“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Monday, January 30, 2012

Babysitting Nightmares

I place the welfare of my children above all else (and I have pretty high standards for most everything, soooooo), which means choosing babysitters outside of family is a HUGE deal.  Especially in the days when I was working full-time.

I'm not sure how it happened, then, that I've had some real doozies as far as babysitters go. I will say I've been lucky that my kids have pretty much always been SAFE, but there are still plenty of experiences you'd rather just not have with your kid's babysitter.  Here are just a few. Some are the same person. None have been invited back.

1. The one who didn't flush her poop. Ever.

2.  The one who said, "Ohmigosh, you use, like, SUCH. Big. Words."

3. The one who defrosted the salmon in our freezer and cooked it with her special homemade pesto.

4.  The one who got caught having her boyfriend over and said, "Oh, I didn't think you'd be home so soon."

5.  The one who said, "My boyfriend's mom booked our vacation the week BEFORE your vacation. Will that be a problem?"

6.  The one who said, "He doesn't like when I clean his face, so I just leave it dirty."

7.  The one who kept inviting her grandmother over for lunch, during which they drank wine.

8.  The one whose boobs and buttcrack were always showing. Like a LOT.

9.  The one who put Joey in his Easter outfit two weeks BEFORE Easter. "It was just so cute," she said. "So I ripped off the tags and threw it on him."

10.  The one who said, "My friends decided today that they're getting married TOMORROW! So, I won't be able to babysit."

11.  One, who didn't get past the "interview," responded to the prompt, "Tell us about yourself," with, "I really, REALLY love my boyfriend."

12. Another one who didn't get past the interview finished filling out background info forms and said, "These forms are really stupid. You need to just go with your gut." She also used the phrase in an unrelated context, "Johnny Cochran, God rest his soul."

13. The one who said, "I don't like your rules."

14.  The one who wiped Joey's face with a Clorox wipe.

15. The one who picked dropped blueberries out of the drain to feed to Joey.

16.  The one who was "letting Joey pick his own lunch" and somehow managed to dump forty eggs on the floor.

17. Any of the ones who started a sentence with, "I broke your..."

Maybe some of these make me seem nutty, but seriously. Now that I have babysitters that I like, trust, and who make my kids happy, I am incredibly grateful to not have to deal with any of the above nonsense anymore!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Today Is Report Card Day!!!

No, it's not.

Yeah, I bet the wind just went out of your sails like it did for me this morning. All week long our house has been filled with talk of Second Quarter Report Cards. Some days Joey comes home smiling from ear to ear: "I did AWESOME at spelling today, Mom! I can't WAIT for my report card!" Other days, he comes in miserably, averting his eyes as he hands me a paper all marked up in red (usually correcting what I call his "boy handwriting"). "I just don't even KNOW what my report card will look like, Mom."

Well, I can't help it. Spilling over from my own days of good grades and rewards, Report Card Day is just plain awesome. As a teacher, I love it even more. I love pulling aside that one kid who really put in extra effort for the last ten weeks and saying, "Hey, Johnny, I'm not allowed to tell you your grade, but You. Did. Awesome." Johnny's face lights up and a huge weight seems to just float off his shoulders. It just naturally follows that I'm gonna get totally psyched for my own kid's report card. Especially when My. Kid. Rocks.

PLUS, there's the added bonus of Joey snapping in line the second I mention the big R.C. He'll be teasing his brother, jumping off the side of the couch, making Tarzan noises or what have you, and I'll say, "Is this a sign of what I'll see on that report card?" He instantly drops to his bottom, like there's a magnet between him and the chair. Mischief Face reverts to Serious Face. "I don't know," he says fearfully. I hate to make myself sound mean and bad, but seriously. FEEL THE POWER.

Today I woke up, flinging the covers from my legs. I jumped out of bed and skipped up the stairs.

"Good morning, Joey! Time to get up!"

Joey, a morning person, always flies out of bed with the wind at his back and the sun in his smile. We helped Noah out of bed, went downstairs, and picked out our breakfasts. Joey went with his current fave, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. (When he was little he called it "Cinny Cereal." I'm so sad that's over.)

"Jooooooey," I said, nudging him excitedly. He looked up expectantly, like I was about to tell him we were skipping school and going to Disney World (which is totally on my Bucket List of Things to Do For My Kids Before They Grow Up Much More).

"Yeah, Mom?" he asked. He absentmindedly swatted Noah's thieving hand away. Noah has a thing about eating from other people's plates instead of his own.

"Report Card Day! Are you excited or scared??"

"Oh, it's not Report Card Day today," he said distractedly, turning the cereal box around so he could read the back. "It's next week."

"WHAT???!!" I all but fell out of my chair.

"Yeah. You know," he said, shrugging a shoulder. "I figure it's because Friday is Spirit Day, and they know we'll all be in really good moods."

Trying not to be distracted by my pride in his mature and sound logic, I prodded him on. "What do you mean?" I said. I was now unable to eat my oatmeal. "We've been talking about it all week!"

"I know," he said, shrugging again. "I just figured it's because you're, you know, weird."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Open the D@** Door

What do YOU do when your three-year-old shouts, "Open the damn door!"

Do you cower in horror that your child has just said a swear word? Do you look left and right for the evil, evil person who could have poisoned your sweet, sweet boy's mind?

