Sunday, April 29, 2007

Silver Linings & Non Sequiturs

Sam on dragons: "Dragons are scary because they blow fire, but if they blow fire, you can make smores!"

****

Sam: "I'm pointing at Dad so that makes him the thinker."

Alex: "What is mom then?"

Jack: "The turkey!"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Laughter

Alex threw a basketball at the basketball hoop, it bounced off the rim, clipped Quinn on the side of the head and knocked him over. I was laughing so hard I could barely check to make sure he was okay. He was. I wouldn't have laughed so hard had he not seemed so unaffected by it. He was totally blase. And the great thing is, he saw me laughing, assumed that something was hilarious, said, "funny," and started laughing himself.

It's good to laugh that hard even if it is at the expense of my lovely, trusting child. For, like, 20 minutes afterward, the poor kid had this big clod of dirt on the side of his forehead where the ball hit him.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Worst Case Scenarios

So Jack's Child Find assessment was today and it went pretty well. The outcome of the assessment was that now he needs an evaluation. (Maybe after the evaluation he'll need an appraisal.)

Any assessments or testing I've ever had done have been in my house so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Turns out the way they do the initial testing is to set up a bunch of different stations (speech pathologist, occupational therapist, hearing and vision testing, concept learning) in a giant room with a "play table" in the middle of it. Several families were there at the same time being rotated though each station with stops at the play table between stations. At the end of it all, the specialists sit the parent down and talk about the results.

When I first walked in I felt entirely overwhelmed by the situation, but by the time I left I was happy with the process. Each specialist, other than the vision and hearing people, agreed that Jack needed further evaluation in their area. When I mentioned autism they all nodded their heads and gave me little smiles.

Two months ago I would have said that my worst case scenario would have been to have Jack diagnosed as autistic. It's interesting to me that I feel relief today that others agree with me that Jack may be autistic. Today's worst case scenario would have been if he scored high enough to not qualify for more services. At least now I'm not alone in figuring out how to help Jack.

Not that I was alone before. Thanks to everyone who has given us kind words of support and encouragement in the past month or so. I can't tell you how much it means to us. I guess the real worst case scenario would be to be without all of you.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Growing Up

This morning we went to Sam's kindergarten orientation. I have to be honest, I'm not sure I'm ready for Sam to go to kindergarten for many reasons, one of which is that until recently I was not sure if it was spelled "kindergarten" or "kindergarden". I know. It's totally awesome how smart I am.

Orientation went pretty well. I liked the classrooms, and each room had its own bathroom. All the teachers seemed nice and Sam seemed happy to be there. Each class starts the year with only fifteen kids, which is good, and they seem open to parents volunteering in the classroom. They play outside a couple times a day and they get a snack in the afternoon. All in all, for sending my eldest son to the wolf-filled forest that I imagine public school to be, it looks like it'll be okay.

Sam planted a pumpkin seed to take home and read 18 out of the 25 sight words they gave him. He was able to draw a picture of himself, write his full name, count, and identify the letters. (Apparently this comes from Alex's side of the family. See above.)

I guess the thing is that Sam still seems so small. He's tall and he'll be six in October, which will make him one of the older kids in the class, but he still seems so damn little. They gave him a cookie before he left, so we were standing out watching the (big) kids on the playground and Sam, my child, my guy who seemed so big until this morning, stood there with chocolate cookie crumbs on his face blowing dandelions into the wind.

I love his innocence and I know that innocence is fragile. I also know that to survive he has to outgrow it. But it is beautiful to see and pops up here and there when you least expect it. This morning it was evident in a smattering of food around his lips. I wonder where I'll see it tomorrow?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Scooby Doo, Scooba Don't

The other day I tried to mop. Or rather, I tried to Scooba. But every time I set him up and tried to push "clean", the thing said, "bwonk" and the yellow "check tank" light lit up. Sam, who doesn't quite understand that if something doesn't work five times in a row, it probably won't work the sixth, seventh, or eighth time either, made me keep trying again. Of course, you'll note that I don't understand that if it doesn't work the first two times, it probably won't work the third, fourth, or fifth time either.

So Sam kept returning to Scooba every five minutes or so saying, "Can we see if the robot works?" and Quinn kept wandering around it muttering, "Robot! Robot!" So much dismay over a quiet robot. My answer to events such as this is to leave everything exactly where it is, make a complaining phone call to Alex at work, and then wait for him to fix it when he gets home. Which is pretty much what I did. Although I was able to locate and remove a game piece from part of Scooba's machinery. This was apparently completely superfluous to the "check tank" light though because taking it out didn't change anything.

When Alex got home, he couldn't fix it, so we turned to the source of all things good and fixable: the Internet. Here we found instructions on what to do should Scooba malfunction in the way that he did.

Therein we found some of the best information I have ever seen on how to fix a gadget: "...using the flat of your hand, strike the robot near the charging port to try to restart the pump."

Kick ass! All these years I though I was acting out in frustration and further breaking my electronic equipment by trying to whack it into shape. Turns out, though, I was fixing it.

Finally, a Success!

Today was our field trip to a plant nursery. Remember? With all three kids in tow? It wasn't too bad. The actual field trip was pretty cool. All the kids got to plant pansies and take them home.


There was fun with dirt and gravel and water. Sam got to take a friend and the teacher in the car with him, so he was totally happy. The very nice teacher, who got a little taste of what life will be like when Jack is in her class next year forced Jack to fold his arms and not touch things. I strapped Quinn down in his stroller. All was well.

