Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blend Baby, Blend with a Vengeance

With boy #1 I was eager to feed him solids, needed more to do. I was bored. Putting him in his little booster chair and feeding him rice cereal was an event that helped us get through the day and get to daddy's return back home.

I was smitten by the blender and making my own foods; I'm a saver at heart.

When boy #2 got near the age of eating solids, I only blended my own foods because of the saving aspect...I no longer needed more to do. Life was not dull with two little boys a mere 17 months apart. I also put off solids as long as possible. I'm pretty sure our second went straight from breast to steak.

Whereas #1 couldn't grow fast enough, #3 needs to slow down....he's already 3 months old! Each day is a flash. Suppertime gets here before I've even finished one load of laundry. There was a time when Friday seemed like an eternity away, but these days my weeks consist of Monday, Tuesday, and then comes Friday followed by a quick breather we dub the weekend. I'm positive the introduction of solid foods into our final boy's diet will come with great reluctance.

And so I smile at myself and the woman I was when I wrote a column about baby food and my first son....:

I confess, I recently discovered my love affair with the blender. All those buttons. The power. Do I merely blend or puree? The options are endless. Whatever you want you can create by simply throwing it in and pressing a button, viola'! I've been seduced.

In the beginning it was for my 5-month-old son. I wanted to make organic foods and save money in the process.

I see fresh produce and I immediately grow a little giddy like a girl waiting for her first date to a rock concert. I buy and I rush home. I throw in a little flax seed to aid in any potential baby constipation. Then I pour the liquid brew into ice trays. Freeze. Pop out. Put into freezer bags.

I don't want roses, diamonds, expensive fur coats. I want the farmers' market. I hurry down to Ray's Fruitland. I wonder what else my little one would like.

I once committed myself to something greater than my blender. I vowed to monogamously cherish nursing for the first six months. My vow: the most natural food source for my son. This was the soap box on which I stood. Obviously it was a bit flimsy, for at earlier months my baby was eyeing food with much curiosity and wonder. He reached out for it, maybe all in my imagination, but at a local mom's gathering someone mentioned the "food window" and I thought, "This is it. I must not miss out, kicking that soap box to the recycling curb. Temptation won.

I got out my Super Baby Food Book; at least I'd do this right. I would stick to only the recommended first foods. Boxed rice cereal. Utter disgust masked my son's face. I tried mixing it with the milk he was used to instead of water from the tap. No good. Forced to veer off the book's lists, I mixed in apple sauce. Not much better. I tasted some. My face was a perfect mirror of the lad before me.

That is when I first found my lover, or maybe it found me. I liquefied some bananas with the apple sauce stirring the two into the rice cereal. Delish! Next came peaches. Then carrots. I found myself getting excited for the fall harvest of sweet potatoes and squash.

Oh the endless possibilities. So easy. But more than that, I was an artist. I saw myself giving demos on "The Morning Show," perhaps turning my passion into a business. Shameless, my husband walked in on my blending, and I didn't hide it or try to explain why my lover was out in the open, sitting on the kitchen counter, why our son was strapped into his seat with various colors smearing his face, hands and feet. I was long gone down the blending path.

A warning: once you take this road of home baby food production you can't stop. You can't say to your child, "Actually you have one more month honey, I know you've tasted from the Tree of Good and Evil, but try and forget that and come back to the bosom of your youth."

Blend baby, blend! Blend with vengeance. Blend with soul. Blend like you're vamping a new tune with sweet mixes dripping down your temples and complete ecstasy in your taste buds.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm Finally Warm Again

For the first time in 7 months I am warm again in my house. Luckily I did have an extra layer of fat this winter to keep me toasty, but when our 3rd boy was born in February, I lost my heat source and realized just how cold we were.

Visitors would come and never remove their coats. I thought they were wimps, now I know better.

This winter we heated our house at a comfortable, but rather chilly 64 degrees. This really isn't very warm. Socks must be worn at all times, never short sleeves, always a sweatshirt or jacket. To save pennies we always shut off our heat by 8 pm...if not sooner. Then we'd sit in even more layers and under many blankets watching bad reality television and sipping hot cider. When it was time for bed my husband got on his hooded sweatshirt. It was like sleeping next to a mummy.

