Thursday, December 24, 2009


To my vast readership in Augusta - that's you, Rachel and Patti - we are expecting freezing rain on Christmas day. Please offer up a few prayers that the temp drops a mere 3 degrees, and we wake up in a winter wonderland.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Going Underground

Noticing that cookies I had baked for a friend had gone missing, I go in search of our usual suspect.

"I hiding a you, " he says from his spot under the desk.

The next morning, it's a grape sucker that's vanished. I find him skulking behind the bar stools. Just too darn cute.

Ruby Slippers

Ainsley set out this little red number for St. Nicholas to fill. Her big brothers kindly offered to eat her chocolate.

So nice to add a girly shoe to the mix!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Grass Isn't Always Greener

In the past week I have ...

Spent 90 minutes in the waiting room of the doctor's office followed by 45 minutes at the pharmacy only to find out that the pharmacist hadn't filled the prescription because she wanted to ensure I was willing to pay the amount charged.

Looped again and again through a "help" line at the mortgage company. As I pressed (smashed, crushed, etc.) the "O" for "Operator," an overly-cheerful, automated voice repeatedly came on to say, "I understand you would like to speak with a customer service representative, but if you give me a chance, I might be able to help you." My mental response to this isn't fit to be posted.

Locked myself out of the house for a solid four hours on a morning I had lots to do.

Taken the two babies to Mass. Twenty minutes of prayerful bliss followed by 40 minutes of wrestling the two-year-old. Listened to the longest homily in the history of weekday Masses. Certain that all Regan and Dolin ancestors are out of purgatory.

Spent 70 minutes in a portrait studio valiantly trying to get four children (including Ainsley with an ear infection) to give some semblance of a smile at the same time. No dice.

Walked into the living room to find coffee dumped over a stack of very nice books. Returned minutes later to find a favorite ornament in three pieces.

Chased John through Publix. Actually had to leave Ainsley alone to make the capture. Chase may have lasted a mere 60 seconds, but it was a l-o-n-g 60 seconds. Cried on the way home.

Watched a women push her groceries home from the grocery store. Her cart tipped over in the middle of a busy street. Sat in my heated, comfy van and repented for the fortitude that is so glaringly absent in my life.

A Late Nap

John, rubbing his eyes: I tired.

John, coming to his senses: No, I not tired!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Perfect Contrition or Perfect Snow Job?

John got himself in a tad bit of trouble that involved a pen and Daddy's Bible. While he's the usual suspect when any mess is found, he's always so repentant. This time was no exception.

The big brown eyes were brimming with tears.

"I sorry, Mama," he sniffled. "Pease 'give me."

I assured him that all was well. The clouds parted and the sun shone once more.

John broke out laughing. "It's bunny, Mama. It's bunny."

Just hand him the Oscar.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Peanut Butter - A Formidable Foe

Another quiet moment alerts me to the fact that around here, quiet spells disaster or at least Big whoppin' mess!! Sure enough, John is armed and dangerous, but smiling that he was able to consume so much protein and style his hair to boot.

Post Script: While I was busy writing about John's antics, boy wonder wasn't idle. I hit the "Publish Post" button and ran off to find John standing in a pedestal sink full of water and rifling through the medicine cabinet. A strange humming alerted me to the fact that Daddy's electric razor was running. Most alarming, I found one baby aspirin floating in the debris. A quick call to Dave assured me that only one pill was loose.

My interrogation produced mixed results.

Me: Did you eat anything?
John: No!
Me: Are you sure you didn't eat anything?
John: No!

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. So easy to understand these days.

A Change of Seasons

Goodbye to Fall. We welcome Advent.

For many years now, we've marked the start of Advent by hanging Christmas ornaments on the bedroom doors. I try to find ornaments that underscore the anticipatory nature of Advent. We have hung trumpets, herald angels, stars, or simple words such as this.

For two of the past four years, I have spent Advent riding the highs and lows of early pregnancy. After enduring many miscarriages, hanging the word "hope" while pondering the birth of Jesus has been especially meaningful to my family.

