Rituals are important. They say that rituals hold societies together. From Thanksgiving dinner to watching the Superbowl to church on Sundays to fireworks on the 4th of July. Ask any Catholic in the English-speaking world, and he or she will tell you we all say the same prayer before dinner. The same damn prayer.

Like all families, we have our own rituals. Like that same damn Catholic prayer. Or like kisses before I leave for work, kisses before bedtime, notes in lunch boxes. That sort of thing. Only the boys are making them complicated.

Tornado S has to be the first to great me with a hug and kiss or all is lost for the known world. All. Is. Lost.

Tornado S and Tornado A have to wave me goodbye in the morning. They get their kisses and then follow me outside, where I remind them to stay in the front yard, not the driveway. Then I pull out, with windows down, saying “Goodbye. I love you; do your best; I’ll see you later.” Then I make my left turn, and because we live in a corner house, the boys stand in the front yard until I make my next turn. They wave until they can’t see me any more. I wave until I can’t see them any more. Like the end credits to “The Beverly Hill-Billies.” It’s only annoying in the winter.

Bedtime has also become overly complicated. At least, the bedtime kiss has become overly complicated. I kiss each boy goodnight and tuck them into bed. Then we say our goodnight prayer about guardian angels because I hate that creepy Protestant bedtime prayer. Then I turn out the lights before turning on the nightlight. Then Tornado A has to kiss me goodnight.

He kisses me on the lips. Then the forehead. Then each cheek. Then my chin. (?) Then my nose. (I hate that; I wipe it off, but I’ve been doing that since I was little.) Then he has to rub noses. Then he has to give me butterfly kisses on each cheek. He does this, holding my head firmly so I can’t get away. I’m caught between thinking it’s cute and creepy. Halfway through the ritual, I get annoyed because it takes so long. I mean, dude, can’t you procrastinate by asking for water like a normal kid.

I worry about the next ritual.

My Son, The Vampire

Sean has learned to bite.  Which I can’t blame him, really.  Evan’s favorite game is “How can I annoy my baby brother the greatest.”  So in a lot of ways, Evan had it coming.

But rather than let Sean get carried away in a Chicago musical number, I some how have to discipline this grievous assault.  The kid leaves bite marks.  It’s only a matter of time before he breaks the skin.

The first time Sean did it, my dad was babysitting, and he was at his wit’s end on what to do.  If it had been his kid, it would have been a couple of spankings or a bite back, which worked so well on my middle brother when he went through this phase on me.  (Unlike Evan, I was a perfect child.)  But my dad knew how I feel about physical punishment, so he placed Sean into time out and cuddled Evan.

It happened on my watch last night.  Even though I threw Sean into time out for three and a half minutes, I don’t think it really had an effect, since Sean started laughing and talking to himself during the middle of it.  Nothing like a punishment that works.

And I wasn’t stupid enough to think this just happened out of the blue because Sean was so hungry from missing dinner, he mistook his brother for a hamburger.  As I comforted Evan, I interrogated him on what happened right before the teething incident.  Evan was using Sean as a punching bag.  Nice.  Now I have to be in the same room with them at all times like a warden.  Where’s my shot gun?

So what’s a poor, enlightened mother suppose to do?

I’ve seen the whole biting the kid thing work, but I feel it’s a bit barbaric and contradictory.  Nothing like hitting to let some one know hitting is wrong.  I’m not sure that the time out thing is working, since it seems the place for Sean to work on his inner comedic monologue. 

So any advice out there?

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The Renaming

Evan: I think I want to name Sean.

Me: What?

Evan: I want to name Sean.

Me: He already has a name.  It’s Sean.

Evan: He needs a new name.  I’m going to call him Falleif.

Me: What?  No.

Evan: Falleif!  Let’s play cars.

Me: We’re not naming your brother Falleif.

Evan: Falleif, do you want juice?

Me: Sean, do you want juice.

Sean: Please juice!

Me: See.  He’s name is Sean.

Evan: I’m still going to call him Falleif.

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Little Brotherly Love

Yesterday Sean and I dropped Evan off at school.  Evan’s school is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.  We wanted to ease Evan into school, rather than drop him into the deep end as some of the schools we looked at would do.

I packed the boys into the car after lunch.  Each had his backpack strapped on to his back.  I reminded Evan to raise his hand during the class and to listen as I know these are his biggest weakness.  I had observed this last summer during his swim classes and then again at the open house where the teacher went through circle time with the kids.  Really, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

We arrived in good time.  The boys and I braved the sweltering heat as we marched to the classroom.  A few other moms stood around with their kids, talking.  I herded mine to keep them from running around in the landscaping.  No one else’s kid was doing that, so I figured I shouldn’t allow mine either.  Of course, it is desert-scaping; nothing can hurt it.

The teacher opened the door, and the children marched one by one.  Sean followed his brother.

I grabbed Sean.

Me: No, Sean.  That’s your brother’s class.  That’s Evan’s class.  Not for Sean.

Sean: Brothr!

He tried to wiggle out of my grasp.  He started to cry, wail, scream.

Me: Sean, it’s ok.  You’re going home with Mommy, and we’re going to have fun.  Do you want to have fun with Mommy?

Sean: BROTHR!!!

I picked him up, looking straight into his big brown eyes.

Me: I know.  You want to play with Evan and his friends.  But you’re not old enough yet.  We can go home and play.  We’ll have some special time.

Sean: With Dadda?

Me: Yes, Daddy is home.  We can play with him, too.  Do you think that is a good plan?

Sean nodded.  We walked away.

Me: How about a binky?

Sean: BINK!

