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.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Seven Quick Takes

1. My mom has had a bad week. A really bad week. She stumbled and broke her foot.The first set of x-rays showed a minor fracture in the side of her right foot. A follow-up x-ray indicated a fracture in her heel. The doctor then noticed redness in her left foot, i.e. the non-injured foot, i.e the foot that allows her to pivot as she moves from wheelchair to bed, from wheelchair to bathroom, etc. A third x-ray indicated two breaks below her middle toes on the "good" foot.

Please pray that we can sort out the logistics of getting Mom from South Florida to Detroit without outright purchasing American Airlines.

And pray for pain relief and protection from further breaks.

And pray for my dad, a stalwart caregiver if ever there was one.

2. And on the brighter topics . . .  Ainsley comes to me and asks me to spell the name of a show so she can search for it on Amazon. Today is was Jack and the Bean Stalking which made me laugh and conjured up all manner of bizarre images. Love my girl!

3. John's Batman tennies went missing, so I texted my neighbor across the street.

Me: Can you keep a look out for John's Batman tennies in the yard?
Friend: You know I've never actually seen John wearing shoes.

True that.

4. So losing things seems to be a regular staple of life. John's glasses go missing, and I flat scour his room to no avail. I pat myself on the back that I have borrowed cowboy boots a full month before John appears in Pecos Bill, the third grade play . . . but the day the costume's supposed to head off to school, said boots are nowhere to be found. I spend the morning scouring the front door before painting it . . . but can't find the sander when I need it.

Ah, life.

Things have a way of turning up.That's what I keep telling myself.

5. While we're on the thrilling subject of my front door, I have to tell this tale. So the middle schoolers are in the big thick midst of Science Fair, and Kolbe and his buds are working at out house. A dad drops off his son and as he's leaving, he notices out front door is sticking, or more accurately, is entirely stuck. A talented carpenter, our friend David zips home and returns with saw horses, a sander, a drill, some sort of planer, and primer. While Dave and the boys talk data and bar charts, the other David completely fixes our door, sands down a rough area, primes the sanded bits, replaces the hardware, hangs the door.


6. And the above anecdote reminds me of the other day when I went in search of Ainsley. You know we moved a year ago. But we moved just around the corner. If I crane my neck, I can look out my new back door and see my old front door.

But the move has been huge for our kids.

We had the best neighbors ever for 18 years. The. best. ever. Almost no one had little kids. We moved  around the corner and suddenly my kids have 23 friends to play with on a regular basis.

I don't think I'm exaggerating.

Four behind us. Two next door. Ten spread between the two houses across the street. And a whole bunch more in the adjoining houses.

My goal of having free range kids is (partially) being realized.

So I went in search of Ainsley the other day and found her with her two BFFs wearing shorts and playing with water on a chilly day. "What are you doing, girls" I wondered. "Playing Lavabo Bowl," they told me.

They poured water over each others' hands as they recited the words from Psalm 51 that the priest says before the consecration: Wash me from my iniquities and cleanse me from my sins.

Playing Lavabo Bowl. I'll take that. Even on a chilly day, I'll take that.

7. And then there's John. The block across the street is shaped like the letter K and called -- no surprise here -- K Block.

We say that John doesn't play in K Block; he plays under K Block.

And if you were to go explore the underground bunker he and his friends have fashioned, you'd understand what I mean. No scrap of wood lying out by the street on trash day is too small to be incorporated into "The Safe House" as they have dubbed the bunker. Recycle! Repurpose! Pray there's no exposed nails!

Of late, the boys have abandoned Safe House in favor of epic Nerf wars that involve every last one of the aforementioned 23 kids plus a few others from surrounding streets. They're serious about these Nerf wars. Oh, yes they are. John returned home one night  -- shoe-less, of course -- with all exposed skin camouflaged with -- brace yourselves, now -- soot. Yes, soot. Left over from a fire pit. Soot.

Thank the good Lord for running water and up-to-date Tetanus shots. And free-range kids. Does this tomboy's heart good.

My life in Seven Quick Takes. Head over to the other Kelly's to add your update.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Wish Every Home Had an Eight-year-old Boy

They're the best.

Yes, they are.

They are mischievous and funny (even if their humor relies heavily on fart jokes). They are forgiving and kind (except when encountering their sisters' Barbies. Too, too tempting). They have a dozen passions that are relatively cheap (Legos and Nerf guns, bikes and scooters).

They love their Mamas.

Yes, they do.

They love their Mamas.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, they have their moments, these eight-year-old boys.  I find John's socks everywhere. Everywhere. The idea that they can be deposited in a single place that never, ever changes, a place that ensures they will one day be returned (clean! fresh!) to be worn again -- well, this concept is wholly lost on eight-year-old boys.

They breeze through snack food like ants at a picnic. In a moment of candor, John looked at me and said, "Look, Mama, You really need to find a better hiding place for the cookies."

"Or we could all develop a bit of self-control," I countered.

No one can match John when it comes to an expression of shock and disbelief, of incredulity and stupefaction. I'm pretty sure he's triple-jointed and can raise one eyebrow so fast and so high, I'm surprised it doesn't land on the wall behind him. Develop a bit of self-control? Surely you jest.

