Category Archives: Family

‘Tis the season for lying about Santa, Elf on the Shelf, and trying not to murder your spouse when putting up and righting the Christmas tree.

Our oldest girl asked recently if the Santa with whom she took her picture last Christmas was the real Santa. After a brief glance toward the hubs and a pause that lasted perhaps two seconds too long, I replied unsteadily, “I’m not sure. It’s hard to say if that was the real Santa, or one of Santa’s helpers.”

“Huh?” she asked, rightfully confused.

“Well,” I stammered, “Santa has helper elves that look just like him. So, sometimes we see the real Santa, and sometimes it’s just one of his elves. We can never tell.”

“Oh,” she said, digesting the information. And then she walked away, as if it were just all too much to consider.

The hubs and I exchanged another glance and then agreed we felt quite ridiculous lying to our daughter about the bearded man in a red suit with flying reindeer. I mean, the whole Santa thing is absurd, really. But we also agreed we didn’t want to rob her of the magic and mystery of Christmas that we both experienced as young children.

I’m just dreading the day that she comes home from school—like I did some time in the early elementary years—and tells us how someone in her class told her that Santa is make-believe, and instead of taking him at his word, confronts us with the issue and explains how she didn’t believe the kid because her mommy and daddy would never lie to her.

Well, until then, we will just keep participating in the ludicrous lie that is Santa Claus.

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Moving on. Elf on the Shelf. I never intended to have one because I fancy myself unconventional. And also, I felt a little uncertain about threatening my pretty well-behaved kid with a tale about an ever-watching twelve-inched stuffed sprite who reports back to Santa.

However, last year, an Elf was gifted to us by a family member. So, I opened the box in secret, read through the book, and took one evening, right before bed, to introduce the Elf and the whole far-fetched concept to Nora.

Needless to say, she was terrified. Most kids may accept at face value the idea that Santa would send a household elf to watch over a family and tattle back if necessary; not this kid. Watching her face process the silly—and admittedly frightening—scheme was priceless. After two nights and mornings of talking about the Elf and witnessing his flights of fancy, she bravely asked if we could mail the Elf back to Santa. Like, immediately.

And so we did. More lies.

The Elf went back into the box and she and I later talked about how he might return when she was a year older. Better able to handle the thought that some weird creature was flying about her house by night and watching her every move by day. Because that’s not creepy at all for a kid.

At this point, I haven’t yet decided if the Elf will join our family again this year or not. But, I will admit to having changed my mind about using a sprite to threaten my kids into behaving properly. These days, I need all the help I can get.

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Every year I DREAD having to put up the Christmas tree. Dread. This probably stems from the trauma of childhood Christmases and watching my dad under the tree, year after year with the tree stand, tightening and loosening this screw and that, rotating and twirling trunks left and right. All while my mom insisted over and over again that the damn thing still wasn’t straight. Wasn’t showing its best side. We children held our collective breaths and winced while our dad stomped off and stormed around a bit until he had calmed down enough to try again. We silently urged our mom to just say good enough is good enough. But it had to all be perfect.

Now that I’m one-half of the tree-putting-up committee at my own house, I’ve learned to expect less than perfection for sanity’s sake. Still, adjusting those stubborn screws and getting that damn conifer to stand straight is a HUGE pain in the arse.

On top of all of this stress, I fear we have lost the tree stand in the recent move. Which means we may need to purchase a new one. I was browsing today on Amazon and discovered a few brands that people claim will save marriages and should be invested in no matter the high cost of $100.

One hundred dollars for a tree stand?! You’ve got to be effing kidding me! For one hundred dollars, included in that deal better freaking be Bing Crosby himself come back from the dead to hold the trunk merrily, all while singing “White Christmas” round the clock for our family and holiday guests. Sheesh.

On second thought. I guess it does beat the cost of having to pay for counseling and/or a divorce lawyer. I think I’ll have to sleep on it.

 

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A love letter to the first house I lived in with my husband, and the one to which all my babies came home to after they were born, on the eve of our departure.

Dear modest two-bedroom rancher on a corner lot with a huge yard and a garage door that seldom closed on its own without some kind of applied brute force:

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Our first house.

Seven years and three months ago we moved in. There were just two of us then. We were pleased to have found you, even if your wooden kitchen cabinets overwhelmed us with their, well, woodiness. And even if your dirty white vinyl siding never quite appealed to us.

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Woody cabinets. Too much, right?

You welcomed us with open rooms—six, to be exact. Seven if you include the half-finished basement that for years I refused to enter except to do laundry, for fear that mold and mildew and cobwebs would compromise my immune system. And, there was that one time when Nora was an infant and we took refuge there during a tornado warning, even though Liam insisted on telling me the whole time I was being ridiculous.

