Thursday, December 3, 2015

Infinity!

Here are the people that Andy loves the most.  Mommy.  Emily.  Daddy.  Then there is a long pause in which Andy sets his mouth into a defiant straight line.  "What about Alex?" the astute observer might reply to this list.  "I only love Alex a little bit," Andy will say back.  "He pretends to snore at night and keeps me up.  He's always breaking my Lego buildings.  He bothers me. And he gives me kisses. I DON'T WANT HIS KISSES."

Oh, it is hard to be the older sibling.  On one superficial level, I sympathize with my older boy. The plight of an older sibling involves constantly trying to dodge and outwit the peskier younger sibling. It's a war that must be constantly strategized, a battle that can only be won by deflecting the unconditional adoration that emanates like sweet rays of poison from the younger sibling.  It's not easy to be so loved and bothered.  And it is true that Alex bothers Andy.  It is also true that he loves him so much, possibly more than Mommy / Emily / Daddy, possibly even more than You-Tube Surprise Egg videos or Hulk Hands or being unsupervised in Daddy's office.  "How much do you love Andy?" I idly asked Alex once, just to make small talk.  And the answer came bouncing back instantaneously, without thought.  "Infinity!"

Infinity!  And so while I sympathize with Andy, I feel for Alex.  He loves his older brother in a way that he loves no one else.  He deserves to be loved back, even if he pretend snores at night, breaks Lego buildings, is bothersome, and gives unwanted kisses.  I had all of you kids for each other.  Each of you was a special gift to the other two.  Well, that's kind of disingenuous.  I had Andy for me.  I had Alex for me.  And I especially had Emily for me, that last sweet little baby.  Also for Daddy, but mostly for me.  And now that you guys are all together, every once in a while I will pretentiously proclaim that I had you for EACH OTHER, to be the kind of gift that single children dream achingly about.  What a wonderful mother I am, to give you guys the other two.  So altruistic.

Yesterday, Andy did his list of who he loved the most, leaving out little Alex and crooning like a crazy person into Emily's wryly amused face.  My response was my typical one.  Of course, you love Alex the most as well.  He's your brother.  You only have one brother.  I had you for each other.  And he loves you so much, Andy.  Infinity, remember?

Andy tromped off, unconvinced, and sat down on the couch next to Alex.  They were watching some movie together, but Alex had obviously heard our little conversation in the next room and decided to demonstrate some of that love (and bothering) by laying a big, fat juicy kiss onto Andy's unprepared face.  And Andy- he screamed and yelled and just plain lost it.  Andy does not cry easily.  Andy was crying pretty hard.  "I DON'T WANT YOUR KISSES," he yelled to Alex.  I waited a beat, decided I should probably intervene, and went into the family room.  Pausing the movie, I sat before the two boys with Emily perched on my lap, Emily who has absorbed all of the boy drama for the past six months (and the nine months in utero beforehand) through her big gray eyes.  Emily, who seems to be repeatedly wondering just what she has gotten herself into by being born into this family with its uneven love lists and Lego building breaking and sloppy, unasked for kisses.

I don't even remember what I said.  I try to keep the punishments and proclamations somewhat even, and that doesn't seem to be working for me.  The messages get mixed. Andy, Alex only kisses you because he loves you.  Alex, don't kiss Andy any more.  Andy, try not to be so sensitive.  Alex, look how upset Andy is.  Back and forth, back and forth.  One day, I may perhaps just pick a side and stick to it.  "Andy," I will say.  "Lay down on the floor.  Alex, go ahead and cover his face in kisses.  And jump on his stomach while you're at it.  Go ahead.  It's all in the name of infinity love.  I'll be in the other room eating cake."

Then, I remembered something from earlier that day.  We had been at the library, where the librarians had been handing out candy canes in exchange for finding the hidden elf in the library.  Alex had found the elf with my gentle prodding.  Alex, look over here.  Look in this area.  Look at the tree. See anything?  How about you look up?  No, look up and to the right.  Right there?  Do you see the elf?  Right there?  The elf?  Okay, go find the librarian and tell her you found it.  The elf.  Not the tree.  The librarian handed Alex a candy cane for his hard work, and Alex's immediate question for her was, "Can I have one for my brother?"  That is classic Alex, right there.  Always getting an additional whatever for his brother.  She agreed, and Alex happily stuck the extra candy cane into the diaper bag to bring home for Andy.

"Andy," I said now as I sat before them, Andy wiping tears and kisses off his face and Alex gazing off into the distance thinking about surprise egg videos and already forgetting why everyone was so upset.  "Andy, Alex loves you so much that he got something for you today.  Alex, what did you get for Andy?"

Alex's face lit up as he remembered, and he snapped out of his reverie and ran off to retrieve the candy cane.  Andy followed, intrigued, and as Alex proudly handed over the candy cane, everything was once again right with the world.  "This is for you, Andy!" Alex declared.  And Andy, suddenly feeling the sort of kindness that arrives when somebody gives you something you really want, was instantly and generously forgiving of the kissing.

"Thank you, Alex!" Andy said.  "Wait!"  I could see that Andy was going to grant Alex a rare hug as a sort of grateful peace offering, but then it happened.  In his great haste, Andy did not pay attention when he tried to set down the candy cane in order to free his hands and arms for the hugs.  The candy cane smacked onto the edge of the counter top and then dropped to the floor, landing with the kind of ominous crack that one hears when an iPad screen shatters into a million pieces.  Oh, and also when a candy cane shatters into a million pieces, too.  I'm familiar with both sounds, and they're roughly the same.

"Uh oh.  Maybe the candy cane is fine," I thought to myself, averting my eyes from the situation.  A soul crushing howl alerted me to the fact that the candy cane was NOT fine.  Andy was sobbing again, holding the broken chunks of what had just moments ago been a glorious, sugary hook of delight and now was just sadness personified.  Andy was crying so hard, and I knew just how he felt, the way you feel right in that moment when everything has gone wrong and you just want that last half second back in order to make things right again.  That moment in which everything has turned from good to irretrievably bad.  How you feel when you rear end the car in front of you. When you drop something on the floor and it gashes the wood.  When you carelessly slice your hand in the kitchen.  Why?  Why?  WHY??

Andy's sorrow was palpable.  He stared at his broken candy cane and sobbed so hard, and there was nothing that could be done to change what had just happened.  We had no extra candy canes.  A candy cane is not the same when it is broken from its cane shape.  And it was all because his brother loved him and he had tried to overcompensate for his earlier ill feelings and repay the favor with a hug.

What is the lesson that we learned yesterday afternoon, sitting at the kitchen table and crying into the bits of candy cane that didn't quite taste the same?  I didn't know if there was one.  I rubbed Andy's back and promised that I would buy another candy cane next time I went to the store.  I did not say anything more about the kissing and the generosity and the sometimes difficult, sometimes easy love between two brothers.  Candy canes cannot be repaired, but siblings will have their ups and downs and ups.    Today I have two new, perfect candy canes sitting on the kitchen counter top waiting to be enjoyed by the two boys tonight, together.

Dear baby Jesus, please do not let one break.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why I Don't Have Time To Blog!

Reasons Why I Don't Have Time To Blog:

1.  Emily is waking up most nights, and even though many nights I don't get up out of bed to go get her, I still have to lay there awake and listen to her screaming.  And I would scream back except then there is a distinct possibility that the boys might wake up, which would be bad since Andy was already up once to exchange out his peed in underwear and pajamas for fresh ones.  Clang! went the door to the laundry chute.  Which was originally a selling point to this house (A laundry chute!  How very "Home Alone!") and is now nothing more than one more thing to manage.  Who put a pooped in Pull-Up down the laundry chute??  Who tried to stick a whole comforter down there?  Who didn't empty the basket at the bottom and got the whole thing clogged up with dirty clothes that fell on my head when I tried to de-clog?  Who was clanging the damn little laundry chute door at three in the morning because they wet the bed?  WHO?

2.  I've been ill.  Not deathly, terminally ill, but it's been a rough month for me personally.  Strep throat, sinus infection, some kind of virus, the stomach flu, a bout of neck stiffness that had me googling "meningitis" in a panic. I have been on antibiotics and every single over the counter drug that one can name.  Go ahead, name one.  Or don't.  This is my health we're talking about here, not a guessing game to play for fun.  I'm finally feeling a little better, but I'm sure tomorrow Andy will bring pinkeye home from school, all gift-wrapped in a snotty little box, and I'll be back to the Minute Clinic before you can say Get A Real Doctor Already.

