I've been away awhile.

Something about running a home daycare makes me feel very isolated. I've heard stay-at-home moms say that they go crazy staying home all day having three-year-old conversations, but this is different. I mean, I do have that on the weekends, and it's different than my Monday through Friday job. During the week we have a purpose, and I'm focused on teaching them social skills and facts and perfecting our daily routine to minimize the craziness... so it's different than that feeling I have when it's just me and my kids. But it is still isolating.

When all the kids are gone and Husband comes home to watch our kids, I dart upstairs. And I'd like to say it's so that I can log on to CNN.com or call my sister or blog or do some other adult thing, but usually it's to read... about kids.

Every day I encounter some new kid challenge, and in the evening, I read about how to handle it. There's always something.

But what about me? Am I a something?

The other day I had this conversation:
Me: Ow.
Charlie: What happened?
Me: I bumped my head.
Charlie: Where?
Me: On the car.
Charlie: On what part of the car?
Me: Right there.
Charlie: But how did you bump your head on that part of the car?
Me (in my head): What difference does it make? I just bumped my fucking head! I just said "ow." Do I have to stop saying "ow?" Can a person not make a comment in passing without all the follow-up questions?
Me (in actuality): Oh, I dunno sweetie. Let's just be quiet for a minute.

And I realized that a little part of my brain has died. The adult, formerly-intellectual, thirsty for knowledge* part of my brain.
* Adult knowledge, which includes such topics as world events, politics, the arts (not arts & crafts), hell... even Hollywood gossip would be a step up.

So, I am putting myself on daycare bulletin board restriction. Only 30 minutes per day. And while the kids nap... no computer time at all. I am also requiring myself to start reading the paper every day, like I used to, like most normal adults who care about the world do. And I might also start blogging again, though it might be kid related. Baby steps.


The downside of running a daycare, II.
I got my master's degree. I wanted an "analytical" job that would make me "think" and "ponder" and have grown up conversations.

Instead, I read stories on the floor, answer "why" questions, and talk about boogers and poop an awful lot. I love what I do, but I find myself mentally listing the downsides.

Before starting this, I worried that the quasi-intelligent side of my brain might die if not used. I am starting to realize this truth.

Last week I walked through the family room as hubby was watching a new show.
Oooooh. You like that show? Neat!
He shot me a look, and I realized it. I cannot escape kid teacher mode.

Then, a few nights ago, he let Charlie stay up way too late. The next day, Charlie was clinging to my leg like Saran Wrap, and constantly asking for me to hold him. He was overtired. That night, I laid into hubby. Except, instead of casually mentioning we should find and stick to a bedtime, I became that lady again.
His bedtime is 8:00. No exceptions!
I couldn't tell if he felt belittled or angry, but romantic and sexy were not either of the expressions I read.

Then, last night. I was talking to a girlfriend on the phone. She said something moderately funny, and I actually said:
Nooooo.... silly!

Before you know it, I'll be asking everyone if they went stinky before leaving the house. And then actually offering to wipe their butts. And reminding them to use soap when they wash. And putting the hand towel on the counter, within reaching distance.

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Charlie: Mommy, want to see my poop?
Me: No, not really.
Charlie: Mommy, I went poop. Come see it.
Me: No, that's OK. I don't need to see it.
Charlie: Mommy, do you want to see the long poop with the stripes, or the square poop?

Now this I gotta see.

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The big downside of running a home daycare.
My baby thinks my name is Andrea.

At first, I thought it was my imagination. After all, his pronunciation is not great. But when I put him in his enclosed area and went upstairs for a minute, I heard the following (yelled with great enthusiasm):


Naw, couldn't be.

The next day, same thing.

Everytime I go upstairs, I hear, "Aanneaaaaaa" or something similar. I have finally come to accept that my baby, my 13 month-old who barely speaks, no longer calls me mommy. This makes sense, as he hears the big kids (including his brother, who likes to push my buttons) call me Andrea. Now that I think of it, he has not called me mama in a few months.

I have been working hard to teach him that I am, in fact, his mommy, but he has been ignoring me.


