It was a Tuesday.

You arrived with the morning sun, streaming into our lives with your bright smile and sweet spirit.

You were crying.

So were we.

Happy 5th Birthday to the little boy who made me into a mom.



Well, it was only a matter of time.

Phil came down with a nasty cold last weekend (for which he is now on an antibiotic and had to go to the hospital for a neupogen shot last night. Good times.) and now all three kids have succumbed to the snot and hacking cough. I'm the only one still holding my own but me thinks it won't be long since Ocean hands me a used tissue every 53 seconds and Ruby keeps sneezing directly in my mouth. There isn't enough Purell in the world, people.

I'm hyper-sensitive to bringing contagious kids out in public places given our own susceptibility to infection, which means I generally don't go anywhere with them when they're drippy and hacking, so we're pretty much house-bound which makes the world feel like it's stopped for a few days.

We did get outside for some playtime after that crazy snow happened since I had to dig us out of a foot or so over the last couple of days-- and also spent a fair amount of time digging out unwitting motorists who attempted to drive down our treacherous street. (Stay off Fifth Street after a snowfall, Ann Arbor! Try Seventh or Main if you must head downtown.) I brought the two big kids outside with me to play in the yard while I shoveled which allowed Ruby and Phil to sleep while we got a little fresh air, but it's generally way too cold and snowy to have sick kids outside for too long, even with the scores of layers I impose on them. Plus frozen snot is just sick.

I'm kind of running out of ideas to keep these kids occupied. We've baked, crafted, sewed, planted, bathed, cleaned and danced. Any other suggestions?


some have skeletons in their closets. we have...

Oh my word. Can I pretty please just show you the inside of Iris's closet?

I wish I could get a good picture of the whole thing, but because it's inside a closet it's hard to get the whole angle. The drawings cover a surface area of about 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall. I love how their names and hand tracings are all over it. Not that they could deny doing this, but it just shows how totally in the moment they were and certainly not at all concerned about being found out.

Left: Ocean. Spiderman.
Right: Iris. Spidergirl.

I will not mention which parent was on duty when this scribblefest went diggity-down (hint) but all I know is I came home in the afternoon to approximately two tiny people attempting to persuade me to not go into Iris's closet and exactly one big person shaking his head in either complete agreement or utter disbelief. I think he was still in shock, really.

Iris pointing out her rainbow elephants.

What appears to be a mythical creature and two people presumably being crucified. Which is weird because we haven't yet broached that subject.

Naturally I hightailed my hiney right on up to the scene of the crime. And what a sight to behold, eh? I couldn't even really be mad. Oh, make no mistake, they got a scolding and the crayons have been banished to a very high altitude for the time being. But... it's gorgeous. So intricate and well-thought out and I'm pretty sure there's a scene from the book of Revelation in there somewhere. The color! The detail! And it's taller than I am, you guys! It's like an itty-bitty little Sistene Chapel and they worked so hard on it and honestly... I don't have the heart to make them clean it off.

More elephants and some raindrops.

Our solar system. With space ships. It's at the top, about 6 feet high.

Occasionally I find myself wandering in there to admire the masterpiece. I don't really know if we'll let it remain but I try to imagine how I'll feel looking at this when the kids are teenagers, or when they're grown.

Oh so proud.

It can stay, right? It's inside a closet after all...


unsolicited advice wednesday: food issues

Remember that dinner scene with the mashed potatoes in A Christmas Story? You know the one I'm talking about.

I love this mom's ingenuity and willingness to let things get a little messy just to accomplish the task of getting her child to eat. Genius parenting.

I often lose sight of why I do things as a parent and just want my kids to listen to me because I'm the mom and I know best and because-I-said-so-that's-why. And while obedience is a non-negotiable in our house I have to remind myself there's no reason obedience has to mean sucking the fun right out of mealtime by being a big fat poopyhead. I want my kids to enjoy the experience of food-- gathering around a table with people they love and sharing a meal. It's community at it's funnest and tastiest.

That said, I am probably more challenged as a parent by my kids' eating habits than I am by anything else. I grow weary of feeding them. I mean they eat at least three times a day! Usually more! And they are messy. Boy are they messy. They've always been finicky, even as babies. I'm grateful that they enjoy healthy foods but they go through phases of what they will and won't eat and it's exhausting trying to keep up. So mostly I don't try to keep up. I serve what I serve, the rule is "Try It Once" and if they don't eat it after that they can be hungry until the next meal.

However, I've learned three solid moves that help with getting them to at least try what's on their plates, even if they then choose not to eat it.

1. Skewer it. My kids will eat anything if you put it on a stick. And it turns out pretty much anything can be put on a stick. Cheese, fruit, steamed veggies, sandwiches, olives, whatever. An alternative to this is arranging bite-sized food items on a plate and giving them a toothpick to eat with. I don't know why they love it, but they sure do.

2. Sauce-ify it. No matter what they're eating, if I incorporate a small bowl of some type of sauce or dip they will eat more. And especially with a new food that they claim not to like, I encourage them to give it another go by offering a dip on the second try. Ketchup, dressing, yogurt, hummus, syrup, nut/seed butter... and I mix it up. The creative combinations they invent are astounding and often disgusting. But they eat it up.

3. Play with it. Be a giant and eat as many broccoli trees and black bean rocks as you can! Stack up your food as tall as you can and what falls off has to be eaten in five seconds! Close your eyes, take a bite and guess what you're eating! Tomatoes vs. asparagus: whoever gets eaten first wins! It makes no sense at all, but for some dumb reason it works.


