3.18.2016

Things That Happened This Week

1) Max rolled. He was delighted with himself. I was slightly less delighted because now I have to be super careful about where I leave him.

2) Marko ran up to me in the schoolyard at pick up time holding a plastic baggie of something brown and said, "Here's some poop, Mom!" It wasn't (I don't think), but still. WHY DID YOU PICK IT UP IF YOU THOUGHT IT WAS A BAG OF POOP, MARKO??

3)  Laurel and I had a Daisy meeting. I am a recent convert to the Girl Scouts, but I love two things about it. First, her Daisy troop is definitely bonding with each other and I think it's cool to have some good friends outside of school. Second, I think our society has degraded into a decidedly uncivil state, and I adore hearing Laurel recite the Girl Scouts Promise and the Girl Scouts Law because it reminds us to be friendly and helpful, honest and fair and so forth.

4) I became obsessed with Property Brothers. This is a tv show where a realtor and a contractor first trick an unsuspecting couple by showing them the house of their dreams...that is way out of their budget. HAHAHAHA! LOLOL. They are always mad. Then they show them ugly houses that smell like cat pee and convince them to buy and renovate. Don't worry, it always turns out great. Neatly wrapped up in 42 minutes. Personally I disagree with the "open concept" obsession. This when all your rooms are open, especially the kitchen. For "entertaining" they always say. I prefer a door, to hide the dishes from my guests. Also, what's the fuss about granite countertops? I'm saving up for butcher block.

5) I planted some green onions. I keep seeing these articles about food you can grow from scraps. We often buy things like green onions, cilantro, or ginger and usually only need a little but you have to buy the whole bunch and then some of it goes bad. Well, it goes into my compost pile, so I'm not totally wasting it, but I've really been thinking about food waste since I did a volunteer mission for 412 Food Rescue. If you are local to Pittsburgh, definitely follow them on Facebook and you too could save some food that is perfectly good, but about to get dumped!

3.03.2016

Things That Happened This Week

In no particular order...

1) Laurel had her last gymnastics class for the session and I finally ended up making it to this one. She was bubbling over with excitement. Marko even got to come in and was super excited to scamper over all the equipment and try out the trampoline. I would not have been able to pull this off without the help of my friend, who also has children in this class. We met at the bus stop last year and due to similar schedules, we ran into each other a lot. Our kids play well together, so even though they aren't at the same school anymore, we've kept things going. I didn't even imagine that I would be able to go in to the class and hoped taking pictures from behind the glass would satisfy Laurel, but Valentina appeared, scooping up little Max and singing to him for 30 minutes because that was the only thing that kept him from crying.

2) Marko sneezed while having a nosebleed, spraying blood all over my face, neck and hair. It was like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Oh, sorry, Mom! he said cheerfully, because he gets nose bleeds periodically so they are not a super scary event to him. This was during school pick up and because we live one block from the school, I didn't have a diaper bag. My friend Alison appeared with kleenex and wipes and even dabbed off the spots that I missed on my own neck. Without making me feel dumb at all.

3) The neighbors who borrowed our book on fermentation brought it back and delivered homemade blueberry oatmeal muffins along with it. Muffins are pretty much the best breakfast food ever for my kids so for a change they all got dressed and ready for the day without screwing around.

4) I wrote a complaint email and got a refund. I usually really suck at this so it was a pleasant surprise.

5) My mom took Marko to her house, and with Laurel at school I got a chance to spend some one on one time with Max while he's not just strapped in the back of the car. He's starting to roll over and loves scooting around on his back by pushing off with his feet. I can feel his eyes following me, waiting for me to make eye contact with him, and then he smiles and pushes his legs up and down. He reminds me a lot of Laurel.

2.25.2016

Something About Me

It's still February and it's actually snowing today, but it was a spring-like snow. Pretty flakes falling but not accumulating. I like to see the little gatherings of snowflakes on the ground next to the crocuses and snow drops that have started to come up. Springer Fever is hitting us hard.

