Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lego, anyone?

I usually make the kids play with their Legos upstairs in their bedrooms, not because I'm a neat-freak, but because HOLY HOT DAYUM does it hurt when you step on one of those little suckers. The smaller the piece, the sharper the pain. Also, I just can't deal with the random stray piece that gets embedded in the carpet and is discovered when I hear it clunk up the vacuum cleaner.

The boring, cold, rainy days of late made me re-think my whole anti-Lego-in-the-family-room stance. And because I'm a nice mommy. Or at least I like to have my moments when I think I am. So I actually suggested to the boys that they bring the Legos downstairs and play and build with abandon. The kids loved it because they had much more space than usual to spread out.

And spread out they did.

Is it really necessary to dump the entire bucket just to find that one green, four-pronged rectangular piece? Apparently it is. Besides, only the mean moms say, "No dumping Legos!"

Which, by the way, I frequently say.

This is only two buckets of Lego. Imagine if it was the other three buckets that we own as well.

But everyone was so tired last night, including myself, that it never got cleaned up. Mostly I was just way too mentally and physically exhausted to nag them to clean it up.

And we all know that threatening and nagging when all parties involved are tired and cranky is just foolish. Things are said that are later regretted, tantrums are thrown, and next thing you know, you have 3 boys who are grounded for a month from TV, video games and playing outside.

And them without anything to do makes me feel like I'm the one who was grounded.

Like I say, I pick my battles.

I was going to wait until they got home from school today to make them clean it up, but I just couldn't tiptoe over these miniature landmines any longer.

I caved and did it myself.

They totally owe me one.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Um...yeah. I don't think so.

My kids make a lot of strange requests of me, and sometimes I grant them, and other times I just shrug my shoulders and say, "Great idea, but not happening."

Here is the latest desire of one of my boys.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that his younger brother just got another betta fish, Swimmer. Recently, we were also discussing as a family that we will get a dog someday. However, someday is a few years into the future. I need to finish potty-training the people in my house before I move on to an animal. But scorpions are one of about 14,987 things that are NOT welcome in my home.

And that goes for "scopeins" too.

But at least he asked.

And the picture is pretty cute, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Halloween.

Yesterday I was able to check item number 1,756 off my very large list of things to get done at some point within the next few weeks.

The dreaded Purchasing of the Halloween Costumes 2009 has been completed.

It's not that I dread Halloween. I'll admit that I didn't always dig it in the past. I'm more of a Christmas gal myself, but since having children, I look forward to Halloween slightly more than I used to. Which still isn't that much. Basically I love it the day of Halloween and maybe a few days before, but that's about it. After all, I'm one of those oh-so-annoying people that starts listening to Burl Ives croon "Holly Jolly Christmas" towards the end of October. And Burl Ives kind of conflicts with jack-o-lanterns.

My kids love Halloween, so I love it for them. They've been talking about their costumes and what they want to be since early August. George has decided to be a pirate, which is cool because we already have a pirate costume. Actually, I convinced him that a pirate would be fun, but he thinks it's his decision. I rock at mind games with small children. I've also decided that Annabel is going to be a ladybug.

Don't you love the days when you can still control your kids' little minds and tell them what they are going to be for Halloween, a la George and Annabel?

Charlie and Henry, not so much. Damn that independent thinking.

I've been throwing out costume ideas to them.

"How about you guys go as Super Mario Brothers? You can be Luigi and your brother can be Mario! I'll glue little mustaches on you, and you can wear hats, white gloves and overalls." I said, thinking it was quite brillz.

"Um, mom, NO. WAY. Only babies are Super Mario Brothers." Charlie informed me.

"Really? Because last time I checked, babies don't play video games. And babies don't even know who the Super Mario Brothers are, so they can't be them for Halloween can they?"

Whatevs, mom. You're so lame, yo.

"Hey! I once saw someone go as a garbage can for Halloween! How about you go as a recycling bin, and wear all green, then I'll glue empty water bottles and cardboard boxes to you, and make you a cool hat!"

"Mom, I am NOT going as garbage for Halloween. Everyone will make fun of me."

Yo. Even lamer.

"What about a slice of pizza? That sounds like an easy enough costume for me to make. I'll make a cool crust up by your neck and stuff it with fabric to make it puffy, then I'll glue little mushrooms and pepperonis on you."

"No way. I want to be a 'Star Wars' character again," was the general consensus between the two of them.

To which I thought, "Yo. That's the lamest of them all."

What is it with those light-saber-carrying dudes that has boys in a tizzy? Last year, Charlie begged me to let him be Anakin Skywalker, so I reluctantly went to Target and plunked down $29.99 for what was really just one long piece of poo-brown fabric that slipped over his clothes and tied at the back of his neck. It looked like one long, continuous, giant turd. There were some fake painted-on buttons on the front that must mean something to other Jedis, but I don't speak Jedi, so it just looked cheap and boring to me. But he loved it, and he was happy, so I was happy.

I pick my battles.

