Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Trouble with a Clean House

My house is spotless.  The counters gleam.  The toilets sparkle.  The streak-free windows allow for maximum sunlight to stream in.  There are vacuum lines in the carpet.  Even the coffee stain spots seem to stand at attention. 

The only sound is the howl of the wind outside and the gentle hum of the heater. 

And then the kids wake up.

Crumbs seem to sprout from the granite counter tops. The carpet fibers lay down in defeat.  Smudges appear on the mirrors and glassy surfaces at the mere sound of their voices. 

I look around in dismay.  How did this happen?

I spend my days of "Winter Break" following the mess around the house.  I move from to room to room picking up, wiping down, putting away.  I call the children back to the scene of the crime and nag them to pick up, wipe down, put away. 

I spent the whole of the Fall sitting at work dreaming longingly about the days of Winter Break.  I ached to spend time with my children reading books, playing babies and learning the "cheat codes" for Mario 64.  We would frolic and play, engaging in frosty fun.  It would be the stuff that memories are made up.

But somehow, here I am, in the thick of things and there is no frosty fun, no frolicking, just one mean mommy and three stir-crazy sprouts. 

Somewhere between the 200th load of laundry and the 10000th PB&J sandwich I stop to ask myself, why was I looking forward to this?

These long winter days are filled with refereeing fights and hearing the children lament that despite the 3 million new toys that Santa brought there is NOTHING TO DO.  We have watched every episode of Dora that is available On-Demand so many times that I can recite them by heart. 

Don't get me wrong, there are wonderful things too.  Sometimes I get to see the opening credits of the Today Show while sipping coffee.  And I have been able to shower almost everyday.

Occasionally there are chocolate chip "pan-a-cakes" and snuggles while reading books in my big bed, and I even remembered to brush my teeth after one of the monkeys informed me that my breath smelled like an old foot. 

Every now and then we all get together to applaud the mini-monkey when she pees on the potty.  And once in a blue moon we gather at the table to have group crafting session, giving mommy some time to catch up on some blog reading and even write a few posts to keep in reserve for a rainy day. 

I guess the glass will always seem cleaner on the other side of the working mommy's window and for me, that's the trouble with a clean house. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Scranton Edition

This post is decidated exclusively to my two favoritest family "K's" - - - - -

On Tuesday morning, my mother and I packed up the sleigh, er mini-van and headed North to do some seasonal soujourning. 

Our destination was Avoca, PA famous in our family for two reasons.  Avoca is the home of my Aunt Mary Jean and the home of the worlds most AMAZING pizza.  

We make the nearly three hour trip at least once a year to visit our Scranton family that we love so dearly. 

On this particular trip we were delighted to find that my terrificic teenage cousin had cleared her schedule to spend the day with us.  She is one amazing kid!  Beautfiul and wise beyond her years, a young lady with all of her priorities in check.

We had a fantastic time with the Scranton Section of our family. 

When it was time to leave, we packed up our things and headed for home.  We hugged goodbye and I left happy in the knowledge that there is a wonderful young woman with big boots for my little girl to look forward to filling. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Our Year in Review

In the world of blogging, I am brand new.  I have only been doing this since September 29th but I am in love.  I had no idea, in those early days, just what a big deal Scary Mommy was.  I stumbled onto her blog, read her post called "To My Favorite Child" and I was hooked. 

 In the past few months I have discovered that there are thousands of hilarious and incredibly talented writers masquerading as mommies, some of them are my very best friends for 100 years.   It is phenomenal. This network of people who KNOW where you are, where you've been, and where you are going.

I feel so blessed to have found an outlet from my creative passion and some pretty amazing friends to boot.

Scary Mommy has a fantastical Year in Review post and I jumped at the opportunity to link up with her in any way, shape or form. 

Click the links, you will not be sorry that you did!

Here is a quick look at our lives in photo and blog post for 2010. 


(I know I did!)

