Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Day

6:20 a.m.: Trey's first attempt to roll me out of bed, per my request, is ignored.
6:50: Six subsequent attempts, at five-minute intervals, become increasingly annoying as I desperately wish for an Invisibility Cloak.
6:55: My human alarm clock is now caffeinated and clearly on a mission from Satan. Sigh. I am awake.
7:15: Now that I'm showered (my version of coffee), I try to gently nudge our darling boy from dreamland.
7:30: No doubt about it: he is my child. He harumphs and rolls over despite my murmured pleas.
7:40: S and K are up, so we send them in to wake their brother; they never take no for an answer.
7:45: Mission accomplished, although we are probably running late. Quick eye check: no goop. No detectable angst, either. All systems go!

8:00: French toast, yogurt and fresh fruit are served. French toast is pushed 'round the plates, although the accompanying syrup is instantly consumed. Yogurt is flung. The freshness of the fruit is called into question. Exhortations to eat, eat, please eat, are issued. Our wee Zagat team merely laughs. We are definitely running late.
8:15: We should be leaving the house right now, but we are, in fact, running late. Syrupy pajamas are stripped from gleefully uncooperative muppers. Grown-ups bicker about clothing combinations as I realize with a shock that I neglected to buy first-day-of-school clothes. What kind of mother... ? Answer: the kind of mother who still has a towel wrapped around her wet hair and no makeup on. I stop bickering and leave Trey with a pile of clean clothes and three naked children.
8:30: My hair now dry, I check the progress in Carter's room. The words fly out of my mouth before I can stop them: "You're not going to dress her in that, are you?" Trey's answer is nonverbal. We both look at the clock for confirmation that we are running late.

8:38: S and K are loaded into the Mommywagon; Carter has the coveted seat in Daddy's car. We're running. (Late.)
8:39: I put the car in autopilot behind Trey and attempt to apply makeup without swerving into other lanes. I succeed at the latter, but flunk at the former. I check the rearview mirror and see that Katie is mimicking me: patting her face, smoothing her hair.
8:45: WE ARE LATE! I feel terrible.
8:58: We park in front of Westwood. (No time for the exclamation point.) Unbuckle the brood and fling ourselves toward the door. I know Carter's a little nervous, but I ask him to show Daddy his classroom, and he leads the way.
9:00: The good thing about being late, I decide, is that most of the crying children have been soothed, and most of the parents have cleared the halls. Mrs. True is holding one child who's still a little teary, but she greets Carter and tells us hello. The five of us stand just inside the door of the classroom for one second. In that second, I hold my breath and think that if I let myself, I could cry, too... but then Mrs. True takes Carter by the hand and leads him into the fray of his fellow students. He briefly looks over his shoulder at us with a sort of stoic look on his face. Before I can process it, we're back out in the hall again. A hundred emotions rush over me just as S and K realize that they're not invited to play in the nice big room with unimaginably cool big-kid things. They're not happy about this plot twist. We evacuate.

