Thursday, June 30, 2011

Small Success Thursday

Blogger was down last night when I wrote this so it's late getting posted today.  Sorry about that.
Each week, we take stock of how in the past week we did little things with great love.

With all the little things that define our days, it's easy for us to feel like we aren't doing enough in our daily lives to live out that wisdom of Blessed Mother Teresa.   So join in, make a list of the victories of your life in the past seven days and post it on your blog or in the comment section here.  Then add a link using Mr. Linky so we can come visit!

This week I:

1) Rented  truck and loaded it up with all the junk that was cluttering our basement and took it to the dump.  Very satisfying to see things go away.

2) Took the kids to the park to play and bought ice cream from the truck.

3) Went berry picking and came home and made two blueberry pies.  Yum!

4) Youngest son had surgery this morning and had tubes put in his ears.  The doctor said he had glue, not fluid in his ears (it was that thick with fluid)  --they were so clogged, it's a wonder he could hear at all.  (Part of the delay in posting).

5) Received the sacrament of Reconciliation this week, always good.

Now it's your turn! Thanks for coming by, leave comments of your little victories in the com box if you don't have a blog.  Otherwise, use Mr. Linky and be sure and drop by all the blogs that participate, it's part of the fun! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Holy Wars

Every parent who has ever gone to the five o'clock it's-now-or -never mass with children knows that sometimes, the phrase "The mass is over, go in peace." is answered with "Thanks be to God." a bit more earnestly than the rest of the congregation.

This week I've been struggling with writer's block.  Thankfully, or not so much, my kids have opted to provide today's story.  

We went to one of our not so regular masses, at the church near our prior home.  The church has an theatre in the round sort of feel to it and arriving as the opening music was in its second verse, we scooted along the back wall to the side pew that gave us an unobstructed and unshared pew that buttressed the far wall of the building.  This gave us a side view of the priest and the entire congregation, it also meant leaving the mass for any reason would also be visible to the entire population, so perhaps we chose poorly. 

My husband and oldest son each holding one of the diaper set opted for the back of the back of the church where other people with squirmy babies and noisy toddlers hang.   I didn't feel I'd been cheated, after all I had the 15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 5 and 4 year old.  I figured we could manage.  Admittedly, I'd preemptively short circuited my five year old's temper by refusing to allow her to wear a baseball cap or bring a hot wheel into mass.

Two minutes in: The five year old decides she can't sit with me and walks to the very end of the pew so that she's a good 20 feet from all of us.  It is purposeful and even masterful as she's at the edge of the altar, almost daring me to come and get her.  I opt to hope this is the full extent of her rebellion.  Prayer is my best defense and since we're in church, I go with it. Please God let her behave. Please God let her calm down. Please God let her just sit there. 

Sometimes the answer is No.  I look over.  She's mad that I'm not in hot pursuit.  She tries swinging her legs.  I'm still not moving.  I'm not even mouthing "Sit still."  So she ups the ante. She lays down.  She's wearing shorts and  she's laying down on the pew.  We have now crossed my threshold toleration point for naughtiness.  I try to calmly like there's nothing to see here people walk over and take her hand.  She's not interested in obeying so she assumes the floppy boneless child pose.  I pick her up at which point she begins protesting aloud and loudly, "I don't want to go with you."  I get a few sympathetic head bobs from the dads and moms as she kicks at the pew.  I opt for the coward's way out, I take her to her dad. 

Five minutes in:  The four year old taps me during the first reading.I have to go to the bathroom. Not wanting to walk back out after I just came back in, I send the 13 to escort the 4 during the responsorial psalm.

Ten minutes in: 11 year old asks if he can go get water.  I say "No." because it's the homily. 

It's Offertory time.  My purse is the source of great distress as I don't have enough bills to go around.  Seven year old son is sulking. Nine year old daughter is preening because she got to put in the check.  The next round of sibling aggression has begun.  We kneel.

Now I know kids can fight over anything. I've heard the "Mom, she's looking at me." and the "Mom, she's breathing in a sarcastic way." complaints before. But today marked a new low in passive aggressive non virtuous displays of piety as my son and daughter begin inching down the open aisle where once my five year old lay, each trying to silently hiss at the other not to edge in front.  It is a battle that proceeds for a good five feet before I noticed because I'd momentarily attempted to give my full attention to the mass. 

Now I've got a few options as they continue kneel walking and glaring at each other.  I can ignore.  Not ideal as the scene is public and not without audio. "Stop trying to pass me. I'm praying!" she whispered loudly.  "I'm just trying to watch the priest." the other deadpans with an overly arch look of I'm so holy and you're not as he inches past her.  "I beat you. I win." he adds.   She's stiff arming him as she knee walks further.   I've tried signaling for them to stop but they're deep in sibling irritation right now and so mom is on the ignore button. 

There is nothing for it so I get up for the second time this mass and march forward to grab with a hug one of them and a hand the other and march them back to seats in between two of their sisters and me.  It's near the consecration so I can't give them the "I Will Kill You or Worse" look, I opt for the more effective though not as heart felt, "If you act up again, it's bedtime as soon as you get home." whisper.  They are in mental lock down as I deliberately speak aloud the Our Father with decided emphasis on "FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES." and "LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION."  One of them properly recognizes the editorial within the prayer from his mother and gives me a guilty "I'm sorry" look.  The other, I squeeze her hand when the priest says, "I give you peace, my peace I leave you."  and they shake with the coolness that only recently fighting brothers and sisters can muster when adults are watching. 

We always stay through the last song and so I do, though several of mine are ready to bolt.  They're hungry and a few saw friends in the communion line and some are just wanting to get back outside where they can resume hostilities.  I make them stay, if only to give me a few moments more with the allies of the Church and the mass against kid wars.   A man comes up to us smiling and compliments me on how well my children behaved during church and speaks of how he raised seven.  I decide either he wasn't watching or maybe he was and wants to make sure I feel better.   "Thank you." my children get out before I can respond. 

And then, basking in the glow of an unsolicited compliment from a stranger, the kids ask, "Hey Mom, since we were pretty good at mass, can we get donuts?" 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good Sport

It feels like August in my brain.

There are countless things I need to do and I'm not interested in doing any of them. There is vacuuming and cleaning, beds to be made and more.  I'd been doing flylady.com for 35 days and today, I crashed and burned big time.  It isn't that I'm depressed or disorganized or overwhelmed, I'm just bored with it all.  It's like I've morphed into my kids and I'm mentally walking around humphing because there's nothing I want to do.

I can see the laundry, the dishes and dinner's half done and here I am, slumming on my computer.  There isn't even umph to order children into working, that's tedious.I also don't want to be perceived as the nag-o-mom.  No reason to stop their fun because I'm stuck. 

Normally, I'm the cheerleader in the house, normally I'm the one who is on the go-go-go-go and here I am feeling stale.  It's driving me nuts.  I tried writing, but had block. I tried praying and that felt like the prayers were going nowhere and they were interrupted multiple times.  Then my seven year old came and insisted I battle him in cards.  It wasn't what I wanted, but having a first grader talk smack at you can be very entertaining.   We played.  I lost in impressive fashion.  He bragged.  "I Beat MO-OM! I BEAT MO-OM!"

I feel much better. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Small Success Thursday

Yikes! It's already Thursday.  
Where does the time go? 

I hope all of you had a lovely Father's day celebrating Dads and Gradfathers. 

