Canyons, Windmills, Frozen Tundra

'If there's a place you need to get, I can get you there I bet, I'm the Map." -The Map, from Dora the Explorer

How will we get there? First we have to go through the canyons. Then around the windmills. And finally we will get to the frozen tundra....Say it with me: Canyons, windmills, fro-zen tundra....

As you can see, after 30 hours and 2100 miles in a car where I spent many long hours listening to Dora, over and over again, I have finally gone over the edge. But before retiring for the second night in our warm Minnesota home I wanted to leave a few tips for making your next move as spectacular as ours:

In order to experience a Graceful Chicken-style move you will need:

1. At least 2000 miles of driving through at least 9 states....seriously, if you are going to do it, make it memorable!

2. Four coughing children (3 of which puke during coughing attacks at some point along the way and one of which doesn't sleep two nights running...)

3. One hotel, just past the canyons, that could easily be mistaken for an upgraded porta-potty, complete with concrete beds and sheets that feel like vinyl table clothes. (Mom thinks they just wipe them off after each use with a wet rag....I just didn't realize you could have a negative thread count. I am wondering now if we should've upgraded to a room with soap, or maybe a clock.) Let's just say the hotel we stayed at the first night was reminiscent of the hotel Kurt and I stayed in the last night of our honeymoon...ahhhh, what a memory. Kurt was ecstatic because after 5 weeks in Europe he finally found the perfect hotel room. (You won't believe what thirty U.S. dollars a night will get you right outside of Paris!) And while he was giddy he wasn't spending too much money, I practiced my human floating skills so I wouldn't have to touch anything that resembled a plastic bathroom while mumbling something about him being lucky I had already said yes....but I digress....

4. A teething infant sitting for over an hour in a soiled diaper because we were out in the middle of nowhere (think prairies and windmill farms)....This always make for good, calm times.

5. One spouse on an extremely tight schedule (We got in about 13 minutes later than his projected arrival time but there is success in the fact that no one got left on the side of the road in New Mexico, where the cleaning woman assured me it wasn't illegal to abandon your spouse roadside....) 

6. One backed-up hotel toilet, that your two-year old flushes one last time to try to get the rising water to go down: "Look at the beautiful waterfall!"

7. One male adult (naming no names) accidentally spilling urine on themselves while trying to pour it out the car window....at EIGHTY MILES PER HOUR! (That alone was worth every minute we spent on this trip.)

8. One snow storm (through an entire state....because driving just isn't as interesting without it.)

9. At least one person getting locked out of the new house, in NEGATIVE FIVE DEGREE WEATHER!

10. One grandma who knocks herself down to the floor by walking into a hanging lamp in the new house. (Everyone needs one of those, especially when they are watching the 4 kids....)

11. And last but not least, one child who goes into hysterics because she takes her jacket and shoes off in the car, in weather cold enough to immediately freeze your tears, and, upon realizing just how cold it is starts screaming:

"I don't like the cold! Let's go back. I don't want to live here, it's too cold. I don't like the snowy day. MY CHIN HURTS! It's TOO cold!"

And I, making the mistake of getting stressed because I can't reach her coat, it's ridiculously frigid and she is screaming wildly, raise my voice to say: "Get your coat back on! Get it on or you might freeze to death!" to which she starts crying even harder. (My bad.)

This could be a long winter.


Are we there yet?

No.  We are not there. We wish we were there...we wish we had sleeping kids instead of those awake in the middle of the night with coughing fits, nose bleeds and ear aches....we wish someone else was driving us in a huge, macked-out RV while we sat playing games, resting and watching TV....but alas, none of that is true. 

We are (almost) half way there. So far, the trip hasn't been so bad....assuming you aren't traveling with us. Two grouchy drivers, 4 croupy kids, 1 grandma with eye issues from flying.....and no fighting! Can you believe it? (If the answer to that question is yes, then you are more gullible than I would have thought!) 

Remember way back when, I said my advice for flying with 4 kids across the country was "don't." Remember that? Yeah, well, I take it back. If you must go across the beautiful USA with 4 kids, FLY! The difference between flying across the country and driving across the country with 4 sweet children is the difference between execution by injection and execution by the slow dismemberment of your body, one inch of flesh at a time. It's the difference between a quick waxing of your leg hair versus plucking each hair, one by one, with a pair of dull tweezers....between having a working epidural during labor or having someone kick you during each contraction, between being stung by a bee or being attacked by a swarm, between having your wisdom teeth pulled out while you are under anesthesia or while you are wide awake and totally unmedicated. You get my point.

Seriously, it isn't that bad, assuming you enjoy torture. But then, it got off to the kind of start that would have left you wondering why we even started. Two days ago, the moving van pulled up to our house and the guys got off the truck to start the loading. I stuck the four kids in my SUV and put the keys in the ignition and click, click, click....nothing. The car wouldn't start. No worries, we were only about to start a 3 day road trip that afternoon! Working vehicles are so overrated. 

My wonderful neighbor, Mr. Richard, whom we already miss, came out with his incredible power pack and jumped the car. Off we went to Sugar Pies for one last yummy treat and to say good-bye. After realizing my friend Tami was not there (and finishing our yummy treats), we jumped back into the car and click, click, click. What a beautiful moment that was. 

Mr. Richard re-enters the scene and jumps the car again. He follows us to the auto-parts store and goes inside and then comes back out to tell me he will take my battery out at home and bring it back for me so they can test it and then most likely replace it; God bless him. 

At home, Kurt decides that no, we should take it to the dealership since they serviced the car all of 3 days ago. After much eye rolling and mumbling from me that he go ahead and do whatever he wants, he takes the car in to the dealership who says it will be $40 just to look at the car for us. Needless-to-say, he brings the car back and off goes Mr. Richard with our battery. 

Meanwhile, my mom has called to tell me her flight is delayed in Dallas and it will be about 2 hours late. Mr. Richard's 79 year old wife comes in to give us her cell phone so that we can call Richard and, slipping on the moving guys' rugs, FALLS FLAT ON HER BACK in the middle of our entry way, somehow hitting her hip and shin on the way down. Fortunately, after refusing to allow us to help her, or call 911 or even mention it to Richard, she was able to get up and walk home where I later found her with a huge bag of frozen cauliflower and broccoli on her hip and a smaller zip-lock bag of frozen bananas on her shin. 

Our battery tested dead (duh) and Richard replaced it with a new one while the moving guys finished loading our house into the truck. Kurt was on cleaning duty and after realizing we couldn't have the kids running around any longer, I took them to the park where Lily immediately fell asleep in the swing and slept through a transfer to the ground and continued to sleep the entire time. 

Meanwhile, mom's plane, which was supposed to arrive at 12:30 (meaning we would be on the road by 1) was now set to arrive at 4:30. When we arrived at the airport at 5:30, she was nowhere to be seen. We got a call from her at 5:45, when they landed, but of course, she was on the back of the plane and needed to get her checked bag, so we left the airport to get some dinner to take with us. Finally, around 6:30, we were on our way, 5 hours later than we had planned but on the road no less. 

We are thankful my car is still running. And we are especially thankful that Dora has taught our kids to chant: "Where are we going? Min-ne-so-ta! Where are we going? Min-ne-so-ta!" 

It beats "Are we there yet?" anyway. 

I'm off to figure out what state we are in (New Mexico would be the answer if I was talking geographics). More soon.... 


One last breath....of...air....

Remember that scene in Titanic where the people on the bottom of the ship are at the top of the staircase and the water is rising higher and higher and there is no way out and they know this is it.....

Yeah, that's kind of like our house right now. The packers are here finishing up the remaining boxes. Once we find which box Liam was accidentally packed in so we can rescue him, I am certain everything will be dandy....oh, except perhaps that 4 day trek across the country and having to explain to the kids why they can't personally tell Santa thank you upon our arrival.... 

See you on the other side!


Like a Chicken Carcass Christmas

One thing that happened at the time we decided to up and leave, again, is that not only do we have to pack everything up the day after Christmas (Think: "Here are your gifts kids. Like 'em? Great, now give 'em back so I can put them in the bottom of this box that you won't see for another week or so.") but since we have no income, we are practicing what many people are experiencing as well this year: Christmas-lite. (I have already told Kurt that after he unwraps his gift that I got him BEFORE we knew we were leaving, I will be taking it back to get a refund. And his heart will swell two sizes that day just at the thought of me saving money! Merry Christmas sweets!)

About a month and a half ago I had gotten to the end of my rope with the kids, particularly our eldest. Without much thought, I slapped a huge piece of wrapping paper up on the wall, put a picture of each kid above their very own column and explained to them that I spoke to Santa Claus and as of that moment, he didn't have them on the good list and if they were to earn a spot on his good list, they needed to start following instructions first time they were given. This would be noted by a Santa Sticker on the gift wrap....if they didn't prove they could do this, well, Santa would be very disappointed. They got right to work following our instructions, earning their stickers, happily doing what they were told, la-te-da-te-da, everything was sunshine and roses....for about a week, maybe two.

