Wednesday, April 30, 2008

i'm going to the funny farm. want to come?

Once, when I was in seventh grade, my mother and I went on vacation to the beach over Spring Break. It was March. I didn't think the sun was so intense that time of year that a full day in the sun with minimal sunscreen coverage, would land me with skin so burned it would literally blister all over my body.

I also didn't think that it was possible to be so sick from over exposure, that a person couldn't step foot in to the sun without long sleeve pants and shirts - and a wide brim hat - for the next two weeks or else they'd suffer from extreme nausea.

Twenty three years ago, I had a bad case of sunstroke.

Today, I had a bad case of kid stroke.

The symptoms of nausea, extreme sensitivity and exhaustion are almost identical.

The children had swimming lessons this morning.

It took me thirty minutes longer than it should have to leave the house because I am dealing with three COMPLETELY irrational human beings. They wanted to wear their pajamas UNDER their bathing suits. They wanted to wear their plastic high heel shoes that they can hardly walk in. They wanted to stand on the PINK step stool in the bathroom, even though it was in the other bathroom, unless I got it, they wouldn't go potty. Or, they would go potty on the floor - and then point and tell me about it.

Not once, but twice.

Once we arrived at the pool, they all LOUDLY protested about getting in to the pool because they didn't want to be cold. They didn't want to get wet. They didn't want, didn't want, didn't want. I, however did want thirty minutes of quiet, so I walked with them in the door, spotted the teacher, told them "Look!! There's something shiny!!" and then ran the opposite way, before they could chase me out.

Taking a blessed 20-minute reprieve from constant whining and bickering, I went to sign the kids up for the next month of swimming lessons. When I went back to the pool to check on them, they SAW me. Their smiles disappeared and they were instantly MISERABLE. They started crying, shivering, and in the two seconds it took me to realize that I needed to RUN AND HIDE their lips turned blue. So, I did what any responsible parent would do upon seeing their desperately cold child. I spun my baby around in his stroller and shoving elderly people out of my path, BOLTED the other way.

Standing behind a pillar where I was out of sight, I watched the 30 senior citizens that were in the same pool as my children, stop their exercises and whip their white heads around to see what all the fuss was about in the shallow end.

Thinking back to my days of teaching swimming lessons, I remembered that it is always better for the teacher if the parent is out of sight. So, I laid low until one of the lifeguards hunted me down, with my three screaming children behind her ... seven minutes before the rest of the class was dismissed.

The doors leading to the outside pool are completely sound proof. But once she opened the door and my children's screams echoed through the building, it was like hearing the cry of the Mandrake. I actually touched my hand to my ears to make sure they weren't bleeding.

Ushering my three screaming and shaking children in to the locker room - I gave them a quick rinse in the handicap shower stall, where they all proceeded to fight over whose turn it was to hold the shower head. When I relinquished our shower space to a woman in a wheelchair with blue legs that was recovering from a stroke and had an oxygen tank, she felt compelled to tell me that she thought she had a rough life until she saw me.

Then she laughed, a bright and gleeful laugh.

I tried to get the children dressed as quickly as possible because we had a meeting with the Montessori school, where I was scheduled to sign over a large sum of money for enrollment. But the kids sensed that we had someplace to be, so they rummaged through the duffel bag I had carefully packed when I was occupied getting their sibling dressed ... and hid various clothing items in various lockers. One shoe here. One shoe there. One sock here. One sock there. Underwear over here. Shorts over there.

We arrive 10 minutes late at the Montessori school. Unloading the car, Carolyn trips and falls and skins her elbow. It is bleeding and gets all over my shirt. William informs me that he has to go pee-pee. Henry is extremely fussy because THE CHILD WILL NOT SLEEP and skipped his morning nap. Elizabeth is doing something annoying but for the life of me, I can't remember what, now. I do remember, however, that she is insistent that she takes her TWO bunnies with her. She must have TWO bunnies at all times.

I herd them in to the school. I try to keep three three-year-olds and a nine-month-old quiet for me to quickly skim through the registration packet, talk to the director about important dates and doctor records, and drop off a check for enrollment that is large enough to cover a round trip vacation for our family to Europe. Then, I question if I am doing the right thing.

Dear God, am I doing the right thing??

I load the kids up and drive home.

Everyone falls asleep in the 20 minutes it takes to get back to our house.

Everyone wakes up crying when I pull in to the driveway.

Walking in the house, Carolyn is still crying over her elbow. Henry is crawling around, crying, hungry, tired, eating something off the floor that we didn't get around to sweeping last night. William is playing with a toy that Elizabeth had claimed as HERS the night before. Elizabeth goes to get the toy back, William does a straight arm shove and knocks her down so hard that she smacks her head on the tile floor and lays stunned for a solid five seconds before erupting in to screams.

Whirlwind of feeding - eat - eat - eat - GO TO BED - pleading that they PLEASE take a nap. Henry falls asleep for five minutes while nursing. I put him in his crib, he is awake five minutes later, crying. The remnants of lunch are still on the counter. The floor is still unswept. There are piles of laundry. Nothing has been accomplished except me, continuing to question if I made the right choice to register them for school in the fall.

Soon, all the kids are up. I take them outside. We go on a treasure hunt. They have great fun finding the treasure rocks that Jody, a blog reader from Florida, sent to them. (Thanks again, Jody!!) Elizabeth is finding more rocks than William and Carolyn. A lot more rocks. She has found almost all of them, William and Carolyn have each found one. While pointing out butterflies, I redistribute the rocks so everyone has the same number in their bucket.

They sit down to open the rocks and I go to hide the gold coins that Jody also sent. I hear a SMACK and Elizabeth crying. I look up to see that William has smacked her, as hard as he could, with his bucket full of rocks.

Fury sets in.

This is the second time in a day that he has really hurt her. I launch over to him, launch him in to the house, scoop up Elizabeth and hold her while pushing Henry on the baby swing. Carolyn is climbing on the fort and goes to come down, but falls face first down the ladder. Even though I've told them fifty times if I've said it once that they need to go down the ladder backwards, I might as well be telling them to calculate the wing speed velocity of an African, no EUROPEAN (!!), swallow.

I put down a crying Elizabeth and pick up a crying Carolyn.

I look down at Henry and he has slipped in his swing so that the lap belt is tight beneath his neck. I put down a crying Carolyn and pick up a gasping Henry. William is still in the house screaming. I later find out that the reason William whacked his sister with a bucket is because a FLY landed on her. A fly. My response to what was intended to be, chivalrous behavior, was completely over the top. Not at all unlike William smacking tomorrow out of his sister with a bucket full of rocks because she had a FLY on her. Elizabeth has now cracked open the treasure rocks and is trying to stuff the gems in to her ears.

