Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Million-Dollar Yard Sale

My husband believes that one day we're going to strike it rich. Other (more sane) individuals expect their financial avalanche to come in the form of winning the Lotto, a jackpot in Vegas, or even Ed McMann's Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. But not my husband. He believes that one day we'll hold a million-dollar yard sale.

We've been saving yard sale goods for over two years now. In our attic there are boxes of Cosby sweaters, baby clothes, old bed sheets, magazines over 5-years old, mismatched shoes, wobbly furniture, and broken happy meal toys; we're going to make a killing.

I have to admit--I've made a few renegade Goodwill-runs. The other day I took 3 garbage bags full of old clothes. “What?!” my husband gasped when he found out. “All that stuff could have gone in THE yard sale.”

It's now THE yard sale - the yard sale of everyone's dreams, the yard sale of the century, the yard sale that will buy us a second home in the Hampton's. Never mind that our first home is jam-packed with valuable yard-sale fodder: items that perfect strangers will apparently pay top-dollar for.

This American practice of putting our junk on display is an odd thing. Think about it. Most days I'm trying to hide my junk from people who drop by. I'll kick stuff under the couch, push it into a closet, or throw it into the laundry room simply to get it out of sight. But with the yard sale we want people to see the junk we've accumulated. In fact, we not only take full ownership for our junk, but we put it in the front yard and stick price-tags on it. The strange appliances that we never figured out, the kitschy knick-knacks we've been told are family heirlooms, pairs of things that are no longer pairs. I have a laundry basket full of lone socks. That basket represents more faith in the universe than my weekly church meetings. Someday I believe I'll either find all those sock mates, or I'll put them in a yard sale and make good money from another housewife who believes my laundry basket full of lone socks is a perfect match for hers.

Because isn't that all a yard sale really is, folks? Aren't the people who hold yard sales really cheapskates that hope other people will pay good money for items that they would otherwise donate to charity or throw in the trash? And what of the people who get up at an ungodly hour to tour the yard sales?

You've got to hand it to them. Both the yard-saler and the yard-salee have one thing in common: optimism. The yard-saler has faith that the yard-salee is practically giving away priceless items that could be displayed on The Antique Roadshow, while the yard-salee, like my husband, believes that at the end of his 8-hour yard sale shift he'll 1) get people to remove the clutter from the premises, and 2) earn enough money for one mortgage payment and a trinket or two he'll sell in the next million-dollar yard sale.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

When the ABC's and the Birds and the Bees Collide

We're trying to teach the kids, Kaleb especially, the sounds associated with letters in the alphabet: Kindergarten Prep 101. Sometimes, while driving, I practice with Kaleb and Leah.

“What does 'bird' start with? B-b-b-bird?”

“B,” Kaleb will say.

About a month ago we were on the letter P.

“What does 'popcorn' start with? P-p-p-popcorn?”

“B,” Kaleb said.

“Not quite. Listen again. P-p-p-popcorn.”


“Good job.”

After nearly 10 minutes of silence I heard him mumble to himself. “Pee-pee.” I assumed we had finished our alphabet game and that Kaleb was now exercising his potty humor. I said, “Kaleb,” in my warning voice.

“Mom, 'pee-pee' starts with the letter P,” he said.

Oh, we were still educating. “That's good, Kaleb,” I said.

I heard him mumble to himself again. “P-p-p-penis.” He called to me from the back. “Heh, Mom. 'Penis' starts with the letter P too.”

These are the times you wonder about all that talk of teaching children the anatomically correct terms for their body parts. You also wonder when it's going to become a matter of public discourse, like in a primary class or during a preschool lesson. Luckily for me, the next time the topic came up was at bedtime a few weeks later.

Leah, my potty-training resistant child, asked, “Mommy, where do girls go pee-pee?” Thinking this might be the piece of information holding her back, I answered with exuberance. “In the bathroom, sweetie, just like boys.”

“No,” she said. “Where does the pee-pee come out?”

Kaleb, our resident know-it-all answered, “Pee-pee comes out of your penis.”

Do we really have to have this conversation, I thought. I was tired, and it seemed like just days ago when we had this same conversation while Kaleb was potty training. Maybe it wouldn't require too much clarification this time round.

“Where's my penis?” Leah asked.

“You don't have a penis,” I said. “You have a vagina.”

“Bagina starts with the letter B,” Leah said.

“No. V-v-v-vagina starts with the letter V, like 'vitamins',” I said.

“Does Kaleb have a bagina too?” she asked.

“No,” Kaleb butted in. “Boys have penises and girls have baginas.”

“V-v-v-vaginas,” I said.

I was saying these two words more in one conversation than I probably had in over ten years.

“Do daddies have baginas?” Leah asked.

“No,” I said. “Daddies have penises.”

“Do mommies have baginas?” Leah asked.

“Yes. Mommies have vaginas and daddies have penises,” I said.

“B-b-b-bagina starts with the letter V,” Leah said.

Great, I thought. An alphabet lesson and a discussion on the Birds and the Bees all in one day. I just killed a bird and the letter V with one stone.

And with that, my two children began to fall asleep.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I Only Want to Pee Alone

That's a cover song for Housewives on Prozac, or HOP, a Connecticut-based rock band made up of six hip, and apparently anti-depressed housewives. I've never actually listened to their songs, but all it took was that title to make me a fan.

When I was a newlywed one of my visiting teachers was a mother of four young children. During a visit I chatted with her companion, an older single woman, about wistful things we wanted to do like tour Europe, open quaint bookstores with pottery studios in the back, and write inspirational poetry. We paused and looked at the weary woman nearly napping in my easy chair. “Me?” she asked. “I just want to poo in private.” I looked at her companion and then back at her. “Really,” she said.

