Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goodnight, Bedtime, Hello Stalling!

For those of you following along, my sister and her family arrived safely Monday afternoon.  After a few hours together and dinner, we parted ways knowing that the kids would get together the next day.  I tucked Graham in promptly at 8pm and then wrestled Cael into this room immediately thereafter.  His usual bedtime is 8:30, but with the excitement of the day I knew he could benefit from an extra few minutes of sleep.

We gathered all of the usual suspects: Bloose, Bear, Tigger and Puppy and loaded them all into his big bed.  After reading an delightful Clifford story we turned off the lights, said his prayer and my big boy went to sleep.

Wait a minute.  That's not what this blog is about.  This is about parenting my noisy, mischievous and crazy sons.  So let's try the story with a little less optimism and a little more honesty, shall we?

I encouraged Cael to gather up his friends, but after one brief glance around the room Cael concluded that they had been burned in the "big fire" just like the characters on Toy Story 3 nearly experienced.  We sat for several minutes, Cael working through concerns about any potential arson that may take place at our house, while I shook my fists at the Pixar people for the second time this week.  We scoured the basement only to find his friends crammed behind the framing boards of his toy closet.  Bear, Tigger and Puppy were huddled together while Bloose was several feet deeper into the closet, all balled up and clinging to a couple of dead boxelder bugs.  I cleaned up the friends and ushered Cael into his room.

"I have to pee!"

"You JUST peed.  How do you have to go again already?"

"I don't know.  I just have to!"

"Alright, let's do it quickly."

Once in the bathroom, Cael felt it necessary to point out every scratch or scuff in the green paint of the bathroom.  I assured him that I was not painting tonight, nor did I even have any of the left over paint from the previous owners, but he still felt it imperative that he share these details.

"Thanks, Cael.  Now please go potty so that I can get you into bed!"

Cael dropped his pajama pants all the way down to his ankles and after pausing only momentarily, he matter-of-factly told me,

"The pee won't come out."  Of course it won't.

"Pull up your pants, then, and we are going straight to bed!  If you still want a story, you need to hustle."

The threat of no story did temporarily boost his speed.  He yanked up his pants, put the lid down, washed his hands and got to the door of his room before his energy petered out.

"But Mommy... I didn't pick a story."

"Can I choose one for you tonight?"

"No!  You always pick short stories."  I wonder why.  Walking to the bookshelf, I made a compromise. 

"Let's see if we can find one that we can both agree on, okay?"

"Okay, Mommy."

At the bookshelf, Cael offered up some bizarre suggestions.

"What about this one?"  He held up my "Better Homes & Gardens" magazine that had mistakenly been put on the bookshelf with the children's stories.  While I'd prefer reading decorating advice over "Elmo's Potty Adventure", I knew it wouldn't keep Cael's attention.

"Oooh, this looks like a good one!"  

Quickly identifying "Snow White" in his hand, I created a diversion and hid the book.  Not the best behavioral modeling I've done, but bedtime calls for desperate measures.  After all, that particular Little Golden Book spooks him each time when the huntsman is tracking down poor, unsuspecting Snow White with the intent of killing her.  The first time we read it, I censored the story and told him that the woodsman wanted to capture her.  But Cael, being as exceptional as he is, quickly made a connection between the huntsman's weapon and the expression on Snow White's face.  Yep, that book is best kept under the TV stand.  Isn't that where the books are kept?  No?  My mistake.

Lastly, Cael held up a Clifford book and I jumped at the suggestion.  We snuggled into his bed and I opened the book and began to read.


"Mommy, why that man in the Snow White book wants to hurt that lady?"

"Oh, Cael.  Don't worry about that right now.  Let's listen to the Clifford story."

"Is that man going to hurt Clifford?"

"No, honey, that's a different story.  There is no mean man in this book."


"Let's start over, shall we?  Teacher's--"

"Mommy, the pee will come out now!"

Ugh.  "Cael, this is your last opportunity.  Go straight to the bathroom and pee, and then come right back or this book is going right back on the shelf."


Cael scampered out of his room and after I heard the lid come up on the toilet, there was almost 20  seconds worth of nonstop peeing.  Where was he storing it all?  He'd gone less than 15 minutes before and hadn't had anything to drink in over 2 hours.

"Wow, you must be a camel!"

"A CAMEL? No, Mommy... I'm a Cael!"

After some intense giggling over the thought of having large humps on his back, he settled down and I started the story again.

"Teacher's Pets.  Welcome to doggy--"

"Will I see Ethan and Keaton tomorrow?"

"Yes, Cael.  Now you need to quiet down and listen to this story or I'm putting it away.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, Mommy."


"I'm a camel!"

With that, I took the book and returned it to its proper place right alongside my Better Homes and Garden magazine.  I thought about hiding it under the tv stand as well, but if I stockpiled all of our "problematic stories" under there, the television would be hitting the ceiling.

When I returned to his room, he was visibly irritated but knew that he'd brought that incident on himself and had the good sense not to argue about it.  I knelt beside his bed and I began his prayer.

"Dear God, thank you for a great day.  Thank you for..."

"Thank you for Ethan and Keaton and Gabriel and Amy and Thomas the Train.  And thank you for pizza and my train set and my tractor outside.  Mommy, is the battery charged on my tractor outside?  Ooh, I want to play on my tractor tomorrow.  When Sawyer gets here can we--"

This wasn't going well.  I can sense when things are getting out of my control, and at 8:38pm, a entire 29 minutes since we started this process, it was officially out of my control.

"Cael, we're going to say a short prayer tonight.  Dear God.  Thanks for a great day.  Please keep up safe, healthy, give us good dreams and a good day tomorrow.  Amen."

"But Mommy, that was too short!"  

