Saturday, December 16, 2006

More Toilet Tales

Why not? I have nothing else to do....

Our plumber came by on Wednesday and installed yet another new toilet (to replace the new toilet he installed in October). And not just any new toilet - this toilet has a jet-propelled flush which, he claimed, could swallow 8 golfballs without a problem. I told him to keep his voice down - we simply do not need to give Rachel any new ideas. In fact, the device struck me as sounding rather dangerous, but he solicitously reassured me that this was just the toilet for us. He said, and I quote, "When the salesman came to our shop last month and showed us this new model, I thought of you." I guess I'll take that as a compliment. Some people have an interior designer; I have a personal plumber.

So that was Wednesday. Thursday night I had the rather dubious pleasure of calling him up and informing him that his indestructible toilet had been laid low (on the first try) by my 4-year-old. Atta girl, Rachel! I'm so proud. It seems that the power flush (which is, I must admit, very impressive) fascinated her. Drop something in and WHOOSH! it's gone; drop something else in and WHOOSH!...well, I'm sure you get the idea. John (that's our plumber - might as well know his name, he's practically a member of the family now) came by Friday and fixed it, but he seemed a little shaken up by the whole experience. He did get to meet my father (who's been bankrolling this whole plumbing extravaganza); so now at least Grandpa knows I'm not making any of this up.

Anyway, Larry's home for the weekend, which is a blessed relief to me; at least I can't get blamed for not watching Rachel enough. I went out early and did some errands and Larry kept control of things on the homefront. Or so he thought....(insert evil laugh here). On his watch someone went down to the basement, got their hands on some confectioner's sugar, and pretended it was, um, snow. After we finished cleaning up the family room and interrogating the usual suspect, Larry headed out to Home Depot to pick up a lock and padlock for the refrigerator. I'd like to say at this point that I'm noticing a pattern here. I've been spending the last 4 months racking my brain for innovative behavior modification techniques to solve our incorrigible-child problem, while Larry has responded to any new Rachel challenge with some sort of technological solution (did I mention that he loved the jet-propelled flush concept?). Think of Wily E. Coyote going to all sorts of ridiculous extremes to outwit Roadrunner. At first he (Larry, that is, not Wily) put locks on all the doors. When that didn't work, he installed a motion sensor inside Rachel's room, over the door. The sensor worked, until that little monster stole it (don't know how - I mean, I couldn't even reach it). So Larry - not to be outdone - upgraded to an honest-to-God home sentry system. Now all our bathroom doors chime when we open them (sounds sort of nice, actually). And Rachel's bedroom door, too (the one with 3 - count them, 3 - locks on it). For reasons unknown to us (we refuse to accept the "she's smarter than us" explanation), none of this has stopped her. All I know is, we're really in trouble when I see Larry coming home with a case of Acme dynamite to rig to that toilet.

Actually, we are really in trouble. And that child psychologist we saw on Friday wasn't even worth the $20 copay. Rachel had her number in a heartbeat. That woman must talk to some very stupid 4-year-olds.

We had our annual Chanukah party tonight, and Larry took a walk on the wild side by actually letting Rachel out of her room for it (over my protests). He even let her play dreidel with everyone. I felt it necessary to warn the other kids to keep an eye on their money. For some reason Grandpa still thinks Rachel is cute, even though she's cost him close to $3000. I offered to let Grandma and Grandpa take her back home with them, and they laughed at me. That wasn't nice.

Have I mentioned my plan for Christmas? I'm going to get someone to dress up in a Santa suit and go into Rachel's room on Christmas Eve and spank her, all the time chortling, "Ho, ho, ho!" and "Merry Christmas!" I think that that would provide Larry and me with some much-needed Christmas cheer. And it beats our drinking ourselves into an alcoholic stupor.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Holiday Spirits

Ahh...the holiday season...wrapping presents, baking cookies, looking for our missing cellphones...yes, Rachel is still on a rampage. I don't really want to talk about her much right now. We're hoping the (loud) motion sensor Larry installed in her room has some diminishing effect on her activities. You can't blame him, he's still mad about all that beer she poured into the VCR.

I'm just trying to decide - what does one get for one's plumber for Christmas? He feels like a member of the family already. Of course, maybe he should get us something instead. I mean, he has all our money. He just got back from a trip to Aruba. Must have been nice.

Maybe the child psychologist will know what to buy him - we get to meet her on Friday. I bet she begs us not to come back. I don't think she's the right person to see, anyway. We're not dealing with a child here - we're dealing with an adult career criminal in a 4-year-old's body.

Enough already! It's the holiday season and I'm looking forward to entertaining friends and family. We kick off our December party season with our annual Chanukah party this Saturday night. With any luck, no one in our immediate family will be throwing up, like they did on Thanksgiving. Most of our guests showed up anyway (they must really like turkey) and showed no ill effects afterwards. Still, it was a bit of a damper on the festivities.

What with all the damage inflicted recently by an out-of-control preschooler and a temper-tantrum-throwing 13-year-old, my house is now tastefully decorated in what appears to be a cross between Modern Jailhouse and Shabby Chic. I think I'll just serve lots of liquor so no one notices. Lots and lots. What Larry and I haven't drunk up already in an attempt to self-medicate, that is.

You know, you raise the children you have, not the children you wish you had.

I actually got around to making photo Christmas cards this year - I figured they'd be more interesting than a plain card, as I never manage to finish a Christmas newsletter. Actually, I didn't even try this year - too painful. All I can remember is that we were sick the first half of the year, and then Rachel and Anna went berserk for the second half. In fact, it seems quite likely to me that their weird behaviors were precipitated by some sort of a virus. Or bacteria. Or maybe a prion-eating disease of the brain. Perhaps I should contact the CDC. All I know is, it's not our fault. We feed them, we shelter them, we clothe them, and we don't even yell at them (much). Larry and I are most emphatically not taking the fall for this problem.

And, yes, I am feeling a tad defensive tonight. I'm telling you, as parents we were on top of our game only 4 short months ago, and just look at us now. It's pitiful. Erstwhile confident, in-charge authority figures (yes, us) are currently reduced to begging a 4-year-old girl with big eyes and cute curls to "please, please tell us where Daddy's cellphone is, honey!" and to searching her room every night for hidden scissors and other implements of destruction. Or we lie in bed at night, plotting ways to get back at our insolent teenage daughter while listening warily for the sound of the motion detector placed strategically in Rachel's room. Oh, how the mighty have fallen....

