Something Salinas This Way Comes...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Existing In Abundance

People always say things to me along the lines of, "How do you do it?" (usually accompanied with a wide-eyed expression of total disbelief) and honestly, most days I can't answer because I just don't know.  Sometimes, though, something happens and I am brought face-to-face with the sort of revelations that put meaning to my life and my actions.  I used to ask myself all the time, "WHY would anyone have more than three kids?" and for the first year of Chloe and Hannah's lives, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I sat in disbelief at the reflection. It was always the same dialogue running through my head:  A mother of FIVE.  A mother of FIVE??  What the Hell??  How do I raise five kids?  The questions that friends and strangers were seeking answers to were linear to those that were cropping into my own brain; only I was so busy going through the motions, surviving, that I simply had no time to seek answers--except, of course, when I saw my own reflection and felt strange; foreign to myself.

Today was one of those self-revelation experiences--I got the kind of answer that, thankfully, I did not have to strive for or seek out.  It was an ordinary day.  We went to church for the first time in a month and my girls were busy, but so was I.  I must have gained just enough grace while at that busy mass that I was inspired to write this, in response to and in reflection of the quesiton, "Why do I do what I do, and for the love of all things Holy, HOW???" 


If you have a lof of kids (this term varying in definition depending on your perception of "a lot"), you know that as parenthood goes, there are a slew of other life situations that arrive in abundance once you welcome the addition of a child.  As the number of kids in your home grows, so do the number of catastrophes, mishaps, obstacles, emotions, and events of an expanding nature.

Someone will always be whining, or crying, or just expressing loud opposition to some relatively small issue, in the most inopportune places and at an already-stressful time.  Some kid will always be lagging behind the rest.  Someone will forever be feeling injusticed by a miniscule crime that is more closely related to the individual child's own schisms than to an actual crime of any sort.  Someone will always be stuck in the back of the SUV at church, banging on the glass and screaming at you in panicked tones, abhored at the notion that he/she is forgotten forever (okay, so maybe that's just me).

Someone always has to pee, or has a poopy diaper.  It never fails, as soon as you commence the road trip or walk into a department store, one of your kids will have to pee.  And on said road trip, at least one kid will get car sick and cover the back seat in regurgitated Goldfish crackers and chocolate milk.  Someone will always have a runny nose and at some point, I guarantee your sleeve will act in place of that travel-size baggie of Kleenex you forgot to shove in your purse.

Some kid is always going to be struggling with something--a social issue, grades, bullies at school, chronic nose bleeds. 

In the dead of winter, someone will inevitably come down with pneumonia, or bronchitis, or hand/foot/mouth disease, or head lice.  Someone always needs a band-aid, Motrin, or a hot bath with Vick's, or just a bath in general.

There are the fillings, braces, and contact lenses.  Someone's fingernails are perpetually filthy.  Someone is always hungry, always thirsty, and always trying to guarantee themselves some junk food--be it on the sly by doing chores or simply begging loudly. 

Someone is always torturing the cat.

Someone is always spilling something.

One kid will assuredly be diagnosed with some sort of disorder, delay, or genetic disease that requires utmost attention and medical guidance (not to mention a lot of frustrated prayer).  Some child will be constantly in need of emergency medical attention, either from swallowing your pills or falling (jumping) off of furniture.  Someone is always yelling; background noise is definitely in abundance.

Someone's clothes are always dirty; someone is always missing a sock, or a shoe, or a coat.  One kid's hair is always a rat's nest and one kid's pants will forever be full of holes.  The bathroom mirror will always have toothpaste on it, and your dryer will never, ever host an even number of perfectly matched socks.

Someone will always be mad and resentful toward one or both parents--I can't say for certain, but I am pretty solid in assuming that for at least one kid, the recollected childhood injustices will last into adulthood.  One kid will inevitably suffer lack of attention or affection, and act out in ways that may not exactly warrant reactions of gratitude from parents, but the end result will certainly equate to attention of some sort.  You can bet your ass that all of them will break your hearts when they grow up and decide that whatever lessons you intended to instill in them don't matter, and, at some point along the way, they are going to disappoint you.

Some kid will always be saying, "Can I?", "Will you....", "I want...", "I need...", and it is likely that, as a parent to many, it will show in the number of grey hairs you have, the number of missed hours at work, and the number of dollars in your bank account. 

At least one kid per week will be crawling into your bed, tears and teddy bears in abundance, kicking you in your shins, drooling on you and snoring in your ear; feeling safe and protected while you attempt to form your sleep around their twisted, thrashing bodies.  If there is no other experience to be officially guaranteed from this list I have provided, you can bet that if you are a parent to many, lack of sleep will be the number one symptom you will experience in abundance throughout the duration of your life.

