Monday, February 16, 2015

36 Years!


Holy wow. When did my life get half way over? Okay, not quite halfway, but close. Once I turn 70 I plan to engage in all sorts of risky behaviors. No, I'm not going to go the sex, drugs and rock n' roll risky route, but more like skydiving, hiking alone in deserted forests and mountains, and riding a motorcycle risky, (although after a birthday conversation with my brother, apparently riding a horse is much more statistically and, considering the skill I have with horses, really dangerous). So I'm practically half way through.

Before I do all that fun stuff though, I've got a few goals I need to accomplish:

1. The 18 minute 5K. Seriously, if once upon a time (it does seem like a fairy tale right now) I could run a 4:33 1500, I ought to be able to put together three sub-6 minute miles and some change before I turn 40. Now if I could just get my foot to stop complaining, my knees to cooperate, and my new shoulder injury to calm down.

2. Write a book.  I've been working on this one for, oh you know, 15 years, but hey, the 16th year is the charm, right? That's what they say, isn't it? "Any (wo)man who keeps working is not a failure. (S)He may not be a great writer, but if (s)he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, (s)he’ll eventually make some kind of career for h(er)imself as a writer."
- Ray Bradbury
3. Patience and Love. With the exception of when I'm trying to kill a 5K, I would like to exude more patience and more love. And that 18 minute 5K might take some patience.
I am patient. I am patient. I am patient. Got that kids? I am patient. Even if you keep tapping me on the arm while my arms are full and even when you pull at my new shirt, I am patient. And I love you. Stop yelling at me. I love you.





Friday, February 13, 2015

A Story To Illustrate My Child's Problem-Solving Skills

My children may be headed for brilliant criminal lives. Good thing I am here to thwart them.

Yesterday H was determined to find an outfit that matched her doll's. She tore apart the house looking for a shirt that she knew had a matching doll outfit. She couldn't find it. I figured she had given up when she started asking me for snacks.

"Mom, do we still have some cherries left?"

"Yes, but they're all gross and old. You don't want them."

"Yeah, I do. I looooove cherries," said H. "Please, please, please, can I have cherries?"

I was surprised at her sudden love of cherries. I mean, she likes cherries, but she was suddenly desperately in need of cherries. "Fine," I said shrugging. "Don't eat them if they're all shriveled up and moldy." I tossed the container on the counter. "And be careful to wash your hands after you eat them."

"Cherries stain? And they don't come out?" asked H.

"Yes," I said, surprised again that she had actually listened to one of my earlier cherry lectures. "They're terrible for staining clothes."

She began stuffing cherries in her mouth and I got distracted.

About a half hour later, I'm in the laundry room sorting socks and Hannah comes in, holding a dress. A nice blue church dress that I bought for K for Easter last year. A dress that has a matching doll dress. The dress has a bright red stain on it. It looks like someone took a marker and colored all over it.

"I don't know what happened to this dress," says Hannah. "I'm sorry, but is it a play dress now?"

I don't remember any markers missing. I grab the dress and stare at the stain. This dress has been hanging in a closet for awhile now. No one has worn it. How did this happen?

"You girls," I say, but since I have no idea how it happened or when, I just spray it and start scrubbing to see if maybe it will come out. If it is marker, it has a good chance. It comes right out. This is a fresh stain. And suddenly cherries make sense to me.

"H, it is not okay to take a nice dress and rub cherries into it to try and make it a play dress. You have to find some other clothes to match your doll, not ruin good clothes." I remain calm, amazed at the planning and execution that went into this.

Instead of fireworks of denial, which is the usual response, H is pretty contrite. She even admits to her diabolical plan.

Yeah, she's a problem solver alright.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is my house full of drama while raising four girls? Noooooo.

Often, when I reveal that I have four little girls, people say, "Phew. You must have a lot of drama at your house."

Usually I smile and shake my head in the negative, "Nahh. It's great."

Or they say, "Ohhh, just wait until they are teenagers."

And I smile and say something non-sarcastic and hopeful, like "Oh, I'm sure it will be great. We're pretty easy-going."

But maybe I need to change my denial coping mechanism. I should just own it. We are drama. And I should start putting away money to build Mike a ginormous bat cave for the teenage years. Wait. What about me? Even though I'm a woman, who supposedly understands and is part of all this drama, I'll need some place to hide too. So I'll start putting away money to build a ginormous parent hideout with soundproof walls and a recording that repeats in a soothing voice, "You are right. You are so right. Thanks for working so hard at parenting." Is this a thing? It should be.


Tonight I spent TWO HOURS combing a doll's hair. Why did I do this? Because every time I stopped combing the doll's hair, to do something unimportant like make dinner, rescue the two-year-old from being beat to death by an eraser that looks like licorice, or take K a drink of water (she's currently dying, dying, dying because she threw up 24 hours ago), H would throw herself on the floor, "You promised! You promised! What about MaryLyn's hair? What about her hair? Her hair! Her hair!" And then she would grab my arm in a vice-like grip and refuse to let go. (This always brings out the sweet and calm mother in me.)

