Family Circus

No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys. - Doug Horton



I am surrounded by women in their fifties who look fantastic, are loving life and appreciate all fifty-plus years of their respective lives. I've never been scared to turn thirty. I don't know about forty, but fifty looks like a blast! I was proud to turn thirty last year on this day. My thinking was that my chronological age had finally caught up with my emotional age. Folks have been guessing my age to be about thirty since I was seventeen. Now that I'm Thirtysomething, people have stopped saying, "You're just a kid." They've begun to say, "You're young." I like that. I have other adults finally treating me as a peer. Woo-hoo!

In celebration, the girls woke me before 5AM this morning to tell me Happy Birthday and ask what kind of cake I'd be baking today. Bake a cake for my own birthday? Nah. It's just another day. Just another Family Circus performance.


Dilemmas, dilemmas

As part of our evening routine (read: T-minus 90 minutes until bedtime), one of my daughters chooses a book for me to read to them, and one for them to read to me. Halie and Catie each have 'choosing days', where they can sit in any seat in the house/car, choose what books we read, but has also been pre-determined to be bathed first. Odd days are Halie's, Evens are Catie's.

That said, yesterday was Halie's choosing day. She chose one of David Shannon's books to read to me, A Bad Case of Stripes. He offers straightforward stories that are written from the child's perspective: No David, David Goes to School. Halie also chose a book that she loves for me to read at bedtime: Where the Wild Things Are, by author/illustrator, Maurice Sendak. Beautifully illustrated, featured in the picture above.

Halie read her chosen book to me, Catie and Rosie, with some help of course. All of my daughters get serious when I read about the Wild Things, and I was at the point in the story where Max is sent to his room without dinner, when I heard a resonant rumble against the leather next to me. Halie and I locked eyes, and she said, "Pardon me." I thanked her and was about to continue the story when the smell hit me - like a wet wool blanket - heavy and unbearable. Catie, who was seated on the other side of her well-mannered sister, reached to pinch her nose and hold it closed. Catie drew in her first breath through her mouth, and said, "Yuck! It tastes bad, too!" Halie just smiled.

So that is always a dilemma. Would you rather Smell it or Taste it?


Exclusive Members Only

Why is it that when we, as parents, meet new people and find out that they have children, we feel an instant connection? When getting to know strangers, I make more effort to make my life 'transparent', often sharing the gory details of life as a stay-at-home mom, simply to see who bolts first. Usually it's the folks with no kids, who are rushing to book an appointment to get sterilized.

I find myself tempted to get caught up in the inevitable oneupmanship when comparing the horror stories of parenthood:

"Johnny drew on the underside of our coffee table with crayons once."

"Susie drew on the big-screen TV with markers. Thankfully they were washable."

"Really? My two-year-old colored every inch of flesh between her socks and her shorts with a Sharpie. Two hours and a Brillo pad later, her legs were still a sick shade of gray."

I have good reason for avoiding these conversations: My daughters have done the same thing, to the extreme, and I always sound like I'm making up the story. I'm not. I promise.

My DH and I discussed what it was actually like to be a Fraternity brother. I asked once if he shared things with fellow brothers that he'd never say to anyone else. "Of course", he answered.

That makes sense. Of course you share things with the members of your exclusive club that you keep from John Q. Public.

So that's what being a parent means: Perpetual membership in the Exclusive Parenthood Club.

I won't even tell you what the yearly dues are.


Authority Issues

The current series of messages at church is titled Authority Issues. When our pastor threw out the 'teaser' for this series a few weeks ago, my thoughts were: I'm sure that I have no authority issues.


My husband would beg to differ.

In the eleven years we've been together, I have grown my hair out past my shoulders three times ( of my own volition and to DH's delight) and always find myself thinking of cutting it off again. Eventually, I do just that. My hair has been short most of my adult life, as well as nearly every color that occurs in nature, and one that I'm sure my Heavenly Father was shaking His head at. Unfortunately, most of those varying shades have been captured on film and are on display within my family. My husband wonders why I'd ever want a color other than my natural red, and shared with me that there was a time when he wondered what color my hair would be when he came home from work. I loved the change. Something new and different everyday! Then, on my 21st birthday, I shaved my head. Just so I could check it off the list of things I wanted to accomplish before 30 rolled around. No biggie for me - it's just hair. It always grows back (it does for girls, anyway).
My husband has been most hurt when I have asked for his opinion on my potential choice of hairdo/hair color, then do something totally different. My DH hates surprises. I love them! I tell people that when we married, I couldn't balance a checkbook to save my own life, and DH couldn't spell 'checkbook' to save his. Sure, we're opposites in some respects, but we share similar personalities, and a love of Texas Hold 'Em. Let me make this clear: My DH does not decide what hairdo or haircolor I wear. It is on my head. Out of respect for him, I do let him know before I leave the house what he can expect to see when I return. Just so he has no surprises.

