Tuesday, December 29, 2009


"Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
EVERYTHING was stirring...except, perhaps, the mouse.
The stockings were laid in front of the tree with care,
Until Owen and Connor dragged them someplace over there.
The children were wired, not ready for bed,
Perhaps all the candycanes went to their heads."

Yes, Christmas Eve was full of activity in the Sawdon home.  Santa was being tracked on NORAD.  My sister-in-law and I were busy making candy for the party.  The kids were wearing their new pj's (the one present they get to open this night,) and the countdown until bedtime seemed to take forever.  The older two began the annual negotiations with their father regarding what time they were allowed up the next day.


"WHAT??!!!  Come on!  Six?"

"No.  Seven-thirty."

"Come on, we were allowed up earlier than that the year Marissa was SICK!"

Marissa turns to Jay, "now is the time we ask Mom to jump in."  They look at me.  I give Bruce "the look."

"Honey...what time did you get up on Christmas when you were a kid?"

"That doesn't matter!  We barely get any sleep as it is with the two babies!" 

My sister-in-law is giggling on the couch, gesturing to me that the time he woke up was WELL before 7:30.

"It shouldn't matter, then...we'll be up anyway."

"Fine. Six-thirty.  If the babies are up before then, we'll get you up."

Irelynn carefully picked out some cookies to leave out for Santa, and instructed me to make him some chocolate milk. 

"Everybody leave Santa reg'lar milk...but what he really likes is chocolate milk."

We sent the older two to bed, and turned to the toddler.  Oh boy.  This was going to take awhile. 

After responding to many questions, ranging from "will you keep Connor and Owen away from Santa's cookies and chocolate milk?" to "When does Santa get here?  Like, three o'clock?," we finally got her down.

The older children were up at 6:30am on the dot.  They actually had to wake up the toddler.  Connor was awake (for his normal 3rd feeding) but Owen was not ready. 

Now, I suppose you could say we spoiled our children this year (or Santa, rather.)  I mentally tallied up the number of items for each child, thinking perhaps I was a bit overzealous as I scanned the living room, piled with presents.  I counted about eight items each...which doesn't seem too bad.  However, I suppose when you have five children...times eight gifts...it makes for quite a pile.

The children began tearing into presents.  The boys (for Owen was now up, begrudgingly,) were sitting in their brand new blow-up Little Einsteins rocketship with balls...and trying to rip thier own gifts.  I looked around.  It looked like Toys 'R Us exploded in our living room.  Irelynn was excited about each and every gift she got...even the pajamas.  She had something to say about every one of them...until she got to the gift.  Over the course of the holiday season she claimed that she wanted just about everything for Christmas...from the talking dollhouse to the automatic toothpaste dispenser.  However, the two times she saw Santa (whom she is terrified of in person) she only asked for one thing:  the pink heart cash register (it was a Disney Princess one.)  I heard a small, quick intake of air.

"Is that what you asked Santa for?"

She just nodded and looked it over carefully, pushing each button.  I smiled.  These are the moments I absolutely love.  The first reaction they have when they realize that Santa came....and then, when they open the one special present...the thing they wanted the most.  It makes battling the holiday crowds, searching store to store and over the internet, watching as your account gets depleted and you have to get "creative" with dinners for a few days, stressing out because you also have to worry about everyone else on your list worth it to see their eyes light up like that.

There are two parts of Christmas I do not enjoy.  The cleaning up of all paper and packaging, picking up every little piece before it gets lost, and trying to find a home for the new additions.  Worse than that, though, is trying to get the toys out of their packaging.  Nothing like having an eager child bounce next to you as you first yank open a box, then peel off a couple layers of packaging tape, to reveal a maze of twisty ties, and finally realize that even after that...you still need a screw driver to unscrew the toy from the piece of plastic anchoring it in it's temprorary home.  There should never be a reason that a toy should be screwed into a piece that you are supposed to discard after removing.  Seriously.  By this time, the child has moved onto a different toy...or stolen one from a sibling.  I do see benefit to doing this before wrapping...it would make Christmas morning go much smoother.  However, I can barely find time to actually wrap a gift, let alone remove each item from it's original packaging.  Perhaps next year I could hire some elves cheaply through the "No Elf Left Behind" program...I'm sure there are some out-of-work elves in this economy looking for work...

