Ordinary Time

We have now returned to Ordinary Time. For those of you unfamiliar with the Catholic Liturgical Calendar, Ordinary Time refers to all that time in which priests root for the Packers. (I mean, wear green and gold.) Actually it means we’re not really doing anything special (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost) or preparing for anything special (Advent) or beating ourselves up for anything special (Lent). Just kidding…

What does Ordinary look like around here? Chaos, generally. Ordinarily my kitchen is a mess and there are toys everywhere. Papers pile on every surface until the glossy junk mail slips slowly to the floor, where it puddles. Eventually I pick the pieces up and toss them into the recycling. The scattered Cheerios are like landmines under the dining room table, but the ones you really don’t want to step on are the crusts of three-day-old bread tossed from the baby’s highchair tray. Nothing stales quite so hard as homemade whole wheat bread. Try that rock solid nugget in the soft part of a bare arch. Ouch. How I wish we had a dog. A little furry Hoover is a blessing underneath the highchair.

Right now I am in the process of attempting to de-clutter. This means I have three or four different donation piles going, including the bag of toys no one plays with that I have to keep hiding while I fill it, because if it’s discovered the kids will whine and cry and there will be a scene something along the lines of

Sally Bear, center stage: “NOOOOOO!! Don’t donate this! We can’t get rid of this! I LOVE this!”

Boo, from offstage, but always agreeing with his sister in arguments against me: “We love that! Can’t donate that!”

Heartless Mother, standing firm: “You never play with it.”

Sally Bear: “But I will play with it. I don’t want you to get rid of it, Nooooo!”

HM, demanding: “Play with it. Let me see you play with it right now.”

Sally: “Well I’m busy right now.”

Boo: “I’m busy right now too.”

Heartless Mother, emotionless: “Put it back in the donation bag, now.”

Ordinary time is a good time to try and get “back to order,” and yes, it usually takes me about all year. Right now I am also attempting to get back to ordinary eating. That is, no refined sugar, no white flour, no juice. I am not as militant I was in our experiment and we have quite a few half-full bottles of spirits lingering in the kitchen since Christmas. (I put “bottle of Scotch” on Dr. Awesome’s Christmas list, and somehow he got three.) Somehow a bottle of wine and a six pack made it into my grocery cart last night. But generally speaking, the first way we cut costs on the grocery bill is to cut out alcohol and we aren’t much for processed foods. So ordinarily I spend alotta time cooking. At the moment I’ve got a loaf of bread to start. If I don’t, we won’t have any bread tomorrow. And apparently no amount of pancakes or corn muffins can amend this failure in the eyes of my son. Just two nights ago I was working late on a post for The Remembered Arts Journal. I didn’t have time or motivation to thaw cod and peel potatoes, so I fed my children the most spectacular spur-of-the-moment almond pancakes with maple syrup for dinner. (How they suffer.) Boo ate three-quarters of his dinner, abandoned his plate, and five minutes later I caught him in the kitchen with the football-sized loaf of whole wheat sourdough literally IN HIS MOUTH. I tried to tell him, “Boo, you cannot live by bread alone.” And he said, quite emphatically, “Yes I do.”

But let me not mislead you. I have caught his sister in a similarly compromising situation in the kitchen many times before. But she is always caught with the butter.

Of faeries and lies.

Something wondrous is afoot amouth. My Baby Bear has lost her first tooth. I remember when that tooth came in. With pain and toil did I bring it! (Or so I thought.) Dr. Awesome was away on a long, tropical and enviable business trip, so naturally his firstborn needed to do something really horrible to Mommy like cut a tooth and spike a fever and refuse to sleep for seven straight days. At least that’s how I remember it. I truly cannot believe that tooth I fretted over has had the gall to come out. I am excited for her, of course. The grown-up tooth behind, wouldn’t you know, is already in—already up! I shuddered at the sight because it was so far back and immediately began estimates on future orthodontia. But the dentist assured me that it was fine and normal, and the permanent tooth would work its way forward as soon as the milk tooth came out. It’s been less than 48 hours, and that permanent tooth is already almost where it needs to be, and the other milk teeth, which seemed so close together, seem to be shifting aside for it. The way children grow is truly a miracle.

