Sunday, July 31, 2011

Part of the Crowd

Whenever we can't rouse everyone to get out the door for the 8:30, the 5:00 becomes our fallback position for meeting our weekly obligation to attend Sunday mass. Why it's harder to get to the ten than to wait the whole day to load them into the van just before the witching hour when they'll be 1) fully awake 2) annoyed because I broke up something they were doing and 3) within minutes of feeling like they haven't eaten and 4) unable to be bribed with donuts, I don't know. 

But when we sleep in past 8, I set the alarm for 4 o'clock.  At 3:59 pm I begin inspecting my offspring, sending some to go laundry diving to find suitable attire, asking others to state "when they last showered." and if the answer is not immediately forthcoming, to remedy that problem.  Today, I looked at my youngest son and in a fit of parental vanity, I gave him a haircut at 4:15.  I managed not to make him look like either a girl or Moe of the three stooges.  It was a victory.

It was getting near crunch time.  Two children could not find their shoes, a third was looking for her long pants and a forth wearing a turtleneck and sport shorts.  Three of these problems were solved, but for the life of me, I could not locate my second grader son's shoes.  His flip flops had bit the dust two weeks ago and so he only had one working set of footware. 

We prayed to Saint Anthony and I begin looking in earnest while the oldest begins loading the car.

I searched the upstairs and found six shoes, five sippy cups and a load of laundry. After searching the downstairs and finding three more shoes, a sippy cup, three paper plates and three abandoned soda bottles and two loads of laundry, I've lost my sense of humor.  I could now shoe everyone in my family except the son in question.

Digging through all the unfolded laundry, I strove and failed to keep my temper as I counted approximately 5.5 tons of unsorted washed and dryed clothing that everyone including me had ignored for the better part of a week. The clutter, disorganization and chaos of not being able to get out the door after almost an hour of trying had gotten to me.  

My son is very sweet so he was undeterred by my grousing about how everyone else was in the car.  "When was the last time you KNOW you wore shoes?" I asked.  While he stopped to think, I finally railed at heaven in a half nag, all rant type prayer, "God, I want to get my family to mass.  I want to get them there on time! We started at 4.  It's ten minutes to 5! Please help us find them so we can go! I WANT TO GO! I NEED to go!"  About this time, two of my children return to the house for pre-church bathroom pit stops and I'm trying desperately to reign it back in because the temptation is to say, "NO! GET BACK IN THE CAR!" but those sorts of outbursts will lead to further disasters so I can almost hear God telling me to cool my heels and not worry, we'll get there.  It's hard to accept.  "I just want the shoes found God." I plead in my head.

My son is a chatty boy.  He talks when he thinks about things, "...not when I was out on my scooter, not when we were using the slip-n-slide, not when we shot Peter's airplane and it broke, not when we ate ice cream outside..." His face flashed in recognition but I was deep in Mom irritation because his catalog of events indicated these shoes were going on at least four days lost.  I did not see his joyful knowing eyes until he brough back his backpack from Tuesday when we went to the city pool for the day.   "Remember Mom?" he asked as he unzipped, "You said just to put them in here when we were leaving because my feet were wet." 

I'm feeling three things: 1) Mentally, I'm all wet and 2) If you can go six days without noticing you've lost your sneakers, you're having a heck of a summer and 3) God laughs a lot at my expense and I deserve all of it.

We made it by the skin of our teeth and I was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by just getting there and then I saw her, a girl of seven years of age in the open foyer area at the back of the church, turning   I know the mom was dying inside as she saw her darling girl practicing gymnastics but honestly, I needed that absurd moment as I sat and hugged my once shoeless son close to me.  The Gospel is about the feeding of the 5,000.  Jesus looked out at the crowd and was moved with pity for them.  I have to think in that crowd, He saw mothers who got mad at their seven year old sons for losing their shoes and girls who turned cartwheels during his parables.  And he fed them all.  Here we were, all of us, part of the messy crowd that didn't give Christ room, didn't give Jesus time to grieve because we are so very needy and He was moved to work a miracle, to feed everyone.

Thank God.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Things I've Heard and Learned This Summer

10) No matter what you call one wants the green popcicles.

9) If they haven't had a sunburn at least once, they haven't been outside enough.

8) It is always meal time...unless you are serving green popcicles.

7) Four year old daughter turned to me in all seriousness after I finished fixing her ponytail on top, "Mom....Always Remember....Never poop in  your pants." 

6) Inhaling does not make the car get slimmer when your son is driving too close to a mailbox. Imaginary breaks don't work either.

5) Whenever you stop at a fresh produce stand, put half of what you want to buy will be full before you can get to it.

4) Whenever you go to the library, put half of the books back, so you'll lose fewer.

3) Dinner on Pool day is funnel cake.  Anyone who objects can help themselves to the green popcicles.

2) You only get a bath on pool day if you ate a green popcicle.

1) Bringing Mom her laptop, a diet coke and a dish of ice cream is an effective bribe against me ever bringing up Summer Math books.  But in reality, you could just bring me a bottle of water and a lime popcicle, I've come to appreciate them...if only from repeated exposure.  As for the math books, it doesn't take much...(I don't like them either).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Small Success Thursday

The week speeds by, it seems to me like it's always almost Thursday...and today it is.  So we celebrate those small successes of the past week; those moments we did little things with great love, those times we triumphed or at least started to tackle the minutia that eats up our energy and our day, and all those milestones that make up the daily course of living.  

Join in! Just use Mr. Linky (I made sure it worked this time!) to add your name below and on your blog, declare your triumphs for the week.  Be sure to visit the blogs of those who leave a link here, that's part of the fun and frankly, it serves as great inspiration for the next week to see what all of you are doing! 