The cold reality of our existence was magnified in February when I was getting up to nurse every two hours. This is hard enough, but getting up to nurse in a house that is freezing is even worse. I couldn't stand it. By the 5 am feeding, I'd give in and push the thermostat up to the mid-50's. Getting our little guy to nurse laying down and under the covers was a necessity. I'm glad he was willing and cooperative.

On these warmer spring days I get a little giddy. By noon, I've opened all the windows to catch any heat I can before dark. Then I shut it in for the night. I love it.

Last night after the kids were in bed, I remarked to my husband, "This is the first time in seven months that I have actually been warm in our home, and it is after 9!" I ate a nice bowl of Cheerios with cold milk and was fine.

It is rumored that all this free heat leaves us after tonight. I'm sad. I was enjoying not being chilly in my own house. Ah, just a taste of summer. Good thing I didn't run to the store and buy Popsicles and lemonade.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stains, A Record of My Day

There is a constant stentch of breast milk on my left shoulder. I hardly notice this anymore. Infact, it almost smells good to me, it is my third time doing this baby thing. Still, it is annoying, always having some sort of stain on your clothes. I pretty much stick to t-shirts from Target, in hopes that one day I can buy a blouse with style.

At our small group tonight, my youngest did a projectile move, not an ounce hit the floor. I did this tricky left-leg-thrust, and caught it all on my pants, like a casscading waterfall.

All this reminded me of a column I wrote almost three years ago, when I only had one little boy and was close to having my second. I complained then about all the stains I was becoming and expert on, but after three boys in four years, I think now I was very naive in 2006....I wasn't outnumbered, yet.

A record of my day is kept on my shirt. Some like to journal. Others make lists. Still others record in their planners. All I need is my shirt to tell me what happened and to remind me of things I need to sill do.

The other day I was beautifying myself in the mirror before going out to meet with some friends in the evening, and my eyes caught a grotesque reflection of the stains on my blouse, stains that said park, picnic, snack, dusting, garden preserves and a couple of well placed hugs and pokes by my son.

It doesn't help that I have grown in diameter and have a strategically placed basketball protruding from my belly. This pregnancy has only seemed to attract the dirt and grime. All my lovely maternity shirts are now something to be worn for yard work or on the paint crew. I think early on I really did try and keep things clean, but I have resigned myself to this way of living.

As much as I want to shield myself from my boy's blueberry stained hands of glee, I find myself streching out my arms and reveling in the embrace he gives. When he cut his upper lip I grabbed his little body and immersed my shoulder in dripping blood to soothe his little crying soul.

Currently, he as a cold and a runny nose. Each one of my shirts has a gleam like a snail's trail from the snot he's rubbed on me during our hourly wrestling matches. Fall has beckoned his father back to teaching, and this little boy needs to get out all his energy regardless if he's stuck only with mom, so we wrestle and add decor to my wardrobe.

I do wonder if people look at me as I make my way through Fred Meyer and think, "What a filthy woman, why doesn't she try and keep herself clean? And look at her son. Look at that nose and face smeared with snot and bits of cookie. That shirt he has on....where has he been playing...the backyard?"

"Why yes, you're right!" My son is happy when he is dirty. So full of life when he's set free in his bare feet to roam the expanse of the earth he calls home. Nothing taste better to him than rocks, sticks, and an occasional bug. Nothing wows him more than mixing water, grass, and leaves. And nothing fills him with utter contentment more than a handful of juicy berries.

I think the best thing my shirts say at the end of the day is that we lived life together and we lived it well. There is calm silence as my son sleeps and dreams of tomorrow's muddy adventures.

(This first appeared in The Newberg Graphic in the fall of 2006, about three weeks before the birth of our second boy.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jell-O, Nasty and Tasty

I've got a thing for Jell-O salad. It is my passion of late, the tantalizer for my taste buds. I'm blaming my sister. After the arrival of our third little boy, she brought over a delicious meal rounded out by red Jell-O salad, complete with bananas and a mix of fruit cocktail. I was in heaven. Ten of us shared that meal, and I think I ate more than half the bowl of jiggle.