That poor woman, I remember thinking. And then, like many people who have never had children before, I made a promise to myself that I would eventually break: I will never be like that (along with 'My children will never act like that in public,' and 'I will never be like my mother.' Yep, all broken.).

Cut to six years later. I'm in the bathroom with the door closed (unfortunately the doors in our early 20th-century home do not lock), having a very private moment when my son barges in. “Mom,” he says. “Leah told me I'm silly.” I look at him and wonder why he doesn't recognize the sanctity of this moment. How can he complain to me about his sister's acute recognition of his silliness while I'm, excuse me for being vulgar, stinking up the bathroom.

“Kaleb,” I say. “Can you wait in the living room until mommy's done?”

“Why?” he asks.

“Because mommy wants to go to the bathroom by herself.”

“Why?” he asks, yet again.

At this moment I'm beyond reasoning. I'd sacrifice a lot for motherhood, but that particular moment wasn't negotiable. I push him out the door and hold it closed with a surprisingly strong and supple foot. He pounds on the door, wailing, “Mom! Don't lock me out!”

This was a weak mothering-moment for me, I'll admit. I yelled through the door, “Mommy wants to be alone right now.” And then in a voice from the exorcist, “LEAVE ME ALONE!”

As frightening as that was for my son it hasn't secured me bathroom privacy. It's only let him know that one can actually close the door when going to the bathroom (an act not modeled by his father. Sorry, honey.).

And maybe, I wonder, I'm actually modeling the intrusive behavior myself. I'd guess that I spend about half my days in the bathroom - making sure Kaleb uses toilet paper, coaxing Leah to sit on the toilet, cleaning up countless misses with Clorox wipes, and chasing Zack from what he thinks is his own personal water fountain. No wonder my children think the boudoir is an extension of the livingroom; we might as well have a block party in there.

So I guess until our bathroom matures into a private retreat, I'll hold it until my kids are asleep. And along with my dreams of becoming a syndicated columnist and writing the great American novel, I'll keep believing that one day I'll pee alone.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Biting Phase

Leah recently went through a biting phase, and Kaleb's toenail was a sad casualty. Just last month she had bitten Kaleb 5 days in a row. She bit him on the cheek, the shoulder, the hand, and yes, the big toe.

We tried different forms of discipline. She'd been reasoned with, she'd been on time-out - double time, she'd been spanked, and she'd been bitten back. But obviously, none of those methods was working, at least not for Kaleb.

The truth is, Kaleb bullies Leah relentlessly, and when she's ready for him to stop, she bites him. A month ago biting was the best solution for her, so I expected her to bite Kaleb until he learned when to stop. Obviously I didn't want my daughter to be a biter, but I did want her to stand up for herself, teeth and all. And I wanted my son to learn that intimidation was unacceptable. Although Leah's teeth were pretty intimidating. It was an odd parenting dilemma. Luckily, nature stepped in.

Infection followed the big toe biting debacle, and for two weeks all I heard was, “Stop hurting my toenail,” said to anyone who so much as looked at his foot. And one day, while I held Kaleb tight and Leah looked on, Rich cleaned under Kaleb's toenail as best as he could. Kaleb screamed like we were amputating his toes, and Leah stood by quietly watching.

Last week, thankfully, the toenail fell off. Don't ask me where it is, I don't know, and the thought that Zack just might snack on it one day keeps me up at night. But aside from Kaleb's naked toe, all is well.

Leah hasn't bitten her brother since.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Chocolate covered children Posted by Hello

While Left Unattended...

While weeding the side yard today, Kaleb and Leah decided to play "chocolate factory" in a garden mud puddle. My first reaction was digust and then, "Well, those clothes are ruined." But they weren't fighting so I shrugged and went back to my patch of weeds. And here's the results -- "enfants de chocolat."

Of course, this would be a happy ending if there weren't a toe biting incident in the tub afterwards (Leah's in a biting phase), followed by Kaleb-hysterics. But more on that later.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Yummmm. Zacky's first meal with a spoon Posted by Hello

Leah BEFORE the swimming pool fiasco Posted by Hello

Our Little Exhibitionist

Today was an ordinary Sunday at the Belknap house. The kids were dressed and ready to go to church, although, as usual, we were running a little late. Leah was wearing a pink and green dress with a matching hat that Grandma had just sent. She looked picture perfect, adorable and innocent. Kaleb was still putting on his shoes, so I sent Leah out to the car while I grabbed my bag and keys.

When I got to the car, Leah was nowhere to be found. I called her name, circled the house and found her playing in the backyard, splashing around in a little swimming pool we had just set up the day before. Leah had stripped out of her diapers and they were floating in the pool while she jumped around them, giggling; she was soaking wet.

I plucked Leah up and carried her into our kitchen where I threw her diaper in the garbage and pealed her wet dress off and slipped another one on. Pressed for time, I whisked the kids out to the car with Leah mumbling to herself, “We don't wear clothes in the swimming pool. We only wear swimsuits in the swimming pool.”

We made it into the chapel before they started passing the sacrament, the quietest time of the meeting. It wasn't long before Leah began to throw what we fondly refer to as a Diva Fit. She shouted, “I don't want it” and began to cry, loudly. I scooped her up and made my way past Kaleb and out the pew, tripping a bit. Finally I got to the aisle and carried Leah out the chapel and into the foyer, her dress hoisted up to her waist. It was not a graceful exit.

