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Preview: Watch Us Grow!

Watch Us Grow!

Follow us throughout our growth. Paul and I wade through first twins then a little boy. Parenthood is fascinating and a little intimidating. Share our world.

Updated: 2018-03-06T13:42:59.404-08:00


What is Love....voice of the very young


What Love means to a 4-8 year old... Touching words from the mouth of babes.. A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, 'What does love mean?' The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think: 'When my grandmother got arthritis , she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore..So my grandfather does it for her all the time , even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.'Rebecca- age 8'When someone loves you , the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.'Billy - age 4'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.'Karl - age 5'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.'Chrissy - age 6'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.'Terri - age 4'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.'Danny - age 7'Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing , you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss'Emily - age 8'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.'Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)'If you want to learn to love better , you should start with a friend who you hate.'Nikka - age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet) 'Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt , then he wears it everyday..'Noelle - age 7'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.'Tommy - age 6'During my piano recital , I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.'Cindy - age 8'My mommy loves me more than anybodyYou don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.'Clare - age 6'Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.'Elaine-age 5'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford .'Chris - age 7'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.'Mary Ann - age 4'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.'Lauren - age 4'When you love somebody , your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.' (what an image) Karen - age 7'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross..'Mark - age 6'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it , you should say it a lot. People forget.'Jessica - age 8And the final oneThe winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just helped him cry.' [...]



I have a's been growing for 2-months now and, not only is it hard to ignore, but the selection of pants in Alessandro's drawer is getting leaner and leaner. It's finally time.
Much to my chagrin, I am doing the very same thing to my kids that my mom did to me. It embarrassed me to no end to wear clothes to school that had them, but, probably much like my own mother in this situation 35+ year ago, I seriously see no choice in the matter.
With a giant sigh, I take out the iron-on patch material - actually the same kits from my mother's collection in her sewing basket - and try to best match the fabric with the layers of pairs of pants. It takes two days, but at least now, Alessandro has something to wear, in which he can play and play hard. At some point, he will be more balanced in his sense of fun and fashion. Thankfully for me, and for the pile of patches waiting to be tediously sewn on, we're more in the camp of fun right now.

The Girls' Thoughts On Japan


The events in Japan have been overwhelmingly tragic. There have been so many videos of the "black tide," the bold and relentless loyalty shown by a pair of stranded dogs, stories of hope with the discovery of a 4-month baby girl, who was swept out of her parents' arms during the tsunami, being safely found 3-days later under a pile of rubble and so many more. There is much for kids over here to learn from this event. We have talked about the importance of preparation, how empathy and charity works to improve spirits, and we've even reached into our "donate" sections of our piggy banks. Some of these lessons have been reverberated through lessons and fund raising at school. Here is the result of the girls' class and their thoughts and wishes for Japan....

Ava's Apology


Ava's picture reads: "I'm sorry for taking something from your store. I just wanted it. That was wrong. I won't do that again. Sorry."
Well, Ava did a "no-no." A big "no-no." She asked for something while at the store and Mom said no. The little plastic cell phone that really held 4 kinds of lip gloss went back into the cubby by the register. I thought that was the end of it, but a day later, while at home, Bettina pointed out that it was in the house anyway. She said she found it in Ava's "secret pocket." So, I approached Ava. She spend some awkward time trying to think of a good reason why it was in the house and not the store, and then she quickly says she found it "on the floor." Interrupting, I finally cut to the chase. "Ava, you know why I'm disappointed right now, don't you." She nods, eyes now pointing downward and unable to meet my gaze. "Tell me why," I lead, and she spills her guts. Instead of putting the cool lip gloss into the cubby, she put it into her pocket while I was at the check out counter. I tell her about what will happen next: a trip to the store where she will ask for the manager who may, if they wish, call the police. She will also return the item as well as offer to pay for it (even though she didn't open the wrapper). She agrees, goes to her piggy bank and pulls out the $3.37 within. It's $1.58 short of the value. I ask her what we should do. She offers to work it off over the weekend. We make a list: "make my bed everyday, clean to toys downstairs even if they're not my mess, help mom clean the walls and moldings with a rag, collect the chicken eggs even if it's raining (which it will - a lot - this weekend), and write a note with an apology to bring to the store." Although I'm disappointed that she boldly stole something from a store, I'm impressed with how bravely and cooperatively she deals with the consequences.
Perhaps we all have a story like Ava's. I remember having to go to the Thrifty store in my hometown and come clean to someone there. I don't remember the thing I took, but I remember the face of the man that had to listen to me. I'm sure my mother remembers what it was that I took. I also remember how horrified I was about having to go to my great-grandmother and tell her that I lifted some small little ornament I admired from her house. I really didn't want to disappoint her. My mother would probably remember what I took from her house, too.
I'm hoping that this exercise will do the same thing for Ava: she may not remember years from now what the item was that was so tempting that she had to take it right then and there, however, I'm hoping that she will remember the face of the manager she must face tomorrow and will adjust her need for immediate satisfaction in the future.

