Sunday, November 14, 2010

Identity Crisis, Age 8

Luke seems to be changing a lot these days. He is much more focused on his peers, on what "all the kids are doing." Another line we hear a lot these days is "That is what all the cool kids do." I'm telling you, it is all we can do not to roll our eyes at him when he comes out with this line.

For the first time in his life, Luke is really concerned about his appearance. Last week, when he got his hair cut at the local super cheap place, he requested--as he has been since this summer--a mohawk. I said--as I have been since this summer--no. However, I told him that we could get a "gentle fauxhawk," and what I was envisioning was something longer on the top that he could occasionally style in a pseudo mohawk. I don't believe that one must have particularly good communication skills (or skills in general) to work at the super cheap haircutting place, and so Luke wound up with much more mohawk than I had envisioned. We have been planning on shortening down the mohawk part here at home, but life has gotten the better of us, and a week has gone by with our little punk strutting around like he is all that. His attitude has clearly changed, and not for the better.

So when Luke started trying on jeans at Sears the other day--a store that I purposely chose for what I wrongly assumed would be its conservative styles--I knew that his style definitely impacts his attitude. He had been telling me for several weeks that he wanted "baggy jeans," and so I tried to find him some looser styles. However, the pair that he loved was far, far too big, hanging down several inches onto the floor and sliding below his underwear (recently boxers).

"No way," I said.

"But Mom," he said, in a breathy, attitude-filled, not-his own voice. "I look gooooooooood."

"Luke, you are eight, you are not wearing jeans that show your underwear and hang on the floor."

"Please! I'll cut off my fauxhawk!" he pleaded. "I look goooooooooooooood."

"No, Luke." I said, trying to remain calm. "Thank you for showing me what kind of jeans you like," I said, adding in my head, "The gross, gangsta, boy-slut kind."

We headed off to the mall play area to meet Craig, Luke pouting all the way. Once we got there, I reminded Luke that he was too old to play at this area designed for little kids, and that we needed to sit and watch Henry and Silas and wait for Craig. When I spotted Luke picking his nose, I gently reminded him not to pick his nose.

"Aagh!" he said, with a huge attitude, "You are so STRICT!" At this point, he sounded like a cross between a valley girl and a little boy about to cry.

"You won't let me wear baggy jeans! You won't let me play in the play area! You won't let me drink coke! You make me go to bed earlier than all my friends! You won't let me have a DS!" He was really unleashing it on me.

"And," he added, the final point in his argument, "You won't let me pick my nose!"

Oh little boy, eight going on 13. Life is pretty rough. Especially when you have a mom who won't let you pick your nose. After all, that is what all the cool kids do, right?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Family Update, Bullet Point Style

*Craig and I have decided that he is experiencing an early mid-life crisis. Oh, and because he is a rational mastermind who doesn’t experience normal human emotion (this is what I yell at him during fights when I’m trying to lure him into a yelling match) it has been a sort of long, low-level midlife crisis. He bought a motorcycle that he doesn’t ride. He has refused to go to church as often as I like. He has made a lot of jokes about Silas ruining our life. Oh, and last Thanksgiving Eve he yelled “Shut up!” at me (not something a rational mastermind does) which from here on out will be a part of our family lore.

*Third-time mom moment: Several weeks ago when we took the kids to King’s Island, I took Silas and Henry on a ride called “Boo Blasters.” You ride in a little cart through a dark course where two dimensional monsters pop up and you try to blast them with a gun. Silas was terrified and he sobbed the whole time. And later that day, I took him on the ride again, since it was one of the only rides that all three of us could go on together and I was really tired and wanted to sit down. For the record, he sobbed only three quarters of the time.