Double Standard.
Once again, we (all right, MySpace) has sexualized breastfeeding as naughty, explicit, and indecent, while happily remaining OK with non-mom boobs hanging out for the world to see. In actuality, I don't care whose boobs are begging to be seen. As I think I've said before, they are just boobs. I am not particularly offended by boobs on the covers of magazines or elsewhere -- sexual or otherwise. But if you are going to object to breastfeeding boobs, then you really need to object to the other ones.

The issue:

Do something:

See for yourself what all the fuss is about:

Are you offended?


I said I needed help. No, not that kind of help.
I have always been very casual about my housecleaning priorities. Now, I wouldn't call myself a slob, but cleaning is a bit low on my priority list. Since I watch kids all day, I want to do important things at night like relax, be with my own family, stare at a wall, catch up on TV shows, and eat chips. Vacuuming is not high on this list.

But being that I run a home daycare, it should at least make the list.

In order to preserve my free time in the evening, I've been instituting this clever idea called, "cleaning as you go." It's actually working out pretty well. I load the dishwasher while the kids play with Play-Doh at the table nearby. I load the dryer while the two-year-old pees nearby. I vacuum when a couple of the kids have been picked up and I only have a few left. It's working out pretty well, but honestly, I still think it's a stye.

A few weeks ago, I finally decided to hire a housekeeper. I am sick of the mess -- the boogers on the window, the stuff stuck under the table, the coffee drips splattered on the white kitchen cabinets, the dust taking up residence atop the baseboards. I didn't really have the money, but I recently learned that it is mostly tax-deductible for me, being that my very business clients create most of the mess.

One of my friends recommended someone to me, and I called her immediately. She said she would need to look at my house and give me a quote. Perfect.

She came over and walked through. I apologized for the mess, and she said things like, "oh, this is fine. This will be fine." I asked her, incredulously, "You want to take this on, really?" She said, "Yes. But your friend's house... oh, it is messy. Dog hair everywhere. So messy." That should have been Clue Number One.

After completing her walk through, she told me it would be $150 for the whole house. I thought about it a bit, and then it was $140. And then, $130. Amazing. I agreed to it, and scheduled an appointment for the following Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, my friend bragged about how clean her house had become. Polished picture frames, clean windows, clean blinds -- all the things she forgets to clean or doesn't have time to clean now sparkled.

House Cleaner Lady came on Saturday morning as planned. She walked in. "Oh my. Oh my goodness. How does it get so messy?" I can't remember what I said, though it looked the same way it did two days earlier. I was on my way out, so I said goodbye. It was Will's Birthday, and I didn't want to spend it talking about how messy my house was.

After running a few errands, I came back home to drop off a bunch of party balloons. I noticed she was quickly going through a roll of fresh paper towels.
HCL: Do you have more of these? The floor under the kid table is so dirty, I didn't realize I would need so many.
Me: No, I don't have any more.
HCL: You have no more paper towels?
Me: No. I didn't know you would need to use mine.
HCL: And your mop. This will not do. Do you have another one?
Me: I do not.
HCL: I need the kind with the long strips, the cloth strips, and you move the plastic handle to squeeze out the water, you know, like this. You know how you squeeze down like this (motioning rapidly)? Could you please go buy me one... I will pay you back, of course.
Me: Ok.

I came back, she talked some more about how dirty it was under the table.
HCL: How does it get so dirty down there?
Me: I watch kids for a living. And my baby is just turning one.
HCL: But how does he make such a mess?
Me: He is a baby.
HCL: You should get a cover. You put it over the floor. It protects the floor. A floor cover. Keeps the floor clean.
Me: But, um, then I just have to mop the cover thingy.
HCL: Oh, no. It is better. Much better. You buy it at the flea market.
Me: Here is the mop you asked for, and the receipt.
HCL: Oh, I was able to use your old mop. I don't need this new one anymore. But you -- you need it. You keep it. You just keep it.
Me: Um, thanks.