Over the years though, basement, you grew on me. Kind of. I spruced you up with furniture and covered your drab wood-paneled walls with colorful bunting. I set up a doll house and a train table. A handmade teepee hideout. I transformed you into a sort of kid play space. I tried to ignore the darkness and the presence of the occasional mouse nest and the rotting window wood as best I could, so that on cold, wet days my kids could enjoy playing somewhere other than the living room.

Thank you for watching over the girls and for keeping them from concussing their little heads on your hard cement floors, covered only by an old, worn out carpet, maybe an eighth of an inch thick. Thank you also for preventing them from falling down your scary dangerous, steep, wooden stairs, with the hand rail so high, the kids couldn’t even attempt to reach it until they were two. I’ll admit to you now, them falling was one of my worst fears. Maybe you always suspected that though, because, when I wasn’t hovering near the top of the stairs holding my breath as I watched the girls go down, I was forever cautioning them to take their time and not push one another, or else walking in front of them should I need to break their fall. I have to confess. I am glad the boy will be elsewhere when he learns to walk. He is crawling swiftly and steadily climbing already just shy of seven months old. I fear for his physicality and can only imagine how recklessly he would have handled your stairs.

Basement, you saw us through the exchange of countless washers and dryers. The filling and dumping of a rusty old dehumidifier. The storage of loads of photos and baby clothes and camping gear and important documents and random furniture we couldn’t bear to throw out. Lastly, I’ll never forget your sump pump with the gnarly rotting wood covering the hole that led down to the well that will always remind me of the one that Baby Jessica fell into back in the 1980s. Thanks be to God that none of our babies fell down that well like she did all those years ago in Texas.

I will miss your spacious yard and magical trees maybe the most of all. Not raking your fall leaves, mind you, an annual activity I really could have done without. One that could be expected to last over a month, with four or five consecutive weekends spent raking abundant leaves onto a weathered green tarp, and then dragging said tarp to the side of the yard to dump pile after pile after pile of brown crinkly yard waste where the grass met the road. But, I did love gazing out your living room, kitchen and bedroom windows and watching the spring and summer leaves on the branches of your old and wise trees blow about in the breeze. I did sometimes worry that during bad storms one of the branches on your biggest tree—the one closest to the house—might crack and strike our house and impale one of us in our sleep. So, thanks again for keeping that from ever happening.

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Nora among the many fall leaves.


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And years later, doing her own part to help.

House—in the beginning, I loved mowing your lawn. The riding mower was new to me. A challenge to be learned. As a teenager, I was never allowed to mow the grass at our childhood home. My mother had suffered from an unfortunate mowing accident, whereupon running over a piece of rusty metal wire, the sole of her sneaker was pierced by the same flying wire debris, which resulted in a broken bone in her foot. And no Yost child ever partaking in the mowing of the lawn thereafter.

Somewhere in the middle, I detested mowing your lawn. When Liam got busy at work, it meant that one of the two of us had to spend two hours of our only weekend day off together mowing. Precious time we wanted to spend with each other.

Toward the end, I both loved and hated mowing your lawn. Yes, it was a time sucker. But it also provided me precious free time to escape being a mom for just a little bit. For two hours every other weekend, I got to zone out and enjoy the peace and meditation that came from mindlessly weaving linear patterns back and forth across your yard. Perhaps most importantly, mowing your lawn provided me precious opportunities to show my daughters that girls can cut grass just as well as (if not better than!) boys. We would have included the kids more in mowing but for your mower’s loud ass engine as well as its shifty seat which liked to wobble dangerously from time to time.

Remember the year of the bountiful cut flower garden? It had always been a dream of mine to grow a patch of flowers from which I could cut fresh stems to bring inside and display colorful bouquets. The neighbors oohed and aahed over you. We never could quite get you to grow to the fullness of that one summer. Liam insists it’s because he planted the seeds that first time, not me, that the garden flourished. Hmmpf! It’s not my fault the rabbits were particularly hungry in subsequent years.

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Nora and our cut flower garden in all their glory.

We cut our gardening teeth on your soil. In addition to flowers, we grew vegetables and planted blueberry bushes. We composted halfheartedly off and on over the years. We experimented with canning, pickling and preserving foods like cucumbers, asparagus, strawberry jam, and tomatoes—always a scene of frenzied chaos!

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Frances and her basil leaves.


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Nora with one of the caterpillars who so loved our dill.

Another beloved outdoor space of ours—your front porch—was home to many creative and hands-on projects. We made art there with sidewalk chalk, paints and natural materials. We husked corn and ripped kale. We smushed ants—well, at least the four-year-old did. We blew bubbles and whistles and screamed at the top of our lungs at passersby. We swung on the hammock swing and sat on the steps to pass the time and wait for Daddy to get home. We danced in rain puddles and stomped around in snow.

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Sitting on the front steps wearing classic expressions.


