Curious Monkeys

Curious George was born in 1941, but his adventures still resonate with children today. My little monkeys never tire of reading Curious George books. I think it’s comforting for them to learn they’re not the only ones who are tempted to call the fire department, just to see what will happen. As we read about George’s telephone call and the firemen who carry him off to jail, I realize that our story time may have the added benefit of deterring my little monkeys from making 9-1-1 calls of their own.

I formed this theory, though, before our family held an extremely informative meeting on the subject of emergency preparedness. The morning after our family meeting, lo and behold, a policeman showed up at our house! My littlest monkey, who at the ripe old age of 16 months has already called 9-1-1 three times, was my first suspect. But then I noticed that my middle monkey had become curiously quiet. I considered the matter further and realized that the call was not placed from a cell phone with an emergency quick dial, but from our house phone, which would have required some four-year-old skills.

I can only imagine the dread my four-year-old monkey felt as she watched a uniformed man walk up our driveway. I felt a little dread myself. In Curious George’s day, they carried children off to jail for crimes like ours! I needn’t have worried, though. While I ranted and raved about my naughty children, the officer was all gentleness and consolation. He assured us that it was okay, that our crime was normal, and not to worry.

I watched him go not only relieved, but also bewildered. “What kind of response was that?” I thought. While monkeys today are every bit as curious and clever as those of past generations, it seems that officers these days are just not what they used to be!

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Blogging Can Save You Time

When there are three children in the house, every day seems louder and crazier than the last. Since I had baby number three, I’ve had to not only work harder and faster, but also find some creative time-savers. For example, I took up blogging, which saves me tons of time.

Before I started blogging, I had to go to play group, community activities and story time. Now, though, I don’t need to see my friends or meet new people–we just connect up on my blog. When I call my sister, she doesn’t have to waste time asking me what’s going on because she already knows–my kids are sick and I’m tired of winter.

Things get even more efficient if your friends start their own blogs. Just the other day, I met up at the park with a friend who started blogging this year. I’ve never had a more efficient conversation!

“I’m going to start a business,” she tells me.
“Yeah, I already know about that,” I reply. We’re silent a moment before she tries again.
“Oh . . . Hey, I’ve got to tell you about this great dessert I tried the other day.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I answer. “I’ve already read about it.” She fumbles a moment before launching into a story about her son, at the end of which she exclaims, “I just can’t believe it! He’s never done that before!”

This is where I get incredulous because not only has she told me the exact same story before, but I even blogged about it!
“Are you serious?” I ask, unable to hide my disappointment. “Don’t you read my blog?”

And so I realized that if my friend would just do her homework, I could cut out play dates too.

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Greek Tuna Salad

I’ve got an amazing recipe for all of you. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have unfaltering faith in my amazing friend Boots who often gives out amazing recipes. Check it out on my Amazing Recipes page. Check out my amazing friend Boots at her amazing blog: bootsandtea.com.

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A Winter I Could Love

I’ve been reading some other mommy blogs and noticed a common theme — February stinks. One mommy I know has taken an an inspiring approach to this problem, dubbing February the “Month of Love” (Check out her blog at themillenialhomemaker.com).” Each day she shows her family love in a new, special way. It’s truly inspiring when she decides not to lose her temper in order to show her children love. Wow!

I’ve thought of my own solution for February, which isn’t inspiring, but practical, and with potential to be hugely profitable. In fact, I think I may have hit on the next social revolution. I’m talking about Hibernation. We harvest insulin from pigs, why not hibernation hormones from bears?

We could stay awake through Christmas and New Year’s Day, then pop our pill, make our winter’s nest and wake up in April. Just think, instead of magazine articles with tips for avoiding holiday bulge, we’d be reading how to maximize our caloric intake to see us through to Spring. We wouldn’t need to join gyms and feel guilty for not using them. We’d just sleep off our chocolate and wake up ready to wear a swimsuit.

