Thursday, September 30, 2010

Small Success Thursday

1) I started taking on the basement.  I'm only allowing myself to work on it for an hour at a time, but the slow progress is bearing fruit.  Trust me, it still is a pit of despair, but now, it's only mild despair and I'm feeling hopeful that we can reach the pit of mere dull disorder or mild chaos soon.

2) I wrote a bit more than I thought, and submitted a piece.  It had been a while since I'd felt able to do that; for some reason, the will to finish a piece and send it out for acceptance or rejection had been low.

3) Started working on potty training again with my daughter.  She's not terribly interested, but we're going to keep presenting the opportunity. 

4) Booked flights for my son to visit three separate colleges.  Now, he's excited and working on the college aps.  Yeah!  

5) Youngest son said, "Go." today while playing with a Thomas the Tank Engine and track.  He is a very useful engine indeed.  

6) Diabetic sugars seem to be in control. 

7) Remembered to call a friend when things got draggy.  (I just don't pick up the phone as a matter of habit).  

Stair Master

Parenting is often an act of obedience even more than love.  When you drive to the school to drop off the book you nagged a kid to put in their back pack but for some reason, they didn't, it's obedience born out of love.  When you agree to sew a stitch on a bear, pick up envelopes and stamps and help make a snack for a third child because each has come and asked, you get a glimpse of how if God were not love, He might feel at our constant petitions.  Yet, His answer is always yes ...and so those moments when I don't want to give, when I just want to (and all to often do) yell up the stairs, "JUST GO TO BED." in response to the umpteenth request or attempt to prolong the day, I know I am being not what God called me to be and that walking up those stairs to reassert order is the loving response that both my body and spirit chafe against.

We are always asked to give one more kiss good night, to remind someone to turn off the lights, to stay on task, did they eat, did they brush, do they need anything?  And likewise, we're asked to turn off the lights, stay on task, cook the food, remind them or tackle the snarls ourselves and go get the things they need.   The answer is supposed to be "Yes." not because we want to spoil them but because we love. 

The problem is, I know what is right and part of my brain still says, "I'm staying right here. You're going to bed, the day is over, I've given, I'm done and that's that." and I'm sitting on the couch. The part that is fallen says, "No more."  That part of me that snarls when anyone says, "God doesn't give you anything you can't handle." is some days, more of a challenge to beat back than others. If I weren't trying to just control everything, I might ask, "God could you just pick up the slack for me this time because I've got nothing."  but I'm too annoyed to ask.  And then it hits me again; the very nature of God is relationship, communion, joyful service and obedient love; ergo the opposite is isolation, demanding non relationship, refusal not for any reason but an unwillingness to give.

Sometimes I really hate it when I think things through because it means I can only not obey the wisdom given by a sinful act of refusal.   It   I'm trying as I stomp to stop stomping.  I turn off the lights, I say good night, I even throw in an "I love you." and go back down, hoping my compliant obedience will buy me their compliant obedience.   It doesn't as I immediately hear doors open and see a light or two click back on once I'm settled back at my chair.  And then I get the even more annoying recognition, my own stubbornness is mirrored in my children's behavior.  I keep sitting down.  I keep shutting down.  I keep turning my heart off, as if that is allowed.  It isn't, anymore than the kids saying on a school night, "Hey, let's throw a party and pull out all the blankets and make tents of our beds."  I get to keep laying down the law that the day is over and it is time to sleep and God gets to keep telling me, it doesn't matter how you feel, you must act with love. 

I know these ten children are in a sense, the tiniest cross imaginable.  I just have to love and care for these people my whole life.   What a blessed opportunity, not many get such a light trial full of so many opportunities for luminous moments.   I know people who shoulder burdens I know I would screw up the instant I took them on if they were placed in my hands, and yet, even knowing how bountiful my life is, I chafe at my tiny burdens of minutia.  I know God is wants my cooperation more than I want it from my children, and I am just as difficult if not more so.   So I've told myself today, I will walk the stairs whenever I am called, and that I will work to keep my heart subtle and soft and obedient. 

But in deference to my fallen nature, the next home we get, will be a rambler on only one floor.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why God Matters: A Review

With the Fall Festival finishing up and having let go of a professional obligation that I felt I could no longer manage, I said to God, "What now?" and that day, there was an email asking if I was interested in reviewing a book, "Why God Matters."  I'd tried reviewing books one other time and found the experience a bit problematic.  Materials written about faith and devotionals sometimes got so dreamy or overly sweet or sentimental that I felt pushed back and the snark in me would emerge.   I felt nervous.  What if I didn't like the book? But after all, I'd asked "What now?" and was presented with this opportunity, so with equal impulsiveness, I said "Yes."  

Two weeks passed and I hadn't glanced at it.  I forgot about the date.  It just slipped out of my brain entirely as I messed with helping my son fill out college applications, organized the schedule for the week and ran the household while my husband was abroad.  Saturday, the day I was scheduled to put up a blog entry on this book, I collapsed in exhaustion on the couch and only got up for meals.  It wasn't pretty and I sure wasn't up to reading much less thinking about anything. 

Yesterday I got an email asking if I had trouble with the materials and I recognized I had let this project slip through my fingers.  I kept telling myself "You need to get to this." and then doing other things.  Today, I sat down to be dutiful and a thousand excuses presented themselves, "You need to clean the basement, fold the laundry, read a book to your children, bake a cake, exercise, write...." but I read it.  At only 114 pages, it is a beautiful arcing and blessedly short read that acts as an appetizer to deepening one's faith.   I had to stop at several points to attend to my daughters who enjoyed the time using water colors while I read, but picking the book back up was seamless and breathlessly easy; perfect for a person like me who lives a life permanently and perpetually interrupted by life.  

The faith stories of Karina Lumbert Fabian and her father, Deacon Stephen Lumbert serve as scaffolding for the deeper mysteries they seek to articulate.  The stories and their spiritual ramifications are further buttressed with the corresponding catechism from the Catholic Church; catechism that absent the story, absent the personal context, we might gloss over and miss for it's elegant beauty and truth.  We understand the last will be first so much better in the context of the parable of the workers in the vineyard; just so we comprehend the words and mysteries and callings of God to be ever present in our lives much clearer through story than through simple dogma. My one lament was that the sketches of their lives were brief, as I wanted more detail, more story; but that would have made the book a singularly personal reflection and not a series of examinations of the truth of Catholic teaching as revealed in the moments and details of two people's faith lives.   I told my mom I felt as if I'd eaten an appetizer that could have been a whole meal, if only the portions had been larger. 

So I would recommend this read as a bedside companion or as a tome to put in one's bag of stuff for when waiting for someone, (and we all have those moments of sitting in the car on someone else's time), as a means of both refreshing the  spirit and moving one's mind to consider the faith stories in one's own life and how they reveal as all faith stories must, God's generosity, beauty, truth and lavish fidelity.   Seeing for a moment the single thread of our lives in the grand tapestry of God's vision is humbling and awe inspiring, being willing and able to share that with others is a true gift.