"We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love." - Blessed Mother Teresa


This is the day we take stock of how much love we crammed into the past week, all the little victories over dust bunnnies and pounds, the bigger stuff like getting a date or a haircut, the necessary boring things like car repairs and doctor appointments and the Wow this happened news that's always fun to share. 
 
If you don't have a blog, leave your successes in the comment box.  Sorry about last week's Mr. Linky not showing your blogs, hope I fixed that for this week.
 
This week's small successes include:
1) Stopped the upward pound creep that was plagueing me.  Now we go down. (hopefully).
 
2) Had lunch with a friend yesterday.  It was lovely.
 
3) Had my article approved and so it will be in September's issue of Family and Faith.  It's my first ever magazine article so I'm pumped!
4) Was named Godmother for my newest niece, Lucy Grace.  Can't wait to hold her!
 
Now it's your turn! Be sure and visit those who come after you and leave a comment, it's part of the fun!
 




 
 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Good News Is...

I've been a bit heavy lately, lots on my mind and this is where I process it, so it's time for a bit of levity.

Raising children, you always get yin with yang, salt with pepper, half cheese, half pepperoni. There is always a bisection of everything from dinner to chores to boys and girls.  Whenever there is good news (potty trained), there is bad news --you now must hunt out every bathroom within a 10 mile radius of home that is tolerable, and you must be able to disengage your toddler from the carseat to the approved (by her) bathroom within 50 seconds of the first cry, "Mommmmm.  I have to go to the bathroom."  for the near forseeable future.  

Examples:

Good News: Your daughter does not throw like a girl.
Bad News: The carrots are on the second story ledge of the living room.

Good News: Kid can now get up and get themselves drinks of water in the middle of the night.
Bad News: Bathroom looks like after hours at a Honky Tonk Bar. 

Good News: Child just passed their driver's test.
Bad News: You now have to sometimes surrender your keys and a two to three ton machine to this person.

Good News: Your child has learned to tell time.
Bad News: He now knows when it isn't bed time.

Good News: To foster a love of history, you plan a summer of visiting historical sites.
Bad News: You will have to drag your children to a summer of historical sites until the love takes hold.

Good News: Two of your children have taken up jogging. Two others are considering it.
Bad News: They expect you to come along.

Good News: Kid got into expensive college that by name dropping makes you look like a stud of a parent.
Bad News: You now will live on Ramen noodles and baloney sandwiches to fund being able to drop that name.

Good News: Your daughter just made the elite traveling softball team.
Bad News: You must fork over 400 dollars and agree to sell cookies on the 4th of July in addition to schlepping an hour North, South, East, West for the next twelve weeks for games plus two practices during the week and one on weekends.

Good News: the cluttered schedule of the day has been cancelled because of rain.
Bad News: Some other day that will be even more inconvenient, shall be sacrificed in its stead.

Invent your own in the comments box!

Monday, June 20, 2011

To Follow Christ is to Work Within the Sacraments

Not everyone has followed the Fr. Corapi saga as it has unfolded.  I'd seen him preach on EWTN once, the crowd and the venue were impressive and his words were pretty good at the time.  Now I've heard him give his first speech --announcing he would no longer be called Father, that he was leaving the priesthood but that you could buy his videos and other items commemorating his 20 years as a priest and continue to follow him on his new website with a logo that paralleled his upcoming new book and a brand name that he had copy protected a year ago. 

And I've heard his second speech where he proclaims that he will still be a priest and that no one can take that away from him --even though he verbally declared he was done with it last week; and that the loss of being able to perform the sacraments in public life was no biggie as he hadn't really done all that much of it as a priest up until then.  Those words would not let go of me.

It struck me in that moment, that  either he did not understand what he was surrendering or he was being disingenuous. If the former was the case, then he also did not comprehend what a vocation is.  Though he cried through Father's day, he thought somehow God's call was outside the sacraments.  His words indicate an inversion of the nature of a vocation --a holy life lived always comes closer to the sacraments, needier of the sacraments, desperate for the sacraments.  I hope it was the former case, that he has yet to comprehend what loving God means. 

A vocational life, be it religious or married or through service, cannot be lived outside the sacraments.  A married couple is still married even if one is half way around the world because of a job; there is no moment when a wife is not a wife or a husband not a husband if they are living out their vocations as married; there is no line between them, there is no line outside of the life with the other. They are always in that sacrament of marriage no matter the circumstance. 

Likewise a priest is always a priest, God's servant first.  A priest may have a vacation, but even there, he is still a man of the cloth.  Fr. Corapi or Mr. Corapi or whatever is the proper --I'm not trying to be irreverent, merely correct, has drawn lines around the role of a priest, separating his speaking and teaching from the vocation of priesthood, or more accurately, creating false barriers to keep God's pull at a safe distance.   Vocations take all of one's self, it is a surrender and a gift and a promise to God.  Given his statements, it seems that the surrender was perhaps half hearted, the gift taken back, and the promise broken.  

There's a lot of "I" in his voice that doesn't ring with someone broken hearted as a spouse would be if the other broke it off; God hasn't called off the vocation, Fr. Corapi has. Corapi seems conflicted and at odds with himself, unable to surrender wholely to the Priesthood, equally unwilling to surrender the name he's made for himself that in part whether he performed the sacraments or not, came from being a priest.

Why does this matter?  Because little deaths matter, divorces matter, politicians and priests who fail and fall publicly matter. It adds darkness, it adds fodder to the fires of those who delight in doubt, despair and disappointment and tempts tepid and wayward souls to fall into error or not avail themselves of the stronger medicines supplied by the sacraments.  

My two cents? Pray.  Pray hard. And then? Pray harder.  The World and the Church needs humble good priests. The World and the Church need luminous marriages. We need leaders who have courage and wisdom and charity, and we need peace in our hearts, homes and world both virtual and actual. We need to live in the sacraments and for them, not keep them at a distance to be picked up solely for our pleasure, like a soda you pick up when you're thirsty at the 7-11. 

As a sideline observer, I wish for this man every grace in all it's shocking overwhelming fire and glory, God comes and overwhelms, it is His nature.  I hope that this man stops shouting that the world should listen to him and can hear the thunderous whisper of God.

Father's Day

Yesterday I posted the piece I wrote four years ago. This story will make more sense if you read "Hey Beautiful" first.

My dad has Alzheimer's.

We don't talk about it much if for no reason other than, it hurts.

He is still Dad. He will always be Dad; but the shell of him is being slowly stripped away. Word loss creep first led to fewer letters. I've saved them all. When he visits, we get to eat together, to share the chaos that is my life and laugh a bit, sometimes it overwhelms him --which is reasonable; they overwhelm me sometimes too.

Alzheimer's is brutal and it's ongoing and it makes my heart howl sometimes when I know he's fishing for the next word, the next thought and they all get away. When my grandmother had it, I remember I did what I could to joke it away whenever possible, and I could usually make her laugh. "You always get to go new places. You always meet new people. You can claim you met anyone you want to and impress because we'll never be certain and neither will you." We had a good laugh about that as I helped her get her "doll face" on, she loved for me to draw her eyebrows.

Even late into the disease, Coco and I could still laugh a bit at this hard thing; one time she came into the dining room saying "This cereal tastes terrible." I looked at the silver tray she'd filled with granola and salsa. "Yes, I bet it did." I deadpanned. She smiled at me, she knew it was a bit of a rub. The ability to joke at it took some of the razor edge off, but this time, I can't laugh.