Of course, Sean slept through the whole afternoon, missing any Mommy and just Me time.  Poor kid.

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Project Womb: The Hope for Pink Booties

I would like to jinx myself in a public forum.  I’m announcing we’re going to go for another baby because I’ve just got this burning, crazy desire, and we’re hoping it’ll be a girl.  It’s not like I wouldn’t absolutely love another boy, but it would be awfully nice to have a girl in the mix.  With every added penis to the household, I become more girly to contradict the incoming waves of testosterone.  Soon I won’t be able to open a jelly jar.  This is all the research I’ve been doing to try and up the chances of a baby girl.


First we’ve ruled out help from science.  It just doesn’t sit right with me.  It’s like I’m pushing us towards Gattaca.  And that ain’t right.

I’ve also ruled out the Chinese birth calendar.  It worked for Evan.  It did not work for Sean.

I’m ruling out times for conceiving in the month.  One, it’s pretty complicated, mathy stuff, and I just don’t do mathy.  I also don’t count very well.  Actually I was sure I couldn’t conceive when we happened to make Sean.  Oops.  We were just beginning to talk about it.  I’m one of those you-know-we-should-have-a-oops-I’m-pregnant kind of girls.  I probably won’t have time to synchronize our watches, much less our calendars.


This leaves me with the most interesting of advice.

I’m changing my diet in hopes to make my womb less hospitable for Y sperm.  I’m to eat lots of diary (check), vegetables (check), fish (does sushi or fried count?), and a piece of chocolate (check, check, and check).  I’m to stay away from caffeine.  Yeah, I laughed too since I need that caffeine.  (What am I going to do when that test becomes positive.)  Supposedly this will make my womb more acidic, killing off the weaker but faster Y sperm.  Fun fact: Did you know women actually produce a type of spermicide?

We’re changing positions.  The advice for girls suggests missionary or woman-on-top positions in hopes that the Y sperm will tire out before the egg as the X sperm go for the gold as long distance swimmers.  Since I know for a fact that Evan and Sean were conceived missionary, we’ll have to go for the other one.

There’s also talk about the time of day having an effect, which I find laughable, but heck, I’ll try it.  Since I know what time of day the boys were conceived, I wonder if my parents will watch them for an afternoon or two every month.

My favorite: When making love, keep a frying pan under the bed.  It’s an old wives tale, but I won’t rule out anything.

The husband’s favorite: They suggest that when trying to conceive a girl to have the woman not orgasm.  The husband’s first reaction was for my well-being, which is touching, but since I’m willing to sleep with a frying pan under my bed, I think I can go without a few Os for the sake of a girl.  He was still chuckling for a day or two when I pointed out how many people we know who have daughters.  A whole round of laughter commenced for another few days.  When I mentioned it to my mom, she pointed out that she had a girl first, which showed my father’s improvement.  Then I tried to scrub my brain clean of that conversation.  That obviously did not work.

Now that you know too much about my sex life, you can laugh with me when that sonogram shows a little penis.

Don’t worry.  I can handle three boys.  It’s four that I can’t handle.

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In the eye of the beholder

When I was a young kid, we went grocery shopping as a family, so that my dad could manage the kids, allowing my mom to accomplish grocery shopping under an hour.  As the eldest, it was my job to try to turn the cart over, demand sugary cereals, and completely ignore my baby brother as he was cursed to be born a boy.  My brothers helped me in my endeavors.  My dad’s main job was to keep us occupied as my mom checked out so that she didn’t have to say, “Don’t touch the candy, don’t touch the candy, don’t touch the candy, no candy, no, no, no.”


My dad would take us over to the magazines, pull one out with Bo Derek, Farah Fawcet, or some other starlet on the cover and ask us who it was.  The response was always the same.  “MOMMY!”  When my dad relates the story to others, he always adds that when he would pick up a picture of Tom Selleck, we would yell “Tom Selleck.”  Not quite true, but it makes a great story.




The other day the boys and I were outside playing in my parents’ backyard with my dad, the beloved Papi, when my dad went into his tool room to fix something.  Like little puppies, my boys followed their Papi into a room they aren’t allowed to go in, and I followed to keep them in line. 

On the walls of the tool room are a couple of girly calendars that my brothers and I love to give my dad to annoy my mom and tease my dad over his little “hobby” of taking pictures of women in bikinis when he’s at the beach.  He does this to annoy my mom and exasperate the other women in his life, especially my friends.  (Trust me; it’s his way of having fun and training to be a dirty old man, chasing nurses one day in the old folks’ home.)  One of these calendars is a “The Girls Next Door” calendar as my family rarely missed an episode, especially my brothers and my dad. 

Evan took one look at the picture of Bridget and announced with glee, “GRANDMA!”

Sometimes the apple falls too close to the tree.

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God’s Story



Said my husband when he noticed the stain on the white shirt he was ironing so he could wear it for work.  It was said in front of the boys, and I held my breath because if Evan remembered that phrase, I was getting my mouth washed out with soap this Christmas . . . again.  My father (as he is not my dad when he disciplines) hates that phrase, and the last time I said it in front of him, at eighteen, fresh from my first semester away at college,  I was astonished as I was marched into the bathroom and told to open my mouth.  Now I know for sure my father would not hesitate to wash out my mouth again.  If it had happened three months ago, my father would be right to do so but not when I’ve been so good.


But God was merciful.


Evan: Daddy!  God means church!  God means we’re going to church!  God wants us to be quiet in church!  If we’re quiet in church, we go out to eat breakfast!  Then we go home!  The end!  That was a good story, Daddy!


I think we better go to church this Sunday to thank God.

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