It is bittersweet to me to see my baby lose her first tooth. Has it been five years already? I am also touched by the sweetness of seeing Bitsy’s come in while Bear’s come out. Of course, there is a lot less fretting over the baby teeth than there used to be. While with the first child I frantically felt the gumline every six hours whenever there was any more fussing, drooling, or gnawing than usual, by the third it’s more like the baby smiled one day and I said, “Oh wow, look at you with those three teeth!”

With the exit of the first tooth comes the entrance of the Tooth Fairy. And here we examine the Lies We Tell Our Children. Where does the fun stop and the guilt begin? I will be honest and say that I never really considered whether or not we would do the Tooth Fairy, and instead got right down to Just how cheap can this Fairy be? (The going rate for a five-year-old tooth in my house, if you’re wondering, is a crisp dollar, and the only thing disappointing about that seemed to be that Bear was hoping it would be made out of chocolate.) I was freaked about slipping the buck under her pillow. I was sure I would get caught, and I planned to tell her I was just so eager to see if the Tooth Fairy had come yet that I was checking to see if it were so. As it turns out, after I slipped the buck and pocketed the tooth I discovered that Boo had wet his bed and managed to get him cleaned up with pants and sheets completely changed and Bear never stirred from her sound slumber in the bed “next door.”

But I will also say that a part of me, the part that tries to raise my children with full knowledge of the truth of this world and the next as I understand it, wants to know why I am perpetuating flat-out lies that only get more and more complicated as the questions get asked. (And Bear is a perfect interrogator. We have found that she asks us questions separately to confirm our stories. She also runs her own experiments. More on that later.)

Well, I guess, we want to recreate for our children some of the lore we loved as children. Advent is almost upon us, and the Elves have already been up and down our street, so I’ve told it, peeking in on good and naughty children. It makes me wonder, are we obligated to tell our children the whole truth all of the time? We do Santa Claus in our house. We stress the Saint Nicholas aspect and try to make everything as much about Jesus’s birthday as possible. We don’t do the Easter Bunny, partly because I find those big stuffed characters creepy and mostly because I just couldn’t make the connection. We do Easter baskets, and this year we left it as it is fun pretending there’s an Easter Bunny but since you asked, the Easter Bunny is Mommy. But it’s OK for us to pretend. But still we lead our kids to believe that a magical fat man in a red and white suit brings them all the presents in their stockings and under the tree.

Why? Because we love our children. And we loved being children too.

So with the loss of the tooth and the entrance of the Fairy and the first Sighting of the Elves (conveniently while someone was being naughty) the questions began tonight. First, she asked me why only grown-ups can see elves. “I think it’s something that happens to your eyes, like one of many changes your body goes through to grow from a kid to an adult.” And I feel the elaborateness of my answers digging me in deeper. At bedtime I heard her interrogating Dr. A through the wall.

Is there one Tooth Fairy, or many? “Hmm… I always thought there was one, but you’d better ask your mother.” (Note the classic paternal deflection.)

Why did Bobby from my class get candy instead of me? “I’ve never heard of anyone getting candy for a tooth, because candy is bad for your teeth. So maybe there are many tooth fairies…”

How big are elves? Are they tall like you? “Oh, small. Like kids maybe.” What color was the elf wearing? “It was so dark, I couldn’t see.” Mommy said he was wearing green. “Well, that makes sense. Green is a hard color to see in the dark.”

He came out of there sweating. We have since corroborated elf size, elf apparel, elf spying tactics, and elf species dimorphism.

And I have uncovered another reason we tell these lies to our children.

It’s fun.

Day 14: Feeling healthy yet? Let’s Run a 5K!