Their columns are about half full. As much as a scrooge as I can feel (especially once a month or so....hee hee) I don't know that I can tell them Santa won't be here on account of their behavior. After all, they are pretty darn good, most of the time. But it could make for a very interesting conversation on Christmas morning about why Santa only brought one little thing....yes, we are looking forward to our Christmas-lite. It might look a little like a picked-over-chicken-carcass-Christmas this year but I imagine it will be one we don't forget. And although many of the gifts are garage-sale and second-hand store bought, I doubt the kids will notice the difference since, when you are 2, or 4, the best part is in the unwrapping anyway.

Another thing that has happened since our life got sucked up into a whirl-wind again is that everything seems just a little, well, crazier. Yesterday my friends planned a little going away "all-members meeting" for our mom's club at my favorite place, Sugar Pies. The kids and I arrived a little early so we could hang out with the owner. As I was getting out of the car, my phone rang and when I tried to get it out of my zipped vest pocket, the zipper got stuck. Needless-to-say, I missed the call....and then every. other. call. for the next hour and a half! I swear I had more calls come in yesterday morning then I do in an entire day usually. As I was sitting there, working on the zipper, the kids asking for this and that and I nodding my head in approval to the owner's husband working the register, a random guy sat down next to me. I looked up and asked if he might be good at un-sticking stuck zippers. He took the challenge and whisked the pink vest from me, asking if he might go sit outside away from the noise of our growing group. On his way out he asked for a knife. (This can't end well, was my only thought.) Meanwhile, Liam was having a hard day, crying anytime I put him down as he was hungry and teething. Lily comes running up and announces she has to poop RIGHT NOW....down goes Liam who immediately burst into more tears, random friend told to keep an eye on him, and off I whiz Lily to the restroom where she pees all over her pants, even though she is sitting on the toilet...go figure. On our way back out, random zipper-undoing man asked if he might just cut the vest open. I am guessing he would've whipped out the duct tape next to fix it. With a very polite no, thank you, I mentioned I would just take it to the dry cleaner next door and see what they could do. He took it over for me and as I turned around I noticed Aidan was "making snow" with packets of sugar and splenda, ALL OVER SUGAR PIES!

By the end of the "meeting" I had missed a dozen calls, cleaned up far too much "snow" and taken much too much time trying to convince a 2 year old that she had to stay in the peed on clothes just a little while longer since we didn't have any spare pants in the car. My kids ate twice as much sugar as their weekly allowance would appreciate and I had to let down a friend by telling her sorry, we would NOT be debuting our 3 day road trip with a live-web-feed-video- cam...BUT the dry cleaners easily undid my vest zipper with some nifty little tool and so by golly, we are going on that note and claiming victory for all. 

The rest of the day was met with similar craziness, and as I shopped for something to put under the tree for Kurt (that he might actually get to keep) I realized that wow, I'm either an extremely boring person in terms of fashion or there are a lot of ridiculous clothes out there. The comments Lily repeatedly heard during our hour shopping trip to Macy's were:

 "Wow, who would wear that?" and
"You can't be serious?!" and
"Don't they make anything nice for UNDER $50?" and
"Ewww, Lily, don't lick the mirrors!"

Perhaps I will just tell him he didn't earn enough Santa Stickers this year....

Merry Christmas to you all!


God Bless the Child

(You can open this link and have it playing in another window while you read...it's just a song from Billy Holiday that seemed somewhat fitting, in title at least...this version, Stanley Turrentine, is quite lovely.)
We are getting down to crunch time. Many people have asked if I am stressed about our upcoming move to the North Pole. (Move? Oh shoot, is that THIS Christmas?) Either I am hiding it well or I really don't feel that stressed. Seriously, what's to stress? I mean, we are only uprooting our entire family, pulling kids from school and away from friends, driving through the snow and ice to the frozen tundra of the upper midwest, two days after Christmas....no stress... My real answer: there are moments....like last week, on the 5 minute drive to Madeline's school when Aidan, Madeline and Lily somehow managed to end up, all three in a tizzy over, oh I dunno, NOTHING. Images of 3 days in the car, four rambunctious kids, one frozen grandma, blizzards and gross hotels flashed through my mind and I just started to laugh. We couldn't even get to school without someone saying or doing something (or nothing at all perhaps!) that irritated everyone else in the car...they were probably not even aware of each other's presence until someone breathed too loudly or something crazy like that. There are moments....truly there are. My biggest worry though is that the kids will get to MN and realize we aren't really going to be neighbors with Santa Claus, their hopes smashed into a million, frozen pieces...such a harsh reality. Really.

And then there are moments like today that put everything into perspective. I was at the second-hand store trying to sell off some baby clothes and get a few necessities for MN when I asked Madeline:

"Madeline, do you like the orange coat or the green coat for Liam?"

"Um, I like the green, no, no, the orange one," she replied, running off to find Lily, hidden in the middle of some clothes rack somewhere. 

A lovely woman turned at the scene and asked hesitantly in a slight English accent, "Is his name Liam?"

"Yes," I said. 

"My son's name was Liam. I just love that name. He passed though," she said gently, a tear rolling down her cheek. "His favorite color was orange. My daughter and I picked it out for him just like that, made it his color," she added. 

"I am so sorry," I said. "How old was he?"

"Three," she replied, now fully choked up. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you sad," she continued, holding back the weeping.

"Oh no," I said reassuringly. "There is so much suffering all around us. We can't turn away from it. How did he pass?" I asked. 


"When did he pass?" I asked. 

"A year ago," she whispered. Liam looked at her, his bright blue eyes smiling and she smiled back, wiping away the tears. "I want to see you in your orange coat!" she said sweetly to him. I smiled at her, putting the green coat away and laying the orange one across my stroller. 

"Orange it is," I said to her sad smile. 

Madeline came back on the scene. "Mom, I'm HUNG-ARY!" 

"Ok, let's pay for our things and we'll go have some lunch."

"Thank you for sharing your story with us," I told the woman as I headed out the door she held open for us. 

"Bye little Liam!" she answered. 

To answer the question: No, for the most part, I am not stressed. In the grand scheme of things, this move is a walk in the park....a very, very cold and snowy park but a walk, none-the-less. 

And to the woman whose pain I cannot imagine, God Bless you and your Liam. May the memory of precious, orange outfits and loving, baby-boy smiles keep you forever warm and embraced. To you I offer the only thing I can think of (a blessing taken from Numbers 6:24-26):

"May the Lord bless you and keep you; May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace."


Long Lost Relatives

We have figured it out. After 10 months of testing, weighing, overfeeding and wondering why Liam remains so tiny, we have found the answer. 

Here he is in the midst of a recent family reunion with his true blood line. (He's the bald one in orange in case you are having a hard time finding him.)



Rabbit Eyes

We were on the way to school last week when we saw one of the neighborhood horses on its side with 8 to 10 people around it. It looked to be relatively, um, dead, or at least very ill as its eyes were closed and it wasn't moving. My heart did a turn as I thought about what the owner must be feeling losing such a big and beautiful animal. I mentioned aloud that I wondered if the horse was alive.

"Well, it is either dead or really sick," Aidan said. "I haven't seen a dead animal like that, have I, Mom?"

"You saw the rabbit in our yard," I reminded him.

"Oh yeah, right. The coyote ate the rabbit's eyes out," he replied. "Because coyotes eat rabbit eyes, not rabbit bodies."

"They don't eat the bodies?" I questioned.

"No, they only like the eyes, remember?"

At this point we were at his school and I left him in his classroom to resume the conversation with Madeline.

"We should go back and see if the horse is still alive or not," I said.

"Do you think the horse got its eyes eaten out?" Madeline asked.

"No, I don't think so."

"Well, I hope I don't get MY eyes eaten out. Then I wouldn't be able to see my mommy and daddy," she said. "I'd be like (insert tiny, squeaky voice) 'I can't see my mommy and daddy because my eyes got eaten out! Oh no!'"

Thankfully the horse was being helped up on its feet when we arrived, thus ending an unusual conversation. I do wonder though what the kids' teachers hear about such things....


Chicken Picked Tree

This is what happens when you let the children pick out the Christmas tree....

In case you can't see it, that pointed green thing sticking up behind Madeline and Lily is the tree....yeah, that's it....to the right of Aidan...Aidan says they picked it out for Liam:
"It's a Liam-sized tree!"

I suppose it makes sense; a Hobbit tree for our Hobbit child.


When the Rooster's Away

One thing that sometimes happens when you are a mother of 4, and your husband goes away for an extended weekend leaving you with the kids AND the tasks of planning a garage sale (because insanity has officially set in) and getting things ready to move back across the country, (a move that involves driving with aforementioned children for 3 days in a packed vehicle, through the blizzards of the midwest....because we are gluttons for punishment, that's why!), is that, well, priorities get shifted out of whack and you might get to day 3 without time for a real shower and then you realize that EWWWWWW! That smell is you!

