"Mommy, do you want some orange juice?"

I crack one eye open and squint blearily at the small figure beside my bed.

"We don't have any."

"But mommy we made some, would you like to try a glass of orange juice."

"Sure honey, leave it on the bureau for me."

I drift back to sleep for 5, maybe 10 minutes.

"Mommy, mommy, are you going to drink your orange juice now?"

Once more I squint and sure enough, there is a purple plastic cup sitting there with some kind of liquid in it.

"Okay, I'm getting up. I'll drink it before I shower."


I hear running footsteps disappear down the hall and then a voice, "She said she was gonna drink it before she showers."

I roll out of bed, eying the glass suspiciously. It's sticky. But it smells like oranges. I take a cautious sip and then quickly swallow the rest. It's good. Apparently while I sleep, my children teach themselves how to make fresh squeezed orange juice. (They halved the oranges with a table knife since the sharp knives are off limits. How adorable.) Maybe if I sleep long enough they'll figure out how to make dinner.

The Boy emerges from the bathroom. His mouth twitches as he struggles to hold back a grin, the sides of his cheeks dimple. "Mommy, while daddy was brushing my teeth in the bathroom I made a bunch of stinky farts."

He allows himself to break into a smile now, but I love to watch the struggle on his face. It is a new thing, this attempt to keep a straight face while telling a story. I wonder why he's now aware of the need to dissemble sometimes. Why does he try so hard to keep his emotions from showing. Why do they do that? Did I teach him? It makes me a bit sad.

The Baby stirs in the stroller where she's fallen asleep. I pick her up to carry her to bed. She snuggles into my shoulder and goes back to sleep almost instantly. She feels so light. On the way past the bathroom I stop for a while and look at her in the mirror. I try to memorize the way her small body is molded to my shoulder, the softness of her sleeping face, the way she feels and smells. I try to experience it all, right now, to be nowhere but here, this moment, holding my sleeping child and feeling her belly rise and fall against my chest.



We take a little field trip. The weather is fine and we take ourselves to the little outdoor historical village in the park out behind city hall where the children's museum is. There is an old train car, next to the old train station and inside it has a little model train track that shows all the landmarks and places where it once visited. They follow it around, and around, and around, tripping, sometimes falling, they bounce back up, never letting the train out of site.

We visit the little house, it may be two stories with a porch, but the square footage is only slightly larger than our two bedroom apartment. Maybe not even, the three bedrooms are smaller than ours. We peer into the kitchen, with the little wood stove in the corner, where all the cooking was done. Rather than consider the hardship of living without electricity or running water we are amazed at the ingenuity. Small metal gadgets and gears, hand cranked whipped cream and sausage grinders and apple peelers. All of it run by hand power. Even the organ required constant pumping, a workout all by itself. There is the windmill operated pump to draw water into the kitchen from the well. We are fascinated.

The Girl only wants to look at pictures of horses. The Boy only wants pictures of trains. We stop to visit the blacksmith. He demonstrates a branding iron on a piece of wood. They get to carry branded pieces of wood home.

We look at everything, and then go to the library, and the Farmer's market. I tell them I can't buy them treats this time. I have no cash. The Boy is fine with that, so is the Girl after I tell her why more than 50 times. We will pretend that we lived 200 years ago. We will go home and make our own kettle corn in a pot over a hot stove. We will be grateful that only sometimes do we have to wash the laundry by hand and hang it to dry. We will enjoy the time it gives us together. We will bake our own bread when we run out, and make our own muffins and treats. And we will be glad when Daddy gets paid and we only need to do things like we lived 200 years ago sometimes, when we can't afford to do otherwise. And we are thankful that it is still possible to live comfortably with a little bit of ingenuity, and a whole lot of counting our blessings.



We go shopping. Just us girls. It's nothing special, the post office, Kinko's, Target, but the Girl wants to tag along and so I let her. As we walk she stays right beside me and the stroller. I notice her watching us walk together in the various reflections. She is studying me today, she is learning a lesson. There is no running off to jump off of things or to get to the highest point as there usually is. She stays close and walks soberly rehearsing the days events. "First we go to Kinko's, then we go to the post office to mail uncle AJ's birthday present and then to Target!"

Once in Target she helps me remember our list. "Contact solution, contact paper, tortillas, and hair clips!"

The last is always triumphant.

She deliberates over colors and styles of hair clips and I marvel at how decisive she is, how sure of what she wants. I try to trip her, up, producing the same choices in different orders, upside down, making sure that she doesn't just like those because she saw them last, or first. But she chooses the one she wants every time. She knows what she wants for a snack too. And she knows how to stand still in a dressing room while I try on a few tops, and she can keep the Baby entertained too.

I wonder when it was that she grew up like this.

I am walking toward the living room. It is bedtime and I am kid wrangling. Directly in front of me, arms stretched out straight to the sides is the Boy. Across the room, as a sort of magnified image, arms outstretched, is the GH. Together they are circling their arms to strengthen the shoulder muscles. My husband and his mini me. And then they do push ups together, and the boy manages 15 with perfect form, nose touching the ground. But he is trying for 30, and after 15 his bum starts to creep into the air and his body line gets all wonky because his arms are so tired. But he touches his nose to the floor another 15 times nonetheless and gets up beaming with satisfaction, convinced of his strength.