November:  Roots

And a Happy New Year!

Check Me Out!!!! Guest Post

I'm guest posting at Amber Page Writes - she's kind of a big deal:)

She is FABULOUS - please check me out over there and prowl around her site - I promise, just one look and you will be in love.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Let's Wrap This Up

The plan was that I would drop Mini Monkey off at Grammy & Bapa's house and they would take her out for dinner.

The plan was that my love would then take Middle Monkey and Monster Monkey to see a high school wrestling match.

The plan was that I would take the ONE  MILLION presents out of the closet at my parent's house and drag them back to our house for sorting, wrapping, and storage. 

That was the plan.

Instead...I arrived at my parents house late and in my hurry to strap Mini Monkey into her car seat I inadvertently put my keys on the floor of their van that moments later pulled away from the house on course to enjoy a restaurant prepared pre-Christmas feast. 

I then proceeded to make 640 trips up and down the stairs lugging all of Santa's stash out to our van for transport.  I had just finished shoving the last of the three bicycles into the overstuffed space when it occurred to me that I didn't know where my keys were.

I started to look, in the usual places first, my purse, my pocket, the ignition.  Next, I searched the house, the ground around the car.  My heart sank as I looked woefully into the cabin of the van.  There was a good chance that the keys were left on the floor and covered with packages.

I knew that my only solution would be to unload the entire vehicle to see if the keys were present. So I did.

And they were not.

Around this time I could hear my cell phone ringing.  Amazingly, I was able to locate it. 

Keys?  Is that you?

No...It was my father.

"Hey kid!"  He said cheerfully, "We have your keys here.  Seems you left them in the back of our car." 

A new plan was required.

It ended up being a fantastic mistake.  One that I quite enjoyed.

I was stranded at my parents house.  There was nothing to clean or distract me from the job at hand.  No laptop to compose a blog upon, no emails to write.  No pile of laundry laying clean and forlorn on the bed begging to be folded.

There was a fantastic selection of coffee and a beautiful Keurig to brew a fresh cup.  All recent episodes of The Daily Show were DVR'd for my perusal.

The house was quiet and warm, delicious smells wafted up from the lovely and safe electric candles that my mother uses.
It was a soul soothing and productive ending.  Unexpected and much appreciated.  

In the end, after everything was wrapped and bagged, I sat back, sipping my coffee and surveyed my handiwork.  It was a Christmas fit for a king, or three little monkeys who deserve nothing less than the royal treatment. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

She's making a list, she's checking it twice...

Shit!  I forgot the f*cking cranberries. 

Ahh yes.  These are surely how happy memories are made. 

I have decided to make the Christmas Day meal BY MYSELF.  It is EXTREMELY important for me to have ZERO help with this. 

PS - I have never made a turkey before, but I pulled on my Mommypants and off to the grocery I went, two year old in tow to make some happy Christmas memories.

We started with a flourish.  She was all smiles as we headed down the first aisle to select the bags of bread that I remember seeing in my mother's pantry in years past.  I am floored by the hundreds of choices.  Variety of shape, color, consistency, flavor - it was A LITTLE overwhelming. 

So I did what any red blooded American armed with a credit card and a holiday wish would do, I bought one of each, two of some and headed on down the line. 

I know there is a lot of butter required to make things taste good, so I grabbed a bunch of that. 

I picked up 3,700 Pillsbury rolls, so many in fact that they gave me a coupon at the end.

Off to the dairy section where I got a few gallons of milk, you need milk to make mashed potatoes, right?

And the turkeys.  Big ones, little ones, frozen and fresh.  Holy shit. 

After making my selection, I noticed that the my little monkey was just about done with this game.

She was no longer interested in being helpful.  She was now hanging out the sides of the cart grabbing anything she could and hurling it into the back on top of the bread.  Neat.

The next several aisles were a blur.  I am pretty sure I got seven bottles of toilet bowl cleaner and at least two pink chapsticks and a jar of pickles.

