Hello, My Name Is:

Heaven help us if my children are ever lost (an unlikely event given that the boys are always in their stroller, and Maddux is required to have one hand on said stroller at all times — but we mommies do worry!).

I do my best to teach them their vital info and the numbers “9-1-1,” but it’s definitely a work in progress.

Maddux still identifies the number 9 as a seven. When I ask her what number she should dial if there is a fire, she usually says — with an air of absolute authority — “one-three-six” or some other random series of numbers. But at least she knows all of our names and where she lives.

Today, since James is finally talking fairly competently, I decided to quiz him on his personal info.

Me: “What’s your name?”

James: “GROCCOLI!” (big smile on his face, no broccoli anywhere to be seen)

Me: “OK, Broccoli, what’s your mommy’s name?”

James: “BACON!” (Wait, what? We’re pronouncing that correctly now? Or only when we’re telling the police we were raised by a slab of cured meat?)

Me: “What’s your last name, little guy?”

James: “MADDUX!” (laughing uproariously, because being a lost little boy is super fun)

Me: “Where do you live?”

James: “Poppa’s truck! AAAHAHAHAHAAA!”

Me: “OK, let’s try this again. Your name is James.”

James: “GROCCOLI!”

Me: “What is your last name?”

James: “I go downstairs, play diggers and trucks?”

Me: “Not right now. Your last name is Phillips. You live in (name of our town).”

James: “Phillips! I play trains!”

Me: “Yes, your name is James Phillips. Where do you live?”

James: “Nana’s house! In da bathroom!”

Me: “You had better hope you never get lost and picked up by the police, kiddo.”

Meanwhile, his sister has no trouble telling people her parents’ first names. From time to time, if the rude “Mommy-mommy-mommy” chorus isn’t doing the trick when she’s trying to interrupt adult conversation, Maddux will make herself known by uttering a very polite (but also very forbidden) “Heather.” And I’m not entirely sure that her preschool teacher is convinced Chris is her actual father, because Maddux introduced us as “Mommy and Chris.” So now her teacher calls us “Mommy and Chris,” too, even though I thought I was fairly clear about the fact that Chris is, indeed, my daughter’s dad and not a random boyfriend.

As annoying as it is that our sweet-faced preschooler occasionally abuses our names, I like to think she’ll remember this information if she ever finds herself lost at the mall. Let’s hope if Groccoli ever gets lost, he will have our handy Walking Encyclopedia of Grown-Ups’ Real Names along with him for easy reference. Otherwise, we’ll see this on the news:

Boy named Broccoli claims he’s been living in his
grandfather’s truck and his grandmother’s bathroom
and working illegally as a digger operator.

Thank You, Helpful Advice Lady

If you’ve had kids and don’t live under a rock, you’ve met her. She’s the mom with the helpful advice. “Helpful” in that it helps you into the psychiatrist’s office or the liquor cabinet.

You will first meet her when you are pregnant and beginning to show.

“Oh, you look like you’re about to pop any day,” she will tell you, when you are, in fact, three and a half months pregnant and still in the throes of morning sickness.

“Get your sleep while you can — you’ll need it,” she’ll say smugly. Perhaps she got super-awesome sleep when she was pregnant, but most of us find it difficult to sleep with a beach ball full of fighting raccoons strapped to our bellies.

Then there’s the doozy she’ll come up with once the baby is finally out.

“It doesn’t get any easier.”

What? WHAT? Are you kidding me? I would take a toddler who sleeps through the night ANY DAY OF THE WEEK before I’d take a brand-new baby (even though I will happily hold your newborn all day long. Give it here!). And I think answering the infinite questions of my preschooler, sassy and obstreperous though she may be, beats cleaning toddler diarrhea off the train table, hands-down. (I did that today. Thanks for that, Thomas.) And you know what? I’m willing to bet that helpful mom probably wouldn’t trade her self-sufficient 10-year-old for my preschooler and all the bottom-wiping, toy destruction and surreptitious baby torturing that goes along with a 4-year-old.

