A Little Who

"A person's a person, no matter how small." -from Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss

And, in case you didn't figure it out from the title or quote, here's a quick Liam update. He had his 15 month check-up the other day and I am happy to say he is finally weighing in at average.....

...For a NINE month old. At just above 19 pounds (and still facing backwards in the car...we're confident he will be turned around before he hits puberty) he is still very much on the scale of the Whos down in Who-ville. We are not alarmed of course (Grandma!)...mainly because the doctor thinks he looks perfect and he is still the reigning title holder of the happiest kid on the planet; especially when he sees a school bus! Holy Moly! I wish I were that happy to see Aidan's school bus every afternoon! He is so excited when we see the school bus come around the corner he practically flies out of my arms waving so vigorously. (The only thing that has made him giggle harder recently was when he sneezed the other day, it caught him by surprise and he could hardly stop laughing....Thank goodness for diapers as I'm certain he peed himself.) 

Even the bus driver pulled over a second time yesterday to ask if Liam was always so smiley and happy and then told me that Liam is the highlight of his day. And that solidified it, for surely if the bus driver is that thrilled at the happiness of a baby, he must be the happiest baby in the world (because you know, a bus driver has all sorts of other daily highlights....noisy kids, boogers stuck on windows, bad drivers, traffic lights, parents sending their kid on the bus with a snare drum, vomit....) 

We are also unalarmed that he is still only crawling and not even considering the freedom that could be his with walking. Again, we're fairly certain he will be able to walk come Kindergarten, especially if it means he gets to take the bus. 


So, last night, Madeline wanted me to tell her a story, a ritual that has become part of the bedtime routine. I wasn't feeling up to being creative so I asked if she would tell the story. Lily came over and put her head in my lap and started breathing similarly to how she sleeps, a little heavier and loud.

Madeline started, "Once upon a time......." she paused, a look of agitation smeared across her face, and then screamed, "STOP BREATHING LILY!"

I stifled my laughter and told her Lily had to breathe in order to live and please continue.

Madeline continued, "Once upon a time there was a girl named Julia and she had a sister and brother and.....LILY!!! STOOOOOOP BREATHING!" 

She also asked me today if we could give away Aidan. Note to self: recheck the box of items going into the garage sale....

And here we are, the end of this post.  The last lines from Horton Hears a Who pretty much sums up being mother hen to four siblings:

"From sun in the summer. From rain when it's fall-ish, I'm going to protect them. No matter how small-ish!" 

The End.

Little Lessons: Theology and Otherwise

Aidan was being especially disobedient yesterday. After spending multiple hours in his room I decided to read him the Bible story of Jonah from his Children's Bible. Afterwards, I asked, "Aidan, what happened in this story?"

"Well," Aidan replied, "Jonah didn't follow directions."

"Exactly," I said. "So what did God do?"

"He sent a big storm," Aidan said.

After a small pause I prodded, "Yes, and then what came and swallowed Jonah?"

"Well, a big fish, probably a whale, came and swallowed him," he answered.

"See," I said. "If you don't follow directions bad things can happen. You could even get swallowed by a fish!"

Aidan gave me that look of superiority as he replied, "Actually Mom, the fish was sent to HELP Jonah."

Didn't see that coming....darn kid.


At any rate, today we were driving to the store when Aidan noticed some repairs in the road; long, black, tar filled lines cutting in and out of the lanes. 

"Mom, what are those lines in the road," he asked above Lily who was screaming, "Mom?! Mom?!" as if she had something REALLY important to tell me.

"Just a minute, Lily," I said. "Aidan, those are where they have had to repair the roads. You see, the roads take a big beating here in the very cold winter and then the dramatic change into the hot summers and so they get holes and have to be filled to keep the roads smooth." (Hey, it sounded good at the time...) 

"Mom, MOM, MOOOOOOOM!" Lily screamed again.

"Yes, Lily. What is it?" I answered. 

She asked: "Do some people get worms crawling in their butt?"

If I had been drinking something at the time, I am certain I would have spewed it all over the front of the car  by way of MY NOSE! And I am positive I would have answered that question more appropriately had I not been laughing so hard in that sucker punch kind of way.... 


The Importance of Presence

One of the biggest issues I have as a mom at home with young'uns is the problem of distractibility. I'll admit, I get distracted by the simplest of things. Take this afternoon for example, I had just made the girls and Liam lunch when I noticed mail still sitting there from yesterday. So, deciding to go through it, I noticed Kurt's Cato Institute Quarterly Message discussing an argument for "Doing Nothing" (In Defense of Doing Nothing, by Jeffrey Miron).  Thinking I could use a good argument for doing nothing, I picked it up and started reading the article that deals entirely with economics and nothing with being a stay-at-home mom. And that's when I heard the slurping coming from the table. 

