Sunday, January 29, 2012


I'm teaching the children how to pull their hair (and each other's hair) in to ponytails today.


That way whenever I'm out of town...


They'll have the hair management support they need.


It's awesome to have so many styling opportunities in our house.

Friday, January 27, 2012

business travel

This past week, I was on a business trip to southern Florida.


Once I stepped out of the airport and in to a beautiful blue day, I suddenly missed palm trees and balmy breezes very much. Of course, I made the mistake of telling my husband that and he's now trying to move our family to Santa Barbara. While it hasn't been that cold, he's decided he misses wearing flip flops and slathering our children with sunscreen 360 days a year.

On day two of my trip, Charlie sent me a text message with the following picture of Elizabeth.


Apparently, she'd asked her father to pull her hair back in a bow and he said, "Sorry, I don't know how to do that." She gave him a quizzical look and asked, "What do you mean, 'You don't know how to do that?'"

Charlie replied, "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I really don't know how to pull your hair back in a bow. That's in your mother's department." According to my husband, she looked at him like he'd sprung two heads and stammered, "But? I ... I .... I .... I don't understand. You're an ADULT. Right?"

On day three, Charlie sent me a text message that read, "Stop fighting. Stop fighting. Stop fighting. STOP FIGHTING. OH MY GOD, STOP FIGHTING!"

Later in the day he sent me a text message that read, "Jenny, YOUR CHILDREN are driving me INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE." He called me that night to tell me he was feeling overwhelmed. He'd had a Cub Scout meeting that night and although he'd cleaned the house while the kids were in school, they came home and "disturbed" his perfect order. He needed to tidy up and finish pulling things out for his meeting, so he asked the kids to walk the dog.

Now, he's been asking the kids to help with the dog, but their idea of walking him is to take him outside and drag him around the yard before dragging him back in to the house - where he promptly poops down the entire hallway. Wouldn't you know, that's exactly what happened, seconds before he had Tiger Cubs (and their parents) arrive at our house for the den meeting.

"Please don't leave me, again," my husband pleaded.

On day four, Charlie sent me a picture of the children, gathered around the table, working on their homework. It's truly an exercise in extreme patience to have three seven-year-olds sit down and do things of an academic nature after being in school all day, so I was impressed.


Until ten minutes later, when he sent me this picture.


I arrived home, today, just after a torrential downpour swept through the area. When I walked in the door, I noticed that one of the children's winter coats and backpacks was still outside on the front steps. When I picked them up, they were dripping with water, literally SOAKED.

My husband didn't immediately notice the saturated items in my hand, when he threw his arms around me and hugged with all of his might. When he finally stepped back and wiped away what I think were tears of joy and relief, he stared in astonishment at the items in my hand and asked, "Wow, where'd you find that? I've been looking for those things since Wednesday!"

I'm supposed to go away again, next month.

Maybe I shouldn't.

Monday, January 23, 2012

now, where is that cape?

Henry attended his first birthday party, yesterday.


His siblings have been attending birthday parties since they were infants - and Henry has tagged along to several along the way - but this was the first party that Henry, and Henry alone, had been invited to attend.

It was a big deal.

I made it a big deal, because for the past four-and-a-half-years, Henry hasn't had any friends of his own. He's the little brother of the triplets. The little guy that spends every play date he's ever attended, chasing the bigger kids around. He seems to like the role of always being "it" but I don't.

I've tried to coordinate play dates for him, with kids his own age and have actually said to absolute strangers, "Hi, you don't know me, but it looks like you have a son approximately the same age as my son, you wanna get together sometime?"

There are a number of parenting challenges when you work full-time. Coordinating social activities for your preschooler is but one of them. Although it probably would help my coordination efforts if Henry was always with me, when I approach the parents of potential playmates.

The party was at 2:30 and since I needed to pick up a gift first, I had planned to leave the house at 1:00. But as it always happens, things popped up that required resolution. Like lunch for the kids. I mean, come on. Didn't I just feed you breakfast a few hours ago?

At 1:30, I realized I needed to walk out the door, right that very second, or we'd be late. And I hate being late to birthday parties. Especially when it's my son's very first one and it was only scheduled to last an hour. Including cake consumption.