3.  Alex.  Alex is time consuming, man.  His three favorite words are "Play with me," and I'm pretty sure I spend a solid hour each day sitting on the rug with him nonsensically wiggling a Batman action figure in his direction.  Alex loves to play superheroes, and I play with him, because I'm just that kind of dedicated mother.  The thing is, Alex never comes up with any good, plausible storylines.  It falls to me.  And if I don't wiggle the Batman figure just right and add some kind of dialogue ("Hello, Hulk, have you seen my Sudafed laying around?  I had to sign like three legal documents to buy it and I'm worried about having to go back for more."), then Alex will look up at me and bark, "You are not playing with me!"  And I will bark back, "I AM playing with you!" And so it will go back and forth until Alex finally gives up and asks for lemon pop or I can get the story going with Batman and Hulk on an extra special mission back to the Minute Clinic for more sinus medicine and maybe a bass drum full of cold and flu nighttime cough syrup.

4.  Emily.  Oh, sure she sleeps a little at night.  Oh, sure she naps a little during the day.  But she is my demanding little baby, crying the second I try to slip away from her or plug her into the exersaucer or her little bouncy chair.  Emily likes to be held.  She likes to be fed.  She likes to be able to casually reach up and yank on my hair, just to be reassured I'm there.  And I savor every little moment with my beautiful, giggling, sweet little last baby.  But damn.  There's not a whole else I can do.  Sometimes, Emily plays Batman with me and Alex.  It does not go well.  "Emily is licking Wonder Woman's car!" he might wail.  And it's true.  But, Alex, it's all or nothing.

5.  Andy.  But he's gone most of the time on weekdays!  How could Andy be the reason I don't have time to blog?  Because we do homework.  We work on reading.  We pack lunches and snacks and rush around like crazy people in the morning to make the bus.  We go to karate on Saturdays (sidenote, Andy's sweet karate moves are not as sweet as either of us had initially hoped).  We draw at night before bed (sidenote: Andy is so much better at drawing than karate.).  I help out once a month in his class, where I stare at the teacher with a kind of awe I once reserved for Pantene hair models.  How does this lady do it?  How do you spend all day with 25 rowdy five year olds and not fire a weapon at some point?  How does she not appear visibly drunk?  What kind of sane person makes this their career choice and just sticks with it, year after year?  Don't you know there are other jobs out there that don't require you to directly interact with somebody else's horrible children?  Why don't you sell glasses like I do?  (We'll call that reason number 6 that I don't have time to blog, my ten hours away from home each week.).  I like Andy's teacher, even if I think she's clearly insane.  It helps that she really likes Andy, per our teacher-parent conference.  She said to me, "Andy just gets it.  He's on a different level than the other kids."  I will remember this line for as long as I can. And remind myself that it was a positive thing.  I am proud of Andy.  I will try not to screw Andy up. Alex and Emily, I will try too.  But it might be too late for Alex. And Emily's number three, so let's just admit that she's fresh out of luck. I'm  kidding, of course.  Kind of.

7.  This house doesn't clean itself.  I mean, I don't clean it either, but I do straighten up.  I do laundry every day.  This laundry situation is only going to get worse as the kids and their clothes get bigger.  I will likely need a wider laundry chute (and one that doesn't have a streak of pull-up poo down the inside of it.)  I do dishes every day.  I sweep three times a day.  I walk around collecting garbage from the various cans like it means something.  I find little things that are broken, cracked, chipped, not working.  I order replacement parts, do some light spackling (just call me Spacklin' Jaclyn), add more grout, touch up paint, tighten screws.  Oh how handy you must think I am!  Well, I do these things.  But I'm terrible at all of it.  I also walk around wishing I had new carpet. That alone eats up about an hour or so of my day.

8.  Driving around, man.  Going to preschool, the grocery store, Target, the library, the McDonalds playplace.  I will defend the McDonald's playplace until I die.  Sure, it's fast food.  But it comes with APPLES and MILK.  And you should see the workout these kids get at the playplace.  Alex comes down from the tunnels a sweaty mess.  It's like he's just returning from Woodstock.  Or from a nasty tunnel soaked with some other kid's urine.  But, no.  Let's go back to Woodstock. Without all of the drugs.  Just apples!  And milk!  And antibiotic filled nuggets!  Hey, maybe I should have eaten some of those, too.  Do you think they also contain guaifenesin?

9.  The Sopranos.  This is a selfish one.  Chris and I finally finished watching the whole series during my small window of downtime each evening. Of course, I watched the whole series a decade ago, but I rewatched with Chris because it's such a great show.  I wasn't so sure about the ending the first time I watched.  But now I know what happened.  There's no doubt in my mind.  Send me a tweet if you want to talk about it.  Or don't, because my twitter career only lasted two days and now I'm completely locked out of my account.

10.  Three kids.  I'm not the first person to have three kids.  I didn't have them ridiculously close together.  I don't have more than three kids, or multiples.  None of them have any special needs.  It's all good, so far- I'm very blessed.  But still.  There's three of them.  And me.  And a husband.  And a household.  And a part time job.  Every day, there's a to-do list that seems unending.  And I'm not complaining.  But I am explaining.  I hope that I can keep this blog up, for me and for these kids.  I will add it to the list.  But first I will take some more cold medicine, pack a healthy school lunch, find something that starts with the letter Y for Alex's class, rub excema cream behind Emily's knees, and go see if Chris has any interest in "Six Feet Under."  Spoiler alert. He doesn't.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Six Flags And Holding!

Six Flags?  Well, I haven't been there in fifteen years!  The last time I went, it was with this guy that I had a mild crush on.  Oh and his parents went, too.  The whole thing was very strange.  I called out sick to work and ended up getting in trouble because the manager could tell I was on my cell phone and not my parents' home phone. Imagine!  Your boss thinking you were lying about being sick because you were calling from a cell phone!  As if anybody has any other means of communication these days!  I believe next time I need to call out sick (from the same company, unbelievably fifteen years later with about a decade hiatus in between), I will probably just text.


And the time before that?  Well, it was my senior trip!  Or was it my junior trip?  Or, crap, was it my eighth grade trip??? We took the big old yellow bus and I won a humongous stuffed dolphin from one of the carnie games.  That's about all I can remember.  The year was a haze, but the water rides were wet and wild and they were giving away stuffed dolphins like it was the end of the world.  And everybody thought $1 for a pop was a big deal.  What a crazy time, #classof98.

Did I also go with my parents at some point?  Oh sure.  My dad and I waited in long, winding line after long, winding line for each and every roller coaster, and my mother was pissed with a capital P.  Because what fun is it to drive over an hour up 294 only to sit on a series of benches while everyone experiences thrills of a lifetime?  No fun, that's the answer.  Live and learn.

But now the ride is not over an hour up 294.  It's 20 minutes down neighborhood streets, and I'm cruising in the back entrance of Six Flags like I practically own the place.  My husband and three kids now have season passes for the remainder of this year and all of next year.  Strolling through those front gates, though, is like walking through a time machine.  What year is it?  How have I aged so much?  And who are these adorable children with me?  What do you mean I birthed them???   Isn't this my eighth grade trip?  Don't I still have my whole life ahead of me???

What a different experience to go to Six Flags with my young children.  Now I am the adult escorting my child on their very first roller coaster.  Andy loved The Whizzer and even enjoyed our thirty minute wait last Monday while Chris (less of a wet rag than other parental units) waited nearby with Alex and Emily and a funnel cake. No complaints there, his plate was positively floating in powdered sugar! We hit all the kiddie rides, Chris and I taking turns riding with the boys versus waiting with the baby.  The sun shone brightly, promisingly, with all of the fun next summer will hold- provided we do not lose our souvenir 2016 free refill cups and/or have our on-loan stroller system stolen by shady looking patrons.  Andy and Alex think that the Six Flags is the greatest place on Earth, and I just may have to agree with them.  It's even better now; everything's better through the eyes of a kid versus a jaded teenager or a twenty year old faking sick on a cell phone with a goddamn antenna.

And yet, at Six Flags, there are glimpses of the past everywhere.  That same carousel, that spot where Shockwave used to be.  The place where the buses parked, a man-sized dolphin that looks like an old friend I once had.  How odd to revisit now.  How odd but wonderful.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bad Mushrooms!

Andy has been using the baby monitor to play psychological games on Alex.  Andy and I will be up in Emily's room while Alex is downstairs innocently eating breakfast next to the receiver.  Andy will whisper so softly into the transmitter that Alex's only guess will be that the voices are in his head and not aloud in the actual, living world.  "Alex," Andy will intone quietly.  "You smell like a butt, Alex. Alex, you smell like one butt, two feet, and three boogers.  Oh Alex.  You stink."

