Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Ringing Endorsement of Magnifikd

If you have a child from reading age up to about eleven, I can not say enough positives for Magnifikid. Among its awesomeness:

1. Great info on Saints, both new and old. We're going to celebrate John Paul's canonization using this as background material:

2. Simple, solid liturgical information such as this lesson on confession:

3. More Saint stuff. Rummy! So fun.

4. A booklet the kids made for Lent. Easy, doable, love it!

5. Love Your Enemies 101. A great lesson on applying the Gospel to the lives of young children. 

Magnifikid has provided great reading practice for John who reads the Gospel on the way to church and, with a little prodding, reads the responsorial psalm during Mass. 

For people who have subscribed to Magnifikid and have forgotten them every last Sunday in the liturgical year, do what we finally learned to do: Store them in the car.

Great stuff. And I swear they're not paying me to say this.

Head over to Hallie's to add your Five Favorites!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Did I Stay Or Did I Go?

In response to Kris: I went camping with the Boy Scouts.

I am reminded of one of my favorite exchanges in Little Women, one of my favorite movies.

Laurie: What do you suppose those girls do all day?
Mr. Brooke: Over the mysteries of female life is drawn a veil, best left undisturbed.

True of adolescent boys as well.

Yes, there are some aspects of Boy Scout bonding that women in general and mothers specifically really don't need to know about. Burping. Lack of hygiene. Dish washing or lack there of. Danger. The list could go on and on.

That being said, I had a great time.


I kept the menu simple.

The weather was beautiful.

The Port-o-lets were cleaners than any I have ever encountered.  (In my Army days, I encountered plenty).

I saw just one snake, from a distance, not poisonous.

My friend and her daughter came along so I wasn't the only mother-interloper.

A particularly industrious dad made rosemary chicken, wild rice, and sautéed veggies for dinner and strawberry shortcake for dessert. I may be investing in a Dutch oven sometime soon. Quite inspiring.

We sat around the table enjoying our dessert as John, Ainsley, and Hope -- outfitted in headlamps -- caught toad after toad after toad. I thought about what we would have been doing at home. Watching a movie, probably. How neat to be outside watching the little people run free.

Then it was time to turn in, and here things went sour.

Up to my late twenties, early thirties, I could sleep on a rock. Not like a rock, on a rock. Seriously. When I was tired, I went to sleep; I stayed asleep. Suddenly all that began to change. I became picky about pillows and mattresses and light and noise. If I woke up, I couldn't go back to sleep. I tried various sleep aids. I got rid of my alarm clock because the light kept me up.

I thought I was prepared Saturday. Dave and I had abandoned air mattresses for cots that don't leak. I recently invested in firmer pillows and ditched all the marginal ones. I brought Tylenol PM.

Dave set up our tent, and we prepared to move in. It was then I discovered our pillows were AWOL. I had neglected an old Army adage that has many, many applications to family life: They only do what the boss checks.

I have learned many a lesson in regards to this valuable principle. You say, "Pack a winter coat." Best you get a visual on that "winter coat" before you cross the Mason Dixon Line because you may picture a thick, insulated puffer jacket, and they just may be thinking of this:

Well, this works just fine in Augusta, Georgia, pretty much any year except 2014, but if you're headed for Detroit? Not quite up to snuff.

They only do what the boss checks.

When you say, "Grab four pillows," a nameless family member just might hear, "Don't forget the nutty bars, the Rick Reardon novel you're reading, and that can of Pringles over there wah, wah, wah, wah, wah."

No pillows. I swallowed my Tylenol PM hoping it would over-ride the missing pillow.

Ainsley, John, and I got into our little tent. I had a cot. Ainsley had  a mini-cot. John had a sleeping mat. We tossed and turned, and John wanted the mat, and Ainsley wanted the mini-cot, and so we switched, but before I knew it, Ainsley had abandoned the mini-cot to sleep with me. In a cot.

