Friday, January 29, 2010

Some Days

Some days just call for a little something different-- like letting the big sister choose the outfits for the little sisters.  I think accessorizing with leg warmers was an especially nice touch.  (Not sure why my little Jude Bug always seems to be flashing the sign for the Crips when I take her picture though.)

And then some days call for a little arts and crafts in the morning to distract a certain preschooler from a urinary tract infection.

And then there is that one particular day that is so different from all the preceeding days that you know your life will never be the same again.  That day is today because my Turtles started crawling.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Questions Without Answers

Vivi has been asking some tough questions lately.  It seems the whole inquisition started over the holidays when we watched Food, Inc.  Yeah, I know... not exactly appropriate viewing for a nearly four-year old but it was one of those days when my husband started the DVD while the girls were napping and we just didn't have the energy to turn it off once Vivi got up.  She caught the end of it and, while she didn't see any of the disturbing parts, it was enough to get the wheels in her head turning.

The questions were simple enough in the beginning.  What is meat?  Why don't we eat meat?  What is a pig made of?  What is in a chicken?  (Most of the time, the answer is corn but that doesn't really get at the spirit of what the kid is asking.)  Grocery shopping has completely changed since this questioning began.  Instead of  Mama, can we get that? I hear a lot of Look!  That person is buying meat!  What is in that meat?  It doesn't exactly make for pleasant shopping.

All this talk of meat has lead to questions about death.  These are not so simple.  How do we eat those animals if they are alive?  How do they die?  When will I die?  Where will I be when I am dead?  Mama, will my blood come out?

And, of course, one can't talk about death without raising questions about life.  Was I already in your tummy when you were in  your mama's tummy?  Where was I when you were born?  Was I dead?  Vivi isn't the sort of kid to buy that she was just a twinkle in my eye when I met her father.  These questions leave me completely perplexed and my pathetic answers are totally unsatisfying to her.

Yet, at 3:00 this morning, my husband was finally able to answer one of her questions.  She woke up yelling for her dad.  When he walked into her room, I heard her ask, Daddy, can you still pee and poop when you are dead? 

Finally, a simple no.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Boo Boos

I have never been known for being graceful.  I am not an athlete or a dancer or all that steady on a bike.  I have a way of finding myself in situations that seem to end in some sort of injury.  They are not always my fault (like a broken nose from a freak whitewater rafting mishap) but it is often my own clumsiness that leads to all my bruises, sprains, and swollen joints.  Today was no different.  Today was the day where I managed to fall up the stairs while carrying both babies.  Yes, you read that right.  I fell up.

I'd like to blame the fact that Vivi left a piece of paper on the stairs that I didn't see but I am not totally sure that was the culprit.  I think I slipped on my own slipper.  How is that for irony?  I felt myself lose balance and then did what any mother with an armful of babies would do, I contorted my body in such a way to try and protect them.  I failed.  Jude hit her head and they both got so scared from the ruckus that they screamed as my body skidded down three steps.  Vivi witnessed the whole thing and was freaked out too.

Luckily, both babies settled after a good long nursing and they don't seem the worse for wear.  Vivi offered us some bandaids and was delighted that I let her be my "doctor."  I, however, have a bruised palm, swollen wrist, and a pretty banged up knee.  The upside is I didn't have to go to the doctor.  The downside is that my injuries weren't bad enough to earn me a respite from my household duties.

The really sad part is it seems my tendancy toward injury is genetic.  The other day I noticied that Ellie had a nasty bruise on the top of her ear.  It looked incredibly painful and I had no idea where it came from.  If I hadn't known better, I would have thought someone had bitten her.  It was on Monday night when I saw her repeatedly banging her head against the side of the crib that I realized the origin of her bruise.  It was horrifying to watch her do that although I know it is not uncommon for some kids to burn off energy this way.  I just didn't wany any of my kids going that route.

So, this weekend while I'm hobbling around the house with my bum wrist and knee, I'm going to make a little something for my Ellie Bean.  I may not be able to keep myself intact but I can whip up a crib bumper to help her stay safe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Enid: An Update

A few weeks ago, I introduced Vivi to Enid W. McGrump, the mess-busting monster.  I was fully prepared to have a couple of days of no messes and then I thought Vivi would test the whole Enid theory.  If she left all the play food on the dining room floor, would Enid come and take it away?  What about the Sorry game that we play several times a day?  I could see the wheels turning in Vivi's head while she contemplated these questions and computed the cost/benefit analysis of doing the clean-up versus the potential loss of her toys. 

Well, to my surprise, she has chosen not to test Enid.  She has been picking everything up before bed.  EVERYTHING!  I haven't stepped on a harmonica or a Lego in weeks!  Now, if that isn't cause for celebration I don't know what is.

There's another positive side to Enid that I didn't expect when I leaked her story to Vivi.  I no longer stress about the mess because I know that I don't have to negotiate with my kid to pick it up anymore.  I just have to say, "Well, if you're too tired you could leave the mess there but I can't guarantee Enid won't come and take all those toys away."  I suppose one day she will want to see what happens with Enid but that will be the night I'll load up the toys on the floor and hide them in the basement.  Sure, I'll still be picking it up but I won't be resenting it.  I won't be arguing with Vivi about who made the mess.  And I certainly won't be worried that she isn't understanding cause and effect.