To Order it for yourself, click on the title here: Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just Ice Cream Desserts

Recently the news included a little blurb that Ben and Jerry's would drop the "all natural" from it's label on Cookie Dough Ice Cream in deference to a health watch group that felt the moniker was deceptive because the confection used alkalized cocoa, corn syrup and hydrogenated oil as part of the recipe.  Maybe it's just my own love for B&J's pints o'goodness, but I felt the need to help out the creamery in Vermont with a few pithy slogans as substitutions for what they now will omit as part of the agreement. 

10) Tastes this Good; Can't be anything but Supernatural. 
9) The Perfect habitat for Cocoa, corn syrup and hydrogenated oil.
8) Au naturale ice cream, nakedly delicious.
7) For crying out loud, it's ice cream; if you want healthy, eat a carrot!
6) Preserving taste at all costs.
5) Don't You Feel Safer Without Those Two Little Words?
4) Memo: Ice cream and Cookie dough?  Not found organically in Nature.  Just saying.
3) 100% All Nurturing
2) Better Living Through Chemistry
1) Unnaturally Enhanced...but worth it.

Memo: I do love Bluebell more than anything, but I can't get that here, so I console myself with Cherry Garcia.   But no one does a better Pralines and Cream than the cows in Brenham, Texas.   Can you tell it's week four of gestational diabetes and it's getting pretty old?

The Theological Implications of Donuts and Dollars

Three Sundays ago, my kids had to serve the 8:30.  With the exception of when I'm feeling extraordinarily ambitious, these sorts of mornings, we do a split squad for mass.  I had some folders to drop off for people who would be working the Fall Festival so I took the early shift.  Unfortunately, in waking the three required children, another five got up.  I wasn't worried,  I knew some would hang back and opt to have breakfast with Dad.  Then I heard those little words that send chills down any Catholic's spine.  "I'm bringing my money to buy donuts." 

My six year old's conception of money is not yet fully formed.  He knows money is needed to buy things, he knows how to count money, he knows to save money for certain desired items.  However, he does not fully comprehend that once the money is spent, it doesn't exist anymore.  He also frequently loses his money by removing it for repeated viewing and counting.  Thus when he came bounding down the stairs announcing he would buy six donuts and a drink (I guessed roughly eight dollars worth from his talk), and his pocket jingled loudly, I sought to do damage control by pairing him with his oldest brother in the back seat.  "He can hold your money for you."  I explained.   He refused.

We loaded the car and not five minutes into the drive, there was a wail from the back seat.  "I've lost two dollars."  He began throwing the blanket, umbrella, and various miscellaneous bags of stuff around, searching madly.  His brother was trying to calm him down and pitching everything to the trunk as it was being tossed.  The rest of the ride to the church was not restful.  I tried reason. "The money is still here, it's just hidden."  No dice.  I tried chiding.  "I told you to put your coins in a wallet or let your brother or me hold it or..." but stopped because it only was making things worse.  I was right but so what?   I pointed out that we didn't NEED to buy six donuts and a drink, that he could still get his own drink and donut with what was left. 

None of this rational thinking did any good.  I parked and the altar servers disembarked.  I hoped the walk to mass would allow all of us to get into good working order for the morning.   But there was a low grumbling rumble from my six year old repeated over and over again like a mantra.  "I want my money.  I want my money. I want my money."  I told him he sounded like a bill collector.   He glared at me.  I didn't like pulling out the big guns but, "If you don't stop, we won't go downstairs for donuts."  

So then he squeezed my hand, "We should have kept looking.  We should have kept looking. We should have kept looking."

We got to mass.  I prayed things would settle down.  My son is usually pretty attentive or at least quiet during the times when silence is preferred.  The gospel talked about the woman losing one coin and sweeping her house until it was found.  "See?"  my son is looking at me with the "You-should-have-let-me-look-until-I found-it" justification in his eyes.   Vindicated by the readings, he settled for the moral victory of being able to boast after mass, "Mom should have listened to me." as he munched on a sprinkled donut and hot chocolate.  His siblings chipped in for the donuts for those left behind with Dad.

When we got home, he went to put his remaining change away and came back joyful, "Guess what?  I guess I forgot I didn't take all my money.  I found the other two dollars on my bed."   I made a mental note; no children bringing money to mass...ever...or at the very least, I'm going to crib the day's liturgy of the word before we get into the church.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1.  When you realize, you are being protected.
This week, I've had solo duty as parent. It has been hard.  On Wednesday, I was trying to load up the car to go pick up my children and that takes multiple trips.  I was trying of course to do too much and take all three out in one shot.  But I couldn't get the door to cooperate.  I had to leave it open.  Having secured all three children in their car seats, I went back to shut the door, mentally growling..."Why does it have to be SO HARD?" and the phone rang as I got to the door.  I went in to get the phone and found...I'd taken my purse and three youngest children to the car, but the keys and my cell phone were still in the home.  If the door had locked, I'd have been stranded outside my house with three kids in the heat with six children waiting for pick up and no means of communicating.  It would have been much worse.  Said a thank you to a guardian angel, that things aren't as hard as I think sometimes they are. 

2.  Unexpected Grace

To get through a week solo, we've had to dial back and yet more has been demanded.  And it has been beautiful to see my family rise to the occasion.  My oldest two took on dishes and several mornings, got up around 5 to catch the bus rather than require a double run.  The next two, took on making lunches and breakfast with varying degrees of success but I was grateful for the help.  Even the youngers have tried to lend a hand where they could though I did have to stop the two youngest girls from trying to scrub the piano with a dish washing brush.

3. Reclaiming Parts of Self that were for some reason, stored away.

Sometimes, I fall into the rut of being the task master, never stopping, never resting, never letting anyone else enjoy much either; it's one of my faults.  This week, I've had to soften up and wound up giving more hugs, less lectures, more solo times with singular children, less "Time to work...move move MOVE." and it's been nice, necessary, but also indicative that I could have been doing this part of it even with the knowledge of a relief pitcher (Dad) showing up.  

There have been more quiet moments of conversation with me and more silliness this week with me than is normal.  In regular time, Dad walks in and I become invisible, and all that banter with the kids is stored for him; I'm hoping we both get to share some of that when he returns.   Having a kid ask, "Would you like to hear about my day?"  the answer is "YES! Please tell me."  This week has made me a better listener, in part because the person who is willing to listen to me talk the most (God love him), hasn't been here for me to lean on and  pour everything out to; and so I've been quieter and more able to hear everyone else in this home. 

4.  Creative Nagging. 

I now text and email my son with FYI's that he checks before he leaves school.  It means I don't spend nearly as much time getting on him to do the business work he needs to address as part of senior year.   It works so well, my daughter is now sending me emails and text message reminders of things she needs or I need to remember.  It has cut down on some stress. 

5.  Rethinking it

The other day, my daughter got an email from a friend asking her what she thought of an outfit the other wanted to wear for a dance.  My first glance made my heart go in my throat.  It was too mature for someone only in her first year of high school but it wasn't my email, it wasn't my daughter, it wasn't my call.  My daughter looked at it and started typing.   When she finished, she looked up and saw my face.  "Don't worry Mom." she smiled and showed me what she had fired back, "As you know, I don't like dresses, but that one is too adult."  Cue victory dance in my brain.  She then said, "See, now when I go to a dance, I'm wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt."   She'd tried wearing this to the last dance and I'd prevailed and made her change into more in my opinion appropriate attire for a social event at a high school.  Now I'm thinking considering the possible alternatives....I may be okay with t-shirts and sport shorts. 

