Thursday, April 29, 2010

Small Success Thursday

. This week is First Communion for my middle daughter. So we're getting ready for Saturday. It's also the day my son takes the S.A.T. and my oldest daughter takes her high school placement test and our middle daughter has softball and the grandparents are in town so it's a full dance card.

This past week was full of heaping dollops of joy and irritants that reminded me that even with everything breaking my way, I can still find ways to fall from grace; so a peaceful, kind, gentle smooth life isn't circumstance, it's attitude. My daughter asked if she could go to reconciliation to be in the proper state for Saturday and moved by her piety and pure heart, I will join her on that journey tonight.
This past week I:
1) took my oldest daughter shopping for a confirmation dress and we found one!

2) Went on a date with my second oldest daughter to a National's game on Sunday.

3) Finished the discipline part of the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.

4) Let my oldest drive the van for practice. I hate homework.

5) Started a new exercise routine with my 8 speaking children as the enforcers. I said it would take an army to get me exercising again and so I've just drafted one to boot camp me into shape. They're pleased with this new delegated power.

6) Wrote, edited, wrote, edited, still working on a lot of stuff.

7) Cleaned out the cubbies and found 8 scissors and five roles of tape. Put them in a bin. Put a lid on the bin. Ten minutes after I left the room; an art project ensued. There are now three pairs and one roll of tape.

Have a success? Have a story? Go to Family and Faith Live and leave your link, share your success! Manufactured triumph over minutia so sometimes the only way to cope with all of it. Being able to embrace that joyful minutia of victory even when things are imploding or not, that's grace!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Brother's Wisdom

This past year, my brother Danny lost thirty pounds through (yes) diet and exercise, but also recognizing that anything done in isolation ultimately fails. We are not islands. When I remove myself from my family to write, I get writer's block almost instantaneously.  I need the interruptions to fight against in order to think. 

Likewise, my brother figured out that alone, he could not do this; so he volunteered to raise money for his high school's scholarship fund via pledges based on how much weight he lost and earned the school over 800 dollars in the process.   Talking to him yesterday, I asked for tips for those of us who like myself, have fallen off the weight band wagon and need to climb back on.   So without further adieu:

10) Set a goal.  You know this. I know this.  Make it public.  (That's the hard part).  Post it.  Proclaim it. Write it down and make sure everyone you know that loves you and can stop that Boston Creme donut from even being bought, knows.  

9) Tie your goal with something bigger than becoming smaller.  My brother did a scholarship, now he's working on running a marathon to raise funds for an Alzheimers cure.  I have a friend that does the 60 mile Susan Koemen walk.  Another family I know does the walk for MS, and my other brother does the March for Dimes every year.  My sister is in the March for Dimes this year too.  (So I'm the black sheep right now).   It helps with 1) remembering the goal 2) having a finish date and 3) bringing you another reward for hanging in there and 4) makes it communal.

8) Communal work outs work best.  In tip 9, you saw that this was a family affair for some.  By joining a group that runs, it kept Danny at it when he didn't want to.  Having a friend say, "Hey, join me at the gym?" helps, or a walking buddy and I don't mean the kids trapped and strapped in the stroller. My sister does stroller moms and having all those other ladies around to keep you going, and the smiling faces to get you started, man that helps. 

7) Don't sabotage yourself.  Shop for snacks before you start, make them all 100 cal shots and have them salty and sweet and in the closet for when you parallel eat. (I have to have this because the kids always want a snack in the afternoon and it's hard to watch others eating).  Having a lean cuisine pizza when everyone else is having pizza hut will make it less miserable to be on said diet. 

6) Prayer.  You knew I was going to say it, but ifyou are going to be fasting, you ought to reap the benefits of the double bonus.   Running for my brother is a good stress releaser, it allows him to unpack the day of teaching and to pray.

5) Don't sabotage yourself by putting it off.  We're moms. We make lists and thus things get done.  On the days we don't make lists, what happens?  For me at least, not nearly as much and man is it stressful.  Put exercise on the list. Put the time and treat it like an orthodontist appointment that will cost you 50$ if you miss it. (Why that example? Guess what happens today!)  

Bonus Hint: do early rather than later because we all know later means not ever.

4) Don't sabotage yourself by being boring.  Exercise is not easy so it darn well better be something we don't loathe.  Don't jog if you hate running.  Dance, wii yoga, swim or hit the gym but do something that you won't have to force yourself to endure (I don't spin or run....ever).  

Doing a dutiful exercise is rather like giving a kid a book to read and saying, "I loved this as a child."  Are they going to read it? NO!  So leave the book out there on top of their dresser with the casual, "I remember that book.  It was kinda cool." and leave it at that, then go put on kickboxing and pretend you're batgirl or use your exercise as an excuse to get an ipod and load it with all the tunes your kids won't let you listen to on the radio.  The kids will pick up those books if you don't act too interested in their reading them.  They they'll say, "Hey Mom, Guess what?  I read this cool book. Wait until after they glow about it before you mention you liked it then too."  When I exercise, I want the same credit as the kid,s "Hey guys, I exercised." and I want them not to deflate me too quickly by pointing out how I could have done this sooner, better or more. 

3) Food diary.  It is annoying but true.  If you write down what you eat, you'll eat less and the choices will be better.  If you record every check and pulse and charge, you spend less and spend more wisely.  Vigilance is the enemy of sloth and indifferent eating is a form of sloth towards long term health and daily  maintenance. 