The rest of the afternoon is a blur of more crying and fighting. I call Charlie, who is shopping for a magnifying glass so the children can look at bugs up close, and ask that he please come home. When he arrives, I'm holding William who is still sobbing because I launched him in to the house. Henry is crawling around my feet. Elizabeth and Carolyn are yelling "That's MY mommy." "NO! THAT'S MY MOMMY!!!" Followed by the chorus of "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Charlie arrives home. He prepares dinner. We sit down to dinner. The kids will NOT stop touching us. Carolyn knocks over two glasses of milk. Elizabeth is tossing her spaghetti with her hands and then wiping her hands in her hair. William is doing something annoying but for the life of me, I can't remember what, now. Elizabeth leans over and gently touches the blood on my shirt from Carolyn earlier in the day, and Carolyn erupts in to screams of "NO!! That's MY blood!!" This outcry makes Elizabeth want to touch it more. It makes William want to see what Carolyn is hollering about and makes him want to touch it, too.

Best of all, it wakes Henry up from what I had hoped would be a 12-hour sleep.

I tell my husband that if I have to hear ONE MORE CHILD utter ONE MORE SOUND so help me, I am going to stuff them in to rocket launchers and shoot them to the moon.

Usually once I tuck the kids in bed, I can reflect on the day and think "Oh, that really wasn't so bad." But tonight, I've decided it would be more pleasant to stick my head in a toilet and flush it sixty times in an hour, then repeat the kind of day I had, today.

And to think, I have reservations about returning to work on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the importance of companionship

Did I ever mention that Charlie's dad, Alex, is married to Kathleen ... and that Kathleen was Charlie's mom - Jeanne's - home health care nurse?

Alex and Kathleen married a little less than a year after Charlie's mom passed away. They celebrated their 15-year wedding anniversary this past March, a few days before Alex turned 80 on Saint Patrick's Day.

After spending a week with my father, the children got to spend the day yesterday, with Charlie's father. Even though Charlie's dad is three years older than my dad - the difference between the two men is astounding. I don't think Charlie's father has aged a day since I first met him seventeen years ago.

Part of the reason I think that Charlie's dad looks and feels so great is because he has Kathleen in his life. She is absolutely wonderful to him. She cares for him. She encourages him to play golf several times a week. She makes sure that he visits with the doctor - takes his medication - eats square meals - and drinks a sufficient amount of water every day. They are involved in a Buddhist Temple together. She is his companion and she is devoted to him. As a family, we are extremely thankful that Alex has such an adoring wife.

Similarly, I am extremely thankful that my mother and Jim have each other. Even though Jim is unable to do many of the things that he once was - he is a good friend for mom. They play Bridge together, do the crossword everyday, and at the moment - they are vacationing at one of the islands off the South Carolina coast.

If someone is divorced or widowed, once their kids grow up - and move out (possibly far away) - and they retire from their career, some people are not left with much. Maybe they are involved in church - or have friends that they see frequently - but it isn't the same as having someone in your home that you can talk with. Someone that you can eat meals with - discuss the news with - go to sleep with and wake up next to - everyday. Someone that is there with you, and genuinely cares about you.

After the situation with Gail, it's easy to draw conclusions about what a person's intentions are when they enter in to a relationship - or subsequent marriage - with someone who has led a full life and is financially secure. Even though I've seen the damage that has been done by someone whose intentions are less than honorable ... I believe that companionship is extremely important. Particularly as someone grows older, there are studies that show people who get married are more likely to live longer.

My father has recently started seeing someone. Her name is Mary, just like my mother. Mary was a customer in my dad's store years ago. She is two years older than dad - but from what I understand, she's a firecracker. She brings meals to my dad at his house - they go to see a movie once a week - and they sit and discuss current events. While they were visiting, my sister told me that Mary had spent the night at my dad's house, recently. Different rooms - so there was nothing inappropriate going on, but still, she is concerned that he might be getting involved with someone too soon.

But you know what I think?

Wa-hoo!! Go Dad!!


I know that having someone in my father's life can make the difference between happiness and sorrow. I also know that there is an excellent chance that if he has someone to focus on in the present, he will be more willing and able to let go of the past.

My father says that he doubts he'll ever get married again. But the fact that he has found someone to sit and hold hands with, is a good thing. I really believe that this companionship will add time to his life. And even if it doesn't, it will make the days that he has that much more enjoyable.

Who knows?

Maybe there's still a chance I could get the baby brother or sister I've always wanted.

Monday, April 28, 2008

a can of budweiser did me in

My family that had been visiting us for the past week, left yesterday morning. It was beyond great to have them here. Not just because we haven't seen each other for over two years, but because having the extra set of hands to hold the baby - play with the children - and fold laundry was wonderful.

We spent my birthday down by the bay. Although I never forget my camera when I step foot out of the house ... I forgot my camera. In fact almost every time we stepped foot out of the house, I forgot my camera. I do not have any pictures of Carolyn riding her first roller coaster at Legoland while Elizabeth and William were at home with Charlie - battling the stomach flu. Nor do I have any pictures of my nephew and William flying their kites 400 feet above their heads. But I do have pictures of us singing Happy Birthday.


On two separate occasions.


I have pictures of the kids playing with their playground which is where they spent almost every waking moment when we were home.


I have pictures of my father seeing Shamu ...


And the Budweiser Clydesdale Horses for the first time.


I also have pictures of us visiting beautiful Coronado Island where my nephew splashed in the waves with his cousins...


And I tried to teach the kids how to do cartwheels.


I have pictures of my Henry trying to pull my sister's lip off ...


And Henry trying to pull my nephew's lip off.


But most importantly, I have a lot of pictures of my dad with my kids.


I have pictures of him spinning Elizabeth, the princess.


I have pictures of him wearing the new sun hat that I bought him to match his grandson's.


I have pictures of him feeding my baby and saying "Open, Open, Open, here comes the choo-choo!!" much the way that I remember him feeding me when I was a little girl.


I have pictures of him holding hands with Elizabeth, and pretending to suck his thumb, much the way I remember him also pretending to suck his thumb like I did, when I was a little girl.


I have pictures of Carolyn doting after him, insisting that he wear his birthday crown, bringing him blankets while he napped on the couch, and making sure that his teeth were brushed before he went to bed at night.


I have pictures of Carolyn (before we moved her to another location) kicking the living daylights out of him while she was asleep, because she was adamant that she stay with Grampy and keep him safe. And apparently, bruised.


I have pictures of the kids tentatively trying to wake him up from his naps.


And pictures of him when he found our old corn broom and spent an afternoon sweeping our entire patio and walkway.


Dad has always loved to sweep. I have vivid memories of him with an old corn broom in hand sweeping the front steps of his pharmacy. I also have memories of him sipping a cold Budweiser every night. We kept our refrigerator stocked with Budweiser for dad while he was here. He liked that. He also liked Bill Bryson's book "A Walk In the Woods" which I gave him to read.


