Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cupcake Wars

I've been working on being more present to my children.  I've read stories individually, forced myself to stop working after 9:00 am to sit with my daughter and play whatever she wants until 10 and in the evening, to try and involve one or two with making dinner and let it be fun.  It's not always easy. I keep discovering all the ways in which I've tried to be efficient and as such, closed myself off.  Opening up those closed efficient ways is not painful, but it is an act of the will. With a triple birthday party in the works, it was very tempting to return to my ordinary ways.

To have enough cupcakes when one wanted strawberry, another chocolate and a third vanilla, meant four boxes of cake.  I made one of lemon just to add variety. We made 77 cupcakes in about 4 hours. But the issue was frosting.

Now my kids watch Cupcake Wars.  It's one of their favorites. 

So presentation mattered. It was like having Florian in the kitchen. 

"You should put butterflies."

But they also wanted to help.
So I told myself to let it happen.

I even walked away to let them be about the business of frosting. It was not easy.  Eventually it was my turn, and I got to show off my skills with the frosting tube.  But the strawberries with their acid started melting the frosting.  I could hear judge Candace Nelson explaining that I should have coated the cakes with more frosting to give a cushion between the cake and the berries.  The sprinkles didn't stick to the cake and I found myself pushing the jimmies into the white cream.  I'd be out before the first round.

But that was a minor skirmish.  One of my children, I suspect just to be contrary, does not like frosting. Not a lick.  Ergo, his cupcakes must be naked.  This was not his birthday, so I opted to only designate one or two that would fit his desires.  But of course, he took pink ones and this upset the girl whose party it is, and who wanted pink cupcakes. She felt her birthday allotment of joy was being infringed upon because she only had 16 cakes, not 18. The plain upon thars cake eater grinned in triumph.  Out in the second round too for presentation. 

How do you parent a child to stop wilfully seeking to tork off his sister when you're reduced to stop grinning evilly and don't take only your sister's cupcakes?  You distract and delegate to help move the volatile situation along.  "Go outside. Ride your bike."  or you divert. "Go play the wii."  or you delegate, "Have you finished your homework?" "Did you make your bed?" anything to come up with something either necessary or more enticing than the golden glow of seeing one's sister miserable.  I can see him thinking about it, but not making a move away. Sibling rivalry is hard. It is a shiny red apple, as compelling as sin. 

But since we had cupcakes, I handed him a chocolate and a vanilla. We'd made 77.  So what's two less?
 "Take these two. Now shoo."

The cupcakes survived the party survived and the siblings survived and I survived. I'm keeping a stash of unfrosted cupcakes in reserve for future distractions. I may create a display to represent the peace I'm seeking, a monument to the no fight zone I'd like to make my home.

Now where are my 10,000 dollars? 

Friday, April 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. Last week was the Erma Bombeck Writer's Conference.  I didn't attend because I'd just spent time in Miami with my husband the weekend before and that would have been too much too much. But I missed it when I heard what all my writer friends were doing. It sounded like a blast. The next one is in 2014 so maybe I'll get to go then...and be a speaker. 

Back in 2008 when I did attend, I did stand up.  I'm putting it here for those who didn't get to see it.  Warning: It is rough (first and only time doing stand up), and bawdy so my kids have not seen it, but it was fun.  And it's permanent, so my kids can laugh at me when they're adults or be mortified that it's still on the Internet.  

2.  Planning a change.  I host Small Success Thursday here on Thursdays (Natch), but it hasn't taken hold. I've asked to move the venue to where it seems, it would be a good fit.  I'll let you know if that happens and then we can all go there to post our week's triumphs over minutia.
 I can't work under these conditions...heh.  I just wanted an excuse to post this picture of my Diva Queen.

3. On a more serious note, my daughter is getting confirmed next week. 

Before my sister got confirmed, she'd written me a letter asking "What is an experience of the Holy Spirit?"  The question seemed bigger than anything a new mom at the age of 26 could muster so I asked lots of people to answer the question as best they could. The question still stands because even with all the answers (which were lovely and brilliant), there are still more answers because the Holy Spirit is infinite and speaks and breathes through all of our lives as much as we permit.  

So what generically is an experience of the Holy Spirit? It is a moment of grace, a moment when we know, we have somehow stepped out of ourselves for others and that this is a gift, a moreness than we would have given if left to our own devices. 

