Wednesday, November 30, 2011

tooth fairy loans

Up until yesterday, our children had collectively lost a total of five teeth.


Because Carolyn teetered on the brink of hysteria anytime we'd even look at one of her loose teeth, we weren't allowed to touch them or smirk at them or say anything remotely related to tooth extraction without her screaming.


So in the course of sleeping or eating, she has swallowed all three of the teeth that she had thus far lost. Within the last month, through Elizabeth's lost tooth and the one that I inadvertently knocked out of Henry's mouth, we've had our first two teeth for the tooth fairy pillow. Just yesterday, within the span of eight hours, from last night until early this morning, we've now lost two and a half additional teeth, taking our grand total of lost teeth to seven and a half.

Yesterday afternoon, William was playing lacrosse with our neighbors and was hit in the face with the lacrosse stick by his sister, Elizabeth, effectively chipping his lower tooth. Shortly thereafter, Carolyn who has had two teeth jutting out of her mouth at various angles, that were continually shifting, finally disengaged. I'd been suggesting that she just YANK her teeth out of her mouth because HOW CAN SHE STAND IT? It was sticking in to her lip and then in to her tongue, and ack!!

She finally consented that she'd try to pull it out by herself. So we wrapped a small paper towel around her tooth and she stood, staring in the mirror, and debating whether this is something she could do for the next hour.


And then ...






It was out!!!


She was so excited ... IT WAS OUT!

That distracting obstruction that had been in her mouth was finally out. And the excitement was so great because although she'd lost three prior teeth, she was in possession of her very first lost tooth. She eagerly tucked it in to the tooth fairy pillow before climbing in to bed.

Before we turned in for the night, Charlie and I remembered that we needed to exchange her tooth for money, but because neither of us had anything smaller than a $10.00, which seemed too high, we turned to Plan B which consisted of putting change in her pillow. We both agreed that was no good.

So we turned to Plan C which consisted of us running off to the grocery store and getting cash back at 10PM. We both agreed that was also no good.

So we turned to Plan D which consisted of us removing the plug from her piggy bank and taking out a few dollars. My husband thought that was a TERRIBLE idea. But the thought of change in the pillow or running out at 10 PM or the tooth fairy not coming at all was even more terrible. So Charlie unplugged her pink piggy bank and "borrowed" two dollars.

Well, the premeditated act of losing a tooth was such an awesome experience, that our daughter was up this morning at 5 AM (largely due to our little puppy that was wide awake!! and yapping!! and ready!! to play!!) begging her father to help her take out her front tooth.








Which he did. And the child that was terrified of losing a tooth is now a tooth pull junkie. She is furiously wiggling other teeth in her mouth, anxious for the next one to fall out so she can get more green money.


Tonight, we had to once again confiscate money from her piggy bank. We fully recognize that we'll need to (eventually) replace the money that we've been borrowing because on the day that she opens that piggy bank and realizes that she only has TWO DOLLARS for all the teeth that she's lost, she's totally going to be on to us.

Monday, November 28, 2011

tomorrow, I'm wearing pants

Last weekend, my mother took Henry for some one-on-one time, and Charlie and I took the triplets ice skating.


Now once upon a time, a long time ago, when I was five-years-old, the Winter Olympics were on television. And like every other five to ninety-five year old girl alive, Dorothy Hamill was my idol. Almost immediately, my hair was shaped in to a Hamill cut and my mother enrolled me in ice skating lessons. Thanks to my older sister, Marylou, who splurged and bought me the entire getup, when I stepped out on the ice for my very first skating lesson, with my Dorothy Do, I had on brand new shiny white skates, nude colored tights, and a blue sparkly skating outfit. After all that I'd seen on television, my dream was that I'd swiftly skate to the center of the rink and do a double salchow.

My reality was two steps and a face plant.

But I stuck with those lessons, and soon enough, I could make it around the ENTIRE perimeter of the rink without clinging to the wall for dear life. Although I never learned to spin, I became a total master of the figure eight.

And …. that about sums up my skating career.