6.  Am I Over thinking it?

Being a foodie, I loved watching Top Chef DC on Bravo.  Now they've started Top Chef Just Desserts and I was excited because I like the idea of desserts period.  While I liked the prior show which seemed like a straight up cooking competition, this one seems a bit more raw, with one candidate being to my sensibilities, very very unstable.  He has remained on past the first two cuts and I can't help but think the execs are thinking, fabulous gripping TV to have a problem child go through the competition.  So is it voyeuristic and wrong to watch this show when there is this person who clearly needs help?   Right now, I'm considering choosing not to watch the show until this person is not a contestant because it feels like willingly watching a train wreck for entertainment.  Am I over thinking this? 

7.  Thank you. 

Thank you to everyone who helped with the Fall Festival, with reaching out this week when Marc has been away, for reading my rants and stories and quips and stuff, for giving me your honest assessment of things, for prayers, for the gift of your time and your friendship.  I'm working on being more grateful for all those gifts so secure in my life that have been given so freely, I often failed to see them until they are needed or taken away.  Thank you.

Have a great weekend.

Raising a

There are nights when bedtime is like playing Whack-a-Mole and there are nights when people go to sleep willingly.  This week, we've been pushing hard so bedtime was almost...almost a relief for most of them. 

Then I heard the scream.   The Don't-stop-run-up-the-stairs-something-is-wrong-take-the-steps-two-at-a-time scream.  I'm thinking I shout "I'm coming!" My oldest son and daughter are hot on my heels to provide assistance.  Then we hear, "STOP IT!"  and know that this just requires me.  My oldest two roll their eyes and march back down to their computers. 

In the boy's all lights on bedroom, I find my middle son holding the railing normally used for his brother's bed.  He is positioning it to hit something underneath his brother's bed.  There is a voice under the bed.  "STOP IT." and more screams.

A thousand questions explode in my head but all I can get out is "Why?"  

A timorous shaking hand points from under the bed at a toy barn that the other brother has been hitting with the edge of the railing.   I don't get it.

"Mom!" my older son says with a bit of impatience, "There's a stink bug."  He then angles the railing and tries again to squish the insect against the plastic toy barn. That he doesn't hit the fan with the other end is a minor miracle. He only succeeds in pushing the barn with the bug further under the bed where his brother is hiding, resulting in still more ear splitting screams. 

"There's a bug so I'm under the bed." is the breathless reply.

First I disarmed the exterminator, then I grabbed the barn.  "Get out from under the bed." I ordered.  He crawled out, his eyes are wide and fearful.  "What are you going to do?"   "Get rid of it."  I answered.  My son frowned.  "My cars are in that barn."  he said with the air of being both sad and resigned to losing the barn and the cars as the price for the destruction of the bug.  

"I'm just....going to get rid....of the insect."  I explain as I march out to the bathroom to send the creature to it's untimely demise.  He asks as I'm trying to tuck him back in bed if he needs to change the sheets.   I promise there are no bugs or bug parts on his bed.  He accepts this although the other child is puzzling it over and I can see his brain starting to ask questions about whether or not I've thoroughly inspected the room sufficienty to make such a promise.  Quickly suggesting that maybe he can come downstairs and get both of them some water, I turn off the lights and bid a hasty retreat.  The prospect of getting to leave the room is sufficent distraction.   

Going back downstairs, I find my son who was getting the water armed with the shop vac.  He's angling the tube to suck up a few stray stink bugs in the kitchen.  "It's after 9.  Bed.  I'll get the bugs." and he gives me a "But you might miss one look." I smush one with my bare hands.  "See. I'll handle it."  and grab a napkin.   "Be sure to wash your hands." my son warns, and takes the two drinks off to bed. 

Tossing the body of the bug, I wonder how I get these guys not to be paralyzed by anything with six legs.  I've seen this happen before. As silent war between two of my daughters who favor the front seat was put off by one of these critters.  One always tries to beat the other to the chair, but with a little stink bug crawling on the window on the outside, both opted to sit in the back peacefully.   One of the other creatures successfully kept my four year old from deciding to get out of her room after I put her to bed the other night.  And it wasn't even in the house, it was the shadow of a bug on the outside of her window reflecting on the wall from the moon.

....I caught myself considering whether or not to catch one of these bugs and just keep it for emergency purposes; then I heard millions are headed this way next week from Pennsylvania.  I think I'm going to remove all the railings and bats and blunt objects from the house.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Count it All Success

It's Thursday so I'm here reporting in this week's successes.   There were the great colossal moments like the Fall Festival and getting kids to the doctor's, orthodontist, myself to the obgyn and my oldest to is music lesson all on time and there were the grinding moments like loading the car up to get the middle four to their school this week while their Father was out of town.  That we have held close to each other and kept our sense of humor despite all kinds of chaos, calamities, unexpected appointments and delays, is a big miracle in my book. But the biggest victories were ones not anticipated. 

1) My two year old stacked three blocks.  I swear he's reading his IEP and spends the next week making the teachers rewrite his goals.   We were in the waiting room while his brother was getting x-rays of his mouth for braces.  The lounge had three Rubic's cubes.  He made a stack and knocked it over and did it again three times.   The thing is, you sound really stupid when you start cheering because your kid made a three block tower but we did.  Today, he showed off for his PT and they were very pleased.  I told them to put "Read War and Peace." in his objectives for next week because I want to get to that one day.

2) Homework for one of mine has always been a battle.  But third grade has been a real struggle.  After a meeting with the teacher to device a system, that drudgery has thus far disappeared from the radar.  She sets the timer and does ten minutes at a time.  It all gets done, she's proud of herself and so am I! As an added bonus, it makes my life is much less "Dial a nag." 

3) On Tuesday, as part of keeping myself strong for this week, I made us go to the daily 9 o'clock mass.  I spent 90% of it in the back watching my two daughters tend their babies, baby girl and penguin and rerouting Paul who wanted to go racing up the aisles.  The girls had created beds out of a table and were reading them stories from the song booklets  I would have wished they would have been a bit quieter but in the end, the goal --to gather strength for the week from mass and the sacraments was achieved and that's enough.  

4) The other night, I sat with my daughter and talked about how hard it is to see my dad struggle with memory loss and that oddly, while I'd been able to pray for him and for my mom, and to ask for him to be healed, I knew my heart was some how afraid of asking for the miraculous.  I knew this was folly as I even write and know and believe that God should be asked, asked often. I can count the lavish times it has occurred in my life and I won't be able to stop counting.   So even though I know that He never tires of our prattle and our prayers even if we do of ourselves, I'd somehow been shamefully afraid to ask, like I needed to build up credit with God to ask even though I knew this was utter foolishness.   She listened to me talk about how somehow, this time asking was hard for me; like I didn't want to trust, didn't want to hope, didn't want to be disappointed and so I wasn't letting myself hope.  I couldn't explain more than to say I felt trapped in amber, unable to move even to ask, like it took somehow so long to work up to asking.