The first time I witnessed this, I thought it was hilarious and brilliant.  By the fourth or fifth time, I was no longer entertained, believing Andy's soft-spoken head games to be gently spouted from the mind of a psychopath.  There are moments when I look at and/or listen to my kids, and I am deeply troubled.  Last night, for instance, we read the book "Babar," the original story.  This is one of those books that I should have pre-read first, as the story starts with Babar's loving mother dying abruptly from a hunter's gunshot and goes on to the king of the elephants also dying (from eating a poisonous mushroom) and Babar pursuing an incestuous relationship with his cousin Celeste.  The whole tale was dark and disturbing.  However, Andy was appropriately appalled by the tale, and it was Alex who grew excited from the course of events.  "Read it again!" he exclaimed when I finished.  "I love that book!  I love the elephant dying from the bad mushroom!"

I should have also looked into "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" a little better.  That was the movie of choice for Family Movie Night a couple weeks ago (also known as Family Pause and Unpause The DVD Six Times Night.)  The movie ends with the peculiar Timothy Green basically dying.  The evening thus concluded with Andy crying about why people had to die and the futility of life.  I need to be better at prescreening our entertainment selections.  As in, I need to occasionally do it.

Sometimes, as a mother, I worry that I have glossed over Really Important Things and that my confidence in my kids is sometimes misplaced.  A couple weeks ago, one child purposefully peed on the other in the shower.  Now, how did I not properly convey the fact that urination on another person is not okay?  When was I supposed to have that talk?  I have witnessed my children mistreating other children in such an offhanded way that it is clear that they do not think they are doing anything wrong, and I have watched as they have done awful things to one another that they KNOW is wrong.  These boys can be just plain cruel to one another.  So far, they are both quite loving to Emily, but now she is still small and immobile and basically another teddy bear.  What will they do to her once she is no longer a novelty but another creature to get in the way and infuriate them?  I shudder at the thought.

Of course, the dynamics between all of them will shift and change direction almost constantly.  For even though the boys can act like they want to crawl inside each other's brains and ruin each other's lives in a primal sort of way, they are also each other's biggest protectors.  "I want one for Andy!"  Alex always announces when he gets something that Andy doesn't.  And Andy will proudly introduce Alex whenever he can.  "This is my brother!  He smells like one butt, two feet, and three boogers."  Alas, he often leaves that last part off.  Which is what I hope makes him an intrinsically good person.

Emily will have alliances with each brother, and sometimes they will have an alliance against her. Currently, she is most entertained by Alex and seems often bothered by Andy, awarding Alex with giggles and refusing to make eye contact with Andy.  This is because Andy gets right up in her face while Alex's charm is more off-handed and less intense.  This is also because Alex is, currently, the funnier of the two.  I'm sorry, Andy, but it's true.  You have a good sense of humor, but Alex is a fricking riot.  Don't worry, though, these things all change. And you have other great attributes, such as being overall LESS annoying than Alex.  See, boys, I am always ranking and judging you two against one another.  Like any good mother would.

I hope these kids all grow up to be normal, well-adjusted, wonderful adults, despite my missteps.  I try my best to be a good mother, but I fear that there must be something very important that I am missing, something huge that is yet unaddressed.  Other than the urination on other people thing and Alex's glee over elephants dying.  I hope I figure it out soon, that key to Perfect Parenting and Perfect Children.  And I hope it doesn't require a whole lot of one on one time.  Kidding!  Kind of.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Surprise Eggs!

Alex is obsessed with You-Tube.  One day, I will sit him down and tell him about the prehistoric era/ household in which I grew up, where there was only UHF TV and VHF TV, and in order to watch UHF, there was a bottom knob that needed to be turned and only a parental figure was allowed to turn this knob, which happened about once every month or so.  I spent weeks at a time being able to watch ONLY 32 or ONLY 50, and I certainly couldn't pause, rewind, or speak into the TV and say such search terms as "Batman Motorcycle" or "Surprise Eggs."

I've tried to explain to Andy and Alex just how awful it was to grow up in the 1980's.  The only thing Andy seems to understand about my youth was that I once had two grandpas and I voted for George Washington for president.  Some of his facts are a little screwed up, but who am I to correct him.  I've got three kids; I'm too busy to repeatedly explain how old I am.  But they do know that I'm old enough to never have had an iPad until AFTER they were both born.

I like when they use the iPad to play pseudo-educational games.  I feel like my lies to the pediatrician about them getting no more than the recommended daily allowance of screen time are somewhat validated when they're using the screen to assemble a puzzle of a donkey or something.  But, lately, all Alex does with the iPad is watch videos, thus dismantling the whole house of cards. 

In particular, Alex likes egg surprise videos.  All the preschoolers/ toddlers do. How they find these videos ON THEIR OWN with no parental guidance is both impressive and startling.  I have zero idea on how Alex stumbled across the whole egg surprise thing, but again, I am pretty busy, and that little guy is horrifyingly resourceful.  He basically taught himself how to use scissors.  And the oven.

The egg surprise series is basically some fully grown up man opening plastic Easter eggs and commenting on the junk he finds inside.  Paw Patrol figures!  Mickey Mouse bracelets!  Stickers! The treasures never fail to leave the audience wanting more.  You see the man's hands cracking open these eggs, but you never see his face.  Sometimes a little girl's hands open the eggs instead.  I assume the little girl is the man's daughter and not some random kidnapping victim who is okay with having been stolen from her family since her new life contains surprise eggs.  The videos are boring, repetitive, and lack a well-crafted storyline.  But, man oh man.  Does Alex love these videos?  Yes. Does he spend every waking moment wanting to watch these videos?  Yes.  Is his new favorite holiday Easter, which was once fifth in line for exciting holidays but is now surpassing even HALLOWEEN and CHRISTMAS?  Yes.  Is the surprise egg man probably one of the richest men alive?  He must be, although I really can't figure out where his revenue would come from, unless Alex has found a way to mail him checks.  If the surprise egg man is doing all of this for FREE- well, then he's got even bigger issues than I originally thought.

Perhaps there is something appealing and addictive about watching a stranger's hands open plastic eggs in order to reveal mundane toys.  Perhaps this is the way children today truly do entertain themselves, even though the TV we own has about 300 channels fully available, no off-limits bottom knob needed.  In which case, they're wasting it.  All of this technology available, and Alex- you're wasting it by watching eggs.  

Wouldn't you rather spend your time putting together a digital puzzle of a donkey?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kindergarten!

Andy boarded the kindergarten bus without a single glance backwards.  We waved pointlessly in his general direction as the bus rode off, but he was too busy beginning his new life as a big man about campus to bother to look our way.  That's it.  Armed with a bag of Teddy Grahams that I carefully pre-cut open for him (just a little snip to get you started, son) and the confidence of someone who has never truly been told no, he was completely ready to get the day going.  Later, he would act annoyed by my thousand questions, but the answers were so deeply unsatisfying that I could barely stand it. What do you mean, you didn't make any new friends?  How can you not remember what you did all day?  Did you miss me at all?  You didn't miss me AT ALL?

People warned me about the first weeks of full day kindergarten.  They said:

He will come home and be so very exhausted.  False.  He comes home and begs to go the playground.

He will be too excited to eat his lunch or snack.  False.  He ate it all, except for dessert yesterday because he didn't have enough time to get to it. Today, he said he ate dessert first.  It only took one day for him to figure that one out.

The bus will be late the very first days.  True.  Although today it was only ten minutes behind, which is shocking to me considering I can't get TWO kids into the CAR in under twenty minutes, at least not without threatening to lightly beat someone.  Note to self.  Check to see if my child has been lightly beaten.

The second day will be harder than the first.  False.  The second day, Andy was up EVEN EARLIER than the first day, ready and excited to go before the sun had fully appeared on the horizon.  Who needs an alarm clock?  Between Andy's eagerness and my own parental anxiety, the clock next to the bed is totally pointless.  I'm up.  My baby's sleeping from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, but now I'm clocking three hour shifts beginning at midnight and ending at five.  So, actually, it's more like one three hour shift.  And bits of a two hour one.

My other kids will be lost without Andy.  False.  Emily is obviously perfectly fine, and Alex- well, Alex is a delight to be around without Andy there to antagonize him.  He plays nicely by himself and very clearly enjoys doing what he wants when he wants without having to share or take turns.  Alex is discovering how wonderful it is to just be Alex.  And he's happy to see Andy at the end of the school day- but not, like, overly so.  I guess nobody really misses anybody around here.  Except me, I do miss Andy.  Although, it would be nice if Andy and Alex could just alternate getting on that bus everyday.