Ainsley was asleep in about five seconds, and John was sawing logs shortly thereafter while I tossed and attempted to turn. And I must have started to dose when suddenly John was unhappy with his Spiderman sleeping bag and for reasons I can not recall, I traded blankets with him, and so there I was climbing into a Spiderman sleeping bag made for a six-year-old which meant it reached just north of my belly button, and it was getting cold, but that was okay because Ainsley, the human hot water bottle, was plastered against me. In a cot.

Eventually -- it was a long, long eventually -- I, too, fell asleep.

Suddenly I heard, "Mama, Mama, Mama!"

It was around 1:00 am. Tim couldn't fall sleep and wanted some melatonin. I directed him to the van and attempted to fall asleep once again.

Suddenly I heard, "Mama, Mama, Mama!"

It was around 3:00 am. It was John. He had to go to the bathroom. I unzipped the tent and directed him to the woods and attempted to fall asleep once again.

Suddenly I heard, "Mama, Mama, Mama!"

It was around 5:00 am. It was Ainsley. She had to go to the bathroom. I found my shoes and told her I'd take her to the port-o-let.

"No, thank you, Mama," she told me. "I'll wait until morning."

Why? Whhhhhhy? In the name of mercy, whhhhhhhhhy?

I was delirious from lack of sleep and aching like I hadn't ached since I was 39 weeks pregnant with Ainsley. My sciatic nerves were shot. As I watched rosy-fingered dawn rising up over the lake, I grimly determined to do two things: caffeinate and head home.

I love being in the woods.


Call me the eternal optimist, but I remain convinced there's a way to do this and avoid the whole Bataan Death March experience. Even without Ainsley, the cot wasn't cutting it. My hips can't take it. Do we go back to air mattresses? Switch from Tylenol PM to Ambien?

Groupon ran a special on pop-up campers not long ago. Maybe that's the ticket.

Do you camp? Do enjoy camping? Tell me how.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Anatomy 101

The little people breeze through the room as I'm watching Doc Martin deliver a baby.

Doc Martin: It's boy!

John, perplexed: How can he tell if it's a girl or a boy? I have no idea.

Ainsley, confident: You look at the face. If it's handsome, it's a boy. If it's cute, it's a girl.

I give them a basic anatomy lesson. You can imagine the giggles and groans this elicits.

Friday, April 11, 2014


So the Boy Scouts are off for the weekend . . . along with a massive supply train.

Gracious me, I am fairly sure we emptied half the attic, a third of the shed, and a quarter of the refrigerator and schlepped it all across the backyard and into the Scout trailer. It's all labelled DOLIN  in black Sharpie, so hopefully a sizable chunk will make the return trip on Sunday.

Except that I am blocking out the return trip.

A vast armada of muddy, sandy, smokey gear entering my front door? Not what I want to dwell on at this precise moment and time. Not when it just left the back door.

They had better have fun.

For all the time and money we invest for forty-eight hours in the wilderness, they had better have fun, and lots of it.

Over the years, I've made many a passing comment to Dave along the lines of  "Lots of work for something I don't get to do."

My whining is lighthearted, really, because I love watching my boys go off with their Dad to hike and canoe and, I don't know what else, whittle or geo-cache or water ski. But I do tend to let the record reflect that I spend a whole lot of time on things I don't get to do.

So Dave called my bet this afternoon.

Apparently some of the Moms -- and by that I actually mean one really outdoorsy Mom -- may come up Saturday and camp for the night.

Do I stay or do I go?

It's the logistic that I find daunting -- another trip to the attic, the shed, the store. Cots, sleeping bags, good chocolate, Tylenol PM, contraband wine hidden in a water bottle with "Be Prepared" emblazoned on it.

But to quote Kelle Hampton in yesterday's post: Sometimes you need to build the damn ship.

(This may become my motto).

And John and Ainsey would  l-o-v-e  it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Magical Childhood?

Funny how certain headlines grab a reader's attention and -- Poof! -- a virtual conflagration sweeps through social media, Likes and Shares, What She Said! and Oh, Yeah!, emoticons proliferating. Last week the Huffington Post ran a thoughtful piece about balance and child rearing, a piece that would have had 90% of mothers nodding in agreement.

