Thursday, April 30, 2009

Omission

I had good scare a few days ago, the type of which makes you conjure up all kinds of worst case scenarios in an instant. The kind that drives the deepest darkest fear into a parent, and makes you drop whatever else you are doing in a heartbeat. The kind of scare that makes you remember what is really important.

I was upstairs sorting through the clothes in the girls' room when I looked at the clock. It was about 4:10, and about the time that Aidan should have been walking through the front door. He likes the days that Ashley doesn't go to school. Not only does he get to ride the bus, but he gets to walk home from the bus stop after school with his buddies. He tends to take his time, and every so often I have to peek my head out the door and remind him to get home. I did that a few days ago. But he wasn't out there.

The boys he walks home with were outside, but there was no sign of Aidan. I asked if they knew where he was, if he was at the park playing or walked with someone else. No, they said, he wasn't on the bus and no one had seen him. Oh my God. Where is he?

My friend offered to take the girls while I went to find him. I called the school as I got the baby and I in the car, and the office was already closed for the day. I called the preschool, crossing my fingers that they were still there. One of the teachers answered the phone, and I asked her to look for him, I was on my way.

It's not a long drive to school by any means. Maybe takes 5 minutes, and that's if you get stuck at the lights. But it's an eternity when you don't know where your child is. My mind was racing, and I was kicking myself for not remember exactly which shirt he left the house wearing that morning. I knew what else he was wearing, but which shirt was it? I tried to remain calm, and called Tom.

When I pulled into the parking lot, the preschool teacher was out front waiting for me. She had found him. And he was exactly where he was supposed to be - in music. He has been taking a guitar class for a few months after school. There wasn't supposed to be class this week, and I didn't plan for him to be there.

During the school day yesterday, the office had made an announcement that the guitar class, originally not scheduled for that day, would be happening. So, Aidan knew he had class. But I didn't. He somehow forgot to share that information with me.

It's amazing how omitting that one little piece of information can create panic.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A pair of jeans and a hoodie

Part of the appeal of moving to Colorado is that there are four full fledged seasons here. Being from California and having lived there most of my life, I can tell you it is something I was a little unfamiliar with at first. California has essentially one season. A entire year's wardrobe consists mostly of warm weather clothes, plus a pair of jeans and a hoodie. Not so here.

When we first moved here, we knew for sure that we would be needing winter clothes for everyone. We had a few pairs of pants and sweatshirts for the kids, maybe a decent midweight jacket, and that was it. That first year involved a tremendous amount of shopping as a result, and I tried my best to economize. I shopped at resale and consignment stores, and bought what I could on ebay for less.

I've learned over the years we have been here that the clothing sections are extremely seasonal. If you want shorts or capris especially, you have to snatch them up while they are out, or they'll be gone for 6 months at least. Same goes for flip flops. I can't understand why....I seem to be able to wear capris and flip flops all year, even in Colorado.

Colorado does have four seasons, but what I didn't realize is that sometimes all four seasons can show up within a 24 hour period. The weather here can be very unpredictable. It's especially hard to predict in the Spring and Fall. For that reason, Spring and Fall are the hardest seasons of the year for me in terms of clothing for the kids.

This time of year, it can go from 80 degrees to snowing in a matter of hours, and you essentially have to be prepared for everything in between. Put away the winter clothes too early, and there will be a storm for sure. Drag out the summer stuff at the first hint of a heat wave, and you guarantee yourself 4 more weeks of freezing weather. The only feasible option is to have a little of both out for months at a time. Which wouldn't be such a bad thing, but I have four kids. And four wardrobes to contend with every time the seasons change.

Phasing stuff in and out of Aidan's closet has gotten easier as he has aged a bit. Plus, he's a boy. They need jeans, short sleeved shirts and hoodies year-round. Add in some long sleeved shirts and boots, and you're good for the Winter. Add in shorts and swim trunks, a pair of flip flops, and you're good for the Summer. Boys are easy that way.

The girls are an entirely different story. Since they have been sharing a room, they have also had to deal with sharing a closet. No small task, I guarantee. It was hard enough to transition their clothes when they had their own rooms. You see, girls just have more options, more stuff. For instance, girls have dresses. Short sleeved, sleeveless, long sleeved and jumpers. To go with the dresses, they might need leggings, tights, knit tights or just bike shorts. That's 8 categories of clothing right there. And don't even get me started on the outfits. Boys have clothes. Girls have outfits. Big difference.

Changing out the girl's clothes is a huge undertaking, but one that I seem to have mastered. I have to get out the clothes from the departing season first, then sort the new season's clothes before they see the inside of their bedroom. This Summer, I decided that rather than try and keep the girl's clothes separate, I am just combining them. They wear each other's stuff anyway, and it's really not worth the effort to try and keep it separate. So, instead of having Ally's shorts and Ashley's shorts, this year we will just have shorts. We'll see how it works. Sure made putting the clothes away faster though.

I haven't gone through AJ's stuff yet, mostly because I can't decide what to do with most of it. He is growing so slowly that I am afraid to get rid of anything - most of it might still fit next Fall at this rate!

And there's always the issue of the snow stuff. The boots and gloves and caps and coats and scarves. Coats and jackets are their own subject here too. You need a heavy winter coat, but you also need lightweight coats, windbreakers, raincoats and a decent number of hoodies. I'll get to sorting through all that eventually. It's only the end of April, might be too early to put the heavy winter stuff away. I wouldn't want to jinx it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Grain of Rice

AJ is teething. They say that if we had to go through it as adults, that we would routinely be on morphine for the pain. Maybe there is a reason that babies have to do it at such a young age that they won't remember the pain and discomfort involved.

Aidan had a fairly easy time with teething. They didn't ever seem to bother him much, until he got his molars. He was normally a pretty happy baby, so when he was whiny and fussy for days on end, I started getting frustrated. I felt terrible when I realized that his teeth were the cause.
Ashley had a harder time with her teeth. She got huge eruption cysts for most of her baby teeth, and they just looked like they hurt all the time. I don't think it ever bothered her as much as it bothered us though. We did go through quite a few tubes of orajel with her. Ally coasted through teething, it was never really an issue.

AJ's not the kind of baby to sit quietly by whenever things in life aren't right. You can tell when he isn't feeling well. He doesn't hide it at all. He doesn't tough it out. If he's miserable, you'll know about it. He is a fairly needy baby anyway, and still gets up several times a night to eat. When he got his first tooth a few weeks ago, he spent most of the night before up fussing. He woke up with a teeny little white spot poking through his gums. At first, baby teeth look like a grain of rice. He took a good long nap that morning, then went back to his normal self.

For the last few nights, he's been up more than normal. The one night, he screamed every time he was flat on his back, which led me to think he had an ear infection. I took him in to the doctor, and his ears looked perfect. It's probably teeth again.

I find it funny that doctors will insist that fevers don't come with teeth. For AJ, they do. None of the other kids ever did that, but AJ is different. With his first tooth, he ran a fever the night he cut it. No other symptoms. No one else in the house was even sick at the time. The fever was gone once the tooth came in. I'm hoping that he gets this tooth soon, and that he gets a little break before the next round begins. Mommy is tired.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Intuition

Sometimes you just have a feeling about things. You just know that something is wrong. That sense, known as intuition, is one women seem to have naturally and is one that gets enhanced when you become a mother. I've rarely questioned this sense, since it's almost always right.

Ally had been exposed to strep earlier this week, and when she started complaining of a headache Friday, I knew what it was. Things like strep seem to surface only on Friday afternoons, when it is far too late to see your regular doctor. I had the option of taking her in to urgent care, but we've brought more germs home from there than we have gone in with, so I decided to pass. Took her instead to the on-call pediatrician on Saturday morning.

The doctor, not her normal one, was a bit skeptical when I told her that I was pretty sure Ally had strep. She does tend to present with a weird set of symptoms, different from the ones most people have with strep. She gets a very mild fever and a headache. Not really a sore throat, barely coughs at all. Of course, I had just given her a shower before we left, so she was 98.4 when we got there. She wasn't running much of a fever that morning, but what she did have was relieved by the shower. On exam, her throat wasn't red or irritated, and so the doctor again gave me the look that silently questions every parent at some point - why did you bring this child in? She's clearly not sick. The rapid strep test came back positive. I knew. The doctor was shocked.

