Monthly Archives: January 2015

Anxiety Episode #5: Neighborhood solicitors or other would be criminals force their way into our house to burglar, assault, kidnap and/or murder us.

Our neighborhood sees a fair amount of people walking its streets, knocking on doors with offers to mow lawns, pave driveways, or repair windows and roofs. Also, there are Jehovah’s witnesses (rarely), and the occasional dudes who are in transition—they’ve found Jesus, they’re many months sober, and they’re preparing to leave the halfway house. Somehow they believe their future success depends on the sale of magazine subscriptions, of which I’m meant to buy several.

Are these people legit? Are they prospecting for real business or just casing houses for potential burglaries? Are they in the (black) market for cute, bright babies? If so, I’ve got a couple I am absolutely NOT wiling to part with.

I always get both nervous and extremely irritated when I see these folks approaching the house. Nervous, because I find them to be highly suspicious, and irritated, because I have not invited them to my home, and therefore, do not welcome their presence. I know, this all sounds very Scroogey and judgy, but I can’t help it.

Usually these types come around when Liam is still at work and I’m home alone with the girls. I go into overly protective mode then and try to meet the strangers just outside the door in sight of other neighbors. Or, if I think I can get away with it, I hide from the windows, and hope they just go away. I’m sure their intentions are good, really, but these “traveling salesmen” creep me out.

On second thought, maybe I should give these people a small glimpse of our living room, so they could see we have little of value worth taking should their motive be burglary. Of course, if they’re looking for doll house furniture, children’s books, random board game pieces, broken crayons, uncapped, dried-out markers, prized coloring pages, and/or a small collection of baby dolls and stuffed ponies, they would soon come to the realization that they had indeed landed at the jackpot house.

I can usually dismiss the fix-it-up peddlers straightaway because we rent our property. We are not able to make the kinds of decisions they want homeowners to make, thus requiring their services. As for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other reformed types, I will usually just accept some literature kindly, with every intention of trashing it once they’ve walked away. Sorry, but it’s true.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be entertaining these folks at all. It’s probably not wise that I do. They’re so intrusive. I feel the same way about 800-number callers who call many times a day over the course of many weeks and refuse to leave messages on my phone. Get a life!

I know I could probably invest a little time and energy to deter these folks. I could make a bold “No Soliciting” sign and hang it on our front window. Or, a “Beware of rabid attack dog who gets lose from time to time and has been known to break through skin” sign. Or, I could call the police. I’ve also been thinking I might just stand in the window next time and simply shake my head no while simultaneously wagging a finger until the creepers get the message and go away. This seems slightly rude, but could be effective.

In any case I’ve been locking the door obsessively lately, just be safe. In addition to the presence of the neighborhood peddlers, I’ve been worrying about how a local woman was attacked in her home recently and murdered by strangers. I don’t know the specifics of how the bad guys got in, buts it’s enough that I know they did.

Liam likes knowing that I lock the door when he’s not home; it eases his mind to know that I take precautions. However, I think he finds the habitual practice of locking the door to be a little over-the-top once he’s joined us for the night.

Take for example, a common sequence of evening events at our house:

Liam pulls in the driveway after a long day at work. I usually see him coming and go to unlock the door (which I’ve had locked since I walked in from school said goodbye to my mom or to Candace, the girls’ two favorite caregivers). I give him a hug and kiss, welcome him in, and then close and lock the door behind him. He greets the girls. We eat dinner. He may go back outside again to check mail, or empty garbage, so he has to unlock the door. I lock it soon after he comes back in (once or twice I’ve nearly locked him out while he was just making a quick trip to the garage). After dinner he decides to make a fire in the fireplace. We keep our firewood on the porch, so he must unlock the door to go get some. Minutes after he’s come back inside, I notice the door is unlocked and re-lock it, even though I know he’s likely going to need to go back out for more wood in a half hour. A half hour later, as noted, he needs more wood, and so must go back out to the porch, only after he unlocks the door for the fifth time in just under two hours. And so the game of back and forth with the locks continues until we go to bed. Often, he will look at me during these moments and simply shake his head, as if to say: you’re really overdoing things here, woman. Thankfully, he refrains from adding that he thinks I’m bat-shit crazy, and at most will do the shaking head thing and/or sigh.