In fact, short of teen-age girls, whose parents I imagine experience the constant dread of their getting pregnant and Mom’s having to Do It All Over Again While Incredibly Old, I’m pretty sure it does get easier. Sure, there are different problems as kids get older — criminal mischief, uncomfortable questions, the constant “You’re ruining my life” accusations — but with every year that passes, it’s less labor-intensive. I can’t imagine that parents of non-disabled teen-agers drop into bed at the end of every day saying “Wow, I don’t think I could have taken another hour of that day.”

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps, as Future Me is frantically chasing my car-stealing teen-age boys down the street while holding my daughter’s baby under an arm, Helpful Advice Mom will pop out from around some corner with a smug expression on her face and do the “Told Ya So” dance.

But for my sanity’s sake, I am going to assume she’s wrong about kids never getting easier, just as she was wrong about getting your sleep in while you’re pregnant. (For the record, those two comfortable hours of post-baby sleep before you are awakened by frantic squalling beat 12 hours of sleeping with an abdomen full of writhing anacondas. Every time. As blog is my witness, I will never get pregnant again!)

Fight Club

When I had boys, I was prepared for a little roughhousing. After all, even my little princess has been known to jump on couches and assault playmates with very little cause. (What am I saying? Especially my little princess!) But, despite my interests in both gender studies and neuropsychology, and despite the fact that my own siblings and I engaged in spirited sparring matches every time my parents left us unattended, I was not prepared for Fight Club.

With Maddux, the aggression always has a reason. Yes, that reason might be “You have that toy and I want it,” but at least she’s not getting in fights for the sake of, well, getting in fights. But the boys. Oh, the boys! Where does one even begin?

As soon as Thomas was old enough to grab, he began pulling James’ hair and poking his face. We’d be shopping — Thomas in the seat, James in the basket of the shopping cart. The second I turned to peruse a grocery-store shelf, Thomas’ hand would dart out and grab a tuft of hair. James would launch a hair-grabbing attack of his own. As I retrieved my merchandise, back still turned, the boys would be locked in a most vicious hair-pulling contest — IN COMPLETE SILENCE. The second they sensed me turning to look, however, their hands dropped to their sides and they’d pretend they weren’t just trying to scalp one another. Because by now, every guy knows the first rule of Fight Club is “Do not talk about Fight Club.”

Now that Thomas is crawling and climbing, the time-out corner has become our new mixed martial arts arena. When James goes to sit in time-out (often voluntarily, for no reason at all, because he’s a weird kid like that), Thomas will initiate an impromptu match by climbing on top of James and whacking at him with both arms.

Like UFC, there are no rules. Knee to the groin? Why not! Eye-poking? Totally legal. Head-butting? Awesome! Hitting someone with a magnetic train or other prop? Pretty much required. Naturally, baby-riding — along with James-riding — features prominently in their matches. Today, the boys tried to squash each other with a folding Diego chair until they both wound up caught in the legs, squealing to be freed. Yesterday, there was a toe-biting incident.

But heaven forbid that the referee should try to intervene. Both of the boys will cry piteously until they are told they are no longer in time out (they usually weren’t to begin with), upon which the pugilists resume their rowdy, giggling death match.

Now, I know some people think it’s only nat’ral fer boys to ‘rassle. But those people also make mystery liquor in their carburetors and use loaded shotguns as decor. So James gets time-outs for fighting. Which is not good, because the time-out corner is the boys’ Fight Club venue.

Me: “You’re in time out for fighting!”
James: “WAAAAAAHHH! I be-wanna be-fiiiiighhht!”
Thomas: “GOO GOO GAAAAAAAA!” (Translation: “Awesome. Fight’s ON!”)

