Monday, June 27, 2016

Not Lost in Translation

Taking my son to see the ocean for what will feel like to him, the first time, is a great joy.  I remember Faith at the age of 31/2, looking out at the Gulf of Mexico for the first time and putting her arms out wide.  She said one word.  "MINE." She meant it.

I get her sense of things, it is mine.  Except I won't be able to know except by best guess, what Paul thinks.  We brought along his communicator, but it doesn't always have the words.

I haven't edited it to say, "Are we there yet?"

Last night, when we were driving, he got pretty desperate.  We'd been in the car for over 8 hours.  "Here?"  he asked.
Not yet.
He asked each time he saw a light.

When we got to the house and he climbed the stairs, he turned, looked around, jumped up and down three times and pumped his fist.  

Translation: I think he likes being here.  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Two-Fer Saturday

Because I'm a giver. Here's this weeks' Small Success Thursday...yes, I know, on Saturday.  
And after a long dry spell, I'm back at writing...and I have a piece over at 
Not my kids but they could be...except my laundry baskets are cracked from that sort of mayhem.  So, go, enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Uber Parenting Bar

Those parenting books fill your head with all sorts of helpful tips right up until the point when it gets hard.   Sure, they talk about teething, night terrors, bedtimes, temper tantrums, toilet training and dealing with discipline, with the unspoken promise, if you do all these things correctly, it's smooth sailing from here on in...It's not true.

I know why they don't talk about the fierce will of a tween to never go to bed before 11, or the struggle to discern which drives you crazier, the kid who cooks eggs for himself three times a day, or the teen who changes outfits on the hour.  It would be nice if there were more resources out there, not just books, but places to commiserate about how much we love these crazy people, and how much they seem to love driving us crazy.    We need a Parent Bar.  Drinks, sympathy and counsel or at the very least, a call in show that focuses exclusively on helping parents love their kiddos through the porcupine years.

I imagine if they did a show for parents of older kids, It would go something like this:

"This is Uber Mom, the Mom who goes everywhere, for everyone.  Why?  Because that's what an Uber Mom does...she shows up where she's needed, even when she's not wanted.  From Allentown, PA, we're on the line with Patty..."

"Hello Uber Mom?  I have five kids with phones.  I asked them to call for a pizza.  They wanted me to do the talking on the phone...why is that?"

Uber Mom..."Patty, Patty, you must understand, the cell phone is a method of limiting exposure to others.  You're thinking of it as an old fashioned phone.  No one talks anymore.  Tell them to order the pizza online. They get the food and you don't have to talk either."

or  Susan and Mike from Deerborn, Michigan.  They tried to go toe to toe with their teens.

"Last week, we tried NOT doing the work to let them become more self sufficient.  Now we're buried to our hips in last week's laundry."

Uber Mom  "You have to commit to this for it to be effective.  Be strong.  Tread laundry for six more weeks and they'll begin to come around."

or this email question exposing the universal truth about parenting people ages 10 and up.

"Why is it, if they read an article on it somewhere, like say the internet, it's fact beyond contestation, but if I say based on experience, something shouldn't happen, it's always subject to debate?"  

Uber Mom   "Answer? This was true before the internet.  It will be true long after the internet.  It is the nature of things.  No worries, the cure for this is turning 30."  

I know why they don't write in those parenting books, What to Expect When Your Kid Hits Adolescence. Telling parents they have to slug it out for two more decades would lead to despair. Mankind can only bear so much reality.

Those newbies cutting their parent teeth on potty training would despair if we brought up not just driving lessons, but having to convince your child to take driving lessons; and knowing it might take longer to achieve than it did to get rid of the diapers?The human race would cease.

No, ignorance helps shield parents for the long haul of this game called life.  

Besides...we don't want this knowledge to be too public.
The only chance we have at schadenfreude requires patience and cunning on our part.   Waiting for them to grow up and endure the same struggle can only be achieved by maintaining this veil of ignorance.

So, until they all hit thirty, this is Uber Mom, signing off with the assurances, we love you enough to wait.   I'll be at the bar, commiserating.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What I Hope for Her