It is then that you realize a shower is WAY past due. You know for sure because:

1. The mildew on your shower tile has died due to lack of precipitation.

2. You go to put your hair up in a French twist and it stays in place WITHOUT THE HAIR CLIP!

3. You are able to convert the insects (that have crawled out of the pipes and made homes in the shower) to religion because after an eternity of total drought you provide them with a great flood and only a few survive because of your merciful act of helping them OUT of the shower so that can go be fruitful and multiply. 

4. The stress you have been feeling merges with the oil on your skin and they list their IPO on the side of your face in such a place you can't NOT see it from the corner of your eye. 

5. You are sitting in church and realize that no one is sitting in the rows in front OR behind you and that's when it suddenly occurs to you, by way of your nostrils, why the early churches got into the habit of filling the cathedrals up with too much incense. 

6. Someone reminds you of Charlie Brown's Christmas Special and visions of Pigpen go prancing through your head.

7. When you go to bed, you decide to keep the socks on that you have been wearing all day because you think they might just be cleaner than your actual feet.

8. You don't bother changing out of your daily clothes and into your night clothes because you don't want to have to wash both sets in the morning. 

9. You go to shave and another razor bites the dust.

10. Your kids notice when you actually DO get to that shower....and they rejoice. 

It wasn't all so icky having Kurt out of town mind you....unless you count the time when Lily stuffed a Polly Pocket dress into her mouth, gagging herself and then vomiting all over the floor (did I mention how much I despise Polly?) or when Lily, in order to avoid sharing her water with Madeline, decided to pour it all out onto the sidewalk at the playground, and Madeline got down on her knees.....to lick it off the ground! Ewwww!  (But I can hardly talk!)

But, really, it was fine. Unless you count the garage sale clean-up....and I am not referring to the actual junk to haul off....I am referring to the fact that several young children were left to their own devices in the house most of the morning....it seriously looked like something out of Animal House by the end! (Complete with a random bathroom trough...) And then of course there was the Drop and Shop run by the church directly after the garage sale. What they didn't tell you at drop off was that when you picked up your kid, you would need to take them to detox at the local sugar rehab! Holy Smokes! I have never seen children as wired as mine. From the time I was supposed to pick them up and take them into the free dinner in the fellowship hall, to the time I had them all buckled into the car and headed home was 39 minutes. And the majority of that time was NOT spent eating dinner! No, it was spent telling a certain 5 year old that he needed to settle down or he would to bed without dinner, which is exactly what he did (and I don't mean he settled down!) 

I have learned some very valuable lessons this weekend. First, there is no point in talking to a kid on sugar. In fact, it is better not to say a word....simply strap them into their car seat and drive for as long as it takes for the sugar-crash to hit, then simply move them into their bed and ta-da! Problem solved. Wish I would've known it earlier! And secondly, I am NOT gifted at sales. 

Stranger #1: Do you have any adult bikes for sale?
Me: No, but we have some bikes you can look at and maybe I will sell them.
Stranger: What do you want for them?
Me: Oh, i can't go under $100 per bike.
Stranger: That's too much. (Stranger goes back to look at bike. Comes back.) Will you take $50 for the man's bike?
Me: Um, yeah, that sounds good.
Stranger: Will you take $50 for the other one too and throw in the lock?
Me: Sure, why not. That sounds great.

Stranger #2: How much is this TV?
My friend:  10 dollars. (Stranger reaches into pocket to pull out money.)
Me: Oh, 5 is good. (Friend shoots me evil glance.) 

Stranger #3: How much is this book, that outfit, these two toys, (etc. etc.)
Me: Let's say $3? (Stranger pulls out money.) Oh, make it $2, that's fine.
My friend: Karen, you need to sit down and just watch.

Seriously, had I not shut-up, I may have started paying people to take the stuff they wanted!

Anyway, I must go get some much needed sleep. It has been a crazy weekend and I used up the last of my energy jumping up and down during the Steelers game today (which kept the kids highly entertained and by the end, even little Liam was crazily clapping and bouncing in excitement!) 

Till next time, stay clean! (If the stench doesn't get you, the sugar high will! Neither are worth it!)



Turkeys, Chickens, Rats, oh my!

"Mom, next time we see a rat in our house we should catch it and put it in a box so I can take it into school for show and tell."

I can see it now: Aidan carrying in a rat to show his class and telling them all about how it was living in our grill until his dad went out there to make some dinner and ACK! it jumped out at him. Actually, it was a mouse but it was a pretty darn big mouse, easily mistakable as a rat. And it was as scared as Kurt if not more....of course, you would be too if your home was about to ignite. (If you are ever over for dinner, beware of the burgers....)

Madeline loves Uh, and by Uh I am referring to the nickname she has affectionately given to Liam. No, really, she calls him Uh. She came in the other day when Liam was fussing and we heard her say, "Oh, poor Uuuuh, he's sad." When we questioned her she simply replied, "That's what I call him...Uh."

I look forward to explaining to the next inquirer that no, she doesn't have a rare memory disorder ("My little brother's name is Uuuuuh.") or some strange speech impediment ("Hi Uh! Uh, I got your feet. No, Uuuuh. Uh, smile!") How she came up with this one, we just don't know, but the other day we heard him repeating his new name and thought maybe we oughta try something else out. She came up with Huuuubit....we're thinking we'll stick with Uh.

If you ever need to make a quick 5 minute trip into a 30 minute debacle complete with blood and tears, take Lily with you, top her off with a loving, five-year old brother, add a fence, some pavement and voila! Madeline, Lily and I were running a little later than usual to pick up Aidan's so we had to walk out to the playground to fetch him. Upon seeing us, he ran up to give Lily a hug, picked her up off the ground, lost his balance and practically body slammed her into the rod iron fence, nose first. She came up with a sweet little impression OF THE FENCE on the side of her gushing nose. As the playground staff went to get me a bundle of paper towels (or were they thin strips of cardboard?) I held Lily until she was done crying (about 10 seconds) and then attempted to get her to stay still enough for me to apply pressure to stop the bleeding....because, you know, two-year olds are notoriously fond of holding still while having a bruised nose squeezed. Meanwhile, Aidan limped around as if his world were completely shattered because he had a microscopic speck of blood on his knee from the fall. I walked them into the classroom to retrieve Aidan's things when one of his classmates noticed the scene and as his eyes widened to the size of half dollars he exclaimed: "OH MY GOSH! That's REALLY bad!"

Thanks kid; next time why don't you tell them Santa isn't coming because he got eaten by the monster reindeer hiding under their bed!

Looking down at the blood smeared across my entire upper body I replied, "It's not as bad as it looks," while Aidan immediately took to dragging his leg behind him and swollen nosed Lily squirmed away from me trailing blood down her shirt and behind her, all the way out the classroom. Good times!

I had it in my mind that we wouldn't have turkey this year at Thanksgiving, mainly because no one likes it. And since we all of a sudden have found ourselves in the midst of yet another move across the country (more on that later), Kurt wanted me to make it as easy as possible. No turkey, I declared.

"But Moooooom, EVERYONE has turkey at Thanksgiving!" Madeline insisted.

"We have to have a turkey, Mom," Aidan agreed.

I caved. We roasted a little 10 lb turkey, and to "make it easy" I bought a ready-to-eat spiral-cut ham, three slices of bakery pie and pre-made mashed potatoes. But then I couldn't bare to leave out all the other sides so I also made a green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry salad, and my favorite sweet potato casserole. The only one who really ate the turkey? Liam. Outside of the mashed potatoes that Lily devoured, and the ENTIRE SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE sitting in my tummy, everyone else ate Ham and Ham alone. (And pie of course....because Tami made it....) Reciting my inherited lines after the 10 minute meal I said, "I'm not doing this again." So, next year I'm sticking with chicken. We all like chicken and they don't take as much room in the fridge. I suppose I should start fattening them up now....


Free Chicken Give-Away

So, one of my friends writes this Panini blog (Panini Happy) that has wonderful recipes and pictures that make your mouth-water. She recently held a Panini Grill Give-Away, one of several I have dutifully entered since in my mind I can't make panini until I have the right grill. Well, guess what? I WON! That's right. I actually won something I want to have! Yay! And I was so excited, jumping up and down and doing a victory dance with Liam in arms, that Kurt got all excited thinking maybe I had won a million dollar cash prize or something, putting an end to all our worries. (Sorry sweets, I'm really just easily excited!)

Well, it got me to thinking, perhaps I oughta have a give-away. Anyone want a free chicken? I have 4...