2) Weigh yourself daily and record the number.  It goes with the diary.  You'll know when you've sabotaged yourself and why, you won't want to face that little stupid annoying square in your bathroom and you'll say, "I'll be extra good today so I can enjoy getting on that damn thing tomorrow." Won't happen.  Remember writing that goal down?  Post it in the bathroom near scale.  The scale is your honest friend, even when you don't want to be.  

1) Don't sabotage yourself by being unwilling to start today because you don't have everything in place.  And Don't sabotage yourself tomorrow if you didn't do as well today.  Despair of success, despair of failure, despair of not having the discipline needed, despair of all one has to do in a day, these are all enemies of any type of success, including in the arena of becoming more fit and healthy. 

So I salute my younger brother's hard work and wise words and today, I'm putting said kiddos in the stroller, grabbing my old CD player and we're going for a walk.   It will be only one mile in all probability, but it's a start. 

My goal?  144 by the family Reunion July 10th.  I'll keep you posted.   Good luck everyone.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dear Liza, Dear Liza

When did my life become one big round robin of "There's a Hole in My Bucket?"

We moved into our home two and a half years ago. One of the things we loved was the master bathroom. It's posh. It felt like part of a hotel suite with the large double sinks, deep tub, dusty cocoa brushed walls with gold trim and a leaf stencil design. What we especially appreciated was the watercloset with its own door. Sure it felt a bit claustrophobic, but it was miles ahead of our prior master bathroom of avocado green with black formica trim and a ill concieved large window to the outside just before the shower door. No shade. No drapes.

As I said, we loved the new master bath with the private bathroom until three months into our move. The bulb in the overhead fan burnt out. This was a problem because our new home was 1000 times swankier than our prior house. The fan seemed like a sealed unit, such that prying made us fearful we would break something.

We couldn't open the fan to change the bulb. For a month or so, we remained in the dark. Then, we tried those battery operated tap lights. They lasted a week. I tried leaving a flashlight in the room. One or two drops and the flashlight became a broken plastic hollow tube for storing batteries.

Humanity can get used to anything if harrassed or distracted enough. We learned to lock the outside door and leave a sliver of light. Weeks passed into months. Occasionally, we'd get out the step ladder and poke a bit at the fan, but to no avail. Eventually, we forgot about the idea of a working lightbulb in the bathroom. Years past.

Now there is a family friend, a jack of all trades that I asked if he could maybe come and do a few of the odd jobs around our house. I mentioned this one in particular. He dropped by while most of us were at mass on Sunday. My son let him in, but neglected to tell us he visited. So for four weeks, we did not know that he had opened the fan and taken out the bulb. When he finally asked if we had purchased new bulbs for him to put in, I backtracked to the son who simply said, "Oh yeah. The bulb was burnt out so I left it on a tray in the laundry room over the dryer."

Racing to the laundry room, there was the bulb. A bulb unlike any other light bulb I have ever seen. It was also broken and fearing a child getting cut, I threw it out.

Naturally when it came time to shop for the replacement, I couldn't remember "exactly" what type of bulb it was, just that it was long, had a square pin bottom and looked like two long fingers.  My description did not endear me to the Home Depot sales rep.  Despite having fifty thousand types of bulbs including the kind you plant in the ground, they didn't have mine. 

There are errands that require you to set your teeth and run until you get it done.  So despite the rain, despite leaving my kids in aftercare perilously close to the time when one must pick up, despite having to schelp to three different stores, I Scarlett O'hara vowed with God as my witness, not to go in the dark any longer.  And I did fix it.  We did get the bulb.  It is now installed in our master bathroom.

But human nature is habitual. 
I keep forgetting to flip the switch on.  

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ten Things I Wish I'd Known as a Kid

10) No matter how hard you will it, unsweetened chocolate tastes bad.

9) Pretending your grandmother threw out your art project when you really just forgot it at home gets you in serious trouble.

8) Teachers that say "Go outside the classroom to cough." don't mean it.

7) Mom knows even when she's in the other room and you and your brother are only fighting with your eyes.

6) No matter how cute the kitten is, your sister's allergy won't go away.

5) Bleeding doesn't hurt until you see it.

4) Parents always make a really great dinner the night you aren't feeling good.

3) If you're quiet, bedtime comes much later.

2) The hair on the Barbie doll doesn't grow back if you cut it.

1) 6 times out of 10, if you ask for ice cream, Dad says "Yes." So ask more often.

Friday, April 23, 2010

7 Quick Takes

1. Toast
Today I buttered toast.  In the process of spreading the creamy salty goodness, I tore the bread but not enough to change the shape of the toast. My daughter however, declared it inedible.  After logic (failed), force (not getting something else), (failed), I tried science.  Telling her to shut her eyes, I made her take a bite of both and declare how it tasted.  Once it was proven that there was no actual damage to the epicurial experience of her breakfast, all was calm.

2. Do You Want a Burger With That?

Took my youngest to McDonalds last week. We sat in the restaurant for a therapy session.  I was supposed to offer choices so he could work on language development.  I broke off a piece of hamburger and took out a french fry for him to make a decision. "Do you want the..." is all I got out before he'd grabbed the pomme fritte and stuffed it in his mouth.  I think we can check off choice making as a known skill.

3. I've Become One of Those People

I had to ask my son to write out the instructions for how to work the DVD player downstairs, and the Wii.  I followed the steps.  I still failed. 

4. Better than a Do Not Call List

Yesterday, things were imploding at dinner time.  Naturally, the phone rang just after I'd stopped two siblings from exchanging escalating insults while trying to avoid setting the table.  "HELLO!" I said in a gruff angry irritated voice.  "I'm from Concerned Voters....I'll call back at another time." and she hung up.  I'm betting, my name is off their calling database. 

