Monday, December 26, 2011


Matt had last Friday off from work, and as much fun as we had dragging five kids to three different stores together, we decided we needed something more fun that night. After an early gf pancake dinner we piled all five kids in the car once more and drove half an hour to a nearby town that had a fantastic lights display in the town square.

The kids oohed and aahed and we drove into a Christmas wonderland of lights--except for Toby who was sound asleep and Elijah who was ready to eat. Matt decided to take the three girls out to walk among the lighted displays while I sat in the van and nursed Elijah. I watched their shadowy figures disappear into a crowd. For awhile longer I could discern where they were from the little red flashes of Emma's light-up shoes, then I lost even that hint. The van grew colder as I sat in the darkness. After ten minutes or so I turned it back on and strained my eyes for a hint of my family's whereabouts. I began to imagine scary scenarios that could be keeping them away so long--it's a little curse of my overly-imaginative mind. I thought about calling Matt's cell phone to let him know that Elijah was almost done eating, but then remembered that the phone in my pocket was dead.

I studied the masses of people again and finally caught a faint flicker of red lights near the feet of a small figure a full block away. Two more little figures walked in front of her with an adult in the lead. OK, I thought, at least I know where they are, and they're all together. I watched the crowd in front of me again, knowing it would be a few minutes before Matt and the girls made their way back. Suddenly a child in a dark coat dashed alone in front of a display of carolers and disappeared behind a pine tree far to my right. "That looked like Hannah," I immediately thought, but I dismissed that thought because I was sure I had just seen all three girls with Matt. In the span of about 10 seconds the argument continued within me, "But the kid was wearing red pants, I think...was Hannah wearing her new red pajama pants tonight? And it carried something that could have been Hannah's blanket...did Hannah bring her blanket with her?" I couldn't remember for sure, but I decided I better get out and go check on the child, just to be be sure.

I detached Elijah and slung him over my shoulder (still wearing his snowsuit), just as the child came racing out from behind the pine tree and back towards the carolers. It was Hannah! I fumbled with my locked door, then jumped out of the van. She was running away from me and screaming frantically at the top of her lungs, "Mommmmyyyyy!!!! Mommmmmyyyyyyy!!!!!" Crowds of strangers were staring at her, bewildered. I ran towards her (little Elijah bouncing on my shoulder) and called her name. It must have looked like a scene to end a sappy movie as we ran towards each other and hugged.

Poor Hannah was shaking and sobbing, "I couldn't find Daddy! He was just gone! I was trying to find you in the van!" I calmed her down, then realized my predicament: Toby was alone in a running van half a block back and Matt was somewhere in a crowd half a block ahead, surely frantically trying to find Hannah. I wished I had remembered to charge my cell phone. I grabbed Hannah's hand and half drug her along the sidewalk towards the place where I had last seen Matt, glancing back every few seconds towards our tiny van. Within a minute I heard Matt yelling Hannah's name. He was relieved to see her with me, but I was surprised that neither Naomi or Emma was with him.

"I told them to stay right where they were," Matt said, "because I knew I couldn't cover ground quickly enough to find Hannah with them following." Looking ahead down the sidewalk I saw the girls standing stone-still under a streetlight.

"OK, take Hannah then and go get them," I said, "I have to run back to the van because Toby's alone." Within five minutes we were all seven safely back in our van, but it took much longer for my heart to stop pounding. On the way home we sorted out what had happened.

Matt was leading the three girls from one display to another when Hannah's mind had wandered from the task of following him. She remembers hearing him say that they were going to turn towards a different display, but can't exactly remember why she kept walking straight. "I was just following the lights," she admitted quietly. When she realized she was separated from Matt and had no idea where he was she ran a full block back to where she remembered the van being parked to try to find me, but she ran to the wrong parking lot. That was when I had first seen her. Failing to find me there, she began screaming, but I couldn't hear her over the noise of the engine running and the heat blowing. Meanwhile Matt had only had his eyes off the girls for fifteen seconds or so, but by the time he realized she was missing, she had already bolted for the other end of the park.

We had a good talk about safety and what to do if you're lost on the way home. Hannah was still a little shaken when we tucked her in bed. I have a feeling she'll be watching her parents a little more closely the next time we leave the house together.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Babies Don't Keep

I wish I had more time to blog. So much is happening at our house, but I guess that's exactly the reason why none of it is being recorded here. Back in the days when only one funny thing happened each day I had plenty of time to share it with the world, but now, with diaper changes and feedings and rocking filling every spare moment, there's little time to preserve those memories here. My camera has had to do most of the memory preserving for now.