*I have been reading Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth, and in it she says that we need to remember only two things: when we are hungry, eat what we want, and when we are not hungry, feel what we are feeling. She posits that those of us who are compulsive eaters are avoiding feelings. She suggests that perhaps we would relate to feelings and food (and God, too) differently if, as children, our parents had said to us in moments of great emotion, “Tell me all about it, darling! How does your belly feel right now? Your chest? What color is your anger?” instead of “Be quiet! Stop that!” I generally do the latter, so I figured I would try the former. So a few days ago, when Luke was acting really upset because I wouldn’t let him play video games that very moment, I said, “How are you feeling right now?”

“Sad,” he said. “No, mad.”

“Where is your anger in your body?” I asked.
“Here!” he said, shaking his fist at me.
“What color is your anger?” I asked.
“Um, red. Will you stop talking to me like this?” he asked.
I don’t think Roth has little boys.

*We really like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books around here. And the movie is great. And I just realized that all this time, Henry has thought that it was called Diarrhea, the Wimpy Kid. Dang, I would be wimpy if my name was Diarrhea, that is for sure.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Here and Now: Silas

It is clear that I have lost most of my readers with my sporadic posting over the last year--but I don't feel bad since I've gained so many spammers!--so I figure I will just post some stuff that I want to remember and that my mom would like to read. And even though I'm on my third kid, I always forget what my kids do at what ages, so I'm putting this down so I can remember.

Silas is eight and a half months old. I'm loving this age so much. I forget with each child how much easier and fun it gets around now. Silas is pulling up on things and standing for a few seconds alone. He is a super fast crawler, bear-style, and loves to screech and howl while he crawls around like a madman. He loves pulling things out of containers, one by one, and dumping them on the floor. He eats with much gusto, and I think his favorite foods so far have been squash or sweet potato hunks, watermelon, and the ground beef/veggie layer of a shepherds pie that I made. I cannot feed him at all--he insists on doing it himself.

Silas is an outdoor guy. He is so, so happy crawling around outside, picking up sticks and leaves and dirt. He does pretty well with not putting things in his mouth. He especially loves it when his brothers get down on the ground with him and play and when they crawl through the tubes at the park with him.

He takes two naps a day, but seems to be moving towards one. Yesterday he slept in so I gave him one nap in the middle of the day. He was super tired by noon when he went down, and very tired also by 7 pm bedtime, but it worked out okay. He still goes to sleep laying with me and nursing/playing until he finally nods off. He sleeps on a futon on the floor. I don't know how many times a night he still wakes, since I usually sleep with him and don't much notice.

He is so joyful and fun to be around these days. He loves having someone sitting down on the floor playing with him. He screeches, "sings," and says "dada" and "uh-oh." He is into everything--he tries to get into the bathroom and climbed into the tub yesterday. He pulls all of the wipes out of the container with glee. He is a 21 pound whirlwind of joy and destruction.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I need my tech support team (Craig) to help me with my new header. For now, just envision that the description of my blog is "One boy, one arm, and a beautiful landscape." That beautiful landscape is Alaska. Our trip was wonderful, even though Craig was sick for half of the trip. We didn't do a whole lot while we were up there, but we had a great trip nonetheless. We went on several small hikes, ate at our favorite restaurants, saw some movies, and just relaxed.

I don't usually miss Alaska too much, but once I get up there, I feel peaceful in a a way that I never quite do anywhere else. The fresh smell, the mountains, the dense and wild forests with scraggly trees and lush moss. My body knows it is home.

Of course, we only visit in the summer anymore. When I get homesick I just remember the nine months of snow and the darkness. I just picture driving everywhere I need to go. I just think of the swarms of mosquitoes that make the forests nearly impenetrable at certain times of the year. I look out at my huge garden full of tomatoes and I appreciate Ohio a little bit more. I walk to our farmer's market and to the pub and feel home here, too.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Life Goes On and On

Must. Post. We went on vacation to Alaska. But first, we all got really sick. We had a big family party for Henry's fifth and Luke's eighth birthdays. Then we came back home, and I got sick again. The boys started school. Silas is crawling and trying to talk. Life is whizzing by. And I plan on posting really, really soon.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Our Secret Garden

