Monthly Archives: May 2010

Complimentary Drool

I was up plenty early this morning–I had lesson materials for the 22 girls in my class to finish organizing, and two of my own teenagers speaking today and I knew that the printer was jammed. What I didn't know, was that the seven year old was vomiting and the third teenager woke up with his eyes swollen shut (yes, you can get pink-eye even if you shun all contagious critters who are shorter than your knee caps) and, and, and. you know how it goes.
We barely squeaked in as the meeting started. 
Found myself sitting at the back of the chapel. Next to a 16 month old baby on his mother's lap. I've seen him before–from across the chapel–but never before had the pleasure of soaking up his drool with my skirt, if you know what I mean. 
So I'm sitting there with my eyes closed, listening to the prayer–okay, I was kind of also distracted by the fact that my eight year old beside me looked like a freak (note to self: making him shower the night before is actually counterproductive–nothing can cure went-to-sleep-with-wet-hair-bedhead on this kid short of another shower). Not to mention that after drying my hair and glancing at the clock in horror I hadn't taken one last look in the mirror myself and so I wasn't honestly sure that I looked like any less of a freak. 
But I'm sitting there, trying to focus on the prayer, and I feel the drooling toddler next to me take a handful of my hair. I brace myself for the inevitable yank, but it doesn't come. Soon, I realize that he's running his hands through my hair, and then he starts whispering. "Pretty!" he says. "Pretty! PRETTY!!"
Louder and louder, until he gets his mother's attention and she confirms for him, that yes, it's pretty, now leave it alone. 
I know, I know, he's only 16 months old and he thinks  everything with four legs is a puppy, but I'll take what I can get.
And my daughter's talk? Awesome. Without any input from me. 
There's not much better than seeing your children capable and confident and articulate. Wow. Where did that come from? 

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Tennis Balls and Cheerios

Neighborhood only post:
In four years of running a childcare center, I've never taken a sick day. Never needed to. I'm tough, right? Besides, I don't really get sick–no matter what viruses roll through here. I'm either really, really hygienic, or really, really blessed.
Not today. 
Sick. Sick, sick sick.

