Wednesday, August 17, 2016

As Summer Winds Down But Temperatures Continue to Soar . . .

True Devotion.
Ainsley and her three BFFs named themselves The Fantastic Four.

John and his buddy very thoughtfully renamed them The Fartastic Four.

Predictably, Ainsley cried.

Unpredictably, Ainsley's mother laughed.

And laughed.

And laughed some more.

In fact she laughed until she was crying right along with Ainsley.

Because we are just half-way through August.

And it's blistering hot.

And the pool hours have been cut back because the rest of humanity is back in school.

But we're not.

And I'm mostly glad.

But it's still blistering hot.

So we gotta laugh.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

As John Turns Nine

In light of John's ninth birthday, I pull this from the archives:

As John Turns Seven . . .

The day before his birthday, John rolled over in bed and posed an important question, "Is today tomorrow?"

"No," I sadly informed him, "Tomorrow is tomorrow."

Ainsley could sympathize. "There's so many tomorrows, so many tomorrows," she lamented.

Kids and time. Such interesting perspectives.

When Tim was still Timmy, Tomorrow was The Next Day To This Day and Yesterday was The Last Day To This Day. Kind of makes sense. Ainsley will ask when we're going to the zoo. I'll say, "next Thursday," and she'll then wake up everyday asking, "Is today next Thursday?"

Love that.

Well, eventually today became tomorrow and even John realized that the big day had at long last dawned. So instead of asking if today were tomorrow, he leaned over and said, "Presents?"

Love my John.

Love, love, love my seven-year-old, adventure-loving boy.

I love his laugh, his enjoyment of sea glass and stars, of bike riding and dead snakes.

Pelee Island is full of snakes. How these things can remain on the endangered species list defies evidence I viewed with my own two eyes and nearly stepped on at least twice. Every bike ride to the bakery garnered a few specimen dead in the road. I passed one freshly smushed snake and looked behind me to see if John would respond in predictable fashion. The boy does not disappoint. No, true to form, he screeched to halt, checked out the carcass . . . and ran it over a few more times with his bike.

{Insert head bang.}

I found one long dead reptile flattened and stiff. John carried it around for days until I found it hanging from my parents' door knob. He came out of the house sporting a blank, innocent expression and with a tone intentionally casual asked, "Has anyone seen anything near the door knob?"

You know, I should have screamed. Really, I should have produced the complete and proper scene John was looking for.

I was filling out a form for John's annual physical. "What are your interests," I asked him.

"Guns," he replied.

"Books," wrote his mother.

"What else," I asked.

"Computer games," he replied.

"Swimming," wrote his mother.

But really John reminds me of his grandfather in that he is a boy of many passions -- Legos and astronomy, spy gear and Batman, and, as he was quick to add, "money, presents, Auntie Kate, and all my cousins."

We walked down the shore of Lake Erie late one night, and John was astonished at the number and clarity of the stars. He slipped his hand in mine out of companionship, not fright, and pointed them all out to me.

I love all my kids. (Of course I do). But I look at each one through the unique lens surrounding their birth. Tim, our first, was born of youth and optimism. We wanted a baby; we had Tim. Kolbe came to us after four years of waiting and six rounds of fertility drugs. It's altogether fitting that he is persevering in nature. The month before John came to be, I endured my sixth miscarriage in as many years. For reasons emotional and physical, I had begun voicing thoughts about not pursuing that course of action any longer.

And then John.

I will always remember those first weeks of nausea and appetite swings that were followed closely by a week of feeling absolutely normal. Internally I mourned even as externally I continued to pray, continued to exercise the virtue of hope until there was no reason to hope.

And my boy held on.

I will always remember the night I spent in the hospital dealing with pre-term labor. Hooked up to monitor, breathene coursing through my veins, I took in the sights and sounds of the delivery room and was most struck by the pink and blue blankets stacked neatly by the bassinet.

I'm having a baby. I'm really having a baby this time.

He's the baby born of hope and healing.

Love my John, the boy who was just overheard saying, "Ainsley, do you want to see me put Pooh Bear on the fan?"

That's my boy.

Motherhood can bring its share of regrets, no doubt about it. I wish I had worried less and relaxed more, overlooked this issue and focused a little more on that one. But I realize that I'll look back on John age 5, John age 6 and know that I enjoyed nearly every minute of it, that I fully drank in and appreciated his liveliness, his humor, his energy. Even the challenges -- recurrent fevers, reading, math -- have led me to invest lots of one on one time with this boy of mine, so I can't regret those either.

