The Power of a Good Book

Charlotte A. Cavatica died last night, and there are new tear splotches mingled with the original drops spilled by me, 26 years ago, in my childhood copy of the book.

Sweet Jeffrey fell apart last night when Charlotte died, all alone, at the empty fairgrounds. He curled up in my lap and sobbed, through torrents of tears, how he didn’t WANT Charlotte to die.

And my teardrops fell into his soft red hair as he wept in my lap.

Winnie the Poo

Scene: The handicapped stall in a public bathroom at the local fabric store. Present: me and Jeffrey. Eric and Abby are with a sitter so I can make some deliveries and pick up some new fabric swatches. It is over 100 degrees here today, like much of the US.

Jeffrey is dancing a jig, crossing his legs and gyrating like a hot bean while I try and pull his sweaty tighty-whiteys down.

“But Mommmmmm….” he protests, “I don’t HAVE to Peeeeeeeeee”

Plopping him up on the high toilet, he immediately goes. “See, you did have to go”, I say.

“I did mom!” He looks up at me surprised, “Did you hear that splash, mom?”

“Mmmmm Hmmmmm” I lean against the cool tile wall.

“That means…I’m….poopin’….mom….” How long are we going to be in here now, I wonder.

He looks worried, “Mom! You are touching the wall in a store bathroom! Yuck mom! Now you have to wash your forehead!”

“Honey, I am very far from the toilet- my forehead is fine.” I sigh and close my eyes.

“MOM!” he yells across the stall “Mom! Wake up! Are you sleeping?”

“Yes, honey, I am sleeping here leaning against this wall, waiting for you to finish your business” I roll my eyes to myself.

“Mom, it’s not my business, I’m poopin’.”

The wall is cool and I’m really enjoying it “I know sweetie, just finish please…”

Now he is swinging his feet too and fro, “Puh, puh, puh” making the phonetic sound for the letter “P”- good, he has been paying attention, I think.

“P-O-O, does that spell Poo, mom?”

Holy cow, can this get more fun? Before I have a chance to answer him, he starts chanting, “P-O-O, P-O-O…” and now I have to face away so he can’t see I am laughing.

“Yes, that spells poo. Will you please finish?”

“HEY MOM! Winnie the Pooh’s last name is Poo! That’s gross mom! Why is his name Poo? Who’s name is Poo!?”

Oh, egad. Can I please get off this ride, just for a little bit?

So, two hours later, as I sit down at my desk to write this out, my 2 year old comes to see what I am doing, and crawls under my desk. He is sitting on my feet as I type. I ask him why he is under the desk, to which he happily chirps “Mama, my poopin!”

 And the wheel goes round…. and round.

Unicorn Threads and Butterfly Wings

A box came today for Abigail. From Chelsea. A box from Chelsea is never just a box- it is a multilayered flower than unfolds in petals, it is a butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis, it is tissue thin leaves of gold stitched with unicorn-tail floss. A box from Chelsea is nothing less than magic. Unadulterated, lush green magic. And Abigail got her first Chelsea box.

(I’ll just gloss over how the boys have been complaining that no one loves them anymore, because every time the UPS man rings the doorbell he has a box for (sneering) Abigail. Oh, waah.)

Well, since Abby is obviously too young to do it herself, I tore into the box with glee. What met the touch of my fingers, as I peeled away the layers of tissue and packaging, was the finest white porcelain. A teeny, tiny, delicate white tea-cup lay in my hand, with a handle so small my pinkie finger doesn’t fit through it. As I continued to unwrap, three more tea-cups emerged, then a saucer for each, and finally, the fat little tea-pot. On each delicate piece was part of a woodland scene, a squirrel in a branch, a spider spinning a web, a butterfly on a flower, and so on. The teapot has a tiny painting of two boys riding a wooden stick horse on one side, and a little girl sitting on a milking stool on the other.

Each and every one of these miniature peices of art was thrown on Chelsea’s wheel, glazed and painted with her own hands- Her mark is on the bottom of each little cup. It is a treasure, an heirloom. And I am without words to adequately thank someone for such a gift. It cannot be done.

