Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sugar Babies

I have to say (again) that it is astonishing how many people are (still) googling "tornado costume." And the folks googling it this afternoon are really under the wire, as it were. I should give them the idea we finally came up with, since Brian has decided (are you ready for this?) that he wants to go as a bat after all. A bat. Not a tornado. Larry and I are definitely going to eat that kid's candy first.

So here we are, Halloween day, and the kids are already so sugared up that they can't see straight. For starters, I totally ran out of breakfast comestibles; so I fed them apple pie for breakfast. Then, they spent an hour this morning stuffing candy into treat bags (don't ask why we bother doing that - tradition, all right?) while freely sampling it to make sure it was okay. Later, Rachel bumped her head somehow and got a popsicle, so Brian and Susie had sympathy popsicles - the really junky kind that come in a box of 800 for 2 dollars and are comprised of food coloring and sugar and water. I think I managed to fit some real food in there for lunch, but my friend brought over ghost-shaped marshmallow thingies for dessert. Like bringing coals to Newcastle...

So...only 3 more hours to trick-or-treat. The baby has been screaming for candy pretty much non-stop today, and I myself am on Almond Joy overload. Now everyone is just dancing around in their costumes and asking when they can go out. Even jaded Anna is dressed up (and not as Medusa, as Theo had suggested). Whew - I don't know how much more of this I can take. I didn't even bother planning dinner. Nothing like making the kids sit down and eat something healthy when every other minute someone is at the door asking for candy. It's like trying to have a Weight Watcher's meeting at the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

David's robot costume came out great. All we had to do was cut some armholes in a box and cut a few pieces of dryer duct whaddayacallit, and he did the rest (which, um, fulfills my definition of a great costume, I guess - when the kid does the work). Rachel is a fairy princess or whatever you call a person wearing a very pink, floaty dress with a pointy pink hat. And toddling Susie is a round little pumpkin. But she refuses to put any clothes on underneath the pumpkin costume. Which makes it fairly risque (I mean, for a pumpkin) - spaghetti straps that tie into bows on the shoulders and nothing on the legs. Aside from the fact that I worry she will be too cold, I don't want to be one of those accused of sexualizing little kids' Halloweens. One minute they're innocently dressing as almost naked pumpkins; and before you know it, they're pole-dancing for college spending money. It's a slippery slope, isn't it?

Theo is thinking of dressing up, too - as a plumber (what can I say? Rachel's antics last year have really inspired him, career-wise). Why should he go to college, he wonders, if he can make all that money fixing toilets?

Time to go whip up some chocolate bars for dinner.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rite of Passage

Okay, let's just try to forget about Halloween and tornado costumes and half-eaten bags of candy pumpkins that the trick-or-treaters are never going to see - just for a little bit, okay? The holiday excitement here has reached a fever pitch, and I need a little break.

So....Sunday I took my son Theo out with his brand-new driver's permit. Theo is my oldest, which means that this was a brand-new experience for me. Nothing, I mean, nothing - not getting married, not giving birth, not realizing that you like to go to sleep by 9:30 - nothing makes you feel as suddenly, irretrievably aged as putting your first-born baby boy behind the wheel of an honest-to-goodness motor vehicle. My brain essentially flipped itself inside out trying to comprehend how, in a time span encompassing approximately 15.8 seconds, I went from trying to figure out how to buckle in Theo's infant car seat to showing him how to adjust the driver's side mirror. I know you parents out there who have already been through this are smirking and saying, "Novice!", just as I do when I read about some young parent worrying about how to make a 2-year-old behave; but, dear Lord, how did this happen? Where did the time go? How did I get so old?

Okay, okay, I'm going to calm down. I am glad to report that I only slammed on the imaginary brake once (okay, twice) during the entire 2-hour session. Although I noticed, once I pried my clenched fingers off it, that the passenger-assist handle that Honda thoughtfully places above the passenger-side door seems to have worked itself a bit loose. Theo had a great time and asked lots of questions, such as "If the speedometer goes up to 120, does that mean the car can go that fast?" (Over your dead body) and "Gee, can we go out on the road now?" (No, not until you learn to stop the car before the stop sign). And the whole time I was thinking, "There are 5 more kids after this one. I cannot survive this." We did leave the nice, big, safe parking lot to go out on the road (the very untrafficked side roads) at the end, with me praying that he wouldn't slam into someone's parked Volvo or Lexus (we live in an affluent neighborhood, and no, I don't know why they let trailer trash like us own a home here, either). I didn't let him go over 25 mph (let's face it, it's my one and only chance to control how he drives). We made it home, in one piece and undented, but I feel as though I aged 10 years.