But where's the fun in that?

More to the point, where's the traffic?

So those bright folks over at Huffington added an inflammatory headline: I'm Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical. And everyone in the Blogosphere who has a pulse, everyone who would have hit Like on a post titled Balance in Childhood, suddenly felt compelled to comment, to protest, to shout Amen!, to add their own take, their solidarity, their objections.

Just as I am doing here.

I loved what Kristen Howerton shared in Can We Bring the Holidays Down a Notch? Here's chunk of it:
We've got Valentine's Day, which has became The New Halloween, because God forbid you send a simple store-bought card. You'd better include some candy or your child will be shunned. Shunned! One of my kids came home with not just a candy from each class, but a WHOLE . . . GOODIE BAG from each student.
And then, I think I've got a break for a month BUT NO. Surprise! We've got 100 Days of School to celebrate. And by "celebrate" I mean the kids sticking 100 things on a hat. And by "the kids" I mean me.
And suddenly Pi Day is a thing? My children expect to be served pie because someone at school told them so?
And Dr. Seuss's birthday? Sure it's a great event for school, but my kids are now asking what we're doing to celebrate that at home, too.

In my morning surf, I stumbled upon this. Kelle Hampton is both really and funny. She begins her piece with an account of recent struggles involving The Tooth Fairy. Throughout her narratives, Kelle sprinkles helpful hints to avoid the debacle she describes.  I have committed them to memory. Here are Kelle's Tooth Fairy Rules: 

Tooth Fairy Rule #1: Dont' hype up the tooth fairy’s arrival if she’s not going to arrive.
Rule #2: Cross-check  @#$%*  stories between spouses before implementing. (Editor's note: This adage has so many, many applications).
Rule #3:  Don’t blame your kid for your failure. 
Rule #4: (You'd think this would be a given): Don't steal from your kids. 
Rule#5: Keep cash on hand.

Oh, the Tooth Fairy. 

Been there, blown that. Has the Fairy been MIA around here? Oh, yes. Have we "borrowed" from one kid to get out of hock with another? Oh, yes. Have we encouraged a child "to take a second look" when the Fairy has perhaps "overslept"? Oh, yes.

And then Kelle continues:

There was an article that went viral last week about how childhood is magical in itself, and we shouldn't try to make it more magical. I laughed and shook my head with an, “Oh ... so true!” but later felt a little voice, perhaps my own insecurity in wanting to defend our sometimes outlandish and yes, highly unnecessary, attempts to create magic . . .  “Defend the magic!” the voice whispered — an ironic plea, considering our Tooth Fairy magic was a big fat flop days later.
It’s just that, even though we mumble and complain about how ridiculously far we've gone, even though we set ourselves up for failure more times than not, even though it often seems too much (sometimes it is), even though we curse the mom who created the list of 101 Things to Do With Your Elf on a Shelf, sometimes trying to create magic is … well, magic. 
It was to me the night I stayed in my classroom into the wee hours of the night, rigging flaps of butcher paper to the ceiling to build a ship for our Boston Tea Party lesson—an overzealous teacher not yet fully poisoned by benchmark demands, standardized tests and people who thought that the Boston Tea Party was pretty entertaining in itself, so stop trying to make it more. 
Teachers don’t have time for this. Stop purposely adding stress to your job. You're making us other teachers look bad. Kids are going to expect this. They're losing their ability to independently find magic in books.
I get it, I get it. There's a point there. But, you know what? I hope somewhere in the line of competent, benchmark-conscious teachers . . . my kids will have some overzealous ones too — ones who go beyond “Education is magical in itself” and maybe take a page from the student teaching notebook and build the damn ship. 
Good advice, that. As parents, as teachers, as catechists, sometimes we do need to throw caution to the wind and build the damn ship.

And sometimes not.

My kids began one summer vacation by complaining that friends of theirs get A Last Day of School Gift. 