What? I’ll counter. I’m just trying to keep our family safe.

I think this weekend may be a good time to get started on that rabid dog sign. I really think it might be a game-changer for us.

Eat! Ass!

Our 21-month-old is very smart. She has a great memory. She loves songs and books and being silly. But a clear talker, she is not. Our oldest had probably a 200+ word vocabulary at this age. She was singing full verses of songs, recognized nearly every letter of the alphabet, and was stringing words together to make sentences, like, I want nurse pease, mama. Now. She was, and remains, a very verbal child.

Frances wouldn’t know a letter of the alphabet if it jumped off the page and smacked her in the face, while screaming “I’m a B!” “B?” she’d probably say to herself, and then maybe she would buzz about the house like the insect. More likely, though, she would point her finger at the B and then shout, “Nnnno!” (her response to most things and people these days).

Frances gives new meaning to the phrase multiple-meaning words, as much of what she says now doubles for two words (see below for some examples). The good news is, Nora, Liam and I have gotten very good at interpreting, so we can usually figure out what she is trying to say.

Some of her favorite, most used words and phrases right now are listed below, along with a translation.

Me: Frances (Poor thing can’t say her own name—I can’t tell you how sad this makes me. Although in recent days she has been making some progress—“Mee-cess” now comes out on occasion, with some prompting)

Nor-nor: Nora

Nay-nay: thank you or “Candace” (The latter is the name of our babysitter. These two are especially funny when combined together, as in Thank you, Candace.— “Nay-Nay, Nay-Nay”‘)

Pee!: Please

Boppy: coffee or “Frosty” (as in, the snowman)

Daddy/Dawdy: daddy or doggie

Moddy: my favorite, a mash-up of mommy and daddy (she usually uses this one when she is tired or angry, and doesn’t know who she wants, and so it never comes out right)

Dammy: similar to Moddy, except she begins with Daddy and ends with Mommy

Me’ere: Come here

Ear-are: there/here it is, or there/here they are

Eat!: I’m hungry! (This is her first word EVERY morning upon waking)

Ass: eggs (What she demands every morning, just after she shouts, “Eat!”). Great. Eat! Ass!

Meal: oatmeal (reserved for the days she doesn’t feel like eating ass)

Ole-you: (not an insult, as it may first appear) Can you hold me, please?

Bone: phone (She likes to grab hold of this when I’m not around and punch numbers into the locked keypad repeatedly until she renders it inaccessible for many minutes on end, sometimes in a foreign language. How she does this? I do not know.)

Pee-pas: pictures (the reason she wants the bone in the first place, so she can view images of her and her sister, Nor-nor.)

Moy: more

Noy: nurse

Bubby: tubby (bath)

Since I began with a comparison of both girls in which Frances appeared to be the lesser of the two, I’ll end on a note in which she comes out ahead. Frances is a much more happy, far less grumpy and serious, more affectionate and overall more delightful child than her sister. She’s also way more physical and daring than Nora. And, her vocabulary is really starting to grow with each passing day.

Before Frances was born Liam and I had concerns we could love another child as much as we loved Nora. We needn’t have been worried. Our Franny is hysterical, adorable, cuddly and the most easy child to love—that is, if you ignore the selfish, screeching, pointing-demanding phase that she’s going through right now. Which is actually really hard to do now that I think about it. Thank goodness she’s so stinking cute. Her life might be in danger otherwise.

Hoarding: It runs in the family.

I’m having a bit of writer’s block tonight. It’s probably because I was awoken by a fussy, teething, thrashing 21-month-old 7-8 times during the night last night, and as a result, right now am having difficulty stringing words together to make complete sentences.

So, tonight’s post is an excerpt from an old blog I used to write. As it mentions a time before my wedding, it must have been circa 2009, soon after Liam and I moved here to PA from Boston, where we’d both been living for some time. If you followed the blog then, the story might sound familiar. It features my nephew, Miles, who is eight now. At the time of this post, he was three-and-a-half years old.