I have a child that drives. I am officially old.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Problem Solved

Larry attempted to construct a wearable tornado for Brian yesterday. Not wanting to get in the way, I took Theo out in the car with his brand-new driver's permit (that's another post - I haven't gotten to the point where I can talk about it yet.) Anyway, we came home, 2 hours and one undented car later (whew!), to find Larry and Brian gone, and a heap of tangled plastic fencing lying on the living room floor. I correctly deduced that Plan A had failed and that they had gone off to Home Depot to purchase materials for Plan B (have I mentioned that we spend more on Halloween than we do on Christmas around here?). Anyway, they returned bearing....weed barrier. Yup. I must have looked a little concerned, because Larry said, "See? No problem - we'll just wrap this stuff around him and we'll have a tornado!" Okay.

10 minutes later, poor little Brian (peering uncertainly out of the small space left for his face) looked as though he was wearing a burka. Or maybe he was trying to dress like a mummy wearing a burka. "Don't worry," Larry reassured me. "Once we tape a few plastic animals and some toy cars to it, it will look like a tornado." At this point I had to say, "Um, no, it will look like someone wearing a burka with toy animals and cars taped to it. And someone will think we are making some weird political statement about American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. So, I don't think so..."

Apparently, this was just the out Larry was looking for, because he sort of threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed, "Fine! You figure something out then!" May I just point out here that Larry was the one who encouraged Brian in his tornado imaginings? I wanted the kid to be a bat, a costume we already have.

Are irreconcilable costume differences ever stated as grounds for a marital breakup? I wouldn't be surprised.

Anyway, I dashed out to Michael's for a dollar's worth of posterboard and we cut out sort of a tornado shape to hang around Brian's neck and explained to him that we would glue the toy animals and cars onto that, and that's when he started to cry. And he asked why we couldn't make the costume the way he wanted to do it. Which was, it turns out, devastatingly simple. And, no, I don't know why neither of us asked him in the first place.

So on Wednesday night, Brian will go out happily attired in the aforementioned bat costume, with cotton balls taped all over the hood (it's a cloud, see?) and animals and cars and such taped all over the cape/wings and he'll be able to twirl around and pretend he is a tornado, and that is all he ever wanted to do in the first place. And, boy, do we feel stupid.

Maybe I can e-bay the plastic fencing and the weed barrier, and buy Larry some beer with the money. Then maybe he'll start talking to me again.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Butterflies are made to fly....

Well, I seem to have tapped into some cultural zeitgeist for Halloween here. You would not believe how many people out there are googling "tornado costume" (and landing on my blog). Larry's still working on the costume concept here - he hauled home some heavy-duty plastic fencing from Home Depot. I think chicken wire would have been more malleable, but Larry said it was too sharp. To which I said, "So?" These kids should suffer a little for all that candy, don't you think so?

Where was I? Oh, yes, so today Larry was attempting to demonstrate how he was going to make this not very bendy fencing into a tornado costume by wrapping it around Brian's body, like so (and here he executed a very interesting pirouette while attempting to surround himself with the aforementioned material and I still can't believe I didn't have the camera handy). It's always a little scary when Larry takes over the costume design. Maybe it's a guy thing, but he heads to Home Depot instead of Michael's and tends to end up constructing costumes that are, well, very heavy-duty. The year Anna (age 8 or so) wanted to be a butterfly is a good example. Larry obtained some very heavy cardboard and cut out wings and spray painted the whole thing yellow and black (he even studied a picture of a tiger swallowtail in our butterfly book for guidance); in short, he worked a long time and made some very impressive-looking butterfly wings which spanned about 3 feet across and over 2 feet from top to bottom. He then proceeded to fasten them to Anna's little back by securing them with some heavy duty cables around her tiny waist, at which point, of course, she burst into tears. Because the costume didn't exude that flitty, floaty butterfly effect that she was after. She ended up wearing it (what choice did she have, after all the work that went into it?), but we had a real problem with her knocking smaller trick-or-treaters over with the wings as she turned around on people's front steps. And she never dared ask to be a butterfly again.

So, I'm really curious to see what Larry comes up with this time. Whatever it is, you can rest assured that it will be sturdy. And original. Stay tuned....

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Waiting for the Weekend?

It's raining! Yes! The kids are outside with their raincoats and boots (all except Susie, who is protesting the boot concept), checking out all the puddles. And I'm inside, with the door locked (just kidding). Peaceful, that's what it is in here - downright peaceful. Ahhhh........

Susie just had a moment of severe panic - she couldn't find her arm. It was somewhere inside her dress, but she didn't know that. And it was hard to help her fix it, because she was so distraught and I was laughing so hard. It's hard being 2 years old, you know. Reminds me of when Brian was 4 and couldn't get through the day without some sort of weird crisis - like the time he dropped his pants in the potty. That sort of thing doesn't happen much to grown-ups. So the next time you think your day is difficult, remember poor Susie and her missing arm.