And then we got to our planting station and I pretty much had to let Quinn out. He liked the flowers a lot. And he liked the gravel a lot. And he liked to throw the gravel at the flowers. Which I don't think is precisely what flowers need. Once he found a giant, empty pot that he could put gravel in to his heart's delight, all was well.


Jack also loved the gravel, but was coerced into planting a flower. He loved watering it too. Again and again and again. Then he found the buckets, one full of soapy water, one of clear water, for hand-washing. And then I was able to relax. Quinn played with the gravel and a bucket. Jack played with the water and two buckets. Sam did his I'm-a-perfectly-well-behaved-child thing that he does every once in a while. I ignored the children that kept reporting to me that, "Sam's Mom! Sam's Mom! Jack is playing in the water!"

When we got back to school, Jack hung out with us in Sam's class. At the end of the day, totally unprompted, he walked up to me and said "I had a good time." (Violins play, birds sing, my heart glows...)

And no plants were injured. (Mostly. Quinn did rip a couple of petals off. He's a fast little dude.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Dying of Cuteness

I, as part of my endeavor to start up my videography biz, am creating a sort of video yearbook for Sam's preschool class. I figure it'll give me some experience, it'll give me a sample to show to people, it'll give me something else to add to my resume. It, at $5 per child, will give me $75. Oh, wait, $65. I'm not going to pay myself, and even though she has two kids in the class, I don't think the mom of twins will be buying two copies.

Lesson One: Accidentally and severely underpricing your services. Check.

At least I'll have a nice memento of Sam's last year in preschool. Anywho... Today I "interviewed" 15 four- and five-year-olds about their favorite animals, favorite foods, favorite things about school and what they want to be when they grow up.

Lesson Two: Four- and five-year-olds? Really funny.

The one who called the teacher, and I quote, "a wacko," said that his favorite food is a "big bowl of plain sugar for breakfast." Most of the kids liked chocolate, ice cream, or chocolate ice cream. Some liked chicken nuggets. Sam's favorite food? "Meat." Whaaaaat? "Meat. Pig."

We had a couple kids who want to be scientists, one entomologist, an archaeologist, and a mom (only girl babies, please). One wanted to be a train driver or firefighter, but probably not a firefighter because "I could get burned." Sam wants to be a doctor, his buddy wants to be an inventor, oh, and we have one future princess. Dress color TBD.

When I asked them what their favorite things about school were, a lot of them said they liked playing or homework. One quite adorable girl said quietly, "Learning." (That's our entomologist.) Interestingly, several of them said they liked math best. Alex, after watching one girl profess her love of math three times in a row yelled at my computer: "Neeeeeeeerrrrrrd!" Yep. That's my husband, ladies and gentlemen. I do believe, however, that he would be more supportive to the girl's face. I think.

Lesson Three: Think before taking Alex to preschool with me. [Love you, sweetie!]

I haven't even shot all my footage yet, and I see the video from start to finish. I have the music in my head. I have my last fade out nailed down. I have my first fade in imagined. All I need are 15 quite cute children to fill in the details.

Lesson Four: I love my new job!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dog Blog

Or...Why I Want to Murder the Dog.

As I write, literally, as I write, some incredibly obnoxious dog is barking, barking, barking. The dog's barks echo through the neighborhood, through my skull, through the last thread of my patience. I think the dog is done barking and I will relax. And then the goddamned thing starts up again.

This is the dog:
This is my dog. Blogosphere, meet Cassidy. Cassidy, meet the blogosphere. No, no, you don't need to bark, they're our friends. Cassidy, quiet down, sweetie. Cassidy, really. Cassidy, quiet! Cassidy, shut the fuck up!

The only thing more offensive than the dog barking her mindless little head off at all hours of the day and night (fortunately only when she's outside the house or when the doorbell rings) is Alex yelling, "Cassidy, shut up!" at her over and over. I'm particularly sensitive to this at night. I can't seem to convince Alex that people would not rather hear him yell obscenities at the dog than hear the dog.

And the thing about the dog is that she is a very nice dog--diaper eating aside. The last thing you want to come home to is a chewed-up used diaper all over the floor. Oh wait, really the last thing you want to come home to is that chewed-up diaper, and big chunks of regurgitated chewed-up used diaper.

But I digress. I believe I was about to say something nice about her. Hmmm. Oh, yes: She is really good with the kids. She will literally let them use her as a stepstool without objecting. She's fun to play with. She's pretty. She is extremely loyal and protective of all of us. Because she eats nearly anything off the floor I don't have to sweep as much. She is a beautiful, kind living creature.

But, oh my God, there are days when I just want to rip her vocal cords out.

Only Children

And some days are better.

The thing about having three kids is that they each get about 33% of my attention most of the time--if they're lucky. But every once in a while, I only have one of them with me and I get to spoil him rotten. Some days that means a leisurely trip to the park with lots of attention from mom. Some days that means a trip to the grocery store where you don't get yelled at. Today, it meant ice cream.

Sam and Jack went to swim class with Alex, so the Q-Ball and I got to hang out. He even managed to share his ice cream cone a little. A little.

Of course the ice cream caused some trouble later. Quinn's not a fast enough eater, so he was still slurping it when we went to pick up the others. And Sam didn't totally buy my, "You guys got a special treat by having swim lessons, so Quinn got a special treat by getting an ice cream cone."

He had lots of things to say about it until I, exasperated, and not sure that he would entirely understand, said, "Sam, just let it go." Sam, with an extremely derisive snort, said, "Pffft. YOU let it go."