It wasn't until we were out in the foyer and Leah began dancing with her dress held high that I realized what I had forgotten to do before we left the house: put a new diaper on Leah. My daughter was commando, buck naked underneath her little sundress. I replayed the last 5 minutes in my mind. Not only was Leah diaperless, but she had just mooned half the congregation on our way out the chapel.

Well, I thought, we just woke everyone up.

We couldn't go back in the chapel until I had stopped laughing. You know what they say, either you laugh or you cry.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Kaleb minus two front teeth Posted by Hello

Toothless at Four

When Kaleb was 2 he fell teeth-first onto the corner of his toy box. That toy-box mishap turned into an abscessed tooth a month and a half ago. On Wednesday he had both of his front teeth pulled to avoid further infection. And up until we left for the dentist's office I didn't think anything of it. That is until I got a little weepy looking for my keys.

Kaleb's my oldest and I'm acutely aware that he's growing up. He has lost his first baby teeth at least two years before he was supposed to. A mother's entitled to a few tears over that. Yes, I'll probably cry his first day of kindergarten. It's the great parental paradox - with each ounce of maturity a child gains, an ounce of infancy and childhood slips away, never to return. Maturity is what a mother hopes her child can achieve gracefully, yet that maturity solidifies a child's infancy into a mere memory. And I've always hated good-byes.

Kaleb was a trooper and only cried when the dentist injected his gums with the local anesthesia, four times. In fact, the dentist pulled the teeth out before Kaleb realized what had happened. “When's he gonna pull my teeth, Mom?” he asked, biting down on a bloody bit of gauze. “He already did, you brave boy,” I said, tearing up again.

We brought the teeth home in a little plastic treasure chest, the “Tooth Saver,” and I introduced him to the concept of the Tooth Fairy, something I hadn't expected to do for a few more years.

Kaleb tried to understand. “The Tooth Fairy is going to take my teeth?”

“Yes,” I answered.


“Yes. But she'll leave you money.”

“I don't want money, I want my teeth.”

And so Kaleb has been carrying his Tooth Saver around for the past couple days, periodically shaking it like a rattle. And while it's been misplaced more than once, something about him holding onto those teeth is calming. My little boy is also somewhat resistance to letting them go. He's even looked at himself in the mirror a few times to say, “I don't like my teeth out.”

Kaleb suffered a bit when those first teeth came in over three years ago, and we're both suffering a bit to see them go. But if I'm lucky the permanent teeth won't come in for awhile. And if I'm even luckier, high school graduation won't be for a long while after that.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Chastised by the Nurse Practitioner

Our pediatrician was too busy to see Zack for his one-year appointment; so I scheduled a check-up with the nurse practitioner. I have since decided that I love our pediatrician because he never clicks his tongue at me or implies that any Belknap sickness or injury is my fault. Not so with the nurse practitioner who is the Dr. Phil of health care providers. Halfway through the exam and her accompanying inquisition I expected her to ask, “You call that motherhood? How's that working for yah?”

The first few questions were a breeze. I began to answer confidently, bouncing Zack on one hip. I thought the nurse might nominate me for Mother of the Year.

“Is Zack off formula?” she asked.


“And eating solids regularly?”


“Is he still drinking out of a bottle?”


That is when the appointment took a nose-dive. She looked at me over her clipboard. “That has to stop.” She went on to explain how it's best if babies are off the bottle by the time they're 15-months old.

“Is he sleeping through the night?” she asked.

I shifted Zack to my other hip. “No.”

“What do you do when he wakes up?”

“Give him a bottle.”

She looked over her clipboard again, and then looked back down, clicking her tongue. She would have called security if Utah Pediatrics had the staff for it. I wanted to scream out, “I haven't had a good night sleep in two years, or a room to myself in over three. He just wants a bottle and I just want to sleep. Win, win, right?” But I kept silent and swallowed the guilt trip like a good girl.

“When they fall asleep with a bottle, the milk is trapped in the roof of their mouth where it can rot their front two teeth.” I looked at Zack; the thought of him toothless at two began to take hold.

“And about the solids, is he eating from all food groups now?”

“Yes,” I said. Back on track.

“Even meats?”

I wondered if this was a trick question. “Yes,” I said. “He eats chicken sometimes.” I should have stopped there, but I tried to be funny, lighten the mood. “Does hot dog count as meat?”

Ms. Nurse Practitioner didn't crack a smile. “It counts,” she said. “But not as something good.”

After a good long lecture on the importance of training Zack to sleep through the night, and a short tangent through the evils of hot dog manufacturing, I was ready to go home and have a big drink myself. But the nurse practitioner realized something Dr. Wilcox hadn't, something inherently understood by women and not men. Guilt is an amazing motivator. Because less than two-hours after I got home, I had moved Zack's portable crib from our bedroom to the kids' room, put his bottles away, and decided that he was going to start sleeping through the night that very night.

And you know what? I got the best night's sleep I had in more than 3 years. Who said guilt trips aren't healthy? I just might schedule all my appointments with the nurse practitioner. Sorry Dr. Wilcox, but sometimes a good bedside manner gets a mom nothing but sleepless nights.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Mothers Day Blues

I often wonder how many other mothers are plagued with guilt. Not many days go by without me wondering what my Mother Rate is. I mean, if all mothers start out with, say, 100 Mother Points, how many do I loose for having my children watch more than 60 minutes of TV in one day, for raising my voice, for cleaning more than I play, for not going to the park, for feeding them processed foods, for filling sippy cups with more juice than milk, for continuing to use sippy cups at all, for forgetting to brush teeth, for laying down with my kids at night to get them to sleep, for having children that recognize all fast food signs.... Believe me, I can make an impressive list of things to feel guilty about.

