Saturday, October 30, 2010

What I Won't Write About...

10) Having to hold a clinic on turning off lights with children over the age of three in a desperate attempt to minimize the number of lights left on while scurrying to get out the door in the morning.

9) The protocols for one of my children to be able to brush his teeth:  hint, mouthwash, scalding water and a plastic bag for storage.

8) Ineffective bribes in the fight to get homework done before dinner.

7) My couch that if I sit on it, contains tristophans like you find in turkey, rendering me almost instantly unconscious

6) What time I get to sleep otherwise.

5) What time I have to wake regardless.

4) Appliances that retaliate when I complain by going on strike for fitful periods, only to become fully functional within mere moments of being in the presence of someone who will charge me 50$ for the first half hour.   (They are vindictive that way).

3) What I really think of class projects that are "Creative" now that I'm not the one assigned but the one in charge of making sure the assignment gets done.

2) How much I hate out of uniform days --it usually means at least three get sent back upstairs or down for revisions based on weather, size/fit and sheer color coordination.

1) How many sharpies I actually own and house in the house.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's Thursday in all it's Weekly Awesomeness

Every week, the folks atFamily and Faith Live! take stock of the little victories that are the hallmark of motherhood.  So here's this week's wrap up:

1) Worked on Helen.  The book had been sitting on my laptop lonely and unloved for over a month and a half.  My daughter snapped at me, "You're a writer.  You're not doing your job."  Ouch.  Tough love but you know what?  I pelted out 2000 words as a consequence.  I told her to keep doing that on occasion.  In fairness, I had told her to get off the computer and go run which she also did.

2) What I didn't do was important this week.  I didn't run around like a crazy person.  I cancelled two soccer practices because I would have been exhausted and just didn't think they added anything that day to our lives.  Now I don't quit and I don't like to cut out on what we say we're going to do, but I made the call and the world didn't end.   They survived and because I said, "No.  We're not doing this this week."  I did too.

3) All of the kids have had their drawers threaded out of things that don't fit.  It is now my turn.  I haven't yet, because I still have to stare down four more loads of laundry but it is something to be almost done with the second most odious task I have tackled this fall.  

4) The first most odious task--the bag of trash, one bag to give away, one hour....continues.   I have also called 1-800 Got Junk and next week, they are taking away all the broken stuff that I can't throw away in the trash.  Goal: Have a basement I don't have to take a deep breath to walk down into before Thanksgiving.  

5) Made contact with a friend I made at the Erma Bombeck Writer's Conference and she gave me some fabulous tips for pitching a book, and asked me to write an essay for her --she's doing a collection of pieces on women who are under 5'3'' and I qualify on those grounds on a tall day.  It may not work with her project but I was glad to do it, it's nice to be asked and I was really proud of the end result.  

6) This past weekend, my parents were in New Mexico and out of contact for five days and I honestly went through withdrawal.  I call my folks about once a day and the silence of their absence was palpable.  Was so very happy just to say "Hi, this is what's going on in our crazy lives." when they got back.   But the blessing was that it nudged me to reach out to my sister and friends who my Mother has eclipsed in my "Who do I talk to? Who do I call?" list, that I really should pay more attention to on a regular basis.

7) Scheduled portrait sessions for oldest two and youngest three for tomorrow morning.  Going out today to get fresh items of clothing so they'll look awesome for the pictures.  That way, I'll have a current crop for each for Christmas.  

Got something to share?  Go celebrate your victories over minutia, scheduling and the hassles of daily living over at Family and Faith Live!

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's Time for My Annual Halloween Rant....

Those who have been with this blog from it's beginning, (It's three years this October), know that every year, we go all out for the holiday, and every year, I subject myself to the annual pilgrimage to the tacky costume store.  Last year, I stayed on hold for two hours to complain about a costume that would be considered vulgar and desperate even in the red light district of Amsterdam.    The quest to find outfits that neither pimp my girls or gore/gross me out for my boys while allowing for some sense of fun and dignity has almost forced me to learn how to sew.  

The kids, being kids, are always interested in being something new, and recycled costumes take real salesmanship. We have remade existing outfits from one thing into another, a ring wraith into a witch for example, an elf into a knight, and a princess into a fairy, but this has always been after a serious search at said costume store for alternatives.   Fortunately, my kids are starting to get wise to the idea that this store is really sort of sad with it's obsession over costumes for "adults" and I use the term loosely, gross and goth displays that are front and center next to the toddler section, and exceptionally limited options for boys (Star Wars, monsters and superheroes), and girls (princesses, witches and as my daughter explained it, weird girls) --she means slutty but doesn't know it.  

Of course, no trip to such a place is complete without the accidental discovery of the profoundly wrong; and while my oldest and I took pains to seclude the masses, I still found what had to be the single most objectionable costume in the store while searching for a viking costume.  If there is a worse one, I really don't want to know --a priest costume with a built in springy phallus dubbed "The Happy Priest."   Ha. Ha. Ha.  Anti-Catholic, crude and a sight gag all in one.   I complained to the manager that this was bigoted, crude and inappropriate in a store that sells to teens and toddlers or for that matter, Catholics or anyone with a hint of decent sense.   He pointed out that he didn't order the items, these were simply what was sent.   "That's a cop out." I told him, and he gave me the business card for the general office of the company.  Unfortunately, I had already purchased 7 of the 8 items and had the last item we needed in my daughter's hands when I found this repulsive item or I would have walked out.