Mental note: Never underestimate a five-year-old's ability to snottily turn around any comment you may make right back at you.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Prince and the Pea






Do you think he has enough pillows? Do you think he'll feel the pea under them and be able to marry the princess? Do you think he'll have a headache all day from the way his neck is positioned?

Denial is a Happy Place

Some days are hard.

I'm new to this whole autism thing. New to PDD-NOS vs. Asperger's. New to IEP meetings and worrying about diagnosis.

Jack, who is still the same wonderful little guy he was a month ago before it seems like everyone who has ever met him agreed with my assertion that he just might have Asperger's or something similar, is scheduled next week for a screening with the county early childhood disabilities unit. Afterwards, we'll be participating in an IEP meeting, something I heard about for the first time in the letter from the screeners. Then, later that same night, I happened upon this and this, as well as various other sources, that have started to freak me out.

I know it's early. Hell, Jack may not even be on the spectrum, but all I know is everyone, bar none, has told me I need to be his advocate. And, Jesus, I only get the kid's teeth brushed in the morning about 25% of the time, so how can I ensure that he gets the education, socialization, counseling, and/or therapy that he needs? It's so overwhelming; with so much information out there, how do I know what is right, or right for us? I guess that's why I chose a book whose title starts with "The Complete Guide to..."

Alex thinks I'm overreacting a little. He looks at Jack and sees all the wonderful, positive things about the guy. He sees him making progress, and feels optimistic. He, through no fault of his own, sees him about 50% of the amount of time I see him. But even Alex knows there is something different about Jack. He made the title comment about Jack. He knows there is work to be done, but I don't think he has the trepidation I have.

I see all the wonderful things about Jack too, but I also see difficulties in his future. Difficulties making friends and socializing is something Until-Recently Jean shares with him. I was host to a crippling shyness for most of my life, which, through the help of some nice (although weirdly enough, psoriasis-inducing--but that's another post) medication and some work on my part, has, thank God, dissipated. But I remember, and it can be a painful thing.

I realized today that I am more worried about this than I have let on, even to myself. Jack had a meltdown at preschool drop-off because I rushed a transition, and he was crying hysterically when I walked away. Shortly thereafter, I was crying as well. A month ago I don't think I would have had that reaction.

He was fine ten minutes later. I was not.

There is a long road ahead of us. We have taken a branch that I didn't expect to take; there are many more branches ahead of us, good and bad, just like for anybody else. I'm sure there will be more tears--as there are on any road involving a mother and child--but I have to remember that there will be much joy as well.

Wish us luck on our travels.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tree Today, Gone Tomorrow

I live in a wonderful neighborhood with many tall, beautiful, extremely old trees. However, there is one tall, beautiful, extremely old, and sorta diseased tree in our front yard. This tree regularly drops giant chunks of branches on our driveway, which, aside from being where we park our car, is where our kids ride their bikes, play basketball, and otherwise dither around.

Several months ago we contacted the county to trim our tree as it is technically a county tree and only they are allowed to trim it. Some guy, an arborist perhaps, came out to look at it and left a note on our door with the message that our tree had been put in the most urgent category and they would get to it in an unspecified number of days (but specifically marked as "days").

Some weeks later a tree crew showed up on our street. But they were at our next door neighbor's house. We thought maybe they were doing both of our trees, so Alex went out to chat with them to make sure we were next. They told him that we were not on their work order and none of our trees would be getting trimmed. Then they proceeded to cut the neighbor's tree to the ground. And, really, to the ground. Giant stump notwithstanding.

After Alex called the arborist, he left us a message to the effect of, "I have no idea why they cut the other tree, it was your tree that was supposed to have been cut."

I repeat: To the ground.

Eventually the tree folks came back around, this time for our tree, which they lightly trimmed. After our last windstorm there were many small and at least one large branch that came off the tree. My question, and I'm talking to you, Montgomery County, Maryland, is why they would cut a lovely, apparently healthy and safe tree entirely down, and take only the minor branches off our giant, deadly tree. Now, I don't want a giant stump in my front yard any more than the next guy (literally the next guy), but my theory is that our tree is so huge and hangs over power lines (!) and thus was just too darn hard to sufficiently trim.

I am reminded of this because the stump people are out there in the neighbor's yard today digging up and shredding that behemoth and I really hope that the county is paying for that because small, adorable Team Stimey's safety aside, talk about adding insult to injury if the homeowner had to pay for it.

Ah, county government, the SNAFU that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Preschool is From Mars, Field Trips are From Venus

Field trips are supposed to be a fun thing. I remember when I was in school, I loved them. But, frankly, when you have two kids in preschool and another one as a hanger-on, field trips are a fucking nightmare.

Our field trip today wasn't too bad. Sam and his class went to the Great Harvest Bread Company. (Yum, by the way.) This trip in no way compared to the field trip to the dump. More on that later. Today, Jack had school, so I was one down at least. Sam and I set out with twin classmates in tow. The car ride was delightful. Twin One held hands with Q, or "Tinkerbell" as they all referred to him. Twin Two and Sam repeatedly asked "Tink" if he could "say 'no'", "say 'Quinn'", "say 'bread'", and so on.

Our time in the store was pretty good. Except for the fact that Quinn was surrounded by bread, muffins, and cookies that he was not allowed to touch. Which I believe he considered to be The Biggest Injustice in the History of Humankind. Fortunately, all field trips to Great Harvest end in slices of bread for all involved. And a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin for those inclined to pay $1.95 for it. Which Quinn and I were.