So I bundled Henry in to his many layers of winter gear and we rushed out the front door, only to realize that the van was covered in snow and ice. For the next several minutes, I ran around looking for the vehicular snow removal equipment (i.e., scraper) because it was missing from where it was supposed to be and .... CHARLIE!!!!



Another several minutes later, equipment was found and I began the snow removal process. Which took some time, because I also removed the snow and ice that had accumulated on the top of our extraordinarily lonnng van when I remembered that last year, I almost crashed when a huge chunk of ice slid off and slammed in to my windshield from the not-fully-deiced car in front of me. I'd prefer to avoid unnecessary accidents.

By the time I buckled Henry in and pulled out of the driveway, it was 1:52. I have exactly 38 minutes to drive to Target - in one direction - pick out a present, wrap it, and drive to the birthday party, in the exact opposite direction. We make record time and arrive at Target by 2:02. We are then in and out of Target within eight minutes. It could've been five, if I wasn't totally distracted by all the shiny and unnecessary items on Aisle 2.

With our gift in hand, we rush out to the car to wrap it - using the paper, tape, scissors and ribbon I'd thought to bring from home. Yet another challenge of working full-time: I wrap more presents on the front seat of the car ~ on my way to parties ~ than I wrap anywhere else. I've come to terms with the fact that in my current situation, I'll never be so prepared as to have a birthday gift ready to go, more than thirty-five minutes before a party commences.

I'm cutting and taping, and beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, we'll be on time and my heart warms with the thought. But as I'm curling the last ribbon, Henry who is securely fastened in his car seat informs me, "Mommy, I have to go potty!"

Of course!

He does!

Based on his sudden and furious kicking and fidgeting, I ascertain that there's no way he could hold it, nor would I be willing to take the chance. So I unbuckle him from his car seat and weigh my options. I could walk back to the store and use one of the restrooms, or I could capitalize on his ability to stand and let him aim beneath the car. The first option is considerably more civilized. The second option is considerably more efficient.

Thirty seconds later, Henry was back in his carseat and we were on our way.

On our way to ..... ?

Hmmm. Where are we going, again?

It dawned on me that I'd left the invitation on my desk and had never fully digested the address. The distinct possibility exists that where I think I'm going isn't where I actually need to be. So with fingers crossed, I head in what I hope is the correct direction.

Here's a photograph of my sweet Henry, clutching his present and wondering as we ride up in the elevator, "Mom, I sure hope you've got this right! I'D BE SO SAD TO MISS MY FIRST PARTY."


Of course he wasn't actually wondering that. It was my Mommy Guilt that assumed a voice which was echoing around my head, "You'd better not mess this one up." My son was totally happy being out, alone, with me. Had we missed the party, he probably would've said, "That's OK. Can I keep the present?!"

When we entered what I thought was the birthday venue, a man who introduced himself as the father of the birthday child, came out to greet us. When they affixed a sticker to Henry's shirt with his name, I felt very proud. We made it. To the correct location. On time.


It was truly nothing short of a miracle.

Because Charlie does all the drop-offs and pick-ups, I haven't had much of an opportunity to socialize with the other parents from Henry's preschool. So while Henry ran around playing with his friends, I made the rounds, taking time to ambush talk with all the other parents. Focusing especially on those who have boys. Henry loves playing with other boys and seemed lost for the first 10 minutes of the party, wandering around until the first boy arrived.


I've been asking / telling / begging Charlie to line up play dates with his classmates, but the execution of such a concept is not something my husband embraces. Not because he doesn't agree that Henry should play with other kids outside of school, but because it's significantly outside of Charlie's comfort zone. As a man, he'd rather not call around and line up play dates with moms he doesn't know. I get that, which is why I mapped out a schedule of play dates for times when I'll be available, too. The way I see it, play dates aren't just for the kids. They're also a very important opportunity for parents to connect and trade notes. And since I've been out of the play date circuit for so long, I really need to do some note trading.

I didn't mention it during the party, but one of the other parents knew that we had triplets. So she told another mother, who told another of the mothers (and another and another) that I have three seven-year-olds in addition to Henry. And this prompted a wave of excitement and awe. How do you do it? How do you manage? AND you work full-time?

You must be superwoman!