It will be harder on me than it is on Andy.  True.  Understatement of the year.  Andy is perfectly fine with the whole kindergarten thing.  He loves taking the bus, clearly.  He loves spending the whole day there.  He has very easily accepted this big change in his routine without positing a single question.  Is it that children are more trusting than adults in believing that things will just work out?  I'm up half the night thinking that putting him on a bus in order to return safely (and educated and nourished) eight hours later is the craziest expectation I've ever had, and he just marches on the bus and sits down confidently without even a sniff of the driver's breath to check for alcohol.  I mean, how is it possible that I'm the weird one here?  How is it that my young child thinks this whole intricate system is somehow perfectly normal??

The years go by quickly once they start school.  I don't know yet.  I believe it, I guess, since just three days ago he was an itty bitty newborn with a wig of hair.  Two days ago, Alex was an itty bitty newborn, and yesterday it was Emily.  Actually, more like five minutes ago it was Emily.  But that last one is a fact.  It hasn't been three days since Andy was born.  It's been five years and almost two months, and it's gone by pretty quickly.  So if it starts to go even quicker, then we're all in trouble. Now excuse me while I gather up my children, hug them tightly, and try not to think of how old we'll all be in another five years.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Princess P!

I've had a daughter for almost eight weeks now.  As a mother of mostly sons (fully 67% of my spawn), there's been a slight learning curve to the mothering of a (very) young girl. For instance, if you put her in a ducky onesie and cover her up with a truck blankie, people are going to automatically assume you are some poor soul with three sons and treat you thusly.  "Oh, three boys!" they might remark with a better-you-than-me type smirk on their face.  That's when you have to dig around in the car seat looking for that pink bow that you just know is in there somewhere.  One must never forget the gender-defining headband bow.  "Oh no!" you'll have to reassure that nosy stranger.  "Two boys and a girl!"  And then they will go on with a suddenly genuine smile to say how spoiled that little girl is going to be, and before you know it, it's all princess this and princess that.

Of course, I have called her "princess" myself.  It's either that or Buddy like I used to call the boys, which feels weird and wrong.  "Hey Buddy, you got poop in your vagina" sounds incorrect.  Of course, substituting "princess" into that sentence isn't any better.  I guess it's just time to admit that there's no right way to say that sentence and I should simply stop trying.  I call her Princess P., which is my casual reference to Super Mario's Princess Peach and also my way of saying my baby smells like urine.  Princess PEE. Get it?

There are so many tropes about little girls.  She is the reason I had a third a child, she is super sweet, she is going to be a spoiled princess, she is going to be my best friend at some point and my worst enemy at others, she will be a daddy's girl, she will love to shop.  Of course, there are just as many about little boys, but for some reason, I am not nearly as bothered by them.  There must be some psychological explanation for this, but I am in great defense of the fact that my boys are boys and not girls and a bit annoyed by the belief that Emily has fulfilled every great wish and parental desire by being a girl.  This DESPITE that fact that I myself have stated that THANK GOD she's a girl and not a third boy.  I cannot explain why I feel this way, but I do, and perhaps it's just my maternal way of protecting Andy and Alex in my heart.  Only I am allowed to remark on the Thank God-ness of Emily's gender.  It's hypocritical and makes it incredibly difficult to have a conversation, but there it is.

And so, getting that all out of the way, I can't help but believe, and perhaps hope, that Emily's existence as a little girl will be one of the best gifts my boys could have received.  Will Emily make them more sensitive men, better boyfriends, finer gentlemen?  Will she temper all the testosterone with Barbie dolls and the scent of pink bubble gum?  In return, what will the boys do for her?  I haven't quite considered the reverse of the equation yet, even though as a young girl I used to daydream about my non-existent older brother showing up one day.  He would be cool and hang out with me, show me the various ropes, introduce me to cute older boys.  He would kick ass when I needed him to kick ass.  He would perhaps drive me places and later, down the road, co-sign on my various loans.

Alas. At some point, I will be a better mother of a daughter, an equally good mother of both boys and girl.  I'm working on it.  One thing I can say for certain:  I love all these goofy kids, and I do not condone co-signing on loans.  It's really not a sound financial decision.
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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Andy is Five! A Throwback!

It's Andy's fifth birthday!  He swears he's grown overnight and that he knows he's taller.  Maybe he is.  I tell him he's getting bigger everyday and that one day he'll be taller than me, to which he emits a nervous laugh, as if the prospect of being bigger than mommy is rather unlikely and also quite terrifying.

Today, in honor of Andy turning five, I am copying and pasting the first blog entry that I wrote after Andy was born.  It's from the blog I had before this one, which I keep buried in the unsearchable realms of the World Wide Whatnot.  I apologize in advance for my blatant usage of the phrase "lady junk."


Jul 21, 2010


My baby Andy is nine days old today. I've been meaning to write a blog entry about the labor, delivery, and our first few days, but time has been getting away from me. At this rate, I'm going to be back at work before I know it. How is time going by so quickly when all we do is nap, eat, poop, and cuddle? How have I had to do four loads of Andy's laundry already when we haven't even left the house, save for his doctor's visit and a trip to Walgreens and the liquor store* in which we didn't even take Andy out of the car?

His first doctor's visit went great. We packed his diaper bag for the half hour jaunt out of the house with a week's supply of diapers, an emergency supply of formula, three different kinds of burp cloths, 80 wipes, a couple pacifiers, two changes of clothes, and a teddy bear. The diaper bag weighs more than my baby- and that's saying a lot, considering Andrew Jacob came into this world last Monday, July 12 weighing a whopping eight pounds, five ounces. Now, I know this isn't HUGE for a baby, but it's pretty monstrous for me, considering that in my non-pregnancy days, I generally weigh in just over a slim hundred.

They induced me, but I think Andy would have been born that day anyway- when we got to the hospital, I was already (unwittingly!) having contractions, and when the doctor snapped on her latex glove to break my water (who knows what that would have entailed, yikes), I exclaimed that I had just peed myself. Oh, how embarrassing! Oh, of all times to pee! Of course, it wasn't pee, it was the bag of waters, and I thought to myself, "Man, this labor is practically going to take care of itself! This is going to be a BREEZE!" Boy, was I wrong. At about 4:30 PM, the doctor turned down my epidural and casually suggested that I start pushing. Stupidly, I assumed I would lightly push a few times and out would come my baby, perhaps by 4:45 PM, just before I dressed and cleaned up for dinner. Not quite. I pushed for three solid hours with what felt like no epidural. I threw up and screamed and cried, and when it became apparent that my baby wasn't coming out without a little help, I reluctantly agreed to let the doctor use the vacuum. I don't know why they call it a vacuum; it's basically a huge suction cup that the doctor shoves up your what-not, somehow attaches to the baby's head, and then YANKS WITH ALL HER MIGHT WITH NO REGARD TO HOW BADLY SHE IS WRECKING YOUR LADY JUNK. But my baby did eventually come out. And, yes, my lady junk did get pretty wrecked. I was not prepared for exactly how wrecked things were going to be down there- how I would feel the needle going in and out when she stitched me up afterwards, how I would need a whole variety basket full of lady junk ointments, pads, wipes, sprays, ice packs, etc, just to barely make that area feel just painfully uncomfortable as opposed to ABSOLUTELY, KILL ME AWFUL. And I almost laughed out loud when the doctor told me, before they discharged me, that I couldn't put anything in my vagina for six weeks. I don't think anything's going up there ever again. I hope this doesn't negatively affect my marriage.

But, anyway. Enough about me and my lady junk. Let's talk about my perfect little angel, Andy. God, do I love this kid. I can say without a doubt that I've never loved anything like I love my baby Andy. He makes me think of that Six Feet Under episode when Nate and some guy were talking about how having a child was like seeing your heart beating outside your chest. That's how I feel. Andy is beautiful and amazing, and I'm still in shock that he came out of plain, ordinary me. He's got a head of thick, dark, luxurious hair, and Chris and I love to brush it and give him a side part, transforming baby Andy into Andy, the insurance salesman. He's got huge eyes that shine in shades of both brown and dark blue, depending. He's got a perfectly round little head and long baby fingers. His cries are adorable. The way he gazes is adorable. He's warm and smells nice and he melts my heart when he falls asleep with his cheek against my chest. He's a good baby- he doesn't fuss or cry unless he's being "messed with" or needs something ASAP, like a diaper change or a meal. And I believe all my friends and family when they tell me that he's the cutest baby ever. I know they'd probably say that anyway, even if he wasn't, but I think their statements ring with truth. He is pretty fricking cute. Pretty fricking awesome.

Which just goes to show you: the secret ingredient to creating a perfect, beautiful baby is ANXIETY. Also, egg salad, I ate a lot of egg salad when I was pregnant.