Speaking nothing of give-aways, we just got back from our 15 hour camping trip. I'm not sure whose bright idea it was to take 4 little children camping (Kurt's....it was Kurt's....let's get him!) but I have to say, it was one of those life experiences that made me realize just how crazy my own parents really were. Matter of fact, I got about ten minutes into trying to get the kids to bed when I called my mom (yes, I took my cell phone) and asked her why they ever took us all camping. Her response? "We had a camper." Well, gee, that explains it. 


I will tell you why. Because they were a little off. Because people who camp are just a little off. (I know, because we just went camping, sort of.) You see, I must admit, until today, it didn't make sense to me why you pack up all your clothes, and toiletries and sleeping bags and pillows and extra blankets and food and utensils and games and toys and a tent to put it all in and then extras of all those things, just in case they should get soiled (which, they will) and for crying out loud, why not just stay home for goodness sake?! At least at home you don't have to un-pack it all!

At any rate, we got to the beach campground where Kurt had taken Aidan a few months back and realized that we had forgotten to bring the directions to set up the 8-person tent (and by tent I am referring to the fortress, complete with separate rooms, that we lived in for all of 8 hours. You know you bought a monstrous tent when you are sitting in it thinking of what you could do to warm it up a little...maybe an extra rocker over in that room next to the baby bed and a little fold out sofa in the entry area with a little table and chairs for game playing and we may even have room for the queen sized air mattress in the sleeping quarters....again, why not just stay home?) 

After realizing I wasn't going to be much help holding a baby, I grabbed the first random stranger at the campsite adjacent to ours and asked if she'd like to hold a baby. (Thank God for bubbly babies and people wanting to be grandparents!) We then set forth to guessing how to correctly put the the tent up. After a few moments however, I realized I didn't know where Lily was and that was VERY BAD given that we were right on the beach! I started hollering for her and told Aidan and Madeline to go look for her when the kind neighbor holding Liam asked, "Is that her running around the other campsites with her pants off?"

I didn't even have to look. "Yup, that's her." And sure enough, there was Lily running wildly from campsite to campsite, pants-free and covered in black soot from the fire pit she must have been playing in. (We never did find her pants and those undies with the blackened crotch have seen better days for sure.)

We got the tent up, with the help of the local eagle scout who happened to be staying a campsite or two over and the husband of the Liam-holder. By this time it was getting dark and time for dinner prep. After Kurt started the fire, I realized the kids were sitting down wind from it and breathing in all that smoke. (Maybe this begins to explain why campers are a little off. It starts early: kids sitting happily in front of the smokey fire, breathing in all those toxins and well, they grow up to be campers too and it's just a vicious cycle apparently.) Kurt and I moved the table out of the wall of smoke and he got dinner ready while I made irritating comments about not having enough light and not bringing food for the baby and "Lily! Don't dump that dirt.....on the table....argh! It's all over everything! Kurt!" Because somehow, this is Kurt's fault. (And yes Kurt, you WERE in fact doing enough. I was just playing my inherited role a little too well. Sorry.)

That brings us to bedtime. Oh, there is no time like bedtime with 4 kids on a camping trip. Kurt had to run out for ice and I was on Liam (and kid) duty. I set up the pack-n-play in one of the side rooms, and got him fed and put down (not asleep mind you but at least he was quiet) by the time Kurt got back. However, the other three were a little crazy, running circles in the tent, squealing with glee and basically just being kids. I threatened to sell them to the local gypsies if they didn't settle down but unfettered, the energy just kept boiling over. This was made especially humorous by Lily's chimney sweep look (think Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins) and she still refused to put pants on. After a couple trips to the bathroom and a few books, we got them to sleep, one by one. Not a single child would sleep inside their sleeping bag, Madeline refused to even get on hers and by midnight, Lily was so cold she went over to snuggle in between Aidan and Madeline, who awoke screaming at Lily to get off of her. Then, every ten minutes thereafter Madeline fussed about not having enough room. She changed places a half dozen times, told me she wanted to go home RIGHT NOW (it was then 2 a.m.) and finally settled at the foot of my sleeping bag for the remainder of the night. And I swear, I must have some princess blood in me because I KNOW I felt a pea under my bed...oh wait, that must have been that flipping rock under me. 

By morning, Lily was inside my sleeping bag with me and I doubt I slept more than a few hours total. And I couldn't sit up or get out of the tent without looking like a 90 year old from the spasms in my lower back! And this is fun. Campers are seriously out of their minds!
After breakfast, and what must've been the tenth trip to take Lily to the bathroom (which only accomplished the task of stirring some deep seeded longing in me to own an RV instead of a tent...I could practically smell the fresh, hot coffee) we were talking about the day ahead and I realized, there was nothing to do. NOTHING! We would be sitting at the beach....doing nothing with 4 kids all day

By 8 a.m., we were in the car headed home just so we could regroup. It was as the girls and I soaked in a hot bath that I realized just why people camp. It has nothing to do with the actual camping. Nothing to do with the tents and cool gadgets and gear and fires and roasting marshmallows and camp songs or any of that. Nothing to do with meeting other campers and experiencing peace by reconnecting with nature. Nope. It is all about coming home! It is all about remembering to appreciate all of the things we take for granted each and every day. I don't think a campsite has ever been taken down as fast as it was this afternoon once we realized we were not going to be doing another night this time around. And on the way home I found myself thinking, "Hey, that was kind of fun!"

And the chicks were just as thrilled to watch a movie while eating hot pizza and then exhaustedly stumble into their cozy beds, falling asleep faster than they ever have before, without so much as a hint of complaining. 

We are SOOO going camping again!


Lily Pad

Yesterday, the kids were playing with Polly Pockets; you know, those little, rubbery dolls you dress up and then strip and then dress up again...and since I am the only one who can seem to manage to get their clothes back on....the vacuum seems to rear its ugly head frequently.... "Sorry Madeline, the vacuum ate it...again.")

They seemed to be playing quite well without me when I overheard this: 

"Here, you be the lily pad," Aidan said to Madeline.

"What's a lily pad?" Madeline asked.

"It's a type of frog," Aidan replied, all-knowingly.

"Oh, ok," Madeline said. Then, in her most squeaky character voice, "Hi! I'm a little lily pad, ribbit, ribbit."

 Speaking of Lily pads, our very own Lily has finally completed potty training. She has stayed dry, day and night, for a week now and although she frequently goes potty hopping at night (think small child running through the house with her pants off so that she can sit on each toilet at least once during the course of a single, um,  movement....I guess you could call her the life of the potty, hee hee....) we are confident in her abilities and ready to send her off into the real world, diaper-free.  Of course, we still need to break her of the TV addiction she developed in the potty-training process. Having been rewarded with a 20 minute show every time she used the potty without an accident, she discovered Dora the Explorer and well, she now gets the DT's after about an hour without a fix. This past week, she would actually go potty, watch her reward show, run into the bathroom to use the toilet again, run out and say, "I get to watch again!" One day, she used the potty every half hour for the better part of the day just so she could sit in front of Dora. But, it was all worth it because:


Chicken Chatter

Overheard yesterday while the kids were busy wasting printer paper, er, doing an art project:

"Madeline, please don't talk," Aidan said as Madeline was jabbering away about her pet rock, complete with drawn on eyes, nose and hair.

"But I haven't been able to talk ALL DAY, AIDAN!" Madeline replied. "First, I was at school and they said, 'be quiet' and then I was at lunch bunch and they said, 'be quiet' and then we were quiet in the car on the way home and I WANT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION!" Madeline complained.

And I might've actually felt for her....but I happen to know what it means for her to be quiet and unless you are comparing her to the monkey house during a feeding frenzy at the zoo, well, she isn't what I would call a quiet kid. What she meant to say was, "I want to have a conversation, THAT NEVER ENDS!"

I am reminded of the cute little children's song from Lamb Chop's Play Along:

So on the way to Aidan's school this morning, Aidan was telling us about Indians when he stopped to ask:

"Mom, when Indians run out of food, do they just go to the store?"

"What do you mean, Aidan?" I asked, having myself missed the first two minutes of the history lesson.

"Well, when they kill all the animals in the forest so there's nothing left to eat, do they just go buy their food at the store?" he asked.

"Well...." I started. 

"You know what is nice?" Madeline interrupted.

"Rabbits!" she announced, enthusiastically.

Deciding this was an opportune time to teach Madeline all about rabbits, Aidan said, "Well, even rabbits can be wild, Madeline. And they can be killed and eaten," he added. 

"I like kitties, too," Madeline continued, unaware that the conversation involved more than just her. "Can we have a kitty one day, Mom?"

"Well..." I began.

"Madeline, I'm not too familiar with animals so we can't have any while we are kids," Aidan answered. "At least not in our house. Maybe when we are older and...."

And I guess, in her own way, Madeline got just what she wanted. 

Everybody now!
This is the song that doesn't end, yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was
And they'll continue singing it forever just because....