5. Where do these people come from?

Two of my children still have completely unconsumed chocolate bunnies in the freezer.  I'm so confused. 

6.  The Cobb Ervin Rule

Two days ago, I'd caught up with the laundry.  That primal scream you heard that evening when your windows shook and a chill ran down your spine?  That was me.  Two children threw up, a lot.  I'm wiping up stuff with towels and stipping the beds and I've thrown both of them in separate showers and all the time I'm thinking, "But I was caught up! But I was caught up!"  Lamenting my tale of woe on facebook, a high school friend offered a prevenative measure.  Always leave a load undone.  I like it.  I'm leaving two just to be on the safe side.

7. Memo to Spammers

If you really want me to believe that I won the Irish Lottery Sweepstakes, you should fly me first class to Dublin and put me up in a hotel there for about a week.  Be sure and pay for all the Guinness so I won't remember that I didn't buy a lottery ticket.  It's an investment really.  Don't be shy.  Remember, as you said, this is all about trust. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Small Success Thursday

The Wheels came off the truck this week. Even though my daughter had spained her wrist on Friday, we'd been to a party, a softball game, mass as a family and the museum over the weekend. Monday was awesome. I was cruising along great. I was caught up on the laundry. I'd finished a book and fixed my shop vac. Tuesday rocked too. I'd had a piece published and submitted two others and I edited some work. Things were really popping. Then Wednesday happened.

Two of my daughters threw up, multiple times. Over the living room and the beds.

So now the laundry is behind.

My kids are home, listless and tired but just active enough to be frustrated by the lack of structure. I live in fear of the cascade of eventual sickees and suspect I'm just fighting through it right now.

Tonight, there is a softball game and I'm uncertain how we will manage.

So I'm stalling for time to figure things out by blogging.

But it was a great week until Wednesday. One out of 7? I'll take those odds. See you next week over at Family and Faith Live!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When Life Needs a Soundtrack...

One of the greatest musical moments I ever experienced was when a pitcher for the pirates was being shellacked by the Yankee line up. The bullpen had been phoned and was warming up as swiftly as time allowed. As the pitcher left with bases loaded and only one out after having walked two and allowed a run, the DJ put on "Oh Won't You Stayyyyyyyy, Just a little bit longer."

There are moments in real life when you hear a song and it just fits the moment, fits the mood or even makes the moment and the mood. For example, when I'm writing about Helen of Troy, I have Alanis Morissette's song in my head, "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint..." and it helps me remember that her very nature is always duplictious, is always dual.

So I was thinking, it would be awesome if the airports housing all those stranded travellers waiting out the Icelandic ash piped in some Jimmy Buffet. "I don't know....I don't know...I don't know where I'm a gonna go when the volcano blows..."

It couldn't hurt. For clarification purposes; I'm not making fun of their struggles, I'm just thinking when life is that absurd in this sort of fashion, the only thing one can do is gnash one's teeth or laugh and a conga line bit of absurdity goes a long way towards easing stress that cannot be otherwise avoided.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Signs Your Kid is...

Signs Your Kid is Sick...

They say any of the following:
1) I'm not that hungry.
2) I think I'll take a nap. (Consider going straight to the ER).
3) But I want to go to school. (again, Consider going straight to...)

Signs Your Kid is Fine....

You say:
1) "Don't stand on one leg while waving your arms while on the stairs." more than once.
2) You may not have a hot dog! (I'm in the process of putting the food on his plate).
3) He is doing a victory dance after beating a level on any game.

Signs Your Kid is In Trouble:

He/she says
1) Nobody's hurt.
2) We cleaned it up.
3) I have to tell you something.

Signs Your kid is not in Trouble:

You have to say:
1) Did you do your homework?
2) Wear a coat!
3) Don't forget your lunch.

Signs Your Kid is not in Trouble but You have extra Work.

You forgot to say:
1) Did you put your homework in your backpack?
2) Wear a coat!
3) Don't forget your lunch.

Published over at Family and Faith Live!

Still Rabbit'll understand after you read it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Too Many

This past weekend, I took my son to a party. I didn't know the family so I stayed. Eventually, the conversation took place. It almost always takes place any time I go somewhere new. "How many children do you have?" And when I answered, “Nine.” The response was, "You have too many." I made a joke and went out to help with games. I am not mad at the person who said this, it happens too often to spend time being mad. But I would not have been at that party if I hadn't been willing to have child number six. And even back then, people said, "Too many."

Eventually, he sought me out and revealed he was one of six. He never explained why I had too many, but I worried one day my children will say, "Too many" to some other mother because they didn't feel satisfied with home. I hope not. I hope they go to school and out into the world and come home feeling filled; that love for them brims over everywhere and there's always time and hugs and attention that is simply theirs and theirs alone. We try. We will fail but we will never cease trying.

"Too many." "Did you plan this?" "I guess it's okay if you can afford it.""What about me time?" all these statements are ways of asking the same thing, "Why didn't you limit yourself with this age of birth control? Why aren't you now?"

Simple. We're supposed to pour our whole selves out and not leave one drop. Jesus doesn't send any of the 5000 away. Even though He had enough for just his 12. We're supposed to practice loving infinitely here in order to be ready for when we have forever in the presence of the one who is Love. God would not say, "Too many" and so we should not either.

Going to mass, sometimes my husband and I take shifts and I feel the absence of my "too many" so much so, it is more distracting than if I had to manage those too many others that aren't present. As a kid, whenever we went to reunions, I always counted who came and noted who couldn't; and I pined for whoever didn't show. I always wanted everyone; and I was even happier when we could add extras to the everyone that was there. That moreness was in the food and the music and the people at the party and I would wrap myself in that feeling of being surrounded by so many I loved.