It was when I was cleaning out the refrigerator last night and found the one remaining can of Budweiser, that the emotions I'd been holding at bay all week came flooding out. It was then that I realized the great circle of life means that one day, children will be more capable than their parents.


The Parkinson's Disease has really advanced since I last saw my dad in December of 2005. He walks much slower than he did before, and it can be extremely difficult to hear him because his voice is so weak. He sleeps a lot ... definitely more than Henry. He said it is because of his medication and the fact that Parkinson's makes him feel very fatigued.

Although he has aged a lot in the past five years, it is hard for me to shake the image of him as a strong, independent man. When I see him now, my heart hurts. When I think of what he has been through with his recent divorce, his declining health - and the circumstances that lead to the divorce from my mother - my heart hurts even more.


My sister might be selling her house and moving in (with her husband and son) to live with my father soon because it is clear to us that he really should not be living alone. Although the family has suggested that dad sell his house and move in to a condo - or something smaller and easier to maintain - he is certain that he wants to remain in the home that he built 30 years ago.

I feel so helpless living 3,000 miles away. I've talked to Charlie about moving back so that I could be closer and help, closer so that I could see him. But it's just not feasible. Our house is here. Our careers are here. Our professional registrations are here. Our life is here. Dad's life is in Massachusetts and that's where he wants to be. Yet, it doesn't seem possible that I have already reached a point in my life where I need to be thinking about the care of an aging parent.

When did time start moving so fast?

We are making plans for Christmas in New England. I want to get back and see him and hopefully, give our children an opportunity to create memories with their Grandfather. It's so important that we spend quality time with our loved ones, while the sun is shining.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

they'd benefit from obedience school

Wednesday afternoon, an animal control officer came to our house to interview us regarding the incident at the park on Tuesday. When I answered the door, the children mistakenly thought he was part of the poop patrol and were quick to inform him "I go poo-poo on the potty!" Because he thought that they were inviting him to a party, I didn't bother to explain the whole thing about me threatening to have my children hauled off to jail if they didn't start pooping in the potty.

The officer assured us that they would be significantly bumping up patrol in the area and if and when the dog owner's were found, they would be questioned and possibly charged with a misdemeanor. He also echoed the feeling that I've felt brewing the past few months. By and large, people do not have any respect for their fellow man or the law.

After some soul searching, I've discovered that the reason I feel like I have such a short fuse with the general public lately, is because I have a zero-tolerance threshold for people that have no respect for society. At least around here, it seems that you step foot outside and you are bombarded with people that have no accountability. They drive like maniacs and put every one on the same road as them, at risk. They illegally discharge chemicals to the storm drain. They sell drugs from their cars in neighborhoods where little kids are skating by on their scooters. They take their untrained dogs to a children's park and let them run free.

They are rude and crude and when their actions affect my family or my neighborhood, I am unable to look the other way and say nothing.

Although I probably should be afraid, I am more angry than scared of what the carpet cleaners that were discharging illegally to the storm drain might do. When I was out one night last week writing down the license plate numbers of the cars that I'm certain are buying drugs from the house behind us, so that I could turn them in to the police, I was infuriated to think that riff-raff have infiltrated our neighborhood.

When I stood at the park on Tuesday screaming at the gang banger who let his animals loose in an area where dogs are required to be on leash, I wondered if a flak jacket wouldn't be a nice addition to my wardrobe and if they came in pink?

Now, I just have to convince my husband not to run over the dog owner's if he sees them out walking on the street. Because after Charlie heard the story on Tuesday afternoon - he drove to the park before realizing that even if he saw the dog handler's out in public, it would be better for the police to handle the situation then him.

The situation.
That whole event that happened almost a week ago and has been keeping me awake at night. Even though I've been exhausted after spending full days with my family - and my sister and I have been staying up until 2 AM talking - I've been unable to close my eyes without seeing the white dog jumping on my little boy. I've spent several hours perusing the internet and although have never been one to carry a weapon, have opted for the key chain pepper spray variety as opposed to the pepper spray bling.

As a child, my family had German Shepherds and for the past 16 years, I've owned Labrador Retrievers. Even though dogs have been a part of my family for the better part of my life, I have a healthy fear of dogs, all dogs, that are not my own. Regardless of how "friendly" or "gentle" someone claims that their dog is, regardless of the breed, the dog could always turn. I know that young children don't know how to read a dog's cues and because I don't want for our kids to annoy Molly - I never leave them in mixed company, unsupervised.

Our children have never shown any fear of dogs - unless - the dogs come running up to them, unleashed. Still, I would much prefer that our kids do not approach dogs that are on leash, or our neighbors dogs through the fence, even though we are assured that they are safe, because I simply don't trust them. I know of two children who on two separate occasions were attacked - unprovoked - by small "lap" dogs and required extensive plastic surgery on their faces.

When I was eight-years-old, my most awesome Uncle Bill took me out shopping for a pony. I'll never forget driving around the countryside in his vintage MGB with the top down. After we visited with one particular farm, we were walking back to the car and a large German Shepherd that I had been patting and playing with for the past hour, suddenly turned on me. Just before I was able to get in to the car, he charged at me growling. My Uncle had to pick me up and hold me high until the owner retrieved his animal.

When Charlie and I had our Lab puppy, Monty, I was out for a walk with our 15-pound ball of white fur when I was chased down by a 120-pound Rottweiler who had squeezed himself out from beneath a slightly ajar garage door. I was able to remove Monty's leash and use the metal clasp to defend myself - by spinning it around and smacking the dog across the muzzle. But the dog continued to trail us the rest of the way home, growling and barking ... and Monty peed all over me because I'm certain he thought he was lunch.

It happened a few weeks ago that I was out for a walk with Molly and all four children, by myself, when a dog that escaped from it's yard came running up to us with it's hair on end and barking. Thankfully, Molly is extremely laid back at 13.5-years old and didn't flinch when the dog ran right up to us. But because I've been around dogs the majority of my life, I know that it is usually a sign of aggression when an unleashed dog charges a leashed dog and the conclusion can be quite unpleasant, particularly if the leashed dog feels threatened and needs to defend itself.

Several years ago, we were visiting a local dog beach where leashes are not required. As soon as we arrived and before we had removed Monty's lead - a dog came bounding up to us. The dog seemed friendly enough, jumping around and nipping the air, but after a couple of minutes, once Monty was running around free, the dog wouldn't leave him alone. When the dog was trying to mount and hump him, I started obviously scanning the crowd to see if I could see his owner. I was asking to the people standing around if anyone knew whose dog this was??

We tried to walk away but the dog was jumping on Monty's back. After a few more minutes, Monty turned around and took a chunk out of the dog's ear. The dog started yelping and almost instantly, the owner appeared beside me shouting that my dog BIT his dog. I told the guy that Monty was up to date on all of his shots and a more responsible dog owner would stop his animal before it harassed other dogs to the point that they snapped.