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The setting for many photo shoots gone awry.


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Finger painting in the water table.


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Sidewalk chalking.


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Ripping kale leaves for dinner.

For sure, the space that most evolved over the years was the bedroom. In the beginning, there were just two people sharing a giant king-sized bed. If we had to give away all but one piece of furniture in our home, I am sure my husband and I would agree we could not part with the bed. It is that comfortable. Our safe haven.

One of my most vivid and meaningful memories of our time spent under your roof involves that bed. One evening, in late fall of 2011, Liam and I had just finished rearranging the bedroom furniture. I was five or six months pregnant with Nora at the time, and we were making space to accommodate some new things for the baby. We pushed the bed under one of the windows in the bedroom, and then stopped to enjoy a moment of rest on the bare, plush mattress whose sheets were being cleaned in the laundry. We snuggled up side-by-side in the dark, with the window cracked open, so we could enjoy the cool breeze. We lay quietly for a time, appreciating the stillness. Then, rather abruptly, I started to cry. I confessed that I had been worried about what having a new baby might do to change the relationship I had with Liam. I felt that although I was excited about the new baby, I was somehow mourning in that moment, the loss of the two of us. We would soon be three. Our lives would change forever. We agreed that although we decidedly would change, we would strive to always make time to be two again.

Many years later, our lives have changed. Sometimes beyond recognition. Sometimes not. We no longer binge watch TV shows on the couch. Or stay up late just hanging out. Or cuddle up without some clinger wedging herself in between us. But, we still make time for date night. Well, at least once every few months. And we still make each other laugh out loud. If one were to walk into the bedroom now, one would see how we have wedged a twin bed up against our beloved king—an accommodation we made just two months ago to include everyone in the family bed. I admit it’s a tad bit ridiculous. But it works for us. I still lie under that window and feel the breeze from time to time and remember that moment years ago, and thank God for how lucky and blessed we all are to have each other.

The twin pushed against the king family bed.

Over the years we have ensconced ourselves safely inside your bedroom walls. Sleeping, dreaming, bonding, nursing, cuddling. Waking. Waking. Always waking. Your walls have heard our nighttime whisper curses being flung about here and there through teething spells, stomach bugs and that infant developmental bullshit where babies just decide to be up for no good reason at all but to piss their parents the fuck off. You have heard us say time and again, “Why the hell don’t we have cribs for our fucking children?!” And yet, we have remained steadfast in our desire to sleep next to our babies. We have grown our family of just two to a very full FIVE. We believe our children are becoming affectionate, confident, independent and empathetic beings as a result of sharing this sleeping space with us (if not also attached). But one day they will be gone, and these memories will remain.

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The three little bears snuggled up in their bed.


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That time when we moved two twin beds into the second bedroom that was once a playroom, and then a Nora-Daddy bedroom, hopeful that the girls would sleep together in there, but then just became a playroom again, only with two unused beds in there.

I think, perhaps, the room I liked least in your space was the bathroom. Mostly because I abhorred cleaning it. Remember those three or four times when I lost or left house keys somewhere out and about, and had to break in through the only open window in the house—the bathroom window. I always made quite a scene when that happened. Thanks for being open, though. We woulda been screwed if you hadn’t been.

We loved building fires in your fireplace and making blanket forts in just about every room. We used your walls to adorn photographs of our loved ones and artwork made by little hands. We spread cushions on the floor and bounced around on them. We had picnics with fake food and picnics with real food on that same floor. We said prayers together at meal times and prayers at bedtime. We watched way too much PBS Kids (especially in recent days, what with all the packing that’s been going on) and built towers of wooden blocks again and again and again.

Remember that magical Christmas Eve when Liam made seafood fra diavolo for dinner, and he and I talked about how blessed we were to have had such special grandparents in our lives? And then he proposed. Do you remember how I said yes? And how we laughed and laughed afterwards? He still makes that same meal now every Christmas Eve. It’s become a tradition that began at a table in your dining room, and will continue on for years to come.

Remember also the time my water broke at 2:00 a.m. and we rushed off to the hospital? Sorry about that mucous plug that dropped on your floor. I had no idea it was coming. Really. It scared the shit out of me, too. I was fortunate to begin to labor with the other two babies under your roof as well, but in a much calmer state than the first time around. Each time we brought home a child from the hospital, we enjoyed peaceful days of sitting on the couch getting to know her or him. Then, there were the sleepless nights. Not so soon forgotten.

You gave our children their first sense of feeling part of a community, a neighborhood. There is Mr. Larry and Mrs. Betty right next door. They ADORE the kids. They’ve told us time and again how they have loved watching the kids grow up in the backyard from the sunroom behind their house. They recall fondly the way Nora waddled about when she first learned to walk, and how she chased around after the wiffle golf balls Liam would hit about when working on his swing.