Or do you calmly evaluate at which point today you lost your temper and MAYBE let a bad word slip out in your frustration?

If you are in the first camp, you are wonderful. I imagine you with perfectly coiffed hair and a lipsticked smile and an even-toned voice and eyes that are so sparkly they look a little crazy.  I have to imagine that last one, or I will go crazy.

If you are like me, you are cemented into the second camp. You are actually a part of the foundation for the second camp. You quite possibly can think of THREE possible moments you let loose a curse word.

In fact, it may be possible that I used the exact phrase, "Open the damn door" at some point or another in the last few days. Not because there has been an explosion of door issues in our house, but because the last few days have just been THOSE kinds of days.

Yesterday, Noah threw the worst temper tantrum in the history of temper tantrums. The Guinness Book of World Records showed up at my door afterward with a clipboard and said, "We heard," and I said, "Who  told you?" and they said, "No. Literally. We HEARD the whole thing. We were checking out a broken record at the center of the earth in boiling, molten lava" (or whatever is at the center of the earth) "and we HEARD your son screaming and came straight away."

Okay, so THAT didn't happen, but Noah's tantrum was so bad that it seemed entirely plausible.

Oh, Mary Pat, you say. Surely you are exaggerating.

Sure, I am. I won't get into the details of it. I'll just say that by the time I got Noah to preschool, we realized he wasn't wearing shoes. Or pants.

Tonight when I tucked Noah into bed, I said, "Guess what, buddy? Regular little boys say good-night to their moms and then don't see them again until awake time in the morning.  That's what we are going to do tonight, okay? I'm not mad at you, I love you more than regular moms love regular boys, but I am not coming back to see you again until morning."

I walked out, went down the steps, and got as far as the kitchen before I heard, "But MAAAWWWWWM!"

Determined. Persevering. Strong. Genuine. Tired.

These were the words I repeated in my mind as I did NOT turn back to the stairs.


Really. What would YOU do?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Magical Morning

This morning, we opened the magic kit Joey got from Santa. He has been waiting for this day since...well, Christmas.

I must begin by saying I am absolutely NOT involved in this "Fun." My husband is a wonderful father, and on Sundays, sets up a science lab in our kitchen. He has given Joey a Science Notebook, and they keep a journal of all experiments, including hypotheses and conclusions. Joey hates writing the long science words down, but I think it's incredibly awesome that Big Joe makes him do it.

It's wonderful, and GUESS WHO GETS TO CLEAN UP??????

(If Joe knew I was writing this, he would indignantly claim that he cleans up every time. Yes, Dear, of course you do.)

Now, Noah is the age that Joey was when science fun began, so he is in on the excitement. The magic kit of this morning is really just a new version of the same old. There are beakers and food coloring and directions to follow to make the "magic" appear. This part kind of bugs me, because I don't want Joey to think that all magic can be explained away by science. I understand the functionality of it here, but in the real world, I firmly believe that there are some fantastic things that simply cannot be SCIENCED. Like unicorns, for example.  And ME.

Anyway. Step one was building a magic wizard hat for Joey, which came from a magic wizard hat kit inside the magic box. I felt bad for Noah, who wouldn't be getting his own hat and who had the mundane job of just adding star stickers to a hat he couldn't keep, so on the DL I busied myself with the really complicated task of making a second hat out of construction paper and star stickers I had on hand (a major plus of being a teacher who stays home this year). He was pretty pumped when I plunked it on his head, and he saw that it was blue--his favorite color. "It matches my eyes," he said shyly. "Thank you, Momma."

Next, Daddy began working on the magic wand. This was a clear tube that Joe filled with water. Then he dropped blue tablets in the water. I saw this from far away, and pulled a Naggy Wife: "Uh, hon?  Maybe that's not such a good idea. I had one of those when I was a kid and it took my brother all of five minutes to--"

"I got this!" Joe interrupted cheerfully, just as Noah knocked the wand from his hands, it clattered to the floor, exploded, and spilled everywhere.

As I wordlessly and patiently sopped up the dye from our light beige tile and grout, Joe moved to the sink to re-build the wand.

"Noah," I heard him say, "you be in charge of the cap while I fill the wand with water again."

"Okay, Daddy!"

I looked up and saw Noah standing furtively in the corner. He had in one hand his wizard hat, and in the other, the cap to his magic wand. Carefully, he balanced the cap in his mop of blond hair. Just as carefully--painfully carefully--he started to place his wizard hat over the cap. I quickly reached over and plucked the wand cap from his head just as he put his hat in place. I quietly set it on the counter in front of Joe and went back to scrubbing our now blue-ish/purple-ish grout.

"Noah, I'm ready for the cap!" Joe flourished his open hand in front of Noah, mock expectantly.

Noah removed his hat with as much flourish, and reached up to the top of his head for the wand cap. His little fingers dug through his hair slowly at first, and then faster and faster as he realized his treasure was missing.

"DAD!" he cried. "DAD! I DISAPPEARED IT!! I have so much power."

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Mother Said To Me

When I was pregnant with Joey and feeling insane levels of emotion and eating like tomorrow was my last day, I remember something my mother told me.

"Then this baby will come and your life will never be your own again."

She said this really flippantly, like you might say, "I guess we'll just eat out tonight" or "Time to do another load of laundry."  I was indescribably horrified--I already felt like there was no baby in me at all but a demon alien.  The idea of "your life will never be your own" pretty much put me over the edge.