As I sat in church on Mother's Day thinking about the splendid calling of motherhood, I found myself tearing up. Not because I felt blessed to be a mother of three wonderful kids, which I am. But because of how inadequate I felt as MOTHER. Lousy, in fact. There was no holiday that got more tears out of my own mother, and I'm pretty sure they weren't tears of joy. Although in the case of my mom, she had nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, I'm ready to celebrate just about every other mother I see. Just not me.

Yesterday, our little neighbor boy, Tommy, come over to play for the day. His mother just had a baby 5 days ago and needed a break. At the end of the long, rainy day, after Kaleb had gone on time-out for more time than he had been in, I became frustrated and raised my voice. Kaleb told me I was rude for putting him on time-out. Okay, I admit it, I sounded like a 4-year old myself as I explained why his behavior was unacceptable.

"You don't call me rude," I said, sounding perfectly adult. "In fact, mister, you'll be on time-out for the rest of your life if you keep this up!" Napless Kaleb began to cry and his good friend Tommy stood by his side and said, "I have a nice mommy."

So I can celebrate Tommy's nice mommy, Rebecca, who had her little baby in their home, naturally. If fact Rebecca, dilated to 7 and a half, climbed their stairs to invite her husband to the birth of their child. "She didn't even raise her voice until the very end," her husband later told me. "And all she said was 'This hurts'." He paused. "She's a wonderful woman."

And this mother? I wonder how many people I yelled at, merely 4 centimeters dilated, once I got to the hospital. “Someone get me an epidural, dammit!"

I'm hopeful that my Mother Rate is determined by the things I get right and not the things I get wrong. Or maybe as long as the sum is positive I can consider myself an okay mom. Tommy wouldn't do well living with this Mommy. And Kaleb wouldn't do well living with Rebecca. I guess God has it all figured out when he sends out souls. My optimistic guess is that as long as you try to do your best every day, God sorts out the mistakes and makes up the difference.

About two weeks ago Rebecca was outside working in her yard when Tommy started throwing rocks at passing cars. His mother swiftly picked him up and swatted him on the bottom to which Tommy howled inconsolably. Rich, who was outside pulling in the hose, leaned towards me and whispered, "Bet you don't think your mommy's so nice right now, do you, Tommy?" I appreciated my husband's macho attempt to console my still troubled heart. But most comforting was the fact that my lovely neighbor is probably more like me than I thought, with imperfect children and imperfect mommy moments just like the rest of us.

Now maybe we could start a support group, because I could sure use one.

Birthday Times Two

Kaleb, 4, and Zack, 1, have the same birthday: May 5th. Cinco de Mayo. A day of festivals, celebrations, insanity.

This year we decided to celebrate at Chuck E. Cheese – “where a kid can be a kid.” And where parents are sucked into a tornado of hyperactivity.

We had the party on Saturday, three days after the official birthday, so as soon as we walked in the door, Kaleb was primed for party. "Can I open the presents?" he asked. "When can I open the presents? Can I open the presents now?"

We came with a small stack of presents, two cakes (that I stayed up past midnight making), one 80-year old uncle, and three children under four. We ordered the pizza, situated the children and began the festivities.

Rich took Kaleb and Leah and a handful of tokens to the playland. Keep in mind that at Chuck E. Cheese the absence of these two children does not equate to tranquility, because just three chairs down another party is a brewin', complete with Chuck E. Cheese himself doing the Macarena, flanked by a whole slew of frightening, life-size, mechanical muppets, lip- syncing pop-song parodies. It’s not just loud, but stupefying – a world where the Wiggles and Barney make sense.

I tried having a conversation with Uncle Bill but he had already turned down his hearing aide and was mesmerized by what looked like a giant ostrich relaying the Chuck E. Cheese news on four television sets mounted to the ceiling. Zack was just as dumb-founded as his 80-year old table buddy.

I busied myself by putting the finishing touches on Kaleb’s birthday cake: Doc Oc and Spiderman action figures. The kids returned, the song was sung and the cake revealed. Kaleb tore the toys from the cake and began licking their feet as he made his way back to the playland. I had barely eaten my pizza when he returned, crying.

“I lost Doc Oc’s arms,” he said, holding out a Doc Oc with only two octopus arms instead of four.

“Where did you loose them?”

“In the place with all the balls.”

The Ball Pit. He had taken his first two birthday presents into the ball pit and lost Doc Oc’s arms.

Rich distracted Kaleb by having all the kids get on the Chuck E. Cheese stage to dance. When the curtain began to drop Rich grabbed all three kids and made his way back to the table, tipping over Zack’s birthday cake. It dropped onto the floor, frosting first.

As I sat on the floor, scooping up fist-fulls of green frosting with the occasional plastic frog, I wondered if this party was going to get better or worse. Note: wet wipes remove any trace of green food coloring from Chuck E. Cheese carpet.

I decided to climb into the ball pit myself and extract the Doc Oc arms. I refused to let those action figures be just another thing that went wrong at that party. But when I saw the pit, bustling with at least 10 young children, I decided not to risk getting arrested.

So we did the next best thing. My husband told the all the kids in the pit that the first one to find a Doc Oc arm would get tokens, lots of tokens. The battle began.

This story has a happy ending. Some kid found the arms and Doc Oc went home intact. A second cake, frozen at home, was thawed as a replacement for the one that went belly-up at Chuck E. Cheese.

And little Zacky was able to have his cake and eat it too.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Before Bedtime Posted by Hello

Swear Once, Shame on You, Swear Twice, Shame on Me

We have barely entered the phase where words like "poopy-head" and "bum-toots" are funny, hilarious even. I'll catch Kaleb and Leah whispering in a corner, giggling over any word combination including burp, toot, poop or pee. I chastise them, saying something parental like, "We don't say things like that," which makes it all the more appealing. I should have been grateful for their age-appropriate interest in bodily functions because, unfortunately, just a few weeks ago we graduated to our first four-letter experience.

