Friday, April 30, 2010

Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek is serious business in our house. The girls can't get enough of it. Whenever they are asked to find something to do, hide and seek is sure to be suggested.

While they love it, their execution needs a little work. They are no longer just sitting somewhere, covering their eyes with their hands to hide, but there is still room for improvement. Today, they hid from me on the far side of the bed. Not bad, except for the giggling and fake snoring (Ella likes to fake sleep now). Oh, and the four hands hanging on the top of the bed.

What games do your kids play? How do you like the photo? I've been playing with Flickr.

*Photo courtesy of Robert, originally uploaded by moriza.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Missy's Lunch

Like most dogs, Missy really enjoys mealtime around here. She parks herself next to Ella's chair and is usually rewarded with dropped food and hand outs from Ella. Lunch today was no exception. She enjoyed some quesadilla, cheese, and banana courtesy of Ella.

While I was cleaning up the mess, I noticed she was licking a wet spot on my jeans near my knee. I usually have something on my clothes, so I generally just ignore it. I looked down to see why she was so interested in my leg. There was a good sized amount of spit up there. Guess she needed some milk to wash down the cheese.

Still Sick

Samantha's still sick today. Her fever was 103 last night and she didn't sleep well. I know this because she was in our bed. She's entered the whining stage where she doesn't feel well so she whines about everything and sometimes just starts crying for no reason. I'm pushing Tylenol and Ibuprofen to keep her fever down, popsicles, frozen blueberries, and water with ice. And, she's now getting old enough to be taught the correct way to be sick: on the couch, in front of the t.v., in some comfy clothes or jammies, a warm sweatshirt, hair in a ponytail, socks, and under a blanket.

I can deal with the sick child. The worst part for me is the anticipation. I'm waiting to see if anyone else is going to get sick. I figure I have about a week before I'm in the clear. Sick Ella I can handle. She gets really clingy and whiny, but she's manageable. Penny has never been sick. She's the one I worry about the most. She's only four months old, so I dread the thought of her having a high fever and feeling bad. So, I'm trying to keep Sammy away from her and am holding my breath.

Hopefully, they'll not get sick. Probably, the only one who will get sick is me.

Green Thursdays: Simple Things

I thought this week I would write about the simple little things I do to try to minimize the impact I have on the environment. Obviously, I turn off lights when I'm not using them, turn off the water when I'm brushing my teeth, and I recycle everything possible, but there are other things I try to do that I believe help. I'm really into reducing my consumption of resources. The less I buy, the less needs to be produced, saving all the waste and energy that manufacturing things requires.

Use Reusuable Bags: This is easy. I just bought a few recyclable bags and I take them into stores with me when I shop. I like One Bag At A Time, but these bags are easy to come buy, and don't cost a lot. It decreases my consumption of plastic bags, decreases the number of non-degradable bags in landfills, and decreases the need to make more bags. In fact, I use reusable everything if I can: cloth lunch bags, tupperware containers instead of ziploc bags, etc.

Compost: I have two compost bins in my backyard. I add my compostable waste to one while I let the other turn into compost. There are lots of bins available, there are worm bins, tumblers, you can create a pile in your yard, or just use a plastic storage bin and turn it with a shovel. I personally use the Urban Compost Tumbler, it has a rod in the middle so it separates and aerates the compost when you spin it, helping it to compost faster. But there are lots available.

Buy Organic: I buy organic produce, meat, and dairy products whenever possible. Are they healthier? Maybe, maybe not, the official jury's still out on that one, although I tend to think not ingesting pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics is probably the healthier option. They are healthier for the environment. Organic farmers do not put chemicals into the earth, they have to practice crop rotation, preventing leaching of certain nutrients out of the soil, the animals are fed more natural, grass based diets, and they can't use hormones and antibiotics. I also think organic food tastes better, maybe that's just me, but if you've never had organic bananas, buy a bunch and see what you think.

Buy Local: I also try to buy local. I go to farmer's markets when I can. When I can't, I try to look where my produce is grown, and buy the stuff that's grown closest to me geographically. Buying local not only supports the local economy, you get fresher produce and reduce the waste associated with shipping the produce over long distances.

Wash Cars Less: Ok, this one is a lot of laziness on my part, and maybe I'm just trying to justify our dirty cars. Really, though, our cars don't need to be washed every week. A little dirt isn't going to hurt your car. Now, if you live somewhere where the roads are salted in the winter, you probably do need to wash that junk off your car to prevent corosion. But, in sunny California, and other mild climates, and in warm weather months, it really isn't necessary and just wastes water. Sure, my cars aren't all shiny all the time, but they run just fine, and it doesn't really matter that they're not super pretty.

Use Non-Toxic Cleaners: I have started using cleaning supplies that are made with ingredients I can pronounce and are biodegradable. I really like Mrs. Meyer's products, Seventh Generation, and Planet. I also use microfiber rags with just water and have been known to make my own cleaners. I'll probably get back to that when Penny is a little older and I have a tad more time.

So, those are a few of the easy things I do to try to reduce my carbon footprint. What do you do?

** Disclaimer: I did not get paid or receive any promotional items from the companies I linked to above. I really do use them and like them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It Never Fails To Surprise Me

Samantha woke up last night, barking like a seal. Actually, she coughing really hard that she was almost puking. Actually, she did puke. And, she wet her bed. And, she had an 102 degree fever. And, I was surprised.

I don't know why. All the warning signs that she was getting sick were there. She had been coughing a little yesterday. She had an accident at school. The last time she did that, she got sick later that day. She took a nap yesterday, something she sadly gave up completely six months ago. And, then she didn't fight bedtime. A two hour nap and easy down for bed? I should have known. I should have remembered.