9:10: The four of us exchange kisses in the parking lot, and Trey heads to work. I decide to drive to the Galleria. It's only a mile away, so I can zip back to school if needed, and the kids had fun there yesterday.
9:25: The closest I've come to exercising all week: I buckle S and K into their stroller and push them around all three floors of the mall until the stores open.
10:00: S and K seem happy, so I push my luck and attempt a little shopping. Maybe some second-day-of-school clothes?
10:30: No go. Every time I roll into a store, before the salutation has even left the salesperson's lips, Katie shakes her head and says, "No. No no no." At first I think she's just being dismissive of the selection at Baby Gap, but it's the same routine in each doorway.
10:40: We have reached the bright and boisterous play area. I quickly unfasten buckles and shoes and they dash to their favorite spots. (K guards the large vinyl snake; S scales the vinyl mountain.) I call home to see if there's a come-get-your-son call from Westwood, but all's clear.
10:45: "NO!" Katie is yelling at a little boy who has attempted to climb onto the large vinyl snake. His mother is unamused. I intervene and help make room for the little boy while sing-songing to Katie about the value of sharing with our friends, blah blah blah. Secretly, I'm glad to hear her defend her space, as I've been willing her to stand up to her brothers when they snatch things from her, but don't know how to explain the complexities of when that's appropriate. I loathe playground politics; I never know what to say or do, whether my child is the aggressor or the aggressee.
10:50: With a wink and a smile in my direction, Spencer sprints for the exit. The eyes in the back of my head keep watch over his sister while I lay chase. I capture him, giggling and squirming, and plant him in a fun new spot in the play area, but we both know that the clock is now ticking.
11:05: More exercise as I repeatedly race after Spencer. The jig is up and Katie knows it: she's climbed back into the stroller and is attempting to buckle herself. Howls of protest when I assist.
11:10: Scan the dining options: what's very quick and marginally healthy? Which 'Wich it is.
11:15: K digs into her half of a seriously goopy Monte Cristo. I look like a genius for feeding my child a sandwich dripping grape jelly and smothered in powdered sugar while she sits in her stroller. (Where the heck are the high chairs around here?) S pushes his sandwich away and looks longingly at my roast beef and avocado creation. Eh, I wasn't that hungry anyway.
11:35 is what my cell phone says. How can this be? I hastily clear our trash and race for the door. No way can I be late coming and going this early in the semester. Week three, maybe.
11:58: I run panting into the building with one mupper under each arm. We see a friend and briefly say hello, then tear down the hallway, which has gotten longer since Monday.
Noon: Here's my big boy, and he's HAPPY! Mrs. True says he had a good day and worked very hard. I nod and smile gratefully, and we briefly discuss the week's schedule.

12:03: While S and K scramble like ants around the hallway, I give Carter a bear hug and pull him into my lap to ask him about his day. He doesn't offer too many details, but the general message seems to be that All is Well. Down the hall, we see Jen retrieve Ben from his first-ever school day. What a champ he's been! And a cutie, too.
12:05: I say a quick hello to Jen as I spot Katie in the entryway, about to yank the American flag off its pedestal. Oops! My head swivels: no sign of Spencer anywhere. Oh, no...
12:10: The receptionist is grinning: S is crouched under a desk with my cell phone pressed to his ear. He's been making calls to China and flirting shamelessly.
12:15: We have made no progress toward actually leaving the building. Suddenly Carter spots Sam and launches into a full-scale impersonation of a howler monkey. Sam keeps her cool... and, wisely, her distance. He's over the moon for Sam and I know this little display is for her benefit, but it is pretty obnoxious. I want to tell him to play it cool, man, but it seems inappropriate to offer courtship advice to my three-year-old.

12:20: Children hanging off of every appendage, I shuffle to the car and load them in. Carter buckles himself, I buckle Spencer and I'm just starting to buckle Katie when the shoulder strap pops out of the seat.
12:21: I stare dumbly at the webbed strap dangling in my hand. A quick investigation confirms that the seat will need to be removed for the strap to be replaced. I'm ashamed to admit that, in nearly four years, I have never learned how to do this. Carter's saying, "I'm hungry! What's for lunch?" as I reach for the cell phone.
12:23: No answer at Trey's desk. I reach voice mail on his cell phone, too. Second try's the charm; I break the bad news.
12:25: Superman is on his way.
12:40: I sing songs, play peek-a-boo and take pictures of squirmy muppers from the front seat. The car erupts with joy when Daddy is spotted.
12:45: The belt is fixed. I am overcome with gratitude. He high-fives the little ones, gives me a kiss and hops back into his car. We drive in adjacent lanes all the way to his building, which is just around the corner from Westwood. I keep the windows down so he can make funny faces at us. The kids are delighted and so am I.
1:20: After the standard slow-poke drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A, where Carter is armed with a car picnic of chicken nuggets and fruit, we pull into the driveway. "Ome!" Katie squeals.
1:30: Diapers are changed, lights are dimmed and hopes are high in the nursery that these two will settle down and get a good nap.
1:35: Carter polishes off what's left of lunch as we small-talk. I'm pleasantly surprised at how calm and happy he seems. Normally, he's extra raucous and rambunctious after school, but his howler-monkey act now seems a distant memory as he insists that he carry his Chick-Fil-A box and napkin to the trashcan by himself, thank you.
1:45: No book before nap today: Carter's choice. I tuck him in and give him a kiss.
2:00: I briefly check snail mail and e-mail. It would be so easy to squander this whole naptime sitting in front of the computer, but I'm exhausted.
2:05: I shuffle a few loads of laundry, listen for sounds from Carter's room and hit the sack. Ahhh...
2:25: The phone rings. Drat! It's USAA with a message for Trey: the value of his golf clubs, recently thieved from the trunk of his car, falls just below our homeowners policy deductible. Double, triple, quadruple drat. He's going to be crushed.
2:30: Carter wanders in; naptime's over. I enlist his help with the laundry and pledge to return the favor by helping him build a track on his train table.
4:00: They might be a little grumpy, but S and K got a great nap. In short order, they're happily racing around the house with their big brother.
6ish: DADDY'S HOME! Happiness reigns, until he dares to request a moment of privacy. Spencer is distraught and hugs the bathroom door, wailing.