I was only twenty-five.  Both then and now, I never really felt that my life was my own to begin with.  My life always seemed to belong to someone or something else anyway--whether it was to my parents, who had given me everything, or to my goals, which at that time were all about teaching and education, or to my new husband, who I'm pretty sure everyone was expecting me to fail.  And maybe I have.  You know, you may find my blog colorful and fun, but I'm an impossibly difficult person.  I'm a control freak.  I am loud and opinionated and neurotic and sometimes a little crazy.  Joe calls me "his firecracker," and he doesn't mean it in a cute way.

My favorite time to write--anything, not just this blog--is just after I have put Joey and Noah to bed.  Our bedtime routine is a whirlwind, and while I know I will one day wistfully regret it, I rush through it just to reach these moments of total silence and stillness.  Tonight--and I am NOT making this up--I picked up my laptop and had just finished typing my mother's quote when over the monitor came Noah's powerful voice, "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM."

I tried to ignore it.  I repeated in my mind the words of all my mommy friends, of my sister, and of our pediatrician: Do not give in to his demands.  But then it came again: "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM."

Don't other people care like I do that one child will wake another?  Um, seriously?  It does make a bad situation worse.

So I set my laptop to the side and took the stairs two at a time in my fuzzy boot slippers, a Christmas gift from my mom.  I quietly nudged open Noah's door and said, "Yes, honey."

"Mommy, I pooped in my pants.  I'm reeeeeeally sorry."

And he is really sorry.  For many who think that I'm just a failure at potty training, I'm not.  Joey was potty trained before he was two.  But Noah has had bowel issues since he was infant, and though he is potty trained, he has been constipated so many times that his body has stopped giving the signal that he has to go at all.  He is medicated for this daily, and we are currently working on a "system clean-out," which is absolutely as disgusting as it sounds.  I mean it's just really gross.  They could make entire horror movies about system clean-outs.  People would leave the movie theater shaken and disturbed, going home to lie awake and their beds saying over and over, "Please don't let that happen to me."

But this is it.  This is what my mother meant.  My life doesn't belong to me.  I don't get to write a blog when I want to.  I can't say everything I want when I think it.  I can't call up my friends and say, "Hey, want to go to..." ANYWHERE because a lot of the time, we just can't.  I don't get to have a snack because I'm hungry, or even pee when I really, really have to go.  Ladies and gentlemen, I HAVE peed my pants since becoming a mom.  Not like a big splash or anything, but still.  Just when I think my moment of Alone Time has come, somebody falls down.  Somebody flips off the couch.  Somebody poops his pants.  And, sometimes, somebody just REALLY needs a cuddle.  And I want to be there to give it.  Even if my already weak bladder is crying inside my body.  And when a bladder cries, well....

Maybe you're a super intuitive person, and tonight you can read my tone and recognize that today was a particularly bad day.  After I changed Noah's poopy pants, put him to bed, and came back downstairs only to discover that he had begun singing a jaunty rendition of "Moves Like Jagger," my husband said for the millionth time in six years, "Seriously.  Do you want to just go sleep at your mom's?  Just this once?  I've got this."

I was tempted.  My old room is almost exactly as I left it--pink walls and eyelet window valance.  I could curl up in my old bed and sleep as long as I wanted.  But like I already said:  I'm a control freak.  I am loud and opinionated and neurotic and sometimes a little crazy.  So instead of taking a break, I took a deep breath instead.  My children will sleep, and so will I, and tomorrow it will start all over.  I will trudge up the stairs in the morning to help Noah to the potty.  I will feel exhausted and run down and miserable.  But when I open his door and he says, "Well, hey, Momma!" my heart will open and I won't be able to keep from squeezing him and kissing him a hundred times.

When Joe said, "Do you want to just go sleep at your mom's?" I said, "No, that's okay.  Thanks."

Look at this picture.  My house is a mess, my kids need haircuts, and...that's my whole life right there. <3

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just Another Day...

1.  Noah has to have his bowels "retrained" due to lifelong constipation issues.  Doctor's order?  Drink 64 ounces of Gatorade mixed with an explosive level of Miralax in a four hour period to "cleanse" his bowels.  I've tried it three times.  All times, at the end of the four hours, he's taken two sips of the first serving and declared, "I saw you put that poop sugar in my drink, and I am NOT drinking it."

2.  Joey watched Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader and managed to unravel that it is based on Christianity.  He led me into a theological discussion, including an ongoing list of "quotable moments" from all the Narnia movies to support his ideas.  I ADORE THIS CHILD.

3.  Noah watched Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, saw a girl reunite with her mother after all seemed lost, leaned over, and whispered, "I'm worried about you, Mommy.  I don't ever want to not have you."

4.  Noah has literally eaten the face off of at last three of his favorite stuffed animals.  Can you call them "loveys" when they've been mutilated?

5.  I was in the middle of laundry/dishes/cleaning (do other people end up doing these things all at once?) when Noah looked up from his coloring and said, "Momma, would you like to join me?"  Who can say no to that?

6.  Joey has to read a book of his choice out loud to his class.  He chose a Batman reader, level 2.  I made him practice it with me first, but there was no need.  He read the word "entrepreneur" without help.  Did I mention that I ADORE THIS CHILD?