When we first moved to this town three years ago, we began walking the neighborhood, exploring our new space. I was used to walking a lot, since we lived in Chicago before we moved here. I pushed Luke and Henry in our double jogging stroller, often running for exercise, which allowed us to cover more distance. It was fun to discover the different neighborhoods near us, even magical at times. In our little town, we have a street of amazing, mostly stone homes on huge lots, and when we first stumbled upon them, we called them the “castle houses.” We also have a neighborhood of Frank Lloyd-Wright inspired homes in a wooded, hilly area with a creek running in and out of the lots. We call these “the funny houses.” But it was this creek that excited my boys the most, and we quickly found several places where we could access this creek around our town. This was the creek where we tried to catch minnows one warm fall day nearly three years ago.

When we bought our new house last summer, I knew we were near the creek. But I couldn’t figure out a very good access point near our house, since steep, often cliff-like banks surround it in this area. But one day last summer, Henry and I found a little path on the edge of a parking lot that led us down to the creek. We were thrilled with the new section of the creek that we had discovered, the bottom covered in shale for easy walking and the beautiful, steep banks rising up dramatically on either side. We visited the creek many times last summer, and while we saw deer and raccoons and plenty of minnows, we never saw any other people. With the sun filtering down through the trees at the tops of the banks, it seemed like our own little mystical world.
We walked down the creek many times last summer, and I let the boys swim in a deeper, dammed up area one day. But we never pushed past that place on our walks.

A couple of weeks ago, Luke had a friend over for the day. It was rainy for most of the morning, but when the rain let up, I insisted that we head out for a walk. They asked to go to the creek, but I was afraid that the steep path on our side would be too slippery after the rain, especially since I was carrying Silas in the baby bjorn. I convinced them to walk along the streets to another, tamer access point. There, they began to walk up the creek, discovering “fossils” and other magical objects. Then they got the idea that they would like to walk all the way up the creek to the spot near our house. I had the stroller along with us for Henry, and I had Silas strapped to my front, so I said no. They begged and said they could handle it themselves and I could meet them on the other side, and honestly, I was really tempted to let them, but since I hadn’t walked it myself, I didn’t know what they might encounter. So I said no.

A couple of days ago, Luke and Henry asked to go the creek. I tied Silas on with my wrap, and we headed out the door. Once we went down our steep path, we started walking down the creek. And after they begged, again, to walk the creek to the next access point, I decided that we might as well try. And so we did. And it was magical. I can’t explain why, exactly, it was so amazing to start out one place and wind up another by following the creek. It was like we were somehow transported, like it might feel if we were to travel in underground tunnels. At one point I fell backwards into the creek. I soaked my backside and bruised both elbows, but Silas was fine, if a bit startled. Henry fell into the creek, too. By the time we were walking home along the streets, Luke commented that we looked like a band of homeless people. I’m not sure about that, but we did look sweaty and disheveled, and I did look like I had wet myself.

It was a lovely hour, a timeout from reality. No phones ringing, no toys for distraction. No chores to be done, no fighting over the swing. Just me and my boys, forging throught unknown territory, scrambling over a log jam, slipping on algae-green rocks. Working together to explore an unknown, beautiful place.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer Fun

Life seems to be getting the better of me these days. Thus, the blogging silence. Silas is decidedly not an easy infant. He was fairly mellow as a newborn, but now he has strong opinions about what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. He will only be carried in the baby bjorn (he is nearly twenty pounds, and I have a lot of other more comfortable carriers and strollers). He doesn't go to sleep easily, and never for Craig. And yet he still needs three naps a day. Um, I'm tired.

Here is a great example of Silas's strong will: He was crawling over to me, the army crawl that he does, holding a plastic base for stacking bristle blocks. He was scrambling really quickly, but the plastic thing was causing him to slip around. I took it from him and placed it to the side, hoping to help him reach his goal more quickly. He stopped, turned around, scrambled over to the toy, grabbed it, and then started back toward me. Is it just me, or does that seem like a pretty distinct idea for a six month old? And you know, if Silas doesn't get what he wants, he screams. Loudly.