I don’t know what I did to deserve the friends I have, but I am constantly standing amazed at the women and men who grace my life. So much love, so much to share, so many talents and gifts and spiritual giants- in so many  people. 

My feelings can best be summed up in the Hindu phrase, Namaste, which loosely translates to ” I bow to the Divinity within you.” Thank you.

Bad Mom

I’m a bad mom. Here are some stellar examples:

 Eric will be 3 in a few months, and I haven’t even started potty training him yet. He tells me when he is going pee- “mom, my peein'” – oh great, sweetie. Jeffrey had been in undies for months by this age. My slew of “but’s” is long- but I was waiting for Abby to be born so I could stop barfing, but he had to get used to new family dynamics, but we are travelling next month, but we are going to Disneyland next month- all reasons NOT to potty train him. Ugh. Bad mom.

I ignore Jeffrey half the time. He talks constantly. And I mean constantly. He even talks when he is sleeping- and I have learned to tune it out, like white noise. DH will be getting annoyed about noise levels, and I don’t even hear it. Bad mom.

Sometimes I let the kids eat whatever they want for breakfast. That might mean chee-tos and peanut butter and popsicles. But sometimes I just don’t care. Bad Mom.

Abby hasn’t had her portrait taken yet. The boys had both had two  taken by this point, but not my cherub little girl. I’m trying this week, but will it happen? Probably not. Bad mom.

None of my kids have a baby book. Jeffrey’s is started, but Eric and Abby don’t even have one. Just a box of scrap paper with things scrawled on them so I don’t forget. Does blogging about their babyhood and childhood kinda count? Bad mom.

It doesn’t bother me when we play musical beds in our house. I can sleep in Eric’s bed, DH on the couch, Jeff in our bed, Abby in the barely moving swing- it’s all fine, as far as I care. As long as everyone sleeps, we’re good. Am I creating sleep mutants? Definitely not the Cleaver’s. Bad mom.

I make my boys help with their laundry. They are 2 and 4- is that bad? It’s a game for them now, and I kinda feel like if they get used to doing it now, it will be a habit later. Plus, I hate laundry. Never ending laundry. Bad Mom.

I bribe them sometimes. Bad mom.

If Abby is having a bottle, sometimes I prop it up or have Jeff hold it for her because I am juggling dinner and Eric or whatever chaos is happening. She doesn’t care, but I know this makes me a Bad mom.

There are lots of good things I do, too. But not today. Today I am  a Bad mom.

Heaven Anywhere You Can

As a mama, we gotta take little slices of heaven where we can find them. I found one earlier, and while it’s blown to bits now, I can carry the sweet memory with me the rest of the day.

It’s been crazy hot here lately, as I keep saying (because I loathe hot), so I have the curtains closed and the windows open, the lights down and the house is in a comfortable state of twilight all day. The AC will come on later, but for now, I’m enjoying the windows being open and Mediterranean (as opposed to frigid) climate.

It’s late morning, Abby is snoozing, and the Monkeys are in thier room pretending to be Transformers. They are jumping on their beds and playing with their building blocks.

I flop down on my bed, fully expecting to be bombarded with exuberant little boy bodies, but, miracle of miracles, they don’t notice me. As I lay there, enjoying the peace with every fiber of my body, I relax my mind meanders off. The sound of summer birds twittering away floats in the open window, and mingles with the song of boys playing peacefully. I sink further down in my pillow, and savor the cool feel of the old, fine cotton next to my face. For a brief moment, I feel like a child again, escaping the heat in my cool, dark bedroom, listening to the world slowly go by.

In the distance someone is mowing their lawn with a push-mower, and someone else has a sprinkler going. The leaves rustle on the Maple tree outside my window, and make fancy shadows on the wall. I can hear my baby breathing on the monitor, and the boys continue to make happy noise and laugh at each others silliness.

Life is perfect, even if just for a few minutes- don’t let those moments of bliss go unnoticed. Touch them, breathe them in, savor them, and most of all, let the little unexpected drops of heaven carry you away.

May I Beat Your Kid? Please?