I think it's a mommy trait to forget all the bad stuff and all the warning signs of bad stuff that involves our kids. Labor would be the best example. People always say they don't remember the pain. I don't remember the pain. In fact, all I really remember was the excitement of realizing I was about to have a baby, then holding a little, squirmy, squish-faced baby. There were hours of laboring, pushing, a broken tailbone

It apparently doesn't stop with childbirth. It extends to every bad thing associated with our children. I've forgotten all the times I've had to yell at them because they weren't listening, or about to hurt themselves, or were screaming for no good reason. And I forget all their illnesses. It's like it's the first time every time. I do remember, however, that it's no fun having a sick little girl curled up in front of the television all day.

Maybe I Should Allow a Little More Sugar

I usually try to limit the girls' sugar intake. It's not necessary and it makes them hyper. They get some, on occasion, but not often.

Today, in honor of Samantha's illness, I gave them popsicles. Ella grabbed the frozen part and tried to eat the stick. Twice. I had to show her how to eat it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Making Time For Mommy

I've been a little stir crazy lately. I don't know if it's that I'm starting to come out of the fog that surrounds me when I have a newborn, or because it's springtime and that's giving me a creative itch in need of serious scratching, or because I'm needing a little break from 24/7 children. Whatever the reason, there's something that I need to do, that's just for me, and I can't quite figure it out. I was talking to a friend yesterday, and the feeling seems to be going around.

I've been losing myself in my momminess lately, and I find I'm missing something. I do a lot around the house, and I enjoy some of it. I cook most nights, and I enjoy it mostly. I have a new Manicotti recipe to try this week that I'm excited about. I have a garden that I'm constantly trying to get things to grow in. I have compost bins to tend. I have an interest in living green, and I have some things I plan to try in that area in the near future (more on that later). I like to write, and I'm pursuing that right now mostly through this blog, as that's what I have time for, but I have some fiction pieces in the editing process right now that I plan to start sending out. I'm also planning an epic shopping trip in the near future when I lose the rest of this baby weight (7 lbs to go!). I'm getting back into working out a lot right now, which I love, and really helps me unwind.

But there's something missing. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but I know it involves me getting out of the house for a couple hours by myself. I took a creative writing seminar in the fall at the local college that was great. I got out of the house for three-ish hours, including the commute, once a week. I wrote, got writing prompts, listened to other's pieces, read things I had written. It was a truly creative and supportive atmosphere, very intimate and anonymous at the same time. A small group of strangers, reading a lot of memoir type pieces, sharing their thoughts, and then all going back to our regular lives where we had no interaction with each other. It was personal and impersonal. Perfect for me. I plan to take that class again when Penny can be put to sleep without nursing. In the meantime, I'm looking for something. Something to remind me that I'm me, and not just Mommy.

Any suggestions? What do you do just for you, or what would you like to do?


Sean goes to Trader Joe's every week for frozen food to take for work lunches. Last week he bought gnocchi. Ella tried and liked it.

This week, when he opened the bag to put in the microwave, she said, "Me gnocchi! Me gnocchi!" until she got some.

Monday, April 26, 2010

More Grocery Store Mayham

We went to the grocery store again today at our usual late morning time. Sean brought in the two older girls while I Bjorned (yes, I did just make up that verb) Penny and grabbed a shopping cart.

When I got into the store, the girls said, "Mango, Mommy!"

I assumed they had just snagged a mango sample and so proceeded to shop.

I was wrong. They wanted mangoes.

Ella demonstrated this by running away from Sean toward the mangoes. I followed, trying to coral her. A grandfatherly type man stopped to watch, smiling and laughing as my little bean ran toward her goal. When we rounded the display, I noticed there were no samples.

"No, Ella, No!" I yelled, trying to maneuver with the cart and Bjorn.

Too late. Ella snatched a mango off the display and took a big bite, skin and all, then dropped the mango and ran around the display to avoid me. The man laughed and laughed and commented that I had my hands full.

We bought mangoes today. Ella seemed to enjoy her bite, even with the skin. At least she chose a healthy snack.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Birthday Party Fun

Last night we went to a birthday party for one of our friend's four year old daughter at The Little Gym. We had never been to one before. It's a little gymnastics studio with uneven bars, parallel bars, balance beams, a little vault, and big mat space. They hold classes their, but for birthday parties the kids have free play for awhile and then they do a little program with dancing and gymnastics moves geared to little kids. It was great fun, I definitely recommend it.

For me, as a parent, it was a great to see my kids interact with other kids. It still amazes me that they have such different personalities. When Ella came along, I kind of expected an exact duplicate of Samantha. Well, that didn't happen.

Their personalities really came through during the planned program. Sammy's my shy little girl. She would run around in a circle with the other kids (who were mostly her age), but when they stopped to twirl or dance or kick or whatever, she ran to her daddy and waited until the next round of running began (she really likes to run). Ella, my bold one, on the other hand, muscled her way to the front, past kids two to three years older than she is, and tried to do whatever the instructor was doing. When she couldn't do something, she just twirled in a circle. It was really funny. She stayed in the middle of things the whole time.

Ella starts preschool in September, and I know I'm not going to have four months of tears like I did with Samantha. She'll be just fine. The teachers may want to be careful, though.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Grasshopper

Today we were in the backyard. Samantha had her pink sun umbrella she got at the Cherry Blossom Festival last weekend, and has been carrying around to shield herself from the sun ever since. Suddenly, she screamed and threw her umbrella. A three inch long grasshopper had landed on it, apparently confusing the umbrella for the biggest flower ever.

I have to admit. I do not like grasshoppers. They fall into my arbitrary category of crunchy bugs. I do not like bugs that crunch when you step on them. (It's a childhood trauma from a firefly.) But, being Mommy, I had to take care of the situation. So I bravely shook that umbrella, carefully pointing it away from me. And shook it, and shook it. Those things can hang on tight. (Exactly like that firefly on my finger.) Finally, it flew off, over my head and into my leg. I jumped three feet in the air, threw the umbrella, and screamed like a little girl. (Not my proudest mommy moment. I really don't want three little girls who are scared of bugs.)

The grasshopper landed in front of us. The girls were fascinated by it. I thought it was injured from having an umbrella thrown on it. Eventually, we found a long bubble wand to poke it with. I prodded it's behind to try to get it to fly out of the yard. It flew a few feet. Ella took over the prodding. The darn thing wouldn't leave the yard. It just kept flying a few feet and landing.