Elijah is gaining weight and growing up quickly. He's also becoming more demanding. He knows who his mother is and he's not about to lose her. But, strangely enough, his constant demands don't bother me quite so much with him. I waited a long time (well, it seemed long to me) to have another little bundle to carry around in a sling and rock to sleep, and I want to enjoy it this time. The other kids have also helped to ease the burden on me. Hannah stands guard over Elijah's bouncy seat most of the time, bouncing it whenever he fusses. Naomi has also taken turns bouncing the seat, although she usually has an "Encyclopedia Brown" book in the other hand. And, if the sisters are all occupied Toby is more than eager to take a turn bouncing the seat--the helpfulness of which is still to be determined.

I've been thinking more about the advice I'd like to give to a first-time mother, and feel the need to vent some of it here, that way if she doesn't want the advice she doesn't have to read it, but here it is, just in case she doesn't mind.

You wait so long for that little bundle, and for a few moments after he is born all is perfect and happy, then he wants to eat...and then he poops...and then he cries. You will repeat this cycle every half-hour for the next six months at least, and as much as you love the little darling it will get old and you will feel exhausted and frazzled at times, maybe most of the time. One night, when he cries for the 58th time, you will feel more like an angry grizzly bear awakened from winter hibernation than a loving mother eager to dote on her darling babe.

So here comes the advice part, and of course it is my opinion, and of course there will be thousands of loving mothers out there who have done it differently and who will disagree vehemently with me, but it's my there.

* I sleep with my babies beside me (gasp! horror of all horrors!) and they've all survived so far. In fact, I'm pretty sure our chances of team survival are greater this way, as it has preserved my health and sanity. If you have a FIRM queen sized mattress, you are not extremely obese, remove heavy blankets from your bed,  keep your pillow clear of the baby's face, keep your baby on the side of the bed between yourself and safety rail (not next to your husband), and don't drink alcohol or abuse drugs you are almost certain NOT to smother your baby. The vast majority of infant deaths due to co-sleeping break one of these rules. Mothers naturally sleep in a more light stage of sleep and are in-tune with their baby's every breath and movement. I don't have the time to list my sources to support this, but you can reference Dr. Sear's "The Baby Book" for some support. The point is that babies know when they are near you and when they're not, and if your babies (like mine) won't have anything to do with being put down alone in a crib, put them down near you! If your babies (like mine) want to nurse every hour or so, lay them down where they can nurse while you sleep!

* Nursing doesn't come naturally to most mothers. Sorry. Please read books, take classes, practice latch-on technique with a baby doll, and know where you will turn for support if you have trouble. Does your hospital have a certified lactation consultant available? Is there a La Leche League meeting near you? Otherwise, when you run into trouble as many mothers do, you will be tempted to "supplement" with formula (which will jeopardize breastfeeding altogether) or give up completely. What are you going to do when you experience pain during breastfeeding, the baby doesn't seem to be getting enough milk, or someone tells you that supplementing with formula would be better so you can get some sleep? Have answers, be prepared, because you'll be too tired to find answers at 2:00am when your baby is screaming. One awesome book to read is "The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers." Buy it, read it, you'll be glad you did.

* To Buy:
--A boppy pillow: you're going to spend about 8 hours a day nursing for the first few months, get comfortable. Yes, it's worth the $20.

--Washable cotton nursing pads. If you have a generous milk supply, it will leak. The disposable kind are uncomfortable and trap moisture on already irritated skin.

--Large (30" X 40") cotton thermal (waffle weave) blankets for swaddling the baby in. Swaddling does not calm the baby down, but if you swaddle a screaming baby and then calm him down he will stay asleep or calm longer than if he were unswaddled. This keeps him feeling snug and keeps the startle reflex from flinging his hands into his face every time there is a loud noise. Oh, how I wish I had known this with Naomi! Learn how to really swaddle too: tight, tight, tight! There is a technique taught with pictures in "The Happiest Baby on the Block" that I love and it even impressed the nurses in the hospital when I showed them. This book is a good read anyway, I like the "Swaddle, Side, Swing, Shush, Suck" method of calming babies that it teaches.

