WFMW: grocery shopping with toddlers

My husband is amazing. He can single-handedly run a full grocery trip, managing three kids in as many carts. Okay, so he needs both hands, but the point is, he can do it. I can't. One gigantic stroller is about all my puny little muscles can handle, and I just don't have the stamina to keep the kids contained long enough for a full week's shopping.

The one thing the wunder-hubband cannot do is read a shopping list. Or maybe it's that I can't write one. We each have our own opinion on the matter, and frankly, the discussions just aren't that productive. But having him watch the wuggies while I do the shopping isn't terribly productive, either. Weekends are so much better spent together as a family, or letting one of us spend a few precious hours doing something other than wuggy-wrangling and housework.

Anyway, I've finally hit on a solution. Each week, I scour the various grocery mailers, and plan my menu around the week's loss leaders for each store. Then I do my shopping in bits an pieces, going to a different store each day. So maybe on Monday I'll go to Ralphs to buy meat, and on Tuesday I'll go to Farmer Boys for produce and eggs, and on Wednesday I'll go to Stater Brother's for general staples. Or whatever. I don't ever have to buy anything for more than the lowest advertised price, and better still, I don't ever have to buy more than will fit in my stroller. I never have to stay beyond the point where the wuggies get squirrely, and I have a great motivation to get out of the house more often. Which is important for everyone's sanity, but it's hard to do!

An unexpected benefit of this system has been less food waste. Food doesn't spend as long sitting in the fridge, and so I'm less likely to make silly mistakes like planning on the chicken breasts for supper 3 days after they expire. I can also adjust things as I go, according to how far the food stretches. Which can vary a lot, when you're feeding three toddlers, who eat like horses one day, robins the next.

Works for me!



Walk softly and... oh, nevermind, just walk softly.

We are feeling highly motivated to teach Isaiah to differentiate between the sounds "st" and "d."




"Do you guys know what today is? Today is the day we pick up Aunt Sarah from the airport!"

"See airplanes?"

"And pilots. Airplane pilots."

"That's right. We'll get to see some airplanes."

"Aunt Sarah a pilot."

"No, Aunt Sarah's not a pilot, she's a passenger. She's just riding on the airplane."

"Aunt Sarah pilot."

"Before we go to the airport, though we're going to stop at the 99c store."

"Buy airplanes!"

"Well, actually we're going to buy balloons, since it's Aunt Sarah's birthday."

"Buy helicopters!"

"Dadders buy airplane!"

"No, Dadders ride on helicopter!"

"Ride on helicopter! Ride on helicopter!"

"Wugger ride on helicopter!"

"Meepo ride on helicopter!"

"Dadder buy helicopter!"

"Ride helicopter!"


Accidents will happen...

...but so will on-purpose-es, and that's what has me flumoxed. Everybody seems to be talking about potty training today, so I might as well join in and blog about my own woes.

We've had the potty chair out for quite some time, but we've been very low-key about it so far. But now, Nathan seems definitely ready to start training in earnest. Isaiah isn't really interested, which is probably a good thing... we'll take this one wuggy at a time.

We're planning on switching straight over from diapers to regular underwear on Saturday. We'll expect lots of accidents, and do a lot of laundry. We'll be very patient and loving, but Nathan will have lots of intrinsic motivation to stay clean and dry.

I can do this.

Anyway, over the past few days, I've been getting a head start by putting Nathan in big boy underwear for just a couple of hours. After he uses the bathroom, washes his hands, and gets a treat (Hurray for Nathan! A chocolate chip for everybody!) I offer him a big glass of water. I set the kitchen timer, and then we do the whole thing all over again in 20 minutes. It's been working well so far. We've only had one accident.

One accident, and one on-purpose.

Just a few moments before the timer went off, Nathan pulled down his pants, took aim, and carefully peed all over a favorite throw pillow.

I don't think I let my anger show. I just remarked how sad it was, and I guess he's just not quite ready for this, and put him in a diaper.

ButI'm pretty, um, shall we say... er...

No, we shan't say. I'll keep the blog clean--even if the blue pillow isn't.