Kaleb was in the livingroom, trying to put his shoes on by himself, and, frustrated that it wasn't going well, said, "Oh shit!"

"What did you say?" I asked from the kitchen, immediately regretting my request that he swear yet again.

"Oh shit?"

"Where did you hear that word?"


When he was two "Sandlot" was his favorite movie, and until about a year ago baseball was the most important thing in his life. Now the lineup goes something like this: 1. Spiderman, 2. Any other super hero, and 3. baseball. Kaleb used to watch Sandlot with mitt in hand, pretending to catch, throw and hit with the movie cast. I knew that one expletive was in the movie, but didn't think he would notice it. It's just one word, for heaven's sake, one word amongst thousands.

But apparently, while watching the movie with Leah the week before he did notice that one word, to the point where he understood the context in which it should be used. After explaining to him that the "s" word is not a nice word and definitely not a word we use, he nodded, apathetic, and moved on to some other project in his bedroom.

Leah had been listening to my little Bad-Word Lecture in the kitchen.

"We don't say shit," she said. "Shit is a bad word."

"Okay, Leah, that's enough," I said.

"Because shit is a bad, bad word," she said. "And we don't say bad words like shit."

"All righty. Let's go play with Kaleb now," I said, steering her into their bedroom where I hoped she'd forget the word that we don't say, especially as many times as she just did.

Since then we haven't had a problem with the "s" word, and I've decided it's because neither of them realize that shit is just a synonym for poop. If they knew that I’m sure it would inspire creative word combinations that wouldn’t be contained in the little corners of my house. With my luck, they would be shouted from grocery carts and in church parking lots.

So I’ll take the “poopy heads” and “bum-toots” any day of the week, and be grateful for them.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Scratch and Dent Surplus

Our refrigerator has been dying a slow death. For the past six months it's leaked water, and I've had to line the bottom with towels. I willed it to live just long enough for us to receive our tax return. Just last night I came home to find it ticking, literally, like a bomb. So off we all went to the scratch and dent RC Willey surplus store to look for a new, scratched and dented refrigerator.

Taking three kids to an appliance store is not on my top 10 list of fun things to do. Luckily they had little strollers which amounted to mini go-charts with long handles. Kaleb pushed Zack and I pushed Leah. Now if you're going to take three little kids to an appliance store probably your safest choice is a scratch and dent warehouse. I mean, really, how much more damage can my children do?

We were looking at the second isle of refrigerators when the kids began to get restless. One of the salesmen seemed to be getting nervous as Kaleb became more adept at maneuvering Zack's stroller. Kaleb began pushing Zack faster. Zack squealed in delight and Kaleb pushed him even faster.

The isles were narrow so it didn’t take long for Kaleb to create a few scratches and dents of his own. So I found a small appliance-less corner of the store and told him he could pace back and forth with Zack. Leah wanted in on the action. Soon my kids were having their own little party in the scratch and dent RC Willey, to the chagrin of the aforementioned salesman.

We found our fridge and I took the kids out to the van while Daddy finished the transaction. Wouldn’t you know it was raining? Pouring, in fact. So while I buckled Zack into his carseat Kaleb and Leah soaked themselves in the parking lot.

We hadn't driven four blocks before Leah was falling asleep.

“Was that fun?” Kaleb asked from the backseat.

“Yep,” I said. “That was a blast.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


My name is Shauna and I'm a coke addict. Diet coke with lime, that is.

It's always been my little indulgence. When you're Mormon your options for legal vices are limited, and while diet coke is by no means endorsed by the LDS faith, they won't kick me out of sacrament meeting for having a little carbonated caffeine on my breath.

But I recognize that it's become a problem and I need to stop, for the children. Kaleb has demonstrated a predisposition for caffeine that's a little disturbing, so for the sake of all involved I need to be a better example.

Every now and then I get a 44-ouncer (for those of you not involved in a soda addiction, that's a 44-ounce cup, or would that be a mug... -- ok, ok, so it's a 44 ounce tub of diet coke) on our way home from the grocery store (how I love those drive-thru gas stations). Just last week while bringing in the last load from the van, I caught Kaleb guzzling my soda from atop a chair in the kitchen, his mouth barely reaching the tip of my big gulp straw.


"What? Did you see me?"

My kids either think they're invisible or I'm stupid. I don't want to know which.

"Yes, I saw you. Get down and stop drinking mommy's soda."

"Is soda bad for kids?" he asked.

"Yes, it's bad for kids."

"Is soda good for mommies?" he asked. Okay, now this is where your parental ore is really tested. I could have said, "Yes, soda is good for mommies, in fact it's medicinal. It's what prevents mommy, on bad days, from taking off for Costa Rica while you're on timeout." But I didn't. I told the truth. "No, soda is not good for mommies. Mommy probably should probably try to stop drinking soda."

Kaleb nodded his head with solemnity. "Yes, you should stop drinking soda."

Now that would be the end of this story if my "do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do" parental approach had worked. But it didn't and so our story gets worse.

I've found a valid chore that Kaleb both loves to do and does well. Unfortunately, it's soda related. He's the can smasher. He gets his little blue moon boots on and goes out the back door and smashes cans for a good 45 minutes. It's noisy, aggressive, destructive, and exhausting -- what more could a mother ask for?