This week I:

1) bought Wii Fit.  I'd tell you it's fun and I love it, but I have to wait my turn to play.  The kids have been on  it since it showed up.  (I've squeezed in about an hour and had a blast but hoping to have better results than that once they get bored). 

2) Shopped at Borders (sad thing that they're closing, I am already missing that store) and sat down and read yesterday (while waiting for my turn at the Wii).

3) Fasted from the Computer yesterday...all day.   Trying to fast from something once a week at least, just to keep my own self in check.

4) Took the kiddos (just five of them) to the pool on Tuesday.  It was a blast and Faith learned the backstroke and I even got to go down the waterslide three time because I had a friend with me who tag teamed with the littles. 

5) Got through two days with husband out of town for work.  It never gets easy because he's so a part of me and our family, but it was less hard.  (I know, it's nothing compared to the sacrifices of others and it really isn't, but it's a little victory and I'm glad he's home). 

Now it's your turn!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Few

"Hey Mom? Can I have a few friends over to play video games?"
"Sure. That sounds like fun."

So today when I was getting ready to go to the store, I asked casually how many were coming for the evening's festivities.  "Around 12."  I recovered from the initial shock of numbers to ask the follow up question.  "How many did you invite?"   "20." 

"20?" I stared at my child with incredulity.  "I said a few.  You asked to invite a few. How many is a few?"  I shook my head.  "For the record," I held up my hand.  "Less than one hand worth of fingers is a few."  But then I went out to get the pizza and chips for the designated number.

Alone in the car, I had time to think.  How could we get to 12? Why didn't I ask?  Shouldn't I be happy he has 12 who want to come? Maybe living in a family of 12 has radically skewed the perception of many, some and a few for all my kids and I should make this clear now, or maybe I'm still new to this having older kids bit of parenting and so I don't speak teen. I called my brother who teaches sophomores and juniors at a private high school in Houston.

"How many is a few to teen boys?"  I asked.
"12-15" he answered.  He laughed. 

So I picked up the pizzas, added a few more sodas and a few bags of chips.  When I got home, I told him, "Tomorrow, I have a few chores for you." 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fireworks Bluff

I always thought the fireworks were for me. My birthday is July 3rd, and so naturally it seemed that everyone including aunts, uncles and cousins would come to the beach for a weekend party, complete with a bonfire, all day fishing and fireworks at the end. I expected that every year I’d see everyone and we’d feast on Texas sheet cake and vanilla Bluebell ice cream. The cake would still be steaming from the icing that Mom would make, and I’d sit on the deck even if the mosquitoes were bad, drinking a sweaty coke-cola and eating from a paper bowl. The fireworks would go up and my birthday would end with a dazzling display while I petted our pet lab, Midnight who sat hoping I’d drop a bit of vanilla her way.

Most years, it happened like that and I loved it. Then, I turned sixteen.

Being stuck with countless cousins at a family beach house minus a single peer, even a related one, unable to get any rock-n-roll or persuade my crazy Uncle with the tattoos to change the station from Country Western, I did what any teen would do. I sulked around the house, moaning about how boring it was to be stuck at a place with no television, no stereo, no chance of real fun. The water was bad for fishing, too muddy, too rough even for redfish. Body surfing in the morning had left my arms and legs scraped from the shells and sunburned, which didn’t improve my adolescent mood.

Sensing my extreme displeasure, my uncle tried to cheer me up with the prospect of a bonfire that night. Momentarily, the gloom lifted, but a lightning crack over the water crushed that possibility before it could even start. So it was that my uncles performed an intervention on their sixteen year old niece and taught her poker. We spent the rest of the day in that un-airconditioned room at the giant butcher block table and I became the Queen of cards, though to be honest, I think they threw a few hands my way early on. My mother still served the cake but I scarcely noticed it as I was deep in a hand with a full house and wondering if my Uncle really had a straight or was just bluffing. With pennies, nickels and dimes on the line, it mattered and I found myself down to my last forty two cents.

I had three nines. Hardly a great hand but I was irritated and wanted to win more than anything. I put in a red chip, a dime and I watched as three of my uncles folded. My dad and Uncle Mike remained. He bumped the pot a dime. I met it. My dad bumped it a dime. Uncle Mike met it and I met it and bumped it my last twelve cents worth of chips. Dad folded. Uncle Mike met my bet. We then were given the opportunity to improve our hand. “How many cards do you want?” he asked.

“None.” I answered.

“None?” Uncle Mike looked at me. “You can’t improve your hand at all?”

It was a bluff, of course I could improve on three nines but the whole goal was to win and asking for two new cards at this point would have shown weakness. (That’s what I tell myself, but the reality was, I didn’t know what I was doing). Uncle Mike folded. I took the pot.

“Wait a minute. What did you have? Show your hand.” He demanded.

“Technically, Sherry doesn’t have to show you her hand since you folded.” My dad corrected his brother.

“Three nines.” I proudly announced.
The ribbing over being beaten by a niece over three nines by his four brothers was great. I had a second piece of cake and the cousins came in to say they’d managed to start a fire and were going to shoot off bottle rockets into the sea.

So today, when my teen came to me upset because they couldn't go to the movie they'd hoped (sold out), I knew of only one solution.  Poker anyone? 

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's So Hot...

We have to make jokes about it.

It's so hot...

10) If you take in a deep breath outside, you can almost feel your lungs melting.

9) Children spontaneously combust while unloading the car....Don't worry, I gave them Popsicles and they got better.

8) One can almost see the plants trying to will themselves back under the earth in search of coolness.

7) Yesterday, the County closed the pools on account of heat...true story.

6) Mercury called NASA; it would like its weather back.

5) My kids entertained themselves with an ice cube melting race.  (It beats TV...but not by much).

4) Squinting in the shade.  Not a good sign.

3) Car tops, driveways and the outside of a grill all double as frying pans. Experiments have been conducted/and or observed. Grocery bags stick, bare feet burn and unwise insects that land...fry.

