Friday, July 31, 2009

It Won't Be Like This for Long

As much as I complain about my mouthy, messy, ill-behaved, life-draining children, I think it's pretty much a given that I totally and completely adore them. Each day, they wear me out to the point I wonder whether I will recover. But, still, when I check on them at night, all asleep and drooly and snoring like their father, I am so full of pride and love. Often, I do little dances outside their bedroom doors, because I'm just so thrilled to be their mom. True story.

You know who else I love? (I mean, besides my baby daddy...) Darius Rucker. He's the front man for Hootie and the Blowfish, and also a solo country singer. I have fond memories of one fabulous outdoor concert and meeting him, Edwin McCain, and the rest of the band when I worked in radio. They were some of the nicest guys I worked with during my tenure in that profession. Plus, Darius-- don't call him "Hootie"-- is hot. So, the stars aligned when my two loves came together as I flipped through television channels and caught Darius Rucker on Oprah, singing this:

Darius and Oprah were joking that only in country music can one write and perform a song like that. The best thing about country music is the stories the songs tell. And "It Won't Be Like This for Long" feels like my life right now. I know I am not alone. My 61-year-old father still makes his 35-year-old daughter (and now his granddaughters) promise to be his "little girl forever."

This is quite the departure, though, from my other favorite song Darius Rucker sings:

Ooh, I just love his voice. Who doesn't like Hootie and the Blowfish music? It's so easy to like. You know, though, I always thought of "I Go Blind" as a sexy, upbeat love song. But, if you really listen to the lyrics, I'm not sure what it's about.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wish List

Here is what a 35-year-old mother of four young children would really like for her birthday (if she's woman enough to admit it:)
1. eight hours' sleep
2. a dinner filled with vegetables and no complaints
3. privacy
4. a day without arguing, hitting, stomping, or "Mommeeee!"
5. a tummy tuck and a breast lift without the associated social stigma
6. a hairstyle
7. a clean shirt
8. someone else to take out the garbage (so there's someone to blame when it's forgotten)
9. a relaxing boat ride-- no head counts
10. ice cream

Here's what I got:
1. flowers
2. jewelry (One of Todd's favorite outings is to take the girls to the Wal-Mart jewelry counter and turn them loose.)
3. a pepper mill (my request-- another wedding gift bit the dust)
4. dinner at a bar and grill adjacent to an arcade
5. the best handmade cards, and even a birthday book
6. fierce hugs and sticky kisses
7. one of those singing birthday cards, played ad nauseum by the son
8. the loudest "Happy Birthday, Mommy!" morning alarm
9. phone calls and gifts from family and girlfriends
10. ice cream

So, now, I really can't complain, can I? For my birthday gift to myself, I took the kids out to lunch. (The gift part was that I didn't have to listen to them whine about what I cooked, everyone could have whatever they wanted, and I did only minimal cleanup.) Pulling into the McDonald's parking lot-- that's "Old McDonald's" to my adorable nephews-- I thought what I think every time I pull into that parking lot: "This is such a dumb design for a parking lot. It's impossible to navigate... stop or go, I'm always in someone's way. And there's never any place to park. Busy, busy McDonald's. Look at all these minivans, driven by mothers who clearly CANNOT PARK. I SEE THREE WHO PULLED IN CROOKED AND NOW A BACK TIRE IS OVER THE LINE SO EACH VAN IS ACTUALLY TAKING UP TWO SPOTS. NOW THERE IS REALLY NOWHERE TO PARK. WHAT'S WRONG WITH PEOPLE?" Finally, I found a spot, carefully maneuvered into it, unloaded all the kids and went in. When we walked out of the restaurant after lunch, I noticed this:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Infant Exile

At 4:44 a.m., I unceremoniously banished Madeline to the guest room. The baby has been sleeping in a bassinet in our bedroom since she came home from the hospital, visiting her crib in the nursery for only the occasional daytime nap. I have had no immediate plans to move her, even though on recent visits, the grandmas have peered in her bassinet and exclaimed, "Whoa! She's getting kind of big for that bed!" Yes, the other kids were all moved to their own rooms, certainly before three months, but this is different on a number of fronts.

For one, I'm not sure where to move Madeline. Against the advice of pretty much everyone, I asked Todd and my BIL to set up the crib in the nursery, even though Benjamin is still sleeping in there, on bunk beds. I'm actually not worried about both of them sleeping in the same room. I am, however, worried Ben might "accidentally" throw into Madeline's crib every toy and book he owns, and maim her, or worse. Plus, since these two are not the same gender, this is not a long-term solution. So, we could keep Madeline in the nursery and move Ben into the guest room. Or, we could leave Ben in the nursery and move Madeline into the guest room. Or, we could move Amanda into the guest room and have Madeline share a room with Elisabeth (Libby's idea.) Or, we could move Elisabeth into the nursery to sleep on Ben's top bunk and have Madeline and Amanda share the girls' room (Amanda's idea.)

More than logistics, I think this is the Krinkeland babyhood swan song... I know there will be no more babies, so I'm holding on to each stage just a little more. I just haven't minded having her in our room. Madeline typically only wakes once during the night, I leave the room to feed her, and when we return, she lays in her bed so happy and sweet. Even when she talks and laughs, I will stay awake, listening to her. Plus, Todd has not complained about Madeline being in our room. I'm sure it's just sheer exhaustion from a demanding job and from helping to care for the other children, but this babe has not yet made a sound that could wake the living Daddy.