Compost is my new obsession and we've had warm enough weather that I've taken the boys into our woefully neglected backyard. Max lays in the stroller and looks at the sky. Marko drags every blessed toy out of the garage. And I turn my compost pile. I find it extraordinary that (certain) things we discard can turn into soil given enough time. I'm more pragmatic than scientific about my compost, and pretty much try to create optimal conditions for available materials. I shred up corrugated cardboard and newspaper when I run out of dried leaves to mix with my food scraps.

I feel exceptionally tired tonight, I think because of all the shoveling and pitchforking. I have a new mom friend who has equal enthusiasm for dirt and we even went to an urban farm down the street and voluntarily turned their compost pile, in return for a bucket of their finished compost. I've also procured a BOB double jogging stroller, and have been taking the boys on lots of walks at a brisk pace instead of at a Marko pace. I definitely feel the burn though, pushing that thing up a hill.

And speaking of burn, the other exciting and muscle fatiguing thing that I did recently was go to the rock climbing gym. They have a bouldering section so you don't even need to belay at first. After a brief orientation, they pretty much let you at it. I climbed so hard that I had blisters on my hands and could barely lift my hands over my head. The only downside was the awkwardness of being too old to fit in with all the college kids who were hitting on each other and not old enough to be one of the quirky old people. They really didn't know what to make of me.

I'm writing this down because it's a reminder that even though parenting takes up the vast majority of my time, that there are still things that I do that are about me or for me that have nothing to do with the children and I'd be just as likely to do them if they'd never come along. Of course, I'm delighted that they are here...but I'm equally delighted that I'm still here.

2.17.2016

Two Months Post Partum

I don't have a newborn anymore! Max is 2 months old, weighs 11 pounds 14 oz and is 24 inches long. He wailed through the measurement portion of his check up. Also the vaccination portion. He's kind of a homebody, likes to nap in his own bed, with his white noise machine. He needs breaks from the action-packed life going on downstairs. But when he's with the whole family he seems to really enjoy us.

He smiles at us, kicks his legs, and tries to scoot backwards while lying on his back. He looks delighted when he manages to get all the way off the changing pad, which I usually lay on my bed. He's not a huge fan of babywearing or nursing. Definitely an eat-to-live sort of guy and I very rarely nurse him to sleep. He likes a pacifier. He hates wearing hats. If he's feeling a little fussy the only thing that will do is laying him over my arm on his tummy and walking around while patting his back. This is an extraordinarily difficult position to maintain while getting anything else done, like say helping Marko use the toilet in a sanitary fashion, or cooking dinner. I love having a baby and it's nice to be somewhat relieved of most of the new parent anxiety around rashes and pooping. I can just enjoy him. But I'm glad that the baby phase only lasts for a short while.

As for me, I don't feel the way I did before I had this third baby. I think three kids might be a tipping point of some sort. Your belly button will only take so many years of being stretched out. I still have a linea nigra, but it's fading. I try to work out every day in some way, although even getting in a 30 minute cardio video without interruption is kind of impossible some days. From past experience, I know that my body will hang on to the extra weight until I wean Max, and then it will come off pretty easily.

I can remember when taking one child out with me was an arduous task. Getting into the car with the three kids is like reverse Jenga and requires a careful order of entry and buckling. It has sort of a carbon offset effect though, because I tend to plan our outings and errands for one day and stick to the neighborhood the rest of the time.

When I think of having a family, I always think of three kids, maybe because I was from a family of three kids. I have fond memories of my siblings from childhood, but I don't remember any of the chaos that we are currently experiencing. We were very close in age, only 2 years apart, instead of the 3 that my kids are. So maybe it was crazy when we were all very young and I just don't remember it. The only memory I have when I was 4 is the color of the carpet in my house, and I only have a few memories of when I was 5 or 6. Sitting at the orange table in kindergarten. This Toyota minivan that the neighbors drove. The color of my sister's hair when she was very young. It's kind of depressing when I think about it, that my kids will probably not remember very much of what has happened so far in their lives, especially when the last 7 years have been such a formative experience for me.