So today I tried using two separate time-out spots, even though you are not supposed to give babies time-outs. Unfortunately, it just resulted in Thomas leaving his spot in a flash, building up momentum and gleefully head-butting a delighted James before I could scoop him up.

So now the hunt is on for a new auxiliary time-out spot. Or maybe two nice little glassed-in timeout spots like the ones I show the kids when we’re watching hockey games. On the other hand, having their very own penalty boxes might be incentive to fight, and we all know they don’t need that.

So for now, Fight Club has three rules. Do not talk about Fight Club. Do NOT talk about Fight Club. And whoever wears Mom out first is the winner.

One Flu Over the Poo-Poo Nest

Before I begin today’s blog, let me just say that this post is not for the faint of heart. (That means you, Chris. Stop reading! I’m serious.) Really, the only people who are going to be able to read this post are those who have become inured to the steady flow of fluids (and solids, and mysterious viscous admixtures of fluids and solids) that goes along with having kids.

Anyway. Where were we before you involuntarily gagged? Oh yes. Poop and barf!

If you have kids, you know how often they get sick. If you have more than one kid, you know that the frequency of the entire family coming down with some wretched illness or another is directly proportional to the number of small children in your house. Three times the kids = three times the illness. And the younger the kids are, the more disgusting the illness — because no matter how much hand-washing, sanitizer and Lysol you employ, there is a certain amount of fecal-oral contamination endemic to an environment containing children between the ages of 4 months and 4 years. (You know, from the time they’re able to find their butt with their hands to the time when they are actually capable of washing said hands for more than two seconds without then running off giggling and sticking their dripping hands INTO THE DIAPER PAIL, JAMES. UGH!)

We have had various forms of combined flu three times in the past six months. So on Wednesday, when I removed Thomas from his high-chair post-breakfast, only to have him grunt out a diaperful of pea soup whilst covering my hair and shirt in a slick of oatmeal vomit, I was not as surprised as the uninitiated might think.

Of course, when you have to choose whom you clean first, and which end, proper decontamination is difficult enough azithromycin 500mg. That’s before you factor in the fact that 1-year-old boys love to grab their crotch areas during diaper changes. It’s as if their hands and behinds are charged with powerful magnets. Once I had wiped all the vomit off, here’s how the diaper change went:

Wipe horrible poopy legs and outside of diaper
Move baby’s hands
Wipe slightly poopy baby hands

Open diaper
Move baby’s hands
Wipe filthy poopy horrible baby hands

Pin naughty baby hands down with one hand
Give incredibly slimy bum a futile swipe
Move baby’s hands (HOW did they get out of my iron grip???)
Wipe filthier, poopier, even more horrible baby hands

Pin naughty baby hands again
Another futile swipe at the Bog of Unbearable Stench with a fresh wipe
Wipe baby’s hands for the gazillionth time
Snarl at baby to stop grabbing his filthy behind

Wipe as much poop as possible while baby continues reaching for favorite playthings
Cry to self
Cover baby’s mostly-clean bottom with diaper while I’m still ahead

Drench baby in hand sanitizer
Wash self in hot, soapy water
Cover self in hand sanitizer
Cry more tears upon seeing the baby has pooped again
Repeat above scenario endlessly
Find self sick with same thing baby has two days later, to no great surprise

And Chris (who is terrified of regular poop diapers, let alone the diarrhea that literally came splooshing out of THE FRONT of the baby’s diaper DURING DINNER last night — ARGHH!) wonders how I always get sick!

Poor Lil’ Pumpkin

Ever since she was a wee thing, Maddi has enjoyed picking a pumpkin (or two, or three) every October and loving that gourd with all her little heart until that day, months later, when we discover a dessicated husk floating in mysterious black ooze on the time-out shelf.

James didn’t really get the whole pumpkin thing until this year. Actually, he still doesn’t get it.

Tonight, as I was refilling juice cups, I heard a cry of “James, that’s only for dec-ration!”