I have sat on hold.  I have sent an email.  I am still trying to lodge a complaint with an actual person.  In the meantime, that sewing machine is starting to look not nearly so scary as the prospect of rewarding a company that thinks so little of children's sensibilities or anyone else's for that matter.   

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Have a Birth Plan, Does She have an Exit Strategy?

Every pregnancy, I've known if it was a boy or a girl intuitively.  Sometimes I've had dreams which revealed the gender, but the most obvious indicator has been the behavioral changes in my attitude/energy level or capacity to handle things has indicated the persona within that is asserting his or herself.  In this respect, my body has become attuned to the child before they are born, illustrating a sneak preview of the coming attraction, a teaser if you will.

For example, with one pregnancy which resulted in an extremely artistic and sensitive girl, I found I would be moved to tears by commercials like that Maxwell coffee one with the kid returning home or the McDonald's one about a daughter and her mom.  I also wore pink (I hate pink) and found myself buying flowers just for the heck of it. Some of it I liked, but being easily moved to tears by schmaltz, ugh.  It got so bad I had to swear off visual media for the remainder of the nine months to avoid being in a permanent emotive state.  The proof of my theory is my daughter, a permanent romantic in temperament and interests.  (She wants a rainbow room with animals, sort of a snow white motif but with the more stylized illustrations found in Sleeping beauty).  We're going to the Renaissance festival this weekend, she may never recover from the realization that people actually dress this way in real life.

My high energy son was better than three red bulls and a chocolate bar.  While he gestated, I could organize anything and never got tired ever.   Regrettably for me, he remains in this permanent wired state that also desires order.   But he took that capacity to act and the conceptual skill of eliminating chaos from the environment with him when he left the womb.   

Lest you think that only two examples does not a maxim make, I know I was more mellow with my third, ate almost exclusively cheeseburgers with my first (his favorite meal of all times),  and followed baseball with an untold of before or since interest when my sixth was in utero.  I've been a jock who hit the gym religiously five days a week and once (with my second) a disciplined reader, and a laid back nothing gets to me persona over the years.  People watching me closely would ascribe multiple personality disorder to my behaviors if there hadn't been a pregnancy to explain things.

This latest one I think however, is a planner. 

Just this week, the upstairs got cleaned out of things that don't fit. I mailed three thank yous and two birthday cards ahead of time and I've been proactively taking on the schedule before we get to it so things don't become overwhelming.   The kids are thriving with her subtle takeover of her mother. They get planned meals with real vegetables and decent sides, they get to school on time and other activities as well.  At this point, I'm thinking Thanksgiving and Christmas should be a breeze but come January, when the child shows up....well, I hope she plans for that contingency when all this capacity to anticipate leaves me and everyone is left with just me.     

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hooray, It's Thursday

And that means, small success day update:

This week I....

1) hung two doors, one screen and one indoors.  I feel officially like Mrs. Fix-it. 
2) had a bout of nesting in that I cleared out not one, not two, but three dressers of clothing that is out of season or should be out of service or is simply no longer properly fitting.  (Been taking the 1 hour clean and toss one bag o trash and donate one bag of stuff seriously, it's day 3).  
3) came up with a system to prevent myself from being driven crazy by soccer --one kid goes to a friend's house on practice day since he and his sister have practice at the same time at two separate (not close) fields.  
4) forced myself to write anyway even though the muse has been MIA. 
5) Scheduled flu shots for all 9 ...and me.  Husband gets his at work.
6) located the first three books of my to read list.  
7) helped plan the Halloween party for the 3rd grade, it's going to rock. 

Got a success to share, go post it on your blog and brag about it at Family and Faith Live!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Books I Haven't Read but Should

In David Lodge's book, "Changing Places" there is a game wherein the participants admit to not having read something which is considered de rigour.  In this contest of "Humiliations,"  the protagonist eventually confesses in his desire to win the game more than to consider the consequences of his admission (He's a professor at a university), that he has never read "Hamlet." 

As an English major in college, the list of what I haven't read has always exceeded the list I have and the "important" books I've avoided continue to nag like a to-do list that I actually want to do but often forget to get around to in the course of every day life.  That being said, here are ten books/works of literature I hope to get to in the next 12 months and admit I have yet to read:

10) A Tale of Two Cities  While I've read Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol and Our Mutual Friend, this one remains on my haven't got around to it list.

9) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer --I read Huck Finn and Roughing it and Connecticut Yankee but not this one. 

8) The Sound and The Fury. --Actually, I've read this but acknowledge when I did read it, I really really really struggled and didn't get it so I'm going to try again.

7) The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers   --never read them.

6)  Some books, you read and they stick. (For me, the Illiad, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, anything by Pope, Swift, O'Connor).  I read the Great Gatsby, but I was a freshman in college and don't remember squat.   Figured I'm due.

5) James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man --fuzzy memories from high school of this, nothing more.

4) War and Peace --this is why I don't have 12 books with one for each month, I know this will take a bit of doing.

3) Summa Theologica  --was given a glimpse into it back in college but only a glimpse.

2) Jane Eyre --I did drawings for friends for their assignments on this book when I was a sophomore though I never read the book. Must have sketched three red rooms in one lunch period. 

1) Titus Andronicus --why?  Because it's important to remember that even the greatest of writers wrote some major clunkers and so it's reassuring when one is stuck in the throws of writer's block to see that sometimes, not being able to write, might be better than writing something like this...based on what I've heard. 