Well, the other day Kaleb was out smashing cans. He got about 15 minutes into it before I realized that it had grown silent. When I opened the door I caught Kaleb with his head turned back, trying to eek out a few drops from a half-smashed soda can. The kid looked like a sad urchin thirsting to death. But he wasn't thirsting to death, he was trying to get a lick of mommy's soda.

So I need to stop drinking soda and I need to stop soon, before my son begins collecting aluminum cans for the sole purpose of getting his caffeine fix. And while I've yet to find a support group for my addiction, I'm sure there will be an over-the-counter caffeine patch available any day now.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Lost and Found

It's one of the most terrifying moments a mother can experience. Your child is lost in a crowd of people and you don't know where to start looking for him. Today I lost Kaleb at the SuperWalmart, and I'm still a little shaken up about it.

We were at the checkout and Kaleb was looking at the Darth Vadar exhibit a few feet away from the counter where Leah was helping me unload our groceries. He had just gotten to the age where he was too big for the cart. We had barely established our newest rule: Hold onto the cart. Unfortunately I had gotten distracted and wasn't enforcing that rule. I assumed he knew where we were and would join us when he was done looking at the Darth Vadar masks.

I stepped away from the counter to call him. “Kaleb?” No answer. I stepped further away to look down one end of the store. Kaleb was wandering towards the mini McDonalds by the exit, his grey coating bobbing at he looked around for me. “Kaleb!” I yelled. I yelled again and again on tiptoe, willing him to turn around at look at me. He continued to wander past the McDonalds. I went back to the checkout counter. “He didn't hear me,” I said to the cashier and the lady who was currently writing her a check. “Go get him,” the lady said. “I'll watch your kids.”

I took off after Kaleb, calling as I went. I could see other people were starting to worry which increased my panic. Two ladies, customers, asked what he was wearing and told me they'd search in the back of the store. Then one of the employees stopped me. She put her hand on my arm and said, “Go to Customer Service and tell them your little boy is lost. They'll alert all the employees to search for him.”

I ran to Customer Service. Just as I pushed my way through the long line to the counter, one of the employees spoke into the intercom, “Will Shauna please come to the front of the store.”

I looked around and saw Kaleb holding a man's hand. Kaleb's face was red and splotchy; he was trying not to cry. I picked him up and cried into his coat. “Thank you,” I said to the man, who I now realized was wearing scrubs. “Thank you so much,” I said, meaning, thank you for not being a pedophile. Thank you for not being crazy and cruel and stealing my boy for whatever reason. And thank you for seeing him lost, and being kind enough to help him find his mommy.

“That's okay,” he said. “He was in the parking lot, wandering around. It's happened to my kid before so I was glad to help.”

We had a long talk on the way home and made a few more rules. 1. Stay in the store if you ever get lost. And, 2. Never get into a stranger's car to go look for mommy.

Unfortunately I had to tell him that the bad guys he's seen in movies are real, not pretend, and that in order to be safe he can't trust anyone his mommy and daddy don't know. And even that's not a guarantee.

I was grateful he knew my name, but when I asked what my last name was he said, “Mommy.” Shauna Mommy. It wouldn't have mattered; I would have come regardless of what I was called.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Why Our Library Books Are Always Late

This is certified information, I'm sure. If you called the FBI, they would deny it; but I know the truth. A small percentage of American Fork City Library books are gremlins.

I know, I know - you think I'm making excuses. I've had my fair share of overdue books. But check my record - it's only happened at American Fork. Okay, well maybe there was that one overdue book while I was at BYU. Okay, so maybe an overdue book or two in Provo. But statistically speaking that's nothing compared to how many late books I've returned to the AF library.

Some may say it's because I never had children before moving to American Fork three and a half years ago. Kids put a strain on your organizational skills, they lift books, drop them in odd places, some kids might eat a book if given enough time. Not my kids. Angels, all three.

Now I've never seen a library book actually morph into a gremlin, but I have my proof. Because of my record some might assume me library-uncivilized, be we actually have a library system at our house and it all depends on The Library Bag. We take books home from the library in The Bag, we store them in The Bag, and we take them back to the library in The Bag. They are safe in The Bag, that is, unless a book escapes on its own. Because, really, how else could it happen?

I've found stray library books in our own bookcase, under the couch, in the closet hidden under old coats, wedged between the dress-up box and the wall, and next to old string cheese under Kaleb and Leah's bunk bed. Obviously this is the work of the library book gremlins.

As a result of the meddling book gremlins, it takes us awhile to gather all our books and return them to The Bag so that we can return them to the library before they are due. Sometimes all our books are late by a day or two. Sometimes we think we've returned all of them only to get the friendly notice in the mail, telling us which one is missing and how much the gremlin has cost us. But we keep going back and loading up The Bag because we love books, with or without gremlins.

Unfortunately one of those books has never been found, and I believe it lives in our dryer and eat socks. At night it roams the house, hiding my car keys and the remote control.

Now do you really need any more proof than that?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Princess Factor

It's official; I'm a queen. How did I reach this conclusion? Deductive reasoning. I'm no philosophy expert, but here goes. My daughter Leah is a princess (albeit self-appointed), and I'm her mother, therefore, I am a queen.

I have to admit, I was vexed until I had this epiphany. Raising a princess is tricky business, and I was starting to feel unequal to the task, a tad unroyal. But now that I've recognized my station, I'm feeling quite grand, majestic really.

Those of you who haven't raised a princess might be unfamiliar with the royal tantrums that trail a 2-year old diva. It wasn't always like this - the princess evolution started with an innocent little Halloween costume; Leah was a butterfly princess. Give a girl a tiara for a couple hours and it's all over. She hasn't been the same since.