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Back story #1: Liam has been a little obsessed with hoarders and hoarding in general, I think. He watched some show on 60 minutes or Dateline, or one of those shows he’s always watching, and he won’t stop making comments about it. If we leave magazines around for too long, he asks: Do you think we’re hoarders? Or if I gently remind him that he needs to get rid of some of his t-shirts since they are taking up three drawers’ worth of space, and he somehow never manages to even touch the ones on the bottom, he replies: I know, I know. I’m a hoarder.

Sometimes I get the hoarder card from him too, especially when it comes to the basement full of crafts that I don’t make use of as often as he thinks I should. Then he starts to go off about the dangers of hoarding and how soon we’ll have our dead cats lying around us, among piles of our picked-off scabs, and pizza boxes full of mounting garbage that we are too lazy to throw away. All of this, never mind the fact that we don’t even own cats.

Back story #2: Liam and I have been saving up our loose change for over a year now. I have to admit, I never much cared for change before I met Liam. But, as I’ve already pointed out, Liam likes to save things. So, we started a coin jar. When it filled up the first time we took it to the grocery store to get bills from the CoinStar machine, the one that charges a small fee per dollar to process the coins. Fifty dollars is no small amount! Instead of spending it, we put it into an envelope.

At some point I decided to start my own coin jar. I kept it separate from the other jar—what would become Liam’s jar. We declared a competition between us to see who could collect the most coins. As a result, we now have quite a little stash of bills in our envelope. We have dubbed it the ‘furniture fund‘ which we plan to use as a down payment for some nice Amish-made table for our yet-to-be-bought new house in our yet-to-be-determined city of settling down.

Real story: A few weeks ago I was over at my parents’ house visiting one evening. (FYI: My mom could quite possibly be a real hoarder. Not dead cats bad, but close. At least, she’s much worse than Liam will ever imagine he is or I am. Love her dearly, I do.) My parents’ house has loose change all over the place and they keep a big jar on their bedroom dresser where a lot of it ends up. I have occasionally been known to go over there and secretly steal the change from that jar, so that my coin jar would fill up faster than Liam’s. I know I should feel ashamed about this, but I don’t.

On this particular evening I let my mom know that I was in real serious need of some coin. I explained that the change-turned-to-bills via CoinStar was going to help pay for my wedding veil, a random item I decided I needed immediately, among other wedding weekend expenses. After hearing this, she was happy to help. Less money she’d have to contribute? Sure! Why not? She showed me several of her secret stashes of change, many of which included quarters, the Big Kahuna of change. These she had to carefully check through though, before giving to me, to make sure they weren’t ones that were of U.S. states of which she hadn’t yet collected seven or eight duplicates. She’s hoarding these, I guess, so she can give each of her children a set some day, although this remains to be seen.

Anyway, she and I were sitting on her bed going through piles of coins when my sister, Melissa, and her young son, Miles, came in. Miles has his own piggy bank at home and my parents will occasionally give him change to put in there. When he saw all of the coins he got very excited and climbed up on the bed to get involved.

Melissa, my mom and I soon each had a huge pile of coins in front of us and we began to sort them into two piles. 1): the pile for Kirstin to take home to change to bills and use to pay for her veil, or whatever else she deemed she needed, and 2): the reserve pile for mom in order for her to one day complete her eight sets of state quarters. Incidentally, I’m not quite sure why she needs eight sets. If you count one set for her and my dad to keep, plus the four kids, that makes five sets. Hoarders need to always have back-up, I guess.

The conversation began like this:

Me: Hawaii?

Mom: Yeah, I need that one.

Melissa: How about Delaware?

Mom: Nope. That was one of the first ones. I have plenty of those.

Me: New Mexico?

Mom: Hmmm…I can’t remember. Put it in my pile just to be safe.

After hearing my mom say ‘yes’ to her pile for Hawaii for about the 13th time, I stood up for my collection and shouted: No! You have enough already. The veil! Think of the veil! That one’s mine! We were starting to get a little hysterical and the mood was becoming intense.