2) Considering seriously turning nocturnal. It would be far easier to enforce bedtimes. 

1) Reminiscing fondly about Snowmageddon.

Blindsided by Children

Inspired by Top Ten Things You Don't See Coming as a Parent.  I started by making a comment, and it turned into this...

10) Those hoary chestnut stories your parents told you that made you roll your eyes…you’ll break them out at a moment’s provocation with nary a touch of shame. Okay…maybe a little.

9) Making your kids eat food they hate is not nearly as satisfying or entertaining as you thought it would be when you were a kid and were told some day, you could exact revenge the same way your parents did on you.  Thirty years is too long to wait to make someone else eat lima beans...and it means I have to eat them good.

8) Everything you learned as a kid in school that stayed…has changed. Everything that didn’t stick, got harder.

7) The mileage of diapers varies by price.

6) No matter how much they love it...if you buy it in bulk, one of the following things will happen:

            a) the kids get sick of it and won't eat it
            b) you make them eat it and they get sick
            c) in an effort to keep the peace, you decide after they've eaten half, to serve it occasionally, once they get unsick of it...and it
                         1) goes stale
                         2) becomes invisible or
                         3) gets thrown out during a cleaning frenzy. 

Bottom line you can take to the bank believe it: No matter what you do...You Won't save money.

5) No one sees the dirty laundry but you.

4) Those magazine tips on how to get your kids to hang up towels, go to bed, eat veggies without a fuss?  They lie.  They all lie. 

3) Kids never look bigger than when you bring a new one home.

2) Not that there's always one but...there is no configuration of children in a car that cannot result in a fight.

1) Despite all this, the human heart can always get bigger.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Small Success Thursday

It's Thursday and today, we take stock of the past week; of the small things we did that were in fact, big victories.  Motherhood is replete with these sorts of victories, over pounds, laundry, bills, homework, splinters and drawings on the wall.  If we do not recognize that these small daily things reveal sacrifice, devotion and love, we will succumb to the despair brought on by dull joyless dutiful grunt work.  All service must be love, or it exhausts more than the body.  But the trick is, we have to be mindful of what we do if we are to serve out of love; absent that mindfulness, we can turn what is supposed to be a gift into drudgery.  We don't always, but it's an easy slip I know for me.   

With that in mind, today we celebrate the little things we did with great love.  Please join in and visit the others who participate.  Use Mr. Linky and on your own blog, list three or more ways in which this week, by grace, humor, determination and love, you were victorious over minutia, dust bunnies, errands and the demands of modern life.  Then leave a comment.

This week I:

1) Took four kids to get hair cuts.

2) did a one on one shopping (Borders) with my daughter that probably is most hungry for this sort of time. Told her to ask me to do it again. She beamed.

3) Visited with my sister and we promised to go to adoration in our separate towns. (I made it last night!) The best description I have for being in front of the Blessed Sacrament, is Oasis.  You don't realize how thirsty  you are until you drink.

4) Thought the reading with kids would get derailed by last week's vacation (it was great by the way), but we picked back up and I can't wait for them to find out what happened to Eustance on Dragon Island tomorrow. 

5) Will meet this morning with my daughter's teachers to discuss learning styles and teaching strategies. 

6) Let a few go to see Harry Potter on their own, they loved it. --though oldest son said when Voldemort hugs Malfoy --most awkward hug ever.  (Three rows behind him snorted their sodas). We're going tonight. (Date Night).

7) Didn't gain weight on vacation --a victory of not going backwards.

Now it's your turn.

*****ARGH! Mr. Linky failed me.  :P
Here's Mr. Linky. 

I'll put all the blogs who commented onto Mr. Linky. Thanks!
(Had a morning meeting and a 12:00 appt. so I couldn't check the blog until 2 or I would have corrected this sooner). 

Everything is Grist for the Mill

Last week I was in San Diego. We toured Midway, the aircraft carrier.

Returning from the trip, I decided to put my new knowledge of how things got done to work. I summoned the largest possible number of children (8) as the youngest two don't have the capacity to contribute in this endeavor. I had them line up from tallest to smallest without explaining.

I then told them how multi-million dollar aircrafts could get destroyed and lives lost if so much as a single bolt was loose on the deck and that the soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder and walked the length of the ship inspecting to make sure all was clear.

Wearing what we affectionately refer to as the "hat of command," (it says Zookeeper), I ordered a FOD (foreign object damage) walk across the living room.  The walk afforded them a view of many potential threats to any wayward aircraft that might consider making our home their runway, shoes, my little ponies, hotwheels, legos and books were amongst the chief offenders, not to mention the batgirl cape, Nintendo DS, a pair of sunglasses and four throw pillows and blankets. "I want it all clear!" I barked.

There were some that could be said to utter mutinous remarks, but the lower ranks were clearly enthused for the idea and ran about sweeping the room in eager anticipation of a F-18 arriving soon.

Fortunately for me, my middle son is something of a wit. He fired up the paper airplanes and his remote controlled flying saucer after the FOD had been completed to the delight of all. The oldest followed suit and googled some top gun music for added ambiance. 

Hopefully, they'll be just as enthused when I introduce rolling one's laundry.
Somehow I doubt it. 

Maybe next vacation, we'll try the Marines.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Destruction in Their Pathway

Look at any baby store, any parent magazine and you will discover that the home we live in 24-7 is unsafe for children and requires at least two thousand dollars worth of specialized equipment to help them reach the tender age of four. But for all the talk of how one has to make a house safe for an infant, the reality is steeper than a newbie parent can possibly bear.

Alas, those veterans out there know it well; a baby needs no protection from the house. The house needs protection from the baby. As my Grandfather and Grandmother would say (and they raised nine), "Destruction in their pathway! Destruction in their pathway!"