So when I got to visit my family in Texas, I still felt the absence of those who were nearby but not able to be with us and still missed that my total joy was not possible because so many of the sources of my happiness were somewhere else. Heaven will eliminate that great separation from everyone we love or have loved or who have loved us. We will be a seamless garment of Christ. Utopia is not a lack of want or need, but a society peopled by souls who rejoice in not merely service but in the opportunity to serve out of love for the One who is Love and it is a state of society only possible through love.

We will all get to be fishers of souls on Earth when we get to Heaven, trying to make sure we get everyone where they need to be by our prayers and our petitions; but that means we must practice catching souls today as well. We can never have too many then, and so we cannot love too many then or now.

Blessed Mother Teresa observed the multitude hungry for love that are everywhere and asked us to find our own Calcutta, and make it something brighter. It is love that never places limits on how long we serve or how long we submit or how long we wait in joyful hope. Love will demand that we meet physical needs of those around us; love will demand that we know them; and love will demand that we serve them willingly. It is the only real choice we make in life, not to love the few we know which in turn will make us unable to bear the moreness of still more others; or to embrace everyone possible, ever expanding towards infinity.

I wish I'd known what to say at the party to the statement, "Too many." but I'm grateful for the opportunity to reflect and discern the answer:
"No such thing."

P.S. For the record, not expecting. Just in case anyone was reading between the lines and getting either excited or nervous.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Since I can't be at the Erma Bombeck Conference...

My seven minutes of sheer terror from the last one.


Monkey Bars

It was a beautiful spring like gift of a Sunday in January twelve years ago. Being only four weeks postpartum, I felt flabby and in desperate need to get out there and exercise. My husband agreed that we should go to a park. We packed the three kids, a picnic, a diaper bag, a blanket, a bicycle, a tricycle and the pram in the two cars. Both the Saturn and the Tempo were brimming with stuff. The park was a mile away.

Will got on his bike. Bonnie got on her trike. We put Marta in her stroller and the new “big” family began its journey around the jogging track. Now on this trail, there were fitness stations. At one, you did arm curls, another, pushups. I decided to firm my form; this would be part of the work out. Things were going splendidly. Even Will and Bonnie decided to do the sit ups with me, or at least hold my feet and count. I felt like such an inclusive all together happening Mom. My kids were counting. I was exercising. We were all out in the fresh air. Raising three kids would be a piece of cake. This felt wonderful, glorious.

Then, I came to the monkey bars. “Sher, I don’t think you should do those.” My husband counseled. I married this man for his prudence, but lacking that quality, I said something like, “Oh stop worrying! I can do it.” and swung into action. I got through four. Then I fell hard on my knee. I couldn’t stand. I started to black out. My husband had to leave me crumpled in a heap with a concerned onlooker and her very big sniffy dog while he ferried the three children back to one of the cars, flagged down a soccer coach to watch them and then return. He then carried back the bike and the trike. We were parked at the very other end of the jogging trail from the monkey bars. I had attempted to stand twice more and failed.

Lifting me up in his arms, my husband carried me across the entire soccer field saying, “Please don’t be really hurt. Please don’t be really hurt. And if you’re really hurt, I’m really mad at you.” and loaded me in the car with the kids. He drove the one car with all of us home, put the baby and toddler in their cribs for naps and turned on the TV for our oldest. He gave me two Advil and a diet coke and walked back to the park for the other car. He’s a very patient man.

The next day, the doctors drained my knee and gave me a brace for my leg so the ligaments that were torn could heal. I had to crawl down the stairs of our town home for the next two weeks with my infant in a pouch on my chest. We didn’t go back to that park again ever.

So when we went to the park for softball practice yesterday, there was an old fashioned non regulatory playground. They dove right into it but I said even as my children coveted those compelling metal ladders that go nowhere; “Don’t go on the monkey bars, they’re too high.” And naturally, one of my children did not listen. She did have the wits not to state, “I can do it.” to my face.

She’s fine, a bit of a sprain in her right hand but I’ll say it now;

“Do not go on the monkey bars.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

7 Quick Takes

1.  Trees

A week ago, I was in Texas seeing my family.  I told my husband that there's a certain sort of tree, it grows near the beach, mesquitte.  When I see those wild scratchy trees, they're the trees of home and I love them the way he loves those pines that just start to dot the landscape when you hit Connecticut.  That being said, I love Maryland Spring and keep pointing out the bursts of color everywhere to my kids because for me, even after living here 15 years, it's still a shock to my brain.  They're bored by my color commentary about the dogwoods and the pear and the cherry blossoms now but I know, these will be the trees that make them remember home one day even if they move far away. 

2. Sliding
My daughter plays softball and she's pretty adept at batting. (Very patient).  She throws well and she fields strongly enough to hold a spot at third.  When I signed her up, I was pleasantly anticipating going to her games.  She announced last night she didn't want to play.  I thought maybe it was being 12, maybe she was feeling overwhelmed, I asked why. She couldn't say. 

This morning when I talked about getting her slider pants for the afternoon practice, she related a story about a friend who plays on a travel team who got seriously hurt sliding into base. "Are you afraid you'll get hurt sliding into base?" I asked.  Bingo.  We talked about how the only way to live a life uninjured is to sit and eat and sleep.  She agreed that sounded pretty dull and after breakfast, she gave me a big hug and told me she'd assembled her equipment and put it in the van for this afternoon.  She has practice at 4:30.  I'll be there with her new slider pants, a waterbottle and snacks. Her first game is tomorrow. 