HCL: The floor, it was so dirty. I scrub and scrub and scrub. I had to really scrub.
Me: Yes, I know you scrubbed. Because you are a housecleaner. And scrubbing is one of the services you claim to do well, and which people pay you to do. That is what I am paying you to do, right? (Ok, I actually just nodded, but that is what I meant).
HCL: And I had to scrub for so long, I did not get to the blinds.
Me (feeling ashamed): Ok, that is fine. Here is your money. Can I please get a receipt?
HCL: Receipt? No one ever asked me for that before.
Me: Ok. I need a receipt.
HCL: I don't have one.
Me: I can make one for you to sign. What is your last name?
HCL: How much you save from tax company by giving them a receipt?
Me: I don't know. Maybe twenty, thirty bucks.
HCL: Because, your floor very dirty. I scrub and I scrub.
Me: All right. Forget it.

Later in the week.
Me (talking to answering machine): House Cleaning Lady, I will not be needing you again on Saturday. I have decided to use another company that will give me receipts for the work I pay for.

Two hours later, the doorbell rings. I look through the peephole. Crap. I contemplate pretending to not be home, but the kids running back and forth sort of give me away. I open the door.
HCL: You did not like the work I did? You really need me. And I will give you a receipt next time.
Me: I thought you did not have receipts.
HCL: I do have receipts. Now I have receipts.
Me: Actually, I was kind of bothered that you complained about how messy it was.
HCL: Oh... (covering face with hands), I am so sorry. I am an honest person. Like an open book. I don't talk behind people's backs. I talk to people's faces.
Me: Right.... but I didn't want to feel bad about my house.
HCL: Next time I come, I be quiet. I won't talk. Just work quietly.
Me: Um, Ok...
HCL: So I still come on Saturday? I do a good job.
Me: Ok.


Later in the week.
Me (over phone): I won't be needing you on Saturday. I really have just decided not to have a housecleaner lady.
HCL: You still mad that I talk so much? That I complained? You are mad at me.
Me: No, I really am not mad at you. Really. I have just decided to clean my own house.
HCL: You need my help.
Me: I know I do. But I will do it myself. Thanks anyway.
I think I heard a sob on the other end, but she said thank you and hung up. Guess I can't complain about the mess anymore.

My kid is perfect.
Is anyone else ever surprised by how utterly perfect your own kids seem? As babies, they really are perfect. They don't have 'tudes yet, they have no wrinkes or other imperfections, they are appropriately needy and soft and cuddly so that our love for them can intensify and ensure their survival.

For me, this idealism has continued throughout Charlie's young childhood. If someone so much as suggested their child reached a verbal milestone before mine did, I would chime in that mine was walking early -- therefore, he was focused on the equally-important physical skills. When someone else's kid seems more athletic, mine is sweeter. My kid is perfect.

As he gets older, I am surprised to find that this superiority complex still exists. I mean, I watch other peoples' kids for a living, and I am very fond of all of them. But, although I try to surpress it, I secretly feel protective (and shocked by) any clue that my child might not be perfect.

Take his red hair. Yes, I know, it is pretty and vibrant. But boys don't want to be pretty or vibrant. Heck, I was the girliest of all girly girls, and I despised my red hair and fair skin. I was called Strawberry Shortcake, eraser head, Annie, an unmentionable, and for my fair skin, milk legs. That last one hurt.

Adults always tell him that he has beautiful hair, and I say thank you but cringe inside. Adults love red hair; kids point and laugh at it.

And then there's his height. At first I thought his growth spurt just hadn't come yet. But after three or four visits with his height lingering in the lower percentiles, I have accepted it. He will be short. And my protective, perfectionist side kicks in: he will be short; but husky. He will be redheaded; but cute. He might be the creative (as opposed to athletic) type; but also outgoing and friendly and interesting. He is still my perfect child.

The internal argument intensified today after Charlie returned with his dad from his first dentist appointment. Let me preface this by saying that this kid (bias rapidly approaching) has the pearliest, whitest, straightest kid teeth I've ever seen. He has 22 of these pearly whites, and, according to Mr. Dentist, 13 of them have cavities. Thirteen. I am in my early thirties and have had maybe 5 cavities my entire life. I am a bit shocked considering we are not big on juice or candy or sweets, and he never went to bed with baby bottles. All right, I know we have not been terribly consistent with teeth brushing, but the dentist insists his "soft teeth" are genetic. But anyway, not my point.