If you'ld like to play along, link back to this post and list 10-12 books you think you should read but haven't and hope to get to in the next 12 months. --Now, time to hit the books.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Beautiful Dozen Roses

Twenty years of marriage and you discover that the roses of every day bloom all around in a way they didn't in early courtship when they showed up long stem in a box.  The seamless invisible courtship of a heart that takes place in everyday life doesn't make for good television viewing or summer reading, but it satisfies and lingers long after the actual moment.  Today, I got up to wash the dishes (I'd fallen asleep on the couch and then gone to bed without so much as a glance towards the kitchen when my husband had woken me).  Half of what I would have to do had been done and he'd moved the laundry along.  These are the little things that weren't expected but made the morning easier. 

It's Tuesday and it was raining so I ran some of the garbage out, figuring the rest could wait until Friday when hopefully, the weather would be better.  Walking back up our long winding driveway in the rain, my husband pulled back into the driveway from dropping off our two oldest at the Metro.  He opened the door for me to get in and ride the rest of the way and took the remaining cans himself while I went inside to deal with the school kids who were finishing up breakfast.

Folded fresh white socks, a gassed up car, a birthday card for my sister and unexpected imported olive oil brought home from a gourmet vendor and a rub of the neck unsolicited while I'm doing the dishes, all of these are roses by another name.  Leaving to take the second flotilla of kids to school, "I left you the last diet coke."  A kiss goodbye and though he has left, I can feel traces of his presence everywhere in the house.   Grateful I'd made him lunch and laid out his things for easy pick up, I begin the next part of the morning. 

My daughters were coloring and dancing to Taylor Swift's Love Story and singing it full throttle and their little brother joined in.  It was a celebration (as they are five and three and two), of what a child sees when they see a fairy tale and all I can think is, "Oh honeys, you have only a snatch of the richness that is coming after that part of the tale, when the happily ever after unfolds."

Brain on the Fritz

Sunday I used a re-run because I couldn't think of anything to write.   Since I'm still suffering from writer's block, I thought I'd try a list but I couldn't think of anything to write in the list, so I thought I'd try a recipe but my brain is fried and fresh fried stale brain isn't appetizing.

Then I thought I'd tell you a funny story about my kids but they were very helpful today and there was no story.  So I'm here with Monday night and an empty mind. 

It's been a long dry spell and I've tried reading books on writing humor, writing prompts and the brain just says  "Gone Fishing."

Ten Things I'd write about if my brain weren't on vacation:

10) Why I hate the soccer/sucker mom season.  I despise the mad scramble for shin guards.  Evening practices after six for first graders is insane.  Having to pretend that there is no score when everyone knows there is one, also insane.  No kid ever repeats the mantra, "We don't keep score." if they won, but everyone does if you lose.  And the most important part of any sport is always, who brought snack and what did they bring?

9) In an attempt to restore order to chaos and repeal the first law of thermal dynamics, I have resolved to fill one bag for charity and one bag for trash every day until the house no longer feels as if it is imploding with stuff no one uses and no one fits. 

8) Why does no one hear the morning alarm clock but me? 

7) I miss chocolate....and ice cream....and orange juice and apples and pancakes with syrup.  13 weeks to go.   

6) Can't wait to see Megamind.  Hope it's good.   It looks hilarious. 

5) Why it is that hearing that it's not that I'm crazy or stupid because I disagree with passing bills one doesn't bother to read and which require massive pay-offs, kickbacks, waivers and specialized deals for specific constituencies and which do cost more than advertised, not do what they were designed or sold as being able to do or being designed to do, it's just that I'm scared and mislead doesn't exactly make me feel warm and fuzzy towards the President or those who engaged in this sort of legislative malpractice.

4) The problem with successfully completing home repairs is, bragging seems out of place and yet, warranted.  Hey!  Guess What! I fixed two doors.  Yes I made my kids and my husband inspect and try out the door I hung myself --drilled the holes for the screws and everything.    The door works the way doors are supposed to at eleven. 

3) Not being able to write is like having a giant impenetrable wall in one's mind that reduces every experience to "so what?" even if the experience is grand or moving or traumatic, it is like being held in a mental stasis field but with all the emotions rolling around and the observations, but no way to really share them in a story form. 

2) 13 weeks from the due brain just exploded. 

1)  All parental pain has meaning.  The other night my daughters were perpetually popping out of bed.  After an hour of "Good Night." "Good Night, I love you."  "GOOD night."  "Good NIGHT!" and "GET TO BED." and "GOOD NIGHT!" My two year old son hearing all this repetition, turned and said, "Good Night."

I'll try to get my brain back on line by the end of this week.  Thanks folks.


Sunday, October 17, 2010


Rerun from 10/19/08

Having a large family, the costumes themselves often reflect themes. For instance, this year, superheroes seem to rule the roost. So far, I have Batgirl, Wonder woman and Spiderman and Super girl. I was rooting for a full Justice League. Naturally, one contrarian child decided to be Bobafet. Still, the idea of having a coordinated holiday sounded fun to me, so we began brainstorming for next year.

Thus was born, the REJECTED HALLOWEEN THEME COSTUMES for My Family in 2008.