7ish: Turkey tacos for dinner, followed by mango, followed by bath. We're actually on track for a good bedtime tonight.
8:30: Somewhere along the way, we have lost control. The kids are clean and PJed, but spinning like tops around the front room. I finally put an end to the frivolity and order everyone into the nursery.
8:40: Lights out for S and K.
8:42: Carter requests THREE books tonight. I think I'm so clever by reading the second one with my slowed-down, just-above-a-whisper sleep-inducing voice. He isn't fooled, of course; when we decline the third book, he grabs it and runs to his Anywhere Chair. Before we can argue with him, he's flipping through the pages and reading it to himself. We concede.
9:00: Lights out for Carter. It's been a good day. No guarantees that tomorrow will go as smoothly, of course... but right now, it's a happy house.

Hoping that yours is, too... love, F5

P.S. This morning, Trey pointed out that Carter's reading list, as I partially described yesterday, is fairly eclectic. (We'd like to note that he started to read Camus, but quickly grew bored.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Heavy rotation

Today's adventure: S and K's Little Gym class. In the weeks that follow, this will, I'll bet, be a great way for me to spend quality social and active time with them while their big brother, that lucky dog, gets to hang out at school. But today, it was three against me. Tumbling, running, screeching (them) and sweating profusely (me), and that was just getting them all out of the house. (Ba-dum-bump. Thank you, I'll be here all week.) You often hear the phrase "herding kittens" to describe an impossible task, and that's exactly how it feels to get them all fed, dressed and into the car when we're up against a deadline, real or arbitrary. Generally, by the time I've gotten them all snug and secure in their seats and I rev the engine, I'm ready to clunk my forehead down onto the steering wheel for a brief restorative nap.

So, yes, I am once again on the hunt for someone to help me out one day a week. My networking hasn't garnered any solid leads thus far, so I may go the agency route this time. I really wasn't very good at the whole interview-hire-manage gig when I was getting paid to do it, and of course, the stakes are stratospherically higher when the employee in question is endowed with the care of my precious offspring. Wish me luck!

Here's a quick snapshot of what we're tuned into this week:

Carter's reading Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, I Stink! and I'm Dirty!, Lost and Found, and a few Olivia books.

Katie's fairly obsessed with My First Word Book, Good Morning, Digger and whatever else she thinks might impress Carter.

Spencer is fond of spotting whatever book Katie is reading, ripping it from her hands, then turning it upside down and "reading" it himself. How he can concentrate when she wails like that, I'll never know.

I'm kinda-sorta reading a very fluffy advice book from a mother of 10, Woman First, Family Always; This Day in the Life and Anderson Cooper's memoir, which is the best of the batch by far. I should be reading two parenting books, one Montessori guide and Rebecca, for the book club I belong to in name only. I'm waiting to read Miss American Pie, assuming that Mom will release it to me as promised.

Trey is reading the PhotoShop instruction manual and is now too irritated to contribute to this post. Backing away slowly...

Carter is, indisputably, El Jefe when it comes to our daily soundtrack. This week, we are hearing, ad nauseum, Sara Hickman's Big Kid, which is actually a lot of fun the first 4,000 times; the soundtrack to Dog Train (ditto) and a really goofy Christmas CD we bought two years ago that randomly inserts his name in the songs. It's computer-generated, so his name sounds like Car-Ter, which is admittedly better than CarLO, but still a little odd. He, of course, adores it.
In the car, he either demands an audio reading of Little Bear by Else Minaruk or the Dixie Chicks "Ready to Run." If I had a say in the matter, I'd listen to ANY OTHER Dixie Chicks song (preferably their new surly stuff), the as-yet-unreleased John Mayer or some classic Al Green. Or I'd (heaven!) randomly surf XM for an hour.