Worry will exist in abundance, also.  Worry about their futures, their chances of success versus their chances of failure--worry about your own successes and failures as parents, and worry about the retention of the former.  Worry that they won't come home from the bus stop, or that they will lack confidence, or that they will be that awful statistic of kids whose parents must bury them before they've had a chance to put their hands on life.  You will worry that their choice in partner will hurt them, and that they in turn will carry on those scars to hurt others, or vice versa.  You will worry that they will become good and solid individuals who, out of worry themselves, will have humility and compassion and love for life and others.  You'll worry that they will be apathetic, or place too much expectation on themselves, worry that your own adult issues have projected onto them.  In a house with many kids, worry exists in great abundance.  The odds of something bad happening to one is greater when there are more.

...Someone is always laughing, too.  Giggling or chortling, or in a fit of crying laughter on the floor.  Someone is always smiling one of those cute toothless baby smiles or awkward buck-toothed, crooked kid smiles.  Some kid is always waking you up in the morning with a gentle hug, or wishing you good night with a gentle hug.  When you have a lot of kids, one of them is bound to be a spontaneous dancer.  Someone is always there, talking and learning and growing; lighting up the room with conversation and memories.  They will help each other and you; they will come to you when they need you.  Someone is always saying something along the lines of the following:  "Dinner was awesome; you're the best cook".  "I want you to see what I did today", "You rock!", "Thanks, Mom", "You're the best". 

"I love you, Mom". 

Those words, those actions, make everything else feel like a beautiful piece of artwork, and you are the tortured soul, the troubled artist who bears fruit to these miraculous, imaginative, wonderful, colorful little paintings that grow up to be masterpieces in their own rights, in their own works, and in their own lives.  And love, abundant and unconditional, perpetuated and reciprocated, acts as justification for all of the work, the struggle, the worry, the chagrin, the bittersweet. 

It comes back to you from your kids--in few words and small actions--and when it does, it makes everything else trivial, laughable, repeatable. 
Thank God for abundant love, because without it, nothing is possible.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unpublished Parenting Advice of the Week

I'm just going to come right out and say it:  Do not neglect to take your kids out to eat every once in a while.

Prior to the arrival of the twins, we ate out on a somewhat regular basis.  Kody and Kyleigh reaped the benefits of this, in that they acquired decent eating-in-public and manners.  Joshua is an apple of a different color, though, because he was so small in the time before the twins that his lack of manners was excused with the notion that he was young and knew no better.

Last night we went to the local restaurant, Fast Eddy's, with some friends.  It quickly became apparent that Joshua, fueled by some weird phenomenon that only takes place when we are in public, was going to provide us with our Reason for the Evening Drink. In the two hours we were there, I observed Joshua doing the following things:

*pour pepper into his hot chocolate
*eat his spaghetti using his hands as scoops (seriously, like a shovel)
*ball up the bathroom paper towel he was using and shove it up his nose (Really?)
*attempt to cut his garlic bread in half using a spoon and then a butter knife (only to end up tearing the bread in half and use it as his spaghetti shovel; but hey, it's better than the former scooping tactic)
*When walking down the aisle with him in tow (we were on our way to the bathroom to wash the spaghetti sauce from beneath his fingernails), he muttered (at the top of his lungs) the entire way about having to poop, and how good it feels to poop, and how pooping is "healfy" and attempted to converse (just as we passed the salad bar) with me about that one time when Chloe had orange poop because she ate so many carrots.  To the twenty-something people, all who wore horrified expressions we passed them on the way to the bathroom, my sincere apologies.

It was of no comfort that Hannah and Chloe mimicked every motion Joshua was making--shoveling food into their mouths using their hands, and even creating their own home-made antics involving chocolate milk, straws, and what seemed to be a spitting distance contest.  Also, Hannah attempted to drink the pepper-seasoned hot chocolate and our friend continued to giggle incessantly as every new Joshua Antic surfaced--Seriously Will, when your new baby is born, and having poop explosions, and puking in your mouth, I am going to laugh very hard and attempt to obtain video footage.

So is the lesson here that kids should be brought out to eat more often, or brought out to eat never?  I'm beginning to think that in Joshua's case, we'd be better suited for a feeding trough.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Curse

I swear, every time we attend any variety of concert/show/whatever, I get dragged into some sort of debauchery that involves a high level of embarassment. A few years ago, it was the giant pickle that David Copperfield threw at me at the one (and only) show we ever saw of his. When motioned to return said pickle--which, by the way, had a huge bite taken out of it prior to him lobbing it at me--I fell to the role of  unsuspecting victim in the subsequent portion of the show where Copperfield (who resembles a frog in real life, FYI) makes dirty jokes concerning "the girl who bites".

Tonight I took the kids to a dance show; a group of high school kids from another small community called, "The Burchell Dancers". Of course, the lady all but grabbed me by the collar and drug me onto the gymnasium floor for the can-can dance.  I swear to you on the butt-cracks of every single high school girl that I saw tonight, I was in no way volunteering myself as a muse of any sort.  In fact, I am kind of offended that the woman, before approaching me, actually said, "Come on, moms!  I know there are *some* of us who definitely missed our morning arobics routine!".