Why Pre-School Shouldn't Be School


This article, "Preschool Lessons" by Slate Magazine, explains to a tee exactly why I love Reggio Emilia-based schools, especially for preschool. A series of studies finds that kids learn early exactly what a teacher is for: to show them the "right" answer. She's the teacher, they reason. If there was more to learn from this activity, she would have shown us. In direct teaching activities, kids lose their natural and innate curiosity and imagination, leaving them handicapped in finding creative problem-solving solutions.

Kids, especially before they start school, need to first learn how to be curious and how to discover information. We need to encourage them to explore and create solutions and invent new purposes. What better way to do this than through play-based activities and student-driven curriculum?

Christmas Eve Reflections....


After Alessandro nearly burnt the house down by throwing a down pillow onto the fireplace, splattered cracked crab all over Grandma's dining room, thrust his hand into the stick of butter, his fingers through every slice of bread and chocolate mousse all over his white oxford, he is now asleep....and it's finally a Silent Night! ♥

The Christmas Pageant


waiting for the play to start - sneaking a peak through the crack in the sanctuary doors.My Uncle sent me an email last week that I finally had time to read today. I couldn't believe the uncanny timing and similarity to the day I had today with the kids at today's Christmas Pageant where they were angels and a sheep. The girls were pretty good, but Alessandro writhed from the pain of waiting in the back of the church for 50-minutes, refused to wear his hat (the one that gave him the sheep ears) and then continued to run back and forth down the aisle multiple times during the play and then again during the sermon. After church, I had 3 or 4 comments about what an active and quick runner my sheep is. Here is the emailed story sent to me by my uncle:THE CHRISTMAS PAGEANTMy husband and I had been happily married (most of the time) for five years but hadn't been blessed with a baby.I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if he would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my heart and raise it with His word as my guide. God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us with another son. The following year, He blessed us with yet another son. The year after that we were blessed with a daughter. My husband thought we'd been blessed right into poverty. We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old.I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, "If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella." I began reading a few verses of the Bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start.God had entrusted me with four children and I didn't want to disappoint Him.I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks. I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom although it took me nearly two hours to catch all twenty-three frogs. When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humor rather than the mess.In spite of changing over twenty-five thousand diapers, never eating a hot meal and never sleeping for more than thirty minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children. While I couldn't keep my promise to be a perfect mother - I didn't even come close... I did keep my promise to raise them in the Word of God.I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to "wash up" Jesus, too. Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his "last wife." My proudest moment came during the children's Christmas pageant.My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine. My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, "We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes." But he was nervous and said, "The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes." My four-year-old "Mary" said, "That's not 'wrinkled clothes,' silly." A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost. I slouched a little lower in my seat when Marydropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, "Mama-mama," and it bounced down the aisle crying. Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced, "We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur." The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation. "I've never enjoyed a Christmas program a[...]



We have been staring down the Big Tents, me knowing exactly what's inside of them, for weeks. The girls ask about it on our way to school and I tell them that in those tents they do a very neat show with real live horses. I took my niece Alisia to a show about 6-years ago. It left an indelible mark on my heart. Of course they want to go, but I tell them the tickets are too expensive. That's one draw back about having twins. Or perhaps two girls or multiple children, for that matter. You become more limited in what you can do or see without spending hundreds of dollars. One night of Cavalia for the three of us in "bad" seats is nearly one-month board for one of the horses. Then Grandma brought it up. She wanted to know if I thought the girls would enjoy it. "Yes," I answered. "But for that money, they need to be older and really into horses so that it is truly special." But, Grandma likes to spoil. She bought all the things to get the girls outfitted for their pony, Checkers. She wants to be known as the "Pony Grandma," I guess.Grandma got us tickets to Cavalia. We asked her to come along with us, but since she's highly allergic to horses, she was worried the show would trigger an asthma attack like it did when she saw the Lipizzaner Stallions in Austria. The show was, of course, fabulous. The girls enjoyed seeing the Roman riding, trick Western riding and the two 6-month colts. They got a kick out of knowing that Mom used to do some vaulting when she was growing up. They wanted to know if I also did the trapeze like the acrobats did around the riders. No, but Mrs. Branaugh did. "Ohhhhh!" Afterward, they waited in line for some autographs and got some pictures with the performers as well. We left the Big Tent, but they were still high off the show. Bettina is visibly galloping down the sidewalk like a trick pony and Ava's chattering about this and that. "Can we go again tomorrow?" she asks. "Remember what I told you about it being expensive and very special? Perhaps next year." She thinks about this while Bettina is trotting circles around us. "Maybe if we practice for a long time, like until we're 7-years old, we can do our own Cavalia! We can ride Checkers and you can do Misty!" I compliment her idea and ask her to who we give tickets. She immediately starts planning - the guests, the tricks and all the practice that it's going to take. When I take down the dictation for the thank you card to Grandma, Bettina makes sure that Grandma knows that she most of all will be invited to the Cavalia that she and her sister will do in 2-years time.[...]