It's too close, too near, too sharp and too soon. Even though it's been ongoing, it still feels like a hard slap whenever we get to a new barrier of "we can't." and that's made harder by being only able to walk in spirit with my folks on this road to the cross because we live so far away.

Dad's still here and sometimes, he's really still here. He can sing with his son if his son coaxes him along and he loves his grandchildren fiercely. He knows the mass and he tries to read things. Sometimes he can.
He still laughs at movies and enjoys company and wants to participate and Mom fiercely takes every opportunity to bring him to those places and people he loves as often as possible.

So today, I am grateful I wrote that piece back in 2007 so I could have a mental snapshot of some of the wonderful things my Dad is; because Alzheimer's can make everyone else forget what was wonderful and magnificent and beautiful about a person over time, as they are less able to be present and witness to others. It is then that those that love the person who has Alzheimer's must do the remembering.

Christ understood how we remember, by analogy, by familiarity, by meals, by ritual, by words. I at the very least, am not a linear thinker and as such, can tell you the lyrics of a song but not which year the song came out. It gives the impression of someone who jumps from thought to thought, because in reality, that is how my brain operates, in lots of jumps and arcs, very little of my thought process is a grid.

I miss the hooks to old jokes and puns and memories that Dad by citing six thousand books (all of which he had read and I should read by the way) in a single conversation would prompt. I have to prompt them myself to recall his teaching me how to tie knots for a boat, to play poker and make a pina colada. He also cultivated in me a love of Catholic writers that continues to deepen to this day but that seed took a long time to germinate. When we drove across country in a car where only one side door opened when I finished graduate school, he had me read City of God aloud to keep us from growing bored on the road. I told him that sometimes the tone felt like Saint Augustine would walk through town, see something that ticked him off and go back to his room to write it up as an op-ed. He laughed. He'd send me books and articles hoping one day I'd be caught on fire by the stuff.  It took, but it took the better part of the past 20 years and now, it is my bed time reading and I wish I wish I wish I could really share it with him.

I can remember him chopping ingredients for gumbo and thus the gumbo recipe. I can remember him strumming the guitar and singing, I've taught some of those songs to my children. They don't always get why I love the song "My old man's a sailor..." but that's okay, hearing their voices evokes his voice; and I get a lump in my throat at church when I hear him sing; it would make me stop singing to listen, but then he'd give me a glare as if to say, "Why aren't You singing?" because that's what we're supposed to be doing at that point.

When a person has Alzheimer's, the first thing to go, are words. They can't remember the word they wanted, the memory evoked won't come into focus, the present goes out of focus and everything is as it isn't. The world becomes a confusing tide of memory, present and unexplained gaps and holes where people and books and ideas and jokes and dreams and pains and loves should be. I don't pretend to be an expert on treatment or care or the long term process or an authority on this of any kind. I'm just his daughter, and I miss his words, his new thoughts, his old puns, all of it.

Part of my present and my past is missing with his memory, like a story he wrote for me in 8th grade. Dad wrote about my very awkward adolescence on an old computer. It was in a word program that no longer exist. So when my modern machine translates it, it becomes gibberish. The story is there, the information is there, it just can't be accessed. I love that story and will have to share it in my own words with my children; but I'd rather have them hold the pages with his words.

Alzheimer's is exactly like that.

I still can't quite laugh, my brain starts to tease about it and I wince. But I know, it is only his brain that is decaying, not his soul and recalling that, fixing on that, it does not ache as much.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hey Beautiful*

*Originally ran on November 11, 2007.  Was written for Dad's birthday of that year.  

Dad always answers the phone to me, “Hey Beautiful.” It always makes me smile.

My dad reads German theologians for recreation. He also puns constantly and loves Notre Dame, the Astros, fishing, hunting and 99.9% of all classic English literature. He is Texan. He is Southern. He is Catholic.

When I was a kid and he was mad, even if I wasn’t the person who did anything, I went to my room and cleaned. The thundercloud would roll by and see a virtuous kid doing only right stuff. This was the image I strove to maintain. I had figured out it would keep me out of trouble. It did, and my parents got a clean room out of the bargain, by allowing me to think I was manipulating them.

I remember him teaching me how to do flips off the high board and how to drive. He taught me to rig a lure for fishing and retrains me when I forget. He didn’t yell when I wrecked the car again. He met all my dates. He made me watch Casablanca and The Quiet Man. He bought me a guitar and a silver bracelet. I can gut a fish, train a dog and make Coq au’Vin today because at some point, he taught me. I cannot do algebra. He tried to tutor me. I know something of Latin. He made me take it. I scream like a banshee at Notre Dame Football. He showed me the game and helped me come to obsess over it.

Dad drove me to get ice cream when I lost my wallet at Christmas. Dad took me out to lunch when I worked at his office. Dad asked me to paint some crabs on the fireplace at the beach house and helped reel in the 40+pound Red Fish I had hooked. Dad danced with me at the Debutante ball and I wished, oh how I wished, he was at the table with me, for my date was boring.

Senior year at Saint Mary’s College, he wasn’t coming to Father/Daughter weekend. I tried to be offhand about that, I wished he could be there but knew money was tight. The Sunday before the Father/Daughter weekend, my then boyfriend proposed. That Friday, Dad was on a plane.

As my roommate and I got dressed to go out to dinner with him, Dad was serving as her dad for the night too, I said, “Just watch, the first thing Dad’ll say is “Why do you want to marry my daughter?” Annie laughed and disagreed. “I’ve met your Dad, he won’t say that.”

We picked up Marc, my fiancĂ© at Notre Dame and drove to the restaurant, Dad, Marc, Annie and Me. No sooner were we all seated, then my father said, “Why did you ask my daughter to marry you?” Annie and I looked at each other and bust out laughing. Marc was left with two giggling girls and no help. He rallied. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Dinner was fun.

That summer I worked at his office. I went on walks with him sometimes when we were both dieting. We’d talk about food and how much we missed it. We’d argue over wedding plans, band vs. DJ, morning suits vs. Tuxes, receiving line vs. announcements by the band.

Eventually, My Dad sang the Notre Dame Fight song to me as I walked into the Church to get married. It helped me to stop shaking. I remember Dad’s smile as he walked towards me at my wedding reception to have our dance, but I do not remember the song.

Sometimes he sends me papers by his favorite theologian, Von Balthazar. I dutifully try to read the treatise, “Does Original Sin Exist?” but I want to scribble back a short post-it, “Yes. Next Question.”

Dad has had many heart surgeries, but the one I remember is the one in 2000. I arrived after the surgery had taken place, and sat in the living room with Danny and Joe and Jennifer and my newly crawling son, feeling how empty the house felt with Dad in the hospital. When we went to visit at the hospital, Joe and Danny attempted to move Dad by lifting the recliner he was in, and dropped the chair. I was terrified, but Dad was okay. He showed me the stitches that ranged all over his body. They had cut open his chest, taken out his heart, stopped it, cut away things and put everything back together and stitched him up. I looked at the long line of black threads on his legs and arms and it looked like a large black rosary to me had been carved onto his body. It hurt to look but he was alive and so I looked anyway. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time.

Just before we left, a former partner of Dad’s, dropped by to check on Dad. I had a long-standing dislike of the man ever since the firm restructured and Dad left it. I occasionally had called to jam up the 1-800 line at the firm but knowing this was childish, I had stopped. I had even thought of returning the wedding present he had given my husband and me, a dessert server, saying, “It leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” but again decided it was small minded. Seeing the man visit my Dad at the hospital, I thought, “Damn, now I’m going to have to forgive him.”