"It's okay Cael.  God will understand."

And I think I he did.  After all, Jesus was 3 years old once, right?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A New Perspective

Things have been a little dry here at home.  Along with the first week of school came musical auditions and rehearsals for Joel, whose schedule becomes so dense and harried this time of year that he has been figuratively deployed to Solon for the next three months.  Every year I have to remind myself to focus on the kids and not get bogged down in the murkiness of Daddy's schedule.

But it does get tough.  Maintaining a routine while simultaneously keeping things fresh and interesting is a much bigger (and longer) battle than getting Cael to eat or getting Graham to poop on the potty.  Those things are important, but I have spent enough time with my sons to know that boredom is the gateway to naughtiness.

Last Friday, Cael and Graham were running-- arms spread wide open, through that gateway.  Cael ran with abandon, as if on the other side was an unholy train museum with free rides and fizzling fireboxes.  Graham seemed to resist the naughtiness gateway but was slowly being dragged along by his older and therefore influential big brother.

I could tell that something different needed to happen.  You see, along with the steady loyalty of a daily routine comes the monotony of an identical day-to-day schedule. We've built trains before.  We've played outside.  We have exhausted our patience and interest in the same old games and toys.  We needed to look at things from a new perspective.  

As I laid the boys down for their afternoon naps, I brainstormed some ideas to help the day pass.  At first I thought about having some sort of "Christmas in August" scene arranged for them, complete with a lit tree and stockings.  But as soon as that thought entered my head, I could imagine the crushing disappointment they would feel when they realized that Santa wasn't coming and there were no gifts to be had.  I mentally crossed that off of my list and turned to the next idea.

I thought God was sending me subliminal messages when my Pinterest page was plastered with images of do-it-yourself Play-Doh and Moon Dust and Silly Puddy and Gak.  What boys wouldn't enjoy helping Mommy make something and then getting dirty up to their elbows in their own handiwork?  I gathered the ingredients together until I realized that I would need enough baking soda to fuel 1,000 junior high Science Fair volcanoes.  Moving on.

I decided that I was thinking too big.  If I wanted a new perspective, I needed to look at things differently myself.  So I pulled the dining room chairs out of the way and covered three sides with blankets to make a large tent with enough room for my boys and me plus one tag-along to sit comfortably inside.  That is, if comfortable means having one's head cocked awkwardly to the side while one's core muscles cry out in opposition.  I was REALLY comfortable.

But they loved it.  We set up camp in our homemade tent, dragged in a storage bin's worth of toys to keep us company, and enjoyed a string cheese snack.  Rolling around on the carpet, I shuddered at the visible layer of crusted food and animal hair that had congregated on the rug and then rubbed off onto my sons' shirts.  Even Oscar got in on the action, pulling on the blankets with his feet and teeth and trying to disassemble our tent like a magician pulling a tablecloth out from under the dishes. 

Even Cael, my resident cynic, was having a blast.  He stashed all of his trains under the table and lauded our tent as the ultimate train station.

"Mommy, we're in the roundhouse.  And it's so cool.  But it's not round.  It's like a long box.  Kinda like a square, but a long and skinny square.  What's that called?"

"Can you remember?  It's a funny word."

"A wrecking ball!"

Close, dude.  But it's called a rectangle."

"That's what I said.  A wrecking ball."

"Great job, Cael."

Once I'd set down the camera, I laid down inside and the boys and I pretended to look up at the "stars".  I tried to explain constellations and then kicked myself when Cael thought that we were talking about starfish in the ocean.  Sometimes I get ahead of myself.

As we snuggled under the table, both boys put their heavy heads on my chest and we laid quietly together.  My mind was taken back to the days when they were small and could sleep on my chest as I kissed their soft heads.  But just as I was enjoying my daydream, a very real odor wafted into our imaginary campsite.

"Cael... is there something you needed to say?"

"No, Mommy."

"I think there is.  It's very smelly in here and I'm pretty sure it's your brand of stink.  What do you say?"

"I love you?"

"Nice try, but that's not what I was asking for."

Just as Cael was piecing together his argument, a tiny voice whispered from the other side of the tent.


I'm still not sure how such a tiny person produced such a potent and foul odor.  But I got my wish, and I saw the day from a new perspective, and my children from a different perspective as well.  He viewed the world from under the table, and I viewed him with new eyes as well. 

And a new nose, too.  The old one is no good now.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Aww, Blog Post!

Lately Cael has developed a new set of exclamations.  Thankfully, these have come in place of his Thomas-related outbursts and other (more highly inappropriate) phrases that tend to sneak in like those three or four people at your wedding that you're sure you didn't invite.  But because of the less offensive nature, I didn't stop him when he started improvising with his outbursts.  The first time he shouted "Aww, rats!" I thought it was kind of cute and a much more age-appropriate catchphrase than other things that have come out of his mouth, most often due to movies and shows that are supposed to be appropriate for preschoolers.  (As an aside, thank you, Pixar, for infusing several of your children's movies with enough "what the heck" references to choke a horse.)

Even Graham has fallen prey to the WTH illness.

"Let's clean up your diaper, Graham."

"Big poo."  (Buh poo seems to be a thing of the past.  We're maturing.)

"Do you have big poo?"


Opening his diaper, I can see that "big poo" was a gross understatement.  Gross in volume and seriously gross in appearance.

"Yucky, Bubba!"

"Wah da heck!!"

While that was an incredibly accurate context in which to use that expression, it's not one I want to hear either of my boys say.  It's tacky and classless, and my boys are neither of those things.  When they don't have "buh poo", that is.

So Cael's "aww, rats" evoked a more innocent image of my little foul-mouthed monkey; one that I could get on board with.  But "aww, rats" didn't hang around long.  Within a few days I noticed that each disappointment was met with a new exclamation.