The following policies have been devised over years of extensive research (born of hard knocks), to prevent maximum property devaluation from occurring before said toddler reaches the age of reason or the domicile is condemned.

Rules for Toddler Proofing a Home.

Rule #1. Ban writing equipment. As of this moment, all pens, markers, crayons, pencils, paint brushes, nail polish applicators, lip sticks, high lighters, sharpies, white out, paint, India ink, mascara and glue are officially illegal. They may not be purchased. They may not be borrowed. They may not be accidentally brought home in one’s purse or briefcase or backpack. Older children in school will have to complete their assignments either before coming home or on the computer. Those needing to use actual writing utensils will be taken to a separate location, like a library, neighbor’s house, or large rural vacant field and allowed to return only after the assignment has been completed and a thorough body search has revealed no contraband crayons, pens, pencils or markers are entering the vicinity.

Please understand that these precautions may not protect your walls from toddler creativity entirely. Once, I found my daughter drawing on the window with a banana; inspiring rule #2.

Rule #2. Hide Consumables. All food shall be placed at a height of 60, no… they can use chairs and a broom, 70, no… they can climb, 84 inches or higher to prevent scavenging. This includes traditional foods thought to be the preferred choices of toddlers, like multi-colored gold fish, Oreo cookies, apples and juice boxes, and some items that most adults would consider at the very least, unusual; examples of this alternative eating include free basing Maple Syrup, chomping a stick of butter like a candy bar and grabbing whole fists of ground beef before it’s cooked.

Rule #3. No Car For You! Like your vehicle? Hide your keys. Why? Car keys are fun. They make excellent experimental objects for scratching things like dishwashers, wall paper and actual cars. Keep keys in a box on the top shelf of the cabinet to guarantee maximum safety or be willing to suffer the damages plus the embarrassment of being awakened on a Sunday by the annoying car alarm going off that turns out to be yours.

Rule # 4. Constant Vigilance! Consider installing a close circuit TV and an ankle bracelet. Why? Because toddlers do 16 things in the time it takes an average adult to pour a cup of coffee. In the time you’ve spent reading these tips, your anniversary watch just went into the pewter pitcher in the lower cabinet. Because that particular pitcher is the one you use for special occasions, you’ll find your watch next Mother’s Day preferably before you go to pour in some orange juice.

Upside: You’ll find out all your kid does.
Downside: Humanity cannot always bear that much reality.

Rule #5.  Fairness and Order. Explain to older children it is unjust to use the fact that they are living with an essentially non civilized entity with opposable thumbs to their own advantage. The two year old did not mess up your room or strip the bed or leave the toilet scrubber in the middle of the room. Okay, maybe that last part, but own your own mess. Even SHE can’t have done all of this.
Veteran Tip: If you implement rule 4, you can even produce evidence, though in some cases, you might opt to destroy the tapes.

Rule # 6. Contain Yourself. All liquids stored in the house, be they ketchup or water, Windex or shampoo, will be triple sealed to prevent a "help yourself" mentality that has lead to more than a few moments of hyperventilating on the part of Mom. They will also be stored out in the garage. Yes it’s a pain but keep reminding yourself of how long it took to clean up the olive oil from the carpet and you will see the wisdom of this system.

Drinks served at meal time will be in sippy cups for all family members. No exceptions. This will prevent any unfortunate run-ins with electronic equipment that does not like liquid. Cabernet with a touch of ice does surprisingly well in a plastic container.

Special Veteran Note: Do not mix up sippy cups!

Take lots of pictures of her when she draws her arm entirely purple with the one marker left in the house, or when she stomps on grapes in the kitchen. This impossible stage fortunately is blessedly short, and you’ll want proof for when she has two year olds herself one day of why you can just listen and laugh.

Editor’s Note: These six rules were compiled from the antics of nine different children going through the stage of being two. Cupie Doll, a.k.a. Miss Chief, it wasn’t all you.

Mothering Spirit

My mom put me wise to a beautiful blog called Mothering Spirit.

It is well written and well said, beauty on a page. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pensive Ramblings Today

Mother Teresa talked about loving Jesus in the dark night of her soul.  Those words tremble for me, as I spend much of my time seeking to be light, whether it is through humor or feasting or celebrating, playing and punning, praying and writing and dancing. I feel pulled to the luminous mysteries, to the Holy Spirit's fire, and to the beauty of the Catholic faith in my every day. 

It's not that I fear doubt or darkness or fail to notice the broken nature of this world.  But  beauty sometimes comes from the relief of things, when one who is suffering is given comfort, when forgiveness is accepted or asked for or embraced, when we reconcile, when we surrender our pride and our preconceptions in favor of humility and trust. Stars like the Saints, are easier to stare at than the sun, but stars like the Saints, are called to imitate the Son. We are small and far away from Christ, and being sinners, often we fail or fear or refuse to shine.

I hear Mother Theresa's longing for her Beloved and can only imagine that great thirst she had, knowing each time that even if she received silence in her prayers, she had already been blessed beyond count and it was her job to hold onto that experience and allow it to fill her lifetime. And I can sense the hardness of that blessed cross she took on and embraced, and how fiercely she loved.

Every once in a while, I get to a point and say, "What am I supposed to be doing? Is this it?"  because I spend a lot of time just triageing my life.  The laundry, the errands, the cooking and the cleaning, the reading to this one, diapering that one, pick up minutia can crowd the day to the point that I don't ever come up for air. 

Having had a week of air, it made me pensive as I returned to start back up again the familiar routines that had prior to vacation, been done reflexively.  It wasn't that things were done without love, but they were done mostly, without thought. Love unravels when it becomes thoughtless, so I asked the Holy Spirit, "What now?"

