Thursday, February 27, 2014

Small Success Thursday over at!

It's Thursday, come join us! Count your blessings!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Feeding the Sheep, Feeding the Lambs, Feeding the Sheep

I was going to do a rant today, but the world doesn't need another post by another blogger annoyed at the world.  I look out at the snow falling, covering everything, making the bare trees beautiful and the muddy ground bright.  The world needs beauty, and it is starving.

This week, a woman paid to have herself killed because her looks had begun to fade.  In all the discussion, not once have I seen anyone look at this picture of this woman and say what should be obvious.  Oriella Cazzanello, 85, had herself killed at an assisted suicide clinic in Basel, Switzerland, because she was allegedly depressed about aging.

This is a beautiful woman.    Source: Daily News.

She should not have done this because she turned someone who was beautiful into ashes.  She should not have done this, but what's more, others should have said, "Don't do this. You are lovely, too lovely to turn into ashes and mail back to an office.  You have more to offer than merely your money or your looks." Someone should have loved her that much, and she should have known it.

Miley Cyrus is another example of a beautiful woman turning herself into something far less lovely. She too needs someone to say, you have more to offer than you are giving.   She does not realize or care that one day she may grow stale, because someone new will sell themselves out even more for even less.   I know people have written to her including Sinead O'Connor, telling her, you need not be less.  You could be beautiful and are beautiful, without this new act.

But she like so many in the entertainment world, like so many in today's culture, confuse sex with beauty, confuse sex with love, confuse notoriety and infamy and crowds with love, confuse voyeurism and fame with genuine desire to see her personally. They see the stage, they see the sex, they see the train wreck.  They do not see her.

Real beauty delights.  

Real beauty you drink in and each time you see it, you see it more. 
 Like the face of your beloved, no matter how long you've know that person, 
each time they smile, you see it new.   
Anyone who has ever held a newborn knows this innately. You hold this person, 
and you could drink in looking at their face all day.  No matter how old they get, you will never tire of seeing them smile.
(I'll use my daughter because I can). But the same holds true for kiddos in utero. 
You see a touch of the infinite, of the mind and heart of the God who created this thing called beauty in the first place.

We need to reintroduce or rather remind the starving souls of this planet of what beauty is.  

Because some things which should not have been forgotten, have been lost, lost to the point that a woman who feels lonely, feels she should pay strangers 14K to turn herself into ashes, because no one, including herself, thought her beautiful enough to save. Lost to the point that a whole world will watch a young woman with talent and looks debase herself constantly and applaud her daring.  

A rose is beautiful as a bud, and as a full bloom, and even its petals hold the fragrance of loveliness once they fall.   Just as our world holds beauty in all its seasons, our people do as well, but we need to relearn how to see it and reveal it to others.  

As Catholics, we've done a fair job in this country of fitting in, but in doing so, we've lost some of our salt and flavor, some of our light, for we've failed to proclaim the absolutely amazing thing about our faith, the belief that all of us are called to be luminous, to be saints.   All of us, no matter our lot, our life, our finances, our education, our politics, our preferences, our creed, our professions, all of us, even those we find distasteful at best, are to be treated as children of God. To treat each person as the honored guest at the banquet, that is the full rendering of faith via works. It is not separate from faith, it is not ahead of faith, it is not behind faith, it is integrated, part of what reveals the depth of our faith. Who would we not serve? That is the limit of our love.  

If we would show the world our faith,  if we would show the world beauty, we'd best get to washing feet, feeding the lambs, tending the sheep.

But what would that entail?  How would we go about this, what do we do?  Blessed Mother Teresa talked about what that would mean:

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”

Because real beauty is fearless, touching, healing, truthful and achingly intimate.  As Catholics it is our job to make the Church beautiful, so that the people out there who think their lives no longer worth keeping, or their virtue worth cherishing, who think their lives are over or too hard, know otherwise because they happened to run into us today.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Kitchen Crusade

In the kitchen war, the budget, planned menu and my sanity are the first casualties.