"Cael, we're not going to have pizza for lunch.  Let's have a ham sandwich."

"Aww, crackers."

At first I wasn't sure if that was a new term that I'm too old and too much of a mom to "get", or if my son was spouting racial slurs at Graham and me.  I ruled out the second and decided it was just another cute Caelism.  But just as I'd written off this latest phase as a silly personality quirk, Cael's cracker comment evolved.  I noticed him inserting all sorts of nouns into the proper position, and most often the words he used represented items in the room at the time of teh emotional let-down.

"Cael, it's bedtime."

"But I don't want to go to bed!"

"I know you don't, but I already let you stay up a few minutes late.  Now we need to get you into bed."

"Aww, pillowcase." 


"Aww, vacuum cleaner."

...or my personal favorite...

"Aww, water in a bottle!"

And as cute as it is, I know Cael.  I know his twisted mind and how he uses his impropriety at the most effective moment.  And I also know that e will be heading to preschool soon.  So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I don't see slips of paper in his tiny backpack that read,

"Why is your son saying, 'Aww, sharpened pencils!' and 'Aww, paste and glue sticks!'  We just don't get it.  Wah da heck?"

Did you like this post?  Please support me and VOTE in the Parents Magazine Best Blog Awards!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Religiously Inconsistent

Yesterday was one of those days that challenged my perception of motherhood.  Not so much what it is, or how it's done, but how best to slink off in the night and still leave my children enough food to survive for a few days until someone realizes I'm gone.

I'd never truly leave them, of course.  At this point my life revolves around the monotony and craziness of these two toe-headed boys that simultaneously tug at my heartstrings and then use those heartstrings to torture me and blackmail me for cookies and Thomas the Train.  Without them I'd be broken, but that does not mean I wouldn't like to do away with these challenging days.

On Wednesday, the end of Bampa's visit coincided with the first official day of school for Daddy.  Having both of them quickly depart was as blatant as flipping a light switch; as soon as the door was closed, there was a brief quiet pause and then BAM!  All of the kids started arguing, one boy shoved another, one yelled for a drink while the other tried to take off running to the backyard.  I felt like a new mother again, holding an infant and whispering, "I'll try my best to keep you alive."

As usual, it was Cael that brought about the majority of my frustrations.  Not only was he incredibly quick to yell and fight with the other kids, but his repetition of said offenses was astonishing.  There are certain things you can get away with in my house, but yelling at me with an air of disrespect isn't one of them.  Cael knows this policy, and he knows that if he chooses to shout at me he will earn himself a one-way ticket to his room.  Okay, a round-trip.  But with a really long layover.

So after my morning had been filled to capacity with, "YOU LET ME WATCH THOMAS NOW!" and "I DON'T WANT PEAS!  MAKE ME SOMETHING ELSE!"  I was in utter disbelief that he had not only found a way to ratchet up his naughtiness, but that he was surprised to see me march him, hand in hand, to his bedroom for the umpteenth timeout of the day.

It was at this point I started losing faith in humanity.  Well maybe not humanity as a whole, but the possibility that Cael could someday return to the land of the sane people and become a productive member of society.  The experts are always telling parents "stick to your guns" and "be consistent", but at what point do you determine that what you're doing just ain't working?

I thought about that question all through lunch.  I thought about it as I cleared the kids' plates away and wiped sticky faces.  I thought about it as I tucked each of them in their beds and I thought about it each of the times Cael came out of his room and claimed he'd slept even though only 2 minutes had passed.  I even thought about it as I sat down at the computer, exhaled, and finally relaxed.


I trudged up the stairs, headed to the door and regret immediately washed over me.  Standing on the other side of the storm door was Mr. Religious, the door-to-door representative that has been aggressively trying to recruit my family to join their ranks.  I have tried to be gracious yet have tried to indicate our disinterest in his particular "product", but he continues to ring my doorbell on an almost weekly basis.  I opened the door, said hello and stumbled through an explanation of how I was trying to get some work done and didn't have time to discuss--

"MOMMY!  Come HERE!"

"Cael, you're supposed to be in bed.  Please go to your room and I will come talk to you in a minute."


"Yes, you will."  I hoped he'd sense the tone.  He didn't.

"NO!  I'M GOING AWAY FROM YOU!  I'm not going to bed.  YOU GO TO BED!"

I quickly grabbed his hand and hustled him down the stairs faster than his feet could move.  We spent a long time in his room, me tring to make him understand that children cannot talk to parents that way, and him attempting to justify it because he was convinced he'd taken a three-hour long nap that had been magically condensed into 4 or 5 minutes.

"It was a magic nap."  Cute, but wrong.

Once he was back in bed, I waited outside his room until he was finally silent and deeply involved in another magical nap.  My stomach growling, I realized I hadn't yet had lunch.  Again I trudged up the stairs and into the kitchen.  Inside the refrigerator I found that while a few of our leftovers were edible, most were making great strides in developing new varieties of penicillin.  I shut the refrigerator door and immediately felt eyes on my back.

There he was.  Mr. Religious stared disapprovingly at me from the other side of my clear storm door, either irritated from the unpleasant scene with Cael and my apparent inability to control my children or the 25 minutes he stood on my front porch and stared into my house.  I looked at him for a moment, and then cracked the door and simply said,

"This is not a great time for me.  Thank you."

I finally get it.  Of the 8 or 9 times he's stopped at my house, he's witnessed my dog pooping on the floor, one son having at least one black eye, and the other falling backward off of the couch, Cael asking him if he possesses all of the proper male "equipment", and then finally screaming at me that wants to leave.  This man's persistence has nothing to do with wanting us to join them, rather he thinks that my children and I desparately need to be saved.