Shortly after Halloween Leah stopped wearing pants. If it wasn't a dress, she wasn't putting it on. I quickly decided this wasn't a battle worth fighting, so I began doing more laundry to keep the girl in her frills. Of course it didn't stop there.

Enter Attitude. You wouldn't believe such an angelic little girl could be so sassy. She can. And her sass extends beyond the common 2-year old “NO.” Leah has flare, a way of defying authority that would make Super Nanny cringe. And she's stolen some of my best lines, which work well for a mother but are outrageous when said by a sassy toddler. “You don't talk to me that way,” or “You be quiet right now,” or “Stop that this instant,” are off-putting when the speaker is a 2-year old girl with her hands on her hips (or worse yet, pointing).

Now when Little Miss Princess Leah has a face-off with Big Queen Mamma, it's not too pretty. I've decided the most queenly response to such defiance is to ignore it. Imagine the nerve, ignoring royalty -- there's no worse punishment for a princess. This is when you start to see the tantrums, and in our home there are too types. There's the Dainty Tantrum, where Leah throws herself on the floor and pouts into cupped hands. Sometimes the Dainty Tantrum is accompanied by the Dainty Weep, and sometimes it's accompanied by a Blubber Fest. Either way, this tantrum is the easiest to deal with. She's small and compact there on the ground with her bum in the air and her face in her hands; I just step right over her. It's the other type of tantrum that's troublesome.

We call it the How-I'll-Act-When-I'm-Thirteen Tantrum. This tantrum manifests itself much more these days. Leah stands up for this one and wails with full-force, grabbing at anyone within reach to pinch, scratch, or gouge. She yells out all those mother lines, and sometimes screams herself into a sleeping, hiccupping heap on the floor, if we're lucky. We're usually not that lucky.

So maybe my little girl isn't unlike other 2-year olds out there. She's definitely done the whole terrible 2/3 thing with more gusto than her older brother. But she can also turn on the charm more than Kaleb can. She wears confidence as easily as she does her dresses. And she expects to be treated well. I call it The Princess Factor.

The Queen Factor? I have no royal secrets to share. Telling myself I'm queenly just makes me feel better about mothering my princess. And I've decided that if she goes through adolescence feeling like a princess and makes it to adulthood with her royalty intact, I'll have succeeded as a mother and will expect a crown of my own.

Let's just hope she outgrows the tantrums.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Pink Pee

We went to the doctor today because Kaleb's pee was pink. Kaleb and I both laughed about it this morning when we looked at his safety diaper (potty trained though he is we still use "safety diapers" at night). "Is pink pee funny?" he asked as we giggled a bit. "Sure," I said and then realized that pink pee probably isn't very funny since it just might be a mixture of blood and urine.

As we made our way to the examination room at the doctor's office Kaleb let everyone know just how colorful his pee was. "I have pink pee," he told the receptionist, the nurse, and you guessed it, the doctor. After providing a brimful specimen (I've never seen a boy so proud to pee before) we waited for the results.

Dr. Wilcox was puzzled. "There's no blood in his urine," he said. And that's very good news. Apparently pink urine is indicative of kidney problems, so the doctor was relieved to see the test results. "I have no idea why it's pink," he said.

After leaving the doctor's office I hauled all the kids (one on my hip, one clutched in my hand, and one weaving behind) through a mini blizzard to the hospital's lab, carrying a cupful of pink pee. The lady at the desk flashed a look of concern. "There's no blood in it," I said. Her eyebrows drew together. "Hhhmm," she said. "That's odd."

Once home we waited three hours for the results. Their findings? Kaleb's pee, while pink, is in the clear. I suspect Crayola was the pink pee culprit. Kaleb's had a taste for dirt for years (that's another story), but lately I've noticed an appetite for red wax.

I guess in this case pink pee can be funny.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Monday, March 28, 2005

Marginalized Zack Zack

As I read through my posts I realize that both Zack Zack and Leah have been marginalized a bit. Because I have a Princess Post coming I thought I'd at least acknowledge Zack and post a recent picture of him.

I guess when you're 10 months old and live with Kaleb Belknap it's easy to be marginalized. While Zack is loved nearly to death (quite literally) by his big brother, he's merely tolerated by his big sister. But he's all happy-go-lucky little boy.

Just last night while putting him to sleep I heard him burp and then laugh to himself about it. I think that speaks volumes of this little guy's coming attractions. It's also a sure sign that he and Kaleb will be good pals.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Friday, March 25, 2005

New Easter Tradition

So I've messed up my first holiday. Yep. It's only my third time doing Easter as The Bunny and I've already slipped up. Kaleb stumbled upon my stash, which I had strategically left outside in the van until the kids were in bed. He charged into the house so excited he could hardly talk.

"Mom, mom, mom. Is all that stuff in the van for us? Can I see it? Can I touch it? Can I play with it?"

The current tradition is to get the kids just a few things they can play with at church. This year I got sticker books. "The Incredibles" for Kaleb and "Princess Dreams" for Leah. But I was still a little foggy and didn't understand what he found so exciting outside in the van.


"All that stuff in the van. Is it for us? Is it for church? Can we look at it?"

Slowly I realized that what I had left "hidden" in the van was now "discovered" by my little boy. Okay, I thought, this happens eventually, right? Didn't I find Christmas stuff when I was five? Mom's cover wasn't too convincing, that much I do remember. "Oh that?" she had said after I stumbled upon her secret hiding place in the closet (The closet? How sly is a closet? Okay, okay, the front seat of a van isn't very sly either...). "That stuff," she had said, "That stuff is stuff Santa told us to watch for him until Christmas. We're contract elves, working through this Santa Satellite program…" Or something like that. Either way I had seen right through it.