The how of that experience is as diverse as our lives, as our needs, as the world around us.  Being called to prayer, to serve, to listen, to ask the right question, to go be with someone, to live out the beatitudes in that moment, to be present, fully present as the Eucharist is fully present to us, that is an experience of Holiness, and that Holiness is the Holy Spirit at work in us.  Pray for my daughter as she prepares this last week before Confirmation, and for all receiving this sacrament.  It is a beautiful day for them and the beginning of adult Catholic life. 

My daughter at Easter, a gentle heart and modest spirit.
I don't have many pictures of her because she prefers to be the one behind the camera.

4.  Day 6 of South Beach.

So naturally, I'm hosting a party this weekend and will be surrounded by


However, I'm down 7 pounds so I am bragging here to steel myself for the weekend.

5. Momentary distraction/rant.  Memo to Hollywood: GO READ A BOOK ALREADY!
Because movies like this:

And this:
are just not going to get me to fork over 20$ to sit by my lonesome, let alone spend valuable date night time not eating popcorn, sitting through CGI created mayhem based on games that I spend countless hours picking up off the floor for fear of a child choking. 

When Hi Ho Cherrio and Checkers make it to the big screen, I'm going to just declare Hollywood dead, host a Cinematic wake using good flicks and microwave popcorn with real butter and wait for someone with a brain to start working in tinsel town.  These sort of films exist because teenagers no longer can afford to go on dates at the movies. I'm sure of it. Bring your own Junior mints.

6. Now I am a visual person. Movies stay in my head forever. So I don't watch scary films because they stay in my head.

My brother gave us a series, Firefly. It's good. We like sci-fi and as such looked forward to watching one show a night to go through the series as a home date. The other night however, the episode focused on one of the villainous races, Reavers, men who go psychotically mad in space and become self mutilating murderous savage raping cannibals. It took hours for my brain to settle down enough to allow me to rest.

Sci-fi is to me one of the most difficult genres, because many people think sci-fi is about the technology. It's not. The technology should be like the technology in my house even though it is futuristic or in space, it should be a source of almost no interest in the same way, I'm not interested in talking about my dryer as long as it's working. The story is humanity carving out meaning and purpose and identity in a universe that threatens to dwarf and diminish the soul by its immenseness. 

So Firefly so far, is wrestling or trying to wrestle with bigger questions than whether the warp conduit is needing a complete overhaul and thus, I'm intrigued. However, I'm just going to keep my Wikipedia spoiler page open before each episode to see if it is compatible with sleeping after night time viewing.

7. Pinterest and me.

This week, I tried Pinterest.  I do not yet get it, but I see other people's pages and I'm thrown back into high school mentality, when everyone else had things much more figured out than me and not only that, what they had figured out was so very cool.   So I'm going to do what I did in high school, hang out near the cool kids and easedroop until I get the hang of may take 4 years.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Small Success Thursday

Today we take stock of the past week and all the ways in which we did little things with great love. 

Sometimes the weeks fly by and I wonder, how in the heck can it be Thursday again? because didn't we just do this yesterday and it turns out, it was seven days but somehow, I blurred everything together.

Please consider asking some of your favorite bloggers or commenters to join so we can grow this meme.

Last week I:

1) worked worked worked on Helen.  But editing a book makes you feel like one moment, she's awesome, she's trim, she's really taking shape, and the next, it's a monstrous beast with a bad hair day and no amount of chopping will save me.   Sometimes it's both in the same sitting.   The best way to describe it is

He loves his monster...but it's still a monster.  She loves her book...but it's still a mess.

2) went to a baseball game with three of my daughters. It was fun.

3) Still hanging in there with the Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary of Saint Louis de Montfort.  Day 32.

4) Exercised (really) three days this week, and started South Beach diet on Saturday.  Currently down six pounds, with 9 more to go.  Staying on it, mostly by writing down my progress but I admit, I'm missing variety more than anything else. 

5) Got to see oldest son yesterday. It was like a lovely breath of fresh air to have him home just for a few hours for a job interview.  It makes his sisters very gabby and that's pleasant.

6) Found a Confirmation dress for my daughter. Yes it's next week. Yes it's cutting close. But we found it, and it doesn't look like a bridal gown so I'm happy. 

7) Organized half the basement this week. The other half remains...

But there's always next week.   Think it will work? It would take a miracle. 

Now it's your turn:

List your successes on your blog and link to here using Mr. Linky, then visit the other blogs to say "Hi" and see what other folks are doing.  Be sure to invite others to participate, we'd like to grow this blog meme to 10 to start.  I'll invite three folks too!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And Now Sherry Rants about Politics...

