Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Raising My Hot Chocolate and Cider Donut...

Yesterday, in the second inning of Game 5 of the World Series, a Nats fan carrying two beers, caught an Astro's home run with his chest.  People loved that he barely spilled a drop and didn't know he was trending on Twitter until a reporter pointed it out.  Today he's flying down to Houston for Game Six, courtesy of Bud Light. 

What charmed the fans online was nothing more than a person being ordinary and yet fun.   

Man, does the world need more of that sort of thing. We need ordinary fun. Ordinary life that has within it, simple joys.  

That next evening we watched The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Donuts.  What frustrated me was all these foodie experts searching for donuts that weren't actually donuts like Fried Mac and Cheese Donut, Monte Cristo Donut Sandwich, and Churros Icecream Smore Sundae. Granted donuts are part of these experiences, but the eating of them isn't about eating a donut anymore.  It's about acheiving some sort of hybrid experience.  

To which I say, it may be good, but bleah.

It's exhausting to only be able to have experiences, and to somehow think if you're not eating something that fuses everything, youve somehow not throttled life to the fullest.  Maybe I'm getting old, but I'm tired of the mandate to carpe deim everything. Give me the bud light guy.  He held onto his beers not because he wanted to go viral or win a trip to Game Six. He just to hold onto his beers, his ordinary non craft beers...life was already good because he was at a World Series Game.   (And I don't even like beers).  

Why?  Because this world needs to relax, to chill, and to be able to enjoy something because one enjoys it, not because it's written up or celebrated or exclusive or new or ironic, but because one likes it without irony or endorsement, just 'cause, like hot chocolate or cinnamon sugar ocean city donuts...they aren't sophsiticated, but they are yummy and gritty. They make a mess because they're ordinary...and I'd take a major league hit while holding onto them because I like them. (I'd just like it to be the Nats doing the hitting).   I also might impulsively drop them to catch a major leaguge home run because I do things without thinkings. (If I thought, I'd know I could have two mits and a softball tossed gently to me and because I have no athletic ability, I wouldn't be able to catch it). 

So I should just stick with the donut and hot cocoa in hand while watching the game on TV.  Go Nats. Life is Good, and life is ordinary.    

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Small Success Thursday on Saturday

I got sick this week...like let's test if we really need this breathing thing kind of sick.  I'm getting better, I know it's necessary now so I just have to get to where it's no longer work to do.   As a result, I spent much more time resting than writing.

This week, we're doing horror at my school.  I've discovered I'm pretty good at thinking up ideas, which is weird because...I hate being scared.  I don't like scary movies. I don't like scary books. I don't like scary commercials.  I don't like haunted houses.  I love Halloween, but I'm a super light weight when it comes to spooky stuff.  Those haunted hay mazes? Won't do them.  Those super interactive haunted hotels?  Hard pass.   

I even struggle with the spooky Dr. Who's because while I know things will work out, I see the spooky images over and over and over again in my brain.  They won't go away.   For me, all monsters are like weeping angels in my brain.  They stay and they spook me if I'm not disciplined. 

So putting together the materials and exercises for this project, I've had to review a lot of scary stuff.  One movie, two minutes long, I had to watch in pieces, holding my daughter's hand with the lights on.  --yeah, I'm a wimp.  A real wimp. 

But my small success?  I survived a scary movie!  I'm going to have to show this to my students. It's too good an example of a jump scare.  Tune in next week to see if I survive my having to teach it. I'll be sleeping with all my stuffed animals and the lights on. 

(The movie is called Lights Out --the short version, not the feature film). 

Have a great week. 

Monday, October 21, 2019


So today, students worked on their papers and one of mine piped up, "Teacher! Teacher!  I'll give you five million dollars to do my homework." 

"No thank you."
"You'd turn down five million dollars?" 
"I'd turn down doing homework." 