After laying there wishing I had the strength to moan, I rolled off the bed at five and made it to the bathroom feeling like I was going to turn inside out, tonsils first. Not surprisingly, nothing came up, as the Octopus in my head doesn't let me actually put much in my stomach anymore. (Great diet plan, btw. 10 pounds, so far.)
At five thirty, the phone rang. 
Grabbed it and muttered something into the receiver. 
Daycare parent–called into work early, she'll be here in five minutes, okay?
I want to explain that for her to come in, I'd not only have to make it down an entire flight of stairs, through a doorway, and cross approximately twenty-nine feet of tile, I'd have to then stand up and make sense of the locking mechanism on my door. 
This woman–I love her dearly–but she's old. She takes care of her drug-baby, now preteen grandchildren. She can't hear very well, and doesn't understand most of what I say. I figure the kids can pretty much fend for themselves, and then the bus will come. Saying yes will be easier than explaining.
I mutter one word. "Okay." And I make it to the door before she does. Her granddaughter eats her breakfast and then asks if she can go back to sleep on a nap mat. Please. 
I slump in a chair, watching her settle down, realizing I need to call the other parents. Beg them to keep their children home. 
Make it upstairs. (Highly illegal, I know: I am to remain on the same level of the building at all times with children. Fire me.) Crawl over to the bed and prop myself up somewhere near the Mr's head. 
He opens one eye. "Huh."
I explain the situation. Go through the list of families I think can probably easily find backup care on short notice. the ones who will panic. Fortunately six children won't be here anyway, what with the holiday weekend. He thinks he can handle the dire cases. 
I call the first parents. The ones with three children, one of whom is 15 months old, 35 pounds and fights me like a demon every time I change his diaper–which is really, really often; you don't get that big by not eating a lot. And his parents are health food freaks. Translation: lots of fiber, lots of fragrant diapers. Like ten per diem.
I can't handle him today. She's cool, especially when I tell her we will still take her oldest daughter to school, so whoever she cons into sitting won't have to wrestle the little ones into the car.
I examine my mental list of single mothers without family nearby. No easy back up childcare, and no paid sick days. I know it will hurt if they have to take a day off. Oh, and I happen to know, that whatever I have, if it isn't just some side-effect of the octopus, I got from them last week. I've been cleaning up vomit and diarrhea for days. 
One toddler that's so angelic that I should probably pay them to bring her here. And she's only here for four hours.
One eight month old who never, ever cries. Just crawls around, sucks her fist, and giggles. 
One family of two: a fairly easy-going three year old, and her demonic brother. Age six. But he leaves for kindergarten at 11:30, and the Mr. can handle him until then. 
One family of three: Two school aged kids that leave at 8:00, and one two year old that puts the demonic activities of the six year old to shame. This kid is two years old in every sense of the word. I really, really want to cancel on them. But I can't do it. I can't make the call. 
So I get dressed, wake up my kids, and hang my head over a trash can while I wait for them to gather for morning prayer. 
And then I wait for the onslaught. 
The family of three shows up at 6:30, closely followed by the family of two. The sleeping girl wakes up. 
Mr. has disappeared, so I have the older kids feed the younger kids breakfast. Get out the bowls, spoons, cereal, milk, bananas. Wipe up the spills. 
It's awesome. With responsibility comes incredible behavior. And the toddlers are so bemused at having their older siblings do my job that they are seriously docile. I make a mental note to hunch under a blanket on my rocking chair every morning. 
At 7:30 the Mr. returns. "Did you know our kids are all asleep?"
"Yeah, you have to wake them up again sometimes."
He gets everyone out the door. My six out the home door, and the three others out the daycare door, fifteen minutes later. 
Three kids left, two on the way. Not counting the two, who, I realize, with horror are coming at 1:30–right in the middle of nap time. I usually meet them outside and let them play so they don't wake everyone up. It's raining. But… by then my daughter will be home from high school and can help out. 
At 8:30 the other two will show up. I want to die. I want a drink, but I'm certain that water will not make it past my tonsils without coming back up. 
I remember seeing a packet of some nasty-tasting apple cider mix on the back of my cupboard that I meant to throw away weeks ago. I have no idea where it came from. I stagger over to the microwave and mix it up. Drink it slowly while the Mr. lets himself be human jungle-gym.
Surprisingly, the cider helps. I my mind clears and my stomach settles. I hate cider, but I might have to get some more of this, for emergencies. Like not being able to say no, ever.
The next two arrive. The mother of the 1:30 kids calls and says she isn't coming today. Thank you, God!

By 9:30 I'm up and walking around. I have a splitting headache, but I can lift my own feet. I eat some toast. The kids have not tired of torturing a man ten times their collective size. We make it to 11:30, and then 12:30. Two leave, one kindergartener arrives, all four fall asleep. The demon toddler face-first in her plate. 
I read an entire novel while they sleep and while the parents pick up. I sweep nothing. Clean nothing. Let the socks gather dust under the toy shelves. When my kids arrive home, I offer to take them to the store and give them $30 to buy dinner if I can sit in the van and they go in to buy it. They look at me like I'm nuts and refuse. So I turn around and go back to bed with a second novel.  
Let them eat Cheerios.
At 7:30, the second book is done, and the rain has stopped. I can think–if not see–clearly enough to blog maybe. Write this post. Accidentally erase it. Write it again, out of sheer madness.
9:30. Ranting: done. Dishes? Not so much. Caring? Not even a little bit.
I suppose I should harass my children to brush their teeth and go to bed…
If only because should my seven-year-old ask me the same ridiculous questions, or accidentally bounce his tennis ball off my monitor even one more time, I might summon up enough energy to smack him. 
It's definitely bedtime…

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I've decided that the octopus (which I thought I parted ways with last night, but didn't) is something like a fetus:

He's happy, calm, sound asleep–as long as I'm on my feet, moving–and right before it's time to get up in the morning.
But sit down? Within minutes it wakes up. Starts thrashing.
I used to think I had a button on my rear end that sent out a screaming signal to my children every time it came into contact with a chair: She's sitting down! She's sitting down! Report to battle stations!