In other news, I've been at the sewing machine again.  I was a little burned out after my homemade holiday extravaganza but the creative juices hit again when I saw this cute pattern for a twirly skirt.  Since Vivi is really into being "fancy" and I am full of motherly love now that her toys are put away, I thought I'd give this skirt a whirl.

The upside of the skirt is that Vivi loved it and hasn't taken it off since I finished it.  The downside is the mess I made:

Vivi took one look at this and said, "Mama, you better clean that up before Enid takes all your sewing away."  True enough.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hair It Is

We are lucky to have a babysitter who helps me out four days a week during the dreaded cocktail hour of 5-7 pm.  On occasion, I ask the sitter to give Vivi a bath while I am cooking dinner.  She always asks with a cringe, "Do you want me to wash Vivi's hair?"  Sometimes, I say yes but even on the days when we don't wash it, the hair goes through an extensive conditioning and brushing out process.  We compromise.  The sitter washes and conditions and I take on the nightmare of combing it out.

Brushing and untangling all those curls is a test in patience for both me and Vivi.  Her hair dreads with little prompting so it has taken me as long as thirty minutes just to get the snarls out.  During this time, I regale my daughter with an elaborate story about Schmaneva, a little girl with such a head of uncontrolable curls that when her mother washes and brushes it, she finds all sorts of treasures hidden in the hair.  Vivi delights in the story and Schmaneva's mother has found everything from her baby sisters to some poop in her hair.  (Hey, my daughter loves poop jokes.  What can I say?)

So on Monday night, after the washing and conditioning was done, I sat down with a brush and Vivi and looked at the hair.  It was a mess and with little hesitation, I turned to her and said, "How about a haircut?"  With even less hesitation, Vivi enthusiastically agreed.  (Scissors?  Hair?  Another perfect three-year old combination!)  So instead of brushing it out, I made one big cut along the back.  This is the result:

And the casualties:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Quandry

My Turtles had a terrible night last night.  Wait, that's not totally accurate.  Jude had a terrible night last night which means that I had a terrible night last night.  I don't know what it is with this child but she is kicking my ass.  Jude is not a sleeper and in a family full of good sleepers, I am having a hard time coping with her irregular schedule.  I have accepted that she is...ahem... more "spirited" than her twin but the inconsistency with her sleep has us all on pins and needles.  Will tonight be a night where she sleeps soundly or will she be screaming her head off for no apparent reason for hours at a time?  I never quite know what to expect and it is wearing on me.   

Ellie seems to have the twin equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.  Jude can scream all night long (which is what she did last night) and Eliya still wakes up smiling and babbling with her sister.  I have come to understand that Ellie tolerates Jude's fussiness but she is in no way immune to it.  All day today she has had the same glazed-over, exhausted look that her mother is also sporting.

The person who seems to suffer the most when Jude has these sleepless nights is Vivi.  Vivi doesn't usually wake up to Jude's wails but it is she who bears the brunt of my exhaustion-induced short-fuse.  I feel like all day today I have been threatening and yelling over bullshit.  Did it matter that she took the liner out of her winter coat while I went out to warm the car up?  Not really but I sure behaved like it mattered.  And now we are ten minutes away from the start of Vivi's dance class at the Y.  Are we going to make it?  Not likely because I don't have it in me to wake up my three sleeping girls.  Yet, I know she will be devastated if we miss it.

What to do?

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Few Resolutions

This year, our first in a long time, my husband and I made a few resolutions.  We are a little late since our resolutions didn't occur to us until after the new year but hey, it's the thought that counts.  Some of our resolutions were precipitated by looking at our annual budget and realizing just. how. much. money we spent in 2009.  Shocking really.  I mean tens of thousands of dollars shocking.  I went to bed with a stomach ache last night just thinking about it.  Eight thousand dollars seems to be the magic number since that is about how much we spent on our food, childcare, and home repairs.  (That's 8K each!)  Our good old health insurance and related health expenses were a little over $10,000.  God Bless America.

Anyway, not to go all Republican on you, but I'm feeling a bit peevish about the $10,000 dollars we also spent on taxes for our fuel-efficient cars and our little house and my husband's office "inventory."  For what, some spotty curbside recycling and a few crappy schools?

In terms of our resolutions, we decided that there isn't a whole lot we can cut in terms of big expenses (although I think the house will go another year with an increasingly awful chipped paint facade) so we are going to try and make some changes that will improve our own health and the health of our environment.  These things just might save us some cash too.

In no particular order, we are going to try to:

-Give up juice and papertowels.*
-Bake bread instead of buying it.
-Limit our baby wipe usage to major poop disasters.
-Get out of the house every day for a walk.
-Make our own cards and presents, as much as possible.
-Utilize more of our museum memberships, public libraries, and parks.
-Purge our home of PVC (cling wrap, ziplock bags, plastic straws, etc.)
-Spend less time on the computer (ha! ha!)
-Take shorter showers

So, fair readers, what are you trying to do or not to do this year?