Works for Me Wednesday: Celebrations

To bribe or not to bribe, that is the question.

External rewards can be powerful motivators, but they can also turn into fuel for brattyness, when the wuggies start demading them as rights, necessary conditions for good behavior.

So we've stopped rewarding good behavior. Instead, we celebrate. When one of the kids does the right thing even though he (or she!) really doesn't want to, everybody gets a special treat. When Isaiah quietly gets into his carseat even though he REALLY doesn't want to leave the park, we have a litty party when we get home. We clap and cheer and dance and talk about how happy we are for Isaiah's moral victory, and everybody gets stickers, or maybe even a new car. (Won't be so feasible at 16, but at age 3, we can do this!)

Somehow this shifts the focus to a more free and grace-filled understanding of righteousness. We don't obey so that we can get treats, we obey because it is good, and the treats are a really useful reminder of that.

As for the treats themselves, we really love Speed Wheels. They're pretty much like Matchbox or Hot Wheels, only half as expensive, and of much higher quality. They actually have contracts with the various auto manufacturers, and the detail is really impressive. Especially for 50 cents. =)

Works for me!


Clean Humor

We were having sloppy joes for dinner, which I thought was a very kid-friendly meal indeed. Simple and yummy, if a bit of mess... slap big bibs on all the wuggies, and everyone's happy, right?

Well, everyone except Isaiah, who hates to try anything new.

He liked it in the end, once he'd actually taken that first bite. But for the first half of the meal, he chanted his protest continuously.

"No sloppy jokes! No sloppy jokes! No sloppy jokes!"



The other day, as we were tidying up the living room, Andy remarked that we seem to be running a home for battered children's books.

It's true. Babar is in bad shape, and Thomas looks like a train wreck survivor.

We try. But the wuggies have a very intense relationship with books. Usually things are amicable, but whenever there's a tussle 'twixt tome and tyke, the wuggy wins.

All this is very frustrating, and deeply rankles our bibliophilic souls.

Today, as I was reading Isaiah his pre-nap book of choice, I was horrified to realize that the last two pages, two very crucial pages, had been ruthlessly torn out.

But on second thought, it really does seem to be an improvement.

Before I explain, I should probably warn you that there will be spoilers ahead. So if you would like to keep the ending a surprise, stop reading here. However, I do think that fretting too much about "spoilers" seems rather pointless in this particular genre. No matter how many children's books you may have, you will always end up reading one of them over and over and over, 20 times a day. All you can do is hope that it's something like this, and not something like this. All things considered, I'd say we got pretty lucky.

Anyway, in this wonderful gem of a book, George is a dog, and his mother wants to hear him bark. But instead of saying "arf," as all good dogs must, George meows. On the second try, he quacks, and then he oinks. When finally he actually starts mooing, his very distraught mommy takes him straight into the vet. Who, of course, dons his rubber gloves, reaches down George's throat, and pulls out an assortment of very dazed looking animals. Finally, once the cow is out of him, George barks beautifully, and there was much rejoicing.

I've often thought that it would be a delightful little book if it just ended right there. Now that our copy actually does, I can't say that I'm too terribly disappointed. Do we really need to know that on the way home, walking a long the crowded street, George said "hello"? I think not.

But don't tell the wuggies I said so.

Wouldn't want to give them the idea that sort of thing's condoned around here.


If there IS anything cuter...

...then it's definitely a strapping young man, aged 3, helping his father change the spark plugs, industriously applying the wrench to various portions of the engine.



There may very well be cuter things than a tiny little girl-child curled up in her daddy's lap, making motorcycle noises.

There may be cuter things, but I'm not sure what they are.


Nothing new under the sun

Yesterday, while I was fixing dinner, I turned on the oldies station.

I don't usually listen to the oldies station. In the car, I'll turn on classical KMZT, or one of the many country stations, or maybe NPR. At home, I hardly ever listen to the radio at all. Somehow, songs that I'm not expecting, that I haven't chosen to hear, have no place in my home. When I'm out and about, I want to be exposed to new and unpredictable experiences. But in my own home, I don't want the entire atmosphere of our household to be at the whim of some unknown DJ. So I hardly ever listen to CDs in the car, and almost never listen to the radio at home.