Today's message dealt with what Scripture says about the sexes, and our Authority Issues. Men should be under the 'umbrella' of God, loving their wives sacrificially. Wives should submit to their husband, joining him under God's protective 'umbrella'. Our pastor relayed that he was feeling like a tiny man in a tiny row-boat, holding a bible, explaining one tiny verse. He also felt that he was faced by a Battleship, and that the women were aiming the machine guns at him even as he was speaking. I can say that I do like deferring to my husband in some instances. The pastor demonstrated my attitude best when he put on a great smile, and spoke through his teeth: "Sure. I'm submitting, but I really don't want to. " The message reiterated that marriage is not a contract to sign, but a covenant you enter into. Amen.

Plus, we made a deal: The person that decides to leave takes the kids with them!

We had a surprise musical group leading our worship today. It was as if the entire congregation had been invited to watch The Newsboys rehearsing. They were so casual and joyful. Joy-Filled! They drew us in and made us want to dance. We rocked!!


I cannot win!

Just shy of one week of wearing a tube sock securely taped above the elbow on her left arm had stopped Rosie's finger-sucking (and prevented high orthodontist bills in the future). Just to prevent any compensation using her other hand, I've also been 'socking' her right hand at bedtime. I cannot put it past her to suddenly switch to sucking on her right-hand fingers. An added bonus: With her hands trapped, Rosie seemed ill-equipped to get to her diapers. She loves to streak through the living room in all her apple-cheeked glory.
Since we were out late last night for Date Night, I figured that Rosie would sleep late this morning.

Boy was I wrong.

I didn't even set the alarm clock. I had closed Rosie's bedroom door, knowing that while she could reach the knob and make it rattle, she still was unable to actually turn it. The familiar rattle of the doorknob woke me this morning, and as I was throwing off the sheets, a familiar odor hit me. Oh no. It couldn't be. Pleasepleasepleaseplease.

The smell grew stronger as I neared Rosie's room. When I opened the door, I was met by a sweet-smiling, poop-smeared toddler, who was sans apparel except for the preventive socks. At that moment, simultaneously, Rosie said her very first sentence: "Mah-Mah, POOP!", and she darted past me and headed for the leather sofa. I darted to the bathroom to start filling the tub for an all-out decontamination. I was still reeling from the sweet smile/pooptastrophe/first meaningful words combination, so when I made it into the living room, she was still smiling, seated in the middle of the sofa. I pulled the tube socks off her arms, then tossed them in the trash. You cannot prevent everything, I say.

When Rosie has raided her own diaper before, I would normally hold my daughter with stiff arms, and while refusing to give into the urge to barf, seat her in the empty bathtub then begin running water. Not today. I was so overwhelmed with love and pride for my baby who had not spoken more than gibberish before today. My heart was flooded and my usual frustration swept away by the emotional tide that this milestone moment evoked. I kissed her on the only part of her tiny body that was not contaminated (the very top of her head) before I carried Rosie, stiff-armed, to the bathtub. I plunked her in the bathtub, scrubbed every inch of her, redressed her, then tackled the fecal fallout in her room. Most importantly, she survived, I survived, and we managed not to wake anyone else in the house. I am done with trying to divert my baby's finger-sucking. I figure that she'll have to keep them out of her mouth to say her vows, pledge her eternal love, then kiss her beloved husband. Until then, let Rosie have 'em!


My children ARE angels!

Tonight was Date Night at church. This event happens once per calendar quarter. Inexpensive childcare from 6-8PM on the church campus, dinner at the restaurant of our own choosing, then entertainment from 8-9PM, back on-campus. The comedian Bob Smiley ( father of three boys), made us alternately laugh, cry, clap and cheer tonight- about things that happen to all parents. His final thoughts for tonight were words that rang true in my heart: " I know that my children are angels sent straight from heaven. God must have been ready for some more peaceful times up there."



As a Kindergartener last year, Halie raised more than a few eyebrows. When she grew tired of simply raising eyebrows, she aimed to elicit gasps. Quickly, the gasps grew old, and Halie made it her goal to spend large spans of the school year in the In-School Suspension (ridiculously labeled The HELP Room). As parents, we had to trust the administration of this school, who probably had a combined tenure of 80+ years in education. Even the tried-and-true tactics for non-corporal punishment had absolutely no effect on Halie. We knew that we were being consistent to a fault at home, and saw none of the described behavior. So the school kept doing the same old things, and our daughter never 'snapped into line'. I think that's the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and over, expecting a different result every time. Good word to sum up our feelings about how our child was handled. Insanity.

This year, however, is most promising, despite Halie's poor choices already made this year. DH and I figure that between the two of us and our respective family bloodlines, each of our daughters got two heaping helpings of stubborn. Halie for sure!
Halie began first grade at a new elementary school within the same district. Walking her to class the first day, I did not see one adult, either parent or staff, who was not helpful and smiling. Ms. F had a strong Italian name, a solid stance and a firm handshake when I met her. Halie introduced herself, of course, and went in to find her seat. Ms. F asked me to write down Halie's departure instructions, and bid me goodbye. Huh! We'll see how she handles Hurricane Halie.

When I returned to retrieve my six- year- old, the teacher who seemed so gruff with me that morning had a broad smile on her face, and hugged Halie, then told me that Halie had an excellent day. Wow! I asked my DH to pinch me. OW! I was only kidding.

I didn't hold my breath waiting to hear rubber soles colliding with linoleum.