Ah yes. I'm the new generation of superwoman. She's flies around with her hair on fire, encourages her son to void in a public parking lot and half the time, doesn't know where she's going. But I didn't tell them any of that.

I figure it'll give us something fun to talk about during our first play date.


Photographic evidence Henry made it to his first party: balloon and goody bag in hand.

He was thrilled. But I was even more so.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

the risk assessment

This morning the children were up early.


I think it was 6:35 when I felt someone poking me with their little finger and asking, in hushed tones, if I'd go get their sled. Two questions swept through my mind:

1) Why the hushed tones, since they're clearly interested in waking me up?

2) The freezing cold attic? Why must they disturb me and not their father?

Not right away, but eventually, I did get out of bed. And we did go sledding. And when I went in to the house to make beds and unload the dishwasher and begin thinking about breakfast, my children were still outside, sledding, by themselves. Within a matter of minutes, I heard someone crying. When I ran out to investigate, I discovered Henry had sled headfirst in to a tree.

(No, I didn't snap off a photo of my injured child. This was a DIFFERENT lesser impact sledding injury and I thought it was so sweet how his brother was helping him up the hill.)


Of course crashing in to a tree was a possibility that I'd considered, seeing as our backyard is a partial forest, but I'd instructed the children to take a route that would be AWAY from the trees and I was hoping that our four-year-old would heed my warning and / or been more successful at steering his sled.

Additionally, I'd reasoned that if one of our children were to strike a tree, they had on a lot of padding. (Including thick hats, which I swear they had on when they went out the door.) They had on layers upon layers, because I'm very good at dressing them warmly. Before putting them on a piece of slick plastic, on a treacherous slope with multiple hardwoods jutting from the ground.


Yes. The safety professional in me sees the flaw in my logic. But it's the realist in me that understands sometimes the most harmless activity - like running across a yard - can cause a bone to fracture. And pulling someone out from beneath the table can result in a premature tooth loss. Small children whipping down a steep hill with mature trees? OK. From this perspective, I can see it's a suicidal obstacle course and I need to hide their sleds.


The important thing is that Henry's fine. Within a few days, the small scrape on his cheek will heal and he'll hopefully remember, from this point forth, that trees aren't soft and it's best to stay out of their way. Unless, Charlie has his say and cuts them all down.

In which case ... risk averted, problem solved!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

neither wind, nor hail, nor sleet, nor snow...

We woke up, this morning, to snow and ice coating our world. But the inclement weather didn't stop our girls (and their brother) from getting out and selling cookies today.


Although the weather was difficult, sales were great. Nearly everyone was house-bound because the roads were too bad to be out driving and everyone it seemed, had a hankering for Thin Mints.


Hello! Hello!

I see you in there!

You're trapped and I know it!!



If not for icy conditions, it's highly unlikely we would have sold more than 50 boxes in less than 60 minutes. Yay winter!

Friday, January 20, 2012

i'll do anything to keep the kitchen clean

My husband was slightly aghast that I allowed our children to cook their dinner in our front yard earlier this week. On two separate occasions.


He was worried that our neighbors would see us with a raging bonfire and hotdogs on sticks and what would they think?


I think, that they'd think, "Can I come over?"

Monday, January 16, 2012

we're banking on the cute factor

If you live within a one-mile radius of our house, this is a sight you might expect to see over the next few days...


Girl Scout cookie sales officially began a few weeks ago and the first round of orders are due this Saturday. I'd been holding off on the door-to-door sales because I wanted to affix all the Daisy Petal badges they'd earned to their uniforms, first. But when it struck me this afternoon that we only have five days remaining before our initial orders are due, and we have thus far sold ... quick check ... zero! ... our girls threw on their patch-deficient smocks and we hit the pavement. Within an hour, we'd visited five houses and sold 15 boxes.

William came with us to support his sisters. No one could say "no" to three tooth-missing first graders proudly sporting their scout uniforms.

(In return, our girls have promised to help their brother sell popcorn next fall.)

Friends and family, if you're interested in buying cookies, please send me an e-mail ( and we'll add you to the list. They cost $4.00 per box (they were only $1.50 a box when I sold them 30 years ago!) and here's a website with all the details on the various kinds.