She smiled and said, "Ask quickly."  and the laughter that broke through inside was tangible and so I asked. Immediately, the weight left my heart.  Since then, I've asked and once I started, I felt free to ask and ask and I'll ask again, and I'll ask all of you, to pray for my family, for my dad's health.  There is a chance that the doctors may be able to restore some of his memory and that would be an enormous blessing.  I am asking God and all to pray that this miracle happens, that my dad can have back some if not all of what he has thus far lost.  

I also am thanking God for my quick on the draw daughter, who remembers what I forget about what God desires most. 

Got a victory?  Go share at Family and Faith Live!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bad Fairy Tales, or Why I Don't Like Wonderpets, Dora, SuperReaders, Sid the Science Kid, Go Diego or Team Umizoomie

First, a caveat : I grew up devouring the Brother's Grim, Greek Myths and every fairy tale I could find.  I loved them and reread them regularly.  While I never thought, "Some day my prince will come..." I did believe that love can last forever and still do.   It's part of being Catholic I think.  The forever after is real and it involves blood and time and fierce courage; it doesn't mean love is always sugar spun and sparkly and effort free, it means the exact opposite, that love stays when life isn't spic and span, timely or without enormous hassle, struggling, suffering and utter frustration; that no matter what, true love stays with you. 

Having fairy tales was part of the magic of childhood, and like myths, they revealed truths without being true; that growing up involves a journey that is fraught with difficulties and requires tenacity; that love requires sacrifice and does bring a joy that the struggle did not and even mitigates some of the past pain and struggles that the hero or heroine might have endured.

These days, with toddlers, I am subjected to a lot of little kid shows when the laundry is piled high. 

These new stories are determined to rewrite fairy tales not only to shed all stereotypes but to eliminate any villains.   At first, I watched it, annoyed but oddly curious as to how some stories which require a nemesis, would be orchestrated to ensure no one did anything for a mean or spiteful reason, or heaven forbid, wrong.  Saying, "Swiper no swiping" wouldn't stop the Jack of the Beanstalk from taking the golden goose, nor would "Teamwork" from the Wonderpets or seven dwarfs prevent the evil queen from poisoning Snow White. Creating an imagination where the wolves only want the cookies or are sad because they have allergies that cause them to knock down houses isn't an improvement over the prior imaginary landscape.

Upon further viewing, I discovered that the protagonists needn't be in any way brave or heroic or plucky; only empathetic. They all have magic bags of holding, backpacks or rescue packs or what have you, that carry everything they might need, so no resourcefulness is needed.  So I wondered what lessons these "educational television" shows were teaching; always have all the resources to begin a journey so everything will work out? How were these tales anything other than "Once there were some kids/animals.  They got stuck.  Others showed up with supplies and everything worked out fine with dancing and a party at the end." The answers are all provided in simple one, two, three step parts; so the journey is a mere procedure to follow, not a task of self discovery and the "shes" in these stories are no more empowered than their helpless traditional counterparts, they only know the psychobabble necessary to discover that these dangers and difficulties were never dangerous or difficult in the first place. 

I'm not sure this massive rewrite of every fairy tale ever written to ensure a sanitized for your protection perfect conflict resolution and danger free world is any less a fantasy than the damsels locked in towers.   It's the satire of A Street Car Named Desire by Matt Groening made real, where a stranger is just a friend you haven't met. Further, to me, teaching children they need no courage in the real world to endure any pain and that even trials aren't really trials, is as big a fantasy as waiting for someone to come to the rescue.  If every show were written by the players of Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer's Night Dream, you might again come up with these content calorie free confections, but they'd lack the sense to congratulate themselves at the end of the non journey.  Upon reflection, that lack of a celebration for the reaffirmation of self esteem for a trial not endured, a burden not carried, a struggle not fraught with meaning, might be an improvement.  They can sing "Congratulations" all day long for creating children's programing that is the equivalent of mental white wonder bread; I'll take my fairy tales with the fangs and the spells and the dark forests and deeper overtones and presume the kids also pay attention to real life and see that all that is, all that has any meaning, and all relationships that have meaning involve time, love, service and sacrifice. 

So today, I pulled out the Ugly Duckling and read it to my kids; for I do believe we are all these sorts, who struggle and suffer and engage in self pity, who endure pain and loneliness and crave acceptance and uniqueness at the same time.   I also believe those things happen in real life and knowing that one can come out of those moments stronger and more beautiful than we could possibly imagine, isn't a fairy tale; it's the way we can come to live happily ever after.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Because I'm Reading the Tourist Book...

Henry Louis Mencken said, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."  One wonders however, if he would have limited himself to this country if he'd known about this little crown jewel in the British Empire.

While looking at possible places for my husband to visit, I came across The London Dungeon, <--that's the link, a tourist attraction that showcases amongst other unsavory things, a tour of Hell, London Burning, Jack the Riper on patrol and unfortunate surgeries.  But, lest you think this is just a haunted mansion tourist trap set up in the Fall like the corn mazes of doom here; they also tout the educational benefits of learning 1000 years of dark history and there are special discounts for schools.  

Hey kids! Let's see an authentic recreation of the 1666 plague that wiped out 100,000 people. There are rats and piles of victims lumped along the sides of buildings plus the added bonus of surround sound and smells that will evoke the experience of enduring the Black Death.  Or closer to home, experience what it felt like to survive the blitzkrieg. Yes, happy memories for all. 

What's that?  Don't have 21.50L per adult or the near 17 needed for those children aged FIVE to fifteen? Get ten knocked off if you also visit the newest attraction, Bloody Mary, dealing with Henry the VIII's daughter.  Experience torture and executions for half price. Nice.  

But it's fun for the whole family because there's a roller coaster and a boat ride and a franchise with five other spots, ensuring its quality and popularity.  As an added bonus, kids under five get in free.  Yahhhhhh. 

The folks who bring their kids, (regardless of age), that may be the scariest part of the whole experience.
Free phone number to the local Child Protective Services or British equivalent also available upon request.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Time Matters

The subject of time has been high on the radar as of late.  It's hard to get six children of varying degrees of morning wakefulness dressed, fed, prepared for the day with lunch in hand and out the door; two by 6:45, the other 4 by 7:30.  Even if we all get up at six, (which we all don't), there is a crunch to this span in the day.  There are also the other three children who don't have anywhere to be, but do also wake and want breakfast and contribute to the general chaos.  

Laying out the clothes the night beforehand, having the menu posted on the refrigerator for breakfast and lunch and book bags at the door and having my husband drive the first two to the metro while I get the other four ready for school, these things all help.  Still, it doesn't account for the normal give and take, cat and dog moments that come from being brothers and sisters.  It doesn't take much for the scheduled leave of 7:30 to get overshot.

Fights will happen as a matter of course.  They're part of the breathing DNA of siblings.  There will be spills.  Disagreements about food or a lack of milk unanticipated as a result of late night snacking will happen.  Sometimes a child will not get up on time even after repeated warnings, reminders and messages. 

Then there are the intentional saboteurs.  People have tried to cheat the systems we've put in place to expidite our mornings by putting their backpacks by the door but leaving their books and assignments in the other room where they did their homework.  Why?  I don't know!  I don't know!  They're kids is the only explanation I need and the only one that makes any sense.    Two of mine will open their backpacks to check through for things and take things out that I put in, one sometimes goes through his lunch to see if he likes everything I made. 