The Baby wakes up, just as I'm about to brush my teeth. I'm reluctant to go in and lay down to settle her when I'll have to get back up again to brush and so I decide to just let her come and find me and we'll settle down together. I expect I'll have to brush with her laying on my shoulder and smearing teary snot into it as she tries to fall asleep again. She finds me, and I pick her up while continuing to brush. She stares at me grinning for a moment and then suddenly lunges for the counter top, so violently that I almost drop her. And then I understand. I put her next to me on the stool so she can see the mirror and I hand her her own toothbrush. The next five minutes I keep giggling as she pretends to brush her own teeth, crouching forward and looking up in that odd way she has of trying to make eye contact, and then smiling to show me that she too can brush her teeth. We both finish off and head to bed together, snuggling in among the blankets and letting sleep steal softly over us.


Moments-10 Sick reprise

There are some nice things about being sick with your family all together. As much as I'm fond of waking up in the middle of the night alternately dripping with sweat and shivering with cold, or determining conclusively that Charmin' toilet paper is gentler on a nose than Target brand tissue, people who wake up screaming because of leg cramps or just over all aches or cleaning up puke, those aren't the nice things I am thinking about.

For starters, when you are all sick, there is a collective lying around, which is easier on a pounding head than perfectly healthy children bouncing off of the walls and your stomach while you groan and hold your head. You give up on having anything like a normal day, the dishes may or may not get done, food may or may not be made, or eaten, school can take a flying leap, and movies may be stared at consecutively, or back to back House reruns downloaded from the internet. Because there's nothing sick people like to do more than watch other sick people be experimented on by a vicodin popping, cane wielding, people hating, and oh so dryly sarcastic former black adder cast member playing a brilliant doctor and watch their organs explode. It makes us feel better about our own inability to lift our head from the pillow without feeling like it might explode. But this is about the only time in the life of a parent when these things can be abandoned without experiencing any guilt at all.

Second, this lying around together leads to all sorts of slow cuddly moments that busy days and schedules don't have time for. I can find myself sitting on a chair, with my head resting on the back of course and flooded with love for these little kids who sit next to me and so bravely face their various symptoms, most of the time, and say such grown up sounding phrases in serious little tired voices that it's hard not to laugh, or melt, and I end up holding them close for a long time instead.

There was the time when I was laying in bed, and the Baby was asleep on top of me, which was the only way she would sleep for a day or two, and the Boy told me he thought he needed to throw up. So in brilliant half awake mommy fashion I yelled, "Then find yourself a puke bowl."

I didn't really think he would, we'd all been feeling off stomach wise, but no one had really puked yet. I drifted of into feverish sleep again. Then I heard him yelling, "Mom, can you get me a napkin?"

"No honey, I can't get up right now. Can you get it yourself?"

I drifted off again and the woke up to the sound of spitting. "What's going on buddy, did you get yourself a napkin?"

"Yes mom, I did. I threw up in the bowl and then I got myself a napkin to wipe my mouth."

And then I listened while he took his own puke to the toilet and flushed it down before tucking himself back in on the couch. Poor kid. I'm almost glad he threw up again that day so we could make up for the parental absence of the first time. We cuddled and coddled and bathed and tucked him into bed.

There's the hoarse laugh of a sick one year old that sound like a baby with a chain smoking habit and it's pathetic sounding and cute all at once. And it's such a relief to hear laughing, even if the eyes are still rimmed in red and the nose is still snotty.

And there's the time laying in bed next to the Genius Husband. He's still cute, even when he's sick and we don't have the energy to do much more than hold hands and smile at each other. But even that is pretty sweet on a Thursday when he's usually gone. And who else would feed the House addiction?

And pancakes, lots and lots of buttermilk pancakes. I was trying to get him to eat when he was most sick and I wasn't yet sick and so ran off a list of things I could make for him. For some reason he fixated upon pancakes, buttermilk to be precise, which I didn't have on hand. But I walked to the store to get him some and made him pancakes at 9pm. The kids had the leftovers for breakfast. (Warm them on a cookie sheet in the oven. Wait, that's my other blog. Where was I?) Oh yes, pancakes. Well, he got himself a craving again. only I was far to sick to make them this time, so he did, and once again the kids had the rest for breakfast. Well, then he made dinner and guess what we had. If you guessed pancakes and scrambled eggs you are absolutely correct. And lots of grapes and oranges and apples for those of you concerned about our diet. And then we put the leftovers in a plastic bag and took them with us for breakfast the next morning when we all awoke at 5am and stuffed the tired and protesting children into the car, drove through the pouring rain, and California drivers who have no idea HOW TO DRIVE in the rain. I get that it's slick and all. I grew up in Canada driving on ice you nimrods, there's only one rule when you are skidding, or hydroplaning, or otherwise feel that your tires are no longer making contact with the concrete. For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT SLAM ON YOUR BRAKES! It's really that simple. That and don't drive quite so freakin' fast. Where was I?

Oh yeah, driving in the pouring rain early in the morning to get to the USCIS office because there is no way to reschedule these types of appointments and we need this little piece of paper for the Boy and Girl that says, "Yes in fact you are a US citizen and have been since birth based on the fact that your father is a US citizen even if you were born out of country so we will make you pay us a lot of money and jump through dozens of hoops to prove all of this and then you get a little piece of paper that says what we all already know, but now you can prove it if you need to."

And that went well, and they now have that fancy piece of paper that will make their lives easier later. Though right now, I think they ought to move to Canada when they grow up, the economy is better right now. The GH's old boss offered him his job back, which he liked and had lots of growth potential, plus a house to live in rent free for a while if we moved. Which we're not because of the whole family thing, but man it looks tempting from time to time, say once a week. Wait. Where was I?