"You get A Last Day of School Gift, too," I told them (gently, I hope). "It's called Summer Vacation."

As for thoughtful, nicely wrapped gifts, those go to the teachers who have worked hard to impart knowledge all year. We have celebrated the end of the year with a trip to the lake, with ice cream, with lunch at our favorite Mexican Restaurant. But Last Day of School Gifts? To quote Kristen: Ain't nobody got time for that.

Sometimes you build the ship; sometimes you don't.

Balance, balance, balance.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Throwback Tuesday

So Ainsey had a birthday party this morning. As I looked at all her little fiends, I was struck by the fact that they're not so little now. On that nostalgic note, I perused the archives and found the following.

First a photo:

A page from Kolbe's prayer journal. Ainsley in a red onesie.

And then a post:

Time to Wean

Ainsley and I just enjoyed what is likely to be our last nursing session. In a few minutes I will smear my nose and cheek with $400 skin cream that, God willing, will halt the growth of squamous cells. You can't be pregnant or nursing and use this medication, so another era of motherhood passes.

I rocked her, smoothed her downy blond hair, and told her how special this time has been. She's, like, "Whatever, Mama. Hand me my pacie."

I love nursing. As I woman who has a penchant for being a Martha, but an ardent desire to be a Mary, nursing has helped me to slow down and enjoy my babies. I have been blessed with four enthusiastic nursers. I hasten to add that enthusiastic has not meant problem free. With all three boys, I faced significant and excruciatingly painful hurdles, but time, perseverance, and helpful hints from other nursing moms helped us negotiate these. Problems solved, we then went on to enjoy many, many months of peaceful nursing.

One of the boys adopted Ainsley's "whatever" attitude toward weaning. In fact he weaned so fast I was unprepared. One day I realized he hadn't nursed for two or three days. Somehow it just didn't seem right to pass through this milestone without fanfare.

"We didn't have our last nurse," I remember telling my husband. While Dave probably didn't fully understand the significance of this, at that point we had been married long enough for him to say, "You're right, honey. I think you should nurse him one last time." A wise man. So we had our ceremonial nurse. He jumped up and said, "Ooohh! Twains!" or something to that effect. Onward and upward! New vistas to explore! Big deal for me. N
o deal for him.

Another boy would have nursed his way into elementary school, content to find a coat closet or a corner of the teachers' lounge so he could top off during recess. Weaning was slow and about as fun as a raging case of mastitis.

I weaned John around sixteen months because I was four months pregnant with Ainsley and had yet to gain ounce number one. Considering what I ended up looking like circa forty weeks - enormous would be the word - this was probably a good thing. But I worried, so I weaned. John never looked back, and neither did I, really, because it was a little much to be growing one baby and having a toddler sprawled all over me. Some women love it. Me? Not so much.

I was supposed to start this treatment almost exactly two years ago. It was a dreary day. I was battling fatigue and finally decided to head across town for a Frappuccino to perk me up. Out of the blue I had the thought: You should take a pregnancy test. Whhhattt? I was forty-four years old. It had taken six years and a load of heartache to have John. He was still nursing! No way was I pregnant.

Except that I was.

That positive pregnancy test was possibly the biggest shock of my life. (Scratch that! Hearing my niece yell, "It's a girl!" beat the pregnancy test by a long shot.)

Still reeling from the news, I went on to a dermatology appointment and explained to my doctor why I would not be starting the treatment as planned. To put it mildly, she was not terribly impressed with my announcement. In fact I felt rather like a delinquent teenager babbling some lame explanation to a skeptical principal. Responsible women don't have surprise pregnancies. Certainly not forty-four-year-old women!

I submit that my sweet Ainsey-girl is the best surprise of my life.

My heart is a bit heavy, and my eyes welled up with tears as I read this to Dave. You know, you can care for other people's babies. You can read to them and rock them and play peek-a-boo. But, wet nurses aside, nursing is strictly a mother's domain. In all likelihood, my nursing days are now over. They have been special days indeed.

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. Prayers for God's grace as we embark on this next season.