And I do.  But what I need is to be saved from critical people with no children and anyone who thinks parenting is easy.  I'm doing my best, and some days my best won't be enough.  But on those tough days, I can always count on the fact that my doorbell will ring...

Did you like this post?  Please support me and VOTE in the Parents Magazine Best Blog Awards!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Not-So-Smart Phone

I'm really excited.  Why, you ask?  Because my sister is coming home.  Amy has, over the years, moved farther and farther away from me until she and her boys found themselves in Reno, Nevada.  I never really thought we'd find ourselves living near each other again, much less in the same town, but I couldn't be happier about it.

Amy and I in August of 1983
I have always been close with my sisters.  Amy is the "middle sister", is ten years older than me, and every memory of my childhood involves holding her hand.  Now that we are both adults, she and I share countless interests and personality traits/quirks.  So when I learned that she would be coming back to Iowa, I went into endorphin overdrive.

And it's not just her.  Her list of benefits reads like a real estate ad:

Amy brings with her two amazing sons, Ethan and Keaton, who boast breathtaking personalities as well as quality babysitting potential!  She will be the envy of the neighborhood with boyfriend Gabriel.  Other amenities include one cat, Canella, two rabbits, and a spacious condominium with an open floor plan!

Ethan, Papa and Keaton
As the months and weeks have slowly passed, our phone and text exchanges have gotten more frequent and more urgent as the big day approaches and details are addressed.  But there was one big detail we hadn't confronted.

I hadn't met Gabriel.

At this point there would be no visit to Reno as she has less than a week before she arrives in Mt. Vernon, and I trust her judgment implicitly, so I know he must be a wonderful man.  But before he joined our close-knit community, I was hoping we'd have a chance to talk.  And we did.  Sort of.

On Monday evening, I got a text message from a phone number I didn't know, and to further the confusion, I saw that the text was in Spanish.  Now I did minor in Spanish in college, but just as I would not feel qualified to commit someone with my thus unused Psychology degree, I knew that my ability to respond to his text would be limited as well.

His text read, "Hello, How are you?  This is Gabriel!!  I am happy because I have a new family. 

How sweet is that?  I wanted to return the sentiment, so I began to pick out a response.  As I fumbled through a few phrases in broken Spanish, I noticed that my phone was autocorrecting almost every single word, thwarting my efforts and causing my response to take several minutes.  When it was complete, I threw up my arms and hit send.

 My message said, "Hello!  I am very excited also!  My Spanish is really bad... it's been 5 years since I spoke the language.  I'm sorry!"

Or something like that.  But the more I thought about it, I was pretty sure I had seen some questionable vocabulary being suggested by my already questionable iPhone.  I retyped the message and let it replace my words with whatever ones it wanted, and when it was done I was left with such a jumbled paragraph, I just had to call my sister and share it with her.

So I dialed her number, and when she answered, I almost immediately started laughing.  It didn't help that my phone had replaced "Hola" with "Hilarious", either.  I struggled through a conversation with her that sounded just as foreign as my disaster of a text.

"Amy, you've got to hear what my text to Gabriel would have sounded like if I hadn't fixed it!  Ready?"  (nonstop laughter)  "Just a second!!"  (More nonstop laughter).

After a few moments of near silence as tears streamed down my face, her response sent me over the top.

"Mary, I've got to ask you... are you drunk?"

It has come to my attention that my occasional references to needing a drink after a long day with my boys have led many of you to the conclusion that downing a drink is as a big a part of my daily routine as changing diapers and ripping out fistfuls of hair.  And while that imagery might give you a chuckle, (and I'm not usually one to turn down a laugh) let me assure you that this is not the case.  In fact, sitting in the basement with my father-in-law laugh-crying over a text message in my pajamas is about as far from intoxication as one can get, so her genuine question left me in stitches.  Between wails, I told her,

"No, not drunk.  Just laughing!"

Long pause.


I gave up and simply texted her my autocorrected message, since I knew I'd never get through it on my own.

Maybe you had to be there.  But either way, I think there's no denying that my phone either has a seriously perverse sense of humor or is highly intelligent and secretly taunting me.  No matter the motive, however, I'm guessing I'll never live this one down.

But all is well that ends well, and on Monday evening this story will end very well.  Four people that I care greatly about will be close to us and I can't wait for the wonderful times that are to come.

The quieting, Amy.  Te quiero, Amy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Preschool Prep

As Cael's first day of preschool looms large on the calendar, we've been working diligently to avoid certain embarrassments that may take place as he makes the transition from full-time kid to part-time "student". 

The first task was to revisit letters and numbers and try to get back to the high literary point we'd reached last spring.  Cael knew the alphabet from an early age and began reading letters with almost no effort, thanks in part to "Super Why" and it's saccharin-sweet super reading heroes.  He has expressed zero interest in putting said letters in any formation other than naughty ones, so we've continued to read to him but made an effort to push a little less.  Until we hit on the motherload: picture flashcards played poker-style with M&Ms as a delicious incentive. I know that he's incredibly smart and can get the hang of reading with little effort, so I'm going to do my part and say a little prayer as I wave goodbye to him at preschool each day. 

Please, God, let Cael learn a lot today.  Help him behave, follow directions, and please, PLEASE-- don't let him spell "stupid", "poop", or any other four-letter word.  I promise we don't have flashcards for those words.

My next order of business has been to encourage more independence for my big boy.  At almost four years old, he still requires my assistance getting dressed each morning and putting his pajamas on at night.  Given his earlier-than-six wake up time each day, I'd like him to be able to wake up and put his clothes on by himself before emerging from his lair in the morning.  The trouble is that he seems unable to tell which items of clothing are underpants.  I'm not sure where the disconnect is taking place because he can correctly identify his shirts, pants, shorts, socks and even the different components of winter gear, but every time I help him slither his tiny cheeks into a fresh pair of undies, I hear the same question.