7.  At bedtime last night, Joey called me back in the room just to say, "Hey, I love ya."

8.  Noah has a cold.  It makes him miserable and whiny and generally disagreeable.  When it was time to take Joey to school, Noah collapsed on the floor in angry heap and said, "I am NOT going."  I said, "Okay, see you later!"  He chased me all the way to the door yelling, "Wait!  Wait!  Wait for ME! I'm coming!  I'm COMING!!"

9.  While watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Noah said (surrounded by tissues and boogers), "And of course I'll need my Spy Gear.  Especially the finger laser."

10.  Joey had to bring Timbits (doughnut holes) as the class snack because I'm a bad mom who forgot it was his snack day.  (I'm a stay-at-home mom; I really have no excuse.)  Of course, you can't drive Noah through Tim Hortons without him feeling totally destroyed if HE doesn't get something, so I got him his own Timbits on the side.  He was mad he didn't get the 40 pack and yelled the whole way home.

11.  Noah yells often.

12.  I'm really tired.

(added late) 13.  Noah just stepped on hand and crushed all the bones.  I said, "Ow!" and he glared and me.  He said, "Well you DO have to watch out."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Fun is the F-Word

In writing this blog, I have received a lot of nice compliments.  Above all the rest stands, "You sound like such a good mother."  Well, I think I'm about to blow that out of the water (as my dad would say).

I'm not proud of it, but I say NO to nearly everything.  It's one of those things that I really hated about my own mother growing up, but there it is.  The question won't even be complete.  It will have been beautifully constructed mentally, and then, as soon as the W word is out, or the "Can I..." the big NO shuts everyone down.

I usually have valid reasons, of course.  It's dangerous.  It's unhealthy.  It's ludicrous (seriously, Noah, you just CANNOT go swimming at Grandma's house in January).  Or, and this is the crime right here, I just don't want to.  Things that fall in this latter category are painting, Play-Doh, anything with scissors or glitter or glue, and Chuck E. Cheese.  (Actually, I have quite a lengthy list of reasons "I just don't want to" go to Chuck E. Cheese, but it could be its own blog entry so I'll save it for another day.)

When it comes right down to it, a catch-all rule from my middle-school classroom has wiggled its way into my home: Fun is the F-Word.  When I finally came right out and told this to my children, I watched Joey wrestle with it emotionally.  At long last, when reason won over and I could see that he just HAD to set me straight, he came to stand in front of me silently.  He placed both his hands on mine and leaned forward earnestly.  He said, "No, Mom.  That is NOT what the F-Word is."  Clearly, his Catholic school education is paying off.  And God love him, he is so wonderfully earnest.

But in my house, Fun IS the F-Word.

It doesn't keep them from trying, though.  On Friday, Joey came home from school already chanting, "C'we play ousside NOW?  C'we play ousside NOW?  C'we play ousside NOW?"  But on Friday, I felt that playing outside fell under the "dangerous, unhealthy, and ludicrous," headings because there was a snowstorm going on and the temps had fallen below 20 degrees.

On Saturday, Joey woke up not feeling well with a pretty bad sniffle, and the temperature was 11 degrees.   My mom hates this phrase, but it really was a "No Brainer."

Yesterday was an insane day monopolized by other people's birthdays, so playing outside was not even on the table.  Instead we went bowling.  Or as Noah calls it, "Balling."

So today was the day I couldn't escape.  The sun is shining, the air has warmed up, and there is still snow.  Rain is on the way, so it was now or never.  Avoiding anticipatory insanity, I secretly gathered up snowsuits and scarves and waterproof mittens and boots.  I chose weather-appropriate outfits and dressed the boys.  And then I said the phrase I knew would cause total mayhem.  "Do you want to go play in the snow?"

It really was cute.  Noah started skipping and singing, "We're play-ing in the snow!  We're play-ing in the snow!"  and Joey dropped down on one knee, pumped his fist, and said, "YESSSSSSSSS."  I felt pretty great.  It was like that time I bought Noah the giant, enormous lollipop nobody ever buys their child.  But like that time, this didn't end very well.

Here is why, in my house, fun is the F-Word.

I methodically dressed the boys so I would not lose my patience early.  Snow pants.  Zip, zip.  Buckle, buckle.  Snow boots.  SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE.  Velcro, tie, tie.  Special waterproof, elbow length mittens (check out Leaps and Bounds, these are pretty great).  Where is your thumb? "I don't know."  Is your thumb in the thumb spot?  "I don't know."  Is it now?  Is it now?  Three pairs of mittens later, Noah is wearing Joey's knitted Batman gloves.  I warn him these will get wet and make his hands cold, but Noah is always very sure I'm a moron.  Next, neck muffs (also from Leaps and Bounds).  Hats.  Coats.  Ready to go.

I donned Joe's big snowboarding coat and my very jazzy snow boots (which I bought without the intention of ever wearing them in actual snow), and opened the door.  The cold air stung our faces immediately, and we pushed off for the backyard.

Five minutes out, and Noah's hands were wet and hurting.  He was crying.  I brought him back in the house to change into the original pair of mittens I had put on him.  Back outside.  Three minutes later, Joey falls on the patio and is sure his leg is broken.  I can't see it because of his many layers and he is screaming and crying hysterically.

Eight minutes of outside time.