I think the octopus can hear it too.
I'm beginning to suspect that it's some kind of cosmic get-off-your-duff-and-get-busy system gone haywire. A blessing in an excruciating disguise; there is no possible way I could ever get fat and lazy at this rate. Not to mention that I will never, ever, ever, roll my eyes again when one of my children tells me their tooth hurts. Or have any other unexplainable pain, for that matter.
And not only that–I came across this blog today, and felt more than a little ashamed of my whining. Stephanie Nielson's story is heartbreaking and beautiful. I admire her strength; her embracing of life; her sense of purpose…and I'm so glad it's not me.
Makes me almost fond of the pathetic little cephalopod in my cranium… 

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True Wealth, At the Center of the Rainbow

Mom! MOM! There's a rainbow! Two rainbows! Going over our house!
My son's pictures:
And the double rainbow went up, over and down on the other side:

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The Octopus in My Nose

Previously, on Why You Shouldn't Trust An X-Ray: 
[Woman in Dentist Chair, looking puzzled. Dentist, looking smug and condescending in his white coat.]
Woman: Are you sure the x-ray doesn't show anything? All my teeth on that side are really sensitive–I haven't been able to chew on that side for ten years. Can't drink anything that's not body temperature. 
Dentist: Nope. Everything looks good–unfortunately, some people just have really sensitive teeth.
Two weeks ago

[Woman in walk-in-clinic. She has been in the waiting room for two hours and is finally called back to a room.]
Doctor: What seems to be the problem?
Woman: I haven't been able to sleep for days. It almost feels like a sinus infection–without the stuffiness. I haven't had a cold, no runny nose, nothing. But this entire side of my head feels like…okay, take an octopus, give it wire bristles in place of tentacles. Now wedge the octopus somewhere below and behind my right eye–have one tentacle come out above my eye, one out my ear, one out my right nostril, one along my upper jaw and one on the lower, and one down my throat. Now set all the wire-bristled tentacles spinning at a high velocity. That's what it feels like.
Doctor: Sinus infection. They can be pretty painful.
Woman: But I've had a sinus infection before, and this doesn't feel like that. 
Doctor puts her on antibiotics and sends her on her way.
Four days later:

Woman, in desperation one night, takes one of her 8 year old's Tylenol with Codeine tablets because Advil seems to have no effect, whatsoever–and 

ends up in ER with massive adverse reaction to Codeine on Mother's day at five a.m.

Friday after work:

[Woman returns to clinic. Different Doctor]
Woman: I've been on antibiotics for almost two weeks. I can't sleep. I can't stand anyone's voice or the sound of the telephone. I think that the octopus likes antibiotics. 
Doctor orders x-rays. 
Doctor: Huh. The good news is, your sinuses are totally clear. The bad news is, I think you have trigeminal nueralgia. Here, go to, and look it up. Take three Advil and two maximum strength Tylenol every four hours until you can get in touch with your regular doctor.
Woman goes home. 
Octopus ADORES Advil and Tylenol.
Woman calls dentist friend: Have you ever heard of trigeminal nueralgia?
Friend: Yeah, but it's pretty rare
Woman: I looked it up, and that doesn't seem to really match what I've got. I'm going insane. Here's what's going on–does it sound like a tooth to you?
Friend: No–the antibiotics should have taken care of any abscess. 
But Friend, being a true friend, offers to open up his clinic on a Saturday and do x-rays, just to be sure. 
Woman makes it through one more night without sleeping. (Or smashing anything.)
X-rays come out normal. But Friend is curious. He does some hot/cold tests and determines that one tooth is dead. The tooth–the one the woman has begged dentists to pull for fifteen years. Does more x-rays. It still looks perfectly normal. He injects the tooth with anesthetic. 
Octopus? Gone. 
Friend gives her another prescription for antibiotics, plus Vicodin.
When the anesthetic wears off, an hour or so later, the Woman takes a Vicodin. Makes woman itchy and her vision kinda funky. Doesn't do anything to the Octopus. Nothing does.
Sunday night:

Woman reads the label. Takes two Vicodin. Because the other option is setting off a nuclear bomb to wipe out everyone she has ever spoken with about this tooth, and she doesn't have any bombs–just an ineffective bottle of Advil, and the Vicodin.
Woman gets violently ill. Crouches over the toilet, desperately rubbing the back of her throat with her finger, hoping that the Vicodin might come back up. Unfortunately, this woman doesn't vomit easily. Never has. She crawls back toward the bedroom, icy-cold sweat pouring down her cheeks and backbone, pooling behind her knees. If she could get enough strength together she would heave a paperweight across the room at her husband's head so he'd wake up and do something. Anything. Maybe borrow the neighbor's shotgun. Two more nights to go.

