Monday, November 29, 2010

The Longest Five Miles in the World

I know science and math demand precision, and that a mile is a mile is a mile in terms of distance.  However, a mile is not a mile if the mile is uphill; it is a hard fought slogging war against anyone with shins, and a mile is more than a mile if the altitude is a mile up; it is an asthma attack waiting to happen.   So it is that the five miles from the school to our home is in the afternoon, more than a mere 8,800 yards from point A to point B; it is a parental death march fraught with emotional landmines that wound, maim and cripple the spirit of even the most dedicated mother. 

The other day included a squabble over who sat where, a dispute resolved abnormally quickly because the one who wanted to sit in the front who was still outside the car at the time (mercifully), threw up.   Suddenly the back seat was extremely popular.   

Then there was the time when two children thought it might be a good idea to use a soccer ball as if at a beach volley ball tournament when Mom pulled up to the railroad crossing.  I'd like to say I used my inside voice but that would be....incorrect.

Having a ring side seat view through the rear mirror of raised fists between the six and five year old over the Christmas carol on the radio nearly got the station banned for the entire season.

In short, I am a chauffeur who longs for a button to push which would send a partition glass between me and those I shuttle; or alternatively, I promise to buy the first true family vehicle that creates cubicles for each seat, creating effective barriers between warring nations.  Good fences make they say.

Some days, the battles are physical.  Other days, a more subtle form of combat takes place.  On that rare excursion when the planets are aligned such that no one is fighting, somehow something sabotages the route no matter which road I take. 

There was the premature aging day when my phone got a text message from my son, "Call me."  No explanation, no context.  I called  at the first chance.  No answer.  I handed my daughter the phone and let her repeatedly phone trying to get ahold of him.  No answer.  I fretted as only a parent in the dark can. Two blocks from home, I finally heard back and discovered said child wanted a ride home.   Call me heartless if you wish but my new grey hairs and I took some solace in saying, "Take the bus." 

Now no errand is so brief that it cannot be made more difficult by multi-tasking. "Mom? I need...." 

These sorts of sentences are always uttered just after we've passed the last strip mall en route home such that I will either have to turn around or make a second trip.  So in the interest of self preservation, I always ask before we even start the journey if anyone needs anything.  Then I put the desired item  on my list for the next time I'm already out and can get to it.  But this strategy only works if the item isn't needed that day and so you can guess how often the kids preemptively give me a heads up about what they need prior to the actual deadline.  

Finally, no matter what time it is, no matter how recently they ate, the very act of getting into the van turns normal elementary and middle school students into ravenous beasts.   I've learned to keep food in the car to buy myself a few minutes. The downside of this seemingly simple solution is three fold:

1) I forget to bring snack.  Calls will go out for a stop to get one. 
2) If I fail to stop, the children will descend upon all food in the house like locusts.  
3) Whether I remember snack or stop to get one, that does not preclude the children won't burst into the house seeking to snack again.  (See two).

The thing is, other people have driven my children from school and always remark on how polite and well behaved they are en route home.  I'll admit I'm pleased they put up a good company front. It proves it can be done.  I just wish they'd try it out on me sometime.   

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Now, If They Could Do a Follow Up for Devotees of Lord of the Ring

Because we all know, it's important to get the facts straight from the beginning and those facts come best from the parent in the home in the proper context...

P.S. I want the Yoda hat.

Growing Pains

Introducing a preteen to what will come is always dicey. 

With my first few children, I thought hard facts about the science and biology were the way to go.  Discussing the matter in a straight forward developmentally correct manner, I had to endure kids literally plugging their ears and saying, "Nahnahahahahahah. Can't hear you.  Oh! Mom!  I forgot about my homework/cleaning my room/back taxes..." If they caught the whiff of an idea that I was trying to have "the talk" with any of them, they beat a hasty exit, outside in 30 degree weather, in rain, or downstairs to hide in the back basement with the spider crickets.   Independently of each other, all of them learned not to come back to the kitchen until they were sure I'd been sufficiently distracted to drop the subject.  