I finally staggered over to the produce aisle (yes, I know I do it backwards...) and with my remaining energy and tried to figure out just how many celery stalks and onions one might need to make 700 bags of stuffing. 

I settled on two. 

I grabbed two giant bags of potatoes and staggered towards the checkout.

By this time the monkey was WAILING that she had pooped and her heiny hurted.  Adorable. 

As I surveyed my purchases I began to get that panicky feeling.  I forgot something.  But what?

I looked to the cashier, a high school student with a personality less entertaining than my bags of bread and said, "Can you think of anything that I forgot to get for the Christmas meal?" 

She stared blankly back and blinked.

She did not answer.  I had gotten my wish, I was ON MY OWN. 

I know that in the ensuing days I will make more than one frantic phone call to my mother and my mother-in-law.  They will walk me through each episode and guide me to the finish line of my very first holiday hosting experience.  They have both "been there, done that."  I am anxious to join the ranks of the few, the proud, the Turkey makers. 

And if it doesn't work out...we can always order Chinese:)

Wordless Wednesday - Gingerbread Edition

Our very first Gingerbread House,
Lovingly crafted with cardboard, ducktape and a WHOLE lot of Sugar:)

Three Little Monkeys Sleeping in My Bed

On weekdays, I usually leave the house at 6:30 am.  I am sharing this infomration so that you can get the full effect of just how late I was yesterday.  I stayed in bed until 6:12 am, snuggled with my three little monkeys, blankets pulled up over my head.

When I finally emerged from my fuzzy green cocoon, my hair was a fright and I didn't even care.  I had slept too late to have time for a shower, I barely had time to change out of the uniform of sweats that I have taken to wearing around the house.  There was no makeup, no thought involved in getting myself "ready" for work.

It has been like this more and more as of late.  I don't know who exactly to blame but I am irrationally sure it is my husbands fault.

It has been weeks since we have had our bed to ourselves.  Maybe even months.  Some nights the middle monkey will creep in and gingerly tap me on the arm over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over until I finally reach out, grab him and pull him securely into the bed.  Once he is nestled in the crook of my arm he will doze peacefully until the latest possible moment of the morning rush.  He is the best little sleeper. 

I, on the other hand, am not. 
Some nights the creeper is a little princess girl with golden curls.  She will walk quite purposefully into the room with all of her "babies" in tow.  She will hurl each item into the bed and then hoist herself up and over my lump of a body and snuggle herself in between her father and me.  She too is a good sleeper but again, as she crawls over me to secure her spot in our bed, her bony little knees dig into my back, arms and face.  Following this invasion of my sleeping space, I am usually awakened but then abandoned, left alone with my thoughts while she slumbers peacefully beside me.

My third waker-upper is recently my favorite one to see at my bedside.  When he is up, he is up.  there is no such thing as "going back to sleep."  He is quite entertaining and has become a good friend of mine in the bewitching hours.  He has a great sense of humor and is perfectly content to lean against me on the living room sofa while I watch DVR'd episodes of The Daily Show.  Of course he doesn't fully understand the content that is discussed in the show, thankfully, but is able to grasp the nuance and sarcasm of Jon Stewart's comedic timing. 

The child can talk a blue streak and I generally don't have "time" to listen to him ramble, but at 3 A.M. I find myself with nothing but time.  We talk about school and wrestling.  He tells me about his friends and their families.  He asks me about divorce and why some parents live in different houses.  We cover death and Heaven.  We talk Santa and the Toothfairy.  He shares with me some ideas he has for streamlining the discipline procedure in our house, rules he thinks would be effective for his sister and brother. 

He is so much like me.  A creative worry wart, a dramatic insomniac. Ultra-sensitive and prone to anxiety.  He enjoys schedules, routines, and lists.  But like me he is also a creative spirit.  He loves to draw and color, creating millions of fabulous items of artwork, displayed all around his room.  He wants desperately to read and when he does finally "get it" I am sure he will have his nose in a book every spare moment.  He is compassionate and caring, he has a kind soul. 