God bless Meghan Geese, who was as cute as can be and the perfect little companion. God bless Carrie Gerber for also going out and looking (a lot less) foolish with me. Seriously, I think we were the only two adults out there.  I'm sure my already pitiful situation was exacerbated by the fact that, in all the kicking and hopping, my scarf got wound too tightly around my neck and I nearly choked my out-of-shape, can-can dancing ass out, right there on the gym floor.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On a Serious Note

I've been hearing a lot of buzz lately; people concerned, and in some cases incensed, by the fact that as American citizens, we are donating more money to Haiti than we distribute to our domestic impoverished population; people who, in some cases, have gone so far as to point to "world cleansing" as a possible divine- intervention type of explanation for the devastation in Haiti.  It seems that the uproar over the large distribution of voluntary donations to Haiti has even reached a point where someone founded a chain-style Facebook status:

Shame on you America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment - yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. 99% of people won't have the guts to copy and repost this.. CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME

I am so inclined to retort, because I am a little taken aback, a little peeved at the sight of this update and this attitude being repeatedly displayed umong American citizens, and I really suck at keeping my mouth shut:

(a) I sincerely hope that none of the people who are concerned with the amount of money donated by Americans to Haiti are not anti-welfare--the type of people who believe in the "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" mantra. It would seem hypocritical to loathe the passing of your own tax dollars to the "perpetuation of American poverty" and then, in the case of Haiti, adopt a disgruntled attitude. In this scenario, it would almost seem as if welfare of any kind meets oppostion; whether it be charitable contributions to our own country, or to a foreign country. If this is indeed the case with some people, I would suggest a good, long look at American history and our tendancy to borrow money from foreign nations.

(b) Didn't our mothers teach us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us?

(c) Haiti's government is not perfect; it is corrupted and polluted with selfish people, indeed. Should there be a concern that our generous donations will be squandered, pillaged, wasted? Absolutely. However, I would advise anyone who uses this as an argument against donations to Haiti, to examine our own democracy's recent choices in government spending: We are the proud owners of a car manufacturing company and several large banking firms, and we find it of utmost priority to keep the amount of money allotted for social security benefits a well-guarded secret.

(d) In the vein of democracy, we can say that it has made us one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet. Our impoverished are given benefits, our poor are provided paths of opportunity. Haiti is a land of poverty; unlimited and endless, deep-rooted and perpetuated poverty. Most of its citizens began with nothing; now, their few solid comforts--shelter, food, family--have vanished, left their hands like their hard-earned money, never to return to them. In our democracy, we view feminism as freedom; we see poverty as living without amenities. In other countries, feminism means safety from ravage and exploitation. And poverty?  Poverty is a way of life. 

The people in Haiti have gone from nothing to apocalypse. We in America simply do not grasp the true definition of what it means to be impoverished. I am beginning to wonder, however, if we are not more impoverished in our souls than those millions of people who've never imagined a three-meal day; people whose reality includes the death of at least one child as more a probable reality than an unimaginable occurence.

Whether or not you think the amount of dollars being donated to Haiti is an abomination or not, the fact remains: If you can afford a Whopper Jr., you probably make more money in a week than a Haitian does in a year. And if you can find it in your heart to complain about volunteer donations being so little in our country when we have a government that gives it freely to our impoverished, then you are in dire need of a reality check.  Finally, if you can buy a latte, you can afford to aid a country where generations of people are gone--unidentified and buried in shallow graves, and dying in the streets of broken limbs and open wounds.  If your mother taught you that you should treat others the way you want to be treated; if your faith teaches you that no matter how imperfect a being or an entity is, it deserves salvation, then you can afford to aid in the efforts to bring life back to Haiti.

The poor give us much more than we give them. They're such strong people, living day to day with no food. and they never curse, never complain. We don't have to give them pity or sympathy. We have so much to learn from them.
Mother Teresa

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Many Hats

So Maurice left town just in time for me to realize that the wood stove was long overdue for a sweeping of ashes.  Well, shoveling is the better-suited term.

One hour before a new day care mom arrives for a meet-and-greet and, true to form, I decide to clean the woodstove.  The can on the porch was full of the previous cleanings' ashes (thanks, hon), so I decided to dump the fresh ashes into a plastic bag.  Smack in the middle of this process, I realized the embers I was shoving into the plastic bag were still glowing red, simultaneously becoming aware of a crackling sound coming from the plastic bag.  (It was then that I remembered my husband instructing me to n.e.v.e.r use anything other than a metal can to discard woodstove ashes, and that I was quite possibly going to burn my house down any second)  Soooo, I quickly diverted my attention to dumping the bag containing the certain threat of a fiery death to the woods, along with the metal can full of ashes (because I am a rock star).  Emptied both, came inside to finish the job I'd set out to do. 

Only to find that Hannah and Chloe had decided that fingerpainting with ashes was fun, and my window, window seat, and very pretty little brown-haired duo were covered in greyness that had somehow become soaking wet (probably the snow from the metal can that sits on the porch).  Once that mess was cleaned, and the metal can full of ashes again, I realized that the frozen pee on top of the metal can melted, and that I really dislike my St. Bernard right now.  I also am not very pleasant toward Maurice, for having the grand idea of breeding him.  Which has never happened.  In fact, the only thing that has happened as a result of Bosley not being neutered is that every. single. surface. in our yard that is within distance of his stream of urine is covered in his urine.  The target marking surfaces, unfortunately, includes the freaking metal ash can that has now shed the freshly-thawed urine coating, that has now mixed with the ashes on the floor, the window, and window seat, that I have now wasted an entire roll of paper towels in the process of rectifying the entire abomination.