That's when Tabby got in on the action. She pounced. The grasshopper flew straight up. Tabby jumped straight up, snaring it in her claws and began nibbling on it. I thought it was a goner, but then it jumped away. Tabby pounced. It jumped. Tabby pounced, playing with it. Ella chased Tabby away. It lay on the ground, I assumed mortally wounded.

The girls and I talked about predators and prey and why Tabby had attacked the grasshopper, and why we were going to let her kill it. Samantha planned how she would deliver the notification to the sisters, brothers, and babies of the grasshopper that she said would soon be arriving.

They egged on Tabby, cajoling her to finish the deed. She wouldn't. The grasshopper, not moving, was not any fun. Finally, Ella poked it again with the bubble wand. And lo! it flew a few feet, apparently unharmed by the cat.

Unfortunately, Missy had been watching us and decided to get in on the action. She pounced on the grasshopper, biting and jumping away repeatedly like it was a rattlesnake. When it tried to fly, she jumped, snatched it out of the air, and tossed it to the ground. At this point, Tabby rejoined the fray, batting the grasshopper. She and Missy tag teamed the grasshopper. When it was lying still, Missy would throw herself on top of it and roll to see if it would move. Watching the two of them cooperate was like watching the velicoraptors in Jurassic Park hunt, fascinating and scary. I now know what happened to my neighbor's bird.

Finally, the grasshopper stopped moving and they tired of playing with it. Ella, again went to prod it. The darn thing was alive! It grabbed onto the bubble wand like a drowning person grabs a life preserver. I quickly took the bubble wand and launched it over our side fence to the front yard, where I knew no one would bother it. As I watched it sail over the fence, I thought, that is one lucky grasshopper. Then I heard a crunch as it hit the side of our house.

What are they thinking? Three More Babies

I was trying to gage if Samantha feels like she's getting enough attention since Penny's arrival, so I asked her today if she was happy that we had Penny.

Her response, "Uh-huh. I like her."

Great. Then she continued, "We should have three more babies!"

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green Thursdays: Getting Back to Green

I've been thinking about adding some regular posts on living green, and thanks to some of the ladies at the Lady's Blogger Circle, I've decided to do it. And, what better day to start than Earth Day.

Basically, I try to be conscious of the environmental impact of things I do: what we eat, what I use to clean my house, how I garden, everything. My mantra is reduce, reuse, recycle. I don' t always go with the green alternative, but I at least think about it and try new things. I'm a busy mom of three, so if it's adds too much work, I'm just not going to do it. I feel being green is an important value to teach my children. If everyone makes small changes, we can make a difference and keep our planet healthy. I've made some easy changes, and have done things that haven't worked, and I'd like to share them. I also plan on trying some new things, and I'll let you know how they work for me and if it's worth the change. Who knows, maybe you'll find something you can do to help keep the world a little cleaner.

This week I've decided to go back to doing something I used to do before Penny was born: cloth diapering. I'll admit, I've been lazy since she's been born. Plastic diapers can be more convenient, but cloth really aren't that hard and they make a huge difference.

The impact of plastic diapers on the Earth is huge. You can find statistics everywhere, with the same numbers being given. I went to Carbon Balanced Baby to get mine this time. Here's what they said about the production of plastic diapers.

To create this modern wonder of technology (since about 1961) and make it available to mothers and babies everywhere, we use a lot of oil, trees and plastics. Through this production process we create films, polymers and gels that take a very, very long time to decompose. Some basic statistics:

  • It takes over 10 full sized trees to produce the number of diapers your baby will use in its first few years. Studies say that over 250,000 trees per year are felled to satisfy the USA's disposable diaper demand.
  • Production of a single disposable diaper requires 2/3 of a cup of petroleum. This adds up to over 3 billion gallons of oil (per year!)dedicated to disposable diaper production.
  • Every year 82,000 tons of plastic is concocted and spun with combinations of the above ingredients to create the high-tech, breathable films which keep our baby and home comfortable. This production process burns through energy and creates hazardous by-products.

The process alone to produce disposable diapers creates significant quantities of greenhouse emissions which can last for decades.

And then, all these diapers go into the landfills, where they sit, not decomposing and leaching chemicals and human waste into the ground. Here's the statistics, again from Carbon Balanced Baby, on the impact on landfills:

  • In the United States alone, 16 billion soiled diapers are deposited into landfills every year. The weight of this mess is over 3.5 billion pounds.

  • According to studies it can take from 200 to 500 years for these diapers to decompose. “Biodegradable” diapers don’t fare much better because although some elements of the diaper do degrade faster, many of the core elements which make it mother and baby friendly (i.e. the absorbent materials and polymer linings) are made of the same materials as standard disposables.
  • The nasty goop that pools at the bottom of a landfill, which is a place you probably do not want to visit, is called “leachate”. It is possible that viruses excreted in human feces could end up in the leachate and, particularly in older landfill sites, could leak into local water supplies. In most places it is illegal to dump human bodily wastes into a landfill. Diapers are generally excluded from enforcement of this rule.
  • Diapers are the third most common item, by volume and weight, in American, UK, European, Japanese and Australian landfills.
  • In developing countries the problem is particularly bad as they generally do not have modern landfill technologies installed or available. This is a global environmental problem.

After Ella was born, Sean and I grimaced two to three times a week as we lugged full plastic bags of plastic diapers out to our garbage can. When you have two in diapers, it's really easy to see the impact your'e making. I decided to go the cloth diaper route. Ella was in cloth diapers from 4 months old to nineteen months old, when Penny was born. I decided to take a break when Penny was born because the extra laundry was a little much for me to handle while adjusting to three kids. I've adjusted, and now it's time to decrease the environmental impact my diapers cause.