It's not that I'm not vigilant,  I shop, I plan a week of meals, I try to teach nutrition and good choices. But there are 9 people under 18 going about this house with full belief in their skills, real and otherwise, who can at any moment decide they're feeling peckish and thus the galley ought to be open.  I find teens eating cereal at midnight and chili at ten in the morning, I've even found the six year old up washing an apple because she wanted breakfast, it was Saturday and no one was up. In fairness, it was 5:30 am and she had the courtesy to get an apple, wash it and sit at the table eating while reading a book.   She knows how to snow me, she was reading and at the table.  How could I possibly object?

As a kid, I remember feeling as if the kitchen was somehow off limits.  At least I knew after that French toast episode, the day my parents taught me how to make coffee, that I had at best, restricted access.   But with ten children, I've promoted/encouraged some level of independence and as such, every child in my house seems to have gained fully authorized clearance.  The end result, at all hours, soup's on. 

To cope with the needs of this battalion's constant need to operate on its stomach, I've developed a couple of strategies.  First, I purchased specialty items for those older ones, foods no one else likes, that serve as the equivalent of MRE's.  They include such things as microwavable soups, frozen pizzas, protein shakes and oranges.  None of them are easy to open or eat and thus they enjoy a level of security apples, juice boxes, cheese sticks and crackers lack.  

It gives me a layer of defense, but not necessarily against the ones where I need it.  The older ones can delay gratification. They don't often, but they can.  It is the younger ones who view all apples as made to be eaten, who run across the refrigerator like a pack of locust wolves, devouring everything I thought I had for the week. 

So I'd taken to hiding the food, the cookies, the cheese sticks, the yogurts, in short, anything tasty, under the vegetables. No one looks under the salad or the carrots. I also stashed the juice boxes behind my boring diet coke.  All this would have worked perfectly except I have two children who of their own free will, eat healthy things. 

As such, my perfect disguise was outed when they went into the drawers where the green things are, thus disclosing the whereabouts of said snacks.  Once discovered, the child solidarity call went out and all the children descended upon the treasures, resulting in an empty drawer.  

I'm going to have to have a new strategy. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Top Ten Reasons to Vote for Cthulhu!

Cthulhu For President
 In case you missed last night's immature moment on Facebook.

But it's not enough to have a poster.  So I created a top ten list for the guy, big hearted blogger that I am. 

10.  He's not a crook. He's not a politician.He's a monster demon. That's possibly better.

9. Born to multi-task, and have the arms to prove it.

8. Is there a better symbol for an ever increasing invasive government than a multi tentacled monster with suckers and a tendency to kill first, ask questions later? Not likely.
 7. Motto: I am not an Ood --probalby will swing the Whovian vote and that splits both parties.

 6. He has a compelling platform, I have an arm for every branch of the government, and for every overreach.
5. Admit it, you've probably voted for worse with less reason. 
4. Strong defense: Any arms race we enter, I'll win.

3. For the moralists out there: There isn't a more evil choice on the ticket.

2.  To Bring about a new era of cooperation: I'll end gridlock by reaching across the aisle. If they don't agree with me, I'll eat them.
1. Committed to evil in all things. Finally, an honest politician who lives up to or down as the case may be, to his hype.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hey Mom....what do you do when I'm at school?

We've spent the past five days together owing to snow and the weekend and while I've loved every moment including when I got schooled in Mario Go Cart this morning, the weather indicates they'll be back in school tomorrow.  But the kids wondered, what do I do while they're learning reading, writing and arithmetic?  What do I do with those 6 and 3/4 hours they're away five days a week?  

10) See any crime in our neighborhood?  No?  That's because I'm secretly Batgirl.  Except I patrol during daylight hours.  

9) I practice Mario Go-Cart, but I don't want you to know I am a master gamer so I just pretend to be incompetent and put the remote in the steering wheel backwards and come in 12th every time by trying to drive the track in reverse.   

8) I write the next blockbuster best seller, and then fantasize about what I will do when I finish writing the next blockbuster best seller.  I then conduct interviews with the famous me and give my replies until I wake up and realize, I haven't updated the blog in over a week.

7)  I clean the house from top to bottom with the radio on the station I want on every floor and then I chug a diet coke before grabbing my coat and racing down the driveway to meet the bus.

6) I binge watch Sherlock, Dr. Who and Top Gear when they nap, and Team Umizoomie and Bubble Guppies when they don't. 