He is my midnight monkey. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don't Count Us Out

I just witnessed the greatest comeback of the season.

The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants tied 31 points each.  Fourteen seconds remained on the clock. 

The Giants rookie punter, Matt Dodge, entered the game with instructions to kick it out of bounds to take the crucial game into overtime.  The game that would decide the winner of the Division in the NFC East.

After a lackluster first half the Eagles were trailing by 21 points.  Many people may have turned off the game.  Many people may have dozed on the couch.  Many people may have counted them out.  

My husband is not one of those people. 

He hung in with the Eagles for every minute of the game.  He didn't doubt them for a second.  He believed wholeheartedly that they could and would comeback.

So as they dug in and turned things around score by score.  He was right there watching. 

Then came the final :14 on the clock.  Dodge punted the ball unbelievably into the open arms of Eagles receiver, DeSean Jackson who promptly fumbled the ball.  As he scrambled to recover I am reminded of my own fumble.  The time when I "dropped the ball."

And like Jackson, I did recover. 

He ran 65 yards against all odds, darting and dodging against the grain.  Hulking human hurdles hampered his progress but he did not falter.  He ran 65 yards with speed and agility, style and pizazz for the score.  The final numbers read 38 to 31.  The Eagles had done it.  They came back and they won. 

And when they did, my love jumped for joy.  He knew they could, he knew they would.  He believed in them, in the best they could be. 

And so it is with me. Even after my stretch of poor performance last year where I phoned it in as both a wife and a mother, he still believed that I could turn it around.  That I would turn it around.

It has been a long six months and I continue to scramble towards my own end zone.  I still sometimes stumble but with the help of some amazing blockers I have been able to recover my footing and keep running. 

He believed in me when I didn't believe in myself.  He saw through to the best that I could be.

We all make mistakes, some bigger than others, but it is how we choose to handle the fall out from our mistakes that separates the quintessential "men from the boys." 

When interviewed by Fox Correspondent, Pam Oliver, Jackson was still so flustered  that he said, "I have no words.  I fumbled the ball.  I don't even know what I was doing out there." 

Yes, he fumbled the ball and but he recovered and got the job done.  It's like that with a supportive team, all things are possible, and I am so thankful for mine.    They never counted me out.

I only hope Matt Dodge has someone who believes in him as much, because for him, tomorrow is going to be rough day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kids & Guns

The learning center where my children attend daycare has a very strict "No Guns" policy.  No toy guns, no Nerf guns, no toys made into guns, no finger guns,  NO GUNS. 

No problem. 

When I found out that I was having a baby I was unsure of everything except for this one point.  My child would NOT play with guns. 

I am vehemently opposed to guns, scared of them in fact.  I have only ever seen one gun up close and it sent chills down my spine. 

Guns make me nervous, people who carry them make me nervous, card carrying members of the NRA and the people who sing about them make me nervous.

I don't kill spiders or stink bugs but rather, release them out the window.  I have never been hunting and I am somewhat baffled by the sport that is very prevalent in the Central Pennsylvania area where I have lived all of my life.   

I am one of "those" people.  A liberal type who tree hugs and PETA supports. I adopt animals and make cash donations to no-kill shelters.  

"No guns." the school said.  "No problem." I said.

And then I had two sons. 

The world is their rifle range and anything is fair game.  My daughter has even joined in, using her tiny fingers as a itty bitty hand gun.  They run around our house making shooting sounds.  They shoot at anything and anyone - I tried to forbid the shooting of people but this was met with puzzled looks. 

"What else would we shoot at?"

Good point.

I have given up the ghost.  Boys will be boys and they will like guns.  They will fold a Barbie in half and use that if needed tor fashion a pint sized AK 47

I can eliminate the "toys" but I can't change the inherent nature of my children and truly, who am I to try?