Furthermore, we could save HUGE amounts on heating bills, gas and many other commodities. We’d never catch the flue, we wouldn’t have to shovel our walks, and we wouldn’t have to spend two hours dressing and undressing our children so they can play in the snow for five minutes. And just think, if our children hibernated too, they’d grow up to be brilliant (childhood sleep correlates with adult intelligence).

There you have it. Hibernation. I thought of it first. Furthermore, as every mother knows, children are most lovable when they’re sleeping. I’m not talking a month of love. I’m talking a whole winter of love.

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The Attack of the Virus

Today my middle child is sick. Call me a sadist, but I love it when viruses attack my children. Viruses have a magical way of transforming loud, wiggly, toy-dumping beasts into sweet, pathetic, moldable things. I say, “Lie down. Hold still. Keep this bowl next to you in case you throw up.” And for the first time anyone can remember, my middle child does what I say. I shape her blankets and smooth her hair, and it all stays put like she’s a piece of modeling clay.

Another beautiful thing about sick children is canceling appointments. “I’m very very sorry, dear friend,” I say over the phone, “but I won’t be able to watch your three adorable children today. And can you teach my Sunday school class this week? I won’t be able to make it. Oh, and if you see your neighbor, tell her I’m really sorry I couldn’t help her move. I’m just so so disappointed.”

My husband walks in as I hang up the phone, which reminds me that I need him to run some errands. “Honey, I can’t go anywhere today, so you’ll need to pick up some soda and popsicles for Middle Child. And since you’ll already be at the store, here’s our grocery list. And since the store’s right next to the bank, it’ll be easy to swing by and deposit these checks. And the bank’s real close to the pharmacy, so I’ll call in those prescriptions for you to pick up when you’re through with the bank. And since I have to drop everything today, you’d better get a movie for me while you’re out.” He looks a little startled, which is my signal to commiserate. “I know, honey,” I say, shaking my head. “I’m just so so so frustrated. I probably won’t be able to do anything for days.”

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Mormon Moms and Rocker Dudes

Have you ever known one of those rocker dudes who shows how manly he is by the volume of his music? If he’s young, you’ll recognize him by his “Nine Inch Nails” T-shirt. If he’s middle-aged, you’ll know him by his hearing aids.

I could take those guys on any day.

In fact, today I proved my manliness and then some by taking a trip to the mall with not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but SIX children under the age of seven years, sardined into one minivan. Since I live an hour’s drive from the nearest mall, this made for an accumulative two excruciating hours in the van, on top of five grievous hours herding children through parking lots and checkout lines.

The hour to the mall was a marathon of excited squealing; the hour home from the mall was a marathon of exhausted screaming. The four-year-old and five-year-old each threw a couple tantrums and the babies were a crying relay team. We stopped the car to console one loud baby. Little did we know our stop triggered a secret signal. “Hey dude!,” the one-year-old cried to the eighteen-month-old. “Nap’s over. Wake up and get your lungs moving so I can have my nap!” The baton was passed. As we lurched back onto the highway, the van was no quieter. The tone of the cry had changed, though, and that’s got to be better for the ears than the same tone forever.

Yes, today took me one step closer to hearing aids, which is why I considered putting some ear plugs in my purse for future grievous outings. But after a moment’s thought I reconsidered. I thought of that old-timer rocker with his hearing aids and felt a twinge of envy. As a Mormon mom, baby number three marks only the beginning of my parenting career. There will be many more grievous outings for me, but I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. Someday when the children are squealing and the babies are wailing, I will serenely reach for my ear and press “off.”

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Looking for Deeper Parenting Books

I’ve read a few parenting books about getting babies to sleep and disciplining toddlers, but I can’t find one that answers my deepest parenting questions. For example, can anyone recommend to me a book that explains what cue tips are for? They’re in the baby section at the grocery store, and in magazines pictures there’s always a jar of them on the changing table with a mint leaf inside. I hate to admit it because I’m sure you’ll all think I’m terribly naïve–or maybe terribly dirty–but I don’t have a clue how to use a cue tip on a baby.