Just because someone thinks it's great FUN the way their dog jumps all over them or wedges their nose up their inseam, it doesn't mean other people will share their affection - and tolerance - for their furry companion.

Dogs are a lot like children. They both have to be trained and controlled. Parents are responsible for their children, dog handlers are responsible for their animals. Just as I do not entirely blame obnoxious kids on a playground ... I do not entirely blame the dogs that came after my children on Tuesday. Although some may disagree, I believe that how well dogs and children turn out - depends largely upon the the competency of the people raising them.

And well. The people last week needed a shock collar more than their dogs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

in a moment, life can change

After taking my nephew kite flying on Sunday - he has been asking to go again, every day since. So this afternoon, we went to a local park. We set up in one area of the park, near a playground, and while the kids ran off to play on the slide and jungle gym, I unloaded Henry from his stroller and let him crawl around on the ground beneath the shade of a few trees.

The kite flying conditions weren't ideal and eventually several more people descended upon the playground. When I was finding it more and more difficult to keep track of the children, I suggested to my father and sister that we move our group to another area of the park - where there weren't as many people - or trees - and maybe we could have better success getting the kites in the air.

I loaded Henry back in to his stroller, gathered our belongings and summoned for the kids to follow. As we were walking across the playground, out of the corner of my eye, I saw two white dogs come barreling towards us.

Although our kids love dogs, when they saw the dogs today, they were afraid and immediately started crying. I looked to see where the owners were and I could see a woman come chasing after the dogs with a leash. It was clear that the dogs had been walking in an area beneath the park, when they were taken off leash to do their business in the bushes. The dogs had metal spike choke chain collars and the leash that she was holding was comprised of metal links that were at least 2-inches in diameter. She had her iPod earphones in and was trying to convince me that her dogs, that I recognized as pit bulls, were gentle.

The first instinct was to put myself between the dogs and the children, but it was difficult because the dogs were jumping all over my kids.

My sister grabbed Elizabeth. I abandoned Henry in his stroller and grabbed Carolyn. My nephew was standing behind us with my father, who is very unsteady on his feet, and I watched in horror when one of the dogs went after William - who was trying to run away - and knocked him down. I dropped a crying Carolyn, even though there was another dog still on the loose, and ran over to William. The dog had it's paws on his back and it's jaws around his neck. Any fears that I had that the dog would turn on me, immediately vanished when I saw the dog on my son.

I've never kicked anything so hard in my entire life as I kicked the sugar honey iced tea out of that dog, today. REPEATEDLY.

I scooped William up, and ran over to the stroller where one of the dogs was sniffing around Henry's feet and trying to jump up on the foot rest. The woman owner was joined by a man and both were chasing after the dogs, who were now running all over the playground equipment. The owner's absolutely could not get the dogs back under control. I was yelling that they had to get their dogs back on leash - I was yelling JUMP ON THEM - and the owner's were yelling back at me that their dogs HAD been on leash.

Yeah, well ... they're NOT now!!

I don't remember what exactly I said, but there was a lot of profanity. My nephew later pointed out that he was amazed to hear me yell the f-word and he lost count after I screamed it five times. (So much for word substitution.) Shockingly, the owners were defensive. Never once did they apologize. The guy was yelling at me that his dogs had been on leash. He was asking if I wanted a piece of him and throwing his hands up in the air. When he finally got the dogs back on leash and was walking off the playground, he was yelling "What are you gonna do, huh? What are you gonna do?!"

Clearly, it wasn't macho enough that he owns two dogs that are notorious for their aggression that he parades around with spiked collars. He needs to challenge the mother of four young children - who his dogs were chasing after - to a fight. Here's an idiot that cannot control his animals and he takes them to a park where there are small children playing.

MY SMALL CHILDREN.

I cannot remember a time in my life when I've ever been so angry. Seven hours later, I am still shaking at what could have happened. But I am thankful that in the midst of this, I had the sense to call 911 and file a police report. If and when the owners are found, I will press charges.

I'm thankful that moments after this ordeal happened, I was approached by a man that told me he saw the whole thing - heard the guy yelling at me - and said if the guy came after me, he was ready to step in and knock the guy out. Although I really wouldn't have wanted to get in to a fight with the idiot on the playground, my sister and I both agree that very easily, we could have dropped him like a box of Trader Joe's peanut butter cups ... even without the assistance of the good samaritan.

Lesson learned: A mother's adrenalin is a powerful thing.

Then again, so is mace, which I'm considering adding to my diaper bag.

But mostly, I am so incredibly thankful that although William has marks on his neck and face, he is safe. I know what could have easily happened today. This link and this link and this link and this link and this link and this link are all frightening reminders. One minute we are having fun and the next minute we are fending off two pit bulls.

Thank God.

My little boy is safe.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

this post took 10 hours to write

My father and sister and seven-year-old nephew are visiting with us this week and we are having a great time together. After they'd been with us for a few hours and the kids stopped acting shy and were running through the house screaming like banshees, I joked that the cruise ship they saw in the San Diego harbor driving to our house from the airport - is the same boat that Charlie and I have tickets on, and we'd be leaving for Cancun in ... let's see what time is it now ... three hours.

Surely they'd be fine watching the kids while we partied in Mexico for a week. Right? My sister nervously laughed and asked "Sure. Where do you keep the Valium and velcro?"

We've been busy, busy and we have something scheduled to do every day this week. If people who are planning to come visit us in San Diego are looking for a relaxing vacation ... they might want to rethink their vacation destination. If the kids don't Tucker them out ... spending full days at the Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Sea World, Legoland, the beach, and our neighborhood pool surely will.

Since our computer is in the living room (aka: dining room / southern play space / guest room) my access to things like say ... my blog ... will be limited for the next few days. As time allows, I'll be addressing some of the questions that I've received over the past month. Because really, with three new people in the house - and activities scheduled almost every moment of almost every day - my brain capacity for writing about the motivation in teasing as a function of birth order and hair color, is nil.

So, with my next few updates, I'll answer questions about Montessori, what will happen to Henry if when I go back to work, plans for weaning, things I do with the kids for fun, and I'll also throw in a good recipe or two. Maybe, I'll also have the chance to publish the kitchen organizational post that I started working on twelve days ago.

*******

What would you do about benefits if you quit your job?


Currently all of our benefits are through my employer, but thankfully, Charlie works for a company that offers good benefits, too. Although, we would not be eligible for a 10% discount on gas, or three teeth cleanings a year ... we would have excellent medical and dental coverage. We would also have the option of visiting a chiropractor - if we so choose. And maybe I would, if I wasn't completely freaked out by the thought of someone "cracking" my neck and "adjusting" my spine.

How do you keep toys that your older kids play with, away from the baby?