I told her how much I appreciated the meal, especially the Jell-O salad. I confessed that I never made the dish. I always stuck to greens or fresh, sliced fruit. When we were children, this Midwestern icon was a staple at our dinner table. Many family jokes came from the sound of the first scoop, like a cow pulling its hoof out of the mud. A childhood friend recently admitted that she associated Jell-O with my family. Is this a good thing?

After I shared my new found food fetish with my sister, she only fed my need for more as she raved about all the possible flavors, colors and fruit combinations. I salivated, droe to the store, and purchased one box of lime and one box of oragne. I felt quite anticipatory as I drove back to my house, imagining the little mandarin oranges that would compliment my creation.

In this age of organic and Trader Joe's, I felt that my act was criminal. There is nothing very Whole Foods about Jell-O. After all, it is not overpriced; one box is quite economical. Everything good and healthy definitely costs more than 25 cents a box. Jell-O is in the same price and quality category as Top Ramen and CheezWhiz. Bold letters on the box read, "Artificial flavors," not multi-grain or whole grain. I actually get a bit of a sugar buzz and yet I still categorize it as salad---something most health fanatics would never do. But for now, I relish all this little box of sugar granuales has to offer.

After the boys are all in bed, I sneak back into the kitchen, stand in the glow of the fridge light, and scoop out some lime goodness. I get giddy about hollering, "Supper time, Jell-O salad!" All I need now is a cow bell and a gingham apron.

After a week of this new side dish, my husband seemed to be avoiding my new love; instead he was concentrating on his lasagna. We were more than halfway done with our meal and he still had not served up any of my much anticipated dish. I prodded. He responded. "Is this going to be your new thing?"

"Do you not like it?"

"No, it is jus that you've never made it before and now we have had it every night this week."

I paused. "I like it!" I heaped up a healthy helping onto his plate, leaving enough for the boys to each have a small serving and for me to have three large ones at lunch the following day. Next shopping trip I'm going to buy enough Jell-O packets to ensure that this American treat graces our table for an entire month.

My husband sighs and digs in, for he knows this craze will pass, just as my Kit-Kat/tea, popcorn/cider and spinach/mayo fetishes all did. But for now...when I need something to sparkle and shine next to a nice pot of roast, I can always find a packet of yummy goodness in the pantry.

(This first appeared in the Newberg Graphic on April 1st, 2009. It was not an April Fool's joke either. My passion is fading some, but I am planning to bring a jello creation to an upcoming potluck. Hope others like it.)

Here is the link for more Jell-O information: http://www.jellogallery.org/jellohistory.html

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pirates and Sinking Ships

If you come to my home you'll pick your way through the creative minds of children. The first stop is the laundry room and pantry. The pantry's canned goods are towers of a gigantic city. The kitchen table houses playdough creations in various stages of completion, the living room...well, these days it is a pirate ship. There are three major ships: the two couches and one chair. The cushions of the furniture are paths between the ships. My wooden spoons are the swords. My dishtowels, pirate headscarves.

As a mother I do not want to be the creator of fun and games; I want to be the facilitator. I want my children to create and imagine. I want them to problem-solve their own boredom. I do not want them waiting for me to take them places and plug them in to activities. In order for them to get good at play, they need time to practice this art. Time and space.

This is why I let them roam in any room in the house. This is why I refused to be a taxi service, refuse to join Gymboree. My choices are intentional. My results: happy chidren and a happy mom. We have our days when we need to get out and do something, break up the week.

We do playdates, we go to MOPS, we love the library, but we also love our days of just being.

I feel like I'm doing a good job as a mom when my boys have played for two hours straight and haven't come to me once. (Ok, so really, the youngest gets ouchies often and needs a quick kiss, but then he's back at it. And then there is the brotherly wrestle that needs a referee, but....) I love the sounds of their voices at play and wonder.

This is something I strive for. This is why my house is never totally picked up, never perfect. I constantly have to remind myself what the goal of mothering is, and for me it is not a perfect house, it is something more.

The Reality of the Three-Ring Circus Has Hit

I should have written this a month ago. A month ago I was running on new-baby-fumes. A month ago I thought this was easy. A month ago I was telling everyone to go for it, add one more child to the mix. A month ago I was performing baby worship while the world around me was in chaos.

Deep down, or maybe even a little closer to the surface, I still feel that way....that this transition from two to three children is way easier than from one to two. But the reality of the three-ring-circus has hit. Lucky for me, and my children, I get more energy from expending energy. I am an extrovert.