Guns are a part of our world.  Not a part that I particularly love, but a part nonetheless.  Better for my children to have a respectful understanding rather than an innate fear, right?

A long time ago, before I had children, I was a really good mother.  I had ideas about how things should be.  I sat on my high horse and judged the pants off of people for things like having children who pretended to shoot at people, children who let swear words slip, and children who didn't wear hats in the winter.   

It was a long fall from the top of that horse. 

And so, I will pick myslef up and dust myself off.  I will wrap the Nerf Vulcan EBF in festive holiday paper, a gift for both my oldest and middle monkeys. 

And I will pledge to remember that those in glass houses should not judge people about kids and guns.

**This post was inspired by the brilliant writing of Mom-Nom.Com** 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Conservative Christmas Catastrophe

In an effort to combat the materialism and endless flood of breakable plastic junk that seems to accompany each Christmas, my husband and I decided last year to limit the number of toys that came into our house on or around December 25th.  

Having just moved into our brand new digs complete with a big, open play room, we opted to splurge and purchase a "Bounce House" as the "big present."  Thinking that this would be a good lesson in appreciation and understanding that it is not quantity but quality that counts. 

What we failed to recognize is that when you are five and your Christmas's have previously included great quantities of gifts cascading out from under the tree, it is difficult to understand, regardless of how QUALITY the big present is, why you only got three gifts. 

Yep.  We got each kid three presents. 

And no stockings. 


Please don't get me wrong, the kids loved the bounce house and each of  their three gifts.  They were over the moon for them. 

They played all day and had so much fun but that was little comfort for the knife in my heart after hearing my oldest son say to my middle guy, "Wow.  Not many presents this year like the other years.  Guess we didn't do so good." 

Knife.  Heart.  Ouch.

The decision was made, right then and there,  that we would do our best to remedy the situation. 

And so it was that two remorseful parents went gallivanting on December 26th snapping up every single solitary toy that was left in any store in 40 mile radius.  We wrapped the gifts and stuffed the stockings.  We shoved it all back behind the tree and set about our plan. 

On December 27th when we began taking down the tree, my oldest son suddenly exclaimed, "Hey!!  We missed a present!  It is back here behind the tree!!"
"No way!"  my husband and I exchanged conspiratorial glances, "Is there just one?" 

"Holy Moly! There are bunch! And stockings too!"

When he emerged from beneath the tree with all the loot he said, "I guess Santa wasn't mad at us after all! He was just being tricky."

Knife. Heart. Twist.

Oh that sweet boy. 

Never again. 

It was declared on that day, that if we could help it, we would never again deny our children the bells and whistles of Christmas.  

We will never again forgo the excessive spending and wrapping in the name of teaching our kids about the true spirit of Christmas.

Those are lessons for the other 364 days of the year. We live our lives so that our children know how good it feels to give.  They are not materialistic.  They are not spoiled (by us).   They are DAMN good kids. 

They deserve to have Santa's magic come down our chimney and fill our house with toys and treats everything children believe Christmas to be. 

This year we will participate in the materialistic plastic celebration.  This year the stockings will be hung by the chimney with care.  This year St. Nicklaus will definitely be there. 

This year...we are prepared. 

This post was inspired by the Mama Kat's Writers Workshop

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - A Visit from Christmas Past

Chistmas 2004
Welcome Riley Henry! (3 months)
Christmas 2005
One singular sensation.
Riley Henry (15 months)

Christmas 2006
Riley Henry (3 years)

Christmas 2006
Double the Fun 
Welcome Owen David (6 months)
Christmas 2007
Owen & Riley (1 &3 years)

Christmas 2008
And then there were three...
Riley Henry (4), Owen David (2), & Avery Jessalyn (8 months)

Christmas 2009
Riley (5), Owen (3), & Avery (1)

Christmas 2010
Riley (6), Owen (4), & Avery (2)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I don't usually make a huge fuss over things like gloves and hats.  In fact I have a very laissez faire policy on such things.  Wear them if you want, or don't...they are your fingers. 