Well, overall, I'd say it was a good holiday.  The kids got what they really wanted.  Our home was filled with family, food and music.  My husband splurged and bought me an iPod.  And Santa brought me good coffee.  What more could you want? 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Age Appropriate Reading

You can tell your age by the magazines you read.  Or at least where you are in life at the moment.  My fitness and celebrity magazines have long since been replaced.  First it was parenting magazines...starting with pregnancy publications, reading month by month to see how the baby was developing (and seeing what to expect in the coming months.)  Yes, to a pregnant woman it is fascinating to know exactly when her unborn baby no longer has webbed toes.

Once the pregnancy is over, the parenting magazines take over the house, providing information on everything from stages of food, to how to survive on no sleep.  This stage surprisingly does not last long, however.  When a mother is inundated with everything child....when the visions of the sweet tot dressed in the perfect Gap outfit with the perfect nursery outfitted by Pottery Barn make way for the reality of hand-me-downs that you don't mind getting stained, the footed pajamas that they reside in because they are just so comfortable, and the constant battle to pick up the pots and pans on your kitchen floor and take away those parenting magazines, which they are gleefully tearing to shreds on your floor, while the very cool expensive educational toys gather dust on the cute Pottery Barn shelves in their rooms.  This....this is when the parenting magazines begin to lose their luster.  As a mother, I have enough things related to children in my life.  My entire life revolves around children....the last thing I care to read about is what it is like to be a parent.  I could probably write a few articles myself (although I'm not sure how helpful they would be...but I'm sure there would be some entertainment value to them.)

No, now is the time one wants to focus back on herself.  That person that lies somewhere deep inside...buried under the sweatpants covered in her child's lunch and streaks of toddler snot.  The person who used to know all the words to Greenday and Aerosmith songs, but who now sings the theme songs to "The Backyardigans" and "Imagination Movers."  The person who used to dream about Johnny Depp, but now checks out Mover Scott...and Dave.  Dave's pretty cute, too.  Somewhere buried under diapers and legos, there is a woman there who is more than a mom.  And we turn to magazines to find her. 

There is my absolute favorite, "Real Simple."  This is my dream magazine...the way I dream that my house will look, the way I dream that my organizational skills will be, the way I dream I will be put together...a hip young mom with an immaculate house.  You may laugh...but if we don't have dreams, we don't have much.  I notice that I have also subscribed to what I call my "mother's magazines."  Not parenting magazines...or magazines on how to be a mom...no...MY mother's magazines.  The ones I remember my mother subscribing to.  Did I really reach that point in my life?  I'm reading Better Homes and Gardens...Family Circle...and Woman's Day.  Articles on cooking...on how to make your home more organized, decorating, and the occasional article about kids.  However...there are always articles on make-overs.  You know...the stressed mother who has let herself go, who gets a new hairstyle, make-up tips and new clothes.  Oddly enough...those are the most inspiring.  Because you see that even though you are stressed, wearing your husband's tee-shirts, and probably don't remember how to properly apply eye make-up, let alone know what shades are in season...there is hope.  There is still an attractive woman there. 

I did subscribe to one more magazine.  I keep it hidden in my nightstand.  It was a total vanity purchase.  It has nothing to do with kids.  It has no advice on how to organize my home, or be a better wife.  It is a fitness magazine, plastered with pictures of women with rock hard abs, the time and money to go to a gym, fill their iPods with the latest tunes, and don the best running shoes.  Why would I waste my money on such a thing?  I suppose it is another dream magazine.  There are still quite a few years before I can focus on myself in that way.  But in the five minutes I have in the bathroom, where I lock the door and skim the pages...it somehow rejuvenates me.  It reminds me that somewhere under my muffin top and stretchy pants there is an attractive woman there.  And someday I will find her. 