Now, normally I am a completely rational mother who always follows through with consequences, and never gives into whining. But sometimes, sometimes, my dearly beloved H (and K and E and N) pushes me beyond the limits of whining.

It's like I am the comet 67P, and they are the Rosetta, whining and skittering around space for 10 years, picking up momentum until they finally catch up to me and are able to launch a probe onto my surface. And the only way to emerge unscathed from this whole Deep-Space Whine encounter is to pretend that it was my idea in the first place to put all other needs aside and comb the *(%&# doll's hair for two hours.

I guess I will just chalk this up to another skill that I never thought I would develop, but now have, like cleaning up throw-up, or wiping noses, or tying blankets on as capes. My next job application is going to be pretty awesome:

SKILLS
Tissue application to unwilling noses
Cape-blanket tying
Doll hair care and maintenance
Disposing of and Cleaning up throw-up
Shutting the door and locking it
Finding teensy-tiny things in sandboxes
Matching socks
Dancing with short people, including the dizzy twirl
Wiping up spills
Speaking calmly while incredibly angry
Swearing privately
Ignoring desperate, soul-sobbing crying about suckers
Breaking up slap fights
High tolerance for whining and general unhappiness





Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween 2014 Matryoshka Dolls

Just because everyone had to ask what the girls were doesn't mean it was an epic fail, right?


Can you guess what they are? Let me give you a hint: Russia. Okay, another hint: Dolls. Okay, okay, don't give up, they were Matryoshka Dolls, otherwise known as Russian Nesting Dolls. 

They're still adorable, even if you don't know what they are. My sister Alisha always has these great ideas for Halloween for my girls.  So even though every year I vow that I am not going to make Halloween costumes, every year Alisha has this great idea and then I have to figure out a way to make it work.  

I googled for some ideas on how to make the costumes, but only found elaborate things that looked difficult to sew or paint. I sew just about as well as I perform cartwheels (marginal at best, with one leg always crooked), and I don't paint, so none of those was going to work for me. But then I found a pumpkin costume tutorial, made from a too big shirt and I adapted it to fit my needs. 

Steps to Make a Matryoshka Doll Costume

1. Find a shirt that is too large. I used X-small women's shirts for my normally 7-8 oldest girls and 7-8 size shirts for my toddler and preschooler.
2. Using elastic thread, sew the sleeves and arms of the shirt. This is a fun technique to make a too-big t-shirt fit a little better. You just wrap the elastic thread on your bobbin and use regular thread on the top. Here's a tutorial on sewing with elastic thread that I found helpful.
3. From felt, cut out an "apron" (the large pink piece) and the flower pieces. I traced two different size Tupperware lids for my flower and freehanded the leaves. My pink bottom pieces were 14 inches tall and 9 and 3/4 wide at the bottom, and they fit onto size 7/8 t-shirts. The older girls (age 7 and 9) are in small women's tshirts and their "aprons" are 18" tall and 13" wide at the bottom circular part. I freehanded the pink aprons by tracing a giant lid on the bottom to get the circular shape.  
4. Hot glue, or sew the top of the flower together. I finished it off with a button.
5. Sew/Glue on the flower stem and leaves
6. Sew/glue on the flower top
7. Hot glue the "apron" onto the t-shirt. I hot glued it first to get it where I wanted and then sewed it on. (Be careful not to sew over the hot glue or it will gum up your needle.)
8. I cut out the head kerchiefs all the same size and I was going to sew them and make the edges all nice, but then I ran out of time so they just had raw edges and it was okay. Now they won't be able to keep them as treasured momentos of their fantastic Halloween, but oh well. They were triangles that measured 32 x 21.5 x 21.5. 
And there you go.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Kidathlon

Three years ago, at one of our get-togethers someone brought up the idea of doing a triathlon for kids. I think it was Melissa, or it could have been Caroline. She had seen it on a blog and we thought, "Hey we always do a triathlon (the Spudman), we should do one for the kids." And thus the Kidathlon was born.

We begin with a strenuous swim in a friend's pool. The kids do half their age, rounded up in laps:

H, pausing for breath.

K, getting ready to take on one more lap.

E, getting ready for the start.

Next we bike an arduous 1.5 miles to the end of a neighborhood trail.

This is not an actual action shot. It's an after shot.

Then, we finish it off with a grueling .5 mile run. (.25 if you are 4 years old)


The girls had a great time, and I rode my bike and ran with E. She was delightful. When I asked her if she wanted a drink on the bike she said, "Only when I'm done with this race." And when she fell down in her first few steps on the run she said through great big tears, "I'm okay Mom! I'm okay." She ran almost the whole way and loved being cheered for at the end.