I do not believe that "cold" causes "sick."  I do not believe that a hat will keep you healthy.  I do not believe in the power of mittens. 

I myself rarely wear coats.  I am generally so overheated after trying to get myself and my three monkeys out the door that I feel no need for a coat.   I NEVER wear hats or gloves. 

This being said, I have become very invested in recent days in the whereabouts of the multiple sets of hat and gloves that have been sent to school, never to be seen again.

These items seem to vanish into a black hole, the same place that puzzle pieces and "Memory" matches go.  The Bermuda Triangle of Tupperware lids, sippy cup inserts and mismatched socks. 

The school, being responsible and acting with the best interests of the children in mind, requires that each child have one hat and one pair of gloves in order to be able to play outside. 

Somewhere back in the late fall, when the weather was just starting to turn chilly, I was ahead of the game.  I sent three hats and three pairs of matching gloves into the school.  One set for each child, individually bagged and labeled. 

Although the names of my children were assigned to each item with indelible ink to the best of my ability, it was only a matter of time.   Eventually the marker wore off & the labeled baggie found it's way into the trash.  And so it is that I am now behind the parental eight ball once again.

Since that day I have sent two more hats and an additional three sets of gloves (not matching) into school with my oldest son.  At last count that means five hats and 40,493 gloves have gone to school and not returned. 

Do I blame the school?  NO WAY. 

Because there is no way to reliably label tiny, child sized gloves.  Until now..

Introducing Label Daddy - this is GENIUS! 

They make, among other things, machine washable and dryer safe, peel n' stick labels that attach perfectly to practically all clothing.  No ironing, no sewing necessary, no markers needed.  Completely customizable, the kids will go crazy for these little stickers.  The website is a cinch to use and very reasonably priced. 

I am crazy for this concept!  I have placed my first order and can't wait to report back - I hope that these are truly all they are cracked up to be!  There is nothing quite like a great success story!

**By the way...I was not asked to review this product -
I just saw it and thought it was a great idea!**

Recipe for Success

I made cookies last night.  I followed the same recipe that I have followed for twelve years.  I methodically prepared the ingredients, measuring each carefully and consulting the scrap of chocolate chip packaging where the instructions were located.  I checked and double checked that the recipe called for 1 & 1/3 cups of flour.  I hesitated before adding each ingredient, checking one final time to be sure I was doing it right.

I am like this about instructions.  I read the manuals that accompany DVD Players and coffee makers, even though I know how to use them.  I follow all rules and guidelines because that is safe and smart. That is what responsible people do.

There is no instruction manual that accompanies parenthood.

When I found out that I was pregnant, like many new mothers, I purchased a pregnancy book.  Then a second and a third.  I read voraciously, anything that I could get my hands on that had to do with pregnancy and motherhood.  I stalked the interwebz searching desperately for a definitive answers to my questions. 

After three babies and six years of motherhood, what I have learned is that there is no recipe for raising the perfect child.  My main focus used to rest in having children that were respectful and well behaved.  Good sleepers and good eaters.  I wanted children who were a reflection of the values instilled in them by wonderful parents, rule followers and role models.  I wanted to do it right.

What I have today are children who sometimes eat chips for breakfast but know they are loved just because they are here.  I have children who occasionally bite and frequently spit but always say please and thank you.  Children who use potty words at the dinner table and have difficulty keeping hands to themselves but are not afraid to try new things.  I have children who will deliver a punch to anyone who messes with their siblings and will deliver a hug to anyone in need of care and compassion.

Each day brings new adventures, new challenges, new questions. My focus is no longer on how other people perceive my children, but now rests in how my children perceive themselves. I hope that they know how special they are, how much they are loved, how proud they make me.   

If they do, then I'll know that I did something right.