"That stuff," I said to Kaleb. "That stuff is stuff mommy and daddy got you for Easter." Immediately I realized what a bad cover that was. This kid has a memory like a recording device. Next year he'll remember that mommy and daddy and the Eastery Bunny had all gotten him presents. He'll expect it now, every year.

"What did you see?" I asked.

"An Incredibles book with stickers and pictures, and do I only get to use it at church?"

"That's all you saw?"

Okay, I think, this might not be too bad. There's still the little wolverine I had found at Target, along with a Polly Pocket for Leah. Small stuff, well hidden stuff, stuff that had to be in a different bag...

"On top of the Incredibles book was a wolverine toy. Can I just see it for a minute right now?"

I'm worse at this than my mom was. Maybe I can tell him the Easter Bunny lives in our van.

Now that I've put my kids to bed (their hands stained from coloring eggs), I'm wondering how to recover from the Easter slip-up. To squelch the endless questions I let Kaleb and Leah browse through their new sticker books. Since Kaleb didn't find the candy bag I'm thinking that maybe the Easter Bunny will only give candy, and mom and dad can give the cool stuff.

Which brings me back to Kaleb's fascination in distinguishing what's real and what's pretend. Why do parents fight so hard to pretend twice a year? This was the perfect opportunity to be honest with my son and own up to the imaginary. But he's only 3, I had thought. I don't want to blow the Easter fun this early.

I guess I should be grateful that Kaleb hasn't asked, “Is the Easter Bunny real or pretend?” I don't even want to explore the irony in Kaleb wanting the Easter Bunny to real and Jesus pretend.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Is someone coming over?

Everyone that knows me is well aware that I'm not very domestic -- that's a nice way of saying my house is a mess, I'm always behind on laundry, and my family eats a lot of mac 'n cheese. But I thought I had my kids fooled.

That is, until a couple days ago when Kaleb asked, "Mom, who's coming over?"

"No one. Why?"

"Because you're cleaning the house."

That was one of those rare days when I was just cleaning the house because I wanted a path through the livingroom and a clear mother-conscience. Apparently my children are onto me. I'm beginning to wonder how long it will take me to get it. I'm a grown person with an advanced college degree who just can't apply the whole optimal time management thing.

Case in point. Every Thursday twin 5-year old girls come to our house from noon to five. From nine to eleven every Thursday morning I'm madly cleaning the house. The kids' room especially needs to be orderly, a ridiculous notion for a toddler play-area. But it gets done every week only to look like a presidentially declared natural disaster by 5:30. Why clean a house that will only, just hours later, look worse than it did before you started to clean it? Wouldn't an educated person wait and clean after the storm has passed so she could enjoy her work longer?

I do the same thing for the babysitter. Just yesterday I found out my sitter couldn't watch the kids at her house, so I spent three hours cleaning the four rooms I allow people access to (my bedroom and the laundry room are currently off-limits, and have been for a good 36 months now). And after all that work my sitter kindly forgave me for my messy house. "Your kitchen looks like ours does when my mom blows a gasket," she said. Apparently one person's clean is another person's mental collapse. Sigh.

So I've realized that I'm the kind of person who would clean her house before the maid comes. I'm also the kind of person who, when she cleans, doesn't even make babysitter-clean standards. At some point I'll need to embrace my domestic anti-goddess self and call it good. I'm an artist, I tell myself, cleanliness and order are in opposition with my creativity. Why not rejoice and let the world see my disarray?

But there's hope. Today as we were cleaning Kaleb and Leah's bedroom, Kaleb said, "Christian's room is so messy." Christian is my babysitter's little brother. "Messier than Kaleb and Leah's room?" I innocently asked. "So messy," Kaleb said. "And he never cleans it."

Redemption can sometimes come from the little tattlers living with you. I wonder if Christian's messy room is what makes my babysitter's mom blow a gasket.

I'll probably continue scrambling to get my house clean before visitors arrive. And if I ever blow a gasket we might have to let the authorities declare my house a biohazard. But until then, this is just my dirty little secret.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Real or Pretend?

Lately Kaleb's been trying to distinguish between the real and the imaginary. That's a tough job for a 3 1/2 - year old. Two weeks ago he woke up and asked if the sharks were still outside. I looked at him for a minute, trying to see if he was sleep walking. He was awake.

"What, Kaleb?" I asked.

"Are the sharks and the water still outside?" he said.

"There are no sharks or water outside."

"Well, I had a dream that there were sharks and water outside and then Scooby and Shaggy came and saved me," he said.

My kids never watch Scooby Doo so I wasn't quite sure how he even knew who Shaggy was, but I was grateful that they had saved him while I had been sleeping and dreamless in the room next door.

"That was a dream, sweetie," I said. "That wasn't real."

Kaleb's face was set. "Go check, Mom."

It wasn't until I had raised the blinds and proved to him that the sharks and the water had evaporated when he awoke that he believed me. Imagination can be a tricky thing when you're a toddler.

This confusion has extended beyond his dreams. Lately he asks whether things are real or pretend.

"Are trees real or pretend?" he asks.

"Trees are real."

"Is wind real or pretend?" he asks.

"Wind is real."

"Are cartoons real or pretend?" he asks.

"Cartoons are pretend."

And then one day on the way home from church. "Is Spiderman real or pretend?"


I could hear his grunt of disapproval from the car seat in the back.

"Is Jesus real or pretend?" he asked.

"Real," I said.

"NO," he cried. "I want Spiderman to be real and Jesus to be pretend."

I wonder how many Family Home Evenings it will take to work our way through that one.