Search This Blog

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On a Walk

You can never just go on a walk when you're a mom. There always has to be something productive accomplished by it, since leisure is a thing of the distant past. I had collected several things I needed to post on various neighbors' doors, so I said to John and James, "Let's go for a walk!"

I buckled James into the double stroller, and smiled to see John had already buckled himself with the straps criss-crossing crazily. I helped him do it right, then we were off.

At the first house:
Me: Just a minute, guys, I need to put something on the door.
James, sucking on the bar: A da!
John, in a loud, clear, excited voice: Whata you doeen, mom?
Me: I'm putting--
John: Ayoo putteen sumping on da doe?
Me: Yep, I am.
John, tugging at his buckle: Can I hep you?
Me, coming back: I'm all done, buddy, but you can help me with the next one.
John, sitting back: Witha nest one? Ok!

At the second house:
John, volume up as usual: Isit dis one, mom? Can I hep wif dis one?
Me, unbuckling him: Yep! Here, take this and tape it to the glass part of the door.
John, taking the note with enthusiasm: To da gwass pawt? OK! You stay wight deah, mom, and I wi put dis on da doe. Dis is not ow house. Dis is deah house. Dis gwass pawt? Ok. See, I put it on da gwass pawt, mom! I comeen!
Me: The next house is just right there. Do you want to walk or ride?
John, considering the buckle: I wanna walk.--No! I wanna wide!
Me: We won't buckle you, then, because it's really close.
John, twisting to get both ends of the buckle: NOOOOO! I needa be buckowed!

At the third house:
Me: Ok, buddy, you can take this one and tape it to the glass part.
John, hopping up the sidewalk and yelling: OK! Oh! Wookit dat, mom. It's a widdo sidewalk. I wanna go on dat one. Wookit the widdo sidewalk, mom! It's soooo kyoot! I wuvit! Oh, wookit, mom! My bike is jis wike dis one. But dis is not my bike, dis is deah bike.
Me: Ok, bud, put it on the door!
John, recognizing the house: I came heow wass night! I came and pwayed heow wif dat boy!
Me: Yep, you came here once and played. Put the note on the door now, so we can go to the next place.
John, still yelling: Oh! OK! I put it on da gwass pawt, mom!
Lady of the house, coming to see what all the racket is: Oh! Hi, John, Judith!
John, turning: I put sumping on yo doe fo you!
Lady of the house, looking around: You did? I don't see it!
John, obligingly going up to the sidelight and showing her where he had put the note: Wight heow! It's fo you!
Lady of the house: Oh, thank you, John! When are you coming to play again?
John: I dunno. We aw putting sumping on doze.
Me, smiling and waving as John finally comes back: Thanks!

At the fourth house:
John, noticing the rock-paved driveway: Look, mom! Woks! I wanna get some fo my cowection!
Me: Well, you can't take them from the driveway, bud, but here are some on the side of the road you can have.
John, eyeing the rocks: OK! I want five! One, two, fwee, foe, five! OK! I got dem.
Me: Put them in the stroller so you can take the note to the door.
John: Yeah, my hands aw foe wif woks. Deah! No, I wanna keep one. Now I can put da note on da doe!
Me: You put it on that door there, and I'll go over here and put this one on that door, ok?
John, jogging up the sidewalk and yelling: OK! I wi put dis on the gwass pawt, ok, mom? You put dat note on dat doe! Omigosh! Mom!! Mom!! I can heow da echowocation!
Me, stopping dead: The echolocation? Where'd you hear that?
John, jumping around as he yells on the recessed, covered porch: Wissen, mom, to da echowocation!
Lady of the house, opening the door and seeing the note: Did you just give this to me, buddy?
John, still jumping and yelling: Yeah! I puddit on you doe! Wookit my wok! I didn't have a cowection, so I found some woks and I wi find wots and WOTSa woks and put dem in my cowection!
Lady of the house, nodding: Um humm!
John, jumping down the sidewalk: I don't wiv heah, I wiv ova deah.
Me: Ok, John, say 'bye!
John: BYE!!!