This morning, Max took a nap and Laurel went to school, so Marko and I hung out and sorted the coins in his piggy bank. We dropped some pennies into a solution of vinegar and salt and watched them turn shiny again. We arranged them into shapes - triangles and squares. I have a tendency to get a little too lesson-oriented sometimes, but Marko lets me know when it's too much for a three year old. For instance, today I started pointing out some of the pictures that are on the coins and telling him about who they were. His response was to lay down on the couch and say "I'm going to lay down. It's a pretend nap. Cover me up." Then I remember, he's 3 years old. There's no rush to learn a damn thing about Abraham Lincoln. The constant flood of language that middle class parents believe is giving their children a positive early childhood experience might just be a little annoying to them. Sometimes, you should shut up and listen. Or just be silent together.

1.28.2016

More Real Life

Marko and I finally made it back to our Thursday playgroup today for the first time since Max was born. It was a cold morning but Marko was a good sport about walking because he had his snowball maker. Max was not so into the cold wind, but he fell asleep pretty quickly. There are lots of new babies in this playgroup and it's nice to have some mom friends who are doing the whole up-all-night thing. I like that I can send a message in the middle of the night and pretty much expect an immediate reply.

The morning playgroup and the walk there and back paved the way for an afternoon nap for Marko, although sadly, Max was awake so I didn't get to lay down. After that, it's exercise time (dancing to YouTube videos), and then we pick up Laurel from school. And bam, that's the day, because it all goes to hell when we get back home.

If the weather isn't terrible, we stay and play in the school yard. There's another mom who has a very similar tolerance for dirt and free play, as well as a similarly chill schedule, so there's always at least one other kid to play with. Today they got super muddy. I'm not sure what game they were playing, but the snow melt today created some pretty intense mud conditions. When we finally called them out of the school yard to come home they emerged clutching large balls of mud. I seriously thought they were holding cow poo. It was made slightly worse by the fact that Marko had a bloody nose at some point, which the girls took upon themselves to help him with, so he was covered with dried blood. I made my kids strip on the front porch with the plan of immediately heading towards bath time. (If it's getting dark, I consider it night and appropriate to start night time routines. Who cares if it's 5 o'clock?)

Laurel had already reached her limits today, and started arguing. She loves to argue so much she will argue against getting things she wants. Then she cries. So then I had two naked children, one of them yelling and crying and the other gleeful to be naked. And a screaming baby. I wish I could say this was unusual. If it's not mud, it's something else.

People warned me about this three kids thing. It's a lot more kids than two kids, they said. No way, I told them.  I was a teacher after all. I'm used to dealing with children in groups of 20.

I try not to think of parenting as an Us vs Them kind of thing. But if it were a competition? The kids would win the matches played between 4 and 6pm. Every. Single. Day.

So here's what I do. First, I put on Brian Eno's Music for Airports. And I get myself a coffee or a beer. This relaxes me more than the kids, but you gotta put your own oxygen mask on first. I neutralize Marko by putting him in the bath. He'll hang out there for a good twenty minutes and there's a minimal amount of destruction he can cause in the bathtub. Sometimes he even remembers to wash himself. Then I help the baby because there's only like 4 things that make him cry and 3 of them I can take care of really quickly. By this time I've gotten used to Laurel's wailing and tuned it out. If I give her a good 10-15 minutes to cry, she comes around with an apology and a solution. Ten minutes is a long time to listen to a six year old cry (sorry, neighbors), but I honestly just think this is part of the way she processes her day.

By six o'clock they are usually all in pj's and eating a snack. (You'll notice there is no mention of dinner...cooking or eating it. I'm sure at some point I'll have to figure this out, but for now, I have given up on real dinner. I make them pb&j's or quesadillas or an egg. Almonds, carrot sticks and green smoothies on the side. Clif bars or muffins for dessert and a hearty glass of milk.) Real dinner is reserved for grownups who don't complain about being served dishes with multiple ingredients that touch each other.

Then we have story time, and suddenly I like having three kids again. If Max is awake, he joins us and the kids will read something to him. Tonight I read Lemonade in Winter and Leaf Man to Marko and the first part of a children's version of a Midsummer Nights' Dream to Laurel. Max fell asleep too fast to get a story this time.