So taboo was the topic of development that I had to devise a whole new vocabulary for communicating in some cases, though I wasn't always sure what I needed to pick up when I'd get a request for "things"  (which I learned could mean razors, deodorant, toiletries and/or certain clothing). 

Now, as I broach the topic of maturation and growing up, I've learned to sprinkle it in as I'm ministering to other needs.  The approach is still a work in progress so I've had limited success.  "You need a hair cut and speaking of hair..." didn't work very well as an intro to upcoming changes; whereas showing up with new clothing and deodorant with the instructions to use daily forced them to hear what I said. Even so, I was still subjected to the pretend dying with all four limbs straight up in rigor mortis performance, a vow to enter the priesthood, and a guarantee from a third that she would never date ever.

I'm not sure why my kids are so dead set against enduring how nature has made them. It may be a sign of their collective wisdom and intelligence that they are so fearful. I remember adolescence, it was rotten and unpleasant and awkward and annoying and I cried a lot. But as for side stepping it, I personally never gave it a thought, let alone considered trying to openly rebel against the inevitable. Adolescence was like chicken pox, an unpleasant experience full of itches one couldn't scratch, ugliness, breakouts and isolation, all of which had to be simply endured.  Mercifully, you could only get it once.    As of yet, there is no vaccine to eliminate the experience of the ages 11-18 though I'm sure there is federal funding to look into the matter.

Fortunately, with five who are still staunchly in the kid to toddler phase of development, I have time to refine my skills and perhaps find a happy medium where I don't wind up scarring their psyches.  I worried we had somehow scared our children about the path to adulthood until my 8 year old came to me the other day and said, "When can I get my ears pierced...and wear makeup....and high heels?"  Her heart full of romance at the idea of growing up, I suddenly pined for a display of the dying dog pose as my own brain wanted to say, "NahNahnahnahnahnah...Can't hear you...Oh, I have to go organize the basement, make a scrapbook for each of you, fill out financial aid forms and file taxes..."

Memo to me: find out what I did that made the earlier ones nervous and repeat...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Messages You Hear May Vary

As a parent, I spend much of my time interpreting both what is and is not said from each child.  Asking "How was your day?" seems like an unloaded question, but the answers both drawn out and brief reveal as much information about what did and did not happen while a person was at school as a piece of DNA at a crime scene.   What separates the rookie on the beat from the Sean Connery of the Untouchables, is the capacity for interpretation.

When child one enters the car, I ask the standard mark 1 question.  I get a one word answer "Fine." as he flounces to the back row.  Automatically alarms go off in my brain.   Child has a bad grade.  Child had an incident at the playground.  Child had a bad day.    Mental note to pull over in the parking lot before leaving so as to discern "What's up."  Turns out it is a pair of ripped pants in the knee. No biggie.

Child number two bounds into the car and before I can say "Hi" begins telling me a minute by minute breakdown of her day.  Most of this data dump is routine, "After math, we had snack..." but having heard this on countless days before, the omission of a class signals a reason for concern.  "How was your science test?"  I ask.   "Oh.....I forgot about that class." she says with a slight grin. "What's for snack?" Second mental note to send an email to the teacher about the exam. 

Child number three gets in, complains loudly that he doesn't get his first choice of seat since one person is already sitting there and promptly begins eating his lunch in the car.  "Why didn't you eat in school?"  "Do you know what I like?  Cheeseburgers!" is the response as he continues wolfing down his food.    It takes a few minutes to figure out his class won a free lunch from the local Chee Burger Chee Burger to explain why he's now just getting to his yogurt, baloney wrap and apple.  

Enter the fourth child who has just finished car patrol.   She gets in the front seat.   "Don't ask me about my day.  I don't want to talk about it."  she announces.  "Okay."   I put on some music and secure that everyone is buckled in before we leave.   We get two blocks from school and the silence is pregnant as we wait for the train to pass.   She keeps looking over at me, expecting a grilling.   I'm trying to be the uber vigilant driver who cares only about the road after all, she said "Don't ask." so I'm assuming, she won't tell until we get home.   But the train is long and it gets to be too much for her.