But, this week, I am sick. I know, I know, you all know this already, and I don't mean to whine, BUT... I'm going on four or five days now of misery, and I am starting to believe no amounts of fluids and vitamin C will be curative without at least one good stretch of sleep. Last night was definitely NOT the cure for what ails me:
7:15 p.m. Madeline begins her fussy time, fussier than usual.
10:56 p.m. After a number of false alarms, it appears Madeline is out for the night (for her, usually about five hours.)
11 p.m. Todd and I turn off the TV and go to sleep.
11:40 p.m. I wake with a coughing attack, have to get up, drink a gallon of water, and suck on a throat drop. But, once that's under control, I fall right back asleep.
11:50 p.m. Madeline lets out a piercing scream. I look at the clock, think it says 1:50, and get up to feed her. I pick her up and truck her around, thumping her on the back, when, suddenly, she belches and spits up. I look at the clock again and realize it is definitely not time for her to eat. I lay her back down, but now she has had a taste of the magic elixir and wants more Mommy love.
11:55 p.m. I take Madeline to the den for the whole change/nurse/burp routine.
12:30 a.m. Madeline and I go back to bed.
3:20 a.m. Madeline wakes again to eat. The routine repeats. Then, she appears to want to keep watching CNN. I can't keep my burning eyes open.
4:10 a.m. I lay Madeline back in her bassinet, but she alternately laughs, fusses, snorts, gags, and cries.
4:30 a.m. I take Madeline into the bathroom, noting she seems to have a bit of my cough and stuffiness, and go after her nose with the bulb syringe. (When we had our first baby, I was not properly schooled on this device, and was unaware I had to compress the bulb before inserting the syringe into the infant's nose. Todd walked in on me holding down a wailing Amanda and exclaimed, "What are you DOING?! You're shooting boogers into her brain!")
4:40 a.m. I put the decongested Madeline back to bed again, when she smiled back at me and began some long, rambling, baby-babble soliloquy.

I could already see peeks of lightening sky through the slats in the blinds, my head was pounding, and I needed to be off-duty. So, I grabbed one end of the bassinet and pushed it, squeaky-wheeled, down the hallway. Madeline didn't seem to mind the change in ceiling scenery, so, I turned on the monitor and nightlight and shut the guest room door. I went back only once-- Madeline started crying and I found she had pulled one corner of her blanket up over her mouth and nose, looking more like one of Michael Jackson's children.

Madeline slept there until about 9:30 this morning. I slept in my bed till I heard the pitter-patter of little feet on tile floor, followed by repeated flushing, and the exclamation, "I got all my pee out!"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Family Affair

We had a gathering at Todd's dad's house this past weekend, with my FIL's extended family. The day started cool, but warmed into a beautiful afternoon. Amanda and Elisabeth acted like they ruled the roost, since this was their Grandpa's and Grandma's house... but the older children of Todd's older cousins quickly put them in their places. The girls are still talking about how much fun they had swimming and playing with the bigger kids. Benjamin and Elisabeth even talked Auntie Lisa into getting wet. This was also a day to celebrate Aunt Kathy and Uncle Dave's 45th wedding anniversary. All I can say is, "Wow." Plus, this was the first time most on this side of the family had seen Madeline, and they quickly claimed her as their own.

Aunt Joan and Uncle Gene were there, and we all prayed with them, for their daughter, Danine, who is in the fight of her life against the big C. Krinkeland's prayers are with Danine and Ed, and their children, every day.

What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

I took all my animal-loving kids to see a "Zoomobile" program today-- a kid-friendly presentation by a traveling zoologist, with live animals. Here's a summary of what we all learned:
*I CAN get out of the house with all four children for something other than an essentials-only shopping trip.
*I DO resemble a pack mule, with a baby strapped to my chest, a picnic bag over one shoulder, a diaper bag over the other, a lawn blanket around my neck, and a three-year-old pulling my arm from its socket.
*The opossum holds the record for the animal with hair that has the most teeth (50.)
*A newborn opossum is the size of a child's thumbnail.
*Red-tailed hawks born on the West Coast have different size and coloring than red-tailed hawks born in the Midwest.
*Madeline does not resemble hawk food as long as I keep a pink blanket over her head.
*Benjamin has the attention span of a red-tailed hawk-- on meth.
*There are 17 species of snakes in our state.
*The most interesting thing about a Blanding's Turtle is it will pee on its handler's hand.
*When someone announces, "Now it's your turn to touch the centipede," my kids will be at the front of the line.
*Even at the end of July, always pack jackets for a trip to the park-- just in case.

Amanda, of course, loves to spout off about what she learned-- little sponge. And it didn't stop with animals. While I was making supper, she was whining about how hungry she was, how she needed a snack, a drink, anything. I said we were eating soon and so she could only have water. Then, I watched as Amanda reached up to get herself a cup, retrieved ice cubes from the ice maker, ran the tap to fill her cup with water, set the cup on the counter after taking a drink, got a towel and wiped up the water droplets on the counter, picked up the cup again and walked away. "You've turned into such a big girl," I said to Amanda's back. She stopped, turned around, looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Well, I'd have to learn how to get myself a drink someday, Mom. Don't you think?"