10) Government/Timely: The Supreme Court Justices. Although we would also have a 4-5 split as typified by the current nine judges, few of the children had the judicial temperament necessary to a role on the bench. The temptation to use the gavels for something that could probably get one disbarred or at least, disciplined by a parent would be overwhelming.

9) Religious: Using the parents as well, Moses and the Ten Commandments. Dad would get to be Moses. But when I chose HONOR THY FATHER AND MOTHER, it felt more like an editorial than a costume choice.

8) Sports: The Offensive line of the Redskins. We have no problems internally, but no one was interested and sometimes, they don’t show up.

7) Out of Season: Santa’s eight tiny reindeer plus Rudolph. This was a cute idea, so maybe we’ll save it for a Christmas card.

6) Themes generated because Mom NEEDS to get out more: Pooh Corner, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and the entire cast from Green Eggs and Ham.

5) Nominated by Teenaged Son: The Nine left Nimas Morgul on Midsummer’s Eve. (LOTR). Having the nine ring wraiths seemed a bit macabre even for total fans like us. Doing the Fellowship was also problematic because no one wanted to be Boromir or for that matter, Frodo. They’ve seen the movies. “I don’t want to have my finger bitten off.”

4) What’s For Dinner: Using Mom and Dad too, the 11 herbs and spices in the KFC recipe. (Too much cholesterol for the two grownups).

3) Younger Brother Getting Into the Act: The ten pins and a bowling ball. Nixed by Mom for obvious safety reasons.

2) Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand –the original Star Trek series. This one broke down for three reasons. 1) The gender ratio proved too great. 2) None of the girls were willing to be any of the girls other than Uhura. 3) We couldn’t blame them.

1) We’d be Abbot and Costello, and the kids would be Who’s on First, What’s on Second, I don’t Know’s on Third…Today, Tomorrow’s pitching, Why, Because and I Don’t Give a Darn! Then we realized. We never found out what the guy’s name was playing left field.

But then again, What’s on second. I don’t know. Third base!

Happy Halloween is coming, but for a real treat,!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Knotting to Worry About

My son was having a stressful morning.  Mom today was serving as his primary tormentor, as she was insisting he try tying his shoes.  Most days he gets away without practicing because we're pressed for time but he'd gotten up early and so I told him, he could do it. 

Now he has been taught the steps.  He has in the past on occasion, been successful with the steps but never all at once and thus never sufficiently to pronounce the task learned.   Wanting him to acquire this skill, I suggested he make ten attempts.   After try number 2, he announced it was too hard.  Try three brought "I can't do it. I can't do it! I CAN'T DO IT!"  Now if he had not kept up with the mantra "Can't," I might have backed down but I know my son.  He tries to live in a permanent comfort zone:  nothing too hot, nothing too cold, nothing too hard, nothing too soft.  I worry that he fears failure enough to never try if left to his own devices. I remember him being convinced he would never master a two wheeler (he did), getting dressed in a button down shirt (he did), reading, (with flying colors) and reminded him of these past victories but he just repeated his "Can't." So I didn't consider his complaints valid, just a sign that he didn't want to try.   I offered cheering and encouragement.  His siblings did too.  We got through four and five which almost worked but when it didn't, he fell back into his old pattern. 

Trying after that involved crying and ranting as his cruel mother repeated, "Make the tent.  Pull it down.  Then make the bunny ears.  Now make the bunny ears a tent...." to the constant refrain of "I can't. I'll never get it. NEVER  NE-VER.  N-E-V-E-R!" followed by sulky crossed arms.   I pointed out that if a kid in first grade is smart enough to spell a word he hasn't yet had on a test, he can tie a shoe.  "Never." he whispered.

I'd said I'd tie them after ten tries so I wouldn't be backing down  but this circular conversation could eventually end.

Stick-to-it-ness runs in the family, unfortunately, my son was sticking to his story that he couldn't do this.  I pointed out that every one of his siblings that came before him had learned this and that it took time.  "They're not me." was his retort.   Ten unsuccessful tries and thirty minutes fatigued later, I helped him with the shoe.  "We'll try again tomorrow." I encouraged.   He gave me a "Humph" and out went the lower lip and he crossed his arms.  "NEVER NEVER NEVER!" he repeated.  

Maybe it wasn't Parent magazine approved but I crossed my arms and put out my lip. "I'm NEVER going to be able to teach my son how to tie his shoes.  NEVER NEVER Not EVER!"  He looked surprised.  I pouted. "never!" I whispered.  He grinned a little and I thought I'd repaired any damage done by refusing on the first request to provide aid and comfort.   Five minutes later, he came to me crying as he had fallen down while bringing down the garbage to the curb.   I checked his shoes.  His brother had double knotted them for him after the fact.   "Now I'm sad because I fell and because I can't tie my shoes." he started and his voice started to crack.  Damage still evident, needs additional encouragement and brain said.

"Well, it's clear you need practice in many things." I explained.  "What?" he was bewildered.  "You.  You need  practice in shoe tying, true but also in smiling.  I haven't seen it much this morning.  Give me ten smiles."  He gave me a look.  "See, that's not a smile.  You obviously need practice if that's your smile."  He gave me one.  "Good.  Now More.  Give me more.  Two"...this time he showed his toothless grin.  "Excellent. You're getting better all the time but imagine with more practice." he was going to the mirror to check himself out.   By the time we got to ten, he was in giggles.   "Ten smile exercise." I filed away in my brain.  Tomorrow, we'll try a double work out and maybe by the end of the week, he'll be smiling as he ties his shoes. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Toddlers, New Tricks

My sphinx has ever lived in the protective cocoon of her silence.  By not speaking up too much, she has often avoided being lumped into the usual characters involved in suspect activities like raiding the refrigerator, dumping toys, turning on lights late at night and making a general mess. 