"Mommy, are these underpants?"

After I reassure him that yes, these are indeed underpants, he will oblige and don his clean drawers.  Up come the shorts, and it is time for a clean shirt and another can of worms completely.  While he seems to have no preference whatsoever in what he wears (Thank you, God, for one battle avoided!) he does have extreme difficulty in getting his arms and shoulders into the proper position.  If left to his own devices, he will cautiously pull the shirt over his head and the resulting scene is more reminiscent of a botched Houdini stunt than a typical morning task.  Arms are shooting out of the neck hole, an elbow peeks out the bottom of the shirt and-- what's that?  Is that a foot in there?  But whether or not he is able to completely dress himself this school year, there is one very big area we need to tackle before September 7th.  And it hasn't been going well.

Cael has been 100% potty trained for about 9 months now, and I have been leaping in celebration at the drastic reduction in diaper costs as well as the freedom it allows us.  Cael's digestive system operates like clockwork; every day around nine o'clock I see him beginning to squirm, and by quarter after he runs to the bathroom.  After a moment or so, I always hear the same words.

"Mommy, I did my potty!"

Cael's intentions with this phrase are three-fold.  First, he wants to make sure I know that he fulfilled his bathroom obligations.  Second, he wants me to come in and visually confirm that he delivered the goods, which has to be one of the least pleasant parts of motherhood.  Seriously, kid... just flush it!  But his third intention, and the most troublesome, is that he wants me to take control of the clean-up efforts.

Along with the answers to "who shot JFK?" and "what's wrong with Donald Trump's hair?", I hope someday I will understand one of life's greatest conundrums.  How am I supposed to let him wipe himself when he is wholly unable to get himself clean?  I've given him countless tutorials and he knows what needs to happen, but when it come to post-potty time, he is unable to channel his inner contortionist who so recently made an appearance as he attempted to get dressed. 

So for the last couple of weeks, when this signature phrase intended to solicit my assitance, I have instructed him to clean himself up, put on his underpants (those tiny things with the Toy Story characters, you know?) and his shorts, flush the potty and wash his hands.  It is a daunting task, but one that I know will be required of him at preschool.  And it has been going relatively well.  He's emerged from the bathroom fully clothed, and upon inspection the bathroom does not appear to have been through any nautical storms or tornado strength winds.  But if there is one thing parenting has taught me, it is that things are not always as they seem.

Yesterday as Joel, Bampa and I were watching a show before heading into town, Cael was doing an unusual dance in front of the television.  His hand was digging as it sometimes does, but instead of holding himself in the front in order to avoid an incoming pee, his hand was venturing to the back.

"Cael, what are you doing?", Daddy asked.

"My bottom is scratchy."

"It sounds like you didn't get it very clean.  Why don't you go back in the bathroom and wipe yourself one more time."

"Okay, Daddy."

But as he began trotting off to the potty, a commercial on the screen involving a train caught his eye.  Shocker.  Standing trance-like in the center of the room, he resumed his scratching with both eyes on the locomotive.

"Cael... aren't you going to the bathroom?"  No response.  "Cael?"

"But Daddy, I've never seen a train like that!"

"Yes, that's cool, dude.  But you need to wipe your bottom."

"Where do you get a train like that?"

"I don't know.  At the store, I guess.  Go wipe your bottom."

"That's a really cool train."

Although he'd ventured a few feet closer to the bathroom, he was still glued to the screen.

"Cael!  Snap out of it, honey.  You need to go to the bathroom."

"Can we go to the store and buy that train?"

Since we were clearly making no headway, Bampa jumped in.

"They won't let you in the store if you have a smelly bottom.  You need to go wipe yourself."

A look of horror crossed over his face and he quickly darted to the bathroom.  Just as the door was about to close, Cael's little face peeked around the corner.

"If I wipe my bottom, THEN can we go buy that train?"

So it looks as though I might not get all three of my preschool wishes before September 7th, or at least not without some serious train-related bribery.  I may need to call Walmart and ask them to institute a "No Stinky Bottoms" clause to their "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" rule so that I don't have to shell out more cash for more trains.

Or maybe I should call Target.  Walmart could lose a lot of business that way.

Did you like this post?  Please support me and VOTE in the Parents Magazine Best Blog Awards!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

10,000 Maniacs?

Guess what?

I checked in on this blog this morning to see if the new favicon (handprint icon that appears to the left of the url or in your favorites list, hint hint) I had made was visible on my iPhone.  I scanned the page, noticing a few things I wanted to tweak, and then I saw it.

There, at the bottom of the page, was my total pageviews and I was astonished to see the number it listed.

It has been almost 3 months to the day since I started this blog, and it feels like I've been doing it forever.  I never would have expected to enjoy it so much or to find so much camaraderie with other mothers who have a "Cael" or a "Graham".

So I just wanted to say "Thank You" for continuing to read.  Let's make a deal, okay?  As long as you keep reading, I'll keep writing.  How long do you think it will take to hit 25K?  Any guesses?

So I hope you will still consider voting for me in the Parents magazine Best Blog Awards.  Two big-hitters in my category have an unattainable number of votes, but I would like to keep my presence known on that first page sand my foot in the door for the Editor's Pick.

If you haven't voted, click VOTE NOW or click the pink button at the top right of my blog and cast your vote.  You will need to provide an email address, but I hope you'll consider my request. 

I also hope you'll take a peek at today's earlier post "Chalk of the Town" about our less than artistic endeavors this past weekend.  You'll be glad you did.