Within only 185 boxes remaining for us to meet our goal, I might need to bring the kids to work with me one afternoon. Maybe I should bring Louie, too. He could wear a sign that reads, "Please buy our cookies...


Or, I'll leave a puddle on your floor."

Although, he'd probably do that anyway.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

the co-ed bathroom

The children have always shared a bathroom and it hasn't been a problem, until recently. For the past few months, every day, I'll hear the girls complain, "MOM! The seat is all wet. Those boys are gross!!"

Regardless of how many times I remind the boys, they always seem to forget the most basic bathroom etiquette.


So until such time that the girls are able to have their own bathroom space, we're hoping a visual reminder will help everyone stay happy. And dry.

Friday, January 13, 2012

favorite thing friday: juicers

On or about the sixth consecutive week of continual sickness at our house, when I had forked over a small fortune in copays and our entire family had been prescribed an apothecary of medications that we were required to take day and night ... and we were whipping through two boxes of Puffs Plus with Lotion (per day) and had become proficient singing the Vick's VapoRub song ...


Do you know this one?

Rub-a-dub-dub three men in the tub!
Lost in the ocean blue-ue-ue...
Oh, rub-a-dub-dub with Vicks VapoRub,
And you'll feel better in the MORNIN'!

(My mother used to sing this whenever she'd rub Vicks on my chest when I was little. And I'd totally forgotten about it, until she was here a few months ago and rubbed Vicks on our children's chest and broke in to song. I was instantly transported back to my own childhood, like magic!)

... that I'd decided I'd had ENOUGH.

I'd had ENOUGH with being sick and all the whiny sadness that comes with it. So I went down in to our basement, grabbed our juicer, brought it upstairs - blew off the dust - cleaned off all the parts - and plugged it in. And then I proceeded to juice everything in sight.


This is a newer model of the the juicer that we own, and it is o-kay. There are so many great juicers on the market, when this one seizes up, we'll definitely upgrade to a heavier duty variety. Ideally, I'd like a juicer that I can throw an entire pineapple in to, without having to core, first.














Not all together, but in batches, fruit with fruit - vegetables with vegetables.

For the next week, I juiced several times, every single day, and cleansed my digestive track like it had never been cleansed before. And miraculously, I began to feel better. I also lost seven pounds, which was a nice side effect.


The first sign of my recovery was the ability to breathe through my nose and taste food, again. The second sign of my recovery was the disappearance of empty tissue boxes all over the house. The third sign of recovery was being able to carry on a conversation that didn't include the words, "I FEEL LIKE DIRT. Waaaaah."

Now, granted, my healing could have been the result of antibiotics which FINALLY kicked in and decimated the misery that was lingering in my system. But I know, from my mother's experience at the Optimum Health Institute, the importance of detoxification. I believe in that stuff. I believe that fresh juice cleanses your body to the cellular level and can restore you to health.


We call it, "Nectar of the Gods" and whenever we drink it, we can feel the goodness surge through us. It's a healing sensation, so even now, I try to juice at least once every day.


Fresh juice costs more than buying it from the store, and it takes some time to prepare. But fresh juice that cleanses your body from the inside out, is well worth the effort and expense.


If you have small children around the house to help, all the better. They gain immense satisfaction from pulverizing things and their presence can also be restorative to the soul. At least until that moment they start fighting over whose turn it is and .... ACK!

Find my happy place!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

gentle dusting

There isn't enough to sled on....


Just enough to coat every branch of every tree.


And make the world beautiful.


We love it here.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

we've been tebowed

After he'd decided that he didn't want to watch another Superbowl from his child's beanbag chair, Charlie's Christmas present this year was a new couch for our basement. The couch arrived this past Friday which was perfect timing - what with all the playoff football games that happened, today.

(Next up ... blinds for the window.)


Today, my husband was educating our children on the different football teams and offering them trivia on the various players. Since he's long been a Steelers fan, I thought for sure that he'd influence our children to root for Pittsburgh in tonight's game. But after Tebow threw his miracle pass in overtime and our daughter dropped to one knee and did this ...


I think it's safe to say she's a Bronco's fan.