All the while, my nephew Miles was secretly stealing from each of our piles to make his own, his smile growing wider and wider with the addition of each new coin. Eventually I started watching him with more interest and concern. I tried to rationally explain to him that his Aunt Kirstin needed the money more than he did. I would then steal a few dimes from his pile and he’d say angrily, “Hey, that’s mine!”

I mean, he could play the pile game just like everyone else, right? That’s what he justified in his smart little brain. And then I’d yell back, “No, they’re mine!” We’d laugh a little and the game would continue (and yes, I had no problems stealing money from a three-and-a-half-year-old and not giving it back).

Soon, my yelling turned into, “Miles, quit being a hoarder!” Of course, the vocabulary was fresh in my mind from Liam’s constant use of it at home. Then when their piles were dwindling, Melissa and my mom would swipe some coins from Miles too in order to sort them into their rightful places. I mean, this was serious banking business here.

My mom and Melissa soon dumped on him too, “Miles, nobody likes a hoarder.” Or, “Miles, quit hoarding!”

Melissa, my mom and I were having more fun using these big words with him than you can imagine. Miles continued to get frustrated that his pile was shrinking by the minute and his mom, aunt and grandma were yelling nonsense at him left and right. It just wasn’t right. Finally, amidst hands taking from him and words being thrown about, Miles responded to us all in a shouting, desperate whine, “But, I wanna be a hoarder!”

The grown ups looked at each other and began to crack up. This little guy had understood that keeping his money to himself and playing the game with the big girls meant being a hoarder, and that was OK by him even if he didn’t own the word at the time and would likely forget it the next day. In the moment it was completely hysterical.

Eventually Miles lost all his money. Well, I did I let him keep the pennies. What does he know anyway? And, a few hours later, I was $125 richer. Thanks, mom! Hoarding sure does pays off!

Ten (or fewer) weeks to go!

We’ve reached the thirty-week mark of this pregnancy. And when you consider that full-term is forty weeks, thirty seems like I’m very nearly there, right? Especially since I’ve been pregnant since JULY. Until you stop and count and figure out that ten weeks still adds up to about two and a half months. So, not nearly there after all. Ugh.

A colleague who just had a baby recently posted one of those cutesy card-type-message things on Facebook that read:

Each month has an average of thirty days…except the last month of pregnancy which has 1,453 days.

I thought this was pretty funny given the truth, if slightly exaggerated, in the statement. It certainly feels like the near end is a long way away.

We are mostly ready for the baby but for a dresser or some piece of furniture in which to store his clothes. The girls share one now and there is no consolidating to make room. He will have gender appropriate clothing for about six months. And then if we don’t do some shopping, he will look lovely in shades of pink, purple, and bright blue, with an assortment of flowers, hearts, cats, dancing girls, ice cream cones, dresses, leggings and ruffles. But it’s the third kid, right, so I’m sure he’ll just go with it.

On Friday I have an appointment to do fasting bloodwork for the dreaded three-hour glucose test. With all three pregnancies I’ve had to do this. My numbers flagged the one-hour test, but were fine with both girls after the three-hour. I’m praying it goes the same way with this one.

I’ll show up in the morning having eaten nothing since the night before. Then I’ll have to drink, in under a minute, a small 10-oz. bottle of a fruit-punch-flavored concoction that has enough sugar in it to likely keep a person alive in the wild for forty days and forty nights, or the equivalent of about 86 Mountain Dews, without stopping but for a second or two to catch my breath and coach myself to keep going despite the awful gagging sensation that is rising in my throat. Certainly this can’t be good for the baby.

And then I’ll sit in the waiting room and/or walk around the limited space in the hallways of the hospital, at least for the first hour, after which I’ll start to feel so loopy and dizzy on account of all the sugar that’s built up in my system on top of not having eaten anything for half a day. After that I’ll have to stay seated until they call my name to draw blood, and pray I don’t pass out from all the excitement.

At my last appointment the kind receptionist reminded me to bring a snack for after the test. “You’ll feel a little hungry and tired and will need to eat before you’ll start feeling better.”

Really? Yeah, my body got that message the last two pregnancies.