I am Mom, and therefore frequently prepared for many unexpected emergencies of life, but I am not prepared for everything. Bear’s school, like most elementary schools, falls short on its funds every year for little extras like computers or books or something, and has to turn to the neighboring community and solicit monetary help. When I was a kid we sold Sally Foster wrapping paper, and we trudged door to door with our slick color catalogues, hoping to entice our neighbors of any denomination to shell out the sheckels for cheap, thin, gaudily decorated Christmas and Hanukkah wrap. My mother dreaded it. (And I finally know why. Rather than get the pretty, sturdy, and tasteful paper she wanted to wrap our presents in, she felt obligated to order twenty rolls of that overpriced crap. Ah, the good old days.)

When I moved from public to Catholic school, I didn’t have to sell wrapping paper anymore. Yes! Now I could sell CHOCOLATE! That was just as overpriced, but understandably easier to swallow.

In these enlightened days kids don’t have to sell paper or paper-wrapped confections door to door. Instead our school hosts a 5K and 1K “fun run” to raise money. And of course, people can donate online. So we decided, as enterprising parents of a Kindergartner, to get with the program. I signed up to run the 5K. I didn’t think much about it. Bear was so excited for the 1K. Dr. A was less excited for the idea of entertaining the three of them while I ran. What was I thinking? I am not a person who finds running fun. I am a person who finds signing up for things and later telling funny stories about them fun. But running? Sometimes I can really be an idiot. I just thought, “Gee, I’ll be so healthy, this is great!”

In many ways it was great. I was also greatly surprised when Bear refused to line up at the last minute, and she absolutely positively did not run. I was flabbergast, and embarrassed, because all the other kids were excited and it was just supposed to be about fun and how did my five-year-old turn into an over-stressed and over-scheduled female who cracked under the pressure to perform? I had no idea she was so much like me!

Boo, on the other hand, asked over and over again for a number and wanted to run with all the other kids just for the sheer joy of running. So clearly I registered the wrong kid. I promised Bear I would do the 1K with both of them next year, and Dr. A could finally try some form of land-based exercise. Do you know we have been married for what rounds up to a decade, and I have never seen the man run? I mean not counting chasing progeny down the sidewalk or out of the street, of course.

But how was I unprepared? Only because I ended up completing the 5K with Bitsy in an umbrella stroller. I was not the only stroller jogger, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one without a jogging stroller. Of course, I have a jogging stroller, and I use it all the time for Stroller Strides, where jogging is for short spurts and infinitely optional. But mine is a double jogger, which is roughly the size of the Titanic, and when the thought occurred to me at 11 p.m. the night before the run, “Gee, what is Doc gonna do with all three kids on the sidelines for 40 minutes? Hmm…Better push the baby,” it was immediately followed with “Man…I don’t want to push the double jogger…” and I, foolishly, just packed the umbrella. How many women do I know who own a single jogger she was probably not going to be using that Saturday morning? Plenty. Did the thought occur to me? Nope. Did I wish about five-hundred times while huffing and puffing during the three-mile run that I was A.) not running and/or B.) pushing a smooth-rolling, high-handled baby jogger instead of a futsy four-wheeled umbrella? Yep. Did I keep (walk-jog-run-walk-jog-)running anyway? You betcha. Because it was fun? NO WAY! Because I am stubborn.

But hey, we all gotta be something.

I would also like to note how kind the race volunteers were. They all kept shouting, “Coffee and doughnuts waiting at the finish line! Coffee and doughnuts waiting!” But of course I didn’t have a doughnut. I had a banana, and later a hot bath, and then I declared to Dr. Awesome that I was taking the rest of the day off and would eat a steak and lounge around reading magazines in my bathrobe and would he mind taking three whining children to the grocery store? And he didn’t mind. Because he’s awesome. But I think that might have a little to do with why he wants to run the 5K next year.



How was Halloween, anyway?

Is it conspicuous that during an attempt to reduce the carby footprint of my family, I take a two-week hiatus from writing after the biggest FREE SUGAR holiday of the year? No, of course not! Life is hectic when you’re keeping kids from candy bowls. And, you know, just keeping them alive in general.