Lately we've been listening to this in the evenings, over and over and over. I wasn't sick of it, by any stretch of the imagination, but I suppose I wanted to safeguard against that potential tragedy. Besides, our copy is a cassette, and I'd hate to wear it out all at once. Seriously, that album is a treasure, instantly creating the sort of atmosphere in which children are easy to love and well worth understanding. Not only do the wuggies love it, but it's the sort of music that makes me a better parent.

But last night, I thought we should listen to something different for a change, so I put on the oldies station.

Nathan became very excited.

"It's brand new music!!"



There he is, sprawled across the couch, leaning into the corner, feet propped up across the cushions. So very old, and so very new... timeless. Utter tranquility blends with an intense vitality, and I have to look twice to see if he's awake or asleep. He is beautiful, so beautiful, and he is my son. And he is asleep. Asleep! I could kiss him.

I do kiss him, careful lest I wake him.

Down at my feet the little girl-child has nestled into the carpet. Her eyelids gently snap open, then slowly drift back down.

Do I move her?

I watched, motionless, waiting. The blinks became slower and slower, drowsier and drowsier. When they finally stopped, I tucked a blanket around her, and tiptoed away.

The dishwasher clatters a bit, and I glance around nervously. One arm begins to stir... then settles back down where it was before. The lovely counterpoint of their peaceful breathing continues as though nothing had happened, and finally I exhale.

I fill my favorite mug with water, and tiptoe across the kitchen, carefully going around the tricycle. I pause for a moment, wondering if I dare risk the beep of the microwave.

I decide that if I can't have a cup of tea to myself, this precious solitude isn't worth preserving. I take a deep breath, and punch the buttons.

While my tea water heats, I go down the hall to draw myself a bath. I hear the clatter of wooden train tracks. Nathan is in his bedroom, babbling away to himself. He, too, needs the solitude.

The microwave beeps without incident. I'm nearly giddy with the joy of it.

I breathe a prayer of gratitude as I slip my foot into the warm water.

This is bliss.

The time has come

Our wuggy-boys love books. I remember feeling so guilty when they were smaller, because I didn't really read to them much at all. The experts all say that the only way to instill a love of books in your children is to start reading to them pretty much at birth.

And I did start reading to them at birth... Jane Austen and C. S. Lewis, and sundry texts on the philosophy and psychology and pop-neurology of music. The boys just ate it up. The sound of my voice, continuous and rhythmic in the ever changing variety of inflection... somehow, even without any vocabulary or context or anything, somehow it told a story that nourished their little souls.

That all changed, however, right about the time that I would have thought they could start really getting into picture books. Books were great for teething on, and tearing, and even for the exploration of hinge action. But reading? Oh, Mom, please give us a break.

So, guiltily and with much anxiety, I did pretty much give them a break. I did make an effort to read to them occasionally, but it was pretty much a miserable experience all around... it was very occasional indeed.

I don't remember exactly when the boys started liking books again, but I'm pretty sure that Curious George had something to do with it. At any rate, being read to is one of the great joys in their lives, and if nobody happens to be reading to them, they will gladly sit for hours quietly flipping through picture books. Or high school trigonometry texts, for that matter. (Seriously. Once, Andy watched Isaiah turn through every single page of a very large textbook, carefully examining every graph and diagram and illustration.) It's rather strange, because I thought that toddlers were supposed to have short attention spans. I think it must be hereditary--I can't think of anyone with a longer attention span than their father.

Anyway, over the past few days, I've been noticing that the boys have started actually reading their books. Not reading in the proper sense of forming words and sentences out of the letters on the page, but really describing and interpreting the pictures. Reading them. They aren't just enjoying the sensory stimulation of all the shapes and colors, aren't just enjoying the thrill of recognizing a ball and a monkey and a road and a lake and a bicycle. They're carefully observing that the monkey is wearing a hat and carrying a ball while he rides his bicycle on the road around the lake. And all that really seems to be the same sort of thing as reading. It's all symbol interpretation.