The Straw That Broke the Chicken's Back

There is a story about a camel you may recall. His back is loaded with so much stuff...and when at last he can take no more, there is a final piece of straw that breaks his back. Or something like that. 

I had an x-ray done recently of my back. You see, I have had this back issue since a dumb incident about 10 years ago sent me to the ER where an ER doc basically told me to get over it and then gave me a lovely little shot in my bum that put me out just long enough that I could totally forget about the injury, try to get out of bed as usual and end up flat on the floor in true graceful chicken style (yes, mine has been a long history of chicken-like behavior)...it's funny, back injuries never occur from really intelligent moves...it's always something REALLY stupid like, I dunno, picking up a kid who is on the other side of a double dutch door...instead of simply opening the door like a normal person and THEN picking the kid up. Nope, not me and my then 22-year old smug self...I can pick up a kid over a door....come on, who can't do something as simple as that...it's going to save me, oh, 2 seconds....and I will pay for it for THE REST OF MY LIFE! Well done!

So, almost 10 years go by and I am finally debilitated enough (meaning I can't run anymore and thusly I can't eat all the Ben and Jerry's that I want anymore....I am sure it has NOTHING to do with age either....) that I went to a doctor about it. He kind of blew me off about the back spasms, weakness and complete stiffness upon awakening each morning (what am I 80?)....something like (insert pompous man voice here) "Well, everyone has back pain if they live long enough...it's the most common kind of pain...and the least treatable, blah blah blah, here's the prescription for an x-ray, blah blah blah....and when that doesn't show anything, here's one for physical therapy, blah blah blah and try to stop carrying the kids and instead use one of those push thingies (yes, he actually said push-thingies) and we should draw some blood while we're at it, who knows, could be something crazy like, I dunno, high cholesterol or Lupus, blah blah blah, and don't forget to talk to me more about your asthma next time because we don't want you to end up with Chronic Pulmonary Lung Disease...then you'd really be in trouble..." (Wow, so glad I came to talk to you!)

Ok, seriously, I went in because my back is irritating me and I can't run anymore...he ordered 5 (that's right, f-i-v-e) vials of blood, a urine sample, a complete series of x-rays and told me to take some Naproxen or Tylenol and call him with any other questions. 

Well, yesterday I had the follow up. My blood work came back great (duh) and then he said, in a kind of bewildered tone, "The only thing that was positive for anything was your x-ray which shows you have degenerative disease in L5 and S1 and a 3mm slippage. Have you ever had an injury to your lower back?"

Well golly gee, no. I just took a lucky guess that it happened to hurt and spasm right there at the lower lumbar and sacrum region...WERE YOU NOT LISTENING TO A THING I SAID? So much for your Doctor of the Year nomination. Take some notes for God's sake. 

He then went on to tell me that all said and done, there's not a whole lot they can do for me so I should load up on Calcium and Vitamin D, lest I end up with full blown osteoporosis...by sometime next year. "Oh, did I test your calcium levels? No? We could run some MORE blood work if you want." You know, because I SOOOO love having needles stuck into me as often as possible! Something fun to tide me over until my early bout of lung disease I suppose. 

But I am guessing it isn't straw that has broken me (although it may have caused the allergies that caused the asthma that will eventually lead to the removal of a lung...or two)...but maybe those four chicken-littles that have appeared in that last 5 years have something to do with it....hmmmm....it's funny, the doctor never spoke about the fixing of THAT issue....then again, he did use the phrase "push-thingy."


Chicken Melt Down Under

I've always wondered why they call it a chicken melt....it seemed too simple to be just the melted cheese on top but alas, that is what the thousands of recipes seem to point to. But then today happened and I found out what "melt" REALLY means....

There is a book the kids really like, (yes, I know, another one...we have a lot of books) called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The book title pretty much sums it up: Alexander has a rotten day, nothing seems to be going his way, he tells everyone about it and all he wants to do is go to Australia. The end. My favorite part is that his day NEVER GETS BETTER. Seriously, how honest is that?! Some days just suck. Period. 

Let's take today for instance. Kurt's parents were out visiting for Madeline's 4th birthday, and they left yesterday, just as the kids were edging closer to the volcano. We were fortunate that right around the time I may have expected Mount Vesuvius to erupt, a big box came to our front door with yet another present for Madeline. Zizi Owl (and family) to the rescue! The kids delighted in the little pieces, I mean, ponies, and were fully entertained for at least half an hour. (Not to mention the extra roomy box which is still bubbling over with potential.) They liked this gift so much that they fully cooperated with the picking up of the billion pieces, I mean, ponies and after a brief bit of chaos (think Hurricane Katrina on speed) they were all asleep by 6:30. Phew. 

Now, the kids usually go through a bit of a rough patch when we have company in and out of the house. They are a bit on the hyper side to begin with when anyone comes to the door, then add days of extra sugar, relatives with gifts galore, parties, checked-out parents and well, it isn't pretty.  So, first thing this morning, I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (at least for the kids). Madeline and Aidan both went to school. Madeline had her extended day today (a 2:30 pick-up) and Aidan has been begging to stay late at school since he started so we chose today to be the day (4:30 pick-up time.) I knew things were going to be a little rocky so I chose not to fill our time with anything extra and I tried to be right down at kid level all day. It didn't prevent Lily from biting Madeline for trying to get into the big box or from Madeline tackling Lily out of the box mind you, but at least I was there to dish out the consequences, with a side of sympathy, at the right time. After holding each of the girls while Liam watched on, giggling at the whole scene, I decided we should go ahead and get Aidan. Why not, right?

The ride home went something like this:

"Mom, you picked me up too early," Aidan complained.

"La la la, twinkle twinkle, la la la," Lily sang. 

"Lily, I don't want to hear noise, please stop singing," Aidan said with as much calm as he could muster.

"How was your day?" I asked, trying to circumvent the inevitable.

"La, la, la," Lily kept singing. 

"Aidan, she is still singing a song," Madeline said in her sing-song voice.

"DON'T TALK TO ME! IT HURTS MY EARS!" Aidan yelled back. 

"Aidan, don't yell at your sister," I scolded. 

"WuuuuuuuuAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Madeline bursted, tears streaming. 

"STOP CRYING! IT HURTS MY EARS!" Lily screamed. 

"I'M HAVING A ROUGH DAY!" Madeline sobbed even louder. "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!"


"La, la, la," Lily started singing again. "La, tee, da, la...." 

"Daaa daaa daaa, dee dee dee dee, daaa, daaa," Liam joined in, I am sure with a great big grin on his face.

"The only one I want to hear is Liam!" Aidan pronounced. "He is the only one who can make noise."

"Wuuuuuuuuuauaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!" cried Madeline. Then we saw a car stop on the side of the road and a woman got out of the car, close to where a horse was standing.

"Why is that person stopped in the street," Madeline asked calmly, no hint of emotion in her voice. For one split second, the car was silent. 

"Dee, dee, dee," Liam cooed. 

"La, la, la," Lily sung.

"BE QUIET LILY!" Aidan shouted.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Madeline wailed. 

And the chickens all melted....

If you need me, I'll be meeting Alexander in Australia. 


Graceful Like a Chicken T-Shirts!

When I told Kurt about my newest scheme to make us rich (under the McCain plan, not Obama) I got the strange feeling he was rolling his eyes at me....


Chicken Soup for the Man-Cold

On the way to take Aidan to school yesterday, I explained to the kids that we would be dumping their candy on the floor later, picking out their favorite 10 pieces each and then sending the rest overseas to our troops who are still fighting for us.

"Mom, are they fighting for just us for everyone in the whole universe?" Aidan wanted to know.

"Well, it depends on who you ask but they are fighting for the ideal of freedom," I explained. "So I would say they are fighting for everyone in the universe."

"Do you think they will still be fighting when I am an adult?" Aidan asked.

"I hope not but I don't know," I replied.

"Well, if they are, I want to be in the military so I can go help them fight," he said. It was one of those contradicting moments in life where my heart began a tug of war, both swelling with pride and constricting in anxiety over the thought.

Later, Liam had his 9 month well-visit so after picking up Madeline from her school and then rushing to get Aidan from his school, we headed to the office. 

"Why doesn't daddy play dollies with me anymore?" Madeline asked.

"Because he has to go to work," Aidan told her.

"Ahhh, poor daddy," Lily added.

"But he used to play dollies with me," Madeline said.

"But that is on his days off and he doesn't have the day off today," Aidan responded.

"Poor daddy....he's sad," Lily said with a big frown.

After the conversation switched to something involving food, with Lily yelling, "Daddy, where ARE you? Peek-a-boo Daddy!" a half dozen times, I told the kids that we were taking Liam to the doctor and that everyone was to be on their best behavior. 

"We will be having a Halloween treat from our bags afterwards but if you don't follow directions you will not get to participate," I said. The kids all agreed they would be quiet, calm and stay seated so that they could each take part in the special treat. (Ha ha...)