Who has time? Okay, I did start to watch Spike Lee's documentary "When the Levees Broke" after we got the kids to bed, but I was a weepy mess after about five minutes. Ditto the news. Former FEMA director Michael Brown was on the Today show this morning and I really tried to be open-minded about him, but found myself wanting to hurl a heavy object at the screen at the sight of his mouth moving. He utterly fails to move me with his rehearsed indignance and hollow apologies that seem solely contrived to garner pity. But that's just me.

Well, now it's way too late and I'm much too tired to conjure a way to end this on a happy, snappy note... so tune in tomorrow for show-and-tell about Carter's first day at, yes, Westwood! (Feeling better now that our faux pinkeye scare is over... )

Monday, August 28, 2006

Midnight rambler

A few musings, as the house sleeps:

Today wasn't especially blogworthy, to borrow (yet again!) from Jen. It's not unusual for the muppers* to wake up in a snit when they realize that Daddyman has left the building for that four-letter word, WORK. But everyone was pretty genial today, albeit rambunctious. (Duh.) A bit of neighborhood drama in the morning, as a transformer across the street exploded, temporarily disrupting power and (no way to make THIS funny) apparently electrocuting someone in the process. Conflicting reports as to whether the victim was a utility worker or an elderly neighbor; either way, it's a tragedy.

Lacking a proper segue, I must lean on my beloved ellipsis...

This afternoon, I packed the kids into the car for a trip to WESTWOOD! This is how I pronounce it, with an exclamation point for enthusiastic emphasis, and a big cheesy grin slapped on my face. Westwood is Carter's new school, which officially begins Wednesday. I say this over and over again, both out loud and to myself: I feel so good about this choice for him, and for us. (I sometimes add, "It's only preschool, for heaven's sake," but that addendum is strictly to appease my mother, because I hold fast to the belief that it is actually the whole entire world, and perhaps even the galaxy.) Right now, all of these platitudes and myriad superstitous gestures are pulling me through my worry that Carter will Hate It and, by extension, Hate Me.

I can't quite believe that my little man, seemingly impervious to change and chaos up to this point, isn't just rolling with the flow on this newest incarnation of change and chaos. But his sunny countenance actually clouds over whenever the W-word is mentioned. This began on the second day of "camp," which was a casual introduction to the Montessori experience. Days three through five were progressively more angst-ridden. By the end of the week, I fully expected to walk into his room and find him wearing a tiny Black Sabbath t-shirt and shredded jeans, sporting heavy black eyeliner and listening to moody rock music.

Today was an opportunity to meet the teachers, which was a formality for us. But I'm guessing that Wednesday morning will be an absolute zoo, so it was great to leisurely wander the halls, chat with moms and teachers and administrators, and generally bank up on warm-and-fuzzies. Shortly, we bumped into Mrs. True, one of Carter's teachers. She greeted Carter with a warm smile and a not-at-all-forced enthusiasm. (And yes: kids can definitely tell the difference, so who I'm fooling with my exclamation point, I don't know.) She showed him the space poster she was laminating, adding that they'd be learning about space when school began, then took his hand... and they walked down the hall together to the classroom. Not a trace of angst was detected, so I allowed myself to exhale. A similar encounter with Mrs. Mendez, Carter's other teacher; she's new to Westwood (and Dallas) and seems thoroughly calm and pleasant. We stayed long enough for Carter to wander the room and point out to me the things he likes (fish, chimes, a playgroup friend in the adjoining room) and not so long that S and K were able to disrupt the entire school with their "We're now nap-ready, Mother," yelps.

C was a bit quieter than normal on the drive home, but not unhappy. Enormous shocker: he actually took a monster NAP, which occurs maybe once every six weeks, but woke up cheerful and rowdy.

It will all be fine. Actually, it will all be great and these anxieties will seem absurd in a matter of weeks... but if you want to send us a little positive energy or think an encouraging thought for Carter on Wednesday, well, that would be just swell.

