Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review

On the eve of 2010, I've been thinking about what 2009 has been like for me and my husband. Here is our year in review:

-Two new children

-Approximately 1600 diapers

-1200 ounces of laundry soap

-27 pounds of baking soda

-A new dishwasher, car, and garbage disposal (see bullet point #1)

-Seven weeks of home construction

-Three months with no more than three consecutive hours of sleep

-Vivi starting nursery school

-Delicious meals made by friends who took pity on us

-Quiet winter evenings by the sewing machine

-Booboos and daddy's remedies

-Amelia Bedelia, why must Vivi love you so?

-Our beloved Brown student who helps us several days a week and Aunt Jane who lived with us for the summer and still says (honestly, I think) that she misses seeing her nieces everyday.

-Countless tears

And lots and lots of joy.

See you in the New Year!

Love,

Mama Mama

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cleaning It Up

Vivi is a master chef. We frequently enjoy onion muffins with fried maple syrup or spaghetti with poop sauce, all of which is made with love in her play kitchen. What Vivi is not a master at is cleaning up her own messes. After the millionth time of stepping on her toy whisk and cupcake pan, we had the following conversation:

"Vi, will you please pick up that mess in there?" I asked in my usual exasperated tone.

"Mama, I didn't make that mess."

"Oh yeah?"

"Chaos did it. He came up from the basement when you weren't looking and did it."

For those of you who are new to this blog and don't know who Chaos is, allow me to explain. He is the monster who makes a mess. He lived in our friends' basement for several years but moved into our house right after the Turtles arrived.

Now I am thinking that if we can have imaginary monsters who make messes, we most certainly can have imaginary beings clean them up. Let me introduce you to the newest member of our family, Mrs. Enid W. McGrump:




Enid is a monster who hates messes but loves wearing nightgowns and slippers, even in the daytime! She has been known to sneak around the house just to look for messes and if she finds one, look out! Enid W. McGrump cleans the mess herself but takes all the items and places them in an undisclosed location (kind of like Dick Cheney) until certain little girls earn them back. It's hard to catch a glimpse of Enid and this is the only known photograph of her.

There's about to be a big monster battle at our house. Who is your money on?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Good Stuff

Our holidays were full of good stuff this year-- the kind you can't quantify or hold in your hands. The stuff that doesn't make you cringe when the credit card bill rolls in or demand batteries in a size that you most certainly do not have. The things that made our Christmas so wonderful, as Dr. Seuss put it, didn't come from a store.

We shared delicious food with friends who joined us on Christmas Eve and had a joyful sing-along around our piano. My husband, who was not raised celebrating Christmas, happily indulged all of our musical requests.

Vivi and I packed up a large box of food for our local food bank and she wrapped up some of her toys to give to her baby sisters. She is beginning to understand that when we give to others, we receive much in return.

My husband and I got to see Santa Claus through our daughter's eyes and were pleased to hear Vivi say, "That Santa is a nice guy. I will write him a thank you note for my scooter." (A scooter that cost us $15 on Craig's List, by the way.)

We did not stress out about how our holiday should be and enjoyed leftovers for our Christmas meal. I accepted that three-eyed and one-armed gingerbread men were just fine because my daughter made them. In fact, I think most of the calories we've consumed the last few days came from cookies.

We stayed in our pajamas and played Sorry and Candyland and Chutes and Ladders and dominoes. Sometimes I even won.

But the sweetest, loveliest gift of all was one that was not given to me. It was a card my husband gave to Vivi. He wrote how much he loved her and what a joy she is to him. The card does not mean much to her now but I'm tucking it away because I suspect that one day she will treasure it as much as I do.

So as the New Year approaches, I'll be holding on to these memories and wishing you and yours all the good stuff this holiday season.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Previews

Rejoice! A holiday miracle has happened-- my husband and I went out on a hot date last night. With the Turtles going to bed by 6:30 every evening, we decided we would be wild and crazy, get them a babysitter, and go out for dinner and a movie. I know. We've outdone ourselves.