Henry was Darth Vader last year, which was great for him, since he got to hide behind the fierce-looking Darth mask and pretend he was the powerful, hated, and fallen, former Jedi. To rock the Darth costume is every boy's dream at some point, especially if he has confidence issues like my Henry.

Well hold on to your trick-or-treat bags, because this year, they are going to be the oh-so-original-nobody-else-in-the-whole-world-will-ever-think-of-it: Star Wars Clone Troopers.


I've learned that boys are not the hugest risk takers when it comes to fashion statements or Halloween costumes. They just want to look like all their friends. And I have been informed that even though their costumes look mostly identical, Henry is actually Commander Rex and Charlie is Commander Cody. So yeah. They're totally different. Even though they're mostly the same. God forbid they stand out from their friends.

Growing up, most of my Halloween costumes were not store bought. My parents had six girls, so they definitely would not go out and buy all six of us new costumes every year. We had to get creative. I was a punk-rocker one year with sprayed-on pink hair, and another year I made my own 1950's costume.

I even had the bright idea that my kids could all go as "Wizard of Oz" this year. With three boys and one girl, isn't it just perfect?

Yeah, tell that to my guys. They've decided that that idea is Lame City. And I'm the mayor. Yo.

At least it's done. The costumes are bought, and it's still only September. That's one less thing for me to think about, right? No scrambling at the last minute. So I'm happy about that. Unless they change their minds. Which they might. There's still plenty of time for waffling.

Yet another reason why I think Christmas trumps Halloween.

The best kind of excitement.

We took the kids out to a restaurant on Sunday night. Bill and I were both exhausted from the fun, but busy couples' baby shower that we threw at our house on Saturday night, so we decided to let someone else do the cooking.

One of the best parts about taking our kids out to eat, besides the fact that we don't have to cook or clean up, is that we usually have great conversations with them, now that they are a little older, and don't chew on the free crayons at the table. It's probably the fact that they are somewhat tethered to the table, and there is no option for them to move around like they can at home. They are forced to sit there and chat it out.

Out of the blue, George looked at me at said, "Mom, how hard will you cry when we all move out of the house someday?"

I was a little taken aback, but touched by his question. So I said, "Well, of course I will cry so hard, but Daddy and I will come visit you no matter where you live."

"Will you come visit me in Michigan? 'Cause that's where I'm gonna live," asked George.

Most of our family lives in Michigan, where Bill and I were born and raised. George's best friend and cousin Joseph lives in Michigan. They were born two weeks apart from each other and they are kindred spirits. BFFs. Total compadres. My sister Therese and I even made up a little ditty entitled, "Joseph and George Are Best Buddies" that we have been singing to them since they were babies. So George has decided that he will live by Joseph someday, and Joseph lives in Michigan.

"Of course I'll come see you in Michigan," I replied.

"Will you come visit me if I live in California?" prodded Charlie.


"What if I live in England?"


"What about Africa?" continued Charlie as he thought of more exotic places.

"Of course."

"How 'bout if I moved to Pluto, mom?" Henry chimed in, in true Henry fashion.

"Well...I would love to visit you on Pluto, but it's so far away and I might burn up in the atmosphere trying to reach you. Besides, I can't breathe on Pluto."

"Then I'm gonna invent a special fast rocket ship to get you to Pluto."

"Okay. Then Dad and I are there." I said.

So on and on our conversation went, getting even crazier as the boys thought of where they could live someday and wondering if Bill and I would come visit them. And the answer was always the same. We will always come visit you.

The thought of my babies leaving the nest in the distant future makes me sad and nostalgic and makes me hope that I can fit in all the fun stuff in the short amount of time that Bill and I have these amazing little people to ourselves.

Am I the only crazy mom that misses my kids sometimes when they are sleeping? Usually it happens on those days when everyone is being bad and getting punished, and it's bonkers and hectic around here. I find myself yelling a little too much and my patience has taken a leave of absence. Then suddenly the whole house is quiet and I get in bed and think, "I miss them." Of course Bill thinks it's funny every time and says something like, "Clare, you were just saying how much the kids need to go to bed so you can get some downtime for yourself. Now you miss them? You'll see them when they wake up." But it's not easy to explain because I don't even understand it myself.

No matter what happens the day or night before, no matter how much destruction or fighting occurred at this house the day before, no matter how many times I heard, "I hate you! You're the meanest mommy ever!" the day before, no matter how many times I issued time-outs or punishments or groundings the previous day, no matter what happened, ALL is forgiven in the light of the next day. Sure, a child or two might still be grounded, but I am still so happy to see them that I can't help but greet them with excitement and hugs. "Look who it is! It's the Char-Diggs!" (my nickname for Charlie) and, "Here he is! The Hen-Dog!" or "The G-man is awake!" and last but not least, "My super sweet-a babycita!" (a nickname Bill gave to Annabel at birth)

And I know you can relate, because I know you feel this way about your amazing little people too. It's universal. It's the best kind of excitement there is.

That's why I was so touched when I checked one of my favorite blogs this morning,, and one of the entries was entitled, "Saw God in a Greeting". The best part about reading other blogs is finding something you can relate to, and this was definitely it.

