Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Night Before

Do you have Awful Mornings? You know, late start, lunch items in short supply, everyone crabby, uniforms elusive.

John can find just one pair of pants, and they look like he wore them in a Tug of War. His team lost. Ainsley is sporting an appalling case of bed head and thinks any variety of comb or brush came straight from the dungeons of a medieval castle. I spray detangler just as she turns her head. Doink! The bulk of it shoots straight into Ainsley's left eye.

We back out of the  driveway at 8:18 instead of 8:10. Kolbe then remembers it's Blazer Day. We pull back in. He forgets the house is locked. We pass him the keys.He locates the blazer. We pull back out and in the midst of refereeing a minor squabble that has erupted, I fail to angle the car, and the van bottoms out as we swerve into the street.

My friend and spiritual adviser suggested I begin a simple practice during morning prayers: ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind three things I should do each day. As I sat for a few minutes of prayer after a particularly trying morning, I felt a nudge to focus less on the morning and more on the night before.

Note: This would be no revelation to most people.

Here's the glaringly obvious truth: What constitutes a crisis at 8:18 a.m. is really perfectly manageable at 8:18 the night before. We all know the devil is in the details. And three school-aged kids bring with them a pile of details -- the PE clothes, the permission slip, lunch money, shin guards, costumes for the play, et al.

I love, love, love uniforms, oh yes I do. I'd pen a sonnet, Ode to a Khaki Skort, if 3rd quarter didn't end tomorrow and if I weren't staring down a daunting pile of ungraded papers.

Ode to the Khaki Skort will have to wait, but know, O Beloved Uniforms, that my devotion remains unswerving.

I  admit that at or about 8:18 in the morning, when the belt goes missing or the tie is AWOL or one shoe is on hiatus, the value of uniforms becomes somewhat murky and as elusive as, well, the khaki skort that Ainsley swore she hung up in her closet exactly as instructed.

Last night I reminded the kids to stage their uniforms. "Stage" is a term left over from from my Procter and Gamble days when I'd call a plant to find out if a truckload of shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant had been staged.

Lay it all out there, ready to go.

I recently reminded a nameless teenage age son to locate a red polo, a.k.a the travel uniform, as he was due to head to a game the following afternoon. Always quick to comply, he duly located a red polo. But come morning, once again at or about 8:18, the red polo turned out to be the one belonging to a brother six grades below him.


Clearly, we need to require something more than eye-balling. In fact, I think a full on dress rehearsal may be in our future.

It all begins the night before.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Ainsley and I are dealing with goopy eyes and itchy noses and the fallout of a neighborhood that is bursting with color, but hard, so very hard, on those who struggle with seasonal allergies.

I'm not sure when I became one of those few -- those unhappy few -- that band of strugglers (Jamie will get the allusion. My ninth graders finished Act IV today). Were I to undergo allergy testing, I am certain I would come up positive for cats, chalk dust, and the pollen that is currently coating every vehicle, every bush, the outdoor furniture, my front teeth, you name it, it's covered with yellow powder.

I now take Allegra regularly, and during weeks like this, I reach for antihistamine eye drops as well. But to no avail. We need rain.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Back in the Saddle Again

John: How do you make an omelette?

Me: Step 1 -- Borrow eggs from the neighbors.

John recovering from croup but also John's reaction to cooking instructions.

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.