Now, if you're like I was, you heard horror stories of nasty diapers and nasty diaper pails from your parents generation, and are none too keen on the idea of cleaning those things. Cloth diapering has come a long way since the '70's. It's really not that bad. I use my regular Diaper Champ with a mesh bag inside for my used diapers. If there's poo, I just dump as much as I can in the toilet, on rare occasion I have to get out the rubber gloves and hold the diaper while I flush to suck off some sticky poo (make sure you don't let go or you will clog your toilet). Then, every 3-4 days (twice a week), I take the bag, start the washing machine, and dump everything in the machine, no digging out diapers. I throw the mesh bag in too.

When I was first starting, I tried a multi-pack sampler of reusable all-in-ones and pocket diapers including Bum Genius, Happy Heinys, Swaddlebees, and Fuzzibunz. All-in-ones are cloth diapers that look pretty much like a plastic diaper. After using one, you simply wash and dry it. Pocket diapers have a pocket between the outer, waterproof shell and the inner, soft liner where you put an absorbent insert of some kind, either fleece or hemp, or a combo, or multiple, depending on what you want. You remove the insert before washing everything.

I wound up liking Happy Heinys one-size the best for my kids. I like the way they fasten, and they kept my chubby, heavy wetters dry. I have heard Bum Genius work great on thinner babies, though. I bought twenty one-size diapers and have used them on Ella from four months to nineteen months, and they still fit her at twenty-three months. However, some of the diaper's outer shells are starting to lose their waterproofing, so I will likely have to buy new one-size diapers for Penny. If you buy sized diapers, you can use them for multiple children, but you have to buy 20 or so of each size. For me, I would have wound up buying more diapers that way.

Cost wise, there is an initial start-up cost. If you go the pre-fold way, which are more like the diapers my parents used on me (although they're still better), the cost is pretty low. However, even with the fancy ones, in the long run you actually save money using reusable cloth diapers over the diaper wearing life of your child. I I've heard estimates anywhere from $500 to $1500 in savings depending on which cloth diapers you use and your diapering habits. Not too bad.

Like I said though, I won't do anything that makes my life a lot harder, so I still use disposable diapers at night. I was changing sheets twice a night, even with two hemp liners, because my kids are heavy wetters. No thank you. I know people that don't have that problem, however. I also use disposable when we're going out for a long time. I don't want to deal with leaks (my cloth will leak if I don't change them every 2-3 hours) and sometimes when we're out, I forget to change them. I also don't want to lug dirty diapers home with me, even in a wet bag. They take up too much space.

When I use cloth diapers I am both reusing and reducing. I have twenty diapers that will need to be thrown out instead of hundreds, and my cloth diapers will decompose faster and not fill the landfills with tons of chemical goo. So, that's how and why I use cloth diapers. What about you? Do you use cloth or are you considering them?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What are they thinking? Movie Night

Ella apparently really likes Friday Night Movie Night. Lately, whenever she's asked what time it is or any other question, her response is Friday Night Movie Night. Sometimes it's posed as a hopeful question, like after breakfast, sometimes she's trying to avoid something.


At nap time (and she knows it's nap time)

Me: Ella, what time is it?

Ella: Fiday Night Moobie Night?

Me: No, it's nap time.

Ella: (in full tantrum, kicking and pounding fists on ground)
No, nap time! Fiday Night Moobie Night! Fiday Night Moobie Night!

Dirty Tut

As you may be aware, we have recently adopted a Sphynx cat we have named Tut (King Tutankhamun actually, but the girls can't say that. Really, I can't either.)

Since he joined us, we have learned quite a few things about the breed. Did you know that the breed is a natural mutation? That means every so often a regular cat will have a hairless baby and someone got the idea to breed the hairless ones to create the breed. That also means, they have various degrees of hairlessness. Ours has a patch of hair right down his nose. Did you also know, the breed originated relatively recently in the U.S. and is not Egyptian as the name would suggest? It makes sense really, only in America would someone have a hairless kitten and think to themselves, I bet I can make money off of this. :)

We have also learned they are friendly, gregarious, heat seeking little creatures. He is often found basking in the sun. If you sit in our house, there's a good chance he will curl up in your lap. If you have a blanket, expect to share.

They are also dirty. Their skin gets greasy and picks up dirt from the environment. My personal theory is because they come from haired cats, their skin still produces all the oils a regular cat does. With hair, the oils keep their coats shiny and clean. With no hair, they're greasy and dirty. So, Tut gets a sponge bath weekly (because I'm not crazy enough to put a cat in the tub). I thought I'd share a picture of the dirty towel. I know it's gross, but I still thought I'd share. That's one week of grease Ella is modeling for you, one week. Yuck.

How often do you bathe your pets? Any one else have to bathe their cat?

Saying Sorry

Today I was doing some gardening and Samantha was helping. She helped head the petunias and I gave her a large flower stem that had broken off in the wind last night. She collected them in her umbrella and I heard her say something about making hats for her dolls. I have to fess, I wasn't paying attention. I was weeding and planting and in a hurry to get it done before the girls lost patience or it started raining.

We finished and I ushered everyone inside. Samantha proceeded to dump her collection, flowers, petals, dandelion fluff, and some dirt, on the couch. I believe the exact words that came out of my mouth were, "AAACCKK! No, no, no! We don't dump junk on the couch!"

Samantha's face dropped and she went to her room and closed the door. I cleaned up the mess and then went to find her. She was in her closet stuffed behind the stackable shelves we have in there. She looked at me with sad puppy eyes. All I could think to say was, "Sorry".

She came out and we hugged. I told her I forgot she wanted to make hats for her dolls. We're going out after lunch for some roses to put in a vase.

Sometimes we all make mistakes. I think it's important for our kids to know that, not to think Mommy and Daddy are infallible. I also feel it's important to model how to fix a mistake, and to acknowledge my girls' feelings . It's really an important life lesson I hope to impart on my kids. I just wish I didn't have to make mistakes and hurt their feelings to teach it.

What mistakes have you apologized to your kids for?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Time to Eat

My arm hurts. I think it might be bruised.