And, no, Theo, David, Brian, and Susie haven't run away yet. They're just a little shaken up, is all.

Time to go to bed - can't let Rachel wake up before me....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Of Teens and Tots

Well, we've had a little bit of improvement on the teenage front around here. We told Anna that she was grounded until she did everything expected of her without being told and started acting like a human being again. The turnaround has been amazing. I guess she realized that 5 years could be a very long time. Of course, she still hates us; but we're past caring.

Theo and Larry are escaping on a weekend bike trip tomorrow morning. That leaves me as chief prison warden, making sure that Rachel doesn't get her hands on anything that she could possibly do mischief with. Which is, uh, everything you can imagine. She scares me. I don't want to be left alone with her. Preschool isn't helping. The teachers there pride themselves on teaching the children to improve their fine motor skills and to become more independent. Just what we need. Thanks a lot.

Oh, and Rachel knows how to drive. She told me so. We don't doubt it for a minute. Larry and I are assiduously hiding all car keys.

Halloween went well, though Larry once again took all my candy to his office the next day. He could have left me a few pieces, don't you think? He says it was all gone by the end of the day. And he thinks I'm a glutton.

Theo turned 15 and we couldn't think of anything really wow to get for him. But next year, that's different. He'll be 16, and eligible for a driver's permit, and we all know what that means - it means he is getting a really, really nice bicycle. Because we won't be able to afford car insurance for a teenage male. But, hey, it doesn't matter - Rachel knows how to drive. And I don't think State Farm has any insurance rates for 4-year-old girls.

Thanksgiving's coming - yes! No gifts, just food - how simple can it get? Roll out Tom Turkey, cook some cranberry sauce, round up anyone who has nowhere to go - instant holiday! I wish December were that easy. One good thing, though - we're not traveling all the way up to Maine this Christmas. Seems Auntie Kate, um, felt a little uneasy about having our 4-year-old monster staying in her house after the slashed-suitcase incident (see previous post). Talk about a silver lining...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Total Craziness

Wow - I haven't bothered you guys in almost 3 weeks. You must have been hoping I'd gone away. No such luck. I've just been waiting for things to settle down a bit here so I could write and say that everything's all right, Rachel is behaving, Anna loves us, and all that. Unfortunately, I can't write that. Our house is looking a bit bizarre at this point, I must say. Sliding bolts on the outside of all the bathroom and bedroom doors (and the closets); a 4-year-old happily playing at the kitchen table while strapped to her chair with 2 velcro cargo straps; bathrooms stripped bare of any item that could conceivably be flushed down a toilet. Sort of an Addams Family feel, really. We have to lock Rachel into her room at night, as we discovered that she was getting up in the middle of the night and working on her "projects" in the boys' walk-in closet. Mounted stuffed animal heads, pillow-casing Halloween ghosts, you name it. And plugging up the powder room toilet on her way back to bed. Thank God she has never figured out where we keep the matches. Larry strips and searches her bed every night, to make sure there are no scissors, stuffed animal heads, or glue hidden there. Still, she manages to continue. Today she got hold of my hot-glue gun and, well, it wasn't pretty. Apparently, she had figured out how to use it by watching Theo mend some books that she had ripped the covers off of.

It didn't help that we had houseguests last week. We tried to warn them. Auntie Kate really wasn't happy to come back from a day of touring in DC to find her suitcase (the new one, with the lock) slashed open. I think that was the day Rachel got her hands on Theo's Swiss Army knife. Yes, she is a monster. And, yes, we are obviously totally incompetent as parents. If anyone would like to take her off our hands and demonstrate the proper way to raise her, feel free. Take my daughter....please.

Well, I could go on and on; but you get the idea. Tomorrow she starts preschool, and Larry and I can hardly wait. We've discussed warning Rachel's teacher, but what is the use? She'll never believe us. We'll probably just stick with Larry's plan; i.e., we'll drop Rachel off in her classroom, yell, "No backsies!" and run for the car.

Of course, we tried that with Anna at the middle school and she just keeps coming back. Oh, well. She spends her weekends actively loathing us all. At this point, the feeling is becoming mutual.

Happily, Halloween is approaching and I can try to immerse myself in preparations for the still-sane children in the family. Brian and David are both going as bats (see? Rachel is driving us batty), and Susie is going to be a nice fat pumpkin. Rachel unfortunately lost trick-or-treating privileges after the glue-gun incident today. Not that that will make a bit of difference in her behavior. I don't know what Anna is planning, as she isn't really speaking to me right now. Theo, for the first time, has declared himself as too old to trick-or-treat. Can driving be far behind?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Playing With Scissors

Well, Rachel seems to have put her toilet-stuffing phase behind her. Maybe we can just forget all those unhappy episodes, at least after Larry patches up the holes in the livingroom ceiling. The house is still habitable, after all; fortunately, my teenagers know where to find the shut-off valve for the upstairs toilet. I'm just glad we didn't have to call the plumber. It would have been hard to explain to him exactly why there were 3 large towels shoved into the toilet. As a matter of fact, we're having a hard time understanding it ourselves.

Unfortunately, Rachel has instead become obsessed with scissors. And, yes, we've hidden all of them, and, yes, I am watching her constantly. It's getting to the point where Larry dreads coming home from work, as he doesn't want to hear the latest Rachel exploit when what he really needs is a beer and some peace and quiet. I'm living some bad I Love Lucy episode - just picture Larry as Desi Arnaz, waving his alarm clock with the cord snipped in two and saying, "Looocy, you have some 'splainin' to do!" And I'm standing there, wringing my hands, and insisting, "I didn't take my eyes off her for a minute, Ricky!" Lately she's been laying off the electrical stuff in favor of what appears to be her true calling - amateur taxidermist. We've had to stow all the stuffed animals for safekeeping until Rachel stops decapitating them and mounting their heads on the wall as trophies. True, this seems to be a rather sophisticated prank for a 4-year-old; but our by now well-honed interrogation methods have exonerated both Brian and Theo. As for David, he was absolutely prostrate with grief over Froggy and Teddy Bear. He spent all of one evening sewing Teddy's head back on.