At this point in the evening, Marko becomes the wild card. Some nights he lays down in his bed and falls asleep. If he does not fall asleep right away, I will spend the next 2 hours bringing him ice packs for real and imagined injuries, helping him on and off the toilet, tucking his covers, removing or adding various layers of pajamas, finding his water bottle and other various requests he comes up with that have just enough legitimacy to make it hard to say no. Three year olds are geniuses at this sort of thing.

Laurel falls asleep immediately pretty much every night. Thank you, full day kindergarten.

Once everyone is asleep, I take a bath, which is a cue for someone to wake up. Seriously, as soon as I just start to relax in the water, someone cries. Most nights M is home from work by this time so he deals with it. Tonight he is at a meeting, so I'm just not going to bother trying.

What I want to remember about today is looking across the school yard and watching Marko and Laurel hug each other. Max's big round eyes and his smile when I bounced him on my knees and how pleased he looked with himself as he is learning to hold his head up. I want to remember sharing the last slice of Marko's fire truck birthday cake with him today after nap time and how he relished each bite. Laurel nestled in next to me while I read to her and how quiet and still she was while she tried to make sense of Shakespeare's words.

1.25.2016

Real Life

Max just spent a half an hour trying to let go of his left hand with his right hand. You know how little babies can't really control their grasp for a while? There was much grunting and heavy breathing over the effort, but no crying. Exhausted from the effort, he fell asleep. I took it as a gift and grabbed the opportunity to make myself some lunch and read Facebook while I pretended that I didn't know that Laurel and Marko started another Netflix show.

It is 5 o'clock. Laurel has no school today or tomorrow. M was in Florida for work last week, and I don't think I've quite recovered from the experience of being by myself with 3 kids. The days were long. The nights were longer.

Also, winter.

Getting everyone dressed and out the door and then immediately back in the door and undressed because someone forgot to use the potty and then redressed and out the door and the baby is now screaming because he's hot...well I didn't even start down that path today.

Things that happened today....

Marko and Laurel found Pez dispensers. And many rolls of Pez. They hid under the couch and ate them for breakfast. Thank you very much to whoever bought these for my children.

Marko went to his annual physical and apparently had an ear infection that is now fortunately clearing up on its own. He also has gained the appropriate amount of height and weight despite refusing to eat 85% of what we prepare for him. PB&J's forever.

Laurel emerged from Quiet Time with a large amount of makeup on her face. But it wasn't makeup because she's six and doesn't have makeup, so she used crayons. It was applied surprisingly well considering she doesn't have a mirror in her room.

I bought a subscription to Beachbody because I'm all gungho about working out and losing what I'm calling baby weight, but is actually more due to my husband becoming an ultra marathoner this year and me eating enough to also be an ultramarathoner, but not putting in the miles. The kids ended up doing more of the workout than I did because Max screamed the whole time and I sort of tried to keep up using Max instead of my dumbbells but I'm not sure I actually burned any more calories than I would have if I was just doing the usual rocking and bouncing and patting routine.

I'm a little bit in denial about how fussy Max is.

I have a book and a magazine and three weeks worth of New York Times Sunday Editions still mocking me from inside their blue bags, but I cannot comprehend anything more complex than blizzard photos right now. Just a tiny bit tired these days.

So Facebook it is, and a few words on this blog and waiting for M to get home from work so we can have Pho.

And that's Real Life around here.

1.12.2016

Max at One Month

Max is a month old already. I just reread what I wrote about the other two when they were this age and found it hilarious how similar Laurel acted when Marko was born to how Marko is acting now. Three year olds, man. They are a trip.

Laurel had a colicky stage, which forced us to go to great lengths to stop her crying (and eventually just masking it to save our sanity). I can remember one time my parents walking in and we were rocking her in a cradle with the vacuum cleaner parked next to it, all other sources of white noise having failed us. If there is a six year old version of colic, she still has it. Her feelings will not be a secret to you or anyone else. She has a need to cry in order to process some things and bursts of creative energy that must be released. It's kind of beautiful actually, to see the world through her perspective. It's so very intense.