I was exhausted yesterday. Went to bed at ten thirty. At midnight, Penny woke to eat. She's been eating for longer than her typical five to ten minutes lately. I was up for twenty minutes feeding her. I felt like I was going to fall off the rocking chair the whole time, I was so tired.

I went back to sleep and had this dream where Ella was whining at me about something (I can't escape the whining even when I'm asleep.) Then, I felt a repeated pain in my arm and realized I was not dreaming. Sean was hitting my arm to let me know Ella was crying for me. It was one in the morning. She wanted to try to use the potty. She tried while I fumbled around the house trying to find a diaper that wasn't in the baby's room. No luck on either effort. She went back to bed, miraculously in her own room.

At four, I was awoken again by Penny for her second twenty minute feeding of the night. Again, I could barely stay on the rocking chair. Ella woke at six thirty this morning. Not a lot of sleep for me. I'm pretty sure my brain didn't bother turning on this morning in protest.

I've been noticing Penny has been wanting to eat more often and for longer periods of time. I've been trying to hold off on the solids because I read this article and she really doesn't seem that interested in food. But, after last night's antics, I realized I am not getting enough sleep. I learned, after having terrible sleep issues for the first nine months of Samantha's life, if I'm not sleeping well, something needs to change. For everyone's sake.

Penny's been eating like that for a couple weeks. She's telling me she's hungry. So, today she got baby oatmeal for the first time. Hopefully, we'll all sleep better tonight.

First taste of food. Not really sure about this.

I'm pretty sure some of it when in her mouth, and not just on her bib.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Packin' Away the Pack-n-Play

Penny, my baby, is growing fast. She's already four months old. Although four months may not seem very old, we've already passed a few major milestones. First smile, check, first laugh, check, rolling, check (both ways as of today). She's awake during the day for long stretches and sleeps at night 12 hours, eating only once during that time. She's social and engaging, talking as much as her sisters (God, help me). She likes to play with toys and watch her sisters play. She's not interested in food, but insists on being held when we eat, so she can interact with everyone and watch the action. Her emerging first teeth are evident as little swellings on her gums. She's getting close to being able to sit by herself. She's left the newborn stage behind and is firmly in infanthood.

These first four months with three little girls has flown by. I've been excited by all of Penny's firsts, and captured pictures of them (okay, maybe not the exact first time, but close). Since Penny is my last baby, all of these firsts are the last firsts I'll ever have. But the thing that is really getting to me, the thing that makes me wistful and a little sad, is putting away the baby gear.

A few weeks ago, we transitioned her from our room in the Pack-n-Play bassinet to her own room with her own crib. We packed up the Pack-n-Play, wrapped it in plastic bags, and tucked it away in a relatively unaccessible spot in the garage. We still need it when we travel, which isn't often, but, for the most part, that piece of baby gear is no longer useful. All three of our girls slept in it for the first ten weeks of their lives, safe and secure close to us. Now, it sits collecting dust in the garage.

I know there are many more items not too far away from the same fate. The baby tub, the aquarium bouncy seat with its bubbling, kissing fish, even the baby Bjorn, that I have schlepped all the girls around in, will soon be packed away forever, to be given to charity if they're not too ratty. And it makes me a little sad (not sad enough to try for #4, but sad nonetheless).

Today, we had a changing of the guards of sorts. I pulled out the highchair and exersaucer from the garage and cleaned them up. My little Penny will be using those as soon as the covers are finished drying. Looking around, straining to move on her own, trying to keep up with her sisters, she's hurrying to grow up already. And I'll help her, that's my job, but it still makes me sad to watch her leave one stage of her life behind.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Putting My Foot Down

I'm fed up. I'm tired of having to walk over land mines of toys all day long. I'm tired of the girls not help me put away their toys. I'm tired of putting away their toys myself, while they take toys out at the same time. I'm tired of crap all over the house.

My girls are very fortunate. They have a lot of toys. We buy them things, and for holidays and birthdays (and I mean every holiday--Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Girls' Day, you name it), they get gifts from not only us and grandparents, but aunts, Sean's aunts and uncles, friends from college, other friends. It's truly crazy and disgusting really. There is no end in site to the gifts, so we cram more stuff into our house virtually every month. After Christmas I went through their things and threw out or gave away about a third of it. Stuff they weren't playing with, crappy Happy Meal toys, and broken things. It's April, and we are already back to the same quantity.

The kids' toys are in the main living area because that's the only place for them. The bottom four shelves of three bookshelves are kids' toys. There is a dollhouse taking up one corner of the room. There is a toy rack and play kitchen taking up another corner. When you walk into my house, the first thing you see are two toy shopping carts, and two baby doll strollers in front of our aquarium. They are all filled with toys and dolls. Most of the time, they are in the way and you have to walk around them.

That's when everything is put away. Once the girls wake up in the morning, the toys come out and they are ALL over the floor. I find myself tripping and slipping on things all day long. Every day each girl falls because she tripped over something.

Last night was the breaking point for me. They both told me no when asked to put their toys away. The timer didn't work, yelling didn't work, taking a break and coming back to it later didn't work, telling them to put their toys in time out didn't work, threatening to throw things out didn't work, actually throwing out a box of Dora band-aids didn't work. Nothing works. They just say no and know eventually Sean and I will put the toys away.

Well, no more. I'm tired. I'm busy. Penny wants to be held all the time right now, making it physically hard to keep bending over to get things off the floor. I don't have time to clean up after them all day long and I shouldn't have to. They both know where the toys belong. They are both capable of putting them away. And now, I'm going to have to be tough about it.

I've been trying to figure what consequence will be effective. I've really tried all the tricks I've read or heard about. My girls just don't care about any of it enough to clean up if they don't feel like it.

The one thing I haven't done is take away television and food. Taking away food when they're hungry kind of seems mean. We have one television in the house in the main living area. If I take t.v. from one, unless I ban the other to their room, I have to take it away from the other. That doesn't seem fair unless they're both not helping.

Well, I've decided that is exactly what I need to do to get some help around here. Before television and snack time that happens twice a day, they will help clean up and put everything away. If they don't, no snack and no television. If that means one is banished to their room while the other has snack and t.v., so be it.