Since Ally had experienced an allergic reaction that coincided with recently being on amoxicillin a few months ago, the doctor opted to give her a different antibiotic. I got the prescription filled and took her home. I was figuring we had 24 hours until she could go back to normal life, since she wasn't feeling all that bad. Little did I know that my day with Ally's medical issues was just beginning.

I gave her the medicine shortly after lunch, and by 3:00pm, she was crying. Upstairs and playing with Ashley at the time, her nose had started bleeding. Ashley ran to the railing and shouted down that we needed to come up. Tom grabbed her and brought her down. It was a good one.

Ally is prone to nosebleeds in general, so I didn't think much of it initially. She's been tested for all kinds of clotting disorders, but the bloodwork came back fine. Unlike her other nosebleeds, this time there wasn't any injury that prompted it. And it was bad. Really bad. It took about a half hour to get it to stop, and not without making a fairly decent mess. I was a little worried about the clots, but since it finally stopped, I just figured it was another typical Ally nosebleed.

We had her rest for a bit, which took some convincing. She is not feeling very sick, so it's not easy to keep her down. She had her second dose of medicine with dinner and went to bed a bit later. Tom and I started watching a movie. A real movie, one without any cartoon characters in it at all.

About an hour passed when we heard her. Again, it was bleeding. In her sleep it had started, and she was covered. It was worse this time. I had Tom go down and get the medicine insert from the antibiotics. One of the adverse reactions: hemorrhage. I've seen a lot of blood in my work as a doula, and this was rivaling that.

I called the doctor's office number, and the call service put in a message to Children's Hospital. The nurse called back about 10 minutes later, and it was still bleeding pretty heavily. I told her that I thought it was possibly a reaction to the antibiotic. She dismissed any concerns I had about the medicine, for surely there was no way Ally was having a reaction to that. Told me that it was just something about Ally. And that if it didn't stop, we had to go to the emergency room. Thanks for the help, lady.

After about 45 minutes, we got it to stop. The clots were bigger, and so was the mess. Tom had to change her whole bed. We got her cleaned up as much as we could without giving her a bath. The poor thing was exhausted and just wanted to sleep.

As soon as the pharmacy opened on Sunday morning, I called. Told the pharmacist what was going on, and she said she'd look into it and call me back. When she did, she confirmed that excessive bleeding is in fact a reaction. Rare, and usually associated with long term use of the drug, but possible. After talking at some length with her, we opted to forgo the medication for the rest of the day. On the off chance that she is the super rare patient with this side effect, I couldn't risk her bleeding more. The pharmacist saw no reason we couldn't wait another day until we saw her regular doctor.

She hasn't taken the antibiotics since Saturday around dinner time. And she didn't have any major bleeding yesterday. One tiny nosebleed triggered by a coughing fit, but it lasted only a couple minutes and wasn't heavy. Coincidence? I think not.

And today, as soon as the pediatrician's office opens, I'll be calling. Her doctor knows her history. Knows that she presents with unconventional symptoms for illnesses. Knows her allergy issues. Knows her bleeding problems. Knows her nasal injury past. And knows that I am not crazy. She trusts my instincts as a mother, she trusts my intuition. And so do I.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You is Mommy

There is a cliche saying that having kids changes everything. And it does. In many ways that you can anticipate, but in some that you don't. I can't even tell you how many of my friends, preparing for their first child, I've warned. And they don't really believe me. On some level they do, certainly. But not entirely. I'm sure that I didn't believe it either. Every single aspect of life changes forever the moment that little person is placed in your arms for the first time.

Motherhood brings with it many challenges, and one of the hardest to confront is the complete transformation of your identity. Before having kids, you are a woman with her own friends, with a social life, with career ambitions, with a name. After kids, you are a mom. First and foremost, and above all other titles, interests, hobbies or ambitions, you are a mom.

When I first had Aidan, and even Ashley, I didn't really realize how much my identity had changed. I was still Kelly, I just had a couple kids. They called me mom, but everyone else still addressed me by my own name. Until Aidan started in his preschool program. It was only then that I realized that my first name would forever be secondary to "Aidan's mom". That teachers, other kids and the vast majority of the other moms I would come in contact with for the rest of my mothering life would refer to me first as so-and-so's mom. That my identity, my personality, my interests and ambitions were not the first thing that people learned about me anymore. They got to know me through my kids.

It's something that takes a bit of time to get used to. Especially, if like me, you always pictured yourself somehow simultaneously having kids and a fabulous career. Balancing everything. I know that I never imagined myself as a stay at home mom. I always thought I'd be that working woman, with a life completely separate from home. With friends that I could still talk about grown-up things with. With important work-related decisions and deadlines. I thought wrong. Life didn't end up that way for us, but being home is a good place to be. I can't lie and say that losing my identity didn't take some getting used to.

Moving to Colorado only enhanced the issue. Not knowing anyone here for any length of time, and coming with three kids, I was never just Kelly to anyone here. I was never that girl who went to USC and law school. I was never that crazed ambitious women who dreamt of working in Bioethics. I was just a mom. And it was hard for me.

These days, after being a constant presence at school for a few years, most of the teachers know me now. Most of them know my real name and everything. I have a decent group of friends and acquaintances that know me, beyond just being someone's mom. I share similar paths with some of them. Once career driven, now relegated to making lunches and driving carpools. They understand. To all the kids at school, I am Aidan's mom, or Ashley's mom or Ally's mom. Soon I will be known as AJ's mom too.

Maybe someday I will get back into the rat race. Go for those goals I once had. When the kids are older, perhaps. My priorities are different now though. I don't mind being just a mom anymore. Because being a mom is the most important job I could ever have.

In the car yesterday, Ally was asking me what people's names are. What are the real names of her friend's moms and what are the real names of her teachers? I told her, then I asked her what my name is. Without a moment's hesitation, she answered, "You is Mommy". And she was right. I am Mommy. And it's the best name I've ever had.

Silly Dinner

Tom is almost always home for dinner, almost. There are times he doesn't make it, usually during tax season or if he has to go out of town for work. The kids like to take full advantage of those nights. Because there is one kind of dinner that can only happen when Daddy isn't home. Silly dinner.

The foods eaten for silly dinner show up far more frequently in the form of silly lunch. During the summer and the other breaks from school, we will have silly lunch once a week or so. The kids request it.

What are silly lunch and dinner? Breakfast. Plain and simple, it's breakfast. It's just eaten at the wrong time of day. The kids collectively love most breakfast foods, no matter what the time of day. The first time I made silly lunch, the kids looked at me like I was losing my mind. Aidan is the one that named it that summer day.

The truth is that I love bacon and eggs (when I'm not pregnant and forced to eat them on a daily basis, that is). Tom isn't a big fan of bacon and eggs, he is much more inclined to want pancakes or waffles for breakfast. He's known for weekend donut runs as well. He just loves to carb load in the morning, I guess. As a result, I don't make eggs and bacon for breakfast very often. There isn't usually an abundance of time on school days for such activities. As for weekends, Tom would rather eat a bowl of cereal than have me make breakfast. So we just moved that meal to another time.

Yesterday, Tom was gone for the night, away for work. As soon as the kids realized he wouldn't be home for dinner, they asked if I could make silly dinner. I don't know what it is about having breakfast at the wrong time, but the kids love it. And we are pretty silly.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Parental Amnesia

Parental amnesia exists, I know that for a fact. I have experienced it firsthand. Now, I won't claim that I coined the term for it, but I've certainly never heard anyone else refer to it in that way before. I'd like to take credit for inventing it, but I'm sure that someone else, at some point before I had children, uttered the words as a combined phrase.

To those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, I'll describe it. I think that it happens to some degree to all parents. Well, to most of them anyway. Essentially, it is the forgetting of the details of the bad things involved with having kids. Glossing over the negative experiences. Minimizing the degree of just how horrible some event was. Parental amnesia is what allows for the possibility of big families. What allows people like us to have four children.

There are those out there that never experience the wonder that is parental amnesia, those who seem to be able to recall every single miserable moment in the parenting of their children. Those who can recite, without pause, what nights with a colicky newborn were like. Who can recount with certainty every second of labor. How the diapers smelled. When the stomach virus took over the entire house. The parents who never ever seem to be able to get past those details. I feel sorry for them, to be totally honest.

Parental amnesia is a wondrous phenomenon. Most women remember the discomforts of pregnancy and the pain of labor, but in a detached sense. They remember that yes, it was painful, but don't really remember just how much so. With time, and the maternal high of bringing this new baby into the world, you really do start to forget what it was like to go through it.