I have ash in my eyes.  And I still need to fix lunch.  Annnd, since I had to go BACK out to the woods to dump the new load of ashes (because, like I said, I am a rock star), I was faced with the real verdict concerning my yard:  combined with the frozen-dog-pee-marked surfaces, the two discarded pieces of interior furniture that are sititng on my porch, and the added enhancement of a plastic jack-o-lantern balancing precariously on top of one of the abandoned bird feeders--we totally have a trashy yard.  The only thing missing is a tin-can shooting range and some free-roaming chickens.

I guess I could roll with this one by saying that I wear many hats: chimney sweet, rock star, and trashy yard owner being the top three for today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unpublished Parenting Advice of the Week

I mean this in the most loving way:  In the scenario of having two or more kids, their behavior tends to mimick the family cat's, in that once the kids reach a certain age, they become territorial. 

And while we are on the subject of cats, particularly kittens, I will commence to the disclosure of this weeks' Unpublished Parenting:

About two weeks ago, on a whim, I adopted a 7 week-old kitten and named him Finn.  I brought him home to Kody, Kyleigh, and Joshua, who were happy to put a halt to their chore of hauling wood to the house for the stove, in order to play with and coo over our new kitten.  There is just something about kittens.

Naturally, when Hannah and Chloe awoke from napping, they, too wanted to play with and coo over Finn.  Therein lies the problem presented, and the lesson learned.  As a seasoned mother of five, I was "fully" prepared for whatever scenario presented to me by the introduction of the new family pet.  I was ready for the girls to receive a few minor scratches on their wrists.  Ready for extra cleaning of the litterbox.  Totally prepared for the girls to fight over who would get to hold Finn, carry Finn, play with Finn...

...until I heard, for the very first time, the sound of a kitten being quartered.  I was faced with the same battle each and every day:  Chloe carting Finn around in a chokehold, pronouncing her love for the "kiy kat", Hannah screaming, curly locks as wild as the expression on her face as she attempted to pull Finn away from her evil twin sister using any appendage she could possibly get her little hands on--fur definitely counts as an appendage here.  Finn, as wide-eyed and horrified as any kitty can be, his very short life flashing before his eyes as Hannah pries and Chloe pulls, and tendons stretch and cartilage is pushed to the limit of its flexibility.  Someone will inherently come to the rescue, sparing his life while scolding the twins, but not too much time had passed by before I realized this scenario was playing out at least a half dozen times per day.

And the lesson to be learned from all of this?  When faced with the scenario of a near-quartered kitten, and the certainty that the issue is not going to resolve itself until said kitten is literally in pieces of equal size, get another kitten.  It's what we did. Don't judge me until you hear the alternatives:  Don't have twins, don't have two kids in the same age proximity, get rid of the first kitten (mutiny), continue to wait out the certain doom of kitty number 1. 

On a side note:  I believe anyone who has never given birth should examine my attempt to rescue Chloe from the conundrums she finds herself in by trying to fit into her Baby Alive doll's clothing.  Most of the time, rescuing her from this type of situation involves pushing her head down a little in order to move her shoulder out of the way, reaching inside the collar of the shirt or onesie and grabbing her by the chin, slowly turning her head and arm as I gently guide the reast of her torso out of the fabric that would fit my chihuahua.  I call it shirt birth.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Dear Chloe and Hannah,

My Kitchen Aid is not the dumping place for every food item you find less-than-appealing.  I love you girls, but do you realize how disguting it is to clean that damn thing each. and every. day, of all your half-chewed cookies, slimy, three-day-old banana peels, and discarded cheese sticks?  (FYI: Really though, the most disgusting memeber of this discard pile is those half-eaten pecans.  When still slimy, they kind of look like mouse turds.)

Also, I do realize that you choose not to wear socks, despite my daily efforts and encouragement to do so, because you run faster when barefoot.  While I am proud of you for discovering this fact, Hannah, and passing along the info in Twinspeak to your sister, I am tired of chasing you as you head toward the trash can kitchen aid mixing bowl to rid yourself of whatever food item you may be carrying in your little cheeks.  I feel that your bare-footed running is giving you an unfair advantage.  And while we are on the subject of carrying things in your cheeks: by the way, you are people, not chipmunks.  And while we are on the subject of running:  please, for the sake of every day care parent, stop doing so in the nude.

With Love,
Your Doting Mother

Dear Day Care Parents,

I know.  I try.  I really, really try.  Please understand this to be a disclaimer that I, in no uncertain terms, declare myself completely defeated in my Battle of the Buns with my daughters, Chloe and Hannah.  I dress them every day.  I dress them every hour.  I know you see their butts more often than you probably see your own kids' butts, and for that I am deeply sorry.  And also, I have no sense of smell, so if you stop by for a drop off/pick up, and you smell something, please let me know.  Due to the fact that my twins refuse to wear clothing, that smell, unfortunately, could very well be coming from ANYWHERE.

