was Physics for Poets; hey, don’t judge – there is tremendous value in knowing how those “Magic Eye” 3-D stereogram posters work – how else was I to learn how to see the shark eating the dinosaur in those optical illusion posters at the mall kiosk??), experimenting with how much yogurt was required for the longer (much appreciated) nap. So, donning my lab coat and goggles (not really; I just watched from the safety of the kitchen) I gave Broder a toddler-size container of yogurt rather than the larger (and messier) normal-size yogurt. Result: 1hr 55min nap. Say what?? Well, the larger container of yogurt it is!! And that whole “science project” thing can just go searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! At this point, I don’t really care to explore “the theory” that a full belly – full from any substantial snack at all, not just yogurt – before a nap will keep the toddler from waking up hungry, and the child will therefore sleep longer. Don’t talk to me about RATIONALITY or REASON! Do you understand that the child IS SLEEPING?! I don’t want to try any more “science experiments,” thank you very little, in fear that I’ll yet again return to the shorter nap schedule.

So, I’m going with my newly superstitious heart here. He’s getting yogurt, and he’s getting the large container of yogurt, from now until eternity (or at least until he’s old enough to give up naps – age eight will do). If he needs to paint the table, or himself, with yogurt, so be it; that’s why I have sponges and rags. If he needs to throw the (never quite-empty) yogurt container at the cat, so be it; the cat just gets sick when he licks up the spilled yogurt anyway, so I’d rather he sprint away from the mess, if you don’t mind. And if he needs to style his hair with yogurt, so be it… That’s why I have a camera.

Yep, the kid is getting yogurt. A big yogurt. And I’m going to thank any and all of my lucky stars for the (much appreciated) long naps. And cross my fingers and toes that the (much appreciated) long naps continue for many moons to come. And I’m going to be really careful not to break any mirrors…

But I’m still not going to forward on any chain letters. Well, unless they promise, not wealth or my dream job, but that my children won’t talk back or sass me until they reach adulthood (at which point I can toss them to the curb). For that, I just might email my closest TWO dozen friends. And it’d take me significantly less than 24 hours to forward on that baby. Now that’s the kind of mumbo jumbo I want to believe in…

Maybe I need to wish on a shooting star for that one? Quick, someone get me a rabbit’s foot to rub! Or maybe I’ll find a four-leaf clover today…

Ooh… and I better remind my kids not to step on any cracks…

Potty Talk

Still Life with Potty Chair

The new bathroom artwork: Still Life with Potty Chair.

Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking hauling the potty chairs out of the storage closet. The toddler isn’t even two years old, and though I’ve heard of wonder babies who potty train super early, neither of my other kids were even remotely interested in giving up their diapers for the porcelain (or plastic) throne much before the age of three… If I do my math correctly (a note to the wise: never trust my math), that means the potty chairs could’ve stayed in storage for at least another year.

But no, no, for some reason, earlier this week, I literally dug out (it’s a very messy closet, for which I feel shame and remorse, but I can think of about a gazillion and a half different chores to complete before I tackle the basement storage areas; after all, there are dust bunnies in my bathtub) all three little, white, plastic potty chairs that I had crammed in the closet (I mean, stowed away in a nice and orderly fashion) after Liam (now 5yo) had effectively completed his potty-training regimen. I then divvied them up, the large potty chair to the main floor (and therefore the most used) bathroom, one smaller one to the master bathroom, and the last small one to the kids’ bathroom, where the toddler (22mo) just happened to be waiting to take his nightly bath.

I put the potty chair down on the floor and proudly showed it to him. Me (like I’m giving him the greatest toy ever invented): Look, Broder, this is where you can go potty; no more diapers! To which he promptly responded by picking up the small white bucket and cleverly putting it on his head. Like a hat. And it fit quite well, actually. And then he giggled like a maniac.

