I have a confession to make - sometimes we're not very good parents. And
then sometimes, we have a chance to redeem ourselves. And today we did. We took
the kids to the dentist.
Josh and I have never been big on going to the dentist - it's not that we
don't believe in clean teeth and flossing and free toothbrushes, because we do.
It's just that dental insurance is a thing of the past and man alive, have you
seen the price menu at a dentist's office lately? Me neither. And that's because
doctors in general will not tell you how much anything will cost until after
they have seen you, at which time it's a little too late to change your mind and
But the confession doesn't stop there. Not only are we not good at taking
the kids - or ourselves - to the dentist, we actually have another option - a very
good childhood friend of Josh's is a dentist, a wonderful, giving, kind guy who
enjoys seeing us (we hope!) and generously sees us for free. Yeah, you heard me
right. He won't take any money from us. And so you must be asking, what, in
the name of gingivitis, is wrong with you people?
And you would be right to
ask. So I'll tell you. Our dentist friend, Dr. Eddie, lives and works very far
away from our general locale - which is generally our living room. He's a good
hour and a half away, turning a visit to the dentist into an all day event.
If you have been following along, you will know that our oldest recently lost a tooth
so we kind of figured it was time to go to the dentist for real. As in to pack up the car, the kids and the cooler and go. So we did. And shockingly, we survived. Not only did Josh and I have our teeth x-rayed and cleaned (don't you love that clean teeth feeling? Kind of makes you not want to eat anything. Ha, are you laughing? Cause I am. I always
want to eat something) but the boys had their teeth cleaned and counted too. And
we learned the cutest thing today - when counting teeth, baby teeth are counted
using the ABC and grownup teeth and counted with numbers. Who knew? Not me.
Anyway, unless you are very new around here, by now you will know that we
pack the cooler with snacks when we drive 15 minutes to my parents house, so can
you even imagine what happened when we packed to drive 90 minutes to the
dentist? Wait, I'll show you, you don't have to imagine. And when I took this
picture, I wasn't done packing. I know.
Once at the dentist, the boys actually climbed into the chair - willingly -
and that, my friends, is a sure sign of maturity, because if you have ever been
to the pediatrician with us, you will be familiar with the sounds of children
wailing and the screech of waiting room chairs being slid across the floor as children cling to them for dear life. One of my kids, at the age of 18 months, once grabbed the
car keys and ran out of the doctor's office, naked, in a bid to get away. So
when the boys hopped into the dentist's chair, I knew that the tooth fairy must
be smiling on us.
Dr. Eddie was awesome. He let the boys wear sunglasses, a brilliant
diversionary tactic and they opened their mouths. I consider that a mission
accomplished. We only used the bathroom in the office fifteen times. We only
left four different kinds of crumbs on the waiting room floor and we only asked
for three extra dentist party bags - my kids have birthday on the brain. They
weren't actually party bags, just those super awesome bags with free
toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss in neon colors! Yahoo!
And because there was no way we could make a three hour round trip without
stopping at a playground, we did - and had a picnic. I love picnics in the
summer. In the shade. With straws. We had all of those things today. Yum.
If you promise not to look at my dirty windows, I'll show you something
really cute. Promise? Yeah? Good. So it's been raining for days and we've been
stuck in the house. We're also been trying to get ready for my almost
five-year-old's birthday party* coming up, and one of the things we were doing
involved some craft foam. Not the foamie stickers you can get in AC Moore but
sheets of foam that haven't been cut yet. We were sitting in the porch, cutting
donut shapes out of the foam, when we heard and felt some water dripping. Yup,
we have a leak, its running down the inside of one of the new windows we have.
Josh will be having to make a phone call about that later, but first we needed
Anyway, once the water was nicely dripping into the buckets and not onto
the couch, we continued with the cutting. And then one of the kids went to check
the buckets and while standing on the couch realized that the foamie cut-outs
were sticking to the window where it was wet!
So much fun! It's like Colorforms, but not. Remember Colorforms? Those were awesome - but the pieces were always so small and lose-able. With the foam, you can cut out as many as you like, in any shape you like and most importantly, as large as you like. So that's what we did. We stuck with the basics this time, squares, rectangles, triangles, hearts and circles. The kids built houses and balloons and trees on the windows - we moved them to dry windows and handed out paint brushes** and small cups of water - and fun was had by all.