I just hope it happens before I start subscribing to senior citizens magazines.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

I finally succumbed to my husband's overzealous Christmas spirit.  While the holiday season begins the day after Halloween for him, it does not begin until December for me.  Even then, I do not tend to want to put up a tree until a couple of weeks before Christmas.  Although, I have to admit, having smaller children once again has brightened my spirit...there's just something about the awe and wonder of a small child discovering the magic of Christmas.  And by magic, I mean the things that we forget to appreciate when we're older...the things that do not have to do with the commercialization of the holiday season...or, if they do, it is purely because it really does seem magical to them.

For instance, my three-year-old waking up, glimpsing out her window and being heartbroken to find out that it had not snowed overnight.  I'm not going to lie; I do not like the snow.  It makes me think of scraping windows, shoveling walkways, and taking an extra 20-minutes each morning to bundle up children before they leave.  But there is something about a tiny girl looking to the sky, waiting for the sprinkling of powdery snow...with dreams of snowmen and snow angels...that make me *almost* wish that it would snow.  And, I admit...I am very curious to see the twins' reactions to their first real snow experience this year.  It almost melts away the Scrooge inside of me.

Thank goodness for this...because without it, I'm not sure how I would get through the holiday season.  Or the weekend we decide to put up the tree, for that matter.  You see, I have this internal battle inside:  I have my "stressed-out, wishing everything would end already, trying to make ends meet and buy presents, detesting all forms of Christmas music because my husband has been forcing it into the household since Halloween" side duking it out with my "wanting to give my children a magical experience, live in the moment, appreciate everything, and live it up at the holidays" side.  They do not mesh well.  I'm an inherent over-achiever residing in a worn-out, lazy body.  My mother-in-law, who has perfected the art of not only surviving, but hosting, planning, and enjoying the holidays, would laugh at me, and give me a suggestion for an easier way to do things.  My mother, who painstakingly makes every effort to make gatherings "proper" and full with tradition (I must make the eggnog, she puts great-grandma's beads on the tree, while the men put the lights on the tree,) would applaud my efforts and claim that I am Supermom.  I just feel like all my attempts are in vain:  I'm a Martha Stewart wannabe trapped in the body of Mr. Bean.

For example:  while the children put up ornaments, I tried to make red and green pancakes in the shapes of snowmen and Christmas trees.  They did not turn out perfect...but...I think it was still cute.  However, while trying to shape pancakes and not burn bacon, I notice that Owen has become extremely quiet.  These are the moments a parent must worry:  when a child cannot be heard, it usually means that they are up to no good.  I round the corner to find him sitting on the floor, with red and green posterboard rings in hand (another attempt at being crafty and fun:  I had the three older children make red and green links, tape a Hershey Kiss to each link, to be torn off each day leading up until Christmas.)  The boy was covered in chocolate...from his face on down to his feet.  All I could imagine was the red and green tin foil that he would be pooping out over the course of the next few days as he had been sitting there, plucking each Hershey Kiss off, and devouring it whole...wrapper and all.  Meanwhile, the older children are arguing in the living room...Jaylond was upset to discover that after spending a half hour in the bathroom, his sisters had decorated the entire tree. 

Needless to say, the holiday season has not gone how I planned at all.  My pancakes did not *really* look like trees and snowmen.  I believe the older girl even made a comment about the food dye making them taste funny.  The toddler boy wrecked his older sister's Christmas countdown craft.  The children argued nonstop.  An ornament or two shattered.  The living room floor was now covered in fake pine needles and newspaper wrappings.  I still cannot stand to hear Wham's "Last Christmas" or that song about the Italian Christmas donkey. 

However, somewhere between standing outside with Irelynn while putting up her beloved blow-up Christmas Snoopy and hearing Owen, for the first time, point at a picture and say "Santa," my heart melted.  Maybe it was the snow that gently fell while Irelynn and I put up lights, with her telling me all of her grand plans for what to do when we get "real" snow.  Maybe it was watching her bravely tell Santa the one thing she really wanted for Christmas.  Or maybe it ws noticing, that despite all the imperfections I saw...the kids all really enjoyed my silly attempts to make the holiday bright. 