Welcome Checkers!


They always say, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." However, if you're going to have to feed it and cover their vet bills for the next number of years, you better make sure it's a good fit. So, I checked the mouth, his feet, temperament, confirmation, and gaits. And, he had to be cute, too.
One early September day after school, the kids and I drove down the the South Bay to see a woman about a horse. A pony, that is. An Amish-breed painted pony, 12.2 hands and about 7-years old. I didn't want to like the pony because I wasn't sure that we were really ready. I had tried to get a friend to give lessons on her pony first to make sure the girls were ready. They had been clamoring for months about wanting to learn to ride independently on a horse more their size. But, my friend's pony had been lent out and leasing one was more expensive than owning one. We arrived and met "Checkers." He was a little taller than I wanted, but the upside was that the girls wouldn't out-grow him. He'd also been trained to pull a cart, so that could be fun in the future, too. Each girl rode him fine and liked him. I spent some time in the round-pen trying out his ground manners and communication. Well, I couldn't find anything "majorly" wrong with him. He bent to natural horsemanship cues, was hard to spook and had a good head on his shoulders. He was curious but still mindful of manners, so I did a very scary thing: committed to picking him up on Saturday.
We go to see him before school (the girls start at 11:40). We moved both horses to a barn just 6-miles away from there. Checkers has been great in everything, however, he has learned that the girls' hands are not very strong. He will often pull the reins out of their hands or ignore them until either the crop comes out or I start walking next to him (he loves to play Follow the Leader). He and Misty are tighter than anything. If I pull one out, the other is running circles and whinnying until they are in eyesight again. Checkers is also a talker in general - whenever he sees any of us, he will knicker and beckon us closer, hoping for extra treats. He's a real friendly guy who follows the girls and me around the pen like a little pull toy. We are so happy to have Checkers in the family!



I can't believe that we're heading back to school already! You'd think I was writing this in August, like I should have, but it's nearly December and we're heading back after a week of gorging ourselves with turkey, trimmings and all the other delicacies of the season. While thinking about writing about these nearly-winter activities, I remind and chastise myself that there is some catching up to do.You'd think that the girls' first day in Kindergarten would be one of those milestones that I'd run back to write about, ensuring that every detail of the day would be fully documented in picture and prose. Equally important was Alessandro's first day at pre-school two-weeks later. However, with all the transition, paperwork and taxi-ing, the blog was one of the many things that got pushed to the wayside.In short, everyone LOVES school. The girls come home with a healthy portion of curiosity and have shown already tremendous growth. As luck would have it, the education curriculum-pendulum is pretty much at the same place it was when I was teaching. So all the skills I started with them will be useful to them (yea!). In fact, at their first assessment, the teacher says they have most of the Kindergarten reading skills and suspects they will be early readers. As a former reading specialist, this makes me very happy. They get older 5th grade reading buddies, which is thrilling enough. However, when they are matched with one of their friend's sister, it's enough to send little Bettina over the moon. I can't tell you how many pictures she's drawn that bear Cali's name or how many times she talks about her at home. I sometimes worry that the original friend, Stephanie (Cali's younger sister), may feel less important or dissed as Bettina blabs on about her sister.Both are blooming socially and are doing very well in counting and basic addition as well. We have also signed up for the Kindergarten's version of Girls Scouts. Ava and Bettina are Daisies. They have vests on which I am continually sewing on something new. They have 2-years to earn all their pedals. And, since no one mom wanted to be the troop leader, we have started a co-op. It's my turn to help host next month and in January. So, I've been spending time on the Girl Scouts of America's website, getting trained and preened to become a "trained leader ." My big give-back is that for one day every month until June, I can pick up the girls one-hour later than usual. Host 2-events and pay about $100 in registration and clothing for 9-extra hours. Eh - it's about even.Alessandro, of course, continues to think he's five and gets confused when he has to go home for a nap instead of line up on the green line when the Kindergarten bell rings. He pines for them, unless he's already at his school, which is 2-days a week.First impressions about school? Bring you checkbook - it seemed like they were asking for money at every single opportunity! I almost resented having to walk to the door to pick up the girls because I knew that someone somewhere was going to remind me to pay for something new. However, it is also the cutest, most hopeful, tender-hearted part of their lives thus forth.[...]