The Chalk of the Town

In the spring of 2010, I bought a box of Crayola sidewalk chalk.  I pulled each of the 16 vibrant colors from the box and envisioned the masterpieces Cael and I would create together.  "Waterlilies"?  No problem.  "The Mona Lisa"?  Easy.  I smiled as I thought of our hands making art in unison as the sun warmed our shoulders. 

In reality, however, the experience was much less romantic.  Not only was I the only one drawing anything, but Cael found the most pleasure in throwing the chalk down with full force on the driveway and watching the pieces shatter.  After about 20 minutes of utter destruction and very little inspiration, I packed away the remaining nubs of chalk and placed them on a shelf in the garage.

And there they sat.

I walked by them repeatedly over the last year, thinking and wondering if Cael had matured enough to give it another try, then laughing at myself for using Cael's name in the same sentence as the word "mature".  But with Bampa's arrival coinciding with a streak of amazingly dry, sunny and beautiful weather, I took a chance.

Shortly before dinner on Friday, I pulled out the chalk and let my kids loose on the driveway, crossing my fingers and desperately hoping this would be a success and provide me with another go-to activity to entertain the boys.

Graham jumped right in and started drawing.

In typical Cael fashion, my eldest demanded that I provide a train for him, given this gigantic canvas and no way of using my typical restaurant excuse, "I'll draw a train after we order."  And then... "I'll draw a train when the food comes."  Or... "I'll draw a train after you've eaten". 

But I thought it was only fair that he participate.  Ever since we bought him his John Deere Gator to drive around the backyard, he has lost all interest in running and jumping and doing the things that little kids should do, save for playing baseball. 

Today we were on the same team, however, and the game was "who will draw a train first", so I informed him that I would not draw his train until he produced one first.


I looked down at what looked like nothing more than three chicken scratches of pink and purple on the concrete.  Was that really it?  I couldn't comment more precisely on his creation because I didn't know if I was looking at a train or a to-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty.  As any mom knows, however, the time you question their artwork will undoubtedly be the time they put their heart and soul into their creation, so I let the little man off the hook and drew his train.

While Cael took his position as engineer of the Cael Express, I turned my attention to Graham, who was causing Daddy and Bampa some grief as he stealthily sneaked around the corner into the backyard, and into the garage and up to the front door.  His tiny feet make almost no sound, and in contrast to Cael's ear-drum piercing train whistles, it is easy for Graham to slip away unnoticed.  This time I caught his eye and motioned for him to help me load the chalk back into the box.  I could sense an approaching cadence to our evening and began the clean up process when Graham got tickled by the sight of two pieces of chalk standing erect next to each other like soldiers standing guard over the kingdom of Crayola.

So I continued to build until we'd constructed our own Chalk-Henge monument; a spiritual place where children can draw freely on the driveway without fear of persecution and time-outs.  Some even say that when the light shines perfectly between the westernmost chalk pillars, the universe is in perfect alignment and two year-olds will poop on the potty.  Then again, a lot of skeptics think it's just chalk.  Only time will tell.

We quickly cleaned up and went inside for dinner, and I mentally draw a strike through "play with chalk" from the next day's activities.  In the backyard the following afternoon, Daddy and Bampa were knee-deep in a nostalgic game of catch when the kids woke up and wanted to participate.  We pulled out the bats and balls and Cael was just beginning to practice his surprisingly powerful and accurate batting skills when Graham spotted something .

"Chaw!  Chaw!"

An abandoned piece of chalk.  A sign that I shouldn't give up so soon on chalk art, perhaps?  A piece from the ruins of Chalk-Henge?  (Oh, the humanity!)  Wherever it came from, Graham spotted it and immediately wanted another shot at that box of colorful sticks.

So on Saturday afternoon, I pulled out the chalk and let my kids loose on the back patio, crossing my fingers and desperately hoping this would be a success and provide me with another go-to activity to entertain the boys.

Graham jumped right in and started drawing.

In typical Cael fashion, my eldest demanded that I provide a train for him, given this gigantic canvas and no way of using my typical restaurant excuse, "I'll draw a train after we order."  And then... "I'll draw a train when the food comes."  Or... "I'll draw a train after you've eaten".

But I thought it was only fair that he participate.  Knowing that baseball was an alternative option that would likely be more appealing than chalk, I knew it was a long shot, but I informed him that I would not draw his train until he produced one first. 


I glanced down at what looked like peachy colored worms on the concrete.  Was that really it?  I couldn't comment more precisely on his creation because I didn't know if I was looking at a train or botched crop-circle blueprints.  As any mom knows, however, the time you question their artwork will undoubtedly be the time they put their heart and soul into their creation, so I let the little man off the hook and drew his train.

While Cael took his position as engineer of the Cael Express, Graham decided to participate and tweak the train to his specifications.  I guess he thought there should be more pink.  He's a real man.

When history again began to repeat itself and Graham stood the chalk pillars up in formation, Cael came along and attempted to stomp on each column and crumble them ala the Coliseum.  Graham wailed in protest and I quickly gathered the chalk stumps into the box and hustled them away while I cradled them in my arms. 

I'm sorry, Crayola!  Maybe next year we can try again.  Your fragility is too great for my Greco-Roman wrestler children!

But as soon as the boys saw that I had abandoned hopes of our artistic potential, they both protested with all their might.  Graham unleashed a tirade of angry faces and threatening gestures, made more frightening by the exposure of his tiny tummy.

Cael took the more passive-aggressive approach and sat quietly on the grass until I realized he was taking his shoes off, likely preparing a full-on sandal attack.

I managed to intercept his missiles and safely stashed the chalk in the house.  After some peace talks, we all decided that, while we love to run, play and create, chalk may just not be our medium.  For now I'll stick to play-doh and crayons.  At least I won't have to make a train.

