You'd think I'd learn...

Every time I put in a load of laundry--which is to say, often--I get out the Zout and spray all the stains on Andy's pants. There are lots and lots of them. To look at his pants you'd think he was a mechanic, or at the very least, a construction worker. Math teachers have absolutely no excuse for getting their Dickies THAT dirty.

But the fact is, Andy is not just a math teacher, he's also a daddy. And the minute he walks in the door, four grubby little boy-hands are all over him. Apparently an evening spent wrangling two rambunctious little boys is approximately as hard on the pants as eight hours in the shop working on greasy cars.

Every time I put in a load of laundry--which is to say, often--I am utterly astonished at the number of stains on each pair of pants. I'm astonished when I first cast my eye over them as I pull them out of the laundry pile in the first place, and begin to spray. But I become more and more astonished as I go on.

It doesn't ever end.

The stains just go on and on.

Everytime I think I'm finally done, I see five more stains that I hadn't noticed before. And when I'm done treating those ones... there's five more.

It doesn't stop.

It just goes on and on and on....

....until finally, I realize that I'm spraying down all the spots that are damp with stain remover.

This happens every time I do laundry.

Which is to say, often.

You'd think I'd learn by now.


Case Closed

Yesterday, I took the boys to their very last high-risk follow up at the NICU.

They're going to send me a list of phone numbers for the school district, in case we run into developmental problems down the road, but they didn't see any reason to suspect we'd need them.

I am officially the mother to two normal little boys.

And oh, it's a good feeling.


Loving Isaiah

Loving Nathan is easy. His soul is wide open, wide as his eyes. Whatever it is that he needs, he makes sure that I get the message, loud and clear. Emphasis on the loud part.

And more often than not, what he needs is “huggies!” Huggies are easy to give, especially when your little son throws his arms rapturously about your neck, a carefree and mildly maniacal grin pulling the corners of his mouth, wide as they’ll go, wide as his soul, wide as his eyes.

Sometimes I can’t give him huggies just then, but I know the need will still be there waiting when I’m done with baby’s diaper, and I can count on him not to let me forget.

Loving Isaiah is different. Not that he’s a bit less loveable and endearing. It’s just that his needs are quieter. Loving Isaiah means stopping to listen to him, and stooping down to see what he’s pointing out. Loving Isaiah means slowly flipping through the Yellow Pages backwards and growling in imitation of the fearsome termites pictured in the exterminator’s ad. Above all, loving Isaiah means lots of Curious George, and always letting him pick out his own clothes.

Loving Isaiah happens on his own time.

Andy and I have been mulling over Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. It’s an excellent book, and his insights have been tremendously helpful in learning to understand one another.

Nevertheless, it struck me as a bit simplistic to say that everyone would have one love language, and that would be the key to everything... It’s awfully hard for me to imagine a healthy relationship without all five elements.

Last week, Andy and I had a little spat, and wanting to make up, I reached out to touch him. As usual. And as usual, it was entirely the wrong thing to do. But this time around, Andy was able to explain what was going on. Touch is my primary love language, and when we are distant or at odds I want us to cuddle our way back to intimacy. Not so for Andy. Physical affection is important to him, too, but it’s a sign that all is well between us, not a way to get there. If all is not well, my hand on his shoulder is simply an invasion of his personal space. For Andy, “kiss and make up” is entirely the wrong order. He’d much rather make up and then kiss.

As I thought about it, the same is true for me and acts of service. Andy’s primary love language is acts of service, and he really does express so much love for me in this way. He’s really wonderful, and he helps around the house a LOT. And when all is well between us, I know that it’s love, and I receive it as such. But if I feel insufficiently cuddled, I don’t perceive his service as love, but rather as a vote of no confidence.

It seems that our particular love languages aren’t the only ways we can receive love well, but they are the keys that open up our hearts to receive love in all the different ways.

Anyway, the other day we were noticing that Isaiah was much less cuddly than his brother. While Nathan would perpetually run up to us and throw his arms around us, Isaiah would not even let us hug him lately, except as we tucked him into bed. And then only briefly.