At least the point of the walk wasn't exercise.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

I get out the lamb roast I've been saving for the Christmas season. We like to commemorate Christ's birth by eating Middle Eastern food. As I start to carve it up, John runs into the kitchen. "I wanna hep you!" he shouts, and pushes a chair up to the counter (ignoring the stool that waits to be used). He studies the meat. "Is that a tokey?" No, it's a lamb. He brightens. "Oh! A wam-tokey. Can I eat the bwain?"
     Ruth bounces in. "Can I have some oranges?" she asks, grinning affably. Sure! I've got a whole case. She gets two oranges and promptly throws them onto the tile floor. I jump and look at her with concern. "This helps them be juicier, right?" The light goes on and I'm transported 12 years back, to one of endless bleary mornings when I was awakened by a little blond head bobbing by my bed, tugging on my covers and stating in a high, cute voice, "A't ojie juice." Ruth throws and squeezes the oranges until they split, then rips them in half and juices them. At least she can get her own ojie juice now.
     Rachel appears, smiling proudly. On her head is an owl hat--all the rage now but far too expensive to buy. She made the pattern and after only two tries has succeeded in creating her own, for FREE! I compliment her, then ask how my craft room looks now that she's done with it. She looks chagrined and goes back downstairs. Even though she's nearly 15, I know I'll still have to clean up after she cleans up. Sigh!
     The house shakes and a BOOM echoes from the living room. Blake!!! I yell, No backflips in the living room! He grudgingly goes down into the family room. After a while his head pops up over the stair ledge. "Mom! Come see what I learned how to do from YouTube!" Oh, boy. Maybe we should block YouTube after all. I go downstairs and he runs up the wall and flips backward, sticking the landing. I clap, smiling despite my horror, and tell him to please use cushions next time. I decide we need to find some good used tumbling mats before he breaks his head open.
     I head upstairs and find James on his way down. He turns and smiles up at me, his lopsided teeth showing. I chase him back up and he squeals, trying to get away, then turning to make sure I'm still following. At the top of the stairs, he grabs onto my pantleg and stands up, then won't let go. So I slowly make my way to my room, James toddling along beside me. He finally lets go as I settle into my chair to check e-mail. I am quickly absorbed until I hear a splash from my bathroom. James has unrolled most of the toilet paper and is now happily splashing one hand in the toilet, the toilet brush in the other.
     I clean the baby up and set him toddling down the hall, then stop in surprise at Brigham's room. He is sitting in the middle of an explosion of clothes, toys, and junk, obliviously playing with action figures. I pointedly close all three of his dresser drawers, and try to draw his attention to the mess. He sighs and half-heartedly puts a stuffed animal on his bed. I quickly outline a bedroom-cleaning game plan, then run to head off James at the hall bathroom. Twenty minutes later I look up from whatever caught my attention and remember Brigham. Sure enough, he is still playing in the middle of his explosion. We play this game a few more times before I resignedly plop down in the middle of the mess and tell him point by point what to do. After about ten minutes he gets the vision and I can stop threatening to throw stuff away if he doesn't start cleaning.
   A wonderful smell brings me into the kitchen. Rachel and Ruth are cooking. Rachel has just finished an omelette and Ruth is working on a new recipe. She asks my advice on a few ingredients, then gives me a taste: quite good! "We should open a restaurant together, mom." I smile, but I tell her she should probably just open it on her own. I'm definitely not organized enough to handle a restaurant!
     Joe walks in from the garage and sets his lunchpail down by the fridge. James toddles up to him and looks up expectantly. Joe picks him up and James tries to poke his finger into Joe's mouth. I get a kiss and then start to make a salad to go with Ruth's pasta creation. Soon, I notice that Joe is making a sandwich. I cock an eyebrow at him and motion to my preparations. He stops, sandwich mid-bite, and says, "I didn't take a lunchbreak today. Don't worry, I'll still eat dinner."
     When I lay my head down on my pillow, I wonder if anything productive happened today. But before I can second-guess myself into discouragement, I try to count my blessings: 6 healthy kids who are creative and imaginative; a loving husband with a good job; a comfortable home and plenty of stuff to make a mess.
     Everything seems to be right with our picture.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Open and Shut