"Mommy, can you draw me....?"

Uh, fizzling fireboxes!

Did you like this post?  Please support me and VOTE in the Parents Magazine Best Blog Awards!

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Treat a Houseguest

On Tuesday, "Bampa" (aka Joel's Dad, John) came to visit us, plunging us into full-on hosting mode. I spent most of the day prior to his visit cleaning and tidying up the house so that it would be presentable and not force him to fear for his (or his grandsons') well-being. (Although I would like to say that good, clean people get bodily fluids on the floor.  If you have kids, you know what I mean.)
Once he'd arrived and we had all enjoyed a late dinner-- late to us but right on time to Joel's Dad as he was still operating on west coast time-- we had to put the boys to bed.  But it wouldn't be easy. Sending children to bed immediately after company comes to the house is equivalent to forcing them to nap to or three gifts into Christmas morning's festivities.  But once assured that Bampa would, indeed, be here when the awoke the next morning, they were fast asleep.

Thud.  Louder thud.  Train whistle.

I sat up out of bed and nudged Joel. What was Cael doing?  This is a question that I ask myself so frequently and wonder if I'll ever be able to put to rest.  Memories of hundreds of Saturday morning catastrophes flashed before my head.  I jumped out of bed and headed down the stairs when I heard the theme song to "Thomas the Train".

"They're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight, shunting trucks and hauling freight..."

This song has become become so commonplace in our home that it has become part of the background static of our lives. It's eerie harmony blends in with the drone of the dishwasher and the clunking of the ice machine as it empties new ice into the tray for Graham to stealthily hoard and melt in puddles on the kitchen floor.  I saw Cael run by at the bottom of the stairs, therefore reassuring me that he hadn't pulled the television down on top of himself.  What a relief, too.  I really love that tv.

Knowing that Cael was safe for the meantime, I headed into Graham's room to release him from his wood-railed cell. I opened the door and immediately smelled the stench of "buh poo".

"Bubba, did you do a big poo?"


All that was in Graham's crib was his blanket, bear, and a wet pool of drool where his head had once been. I didn't immediately panic, as I have learned that my children are capable of many things I can't explain.  I quickly ran downstairs to find Cael and Graham squealing with delight while Bampa lay face down on the carpet.

Where to begin.  If he was asleep, I totally sympathize.  Both of my boys pack the punch of an entire case of Red Bulls, but I have learned that no matter how exhausted one may feel, falling asleep in their presence is neither advised nor achievable.  They are extraordinarily loud and tend to use their Kid-Dar to identify the exact moment you are about to fall asleep and either stick a finger in your ear or hurl their entire body weight in such a manner as to land on whatever joint happens to give you the most trouble.

But his positioning didn't look that comfortable.  He had no pillow, no blanket.  Wait, wait... is he-- 


Cael ran at full speed and crashed onto Bampa's back and a few steps behind was Graham, doing a weaker and less enthusiastic impersonation of his older brother.

"Ruh.  Ruh.  Ruuuuuh."

And with his blasé attitude and exclamation, he toddled over to Bampa and threw his chubby tummy on the top of the pile.  Bampa rolled over and tickled both boys as stubby legs waved about and tiny bottoms stuck up in the air.  Understanding that this was indeed a wrestling match (much like the one in the video above) and not a botched medical intervention, I headed upstairs to make breakfast for my boys.  Once locked and loaded into their chairs and enjoying a quick PB&J (why isn't that a breakfast food, anyway?) we had an opportunity to talk.

"Cael, when I put you to bed last night, we talked about how you should NOT wake up Bampa." 

"But why not?"

"Because Bampa had a long flight and is really tired.  Plus he came from Seattle, and it's earlier there.  So when you woke him up at 6:00, it felt like 4:00 to him."

"Why the time is different?"

"Well, you see..." 

Rookie mistake.  Never attempt to explain time zones, the gravitational pull of the moon or tornadoes.  These things are simply over their heads, and you lose some credibility as a parent when you are unable to explain them.

"Okay, well... The time is different because the west coast is so much further, well, west... so... the sun is behind there because it rises in the east and sets in the west... right?  So the day starts later and ends later and it just feels different.  Because it's further west.  Got it?"

"What is a west?"

Right.  Trying to get back on topic, I questioned Cael again about his motives.

"Cael, why did you wake up Bampa?"

"Because the kitty threw up on the carpet and it was yucky."

"So you woke up Bampa?

"No, Mommy.  I made him clean up that yucky throw up."

"Nice, Cael."

I thought briefly of how to compose a nice cross-stitch or welcome mat, perhaps; something warning our guests that upon arrival, they will be awakened from REM sleep, forced to clean up voluminous poops and scoop cat vomit.  But isn't that what family is all about?  No?  Are you sure?

I guess we have some 'splainin to do...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Caelism of the Day

After waking up from his abbreviated nap, Cael located me enjoying my "free time" assembling kabobs for dinner.  As always, he wanted to watch an episode of "Thomas the Train" until the other kids were awake from their naps, a ritual I fully endorse as it allows me a few more minutes to relax cook, take a nap clean, and read write this blog.

"Mommy, can you put on a Thomas?"

"Yes I can.  Did you have a good nap, my friend?"

"You're not my friend, Mommy."

"We're not friends?  Why not?"

"Because you're my Mommy.  And I'm your stinky bugger."

Good thing he's not on Facebook.  "It's Complicated" wouldn't begin to describe our relationship status.

We're busy hosting a house guest, so I hope you'll check back on Monday to hear about our weekend.  I'm sure I'll whip up something witty and embarrassing for you to read.  In the meantime, feel free to VOTE for me in the Parents Magazine Best Blog Awards!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Kid-Dar

Sometimes we play hide-and-go-seek.