Dan, the moderator of the blog, wrote about his wife and how she greets their children with love and excitement every morning. Then he wrote, "As I sat there, I thought to myself ‘…she just put them to bed with prayers, ‘love you’s’, hugs and kisses last night and, only eight hours later, she is greeting them like she hasn’t seen them in years…’ My heart filled with contentment—that is the love a mother has for her children. She adores them passionately and appreciates every opportunity to kiss them good night and greet them in the morning—-as if she’s never had the opportunity to do it before and may never have the opportunity again."

Dan is right, and I couldn't have said it better or more beautifully than he did. The only thing I would add to what he said is the word "father", because those guys are pretty great too.

Happy first day of autumn, my personal vote for the best time of the year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On the road again. In a stinkmobile.

I don't have time for this today. I shouldn't even be writing in my blog right now, but I couldn't resist. I need some downtime. What I should be doing is preparing for the couples' baby shower/cocktail party that Bill and I are having tomorrow night, here at our home, for my sister Colette and her husband Brian. 25 people. I'm making all the food myself. I'm not complaining, because I love planning and hosting parties, and I get myself into these messes. But I could use a 36-hour day.

Since I practically live in my minivan every day, mostly during the week, carting kids around town to school, back from school, to pre-school, back from pre-school, to errands, to sports practices, to appointments, my car can get a little messy. Alright. It's a dump.

Word of advice: tan leather seats + four kids = big mistake

Yes, I know it sounds like a princess problem. Ooh, my leather seats are full of dirt, crayons, and other identifiable stains, and it's so hard to get them clean! Some people don't have leather seats, Clare. Some people don't even have cars, Clare. So I should shut up, right? But this is my blog, and my way of venting. Bear with me.

Anyway, like I said, I have been getting ready for this party tomorrow night, so I have been to the grocery store not once, not twice but six times this week. It's errand city, baby. And I have no time to clean the car. But really, who am I kidding? We usually only clean the car out when a.) we are about to embark on a long trip, or b.) it starts to smell do I put this delicately?...butt. Or does poop sound nicer? Whatevs. Something stunk like pure rotting rancidness, and I couldn't stand it for one more nanosecond.

Really, in my defense, my house is usually clean and presentable. My bathrooms aren't always perfecto, what with little boys pissing everywhere but in the porcelain bowl, but I try. However, my purse and my car are my two dumping grounds. There is just no time, with all this running around. That's my excuse. And believe me, I'm full of them.

I took you on a journey of my purse a few months ago, and now, fair readers, welcome to my car, aka, "Garbage Can on Wheels".

Too bad my blog doesn't have Smell-o-vision.

I'd like to say I was surprised at some of the things that I found in the car today, but alas, I'm mostly un-shockable when it comes to my kids. (I'm blaming them for this whole thing. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.)

Further proof that this job is so random because it's like, hey, I found a mini bobcat? cougar? in my car. No biggie. Not sure where it came from, or the purpose it serves, because it just is. To all you twentysomethings driving your sleek, clean, sedans, are you jealous that you don't have one of these in your car? I know you are.

Between our three boys, we have about 2,472 Pokemon cards in our house. I always find a stray one somewhere and I'm so tempted to throw it away, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I'm always worried one of the boys will be all, "Where's my Chimchar card, mom? I need that one card to achieve the ultimate Pokemon-ness in Pokemon world!" Whatever the heck happens in Pokemon world, I'll never know. And I'll have to be all, "It's in the garbage, dude." And then crying will ensue. I threaten to throw these cards away plenty of times, but I haven't done it yet. The boys are mostly responsible with them, save the random stray card. But this one I will throw away. I promise. Believe me? Watch me. I'm going to the garbage can now. See?

Check out my pharmacy in the car. Benadryl, acetaminophen, and what's this bottle all the way to the left? I'll tell you what it is. It's the one political statement that I make in my car. I'm drawing a hard line in the sand. I'm Anti-Diarrhea. Those Pro-Diarrhea lobbyists are always trying to get me to come over to their side to see their point-of-view, but I'm all, no thanks Pro-Diarrhea. I'm Anti-Diarrhea all the way. These Anti-Diarrheal pills help me prove my point. Would Congress just get to work on a bill banning diarrhea forever?

This is a common find in our car. Food wrappers. EVERY time Bill cleans and vacuums out the car, he says firmly, "Absolutely NO eating in the car from this day forward, kids!" He's such a funny daddy. We usually ignore these silly mandates. By the way, Henry saves his Tootsie Pops wrappers because I once told him that when I was little, I used to save the wrappers that featured an indian shooting a star in order to redeem it for a new Tootsie Pop. These days we should say Native American shooting a star, and it's all a big lie. An urban legend. I even looked it up on, right here.

Dirty socks. Ugh. As if I don't have enough of these scattered throughout the house and in random places like our pantry, I have to find them in the car? Of course, when the kids are looking, they can never find a clean pair of socks. And here is why.