Another topic I’d like to read about is custom baby diets. My little boy spits out cottage cheese like it’s soap, and eats soap like its cottage cheese. He also loves sunscreen, dog food and diaper cream. I need an expert’s advice: should I let his taste buds be my guide? Is it inhumane to serve his lunch in a dog dish on the floor? He seems to prefer floor food over tray food. And would it be harmful if I occasionally, as a reward, washed his mouth out with soap?

Another great mystery is the deceptive qualities of binkies. I don’t understand why I am able to deceive my baby with a binky into thinking his problem is solved, but I’m glad it works. No need to feed or change him—he’s got a piece of rubber to suck on. But I think the binkies work their own deceptions on us mothers too. My baby rarely leaves the house, so in theory the same would be true for his binkies. The reality is different, though. First the binkies get stuck in couches and underneath car seats, but after that, they vanish. I dig in the couch and vacuum the car, and there are no binkies. Perhaps I should be looking this up in witchery books instead of parenting books because I am beginning to believe they are magic. Tiny and simple as they are, they are worth the fortune we spend on them. I just wish my fortune would stay put. Does anyone know a spell for that?

And last, but not least, I need a parenting book that tells me how to teach my children whose boss. When I was a kid I understood that while mom and dad could tell me what to do, I couldn’t tell them what to do. But when my middle child was two, she told me sternly, “Listen to me! I’m NOT going to bed!” Now that she’s four she stands at the top of my parents’ stairs, long after bed time, and yells at grandpa, “ANSWER ME!” Is there a simple way to make her understand? If I sat her down and explained, “I Tarzan; you Jane,” do you think she’d understand?

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Soup Stop Recipes

Okay, faithful readers, I know you are greatly disappointed with my failure to post these many weeks. I can only say that my million-dollar idea of selling beans to yuppies taken on a life of its own: everyone wants a piece of my cookbook. Perhaps instead of selling soup to yuppies, I should sell recipes to mommies. I’ve mulled this over these many weeks and decided that mommies are too poor to buy recipes. So I will offer them for free with a new page in my menu bar called Amazing Recipes. These recipes are amazingly healthy and cheap, and I’ll be posting more from time to time. If you are a yuppy, please send me a donation before you start cooking.

If you are a mommy, perhaps you have a few amazing recipes of your own that you would like to share. I’m interested in amazing recipes, as in amazingly cheap, amazingly healthy, amazingly easy or amazingly ooey-gooey rich and naughty.

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Finding Poetry in Christmas Present

One of my friends is a poet. She uses words to mark and make the meaningful moments of her life. Like all great poets, she has tremendous depth of feeling and a need to express those feelings in words. Sometimes she has to borrow a phrase and customize it to her own experience. For example, from the movie Dead Poets Society, she learned the phrase “Carpe Diem!” which is Latin for “Seize the Day!”

Well, this poet friend loves to wake up early and head out with a newspaper and map to shop garage sales. When she pulls into a stranger’s driveway and sees their garbage laid out on saw horses, her heart fills with anticipation. She springs from her car and shouts “Crape Diem!,” which translates loosely to “Seize the crap!”

From time to time I too have had tremendous depth of feeling and had to put those feelings in verse. When I was a child I wrote a poem about Christmas decorations. My mother’s annual trip to the attic to retrieve her Christmas boxes was a joyous occasion for me, worthy of poetry. It was the beginning of the most magical time of the year–surprises wrapped in paper and bows, my dad’s almond rocha and caramels, my mom’s bonbons and marshmallow logs, a candlelight turkey dinner, caroling, games and Santa.

As an adult, I don’t feel poetry so often as I used to. This December I had a particularly hard time summoning the magical feelings of Christmases past. When I looked at my tree, all I could think was that it needed more ornaments. Out of necessity, I sewed some new stockings, but I had nothing cute to put on my mantel. The baking I limited to a single batch of gingerbread cookies–I wasn’t going to spend time and money on something that would make me fat. And as for the presents, I never did get that joyous temptation to buy more than I had planned. Everything under my tree was crap. I know because I wrapped it.