5) Think about exercising, then make a list of all the things I need to do that will get in the way of actually doing it.  

4) Play the piano and wonder if I'll ever get past page 4 of the Moonlight Sonata.

3) Engage in a made up cooking show with Paul and Anna when it's lunch time, complete with a British, Italian, French or Southern accent depending upon what I'm serving.

2) Pedicures, bonbons, bubble baths, naps. 

1) Wish it had snowed another few inches so we could have one more day.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Like a Promise

Every once in a while, Paul's Down Syndrome announces itself by its differences. 

This past week one of the schools my son might attend next year held open house.  Within moments, I knew it wasn't a good fit.  The program lumped Kindergarten to 2nd grade level students with developmental delays into a single classroom and while I know each year a class dynamic changes, what I didn't see in any child anywhere, was someone who resembled my Paul.

There were some non verbal kids, but none as non verbal as mine. 
Some needed assistance with hygiene, but usually owing to a physical restriction, not a developmental capacity to willfully and consistently act.
There were kids with Down Syndrome, and yet I knew, I could tell, Paul would struggle to keep up with them on the playground and in the classroom. It did not feel promising.

I've been a special educator.  I know how a setting like this works, and I know when a child is the lowest or the highest by too much, there is tremendous frustration both for the child and the educators.  You want them to flourish, and with all the strikes against a child with developmental delays, you don't want to waste a year of instruction or even a day, in a placement where they will be bored, struggle, or simply not get the instruction and support they need to thrive.

As a mom, I felt protective and demoralized.  I didn't want my son alone.  I didn't want him isolated any more than necessary, and I could not see him being part of a group of friends when everyone there could tell the teacher and the class and even strangers what they had for dinner last night, and I can't get Paul to reveal what he's having for lunch while he's eating it.  It's an ache I haven't had to hold too tightly, as he is surrounded by siblings, he's been young, and he's small so his delay doesn't seem as great as it actually is when I put him in a classroom with children closer to the scale by which one is usually measured. But that day, I felt the weight of it, and the promise that the weight would only get heavier as time passed.

It happened again at mass, when Paul squirmed and chattered and laughed so loudly I had to take him out of the main body of the church and then even behind the double wooden doors, he proved his capacity to be mischievous leading to a hasty retreat to the basement.

Alone with my son, I really looked at him. His handicap doesn't normally plague my brain or my heart.  But today, it ate like acid on my mind. He's five. He's not potty trained.  He's five. He should be in Pre-school. He should know his ABC's and be able to count to ten and ride a bicycle with training wheels.  He should be able to walk to the car holding my hand and not require a death grip to ensure he doesn't bolt toward the street.  I groused at God, "I thought following you meant my burden would be light, the yoke easy.  This doesn't feel easy. I can't even stay in the back of the mass staring at it through the splinter crack of the two doors!" My heart whined with a two year old's "You promised."sort of pain.  My hurt must have shown on my face because another woman came down the stairs with her son, twice my son's size but also evidencing a developmental delay. 

I didn't know her, but she stopped and hugged me.  "Some days are like that." she said, and told me her story of her husband leaving before he was born, of her son being the same age as mine, and in a special program.  The bathroom momentarily forgotten, her son began racing back and forth in the hallway with mine in an improvised unspoken game of tag.  I was being shown, he wouldn't be alone.  Her son asked me his name, "I'm Stevie." he said.  Paul ran after Stevie and I heard something from my son that could be his name.   He'd keep up in his own way, and there would be friends for my son. It felt like a promise.

They'd sat behind us in the pew back when we were sitting in the pew.  I'd noticed the woman next to her,  a woman the same size as her, but with a face identical to my son's.  This lovely person hugging me took care of her sister for her parents when care was needed in addition to her own only child.  When we returned to the mass, I knew why we all had to be there that evening. It wasn't the normal mass time for either of us, but she had come with her sister and her son for me and mine.  Having her sister made her less afraid to have her son.  Having both made her able to hug a total stranger who was having a hard mass day because she knew the cross I was carrying, and how momentarily heavy it felt.  The stinking pity party I'd been having evaporated by the mere touch of the hem of Christ's garment.  The weight lifted, my heart lightened and all it took was a game of tag in the church basement and a hug.