We were concerned, but we weren’t entirely sure how concerned we should be. Was Isaiah feeling insecure and withdrawing from us, or was he simply a less huggy creature by nature? Maybe it was just that while Nathan’s love language is obviously physical touch, Isaiah’s is... something else.

Whatever the case, the only thing to do was to pay careful attention to Isaiah, and learn how best to love him.

It was easier than we thought. The very question turned out to be the answer. Isaiah’s love language seems to be quality time, and as we simply started paying close attention to him, you could see him begin to glow.

And strangely enough, now that his “love tank” is full of quality time, he lets me cuddle him. Not only that, but often throughout the day, I’ll feel two little arms wrap around me, and turn around to kiss Isaiah’s beaming face.



Who needs therapy?

"I put my soul back together this morning with super-glue."

It took me a bit to notice the beat-up sneakers in his hand.


Give us this day our daily pizza

Yesterday we went to the petting zoo in San Juan Capistrano, where Isaiah stared rapturously at all the ducks and geese, honking wildly, and where Nathan gleefully chased bunnies about and gave them lots of huggies. The bunnies would quickly squirm away, and Nathan would hold out his arms pleadingly. "Huggies? Huggies?" I felt a little sorry for the poor bunnies. That is not an easy career, by any stretch of the imagination. But then Andy reminded me that in the wild, their predators are more ferocious even than affectionate toddlers. And the pay is good, a lifetime supply of carrots and bunny feed. I guess it's not too bad a life, all things considered.

They had a tiny train there, which you could ride for two dollars. This was the most exciting part of the whole place, as far as the wuggies were concerned. We were sorely tempted to let them ride, but the truth was, we didn't have much time, and thought it was more important to see the ostriches. The boys weren't particularly interested in ostriches, but ostriches are real, and the train wasn't. In the interest of exposing our children to as many real experiences as possible, we dragged them unwillingly over to the ostriches, and promised to go see a real train just as soon as the petting zoo closed.

Which was very soon. The trip was a bit spur-of-the-moment. I pretty much spent the whole morning on the internet, looking for somewhere fun to take the kids, and by the time I found it, there wasn't even going to be time to pack a lunch if we were going to have much time before it closed. So we stopped at Trader Joes on the way and picked up a grand assortment of food for lunch and dinner. Three loaves of bread, two blocks of cheese, carrots and tangerines and grape tomatoes and spinach. All yummy nutritious things easily eaten on the go, and thus a wonderful plan for saving time.

Except that Trader Joes was the wrong direction on the 57, but we didn't take the 57, and got caught behind a long train. And anyway, Andy packed us ham sandwiches after all. So when we finally got to the petting zoo, we had precisely 40 minutes before they closed. Which turned out to be the perfect amount of time to see everything, so it was all good. And really, getting stuck behind the train was probably the best part of the day for the wuggies, since trains are surpassingly wonderful, and that train was actually real, unlike the one at the petting zoo, but it didn't whistle in our faces like the one at the Amtrak station, and leave Nathan quivering for a good ten minutes.

Anyway, all this to say that our eating habits have had a strange effect on the wuggies vocabulary. When most people want to refer to the nourishing stuff we eat, they usually say "food." Or maybe "dinner."

Not the wuggies. That would be too dull.

When we gathered into the car after our stop at Trader Joes, and I broke out the grape tomatoes, our hungry wuggies became very excited.

"Pizza! Pizza!"


Return of the Comment Spam

It was only a matter of time. The creeps have finally developed software that can get around word verification.

I'm tempted to disable anonymous posting, except that lots of spam-bots have blogger accounts, and lots of real live nice people don't.

Maybe it's time to move?

I've been tossing around the idea of getting my own domain name and setting up a wordpress blog there. I haven't done so, because... well... I'm a busy lady, and that would be work.

But if that would keep the robots at bay...

So, dear blogsavvy readers, would that solve things? Or would the spam-bots just keep following me?

Any and all hosting recommendations/anti-recommendations would be most welcome!


Fluid Dynamics

Yes, our young physicists are obsessed with pouring.

And no, bathtime is generally not the preferred venue.

Ironically enough, that very fact makes for lots of bathing...