I've got one week to convince her otherwise, since next weekend Denver is playing New England. And my loyalty ... it runs deep.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

how king louie came to be (alternate title: adopting a puppy 101)

For months now, years even, our children have wanted a dog. Carolyn, especially, has been begging - pleading - praying - that a dog will come to our family.


Charlie and I have been very hesitant to get another dog. We know the work that is involved to be good dog owners and we didn't know if we were ready. But when we moved in to this awesome house, with the awesome yard, and my mother started whispering in my ear that our children really needed a pet ... and then, in the heat of the moment, she promised them that she'd get them a dog for the birthday (but, only if your MOTHER says it's OK {Thanks Mom!}) the stage was set.

We'd made the decision that we'd prefer to adopt our next dog from a shelter. So for the past few months, I've looked. And looked. And looked. And looked.

And although I believe that all dogs come in to this world with the potential to be loving and kind, the only dogs I was able to find in the shelters around our area were older dogs that were pit bull mixes. My Aunt Grace has a pit bull mix who is a wonderful dog. But, I'm not too keen on adopting one when I don't know for sure it's prior history.

So I'd made up my mind we were going to adopt a puppy. We've had puppies before and the long process of housebreaking a puppy and teaching it not to chew everything in sight had obviously turned to dust and blown from the crevices of my mind. But even if my subconscious tried to remind me, I'd already convinced myself that puppies are a blank slate and we can train them up right and most importantly - they are so stinking cute.

For reasons that elude me but I think may have something to do with a gradual increase in spay and neuter rates as you move north from the equator, there are a lot more puppies in South Carolina than northern Virginia. So when we drove down to South Carolina to visit my mother and Jim in late November, my mother suggested that she and I take the children to her local animal shelter. This animal shelter is wonderfully clean and bright and smells nice and is staffed with a team of people who adore animals. Add to that, it's a No-Kill shelter and they bring in animals from other shelters and will keep the animals there for as long as it takes for them to be adopted. Or forever. Whichever comes first.

We'd been there before because my children's grandmother finds immense pleasure bringing her young grandchildren in to a room full of adorable, cuddly animals that are available to take home immediately. Remarkably, our children have been very good about leaving the animal shelter without a fur ball in their arms.

Until this trip in November.

Because during this trip in November, for the first time ever, we removed puppies from their kennels and spent time with them in a visitation room. The only reason you'd do that is if you were "test driving" the puppy. Even four-year-olds know that.

When we first walked in to the puppy section of the shelter, I heard a little dog whimpering and crying. When I walked over to investigate, I saw the fuzziest little black dog I'd ever seen in my life. She was a border collie mix and looked like she'd been shocked because her hair was all standing on end. She had white on her chest and across her feet and she was quite possibly, the most adorable dog I'd ever seen in my life.


When I saw that her name was Virginia, I thought, "IT MUST BE A SIGN." So I opened her cage and scooped her in to my arms and she immediately stopped whimpering and snuggled her tiny black face in to my arms.

Once the children saw that I'd just taken a dog out, they went totally ballistic.



Virginia was a hit, especially with Carolyn and I would have adopted her right then and there, except:

1) Charlie wasn't with us and I wanted for my husband to provide his endorsement and

2) Virginia's litter mates had all been sick and there was concern she might get sick so would probably be going in to quarantine and unavailable to adopt for several more days. Which we didn't really have because we would be driving home.


So we put sweet little Virginia back in her kennel (while tears fell down my daughter's cheeks) and we looked at other puppies.

William was smitten with a black labrador named Shadow. Truth be told, I really liked Shadow, too, but we were interested in getting a smaller dog that we'd be able to take with us on our road trips. If we were to get (another) big labrador that could grow to 80 pounds or more, the chances would be slim that we'd just pack him up as we dart around the eastern seaboard.



Elizabeth was smitten with a yellow labrador named Chester. She loved this dog because it reminded her of Monty and so I opened his kennel and let him out. It only took four seconds in the visitation room with a totally WIRED Chester before Elizabeth realized that he might be a little too hyper for her. "But not really, Mom, because I love him even though he scares me because he jumps all over me and tries to eat my hair. ACK! Please hold me!!! CAN WE GET HIM?"


Sure thing kiddo, if they throw in a 40-pound bag of puppy ritalin.