Oh yes, the nice moments about being sick together, I digress. There were many close, sweet, and almost happy moments enjoyed this round of infectious disease while we stared at each other in our little bubble. And I think they will form themselves to a sweet haze of nostalgia in time and we'll find ourselves reminiscing fondly. "Remember the time when we were all sick and you thought your head was exploding and we were all really dizzy?"

"Yeah man, that was fun."

"And then, and then, you were holding the baby, and it was a good thing you were sitting down because all of a sudden you got really nauseous and then you almost passed out because there was suddenly no blood in your head, or something? And I ran to get you the puke bucket? And you had to lean over the baby and put your head between your knees and breath deep breaths so you didn't get unconscious and drop the baby?"

"Yes buddy. Thanks for getting me your puke bowl so fast. That was really helpful."


"Remember the time when we were all really sick and Beema called on that day to tell you that the girls had lice from their trip to the slums in India and that they had probably given it to us since we'd slept at her house since they came back and there was a lot of hugging?"

"Remember how you had to go through our hair and look for lice eggs and Auntie K came over with lice killer oils to put in our hair and we all looked really greasy for a while?"

"Do you remember how Beema advised you that you might want to start that day to put every single things we have with cloth in garbage bags and put it outside for three weeks to kill any lice that might be in it? Do you remember how happy that idea made you?"

"Yes, we should do that again really soon kids, that was a lot of fun."

Wait, where was I?

I was trying to remember the happy moments. I swear they were in there, maybe I've listed them all already. I guess it's a good sign that even when you are all miserable, hanging out together with your family makes you like them more, not less, and you think of it as a stop, a moment, a freeze frame, that you get to treasure the time spent, the books read in bed to little girls, the way your kids are extra helpful and kind to each other, and your husband picks up the slack on the two days when you can absolutely not do anything but lay still and stare and breastfeed, even if the carpet guys have to walk into your bathroom to replace the padding where the toilet flooded last week. At least, if you were me it would have been that way.

But as good at that was, it's better to be on the mend again nonetheless.



Too sick to write. And everyone else is sick as well. Be back when my head clears.



The Baby has been trying to get outside all morning. She keeps going to the door and trying to force her tiny fingers into the crack near the door frame and force it open. She's been restless and cranky and a little bit feverish as well.

I am sitting down and she is asleep in my lap, finally, when the front door bursts open as the GH stops at home in between jobs. The Baby jerks herself awake at the sound and throws her self toward her dad, flinging her entire body at his neck and holding on tight as he hugs her back. I guess she's been looking for him.

Soon it's time for him to go back out and she follows him out the door and up the sidewalk. She's going too. She keeps looking up at him as if to say, "Do you see me walking here. Do you see that I'm a big girl now? I'm big enough to go places with daddy now. Take me with you."

She runs along excitedly vocalizing until I finally scoop her up and take her back inside. I'm expecting her to yell but she is excited to see her siblings as well. She doesn't fall asleep again until dinner time.

At one point during the afternoon I suddenly realize that it's too quiet. I go looking for her as she comes running toward me out of the bathroom choking and sputtering and crying just a little. Someone has left the bathroom door open, and she has found her way into the laundry detergent under the bathroom counter. I breathe a quiet sigh of gratitude that we use an all natural non toxic detergent and that she appears to have spit most of it back out onto her shirt. Then I decide that the moment has come, I will begin teaching her to obey. She is the most compliant of all my children, probably thanks to the example of her older siblings, she's picked up the rules around here from watching them, and she usually stops before touching something if I say no. But this bathroom cabinet fascinates her she keeps going back to it and I figure it's as good a place as any to start.

After we clean up the soap and I give her water to drink I take her back to the cabinet. I set her down in front of of it and point to it while saying, "NO NO!"

I'm not loud, but I am firm. Her eyes open wide and great tears start to course down her cheeks. She knows what that word means. I say it again, pointing at the now closed doors for emphasis, "NO NO, DON'T TOUCH."

She begins crying in earnest now and runs away down the hallway squealing. I follow her and watch as she collapses onto the floor in tears and then, seeing me, turns and reaches for me to pick her up. I do and take her back into the bathroom and hold her close. Kissing her salty cheeks and touching my forehead to her little hot one, we look into the mirror and make a silly game of rubbing our faces together until she laughs once more.

I leave the bathroom door open on purpose with a watchful eye cocked for the rest of the day. She doesn't go near the cabinets again.



It's a tiny little red dress with a little white onsie, long sleeved with red flowers printed on it and little bow details at the shoulder and cuff. It's adorable. The still intact price tags say it's for a new born. It needed to go to a baby who could wear it now, this month. Next month it will be too warm for long sleeves here.

My neighbor brought me this dress. He found it in a gift bag sitting next to the dumpster. Whether it was left there by accident, or on purpose we'll never know and in a complex this size, there is no way to find out who the original owner is. He thought I would know someone who could use it.

I didn't, but I held onto it anyway, looking for a home for this little dress. I kept wondering last week why I left it sitting out instead of tucking it away in the giveaway bag I have in the storage room. I couldn't shake the idea that this dress was meant to bless someone in particular.

I asked friends with friends who have babies. I tried taking it to church this morning because I know that there are people going to Mexico in a few weeks so I thought maybe they'd need it. I tried to give this dress away to everyone I could think of and no one would take it. So I prayed, "Help me find someone to give this dress to."