All of the toys that I have out are toys that Henry can also play with. Toys with small parts or that are breakable (i.e. ceramic tea set) are tucked out of sight and I only allow the kids to play with them when they are sitting at the table and I can directly supervise what they are doing. Thus far, it hasn't been a problem because what the kids cannot see, they do not want to have. They stay happily entertained with all of the larger, nonbreakable toys or stuffed animals that they have access to.

Have you ever considered advertising on your blog to offset the cost of preschool?


Yes. And then, no. I'm not too sure about advertising. For those who do advertise on their blog, I'd like to know if the revenue generated is really worth having ads on the site. I've been contacted a few companies that have wanted to advertise here and I haven't been interested. If there is a particular product - or company - that I think is good enough to mention, I will. But I don't want to have random advertisements show up based on key words that are in a blog posting, that I may or may not endorse. Particularly when I write about the elongate and how this gate that expands to 14-feet was a life saver when our triplets were infants.

Go ahead. Type elongate on Google and tell me what you find.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

guess who's 37 today?

Funny enough, I've still got that double chin and thigh roll.

My sister, seven-year-old nephew, and father flew in from Massachusetts yesterday morning. My dad will be celebrating his 77th birthday on April 23rd and the kids are beyond excited that we are having two birthday cakes in less than a week. I'm beyond excited that I get to spend my birthday with family I haven't seen in over two years.

I can't imagine a better way to spend this day.

Friday, April 18, 2008

then, a few hours later

So. I'm having visions of Charlie dropping the kids off at school in the morning, and getting in to a head on collision on the way. Provided they walk away from that incident unscathed, a deranged parent breaks in to the school and goes crazy with a gun.

All bets are off. There is NO way I'm letting them go. That would be completely irresponsible.

When I told Charlie that I really didn't think I could part with them for three hours a day, five days a week - because of the significant fear factor, and also because I'm doing some phenomenal stuff with them at home and I love these kids even when they drive me bat sh*t crazy - he told me that I was nut and I couldn't "always" protect them.

And I said, OH YES I CAN, so long as there is AIR in my lungs.

Then I talked with my mother. And she further tried to reassure me that sending them to Montessori would be an absolutely amazing experience for them - and for me. And she knows because she has worked in a Montessori classroom.

And the kids loved it.


And when class was out, they all ran to each other and embraced.

And Elizabeth didn't even want to get in the car to go home because she enjoyed school so much.

And this afternoon - after they came home and were hitting each other with sand toys and knocking over each other's lunches all over the back lawn - when I went in to check on them at nap time, Elizabeth and Carolyn had crawled in to bed together and were sound asleep with their arms wrapped tightly around one another.

I have two weeks to decide.

Two weeks to decide if returning to work is what I really want to do. Two weeks to decide if sending my children to Montessori is what I really want to do.

Two weeks to consume seven boxes of Trader Joe's peanut butter cups because I am inhaling a box every couple days with all of this indecision.

finally, a consensus

I don't know what exactly has happened with our kids ... but, within the past week or so, they have become UNBEARABLE at certain times of the day. Defiance and screaming and teasing and fighting and moments of destruction like something straight out of a horror movie.

Apparently, every toy in this house has been divvied up and belongs to someone. And even though someone isn't playing with that toy, it is still THEIRS and if anyone comes within 10-feet of it, someone will go crazy that anyone is trying to get it.

One minute they are happy and smiling and the next minute whamo!

Psycho kid.

Even William, our normally reasonable son, has gone off the deep end.

Last night, I noticed that his beloved - must have in possession at all times - Baby Panda was looking and smelling like it hasn't been out of a three-year-olds grasp for the past decade. But since that span of time is greater than my son's existence, it looked and smelled like it's been buried in the bottom of the trash can for a month.

So, I threw it in the wash. But, I forgot to put it in the drier before I went to bed.

I was woken this morning at 6:15 by a fit of hysteria. I brought my son in to the laundry room to show him that Baby Panda was in the wash and would be going in to the drier and by the time the "big hand" was on the "9", Baby Panda would be ready.

Inconsolable screaming ensued, so I tried distraction.

"How would you like ... a hug?"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

"How would you like ... breakfast?"


"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"


"How would you like ... to get dressed?"


"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"


"How would you like ... to go play on your new swing?"


"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
and KICKING.

"How would you like ... to go water the plants?"


"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
and PUNCHING the air.

"How would you like ... to help me vacuum?"


"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
PUNCHING and KICKING and ROLLING on the ground.

I looked over at Charlie and smiled, "This is what I've been dealing with everyday."

Then I asked, "How would you like to ... take a long walk off a short pier?"

The screaming stopped, he stood up and said "OK."

When I confessed that I was only joking, he started whining "But. I. Want. To. Take. A. Walk. Off. A. Pier. NOW!!"

And I told him, "Yep, me too buddy. ME, TOO."

*******

The kids had their "interview" with the Montessori school this morning and all of them were accepted in to the fall program. William and Elizabeth went with their respective teachers, and were instantly engaged in their classes. Carolyn hung on to my leg and cried every time I stepped more than a foot away. But, slowly, she warmed up to the environment and spent a half hour watering plants in the room - to the point that they flooded and we spent another half hour mopping up puddles.

We have until April 30th to decide.

After this morning, my decision isn't as much if I want to send them to school, but if I want to send them FOR THE FULL DAY.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

deep thoughts

So, I'm due to return to work on May 1. In case you don't have a calendar handy, that is two weeks from today. 14 days or around 330 hours.

Not like I'm counting or anything.

And .... well.

Well.

I have mixed emotions.

The thing is, my whole entire life I've wanted to be a mom. Even during the time that I knew I wanted to study geology and I moved cross-country to attend college and graduate school. Being a mom was something that was in my future. And during the time that I was working on my education and then, career, I never really thought about how I would balance motherhood and my place in the workforce.

Because, really, why worry about something that is in the future?

All I knew is that I wanted to be a young mom. I wanted to have children when I was in my mid-20's. But when that didn't work out according to plan, I threw myself in to my career and I made a good name for myself. I started out working as an environmental consultant for major oil companies - and soon - was working directly for one of the largest oil companies in the world, managing a portfolio that exceeded $12 million dollars a year. By the time I went on maternity leave with our triplets, I was pulling in a six-figure salary and the sky was the limit.

But I took a break. I took off a full year off to be home with our babies and when I returned to work, I only went back part-time. Through it all, my company has been extremely generous with me. They have allowed me to work from my house and set my own schedule. And when I found out I was expecting Henry, I was able to take off for almost another full year, and yet maintain all of my outstanding benefits.

There are the medical benefits that covered the entire cost of premature triplets who spent six weeks in the NICU. There are the dental benefits that allow us to see the dentist three times a year and have all of our amalgam mercury fillings replaced with porcelain with minimal cost to us. There is life insurance and 7% dollar for dollar matching 401K and a 10% discount on gasoline purchases made at service stations operated by my company.