And speaking of walls . . . John admitted to me that when he dons his bathing suit for swim team three times a week, he tends to fling his underwear. That just might explain this:

Here's the zoom:

But he loves his Mama.

We spent some time in the yard yesterday afternoon mowing this and raking that. I gave the kids advance warning. I assured them we wouldn't be out there for hours. When the time to work drew nigh, the conversation went something like this:

What I said: Okay, let's go tackle a little yard work before dinner!

What they heard: Down in the mines for the lot a ya.

As I dealt with deep sighs and dragging feet, mild irritation morphed into anger. I chewed the lot of them out, set down my rake, and went into the house to grab something. I glanced at the To Do List sitting on the desk. Earlier in the day, I had a reality check when it said this:

When I came in from the yard, it said this:

i love you mom 

My first note in cursive (or as John used to call them "curse words").

His socks may doubt the existence of a hamper; his underwear may be hanging from the chandelier; he may be one highly unenthusiastic yardman.

But he loves his Mama.

Yes, he does.

I think of my my mother-in-law -- she who birthed four sons who went on to father eight grandsons in a row before Ainsley added a jolt of estrogen to the gene pool. She once shared story about her youngest son, Dave's brother Jeff.

She looked over at him at age ten and fervently wished time would just. stand. still.

She knew the storm that was lying dormant, that under that pleasant face was fomenting a toxic combination of hormones and attitude, that late nights and charming facial expressions were coming her way. Been there done that three times, she had. And, of course, she was right.

As for me, when John sprouts his first pimple or whisker, I intend to drape the house in black crepe and invite my Jewish relatives over to sit shiva with me.

It will be a dark day indeed.

As for today, I plan to savor this:

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Mother's Too Busy and She Sleeps All the Time . . .

And other lessons in humility.

1. So John's in Pecos Bill, the play the third grade traditionally stages. And he's struggling with some of his lines. And his teacher asks him to spend some time with Mom practicing. And he responds, "My mother's too busy, and she sleeps all the time."

Now, I could be terribly offended by that line.

Or I could point out the rather obvious fallacy in the statement -- namely, that it's hard to be too busy AND sleeping all the time.

Or I could play the sympathy card and report that I have a raging sinus infection and while reading the daily stack of school papers dozed off in the recliner from approximately 3:51 until 4:07 when two  kids presented me with electronic devices and insisted that I sign them, declared that their entire academic was at stake, thus putting an abrupt end to the nap that brought me the title "sleeps all the time."

I am laughing this one off.

2. And that's all better than my dear friend Anna whose father forgot to pick up his suits at the dry cleaners one Friday afternoon which led his darling daughter to report, "Daddy's not in church because he doesn't have any clothes to wear." Concerned church members arrived at her parents' house with a basket of donated clothing.


3. Kids. A never-ending adventure. I cleaned out John's book bag the other day and found a hot dog at the bottom. Yes, I did. While I'm grateful it wasn't rank, I briefly worried that if John had discovered this non-rank frankfurter, he just might have taken a few bites no matter the length of time it had festered in the bottom of a backpack. It's a wonder we're as healthy as we are.

4. After the nineteenth time Ainsley left the back door open, I decided to assess a penalty. The exchange went something like this:

Me, sternly: Ainsley, you're writing sentences.
Ainsley, cheerfully gathering her supplies: I'd better get started!

Have to rethink this. #OneofTheseThingsIsNotLiketheOthers

5. So Ainsley has penned her first novel:

I laughed until I cried.

6. Tim is in the final stages of college and scholarship applications, a process right up there with buying a house and far, far different than it was thirty-four years ago when I went through it. I console myself with the fact it will all be easier with Kolbe, learning curve and all that. Gracious me.

7. Cleaning up the desk the other day, I found Ainsley's letter to Santa which reads:

To Santa
From Ainsley Dolin
I would like a pack of  dres up klos. Look on the back.
I would like a tiara and a wand. Look on the back.
I like a Winnie the Pooh costume, size six. Look on the back.
I would like an Elsa backpack and little girl ereings. A pack of them.  

And I realize that what I wrote above is, in fact, untrue. Kids are not a never-ending adventure. They're a finite, fleeting adventure and one I wish I could bottle and portion out slowly and savor joyfully

(Except for the college applications.)

Head over to Kelly's to add your Seven Quick Takes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow Day

Augustans approach prospective snows days with great anticipation, near reverence, in fact. A friend mentioned that Saturday's forecast included a snowflake. Yes, it did. I clicked on the ten day forecast and then clicked on the hourly forecast and then scrolled down to 2:00 a.m.

There was indeed a single snowflake.

I began compulsively checking the weather for 2:00 a.m. on Saturday. Eventually, one snowflake turned into three snowflakes. Snow, it seemed, would be coming our way at 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00 a.m. Pam Tucker, our local emergency preparedness coordinator, issued an ominous warning on social media: Wintry mix expected. Roads and bridges will be icy. Her paragraph long advisory concluded with these chilling words: Anticipated accumulation - a quarter inch.