I’ll be sure to come packing with a thermos full of coffee and cream (hold the sugar, please), and likely a jalapeño cheddar bagel, toasted, with bacon, eggs and cheese, along with a side of chocolate chip cookies I just baked tonight, and maybe some orange juice as an extra special treat to wash it all down.

Take that, gestational diabetes. Bring on another nine-pound baby. I’m ready.

It Was a Great Day—Right up until It Wasn’t

Our family had the nicest day together yesterday. We woke up in no hurry to go anyplace. We lounged around the house and enjoyed a pancake breakfast. We played outside in the snow and made a “Snowgirl”, complete with tufted hairpieces.

Our family Snowgirl.

Our family Snowgirl.

After we all napped for a spell, we headed out to the local Irish pub in town for some Irish session music. The girls danced on the stage there and colored in their coloring books, allowing us to enjoy some precious adult conversation and mellow downtime. Then, we capped off the evening at a pizza parlor, enjoying a pie and pleasant conversation.

On the drive home Liam and I talked about how it had been such a great family day. Nora asked why and we explained that we got to do some very fun things—nobody had to work, we got out of the house for a bit, and we were able to enjoy just spending time with one another.

At home, the fun continued as I’d promised the ladies I’d take a girls’ bath with them. We filled the tub with bubbles and soaked in the suds. Nora ratted on her sister once for trying to drink the soapy tubby water (she’s a very observant and concerned big sister—read, tattler). Otherwise, everyone got along just fine.

We had probably been sitting in the water for twenty minutes when Nora suddenly pointed and shouted, “Mommy! Oh no! Look! A poopy! Franny did some poopies in the water!”

Definitely not the words you want to hear, well, EVER. But especially not when you’re actually in the tub with the poopy and your youngest may or may not have ingested particles of it only moments earlier.

Liam heard the commotion and came running, took one look in the tub—we were all standing up at this point, paralyzed with indecision—made a face like, glad it’s you and not me in there, and then proceeded to actually walk away. Can you believe that?

“Get back here!” I yelled. “And do something!”

He smirked, chuckled, and then handed me some toilet paper. Awesome. Husband of the year, right here, folks.

At this point, the water was slowly draining. It was slowly draining because about six or seven pieces of toddler shit were gathering nicely in the drain, while several others floated on by near our feet. We decided to keep the girls in the tub so I could turn the shower on when the water drained and hose us all off and rid us of toxic hazardous waste.

In the meantime, I had to fish out the little turds so the damn water could drain properly. I made Liam promise to forever erase the image in front of him from his mind, of his very pregnant, naked wife bending over, grasping at mushy shitballs with only soaking wet toilet paper between her hands and the mush, gagging, while his daughters looked on half in horror, half in mild amusement. Definitely a low point for us all.

After all the shrieking and excitement died down, I lectured Frances about going number two in the bath. I told her no more. That she needed to tell me when she had to go so I could put her in a diaper (she refuses to sit on the potty chair or the toilet at this point).

And then, after some thought, there was a fleeting moment when I remembered that Frances might have tried to tell me she had to go, or was actually going. At one point early on in the bath she was busy scratching her bum uncomfortably, and she might have even said poopy (I can’t be sure, but it seems likely. I was preoccupied at the time reading news of the impending snowstorm and checking my weather app every few moments, hoping against all hope for school to be cancelled—we ended up just having a delay). The problem is, she says “poopy” all the time, sometimes when she has in fact gone in her diaper, and sometimes just for the hell of it. How was I to know?

Liam had basketball tonight, so I was on my own with the girls for a bit. We took another girls’ tubby—I know, it was real risky after last night’s episode. I told them no bubbles. Mommy wants to be able to see what’s in the water tonight. Nora giggled. Frances looked clueless. Poor girl. She has no idea. No idea.

Thankfully, we made it through without any incidents. The girls are both sleeping soundly and I’m hoping for another delay tomorrow. Go snow!