And during those meals when nothing works I remind myself that their weekly nutrition is more important than their daily intake, throw some Cheerios in their general direction and try again at the next meal.

So that's what works for us. What types of mealtime trickery work at your casa?


unsolicited advice wednesday: movies

If you know me, you know I'm not a mom who shies away from a little screen time now and again, especially since I value things like, I don't know, showering and cooking actual food for dinner. Last summer we definitely exceeded the average 2 hours daily screen time while we were going through all that bone marrow transplant nonsense. You'll notice though, child psychologists, my kids survived and as far as I can tell their brains are just fine-ish.

We've since cut it down considerably and, miracle of miracles, some days the TV doesn't even come on (Hallelur-yuh!) but we've started a family movie night once a week as a fun evening activity, complete with popcorn and sofa-snuggling. The challenge with our young kids is finding a movie that's enjoyable for all of us. Like many things in life, Phil and I obviously have to sacrifice our personal tastes for the good of the children (Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson will have to wait) but there are some compromises we just. can't. make. Like, for example, an actual plot (gasp!) and some humor to keep us awake and engaged. Ocean likes exciting adventures with lots of action. Iris, for being such a tough cookie, is quite the delicate flower when it comes to movies and TV. She's extremely sensitive to anything dark or any type of adversity. Which is sort of a problem since every movie ever made has the whole protagonist/antagonist thing happening.

I've found three flicks that work for our family, and are particularly good for the sensitive set with a real lack of anything scary or threatening, which I wanted to pass on in case anyone else has run into the same conundrum.

1. Curious George. Will Ferrell is funny as The Man With the Yellow Hat, the plot is interesting and while Ivan, the doorman, is a little intimidating his few scenes are short and can be easily fast-forwarded without losing any of the plot.

2. Disney's Cars. And not just because Iris is obsessed with Lightning McQueen. It's funny and the story is sweet with good lessons built in. The only scary part is when McQueen and Mater are being chased through the corn fields by a combine harvester (did I mention Iris also loves trucks and tractors?) and, again, that part can be skipped right over.

3. Alvin and the Chipmunks. There's a tiny bit of potty humor which is less than desirable but nothing overtly nasty. And nothing frightening or dark. The plot is interesting enough to keep us all on board and the music is toe-tappin' good.

It goes without saying that you should preview these before showing them to your kids but they have worked well as our movie night staples.

And what about you? What family-friendly movies are you watching with your kids that I'm missing?


barf + blizzard = a party!

Well, it happened. We got that nasty stomach bug, despite my best efforts to ward it off. I will say that I'm pretty sure the cranberry juice worked for Phil since he and Ruby were the only two to avoid getting ill, and I never actually got sick myself, just had stomach lava for a couple of days. (Kudos if you get the stomach lava reference.) I was religiously using all of my voodoo potions as well as surgical masks and latex gloves but when you're being barfed on without warning it's sort of hard to avoid. Iris got it the worst, the full GI gamut including a raging fever all day yesterday, and Ocean was a little worse than me but not terrible so I'm inclined to think all the grape juice we pumped into his system once Iris got sick did a little something to make things a bit milder for him.

Yesterday was the hardest day since Iris and I were up all night sick on Monday. I got an hour of sleep and Iris was so miserable all day with the fever and aches and cried every time she opened her mouth to say something. I want to watch Lightning McQueen! Waaaaaaah! I'm fweeeeeezing! Waaaaaaaah! I love elephants! Waaaaaaah! Seriously. I'm not making fun of her... it was just so pitiful. I know she was wildly uncomfortable and slightly delirious from the fever. And as much as I hated seeing her so sad I was relieved to be able to check her tears to make sure she was hydrated enough. Boy, was she.

So we stayed upstairs, Iris in front of the TV, laid up in her kid-sized recliner covered with her lovies. Ocean joined us when he started complaining of a tummy ache mid-afternoon. Ruby and Phil hung out downstairs while us sickies huddled around the DVD player in a pile of blankets, waiting for the snow to start falling. I finally gave Iris a dose of Tylenol once I knew she could keep it down and she made a remarkable improvement, even wolfing down a bowl of applesauce. Awwwww yeah... give it up for the BRAT diet, yo.

I spent last night on the floor in the playroom with Ocean, Iris and Ruby's monitor. Over the last couple of nights I guess I've gotten hyper-sensitive to the sound of kids stirring because at one point I woke to find myself wandering aimlessly around Ocean's room and didn't remember going in there. Weird. I sent myself back to my floor-bed and was able to sleep semi-soundly off-and-on until 8 this morning when I was awakened by Iris holding her wrist over my face saying, "Mommy! This bracelet is too BIG!" She wasn't crying so I knew it was going to be a better day.

And it was, in fact, a much better day. I even managed to sanitize all surfaces. The laundry, however, is a DEFCON 1 situation. I'm now working my way through eight loads that have been prioritized based on what touched it, who touched it, when it was touched and how gross it smells. So that's what I'll be up to for the next 24 hours.

Not how I imagined I'd be spending the Blizzard of 2011 (which, by the way, is a little bit of an overstatement if you ask me, but I also haven't had to go out in it) but I'm thankful we're all feeling better and that the two baby immune systems weren't affected.

On with the laundry.