Batten Down the Hatches!


I need baby locks for my baby locks...Alessandro has figured out a lot this week. He can now open doorknobs and is constantly in the pantry (which used to be my "safeguard.") So, now, the breadth of this destruction is even larger. He moves chairs to reach things on the countertop, including the butcher block (which I had to move), uses furniture to climb to higher shelves (he loves to play with the TV and surround-sound equipment, sometimes startling himself into tears if he turns the volume up too high), and just this morning, he used a chair to climb into the refrigerator. Thankfully, this happened BEFORE the Costco run. But, the tomatoes, grapes and most of the eggs he launched onto the floor in search of apple juice were a total loss. (Anyone know how to get egg out of a kitchen carpet? Can you get salmonella from walking on a carpet?)
Sigh...and I thought he was a handful before.... When does pre-school start again?

Mila's Day Dreams


Would be so cool to convert these to note cards.... What creative imagination (and a sound sleeper) this woman has!
Click here to see Mila's Day Dreams

Ava's Adenoidectomy (or as Mommy says, the Pajama Party)


For the last couple of years, our pediatrician has asked the same question every time Ava comes to visit: "Does Ava have a cold?" "No," is my response, "she always sounds that way." It gets to the point that I start teasing the doctor and she realizes the pattern. "Well, if this is normal, then I'd like you to see an ENT (ear/nose/throat doctor). I'll bet she has enlarged adenoids. Is she a mouth-breather?" Well, yeah....Sure enough, x-rays show that Ava's airway is 80% blocked by her adenoids and the ENT recommends that they be removed. Minuses: pain for up to a couple of days, general anesthesia risks, risk of bleeding. Pluses: improved airway & breathing, less ear/sinus infections, better/more normal development of the palate and jaw which can decrease chances in orthodontic work in the future. Paul and I weigh the facts and decide to get it done before school starts.I worry about worrying Ava about the procedure. I don't tell her about it until the day before when she sees me packing some of her clothes and toothbrush into a bag. "Why are you packing my pajamas?" she asks. "Because, we're going to go to a pajama party at the doctor's very early tomorrow morning." I remind her about the visit to the doctor a few days back and explain that we get to visit him again. He is going to fix something in her throat and she gets to wear pajamas. I actually manage to get her a little bit excited about the event, detracting any nervousness, which was exactly my intent.Ava and I arrive at the surgical center at the same time as another mother/daughter team, about 6:25am. Ava and the other little girl, Mia, hit it off in the waiting room and find out they are both 5-years old and having the same surgery. Mia is taken in a few minutes before Ava, but we see her in the bed opposite us in the pre-operation area. They wave to each other and make funny faces while doctors and nurses talk to the adults. Then, Mia is pushed down the hall, propped up by her unicorn pillow. I realize we didn't bring any of Ava's lovies and regret it instantly. The anesthesiologist is great and asks Ava to choose between the cherry-smelling mask or the bubble gum. Ava goes for cherry and shows him how she can breathe deeply and pretend she's eating cherry pie. This is when I realize I didn't need my cup of coffee. My adrenaline starts pumping; my sudden nervousness makes me jittery and hyper at the same time. I think I need my own cherry-mask. Soon, Ava is blowing me kisses as she's wheeled down the hall.Although I brought a book, I choose to read the mindless tabloid articles in the waiting room for the half-hour procedure; I can't follow a plot right now. I keep watching the door for a familiar nurse or doctor. The surgeon comes out claiming Ava's the best patient ever and is ready to be seen. He also mentions that while he was in there, he noticed she also had a sinus infection, something neither Ava nor I were aware of. I wonder what percentage of her time she was so congested. She is just gaining awareness when I reach her and she crumbles into a pile of tears upon seeing me. I know this is normal, so I'm OK. The nurse sets up a wonderful large reclining chair in front of a TV of cartoons and puts Ava on my lap with a blanket and a towel over my clothes. She cries for 3-4 minutes, then settles into watching Phineas & Ferb. We soon learn she is much like her mother (sensitive to anesthesia) and we go through a couple of bed-bowls. However, Ava is a trooper! We can hear Mia in the room next to us. She hasn't stopped crying since she woke up. I remind Ava how brave she is. Ava is very sleepy and twice she nods off in my arms. I take this as the perfect opportunity to tell me she's ready[...]

Business with Daddy


Paul told me a funny story tonight. While at the restaurant, Paul took Alessandro to the bathroom to wash his sticky hands. While there, Paul decided to use the urinal. Alessandro stood there and watched Daddy, then picked up his shirt to look what he should do. "You want to go pee-pee?" Daddy asked. "Yeah," answered his little voice, so Paul pulled down Alessandro's pants and took off his diaper.
Alessandro looked down again and waited. He pushed, but didn't have any pee-pee ready. He pushed harder, but all that came out was a big fart.
"Good job," says Daddy. Nothing like doing business with Daddy.