--Buy two kinds of baby carriers: a sling, and a Baby Bjorn front carrier. Your baby will have times (or weeks) when he will scream like you placed him on a bed of nails every time he leaves your arms. You will lose your mind if you spend your day trying in futility to re-calm him and and lay him down again. Strap him to your body and continue your day. The sling allows the baby to ride in multiple positions, including all swaddled up and is easier to slip the baby out of when he's sleeping. I use a sling for quieter activities like going to church. The Baby Bjorn is ridiculously expensive, but it is indispensable to me. I don't like the cheap immitations. It allows baby to be so securely strapped in that you don't have to use one hand to steady him, like you should with a sling. I use this when trying to do real household chores like vacuum, laundry, dishwasher, walking outside, and other activities where the baby could conceivably slip out of the sling. This is also wonderfully stimulating to baby's growing brain. He will like to be close to you, feeling your every move, and listening to your words. He will grow up to be a child prodigy like my kids. Or at least you can hope.

--A bouncy seat that actually really bounces. I can't believe how many "bouncy seats" have toys and vibrators and easy-fold features, but don't actually freely bounce up and down. If it doesn't bounce easily when you apply light pressure with one finger, don't buy it, your baby will hate it. Get the plain old, ugly seat that can make your baby's head jiggle with the least effort on your part. When you're trying to eat dinner and bounce the fussy baby with your foot, you will be glad you did.

Above all, please remember that that little slobbering ball of discontented fury will only be so cute for a few weeks. Soon enough the fussing weeks will be replaced by the potty-training months and you will wish you had absorbed that soft baby smell a little deeper while you could. Count his toes, stroke his tiny little calves, kiss his downy hair, and repeat, "This too shall pass...all too soon."

I once saw this poem on the wall of a house filled with teenagers. I've always remembered the last line. Today I took the time to google it and was delighted to see that it was written for a fifth child. It really is a perspective that a mother of many babies has more so than most first-time mothers.

Song for a Fifth Child

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing
will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up,
as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs.
Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby
and babies don’t keep.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Elijah--Week 1

Little Elijah has now been a part of the family for one week. The most difficult twelve hours were last Saturday night when I got a flu shot in one arm and a Dtap in the other (to keep me from catching flu and whooping cough and passing them on to Elijah), Elijah began waking up to the world and making demands, and a virus that had been incubating for a few days surfaced that gave me horrific body aches and chills. I found myself alone in a quiet hospital room (Matt had gone home to help my mom put the other kids to bed), with a fussy baby who refused to be placed in that cold plastic crib, and feeling more achy and exhausted than I'd felt in years. Those were the longest 12 hours that night. Matt had been planning to take the kids to church in the morning and pick me up from the hospital that afternoon, but I called him at 7:30am and pleaded for him to rescue me earlier, which he did.

Thankfully, things have looked much brighter since I arrived at home. Elijah seemed to settle immediately once he was back in a house full of children's voices and the continual sounds of dishes and toys and slamming doors. He's never so relaxed as when I hold him close and start yelling at the girls to clean up their toys. Ahhhhh! Home sweet home.

Elijah has certainly been our easiest baby so far. I have been saying that with every baby since Naomi, and they just keep getting easier. I'm not sure if that is God's gracious way of giving us only what we can handle, or if the babies only seem easier because I am more experienced, or if they actually are calmer babies because I am a calmer mommy. Maybe some of all three, but whatever the reasons, it is a winning combination. By this point in my mothering career I can nurse, and diaper change, and swaddle, and soothe babies in my sleep (and I often do), which leaves all my waking energy to just enjoy those adorable baby faces, and tiny baby sounds, and sweet baby smells. I have never spent so much time just staring at a baby before, nor have I ever enjoyed it so much.

I have to insert here a pat on the back to my Mom who made all those staring hours possible. She stayed with me until yesterday taking care of all the household chores so that I could rest and enjoy the little guy. If she hadn't, I probably wouldn't be quite so energized and upbeat right now.

The kids have really taken to the baby. There haven't been any outright signs of jealousy, although Toby has seemed a little lost as to how to act around his brother. He has been oscillating between his "time to show off for company" mode and his "time to whine and be clingy because I'm insecure" mode all week. This is to be expected, and he is gradually growing more comfortable with Elijah. Toby knows that he can "read" books to Elijah, sing him songs, and gently rock the bouncy seat. He has also generously shared his kiki with Elijah and loves to be told that he is a good big brother. He says over and over, "Isn't baby Elijah so cute?!" Today when I got dressed he looked at my shirt and said, "Oh! That is a beautiful shirt! You look so beautiful!" One week postpartum and in my sweatpants, that was just what I needed to hear.