Tonight I ran out of the house with the Baby in a sling to throw some loads of laundry in the dryer. I passed some people getting out of their car. I wouldn't have payed them any attention except that I heard the woman telling the man that it's easier to carry the car seat by the handle. Something about that caught my attention. I mean, I don't tell my husband how to carry the baby seat, that's kind of old hat for us. So I glanced over and caught sight of the tiniest little pink bundle I have seen in a very long time nestled in that car seat, and I saw a mommy getting very carefully out of the car and moving ever so slowly.

They were bringing their 4 day old baby girl home from the hospital. She was born by C-section, thus the painfully slow dismount. I knew what to do with the dress. So I ran home and packaged it up and delivered it to their door. (I asked first.)

And because I now can't shake the feeling that there is a greater reason that I wandered out in that 3 minute interval between their car and their front door to meet them, I'll wait a few days and then take some food and an offer of friendship and see if it leads any where. I know how frustrating those weeks after a C-section can be when you're not supposed to lift anything and you're not supposed to vacuum and you can't really go anywhere without pain and it feels very confining. Perhaps she'll need some help.


It was time to leave church and go home. I handed the Baby to the GH and went back to pick up a sweater while he and the kids walked to the car. I looked back to see them all walking together. The Boy was running ahead and jumping as he ran. The Girl had her daddy's hand clutched tightly in both of hers and was laughing up at him while hanging on his arm, literally. And there in the middle of the pack, toddling along in her little white and red dress, head down, intent on her feet, was the Baby keeping up with the rest of them.

Then the Girl reached out and held the Baby's hand they walked to the car together. I could hear the excited laughs as I followed behind, enjoying the antics of my little family.

I've got to stop calling her the Baby soon, she's one of the kids now. Any ideas?



They like to play this game called friends. The Boy and the Girl take turns pretending that they are a guest in our house. The "friend" will go out side on the patio and mount the bouncy horse or bike. This is a critical part of the game for they must journey from their own house to their friends house which, remarkably, looks just the same as their own. Then they will knock on the door and the child playing host will invite them in.

In unnaturally loud and blustering tones they will act out, often for hours, this strange fantasy that they are entertaining a guest rather than playing with a sibling.

"Hello friend."

"Hello, can I come to your house?"

"Yes, I was just playing with play dough. Would you like to join me?"


"Mommy, is it okay if my friend stays for lunch?"


"What are we having?"


Turning back to the "Guest" the host will ask, "My mom is making soup for lunch. Would you like to stay for lunch?"

"Okay, but first I had better go home and ask my mom."

"I'll come with you."

Back out to the patio they go, and mounting the horse together, they ride off to get permission from the other mother who, remarkably, looks exactly like me. She's even making the same thing for lunch.

"Um, mommy? Can, can, may I go to my friends house for lunch?"

"Well, okay. But make sure that you behave."

"Okay. My mom said that I can come to your house for lunch but I should probably be home for dinner."

"Okay, lets go!"

And back onto the horse they go again, riding and riding, until they get back in time for soup.



Every night it's the same. We send the kids to floss and get their toothbrush ready. We do the brushing and check the flossing in the evenings because of some cavities that appeared when they were left to themselves. Mornings are when they brush their own teeth and get the practice for this all important life skill.

Lately the Baby has been trying to get in on this part of big kid life too. She will haul her little body up onto the stool, clutching at the edge of the sink for balance, and grin expectantly. She is so proud of her new found ability. I brush her four little teeth with exaggerated care and then hand her the toothbrush to chew on while I attend to everyone else's teeth.

Tonight while I am brushing the Girl's teeth the Baby squeezes in between us and climbs atop the stool. I have a knit poncho on and her laughing face peeks out from just beneath the fringe, her chin just barely clears the counter top. She laughs her I'm a big girl look what I did laugh and the Girl turns to see. In the mirror I see the three of us, the Girl and I laughing as the Baby's mischievous face appears to float near to my waste. I want to take this picture, so I try to memorize the details instead.

Then it's the Boy's turn. Just before I brush I notice a strange movement inside his mouth. I lean closer to inspect it. The left front tooth on the bottom is moving. He has a loose tooth. His first.

I want to cry. I swallow hard and explain that a grown up tooth is pushing his baby tooth out to make room, and soon he will have grown up teeth.

I stare hard at the half moon of white as I brush. Why does it have to change? Why does he have to keep growing up? I only have a few more days before the smile I know and have come to love will change, forever. I only have a few more years before the little boy I know and love will change, forever. He'll be a big boy, then an adolescent, then a man. This impending gap in his smile is just so final. There really is no going back. He continues to abandon round baby softness for straight angles, harder muscles, longer limbs, louder noises, stinkier smells and the awkwardness of the transition from boy to man. And I don't know how to love a loud stinky angular boy yet. I've not learned how. Why ever was I in such a hurry to get past babyhood and on to the next thing? What a curse impatience is.

As I tuck him into bed he keeps fiddling with his tooth, pushing it in and out with his tongue. He asks if Daddy will be gone in the morning before he wakes up, further evidence of his growing maturity, this planning ahead. He tells me his plans to show Daddy his new loose tooth and as I walk out the door he says, "Mom, I'm going to be a grown-up real soon huh?"

I do not start sobbing. Instead I manage to smile brightly as I agree that someday he will be a man, but don't be in a hurry to stop being a little boy just yet. There's time enough for that later on.

Someday my boy, someday sooner than I am ready for, you will be a man. Please don't be in too big of a hurry. I know I'm not.