In the house, Joey continued to cry.  He flopped over on the floor while I tugged off his boots, his mittens, his snow pants.  Noah cried because we were inside and flopped over on the floor while I tugged off his boots, his mittens, his snow pants.  Of course, he also flailed around to make sure I knew I had just ruined his life because Joey had fallen and gotten hurt and now we were inside making sure Joey was okay.  

Joey's knee: not swollen.  Not bruised.  Not even pink.  Totally fine.  "Sorry," he whispered.  He looked down at his hands.  My heart broke into little pieces.  Noah was still crying.

Twenty-five minutes of preparation.  Eight minutes of play.  Crying and misery and broken hearts.  THIS is why "fun" is the F-Word!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Building a Picture

There are days where I know I've had at least half a dozen moments that make me think, "I definitely have to blog about this," and then, inevitably, I sit down in front of my beautiful laptop and every single one of them flies out of my head.  I look down at the keys and I think, "Um...?"

Not very profound, I know.  I have no idea where my mind goes at the end of a morning, an afternoon, or a whole day.  It's not that in retrospect these moments are any less magical (whether I remember them later or not) than I had originally thought.  I will admit that my most rapt audience of all time, middle school English students, have from time to time suggested that perhaps some of my stories fall under the title "Had To Be There."  But I don't think that's true in this case either.

I think it's more that real life is both mundane and magical at the same time, because as it happens it makes me smile and makes me feel.  But the moments its comprised of are just bits and pieces.  They are the dots in a dot-to-dot picture.  While you're actually connecting the dots, drawing those lines in just the right way (seriously, sometimes you don't realize it was meant to be a curved line), every dot seems terribly important.  "Okay, that was 9, now, where's 10?  No...that's 13...10, 10, 10...10!"  But then at the end, each individual dot becomes inconsequential in the face of what is literally the big picture.

Today, my big picture was Family.  Not the traditional compact unit, but a crowd of people extending out.  Family has become a pretty controversial word in the world today.  I understand why, but my big picture today was not controversial.  It was messy.  It was silly.  It was windshield wipers on panic mode and blind people driving cars and interruption and loud laughs.  I come from a long line of loud laughers.  I used to try and mute mine, but now I don't.  Now I just go for it.  I've been shushed, too, but who cares?  I'm just having a moment, and building a picture.

P.S.--Top 5 Recent "Dots"
1.  Noah in a women's clothing store, upon seeing a large display of faux leopard fur jackets:  "Aughhh!  It's a MONSTER!!!"

2.  Joey running to the door at school, through a snowstorm, his Batman backpack flopping all over, his tongue hanging out to catch snowflakes, and totally not caring what anyone thinks.

3.  Joey snuggling up to me while we watched TV.  He's not much for cuddling, so it means a lot.

4.  Noah in the backseat of his car with his face pressed into the frosting part of an Oreo Dippers container.

5.  Me handing Joey his school shoes this morning, and him wordlessly setting them down and putting on his boots because there was a big snowstorm swirling outside.

Oh, shoot.  I'll add 6: My sister desperately trying to avoid something, and then getting stuck RIGHT NEXT TO IT.  Hee, hee.  Guess you had to be there. ;)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Noah Kind of Day

When I told Noah, "No dinner? No dessert!" he looked me right in the eye and said, "Apparently, you are a bad momma."  And remember, he doesn't say his Rs and Ls.

When Noah saw me eat a piece of candy, he yelled, "STOP EATING THAT!  YOUR STOMACH WILL STICK OUT!!!"

When I told Noah, "Don't turn on the light while Mommy is driving--it's dangerous," he waited until I had  pulled out onto the road and THEN turned it on.  I pulled over and waited for him to turn it off.  I told him a policeman would take us all away if he saw the light on.  It took him a long, full sixty seconds to DECIDE to turn it off.

When I told Noah, "Time to get in the bathtub," he did, but tried to shove Joey into the wall so that he could have Joey's spot.  He had to sit in his towel until he could agree to be nice.

When I told Noah, "Time to get out out of the bathtub," he yelled, "NO!" and turned his legs into giant water scissors.  Water splashed over the sides of the tub everywhere.  He glared at me, his scariest glare, and then got up and unplugged the tub.  When I tried to lift him out, he pushed my hands away and did it himself.

When I told Noah and Joey, "It's story time.  Everyone pick their spot for our bedtime story," Noah said, "I want to play with my slinky."  I sat down next to Joey and opened our all-time favorite book.  Noah threw the slinky in the air.  It bounced, then rolled along the carpet.  "Wait!" he cried.  "Wait!  I want to hear the story, too!"  He snatched up the slinky, now a long snake of knotty coils, and ran from the room to put it away.  Seconds later, he squished himself between Joey and me and said, "Okay, start."

I opened to the first page.  Before I could begin, Noah put his little hand over mine and said, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always.  Okay. You read now, Momma."

You have to admit, he's beautiful.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Daddy's Old Girlfriends

Joey had an early dismissal from school today.  Noah was very excited about this because he would have someone to play with.  We drove together to pick Joey up, and came home for PB&J, apple slices, and a special treat: Doritos.  The Doritos smelled delicious, and I think I must have commented about them several times.  Suddenly, Noah held one out, a big, wonderful, orange triangle, and said, "You can have one of mine, Mommy.  Would you like to have it?"

"No, thank you, honey," I said, resisting.  "Mommy doesn't eat Doritos."

"Is it because you're on a DIET?" he asked.