This just serves as another reminder that my perfect child - the one whose Birthday was the happiest day of my life and who has made me smile every day since - will someday be teased and become aware of his imperfections. He will deal with it fine, I'm sure (cuz, um, he's perfect). But I, for one, will have to accept that my child is also human.

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Yes, I am still young and hip.

Last month, we bought a minivan. Ok, it is not as pimpin' cool as the one pictured, but I love it. This is coming from someone who swore I would never buy an SUV/van/gas guzzler of any variety.

But I got really sick of having no trunk space because the double stroller and diaper bag took up all the room. And every time we needed something from Home Depot (which is way too often), we had to rent one of their trucks. And also, the new ones are pretty.

So we did it. We bought a newish one. The turning radius is awesome. The ride is smooth. The sound system is actually decent. It smells good. And I just like it.

What I did not expect was the reaction from Everyone In The World. Let's evaluate.

Neighbor #1: I love your new van. I wish my husband would let me buy one like that.
Daycare parent #1: I love your van!!!! I wish my hubby would let me get one!!!
Friend #1: Nice van. I wish my husband would let us get one.
Neighbor #2: You gotta new van, huh? Now you are really part of the Middle Class. (WTF?)
Neighbor #2 (different day, incredulously): So you really like that van, huh?
Daycare parent #2: My wife loves your van. She wishes I would let her get one.

None of the above quotes are exaggerations. Not one.

All of this is making us feel a little defensive. Jerry's response to one neighbor was that he had no idea it would be so "emasculating," (said sarcastically, as in, "I used to be a man but this material object essentially cut my balls of. Wish I would have known.")

Everytime we drive in it, we giddily announce to each other that those who don't have vans, yet have more than one child, and think vans are lame, just don't get it. Fuck 'em.

Which brings me to today.

I had to go to the DMV to get new plates for said van. I came prepared with a double stroller with the boys nicely strapped in, some toys, juice boxes, even. We waited in line, gave the lady some paperwork, waited patiently, paid the obnoxious fee of $600, received the plates, walked out. Once in the car, I look. No, it can't be. It truly cannot be.

405 OLD

I drive kids home, put them down for naps, pace floor, make a few phone calls.
Three hours later, I put down an extra $66 to buy fucking "designer" plates, which just means there's a lame mountain view involved, but at least now we are:

364 OCD.

This blog is now public. I have no more secrets.


My baby is a toddler.
March 3 my baby Will turned 1. I can't believe how quickly the last year has flown by. Compared to life with his big brother, with Will I only savored little moments here and there, like a second each, before moving on to the next emergency or crashing in my bed. But here are the moments I have savored, and the things I remember that make me feel truly warm and fulfilled.

Before bedtime, he rests his head on my shoulder, and places his chubby hand on my shoulder. Sometimes he pats it.

He constantly looks back at me for validation and to understand his world. Anytime he starts to bring something to his mouth -- like a rock, toy, hunk of sand, food from the floor -- he holds it in front of his mouth while looking at me with a raised eyebrow, and starts to shake his head 'no.' The look on his face says, "this is a no-no, right?" When I say no, he usually brings it down to his lap, but often sticks it in his mouth later, when I'm not looking.

He uses his hands to talk. Signing is something I never taught his brother to do. The other day I was nursing him, and he heard The Dog bark in the yard behind us. He immediately sat up and looked at me, waiting for me to explain. I said "dog," while doing the sign for dog (patting my thigh). He immediately started to hit his thigh while trying to bark ("ahh! ahh!")

He adores his big brother as some amazing big kid. This is odd for me because Charlie is still practically a baby himself, at least in my eyes. Will looks at Charlie like he is all-knowing and so, extremely cool. If Charlie pushes him with his foot, it devastates Will.

But he's a pretty happy guy. He rarely cries, unless a very exciting opportunity (like sucking on something sharp or touching a flame) is denied him. Then he arches his back and bursts into tears.

He loves people. He cries when one of the kids gets into trouble. He cries when his brother is put into time-out. He waves and says, "haaaa" whenever anyone arrives at our house. He never acts like he wants space from anyone.