The Tow Truck

Yesterday we saw the Tow Truck. Shiny and sleek and powerful, it is truly a thing of beauty. There was a time when this tow truck struck fear into our hearts, but now we merely admire it with reverent awe.

We have parking stickers now.

You see, there a number of guest parking spaces here. Which is a good thing. It’s nice to have friends over, and it’s nice to have a place for them to put their car. This was a huge problem at our first apartment, so I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted.

But of course, guest parking spaces don’t do much good at all if residents park there. If you have more cars than fit in your driveway, you’ll just have to shell out and buy another parking space. If they catch you mooching off the guest spaces, they’ll tow you off straight away.

Fair enough. And it is for this reason that they require all residents to place bright red stickers in prominent view on all their vehicles. So that they know which cars to tow away, if ever they catch them in the guest lot.

With all the important things in my life, I must say that getting parking stickers was rather low priority for me. I just didn’t feel terribly motivated to get a sticker for the sole purpose of enabling them to tow me away should I violate rules that I have no intention of violating.

But then we got a notice that we needed to get parking stickers for our cars. And then we got a second notice. And then we got the monthly general newsletter from the management, announcing their new policy on unmarked vehicles. If you’re in a driveway without a permit, you will receive a 24 hour warning, and then be towed away.

I dragged all the wuggies over to the office, let them photocopy the registration papers, and put the big red sticker on the Doopah-Mobile.

Problem is, I couldn’t put a big red sticker Andy’s car. I couldn’t even get a sticker to put on Andy’s car. See, Andy’s car was in Rancho Cucamunga. Or Redlands. Or Whittier. Or Santa Clarita. I never can quite keep track. Point is, Andy’s car hardly ever stays in the same place for very long, but it’s always in the same place as the registration papers for Andy’s car. And that place where Andy’s car and the registration papers to Andy’s car are? Well, during normal business hours, it’s certainly not here.

That’s when we really started noticing the gorgeous red tow truck. It drove right by us many times each day, at all hours of the day and night. We trembled each time he passed, but amazingly, we never got that 24 hour warning.

Finally, it happened. That amazing confluence where Andy, Andy’s car, the registration papers to Andy’s car, and the manager were all in the same place at the same time. Andy then decorated the Green Turtle with a grotesquely large parking sticker, and we breathed a sigh of relief.

With nothing to fear, we were now free to fully appreciate the magnificent beauty of the Tow Truck. It became a source of joy in our lives, like sunsets and roses and freeway overpasses.

And then, a few weeks later, we took a pleasant evening stroll around the neighborhood, and once again saw the Tow Truck.

Parked in front of a neighbor’s driveway.

Yesterday afternoon, as we were sitting outside enjoying the pleasant sunshine, that tow truck, the neighbor’s tow truck, drove by us once again. As usual, we paused to admire. Nathan sort of half-cocked one eye-brow and gave a low, slow drawl, full to the brim with casual admiration.

“Wooow. Truuuuck.”

My Secret Weapon


I knew I was running low. But I was smack dab in the middle of scrubbing the kitchen floor when I completely and utterly ran out of all-purpose cleaner.

So I had to make do with what I had, and what I had was dishsoap. I just filled the now-empty spray bottle with water, and added a blop of dishsoap.

It worked so much better. Everything came right up. And when I went to clean the stove-top... oh, it was a breeze!

Dirt cheap. Safe to spray when babies are in the room. Keep out of reach of toddlers... but only because you don't want them to think it's okay to play with bottles of cleaning chemicals.

And it works just beautifully!



Holy Week

I had all sorts of plans for this weekend. Going to the beach with the kids, dying Easter eggs... the one by church is out of stock, but I want to see if any of the other Christian stores have “Resurrection Eggs” left.

Except I can’t. Not now. Not after the Maundy Thursday service last night.

It isn’t Easter.

I love how the liturgy marks time. I am home, going about my business. The diaper changes never stop, and neither do the meals. Toddlers and nursing mothers really shouldn’t fast.

The feeding of the five-thousand, and the four-thousand, and the three-thousand... it all makes a little more sense now with a big family. They set aside the constant, urgent needs of daily life to listen to his teachings. And he, the bread from heaven, gave them physical food to feed their physical bodies.