I tried it this morning. I told them the new policy. I told them to help clean up. Ella did, Samantha didn't. In fact, she took things out as Ella and I were cleaning. I reminded Samantha twice of the consequences. She still refused.

So, after we finished, I told her to go to her room. She screamed, she ran away from me. She told me she was hungry. When I finally caught her, she kicked me, hard, in the stomach and legs and pounded her little fists against my shoulders. I dumped her in her room. Calmly told her why she was there. She could play in her room, but no snack this morning and no television.

I closed the door. For twenty minutes she screamed, pounded on the floor, and threw things against the door. I went in. She had thrown her sister's toys. I told her if she needed to throw something, she needs to throw her own toys. If she breaks her sister's toys, I will be taking away one of her princess barbies. She crawled into her bed and pouted.

I hate having to do this. I'm nauseous from it. But I can't stand it any more. I'm the mother, and they need to help clean up just because I said so. Telling me no is unacceptable. I think I made my point with Samantha today. Doing this with Ella will be harder. I'll probably have to put up the baby gate to keep her in the room. But I will if I have to. It's past time for them to listen when I ask them to do something.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? How do you get your kids to listen?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cool Stuff: Mind Blowing Science

I like to show cool things I find for my kids to do, because, if you're like me, you're always trying to find something for the kids to do that doesn't involve television. Nap time for the my two youngest is my biggest problem. Samantha doesn't nap anymore, so I need to find something to keep her occupied quietly for a couple hours in the afternoon.

We finally got this kit I've been wanting. It's called Mind Blowing Science and it's essentially a basic chemistry set for kids four and up.

The Kit

We opened it today and it was so much fun. There is an instruction book with twenty or so experiments to do along with explanations. Today, Samantha and I worked with acids and bases (i.e. citric acid and baking soda).

We watched them fizz like sodapop when mixed together and cause color changes using an indicator (red cabbage powder). And we tested the pH of various household items, like vinegar, my Diet Coke, and soap.

Samantha performing an experiment. She pipettes like a pro.

The explanations were a little over Samantha's head, but she was able to guess correctly (hypothesize since we were being scientists), that soap is a base. She was able to perform the experiments herself after I read her the instructions.

Pondering her results.

She really enjoyed it and is already bugging me to do more.

One happy, almost 4 year old.

**Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation for this post. I bought the kit with my own money, and no one paid me to review it. (I'd review stuff though, if anyone asked, but they haven't.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

It Finally Happened

Today, I had the ultimate mommy moment in the grocery store. Sean and I decided to go grocery shopping before dinner with all three girls because we needed to go grocery shopping as there was nothing to eat or cook in the house, and I love our store's prepared food section, it's delicious and relatively healthy. The girls get mac n cheese, the home made kind with actual cheese and big shell noodles, Sean gets a yummy deli sandwich, and I get the caprese pasta salad-- pasta, basil, a light oil and vinegar dressing, fresh chopped tomatoes, and fresh mozarella. We also get some fresh cut fruit and a piece of chocolate cake to eat (ok, that's not healthy, but it's good)

The plan was to get the groceries, along with dinner, and get home right at dinner time. I know many would say not a good idea to go grocery shopping with hungry children, but we usually go right before lunch with no problems.

On the way to the store, Samantha started in with "I'm hungry" whining, it continued, and worsened. I told her we were going to get dinner and I didn't bring a snack because it was too close to dinner. She continued, the whole way there, on the way out of the car, into the store.

Once at the store, we found a shopping cart with a car in the front. The big blue one I hate because it's gigantic, but we took it. Both girls can fit in the car together, although Samantha sometimes gets out and walks with Sean to grab things while I push the cart with Ella. (Penny is in the Bjorn being carried by one of us. Don't worry, we don't leave her in the car.)

As soon as we get in the store, the girls start fighting over who gets the steering wheel first. And I mean fighting--hitting, yelling, pushing, and that terrible screaming that little kids do when they're really angry.

I was already extremely irritated by the whining, so I went to the front and very firmly told them if they didn't stop fighting we were leaving the store with no food. Well, they didn't stop fighting, so I hauled their little butts out of that cart, kicking and screaming, and pulled them to the car. I strapped the little heathens into their carseats, closed the door, and stood outside in the windy parking lot, next to the car, so I wouldn't have to listen to the continued screaming. Luckily, our car is pretty sound proof when the doors are closed.

I have certainly heard advice before to just leave the store if the kids get unruly, but I never thought I would have to do it. Sure, sometimes they cry or run around more than I would like, but they're generally pretty well behaved when we're out. And, if I am doing anything that requires the twenty to thirty minutes of prep time at home to get all three kids into the car, I'm determined to accomplish whatever small errand needs to be accomplished. Today, I learned there really is a point where it's just not worth it. We'll go grocery shopping tomorrow, after Sam's at school and after Penny's doctor's appointment (she's 4 months already!).

Oh, while I was wrestling the kids, Sean took Penny to go get dinner, since we really didn't have anything to eat in the house.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Library Books Rock!

We take the girls to the library every three weeks. They pick out about five books and we read them ad nauseum until its time to return them and the cycle repeats itself. I don't generally read the books first. The girls each pick a couple and I just scan them to make sure they're an age appropriate length and throw them in my bag. I usually add one or two I think look good as well. I think it's fun to come home and see what we've chosen, plus it gets us out of the library faster before the kids become unruly and disruptive.

We have found some really good books that the girls love, like The Gardener and Don't Touch My Hat. We have also come across some not so good books, like the Henny Penny book I thought would be great but was illustrated with what looked like magazine cut outs pasted in the book, ransom note style. It was a little creepy.

Sometimes, we come across a treasure in disguise, like we did last week. We got the book Time Out Buzzy. It was one I choose, thinking Ella may relate as she is frequently in time out for biting or hitting. I was, at first, disappointed. It was overly simple, even for a two year old, with no real plot, and few words. It's about a boy zebra named Buzzy who refuses to do things his mother asks and is put in time out. While in time out, he puts his toys in time out, thereby cleaning his room and comes out and does what he was asked to do before going to bed. I wasn't overly impressed, nor were the girls.