A Summer's Goal Realized


(image) Darned it if we weren't going to make sure the girls were water safe this summer! With Little Man being as mobile as he is, I wasn't going to have 3 non-swimmers and attempt to go to the pool! So, last April, we started swim lessons with our gym's swim coach in an effort for them to be safe enough to join the Jr-Jr swim team... the pre-school of swim teams, per say, which was set to start in June.
In April, it didn't look good. The girls screamed, protested, writhed in emotional pain that we would force them into the pool to try doing anything other than cling to someone's neck. The coach, a veteran teacher of 20+ years, was dumbfounded. Never, she told me, had she seen a student which such a "strong foundation" for swimming fight so hard. And, there were two of them!
Well, we decided that Mom had to stay away from the pool, lest the kids think I'd be swayed by their protests. In addition, each time they tried what the teacher asked, without crying (Tina would sometimes hyperventilate she'd be so upset), we'd take a trip to Powell's Candy Store for their choice of candy. Bribery and lack of a sympathetic eye was our strategy. Two months later, they could kick on a kick board by themselves (no one touching the board) and were ready for the big pool.
Today was their last day of swim team. After 2 more months, Bettina can swim the length of the 25-meter pool freestyle, back stroke 4-5 arm movements before spinning on her tummy to see what's ahead, then starting on her back again, and can side stroke and butterfly kick with the kick board. Last week, she swam 18-laps in 20-minutes. Pretty awesome! Ava is a bit more like a princess. The stars have to be aligned or she stops to rest (or adjust her goggles, swim cap, etc). She can side stroke and free style, but blows off the backstroke (unless she's hugging her kick board) and doesn't quite "get" the butterfly kick. Last week, she swam 10-laps in 20-minutes. Hey, she's water safe. I figure next summer she can start perfecting all the technicalities!! Below is a video I took today in the last 2-minutes of their 20-minute workout. I wish I'd thought to do it earlier because they weren't as tired and were swimming a whole lot better. However, it's clear that, as far as our Goal for the Summer of 2010: Mission Accomplished!
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It's Kind of Like Rats...


Wouldn't you know it....the morning we have a doctor's appointment for Ava, Alessandro wakes up incredibly early: 5:45am, about 1.5 hours before he usually does. Now my timing for the day is totally off. Yet, we have the doctor's appointment, a pretty important one at the ENT as Ava is slated to have a abenoidectomy next week. So, off we go, three kids and a mom.There is a large waiting room at this office and it's is really nice. Ava remembered that there is a television that plays cartoons ("Ice Age" was playing last time, she reminds me) and a toy box when we're all finished. It's big enough for a bunch of toddler toys and a Montessori-style wooden table with 4 chairs (the kind that has the colored beads on wire tracks all twisted up like parallel roller coasters) to sit on one side, a small library of children's books in the middle and the flat screen TV (currently playing the news) on the other. Bettina goes for the kids' books; Ava sits on one side of the wooden table and starts pushing beads from one end to the other; Alessandro copies Ava from the other side.After watching them, I say aloud "I think we're going to stay here all day," to the receptionist. "It's the quietest they've been all day!" I drink my cup of coffee and think that perhaps we can make it through this appointment despite Alessandro being overly tired and just primed for a melt-down.Soon (too, soon), Ava's name is called and we're crammed into a small exam room with only 2 chairs and a ton of expensive doctor equipment just about eye level for kids. Now, it's about here that I should have turned around and said, "Is it OK for us to wait in the larger room until the doctor is REALLY ready?", but, I assume (stupidly) that the doctor must be close to being ready to see us because we were escorted here to begin with.The first 3-minutes were spent trying to fairly figure out just who, out of the 4 of us, get to sit in the 2 chairs. The kids all try various combinations of cramming together, pushing and shoving ensues and Alessandro shrieks in protest when he can't have one to himself. After I create a system of "fairness," Alessandro leaves the game, walking over instead to the doctor's tools. He somehow manages to turn a light on one of the instruments and smiles with pleasure. Picking him up, I try to distract him pointing out the posters on the wall asking them to find their ear (nose and mouth). Bettina then discovers (accidentally) the lever that makes the patient's chair recline and Ava falls back suddenly. The room explodes in kiddie laughter. I start to realize I'm losing control and wonder when this doctor is coming into the room.Twenty-minutes later, I'm angry and talking to my kids through clenched teeth, just trying to keep them from playing with all these expensive gadgets and tools. Finally, the door opens and in comes the doctor.Now, Ava's ENT doctor is a tiny man with a meek disposition who's completely calm, organized and speaks in a whisper - essentially the exact opposite of the crowd he has waiting for him in his exam room. He does a good job of pretending he can talk to me and ignore all the chaos of the kids around me, however, I can hardly hear him and it takes all my concentration to focus on what he's saying. Frustration wells up inside me as I try to bat away the noisy kids who ask me questions, crawl on me or attempt to take something off the doctor's cart. I'm a little conscience of what this quiet doctor thinks of me and my crazy kids as they were the same way last time we came. Then I wonder if he even has any at home with whom he could be comparing mine.He opens the door, releasing my kids who w[...]