This game works best when I hide, because Cael can't seem to grasp the rules.  It's not that he doesn't get it; he understands how the game is played but finds the hiding part to be quite tedious.  He will position himself behind a clear glass door, thinking he's invisible, and although the dried saliva and fingerprints do disguise him slightly, we all know he's there.  As soon the other player begins to search, he jumps out from his less-than-effective hiding spot.

"Come find me here!"

For this reason, the game most often results in Cael searching while I crouch behind the sofa like Graham processing a poop.  But lately I've been playing by different rules and hiding behind locked doors.  And the boys don't know it's a game.

When you have a child, everyone feels the need to inform you of how difficult parenting can be.  The late nights, the disappearing social life-- all are sacrifices that accompany this tiny human who has entered your world and your family.  And don't get me wrong, it's totally worth it.  But I also want to pee in peace.

So here's what should really happen.  After that last push, the one that makes you swear you just delivered your spleen out of your hoo-hah, someone should be there with a clipboard and thick black glasses saying, "Now that you're a mother, here are the things you can no longer do."  This statement would be followed by any activity that involves travel, explosives, spontaneity, requires quiet, privacy or intimacy.  This person would go on to say, "Here are the things you can no longer have.  Crystal goblets, pick axes, designer shoes or bags, electronics worth more than $100 and any chemicals that would actually be effective in cleaning."

Oh, and here's one more tip.  If you have any hemorrhoid cream or other embarrassing items, rest assured that your child will locate or already has located said items and will bring them out to serve as icebreakers at your next formal function.  You might be better served to stash your pick-axe in your underwear drawer and your "Preparation H" in the garage.

So why are kids so good at homing in on the things they are supposed to avoid or activities that are off-limits?  Because of the Kid-Dar.  

The Kid-Dar is a built in radar-like function that was integrated into your child's brain before he or she was old enough to draw on the walls with your red Clinique lipstick.  Instead of electromagnetic waves, your child will pick up your signals with expert precision.  He will notice how you quickly slipped out of the room to use the restroom in peace.  She will be aware of the fact that you placed your antique music box on the top shelf.  Or in my case, both of your sons will take note of the fact that you were unable to make a child-proof cover fit on the basement storage room.

Your older son will sneak in and locate the bin with his GeoTrax train set and hide it in a much more discreet location than behind the glass door.  Upon finding that the door was unlocked, your younger son will slip inside and shred 5 or 6 rolls of holiday wrapping paper.  If that isn't sufficiently irritating, your sons will activite their Kid-Dar again to find your cell phone and take a series of blurry and poorly centered photos of themselves.

Seriously, boys.  If you're going to do something, do it right.

Lastly, and in a Houdini-like display of elusiveness, your children will be sitting quietly and stoically when you return from the locked bathroom and your 3 minutes of privacy.  But don't worry, you won't find out what they've done until they're long in bed.  You couldn't see it because your Mom-Dar is missing.

You traded it in along with your crystal goblets.

Did you like this post?  Please support me and VOTE in the Parents Magazine Best Blog Awards!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Going Toe-to-Toe

Life is good when you wake up to this.

And you can't help but be in good spirits on a day like this.

Having another opportunity to kiss these faces makes me happy.

But it all goes out the window at the sight of these.

My kids hate-- HATE-- having their nails trimmed.  What would ordinarily be a quick task to keep them from clawing at their corneas becomes all-out warfare, and our battle cries can be heard all throughout the neighborhood.

"Nooooo!  Please, Mommy!  No!"

"Cael!  If you settle down and hold still, I promise that it will not hurt.  But if you yell and thrash around, I can't make that promise!"

Cael doesn't mind when I trim his fingernails, because I, through trial and error, discovered a fool-proof plan to simultaneously groom him and appeal to his inner "little boy".  As I clip one week's worth of growth on his nails, cursing fate for wasting such great nails on someone that crams them into his nose and rear end on a daily basis, I trim them and comment with gusto on the horrific amount of dirt that was lurking at the end of his fingers.

"Cael!  Yuck!  Look at all of the dirt under your fingernails!  You could plant a garden!"

His favorite part isn't the attention or the silliness of the game, rather he enjoys speculating about the composition of that gunk.  And as always, when the ball is in his court, he displays a breadth of knowledge I never knew he possessed.

"Mommy it's not dirt, it's compost!  Compost is food that makes plants grow bigger and stronger!"

....Right.  This is the point at which I consider asking him to handle our tax preparations or tile the bathroom, but I stop short because I don't think the IRS will appreciate our listing "poop" as a deduction.  Even though it should be.  I would know.

Once his fingernails have been addressed, it's time to trim his toenails.  While I feel that my son has inherited an ideal combination of his parents' genes, Joel is to blame for our weekly toe debacle.  Not only does Cael have his father's gnarly toes, but he has also developed a fear for all things feet.  For Joel, that fear is selective; it comes on strong when I ask for a foot rub but wanes when his feet are tired after a long work day.  For my son, however, the aversion is all-encompassing and I hold my breath as he stares at the scissors as though I'm about to swing blindly with a hacksaw.

I have to run a play-by-play in my mind.  How will I get him to sit still?  Is trimming his nails worth sacrificing the last bite of ice cream?  "You let me trim your toenails and I will give you four animal crackers.  Or ten minutes of Thomas the Train.  No?  A few moments in a room with the cat to pull his tail to your satisfaction?  Half a can of beer?  An hour alone in our closet with one of Daddy's neckties?"

Somehow we get through it, and Cael can relax with the knowledge that his feet are safe for a week or so.  And then I turn to Graham...

...And start all over again.