Since I'm in a cooperative preschool and have more than one child in class at a time, I often have co-oping conflicts with field trips that end in my feeling guilty for not making it on a whole series of field trips in a row, with a final result--for example--of me not being able to accompany Sam on his trip to the Strathmore music center, but making it to the field trip to the post office and the grocery store. Which I can do on my own, and with fewer than 15 kids, thank you very much. Or, since one kid is in school four days a week and one is in school three days a week, for a grand total of us being there five days a week, I often have an extra child to drag with me. Other than the constant Mighty Quinn.

Which brings me back to the trip to the dump, from which comes my hypothesis that field trips suck. This was scheduled on a day when I had all three kids. Sam freaked out that he didn't have any friends coming with him in the car, so we brought the teacher's son (also five) in our car. Which was fine until Sam got upset that we were stuck in a little traffic jam and yelled, "Just fucking go!" In front of, let me remind you, the teacher's son. (I have no fucking clue where the kid gets his potty mouth, but it needs to be seriously curtailed.) Then Jack starts to mimic: "Fucking, fucking, fucking..." And so on.

Once we finally get there, we are directed to the wrong building where we get everyone out of the car, uncoated, re-coated, and back in the car to get to the correct site, which, it turns out, is merely the starting point for the long walk we are going to take. Now Quinn can't walk at this time, and I'm too dumb to put him in a stroller, so I'm carrying him. And Jack starts refusing to walk. Adamantly. We are like half a mile behind the rest of the class at this point (at least it felt like it), so I pick him up and I'm trying to carry both of them, when another kind parent takes pity on me and takes Quinn. Then we get to the four-story (I am SO not kidding here) flight of stairs we have to take to get to the observation deck where we spend 15 or 20 minutes genuinely enjoying watching the garbage trucks get emptied.

Then we walk back down--and don't think for a minute that I'm not carrying Jack up and down those stairs--and continue on our long, aimless walk. At least I think it's aimless because by this point Quinn is refusing to be carried by anyone but me, Jack is on my shoulders, and I'm near tears. I didn't hear word one that the guide said, although I think the high point may have been when he pointed out a big pile of leaves. Seriously.

It's either a miracle or a testament to my motherly patience that I didn't beat all three of them to death that day.

Sam's class is going on another (!!!) field trip next week, on the same exact day that Jack's class is going on a different field trip. Now, the last time I sent Jack with another driver on a field trip he had the melt down to end all melt downs and let me know in no uncertain tearful terms that that should never happen again. So I have to go with him. But I'm co-oping in Sam's class. So fuck it, we're all going on Sam's trip to the plant nursery. Where I may have to buy a plant and run it over several times to take out my aggression on a living thing. Did I mention that I hate field trips?

P.S. I would like to point out:
A) I do not beat my children,
B) The kid-cursing is not as frequent as it would seem from this post, and
C) I do understand the point of field trips. I just don't like 'em.

Notes from Midday

Wow! Quinn is napping! For the past four months or so, Quinn has refused to nap for me when I try to lay him down, preferring to scream loudly for as long as I leave him in his crib. Infuriatingly, he WILL nap whenever Alex lays him down on the weekends. Alex's theory is that he likes me more so doesn't want to be separated from me, but is indifferent to being separated from Daddy. I don't agree.

I think Alex has magical powers.

So today, I very carefully imitated what Alex does for naptime and voila, he is quietly in his room, and I think he may actually be asleep! Yay!

Perhaps this public shout out to Alex will make him forgive me for allowing the kids to play an extremely vigorous and dangerous game of Kamikaze! earlier today. Kamikaze! involves putting lots of pillows on the floor in the living room and hurling yourself off the couch onto them. Or if you're Quinn, rolling yourself headfirst over the arm of the couch and missing the pillows completely.

I sort of feel that if Alex saw what I let them do during the day that he would divorce me immediately. [Hi, Alex!]

But, as for now, Sam and Jack are quietly playing in the living room (unsupervised Kamikaze! is strictly not allowed) and Quinn is nestled in his crib, and I get to play on my computer! Hooray!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Faster Than a Wonder Pet!

Last year for Halloween Jack was Tuck the Turtle from The Wonder Pets. Not everyone got it, but those who did, loved the outfit. We got a Wonder Pets cape for him, which all of the kids fell in love with. Especially Quinn. There were bunches of fights over over the cape, so for Christmas, Santa Claus got two similar capes for Sam and Quinn. Sam got a Superman cape because he loves Superman and Quinn got a Batman cape because Batman rocks.

On Christmas, Sam was speeding around the house wearing the cape. We yelled, "Faster than a speeding bullet!" And the next time Sam ran through the living room, he passed Jack in his Wonder Pets cape and yelled, "Faster than a Wonder Pet!" Quinn wore the Batman cape for, like, a second, and everyone refused to wear it from that point on. There are still fights over the Wonder Pets cape, with Quinn demanding it as often as he can. ("Wontha wets!")

Today when Quinn was wearing the Wonder Pets cape and Sam was wearing the Superman cape, Jack kept trying to mug Quinn for the coveted red cape. At which time I had a shot of inspiration. "Who wants to wear the Captain Hook cape?" I asked. Jack lit up and the Batman cape was suddenly in vogue.

Below you will see Quinn the Wontha wet, Superman, Captain Hook, and Cassidy the Doodle Dog (cape not required, although she has certainly worn them in the past).

Who Doesn't Love Inspirational Cat Posters?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Poop II

If you're not interested in intimate details of toddler bowel movements--and I can't imagine why you would not be--please skip down to "15 Minutes of Parenting."