... though he doesn't like to share my lap. I was nursing him, and Charlie wanted up, so I let him sit near Will's feet. Will took his foot and assertively pushed Charlie away. Message was clear: this is my lap now.

The other morning, Jerry put him down so that both of us could get dressed. He started to cry, and said the following: "mama baby."

Here are my favorite pictures of my baby.
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1 month old
The only time he ever co-slept was as a newborn. Here, with Charlie.
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2 months
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3 months
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4 months
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5 months
First non-boob food
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6 months
Eating with the big boys
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7 months
The beginning of getting into stuff
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Notice the fingers above the high chair.
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8 months
Freshly bathed.
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9 months
Getting baptised.
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10 months
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11 months
Playing outside.
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12 months
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First haircut.
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Just like Italy.
The waiter approaches our table: "Oh my!" I realize he has seen the floor and the scattering of Cheerios and corn-flavored puffs. He asks what we want to drink, and I proudly state that we are ready to place our food order, efficient are we. I order for everyone except Jerry, and Jerry is ready as well. This should take no time.

Will starts banging mug. The perfect entertainment, but at least three tables whip their heads around to stare at us. Mug removed, baby cries.

Kid drinks come quickly, I smile at waiter. I feed Will apple juice through a straw. He drinks it happily, and starts to cry when I don't refill it fast enough. I soon get tired of it, put down straw, and he screams. Jerry takes over. That's right, train mommy and daddy.

The people at the next table have a kid the same age, and quickly decide we are friends. I don't want anymore friends. I want peace and quiet over dinner.

Waiter comes with dinner for kids. I am impressed with his speed. He then comes with fake vacuum and makes the puffs disappear. I feed french fries to Will. He is happy for at least 30 seconds.

I think of telling Jerry an important detail about my day, but then forget. No time now. Must focus on keeping beast happy.

Adult food comes. I cram bites in. Bell pepper, angel hair, tender chicken. Which bite first? Which combination best? No time for petty thoughts; must cram.

Will screams. Need more juice. I feed and down cheap wine.

On the other side: Charlie making shooting noises with fork and nugget.

People across table smile at us again. I smile, obligatedly.

Waiter asks how food is, we ask for two to-go boxes, and bill, and quick. He smiles and leaves. I joke that we've only got thirty seconds. Will screams. Ok, two seconds. Jerry takes kids to car, I'm in charge of bill. The usual.


Another Birthday.

Last weekend I had a Birthday. Jerry and Charlie sang to me while Will banged a wooden spoon in his high chair. They presented me with a cake with 23 on the top. The numbers were reversed, but whatever.

I was giddy all day. I had a massage, pedicure, and manicure. I had the following conversation with the lady doing my discount manicure:
Me: Oh, don't file the sides of the nails, please.
Her: Um, ok.
Me (sensing obvious discomfort). Thanks.
Her: Why don't you want sides filed?
Me: Because it weakens the nails.
Her: Who told you that?
What are we? In seventh grade? I have to provide references for facts that we all know are facts?

Aaaaanyway. I also enjoyed a cup of coffee, by myself, in peace.

And read my book, the Bonesetter's Daughter, at my favorite cafe.

And at night, we went out to dinner with friends.

I was happy all day, because I love my birthday, because I am inherintly a little self-centered.

Top Seven: How I Know I Am Getting Old.
7. Last week I heard myself say the following (while at McDonald's): Oh, I love this song.

6. I have lately felt very excited whenever I get to drive somewhere. I drive a minivan. We just bought it. I love it.

5. I haven't been to a concert in over two years. I haven't been stoned in ten years. I haven't been drunk in at least two weeks.

4. I recently signed up for an IRA, and got excited. I have life insurance.

3. For my Birthday dinner, we reserved our babysitter until midnight. Jerry scoffed when he heard me say that. A little before midnight, I reluctantly admitted to our friends that I had to go home because I couldn't stay awake any longer. When I say, "a little before midnight," I actually mean 9:15.

2. I find myself often choosing Briefs instead of my once-trusty Low Waisted Hipsters. I like my briefs cuz when I bend over, they don't show crack. They stay up, reliably, all day long. They also look like old lady panties, complete with some bunching in the back. But the truth is, I don't care.