She shares a room with her older five year old sister.  Last night, the lights kept going on after I'd turned them off, I'd tucked them in, I'd declared that the day was over.   I'd gone in and every time, she seemed innocently lying in  her bed, her sister's protests to the contrary.   Being tired, I'd up to this point, not investigated but my daughter's insistence that she was innocent resonated for some reason yesterday.   I hid just outside in the hallway.  The light flicked on within five minutes.  Pouncing, there was my three year old with her hand still on the switch.  

Here was proof, my sphinx who I thought so sweet is secretly crafty.   The next day, more proof of her having learned how to use silence as a cloak.  I'd served lunch.  Each girl got a yogurt, a cheese stick, a drink and some sliced apple.   Sphinx wanted a second cheese stick.  I told her to eat her yogurt first and went back to helping the baby.   Very quietly, she got up and took her plate to the sink and I saw her dump the entire yogurt into the trash can.  She then came to me with bright brown eyes and a soft smile, "Can I have a cheese stick please?  My yogurt is all gone."   She had not lied, she'd merely disclosed what she knew I wanted to hear.   I immediately thought of the found broccoli from last week, the laundry bins that had been tossed like salad and the mysterious disappearance of several chocolate milk cartons.   How many of these incidents were Sphinx generated?  How long had I been the perfect parent patsy?

She's not saying but I'm thinking I might need to install cameras in the kitchen and a GPS on this one's shoes just to be safe.  In the meantime, dinner shall be served in courses and no one is getting up until the meal is over.  

Saturday, October 9, 2010


"With all your kids, giving them what they need must be impossible."  my friend observed over the phone after I'd told what I thought was a funny tale about how it had been a long hard and difficult day managing them.   I was caught up short.  Her words echoed my sometimes fears, but as I explained, it wasn't impossible, it was however impossible if I did not sublimate my will.  "And they sublimate theirs." she added.   Again I disagreed, "It's not their job to sublimate to me, it's mine to them. On my best day and in my best moments, I serve them."  What she was alluding to, was my not best moments and I could think of scads just from that day, but the quote, "With God, all things are possible." floated to my head though I could not say it in that moment. 

It was a phone conversation, and what I felt flooded my heart and brain.  I knew whether I had one or ten, I remained inadequate.  I cannot fill anyone completely, for I am a flawed and incomplete child myself and my attempts at service are those of an ungrateful servant at best.  

In that moment, I saw myself plunging into an ocean, not to drown but to be immersed, surrounded, enveloped lovingly by the waters around me.  God was that ocean.  Being pulled deeper by grace even as I sought to drown in the small shallowness of sin was the daily struggle I faced; especially when the cares of the day, the needs of all nine, of the home, of the world required that I act and act and act again.  I kept wanting thanks when what I was doing was no more than what was needed and required.

 "Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,'Come here immediately and take your place at table'? Would he not rather say to him,'Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished'? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you."  I both love and hate it when the Gospel so closely mirrors my reality that I cannot escape it without denial. 

But how?  What my friend had said had the ring of reality to it; after all it was true, I couldn't do everything.  I tried rattling off the various clever systems or methods we'd devised over the year for laundry, for dishes, for chores, for homework, for schedules, for menus.  They somehow felt like pale weak answers to a strong hard question.   These were methods of providing for needs, but they didn't address the deeper resonating longings that some of my children might be hungry for and I not know because I was so busy trying just to triage through our basic obligations.  

And I remembered another friend who told me, "Whenever you doubt yourself, remember that God really loves your heart infinitely and let that be your guide."  I tried to explain that it isn't impossible, just some days hard and some days, unsuccessful.  But each day, we try again.   

The conversation moved on to other more mundane things and eventually ended, but the image of the ocean, and of my resistance to the word "impossible" and yet it's truthfulness remained.  Hanging up the phone, I looked about at the house, 9 loads of laundry needed doing and the dishes from that afternoon still had to be unloaded so the next run could start and there was paper work to fill out and little available for dinner.  "Impossible" whispered at me, "just agree it's impossible."  There was homework to sign and help a child correct, a squabble over the tv remote in the other room, two boys I'd stopped from making water balloons who were decidedly up to it again, and hour seven of what seemed like an endless number to work on the basement.   "Impossible."  The word lingered like smoke in the air, daring me to agree to breathe in it's toxic embrace, to be smothered rather than surrounded.  To be choked rather than refreshed and enveloped; yet it seemed so reasonable to think it.

And I prayed, for I feared I'd inhale.  "Show me how."

The daughter who struggled so mightily with school that my tale of her troubles had in part prompted my friend's comments, came into the kitchen.  She noticed me wrestling with the dishwasher and began unloading without a request.  In a few minutes, she remarked, "This drawer needs organizing." and began work in earnest.  Twenty minutes later, three drawers were cleared out, cleaned and orderly and she beamed, "I'm becoming good at organizing." She had surprised herself and me with this sudden spurt of clarity.  She went to tackle more and promised to help me get the kitchen in order.  When I asked "Why?" She smiled and said, "Because you're a good mom." and I felt humbled by such praise. 