Unread newspapers. I bring the newspaper in the car with me every day, hoping that I'll get a chance to read it while I'm waiting for the kids to get out of school. It's makes me feel much more intellectual than getting my news from Yahoo. But most days I don't have the time. Alas, to the recycling bin they go. It's about 5 steps from where I park the car in the garage. It's really simple. But yet so complicated. They're still sitting on the floor of my car.

Sorry, but it's another picture of this chick. But I swear, this is the last time. I promise. Annabel brings her almost everywhere, including the car. Somehow she didn't make it back inside the house today though. Could Barbie be the source of the strange smell in the car? Yes, she smells, but she smells of failure. My poop-training failure. It's not the same as pure rancidness.

Both of these movies are permanently, irrevocably scratched. They no longer work in our DVD player. The kids left them on the floor of the car, and they were stepped on a few hundred times. You would think I would have thrown them away by now. Like I said, you would think.

When I found these Speed Stackers, I laughed. Henry brought these along on our last car trip thinking he and Charlie would be able to play them while we traveled. Only, they are cup stackers. And they need to be stacked. On a flat surface. Not a moving car. Nice travel game.

Of course, what minivan would be complete without a sippy cup lying haphazardly on the floor? But this is definitely not the source of the car smell. I learned my lesson on sippy cups in the car long ago. This cup is only a few hours old, and as soon as I spot one, into the kitchen it goes. A few years ago, a lone sippy cup rolled under a seat sometime in the winter, and it grew hair but didn't really make its presence known until it assaulted my nostrils once the spring thaw hit and the weather got warmer, thus baking it in the car. Yuck.

I found it. The source of the smell. Charlie ate yogurt for breakfast in the car on MONDAY, and I just discovered this container today, on FRIDAY with about half an inch of yogurt still left in it. Throw in some 80-degree weather this week and we have a recipe for a stinky disaster. I'll say it again. Stin-ky.

Please don't judge me by my messy car. I only embarrass myself in my blog so you don't have to. Hopefully you can relate.

I tell myself that some day when I'm in my 50's and driving a sleek sedan once more, that I will miss these days. Sometimes my days are exasperating that all I can do is laugh and write about it. I will miss these crazy carpooling days. Some day I'll be leisurely driving all alone down the road to some place of my choosing, and I'm sure I'll miss the DVD player blaring the same movie over and over. I will miss turning the corner and having the messy contents of my car roll from one side to the other. I will miss playing, "What's That Smell?" as I clean it. Well, maybe that's going a bit too far, but you get the point.

I'm off to get my work done now. Thanks for letting me share.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Teachers are much cooler than this. might want to sit down for this one.

Your teacher pees her pants. All day long. But don't worry, she's wearing Depends. So it's all good.

As a former teacher, I was hilariously offended (ooh! what a paradox that is!) by the above ad in this Sunday's coupon circulars. I haven't taught in over ten years; however, I still remember how difficult the job is, so as far as teachers go, I have their back. Can we just cut them a break?

It's bad enough that they're stuck with our kids day in and day out, and the pay can be quite lousy, but now Depends is accusing them of being chronic pee-ers-in-their-pants.


The "teacher" in the picture looks so happy! So energized! So....oops. She did it again. But don't worry! Her leakage will be minimal and the crinkly sound of her diaper will only cause her to be nicknamed Miss Tinkle-Pants by 74% of the student body instead of 100%. Phew.

By the way, the feathered hair and the skirt that is hiked up to your chin must go, sister. Come on Depends, you are only perpetuating the stereotype of the frumpy, out-of-date teacher. Teachers are hip. They don't all wear appliqued holiday sweaters and ugly clothes. They can be just as cool as you and I.

You know what would be great? Depends should feature a dapper executive in his $3,000 suit leading a meeting of the Board of Directors and the caption would say, "No worries! You don't even hear the crinkle of his Depends diaper when he walks!" The same caption could be used for a sassy supermodel strutting down a runway, leak-free. Imagine how many adult diapers they would sell off of that ad.

Stop picking on the teachers, Depends.

Props to all of you who do a superb job of teaching, supporting and comforting our kids all day at school. I have your back.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Laughter and inspiration on the road.

I am in my minivan all day long. I drive my kids 10 miles to Catholic school and 10 miles back home again. I'm not complaining, because it's our choice. But it gets a little boring at times, especially when I have to hear "the Bee Movie" or the "Madagascar" DVD on a continuous repeat. By the way, I've never actually seen either of these movies, but I know them almost entirely by heart.

Word for word.

Anyhoo, sometime today in my 800-mile trek around town, I was behind another minivan with a great bumper sticker. I had never read this quote before, and I thought I'd share it with you because it's now one of my favorites.

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." - Frederick Douglass

Just let that sink in for a second.

Don't you love it?

I'm going to remind myself of this quote at those times when I'm the "mean mommy" and I take away the video games, or I shut off the TV. Or I don't let them play with that friend that makes bad choices. Or I make them read for that extra 15 minutes. It's for their own good, right?

Of course, it gave me a little inspiration for the day.

But later, I was behind a pick-up truck that had an interesting bumper sticker.