The Decision to Co-Sleep

I first learned about co-sleeping before it was ever relevant in my life. In college, I took two anthropology elective courses with Dr. James McKenna, a leading authority on co-sleeping and SIDS. Although the courses were not about co-sleeping exclusively, the subject did come up from time to time. The way he explained it was, babies have been sleeping with their mothers for much of our evolutionary past. There’s been a very recent shift (in terms of millions of years) that has taken place in which mothers have been encouraged to put their babies down to sleep in a separate environment, like a crib in another room. At the time, everything this man said made perfect sense to me. It still does, especially as a strong breastfeeding advocate. So, I suspected that when the time came, assuming my partner was willing, I would be up for this thing called co-sleeping.

When I was expecting with our oldest, I was still open to co-sleeping, but planning on getting a hand-me-down crib from my sister at some point, when her daughter transitioned to a toddler bed (this would have been some time when Nora would have been five or six months old).

In the meantime, I had purchased a co-sleeper, intending to park it next to my bed when Nora came home. Instead, it mostly ended up being storage for blankets and diapers. I found, in those early days, after we came home from the hospital, that when I swaddled her up and placed her in the co-sleeper I was tuned in to every tiny noise and wriggle she made throughout the night. It was awful. I was constantly waking and checking on her to see that she was still breathing, and I got no sleep. I suspect this has more to do with my anxious personality, and that calmer, less nervous parents would have had a much better go of it in this kind of situation.

Let me explain something about me and sleep. I NEED IT. Badly. There are few things I will sacrifice for my sleep. I think it’s pretty telling that in college I had a strict, self-imposed weeknight bedtime of 10:00 p.m. Lots of my friends stayed up late burning the midnight oil. But me? It didn’t matter that there was a big test to cram for, or a paper to write. I needed my shut-eye. I think I pulled one all-nighter in four years of college, and it was probably on a physics test which I ended up bombing anyway.

So, waking every few moments to check on a gurgly, squirmy baby?  It was too much for my nerves. What did I do? I scooped that baby right up, placed her on my chest and spent the next two weeks sleeping with her there, propped up with oversized pillows to support my arms. It was all very comfy and secure. I told myself the kid wasn’t going anywhere. What’s the harm? She sleeps, I sleep. All was well. After those first two weeks, I felt comfortable moving her to the space beside me in bed.

The choice to co-sleep made breastfeeding easier too. Imagine me, the sleep hog, waking in the middle of the night to walk across the hall to pick up a baby, sit with her on a rocker to nurse, and then place her back in the crib, only to wake and do it again hours later. No thanks. I’d much rather stir only slightly, whip out a boob, get the job done, and then drift back to sleep, all while remaining in the warm comfort of my own bed.

Thankfully Liam was on board with all of this. He was nervous at first about us harming the girls in our sleep, but I think he came to quickly trust in my mothering instincts and the safety guidelines we followed. Also, I should note that having a king-sized bed has made all the difference. I can’t say that we’d have made the same choices if we had a smaller bed.

When I returned to work in the fall, when Nora was 4.5 months old, the decision to continue co-sleeping was an easy one. My niece was reluctant to let go of her crib, so that option was out. I knew I wanted to maintain the breastfeeding relationship, and losing sleep was not an option. I also recognized that I would only get to see Nora for a few hours each weekday evening. I thought if I could sleep with her, be physically close to her at night, it would make up for the time I was away from her during the day.

We ended up sleeping with Nora in our bed for almost two years, transitioning her to a mattress on the floor in a separate room right before Frances arrived. Even then, Liam continued to sleep with her there for many months. I am convinced this is why their relationship is as strong as it is today. She is her daddy’s girl for sure, preferring 19 nights out of 20 that he be the one to put her bed.

When we were expecting with Frances, I still brought the co-sleeper up from the basement, as though I might try and use it, be more relaxed the second time around. It never happened. She too slept on my chest for two weeks until I felt comfortable moving her onto the bed beside me. It just felt safest and most natural for us to do things this way. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’ll even attempt to assemble the co-sleeper this time around with the boy.