I feel a draft coming from somewhere. The window is closed, so I head down the hall to the kitchen. The sliding glass door is open, only the screen shut against the chilly fall air. Blake is out on the trampoline, doing backflips and aerials. "Blake! Don't leave the door open, it's too cold!" I shout. He backflips onto the ground and yells, "Sorry!" Someday I need to sit him down and explain the definition of 'sorry'. I shut the glass door and pick up the baby, who has toddled up to cling to my legs.
     It's his naptime, so I carefully close the hall door and his bedroom door and---there's a muted rattling and a small voice yelling. I sigh as the baby slobbers on my shirt and tries to bite me, a sure sign he's ready to nurse, and go back through the hall to the kitchen. John is at the top of the stairs, trapped by the baby gate. He rattles it fiercely, calling at the top of his lungs, "I--WANT--TO COME--UP!!"
     I open the gate and John slams it shut again. "We can leave it open now because I'm putting James to bed," I explain as I open the gate again. I get him a snack and he runs outside with Blake, leaving the glass door open. I shut it and go back to naptime prep.
     The doors are shut and I settle into my nursing chair. Both of us doze in the quiet, then someone opens the hall door and it bangs against the doorstop. James twitches in his sleep, then resumes nursing, but I hear rummaging in the next room, then footsteps pound down the hall, and someone has left the hall door open.
     For the next several minutes I listen to the voices in the kitchen, the dishes clonking and feet pounding, the noise traveling unhampered into the back hallway. Luckily, James is too out to notice, and I'm able to place him into his crib--just as John opens the door.
     I turn quickly but carefully--"Shhh." John stops, then tiptoes up to me. "I'm hungwy for a dwink," he whispers. At least he is one of my children who knows how to be quiet. We shut the door behind us, close the hall door too, and I get him a drink. He settles in front of the computer and his favorite game and I start to make dinner.
     I call the kids in to set the table and they come in arguing, leaving the glass door open again. I tell the last one in to shut it and they close the screen. "Close the glass door!" They grumble, "It's not that cold." I start to explain that the furnace will heat anything below 70 degrees and do they want to pay to heat the whole outside? Someone slams the gate shut and dishes clatter onto the counter. We manage get the table set and then I realize that the hall door is open again. How do they do it? I was right here all the time and I didn't notice.
     After dinner, the baby is awake and kids are playing, so I have some quiet time. I sit on my bed and read a book. Soon enough, someone comes in to ask something, then they leave and close the door. "You can leave it open--I want it open!" But they're gone.
     I get up and open the door.