We have seen that our Representative Republic cannot manage itself. Our government spends money hand over fist we do not have, at roughly 3.97 billion per day or 45,949 dollars per second.  Basically enough to fund a college student for a year at a private school with board, give or take 5k. 
Just 4 seconds of your Government's time, 2 if it's a state school.

We should be screaming at them.

Neither the President nor the Senate nor the House have any actual intentions of dealing with this, as all of the piggies have their noses in the trough. The few that have attempted to restrain spending lack the political capital to get anything to happen. The Senate hasn't passed a budget in three years.  The President's budget is so not serious, not even any Democrats voted for it out of party loyalty. 

Anyone can google the existing programs of the Federal Government and find Waste. Waste. Waste and more waste.  Nothing happens to stem it.
I'm sorry.  It's just way way way too much to spend giving small coctail appetizers exercise. I like my shrimp Jumbo sized.

And all they know is sick shrimpies don't do as well?  I'm sure they know more but that's the selling point?

(In fairness, I watched three different videos of the scientists explaining their work and picked this one because it was 1) shortest and 2) the other two had more about the shrimp being an internet sensation.  I did look at their website and their perspective, but have a mill for a treadmill....and to study shrimp. And this is just the project that we know about. What we don't know about, is all the par-tays the GSA, Secret Service, Solyndra and others have been having on our dime. 

So things are not working. And Romney or Obama, Congress shall remain its spending don't look a problem in the eye kick it down the road CHARGE it in practice.   Except we can't go on indefinitely.  If we took away all the money of all the millionaires and billionaires in this country and even took the entire fortunes of the fortune 500, we'd still not be able to  finance all that we spend and certainly not what people want spent today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that.  

MEMO to both parties: If it's bad when THEY do it, it's BAD when YOU DO IT.  See: Gitmo, Guantanamo, suspending habeas corpus, drone strikes, torture, restricting religious liberties, taxing on top of taxing, wasteful allocation of funds, crony capitalism and crony federalism, no bid contracts, factually devoid hit pieces on opposition, lewd, crude and socially unacceptable behavior of every flavor, spin, lies, revolving door lobbying, and for sale access. Corrupt is Corrupt. Stink is stink.  Evil is as evil does and a letter R or D is irrelevant.  

I know in part why we're not out there screaming. We've yelled. We've voted. We've done Occupy or Tea Party and had 15 seconds of coverage and now there is nothing.  No difference. The glaring absolute shrug of shoulders by those in power to any of the grievances about all of this tells us, we are no longer a free people.  We are the funders of those in power, who get to keep what those in power deem appropriate.  And we get to fund whatever they want, for as long as they want, regardless of our own objections, be they religious, fiscal or political.  Pay your taxes, shut up and go home. 

We have a hydra on our hands with as many heads as it has dollars.   First rule in fighting a hydra. 
We need to at least stop creating new heads. 

If we just were to keep spending at a fixed level until we begin to clear away some of this...2008 levels in all things, it would be a start.

If we also froze Congress pay so they can't give themselves pay raises anymore, that would be a symbolic recognition that the government ought to show the same restraint that the private sector must when times are tight.

And, if the government opted for shaving simply 2% of its entire budget --leave the actual cuts to the actual departments but they must submit a budget that is 2% less than last year's. No auxiliary. No extra. No getting around. Everything must be included. No accounting tricks. No funding tricks. Everything.  Then we might start to recognize that budgets are like diets. They require discipline and consistency and most importantly, time. As a country, we're not giving ourselves even a starting chance at this; it's like we start every morning with a bucket of fried chicken and a whole chocolate cake, wash it down with a six pack of beer and say, "Today, I'm going to lose 10 pounds!" It's not happening. 

But that's a lot of "Ifs."  Frankly, I think my odds are better if I wish for a pony. 

We need a constitutional amendment to demand that Congress live within the means provided by the tax payers and not institute taxes that are retroactive or proactive to fund today. We need it because the politicos of today lack the moral courage to do this with the power they've been given absent the force of law.  

It's been a long time since I did a political post, mostly because this year, I'm just discouraged. I do not see anyone the least bit interested in spending less. I do not see anyone the least bit interested in reducing my family's tax rate. I do see people spending money like mad and with nary a concern about results, effects or reality. I have no faith in the GOP --Romney? Really? The guy who can do great in the blue states...but won't win a one of them?   Thanks. If the Republicans lose the White House, I hope they learn to get rid of the tired argument, "It's His Time." Dole and McCain ring any bells people?