Big love,


*A little trivia: why do we call them muppers, anyway? When we first began experimenting with finger food for S and K, we bought the requisite container of Gerber fruit puffs. These are teensy puffs of food (think Ferran Adria for the toddler set) that have no nutritional value whatsoever and (gasp!) aren't even organic. Their only redeeming feature is that they melt almost instantly when they come into contact with saliva, so wee ones can practice the heavy lifting and masticating that will be required for Cheerios. Three-year-old Carter, with a mouthful of chompers, naturally fell in love with them (house rule: what you possess, I must acquire) and snuck enormous handfuls of them at every opportunity. He called them "mups." Ergo, the eaters became known as the muppers. I have refused to call S and K "the twins" and ultimately broke myself of referring to them as "the babies," but this nom de famille stuck and now usually includes their big brother. (Today a teacher gestured to S and K and asked Carter, "Are these your siblings?" "No," he drily replied, "they're twins.")

Maybe, if we're super lucky, our next trivia tidbit will be: why do we call S Llama? I'm still not really clear on this one. Trey?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hair today, still there tomorrow.

Mini-milestone this past week: on Monday, S got his first-ever haircut. Settle down, Grandmommy… we didn’t do anything radical. (Truly, we doubt that anyone outside this house could even tell the difference.) In retrospect, this 'do was probably a bit overdue (see left), but now we can say that he, like his big brother, went 19 months without losing one lock of golden hair.

Needless to say, poor Miss Lolly
practically had a hissy fit when we refused to let her shears near K’s hair. Yes, it’s long and straggly and constantly hanging in her eyes… prompting our frank friend Marshall Cobb to nickname her “Daryl Hannah.” But we’re hoping that our patience will be rewarded with that no-bangs look that worked so well for me in 1973. (Please note tongue in cheek.) Plus, I just love to look at her, plant my hands on my hips and say, “Young lady, WHAT are we going to do with your hair?!?”

But back to Spencer Samuel: if you want to see the before, DURING and after, click here for a brief slideshow. Trey thought he looked a bit like Kojak sitting in the chair with a lollipop dangling perilously from his lower lip. We both thought he was a champ: nary a tear. (Excepting a few from me, of course.)

Good Morning

As a test of our blogger resolve, I thought I would start the day off with a quick entry. The house is still generally quiet, with the exception of "Philadelphia Chickens" blaring from Carter's room and punctuated with the occasional lyrical outburst from the bug-man himself.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

New feature

What are the children doing while these posts are being created? So far...

First Post: Napping, as all good children should on a daily basis until they’re of voting age. (Today, Mommy even gets in on the zzz-action while Daddy launches the blog.)

Hi, How Are You?: S and K are gleefully playing with two small cups and the water dispenser on the fridge. You can’t even begin to appreciate how many towels and full wardrobe changes will be required to rectify this. And somehow I am able to type despite the ear-piercing shrieks of “we can’t believe she’s letting us do this” happiness.

C-bug, meanwhile, is on a field trip to the car wash with Daddy, to defunk the Volvo after K rather impressively expelled the contents of her stomach before we’d even left the Breadwinners parking lot. (Can’t handle frequent detailed descriptions of various bodily fluids? Better edit your bookmarks now.)

Hi, How Are You?


Inspired (challenged, goaded, whatever) by our fabulous friend Jen, who makes it all look so maddeningly sweet
and easy, we’re taking the plunge into the overpopulated blog pool. (Watch out for flying elbows and ankles: the lifeguard is definitely not on duty.) Grandfolk, family, friends, hapless strangers wandering by: we make no promises for… well, anything. Those who know us well can probably expect a flurry of activity till the novelty factor wears off, followed promptly by absolutely nothing ever again.

Big love,

P.S. All apologies to Daniel Johnston
for today’s title and Spence’s attire. Happy side note: counting down 6.5 days until we’re strolling down the Drag in Austin, checking for ourveryownselves that his mural is still standing where it was when we met there 18 years ago. And, oh, yeah… watching the NCAA national championship ‘Horns run out onto the gridiron. Hook ‘em.

P.P.S. Nana, we thank you in advance for watching los hooligans whilst we retread our college stomping grounds.

First Post

Here's our first attempt at a family blog. Who knows how well it will go, whether anyone will look or whether we will ever update it. We're holding our noses and diving in........