And then, to add to the fun, at least for me, I was looking through some emails later in the day and there was one with a link to this exact craft
! Nicole, at The Activity Mom
, has a super-fun blog and great ideas. But still, so weird that I saw her link the same day we realized this worked. But so fun that someone else figured out the same great rainy day activity. And she had the best idea too - why spend time cutting out shapes when you can buy a whole bucket of non-sticky foam shapes for like seven bucks and the kids can go to town with letters, numbers and animal or flower or whatever cutouts. So smart. *It's a Dunkin Donuts Carnival. Yup, that's what I said. But more about
that another day.
** Learn from me, please. Don't hand out sponge brushes. They soak up way too much water and make your carpet wet when they're left on the floor. Use regular old, small thin bristled brushes, kind of like the ones you'd use to do a paint-with-water-coloring-book. Remember those too? Those were so great. I miss being a little kid.
Something totally new happened in our house - and with four kids, we don't
get a lot of firsts anymore. Or rather, firsts that we haven't seen before. Of course, each child learning to walk and talk and potty train is awesome and precious and new to them, but there's nothing like a first of something that happens to your oldest, because you, as a parent, have never experienced this first, in the role of parent. Does that make any sense?
And so the other day, we lost a tooth! One little lone tooth, that had been shaky for weeks, finally fell out - and all that's left of it is an adorable little tooth-shaped hole in my oldest's mouth.
No really, the hole is all that's left. No tooth, no nothing.
You see, the tooth, which had been playing games with us for a number of
weeks, decided to fall out when my boys were spending the night at my parents' house.
Now my mom, she's a sucker for these things like I am, so she wrapped up the tooth,
put it into a small sandwich bag, decorated the bag with stickers, placed it into an envelope, decorated that envelope too, sealed it and placed the envelope inside a mini shopping bag. I know the shopping bag left my parents' house when we picked up the boys, but alas, it did not make it home. Well, not true - the shopping bag made it home, but the tooth inside the plastic bag inside the sealed envelope did not. Crazy,
I know. We got into the car, we got out of the car. And it's not anywhere in
I'm so disappointed. Not so much for sentimental reasons, heck, I never
even filled out any of my kid's baby books. (I know, isn't that just awful?!)
It's more because I was kind of looking forward to playing tooth fairy. I like
the whole idea of putting things under pillows and getting treats in exchange. I
wish I could put things under my pillow and get say, a chocolate, to wake up to.
But alas, it was not meant to be with this first tooth. Not that any of my kids
have any idea that there is a tooth fairy or what she does, but I was excited to
introduce the whole concept to them.
But not to worry, my father hooked my oldest up with plenty of money when
that tooth fell out. From I was able to tell, my son has been busy clutching a
$5 bill, three $1 bills, some quarters and a bunch of pennies. I'm guessing my
dad emptied his pockets, possibly not realizing there was a $5 bill in there.
And so my oldest counted his money repeatedly between lost-tooth-day when this all went down and this morning, when he went to camp. A logical question would be
why? Or rather, what? What would he need the money for at camp?
I'll tell you. My son has been making eyes with the candy machine in day
camp all summer. And he never has any money because I - obviously, totally
unreasonably, says my son - see no reason why a newly minted six year old
needs money in a camp that serves lunch and snacks and drinks all day long. And
also, I don't want him buying cans of soda. And fruit roll ups and potato chips and
chocolate bars. All the things he had planned to buy today. And not share.
So we compromised, and he went to camp with a dollar in change and
instructions to ask his counselor to help him buy something from the machine.
And why would a kid who has been stalking the candy machine all summer need help? Because of this:
Mommy: What are you going to buy?
Him: I don't know, I have to look when I get there.
Mommy: How will you know how much something costs?
Him: I'll look and see. If it says a seven and a five, I know I need 75cents.
Mommy: That's great, which of the coins that you have makes 75cents?