Halloween was a blast. It’s adorable watching their excitement as they fly around the neighborhood all dressed up, chasing their friends who are also festive in witch and dinosaur costumes. Our kids are little, so as yet we can restrain them and make trick-or-treating a 45 minute activity after dinner and almost immediately before bed. They are not yet dumping all their candy on the floor as soon as they get home and attempting to negotiate each other out of peanut butter cups and snickers, like my sibs and I always did, but I am pretty sure that will start by next year. When we got home the big kids jumped around gleefully eating their two pieces, and our itsy Bitsy Jackie O’Lantern pushed a wooden walker and played fill-and-spill with the Halloween bubbles. This year I gave out goldfish and little Halloween-themed bubbles the size of the ones you might get at weddings. They were surprisingly well-received. I cannot speak for Dr. Awesome, but I didn’t eat a single piece of Halloween candy on Halloween night.

November first is the Feast of All Saints (aka all Hallows) and Bear got to pick her favorite saint to dress up as in the parade around school. She was St. Anne, primarily because she wanted to carry a baby doll to be baby St. Mary and tell everybody she was the grandmother of Jesus. Boo was too little to dress up this year, and it’s probably a good thing, because when his bossy big sister kept pestering him by calling him “St. Joachim, St. Joachim! Boo that’s you, you get to be my husband St. Joachim. St. Joachim!” he got peeved and declared at the top of his voice, “NO! I’m NOT St. Joachim! I’m St. GOD with an esspensive violin!”

Sometimes, I think even the angels are laughing.

Day 4

My husband cheated on me. Yesterday, while I was home with our tiny children and he was at the pool. There she was—hot, cheap. I guess he’s only human. He succumbed to the foul Temptress, Li’l Caesars. His excuse?

“I didn’t have the cake.”

“I thought we’d agreed no white flour.”

“Well…” Did he not see the hoops I had jumped through only the day before, to save Pizza Night for our children by magically procuring sugarless whole wheat dough and sugarless tomato sauce? Well? And wasn’t he coming home before 7 p.m.? When he could have eaten perfectly healthy food here?

“It’s a lot better than I remember it being. I think they put garlic in the crust.”

Yeah, along with the bleached flour, the crack, and the sugar.

In his defense, Dr. Awesome, PhD, (brilliant husband, father, and reader of PhD Comics) was responsible for taking Bear to two birthday parties yesterday and multiple times refusing free cake, marshmallow cake pops, and shakes at the BK Play Place he took Boo to while Bear was at the first party and I was eating bacon and eggs in DC. (Burger King. On second thought, I’m pretty sure he cheated with a Whooper bun hours before he succumbed to that poolside pizza.) Flash forward to Sunday, Day 4, our Parish Picnic catered by Red, Hot, and Blue, and I spy Dr. A with a giant, BBQ-sauce covered brioche bun, furtively avoiding my glare. He may be onboard about eschewing desserts, lemonade, and beer, but I think he wants to see some solid data to back up exactly why he should eat dry brisket with a fork.

Well, my husband was not alone. I tripped and fell once, landing flat on my mouth on two mini corn muffins. But otherwise, I was quite pleased with the day. I drank water, took my meat plain, and loved it anyway. The weather was beautiful, the kids played (mostly) nicely, and my sugarless dessert was enjoyed by many people and two honeybees. I realized Sunday morning that I was supposed to bring a dessert, so I decided to make a less-sweet version of Eton Mess. I mashed about two pounds of sliced fresh strawberries with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a sprinkle of sea salt, and folded in a pint of heavy whipping cream whipped in my stand mixer until it was stiff enough to support a sliced strawberry. Zero added sugar, of course, but certainly not fructose-free. All I can say is, my kids ate it and I thought it was great.

I will also mention that after this picnic, unlike usually with these sort of family-days-out, I never crashed. Really. I had more energy. At this point, while watching my hopes for the kids’ low-sugar living unraveling completely in a pile of cheap grocery store cupcake liners, that’s about all that is keeping me going.