Co-sleeping has brought us a lot of joy and comfort and bonding with our girls over the years. Few things are better than waking lazily a as family on a Sunday morning and greeting each other with cuddly hugs and kisses. But, it has its sure disadvantages as well. With the exception of a few months right before Frances was born, I haven’t slept through the night since the spring of 2011. Teething times are especially rough. And also those early-infant-development-milestone times when your kid is just awake for the hell of it for hours on end, wanting to hang out. During those moments we found ourselves frustrated and bickering with each other in the middle of the night, “Why the hell did we decide not to have a crib again? That’s it! We are going out tomorrow and buying one!”

We even experimented once or twice with one of the girls by bringing up a pack-and-play from the basement and letting her spend some time in there because we just couldn’t cope with her in our bed. However, after some time, that seemed cruel, watching her watch us, peering up over the top edge, screaming, longing to be back in our bed, nestled tightly among her parents. Of course, we relented and ended up pulling her right out.

Every time it seemed we were both ready to throw in the towel and move on with our lives and place the kids in a crib in another room, the bad time would pass, and we’d move on again to more peaceful nights, only to repeat the cycle over and over until each girl reached toddlerhood. The bad moments still came then, and still do come, but they were and are far less frequent. And, we’ve learned, we just have to patient and wait them out.

When you make a choice to share the bed with your children, you choose at the same time to give up time and space with your partner. This can also be a challenge. I know it’s for this reason alone that a lot of parents can’t imagine sleeping with their kids. It takes a concerted effort to make time to connect with your partner when you have babies around you at all times during the night. I like to think we believe it’s worth it. At least for the time being, until the next bad episode happens and we feel ready to to rush to a 24-hour BabiesRUs (do they even have these?) in the middle of the night to express order a crib.

Liam wonders aloud at least weekly, if not daily, if we are not doing a huge disservice to our kids by not teaching them how to fall asleep on their own. I wonder about it too. Self-doubt creeps in from time to time, especially when we hear of friends’ babies who have no problems sleeping through the night from a young age. All of the co-sleeping literature says we won’t have a fifteen-year-old sleeping in bed with us. But at this time, I’m not so sure we won’t. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Ahhh…to be able to share the bed once again with just my husband. Until that blessed time comes, we will enjoy making the most of our precious time snuggling with our babies while we still can.

Coloring Page Clutter

We have a prolific artist living in our house. She loves to paint, draw, write and color. Our fridge showcases many of her best pieces, and every now and then, so do our walls. More often, though, the papers end up on various tables, desks and floors. Not only are the pages unsightly, they are hazardous as well (imagine for a moment a seven-months-pregnant lady who can’t see beyond her growing belly, walking in socks on the kitchen floor, and then slipping on an unseen giant “Winnie the Pooh” coloring page, and the ensuing rage that will surely follow).

I don’t know why clutter has the power to undo me, but it does. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a house full of clutter—picture newspapers and magazines, unopened mail piled up in every corner—the result of living in a home that was far too small for the six people that inhabited it, combined with full-time working parents who had little time to clean and organize while also raising four children, combined with what may be the slight hoarding tendencies of my very well-meaning mother.

I, however, can spend loads of time organizing and de-cluttering our small house. I have a very low threshold for messiness. Which isn’t to say that our house is always clean and put-together. Our living room, kitchen and dining areas, our most heavily used spaces, are prone to collecting post-tornado-like debris on a daily basis. My husband, who has a much higher tolerance for clutter, often argues, “Why do you even bother cleaning up? They’re [the kids] just going to destroy it all again anyway.”

I see his point. I do. In fact, I sometimes find myself muttering the same thing under huffy breath. Still, I find there is something so satisfying, so necessary, about ridding spaces of clutter. It seems logical, then, that I might want to start with the countless coloring pages that pile up and grace the flat spaces in our house.

I suppose I could neatly stack the papers and file them away in some sort of album, or shoebox. This is something my mother would have done. Alas, she and I have a different relationship with clutter, so into the garbage they will go.

I try to find moments when our little artist is either not in the house, or absorbed entirely in something else, to stealthily trash the pages and create order once again in our home. Two or three times I made the mistake of throwing pages into some of the open waste baskets in our home. The artist, Nora, would then pass by and discover the fruits of her hard work in the dump and yell, “Hey! What’s my picture doing in the trash?!”