And then there is the work - that is engaging.

And then there are the people - that are fun.

And then there is the fact that I have worked so hard to reach this level in my career.

And then, I take pause.

When I went back to work part-time when our triplets were a year old, my mind was almost always on my job. I had conference calls - and meetings to attend - some that might take me away for a full day, or week at a time. My thoughts were not purely on the children. They were diluted with things that I had to do, people to call, letters to write, reports to review. And now, I can see giving it all up. Turning over my keys, handing in my laptop and cell phone and saying "Thanks for the ride. But this is my stop."

But. Then.

There is Montessori school and although there are other preschool alternatives, I've looked at many of them and none of them call to me the way Montessori does. It has been decided that if we are going to send our children to school ... we want to send them to Montessori.

But. Then.

Montessori is five days a week. And even though it's *only* three hours a day, our children are only three-years-old and they take naps in the afternoon. Yes, so they'll be almost four when they start school and they might not be napping as consistently. But what about the fun things that I like to do with them during the morning? Trips to the zoo and museums? Triplet play dates? Scouting out vacant playgrounds? What about swimming lessons and gymnastics? I don't know if I'm ready to give up this special time with them, five days a week.

But. Then.

There is my career, which I really did love when I was working in it.

So, I've drawn up the pros and cons and I've crunched the numbers.

I can stay home while Charlie works full-time on his salary. Or, Charlie could stay home while I went back to work full-time on my salary. But to send our children to school that will cost $2,100.00/month, while also continuing to fund our retirement account, and savings account, and college fund, and pay for the general cost of living and take a vacation now and again ... one of us will need to work at least part-time. And because I don't want to bring in help, or put Henry in childcare, Charlie would reduce his work schedule to part-time also, so that the children are always with one of us.

Some might consider the sacrifices that we have made so that one of us is always with our children to be painful. But, I think it would be much more painful and an even greater sacrifice to miss out on this time in their lives because we were both working constantly.

Yet, I don't know if it is more important for our children to have the Montessori experience, or to be home with me. I've been looking at this from every possible angle and the way it stands, I am seriously considering homeschooling them. And if they go to Montessori now, and get the foundation for learning established, I believe that I will be better poised to teach them, as they grow older.

Even if I change my mind and send them all to school.


Now I'm not arrogant enough to believe that I am the most qualified to teach our children everything, but I do believe that I can educate them just as well - if not better - than any school, except Montessori, when they are very young.

I believe that in homeschooling them, I will be able to expose them to more positive experiences than they would be exposed to, otherwise. And, I will be better poised to shield them from the negative experiences they would be exposed to, otherwise. Negative things like gangs, drugs and violence. And bullies. And cliques. And whoever tells me that that kind of stuff exists everywhere and kids need to learn to deal with it at some point, I say phooey! The last time that I had to deal with gangs, drugs, violence, bullies and cliques was when I was in school.

Bubble living isn't bad.

I would structure our days so that our children are not loaded with several hours of homework at night - like I see with so many kids, these days. They will have time for soccer and swimming and tennis and baseball - or any sport they want to play. And they'll have ample time for underwater basket weaving, or whatever it is that they want to do to express themselves artistically.

Maybe I'm tainted because of my own experiences in school. Moving from state to state and attending ten schools by the time I was in ninth grade didn't foster any positive feelings for the educational system. Instead, I was pulled out of classes and labeled as delayed. By the time I graduated from high school, I was a few years behind in math and science. It wasn't until I went to college and maintained a 4.0 for consecutive semesters and received a scholarship from the National Science Foundation that I realized maybe I wasn't as ignirint ignorant as I initially thought.

So, I'm due back to work in two weeks and our children have an interview with the Montessori school tomorrow. And although I feel a little queasy and am consumed with this at the moment, I'm holding hope that I'll soon see that everyone is thriving and this is the best arrangement for all.

Totally unrelated, here is Elizabeth after she fell in the lake on Sunday.

My mother called to ask if I caught a picture of her IN the lake and unfortunately, I had to put my camera down to grab her before she sank. Although, it did cross my mind to take a quick picture, I'm relieved to know that if the circumstances are dire, my mothering instinct trumps my blogging.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

some things never change

This is how we kept our babies contained in 2005.


This is how we keep our baby contained in 2008.


This is how we transported our family in 2005.


This is how we transport our family in 2008.


This is how we spent every Tuesday night ... then and now.

We think she has got very good potential, but we think he is going to go all the way.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

life in the bubble

After swimming lessons today, we dropped by a nearby park where I fed the children a picnic lunch and let them run around and play.

We were the only ones at the park, which to be perfectly honest, makes me happier than words. It also makes me happier than words that our play set is nearly complete in the back yard and unless I so choose, I'll never have to step foot in another public park, again.

Maybe if I had one child, I'd like to stumble upon a park where there are a bunch of kids that my child could play with. But with three three-year-olds, unless I know the children that we are playing with, I really appreciate not having to watch my offspring interact with other youths whose guardians may or may not be any where nearby.

Been there. Done that.

So today, we had the whole playground to ourselves. I set up our blanket near the swings and plopped Henry down with a graham cracker while the kids were playing on the slide. After a few minutes, I enticed them to come join us on the blanket when I flashed them peanut butter and jelly squares and squeezable yogurt.

As soon as everyone was sitting down, with their PB&J squares in hand, a group of twelve kids materialized out of nowhere.

They were mostly older kids, probably around six or seven. Although, there was a relatively new toddler that appeared unsteady on her feet in the mix, as well. The new kids took over the entire playground. They were running around, yelling, jumping off the slides, and acting like a bunch of savages excited kids. And then there was the toddler, on the slide platform a good 12-feet in the air, with just the top of a squirt water bottle in her mouth.

I felt a little uneasy, because once my kids finished eating lunch, my job of supervising three kids (and one crawler) - who were now going to be interacting with twelve kids - just got a lot more challenging. While we sat and ate our lunch, the kids were laughing at all the primarily older kids, playing all around them. And I was thinking "Man, these kids are rowdy."

But everything was going just fine.

Until.

One of the boys from the group, jumped on a swing and was pumping back and forth and kicking sand in our general direction every time he went up in the air. We were being showered with sand. Our lunches were being showered with sand.

The baby was being showered with sand.

And that is when I, who had been sitting there quietly, completely lost my cool. I whipped around, and said "Yeah. HI. We are eating lunch over here. Please do not kick sand." And then when it happened again - almost immediately - my head started spinning around on my shoulders and flames came shooting out of my ears while I barked "HEY!! WE ARE EATING LUNCH OVER HERE. DO!! NOT!! KICK!! SAND!!"

Once I realized that I was screaming at a strange kid in the park, I looked around to see where his guardians were. And that's when I spotted four women, sitting 15-feet away in the shade, watching this group of kids. Since they were facing us, they saw what he was doing and they must have heard me yelling.

