Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Improper Burial

Toby's frantic quest to dismantle the house stopped abruptly this morning while I was washing some dishes. I turned to find him lying on the floor behind me poking at a nondescript dark speck. I finished rinsing the pan and dried my hands just as Toby brought his prize to me. He stood grinning with the speck pinched between his thumb and finger. "Af wada gee," he chirped happily, offering me his treasure. I pinched the speck in my own fingers, then wrinkled my nose at the grotesque remains of mangled spider stuck to my finger. I quickly flung them in the garbage.

Toby was shocked. He ran to the can and peered in sadly while I washed my hands. Then he repeated in a quiet, mournful tone, "Af wada gee...all gone...bye bye."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Water or Whine?

I needed to run to Wal-Mart today, just a short little jog for some essentials. So while Toby was napping, with Matt working at home, I hearded Hannah and Emma toward the front door. On the way out the door I reached for the diaper bag then thought to myself, "No..they're both potty trained! But what about the sippy cups we drag everywhere we go lest someone should suddenly become dehydrated? No! It's a twenty minute trip and for once in my life I'm going to go shopping with a purse, not a diaper bag." I redirected the girls for a last potty stop and water drink while I proudly placed my wallet in a purse and slung it over my shoulder.

Unfortunately we'd only loaded one item into the Wal-Mart cart before Hannah noticed something missing. "Hey, Mama, where's my cup?" she asked, "I'm thirsty."

"Yeah I ir ee ooh, (Yeah, I thirsty too)" Emma echoed.

"Mommy didn't bring the cups this time," I answered, "and you will be fine. We'll be home in a few minutes." But my speech was less than convincing to Hannah. Suddenly she was trapped under the blazing Wal-Mart lights, and with no oasis in sight, her throat became more parched by the minute.

"I want to go now," she sulked, "I'm so thirsty. I just need a drink right now." I'm not accustomed to whining children. Generally they're thrilled to get out of the house, and I fully expected Hannah to be enraptured by the beautiful Christmas decorations surrounding us, but today her melodrama turned an entirely sour direction. I reminded her that it was her choice to come. I threatened to let her take a nap with Toby the next time, but the whining would not subside. "When can we go home?" she persisted as I placed our items on the check-out belt a full five minutes later, "I don't think you're ever ever ever going to take us home. You never will!"

Much to Hannah's dismay, I announced that we had to make another quick stop at a nearby craft store for some embroidery floss that Wal-Mart suddenly no longer carried. She sulked in the car, stomped into the store, and whined all the way to the embroidery floss. I quickly picked out the three I needed then turned to Hannah with a touch of sarcasm, "What? You're still alive? Well good, now we can go home and you can drink all the water in the world."

"I nee go pah-ee!" Emma announced. I really didn't want to delay our return, especially after promising Hannah we were on our way home. I glanced Emma over: no dancing, no look of urgency; then I factored in that she hadn't had one accident in the three weeks she'd been wearing underwear, and I decided to call her bluff. "You can wait, Emma, we're leaving."

By the time we made it to the parking lot Hannah was in a parched frenzy of dehydrated delirium. "Mommy, I'm going to die of thirst! I'm going to die right here in the parking lot! And the cars will run me over! I just can't keep waiting all day, and you're never going to take me home!" At this point I wasn't answering. Just survive, just survive.

When we arrived home Hannah bolted into the house and ran to her water cup with little dramatic sobs, like the marathon runner urging himself toward the finish line just ahead. She took two swallows, set the cup down with a huge, "Ahhhh!" and happily skipped to the Little People toys she had left an hour earlier. I had to remind Emma to use the potty.

Maybe the diaper bag wouldn't be so bad after all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rising and Falling

Thankfully, the nausea subsided and I was able to hear that sermon Matt preached this morning. It did, of course, turn out fine despite the previous day of kiddie madness.

In other news, I heard a frightful cry through the floorboards tonight as Matt was tucking the kids in bed. This was followed by Matt's cry of, "Oh NO!" I briefly pictured someone flinging Matt's computer to the floor, but decided that the cry wasn't nearly distressed enough for that, so I ran down the stairs to see.

"He fell out of his crib," Matt said, astonished. "I think he hit his head on the garbage can."

Toby lay shuddering in his crib. "Fall!" he whimpered, "head!"

"Well," I sighed, "maybe if he had a bad experience the first time, that'll keep him from trying again."

"Not likely," Matt smirked, and unfortunately I think he's probably right.