Friday, November 27, 2009


My mom suffers from advanced osteoporosis. The past six months have brought a rapid decline in her mobility accompanied by acute, unrelenting pain. To be specific: seven or eight cervical fractures, three cracked ribs, and a battered knee-cap.

We spoke on Wednesday. As we were hanging up, I remarked on how chipper she was sounding.

"I feel really well," she said.

And I feel really grateful.

My parents arrive on Saturday. I can't wait for them to meet sweet Ainsey-girl!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Kolbe: How does Christopher Robin survive in the woods all by himself?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

She's Not So Tiny Now

My favorite picture of itty-bitty Ainsley. Truth be told, she looked big even back then.

From the Archives

Cleaning up after dinner one night, I noticed this pile under someone's chair.

Me: Why didn't you just tell me you don't like lima beans?

Kolbe, perplexed: Well, that would be bad manners.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Five Days Late

Thanks to the Swine Flu, Tim's birthday feast of cheeseburgers and chocolate cake was five days late - just as Tim was twelve short years ago.

My Thumb Sucker

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out

If this baby hasn't been recalled, it should be. No two-year-old should be packing this much heat, even if the ammo is a suction cup.

On Shopping

We were downtown for a doctor’s appointment this morning, so I hopped over the river to South Carolina to pick up few Christmas bargains at the Shop Crammed with Cheap Stuff.

And crammed it was. For the holidays the main aisles – the only aisles that are passable on a good day – were crammed with folding tables crammed with festive sweaters, electric travel mugs, fondue pots, and the like. My visit underscored my deeply held belief that there isn’t a merchandiser around who has actually pushed a stroller – single, double, umbrella, or jogger – through a store. Truly it’s hard to believe the fire marshals aren’t all over this place.

But cheap it was too! Cute shirts - $5.00! Cute photo coasters - $5.00! Baby shoes - $5.00! I loaded up.

As the trip wore on, I could tell the blood sugars were falling fast. I attempted to navigate through the baby section – crammed to the fourth power – and John began a rapid meltdown. He took off his shoe and then Ainsley’s shoe and then her sock. I confiscated shoes and sock as I weaved in and out of racks. What the cart didn’t knock over, John managed to grab. The blood sugar continued to plummet, and the blood pressure began to rise. I headed for the checkout counter.

Not quickly, of course, because I could scarcely move. I was stuck behind a woman whose cart was stuck between racks. Behind me was a clerk pushing an enormous rack crammed with more cheap stuff.

I was checked out and heading for the door when I noticed John was missing his other shoe. Cheap only goes so far when you have to replace a pair of shoes. Back into the fray we went in search of the shoe.

Hangers were snapping. Parkas and jeans were cascading. My patience was waning. Still no shoe.

“John,” I said in exasperation, “Where is your shoe?”

“Dere it is!” he said, pointing beneath a rack of house coats.

And dere it was.

A Window into Their Souls

Since Tim’s birthday last week, John has been going around singing, “May God bwess you! May God bwess you!”

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” And they do.

I treasure the moments I’ve spent with my children in prayer, in Mass, in scripture reading. Their innocence, authenticity, and trust surely delight God as they do me.

There was two-year-old Kolbe who one day grasped a crucifix and said, “Jesus, come to the prayer meeting tonight and give me a big hug!”

He had just learned the “Our Father” and one night piously concluded his prayers with “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Nemo.”

We once overheard Kolbe sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, I don’t want to go to bed” to the tune of “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”

Prayer provides such a window into a soul. Kids pray about the things most important to them—for healthy babies and ailing grandparents, for long-dead cats and long-awaited puppies.

For years astronaut Alan Shepherd figured prominently in Tim’s prayers. Tim had read so many books about the early space missions, he was full of gratitude that Colonel Shepherd had survived his flight. Later Tim moved on to electronics. Kneeling at weekday Mass, I watched him clasp his hands and say, “Jesus, I don’t have a gameboy.”