People in the pool, 200 feet away heard me yelling.

But the women just sat there, chatting with each other.

It absolutely infuriates me when I see out of control kids, and guardians who are oblivious to their actions. Like two weeks ago, I chased down several kids in the neighborhood who were on Spring Break and spent some time thrashing our side yard by snapping off new buds from our Lily of the Niles (that bloom once a year) - and breaking mature palm fronds from the trees that line our property. When I ran outside and caught them tromping around, I asked where they lived because I needed to know where to send the police next time I saw them damaging our property.

Today, it took a great deal of restraint to not stand up and shout, "Why are you not CONTROLLING these kids that are under your supervision?! Why are you allowing a toddler to suck on a bottle top?! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?? Get off your DUFF and DO SOMETHING!!"

If that was one of my kids??

It wouldn't happen.

Or if it happened, it would happen once.

I stood up, loaded Henry in to the stroller, packed up our picnic lunch, shook out our blanket, climbed up the 12-foot platform to the top of the slide, removed the bottle top from the toddler's mouth, climbed back down the ladder, informed my kids that the reason we were leaving is because I didn't want to be surrounded by a bunch of naughty people, and then I loaded them in the car and we drove home. To our own private play ground.

Yeah. So maybe I'm too uptight.

But some might consider my ability to create a diamond from a piece of coal in less than six weeks time, to be highly impressive.

Monday, April 14, 2008

gone fishin'

Any good fisherman knows that sometimes you must patiently wait ...


For the big one.

so. we went shopping.

In addition to having no food in the house, yesterday afternoon, we ran out of dish washing soap. While I stood in the kitchen trying to decide whether I wanted our pots and pans to smell like Neutrogena Body Wash or Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo, I came to my senses and decided that NO, it's best I just bite the bullet and take the kids to the store, in the unseasonably warm 103-degree heat, once they woke up from their nap.

Oh, so the reason it feels like hell around here ... is because it is.


While out, William proved that the lessons I am teaching the children about cleaning up after themselves are obviously sinking in. When he pointed out - very loudly - that the woman shopping next to us was in the produce department was "Making a mess and spilling bwocowi evewywhere!!" I couldn't hand him a lemonade popsicle fast enough. With one hand on his popsicle, my three-year-old set about picking up florets from the floor and tossing them in to the bin above his head, all the while hollering "This!! Is!! A!! Mess!!"

Thankfully, he didn't add "Where do you think we live?? A barn??"

I also bought the kids their own fishing rods while we were out. They spent much of this morning, casting off the top of their partially completed play set before I took them to a local lake where they could try their luck hooking the big one ... with their plastic lures.


Things were going swell until Carolyn wrapped the fishing line around her wrist so tightly that her hand turned crimson. She was screaming and flailing about - and in doing so - knocked her sister and her fishing rod in to the lake.

Her sister that can't swim.

And the only rod that I purchased that doesn't float.


The moral of the story is although kites and fishing rods are great fun, we might be taking a hiatus from stringed activities for a while.

Playset is 90% complete.

Charlie and I are 100% spent.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

the pain is ... unbearable

The primary reason that I am able to function every day is because I know that Charlie will be home in the evening to help out. And at the end of a long week, I know that he will be around to entertain the kids so that on Saturday morning, I can do things like change our linens and go to the grocery store to restock our house for the following week.

But today...

Today, Charlie is working on the jungle of lumber and screws that will soon take over our entire backyard. The parts that he needed arrived yesterday. And because he hopes to get this thing put together as soon as possible, I told him this morning that SURE he could have the WHOLE weekend to put it together while I kept the kids busy.

Today, there are Santa Ana winds howling in from the north east and I thought it would be great fun to take the kids out to fly a kite. But flying a kite in 40-mile per hour winds with three-year-olds and a nine-month-old, by yourself, isn't too bright. Because children that are three-years-old don't always follow simple directions like "Stay away from the string" and if they walk in front of a kite and tangle themselves up in the line before it is whipped in to the air, the kite string will cut them like a friction saw and you will listen to screaming for the next HOUR.

Today, our children are convinced that the world revolves around THEM. Whatever it is that they want, they shall have. So even though their uterine comrade is laying on the ground crying in agony over the 1-inch cut on their leg from the kite string - they will insist that IT IS THEIR TURN TO FLY THE KITE. And even though the winds are so fierce that they would be sucked out of the earth's atmosphere, IT IS THEIR TURN. And if I don't listen, they will lay on the ground and kick their feet while screaming and thrashing about, hysterically.

Today, after threatening to leave the kids at the park if they didn't get their tushes in to the car so that we could go home, I arrived home to remember that since I didn't go grocery shopping this morning, the only thing that we had to eat in the house was garlic cheese bread, avocado, organic peanut butter, bleu cheese, pickles and caliente chips. Which, unfortunately, are not the most pleasing foods for a three-year-old palate. So, they drank lots of milk for lunch. And ate sour pickles.

Today, my baby has started to cry every time that he sees me. He is happy as a clam when he forgets that I exist, but as soon as he remembers, and notices that I am not holding him in such a position that he can pull EVERY hair out of my head, he is wrought with tremendous sadness. He has also discovered that he doesn't like avocado much either and with foods that he does not like, it is best to pick them up and SMEAR them in our own hair.

Today, I realized that ALL the chores that Charlie and I usually split up on the weekend are falling squarely on my shoulders. And unless I want him to take a break from building the playground - which will only delay the day that I can put our children in the yard and they will STAY there - I need to go change some oil and rotate a few tires. Or, take out the recycling and pick up dog poop. Same difference.

Today, I realized that without any kind of break from small children - with no relief in sight until NEXT weekend - it might be necessary for me unwind by taking a nice hot bubble bath.

With my hair dryer.

random questions of the week

Assume for a moment that you know a woman - or a man. And they are married, or perhaps involved with someone. They may or may not have children.

Throughout the course of their relationship, you've never been particularly fond of the partner. But, they seem happy and so you are happy for them. But with time, the relationship seems ... poisoned. And you learn in a round-about way that the partner is less than faithful. Or, doing things to significantly compromise the financial stability of the union.

If you were the woman - or man, would you want to know?

And if so - how would you want to be told?

Now, imagine for a moment that you are billionaire George Steinbrenner.

Would you dig up the length of the third baseline to find the Red Sox jersey, or would you just try to forget that it was there?

Yeah. Like he could ever forget.

Friday, April 11, 2008

drawing the line

Last week, we put William and Henry in the tub together. They were having a great time, until I turned around to grab the shampoo, and when I turned back, William had grabbed the toilet brush out of it's holder and was scrubbing Henry.


Now although I may bathe our children in the kitchen sink, and under certain circumstances, encourage them to pee in the shower, I do not condone using a toilet brush to scrub my baby's head.

The poor kid.