It said, "My heart is in the U.P. but my ass is stuck right here."

My day can be so monotonous that I'll take a laugh wherever I can find it. Even if it's on the back of a rusty old truck.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On life and death and betta fish.

My boy's betta fish died Saturday morning.

May he rest in peace.

The fish was a gift from my sister. She is my son's godmother, and her Christmas gift to him last year was a fish. He actually didn't get the fish until a snowy Valentine's Day afternoon, when he went with my sister and her husband on a special little field trip to choose him.

My son named him Golfie. Was the fish actually a "him"? Who knows? But to my boy, Golfie was his dude.

Here is Golfie on the day he came into our home, swimming in a wine glass, before we set up his little green plastic tank.

Betta fish are much hardier than goldfish and have been known to survive for years. This was a major plus, because it meant it would hopefully be awhile before we had to deal with the messy little matter of death. And flushing.

Golfie swam happily in our home for the last 7 months. The little orangey-red fish was a great self-esteem booster for my son, who, as a middle child, never gets to be the "first" to do anything. Golfie allowed him to be the first of his siblings to be a pet owner, and this was a title he carried with pride. He relished the responsibilities.

"It's time to clean the tank, Dad!"

"We gotta feed Golfie, Mom!"

Golfie became quite the roadie as well, traveling with us many times, his little green tank placed into a plastic bin from our toy shelf, and stuffed with newspapers to keep him steady on long drives.

I never thought I'd get so attached to the little guy.

My son's thoughtfulness about his little friend touched my heart, and maybe that's why I started to worry a few weeks ago when I noticed that Golfie was looking a little sick. His orangey-red scales were turning a dull orangey-gray.

"Give him some medicine Mom," my son pleaded. "Let's take him to the doctor."

This past week, Golfie was more active than usual. I noticed a few times that he would hang out by the plastic seaweed barely moving, and then suddenly he would frantically dart around the tank like his gills were on fire.

In retrospect, I realize now that he was losing it. Dementia had set in to his little fishy brain.

Or maybe he was swimming toward the fishy light.

Yesterday morning I went to his tank to feed him a few flakes of food, and I soon realized it wouldn't be necessary. Golfie was floating straight up, bloated like a fatty, and breathing no more.

Moment of silence.

Of course I had to grab my camera, to record it for the sake of posterity.

I called the kids together and I said, "I have bad news, guys."

Ever my dramatic self, I let that sink in for a second.

Then I continued, "Golfie is dead."

My son's lip quivered as he processed this information. His two older brothers were asking all sorts of questions, most of them involving the word, "flush," but we I waited for my son, Golfie's owner, to speak.

"Well, can I get a new fish?" he asked. "Sure," I responded.

"What do we do with Golfie? Do we bury him in the dirt?" he inquired.

"No way! We get to flush him down the toilet!" my oldest son said, a little too excitedly. And I swear he and my second son might have done a chest bump and clapped with glee.

Boys. Niiiiiiiice brotherly compassion.

My daughter heard the word, "flush," and immediately started wailing. (She must take after her mother with the dramatics.) "LET ME SEE GOLFIE!! NO FLUSH!!!" she cried as she took a swipe at her big brother. It was actually very sweet, because she and this brother, the one nearest to her age, are so close that they often act like an old married couple, and in her mind, she was just protecting her man and his fish.

My oldest changed his demeanor a bit and tried explaining to his sister that Golfie was dead and dead meant that you were gone forever. My second son, in typical fashion for his personality, questioned if Golfie would be swimming with Grandpa in heaven later. However, his logical side kicked in. "But if he can't swim now, Mom, how will his body suddenly start working in heaven? Hmmm...?"

Everyone be quiet. Too many questions. Too much for me to process and think about at 8:30 a.m. The fish is dead and he must be flushed. But we must do this delicately. I want to get it right. Is caffeine too much to ask for?

The whole thing started to remind me of the episode of "the Cosby Show" when Rudy's fish dies and the family has a funeral in the bathroom. We didn't exactly get dressed up, but we scooped the dead Golfie into a plastic Applebees cup and we all trudged off to the powder room for the ceremonial flushing.

My second son solemnly reminded us that "...all drains go the ocean..." a la "Finding Nemo", and then we said a little prayer.

Well...he'll probably just end up in some sewage plant here in the midwest, but I guess there's always hope that he'll find his way to the Atlantic. So who am I to kill that beautiful thought?

My son, the caretaker of Golfie in his short time on this earth, got to do the official flush. See?

First of all, how sick are you of pictures of the toilet in my powder room? This makes blog #17? #32? about my bathroom? I'm officially toilet-obsessed.

Bye bye Golfie, or as we affectionately used to call you, "the Golfster". You will be missed.

My boy was very tough up until the point that Golfie made his final swirl around the bowl and disappeared into the hole in the bottom. My three other children returned to watch their Saturday morning cartoons because the excitement was over. Nothing more to see. But Bill and I looked over at our son and he was staring at the toilet bowl and his little lip started quivering. He was trying to smile and trying not to cry at the same time. The little Mr. Tough act broke my heart, and it made for one adorable moment. I hugged my boy as I pulled him into my lap on the floor right next to the toilet, and we shared a good cry together.