Meet the Teacher night was great, although I think my DH was the only male in the room. We were obviously eager students, as we took the two seats directly in the center of the front row.
We were the only ones to ask any questions, but wouldn't have had to ask any of them if we had looked over the flyer Ms. F handed us as we walked in. The teacher with the strong Italian name, spoke very softly as she explained to us that she became a teacher when she divorced and became a single mother of two kids. She went on to tell us that each year, she 'adopts' our kids, and becomes greatly interested in their well-being. As Ms. F continued to talk about the rules of her classroom, she didn't have my full attention. I was absorbed by the emotions that I was feeling for this teacher who I'd only seen once before. I asked myself, " Where was this loving, involved teacher last year?" I was brimming with tears of joy when she finished speaking and asked all the parents to sign up for various activities. I immediately signed up to be the Homeroom Mom. I didn't realize how much this teacher and I would talk over the phone within the next three weeks.

So, Halie's in week three of First Grade. Yeah, I agree. It's silly to count the initial back-to-school Thursday and Friday as a whole week, but who am I? The dream-like scenario with Halie at her new school lasted at least this long.
Ms. F has called me every day this week. Halie's stealing things from her classmates' desks. My goodness, that's one way to get yourself alienated right off the bat, eh?
What a blessing it is to have Ms. F in the same corner as me and my DH. Our conversations usually begin with her trying to 'soften the blow' as she tells me what Halie's done this time. I then do my best to explain (again) that there is nothing that will shock or surprise me. Halie's been in hot water for breaking just about every rule at some point, and more than a few in one day.

Today, Ms. F called me again. I made it a point to ask her about her Italian last name. "I was my husband's," she told me. Turns out she's from the fifth generation of pure Irish bloodline! Her son and daughter have the same fiery genetic combination that my Paternal Grandparents spawned long ago. I shared with her my thoughts on my daughter's tendency to get bored and escalate negative behaviors just to get an bigger reaction. Ms. F told me that she had always been cautious about choosing her battles, then she said "I am truly stubborn, and no matter what I am determined to win!"

DH and I finally have an ally who desires consistency between home AND school. There's no way that our oldest daughter stands a chance.


Fish Killers

We had a lovely aquarium that my father gave to us when his trendy fish upgraded to a tank with more square footage and a larger backyard for their fry. Actually, I think he just switched to saltwater fish. Thank you, Dad. When it left our home, it set up residence with another family who have creative preschoolers. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa! After we had it all set up: pebbles, plants , pump, and PH balanced water, my DH took the girls shopping for freshwater fish to bring home. They picked out several, and we did what you're supposed to do to acclimate them to our tank. We made a big deal every morning about feeding the fish. A pinch of flakes once a day, no more, no less. Our new pets looked happy. At least for a few days.

One of the repercussions of a traumatic brain injury is that when I stop moving, I fall asleep. Sound asleep. In the winter of 2003, four months after being released from the hospital, I was still plagued by that particular problem. Believe me, my girls KNOW IT! To this day, if they see me looking drowsy while watching a cartoon with them, the girls will do anything to make me comfortable enough to nod off:

Momma, you look cold. Could I bring you a blanket?

Lean forward so I can give you this pillow.

It's okay if you rest your eyes, Momma. We'll be fine.

Combine that side-effect with the lack of sleep that is inherent in being the parent of a tiny baby in addition to two preschoolers. I'm saying that I fell asleep in the middle of the day, and it happened more often than I care to admit. My daughters were fine, just as they had promised. I cannot say the same for my Pergo floors or the fish.

I often awoke and then counted the fish, then realized one (or more) had run away, leaving no note of explanation. I often found the fish in water, held captive inside small bathtub toys. So they had not run away, they'd been fish-napped! The last straw was the day that I found the fishes spread among Halie's Barbie tea cups. In her bedroom closet. Halie explained that she had filled her cups with the water from the tank before she snatched the slimy fish right out of their home. Totally exasperated, I called DH and asked his opinion. We agreed on a drastic final consequence. Before Daddy came home from work, we had a Flushing Ceremony, and said goodbye to the fish.

Of course, we made the mistake of putting the tank in the living room in the first place, and within reach of the problem-solving preschoolers. It wasn't actually in reach, but that obstacle was overcome by scaling the furniture to get at those little boogers! I'm not even going to discuss the amount of laundry I had that day, thanks to the towels involved in the fugitive water that escaped from the tank with the fish. Those fish didn't cover their tracks too well. I'm pretty sure that they wanted to be found (read: rescued).

Catie, a short time after saying goodbye to her fish (she's not the one who took them out of the tank), my father, the girls' Papa, gave them Finding Nemo as a Christmas gift. We had a private screening in Papa's DTS-wired living room that very afternoon. The character'Darla' was a little too close to home for my daughters. Catie sobbed afterward, saying, "We're fish killers."

So. We've all agreed: No more pets. Do kids count?


FLASHBACK to Fall 2004

It seemed that Halie had just begun Kindergarten, and we were talking about a perfect attendance record. She was learning quickly, was getting well acclimated to school, and had made a friend of the young boy who lived next door. Shortly after that, I invited him to the park with us, just about two miles away. When I parked in a spot near the playground, Halie, Catie and their new friend made a mad dash for various parts of the park. I had just released one of the restraints on Rosie when I heard a scream. I quickly looked to see the children's' faces.