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mommies Don't Get Sick

I have been under the weather the past few days. I felt the scratchy throat coming on and kind of ignored it. If I'd been smart, I would have stayed home all weekend and rested, but, obviously, that doesn't happen. We had family plans. And, even at home, Mommy never really gets to rest. I chuckled and sighed to myself on Sunday morning when Todd shut the bedroom door and ordered the children to let me be. Of course, he had shut Madeline in the room with me... and she woke up and needed to be fed about 15 minutes later.

It's nothing earth-shattering-- headache, fever, cough, congestion. Todd has repeatedly asked whether I have the swine flu, which doesn't really help. Naturally, I'm washing my hands constantly and trying not to breathe on anyone, since we have plans to go away this weekend. Amanda has already complained of a cough and a stuffy nose, and for our little Camille, that's serious business.

Last evening, I got out all the over-the-counter cold and flu medicines in our arsenal and called the 24-hour nurse line to see whether there was anything I could take that would be safe for a nursing baby. I read all the active ingredients to the RN on the line, and he told me, no, they could all get into breast milk and cause harm to the baby. He advised me to call my pharmacist-- which is really easy to do in a small town at 9 p.m. on a Sunday. So, I hung up, called back, and got a different nurse. She seemed much more competent and personable, and didn't require me to spell out each medication. But, she told me the same thing. Bummer. Benjamin scolded me this morning: "You still sick, Mommy? You need to eat better. You need to eat better dinner, breakfast, and supper."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bathroom Talk

My sister has a strict ban on bathroom talk in her house. I have to say, it's definitely a good idea, but a somewhat unattainable goal here in Krinkeland. Bathroom talk comes with the potty training. The last couple days, Benjamin is beginning to master the number two duties. His favorite part of the process is dumping his waste in the toilet and flushing. But, before he does that, Ben always has to comment.

It's kind of like when we're outside and the kids point out different shapes in the clouds. They often see animals, including dinosaurs and crocodiles. Well, the other day, Amanda was a little bit out there, and emphatically insisted she could see God's footprints in the clouds... but that's a different story. Back to the bathroom. There's nothing more gross-- but yet somehow funny-- than Ben's poopy observations. This morning, he told me, "Look, Mom! That looks like a big snake." This afternoon, I thought he was stalling at nap time, but he proved he had to go again. Then, he bent down over the potty chair and pointed out, "That looks like a hundred of snails in there!"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Am Not in the Fashion Club

My kids play make-believe all the time. I sometimes wonder if they can distinguish between what is real and what is pretend, but, most of the time, I'm just glad they're not whining and hanging on my legs. They looove to make forts out of the couch cushions. They often pack suitcases, put on their bathing suits, spread a blue blanket on the ground and "go to the waterpark."

This week, Amanda and Elisabeth are into the Barbies. They do let Benjamin play, too, though he can only be a boy, of course, and they don't let him brush the Barbie horses' hair because they say he does it wrong. What I love to do is sit outside the door and listen to their exchanges. I hear so many signs of the times. Libby already speaks in Valley Girl, with way too many "likes" to count. And the names they give their dolls and fake personas-- girls called "Harper," "Brady," "Janessa," "Jewel" and "Sapphire." When I was a kid, I wanted to be "Diana."

Then, there's the Fashion Club. Apparently, this is the Krinkeland version of the "in crowd." The girls are regularly coaching each other on what it is to be "fashionable," which I have gathered is a cross between being cool and being well-bred. For example, Amanda is fashionable when she puts her own pigtails in her hair, and Libby's clothing and jewelry choices make her naturally fashionable. Ben is not fashionable when he talks with food in his mouth or walks around without pants.

The girls love to play out life cycle events. Nearly every day, they pretend someone gets married, someone gives birth, or someone dies. Sometimes, all these events happen to one person in one day. The childbirth thing I get, since that has been a front-and-center topic around here this year. But, we don't spend a lot of time talking about the big picture of life and death. Yet, they don't make big dramatic displays of these events. Amanda's Barbie will say to Libby's Barbies, "Kids, I have to tell you, your dad is dead." And Elisabeth's Barbies say, "Oh."

I don't know what I'm supposed to gather from all this, but it's fascinating to eavesdrop.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Not a Newborn, Anymore

Madeline is three months old today! Yay! She had her first good stretch of sleep in a couple weeks-- almost eight hours-- last night. Double yay! She currently weighs in at 12 pounds, 8 ounces... I think each cheek must be at least a pound. The rest of Madeline is growing so fast, she's nearly busting out of the 3-6-month clothes.

In other health-related news:

Benjamin's three-year well check was great. It was his first vision test with an eye chart, and he saw some unusual things, like "lighthouse." He also called a triangle "pizza," but the nurse said that was acceptable. He now weighs 29 pounds (20th percentile) and is just over 37 inches tall (30th percentile.) Ben's head is still at the top of the chart-- but not off it. We've been assuming all along that he just has a big brain. However, while riding in the car, he cried and whined that he couldn't find his Tic-Tac, and then suddenly got quiet and muttered, "Oh, it's in my mouth," so I'm not ready to sign him up for Mensa yet. We spent most of the doctor visit talking about potty training. Coincidentally, or not, that was the day he decided to start using the potty chair. We are still going full-board, with an occasional accident... I think he just can't get there fast enough.