I become anxious if only because it means moving forwards is a constant upstream battle.  Tears in pants and pecking order disputes over bathrooms cause confusion and delay. Shoes get lost and socks aren't matching.  NO ONE CAN FIND A SINGLE HAIRBRUSH OR COMB IN THE ENTIRE HOUSE!!!  "We're out of my favorite kind of toothpaste."  "I don't like mass days, the sweater is itchy."  He/she took my shirt/tie/socks/breakfast.  "He didn't eat breakfast."  "She ate mine." "It might rain, should we get out our coats?" (Sun is shining, sky clear).  Some of the stuff we just ignore, but it requires a willingness on the part of my kids and me to overlook whatever it is that is less than perfect picture. 

Ignoring a detail isn't always in the personality of the person dealing with the wardrobe problem, parent or child.   We're trying very hard to launch this army on a daily basis but even getting up at 5:30 or 5:45 would not account for those moments where siblings decide to play bumper cars with the trash cans as they bring them down the walk and one kid gets soaked with morning dew requiring a complete outfit change minutes from departure time or I get absorbed in a conversation or a thought.  Heaven forbid I or anyone else daudles in the shower! Ultimately, it's a fragile working but unforgiving system.

Time is a jealous mistress and she steals whatever she can.  I can lose five hours to writing and phone calls and chores or blink through two years in an instant.  Tomorrow is the Fall Festival.  Last year I was delayed on the day of the event from being first at the school for set up because my car was stuck behind a funeral procession.   Being anxious about many things as I sat waiting and watching people being anxious about the only thing that matters was not lost on me.  Saying a prayer for the whomever and their family, and hoping both that it would not take long, and that this farewell had a lot of guest coming to say they loved this person's life, it was impossible not to be hit by the difference between being on time, and being aware of time and how often I lose that perspective.
Today, the morning seems to  be drifting lazily along, but I know the undertow will pull me faster than I anticipate as I make up the list of things to do. Today is my youngest son's birthday and I cannot remember the exact moment he was born.    My oldest is applying to college; his birth seems like yesterday and I can remember the smells of the hospital room. Where did the time go and why is it always missing after we notice, why do we always seem to retire one year too late, notice the gifts around us once they seem fleeting, find the beauty we almost missed when it is fading?  Stopping to smell the roses ought to be done in its peak, yet I find I'm always noticing just as things begin to lose that awe of the moment; when a baby becomes a toddler, a teen becomes a man, when summer is becoming fall.  
Recently, I read a piece talking about how being on time is a form of mortification of the flesh, it requires sacrifice, sublimation and effort.  I readily agree, but I also think tolerating those who show up late is a form of mortification of the flesh; it requires charity on the part of the person put out by those late, and humility and gratitude on the part of the tardy one(s).  While I know the last shall be first,  I do worry about the many things for which we ought to be prompt, and about actually or appearing to hit the snooze button on those moments when we must be wakeful watchful servants.   This precious short span of life we are allotted, will get frittered by the minutia. I also stress simultaneously that the big picture of our family, of our lives will be lost because I didn't pay attention to details that would have made it an easier and better witness even just to ourselves.

And I'm never quite sure where we are, only that time is passing in leaps and bounds and I'm supposed to be vigilant and I'm not always.  Ultimately, if we would love well, we oblige our lives to others.  To love well, we must be present, and that requires presence.   All presence requires of us in reality, is time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Purpose of Life Found

In Texas (God bless and keep my home state), they have credits that dispute who first deep fried bacon and who invented fried oreos.  They imagined Bluebell Ice Cream, Coke-cola and then figured out that even these could be given the KFC treatment.   Let no artery be left unhardened seems to be the unspoken motto of the State Fair.  I thought I'd seen everything when last year, they introduced deep fried butter. 

But now, the Mount Everest of junk foods has been created and man will never be the same.

Deep Fried Beer.  

I'll repeat that for those whose jaws have dropped to the ground.  You may know the words but put together, they don't quite make sense.  They transcend the reality of food as we know it.  

Deep Fried Beer --specifically, Guinness. 

My only question is, can drinkable pizza and bar nuts be far behind?  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Take Me Out of This Ball Game...

To help teach responsibility and minimize extra trips to the school after school for missing assignments, books, materials, etc, I established a policy of three strikes.  Basically, my children got three times each school year when Mom would turn around or get back in the car and drive back to pick up forgotten things.  After the third time, they'd win a note, "So and So forgot his homework." and face the consequences of that memo.  The system worked great for the first two kids. 

Kid number one, got to strike 4 and straightened up and got it together for the most part, occasionally taking a ding in the homework department until he figured out how to get everything done at school BEFORE coming home.  His solution, speed.  Granted, quality suffered but nothing was ever late.  Kid number two, a perfectionist, opted for bringing everything home every day to ensure she never forgot anything.  She needed a rolling back pack, a shoulder bag and a second knapsack to carry everything.  She perpetually looked like a pack mule on safari.

Enter Kid 3 and Kid 4 to the homework every day set.  Kid 3, soft spoken but crafty, figured out that while there are only three strikes per kid, there were 12 opportunities to retrieve work in reality if everyone used their three.  She  tried bringing her stuff home like her sister, but found that too taxing to her back.   So she winged it, bringing home all of it most days, but reminding others of things they forgot if she needed a turn around so that her three strikes were never called in.  Kid 4, also deal maker by nature, offered money to Kid 2 to in effect purchase her three strikes giving him an additional three times when he could relax if he forgot something.   Kid 5, a forgetful one but straight shooter, burned through her three strikes in two weeks, requiring me hold an impromptu homework spot check every afternoon so that we never leave the parking lot before verifying she has all she needs.  

As a mom, intuitively, I want to help them succeed. As a person, I do not want to spend my whole existence coddling them such that they never own responsibility, I have to help them become full fledged capable people. As an adult, I also do not want to set up children to fail by being obnoxious when they plead for actual clemency about forgetfulness, nor do I want to be taken advantage of such that they view mom as the ultimate sucker.   The top five know all these conflicting roles and play off them with a mastery that beggars description.  In other words, I may be calling strikes but as the pitcher of these ideas, I'm getting shellacked. 

As a result of all these deals being brokered and multiple people to juggle, I'm sure someone has managed to get to strike number 147 in this game leaving me the sap with the seemingly unenforceable policy of three times and you're out.  Now, we have a sixth doing homework.   To which I can only say, call in the reliever.  After six innings of play, I'm done and willing to hit the showers.   Wonder if I can get busted down to double A ball?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering September 11th

I haven't watched the footage in many years.  Today I did.  While I saw the initial impact of the second plane, that Tuesday I had a doctor's appointment.  I have an ultrasound from the day the towers fell of my daughter Faith.  She was the size of a mustard seed.  The doctor said, "How could you have known you were pregnant, she's just a dot."  Having that ultrasound spared me the initial viewing of the towers falling in real time.  But I watched it all that afternoon and evening, and my heart like that of the nation, broke into as many pieces as the World Trade Center, Pentagon and those four planes. 