My three year old came into the room.  "What's for dinner tonight Mom?" she asked.  I remembered we had some chicken.  I'd use the one box of pasta as a starch and could throw together a salad and microwave frozen broccoli.  I rattled off the menu.  She nodded and looked at the table.  "We'll need a few more chairs."  I looked at the table.  We had five, she was right we'd need four more for all who were home and Paul would be in his high chair.  I started cooking.  She left the room.   She came back pushing a chair.  Putting it in place, she left again.  I watched fascinated.  She dragged in a second seat.  I hadn't asked this, this was her gift and I felt a hint of the ocean around me as she brought in the third folding chair and commandeered her brother to get the final one.  She then surveyed her work with satisfaction.   I was floored when she began setting the table with paper plates, forks and napkins.  No one had taught her this; she had simply picked it up from being.

After dinner, it happened again when my oldest daughter unbeckoned began doing the dishes.  I had not asked and it is not her custom.  It was a gift.   As she simply went about the task of cleaning up from the meal while I got the littles dressed for bed, I felt the waves lovingly lapping everywhere.  

And so it is, that to feed these nine and the one not yet born, to keep them on task and well, happy in heart, mind and body is nothing more than part of that list of things which the Master has commanded be done.  And what dawns in my brain is I do not do this alone or in isolation; for they are all with me and we are doing this, not I, not just my husband and me, not just any of us, but all of us in union with God.   God has given this gift of this family to all of us, so God knows there is a way for each of them including me to be nourished if only I would cease trying to carve out my nitch and allow myself to instead be fitted in His heart.

Friday, October 8, 2010

7 Quick Takes

1.  Wake Up Email

Nothing gets one to praying and pondering like having a friend email you that their health has taken a turn for the worse.  My college buddy Jen has always struggled with diabetes.  She has lost both kidneys and the third she received in a transplant.  She is a frequenter of the Mayo clinic and has struggled with countless ailments that to me seem like a constant scourge.  She and I had fierce but friendly debates over lunch while at Saint Mary's about all things possible and we both volunteered at Logan Center with the multiply handicapped for the same reason; we loved it and we loved the kids and it was a form of service to the poor, a good break into reality from the unreal world of the life of students.   Her most recent correspondence indicated that she is no longer a good candidate for another transfer, and that her heart and arteries had calcified significantly resulting in some problems that will require ongoing maintenance to ensure "quality of life."  When the conversation turns to "quality of life," it isn't joyful news, it's hard.   I'm putting what she said about "What she needs" here because I think it applies to any family that suffers a blow to some extent, that the greatest pain of suffering is not even the suffering itself, but the isolation from the rest of the seemingly non suffering world. 

"So yes, I am scared but trying to do my day to day routines as normally as I can. Often I consciously push aside the tidal wave of fear that I feel just under the surface of my thoughts. Occasionally, I do just let the dam break and my tears and fears pour out. But I am determined not to let a state of fear or depression dominate my life. My goal is to live as long as I can with strength, grace and wisdom.

Many people are asking what they can do for me. Really, I don’t feel any worse right now than I did last month or last year. The only difference is I need to rest for longer periods in the day after a morning of Wonderlab, or an afternoon of errands. What I need most is to not feel alone as I face a more stressful period in my life. So don’t worry that you’ll bother me with a phone call. I can find plenty of time to sleep. I still love to hear about the lives of you and your children, your work, your vacations etc. I still have a good sense of humor and I want to be connected to lots of people. That is what most strengthens my mind and my spirit." 

2.  When a mother of 9 and a mother of 1 both find something nuts, it probably is.  

Last night I went to college night at my son's high school.  Listening to people ask if administrators could tell if a parent wrote the essay I almost did a spit take.  Hearing all of it made me feel like 1)have I been slacking all this time?  2) had I fundamentally failed my child by not steering him into certain tracks in high school?  3) was I somehow negligent for not hunkering down and making him master a sport when he showed no interest.  4) Should I have made him take the SAT a second, third and fourth time when the first was good? My brain was swimming with recriminations until I heard an exasperated mom say, "This is his time and his job and his to succeed at or fail, not because I don't love him but because I do." and honestly, I wanted to lift that mother up over my shoulders and carry her around while whooping the crowd of nervous stressed out helicopter parents into a supportive cheering frenzy.  Needless to say, we became friends.

3.  Providence

When you meet a couple 28 years your seniors who met freshman year at Notre Dame and Saint Mary's just like you did, it's a neat coincidence.  When you find out they were the same majors that you were and loved the same teachers, it feels like more than chance, and when you spend a whole evening comparing experiences and laughing as if you'ld known each other for years, it's more than luck; it is refreshing to the Spirit and heartening as well.  Plus it made the dinner conversations sail and a lot of fun. 

4.  85th

This week my son brought home a letter asking permission for him to serve at the 85th anniversary of our children's school.  I pointed out that we needed to check the schedule as he had soccer.   He answered, "Yeah I have soccer but serving God is more important."  I checked the schedule anyway and he can do both.

5.   Home Again

My oldest is back in the land of his birth, surveying two potential schools.  It's a bit heady to be making a list for the day with reminders about college aps for one and potty training for another.  Time blipped by in an instant.   What I miss most when he isn't around is his sense of humor; he can get his sisters giggling when they're feeling less than pleasant in almost no time.  