And I have been still, strangely still since.  I know this pause is important even as it vexes me.  I know that feasting daily leaves us bloated, there are fasting seasons in our lives for a reason, to make us better anticipate and appreciate all the times the table is set lavishly.  Loneliness makes us take in all the times we are surrounded with love.  Being sick makes us remember what a gift it is to be well.  Ten children is a sort of permanent feast, that can be like weeds, a source of riches that can choke off the devotion necessary with duty if one goes along too long thoughtlessly.  So God is demanding I be more awake, pay more attention, listen better. 

I know all these things in my head, but my heart still chaffes at having a time of dryness the same way my body hates when I put it on a diet.   It is better for me to have this stillness, to know it is working on me in ways I cannot comprehend and to pray through it, embrace it and accept that this is not endless, it just feels that way because I'm used to an easy prayer life.  It has always been a blessing, it has always been easy for me to pray.

When I have writer's block, it feels as if I will never write again, or that if I do, it will be junk and as I do not want to write junk, it makes me fearful to write. The only thing that cures it, is writing, even writing junk, writing hard stuff no one will read, writing anything that comes from my heart, even if it is fearful to reveal.

Spiritual writer's block is a temptation to stop listening, because I'm not feeling it.  It is the temptation of the age, if you are not having a  transcendent experience, you must shop through the various writers and preachers and churches and methods of meditation and whatnot until you find a way to obtain that feeling.  The relationship with God becomes the mental equivalent of a mood ring with an on-off switch.  God does not want us to be so shallow, so He keeps Himself mysterious and unobtainable by magic or physical means.  We cannot will or command God, we can only submit out of humility and embrace out of love.

So I have asked, "What now?" and I wait...wondering if I've received what is supposed to fill me for a lifetime, and being impatient, am an ungrateful peevish greedy child because I'm always asking for more. 
But the answer is in part, "Yes."  To do this, all of this but with more zeal, more love, more thought, to be the one preparing the feast, not supping, and to trust that Christ will fill me up beyond myself with love.

The theme this year is "to wait in joyful hope."
Thanks for waiting with me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

NNJ Farewell

I debated what I was going to do with the Friday post. I thought about borrowing from Frank Sinatra's Send in the Clowns performance, but I did not want a lawsuit for copyright infringment. I thought about borrowing parodies of Send in the Clowns, but I didn't want a lawsuit for copyright infringment and finally I thought about singing Send in the Clowns, but I did not want a lawsuit for damage I would do to the reciepiants of my performance. So, I am here bidding you adieu as we return to our regularly scheduled programming, I hope I have been a decent stand-in. Thanks for putting up with me for a week.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Small Success Thursday

We celebrate small successes in our lives on Thursday!  So it's time to consider how in the past week, we got to do little things with great love! 

Welcome everyone!  All you have to do is use Mr. Linky and post on your blog those things you did this past week that helped your health, hearth and home become more what it should be.  Be sure and visit the people who link here and leave a comment, it's part of the fun!

This week I:
1) went on vacation! Did I mention I went on vacation? Yes I did, so I'm at the beach today kicking back and hopefully, enjoying doing very little or racing through the city of San Diego trying to see everything. Either way, it will be fun. 

2) Got to see my youngest daughter baptized.  Saturday, she became part of the Catholic church and it was lovely.

3) Cleaned out my closet --it lost 50 pounds of drycleaner plastic and hangers.  And organized my bathroom.

4) Worked on Helen.  Really enjoying writing on her now.

Now it's your turn!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Pet

I always wanted a pet. I never got the one I wanted.

Sure other kids wanted dogs, cats, fish, turtles, snakes, and gerbils, but I wouldn't hear of those. No, the pet I wanted was an Gray African Elephant. Why?
It's simple. It is quite possibly the ideal pet.

Having an elephant for heavy lifting, is much better for insurance purposes than the crane, truck, and steam roller you might need. Weeds a problem? Just let your elephant loose in the woods, you've solved your plant problem, and more than likely got those pesky deer. Even if the deer made it, they are not going to mess with a guard elephant. That goes double for burglars and door to door salesmen. People are going to be leery of anything you might tell to "sit" as a means of punishment.

No parking spaces at the parking lot+Pachyderm= No Problem. Just give the other cars a little nudge. Its even better on the freeway, because no one want to be That guy who cuts off an endangered species.

Finally, having an elephant would be a boon to my social life. Big talk at parties! Everyone wants to pet it and ride, and if some guy shows up with an Asian Elephant you can just say "That's nice but you know, mine's bigger than yours."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not Named Jeffy's Vacation

You may or may not know my mother is in sunny San Diego right now. You probably do not know that I was the one who wanted to go to San Diego this year. That's right! She stole my idea!

What is so wrong about four teenage guys and their plan to traverse the nation in love of comic books and all things nerdy, culminating in the San Diego Comi-Con?

So Mom is off at sunny beaches, restaurants recommended by Food Network, and in all likelihood nerdy things I'm missing out on. Comi-Con doesn't start till next week. In my personal opinion she's setting up a booth and finding people to man it. She didn't want me going, because I would find out about her alter-ego as a comic-book author. Not as impressive as super hero, but geeky enough that you might want to hide it from people.

I think its cool Mom. (What does that say about me?) Your double life is no reason to prevent me from joining a group of inexperienced at driving teenage guys road tripping all the way across the country!

Wanting me to be at a local theater for the midnight showing of the Captain America movie might be a legitimate reason though...

Episode VI: The Return of the Not Named Jeffy

Attention proud reader, you have checked this blog expecting insightful theology, in-depth political thoughts, and high brow comedy. So unfortunately for you it is time for a week of guest blog posts while my mother is on vacation. Some of you may remember I've had a few guest posts before, and like when Family Circus is taken over by Jeffy, when this blog is taken over by Not Named Jeffy, the quality takes a dive. For those of you who can't bear it, my mother will be back Saturday, and will still post the small success Thursday. Today, Tommorow, Wednesday, and Friday will have posts by me for your amusement.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer Taste

To everything there is a season, and for some reason, despite having despised country music all my childhood and bemoaned the lack of a top 40 station when I'd go to camp for 5 weeks in the Texas Hill Country, the roots were set to create a sense of place through it in me.  It gestated 45 years before it emerged.