Marko was the pure opposite as a baby. Maybe because he was a tinier baby and born at an earlier gestational age? He didn't really do anything except sleep until he was about 2 months old. He has lots of energy now, but is goofy and entertaining. He can read an audience and perform in a way that Laurel doesn't.

And who will Max become? As a newborn, he has been somewhere in between. He gets a little fussy with gas at times and he hates to have a soiled diaper. But we can also swaddle him up and put him down. He can fall asleep and stay asleep without touching someone. In fact, he doesn't really like to ride around in the wrap or to sleep on my chest the way the other two did. Sometimes in the afternoons or evenings, he wants to be held in the crook of our arms, cradled close to our bodies, but so that he can look at the lights.

M and I go between enjoying the ease of having a third, healthy baby and dropping f-bombs over the astonishing amount of mess and chaos that descends upon our family from time to time. We know how to take care of Max, so that part is much more relaxing. On the other hand, it's totally nuts around here. We'll have everything under control, and then some kind of a cyclonic energy hits the kids and everyone cries, dumps out every toy they own, pees their pants, spills our coffee...all at once.

Max at one month is about 10 pounds, up from his 8 pounds 3 ounces at birth. His ears are very round. He has different cries...he uses a particularly angry one for a wet diaper. He likes the Soothie brand pacifier and relaxes the second he hears the white noise app on my iPhone. He has a tiny tuft of hair that sticks up on top. I have only given him one real bath so far and he seemed to like it ok, once he got over the initial shock. I haven't read to him that much but the other kids do. I love the way that he recognizes my voice and turns his head when I come into the room, and how he looks at me with big, round eyes. Chemical love. It's deep and out of my control. I do not choose to love him, it washes over me. Slows my heartbeat. Flows down my arms so that my shoulders drop their tension. I suppose this happened with the other two, but I was always distracted by worries. Was the latch right, what's that rash, should we sleep more or less, should I cut out dairy? This time, freed from such distractions, I can really savor the mother/newborn bonding that is happening.

1.08.2016

Not What I Expected, But I Probably Should Have...

Last year we went to CodeMash for the first time, which is a conference for developers, but also has a bunch of activities for families, which they call Kidzmash. I remember being really surprised and delighted because so much of what is called STEM for young children is poorly done. The main thing Laurel remembers was making a robot that colored. She wired it up and everything. Very cool. The conference also has the benefit of taking place in the country's largest indoor water park. A bunch of people from M's office go, and some of them were presenting, so of course we thought we should go again....despite the fact that we had just welcomed Baby Max 4 weeks before and have not exactly worked out all the logistics of managing our family yet.

Sometimes we have good ideas. And sometimes we have good ideas that end up not being that fun when we do them, but they have that element of "2nd degree fun" - miserable now, but it makes a great story, or we'll laugh about it one day. Great childhoods are dependent on lots of 2nd degree fun.

And sometimes we just have terrible ideas. This was pretty much in that category.

After we arrived home and I was giving Marko a bath, I asked him what his favorite part was. He said getting candy from the vendors. There was a 12,000 square foot wave pool and a van de Graaff generator, but he liked getting the mini packet of M&Ms from the guys at the IBM table. We never even really made it to any of the formal sessions for the kids because just getting all of us to the bathroom was practically an hour long process. I didn't get a chance to ask Laurel what her favorite part was because she went to bed immediately, saying she had a headache. My guess is that she probably liked the candy the best too.

Live and learn, though. I'd rather try stuff and have it not work out perfectly than never go anywhere with the kids.

I wanted to blog about Kidzmash, but I don't have much to say except that the Open Hangoutz room was spectacularly equipped with toys, games and art supplies, and Marko and Laurel played with other kids and learned some very cool new games. Marko liked Gobblet Gobblers in particular. Laurel dug into the art supplies and immediately started crafting all sorts of interesting things. She totally gets the whole "Make It" movement, although she seems to be driven more towards artistic creativity than engineering creativity. Of course, the stack of empty boxes from the conference t-shirts proved to be the one thing that all the kids liked playing with the most. We did not get to make a flashlight or play robot laser tag or use the Snap Circuits. Perhaps next year.