Friend performs a root canal. 

Die octopus, die! 

Woman sleeps all night, with just three Advil. Wakes up, tentatively hopeful that the remaining ache is going to ebb away, permanently.

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Speaking She-Lion

I'm not a screamer. Never have been. In fact I plead guilty to…well…kind of despising women who find it necessary to constantly scream at their children. 
That said, I literally roared at a two year old this week. 
Two words: "CORTNI! NOW!"
It was effective. The child immediately veered off her intended course, dove for her nap mat, and burying her face in her pillow, went to sleep. Literally did not move a muscle for three hours and a half hours. When her mother arrived and told her it was time to wake up, she kept her eyes clenched shut and muttered, "No!" She slept all the way home.
The child has taken to running around the room, laughing and shrieking hysterically at the top of her lungs whenever I say it's time to lay down. No matter how many times I ask her to lay down, or lay her down, or look deeply into her eyes and tell her very sternly, "Enough! You can't jump over the other kids–you're hurting them." etc. 
The roaring tactic worked instantly. But it felt wrong, you know? 
I've been thinking a lot about discipline lately. What works, what doesn't. 
Most effective, short term, is to remove the problem: I don't want you to play with knives, so I store them out of reach; I don't want you to play in the street, so I build a fence. 
Especially at a State-licensed facility. There are literally hundreds of regulations to keep little critters safe and out of trouble. And it works–I don't have to worry about electrocution, accidental poisoning, burns, etc. I have wondered why I didn't do all of these things when my  children were small. It's so much easier than following them around saying, "Uh-oh, watch out! Hot! Owie! Go down the stairs on your belly, sister."
So much easier. Short term. 
But I am noticing, for the first time, the backlash of "no-proofing" my house. Because essentially, instead of teaching the child to make good choices, we are just taking away the element of choice, period. 
Instead of teaching a child correct principles and then letting them govern themselves and experience consequences in a reasonably safe environment, we are creating a false reality for them, where nobody ever gets hurt, nothing is ever irreparably damaged, and nobody gets angry.
You end up with schools full of children who have no ability to discern boundaries for themselves–because for the first five or six years, the authorities have laid it all out and let them bounce around in their padded little world. The child's thinking runs along these lines: "If it is possible, it must be okay–'they' wouldn't let the possibility for me to do this exist if real danger/wrongdoing might result."
Would my own two-year-old have run around the room shrieking, when I wanted them to lay down? Hmmm. I don't know. I never made them take naps. Did they go to bed when I told them to? Not every time. I remember feeling plenty of, "How many times do I have to tell this kid to…?" But the thing is–I never got to the point of exasperation where She-Lion was the only language they understood. They pushed the limits of their existence and real boundaries pushed back, and somehow we came to a degree of understanding where I could say, hey, it's bedtime, and they'd go. Or, this batch of cookies is for the neighbors, and they'd leave it alone–whether or not I was there, to govern them. For the most part.
I don't see that ability developing in many of the children I watch. Yeah, it's hard to judge the preschool crowd–I'm talking about the older children in my care–the ones who should be at the stage where you frown about their language and they blush furiously and never, ever, ever speak like that again in your presence, at least. They shouldn't have to be reminded, every ten seconds, not to run through the kitchen playing tag. Every day.
Ten and eleven year old boys should be able to retain a concept like that. But they can't. Because it's possible–and because there are no real consequences for doing it, except that mean old lady gets grumpy and her mouth moves and some kind of sound comes out when I run past. 