One day John will no longer reach for my hand as we walk down the beach. One day his interest in bugs will give way to an interest in girls or cars or computers. One day Mama will morph into Mom.

But that day is not today.

And I'm glad.

Monday, June 27, 2016

I'll begin with a beautiful introduction to my current read:

We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
but our worst crime is abandoning the children,
     neglecting the fountain of life.
Many things can wait. Children cannot.
Right now their bones are being formed,
      their blood is being made,
      and their senses are being developed.
To them we cannot answer, "Tomorrow."
     Their name is today.
 Gabriela Mistral

Their Name Is Today is a book that encourages parents to reclaim childhood, to build margins into family life, to give children unstructured down time. Beautiful, poignant, true -- and seemingly out of step on a day when the six Dolins are headed in five directions, in a week that sees swim team wrap up in a flurry of activities that includes a final dual meet, a divisional meet, an all star meet, and a team party.

Friday morning Dave and Kolbe and half our worldly possessions headed out for a weekend camping trip. As every scouting mother knows, prep involves rounding up a vast array of gear from various closets, attics, and sheds, inventorying the pile, drafting an exhaustive shopping list to cover missing items, and then heading out to Walmart armed with an American Express Card with a generous credit limit.

Meanwhile Tim headed off to Atlanta to visit a friend at Georgia Tech.

With Dave, Tim, and Kolbe gone, I headed into the final leg of swim team solo. So you can go ahead and queue the ominous music already.

Saturday was the divisional meet. Let's capitalize that. If an average meet is epic, The Divisional Meet is epic on steroids with a side of Monster.

The night before, I fully intended to get everyone bedded down at a reasonable hour, and I mostly succeeded. I was awakened around 5:30 to odd noises coming from downstairs. I ambled into the family room to find John watching Home Alone 3 . John is not an early riser. In point of fact, I'm 0 and 4 for early risers among these offspring of mine. My friend across the street routinely deals with disappointed boys who pop by our house at 9:20 to nab John only to hear he's still sawing logs. How do you do this, Sarah has frequently texted me. That's just the way it is -- except the morning of The Divisional Swim Meet.

As we packed up, John began saying he felt funny. Nerves, I said. As we pulled into a remarkably awesome parking space, I glanced at John in the rear view mirror. Not nerves, I thought. I put my hand on his forehead and detected warmth.

Readers of this blog will remember John and his fevers. John has run sky-high fevers regularly for years and years and years. Nearly eight years. Come this Friday John would have been 365 days fever free.  They suddenly stopped -- until the morning of The Divisional Swim Meet.

I pulled out some Advil and got him to swallow one and chew (ugh!) the other. And he was good. Cheerful. Energetic. Goofing off with his buddies.

(And not contagious! I always feel horribly judged about John and his fevers. He has an auto-immune problem that -- unlike Lice and Chicken Pox and Flu -- doesn't travel from kid to kid. He's fine. He's miserable. He's fine again. We've learned to live with this.)

Meanwhile I was shepherding the little girls I'm used to shepherding, the little boys I kind of know, and a group of older girls I hardly know at all. All this took place on a pool deck that was a sea of sweaty humanity with hardly a foot to move. To top it off, I was wearing a polyester team shirt that made this 52 year-old- woman feel like she might as well have been on that 101 degree camping trip roasting a marshmallow in the noonday sun.

Sultry, muggy, dank --words fail to capture it adequately.

I passed the time closely examining which women had hair that frizzed and which women didn't and wondering how the non-frizzy women pulled this off in the sauna that was the aquatics center.

And then John who had been cheerful and energetic suddenly was neither. He was wrapped in a towel and trying to go to sleep. I zipped across the street to buy liquid Tylenol and chocolate milk. Pain relief and comfort.

My shepherding duties were winding down. John had three more races, including the Ten and Under IM. He's eight. A demanding race against older swimmers and he was feeling horrible. I decided to give the Tylenol fifteen minutes before throwing in the sweaty towel and heading home early.

John rallied. In a move that shocked both me and Coach Ian, my girl Ainsley competed in backstroke and made it across the pool unassisted. Different kids, different goals -- one of the things I love about swimming is that you can celebrate all of it.