Parental amnesia is what enabled me to have more than two children. For without it, I can be virtually certain that we would never have entertained the possibility of having another child after Ashley. Such thoughts would never have occurred to us, and the mere suggestion of having another child would have caused us to mutually shudder.

To say that Ashley was a difficult baby would be a vast understatement. She was close to impossible. Before Ashley was born, I was skeptical about the existence of colic. I thought it was something invented by new parents, unable to handle the crying that comes with a baby, and anxious to label their child. She made me a believer. At about three weeks, she introduced me to colic. She was miserable, screaming all the time. No one could help her, not even me. Aidan walked around with his fingers in his ears for months. I left a full cart of groceries in the store more than once. When she started crying, there was nothing in the universe that would stop her. We had to leave movie theaters. She once screamed for six consecutive hours without a break. I found myself staring at the wall sometimes, losing track of how long I'd been staring at them. I tried everything and none of it helped. There was nothing I could do.

She finally outgrew the colic, but not until she was almost 6 months old. By that point, she'd acquired a reputation among family members as being a difficult child. She screamed all the time, and no one wanted to hold her. Well intentioned people, trying to *fix* what was wrong with her only made it worse. Having Ashley was hard. Really hard.

You would think that after having survived Ashley's infancy, we'd be forever opposed to the idea of having more kids. Any rational person would be. Any rational person that had a fully intact memory, that is. You see, we both acquired parental amnesia.

Sure, we can tell stories about her first six months, recounting with some degree of detail what it was like. But do I really remember what it was like hearing her scream for six hours straight? I can honestly say that I don't. I am not sure how this form of memory loss happens, but I'd have to say that it's probably a good thing.

I don't ever want to be that mom that reminds her kids of the bad things. I don't want to tell them all the stories about the times they made me miserable, and all the sacrifices I made for them. I don't want to dwell on the negative, forsaking the awesome experiences I had at the same time. You get only one shot with your kids, and I think to some degree we can choose how we want to remember these years. I, with a little help from parental amnesia, try to focus on the good stuff. The rest of it doesn't matter anyway. Pain, messes, sacrifices. Might not be the best aspects of motherhood, but they are all part of the job decription. What they aren't part of are the pleasant memories.

Why remember cleaning the floor for 3 hours to get the syrup all up when you can remember the priceless look on your son's face when he shreiked with joy as he squeezed the bottle after you told him no? Which one is worth more in the long run? I guarantee you that it's not the time spent cleaning. Life's too short, remember the good. Parental amnesia helps.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Itching to Move

Poor AJ. The kid is perpetually frustrated right now. He's at the stage where he can scoot a little, roll all over the place and get up on all fours, but can't crawl. And he gets really mad. Not that I can say that I blame him, really. It has to be hard.

His older siblings are constantly on the floor with him, sometimes trying to show him how to crawl. Not that it's something I really want to encourage. The baby gates still aren't back up yet, and they need to be before he gets moving.

He's at pretty much my most favorite age right now. He can sit up and play, he is developing his own little personality and he laughs and giggles. I'd love a little more sleep, though. He is too young to crawl, to walk, to run, to climb. I'm not constantly chasing him, yet. He doesn't talk yet either, though he babbles constantly. But he doesn't say "NO!", and he doesn't whine, and he doesn't yell at his siblings, yet. He doesn't talk back, he can't make a huge mess of the house and he isn't arguing with me about what clothes I put him in, yet. That time will come.

Aidan went backwards for a good 6 weeks before he figured out forward momentum. Ashley was up on all fours by 6 weeks (not joking, and I have the pictures to prove it!) She was crawling like a pro by 5 months. Ally was about 6 1/2 months, but she never really crawled normally. It was more of a butt-scoot, turn and thrust mechanism. It might not have been conventional, but she got where she needed to. It sure was fun to watch.

Soon AJ will be crawling, and my sweet little baby, my last baby, will begin his trip towards independence. Crawling anywhere he wants to go, including away from me. I don't know that I'm ready for that just yet. But I better get there soon, he's itching to move. Whether I want him to or not, soon he will be crawling. They don't ask for permission to grow up. And we can't stop the inevitable from happening.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Seat and A Rope

One of the defining moments in the growth and development of my kids has involved the swing set. As an adult, you wouldn't necessarily link independence to a seat and a rope, but I can assure you that they are indeed very much related. At least in my house they are.

When Aidan was the only child, he reaped the benefits of life as a singleton. He'd get pushed for however long he wanted to swing for. We could spend hours at the park, just him and I. I had no one else to tend to at the time. He didn't learn how to keep himself going on the swing until just before we moved from San Diego, so that would have made him a little over 4. It took a while for him to figure out when to bend and when to straighten. He was so proud of himself that day, but as his mom, I was a little sad. He didn't need my help to do it anymore. The swing set at home is, by the way, far too small for Aidan these days, and is more likely to be used by him as a rappelling method to jump from the top of the playhouse. I fear that I may see a future in BASE jumping.

Ashley loved the swings. She still does. It started for her as an infant. She had terrible colic and there were many days of her life spent primarily in the baby swing. She was happiest there, and I think she just got used to the rhythmic motion. Once she was big enough to use the swing set, that is all she wanted to do. She fell asleep in the toddler swing more than once. And someone always had to push her. She just recently figured out the coordination to do it by herself. Trust me, it's been a long time coming, with a lot of energy devoted to trying to teach her how. I think collectively, the adults around were all pretty happy the day she figured out how to do it by herself. We were tired of always pushing her. She'd swing forever, or at least as long as she could convince you to push her. But even now that she can do it on her own, she's more than happy to have someone help her out.

Ally is more forthright and demanding. Last summer, Papa was here to drop someone or something off. He was intending to be here for only a few minutes, then go on to the rest of his errands. Ally informed him, did not ask him, that he would go out and push her on the swing for five minutes (holding up three fingers), then he could go. And what did he do? Of course he obliged, obediently following the orders of his granddaughter. She managed to talk Aidan or Ashley into pushing her too, and never really asked us all that often. She's not a huge fan of the swing anyway, and was never as obsessed with it as her big sister. But a while ago, she learned how to do it. Except, as with many things in Ally's life, she figured out how to do it on her own, with little guidance from us. I just looked out the window one day, and there she was. Swinging.

As for AJ, he is just now beginning his journey with the swing set. He's not in love with the baby swing, so it's hard to tell how he will be. He has been in the toddler swing at the park once so far, and he thought it was pretty fun. His ride didn't last long because Ally smacked her face on the ride-on horse and we had to leave. But it's okay, there will be more rides. I'll be pushing him for a few years at least. Until he doesn't need me to anymore.

It's fascinating to watch the kids as they grow and change, even with something as seemingly insignificant as a swing set. To step back and take it all in. To try and ignore the frustration at pushing a child for what seems like an eternity. They might need you to push them today, but there will come a day, not too long from now, when they won't. And when that day comes, a part of parenthood is lost. Gone forever, no longer needed. The good news is that even when they don't really need your pushes anymore, sometimes they still might want them. And you'll be glad to give them.

Kids grow up through play, and part of that happens on the swing set. They change before your very eyes. They get taller and stronger and more coordinated. They go from complete helplessness to complete independence to becoming a daredevil. And it all happens with just a seat and a rope.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Negotiator

Since we have been married, we have purchased 4 vehicles. Only one was used. It was a pick-up truck that I negotiated a return policy on, just in case it didn't check out with my mechanic. I took it to him, he didn't like what he saw and back it went. I think the salesman was in shock when I actually brought it back. But I did. The other three cars we have purchased were all new.

Tom can't negotiate. It's just not in him. He can't handle the back and forth, the bantering. He can't stand the give and take. He wants to know what they want, and what we can pay. Bottom line. I like to haggle. There is a reason I went to law school and he didn't.

When we bought the first of the three cars, a Daewoo of all things, I negotiated a really good deal on it. It had been sold to another person that the financing fell through on - after they had driven it off the lot. The car was returned the next morning, then put back on the sales floor. I checked the mileage on it, and it was higher than it should have been for a *new* car. They told me what had happened, and I told them that the car was no longer *new* and couldn't be sold as such. They knew I was right and fudged the price quite a bit. Plus we got the alarm for free since it was already installed.