The plan was simple really. Make a few Valentine cards and chocolate's the day before, package them and deliver after lunch and leave the cards made for family and their chocolates as place markers for a comfort food meal of chicken stew and dumplings. A tip of the hat, slight homage if you will to the hallmark tradition, and the guy who was one heck of a letter writer.

At 11:30 I had yet to bathe. I crawled back into bed at 7am because no one else was awake yet and I was tired. Woke up late and had to rush through the morning.

Cranky baby finally went to sleep, and I slipped into the shower. Halfway through I look up to see a man's face staring at me over the curtain rod. It was familiar though, so I didn't scream. much. The GH doesn't usually come home mid afternoon. He was done for the day and took himself and a splitting headache that's kept him awake for 3 nights or so to bed.

The children have taken every pillow in the house and laid a trail from one end of the house to the other and are jumping from one to the next. Every single toy they own is on the floor. I set them to tidying. I set them to Tidying faster when I hear that my MIL is on her way over. They don't get to finish the Valentine's for her until they have finished cleaning up.

I tie ribbon around countless chocolate wrappers. They look so pretty, I wish I had a picture.

And then the phone rings.

"I know this is really bad manners to ask, but I am so sick. Would you mind watching my kids for me until their dad gets home from work, I just can't shake this fever." (Their dad is no longer married to her, and lives less than 100 yards away.)

I tell her to give me an hour. Fortunately, my kids have already made cards for her kids, I plan to squeeze in two more place settings.

MIL arrives then leaves. Small children arrive and stay. Their mom borrows my thermometer, she's at 102.2F. I tell her to go home to a hot bath and sleep.

Small girl likes to test the limits, to see if I am really in charge, if she can play me. But I am usually wise to her ways, though she keeps me on my toes. I usually send her home if she breaks the rules, I'll have to use time outs instead. I hate time outs. I rarely use them with my kids.

I make stew. Other friend arrives for a while, first to ask me to look at her baby's rash, and then when I tell her I'm pretty sure it isn't the measles, she stays for a while to visit. It's good to have another grownup around for a little while with all these kids. The GH remains firmly locked in the bedroom, he's dizzy when he stands up and looks a little green. Small boy needs to go potty. He needs help. He needs to poo.

"Oh, this toiwet is too big fo me."

"It's okay. I'll hold you up so you don't fall in."

"No, I can do it. See my hands? I'm goin' ina big toiwet."

I wipe his bottom and help him with his pants in that brisk, impersonal way that is perfected by doctors and nurses, and day care workers, and moms.

I make dumplings. I forget shortening, but don't notice until much later when we are eating.

Small boy, he's 3, says he smells poo. Then he's cold and wants a blanket.

At dinner he needs to puke. Well, he thinks he does. I put a bowl next to him just in case. I don't bother giving him any food.

His dad's wife comes to get them. It's three hours sooner than I was expecting. Her Valentine's Day plans are going up in smoke too as I offer her some stew and small boy writhes on the floor crying, "I want to go home."

Out comes the thermometer again. 102.6F

She has no idea what to do with a sick baby, a moaning toddler, these things that are learned on the job. Does she keep him hot or cold? When should she take him in? Should she take him in now?

We tell her to push liquids, keep him comfortable, water, broth, hot lemon drink, you know.

"No I don't know" she reminds me and I experience a slight moment of disorientation as I realize again that not everyone in the world knows how to mother. It's just so normal for me. I'm grateful for the way that statement reminds me to not make assumptions. I tell her how to make hot lemon drink and they go home.

The GH tries the thermometer. 97F One whole degree lower than normal. What's with that? He takes himself off to bed without dinner.

I softly carry the sleeping Baby into the bedroom to put her down. On her tiny bed to the left of ours, the Girl lays on her back. Her arms stick out straight on either side, her head hangs a little to the right. A golden haired angel faced crucifix.

The baby now lays in our bed. Arms spread out straight to the sides as well. Her little mouth hangs open and the soft skin pulls across delicate cheekbones.

To the right, the GH lays sprawled beneath the blankets, one arm straight out, the other tucked under his head.

Identical long dark curly lashes adorn three pairs of cheeks, three beloved profiles slumber in unison as I tiptoe quietly out of the room.

We are at peace.



The Girl is combing her hair, and the Baby is trying to climb over me to reach the pretty candles on the counter behind the couch. I somehow feel like I can't go on to the next thing until I have seen the completion of the hair combing. Why is that? Oh yes, because the second I look away she has a tendency to forget completely what she's been told to do and lapse into fantasy play once more, and then she'll lose the comb. She is moving so slowly. And the Baby's shrieks grow louder as she tries to play with the little shiny rocks in the candle holder.

"I'm hungry momma, can you make lunch?"

That's the Boy.who is alternately whining about his empty stomach and trying to run up the door.

"AAAHHHH!" (Baby talk for, give it to me now!)



she slides the comb across the same place again, flat against her scalp. She's accomplishing nothing.

She starts to edge towards the toy on the ground, completely forgetting the task at hand. The comb falls to her side.

"Come here."

"But I'm not done combing my hair."

"You're not combing your hair. You're distracted. Come here and I'll do it for you."

"But I want to do it myself!"


"I'm really hungry, what are you making for lunch mom."


The comb is at her side again.


No that's not the Baby, that's the scream inside my head.

"Okay that's enough. Get over here I'm going to finish for you."

I whisk the comb from her hand and briskly pull through the tangles, ignoring the occasional yells as comb meets obstacle. I slow for a moment for a few more gentle strokes through the now silky smooth hair.

"There, you're all done. You can go now."

She slumps on the couch and hides her face.