We checked in at the front desk, where I asked if they might give Aidan his flu shot as well. Aidan, overhearing the conversation, began his arguments about why he didn't need one this year. We were called back quickly and put in our room. 

After weighing and measuring Liam, who's apparently still on the Hobbit growth curve, the nurse came back to give Aidan his shot. He was very brave and didn't cry but in true male fashion, he started carrying on about how he couldn't walk because he had a shot in his arm. He rolled up his sleeve to show his band-aid off to the world and he whined until his nose started to bleed. At the very least, he was sitting still....much unlike Lily who had taken to jumping off the chairs onto the floor and screaming in delight. Madeline was throwing books around as if we were animals in a zoo and Liam was laughing hysterically at them all. 

Something about being told to be on their best behavior obviously struck a chaos chord and I had a choice to make: get mad or calmly redirect them. I chose to squat down, reminding them about our special treat and quietly read the books until they were all mesmerized and calm again. 

By the time the doctor came in, two kids were bleeding, two were screeching, one was complaining about his arm hurting worse than anything in the whole wide world and Liam was smiling away. 

"Looks like he's happy," the doctor says, looking at Liam and completely disregarding the other noise in the room. I tried to pay attention to the positive too and only once did I have to quiet the others down while the doc checked out our elf-baby. Point for the kids!

At the end of the visit the doctor told me he wanted to recheck growth in about 6 weeks. 

"I'd come in between Thanksgiving and Christmas to save your sanity," he said. 

Hee hee, I was flattered he thinks there is anything left to save!

This morning,  Aidan went in to his class with his sleeve rolled up to reveal his shot....and limping. I am not sure he will make it in the military but I am sure they will understand why he can't join when he tells them about his man-cold-shot when he was 5! Chicken soup anyone?


Mosquitoes and M&M's

On the way home from breakfast today:

"Mommy, mosquitoes and M&M's are candy, right?" Madeline asked. Focused on my driving (i.e. lost in thought), I only half heard her question and didn't respond.

"Mommy, I'm talking to you.....Mommy," she said. 

"Yes, Madeline, I'm listening," I replied. 

"Mosquitoes and M&M's are candy, right?" she repeated. 

"No, Madeline. M&M's are candy but mosquitoes are not candy," I said. 

"No, no, no," Madeline said, flapping her hands wildly by her shoulders, like little hummingbird wings. "Not Mosquitoes that fly," she said flustered. "I mean, mosquitoes you eat!" 

Kurt and I start laughing. "Oh, you mean SKITTLES!" he said. 

"Yeah, 'squitoes and M&M's are candy," she said.  

Close enough.


The Chicken Book

We have a book called "No More Chores" that is one of the kids favorite short, rhyming reads. It is about a mother hen who tells her chicks it is time to clean up and they beg her to make it fun for them. They fling toys into the wagon and give all the toys a ride to the chest and then they work in the garden, weeding and watering, and at the very end the mother hen pulls out a nice big treat from the oven. And everyone is happy. The end.

That's exactly how cleaning is at our house. Late at night. While I am sleeping....dreaming sweet dreams of peaceful, willing children who pick up their things on their own accord while I sit in the kitchen with a good book drinking my ice water while it is still cold for once. And that's usually when the ghost-like blob enters the room and scares us all away and I can't find my kids and I startle awake with my heart pounding out of my chest, sweat on my brow and my senses, on overdrive, have me all freaked out with those little house-noises so I can't sleep anymore. Oh, and there is no treat. The end.

Anyway, I can hardly miss the opportunity to write about Halloween. Before we got moving that day, I had to clean up the house. I opted to go for the stick-the-kids-in-their-room-while-I-get-it-done-real-fast approach (no fun and games or treats...or whining....or ghost-like-blobs...) We then loaded up the car to head to the costume parade at Aidan's school which would have taken half the time had Aidan not completely melted down upon failing to get the feet of his costume to stay in the right place before getting in the car....or had Madeline not flipped when I made her take off the Snow Princess dress so that she could fit into her car seat...or had Lily been willing to get out of the dirt (I wasn't even thinking costume with her....she had her pink pants on inside out and backwards, was covered in soil and as a dear friend said, looked a bit on the homeless side...) I may have declared a religious boycott and called off Halloween for our family entirely had it not been for Liam, dressed in his little
reindeer outfit and smiling happily away.

We arrived at the school where I shuffled the kids into Sugar Pies Bakery and I ran into the dry cleaners. The man at the register looked at me, dressed up in my witches hat and outfit and said, "What are you dressed up as?"

"Um, a witch?" I said, questioningly. Seriously, how did the big, black pointy hat not give that away???

Back at the bakery, Lily tells the owner, Tami, "Hey, that's my mom.....that witch." And off she runs, on all fours, barking loudly, because she had finally gotten her puppy costume on and well, that's what they do. 

After the parade, we headed to the store for the pumpkin carving set. If you have never bought one of these sets, they are terrific! They turn the average Joe into the Michelangelo of pumpkin carvers....that is assuming you don't break one of the little saws...half way through the first of four pumpkins....and then break the second little saw while accidentally cutting off the cat's tail in the second pumpkin...and then, after throwing your arms in the air, you reach for the big ol' kitchen knife, cut a few triangles and make an old-school jack-o'-lantern which ALL THE KIDS SAY THEY LOVE THE BEST! (Why did I bother with the scull and cross bones again?) 

But, here are the pics we took on Halloween. Enjoy.
The Snow Princess

Madeline, Lily, Karen, Liam and Aidan (Swamp Monster)

Our little Reindeer, Liam (9 months)

Why some people shouldn't be given the camera....
or "Look kids, no head!"

The cat (in the middle) is obviously a manx...recently it's head caved in as well...


Farm Trip

If you haven't guessed this about me, I love farms. Actually, I love the idea of farms. Ask Kurt and he will tell you that at least once every few months I bring up the idea of living on a farm. 

"Ahhh, wouldn't it be nice to live on a farm?! Just get back to the basics: wake early, send the dozen kids out to do their chores, milk the cow and feed the chickens, maybe chase a rooster off the fence..."

And of course, in his very rational and collected way Kurt asks, "And who would work the farm?" 

Well duh, we'd hire people....don't they come with the farm anyway? 

Speaking of farms, I had the pleasure of chaperoning Aidan's class on their first field trip of the year: a visit to Tanaka Farm's Pumpkin Patch.  

I was pretty excited because it isn't often I get to do things with just Aidan and I knew he would really appreciate it. So, we get to school and his teacher, Ms. Ann, starts to tell each of us who we'd be driving. We were given Aidan's desk mate: let's call him Eddie. 

Now, my first run in with Eddie was on the first day of school when I was dropping Aidan off and Eddie ran up, long, straggly hair flowing behind him and he just started talking. On and on and on, dude this and dude that, awesome this and cool that and I seriously don't even know what he was talking about. All I know is that I said a little, silent prayer that THIS WOULD NOT BE THE KID AIDAN WANTED FOR A PLAY DATE! EVER! 

Well, sometimes God just sucks.  Not only did Aidan start wanting play dates with Eddie but he was assigned a seat RIGHT NEXT TO HIM; a seat that is not going to be changed for HALF THE YEAR unless they absolutely have to for behavioral reasons; a seat that allows Aidan to pick up every inflection of every last stupid thing this kid says. And of course we have heard Eddie in our home by way of Aidan far too frequently (Aidan can almost mimic the very sound of this kids voice!) And it makes me wonder if having the "good" kid in the classroom is actually a bad thing. They most likely put Aidan next to Eddie because, much unlike Eddie's reputation, they had heard how good he was in his preschool room and how he behaved even when the others were egging him on to do bad things. This isn't to say we have a perfect kid because he does live with us so we do know...but, he is very good at school, respectful to his teachers and nice to the other kids. He walks into the classroom and all the kids run up to him like he was some sort of lord and he just brushes them off as if they were paupers and of course, they just want more of him because of his aloof nature.

Anyway, back to my story. So, I put the boys in the car, they buckle their seat belts and I turn the car on. I had not even begun driving yet when Eddie announces that the music I have playing is not cool and that he only listens to cool music. My heart sank because the tape (yes, I said tape, remember those?) we have in is one of Aidan's very favorites. (In case you are wondering it is Pooh's Halloween Music. And honestly, we only listen to it one month of the year but it rocks!) So, I asked him, trying to hide my annoyance, "What do you think is cool then, Eddie?" 

"Well, I only listen to The Jonas Brothers. That's the only cool music," he said. "They're AWESOME!" At this point, visions of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure started reeling through my brain. I switch the music to The Beatles and ask him if he had ever heard of them. 

"Yeah, they're pretty cool. They're all beet beet beetles," Eddie said. The boys laughed and my jaw clenched as I realized Aidan hails this kid as if he were king. Argh!