Eager to put down the newsletter, I looked up to find Madeline sitting on the floor with her sandwich and Lily, tummy down on the table, slurping up what was obviously a large puddle of spilled water where Madeline used to be sitting. 

"Lily, Madeline, if you spill water on the table, you need to get a rag to wipe it up," I said, getting the towel. 

"But Mo-om," Lily exclaimed, "it's a disaster!" And she continued slurping the water off the table with her mouth as I wiped the rest up. I pulled Lily off the table and turned around to wring the rag out. When I came back, she was back up on the table and having poured the remainder of the cup of water out, was continuing with her slurping. (That's when I made a mental note to never send Lily to help with an oil spill....)

I got the table cleaned up (as Lily crawled over to slurp up the cereal that was never wiped up from this morning's breakfast) and went back to finish the mail sorting. I got lost in thought, thinking that spilled water was better than Madeline choking up an eraser she had accidentally swallowed while on a car ride over the weekend and puking it up into the cup holder of the car (to a very amused mother who couldn't help but laugh at the sight...you'd have to have been there) and was brought back to the present when I heard Liam giggling. I looked up and saw that Lily had "shared" her yogurt with him, having given him the entire cup and spoon. In a relatively short period of time, he had proceeded to smear it all over his tray and face and head and, well, anywhere else he could yogurt-paint, excluding his actual mouth of course. 

Lily sat there with that you-know-what-eating grin on her face and Liam was about as happy as a boy can be. And that's when it hit me that the beginning of Lily's biography will one day read:

Lily was a good little monkey, and always very curious.... 


Over the Rainbow

Although I am personally somewhere over the Rainbow (hee hee, I just couldn't help that one) due to the outpouring of opinions about my most recent post (see The Rainbow), I feel the need to clarify. 

Clearly, my friendly neighbor has the right to tell us not to use her play system and of course we will fully comply. After all, we are friends and she paid for the thing and although I suggested she charge rent for usage (a joke that I think may have gotten lost in translation) that isn't the point. 

I did have enough people "relate" to my neighbor's request to make me wonder if I had gone partially mad...which, duh, I have four kids, so of course I have lost some marbles along the way....which is just fine by me; they were a choking hazard anyhow! But for the record, I do not lack judgement (at least not as much as I may have in adolescence, hee hee). For example, there have been many times our kids have wanted to go play when they see them out there with company and I have told them no we can't, as not to crash the party. (Instead, we go to the other neighbor's play structure and stare longingly until their kids come running over and their parents have to chase them back into their own yard....ok, that only happened once and it was totally Aidan's idea...tee hee.) 

We also recognize that they have napping children and so we are considerate and do not come creeping out of our hive, one, two, three, four, five, until late afternoon when the ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah. 

My only real beef (or is it chicken?) was that well, we don't have our own fun play structure and gosh darn it, we have to walk another 20 feet in order to get to the one on which we are welcome to play at any time! Seriously though, this is a non-issue. As I said, we are over the Rainbow and in true Graceful Chicken style, we were out playing on it again today anyway....after being sought out and given a welcoming invitation of course.


The Rainbow

For many weeks now, Aidan has been asking if we could buy him and his siblings a Rainbow Play System. For those of you who do not know about Rainbows, click here and you will enter an entirely new age of "swing sets." When I was a kid, we had two rusty As connected by a rusted crossbar that the swings hung from. When you went too high, one of the legs of the set would actually lift up off the ground, as if to dare you to go any higher....and if you sat down too rough you might just lose a finger, or limb, on the jagged broken plastic of the fancier attachments....now the norm is a wooden play "system" (that might just outlast our species), not just a tired, albeit threatening, metal swing set.

At any rate, our answer has always been no. It would take some work, as well as far too much money, to get one of those fancy play systems in our uneven yard. Not to mention, there are at least three of them within a hundred feet or so in our neighbors' yards. Since the yards in our neighborhood are unenclosed, running out back means playing in an enormous, almost communal yard...almost. However, today I learned just how out idealistic that really is.

Kurt had been working a long time in the front of our house, weeding, when I decided the kids and I would join him. After a few brief moments, it became clear the kids were not going to just skip around happily, picking dandelions, and I told them they could make their way to the back of our neighbor's house and play on the Rainbow. Usually they would go all the way to the last Rainbow and play there since we know the family better and they have made it clear we can play on their play set whenever we so please. However, the kids stopped short on the new (almost exact duplicate) play set in the house closer to us. I could see them clearly from where I was weeding so I decided to just keep an eye on them but continue to weed and talk with Kurt. 