"Kind of," I said, smiling.

"Mom," said Joey, "is it a daily nutrition diet, or a you-don't-want-to-be-fat diet?"

"Kind of both," I said.  "Mommy's favorite foods in the whole world are junk food.  And you know what I love the best?"  I leaned in like I was going to tell them I liked raccoon bones or snake eyes.

"What?" asked Joey excitedly.

"Burger King!"

"Oooooh, man!" Joey giggled.  (Noah had just gone back to eating his Doritos.)

"Once," I went on, "I had a boyfriend who said he'd take me to any fancy restaurant I wanted, any one at all, and do you know what I said?"

"What?" asked Joey.

"I said I wanted BURGER KING!"

"Aaaaw!" Joey laughed.  "Daddy must have thought you were CRAZY."

I smiled.  "It wasn't Daddy," I said.  "I had LOTS of boyfriends, you know.  It took Daddy WAAAY too long to decide he loved me."

"Well," said Joey, shrugging a shoulder.  "You can't blame 'im.  He did date TWO movie stars before he finally married you."


"Yup.  Cindy Crawford and Kathy Ireland."

Oh.  Oh!  He wishes.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Noah's due date was May 2.  Everyone has their pregnancy stories.  With Noah, I hemorrhaged at eleven weeks, fell down the stairs at Christmas, had kidney stones, suffered sciatic pain, and then, in early April, starting having shooting pains in my belly that made me double over and cry.

The doctor said, "Well, discomfort is normal."

Finally, he said he could induce me.  On April 25, I went into the hospital at 8:30 am.  They expected me to deliver by 12:30 pm.  But at 12:30 pm, everything went wrong.  We thought my water had broken, but when I stood up, blood was everywhere.  (Sorry for the visual, but it happened and it was terrifying.)

The next thing I knew, I was being raced into an OR.  Nurses were shouting things like "BPs" and "Stat!" and as embarrassing as it is, I did feel like I was on an episode of Grey's Anatomy.  The scary part was that it wasn't just a TV show.  It was really happening.  I had no idea why, or what went wrong, and neither did my doctor (even scarier--should they actually say that out loud?).

When Noah was delivered fifteen minutes later, it was discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, he was upside-down, and my placenta had torn. "But we're not really sure what the actual cause of bleeding was," they said.  And that, ladies and gentleman, is how Noah Michael entered the world.  He has since lived up to his grand entrance.

He is trouble.  He is mischief.  He is THREE--but add about ten octaves to the scale of being three and then you'll have Noah.  It's not ordinary trouble.  It's not average mischief.  Just like there wasn't only one complication at the time of his birth, there's never only one thing you can name about him.  He's a tornado of traits.

One thing he ISN'T?  A faker.  In fact, days might pass before I even realize he hasn't been feeling well or has been coming down with something.  This is a major contrast to Joey, who complains dramatically when his hair tickles.  But Noah never lets on that he feels any type of symptoms, and sometimes doesn't even acknowledge them when I SEE them.  "Noah, is your nose running?"  "Uh....no."

I think he honestly just doesn't want to be bothered or slowed down by anything (again, note his birth--he wanted to be born NOW).  But this also means that when he says something is hurting or bothering him, he MEANS it.

Flash forward to last night.  Noah was in bed by seven, asleep by seven-thirty.  The house was deliciously calm and peaceful.  Nine-thirty rolls around, and a blasting, piercing, heart-stopping scream comes down the staircase and through the monitor.  I am up the stairs faster than I have ever moved in my life--I think I grew wings on the way.  I am in his room.  Noah is drenched in sweat.  He is hysterical.  He is screaming.  He is crying.  He is holding his body so rigidly that he is shaking.  He is saying, "It hurts, it hurts" through his sobs.  At first I cannot pick him up.  Then I cannot bring him close to me.  He is saying, "I want my Mommy," but I am right here and he is not stopping.

I somehow determine that his foot hurts.  I rip off his Halo Sleep Sack, thinking he must have outgrown it (it's a size 5T), but he is irate.  "It's not that!" he screams.  It is so dark.  I turn on a lamp and tear off his socks.  It is then that he manages to say, "Not my foot--my knee!"  I set him down experimentally, and he cannot stand.

His screaming does not subside at all, so I carry him tightly downstairs, all the while whispering calmly, "It's okay.  Everything will be okay.  Mommy's here."  I am not at all sure that everything will be okay.

We sit on the couch, and I stroke his hair and rock him back and forth, but his body is so stiff and he is now crying so hysterically that I can see the veins in his forehead.  I call my mother.  She comes over within a minute (she lives across the street).  We cannot calm him down.

Suddenly, there is a pause.  I look at his soaking wet face, and see that has stopped to yawn.  When he is through, he slumps over and clutches his knee fiercely.  "Make it stop hurting," he sobbed.  I held him tight and rubbed his leg and whispered over and over again, "It's okay, it's okay."  I gave him ice, I offered him candy, I offered him presents, I offered him Disney World.  At long last, his sobs settled into shaky breaths, and then in a trembling voice he said, "Please take me back to my room."  I did, and  after several minute, he fell asleep curled in a tiny, perfect ball.

This is the second time this has happened.  I have called the doctor, and we go later this week.  He woke up this morning, all smiles.  He stood in his bed and said happily, "Well, hey, Momma.  Ready to start our day?"