Todd's biopsy results showed no sign of cancerous cells, and no dysplasia in the current Barrett's cells, which basically means they are not yet organizing an all-out attack of the esophagus. Todd took this to be extremely good news, and has fallen completely off the Diet Mountain Dew wagon. He is also talking about NOT having the procedure to ablate the Barrett's cells, but will go in next week to discuss it with his gastroenterologist. It does not help that Todd's current job involves studying the GI tract, and the world-renowned surgeon he is working with has recommended Todd not have the ablation. Of course, since he likes to cut people, this doc recommends surgery for Todd. I still want Todd to consider the procedure, but there are side effects and risks, and it is not my body. I'm waiting, with all of you, to see what happens.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

27 and Pregnant was Hard Enough

Admitted TV reality show junkies, Todd and I have spent our evenings whipping through some real winners on the TiVo. Some, like bad habits, we watch on purpose. Others, we come across by mistake. You can probably imagine we're not big MTV viewers, but I had somehow seen a few promos for "16 and Pregnant." I immediately thought, "How awful. A show that glamorizes teen pregnancy. These stupid kids will now be TV stars, and others will follow in their footsteps." Then, I forgot about the show, until-- I was flipping through channels, caught the beginning of the final episode, sat and watched it to the end, and cried for everyone involved.

My husband and I were raised in loving and supportive families, were college-educated, and had been married for six years when our first child came along. And I still didn't feel ready. I think this particular show should be required viewing for all kids, maybe during their freshman year in high school-- or earlier. (I hear kids get started young these days.)

For some reason, I can't seem to post the complete episode, but it is on the MTV website. After you watch, read the dozens of pages of viewer comments. Many, many of them will stun you in their ignorance, stupidity, and misguided insults.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Drink to This

I have begun drinking this SoBe Lifewater. I came across it kind of accidentally. I stopped at the gas station and, having just finished nursing Madeline, I was really thirsty. I scanned the coolers for something non-caffeinated, non-carbonated and without artificial sweetener that would still have some flavor, and I decided to try this-- the pomegranate cherry flavor, I think. I liked it.

So, the next time I was at the grocery store, I bought some. We all have our drinks of choice. Todd's is Propel, which I think is gross. But, he likes it, so I buy it by the case at Costco. The SoBe Lifewater is sold in individual bottles, and it is expensive. I picked out the flavors I thought I would like, and filled the fridge when I got home. Now, I was not exactly rationing these bottles, but I was keeping an eye on them. If the babysitter liked it and wanted some, fine. If a friend came over and chose SoBe from the choices I offered, great. But, I was not going to fill sippy cups at snack time-- the kids could drink the cheap stuff.

One evening, Todd strolled into our bedroom with a near-empty bottle of Lifewater in his hand. He said, "This stuff is really gross." He went on to tell me how he had sampled other flavors, and they were "all gross." I informed him he had just wasted $10 worth of energy drinks and implored him to quit touching my stuff. It reminded me of being in college and having to put my name on my food. (This never happened with you, Kristin. You were a great roommate. I will confess, however, I occasionally sampled your cucumber ranch salad dressing after I saw you use it as a sandwich spread. That was good.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

One Man's Art Is... Really Annoying to His Wife

The Krinkeland castle doesn't have many walls in the main living area. And, that's a good thing, because, as I've stated before, the queen is not a decorator. Our entire "art" display has consisted of: one-year portraits of each of the children hanging on the walls of the den, and a family photo and a wedding portrait hanging in the master bedroom. That's pretty much it-- until today.

I took Todd to an interior design shop in our town, because they were having a sale and something had caught my eye to hang on the one wall space between our dining and living rooms. Well, when we got there, the thing I had been looking at was gone. However, other kinds of art and wall hangings had been discounted even more, and that got Todd and me to looking... and arguing.

While I generally think Todd and I have the same kind of style and taste, we were at total odds over what to choose for this space. I thought the stuff he was drawn to was way too modern for our traditional furniture and colors. He thought the stuff I liked was drab and boring. Finally, we called it a draw, and bought two things:

Todd's choice

my choice

When we got the pieces home, we discovered both were too wide for the space I had been considering. So, we had to find new locations for the print and the mirror, and, in the space between the living and dining rooms, we hung this:

10-year-old print we dug out of the basement

You'll notice my choice is still not hanging anywhere. Todd says he doesn't have the right hardware, but I'm onto him. Every chance he got this evening, he called it my "stupid, wagon-wheel mirror." It took a while before I caught the "When Harry Met Sally" reference:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Goodbye Cruel World, I'm Off to Join the Circus

We went with my parents, sister, and BIL to see the touring Cirque du Soleil show, "Kooza." It was a belated birthday celebration for my mom. Of course, the real circus was back home, where our beloved babysitter had all four children to feed supper and put to bed. I felt like a bad mother, leaving Madeline for the whole evening, but we both survived. And, all the freak shows survived their daring displays, too. Here are my favorites:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tinkle Troubles