Dad held no grudges so I couldn’t either, much as I might sometimes want to…really. That ugly stuff still doesn’t matter. He still calls me and says, “Hey Beautiful.” because that’s how he sees me and how God sees each of us. “Hey Beautiful.”

And by saying that, over and over, eventually, we come closer to becoming it. 

Happy Father's Day Dad!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kids Like Paul

My son is two and a half. He has blue eyes, a mischievous smile, loves dogs, balls and chugging my diet coke if it is in arm's reach.  He dances to any music, applauds at mass at the end of every song and will shake his head "yes" when you serve him cake.  He will then destroy the cake in a matter of seconds, becoming "Cakebeard the Pirate" to his siblings and require a long shower before bedtime. He likes dumping the laundry and pulling the Cd's out of just one bookshelf in particular.  He loves going to the pool but it takes him about an hour to feel confident in the water, then you can't get him out.  Paul can bark like a dog and vroom like a car.  He'll climb on any table, chair or bed so he can sit with you and he loves books.  In short, he's like every other two year old I've ever raised in every respect except he has the bonus of an extra chromosome.

Paul has Down Syndrome.

Most of the time, he wears this disability quietly.  It doesn't pinch the day, it doesn't dampen his mood or ours,and the actual quietness of his world is masked to me by his ever present and sometimes overly helpful next two older sisters.  Paul says very little, but he expresses much.

However this past month, the audiologist has indicated that he is struggling with a hearing loss that is the result of fluid in his ears (common for kids with his condition), and we are taking steps to remedy it. At these moments I'm reminded of what he faces and how everything is actually affected at some point by having that little extra chromosome, teeth, eyes, heart, hair, weight, height, speech, what he will understand, what sports he must avoid to prevent the likelihood of spinal injury, thyroid issues, and those are just the little things I remember from the instructive video "Your Down Syndrome Child" the hospital sent home in the complimentary diaper bag when we took him home. 

"Kids like Paul" have these sorts of issues. But these sorts of issues can be dealt with, by modern medicine, therapy and vigilance.  Children with Down Syndrome have bigger problems than all that come from having one more than everyone else.  That moreness is often fatal.

"Kids like Paul..." have historically been left out of society in a hidden home somewhere or institution, they used to be hidden out of shame. One wonders if that shame ever was eliminated as now-a-days, kids with Downs are eliminated before they ever get to show how much love can be packed into a smile. It is an ugly fact which even some people who work in the field of Special Education do not want to believe, but there are statistical studies including analysis by the Guttenmacher Institute that indicate 90% of all children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in utero, are then aborted.  Because their condition can be known, people have the luxury of deciding, "I don't want a handicapped child." ergo I will not allow myself to love a handicapped child.   For those who say that's harsh, I recognize it's an agonizing decision, it should be because choosing to kill a child rather than love it should cause agony --I'd be more appalled if it didn't. 

There are 5000 "kids like Paul" born each year in this country, thus there are 45,000 other children that were discarded. 45,000 ghosts that would have reminded all of us to slow down, to smile more broadly and to enjoy the great gifts of everyday life. 45,000 families each year that have willing allowed themselves to cut off a limb because they did not think that limb productive or necessary or perfect.  That's a lot of invisible loss. That's a lot of scarred wounded hearts walking on this Earth unable to address an ache they chose to inflict.

The thing is, for a society that promotes inclusion and having broad compassion for the poor and the weak, we have remarkably little patience with the perceived imperfect; be it age, disability, weight.  How are we as a society to become accustomed to differences if the range of possibilities is being ever more narrowed?

If science discovers a gene for diabetes or autism, will these folks simply get erased from the future as the 45,000 of 2010 have been?  Human nature and past evidence would seem to indicate "Yes," that all flaws that are detectable should be eliminated. What about ADHD, Parkinson's, MS, MD, Cystic Fibrosis and Tourrettes?  Somewhere in that list is a someone that you know, maybe even love.  Imagine a world without all those people peopling it. As knowledge of the human genome expands, will our tolerance of the genetic possibilities lessen?

There are certainly voices willing to say that we ought to spare these folks pain by eliminating them before they are born. There are certainly voices today that openly advocate abortion for children who have physical and mental defects when compared with "perfect children,"  sometimes even after birth and these are the so called smart people of our society who work at universities and write op-eds in the New York Times and  hold positions of authority and power in government. This attitude presumes the value of a person is economic and other dependent and thus only additional with effort having to be less than reward to make the proposition of care worthwhile.  The value of an actual person is always universal and multiplies out the value of others, people exist to grow the hearts of all around, each person adds to life simply by being.


None of us who have children with special needs wish our children needed special education to manage things.  None of us say "Yippee! My kid has a disability."  We do however rejoice daily in our children regardless of their ability and thank God for each of them.  We learn more and have more people in our hearts than our lives would have held if we hadn't been forced to rethink everything from dressing to feeding to school because we had a child with a disability.  It's said when you have a kid with Down Syndrome, you join a club of other families that have kids with Trisomy 21.  More accurately, you become part of a great adoptive family with special educators, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and all the other families you never would have met except for the fact that you see in the eyes of their child, your child's own.  Who couldn't do with more family, community and support in this world? This is the little extra that children with Down Syndrome bring.

It is sad to me that 45,000 "kids like Paul" will not get to be loved as Paul is loved by his brothers and sisters, friends and family.  It is sad to me that people decide sight unseen that it is better to never be born than to suffer being born known to be by others as "less than perfect." I've never known anyone to meet my son and say, "He's less lovable because he's less than perfect."  They've met him and loved his smile, his eyes, his happy happy, happy spirit.  His spirit is not suffering.  Those who spend time with him find, their spirits are not suffering either.  His joy (not his condition) is contagious.

Finally, being less than perfect ought to be known as a universal truth for all of humanity regardless of genotype, but being less than perfect, we forget that also applies to ourselves.   By the logic of perfection and no suffering, the whole human race ought to die out, for to live is to struggle and even suffer a whole host of pains.  To be human is to feel that emptiness as if one has never eaten even if a feast was set, to be able to be alone in a room full of people, and to in a moment sense how still time can stand when we ache and wish the ache would stop.   We cannot exist and breathe without knowing that this life is fragile and the relationships within it all the more precious.  The only thing that lessens suffering is love in action. Love in action comes most quickly and perfectly through others. 

No wonder our world struggles with pain so, we've thrown away a lot of others. We've rejected a lot of "kids like Paul"  and called it anything but what it is, a waste of a whole town worth of love a year; and we've done it out of fear of the other, fear of love, fear of service, fear of having our lives directed beyond our vision, and fear of how our lives would be altered.  How frightening to face a lifetime with people who have gentle natures and whose natural response to everything, is to smile and be happy and yes, dump one's Cd's from that one particular bookshelf. 

From a spiritual sense, the world would be deathly afraid of more "Kids like Paul" and prefer they never be seen, heard, known, born.  Each "kid like Paul" that survives the gauntlet of the womb softens a bit of the edges of life and brings that community of his or her larger adoptive family.  Each "kid like Paul" brings the corner of the world they live in a bit more love, a bit more proof that while we all naturally sin, our default desires in the deepest of our hearts is to love, to serve, to be part of a larger body than the island of our own selves.