  ...."Mom..."   "Yes?"   "Mommmm?"   "Yes."   "Mom!"   "Yes honey, I'm right here, what is it?"  "Well today we had a class and it was about....that thing....."  Everyone is suddenly glued to the conversation.  

The urgent plea on her face is obvious.  I crank up the All Christmas songs before Advent Even Begins station and let Andy Williams and his "Most Wonderful Time of the Year..." do the rest.  

"We talked about those....THINGS." she says meaningfully and touches with a single delicate finger on each side, her shoulder bones.  "And having SUPPLIES!" I am racking my brain.  She moves ever so meekly to touch her purse.   "And about punctuation."  she adds.   Maybe it's the three in the afternoon stupids but this time, I'm just not getting it.   " know....end of sentence?"   The train passes.

We start moving towards home again as comprehension dawns, "Periods." my brain suddenly register.  And I know that discussions about grammar will forever hold a double entendra; and that somewhere in the Bureau of Parenting, the Real Department of Homeland Security, I've just turned in one of my last rookie badges and advanced to the role of Veteran in the realm of teenagers.   I've broken the code or created one anyway.

Coming up next, "Do You Hear What I Say?" Teaching children that what is said by Mom does not come with an asterisk allowing for escape clauses from stated mandates.  No waivers available upon complaint.     

Thursday, November 18, 2010


It's saying something when your OBGYN says she might have to prescribe a glass of wine for both you and herself in the evening after listening to your week.   She was pleased my blood pressure was "normal."

For those who have been following, my daughter's condition remains unchanged and we still have no answers.  All we know is what it isn't, and the list of isn'ts continues to grow, with thankfully all the really nasty ones being shunted to the "not it" column. We are now exploring other systemic answers that might have wandering eyes or poor muscle control of eyes as a consequence --thyroid, diabetes...that sort of things, and doing a work up of how she learns and learns best. 

We also will be doing an analysis of whether it matters which eye she covers, by leaving one eye patched all day for two days and recording behavior, and then switching to the other and seeing if there is a difference in behavior/performance/capacity/handwriting that is the result of which eye is covered.    Thank you to everyone for the prayers, suggestions and comments.  It is very difficult to be in the world of "I don't know" for so much, but she's got a brave spirit and we're going to see this through and eventually get some answers.   

You know, it's saying something when the idea of cooking a turkey with stuffing and pumpkin pie et. al. sounds less taxing than the rest of life.  My son is supervising 43 dinners being made for needy families the day before.  Wonder if he wants to be in charge of a 44th?  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bilocation, Double Vision and Focus

When my daughter went to the ER last week, I admit the biggies were right there in front of me.  Staring down the maw of possibilities like Brain Tumors, Cancer, Stroke, it was the longest hour of my life waiting for them to get a cat scan done and read.   The Agony of the Garden struck home as I sat there with my daughter sleeping, waiting for news, not wanting certain news and feeling alone.  The wolves of the past few hours of scrambling were are alone.  Your husband is in New York.  No one can get to you easily and this is hard in part because you have so many.   I could feel the yips and if everything we'd done to parent them had somehow failed in this hour, and that I was being indited.   It was an unpleasant whisper from a liar who thrills at despair.   We were here because she had double vision and I wished for the gift of bilocation so I could be both home and at the hospital.  Everywhere I felt inadequate.  Everywhere, I felt divided from everything. 

When they mentioned they would need to take some spinal fluid, my heart ached.  Having held one child for a spinal tap and refused to do it for another, I gritted my teeth for what I anticipated I would have to do when they ushered me out.  The doctors had pulled the curtain to do a lumbar puncture. The nurse walked me back out to the waiting area with the permanent Disney TV and the aquarium of fish.  Despite not wanting to actually hold her through the procedure, I didn't want to be away.  I lasted three minutes tops.  Maybe I wouldn't be holding her when they did this but I'd be damned if I was just going to hang and sip diet coke. 