At least this story has a happy ending.

Our little friend Quinn told Alex today, "Poop!" and then indicated that he wanted to sit on his little potty. And lo and behold not 5 minutes later, the magic power of Daddy's presence resulted in Quinn's first poop in a potty. Now I'm the kind of parent that documents this sort of thing in baby books and whatnot. And although third child Quinn has not gotten the first of many things, he IS the first of my three to have his first successful potty poop published online.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

15 Minutes of Parenting

We recently got a list of recommendations for interacting with Jack, one of which was for each parent to spend floor time with Jack at least once a day for 15-20 minutes at a time. This got me thinking. Mostly along the lines of, dear God, I've been spending way more time than I need to with these kids.

When I brought this up to Alex, his response was that he thinks I/we probably spend more time actually playing and interacting with our kids than the majority of parents out there. I'm not sure if I agree with him, but it did make one thing suddenly clear: Maybe that's why I want to murder them all the time. Clearly I should be spending far more time ignoring them and their annoying--I mean lovable--ways.

But seriously. I've always been curious how other stay at home moms spend their time. But no one ever really tells you. I don't know if it's because we're insecure about what we're doing, or feel guilty if we take too much time for ourselves during the day. Or maybe we just can't describe in words what can change from one day to the next.

As a new mom I felt like I should be spending most of Sam's waking hours playing with him. I knew that kids need alone time to play and learn by themselves, but I felt I needed to teach and play and show him my face. Which can be really exhausting with a baby that doesn't do anything back. Angelina Jolie was right: Newborn babies are blobs.

I've relaxed a bit since then, but I still spend a lot of time on the floor with the guys. Sometimes I'll be reading a magazine or talking on the phone or otherwise only giving them part of my attention, but I think I do spend a fair amount of time actually playing and reading with them. Being a mother, however, I do still feel guilt that it's not enough.

And maybe it's not.

It would be interesting to check myself to see how much time I actually spend playing with them. There is so much that gets in the way of hanging out with your kids: cleaning, cooking, work, their school, playdates where they play with other kids, and their own alone time. And these are all important things. Then there are the less important things: TV, computer games, etc... When you boil right down to it, 15-20 minutes of good, solid, quality floor time with each child can be a luxury we don't get everyday.

I do know this: My kids are worth 20 minutes of my time each day. They are worth more than that. And I'm going to double my efforts to give them that and more.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Get Bored Easily

Not even a month in and I've already redesigned. And by redesigned, I mean clicked "Save Changes" on the templates page of Blogger. I tell you, it's hard being me with my ready boredom always at war with my inherent laziness. Yay for easy changes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sam the Sage

Words of wisdom from my eldest son on our recent trip to Target to pick up a prescription. And some Cheetos.

"But the ones on the ground taste really good." This in response to a couple of the aforementioned Cheetos that had fallen on the floor of Target. Now, if you know me, you know I'm not a stickler about food that fell on the floor, but Target? C'mon. Of course, now I'm going to out my mother, who last winter fed tiny, innocent Quinn a piece of cookie that he'd dropped on the ground in a PARKING LOT.

"Hola!" This he interjected into someone else's conversation because, "I heard them speaking Spanish, so I thought I'd say, Hola!" The fortunately nice group of people he interrupted were all very nice and chorused, "Hola!" right back at him.

"They're crazy! They thought it was Greenbell, but it's Tinkerbell!" Sam, who apparently eavesdrops a lot, had just seen a display with Tinkerbell on it, so when a group of employees walked by talking about the Greenbelt store, Sam made sure to loudly alert them of their insanity. Their insanity. Not his.

And upon seeing a display of the little cups of cookies he, Jack, and Quinn got in their Easter baskets: "Maybe the Easter Bunny shops at Target!" The man standing next to us had to leave so Sam wouldn't hear how loud he was laughing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bad Cup! Bad!

You know how sometimes you're drinking the end of your drink and you tip it all the way up and a whole bunch of ice falls all over your face?

Quinn just did that for the first time. I was letting him drink the ice water from my 44 ounce (!) soda cup when he upended it too far and doused himself in water and ice. He didn't move, but just made the funniest noise I've ever heard him make. I can't reproduce it in words, but it was something to the effect of "unnnyhhh" and was said in the saddest and most betrayed voice you can even imagine. And his sad little bewildered eyes peered up at me as the icy water dribbled off his cheeks.

The he said, "trashcan" and wandered off to the kitchen where he banished the mean cup to the garbage.

Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt

Alex woke me up this morning with these words: "Kurt Vonnegut died." When I checked my email before 8:30 this morning, my mom had sent an email with the news. Sad way to start the day.

I first read Vonnegut in high school because I had heard that Slaughterhouse Five was a classic and I felt that I should read it. Thank God. This man's words had an amazing, calming effect on me, and even though he wrote about dark things with a dark sense of humor and a deep cynicism, I always felt joy when reading his words. I felt grateful that he had written them and saw beauty in them.

It was sometime in the early to mid '90s when I met him briefly at a book signing at the now-gone bookstore institution Cody's Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. He was doing a reading on the second floor. The crowd was so big I had to stand on the first floor and couldn't quite hear him. Then I stood in a long line to get my book signed. I swear to God, meeting him was like meeting a rock star.

He had deeply lined, leathery skin and a grim expression. I had the biggest grin I think I have ever had in my life. When he glanced up at me before signing my book, he gave me a small, brief, amused smile. A smile I interepreted as a nod at my obvious and ridiculous worship and goofy expression. Coming from this man, that smile meant so much.