Anyone have a spare crib tent?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Sick Day

Matt and I were up late visiting friends last night. Around 12:30a.m. I began to feel queasy, and around 1:00am I nearly drug Matt out the door still talking as he went. I thought  I was just overtired, but when I woke with nausea and a stomachache at four a.m. I knew there was more troubling me.

Matt got up with the kids, and I tossed and turned miserably 'till 10:00a.m. Tired of being miserable by myself, I stumbled up the swirling stairs and collapsed on the couch. Toby ran to tackle me, but when his head touched mine he recoiled with a puzzled look. He reached tentatively to touch my head, then quickly withdrew his hand, "Hot!"

The fever and nausea have persisted all day.  With the exception of a few bathroom trips (one of which ended up with me lying on the bathroom floor), I've spent the day lying miserably on the couch or trying futilely to sleep in bed. This has put Matt and my mother-in-law on emergency kid duty. Unfortunately, Matt is supposed to preach at our church tomorrow, and the children have been less than cooperative with his preparation efforts. Apparently my absence makes the perfect occasion for spills, messes, fights, coloring on non-washable surfaces, and misbehavior of various other dramatic varieties. When I mused about dealing with our kids like the old woman who lived in the shoe Hannah commented, "Well, if her children had Celiac it was good that she didn't give them any bread, so maybe she was a good mama." And all these years we've wrongfully scorned her.

So I lie on the couch, pecking at the keyboard with one hand, truly unable to help my dear husband put the children to bed. Somehow I'm confident that the kids will soon be asleep, and Matt's sermon will turn out fine tomorrow, though I don't think I'll be there to see it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jail Meltdown

Well, Thanksgiving Day was busy and stressful, but I think it came out OK. The girls sat glued to the Macy's Parade for three hours straight. Naomi bopped up and down to the Radio City Rockettes, and they oohed and aahed over all the clowns, costumes, and huge balloons. The kids weren't too impressed with the traditional turkey dinner, but thankfully my self-esteem doesn't hang on their opinion. Toby was "dall done" about 30 seconds into the dinner, then crawled up on my lap and ate from my plate. At least they were impressed with the pumpkin pie.

Today the usual mound of laundry awaits me and the kids are back to their TV-free play. Currently, they are trying to find a suitable jail for Little People Bad Man. "I know," Hannah pipes up, "let's put him in the microwave jail! He won't be able to get out and he'll just have to ride around and around forever!" A scene from The Wizard of Oz comes to mind when I picture that, "I'm melting! Mellllllltiiiiiiing!" I better go intervene, I think that qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rich Rewards

Tonight I am drop-dead tired. My feet are sore, but my heart is full, and my stove top looks soooo yummy. I spent the afternoon (during Toby's nap) baking from-scratch gluten-free casein-free bread for tomorrow's stuffing with my three girls. Naomi was proud to read the recipe, and Hannah washed the dishes while Emma dried. Then we made some dinner and I actually took all four kids to the grocery store (in freezing drizzle) by myself for a few last-minute ingredients. It went miraculously well. We topped off the evening by making two from-scratch gfcf pumpkins pies, a little bonus apple pie from crust scraps, and a pan of gfcf brownies.

As I was praising the girls for their good behavior on the way home from the store, Naomi pointed out that there had not been need for a single time-out the whole day. I scanned the day in memory and realized, to my astonishment, that she was right. All four children had been home all day long, and there had not been need of any discipline whatsoever (well, except for Toby Trouble, of course). The girls had helped pick up toys, helped fold laundry, helped bake and wash dishes and grocery shop. Apparently they were so busy being helpful they had no time to be naughty. I felt very proud to be their mother at that moment, and told them so, but I felt a bit remorseful. Is this what my days would be like if I took more time to cook with my kids and include them in the chores instead of just hoping they will stay out of the way?

If this streak of good behavior holds, tomorrow promises to be a very pleasant turkey-stuffing, sweet-potato chopping, parade watching day with the worlds cutest helpers by my side. Either way I have much to be thankful for.

Hannah-Happy Holidays

There's a lot of excitement growing at my house. When is there not? When the announcement of an upcoming doctor's appointment induces rounds of cheers, imagine the giddy jubilation at the revelation that Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and after that the Christmas season begins.

Hannah's excitement is contagious, especially amongst her siblings. And despite my much more rational outlook on life, I find myself wanting to indulge her fancies. My mother-in-law made some phone calls and located a turkey that wasn't injected with gluten-filled broth. I don't know if Hannah has any clue what turkey tastes like, but when I carried the huge red bag in the front door and made room for it in our refrigerator, she squealed like I had just carried a big new red bicycle through the door. The mere sight of it whenever she opens the fridge is enough to make her burst.