In order to enjoy our date, some prep work needed to be done. A frozen pizza was purchased for Vivi and the babysitter, a movie was rented, and the popcorn was pre-popped. After dinner, Vivi was to take a bath and then she could stay up and watch Babe, the film I had chosen for the occasion.

Now, being a person who isn't really familiar with kids' movies, I thought a film about a sheep-herding pig would be totally innocuous. When we got home from our date, however, the sitter informed us that Vivi was rather upset about a sheep dying and Babe getting sick. (Ummm... a sheep dies in it? There's blood? What about the happy little pig?) So it was no surprise this morning when Vivi said, "Mama, that dog bited the sheep and there was blood! Why did that sheep die?" I didn't want a night out to lead to these kinds of questions!

It seems that knowing the back story of a movie might serve me and my family well. Last night, my husband and I chose to see Brothers. I had vaguely heard that it was about a couple of brothers (duh!) and that the movie was getting good reviews. I was not prepared for what I saw though. The film profoundly affected me and while I won't give the ending away, it wasn't exactly light, hot date kind of material.

Next time, I'll read the reviews and see the previews, for everyone's sake.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Happenings

Now that Vivi is three and a half, there's holiday spirit oozing out of every nook and crannie of this house. She is really into the whole thing and I find myself enjoying the holidays so much more because of it.

The first weekend in December, my Jewish husband took Vivi and a Turtle out to pick out the Christmas tree while I took another Turtle with me to a friend's baby shower. My husband really seems to enjoy Christmas and I know that he and Vivi spent a good amount of time deliberating on the perfect tree. They both came home very excited by the one they chose. Here she is:


We become very attached to our Christmas trees and every year we give it a name. Vivi offered Jimmy the Skunk for this year's tree but we decided to go with her second choice, Penelope.

We have also been whipping
up various confections like nobody's business. I participate in an annual cookie swap which is one of my favorite events of the holidays. Everyone always seems to come up with something new and interesting. Here were my contributions:



I couldn't have baked all those treats without my little "helper":


Hanukkah started last Friday evening so we've also been lighting our menorah and letting our Turtles play with matches:



And, of course, it would not be December without a semi-disasterous photo shoot:


Now, back to my sewing. See you in a few days!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Babies

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a baby in this country. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Central Asia, the specifics of childrearing were pretty much lost on me. I was 22 at the time and not thinking much about kids, even though I spent most of my working days with them. What was very clear is that the children were raised by the community and they had a lot of independence.

About four months into my service, I got my own bachelorette pad. It was two rooms with a shared outbuilding containing a hole for relieving yourself and an adjacent room with a torch and cauldron for washing. It was January and it was cold the day I moved. When I opened the door to my place, I found my neighbor bathing her newborn daughter in a pot next to the open flame on the gas stove. I didn't think much of it at the time but now I laugh at the thought of that sort of thing happening here.

As parents, there are plenty of things to protect our kids from-- bullies, drugs, and oncoming traffic are a few good examples-- but I think we are remiss when we try to prevent every single potentially bad things from ever happening to them. Read any issue of Parents magazine, and you'll find yourself plagued by fear that a random piece of hair may accidentally get wrapped around your baby's finger and cut off his circulation. Or you'll find that for $19.95 you can own a contraption that will prevent a door from slamming on little Mary's hand. Of course no one wants poor Mary to get a boo boo but if it happens once she's likely to be a little bit more careful the next time she closes the door. Wouldn't it be better to just teach our kids how to handle the bumps and bruises that come along in life?

I often wonder if I would be a different parent if I had my daughters somewhere else. Right now, I often feel like I am swimming upstream against a rising tide of anxiety about how unsafe the world supposedly is. This past summer, I frequently let Vivi play outside alone. I could see her from the window and I felt that, given the demands of the Turtles, it wasn't fair to have her sequestered in the house all the time. I had four different neighbors knock on my door to tell me that she was out in the yard. (Ummm... yeah, I know. It's because I have neighbors who also look out for my kid that I felt comfortable doing that.)