We drove home and collapsed, Ainsley and I figuratively, John literally. He woke up in the middle of the night scorching hot and vomiting. As John got older, his fevers were lower (102 instead of 104.5) but invariably he would vomit off and on for hours. He dealt with this every three weeks throughout second grade. It was terrible. Unpredictable for us, misery for him. When they appeared to cease a year ago, we were so happy for John.

Today he's fine with nothing but circles under his eyes to show for his troubles. Ainsley, meanwhile, sounds croupy. Isn't Croup a winter problem?

All Stars tonight.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Why I Love Language

Because you could write:

Our story begins in Great Britain, an island twenty-one miles west of continental Europe. Its location and geographical features have made it prone to invasion.

Or -- if you're Winston Churchill -- you might try this:

Our story centres in an island, not widely sundered from the Continent, and so tilted that its mountains lie all to the west and the north, while south and east is a gently undulating landscape of wooded valley, open downs, and slow rivers. It is a very accessible to the invader,whether he comes in peace or war, as pirate or merchant, conqueror or missionary.
And now I'm off to transfer the laundry, gently undulating in the washer, into the dryer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Her, O Lord

And may perpetual light shine upon her.

May all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Brotherhood of the Travelling Underpants

John came to me in a state of deep indignation one day. "I'm wearing Calvin's underwear," he informed me, clearly distressed about this state of affairs.

"John," I calmly informed him, "Calvin Klein is a clothing designer. Some people like his stuff."

"No," he told me, "This is Calvin's underwear."

He pulled down the waistband far enough for me to see Calvin C______ written in black Sharpie, clear as could be.

It was, indeed, Calvin's underwear -- Calvin, our friend from down the beach at Pelee Island, not to be confused with Calvin, the designer.

To add insult to injury, those undies had traveled from our friend Calvin to Nathan, John's cousin, and then quite possibly to George, John's next cousin down the line, before landing in John's collection of intimate apparel.

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Underpants. Believe me, John was less than thrilled to be a member.

Now I am a firm believer in thrift stores and consignment sales and hand-me-downs. I have a few scruples in this regard, and if truth be known underwear generally doesn't make the cut of what I'll buy used. Sippy cups and bike helmets and underwear -- we generally bite the bullet and pay retail for these goodies.  I am part of a vast, complicated network of hand-me-downs which results in notes in our community newsletter that might read something like this: Lost: Lands End school sweater size 8. Name tag reads Sterett. Please return to the Johnson family.

Mostly I'm cheap. But, really, I'm just cheap about some things. I think that's true of most people. You splurge on a pedicure; I might splurge on dinner out. You want a new car; I want a nice vacation.

An unidentified child of mine lodged a complaint about his cleats. Not the size or the fit or the general condition of the cleats. No, no, no. Dissatisfaction stemmed from the lame, lame, mega lame brand of cleats I had chosen to purchase. At the risk of offending my beloved offspring, let me just put it out there that the Dolins, as a rule, don't make the starting line up, and so I am not inclined to purchase those $100 basketball shoes, those $95 cleats.

"Look at the label on the piano," I gently told said offspring.

We seem to produce better pianists than soccer players, and, thanks to Grandma who just plain rocks, we now have a  n-i-c-e  piano. (But cheap soccer cleats).

A new babysitter once asked if my kids were allowed to play outside.

When, slightly confused, I said yes, sure, of course, she asked if the kids should change clothes before exiting the premises. I was baffled that kids should change out of play clothes to go out and, umm, play, but this sweet babysitter had been burned by a mom who had positively lost her marbles when her children actually dared to play in their play clothes.

I get it.

Ainsley had a pre-school classmate who routinely showed up on the playground in slightly bizarre designer outfits that topped a hundred bucks easy.

As for me, my heart swells when I see sights like this:

And this:

All that being said, I admit to minor heart palpitations upon seeing Ainsley's ruffly, new, white t-shirt from Gymboree looking as though it had taken a trip through the sewers that backed up last week. If she had to demolish one of her new tees, I'm thankful she chose the white one. Bleach and a little elbow grease might revive it.

I have my moments.

I may or may not have birthed a hapless child who takes freshly laundered dress clothes -- clothes that have been on a warm body for the whopping ninety minutes it takes us to drive to Mass, attend Mass, and return home -- and deposits these clothes in a hamper designed for dirty clothes. You can imagine my reaction.

Gruesome, I tell you, gruesome.

Yes, I have my moments. But going postal over clothing is not my modus operandi. At the end of the day, I realize these little people of mine will not be six and eight forever.

No, they won't.

While I certainly appreciate cute, I really want them to be kids.