About the size of it

I double check my list as I head from my car into Walmart, barely remembering to push the lock button on my keychain. I listen for the beep, then speed up, hoping to get through the store in under an hour this time. I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. Without them, I couldn't stretch my dollars so far but because of them, I have a lot of stuff I really don't need (I am a clearance addict).
     I stop in the shampoo aisle and am confronted with fourteen different brands and three different sizes. I narrow down my choice to the brand I want, but which size will suit my needs? It's easy to see which is the better bargain: the small size is 11.5 oz., the large size is 23 oz. I just split the larger size's price in half. Phew! I don't carry a calculator as I take small pride in my ability to do equations in my head.
     I do the rounds toward the baby section, looking for diapers. The jumbo pack has 34 diapers, but we'll go through that too fast. The mega pack has 60--wait a minute. That's not quite double the jumbo. What happened here? I check the club box and am confronted with 96. Ummm, looks like the diaper powers that be can't add. So I stand there in the aisle, squinting at the prices, trying to divide 68 into the price of a little less than 2/3 of 96. Maybe I should carry a calculator.
     I grab the club box and head for the food. I'm looking for Quik (now called Nesquik, though I don't see why they had to change it). There are only two sizes, but I grumble when I see that 38 servings in not half of 72. Why can't they make it easy for us moms? Why do we have to figure out which one is the better deal? Is it that hard for them to find cartons that are exactly double or triple the original size?
     I look at the helpful price tag and see the price per ounce: $1.25. My brain is not so tired as to see that THAT's not right. Thanks, helpful price tag. So I squint at the items again, rounding 72 up to 76 and figuring a little less than half. This time the little one wins.
     The ice cream aisle ropes me in with a great deal on special edition flavors of Dreyer's ice cream. I scan the flavors, wishing I had enough freezer space (and a higher metabolism) for all of them. I grab our two favorites and notice something strange--the container is squattier than normal. I check the ounces and sure enough, they've nocked off 8 more. I shake my head. It's just like them. First they shave off 8 little ounces just to make a buck, then when we've become accustomed to that, they shave off another 8. Pretty soon a half gallon of ice cream will be a quart. But they don't care!
     Or maybe they didn't notice that they shaved off the 8 ounces. Maybe they're just in cahoots with the diaper guys and the Quik guys. Maybe they just can't add.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I wake up on Saturday morning, canning behind me, and decide this is going to be a relaxing day. I wander from room to room, playing with a child here, reading a magazine there. The hardest thing I do is gather raspberries and make breakfast. We have leftovers for lunch.
   At a quiet moment in the day, I head to my bedroom. I pull down the package of Oreos I've hidden in my closet and take out three. I turn on my computer to check e-mail and get caught up in an unexpectedly urgent one. I have to consult my spouse on this and I leave to find him, the Oreos forgotten.
   My daughter is making muffins in the kitchen. She asks me to put the batter in the cups because I am better at it. My statement that I am better because I have practiced is lost on her, so I agree to the job. John comes bounding in. "You back, Mom?" Back from where? "Dad said you dispapeawd." Yes, I am back from disappearing.
  "What you makin?" Muffins. His eyes light up. "Can I hep you?" He happily pushes his chair right into my spot, clambering up. "I wannoo cwack da eggs." Sorry, bud, no eggs. Stormclouds threaten. But you can stir in blueberries! Ah! Danger averted. He stirs while I place the paper cups in the muffin tin. "I'll wu-pwap dem in the pan, Mom." You'll what? "I wanna wu-pwap dem!" he repeats, holding a sloppy spoonful of batter up. Oh! Wu-pwap! How 'bout I wu-pwap the batter in the cups and you can lick the spoon? He pouts but it's ok.
  Muffins safely in the oven, I return to my room and the pending e-mail. I'm wrapping it up when I notice one Oreo left next to my computer. Hmm. Weren't there three? I grimace. I get two more and open up the game I play sometimes when I don't want to do anything else. Suddenly Blake and John are at my elbow. They spot the Oreos like hawks after a mouse.
   "Can I have a cookie?" they chorus. I sigh. Yes, you can have a cookie. The third goes to the baby who has finally awoken from his nap. I finish my game and rise to get yet another set of cookies when Brigham runs into the room. "Where's my cookie?" Your cookie? I am imperious. "Yeah! We get a cookie every day!" I don't know where you got that one. We've only had Oreos one day this week. He is undeterred. "So can I have a cookie, and one for Sam, too?" The friend. I deposit the cookies from my hand into his.
  One left. I shake the package and find one more. My husband strolls in. "Oh, we're having Oreos?" I smile weakly and give him a cookie. Then I eat mine before anyone else can call it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The things that last

Five years ago I had an idea that blossomed into a dream--an impossible dream. For me, anyway. It involved hard, heavy labor that I simply could not give. I dreamed about having a hobbit hole under a hill in our back yard. Definitely a big undertaking. But I couldn't give it up. So I kept hoping it would happen.
  Well, I've been blessed with a wonderful spouse who tends to take up my projects and finish them for me. We had already agreed on putting a hill in our back yard, and even started it with the dirt from our trampoline pit and sandbox. So when I mentioned how cool it would be to have a hobbit hole in the hill, it only took him a couple of months to get on board.
  He planned and I planned. Between the two of us we dug up a 1/2 price large diameter pipe (delivered by crane into our yard) for the hobbit hole and enough dirt to make the hill. Then I became pregnant. So I watched from the kitchen window while washing dishes and sweeping floors as Joe sweated and hauled and built and refined.
  He was determined that the hobbit hole would last as long as we would. After two years of working against weather, time constraints, human error, and other odds, he finally got the pipe ends fitted to his satisfaction, guaranteed against the elements, and began working on the hill.
  Today Joe and the kids laid sod over the hobbit hole hill. I watched through the kitchen window as I alternated between canning peaches and entertaining the baby. By evening, Joe was still working, so I took the rest of the kids to the community fair. When we came back, I stepped out into the backyard to take in the vision I had dreamed almost four years ago. A hobbit hole was in my back yard.