"What's wrong?"

I know why, but I ask anyway. She is silent and keeps her face turned away.

"Are you sad because you wanted to comb your own hair?"

She nods, mutely. Her lower lip trembles. I am a heel.

The baby has finally given up climbing and moved on to other things.

"Can we heat up the stew from last night for lunch mom?"

He's stopped running at the door full tilt to once again ask how soon his empty stomach will receive attention. It's been almost an hour since I last fed him a snack.

"Great idea, that will be nice and fast. Will you get it from the fridge for me?"

The Girl remains a silent lump of hurt feelings beside me.

"I'm sorry I was impatient. I'm glad that you like to comb your hair. You are getting to be a very big girl. Would you like to practice on my hair?"


"What was that?"

In a soft trembly voice she chokes, "No I don't want to."

"Are you sure? You usually like to comb my hair. Are you sure you'd rather just go put the comb away?"

"No, I want to."

And I sit patiently as she combs through my hair, in every direction imaginable. She is so careful. The nerves in my scalp tingle as she barely touches my head with the comb and I feel the warm of her little body behind me. The Baby walks toward us smiling hopefully and reaches to stroke her own hair. I tell her she's lucky to have a big sister who is so good at combing hair because someday she will comb her hair too. The Girl runs to get the Baby's comb and I leave them sitting together on the floor, the Girl combing the Baby's hair as I warm up the stew.

He walks in to the aftermath of chocolate making and card c9nstruction at the tale end of dinner. He's covered in sawdust and throws off his jacket before picking up the Baby ambling toward him in greeting. He holds her head against his cleaner T-shirt as he snuggles her in greeting. The older kids run in for their hugs and show him their chocolates, their cards, and tell him their news.

Finally he falls to the floor, too tired to stand any longer and desperate to take the pressure off of his aching body. The Baby climbs onto his stomach and starts bouncing up and down.

And then, somehow, in the process of removing children who are dangerously close to jumping on him, I find myself in the Baby's place and I am spontaneously kissing him. It's a slow lingering kiss and I hear the kids giggling as his hand sneaks up my thigh beneath my skirt.

And then the Baby sits on his head.

Later I will abandon the chocolate encrusted dishes to their own fate and leave the crumbs on the floor in order to kiss him again before he falls asleep. And this time the Baby is asleep.

Happy Love Thursday Y'all


Valentine's Day project

I've just posted the directions for our Easy Valentine Treats that we are about to start.

The chocolate is melted and I must dash to supervise. If you haven't thought of anything to do yet, and you like chocolate, go check it out. We're making our own homemade Valentine chocolates.

Thrifty and fun. I'd promise pictures but my battery is dead.



A bag of new clothes sits on my bed. Well, not really new, they are cast offs, hand me downs, gifts. We are very excited. But there will be no looking at this bag of clothes right now. The Girl already has far more clothes than she needs stuffed into every available space. All of it free, all of it thanks to the generosity of other little girls who got taller before they wore them out. WE need to once again sort through what she has, discard what is too stained or torn to keep, store what is too small for the Baby someday, and start to put away some of the winter things now that we are swimming already in the afternoons again. She runs to find bags, but she wants to keep everything.

As I put clothes on hangers, once again wondering if there is some way I can lower the rod so she can reach it, I get lost in the rhythmic task and the sounds around me start to blend together. And then I realize that she is telling stories. She is sitting curled up in the basket that holds the Baby's clothes, inside the closet, and she is holding in one hand a grocery receipt while the other traces the lines, pointing to imaginary words, as my hand points to real words as I read. Every line is a different story, like changing the dial on the radio she utters snippets and detached sentence fragments, as I continue to hang jackets and dresses.

When the closet purge is complete she tries on the new clothes. Her hair is loose and snarled and flies every where in all it's tousled blond glory as she changes shirts. She starts to hide and insist that I not look until she has the pants on all the way and does up the buttons herself. I wonder how she's managed to grow up so much, how she got this beautiful. I suddenly realize this is the first of many such moments, the first time I've ever really watched my daughter try on clothes, and my brain leaps forward to all of those moments that wait down the road, where pivotal events will begin with the trying on of outfits. Firsts all of them. She is so little, but the shades of her older self's possibilities are peeking through.

They are playing a game. Their games are elaborate scenarios, acted with gusto by a cast of stuffed animals and plastic horses. Today he is a King, and she is a princess, and capes are donned and crowns must be fashioned. The Boy gets to work cutting paper and drawing jewelry, "Because a princess's crown is upposed to have jewelry Mom."

I am busy. I am distractedly saying "Uh huh" as I do something else. He continues to tell me all about the process by which proper crowns are made and finally I turn and look at him as he recounts how he got out the scissors himself, and cut it himself, and taped them together himself, and colored them himself. He is proud of his independence, and suddenly, looking at him, my heart swells with pride as well, and deep, deep affection for this man child, this Boy who this morning got the broom and swept up the shattered glass from a jar he broke without needing to be told, who reads BOB books to his little sister aloud, and makes her princess crowns out of paper, and gives me an unsolicited hug at least once a day and tells me he loves me. It wells up within me and I have no desire to do anything but listen to him talk, and memorize exactly how he looks right now as the late afternoon sun casts a glow on the glass behind his head and happy contentment plays across his face.



I kind of wanted to do what everyone else is doing these days and post 30 pictures of everyday moments for a month. It's called 30 tiny moments. But I'm not a camera at the ready type of gal and uploading everyday is something I don't have that much time for. And I have yet to join flickr. And then Mary at Owlhaven started to record 15 minutes better as a way to remember to focus on the people in her family instead of all the tasks. And I really loved that idea too. So pardon me, I'm going to try and do both at once, with words.