Hey, it's not the first time I cried on the floor next to a toilet, believe you me.

"I miss him," his voice squeaked.

So yesterday afternoon, the whole family went to the pet store to pick out a new fish. It was going to be all his decision of course, a fact he reminded his older brothers of repeatedly. He had decided that he wanted a blue fish this time. We went over to the betta section, and they had about two dozen fish swimming in their individual bowls. There were some beautiful bettas, many of them a bright cobalt blue in color, big and fluffy, with fins and tails like feathers.

Immediately, my son pointed to the one he wanted. There was no indecisiveness on his part. "That's the one, Dad," he said firmly. We looked, and it was the sorriest looking fish of the bunch. His tail and fins were kind of gimpy and short, his blue was more of a dull turquoisey-gray, and he had mottled splotches of white all over his scales.

This fish was the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of fishes. The reject.

Bill picked up the bowl of the best looking fish of the bunch, showed it to our son and said, "Wow! Look at this guy! His tail is so feathery and his color is so blue!" But my son was all, "whatevs" as he said, "Yeah, that's nice, but my fish is right there."

And here he is.

He said he picked him because he loved his color. According to him, this fish is perfect.

And what do we adults know about perfect? Apparently, not much.

Ever original in the fish-naming department, my son named him, "Swimmer".

Welcome to our home, Swimmer. We hope you are around for a long time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11.

I remember exactly what I was doing when it happened.

Watching "Blue's Clues" with my one-and-only child, my 10 - 1/2-month old son.

I remember exactly what I was wearing when I got the phone call from Bill.

Maternity blue jeans and a gray long-sleeved shirt.

That day is forever cemented in my mind.

I thought what Bill was telling me was ridiculous at first, and I scoffed. Terrorists? It's 2001. Our airports have sophisticated screening equipment these days. It must have been a mistake. Pilot error. Error from the control tower.

Stop being so dramatic, Bill.

It's just not possible.

But within minutes, I learned it was very possible, as I watched a second plane blow right through the side of the behemoth building made of glass and steel.

And in that instant, I knew our country had changed forever.

I remember how my sweet little boy, not yet able to speak, but able to sense emotion, crawled into my pregnant lap, snuggled and offered comfort as I cried while watching the events unfold.

I did not know anyone who died on September 11, 2001, but I still remember many of their stories and carry them with me in my heart.

I remember Lisa Beamer, the young mother of two, pregnant like me, recounting the last conversation she ever had with her husband. She recalled her husband Todd heroically saying, "Let's Roll!" which became the country's personal mantra for months.

What would I say to Bill if I had mere moments to speak to him? How could I possibly fit everything I had to say to him into a minute-long conversation?

There could never be enough words.

I remember the usually stoic Peter Jennings welling up with tears while delivering the news, and me doing the same.

This wasn't just a news story that could be reported and set aside. It was unfolding moment by moment, and reporters are human.

I remember the news shots of people in the streets on September 12, holding up pictures of their loved ones, fervently hoping they were just unidentified at one of the hospitals in New York City, and not lying among the dead in the wreckage.

So many fathers, mothers, daughters, sons. So much possibility. Gone.

As the world watched in horror.

I remember the stories of the fathers and mothers who would never live to see their children grow up. I remember the stories of the fathers that would never get to meet their children because their wives were still pregnant.

Selfishly, I couldn't help but think that I was pregnant too. What if Bill never got to meet this baby? What if our son and this little baby growing inside of me never fully got to know what an amazing man their father is?

It was the sad, tragic reality for far too many.

I remember the flashes of light that came out of the darkness. The patriotism. The American flags flying proudly. The good deeds. The little kindnesses. The feeling that we were all one big family, and if one of us was hurting, we were all hurting.

For our grandparents' generation, it was Pearl Harbor.

For our parents' generation, it was the day that JFK was shot.

For my generation it was September 11, 2001.

My greatest hope for future generations is that there is no tragic defining day for them. I hope that they have their defining days, yes, but I hope that their defining day is something much more mundane and personal. I hope it is the acceptance into a school of their choice, the meeting of their future spouse, the dream job offer, the purchase of a first home, the birth of a first child.

Of course, it's not always rainbows and unicorns. But it doesn't have to be tragedy either.

One can only hope.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Desperate measures.

Well, well, well. What do we have here?

It's our favorite floozy, in quite a state of dishabille. Her tresses are tousled because..look! She's out of the box! She's out of the box! That means that pooping on the potty has occurred!

Um, no.

I repeat. Pooping on the potty has NOT taken place in our home, at least by one little girl named Annabel. So save your high fives for someone else.

If you don't know the Barbie back story, or what I'm talking about, then click here.

Why is Babs out of the box, you ask? Do you want the long version, or the short one?

I guess you don't get to choose, so you're getting the long one.