Then there’s Tim and Deb across the street. I’ll never forget the first Halloween after we moved in. Liam had been working late in Harrisburg. I saw Tim and Deb huddled up in winter weather gear passing out candy to the neighborhood youngsters. They had coozies of beer in one hand, and Twizzlers in another. I left my bowl of candy when I saw them, went in to grab my winter hat with the ear flaps, and trudged across the street carrying my own beer in a coozy to join them. Because why the hell not?

Miss Isabel is next to them, and beyond that house, Mrs. Dorothy and Mr. Charlie, along with Snickers, the dog. Over the years, we loved watching out for Miss Isabel taking walks, and driving her car on errands, long after she was supposed to have given up driving on orders from her doctors. We loved spotting Mrs. Dorothy at church, in addition to looking out for her daily walks with Snickers. We enjoyed stopping to chat with everyone. Especially Miss Val, and her pooch sidekick Potsie. Miss Val always had all the news of the neighborhood and always greeted the kids with genuine concern for their wellbeing.

Our girls made their first little friends in your neighborhood too. In the beginning, there was Tella. And then her little sister, Emme. More recently, we’ve befriended Avery and Katie. A gaggle of girls.

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The girls: Frances, Nora, and best buddy Tella.


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The neighborhood gaggle o’ gals.

We so enjoyed walking the streets of your neighborhood and getting to know our neighbors. We always made our loop around the ‘new’ neighborhood (which one friend recently dubbed the ‘rich’ neighborhood—ha!) and then figure-eighted back around to your neighborhood, our neighborhood—the old neighborhood. We rode trikes, bikes, friends’ scooters, strollers. We carried babies in wraps, slings, backpacks, Bjorns, and Ergos. We ran, walked, marched, sang, skipped, hopped, jumped, and held hands. We sometimes threw ourselves down on your streets because things were not going our way and cried. We spied pumpkins, Christmas decorations, pets, cars and trucks, sewage drains, stop signs and the occasional running water. We collected pinecones, acorns, leaves, bugs and rocks. We happily exchanged books at the Free Little Library in front of Deborah’s house.

Strollin’ with the babies.


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Cranky Franky on the trike.

And so house, in just five days’ time, a moving truck will pull into your driveway, and we will pack up our belongings and move north to Connecticut. I don’t know who will live in you next, but I hope it is a young family who will find you charming in precisely all the ways we did. And will be willing to overlook and put up with all that’s wrong with you—like the summertime ants, the deathtrap basement stairs, the damn portable dishwasher that hooks up to the sink, and the broken front screen door which my nephew Desmond ripped off its hinge, and which we never made time to fix. Oh, and the cable that fell down in the back alleyway during a storm years ago. I’ve called Comcast to come and fix it about five times over the years. I’m sorry to say that to this day they’ve never responded. Maybe your future tenants will have better luck.

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This little guy learned to crawl in your rooms and ate his first meals of broccoli and squash here. He will learn to walk under a new and different roof. And his first taste of ice cream will be elsewhere too.

We are looking forward to moving on to someplace new. But we are sad to be leaving behind the home—your home—in which we have had so many happy memories, and a neighborhood in which we’ve made so many wonderful friends. We will not soon forget you. Know that we will be back to visit. In drive-bys and walkthroughs, I am certain our paths will cross again.

In the meantime, don’t be lonely. This winter will be sure to bring back the mice. And then, the summertime ants will be just around the corner.

With deep love, gratitude and affection,

The Powers Family

Every once in awhile we like to get a little yokel.

What is yokel, you ask? And rightly so. I didn’t know what it meant until two minutes ago when I googled synonyms for redneck. These days, redneck is offensive and derogatory. I get it. So yokel, or white trash, provincial, hillbilly. Whatever.

Occasionally—well, maybe more than that, but less than frequently—we find that one of us is ready to leave the house in a hurry, with or without kids, but the car we need to use is parked in by the car that we don’t need to use. This has much to do with car seat availability, as one car is equipped with seats for all three kids, and one can hold only two. And also grown-up availability. Like I said, one of us usually needs to leave ten minutes ago, and the other, is running around inside the house like a chicken with its head cut off.

Typically, in a predicament such as this, one responsible party would go move the second car in the driveway so the first car in the driveway could easily back out and go on its way. However, as we have neither good sense, nor responsible parties in this house, we sometimes practice hillbilly-ish-ness (I’m fairly certain this is a word. Go look it up).

This hillbilly-ish-ness looks like this: driver of the first car getting into the car (again, with or without kids), and then—while the second car in the driveway remains in its place—proceeding to drive right down the hill of the lawn, in between the two large shade trees and onto the street.

This kids get such a kick out of this when they are in the car. After giggling a few moments, they say, “Look at us, mommy! Isn’t this so silly! We’re driving down the hill on the grass.” And then, more giggles.