"Emma! There's a big gluten-free tuw-key in the fridge!" She yells, "It's a big one! A big gluten-fwee tuw-key! And we're going to cook it in two more days!" This apparently cues the music in her head, and she begins to leap about the room singing:

I just can't wait
For that big big fate
I just can't wait for that biiiiiig
cheer (that means happiness)

I just can't wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas
I just can't wait for Christmas trees
and Thankssssssssgivings
Yea tomorrow, Yea today, yea for every holiday

Pretty soon we'll have toooooo
put on our snowsuuuuiiiiits
To go outside
Right? That's the end of my song

I generally don't allow my kids to watch TV, but tomorrow we're going to watch the whole Macy's Parade and the girls can't stop talking about it. Then this weekend comes putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house, the return of Christmas music, and some gluten-free sugar cookie baking fun. The Christmas wish-lists are beginning to grow too, with Hannah hoping for some Hello Kitty band-aids like Emma got for her birthday, and Toby putting in an early bid for "doggie."

Today is cleaning, meal-planning, and pre-baking day (like the two loaves of gf bread for tomorrow's stuffing), but I'm almost looking forward to it. With a musical introduction like that, who couldn't be excited for the season?

Monday, November 22, 2010


I made myself a cup of hot raspberry tea to soothe my sore throat this morning, and left it to steep on the kitchen counter. Ten minutes later, as I made lunch at the stove, Toby stood on his tip-toes, reached his little fingers as far as they would stretch, and managed to snag the handle of the tea cup, pulling it over, and dumping hot tea all down the right side of his face and body. I had turned just in time to see it happen and yell, "No!" but I couldn't stop it.

Toby screamed, and stood frozen in place. I swooped him up and held him in a the kitchen sink, splashing cold water on his face while I yelled for Matt. He came and used the sink hose to spray cold water all down Toby's head and cheek. Then I asked Matt to feel the temperature of the tea that was left in the cup, fortunately it wasn't hot enough to scald, and Toby is just fine. He was happy to get out of the sink and receive a dry change of clothes. I scolded him and tried to explain to him what had happened, hoping he would learn from his mistake. He listened intently and repeated, "Hot! Burn!"

But I'm not sure how much the lesson stuck. Only a few minutes later he came to inspect a mug sitting on the table beside me. "Hot!" he said cheerfully. I glared at him and gave him a stern, "No, no, it's hot!" He grinned at me and chirped back, "Burn!" then attempted to grab the mug. Yep, he's been burned before, and he's not afraid to do it again.

Something Right

This morning I have a cold. I am tired and achy and cranky. I am behind on chores. Naomi forgot to grab her backpack as we dashed to the bus in the cold rain, and I had to drive it to school for her. A hot bath only made me more sleepy. I came upstairs to find a cereal bowl spilled all over the floor and my children fighting about who did it. I had very little patience. These are the days I feel like I have nothing right.

Then, after the cereal had been swept, Hannah and Emma set up a pretend picnic with their babies. They set each plastic plate with a variety of plastic foods, set their babies at their places and began to sing. My heart was warmed as their sweet little voices praised God, and as they made each of their babies thank God for the food they were about to enjoy. It is only habit to them, but if it is their habit to praise God and show thankfulness, I guess that means I've done something right.

Hannah, of course, was delighted to repeat the show after I got my camera, and Emma, of course, was delighted to follow her lead. Perhaps it will warm your heart as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Can Read! (and you're going to hear about it)

Hannah can't wait to read like Naomi. Maybe because she sees how much Naomi enjoys it. Maybe just because she wants to be older and more mature. She wants it so badly, but those tedious little details like learning which letters are what, and what sound each letter makes are so boring. She is making progress, though she frequently laments how slow it is. She has seen Naomi jump from the airplane of phonics with the parachute of hard work and sail delightfully to the ground of reading-land, and Hannah's eager to jump too. She just doesn't want to strap on that pesky parachute. Today she picked up an "Early Reader" book with a few short, repetitive sentences and begged to read it, so I helped her work her way through it.

"What's this letter again, Mama?" she asked.

"That's the letter 'e'," I answered for the fifteenth time.

"What sound does it make, Mama?" She questioned, wrinkling up her nose and eyes at me. "I just forget."

"In this word it is a long 'e' and says 'ee.' 'H' 'e' says 'He'," I replied, mustering patience from the depths of my being.