After two days of sitting home, on the bathroom floor, monitoring the potty progress, I HAD to go to the bank today. I also promised the girls we would rent a movie for their night with the babysitter. So, in the throes of potty training Benjamin, this huge excursion became the ordeal of the day. He's been doing such a great job, and he peed right before we left the house, so I let him keep on his underpants. (By the way, they are the softest Hanna Andersson Unders, size XS, in lime green!) We got to the Redbox when Ben told me he had to go. Rush to the restroom, all four kids in tow, to wait and wait and wait. Amanda told personal horror stories of falling into the toilet (so untrue, so unhelpful,) while Elisabeth alternated between touching the door handles, garbage cans, all unsanitary surfaces and putting Madeline's pacifier back in her mouth. All in all, a memorable moment.

*germs, germs, germs everywhere germs
*toilet seat too big for sitting; toilet too high for standing
*automatic flusher scared the wits out of him

*the cutest, tiniest tushy in little boy briefs

Ben never actually peed in the public bathroom, but he did hold it till we got home. And, he was much more successful than he was this morning, when he sat on the potty chair, but somehow got urine everywhere but in the chair. Reminds me of a story a fellow mother told me: She was using her son's bath time to clean the bathroom. You know how we mothers do that-- can't leave the child alone in the tub, so might as well get out the Windex. The boy was having a great time, so she kept scrubbing, even got down on her hands and knees and cleaned the grout between the floor tiles. When the boy was shriveled like a raisin and shivering, she drained the tub, got him out, and dried him off. After all that time in the water, her son said he had to go. She replied, "Just make sure you flush and wash your hands," and she left the room. A couple minutes later, the boy walked out of the bathroom, looking sheepish and shaking his head. "Boy, Mom," he said, "I don't really know what happened, but my penis just went crazy in there!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cross "Number One" Off the List

I sure don't want to jinx us, but it appears Benjamin is finally having a potty training breakthrough. I have gotten around to devoting some time and attention to the issue. I've been polling fellow parents and child experts. Ben's physical therapist knew just how to make me feel better: "Probably due to his low muscle tone, Ben just can't hold it. So, it's not your fault and it's not his fault. It is just going to take longer." Ben's pediatrician responded just as I expected she would, with a shrug, as if to say, "Who cares? Is that the biggest thing you have to worry about?" But she threw in some parenting handouts before sending us on our way.

But some other mothers have made an interesting point: don't overlook the potty chair. We used one for Amanda and Elisabeth, but, frankly, I thought it was just plain gross. I'd have to clean it out, and half the time they still peed on the floor (and they're girls!) So, with Ben, I decided I would just use the kind of seats that fit on the toilet. I positioned one in each bathroom, with a step stool nearby, and tried to coach him on and off each time. Yet, another mother reminded me of the importance of a potty chair-- not only does the child develop better independence going, but he also feels more stable and relaxed by being able to put his feet on the floor.

So, I went to my second home and bought the coolest potty seat on the shelf. I brought it home, took it out of the package, set it up in the bathroom, and called in Ben to take a look. I explained what it was and how it worked. He said, "Oh," and proceeded to take down his pants, sit, and go. This went on, without prompting, for the rest of the evening.

This morning, I didn't get to his room quick enough after he woke up (busy with another kid) and he pooped in his Pull-Up. Still, the pee routine has continued, Ben has been dry all day, and I'll take some toilet training over none. I put the Pull-Up back on at nap time, because I am not ready to start changing sheets, but I am definitely calling this progress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Infant Innovations

It seems to me companies that manufacture baby gear come up with new versions of the same products every six months or so, to compel parents to go out and buy the bigger, better, newer. Even having four kids in a fairly short period of time (seven years,) I am amazed at how things have changed. Many of the big ticket items we either purchased or received as gifts when I was expecting Amanda, and we are still using them: crib, Pack 'n Play, swing. Others, we've had to replace due to wear and tear, poor choices the first time, or changes in safety laws: infant car seat, bouncy seat, stroller.

And, then there are the things that got added to the collection over time. These are things I didn't buy with the first child, either because they didn't exist or I just didn't think I'd need them (but I was wrong:) Baby Bjorn, Boppy pillow, Bumbo seat. And, some products have changed and evolved in the time frame between the births of my first child and my last: baby food in plastic containers, adhesive strips on breast pads, aerosol spray sunscreen.

Which brings me to today's point: Why can't someone, anyone, please, invent an infant lifejacket that is both safe and comfortable for the poor child?! I have repeatedly suggested to my husband of the inventor mind that he come up with some kind of flotation device an infant could sit in-- like a car seat that floats and cannot tip. I would never compromise my child's safety, and I do not intentionally break laws. But, come on:

Madeline's first boat ride (Well, there was a much shorter, earlier ride... but that's a story for another day.)

Does that look comfortable to anyone?!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Three-Year-Old

Today is Benjamin's third birthday. It is the most obvious time to thank God for this wonderful gift of our son. Every day, he leaves me in equal parts agony and awe. Todd will tease me about how much I adore Ben, which is pretty funny since everyone knows Daddy coddles him like no other. Still, few would deny there is a special bond between mothers and sons. (Now, the same can be said for fathers and daughters, and Todd has three of those, so look out!)