And Obama? Please. The man has in three years, spent more than any President in the history of our nation.... Combined.  He doesn't think there's a problem his government can't solve.  He doesn't see the problem. He's shown zero leadership in this area and all the pretty speeches in the world aren't going to make me believe that he's suddenly become a fiscal hawk.

Remember when the DNC used to howl about deficit spending under Reagan and how bad that was? Remember when the DNC wrung its hands about how crazy Bush was for spending so much? I do. I agreed with them. It's not often that happens.  Does anyone in Washington actually know how to get things done that don't involve creating more entitlements or spending more money?  We used to know. Not that long ago either I might add. 

Our government need not continue as it has, but it will take people of courage to do otherwise.  Here's hoping there are enough people left in the House and Senate who could make this the priority, this the purpose, so that government of the people, by the people, for the people, might not vanish from the Earth due to lack of funds.  Because the matter what political stripe you root for, won't be pretty.

Monday, April 23, 2012

In Case Anyone isn't Clear on the Matter

File under it doesn't matter what you're doing, it should cease immediately.
Overheard while making the bed in the next room...
"You just can't hit the babies." 

(For purposes of clarification, they thought it would be fun to play catch with three stuffed animals and a ball in the living room with the two toddlers wandering in the firefight as movable obstacles to be avoided).

I live with a colony of future lawyers, who understand the spirit of the law, but also understand that nuance is everything.  "But Mom...we were getting along...playing together. Don't you want a happy home?" one who knew exactly how arch he was sounding.  

"I want a happy family in an intact home." 

Somehow, my precognitive powers of prediction always go unmarked.  Five seconds later, the ball sailed in an unfortunate angle and bonk!  Down went the baby. Down went the baby.

"SEE! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO NOT HIT THE BABIES. YOU LOSE!" the older brother gloated and did a victory dance that would get him penalized in the NFL. 

"YOU WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO CONTINUE THIS GAME YOU LOSE!"  and I'm now the proud owner of three plushie animals and a primo bouncy ball for the next 24 hours.

My victory dance over the stunned three of them did not win any love here either.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Insanity Tips for Everyday Life

In the battle to maintain some semblance of domestic serenity, I find staunch denial a most effective tool.  Ergo, I've mastered the art of selective blindness.  If I don't see it, it's not messy.  It probably explains a lot about my house in general to my extended family to disclose this piece of information.

However, as I have aged, I have found despite my best intentions, my eyesight is improving.  I can't not see some things.  As a result, I have had to resort to other equally effective but willful actions to prevent the dust bunnies from swarming and causing permanent despair.  I yield these tips with the caveat that they will not keep you sane, but they will make the madness you embrace significantly happier.

10) Tell your appliances your expectations.  Then remind them that you have the number to 1800Got Junk if they start acting up.

9) Declare Laundry Amnesty for three days. Yes your pile will be huge when you get to it, but honestly, those 72 hours will feel really nice. Repeat after me, "I am the Queen of Egypt. I live on Denial." Then order dinner. 

8) Initiate a phone tree application when your children come to report that soandso said I couldn't play and so soandso is a stinky meanie pig head. "For homework help, press 1. For requests for snack, press 2, special projects or attire, press 3, tattling 4..." and have hold music at the ready.

7)When encountering an unexpected mound of trash or dishes, adopt a silent film persona. "So...We meet again Vile Pile...." or alternatively, become the villain and laugh "Muhahahahahahahaha!" as you turn on the disposal.

6) Dust off your robot 80's dance.  Make lunches in your best retro fashion.  Again, a soundtrack is useful but not necessary. Working in silence does however, keep your kids off balance and that's part of the appeal.

5) Hold a Burial service for all those non working machines in your home that you stubbornly forget to throw away.  Let your children play taps.  Toss them one at a time, maybe say a few works and feel the intense satisfaction of knowing, the vacuum that quits within five minutes of being plugged in and that always works perfectly when you take it to the shop, shall plague you no longer.

4) Pick a memorable date on the calendar.  On this day, sort all the socks.  Throw away all those that cannot find a mate.  Their time of dating in your household, is over.  They're spinsters. They're done.

I use Mardi Gras.Tax day works too.

