Jan 27 2009

By necessity, we run our house triage-style.

Just like a hospital, we’re in a constant state of intake, needs assessment, emergency stop-gap care and then, hopefully, meeting the greatest concerns with more thorough attention.  I’m not sure whether we ever really acheive the last part, but I like to think we try.  I suppose that’s for our kids and their counselors to decide when they’re adults.

To give you a general idea of a typical evening around these parts, I decided to track the nighttime happenings in the lives of the Woolseys.

Highlights from the evening include:

  • Participated in 14 instances of “Ian, put the dog down.” Do you think I should actually do something to enforce this?
  • Gave Sharing Lessons to Cai and Cael. There was only one water bottle with the cool pop-top lid, so of course no other liquid receptacle would do.
  • The water bottle broke. Gave “How to Handle Disappointment” Lessons to Cai and Cael.
  • Spent time deliberating Give Them Regular Cups Of Sticky Juice So They Can Learn vs. Save Myself the Mess.
  • Spent time washing apple juice off the floor.
  • Found it amusing that Aden had worn PJ’s (short sleeve shirt + shorts) under her clothes to school so she could wear PJ’s after school at daycare.
  • Found it ironic that Aden complained about being “too cold” to wear her leotard and dance shorts to dance class despite finally wearing the heavy coat that she refused to wear home from daycare with just PJ’s on. (Not cold when she decides to wear too few clothes, but way too cold when Mommy makes her wear a coat?)
  • Wondered, as I have every day for two years, whether Abby’s chronic complaints of stomach and head aches are a) a plea for attention, b) an attempt to get out of anything distasteful, c) food or environmental allergies, or c) a serious disease.  Pretty sure I’m going to end up having gotten this one Wrong.
  • Thought I was so clever feeding more and more cheddar cheese to Mr. Underweight (aka, Cai). Later found all the cheese jammed in his empty juice cup. Dang it!
  • Coached Abby on appropriate behavior for dance class if she wants to be chosen for Performing Company next year. By “coaching,” I mean “gave thoughtful and sage advice and was patently ignored.”
  • Worked with Ian on homework.  Was encouraged by his ability to learn 2 new spelling words and remember 2 old ones.  Wondered if he’ll ever get There, if I’m doing enough to help, and where the heck There is, anyway.
  • Read My Very First Mother Goose to my only avid reader, Cael. It’s a compilation of old nursery rhymes like, “Bat, bat, come under my hat, and I’ll give you a slice of bacon; and when I bake, I’ll give you a cake, if I am not mistaken.” What the…?
  • Said repeatedly in a happy, excited, encouraging voice “down the line, up the line, oooooover the hump and doooown to make a tail” while Aden practiced her lower case n’s.  At least, I think I pulled off happy, excited and encouraging.
  • Measured a can of soup, a toothbrush, a popsicle and the dog for a second grade math project. I hope I get an A.
  • Caught Cai sneaking chocolate, Ian sneaking a peanut butter cookie, Abby sneaking a later bedtime, and Daddy sneaking a potty break (the monster).

Time for Mommy to sneak a glass of wine.

Good night.

Thoughts on Gender

Jan 21 2009

Ah, the age-old question.

Do I teach my children the real names for their private parts or do I give them cutesy alternatives so they don’t embarrass me in public?

With a 10, 9, and 7 year old already in the house, this question was moot before it was raised.  No Thingys or Po-Pos or Tutus for us.  Nope.  We have good ol’ pensises and vaginas around here, and 2 year old Cai and Cael know it.

They know it, and they like to announce it.  Particularly when they perceive someone is headed for the bathroom.  That’s the perfect time to announce, at top volume, whether the person in question has a penis or a gina.  This also, apparently, happens during diaper changing time at daycare.  Yay for equipping socially-inept toddlers with correct anatomy terms!

In an attempt to stop embarrassing my long-suffering mother-in-law, I’ve been lately trying to link this fabulous anatomy lesson with the terms “boy” and “girl.”  My ultimate goal is that, rather than saying (in age-appropriate repetitive fashion), “Daddy penis!  Daddy penis!  Daddy penis!  Daddy penis…” and so on, into infinity, until someone (anyone, please!) confirms, “Yes, Daddy has a penis and he’s going potty…”  they will begin to equate “penis” with “boy” and say, “Daddy is a boy!”

See my thinking?

That in mind, here’s the conversation I had this evening with Cai and Cael after I finished my potty trip to choruses of “Mommy gina!  Mommy gina!”:

Me:  Yes, Cai and Cael, Mommy has a vagina.  Mommy is a girl.  People with vaginas are called girls.  Can you say, “Mommy is a girl?”

Cael:  Mommy girl.  Mommy girl.

Me, triumphant:  Yes, Cael!  Mommy is a girl!  Cai, can you say, “Mommy is a girl?”

Cai:  Daddy penis!

Me, trying to be friendly and supportive:  Yes, Cai, Daddy has a penis, so Daddy’s a boy.  You have a penis so you’re a boy.  Cael’s a boy.  Can you say, “boy?”

Ian, piping up helpfully from the next room:  I’m a boy!

Me:  Yes, Ian’s a boy, too.

Cael:  Ian penis!  Ian penis!  Ian penis!

Me, beginning to sigh:  Yes, Cael.  Ian has a penis, so Ian’s a boy.  Let’s all say “boy.”

Cael:  Daddy penis!

Cai, chiming in:  Daddy penis!

Me, resigned:  Yes, Cai and Cael, Daddy has a penis.  He’s a bo…

Cael and Cai, interupting joyfully:  Yay!  Yay!  [Insert jumping up and down in excitement.]  Yay, Daddy, penis!

At this point, something of significance occured to Cael because he stopped rejoicing with Cai about their father’s maleness.  Cael’s recently been understanding terms like “wait a minute,” “be right back,” and “later.”

After a moment of thought, Cael turned to me very seriously and said, “Mommy gina.”

Me: Yes, Cael, Mommy has a vagina.  Mommy’s a girl.

Cael nodded, came to a conclusion, took my hand sympathetically and said:  It’s OK, Mommy.  Maybe penis later.


Jan 21 2009

Perhaps you think the use of all caps is an exaggerated move in the title. Maybe you don’t appreciate being yelled at just by looking at a blog entry.


Allow me to explain.


My seven-year-old daughter, Aden, has lately asked us to call her by a new name.




This began in early December. Aden decided she would heretofore be known as Tiger and only as Tiger.


In principle, I’m not opposed to this. I supported Abby when she went through iterations of being called Rebecca, Hayley, and Gabi. I diligently worked at remembering my son Ian’s all-too-appropriate request to be called Crash.


The problem is that there are so many names around here, sometimes I can’t even remember my own. I’m forever calling out combinations like “Ca… Cay… Abb… whatever your name is!…” So I think I should get credit for every time I remember my children’s given and nicknames and get bonus point for all of their preferred, made-up names.


Tiger disagrees.


She has been frustrated in the extreme lately by her less-than-bright mother who can’t remember one simple instruction. “My name is Tiger.”


“Ca… Cay… Aden?”


“My name is Tiger.”


“OK. Tiger. I already asked you to put your coat away once. Please do it now.


15 minutes later…


“Aden! Your coat is still not put away.”




And she resorts to yelling it, red faced and frustrated beyond all measure. I think, in her book, we’re sort of even. I want her coat put away. She wants me to call her Tiger. If she gets a timeout for failing to remember the coat, then her mother should darn well be punished for her dementia, too.


Maybe she’s right.


I have to tell you, Tiger brings me great joy. She is 100% her own person, not to be swayed easily (or often at all) by others. I have no worries about peer pressure for her. She’ll be the ring leader or nothing at all!


Tiger just had a birthday. You’ll be relieved to know she received both things on her list. A Bible (finally! reference Christmas blog entry for why) and a tiger costume. She wears the tiger costume every minute of every day that I’ll let her. So far, school and church are out (although I did let her wear the ears, tail and bow tie — because tigers have bow ties… duh — with her dress on Sunday, which was good for a look or two), but all other time is fair game.


Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Or, as the kids call it (despite our conversations about the important contributions of Dr. King to our society), a No School Day. Tiger wore her costume ALL day. Of course.


Here’s Tiger as she usually looks… beautiful!




Now, here’s what I see approximately every 15 minutes when I’m home.


Tiger’s butt in my face asking me to clip her tail back on.  I should probably come up with a better tail solution.

Tiger’s butt in my face asking me to clip her tail back on. I should probably come up with a better tail solution.


Here’s an example of Tiger’s stubborn personality.


She lost one of her top front teeth over a month ago.  Since then, the remaining top front tooth (which has been very loose in its own right for more than a month) has migrated to dangling in the middle of her mouth giving her a troll-like, unitooth appearance.  Very attractive.  Will she pull it out, wiggle it or let anyone else near it?  Of course not!

She lost one of her top front teeth over a month ago. Since then, the remaining top front tooth (which has been very loose in its own right for more than a month) has migrated to dangling in the middle of her mouth giving her a troll-like, unitooth appearance. Very attractive. Will she pull it out, wiggle it or let anyone else near it? Of course not!

I caught Tiger yesterday, hiding in a corner by the pantry in the kitchen. She was clearly doing something she thought naughty, and she wouldn’t look at me or explain what was going on. I had my first clue when I saw a bandaid wrapper next to her. I didn’t know that I’m a bandaid-stingy mother, but apparently my kids feel they need to sneak them. When I finally physically turned her around, I had to leave the room for a moment for fear she misunderstand my maniacal laughter. I eventually returned to the kitchen and convinced her I’d let her keep the bandaid (with my new-found Stingy Bandaid Powers) if I could take her picture outside.


Yep, that’s the bandaid on her lip.  She bit her lip (on the inside), so clearly a bandaid was the only solution.

Yep, that’s the bandaid on her lip. She bit her lip (on the inside), so clearly a bandaid was the only solution.


If there’s one thing I’ve learned while parenting, though, it’s not to underestimate my children.  Tiger might be onto something.  After all, it was William Shakespeare who said, “Oh tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide.”


She’s just living the dream.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Dec 20 2008

I love Christmas time.

I don’t want to.  I want to be skeptical and cynical and hate the commercialism.  I’d like to whine and complain about Christmas decor that’s on the shelves before Halloween.  I want to rail against the materialism of a holiday that should be about a Savior and instead becomes all about me, me, me.

But I just can’t bring myself to do it.

I love Christmas.

I wish I could say that it’s all about the Reason for the Season and talk about putting the Christ back in Christmas.  But I have to admit, I’d like Christmas even without Jesus.  Xmas is the holiday for me.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Jesus is important to me, and I care very much about his birth.  I’m happy to converse about who I think Jesus was and is and why I choose to associate myself with him.  But we can get into a long discourse about the pros and cons of Christ, the church, and spirituality another time.

Bring on the Nog!  It’s time to hunker down with family and friends, bite into that peppermint fudge and get wrapping-paper cuts.  ‘Tis the season to bundle the kids in ill-planned and less-than-water-proof snow gear and send them outside to catch colds.  This is my chance to get Super Mom cred for topping the hot cocoa with whipped cream and red sprinkles.  And it’s time to choose which child I like best this year.

Wait.  WHAT?

Mothers like all their kids the same.  Just like teachers.  Right?

Yeah, right!

I do love all my children the same.  I’d throw myself in front of a speeding train to save each and every one.  I was able to forgive my own mother any manner of perceived slights from my teenage years once I realized that there’s hardly anything you can’t forgive someone who would literally give her life for you.

But I just don’t like all of my children equally every single moment.

The good news is that when any one child is in my good graces for very long, he or she will generously move on to a less appealing phase and give the sibs a chance to worm their way back in.  It’s a constant state of flux, and I guarantee you that the child who’s pulling my heart strings this year will make me want to beat my head against a brick wall next year.

Here’s a chart to show what I mean.


Assuming that 1 is the baseline of likeability, as in generally likeable (as you’ll notice each of my children were in the years we received them), you can see their rise and fall over time.  Given the fact that I do love them all, none fall into a dislike category, so to speak.  They simply move back to that baseline of general likeability.  How’s that for trying to cover my behind?

So back to choosing which child I like best this year.  This isn’t really an annual tradition.  It more develops over time.  For example, I’ll notice that one of my daughters is deciding to use her nice and helpful words more and is hugging people in wheelchairs at the grocery store.  (No joke; this really happened.)   On the other hand, my other daughter is a pre-teen with all of the accompanying histrionics.  I love them both.  Would throw myself in front of the proverbial train for either.  And am working diligently on reining in the urge to roll my eyes wheneveralways the latter must shed tears over Every. Single. Thing.

But at this most wonderful time of the year when my tree is decorated Martha Stewart style with hand-cut paper snowflakes, mangled aluminum foil ornaments and candy-cane shaped pipe cleaners, I look to the Christmas lists for clues about which child may be on an upswing and which, well, not so much.  Sadly, since Cai and Cael are only 2, they really don’t have a clue about Christmas lists, so I’m leaving them out of this part.  We’ll let the twos speak for themselves.

Here are the lists for the older 3 children…


  1. Laptop
  2. Cell Phone
  3. iPod
  4. for everyone to have a good Christmas
  5. even the orphans

(I’m not making this up.)


  1. Pokemon Wii Game


  1. A Blanket
  2. A Bible

(Seriously, I’m not kidding.)

Abby starts out a little selfish and slow, but she finishes nice and strong with a solid swing toward the orphans.  Ian’s got a mediocre pitch on the Wii game; nothing really for or against in this move, he remains steady.  Aden’s got the winner, though.  All the poor kid wants is a freaking blanket and a story about God.  Sheesh!  How can you compete with that?

Sorry, kids.  I’m afraid it might be Aden’s year.

Wishing you a Christmas as full of beautiful chaos as mine will be,


My Kid Punched Another Kid in the Nuts

Dec 11 2008

I’m so proud.

Two days ago, we got a note from my son’s teacher that he was peeping under stalls in the bathroom.  Ew.

Then yesterday, the same kid punched another kid in the nuts at school.

This is one of my kids with expressive language disorder, so, although we chatted about it last night, I don’t have all the details yet.  One of the following two possible scenarios is likely:

  1. He teamed up with another second grader to fight off a fourth grade bully picking on one of their second grade friends, or
  2. He teamed up with the fourth grade bully against the helpless, defenseless second grader.

If 1 is the case, I’m going to credit him with time served (loss of all recesses for a day, a chat with the principal, and a letter of apology).  And I’ll give him a cookie in my head.  I can’t give him a real cookie because that would send the wrong message.  But I’d want to.

If 2 is the case, I’m going to pre-emptively call child protective services on myself so I don’t harm my own child while trying to teach him not to harm others.  (You know – like those parents who yell “we do not hit!” while spanking their children to teach them not to hit.  Super effective, that.)

Decorating Tips

Oct 27 2008

My kitchen is Tuscan yellow.  A cheerful but soft shade that compliments the white cabinets, enormous farm table, and terracota counters.

My five children romp and frolick in this idyllic location, playing kindly with each other, offering to help with chores, and always remembering to wipe their feet on the mat.

Only one thing mars this picture.  An off-pink plastic tub that has lived on my counter for two years this Friday.

The tub was given to us at the neonatal intensive care unit when Cai and Cael were born in 2006.  In fact, we arrived home with three of them and found them the perfect size and shape for stashing temporary baby-paraphernalia around the house.  Need a tub o’ baby medications?  Find the tub.  Quick-access diapers and wipes?  Another tub.

Over the past two years, we’ve managed to consolidate the tubs and eliminate two.  All that remains is the tub that sits next to the kitchen sink and holds toddler cups and their accompanying lids and valves.  Anyone who’s had toddlers, particularly two at a time (which we have… twice), understands the unique organizing dilemma posed by toddler beverage containers.

Out of room in the cupboards we specifically designed to reach all the way up to our 9-foot ceilings, and under toddler-induced pressure to provide beverages on demand, we opted for a temporary tub-dumping solution.  Remove cup parts from dishwasher, dump in tub.  Pull parts from tub, serve juice.

Easy system.  Excellent thinking.  Ugly tub.

If anyone had told me two years ago that pink plastic tubs would become a permanent part of my home decor… well, I wouldn’t have cared, but that’s just because I was overwhelmed with two newborns and three older children.  But eventually I would’ve cared.

Most of the time, I forget to notice the cup tub.  It begins to blend with the rest of my kitchen.  Every once in a while, though, I see it again.  And as I looked at the pink tub again tonight, I was grateful for it.

Two years ago on Friday, we brought Cael home from the hospital.  Six weeks premature but with a clean bill of health.  Cai followed just a few days later, and our at-home odyssey with five children began.  Some of our moments are ugly.  And some are beautiful.

This is probably as good a time as any to admit that my Tuscan yellow walls when splattered with Cael’s chocolate milk look a little like what you’d find in the bottom of the upstairs toilets I rarely scrub.  My white cabinets are still white under sticky fingerprints.  And my terracota countertops are laminate that’s just barely beginning to bubble and peel around the sink.

My children don’t always play nicely, or offer to help.  And I don’t even have a mat for shoe-wiping, so I’ve proactively pre-empted their need to wipe their feet.

But sometimes they do.  Sometimes they stop at the back door and remove their muddy shoes just because they thought it would be a nice thing to do.  Sometimes my daughters clean the laundry room without being asked.  Sometimes my children romp and frolic and share.  Sometimes my countertops are clean and my toilets are scrubbed.  And often we tell each other we love each other and share our good, bad, pretty and ugly moments at the giant farm table.

And I appreciate those moments more because of the ugly pink tub and the chocolate milk spots.

Don’t tell my kids.

Pocketing Peach Pits

Jul 22 2008

As a mother, there are gross things that are simply part of the job description.  Pocketing peach pits is apparently one of them.

I took Abby, my almost-10 year old, to the video store yesterday.  She ate a peach in the car.  Reference “Excrement and Other Things My Car Smells Like” for the reason I didn’t let her leave the pit to rot somewhere in the car’s nether regions after we arrived at the store.

Side Note: Car’s nether regions sounds a little nasty.  Sorry about that.

Sure, a garbage bag would be a lovely addition to the car.  However, after the last vehicle-cleansing session, I just haven’t managed to get another bag out there.

I told Abby she could just throw her peach pit away at the video store.  It seemed like a reasonable solution until we searched the store (in and out) and couldn’t find a single trash receptacle.  By this time, Abby is reasonably less than thrilled.  First, she picks a healthy snack.  Next, she makes an attempt to take care of her own garbage appropriately.  Finally, she’s stuck carrying a slimy, gooey peach stone all over the store.

Although I’ve said to my kids repeatedly, “Mommy is not a garbage can” when they attempt to hand me everything from candy wrappers to used Kleenex, I was starting to feel genuinely sorry for Abby.  She’d done everything right and was getting no breaks.  Not to mention that this trip to the video store was to choose a movie for Family Movie Night as a way to thank her for cleaning the entire laundry room with her friend unasked.  We’ve had many conversations along the lines of “if you save Mommy time on chores, then I’m free to do more fun things with you.”  It was time for me to put up or shut up.

So I opened my pocket and told her to toss it on in.  She did, and we moved on with our day.

Of course, you know what happened a few hours later.  On a warm, summer day.  After the goo left on the outside of the peach started to really rot.

I forgot it was there.  And I stuck my hand in my pocket.


This isn’t the grossest thing I’ve ever done as a parent.  And I’m sure it won’t even register on the grossest things I’ve had to do this year list come December.  But it is the most recent.

I’ve decided not to issue a complete list.  Mostly because I think there should be a rule that there will be no more than 2 posts in a row about poo.  So, excluding those more graphic stories, here are some of the gross highlights:

1. On an airplane… at the beginning of the descent immediately after the Fasten Your Seatbelts sign was illuminated… “Mommy, I have to go pee.  It hurts!  I can’t wait…” sliding a barf bag (aka, airplane seat protector) and my only sweatshirt under my three-year-old and then discreetly pulling down her pants so she could pee on my clothes.  That was fun to wrap back around myself to deplane.

2. Finding out that projectile vomit actually projects.  Across a full stairwell and into my hair.  After I fed her red Kool-Aid.

3. Yelling at my husband while riding next to a carsick child, “She’s going to puke! Get a bag.  Get a bag.  Getabaggetabagetabag!”  And catching it in my hands.

4. Diaper pails.  Diaper genies.  I don’t care how magical they try to make them sound.  They all hold dirty diapers, and it’s just not pretty.  Ever.

5. Holding my son’s eyebrow closed after his sister split it open for him by pushing to get into the van first.  (Probably because our minivan is such an exciting place to be.)  Turns out, the edge of the door is quite sharp.  And resulting cuts that reach through muscle into bone bleed.  A lot.

Well, my fabulous brother and wonderful sister-in-law are at the hospital about to have their first baby.  In fact, I’m typing from their room.  Not to be too mushy, but I really couldn’t be more thrilled for them.  I cannot wait for this baby to arrive.

She’ll be as gross as my children, and she’ll give her parents as many opportunities to touch things that are wet and don’t belong to them.

But I know… know, deep in my heart… how wonderful and precious these little ones are.  When chubby little arms are wrapped around your neck, when sweet baby voices say “wuv you,” when big kids do something profoundly kind and helpful and clean up the entire laundry room… these are the moments I wish for them.  Knowing the gross bits are a very, very small price to pay for the privilege.