Apparently, since we had pumpkin pie last week, James figured that these pumpkin things were for eating. And properly prepared food is for suckers. Thus went James’ initiation into the pumpkin club:

Depressing Dressing

Every time the seasons change, dread fills the pit of my stomach. You see, as dear and sweet as James is and as much as I love my little guy, he is an absolute horror to dress.

Last fall, when I began buying long-sleeved shirts for James, he fiddled with the sleeves — vainly attempting to rend the fabric from his arms — and, after some angry flailing and breathless screeching, collapsed the floor in an epic tantrum. (Can I use the word “epic” if it happens every second day? Sure I can, because now that all the semi-literate teen-age masses have discovered “epic,” it’s super cool to use and abuse the word.)

Anyway. Eventually, after about three days of half-hour tantrums, James accepted the fact that he was going to wear long sleeves. (His agreeable attitude, however, did not extend to jackets, sweaters or windbreakers of any kind; he wore his only on the few days when it dipped beneath -20 — yes, you read that correctly, I said MINUS 20 — and only after much wrestling and snot and tear production. I was hoping that would change this year. Thus far, my hopes have been dashed.)

Then came spring. Do you think James was happy to go back to shorts and short-sleeved shirts?

The first day I dressed him in short sleeves, he bugged his eyes out, began the all-too-familiar shrieking, and pulled his arms up into his shirt like chicken wings. Then he pushed them back out and began wrenching his sleeves down, trying to get them to cover his wrists. A few weeks later, when I tried shorts, James was so insistent on covering his shins that he accidentally depantsed himself.

Since he’d had the most adorable pair of leather sandals the year before, I’d bought very similar ones (and matching shoes for Thomas, of course) for this past summer. Now, I should have known this was a terrible idea because the only way we can get James to accept new shoes is to arrange for the old ones to mysteriously vanish overnight and be magically replaced by identical shoes in the next size up. But determined to enjoy the adorable sandaly cuteness another year, I brought out the new shoes anyway. James freaked. I balked. He remained in his sneakers for two months, until one day I showed him Thomas’ matching sandals. Then he wanted to wear them.

Of course, the sandals and summer shoes turned out to be my undoing. I went through a lot of trouble this spring to get James accustomed to going sockless with his deck shoes and sandals (going without a jacket I can put up with, but socks and sandals I cannot abide!). After a summer without socks, you would think he’d be glad to put on his warm old friends, right? Wrong! Last night, Chris bought James and Thomas a few packs of matching socks — matching! He can’t resist matching, right? Wrong again. James hardly so much as saw the socks before he began waving his arms and crumpling his cute little face into a comically exaggerate frown. “NO SOCKS! NO SOCKS!” he wept, threatening to drown us all in snot.

This morning, after we got James dressed (LONG SLEEVES? NEW JEANS THAT ARE THE SAME BRAND AS MY OLD ONES BUT A DIFFERENT THICKNESS OF FABRIC? NOOOOO! HOW CAN I RIP THESE THINGS OFF ME?!! I’M MEEEEELLLLLTING!!!!), Chris somehow managed to lure James into the laundry room where he attempted to put on the Evil New Feet-Trappers.

“No socks! NO SOCKS!” James wailed, screaming for all the world as if Michael Myers was lumbering toward him with a gleaming butcher knife. In the interest of logistics, Chris strapped James into his carseat and forced James to do the unthinkable — wear socks in mid-October. James was heartbroken for a good 45 minutes and had another ridiculous sock-related meltdown at the gym for good measure.

Of course, by naptime, he told me proudly, “I wearin’ my socks!”

We’ll see whether he does tomorrow.

James plots the demise of the inventor of the winter coat

They’re Two, They’re Four …

I’ll admit it. My kids can be pretty thuggish when the mood strikes. Luckily, the only gang affiliation they currently have is their known ties to the Really Useful Crew, and the only banging is done to each other’s heads, with wooden trains.