What I remember of those days is the tremendous courage of the firemen and personnel who went up into those two buildings.  I remember all the false reports.  I remember being grateful for cell phones and for the fact that my husband and a friend decided to come home even though they had to hoof it part of the way to get to an open metro station.   Listening to the air force fly fighters overhead felt eerie that evening and the next and the next and I wondered if I'd ever hear a plane fly by without flinching again.  Suddenly living just outside of DC felt like I was sitting on a giant target and sending my husband into the city two blocks from the White House, something terribly fraught with peril.   The first day he went back to work, I felt positively jumpy the whole day and became temporarily addicted to having the news on wherever I was, 24-7.  I was terribly afraid of something happening, and of somehow not knowing. 

Nine years later, the video is still painfully raw when you watch it unedited, unscripted.   The pictures of people covered in the soot of 105 floors still haunts, as do all the pictures of memorials from people looking for loved ones who never got to come home after that picture perfect fall morning. 

So hug your children, call your folks and fly the flag.  Thank God for those who are willing to put themselves in harm's way to protect our freedoms and secure our liberties; give blood and if you can, donate to a charity for those who sacrifice everything.  Remember the 2,977 people lost and all the families that were ripped apart as a result.  Say a prayer for our country, for everyone, and never, never forget.

Friday, September 10, 2010

You Know You're a Geek When...

10) You need a new glasses prescription from watching a back to back to back Lord of the Rings Extended version trilogy with commentary.

9) You don’t get the jokes but you do understand the theories of the Big Bang Show.

8) The debate between Trekkies and Trekkers is personal.

7) Trans tri-dimensional games of Risk; Not a hypothetical notion anymore.

6) Your write your own fan fiction for some obscure character in the Justice League.

5) At the hospital, you purposely remove the lead apron while getting x-rays in hopes of gaining super powers.

4) Four words: George Lucas: Restraining Order.

3) naming a child after an X-man doesn’t seem unreasonable.

2) Budget for Halloween in some cases, exceeds that of Christmas.

1) Owning superhero underwear and you’re not under five.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tell Me About it

It's Thursday, so I'm reporting in with some different sorts of successes. 

1.  It's not easy for me to simplify or cut back, it's not in my nature.  Whenever anyone calls for volunteers, you can almost see me perk up like a dog hearing it's master's voice.  I want to be immersed in everything but legitimately, not tangentially, not accidentally but absolutely.  And I dream big about being so involved in everything; I don't seek dreaming that way, it's almost innate, it's the way I think.  It's a trait that is simultaneously endearing and annoying as it gets me often into far more than I can possibly manage.  

Further, the word can't is a word I despise.  It doesn't matter that I can't shoot hoops.  My brain still fires back, "You could if you tried."  That resolute stubbornness has served me well, but sometimes, it's just banging one's head against a wall.  But every so often, I get a nudge that this isn't working, that can do isn't enough, that will and enthusiasm can only make up for so much when what is needed is time, craft and care.

So I'm letting go of an opportunity that might have served me well, but which I know isn't something possible at this time.  It's hard even to have written those words, as I want immediately to take them back, to figure out someway around saying, "Not now, not this, stop."  Yet I know there is wisdom in choosing stillness that I very very very often, refuse to allow myself to experience.   While grant writing may seem like a little thing, while it may seem like no big sacrifice to walk away, it doesn't matter what it is, for me, walking away is hard.  Part of me chafes and screams, "Quitter."  and proposes wild exacting schedules or alternatives.  I'm trying to tell her, I'm home for a reason and it isn't to spend all my time not being present because I have work to do but she's pushy so I have to be sort of dramatic with her and abruptly slam the door on that tendency in me to always say "Yes." even when prudence, energy levels and actual physical capacity to act say "No."

2.  On a less dramatic scale, I got published this week at Family and Faith Live! and that was fun.

3. Keeping up with the daily rosary, even if two days of the week, I wound up finishing the prior day's rosary because I fell asleep mid decade. 

4. Got to see friends this week.  It's funny how much mental amnesia I get, I forget how much they fill up my life until I'm in their presence. 

5.  Had a date with my husband.  We get so busy, and the next few weeks will be like that, such that stolen moments now are being hoarded for the gifts that they are. 

6.  Banning the Imperative tone --noticed I was using the Command and Control voice just a bit too much with my kiddos, so today, (today only, one thing at a time), that voice is being locked away as a matter of policy, will have to use more diplomatic means of motivation and persuasion to deal with my horde, their homework and chores.

7. Got my hair cut.  It's a big deal since I haven't had it done in several months.   While I miss the pulling it back, I have to say, it's nice to have a touch of style, something that generally gets thrown by the wayside with the laundry pile I haven't tackled. 

Got a victory to share?  Go to Family and Faith Live! and share it.  You might be the inspiration for someone else's next great week. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Top Ten Things I Did that Scare the Hell Out of Me

Larry D over at Acts of the Apostasy tagged me in what is only my second meme ever.  I liked the concept, though I discovered, my ability to use good judgment goes way down when not in the presence of others; and now, Ten things I did that scare the hell out of me, and probably my Mom.

10) Rode on a motorcycle sans a helmet on my 20th birthday up and down the Beaumont freeway.  (I know, I'm pretty tame but it was scary and cool to me and also if Mom is reading, yes I know, very stupid). 

9) Doing lots of flips, back dives and back flips off the High Tower (25 feet up) at the YMCA. 

8) I volunteered to have an elective tracheotomy under local anesthesia the day before my first child was born to ensure his and my safety. (I wore head phones, so to this day, the Blue Danube brings back flashbacks of that surgery).

7) Taking 8 children to the March for Life by myself.

6) In 1991, I was living alone for six weeks in New York City finishing out my contract with NYC public schools and the "Mother of all Parades" happened.  I wanted to see it so I parked myself on the Brooklyn bridge with dinner and stayed for the fireworks.  It was great until I realized, when the show was over, I had to take the subway back to Astor Place in Greenich Village and go through the park to get back to my apartment and it was after 1 am.

5) While living in Houston, I found a man standing on the ledge of our third story apartment with a long drop to hard concrete below just outside our door.  After calling 911, I talked to the guy who was strung out on something until help arrived.  It still gives me shivers.

4) I did stand up comedy at the Erma Bombeck Conference in 2008 and now, it's permanently on Youtube.

3) While in Paris, I climbed on top of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and onto the roof of a spire to pose as a Gargoyle for a picture. 

2)  I used sign language to persuade the Swiss Guards to let me go into the special area for guests when I was in Rome and at the Vatican, allowing me to get a picture of Pope John Paul just three feet away.

1) I have caught a 20 pound shark in the surf.   (And cut it up to eat, very tasty). 

Hmmm.....perhaps this should have been at least in part, ten stupid things I've done....Now, five bloggers I need to tag.  Let's see...

Haus Frau over at Cheaper by the Half Dozen
Violin Mama over at Rosey School
Heidi over at Extraordinary Moms
Simcha over at I Have to Sit Down
Munchesmom over at Four Blessings Academy

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yes Beloved

As a child, one night in 1974 in the middle of winter in Beaumont, Texas, as part of a YMCA Father Daughter Indian Princess group, we closed the meeting with a prayer for snow.  My father worried on the ride home and talked about how sometimes the answer to our prayers was "No." because it NEVER snows in southeast Texas.  However, the next morning, it snowed.  It covered the ground, it closed the schools, it was thick enough for our neighbors to make a decent sized snowman even if he was speckled with leaves and pine needles and their yard lay bare and brown as a result. That night the weatherman on the news said he couldn't believe it.    