I was felled by a severe migraine (severe, as in, if I could have found an ax, I would have chopped my own head off) last night, leaving Larry to supervise the post-dinner clean-up, read the bedtime stories, brush the teeth, and handle the zillion and one crises that tend to occur between dinner and bedtime. Then he arose at 7 this morning so that he could stand in line at DMV before it opens so that he can renew his driver's license. Yes, he's having a great weekend so far....why do you ask?

And now I'm planning to ask him for the afternoon off to go scrapbooking - poor guy. But I'm sure he'll get me back tomorrow, by embarking on some household renovation project that will require half the day in Home Depot and the other half rummaging around the utility room looking for stuff he needs. We do try to torture each other equally - this is, after all, a modern marriage.

Maybe I should go feed somebody - they're starting to forage for food that may have been dropped on the floor. I'm suffering breakfast fatigue lately - oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal, cold cereal, oatmeal, oatmeal, bagels, oatmeal.....we used to do scrambled eggs sometimes, but no one has a stomach for them after Susie's recent vomiting incident outside the science museum. Breakfast ideas, anyone?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Sleep Saga Continues

As any of you experienced parents out there know, our story didn't end with getting the toddler to bed at 10:30 last night (by whacking her over the head with a rubber mallet). No sirree, Bob! (I've always wanted to write that.) She woke up at her usual time this morning, which meant that by about 4:30 this afternoon (because of course I wasn't going to let her nap), she was a sleep-crazed little animal who was simultaneously screaming to be put to bed and refusing to let me touch her. It was very sad. She finally yelled herself to sleep a little after 5, before I could get any dinner down her. Which means, of course, that she will be up at 2 or 3 in the morning, hungry as all get out. This is known as the messed-up-sleep-routine domino effect, and it takes a few days to blow itself out. Like a hurricane, only less fun.

Those of you who are still childless can avoid this problem by getting yourselves fixed and only adopting a child who is 4 years or older. This solution may strike some of you as being a tad draconian, but such desperate measures are definitely warranted if you entertain any hopes of remaining sane through your declining years. Take it from me, chronic sleep deprivation can really mess with your brain cells.

Enough already! Things aren't all bad. I managed to escape this evening and go to a friend's house for a Pampered Chef party. (Yes, that is how I socialize, and yes, I am the middle-aged suburbanite loser I had sworn never to become.) I had a great time. I drank so much Diet Pepsi, I'm surprised my friends let me drive home (let's face it - after all those pregnancies, I just don't hold my urine the way I used to). But I managed to drive all the way back to my house without peeing in the car; I even got a little bit of mental exercise listening to some talking heads on the radio pontificating over the implications of our prolonged drought. The discussion may have been irrelevant, considering I was driving through a torrential downpour.

I know, I know - you all want to hear about Anna, the teenage girl from heck. Well, I took her to Target today; so she is actually talking to me again. I don't expect that to last, but it is providing a nice respite from the hostilities. She also made us apple pie. So things aren't all bad.

Well, time to get to bed before Susie wakes up looking for the dinner she missed. Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Breaking Point

Susie spent the entire day with her arms around my neck or screaming. Except when I broke down after lunch and gave her a nap, which means that she will be up until 10 this evening. I am about to snap. I can see the headlines now - "Mother Charged With Leaving Toddler at Bus Stop; Lawyer Plans 'Justifiable Abandonment' Defense."

We had a case in the local news recently of a woman putting one of her kids in the car trunk during a longish road trip. While the dog sat up front. Maybe I've been a parent too long, but I don't see the problem with that. The dog doesn't bicker. The dog doesn't make weird sounds at a younger sibling until s/he cries. The dog doesn't insist on a McDonald's with a Playland. I can see where a parent could get to the point where the child needs to ride in the waaay back. Just punch a few air holes, you know? That mother had had enough, and she snapped. Like I am about to do right now, if this child does not stop standing on my kneecaps.

I'm okay, really I am. It's just been a long day. Longer than most.

Larry is getting home from work just in time to gulp down a late dinner and to accompany David and Brian to Cub Scouts. His evening's shot already - I might as well foist wide-awake Susie off on him. No reason for us both to suffer. And it beats leaving her at a bus stop.

Later, Much Later: It's now 10:15, and that child is still awake. I am never, ever letting her nap again.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Singular Accomplishments

Today, while my wonderful next-door neighbor let my 3 youngest kids play in her house, I managed to wipe down the fronts of the kitchen cabinets, one section of the kitchen floor, half the stovetop, and the outside of the kitchen garbage can. Go me! Then I ran up the staircase and danced around with my hands in the air, with the theme of Rocky playing in my head.

Frightening, isn't it?

You know, after 16 years of raising little kids, everything smells like pee. I think my olfactory sense has been permanently damaged. Or it could be that I missed cleaning up after one of Sarah's many accidents. She claims she's scared of the potty. Do you think she'd go for a litter box? I could even teach her to scoop it herself.

Larry and I did our bit to contribute to global warming by leaving the oven on all night. So, if scientists find another hole in the ozone this week, you can blame us. We're responsible for the overpopulation problem too, though I guess you knew that already.