I SO wish I had a snapshot of this moment. I actually thought of recreating the photo opp this morning so I could show you a picture, but then (thankfully) the coffee finally hit my brain, and I realized that, maybe, just maybe, I might not want to encourage him to put the potty chair on his head again. Especially since he’s already showing signs of being the family clown – doing ridiculous things to (mainly) make his siblings laugh, and they’d think a potty chair on their baby brother’s head was a RIOT – I’m sure that if I took his picture with the potty chair on his head I would seal the deal on the funny factor, and would most likely see the potty chair back on his noggin when I least wanted it to be there (read: any time after being returned to potty duty after a 2 ½ year hiatus). It would really take potty humor to a new level… And I’m not ready to go there just yet…

So, not willing to just call myself an idiot for bringing out the chairs a year early (and secretly hoping my youngest child is indeed a wonder baby who learns to use the toilet at the age of two), as a first step in the potty training process I’m trying to teach him just to SIT on the potty chair. Rather than put it on his head like a hat. Or rather than picking it up and throwing it at the cat (yep, that happened, too). And he’s now okay with sitting on the chair… But, it turns out, and I did not know this (perhaps you did, but), it’s quite fun to scoot all around the bathroom and out into the hall on the potty chair, like it was a new-fangled ride-on toy (even though it doesn’t have wheels). How great is that?! It turns out, it just might be the greatest toy ever invented…

How to tell if your child is ready to potty train.

How to tell if your child is ready to potty train: if he’s using the potty chair to scoot around the bathroom while brushing his teeth? He’s probably not ready (notice his left foot in motion; he can scoot FAST – like NASCAR fast).

Right. So, potty training might take a while; I might need to reassess my options… I could keep working on the potty training, knowing that someday soon I will most likely discover my toddler, wet and dripping and laughing like a lunatic, after having tipped a used potty chair over his head (it’s a hat, right? Or a toy. It doesn’t matter, it’s fun!) to entertain his adoring audience (aka, his siblings). Or I could hold off on the training, and just let the miniature plastic bowls serve as yet another dust catcher (after all, I clearly love catching dust); they’ll be like tiny bathroom sculptures, adding a touch of whimsy to the bathroom decor.

Or, of course, I could just put the potty chairs back in the storage closet until the toddler might actually be ready for potty training. You know… When he’s ready to skip to the loo, and use it, too?!

Now that’d be using my head. Or not… using the head that is. Or rather, the toddler wouldn’t be using the head… Wait… Oh, you get the picture!

Please Tell Me They Deliver Margaritas

Who? Who, who, who?? WHO are these… these… these PARENTS who take their sick kids out in public so that my kids lick, inhale, absorb and catch EVERY SINGLE VIRUS ON THE ENTIRE PLANET??!!

(Deep breath.)

That’s right… I was back at Seattle Children’s Hospital tonight (for those keeping track, that’s twice in ten days; quite the average*), this time because the 21mo had a rash around his mouth and behind his legs that was spreading, oozing, and getting worse as the day went on.

Okay. The story starts a couple of days ago. The 9yo and 5yo were home from school for parent-teacher conferences**. The rain was coming down in a steady downpour that didn’t let up for two days. And the toddler came down with a fever. Yes… this is what I call a PERFECT STORM.

After two days of the kids literally bouncing off the walls and furniture (Me: Liam, you’re hurting the furniture! If you bounce on the couch once more you’ll have to sit on the floor for the rest of the day! Liam [momentarily standing still, staring at me in awe]: The couch has feelings?? Me [Eyes rolling like a 14yo teenaged girl]: I. Give. Up.), I – I mean we – were SO looking forward to this morning’s Opening Day Jamboree for the 5yo’s T-Ball season: hours and hours of fun outdoor time just perfect for burning off some wickedly crazy amounts of excess energy. I’m pretty sure the only reason I didn’t give in and buy an indoor trampoline (other than the fact that I have no idea if such a thing exists, that I have no room for such an apparatus, and that I know it’d just lead to more hospital visits) is the belief that I could last – I could! – until the Jamboree.