I glowed for days.

To the right you'll see my rendition of Rabo Karabekian's The Temptation of Saint Anthony from Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. Like Vonnegut's drawing in the book (to paraphrase), mine is a miniature and not in color, but captures the picture's form and the spirit too:

When called upon by a skeptical public to defend this painting that surely a 5-year-old could produce, Karabekian says:

"The painting did not exist until I made it. Now that it does exist, nothing would make me happier than to have it reproduced again and again, and vastly improved upon, by all the five-year-olds in town. I would love for your children to find pleasantly and playfully what it took me many angry years to find.

"I now give you my work of honor," he went on, "that the picture...shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out. It is a picture of the awareness of every annimal. It is the immaterial core of every animal--the 'I am' to which all messages are sent. It is all that is alive in any of us--in a mouse, in a deer, in a cocktail waitress. It is unwavering and pure, no matter what preposterous adventure may befall us. A sacred picture of Saint Anthony alone is one vertical, unwavering band of light. If a cockroach were near him, or a cocktail waitress, the picture would show two such bands of light. Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery."

Kurt Vonnegut's unwavering band of light may have fallen from the canvas, but it is still there in the painting in my heart. And readers of his books will see it there, glowing, in each and every one of his books. If you haven't already, I urge you to pay homage to this brilliant man by reading one of books. You will receive wisdom, humor, questions, and careful thought.

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nerveworking

I don't know if you're aware of this, but I have three kids.

I stay at home with them all day every day and consider it my full-time job. However, I have a couple of other part-time jobs that I do, including a new videography business that I've been working on gettting off the ground. (We can discuss the wisdom of all these jobs another time, that's not my point.)

My point is that I have a client/consultant who is pushing me to market myself and network in order to drum up business, and thank God he is, because although I know lots about putting together effective and creative DVD projects, I don't know a lot about business. Or marketing.

Tonight I went to a "networking event." Of course the whole point of this type of event is to walk up to people you don't know, strike up a conversation, and sell yourself. Hmmm. Zero out of three ain't bad. Oh, wait, yes it is.

See, I'm used to hanging out with moms that largely stay home with their kids. Now with these women, if I need an opening, I have one: it's three feet tall and standing right in front of me. We do talk about non-mom things, but I know I have a common reference and I definitely don't have to sell myself.

I can't think of many more stressful situations for me personally than networking. I have summarily dismissed careers from my realm of possibility for the sole reason that they require schmoozing. I just can't do it. But tonight I sucked it up, put on a smile and entered conversations right and left. Or at least left. I'm not going to say it was fun, but it was enlightening, and hopefully it gets easier with practice.

My Little Picasso

Sam is starting to draw some amazing pictures these days. He didn't really start drawing anything recognizable until this school year, but he has made these amazing leaps and bounds. His teacher at school has all the kids in the class draw a picture of themselves at the beginning of each month and puts them all together so you can see their progress. It is literally my favorite part of the class.

He still has a tough time pulling pictures out of his imagination to put on paper. He'll sometimes have me draw a picture of something for him and then he'll create his own interpretation of my drawing. But his ability is growing, and so is his confidence. I caught him drawing this picture this morning:


I exclaimed so excitedly, "Oh my God, Sam, I LOVE it!" because I really, really do. And he responded, so casually and matter of factly, "I'm a great artist."

Dear God, I love that boy. (It's a self-portrait by the way.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

If You're in the Middle, You're Still Above Someone.

Sam's vision of power, as outlined to us at dinner the other night: "Mom, you're in charge of Dad. Dad, you're in charge of me. I'm in charge of Jack, and Jack is in charge of Quinn.

"Because Mom is the tallest." [ed. note: I'm not, but if it lets me be in charge of Alex, I'll pretend to be.]

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

Alex took the guys to see the Easter Bunny a couple of weeks ago. How he got all three of them to sit on his lap together, I don't know, but I'm impressed. I would have expected Quinn to run screaming for the hills, but instead he talked about "Bunny!" for days after. And contrary to Jack's expression, he was apparently pretty happy. And would you look at Sam? He looks like he's been doing bunny modeling for years!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Who Is This Man?

I'm working tonight. Watching a little television. Just sort of doing my evening thing. Alex disappears into the bathroom for a while. Then my husband, the bearded man I have known for 13 years, walks out of the bathroom like this:



Turns out he has a chin and everything! Rock on, Alex!

The Birthday Chump


His words, not mine.

It all started when I asked Alex what he wanted for his birthday dinner. Per usual, we didn't think far enough ahead to get a babysitter, so our options were limited. Our criteria: food that Alex likes, loud atmosphere, and chicken fingers on a kid's menu, preferably with a small bowl of ice cream included. Voila! The Macaroni Grill. Bonus: Paper placemats and crayons.

We were to meet Alex there at 6, so fresh from getting three little-boy haircuts (Sam's hair was too tall, according to him), we drove to meet him., Unfortunately, Jack and Quinn fell asleep. This wasn't too big of a deal for Jack, but it turned Quinn into a raving lunatic.

We were seated almost immediately. Jack tried to insist on sitting in Quinn's high chair, but settled on a booster precariously balanced on a chair. Sam sat down and began to create the most intricate street scene I have ever seen him draw, complete with road signs, traffic lights, and our whole family inside a car. Quinn decided to freak out. Yelling, throwing his body around (fortunately he was seated next to a sharp rock wall), and generally being a loud little jerk. So, it being Alex's birthday, I volunteered to take Quinn outside. Where he was perfectly happy.