In 1984, after graduating from high school, I stood at the railing of our family's beach house and in a half whine, half prayer aloud wondered to God if I would ever meet someone who would love me just for me.  I saw my future husband the first day I was dropped off at college, and began dating him on the third day. 

A few years later, a college friend was battling cancer. She asked us to pray for a miracle.  Amongst those witnessing her suffering from afar, a debate emerged. The discussion focused on "Should we be encouraging false hope by asking for a miracle?"  "Should we be limiting our prayer?"  Talk got a bit tense, if only because none of us wanted our friend to die.  Her family told us that a miracle had happened, in that she was able to say goodbye to all of her family, to those she loved, rather than drift out without that one last beautiful smile.

But the argument stuck in my head, "If you can't be unreasonable with God, who can you be unreasonable with?  Who to ask for a miracle but God?" And recalling the potency of God's responses to my high school summer prayer, to snow and countless other occasions, it was hard not to feel awe. Even though the outside world would say, there was no miracle or the answer was "No." because she died, even though the logical and sometimes cynical part of me tried to argue the point, I couldn't shake the deep knowledge in my heart that the answer to all our prayers is always, "Yes beloved." and that this was a "Yes beloved" even if it took time for us to discern how.

More recently, in 2001, I remember taking assessment of my adult world and praying, asking God to help me find friends; not casual people I liked saying "Hi" to in passing, but real solid friends.  That year, I met one of my first long term friends in Maryland.  We talk. We spend time laughing as we trip over each other discussing common loves like books, food, education, Catholicism, our kids and our kid's school and dissecting and debating Washington politics and seeking hard truth.   She was and is part of the beginning of an answer to that prayer.  She is also a reminder to me to be unafraid to speak my heart's desire; to do otherwise, is to lie to myself and God and others.  Four other women who are dear in my life have been what I would call immediate responses to subsequent prayers to God for a broader community, for friends. All of them have been like mana in the desert.

Miracles happen daily, small discreet ones that we blip over in the midst of trying to get through all that needs to be done in a day and dramatic gorgeous ones that ought to be proclaimed for the outrageous acts of love and courtship of our souls that they are.  These gifts from God, be they a much needed job, a healing of a relationship, a solving of a problem, or an unexpected pleasure are just that, gifts given freely by God.  They are given to us not as proof, not as a show, not as a means to win the lottery of life, but because we are fallen and we are broken.  Some days, we need that lavish outrageous extravagant generosity of God to shine through and pour over us and coat the world like snow or a lifetime beloved spouse or a friend.   When sin and despair and suffering threaten to rob our daily life of joy, love, beauty and truth, miracles are God's love rendered in an unmistakable worldly visible manner.  And I think of my friend's goodbye smile, of the endless patience of my husband, and of all the steely friends I treasure.  

Jesus tells us to ask and we shall receive; our children ask us for countless things on any given day because they remain secure in the knowledge we love them. They ask for drinks, for food, to go out to a park, to go to a movie, they ask, ask, ask, ask and they are not ashamed of asking.  And all our answers, yes, no or maybe, if we are parenting correctly, if we are not asleep at the switch, are a "yes beloved." even if we deny them the actual requests.  They do not cease asking, being children, and perhaps that is God's means to remind us that neither should we. 

Most of us fear asking God because of what God's response might mean for us or require from us; or wait to ask until we think the time is right, or we've built up sufficient lag time from our last petition of God, as if we can somehow balance the scales of when we ask and keep God from crashing into our lives too intimately.  Sometimes we play mental games with ourselves about God, opting not to ask for ourselves because we know there is so much more than what we have here that matters; this is vanity.  We don't want to ask because we sin and we are sinners and we fear being otherwise.  Inviting God into your life so intimately is hard.  It cannot not mean something profound, to be willing to ask.  Asking will by it's very nature, asking must invite healing and forgiveness and the opportunity to be closer in communion with God.  Jesus heals all ten lepers, not just the one who returns to give thanks.  He says "Yes beloved." to all ten.  All ten souls have the chance to return and none lose the  healing that took place for not returning to say, "Thank you, thank God." 

The truth is, we need to ask more than we need not to; a humble innocent heart asks, a penitent heart asks, a loving heart asks, a fearful heart asks, a hopeful heart asks.  God considers who we are here no matter where here is, infinitely valuable, infinitely of importance, and He answers every prayer from every heart; "Yes beloved."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Truth in Advertising

Every year, there is a report that calculates the cost of government based on the burden per individual in federal, state and local taxes including sales and property taxes designed to show exactly how much the existing bureaucracies in their multiple hydra head like forms, takes away from the private sector. The date in 2010 when a person meets all the obligations imposed by all of government this year, was August 19th.

With that in mind, I submit the following truth in advertisement slogans for the existing government entities to use free of charge; presuming they won’t figure out how to tax me for satire which in Philadelphia, they’re already trying to do vis-a-vis a $300.00 registration fee for bloggers. Apparently online writers in the city of brotherly love make out pretty well to warrant that sort of a grab from the state. For the curious and the public record, I’m still waiting here for my first two cents from AdSense and my blog is approaching the tender age of three.

Ten Proposed Bumper Sticker Mottos for the Government

10) We spend it all so you won’t have to.

9) Cost of running the government for this year; 3.5 Trillion dollars. For everything else, there’s taxes.

8) Defying the laws of country, supply and demand and common sense.

7) What? Me worry?

6) Reading the bills first?  How quaint.

5) Greece did it first.

4) Land of the not so free.

3) We spent 1.3 Trillion Dollars and I didn’t even get a lousy t-shirt!

2) Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

1) Relax. We’re From the Government, and We’re here to help.

At least, we haven’t reached the irony point of finishing paying for all of this on Labor day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pop Quiz

What's that?  You didn't study?  You didn't know there would be a test in this blog?  Well, I'm sure you've picked up enough wisdom over the course of your years to at least pass. 

1. Circle the word that best describes a crisis situation.

a) missing shoes.       
b) having to wear a hand me down shirt.
c) two toddlers running with uncapped markers.

2. When is the best time to start to do homework?

a) after a snack and a brief break. 
b) when your sisters start watching Wonder Pets.
c) when Mom says it's bedtime. 
d) When Mom is drafting volunteers for dishes and laundry.

3. Your brother falls and skins his knee while bringing up the garbage can.  He goes to get first aid from Mom.  You should:

 a) bring up the can so he doesn't have to do it 
 b) leave the can because it's still his job or
 c) put a recycling bin there for him to bring up because your other sister took up his trash can and this will make it fair.

 4. Dinner is in five minutes. It is chicken.  You hate chicken. You should:

 a) wail, fall on the ground and sulk loudly until you get sent to your room so as to avoid eating.
 b) ask for an entirely different meal that would require at least 30 more minutes of cooking in the presence of others who will then make the same request.
 c) begin making an entirely different meal that would require at least 30 minutes of cooking, resulting in onlookers also beginning the same messy process.
 d) None of the above.