After a few minutes, the mom and young daughter of that play set came walking out so Liam and I made our way over as well. The conversation went something like this:

"Oh, hi! I was just telling Aidan that we love having new friends to play with.....but we don't want you guys playing on our Rainbow unless we are out here to play....we wouldn't want anyone to get hurt," said the other mom, as if, by some magical powers she and her daughter would be able to prevent injury from some practically inevitable incident.

Shrugging her off as a newer mom of younger children, yet to realize that injury happens whether we exist or not, I called out cheerily to my own kids, "Ok guys, let's go next door to the other play set!" 

"Oh, no," she said. "You don't have to leave, we just would rather you not play on our set when we aren't out so that no one gets hurt." I don't know if she picked up the look of incredulity or not but given that it is her prerogative to decide who gets to share their toy, and since I do get that we both live in the same lawsuit happy society, I agreed to her request and continued to converse with her.

She immediately went on to complain to me about the neighbors behind them: the meticulous lawn-keepers and gardeners who don't want her kids to walk around in it and of course, it is terribly difficult to keep her kids out of the bright red mulch and off the tiny putting green. 

"Oh, I can only imagine," I said, straining to keep the sarcasm out of my voice....you know, it is not anything like the family next door who has a fancy play system that they don't want any other kids on....I can't imagine how tough it is for her to keep her kids from playing on the mulch piles....really....

At that point, Lily ran over to the other play set, followed by her siblings and me who continued to play, that much more rambunctiously, with the little neighbor girl watching from her lonesome set. And I thought, how sad. In my head, I have always thought that these big play sets were meant to attract kids, like a bug light attracts bugs, without the deadly ending of course, and that they gave the entire neighborhood a place to congregate and be a community; a place to help kids build friendships. I have never thought of them as the trophy that separates the winners from the losers, the haves from the have-nots; as something to get in order to "keep up with the Joneses". It was at this pivotal moment that I had to push from my mind the idea of making like Eddy Murphy and getting all my kids some ice cream cones and letting them strut around with them, unwilling to share ("I have some ice cream, I have some ice cream. You didn't get none!.....Want a lick?...Syke!") and instead focus on how grateful we are for the openness and generosity of our other neighbors. But, (insert sigh), even in my disappointment, I do understand, kind of.

Only, if I were to own one of these systems, I think I'd hang a big WELCOME sign inscribed with the sonnet The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

And of course, in my ideal world, it might just dwarf the other play systems in the neighborhood, perhaps enough to get the Home Owners Association up in a tizzy, so that everyone would want to play in our backyard, leaving the other sets fresh and new and the neighbors happy....sort of.  


A Day on the Farm

So, I chaperoned Madeline's preschool class on their trip to a local farm last week. On the way  to school she asked me what my favorite animal on the farm would be: well that's an easy one, the chickens, of course! She quickly told me her favorite would be the pigs and she couldn't wait to see the little piggies in the mud. After telling her that's great, just don't kiss 'em (hee hee), we got on the bus and headed to the farm. 

After eating fresh herbs in the greenhouse, hanging out with the long haired meat cows and petting the sheep in the pasture, feeding the 12 little piglets and watching them dig with their nose in the soil (perhaps that is the fascination? Could they be looking for worms???) we finally got to the chickens and I was sold. They even let us INTO the chicken coop and since I was at the end of the line (OF KIDS) I had to make sure none of the little gals escaped. Only two tried but man, they are sneaky little things!

At one point Farmer Leah, our guide, told us that the reason a few of them were clucking so enthusiastically was because they were showing off that they had laid eggs (either that or they were in hysterics about the huge brown thing that just fell out of them..."My insides are falling! My insides are falling!") According to our guide though, they like everyone to know when they lay eggs. I was like, well duh, even we humans do that. Think of all the baby announcements we send out or, for something even the guys out there can relate to, think back to when you've had to go to the bathroom really bad and when you're done you are like, "Oh my gosh!" and then you start calling to whoever is around, "You HAVE to come see this!" And those of you who are all prim and proper and denying you would ever even think such a thing, you really need to get in touch with your inner-hen. And if you seriously have no idea what I am referring to, you obviously didn't grow up with brothers and if you did, the tail of their y chromosome must've been partly broken! 

At any rate, we had a wonderful time, and true to form, Madeline remained in love with the pigs. So, last night, I made a big ham and as Madeline was trying a bite she asked, "Does ham come from animals?" I knew I was in trouble. 

"Yes," I said, not going into any details for which she didn't ask.

"What animal makes ham?" she asked. (Drats!)

"Well, ham comes from pigs," I answered, holding my breath.

"Yay! Piggies!" she squealed, giggling and putting her hand out for more. Seriously, I'm not sure whether to be relieved or worried....she loves pigs yet is ecstatic she gets to eat them....I suppose from now on when she gets upset and tells me how mean I am for giving her a consequence and runs up to her room saying she doesn't like me, I will be more grateful!