Friday, December 29, 2006

On the Third and Fourth Day of Christmas... true love gave to me, four needle sticks, three game controllers,

two duelling dog lovers, and my health and some sanity.

Four Needle Sticks

It's baaaaack! Gestational diabetes, that is. I thought perhaps I would escape this fate, as it did not rear its ugly head when I was pregnant with Tony, but alas I have not. I miserably failed my screening test and am dutifully turning myself into a pin cushion by testing my blood sugar four times a day.

Really, it isn't that bad. I have done this before (controlled the condition with diet alone) and I can do it again. It's just like giving up sweets for Lent, except a few weeks longer. Is it wrong to consider this a pre-offering for Lent and skip the giving up of sweets when Lent actually begins? Since Lent begins right about the time I am due to deliver, it would be a total of 16 weeks with no sugar, and I am not certain I can do this, especially immediately postpartum when I most crave sugar. That would be superhuman for a sweet-a-holic like me. Maybe I can give up something else this year. Like pregnancy.

Three Game Controllers

We are currently visiting friends who have a Game Cube. We don't have video games (not on principal, just haven't ever gotten around to it), so needless to say my kids are transfixed. This system happens to have four controllers, so many of the kids can play at once. Except Tony carried one off and we haven't yet uncovered it, so for now we have three.

The kids we are visiting got a new game for Christmas rated T for Teen instead of E for Everyone. When they asked if they could play it I replied that I had to watch for awhile to see how appropriate it was for my younger children. The game is some variation of Super Mario Brothers where the characters beat each other up.

I grew up in the 80s playing some Karate Champ game where "real people" tried to best each other with kicks and hand chops. I loved that game, and at first blush this game fondly reminded me of that one (although I would not now let my younger kids play that one since the people are "real"). But as I generally try to keep the kids away from anything at all blatantly violent, I watched carefully to see how this one would play out.

About three minutes into it I was laughing so hard I almost fell off the couch. The characters are not real people, they are Super Mario cartoon characters ranging from Donkey Kong to some fire breathing turtle thing. There is also a princess that kicks high like a can-can dancer in her ball gown. I watched my sweet Lindsey, the fire breathing turtle, attack my monkey older son and take him down completely. For some reason, this was so incongruously funny to me that I could not stop laughing. When another player, the princess, came and kicked the fire breathing turtle off the flying ship with a swoosh of her ball gown, I almost lost it.

I let the kids play.

When my friend came home I learned that she had asked her husband to return this game because of it's violent nature. Oops. Just goes to show how subjective parenting rules can be, even between families that share the same values.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On the Second Day of Christmas... true love gave to me, two dueling dog lovers,

and my health and some sanity.

Yes, you've guessed it, I am going to perform my very own 12 days of Christmas according to what is going on in our family. Today's theme is: DOG!

Until last Christmas, we had a family dog. A 200 pound, stinky, drooly and loveable Mastiff named Pumbaa, to be exact. He died just after Christmas last year of old age and Jay was devastated. We were all sad, but he was really Jay's dog, and so he missed him the most.

In the year since Pumbaa's death there has been some discussion of getting another dog, but I have put it off since having a dog simply adds to the mess and chaos in the house, and I have been enjoying the reprieve. No more fur on the floor, no more shaken drool splotches on the walls means that, especially since we moved into our brand new house in February, I have not been anxious to rectify this dog absence. However, I am slowly losing the battle. The cries are becoming louder and more frequent, and my peace is about to come to an end. It's not a question of if but when and, more relevent to this week, how.

You see, Joey asked Santa for a dog for Christmas. I always advise the children to ask for three things to give Santa some alternatives in case he cannot provide their first choice. Up until now, this has worked like a charm. But this time, my oh-so-clever son decided to stress test the system and ask for a yellow lab, a chocolate lab and a golden retriever for his three things. What is Santa to do? Especially when this is probably the last year of Santa magic for this particular child and this mother knows that she is losing the dog battle anyway? I was ready to give in to my boy who really, really wants a dog to pal around with and play fetch with during his rather lonesome homeschooling breaks while the other children are at school.

But, alas, nothing is ever simple. Jay joins Joey in this overwhelming desire for a dog. But he wants another Mastiff, and for very good reasons. Mastiffs fit our family very well. They are slow moving, not too active, and not destructive. They are patient with children and don't jump up (after a little training, of course). Pumbaa was a fantastic dog that gave us very little trouble and Jay is convinced another Mastiff is best for the family. But there is one big problem: Mastiffs don't play much fetch and for Joey, this is a fatal flaw.