Right now, I am thriving. We have our moments when I'm not sure how to get all three boys in the shopping cart, plus all the groceries. Moments when the oldest acts out by throwing a large plastic bin at the second child's head because he knows mommy is busy nursing the third bundle of joy; after a couple of weeks of this incessant nursing he looked at me, patting the spot on the couch where he so often finds me and said, "You're here a lot." I agreed.

There are mometns that I , in desperation, call my mom and convince her that she really does want to spend her Wednesday runnign errands in town, helping me lug the boys in and out of the van...in and out of various commercial buildings.

I'm very impressed with her 68-year-old enthusiasm. The other day she let me run into Fred Meyer while she doled out PB&J, cheese crackers, and Capri Suns. When I came back she walked her 5-foot 3-inch frame from the back of the mini-van to the front and did this fantastic somersault move back into the front passenger seat. I was beaming with pride. My mom is awesome.

Maybe this is why I love all the chaos that having three kids under the age of 4 brings: that I feel awesome. When I've been up throughout the night nursing and am still able to get out of bed with a smile on my face; hug and kiss my older two; make scrambled-cheesy-eggs; get myself dressed; get everyone else dressed; instigate a walk; plant 20-some flowers outside; get lunch made; prep dinner; keep the laundry in a constant cycle of wash, dry, fold and sort; read a few books aloud (complete with character voices); wrestle; do a letter game; set the dinner table; get giddy and excited for daddy to be home; facilitate several time-outs; vacuum up popcorn for the umpteenth time; bathe the kids; dress them for bed; nurse, nurse and nurse some more...do all this only to do it all over again...well, I sort of feel like giving myself an award and telling myself I'm awesome.

This is what I whisper to my inner superhero as I look around and see nothing but clutter, feel nastiness clinging to the floor under the dinning table, and smell the sweet aroma of a diaper bin that is in much need of disposal.

This is actually what I have to whisper, chant and proclaim since tomorrow is another day, another day to juggle it all over again. I am awesome. I am amazing. I can do it again and again and again. I am mom.

(This appeared in The Newberg Graphic on April 8th, and is pretty much how I still feel. Yesterday was a bad day. I was very distracted. The youngest was extra needy. The older two did not get a lot of quality time from me. I ended up having to try and put all three to bed, all at the same time. This resulted in me not feeling so hot about being even remotely awesome. Glad tomorrow is another day, today that is! So far it has gone loads better. I'm planning on decorating Easter eggs with the boys, and just being.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Potty Power

To potty train or not potty train, the ultimate toddler dilemma.

I have decided that we are not potty training, but instead we are entering phase one of potty awareness. I've seen too many parents try and potty train too early and then experience potty trauma, potty regression, and major potty frustration.

But there is this little voice who whispers, "If you don't start now you might miss the most impressionable moments and later it will be much harder."

The other voice, the voice of true reason, informs me that boys generally figure out this potty stuff closer to 3, and that with most monumental transitions thus far, it has been best to ease into things and let me son initiate. This is what we did with weening, the bottle, pacifier, bassinet, crib and toddler bed. These were all short patches of mommy insanity. Now they don't seem like such big deals and we all made it through. Of course the person who had the hardest time was the mother, not the son.

However, this recent experience is testing my resolve. My child has a certain dislike for anything foreign in his diaper. The second this happens, off the diaper goes. We've had search parties for these diapers which have ended with mommy scrubbing the floor when piles of happiness are found; one of the many reasons I am thankful for hardwood.

This is when I tend to think I need to listen to my first voice and pursue some rigid potty chair sessions. Then I share my story with other mothers, and I hear antics of finger painting. I immediately become thankful mine has not turned to artistic pursuits.

Unfortunately, we discovered a DVD entitled, "Potty Power." I thought this might do the trick, help him keep his diapers on, magically get him to the porcelain throne before instead of after, or mesmerize him into big boy pants. The results: a toddler running naked through the house shouting, "Potty Power," as he sings the lines, "No more diapers for me, no more diapers for me." The propensity for diaper freedom has only been exasperated by his newest DVD loyalty. Major mommy mistake.