A quarter inch.

Naturally we were all:

Love this!

Dave takes our community prayer watch at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday. He promised to wake up John and Kolbe if he spotted the elusive quarter inch of snow falling, and sure enough, flakes were in the air. Dave informed the boys. Kolbe rolled over and went back to sleep. John catapulted out of bed, dressed in a jiffy, and built a miniature snowman that Dave found when he returned home at 5:00.

Turns out Pam Tucker was wrong. I'm guessing we had a solid three-quarters of inch of snow. Maybe even seven-eighths of an inch.

It was beautiful.
Our house - 364 days after the move.
And so, so much fun.

John got together with friends Henry and Silas and rolled a laundry basket full of snowballs. Dave offered to drive them around in the pick up truck pelting people. So John ran in the house and asked for Ainsley's Dora tent.

"Why do you need it," I wondered.

"We'll put in the back of the truck. Everyone will thinks it's a bunch of girls."

He always has an angle, that child of mine. He is so boy, so eight, so full of exuberance he makes my heart burst.

Off they went in a blaze of snowballs.

Our last good snowfall - 2014.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Papa, We Will Miss You

We will remember December 8, 2015 for three reasons.

First, it was the Feast of Immaculate Conception.

Second, it was the ninth day of Ainsley's first Novena. She had overheard me praying my first Saint Andrew Novena. What's a novena, she wanted to know. It's a kind of soaking prayer, I told her, a time when we pray with persistence. Catholics traditionally pray for nine days. Novena means nine, and it represents the nine days between the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and Pentecost.

Ainsley wanted to join in. And she offered up her first ever Novena for Grandma and Papa and Grandpa and Oney. Only, in true Ainsley form, it was forGrandmasandpapandgrandpaandOney run together and said very, very fast.

And that leads to the third point . . . On the ninth day of Ainsley's first Novena, Papa died.

We were sitting in the fourth pew on the right at Mass celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, all of us reeling from the news of Papa's death, minds swirling with To Do Lists and travel plans, hearts grieving, John crying.

Father Jacek began his homily and shared that Pope Francis had initiated the Year of Mercy that very morning by symbolically opening a door -- a door of grace, of healing, of forgiveness, of love, of mercy. And I suddenly became aware that Papa had died around 4:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time at possibly the same time and certainly the same day that Ainsley had finished her first Novena, the same day that the Pope had ushered in a Year of Mercy.

Nothing is lost.

There are no coincidences.

There are no accidents.

From the archives, here's a piece a wrote about the kind, funny, giving man who was Dad to my husband and Papa to my children:

Papa turned seventy-something this week. From the Deep South, we send a heartfelt Happy Birthday!

Papa is a beloved father, father-in-law, and grandfather to the mass of Dolin males and to the tiny female exclamation point at the end of the line. Ainsley fell in love with Papa on this latest trip and enjoyed nothing more than sitting on his lap playing with a stuffed Charlie Brown. She would alternate between feeding a baby bottle to Charlie Brown and pretending to squeeze hand soap into his mouth. (Note: She did not learn this from me!) Ainsey would erupt in laughter and never tired of it. If Papa tired of it, he kept his game face on. He's nothing if not a good sport.

Papa spent hours watching Ainsley and John jump between the sandbox and the wading pool. He delighted John by catching fireflies with him.

No one gardens like Papa gardens. His tomatoes prompted a friend of mine to comment, "He makes me proud to call myself a Midwesterner!" We brought home a coolerful, and they are absolutely to die for. Papa calls all the grandchildren Punkin. When Tim and Kolbe were small, Papa added pumpkins to his garden and carved the boys' names in them. The names grew as the punkins did.

Papa has a dry wit that keeps me laughing. He has a host of quips. If Dave fails to use a turn signal, I invariably quote Papa: Keep 'em guessing. Keep 'em guessing.

Both of  my in-laws have a remarkable grace to absorb our four children, an astonishing amount of noise, and the seventy-two or so bags we inevitably bring along with us. They are, without fail, patient and generous.

I remember a family trip to northern Michigan. Then seven months pregnant with Kolbe, I looked forward to a week-long break from the Georgia heat. It was not to be. Hale, Michigan, must have set a record as the mercury hit well above 100 degrees. While we struggled to stay cool, I spotted Papa dashing off with a Tom Clancy novel and a cup of coffee to get a moment's peace behind the garage. He caught my eye and said, "You know, we run the risk of this becoming an annual event."

Papa loves to entertain us with stories of his early years in the hollows of West Virginia. His uncle, the bus driver, would give him a nickel if was so bad at school that his aunt, the teacher, spanked him. Tim and Kolbe find this tale flat out hilarious.

Papa talks about alternating between a two-room school house in a rural area and a big city high school in Charleston. He learned to read the F-U-R-N-I-T-U-R-E box that patched the hole in the roof, and remembers delivering blocks of ice when a refrigerator really was an ice box.

Whether it's reading Harvey's Hideout -- a Dolin family classic -- or rocking the littlest punkin in the Dolin patch, Papa is reliable and kind. I am grateful to call him a second Dad and blessed that my children call him Papa.