"He!" Hannah laughed, "I'm reading!"

After about an hour, we reached the end of the tenth simple sentence. Hannah had grown in her letter and sound recognition some, but her conclusion, "I read that whole book!" was a bit optimistic. I congratulated her and told her I needed to take my shower now. As I headed into the bathroom I heard Hannah leaping about the living room, singing from the depths of her cheerful soul. I wish I could record the tune for you, but here are the words:

Yay, yay, yay!
Today I can read
I can re-ee-eed!
Today I can read

Yay, today, today!
Yay, today I kick my foot up
I don't care about playing with toys
I just care about I can read
'Cause I'm so haaaa-ppyy!
'Cause I love to read books!

I chuckled and turned on the shower. To my amazement, when I turned the shower off fifteen minutes later she was still singing the same song at the top of her lungs.

I can read, jump!
I can read, jump!
Jump, jump, jump, dance
When I dance this fast my head shakes
And when I shake, my head breaks
I might get a cut on my head
or my hand, or my belly, or my kidney

When I spin this fast I can't see myself in the mirror
I shake my head, fast, fast, fast
But when I shake my head I can't read
'Cause I think I broke my head
So I'm gonna stop

I can read, yay, yay, yay!
I can read all the way
I can read everyday
I can read everything!
This is the end

I didn't get to see the bow, I think it was made to the full-length mirror in the hallway, but it made me wish I had heard the middle fifteen minutes of the song. That may be the longest her mind has focused on one idea, with a slight dancing digression in the middle, of course.

A bit later Hannah was sentenced to a time-out in the recliner for blatantly disregarding a rule. She went happily there and began chatting, "I love my Mommy 'cause I'm so funny--hey that rhymes. Don't forget that I can read, Mommy. Don't forget my reading!" How could I forget? When I gave her a narrow-eyed glare she said, "Whatever, I'm making myself some fun, 'cause I can read! Whenever I walk across a bridge I just take a book from the other side of the bridge and read! I can read the best when my Mama comes with me. Can you come with me, Mama, next time we go? Don't forget about the bridge, Mama. I'll remind you. Do you want to tape my mouth shut? I should talk, 'cause I want to talk about my reading skills. Guess what? When I grow up I'm not gonna have a baby in my tummy, I'm going to have a book, 'cause I can READ!..."

There'll be no punishing her now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Now We Need More Pickles

When I ducked downstairs to deliver a message to Matt, Emma was jumping up and down in front of the garage door, attempting to stick a magnet on the bottom of a picture hung just out of her reach. When I resurfaced a few moments later I heard her screaming in the garage, "Mo-mmy, come! Mo-mmy, come!" I raced to the door and found her standing, petrified, holding a gallon of milk and a bottle of chocolate syrup, staring at the open refrigerator door. (Yes, our refrigerator is in the garage, we live with our in-laws.)

"Do you need help closing the fridge?" I asked, confused. "No, woouh, bih-oouh (No, look, pickles)," she replied, still shaking. On the cement floor, in front of the open refrigerator, lay the shattered remains of a sweet pickle jar, a two-foot wide puddle of green juice, and four mortally-wounded pickles covered in glass shrapnel. "Oh, honey," I sighed, "are you OK? Did you touch any glass?"

I relieved her of the milk gallon and checked her over, she was fine. Then I surveyed the damage, trying to decide how best to decontaminate the six-foot radius of glass slivers. Emma watched sadly as I scooped up the broken jar and placed it in several layers of shopping bags. Her lip quivered as I walked past her to the garbage. "It's OK, Emma," I reassured her, "You're not hurt, and Mommy will clean it up."

"Oh no," she whined hopelessly, "now we nee moh bi-oouh (now we need more pickles)."

It's strange that a glass jar shatters--risking her injury and leaving me with twenty-minutes of dangerous clean-up--and somehow I had forgotten to mourn with Emma over the loss of the four sweet pickles. My words of comfort meant nothing to her until I wrote "sweet pickles" on the grocery list, showed it to her, and promised I would buy more at the next shopping trip. They can never replace the ones she dropped, but it's the best I can do.

From the Mouth of Hannah

Well, the ratings are in, and the readers say "we want more Hannah." So for those of you who enjoy the fresh and zany perspective that Hannah brings to life, here are a few little gems from the mouth of Hannah in the last 24 hours:

At dinner last night we were discussing how Matt seems to be feeling better on the gluten-free diet, and how when he broke the diet to have a bite of communion bread last week he had some real intestinal repercussions. "So girls," I said, "It looks like Daddy's the one who gave you Celiac disease." Hannah gazed up into her Daddy's eyes and grinned, "Thank you, Daddy. I love you because you gave me Celiac, and I love this gluten-free food. You share good things with me."