As my children have grown, I have watched their prayers change a bit. One summer day we were scattered around the house having a few moments of private prayer. Kolbe had a prayer journal that walked children through prayers of praise, repentance, thanksgiving, and petition.

“Mom," he called from the next room, “How do you spell kicked?”

A few minutes later I heard, “Mom, how do you spell tripped?”

And finally, “Mom, how do you spell brother?”

I’m guessing he was on the repentance part.

Kolbe’s journal includes places to draw pictures. Nearly every drawing is of our family. The stick-family Dolins are always gathered around a bonfire. His intercessions express urgent pleas for a dog and a fervent hope that Ainsley would be a boy.

The oddest prayer? “Thank you for this day, the soldiers in Iraq, and the rights of Englishmen.”

Glancing through Kolbe’s journal, I’m glad Ainsley is a girl, but I suddenly have a yen to drag out the fire pit. As for the dog, one day, sweet Kolbe, one day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Kolbe: If I got swallowed by a fish and then someone caught the fish, would I die?


So we've been checking temperatures frequently this week. As the newer, quicker thermometer has been MIA, we're stuck with the one that takes something like eleven minutes to beep.

I was flipping some laundry this morning and there it was - the "good" thermometer at the bottom of the washer looking squeaky clean.

It says that I'm 37.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Did I mention that John likes to stand on the laundry basket and watch the washing machine agitate?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In Flew Enza

During the 1918 flu pandemic, little girls would jump rope to this grim ditty:

I had a little bird
His name was Enza
I opened up the window
And in flew Enza

Well, it's landed here.

Tim and Dave are sick, sick. I am nursing Ainsley wearing a mask. (If you want to be aware of how often you kiss your babies, just put on a mask.)

I rolled out of bed this morning and asked Tim how he was feeling.

"Sick," he said. "Let's just leave it at that."

In the midst of it all, I am grateful for doctors who take good care of us and supply us with samples. For friends who run to the grocery store. For Tamiflu (even if it is $86.00). For my sisters Kate and Karen who call and chat and don't tell my Dad we have H1N1 in the house. For Ainsley who is, without a doubt, the easiest baby woman ever birthed. For the good health that we usually enjoy.

May I offer up this short-term inconvenience for the many, many people who are chronically ill, most especially my Mom.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Simply Lovely

Our school hosted a renowned expert in the field of nature printing. More significantly, he is the grandfather of friends. Here is what Tim produced. Neat stuff.

Tim at Twelve

We planned cheeseburgers and chocolate cake. We ended up with fever and tylenol. True to form, you didn't complain. We hunkered down and watched a lot of Star Trek.

Tim, you are an invaluable blessing to our family. You are kind, honest, compassionate, forgiving, and smart.

Happy twelfth birthday, Tim. I can't imagine life without you.



Somebody arrived home yesterday, plowed through the snack food like there's no tomorrow, and then begged for more.

Me: Have a glass of ice water.

Somebody: Water?? That's like eating plankton.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kackleberry Farm

Feeling No Pain

I am running around like my hair's on fire trying to get a long-overdue article completed, get a rudimentary Christmas list moving forward, and honor Tim on his 12th birthday. Meanwhile, John is chillin' with his chocwate milk.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Look Who's Talking!

The "experts" say you shouldn't encourage baby talk. I say lighten up! We mothers of two-year-olds deal with all manner of challenging behavior and face potty training to boot. Let's savor those elements of this stage that are sweet. Blossoming speech certainly is.

A few of John's milestones:

First word: Mama

First two-word combination: Hot Plate! (Said with a Spanish accent.)

Longest: Pwize! Aunt Patti gave it to me.

Melts my heart: Dadt! He is here! Dadt! (Followed by a high speed race to the door.)

Wish he’d never learned it: No fair!

Courtesy of his older brothers: ‘Tupid!

On itchy jammies: I don’t wike dem. Okay?

He’s a boy: It need new battweez.