3) Practice unleashing your mutant powers to make the piles of toys clean up themselves.  Alternatively, wave your magic wand and order the room to clean itself.  Complain about the unfairness of a lack of radioactive creatures running around to bite you and infuse your blood stream with superhero-ness and your own muggle status. Then don a cape and set the timer.  If you can't actually have powers, you might as well enjoy pretending.  Growl, "I'm Batgirl."

2) Pay yourself.  "Sherry, there are 20 dollars at Barnes and Noble waiting for you plus a Lindt Semi-Sweet Bar if you get the basement clean today."  Sign that contract. Then enforce it.

1) Compose your to-do list in the form of a poem.  You'll still make the list and you'll have satisfied the crazy art muse at the same time.  

Wash the dishes, fold the clothes
Feed the children, put the shoes in rows.
Hang the coats and make the beds.
Wipe the sinks and write poetry instead.

Pay the bills. Unload the washer and restart.
It's not earth shattering, nor is it great art.
Prep for dinner and load the car for errands
Don't forget the dry cleaning or the calendar.

 Then, if the dishes and laundry and house still seems too bad to manage, hold the phone overhead and declare....I will order Pizza if this floor is clean in 30 minutes and wonder....why it took you this long to think of this solution. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Catholic Family Fun: A Review

** If you are here for Small Success Thursday, scroll down one post. --Thanks!

The book came while I was on vacation. Sarah Reinhart and I have been "virtual" friends for several years and I love her deep spiritual serenity laced with dry humor about how her children disrupt that deep spiritual reserve on a regular basis with melt downs, demands for snacks and general silliness. She has a deep love of the Blessed Mother and writes from the heart about her life as a wife, mother, Catholic and studious woman of the faith living on a farm. I like her and hope one day, to show up with my unruly mob at her home and play like crazy. (That's not a threat, it's a hope and a vision).

So when she was lecturing at the Catholic Writer's Online Conference, I jumped into the chat room to listen. I'm one of those kids like Hermione of Harry Potter, always raising her hand, (except unlike Hermione, I don't know the answers, I just like to participate). Her book Catholic Family Fun was coming out and she was hosting a round robin blog chain event to promote it.  I eagerly volunteered. 

Then life happened.  Illness and vacation and illness again jammed up the schedule.  Three poster projects and five separate "samples" of ethnic food from one's heritage had to be delivered to the school.  One kid had to go to the doctors. Another was staying late each day for drama club. There was band and a husband who needed to work late and homework and the list of things that never ended and I thought, "AHHHHHH I'm never going to get to read this book!"  

What I didn't know was that I needed to read this book. 

But the Holy Spirit did...and prepared me by making it a desperate goal.  My life as the organizer/chauffeur/cook/laundry mistress/butler/homework nag/maid/queen of all you have to do often threatens to make me a joyless Martha.  The next task is always around the corner.  And as such, I can miss out on the sticky sweet colored crazy silly mess that is the glue of creating happy holy souls in a family by being anxious about many things....all the wrong things...or at least, anxious in all the wrong ways.    I could feel it happening.

So with one day until the day I'd promised to review it, I read it.  I read it fast, not because it was a cram session (although it was), but because it was so very readable.  Sarah's humor peppers each page, as does her understanding that this is call to infuse life with the seasons and flavorings and colors and tastes and whimsy the same why God does when He creates duck billed platypus, tadpoles and ocean diving pelicans or inspires things like gelato, barbecue and bubbles.   

We need play. We need to become like little children.  The fallen world absent play, is hard and unpleasant.  Even family can become a dull caste system if there aren't the moments of stolen joy.   So I needed this book as a reminder.   I saw how there were moments today that could have been painted purple or glittered.   There were things I could have done to make today luminous.  And it wasn't a guilt thing, it was the Holy Spirit addressing my other concerns which were making me anxious, it was a wake up call to my heart to be more fully Martha, as she is when she meets Jesus the second time.

Lately, my children had seemed listless, easily led to fighting. My own patience had been poor. I told myself it was getting back into the fray of raising these people after a 4 1/2 day break but that wasn't the core of it.  I'd been short in my heart and mind, because I'd been all about getting things done rather than doing things well.  Even prayer wasn't really getting me anywhere because I'd snap in the middle of a prayer at whatever it was that was being reported that merited a snappy "Stop that" report.  Never mind that God could have said "Stop that" to me for the same reason. It was flail, fail and flail again. Not fun.

I'd even asked my husband before reading the book, "How do I fatten my patience?"  Wise man that he is, he said, "Feed it."   It turned out, Catholic Family Fun was just the good food I needed. 