This morning Hannah cut out a heart shaped piece of green construction paper, scotch-taped it to a purple piece of construction paper and proudly presented me with card saying, "Mommy, I love you; that's why I gave you this card." I smiled and thanked her and gave her a quick kiss on the head, but was in a hurry to finish cleaning up the table. Hannah continued, "I love you so much, you don't know how many loves I have in me. I have one-hundred-and-fifty loves!" I laughed and thanked her again, then whisked some dishes away to the sink. "Don't run away from your heart, Mommy!" Hannah called after me, "It reminds you that I love you!"

At lunch she was feeling a bit less energized. She scoffed at the left-over gluten-free pancakes, took a few bites, then remarked with an enormous sigh, "I'm so tired! I'm so tired I can't even eat my lunch! I'm too tired to even eat anything. I just feel tired, tired, tired!" Growing weary of her incessant babble I responded, "It's strange that you're not too tired to talk." "Well," Hannah replied, not missing a beat, "I'm talking in my sleep. People can do that, you know, but I can't eat in my sleep." It took some effort for me to hide my laughter, but I recovered and countered, "Then I guess you're too tired to eat a snack this afternoon." Hannah paused a moment, considering, then tried a new approach, "Actually I was kidding, I just don't want to eat my lunch, but I have enough energy for snack."

Yes, her beguiling ways are cute now, but I'm scared to see what she'll be capable of when she's 16!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Pillar of Fire by Night

If you know our story, you know it is one of surrender to Christ, of living for him and being led by him through dark, painful paths as well as indescribable beauty. The Eby family's story is full of baffling roadblocks, torturous detours, and some of the most amazing answers to prayer that one could witness (boy, can we tell you stories!). As long as I have sensed God leading us, as long as I've seen his hand prepare the way, I've been willing to follow. It has only been recently that the paralyzing fear that we have been abandoned occasionally pushes it's way into my mind.

I know that we have not been. I know that the God who called Matt's heart and mine to himself and then brought us together will bring us to the end of the path he's set us on. I know that our continued faithfulness to him even when we are weak and he is hidden only brings him more glory. But there are moments, when the children are quietly sleeping, and Matt and I are praying for a job and a house for the millionth time, when I just feel abandoned.

Lately Matt and I have taken comfort, ironically, in just how awful some circumstances have been. Last week Matt actually had a job offer over the phone, and we told the kids that Daddy had a job, and their little eyes glowed, and we celebrated! But several hours later the company had to renege because, though they were well aware that Matt's dad worked at the same place, they weren't aware that their company's hiring policy forbid them to hire two family members. "Well," Matt said, "only God could orchestrate something that awful." And, though we're not exactly sure what God was trying to work in that situation, it gave us a strange sense of comfort to know he's doing something in our lives.

If you know our story, you know that sometimes when God has felt furthest from us, in his mercy, he has sent a small reminder of his presence to strengthen us, a little light to make the dark path less lonely: a random e-mail asking if I would nanny for a new baby the day after Matt and I had prayed that God would give me a job, or a minivan given to us just after I learned I was expecting my third child. Do you remember the comforters he sent our way this August? (For that full story click here then scroll down to 8/10/10 "Comfort".) When I began baking our own gluten-free bread this fall I realized that I would need a better bread pan, and the next day I went to a gluten-free expo at our hospital and happened to win a door prize: a Pampered Chef bread pan. In those moments I am ashamed that I ever doubted his care for us, the path is still every bit as thorny, but I feel much less pain just knowing he's walking it with me. Tonight was one of those moments.

Matt and I decided to put the kids in their pajamas, put them in the strollers, and soak up the last of the warmer cool fall air as we walked a nearly mile-long circle around our neighborhood in the black night. Naomi decided to count the stars. Leaning her head back in the double stroller, she made it to twenty before Matt broke in to remind her not to count the blinking ones, because they're airplanes. I added, "or the streaking ones because those are shooting stars..." Naomi sat up and interrupted me, "Yeah, and shooting stars aren't really stars. They're rocks falling to earth and burning up as they fall."

"Did you know Daddy and I once saw a shooting star?" I asked the girls. They listened eagerly as we walked on through the dark, quiet streets. "We were just married when..."