Did you see the headlines about the teacher in Houston who beat up the thirteen year old boy?
It was a Special Education teacher, taking discipline into her own hands–apparently the boy had beaten up one of her special ed students earlier. So she reciprocated. 
Psycho, yes. But I wonder if the woman had talked to the boy's parents and the principal and asked the kid a thousand times to leave her student alone, to be kind/respectful/not abusive, and the kid just kept harassing. 
I don't know–but I know kids that would do that.
Was her method more effective for dealing with the bully? 
Probably not–he'll probably get so much sympathetic press that he'll just grow smug. 
I don't know. I wish I did. 
I wish there was an easy answer. 
I don't think it involves removing choice or beating the tar out of them, either. Or even yelling ourselves hoarse. 
Because guess what? The next day, that two year old? She was back to running around shrieking. 
After she nearly trompled an infant, I buckled her into her highchair until she fell asleep. Also effective–took less than two minutes, and it didn't hurt my voice, or horrify the children. 
But is that really where this child's life is headed? Artificial restraints because her inner ones are faulty?
I know, I know: she's only two. 
It just has me thinking…

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What Two Hours Look Like

Six children.
Five hundred and twelve square feet of tile.
Four coloring books. 
Two hours.
One snack:
Two hours. Where does that much dirt come from? They didn't even go outside…

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Phone Bandit

I started carrying a cell phone so that parents could text me important, but not urgent, messages and I could answer them (with one hand, no less) at my convenience. 
Not to mention keeping track of my teenager at the mall.
I generally keep it set on vibrate–this prevents the waking of sleeping children, and also the inevitable evil eye I get whenever someone calls or a text message comes in–whether or not I answer it. Yes, the evil eye-roll, at the very least, just for being the recipient of a call or text. You know what I'm talking about.
So. The other day, I lost my phone. 
Not too critical, as all unanswered calls are routed to my home phone, but maddening. Because I just had it, in my pocket. And I hadn't gone anywhere. 
Retraced my steps, home phone in hand, dialing and redialing cell phone, listening for any tell-tale vibrations. Retraced and retraced. Even looked under the mattresses of the boy's bunk beds, which I had changed, and searched the depths of the laundry basket.
Two days later. Nap time. 
Home phone rings. I'd forgotten to turn off the ringer, so I snatched it up and looked at the caller ID. 
My cell phone number!
The caller didn't say a word, but I could tell she was there. 
Hello? Hello?
I know it's in my house, right?
So I go looking. 
And I find the 18 month old culprit–dialing numbers from her crib. Grinning ear to ear. 
Not really sure how much that international call to my sister is going to cost me; I don't even call her from my cell phone–just store her number there. Unfortunately. 
But I have my phone back. 
For now.

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Spanish Vox?

Got my scores today for the WEST B exams I took three weeks ago. 
Irony at its finest: The math portion? The one part of the three that I was most worried about? I got one question wrong.
Before you wax effusive in your praise–the WEST B is not a terribly difficult exam. It basically ensures that we don't hire complete idiots to teach our children is all. 
Anyway, the reading portion? The one I thought would be easiest? Lowest score–291/300. Not bad, but still. Reading! Me! I am obsessed to a fault with reading! 
I start classes for my Masters in the Fall. Working on learning Spanish, until then. Since 36% of our students speak it at home, I figure that will give me an advantage, no? 
I'm thinking I should start a Spanish blog too, and join a Spanish neighborhood, so my neighbors can alternately mock and hopefully correct my grammar. Are there Spanish vox-hoods?

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Three down, Four to Go…Wait, just kidding!

This morning at six: seven kittens.
This morning at seven: four kittens. 
Three little kittens, nowhere to be found. All day. 
First thing my middle schoolers asked, when they came home: If I'd seen the three grey kittens. 
Apparently three little kittens decided to follow them to the bus stop. My twelve year old tried to shoo them off, and wanted to bring them back, but knowing how very little fondness I have for having eight cats on my hands, and also for driving him, should he miss the bus, he continued on his way. 
Good choice, I tell him. It's kind of sad to think of the kittens becoming dinner for the neighbor's dog, or the eagles that  haunt the trees behind us, but such is life. Secretly I can't help but thinking, three down, four to go.

I know. It's terrible. They really are so sweet. For now.
Not that I had to feel guilty long; a few hours later, my boys came home from a little jaunt through the sagebrush in the empty lots next to us. 
Carrying three little kittens. 
Live kittens, mind you.
They came running when they heard the boys' voices. Lost, apparently. I don't know what they did all day, because if they had been crying, the dogs/mink/raptors around here would have found them in an instant. They were ravenous. 
Seven pm: Seven little kittens. 

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