Doing the mental happy dance because I guessed right! Cue Andre(Fessik) the Giant saying, "Don't worry, I won't let it go to my head."

3. We Are Here to Amuse

Having a child with Down Syndrome, I get services at the house twice a week.  These dedicated ladies have been wonderful with my son and very patient with my daughters.  For my three year old's birthday, we'd given her a dress and a crown. One of the ladies brought the Queen a magic wand.  It was perfect.  Gina has been turning people into princesses ever since with a mere touch. (She'd share the crown with whoever she deemed Queen for the day...hour....two minutes).  I got to wear it for a time but I forgot I had it on when I loaded the car to go for pick up and so the people on the road got a chuckle until I got to the stop light and realized I was still in Cinderella mode. 

4. Potluck

I have been asked to join a group of conservative political women who blog occasionally on issues called Potluck and I have said yes.  Potluck is just that, a series of articles or links with some analysis of articles by a group of conservative women.  It is dependent upon the person as to the style and the mood. While I sometimes write stuff here that is political, it is usually with a bit of humor laced generously in the mix.  Potluck is more serious and I'm still finding my way in it.   I'm honored to have been asked.  I post about once a week.

5. Happy Birthday to my brother Danny! 

He wrote a great piece called a year in review at the age of 38.  Link is here.  Can't wait to see what he writes for 39!!/notes/daniel-green/the-year-in-review-age-38/387308881569 Go click on it and wish him happy birthday.

6.  It's Not Wrong...

My older kids play a card game called Magic with their father mostly; and each card has a little bit of humor at the bottom, a flavor text.  "You go first."  is a flavor text for a magic spell that forces creatures to tap during their turn without getting to do anything.  "Aieeeee." is the text for a goblin flunkie that gets sacrificed to give every other creature a stronger attack power. You get the idea. 

My four year old sometimes watches these games with interest but sometimes, she mishears or misunderstands.  So she piped up the other day, a bit of flavor text.  "Let us be creditors and not prey."  I know it was supposed to be predators but...she's not wrong.

7.  Summer Vacation Will Happen

We planned a reunion in Gaitlinburg in mid July. (Cue the song, A Boy Named Sue...). My daughter that was worried about sliding into home wants to go rock climbing on one of those walls....with me.  I'd tell you that I counseled prudence but not so secretly, I want to go do that too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Small Success Thursday

It seems all the more important to talk about small successes when we feel like there aren't any.  It reminds us that they are ever visible if we only look.  I didn't want to do this exercise today.  I was tired.  I was frustrated.  We paid our taxes and so I felt tapped out, overworked and discouraged. 

But I've had some dark chocolate.  I've had a visit with a person who has in a short time of helping me with Paul become a good friend and I've rocked out to Pat Benatar's "Heart Breaker" while cleaning out my son's room of lost laundry.  So I'm good.

This week I:

1) Got to see my sister, brother in law, niece, brother, one cousin and my Mom and Dad.  We had four days of rich food and red wine and conversations that weren't rushed. 

2) I read the first 200 pages of a book a friend lent me, Olive Kitteridge.  I'm looking forward to the rest.

3) I exercised two days.  (Gained 3 pounds from rich food over the weekend but it was soooooo worth it).

4) Realized I couldn't do something even though I'd wanted to and said I would, so I backed down and said no.  It doesn't happen very often that I a) recognize I'm over extended b) admit to it c) alter plans because of it. 

5) The house and the laundry is 90% in order.  Not paying attention to the other ten percent. 

6) Still doing Montfort so I'll say the rosary today and I love the luminous mysteries.

7) Six kids made it to swimming lessons Monday.  I was worried about having signed up my daughter who just turned three the day after classes started. My last bout with one so young was a wasted effort where the kid sat on the steps and watched everyone else swim.  He finally went out with the instructor on the last day. 

However, the Sphinx Regina got out of the pool at the end of her session and said, "I love this Mom. Let's do it again!"  Next Monday.

8) Finally, this really made me chuckle.  What I love best is the audience response. 
The Mom Song

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jack Bauer vs. Moms of America

Because the series "24" is coming to an end, this piece will lose it's humor shortly after the show loses its shelf life.  As such, it is time for a rerun because these babies will never be found on a best of DVD.

The running gag/conceit on “24” is that Jack Bauer never gets to do anything to maintain himself, eating, sleeping, using the bathroom, showering. He's always on the go.

Big deal.

Moms have been enduring this sort of relentless timed to the second hard press scheduling for years. Every fall, if you just look at the mini-vans lined up after school you’ll find not one but multiple examples of women talking on their cell phone while writing in a calendar, skimming and signing papers and providing two or more minors with the specialized equipment they’ll need for their afternoon activities, along with a snack. That’s all in the fifteen minutes they’re stuck in the slug line waiting to drive away from the school.

Jack Bauer searches through a myriad of places to find the stash of weapons or suspect or bomb he needs to find with mere moments to spare.


Try finding three pairs of clean white socks from the laundry for children who forgot to lay out their stuff the night before, while fixing five lunches, making sure each gets their breakfast and has their backpacks, lunches, diorama’s, permission slips and gym clothing for the day all before 7:30 am. Also, please remember to take out the garbage, remove the two bikes from the driveway and the car’s on E.

Jack Bauer sometimes resorts to unethical methods of getting information.