I found my way back to the pediatric ER and parked myself outside her room.  She didn't know I was there but I knew.   And I heard my daughter's voice.  She was singing, church songs.   Then she started describing each of her brothers and sisters in detail and it was a reassurance to me, this long list of people was meaningful to HER  as a way of coping with the unknown and frightening.   "Rita is really smart.  She plays rock band and colors with me and we play barbie."...."Paul is cute.  He likes to pull everything down from the book shelves and that's a pain but he loves music and will play with cars and blocks and drums for hours."   "Will is brave..." she rattled off echoes of my own heart's knowledge of each of them.  Here she was enduring pain and yet bringing comfort, it was the essence of this child; the first to go get band-ades, the first to give a comforting hug, unknowingly giving her own mother courage.

When I finally got to go back in the room, she looked at me, "There are still two of you." she said.  I smiled.  "And we both love you."

We still don't know why she sees double, but the opthamologist gave her a patch for school to wear over one eye --switch from time to time, and it helps her to focus and get her homework done in 1/3 the time it normally takes.  We will be going to a specialist tomorrow to address this from a clinical perspective, but at least some of the puzzle that is my daughter has been revealed by this journey.  She always seems a bit lost in space and time, if she's seeing double, this is in fact a reality for her.  She is always bouncing, touching, tapping, talking and I realized, she is orienting herself to the world, to the real physical world through sound and touch.   With the patch, she is stiller, quieter, but still the sparkly sweet self we hopefully tomorrow, we will have a name for this, but in the meantime, we have a strategy.  

Finally, walking up to Communion Sunday, I couldn't escape the wonderful words a friend forwarded to me after all this craziness started: FAITH is Daring the Soul to go Beyond what the eyes can see.  

And I could feel that I was being asked to walk down a path with her I did not know and to trust; and that this was the case with Paul and his Down Syndrome, and with my oldest and his search for a college, and with my daughter who just started high school, and with my father and his Alzheimer's, and with so many situations that it felt overwhelming and yet the path seemed luminous; obvious and reassuring. Walk up to receive.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It is Not a Zebra

This week, while I could bask in the triumph of having finally put together my daughter's room or having the junk hauled away, I am grateful for all the others in my life.   This week, my daughter started seeing double and the teacher and the nurse were concerned.  They called me.  I called the pediatrician.   I admit, I wasn't too excited about a head ache and blurry vision, I thought...she needs glasses.  I'm direct like that; eyes are the problem, ergo, we fix the eyes.  But this type of problem scared the doctors, so we were sent to the ER, and things got crazy. 

Thankfully, I have Great Aunts who happen to be great persons.  One came and helped with the kids on the first day, one came to stay for several days after that to add coverage.  We also have great friends who rallied to bring food and provide taxi service to my kids to try and keep the "normal" in our lives like basketball and play practice and school.   One friend brought pizza, another brought fruit, a third offered to hold up a sign to welcome my aunt at the metro and give her a ride to our home.  Meanwhile, I got to stay at the hospital and worry.  I did very well at this job. 

She had a Cat scan, an MRI with sedation, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), blood drawn, x-ray and multiple eye and hand eye coordination tests.  They found....nothing. 

They sent her to a specialist who tested her eyes for over 2 hours.  
They found....nothing.

Now we are groping through the murky unknown world of the unknown, trying to assess and gather all we can to figure out why she sees two of me.  I explained, "We both love you."  I also joked that I needed to be two people so I could be both at home and with her.   It was a long 36 hours at the hospital to come up with simply....what this is not.  

So we still don't know what this is, but I am grateful for what this is not, given the possibilities outlined to me --stroke, cancer, tumors. So we will keep looking to figure out what this animal is....playing a game of 20 questions, but we do know, it is not a zebra.  Praying to Saint Anthony to help them find out the answer.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 Be Bored

When your morning starts with, "Mom!  The water balloon downstairs broke."  It might be time to figure out how to call in sick.   It's not that I don't love my children or find their endless means of amusing themselves via heretofore completely unthinkable venues interesting; it's just I'd like the option to be bored for a few minutes.  