On Ainsley: I hold it!

An odd one: It’s mah thumb dwive!

Three cheers for the two-year-olds in our lives. They are, indeed, pwecious.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

At Least He's Honest

So we ranted and raved and reminded a certain somebody - we'll call him incognito - about something that had to happen at school today. Here's the first exchange of the morning:

Me: So what's going to happen at school today?

Incognito, quite cheerfully: Not a clue!

At least he's honest. And he makes me laugh.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Lost and Found

When our first was a toddler, we, like all parents of toddlers, would find things in the oddest places. When an item would turn up missing, Dave would say, "Think like Tim."

The lock and key to our shed vanished the other day. I searched and hunted and finally said to myself, "Think like John."

John loves to throw things in the bushes. Off I went to rifle through the shrubs. The first four bushes produced a cache of five balls, one shoe, a shovel, and an icky sock (left to mulch the garden).

I was about to give up when I spotted the key deep in the forsythia.


I laugh (or groan) about Tim and the ginormous collection of books, comics, puzzles, etc. that he stows in his bed. As I settled into my bed the other night, I noticed the pile of books I had selected for the whopping ten minutes I planned to read before falling asleep. My pile is a tad neater than Tim's, but, yes, it's still a pile.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To My Sweet Ainsey-Girl...

Two things you will never fully comprehend:

1. How totally unexpected you were.
2. How much I wanted you.



51% Sweetheart ...

... 49% rascal. Don't push it.

Peanut, Peanut Butter!

The house is quiet, and I revel in a few minutes of “me” time.

The prudent side of me urges: Check on John! Quiet is bad, very bad!

The self-indulgent side of me counters: Chill!

Inevitably self-indulgent wins the battle, but prudent wins the war. I eventually look for my sweet toddler and find that five minutes of alone time doesn’t come free.

Of late, peanut butter has been John’s partner in crime. Their favorite victim? The couch. Not the old, battered couch that could brave an encounter with Peter Pan and emerge with little to show for its troubles. Oh, no, no, no. John goes for the nice couch.

Hope triumphs over experience when it comes to finger food as well. Sliced cheese and grapes are usually safe bets, but why- oh- why do I continue to give John dry cereal in a bowl? Oh, the sound of Crispix underfoot!

This morning John and I sat down at the table to paint with water colors. We had great fun coloring Spiderman and Doc Oc. I stepped away for just a minute and, sure enough, heard a gushing sound as the water we were rinsing brushes with sloshed all over the dining room.

I have often reflected on how my children lead me to be detached from created things. There’s the son who has a tendency to lose items, the toddler who leaves his mark on everything and anything, and the infant who outgrows clothes in the blink of an eye.

“Store up for yourself treasures in heaven,” Jesus tells me in the Gospel of Mathew, “where moth and rust (and two-year-olds) will not destroy.”

Thanks to Tim, Kolbe, John, and Ainsey-girl for reinforcing the message.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Good Question

Tim: Mom, what's an anvil used for?. In movies they're always falling on people.

I love Turns out the primary use of an anvil is not to smash hapless people. An anvil is a heavy, smooth piece of iron used as a surface to hammer and shape other pieces of metal.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Right Back in the Lion's Den

I love the music of Marie Bellet. She is a wife, a mother of six, and a gifted song writer.

Her lyrics are right on for this stage in my life.

I was driving around the other day, ruminating about troubles a-brewing and the line "right back in the Lion's den" struck a chord with me. She's talking about her husband. It reminds me to be grateful for the great provider that my dear husband is. He wakes long before dawn to drive 45 minutes into what often is indeed "the lion's den." On a light day, he puts in ten hours; on a tough day it might be 18. He hops back into the truck and drives another 45 minutes home. He usually calls to see if he can stop at the grocery store on the way home.

Because he does this, I can tend the home front full-time. On my bad days I resent the hours and the burden this demanding job places on me. Today I am aware that he has returned to the den day after day for nearly 20 years. And I am grateful for Dave's heroic sacrifice.