The second car was the Ford Escape. Tom, for whatever reason, had already decided that he really, really wanted one. We had gone to the Auto Show earlier in the year and had looked at every small SUV on the market - this was the only one that he liked. Walking into a dealership being set on a car isn't a good thing. There was a commercial out at the time that was just like him. Guy walks in and says, "I want this car, I will take this car". That's Tom. No negotiating abilities at all. He wasn't allowed to talk that day. I took care of it. Got a free alarm and a great interest rate, plus more for our trade-in than they wanted to give us.

The van was the last car we bought, a reluctant necessity when I was pregnant with Ally. We just needed something bigger. This time it was me that decided. I wanted the Honda, since it had the best safety rating. We should have bought something cheaper, for sure. The day we bought the Honda, we had already looked at other vans. We lucked out and went on a very slow night, towards the end of their sales period. Got a free alarm this time too, and an insanely low interest rate. But there was only so much I could negotiate. It still cost a fortune.

Tom hates to buy cars. He likes to test drive them, but he hates the rest of it. He hates feeling pressured. He can't stand haggling. He doesn't like signing papers for major purchases, and has never once driven a new car off the lot. Hopefully for him it will be a while before we need to do it again. We plan to drive these cars until they die.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hello Kitty

Ally had her party yesterday. After going back and forth for a few weeks about what kind of party she wanted, she settled on Hello Kitty. Secretly, I was rooting for the cat, since I've loved her from the time I was 4.

We invited about half her preschool class. And some neighbors. And a friend for Aidan and Ashley. Add in the siblings. And everyone actually showed up. I think it is the first birthday party that we have ever had where every single invited child came. It ended up being a LOT of kids. 16, I think to be exact. It was a lot, for sure.

Hello Kitty isn't the easiest theme to plan a party with, especially on short notice. It's popular enough to find invitations and such fairly easily, but not the other stuff that comes with parties. So, I found myself making the poster for the Pin the Nose on Hello Kitty game. It came out a little lopsided, but cute. At least the kids could tell what it was supposed to be. ;) I did teach cartooning, you'd think I should know how to draw a fairly basic cartoon character.

The cake was a whole different subject. I couldn't just order one, since a few kids at the party have allergies. I had figured on making the cake, but I didn't plan on making such an elaborate cake. Until Ally saw one in the bakery book at the grocery store, then it wasn't negotiable. She wanted *that* cake.

I set out to find the pieces to put on top of the cake, not realizing how hard it would be to find anything. I should have driven down to the big mall, since there is a candy store that carries a ton of Sanrio stuff. But I didn't have time. I looked everywhere in town without luck. Finally, I found myself back at the bakery counter. I asked the guy behind the counter if they could just sell me the top pieces since I couldn't order a cake for health reasons. Of course not. That would be too easy. After over 15 minutes of being persistent, I walked out of the store with the smallest cake he could find and a tiny Hello Kitty for the cake, still in the wrapper. Sometimes it's good to be a pain in the behind.
I made the cake yesterday morning, and it took longer than it should have since Ally decided that she needed to have strawberry filling in it too. It must have been good, since it was gone. We had half of a piece left over.

She had a great time at her party, and I think all the other kids did too. The weather was beautiful, the kids all behaved, and the birthday girl got spoiled. What more could you ask for?

Happy Birthday Ally!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Change of Plans

Today is Ally's 4th Birthday. She woke me up this morning, and asked, ""Mommy, am I four yet?" For the first time, she's actually having a party on her birthday. And since she is in preschool now, she has friends of her own to invite. She has her own group of little people to hang out with. No longer is she just the tag along to Aidan and Ashley. She's growing up too fast.

We had always planned to have two kids, from the time that Tom and I started talking about having a family. We were going to have a boy first, then a girl. And be done. As luck would have it, things happened to work out that way. But something happened when Ashley was a baby and we revised that plan.

I knew that I didn't feel done the second that Ashley was born, but it took Tom a bit longer to admit it. In fact, he never admitted it during daylight hours. He rolled over in bed one night, away from me, and whispered that he wanted another baby. Ally is the only one of the kids that we consciously tried for, the only one that we set out to get pregnant with. Aidan was a total shock, considering that we were just told we couldn't have kids. Ashley just kind of came along - we weren't preventing anything and wanted to eventually have another one, but we weren't trying either. AJ was a surprise, a bonus baby. Ally was planned. It was different.

I should have known that she was going to be a feisty one. Tom and I had gone to Las Vegas for the weekend alone, and we were standing outside the Bellagio at night watching the fountains. I suddenly was sick. Very sick. And hungry. And dizzy. It was overwhelming, and all at once. I couldn't even take a home test for a week and a half, but by then I didn't need it. I knew I was pregnant.

I was very sick with Ally, which was strange. Having already been pregnant with a boy and a girl, I thought for sure she had to be twins. I was sick for more than 20 weeks. I couldn't keep anything down. I ruptured blood vessels in my eyes from vomiting so much. There were days that all I could get down was a cup of chicken broth. I ended up with IVs a few times because I was so dehydrated. It was awful.

Once that finally went away, I started eating again. I remember very clearly the night the nausea went away. It was about 11pm, and we were watching tv. A KFC commercial came on, and I wanted chicken. I wanted chicken now. I've never seen Tom fly out the door that fast. He was just happy that I actually wanted to eat something.

I had a few good weeks before the contractions started. I want to say they started around 29 weeks or so. I ended up in triage 5 or 6 times with Ally. The diagnosis ended up being an irritable uterus, which is awesome. 6+ weeks of constant contractions that did little but make me cranky. I hardly slept.

The icing on the cake was waiting for me though. At about 34 weeks, I went to pick the kids up from their school, and Ashley started to run into the parking lot. I chased her down, but stopped too suddenly. And pulled every ligament between by chest and knees. Including the pubic symphysis. If you've never injured that part of your body, I don't recommend ever doing it. Especially 8 months pregnant.

Finally, the morning that I was 36 weeks and 6 days pregnant I couldn't take it anymore. Between the constant contractions and the pain from the injury, I was done. I took some castor oil. It worked. We left for the hospital in a few hours.

Ally's labor was more dramatic than the others before her, mostly because it was complicated by my injury. I had to have an epidural, which I wasn't happy about, because of the stress to the pelvis. That dropped my blood pressure, but they got it back up.

We didn't know if she was a boy or a girl, and were still unable to agree on a boy's name that day. It's a good thing she was a girl. Her big brother was there to watch her enter the world. Ally was 8 pounds when she was born. A beautiful baby girl. She did have to go to the NICU briefly until her blood sugar stabilized, but she came home with me the next day.

She was a sweet and mellow baby. Her hair was adorable, it looked like the ends were highlighted. I actually had people ask if we had it done. Really? She was patient and calm. She seemed to just go with the flow. She was never very demanding as a baby, almost like she knew that she was the third kid and occasionally would have to wait her turn. Of course, she didn't stay that way for very long.

She's grown and blossomed into an amazing little girl. She's smart and sassy. She's stubborn and opinionated. She's friendly and loving. She's a joyful and happy child. She's Ally and I can't imagine my life without her. She wasn't in the plans to start out with, but there is a reason we have her. Sometimes plans need to be revised.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Taste the Rainbow

Alright, so I totally stole the tagline from Skittles. A few weeks ago, I came across a recipe for a rainbow cake and I was intrigued. I had to find a reason to make it. After checking out the recipe, I realized that it was going to be a fair amount of work, especially considering the icing was homemade. But it looked like it might be worth it. Or at least it would look cool.

Since Ally's birthday party is actually on the day of her birthday this year, I initially wanted to make it for that. The problem is that there are more kids coming than the cake would feed, so I opted out of that. I'm making her a Hello Kitty cake tomorrow.

Grandma Kathi's birthday is the 15th, and we had them over for dinner and cake last night. I made one of my favorite dinners, Italian Herb Chicken with pasta. Yum. It's a crockpot recipe, which makes it even better. I'm all about putting the least amount of effort into dinner as humanly possible. Especially on a day like yesterday. A day where I was attempting something new.

I got all the ingredients, or so I thought, the day before. Ended up needing to send Tom to the store to get a few last essentials that I had forgotten. (Really, what is the point of taking a list to the store if you can't even manage to get the items ON the list???) I started working on the batter since I knew it was going to take a while.

