Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are Those Flashing Lights in My Rearview Mirror?

Holy smokes. It's the Grammar Police! And they are after me. I was just idly re-reading my "About Me" section on this blog. To my shock and embarrassment, I realized I had written, "I keep this blog for a couple different reasons." And then I proceeded to list three reasons.

As most people in the English-speaking world (and certainly all former members of Mr. Webb's 8th-grade English class and most definitely *cough cough* former English teachers) know, "couple" means two, not three.

I am properly horrified with myself. Even more so because that error was out there for almost three months -- a few months, not a couple months.

Lieutenant Lexicon and Officer Oxymoron let me go with a warning and a promise to fix the problem immediately (I did). They knew I'd be harder on myself than they could ever be.

Oh, the shame.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cooking for Troglodytes

I don't like to cook. No secret there. Strangely, though, I like to feed people, especially my family. I want to give them wonderful meals, but I don't actually really want to make them. It's like my hospitality gene only got half-baked. However, thanks to my now-indispensable cooking group, our family does have some seriously fabulous dinners on a regular basis. On the menu at our house this week have been such yummies as white turkey chili, garlic white lasagna, and even a hand-crafted-by-Alison-live-at-dinnertime saucy stir-fried pork. Stand back, Susie Homemaker.

Andrew's response? Tears and gagging.

Adam's response? "When are we going to have something good for dinner?" By which he means Kraft Mac n Cheese, Totino's pizza, and canned mandarin oranges.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Boy Mom

I grew up one of five sisters with one poor badgered brother stuck in the middle. Our house was full of girl stuff: ear-splitting squeals, Barbies, smocked dresses, Little House on the Prairie books, the more-than-occasional cat fight over bathroom space, and baby dolls everywhere. On some level I always expected that when I had children, they would be girls. I'm one -- and I like it! I looked forward to shoe shopping with my daughters, reading Anne of Green Gables together, getting their ears pierced, and guiding them through the intricate set of rules about how and when to wear white.

So I was pretty surprised six years ago, after some initial confusion in the delivery room, to find myself a "Boy Mom." And two years later, a Double Boy Mom. In a turn of events that my younger self probably wouldn't quite believe, I have found that I love it. In fact, when I was inducted into the "Girl Mom" club about 21 months ago, I couldn't quite remember what to do with a girl! (Libby has worn the uneven pigtails to prove it.) I love the boys' straightforwardness. I loved seeing my younger boys' little round selves clad in overalls. I love the absence of those high-pitched shrieks that only little girls can produce. I love that I no longer flinch when a small person dangling from a precarious spot wobbles and rights himself just in time. And I love the education I have received just by living life with my boys.

The things I never knew I never knew:

Mace Windu is the only Star Wars character with a purple light saber.

2 brothers + 1 toilet = tinkle lasers. (I really didn't want to know. You don't, either.)

How to spell, pronounce, and identify "Xenotarsosaurus," "Coelophysis," "Yingshanosaurus," and "Parasaurolophus."

The difference between a Velociraptor and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. (I could spot it in my sleep.)

Nothing trumps a bare bottom for high humor. Pants will be unashamedly dropped anywhere, anytime, and it will be the funniest thing that EVER happened.

How to tell a bulldozer from a backhoe. (Andrew, then three years old, had to labor intensively to get this one through to me.)

The blue cup is the best one. Whoever doesn't have it might as well be drinking dirt.

Keeping an empty water bottle in the car on long trips is of the utmost importance.

Even the unlikeliest of objects can become a gun or light saber. Just add the following sound effects: pyow pyow pyow pyow or zhoom zhoom.

Nothing mesmerizes like a fire truck...except roadkill.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Walmart, I Apologize

A few weeks ago, I may have made a disparaging remark about you on Facebook. I didn't understand why your evil minions greeters constantly targeted me, a normal mom clearly out just grocery shopping with my adorable baby, and would not let me leave the store without looking at my receipt and rifling through my bags to make sure I wasn't robbing you. I mean, really, ME? In my disgust, I may have accused you of profiling mommies.

Normally I would just take my toys business and leave, never to return to your (let's face it, kinda skeezy) store in response to this kind of treatment. I would love to make Harris Teeter my sole grocery store. Ah, to dream of carts that glide easily (it's like shopping on glass!), free cookies and balloons for the kids, and helpful teenage boys begging me with their cracking voices for the privilege of loading my ridiculously-priced groceries in the back of my minivan ALL THE TIME. But, darn you, Walmart, your low, low prices draw me back over and over again.