This past week, I've been clearing out broken stuff, doors, old mattresses and bed frames, things which will require me to hire people with a truck to come take them away.  My oldest had dutifully stacked this stuff outside to await 1-800-Got Junk to show up.   That same day, my two middle sons decided they needed to practice soccer and low, two bed frame mattresses were outside just waiting to become goals.  Propped up by planters pots, they served admirably until it started raining.  Then my oldest got to growl and mutter under his breath as he repeated the task he'd done the day before only this time carrying soggy mattress bed frames and made me promise to threaten major carnage if anyone thought about moving anything from the pile. 

The 1-800 people weren't coming until Tuesday so Sunday came and those mattresses still sat there tempting until it proved too much and I looked out the window to find four children playing scale the tower with the table, door and mattresses strategically placed to allow them to climb to new heights.  It's amazing how inarticulate one becomes when faced with the distinct possibility of serious injuries.  "You!  Get! Off! NOW!" was all I could sputter and that was after repeated attempts to say something else like "Hey, get down before you get yourself hurt!" or some other reasonable command to require compliance.  My oldest was then dispatched to re stack everything in such a manner that future mountains/forts were not possible but I had to promise him a steak for the trouble.

Meanwhile, the attempt to maintain order continues, but everywhere, chaos seems to be breaking out, revealing just how thinly below the surface of my veneer it lurks.  Changing the light bulbs in one room, the ceiling fan decided that was just too much to bear and disconnected from the light fixture requiring an emergency dispatch of an electrician. I'd cleaned out the closet and folded the blankets, only to find six of those said comforters draped across my living room as tents.   I'd rearranged my daughter's room to put the single beds against the wall, giving more floor space.  I found her dancing on her bed next to the glass window.  "AH! AH! AH! AH!"  was all I could get out as I gestured frantically for her to sit down.

Trying to settle them down, I went to turn on the tv, only to find I couldn't find the remote.  Looking under the couch, I discovered the remote plus scads of other missing objects and a few that should not be found at least not under a couch if ever.  Dispatching a child for a trash bag, I began cleaning out the couch and discovered one of the springs was sticking through and that one of the arms had been broken and had exposed staples. (It was an 11 year old couch so I didn't get too crazed by it, but it was decidedly unsafe and needed to be added to the Got Junk Pile).  Getting out their bikes, three needed air and that required a trip to the store for a pump and a pin, and one needed the chain refitted but that was only discovered after the child tried to ride and fell and needed a large band-ade. 

It was at this point I wondered if I could afford to get our house organized, since every task seemed to either threaten with the possibility of a jaunt to the ER or the contracting of a specialist or both.  I also considered whether the natural chaos of our home sans my attempt to impose order somehow insulated my offspring from potential harm.   They couldn't see the bed to jump on before because it was covered with stuffed animals. They couldn't get to their bikes, hence we didn't need to go run another errand.   Cleaning was rapidly increasing my to-do list past my capacity to get ta-dah done.

For the moment, the forces of order won out...symbolically anyway as I made a mental note to rearrange the room once again to ensure spontaneous jumping on the bed wouldn't result in the potential of falling out the window and managed to string back on the chain on the bike. I was grateful their guardian angels had been busy keeping me in the loop.   I was grateful there had been thus far, no injuries; but I had to wonder what else I was missing that was going on whenever I walked into these situations.   To underscore the point, when I went to plug in my cell phone in my room, my guitar and the crib had been moved and someone opened my drawers while I spent time dealing with the bed jumper.  

The guys from 1 800 Got Junk arrived today.  The piles will go away, but now I'm wondering if it would be safer for all concerned if I just send everything out but their beds and dressers.  And for the record, I went down stairs and found all the remaining water balloons.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Triping Over The Hand of God

Wrote this back in April. Not sure why I didn't post it, but since I have to now scramble to get everyone to mass today, it seems appropriate and a good reminder to myself.  --Happy Sunday everyone.