James sleeps with a few select engines (never mind the fact that they are far from cuddly) and will happily sit at the train table from morning ’til night if given the opportunity. Thomas has finally made the transition from terrorizing the Isle of Sodor with Godzilla-like climbing and swiping to merely causing (mostly) unintentional carnage while actually playing with trains.

Even Maddux, who is ordinarily ensconced in the magical land of princesses and faeries, will drop everything for a showing of “Thomas and the Magic Railroad.” (Personally, I keep expecting Mr. Conductor to break into Jack Donaghy’s deadpan whisper, or admonish Lady to “Never go with an evil diesel to a second location!”)

Unfortunately, the trains of “Thomas and Friends” just happen to have really awesome names, such as James, Thomas and Henry. Sound familiar? Yeah, the first two are my boys’ names and the third is what both would have been named had I ever won that argument with Chris.

Now, not being a huge “Thomas The Tank Engine” aficionado before bearing my children, I was not aware that Thomas and James are the names of the fictional Number One and Number Five trains, respectively. However, this is brought to my attention each and every time I introduce my sons to any boy over the age of 3.

The other day, my lovely daughter asked me, somewhat sadly, “Mom, why didn’t you name me after a train?”

“Well,” I said, not having planned an answer for this particular question, “I actually did not name James and Thomas after trains. I picked those names out because I liked them.”


Phew, I thought, glad she dropped that.

“Mommy,” Maddux said thoughtfully after a minute or so, “I would like you to call me Lady from now on.”

“How about Daisy or Emily?” I ventured, wondering how people would react if I happened to utter an absentminded “C’mon, Lady” at the mall.

“No, Lady is the most beautifullest and special of the girl engines,” Maddux said, attempting to flutter her eyelashes like a Disney princess but (thanks to the fact that her eyes roll back completely when she does this) looking more like she was having a mild seizure. Then she threw her hair over her shoulder with a melodramatic hand gesture.

“Alright, Lady, but I will have to call you Maddux when we’re not at home.”

“That’s fine, Mommy.”

And off she went to the Isle of Sodor, to roll with her crew.

Touch of Eagle

My grandma once told me the story of the day she met my dad. She was in the hospital recovering from his birth when she heard what sounded like a piglet being slaughtered in the hallway. “Oh, I feel sorry for the mother of THAT baby,” she thought to herself. Right before they handed her the squealing baby in question. (And when they put him in the car, I bet he went “Wee-wee-wee-wee,” all the way home! Bahahaha!)

The evening after Thomas was born, I called Chris post-nap and told him, “So, you know how our one friend’s baby has that really piercing scream that drives you insane?”


“Well, you’re not going to like Thomas very much then. He sounds exactly like an eagle. A really loud eagle.”

I’m pretty sure he chalked up my disillusionment to postpartum depression.

At the hospital, Thomas was happy and fed and snoozy. Of course, nobody believed me about his piercing predatory-bird screech.

Then we brought him home.


I checked the bassinet to see if my baby had been replaced by a bald eagle. Nope. That sound came from a human child. MY child.

“Honey, did you hear that?” I asked Chris.

“How could I not?” was his reply.

At first, every time Thomas cried, I would check the TV thinking “The Colbert Report” was coming on. The cries were way too loud and impossibly pitched for a human voicebox to produce. Sometimes, rather than waking to feed the baby, I would lie in bed wondering to myself whether he might sprout wings and fly off to hunt for small rodents. Eventually, however, we got used to the bird-of-prey call that signaled our child’s awakening and preceded every meal.

But right now, Thomas is cutting three teeth, and our house is constantly filled with the insistent screams of our incredibly loud eagle-baby.

“CAAWWW! CAWWWW!” he shrieks from his aerie crib every morning.

“CAWW, CAWW, CAWWWW!” from the high chair as I prepare his food (maybe I should start serving him a meal more befitting a bird of prey, such as field mice?).

