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??

Cooking Lessons

Back in December, the week before winter break, the 10yo decided to start cooking the family dinners. I know! My eyes totally bugged out of my head, too!!

Intriguingly, she came up with the idea all on her own, completely out of the blue, and (rather shockingly, as it had been on my mind for a while) not as a creative consequence I’d (brilliantly) concocted to illustrate for her how insanely maddening (and infuriating, provoking, exasperating, harpy-shriek-inducing… well, you get the idea…) it is to spend a considerable amount of thought in planning, and time cooking, wholesome (and delicious, dang it!) meals for the family, only for the kids to whine about and bemoan whatever (okay, vegetable-laden – five servings a day, people!) dish was put on the table (you’d think I was serving poisoned frog livers and botulism-infused cat tongues if you ever witnessed the melodramatics my kids perform in my dining room at least several nights a week; we’re talking Academy Award winning theatrics here…) and refuse to eat – or even try – a single bite of that evening’s dinner (which, I swear, has never involved frog livers or cat tongues; not even on Halloween).

No, one Friday morning she woke up cheerful as can be (such lovely mornings, when the kids wake up happy… and so rare…) and informed me over her bowl of cereal that she would be cooking dinner that night. I sipped my coffee and waited for her to blurt out, “Just kidding!! Hahahaha! Was that a good joke or what?!” but, no, she was serious. As I already had three more nights of meals planned (and the corresponding groceries purchased, which I didn’t want to go bad), I convinced her to wait until the following Monday, when I would return to the grocery store and could buy the ingredients she would need. Also, I convinced her to cook for only three nights the following week, rather than all seven as she was adamantly planning, as we were leaving for my mom’s house for the Christmas holidays on Thursday and I thought she might not want to delay our trip to Grandma’s just so she could cook four extra meals; she graciously agreed, but explained that she would be taking over the cooking duties upon our return home post-holidays. Hmm… I doubted she’d even remember her resolution over the weekend…

But, sure enough, on Monday morning, as I was writing out the grocery list before taking the kiddos to school, she ticked off on her fingers the three meals she was planning and the ingredients she would need. I listened to her… Nodded… Pursed my lips together tightly so as not to say anything… Nodded some more… and quickly texted Bill to make sure he ate a big lunch. With meat. And vegetables. Because he SO wouldn’t be getting those at home. No, according to my daughter, veggies are an obvious threat to humankind and a thoroughly non-essential food group; her plan: carbs, carbs and nothing but carbs, baby!

Day 1: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. Does taco sauce count as a veggie?!

Day 1: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. Does taco sauce count as a veggie?!

Day 2: Blueberry Pancakes (from scratch!). For the record, these were AMAZING. We need to triple the recipe next time...

Day 2: Blueberry Pancakes (from scratch!). For the record, these were AMAZING. We need to triple the recipe next time…

Day 3 of 3 nights the 10yo cooked dinner for the family: her homemade "Marvelous Mac n Cheese." Her choice. I sneaked in Beecher's Cheese. But she said NO when I suggested peas! Veggies are highly overrated anyway, right?!

Day 3: Her homemade (and self-titled) “World Famous” Mac And Cheese. I sneaked in Beecher’s Flagship Cheese (yum!), but she said no when I suggested adding peas. Ah, well… It was worth a try!

Here’s the thing: each meal she made was delicious. And fun. And she was clearly so proud of herself that, once we did get home from Grandma’s house, I let her keep cooking. No, I didn’t let her take over all the cooking duties, as she’d earlier insisted (though it was really tempting!! But really… how many nights in a row can a family survive on blueberry pancakes for dinner?), and I did insist that her meals needed to start incorporating vegetables (she rolled her eyes, and begrudgingly agreed), but she thought that cooking once a week would be okay. For now. Her 6yo brother, Liam, had very thoughtfully given her a kid-friendly cookbook for a Christmas present (and wow! – even from one of my favorite cookbook authors! what a smart kid!! – okay, okay… so I was more than a little involved in picking out the present, but I really didn’t think she’d appreciate the Lego set he picked out for her nearly as much as he would appreciate it…), and she pours over that every week when I ask what’s on the menu. For the last two months, she’s been wowing us with her culinary talents, and cooking up a storm for us.

The 10yo made mini-pizzas for dinner! The college menu planning is now complete - eight years early!

Mini-Pizza Night! They took TWO HOURS to make, but hey, they were good and her brothers were VERY happy.

And every once in a while she makes a meal with vegetables in it – though not always on purpose! The look of surprise on her face when I started pulling out onions and celery and carrots and zucchini for her Macaroni Minestrone recipe (she reads recipes a bit more closely these days!) was truly priceless. But the best part of that night (and perhaps it’s unkind of me, but there you have it): when Paisley served Liam his soup he stuck out his tongue in protest… and she almost slugged him! I couldn’t help myself. I snickered. I did! I snickered (but behind my hand), and gently pointed out how, um, yeah, it’s kind of frustrating, isn’t it, when someone insults your cooking without even trying it? She didn’t reply; she just stared at me (rather coldly – I think she could tell I was gloating, even if I was trying to hide that fact) while she (rather defiantly) chewed a mouthful of vegetables (rather unhappily). But she did it! She ate some veggies. And she didn’t DIE a slow and tragic and painful death.

She still prefers carb-happy meals (and really, who doesn’t?) with no veggies in sight; her “world famous” mac and cheese has made a second and third appearance (I’ve started sautéing spinach with garlic as a quick green side for mac n’ cheese night – not that any of the kids eat spinach), her brothers were quite ecstatic about mini-pizza night with homemade crusts (the only green in sight: the bell pepper slices I put on my pizza; and technically, bell pepper is a fruit), and a couple of weeks ago she made a very tasty cheese lasagna with one of her school friends (again, sans veggies; unlike Congress, I don’t count tomato sauce as a vegetable). But she’s made the veggie-heavy Macaroni Minestrone twice now (it really is good…), and I think everyone enjoyed the night she made vegetarian fried rice with carrots, broccoli, peas, and even water chestnuts (!!), and just last week she asked to make one of her favorite recipes from my own repertoire, Strawberry Asparagus Pasta, which was so good that there were no leftovers (well, except for all the asparagus left on her plate that she refused to eat… them being veggies and all). And, okay, she doesn’t always eat the veggies on her plate, but at least she cooked with veggies… so we’re making some kind of progress, right?!

So, yeah, I might have to spend twice as long cooking a meal with my daughter as it would take on my own – while I show her how to knead pizza dough without dropping it on the floor or wait for her to (slowly, slowly, oh my good gracious, painstakingly slowly) peel a carrot or two – but she’s getting the hang of food preparation, and in a couple of years, honestly, she should have enough experience to whip up her favorite Greek Pasta Salad without me around (and without cutting off a finger – perhaps the only real goal I have in these early cooking lessons at the moment). And I’m looking forward to teaching her brothers how to cook, too, when they hit age 10. Can you imagine? Three nights a week where, once I teach the kids the basics, I don’t have to cook?? Maybe I can actually get to all those projects that are piling up around the house (oh you know, like finally completing any of the children’s baby books or framing that poster in the dining room that’s been sitting on the buffet table for the last six years and counting), or – better yet! – just sit around reading a book (how decadent!), while they serve up some delicious, healthy meal for everyone?! Whoa… I am loving this plan… Heck, why do I even care if my daughter cooks with veggies?? Just so long as she cooks… am I right, or am I RIGHT?! Now that I think about it, I could totally survive off blueberry pancakes every night!

Now, if only I can convince her to stick around for the cleaning up part…

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.