High Brow Humor

During the twelve years and nine months that I was the sole female resident of the house, I learned quite a bit about the nature of men and boys. One observation was reinforced this weekend: male humor is unlike female humor.

A major moment of enlightenment came many years ago while hiking the trails of Yosemite National Park. Tim was walking next to me and 18-month-old Kolbe was in a backpack. Horses had just been through the area, and I pointed out their mess to Tim.

"Don't step in the horse poop," I warned.

Kolbe burst out laughing like I had never heard him before. Deep down belly laughs. Guffaws.

"It's hard wired," I thought. Boys hear the word "poop" and they can't contain themselves.

This weekend was the Boshears fly-In here in Augusta. It's an ever-shrinking but still fun air show. The Boy Scouts camp out at the airport. Saturday evening is something called "The Cracker Barrel." The various scout troops assemble and entertain each other with skits. Apparently there are a few tried and true routines that get reheated each year. There's a "Hans and Fritz" number that's an oldie but a goodie. Last year being an election year, it morphed into "Hans and Joe the Plumber."

Kolbe came home and recounted some of the skits for me. One of them was LOL funny. Now LOL has to be one of the most tired expressions of the day, but in this case it fits-I really did laugh out loud and offended Kolbe in the process.

"You didn't laugh like that about our skit," he complained. "And ours had underwear. Real underwear."

Yep, underwear. It's right up there with poop for knee-slapping funny.

I can't say much for the rest of the show except that at one point Kolbe came up to Dave and asked, "What's a bra?"

And Dave probably guffawed.

Monday, October 19, 2009


The sleeping quarters of a nameless inhabitant of our home.

I believe the expression "Oy Vey" was coined to describe such a scene.

The good news? During this brief photo shoot, I located a book that's due today.

Coffee Break

Standing on a cooler, wearing Kolbe's shoes, drinking Mom's coffee.

Grammar Girl

I saw these slip-on tennies on the wrong feet and embarked on a trip down memory lane.

My dear niece Lissi sported a girl’s version of these and, like John’s, they were always on the wrong feet. I mean always. It was one of Lissi’s many charms.

Lissi taught my grammar class for years with her creative use of pronouns and penchant for non-standard verb conjugation.

We used to play hide and seek. We followed a certain protocol. I would walk into the room where she was hiding and call out, “Where’s Lissi?”

The one time I skipped my line, Lissi jumped from her hiding place and yelled, “You forgot to ask where I is.”

I remember her parents walking out the door and Lissi asking, “Who’s going to take care of we?” As we loaded up the van for an outing, she commented, “We’re riding in him’s car.”

Cute, cute, cute. I shared all these examples with my ninth grade English students, and tried to convince them that it’s not nearly as sweet when you’re 14.

Lissi loved cats and had a plethora of stuffed ones. When she was about three, the family inherited a live one. Poor Max. He was an anti-social, slightly neurotic Himalayan who had lived alone with my dear grandmother. Lissi was ardent in her love and generous in her affection. Max became even more of a recluse.

You could get Lissi to do anything if you promised to give her a glimpse of the cat.

I got her out of a lengthy bubble bath by promising to find the elusive Max. Lissi was soaking wet and still clutching a bar of soap when I carried her to parents’ bed and found Max hiding underneath.

“Kitty, kitty, kitty,” Lissi laughed. She was mess - wet, soapy, and covered with Max hair.

Max never quite adjusted to life in a busy household of kids. His misbehaviors were so icky they are best left unmentioned. There came the day I had to tell Lissi that Max was moving south to live with her single aunt.

She responded solemnly and in typical Lissi fashion, “Max don’t like us, Auntie Kelly.”

Lissi was and is a born competitor. There was the now-famous Game of Life. From the outset, Lissi announced her intention of bearing girls and girls alone. Imagine her disappointment when two consecutive turns brought “Add a baby boy collect presents.”

Vesuvius began to stir. Lissi was not amused.