This past Sunday, I woke up late but everyone else was ready so we hustled to make it to mass on time.  My oldest wryly remarked, "We're not even going to try?" as I directed everyone to the cry room.  They could sit in the pews but I wanted everyone there, everyone together and I knew sitting in the pews would mean eventual seperation of powers to qualm the restless spirits of the two toddlers who had eyed the bake sale as we walked into the church.  

There were the obligatory first few minutes of child tetris while I figured out which combinations would result in the least number of fights.  Hearing the readings, my six year old asked, "Am I a sheep?"  "Yes," I nodded. "And Dad and I are your shepherds."   Meanwhile, my husband was imitating a border collie, rounding up two wandering lambs. 

And yet, as I looked at my sons and daughters and listened to the songs and the readings, I could feel that this was close to heaven, this blessed chaos.  Even with the two trips to the bathroom, the three kids shuffling their small chairs, the passing of the baby between the teenagers as a means of distraction, this was the mass. At the sign of peace, there was the usual mad scramble to shake the 54 combinations necessary to make sure all 11 got to each other, plus those around and I knew, this was why we are all always asked to all come, so that all of us would be present, so that none of us would be lost, so that all of us would receive and understand that we are to bring the Eucharist to everyone. 

No one of us could reach everyone, but each of us could reach some. Each of us is called to be the Eucharist to everyone.  Each of us are to be fed and to go feed the 5000 with what we receive in every mass. Each of us is to wash each others feet, to cast our nets in open waters not knowing what will happen and to imitate Christ in all things.  We will fail, but each of us is a shepherd to another, and a sheep ourselves needing to be brought home.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Hassle Factor of Modern Play

Have we forgotten how to play and why?  This has been on my mind much lately as I ponder a number of things being done ostensibly for the long term welfare and safety of our nation's children.   San Francisco banned happy meals to combat obesity.  DC requires children be in car seats as old as 8.  But the clincher was when my son grew sad.  His favorite playground removed the chain and plastic swings he'd always considered completely cool.  Looking at the empty spot, I recalled when I was a kid, we had swing races on metal swings where we even did tandem and backwards or sideways and spinnies.  We still played hard on them even as 8th graders.  There were contests to see who could leap off and land without falling backwards or forwards the farthest. "They took away the swings so no one will get hurt." I explained to my son.  "Yeah, but no one will have any fun either." he answered and I had no answer to counter his claim.

I started thinking about all of the changes from one childhood to the next.  When I was in school, we'd walk the balance beam of the teeter totter and have challenges to see who could edge down without touching all the time. Today we have no see-saws, only plastic slides and tunnels and ladders with easy to navigate stairs. There is no courage required to jump off the high dive because there are no high dives. Many used to walk to school when my oldest was six but that was dangerous so now buses get everyone and society wonders why kids maybe are less healthy.

Growing up, we had three channels, four if you counted the fuzzy PBS, and now we have 1000's and one that is 24-7 no matter what cartoons and we wonder why kids don't want to do anything other than watch.  Even ten years ago, I knew kids that used to go all over the neighborhood trolling for friends.  Now we teach them to stay on their property for fear of troll like adults and wonder why there are no pick up games of hide and seek or kick the can or freeze tag.  We've banned dodge ball and tag but somehow think kids should get out there and move.   To which the kids might justly ask, "Why?" It's good for you isn't sufficient.  If it were fun, they wouldn't need our prodding.   Then there's the examples we set. We model sedation and self isolation at any cost, with emails, computers, blackberries, texting, ipods, televisions everywhere and when we exercise, it's on machines that repeat motions and go nowhere while we zone out.  Even we are bored by our activity.  