And then, yesterday, as we were getting ready to go to the market, I left a note for Andy. Isaiah was fascinated, and gleefully pointed to the beginning of the word "potatoes."


I wasn't sure if he actually recognized the letter, or if he just knew that I was writing a bunch of letters, and so called out the name of a letter at random. But one way or another, I guess it's time to start working on the alphabet.

Which, to be perfectly honest, scares the daylights out of me.

They're supposed to still be my babies.


Three Years Ago...

And one hour and 25 minutes. And 22 minutes, respectively.

A blur of panic and fear and relief and regret. A surge of unaccustomed energy, partly from the adrenaline rush, partly from the strange hormonal cocktail of advanced labor... but mostly because they finally stopped the mag drip.

Freedom was on the horizon, and already, it felt so good.

I was racked with guilt over it. Did I somehow make it happen? I certainly hadn't tried to, but there was a part of me that wanted to, wanted to so badly. I was at the end of my rope. I'd felt like I could not go on a single day more... and there it was. I didn't. I certainly hadn't tried to make it happen, but in a sense I surely must have. Because it happened, and it was me. Could I have stopped it? I didn't know. But I did know that there was a level on which I'd stopped trying. I just didn't have anything left with which to try to prolong my ordeal.

It was a party in the OR. It happened over the morning shift change, so everybody was there. And I was glad they were there, too. These people had fought for these babies right alongside me. They belonged in that room. The whole medical team was so excited, so happy, so congratulatory, as I wondered if I'd just killed my babies, or maimed them for life. "You did it! You made it!"

32 1/2 weeks. I hadn't made it to 36, when they could have come home with me, or even 34, when they would have been growers-and-feeders. The lady with the triplets down the hall had made it to 34. I hadn't met her, but our nurses talked to us about each other, and about their dreams for each of the five fragile little babies, the galloping heartbeats that would grow up to be teachers and doctors and firemen. The triplet lady had made it to 34 weeks... why couldn't I? But I'd made it past 29 weeks, which meant they had a fighting chance of survival. What's more, I'd made it to 32 weeks. They were probably going to be normal. Maybe. If they could pull through the long battle ahead.

I didn't know whether to celebrate or mourn.

But I do know now.

Today is not just the anniversary of their birth, today is their birthday. With cake and ice cream, but not for breakfast, and no, you may not open your presents until this afternoon!

Thanks be to God!



I've always had a love/hate relationship with grammar. It all came very naturally to me, made perfect sense. What didn't make any sense to me was why it mattered.

Or maybe it just seemed like a fairly safe place to get a little rebellion out of my system.

Whatever the case, for a long time, it was a great goal of mine to break as many rules as possible, and still sound good. Or, even better, to keep every rule to a T, and sound really, really, awkward. Just for demonstration purposes, of course.

Music theory transformed my view of rules.

There it was, right in front of me. Beauty, defined and explained, tucked inside--of all things!--a pile of seemingly arbitrary rules and conventions. They weren't comprehensive, of course. You can do lots of perfect exercises and pretty much avoid any semblance of beauty altogether. And lots and lots of truly beautiful music either breaks lots of the "rules," or is beyond the scope of them altogether. Nevertheless, each of these rules is something we know about beauty. Something solid to hang onto, evidence that beauty is real and it is knowable. Never exhaustible, but knowable.

A single note carrying over into the next chord, serving an entirely different function? That's beautiful. Really beautiful. It's complex in a way that ties everything together, simple in a way that creates interest and highlights complexity. It's beautiful, and knowing that it is beautiful provides a real and powerful insight into what beauty is.

Parallel fifths? Well, that is simplicity itself, and can actually be really beautiful if it sets the tone for the piece. But in the middle of something more complex, it can just sort of disolve the train of thought, leaving all sorts of threads hanging.

As for augmented seconds, it sounds just like a minor third, but it's actually a second, and by adding an accidental, it's actually a more harmonious interval, except that it's not... well, that's just complicated, plain and simple. And communication disasters aren't beautiful.