The scary part is, Rachel just will not stop. Every day, somewhere in the house, Larry or I will stumble upon mute witness to her obsession - nothing big, just a headless bear, say, with its arms sticking out as if to plead, "Help me!" And the head itself will be nowhere in sight. Because she hides them. Yes, that's right - she collects heads, so she can mount them later. Now, I've thumbed through many a child development book in my day; and I just don't recall seeing this sort of thing mentioned in "Your Child at Four" or "The Magic Years" or the like. She hasn't, of course, victimized her own animal, a very attractive white stuffed rabbit. So Larry, obviously feeling desperate, told her a few days ago that he would take Bunny away if he found another headless body. That's right, folks - "Stop it, or the rabbit gets it!" It probably would have been smarter for him to take Bunny hostage then and there; because the next day, there was another headless bear, and Bunny was nowhere to be found. Because Rachel hid it. Remember all the Bugs Bunny episodes where Elmer Fudd throws down his gun and jumps up and down with steam coming out of his ears as he says, "oooh, that wascally wabbit!"? That's what Larry looked like when he realized he'd been outsmarted by a 4-year-old. I must admit, I haven't laughed so hard in years.

We need to physically restrain Rachel, that's all. I would google "shackles (size small)," but I'm betting that the results would be as shocking as they were when I googled "slave costume" for Anna. Better yet, we could ship Rachel off to preschool; but I think the shackles would be cheaper than even one month's tuition. And I can only find half-day programs anyway.

Other children? Oh, yes, them....well, Anna still hates us. We're the worst parents ever. Compliment accepted. And let me point out that her father spent his weekend off painting her room the color she wants it. We should have painted it black. David has turned into a very helpful, competent young man; that is, when he isn't mourning yet another decapitated friend. Brian is 6 1/2 now, which can be an annoying age for little boys; but as anything he does pales in comparison with the deeds of his demonically-possessed 4-year-old sister, we still regard him as a positive addition to our family. Susie is enchanting, toddling around with her fat little legs and cute baby shoes. Of course, Rachel used to be enchanting, also. Theo used to be my right-hand man around here, but now he spends all his time taking pictures of Rachel's latest exploit or else trying to understand his Algebra text. Both our gardens are suffering monstrous neglect.

Well, it's time to get ready to celebrate Larry's birthday. He's 39 today; but, for some reason or other, he's been looking a lot older lately.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bad Craziness

I've lost track of the time, I've been so busy unstuffing toilets and pulling scissors out of Rachel's hands. What a little monster - she sneaked into Anna's room and tore the covers off 3 of her textbooks and hid the innards in Theo's bureau drawer. In case you're wondering why she did that, please think - could there possibly be any reasonable answer to that question? Of course not. And yes, she's been getting plenty of positive attention (in between punishments for her various misdemeanors) and yes, she still loves Susie. So you can all quit your amateur psychoanalyzing and accept the basic chaotic nature of the universe, all right? Sheesh.

Well, the basic chaotic nature of my universe, anyway.

In between all the craziness, I'm expected to start dreaming up Halloween costumes for everyone. The boys have informed me that they don't want to be pirates for the 4th year in a row. So we're going to make scarecrow costumes for them. That will be a piece of cake compared to what Anna wants - she and her best friend want to dress as Turkish harem girls (G-rated version, of course). We were looking for costume patterns and ideas on the web together (this was back when Anna was still talking to me, by the way). A word to the wise - never google "slave costume" while your teenage daughter is sitting at the computer with you.

It doesn't matter now, anyway - Anna has gone back to hating all of us all the time, so she's on her own for Halloween. Basically, we don't let her do what she wants whenever she wants - aren't we mean? I comfort myself with the thought that I have 2 other daughters who may grow up to love me (well, if Rachel isn't sent away to reform school). The oldest girl is just a prototype anyway - the beta model, if you will.

Our next-door neighbors are still trying to sell their house. They seem desperate to get away from us - they've already dropped the price 100,000 dollars. I blame the killer apple tree; Larry seems to think it has something to do with the junk heap of assorted plastic riding toys which populate our front patio. Or the childish screams emanating from the open front door all hours of the day and night. Or maybe Theo's mess of an experimental container garden littering the back deck. All of the above, perhaps? I guess when our neighbors paid almost half-a-million dollars for their place 2 years ago, they didn't expect to be living next-door to the Trailer Park Family from Hell. Real estate is full of surprises, isn't it?

Well, here's to October! I for one am looking forward to some real fall weather finally and the traditional autumn activities that go with it: drinking fresh apple cider, carving ridiculously elaborate jack-o-lanterns (we're going high-tech this year - we've got a CD-Rom of pumpkin patterns), and eating the kids' Halloween candy while they sleep. Especially Rachel's.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Well, I just can't seem to stop, can I? I'm going to make a serious effort not to mention toilets even once in this missive. I need the challenge.

We're hoping that Rachel has turned over a new leaf, but we're not counting on it. She was confined to her room at various times this past week and made to repeat ad nauseam the 3 rules: obey Mommy and Daddy, always tell the truth, and don't put things in the potty (darn, I blew it already); this approach only yielded mixed success, unfortunately. Part of the problem is that she may not have perceived it as the punishment it was meant to be. Seems I forgot that I had hidden the Halloween candy in her bedroom closet. That kid was having a party up there.

Anna is still in school, but the road seems a bit rockier. She tried out for the school play (Stuart Little) and wasn't accepted. I explained to her it was a compliment that she wasn't picked to be a mouse, or a bird, or a cat. She didn't fall for that. I didn't make her day any better by announcing that she couldn't go ice skating that evening with all her new school friends because she was being rude to me and Larry all week and we just weren't going to take it anymore. She worked on homework all weekend and seems a tad burned-out; but I keep reminding her that going to school is worth it. To me, that is. I love watching her realize that I'm not quite the evil taskmistress she had made me out to be. Let her get mad at someone else for a change. I'm enjoying my vacation.

The little boys are happier, too. Now they can sit around all day and pick their noses without Anna yelling at them. I've given up on the whole thing; just so long as they don't rub it on the furniture, that's all I ask.

I can't believe I just typed that. I'm in bad shape.

Larry took me out on a date tonight. He wanted to check out some Peruvian chicken place a colleague had recommended. Whatever - I don't care, as long as I'm not cooking it. So we pull up and it looks to be some South American version of KFC. Larry insisted on going in and was wanting to try it out anyway, but I put my foot down. Some advice to guys - if you're trying to do something special for your wife, a restaurant with paper crowns for the kids does not cut it. I would think most grown men would know that, but apparently not.