So, Eddie kept talking nonsense which made Aidan laugh and at some point I started noticing that Eddie was poking Aidan in the head. Sometimes he poked his face, other times his hair until finally I said, "Eddie, keep your hands to yourself."

Eddie gave me that "what did I do" look and I told him to just stop. A few minutes went by and Eddie started poking at Aidan again. I repeated my earlier command as Aidan kind of chuckled nervously. Please keep in mind, we were driving on the highway at this point in 75 mph traffic that was coming to a quick standstill. 

By the time we arrived at the farm, I had already turned to Eddie and warned him that I would have to tie up his hands behind him on the way back if he touched Aidan one more time. 

"And by the way, sit up straight and get that belt put back over your shoulder because the way you have it right now is not safe," I said, obviously irritated and kicking myself for showing it.

"But this is how I usually wear it," he argued. 

"Well, if I were to get in a crash right now, and your seat belt was like that, under both armpits, YOU'D DIE!" I said. He followed directions and then started questioning whether that was accurate information. I kept quiet. 

Thankfully, upon meeting up with the rest of the class, Eddie went off with another boy in the class and Aidan was stuck with just me and some other "Aidan groupies." 

One of the dads there, trying to strike up some conversation, asked who I had driven and, upon my answering, he said, "Oh. He has quite a reputation but I wonder if he is really as bad as they say." 

"He is," I said. "Trust me, whatever you have heard, it's probably true." It was either that or explaining about Eddie's fallen status as an angel of God and how kids like him have been roaming the earth for thousands of years in order to contaminate our good kids in hopes of multiplying in numbers and taking over the world. And he is only 6! 

But, I was happy to put up with the questionable child because I know that it will be much too soon that Aidan will no longer want to walk next to me, holding my hand in front of his friends or ask me to pick his veggies because he doesn't want to get his hands dirty. It won't be long before he will no longer delight in the big, orange pumpkin he got to pick out with the cool, twisted stem (which was clearly awesome because Eddie tried to claim that he was going to pick that one but Aidan stole it from him...and of course, Eddie had been about a hundred yards away, goofing around, by the time Aidan had picked it.) Aidan won't always wish that his sisters could be with him or that we could go back to the farm as a family to pick out the biggest pumpkin ever. 

On the ride home, Aidan shared his water bottle with Eddie (by share I mean Eddie took it from him and Aidan didn't want it back because: "I don't want his germs," Aidan said.) and I tried to start again in hopes of building a soft spot in my heart for this boy who for all I know has lead a tragically messed up life. 

"So Eddie, what do you like to do," I asked politely.

"Nothing. All I do is go home and sit on the couch and turn the TV on. I am lazy," he said. Well, if nothing else, at least he can be honest?

"Really? You don't have any chores or anything?" I asked, not at all shocked.

"Nope. I just watch TV," he said while doing something to make Aidan giggle.

"You don't make your bed or brush your teeth or put the dishes away? Nothing?" I questioned. 

"Well, I brush my teeth," he said. 

"What shows do you like to watch?" I asked. 

"Spongebob," he said casually.

"Oh, I saw that one time," Aidan chimed in, happy to be a part of the conversation.

"Well, I watch it everyday," Eddie bragged. "Because it's totally AWESOME!" 

There was a lovely little silence before Eddie started telling us that his dad was Vietnamese. "And I can speak Vietnamese," Eddie bragged. 

"Cool. Say something in Vietnamese," I said. He didn't say anything.

"Well, Aidan is part Italian and he can speak some Italian," I bragged on Aidan's behalf.

"Really?" Eddie asked, half-way interested. Aidan and I went through the little Italian he knows, for which I am sure I must have won some points from Aidan because Eddie gave it a "totally cool." 

Still no soft spot....but at least I didn't have to tie the kid's hands up....


Conversations with Aidan

On the way home from school today, Madeline had just handed her most beloved, pink, beaded necklace (that she had completely forgotten about until earlier today when I found it at the bottom of my beach bag) to Lily, so that Lily could have a turn wearing it, when Lily "accidentally" broke it....by pulling it apart, with all her might....Madeline immediately went into hysterics.

"Why do you always cry when things break?" Aidan said, a hint of irritation in his voice.

"Aidan, you sometimes cry too when your things break and it's okay to cry," I said. "It's disappointing when your things break. But some things just aren't meant to last forever," I explained, while making a mental note to keep all valuables away from Lily.

"Yeah, that's true," Aidan agreed. "Like ants...they aren't meant to last forever," he said. I was having a hard time controlling my laughter so he went on. "No, it's true Mom. Sometimes, ants are just sitting there with their legs up, not walking. They are talking to other ants and they just don't see the foot coming down on them and SMASH! They're gone."

It took several minutes for me to recover and by the time I caught my breath, Aidan was explaining to Madeline the process of skin growth. I was half surprised not to hear "epidermis" or "cutaneous" in his discourse, but then, he is only 5.

Fast forward to later when I was helping Aidan clean out some of his artwork which has created a bit of a clutter-ful mess in the house. I was explaining that we could only keep the very best pieces and Aidan had sincere arguments for why he needed to keep each masterpiece. I had only convinced him to throw away two pieces of paper (neither of which I think he had drawn anyway) when I found a half finished mountain he had made at Sunday School.

"Aidan, what about this one? " I said, holding up the incomplete landscape.

"We have to keep that one, Mom. It's a picture of God's house," Aidan explained.

"Aidan, it isn't even done!" I said, exasperated.

"But Mom, it's for GOD!" Aidan exclaimed as if I had just asked him to punch God in the nose.

Well, he's got me there. It's like the old saying: Damned if you do, damned if you don't!

And lastly there was today's park clean up: Aidan had brought his eight, orange, sports cones to set out so he could ride his bike around them. When it was time to leave the park, I said:

"Aidan it's time to collect the cones and put them in the car."

His eyes got wide with excitement and he looked like he was going to burst.

"Really?! I can get the cones?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah," I said, a little confused. "Please collect them and put them in the car."

"We get to be cone collectors?!" he asked. "Really?!"

"Sure, Aidan," I said, wondering if he was finally picking up the subtle art of sarcasm.

It was driving home, a dozen and a half pine cones rolling around the floor of my car, that I understood why he was so thrilled.

I think I now fully understand the meaning of 'lost in translation'....


Snakes in the Coop

On Gopher Snakes: "In the wild, their diet consists of small mammals, birds and eggs." -Melissa Kaplan

The question is, what is considered small? A Lily? A Liam?

Last week started with a little excitement. I had sent the kids out back to play while I started making dinner. A few moments later, Aidan came running in, his two sisters at his heels, and he said, "Mom, there's a snake out there!"

Thinking I was playing along I said, "Really? A real snake? Show me."

Aidan and the girls opened the door and I said, "Ok, let's go look." No sooner had we stepped out when I saw a foot-and-a-half long snake slithering across the patio.

"ACK! It's a REAL real snake!" I said, gathering the kids back into the house as quickly as I could and shutting the door behind us.

"Yeah, I told you it was real," Aidan said.

"OK, but I thought you were kidding," I replied. "You guys stay here, I have to go see what kind it is."

"It's a rattlesnake," Aidan said confidently. (Well, duh! Aren't they all?)

I stepped back outside, not wanting to startle the snake but wanting to get close enough to view it. I followed it for a few moments, ran back in to check out snakes on the internet, determined it must be a young gopher snake (you know, the snake that LOOKS like a rattlesnake, acts like a rattlesnake but can't kill you like a rattlesnake) and then decided I would get a shovel and try to catch it and throw it over the fence. (Hee hee, even the thought of that now cracks me up...I couldn't even bury a dead rabbit...like I am going to catch a live snake! With a shovel! I mean, all snakes are venomous, right dad? But I sure felt safer with that big ol' shovel in hand!)

Back out with the shovel I realized that Mr. Snake was headed toward the fence anyway. Maybe he would just leave quietly, no scene. So I slowly crept behind, glad to see he was headed to the end of the patio and toward the fence. And just when I thought we were in the clear, he peeked his head into a very miniscule hole in the wall of the house (where the stucco meets the patio tile) and IN HE WENT! 

And just like that, our backyard is closed to all small mammals. Didn't see that comin'! 

(And yes, I did look on the inside of our house to make sure there were no holes in our walls he could get through....hey, you call it crazy, I call it precautious. After all, one mustn't let a snake into the coop.)

We hope that this week starts off a little less exciting!

Whole Baked Chicken

Yesterday, I attempted to bake a whole chicken for the first time. After reading the instructions (getting stuck for quite a long time on the part about scooping the gibblets out, ewwww...) I turned the thing over in hopes that I could shake them out. It was a good thought and the look on the girls' faces as I shook and shook the bird over the sink was well worth the effort. But it didn't work. And after having to stick my hand up there to get the rest of the slimy innards out, and then holding the thing under running water to clean the body while flashes of a small bathing infant went through my head, I had almost all but decided this was truly not worth it.