More than any of our other children, Benjamin has scared us and surprised us. He is the child who taught us to be grateful for all that we have, to rejoice in small victories, and, as the catchphrase for one of those summertime reality shows states, to "expect the unexpected." I'm expecting a lot more of all of that in the coming year.

The kids woke up this morning and immediately went to yesterday's birthday party gifts. They put together a race track, got out cars and trucks, stuck stickers in sticker books, and assembled jigsaw puzzles all the way across the kitchen floor. At this moment, Benjamin is sitting next to me, with a bare butt and his new Etch-A-Sketch on his lap. He has requested swimming and a boat ride for his birthday activity, and barbecued ribs for his birthday supper. It's a great day to be three.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Boy's Dream Day

When my son wakes up tomorrow, he will be three years old. Hard to believe, but true. Today was the big par-tee. It was an especially thrilling day, because Ben got to take his cousins and his friends to the fire station. This past spring, Grandma was the high bidder on a birthday party package in the silent auction at Amanda's school fundraiser. So, Benjamin was the recipient, and we all visited the fire station for some big excitement. Ben was very specific about his guest list, which included his "girlfriend" Julia and beloved babysitter Chelsey.

The kids got to see all the tools and equipment, and they asked lots of questions. Amanda: "What colors do fire trucks come in?" It was a busy day at the fire station, and some volunteer firefighters even rushed in for a call, so the kids got to see them gear up. Then, everyone piled into the big truck for a ride. Ben could have sounded the sirens, but chickened out, so, again, Amanda stepped in.

Then, it was back to the house for supper, cake, and presents, presents, presents. Or, should I say puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. The boy knows what he likes, and that's what he got! A steady diet of jigsaw puzzles, sticker books, story books, and trucks-- we're set for the rest of the summer! It was a very fun day, as evidenced tonight by some very tired kids.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Personal Hell: Single Parenting

Todd has been away the past few days at a conference for work. I haven't mentioned it for two reasons: one, I don't want to tell any crazy cyber-stalkers that I'm home alone with four children, and, two, I don't want to sound whiny and incompetent about taking care of four children by myself. But, the truth is, I don't really know anyone who's entirely competent taking care of four children by him- or herself.

While Todd was gone, I would send him text messages, telling him the kinds of things we were doing. Obviously, I know he misses the kids and would rather be home, but, when he would reply, "Wish I was there," I would scream at the phone: "I WISH YOU WERE, TOO!" My parents and sister were incredibly helpful as surrogate daddies, herding the kids, entertaining the kids, and working with me to get things done around the house. (Benjamin's birthday party is tomorrow.) Normally, Todd's mom would be right there in the mix, too, but she is laid up recovering from hernia surgery. Still, I feel guilty about expecting any of them to help. They have their own lives, and all these children certainly were not their idea.

Madeline is sitting on my lap as I type, crying and kicking. She doesn't want to nurse, doesn't want to sleep, isn't old enough to play cribbage... so I'm all out of ideas. And it's so frustrating when I don't even have another set of arms to pass her off. Here's some of the other "fun" stuff Todd has missed:
*Elisabeth cut a chunk out of her hair and then flat out lied to me about it.
*Mom and I took the kids on an adventure to Sonic and their favorite part was the straws that came with their slushy drinks.
*I had a moment of insanity and decided to take all four children down to the beach. It took approximately three minutes before Benjamin had a near-drowning.
*Without an invitation, the neighbor girl bounded over to play, and I looked her in the eyes and said, "You need to go home. That's too many children for me to watch. I'm comfortable putting my own children's lives in jeopardy, but not yours, too. I don't know your parents well, and they could sue."
*Benjamin began a conversation with me in this way: "I thought we already talked about this, Mom..."
*Madeline and Benjamin tag-teamed one night and took turns waking me up every hour on the hour.
*Except for one to my sister and one to each kid, I ate the rest of a batch of cupcakes made by a kind, but evil, friend.
*Too tired to actually pick up the lawn sprinkler and move it, I just dragged it by the hose to another spot in the yard, and, in the process, sprayed the freshly washed windows across the front of the house.
*I took all four children with me to church-- luckily, my sister was there, too-- but, enough said about that.

Todd just called to tell me he was on his way home from the airport. I warned, "Boy, get ready, because it is SO your turn."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A S***ty Morning

For those of you who see me sashaying around town, in my stiletto pumps and false eyelashes, parade of perfect children in tow, I offer this reality check:

I awoke for the second time this morning (the first time was to feed the baby at 4:30) to a piercing wail that started in the toy room, got louder down the hall, was deafening through my bedroom, and ended in my bathroom, with this: "I'm so sorry, Daddy! It's all my fault! I pooped on the floor!"

In the less than 20 minutes that I had been back asleep, Benjamin awoke early and was immediately undressed and placed on the toilet by his father, who has recently begun devoting approximately 2 minutes 15 seconds of his daily getting-ready time to potty training. Apparently, Ben was not interested, and insisted he did not have to go, although we know full well we can set a watch by this boy's digestive functions. So, Todd, in his infinite wisdom, lifted Ben off the toilet and allowed the naked butt to wander off, with this warning: "Come back when you feel like you need to go."