My kids now want falcons for pets.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Small Success Thursday

It's Thursday and you know the drill!  Today we celebrate those little victories that took place over the past seven days.  I can't wait to see what everyone has been up to; it's always very inspiring!

This past week I:

1) took the kids to the library.
2) we went to the park.
3) I exercised three days.
4) finished writing the article on Homework and submitted it.
5) painted three kid tables that needed it!

Other happy news:
1) son got a call for a job interview.
2) Daughter was given a great honor at her school, a scholarship awarded to upcoming 8th graders for character, leadership and overall quality and academics. I'm bragging a bit because I'm still just so pleased for her.
3) My sister is going to have a baby today!  Can't wait to see if I have a nephew or niece!

Now it's your turn and be sure and leave comments on the blogs that link as that's part of the fun.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Regulations

School's out and before the summer takes over my children's brains, I need to set a few ground rules to ensure all of you have a fun productive 81 days. 

10) Breakfast will be served between the hours of 7 and 9.  If you are up after 9, you must serve yourself and wash up the dishes from serving yourself.  Before 7, there is no breakfast, no snacks, no kitchen chef. Mom is closed.

9) Do not say the word "Bored" in my presence.  Using this word will result in immediate censure and an assignment of reading a book.  Repeat offenders will be given the alternative assignment of folding the laundry.

8) Lunch is served at 12, not 11, not 10:30 and not 2.  It also does not consist of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream except if Mom is having a VERY bad day.

7) Hygeine rules like regular bathing, brushing teeth and fresh clothes in the morning still apply.  They never do not apply.

6) Asking you to do the dishes or put away the towels DOES NOT ruin your day.

5) If I turn off the machine, it is to stay off.

4) Remember there are multiple ages in this family; not every activity shall be geared towards your maximum enjoyment.  Normally, you don't have to go.  However you do have to go if you say "That's  boring" and hurt other people's pleasure.

3) Remember there are multiple ages in this family; not every activity is for every child.  You do not get to say, "No fair!" and demand your spot at the table when it's not for you. 

2) Bedtime still exists. 

1) If mom is slumming and reading a book, napping or otherwise enjoying summer, please do not interrupt her with demands for a ruling over who gets the last popsicle; because the answer will be "Me."  

Thank you, that is all.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meet Missedcongeniality

Back in 2008, I went to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Conference.  It was great for several reasons.  I got to try stand up.  I had a blast.  It was a weekend on my own.  And most importantly, I met a whole host of lovely people including one daring woman who wore bunny slippers the entire conference.  Her real name is Joy but she goes by Missedcongeniality. 

She's very funny and even better, she's kind. 

I'd only a week before received news that my son would have Down Syndrome and she became for me, an understanding face as I wept in fear and anticipation, grieving the ideal that was lost because I didn't know the wonder I would receive.  She stayed with me and skipped a lecture to let me cry.  She also sat by me when I had butterflies about doing stand up.  I check her blog from time to time and this one, written by her oldest son ought to be shared.   If you want to leave a comment, please go to her blogsite so that proper praise can be given where it should.  So without further adieu, here is Joy's latest piece.  Enjoy!

Missed Congeniality


From Pookie with Love

Being a parent in a blended family requires the ability to not take yourself too seriously. I never knew how much so until this week. In preparation for impending military deployment, my eldest son decided to send a ‘love note’ to his blended teenage siblings containing ‘insider information’ about yours truly.
The original list had 25 bullet points, but is abbreviated here due to space constraints. Here is his wisdom:

To my brother and sister.

This is for the very next time you think you are getting a raw deal…

I understand that you have been told (repeatedly) that you are dealing with Mom Lite™; but I recently came to realize that you probably don’t grasp what this really means. So, for your benefit and with your best interests in mind, I have compiled a list of Rules and Regs from the Old Regime of the Deity known as Mom. It is not complete, but I can assure you that it is accurate. Remember, this is a labor of love; Big Brother is trying to look out for ya here. The following rules are absolute. Disregard at your own peril.

Alright, here goes:

1. When Arguing with Mom: YOU. ARE. WRONG. You shall forever be so, no matter how logical your argument is. If you are proven right later, guess what: You’re still wrong. This is a fact of life; get used to it.

2. If you are summoned at any time before 10 am, you are to appear by Her bedside with a cup of coffee in hand, half creamer, two Splendas. This is not negotiable: sleep on your own time. Acceptable substitutes for your name are “COFFEE!!” or “BEAN JUICE!!”

3. MOMMA’S CHOCOLATE IS MOMMA’S CHOCOLATE. Get your own.

4. You are not Chuck Norris; SHAVE. YOUR. FACE.

5. This is not GQ and you are not a body builder, so put on a damn shirt and cover your hairy self. NOW.

6. The Impending Apocalypse is not an acceptable excuse for getting out of school. If these be your last moments, then it sucks to be you, now get outside, you’ll miss the bus.

7. When asked your opinion, “Whatever you say” or “Yes, Ma’am” are your options; quit fooling yourself. ”I’m on it” is also acceptable.

8. You can’t use the Force, so quit telling Her that “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” and walk the damn dog.

9. It doesn’t matter if you just walked the dog, do it again, he needs to poop. Don’t agree? See Rule 1.

10. No goose-stepping around the house. You aren’t that funny.

11. If the word “Revolution” leaves your lips, you better be reviewing history.

12. If She says you did it, you did it. See Rule 1.

13. Chores are not “slave labor,” now do the dishes.

14. If She tells you more than once, IT. IS. A. WARNING. So get off your butt and take out the trash…


As a final note: I admittedly laughed through the entire thing, until I came to the realization that compared to his life with me, Basic Training must’ve seemed easy for eldest son. So, to him I say, “Thanks for helping the younger ones, and I’m sure they will have a response in the coming future. We love you, Pookie!”

**Note to Joy; thanks for being there then and for raising such an awesome person and for letting me cross post this here.   Thank You!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Surviving Summer Projects Assigned by the School

*Saturday will be rerun blog classic day.  This first saw daylight July 8, 2008.

Every parent’s favorite game with children in the summer is "Time to do your summer enrichment program." and the subsequent corollary, "What's My Motivation?" When the time honored and irrefutable “Because I said So…” doesn’t work and that summer reading list looks more daunting than the latest 360 Vertical Drop Over 55 mph Double Loop Roller Coaster at the park, what’s a parent to do?

1) Assess your child' learning style. Physical? Kinetic? I admit it’s drastic but with eight books left and only six weeks of summer, radical solutions may be necessary. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I have bartered 30 minutes of reading for an hour at the pool as a standard deal.

2) Re-evaluate communication methods. By mid-summer, the parent voice is on permanent mute status with kids unless key words are tagged –ice cream, park, movies, mall and swimming. Verbal exchanges should no longer be considered an effective medium for letting offspring know what needs to be done on a given day. The following techniques are offered as viable alternatives to speaking aloud.

a) Post-it notes with a task on each post it. Special Tip: Color code by child. Every three notes or so, put a treat or prize or compliment. Quarters, Klondike Bars and bubbles for outside work well.

b) Mystery Mom Madness Game: Want your kids to listen? Declare yourself silent. Respond to every request and need as usual, but say nothing. See how long it can endure. Gestures to get in the car did not work well, but loading the car with the babies and honking the horn was emotionally satisfying. By not listing the errands, one avoids the caterwauls of protest for the usual stand-by need to dos, dry cleaning, pharmacy, bank and grocery store. Handing out worksheets and holding up pencils in one hand and chocolate bars in the other got the job done for the day. Sure it was passive aggressive, but exceptionally therapeutic.

c) Contracts: Posted sheets on the fridge. Wanted: Room Cleaned, vacuumed, laundry placed in bag and beds made, will pay top $$$. Call 301-Clean ME! For more details. Also wanted: summer book reports completed, typed double spaced and proof read. Unrestricted access to Wii obo. My teen aged son called on his and his sister’s behalf to negotiate prices. We settled on a trip to the book store where they could use their gift cards. Negotiations for homework remain an unresolved issue of dispute.