Hah! Like we mothers didn’t see that one coming. In the afternoon, after casually offering to charge the eldest’s cell phone, we check the numbers in and out. Moms specialize in benevolence that masks other motives. “I noticed you put your hair back yesterday in a pony tail, it looked nice.” Is mom code for “Your hair looks like the body of an emu, please find a brush and attack it at once!”

Intrigue and espionage? Please, moms invented it. Most mothers usually have more than one child who is a good mole for kid information, both about school and domestic issues. Some have been known to switch the baby monitor to other rooms, helpfully hidden under a pile of laundry, the ultimate camouflage. We conduct unauthorized search and seizure raids to evict illegal television watchers during homework time, and have special vice units (Dads) for serial offenders.

Jack Bauer doesn’t recognize proper authorities in some situations. He often deals with apparently cataclysmic explosions. He uses his wits to survive.

The parents of adolescents everywhere are nodding their heads at this one. We cope with unexpected emotional teen age equivalent of land mines at any waking moment, and must disarm them without so much as a paperclip or a welding rod. We do not recognize opening a locked door within our own home as breaking and entering, we monitor incoming and outgoing email, phone conversations and do background checks on all personal contacts. The HSA has nothing on us!

Jack Bauer has never been known to sleep or use the facilities in the course of a vigorous 24 hours. Parents do this on a regular basis, or irregular, depending upon your meaning. As an aside, all our 24 hours are vigorous, or at the very least, exhausting.

Jack Bauer still hasn’t eaten.

While abstaining from food might help with never getting to use a public restroom, most parents, even Jack's find it isn’t a healthy habit. Just as surely as Jack gets terrorists to spill the beans, we could make Jack eat them. Moms and Dads everywhere, say it with me, “You sit down and you’re not moving until everything on that plate is gone!”

Memo to the Washington Post and Press Corp

He's just not that into you.

Dana Milbank wrote a piece about how the media was shut out of every conference meeting at the recent "successful" Nuclear Security Summit. He lamented the decision to keep foreign and traditional Washington Press corp regulars out of the loop. Having to rely only on press releases from the White House, those who rely on pure written copy for their editorial content glibly proclaimed the Summit "Obama's Sterling Success." and practically parachuted onto the decks of Air Craft Carriers to proclaim their guy the man of the moment, the creator of peace in our time and lord of all he sees.

Katie Couric in particular went a bit overboard with her coy, "Can we safely say, Mission Accomplished?" Sure if you don't mind that nothing got done. Sure if you don't mind that all the deals are voluntary. Sure if you don't mind if none of the states that actually are threats didn't show and aren't in compliance. Sure if you ignore that China refused and so did Russia. Sure if you don't mind that there will be a four year lag before actual enforcement which as we said, was purely voluntary. So you can say it was fabo! Provided you aren't going to look beyond the cover sheet and don't revisit this issue for the next five years. Sure if you are only skeptic if a Republican proposes anything.

But back to Dana and company. I feel your pain. Really. I know you were ditched when he skipped off to a soccer game sans any buds. I know you're bothered that he doesn't phone and he hasn't responded to your 747 text messages or 116 twitters. But you wanted a reciprocal relationship. Others are much less needy. I know it hurts and I know you don't understand why. But in time, you will.

He's just not that into you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The 13th that is the 19th

My daughter turns three today.  She was born on Friday the 13th.  We weren't expecting to have a daughter in our hands for another three weeks.  But then, we weren't expecting an emergency c-section either.  I didn't know I'd even had her until they whisked her by in a blanket, all cleaned up and capped.  It all seemed so unreal.  One minute we were hooked up to the IV and getting that drip that makes contractions come and the next, they flew out of the room with me because her heart had dropped to 25. 

My husband was taken to a side room and given scrubs to change into, but no further instruction.  He waited.  It felt like forever.  He worried for her. He worried for me.  I'd been bleeding and bleeding and bleeding. How long would it take? How bad was it?  Had we already lost her? After seven prior pregnancies, this was still uncharted and dangerous territory. 

Searching both for comfort and something to take away the feeling of time, he took out the Saint Louis Marie de Montfort Total Consecration, a devotion he and I have participated in for the past eight years.   (That's a whole other story).   "Please let her be okay. Please let them be okay." and he asked Mary in particular for protection.

And the reading for the 19th day of this discipline was Jesus and the children. 

"People even brought little children to him, for him to touch them; but when the disciples saw this they turned them away.  But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me and do not stop them; for it is to such as theese that the kingdom of God belongs.  I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 

When he had finished reading, the nurse brought him to see me and together, we held and saw her and smelled her sweet new baby smell together for the first time, Regina. Regina Zaiga Rose.

So Friday the 13th became lucky and blessed because she was born, because she survived.  Happy Birthday Gina. (That's what she calls herself).   And today, when she was awakened by a chorus, she smiled with her whole face.  We gave her a crown and a princess gown.

Now that she's properly dressed, we're going to go out to a famous Scottish restaurant for lunch; McDonald's.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reflections on the Mound that was Caplen, TX

Yesterday, I returned from a four day hiatus from being a full time hands on Mom.  So what did I do on my vacation?  I went to visit my parents, my brother and my sister and her family.  It was weird to be just an aunt.   I loved it. My niece is adorable.  But I felt smaller.

What did I learn?  That I need my nine children to mask my personal character flaws or rather to reveal how they aren't actually flaws but necessary traits. 

For example, I'm hyper.  I talk loud.  I laugh loud.  If I've had even a smidgeon of something to drink, I tend to slap down on the table like my dad does, as a means of added emphasis if I find something funny.  With nine children, all that energy and brightness and bluster gets filtered into a proper context.  No one notices how loud I am as a strange thing, they view it as a survival skill.  I'd tell you this was a calculated evolution born of practical maternal need, but that would be lying.  