*Since we were spending about $80 a month on juice alone, this should save us a pretty big chunk of change.  My husband, who rehydrates with diluted juice after a workout, was by far the biggest juice drinker in the house but since his idol Michael Pollan recommended that people eat fruit instead of juice, he is now on board with this resolution.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Home Alone

Well my husband went off for the weekend and left me all alone with these three gals. So for kicks, we got all dolled up (see matching outfits below) and baked ourselves some cookies and lasagna.  Vivi refused the lasagna but put a serious dent in the cookies.  We didn't leave the house but had a nice visit from my brother and sister-in-law and the girls' "big cousin."  Then we found ourselves all sound asleep by 9 p.m.  It was a fairly relaxing weekend.  That is, if you can call any weekend with a preschooler and two babies relaxing.

And yet, I'm still feeling a little annoyed.  I try very hard not to harbor resentments but sometimes I wonder why, oh why, my better half decided to join the board of a professional group with whom he affiliates and go back to school the same year our Turtles entered the world.  Ummm, did he think he needed more of a challenge or am I just that much of a superwoman that leaving me with the kids for one weekend a month is not a big deal?

Superwoman, I am not.  Supercranky, I am.  This is not likely to end well.

So while he is up in New Hampshire flexing his brain muscle and sleeping through the night, I'm plotting my revenge.  Fire up that breastpump, this mama is requesting a day off.

Friday, January 8, 2010

School Rules

Vivi goes to a small neighborhood cooperative nursery school a couple of mornings a week. It is a very laid back environment with two caring teachers. Not surprisingly, Vivi loves it there and we are pleased with its emphasis on play. All in all, it has been a nice transition to "school" for all of us.

Last night, at the parents' meeting for the co-op, some people were talking about their experiences with local kindergartens. Vivi still has another year before we sign her up but given the notoriously bad reputation of the Providence public schools, I was curious to hear about our options. When I picked up a flyer from a celebrated local charter school, however, I was shocked to read the following:

"...over the coming years, more and more time will be devoted to science and mathematics. Students applying to the need to keep this in mind because we require 2-3 hours of homework each night by the time our students reach middle school."

I believe the words "you have to be shitting me" came out of my mouth. Haven't there been enough studies to show that excessive homework does more harm than good? Why do we think that if we keep drilling information into our childrens' heads that they will somehow be smarter? It seems to me that when a child is given this amount of homework, the family life becomes tethered to what is happening at school. I love my daughters but I don't want our time in the evenings to be about making sure they get their piles of homework done.

Sadly, this seems to be what's happening in our local schools and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with it. I'd prefer not to homeschool Vivi but I also don't want her to be in an environment that doesn't represent our family culture and values. I'm trying to be optimistic that we'll find something that will be a good fit (and won't cost us anything) but I also won't be heartbroken if it doesn't work out. After all, I've befriended more than a few Mama Mama Quite Contraries around here and we've talked about starting our own informal co-op for the kindergarten set. Then, of course, it would be me who would have all the homework.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


It seems my life these days revolves around food. What am I going to cook for dinner? Will it be appropriate for the Turtles? How much time will it take? How am I going to get to the grocery store with all these babies? Did I really just eat four sugar cookies? Did Vivi have at least one green vegetable today?

I used to love to cook and I am generally pretty good at it but I hate feeling the pressure to produce a meal every night. There's something about having to get it done that makes me not want to do it at all. All this is complicated by the fact that we generally eschew processed food so I don't have the "throw it in the microwave and it's done" meal just lying around. (This is on purpose. Although I am not intending to be a food snob, I've read too many books about our food supply to believe that the convenience is worth it. You always have to pay somewhere and I feel that the economic, health, and environmental price is too high.)

So, what's an overwhelmed gal to do? Well, in this house, Vivi often helps herself to her own snacks. Sometimes this is good and sometimes, well take a look:

I've discovered a good lazy night meal is what Vivi and I call "egg faces." These are the nights when the babies are eating baby food leftovers and Daddy has to fend for himself. All in all though it ends up being a pretty entertaining, yet fast and nutritious option.

But this is all I've got. Anyone have any suggestions for easy, nutritious, meatless meals? I need an intervention before my kids overdose on eggs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What's Mine

Why can I not accept that I own nothing of my own anymore? Why must everything be communal property? This is a conversation I had with Vivi this morning, which seems to be pretty much the same conversation I have with her everyday. It's just the object that changes.

Vivi, what is my green book doing over there?

Mama, that's my book. I wroted in it.

Actually, that is my book and just because you wrote in it does not make it yours.

Ummm, yes it does.

If I wrote on your scooter, does that make it mine?


Well, give me my book back.

Only if you say please.

Please may I have my book back?

Mama, do you see right here this is where I wroted the letter A? And it is not a book, it is a notepad.

This is usually the point where I sigh in exasperation and just let her have the stupid thing before I turn into a raging maniac. Unfortunately, today I turned into a raging maniac and still let her have the book. How is that for a mixed message?