1. There are all sorts of ways to become cool. If I wanted to appear cool, I could read up on bands and clothes and pop culture. But I honestly, truthfully do not care about appearances anymore. And I am happy about that.

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The talk.
Charlie (to me): Mommy, do you want to see my penis?
Me: Uh, ok. But we need to talk. You know you never show that to anyone else, right?
Charlie: See, mommy? See it?
Me: Yes. Only mommy and daddy should see it. And don't let anyone touch it.
Charlie: No one touches my penis?
Me: That's right. Except for mommy and daddy when we are washing you.
Charlie: Ok. I won't let Lucy touch it. And I won't touch Lucy's, either.
Me: Um, ok.

So I guess I need a brow wax.
Charlie [staring intently at my face, upper region.]
Me: What are you looking at?
Charlie: Your eyebrows.
Me: ok.
Charlie: What is that under your eyebrows? [Lifts brow hairs.] Oh, just more brown stuff.

And a cleaning.
While cuddling in bed with him this weekend...
Charlie: Mommy, I love you so much.
Me: I love you too, sweetie!
Charlie (with furrowed brow): Mommy, you have something in your teeth.
Me: Ok. I will brush them right after I'm done cuddling with you.
Charlie: Before they turn brown and fall out of your mouth?
Me: Yes, before then.

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It's Valentine's Day. Leave me alone.
I am in a crappy mood, and I'm not really sure why. I have some ideas, though.

The snow is still all over the ground and I am ready for the days when the kids and I can run outside barefoot, when they can splash water and not need an immediate clothing change, when gloves don't get lost and I don't have to carry around a wiggly, back-arching 11-month-old who wants nothing less than to be confined by his mommy.

The age group I have now is prooving to be sucky. Even though I am down one high-maintenance child, I have 6 who aren't exactly low maintenance. The two three-year-olds entertain themselves well, but still challenge authority and are big enough to break out of time-outs (well, Charlie anyway). The two-year-olds don't have tantrums, but are potty-training, requiring much time in the boring, windowless bathroom, and they are still at the age where they follow me around a little and make it hard for me to make lunch and pay attention to the babies. Will naps well and complains little, but gets into everything and bumps his head about ten times a day. New newborn baby is easy - sleeps often - but I feel like I give her no one-on-one time.

My goal with this daycare is to have what feels like a preschool, to potty-train the young ones, to give all the kids -- babies especially -- some meaningful eye contact and conversation; instead, circle times are just a distraction from their sole desire to play with cars, we only make it to the bathroom twice a day (not enough to potty train those not in the habit), and the babies... I feel like I just want them to grow up so they can keep up with the rest of us. And one of those babies is my own, so I feel guilty and crappy for having such thoughts.

And financially, don't get me started. Somehow someone underestimated what we needed to put into escrow for property taxes. Underestimated by almost two thousand dollars. And we have to turn in our leased car, the one where we went over on the miles, so that's another just-under-two-thousand-dollars. And both our cars have recent dents -- one my fault, the other a hit-and-run, so there's another thousand. And we have a family wedding coming up (out of state, of course). And apparantly I was supposed to be putting money aside for taxes, but I didn't, because I didn't owe last year, the year I had all the business startup costs, so I think that's another couple thousand. And then there's some medical deductibles and shit for the house.

And hubby just got a raise and promotion, but he is working such long hours that he is crabby at night. And on just the days that I can't wait to get away from the kids -- when all I want is to read and finish reading one simple article in an intelligent-sounding, adult-focused newspaper over a decent cup of coffee, which I also would like to finish without interruption -- he is stressed out and also needs a break. So we snap at each other. And it's Valentine's Day, and my Birthday is in three days but we have no money, see above.

When it rains, it pours.

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Toddler eavesdropping.
Here are some of the things I heard today from the four boys, as they ran back and forth with their trucks:

I'm gonna get you. no no no! here i coming. You better watch out. [pow pow pow]. I gonna shoot you [pow pow crash]. I am gonna eat that poo poo off your face [slosh slosh slosh.]

That last one was from Charlie.

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