Hannah has been my number one helper with Elijah. She loves to sit beside him and read him books. She lets him hold her finger and says that he has caught her in his "sister trap." She knows how to start his swing and put his pacifier in his mouth, and she too loves to share her special Piglet blankie with the baby. This morning she came to snuggle beside me in bed and just stare at Elijah while he slept.

Naomi has been slightly slower to warm up to Elijah, but is quickly becoming a great help as well. She has spent the majority of the week reading Hardy Boys books one after another (at least one per day!), but when she does surface to interact with the rest of the world she loves to dote on her baby brother and advise Hannah when Hannah isn't properly caring for him.

Today the kids each got out a baby doll and began practicing diapering and swaddling their babies. They took their babies inside a fort they had built, then Hannah yelled, "Quick, everybody inside! There's a tornado coming!"

"Yeah, hurry!" Toby hollered, "There's a big tomato coming!"

Even Emma was giggling as we all held our babies tightly to guard them from the big tomato. Killer tomato aside, it has been just about a perfect week--one that makes me look forward to the next one.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The New Morning Routine

5:00am-- Nurse Elijah

5:15am-- Change Elijah's diaper

5:20am-- Nurse Elijah again

5:35am-- Change Elijah's diaper again

5:40am-- Nurse Elijah again

5:55am-- Ahhhhh! Sweet Rest

5:57am-- Listen to Naomi clop down the stairs

5:58am-- Listen to Hannah run down the stairs

5:59am-- Listen to Naomi run up the stairs and into my room to tell me that Hannah couldn't wait for her to get off the potty so she peed on the bathroom floor.

6:00am-- Go downstairs to clean up Hannah and bathroom floor

6:15am-- Ahhhhh! Sweet Rest

6:20am-- Nurse Baby Elijah

.........etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum.........

8:15am-- Coffee! while I hold the cutest, most precious baby in the world, who is worth every minute of sleeplessness. Sleep is so overrated anyway.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Elijah Gabriel Eby Arrives

My mom and I sat at lunch last Friday discussing our plans for the rest of the day. We agreed that I should cut Toby's hair that afternoon, and probably just do Matt's as well that evening so I wouldn't have to worry about that after the baby was born...if he was ever born. There had been almost no contractions that day and no sign of any changes, so I bathed Toby to remove the dried bits of food in his hair and sent him to the kitchen where everything was set for his haircut. "Go sit down in your booster seat," I told him, "Mommy will be right there and we'll cut your hair." I drained the tub and decided to use the bathroom one more time.

I was shocked and disoriented when my water broke (thankfully, in a very convenient place!) "What in the world was that?! I know my bladder doesn't hold that much. Oh!....Oh!!!! I know what that is!" So I opened the door and yelled for my mom like a little kid. "Mom!....Mom!! Mom!!!" And she came running as I said, "My water broke!"

You have to understand a little background in order to fully feel the gravity of this moment for me. With Emma I had gone from zero labor to delivering a baby in exactly one hour after they broke my water in the hospital. It was so hard and fast that I have been ever paranoid after that that if my water should spontaneously break at home I might not have enough time to get to the hospital before delivery. For weeks I had been saying, "The only real emergency would be if my water broke. We'd really have to hurry then, but that isn't very likely."

My mom's first words were the same as mine, "Oh!...Oh!!!...Who should I call first?" Fortunately, I had anticipated both of our minds being adrenaline fogged in such a scenario and had posted a list of numbers on the fridge and the order in which they should be called. Mom got busy calling my neighbor while I tried to figure out how to appropriately dress myself with this new development. Then I found my cell phone and called Matt. He was working at a blood drive 40 minutes from home and over an hour from the hospital. He didn't answer the first call (apparently because he was pulling a needle out of someone's arm--like that's any excuse). But he did pick up after my second frantic attempt. I was sure I didn't have time to use complete sentences so I just said, "Water broke. Going to hospital. Please come. NOW."

"Are you serious?" he first asked, but I think he quickly realized that I wouldn't call him at work with that message just for kicks, so he didn't wait for me to answer. "OK, I'll leave now," he said quickly. My neighbor arrived and took over the phone calls while Mom and I dashed out the door. Poor Toby never got that haircut he'd been promised, and he clearly didn't understand as well as the girls what was going on, but that explanation would have to wait.