6.  Half a long weekend

Half my kids have today off.  Half have Monday off.  So cumulatively, I have sort of a 4 day weekend but with errands. 

7.  Creativity continually Impresses

My daughter is in a mythology class where they were asked to render a myth using one of their talents.  Well, the girls renderedd ancient tales in methods worthy of the muses; with an embroidered pillow, three paintings, a poem, a photo essay, a comic book and my daughter's personal favorite, a song sung to Taylor Swift's Love Story, about Pyramus and Thisbe.  It made me want to be in the English class but then....I almost always want to be in the English class. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Brag a little

It's Thursday.  So let's evaluate the week in review:  

1) Got 2 of the 3 to soccer games (wrote down the wrong time for the third), and the kids served mass on Sunday so the weekend was chopped full of stuff including two projects on the rosary, a mandatory volunteer service for five hours for one, a creative project on Greek Mythology and a major paper plus the oldest was trying to get things done prior to going down to Texas for a look at some colleges so by the end of Saturday and Sunday, I was ready for another weekend, but we got all that demanded to be done, done.  

2) Wrote more, been so busy with managing the schedules that writing time has been hard to carve out, and having a son who needs my computer for his assignments, hasn't helped with lappie's availability.  So getting a piece written and submitted was a big deal, now comes the hard part of waiting.  

3) Celebrated our five year old's birthday this week.  Dad made a four tier cake and it was a big (literally) hit.  

4) Put in hour five and six on the basement.  (There are two huge rooms involved that are replete with legos, books, plastic animals, barbies in various stages of undress, dvd's, cd's, blocks, thomas the tank engine parts and pieces, baby toys, Wii games, and costumes) and that doesn't count any of the furniture.  It's still chaos, but I can see the places.

5) Husband and I went on a formal date, (See Palate Cleanser) and this past weekend, on Saturday, I bought a dress for the occasion and felt vaguely adult and elegant for an evening.   Almost wish there was another occasion soon so I would be able to wear it again before wearing it would stretch it out. 

6) Have two physicals for two kids today and they're kids who are due as opposed to "Oh yeah, I have to do that...."

7) Called a friend I hadn't spoken to in several months.  Whenever we speak, it's like a wash of the Holy Spirit on my heart.   It's almost too rich to do too often, but I love her and it always makes me happy when we can connect.  

Brag a bit on your blog or in the comment section of Family and Faith Live!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Palate Cleanser

Last night, I got to go to a black tie event, the Consortium for Catholic Schools Dinner.  It was hosted by Congressman John Boehner, Senator Joe Lieberman and former DC Mayor, Anthony Williams.  The goal was to raise money for four Catholic schools that served children in the district who would otherwise be trapped in failing institutions. 

Kids were on hand to showcase their work and their school and their talents.  There were also displays and videos and examples of their work from various grades.  Looking at the materials, these were not cherry picked kids who would have succeeded anywhere, they were kids.  They reminded me of every class I'd ever taught, and every class I'd ever been a part of, and every class I'd ever witnessed.  There were the very smarts, the jocks, the popular, the struggling, the funny, the rebels, the confused, but above all, all of the kids still had that glow of being the ages they were and not rushing towards something or away from anything that kids should have when they are in grade school.  They were happy and believed the future for them held something even better than the very good they were experiencing at the present.  That spirit, which pervaded the student bodies of all four schools,  The men who hosted this event, talked about meeting the kids, going through their schools, hearing their stories and it was very moving. The event has had as sponsors in the past, Senator Kennedy, and host Tim Russert, Bill Cosby and others from all stripes of the political spectrum.

There are times when living just outside the beltway can lead one to believe that all civility between the two political parties is gone, that bi-partisanship is as mythical as the unicorn, and that our system of government is so locked in battle with itself, that no good can come of it.  I admit, I had felt as of late, almost as if the truest position was fundamental distrust of everyone and had very little faith that electing people was anything more than a sham action designed to give comfort to the workers as those in power continued to spend every last sou on every last thing with nary a thought to the cause, effects, consequences or long term gains/losses and then demanded more. The corrosive power of years of vitriol thrown at both sides had left me erring on the side of "A pox on all of you."   

The government that had railed against prior deficit spending under Bush, had spent three times as much in two years.  I was unwilling to back "anyone but the incumbent" but equally disgusted with all of the incumbents.  The existing body of the Senate and House had shown contempt for reading the bills, for listening to anyone but themselves, for actually crafting something designed to do what they said it would do, or for engaging in a fair and legitimate process of deliberation.  They'd spent. They'd passed bills on the fly and with massive bribes to get it done rather than examine why a bill might be hard to pass, i.e. unworkable/unpopular and utterly unreadable.  They'd accused anyone who disagreed of the most vile of motivations, racism, ignorance, insanity, bigotry, and absolute wilful malice to quash any attempt at discussion let alone debate.  I felt honestly, as if anarchy almost seemed appealing by comparison with cowards and toadies and people who viewed everything through a strictly partisan lens, but then used that lens to paint opposition as immoral, ethically bankrupt and stupid.

But last night, I got to hear three very different politicians speak about the same cause, helping to raise money to finance the tuition for four K-8 schools that served some of the most under served, unpowerful and needy children in the area. All three men spoke about creating an opportunity for children, a level playing field by providing not simply education but excellent education, one child at a time.  The crowd was more GOP than DNC based on the laugh lines this year Senator Joe indicated, but the promise on the kids' faces was real, it made everything else unimportant.  People were here, and this was the sixth year of doing this, and in the course of those years, six million has been raised to ensure opportunity for some of the many that need it.