Today I was introducing my father-in-law who loves country music to  Will Clark Green, my cousin.  Within the first strains, I discovered a hidden homesickness.

Maybe it was the magic and beauty of music that can hit you at the right moment, but I could feel Texas.  I hadn't expected to but though the songs had nothing to do with it, they evoked the sticky heat at the beach house when you've got grill duty for the hamburgers and as much as they smell great, all you want to do is go inside or to the front because it's so darn hot.   I could imagine sipping/chugging a real coca-cola and watching the sun slugglishly turn the sky fuschia and orange as it dropped into the horizon.  I could hear the medly of cars and trucks occassionally interrupting the soft roar of the ocean and chirps of various bugs with their buzzing by on the two lane road. 

I flooded with feelings, I wanted my cousins, Aunts, Uncles, all of them. I wanted the beach, my brothers, sister, Mom and Dad, the sand, the mosquitoes, the beach house, all those things and people, some tangible, some out of reach in this life, some gone, all of it. I wanted that mass like moment of my life that had been in ordinary time when we'd all come together at the now lost place to eat, to play, to swim, to sing. 

 My father-in-law liked the music and I mentally made a note to order him a CD, maybe see if Will would sign it for him, but I sat there savoring all those memories of years of summers collapsed into the chords and tonal quality of my cousin's voice.   It made me happy and homesick at the same time. 

I'll still not fully converted, but I suddenly got it.  For the first time, I'd tasted the nature of this music, the long slow development that created emotional touch points; it was like eating true barbecue that someone had sweated over for hours. 

Thanks Cousin.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pre-Vacation Jitters

Any parent worthy of the title preparing for a trip goes through more emotional upheaval than the lava suspended in a lamp. 

I'm going on vacation! I can read! I can sleep in! I don't have to share my lunch!  I don't have to make lunch! I don't have to change diapers! It will be the first time in ages! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Then, one of your babies comes up and cuddles up on your lap, says, "Huggies" and asks you to read a book and you start to shake in remorse.

I am a terrible person. I'm leaving my babies! How could I even THINK of leaving my babies?  Maybe I'll take one with me....and you start considering how to break it to your husband that there will be three of us on this trip.

And then they come to you with a fight over the remote to the Wii and the fact that one of the kids refuses to use her own Mii on the Wii because she doesn't want to hurt her pro stats while testing out her tennis game.

We're going away in two days.  Come on come on come on come on.  Time is CRAWLING.  It's time to pack. I can't believe I'm going!  We'll get to see a baseball game from start to finish.  He bought tickets to a play for us!  I can swim without worrying that anyone other than me is drowning.  Maybe I'll even try surfing.  That would be cool!  And I can eat fish without commentary like EWWWWW GROSSS!  I can also wear a swimsuit without the commentary like EWWW and Mom, you should exercise.  Yes, it's been said by tactful ones.  I'm no longer remorseful.  I'm anxious, let's GET Going!

My littlest one crinkles up her nose to smile at me as I change her into a new outfit and stop to admire her beautiful dimples in her cheeks and her buddah like form.   I breathe in the perfume that is a baby's, my baby's scent.  There is no way I'm getting on that plane.  How could I possibly leave this little dumpling?  She's adorable and she's so little.

MOM! The upstairs bathroom toilet is clogged and you don't want to see the basement. 

Leaving in two days. Leaving in two days.  Five days no dishes! Five days no laundry! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Does this mean we won't go see Harry Potter together for opening night?  Hey Mom, my tooth is loose!

I've gone to opening night with them for every movie of this series!!! How could I have been so thoughtless? And she's going to lose her first tooth and I'm going to miss it.  Ah!!!!  I'm going to miss out on so much! What am I doing?  I don't have to go...I could stay here....a staycation, write a bit, maybe take them to the pool...

Then it hits me, I'm really going.  It's like the start of school caught up with me when I wasn't looking. I'm taking a big chunk of summer by going right in the middle. 

MOMMMM! The washer didn't work, all the clothes are soggy.
48 hours. 48 hours.  47 hours and 59 minutes....

While packing, my brain goes into guilt overtime. What am I going to do on vacation? How will I fill up the time?  I've been so much do...I don't know if I can just be.   What if the kids are angry I left? My youngest son comes to grab my leg.  My lip quivers.  He won't understand that I'll be back. He'll just know Mom is gone. 

I'm a mess.   

The only thing that will brake this ongoing cycle in my brain will be the actual trip! It's a good thing my husband bought the tickets already.

As for the blog, not to worry, I've secured my oldest son, "Not Named Jeffy" to take on next week's postings and humor.   I'll be back on Friday!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Small Success Thursday

Welcome back to another week of celebrating small successes! 

First, I found a beautiful piece I'd like to share.  100 Ways to Serve Others

It's old but it is timeless. 

It's so easy to buy into the nonsense that what we do on a daily basis isn't that important, isn't that meaningful; but we have to remember: 

When we feed our children, we have fed the hungry.
When we dress them, we have clothed the naked.
When we address their fights and hurts and slights, we are peace makers.

So we are living out some component of the beattitudes by merely doing what is required with great love.

This week I:

1) Worked on Helen.  (my four year long project of trying to write a book).
2)  Submitted a query to a magazine.
3) Gave a list of my favorite Catholic blogs to my pastor.
4) Cleaned out a closet and trimmed down the long branches of the birch tree in the front. 
5) Began reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader to two of my kids.
6) Turned 45!  Celebrated properly.
7) Celebrated the 4th with barbeque, fireworks and family. 