Now, I know that the types of dogs Joey has requested can make excellent family pets, but they are unfamiliar ground to us. Moreoever, they are likely to have a highly active puppy period that I'm not sure we can persevere. An excited jumper, chewer, digger or escape artist is not something I would welcome, and I know from experience that Mastiffs pretty much lay around and snore. So, even with all their disadvantages (drool, odor and size), I am inclined to agree with Jay even as I want to agree with Joey.

As it turns out, it doesn't matter much what I think about this. They two of them have begun to bargain and cajole, doing something that resembles the "Dance of the Duelling Dog Lovers" as I am beginning to mentally refer to it. Joey has some say in the matter since Santa, in a desperate effort to resolve his pickle, brought Joey a dog bowl, collar and leash, along with a letter saying that live animals can't travel in the sleigh, but here is the equipment he will need for the pet that is sure to be forthcoming. So, the battle of the breeds is on.

I suspect the way this is going to resolve itself is by whichever breeder comes up with a puppy first. Whichever dog presents first is sure to be fallen in love with, regardless of breed. So, the breeders have been contacted and the wait for a puppy commences. Which will it be? Who knows?! But just to complicate the situation, we are going to a massive dog show on Saturday so the duelling dog lovers can duke it out in the presence of their favorite breeds.

Should be good, clean family fun, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On The First Day of Christmas... true love gave to me, my health and some sanity.

Today marks the first of the 12 days of Christmas and, yes, I did receive a wonderful gift. After four days of feeling pretty yucky, I am back! I tend to be generally healthy and shamefully take it for granted, but today, as I accomplished several household tasks for the first time in days without feeling as if I were nearing death's door, I remembered that I should never take a minute of good health for granted.

How much easier it is to get that laundry washed and folded when I am feeling energetic and good! How much more balanced I feel when the house is ordered and clean and I am being proactive rather than reactive!

So, for the first day of Christmas there is no greater gift as far as I'm concerned.

(Oh, and thanks so very much, Jay, for keeping it all together while I was down. You are amazing and I appreciate you so much!)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

There Must Be Some Mistake

An error has been made, somehow, somewhere. Because, you see, I am sick. Not the annoying "don't feel so great as I go about my business" sick, but the "haven't been out of bed AT ALL for 36 hours" sick.

And, in case anyone is unaware, Christmas is in 2 days. Mothers, whose families are counting on them for magical Christmas memories and yummy Christmas dinners, are NOT supposed to get sick right now.

I have presents to wrap (and a few left to buy, even!). Groceries to buy. And a scary-messy house to order. I have a choir to sing in. How can this be?

Unless--wait--could this actually BE the plan? Am I supposed to learn something from this? Am I supposed to remember that this holiday isn't about me at all? That it isn't about a perfect roast or a perfect house? That it isn't about me feeling like I pulled it all off and made everyone happy?

Hmm... I'll have to think about that. Later.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

Let me set the scene:

1. Jay has been in South Africa for 9 long days (he will be home this afternoon).
2. I woke up this morning feeling yucky with a sore throat, runny nose and cough.
3. I have five children.
4. One of them is a bonafide toddler now.
5. One of them is 3.
6. I am pregnant. Very pregnant.

Now, no matter what I am going to say next, need I say more about my situation? You can guess how it's going to go.

This morning Sam's Kindergarten did a little nativity show during the school's morning mass. He was a shepherd. There was no way I couldn't be there to see him, as he was so very excited.

I braced myself for mass with my toddler and 3 year old, which is never fun, by praying extra hard for good behavior, having the kids set out all their clothes last night so we wouldn't have a stressful morning, and by making sure everyone was well-fed and well-rested before we went. By all measures, I should have been set up for as successful a mass as can be hoped for when toting children of these ages.

Feeling myself in the role of realist (as opposed to optimist) today, I went straight to the crying room (normally I retreat there in shame and defeat sometime during the homily). There I exchanged smiles with four other kindergarten moms who I don't really know but see at drop off and pick up. They all had their younger children with them. I relaxed, thinking at least Tony could toddle and squeal and Julia could sit on my lap. How bad could it be, here in the crying room with compadres all around?