As soon as it is feasible I plan on returning this entertainment villain to the library and informing my trainee that "Potty Power, " has gone bye-bye.

I take solace in the knowlege that this too shall pass. I will look back and see that it wasn't really that bad. I think I'm becoming a better mom. I think I'm learning as I go. I think I am seeing that with this little being the more guiding and the less forcing I do the better. I hope I remember this when he comes home and announces that he's in love.

(This first appeared 2 years ago in The Newber Graphic. It took us almost 6 months to fully potty train our oldest. The memories are flooding back as I try and get the next one to fall in line. The success invovled Mac from Cars. Reading this again was a good reminder to breathe deep, it'll happen. I've alway liked things to come easy; my mom informs me of this.

And actually #2 has been a lot easier, and it is a good thing since we now live in a house with carpet. He's been using the toliet since he was 2 and a few, but he's very inconsistent and never wants to go when he's deep in imagination land. Hmmm, reminds me of myself. More updates to come.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Potty Training and Other Distractions

Bad combination: beginning to potty train, starting a blog, stripping wallpaper, oh and nursing a new baby...I'm totally distracted today from my job of being a present mommy.

Have I mentioned that I'm still in my pajamas and have nasty coffee breath?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pictures of the three boys

Its A Boy.....A Third Son

Three boys. Three boys with energy, with messes, with ideas, with adventures, with dreams...three. It is way more than two. Two is normal. Two doesn't raise eyebrows in a restaurant. Two doesn't bring looks of empathy. Two doesn't get reactions, but three, three gets noticed.

My husband and I began laughing over the irony or three boys even before the ultrasound technician would confirm our hunch. She kept showing us other exciting baby parts---the heart, kidneys, legs, feet, face, but really, don't most of us get giddy for that 20 week ultrasound to hear, "It's a girl! It's a boy!"

I was hoping to hear, "It's a girl!" I had dreams and wishes. I wanted to buy pink things that were feminine. I wanted a drawer for bows and hair ties. I wanted to listen to my little girl cry because so-and-so said this or that. I wanted the details only a girl can give about a first date or the big prom. I wanted someone to still love and visit me when I am 90 and not so pleasant to be around. I really wanted a daughter. I wanted to see my husband melt as a little girl climbed up onto his lap and kissed him on the cheek. These were my images of how great life with two boys and a little girl could be. But, that dream was dashed and tucked away on October 1st.

I called my sister. Sure I was fine. We can't wait to love and meet our newest boy. I wouldn't have to plan and pay for weddings! Weddings were always major times of tension between my sister, me, and my mom. There were perks. My boys would love another brother. More wrestling partners. More trucks and tractor toys to fight over. More people to laugh at farts and burps. I'd be the special woman in four men's lives. I get that. I know it is good. I feel loved.

Still, I cried. I lay in my bed and cried. Boohoo for me. No little girl to dote on and eventually fight with. The strong matriarch reign in my family was coming to a screaming halt. The tide had turned. Even our new puppy is male.

I asked my husband, "Are you excited? Do you love him?"

The answer was yes. That made me happier. I can't imagine what he'll be like. The two we have are so different and unique from each other. Is there a possible their variation? There must be. I wonder what color his hair will be. We have one son with red and the other with blonde. Will his be brown? Will he be lanky or stocky? Will he favor my husband or me? Will he have fair skin or will he tan like his daddy? Will he hug and kiss me and say, "I love you too!" Will he be the one that visits me when I'm 90? Will he love me when no one else does?

I think the answer to many of these questions are yes. I will love him: love his baby smell and his baby touch. That first embrace will be memorable and significant, and I celebrate and long for that. I am learning that life is about surrendering my ideas and embracing what is given to me.

(This first appeared in the Newberg Graphic on October 29, 2008. Since then I have embraced, loved, and marveled at my third son. I love him so completely, and am eager to know who this little guy has been created to be. I still get a bit sad over not having that little girl I so wished for, my little Elsie, but I keep praying that I will get lucky and get three daughter-in-laws that I love, adore, and relate well with. Totally possible, right?)

Testing, Testing.....

Am I really doing this? Why is this so scary for me? I'm putting myself out there. Is anyone listening, reading, viewing? It feels so out of my control, and yet I am in complete control, right? Ok, testing, testing, one, two, three....