I'm trying to get past the slight fog that has clouded the morning. I've lost all awareness of time. I can't decide what to do next. I've lost my bearings. My routine is breaking down. I flit restlessly from one task to the next, none of them holding my attention for longer than a few minutes and there is a baby stalking my every step. She yells and reaches for everything my hands touch. She squirms, she wriggles, she screeches. I decide it's nap time and carry her off to the bed room where the warm sun floods the bed and fresh air drifts in through the newly cracked window. It's starting to feel like summer again.

She is happy to lay down next to me and I offer her a breast, hoping she'll drift off. Instead she gets up and grins and starts to crawl around. I lay still, heavy limbs sinking into the down, melting in the sunshine, maybe I'll take a nap. And then she is there, and she laughs into my face. I grab her and gently mouth the fleshy part of her upper arm, a sure fire way to illicit giggles. I tickle and she lays laughing on the bed, laughing louder when I stop, begging me with her laugh to do it one more time.

Our laughs draw the Girl in from her play dough and she commands me to try and get her when she runs past. This is her favorite game and she screams with delight as I catch her and drag her towards me, tickling as I do. Round and round goes teddy bear...scream...one step...giggle...two steps...now she's belly laughing...TICKLE UNDER THERE!!

I willingly tickle as the baby stands laughing, just within reach. We are having so much fun.

The Boy, who has been having trouble figuring out his writing assignment shows me his latest attempt. He's used a word with an ending, just not one of the endings he's supposed to use, not the one I taught him. I catch the critical words before they form in my throat. I congratulate him on finding an ending we hadn't discussed and trying to spell it himself. And then we talk about how he can improve it to include the assignment. He beams and tonight at dinner he tells his dad that he is good at writing. And then I beam.

My house was not at any moment today, including this one even close to clean. If fact, parts of it look like a closet just vomited on the floor because I was trying to sort clothes. Dinner was a hodgepodge of leftovers and the laundry waits. These golden moments happen in the middle of all that.



She was naughty. She hadn't picked up her clothes and put them away. She had however taken the trouble to pick up her clothes and hide them somewhere else so that it would appear that she had obeyed, for a little while. She didn't like the consequences of her actions. We sat together on her bed, her tear streaked cheeks wetting my shirt as I offered her another chance. She could have a do over. I would tell her to pick up her clothes again, and this time she could obey me and do it very fast, and cheerfully. She could get stronger.

"But first I have to tell you something very important," I said.


"I love you." I whispered, leaning in to kiss her.

She smiled and turned to see my face, "That's not important."

"Yes it is, that's the most important thing of all."

"No it isn't."

"Yes it is."

"Mommy you are just joking."

"No I'm not. I love you is the most important thing of all that I could tell you."


She still thinks this is all just silliness.

"Yes. I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you..."

I tickle her until she shrieks with laughter and then send her scampering to put away her clothes, properly this time.

For the rest of the day I would periodically stop her and say, "I have something important to tell you."

She would pause and smile and yell, "I love you."

"Yes, I do."



13 months

I don't feel all that bad that this particular update is almost 3 weeks late. Mainly because it's not been written because you prefer that I hold you and play with you instead of type away at my computer. You don't think that I should put down the sick snotty baby to write about the sick snotty baby, so I haven't.

But there are so many sweet moments that I'm dying to record since you turned one and I am trying to hold them all in my head until I can get them down.

There was the day you carried the noisyguitarshapedmusicaltoythatIhate from the great grandparents into the room and started dancing to it. You don't just bob up and down on the spot. Now you put your arms up and spin around, all the time maintaining eye contact and smiling your beautiful smile. You know you are cute and that we ought to be looking at you, only you, the entire time. Because you may do something even cuter next.

You love to empty things out and throw them all into a pile on the floor. And you are just as enthusiastic about putting things away again. You throw it into the box with great gusto and a yell of triumph each and every time.

You get really excited about things. There was the day you were walking along nodding to yourself and very busy with the important work you were doing of walking along and humming when suddenly you came to a dead stop. You stiffened, stretched your body to it's full height, and exclaimed, "OOOHHHHH!!" You were suddenly awe stricken by the sight of trees out the bedroom window. You stood yelling your pleasure again and again, "OHH! OHHH! OHHHH!"

Then you turned to me and pointed toward the window to show me the miracle, "AHH! AHH! Psssss!" You say ssssssss for every word that has an s sound in it so I imagine you were trying to say "LOOK TREES!"

And then you stomped your feet in place very rapidly in the utmost extremity of excitement. It's like your body is so full of rapture that you must release some of the energy into the ground again by running in place, except its not quite running but something in between.
You find such joy and wonder in everyday moments. You remind me to do the same.

Your brother and sister respond the same to you as you do to life in general. They start to yell and jump around when they see you. It's a habit I'm trying to cure them of because it's so very loud but you think it's wonderful. Then you all run around the house in crazy riotous circles chasing and laughing and chasing some more.

You've had a cold for a while and so I've been cleaning snot off of your face a lot. You fight it way less than any baby I've ever seen. Sometimes you even come up to me making a panicked little noise as snot drips toward your lip and beg me to wipe it off. Last month after I wiped your nose you took a clean piece of tissue and started to wipe mine for me. You gently wiped up and down my face, all the while smiling and acting so proud that you could help mama. I kind of didn't want you to stop, ever. I goofy smiled and let you wipe away while your brother and sister looked on and wondered why on earth we were doing this.