It turned out to be the most horrible, awful mass experience of my life. Tony did not want to be held or put down, and shrieked through the entire thing. He hit me in the face, pulled my hair, and scratched me. (He is usually a pretty good natured kid, and I can't imagine what was wrong today.) Julia was OK for the first half but then started crying half way through because I wouldn't let her pull on Tony and make him scream. Once she started crying she did not stop, and added her shrieks to the cacophony in the cry room. Trust me when I say that we were a disgrace for even the crying room. We should have left, but because Sam was counting on me, I could not.

What is a pregnant, hormonal, tired, overwhelmed-by-Christmas-preparations-and- feeling-sick mom to do? Yep, you guessed it. I started crying too. Because it helps the situation so much! (NOT!) And once I started I could not stop. I completely humiliated myself in my own church, in a glass room with 300 children, their teachers, and many of their parents looking in at me. I had simply reached my breaking point and it didn't matter who was watching. Let them see the crazy lady with so many children she can't handle them--I was beyond it all.

I was such a mess that I almost skipped communion, but realized that a little humble pie in the presence of Jesus was exactly what I needed, so I kept my head down and raced past the children to the front, hoping no one would notice the state I was in. I was able to do this only because my mom (bless her!), arrived to rescue me and take over the children.

So, you may be wondering, what is the silver lining? It came in the form of the four other kindergarten moms, who all came over and hugged me, told me I was doing great, and wrote their phone numbers down for me. I learned that one had six kids, one had five and another had four. They all knew what I was going through and none of them thought I had too many kids to handle. They understood that I was just having a moment.

I had been wanting to get to know these moms, but was always so busy rustling kids at pick up and drop off that I didn't have time to chat. But through my utter humiliation today, I know that I have made some friends. I'm glad to know it wasn't completely wasted!

Thanks for joining me in my pity party today. I feel much better having shared.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Party Animal

The Sacred Heart Kindergarten had its class Christmas party today.

The kids were 15 minutes late getting out of class, and when they did emerge, they stumbled out in a daze, clutching balloons and goodie bags.

Sam shuffled up to me and said thickly, voice filled with awe, "That was a REAL good party."

Hmm. Should I start worrying about college now or later?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

That Magical Milestone

There is a milestone in every child's life that is not mentioned in "What to Expect" books. There is no line for it in baby journals, and mothers don't compare notes as to when their children acheive it. But it is a critical one nonetheless.

Yes, I am talking about the day a child first pays attention to a television program. For the whole 15 minutes.

This is, as many milestones are, bittersweet. After all, it marks the passing of babyhood. However, for a busy mother, it is also a thing to be celebrated. Because even mothers who seriously limit television for their children can always use another tool in their kits. One that allows them to complete an important phone call. Or get dinner on the table during the "witching hour".

Tony reached this milestone today, while his brothers and sisters were outside jumping on the trampoline. Since this is something he can't participate in yet, he was stuck inside with me without a ready source of entertainment, as I was busy baking Christmas cookies. He had already unloaded the dishwasher, the roundabout cabinet and the plastic cups and bowls. He had banged the mortar and pestle until we were both practically deaf. He was not interested in snacks or his push car. He was simply underfoot, close to a hot oven, so I decided to give the TV a try, just to see if it could distract him long enough for me to finish the cookie batch I was working on. I put on "The Wonder Pets", and darned if it didn't do the trick. He was completely captivated for a full 15 minutes. I simultaneously rejoiced and felt totally guilty, as I rushed through and completed my baking.

Many of you mothers will understand me when I say "yipee" and "uh-oh" at the same time. Now I must resist the urge to turn to television too frequently when I need to get something done. It is no longer his lack of interest that keeps the TV beast tamed, it is my discipline, which is imperfect at best. But at the same time, I am relieved that there is something I can turn to in desperate times that can buy me the few minutes that I need. I cannot send him outside or to play a board game, as I can with my older children when I want them to turn off the television. He has to be in my sight, and sometimes I need him reliably occupied. Today, this is within my power.

So, happy milestone day, Tony. And good luck to this mom!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Happiest Place on Earth at the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, we are back. And I think the photo below says it all.

This is pure happiness for a child. A giant lollipop, mouse ears and the parade down Main Street. What could be better?

No matter how you may feel about the mass marketing machine that is the Disney corporation--and I know this is a complicated subject in and of itself--it is such a joy to give a child these moments of fantasy and bliss. We completely immersed ourselves in the magic of Disneyworld on this trip and have no regrets.