Please be advised that I use Clorox abundantly.

Your Day Care Provider

Dear Treadmill,

I apologize.  You have been neglected.  Because I am unable to chase down my own two toddler-aged daughters, I will be becoming re-acquainted with you in the very near future.  Right after I finish this bowl of ice cream topped with warm Nutella.

The Person Who Runs on You
The Person Who Will Run on You Soon

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For Real Tho'

Dear Heidi What's-Your-Face,

Obviously, the fact that you and your douche-bag husband's antics have been bumped from daily news fodder to weekly news fodder has bothered you to the point of utter insanity.

...because, for real tho', why, in the name of all things Holy (or organic, for that matter) would anyone do this to their body unless under the influence of serious publicity addiction.  Honey, you need to deflate--literally.

Have you and Spencer been watching fetish porn again?  Seen the pre-view for the new season of Taboo?  Spencer saw that dude making out with the blow-up doll and got a little excited, didn't he?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Forbidden Fruit

This is a photo of Hannah, taken about six weeks ago.  In her effort to boycott our oatmeal breakfast, she (literally) busted open the bag of Fruity Pebbles, purchased by Maurice as his Late-Night Snack Food of the Week.  It was after this photo op that I declared the banning of all Fruity Pebbles until further notice--we added it to the list of other banned items:  Playdoh, Moon Sand, and other enrichment-geared activities that inevitably spell an ill fate for my home's interior, along with the hair and appendages of my children. 

Tonight I sent him to the store for some smoked sausage to put in the red beans and rice dinner.  What he came home with, in addition to the meat, was a bag of--you guessed it--Fruity Freaking Pebbles. 

So the following text message chat log ensued:

Me: U bought Fruity Pebbles!!!!!  Ahhhhhhhh the forbidden fruit!!!!

Mo: It's mine.  Put it out of the girls reach.

Me: Completely futile.  They are EVERYWHERE.

Mo:  How.  It's mine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (yes, he actually used that many exclamation points)
Me: Not the cereal, tweedle dee, the twins.  They are EVERYWHERE (yes, I actually capitalized 'everywhere')
Mo: Oh, phew.  I was looking forward to cereal tonight.

....So is it me, or is my husband clearly not concerned with the plausible catastrophe presented by bringing the forbidden Fruit past the threshold of this house?  And in this quest for midnight snack delight, has he forgotten about the fact that we were finding Fruity Pebbles inside of the tupperware cabinet into the New Year?  WHY couldn't he just buy a bag of freaking Cheerios.  I mean, for the Love.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Things I'm Loving

*Joshua's reference to me as "mamacita", which started a few Christmases ago when he heard, "Donde Esta Santa Claus" for the first time, has become his pet name for me; he calls me this more often than he calls me "mom".

*Maurice is on the phone with a friend of ours who is having relationship troubles. She is an Atheist and he is a Baptist. It's becoming a huge point of contention for them. I overheard Maurice's advice to his friend: "Does the fact that she's an Atheist change how you feel about her? If her beliefs don't change the way you feel about her, what is the point of ending it with her over them?" ...How does the same guy who adds things to my to-do lists like, "Dirty lovin' with Maurice" and uses terms like "fucknugget" give advice like that? That is my husband, a swearing, livestock-loving, red-moose-pajama-pants-wearing enigma. I wonder if he would apply this philosiphy if I began to buy myself a weekly pair of Santana heels?

*This dinner is frigging fantastic, if I do say so myself.

*This afternoon, I was the recipient of the following compliment from Kody: "I like having you as my mom, because you never treat us like we are a challenge, or something to check off your list of accomplishments. You never act like we are an inconvenience and you always seem happy to have us around". I am still not sure where that came from, especially since I was in the middle of dinner. And elbow deep in a pile of clean laundry Hannah had just peed in. And really wishing I was kid-free and at a fancy restaurant at that moment. (Don't worry, I washed my hands)

*My friends, A and N, who took Josh along with them to a high school hockey game tonight. Joshua had a fantastic time eating a hot dog and chips, drinking hot chocolate, and "watching the guys' faces get slammed up on the glass". Thanks, A and N. You two are going to make fantastic parents, and I cannot wait to watch it all happen for you.

....So that's it. Just the few little things that happen every day, that I happened to take a moment and appreciate today. I think I should do that more often.

The Importance of Accessorizing

It seems that Chloe and Hannah have entered the stage where they're keenly aware of the contents of their closet.  Their new favorite hobby is changing clothes, then changing clothes again.  And again, and again.  And again. 

As of Sunday, the focus of their efforts was mainly on clothes--vests, dresses, skirts, tights, button-up shirts, pajamas--anything's game.  Most of the time, all of these items are draped on them in conjunction with each other--vests on top of corduroy dresses, polka-dot tights worn beneath a pair of my underwear, pajama pants mixed tastefully with an upside-down velour hoddie.  The twins are also not exceptional to the common law that says girls should love shoes; thus, most of these outfits are paired with mis-matched boots or Mary Janes. 