Instead, I'll tell you about the parenting lessons learned. It was a humbling three days.

I should have borrowed a double stroller. I usually think of Marko as way too old for a stroller. And last weekend he walked almost five miles right along side us. But if I had brought one with me, he would have taken a few cat naps on the go, which is what he really needed. Last year he was 1-almost-2 instead of 2-almost 3 and that's a big difference. He probably weighed about 22 pounds and I carried him on my back in the Ergo, leaving my hands free to help Laurel with the activities, which is why she got to do so many cool things. This year, I ran out of hands and he had no place to sleep. I am totally shopping for a double stroller on Craigslist right now.

White noise is magical. This should not surprise me, but the white noise app put a fussy Max to sleep in the middle of a chaotic hotel room. Wish it still worked on the big kids.

Don't try to make it epic. Because last year was so amazing, we had high expectations. On Thursday, we left our hotel for the conference center right after breakfast, with plans to stay there until the big Family Dinner which was starting at 6:00pm. Disastrous. By 10:30, I was losing my mind. I actually wrote my phone number ON MY CHILDRENS' BODIES because I was worried I would lose them. There was no place I could sit and nurse Max while watching both Marko and Laurel play. There were thousands of people everywhere, and it was way too noisy and overwhelming for the kids. They needed some quiet in between the activities. I ended up taking them back to the hotel for a couple of hours to chill out in our room. We should have picked one conference activity and one waterpark activity each day, and that would have been more than enough. Should have kept it simple.

Car seats are clearly engineered by the Devil himself. We have a midsize SUV. You should be able to fit 3 kids in the back. Why are car seats so wide? Why are the latch hooks designed for installation of only 2 car seats? Why do the little seat belt clicky things fall down into the abyss? Who put a banana peel underneath the car seat??? After much YouTube research and experimentation, I finally found a way to safely install our seats, but it is a long and involved process each and every time.

Six year olds still have a lot of needs. I suppose all humans have a lot of needs....they just change over time.  Laurel is extremely outgoing and self-sufficient, so it's easy to backburner her when Max is crying or Marko is suddenly naked for no clear reason. Recognizing her changing needs has probably been the biggest adjustment for us lately but we're working on it.

If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Put your own oxygen mask on first. Otherwise, the whole family is doomed.

Remain united. We may be technically outnumbered by children now, but M and I are smarter, more experienced and have the money and the car keys. It's all good as long as we work as a team.

12.31.2015

Farewell to 2015

I'm watching Max sleep right now and his cheeks are starting to get fat baby jowls. His legs are stretched out straight which make him look twice as big as he did three weeks ago when he was born. Three weeks?! It's only been three weeks? It feels like a minute and a half, but also an eternity. Sleep deprivation will do that to you. In the other room Laurel and Marko are playing some elaborate game of pretend. There's a cell phone and a grocery order and some otters involved.

M and I had a great plan to order Thai food for dinner tonight, but the restaurant was either closed or too busy to answer their phones. We had just been to the grocery store and were on our way home when we tried to order. All 5 of us together in the truck...it's crazy. Everybody is within arm's reach now and it's a complicated affair to get all the buckles ratcheted down correctly when we get in. I took Max to the cafe area (grocery stores have bars and cafes now, apparently) and fed him, while the rest of the crew went to find some pork roast for tomorrow's dinner.

2015 was a good year for us. No major calamities and a healthy baby boy at the end. M placed 1st or 2nd in a number of ultramarathons this summer and PR'd two marathons. He also reached his goal of completing a hundred mile race, and finished well under his projected time, earning the coveted belt buckle. Laurel started kindergarten, lost a bunch of teeth and learned to ride a bike. Marko went from toddler to imaginative little boy and I feel safe in declaring him potty trained. We took a very long road trip to Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, where we got to visit some of our favorite cousins (and aunt and uncle!) and a good friend who now lives in Baton Rouge.