  Tears sprang to my eyes as I gazed at this wonder, the fulfillment of my dream by my beloved husband, my champion. And it wasn't just the quality of his work or the beauty of the finished product; it was the underlying strength of his devotion to me and to our children that moved me.
  That is the thing that lasts.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I don't like animals much. I think they're cute and I can appreciate a sweet pet, but I just don't have time for animals myself. This must stem from my allergy to cat and rodent dander that went undiagnosed until I was fourteen. It finally clicked what was wrong when I spent the night in our barn under the stars and woke up surrounded by our four cats and choking for breath. It took an entire week to overcome that particular asthma attack, and I have barely pet a cat since.
  That didn't keep us from getting two outdoor cats when we moved into our first real (free-standing) home six years ago. We found a pretty black long hair we named Panther and the sweetest orange Persian we named Pumpkin. Panther is a typical PMS-ing female who loves you one minute and streaks away the next. Pumpkin, on the other hand, was the first cat I really fell in love with in almost twenty years. He adored without being obnoxious, was companionable without being needy, was playful without intensity or injury, and was intelligent without haughtiness. Our little ones pulled him and pushed him, chased him and teased him, laid on him and carted him, and he never once retaliated or even complained. The worst he would do was occasionally trot away when a toddler came around.
  So of course he had to go. A car hit him when he was barely a year old. Losing him nearly killed us too. I still can't give my heart to another animal.
  Which makes things hard when your kids love animals. Ruth wants a new animal almost daily. She and Rachel begged and pleaded for hamsters until we finally gave in when they kept their room clean for a month. After two months, they were tired of the things not wanting to be held, so they sold them and begged for guinea pigs. "They're bigger and will let us hold them!" So we tried guinea pigs. They made too much mess, and I was finding that I couldn't come within ten feet of their room without my throat choking up and itching. So they wanted a lizard, then changed their minds and wanted a Degu, then decided that was too fragile. When they settled on a hedgehog, I told them to wait a whole month and if they still wanted it, and could pay for it, they could have it.
  Well, they got it, and it's a really cute pet. But guess what? Ruth wants a snake. She wants a snake so badly that when Blake found a little one at a family reunion, she cajoled my husband into letting her bring it home. They put it into our old aquarium with sand and branches and water and a few worms. They played with it for a few days, holding it while doing homework or hanging out with friends. Then, slowly, the fervor died down and the snake got less attention. Until it escaped.
  We have no idea how a twelve inch snake could get out of a twelve-inch high tank with a fitted metal cover. But it did. Which is why I didn't want a snake in the first place. So now there was a snake loose in the house and we had no idea where it could be. Again, we spent a lot of time looking for a couple of days, then gave up and forgot about the snake. Until I was folding clothes.
  The laundry had been washed and was waiting in the hampers to be folded. I dumped out a hamper and was about to sit down to fold when the snake slithered panic-stricken from the pile. I yelled for the Blake to come get his snake and tried to head it off from the deep-darkness of under the couch. All three of the big kids converged on the poor thing and had it firmly held, head angling back for a desperate attack on a thumb, in a matter of seconds. It went back into the tank. And it had a lot of attention for the rest of the day.
  After another week of not hearing about or seeing the snake, I decided it would probably starve with all the attention it was getting. But I'm busy and I didn't remember it myself after that. Until I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  I walked blearily into the bathroom and swept aside the black shoelace I saw crumpled at the base of the toilet with my foot. But when it started madly slithering toward the shadows under the vanity, I yelled for my husband to come get the stupid snake that somehow got out again. It ended up obligingly slithering straight into the cup I put down in front of it and we decided to take it straight back to the great outdoors.
  The kids weren't too sad. They figured he'd be happier in his natural habitat anyway, since he got out twice. Besides, Ruth wants a bigger snake anyway.