In light of all my ponderings, I was pleased to see this on You Tube. In April 2010, we can see how we compare.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Santa and The Mall

I hate the freaking mall. It is the last place I want to go when I need to do holiday shopping. The crowds, the nasty fast food smell, the stores that sell unoriginal Chinese-made crap-- it is all just too much for this mama to bear. And yet, out of necessity, I found myself there last week trying to find some plain old long sleeved white onesies for the Turtles' thrift store Christmas dresses.

It seemed like it would be a quick trip. I would take Vivi to the mall and my husband would take the Turtles off to the local Medicare office building in a desperate attempt to try and figure out why he hasn't been paid for the last nine months of work. (Alas, his pay has been foiled by a Kafka-esque scenario involving a change of address form. It would almost be funny if it wasn't our damn livelihood. But I digress...)

Anyway, back to the mall... We had no luck with the onesies and as Vivi and I were hightailing it around a corner trying desperately to get back out to the daylight, she stopped in her tracks and gasped in surprise. There, in all of his furry, festive, and belly-shaking glory, was Santa Claus. Vivi stood there motionless as she took in the scene.

I crouched down next to her and said, "V, you know, that isn't the real Santa Claus. The real Santa is at home busy making all the toys for the well-behaved girls and boys." All the while, I was thinking about how I hated the mall for putting me in this predicament.

"Mama, he is waving at me," she said in a whisper.

"You can wave at him if you'd like," I answered.

She waved and then blew him a kiss. He blew her a kiss.

I said, "Are you ready to go now?"

She nodded and we headed off in the opposite direction. When we were a few feet away, she said, "Mama, that was the real Santa Claus."

"Oh yeah? What makes you think so?"

"He waved at me so he must have known who I was. Plus, I don't think pretend Santas blow kisses."

That was enough to convince Vivi and her sincerity softened my crankiness about the commercialization of the holidays. It was a magical moment for her and I hope I will always remember it. I still don't think the real Santa hangs out at the stupid mall to charge people an arm and a leg for a photo though.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Rules

It seems that I got a little sidetracked with the Thanksgiving holiday and sufficiently neglected this blog. Such is the life of this mama: a week late, several dollars short, and more kids than hands. I probably should be giving myself props for just making it to New Jersey and back with all of my children accounted for but being thankful for things is soooo November. It's December now and the rules are changing.

Rule #1: No more public performances during naptime.
Just because people tell you that your three year-old is very mature, it does not mean that she will hold it together for an entire production of The Nutcracker. It took a meltdown during intermission at Lincoln Center and a subsequent walking tantrum on 8th Avenue to get us to rethink things.

Rule #2: Everyone is responsible for taking care of their own wedgies.
Vivi came up with this one and I can't agree more. I will feed you and I will love you. On occasion, I may even wipe your tush but I draw the line at removing your panties from your butt-crack.

Rule #3: If you don't finish it, don't worry. Mama is the "garbage ass-posale."
Yes, it's true. If you don't finish your supper, Mama will. This isn't exactly a new rule but certainly one that bears repeating. And Vivi likes to repeat "ass-posale."

Rule #4: Santa can see you.
If you are thinking of stealing the chocolates out of the advent calendar or waking your little sisters up from a nap, you better watch out. Santa knows everything. No, I don't know how he knows but he just does. That's why it is magic.

Rule #5: Shoes off in the house.
Hey, just because it is nearly 70 degrees in Rhode Island on December 3 does not mean that you get to track crud into the house. For the first time since the Turtles were born, the entire house is clean (thanks to our wonderful cleaning lady) and it is Mama and Mama only who gets to make the mess. (Or roll around naked on the freshly-washed floors while hooting with delight.)

Got it?

Good.