I sat on a pile of towels, navigating my Mom to the hospital. We drove quickly, but began to ease up as we neared the hospital with no real contractions setting in. I called Matt again to let him know he probably had plenty of time. At the hospital my mom could have dropped me at the front entrance, but I didn't want to be left to wait while she parked the car. We headed for the parking garage instead, and I waddled through the garage holding a large bath towel between my legs. Mom and I were both laughing as the passing drivers stared. "Just smile and act confident," I advised, and so we did. In the hospital doors we grabbed the first wheelchair, and I felt much less ridiculous riding on a towel than walking with one between my legs.

The labor and delivery staff first sent me to a triage room, but after a few minutes of my sitting on a soaked towel they realized that there really wasn't any question as to whether the water had broken and decided to just get me settled in a room. I began to relax and let the reality of the situation sink in as I changed to a hospital gown and settled in a bed. I was hooked to monitors and signed papers. Matt arrived just as the nurse was getting my IV set up. My contractions were light and far between so Matt and I walked the halls for an hour to see if it would speed things up. "So was everyone at your work excited when you left?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said, "I didn't wait to see their faces." Back in our quiet room he remarked, "The longer we sit and wait here, the sillier I feel for having rushed all the way here."

"Well, we just didn't know," I replied, "and I'm glad you're here."

At 5:45, just over four hours after the breaking, we agreed to let the nurse-midwife add some pitocin to my IV to help speed up the labor. It didn't take much to put me into a regular labor pattern. We started the quiet music and I began to try to focus my attention, but our nurse seemed a little oblivious. She turned on the florescent lights and jabbered loudly. By the 7:00pm shift change I was very ready for a different nurse. The new nurse was in training to be a nurse midwife. She immediately dimmed the lights and put a lavender scented candle on a warmer. She talked only when necessary in a hushed low voice, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. She helped me settle on a large exercise ball with Matt sitting behind me. I rocked and breathed and leaned back into Matt, and though it was painful I felt safe and in control of the process.

Around 8:00 the nurse asked if I would like to get into a warm tub. I was surprised since I'd never been allowed to do that in labor before. She said the monitors would work fine in the water, and it felt wonderful even with the extremely intense contractions that were coming now. On the fourth contraction in the tub I said I needed to push. I was shaking when they helped me back to bed. "Well, you're only 6 centimeters," the midwife said. Generally an OB will tell you not to push until you're at 10cms, but the midwife listened when I said, "That's what they told me five minutes before I delivered my last two babies." She quickly donned her delivery gear and prepped the room.

"How do you want to do this?" she asked me, and I nearly couldn't believe my ears. I had been forced to deliver my last four babies while on my back in bed, but the midwife let me stay in control this time. I chose an unconventional position for sure, but she was flexible. No one yelled at me when to push or when not to push. Matt put in some different music I had selected and with the next contraction the midwife checked me again. "Is she complete?" the nurse asked.

"Baby's here," the midwife said quietly. And out he came with what seemed very little effort. "Look, he's holding his cord," the midwife cooed. Matt cut the cord while the baby squawked softly. They placed him on my chest then and left him there for a full hour, something again that I had never had before. Little Elijah Gabriel Eby immediately calmed when placed on my skin. He peeped his eyes open and quietly looked around. We talked to him, and after a while he nursed. Normally after birth I'm being stitched up while someone is weighing and measuring my screaming baby, but this time no stitches were required and my baby was snuggled happily next to me.

"Well," I smiled at Matt, "that was such an easy delivery I think we could have a few more if they'll all be that easy."

Matt laughed and asked the nurse, "How often do you hear that in the delivery room?"

"Um...never." the nurse answered honestly.

Praise God with us for the safe, timely, and relatively easy arrival of Elijah Gabriel Eby. He has been warmly welcomed by his siblings and amazes me with his quiet, alert, and peaceful spirit. But those remarks will have to wait until another blog post. I have a hungry baby to feed.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Progress and Patience

The Old Wives say that storms send women into labor, maybe because of the change in barometric pressure. Tuesday night, as a snow and ice storm blew over us, I went into regular contractions, but they settled down again after a few hours. At my weekly check yesterday the midwife said I'd moved from 1cm to 3cms, so at least progress is being made.

More strong contractions followed yesterday afternoon and evening. When Matt came home my mom and I went to walk at the mall to see if we could move things along. I waddled as hard and fast as I could (which really wasn't all that fast), until my fingers were swollen and my legs were numb, and I'm sure I looked really ridiculous. After half an hour I had to slow down as the contractions picked up and then stabbing pains set in. We decided to limp back to the van, and things settled down again on our way to a restaurant for a little refreshment. A few strong contractions gripped me at the restaurant, but I tried my best to smile and converse with the waitress like normal.