Which was cancelled because of rain an hour before it should have started.

In desperation, and in fear that I was about to stick the fork left on the table by my 9yo (who was apparently on a hunger strike, so at least it was a clean fork) into MY TEMPLE, my husband suggested taking the kids to the zoo. In the rain. Hey, why not?? But first, he asked, had I noticed that Broder’s rash seemed to be spreading?

“I’ll call the doctor’s office,” I said. It was 12:30pm on a Saturday. Guess when the doctor’s office closes?? That’s right. Noon.

So I left a message for the nurse hotline to call me back.

An hour and a half later (that’s honestly how long it took to wrestle our three kids into their socks, rain boots and coats), just as we pulled up to the zoo, my phone rang… Right?! I described the symptoms to the nurse as we crossed the street and headed toward the main gate… The kids were running full speed ahead, on a mission to see the fruit bats (for some reason, these are the critters they are obsessed with as of late)… And instead of handing over our membership card for inspection, we turned everyone around and headed back to the car. The nurse thought I should take Broder in to the Urgent Care at Seattle Children’s Hospital to make sure it wasn’t chickenpox. Chickenpox?!

So, how many of you guessed that the kids started crying? Mm-hmm. Well, you’re only partially right: the 5yo was beside himself; he had his heart set on seeing those fruit bats. The 9yo, however, was quite content stomping her foot on the ground and insisting (yet again) that she’d be going to the hospital with me: “that’s my baby brother!” How do you argue with that??

Having some experience with how slow the hospital can be (just a teensy-weensy, itty-bitty, little bit of experience), I returned first to the house to pack a bag full of snacks, water bottles, and books to read. And off we went, again on the 30 minute drive to Children’s. They SO have to open up a branch closer to my home…

And Broder promptly fell asleep (he’d been so fussy that he never had settled down for his usual 3 hour morning nap). Poor kid!

Broder on the way to Urgent Care

Broder (21mo), totally crashed out on the way to Urgent Care.

But of course, he was pretty cranky about being woken up to be poked and prodded by nurses…

THAT was fun.

Turns out, he does NOT have chickenpox. Yay! He has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Say what?? Yeah, apparently it’s a very common viral infection. It lasts 7-10 days. There’s no treatment. And Broder’s fussy because he has a rash IN HIS MOUTH, too. That can apparently be quite uncomfortable. YOU THINK??


Ugh!! We headed back to the car… Paisley was quite upset because she “didn’t learn anything new” (she thinks she might want to be a doctor when she grows up, and was expecting to see something as cool as the “hair stitches” Liam got last week at Children’s), and Broder was hungry. It was past our usual dinner time. As I drove us home, I was SO VERY TEMPTED to pull into the parking lot of a Mexican place to order us all up some well-deserved nachos. And, duh, a margarita for me.

I turned around to tell the kids the plan. Just as I was about to say “Nachos” (though only thinking “Margarita”), I looked at – I SAW – Broder’s cute little face.

Covered with spots. Contagious spots.

And realized that he’d be sitting in a highchair. Where another child would sit after him.

And I’d be one of THOSE parents.

All sorts of swear words passed through my mind…

HUGE SIGH. Fine. Fine, fine, fine! I turned right and headed home.

Someone really really REALLY needs to create a margarita delivery truck. I’m just sayin’…


* Yep, just last week we were in the ER because my 5yo split his head open. It was a blast! If you like blood and gore, you can read the whole story: Not What it’s All Cracked Up to Be (Or, I’ll Take My Eggs Scrambled, with a Side of Stitches).

** The parent-teacher conferences had me craving a margarita, too: Of War Hawks & Love Doves.

Who Needs a Stinking Gym Membership, Anyway??