And I haven't even mentioned the eczema. I cry regularly about his eczema. He has it all. over. his. face. It looks HORRIBLE. He scratches at it constantly. It oozes and gets infected. When it started, I tried an elimination diet, which didn't help. We experimented with different lotions and bath regimens. We tried getting rid of all detergent in our house--not easy, let me tell you. And so finally, last week, I took him to the dermatologist, who put him on steroid cream, antibiotic ointment for the current infection, and an oral antihistimine to help with the itching. I can't get him to take the antihistimine (screaming! gagging! violent wrenching away from the doser!) and the other two medications don't seem to be working at all. It cleared a bit for a few days, but we are currently back to exactly where we started. Actually, scratch that (no pun intended). It is worse than when we started.

Add to all this the fact that it is summer break for the boys, and that Henry has gone from my people pleaser to a . . . challenging child (this is mommy code for something else that is not G-rated) and we've got ourselves in a rather exhausting place. I know this will pass. And I do try to enjoy the lovely times, because they do pop up. I'll write about one soon. But for now: I'm tired. I'm struggling. I'm feeling a bit on the verge, if you know what I mean.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Anniversary Song

On our anniversary, Luke and Henry went into their bedroom and whispered and giggled a lot. They had the camera with them, and emerged a few minutes later with this recorded present for us.

Yard Work

Okay, why don't I know how to put a line of text under a picture? I need to go look that up. Anyhow, I haven't been blogging as I've been busy trying to get a little yardwork done in between baby care and rain showers. So yes, I've been planting one seed at a time. A little discouraging, but as you can see from the first picture of our yard, there is a lot of work to be done. That is our jeep at the very back of our long, skinny property. Craig was hauling mulch back there. A half-acre yard sounded like a great idea when we bought the house, but I'm feeling just a little overwhelmed right now.
The second picture is the site of our garden before Craig built the raised beds; you can see what it looks like now in the last two pictures. That is our neighbor's house behind the garden. And really, don't you find a gardening man quite attractive? I do.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

5 pm Buttercream

Last night at 5 pm--known as "the witching hour" to those with children for good reason--I tried, for the first time, to make swiss buttercream. Do you know about swiss buttercream? I do. I know all about regular buttercream, swiss buttercream, italian buttercream, and french buttercream.

I would like to take a moment to insert a public service announcement: If you are so foolish as to become obsessed with buttercream while surrounded by the chaos of three little boys (well, four, see below) as a checking out/coping mechanism, do not accidentally get sidetracked and type "french butt" into a google search.

Swiss buttercream is made with a meringue that is first whisked over a pot of simmering water. Such a task is not something that one should attempt while bouncing a fussy baby and hosting yet another boy for a playdate. Just to be clear, this upped the boy total in my house to four, ages 4 months, nearly 5, 7.5 and 8. I was also making steak, roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, steamed green beans, and (boxed--homemade would have pushed me into the range of certifiably insane) macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Thinking back on last night, I wonder why I attempt such things. (The buttercream, by the way, didn't turn out quite right. I think I didn't whip the meringue enough before adding the butter. But I added some powdered sugar and managed to turn it into a fine regular old buttercream.) Here's the thing: my life is chaotic. I think I try to find some calm in the madness, but it is filled with a lot of noise and activity. It isn't that we are over scheduled--in fact, I think I keep my boys' activities to a minimum--but my children are full of energy. They are opinionated. They speak loudly. They rise early. And when I put too much effort into calming the storm, so to speak, I just become depressed. What saves me is going about my own business within the chaos.

And so I bake. I cook. I research buttercream. I scrub the floor. Because it all makes me feel like I am accomplishing something. And I like eating good food and having a clean house.