After a bit, when I thought he might be done with being out in the cold and when I was sure the kids' food was probably well on its way, we went back inside. Whereupon Quinn immediately began to loudly sob, "Outside! Outside! Outside!" Attracted by all the noise, a server not assigned to our section took pity on us and finally took our order. Turns out no one had even approached the table in our absence. So I took Quinn back outside. Where he found a spout sticking out of the building and promptly crammed his head into it. (So this is how kids get stuck down wells.) Then he pooped--I believe I may have covered this topic in detail in a previous post.


When we got back inside after the diaper change, the kids' food was there, as was Alex's. My food? Well, Alex hadn't heard me ask him to order my food. And since we weren't in the server's section, we were rarely noticed. Quinn finally calmed down and ate Jack's dinner. Jack ate Quinn's dinner, and Sam had a little bit of everything. I eventually ordered my dinner to go. I think our waitress was trying, but it took a really long time to get those bowls of ice cream at the end. During this time, Quinn did some yelling about, "Ice cream! Ice cream! Ice cream!" In Quinn's defense, this is literally the worst he's ever acted in a restaurant. Usually he's much more compliant.

Ice cream went well. Sam ate all he wanted then loudly announced that he needed to poop. And I mean loudly.

Now, getting Quinn out of a restaurant when there is still dessert in front of him is tough. And you may believe me when I say that it would take him a good couple of hours to eat a whole bowl. So our strategy is generally to move giant scoops out of his bowl when he's not looking, and then he thinks he ate all his ice cream and he'll leave happily. But he seems to be onto us. When Alex moved close to him, he hunched over his food and grabbed onto the bowl. We were finally able to distract him for a millisecond during which I was able to switch his bowl with an empty one. You'd think this kind of activity would be obvious to even a toddler, but it turns out that, nope, Quinn isn't that observant.

So even though most of the meal was the. worst. dinner. ever., we ended the evening having fun running around outside. At this point, our challenging birthday dinner was so disastrous, that we couldn't help but laugh.


Again Quinn was not happy to leave, but Alex strapped him down in his stroller and played demolition derby with him, Sam, Jack, and some innocent bystanders on the way to the parking garage, where we were parked on the top floor--level 7--because that's where Sam likes to park. And for some reason the line of cars at a standstill began at level FIVE. We did get some after-dinner entertainment from the "Let's Cause a Car Accident Players" and their performance of "If I Freak Out and Gesticulate Wildly, Maybe the Line Will Move Faster," followed by a second act of "Since My Car is Stopped, I'm Sure I Have Time To Get A Bottle of Water Out of My Trunk--Ooops!" and an encore of "Speeding Around a Stopped Car in Tight Quarters and Near Pedestrians." Four stars. I laughed, I cried, it was better than CATS.

Then home for cake, presents, and the glorious peace of sleep. Happy 32nd Birthday, Alex!

Snowland

We woke up this morning to Sam's delighted exclamation: "It's Snowland again!"

Fuck you, Maryland. Fuck you.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Sixth Member of Our Family

This morning I mopped my floor while I was at the grocery store.

We've had a new friend in our house for awhile; his name is Scooba and we love him. You may be more familiar with his cousin, Roomba. Scooba has changed our lives. He lives in our broom closet and has evicted the mop.

Scooba cleans for 45 minutes a time, and because he is rather loud while doing his work, we usually have him clean when we're out of the house or in bed. Which can be a problem because Scooba is not very smart. Scooba gets stuck on things like heating vents and under tables. And when he gets stuck like this, he screams loudly and flashes a light that says, "I'm stuck." It's very disappointing to come home to a flashing, screaming Scooba and a dirty floor. This happened to me yesterday when we went out with Scooba cleaning the kitchen.

The great thing about Scooba--besides the fact that I haven't physically mopped my kitchen floor in a good six months--is that it is not only Alex and I who consider him to be part of our family, but Quinn as well. Just prior to Scooba's disappointing performance yesterday (for which I grounded him) Quinn casually bid him adieu while passing him on the way to the car: "Bye, bye, robot!"

Thursday, April 5, 2007

There was no spring to fling

Remember a couple weeks ago when I mentioned that I put everyone's coats away for the summer? Yeah, bad idea.

Today we went to my MOMS Club Spring Fling. At which it SNOWED! And, yes, you could basically count the flakes, so it's not like we were building snowmen or anything, but still. And it was really cold. Especially without coats. I found a coat for Jack, so he was probably cozy and Sam wore two sweatshirts (I only had one). Quinn's winter coat was easy to get to, but he spent the whole time crying and saying, "cold," which leads me to believe that he was probably cold all winter and just didn't have the words to tell me.

We had a good time though, until the cold finally forced us from the park. We had an egg hunt. Quinn was mystified at first, but he totally got the hang of it. Sam was older than the next kid by over a year and a half, so he totally got a ton of eggs, and Jack only collected orange eggs.

And it's not like Jack didn't know there was candy inside every egg. He had me open a couple so he could eat the Hershey's kiss inside, but even armed with the knowledge that the more eggs he picked up the more candy he got, he still only wanted the orange ones. Jack's a funny guy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Quinn! Quinn! Quinn!

Now that Jack has (finally) become totally potty trained (sorry, Future Jack, but you were 3 3/4 years old before you were ready), Quinn has become convinced that he is ready to potty train. Alex has eagerly jumped on board that train and keeps promising "the end of diapers by the end of the summer!" I'm less convinced.