I like to sing to Andy. I like to sing songs and replace certain words with Andy. We do "Take A Load Off, Andy," and the other night I did a rendition of The Cranberries' "Zombie," replacing each instance of Zombie with Andy. He seemed to enjoy it. I like to kiss Andy and snuggle with Andy and hold Andy's little hand. One thing I don't like to do is change Andy's diaper. I'm not good at it. Like, at all. Chris is better at poop duty, and I'm much too negligent when it comes to making sure that Andy doesn't shoot pee back onto his own face. Whoops.

Here's something I want to remember forever. The night Andy was born, the nurse took his temperature and said it was a little low. So, she undressed Andy, put him on my naked chest/ belly, and covered us up with blankets so that I could keep my Andy warm. And we lay like that for a couple hours, skin to skin, Andy breathing softly against me, my arms wrapped so tightly around my little boy so that he hopefully knew, on some level, that I was never going to let him go. Mommy loves Andy. Forever.

*The trip to the liquor store was strictly for business purposes, as Chris works for that company. Also, we needed beer.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Alex Sucks At Swim Lessons!

Andy and Alex started swim lessons this week.  Andy is doing great.  There is no story about Andy and swim lessons other than how adorable he is scuttling off to the diving board to ensure that he gets to be first in line.  But, Alex, on the other hand.  Oh, Alex.

One of these boys is about to get banned
from the park district.
I was afraid that it would be hard to get three kids out of the house in time to make our 9:10 swim lesson each day, but turns out all I had to do was just set an alarm.  Boom.  We're on time.  It's not easy to wake up at 7:00 am when you've been up every three or four hours and the baby is still fast asleep when that clock starts buzzing, but kids need to swim, and so we do it.  I haul all three of them to the park district, and Andy runs off with his class, and then there's Alex in the preschool swim group.  And to my great chagrin, he is the worst kid in the class.

I'd like to think it's because he's bored, because he knows how to go under water and has advanced swimming skills already and so he finds pouring a cup of water on his head while singing "This is the way we wash our hair, wash our hair, wash our hair" completely asinine.  But I've always thought the "my kid is so smart he's bored" excuse to be pretty weak.  Sure, he's smart.  But is he POLITE?  Can he follow direction?  No.  Alex is not polite.  He refuses to give his swim instructor a high five because he says he doesn't like her.  And he certainly doesn't follow direction, staring critically at his teacher, unmoving, while the rest of the kids just pour the water on their heads like they're supposed to it.  I mean, just do it.  Just f-ing do it.

There's more to Alex's class than cups of water.  There's kickboards, fetching swim rings, kicking while holding on to the side of the pool, etc.  Alex is interested in practically none of it.  He gets out of the pool on his own, wanders off to do his own thing, and is an altogether embarrassment.  If not for obedient, eager Andy on the other side of the pool, I'd feel that Alex were bringing shame to the Berger name.  We are a family of GOOD LISTENERS, dammit. Of achievers!  I took AP Calculus in high school for Pete's sake!  Of course, I failed it.  Calculus is hard, yo!  Pretty sure Chris passed it, though, so the genes are definitely there.

Alex's swim class has three swim instructors for about eight or nine kids.  Alex, because he is so disobedient, essentially has one teacher assigned just to wrangling him.  To following him out of the pool when he decides he's too cold or that his swim trunks need to be readjusted or when he's ready to go find his brother.  "Andy!  Andy!  Here I am, Andy!"

Today, he seemed a little better.  I watched him shuffle reluctantly through the pool to find one of the swim rings, and when the teacher announced that today they were going to jump off the diving board, Alex's ears perked up, and he climbed out of the pool, ready and willing to dive to certain doom.  He ran to the diving board, feet pounding over the NO RUNNING words transcribed on the pavement. He got in and out of line at the diving board (calling out "Hi Andy!" over and over again to Andy who was already at the deep end.)  And then he got on the diving board, almost slipped right off, starting jumping in the middle of it, and eventually bumbled into a great big splash into the lifeguard's arms.  Or at least near them.

Success.  Kind of.

Alex was proud of himself for jumping off the diving board.  Andy was proud of Alex, which was even more important.  Emily was fast asleep in her stroller, blissfully unaware.  And I was wedged into tiny little short shorts that were baggy on me last summer, remarking to my friend that they were tight in all the wrong places and that I was finding it hard to focus.

After swim lessons, we hit the splash pad where Alex stole some kid's ball.  With a week or so of swim lessons left, I hope that Alex hits his stride and starts listening to his teachers a little better. And that he doesn't injure himself goofing off on the diving board.  If not, maybe I'll cop out and say that his bad behavior is because he's sooo bored.  Or I'll just admit that my second born son is a little shit that doesn't respect authority and can't follow simple direction. Although I won't actually call him a shit, as that would also be in poor taste.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Alex Is Turning Three!

Alex turns three tomorrow!  He was to be my last baby, and here we are three years later with Alex already firmly planted into his position as "middle child" and our new addition, the picture perfect definition of Little Sister.  Now, if for some reason, I am writing about Emily turning three in three years and there's ANOTHER baby in that role, then let me be the first to admit that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.  But, in this case, things are horribly right.  I mean, wonderfully right.  And Alex, since the arrival of Emily, is suddenly back to his old self.  I would like to qualify that last statement by saying that that's a good thing.

Alex's behavior up until Emily's birth was awful.  Then something magical happened.  We brought home that little sister, and suddenly I feel like Alex is okay again.  He is back to being my good, sweet, albeit mischievous little boy.  Now, how does that make any sense?  Bringing home a new baby is supposed to instill chaos and disruption into the lives of young children.  And yet, Emily has calmed the chaos, and now Alex (and Andy) have seemingly stepped up their game.  They love their sister. For Andy, that's the understatement of the year.  Andy loves Emily so much, it borders on obsession. In fact, Andy is so concerned with Emily's well-being that he's now convinced himself that I, as the mother, am not good enough to take care of the new princess in the house.  "Put the brake on the stroller!" Andy yells if I step away from the stroller without engaging the brake.  "Where's her binky? I think she needs a bottle.  Keep your hand on her blanket, woman, IT'S GOING TO BLOW AWAY!"  Andy's conversations with Emily are rather entertaining as well.  The other day, Chris heard Andy explaining the family to Emily (that he was the biggest brother, etc).  There was a little bit of mumbling, and then Chris heard him continue, "And also Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars."  So he went from basic family hierarchy to astronomy.

Which brings me back to Alex, who listens more than we ever give him credit.  Last night, Andy brought up the planets again (obviously a huge topic around our house for some reason) and asked Chris if Pluto was a planet.  To which little Alex replied, almost under his breath, "No, because it's too little."  Nobody's ever explained the planets to Alex.  But the kid listens, and nothing is more entertaining than when he betrays an understanding to something that we had falsely assumed was way over his head.  This is something we probably do too much of- teaching Andy something while assuming Alex isn't old enough to understand.  But hey.  Children are born, mistakes are made.

Happy birthday to one of the cutest kids I know.
Alex is also an excellent older brother to the baby, singing to her (almost in a panic) if he hears her cry.  He begs to feed her bottles and also proudly introduces her to strangers.  (We are still working on the stranger danger thing, but sometimes it's true- a stranger's just a friend you haven't met!  Or someone who may want to kidnap you and sell you on the black market, but really, what are the odds of that happening?) Alex has been sweeter than usual lately, and I can honestly say there is zero jealousy factor. It works. For example, at night when we read our books, Emily curls in my lap, Andy sits to my left, and Alex cuddles under my right arm, just like always.  The adjustments thus far have been minor.

And so I wish Alex, the baby who is no longer the baby, the happiest of third birthdays.  Alex, you were a smiley infant, basically right from your first week at home.  You are still smiley.  You love to tell jokes and make us laugh with your ballet, which is essentially a very subtle butt wiggle that somehow kills it every time.  Your favorite movie is currently "Home Alone 2, Lost in New York," which we have watched no less than sixty times.  When we went to the zoo a couple weeks ago, we discovered that your favorite animal is the "little panda bear."  You're lucky, too, having won  $250 in Superbowl squares earlier this year and then a freaking bike in a raffle last month.  "I won one bike," you told people matter-of-factly.  Just one.  No more than one, and no less.  I, on the other hand, have never won a raffle in my entire life.  Not that I'm jealous of your one bike or anything, but I'd love to win some cash now and then.

I digress.  Alex, I am so proud of the boy you've become, and I'm glad you seem happy again.  I guess you just needed to see that Mommy wasn't gaining all that weight for nothing.  I know, I know, it made me upset, too.  Now I just need my abdomen muscles to reconnect and to be able to get my fat ass back into my old jeans and then we will ALL be happy.

I love you, kid.  I really hope you like your gift tomorrow morning.  Spoiler alert.  It's walkie talkies. Because a year ago, you hardly said anything at all, and now you know all about the planets and have a lot of information to spread, more than we assume, I'm sure.