Fast forward thirty-five years to the day my children wanted for me to join them ice skating. And my husband, who hadn't skated in 35 years either convinced me that WE SHOULD TOTALLY DO THIS WITH OUR CHILDREN. This is an opportunity to build memories for us and them and by the way, Charlie? He informed me that he is a natural ice skater.

Wayne Gretzky? He's from Canada.

Kurt Browning? CANADA.

Everyone knows, all it takes is two points to form a line. So although he abhors real maple syrup, by virtue of being born in Canada, my athletically-gifted husband is, at a minimum, on the periphery of the same linear continuum as two of the most famous skaters of all time.

So there we are at the rink with our heavy blue plastic rented skates. Unlike our children who stepped out on the ice and immediately fell down, Charlie and I remained upright, albeit flailing around in a very un-Gretzky and/or Browning-like manner. But after a few laps, we found our groove and were able to glide across the ice without our arms flapping like we were preparing for take-off. And because we tend to get competitive with each other when it comes to sporting events, in between plucking our children off the ice, we started racing each other around the rink.

We were making memories and it was good.


But after a half hour of falling down, Carolyn decided she'd had enough. The rented skates had cut in to her legs and she was prepared to sit the rest of the "fun" out. Charlie sat with her for a while, before trading off with me and assuming the responsibility of stewarding William and Elizabeth's falls. When there were only five minutes remaining before the Zamboni came out, I signaled to Charlie that I wanted to skate …. just one more lap.

My husband skated in to the box and I slipped back out feeling completely confident in my ability. I glided around the first and second corner and was stroking my way around the third corner when all of a sudden, I slammed down on the ice. One minute I was up. The next minute I was down. I don't even remember the falling part. But I'd heard a POP coming from my left knee as soon as I crashed and there was an intense burning sensation emanating from directly behind my knee cap. I'm not sure how exactly I was able to stand up because by the time I hobbled off the ice, and in to my husband's outstretched arms, I couldn't bend my leg. And that's about the time I started to curse the inventor of ice skating because really, what total nut came up with the idea of putting BLADES on your feet and slipping across ICE?!

Sunday night was miserable and by Monday morning the pain was so bad, I couldn't walk without holding on to the wall. Charlie dropped me off at the Emergency Room to be checked out and as I sat waiting, I contemplated that age really is the great equalizer. The kids can fall down on the ice face first and backwards and every which way since Saturday, but I fall down once and I need an x-ray, brace, crutches, pain medication and referral to an orthopedist.


A week later, my knee is still extremely tender. Although I can walk without crutches, I'm having a very difficult time bending or turning it. So this morning, when I was getting ready for work and was attempting to put on my nylons, I was confronted with a tremendous challenge. Especially once I got the nylons on and realized that my left toenail, attached to the left leg that I am unable to bend, had snagged the stocking and there was a run that extended all the way to the knee. Because I was wearing a dress today, that wouldn't do. So I had to peel the nylons off and start over with a new pair.

By the time I had peeled the nylons off, and helped pull hair in to pony tails and collect library books and supervise teeth brushing and face washing … I was running late. So I flung open my dresser drawer and grabbed another pair of nylons which I then hastily tried to put on without snagging. When I pulled the nylons up, I could tell that they fit a little snuggly, but I assumed it must have been the Halloween candy that I hid and consumed in an effort to protect my children's teeth.

We hustle out the door and I drop the children off at school before driving to my office. As I'm walking from my car in to the building, I experienced the worst clothing malfunction of my life when the waist of my nylons slipped from above my hips to the middle of my thighs. And because there were no restrooms immediately available, and there are surveillance cameras everywhere, I didn't have the ability to "adjust" my nylons and therefore, had to pass through not one - but two levels of security - and up several floors waddling like a broken legged penguin.

When I finally reached the restroom, I peeled off the nylons and examined the label which clearly read, "Carters. Size 7." My husband, the man who bought me oversized underwear for Christmas last year, stocked my drawer with my daughter's tights.

Oh ... sure ... he pleads innocence.