On December 23rd, I regretfully realized that my children hadn’t even bought a present for their dad. I dutifully loaded them in the car for a trip to the thrift store to buy him a mug. I herded them into the store, the wind whipping against our faces as I scolded them for refusing to wear a coat. Christmas shopping just isn’t what it used to be, I thought, remembering family outings to malls strung with sparkling lights, carols coming through the sound system, and remote-controlled puppies in the toy store. Is there any Christmas magic for adults? I wondered. Will I ever again find any poetry in the season?

My daughters wanted to buy their dad a pink tin canister, but I helped them find a large Christmas mug. The price tag said $1, but the cashier rang it up as 50 cents.

“Is the Christmas stuff half off?” I asked. She pointed to a pile of grocery sacks.
“All the Christmas stuff you can fit in a sack for one dollar,” she explained.

Her words were like a sacred message from the Ghost of Christmas Past. Or maybe it was angels singing over my head. It seemed they were shouting a mighty chorus, “Crape Diem! Crape Diem!”

“Give me that mug back!” I demanded and ran to grab a sack. My daughters ran with me, eagerly snatching darling, dusty Christmas things and stuffing them into our bag. “Can this one be special to me!” they cried again and again as they found ornaments, figurines, candles, tinsel, socks, and other treasures for our home. A grin on my face, the angels sang their borrowed poetry in my head, “This one can be special to you! Crape diem! Crape diem!” With three bags bulging, we went back to the cashier and forked over three dollars.

All the way home, through our second round of tree-trimming, and long enough to see me through some major grocery shopping, I heard the Christmas angels. The next day the angels were still singing when we sat down for our candlelight dinner. We ate turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, salad, rolls, sparkling cider, hot cider, eggnog, whip cream, fudge, almond rocha, chocolate-covered pretzels, pumpkin cake, and Dove caramels. When my daughter asked for some whip cream in her water, I felt a new depth of Christmas magic in the air. I could not help but write some Christmas poetry of my very own. Springing from my chair to get the Reddi-Whip, I shouted “Crape Etum!”

Dear Readers, if this year you have struggled to feel the poetry of Christmas, feel free to borrow mine. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Crape Diem! And Crape Etum!

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All in a Day’s Work

I hate to brag, but my baby is a real go-getter. The moment he wakes up in the morning, he screams for me to lift him out of his crib so he can get straight to work. Today his to-do list included the following; and he checked off every thing on his list before nap time.

■ Pull mommy’s glasses off night stand and stash them where she can’t find them.
■ Find wet wipe box, pull out all wipes and drag them into living room.
■ Fill stomach full with bananas and oatmeal.
■ Dispose of breakfast leftovers onto floor.
■ Garner mother’s sympathy by opening door to garage and falling down step to concrete floor.
■ Find computer mouse and pull it away from computer to almost break cord.
■ Scream loudly in frustration so that mommy will offer a ride in her baby backpack to keep me quiet.
■ Throw up on shirt and baby backpack
■ Carry a bottle of shampoo from bathroom to kitchen.
■ Eat small amount of shampoo and pour large amount onto kitchen floor.
■ Chew up macaroni and apple pieces and spit them onto kitchen floor.
■ Soil two diapers.
■ Leave drool marks on couch.
■ Climb onto couch and retrieve Christmas candle.
■ Chew off corners of Christmas candle.
■ Knock glass of water off kitchen table, leaving puddle on chair and floor.

It may be hard to believe, but this is just an ordinary morning in the life of an extraordinary boy. In fact, the morning was so ordinary I couldn’t remember some of his accomplishments and had to ask his older sisters for help compiling my list. I think his sisters are jealous because they’re always happy to degrade his accomplishments. They eagerly told me all the “naughty” things their baby brother had done. Then my five-year-old had a question, “What’s your list for? Are you writing to Santa?”

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