However, it did lead to the idea of putting toys in time out to put them away. We often struggle to get the girls to help put their toys away, although Samantha is way too old to not help, and Ella is old enough to do some. Generally, we beg and plead, yell and threaten to throw things out, and are met with whining, crying, and laying on the ground not helping. We wind up putting the toys away ourselves, and the girls win the battle.

Today, I decided to have them put their blocks in time out because they had been naughty and were lying all over the floor (where the girls had thrown them). It worked! They scurried about, tossing the blocks in the block bucket and scolding them for being so naughty. It worked again after dinner where every toy and scrap of paper on the floor was put in time out in the appropriate spot.

It taught me a few things: 1. A little creativity can go a long way in getting kids to do what you want. 2. My kids are more than capable of cleaning up everything they take out on their own, and they know where everything is supposed to go. and 3. Library books rock!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why Hardwood Floors Are a Necessity

Today after lunch I was feeding Penny and Ella stopped in her tracks and announced, "Poop!". She has become interested in potty training, and usually realizes she has to poo right before or during the event, so this was nothing unusual. She usually stops, squats a little, goes in her diaper, then removes the diaper.

Being on top of things today, I told her to not take off the diaper. I would do it after finishing feeding Penny. To add impact, I told her if she took off her diaper, it would get on her dress and smear on her legs. She was impressed, I could tell.

She finished, then said, "(gasp) Poop!"

"I know, I'll change you after I finish with Penny," I said.

Samantha chimed in, "Mommy! Poop!" while she pointed to the floor.

'Did it fall out of her diaper onto the floor?" I asked, unable to see from my vantage point on the couch.

"No," Samantha answered. "She wasn't wearing a diaper."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

We Are The Incredibles

Today, I realized that our family is very much like The Incredibles (you know, that cartoon movie about a super hero family). I realized this when playing with Penny today.

Sean is Mr. Incredible. He isn't a gigantic mass of rippling muscles who can throw cars around, but he does single handedly financially support our family. He is the slient rock around which we all revolve. He can also fix just about everything we need fixed around here: leaky faucet, broken screen door, dishwasher that leaves junk on the dishes, and even those sippy cups with the straws that don't line up right, clearly a superpower.

I am Elastigirl. I can't actually stretch my arms under a table and pull my kids apart, or stand in one place and vacuum the entire house, it only seems like it. I run around, chasing kids, stretching myself between them. I am wife, mother, blogger, aspiring fiction writer, I'm taking an online class right now and will start another next week. I'd say I stretch a lot.

Samantha is like Violet, the oldest daughter who can disappear and form force fields. She wears her hair partially covering her face, like Violet. She is my shy girl and regularly disappears to play in her room alone and will stop her pretending if she sees someone watching her, pausing her multi-character conversations until it is safe.

Ella is like Dash, the middle child. He is more outgoing, just like Ella and very active. While I'm happy Ella can't move so fast that she can't be seen, I do often wonder how she managed to climb something or get into something in the two seconds I looked away. And she is always on the move, never tiring, my very physical child.

That leaves Penny, who is like the baby, Jack Jack. Mostly, just like Jack Jack, she sits in a chair or on her gymini, cooing and babbling happily away while the rest of us run around like we have the world to save. Jack Jack never really does anything, the whole movie, you're just waiting to see what superpower he has, just like we're waiting to see who Penny is. Today, while playing with Penny, I lifted her up, holding her suspended a few inches from my face, her whole body became stiff and tense. In my mind, I saw her turn into a flaming fireball, then a lead weight, then a little devil baby, just like Jack Jack does at the end, finally revealing his superpowers. She didn't, of course, she just threw her head back and squealed in delight with a big, toothless smile. Good enough for me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Calm Before the Poo

Today the girls behaved themselves rather nicely with no major incidents. We had a lovely picnic lunch in our backyard, nap time wasn't too difficult, and we went for a walk. Although they kept stopping every three feet on the walk because someone needed something, there was no fighting or trying to run into the street. When we came home they both wanted to play in the backyard together.

Things were going great. So great, I decided to feed Penny inside the house on the comfort of the couch and leave the girls in the sand box in our fenced backyard with the dog. Our screen door to the back is torn, so to keep Tut inside, I had to close the sliding glass door, leaving it cracked just enough to hear them.

No sooner had Penny latched on, leaving me unable to move around, but I hear a tap at the sliding glass door. I look up from my spot on the couch. It's Sammy.

"Mommy, Ella went poop!" she said.

"Ok, I'll change her diaper after I finish feeding Penny," I called back.

Suddenly, I see Ella at the window. She has removed her pants and is working on her diaper.

"Ella! Ella! NO! Leave your diaper on until I get there! No, no, Ella! Poo poo!" I yell to no avail.

Ella removes one of the diaper fasteners, then pushes the diaper down her leg and steps out of it. I can see the poo smear down her leg. She turns, butt towards the window, I can see she REALLY needs a diaper wipe. She apparently can feel it too and she turns her head to try to see her butt, reaching her hand behind her.

"Ack! Ella, don't touch! Poo poo!" I yell while still feeding Penny.

She stops and looks at me with wide-eyed surprise, "Poo poo?"

"Yes, poo poo! Don't touch anything! Just stand there. I'm almost done," I shout through the window.

Penny finishes, (thankfully she's a quick eater) and I get up and open the door to let the girls inside.

"Ella, go right to the changing table. Don't touch anything and don't sit down," I tell her.

Apparently, that was an invitation to play. She takes off the opposite direction, through the kitchen, squealing as I chase her in a panic, waiting for her to sit down or rub her dirty behind against a wall.

Finally, I catch her and manage to hold her away from me to get her to the changing table. She's kicking me, and when I get her to the table, she squirms and rubs her butt on the pad. Fortunately, no poo went anywhere but her legs and the changing table pad, which changes easily enough.