3) Family dynamics don’t matter. Power and authority are insufficient to guarantee obedience or competency. The problem remains that parents consider summer projects to be like homework, status quo behaviors that require neither rewards, nor reminders, like not fighting with one’s sibling more than once in any given three hour period. Parents are unreasonable this way, as kids view any time spent studying as ruining the entire purpose and spirit of summer, and fighting with sisters, a protected right under the constitution.

Rational explanations do not fly in such a situation. Showing a chart of fights with the time, duration, nature of the offense and participants do not move said recalcitrant children to alter patterns of behavior. Documenting that the same time would have been sufficient to finish two chapters or four workbook lessons does not work, as it reveals why the parent wants the job done, not why the kid should or must.

Emotional appeals also fall flat. Suggesting major carnage will occur if the bad behavior (determined sloth) does not stop must be backed up with sufficient force to ensure compliance and that's hot hard work in the dog days of August. Again, the maximum labor is foisted on the parent. One must remember this is the child's responsibility, not the parents. Ours is but to nag and remind and supply the opportunity.

So what does work?

POLICY WONK APPROACH: Take the curriculum rationale stated for summer projects and enrichment from the school/district web site, and thrust it in front of the children to read, or read aloud if the offspring in question is not yet literate. If it doesn’t motivate, it might induce sleep, giving the parent 2 to 3 hours of peace.

KID SWAP: Explain that you love summer projects as much as they do, then, offer to switch. You can clean their rooms and do their math. They can change the diapers, do the dishes, fold the laundry, make all the beds of children not able to do so, clean the bathrooms and cook the meals. No backsies for 48 hours. Be sure to tell them, you’ll do as good a job as they do.

NASCAR approach: Point out that they can finish the 60 pages of math in 30 days doing 2 a day each or make it drag out all summer. Offer a big prize for finishing first. Stand back and have plenty of sharpened pencils.

Play Kid Chicken. Post the number of days left of summer to finish the projects publically. Keep the countdown to school prominently displayed at all times. Do not mention projects again. If it comes up, shrug and say something along the lines, “Your project, your grade, your problem. If you want help...” Warning, this takes a firm belief that the kid cares more than you do.

Should the summer program studies still loom unfinished, unloved and untouched…push the Nuclear Red button of parenting.

“You’re right. This is dumb. Tell you what, I’ll home school you this year. We’ll start today.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pearls of Great Price Make You Want to Sell Everything

In honor of my sister about to have her second child.

Congratulations.  People say going from two to three is like switching from man to man to zone defense.  But it really happens with just two, since most of the time, the kids will outnumber you.  It's just when you get to three, they always outnumber you.  

But any mother of any number knows, it's never the number that creates the chaos, it's the kids themselves. 

This week we celebrated our oldest graduating from high school.  We gave him a beautiful watch that his father had received at his high school graduation.  My husband had treasured that gift from his folks; it was a prized posession.  There was a story to link Father to son in the watch besides the event itself.  At 15 months, our dear first born was into everything.  We lived in an apartment, one would think I could manage it but I was as lousy a housekeeper as a mother of one as I am of ten, it's just now I have a reasonable excuse.   Our son liked carrying things around and putting them in places one would not expect.  He found the watch. The watch then was lost for many months.  I even replaced the watch for our anniversary, giving it from William and myself.  

Then we made the decision to move to Maryland.  I started packing up some of those nice things one still has when one is only four years married; a puter pitcher.  It rattled as I wrapped it in paper. I looked inside.  There was the watch; stored for safe keeping.  The moral of the story? Even one can create total chaos if given the slightest opportunity.   Absent the context of being in love, losing a watch, a piece that held great memories and sentimental value would be crushing; but because of love, the scribbled walls, the stickers on furniture and the lost or damaged property over the years seem like a cheap bargain, part of the cost for the ride.

It's why those calculations that make every child a quarter of a million dollar investment ring so false. The number isn't the reality; but you can't know that going forward because you haven't yet fallen in love. The growing of our hearts by children takes time, it starts with those first nine months.  

I count the kisses I get far more than the dollars.  The dollars fly out on a daily basis; tacos as a birthday snack, money for acquiring the summer reading list, prescriptions for one, a fresh outfit for another for Honor's breakfast, Size 5 diapers, and felt for a sugar glider puppet, and that's just from today's list of "Hey Mom, I need." So personally, the 250k is a bit low; the better answer to what children cost is "What ya got?"  because that's what you'll be willing to spend and more.

The allness of the surrender that parenting involves is something that demands we face and battle our every flaw and fear if we are to do this to the extent of our abilities with as much grace and love and humor as we are capable. Even then, we must be secure in the absolute knowledge, we're going to screw up.  Don't worry, they'll tell you how when they hit adolescence.  And still, we will love that prickly child that doesn't want to be seen with us hoping that today, they will make the turn back towards their family even as we know, part of this walking away/pushing away is necessary. 

The measure of our screwing up will be tempered by our willingness to love, love and love more.   I screw up daily.  The odds are with ten, I screw up daily on more than one.  Hopefully, the love measures out and weighs more. Being a parent is like being the Trombone in the orchestra. No one says, "Hey, I'd like a solo Trombone." but it's there giving depth and strength and tone to the sounds; it's there, strong, consistent and ubiquitous. It's there and if it's done right, no one notices anything but the complete package of the music itself. The children are the finished symphony; Mom and Dad, the fretful players knowing that practice pays off; hoping the end song is as beautiful as Divinely imagined.

 So good luck and prayers for our new nephew or niece; and for his/her sister, and for both of you.  Keep playing, keep practicing; it's a great thing you are doing even when it doesn't feel like you're doing anything much.     We love you.

Oh.  One last bit of seasoned advice; resign yourself to the reality, it will take ten minutes more to get into the car.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Small Success Thursday

Mother Teresa said to do little things with great love, and sometimes when we're in the midst of doing, we forget the great love; and sometimes when we're in the midst of being that great love to others, we forget that this is actually a great thing we are doing.   With that in mind, once a week we look back to see if we've come perhaps a smidge closer to doing all those little things lovingly. 

This week: 
Profound:
My oldest graduated from high school!  Eighteen years have flown by.  I'm sort of in shock. 
Mundane:
Gave home haircuts to three daughters and two sons with reasonable results.
More Mundane:
Hauled three bags to goodwill. It feels better than one thinks it should to pitch away.
Delightful:
Shopped with second oldest daughter for an outfit for Honors Breakfast --she was invited because she's made A's and B's all four quarters.
Cute:
Got to see my first grader's presentation at his end of school Rainforest Tea; he was a sugar glider.
Always a Treat:
Went on a date this past weekend, saw a movie.
Good News Even if it's Not Great News:
Took my youngest son to the audiologist and got his hearing assessed. He'll need tubes but it's progress to know that some of his speech delay may not be Down Syndrome, it may be fluid in the ears. 