After that, Madeline and Lily helped me with brushing on the oil and mixing the spices and they were very excited to share the story with Aidan when he got in the car after school.

"Aidan, we got a chicken today!" Madeline said.

"A real one?!" he asked, returning her excitement.

"Yeah, and we helped mommy make it and we are going to eat it!" she said.

"Well, was it alive when you got it?" he asked, now a bit concerned.

"What do you think, Aidan?" I chimed in.

"Yes?" he questioned, hesitantly.

"Yeah, it was alive once," Madeline said. "First it went, bok bok bok, and then mom took the insides out and then we painted stuff on it and tied it together and we will cook it and it will be chicken and we can eat it!" She was truly bubbling over.

Aidan was obviously still processing the whole thing and asked, "Well, does it have feathers?"

"Nope, and it doesn't have eyes either," Madeline answered. "It's head got CHOPPED OFF!"

Poor Aidan. I wasn't sure if he would ever want to eat chicken again.

On a brighter note, Madeline LOVED her chicken....that she finally got to eat for dessert...since I had misread the directions and our chicken had to bake long past dinnertime...so I had to quickly saute some frozen chicken tenders instead. Fortunately, they didn't have feathers or eyes either....

I am a Rock

A winters day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
-Simon and Garfunkel

We've been trying to get the older kids to give Lily encouragement for her potty efforts. This morning, as I was doling out the two M&M's each for her successful um, movement, if you will, Aidan did his best to give her positive feedback.

"You rock, Lily!" Aidan exclaimed.

"I not a rock! I Lily!" she replied.

"No, I didn't say you WERE a rock, I said you rock," Aidan corrected.

"No! I not a rock!" Lily yelled. "I LILY!"

"I know you aren't a rock, Lily. It means you did a good job! You ROCK!" he said, now irrittated.

"I NOT A ROCK!" Lily yelled back. "I A LILY!" she screamed.

Later, as we were getting ready to head out the door, I was sorting through a pile of clutter when Lily climbed up on the stool next to me and said, "Mommy, you a rock."

"Gee, thanks Lily!"

Hey, I'll take what I can get!

"She is a rock,
She is a Lily.
And a rock feels no pain;
And a Lily never cries."


Absentee Rooster

We were going to the church Fall Festival this evening by way of a birthday party. Kurt couldn't join us because he wasn't feeling well so the kids and I got into the car and Madeline said, "Daddy isn't going, right?"

"Right," I said as I pulled out of the driveway.

"Well, we don't need daddy anyway, right?" Madeline went on. I chuckled a little, thinking how to respond...I don't think she would get an "it depends on how you look at it" reply...

"No, we don't need daddy right now," I said.

"Mom! You have FOUR kids! Of course you need daddy," chimed in Aidan.

So, the kids wore themselves out at the birthday party and by the time we got to the festival, I had to bribe Lily to get back into her "Bad Spida Man" costume, change Liam's dirty diaper, put Madeline's shoes back on and explain to Aidan why he shouldn't sit in the middle of a parking lot to put his shoes on. Then there was the finding someone to watch the little ones while I used the restroom, and trying to maintain my sanity among the droves of dressed up children strung out on mass amounts of sugar. Good times.

Dinner rolled around but FIRST there was the Costume Parade. After the pastor went through every. single. child. one. by. one. by. one. by. one by DEAR GOD, DO WE HAVE TO LET EVERY KID SPEAK INTO THE MIC?!....letting each one tell us who they were dressed up as, I had about had it. I had spilled the first glass of water I tried pouring (apparently wings pose a problem with gripping), Liam had eaten a good portion of a paper napkin and Lily was fishing for ice in her glass, making a lovely little puddle before drinking the water and then crinkling the plastic cup and whining that it was broken when I got up to gather my brood and leave ASAP. But Aidan insisted he was still famished (apparently he didn't eat enough tamales at the birthday party, unlike Liam who had a big, red rash around his mouth from the cheese tamale he gobbled up before I realized there was a big ol' Jalapeno pepper in it! Nominate me now folks as I just know that move will clinch me the "Mom-of-the-Year" award!) Anyhow, I figured it would be easier to let them eat some noodles at the church than to feed them when we got home.

We waited for the line to dwindle before joining it and a friend of mine mistakenly took my incredulous smile as an invitation to sit down with us with her daughter and their VERY BIG PLATE OF SPAGHETTI DINNER. While my kids drooled, she explained how they had forgotten their son's allergy-free food so her husband, God bless his soul, had gone home to get it. You know, so her kid wouldn't die. From the noodles.

"Is your husband in line getting dinner for you guys?" she asked.

"Um, no, he isn't here," I said.

A look of utter pity washed over her face as she exclaimed, "Oh goodness, you are all by yourself?!"

NO, I AM NOT ALL BY MYSELF! Notice the four (4) hungry kids sitting with me. Being by myself would be MUCH EASIER!

"Kurt isn't feeling well," I told her as dispassionately as possible. I got up to help Aidan bring back all the food and drinks and ignored her asking how I was possibly going to manage it all by myself....

When we got back from getting the food (picture it: I was holding our 8 month old elf, 2 dinner plates and a juice box, following a 2 year old who, as careful as she was trying to be, left a trail of noodles behind her that even Hansel and Gretel would be proud of, and was followed by a 5 year old carrying a full plate, 4 napkins and the other two juice boxes) she was gone, her daughters half eaten dinner still sitting there.

Aidan inhaled his noodles and bread and went back for more. After eating the one meatball at our table, Madeline ate her bread, explaining to me that she really only liked the squishy part. Lily took a bite of bread, spit it out and then proceeded to open the brick of butter and shove the entire thing in her mouth. And that is when Liam started to cry. And I mean really, really cry! A HOLY JALAPENO sort of cry! And for a baby who seriously cries so rarely that I hardly recognize the sound when he does, this put me right over the edge, leaving all grace aside. I told Aidan and Lily to grab their balloon swords, managed to catch the half eaten butter as Lily let it drop from her mouth and out the back door we flew with Aidan and Madeline whining about how we were going to miss dessert. (Lily on the other hand seemed eager to get back to the three half eaten lollipops she had left in the car.)

It is times like these I realize just how much I do appreciate that rare random act of kindness. 

The correct answer is: Yes, Madeline, we do need daddy. Otherwise, we'll all go hungry because free meals aren't always what they're cracked up to be. 


Potty Training Chickens

Q: Does anyone know how to potty train a chicken? I might have to take in a chicken. I would keep her indoors, the problem is that I have 2 cats and a dog. I am worried about sanitation. Is there a way I can train the chicken to poop in one area? -A REAL question posted on VegSource.com

A:No, there is no way. You just have to put a diaper on them. I have 2 chickens and they are in their pants most of the day. When I am home they have their diapers on. When I leave they go in the cage. -A REAL answer to that question posted at VegSource.com

SERIOUSLY! And the best part: when the poster asked where to find chicken diapers, someone else answered that the company that makes them named them "Flight Suits"! Hee hee... 

While you try to wrap your brain around chickens in their flight suits....

Like most skills in life, using the toilet, instead of the convenience of a diaper...or floor...is a learned activity. We had a fairly easy experience with Aidan (after that first rocky day or two when we highly considered just leaving him in diapers until puberty) and he was using the toilet like a pro a month before his 3rd birthday. Then came Madeline who, upon our arrival to CA decided she would teach herself. She was a master "pottier" at two and a half, by no effort on our part outside a little chocolate encouragement here and there. 

Then comes Lily. Lily went from thrilled at the prospects of getting an M&M every time she used the toilet to "Yay! Aidan and Mai Jane get M&Ms" but not wanting one herself to not really caring at all about the potty. But because "house training" isn't approved by the AAP (nor is the use of a litter box) we plow forward. 

So yesterday we were waiting for Madeline to finish up dance class when my nose noticed Liam was in need of a new diaper. Having used the last of the wipes without replacing them, I wheeled him and Lily into the restroom to wet some paper towels. Lily, recognizing the great opportunity in front of her (empty restroom, occupied mom, yippee!), jumped out of the stroller and headed into the biggest stall.  I finished changing Liam and took him over to the stall where I found Lily completely nude, clothes scattered on the floor, shoes in the corner and a very dry pull-up right in the middle of it all. She was trying to get up onto the toilet. 

"Do you need to go potty?" I asked, both eyebrows raised.

"Yeah!" she said, bubbling over with enthusiasm. I helped her up and sure enough, after a very short moment she started peeing. 

"Yay!" I cheered. "You did it!" 

Her eyes widened as big as her excited smile and she leaned backward to show me she was still going....and the stream flowed right out, onto the dry diaper, onto her clothes and all over me. Note to self: Please withhold applause until the Flight Suit is back on the chicken!