Silly indeed. What the neighbors must think of this when they happen to see us, I’ve no idea. I’m hoping it makes them chuckle and shake their heads. Not call the police, our landlord, or Child Protective Services.

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Husband getting ready to go to work. He was late, and so couldn’t move the other car. I was hustling kids around, so I couldn’t do it either.


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The solution? Drive down the hill, of course!


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The end result. One car parked abnormally far back in the driveway.

On the eve of returning to work after four-and-a-half months.

Ugh. I have to set my alarm clock tonight for the first time since March 29th. I have been busy making preparations for the big day back to work tomorrow. Made lunches through Tuesday and have been readying bags of supplies for the kids and me for over an hour. Again, ugh. Bottles, milk, pump and pump parts, computer, blankets, diapers, wipes, swim suits, extra change of clothes, etc. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

I have mixed emotions about leaving the kids tomorrow. I’m teary, weary, both looking forward to a break from them and hating to leave them at the same time. The baby still won’t take a bottle, so I’m anxious about that too. The good news is the kiddos will be with family all this week and I’m able to take my lunch time to go visit if need be. Next week the students start back and I won’t have the time or flexibility to do the same.

I wish I could write more, but I’m too emotional and exhausted. As much as I’ve wished for some ‘me’ time away from the kids, our summer together has been so intense—due largely to the fact we’ve been on our own for much of it—I know I’m really going to feel their absence tomorrow. My little clinger-on-ers.

Here’s to hoping we wake up on time and transition peacefully to where we all need to go.

Double ugh.

Vacation withdrawal.

The kids and I just returned from a five-day whirlwind vacation to a lodge on a lake somewhere in Georgia, about a mile and a half outside of Atlanta, for a family reunion of sorts with my dad’s side of the family. Whew! That was a long sentence.

And although I was happy to arrive home last night to see Liam, get out of the car (we logged about 25+ hours in that thing), and have access once again to the Internet, I discovered this morning that I had a bad case of the post-vacation blahs.

The kind of blahs that happen when you wake up to ninety degrees of humid mugginess, but realize there’s no longer a lake in which to jump in and cool off. That there is no high quality leather furniture in your house upon which to recline and snooze while other people hold and care for your children. There are no other people to hold and care for your children. No sleeping in. No insta-Keurig-coffee-drinking while looking out floor-to-ceiling windows at the natural beauty that surrounds you. No walking with your sister for miles and chatting about whatever. No middle of the day boat rides. No family style meals and conversating with other adults.

Just some whiny-ass kids (whiny because they spent eleven hours on the road the day before and didn’t go to sleep until after ten, and woke up prematurely at six), and a home full of shit that needs laundering and unpacking.

Highlights of the trip (according to me):

  1. Using call signs Eagle One and Sparrow One with walkie-talkies among the two traveling vehicles.(Each time we stopped to fuel up, my lovely, but impatient father, would drive off to hit the road before all of the passengers traveling in our vehicle were inside and ready to go. Someone in our car would inevitably shout, “Eagle One is out! Eagle One is out!” Then, we would all have to clamber inside the car, buckle up, and peel out to keep up with my pops.)
  2. An early morning walk with my sister talking about everything. And nothing.
  3. A late evening solo swim.
  4. A village to help care for my kiddos while I was able to…wait for it…relax!
  5. Catching up with cousins I love and hadn’t seen in awhile.
  6. Watching my kids and their cousins and extended family play and interact together.
  7. No one drowned, wrecked, needed stitches, fell off of anything or down anything, cut or scraped themselves too badly, or got hit in the head by a wild-swinging golf club (there were many of these).
  8. Also, the ride on the road with six young kids went great!! They were super travelers!

The girls’ highlights (according to them, but with some editing and rephrasing by me):

  1. Eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch each morning for breakfast (they woke up earlier than I did and someone else always got them what they wanted).
  2. Lake swimming.
  3. Boat riding.
  4. Getting stung by a wasp (OK, this was definitely a low point for Nora, but still memorable).
  5. Having the freedom to roam between houses (and floors of houses), and pretty much do as they pleased with little adult supervision.
  6. Riding in a golf cart.
  7. Bathing in a giant jacuzzi tub that held four cousins and likely could’ve held two more!
  8. Eating Gigi’s birthday cake (we celebrated my dad’s mother’s 90th!)
  9. Watching movies in the car.
  10. Eating snacks in the car.

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I had these grand plans to carve out some quality time with my oldest since she and I don’t get much bonding time at home these days, what with two needier little ones about. Instead, I discovered she didn’t really need or want much mothering from me (apart from the whole wasp sting thing). She and I would spot one another from time to time on the grounds while she was playing about, and wave wildly at each other, or offer big smiles. And that was it. Instead of being sad about it all, I’ll just be proud of the little independent person she’s become and becoming, and take the moments, large and small, as they come.