I had a good year but my accomplishments are more subtle and hard to write about. I did absolutely nothing I would list on a resume. It was all tiny little domestic and neighborly acts - delivering banana bread and writing for the neighborhood blog and shoveling someone else's sidewalk. I babysat other people's kids when school was closed on Election Day and did a run for 412 Food Rescue and gave away 75 ice cream sundaes on National Night Out. I wiped a lot of butts and did a lot of laundry, and of course spent the majority of the year gestating a human.  I'm really good at making tortillas after a year of Taco Tuesdays. I repaired all of Mrs. Schreiner's Montessori mats and volunteered to be the assistant leader for Laurel's Daisy troop. I took a lot of walks in Frick Park at kid pace. I gave away children's magazines to fussy little kids on the PAT bus and restocked the Little Free Libraries with some of my favorite books. I sent a lot of messages to 311 and served on a traffic safety committee. To be honest, it often felt like nobody cared or even noticed what I was doing and when I first sat down to write this blog post I was wondering what I would say about my year. Half of the things I did got undone fairly soon. I thought I had accomplished nothing. But in fact, I grew into my role as mother and joined the ranks of generations of women who just keep things going in their homes and neighborhoods and schools. At this point, it feels like a year well spent.

Happy New Year!

12.26.2015

Welcome, Max Benjamin!

I am very happy to announce that we welcomed a new baby boy to our family. Max - inspired by the book - and Benjamin in honor of my grandfather who passed away just about a year ago. My due date was actually on the anniversary of his death. He would have been delighted to have another great-grandchild.

Max was the biggest of our kids at birth - 8lbs 3 oz - but also the easiest birth, and it's been a pretty smooth transition. The day we got home from the hospital it already started feeling like he had been here forever. Marko and Laurel adore him. M was able to take some time off work. His love language is food, I think. He starts cooking whenever he has some free time. In addition to the roughly 50 pounds of sauerkraut he made, he also kept me well fed with pot roast and tacos and soup. He also got to spend a lot of time with Marko, who is pretty hilarious at this stage. (For instance, he has renamed himself "Markoooo" and has an amazing range of acting skills. Ask to see his "surprised" face.) I spent 2 weeks in bed or close to it, as I vowed to do this time. I feel pretty well rested and relaxed as a result.

Next week might be a different story. M is going back to work and school is closed for winter holiday. What do I do with a 6 year old, 2 year old and 3 week old in the dead of winter? What are the odds that we'll eat anything more complicated than peanut butter and jelly? Will I be able to get them all in the car by myself?

One afternoon this week, M went out to run an errand and took Laurel with him. Max is pretty mellow but sometimes he just wants to nurse for hours on end, so I was camped out on the couch with him, "watching" Marko. The plan was to put on some tv and just chill out. But he didn't really want to watch tv. He peed his pants. I sent him upstairs to change and he came down wearing a pair of terry cloth, vintage-looking undies that said "I'm somebody special!" on them. And nothing else. What made it funnier (or more disturbing, I suppose) is that I have never seen this pair of underwear before and have no idea where they came from. He absolutely refused to put any other clothing on, although he did go back upstairs several more times before M got home, each time bringing another batch of trains or blocks or blankets. The living room was a complete disaster within minutes. He also took advantage of my position on the couch to go rooting around in the fridge. He did this pretty stealthily because I only knew where he was when I heard the alarm go off on the fridge door. Another time I thought he was playing in his room, which has a 4 foot high gate on the door. I was just on my way to go check on him when Laurel came down. When I asked what she was doing up there, she said, oh I was just talking to Marko. Oh, yeah, I said, what's he up to? He's just coloring on your bed with Sharpies, she said nonchalantly.

Gulp.

Well, it turned out he grew just tall enough and just smart enough to unlatch the gate himself. So much for that purchase. Luckily, he was coloring with Sharpies ON PAPER while sitting on my bed. So, no harm, no foul.

Max is super chill so far and sleeps through a lot of the chaos in the house. I think he looks exactly like Marko and when he's sleeping, like a tiny version of M's dad. Having a third kid is awesome because you enjoy all of the cuteness of the newborn phase with about a tenth of the anxiety. I'm looking forward to many adventures with our family of five.