"I have ten children. I've been helping with homework since 1999. So no.  Five million is not enough."* 

Whatever he thought I was going to say, it wasn't that.   *In the interest of full disclosure, I did add, "There isn't a price you can put on integrity."  He rolled his eyes and got back to work. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Promises Promises

So most of my family lives in Texas near Houston, and I grew up a fan of the Astros.  They hold a soft spot in my heart.  Living here just outside of DC, we've been going to the Nationals games since they were in RFK.  We go every year. We've had partial season tickets for years with a group of friends, and not missed a season.  One daughter goes to the opening day with her dad every year. 

We have at last count, twenty Nat's hats, with about ten variations in the house.   So the Nats beat the Cardinals in 4, to be the NLCS Champions.   The Astros are battling the Yankees, and we always root against the Yankees.  I also root for the Astros. 

My sister sent a message that if we weren't rooting for the Astros in the World Series, she would fly up here, kidnap her Godson, and send him to reconditioning camp, complete with servings of BBQ, queso, Robert Earl Keen on Repeat and our Uncle Mike teaching the abbreviated history of the Independence of Texas. 

I told my son her threat.  He laughed and said, "Let's Go Nats." 

Friday, October 18, 2019

One Month of Teaching's Reflections Ten Lessons

10) You cannot overplan.  You may think you have overplanned.  You have not.  Trust me.  You have not. 

9) Kindness never fails.   More teaching happens in those moments of connection than in all the discussions pre and post. 

8) Grade the papers.  Grade the papers.  Grade the papers. 

7) Have a back up plan.  Why?  Because you can't overplan.

6) Break it up.  Smaller bites, tapa lessons work better than full courses. 

5) Challenge them. 

4) If you're bored, they're tripple bored by comparison. 

3) Admit your errors. 

2) Revise inbetween classes for the next class. 

1) Learn their names fast, say them often. 

Not funny, just observations, but in fairness, that's what I've gathered from one month in of this grand experiment, teaching ninth graders. 

After a long long long dry spell

I'm over at the Register, explaining (possibly and even probably to myself), that "God will send you rain in its season,"  and yes, I think God is laughing at me.. I also think, it's my main job.   

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Small Success Thursday

I started last week, I'm sticking with it.   Welcome back to another edition of Small Success Thursday. 

This week held within it, lovely moments like my daughter's acapello concert.   Here's the video.  (I'm boasting because well, I'm proud). 

It also held a quiet moment when I could only gasp.  On Tuesday, I'd misplaced my rosary. This rosary was given to me by my eldest daughter from her trip to Italy. It came from Padua, from the Shrine of Saint Anthony. It's beautiful. It's precious to me, and I tore apart my room looking.  I also looked in the car, turned my purse and my satchel inside out several times, and begged Saint Anthony to help me find it.  Frustrated and defeated, I took myself to adoration and prayed with a plastic rosary, and made my peace with the loss.   I found one rosary of mine (a purple crystal one), in the back of my car.  I found a silver and white one of mine, in a drawer.  I laughed, they were rosaries, just not that one. 

The next day, half way through work, I reached into my purse to fish out a dollar for a diet coke, and found the red velvet bag with the rosary inside of it, in my zippered pocket.  I'd turned the whole purse inside out. I'd gone through every pocket.  Saint Anthony, I owe you one.  I sat there shaking my head...because the thing was...to get me to pray the rosary, rather than worry about the nature of the beads. Yes, I still felt very happy to find it. 

The next small success came with my youngest daughter making a list of careers for herself including pet watcher, park ranger, artist, boss, taste tester for Tasty Cakes or Entenmann's, contestant on a game show, art teacher, movie maker and nun.   I'm saving the list. 

In the car, on the ride to school, we've worked on practicing gratitude.  We played a game of listing twelve blessings a person.  You couldn't repeat someone else's blessings.   It helped. 

Those are my big moments from the past week.   Hope you had a great week filled with small successes.   

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Going Rate for World Series Tickets...

The Nats just swept the Cardinals in the playoffs.  They're going to the World Series. 

My daughter mentioned she'd like to go to a game.  I explained, "I get first dibs."  She pulled up a text of her dad saying he'd like to go to a game with her. 

I explained, "I outrank you." 