Larry may just have been befuddled because of his financial difficulties. Apparently, our phone company got confused and sent our fully-paid-up account to some debt-collecting agency in Minnesota. Larry got to talk to a very interesting gentleman there who had seems to have spent his formative years working for a loan shark. And I thought everyone in Minnesota was nice. I'm going to tell Garrison Keillor on him. Larry did manage to straighten everything out with Verizon; but the 10 hours he spent doing it must have taken its toll on his brain function (see above paragraph).

I lost my head at the Farmer's Market on Saturday and bought 2 bushels of apples. It seemed like a good idea at the time. So we've been making apple crisp and applesauce all weekend and trying to figure out what to do with all the peels and cores. Anyone out there have some livestock they need to feed?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

There are some weeks that defy description, that simultaneously beg to be written about and overwhelm the would-be writer with too much material. And,yes, this was one of those weeks. Where to start? Anna's first day of "real" school? Her best friend's advanced case of head lice? The eggshells in the basement bathroom toilet? I just don't know....

Anna fairly leapt onto the school bus for her first day of 8th grade, made several dozen friends, learned how to sit around and wait, and missed the bus on the way home. I graciously picked her up and, instead of inquiring as to how her day went, bluntly informed her that we were going home to "treat" her hair and hopefully not have to shave it off. I don't mess around. I hate insects. Hopefully, if she had caught it, we nipped it in the bud. All I can say is I really didn't need the 10 extra loads of laundry to do this week.

And speaking of about those ants? Any time I wasn't smearing louse-smothering lotion on children's heads or washing bed linens, I was vacuuming up ants in the kitchen and laying down bait and spraying the outside of our house. That is, when I wasn't cleaning up raw egg from the basement bathroom floor. Seems that Rachel took our saying, "Do not ever enter this bathroom again" to mean the opposite. She took downstairs a dozen eggs to stir around in the sink (and some margarine to spread on her play toast). She decided to use the toilet as a trash can (mind you, she had to break the lidlock on the toilet to do this). Of course, she wholeheartedly denied everything (actually, she suggested that Susie did it). And...well, never mind. I don't even want to talk about it. We comfort ourselves with the fact that at least she isn't setting small animals on fire. Talk about grasping at straws....

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Well, I can't let a week go by without bothering you folks. Actually, it's been pretty eventful around here. Larry and I came to the startling realization that if we sent Anna to school this year, she wouldn't be able to glare at all of us all day. She has expressed interest; so we figured she may as well see what it's like in 8th grade, so she can make an informed decision for high school. We checked out the school website for information on how to register her; unfortunately, it was full of indecipherable jargon along the lines of "actualizing your child's educational experience" and "areas of interaction," which is not helpful when you are simply trying to figure out who to talk to in an office full of bureaucrats. These people make Soviet apparatchniks look customer-driven. Actually, I'm not sure they are real people. What are those things called, avatars? I think the avatars just sit in for the real people - the real staff is at Starbucks, drinking lattes and inventing more educational-ese. Anyway, we managed to sign her up once, twice, and finally, after the third time, they got everything right. Anna is unspeakably thrilled about going to school and being in the company of other girls 7 hours a day. Of course, we haven't really told her everything. When I commented that she would be stuck on the school bus for half an hour every afternoon (we're actually only a 7-minute drive from the school), she said, "That's okay - I'll just get some of my homework done then." Some things are better to learn about on your own, aren't they? The pinnacle of our week would have been attending the new students orientation, but we arrived late and missed the school cheer. We picked up her schedule there (which we had to fix yet again) and bought a gym uniform (shorts and t-shirt - hey, they don't make the girls wear those goofy outfits anymore). Larry reprimanded me for making fun of the Civics teacher on the way home from the orientation. Is it my fault her name rhymes with "lobotomy"? And remember how when we were kids, it seemed the teachers dressed weird? They still do. Really. Apparently, we still aren't paying them enough to enable them to afford a full-length mirror at home.

Anyway, this should be an interesting year. Theo has redoubled his schoolwork efforts, to prevent our putting him in school too. Susie is walking everywhere now and enjoying it immensely. No one has put anything in the toilet for a whole week (I mean, except what belongs there). Larry took Brian and David on a 1-night camping trip and they had a blast.

You know, I love that word "avatar." Very useful.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Toilet Stuffing Redux

One week later....a new wrinkle in the toilet-stuffing saga....we discovered, once again, legos and toy trains in and on the toilet. Upon closer examination, we realized that the deed couldn't have been perpetrated by a 1-year-old (cue in Chariots of the Gods? music here)....there was an entire tableau being enacted; the potty was but a stage. A train track was perched precariously across the open seat, with a 3-car train apparently in the middle of a perilous journey across a watery chasm. Tragedy had occurred, in the shape of a lego person afloat below, in the jaws of a lego alligator. It was quite the stirring drama, really. Brian and Rachel swore up and down that they weren't guilty (they tried pinning it on the baby, little lying weasels). Larry had them clean it up and explained quite clearly that no one was to go in there at all. So, of course, a few days later, another little scenario of impending disaster appeared in and on the same toilet, apparently the work of a Duplo Poltergeist, as yet again no one around here would claim credit for it. Anna was considered briefly to be a possible perpetrator, as her 8th-grade English book (which had been missing) turned up at the scene of the crime (no, we don't know why, can't even begin to imagine why); but that notion was quickly dismissed as being too gross an activity for a 13-year-old girl. Theo was busy taking pictures. David was laughing too hard to be guilty. Brian and Rachel were both sent to bed without books and Brian, proclaiming his innocence, cried himself to sleep. I hope to God he didn't do it; if he did, he is the world's best and most brazen liar. Our temporary conclusion is that Rachel acted alone, but conspiracy theories still abound.

Who says life with kids isn't exciting? We just thank goodness no one tried to flush.

Okay, time to get my mind out of the toilet and come up for air. We took another day trip to the beach, and it wasn't even raining this time. It was fun, though it was so crowded in the water that it was hard to avoid bumping into someone. Anna didn't go this time (she had sewing camp), so we all actually got to ride in one vehicle. This was good, as I didn't have to drive; bad, because by the time we got there, Larry and I were already getting on each other's nerves. Marriage is for better or for worse, but not for 3 hours in the car discussing money and kids and not much else. I spent the next day trying to get all the sand out of the house and making our weekly pilgrimage to the library. Today, we did nothing. And it felt good.