Each layer of the cake is a different flavor. The pink is raspberry, orange is orange, yellow is lemon, green is lime, blue is blueberry and purple is blackberry. You add some pureed fruit or zest and juice for each layer, plus a little food coloring. There you have it, rainbow cake. The icing didn't quite come out the way I would have liked, but it was yummy. White chocolate buttercream. Can't go wrong there, really. The bottom layers did get a little compacted, but it was still good. Next time I make it, I'll do a better job. I made some notes on the recipe. :)

It tasted a bit strange, like a bowl of Fruit Loops in cake form. Each layer really did have a distinct flavor, all from the real fruit used in the recipe. The kids thought it was pretty cool. Most of all, the birthday girl was amused.

Here is the recipe, stolen from another website. If you've got a few hours to spare and are curious, it's worth the effort. And if people don't know what is under the white frosting, it's a pretty cool surprise.

Rainbow Cake
2 boxes white cake mix
6 eggs
1 c. water
2/3 c. oil
1/2 c. raspberries (pureed)
Zest of 1 orange + 2 T. juice
Zest of 1 lemon + 2 T. juice
Zest of 1 lime + 2 T. juice
1/2 c. blueberries (pureed)
1/2 c. blackberries (pureed)
Wilton Icing colors in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple
***I used regular food coloring***

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, water, and oil together. Scoop 1 cup of batter into six small bowls. In the first bowl, mix raspberries and 1/4 tsp. red coloring. In the second bowl, mix orange zest and juice, and 1/2 tsp. orange coloring. In the third bowl, mix lemon zest and juice and 1/4 tsp. yellow coloring. In the fourth bowl, mix lime zest and juice and 1/4 tsp. green coloring. In the fifth bowl, mix blueberries and 1/4 tsp. blue coloring. In the sixth bowl, mix blackberries and 1/4 tsp. purple coloring.

*** The next time I make it, I will probably strain the raspberry, blueberry and blackberry puree before I add it to get the seeds out. ***

Prepare six 8 inch cake pans by greasing and flouring each generously. Using a spatula, spoon and spread each color of batter into its own cake pan. Bake in an oven, preheated to 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes, or until tops spring back when touched lightly.

***The next time I make it, I will bake 3 layers at a time, since the ones on the bottom rack didn't rise enough (why they were a little squished)***

Allow to cool completely. Frost with White Chocolate Frosting.

Billowed White Chocolate Frosting
1 c. butter, softened
1 bag white chocolate chips
3 lbs. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c. milk (room temperature)

In a large bowl, microwave white chips until melted. Immediately beat in butter until smooth. Add half the sugar, then the milk. Beat. Add remaining sugar and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Makes enough frosting to ice between each layer of cake, and around the outside of the cake.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pancakes

There is a very short list of things that I don't do around the house. I do pretty much everything it seems, and there are times that I wonder, sometimes aloud, if anyone else does anything.

Tom has known certain things about me since well before we were married. I don't iron. Anything. Don't do it. I break out the iron roughly once a year. In college, Tom had to wear a dress shirt and tie for work, and he ironed all his own clothes. I figure he knows how to do it, so why should I? I am not terribly good, especially at ironing dress shirts. So I don't. When it's time for him to get new work clothes, I will only buy him the wrinkle-free stuff. If I get it out of the dryer in a reasonable amount of time and hang it up, there is no need to iron. It's fantastic.

I don't pick up dog poop. Not willingly anyway. I have done it, but always with great reluctance. When Tom broke his foot after Ashley was born, I had no choice. Thinking he was funny, he took a picture of me. As if to capture some elusive endangered species outside it's native habitat. I've done it a few times since we moved here, but it's not high on my list of things to do. I figure the yard is his department. I don't cut the grass or fertilize the lawn either for that reason.

There is one thing that I am forbidden from doing. Something that I am so bad at that I am not even allowed to attempt it. Something that Tom always, 100% of the time, is responsible for doing on his own. Something that the kids know that I can't do, and don't even bother asking about. I can't make pancakes.

There is just something about the process that escapes me. I don't know if it's the batter that I can't master, or if my cooking technique is bad. We have one pancake mix we use. We have one griddle to make them on. He uses all the same stuff I try to use, and it's no comparison. I don't know how I always manage to screw them up, but my pancakes are pathetic. He can make blueberry pancakes, banana pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes and even homemade waffles like a professional. Mine are horrible. I don't even try anymore.

So if you're ever in the neighborhood on a weekend morning, and you smell something amazing coming from our house, know that it's not me. The man of the house is in the kitchen. You'll find me relaxing on the couch, coffee cup in hand. It's nice to not be in charge sometimes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Random Bits of Information

I am a treasure trove of knowledge. Random bits and pieces of information, hardly ever pertinent to daily life. I shudder at the thought of how many song lyrics are crammed into my head. I can repeat phone numbers from elementary school friends. I remember things, and over the years I have remembered a lot of things. Random things. Things that make people like me want to audition for Jeopardy.

I know strange details about weird subjects. Yesterday, we were at a field trip to the aquarium and I found myself pointing out all kinds of trivial things about the animals to the kids. Even their teacher was a little intrigued by my tidbits. I worked in the science museum in junior high, and our focus that year was on the ocean. I learned more about it than *normal*. Plus, I wanted to be a marine biologist for a while.

I am a great resource for odd subjects. When I was in school, I always tried to pick research topics that I was interested in, and that were a bit out of the ordinary. Like the overfishing of sharks in international waters. The detrimental effects of the overuse of antibiotics. Herd Immunity. Exploring the reasons that baby boys are born with a higher chance of health problems than girls are. The San Diego Chicken, and his role in case law on intellectual property rights. I like the weird. It's more interesting.

Through the insane amount of education and broad life experiences I have been lucky enough to have, I know at least a little bit about a lot of things. I don't claim to be an expert in many of them, or any of them really. But I can answer most of the basic questions. Legal issues? How do you make a twirl skirt? What does this mean in Spanish? Am I in labor? What does this rash mean? How long are eggs safe to eat? Will this stain come out? How can you take a picture of a fish in a fish tank? What will make roses grow faster and fuller? You'd be amazed at the things people will call me for.

Aidan is shocked sometimes if I don't know the answer to a question he asks. He asks a lot of questions, and I usually have an answer. He's come to expect that I am just supposed to always know, and is taken a bit by surprise if I don't.

There are certain subjects that I know nothing about. The subjects that keep me from ever auditioning for Jeopardy, because they will be the ones I get questions on. Electricity is a big one. I can explain it, but I totally don't understand it. Most things related to computer programming are foreign to me. I know virtually nothing about world history. I love ancient history and US history, but don't ask me about much else. I'm in the dark about opera. My knowledge about literature and ballet - superficial at best.

Newborn babies can instinctively crawl up and latch on by themselves. There is your random bit of information for the day, courtesy of Kelly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sassy

Ally is a lot like me, frighteningly similar in some ways. She does look more like my Dad's side of the family than she looks like me. Aside from her blond hair and general gorgeousness, though, she's pretty much a clone of me.

She is insanely smart. She catches on to everything around her faster than the other kids ever did. Partly, I'm sure, just by virtue of the fact that she has them to watch and learn from. She potty trained herself right after she turned 2. Later that summer, she taught herself how to ride a tricycle. Tom and I were sitting outside one afternoon and she started riding it, barely able to reach the pedals. I asked him if he had taught her. Nope. You? Nope.

She has a photographic memory, like me. I can still recite standards I wrote in Junior High, and could probably tell you word for word what some of the cases were in law school. I remember the phone numbers of friends I went to elementary school with and haven't seen in 25 years. There is a reason I call her my elephant, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with her appearance. Elephants never forget, and neither does she. She will randomly tell me stories about things that happened almost two years ago, remembering details that even I have forgotten. You can never ever tell her that you are going to do something unless you really truly plan on doing it. She will remember.

She has a very strong sense of fairness. Of justice. And of punishment. She can't stand to be in trouble. She has learned from her sister to point the finger when something happens, but she's also learned that doing that almost never works and the real culprit will be found. If there is a disagreement about something and she thinks she is right, she will fight you to the death. The girl does not back down from an argument. And she almost always wins.

She asks a million questions and will talk your ear off given the opportunity. She is a truly and genuinely happy kid, who just loves to be alive. She skips and sings and dances all the time. I've been told that I was like that when I was her age. I hope she stays that way, I didn't.

She's like me in other ways too. In ways that will test my patience and resolve as a parent. That have already tested me. She is unbelievably stubborn. And sassy. A few weeks ago, I took her shoes away. Left her one pair as her punishment. She wouldn't put them away, so I took them away. She put on her one pair of shoes, then marched over to me and told me in her most sassy voice, one hand on her hip,

"Mommy, I love to have one pair of shoes."