Wait - are those 2 separate issues - the global warming and the ozone thing? Wasn't the ozone problem caused by aerosol cans? Or is it back? I can't keep my environmental catastrophes straight anymore. No wonder I didn't win the Nobel prize last week. Although if they had a prize for Seat-of-the-Pants Parenting, I would definitely be a contender.

I'm just making this up as I go along; feel free to stop me at any time.

The boys' room finally smells normal (I mean, for a boys' bedroom); and I discovered that the disgusting smell in my kitchen (which was bothering me so much I couldn't even write about it) was caused by the rotting bag of potatoes in the cabinet under the sink. I was wondering why no one was dropping by anymore....

I just noticed that my calendar is still on September. I'm living in the past. I've got to go catch up. Talk to you later...

Caught Napping

Got my nap. Anna tried to ruin it by coming in at the beginning and demanding to know why she wasn't being allowed to go somewhere just because she was 3 weeks behind in schoolwork; so I explained to her how, if you want someone to grant you a favor, it's a bad idea to ask for the favor during that person's much-coveted nap time. She wasn't up to grasping this level of subtlety, so I had to resort to saying, "Get out of my room right now. " And she did. And my nap was great.

It's pathetic, but that was the highlight of my day yesterday. And today's highlight was my trip to IKEA. I meet a friend there a couple of times a year and we catch up on things and walk around and look at and discuss just about every single item in the store. Spending 4 hours like that is my husband's idea of a nightmare. Which is why I go with my friend instead.

I finally found a prepaid cellphone company that isn't going to make me buy a zillion minutes to get the cheap rate. Meaning we can keep our cellphone bills down to 400 dollars a year. That's less than 35 dollars a month for 4 cellphones, for the math-impaired out there. And there's no way a teenager can run the bill higher - when those minutes are gone, they're gone! We just have to keep the phones out of Rachel's grasp. There is always the chance she'll have a relapse and start flushing them again.

I've spent the last 10 days or so wondering why the boys' room still smells like barf. Today I finally got around to checking under the bed in there and...well, I guess Swiffering vomit isn't as effective as I thought. So I spritzed the whole area with Windex (only cleaning agent I could find) and wiped it all down (by hand this time) and then I went over the entire area with Lysol wipes. And it still smells in there.

Theo is sitting in the living room giggling (if a teenage boy can giggle, that is) over the ballpoint pen that Anna snapped in half in a fit of pique this evening. Girls are so cute, aren't they? Theo is planning to bring it in to chess club as exhibit A of "Why you may not want to date my sister..."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sleeping In Isn't What It's Cracked Up To Be

I was trying to sleep in (i.e., past 6 AM) this morning and I was having a nightmare that I was somewhere with Rachel and she kept talking and talking, saying the same things over and over, and I was trying to tell her to stop but I couldn't speak above a teeny-tiny whisper no matter how hard I tried, and Rachel was yammering away, so I started slapping her on the face to get her attention (it wasn't real - calm down) and it didn't work and this dream went on and on and on until I was feeling even more irritated than I feel in real life when Rachel yammers incessantly (because in real life I can yell at her to cut it out) until I finally woke up (whew!); but the voice from my dream was still going, right next to me.

This completely freaked me out until I managed to open my eyes and realize that Susie was lying beside me and singing (happily) into my ear. And, no, I didn't slap her. But I do think I am owed an hour's nap sometime today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Hillary Clinton Envies Me

After an entire day of being sick, Anna woke up yesterday morning and was downright pleasant to her siblings. It was scary, because it means that the real Anna is trapped in that teenager's body somewhere, and she can't get out. Not for any real length of time, anyway. All day, as she got better and better (physically), she got worse and worse, demeanor-wise. But it was nice for at least 2 hours. I've got to take what I can get.

I was a good mother and made chicken soup for my recovering sickie. Now we're just waiting for David and Larry to come down with this bug. I wish they would hurry up, because my best friend refuses to come into my house until they do.

I managed to escape for 2 whole hours this evening to attend a Stitch 'n' (I'm not a prig, I just don't want to lose the G-rating on this blog) near my house. Everyone was nice there; in fact, I've yet to meet a nasty knitter. People were showing off their expensive sock yarn; they even let me (a perfect stranger) fondle it. (Believe me, if you had seen it, you'd have wanted to fondle it, also.) Then I went back to knitting with my $2.50-a-skein-with-the-40%-coupon yarn that I buy at the local Michael's. And they didn't even reject me. Whew - I guess snobby knitters are rare, also.

It has forgotten how to rain. That is the only explanation for the weather we are having here. The plus side of our drought is that we haven't been tormented by Asian tiger mosquitoes all summer and fall; the down side (and you knew there had to be one, didn't you?) is that some weird species of cricket is moving into everyone's basements and utility rooms looking for water. Good Lord, I hate bugs. Especially ones that jump and can land in my hair. It's a girl thing.