And you know what? Sometimes within this chaos that is my life right now, I am able to step outside of it all for a moment, and see it for what it is: beautiful, messy, joyful life that is racing along faster than I know.

This morning, we were downstairs looking for Luke's scrapbook. He is apparently having a drawing smackdown with one of the older boys at his school. Luke says he is a better artist than this 10 year old. Luke has challenged him. An outside judge (the 10 year old's brother and Luke's classmate) will determine the winner.

So we were late for school, and we were running down to the basement to find the scrapbook, Henry helping, me carrying Silas. We found it and were running back up the stairs, Luke in front, Henry next, and me in the back, carrying Silas facing outward, as he now prefers. And I saw my little brood, lined up by size, running up the stairs. And I could see them next summer, all three of them with Silas following them himself. And I could see the next summer, with Luke nearly 10 and wanting his little brothers to leave him alone. I could see my life, lined up on the stairs.

And it is amazing. Even if I never master swiss buttercream.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Henry, Man of Mystery

My Henry. He is a mystery to me in so many ways. Luke is predictable. I know when he is going to explode. His patterns are recognizable. I usually know what is going on in his head.

Henry? Not so much.

This morning I was kissing Silas in the folds of his neck while Henry ate his breakfast.

"Mmmmm," I said. "I'm just having a little neck for breakfast."

Henry wanted in on the fun, so he moved in for some kisses.

"You know we are only pretending to eat Silas's neck, right?" I checked. After all, Luke bit Henry's tummy when Henry was about Silas's age after Craig had been blowing raspberries on Henry's belly.

"Of course!" replied Henry.

My Henry, you see, doesn't get carried away like Luke does.

"I can only bite someone's neck when I'm an adult," said Henry. "And that would be a bad choice."

Ahh, the adult choices, adult consequences speech, coming back to haunt me. I hadn't thought Henry was listening as I lectured Luke.

* * *

I have been feeling sad lately because Henry has been such a little boy. His new haircut only confirmed the obvious to me: gone are the days of princess crowns and polka dot pants. Henry is all boy.

But again, the mysterious workings of Henry's brain have surprised me. We were in Target yesterday and Luke was drooling over superhero action figures. Henry glanced down at a display and said, "I have always wanted one of those."

"What?" I asked. I couldn't see anything on the end display that seemed like it would appeal to either of my older boys.

"One of those dogs," said Henry, pointing at what can only be described as a Paris Hilton dog.

"A Tini Puppini?" I asked, reading the label.

"Yes!" said Henry. "They come with so much stuff!"

Stuff like a tiara, a curling iron, a carrying purse.

I have since looked on the website, which I invite you to do for yourself. There is a lot of talk of fashion, doggy divas, and the like.

I just can't wait to see what Henry will be up to next.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm Doing Something Right

I'm sorry if you are seeing strange html code in my last blog post. It is showing up when I view my blog from one of our computers but not the other. I don't have the energy to try and fix it right now. I'm thinking of switching to some other blogging format, as I'm having trouble with blogger these days. Any suggestions? It needs to be easy and FREE.

I guess I'm doing something right in feeding my boys. Yesterday, we were on a tight schedule in between school pickups with swim lessons to directly follow. We had just returned home from Henry's school, and I needed to nurse Silas, so Henry offered to pack the snacks for the afternoon.

"Just wait a bit and let me help," I said.

"Mom," said Henry, "Will you just let me do it all by myself?"

"Sure," I said, figuring I could always re-do it if necessary.

Here is what he packed for two little boys: three yogurts, three apples, two oranges, grapes, six foil-wrapped carrots, and two baggies of homemade caramel corn.

I immediately realized two things.

Henry has a good understanding of healthy eating.

And I am clearly starving him.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm Back (More or Less)

Wow, it has been three months. I just decided that I was too busy and preoccupied to blog there for a while, but I find that I’m beginning to feel the longing to think again. Just a little bit, though. My writing for the next few months won’t be profound or anything, but I just need to get back to it, you know?