I have no idea what to think.  I just know that no mother EVER wants to see her child like I saw Noah last night.  Scraped knees and mean friends are bad enough.  But this...pretty unbearable.  If you have a spare second in your day, please say a little prayer that Noah is fine.  He is trouble, but he is wonderful.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Can you tell me?

So I've been blogging for a few months now.  It started for two reasons.  I used to write all the time and wanted to get back to it again, so there's that.  There's also the fact that Joe had been away often this past fall, and the stories about our kids were just too long for texts and emails.  Well, maybe not for emails, but emails don't have the same pizzazz.  And if you know me, you know I'm all about the pizzazz (although for some reason I keep accidentally typing "pizzass").

I didn't expect to become as hooked on this as I am, and I also didn't expect to become as OBSESSED with my blogger dashboard as I am.  More specifically, I really enjoy checking the Stats.  People from Russia read my blog?  Can they even understand it?  And someone from Germany.  A down-home kind of girl, I'm not really exciting enough to know people from other countries--not even Canada.  Oh, wait.  I DO know someone who lives in Canada.  At least, I think I do.  She might have moved back.

Anyway, even MORE fascinating than reader location is reader's choice.  There is overwhelming disproportion in which posts gets read.  At first I chalked it up to who's online and who really has time TODAY to read MY silly blog, but then one post got 75% more hits than any other one.  I considered its topic--my husband Joe--and thought, okay, for whatever WEIRD reason, people like reading about him.  But then another post a few weeks later was about a different topic altogether, and it, too, had a spiked readers' count.

Over time, I can't really figure out what makes one thing better to read than another.  I'm hoping that you might comment or email me and let me know what it is.  I'm not saying I'll write more of those posts, since this is strictly whim and fancy on my part, but you WILL be satisfying my overwhelming curiosity, which makes you a nice(r) person.

So please tell me.  Do you have a favorite post?  Is there something you like to read about more than the rest?

P.S.--I felt a little funny making this a post, but Joe said he thought it would be okay.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Superhero Squad

When I returned from vacation, it was to find that my mother, terrific Grandma that she is, had taken my children to Wal-Mart.  This is a store I NEVER visit, because it is a hub for the families of the school district I teach in.  I have an irrational fear of running in to these families (I feel like they will have discovered my Clark Kent identity), so it's all avoid, avoid, avoid when it comes to such hubs.

My children apparently LOVED Wal-Mart, and somehow managed to convince MY mother to buy them matching Captain America shields, a Captain America mask, and a Wolverine mask.  MY mother.  The lady who wouldn't even buy me a pack of gum from the grocery line.

ANYWAY, this morning I woke with a vacation hangover.  I had become all cozy and used to sleeping whenever I wanted, and then I returned home to 6:30 am wakeups, making breakfast, packing lunches, playing chauffeur, and meeting demands in the generation of On-Demand.  This is quite the leap to make, and no matter how much I thought I was ready to come home, I'm, well, exhausted. (To that point, my mother called me yesterday, three days after my return, to tell me she is STILL exhausted from my children.)

So there I was, a giant cup of espresso-shot coffee in my hand from Tim Hortons (thank God they have extra large), sitting on the couch, staring.  I needed silence.  I needed calm.  What ensued around me was anything but.

My husband had donned the Wolverine mask and was wielding a Magic 8 Ball like it was some sort of small, round sword.  Joey wore the Captain America mask and the shield.  Noah had his Toy Story ball.  I'm not really sure what his deal was, actually.  Evidently, there were unseen enemies everywhere.  The three boys sprinted around my couch in circles screaming out things like, "Quick!  To the hideout!" and, "Look out!  Poison Ivy has spotted us!  She's AFTER US!"  It seemed that I was playing Poison Ivy, since every time they passed me, they'd stop, drop, and roll away from me.  They hid in the curtains.  Imagine seeing a full-grown, thirty-something man in Smurf pajamas wearing a Wolverine mask with a Magic 8 Ball ducking unsuccessfully in your drapes.  I sincerely hope he didn't REALLY think he was well-hidden.  If that's the case, I'm in trouble if ever there's an actual intruder.

They leapt over the ottoman.  They screamed and hollered and yelled.  When I stood up to get more coffee (my only prayer for survival), they fled the room screaming, "She's coming!  She's coming!"  Had I know that's all it took, I would have stood up and gone back to bed from the beginning.  But at least they had fun.

And I guess it must be pretty cool to play Superheroes with your dad.  Even if he's a little ridiculous. ;)

Monday, January 2, 2012


Still on vacation, still loving it.  Awesome food, awesome things to do.  Went on a ghost tour last night, was sufficiently freaked out.  This is formerly Nicholas Cage's property, now supposed to be Johnny Depp's, and is THE most haunted site in the French Quarter.  It is considered so terrible that locals won't even walk on the sidewalk next to it--they cross the street:

When I was little, my brother, sister, and I frequently grieved the fact that we did not go on family vacations.  "Why can't WE go to Florida?" we would whine accusingly at our parents.

"Because," said my father, barely giving us a second look.  "Those people who go to Florida and anywhere else don't have what we have.  We have the beach."