Lissi’s turn came round again. Megan, Lissi’s older sister, read the square and began to laugh. “Bad news, Liss,” Megan giggled. “You’ve got another boy.”

Vesuvius erupted. Lissi stood on her chair, pointed a shaking figure at her plastic sedan, and yelled, “Get them boys out of my car.”

We laugh about it to this day.

Lissi is now 18. Her competitive nature paid off. She graduated from high school with a near-perfect GPA. She’s studying engineering (not English), but managed to master pronouns. She’s quite the fashionista, but prefers spike heels to slip-on tennies. They are always on the right feet.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Small Successes

1. I styled my hair two days in a row. The wet hair in a ponytail has been de rigueur for years now.

2. We woke up very late, but made it to school with no shrieking or threatening.

3. I cleaned out and updated three phone lists.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

John spies a Truck

And begins his monologue: Dadt! Where he goingt? Twuck! What he doingt?

Alas, it wasn't Dadt's twuck.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I Caught a Smile

This same day we spent about ninety minutes in a portrait studio and never saw a glimpse of this gumby grin.

I'm Two and I'm Good at It

Just over two years ago, my friend Rachel and I had babies a week apart. Henry and John are now taking the world by storm. A few signs of the times:

  1. Your favorite word is Nope! As in: Do you need a new diaper? Nope! Are you ready for a nap? Nope!
  2. Mynt! is another favorite. It’s a variation on “mine” and follows your penchant for adding a “T” to everythingt. Megan = Megant. On = Ont. Dad = Dadt. Oddly, Mom is pronounced Momp.
  3. Screaming and flailing on the ground underscore your deeply held opinions.
But two has its charms as well.
  1. Saying “I wove you.”
  2. Standing up in your crib every morning and taking inventory of your loved ones. Where Dadt? Where Timmy? Where Kolbe? Where Ainsey?
  3. Carrying your new Thomas the Tank Engine train around. Sleeping with it clutched in your chubby hand.
  4. Doing the Linus thing and never letting go of your “bot.”
  5. Dashing to the window, overcome with excitement at seeing the garbage twuck.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Starry Night

A typical evening exchange...

Tim: Mom, come look at my drawing.

Me: I'm sewing on your Boy Scout patches.

Tim: Where would Van Gogh have been if his mother hadn't put down her knitting to look at his paintings?

Me: Van Gogh wasn't a Boy Scout, was he?

The baby cries. I put down my sewing. Ainsley and I admire Tim's artwork. While he's done a fine job, somehow the life cycle of the mosquito doesn't conjure up the wheat fields of France.

Gushing, Insufferable Mother

She's simply beautiful.

Morning by Morning New Mercies I Need

John melted down at midnight. A bad dream? Who knows. Crying, flailing, inconsolable. I rocked and kissed and finally plopped him in my bed.

There he slept until 5:43 when he climbed out of bed, appeared at my side, and said "Goldfish?"

I'm thinking "Caffeine?"

With a sore throat and burning ears on top of my fatigue, a few other words come to mind - Advil, nap, and mercy top the list.

Jesus, help me through this day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Birthday at Jumpin' Beans!

Low Crawl, Ainsley!

Two-year-old John rounds the corner, bazooka in hand, calling to the baby: Pwecious! Where are you?

Only the Mother of Boys ...

Sees a dead roach under the dining room table – moments before 10 little boys arrive for a birthday bash – and debates whether to sweep it up or leave it for a cheap thrill.

From the Backseat

Kolbe: Let’s play use bad grammar. I’m doing good. How are you?

Rattling My Chain

John has discovered the toilet. More specifically, he has discovered that the toilet flushes.

I hear a distant flushing. Knowing that there is presently only one potty-trained Dolin in the house, I investigate.

Me: What did you flush?

John: What!

Me: What is it?

John: It!

Me: Tell Mama what it is.

John: What!

Me: Tell Mama.

John, leaning over the now silent toilet bowl: All gont! All gont!