She left to work in the kitchen.  She made chocolate covered strawberries.   "Would you like one?" she asked.

I suspect, I've been bribed. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Yes, it's the tenth month of the year, when people suddenly think, "You know what's fun?  German food."   I've been to Germany.  I've eaten it and you know what, it's not something I'd stand in line for...one has to wonderbar, why Octoberfest is always about German things. 

For no other cuisine do we dedicate a month of festivities.  We don't have an Italianfest during January, when everyone longs for the comfort of warm carbs.  We know well enough not to push all Irish food even on March 17th.  There isn't a week dedicated to French cuisine or Thai or Argentina's fantastic delicacies or for that matter, a month of desserts! 

We need to reenvision how to celebrate when there's no reason for celebration but the celebration itself...so if we're going to do Octoberfest, let's make it festive.  Let's do different months of foods ...like February is all desserts because, well, February is depressing and needs all the help it can get.   October should be the month of soups, and July, of ice creams and June of wine.   I guarantee, people would get into the idea of a dessert a day, or a soup a day...for months at a time. 

I just remembered, I need to make soup for tomorrow.   It's a good thing they're having an Octoberfest and I decided to rant about it, because now I have to go buy some squash and get soup on.   Hehe.   

Saturday, October 12, 2019

When We Stop

This past month, my writing's taken it on the chin.  This past month, I spent getting used to teaching.  There are only so many hours, so much energy, and so much will in any given day, and I've found my Saturdays to be the day I crash.  I sleep.  I nap.  I eat.  I nap again. It has become a predictable pattern which I realized in part, was designed to keep me from allowing myself to be anything but busy.  Busy even when resting, so that I wouldn't have time to reflect or feel, because it's how I handle stress.  I work harder.   I get busier with life.  I throw myself into new projects in an attempt to overwhelm myself so I won't have the luxury of wallowing in anything I can't solve. 

It's how I handle grief. It's how I manage fear.  I know because I remember volunteering to manage the Fall Carnival when I received the diagnosis of my son's Down Syndrome and heart condition.  Occasionally, my family recognizes before I do something and tells me, "Under no circumstances are you to volunteer..."  and I've learned when what I'm doing, I'm doing to avoid thinking about something else.   Even writing can be a means of avoidance of problems I either don't want to face or am tired of facing.

So I let myself not write, so as to better face what we've been facing. The tectonic shift in family life to being mostly teens is tough. We lived with toddlers as the primary driving force for roughly eighteen years.  The switch to school age and up wasn't noticeable at first, and then it became decidedly older in what felt like overnight.     That change has been something not always either fun to write about, or something that should be shared.  Adolescence has its awkward ugly moments, and those are best remembered as moments of growing up, rather than secured and documented in Internet amber.   I've tried hard to only showcase my children when I am the source of the joke, or when their antics reveal hope and joy.  Not everything in life is grist for the mill, because lives are not to be used, but to be shared. 

However, I missed writing because it often leads me to think about things more deeply than I would otherwise. It helps me find patterns and see where I need to go and what I need to do.  It's a bit like crying and laughing.  Sometimes, tears allow us to get through what cannot be borne any other way. Sometimes, laughter is the same thing, and for me, sometimes writing works that way too.   It is how I process both tears of sorrow and joy.  Writing is not my job, it's part of my vocation, just as surely as being a mom is not a job, but my vocation, and being a wife is not a job, but my vocation.  It's all part of both who I am and what I do, and the why I do what I do. 

So how do I write about these people becoming adults without exploiting or exposing them?  By remembering, at the end of the day, I have one goal, to get them to the end of the day hopefully with a "Thanks Mom." or a hug.  It means I don't correct the grammar when a kid texts back to my "Love you," "Love you to." even though it drives me nuts.   It means I repeat "They are children. They are children. They are children." when I discover a mess, but also summon them to clean it because, they live here and should.   It means remembering, parenting is a vocation, which means it's never done, and it's never over.  It merely has seasons.   Keep at it.   This is a marathon, and you're not finished because even should you die, you still have the job of praying for them until they're all home at the end of the day. 