"The beach" is what we call the family cottage at Lake Erie.  It is a beach, in fact, and every summer we stayed there for two weeks in July.  All other Saturdays and Sundays, we made the twenty-five minute drive out to the lake, already wearing our bathing suits and listening to oldies of my dad's specific choosing, to spend the day.  On special days, my mom brought or cooked dinner out there.  My aunt and uncle came, too, and all of us spread out big blankets on the white sand and laid in the sun all day long, until we were crispy and sandy and completely drained of any more energy.  We did not play volleyball.  We did not wear water shoes.  We did not even wear sunscreen (I was supposed to on what my uncle calls "the old Michalek nose," but always refused).  We sat in the sand eating chips, drinking Coke, and swimming in the waves from morning until night and then we went home.

As a kid, I wondered what I missing.  So many other kids got to go away and see places and do things I had never done.  "What about summer camp?" I once asked my dad.  "Can I try summer camp?"

"I've been to summer camp," he'd said.  "Trust me, all you'll do is wish you were here at the beach."

I didn't really pout over this canned response, though it was dismissive and didn't dissuade me from believing I was missing out on something.  But I LOVED the beach, and when I was there, even on those Saturday and Sunday day trips, I definitely did NOT want to go home.  Ever.  Something about being beside the shore of the lake made me breathe more evenly, or my heart beat more steadily.  Or something like that.  It felt more at home to be there than it did to actually be at home.

The first trip I ever took on my own without my family was to London.  I went with my school when I was seventeen, and I cried the entire first twenty-four hours I was gone.  An angsty girl, I never anticipated how much I wished they were there beside me.  But I think what set me off was that the Thames was so NOT Lake Erie.  It was not blue and vast and twinkly, and it did not make my breathing easier.  So I wished for what would...for the lake, and my family all around me, and Coke and chips.

Once, for the Fourth of July, Joe whisked me off to Toronto for the weekend.  He paid extra for a room facing Lake Ontario; it was considered a prime room in the hotel and he was so proud of himself for managing it.  I was thrilled until I stood in front of the wide windows overlooking a blue sparkly body of water that was not mine.  How weird is that?  And because it was actually summer and I knew I COULD be at the beach, it physically hurt.  My dad had been right years before: all I was doing was wishing for the beach.

On this trip that I am on now, today, in this moment, Joe made sure I was somewhere warm.  As someone who loves the beach and the summer, I really do suffer from some form of the Winter Blues.  I am looking out an old, old window right now into the bright sunny skies of New Orleans, and I have been wearing t-shirts for days and breathing clean, warm fresh air.  And I am super excited to be here, because it's some place I've always wanted to experience and because at home it is freezing and snowing...or snow is coming?...I'm not really sure and don't exactly care to know, but still...I miss my summers at the beach.  I miss my sister next to me on a blanket, smelling like coconuts, and my brother wiping sand off his feet (because despite the fact that all three of us love the beach as much as my dad, Pauly feels serious disgust over sandy feet), and my mom looking like someone of "exotic descent" (that's what the nurse described to my sister when my mom tried to get in the hospital to see my nephew, who was a summer baby), and my Dad, with a rum and coke in his hand and his "ball cap" perched atop his head.

I guess he was right.  Anyone can take a vacation, and they are GREAT (this one certainly is)...but some things are just better.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I resolve...

My resolution is completely vague and foggy, but altogether warm and fuzzy. ;)

This is the first New Year of my life I have spent away from my actual life.  Joe and I are on vacation over a thousand miles away (I think) and I am using this time to now consider the idea of one or more resolutions.

I view New Year's resolutions as seriously as I do Lenten resolutions.  Having been raised "old school" Catholic, resolutions have ruled a lot of my life and from what I figure must be some amount of Catholic angst, everyone takes a little joy in breaking them all.  My mother would always give up sweets and desserts, but find secret little ways to indulge herself.  Frozen yogurt, for example, never counted because it was "healthy," therefore not a dessert.  For me, keeping resolutions has always been akin to keeping secrets.  Impossible. (Seriously, do NOT confide in me.  I know I appear earnest and concerned, and I AM, but I'm also wholly untrustworthy.)

This year as I view my life from a distance, I see that many of the things I'd like to change about myself are not completely difficult.  Smile more.  Complain less.  These were actually on my list for 2011, and believe it or not I think I had some success in keeping them.  This year I also add, "Stand up straight" because my posture is a bit of an issue and I have back problems.

But I'd also like to be less quick to anger.  More likely to laugh--at situations and at myself.  I'd like to fear less.  I'm afraid of EVERYTHING.  Germs, mistakes, embarrassment, pencils.  I need to work on that--do I want my children to hang back in the shadows because they are like me or do I want them to hold their arms out to the world and take it all in because it is wonderful and so are they?  I'd like to be more like the person I want my children to become.  Why shouldn't I?  Every day we tell children in one way or another that they can be anything, do anything, become anything...can't we do it, too?  SHOULDN'T we, in fact?

This year, unlike any other year, I have been given OPPORTUNITY.  I want to take it and make myself worthy of the gift.  I have had to be very strong in my life--at certain points--and some days I wonder where all that has gone?  Surely to potty-training, and battle-choosing, and holding my tongue (a particular challenge).  But why should there be nothing left over?

So here is to being the best me I can be, and making the most of myself for the good of everyone else.  In the spirit of my children, my current trip, and the New Year, I'd like to say FAREWELL to THIS person:

and embrace THIS one:

Happy NEW YEAR, whatever you wish it to be!