Basil and zucchini are doing well in my garden. Cucumbers are trying to grow, I can tell, but nothing much has happened there yet. The tomato plants finally decided to grow instead of die, so we may get a tomato or two before first frost. The basil is almost ridiculous. I feel like the sorcerer's apprentice - those leaves just won't stop coming. I trim off a few branches and by the next day there are double the number in their place. The zucchini is also a bit eerie. One day there aren't any; the next, there's a zucchini the size of a baseball bat lying under all those leaves. The weeds are everywhere - it's only a matter of time before they take over. The situation reminds me of Napoleon trying to conquer Russia - a race between the invader and winter.

Susie is now walking, and she is enjoying it very much. She is also waking up several times a night and I have no idea how to make her stop, short of dosing her with sedatives every evening. I just discovered the emoticons function on my e-mail. Ever wonder what the Declaration of Independence would have looked like if Thomas Jefferson had used emoticons?

Wishing you life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Apparently, it is a lot of fun to drop things into toilets and hear them plop. Larry discovered that the basement toilet was chock full of Duplos. Upon realizing that Susie was using the toilet as a receptacle for any and all items she could carry, Larry and I told the kids to keep that bathroom door closed at all times, etc, etc. Our pleas fell on deaf ears; yesterday we found a jumprope trailing out of the same abused toilet. Maybe Susie was fishing for the phone she had left in there. Yup, that's where we finally found it. Apparently, aggressive interrogation techniques don't always yield accurate information - at least, not from 4-year-olds. So we aren't even bothering to ask Rachel where the new phone, the phone that I bought to replace the phone in the toilet, is. In fact, she's not even a suspect this time. Everyone but Theo and Anna was out of the house at the time of the disappearance. Which leads me to believe that my eldest 2 children are trying to make me insane. Anyway, we all get to go to Target tomorrow morning and buy yet another telephone. I'm getting pretty good at this. Everyone needs a hobby.

Garden? Don't ask.

Larry and Theo are off white-water rafting this weekend. And I'm here. Someday I hope to write that Larry is home with all the kids for a couple of weeks while I bicycle around the country with my friends. I assure you, we will be intelligent enough to have overnight accommodations that include chocolates on one's pillow and, of course, indoor plumbing.

Our pool season is officially over - the pool we frequent closes tomorrow, and there is no other pool nearby where I can successfully keep an eye on all the children and still relax. I have no idea what to do with the children for the rest of the summer. Eating ice pops is fun, but it is not a full-time activity. Nor is visiting Target. It seems that, after 14 years of taking care of young children, I am finished - I just cannot think of one single entertaining/educational/amusing activity with which to divert the little darlings from the fact that it is hot, humid, and boring around here. The thought of Anne Frank and her family hiding from the Gestapo in that attic for 2 years keeps popping into my head. We wouldn't have lasted a month. Maybe I'll just let the kids watch TV non-stop for 2 weeks. Or, better yet, someone should give us our own reality show - something akin to Survivor would be appropriate, don't you think?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Of Getaways and Birthdays

Larry and I got tired of sitting around this humid, boring burb while everyone else got the heck out of town; so, in a fit of heat-induced insanity, we decided that it would make sense to drive 3 full hours to the beach (with the kids - though we did consider leaving them home), pay 16 dollars for the privilege of parking at the state park seashore, play in the sand for several hours, and then pile back in the car and drive home. We implemented our plan before the delusion could wear off and - remarkably - survived relatively unscathed. Let's see - $100 in gas for 5 hours at the beach. That's 20 dollars an hour; but we need to divide that by 8, so it cost us only $2.50 an hour per person. What a deal! Of course, it was sort of drizzling part of the time, and pretty cloudy; but , hey, we saved on sunscreen. So, all in all, the trip was a success. And the kids are scared to ask about going to the beach again.

Rachel turned 4 today. She was very excited, naturally. Having been perfectly potty-trained for months, she celebrated her last day of being 3 by kicking over the traces, as it were, and pooping in her pants not once, but twice, and then peeing in the Chick-Fil-A indoor playground. We will never know why, and we accept that. Larry and I spent all of 10 dollars on her presents, and she thought they were great. I told Larry not to try that on my birthday.

Anna's birthday was also this week (she turned 13), but she refrained from pooping in her pants, thanks be to God. Larry took her and a few friends to a local water park (for the uninitiated, a huge pool with fun slides, etc. that costs a mint and is constantly overcrowded with screaming, shrieking children and their screaming, shrieking parents), along with 2 of her brothers. She claimed that the day would be ruined by the presence of her male siblings, and we said, and I quote, "Tough." Sometimes, you just gotta take a stand. She's very good at being 13, as she has been practicing all year.

Theo is being his usual problem-child self, looking disappointed if we don't get him to Chess club on time and forgetting to wipe down the stove properly after he cooks us all dinner. Kids these days.....

Our garden is going as well as can be expected, considering that I don't know what I am doing and that we seem to be living in a subtropical region that spawns gigantic life forms in the shape of weeds. All those cute little gardening tools I bought in July are basically useless - what I need is an honest-to-God machete. The zucchini are still thriving; unless, of course, those are weeds that I have only mistaken for zucchini. I can't tell.

Well, I've got to go tell Larry that our brand-new computer monitor is acting funny. Unless, of course, there are supposed to be those bright pink stripes running down the right-hand side of the screen. Maybe it's an expensive new feature....

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

All right - after one month of gardening, here is what I have learned:

Weed barrier...isn't.
Seed packets lie.

Gardening isn't some pleasant, pastoral, Sunday afternoon activity for little old ladies in funny hats. Gardening is war. Gardening is the ultimate battle for survival. And the weeds always win. Particularly the nasty weeds, the ones straight out of some sci-fi flick, complete with saber-like hard-to-see thorns growing all over their stems and leaves. Those plants are vicious. They are evil. Throwing a weed barrier over them is akin to wearing a raincoat to ward off radioactive fallout. I spent my birthday money on that (expletive deleted) weed barrier, and those weeds are eating it for breakfast.

I've got to calm down. Take it easy. Like my compost pile. It's just sitting there. I chop up what I throw in, I stir it every day; but those little pieces of celery leaves and onion skins and zucchini ends refuse to meld into anything even resembling rich, healthy soil. Perhaps I need more patience, but it seems to me that those flower seeds I tossed into one of my boxes and watered diligently aren't doing much of anything either. An entire packet of cutting-flower mix, and I've got 2 lousy sprouts to show for it. Nothing like the picture on the front of the packet. I see those bunches of beautiful flowers at the Farmers' Market and think, "I can't afford to spend 4 dollars every week on something I could grow myself." Well, I can't grow them myself; and I'm starting to think 4 dollars isn't a bad deal.