I don't sleep much.  Absent a reason to stay up to get things done, I still stay up.  Absent a reason to get up at six, I still wake.  My bio rhythms are set to engage in an aircraft carrier type full scale launch every morning and so I rise fully ready to take on the day sans any coffee by seven.  If there's nothing to do, I start almost bouncing on my feet ready to go go go.  Where? I don't know but I'm ready.  All that energy gets harnessed in the course of any given school day that otherwise idles waiting for something to do. 

On Saturday, we went to the beach where the beach house once stood and I walked over the mound, all that remains of what was a house that stood for almost 85 years.  There was rope and debris imbeded in the sand.  There were shards of what was tile in the bathroom with its distinctive honeycomb pattern. 

Mound to the right is where our beach house was.  Gully where another beach house used to be. 

Two summers ago our beach neighbor and his wife taught my children how to crab and now opened their new house by the shore to us on this windy afternoon. They had rebuilt and collected "storm wear," things that survived Hurricane Ike intact. 

We took a bowl that I remembered.  It had once held gumbo cooked all day, or home made fudge sauce over bluebell cookies and cream or jalepeno cheese grits.  Now it held sand.  I decided it would be cruel for a bowl to survive a category 4 hurricane and get crushed en route in the cargo hold of a plane so I would give it to my sister to keep.   Then I collected some shells for my children, avoided the washed up man-o-wars and filled a water bottle with some of the Gulf of Mexico.

I stepped into the water. 

It was about 25 degrees below what I expect when I see the beach, as was the air.  My life memories of the Gulf almost never included April.  But the beach is still the beach and even though the beach house is gone, the essence of what I loved remained with all its wild growth glory.  The gnarled trees that seem to scratch the air as they carve and twist their way up out of the ground still scattered about the landscape.  Wild flowers with their garrish deep orange, bright yellow and blood red petals and politically incorrect names dotted the grass.  There were stickaburrs and driftwood and people walking with old dogs.   They didn't know us but still stopped to say hi and begin sharing stories.  The neighbors who had saved the crockery invited everyone in including the blind 17 year old dog. 

What did we talk about?  A 4 thousand dollar broken part of a plane that became a clock, the way things looked at the first flyover, about selling a business and finishing a deck, about back surgery and the reality that everyone suffers, rich, poor, everyone, but how you respond is what matters.   We talked about what they remembered, what they saved, why they were staying and what they hoped. "I wish you could stay longer."  the former King of Mardi Gras and neighbor said.  They offered drinks, even dinner.  That' is the essence of the beach, you always welcome everyone and you always wish everyone could stay longer.  It's my vision of what being Catholic really is. 

Looking at the ocean and the sun and feeling the wind even as I was told it was time to go, I wanted to walk the shore for hours like I used to, and like then, if time had allowed I know I would have not felt tired until I was dehydrated and sunburned or stung in a careless moment.  Most likely, all three. Only then would I have felt I'd gone far enough to turn back.  Most of the time, my life, my home, my mind and my body are busy. The beach, that beach, was and remains a place where my life, home, mind and body would quiet even as they kept doing. So I miss more than the home that celebrated most of my birthdays, I miss the opportunity for those seemingly timeless walks to nowhere that weren't for fitness and weren't to get to a destination.

(Yes, that's what it looks like but this was a pre Ike photo posted on the Facebook Bolivar You Have to Love it to Like it page).

On the way back to Pearland, I bought a pint of Pralines and Cream (my favorite) and ate more than most of it. (I shared a little with Mom.  Dad had fried chicken).  When I got back to Maryland, I took my husband outside and rolled up his jeans.  I poured the Gulf on his feet and he smiled.  If we could not get to the ocean, the ocean would come to us.  

"Did you have a good trip?" He asked.
"Yes. I did."

But I found I'm more myself here than anywhere else.  Everywhere else, who I am doesn't make as much sense, nor does all of me fit.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What Do I Do Now?

Here I am, my children all safely tucked away in beds 2,100 miles away from me.  My husband took them to visit his folks while I flew to Texas to see my parents and one of my brothers and my sister, her husband and their almost one year old daughter.   I am here and I do not have a role.  I cannot Martha my way around the room because there is nothing to Martha. 

What I have discovered is I would make a boring batchellorette.  I read the paper.  I write little.  I eat too much and I exercise.  Time unfolds at a snails pace with nary a rushed moment and I'm groping for ways to fill the minutes. It is odd to have no job.  The quiet of my own mind is more than I've come to be accustomed to in 17 years of parenting.  It's like I'm a Supreme Pizza that forgot all the toppings or the one pin left standing after a failed spare.  I am glad to be with these people I love fiercely.  I'm grateful for the trip and for this time.

I also feel fully aware of how whittled down my own life becomes in the absence of my children. But, as my sage brother pointed out, when I return, it will be to launch back into school after spring break.  Thinking about the bills and the projects coming due, the laundry that will await me and suddenly, I guess I will just savor this spare time a bit more.  It will probably make the time seem to fly by faster as a result.

But this is Martha being told to sit and Mary.  It is a lot more difficult than one would suspect. It will be a bear to one day retire.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hemingway Moment

All English majors know the six word short story of Ernest Hemingway.  "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."
Likewise, it is drilled into a humorist's head that brevity is the soul of wit. Not being as witty or as brief as Hemmingway, I added a word to my own challenge. As such, I present the following:

Seven words or less stories

Genre: Disaster
Found: the cap of a sharpie.