Picnic Day

Today is a beautiful spring day in Los Angeles. The sun is out, the sky is robin's egg blue with no clouds or wind, and it's nice and warm.

The girls and I took advantage of the weather by spending most of the morning outside. I got some yard work done in my constantly on-going effort to create an oasis like backyard and make the front yard look more planned and less weedy. They were pretty cooperative and even a little helpful, picking up some of the weeds I pulled yesterday and throwing them in the green bin.

Around noon, we came inside and I was able to stall lunch a little while the girls played in their room (o.k. they made a mess in their room). I really hate the time after lunch but before nap because all the girls want to do is watch television. I don't mind one show, but no more. They always whine and argue when they have to figure out something to do before t.v. time.

Since it was such a beautiful day, and I didn't have the rugrats under foot cramming food in their mouths faster than I can make it, I decided to have a picnic. I made all three of us lunches (usually I have to eat during t.v. time by myself), set out the picnic blanket under the shade of my neighbors trees on the top tier of our yard, and brought the girls out.

We ate together. They fed the dog. They told each other jokes, laughing with wide food filled mouths, and rolling on the ground at their own hilarity. (Example joke: "Don't touch my nose!" We just returned the book, "Don't Touch My Hat" to the library. Apparently substituting anything for hat is hilarious.) Penny lay on the blanket, kicking her legs and flailing her arms, looking at the trees and her sisters.

It was a lovely, relaxing lunch with my three girls. We'll definitely have to have more picnics soon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Why I Love Dora

Besides the fact that putting on a Dora episode (thank you inventor of the DVR) will buy me twenty minutes of peace, Dora is actually educational.

Both Samantha and Ella know some Spanish, and pronounce it in not a totally gringo sort of way. They also learn a little geography and other things.

Today at dinner, Sean gave the girls some shredded cheese to eat (they like the shredded stuff, just plain).

Samantha piled her cheese on her plate and said to him, "Look, Daddy, I made my cheese like Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania."

She's right, Mt. Kilimanjaro is indeed in Tanzania. I looked it up.

Thank you, Dora.

Easter Earthquake!

We had a lovely Easter yesterday. The Easter Bunny got her butt out of bed at five forty-five to hide eggs outside and the girls actually slept until almost seven. They hunted eggs in their pajamas, squealing with delight each time they found a hidden egg in a funny place (like in a plant or on the slide).

After having one tiny chocolate egg before breakfast, they went into a sugar induced manic state that resulted in their candy being confiscated and made Sean and me very exhausted.

At two, we loaded up the car and went to Sean's aunt Sandi's house for Easter linner (late lunch/early dinner). The kids were again overwhelmed with Easter baskets from relatives, and had a great time playing with bubble guns and sidewalk chalk.

The highlight at Sandi's is the koi pond. The kids get to feed the koi who come right up to the edge of the pond, mouths agape, waiting for the food. They never seem to be full. The girls watch those fish for hours.

Yesterday, the girls were feeding the fish and suddenly the fish swam deeper and away from the edge. The girls complained that the fish had left, and we told them they must finally be full. Then the ground began to roll and we watched as the water in the pond shifted to spill over the side when it usually sits five inches from the top. The ground rolled like a boat for a couple of minutes (enough to make me motion sick). Then the koi returned to beg for more food, so we knew it was over.

There was no damage to anyone we know. Some of the people at the party didn't even feel it, although I find it hard to believe someone didn't feel that one. I'm not sure if the girls felt it, they couldn't articulate themselves well enough for me to know. Sean, standing no more than five feet from me, didn't feel a thing. Nor did his sister. Maybe it's genetic.

That was about the third or fourth good earthquake I've felt in my life. I do occasionally feel some small ones, but they don' t bother me much. I just can't get used to the bigger ones. The idea of the Earth moving like that, with no warning, it's just kind of scary. Give me a tornado any day. At least I know when it's coming and how to protect myself. Guess I'm still a Midwest girl at heart.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Samantha's Easter Revelations

Me: The Easter Bunny is coming tomorrow.

Sam: And he's going to hide eggs in the hammock and on the swings!

Me: He is? (Easter Bunny taking notes.) What do you think he'll bring you?

Sam: I don't know.

Me: Maybe some candy?

Sam: Nah, that's not healthy.

Me: Then what's he bringing?

Sam: Maybe chocolate covered raisins? They're healthy because they're raisins.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

RIP Sea Monkeys

The sea monkeys I got when we were in La Quinta have finally succumb to the forces of nature (i.e. Ella).

Yesterday, yet another day of Ella havoc, after she had finished eating dinner, Ella headed over to the table closest to the sea monkeys.

"Ella, don't touch. Look only," I admonished.

"Wook onwy, no touch?" she asked.

"Yes, look only," I said.

She then grabbed the lid off the top of the container. I told her to put it down and reached for the container to try to get it off the table before it spilled. She quickly threw the lid across the kitchen and grabbed the container.

"Ella! Put that down! It will spill and all the sea monkeys will die!" I yelled.

She looked me dead in the eye before dumping the container upside down, water washing over the table, onto Sammy still eating her dinner and the floor. There was no hope. No way to recover them. They were gone.

"TIME OUT, ELLA!" I screamed.

She ran to her time out chair and sat there until I had finished cleaning the mess.

As soon as they had spilled, Sammy started crying. Once I had banished Ella, I picked up Samantha and wiped her tears.

"Are you crying because of the Sea Monkeys?" I asked.

She shook her head no.

"Then why are you crying?" I asked.

"Because my skirt got wet and now it's dirty and I can't wear it," came her reply.

Luckily, our friends, Troy and Vivian, after reading about the previously-dead-miraculously-resurrected tank, got us a lovely sea monkey castle. So, there are still sea monkeys in our house. They are still on the kitchen table because I honestly have no other place to put them.

Ella seems to have realized her mistake. After she said, "More baby sea monkeys" and I told her no, they were all dead, she seems to understand. She points to the tank and says, "All dead".

Hopefully, she'll leave the other tank alone.