I still haven't figured out how to turn Brian into a tornado for Halloween, and none of you are any help. And, yes, I know that it would be fun to glue little plastic animals and houses and cars all over the outside of his costume - but I need the body of his costume first. Somehow, I don't think that even the God Google can help me. We've got the hat figured out, at least - something that we can glue cotton all over and pretend it's a cloud. Now, don't steal that idea. It's ours.

Chicken soup, yarn, bugs, costumes - yes, I lead a breathtakingly inconsequential life. It's an art. And you're just jealous. I bet Hillary Clinton is secretly dying to be me. I'm sure she can't even make a simple visit to Target without being hounded by all sorts of important people - and there's no way she could take 4 kids to the snack counter and feed them all on one 1-dollar bag of popcorn, without the media raising a fuss. But I can, Hillary! I've got it all!

Hmm, maybe I could make money by letting people be me for a day. Then they'd pay me to take my life back. It's harder than it looks, you know.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Brady Envy

We had a teachable moment here yesterday morning - I got to instruct my daughter on proper dress (as in, if your entire butt crack shows when you bend over, you need to change your jeans before you go out) and she got to instruct me in just how much she doesn't care about our dress code. I don't remember ever seeing this sort of thing on the Brady Bunch. Which, I'm belatedly realizing, has been my guide to parenting all these years. No wonder I can never get all the housework done - I've been sitting around waiting for Alice to show up.

After Anna changed (loudly), she and Theo went out kayaking, which provided me with a much-needed respite from the teenage death glare (also never seen on the Brady Bunch); I spent my morning productively cleaning up after all of Susie's toilet-training accidents. Oh, and I made David cry by suggesting we work on his book report. Cross that one off my to-do list.....

I lost my head later when I picked up the teenagers from the bus and foolishly asked Anna if she had had fun at the boathouse. I received another death glare for my troubles. A couple of hours later, I woke her up from a nap to take Susie to the swings so that I could escape to the bookstore with David (they were having an educators' reception there). Death glare #3 - I never learn, now do I? But I left anyway. The reception was great - David ate handfuls of M&M's and I feasted on the Brownie Bites. I entered a few drawings, because I love freebies. Anyway, the festivities were interrupted by Anna's calling me to tell me that Susie had once again peed on the floor. Ah! Another teachable moment! I described to Anna the absorptive qualities of dishtowels and recommended that she see for herself how well they would wipe up the puddle (that would be the lab portion of the class). She hung up on me (she had no other option, as the Death Glare cannot be administered over a phone line). She's not going to get a very good grade for comportment this semester, I can tell you.

The stomach-virus fairy is still conducting mop-up operations around here (no pun intended); David "felt funny" last night (we weren't sure what that meant, but we supplied him with a dishpan and got him off the top bunk, just in case) and Anna woke up complaining this morning. I mean, more than usual. So she's downstairs watching Fiddler on the Roof, a nice wholesome movie that may have a pogrom or two, but at least Tevye isn't snorting cocaine out in the barn and none of the daughters' butt cracks are showing. And all the swear words are in Yiddish. I'm sure Carol Brady would approve.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Movie Maunderings

Warning: If you liked the movie Little Miss Sunshine, just skip this post. Go read some of the other posts listed to the left instead. We can't all agree on everything.

There's nothing like settling down with your teenagers for some family bonding/movie-watching time and right off the bat being treated to a scene where Grandpa is snorting cocaine. To add to our discomfiture, Theo said, "Oh, that's what that stuff is." Our brains did a double-take and Larry hit the pause button while shouting, "What?! Where have you seen it?!" Cool as a cucumber, that's my husband. Turns out that Theo had witnessed its use by some staff members at the Boy Scout camp where he worked last summer. How wholesome. I guess BSA figures that as long as the drug addicts aren't homosexual, it's okay. I can't believe we sent him there thinking that he'd be in a good environment. What with the smoking and the drinking and the drugs, Theo got a crash course in juvenile delinquency.

But, why, you are no doubt wondering, were we showing a movie involving cocaine to our kids in the first place? Let me say in our defense that we tend to rent older movies to watch with the kids, as we don't have time to review movies ourselves before we let them see it. However, I was willing to take a chance this one time and try Little Miss Sunshine, on the recommendation of a friend who apparently (it now occurs to me) has markedly different taste in movies than I do. She said it was hilariously funny. And to be fair, it is billed as a "madcap comedy" by Netflix. I don't know why. I think I've had dental cleanings that were funnier. Luckily, we only showed it to the teenagers. That saved us from having to explain (in the first 15 minutes) homosexuality, cocaine use, and certain colorful words to the 10 and 7 year olds. And it was funny only in the most obvious, lamest sort of way. Har, har, har - here's the alienated teenager. He's not talking to the family - isn't he a gas? Yuk, yuk - old granddad is doing drugs and swearing at the dinner table. What a character! Hee, hee - the cute 7-year-old has asked her uncle why he is in love with a guy. And let's make the father of the family the total loser, because heaven forbid there should be any strong father figures portrayed positively in the media.