The last few months have been filled with a whole lot and a whole lot of nothing. We’ve gotten back into a routine of sorts, although Silas still isn’t on any kind of predictable schedule. My days involve a lot of baby bouncing with some dishes and laundry thrown in for variety. I think that if it was just Silas around, I could get him more settled into a routine, but with two older kids, it is hard to follow his rhythms in between the big boys’ commitments. Welcome to life as a third child, kid!

Silas is so big now compared to last time I wrote here. He smiles. He laughs. He coos and babbles. He rolls over. Silas adores his older brothers, and watches the world with wide eyes. He is nearly four months old.

I am much more mellow this third time around, but every now and then, a little bit of the crazy creeps in. With Silas, I have fixated on his skin. He has fairly bad eczema on his face, and I get really freaked out about it sometimes. I am constantly second guessing myself, trying to figure out what I’m eating or doing that is causing the rash. The other day I actually spread peanut butter on his leg to see if he broke out in a rash. Yah, I guess I’m not completely the cool, relaxed third time mom that I would like to be.

I’ve been thinking about food lately. I’ve been hearing a lot about the show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, so I watched an episode on Hulu. I liked it, but it made me so upset that I’m not sure if I can watch any more. Some days I think I’m doing really well with feeding my family as healthfully and as ethically as possible on our budget. And other days I think that I let my kids eat way too much processed junk.

Here’s how I’ve taken a small stand lately: Recently, I have decided to never buy a lunchable again. My kids beg for them—I don’t know why—and I used to let them buy one per week. But I’m putting my foot down. Secondly, I will only let Luke buy school lunch once per month. He thinks I’m soooo mean (since there are two school lunches per month that he would like to buy) but until our school district starts providing lunches that don’t include disturbing offerings like the “chicken hipdipper” and a foot-long hotdog, he’s only getting one per month. I know, I know—I need to work on changing our district’s lunches in some way, but I’m giving myself until Silas turns one. These things I’m doing are tiny little steps, but they are my recent attempts at improving our family’s health and our impact on this earth. And we are still doing all the other stuff we’ve always done. Trying to buy mostly whole foods. Trying to buy as locally as possible. Trying to garden (we aren’t great at it, but I figure that we will improve each year, right?) Oh, the garden. I need to work on that. Right now it is a pile of compost. I’m feeling the crazy lurking over my shoulder, the I-have-a-baby-and-won’t-ever-accomplish-anything-again crazy. Like make a new banner for my blog.

Okay, now I’m really rambling. So much for thinking again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Life is sweet these days. I have always found the newborn phase to be quite challenging, but this time it is wonderful. Silas is a sweet baby, and—aside from a very little fussing when he has gas—he is content to hang out with us when he is not sleeping. But he does an awful lot of sleeping, something neither of my other boys did. And—get this!—he even stays asleep when we put him down. And really, instead of looking at the clock and wondering why time is passing so slowly and when he will get a little bigger, I am gazing down at him today and wondering where the past two and a half weeks have gone.

Silas is our last baby. Of course, this is probably not something one should publicly declare, since public declarations of this sort almost beg for the fates to smite one’s hubris (or something like that). But we are planning on him being our last, so with each little phase that passes I mourn a little. Also, he is our third child, so we are quite relaxed this time around. And then there is the fact that he is so easy. Add to this that my boys are quite enamored of him—I found Henry lying on the bed with him saying, “Hellooo Gorgeous!” over and over the other day—and the fact that Craig was off work when he was born, and that my mother came to stay for ten days. Oh, and my sister comes to help when my mom leaves. And my lovely little community has been so wonderful, with showers before and dinners now, a friend taking our older boys overnight and another giving Luke rides home from school. Do I sound like I’m gushing? I am. I feel like I am living a charmed life at the moment.

And I know that at some point Silas will get sick or Luke will scream that he hates the baby or everyone will have a meltdown the day my mom leaves. But now? Right now is perfect.