Zucchini, apparently, is easy to grow. That and the basil plants I bought from the farm are the only things that are thriving in my plot. The zucchini even survived a transplant, which is more than I can say of the cherry tomato plants that a pitying neighbor gave to me. They keeled over almost before I got them in the ground. They know when they're in the hands of an amateur.

I don't know - maybe it's the heat. I'm a tad discouraged.

On the homefront, things are going fairly well. We seem to be avoiding cabin fever by our trips to the pool and to Target; and when we are home, the children manage to amuse themselves in ways that (usually) don't involve whining. Today we whiled away our leisure hours looking for our cordless phone (which is different from a cell phone, but I don't know why). We noticed it missing yesterday evening, but our usual suspect was sound asleep and we weren't able to question her until morning. At first Rachel led us to believe that she had nothing to do with its disappearance; but after we got a little more aggressive with our interrogation tactics, we were able to pull the truth out of her. Unfortunately, by that time, the trash men had already come and gone; and I don't think I could have paid our kids enough to paw through the trashcans in 99-degree heat, anyway. I really liked that phone. Rachel claims she thought it was broken. So, we went to Target (again), where I bought a really cheap phone to replace it (hey, if they're going to be disposable, I'm not going to spend a lot of money). When we came home, I discovered that there was a flashlight and several pieces of chalk in the powder room toilet, a situation which I could have handled with more equanimity if Brian had only remembered to flush the last time he had been in there. So, we're keeping busy.

Oh, and Larry came home from work today with the killer stomach virus that he thought he had ducked by being in New Mexico while we all suffered. Just when you thought it might be safe to visit....

Friday, July 28, 2006

Larry and Theo have returned, at last, from their New Mexico adventure. They were starting to regale me with tales of the hardships they endured, but I upstaged them with graphic descriptions of the stomach virus we contracted while they were gone. Yes, another one. Unless it was food poisoning. I don't know. All I know is that I was left alone here with clean-up detail and Larry owes me big. On the bright side, all our bedding and slipcovers are now freshly laundered.

Our neighbors have a big For Sale sign in their front yard. I try not to take it personally, but I can hardly blame them. They're probably worried that the fertility is catching.

In case anyone is wondering just how long it takes me to kill a thriving parsley plant, the answer seems to be approximately 2 weeks. The basil plants refuse to die, despite my tender ministrations. The cucumber seeds and zucchini seeds and radish seeds I planted are all optimistically sprouting - they don't know they're doomed. The transplanted peppers and tomatoes are just sort of standing there, wilting. "Why bother?" they're thinking.

Rachel and Brian enjoy accompanying me to the garden for about, oh, 5 full minutes. Then it gets too hot. Or dirty. Or buggy. Did Laura Ingalls complain this much to her mother? Their first time there was typical: Brian started dancing around the way he does when he forgets to go potty before we leave the house. I solved that problem by having Theo (long-suffering eldest brother) instruct him in the manly art of peeing in the woods. Having gazed off in the distance to ascertain that that little project was going correctly, I turned around to find Rachel standing next to me with a puddle forming between her feet. Luckily, it was in someone else's plot.

We were supposed to take care of Theo's plot while he was gone, but I didn't have a machete handy to hack my way past the gate.

Before he escaped with Theo to New Mexico, Larry again outdid himself in the Dutiful Husband category by installing two structures next to my garden boxes for my tomatoes and cukes and zucchini to climb on once they grow big enough (yes, I am being super-optimistic here). He was probably hoping that this whole gardening scheme would blow over by the time he gets back from the hiking trip, and I would return to my usual method of foraging for fresh veggies at the grocery store or the local farm. But I just can't afford to lose face this time. If I have to, I'll buy vegetables at the farm and just tell him they came from my garden.

We are doing our best to make it to the pool as often as possible while we are healthy. It sure beats sitting around the house and listening to the children bicker at each other all afternoon. On non-pool days, we visit the supermarket or Target. It is nice and cold there and Susie enjoys riding around in the cart and the kids don't seem to notice that we have nothing to do.

Imagine - it's not even August yet.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"But It's Summer!"

It's a little soon for another newsletter; but I'm stuck sitting up with Rachel, who has an earache (we, uh, had another bout of cough/cold sickness here, wouldn't you know). Larry could sit up with her, but he's not here. He's in Oklahoma. Clever of him, wasn't it? This time he took Theo (aka my personal chef and pest exterminator) with him. They're headed for New Mexico to enjoy 6 glorious(?) days of hiking in summer heat with no showers or other 21st century conveniences. That man will do anything to get away from me, won't he? I glanced at the little booklet the Boy Scout reservation/camp puts out. It was filled with useful tidbits of info about hanta virus and rabies and (get this) bubonic plague. Considering the sort of year we have had, healthwise, I figure the chances are pretty good that Larry and Theo bring home some version of the Black Death.

So - this may be my last newsletter. I'll try to cram everything in here. Larry and I have a new favorite saying: "But it's summer!" It's an Anna quote, uttered in total shock and dismay when I explained to her she was grounded for the afternoon because she hadn't taken care of her laundry (yes, I'm mean). We can't wait until the next time someone asks, "What's for dinner?" "But it's summer!" we'll wail. Or, "Where's my allowance?" "But it's summer!" Yep, this handy phrase could turn out to be mighty useful.

Larry thinks that I'm going to drive all the way up to Maine in August for a fun week of not visiting any of the places that people normally go all the way up to Maine for in the summer. Instead, we're going to sit in a town 10 miles west of Augusta and pretend we don't want to visit the beautiful Maine coast. Bar Harbor, Mt. Desert Island, Acadia National Park - who needs 'em? We can visit Lake Oochee-Goochee near his sister's house and play on the pseudo-beach. Over my dead body. I'm making (expensive) reservations while he's away. I'm not suffering in a car for 12 hours to relive all that, um, fun I had at Christmas.

You know, we do have some very nice beaches a mere 3 hours or so from our house. I think it's that New Englander's need to suffer (read Ethan Frome) that explains Larry's predilection to travel much farther than we need to, to have way less fun than we could have. Read that sentence twice, and it might make some sense. I'm getting pretty tired here. Rachel's asleep, but I'm scared to move her; she could wake up and scream for another hour, and I just don't think I could take that right now. These kids are wearing me down, bit by agonizing bit. And now I hear the baby stirring. So much for a quiet evening.