With two teens home, it has been very rare air.  To go to all these events solo, dr's appointments, shows, shopping, it never happens.  It was fun to be just one kid's mom for almost each and every one of them this week.  

Now it's your turn.  Use Mr. Linky or list your successes in the combox if you don't have a blog.  Be sure to visit the other blogs in the list and leave a comment; it's part of the fun!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Selective Attention Test



The SAT catches about half the people who watch it. This was considered ground breaking as a scientific experiment about how the brain does not see all that is there.

Big deal.

Every mom KNOWS that children have selective attentive awareness. If asked, they probably all spot the gorilla. However, the same observant ones cannot find a shoe on the floor by itself in front of them.

As further proof, I submit the following.

I lamented that if I did not point something out, it would not happen. It was doubted and roundly rebuked by all that of course they saw things and took initiative.

So I conducted an experiment. How many days will people walk around the 14 laundry baskets BEFORE taking the folded items up to their rooms?

Day 1. 14 baskets. Can't quite get to the TV but by moving them around, there's still some room.
Day 2. 14 baskets. Moved around. Now watching DVD's downstairs instead.
Day 3. Mom is trying not to go nuts. 14 baskets now like badly shunted freight cars.
Day 4. Two more baskets have been added to manage the overflow.
Day 5. Kids raid the baskets but none of them are moved.
Day 6. The Gorillia that is Mom thumps on her chest and says, "You all spent the whole week walking around the baskets, fishing in them, but none of you put them away.

Answer: "We thought you weren't finished."
...
Question: If I could stomach it, how many days would the baskets remain. 

Answer: I've decided, I haven't that degree of scientific method in me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer List

Every year I make a summer list of the things we may or may not do during the 83 or so days we have off from school.  This year, I'm posting the list because....I'm having writer's block and had to put something up here.

100.  Read books, one a week for chapter book and older, four a week minimum for the younger/new reader set.
99. Swim.  Swim.  More Swim.
98.  Cook out often.
97.  Catch fireflies.
96. Skip rocks.
95. Eat ice cream from the truck.
94. Waterslide.
93. Berry picking.
92. Go to the park.
91. Go to the museum.
90. Paint the deck.
89. Weekly Family Movie night.
88. Weekly Date Night.
87.  Go to Wolftrap for concert.
86. Get bikes fixed.
85. Grow tomatoes.  (already have beginnings of green beauties).
84. Play cards.
83. Teach kids to do cartwheels.
82.  Go wine tasting.
81.  Roadtrips to Comet Pizza, Union Post Office and Woodberry Kitchen for foods profiled on Food Network via Drive-ins Diner's and Dives and The Best Thing I ever Ate
80.  Go to a street fair in DC
79. Visit the library weekly.
78. Ride horses in Shenandoah
77. Hike trails. Camp.
76. Go to see Capital Steps. (DC Satire group).
75. Declutter basement.
74. Perfect bank shot.
73. Play Wii Rockband, get to intermediate level on drums.
72. Work on book.
71. Play piano.
70. Fish.
69. Take kids to the zoo.
68.  Build outrageous lego scene.
67. Draw trees in the wild.
66. Lemonade Stand.
65. Soduku Mastery
64. Play chess.
63. Pedicure.
62. Fireworks.
61. Take kids to a parade.
60. Watergun fights with kids.
59. Invite friends over for Bar-b-que.
58. Vacation with just husband.
57. Rent U-haul, remove junk from basement.
56. Roll coins.
55. Get kids to put on concert.
54. Capture the flag.
53. Write letters.
52. Puppet shows in the basement.
51. Learn how to podcast.
50. Repaint upstairs bathroom.
49. Go to the beach.
48. Ride in a canoe.
47. Plan Fall Festival.
46. Create two of the ten scrap books. 
45. Plant trees.
44. Learn how to cook fennel. (We have loads).
43. Play dates for kids.
42. Take daily walks.
41. Continue daily rosary.
40. tour college campus.
39. portrait of littlest.
38. Baptism of littlest.
37. Visit Texas
36. clean out closet of things that don't fit.
35. Cook Fish weekly.
34.  Visit Connecticut.
33. Go to Baseball games.
32. Arts and Crafts.
31. Learn to braid.
30. Go Karts.
29. Meteor Showers.
28. Visit the local (small) Aquarium.
27. Ride a roller coaster.
26. Put feet in both oceans.
25. Listen to Eagles and Jimmy Buffet almost endlessly. (Perfect summer music).
24. Assemble puzzles with kids.
23. Shop at Outlets.
22. Go to a polical rally.
21. Sit outside and just feel the sun.
20. Climb a tree.
19. Donate blood.
18. Extra mass per week for self.
17. Sleep in.
16. Try new foods I'm unfamiliar with --Indian, South American, Japanese.
15. Have brother and family over for a cook out.
14. Get my eyes checked.
13.  See a play.
12. Sand castles
11. Blow bubbles
10. Chalk drawings the entire driveway --and we have a long driveway!
9.  Live on fresh tomato salad.
8.  Help son catch frogs.
7.  Play Scrabble or Catan or Monopoly (Game night)
6.  Trips to Civil War battle fields.
5.  Go on a boat.
4.  See a whale.
3.  Make pies, because I'm too lazy to learn how to make jam.
2.  Become more educated on history.
1.  Not stress about what doesn't get done. 

Going to go do something now...have a great day!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

X-Men: No Class

Warning: Spoilers of a sort. I am ranting away, got my Catholic feminist hat on; buckle up!

I love the X-men.  As a kid, I bought them faithfully from 8th grade on; indeed I met my future husband because we both collected comic books.  I spied an X-men on his dresser when a group of friends had dragged me to this quad of boys' room for pizza.  We spent the next two hours discussing in nerdy detail, the plot twists and variant characters of Marvel's band of teenage mutants.  It resulted in me not leaving with my friends and getting a gentelmanly offer to walk me home in the rain to my college dorm across the street. (It was a mile and a half walk).   The result was a college romance that began three days into school and has lasted since, bringing 10 children in its wake.  

So not that I've established my bonifides as a fan, let me say I went to see the movie "X-men: First Class" last night with my best friend/husband and while I enjoyed the film, I have to pause and say "Boo. Hiss.  Baby, we've got a long way to go." to the producers/director/writers of this film. 

The men were beautifully rendered; complex and compelling with a gradual growth in maturity, friendship and accomplishment.   The story was great as you understood the relationship between Charles and Eric (Magneto) and the development/mistakes of the fellow male mutants that included humor, challenge, failure, loss and revenge.  There was much to recommend.

However, there were also five women in the movie as main characters; Mystique, Moria McTaggert, Magneto's Mom, Emma Frost and a girl who became a villianess who never warranted even a code name or a regular name.   With the exception of Magneto's mom, who was sent to the concentration camp and then shot before her son, all the other women were either naked or stripped to their very sexy lingerie.

I realize it's comic books, but it's 2011 people.  Garters people?  Really? 

Emma Frost wore that sort of corsette and not much else other than an occasionally discreet cape for playing peek-a-boo with the boys reading the magazine in the comic books of yore, so when they introduced the Hellfire Club, she was as dressed as she came in the original. 

Naturally, Moira McTaggert is a CIA operative trying to bust this secretive club and so she dresses as part of the entertainment to blend in; there are just scads of scantilly clad ladies walking everywhere in this club, but the back drop is Vegas and so we're not supposed to think too much about it. 