I was making dinner one day last week, and Bill got home from work while I was doing so, gave everyone hugs and kisses and retreated to the bedroom to change out of his work clothes. Not more than two seconds later, Annabel started crying. "My nose!" she whined. I looked over at her and absentmindedly said, "It'll be okay," as I kept stirring the pot on the stove. She had had a runny nose all day, and I thought she was just moaning about it. "MY NOSE!!!" she kept screaming, as I continued cooking and wondered when she would stop crying. "It's okay, babe. Your nose will be fine," I told her one more time.


Okay, I guess her nose is bugging her. Enough already.

That was when I froze in my tracks and saw the popcorn bowl that the kids had been eating from earlier. It was empty on the floor of the family room, and little unpopped kernels were strewn on the carpet.

Unpopped kernels. Annabel complaining about her nose. Crap. Crappity-crap crap.


Seriously. That's pretty much verbatim what I said. I'll admit that I'm a little overly-dramatic in emergencies sometimes, and Bill is the calm one, so I need his level head. Can you see why we balance each other out?

Bill came barreling down the stairs in just his boxer shorts. I guess you didn't need that detail, but I'm just setting the scene. Chaos. Me yelling for help. Annabel crying. Boys gathering 'round because they think popcorn up the nose is cool. Bill barely dressed.

I was holding Annabel as she was screaming and rubbing her nose. I felt her nose right near the bridge, and sure enough, just as I thought, I could feel the hard, oval-shaped kernel firmly lodged in her nasal passage, creeping up to her sinus.

Please don't make me go to the emergency room. Pleeeeeeeease. I hate it there. The long wait, the fear of one of us contracting swine flu just by breathing germ-ridden air, the long wait, the sight of sick people vomiting into little kidney shaped containers in their laps, and of course, the long wait. It all sucks.

We can do this. It's just a kernel. We can get this thing out of her nose. We're two smart, capable parents. Right. Right?

"Blow your nose, Annabel, and the popcorn will come out," we begged and pleaded repeatedly. The boys starting clapping and chanting, "Blow your nose! You can do it! Blow your nose!"

"NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" was all we heard over and over.

Bill googled, "how to get popcorn kernel out of nose", and before I continue with this part of the story, let me just preface this by saying I am married to a very intelligent man. He has a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan. He has an MBA from Northwestern University, one of the top business schools in the whole country. I don't tell you this to brag; rather, to let you know that smart people have very stupid moments too, and this was one of them. It's really stunning how stupidity just took over his brain for a few minutes. My usually level-headed man actually believed the advice he read on Google.

I laid Annabel down on the couch so he could get a better look at her. Then. Then. Then, and I SWEAR to you that this is 100% true, he pressed down and closed the one unaffected nostril with his finger, leaving the other one open, and then he blew into her mouth, so as to BLOW THE KERNEL OUT OF HER NOSE and across the room, just like some idiot on Google suggested. Some Google-dummy-liar swore it actually worked for him. Eff you Google. Stay out of my baby's nose.

Did you get that? Baby crying on the couch, holding her nose and screaming. Clare following along, desperate to avoid taking said baby girl to emergency room at any cost. Bill, well-meaning daddy, but momentarily struck stupid by Google, blowing into the baby's mouth, hoping that the sheer force of his breathing will blow the kernel out. Think mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, only our victim is fully conscious, screaming, and dripping with snot.

I think the above was actually the plot of a Bugs Bunny episode, and the idiot who wrote this dumb advice on Google put it there to mess with the minds of gullible and desperate parents. I half expected an anvil to fall on Annabel's head as the "Looney Tunes" theme song played. Seriously.

Annabel was still crying as I snatched her up and out of the clutches of the Google-believer, boxer-wearing, Daddy-fool. She was crying so hard that snot was flooding out of her nose, but of course, no kernel. I was simultaneously laughing and wanting to cry at the sheer hilarity and exasperation of it all.

I resumed negotations with Annabel, hoping that I could convince her to blow her nose. No such luck. I couldn't crack her.

Daddy-the-boxer-wearing-not-a-doctor-but-trying-to-play-one-in-real-life comes up to Annabel and I with a handful of black pepper in his palm. Pepper. To try to make her sneeze. Just like Tom and Jerry used to do. Um, has anyone seen my husband? This tomfoolery has gone on long enough.

I flipped his hand up, dispersing the offending spice through the air, and I told him where he could put his pepper. And then I banned his ass from Google, for the sake of our daughter.

More chanting from all parties involved. "Annabel! Blow your nose! You can do it! Yay!"

And then I saw it sitting on the kitchen counter. My last hope of an emergency-room-free-evening. Barbie. Beautiful Barbie. Pooping-on-the-potty-bribery be damned.

"Annabel! If you blow your nose, Mommy will give you Barbie!" I said desperately. There was no going back anymore. I knew I would just have to find a new form of pooping blackmail.

Still crying, but interest piqued, Annabel turned her head and thought about it for a moment. Barbie? For blowing her nose? Not having to poop in a bowl in order to get Barbie? I could tell she was definitely thinking about it.