By the time we arrived home the contractions were mild and far apart. Only a few woke me last night. My sleep was far more interrupted by Hannah, who first lost her blanket then had a bad dream, and by Toby, who needed more water. This morning all is calm again.

The midwife said yesterday that their standard practice was not to let women pass 41 weeks of pregnancy. My next check is on my due date, next Thursday the 8th. If I haven't had a baby by then, they would schedule the "eviction" (as she called it) for the following week, sometime between the 12th and the 15th. I can't imagine living with contractions of this magnitude that long, but I guess we make it through a lot of things we can't imagine. Time will tell.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

From the Splendid Mind and Mouth of Toby

I wish I had the presence of mind to write down every funny thing Toby utters, but then again, I'd be writing all day long. He just has way too much spunk mixed with an amazing vocabulary, and sometimes it's hard to believe what emerges from his mouth.

"Hi, Toby, how are you today?" the church nursery worker greets him.

Toby replies just as natural as any adult heading to play with a car garage, "Oh, I'm doing fine."

He's careful to use complete sentences, even when being defiant. He doesn't just answer, "No!" as any other naughty two year old. He answers, "No! I will not obey!" Which, leaving no room for ambiguity, should secure his punishment--except that when he sees me raise an eyebrow and come towards him, he's quick to recant, "Well...I guess I will." This is a particularly amusing response when I'm particularly ticked and moving quickly towards him, as it comes out more like, "WellIguesswill!!!" followed by a cheesy grin of repentance. But no, the power struggle is not over yet. On more than one occasion I have conceded to forgo the deserved consequences in light of his penitent spirit, only to hear him mutter as I walk away, "Well, I guess I WON'T."

Sometimes he takes a less openly defiant approach. He's learned that a question softens the blow of disobedience. This morning when my mom asked him, "How about you try to go potty now?"

Toby replied, "How about I try NOT to go potty?"

If the action we desire of him comes in the form of a command, rather than a question, he enjoys turning it right back at us. If we say, "Toby you need to go upstairs right now," he finds it amusing to respond, "No, Mommy, YOU need to go upstairs right now." Well, at least it's amusing to say, even if Mommy's response is less than amusing.

He's also pleased with another ingenious consequence-delaying response that he's found. When caught in blatant disobedience I will often question my kids to make sure they understand the coming consequence. I will say, "Toby, what did Mommy ask you to do?"

Toby will have no choice but to answer, "To pick up the crayons."

Since he has openly decided to read a book instead, I will drive home my point with, "And did you obey Mommy?"

Quickly dropping his book and moving to the crayons he will respond sweetly, "Um...not...yet."

Last night as Matt was tucking the kids in bed, the girls were all showing Daddy their Care Bears. "Mine is Rainbow Bear," Hannah shared, pointing to the rainbow on her bear's tummy.

"Ah my ih Guh-ee Beh (And mine is Sunny Bear)," Emma continued, holding her yellow friend.

Toby, looking at the picture of the large yellow trophy cup on his blue bear, responded in turn, "And mine is Coffee Bear!" Which is an entirely logical conclusion, especially if Matt is your daddy.

Later, as Matt gave Emma a hug he said adoringly, "Emma, you're my cuddle bug." Emma smiled sweetly in approval. Matt then turned to Toby and asked, "Toby, are you my cuddle bug?"

"No," Toby replied, "all I have is money." I'm not exactly sure why he said this, but it brings to mind the song "The Cat's in the Cradle" where the father asks his teenage son to sit and talk awhile and the boy replies, "What I'd really like Dad is to borrow the car keys. See you later, can I have them please?"

And just how did Toby acquire this amazing command of the English language? Well, Naomi and Hannah are pretty good teachers, but more than that he's not afraid to ask when he doesn't understand what's being said. The new annoying never-ending question from his mouth is not, "Why?" it's "What does that mean?"

"Mommy, will you give me more water?" He asks.

"In a minute," I answer."In a minute?" he queries, "What does 'In a minute' mean?"

"It means I will fill your cup in a little while, when I'm ready," I retort, losing patience, as I am clearly otherwise occupied.

"A little while? What does 'a little while' mean?" he presses.

To my horror, I have realized that "What does that mean?" can continue just as infinitely as "Why?" And with Toby's realization that language is power, I'm likely to face a lot more "What does that mean?" questions--at least until I've raised up a fine scientific lecturer, or lawyer, or maybe politician.