Until next time...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Beware The Madness

Well, the madness has struck again. Every few years I get this inane idea that I can manage a small garden - you know, in my spare time. After all, with only 6 children, I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs a lot. I've read my square-foot gardening book (new and improved), I'm next in line (finally) for one of those organic gardening plots down the road from my house, I've got 6 hungry children to feed. I can do it! Think Victory gardens, think Little House on the Prairie, think about anything but the fact that every other time we've tried this, we've suffered abysmal failures (not to mention that I seem to wind up pregnant each summer we're responsible for one of those plots). This will be the year that we troop down the road, a merry little band of fresh-faced children with their indefatigable(?) matriarch, to pick green beans and lettuce and tomatoes and bring it all home for our supper. Never mind that year that the vine-borers destroyed our promising pumpkin crop and made the children cry. Forget about the watermelon patch that yielded one precious melon which rotted because I didn't have the sense to pick it in time. Totally disregard the fact that by August the mosquitoes get so bad no one dares go near the garden for fear of being eaten alive.

Larry is being amazingly tactful about this plan, considering my record of gardening failures. He seems to accept that this bout of mania needs to run its course before we can get back to living our lives sans horticulture. I don't think he really wanted to spend his day off spreading a weed barrier over our newly acquired garden plot and sawing and hammering wood in the 95-degree heat to construct the garden boxes for me. He probably didn't enjoy hauling the bales of peat moss and bags of planting mix out there either. But he did it. That man has what it takes to stay married, I'll tell you.

And did I mention our compost pile? Recycling at its best. Just throw in all those carrot peels and celery leaves and whatever else; and, with any luck at all, it won't all just sit there and rot the way it has all the other times I've tried this. Anyway, the children are very enthusiastic about the entire enterprise; well, except Anna, who is only too happy to stay home and watch the baby rather than help weed. Works for me, works for her.

Results? Well, so far we have 4 basil plants, 1 parsley plant, and 1 cilantro (all purchased elsewhere) growing happily. It's been a whole 2 days and they're not even dead yet. Pretty good, huh? Maybe if I succeed, we'll all be eating more healthily and we can avoid being sick all the time. Although we haven't been doing too badly lately. I mean, aside from that unfortunate vomiting incident of Rachel's on our not-so-glorious 4th, I think it has been almost 2 weeks since one of us was laid low with any mysterious ailments. And Rachel didn't really need to go see those fireworks anyway.

Well, I've got to go mulch (whatever that is).


the Hapless Gardener

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Chicken Pox and Birthday Wishes

Okay - mid June - how the heck did that happen? I don't even know where to start. Maybe I won't even bother - I don't really want to remember it, anyway. So skip it. Here we are, and it is finally summer - as in, hot and humid and smelling yucky. But, hey, the mosquitoes aren't too bad yet. And our airconditioning is working (unlike, oh, about 3 weeks ago during a brief heat wave that happened to coincide with Brian's and Rachel's cases of chicken pox). But, no - I'm not going to talk about it. And what's 275 dollars between friends, anyway? Because that's what that airconditioning repairman is - he's my friend. Even if it did take him 4 days to show up, and Brian and Rachel were both prostrate on the couch, each in front of his/her own fan. Fans only move that humid air around, by the way. They make you think you can breathe, but it's an illusion. And they make your sweat feel a little cooler. But that's it. So I love the airconditioning repair guy. And so do my neighbors, because they finally got their fans back.

So now it's summer (let's get back on track here). Summer in these parts is really more an endurance test than a season. I sit here and think, "Okay, I've just got to survive these next 3 months." That's all. 3 months. Of course, if you extrapolate that out to all the years of your life (which I have time to do, as I sit around just surviving), that's one fourth of my life here. One fourth of my life spent hiding inside because it is too disgusting and mosquito-ridden to go outside. Is that any way to live? The only bright spot is the pool. There are no mosquitoes at the pool, and the children are happy at the pool, and we eat popsicles there and generally pretend that summer is still fun. But only at the pool. Because as soon as we step outside its sacred confines, life once again resembles one of those circles in Dante's Inferno, and I think, "Just 3 months..."

Larry, of course, has the right idea. He and Theo are taking off for New Mexico for 2 weeks in July, where they will be hiking at some Boy Scout Reservation and generally roughing it. At least, that's what they tell me. Maybe they'll actually be lounging by some hotel pool in the hot but arid Southwest and making up stories to tell me when they get home about how they ate nothing but beef jerky and dehydrated lizards for 14 days. Larry says the cell phone won't work where they're going. Oh, yeah. Good one. And then they'll come home with whatever plagues they've picked up out there, because Lord knows, we don't want to go an entire calendar month without some weird sickness laying low the entire family. That would be just too boring. The last hiking trip Theo went on, he brought home some sort of stomach flu. That was nice. It's all sort of a blur, mixed up with that heat wave and the broken AC and the chicken pox. Larry was all sympathy for me, of course. He came home from work to find me practically comatose on the couch (I believe I had a pen in my hand and was trying to scratch out a last will and testament on the coffee table) and had the temerity to ask, "Does this mean you're not coming to Anna's flute recital this evening?" That warm, fuzzy feeling from Mother's Day sure doesn't last long, does it?

Was I complaining again? I have to stop that. Things are looking up. Susie is almost done with her chicken pox and we finally managed to celebrate David's birthday (a week late) and we even contrived to throw in some Father's Day festivities to boot. My birthday is in 2 days (ahem), but at this point my sincerest wish is that everyone just leave me alone. In the airconditioning, of course. With a nice box of chocolates and a good book. While Larry and the kids clean the house from top to bottom and throw out all the extra crap they have lying around. Ah, paradise...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

More of the Same

I'm thinking of renaming this sporadic blog "My Journal of the Plague Year." That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Since I last wrote, we've managed to contract both the real flu and the stomach flu. Any time now, the CDC should be sending men up here in hazmat suits to officially declare our house a hot zone. Currently, having run out of viruses to catch, I am suffering from a bacterial infection on one side of my face (very attractive). "Cellulitis," I heard the doctor mutter, with a look in her eyes I didn't quite like. So I went home and looked up cellulitis. A piece of advice - never scroll to the bottom of these disease pages and check out the "Possible Complications"; it's a hypochondriac's nightmare.