So today I visited you once more, prepared to hand over my receipt and be frisked at the exit. Libby sat ensconced in the cart, which was carefully covered with her horribly ugly but effective cart cover. At one point during our shopping excursion I handed her a bottle of dressing to play with. (Pretty ghetto. It would be nice if you'd throw a balloon the kid's way once in a while.) We finished our shopping and paid for our groceries. In hindsight, I should have been suspicious of Libby's good cheer throughout the checkout process. And for ONCE, I was not harassed at the exit. Your bouncer greeter just waved goodbye to me and my groceries. What an unexpectedly lovely time we had with you, Walmart!

Here is where we come to the apology. After unloading the baby and the groceries at the car, I pulled Libby's cart cover off the cart. What do you know? Out tumbled a bottle of Zesty Italian dressing. And it was RED HOT because we did not pay for it. We just walked right out the doors with that $1.50 bottle of dressing hidden craftily in the cart cover. My precious, adorable, innocent-looking baby is a thief. Walmart, you knew. All those times you held me up at the knew. It was not I you was Baby Face Nichols. And you were right. I was wrong.

Anyway, it was raining and cold. I won't lie. I had a little argument with God about the necessity of me dragging the baby back out into the rain to go give you your $1.50 for the dressing. I lost. Your employees were extremely nice to me about the whole thing and graciously took my money. (They probably felt sorry for me, being the mother of a hardened criminal and all.)

So, Walmart, profile away. Those babies will rob you blind if you don't keep tabs on them. And lately I've noticed Libby casing the yogurt aisle for that sweet-looking organic Greek stuff...I wouldn't put anything past her. See you next week, Walmart.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Efficient Baby Strikes Again

Preschool day for Adam. He gets in the car at pickup time and proudly shows me his "prize" from his teacher: a fun-size Nestle Crunch bar. For a boy who loves chocolate the way Adam does, this is a prize indeed. He tells Grandma Betsy all about his "precious" (insert Gollum voice here) on the phone. He begs me to eat it then and there. Upon being told that he can have it for a treat after dinner, he pleads with me to make dinner then and the car. Finally he accepts the decree that gratification will be delayed, puts the chocolate bar in a place of honor on the kitchen table, and settles in for the wait, telling anyone who will listen all about his prize in the meantime. He is positively chortling in anticipation.

4:00 pm. Enter Efficient Baby. Popping a square of suspiciously Nestle Crunch-y looking chocolate in her mouth, she walks into the dining room and efficiently hands me this:

And shows me this -- some chocolate stains that she will need to work on ASAP:

I quickly discard the empty wrapper (after snapping a quick picture, of course), wipe down EB's incriminating chocolatey mouth, and call Daddy (already on his way home) for an emergency replacement. Thank goodness for cell phones and corner grocery stores. Within minutes of "the incident," the candy bar is replaced, and Adam is none the wiser. Disaster averted.

Mommy is learning to be efficient, too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Efficient Baby

That's our nickname for Libby, who is three feet of pure efficiency waddling purposefully around our house.

Need something thrown in the trash? Efficient Baby will do it with gusto.

Help with the laundry? Efficient Baby will be there in the thick of it all before you can ask. Doesn't matter if the clothes are clean or dirty: They are going into that washing machine if EB has anything to say about it.

Just want to take a picture of an adorable little girl with a bow in her hair? Bring out the camera; and before you can turn around, Efficient Baby will be standing (smile and pose ready) in one of the three main "picture takin' " spots in our house.

Don't leave the gate off the bottom of the stairs even for a minute. If Efficient Baby notices, she will climb those stairs with lightning speed -- whether she wants to go upstairs or not. It would be a shame to leave those steps just sitting there unclimbed. Someone should be using them.

Say the word "bath," and Efficient Baby will hurry as fast as her chubby little legs can carry her to the tub. It is especially hilarious when Efficient Baby is in naked mode.

Here is Efficient Baby multitasking (it's more -- you guessed it -- efficient). Chewing all her pieces of sausage at once (why expend all that energy needlessly opening and closing your mouth for separate bites?) while simultaneously carrying her quickly emptied dirty plate to the dishwasher and putting it in*. Breakfast and cleanup accomplished in 38 seconds. Wow, that is one Efficient Baby.

*You may notice that EB is putting her dirty plate into a dishwasher full of clean dishes. I do not bother arguing with her about this. It wouldn't be...well, you know.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Today I had lots of plans. They mostly centered around the removal of tomato sauce from a couple certain little boys' shirts. The OxyClean/Spray n Wash mix is the only thing that gets out tomato stains for us, and we are out of a key ingredient in that combo. So before the stains got any more stubborn, Adam and Libby and I were going to head to Target for OxyClean and a whole host of other items I somehow neglected to pick up yesterday. (Heaven forbid I spend more than a day away from that place.) And I found a cool new Valentine's treat I would like to try to make, which necessitates a trip to Michael's. And then there's that overdue library book...yes, we had lots of errands to run today.