"Were we married?" Matt interrupted, "I think that was before we were married."

"Anyway," I continued, "and we were laying on the grass on the soccer field..."

"No," Matt shook his head, "we were sitting on the hill."

"OK...we were outside," I muttered, "but I said...or was that you who said it?" I asked Matt.

"It was me," he said sternly, looking at me as if I was hopeless.

"So we were outside together, at night," I recapped, "when Daddy said, 'wouldn't it be amazing if we saw a shooting star?' and right then, right in front of us a star streaked all the way across the sky!" I waved my hand across the sky dramatically as I finished the story. Naomi and Hannah grinned, but Emma had fallen asleep. "It was really beautiful, girls," I added, "Maybe you'll see one, one day." I looked up at the bare tree branches outlined by the moonlight as we walked, and the beautiful black expanse beyond them, as I have on a thousand late-night walks with Matt since that night: no shooting stars. A familiar longing panged my heart, God doesn't show himself to us that way anymore, he is hidden now.

No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, than the sky lit with a solitary fireball streak, blazing down to earth directly in front of us. In a split second, it was gone. Matt and I both stopped, stunned. "Oh, wow!" Matt said, "Did you see that, Kathy?!" I had seen it.

It really doesn't matter to me whether it's a minivan just when we'd outgrown our sedan, comforters just when my girls' feet had outstretched their toddler-bed blankets, a bread pan just when our new diet called for homemade bread, or rock falling to earth just as I'd longed for it--I know it isn't coincidence. He knows my weakness, he strengthens my feet, he lightens the load and bids me to go on, and I'm happy to go on, as long as he's leading us.

Nothing Extraordinary

Nothing extraordinary has happened today. The fridge-fungus has been obliterated, there are no pressing medical issues, the laundry is done, and the house is relatively clean. But it struck me just now, as I was wondering what to do with my free five minutes, that that particular combination of nothingness is quite extraordinary for me. It's like the stars that only align "just so" once a year.

It isn't often that the temperature climbs to 70 degrees on November 12th. Or that I can watch my children play in the backyard and just leave the door wide-open because all the bugs have been obliterated by the previous frosty days. It isn't everyday that I can join Naomi for lunch at school and witness the miracle of other children begging to be the "one" that Naomi picks to eat lunch with us at the special "parents only" tables. Or the miracle of seeing a girl walk by us and say, "Hi, Naomi!" and hear Naomi answer just as friendly and naturally as ever, "Hi, Allison!" (Is that my daughter beside me?) It isn't everyday that I peel Toby's diaper off of him and hear him remark, "Eeeew! Gohsss!" and realize that he's really growing up. My gosh, he's talking like crazy now, he's nearly two, what happened to my baby?

Tomorrow promises to be crazy again: Naomi's kidney doctor has ordered a 24 hour urine collection, which will be great fun, but today is just about perfect. The air is clear, warm, and bright; my children are cheerful and suddenly much older than they were yesterday; and I have a free five minutes all to myself. If only I could find my camera and preserve this moment. OK, Toby, what did you do with Mommy's camera? I guess my five minutes are up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Smell a Rat

"Matt, have you smelled the garage this morning?" I called down the stairs. "Yeah," he yelled back, "it smells like something died. I think it's in the fridge."

Since we live with our in-laws, our refrigerator and pantry are in the garage, just off the kitchen. Matt and I had just unloaded a van-full of groceries into the garage last night and hadn't smelled anything then. "How can something die in our fridge?" I asked, "and how can it smell like that after only eight hours?" Matt only shrugged his shoulders, so I was left to brave the unknown fast-decaying dead entity alone.

Toby attempted to follow me into the garage and screamed in protest as I slammed the door on him. I sniffed the air. There was a faint dead-thing smell. I opened the fridge and sniffed--strong dead-thing smell. I furrowed my brow and scanned the fridge contents--jars and bottles of stuff, cheese, yogurt, meats, eggs...produce. I hadn't really cleaned out the produce cubby lately. Our fridge is missing one of the bottom crisper drawers and I've taken to shoving all my produce in the resulting cubby hole down there. In fact, last night, in my rush to shelve all the groceries and get to bed, I had shoved another bag of lettuce and a stalk of celery in with hardly a glance to the previous contents.

I leaned down and cautiously sniffed--WHOA! Dead thing in there! It was hard to work up the courage to remove the lettuce and celery, but when I did I quickly realized the source of the odor. You see, in my attempt to become a gluten-free gourmet chef, I had scanned some recipes about three weeks back and gone out and bought all the odd ingredients I would need to prepare these masterful dinners. Then I had prepared them, much to my family's delight, all but one...the one that had called for the fresh mushrooms.