I only got to see the other girls during the swim, since that was my station, but I heard that Kenzie worked hard (she was a little sick at the end), and Hannah pushed herself to do her best. Way to go girls!


Friday, September 12, 2014

Potty Training, Part Deux

I am playing my own personal "Game of Thrones" right now-- except our throne is made of porcelain, not iron. And my bid for power involves pitting my will in an epic battle against the Princess of the Pull-Ups.

I haven't ever seen Game of Thrones, so I'm going to have to end my analogy here, but here are some of my favorite moments from the last two weeks of potty training. (Yes TWO WEEKS. And this is just two weeks in our long, long journey that started back in January. Do you think my book, called, "How to Potty Train Your Defiant Child in 9 Soul-Sucking MONTHS," will be successful?)

Good Times:

Day 1: I decide that school is in session, structure is abounding (kind of), and I am not buying anymore diapers. PERIOD. She wakes up dry every morning. She's gone on the potty before. N's will is strong, but I am pretty sure that mine is stronger. She only has two years of practicing mule-headedness; I have 35 years under my belt--in fact, for me it's not mule-headedness, it's mule-headedfinesse. And I will not be defeated.

I gear up with reward M&Ms. "We're wearing underwear and we're keeping it dry," I say. "Every time you go potty, I'll give you some M&Ms."  Four hours later and four loads of laundry later, I decide that maybe I will buy some diapers again. BUT I AM NOT GIVING UP. Later that day, my beautiful, angelic, fabulous daughter pees on the floor of the sports equipment store. I pretend that I am not embarrassed and/or angry. After all, I did set myself up for failure by leaving the house. Everyone knows that while you're potty-training you shouldn't leave the house. EVER.

Day 2: I eat all the M&Ms in a moment of self-pity. I buy more, and break out the little potty. I have been using a seat on the toilet, because that is so much less gross. But she'll sit on the little potty a lot longer, so the disgusting little potty it is. I also buy suckers, to convince her to stay on the potty for more than 2 seconds.

Day 3:  After two days of ritually following these steps: 1. Sit her on the potty 2. Read her some books 3. Look in the empty potty 4. Sigh 5. Pull up her pants 5. Change said pull-up two minutes later, I lock N in the bathroom with myself and say, "We are not leaving until you put some pee in the potty." She has consumed a juice box 30 minutes earlier, and I know she needs to go. One hour later, I am still sitting in the bathroom. Finally, she pees. Hallelujah! She hands out M&Ms to the whole family. We celebrate!

Day 7: Norah has yet to poop in the potty. Today she is in the garage with me and says, "I'm pooping." I rush her to the potty and she finishes in the potty. GROSS. I have lost all sense of disgust, though. I'm counting this as her first poop in the potty. She gets 10 M&Ms.

Day 10: I eat all the M&Ms in a moment of self-pity. We have gone through six large bags of M&Ms.

Day 11: We are down to the last two out of our package of 24 Pull-Ups, but she is pretty successfully going in the potty. She is "mommy-trained." She will pee in the potty if I set her on it, but she has only told me twice ever that she needs to use the potty. I put her in underwear anyway. I can do this. She's sitting on the front steps of my sister-in-law's house, eating an ice cream cone. She says matter-of-factly, "I'm peeing," as a stream of pee trickles down the steps. ARGHHHH!

That night, I eat all the M&Ms in a ritual of self-pity.

Day 13: I lose my temper when N pees on the floor of the bathroom at the Church History Museum while I am breaking up a fight that involves biting because there were only two stools and there were three children. (Makes sense to me. I would totally bite someone if there was a stool shortage. "Brush Your Teeth So They Will Be Strong Enough To Bite People" is one of our family mottos.)

I clean up the floor while my four children howl like wolves with their feet cut off in the small "powder room" portion of the bathroom. I come out to find a woman trying to have a phone conversation. She finally leaves in disgust. So sorry that the bathroom didn't work out as your private phone booth. So sorry.

Day 14: She pees the bed twice. While N is not successfully potty-trained, I am successfully addicted to M&Ms.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Blessed Back To School

I often think about home schooling. Then summertime rolls around and I get a taste of what it would be like. And I give up my thoughts on home schooling and celebrate the loveliness that is professional teachers.

And now, let cuteness abound:

K, fourth grade

H, second grade

E, preschool (a co-op preschool that I do with 7 other moms)

N, Sassypants School for Two-year old Tyrants

The oldest two were crying a little bit about going back to school, and I was trying to assuage their fears. I said, "Girls, I am so excited for school to start because you have such a great opportunity to learn new things and make new friends!" 
And K said poutily, "No! You're just excited because we will be gone all day!"
Ouch. We had a fun summer, but I must admit that August was a bit trying in the patience and love department. I am loving my ability to get a few projects completed. And I love the structure and scheduling that school brings to our lives. Happy Back-to-School!