Over and out.

Friday, June 5, 2015

She's Here!

And so it seems that the system starts to break down when the third child is ready to arrive.  The nurses basically leave you alone for your entire hospital stay, and not even the doctor seems to really take it seriously.  "I was in the shower when the nurse said you were ready," my own doctor said, strolling into my delivery room with wet hair. "Let's get this baby out before my conditioner needs to be rinsed."

Chris was unfazed by the entire ordeal as well.  At one point, the nurse had her whole arm up my birth canal while Chris stood less than three feet away casually mixing cream and sugar into his coffee.  When Dr. Straight-From-The-Shower showed up, he stood off to the side eating a granola bar and silently doing the math on how soon we could check out of the hospital if the baby was born in the next ten minutes.  Jackie could be home in time to cook us dinner tomorrow, I heard him think.

I had my elective induction.  I made it!  However, when we got to the hospital, it was discovered that I was actually already having contractions one minute apart.  One minute!  I wasn't even registering these contractions.  If I'd been home, I'd have gone grocery shopping.  This is just further evidence of the constant level of the stress in my life.  I'm basically always in some state of tensing and untensing, just trying to survive.

The boys and Baby Sister
Emily was born quickly.  She popped out into the world and then cried inconsolably for 90 minutes. She was so loud and screamy that I began to wonder if maybe I'd made a grave mistake.  Of course, as the day wore on and my rating on the pain scale shifted from three to four to three to four, I decided that no mistakes were made.  Emily is the most beautiful girl baby I have ever laid eyes on. Everything about her is fine and delicate, from her long little fingers to the gentleness of her dark eyes. She is sweet, loves to cuddle, and is exceptionally accepting of her clumsy, bear paw handed older brothers.  She is absolutely perfect, and I am in baby heaven for the third time.

Andy can't stop professing his love for her, and Alex has his own ways of showing that he cares, namely commanding that I sing "Rock a Bye Baby" to her every time she cries.  Alex calls her Baby Sister, Andy calls her Emily, Chris experimented with Em-n-Em, and I just call her The Perfect, No Longer Missing, Piece.  Also Emmy, Stinkface, and Buddy.  Sorry about the Buddy thing, I'm used to boys.  I will not apologize for Stinkface.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Indescribable Fondness!

Andy's preschool graduation is on Wednesday.  The director sent an email today stating that, as parents, we will look back on these preschool years with an "indescribable fondness."  I'm sure that's putting it lightly.  I can't believe Andy is almost in kindergarten, that he's flown through these first stages so quickly.  Baby, toddler, preschooler.  And now he's going to walk across that stage and leave it all behind.  I can already see his smile.  I know how proud he will be, and I know that he will wave to me in that uninhibited way of his. That's Andy, the only boy I ever hear at the park to shout his love for his mother across six yards of mulch.  That will end at some point soon, I'm sure.  And it's a good thing I can picture his smile and walk across that preschool stage in my mind, because I might miss the actual event due to the blur of tears in my eyes.  Or because I'm in labor (fingers crossed that I don't go into labor anytime before the exact moment that I'm personally ready, just like nature intended.).

Andy at preschool.
Of parenting, it's said that the days are long but the years are short.  I get that, I deeply get that. To further expound on that, I feel like lately I have been a less than ideal parent, shuffling these kids through the motions until we reach the ultimate goal of bedtime.  I just try to survive each eternal day, my patience for two perfectly normally behaved children worn so thin that I can feel myself shaking as I try not to snap.  There are all of the excuses, of course.  The move.  The pregnancy.  I'm tired, hormonal, and my body hurts.  I'm still overwhelmed with the feeling that I live in someone else's house, still panicky about aspects of the move even though it's somehow all over, somehow all over for almost two months now.  I can't move as fast.  I'm having contractions more frequently than I ever did with the boys.  I'm up to my neck in worries over adding a third kid to the mix.  And I fear that I may need a root canal.  So those are my excuses for struggling to get through the days.  But these days are stacking up like cards in a deck, and now my oldest child is leaving behind such a young, sweet part of his life, and my heart feels like it's just going to explode.

Alex, I'm not forgetting you; you will cross that stage, too, on Wednesday.  But your progression is easier to deny.  The kindergarten thing looms huge with Andy, especially since it's full day. Especially since he's taken there on a bus.  Especially since he'll be five- FIVE- and out there in an atmosphere that I have so little control over.  No more making friends with moms standing outside the preschool room and arranging play dates with people that seem normal.  No, now it's up to Andy to choose his own friends.  And something tells me, based on what I've seen, that many of his choices will be... abnormal.  I've seen the kids he's drawn to at the playground.  What an unsightly group of weirdos.

Andy, I'm not really okay with this graduating preschool thing.  I'm less than thrilled.  But I have no choice but to embrace it, to celebrate with you and to enthusiastically shepherd you forward into your bright little future, even if a small part of me has to fake it.  I want you to know how extremely proud I am of you, my first little baby who once fit so perfectly into the crook of my arm.  The good news is that you still fit pretty perfectly into my arms, even if there's so much more of you now.  The good news is that as much as you've grown, you are, for now, still mostly mine.  And as hard as some of the individual days might be, I want you to know that these have been the best years of my life.  So forgive me for the following things.  Being short of patience lately.  Needing to nap more.  Needing to pace around the house alternating between baby worries and house issues (most of which involve poor spackling jobs or trying to calculate the decibels of floor squeaks).  Rushing you through tasks. Not giving you my full attention all of the times you deserve it.  I hope I can get my act together after this baby gets here, but, man.  I'm going to really have to work on it.  I promise I will try my best. Really.

Your preschool career has been extraordinary, if I may use that word.  Your teachers love you and have nothing but good things to say about you.  In the past year, you have done extremely well.  Your teacher told me that everyday, an extra good listener gets to sit on the special purple X during circle time.  Guess who sits there the most?  Guess who deserves to sit there EVERYDAY according to your teacher?  YOU!  It's just a small thing, this purple X.  But it's indicative of so much more.  And it's one more reminder of what a great kid I have.  Andy, I will be so happy to see you cross that stage on Wednesday.  Even if I'm also sad.  And even if I'm standing in a puddle of my own amniotic fluid because the emotional intensity of the whole thing has sent me into labor.

I'll bring a couple towels.  I love you boys, Andy and Alex.  Congratulations.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Do The Neighbors Get Cable?!

Today I threatened to send Alex to live with the neighbors if he goes into the baby's room again.  I have told these two boys countless times to leave that damn room alone- that room that is reserved for the baby but is in such an embarrassing state of disarray that one would assume I have three months of pregnancy left instead of closer to three weeks.  (I am technically four weeks away from 40 weeks, but I have started practicing in front of the mirror the many, tearful ways in which I will beg for my third elective induction on the very first day of week 39.  Unless I go before then, which at times seems like a distinct possibility and other times seems completely outside the realm of reality.  Go into labor at home?  Do people actually do that?)

How do you solve a problem like Alex?
The bedroom contains 84 pieces of crib that need to be somehow assembled without the aid of any sort of instruction manual.  Today, I found Alex sitting in a pile of loose screws and bolts, haphazardly tossing them around like he was making it rain dollar bills, yo.  I have found him and Andy in the room before doing horrible things- wedging their oversized preschool asses into the delicate little baby swing, yanking on the window blind cord so roughly that it somehow bent and almost broke the adjacent curtain rod, rolling around in miscellaneous baby items with little thought to the care and loving attention that one must provide to such items when they leave them on the floor in pieces, and throwing all of the unsorted baby clothes into whole new sets of unsortedness.  Get out of this room, Andy and Alex.  How many times do we have to have this conversation?  You are not allowed in this room, and that statement stands until your sister is able to verbally welcome you in.  So, like, two years or so.  And even then, maybe just leave her stuff alone.

Alex didn't like being told that he might be sent to the neighbor's house if he continues to disobey me. I was really playing on his biggest fears here, and while it was kind of a jerk move, I could only hope that it worked.  A mother's love is forever, but she may kick you to the curb if she has to tell you one more time to stop messing around.  And so that is me at my most effective but also most insensitive. I am starting to understand that our move and this impending baby are affecting Alex much more than I thought they were.  I just assumed all of these major life changes would have zero effect on him.  I don't know why I thought zero; perhaps I'm more clueless than some of you originally thought.  Or perhaps it was just easier not to really think things through from a young child's perspective with all of the stress in my own, slightly older life.  I finally kind of get it though.  Because if you're two, and your HOUSE can change, the one and only place you've ever known as HOME, then what ELSE can change?  Especially if there's a new baby on the way that you keep hearing about?  Holy hell, maybe getting shuttled over to a random neighbor's house to live out the rest of childhood really is a distinct possibility!  There's no way any sane person can actually raise three children, at least not well.