Happy Birthday, Alessandro!


A year of photos of our little man -- we love him so much! Last year, he definitely was still a baby; he's all toddler now. He started pre-school (or a week of their summer school version) last week and adores it. He's been dying to go. When we'd go by the school to drop off the girls, Alessandro would wriggle out of my arms and run across the driveway, down the breezeway, pull open the door himself (which usually gave time for the girls and me to catch up to him) and screech down the hall, banking a hard right at their classroom door. He'd run straight in and find a place at a table or on the carpet where he'd dump over a bin of plastic animals and start playing with the other boys. They would just look at him, then look at me, and wonder to themselves how to be polite about getting that little boy out of the way of the game! After I'd check the girls in, he'd kick and scream and wriggle out in more attempts to stay with the rest of the gang.
At the class's pre-school graduation, I was pleased to hear a mom say, "You know, we need a picture of Alessandro with the class. He's like the class mascot!" Well, he's got a class of his own now, however, I've been ever-so-worried about the nap schedule routine at school. Alessandro's an early napper and, frankly, it's worked out well that way since I have to pick up the girls from school by 2:15. At school, he'll have to learn to shift his nap forward 2-whole hours. I'm crossing my fingers. THAT schedule will actually come in handy for the girls' Kindergarten schedule next year, so I hope it sticks.
Alessandro will be at pre-school today for his birthday. I think I might bring in a couple boxes of Popsicle for his class to help him celebrate (again)!
What can I say about Alessandro on this, his second anniversary of life: he's so full of energy, an optimist, determined, pretty good at sports, loves his sisters, balloons are his best friend, is aware of his limits, but tests them often, is stoic, and the light of our lives. I could never imagine life without him.
On this day, two years ago, he was a birthday present to US!

Where's the Straight-Jacket?!


Little Mr. Up-To-No-Good! Alessandro's a total handful now! He's a stealth trouble-maker who knows how to open the cabinets and climb onto the sink vanities, open drawers and pull out every single hair bow in the girls' collection and throw them about the floor. He even climbs into the chicken coop after eggs.
If things are too quiet, I know to look in the bathroom where he will be standing on the vanity with the water running, bar of soap in his hands, rubbing the mirrors and all his clothes down with the stuff. Thank goodness he hasn't rubbed his eyes yet or somehow burned them with the soap.
Last night, I thought the girls were brushing their teeth while getting ready for bed. "Girls, you're wasting water. Shut off the water while you brush, please," I call. "It's not us, Mommy. It's Alessandro," they answer from their room. Gasp! I sprint up the stairs to find him standing on the double vanity in his footed pjs, both sinks blasting water, one half filled and the other, just about overflowing (he somehow plugged them both up). He's dipping a wet washcloth into the water. Wet marble, footed fleece pjs, child dangerous! He instantly knows he's not supposed to be where he is and tries to jump down. I panic that he's going to fall. This is going to kill me!
This morning: While cleaning the Cheerios Alessandro has dumped all over the downstairs like some sort of ticker tape parade, I hear the sink water running again. I drop what I'm doing to dash upstairs to rescue Little Man from himself again. Along the way, I remind the girls (who are being silly instead of finishing to straighten their beds) that we need to leave in 2-minutes. I turn off the sinks (again!) and get Little Man down from the vanity (how does he climb up there, anyways?). Ava comes in and informs me she's peed herself laughing too hard about Bettina's joke. Both she and the bed are totally wet. So, I strip the bed while she changes, start the sheets in the washer and head back down. We're going to be late for the dentist! We're all at the front door ready to leave. Wait - where's the baby.... I run back upstairs and find him on the floor of my bathroom with all the band-aids and toilet paper strewn around him. He sees me and tries to bolt, but I've got him cornered. I pick him up like a sack of potatoes and he kicks and screams in objection. I think to myself, "Where's the straight-jacket!!" However, I haven't quite figured out who it's or the mischief!