Doesn't he have a look on his face that pleads "What am I doing here?"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

love and marriage

In case those people that I know in real life who read my blog didn't get the memo, please check out this link for information on why I'll be traveling by train from this point on, and read no further. You can come back to finish reading about my organizational tips tomorrow.

Seriously. If I know you, look away.

If you call and tell me that you've read this post, or quote something that I've written here, so help me I will scratch you from my Christmas card list and kick you in the shins next time we meet. After I take a train to your town.

For the rest of you, those people that exist inside my computer and whom I do not know, and likely will never meet, particularly those women that have small children, please read on.

****

I eluded to writing "this" post last month, after a visit with my doctor, but I haven't for a number of reasons. One of which would happen to be the fact that I've been really sick and unable to drink wine. But guess what?

I'm feeling better now!

And look what I'm sipping on!


But the true catalyst for this post, is that today, I received an e-mail from a friend that read:

"... about breastfeeding and Doing It, which I am calling Doing It because I want to avoid the spam filter, not because I don't like to say the word. Will you nod or shake head to this question: Is it normal to be basically DEAD BELOW THE WAIST? And also above it? I don't remember having this problem [before] and that's worrying me a little. I have no interest. NO INTEREST! I would be calling the doctor already, but you made that remark that seemed encouraging about how your doctor evidently said it's normal? Blink twice for "yes, normal," once for "um, no, call the doctor."

So here we go. After I just take one more ... little ... gulp sip.

A few months ago, I read an interesting article that indicated the average married couple will have sex three times a week. The article went on to say that if a couple is having sex less than 10 times a year, they are considered sexually starved.

Now, if we were to draw a parallel between the amount of food we ate, and say, the amount of sex we have, we would have had our last meal ... let's see, how old is Henry? ... 18-months ago.

Yes.

EIGHTEEN MONTHS.

October of 2006. The seventh, to be exact.

This would be the time that my husband threw his back out so badly that he couldn't walk and my mother had to fly in to help with the children. And every time mom asked "How do you think Charlie threw his back out?" I'd blush and say "Uh, moving furniture, I guess."

And I think she asked just because she liked to see me blush, because my mother reads my blog and she knew darn well why my husband was incapacitated. And then two weeks later, after my mother left to fly home, while my children were in the midst of rotavirus, I discovered that I was expecting Henry.

And there were some very good reasons why suddenly we stopped ... eating. And although there was a lot of smiling at our house, the smiley faces on our calendar disappeared.

We had three two-year-olds in the house that vomited for almost the entire month of October. And, I was feeling exhausted because I was pregnant. And then, whoa, very soon I was starting to get really big and swollen, and although there are some women who feel sexy with their belly sticking out, I'm not one of them.

And then, there's a new baby and surgery to recover from and sleepless nights and nursing and little people affixed to my body almost every moment of every day. And then, there's Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and my gosh, if I don't watch The Daily Show, how will I know what's going on in the world?

Is it not important for me to know what is happening on this planet in which I live?!

And then it's late and I'm tired and yes, maybe if I went to bed before 11:30 every night, I'd have the energy - but I don't, and I don't - and the reason I don't is because there are little children affixed to my body almost every moment of every day and milk streams that could put out an eye and quite honestly, that little bit of time at night is the only time I have to my self and if you know what's good for you, you will keep your hands to your self.

Hallelujah. Amen.

So, when I went to go see the doctor in February for something completely unrelated to ... eating ... I very tentatively asked if it was uh, normal that my appetite was uh, dead.

And the kind doctor, nodded his head and said "Yes. It is very normal. Because when you are breastfeeding, your estrogen level dips and estrogen is what controls your sex drive. So, once you stop breastfeeding, your estrogen level will return to it's normal level and all will be well in the land of bow chica bow wow."

That certainly helped to explain a lot. But, there were other factors at play. There's the whole mental trauma that I went through before I even became a mother. Somewhere between the shots and the exams and the charting and the surgeries and the emotional roller coaster and the hormonal craziness because of the drugs that I was pumping in to my body every other month, the whole act of "love making" became intercourse for the sole purpose of creating new life. The intimacy side of our marriage took a severe beating. It was knocked down and kicked and dragged through the mud and told "Yo, go make me a sandwich, beyotch."

And then there were the romantic exchanges that consisted of "Hurry the heck up, would you already!! We have to get to the doctor's office and traffic north on the 805 will be a nightmare. Focus!! STAY FOCUSED!!!"

I'm pretty sure that in his wildest dreams, that's what every man wants to hear.

So imagine my surprise, when after trying for almost 10 years to have a baby, and after the birth of our triplets when sex was the farthest thing from my mind, shazam, I become pregnant without a team of doctors in the room or any gentle words of ... encouragement.

Little kids lead to little sex.

And sometimes, a little sex can lead to (more) little kids.

Now, many women assume that you cannot get pregnant while you are breastfeeding. But here is a little known fact: Most women do not get pregnant while they are breastfeeding because most women who are breastfeeding are not having sex. Perhaps putting a temporary kibosh on the female libido is mother nature's way of insuring that women don't have babies too closely together.

Whatever the case, I have yet to meet a breastfeeding mother who is not bordering on complete celibacy. For that matter, I have yet to meet a mother with a baby less than a year old, who if given the choice, would rather pull her small toenail off then "do it".

This isn't something that very many women openly discuss. It's a personal thing. It's private. But I love to chat with new mothers that I meet, and usually after I ask them how their baby is sleeping, I'll smile and inquire, "So, how's your love life?"

And every single time I have ever asked this question, the women will give me a look of absolute disbelief and say "OH MY GOD. It is totally DEAD."

And I suspected that they would answer this, before I even asked, which is why I asked in the first place, because I am collecting data in case I ever go back to school for my PhD, my dissertation is going to be "The effect of children on the parental sex life."

It could be hormonal. Or maybe it's sleep deprivation. Or maybe it's the physical closeness that women have with their baby (ies) everyday that renders them not willing - or able - to maintain a physical closeness with their spouse at the end of a long day. The women are physically tapped out. But for the men in these situations? The poor buggers are deprived and starved. Not just sexually, but emotionally. And seriously? That's not a good thing. Because after a certain period of time, a marriage will suffer.

So if you find yourself in this situation, what can you do about it?

Well... I'm no Doctor Ruth, but two weeks ago, people around the globe turned off their lights for an hour to recognize Earth Hour. And what started off as an hour - wound up being more than an hour, for us. Once we turned off the television and the computer and the stereo and every single light in the house, and lit candles, we focused on each other more than we have since October of 2006.

It is so easy to get distracted by life. Especially when you have young children to care for and a house to clean and a dog to feed and bills to pay and e-mail to check one last time before you go to bed.

But if you find yourself in a similarly starved situation?

Turn off the power and light candles.

Eventually, you will find your libido.

Or, at least, something that looks kinda like it.