Him: These do, these three make 75cents, they're nickels, so these are
what I need (pointing at a bunch of dimes).
Hence the need to ask a counselor for some help.
I've been excited and nervous about this whole candy machine thing all day. Call me a
nut, but I feel like this is huge. It's his first real foray into a world with
myriad choices, any one of them which can be an excellent choice. Sometimes, the
choice between several good things can be harder than the choice between wrong
and right, because deep down you know the correct choice between good and evil -
it's the choice between good and good that has the ability to trip us up.
I can't wait until he comes home so I can find out what he picked. It won't
be the first monumental choice he makes in his life, but it's the first he's
making without mommy standing there, holding his choices out to him.
I know it's just a lost tooth and some loose change. But it's beginning of
everything - of first grade, of math tests, of training-wheel-less bikes, of not
wanting to watch only PBS anymore - even of learning how to text.
It's not easy to be six, but sometimes I think it's even harder to be the
mommy. But it's also cool to be six, and it's for sure totally cool to be the mommy.
We went to the beach the other morning - it was finally not boiling hot, so
I figured a little sitting on the sand would be good for everyone. And because I
am a huge (huge) geek, I brought paper, scissors and glue with us so that we
could do a project. (I know, go ahead, roll your eyes.)
But you can stop laughing now because it actually turned into a cute project and the kids, especially the three-year-old who wouldn't take off her sandals and walk in the
sand for all the money in the world, loved it.
We drew with glue (regular white glue, not a glue stick) on a paper.
Then we dumped a ton of sand on top. I had actually told them to sprinkle sand
on top, but sprinkle, dump, to each his own.
Shake the paper off and woweee! Sand art! And sand art where it's okay to make a
huge mess cause it's already a huge sandy mess at the beach. It doesn't get
better than that.
Oh yeah, wait, it does get better. We brought Dunkin Donut munchkins with us. A little sand on a glazed donut never hurt anyone.
Build your own Beit Hamikdash. Or, you know, just take out all the
blocks and lego and huge cardboard blocks that bring back memories of hours
spent folding those cardboards into block shapes years ago, and build with the
Start with Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and add the walls around the
city next. Throw in some lego people and weeble-wobble people to keep things
interesting. Keep building until the kids get bored or the baby becomes
godzilla-like and knocks it all down. Hurry the kids into the kitchen to bake
chocolate chip cookies with Abba before they have a chance to get mad at their
little sister for destroying their city.
And peace reigns in the house. At least for another few minutes, anyway.
Today is Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av. Tisha B'Av,
the day that the holy temple or Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem was
destroyed thousands of years ago, has always been a day of sorrow and mourning
for the Jewish nation day marked by a day of fasting.
Fasting on its own is not an easy thing to do, but fasting with a bunch of
little kids is much much harder. So what are mommies to do today? My first
inclination was to sit them all down in front of the tv, and while that always
seems like a good idea to generate quiet, I find that the kids are much
kvetchier and antsy-er after watching tv.
So on to some projects. It's not even 9:30am and I've already served two
breakfasts and a snack. And we've done a project - and I promise, this one is
totally for a lazy mommy on a fast day. All you need is paper and glue. Maybe a
marker if you're feeling adventurous.
We're going to make a mosaic of the Kotel
, or Western Wall in
Jerusalem, the last wall standing from the Beit Hamikdash.
than it sounds - in this case, mosaic is just a fancy word for gluing paper on
paper. Gather together some large white paper, we had some that was pretty big,
larger than legal size paper, but whatever you have is fine. I drew a bunch of
squares or stones of the Western Wall on a paper for each child. Then I cut up a
bunch of brown and orange construction papers into squares, handed out glue
sticks and off they went, gluing and talking for twenty whole minutes. And I got
to lay on the floor next to them. Even the baby held a glue stick and waved it
And because it makes the kids so happy, we hung their creations on the
mantle and we're done. Except we're not because it's not even 10am and they're
bored again. Hmmm. It's going to be a looong day.
Have you ever seen a yellow watermelon? Me neither. Until today.
I was in Shoprite this morning, saw a yellow watermelon and brought it
home. I didn't really think any of the kids would eat it because it's, you know,
different and we don't do different. And also, because once it's cut up, it
looks a lot like pineapple and no one in my house like pineapple, except Josh.