We met my friend Mo Mommy and her Things at the children’s museum downtown today. They have a membership, so I was able to freeload and get in with no cash, only a little guilt. It’s been hotter than asphalt here lately, so a day inside where the monkeys could have fun was a welcome outing.

When we first got there, it was quiet and mellow, only a few people- yippee! It’s getting harder and harder to keep an eye on diverging monkeys, and a baby. Granted, the baby doesn’t move much, but still, two eyes, two arms, three kids…I feel like silly putty sometimes.

While we were there, the boys were playing happily, having fun, and then I heard Jeffrey shriek. He had been messing around at the water table, and when I turned around, he was in a head-lock from a boy who was quite a bit bigger than he was, and he was struggling while the boy tried to take a boat from his hands. ( I really want to make the kid into King Kong and give him a villainous mustache and black cape for you, but really he was just a boy who was bigger than my kid.)

Immediately I intervened, pulling Jeffrey from the headlock. He was fine, and he had been trying to fight back, so I think his 4 year old pride was up in ire. I’m ok with that. Here is where I’m not sure I did the right thing- I very sternly (but calmly) looked at the other boy, as he was gathering up all the other boats for himself, and told him first, that he had to share, and second that he was NOT to put his hands on other people like that.

Was I in bounds? Should I have looked for his mother instead? My kid was fine, other than a slightly bruised ego- should I just have removed us from the situation and let the kid to his own devices?

Disciplining other people’s kids is always touch and go, and while I would be ok with a mother telling my son he was out of bounds for such an obvious violation of person, not everyone feels that way. At the same time, I DO want my kids to know that if someone hurts them, I will protect them and insist on their personal space and bodies be respected.

We left shortly afterwards, mostly because I finally have the chops as a mom to see when my kids are going downhill and cut them off at the pass. Eric was running out of steam, and had we stayed longer, I would have had a full-blown Mackerel on my hands, and Abby needed some attention, and no one had eaten lunch yet, and my parking meter had expired, and so on and so on.

(The rest of the truth is, it was getting really crowded- and I hate crowds. Have I ever told you all that? I hate crowds. Hatethem. Ughhhh.)

How would you have handled it?

Happy 300th Post

Holy cow, how’d that happen?? Actually, I missed the 300th, and this is the 304th post. So, like most things for me, eh, close is good enough!

I started this blog a year ago next month, in response to a post on Mormon Mommy Wars that infuriated me enough to write the woman a letter. The woman who made me nuts did not allow comments on her site, so when I went to deliver my scathing tome, I had nowhere to put it. Aside from feeling like blowing up, I had no choice really, but to start my own place. Thus I was born.

Blogging has turned into so much more than an outlet for a ticked off letter. At first, only a few on my friends and family read my posts, but gradually a few other people found me, and were nice to me. Usually nice to me. Susan M was the first person to give me a link, and I was so happy; then MMW posted about me, and I started to feel like Dorothy in Kansas, because the big sites that I read before I started writing were now linking to me; then inviting me to join them- Egad!

Artistic endeavors have always been a part of my life- but painting has taken a backseat to babies and mama stuff- any of my long-time readers know about the ladies under the bed, but I just can’t do that anymore. Writing has re-kindled my creative fires, and given me something positive to do with my ideas and artistic flow. It has helped me work out issues, share the misery, get through long, barfy days, and be a better mama. I have made friends, friends that are real women, who I love and admire, and even if some of them are on the other end of the country, it doesn’t matter.

Writing, and reading what others write, had helped me clarify my feelings and strengthen my spirituality. Writing has helped me look at my fears, and be ok with them. Writing has enabled me to pull the cacophony of ideas and images and creations and love of words from the cloud around my head, and bring them to fruition. As someone who has always had a problem with clarity and having my head in the clouds of my own making, writing has simply grounded me.

Thanks, everyone, for all the love and support, and for tuning in each day to see what the cat dragged in.

Makin’ Ketchup

Today, of all days, we ran out of ketchup. How does a house with three kids under 5 run out of ketchup- I mean, sure Abby is out of the ketchup loop still, but the boys more than make up for her. How did I so completely drop the ball and shame my food-storage calling? Ketchup…. hangin’ my head in shame.