 Yesterday, Chloe discovered the hair accessory drawer and decided to take it to the next level. 

Who needs clothes when you have accessories?  She is like a walking, talking Vogue ad, no?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Unpublished Parenting--Part I

So my friend and fellow blogger, Julie, has a weekly feature for her blog titled, "Hot Mess of the Week".  If you have not read any of her stuff, or you're just interested in the Hot Mess of the Week, you can check out her blog here: . 

In the way of weekly feature copy-catting, I have decided to do a weekly piece of my own, titled, "Unpublished Parenting Advice".  Why is this relevant?  Not because I feel so greatly entitled to speak my peace, stand on a soapbox, or spread my all-mighty knowledge.  It's simply that, on a daily basis, I find myself saying in my head (I do a lot of saying things in my head, by the way), "Wow; I was so not prepared for this", or "I wish someone would have told me...". Thus, the fruition of my idea:  Once weekly,  I vow to post--in the form of an experience, a thought, or a simple conversation with my child gone woefully awry--a bit of parenting advice that I promise you, you will never. ever. find in a parenting book. 

So, as a christening for this weekly feature, I give to you my first piece of unpublished parenting advice; a note I made on Facebook in early October.  I think the lesson to be learned here is simple, and can be relayed in a tongue-twister of sorts: When painting pumpkins with little people, prepare for perpetuated profanities:

Fingerpainting Fun Fury

I break out the fingerpaints about every harvest moon. Why? Because within two minutes of opening the paints and setting them on the craft table, I realize my mistake, and it usually takes about 363 days to forget whatever fingerpaint-induced spiral of death ensues after the ambitous act.

Today I had the grand idea of painting miniature pumpkins. I got out the primary-colored paints and set them on the table, with Martha-Stewart induced visions dancing around in my head like the smell of warm baked cookies. I thought, 'This is going to be great!' I, like many of you will do or have done, envisioned happy, olive-skinned kids with toothy grins and cartoon-like giggles that would rival any magazine-shoot version of fingerpainting fun.

What I got was much, much different. It was sort of like the Tiim Burton version of the above fantasy. Please, peruse the following and the next time you think you want to do something like this and wonder what could go wrong, refresh your memory:

Hannah, continually dipping her finger in the blue paint and licking it off. Discovering, after the third paint-eating attempt, that the stuff tastes like poo. Getting irritated with the paint for making her messy and resolving said problem by stooping down and, rather resourcefully, using our six-toed Manx cat, O'Malley, as her towel. (I had placed several paper towels on the craft table. However, Chloe was using the paper towels as her canvas, and Hannah--out of habit--was using the paper towels to wipe her FACE. So, as you can see, things to consider...) Hannah continually goes to the bathroom door and proclaims, 'Hans! Hans! Haaaannns!' (which means 'hands', as in, 'Wash my hands now. Don't you see all this blue shit all over them?? Geezus, get with it Mom!). Me, dumb, continually shoveling Hannah into the bathroom in an attempt to appease her, only to discover that within five seconds of leaving the sink, she is back to attempting to paint our cat blue. As for Hannah's pumpkin? Well, Chloe decided to use her artistic abilities to paint it red. And then, being the sporty girl that she is, Hannah used the pumpkin as a ball. To roll. Across the living room throw rug. Yeah.

Let us now consider Chloe. Rather graceful in movement and very concentrated in her efforts to paint every. single. surface a bright, sunshiny yellow. No attempts to eat paint; however, I do believe she will be very adventurous with hair color as a teenager. And never ever take her jar of yellow paint, specifically if you are her twin sister. Because it will consequently be launched into the air and land in a happy yellow puddle of joy on your laptop, which you hapharzadly placed on top of the dishwasher

FOUR feet away from paint-central. Gah, how could I have been so absent-minded? As for her pumpkin, it turned out an adorable green-and-yellow polkda dotted creation. I just really wish I had not been so distracted by Hannah's pumpkin bowling tournament; otherwise I would have noticed that Chloe had graduated from the washable finger paints to the tempura paints and permanent markers the older kids were using. I think her other favorite color is red, because as I am typing this, she is a freshly-bathed, happy, sleeping, red-and-white-strped Dr. Seuss character.

I will now summarize the older three kids in a few short sentences. All of the children in my family are type A, controlling and rather competitive in nature. I'm cool with it so long as it does not involve weapons, or paint or markers. Today it was Kody's need to have perfectly outlined jack-o-lantern eyes vs. Kyleigh's need to draw perfectly straight lines on her pumpkin's grooves. Both of which involve the use of the ONE permanent black marker I could find in the entire freaking house. (Joshua could not care less about a black permanent marker due to the fact that his theme involved not much detail outside of lots and lots of blood. Thank God because I think I may have suffered a coronary if all three of them were fighting over the effing black marker) So I solve the black marker issue by dictatorially announcing that Kyleigh would be the first to use it, because I said so. My punishment by way of Kody was that when he finally got his hands on it, he took f.o.r.e.v.e.r to apply his artistry to the little orange circle of Hell. As I was cleaning the mess around him, I explained to him the very dire issue I was having with his time frame. He says to me that if he wanted his pumpking to resemble EVERYONE ELSE'S, he would oblige me. My retort was simple, 'If you want to get your every creative detail perfect, do it at school where there are no two-year olds.' Which was kind of perfect timing, because about .02 seconds after my reply, Hannah was just finishing the last few gulps of the paint-rinsing water.