So I'm putting the link to Pauline's book site for Sarah's book and I do recommend it both for the ideas which are easily graftable to a family of three or a family of 12, and for the spiritual reminder that comes through on every page, that we are to be salt to the earth and light to the world.  Salt tastes good, and light makes everything brighter.  Neither one of these are possible if all we want is to be done.  

Go.  Get it. Read it. And start adding salt and life and light to your family's world.  It will fatten your patience and increase your joy.  It will be messy.  It won't be perfect.  But in that process, your family's health and holiness will be more perfected by the willingness to infuse your lives with life and light.  

Catholic Family Fun by Sarah A. Reinhard
and here's her blog for you to visit too. Go say "Hi!" Tell her I'm getting in the van and bringing my 10 children and we're going to have a huge water fight.

It will be fun. Heh. Just Another Catholic Pondering

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Small Success Thursday

It's Thursday, so it's time to take stock of all the little things in a week that add up to a whole lifetime of love.  We measure the victories over homework and bedtime, housework and clutter, pounds and datenights, and all the 1000 judgement calls we make every week that ultimately try to strike that ballance between giving our children opportunity to succeed and shepherding them through the rougher points of life that otherwise might hurt.   It's a process, it changes daily in demand and scope, but it is always measured by how much we pour out of ourselves.

1) This week, I spent reajusting to life after vacation in the rare air of Miami.  Sunday we managed to get the supplies needed for three posters, a solar system and a telescope from Michaels.  Monday, we managed to assemble three posters and a telescope. The Universe isn't due until next Tuesday so I've got time.

2) had my hair done while on vacation and it was nice to do without worrying about time constraints. 

3) Still, children needed time with Mom, so one needed a hair cut, another new pants, and a third, a trip to the book store. My littlest one is attatched at the calve to me.  They're all a bit grabby and needy because Mom had the audacity to go away for a bit.

4) Still editing Helen.

5) Still pitching to write articles. 

6) Still stuck at 157 lbs.  Bleah.  But I did 20 push ups. It's a start.

7) I did a grown up thing today, I got myself a general physician. Nothing's going on to speak of, but it was high time I figured out someone other than the emergency clinic.

8) And I read three books over the course of vacation.  Bliss. Bliss. Bliss.

Now it's your turn!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


There are moments when I'd really appreciate an Interim report on my parenting skills. 

Then I think what my G.P.A. might be and I'm grateful that for all known purposes, there is no public record that can be seized upon in a court of law.  Unless you count this blog. Hmmmm.

I imagine a grid with each child on the left hand side listed separately as though a subject, Music, Spanish, Chemistry, English, Math, Art, PE, Religion, Social Studies and History.  Naturally, I'm better at some subjects than others, and while I'm great on the homework front for several of them, the pop quizzes they keep throwing at me kill my average and sometimes I forget to study or turn in things late.  I've done extra credit on every child, but the value and weight of that extra stuff varies.  In some cases, it may even be sinking my cumulative average.

The end objective in parenting and education is the picture you have in your head, the vision of your child adult, active, engaged in life, emotionally stable, intellectually curious and spiritually grounded in the reality that we are not here for ourselves, and everything we say, do and don't say and don't do, reflects who we are and how much we love.  But often those visions get added onto, with clattery bells and whistles of aspirations whispered, crazy dreams, ambitions that are the result of competitive parenting, pressures from the outside, and even just today I'm feeling peevish and thus persnickety about you in particular goals. 

It's so easy to get sucked into the muck of silliness, where our children become the sum of our aspirations, rather than the product of our love and their labor.  It's my son the doctor lawyer priest varsity football player concert pianist who is trilingual and grows heirloom tomatoes.  It's my artist Senator Olympic medalist Pulitzer prize winning former CEO who travels to far away places to give  important speeches on how to change the world.  Condensing all they are into what they do is the fastest way to kill the joy of raising human beings. 

It isn't all real, it isn't all necessary, but it's a dream scape version of our idealized offspring, fisked clean of all those foibles and flaws that get in the way, like the fact that a child can be a neat freak but not in any functional way, meaning all clothing he wears must be fresh out of the dryer, but he doesn't have to make his bed or shut his drawers. Or how she is a literal brainiac who can produce pages of complex Chemistry and mathematics equations, but fears cooking anything that doesn't come out of a toaster or microwave.  Another kid can remember everything anyone ever said, unless it was in class and about a subject. 