Which is kind of ironic because the kids all inhaled their yellow watermelon and
Josh was all, well, I don't know, maybe I won't like it. But like a good father
who is supposed to encourage his children to expand their healthy
food horizons, he tasted it and actually liked it. So there you go, the one and
only food (besides for chocolate ice cream) that all six people in this family
I think I might have to go back tomorrow for more - it's totally gone. I
mean, it wasn't like it was a whole watermelon - I can't bring those home, too
messy to cut up and way to heavy to lift out of the shopping cart without
falling in, but still, it's gone. All that's left is the rind and if I would
have let the baby have it, she would have licked it clean.
Yellow watermelon. Who knew?
I have a pretty big blue and purple hydrangea bush in my yard that we were unaware of until we pulled out our massive diseased bushes a year or two ago. And since then, every late spring through early fall, we have been graced with tons of very pretty and colorful hydrangeas. This bush is probably the nicest thing in the entire yard - not that that's saying much. Our yard needs lots of work, plus probably a visit from the Yard Crashers.
Please. Please Yard Crasher people, come to my house. And bring your Kitchen Crasher friends with you too.
Anyway, this past fall we never got around to doing a proper clean-up of the yard
and so when spring came, Josh was convinced that the hydrangea bush was a goner.
But instead of pulling it out, we cut it back, getting rid of all the brown
parts, and lo and behold, a few weeks later, out came the beginnings of the
hydrangeas! We have since learned that this is called deadheading the bush.
Pretty much since the minute we discovered the hydrangea bush, I have wanted to cut some of the flowers and dry them, but both years I forgot until the flowers were no longer with us. And both years I got annoyed with myself. So this year, after doing
absolutely no research or googling beforehand, I cut off the some stems, four to be exact.
I cut the flowers and brought them inside, intending to hang them upside down to
dry them, the way other flowers are dried. But just to make sure, I googled "dry
hydrangeas" - and found out I was wrong. The first piece of advice was to always
make sure that you cut the stems a good 18" long - which I did not. Mine are
more like 12", so we shall see what happens. Why 18"? Because the dried flower
heads are heavy and the longer stem can support more weight. Who knew? Obviously, not me.
The second piece of advice I read was to always be sure to cut your
hydrangeas while it is neither humid nor raining out because moist flowers might
not dry properly. Hmm. So it wasn't actively raining when I went out to cut the
flowers, but it had rained enough the entire night before that not only was it insanely
humid outside but it also was so wet that the entire bottom hem of my skirt was
soaked after I trekked across the lawn to get to the bush. And also, when I brought them inside, the flowers left a trail of water drops from the door to the sink. So yeah, it might have been a little wet outside. Again, who knew? You got it! Not me. Again.
The third and final piece of advice that I read before I shut the computer
and walked away feeling not-too-bright, was to be sure to use a flower stripper
tool to remove the leaves from the stems. I'm not fancy like that. I used my
hands. Apparently, however, just ripping the leaves off is very traumatic to the
flowers. I don't know, I ripped them off and the flowers don't look traumatized
to me. But only time will tell.
So let's review. To properly cut and dry hydrangeas, wait for dry weather
(which ain't coming my friend, this is the Northeast in the summer) and
carefully approach the bush. Be sure to cut the stems at exactly the 18" mark
and then use a stripper (a tool, not the person) to remove the leaves gently.
Or - and here's another way you can go, you can stalk outside after a
six-hour thunderstorm, in your flip flops, holding your camera, a scissors, the baby monitor and your cell phone and cut the stems in a random spot you can without falling into the mulch - which, by the way, is doing a terrible job of keeping the weeds out of the garden. Then you can rip the leaves off and toss them in the garbage before they get your entire kitchen counter sopping wet. Then, and I feel like this might be an important step, you can forget about the flowers for a while so you go get the baby from the crib. I'm just saying, it's nice to have options.
They're kind of pretty in the sink like that - if you can ignore the dish soap and baby bottle brush in the background.