I'm not sure when or how...but I think my heart grew three sizes this month.  It seems that while I was busy worrying about presents and money, thinking the kids only appreciated things that came from the store...I didn't take time to look through their eyes, and see that the season was much more.  Snow forts and cookies, music and magic, although fighting was apparent, it wasn't that tragic.  Christmas specials and crafts, lights and elves, though nothing was perfect, it was all heartfelt. 

Now...if I could only find a good deal on roast beast...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Star Trek for Breakfast

I am sitting here typing in complete silence.  It is 9am on a Saturday, and all the children are eating breakfast behind me.  To what can I owe this moment of Zen?  Apparently Star Trek.  Or Eggo, as the case may be, who came up with the brilliant idea of creating Star Trek waffles. 

They were originally meant for my husband, who is an avid Trekkie.  He has a Star Trek blanket.  He has a mock phaser.  He even has a box of stale Star Trek cereal sitting on his dresser in our bedroom.  I bought it for him, thinking he would eat it.  Apparently cereal could one day become a collector's item.  Who knew?  I'm waiting for our room to become infested with mice.  The older children were quite put out that they were not allowed to partake in the Star Trek cereal. 

When I originally bought the waffles, I informed him that a box of frozen waffles would NOT be setting on our dresser....these were to EAT.  The children rejoiced, and the box was devoured before Bruce even got a waffle.  I realized I needed to make a compromise.

The next time I bought waffles almost ended in disaster as well, as I bought them while visiting the in-laws up north.  Our stores down here do not carry the Star Trek ones anymore, so I thought I scored big-time.  Unfortunately, I then left them in my mother-in-law's freezer.  Luckily for me (and my husband,) my mother-in-law made a trip down only a few days later, and she brought the waffles with her.  A new rule was put in place:  no one was allowed to eat the waffles until their father had eaten some first. 

The following days I was hounded by children wanting to know if their father had eaten his waffles yet so they could have some.  I finally, one morning, made some for him.  The boxes were officially open.  Which brings us to this morning, the first morning the children are allowed to have waffles.

Owen and Connor are shoving them in their mouths, looking like little chipmunks.  Irelynn had me carefully cut her's so I did not distroy the picture in the middle.  The older girl excitedly put her's in the toaster and described the aliens adorning the front.  We are officially down one box. 

This is why my morning is quiet...I have a table full of content kids, happily eating alien encrusted waffles. 

Oh...wait...Connor just tried to steal some of Owen's.  So much for the quiet.  Ah, and now Irelynn is trying to cheer Owen up with her rendition of Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies."  I suppose it could only last so long...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Twin Trail

It was subtle...but I could detect a faint scent of Gerber body wash and banana leading into the kitchen.  I crouched down...yes, I could see some tracks...small markings where someone had stepped in the banana.  Tracking babies does not require strong detective skills...but it does require a strong stomach and large amounts of patience.

I followed the trail of Cheerios into the kitchen, where it looked like a poltergeist had been present:  cabinets were all open, objects had been strewn across the kitchen, and I'm almost positive I heard things slamming in a far off room. 

I pass the toddler, happily eating her pancake at the table.  She looks at me, and calmly points toward the hallway. 

I see the remains of graham crackers littering the hallway, and fingerprints on the walls.  Then, I saw it:  the telltale sign that one of the twins had recently been in the area:  Owen's diaper was sitting on the floor.  Twin droppings are not rare...but they are key to finding their location. 

The bedroom door was closed.  I could hear voices on the other side.  I slowly opened it...being careful to not spook them...there is nothing quite like a toddler stampede.  Sure enough, Connor was sitting in a pulled out plastic drawer, and the elusive Owen was hiding under the Leap Frog Learning Table...I could tell it was Owen by the bare butt cheeks sticking out of the back of it. 

I suppose I should look at the bright side:  if they ever get lost in public, it won't be too difficult to find them.  I just hope Owen leaves his clothes on.