Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Snapshot

Try as I might, I never caught that perfect Christmas image this year. Someone was always sick, crabby, missing, or all of the above. I have found, however, that pictures I don't initially like, I often appreciate years later. Such will be the case, I believe, with the photo below. Understand that this is probably the 75th picture I took (or had taken) this Christmas season.

If I could attach thought bubbles, they would read something like this:

Kolbe: If I stop smiling, my mother will throttle me.

Tim: Find a happy place. Find a happy place.

Ainsley: Tell me this isn't an annual event.

John: Who - Weeeee!

While the composition is lacking, in another sense, this is the perfect picture, capturing as it does this moment of our lives.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Just Ducky

We headed across the river to feed the ducks this afternoon.

I have happy childhood memories of my Dad taking us to a pond we called "Swanny Lake." We'd look at the cattails and throw bread to the birds.

Now it may be that my memory is a little hazy or that swans are nicer than ducks. Whatever the case, our afternoon was different from what I imagined.

I hadn't even unloaded the van when the ducks were after us. Aggressive? Just plain scary is more like it. One pushy foul ripped an entire piece of bread right out of John's hand. While Kolbe and I fended them off and threw the bread far from us, John - for reasons I can't imagine - threw his favorite car, the powerful Mach 5, deep into the lake. I found a big stick and attempted to retrieve it while perched on a steep embankment. Meanwhile John was dodging the still-hungry birds, and Kolbe was running around bellowing "Aflac! Aflac!"

Mach 5 retrieved, we headed for another part of the lake, free of the ducks. It was sunny but cold with a stiff breeze cutting across the pond. John was content throwing stones and sticks and stomping in puddles. I turned my head for a minute and then heard an enormous splash.

John had belly-flopped into the pond.

Now the pond is only about four inches deep, so the only danger was of hypothermia. I tossed John in the stroller as red clay poured off of him.

"I did it on purpose, Mama," he confessed. "On purpose!"

His confession was followed shortly by a plaintive wail, "I cold, Mama! I cold!"

Home again, home again for a quick bath, dry clothes, and maybe a stiff drink?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

He Hasn't Taken Up Boxing...

But he wrestled with gravity, and both arms lost. Kolbe gets new casts tomorrow. Please pray that they don't extend beyond his elbows. Right now he can't even feed himself.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Much Younger John...

But the t-shirt accurately describes bedlam, er, I mean bedtime round these parts tonight.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

She Can Back Up

And sometimes that's just exhausting.

Won't You Stay...

Just a little bit longer?

Sometimes Love Is Extravagant

When Dave was four or five years old, his best friend Timmy had this nifty snow shovel. Dave loved that shovel and wanted one just like it. He told his dad about it. Off they went to the hardware store to buy one.

They struck out at the first store and headed to check out the selection elsewhere. There they found lots of shovels, but not the shovel. On to another store.

"How about this one?" Dad would ask.

"Nope," Dave would shake his head. "That's not it."

I don't know how many stores they perused; in fact, I don't even know if they ever found that perfect shovel. What I do know is that a grown man has a keen memory of a father who patiently drove all over suburban Detroit to find the shovel his son had his heart set on.

Kolbe and Dave have been watching a You Tube video on how to fashion your own light saber. All week Kolbe has been talking about their upcoming trip to Lowe's. Tonight Kolbe came running to me to show me their purchases.

"I've got to show you what we bought," he said. "This pipe is one and a quarter inches. This one is a half inch. Here are the faucet handles."

It was one big bag chock full of hardware. There were nuts and bolts, washers and dowels, gizmos and gadgets. It's probably going to be one pricey light saber.

"Do you know what this means, Kolbe," I asked.

"My Dad is really nice," he replied.

Our kids don't get everything they want. Many purchases require a bit of a cost-benefit analysis. But once in a while love can be extravagant.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


My grand vision for Lent lasted about 8 hours, 5 minutes.

Technically it began to unravel an hour and a half before that.

The short explanation - I overslept, the dishwasher went belly-up, and Ainsley fell and bumped her head. I had plans for a quiet, private prayer time followed by a quiet, family prayer time and concluding with a peaceful breakfast and drive to school. What I got was the usual morning mayhem accompanied by a major meltdown (mine).

At my women’s prayer group the other day, my friend Amy and I were discussing our desire for a good Lent, a fruitful Lent. It’s been a few years since I’ve entered this season with much of a vision. For two of the last three Lenten seasons, I have been battling the tail-end of morning sickness. I haven’t given up a thing, nor have I taken on much. Early pregnancy for me is all the penance I can handle. Some days just putting one foot in front of the other seems a herculean feat. I remember lying in a semi-fetal position staring at a pile of laundry and saying, “In ten minutes I’ll fold it. In ten minutes I’ll fold it.”