I just realized that I haven’t worked out in a gym in A DECADE; I let my last gym membership expire in the spring of 2002, when I got pregnant with my daughter (morning sickness was so not conducive to lifting weights and pedaling a stationary bike, at least not in my world). This feels rather pathetic on my part, as I used to be fairly fit. Heck, I even managed to run two marathons before I had kids… Not fast, mind you, but I did run (and, shockingly, finish) them. But now? I think the only formal “workouts” I’ve done in the last ten years are the prenatal yoga classes I took during each pregnancy. And though great for stretching sore muscles, I’d hardly call prenatal yoga a workout…

No, these days, my workouts are relegated to a more circuit-style training regime. Take yesterday, for instance…

I started the day out by vacuuming the house, quickly working up a sweat just trying to get ahead of the 21mo who was preceding me, room by room, happily pulling all the bins of toys he could reach off the shelves and oh-so-not-helpfully dumping dinosaurs, cars, and puzzle pieces out into the puffs of dog and cat hair that I hadn’t yet quite managed to suck up.

I moved on to the laundry room, where I did at least thirty sprints between the dryer (where I was folding the 5yo’s clothes in double-time) and the cats’ litter box, trying (thankfully successfully – this time, anyway) to keep the curious toddler from playing in the in-house sandbox. I know: it looks like fun! But no no. Gross…

Next up was stairs: always a killer. A 25lb weight on one hip (aka, the toddler), and a full basket of clean and folded clothes on the other hip, hauled all the way up two (very long, as it turns out, very, very long) flight of stairs to the toddler’s bedroom, where…

I do more leg work, rocking the equivalent of a medicine ball (aka, the toddler) back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, until sleep takes over. Takes over the toddler, that is – there’s no rest for this weary Mama; there’s still cleaning to do that only naptime will allow. Do you have any idea how much fun a toddler thinks it is to walk on your still-wet, freshly washed wood floors?? Or worse yet, how much fun a toddler thinks it is to splash in the toilet you’re trying to scrub?? Ewwww!!! No, as much as I’d like to take a breather, naptime is the only time for certain chores.

So, let’s call the cleaning session that followed endurance training, shall we? (And still there are dust bunnies in my bathtub!! They are stronger than me; I think they’re on steroids.)

Just as I sit down to refuel my rapidly tiring body with some lunch, the baby awakes. How do kids always know when you sit down with hot food???

More stairs, then finally a quickly-inhaled, now-cold lunch (really, I should just stock up on the Gu energy packets I took with me on my long marathon-training runs; the chocolate ones aren’t sooo very terrible), and then on to playtime with the toddler. Or, rather, what’s usually playtime with the toddler… Yesterday, clearly annoyed by the persistence of a cold he’s been fighting, Broder just wanted me to hold him and snuggle. Which was totally fine by me; I love snuggles! Especially when it involves sitting my weary bones down on the soft, cushy couch hours and hours before I usually get to sit my weary bones down on the soft, cushy couch (after the kids are all tucked into bed for the night). But, no… for whatever unknown reason, Broder had no interest in the couch; the only time grumpy tears weren’t flowing was when I was snuggling with the little guy – while walking around the house. Around and around and around and around the house.

Thinking that my arms needed a break and that the toddler would benefit from some exercise of his own, I packed us up and headed off to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, a perfect place to run around and take our minds off stuffy noses and aching muscles (do you have any idea how sore your upper back muscles can get, carrying around a 25lb toddler all day??). And my plan worked! For all of five minutes. At which point Broder insisted on being carried again. Through the entire zoo. Of course! He did have fun, though (no more grumpy tears – yay!). And hey, I just kept reminding myself what a great workout is was, speed-walking to the next animal while holding a toddler who was way cuter than any set of ankle weights I could use to up the fitness factor. I totally earned each and every one of those Girl Scout cookies I’ve been inhaling – I mean eating (and in a very lady-like manner) – lately. Right? Right?!

Broder at the Zoo

Trying to catch the penguins! (One of the very few times Broder let me put him down while at the zoo, yesterday.)

So, yeah, after yesterday’s workout, I’m thinking that no… I don’t really need a gym membership. I mean really… who needs a gym membership when you have a toddler??

I’ll take a zoo membership every time.