But we woke up to blech. Cold, cold, rain. Dark gray skies. Rapidly expanding muddy puddles everywhere. Did I mention it was cold? I certainly didn't want to take the littles out in that. And Libby, bless her heart, was constantly asking, "Ou dog-dog?" (French/baby-ese for "Where's my friend Zoe?") Then she started in with "Ou Lella?" ("where's Ella?")

So I kissed my plans goodbye -- not that they were very big plans -- and called friend/neighbor Tonya to ask something along these lines: "Hi, it's me. Um, could your 16-month-old daughter come over to play with my 20-month-old daughter?" Sweet, sweet Tonya. She didn't even laugh at me. We decided Caleb should probably come play with Adam, too.

Wouldn't you know, we had a great morning. Libby and her beloved "Lella" carried around dolls, pushed strollers, and just generally engaged in a whole lot of what can only be described as purposeful baby randomness with great earnestness. Caleb and Adam played delightfully and remained interested in each other all morning.

Meanwhile, I got all the bedrooms dusted. It was probably the presence of Nuzums in the house that compelled me to do it. I will never, ever forget a few years ago when Josh, aged four at the most, came over to our house and asked Andrew, aged three, if he dusted his room every Friday. I still get tickled remembering the twin looks of consternation on the boys' faces: Josh undoubtedly thinking, "Who doesn't dust his room every Friday?" and Andrew wondering, "What is dusting?" I didn't have the heart to tell Josh that Andrew's mommy had never even once dusted his room. But ever since, whenever there are Nuzum kids here, I feel like I should probably go wipe down some dressers.

So, back to today: I still have no OxyClean, and I just know those stains are getting more set in by the minute. My poor boys will be wearing the ghosts of tomato stains for months to come, I'm sure. That library book is going to cost me another ten cents. And the Valentine's treats will have to wait for another day.

But, still, today was just right. I love it when a plan fails.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Our Friend Zoe

Today we said a very sad goodbye to our old friend Zoe Begonia Nichols. Zoe was 14 years old and lived a long and very spoiled dog life. This weekend her age simply caught up with her, and she was suffering. Steve and I were with her this morning at the vet's office holding her as she went.

I first met Zoe when I was 21 -- before Steve; before Catsworth the Wonder Cat; before Gabby the Labby; and before Andrew, Adam, and Libby. Zoe was 6 weeks old at our first meeting. I was trying to convince her little blond littermate to like me (with no success); all the while a certain pushy little redhaired puppy followed and nosed me relentlessly until I picked her. Better put, she picked me.

Through my single years, Zoe was an exuberant friend and the "heartbeat at my feet." She stuck with me through the bringing home of one husband, a couple other pets, and several babies. I know she didn't sign on to share me with so many people and other animal friends, but she never said a cross word. (There were a few reproachful glances and sighs, though.) She was the perfect patient dog for the many young children who crawled over her, tugged on her ears, and dropped countless morsels of forbidden people food conveniently into her waiting mouth.

Probably our favorite characteristic of Zoe was her weaselfulness. If you don't believe that "weaselfulness" is a word, then you obviously never met Zoe in her heyday. She could out-weasel an entire gang of weasels. In her early years, she specialized in the "I have to go out in the dead of night" ruse in order to be invited into my bed every night. Her trickery in obtaining extra meals was legendary. Even late in her life Zoe could fool us into giving her a second dinner with the "No one's fed me yet" face. I am embarrassed to admit I was both victimized and delighted by her weaselfulness over and over again.

Zoe's arch nemeses were vacuum cleaners and squirrels. She finally came to a truce with the vacuum in her later years, thanks in large part to her profound deafness. But to the end, Zoe never could abide those squirrels. Smug little rodents with their complacent smirks and meaningless chatter...

Zoe was preceded in death by her canine partner in life and crime, Gabby; her fat, lazy feline friend Catsworth; and her cousin? aunt? Bailey, who shared her almost constant quiet exasperation with Gabby. Zoe is survived by extended family pets Cricket, Gus, Murray, and Sydney.

It is extremely weird after 14 years of pet ownership to find myself suddenly without a pet. I have almost asked Steve several times tonight if he's fed Zoe yet, proving, I suppose, that old dogs are not the only ones who cannot learn new tricks. Either that or Zoe's weaselful spirit carries on and is trying to convince me to give her one extra meal...

"If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness." -- Marjorie Garber