I'm ranting - sorry. I'll stop. We've got The Purple Rose of Cairo coming next, and I'm sure we will enjoy it. Though it bothers me thinking how much better Diane Keaton would be in Mia Farrow's role. Unfortunately, Woody Allen kept writing roles that were perfect for Ms. Keaton long after she left him and he took up with Mia. The only role he wrote for Ms. Farrow was that last movie of his that she was in (name, name - I can't think of it), where you can tell he was starting to hate her, because he portrays her as completely passive-aggressive (come on, Liam Neeson was in it, too - what was the name?). But think about it - Crimes and Misdemeanors? Should have been Diane Keaton. That other one with William Hurt (my memory is really going here - was it called Alice?) - definitely should have been Diane Keaton.

I like Diane Keaton.

Larry's off at his Naval Reserve Drill this weekend and it is the last one! He retires at the end of the month (at the ripe old age of 40). I know that, standing at his retirement ceremony, I will have tears of joy in my eyes. And they won't be stemming from my pride in what he's done for our country or from my relief that we've made it all this way without a prolonged family separation. No, those tears will be the result of the happy thought (and I think any wife of a military retiree will agree with me here) of all that closet space that is going to open up once we can move all his uniforms into storage. Yes!

We took Larry out for his birthday (belated) last night and I decided to get dressed up - you know, nice slacks, high-heeled boots, new blouse. It felt great, and I was wondering why I didn't get dressed up more often, when somehow Brian (in true, 7-year-old-boy fashion) managed to execute some sort of weird maneuver in front of me which ended up getting the dirt from the bottom of his sneakers all over my nice new pants. And it wouldn't brush off. Serves me right for aspiring to look like a normal human being for once.

Time to stop ignoring the children. We still need to bake Larry's birthday cake. This birthday will go on record as the most drawn-out event in our family's history (well, second to the head lice infestation, anyway).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sweatshirts and Socks and Halloween Rocks!

I don't know what's with that title - I just wanted it to rhyme.

What can I say? I lost my bet. Larry's b'day passed uneventfully, and I still owe him a cake (I didn't bother making one, I was so sure he'd be sick). We're not out of the woods here, yet; but it sure is nice to get a little break. I'm sure everyone reading this thinks so too.

Fall blew in with a blast here - we went from hot humid weather to wearing sweatshirts and jeans in less than 24 hours. And we're loving it. Well, except Susie, who of course has no memory of wearing anything but sandals on her cute little feet; it took quite a bit of strong-arming her (okay, actually, I used candy) to get her socks and sneakers on.

To add a little excitement to our day, we emptied out Larry's sock drawer of all the change he dumps in it and took the money to the coin-sorting machine (free!) at our credit union. Then we placed bets on what the total would be. We also watched the TV there (Over the Hedge was playing) and picked up some lollipops (green). A good time was had by all. Hard to believe that other people pay money to amuse their children.

Halloween looms on the horizon, and Brian wants to be a tornado and David wants to be a robot. I have 3 perfectly good pirate capes and no one wants to wear them. I guess making the boys be pirates 2 or 3 years in a row sort of burned them out on a life of nautical skulduggery. But they're such great capes! I'll save them for Rachel and Susie. The girls will cooperate, as long as they can twirl around and make the capes swirl prettily.

Anna made apple pie again today, apparently in an attempt to make me fat. I told you she has it in for me. She also got up early (for her). I don't know what's going on. She didn't even try yelling at me or muttering "I hate you" at me without moving her lips, as is her wont. Was the past year all a dream? Or is this the dream? Maybe it's all just shadows on a cave wall.....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Barf-o-rama, Act III

More of the same here, I'm afraid. Monday was a relatively calm day, spent recuperating from the day before. We went to Target so David and Brian could blow the rest of their money (I really don't know where these kids get the stuff; I mean, I don't give it to them - could they be dealing drugs?) on a remote control airplane. Then I went to the dentist and (to make up for my trauma) a yarn shop, a type of establishment I had never been to before. I needed to go there to get a certain size knitting needle not carried in a generic crafts store like Michael's, and I have to admit I was curious about what I was missing in terms of the specialty yarn shop experience. But I ended up being disappointed. There were a lot of uber-price-y fistfuls of wool and everything (luckily) was a bit too refined (and expensive) to even tempt my appetite. I guess I'm just a cheap-eats sort of knitter. And I'm okay with that.