Jay was very busy 180 days prior to our trip. He learned on our last trip that all the best activities and meal opportunities book up 6 months to the day, sometimes to the hour, ahead of time, as this is when reservations open. Although I am somewhat embarassed to admit the extent to which we joined in this craziness, I am also proud of Jay for learning and working the system so our kids had a truly magical experience. We had to eat anyway, so why not at the hard-to-reserve character breakfasts?! At least this is how I am justifying all this.

Because of his diligence, the boys went on a Pirate Cruise and searched for treasure in the lagoon outside of the Magic Kingdom, while the girls had tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter.

And just so you know that I showed some restraint, our girls did NOT visit the Bippety Bobbedy Salon for princess hairdos before the tea, as did many of the other participants. We just went au natural, considering just being there to be enough. And you know what? It was!

The whole family enjoyed dining at Chef Mickey, as evidenced below. Our kids waved their autograph books (yes, we even did THAT) and the characters came right to the table to sign them. This was really a gift for mom and dad who did not have to stand in line to meet the characters in the park.

The real show stopper was breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Castle. Did you know there is a small restaurant upstairs in the the Fantasyland Castle? I never did, but it's there! Jay got up at 3am West Coast time one day to secure this reservation, as it fills up within minutes of opening. At the time I thought he was nuts, but we had so much fun. The castle is beautiful inside, the breakfast was wonderful and well-served, and we got into the park before it opened, a benefit we reaped even after breakfast was over. Everyone was so nice, especially to Julia who was a little shy of seeing her favorite princesses in the flesh. Jasmine took the time to sit down with her when Julia was too shy to get up to greet her.

Throughout the trip, our encounters with Disney "cast members" was nothing short of exceptional. They all went above and beyond to make sure our kids had a wonderful experience. When we entered the Pirates of the Carribean, our boys were still clutching the swords they received at Cinderella's Breakfast (they were young knights, of course!) and the man telling us what boat to get into whipped out his own sword and engaged them in a sword fight right there. A completely unexpected joy for young boys, I assure you.

The stunt men in the Indiana Jones show and the Car Stunt Driving Show at the Disney/MGM park both stayed after and chatted with the kids, giving them a really good time.

Jay and I especially enjoyed our dinners at Epcot, the only place on earth I know of where you can have an authentic, ethnic meal in a good restaurant with kids in tow! My favorite was Japan, where they cook on the table in front of you, and Jay's was France, as we rarely get French food (for five obvious reasons!).

Yes, it was a magical, fantastic, indulgent week for us all. How lucky we are to have this silver lining to Jay's travel. It is fitting that we use all the points he earns while away from us to bond us all back together again.

And just in the nick of time--Jay left this morning for South Africa for 8 long days. It is the farthest and longest he has been gone from us. But, we thank God for his job and for the recent vacation memories we have to sustain us. And I'll just think of all those airline miles and hotel points reaccumulating for our next magical vacation.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Vacation Time

We are off! This morning (after 6:45 mass with the kids which, in anyone's estimation, should be a real hoot), we are boarding a plane for Florida.

You guessed it, the Di Silvestris are doing Disney World and we are so very excited!

One benefit of Jay's travel is the accumulation of hotel and airline points and about every 2 or 3 years we cash them in and take a mostly gratis trip to see Mickey and friends, and always this same week in December when the parks are unrecognizably quiet.

Tony is staying behind in the care of grandmas and grandpa. It broke my heart to say goodbye to him last night, but when I checked on him a few hours later he was singing in the background, so he hardly seems traumatized. As I DID NOT pack diapers, a stroller and a car seat for the trip I was reminded that it really is best for everyone involved. After all, he really is too young to appreciate the Indiana Jones action show or Bugs Life in 3-D. These things would just scare him and Jay or I would be waiting outside with him much of the time.

I may blog during the trip, as Jay has his ever-present laptop, but I may not. But either way, look for pictures when we return. Have a good week everyone!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Goodbye Mullet

It's official. Tony is a big boy, as evidenced by the disappearance of his baby mullet. Here he is, in all his freshly coiffed glory.

Incidentally, this photo was taken at the hair salon just before Tony rearranged their nice row of chairs by pushing them systematically across the room (while I was busy instructing Joey's stylist), careening into hair care product displays on the way by.

Yes siree, they were happy to see us leave today. It is not the first time I have had that reaction. Probably not the last, either.

But, hey, at least the boys have fresh haircuts for our Christmas picture...and that is what I was aiming for.