Now it's your turn!  Be sure and visit the blogs of all who participate, it's part of the fun! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Schadenfreude List

I'm collecting these for some day when I'm a grandmother.  It's not quite a blackmail list but it will give odd twinges of pleasure that mirror precisely, present vingettes of pain because I know, I know...these words will return.

"When I have kids, I'm NEVER going to overreact."

"They'll be able to play Wii if they want.  They can watch TV if they want or play computer.  I won't ruin summer by making people read or go outside or practice music.  It will just be relaxing time for everyone."

  "You don't work Mom."  

"No one else's Mom makes them go to bed this early.  It's Summer!" (10:07 p.m.)
"I don't have to be anywhere so why do I have to get up? It's Summer!" (12:05 p.m.)

"I'll have two dogs. My kids will take them for walks and look after them."

"I'm going to be a millionare and have people to do my laundry."

Feel free to add your own. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

You Should Remember to Remember This

Growing up in South East Texas, Independence day meant being lugged to mass, even if we were at the beach. It meant singing “God Bless America” at the end and hearing a woman who had probably practiced for two months try to imitate Kate Smith. We’d complain about it, being kids, but Dad maintained it set the importance of the day on remembering that this great gift of free will, of liberty, of independence does not come without a prior generation’s cost. He'd talk about how it will it not long endure if the current caretakers are ignorant of their past, of the present, or fearful of the future. We’d roll our eyes with that knowing 'Dad' look that only kids can give grownups who obviously don’t understand what is worth knowing.

After mass, Dad would drive us to the local grocery store, and we’d sit down at the picnic table outside with popsicles that melted faster than any of us could lick. He’d ask us either in the car or while we were licking off the sticky stuff, “What were the readings?” or even worse, “What did you think of the homily?” We soon learned to speed read the misselettes before leaving Church in case our kid minds had wandered during the Liturgy, but it didn’t help when July 4th fell on a non-Sunday. Then, he’d quiz us about our country and its history and offer suggested readings. We learned to pay attention or at least preemptively cram, if only to avoid the embarrassment of flunking the Popsicle quiz.

But Dad, being a crafty parent, employed further stealth. He waited as we grew older. We’d drive home, have lunch and be lounging over comic pages from the newspaper, idly discussing whether or not we wanted to play cards or go hunting for driftwood to build a bonfire, and he’d appear with the quiz questions. He’d say the summation of the reading and ask us what Father had said. But Homily Jeopardy often resulted in a goodly amount of sibling collusion, where we’d rack our adolescent sunburnt beachcombed brains for key words we’d remembered and hope that others would fill in the blanks.

He’d read the readings over again to us and hope something sunk in during the process. Then he’d slyly offer to play Trivial Pursuit and always pick history so as to, once again, engage in parental instruction about the importance of the day. I took to studiously avoiding the yellow squares, while my brother keenly pre-read every Trivial Pursuit card’s history question and answer. It never really mattered to Dad, he was just glad we were learning it, by osmosis or repetition or sheer stubborn adolescent desire to win.

It didn’t matter what the year was, the evening of the 4th meant piling into the largest car and sitting outside on the side of the freeway on top of it and watching the fireworks with my family. It felt cool and communal to sit under the stars with everyone I loved. I wished the shows would go on forever if only because I knew the next day, I’d be back to fighting with my two brothers and Dad would be back at work and the magic and beauty of having the whole country take a break and celebrate would be over. The 'connected with everyone' feeling would dissipate from the crowds as quickly as the smoke from the last explosion thinned into nothingness and everyone scrambled to their cars and began to complain about the traffic.

My father would hum songs and makes puns in between the various stars and bomb bursts and whistling rockets and after, trying to prolong the feeling, the moment of everyone being united and at peace with one another.

Today, as my husband and I scramble to load the car for mass and make sure everyone has matching shoes that fit and combed hair, so as to make it on time for three of our children to serve, I find myself tucking the Magnificat in my purse as we run out the door. Scanning the readings ahead of time so that if I am occupied by my children or my own wandering mind, I at least had a chance to read the wisdom I may not hear in my distraction. I want to know what I might otherwise miss, because I have been taught to recognize I could miss it.

I have even tossed out the Popsicle question on my kids over breakfast bagels. My kids know more than I did at their age -- about their country, about their government and about the need to be involved and engaged in the world -- but they too look sometimes shocked at me as they grope to remember all the things or some of the images presented during the mass. And when I begin to chide or lecture them about it, they give the look that only children can give to parents who want them to recognize something they think they already understand but don’t.

So this 4th of July, I intend to take my children to mass and sing my best Kate Smith imitation, and ask them afterwards about how our independence is secured and endowed by our Creator, and what the Priest said. And then, we’re going to sit outside on top of the cars so they can one day recognize that communion feeling of being surrounded by everyone they love, watching beauty explode outward overhead. Because the fireworks may fade but the memory of these moments, when everyone stopped and took pleasure in each other’s company, lasts longer than the Popsicles or the last rocket’s red glare, giving proof through the night that this people are still here.

I’ll hold onto each of them at some point, hoping that the grip of my hand in theirs helps seal in their hearts and minds, don’t miss the opportunity to remember this.*

Originally ran August 11, 2009

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Boat is a Four Letter Word

How it Began...

It started innocently enough, we  were a Texas family of five going on six; Mom, Dad, me (age 11), and my two brothers Joe (age 8) and Danny (age 6).  My mother was pregnant with our sister Mary Jennifer. 

Oil prices were up, none of his children could drive and none were in college.  My dad turned 36.

Sensing his own mortality, my father decided it was time to make a change.  Some men buy expensive cars, others quit their jobs or leave their families.  Still others take on mistresses.  My father desired to do something fun.  Something fun for the whole family. 