And, in the meantime, I’ll be busy thinking about and planning our next vacation. Because I don’t think we will make it on our own this summer, without another one or two thrown in over the next eight weeks, during which we can once again take advantage of “our village” and a setting more serene than that which exists within the walls of our own home. ‘Cause things are pretty wild and crazy here right now.

How my four-year-old will wake up tomorrow morning with a radiant smile and hug me, just like every morning, is beyond me, a complete miraculous mystery. Why? Because I have been a horrible mother today. The worst.

To say this afternoon-into-evening was rough is a total understatement. It was AWFUL. One for the books.

The day began well enough (apart from the headache that started brewing soon after I woke up). I managed to get a brisk walk in before Liam left for work. We got the oldest off to school and then the two youngers and I enjoyed a relaxing trip through the local market.

After that, we headed back home where I decided to pack a picnic lunch so I could take all three kids for a quick visit to my elementary school after we picked up Nora from her school. There aren’t too many days left in the school year, and I wanted my students from this past year to be able to meet and see the new baby.

That all went fine too. And everyone fell asleep on the ride home. Score! I was hopeful then I might be able to nap too, or at least close my eyes to relieve the worsening headache pain I was experiencing.

When I pulled into the driveway, though, things began to go awry. The baby woke up once the car stopped and started screaming. I took him and his seat from the car and moved him to a shady part in the driveway, where he continued to scream. 

I grabbed Frances next and carried her into bed, no problem. I came back outside, briefly picked up and air-rocked the baby’s car seat, hoping to calm him down. It didn’t work.

So, I put him back down, grabbed the sleeping Nora and carried her inside. Of course, she woke up. She doesn’t really nap much anymore, so this wasn’t too surprising. I was still holding out hope, though, that she might. After guzzling down some water she asked for, she got into bed next to her younger sister and appeared to be attempting to fall asleep.

I hustled back out to the driveway to close and lock up the car, and to collect the screaming child, hoping none of the neighbors called CYA on me for being neglectful. 

I came back inside, plopped on the couch with the baby and a huge glass of water. I proceeded to try and nurse him to sleep when Nora came out of the bedroom and into the living room to announce she was skipping nap. I ordered her kindly back to the bedroom to at least try to take a rest. 

Twice more she emerged, once wearing a baby doll around her waist, attached to a Mardi Gras type beaded necklace around her neck, complete with a blanket-as-a-skirt around her lower body. The second time she was wearing no less than three headbands in her hair and twice as many barrettes. Her nap was so not happening.

I moved with the baby to the empty bedroom to lie down. He had fallen asleep. I told Nora I didn’t care what she did or played, but that she must leave me to rest so that I could try and get rid of my headache (I suffer occasionally from migraines and this one felt like it could turn into one if I didn’t try to get rid of it).

Now, yesterday, Nora skipped nap and played by herself for over two hours. She did some make-believe with her dollhouse. She drew some pictures. She played blocks. And, she dressed and undressed her baby dolls. Most days she does keep herself occupied pretty well and does not appear to be tired at all.

Today, however, she just didn’t know what to do with herself. So, she bothered me. She kept climbing up into bed, threatening to wake the baby with her insistent hugging and squeezing and kissing of his body, and in the process, completely pissing me off.

“Nora!” I whisper-screamed. “Either get under the covers and rest your head on the pillow, or get out of here and play something quietly.”

She left for a spell to do something in another room, only to return over and over again. My heart just about broke when she came in for the last time and said, “I’m tired of playing by myself mommy.”

She woke the baby when she said this, so then all three of us were grouchy. Ummm…make that four. Frances woke up soon after, and that kid is always a whiny mess after a nap. 

From 4:30 until 5:30, I attempted to cook dinner. I was interrupted nearly 437 times. Most of these interruptions had to deal with the girls screaming at each other over something ridiculous. Frances told Nora she was not allowed to sing. Nora pushed Frances. Frances threw chalk all over Nora’s drawing. All of this stuff was alleged, since I witnessed none of it. 

Essentially, since Nora hadn’t napped, she decided she was going to bug the shit out of her younger sister and push all of her buttons. And, younger sister decided she was just going to holler ‘No, Nora, no!’ over and over again at the top of her lungs. Meanwhile, I was going absolutely crazy having to listen to it all while trying to cook a meal and move the baby from swing to mat to shoulder to keep him from adding to the ruckus.

After I made a complete disatrous mess of the kitchen, we four sat down to eat together, the baby sprawled, belly down, across my lap (Liam’s been working late all week, making it home between 7:30 and 8, so I knew he wouldn’t be joining us for dinner). 

The girls took one look at their plates and decided they weren’t going to eat the meal I prepared.