I got Alex out of the room while yelling at Chris that he needs to attend to the crib at some point soon since we're clearly only losing pieces.  (Also, the car seat, what are the odds of getting that thing wedged into my car next to two boosters?  I have a sick feeling we'll be car shopping two days after the baby's birth, signing papers for a minivan while I'm sitting on an ice pack at the dealership.  Of course, we can't afford to do that, so maybe I'll just let Andy sit on my lap while I drive.  Click!  I'll be your safety belt!  Now signal left so I can grab a sip of coffee.)  And then I reminded myself of how I vowed to be more patient and loving towards little Alex.  He's been so clingy and emotional lately, falling apart over minor inconveniences, insisting that I stay by his side, and losing it when I have to drop him off at preschool or when the baby-sitter comes before I leave for work.  The usual bribes have ceased to work.  Fruit snacks and cookies are apparently no substitution for the assurance that previously assumed constants (such as the very home you used to live in and the fact that you will always be your mother's baby) aren't going to be obliterated with some strange hammer of injustice.

Later, I assured Alex that he would NEVER go live with the neighbors.  Mommy would never do that!  But seriously, you have to stop going into the baby's room.  Of course, I could have just handled the situation the way Chris did, which was to simply lock her door.  Men.  Always so practical and slow to leap to heartless threats.  But seriously.  Let's work on getting the crib set up and maybe do a test drive with all three kid seats installed so that I know exactly how unmanageable this is all going to be.

Alex, you stay here.  I'm just going to go curl up on the neighbor's couch for a few days.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Settled In and Worked Up!

We're all settled in our new house, and I am finding the boys not quite as infuriating as the week we moved in.  Of course, my pregnancy hormones are still raging hard, but the boys seemed to have calmed down in their new abode, and some of the novelty has already become commonplace.  I don't hear as much ruckus from the basement, they're not as obsessed as climbing on their bunk beds like some kind of poor man's jungle gym, and neither of my so-called brilliant children have yet figured out that other things can go down the laundry chute aside from laundry.  I mean, really, boys?  Little Teddy hasn't wanted a ride?  Nobody's thought to shove an iron down there a la "Home Alone" (one of their favorite movies)?  I'm almost disappointed I haven't had to pull Alex out by his foot.

Two intelligent, well-behaved (ish) boys completing a puzzle.
I took Andy for his kindergarten assessment yesterday.  What a feeling, to enter this big building and watch him get led away into a room as his first step to entering actual, real elementary school next year.  Of course, he passed the assessment with flying colors, the counselor or teacher or volunteer or whoever she was remarking that he "even knew rhyming words!"  The rest of the assessment, though, was pretty lame.  Based on their standards, I'm pretty sure Alex is ready for kindergarten.  Simple shapes?  Counting to five?  Knowing if they are a boy or a girl?  Come on, school district.  Give us something to aspire to already.  "Andy's very good at counting," you might say to me, "But he has no idea what the Krebs Cycle is."

As I've been hyping up the start of kindergarten next year (Bus!  Cafeteria!  Gym!  Tornado drills!), Alex is starting to get upset that he's not going as well.  "But you have two more years of preschool left," I try to reason with him as I think in equal parts, "Alex, you only have two more years of little boyhood left!"  and  "My God, he's still got two more years????"  Everyone's getting promoted around here, and while I fear that Andy will starve from not being able to open his own lunch at school next year (you should see him try to get a granola bar unwrapped; he's like a bear in the woods struggling with chips), I know that Alex's promotion from baby to middle child without his big brother around quite as much is going to be the hardest.  Alex, I am starting to realize though, is extremely intelligent, though, and I think he will get it and be just fine.  He understands a lot more than I give him credit for and has a memory like a steel trap.  He is also extremely hilarious in that not accidental/on purpose way that really works.  Yesterday, while building blocks, a single block fell over, very softly, with no big to do.  "This is the worst day of my life," he muttered to himself, straightening the block.  And it was in his delivery; I couldn't stop laughing for ten minutes or so.

And it feels good to laugh, as I had a sting of days in which I was only crying.  You see, it all started with hummus.  Hummus which I would later find out was part of a recall, as it was potentially tainted with a bacteria that could seriously harm my little unborn baby.  Oh, the spiral of emotions as I did everything in my power to fix the situation.  I called the grocery store to try to trace where my batch had come from.  I called the hummus people looking for specific answers.  I called my doctor and then my doctor's nurse to discuss if I could be tested and how I should proceed with life and pregnancy knowing that this bacteria was possibly festering in my body.  It was a rough couple of days, all because of a little dip on a chip.  But I guess I've been convinced that I'm probably going to be fine, as is my baby.  The doctor is so unconcerned by the whole debacle that it's basically insulting.  That being said, she is humoring me, and my hysteria has essentially worked me into "high risk patient" status.  I'm getting non-stress tests and ultrasounds to check for growth and fetal stress until she is born.  My next appointment, in two weeks for the 36 week check up, is going to be a doozy.  "Plan on being here for almost two hours," the doctor told me, a slight smirk on her face.  I guess it should all give me comfort, and it does.  But being pregnant is terrifying enough.  You can't see what's going on in there!  Somebody has to watch out for this little baby!  And that responsibility falls squarely on me.  On the upside, after several conversations with the hummus people, their insurance representative, etc, I think I may be getting free hummus for life.  Not that I'm ever going near the stuff again.  But the resale value has to be pretty good, right?

Anyway, we're almost there.  From here on out, it's the waiting game, which I am pretty awful at.  I'm about as bad at the waiting game as Alex is at Connect Four.  So maybe he's not quite ready to jump ahead to kindergarten after all.  Let's be honest, this whole starting school thing is definitely something that I CAN wait for.  Although let's see how crazy my house gets this summer with no preschool and a new baby.  My raging anger hormones are bound to be in check after delivery, right? Right.  For sure.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Donut Time!

Wal-mart sells donuts.  They're pretty good, and they're only 54 cents.  In the realm of sweet things that can be bought with spare change, the Wal-mart donuts reign supreme.  They are also excellent tools for bribery and are to be used the opposite of the Starbuck cake pops in Target.  At Target, I let the kids eat a cake pop while I do my shopping as a way to keep them busy and sitting still in the cart. This technique is good, but not great, as before long they are holding only a stick and I'm still on the top of my list trying to get my phone battery back in because I dropped the whole damn thing while scanning underwear with the Cartwheel app.  At Wal-mart, the donuts are for the end, to be eaten on the way home, a treat to be deserved if you are being good as opposed to having been handed out preemptively in the blind, foolish hopes that all will go okay.

Have I mentioned that I loathe the amount of sugar my kids eat and will rant for days about how holidays are the worst since they are basically week long celebrations of candy?  But when I dole out the sugar on my own terms of negotiation, then it's a whole different story.  Besides, cake pops and donuts are made with EGGS, which are very healthy.  Jelly Beans are made with pure sugar, neuron altering artificial dyes, and the souls of small rabbits.  It's two different things.

Anyway, I bought the boys Wal-mart donuts for the first time about a month ago.  The three of us gleefully picked out our treats after filling up our cart with all sorts of wonderful things that you can only get at Wal-mart, such as three dollar pants and every Sheryl Crow CD except for that one.  You remember the one, that song, "Watch out sister, watch out brother, watch our children while they kill each other with a gun they bought at Wal-mart discount stores."  The mid nineties were huge for censorship.  I picked out the white frosted donut, Alex picked out the pink frosted donut, and Andy picked out the chocolate frosted donut.  Andy clutched that little bag all the way to the car, the prize for a shopping trip with only minimal yelling, where he then promptly dropped the whole donut bag into a sloppy muddy puddle.

Damn!  Donuts down!  I moved quickly and saved the donuts.  Luckily, the donuts themselves were fine and it was just the bag that suffered a little damage.  Little Alex didn't even notice what had happened and proceeded to eat a donut the only way he knows how (by licking off all the frosting and then pushing the rest at me and proclaiming "Here.  I'm done.")  Andy ate every last morsel of his delicious donut, only momentarily lamenting that they had been dropped.  And I shoved my own donut into my mouth so fast that I semi-permanently dislocated my jaw.  Totally worth it.  Still the best 54 cents I've spent to date.

It was a couple weeks later that we returned to Wal-mart, and as soon as I mentioned where we were going, Andy and Alex were both quick to yell out that they wanted donuts.  I agreed that we could get them as long as they were good, and so we loaded up with the finest items twenty dollars could buy and then headed to the donut case.  We picked out our selections (white, pink, and brown) and bagged them up.  "Don't forget!"  Andy called out as we headed to pay.  "Don't forget we have to drop these in a puddle so that they're extra good like last time!"