Alessandro - 22 months


playing with the water fountain at Great-Aunt Mary Ann's houseI promised myself that I will be in bed before 11pm - that I will just drop whatever I'm doing and go to sleep because if I don't, I'd be up until 1am every night, trying to do it all on 5-hours of sleep. This is an attempt to explain why it's been 3-months since Alessandro's last monthly update. Excuses aside, let's talk about Little Man! I've only got 15-minutes to write!What a bundle of happiness he is! Alessandro exudes happiness; laughter and smiles bubble through his cute dimpled cheeks. He loves to be right in the middle of everything still. He's a big help around the house, insisting that he put his dirty diapers in the garbage and his dirty clothes in the hamper - and whatever else he sees his sisters do, he wants to do it too. Tonight, I was calling the girls down to help clean the giant mess of toys in the play area. And, while I was starting to clean, throwing Littlest Pet Shop toys in one bag and horses in another, I noticed that Alessandro was chasing me to add to each bag. Surprisingly, he knew that I was sorting the toys a special way. So, I let him hold the Littlest Petshop bag and watched, amazed, as he chose only the correct toys and then zipped it up and dropped them into the toy basket. He trotted back, wanting to finish the horses! So, his sorting/math skills are showing promise already.He is in training to be off the "chu-chu" (aka pacifier) soon and, so far, he's pretty good about giving it back except when we're in the car or in his bed. Another score...however, Paul noticed a little discoloration on one of his front teeth and wondered if it might be a cavity from all the juice he drinks (he has always refused to drink milk). Well, next week's first trip to the dentist will tell.Alessandro loves to play ball and regularly shoots baskets in his toddler hoop with the girls and Daddy. Daddy loves this, admiring his shooting stance (overhand with some wrist action - the proper way - vs underhand or with both hands like his sisters do) and calls him "Basketball Boy," cheering every time he scores (which is more often than not). Alessandro has been asking for the basket to go up higher, so now there is more of a challenge.He knows his alphabet song and has started speaking whole sentences. One of the first most-memorable ones was after he noticed my shock at coming in and seeing the mess of toys on the floor. "Tina did it," Alessandro said. I called Bettina in, and sure enough, she had. I was also amazed when he pointed out the window and he said, "Blue car, Mommy!" Yeah, it was a blue car driving past us. Coincidence? Could be, but wow! He'll also say things like, "Emma go bye-bye," "Bye-bye, Misty! I love you!" followed by a blown kiss. He loves to "talk back" to the television when shows like Dora the Explorer or Kai-Lan ask kids to repeat words back. "Hola, Tico," was said with gusto and enthusiam during Dora's adventure today.The kid loves to dance, is an excellent jumper, and is very physical. He will continue to swing punches at me to get my attention. He throw things - hard - and can easily (and regularly) hurts the girls without even trying. During the summer, he will start a music and movement class at the gym. I know he will LOVE it!My favorite time of day, however, is bed time. It seems to be the only time he's not in constant motion and he will crawl onto my lap in his PJs, smelling so good and clean from his bath, and will let me cuddle up close to his head while I read him his books. He's very into his board books now and has decided favorites.[...]

My Swagger Wagon


I must admit -- I wasn't looking forward to becoming a Mini-Van Mom. Something about it just seemed "old" or something. However, I'm now proud of my sweet ride, 4-years "riding with my posse in the HOV lane." Cracker crumbs and sand cover the floor, apple juice glazing the chair in front of Baby Brother, childrens' music stacked in the 6-CD automatic changer. Yeah, it's my Swagger Wagon....even though we drive a Honda.

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Vacationing Whales


There is a ship's bell at the entrance of Las Olas ("The Waves") restaurant which looks over the beach and pounding surf in front of our hotel. It is rung when the whales (greys and blues, among others) or "las ballenas," which migrate down the coast, swim near to shore and are spotted breaching or blowing along the way. They are most abundant from January to March. This morning as we eat breakfast, the bell is ringing near constantly. Every couple of minutes, we, along with other guests, stop eating and look out toward the horizon to see the mist from their breaths and the blackness of their backs. Ava, who complains near constantly that everything is either too hot or cold, worries that the whales will get too cold swimming out there. I assure her that the whales don't complain too much about the relatively warm waters in Mexico. "They are going to places where the water's much colder than here. They have tough skin with lots of fat under it," "Oh," she understands, "even whales go on vacation to Mexico!"

Kids on Vacation


(image) Ava is now very adept at ordering strawberry daiquiris from the pool-side bar. She scoots herself hand-over-hand from the shallow-end to the first submerged bar stool, then hops from one stool to the next until she's in front of the bartender. Then she says, "Un strawberry daiquiri, por favor," then scoots herself and her drink back to the hot tub. She does this a dozen or so times a day, retrieving drinks for Bettina as well. It's really very cute! Our room couldn't be better placed. From our balcony, we look directly onto the hot tub and wading pool, which is where the girls spend 80% of their time. Next to it are the poolside bar and snack-shack, so, when they're not in the pool, they are likely eating the very yummy kid-friendly food. From our balcony, we can keep track of them; especially handy when Alessandro's napping or trying to spot and catch up with the gang afterwards.