Okay, so we ate dinner, tucked the kids in bed, and had pretty much settled down for the evening when David came running down to tell me (not Larry; Larry had already gone to the sleep, the sneak) that Brian had thrown up. And in a valiant effort not to soil his bed linens, he had leaned over the bed rail - of the top bunk. It was a bad scene. The blast radius of this stuff was incredible. Maybe it had something to do with the ceiling fan, I'm not sure. But somehow it landed under the bed. And on the walls. And on the dresser. And the nightstand. And we still had to strip the beds (both of them). Under the bed was the biggest challenge - I don't think I've ever tried Swiffering vomit before, but it worked. I love my Swiffer.

The rest of the night is sort of a blur. There was more vomit and then I couldn't go to bed because I felt sick again (no wonder - our entire upstairs smelled disgusting by this point); I think I must have logged 3 hours total of sleep. Larry didn't do much better. But hey - who cares? Anna needed to go to Michael's today to get some beads for the bracelets she's making to sell at the holiday bazaar. Here there were sick people lying in various states of discomfort all over the living room (Theo had been felled by the stomach-virus fairy also); Susie for some reason decided to sympathy-vomit in the kitchen after I fed her some lunch; David was weak from hunger because he didn't want to eat because he figured he was going to get sick any minute (we're still waiting); but Anna could not comprehend why I was not grabbing my keys and running for the car. She also couldn't understand why a lot of the chores were falling on her. Not exactly a team-player, that girl. I was tired enough to ignore her histrionics, an approach which worked pretty well.

So there we are - for those of you keeping score, that's 5 down and 3 to go. And tomorrow's Larry's b' my money is on him.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Vomit Makes Me Want to Puke

Oh, dear, 2 days have gone by already? You know, time just flies when people are throwing up. Don't you think so? Actually, we had a vomit-free day Saturday, on which I ran around like mad and got all my errands done, because I knew that it was merely a brief hiatus and that the stomach-virus fairy was coming back. But she we went ahead with our plans to pack a fun picnic lunch and drive the 4 youngest to the great science museum in a city about an hour from here. We loaded everyone in the car and headed off and had a fairly uneventful car ride. Because Susie waited until we got all the way there, until we were pulling into the driveway of the museum, to start....erupting, really; there's no other word for it. She sort of burped, and scrambled eggs were pouring out of her mouth, for several minutes, while she sat there looking completely puzzled and the rest of us gawked in horror at what looked like a case of demonic possession. (For the record, scrambled eggs look exactly the same coming back up as they do going down; other foods do not have this property.)

So, Larry and I stripped her down and showered her with a water bottle we found in the car and put a fresh outfit on her (a miracle, really, that we found one in the diaper bag) and marched everyone into the museum. Of course, by this time, my stomach was feeling none too healthy and I had to make a supreme effort not to think about scrambled eggs. The museum was very kid-friendly and one room had a huge waterplay table, with dams and boats and little fountains, that the kids splashed around in, while Larry and I discussed what to do if Susie threw up into the water (we decided to pretend not to speak English); but we didn't have to worry, because all she did was pee all over herself and the floor instead, and no one noticed because it was so wet in there anyway. Yes, we are great parents. Thank you.

We steered the kids back to the car before anyone could get too hungry (no way we were feeding Susie again); so of course Brian cried because he wanted that nice picnic lunch (with lemonade) that we had packed for them and we told him that he had to wait until we got home. I don't really know what happened when we got home because I ran straight from the car up to my bedroom, where I lay for several hours in a fetal position trying not to throw up myself. One would think that after almost 16 years of raising kids I would have already encountered every stomach virus there is, but apparently I missed one.

And now we can just set that theoretical "number of days this blog has gone without mentioning vomit" counter back to zero.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Civil (and Stomach) Unrest

I went out for my walk this morning and spotted a police car, a fire engine, and an ambulance . Reason? There was a skunk wandering back and forth across the road in broad daylight with his entire snout (and eyes) stuck inside a plastic yogurt cup. A nearby resident had called 911 because they couldn't figure out what to do. And neither could anyone else, actually. Neither the firemen nor the policeman nor the EMT's were willing to grab a skunk from behind in order to free its head from a plastic cup. Mind you, these were people who would run into a burning building or go straight towards a gun-waving lunatic, but this skunk had them all cowed. I wish I had had a camera.

I came home, ready to regale Larry with this tale of suburban unrest, and found him rummaging around looking for a dishpan. Bad sign. As he's usually not overcome with an urgent need to wash dishes by hand, I had to assume the worst. And I was right - we were being visited by the stomach virus fairy.

S/he got Rachel this time, but I'm sure that within the week we all will have been treated to a dose of this lovely stomach flu. And, considering that Rachel's thrown up 4 times this morning with absolutely nothing in her stomach, it's gonna be a doozy.

One of our neighbor's boys (the one who didn't get his head laid open by Brian in our basement) broke his arm yesterday. And it wasn't at my house. Thank you, Lord. And there is a silver lining to this situation; at least while the cast is on, I'll be able to tell those 2 boys apart. I told their mother that, but it didn't seem to cheer her up.