“Me no like it,” Frances whined.

At that point, I could’ve cared less. I gave them both a bowlful of fruit while I enjoyed the baked tilapia and sundried tomato pasta salad with asparagus and spinach.

Nora continued to misbehave at and away from the table before I blurted out that she was being completely unhelpful and made me feel like I wanted to leave.

Well, those lovely words caused her to burst into tears and ask, “You mean, like move to another house?”

“No.” I reassured her, feeling full of shame and guilt. “I’m your mommy and I would never leave you, no matter how angry or frustrated I got. I only feel like leaving.”

“Mommy. You shouldn’t say that. I thought you were going to leave and that hurt my feelings. I would be sad and miss you.”

I apologized and told her she was right, that I shouldn’t have said it. That people sometimes say hurtful things when they get upset.

And then I put her and her sister into the bathtub because I was at my wit’s end. I tried to sneak in a quick nursing rest break in bed with the baby, but five minutes into the tubby, the girls were at it again. 

After a few lengthy screaming sessions, I yanked them both out, did teeth and pjs, and attempted to get Nora to sleep. At the early hour of 7:00. 

Somehow, laying next to me, with the baby crawling all over my chest, and her sister acting a silly fool, speaking gibberish and climbing all about the bed, Nora fell asleep. Hard. She was out in under ten minutes. Gifriend sure needed that nap today. Her mama should have had one too.

After that, I kept things together just long enough until I burst into tears the moment Liam walked in the door. 

“I’m just out of coping skills!” I told him. “It’s all too much! I hate that I keep yelling at the kids, Nora in particular, when all she wants is just a little attention from me.”

We tried to problem solve ways to make life easier. Like maybe not feeling the need to cook baked tilapia and sundried tomato pasta salad with asparagus and spinach. Maybe we should hire a nanny. Or win the lottery. Or have Liam just quit his job.

Today at school a lot of my colleague-friends asked how we are all doing. “How’s life with three?” they said.

I said, “It’s really freaking hard. I wish I could say it’s all beautiful and amazing. There are those moments, for sure, when things are completely wonderful. But mostly, it’s just hard.”

I know that lack of sleep, lack of ‘me time’, lack of husband from dinner through bath and bed, plus headache, and three needy kids is a recipe for madness, but I feel like I should be better at this somehow. Like I’m totally failing as a mom right now.

I don’t want my kids to remember their early childhood with a stern, bitchy, asshole dictator for a mother. I want them to recall times of peace, joy, and fun. I remember my mom being patient and kind nearly always, although she assures me this was not the case. I’m grateful my kids seem to easily forget the bad days and bad moments. 

Which is why I’ll be thanking God tomorrow for second chances and do-overs, and for the love from a little girl, who will have forgotten just how awful her mother was the day before. 

My husband asked me if I could make a strawberry rhubarb pie today while he was at work, and other ridiculous requests.

Just last week my daughter was in the car talking about how much she missed her Grandpa Jim (Liam’s dad, who lives in Connecticut). I told her that we couldn’t make a trip to visit him because daddy didn’t have time off from work. She suggested that I take her and her siblings, without her father, as if this were the obvious and easy choice. And, she suggested that we leave immediately.

I told her we would not be leaving immediately, but that I would consider making the trip without Liam. And so, this past Sunday, I rallied the troops, packed a small boatload full of stuff, and hit the road. It should be noted that my husband, as he was seeing us out of the driveway, was simultaneously loading his golf clubs into the trunk of his car and donning his golf rain jacket, hoping to make a scheduled tee time at 10:00. He sure wasted no time starting his bachelor weekend events. 

The ride north went somewhat smoothly. We stopped for the first time about an hour and a half into the trip, still in Pennsylvania, at a fireworks store. After I peed behind a tree near the parking lot, I pulled Nora’s old potty chair from her potty training days (an absolute necessity for long road trips with small children!) and plunked it down onto the asphalt in the lot. After she did her business, I nursed both little children while sitting on the floor of the car in front of and in between the two captain’s chairs, and changed their diapers. The new minivan is proving to be an excellent investment! Lots of room for road-tripping shenanigans inside her. Because there was no way this mom was trying to drag three little ones into a rest-stop restroom! Firstly, it would have added too much extra time on an already long trip. And secondly, I have nightmares imagining the four of us crammed into a crowded bathroom stall, while I have to negotiate peeing as well as holding a baby and making sure two little ones don’t put their hands all over every stall surface and then put their fingers in their mouths.

The middle part of the trip was a little stressful. The baby screamed off and on for awhile. Frances napped, but older sister Nora refused. Instead, she whined a lot, asked 326 times how much longer until we got there, and twirled knots in her hair like a nervous wreck, something I’ve never seen her do before. I think it was a mixture of being exhausted, excited, and stressed out; the baby crying was rough on us all.