Joshua, I have to say, was a rather mellow and astute painter. I am choosing to ignore the fact that his pumpkin has a huge, gaping, bleeding gash in its 'throat', complete with drips and splatter patterns. Yeah Martha, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Mooseberries and Gemstones

Aside from running my kids' daily bus route, on which she passes out cookies on Fridays and wishes her young passengers a good morning and afternoon each and every day, Margit Brooks (that's "Maggie" in American Speak) acts as a partner in ownership in addition to the duties of chef, maid, and accountant for A Mooseberry Inn, one of Tok's handful of bed and breakfast establishments; the other owner being her husband, also knows as Damon, also known as construction worker, electrician, plumber, and maintenance guy.

Being the diligent advertising agent that she is, Margit approached me about writing a descriptive piece for her beloved inn's home page.  I wanted to get a feel for the topic of my one-man discussion, so yesterday morning around 10 a.m., Joshua and I ventured down the Alaska Highway to Scoby Road; I in my Ugg knock-offs and he in his cowboy boots, paired stylishly with his favorite grey oatmeal sweat pants.  (Disclaimer:  I was completely unprepared for taking photos, so please excuse these grainy iphone photographs.)  We knocked on Margit's door, were greeted by their chocolate lab, and introduced to the "family living quarters".  Within seconds of entering the home, I was sipping strong, fresh coffee with vanilla flavoring, sitting at Margit's small, quaint kitchen table, and taking in her world. 

Three things about Margit that I noticed straight away:  Her kitchen table is intimate in its location to the kitchen.  It felt right, poised in front of her brown-and-orange flowered doily, listening to Josh talk Mr. Brooks' ear off about toy guns, relating with Margit about her toddler-aged granddaughter.  It seemed like this was the setting for many a great meal and an emotional array of conversation.  The second thing I took in was her knick-knack collection.  Not really an intentional collection of specific items; more like an eclectic happen-chance collection of beer steins, liquor tins, vases, and various beginner plants.  Her German liquor collection was very impressive, as well.  The third thing I noticed had nothing particularly in common with the environment; more specifically with Margit.  When she talks about her inn, her labor of love, she lights up.  The first thing she revealed in discolosing her intentions behind the establishment of Mooseberry Inn was simple:  It is fun!  Meeting new people from all over the world and cooking for her guests were the very first facts presented to me when I inquired about the most fulfilling parts of being a bed and breakfast owner.  Judging from this response, and from the rest of my sensory experience at Mooseberry Inn, I would say that Margit and Damon Brooks are in the right business.

So it was with great anticipation that I left my son in the company of Mr. Brooks, who gracefully received all of Joshua's notions on everything from evil reindeer to fantasies of toy gun ownership, and ventured with Margit into the other half of the Brooks residence, otherwise known as A Mooseberry Inn.

Margit is a first generation German-American.  She was born and raised in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, which literally translates to "Gem City".  For many years, Idar-Oberstein was the home of vast and numerous gem mines, including agates, amethysts, and jasper.  The prevalence of her culture and heritage are present in everything contained inside the walls of Mooseberry Inn--from her authentic belgian waffle breakfasts, to the antique sewing machine and hand- made dolls, to her
impeccable cleaning standards, all the way down to Margit's thick German accent--less rigid than a northern German accent, softer consonants with a bit more emphasis on vowel sounds than the accents I'm used to hearing.  When she speaks to someone like me--a seasoned American with a strong "American" accent--I feel like I am sitting across from Diane Kruger's character in the movie, "Inglourious Basterds".  I found myself asking the question in my head, "Is this the older-world version of the German accent?  Is it the more Hungarian-style dialect?"  As I am completely undecuated in this realm, I will make sure to ask Margit next time I speak with her. 

Mooseberry Inn contains four guest rooms.  All walls adorn different paint and decorum themes, all bathrooms are designed just a bit differently; but the running theme, and the target theme for Margit's idealogy, are warm, Earth-toned, and organic.  Instead the common animal hides and hunted heads adorning the walls of this inn, one will encounter handmade curtains in rich metallic fabrics or embroidered floral sheers, original artwork from an eclectic array of artists the world over, and plenty of remnants of Margit's German upbringing; all of this is coupled with comfort:  mattresses that can only be described as cloud-like, rested in sleigh-style bed frames made from rich oaks and maples.  Modern amenities like wi-fi internet, jetted tubs, terry cloth robes, flat screen televisions and an array of movies act to further enhance the comfort level of this bed and breakfast.  Mooseberry Inn is original in that it provides a framing of the world outside its walls.  Margit's choice in warm, non-obtrusive lighting techniques offer an inhabitant enough comfort to enjoy the view from the warmth, comfort, and cleanliness of the inside, but are inspiring enough to bring inhabitant outside for a winter day's walk--or, even better, a swim in the outdoor hot tub. 