But! Ever the industrious mama, I thought, “Hey, I can MAKE ketchup!”. But alas, my cookbooks were all sadly lacking in ketchup recipes. So, turning to my trusty computer, and knowing my kids won’t eat just any ketchup, I Googled “Heinz Ketchup” and low and behold, the holy grail of kid manna, the Heinz Ketchup Recipe. And, I must say, it’s pretty darn close… they had a ball helping me in the kitchen, and ate it with gusto. So hooray! And thus, I share it with you:

Heinz Ketchup by Jan Taylor

  • 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup plain white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until well combined. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Remove pan from heat and cover until cool. Chill and store in a covered container.

The Love of My Life

DH wants to know why I never write about him. Welllll….. He’s not very interesting? No, that’s not it. He doesn’t do gross things that are funny like the kids? Nope, not that either, ’cause he does. I’m not his mommy? Well, yes that’s true. I did write about how we met, but I guess that didn’t tell too much about him, other than his amazing perseverance and patience. How many men can wait ten years and three proposals for a girl to realize she loves him??

DH is a big man. He lifts weights, is crazy strong, shaves his head bald and wears a goatee. My gay uncle says he looks like someone who would beat him up in a bar- and he does. Not beat people up, but looks like he might. But the truth is, he’s never beat anyone up, and he would rather sing show-tunes with said gay uncle while they build Lego things for our kids. (I’ve seen it, folks)

From my Dear Husband, I have learned what true love looks and feels like. And it doesn’t look or feel anything like the romance novels or the imaginings of a little girl. True love is knowing the only thing my husband wants from me is myself, for me to be happy. He has taught me, by his example, the virtue of honesty, and I mean total honesty, even with ourselves about ideas we may have held onto that no longer serve our better needs.

He loves to eat my cooking. There aren’t many things more wonderful to a woman who loves to cook, than a man who adores her cooking. He raves about almost everything I make, and he brags about me to other people. The possible exceptions are beets, and the one time I made Indian food. Not so good. We like Indian food, but at home, it was a serious bomb.

He also mainlines peanut butter. The guy puts peanut butter on absolutely anything. He will make a PB and Cheet-os sandwich, and I’m not kidding. Actually, sandwiches in general are not safe around him. Today, I caught him trying to shove a sandwich he made on the sly, using all my Swiss cheese rolled up with a slice of bread and some mayonnaise. (Mayo is also not safe in our house, a preference he has passed onto Jeffrey.) I busted him, and we were laughing so hard he had to run out of the room.

He is my best friend. We have know each other almost half our lives, although we have been married only 7 years. See the aforementioned ten-year-wait. He is going to hold that over me for eternity. He was my room-mate in college, he walked me through messy, painful breakups with boyfriends, he picked me up when I was struggling, and cheered me on in everything I tried. 

( He just came downstairs and is rummaging through the food-storage closet, and asked if we have any mayonnaise!! We’re out! That means we are going to Costco tonight. Now he is blabbering about how I’m a bad wife!)

I’ve written about how much he loves fans. This summer he has come up with a new way to keep me cold. He has set up a fan-relay- that is, he has placed a fan behind the couch, right over the central AC vent that doesn’t reach much, and blows the cool air to the end of the couch, where he has another fan set up, pointing out into the room, where there is another fan, pointing directly at him, on the couch, where he can watch baseball. Or Law & Order. Or the Closer, or any other cop show ever made. He likes cop shows.

Besides me, ice cream is his other great love. Ice cream is not safe in our house, and I have tried buying flavors he doesn’t like, but that doesn’t work. The only thing he won’t eat is rainbow sherbet. And he never uses a bowl. Right from the carton, baby. With a fork- says it cuts through hard ice cream better than any spoon. And he makes patterns with the fork when he eats from the carton. So when I get our ice-cream out to make the kids a bowl, there are fork crop-circles in the carton. Weird.

I have pictures I took one night, of all three of my children, asleep flat on their backs, with their arms flung over their heads. Then I went in our room, and there was DH, flat on his back, arms flung over his head, snoring away. All four or my precious darlings, same position, same night, same time. Priceless.