But I'm starting to think he likes to mess with my mind.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

the only thing we want to spread is... cheer

We'd intended to stay in South Carolina over Thanksgiving, but we're not as small of a group as we once were. And mid-way through our vacation, our headcount went up by one.

On Monday night, Louie's first night with us, we were staying with my gracious cousin Karen. Louie was sequestered to a newspaper-lined bathroom with his soft doggy bed and random doggie toys. Every 15 minutes, for the entire night, Louie would yelp. And because we were in someone else's home and sound was transmitted to every square inch exceptionally well, we tended to our tiny yelping puppy.

We = Charlie.

Because I'd fallen down ice skating on Sunday afternoon, blew out my knee and was on crutches, I was unable to hop in and out of bed without gasping expletives. So Charlie was on Puppy Patrol. But I was awake whenever my husband was because: 1) the barking woke me and 2) I felt a moral obligation to tell a completely exhausted Charlie, "I'm up, too. You're not enduring this alone. Maybe we should have adopted a lazy cat?"

During one of the 30+ times that Charlie opened the bathroom door over a span of six hours, he smeared a fresh pile of puppy poo across the floor, that he then stepped in with his bare feet and it oozed between his toes. Around that same time, we unanimously made the decision that our entourage would drive back to Virginia as soon as the sun breached the horizon, the children were awake, or our hostess tossed us to the curb. Which ever came first.

At home, we could settle Louie in to his crate and wouldn't be as concerned that he was disturbing an entire house. At home, we would be at home. And home is a really nice place to be when you've got four children with chest colds, a blown out knee and a yelping pooping puppy.

So on Tuesday morning, we bid our farewells and we drove home.

Since we've been home, Louie has slept great. Which is fantastic because I'd been wracked with worry that our children have finally reached an age where they'll sleep soundly until 7 AM (most nights), and we had to ruin everything by bringing in a tiny puppy that'll be up barking all night. It's been 18 years since I've had a tiny puppy. My recollection on how to do this house-training this is foggy. Is there some kind of Puppy Wise book about Bark It Out?

On Tuesday, the first night home, Louie curled up in a ball in the cozy box which we'd placed in our bedroom and he slept, soundly, until 4 AM. When he awoke, Charlie took him outside to do his business, then he returned him to the box where we fell back asleep until 6:30 AM. Yesterday, he slept through the night and woke up at 6:15 AM and before Charlie's feet even hit the floor, Carolyn ran in to the room, scooped up the puppy and said, "That's OK Dad. I've got him. You go back to sleep..."

(And that's why Carolyn is now her father's favorite child.)

While it would have been nice to have spent Thursday with our extended family, it was such a good decision for us to return home early. Louie is settling in nicely and we avoided all of the post-holiday traffic. Our Thanksgiving was a very relaxing day. We made apple crisps for a few of our neighbors...


And we watched, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas", our first Christmas movie of the season. Midway through, William announced, "Mom, that Dr. Seuss is a really good rhymer, isn't he?" For the next few hours, he attempted to craft all of his sentences in rhyme. During dinner he graced us with, "Mom, I like the very cranberry and quirky turkey, but please don't make me eat the mean green bean or the damn yam."


My belief that returning home early was a good decision was confirmed this morning when our sweet Elizabeth woke up with the stomach flu. I'm hard pressed to think of a situation that would be more uncomfortable than to expose your hostess to the stomach flu after your yelping un-houstrained puppy kept her up all night and before driving 500 miles with a sick child.

As of this writing, Henry's complaining that his tummy hearts too. Our little guy is learning how to count and he knows that when there are six people in a family and only two legs on a turkey, this is how you lay claim...




And I know that if this is a virus, soon enough we'll all have it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

on this thanksgiving...

Today I'm reflecting on those things for which I'm thankful.

I'm thankful for the sun that rises and gives us the promise of a new day.

I'm thankful for a very full life with my husband and children.

I'm thankful for early bedtimes after a very full day with my beautiful family.

I'm thankful for neighbors and friends and the kind people in our world.