Now, I am the first to admit my lack of expertise in the potty training arena, but does this really seem to be a good plan to anyone?!

I unleashed a blue streak of fury as I fueled up the carpet cleaner. Todd, on the other hand, while unable to actually help with the cleanup due to a history of violent reactions to doody other than his own, offered this positive observation: "Looks like he was trying to get to the toilet," (because the turds were in a line across the room.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

All Through the Night

Everyone asks me, "How's Madeline sleeping at night?" I know it's a gesture of compassion toward the mother, because, if Baby ain't sleepin', Mama ain't sleepin'. My sister and I, since becoming mothers, have chuckled whenever parents brag about their babies sleeping all night long from a very early age. We suspect sometimes Mommy is just so exhausted, she might not wake up right away when a baby starts fussing in the night. Depending on the baby's disposition, he or she may just give up and go back to sleep for a while.

Then, there's the definition of "all night." Madeline is typically pretty awake and fussy in the evenings. She would be happy if I could just sit and nurse her from suppertime through the kids' bedtimes and on through the evening news. Most nights, she finally surrenders to sleep between 10:30 and 11, and wakes to eat again sometime around 5 or 5:30 a.m. That means I usually get about a five-hour stretch of sleep. She's been doing this for a number of weeks now. Sometimes, I wake ahead of Madeline. My body starts telling me she needs to eat. I hear her start to stir in her bed. Often, I've been up with one of the other kids.

The past three or four days, Madeline has added to her routine by eating, burping, getting changed, and staying really alert for an hour or so, and then going back to sleep for literally the entire morning. She wakes again around 11:30 or noon. This doesn't really help me, since the other kids are up around 7, but the baby sure is getting a couple good stretches of sleep.

So, is this sleeping all night? It's enough to get by... I'm not complaining... I think it's actually pretty good, especially for a breastfed 10-week-old. But I am looking forward to solid food and then toddlerhood, when she will hopefully sleep for 10 or 12 hours a night, so I can get seven or eight.

p.s. My friend, Anne, had a baby girl, Ava, yesterday afternoon. All of our children are the same ages and genders, so I am especially excited about this first playmate for Madeline!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Future is Now

I'm sitting in the doctor's office with Todd, awaiting his annual endoscopy. I'm posting this from my phone, as Todd checks work email from his. Sometimes, I think we live in a science fiction film. More on the test later.

UPDATE WITH BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Todd has long suffered from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease,) brought on by a hiatal hernia. This is a physical defect that was discovered in Todd while he was in college, so his condition is not caused by the stress of a mean wife or excessive eating habits, though these things certainly do not help. The symptoms include: severe heartburn, upper GI pain or discomfort, inability to find a comfortable resting position, a "growling" sound coming from his throat, even vomiting during a flare-up. Todd takes a strong daily dose of a PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitor) drug to counteract the effects of this condition, but it does, over time, cause permanent damage.

Todd gets an annual endoscopy with a gastroenterologist who specializes in this field to check the status of his condition. Last year, he was diagnosed for the first time with Barrett's esophagus. This is a common condition, where the lining of the esophagus is replaced by cells that more resemble stomach or intestinal cells, due to the constant presence of stomach acid. Barrett's esophagus is considered a precancerous condition, though it does not always develop into esophageal cancer. Yesterday, the doctor told us the Barrett's covers a bit more area than last year, and has also formed into a nodule. The doctor took biopsies of both the nodule and the flat Barrett's cells, and Todd will get those results in a day or two.

This specialist Todd sees has developed a procedure to ablate the Barrett's cells from the lining of the esophagus, thus preventing them from turning into cancer. There are varying degrees of success, and this is not a permanent fix, but, in my opinion, it's better than nothing. Since Todd also works in the area of medical device innovation, he is wary of pretty much everything. But, his doctor suggested he make an appointment for an office visit to discuss this procedure. Beyond that, there could be a possibility of surgery to try to repair the physical defect between Todd's esophagus and stomach that would also improve his condition.

I've said way too much-- Todd openly shares information about his health, but would be embarrassed to pieces if he read about me making such a fuss-- but, as always, I share this because it could affect your life. Variations on this condition are very common, and maybe you recognize something that will call you to action.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The View Through Baby (and Dad's) Eyes

Overheard in Krinkeland (Daddy to Madeline:)

"You're so lucky. You get to take naps all day. You always look cute. And you get to suck on Mom's boob whenever you want."

The Outer Office

The three older children went on a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and Todd and I decided to try something novel while they were away. (Naughty thoughts-- nothing like that!) Anyway, we would typically take the rare days when we are down to one child to cram in a lot of activity. We'd call a babysitter for the remaining babe and go to dinner and a movie. We'd go shopping. We'd at least check off some of those annoying errands that are somewhat less annoying when there's no crowd.

But, Todd had work to do, as in work work, and I wanted to get the joint cleaned up after the latest day of entertaining, so we just stayed home. Todd took his laptop to the patio, to enjoy the nice weather and the great view. He said he couldn't imagine a better office.