She made up a song about having one pair of shoes. Danced around and told everyone she talked to for the rest of the day that she loved having one pair of shoes. Except she doesn't. The kid adores her shoes. She just wanted me to know that I didn't phase her. She's almost 4....what is she going to be like at 14?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fast, Fast, Fast

I have a lead foot. I like to drive fast. I always have, and I probably always will. I really wanted to race cars when I was a teenager, but I never managed to talk my parents into it. I have gotten a lot better about it since I've had the kids, and I really try not to do it when they are in the car with me. But every once in a while, that foot just gets too heavy.

When I was a teenager, I didn't have my own car. I had to borrow Mom or Dad's car, and I always preferred to borrow Dad's. Mom drove the minivan, but Dad drove the T-bird. Champagne colored, V-8 under the hood, and it could fly. I think the fastest I ever went in it was about 145mph. When you got over about 100 in that car, it was almost like it would shift into another gear. Like there was a secret gear only used for racing. Don't tell my Dad. :) I worked down the main street from my parent's house a few miles. Early enough in the morning, and there was no one on that street. And the lights were all programmed to stay green. You get where I am going with this, right? I once raced a cop, in a marked car no less, down Los Angeles Avenue. It was a sweet car.

In college, my parents traded in my land yacht (a story for another day) for a Ford Escort. Smaller, more gas efficient, and only a 4 cylinder. Not that it mattered much. I could make it from my apartment to Tom's in San Diego in an hour and 30 minutes. It was 120 miles. You do the math. I wasn't driving the speed limit. I did get pulled into the secondary inspection station at the border check once, but that was just to get hit on by the CHP officer, not to get a ticket.

I didn't need a radar detector back then. I could read the cars on the freeway perfectly. I could spot a cop from over a mile away, and I never once got pulled over. Not once. I played with a few CHP officers in my day. There was one once that kept trying to get me. He'd chase me down, only to find me driving the speed limit, go around me, hit the other side of the freeway, catch me again. Of course, by then I was going the speed limit. I had it down to a science. My only traffic ticket ever was for rolling through a stop sign. But, I did a California stop, that is supposed to be good enough, right???

Once I had kids, I had to slow down. It's fun to drive fast, but not terribly safe. I was never a crazy fast driver, never weaved in and out of traffic. But once I had kids, I slowed down. And over time I lost my abilities to track the cops. Too distracted by the little people I suppose.

I've been pulled over twice here in Colorado, both times for speeding, and both times with a car full of kids. I'm not going ridiculously fast, but I'm going fast enough to get their attention. Part of it is that the speed limits here are higher than in California. Here I'm only going 13 miles over the speed limit if I'm doing 88, it would be a lot worse in California.

I got to meet my second State Trooper last weekend, on the way to the airport. I was running late, and driving faster than I was supposed to. My years of experience kicked in with spotting the cop, but too late. As soon as I saw him about a mile and a half behind me, I moved over to the right lane and slowed down to the speed limit. But he had me flagged on radar already, and it was no use. Red and blue lights.

"Mommy, why are we stopping?" I hear from the backseat. Well, because I was going too fast and the police don't like that. "Why were you going too fast, Mommy?" Well....that one is harder to explain. I told the kids to sit still and be quiet. They were all a little taken back by the fact that I was in trouble and got caught doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing.

I did manage to talk myself out of getting a ticket. It's the second time I've managed to do that. I still have a clean record when it comes to speeding tickets. Maybe it's the car full of kids. Maybe it's my charm and sincere apologies. I don't know why, but it works. I should learn. You'd think I would know better by now.

But sometimes it's just too hard to resist. That wide open road. It calls my name. Doesn't help that I've created a kid just like me. Ally is a speed demon too, and I succumb too easily to her pleas. She'll sit in the back of the car and beg me to go fast, fast, fast.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Done

Three days left...tax season is almost over. For people outside the profession, they think that this is the home stretch, that since there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that this is the easy part. It's not. The last week is the worst.

I think we figured out that this is our tenth tax season. 10 years of the madness. Of the exhaustion. Of the life put on hold for a few months. It doesn't get any easier, no matter how many years you have been through it. It still sucks.

Tom is done. He's given all he can give, and didn't even get up early this morning. There's just no motivation left this year. He's worked harder this year than any other before, and he's not even done on the 15th. As an auditor, he is busier during tax season, but he's also not limited to just this time of the year. He's hardly done any tax work this year at all. He's already scheduled clear through June with jobs. The end isn't the end this year.

He's exhausted. I'm exhausted. The kids want their Daddy back. He is supposed to get two days off after the 15th this week. I hope he takes them. He needs a break. We all do.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stuck

Aidan has always suffered a bit from the Baby Huey syndrome. Pretty much from birth, he's been a big kid. And he's always underestimated his size, sometimes dramatically. He thinks he is smaller than he is. And other people always seem to think that he is older than he actually is simply because he's so tall.

It's not as much of a problem now as it used to be. He has slowed down a little bit in the last few years. When he was 2 and 3, it caused a lot of problems for him. Strangers were constantly chastising him (and I), wondering aloud why this kid was so poorly behaved. Well, it was because he wasn't the world's worst behaved 5 year old. He was only 2.

He still thinks that he can cram himself into smaller places than he will fit occasionally, and he did so today. We were all upstairs when it happened. My friend is visiting, and we were in the playroom this morning. Whenever we have guests, we are required by house law to play Guitar Hero. It's just the rules. Extra adult in the house = rocking out. Really.

All the adults in the house fully entrenched in rock, Aidan realized he had a problem. He had wedged himself under the guest bed in the playroom, only a few feet from where we were playing. I guess he really thought he could fit under there. Totally in the zone, we were pretty much ignoring him at first. There was music to play. Okay, so not real music, but the video game equivalent. And we were rocking.

"My Big Butt is Stuck!!!!!" He must have said it at least five times before it occurred to any of us that he was serious. I glanced over at him, and he was half sticking out from underneath the bed. But the song wasn't over. And I couldn't tell if he was really stuck, or if he was faking. He's been known to cry wolf at times.

He just kept saying it over and over again. Alright, fine. Wait until the song is over and I'll rescue you. When the song finally ended, Tom went over to assess the situation. He was indeed stuck, and Tom had to lift up the side of the bed to get him out.

Why was he under there? Did he really think he fit down there? It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. He's lucky it was a short set. :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Proud Mama

I'm having one of those proud mom days. Aidan got an award at school this morning at the monthly assembly in the gym. His teacher told me about it ahead of time, and Daddy was there to see it. Tom is not out much in the daylight hours this time of year, but he took time this morning and made sure he was there. This is the first award Aidan has received. It's a pretty big deal.

Their school is an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school. It's the elementary level of instruction for a worldwide group of schools that meet a very strict, very specific set of criteria. It's also a really fancy way of saying that it's a pretty impressive public elementary school. We lucked out, this is our neighborhood school. More than half of the kids that attend are not from our boundaries, but are open enrolled. Most grade levels have long waiting lists to get in, even the preschool.

The IB-PYP program is different in many ways than run-of-the-mill schools. They have to teach to the whole student. No funding cut excuses are allowed for phasing out art, music or physical education. In fact, their school has a gifted program for those, the unconventional subjects, the ones that are maginalized in school districts all over the country. Aidan is in the gifted art class, and it's been a fantastic experience for him. The kid can never get enough of art.

One of the things that took a little getting used to is the touchy-feely nature that IB is sometimes. Not only are they concerned about the academic and physical well-being of the kids, they also focus on 8 different profiles throughout the year. Things that they encourage the kids not just to learn, but to be. Things that are vital to becoming a successful adult. Things like being a risk taker. Being caring and reflective. And being an inquirer.

Aidan won his award for being an inquirer. And it's a pretty good description of him. He's constantly asking questions. He loves to learn, and is never satisfied with glossed over answers to questions. Given a choice at the library, he will pick out a book about something he wants to know more about, rather than just something that will entertain him.

What makes the award even more special in my eyes is that he was chosen for it not by his teacher, but by his classmates. And he was given the award by one of his very best friends. I'm pretty proud of my little boy today.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Living on the Edge

We have a King size bed, and you would never know it. Something about having kids can instantly turn even the largest sleeping surface into a cramped twin size bed.

Even though she is now six years old, Ashley ends up in bed with us more nights than not. She has a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep with having her Daddy close by. She tends to go in cycles, where for a few weeks she's in just about every night. Then weeks will go by where we hardly see her in the middle of the night at all. She's currently in the first of the two.

Last night, I don't even think it was midnight yet when she came in. She has it figured out. If she comes over to my side of the bed, I'll tell her to go back to her room. If she goes to Tom, and tells him she's scared, he'll let her in. All 6 years of her. It would not be so bad, but she's all knees and elbows. She can't sleep in one position for longer than about 15 minutes, and is constantly rolling around, jabbing someone in the ribs. There is a reason we call her Fidget. There are times that I just can't take it anymore and tell Tom to get up and put her back. Of course, we have to wait until she's out cold to do it, because if she's even partially conscious, she'll be back within minutes.

Ally likes to sleep, and almost always stays in her own bed most of the night. Around 5am, she starts stirring. By 6am, she's generally up. She doesn't like to be awake by herself, and will wake up anyone in the house to keep her busy. She has a way of bugging and bugging and bugging you until you just give in and get up. She's not truly happy until everyone in the house is up though. She clearly does not see the value in sleeping in. But at least she usually stays out of our bed.

The baby is a whole other story. He is not a sleeper. He still gets up to eat at least every 3 if not every 2 hours. We are lucky if we get a stretch of three and a half hours once a night. He starts the night out in his room, but he's generally back by midnight. I could get up and put him back in his bed after every feeding, but then I'd get no sleep at all. He would rather sleep with me, and I don't really mind. The hardest part is that he has to sleep right next to me, and I like a little space. So, all night long we do this dance. He wiggles closer to me. I wiggle closer to the edge. Eventually, I'm half hanging off the side of the bed. Living on the edge, so to say.

At least Aidan sleeps in his room. I suppose that I should be grateful for small (or actually, large) favors. If he decided to camp out with us, Tom would probably give up and sleep in the guest room.

There's not a whole lot of sleeping going on in my life right now. We do have a King size bed, but you'd never know it in the middle of the night. If someone ever took a picture of us, it would be laughable. Tom hanging on to one edge, half asleep. Me on the other, half asleep, baby right next to me. And the vast expanse in the middle would be occupied by Ashley, snoring away. Complete with her pink sleeping mask. We wouldn't want to interrupt her. It's a big bed, and at least someone is sleeping.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mush

I hate baby food. I have absolutely no qualms with saying that I hate baby food either. It's messy, it stains their clothes, it takes up a lot of my time and it creates odors like you wouldn't believe on the way out.

Feeding a little one baby food is one of those parenting experiences that is fun at first, but the novelty wears off quickly. When Aidan was a baby, I was all excited for him to hit 4 months. He was a tank and constantly hungry. The kid needed to eat food. And did he ever! At his peak, the kid was consuming a big bowl of cereal, plus 9 jars of food every single day. Really. He ate that much food. It was crazy. By 6 months, I had to use regular adult sized spoons. His favorites were things that most babies spit out. He loved broccoli. He ate so many jars of sweet potatoes that he actually turned orange! The pictures of him around 9 months or so, his nose has an obviously orange tinge to it. We were grateful when he finally could eat table food. We were spending a small fortune on tiny little jars of mush.

Ashley was about as close to being the complete polar opposite of Aidan as is humanly possible when it comes to food. She refused to ever take a bottle, and was not any more enamored with the idea of baby food. She wanted mom, all mom, all the time. I think she maybe ate cereal twice. Well, twice that she actually swallowed anything that is. It wasn't for lack of trying on my part, honestly. I was used to babies who ate a ton of mush. And she wanted nothing to do with it. She'd sit in the highchair, though and play with the spoons.

Aidan gave her some Cheerios when she was 5 1/2 months old, and to our shock she ate them. She didn't just palm them like most babies that age though, she methodically picked them up with her thumb and forefinger. She had already developed a pincer grasp, something that shouldn't have happened for months. From that point on, she did eat Cheerios. But that was it. Her pediatrician cautioned me at her 6 month check-up that she needed to eat. That if she didn't eat by 9 months, he would have to check her iron levels. I tried, but she wouldn't do it. At that 9 month visit, I talked to the doctor again. I was still nursing, and she did eat the Cheerios. She was healthy, growing and hitting all her developmental milestones. He finally confided in me that one of his own children had been the same way. And that breastfed babies don't really need to eat baby food. What!?!? Everything about baby food that I had been taught by nurses, family members and friends, and even that pediatrician was wrong? Truth is, nursing babies don't need to eat baby food as long as they are thriving. Whew! I didn't have to worry about it anymore. I didn't have to fight with her anymore. I didn't have to get food spit out at me on a regular basis anymore.

When Ally was a baby, she was much like her sister. No bottles, no baby food. By then, they had developed a lot more finger foods for babies, and she was perfectly content with them. She never did like the consistency of baby food, and though she ate it slightly more willingly than her big sister, it was never a daily ritual. But I didn't worry about it. She was growing, and she was happy.

I thought for sure that AJ would be like the girls when it came to food. He's not a big fan of bottles, and will take them only if he is absolutely starving. He's a little guy, so I didn't even bother trying to give him baby food until he was about 6 months old. The first few days he spit it out. All of it. I thought I was in the clear, that I had dodged the baby food bullet. After a couple days, though, he decided that he liked baby food. He certainly doesn't like it as much as his brother did, but he likes it a whole lot more than the girls ever did. Which is fine, I suppose. Part of me was hoping to avoid baby food altogether this time, but it looks like I'm stuck. Spoon in hand, shoveling it in. It wouldn't be so bad, but it takes the kid forever to eat. He doesn't eat really, he dines. It can take him a half hour to eat a bowl of cereal.

I only have about a million things to do every day, and I could think of plenty I should be doing instead of sitting and feeding him for that long. In some ways though, it is good for me. It's good for both of us. Being forced to sit there, one on one, with my last baby. It's not a bad thing. Engaging him, talking to him, just the two of us, enjoying a bowl of mush.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

One of the cool things about having kids is that you get to play with toys. And it's perfectly acceptable to do so, in fact it is expected. If a single guy routinely plays with action figures, you shake your head. If a dad plays action figures with his little boy, it's endearing. The reality is though that there is little difference between the two men. Just one of them has a good excuse. In fact, I truly believe that it is one of the reasons men want to have children. And the reason that baby boys always get toys that are so far from being age appropriate that it's obvious who they are really for - the grown ups. Aidan got a huge remote control Jeep for his first Christmas. He was 7 months old. It wasn't for him, now was it?

There are few toys that endure generations without ever being pushed aside for something newer and cooler. Things like Legos and Barbies, the toys that every kid in the last 50 years or so has had. Everything else it seems is subject to trendiness and phases. The must have toy one year at Christmas, turns a few years later into the toy that no one remembers.

My generation was the first that was really subjected to direct marketing on a large scale. Saturday morning cartoons gradually turned into weekday afternoon cartoons, and along with them came a constant barrage of commercials. They enticed us, convincing us that we needed sugary cereals and every toy ever created. And we were hooked.

I had to have a Strawberry Shortcake bed to go with all my toys. Gary was obsessed with Transformers. Tom, so I've been told, was a huge fan of He-Man. By the power of Grayskull....

Probably because our generation was so infatuated with the toys, many of the brands burned hot, but fizzled out quickly. Replaced with something new. The monchichis. My Little Pony. The Smurfs. And away they slipped. The shows canceled. The toys eventually discontinued. Until something happened. We started having kids. And we wanted to play with our toys again. The power of our generation, and the easy sell that we clearly are when it comes to marketing, revived these toys. The Smurfs are back on tv again. My Little Pony is probably bigger now than it was when we were kids. And clearly the Autobots are kicking some Decepticon butt.

Of course the kids have new toys too, new fads to follow. New commercials that convince them that they *need* some toy. The marketing to kids starts younger and younger today. There are 24 hour cartoon channels now, and studies have shown brand loyalty in kids as young as two years old. But there is just something about the old toys that came back. We, as parents are more likely to buy them. They are like old friends, bringing us back to our own childhoods. And they are way more fun to play with.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Bus

There truly are few things in my life that elicit more drama than the school bus. You wouldn't think that a big yellow vehicle could be such an instigator of trouble. I assure you that it can.