I'm so glad he reminded me out loud to do this instead of just taking it upon himself to chuck the whole bag into another puddle.  Things could have easily gone south.  Instead, I had to explain to him.  Last time, the donuts were so delicious DESPITE having been dropped into a puddle.  We got LUCKY that they were so delicious.  The having been dropped into a puddle part was not a key ingredient to the donut's fine taste.  Please, Andy.  Don't throw my donuts into a puddle if you can help it.

And so we got home, having just stuffed our faces with delicious 54 cent donuts.  Alex used the potty successfully and asked for one of his poo poo M&M's.  He's been asking for his poo poo M&M's, but I haven't given any to him here at the new house, having figured the move was a good reason to change a few things up sugar wise.  I explained that we don't have them anymore, and Alex asked if they were at the old house.  I can only believe he's imagining the new owner flushing down a mighty poo and then proudly chomping down a handful of Alex's old poo poo M&M's.  It's okay, Alex.  Let the new owner have your old M&M's.  We're headed to Target tomorrow, and I'm going to buy you a cake pop for no good reason other than my own lack of conviction and common sense.

But seriously, the Wal-mart donuts are delicious.  Step lightly around the puddles.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Two Things!

Alex really wants to go to the Monster Truck Tractor Show.  I don't know what the Monster Truck Tractor Show is, but he can't stop talking about it.  I can only imagine it might entail huge, fire-emblazoned monster trucks rolling over innocent farmers sitting around in their tractors.  He asks us to go at least ten times per day.  If you see an advertisement for such an event, be sure to let me know.

Andy- whose lucky number is 1,000- has informed me that he has two super powers.  One, seeing through his t-shirt (only thin cotton blends, not anything thick).  Two, riding his bike and waving with one hand at the same time.  A superhero is born, and perhaps one day the combination of these two powers will save countless human lives.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Age of Friends!

Our new house is conveniently located near the park.  It's right around the block, the perfect walking distance for one waddling mother, one overly confident four year old who wants to rule the world with a single twig, and one clumsy, two-left-footed two year old.  We've been going almost daily, right after our laughably loud quiet time comes to an end, and it's the perfect way to round out the afternoon.

This little boy just wants to make some friends.
The same group of junior high kids (I'm terrible with judging the ages of children; they could be college students for all I know) show up at about the same time we do. They do the kinds of things that older kids like to do.  Pee behind bushes.  Use swear words.  Loop the swings up over the top bar. They also engage in some game that utilizes the field right next to the park.  Being the star athlete I am, I'd like to say it's either touch football or Red Rover.  Not really sure.

Of course, Andy marched over to these kids the very first day we saw them, calling out a chipper "Hello!" and introducing himself with his full name, age, and a recent history of personal events.  We just moved here.  Mommy has a baby in her belly and it's a girl.  That's his little brother and he's kind of a weirdo.  He likes to play Red Rover/ touch football/ ice hockey too.  Can he play with them?

I let Andy's interactions go as far as I can let them before gently butting in and telling Andy to leave the kids alone.  Sometimes I let it go a little further than I should since I'm wrapped up explaining to Alex why he can't touch that man's ball, as in yesterday when Alex kept roaring, "I want to touch that man's ball!"  The man in question had a semi-deflated volleyball that Alex wanted to take ownership of.  I tried to get Alex to insert the word "volley" between man and ball, but he blatantly ignored me.

There reached a point yesterday when I noticed Andy essentially pestering the older kids, announcing that he wanted to play their game too.  It was a situation in which I felt equal parts pity and annoyance.  Of course Andy just wants to play with them.  They're his *friends*.  But, man, Andy. Read the room.  They were being kind to him, but I finally had to drag Andy away and spell it out as coldly as I could.

"Andy, you can't play with them.  They're too old for you.  You have to play with kids your own age."

"But I know them!  They're my friends."

"Andy."  Pause.  "They don't want to play with you."  Even I winced at this brutal statement.

"Why not?"

"You're too little.  You can't run as fast.  You might get hurt.  Listen, Andy.  You have to play with kids your own age.  Like, four year olds, five year olds, and six year olds."

He let this soak in for a second.  As he did, another kid came cruising up on his bike, hopping off just as Andy ran up to him and blurted out, "Hello!  My name is Andy.  I'm four and a half.  What's your name?  How old are you???"

The kid replied, uncomfortably, "Ethan.  Eleven."

Andy whipped his head around to me.  "Is eleven okay?"

To which I laughed and said, "Nope!  Too old.  Sorry."

And so the eleven year old loped off, confused, and Andy listlessly waited around for a four through six year old to show up.  Eventually one did, with a box of crackers.  Andy and Alex proceeded to eat all of his crackers.  So on that particular day, the park visit ended semi-successfully.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Home Is Where The Boxes Are!

We moved.

It's been one of those situations that feels like a nightmare the whole time you're in it, and then you wake up and find out that things are mostly okay except for a strange booming sound in your "new" furnace and that the carpet feels a little more thin and crunchy than you're used to.  Other than that, everything is mostly ideal.  We did the unthinkable.  We sold our old house and moved into a bigger one.  All of this while gestating a fetus and refraining from spanking two disobedient children.

The move has made me a less perfect parent.  I think that's putting it as delicately as I can.  I have been stressed out for over a month now, culminating in a stretch of days where I truly thought I was going to lose my mind.  Packing everything we own.  Repairing damage caused by our movers ninety minutes before the buyer was to do his final walk-through.  Waking up the day of our move-in to three inches of snow and more that just kept on falling. Unpacking as quickly as I possibly could because that's just the kind of psychopath I am.  I wanted to feel as at home as I could in this house as fast as I could, and I'm still not there yet.  This place is not my house.  There is a huge stack of notarized papers that say otherwise, but it does not feel like home.  When does that happen? Surely by day eight, right?

And so I've been psychotically focused on the move and all of its million working parts and my children are falling apart around me.  Superficially, they don't seem very affected by the move itself. They sleep well at night and have basically found equivalent ways of leading their lives- same seating situations during meals, same bath and bed time rituals, same general disregard for walls, floors, window treatments, rules.  So there's that.  But their behavior has just been unbearable, and while I think part of it is my extremely low level of patience these days (did I mention the gestating and the moving?) and their subconscious reactions to all of the changes in life, I'd also like to think that the other part of it is just that they are horrible children who have turned rotten despite all of my best efforts.

Obviously, I don't mean that.  But it's been a trying week.  I know that I am too focused on house stuff and not as focused as I should be on the kids, and I'm trying to make an effort to change that now that we're moved in and the worst is all behind us.  I know that if I pay more positive attention to them, there's a decent chance that I'll have to pay less negative attention to them.  I know this all in that deep abyss I'm calling my heart, but I'm just so very worn out.  I'm completely exhausted, but the demands and the messes and the fights and the screaming and the lack of listening and the tantrums have just about come to a head.

And so I ask you.  Who would like to move into our basement and help me raise these children, at least during the day while Chris is at work?  You?  You?  YOU?  But if you're living in the basement, you should understand that the furnace is very noisy and that's where the boys spend most of their time fighting and attempting to give each other head injuries.  I hope you know first aid!

In rereading this, I feel like I should delete it.  Somebody mentioned the other day that they liked my blog.  To which I basically replied that I wasn't sure what I was doing with it anymore, as it was supposed to be something FOR my children and yet I'm revealing things and feelings that I don't necessarily want them reading one day.  Here, my boys.  Here are the weeks that you drove me crazy and were utterly unbearable.  Here is where I called you horrible.

Our last day together in our old house.
I guess I have nothing to say about that other than sometimes it is very difficult to be a mom. Sometimes there are so many things going on that it's seemingly impossible to focus on what is and should be my greatest priority.  I can be forgetful of that.  But the reality is that as much as I love my kids, there are moments when I've just about had it.  It's not all cute anecdotes and hugs and kisses. Sometimes there are other things going on, such as a major move, and it's all you can do not to put your children on a leash and just leave them out back tied to a tree for a few hours.  I just need an afternoon!  Or a whole day!  And a couple of water and food dishes for when the animals, I mean boys, need sustenance.

I hope with every new day this house feels more like home and less like some temporary residence with issues that I feel a complete lack of ownership for.  I hope that I can calm down and refocus my energies on being a better mom who spends quality time with her children and doesn't feel the need to speak only in threats.  Maybe they are related and once I fill this house with good memories, that's when it will become a home.  Starting tomorrow.  Day eight.

Tonight's already a lost cause; just ask the two little boys who got put to bed early after twenty minutes of shenanigans and sobbing.