Alas, she still refused to blow her nose. Charlie, Henry and George were hardcore interested at this point. Boys love this stuff. Boogers, snot and popcorn? Right up their alley. "Annabel! Blow your nose! You can get the Barbie! Woo! Woo!" they begged and clapped.

Defeated, I gave up. I slumped my shoulders dejectedly and went to retrieve my purse and cell phone. Off to the emergency room I go. Forget catching up and relaxing with my DVR-ed shows later in the evening after the kids went to bed. Forget the nice family meal I was preparing. Hello sick people in the emergency room. Hello H1N1 virus. Hello holding my screaming little girl as a doctor poked and prodded up her nose. Hello long hours of waiting with promises of discharge papers that would take eons to prepare.

Bill sat with Annabel on the couch, and calmed her and held her as I gathered up my things. "We're backyard friends, the Backyardigans!" played in the background. Suddenly, I heard Bill say one of the most beautiful things he has ever said to me. "It's out, Clare! The kernel came out!"

My heart just skipped a beat at the memory.

When Annabel finally calmed down and stopped crying, the kernel just slid out in a sea of snot. No mouth-to-mouth-to-nose resuscitation. No pepper. No blowing into a tissue necessary. Just snot, beautiful snot, thank you very much.

And no more stupid husband. All earlier stupidity was forgiven. But he's still banned from Google in emergencies. We need all his brain cells intact.

Of course, the first thing Annabel said was, "Barbie! Where's Barbie?" and I handed her the doll. She didn't exactly blow her nose to get the thing, but the kernel was out, so I couldn't renege my offer.

But here's the bone I have to pick with that hussy. She couldn't motivate my girl to poop for weeks, but in about 5 minutes, she manages to coerce a popcorn kernel out of Annabel's nose? Thanks for nothing, Miss Plastic. I should leave you in the hot sun so your boobs will melt right off your chest.

I guess it's easier for me to blame Annabel's poop fears on a hunk of plastic with hair rather than myself, or Bill. Every parent needs a scapegoat for their personal failings. And Barbie is mine.

I'm going relax and chill out about that though. Annabel will poop on the potty when she's good and ready. The more I battle her, the more she digs in her heels. She'll eventually do it in her own time. I just hope she's not in college and I'm bribing her with a new Coach purse in exchange for a bowel movement in the dorm toilet. This bribery thing could get expensive as we up the ante.

Every day is interesting around here.

Something to share with you.

If I get a chance at sometime during my busy day as a mom, I like to read the blogs of other people, especially moms, that crack me up. And believe me, there are many. I appreciate witty sarcasm and humor as much as the next gal.

It makes me feel like I'm not the only frazzled mom out there with kids who talk back, battle each other, and poop on the carpet. Of course, my interests go much deeper than sleazy reality television, talking about the potty, and bribing my daughter with Barbie dolls.

But herein lies my paradox: I'm deep. Very sentimental. And I'm a total sucker for sappy, profound writing that warms the cockles of my little heart.

I thought I'd share a wonderful blog with you that I check occasionally. My sister told me about it, and if you need a smile or a reason for a good cry, then check it out.

It's called, and it's a compilation of stories from various contributors about moments when they have seen God in their day. You'd be surprised where people find Him. It does not come across as preachy or condescending. It is just poignant and touching. Whether you have deep faith or not, I'm sure you can appreciate it.

I thought of telling you about it because I saw God today in a boy at school drop-off. All the kids hop out of the car line in rapid-fire succession, and run into the building, excited to see all their friends. A little girl jumped out of a car and ran to the cafeteria doors with her heavy backpack weighing her down. As she got toward the doors, she tripped and fell to the ground, and a boy immediately reached down and helped her up to her feet. It wasn't something he had to do; rather, it was just his first instinct, and I was touched by it, because many kids ran past her, and he stopped to help. I hope his mom or dad saw it before they drove off. They should be proud.

Sappy entry today, but more of the funny tomorrow. Speaking of Barbie and bribery, I've got a bone to pick with that harlot. But I'll tell you about that later.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

All the Bubbas bought 'em up. Dang.

I was at Wal-Mart this morning looking for a new bike for Charlie for his birthday. His birthday isn't until next month, but I had a little extra time, so I decided to start my research.

But shhhh. Don't tell him. I don't want to spoil the surprise.

As I was perusing the bike department of Wal-Mart, I came across little bike license plates, and I always look for my kids' names, hoping to find at least one of them. I never do, but I always look. You never know when you'll find a little Christmas stocking stuffer, even if it is only September. But no Charlie. No Henry. No George. And definitely no Annabel.

But what do we have here? Bubba. Yes, Bubba.

How stereotypical of you, Wal-Mart. It's 2009. Ever hear of political correctness?

However, Wal-Mart is smarter than I, because a.) they are bazillionaires, and b.) they know their demographic, because lookey-loo. They are ALL GONE. Vamoose. Sold out.

Check it out.

I had to laugh. It was too good. Bubba license plates sold out at Wal-Mart. Should I be surprised?

Be on the lookout for all the Bubba bicyclists. They're coming to a town near you.