So as I consider child 1, child 2, child 3, 4, 5, 6,7, 8, 9 and 10 and the fact that one went to school today with his hair doing a fair imitation of a cockatoo and another wrecked because she had a hot dog for lunch but I was out of ketchup and a third who stayed up late doing homework she should have done over spring break and a fourth bragging about how she studied for the state capital test by using the computer (I worry), and an email about a child freaking over a poster he has to do on Italy which is due tomorrow and which he brought in early but wasn't finished ---because he brought it in early, I'm thinking, okay I don't really need grades. I just need a gut check to make sure I'm not auditing any of these classes.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Last week, I was on vacation.

In Florida, I sat and had my hair done and didn't think about how much time it was taking.

I read books by the pool.  We drank mohitos and saw the sun set every night. We walked on the beach and swam in the ocean. We collected shells and I ate fish almost every meal except breakfast.  There was live music everywhere, bongo drums and salsa dancing. I did turn down going to the ritzy night club that played until 5 in favor of sleep but got up early to walk in the sand and admire the tall clear green and ice white waves. In one store, I tried on a red dress but bought new sneakers. tax day.  The septic man came at 7.  I found four loads of laundry in the basement and have to pick up suits, get a present, refill a prescription and tonight is Daisy Scouts.  We will have ham and pasta for dinner with vegetables.  I ate cereal and changed diapers. 

But to keep the rare air of vacation alive just a little longer, I'm wearing my diamond earings and had the last of the Easter chocolate.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Small Success Thursday

Today we take stock of all the little ways in which we were able to show God's love to those we love.  The measure of parenting is in tied shoes, fixed lunches, band-aides, good night kisses, bed time stories, homework nagging, folded socks, favorite snacks, occasional late night movies, games outside, unexpected made beds and unearned "I love yous."  Parenting is making children feel the beauty and texture and tradition and reality of Easter and Christmas and all the other seasons of the earth and the Heavens, teaching them the history of their families through food, tradition, prayers, stories and memories both retold and created.   It is the sum of our every day.

I know there has been a lot of broohaha about Romney's wife not working because she stayed home, but that's just normal press "She's hateful because she's part of the other party" nonsense, so I refuse to let such silliness determine the sacrifice or worth of any woman who pours herself out for those she has been given by God, whether she gets a pay check or not. Moms work.  Moms are paid in kisses and hugs and Mother day cards and countless drawings and notes and conversations that often begin with a tattle but end with "Thanks Mom." 

So to anyone who let the stupidity of politics disturb their hearts or minds about this, don't.  The comments aren't worth getting worked over. The people who think saying such things are truth or important or profound, aren't who matter.  We do this work, this sacrifice for those we've been given.  The estimation of the value of that work and sacrifice by the "they" of this world, is negligible, or should be.

For the record, it is a sacrifice and a gift, to parent.  And it is work, and it is effortless.  It is all of that, because done well, done as it should be, it will require everything.  Done well, and as it should be, we will willingly give all.   Every mother worthy of the name knows this in her bones and does not need accolades or pay checks to prove her mettle, nor allow insults, slurs or snark to carry any weight.

 So let's see what we can add to our grand total for this week!

This week I:

1) had the treasure of feasting my whole family for Easter. (We went and picked up our oldest from college for Easter dinner).   It was a fun day of lamb and good bread and chocolate.  We went to the 7 o'clock mass and two of my children served.  It was also the first day I started to feel somewhat healthy again after last week's health scare. 

2) organized and cleaned and organized and cleaned and tossed out about 3-5 bags of trash.  The kitchen looks awesome now, only 4 junk drawers remain to go through, but that will have to wait until next week.

3) Went on vacation.  Yes. I'm in Florida right now.  I'm overlooking the ocean from a screened in porch and just drinking in the ocean air.  It rocks.  Last night we went to a restaurant on the ocean, ate fresh fish and listened to live music.  I have not done a dish or folded a sock in 24 hours. I read a book.  I worked on Helen. I swam in the ocean and the pool and did my favorite thing to do at the beach, walk until the sun tells me to stop walking and turn around.  It was a great first day of vacation.
It feels unreal. 

4) I miss my children.  But I also know they are having a great time with their grandparents.

5) Trying to do the Divine Mercy's hard because I usually pray when I'm cleaning so now it must be much more deliberate.  (God is laughing at me). 

Now it's your turn.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Sometimes I do the right thing.

Then I discover how sheltered I'd been by doing the less right thing.

Case in point? Bicycles.