Well, Rachel's decided to take a break from vomiting and have a nap; so I'm going to try to get everyone served lunch - not that anyone, aside from Brian, has much of an appetite today. Brian (aka Mr. Steel Stomach) could sit and eat a sandwich while watching someone puke their guts out. It's a skill he has.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Teen Angel (Not!)

My friend with a PhD in neurobiology tells me that there is an evolutionary reason for teen girls to hate their families - it helps them to move out and start making their own families. Scary thoughts of teen pregnancies aside, I think she was trying to reassure me that Anna's evident dislike of anything remotely connected with any of us is a natural occurrence and not my fault. But if (evolutionarily speaking) 13 or 14 year-old girls are supposed to leave the family nest, wouldn't it make sense that their brains not evaporate into thin air at this precise point in their lives? Sending Anna out on her own (and believe me, I've fantasized about it) would be like sending a 2-year-old into the world to make her own way. Rachel, at 5, is more street-smart than her sister.

Can you guess it's been a rough couple of days? Her best friend went away for a week, plus we didn't have time to take her clothes shopping this past weekend; so now we're bearing the brunt of her angst. I am so tired of her scaring the younger children. The tantrums do get rather boring after a year, you know. Yes, honey, you hate us. Now shut up, wash the dishes, do your schoolwork and think about going away to college, okay? Thanks. And you're right, we don't understand you - but would it help if we did?

And any of you who are getting ready to recommend How to Talk So Your Teen Will Listen or any other books of that ilk, forget it. The more we let Anna "express her feelings," the worse she got. Learning to grin and bear it is an important life skill, if you ask me. I've checked with several experienced parents of large families, and they agree that the no-nonsense, "get over yourself" method of parenting is the healthiest. This may be why the larger the family, the fewer the problems. To have diagnosed complex behavioral issues among your offspring, you need to have few enough kids that you have time to obsess over them.

Hoo, boy - I'm going to get an earful over that last statement. Hey, don't listen to me - listen to a guy who has adopted 10 kids, most of them with labels out their wazoos (I don't know what that means, either). Go to - the funniest parenting professional you could hope to meet. Enjoy some of his audio bits. From this page, for example -

I've got to get back to benignly neglecting my children.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Heloise Goes to the Airshow

I received a handy household tip from a neighbor - baby powder stops wood floors from creaking. So I liberally sprinkled baby powder on the 2 worst spots upstairs (liberally, as in, I'm still sneezing) and smooshed it around with my hands until it sifted into all the cracks and....well, the floors still creak. I think they might creak a little less, though. My friend didn't tell me what to do with all the baby powder that didn't sift down into the cracks, so I smooshed that all over the rest of the floor in our bedroom (the whole house creaks, really). And there was still baby powder everywhere. Then I swiffered a few times. That looked better, so I quit.

But there was still a coating of baby powder on the floor, as my husband observed when he came home with the kids (yes, that was how I spent the precious hour-and-a-half I had to myself yesterday morning - spreading baby powder on the floor - I mean, when I wasn't folding clean laundry or trying to unearth the counters in the kitchen). He said, and I quote, "What the hell happened up there?" So I explained the de-creaking theory and urged him to go back up and take note of how much more quiet the floor in front of our bathroom sounded. I don't think I convinced him. No one appreciates an innovator.

Anyway, my husband, realizing that maybe I needed to get out of the house for a bit, took me and the 4 younger kids to the Flying Circus Airshow, which was only an hour or so from our house, but was plenty long enough of a ride for me to finally figure out how to cast on and do a spiral increase for the top-down hat I'm trying to knit. (No, you don't wear it top-down - that's how you knit it.) (Though, really, you can wear it any way you want to, I guess.) So I went along with his plan, and I'm glad I did (knitting progress aside). The trip was almost doomed to failure from the start, because I had to print out the knitting instructions for my hat and Larry asked me what I was doing and I said, "I'm printing out directions," and he thought, naturally, that they were driving directions for the trip we were about to embark on; but of course they weren't very helpful for that.

We made it there anyway. The field was full of airplanes from the 30's and early 40's, and we were able to watch them do all sorts of stunts, and there was a parachutist, and a wing-walker (her husband was the pilot - boy, I bet she makes sure never to get on his nerves, huh?), and a sort of pilot-clown, and a drawing for a free ride (didn't win - bummer). David was in heaven. It was all very old-timey, which was good, because I was able to spend 3 hours pretending that it wasn't even 2003 yet and we had never invaded Iraq. We all need a bit of a fantasy life now and then, you know?

We ended up feeding the kids crackerjacks in the car for dinner (it's a wonder someone doesn't arrest us), but they didn't seem to mind. My only regret is that we didn't insist on bringing Anna, so that she could see the joke with the clown and the privy and the airplane flying overhead (hint: the walls of the privy fell down) - she would have hated it. Which would have made it even funnier.