Had it been the boy? No, he was laughing.

Could it have been Catie? No, she was swinging.

Rosie was still in front of me, with one arm free.

But where was Halie?

I saw another mom running towards me with Halie sulking behind her. The woman was yelling that Halie had a split lip, and was seriously bleeding. The helpful mom ran to her car to get fast-food napkins to absorb the flow, while Halie approached me. My brave daughter was not crying, with her hands covering her mouth, when reality hit me: those tiny hands were covered in blood. As I'm comforting ALL the kids, my thoughts were these:

Oh great.

Do I have my cell phone? No.

D0 I have my purse? No.

Do I have my driver's license or insurance card? NO! Damn.

The Good Samaritan Mom gave Halie the wad of napkins while I loaded all my kids, plus the neighbor's son back into the van. Poor Rosie never even touched the ground!

My brain switched instantly over to what I call 'Medic Mode' - I became very matter-of-fact about the whole thing. I drove back to our house where I knew my DH was, and didn't have to say a word to the neighbor about heading back to his house pronto. The boy who is normally a beautiful shade of latte was almost the color of notebook paper. I asked the girls to stay put while I ran into the house.

My husband greeted me as I walked in the front door. ( He knew something was wrong, since I didn't come in through the garage.) I explained that I needed to take Halie to the ER because she'd come up against a playground bully and she was bleeding from her mouth. While I retrieved my license and insurance card, DH took a wet washcloth out to our daughter, thinking I was too calm for Halie to be seriously injured. I must be dramatizing a minor injury. As I stepped out the front door, I saw DH backing away from the van. Quickly, he turned and ran for the house. When he passed me, my DH blurted out, "I'll meet you there!"

Luckily, we live about four blocks from the ER, and Halie was taken in right away. She required six stitches to close the split between her upper lip and the base of her nose. The plastic surgeon, knowing my medical background (read: EMT, which is just enough knowledge to avoid sounding like an idiot), invited me to observe the intricate procedure of restoring my daughter's smile. What an honor! I had not actually looked at the injury until that point. After the first stitch, I was feeling a little woozy, and started looking for a chair - fast. The surgeon laughed and said to me, "It's just not the same when it's your child, is it?"

Halie had to miss school the next day (doctor's orders), but I finally got the story from the victim. When she returned to school, she had some serious bragging rights. Well, at least as much as respect as a small child who has been viciously attacked by a steel-spring-mounted, concrete-set carousel horse can get.

Okay, second time in less than five years we've been to the ER for this child. I'm not kidding when I tell folks that my girls are actually boys in floral prints.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention this: that front tooth she just pulled out? It was knocked loose by the same hostile playground equipment last year. And no, there's no noticeable scar.


What's a djembe anyway?!

My younger sister has taught herself to play many instruments: the organ before she started Kindergarten, guitar before high school, piano after high school, and finally hand-percussion drums: congos, a djembe, as well as empty 5 gallon bottles. You name it. ( Sorry my seester if my memory fails me now, I can always update later if you let me know what I've forgotten)) While I took private vocal training, my sister took none. I still cannot carry a tune, even if it comes with a built-in handle, and my sister has been blessed with a naturally powerful, golden voice, and a CD or two. I did play a French Horn long ago, took private lessons, and never did master it. Now, all I can play is the radio! In fact, if one of my girls hears my vocal attempts over the songs on the radio, she asks me to turn it up. Not Rosie, though. She still hasn't figured out that I'm no Kelly Clarkson. Any day now, that illusion is history!
I admire the woman that my sister has become. She's evidence of our family 'motto': 'When you get knocked down, stand up, dust yourself off, and go somewhere that you can make your mark.' I think she's done better than dusting herself off. My sister hit the ground rolling! Okay, so it's not our motto. Our Italian family motto would be more like : 'Are you lookin' at me? Do youwannapieceofme? Would you like to sleep with the fishes?' Just kidding. We're much more subtle than that. Heehee.
As a young woman, my sister married her best friend and sweetheart in a ceremony that will live forever in history, six years ago this weekend. Her husband is just about as funny and likeable as they come, brave enough to celebrate entering his thirties by wearing a purple mohawk, as well as a man of God, and I'm honored just to call him family. Their marriage has been amazing to watch, as they began a new church, genuinely reach out to the community, and are still leading worship for the body of believers. My sister, an expectant mommy, is indeed making her mark for the glory of God. Did I mention how excited I am to be an Aunt-to-be?

Why not? She'll always be MY baby!

Friday, I visited with another mom, L., whose daughter sucks the same two middle fingers of her left hand as my Rosie. The woman's daughter is almost ten years old, and is having some orthodontic issues. This child has alignment issues, and cannot even close her jaw properly. L. was referred to an orthodontic specialist, who fitted her nine-year-old with a semi-permanent brace for the roof of her mouth, that features spikes that make it impossible for the child to suck those fingers without injuring herself. The orthodontist shared with L. that his own son had the same sucking habit, and it came down to all-out war to get him to stop. The doctor wound up cutting short pieces of PVC to fit his son's hands, then tying them on overnight for a long time. L. assumes that she's in for much of the same, since she found her daughter's orthodontic brace on the bedside table after only three days.
L. shared that she had let her daughter continue into childhood because it was a soothing habit. hat, and she has three other children, older and younger, to tend to. That's exactly why I feel it necessary to defend Rosie in regards to her habit. I consider my daughter still a baby and that she uses that same sucking to comfort herself. Rosie's still in diapers, for goodness sake! I also know that I do not want to have an school-aged child to pick a fight with. Rosie is still young enough to be easily diverted. As I shared in my profile, she inherited my determination (read: stubborn, strong-willed spirit), and I don't know if I can win that fight if I wait until she's older!


"Mr. Leave Me Alone"

Once all the girls are awake each morning, it usually takes about the same amount of time for the arguing to begin as it does for me to toast a waffle. It makes me grateful to have a large enough vehicle that allows me to position Hatfield Halie, and McCoy Catie out of reach of each other. I figure it helps them to develop vocabulary as they try to think up more and more creative ways to verbally spar with each other. They were recently given foam headbands with pink rabbit ears, promoting the battery with the drum-bashing bunny mascot. The girls proudly wore them on the drive yesterday, with permission, of course. After five minutes of listening to their conversation (read: bickering), I finally asked them to try pretending that they were sweet little bunnies. Catie introduced herself to her sister as 'Little Miss Carrot'. Halie did not respond, so Catie repeated herself, adding, "What's your name, mister bunny?" Halie turned and scowled as she said, "I'm Mister Leave Me Alone." I had to congratulate Halie for making an effort to use her Big Girl Words, then I joined all the other passengers metaphorically rolling on the floor!


Full of Hot Air

Grandma and Grandpa treated us to a local event this morning that involved us rising early ( DH says it was at o-dark-hundred hours), and heading to pick up Grandma and Grandpa. The Lion's Club Balloon Festival began with hot air balloons filling, launching, then coasting just above the lake nearby. We arrived as another cluster of balloons were setting up and taking off. My daughters (even the baby) stared in wonder for a few moments, then began asking for food. That's my girls for ya!
Grandpa sought out a stand that offered several versions of the Lemon Chill frozen treats. Of course, he consulted with the oldest two of my daughters before buying the goodies for them. Shortly after that, we realized that none of the actual food stands were open, and the transportable rides were still shut down and locked up ( how late do carnies sleep?). There were various fair booths full of handmade wood items, and some tie-dyed clothing from infant to adult sizes. There was a unique station that got our attention. There was a man working clay on a pottery wheel next to a sign that read: $10, includes all supplies! Grandma and I had a good laugh as we continued past the man. We joked that he would have to pay ME $10 for the supplies necessary to clean my daughters afterward!
Grandma and Grandpa had originally planned to make an entire morning of this event, then take us to lunch as well. Since all of the food and water/rides were closed at this point (9AM), we headed out to breakfast. Since the restaurant had a good portion reserved for a party, we sat in the far corner. The girls were on their best behavior, so I have no antics to share from that meal. Thanks again for breakfast, Grandpa!
When we were done with breakfast, we drove to drop off Grandma and Grandpa. While waiting at an intersection, Halie gasped dramatically, pointed out the windshield, and cried, "Oh! Oh! I see a hot air balloon! It's right there!" We all began surveying the sky, but saw nothing. Nada. Not even a cloud. When the signal changed moments later, and we began to roll, Halie realized that she'd been pointing at the top of a gigantic cement truck that she had mistaken for a 'big white hot air balloon'.


"You see, when two grown ups really love each other..."

Every time I had a positive pregnancy test, I asked my husband the same question: How did this happen? He replied exactly the same way each time. My DH took me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes, and with a straight face said, " You see honey, when two grown ups love each other, these things happen." My DH says the same thing when I ask, "Where did this pen come from?". DH: "You see, when two pens really love each other..." Grrr.

I seem to be out in public, with the girls, when the most personal questions come from folks I've never met. Like, "Did you intend to have so many kids?", to which I repetitively reply, "We finally found a doctor that was able to explain the part of our eighth-grade health class that we slept through, and he put a stop to it for us! " I 'm also frequently asked: "Aren't you going to try again for a boy?", to which I say, "My husband likes having a house full of girls." or "My girls are actually boys in floral prints!"

Texans are close to having a monopoly on hospitality, but they should seek a session from Miss Manners before practicing on strangers!

While I'm on the subject of fielding questions, I will reach out to my Mommy Sorority Sister, Liz, who is preparing for her second delivery. To say that I was not educated about childbirth while I carried my first daughter would be kind. My OB asked me what kind of delivery I wanted, and I gave her a confused stare in response. When she kindly explained what she was talking about, I told her that I would think for a week and tell her at my next OB visit. A week later, I knew what I wanted. When the OB asked the same question, I said , "I would like a Beverly Hills delivery." This was the OB's turn to look confused! She indicated that she did not know what that meant. "It means that you knock me out after the first contraction, and don't wake me up until my hairdresser and publicist arrive!" She had a good laugh. I had an emergency caesarian anyway - never had even one contraction. Second daughter, I labored 30+ hours, no meds, and even that birth ended in caesarian. Third daughter, I had a broken pelvis anyway, so another caesarian. Third times a charm, so it is said. You go, Liz!


Martha Stewart doesn't live here

While I do manage to keep up with the dishes and laundry that two adults and three kids make, the rest of the house gets cleaned on an as needed basis. If I feel compelled to wear my shoes while inside my own home, it's time to get down to business. Of course, I try to wait until there are no children demanding my attention. That seldom happens. Not even on weekends. Take any given weekend, for example:

To Do List: 1) Clean Master Bathroom Shower

So, at 10AM, I put on a previously recorded cartoon for the girls to watch, in the living room. I know that they have been bathed, fed and watered, so I figure they're good for 25-30 minutes. More than enough time for me to scrub the shower down. I've already got my cleaning tools, I'm good!

I was wrong. Here's how it usually goes:

10:03AM Halie: MOM! Rosie's in DANGER!

10:06AM Catie: Momma! Can you help me draw a dragonfly? Please?

10:10AM Halie: MOM! Rosie's in DANGER!

10:17AM Catie: Come see this, Mom. You're gonna get mad, but it's so cool!

10:20AM Halie: Oh gross. Momma, Rosie's got poop on her hands!

10:29AM Catie: Mommy, Could you read me this story?

Just so outsiders get a glimpse of what a Saturday is like for me. And that's just one half hour of one Saturday. Most folks get at least two days off, maybe a weekend. I willingly signed on for a 24/7 career for at least the next 18 years. Yeah, I still I love my job. I'd never trade for a 9 to 5 , behind a desk kind of job, and I do have loving, helping hands closeby. And a phone to call those helping hands...


Oh, Yeah? I Double-Dog-Dare you !

My oldest (Halie, 6) pulled out another of her front teeth recently, as we were leaving for church. And to answer your questions: NO, no one dared her to, and YES, it was already loosened after a nasty playground mishap in 2004, that ended with stitches. When I called Halie to join us as we were leaving, she came around the corner with a wide, gap-toothed smile. She had blood across her lower face, neck and hands, but managed to keep her white t-shirt pristine. I did remember her asking for a tissue, then spending an extra few minutes in her bathroom. She never complained about any discomfort. Who could have guessed she was doing her own dental work? So, after Halie was cleaned up, and she had put the tooth in a special snack-sized plastic bag to leave under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy, we left for church. When we arrived at church, Halie told anyone who would listen about her dental hijinks, then displayed the gaping hole in her gums (read: she stopped complete strangers in the parking lot). Halie's brave, and she likes to have others marvel at her fearless feats. Again, I have no idea where she gets that. She'll either be a surgeon, or a sword swallower, but I'll have to wait a few years to find out which.
Oh yeah. The Tooth Fairy keeps getting more generous as Halie progressively loses her teeth. First tooth = one dollar, two dollars for the next tooth, and this time three dollars. I figure we'd better tell her the truth about the Tooth Fairy. The truth wil break her heart, but NOT telling her will break us!


Safety in numbers

If you don't know me... scratch that. Actually, if you've never met me, you wouldn't know that I'm outgoing. I'm serious. Never met a stranger. So, it was easy for me to stop another mom yesterday, as she walked with her brood down the street that Grandma lives on. I introduced myself, and introduced my daughters. Grandma's neighbor, G., explained that as she walked by my car with her own kids, my first-grader was hanging out the window introducing herself! Hmm. Don't know where Halie gets it.
G. has a third grader and a Kindergartener that attend the same elementary school. I shared my concern with Halie walking to our designated meeting spot. I am uneasy with the idea of Halie walking all alone, even if it is just to the edge of the school campus. I know. I can hear moms everywhere shouting: You have to begin letting go now! Soon enough, I say to those moms.
G. and her third grade daughter generously offered to meet up with Halie and walk her across campus each day to find me. I'm convinced that folks are this friendly in other places. Texans don't have a monopoly on hospitality. You just have to be a friend to make a friend!

Halie now has a friend to walk with when she leaves the security of her school. Now, I've got to see a nail tech about these nails that I've chewed...


My daughter is an artist!

Although it has been a few weeks since I've seen her exquisite artwork, I'd venture to say that each masterpiece that Rosie creates is truly priceless. It never lasts long, though. About as long as it takes me to scrub down the walls in her room. Rosie is far too young for paint or markers, in my opinion, and at just two years old, she's still eating enough crayons to turn her diapers unbelievable colors. So my toddler does not have access to what normal folks consider necessary for 'art'. Lacking the proper supplies for art hasn't slowed Rosie down. My first grader coined the word for Rosie's fecal fingerpainting. The word, Pooptastrophe, rolls off the tongue so smoothly, when it's fairly hard to make any word sound nice while pinching one's nose. Genius, such great creative genius, my first grader possesses.

Without exception, Rosie needs more than a few piddly wipes to get clean. I believe that she must share her sister's genius. I think that only a very creative child would cram her own poop into every orifice and crevice on her tiny body. Forget wipes. It takes a new Brillo pad, and maybe my husband's power sprayer to get all the poop off. Then, lots of Neosporin and bandages for the baby's skin... Honestly, we chose to paint the baby's room with Kids Paint, making the walls a nonstick surface, so it wipes clean easily. Occasionally, my DH gives me some time outside our home. In turn, occasionally, Rosie treats her father to a piece of her distasteful design. My DH naturally reached for wipes, and Rosie just laughs, like:

'Mwah-ha-ha-ha. Silly man! You think those will rescue you?

When my DH and I are at home together, and such a fragrant episode occurs, my DH defers to me on the cleanup. I guess he figures that I naturally have a stronger stomach than he does. (read: DH thinks that the time I spent riding in the back of an ambulance/serving in the ER and getting various bodily substances on my clothing makes me less likely to barf while cleaning and make a bigger mess.) I've got news for him. Having our three children, under five years old' under one roof, in my exclusive care is what did it! Some days were all about survival. Whew!

Rosie has not suffered enough boredom in her crib lately to resort to creating another Stinky Masterpiece for me to marvel at. We have given her near freedom, by removing the gate from her crib, and putting the mattress on the very lowest setting. She can get in and out as she wishes. That's good and bad. For now, I'll quote Martha when I say, "It's a good thing." Okay, let see: No gate on the crib = no pooptastrophies. Why didn't I think of this long ago?


Breathe, baby. BREATHE!

My husband's parents, I will call by the titles Grandma and Grandpa, since that's what my girls call them. I can assure you that they raised two well-adjusted adult children of their own (one of whom I married), and probably have never had a story like one posted here, on this blog! They are parents to be admired, and I'm especially blessed to have married into their family. Grandma called to invite me and the girls to lunch today at our favorite restaurant. I said , "Yes", then put the 'finishing touches' on while my daughters got themselves dressed (great thing about having a 6 and a 4 year old - they can DO that!). I kissed my DH goodbye as he was leaving for work, and went to pick up the rest of our 'party'.

We had a waiter who introduced himself and said that he had never seen us before, to spite the fact that we consider ourselves regulars. He seemed very amiable to begin with.

At least he seemed so at this point.

When Rosie started unremarkably dropping crayons, then her kids' menu, and finally her silverware on the floor, the waiter dutifully picked them up and looked at me. I explained that after Rosie has deliberately dropped something, she doesn't get it back. It's my way of avoiding the inevitable 'I drop this and Mommy gives it back - every time' game with my daughter. The young man rolled his eyes and walked away. I began to keep a running score in my mind. Strike one.

When the appetizers arrived,I gave the baby some fried pieces of the appetizer (aren't they all fried?), and my own fork to eat with. Of course, when Rosie had cleaned her plate (babies always love anything fried, don'tcha know) she also tossed my fork on the floor. When the waiter came to refill our drinks, he looked driectly at me and said, "She's going to clear us out of silverware and kids' menus!". While I was definitely feeling what Klingons call 'aggressive tendencies' , I put on my best Poker Face and calmly replied, "That's why I don't give them back." Strike two.

We waited an unsettling amount of time for that same waiter to return with the bill for our lunch. We had all finished eating at one point before he surfaced again, and Rosie was ready for a nap (read: she was whining and squirmy), and Grandma graciously offered to take her for a walk outside. Rosie reached for her Grandma, eager to be out of that high-chair. Grandma hoisted Rosie to her shoulder, and began to walk toward the door. When Rosie realized I was not going to join them on their stroll, she began to 'wind-up' for a wail. Her face crumpled up, tears started rolling down her cheeks, legs kicking, arms flailing, but no sound came out. I followed them with my eyes all the way to the door, mentally (and verbally) pleading with Rosie to breathe, baby. Breathe, Rosie. Come on BREATHE! As Grandma headed out the door, I heard the first of Rosie's protests. Then, I could start breathing again. Whew!

I know the waiter had nothing to do with my daughter crying, but making us wonder if he'd 'fallen in': Strike three!



Halie at 6 months old
I arrived at Halie's school thirty minutes before the bell rang, and had a primo spot in what became the Minivan/SUV Queue that extended to the end of the adjacent street. Rosie and I sang happily to the CD that DH burned for us (okay, I sang while Rosie sucked a Dum-Dum and cheered for me like I was Mariah Carey giving her a private concert) When Halie came out with her classmates, I called to her by her full name, since there are so many Halie-Haley-Haylees, and my first-grader approached me wearing a scowl. My oldest daughter said, "This is NOT where you are supposed to meet me!" Halie explained the plan that she and her Daddy had concocted on the drive to the school this morning. I told her that she could walk to the far edge of the campus, and I would meet her there. As Halie ran down the sidewalk, the driveway forced me left while she headed right. I had to wait for what seemed like freakin' forever for a break in the line of cars to turn toward the spot where Halie and I agreed to meet. When I reached that spot, Halie was nowhere in sight. I forced myself to count to five before I let my heart rise in my throat. One...two...THREEFOURFIVE! I stepped out of the running car, and shouted to the teachers a few yards away, asking them if they had seen a first-grader wearing a purple shirt that read 'SASSY!' across the front( talk about irony). None of them could recall seeing her. Oh Boy. Oh crap! I couldn't leave the baby in the car to go search for Halie, and I wasn't sure the traffic would allow me to circle back through the front drive of the school. Crap, Crap, Crappity-crap!
As I turned to get back in the car, I saw Grandma's head over the schoolyard fence. I'm so grateful that Grandma lives just three houses down the street that butts up against the school campus. I waved, and she waved in return. My hero!
Halie had agreed with my DH this morning that she could walk around the back of the school, cut between the portable buildings, then cross the street at the dead end ' cove' where there were rarely any cars. The co-conspirators had decided that if Halie could not see me in the car, she could walk to Grandma's house. Grandma and I were wishing that we had been in on that conversation during the ride to school this morning! Oh well. First two days of school are behind us , just 178 more days to go!

So many Halie - Haley - Haylees

All of my daughters are named for significant women in our family, so when I found out that our first baby was a girl, we started bouncing girl names off of each other. Chatting with my mother, she mentioned my great-aunt Halie Jean (also the only redhead in her family, like me) and I was hooked! Our oldest daughter was decidedly Halie even before she was born.
When I called out to my oldest daughter above the sea of elementary school students yesterday, several little heads turned. Now, normally, I'd chock it up to my commanding 'mommy voice' that makes even grown men stop in their respective tracks (my DH pointed that out to me years ago). That was not the case this time, obviously, since only GIRLS turned around to see who had called their name so obnoxiously. Was my awareness of the naming trend in 1998 so stunted that I didn't catch on? DH and I were living in a West Texas town of about 75,000 people. It's a college town. Though it's smaller than where I grew up, I don't think it's socially behind the times. I just don't want anyone to perceive me as a follower. I would have named her Halie anyway! I know that it does not even make the list of the 100 most popular names. I guess that a lot of parents in 1998 had the same thoughts my DH and I: I cannot think of one adult/child named Halie, so why not give our daughter that name? We also thought: She'll be unique among all the Jennifers and Ashleys she'll encounter in school! Turns out that every one of those monikers has a different spelling. One thing that's still unique about her name - the spelling of H-a-l-i-e. It's exactly the same as her great-great-aunt. My daughter has had every phonetic variation of her name written on her paperwork, by someone else, of course. I've only met one other girl with my name in my entire life, and I graduated with that girl, she spelled it E-r-y-n. Maybe I'm thinking too much about this. Yeah - sometimes I can overthink things...


The sigh heard 'round the world

We all survived Halie's first day of First Grade at her new school. Her teacher has a stong Italian name, and considering that she was still smiling at the end of the day, she has a strong spirit to go along with it (maybe she's a distant member of the family?). Halie brings home an orange folder every day with both homework and a behavior log inside. My daughter explained that when she behaves well, the teacher gives her a star sticker to place in the square assigned for that day. Should Halie make unwise choices during the school day, the teacher will make note of it in the aforementioned square. Halie proudly showed me her star for today - and her behavior was reinforced by the teacher's smile as we bid farewell. Last year, the collective sigh from the administration at the elementary school was audible when Halie left for the day. Today, Halie's teacher heard ME sigh with relief.


Whisper please!

Rosie, my 2 year old, had an official hearing test today. The Audiologist told me what I already knew: Rosie hears me just fine. My mother says that at the same age, I had selective hearing. Rosie's pediatrician thinks that her delay in speaking is because she has four people 'translating' each grunt, then giving her what she wants. I thought Rosie was having the same hearing issues that her older sister, Catie, had years ago - that particular problem was resolved with 'tubes' at 18 months, and Catie spoke almost immediately afterward. So, all this time, I've been thinking: 'Raise your voice, and then she'll understand.' Turns out that Rosie can hear me even when I whisper her name!
Okay, so she's not hard- of -hearing, Rosie's hard- of-listening. I expected that my own fiery mane combined with my DH's Irish ancestry would produce at least one redhead. None of my daughters shares my hair color, but they do each possess the flames within! Not angry, but determined, in an obstinate kind of way... It's nice to know what I'm up against: Rosie's mostly feline: She knows darn well what I'm saying, and she's deciding if she wants to comply...Meow!

Tomorrow is a New Day...

Halie has been granted a transfer to another school nearby, and the school year officially begins tomorrow. She will be a First Grader! How quickly time flies. I remember coaching her as she took her very first steps - from my loving arms, directly into her father's waiting grasp. What happened to my baby girl? Nevermind, I know the answer to that question. I've slept since then. So, Halie has showered, brushed her teeth and chosen her clothing for tomorrow, and is gently snoring on her top bunk as I type. Tomorrow holds much promise. And a little dread, as I hope that she has 'grown up' socially over the summer (it was so VERY short!). More to come!

Where's our theme music?

You know, the music you always hear at a Wringling Brothers show.

That should be OUR theme music! Or maybe the theme to 'Batman' would work. Maybe 'Peter Gunn' might be enough warning when my girls are on the scene. It would help - and I could avoid having to explain about how social graces work in our house...


Erin: 31, Emcee. Witty redhead, handy with a whip.

DH: 30, Strong Man. Comedian, defender of virtue.

Halie: 7, Chimpanzee. Pulls teeth, loves bananas.

Catie: 5, Leaping Lemur. Gentle and cuddly, loves grapes.

Rosie: 2, Cappuccin. Flings poo, loves carrots.

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