We have enough two wheelers of varying sizes and shapes to start our own Tour De France without any of the posh designs, prestige or sponsors in our garage.

About a month ago, I fell into a fit of dutifulness and began schlepping said machines to the shop for spring tune ups. The cascade effect of getting two bikes fixed, six other children now howl miserably that their wheels need repairs. A whole Lent later, the last bike got its tires pumped, chains oiled and a new tube in the back wheel and is now ready for action.

Giving under 16s access to bikes is like giving keys to the car. It is freedom and they know it. They want it. They taste it. They intend to use and abuse it and you know full well, it will happen.

I now spend my entire life as a bicycle traffic controller. You are cleared to go to the bike stop and back. Negative, you must stay on the runway. You have your helmet on backwards. You may not travel as you have shown yourself unreliable about staying on schedule. You must have a partner. You have lost horn privileges for blasting that sucker in my ear.

The only thing worse than giving limited clearance to each child according to their bike skill/age level, competency and my confidence, is watching them go. I know I gave them permission. I also know if they're hurt, I gave them permission.

This is one of those no win scenarios that no parenting magazines talk about, where I get to fret because they are going and fret until they return. It is part of growing up. But for the record, as a parent, as much as we want our kids to grow up, it's painful the second time around watching it happen too.

Now I am handing out cell phones and keeping mine on me for calls from the wild as they explore a world without the benefit or protection of me. It is good to see siblings, brothers and sisters doing this together.

It still makes me a wreck. I know its stupid and I should be glad they're exercising, they're playing, they're doing real things. I still worry.

When they return, I still get to fret over different things, like getting them to park their bikes and stow their helmets, preferably not behind the van or where they can accidentally be run over by a UPS truck or anyone else who comes up our driveway and convincing them that dodging toddlers who are on tricycles and coloring with chalk is only less stressful to their mother than actually hitting the children on tricycles or who are coloring with chalk. That it would be best if they ceased biking once they come across any of the under 5 set.

But the other day, one of my daughters remarked on how some of the skates need repair and how much fun it would be for the 6 and 5 year old. Looking at the 9 bikes in the garage, one stroller and two wagons, I'm in no hurry. I may get the younger ones more chalk though...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Small Success Thursday

Weeks roll fast. It's hard to believe today is Holy Thursday.

Have a blessed Easter everyone. It is a beautiful thing to be able to celebrate this sacred time, both with our families and with our friends, both in the actual and virtual world. God bless all of you.

This past week, we had a couple of good, one wow and one scary thing happen. I hope your week had lots of goods and wows and no scary.

This weekend we managed two birthday parties including a rock climbing party where my 6 year old daughter and 8 year old son proved they are part spider or monkey. I was amazed at how quickly they could scale 25 feet. There should be an open bar provided for parents who sign the waiver. Or a tranquilizer, something because it's unnerving to see them just up up up they go. But it was also cool to see their smiles of triumph.

More Good:
Took my 10 year old shopping. The first store didn't have things in her size. The second store, the assistant store manager took us on a s a special project and made her feel like a superstar. She bloomed like a sunflower when she had all those beautiful outfits. It was fun and lovely and so affirming. It made my day.

Booked a birthday party for the 10 year old, 8 year old and not yet 5 year old at the same place. They will enjoy a Gymnastics party at a place that I took the almost 5 and my 3 year old and they thought they'd died and gone to kid heaven. (It is where Dominique Dawns trained so it can handle the 10 year old too).

More Good:
Said almost a full rosary. Still have to power through the last decade and a half tonight, but I had reason.

Suffered from shortness of breath Tuesday night, spent the evening at the ER and then in the hospital such that I now am nursing a coctail of steroids in my bloodstream that would disqualify me from the next two rounds of Olympics. On the plus side, I'm breathing much better and found a specialist who doesn't freak out at my airway and he's decided I'm his patient and so things worked out fine. But I had lots of time to myself so I used it to almost finish a full rosary.

Yes I saved it for last. I made a pitch for Helen on Thursday night at the Catholic Writer's Online Conference. I'd never made a pitch before. They said yes. They want the full manuscript. I'm now editing like crazy and honestly feel like the dog that caught the car.

Final note:
Blogging will return to regularly scheduled Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday posts but not until April 16. This is not because the tax man cometh, but because we have a wedding to attend and I will not be near the computer that weekend or the two days prior to that weekend. Small Success Thursday will still run as I can schedule a post.

Now it's your turn:

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!