Genre: Tragedy
11:00 pm.  Why is the hose on?

Genre: Romance
15 Forever stamps on the car window.

Genre: Mystery
Three left shoes for the same person.

Genre: Western
They're boots.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Marshmellow Peeps in the Microwave

Genre: Fantasy
Kids clean up Marshmellow Peeps in Microwave.

Genre: Historical
Everything you just read.

Genre: Fiction
My calm serene reaction to everything.

Genre: Autobiography
Highly fictionalized for public consumption

Monday, April 5, 2010

Time for New Things

This past Lent, I gave up my personal gritch but she spent the last few hours before Easter making sure I'd know that this battle would go on unto death.  We have been slack in our organization of the back basement. It's easy because you can shut the door and only go down once a month to change the filter and say, "This basement is a mess, we should clean it up." Then you go upstairs and forget about it until next mortgage payment day.   It was easy until this past Saturday.  My daughter went down and she found water.  It was bad.

We spent Holy Saturday clearing out the basement of papers, sorting what could be salvaged.  Because my husband was at the office preparing for a Monday business trip, I drafted all my children into work. Trips to the grocery store were postponed.  Trips to the department store for shoes for one child were forgotten.  By the end, my helpers had discovered Lord of the Rings was on television and one by one succumb to watching.  I'd cleaned all day and still in the end, I was left alone. 

Clearing out lesson plans from my teaching days of 17 years ago, it made me angry. It made me frustrated.  I saw all these fun things once ago I planned that I was no longer doing.  I saw all my kids doing fun things and I was here cleaning the smelly spidery basement.  Even my shop vac quit on me.   I felt tired and unready for Easter even as I mused that a wish I'd held, to clear out the backbasement had been fulfilled. The cleaned out room did not bring me joy.  It only meant I could now see how the rest of the house needed work too. I felt just as messy and spidery and smelly and empty.

At mass the next day, we arrived looking a bit unready.  One child was wearing a dress that was a bit too old for her, we had no shoes for the baby, three kids had struggled with their hair that morning and it showed.  Sitting in a pew all by ourselves, I was forced twice to take kids to the bathroom. But somewhere in that morning in the midst of the song at the presentation of the gifts, I felt unbidden, the understanding of what these past 40 days had been supposed to be about for me. 

I have nine children. 

For the past year, I have been becoming adjusted to managing all of them; but it has been about treading water, making sure we got through the bare minimum of any given day.  Teeth brushed, three meals, homework done.   It has been functional.  I've done more sometimes, but at that mass, I felt the dull recognition that I had become conditioned to seek to do the minimum and no more.  Looking at those old lesson plans made me realize I had somehow drained a lot of the color out of parenting for function.

Parenting should be about every color and sparkles and stickiness and joy bordering on garrishness.  It wasn't that I'd been depressed, it's that I had supressed myself.  The practical gritch had sought to remove all fun from parenting by emphasizing how much effort fun was, and to keep me from even participating. 

"You have this very light cross to care for lots of people.  It is now time to put on the joyful mask." I remembered how much fun I'd had as a teacher. I could hear in the whispers of the choir's song at the bringing of the gifts.  My gift I had been hording unto atrophy, burrying it.  It was time to dig it up and start bringing it to the altar every day and offering it.   Walking up for communion, it was hard to keep from crying or smiling or laughing, I felt all three and the overwhelmed hope that I wouldn't forget this lesson that seemed so obvious and so easy and yet so hard to embrace.  

It is Easter, it is Spring. Rejoice.  It is time for something new.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

For some of us, Easter is a time of great spiritual joy and peace.  For others, it is an excuse to eat chocolate in the spring.  For my daughter who just discovered Easter eggs and the candy therein, she holds that the time spent unwrapping a foil kiss is time wasted.  

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hello and Welcome from LaLa Land

This morning I decided to push myself and make biscuits and sausage for breakfast. Having watched two hours of the Food Network last night, my brain was already running a streaming commentary on the nature of these beautiful little bread products. How easy they were. I tossed the baking powder, flour, Crisco and salt in with an extra flourish and began mashing with a fork.

"Look at this. No mixer. That's Old school." I could hear the spiky haired Guy Fieri of Diner's Drive-ins and Dives voice over. I thought about how the camera would pan around my kitchen and about the lead in, "Substitutions are welcome." as I explained that I didn't have a biscuit cutter or a pastry maker but an ice cream scooper and a fork worked just as well.

I then looked at my non regulatory kitchen with six different spoons and five knives thrown hastily into a drawer along with four paper cut out coupons from the back of a cereal box. I decided my inelegant organization would be part of the show, part of my character. I'd be a real person who had to cook for real people with a real kitchen that didn't always have the ingredients on hand, and who had to make food not just with a time crunch, but which people would actually eat. My kids would be the test audience.

"Most food shows use the throw pillow technique to make food look awesome. There's the base and all the foo foo stuff on top in an artful way. This would be a meal without all the throw pillows. What mattered was the mattress and the blanket and the pillow." And if I messed up with something I’d say a signature line like “Oh well, I get busy talking and while it never happens in fake world, but it happens here…"

"Mom," my daughter interrupted, "Your sausage IS burning."

"Just flip it dear." I murmured, as I was still off on a food network bender binge with a show on organization and how I am the worst with clutter. I'd even opened a drawer or two to illustrate. It wasn't until I started considering how I'd make the pitch to an agent that I realized, I had not pre-heated the oven for the biscuits I'd been showcasing in this narrative although my daughter had saved the sausage.
For the Easter show, I'm clearly going to need more sous chefs.

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