Despite the obvious danger, Grandma C and Auntie Kate showed up for their annual week-long visit on Tuesday. Maybe those CDC guys should leave a couple of complimentary hazmat suits for them. We're enjoying our traditional sewing/knitting/crocheting frenzy with Auntie Kate; she even has Brian sitting there, poking a needle and thread through some scraps of fabric. Grandma isn't repeating herself quite as much as usual, because she keeps falling asleep.

Brian's birthday was this past week, and he spent many hours making plans for the big day. Most of the plans revolved around food - you'd think he didn't get to eat the rest of the year. I love 6-year-olds. His dearest desire was to go to the McDonald's with the outdoor playland - so we did. Anything to avoid having to throw a real party.

Rachel is in big-girl underpants now. Miracles never cease. Now if she would stop waking up every other night screaming that her bottom hurts, we would really be getting somewhere. Either something is very wrong with her, or I am sleepwalking in there and spanking her in my sleep. Anything is possible. Susie has likewise decided that there is no real reason to sleep all night. Don't they realize I need to live long enough for them to grow up?

In case it seems that I have accomplished nothing these past few months (aside from dosing little people repeatedly with over-the-counter meds and complaining to anyone who would listen), I would like to announce that, since mid-January, I have lost over 20 pounds (being ill doesn't hurt the weight-loss effort - there's my silver lining). Larry didn't even seem to mind paying all that money for Weight Watchers. He is going to mind all the money I'm going to spend on new clothes, however. So much to wear, so little time...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sick, Sick, Sick

That's right, it's been a while - we've been mighty busy the past month or so catching every cold and flu virus available in our geographical area. We hate to miss out on anything. I feel like a nurse on a hospital ward, walking around every evening dispensing decongestants, painkillers, and/or cough medicine to people in various stages of sickness. I've purchased so much Sudafed in the past 2 months that I expect the local narcotics squad to come busting down our door any time now in search of the methamphetamine lab I am obviously supplying. Every once in a while we stagger out to the library, pay all our overdue fines, and stagger back home with a pile of books to last through the next illness. Larry seems to have ducked a lot of it, somehow; I guess it pays to sleep at the office.

Brian lost his first tooth. I mean, really lost it - apparently he swallowed it and didn't even notice it was missing for hours. We had to write a note to the Tooth Fairy requesting his quarter anyway. She (he?) was very understanding about the situation.

Both Rachel and Brian are theoretically learning to swim. I have a feeling that these little-kid swim lessons are simply a way of plucking yet more money from the pockets of hapless, clueless parents such as Larry and me. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Rachel knows how to dance (she wanted me to tell you that). She also knows how to talk nonstop until I want to lock her in a closet just to turn off the sound. It's a good thing little girls look cute.

David got the flu with a particularly vicious sore throat and ingested nothing for 3 days but Jello and cranberry juice. I have a feeling that he will look back fondly on that time as the best days of his youth. Now he is back to his peculiar set of food neuroses that are apparently calculated to drive me over the edge. Good thing he doesn't know that Theo and I found a bug in the snow peas as we were stringing them this afternoon.

Anna vacillates between hating me and being my best friend. Nothing like living on a rollercoaster for the next 6 years.

Theo is having a hard time getting his schoolwork done, what with sitting around reading seed catalogs all the time and letting lettuce seedlings crowd out all the workspace on his desk. Or else he spends his time prepping and cooking dinner. Yup, the teenage years are pretty rough around here (permit me to gloat while I can - we're in for it with Anna - see above).

Who have I left out? Oh, the baby. Susie's been experiencing baby boot camp lately. Scheduled naps, scheduled bedtime, no nursing at night - it only took me 6 kids to figure it out. I told Larry that now that we have what it takes to keep these babies in line, we can have 6 more. Now that I think of it, that may be why he's sleeping at the office.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

January Blues

Well, the post-vacation euphoria has worn off, to be replaced by the winter sickness blues. We seem to have 2 versions of the plague moving (slowly) through our house. You know your weekend isn't going to go as planned when you're informed in the middle of your leisurely Saturday morning shower that someone has thrown up outside the bathroom door. I was able to duck that one by staying in the shower until Larry had cleaned up the mess (hey, I had conditioner in my hair, all right?); but I had to handle the next episode, because Larry was hiding in the basement again. On top of it all, the baby is teething; she may also be sick, but we can't tell, as she still doesn't know how to talk.

We're excited because the Verizon guys are coming tomorrow (once we take the QUARANTINE sign off our door and hide it) to install an Internet connection that is faster than, say, 2 horsepower per kilobit, or whatever it is that we have now over our phone line. Actually, these Verizon guys were here a month ago; but it turns out that they are the "inside" guys (as they patiently explained to us), and they can't do their work until the "outside" guys have shown up. Tiny little mix-up on Verizon's part, but I do think we would have gotten faster remedial action if Larry had followed my suggestion and held the inside guys hostage until the work was done. Nobody ever listens to me around here, however.

Larry's been having fun working out the yearly budget, and he's starting to get that wistful look in his eyes - you know, the one that says, "Why couldn't I have married someone with marketable skills instead of a baby factory?" Too late now, sweetie. It doesn't help that our gas bill doubled, and our electric bill increased by 50%. It also doesn't help that our kids insist on eating 3 square meals a day. Spoiled, I tell you.

Our local library is still letting us in, despite our embarrassing book habits. Everytime we go to check out, it turns into a 15-minute ordeal of being reminded of which books are still out, which are overdue, how many are on hold, and haven't we mentioned our 50-book limit on the library card, ma'am? This time I thought I had it well planned out - Theo and Anna both used their own cards, so as not to impinge on my 50-book allotment. We still went over the limit. Each week I walk in there, I expect to see a police officer standing by the circulation desk, handcuffs at the ready. It didn't help last week when I accidentally shushed a librarian who was speaking too loudly near my sleeping baby. I wonder how many people have ever had to tell a librarian to pipe down?

David and Theo have joined a chess club. Anna didn't want to join because you are not allowed to talk while you are playing. In her words, "What's the point?" We may have just hit on the primary reason that the world of chess grand masters is dominated by men. Anyway, David comes home and teaches Rachel (well, he tells her where to move - I don't think she's learning anything). She likes to capture his pieces so she can play with them. They make a nice sound when she jingles them together in the skirt of her dress. I'll bet that isn't allowed at chess tournaments either.

Well, I've rambled long enough - it's time to go see if Susie will let me put her down in her crib. Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream....