Monday, December 27, 2010

A Post-Christmas Pick-You-Up

For those of you who might be suffering through interminable terminal delays, I offer you this bit of humor:


h/t to Peter over at bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas



This is the reason why we celebrate Christmas.

You can find the lyrics (verses 7, 5 and 2 are sung in this version, and in that order) here:
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/NonEnglish/veni_veni_emanuel.htm


h /t to Peter at bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com

Weepeet da sownding joy....

The munchkins are all tucked in their beds, ostensibly sleeping on this Christmas Eve eve.

Large Fry has moved beyond the need to have music playing to help lull her to sleep, but the twin Fries still like the comfort of the classical station playing in the background.  Since we live in nowheresville and don't even have our own radio stations, the classical station we get is out of Maryland.  Which actually has nothing to do with the story, really, except that I am enough of a writer to not want to have so many one-sentence paragraphs.

Innyhoo.

This being Christmastime, the classical station is playing sacred (and often choral) Christmas music.  The Fries growing up in our rather musically-inclined home, and especially now with the twin Fries being old enough for Junior Church on Sunday mornings, they've heard a lot of Christmas carols this year.

And because the twin Fries share a room, they're prone to talking instead of sleeping.  Really prone to talking instead of sleeping, and often end up giggling and shushing each other and Unca D has to shout upstairs at least a couple of times each night, to get them to settle down.  (Occasionally, Unca D must also go upstairs and lay down the law.)  Thus, we have an intercom monitor locked on transmit in their room, so we can tell when they're being little goobers and not sleeping, and respond accordingly.  Because, cute though they are, they are little bears when they don't get enough sleep.

Tonight was no different.  Hubby decided he was hungry for Friday's, and they let you phone in orders for pick-up here, so that's what we did for dinner after the Fries were tucked in bed.  So we're sitting here, eating our yummy Friday's dinner, when we hear something in the monitor.

Singing, to be precise.

Tonight's musical selection on our classical station included Joy to the World, and both Fries were singing along.  During the few measures between verses, Medium Fry observed, "Unca D sang dis sowng in chuwrch!"

It's quiet for another few measures, and then the choir sings the chorus again.

And Small Fry belts out, "Weepeet da sownding joy!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My father's advice

Amazing home remedies that really work!

1. TO AVOID CUTTING YOURSELF WHEN SLICING VEGETABLES, GET SOMEONE ELSE TO HOLD THE VEGETABLES WHILE YOU CHOP.*
 2. TO AVOID ARGUMENTS WITH THE FEMALES ABOUT LIFTING THE TOILET SEAT - USE THE SINK.**
 3. FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE SUFFERERS ~ SIMPLY CUT YOURSELF AND BLEED FOR A FEW MINUTES, THUS REDUCING THE PRESSURE ON YOUR VEINS. [REMEMBER TO USE A TIMER.]
4. A MOUSE TRAP PLACED ON TOP OF YOUR ALARM CLOCK WILL PREVENT YOU FROM ROLLING OVER AND GOING BACK TO SLEEP AFTER YOU HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON.
5. IF YOU HAVE A BAD COUGH, TAKE A LARGE DOSE OF LAXATIVES - YOU'LL BE AFRAID TO COUGH.***
6. YOU ONLY NEED TWO TOOLS IN LIFE: WD-40 AND DUCT TAPE.  IF IT DOESN'T MOVE AND SHOULD, USE THE WD-40.  IF IT SHOULDN'T MOVE AND DOES, USE THE DUCT TAPE.
7. IF YOU CAN'T FIX IT WITH A HAMMER, YOU'VE GOT AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM.

Thanks, Dad.  Don't know what I'd do without your help.


*My mother just did this on Sunday.  Right after explaining to the Fries that Unca D lost the tip of his left index finger in a factory accident because he "wasn't careful."  With a serrated knife.  To cut a banana, of all things.  Five stitches, folks.

**Dad's helpful advice for Hubby in particular.

***I've got a nasty sinus infection going on right now, that's settled in my chest and giving me a nice hacking cough. 

Geez. I'm now giving parenting advice?

This just feels so weird.

My second-cousin's wife has been having a rough couple of weeks.  They've got two little kids (2 years and 2 months), and between normal life, holiday crazies, and illness, she was about at the end of her rope.

We chatted for a little while tonight, and I think just having another mom's ear to bend, one who admits her own frustrations and occasional desires to cheerfully give away her kids, was a good thing for her.

It's almost astonishing that I've been a mom longer than she has.  I didn't realize that until after we stopped talking.


I remember asking my best friend once, about six months after the girls moved in, if wanting to sell my very cute, very much loved children to the nearest gypsy troupe meant that I was a bad mom.  "No," she laughed.  "It means you're human!"

I think, in a lot of ways, moms get the short end of the stick.  There are so many stereotypes about how perfect we're supposed to be, and how we're supposed to love our children and never be upset and always have a perfect house and...well, I could go on.  Reality is, however, far different from all that.  (Unless you're Martha Stewart.  Which I'm not.  Thank God.)

My downstairs looks like a toy-volcano erupted half the time.  The other half, it looks like the toybox threw up.  The throw blankets are almost never put away.  What the kids don't scatter, the cats do.  I'm lucky if the laundry gets folded, much less put away.

Little kids do not make for a well-ordered house.

Or a well-ordered life, for that matter.

And when your children are sick, you want to take care of them--but you also want them to behave like quiet little sick kids, rather than screaming banshees or, like my kids, being clingy and whiny and needing you constantly and you start running out of lap AND sanity.  I want to be a good mom.  I want to want to take care of them.  Sometimes, I don't.

And when you, as mom, are sick too?  Oh, man, that's a recipe for disaster, and the Doubt Gremlins start talking to you in force.  (Doubt Gremlins are close cousins of Worry Gremlins, whose primary purpose is to drive parents crazy with unrealistic but horrifying worries over their kids.)  You're a bad mom, because they're sick and still driving you crazy.  You're a bad mom for admitting that.  You're a bad mom for wanting thirty seconds of peace.  You're a bad mom just because!

Hogwash.  And, if we were in our right minds and not our own worst enemies, we'd know that.

But we're not in our right minds.  We're moms, and that has forever warped the connections for logic (few to begin with, in my case) that we had in our brains before we had kids.  We worry constantly that we're not good enough at this job, that we're irreparably harming our kids somehow and we don't even know it.  Our worries about what kind of moms we are run almost as deep as our love for our kids.

I can say all this right now, because I'm not having a crisis of mom-conscience.  I'm sick, but the kids aren't, and Hubby is home to take care of them while I rest.

But I've had them.  A LOT.

Sleep and chocolate seem to help me.  That, and the reassurance of my husband that I'm doing a good job.

I suppose we'll never really know what kind of parents we are until our kids are grown.

In the meantime, I'll have to trust that I'm doing the best job I can, and that how much we love our kids shows in the way that they come up to us and tell us, all by themselves, that they love us.

And take a page from comedian Jeff Allen's playbook, and have my kids write out their grievances and the date, and I'll initial it.  And then, when they need therapy because of how bad a parent I was, we can breeze through it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We are in SO much trouble....

Last night, as Hubby was getting the twin Fries ready for bed after Wednesday night church, Medium Fry complained about an owie on her leg.

There was a nice, long, red scratch on her left calf.

"How did that happen?"  Hubby asked

"I took a scissor and did dat."

"You used scissors?"

"Yes.  I took a scissor and skwatched myself."

"Where did you get scissors?"

"From de owrange dwrawer."

Orange drawer?  We have lots of drawers in this house, but none of them are orange.

"From what drawer?"

"De owrange dwrawer.  Da little one.  I got da wred ones."

"The red scissors?" I asked, jumping in.  Those have been missing about a week, and Hubby has sorta blamed me for losing them, since (we thought) I was the last one to have used them.

"Yes."

"You're not allowed to use scissors by yourself!" I scolded her.

"Where did you get them?" Hubby asked.

"Fwrom da dwrawer!"

"Which one?"

"I'll show you."  Medium turned, wearing only her nighttime Pull-Up, to go show which drawer.

"Get your jammies on first.  Then you can show me."

Medium pulled on the rest of her clothes.

"Now you can show me."

"In hewre."  She ambled into the kitchen and went straight for the junk drawer by the fridge, where those red-handled scissors are normally kept.  You know, the drawer that has the childproof latch on it.

She pulled open the drawer until the latch stopped it.

"How did you get them out?" Hubby asked.

"I pushed dis down and den pulled da dwrawer out."  Medium demonstrated as she talked.

Yep, we are in biiiiiiiiiiiiig trouble here.

Genetics

About three weeks or so after Bro had moved back to PA, waaaaay back when the girls were still with us "temporarily," we had this huge blowout fight.  He made some decisions about how far to extend the guardianship power of attorney that he gave us, and didn't bother to consult us, and we were pretty upset.   When Hubby had finally settled down enough (Hubby, not me), he explained to Bro that he'd hurt me and he'd insulted me, and he'd better call me to apologize for his behavior before he expected to set foot in our house again.  And he was never again to deal with detailed matters like this with me; he was to talk with Hubby only.

I forget the precise reason I called him (it might have been about the paperwork to get Large Fry evaluated for speech therapy), but I called him.  Hubby was out with the youth group kids at a nearby state park, having a summer beach afternoon/evening and bonfire and stuff, and I was home with the Fries.  I should not have called him when I was alone, in retrospect.  Innyhoo.  I called him.  I was about to end the very-shortlived (until that point) conversation, when he said, "Listen...um...."

And like the polite sibling I was raised to be, I listened.  To an apology that wasn't an apology, followed by his list of reasons why I was mad and why he understood that I was mad.

Only one problem.  His reasons weren't my reasons for being angry.  So (stupidly) I tried to explain that, no, he was wrong, and continued with why I was mad.  He interrupted me, informed me that I was incorrect in my reasons for being angry, re-explained "my" reasons for being upset, and then asked me to stop interrupting him when I tried to correct his erroneous assumptions again.  And that's when he suddenly remembered promising Hubby that he wouldn't talk with me about these things...and he refused to let me even finish a thought, much less offer my side of my own emotions.  I hung up on him.  (For the record, he never did acknowledge that he was wrong, and that I knew my own mind.)


Innyhoo...I told you that story to tell you this one:

Medium has been eating very slowly tonight.  As I got up to put my empty plate in the sink, she cheerily said, "I'm so pwoud of yew, Auntie J!  You finished awl youwr food!"

"I'm not too proud of you right now," I commented, looking at her mostly-full plate.

"Awre yew angwee?"

"A little bit.  You're not eating."

"You awre angwee because you'wre not pwoud of me.  You awre angwee because I didn't finish..."  She kept rambling while I came out to the living room, where Hubby was sitting and watching Tinkerbell with the sickies.  "Your turn," I said.

He went into the kitchen as Medium continued to prattle about precisly why I was upset.

"Well, at least it's genetic," Hubby commented with a grin.

"What is?"

"Her telling you why you're mad."

*facepalm*

Medium has gone to the potty in the middle of dinner.  It's just her and me at the table.  Well, me, at the moment.  And that's when I hear a distinctive plop after the water has shut off.

Me: What are you doing?

Medium: Washing my hands!

Me [suspiciously]:  Did you pull up the stopper in the sink?

Medium [audibly pushes stopper down]: No! [water gurgles down drain]

Me: Then why did I just hear the soap go plink into the water?  [pause; water starts running again]  Turn off the water!


Golly.

Why is it...

...that, when the kids are sick, only Auntie J will do?

I am apparently the only one able to get juice, more Cheerios, and offer comfort.

Which wouldn't be so bad, if I hadn't taken a nap this afternoon at the same time the kids did, during which I had the most bizarre dream I've had in months.  Bizarre, and very disturbing.

I suppose it's a nice thing, preferring me to Unca D, who is also here, but it's also a little frustrating that the kids are demanding things of me, rather than asking him for everything under the sun, too.

All part of motherhood, I suppose.  I remember wanting my mom when I was sick, and my dad when I was scared.

I'm just hopeful that Medium doesn't get this (foolish hope, I'm sure, but I can dream, can't I?), and thankful that Large seems to be feeling a little better.  Small is just laying on the couch.  Poor things.  Viral bugs just aren't fun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Tis the season to be greeeeeedy....

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from my best friend, about her oldest son, who's six.  It was another of those fine moments in raising children:
I was doing my Bible story with Buddy at bedtime the other day and took a little different tack with it.  I talked to him about Christmas prophecies, quoting some of them, explaining them, and telling him how the Israelites learned them and waited for hundreds of years for the Messiah to come to fulfill them.  I explained that they were looking for the wrong things and misunderstood the prophets, and that when Jesus actually came and was in their midst, they completely missed him!
I then tried to make it applicable to us on a kid level, explaining to Buddy that people in our day and age get carried away with all the Christmas festivities, decorating, presents, and the like, and that we're so focused on what we think of as Christmas that we miss the true meaning of it and forget all about Baby Jesus.  I emphasized that we need to remember Jesus is the reason for the season and not to push him aside or forget about him.
Buddy listened quietly, taking it all in and then very somberly said, "Mommy, I hate to tell  you, but when we open our toys, I'm gonna forget all about Jesus."
I grinned and told him that was okay, Jesus wouldn't mind that, and that's why we'd tell the Christmas story before we opened our gifts.
I'm pretty sure I relieved him of his guilt at that moment, but I think that comment will go down in the annals of our family history.

We have yet to have a conversation like that one.  I'm sure it's coming, though.

One thing we have done this year is try to emphasize that we have lots, and there are little boys and girls who don't have very much in this world.  So I took Large Fry shopping with me at Five Below, and we picked out things for two shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  And yesterday, Hubby and the twin Fries went through the toy room, and picked out a bunch of toys that they don't really need or want anymore, to donate to the work and witness team from our church that's going to Nicaragua just after Christmas.  Nearly every fast-food kids'-meal toy they've gotten in the last year or so went into a bag to be donated.

We are so proud of them.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tantrums

Medium Fry has been sent to the corner for throwing a tantrum.


Medium Fry [wailing through tears]: I'm snoring!

Hubby: Well, stop crying.

Medium: I have boogers in dewre!  Get out, boogers, get out!

Me: [trying not to laugh]

Medium: Unca D, I have boogers on my fingewr.

Hubby [to me]: Are you writing all this down?

Hubby [to Medium]: Then get a tissue.

Medium: I'm done cwying.

Hubby: Good.

Medium: Small Fwy is in da cwate.

Hubby: So?

Medium: I wanna be in da cwate!  I wanted fiwrst!

Hubby:  Well, you threw a tantrum, so you had to go stand in the corner.  You kicked your legs and screamed and fussed.  That's a tantrum.  You're not allowed to have tantrums in this house.

Medium: I've lost my ducks!

Me:  They're right there, on top of the dishwasher.

Medium:  I don't want dem!  [pause]  Dey don't like me, 'cause dey say I'm MEAN!

Me:  Oh, really?

Sometimes, there's just no winning.  :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All I Want For Christmas

Hubby has been out errand-running with a Fry along in the last week or so.

Several days ago, it was he and Large Fry, who got to go along since she was the only one awake after school, when Hubby went.  As they wandered around, Hubby asked, "What does Auntie J want for Christmas?"

Large Fry immediately pointed out a bright pink lamp, emblazoned with the word "Diva" on the shade.  And then a pink blanket.  And nearly every other pink bling-thing that caught her eye.

Hubby chuckled.  "You like pink.  Auntie J likes blues and greens."

Undeterred, Large Fry pointed out a blue crate.

Hubby didn't think that would go over well.

Tonight, since my ankle (along with a few other locations) was griping at me, I asked Hubby to go fill my pain meds prescription.  (One of the delights of being on an anticoagulant is that the strongest OTC pain med I can take is Tylenol, which doesn't do much for joint aches.  So I have good drugs.)  Small Fry came unglued at the thought of being left behind on such an important errand.  Hubby opted to grab dinner while out, and caved in to the little arms wrapped around his neck and whimpered pleas to go along, and he and Small Fry headed out into the cold.

Meanwhile, I rode herd on the other two here at home, repeatedly telling them that, NO, they could not chase each other around, that there was NO running in the house, and that they had to get OUT of the corner by the shelf that held my manger scene (ceramic, made by my mother, and inherited from her mother).

Hubby and Small Fry arrived home over an hour later--it had taken half an hour for the prescription to be filled, Hubby said--with dinner from KFC.

Small Fry handed me my prescription.

"Did you know," Hubby asked, "that you want a snowman cake pan for Christmas?  And a coffeemaker?"

"Oh, really?"  My "coffee" comes in little cans and bottles that say Dr Pepper on the sides.

"She also thinks you want a blender.  I said to her, 'I'm not buying my wife an appliance for Christmas,' and the lady near us in the aisle just chuckled and nodded."

This conversation could not possibly go further without Medium's involvement.  "I want twucks for Chwimmis!" she shouted.

Small Fry said, "I want cawrs for Chwimmis!"

Large Fry wants girly stuff, like dolls and My Little Ponies, and dress-up clothes.

Apparently, though, I need to come up with a better list, or I'm going to get pink lamps, pink bling, a snowman cake pan, and a coffeemaker.

Today's Lesson

Welcome, boys and girls.

Today's lesson is on consequences.

Consequences are best described as the results of one's actions.

If you're running too fast and trip over your own two feet, a consequence of that choice might be a bloody nose.

If you throw your corn on the floor rather than eat it, a consequence of that choice might be picking up your corn, one kernel at a time, and taking it to the trash can...until all the corn has been picked up off the floor.  One kernel at a time.

And today, if you're Large Fry, you learn that a consequence is not a punishment...but it sure feels like it.

Hubby discovered, why Large was at school, that the white plastic shelves in the toy room had been written on.

Not just drawn on...written on.  With letters.

Which (for now) clearly revealed the guilty party:  Large Fry.

The twin Fries can't write letters yet.

And when Large Fry got home from school, Hubby showed her his discovery.  "What is this?"

Large Fry mumbled a response.

"Yes, someone drew on the shelves.  Do you know who did it?"

Immediately, Large Fry pinned the blame on her younger siblings.

"Large Fry, we're going to have a talk about lying."

This caused her to change her tune, and she 'fessed up.

Thus, she discovered the consequence to writing on the shelves: having to wash it all off.  By hand.

Much whimpering, whining, crying, and wailing commenced.  It took her 45 minutes to get the shelves (which do have some texturing, making it hard to get all the crayon out of those grooves) clean enough to pass Unca D's inspection.

But I don't think she'll be writing on the shelves any time soon.

So, what have we learned today?

"Not to write on the shelves."

And what happens again if you do?

Punishment plus cleaning off the shelves?  Oh, yes.

That's all.  Class dismissed.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Humbug

With our peculiar parenthood situation, we often run into issues that most parents, well, don't.

Often, the issues involve the girls' biological parents.

Case in point, the girls' biological mother, emailing us and telling us she's shipped "really big" presents for the twin Fries' 4th birthday, along with something for Large Fry, without clearing that "really big" presents are okay (our house is old, small, and we just don't have a lot of room for "really big" stuff), or that it's okay to send a present to Large Fry (when we'd decided that, since Large is now five, she  understands it's not her birthday and that's why she isn't getting presents).  Incidentally, we're still waiting for those "really big" gifts to show up.  And since SIL is over in Afghanistan, we're expecting the usual lots-of-talk that amounts to almost-zero-action.

Today's issue involves my brother.  And, really, it's not just today's issue.  This has been ongoing for the last couple of months.

Somewhere around September, Bro pulled Hubby aside during a routine visitation to ask when the girls could possibly meet his new girlfriend and her kids.  Hubby agreed, provided that the meeting took place in an environment familiar and comfortable to the girls (ie, our house or Gramma & Boppa's), and that we weren't introducing her as Daddy's girlfriend.  Both Bro and his GF took exception to her not being labeled as the girlfriend, but our reasoning was that we didn't want to make that introduction, in the (rather likely) event that the relationship crumbled and they split.  It would protect the girls.  And besides, Bro's divorce still was not final, and while he sees nothing wrong with having a girlfriend while still married, we disagree with his choice, and we don't want that actively modeled in front of the girls.  We offered to compromise by introducing GF as "Daddy's special friend," and seeing if my parents would host a meeting time on Bro's birthday weekend in October (our home is NOT an option), but apparently, that wasn't good enough.  GF was mad, and said no way was she going to meet us now and so nothing happened.

We let it go.  If she was mad, there wasn't much we could do about it.  Since it wasn't an issue, for the moment, there was no need to dwell on it.  With the holidays approaching, we decided that a meeting was now not going to happen until after we'd gotten through the holidays, especially with the changes in my mother-in-law's health.

That lasted about a month.  Bro once again pulled Hubby aside during a visitation early in November, saying that GF really needed to meet the Fries before the end of the year.  "Why?" Hubby asked.  Stubbornly, Bro said, "Because it needs to happen before then."  Hubby held to our earlier decision.  A meeting could not happen until after the holidays.

Bro was insistent.  Hubby pressed more, and Bro confided that he had "a question" to ask GF, and she needed to meet the girls before then.  Plus, he'd already put down money on a ring.

Sigh.  This is very typical behavior for Bro.  He'll make a decision that affects all of us, and then expects us to just go along with his last-minute plans...because the Fries are his children, after all.  Well, according to the court, they're our children as well, and since we are the ones tasked with raising them, we really dislike him throwing biology at us as a good reason for him to disrupt our lives.  Hubby tried to explain that our first and last thoughts, every day, are what is best for the girls.  That's not something that Bro has to consider.  Bro was unhappy, but Hubby stuck to his guns.

The issue was tabled until the next visitation, which happened to be at my parents' home, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I stayed downstairs and worked, trying to get ready for a very shortened payroll week, until lunchtime.  When I came upstairs after Mom called down that lunch was ready, Bro and Hubby were discussing it again.  Hubby was insistent.  This meeting was not going to happen until after the new year.  Bro said he didn't see why not.  Hubby explained--again--that the holidays are extremely busy, and it's a stressful time of year for the girls, and we felt it was best to wait until things settled down before introducing Daddy's new girlfriend.  (Not to mention, his divorce wast still not final.)  Again, Hubby said, the girls are our first priority.  Bro is waaaay on a back burner.  He didn't know what that meant, so Hubby elaborated and said that Bro's life is not a priority of ours.  The debate continued until we were finally able to herd Bro out the door, still grousing about the fact that we wouldn't do this.  He even went so far as to say, "If you're not going to give me this, then don't get me anything for Christmas."

We didn't budge.

We also suspected that part of the reason why he was pushing this so much was because GF had already told him that she wouldn't say "yes" unless she'd met the Fries first.  Not to mention the fact that we could see the writing on the wall about this relationship, and, due to other circumstances that we'd been made aware of, we could see how both Bro and GF were really using each other in this relationship.  (Not a good foundation for a marriage, that.)

Hubby started having second thoughts about our decision last week, which led to him having a conversation with my mother that almost indicated that he planned to reverse his decision, which led to me getting upset, and that led to Medium Fry scolding me as my emotions boiled over: "Auntie J, you be nice to my Unca D!"  (Being chastised by my four-year-old would have been amusing if I wasn't so frustrated.)  The big issue with Bro's requests (for just about anything, really) is that he will take about a zillion miles if you give him an inch.  And this was part of my problem with the thought of changing our minds.  If we said yes to a brief meeting, he would milk it for all he could get, to the point of badgering us relentlessly until we gave him what he wanted.  Plus, I told Hubby, I was really tired of him expecting us to up-end our lives just because he'd made some decision that affected our entire family, not just the kids (as Bro seemed to think), without consulting us, and expecting us to cheerfully let him run our lives.

Hubby ultimately decided to talk with the associate pastor at our church, who is leading the weekly men's discipleship group that Hubby is involved in.  As it turned out, it was just Hubby and Pastor J that night, and they discussed the situation at length.  Hubby came home and told me that he was not going to change his mind about a holiday-time meeting with Bro and his GF.  Our decision would stand.  (My mother heartily approved.)

We'd planned to spend Christmas with my mom and dad, since we had spent Thanksgiving with Hubby's mom and family, and we knew that Mom was planning to invite Bro for Christmas dinner.  Problem: we really didn't want to spend a big part of Christmas with Bro.  With Christmas being on a Saturday, and Hubby's worship team leading on Sunday, the 26th, we were running into scheduling conflicts.  We did not want to have Bro around to watch us open our gifts, and we couldn't figure out how to make that happen without sacrificing our Christmas morning at home, as we usually do, before going out to Mom & Dad's for dinner and more presents.

My mother called this afternoon, saying that she'd sent a text message to Bro, asking if he planned to spend any part of Christmas with them. He sent a text back, saying he'd like to bring GF and her kids to dinner at Mom & Dad's.

Like a 13-year-old not getting the answer he wants from one parent and going to the other, my brother went and tried an end run around our decision by going to Mom and getting her permission to have GF & kids along for the ride.

Mom sent a text back that she would have to consult with us.  Which, Hubby thought, Mom shouldn't have done, because his request technically didn't involve us.

I really think, since he'd couched it as a request, she could have delayed sending her text, talked with us, and then sent him back a simple text: No, GF was not invited to this event.

This puts us in an entirely unwinnable position: our collective choices now either "prove" how evil my parents are, or how evil we are, or force us to do what Bro wants.  Regardless, he gets something he wants no matter what we do.

Mom told Hubby that she'd already told Dad that they would be going wherever their granddaughters are for Christmas, if we were unable to go to their home.

It makes going back to the in-laws look preferable to staying here in the area.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Curses! Foiled again!

There are rules for your kids that you create for the sake of your own sanity.

We have a few of them.

One of the biggest ones is: No singing at the table!

When there's singing at the table, there is not eating.  Where there is not eating, there's an unhappy Unca D and Auntie J.

This has now come back to bite me in the rear.  I can sing at the table, without ignoring my food.

And it's Christmastime.  Christmas music is some of the best stuff there is.  I love it!  I sing along!  I can't help it!  I burned a couple of mixed-music cds to play in the house!

Naturally, I had one of these playing on Monday, during the twin Fries' birthday lunch.

One of the selections on that cd was from a 1990 contemporary version of Handel's Young Messiah, "For Unto Us a Child is Born."  It's lively.  It's peppy.  It's just fun!  It shows Handel's great celebration of the birth of the King of Kings.  I've sung versions of the Messiah on several occasions.  I know the parts.  It makes singing along irresistible....

And that's what was playing as I sat down at the table for lunch.

And, of course, I was singing.  Out loud.

Hubby gave me a stern look.  "No singing at the table, Auntie J," he said.

Crap!  My own rule got leveled against me.

I hate it when that happens.

My parents, the goobers, just laughed at me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The End of the Sugar Rush

Today is the twin Fries' 4th birthday.

I spent yesterday afternoon making sure I had everything to bake the cake.

It is, unsurprisingly, a 3-D rubber-duck cake.

I was up extremely late decorating it.  Or was that just up really early this morning, and then I took a nap?  I'm not sure.

At least it's recognizable as a duck.  Given that this was my first attempt at greater decorations than just a healthy smattering of chocolate chips on top of a cake, I think I did rather well. 

I confess to coming completely unhinged when, in the process of moving the plated cake from the table to the counter, it became clear that I was not as skilled as I thought I was, or that the duck was drunk on frosting or something, because it was clearly tipsy.

I called Hubby and told him the duck was falling, and promptly burst into tears.  He helped stabilize it after the duck itself came unglued, and between some toothpicks, three plastic knives, and the rest of my yellow frosting, we got him back together.  And then I cried some more and decided 2 a.m. was waaaaaaaaaay too late to be up, when I had to be up again in six hours.  Or less, depending on when the first kid decided to wake us up.

As it turned out, Large Fry held off coming into our room until just before 8:30 this morning.  I slapped the snooze button a couple of times, and then forced myself to get up.  The twins woke up (or, at the very least, finally opted to get out of bed) as I bumbled down the hall to shower, Large Fry on my heels.

You have not lived until you've had four- and five-year-old voyeurs, peering at you from between the shower curtains, and squealing, "Spway us, Auntie J!"  (Our cat Koa used to sit on the edge of the tub, between the curtains, and peek her head around to watch me shave, but she kept demanding her quarter back.  Or she got bored.  I'm not sure.)

Innyhoo.

I came downstairs to put on shoes and makeup and get ready to head out the door, and made a discovery that would have been heart-rending had I made said discovery six hours before.

My cats are addicted to sweets, so my biggest fear was that the little gluttons would OD on sugar and lick the frosting off the cake.  They know they're not supposed to be on the counter, but they're cats.  They ignore rules when the rules don't suit them.

The duck however, decided to molt in the night.

Well.

Not much could be done about it then; I had to be out the door in about two minutes for a doctor's appointment.

I sent Hubby a text from the doctor's office, as I waited in the exam room.  "The duck molted!"

By the time I got home, Hubby had patched up the molting as best he could.  I helped the Fries get dressed and then went upstairs to wrap presents.  Okay, well, I tried. Because....

There was much squealing and great delight as Gramma and Boppa arrived.  "Gramma!  Gramma! Gramma!"  (Poor Boppa doesn't get the same respect.)  "Auntie J made a ducky cake! Come see it!"

Dad confessed to the fact that they were horrible grandparents--both of them had forgotten their cameras.  "You can use mine," I said.  "I'll send you copies."  With that, I snagged the scissors, tape and wrapping paper, and finally went upstairs to wrap presents.

Dad apparently took me at my word.  He used my camera.

And used it.  And "helped" the grandchildren use it.


And they had a marvelous time, it seems.

I should really learn to be careful what I say to my father.

But it's probably not a bad thing, really, that they're using it under adult supervision.  (Sort of.)  Because I bought them a kid-proof digital camera for Christmas.  They might as well figure out what they're supposed to do.

Preferably without killing my $260 camera.

Then...let them eat cake!

But first, let them sing.  The twins sang each time to each other.  Or was that to themselves?  I'm really not sure.  It was cute, though.

And then...let them blow out candles!

Small Fry went first.  Apparently, she has a healthy set of lungs and a good idea of how to blow.  She blew the candle out on the first try!

Medium Fry?  Not so much.

She blew.

The candle stayed lit.


She giggled.

She blew again.

The candle stayed lit.

Boppa had to refrain from actually blowing with her, but didn't manage to stop his mouth from taking the proper form for candle-blowing.  (Sorry, Dad.)

Medium giggled again.

She blew again.

Hey!  Success!

Good job, Hubby.  We can see the smoke curling from the candle's wick.

Mom had a moment of panic when we cut open the cake, revealing that I'd used a Funfetti mix.  (She's very allergic to corn syrup, and it's in EVERYTHING.)  I assured her that I'd checked everything, from the ingredients on the cake mix to the stuff that went into the frosting, and I was quite sure she was able to safely eat it.

Next time, I think we'll have chocolate duck, though.

Yes, Hubby insisted on braining the bird after Medium squealed that she wanted a piece of the head.

I guess I didn't need to worry about her coming unglued over eating a ducky cake the way Large Fry had about eating an Elmo cake (on her 3rd birthday).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This was too good not to share....

I love Facebook.  I'm able to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world.

And, occasionally, remind myself that I'm not alone in the insanity we call motherhood.  (Parenthood, if you must.  But this is MY blog.)

I about fell off my chair when I read my college roommate's current status:
My lunatic son (the redhead) decided to draw on himself instead of reading and settling down for bed.  He drew a Hitler moustache and also drew targets around his nipples and bellybutton. He isn't even embarressed?  What do I do with this child?!
I waved at Hubby, getting his attention.  I asked if he was my roomie's friend.  When he said he was, I told him that he just had to look at her current status.

I giggled and watched his face while he read it.

Then he pulled his laptop closer and commented:
STAND HIM AGAINST THE WALL AND BREAK OUT THE DARTS.

Yeah, that'll work!

Conversations Redux

For dinner tonight, I made mac and cheese from scratch.  No boxes.  No cheese sauces.  The real stuff.

It's been something of a struggle to get Large Fry to eat it when I make it.  If Gramma makes the Velveeta shells & cheese, she likes it just fine.  She'll eat that.  But the homemade kind?  Not so much.

Innyhoo.

It was a rough night for me to stand and cook in the kitchen, given the impending weather front that's going to be moving through and my poor ankle with four healed breaks and two titanium screws was griping about everything.

We sat down to dinner, and the kids dug in...to their green beans first, surprisingly.  After Hubby had cleared his plate, he set his fork down and looked at me.

Hubby: Auntie J, thank you for making this yummy dinner.  The mac and cheese is very good!

Me:   You're welcome.

Hubby [to Medium Fry]: Isn't it yummy?

Medium Fry [grinning like a goober]:  Yes.

Hubby:  You should tell Auntie J that.

Medium Fry: Fank you for da yummy dinnewr, Auntie J!

Small Fry:  Amen!

Hubby [chuckling]:  I guess that's a second!

Conversations

Medium Fry:  Auntie J, why does Popoki have black eyes in hewr gween eyes?

Me [glancing down at the object of discussion]:  Those are her pupils.  They help her see.


A few minutes later....

I'm in the bathroom, fixing my hair.

Medium Fry: Auntie J, I have to go potty.

Me:  Okay, honey.

Medium Fry:  If Popoki didn't have pyookuls...

Me [thinking]:  What?

Medium Fry:  Um.  Um.  Um.  Um.


[Yes, that gets annoying real fast.]

Medium:  Um.  Um.  Um.  Um.   If....

Me [putting brush and hair dryer away]

Medium:  If Popoki didn't have pyookuls, she wouldn't be able to see!

Me [comprehension dawning]:  You're right!  If Popoki didn't have pupils, she wouldn't be able to see.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Art of the Con

It's toy clean-up time.  Undoubtedly, one of the most-hated times in our house.

Hubby:  Clean up faster!  [sigh]  I don't think you guys are getting baths tonight.

Fries: [Panting and breathing faster.]

Hubby:  I said clean up faster, not breathe faster!

Yeah, like that was going to show him that they were working faster.  Good try, kids.

*snicker*

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I shouldn't laugh.

Small Fry just came back into the living room, from the potty, buck naked.

It's bedtime.

I pull her over to me so that I can put her diaper for the night on her while she's still standing up.  (Hubby can't do that, so the job falls to me.)  And, normally, this is when I would play "Squeezie Cheeks!"  But she hasn't been listening tonight.  So, no games at bedtime.

As I put the diaper between her legs and fastened the first tab, I remarked, "You're skinny!"  (From our trip to the doctor's office yesterday, I know that her twin outweighs her by almost five and a half pounds.)

"Yes!" she said.  "I have hair on my tuchus.  Little tiny hair."

I'm not sure how I managed to keep a straight face.  "That's not what I meant!"

Middle-of-the-Night Conversations

One of the perils (yes, it can occasionally be called that) of parenthood is that, at some point, you will share your nice, big, warm, comfortable bed with your small child...at which point, it becomes a cramped, crowded, too-small, uncomfortable bed as you contort yourself into positions not meant for being slept in, so that you won't disturb your blissfully sleeping, wind-milling child.

When they lay still and sleep peacefully, it's fine.  I can deal with that.  It's when they can't lay still.  Or when it's more than one of them.

We should have bought a king-sized bed.  Seriously.  There's not enough room in there for Hubby and me, and three kids, who are now lots bigger than they were 2.5 years ago when they moved in with us.

Medium Fry has recently developed the habit of seeking out our bed in the middle of the night, more nights than not.  We're still trying to figure out how to curtail that.  It's not as though she's waking screaming from a nightmare--we know what that sounds like, and then fully expect company in bed.  No, this is more along the lines of a stealth invasion.  She wakes up in the middle of the night for no real reason, and decides she doesn't want to sleep alone, and so she and Duckie meander down the hall to our room, where she quietly climbs in our bed, nestles inbetween us, and goes right back to sleep.  And, an indeterminate time later, a foot or an elbow or a head in the back alerts us that we've been invaded.

I have no idea what time Medium joined us last night.  However, I do know that, at about 5 a.m., Small Fry also came to the party in our bed.  And woke up Medium (if she was asleep).  Or they came in together, which has happened before.  I have no idea when or how they arrived.  I just know they did, because they couldn't leave each other alone.  Feet in the face.  Feet in the back.  Laying on.  And that was just the twins, with each other, not counting the appendages that attacked me or Hubby.  I do know that I barely slept because of the in-fighting.  And that Hubby, who sleeps on his back due to his CPAP machine, had ordered them to settle down several times.

Which failed.  Miserably.

At 6:15 a.m., I'd had enough.  "Back to your own beds!" I ordered.

Medium whimpered, the kind that indicates a full-on crying jag is imminent.  "It's too scawwy!" she whined.  I squinted to see through the early-morning gloom.

What was scaring her?  My pair of jeans laid on top of a suitcase that hadn't made it up to the attic yet.

Sigh.

I sat up, fought off the mild vertigo that has been my friend since last summer's auto accident, and shoved my feet into my slippers.  Then I unceremoniously herded my little interlopers back to their own beds.

Small Fry started crying as she got into her bed and I turned on the radio, which is pre-tuned to a classical station.  I re-tucked-in Medium Fry, and then went to fix Small's blankets.

"Why are you crying?" I asked as I settled the fleece blankets over her.

She whimpered.  "I want to seep in youwr bed!"

"But you weren't sleeping in my bed!  No one was sleeping in my bed, because you and Medium were playing!"

She whimpered again.

"Go to sleep."

Thankfully, she settled down at that and I was able to go back to bed and get some sleep.

Which is a good thing, because I'm sure I would've lost a battle somehow if she'd tried out her nearly-four-year-old logic on me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Wonders of the Internet

Having watched three videos on www.samaritanspurse.org about Operation Christmas Child*...

...one of them being a Veggie Tales video where Larry accidentally ends up packed in an OCC shoebox...

Medium Fry happily put several of her toys in the shoebox that her new winter dress shoes came in, plopped the lid on, and gave her "present" to Popoki.

Popoki was, as usual, unimpressed.


*Pronounced by Medium as "Oddehwayshun Cwimmis Chile!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

We must be doing something right.

Yesterday we had an episode that could best be termed as a Discipline Moment.

Now, before anyone reads any further and gets their Hanes in a half-hitch, yes, we spank our kids.  It's reserved for only the most severe offenses, and we figure it's either that, or tasering.  Spanking gets us in less trouble.  Oh, I know all the arguments.  It teaches violence, it's unnecessary as a form of punishment, it squelches the personality.  Well, both Hubby and I had our personalities squelched in such a way as kids.  We turned out fine.  And we have plenty of personality.  Innyhoo....

Hubby was having the Fries clean up the toy room, because, well, it looked like the toy shelves, cubes and box had exploded.

He had left the room momentarily, only to be called back by an absolutely bloodcurdling scream.

This prompted a return to the toy room, and a subsequent demand for answers.

Small Fry wailed, "Medium spanked me!"

Apparently, Medium Fry had decided that her twin was not doing enough in the way of picking up toys like Unca D said to do, and took matters into her own hands (while simultaneously avoiding the edict to pick up toys).

Well.

Hubby stares down Medium Fry.  "Did you spank your sister?"

Medium nods.

Hubby turns around and goes into the kitchen to fetch the spanking paddle, a silicon spatula.  (We're so mean.)

He returns to the toy room, where the twins are hovering in the doorway.  "Medium," he says, "you know you aren't allowed to spank your sister."  He turns his attention to Small Fry and hands her the spatula.  "Small, you have a choice.  You can either forgive your sister, or you can spank her back."

Small Fry kinda looks at Hubby in something akin to awe, and then faces Medium.  "I forgive you," she said.

And handed the spatula back to Hubby without another word.

We were so proud.

Daffynitions

Small Fry:  Unca D, she's sitting in Medium's chaiwr!

Hubby:  You don't need to worry about what she's doing.  You need to get in your chair.

Small Fry:  But she's getting in Medium Fwy's chaiwr!

Hubby:  Are you tattling?  Are you trying to get her in trouble?

Medium Fry:  No.

Small Fry [happily]:  Yes!

Hubby:  Trying to get someone in trouble when they're not doing something to you is tattling, and that's not nice.

Lunchtime Grace

The twin Fries are having lunch.  Grilled cheese today, if you were wondering.  And so, they offer the usual grace-before-meals:

God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food.  Amen.

Medium Fry decides she needs to take it further, and first blesses God (still trying to figure out how that works), then thanks him for Shamu, Shamu's water in the glass so he can swim, then for Auntie J and Unca D (awwww), and all three Fries, including herself.  She announces "Amen!" with a flourish.

Not to be outdone, Small Fry starts praying.  What is she thanking God for?  I'm so glad you asked.  Pull-Ups.  Nighttime Pull-Ups.  Small Fry's Pull-Ups.  Small Fry's panties (she's wearing real undies today for the first time).

As it's clear the list could go on and on and on and Small would never start eating, Hubby says firmly, "Amen!"

"I'm not done yet!" she shouted, indignantly.  After mumbling a few more things she was thanking God for, she decisively and happily said, "Amen!"

It reminds me very much of the prayers a year and a half ago, following my abdominal surgery, where Auntie J's big boo-boo got blessed at every meal and bedtime.  At least once, if not twice.

Can they be this cute forever?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Transplanted Buckeyes

We spent well over the first decade of our married life in Columbus, OH, home of the OSU Buckeyes.  Hubby became a fan pretty quickly.  I sorta got sucked in, too.  I was happy to proclaim myself a fan during the six months that my brother lived with us eight years ago, mostly because he was such a diehard Michigan fan.

We now live in Penn State territory.

It makes life interesting.

And because I am a good sister, we've chosen to raise the Fries as Buckeye fans.

Innyhoo...I scoured the web, looking for decently-priced little kids' Buckeyes shirts.  They all know how to say "Go Bucks!"

I found some.

Today, as Hubby was getting Large Fry ready for school, he decided that she could wear her "Go Bucks!" shirt as long as she had a long-sleeved tee underneath it, since it was going to be almost 60 today.  And, of course, because OSU plays Penn State this weekend.

He's been teaching her the appropriate things, naturally:

"Say 'Go Buckeyes!'"

"Go Buckeyes!"

"Do we like Penn State?"

"No, I like the Buckeyes!"

"What's wrong with Penn State?"

"Joe Pa's too old!"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Heart exploding in 3...2...1...

Every now and then, I have these moments.  Moments when, like the Grinch's heart, mine swells three sizes.  Not that I think I have a small heart like the Grinch started out with, but you get the idea.  My heart just feels so full that I think it's a medical wonder that it hasn't exploded out my chest wall yet.

Today I had one of those as we came home from church.  We go to the 11a service, and then Hubby talks shop with the worship team after service gets out about 12:15ish (heavy on the ish some weeks), so we often don't get out of there until 12:45p.  And that's on a good week.

Given that our morning started out with the twin Fries deliberately not getting up to go potty and peeing through their diaper/nighttime Pull-up, jammies and bed sheets, the morning hadn't exactly gone well.  In retrospect, it makes the heart-explosion moment even more powerful.

Hubby chose Wendy's for lunch this Sunday, and we zipped through the drive-through and then came home.

The moment happened as we pulled into the driveway.

"It's our home!" Large Fry squealed with excitement.  "It's our home!"

I will never tire of hearing any of them say those words.

It's our home.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Facepalm Moment

We're talking with my mom on Skype.  She's recovering from a nasty asthma attack and sounds like a frog with a sore throat (sorry, Mom).

Small Fry is in the bathroom, having gone potty.  I heard the water turn on, so I knew she was almost done.  Then it turned off.  Then it turned back on.

"Small Fry!  Turn the water off!" I shouted.

Small Fry turned the water off while I continued talking with Mom.

Then she's standing next to me.  "Auntie J, my pants are wet becauwse I threw them in Popoki's water dish."

"Why did you throw your pants in the cat's water dish?!"  Mom covers her mouth to muffle a very hoarse chuckle.  "I think I'd better go.  Talking is not good now," she says.

Just as we hang up, Hubby says in exasperation, "Small Fry!  Where is your Pull-Up?"  That's when I notice that Small is naked from the waist down.

"I threw it in da twash, 'cause it wasn't wet."

"Did you go pee-pee in it?"

"Yesh."

Sigh.

Maybe she'll get this potty-training thing.  Eventually.

Meanwhile, she's running around, wearing her shirt, her new Pull-Up, and socks.  It's close enough to bedtime that I no longer care about finding a clean pair of pants.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Conversation

Hubby and the Fries are heading out for Wednesday night stuff at church.

Medium Fry:  Unca D, is God in my heawrt of love?

Hubby (smiling):  Yes, God is in your heart of love.

Medium Fry (thoughtfully): I don't want to squish Him!

Hubby (trying to contain laughter):  Don't worry.  You can't squish Him.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

One of THOSE days....

Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

I'm not talking about yesterday's memory fiasco, when I finally realized that parent/teacher conferences were next week, not this week, and had to confess that to the babysitter who was waiting to hear which night we wanted to go out on a much-needed date.

We'd hoped, after the court's decision back in August, that we'd have to put up with a lot less crap than we'd been dealing with over the previous two-plus years.  And, to a certain extent, we don't get nearly as much...but then, that's because we have a piece of paper that says (although not in so many words) we don't have to.

We don't have to spend four nights a week waiting, putting everything on hold, to see SIL not call her kids on Skype.  We don't have to bend over backwards to make sure we don't offend either her or Bro.  We don't have to suck it up and deal if she shows up unexpectedly and demands to take the kids for the day.

The court order insists on proper warning to us before expecting us to make drastic changes to our schedules.  SIL and Bro have to be as respectful of our time and schedules as we've had to be of theirs.

And while we all share legal custody of the Fries, Hubby and I have primary physical custody.  They live with us.  This is now--legally--their real home.

But it doesn't stop the stupidity that landed all of us in this situation in the first place.

To be honest, it was easy to see why SIL and Bro's marriage unraveled.  Neither was willing to share the position of most importance.  They both wanted the world to revolve around them.  And only in science fiction does a solar system with two suns actually work...and even then, one sun is usually lesser.  Both of them wanting to be the most important led to cataclysmic effects on their marriage.

In short, neither of them wanted to sacrifice dignity and position to serve the other.  They operated under the theory that marriage is a 50/50 deal, and if each spouse gave 50%, then they'd have a 100% marriage.  Only problem with that is that each one's perspective on how much their 50% was supposed to be was different.  Their 50%s didn't add up.

Granted, my marriage is by no means perfect.  But at least we understand that we've both gotta give 100% to the marriage and let God sort out the details.  And that keeps it stable when the inevitable bickering comes up.

And so we're just now waiting on the final divorce decree to declare that Bro and SIL's marriage is good and truly over.  In so many ways, the marriage ended long ago.  All that held it "together" was the legalities.

And we're still dealing with two people who are more concerned about themselves than they are about any one else.  Their needs and wants are of utmost importance to them.  Their kids are a distant second if they're lucky, the estranged spouse even further down the scale.

Case in point: we got an email today from SIL, who has deployed to Afghanistan.  She's irritated with us.

Oh, there's a shock.  (Not nearly as shocking as her calling us "wonderful" in court.)

Why?  Because we apparently don't know what a kind, giving, loving, wonderful person she is.  We don't really know her.  She'd never sue us for her failure (although she didn't say it that way) to give us the court-required 72 hours' notice before coming to town and wanting to see the girls.  We could have been nice and let her see the girls before she deployed.  And regardless of all the drama we started, she still loves us dearly.

Let's see.  We emailed her back, when she requested to see the girls, to be sure that's what she really wanted.  Asked her if she wanted us to ignore the stipulations in the court order.  And....

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And never got an email response.  Or a phone call.  Or a text message.

We made arrangements anyway, just in case, for her to be able to see the girls.  If she got in touch with us.  It's not our responsibility, after all, to make sure she confirms and/or responds.

Her farewell emails, which I somehow received (still don't know quite how), mentioned how much she would miss her mom and her brothers and her friends.

Her kids?  Not.  One.  Word.  In either email.

It frustrates both Hubby and I immensely.  We'd love to be able to tell her how we really feel.  We'd love to be able to get her to open her eyes and see reality.  We're tired of dealing with a 26-year-old woman who insists on acting half her age.  (I have the same gripe about my 29-year-old brother.)

She is, however, right about one thing.  We didn't really know her before.  We do now.  We don't like what we know.

So now, we have to set aside our roiling and seething emotions and respond to her.  Like a two-year-old's temper tantrum, we have to ignore hers and deal solely with the facts.  Ignore the fact that she hasn't been as wonderful to us as she says, that we SURE didn't start this, and that we are purveyors of all drama.  And state the facts:

We emailed, and we requested a response.  We didn't get one.  We made arrangements for a time for a visit anyway, and monitored both of our email accounts all weekend long to see if she'd responded.  And we didn't get a personal email from her until after she arrived in Afghanistan.

And, hopefully, in time, our emotions (and blood pressures) will settle down.  We know what she's doing; she's making herself look better in her own eyes, and she hasn't been in Afghanistan long enough to make new friends, so she has lots of time to think.

And, sadly, we realize that a good friend of ours was right when he said, "She will never grow up."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

Medium Fry has come unglued.

Why?

Because she had to go upstairs to use the potty, since Unca D was using the potty downstairs.  But that's not really the reason why she's unglued.  No, the reason is that she could not reach the soap to wash her hands.

Now, we have to hide the liquid soap dispensers, or we'll go through it faster than milk.  So, all those little bars of soap that we've accumulated from hotel stays have been classified as Fry Soap, and we keep them out for the girls.  It also cuts down on the amount of bubbles they create with the soap, and thus the sheer amount of time they spend washing their hands.

And I know that there's still remnants of one of those soaps upstairs on the sink counter.

That soap is what caused Medium to come unglued.

She refused to use it, instead saying she couldn't reach it.  (She could.)  No, she couldn't use it because it was down to a sliver of the bar left, and it had broken in half during one of Large Fry's previous hand-washings.

And because it was broken, it couldn't be used.  It would no longer work.

We only discovered that this was the problem when we had to insistently order Medium Fry downstairs and we were then able to investigate the reason for her crying jag.

Hubby insisted that broken bar soap was not a reason to cry.  Medium said she just wanted to go back upstairs and cry some more.  We both said no.  She insisted that she needed to go back upstairs so she could cry some more.

Hubby regarded Medium thoughtfully.  "You didn't nap today, did you?"

Medium nodded sadly.

"Come here."  He pulled her onto his lap.  And that's when we found out that soap apparently loses all its cleansing properties when it's broken.  (Much like I believe calories vacate broken cookies, but that's another story.)  Hubby tried to explain that the soap would still work; being broken doesn't mean it won't work.  Soap is special that way.

Medium disagreed.  Stringently, as it turned out.  In somewhat garbled sentence structure, she explained that it was broken because it broke, and so it wouldn't work.  Hubby listened intently.

About then, I came back into the living room from the kitchen, where I'd been working on supper and heard the end of this conversation.  Medium finished up her explanation, and Hubby looked over at me.  "What does the Man in Black say?"

I gave him a slightly confused look; I knew which movie he was referencing, but I needed more context.

"When he's talking to Vizzini.  What does he say?"

Ah-ha.  "Truly, you have a dizzying intellect," I quote, with the precise accent of the Man in Black.

"Exactly," Hubby says on a laugh as he looks at Medium.

Yeah, Medium has one of those that would rival Vizzini.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Can't Argue With That

Large Fry: [singing nonsense song, completely made up on the fly]

Hubby:  She's weird.

Me:  She's genetically predisposed.

Hubby:  Good point.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Hand of God

I have a friend who is really struggling with her faith.

I can understand, because I've struggled much with mine over the last two and a half years.

We got together last week for the first time in over a month, for a mommies night out.  Had dinner...just us.  Saw a movie...just us.  Went back to where we had dinner to snack and keep talking...just us.  Because we both needed it.

She's seen, especially in the last year, just what the struggle for the Fries has cost us.

As we both sat in our mom-vans and continued to talk after leaving Friday's, she asked me, "Can you really see the hand of God in everything that you've gone through with the girls?  Or was He just not there?"

I know that's how she's feeling, that God just isn't there for her.  Isn't interested in her life, doesn't care about her, and is woefully silent.

And I know, because I've lived a lot of the last two and a half years in that same kind of faith-fog.  Wondering where my almighty God is, as I struggle to give the girls security while our lives remain in uproar.  Where He is, when my husband has to go away for ten days on a job-related mission trip with his youth group teens, and I'm left to deal with three little kids who now have forced visitation with their biological mother, whom they haven't really seen in six months and know even less, all by myself...and my parents are out of town.  And, since the kids and I will be staying at their house for four days before they get home, I'm good and alone in dealing with this.  Wondering where God is when I realize that my estranged sister-in-law gets to live her life with nary a blip because of all the court stuff, but we live on tenterhooks and eggshells and the constant fluctuation of not knowing what's going to happen from one day to the next.  How unfair is that?  This doesn't affect her day-to-day life at all.  Where's God when I have not one but two health crises in less than nine months?  Where's God when my husband's boss, the senior pastor of our church, decries what we're doing, by taking in the girls, saying that it's a bad thing and orders Hubby to not let it affect his work?  Where's God when the job goes downhill, not because of the work Hubby's doing, but because the senior pastor has an agenda to get rid of him?

Yeah, I'm all too familiar with the "Where's God?" questions.  If only, during these dark moments, God would be as easy to find as Waldo is.

And yet, I could only give her one answer:  Oh, yes.  I can see the hand of God all over this situation.

She wanted details.  I don't think she knew what she was asking for...or how far back the list of God-incidences would go.

But I gave them to her: 
  • Hubby joined a Southern Gospel quartet waaaaay back in 2002 or so.  By late 2003, he accepted that God had called him to leave the quartet--a lifelong dream of his, really--and devote himself more to the needs of the church we'd been attending.  God asked him to commit to that church for three years.  Dan asked, "Then I can go back to quartetting?"  God said, "Talk to me in three years."
  • We were ready to have a family...but never got pregnant.  From early to 2003 to early 2009, we did nothing to stop pregnancy.  And nothing happened.  Those years were filled with a lot of heartache for me, especially as I watched my friends have children.  (Yes, this was part of the list for a reason.)
  • The senior pastor of our church announced in May 2006 that he was resigning, effective in six weeks.  We loved this man.  I had told Hubby, more than once, that as long as JB was pastor at that church, I had no intention of leaving.  His ministry was THAT good.  JB juggled lots of hats, and was a very busy man, but I never felt, when I had a need to speak to him, that he was too busy to make time for me.  I told Hubby we were simply going to follow them to Illinois and be little JB groupies.
  • In August of 2006, as we drove out to my folks' for my mom's surprise 60th birthday party, I casually announced that the worship pastor of my parents' church had resigned and they were looking for a new one.  I hadn't realized the 3-year deadline was encroaching, but Hubby had.  God had been speaking to him, reminding him of his call to full-time ministry.  Hubby's conversation with God at that point, as we tooled down the PA Turnpike at 65 mph, was basically, "God, if you really want me to apply for that job--the church is huge!--you're gonna have to make it really clear."  About then our car threw a piston rod.  Mile marker 216 or so.  Yeah, that's important.
  • September 2006: We now know for sure that God is going to start shaking things up.  And so, God asked us to leave the church we'd been attending for six years.  A church we loved.  With people we loved.  So that we ourselves could take some time, recharge, rejuvenate, before we plunged headlong into God's plan.  So we said goodbye and left the church in November.
  • October 2006:  I had much-needed wrist surgery, and this pulled me out of the field in my caregiving job.  And it landed me in the agency's office.
  • December 2006: On our way to my folks' for Christmas, we met for a brief informal interview about a youth/music pastor position at a church in Chambersburg, PA.
  • January 2007:  We did a more formal interview in Chambersburg.  Hubby was offered the job.  We accepted...and moved to Chambersburg in the end of February, 2007.  And I was able to keep my job, converting to telecommuting to manage the agency's scheduling system.  And did I mention?  Chambersburg is pretty much straight due south of mile marker 216ish on the PA Turnpike.
  • Chambersburg, PA, is a lot closer to York, PA, where my brother, sister-in-law and three small nieces lived.  Columbus, OH, where we had spent all of our previous married life, was not close.
  • May 2008: When my brother determined that he needed to get the girls back to PA, their state of legal residence, after my sister-in-law announced (again) that she wanted a divorce and she was serious this time, we were in a position to help out.  For three months, which has stretched into almost two and a half years now.  And with no children of our own, we didn't have to up-end the lives of anyone but us and our cats with bringing in three little girls.  (Imagine that.  I'd always been a big proponent of adoption.  This wasn't adoption, but it was the same general idea.  Not how I expected my life to go, though.)
  • June 2009:  We have my parents' full backing when we file a lawsuit for full custody of the girls, who have now lived with us over a year, because their parents chose to switch the girls' guardianship to someone else...someone whom we felt would be a danger to the health and well-being of the girls.
  • July 2009:  I'm involved in a major auto accident (combined vehicle speeds of 70+ mph) that fractures four bones in my right ankle (surgery required to fix two of those) and the radius bone of my right wrist in two places.  The girls and I live with my parents for two and a half months as I recover.
Much bleakness covered our lives, starting in June 2009.  We fought through a court presentation at the end of June, followed by that ten-day work trip of Hubby's and ten days of visitation with the girls' mother, who hadn't even told us she was coming back.  My recovery from the auto accident was a long, hard road, especially at the time.  It's humbling to be 34 and have to have your mother cut your broccoli into bite-sized pieces for you, because you can manage a fork, but not both that and a knife, what with your dominant hand being stuck in a lovely cast.  The first court hearing date was scheduled for October of 2009.  That one didn't happen; SIL had her lawyer petition for a continuance, since she was still serving in her overseas posting.  I was worried about our assigned judge, who had openly declared that he saw the momentum in the case being returning the children to their mother.

I continued my list:
  • The continued October hearing was rescheduled for December 22, 2009.  My first thought was that someone's Christmas was just going to suck.
  • The December 22 hearing got continued--again at the request of SIL's attorney--and rescheduled for April 13th, 2010, with the conciliation conference two weeks before.
  • Hubby lost his job at the church he'd been at for three years.
  • The conciliation conference in late March 2010 went about like we expected, with no resolution.
  • Our lawyer requested a continuance on the April 13th hearing after we learned we'd only have two hours.  The delays were driving us crazy, but what could we do?
  • The April 13th hearing was rescheduled for June 9th.  Plus, we were assigned a new judge.  And by new, I mean new.  As in, just elected.  I was relieved anyway; about all the good I'd seen come from the first judge was that he, being former military, had quickly determined we were not in violation of the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act, which SIL's attorney had cited as reason for our suit to be tossed out (preferably), or postponed at the very least.  The new judge was a woman, and a former prosecutor in the family court.  And she was a mom.  I figured those were all good things.
  • The insurance settlement from my severe auto accident was given to us in early April.  It was substantial.
  • The June 9th hearing was also continued, again at request of my SIL, who by now was representing herself.  Our new court date was August 6, 2010.
  • We actually made it to court.  I was nearly physically ill with worry about testifying.  I wasn't sure I could pull it off until after I swore in.  I placed my hand on the banister around the witness box to step up and in, and was reminded of my best friend, and a host of others, all of whom were praying specifically for me.  The calm that settled over me was inexplicable.  My father said afterward, following the judge's decision that we would all share legal custody and that Hubby and I would have primary physical custody of the girls, that I had been "magnificent."  And he was sorry for all his doubting thoughts.
  • Even with Hubby out of work, between the insurance money that wasn't invested and my income, we've made ends meet.
"Could I see the hand of God during all this?" I asked rhetorically.

My friend smiled at me.

"No, I couldn't."  I looked her straight in the eyes.  "It was so dark sometimes.  But I can say, without a doubt, He's been there every step of the way.  All those 'unanswered' prayers for kids of my own?  He was saying Wait.  And then He dumped three of the most amazing little blessings in my lap, just when I was sure I'd never have kids of my own."

All of the court delays?  Well, those got the right judge on the bench for our case.  Our judge hadn't even been elected at the time of the October 2009 hearing date.  She wasn't in office at the time of our December date.  She'd only been on the bench four months at the time of the April hearing.  The delay between the reassignment of our case to her in April and the actual hearing in August gave her another four months to be in court, working as a judge.

Yes, even during the darkest nights and deepest doubts, God was there.  The string of circumstances, stretching back eight years, makes the truth of God's involvement in our lives stand out.

Would it have been nice to really see God working, as I felt like I walked daily through the Valley of the Shadow of Death?  Oh, yes.  I would have loved that.  I would've loved to have the confidence of faith that Hubby did.  I would have loved to have little flashing signs that said, "Hey!  God just set up another thing to help work this situation to the right resolution!"

But I can't deny the truth: God was there.  He was working on getting all the dominoes lined up just so.  He always is.

And that's something I need to remind myself of more often.

Words that Strike Fear into the Heart

"Auntie J, the toilet is bwoken."

Oh, that's the last thing I needed to hear.

"What?"  I want to be sure I heard correctly.

Medium Fry comes back into the kitchen from the bathroom, and I peer at her through the living room doorway into the kitchen.

"The toilet is bwoken!"  There's just enough exuberance in her tone that I'm immediately concerned.  I jump up from my desk chair.

"I will show you."  Medium turns and walks back into the bathroom.  "It's bwoken.  I think it's owld."

I follow her into the bathroom.  She points to the flush handle.  "I think it's owld."

There's a crack in the plastic.

That I've known about for weeks.

Which is so much less of a worry-inducer than all the mental images I got as soon as I heard, "The toilet is bwoken."

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Unca D, why is dewre cancewr in my Gwamma Bevvie's tummy?"

Geez.  Nobody prepares you for these questions.  Nobody tells you that you're going to have to answer innocent and crazily complicated questions.  Nobody says you're going to have to search for theological answers that most pastors might stumble over.

It reminds me a little of the time that I asked my mom if my neighbor's cat, Spooky, who had just been put to sleep, was going to be in heaven.  Spooky was an indoor/outdoor cat, and I spent a lot of time with him.  He was, in a lot of ways, my best friend.  I was devastated by his death, even though I knew he was old and sick.  My mother didn't know what to say.  My question totally flummoxed her.  But I have a feeling I'll use her answer when we face the death of one of our cats and the kids want to know: "Honey, God says that everything we need will be in heaven.  So if you need Spooky to be there, he will be."

My mother-in-law called this morning.  We knew that doctors had run a scope and found a polyp in her stomach about a month before.  They biopsied the polyp and it came back benign.  However, doctors wanted to remove it anyway.  Now they're saying it's cancerous.

This was not how we'd wanted to start our morning.  I came downstairs to find Hubby on the phone with his mom.  It took me a bit to realize who he was talking to, and what he was hearing.  But when I did...it felt like a blow to my stomach.

I am very blessed.  My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman.  I love her dearly.  I never wanted to be one of those people who had mother-in-law horror stories.  My mother-in-law considers me her daughter, not her daughter-in-law.  Her very first words to me still ring true: "We believe in hugs here."  She loves my girls like they're biologically ours.  It doesn't matter to her that they're not.  They are her grandchildren as far as she's concerned.  And I'm sure not ready to lose her.  (We lost my father-in-law eleven years ago.  I still miss him.  Wasn't ready to lose him, either.)

So, when Hubby got off the phone with Mom and knelt on the kitchen floor at one of the chairs to pray, the twins came over in turn to see what was wrong.

Medium Fry, who is her unca's buddy, wanted to know what was wrong.  Unca D doesn't always kneel on the floor and look devastated.  Hubby explained that his mom, Gramma Bevvie, was sick.  And he was scared.  And he was talking to God about it, asking Him to help Gramma Bevvie to get better so she won't be sick.  Medium Fry gave him a hug, and wandered over to play.

How do you explain cancer and death to children who aren't even four?

Next came Small Fry.  She wanted to know what was wrong, too.  Hubby explained that Gramma Bevvie is sick.  Small Fry wanted to know what kind of sick.  Hubby explained that the doctors found something called cancer in Gramma Bevvie's tummy, and it could make her very sick, and we don't want that.  We want her to be well.

And that's when Small Fry asked her question.  "Why is dewre cancewr in my Gwamma Bevvie's tummy?"

How do you answer that?

I'm glad it was Hubby who had to.

I don't know that I could've given a coherent response.

Hubby explained that it was a type of sickness, and the doctors wanted to fix it and make Gramma Bevvie all better.

If only that was the last tough question of the morning.

A little while ago, Medium looked at Hubby and said, "Unca D, why aren't you my daddy?"

Oy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You can't make this stuff up.

It's bedtime.  I have sent Small Fry to the bathroom to go potty.  She comes back, and grabs my attention.

Small Fry: Auntie J, dis fewll in da toiyet.

I look down, and see her stuffed Toy Story piggy.

Me: So it is.

I set the poor wet pig on the shipping box that my printer cartridges came in a week ago, which I haven't opened yet.

Small Fry: Why is it wet?

Me (exasperated): Because you dropped it in the toilet!


Just when I'm thinking what else?, that's when Hubby suddenly turns and looks at us.

Hubby: WHAT are you doing?  Get that off your head and put it back in the bathroom where it belongs!


And that's when I whipped around to look at Small Fry, who had wandered behind my desk chair.

She was wearing the toddler potty seat for the toilet, upside down, like a crown.

And about then...

Medium Fry (who was sitting in time out): Unca D, can I tawk now?

Hubby: No!  You're in time out!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This Morning's Conversation of Note

Hubby: Medium Fry, what are you doing?

She's in the bathroom.  When any of the kids are in the bathroom for very long, it usually means trouble.

Medium Fry: I'm wooking in da mirrwowr, to see how byootifuwl I am.


How do you argue with that?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Last Fifteen Minutes

Small Fry:  Auntie J, she won't let me ride the horsie!

Me: Medium Fry, why can't she ride the horse?

Medium Fry:  Because she's knocking the dominoes off!

Me, knowing I'm going to regret asking:  Why are there dominoes on the horse?

Medium: Because he needs teef!


Oy.


Not three minutes later...

Medium Fry:  Auntie J, my awrm huwrts!

Me, sure I'm going to regret this one too: Why does your arm hurt?

Medium: Because I bwop myseff!

Me:  You what?


Medium slaps her upper right arm with her left hand: I did dis, and dat's bwopping myseff!  An' it huwrts!

Me:  Well, don't do that to yourself then.


I'm not done relating the first part of this series of conversations when Medium Fry starts having a cow again.

Medium: Auntie J, Small Fry is going [inaudible], and dat's a baby wowrd!

Me:  What?

Small Fry, in the background, shouting happily over everyone:  Me me me me me me me me me me!

Medium: She's saying "me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me" and dat's a baby word!

Okay, so admittedly, we are having issues with Small Fry insisting on babbling in baby talk rather than articulating like the almost-four-year-old she is.

Me:  Small Fry, use more words than just "me."


Naturally, not to be outdone, two minutes later....

Large Fry, rushing up to me where I'm sitting at my desk: Auntie J, Medium Fry is eating dominoes!

Me:  Medium, don't eat dominoes!

Medium Fry:  I'm NOT!


Yep, it's been one of those kind of nights.

You must be smarter than the 3-year-old

We have this rule.  No wearing shoes in the house.

It's not for the same reason my mother had that rule, which was because she didn't want her new carpet all dirtied up by our shoes.  We have wood floors, so that's hardly a consideration.

However, we have a persistent penchant among the children to not put their shoes away.  This means they get lost.  A lot.  Mostly, in the no-man's-land under the couch.  Unless they're elsewhere, hiding.

So, in an effort to keep the shoes corralled for when we do need them as we're getting ready to head out the door, all shoes belong on the shoe shelf.  If your tootsies are cold, well, wear your slippers.  Which also belong on the shoe shelf when not in use.  But it's easier to find a pair of pink slippers than it is to find the errant sneakers.  I don't know why.  It just is.

It's chilly here this morning, and I think fall has finally arrived to stay.  It's also dreary and rainy.  Medium Fry announced that her feet were cold.  Small Fry echoed.

"Put on your slippers, then," Hubby told them.

Not five minutes later, I hear him say in exasperation, "No shoes on in the house!"

The twins, who were in the toy room, must have looked at him, dumbfounded.

Of course, their definition of "shoes" is "sneakers."  Everything has to be specific.  You can't just say a generic "shoes."

Hubby goes on.  "You can't wear sandals in the house.  You can't wear flip-flops in the house.  If your feet are cold, find your slippers and put them on."

Small Fry immediately objects.  "But we're at the beach!"  Clearly, Unca D is stupid, because they ALL know that you don't wear slippers to the beach.  You wear sandals or flip-flops.

I'm trying to muffle a laugh from my desk in the living room.  I'm glad it's not me, because I have no idea how I'd answer that one.

Hubby puts his hands on his hips.  "Then you pretend that your slippers are flip-flops.  Put the flip-flops back on the shelf."

He turned back to me, and tapped his forehead.

He didn't say a word, but I knew what he was thinking.

Gotta be smarter than the kid.

Round one to the parents today!