I think I was finally able to relax and drive comfortably with shoulders not hunched up around my ears after our second pit-stop, just inside Connecticut, once the baby fell asleep. Unfortunately, our second stop was in a less private place than the first. Nora did her business on the potty seat inside the car. And, I may have too. Yes, I’m sure you’re visualization of a grown-ass woman squatting down, pants around her ankles, inside a cramped minivan to use a child’s potty seat is spot on. Especially when I add in the details that the girls were giggling like crazy and screaming, “I can see your booty!” the entire time. So humiliating. Thank goodness for shaded car windows!

I made the oldest promise never to tell anyone what she had seen.Yet, here I am revealing it all. Oh well. It was either use the potty seat, or drag the kids inside someplace, which I’ve already mentioned I was reluctant to do. After I confessed the above to my husband, and listened to him laughing for a few minutes, he admitted it was a brilliant idea, really, and that we should probably invent an adult seat to be used on road trips for just these kinds of situations. I’m sure there is already one out there somewhere. I will have to look into purchasing it for our next journey.

We made the four-and-a-half-hour trip in about six hours, stopping twice for about a half hour each time. Not too shabby. And, I only had to use my 130-decibel-level voice a couple of times to ask everyone to shut the hell up, but in slightly more polite terms than that.

The afternoon we arrived proved to be the nicest in terms of weather, and the only real beach day of the four we stayed. So, even though the water temps were in the high 50s, the kids put on their suits and headed down to the water to splash about in the surf and dig around in the sand.

Some other highlights over the next few days included spending time with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, eating lots and lots of desserts (always a fan favorite at Grandpa Jim’s), playing on a playground at the beach (I just can’t get over how cool it was that the kids could slide down the slides and land in the sand), and having a seafood dinner with Grandmère (Liam’s mom) while trains rolled past on one side, and boats rocked calmly on the other. I also enjoyred a quick visit with my college roommate. Although, between the chasing after and minding of children, we really just got to see what the other looked like these days, exchange a few smiles and laughs, and document the whole blur with a bunch of photographs.

And now, for the lowlights. Mostly, these happened during the night. I knew they would. Co-sleeping works great for us at home, but not so much when we travel. At least, not when we are limited on space.

Our sleeping arrangement was an air mattress on the floor next to a twin bed. I told Nora to expect that she wouldn’t be able to sleep next to me. She accepted this, at first. And then, in the middle of the night, she fell out of the twin bed and onto the air mattress at my feet. She then refused to climb back up into the bed, and so, slept in a small crack of open floor between the mattress and dresser instead. This seemed to work out well. Frances also managed to roll off the air mattress a couple of times and got banged up by the piano pedals on the floor. Only my kids.

And so, nearly every bedtime was a complete disaster. At home, Liam and I usually take turns putting kids to bed, one or sometimes two at a time. Never all three. However, each night in Connecticut, I managed to have all three awake at 9:00 p.m. or later. Not a good scene. I just didn’t have enough body parts or bed space to nurse, hold, and comfort all three at the same time. This was a time when I certainly wished we had the kind of kids we could just tell to go to sleep and they would, while I sat out in the living room nursing a beer and enjoying some alone time.

As it is, over the past six days, I have enjoyed only an hour-and-a-half of alone time, a world record for me. The thirty-minute car ride home from my parents’ place on the tail end of our trip home from Connecticut (it went about as smoothly as the ride up, except I used the potty seat twice, as I’m an old pro at it now), when I insisted Liam meet us there and then drive the kids home in the minivan, while I drove home in his car in SILENCE. The thirty-minute bath I enjoyed two nights ago, even though the middle girl yelled, “I watch you, mommy!” nearly the entire time from outside the locked door.

And the past fifteen or more minutes that I’ve been writing this post, which I began many hours ago, and have only just neared the end, after I put the baby to sleep. Other than this time, I have been holding a baby in my arms, or had a baby strapped to me in a carrier, or, I’ve been in the presence of one or more of my children, within a five-foot radius or less, for the past 144 hours. I’m in need of a vacation from my vacation.

Which is why, when my husband asked me this morning, before he left for work, if I had time, could I make a strawberry rhubarb pie, I gave him a look that said: You’ve got to be effing kidding me, right?

I don’t think he was kidding, but I think he read me loud and clear, that there would be no pie making happening. At all. Likely ever again. Perhaps he should have scheduled his baking plans in between rounds of golf and dining out, while I was in Connecticut visiting his family.

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Eating fried seafood with her uncle. Incidentally, she looks more like him than her own two parents. Funny how that happens. Love this photo.


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Testing out the frigid waters on a frigid day. Crazy girl.


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The kids and their Grandpa.


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Cousins waiting on ice cream!


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Girlfriend time at the beach.