I wanted to be outside, too, since it really was lovely. I picked up and packed away all the party goods, and then sat in my new lounge chair to read-- a book, yes, a book! Madeline was a bit fussy-- I think it might have been a little chilly for her by the lake-- but I got her properly bundled and corked, and then she, too, sat back to enjoy the view.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Summer Celebration

We waited and waited for summer to arrive, and, now, suddenly, it is half over. Happy Independence Day! Happy Birthday, Dad! Happy Birthday, Terry! Happy Summer!

Friday, July 3, 2009

I Dreamed a Dream in Time Gone By

I woke up in the middle of the night, somewhat panicked about a "bad dream" I'd been having. The first interesting thing was that I remembered my dream, something that hasn't happened in the months since I had Madeline or even in the months before. As someone who is professionally and permanently sleep-deprived, I don't drift off to sleep. I drop down the rabbit hole of exhaustion. And, I don't stay asleep until I am not tired anymore. I am jarred awake at some ungodly hour by a small, hungry, screaming person.

The second odd thing was that the dream was about work. I mean, my former work, as in the kind of profession I had before motherhood. The job for which I actually studied and trained. I can't recall the last time I thought about working, but the idea is obviously floating around my brain somewhere.

In the dream, I was producing a local television morning newscast. I was filling in for the regular producer, something I used to do occasionally when I had only one or two children. Anyway, I was really enjoying myself, putting together the rundown, looking at video, writing scripts, choosing graphics and chatting with the anchor and meteorologist. All of a sudden, it was air time, and I wasn't even close to ready. I went into the control room, but was still writing stories for later parts of the newscast. My associate producer was pulling her hair out, trying to help and keep up. I was absolutely frantic that we would hit some point in the newscast and have nothing to say.

This is the kind of thing that never would have come close to happening when I actually was working. There were crazy-busy days, of course, but the work always got done. There was no other option.

My real most embarrassing moment at work was when I began a newscast without an anchor. The regular anchor was gone, and another man was filling in. Well, he forgot, and was tucked away in an edit bay working on a story for a different day. I didn't check in with him in the half-hour before the show, and he just plain forgot. I sat down in the control room a couple minutes before air and saw an empty anchor desk. The all-out search was on, and we grabbed the first reporter we saw, threw her on the set and said, "Go!" She was a real pro, and the other guy felt just awful afterwards. I did, too, though I'm not sure why. He'd been in the business 20 years longer than I had, and I didn't see "babysitter" anywhere in my job description. I guess that was preparation for motherhood.

My second most embarrassing moment at work was when a video editor cut clips from a television show to run during an interview segment with a famous comedian, who was in town to promote his stage show. I was unfamiliar with this man or his TV show, but I had his photo and lots of video, so I gave the editor some direction and went back to my own job. Well, I didn't double-check the editor's work, and when the clips ran, many of them were of the wrong comedian. The star was a real jerk by nature, so you can imagine how he responded when he saw us highlighting one of his buddies instead of him. What's worse, this celebrity was a black man, so he began accusing that we white people thought all black men looked alike. Of course, anyone who knows me knows nothing could be further from the truth, but I felt just awful. I think there are some motherhood lessons in that one, too.

Back to the dream-- it was so vivid, as though I'd never left the newsroom. Yes, there was panic, but there was a lot of fun, too. Even once all my children are in school, I can't imagine I'll ever go back to that kind of job, because I remember it as being terribly un-family-friendly. But I guess I'll eventually have to find some other creative/professional outlet... or risk being continually haunted in my dreams.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not a Quiet One in the Bunch

I occasionally suffer from diarrhea of the mouth, and Todd could debate the bark off a tree, so it should not be surprising that all of our children are chatterboxes. Madeline has joined the ranks, offering up silence only when she is asleep. I tried to capture her "talking" on video, but, of course, like all babies, when you stick a camera in her face, she is too busy studying to actually coo much. But Madeline is so cute and smiley, I decided to post it anyway:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Master Manipulator

Benjamin is hands-down the biggest manipulator in our house. Maybe it's the killer blue eyes... maybe it's all his fake medical problems... maybe it's because he was the baby for nearly three years... maybe it's because he is the only boy... But that little stinker can get his way and look cute doing it, more often than we care to admit.

So, Todd and I are trying to crack down. Dad is a much bigger softie than I am, so I have been trying to point out whenever I find him letting the boy get away with murder. Mostly, Daddy already knows, but he is trying to toughen up. Ben's response to any kind of reprimand is to put his head down, stick out his lip, and start sobbing, "I'm sorry." It's pretty pitiful, but it doesn't last long. If you cave and comfort him, he immediately recovers and returns to his mischief.

This evening, Ben added another weapon to the pity arsenal. While trying unsuccessfully to get Todd's attention, Benjamin clubbed his dad in the head. That was beyond even what Mr. Permissive would tolerate and Ben got a stern scolding. After whimpering "I'm sorry" and trying to nuzzle Dad for some soothing forgiveness, the boy added, "It's all my fault." Ben seemed genuinely puzzled when his father agreed, "You bet it is, Buster. Who else would be to blame for hitting me? Now, don't do it again." Ah, progress.