I stared at the menacing black foamboard that had been the bottom of the mushroom package, tipped on it's side, no doubt, from the shove of a celery stalk last night. Foul brown goop ran out of a corner of the cellophane wrapping, over some carrots, a red pepper, and a cucumber, all of which lay slain in a pool of dead-mushroom blood.

Half a roll of paper-towels, half-a-dozen Lysol wipes, one box of baking soda, one cucumber, one red-pepper, and several innocent baby carrots all lost their lives in that bacteria-laden cesspool of mushroom slop. And you know, I have a can of mushrooms in my pantry. It's been there at least a year and hasn't harmed anybody. No more fresh portabellas. They sound fancy, but they don't smell all that good when they're alive, and believe me, you don't want to smell them after they've passed on. Their memory will continue to haunt me--every time I open the fridge I am greeted by the stench of the Ghost of Mushrooms Past. Canned only, please, I have enough bacteria-laden brown messes to clean up in this house already.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Count Down to Fatigue

My day in numerical count-down fashion, not chronological, some reconstruction of events may be necessary.

1,000--Times I told Toby "No!, Don't touch!, "Put that back!, Get back here!, or Stop!" while waiting in CVS (If I've told that kid once...)

1,000--Number of times I wanted to swat Toby's bottom but refrained, since we were in public

100--Number of times Toby remarked, "Mmmmmmmm!" while walking down CVS candy aisle

40--Minutes driving to the home medical supply store to pick up the glucometer order and then hand deliver it to CVS (no I don't trust anyone to fax it to the right place today)

20--Minutes trying to keep Toby occupied while waiting in CVS for the pharmcy tech to fill Naomi's glucometer order

9--Gallons of distilled water Toby pulled down from CVS shelves

8--Hot dogs for lunch

7--Toby diapers to change

6--Number of days I've waited to get a glucometer since the doctor informed me that Naomi had had a dangerously low blood-sugar level (47mg/dl) on her last routine blood-work and would need to check her blood sugar regularly at home for a few weeks to see if there are any abnormalities

6--Bacon Egg and Cheese gluten-free bagels for dinner

6--Loads of laundry folded and put away

5--Bottles of CVS-brand Pepto-Bismol that Toby removed from shelves

4--Loads of laundry washed and dried

3--Number of little girls Matt agreed to watch if I would only take Toby with me to CVS (and who do you think got the better end of that deal?)

3--Calls to the Dr.'s office to get them to send the order for Naomi's glucometer to the home medical supply place

3--Calls to the home medical supply place to see if they had gotten the order yet

3--Sticks to Naomi's finger to get a decent blood sample and valid blood sugar reading since she was fighting like the Tasmanian Devil (Sugar was fine).

2--Pee-smelling toddler beds stripped and changed

2--Emma pee accidents to clean up (both on bathroom floor, thank goodness)

2--Gallons of distilled water that Toby could carry at the same time down the aisles of CVS (heeee-avvve, ho!)

1--Call from home medical supply store telling me that they finally got the order for the glucometer, but I would have to go to CVS for it, since they don't accept our insurance

1--Run that I made down CVS aisle while attempting to speak to the pharmacist after he remarked, "I think you've got a runaway there."

1--bottle of Tea Tree Oil that Toby attempted to fit entirely inside of his mouth while in CVS (I wiped it off and put it back, hope the security cameras didn't catch that)

1--Dishwasher loaded and run

1--Note to Naomi's teacher explaining why she has burst blood vessels all over her face and asking the nurse to please check her blood sugar at 10:00am (good luck with that!)

1--tired Mama

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Bundle

My sister-in-law had a new baby on Friday (no, not me, you can all breathe again). Yesterday we took the kids up to the hospital to meet their new, and ninth, boy cousin (they only have one girl cousin). Naomi created her own gift-bag from construction paper and scotch tape, then decorated it with her own stickers. It was a beautiful bag, but when we placed the baby gifts inside we discovered that scotch tape doesn't bond too well with the fuzz on the construction paper. I advised her to carry it by the bottom, and off we marched to the maternity ward.