We exchanged numbers and though I haven't called her yet (she told me she'd be on vacation this week), every time I see her name written in green colored pencil on the scrap of paper as I rummage through my purse, it gives me a bit of hope about Paul's future.  I've got another visit next week for Paul's placement and a play date to schedule with Stevie.  And his future, though as unknown as my own, feels like a promise of lighter days to come.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm Fed Up

I want warm. I'm tired of winter. I don't care that the little rodent in Pennsylvania saw his shadow. I don't care that it's February and this is normal for this time of year.  I don't care that the winter Olympics (which I love) are being run in the Winteriest place outside of Disney's movie Frozen. I'm tired of it.  I'm tired of air that hurts when I breath it and shoveling and black ice and the most unpleasant of all, rain that won't commit to snow but makes everything infinitely worse than cold, cold and wet.

I want warm.  I want unreasonably toasty.  I want I'm debating if I should use a sheet as a cover when I sleep cozy.  I want a warm that makes people worry the sun is expanding and preparing to boil fifteen galaxies beyond ours.  That's right, I want fry an egg heat index melt in the shade blinded by the glare so hot it's painful type warm.  The kind of heat that you can see evaporating the asphalt.

So I'm pulling down the shades and vowing the following until the temperature approaches human levels of what one might not merely consider tolerable but tropical. 

Until temperatures become bearable, the following rules/edicts/unreasonable demands shall be in effect.

10) Anyone who asks for ice for a drink will be put outside.  Harvest your own.

9) I'm lacing every meal with Tabasco until something internal melts.

8) Bribes may be necessary to get me to leave the house.  Leave your offering, chocolate, the gift of fire, and hot chocolate.  I'll get back to you when it's 60 degrees or hotter. Maybe.

7) There aren't enough blankets in the world. So yes, I am using three comforters in addition to my sweats. 

6) Welcoming anyone who has a fever to the house as a heat source. 

5) In Alaska, they have three dog nights.  Here, we have a 4 kid minimum.

4) My new favorite spot to write is up against the dryer.

3) No one ever says, "Yeah, but it's a dry cold." 

2) Jack Frost and I are not on speaking terms.  Whoever is the anti-Jack Frost, the mythical creature that goes about creating spots of sweltering summer?  Him, I want to talk to...stat!

1)  When the weather channel is dealing in negative numbers, I don't deal in the real world.  

Hibernating and dangerous until Spring shows its face. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Potty Wars: Episodes IX and X The Never Ending Story

Even with 2 decades of parenting under my belt, I remain a mere Padawan about the means by which one housebreaks a toddler. Somehow, eight of them mastered the basics of personal hygiene despite my best efforts. The problem of getting non rational beings to control their bladders and bowels rest squarely in the arena of getting them to take their first step into a larger universe, but I seem to have only birthed Han Solos.

Yesterday, my older of the youngest two, had unsolicited victory. Twice. Once at his pre-school, once at home. I thought, "This is it! He's got it!" "We got lucky." my husband posited, "it's the only explanation for the ease of this experience." I shook my head, "You call that easy?" We've been at this for years. Foolish woman that I am, (and yes, ever hopeful), I went out immediately and purchased Starwars 4T underwear and boy pull-ups for the young Jedi. I hoped to prove to their father the power of this fully operational toddler.

Daringly (and proof I've yet to learn squat about squatters squatting in my two decades of managing minors), I acquired Hello Kitty panties and pink psuedo diapers for my three year old daughter as well. Lastly, I grabbed a bag of M&M's as a reward for successes. I didn't hear Admiral Ackbar's warning, "It's a trap!"

My son liked his underwear. But he wasn't in it for the revolution or for me, he was in it for the candy and equated it with peeing and not where you pee. So much so, we went through the whole 7 pack of underoos in about three hours. I put him in pull ups, determined not to lose ground. All I lost was my patience and a few overpriced disposable nappies to his happy kidneys. I found him in the kitchen later, having sweet talked an older sister into breaking out the candy for a snack. "This is for toilet training! These are not the snacks you're looking for, move along!" I explained. My expression must have given a signal of scary Darth Maul Mom, as she immediately put the treat back and muttered something about having to do homework before vanishing to her room. My son just looked at me with his sweet blue eyes and ecstatic smile as he revealed the chocolate had indeed melted in his mouth.