“CAWWWW!” he cries, piercing my very brain, as he cuddles into my arms. Neither Mommy snuggles nor Tylenol muffle the ear-rending eagle calls, though. By the end of the day, I need painkillers of my own for the headache one develops after a full day of caring for an incredibly angry, teething eaglet.

And I feel very sorry indeed for the mother of that baby.

Mouths of Babes

Ever notice how stuff that would be really annoying if done by an adult is totally acceptable if your adorable kids are the ones doing it? One day, my kids will grow up, and when that day comes, I would hope they know better than to say “suliminable” or “strategery.” But right now, their mispronunciations and malapropisms are the very essence of cuteness.

For instance, today James uttered these words, “It rained-ed-ing on de sidewalk.” Yep, he finally managed to trump Maddi’s double past tense by compounding it with present tense. I’m not even sure what that’s called, except “darn cute.”

Maddux is very conscientious about letting you know something happened in the past. We never hear “James chased me,” always, “James chaseded me.” And from the bathroom, in the loudest voice possible, this classic is heard at least once a day: “Mommy, I makeded a poop!”

In addition to the endearing grammatical gaffes are the myriad mispronunciations which, I’m ashamed to admit, often go uncorrected because we don’t ever, EVER want the kids to learn how those things are really pronounced.

From Maddux (some of these, alas, have gone the way of the dinosaur):

Pobby (potty)
Inwizzle (invisible)
Rincess (recess)
Ghooghy (yogurt)
Girlpants (big-girl underpants)

Courtesy of James:
Cupcakes (pancakes)
Baker (bacon)
Dumb **** (dump truck — we worked really hard and fixed this one fast!)
Maggots (Maddux)
Bopping (shopping)
Girlpants (big-boy underpants. Sigh.)

So many of these are fading into oblivion (hooray for some, but sad to see others go). It’s like I’m losing my little babies! Of course, we still have Thomas, who will doubtless provide us with years of entertainment. (Let’s just hope he can say “truck” and that he knows there are two different genders.) One day, of course, he will be expected to know how to pronounce “nuclear” correctly. (Just in case he ever wants to be preznit.) But for now, we’re curious to see what he’ll come up with.

Tricks Are for Kids

There’s nothing cuter than watching a baby wave “bye-bye” or getting a toddler to slap someone a high five. Unfortunately, that kind of thing is beneath my first two. Maddux in particular would master a skill only to abandon it the minute it was polished to perfection. “I’m nobody’s circus monkey,” she seemed to be saying.

So it came as quite a surprise when Thomas started doing all those adorable little parlor tricks we parents so enjoy. I had all but given up on teaching the usual cute baby tricks to any of my little iconoclasts when, out of nowhere, Thomas began waving “bye-bye” around the seven-month mark. And once he got really good at it, instead of retiring at the peak of his awesomeness, he graciously continued to oblige us by waving each and every time the words “bye-bye” were uttered.

Just for kicks, I decided to teach him high-fives, which I doggedly taught the other kids despite the terrifying flashbacks of Michelle from “Full House.” And within a few minutes, Thomas was high-fiving people like the most adorable little circus monkey you ever did see!

So enamored is my wee son of performing adorable tricks for the adoring throngs that his first confirmed words were “Clap, clap, clap!” (Seriously. For the longest time, he only cried “Mama” in his room when he was put down to sleep, which could be chalked up to coincidence.)

At a year old, he’s a clapping, waving, high-fiving bundle of eager-to-please cuteness who will happily make semi-appropriate animal noises when we’re reading books and will perform any pieces from his repertoire whenever we ask. It’s AWESOME!

Of course, when he is older and has more words, he will probably tell us that he was the poor little neglected youngest child. He’ll tell us (and his therapist) that he had to stand on his head to get any attention at all. But right now, he’s the cutest little circus monkey a parent could ask for!