The dinner was delicious. Everyone looked beautiful, and it raised over 6 hundred thirty-five thousand dollars and that's before they made the pitch to encourage people to donate once again.  That's a lot of kids going to school for a lot of years thanks to one night's repast.   What I loved most however, was hearing Senator Joe and Congressman Boehner and Mayor Williams talk about why this was important, because the public realm involved more than just government, it was a collaborative effort of the worker and the corporate, the public and the private, the clerical and the secular, the GOP and the DNC, and that in isolation, none of these entities were capable of addressing the multi-layered needs of society competently, capably or consistently in the way that all of them working in concert, could.  

Now I know it was just one dinner and it was just four schools, but it is four schools that today, have what they need, and didn't yesterday. Fixing society's ills is an imperfect ongoing every changing struggle that will require everyone to be on the same page about the goal, not shouting to demand that everyone agree with them about the means.  I felt hopeful that at the very least, two members of the deliberative body of our representative republic have a firm grasp of that reality, something lost in the translation of the daily barrage of news via Internet, television, newspaper and radio.  I had to imagine, there had to be more, but like planes landing safely and food that isn't unhealthy, they didn't make the news cycle. What I saw yesterday, was part of what could be, and should be, and might be. 

Here's hoping there are more occasions like last night in the future of our country, and that they get the attention they deserve. Because in the world where the twitter feed and ten second sound bite rule, we will always get no more than a glimpse and an opinion.   The most memorable will be those most shrill, evocative or graphic. But if we get the opportunity to listen, we might find this country using both the public and private, using the collaborative capacity that the original government was constructed to foster, between big and little states, urban and rural, blue and red, has the capacity, competency and will to do far more good than the left or right dreams, without the price tag being either liberty to act or the possibility for success.   

Things that Scare Mom

10)  The conversation starts, "The good news is that Nobody got hurt."
9) Any phone calls from the school nurse.
8) Missing shoes in the morning.  Ditto purse and keys.
7) Crunchy socks
6) Unexplained sopping wet towels discovered in the course of a day.
5) The phrase, "I need...insert random critical but discreet item only possible to be purchased at select tomorrow."
4) There's something wrong with the toilet.
3) Can you check this over for me? 
2) MOMMMM....Gina put eggs in the sink....and she made a mess.....and there's lots of water.   Explained wet towels....not much better than the ones of unknown origin.
1) We are out of Diet Coke.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's Not My Thing Anymore

I suppose I deserve children who glow at the prospect of dressing up in weird outfits for special occasion days like Spirit Week.  After all, for career day my senior year in high school, (when arguably, I should have had some clue), I came as a dancer from Cats complete with a sign that said, "I heart T.S. Elliot."  Yes, I know the man's name was  But as I said, I did not have a clue or I wouldn't have donned a black leotard, fuzzy leg warmers and dramatic eyeliner in the first place.  The apples of my eyes are all near the tree.

Fast forward to motherhood and my kids in Catholic school.  It's Spirit week and my children are struggling mightily with the concept of "Wacky Wednesday."  The results are not pretty.  After exercising veto power on wearing a former ballet costume, three shirts including a dress mass shirt with an extra head, and tactfully explaining that flippers as funny as they might be, would be annoying to walk in all day, I realized I'd turned the corner as a Mom.   I mean, I was a total home team kind of gal.  I would have been out there with my toe shoes.  But perhaps it was the memory of those squished feet that made me try to steer them in other directions.  "It's Wacky Wednesday, not insane weird use every bit of clothing you own day." I explained. 

"What does it mean to be wacky?"  one of my more pensive children considered.  

"Well, it means crazy, out of character, like if we had Wacky Wednesday here and all of you came down dressed for the day with your teeth brushed, hair combed, socks and shoes on and had made your bed, I'd be pretty freaked out.  That would be wacky."  I answered. 


"No, I mean what could be wackier than you guys getting up to your alarm on time, not squabbling over the bathroom, all of you loading the car and taking out the trash without a nag?  I know!  Making the lunches and breakfasts and then when you come home from school, even more wackiness, you put your things away including the 12 shoes, six coats, eight backpacks, trumpet, clarinet, purse, music stands and four lunch bags.   Then, to keep me really off balance with your craziness, you could unload the dishwasher, vacuum the floors, clean the bathrooms and start your homework."

"That would be wacky." my daughter conceded."But you realize, Spirit week is only once a year."

"It would be more often than it happens now."  

One son came to me with a sombrero, cowboy vest and boots.  I gave a nod.  My other son came up with a dinosaur puppet on each hand, which he proposed would write his assignments and answer for him.  He treated me to an impromptu ventriloquist attempt to give me his spelling words.   I agreed, certain the dinos would be stashed in the locker before noon.   A daughter showed up in a crown and cape to get a thumbs up for her apparel.   The pensive one was getting cold feet.  

"Just remember, we can celebrate Wacky Wednesday my style here anytime, we don't have to limit it to spirit week." I coaxed.  She went downstairs to get a pirate hat and boots.  Relieved at getting through  all four, I relaxed.  Thank goodness for uniforms I was thinking.

"Hey Mom." my teenager walked in from the bus.  "Next week is spirit week and our class has a theme of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."  

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!