But it is on this day that the bread from heaven is broken, and I keenly feel the incongruity as I go about my business, while Christ prays at Gesthemane, and others kneel in the darkened church, to watch with him one hour.

Somehow, terribly, life went on there in Jerusalem, as he wept and prayed. Babies cried and nursed and burped, toddlers squirmed and ran and laughed and fought as he was scourged and mocked and tried.

Life goes on here as well, and that is the common thread that draws me there. I am in Anaheim, 2006, I am in Jerusalem, 30 AD. I am everywhere that believers gather and remember this tremblesome week.

Sunday afternoon, I will pull out the brightly colored board books, and perhaps we will decorate eggs. But now is not a child-friendly time, and now we are all children squirming beneath the weight of it all. And so we go about our business, and do what we must do, be it running and giggling, or running errands, shushing ourselves all the while lest we break the holy stillness.


The Fabrication of Our Lives; or, Happy Cows Give Chocolate Milk

For better or for worse, we read a lot of comics while we were in the hospital with the twins. Susan Sanders was an angel during that ordeal, organizing meal delivery, visiting in the hospital, and doing a boatload of laundry once the twins were safely home and spitting up all over everything. Best of all, she brought reading matter for the long, dreary hours.

The magnesium sulfate relaxed every muscle of my body. The ones in my tummy were pretty stubborn, contracting regularly the whole time, but the ones in my arms and legs and eyes pretty much turned to jelly. I'd had grand hopes of doing all sorts of needlework, of reading Plato and Aristotle and Austen and Dickens... In reality, I ended up watching How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days and What a Girl Wants. Repeatedly. In Spanish.

It was the scariest time of my life. My children’s lives depended on my staying calm, and there sure wasn’t much to distract me from the potential tragedy that loomed over us, just a few hard contractions away. My eyes couldn’t focus on small print, and I was so drugged up I couldn’t sustain a serious train of thought for more than a few minutes. I could read comics, though, and thank God, the Sanders family had about 20 years worth of For Better or For Worse.

I’d never really gotten into the strip before that. When you flip through the Sunday comics every once in a while, Dilbert and Foxtrot are always funny. Doonesbury is usually funny if you’ve been following the news faithfully. But FBorFW is hardly ever funny... at least, not if you take any one strip on its own. Put it all together, though, and the plot arc is winsome and delightful and real. And so as the clock across from my bed ticked away the seconds, and Andy’s red scratchings on the whiteboard marked the days and the weeks, we followed the Patterson family as they grew, and dreamed of the family we were forming.

Is it any wonder, then, that even before they were born, we’ve always envisioned our little wuggies with thought bubbles over their heads?

Perhaps it’s because children tend to become precisely whoever it is you expect them to be, or perhaps it’s because we really had forged a deep metaphysical bond with their tiny, unformed souls. Those weeks and months, those hours and minutes, keenly attuned to their every squirm, their galloping heartbeats amplified over the monitors... I was their entire world, and they filled up mine. But whether we dreamed with knowledge, or whether we shaped our children into the image of our dreams, it is with astounding accuracy that the wuggies have grown into the little characters that we wove together there in the hospital, that danced through all our dreams and all our conversations.

And I must say, they certainly are just the sort of characters that you’d expect to see walking around with thought bubbles floating over their heads. Meepo looks like something of a caracature of himself, with big head and bigger eyes, and a crazy shock of unruly blond hair to top it off. Wildly gleeful in his joy, melodramatic in his little sorrows... he is a boy of strong passions. With Nate-bug, everything is larger than life, yet always there is a glint of laughter somewhere in his eyes, no matter how terribly, horribly, dreadfully, magnificently devastated he may be.

And then there’s Mr. Wuggidy, measured and balanced and sober, a perfectly proportioned little man. A very different sort of person from his brother, his seriousness is the ideal foil for Nathan’s goofiness. But Isaiah is so very, very, serious, that at times the overall effect is quite as exaggeratedly comical. He is most particular about his clothing, for instance. Nathan is happy to wear any old thing that mom picks out for him, but Isaiah is downright finicky. Everything has to be just so. He loves bright colors, and pairs his stripes and his paisleys with exquisite taste. At times he likes to go for the layered look, with one shirt worn normally, and up to six more looped over head and one shoulder toga-style.