I grew up jumping on a trampoline, doing flips and double seats and playing rocket. (You shoot the other jumper up by timing when you land to send the other person soaring). Today, trampolines are almost non existent.  Skates were strapped on metal things and off you went, skinned knees and all. And bikes of all kinds were for racing down the street or down the hill or anywhere.  Today, you helmet and mouth guard and knee pad and strap and even then you fall, but the hassle of getting ready makes the prospect of skating less enticing.  Who wants to spend 15 minutes getting ready to fall? 

Look at kid sports.  It used to be there was an A team and a B team and you might not make either.  If you didn't make the first cut, there was the chance, the dream that if you worked hard and grew and maybe got a bit lucky at tryouts the next year, you might advance.  The same held true for the person who didn't make the team at all.  If you didn't win, you didn't get a trophy.  Maybe a family held an end of year party with a cake but that was a maybe, and you got a certificate of participation at the sports award ceremony.  A-teamers got school letters or trophies or medals.  Winners got bigger ones. 

Today, my house is filled with trophies for participation for soccer, for softball, for baseball, for flag football and swimming.  The kids don't care about them, as one said, "All I did was show up."  Sure, she played, but even she knew the team had gone 2 and 6 even if no one theoretically kept score.  If you win even if you lose, maybe you don't feel as bad about losing, but you sure don't care much.  It makes you apathetic towards both winning and losing, which can translate into being indifferent to trying and trying that much harder. Sometimes the ache of not getting can be the inspiration for working, for trying, for reaching; and more than that, the struggle creates layers of meaning that getting something no matter what undermines or out and out destroys.

When we were kids, seasons of sports, like cartoons on Saturday, like strawberries at the market, ended.  There wasn't another league with a 10 week schedule lined up chomping at the bit for a kid to take on at the end of the season.   When the 11 o'clock Batman Tarzan show ended, you turned off the TV and went out to play, assuming your parents hadn't had a fit by 10 and turned it off and kicked you outside earlier.  When the season ended, there was down time and the kids you wanted to have over to play in the back yard or go biking with, could go.  

There wasn't an inherent pressure on the parents and the kids that if you don't sign up, you might as well forget ever playing this sport again.  Kids could try on games and activities, dabble without being completely ignored or lost in the shuffle.    All the kids in our neighborhood knew how to skate, ride a bike, climb a tree, swim and fish and only two of them (my brothers) had been boy scouts.  Some had broken arms or skinned knees in the process of some of it, but that meant you got to tell stories and sign casts and learned how to fall or take a hit or maybe judge a branch before you went up just a bit more.  It also meant you got sent to give cup cakes or something to the neighbor's house when the kid you didn't like fell and hurt themselves and you laughed. It built community and a neighborhood and softened the edges that skinned knees and poor kid judgement sometimes created.  

Granted, a lot of what now exists, was created because these experiences were not without their share of pain, pain of rejection, pain of knocking on the doors and being told "No." and pain of knowing in one's bones that something was as of yet and possibly not ever, attainable, and the hurt of childhood moments when children could be and sometimes were unkind.  But the same experiences taught empathy, taught persistence, taught courage and determination in the face of adversity and patience; they taught that both physical pain and emotional wounds were survivable.  On top of all that, even the kids with slings or who got stitches were out there the next day when the children in the neighborhood decided to organize crazy races or have a contest to collect every pecan in the yard or play red rover.  It was crazy, it was competitive, there were winners, losers and at the same time, everyone had fun.  

Will our children understand anything of how to cope with being human if in every endeavor, they can never fail, never lose, never wrestle?   If 2+2=5 and spelling doesn't matter, why learn?  If making the basket or not are the same, then why play?  If we declare that everyone is our friend, even those we know are not, how have we taught anything about real friendship?

We should play because it is freeing and fun and has a hint of chaos not found in school or work or chores or set plans.  We should want to play not because it is the recommended daily allowance of fun, but because life shouldn't be all about multi-tasking and achievement and being acknowledged; life should have the unscripted chaos that comes from impromptu games and discovered friendships and the moments of greatness that only happen when we're totally into what it is we are doing even if no one is on the sideline cheering.   (Greatest hiding place ever as a kid, Vicki's yard, the magnolia tree), you hid, waited until the person "It" went past and quietly jumped down and bolted.   Unless you fell or were very very slow, you never got caught --until everyone figured out to look up the tree first --then you were dead before you even started.