Once the flowers have been cut and de-leafed, the best way to dry hydrangeas is not to hang them upside down like I believed, but to - and this is weird and counterintuitive - stick them in a vase with the stem bottoms sitting in an inch or two of water. Put them on your dining room table - or someplace where they at least have a prayer of not being knocked over - and let them sit there until the
water evaporates. This apparently will not happen in a few hours because I just checked and the water is still there. I'm guessing this could take weeks. Who knows? But I'll be checking on them every once in a while and let you know how the drying of the hydrangeas is going.
Do you like how nicely my towels are folded on the dining room table?
One of my boys came home from camp with an adorable project the other day*. I
thought it was so little and cute that I had to take a picture of it. He was
embarrassed and didn't want me to blog about it, so we compromised. I won't tell
you which of my boys made it and he won't be upset when I post a picture of it.
In case you can't tell, it's a caterpillar. There was some momentary confusion, but it was resolved quickly, like this:
Him: Mommy, look, we made a butterfly!
Me: (Silence. And then...) Wow, yeah, a caterpillar!
Him: Yeah, that's what I said!
I really like how the counselors took half an egg carton, the googly
eyes and the pipe cleaners** and made a little animal out of it. Sometimes the
simplest little crafts are the most fun - at least that's what my littlest one
thought. She grabbed it and wouldn't give it back. My three year old liked it
too - she wanted to make one also. The only problem is that we don't buy eggs by
the dozen, we buy them by the five-dozen in BJ's so we don't have any foam egg
cartons lying around. I'll have to add a dozen eggs to my Shoprite list - all in
the name of art.
*My other little boy has yet to bring home one project from camp this
summer - and it's not because he doesn't make any. According to the daily
schedule and according the paint splatters on his clothes every few days, I know
he has arts and crafts in camp. And why does he not bring anything home? The
answer: because he is my baby that would not remember to bring home his
underwear if they were not already under his pants. Seriously, I am pretty sure
that at the end of the summer, I will make a trip to the camp's lost and found
and find five art projects, four towels, three plastic water bottles, two
(really good) water shoes and a pair of sunglasses with our last name printed on
each item. Because that's what I do with him - every single thing that leaves
this house with him must have a name imprinted on it somewhere or we might as
well say farewell to whatever toy/clothes/shoes/baseball cap that is leaving
with him. At the start of the summer I wondered how his backpack stayed with him
- and then once, when I picked him up, I noticed that his counselor put it on
his back for him before sending him to the car. Thank goodness for good
**Do you ever find that you just can't think of a word no matter how
deep you dig? Yeah, that just happened to me - I called my mom and said,
"What the heck are those things called, you know, twist ties, but not,
cause they're furry? And she instantly said, "pipe cleaners". Thanks Ma.
This is why we keep you around :)
Sometimes it's fun to see how far you can push yourself, how much energy
you have, how much patience and how much love you can bestow on your wonderful
and well-behaved children.
Are you laughing? Cause I am. What follows is what really
other part was just a rhetorical question.
It was Sunday, Josh was away in the morning and the kids were climbing the
walls. So we went to the mall. Are you still laughing? Cause I still am. And so
is our friend who stopped by the house to drop something off just as Josh was
pulling up to the house after
coming back from the mall, the mall where
he had to come so he could jump the van for me.
Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. But my point is this: when this same
laughing friend says something along the lines of: So wait, let me get this
straight, the kids were going crazy in the house so Jen thought it would be a
good idea to take them to the most crowded, busiest mall in New Jersey on a
Sunday to walk around?
, you should really listen. He knows of what he speaks.
Let's look back in time a few hours, to Sunday morning. The kids were all
cranky, I was cranky and we needed to get out. So while the baby took her
morning (and this day, only) nap, the kids got dressed, found their shoes and
helped me pack a lunch (three cream cheese and a tuna, in case you were
wondering) and a diaper bag. Once the baby woke up, off we went, in our newly clean van
Things went well in the beginning. We found a good parking spot, everyone
who was supposed to sit in the stroller, sat. Everyone who was supposed to walk,
walked - and even held on to the stroller. Although, sometimes I wish they would
just walk next to me without holding on. It's really very difficult to push a
double stroller while two older kids are hanging off the handlebars - but I'm
not complaining, at least they weren't running around because seriously, that
mall was crowded. As in every single person who lives in NJ (and their mother)
was in the mall.