I'm thankful for my (relatively) good health and the (relatively) good health of my loved ones.

I'm thankful for moments.

I'm thankful for options.

I'm thankful for humor, spirit and a sense of adventure.

I'm thankful for the Greenville Humane Society and the work they do.

This is Louie, an eight-week-old cocker spaniel mix.


He's the newest member of our family and we're so very thankful for him.


There is so much love and happiness surrounding this puppy...


I hope he's thankful for us, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We hope you have a peaceful, thankful and memorable day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

we better hide his chainsaw

As we embark on Year Two of living in a region with seasons, I'd like to take a moment and reflect on the activity that surrounds cleaning up leaves. To me, it is remarkable just how many leaves there are on the trees in our yard.


Definitely thousands.

More likely millions.

Quite possibly, trillions.

Or, if you asked Charlie, DECILLIONS.


For the past several weeks, Charlie has been riding his lawnmower around and around, mulching and collecting leaves. At least twice a week, he's doing some kind of yard maintenance and this activity has brought him an abundance of joy.

I thought that the reason he was so interested in cleaning up the yard is because he enjoys riding his lawnmower. Which he does. But also? I've learned that leaves across our lawn drive my typically level-headed husband obsessive-compulsive crazy.


When there are leaves on the ground, he is almost unable to think of anything except getting out there and removing them. I've tried to decipher the root of this compulsion and I don't think it has to do with keeping up with our neighbor's yard beautification projects. OK, maybe that has a little bit to do with it. But I think the primary cause is that Charlie's so accustomed to southern California and palm trees that don't shed.

This has obviously been an interesting venture in to my husband's psyche because while leaves on the ground don't bother me in the least ... toys on the ground drive me certifiably insane. And when disarray becomes particularly bad around our house (as it's been known to do), my husband is calm and collected, although highly confused? as to why? his wife and mother of his children? is acting like a total lunatic? and suggesting? that we haul ALL the children's toys off to Goodwill? and leave them with only a cardboard box with which to play?

For years, I've felt like it was just me battling some kind of psychosis.

This past Saturday, in honor of my husband's birthday, Charlie and I spent hours cleaning our front yard. Since I neglected to get him a present (bad wife!) I thought I'd indulge him on his need to have NO LEAVES ON THE GROUND. Of course, soon after we finished, a small breeze kicked up and those little leaves that we saw way up high on the trees, and which from that distance seemed so insignificant, had dislodged from their branches and were now blanketing our lawn. And then! There were leaf types that appeared from trees that we don't even have on our property. So we've concluded one of two things have likely occurred:

1. They floated to our yard or

2. Someone deposited them as a practical joke when we weren't looking.

While most of the trees around our neighborhood are oak, maple and beech ... perhaps next year I'll spread a bag full of gargantuan leaves, like those two-footers from the Empress Tree, on our neighbor's property just to see if they notice?

What the…?




So Saturday we spent hours raking and blowing and mulching...


And as we worked, our children jumped in leaf piles and rejoiced in the sheer magic of childhood in the fall.


At one point, after we'd filled our 20th bag of mulched leaves and hauled them to the sidewalk (Charlie is adamantly opposed to burning leaves for reasons that I cannot articulate), my husband casually mentioned that if we were to remove a few key trees in our back yard, our leaf removal efforts would be significantly reduced. Note: our back yard is at least six times the size of our front yard with over 30 trees as opposed to the TWO in front.


Coming from a man who was thrilled to buy this lot because of the acreage and believes this to be one of the most beautiful spots on earth, it surprised me to hear him look over our backyard and say, "Jen, just think of it! If we were to chop down that tree ... and that one ... and that one..." and then he paused for a moment before eagerly pointing, "And that one, and that one, that one, that one, that one, that one, that one, and THAT ONE ... this whole area would be completely DEVOID of leaves!"


"So ... Charlie … what you are suggesting to me is that we chop down ALL the trees on our beautiful wooded lot so we won't have to rake leaves anymore?"

My husband's blue eyes sparkled.