But at current course and speed with ever encroaching padded playgrounds and trans fat free lunches, we will have taught our children that life should always be safe, should always be pain free and that may be the greatest danger we could ever inflict upon them.

Yeah, I know, it's just swings Sherry...but frankly, I miss them too.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Small Success Thursday

The nesting continues....

1) This week I disassembled a queen sized bed. (Son carried the mattresses and frame down).  I then assembled two twins for the beginnings of kid tetris wherein we shuffle the children until we have good fits.

2) I did paperwork.  I hate paperwork.  The financial aid forms for the arch diocese, filled out.  The CYO sports registration, done.   Assessment papers for one kid who needs to have her learning styles discerned, done.   Even read the changes for next year's health care plan....I'm not sure, but I think that's a cry for help.  My daughter to the rescue, putting a few books in front of me.   Ahhhhhh.  Much better.  (Half way through Tom Sawyer, finished the Lost Hero and the play, the Libation Bearers). 

3)   Two closets and yes, the basement, left to go but progress is beginning to show it's fruit.  

4) Got new jumpers for one and winter uniform for another.  

5) had a request for a reprint of a piece from, and while it's free, it's a request for my writing so I'm pleased.  

6) Voted. 

7) Pushed oldest to finish two college aps, next to try out for winter sports, encouraged middle to try drama, next to try basketball (loves it), and have become a Drill Baby Drill sergeant with my third grader on times tables, took six year old out one on one for lunch and have played with youngest three, trying to make each of them feel like they are the only ones in the room.   It is helping curb fights and tempers as time outside becomes less available, (rain, cold). 

Got a success?  Go share over at Family and Faith Live!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Truth in Advertising

Today is election day.  There are lots of reasons for voting and I hope everyone exercises this precious right.  Moreover, with the actual day upon us, we shall be released from that terminal experience of the political ad for at least a year.   In the meantime, I fervently wish the newly elected officials will take this time to consider passing a law that requires all political ads (be they by a 509 or in opposition to a candidate or party), pass the "Works as Advertised" test.   I know it's a bit much to ask but think about the possibilities in the political silly season if such a bill were to be signed into law.

"Hello, my name is.....and I'm running for public office.  Why? Because I want to live off the largess of this country without actually working.  I know what you the voters want, integrity and I'm being completely honest with you.  I believe in family values.   Even if you find me in a cheesy hotel with six women, a few dead horses and the makings for enough drugs and booze to knock out all of fly over country, I want you to know, I believe in those values you value; it's just I don't live them personally.  

As a holder of the public trust, I hope to pass laws I don't read, vote down anything I accidentally do, and give myself a raise on a weekly basis.   I promise to take extended listening tours with my family and friends to exotic lavish locations not in any way connected to my constituency and not pay one red cent even for tipping.

Elect me and I'll be a constant spender of tax payer dollars but all for the purpose of boosting the private sector by hiring massive staff and servants to eliminate any actual labor, mental or physical on my part, and enhancing property values; specifically those of my immediate relatives and most supportive contributors.

As your elected official, I promise to eat fine foods you've never heard of and that I don't actually know or even like just because I can.   I will drink wine without appreciating it but toast to the country and your good health as a sign of my respect for this government and the tax payers.   I will also avail myself of countless perks like super specialized scholarships for my children, insider tips on investments and low interest loans for acquisitions of land and properties.  There is no deal I won't broker, no donation I won't take, and no source is questionable.  It's all money, ergo it's all good.   You don't have to worry about being shocked or disappointed when I'm in the office, I'm telling up front, I'm in it for me.'ll be doing ME the biggest favor ever and you know exactly what you're getting....honestly."

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!