But, I thought, there's always "Sister." and went to introduce her to the new world order. My daughter has always been something of an imperial soul. Despite being the youngest of a large horde of people, she commands attention and her words are often treated as law. She finds their lack of obedience disturbing. She owns two stuffed kittens owing to her expressing a love of felines. I thought Hello Kitty the perfect segway to bring her out of the diaper set and into the toilet trained. I forgot that like the creatures she favors, she remains forever aloof and fickle. Seeing my intent, she put her hand out and said, "Stop. No. I don't want Hello Kitty. No Kitties. No underwear." She brought me a diaper. "Maybe we could try it later?" I offered. "No. Never." she announced, but I heard, "You're far too trusting." and something akin to "I'll never join you. Never!"

So now I sit with a pile full of unused underwear tucked in her drawer, hoping one day she'll reconsider her edict, and a pile of dirty laundry proving my perpetual hope against experience. Teaching them the ways of the force would require I "let go." In the meantime, I remain at the beck and call of two undomesticated ewoks. 

Cursing my internal Yoda, I took the load to the wash and did the only thing I could do, hope that one day my young apprentice would one day be a master, eat the M&Ms and pray the sequels to this episode would be less painful, but come soon.

Monday, February 3, 2014

We Interrupt this Blog Break for Breaking News!

Paul (age 5) used the potty for the first time today, unsolicited, at school.  He then repeated the feat at home as soon as he got home.



Now, back to pondering if I still need this thing.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why This Blog Exists...

It started as a humor project. I'd been writing pieces over at a web forum called Absolutewrite, submitting them for columns, cutting my baby writer's teeth when it occurred to me that to be a writer, to really be a writer, you had to write every day.  I wanted to be a humor columnist at the time, just like Erma Bombeck.  The mantra, "Write what you know" fit my life awash in toddlers.  Over time, I got asked to write columns for The Catholic Standard, Faith and Family and Catholic Digest and made inroads at other venues.  The blog became a rough draft board for pieces both humorous and thoughtful, and some slices of life preserved for the future because I don't scrapbook very well.  

Then I tried writing a book and that split my writing skills yet again.  Book, blog, columns.  Book, blog, columns.  I tried to run through all three but found you always are letting one of the three go, and as of late, it has been the blog.  New material comes less and less often, and I crib on the crutch of 7 Quick Takes and Small Successes Thursday.  Part of it is the maturation of my children, I can't write about my teens the way I did my toddlers, and the stuff I've done on toddlers, I've done for 8 years now, so I've said most of what goes through my head at some point.  They still keep me jumping and thinking, I'm not burnt out on reading bedtime stories or bubble bath or ice cream for dinner, but I also know to be a humorist, the goal is to always twist what is real to the level of absurd.   I think I've been too busy to take life as lightly as I ought, and thus the humor dried up for a time. 

The blog became more personal reflections on life, religion, politics and occasional nods to its former heyday of humor. The other thing that happened as a result of this blog, I submitted less for publication.  Magazines want fresh things never before seen, and once it's been blogged, it's on the internet, it is known, it counts.  My writing energies felt pulled in four directions.  Humor. Spiritual. Fiction. Political. I dabbled for a time, with poetry.   There are 365 poems tucked away in  a private poetry writing group called Small Stones: Writing Our Way Home, where I decided to craft a piece almost every day for a year.  All of it done in a fire and forget kind of way.  So the writing talent kept getting divided.

I don't know why, but the blog feels dry these days in all areas.  I suspect writing reflects a spiritual state, and there are seasons, times when cares of the world choke off inspiration, times when we can't chase a thought to deeper truths, times when we are dry, and times when everything feels like grist for the mill and words fall from one's fingertips like rain. I still need to write, but this blog has become something other than a humor blog, it's become a journal and an internet footprint of my mood, its highs and lows. I'm also thinking it might be time to remodel the look of it, so it becomes a less cluttered bit of internet.  To do this, I'm taking a week off, just to see if I miss it, to see if it adds or subtracts from what I am doing.   I'll let you know when I'm back next Sunday.

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!