Bettina has been an absolute shadow of Megan, following her around like a little puppy. When the waiter comes to ask what we'd like to drink, Bettina answers, "I'll have whatever Megan's having." She absolutely fawns over her. Our second night at dinner, Bettina demonstrates her resolute loyalty by gently petting and covering Megan with the linen napkins in an effort to comfort Megan as she quietly suffered from a sunburn.


Alessandro is now in the habit of looking for iguanas each and every time we pass a hollowed out place in the wall near the restaurant. They are like clockwork; each morning, two of the reptiles park and sun themselves (at least until we stare them down too long). Then they scurry out and hide again inside their wall. It never ceases to fascinate the Little Man.

Money Well-Spent


It gets windy in Los Cabos at about 10:30 in the morning, so the best money we've spent so far is the $50 we paid a couple of local women on the beach to braid the girls' hair Bo Derrick-style. It sure beats hearing them whine, cry and complain about getting their wet and wind-blown hair brushed out each time they get out the pool or go to eat. Beaming, Bettina said that she feels like a princess having her hair done. It took about half and hour and, I swear, they never sat that still for that long for any of my hairstyling! They look like little Malatos, especially now that their skin is getting all browned from their now third day in the sun.

Spring Break 2010


" I don't want to go to Mexico," Ava says, showing a bit of apprehension.
"Why not?" I ask.
"Grandpa says that they only speak Spanish there. How am I going to make any friends when I don't know how to speak Spanish?"
"Friends will come easy enough," I assure her, "and, a lot of them can speak both English and Spanish. And then there will be Kylee and Megan - they will be there too."
"Excitement his both Ava and Tina's eyes. They quickly claim one for each other and when we do meet us with tme in LAX, they quickly run and clasp hands with them. Getting to LAX, however, was a feat to begin with. Five-weeks in advance, we sent in Alessandro and Paul's passport application/renewal forms and they assured us they would be ready in enough time for our departure. Alesandro's came with more than a week to spare. Paul's, however, arrived a mere 19-hours before our scheduled flight, which left us biting our fingernails. Alessandro and I also nearly missed our flights as we were held up for nearly and hour over a ticketing issue with Alessandro. he was flying internationally as a lap-child and there was confusion within the three entities (Expedia, Alaska and American) as to whether or not we had paid the taxes for his "fare" on the e-ticket (even though he was "free" as a lap-child). He and I literally made it to the gate just as they were closing the door. My belt and necklace were still in-hand from the security checkpoint and our shoes and carry-ons stashed in Alessandro's stroller, used more like a race car than a stroller, in order to get there in time.
The flights were seamless and, although Alessandro didn't sleep, very easy. We arrived at our hotel to mimosas and a welcoming breeze. The all-inclusive resort took on immediate value as we quickly found the margaritas and walked around to get our bearings. Ah! Mexico!

Easter Egg Hunt


The hidden stash(image)
On Tuesday, I started to wonder if something funny was going on. Yesterday, the chickens only left me one egg and today there are none. I usually get at least two if not three. I wonder if my mother-in-law, who lives next door and had obviously been doing some weeding in our yard today, didn't just lift up the hutch and take a few and didn't say anything. Although we'd certainly be just fine with that, I quickly dismiss this thought as it would be SO unlike her. Hummm....
Wednesday there are no eggs again! Huh? And yesterday, only one. I wonder if they've made some secret nest....I rummage through the backyard, looking at their usual dust-bath spots, but can't find a thing. If you saw our backyard, you could see that finding a secret nest is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. That's why Nonna has been weeding in our yard; it's a jungle with most plants 2-3 feet tall with a canopy of some weeds over 4 feet tall. I sort of like it that way as I think it give the chickens extra protection and they LOVE to eat and chew on the variety of weeds around.
Then I wonder if maybe they're sick or stressed and have stopped laying...
Well, today I went out and, again, found no eggs in their boxes. Determined to find them, I look under tarps, wheelbarrows, around rock piles and then, FINALLY, I see something blue in the corner of my eye... There in the weeds is a hole in a thicket that leads to, you guessed it - a hidden nest, piled high with 15 eggs!!
So, I grab one of the kids' sandbox pails and collect the clutch. As I'm gathering, I wonder with a smile if I haven't thwarted some collaborative with the Easter Bunny. I mean, they're already painted green and blue! I envision the chickens syphoning off their work for a designated night drop-off with a local bunny worker. If so, Easter Bunny, I apologize in advance! I will be sure to do all the work at this house to help lighten your load.