And that's when I realized even the sanest among us, have their triggers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

life in the woods

We live in a very wooded area and last year, discovered that we have a deer stand 10 feet from our property line. The reason for that deer stand, we learned, is not to watch deer - but to hunt deer. Several of our neighbors have bows and have told us that yes, they most definitely hunt during deer season. Not only to help keep the population at bay - but because they enjoy venison.

The children's reading comprehension is definitely improving, so they are frequently trying to "sound out" the words that they see in the world around them. Earlier this week, we saw this sign posted on a tree in a local park. After we read the sign, together, the children asked, "Mom, what does 'Deer Management Activity' mean?"


And I translated, "That means Bambi, you better watch Yo back!!!"

It also means that whenever we go outside for the next three months, we'll need to wear our bright yellow coats and flashing beacon hats.

Friday, November 11, 2011

tooth tales

Telling my husband that I knocked our son's tooth out of his mouth was/is almost as painful as the knowledge of what had happened.


When Charlie called me from the airport, inquiring why I wasn't there to pick him up, I recapped the events of the day. And he said, and I quote, "What do you mean you knocked out his tooth? You're kidding. RIGHT?"

No. I'm not kidding.

And hey, remember that time I was upset with you because you left the oven door open for a split second when you were taking out a pizza and the baby crawled over and put his hands on the 300+ degree door?

Three years later ... I forgive you.

Forgiveness is good.

(Although, I doubt I'll ever be able to forgive myself.)

When we sat down for breakfast on Sunday morning, and both my husband and I were choking back tears watching our little boy try to eat soft foods with his Nanny McPhee tooth jutting out of his mouth, William felt compelled to discuss his feelings surrounding The Incident.

So he said, "Mom, after you picked Henry up from the ground and you saw that his mouth was bleeding and his tooth was gone? You said, 'OH. THIS IS GREAT! LOOK WHAT I DID! THIS IS AWESOME. I KNOCKED MY BABY'S TOOTH OUT OF HIS MOUTH. GREAT JOB MOM! WELL DONE!'"

(It's true. That's exactly what I said, verbatim.)

William sighed before continuing, "Mom? I've been thinking about it and I really don't think you were being AWESOME and I don't think it was GREAT that you knocked my little brother's tooth out of his mouth."

So I explained what "sarcasm" means.

"William, the reason I removed Henry from beneath the table with such haste was not because I wanted to knock his tooth out of his mouth, it's because I was genuinely afraid he was going to get his teeth kicked in by his siblings who were wildly flailing their legs and kicking him in the face. Does that make sense?"

William considered this and then gave me a nod. "Yeah, it makes sense. But maybe you should have just left him there since if you hadn't pulled him out, he'd still have his tooth?"

So I then explained what "ironic" means.

I found the tooth on Saturday night when I was sweeping the kitchen. It surprised me to see how big it was, but according to the pediatric dentist the roots aren't "degraded" until the adult tooth grows in. So it's appropriate the root would be so long on a tooth that wasn't supposed to fall out for another four years.


The good news: the entire tooth fell out. So an extraction isn't necessary.

The bad news: The Entire Tooth Fell Out. And the fate of his fragile Nanny McPhee front tooth is currently unknown. I'm just thankful corn-on-the-cob is no longer in season since Henry really loves corn-on-the-cob.


The Tooth Fairy came to visit this past Monday night. Henry carefully tucked his tooth in to the Tooth Fairy pillow before climbing in to bed and clenching his eyes closed to expedite the arrival of the winged bringer of monetary reward.

When he awoke on Tuesday morning, he found that the Tooth Fairy had left him a $1.00 bill in exchange for his tooth. In addition, he found a Toy Story 3 collector set that the Tooth Fairy had snagged from a small inventory Santa Clause was planning to distribute at Christmas.


The children were incredulous. "MOM. Why did Henry get TOYS for his tooth? Doesn't the Tooth Fairy only bring money?" And I explained, yes, except in those incredibly rare situations when a tooth falls out FOUR YEARS sooner than it's supposed to. AND it's 100% the mother's fault.