There have been many days that I have just wished that the district would lose the funding for the bus. Or start charging riders to use it. It's been more trouble than it is worth this year.

When we first moved into the house, Aidan was in preschool. Too young for us to even think about the bus, at least. The kids have to be in kindergarten to get on. Our neighborhood is a tiny one, and it is also the only one served by the bus route. The first year, when Aidan was in preschool, I think there were 3 kids on the bus. A huge, full sized bus, with three tiny heads in the windows. Seemed to me like a waste of money, honestly.

When Aidan started kindergarten, one of the things he was most looking forward to was riding the bus. The first day of school came and he was excited. A little nervous, but not too bad. I think the bus was up to 6 or 7 riders that year. A few moms in the neighborhood had kids starting kindergarten that day, and we all followed the bus to school - a little minivan parade of sorts. What exactly is the point of the bus if we all follow it there to make sure they are okay?

The bus was not really a source of drama back then. Back when it was just the boys riding the bus. All boys. Sure, they got in their fair share of trouble. After all, they were all boys. They went through a couple of bus drivers at first. Not that I can blame them, I'd go crazy driving a metal box full of boys around too.

This year, the kids all have different schedules. Since Ally is in preschool and can't ride the bus, I have to take her two days a week. The other mornings, Aidan and Ashley could ride the bus. Aidan loves riding the bus. Ashley, on the other hand, does not. She's not the easily adaptable child that her brother is. The first day of school she was extremely nervous about riding the bus. Even though her big brother was with her. And even though I promised to follow it to school that first day to check on her. But she put on her bravest face and climbed aboard. There were a few other girls on the bus this year, and she had some camaraderie with them.

The first day went okay. She had to make sure I was at school to check on her, but she was okay. I had to remind Aidan to walk her all the way to kindergarten, since it is in the furthest part of the school from the bus drop off. That was the only day she rode the bus without major drama.

By the end of the first week of school, Ashley was waking up with nightmares. She was afraid that someone was going to kill her, usually by cutting off her head. Or pulling off her arms and legs. She was terrified, and she had a hard time even telling us what was wrong. She'd just start crying hysterically in the middle of the night.

Turns out that one of the boys on the bus was talking about things like that. I don't know whether any of his comments were even directed towards her at all, but she sure felt like they were. And rather than just tell us, she internalized it. And she was scared.

I told the counselor at school, making sure to point out that I wasn't really sure of what actually happened. I didn't want to get anyone in trouble without knowing what really went down. She did a little more investigation, and found out that Ashley was telling the truth. The child was reprimanded, and his parents were told. They soon moved out of the neighborhood, and out of the bus route. But the damage was done. Ashley wouldn't ride the bus anymore, no matter what we tried. That was in August.

Ashley is not one to quickly move on. She has a hard time adjusting to new situations to begin with, but the bus incident just made things so much harder than they had to be for her. She had nightmares for over a month before they finally stopped. Though Ashley clearly was traumatized, Aidan still wanted to ride the bus. There have been many mornings and afternoons this year where I have sent one kid on the bus and driven the other. Aidan always wanted to ride the bus, and she wouldn't step foot on it. At least not until today.

I'm not quite sure why, and I wasn't going to question her choice, but she wanted to ride the bus home. She wanted me to walk her to the bus pick-up area, and made sure that I would be at the bus stop when they got there. She wanted to try it again. She got off the bus with a huge smile on her face. She did it. You have no idea how proud I am of my little girl today.

7 more weeks

Today is a good day. Well, at least for me it is. After 11 consecutive days at home, almost all of which were spent stuck indoors, the kids are going back to school. Two snow days, two weekends and a Spring Break. Before noon on the first day in the stretch, Aidan was complaining about being bored. It's been a long 11 days. School is back in session. Yay!

I used to think my Dad was a dork for loving that Staples commercial. You know the one. Where the Dad is leaping with joy, throwing school supplies into the cart, singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year". His kids moping behind him, embarrassed by their goofy father. Of course, not having kids myself yet when it first came out, I didn't get it. How could going back to school be wonderful?

But then I had kids. And I realized just how wonderful school is. Don't get me wrong, school is a lot of work. For them and for me. The waking up early, getting everyone fed, brushed, dressed and out the door. The constant stream of activities. The homework. Making lunches, and asking about a million times if they found that library book yet. Reassuring a shy and clingy child that everything will be fine, giving kisses goodbye, and making sure that no matter what else is going on that I will be at school before that last bell rings.

School pretty much is a constant interference in the lives of the little ones. Naps are almost always cut short by needing to go pick someone up or drop someone off. Poor AJ sleeps in his carseat more often than his bed on school days. Ally has been dragged to school more than once, half asleep, hair matted and cranky.

It's all worth it though. For those 6 glorious hours, they are at school. It is the most wonderful time of the year. There are only 7 weeks left of school, and I have to enjoy them as much as possible. Summer is coming.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We're All In This Together

Ashley finally got to celebrate her 6th birthday properly today. She's been waiting for 6 weeks to have her party, and I'm sure she would tell you that it was worth the wait. She's just a bit obsessed with High School Musical, and of course had to have a HSM party.

We spent a couple days cleaning the house, since it's one of the proverbial two steps forward, one step back kind of processes. She actually gets excited about cleaning, especially if I ask her to dust. We finished up with just enough time to get the decorations up before her friends came. As with all major holidays and birthdays, Mickey got dressed up too. Fortunately, Uncle TJ was around to help with the streamers. It's good to know someone really tall on party days.

We took some pictures before, and a few times during the party. Most of the other girls at the party aren't huge fans of HSM like Ashley, but they were good sports about it. We made some crafts, sang a little karaoke, and handed out the fabulous sunglasses. Because it was so cold, we had to do the pinata inside this time. Somehow, no one was hit and all the furniture survived. Poor Aidan didn't get to hit the pinata, since he was the last in line, but he didn't mind too much. He got some candy, and that's all that mattered.

Ashley gots tons of HSM goodies, some Littlest Pet Shop toys and a big giant wooden gold A for the wall in her room. So it can be fabulous, just like her. The most entertaining portion of the afternoon, lost on the kids, was Tom and another dad singing karaoke. Yes, I did get it on video. :)

Happy Birthday Ashley! We love you!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's Time

Aidan was a gigantic baby, but he didn't start out that way. He was a pretty little guy at first, and lost a lot of weight during his stay in the NICU. Once he figured out how to eat though, he caught up quickly. Soon, he was flirting with the top of the growth charts, and has landed in the 95th percentile or higher for both height and weight ever since then. He outgrew the carseat carrier by the time he was 3 months old.

Ashley was a teeny baby, and she stayed that way. She was 18 pounds or so at a year, and gained less than 2 pounds that second year. She started walking in newborn size 1 shoes. And she wore her 3-6 month clothes forever. It wasn't until she was about 4 or so that she developed hollow leg syndrome and started to grow like a weed. We really thought that Ally would catch her.

Ally is the only kid in our family who has been pretty consistently in the middle ranges of the growth charts. She's always been just about average. She was a roly poly thing as a baby, even her forearms had fat rolls. She still falls near the middle of the charts, a little on the shorter side. Don't know where she might get that from.

When we found out that AJ was a boy, I just figured that he would be like Aidan. That he'd outgrow diapers, clothes, shoes and the carseat quickly. That he would be in 6 month clothes for sure by winter. Not exactly. He was the smallest of them all at birth, only 6 pounds, 3 ounces. We thought he would be like Aidan, and pack on the pounds fast. Nope. He's still a little guy.

He's so little that people often ask me how old he is, then they guess that he's about 3 or 4 months old. Strangers comment on how well he can hold his head up. Well, I should hope so, since he's 7 1/2 months old! Even teeny little Ashley had a few pounds and more than 2 inches on him at this age.

If I had to guess, he's probably a hair over 15 pounds these days. As I write this, he is wearing a size 1 diaper. And it fits. Almost all of his 0-3 month clothes would still fit, if I hadn't taken them out of his room. I need some variety.

I've had several friends have babies since he was born, and they are almost all bigger than he is. It's like he knew that he was my last, and that I wanted a baby for as long as possible this time around. Like I get bonus baby time.

He's such a peanut that he still fits in the cradle. Aidan was out of it by 2 months. The girls by 3, maybe 4 months. When he starts kicking, he can get it swinging pretty good. Tom has been telling me that we need to move him into his own room for a while. And we do. It's time.

Some of My Most Popular Posts