My third child is going to the college my grandmother, mom and I attended.  I joined a Parents of the Class of 2020 group and somehow, when interacting with them, this bled out of the keyboard.  So since today I'm dealing with two sickies and a mountain of laundry that rivals Mt. Fuji, I leave you with this piece about what I hope my daughter and all others who attend Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, find during their four years.
When I went to my 30th reunion, I looked around and all I could see, were beautiful strong women. I saw women who ran marathons, fought cancer, became lawyers, ran schools, stayed at home with their children, some who worked for non profits, and others in the corporate world, I saw women of every stripe, but all of them Saint Mary's. All of them had a desire to connect, to return to this place that helped shape them to face whatever storm came at them when they left.
I saw women who I remember as girls, weeping over the boy who broke their hearts, now caring for women who are escaping from men who break their hearts and more. I saw women who struggled with anorexia as girls, who now work in counseling and nutrition. I saw artists who now seek out other artists, English majors who now have written books that became movies. I saw a friend who struggled but quit smoking, and another who struggled with depression, now so fully alive, it is luminous.
My friends and I also wept for the missing spaces, the friends who we'll never see in this life again, who lost battles to health issues, but who were at SMC and ever after, women of faith, courage, service and love. Some of them were classmates. Some of them were professors. All of them were dear.
I discovered classmates I didn't know then, who overcame personal loss, in some cases, the kind that can leave you forever stuck in that moment of pain, but who came and were shaped but not stapled by that suffering. It was the vision of Sister Madeleva, the once President of this school, all the girls who came to this college, their divine potential rendered in reality, sitting at the table.
All of these women, all from different walks of life, all from different vocations, all taking joy in each other's company, in the mass, in the meal, in the time remembered and time spent during the reunion. That is my hope for each of your daughters and mine, that they get to sit at a table, 35 years from now, reveling in the rediscovery of who each of them have become.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Something Else, Something More

My parenting skills run between the urgent, "We need to do something!"and the slothful, "Do we have to do something?" with my reaction to most events in life being something like, "We should have done something more."  and "Why didn't we do something?"  and when the kids do something spectacular, being in awe and thinking, "I've done nothing to merit this."

"They're something.  They're something special."   Yesterday, they were something.

The other day, I had a mountain of paperwork. It had taken over my room, and it took all day to clear it out.  I was stressed.  So stressed, my oldest daughter told me, my aura of stress permeated the house.  She told me to sit for five seconds.  I started doing the dishes.  She told me to sit on the couch for five minutes. I started folding the clothes.  She told me to stop.  She said, "You're tired. You're actually, exhausted." She took out her phone.  "For optimum results, you need either a twenty, fifty or ninety minute nap."  She explained the results of 1) refreshed, quick wake up, 2) refreshed, quick wake up, improved memory, 3) refreshed, quick wake up, improved memory, actual rest.

When I objected the third time, she set the timer and sent me to my room.

While I slept, they scurried, all of them about the house.  There was a post-it on my door.  DO NOT ENTER UNLESS DEAD! to cut out the psuedo emergencies several children created to gain access.

The oldest son went out with the mission, procure dinner.

The rest of the children...folded and got rid of the laundry.  There had been 8 baskets and three couches plus the floor covered.  It now looks like this: 

They also cleared off the table near the front, the table that had been bulging with papers and files and notebooks and book bags and I don't know what else.  Two daughters remade it into a prayer table.  It now looks like this:

And to top it all off, they left a note for me on the dry erase board.


We sat, said grace and feasted.  The kids had pizza.  Two of the older ones had wings, and I had a Stir Fry Japanese Noodle bowl with pot stickers from Noodles and Company.   They also bought me a diet coke.  

Sometimes, reality breaks your heart with love.   And when it does, it's really something else.  Something more.  Have a great Friday!

Friday, June 10, 2016


My daughter graduated from High School this week.  
I am so proud of her, for all she's overcome, and for where she's going, and for the person she is.  

I'd love to give her advice, wisdom, something pithy and memorable.  But she's lived with me for 18 years, so I'll just say, I love you.  I'm proud of you.  Congratulations!

I hope to take a similar picture four years from now.  You're beautiful inside and out.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ten Things to Keep Yourself Sane This Summer

Every summer, I have to make a public service announcement for the sake of my sanity, and to ensure there is no confusion whatsoever amongst my offspring.  This formula, when used, limits the nags necessary to ensure we will both seize the day and soak in the joy of the season.  

10) Kitchen operating hours are 7:30-9, 11:45 to 1, and 5:30-7.  If you want food outside of the prescribed times when meals are being served, post KP duty and prior authorization are mandatory.

9)  We grow potatoes, we have couches.  We do not have or grow couch potatoes.  Exercise.  Every day.  Not negotiable.  Bonus if you exercise outside.

8) Read.  We have books in every room.  These books serve two purposes.  They grow your brain.  They also allow you to avoid any chores if you are opting to read.  HINT: You can be three times as lazy as your brother if you are reading a book.

NOTICE: I will quiz you.
SECOND NOTICE: I've read almost every book in this house. (Fair warning).  
THIRD NOTICE: Dad's read all the books I haven't.

7) Music.  We have a saxophone, two trombones, a trumpet, a clarinet, an acoustic and electric guitar, bells, a violin and a piano.  Play something.   It can even be the theme from your favorite video game that you're not playing right now.

6) Clean.  Your room.  Your room must be clean. Why?  Because I fired the maid. It was me and she wasn't doing a very good job.