In which case, once could deduce the Tooth Fairy shares my guilt complex.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

a moment I'd rather forget but won't be able to anytime soon


My Henry.

My beautiful, sweet, lovable, Henry. My little Henry who, at various times, will drive all three of his siblings totally crazy. My little Henry who, at various times, will drive me and his father totally crazy. My little Henry who is the perfect embodiment of a four-year-old BOY.

My little Henry, who tonight, after he finished dinner, climbed under the table and was biting his siblings' legs and feet. They were all laughing, so in retrospect, from my post at the sink where I was washing dishes - I should have probably just laughed, too. But I didn't because his siblings were still trying to eat and they were kicking him about the head and the level of chaos was mounting, Mounting, MOUNTING.

Charlie is flying home tonight from a business trip and I was trying to get the kitchen cleaned up before we left to pick him up at the airport. I asked the children to go put on their pajamas, so I can put them to bed as soon as we arrive home. No one hears me or is listening to me or any combination thereof. So I say it a little louder, "GUYS. When you're done, please go put on your pajamas so we can pick up Daddy at the airport…"

I'm scrubbing pots and pans while keeping my eye on the pot under the sink that has been used to catch water from a leaky valve that was responsible for flooding our basement while Charlie's been away … when the shrieking at the table grabs my attention.

Henry is chomping on his brother's leg while his brother is kicking him squarely in the face. I yell, "STOP!" to the air before marching in to the dining area - and reaching under the table for Henry. When I grab him by his waist, he tips forward and smacks the kitchen floor. Standing him up to his feet, my stomach drops when I see that there is blood dripping out of his mouth.

Thinking that perhaps he just smacked his lip, I pick him up to examine his mouth and that's when I notice HIS FRONT TOOTH IS GONE. My baby's tooth is GONE. Where there once was a tooth, just to the right of his right front tooth, there is now a gaping hole.

Instantly, I'm remorseful, shocked and nauseous as the worst feeling I've ever experienced in my life, envelopes me.

What did I just do?

If only I could turn back time … ONE MINUTE … I'd race in to the family room and put on a movie for him. I'd do SOMETHING to get him out from under our feet, literally, so that the chaos wouldn't send me over the brink. Why must I try to avoid movies when movies are often VERY GOOD and a saving grace to parents everywhere?

I'm feeling sick with myself and the triplets are crying when I put a damp paper towel in his mouth and call the Pediatric Dentist. The long and short of it, there is nothing that can be done for a lost baby tooth. Tomorrow morning, we'll have an x-ray and examination. And eventually, say FOUR YEARS FROM NOW, the gaping hole will be replaced by an adult tooth. But every day, from now until then, whenever I see my beautiful baby's smile, I'll be reminded of this horrible moment.

Later, once he was in his pajamas, Tylenol had been administered, and I sent my husband a text message that he would need to take a cab home from the airport, I carefully removed the paper towel from his mouth. His tongue feels around the spot where his tooth had been and I'm struck with horror when I notice that his FRONT tooth is also crooked. To the point that his lip actually PROTRUDES because of the crookedness. I bury my head in my hands and I start to cry. "Oh my God, this is terrible. I'm so, so sorry!"

Henry puts his little arms around my neck and hugging me tightly, whispers, "Mommy, you not tewable. You awesome, like ME!" I lean back and gaze at the gorgeous little boy who holds my heart in his hands. His tongue runs across his new dental landscape and when he realizes that his front tooth is sticking out of his mouth, he cheerfully says, "I wook wike Nanny McPhee!"

Once he said it, I noticed that the resemblance is uncanny. So for a very brief moment, my tears of sorrow were replaced by tears of laughter.


The children were so concerned about their little brother, they quietly gathered in his room as I was tucking him in to bed. William declared, "Henry, you lost a tooth before me!" Then he added, "But that's OK because now the Tooth Fairy will come and we'll get some money!"

His sister corrected him, "William, you won't get money - HENRY WILL."

But William countered, "Well, we share a piggy bank you know."