I blamed it on her younger sister a couple of times, which wasn’t totally inconceivable, because Frances went through a phase of trashing things that definitely didn’t warrant trashing. There was a span of a few weeks when I had to carefully examine the contents of the wastebaskets before I dumped them into the larger trash because I had discovered, quite by accident, a baby doll in one bin. Thanks to my checking, a pair of socks, a book, and several play dishes were saved from certain death-by-trashing.

“Oh, Franny must have done it,” I said. “Remember when she tried to throw away Baby?” And then, admonishing the younger, clueless sister, “Silly, Franny. We don’t put coloring pages in the trash.” Poor sucker. I know, I’m totally heinous. I then had to pull the artwork from the trash and hang it prominently on the fridge until a satisfied smile appeared on the artist’s face.

Since then I’ve learned to use the trashcan in the kitchen to dispose of old pages. It has a lid which hides its contents well from unsuspecting passersby. But then this past week I made another mistake. I just wasn’t thinking. Minutes, and I mean minutes (I usually wait at least an overnight), after Nora finished a lovely butterfly coloring page, I discovered it had fallen from the magnet which was attempting to secure it to the fridge. Frustrated after finding another effing paper on the floor, I took advantage of Nora’s bathroom break and moved the paper to the trash.

Then, I started cooking dinner. I set my youngest up at the sink to play in some dishwater so she would stop demanding incessantly that I hold her. Nora asked to eat a clementine once she returned from the bathroom and I told her fine. As long it means you leave me alone to finish dinner! 

She walked over to the trashcan and used her foot to press the pedal to open the stainless steel butterfly lid (a month ago she didn’t have the strength or coordination to pull this off!). She began peeling the clementine and must have discovered her drawing as she looked down after dropping one of the peels inside. “Hey!” she shouted, sounding appalled. Oh shit. Caught red-handed. “What’s my butterfly doing in here? Who threw my butterfly in the trash?!”

I couldn’t really blame the toddler then. She had been splashing in the sink with spoons and bubbles. And even if she hadn’t been, she lacked the strength necessary to open this trashcan. I quickly came up with some lame-sounding excuses, so my daughter wouldn’t think her mother was the most offensive, uncaring, soulless human being on the planet.

“Oh honey. Mommy must have done that by accident. Maybe mommy didn’t see the butterfly, but instead the other side of the paper. Maybe mommy thought it was a paper she didn’t need anymore, like a grocery list. Here, let’s get it out of the trash and straighten it up and put it back on the fridge. There we go. How’s that?”

Sheesh. She seemed to fall for my sorry ass excuses, appeased for the moment. What will I do when she wises up a bit more and starts to notice that all of her drawings are slowly disappearing day after day after day?

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There aren’t enough magnets to support the number of pages that get churned out at our house each day.

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Sample table clutter after a lengthy session with crayons and markers. The neatly colored lion was done by yours truly. I do love a good color every now and then.

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Sample under-the-table clutter featuring the GIANT coloring pages I mentioned above.

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Today’s dump. The artist was at her grandparents’ house so I had plenty of time to dispose of the evidence.

For all my bitching and complaining about these damn papers, I do appreciate very much that the girls are engaged in making art. It keeps them busy for long stretches so that I am able to get things done around the house. And, I do keep the best ones for posterity, though they are very small in number.

Nora colored the Piglet below a couple of days ago. I told her that I liked how the colors were so lifelike, that the watermelon looked just like a real watermelon. And Piglet looked just like the Piglet in the books. I suggested she hang it on the back of the front door since it was too large to fit on the fridge. I rolled some tape doughnuts for her and then walked away. A little while later, I stumbled upon this scene in the bedroom.

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Piglet watching over me as I sleep, in all his true-to-life colors.

I found Nora and told her I thought she was going to hang it on the door. Her response: “Since you liked it so much, mommy, I decided to put it next to your bed so you can see it all the time.” Oh joy.

Whenever the youngest walks into the room now, she looks at the wall, squeals, “Nor-Nor! (her name for her sister), and starts cracking up laughing. If I’m being honest, I guess I’ll admit I do too.