5) NEVER say I'm bored.  This is a ticket to cleaning the basement, the garage, yard work, the bathrooms and folding socks.

4) Play a game with your siblings and with me.  Nothing is more satisfying than beating your parent in a game of skill.  Cards...chess, Catan...imagine the bragging rights if you just prove your brilliance.
P.S. I have some pride.  I won't play Stratego.  I have been beaten.  It still smarts.

3) We will go to the library, pool and museums and the zoo.  Once a week, we will be making a trip worries.

2) We have a list with 81 things on it.  We're not Phineas and Ferb, but honestly, they had a lot of fun without can too.  Do something from the list before turning to the machines for entertainment.

1)  Learn to be not bored with not doing.  This is perhaps the most important thing one can learn during the summer.

Happy Summer Vacation

Friday, June 3, 2016

It is Always Too Soon

My favorite professor from college, Jeanne Rodes, died last night in her sleep.  She'd fallen the day before.  I've written about her husband, who died November 25, 2014. His story tells a lot of hers, as all good real romances do.

I miss her.  It's that simple.  It makes it hard to think, let alone open a vein.

She was someone who lit a fire in me though I didn't know it.

When I met her, I did think, "I want to be like her!"  Then I thought, "What a crazy idea!" However, with her seven children, her infectious zeal for literature, her command of a quick thought and an obvious warm heart, I fell in love.  It was irresistible. I saw her speaking before us, talking to students and being both clear headed and unfailingly kind and I wanted that.  It was a luminous witness and the beginnings of a friendship that spanned 28 years.

One of our most memorable moments was a fight.

I went to see her during my 10 year college reunion. I'd brought my youngest of then three children (6 month old) with me. Fresh from two years of school working toward a doctorate, my head full of smug gobbledygook, I espoused what I thought was important jargon about epistimology and paradigm shifts and she looked at me and said, "KNOCK IT OFF!"

I felt hurt. I thought I'd joined the academic club. I thought I sounded smart, sophisticated, nuanced. I tried again.  She told me to stop it.  "Just stop." It hadn't, but the air in the restaurant felt chilly in that moment.

Sitting down at Haggar College Center's cafe at Saint Mary's, she shook her head.

"That doesn't sound like you.  That sounds like a bad warped version of you that I wouldn't want to eat lunch with." She ordered an ice tea and either an egg or tuna sandwich, I don't remember.  "The real you is much more interesting."  I ordered  a diet coke and hot dog,  and juggled my daughter who played with the silverware.  Impulsively, I gave my baby girl a kiss on the head.  

"That's the real you."   Jeanne pointed at me holding my daughter.
She saw me pull back. I didn't want that to be the real me.  I didn't want to be just a mom.  It felt smaller.  The reality was, it wasn't the role, but the me who hadn't yet grown up into the role yet.  I'd been hiding from the role via graduate school. Hiding from the stretch marks of motherhood.

Jeanne knew it.

Getting me to hear that reality took the rest of lunch, which wasn't as much fun as I wanted it to be, but was what real friends do.  They tell you when you're missing the mark.  They guide you to the better you.  The doctoral program was a way of holding something for me.  Jeanne didn't convince me not to go to graduate school.  She didn't lecture or dismiss my dreams or criticize my parenting or even my life decisions. She just didn't let me pretend there wasn't a cost, and made me think about the costs, the now costs and future costs.

Jeanne didn't let me stay comfortable in a bubble of pride and self oriented feeling of somehow deserving this cocoon from my own life's reality, without knowing  the price would be not seeing my own children grow up.

It was a discernment luncheon.  She knew the process of dying to the self I'd yet to fully allow myself to do.  She also knew the better outcome possible and sat with me and we ate and talked and talked, even ordering dessert so as to not have to leave.

We sat in the parlor and laughed well past the lunch hour. I cannot remember anything of what was said, except to say at some point, whatever it was I held onto, fell off.    Graduate school would fall that autumn.

My real memory of the rest of that day was the echoes of our laughter bouncing off the walls of the student center to the ceiling. Before we went our separate ways, she took some time to talk to my baby girl.  She said she hoped one day she would go to Saint Mary's.  This fall, my daughter, that daughter, is.

We've had other visits, other luncheons since then, and the hallmark of all of them, is the whole conversation, the entire visit is like dessert.  Each memory holds the echo of laughing; laughing until we cry; crying because the joy and the laughter can't quite capture or cover everything we've talked about, or how much we're trying to cram into a few hour visit or phone call.

It is always too soon to say good bye, but I do know, when we get to see each other again, there won't be a need to cram everything in because the feast will go on forever.   So for her life, for her friendship, for the luncheons, for the talks, for all she's given, for all she still gives, for all I miss and all I remember and all I don't,  I thank God for her.

Thank you my friend.  I miss you.

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!