 5.   Asking mom to stop at the store and get book socks is best done:

  a) en route home from school.
  b) after 10:30 pm

 6.  True or False: Mom can go without sleep.  Circle one. 

 7. If you receive an allowance of seven dollars and want to buy a magic deck which cost $9.99, you should:
   a)  use your credit card since this is important. Hope that mom just pays the bill and doesn't notice.
   b) soft sell by telling your father about all these new cool cards that would enhance his deck such that   he agrees to go to the store and hope the enthusiasm of the moment carries through to getting you your deck that will beat his even if he gets the cards you suggested.
   c) save your money for two weeks.
   d) persuade your younger brother to give you some of his money and you'll get him some sweet cards in the process.
   e) offer to do extra chores to get the extra scratch and butter up mom with a foot rub.  (Hint: it's never been tried).

   8) When a four year old comes slamming into you with an 8 year old bearing down red faced and hand raised and your mother asks, "What is going on?"  you say: 
   a) she was in my room messing up my things.
   b) I just wanted to pat her on the head.
   c) you don't say anything, you nudge your four year old sister so that she accidentally falls to the floor and hope Mom thinks it was just an accident.

  9. Mom has collapsed on the couch.  You should:
   a) wake her up and ask if she will decide whose turn it is to control the remote.
   b) not wake her up and begin making a cake in the kitchen at 9:15 pm.
   c) build a tower of blocks on her stomach to see how tall it can get before she wakes up.
   d) wake her up and say we all over slept and that she needs to load the car so you can get to the metro on time.
   e) be severly punished for having attempted any of the above.

  10. Mom went grocery shopping.  You are hungry.  You should:

     a) unload the car until you get to something choice, then begin eating.
     b) look over the receipt and figure out that there isn't anything you like, so you start making pudding with the fresh milk.
     c) suggest going to McDonald's in the presence of toddlers, ensuring a chorus of requests.
     d) put away the groceries and then once Mom leaves the kitchen, devour everything in sight while offering bounty to any other children who pass by such that shopping will be needed again in three days rather than six.

Now, the answers: 1: (c), 2: If you can do your homework sans assisstance, any answer but c or d, 3: One of these really happened, bonus points if you can guess which one. 4: (d) Offer to do the dishes if you can have a bowl of cereal instead. 5: Trick question, neither.  6: False.  She does, but it's not good. 7: Given the number of magic cards in this house, only (c) and only if you also do (e). 8: None of the above...ever.  9: I'm never lying down on the couch again.  10) (e) only buy healthy options until the child wearies of asking and says yes to the carrots, apples or yogurt.

Don't forget, essays on the necessity of bed time will be due Tuesday.  Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Go You!

It's Thursday so it's Small Success day over at Family and Faith Live!  Moms have to take victories where we find them so without further adieu...

1) Got the kids off to school with all the needed supplies, materials, special projects, etc. 
2) Started saying an (almost) daily rosary.
3) Finished a good book a friend gave me.  It is a strange thing that I've been writing for about five years now, but reading has always been a fitful pleasure for me.  Normally pregnancy robs me of my capacity to put two thoughts together, but these days, it's letting me read.  
4) Mailed a present to my niece who turns five today before today such that it might get there for today. I hope my mom was sitting down when she read this one. 
5) Fixed a toilet.  Not glamorous but I did it so right now, I'm feeling like the female equivalent of Bob Villa.
6) Went on a date this week, husband took me out for lunch on Saturday.  We're going to get ourselves back in the habit we've declared because having adult time was really nice. 
7) Am doing reasonably well on my sugars, will call them in today.  Wish me luck.

Have a success?  Go share it over at Family and Faith live!  You might inspire and you'll discover there were a whole lot of victories in the past week that otherwise, might have gone unheralded. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Escaping the Literary Amazon Island

A Rant but then, it's my blog.

There is a trend in women’s fiction in particular that troubles me. Insert the most recent best seller title into the following formula: A woman discontent with her lot in life, whether self-determined or the result of outside oppressive forces and historical or cultural societal demands beyond her capacity to at the moment defy, recognizes her fundamental disconnect.  She's unhappy. Suddenly a crisis is either foist upon her or of her own making which seems to lead out of the mendacity of her daily existence. This journey exposes her to knowledge, skills, people, ideas and surprises. Our plucky heroine even marvels to herself at how easily her prior barriers which were so fixed, now seem so tantalizingly thin, and so she passes through, leaving all old thoughts and rules and obligations behind and begins her new adventure; joyous at her new freedom. She discovers the old mold of her prior to the experience no longer fits, and thus she abandons all that came with that self in favor of newly invented creature she could be somewhere else.

But what none of these stories can tell, is why the cycle will not continue. The tedium of domestic life, even emancipated domestic life can eventually become stale if dazzle, newness, fulfillment and ease are the criteria. I can cite The Piano, Bridget Jones, How Stella Got her Groove back, Eat Pray Love, and any number of other tomes that explore the same conceptual theme, but none supply an answer for preventing a perpetual cycle. The stories end because the searcher stops searching, thinking she has found contentment in her new life with her new lover, her new job, her new locale.

But there is no reason to think that these female Odesseuses have found their male version of Penelope, since arguably, in most of these books, they left a hearth and home behind at the beginning on the presumption that the discontent stemmed from the job, the man, the role, the expectations or lack thereof, and the children. The discontent in these women’s hearts stemmed from their own hearts being unwilling participants in the lives they lived. The story then goes on to allow these lost selves to sate their imaginations and ambitions and longings at all costs; and the sated selves then find that elusive happiness they were missing before. Color appears in their cheeks, sparkle in their eyes, youth in their hearts because they were just in the wrong place before and now they are in a place of their own making.

For the modern writer of women’s fiction, fulfillment is found in carving one’s own destiny, painting the room, setting the hours, limiting the world and its access to what one wishes; it’s all about choice and the opportunity to choose itself.  Bridges of Madison County tries to have it both ways where she finds fulfillment in having had that one night of passion, and the memory of that one night sustains her throughout the years of dull pseudo fidelity to her husband and care for her children.

In a Godless world fulfillment cannot reside in the hearth or husband and children or job, for those require long term sacrifice and limiting one's own capacity to choose one's own fate; obligations are chains and restrictions, liberty is all. Happiness in this type of mindset comes not from community or commitment or selflessness, but from the endless exploring, being out on the sea searching without a compass or fixed star for guidance. It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you do the choosing. So while they may close the story with pulling into a port and settling down again, the same staleness will return; their new lovers will have faults and problems, the new children will impinge upon these females’ newly invented selves.

Helen tires of Paris. If the pages extended beyond "The End" for five or ten years, we'd find the heroine considering this new Eden she crafted to replace the old Eden she forsook, just as dull. This Sisyphean dilemma eventually leads the lost self back to the ocean to try again or finally in fatigue and despair, to reside on the island with Circe, gloatingly self-reliant, indulged in all things but also beholden to no one and convinced of her own superiority.   The heroine chooses "None of the Above," and thus proclaims her permanent immortality as an independent goddess crafted in her own image, allowing her to warp men into lesser beings as fits her world view.

Maybe I'll dust off my Percy, Lewis, O'Connor and Joyce.   Ahhhhhh. Now....I feel much better.

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