Henry was smitten with all the kittens and was laughing hysterically going from one cage to the next. Of course our children didn't all agree on one pet.

That would have been much too easy.

We stayed at that shelter until an hour before closing time As I was walking out, with four crying children who had empty arms, I stopped at the front desk and very discreetly whispered that if Virginia was still there in the morning, please call me and I'd come back with my husband to complete the adoption.

The next morning, my mother took the girls ice skating and Charlie and I took the boys back to the animal shelter. The girls had been much more attached to the idea of getting a new puppy so if for some reason we came to the conclusion that we weren't ready for a dog - the boys would be far less devastated.

When we arrived at the shelter, five minutes after they opened, Virginia had already been adopted. My heart hurt a little until I saw that overnight, a litter of cocker spaniel mixes had arrived on the scene. They were so tiny and crawling all over each other and fellow Animal Shelter visitors were falling all over themselves trying to get in for a closer look.

I stopped by Shadow's kennel and had to fight the urge to bring him home. Those paws. Those adorable paws were so huge he'd be 80 pounds in less than a year.


I stopped by Chester's kennel and he was jumping up and down chewing the wall and .... I just kept on walking while saying a little prayer for Chester that he is adopted by someone who has an abundance of patience and will run him.


By the time I circled back, there was a clearing in the crowd around the new puppies and I reached in and scooped up a little female named Lilly. Charlie meanwhile reached in and scooped up a little male named Sebastian. We brought the two puppies in to the visitation room and put the puppies down where they ran around sniffing, climbing across our children's laps, and precipitating little puddles on the floor.


For a solid hour, we debated which puppy to adopt.

I loved Lilly.

Charlie loved Sebastian.

The boys loved both of them (and all the kittens in the entire shelter).


So for another solid hour, we debated adopting TWO puppies.

William had renamed the boy, Louie, and how sweet would it be to have a Louie and a Lilly?

So sweet! I could just see us out walking our two little black puppies around the yard and with two dogs, the children wouldn't fight over them and they'd keep each other company and .... imagine us coming to our senses like a needle dragging across a record player.


Charlie finally said something along the lines of: There is no way we're going to adopt two dogs. We're caught up in the moment, looking in to those sweet puppy eyes and rubbing those soft puppy ears, we were DRUNK on puppy love.


Thank goodness my husband sobered up or there would be two dogs that wake us up all hours of the night, yapping and precipitating little puddles every 30 minutes.

Although the shelter told us he was 10 weeks old, we estimate that Louie was no more than six weeks old when we adopted him. This was later confirmed by our vet. Although we'd completed the adoption on a Saturday, we weren't able to pick him up until Monday because Shelter policy is that all animals are spayed or neutered before the adoption is complete. YES, I KNOW. He was way too young to go through such a procedure, but he did and he's fine and it probably hurt me more than it hurt him.


He loves running around the yard and chasing squirrels. He also loves playing with the children and - for the most part - is gentle. What with bi-weekly Girl Scout and Boy Scout meetings and scores of neighborhood children filing through our house everyday, he's adapting well to all the little people. He's growled and nipped at them a few times, but in my opinion, children need to understand and respect an animal's quiet time and limits.

It's a learning process.

(This was before I mopped. But yes, our floor is that gross and needs to be replaced.)


Louie's adoption card read that he is a cocker spaniel and mountain cur mix. Our vet seems to think he's a cocker spaniel and lab mix.


We consider it a great mystery what, exactly, his genetic makeup is or how big he'll grow. On the day we brought him home, he was three pounds. He's since packed on ten more, in large thanks to our children who thrive on feeding him.


The two biggest challenges that we face are keeping him in his kennel when he is not immediately supervised (the kids will let him out, which finally prompted me to put a padlock on the door) and impressing upon the children how to properly feed him. A few weeks ago, after he'd had six HUGE poops in one day, we realized that the kids had given him five heaping cups of food and had slipped him at least a quarter of a box of dog cookies.

"But Mom! He was hungry and kept eating and eating!"



Dogs will do that.


We could do DNA testing, but to us, it really doesn't matter what his lineage is.

What matters is that he's part of the family and he's loved.


Although, I suspect I'll love him a little bit more once he is able to sleep all the way through the night and his bladder expands to a size larger than a lima bean.