Like I said, it’s only natural that characters of that sort should have thought bubbles floating over their heads. And when children have thought bubbles floating over their heads, it’s only natural that the parents should read them aloud.

But the boys have taken to narrating their own lives by now, and it’s a good thing, too, because with big brothers like that, the Bean of Cuteness has to share in the fun. In fact, she’s by far the most chatty of the three. Her thought bubbles seem to perpetually float up and interrupt every conversation. She is very small, so her world is small, and she’s usually not quite sure what we’re talking about. That never keeps her from chiming in, though. “Well, I’m pretty super,” is a great all-purpose response that fits in neatly with any conversation. Or, “Well, at any rate, I have a nose.” Or, “Did you know that I have fingers? They’re for grabbing stuff. It’s pretty super.” Hey, you gotta stick to what you know.

One evening last week, we were all enjoying a refreshing snack of chocolate milk. At least, most of us were. All of us who are old enough to drink cow’s milk. The conversation turned to how much Tembo wished that she could have some too. It’s really not fair. Everybody else likes it so much... why can’t she have chocolate milk? I told her it’s because Mama doesn’t eat enough twix bars, and I promised to try to incorporate more chocolate into my diet.

It was at that moment that we looked over and saw that Tembo had just found a more immediate solution to her problem. Isaiah had knocked his cup over, and there was Baby, eagerly lapping it up off the floor.

Um... kiddo? Let’s just stick to the twix plan, shall we?



The world is shrouded in fog, and blackness presses in on me from every direction. I can hardly motivate myself to do anything, and every move I make takes more energy than I have. I wonder if I'm going crazy.

And then it all comes rushing back.

Oh yeah. That's why.

Well, at any rate, thank God for Tylenol Meltaways, quite possibly the only substance that you can successfully forcefeed to a screaming toddler. It may take two adults, but you can do it, and they work pretty much instantly.

It's thanks to those little wonder-tablets that I actually got that one hour of sleep last night, and that I still have about a quarter inch left on my rope.


And the disturbing childrens book award goes to...


Pavlov's Mom

I slept right through the alarm this morning. Which was okay, since the main point of the alarm was so that Andy would be able to wake up and go to work. I wanted to wake up too, so we could have some time together in the wee-sma's, but I got a really bad night's sleep last night, so I think sleeping in was more important.

I was so tired I slept straight through the alarm. Didn't even blink. But I snapped wide awake, alert as a hawk the instant I heard the refrigerator door open.

Then I realized that it was just Andy getting some breakfast, and that all family members who do not know the difference between eggs and ping-pong balls were still safely tucked in bed. So I rolled over and went back to sleep.



On that fateful trip to IKEA, wherein we availed ourselves of those marvelous swizzle sticks (which really do, incidentally, serve as quite satisfactory baby spoons...), Nathan pushed the cart. It was one of those weirdly minimalistic IKEA carts. Everything's pretty minimalistic at IKEA. Except for soda preparation.

Anyway, all that to say that Nathan was pushing one of those contraptions that looks like a shopping cart, is constructed like a shopping cart, but merely serves the purpose of a stroller, because the actual shopping cart part has been cut off to save space. Which is a much better idea than it sounds, because Nathan was pushing this particular minimalistic cart. And because there was no actual ... er ... cart to this shopping cart, he managed to avoid bumping into anything.

It was great. Nathan felt very pround and important, and Isaiah had quite a thrilling ride.

Actually, Nathan was being a very responsible driver, but Dadders kept his hand on the cart, just in case.

Suddenly Nathan stopped the cart, looked sternly and solemnly up into his father's eyes, and said "Uh-oh."

The Meep-bug then took Dadders hand off the cart and placed it firmly at his side.

And then, with boundaries clearly laid out, they all resumed the doopa-doopah.


Compulsive Spending

We are now the proud (?) owners of a "SODA" drink set from IKEA.

In case that is not entirely self explanatory, in addition to several dozen brightly colored translucent acrylic straws, we have approximately 436 billion 32 thousand 5 hundred and 48 brightly colored translucent acrylic paddles and oars of various sizes ranging from miniscule to very small.