Really what Quinn's "potty training" consists of is him yelling, "Potty! Potty! Potty!" frequently and loudly. We moved a little potty into the bathroom for him today, but had to cut off his access after he started using bath toys to scoop water from the real toilet bowl into the bathtub. I tell you, that boy is really interested in what the toilet can do. A couple of days ago he ripped a full-size page out of my crossword puzzle book, ran to the bathroom, threw it in the toilet, and tried to flush it. I got there in the nick of time.

So now the little potty is traveling around the house to wherever it is Quinn's fancy to push it. He sat on it for a little while today after insisting I take off his shoes ("Off! Off! Off!"). And then his pants ("Off! Off! Off!"). And then his diaper ("Off! Off! Off!"). After I refused to take off his socks (why, I don't know), he took them off himself. I drew the line at his shirt.

After I redressed him and wouldn't take his clothes off again, the potty became a receptacle for his odds and ends: his spare change (How does a nearly two-year-old have spare change you ask? Good eyesight, close proximity to the ground, and looking, looking, always looking.), his sippy cup. Oh yeah, and the half banana I found there this afternoon.

Maybe NEXT summer.

Alex gets his comeuppance.

Sam: "Dad, I watched Peter Pants yesterday!"

Sam: "Mom, what's my knickknack name?"

Clearly the son of a man who was known to earnestly use the phrase, "You'll get your come-muffins for that!" until he was midway through law school.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

On quiet

Now that none of my three children will nap anymore we have daily "quiet time." This time usually consists of me sitting in the living room yelling, "It's still quiet time, go back to your room!" whenever one of them comes out of their room, usually once every five minutes or so.

Now that Sam is learning that time exists he usually tries to get me to commit to a time when quiet time will be over. And then he asks a series of questions that lets me know that he has only a rudimentary knowledge of how time works, but that he has an infinite number of questions to ask about it.

So more often than not I spend this so-called "quiet" time hiding from my kids because that way even if I don't get to relax, at least they don't get the comfort of a parent. So, see, everybody wins.

Monday, April 2, 2007

So Happy Together!

I was raised in a family of two children so I have no concept of the middle child. Jack, however, is mired deep in the muck of it. Sam and Quinn are buddies. Sam and Jack are buddies, Quinn thinks he and Jack are buddies, and Jack is barely aware that Quinn walks the earth.

Until recently.

Jack has just started this thing where he grabs the back of Quinn's collar when Quinn is walking away, announcing very proudly, "I've got her!" He's also started lying on top of him. And pushing him. And doing some hitting of him. (All followed by "No pushing!", "No hitting!", or whatever ironic statement matches his current actions.)

So I am thrilled on the occasions when I find the two of them playing together. It's started to happen a little here and there. The other day they spent a good half hour together playing, and laughing hysterically. It looks like Jack may finally be welcoming Quinn to the team!

Of course the activity they were engaged in was throwing bird seed from under the bird feeder at each other. I knew I should stop them from throwing it at each other, but they were laughing so hard I just couldn't. (I know this is mere steps away from, "I knew they shouldn't have been practicing knife throwing on each other, but they were getting so good at it," but I never claimed to be mother of the year.) I later caught Quinn eating the used bird seed that surely has a nice coating of squirrel and bird poop.

Here they are catching the hantavirus:


And here they are contracting the avian flu:


Here they are engaging in a more wholesome activity:


Hopefully Jack will eventually realize that even though he alone may have to compete with both his brothers, that means that he will always have a brother in school with him. He'll always have someone to look out for him and someone to look after. And he'll always have a littler guy to victimize after Sam beats the hell out of him.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

April Fools is a bust

Sad. So sad.

At 8:12pm tonight I realized that it is April Fools Day and I had not properly taken advantage. Alex literally saw me realize this and was able to read my brainwaves quickly enough to let me know in no uncertain terms that there would be no April Fooling this year.

Probably my best recent April Fools was two years ago, when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with Quinn. I called Alex at work and told him: "I don't know, I've been having some cramping on and off all day today. And I'm sort of worried because I don't know if I want to give birth on APRIL FOOLS DAY!!"

Needless to say, he's been wary of the date ever since. And somehow I've earned the reputation of a bitch.

Painted Legs & Glass Slipper Balls

Last night Alex and I went to our friends Anne and Lane's wedding. It was held in an elegant location downtown with dinner, dancing, and--get this: No Kids! Well, there was one baby there, but it was a girl, it was wearing a bow in its hair, and it wasn't mine. Woohoo! It was lovely. Anne and Lane seem thrilled and are off to Thailand on Monday and had a beautiful ceremony and a great dance party afterwards.

But my super special news (aside from the no-kid thing) is that I dressed up in adult clothes--with my husband--for the first time in a looooong time:


You can't see 'em, but I'm also wearing 3-inch heels. So much fun. Sam and Jack were totally perplexed, however. Sam: "Why are your legs brown?" Me: "Because it makes them look fancy." Sam: "Did you paint them?" Me: "No, I'm wearing something on them." Sam: "No, you painted them."

Then, when he saw me put on my shoes he said, "You're wearing Glass Slipper Balls!" (Those of you who are frequent watchers of the Little Einsteins will know that is an episode of said program, and heretofore, Sam's only reference to high heels.)

Sam and Jack spent the rest of the time until the babysitter got there and I was entirely forgotten stroking my legs and talking about paint (couldn't convince them otherwise) and walking around in any other shoes they could find that have any sort of heel at all.

And a good time was had by all! Congratulations, Lane and Anne!