You have become your sister's shadow. You follow her around and try to do whatever you see her doing. Often she very graciously tolerates this, but sometimes I hear her yell in frustration. She is not old enough yet to always feel complimented by the way you adore her. But you do adore her. You even sneak in to where she is sleeping if I've forgotten to close the door all the way and pat her face and kiss her. If one doesn't know you are patting and kissing it feels suspiciously like smacking and head butting. She wakes up screaming and crying at the this persistent admiration that you inflict upon her.

One of the things you like to do is worm in between us while I'm combing her hair. So a few weeks ago, just before you turned 13 months I turned the comb on you instead and it came out like this. And then I let you smack me in the head with a comb for a while afterwards in order to reciprocate.

I was shocked when one night you were complaining a little bit so I said to you, "Well, come and sit down and I'll give you something to eat."
I was standing in the kitchen but the counter was between us and you couldn't see anything and I didn't point. To my utter shock you walked around into the kitchen, sat yourself down in your little chair and smiled up at me waiting for food.

You don't stand still for anything or anyone. You just keep growing and changing and getting smarter every day. At this rate you'll be driving and moving out of the house next year. You know, right after you learn to talk and read and write. And grow enough teeth to chew your food properly. And stop pooping in a diaper. And get tall enough to work a door knob....
Whew, we have a little bit of time left after all. Thank God for that.

("Where can I get to from here?" She asks.)


Happy Birthday to me

I love how cool I am to 4 year olds when it's time to blow out the candles. I think this is so they are closest to the cake when it's cut.

The afternoon of my real birthday I was deciding that even though I was going to have a party another day I still wanted something special for dinner. I started herding children toward the door with plans to buy a chicken and roast it or something and make myself MY favorite side dishes when my in-laws showed up, some of them anyway, with birthday presents, and cool swag from India. I have a new sari, and a marble bread and pastry board. The kids all have adorable and elaborate costumes from India also.

Once they had gone I once more began the herding process, finding shoes, tidying rooms, and telling the Genius Husband my dinner plan, just in case he had had time to think of something thoughtful. We had just gotten to the point in the conversation where there is a deep pause and he asks, "Should I be planning something?" when I interrupted him to pick up the other line. I knew it was my dad, because he keeps calling from pay phones. He is currently camped out in the desert about 4 hours from us for 2 months in order to paint. It's his little professional vacation and he's having fun.

He was calling to wish me a happy birthday, as I suspected. That in and of itself is a great accomplishment. My dad is not one to remember things, pretty much ever. He then asked what I had planned, and on learning that I was about to make dinner asked if I wouldn't rather go out for dinner instead. It turns out that he drove all the way into town to help celebrate my birthday and was calling from a few blocks away. The short version is, I was very happy. Even thought we went to Del Taco, I was still very happy. My dad spent the night and left the next day, back to his vacation. And I have birthday money to spend.

The GH said to me one night this week, "I'm being sneaky."

"Okay," I said, "What are you being sneaky about?"

"I am sneakily finding out what kind of thing you would like to do with my grandparents for your birthday."

(His grandparents usually like to take people out for breakfast on their birthday.)

"Oh, well, let me finish getting the kids to bed and then I'll drop some clues for you."

Fifteen minutes later I knew exactly what I wanted the GH to tell his grandparents.

"There's a little French bakery and cafe that I walk past every week on the way to the Farmer's Market and I'm always telling you how much I'd like to check it out."

"You are?" He asks, with a very concerned, what did I forget now look.

"Yes." I reply, staring him down and willing him to remember that he started this game, "I tell you about it all the time."

It takes a second and then the light bulb goes on.

"Oh, right. Would you mind looking up the address and phone number for me to give to them?"


I acted duly surprised, and they paid my sister in law to watch my kids for a few hours so we could go to brunch. It was a great place, much funner than IHOP and so Saturday was great too. And I have more birthday money burning a hole in my pocket. I have been ordered this year to actually spend it on myself instead of using it for the GH's birthday present and so I promise to try.

(But he really wants an iPOD this year, and it's not really a gift if I spend money he earned to get it now is it?)

Yesterday was my party, and people came! I ended up calling everyone anyway to make sure they knew they were invited, which was probably more polite too now that I think about it. I doubt I'd have planned anything though with out the posted invitation to inspire me. On Saturday night I watched the GH come in after a run, ice his knee, and fall asleep on the living room floor. So I made my own birthday cake. I let him make the filling and ice it though. I found the recipe thanks to Rae, and it tasted really good.

The GH did take the older kids to church in the morning so I could sleep in and have some time to myself yesterday, also so that he could take them to Target to choose me a gift. I am now the proud consumer of raspberry flavored dark chocolate, strawberry and almond flavored dark chocolate, and dark chocolate with chili flakes. They are very anxious for me to open my present and share because they are very generous like that.

Yesterday afternoon and evening it rained and poured all day so we had several small children and adults all confined to a tiny space otherwise known as my living room/dining room/kitchen. (My in-laws master suite is probably larger.) It was loud and noisy and fun. No small children were seriously injured in the celebration of my birthday, at least, not permanently.

Thanks to my friends for joining me.

Last year was a good year, and I think this year will be too.


Don't forget the Blanket Party

Go right now and donate to Mary's Great Blanket Party.

Proceeds go to buy blankets for Ethiopian newborns who would otherwise be cold.

Why are you still here?
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