The girls were spellbound by little Aiden's tiny eyes and tiny squawks. Toby was spell-bound by the bathroom faucet, the rolling stool, and the glowing nurse call-light; but that little baby-thing was OK too. He was quick to label the body parts he recognized on Aiden, poking Aiden's nose and his eye and tugging on his ear, "Eeee-arrrrr!" When Aiden cried in protest and I scolded him, Toby melted and sought to reconcile with his cousin by hugging him long and hard. Matt distracted Toby while each girl took her turn holding her tiniest cousin. They glowed with pride, and I have to admit that holding a tiny baby again brought strange, familiar feelings back for me. I tried to banish them, but they persisted. "Stop," I told myself, "you know what these things bring: painfully delirious nights, fast-paced agitated days...warm bundles, sweet smells...nasty smells, more laundry...tiny hiccups, sleepy smiles..." Then, with Toby attempting to break into a tub of post-delivery witch-hazel wipes, and the girls up past their bedtime, I returned the deceitful little bundle to his rightful owner and led my over-grown bundles back to the parking garage.

Oh, they start off so innocent, then you bring them home from the hospital. I'm not falling for that again, no way...but he was awfully sweet.

Friday, November 5, 2010

We'll get back to you on that...

"Kitty!" Toby announced, holding up a stuffed cat by the scruff of the neck, but it wasn't so much the kitty that caught my attention as my toddler's neon pink mouth. I inquired of Matt and my daughters, but no one had any idea what Toby had ingested. I pried his mouth open for a better look--the entire insides were neon pink with the dye highlighting all the plaque I had missed at Toby's last tooth-brushing. I tried to brush his teeth but had to rinse the brush twenty or thirty times as it filled with dye. I searched the house for the culprit and finally found a small dolphin stamp that had been given to us at a recent birthday party lying under the kitchen table with the lid off. I tried the stamp on a piece of paper, it was exceedingly wet, but had little ink left in it.  After I located the lid I saw that it had "orientaltrading.com" printed on the inside.

I wasn't too worried for Toby's safety since the stamps are marketed to children, but just to set my mind at ease I searched for stamps on the website and found the Sea Animal set. There was a choking warning, but no statement assuring me that they were non-toxic, and no ingredient list. I called the customer service number and was greeted by a man who gave his name and asked, "How can we add more fun to your day?" Oh, dear sir, you've already done that. I explained the situation and he pulled up the same listing I already had open on my computer, "Um...there isn't any warning about them being toxic," he informed me. "Yes, I see that," I answered, "but there's also no statement that they're non-toxic. Do you have a list of ingredients or something?" "No, mam," he replied, "but I can put in a request for more detailed information from our supplier and they will get back to you within three business days." I couldn't keep myself from laughing at that point, and I felt compelled to enlighten him, "Unfortunately, if they are toxic, it won't help me much to know three days from now!" The gravity of this still seemed to elude him as he asked if there was anything else he could do. "No," I replied, "at this point I don't believe there is." "Well, OK mam, you have a good day now!" he concluded. I laughed again in utter disbelief and decided to place a call to poison control instead.

Poison control assured me that all ink pads, even business kinds are non-toxic and that Toby would have to drink an entire bottle of ink to be harmed, though I might be enjoying Toby's neon-pink smile for a day or two. At least I had more fun added to my day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Notes to Self: Some Days

Some days you have everything under control: you wake up early, clean the kitchen, get dinner in the crockpot, and run two loads of laundry. But then your three year old says, "I boo ih my uh-weah," which means, "I pooped in my underwear,' and you know this is not a good sign. Your four-year-old then boycotts getting dressed and having her hair brushed. She by-passes the consequence you've given her, "no breakfast until you obey," by serving herself fruit snacks when you're not looking. Your toddler suddenly reveals a supernatural ability to move at the speed of light by turning off the lights while you are in the laundry room, pulling his sisters' bunk-bed ladder over on himself, and playing his father's guitar, all in the span of 15 seconds. When you drive twenty minutes to the hospital to pick up a copy of the medical reports from your toddler's recent battery of tests, every printer in the hospital will be simultaneously unable to print until further notice. Some days you have everything under control, until you realize that you have very little under control.

But, on your way home from the futile trip to the hospital, you will happen to drive by your oldest daughter's  elementary school just in time to see four-hundred elementary students release red helium balloons into the unending sky. Your four-year-old will comment, glowing with awe, "Wow! That was amazing!" You suddenly remember that you had intended to put this event on your calendar, and you had intended to bring your daughters along to see it, but had completely forgotten to do so. You then realize that everything from the poopy underwear to the off-line printers contributed to the perfect timing of this moment. Some days you will be reminded that you are glad someone else is in control.