My favorite room is what Margit refers to as "The Tuscan room".  Its walls are a deep sunset gold.  The lampshade, made ornamental by embedded stained glass, casts a warm glow that makes even shadows seem somehow fancified.  The textures used throughout the room are so marvelously, haphazardly perfect; as if Margit cast an idea casually onto a palette, and it effortlessly became a masterpiece.  My favorite piece is the grey-green quilted bench at the foot of the king-sized bed.  This room is so unassuming in my photos, but the aura is of comfort, ease, rest, and relaxation--all things that I believe a bed and breakfast inn should project.

The place where all the magic happens is the kitchen, and Margit's breakfasts are anything but continental, or even ordinary. I could tell by the way her expression changed when I asked her about her decision to cook breakfast versus supplying continental breakfast, this is something Margit takes very seriously. Having seen photographs of her meals on Facebook in the past, I must say, it was the food that piqued my interest in this inn, some months ago. Who serves meals like homemade Belgian waffles topped with fresh fruit?  And if you can somehow resist the urge to follow your nose to the modern kitchen, it can be brought up to you by your gracious hostess on an ornate victorian breakfast tray.  Margit's establishment kitchen, although enhanced with more modern appliances than that of her home, displays a theme much like that of her house: A central locale, to which guests flock for resources vital for human thriving: good food, good drink, and good conversation.

Whether you are a local resident of Tok or a tourist from abroad, Mooseberry Inn will undoubtedly provide for you an experience of luxury, framed by the rugged terrain of central Alaska.  If you are the indoor type, this setting will provide you with utmost comfort and service, so as to frame your surroundings beautifully.  If you are the outdoor type, you will very much look forward to coming back to Mooseberry for the indoor comforts--hot food, warm bed, and consistently superb service--that will prepare you for another day in the Great Alaskan wilderness.  And at only $149/night, maximum peak season price, I promise you that upon completion of your stay at Mooseberry Inn, you will *almost* feel guilty.  Margit and Damon's little inn is a lesson in "quaint"; a masterpiece in comfort and cleanliness, and, much like the treasures that come from the mines of Idar-Oberstein, Mooseberry Inn is a true gem. 

This is not intended as an advertising effort.  I believe strongly in people following their passions.  I would have to say, after meeting and knowing the owners of several of Tok's bed and breakfast establishments, that the efforts put forth in the fruition of a lodging facility are easily the most evident of perseverance in order to materialize a dream.  It is hard and admirable work.  Bed and breakfasts are unique in that the owners of these businesses are not only supplying lodging for guests, but the vast majority are sharing pieces of themselves--their lives, their history, and their interests--with their guests.  Mooseberry Inn is no exception to this, and it is evident through this couple's attention to detail, their motivating factors of achieving dreams and meeting travelers, that they are following their passions and doing so successfully.  Now that is something I can definitely support.


Friday, January 8, 2010


I have discovered the beauty of an RSS feed and I am taking full advantage of it!  I am hoping that, through this method of communicating, I can reach a broader audience that includes those people not already on Facebook (Mom!).  I am sort of obsessed with writing, the way that my daughters are obsessed with changing clothes, or the way that my husband is obsessed with livestock.  As a way of reaching out to people who may not already be familiar with us, here are some random tidbits:

*Soon, I will be entering the last year of my 20's, and am seriously contemplating pink highlights in commemoration of that.

*My husband really is obsessed with livestock.  We already own a collection of chickens, turkeys, and pheasants, and at the end of this month we will be proud owners of three sheep.  In April, we will become very close to achieving "Salinas Ranch" status; that is when we will bring home three baby pigs and two baby Nigerian dwarf goats.  I think the kids plan to name them Billy, Goat, and Gruff.

*I'm not sure what the kids will name the goats, but they have no choice but to name the pigs after food: Ham, Bacon, Barbecue...You can just chalk it up to a lesson in life and death, if you're the philosophical type.

*I have a hard time finishing a book.  I love to read, but I have what I like to call "Reading ADHD".  I've been reading Anna Karenina for three years.

*I am majoring in English, so the above statement seems like a really big issue I should try to overcome.

*If there is one thing I am by nature, it is eclectic.  That's fancy for moody.  It should make for a very entertaining blog, no?

*I have a thing for Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs.  This will become very obvious to you, if you subscribe to my new blog.

*I have a phobia concerning hair in the bathtub. 

*I am not particularly crafty.  I like to say that my craft is writing, and that I don't have time to do things like cook eloquently, or scrapbook, or write calligraphy because writing is so time-intensive.  But the truth is, this is simply an excuse for the fact that I (a)have no talent for any of it and (b)would have more fun cleaning and organizing after the crafing task than I would actually creating said crafty item.

*I secretly also love having livestock, as long as I don't have to clean up after them.