He bought a boat.

At least two months before the arrival ...of the boat, not my sister, he began reading sailing manuals to us at the table during dinner.  He showed us how to tie endless types of knots, of which I remember only two:

1) the type you use with a shoelace that is too short.
2) the type you never ever ever use on a boat.
(hint: guess which one we used on the gib lines).

July 2nd, the day before my birthday

My father loaded up the Suburban...suitcases, children, life jackets, fishing poles, birthday cake and the dog.  We drove to Port Arthur to pick up his new boat to be launched on its maiden voyage in front of all his brothers and sisters and their children as part of my birthday celebration. 

My mom and brother Danny had gone ahead of my father in the other car and would meet us at the family beach house.  

Joe and I grew bored at the boat place.  We tested the vending machines.  The only soda left was lime.  We were told not to run our fingers across the hulls of the crafts or to climb on anything.  We were told to watch tv but the only show that we could get was Gilligan's Island.

It was two hours before the whole deal was closed and we drove off with a light yellow sail boat in tow.  

Blissful, complete, my father spoke benevolently to his childrenn, explaining "accidental jibes" and "tacking" as he smoked his pipe.  All was right with the world.  

And so it was for over a mile and a quarter.  Then, the honeymoon was over.

The tire on the left side of the trailer was flat.  My father, still calm (sort of), searched the hull of the boat for a spare. He looked at the right tire.  It too was dangerously low.  Dad searched his car for a spare. Surely he had brought one that was trailer size. 

Since this time, my father has always carried at least two spare tires for the trailer....and he  has never used them.   This brings up the first two rules of boats. 

Rule 1) Whatever you don't have a spare of, will break.
Rule 2) Whatever you do have a spare of, will break and the spare you have will somehow, some way, not be the same as, maybe an inch longer, too long or not strong enough to serve adequately as a replacement. 

To Continue the story...

My father flagged down the patron saint of boats in our family, Jack Bethencord, a retired pipe fitter.  We have never seen him since but my father named the boat after this man.  Jack took my father and us, (we left the don in the car with my cake), and drove back to the dealership. 

It had closed for the 4th of July weekend.  My father silently cursed and Joe and I kept quiet.  Jack drove us to Sears where he and my father managed to buy 4 "C sized" trailer tires. 

We returned to the brand new (abandoned) boat, suburban, dog and trailer. 

Jack owned a boat and told my father about some of his trials as they fixed the flats.  I went to rescue the dog from the car, only to discover she had eaten my cake.*  I yelled at the dog and Dad thanked Mr. Bethencord. 

It was past eight o'clock.  We were tired, hungry, quarrelsome and disillusioned.  The first joys of ownership however, had been discovered.   We could sell the boat.

Our journey however, had only begun...(More tomorrow)

*It resulted in me and my mom making "the cake" as an alternative. 

Happy Birthday!

Today I turn 45.  I'm happy to be here.  Not really freaked by the number or the mileage, glad to have my birthday on a Sunday as we all got to go to mass together, a good way to celebrate.  This afternoon, we made My cake. 

Ordinarily, I've received a box cake --or a cake from the store.  My cake is the cake my mom made me most birthdays.

It is evil. 
It is delicious. 
It is not good for you. 
And I'm going to share My cake recipe. 
It cures what ails you --provided you have a quart of milk and a gallon of vanillia ice cream to wash it down. 

My Mom's Birthday Cake for Sherry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda.
Combine in mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Wet ingredients:
In a sauce pan melt 2 sticks of butter and 1 cup of water and 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder.  Bring to a boil.  Mix well.

Separate Wet ingredients.
In a small bowl combine 2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
mix well. 

Pour boiling cocoa/butter/water mixture into flour mixture while the mixer is on, allow to mix well.
Pour eggs/buttermilk vanillia mixture into chocolate/flour batter. Mix well.

Pour whole thing into a rectangular 9x13 pan (greased or sprayed with cooking spray), bake for 25 minutes.

While cake is baking --see, this is an impatient cake --so I like it for that reason.

7 minutes before the cake is out, start your frosting.

Melt in a sauce pan 1 stick of butter,
4 tablespoons of cocoa,
6 tablespoons of milk
and 1 teaspoon of vanillia. 

Stir until it is one bubbling consolidated liquid. 

Add one box of powdered sugar and keep stirring until it is glossy smooth.

Add one cup of pecans if desired. Mix well.

Take cake out of oven.
Pour icing over cake while still hot.

Eat. Enjoy.
Spend next 364 days working it off so you can do it again next year.
Tomorrow, you get the story of the cake.  Sugar coma from cake is preventing further thought.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Beauty of Simple Things

My son underwent surgery to have tubes placed in his ears.  I worried how the world would sound to him once the volume got turned up so to speak. 
With three teens, one tween and a nine year old with a cd player, there is always music playing.  At any given moment, music from Tangled, Star Wars (the prequelles), Japanese Animation, the current top forty mix station and classical all might be playing depending upon which room you enter.  I'd briefed the older kids that we'd have to give their brother time to adjust.

On the ride home while he was still shaking off the anestisia, we put on classical to keep the mood calm.  He was grabbing at the air, calling out to us to pay attention because there was all this sound; sounds that had become background for us. He sang along with the choir, Laaaaaaaaaaa, and clapped, and we had the pleasure of rediscovering the world through his eyes and ears.

We are hardwired for beauty, we are made to be struck with awe and wonder. But the world and its many tasks can make us world weary, unable to recognize that we are not stopping, we are not smelling the roses, we do not see the stars or stare at the moon. Being rushed, we fail to hear the notes of loveliness when they play because we are busy.  We spent the day listening to music through his new ears.

My son's ears got fixed, so now at least for the moment, we all hear better. 

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!