The nameless mutant woman with dragon fly wings who shoots acid naturally works as a stripper.  She gets called Angel as a nickname as a form of comic book irony. (She's a stripper but she's got a holy sounding name.  Cue titters).  We're supposed to feel her struggle and decision to become part of the bad group of mutants as a misguided attempt to maintain control over her world, as protection against being an object because of her mutant ability just as being a stripper allowed her to have control over her beauty by being the director of her sexual power beforehand.  Bleah. 

Then there's Mystique; a woman who has blue scaly skin, auburn red hair and yellow eyes.  She first comes into Charles Xavier's home as a ten year old thief but naturally, she's au naturale.  We're not supposed to think too much about this either, as she's Les Miserable type poor and Xavier's ultra aristocrat rich and offers her a home.   It's set in the 1950's but again, and maybe my studying of history is weak but I don't remember naked ten year old urchins running around Connecticut in any studies of that time period, blue, mutant or otherwise.  She later morphs into a beautiful blonde to blend in, but attempts and fails to seduce Xavier and the Beast as she walks around in a terry cloth white robe whenever she decides go blue to be "the real her."  She eventually gets to bed with Magneto who actually says, "I want you to be free."  Got that?  Get naked and you're real.  Get in bed with a man and you're free.  Ugh. Boo.  Bad. Stupid. Irritating. Annoying.  All of that. 

As a side note, neither Mystique or Angel even bother to train to hone their abilities or advance, while the men are shown struggling and engaged in self discovery about the limits or lack thereof of their gifts. They just watch.


I was mostly annoyed because X-men is part of my own story and I'd like to have been able to tell my older kids who also love Manga and superheroes and read comics and play hero clix and Yugi-oh! and Magic that they could go, but I don't want my daughters thinking this is what women do.  And I don't want my sons thinking this is what women should do.  So I can't say, "Go, you'll have a blast."  I can't say, "It's just mental eye candy."  Because the film sends a message I don't want and that ought to have gone extinct long before the Cuban missle crisis that is set as the backdrop of this storyline. 

Here's the bottom line, Hollywood needs to evolve it's mental DNA past using women as a backdrop and making their sexual coming of age in the bedroom as the ultimate manifestation of a female's identity.  This should be older than old by now, and this sort of idea should not get a reboot by virtue/vice of a remake of an old comic. 

For those who say "Hey Sherry, it's the X-men.  Lighten up."  I'd say, "It could have been so much better if they'd just grown up a bit."   Sigh.

Friday, June 3, 2011

You Have a Large Family If...

It's my version of you might be a Redneck. 

1) You Might Have a large family IF...the Suburban is the small car.

2) You Might Have a large family if...the only kids who get new clothes are the oldest two of opposite gender.

3) You Might Have a large family if...the ice cream vendor, shoe store and pizza place that had a frequent buyer program had to adjust their wordings to prevent you from collecting every time you visited.

4) if...every  time you pull up to the drive thru, there is a chorus of cheers from the staff as their quota for the day has been met.

5) if every time you pull up to the drive thru and there is a new person at the counter, that person faints after the order is given.

6) You Might Have a large family if every time you GO INTO a restaurant...wait...we don't do that.

7) You Might Have a large family if...you are never finished with doing laundry, you've just paused inbetween cycles.

8) You Might Have a large family if...when you get out of the car, it's a parade.

9) You Might Have a large family if...when you get into the car, it's a major victory.

10) You Might Have a large family if..when speaking with your spouse, you divide your children into the sentient, middle triumvirate and non sentient for classification purposes.

11) You might have a large family if...the Catholic school your kids attend has to create a whole new payscale for the per kid discount because of you.  

12) If you've ever been asked, "Do you know the Duggars?"

13) If every meal is rather like Thanksgiving...you might have a large family.

14) If diapers have been a staple on your grocery list for more than a decade...you might have a large family.

15) If college tuition will be a staple for more than a decade...you might have a large family.

16) If you get audited because they can't believe you had another kid...you might have a large family.

17) If your insurance calls for the same reason...you might have a large family.

18) If when you schedule appointments for the dentist, the receptionist clears out a whole day for you.

19) If the OBGYN has given you your own personal parking place.

20) If you own the birthday numerical candles and can represent every age from 0 through 1,216 because of prior duplications; you might have a large family.

21) If you've ever fantasized about asking the church if you could have two of their older pews to put in your kitchen at the dinner table to manage seating, you might have a large family.

22) If you clean your kitchen floor three times a day with a shop vac...okay, that just might be wierd me, but you might have a large family.

23) If when your five year old asks, "What's my college plan?" you point to the 18 year old...you might have a large family.

24) If when your eleven year old asks, "What's YOUR retirement plan?" You point to all of them...you might have a large family.

and 25) If you haven't had a life without a toddler in nearly two decades...you might have a large family.

Join in the fun if you have a few suggestions in the combox.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Small Success Thursday

It's week four of Small Success Thursday!  Victories are those moments we stole for ourselves, those times we got to really enjoy the people we love, or battled back the chaos that threatens to choke off the joy of being. 

This week was pretty great:

1) I made a pitch for an article with a new market.
2) went to bed on time three nights out of four! (It is an accomplishment I promise you).
3) exercised three days this week. 
4) read part of a book.
5) I am caught up on the laundry --sort of...there are three washes waiting, but that's caught up around here.
6) Skyped with my Mom.  It was very cool.
7) Had a date night on Friday to see a ball game. 

Got some victories to share?  Join in in the comment section or link up using Mr. Linky.  Be sure to visit everyone's and leave a comment; it's part of the fun!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Good Night Everybody

You know those holograms that every future show has that are so life like people fall in love, forget themselves and can even die as a result of entering into the false reality so completely.  I want one of those for my house.  I don't want it because I need more excitement in my life, or because I can't easily travel to far off exotic locales.  I want it so I can project a large Bengal tiger parked just outside my children's bedrooms. 

The tiger will only come out at night.  I will give out the notice that it will eat the first child that comes out of their room after nine.  It's not that they can't hang from the chandeliers and read until their eyeballs collapse, it's that I don't want to see or hear from people under the age of 21 after 21 hundred hours.  Mom is closed.  She's done. She's tired and she doesn't want commentary on if she's using the computer, eating mint chocolate chip ice cream or slumming watching on demand cooking shows.  She wants off hours and from 9 o'clock to 5 a.m, it's the equivalent of Mom miller time.  All children wandering shall be fed to the tiger. 

I know, that sounds harsh, but it's not like I haven't tried.  Even when we've done the whole routine of stories and tooth brushing and prayers and I love yous as I turn out the lights and tuck in people, I've still been forced to play the parent equivalent of whack-a-mole.  They're inventive about this business.  My children come up or downstairs as the case may be for water, toothbrushes, to have me kill a stink bug, remind me to make cookies for tomorrow, to get a towel or a shirt for the next day, to pack their back pack with their homework that I'd been asking them to pack for the past four hours, to tell me what they forgot to say all during the day when I'd asked how their day was, to use the bathroom, to show me a bruise they got on the playground three days ago that they just noticed, or that they've lost one of their shoes, ripped their pants and that their little sister is snoring.   That's just today's sampling. 

But since that might be frowned upon by modern parenting standards, I'll settle for a holographic version of reality for just me, a faux version of my own house with the clock reading 9:01 pm, and all the kids either in their rooms or asleep....ahhh...the soothing unreality of unrealized dreams of people dreaming projected in real time.  Nobody pinch me.  

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!