I'll keep at it.  Thanks for reading, even when I stop.  It just means, all the words get log jammed in my brain until I start up again. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Watching Them Grow Up

Today I hosted seventeeen fourteen year olds at a bowling party, and thought back because this is the class I've seen every year for nine years.   Having an October birthday girl, I've seen this class grow up and know, this is the last year I'll see some of these kids, because they'll scatter to the four corners after they graduate from Saint Martin's.  I have pictures of them from all their Halloween costumes because every year before this one, my daughter had a Halloween themed birthday party. 

She's like me, always wanting everyone to be there. She's better than me, she can get them to come.  I watched them bowl and eat and laugh and pose and play video games in the arcade.  They are fourteen, they are thirteen, they are at ease, they are in no hurry, and so time fliews by without their noticing.   They talk about high school and cartoons and donuts and homework. 

They dance for each other whenever anyone gets a gutterball or a strike.  There is more dancing than bowling going on.   If I'd brought a karyoke machine, we'd never knock over another pin.   I teach these same children in the next year, when they start over, but for now, they are the seasoned seniors of their school, with a casual confidence of being able to handle all of it.  They don't believe otherwise, or that otherwise would be possible. 

I'd wish for them to hold onto that breathless optimism forever, because it will serve them well.  They'd think me too serious and overthinking it, so I just take a few pictures and ask the class leader to round up everyone to sing Happy Birthday, which she does.   It's a good day, and I drive us home and fall asleep watching the Nationals in Game One against the Cardinals. No hitters are great, but not exciting baseball until you get to the later innings.  She opened her presents and disappeared up to her room. It was a good day, a good everything. 

Happy Birthday Rita and glad you got a big party my Pinkie Pie. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Small Success Thursday

Yesterday, I got the day off...from paid work...and went full throttle into throttling the day at my unpaid gig as Mom.    Small Success Thursday is about those moments when I manage to rise above my own selfishness that would cause me to do little things with great irritation, and pine for doing great things that the world notices.   It's an inverse of how we are to be.   It is a frequent fault of mine. 

So when I manage a bout of good mothering, I've decided to remember it so I'll remember next time I'm tempted to count the costs, to boast in my service, that motherhood is about doing it again and again and again and again, without counting the hours or the costs.  (I'm still working on it). I'll remember, if doing little things with great love were easy, we probably would have had a Doctor of the Church like Saint Teresa of Lisieux long before we did. 

So here's my celebration of doing some little things that needed to be done with something less than grumbling.  Hooray!

1) Five of us managed to get flu shots.  The sixth and seventh will get theirs tonight, the oldest on Friday, and the youngest and second oldest, on Saturday.   I've texted the two college kids. 
2) We completed the FAFSA --at least an hour off of purgatory for that one. It would have been two if I hadn't boasted on Facebook, but I'll take the extra time for the credit on this one. 
3) I restarted my blog.  (This is to keep me honest, it had floundered). 
4) The snow blower is at Home Depot getting ready for the Winter. 
5) Started reading Harry Potter to my youngest. She's enjoying it with me.  It's fun.
6) Playing drums (sort of). 
7) Got to confession this week. 

Have a great Small Success Thursday! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Why My Blog is Sulky.

You might have noticed, the humor is drier, less common. The cheery regular postings of sparkle and fun and amusement come few and far between.  I've done some research.  I'm coming up on the blogiversary of Chocolate for Your Brain.   My blog is now a tween. 

It explains so much.  No wonder it's sleepy, less chirpy, less given to flights of fancy.  It's much more comfortable sitting here not saying anything, putting in the earbuds and pretending no one is reading. 
I've had a talking with my blog and explained that it doesn't matter how you feel, you still have to be civil, funny, clever, kind and consistent.  The blog has agreed to a regular production of three to four posts a week, with the return of Small Success Thursday but only on this blog.   (It's to make sure we generate some news each week, and keep me on my writing toes). 

I'm headed out for a full new stock of emergency chocolate, advil and diet coke, to weather these adolescent years. 

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!