Our first stop, the shoe store; it was time baby got shoes. An hour later,
we walked out with four shoe boxes, one for each kid. Not really the plan, but
when the store is having a sale and the shoes are buy one, get one half off on
top of that, you kind of don't have a choice, you know?
From there we went to the food court for lunch. We sat in a booth, which
thrilled my kids to no end (we don't get out much), and they even listened when
I said they needed to keep their bagels on their aluminum foil and not on the
nasty, dirty, germ-laden table.
And because they were so well-behaved for a whole hour in the shoe store, I
had promised them ice cream. Unfortunately, there was only one kosher ice cream
place in the mall and it was all the way on the other end of the mall,
and downstairs. So thirty minutes later, we got there. I ordered three small
chocolate and vanilla swirl cones. Kid sized, if you will. The woman then hands
the kids the largest ice cream cones they have ever seen. It's been a while
since I've seen their eyes bug out of their heads like that. I requested extra
cups so their cones could live in a cup when they no longer wanted to hold them
(read: 60 seconds later) but the woman told me they don't give out cups. Or
spoons to people who buy cones. I offer to pay for them and she declines my
offer. Okay then.
This is one of the cones, but it's already half eaten here!
So four kids, a double stroller, four shoe boxes, a diaper bag, three
humongous ice cream cones, one this-cannot-possibly-be-a-child-sized-cup-of-chocolate-ice-cream for the baby and I start walking, looking for a place to sit. We sit, they eat, and it drips everywhere, and the woman would only give us one napkin per person. Really, what is that? I couldn't even take more napkins, they keep them behind the counter. But don't feel too bad for us, I had a huge thing of baby wipes, we were okay.
Many many minutes later the kids finish their ice cream - or rather, it's
been a half an hour and I want to go home, so I tell the kids they had enough
and we chuck the rest of the cones. The kids actually look relieved that they
don't need to finish them. I was just praying that no one would throw up in my
clean van. Or rather that no one would throw up. No, I'm kidding, I was really
just worried about the van; my kids throw up all the time.
On the trek back to the elevator, we pass a toy store outlet and because I
am in a generous mood and the kids are behaving, I tempt fate and we go in
for a small toy each, okay guys? Looking back, I so wish we hadn't. The
running up and down of the aisles, the begging for $30 toys, the uh-oh, I
have to make, mommy*, which can strike terror in the heart of any mommy
with four kids in a mall. Why, oh why, did we go into the toy store? Why didn't
we just walk straight back to the van, not looking around us, just focusing on
getting to the elevator and out?
Whatever, it's a moot point now. The bathroom-needer was able to hold it in
until after all the negotiating and spending of $26.37 in the toy store and we
finally got out of there.
We finally, finally, made it to the elevator, back to the second floor,
around the entire upstairs to the entrance that we used to come in, out into the
blazing sun to the van, everyone out of the stroller and into the van. Before I
loaded up the bags and the stroller, I leaned in to start the van so I could put
the air conditioner on. And the van doesn't start. Again and again, it doesn't
start. Hmmm, okay, it's a thousand degrees in the van, so everyone out, back
into the stroller and back to walking next to stroller and we go back inside the
mall where we call Josh, who thankfully, is home already.
And to make a very long story slightly shorter, Josh is able to come, jump
the van with his (read: my parent's second car we're using for the summer) car,
and an hour later (after sitting on the gross floor of the mall and doling out
what snacks and drinks I had left, and playing countless rounds of "what number
am I thinking of"), we were on the way home.
Not a terrible day at all. We had a lot of fun. It was just a hot, long one, that I think will require a second set of parenting hands the next time we try it.
*Four kids, a double stroller and many many shopping bags does not make
for a pleasant and relaxing trip to a public bathroom. I'd tell you what happened, but it is my hope that one day my children will read this blog and look
back fondly at the memories we make, and so I will have to, for the first time since
the blogging began, keep this one to myself.