There were supposed to be 437 billion, but we missed a few.

I have no idea what they are for, but I do know that they cost us five 5 dollars and 63 cents. And that they took 6 minutes and 12 seconds to gather up off the floor, and that they elevated my blood pressure by 14%.

We would also have been the proud owners of a perfectly heinous powder blue foam placemat embossed with 32 concentric circles, and embellished with one black smudge, but somebody threw it out of the cart upstairs, and we didn't realize it until we were downstairs in the checkout line. We may have been willing to pay 2 dollars and 49 cents to assuage our guilty consciences, but wind our way back up through the third floor and back again? I think not.

And now you know why IKEA has a playroom.


Brown Sugar

I can't believe I forgot to mention that I put a few tablespoons of brown sugar in the glaze for the chicken.



Tangerine Chicken

When it comes to cooking, I'm something of a girl with a curl. When I'm good, I'm good. When I'm not... well, Andy has quite a resevoir of tales, but we aren't going to talk about that right now, because last night's supper was good. Very, very good.

First of all, I preheated the oven as hot as it would get. And I do mean as hot as it would get. For our oven, that was 550 degrees. Then I grated up the peels to around 3 tangerines, and combined them with the juice of about 1/2 a tangerine, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. And sea salt and cracked pepper.

Then I asked my husband to rinse the chicken, and empty its body cavity. It was a win-win situation. He felt very manly, reaching in and yanking out all the internal organs. And I was very glad not to have to deal with that icky yucky task, even if it meant getting laughed at mercilessly when Andy realized that the internal organs had merely been packed in there by the butcher, and didn't really require much yanking at all.

Anyway, once the chicken was ready, I brushed the tangerine mixture over its skin, and placed it wrong-side up in a baking dish. There are excellent reasons for roasting a chicken upside-down. It allows the juices to flow down into the dry breast meat, and cooks the legs faster, allowing for more even cooking. The reason I did this particular chicken upside-down, however, was because I got confused. When I served it up, I was rather dismayed at how little breast meat there was on the back... but I digress.

As soon as I put the ckicken in the oven I turned the heat down to a sensible 375.And really, that's the important part of the whole thing. To preheat the oven really high, and then let it slowly cool down to a sensible temperature as the meat cooks. It quickly and evenly browns the outside, sealing in juices and deepening the flavor, and then lets the inside cook more slowly, keeping things nice and tender. I originally got the idea from an amazingly delicious mandarin pork roast, but it works beautifully on beef, turkey, and chicken as well. It's just like browning it beforehand, except that it's much less work, and the result is much more even.

Anyway, the whole bird was done in about an hour, which makes it great for when you're short on time.

It also means that it was done long before the potatoes.


Living in the O.C.

I was highly disappointed last week when opened our mailbox and found a notice that my Healthy Families application for the wuggies had been forwarded to Medi-Cal. It was quite a blow to discover that we didn't make enough money to go to our favorite pediatrician. Not because he's more expensive, but because the State of California had deemed that we fell below their income guidelines for their low-cost health insurance program. We would have to get the no-cost program, and find a different doctor. Oh brother.

The other thing was, I'd been hoping never to speak with a Medi-Cal worker again in my life.

Friday morning I gritted my teeth, picked up the phone, and called my new worker. To my astonishment, somebody answered the phone. In a pleasant, well-modulated voice, she told me that she was just about to look at my file. When I expressed my confusion over being sent to Medi-Cal, and told her that I would really rather enroll them in Healthy Families, she courteously explained the process to me, and assured me that she'd double check everything. They're allowed 45 days to review a case, but to speed up the process, she'd call me back so I could fax them any necessary paperwork rather than dealing with snail-mail.

And then... and hour later... she actually DID call me back. No, she didn't need any extra paperwork. September qualifies for no-cost Medi-Cal, the boys for Healthy Families. Did I want to get Medi-Cal with a share of cost for the boys as well?

Oh, the clarity! Oh, the courtesy! Oh, the prompt diligence!

What a difference a county makes.

I love living in Orange County.