Now where was I? Oh, yes, grammar.

I probably should have known that grammar, too, is not a set of arbitrary restrictions, but rather the codification of something real and organic and lovely and meaningful. I'm just not sure that I gave it a whole lot of thought until now.

It's fun to watch their vocabulary grow. ("Honey, did you hear that? She said fish!") And it's so much fun to sort through the primordial ooze of homonyms from which it all develops. ("So when she calls the lion 'da-da,' does that mean she thinks it looks like you, or that she things it looks like a doggy?")

But as fun as all that is, it's nothing compared to the thrill of watching them develop grammar. Every day the boys come up with more complex sentence structures, and every day those sentences become a little more natural, a little more fluid, as they master fine distinctions.

And there it is, tangible evidence that they're learning how to think. That their thoughts are becoming more precise, and that they're developing the tools with which to communicate them clearly. What a magnificent edifice is language! I take it for granted, it is so utterly essential to all my experience, communal or solitary. It doesn't merely allow me to share my thoughts, and understand the thoughts of others, it is what allows me to organize my own thoughts within my head.

And there it is, all fresh and new. So exciting.

The other day Nathan needed a diaper change. Badly.

"Meeps, are you stinky?"

And I was so very, very proud of his answer.

"I'm not stinky!"

A week ago, he might have said "No stink! No stink!" Or maybe even "Meepo no stinky." But now? "I'm not stinky!"

Correct use of the first person singular! With a contraction, no less! And a negative modifier!

It was a baldfaced lie, of course... but we can overlook that for grammatical excellence, can't we?


Switching over to the new blogger

I've been hesitating for a long time, scared something will go wrong.

But blogger is making things very difficult for stick-in-the-muds like me, so as soon as they let me, I'm making the switch.

So if my posts stop showing up on your feed-readers, just resubscribe.


10 times the fun

One of our favorite games around here is a sort of unstructured combination of "Simon Says" and "Follow the Leader." Dadders or I will line the wuggies up, and say... oh... "Touch your nose!"

And everybody fishes around trying to find their respective noses, giggling gleefully. Then, as they start really getting into the game, they'll start taking the lead, and coming up with things for everybody to do. Which will probably involve hopping about and making strange noises. Leadership just passes fluidly from one person to the next, and we all have an uproarously grand time.

As we were enjoying one such game of "Somebody Says," I called out "Touch your toes!" This was a big hit indeed, since none of us were quite flexible to do so without a bit of contortion.

Once we'd all managed to get ourselves into a good toe-touching position, Nathan shifted his fingers a mere centimeter over, and called out "Touch the other-one toes!"


Catching up.

Okay, so it's been a while.

See, I've had a Christmas post brewing in my head for quite some time now, but I've been too busy with, well, Christmas. And the longer I waited, the longer the post grew... and the likelihood of it ever making it here shrunk substantially.

And by now, all I really want to post about is the absurd placement of drug store copy machines. Copy machines and automatic door sensors really should not go together. Especially if the automatic door in question has a very, very powerful fan. Frustrates customers to no end. Perhaps that is the whole point, given that the copy machine and door are both located right next to the ice cream counter... but the whole thing was a no-win situation, because as badly as I wanted some ice cream to make up for the copy experience, there was nobody behind the counter.

Anyway, today I decided that I was just going to have to bite the bullet, admit to myself that I never was going to write that Christmas post, and write something else.

Which really is quite a bummer, since it would have been such jolly fun to tell you all about Christmas shopping with toddlers, and about how very elegant our toddler-proof tree looked, adorned so simply with a single strand of pearly white lights and tiny silver balls tied on with red ribbon bows, and about how Nathan thought this was grand indeed, and attempted to do his part by tying his shoes onto branches... And I did so want to entitle a post "Yes, Virginia, there is a Martha Stewart, but thank God Christmas isn't about her."

Ah well, maybe next year I'll be able to have my Christmas and blog it too. In the meantime, I hope your Christmas was merry and bright. Ours certainly was.

And blessings throughout the year to come, to you and yours!