This year I am well and – as far as I know – not pregnant. I have been looking forward to a season of prayer and fasting.

Since Advent I have been dwelling on the excesses in my life – the excessive stuff, the excessive pounds, the excessive indulgences, the excessive temper tantrums (once again, mine).

On every front, I am more than ready to pare down.

I am taking on Danielle Bean’s “Forty Bags for Forty Days,” because in a physical sense I want to unload. But more than that, I am in desperate need of a spiritual unload. My prayer life has been spotty, to say the least. Now more than ever, I thirst for time alone with God. I thirst for the sacraments. I want to be nourished by the body and blood of Christ.

Despite 12 years of marriage and children, I still picture a quiet, prayerful, simple Lent. Daily Mass and Stations of the Cross. Time set aside for meditation. You know, maybe a subtle hint of incense wafting through the house. Needless to say, in this stage of my life, this vision just ain’t meshing with reality.

A while back a friend of mine shared a word of wisdom: Let your effort be your goal. Rather than pursuing a lengthy check list of devotions, strive instead to do, as Mother Teresa used to say, “small things with great love.”

This version of the perfect Lent, a Lent of modest prayer and peaceful relationships, would all be quite doable and fruitful if it weren’t for one pesky, persistent obstacle – me. This is a season in which I need to take seriously the Psalmist’s admonition “to rend your hearts and not your garments.”

I need to set aside my vision and simply love – God, my family, my neighbor. This is one area that can’t lead to excess, that requires no paring down.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ten Reasons I love Living in the South

June, July, and August did not make the list, but here they are:

1. In three hours I can get to the beach or the mountains.

2. Charleston, South Carolina, the prettiest city in the United States.

3. Transylvania County, North Carolina. One waterfall after another. Some make a great hiking destination. Some make a great swimming hole. All are beautiful.

4. The 25 mile stretch between Highlands and Franklin, North Carolina. Take your Dramamine and your camera!

5. Dogwoods and azaleas in April.

6. Sweet Tea.

7. Boiled peanuts.

8. Savannah, Georgia. Not quite as dramatic as Charleston but still lovely.

9. Five inches of snow on Friday; sunny and 60 degrees on Sunday. In February.

10. It's where God has called me to live.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Even More Snow in Georgia!

A lovely snowfall!

Very excited kids.

A pecan smile.

The sad fate of every snowman south of the Mason-Dixon line!

Friday, February 12, 2010


Three years back, I was expecting my third son and my friend Rachel was expecting her fifth. We chatted about the girly things we missed being the moms of boys and boys alone.

Tights, we agreed, were high on the list.

You know, those cute tights you pay an arm and a leg for at Lands’ End or Hanna Andersson. They come with stripes or hearts. You pair them with a corduroy skirt and a coordinating sweater. Suede mary janes with a butterfly complete the outfit. So cute! So, so cute!

Shortly after Ainsley’s birth a package of clothes arrived in the mail. I rifled through the box, and there they were: Ainsley’s first pair of tights.

“Look, boys!” I, the excited mother, exclaimed, “Tights!”

Of course they were less than impressed, and one of them was slightly embarrassed thinking that tights were sort of like holding up a pair of underwear for the whole family to see.

What do they know? This is a rite of passage.

In the ensuing weeks, as I actually starting putting the tights on Ainsley, the dark side of tights, the long-forgotten side, began to emerge.

For one thing there was the price. The first pair I scooped up for a song - $2.99 on the sale rack. Problem was, you team up the tights with a pair of baby shoes held together with Velcro, and what do you get? Snags and pilling right from the start. You don’t get much in terms of longevity for $2.99. For the same price, you can head to the boys’ aisle and buy a four pack of socks that will get handed down three of four times.

Snagging aside, there’s also the problem of fit. There is a very slim window during which tights actually fit. Ainsley’s tights reminded me of a commercial from my childhood. A mother and daughter are in front of the elephant compound at the zoo. The daughter shouts, “Look, Mama. You have wrinkly panty-hose just like the elephant!” I never could figure out who actually wears panty-hose to the zoo, but I guess that's beside the point.

After the wrinkly stage, the tights look nice for a short span before you quickly enter the tug-and-pull stage. Think back to childhood Easter and Christmas outfits with tights that hovered somewhere between your waist and your knees. Remember the tugging and the flailing? An especially itchy brown pair comes to my mind.

On the bright side, I recently scored big at the consignment shop picking up two pairs of tights for a whopping eighty cents. Considering the pilling problem, that's about what they are worth.

Now that Easy Bake Oven? It had better not disappoint.


Dave and I are watching t.v. and an Applebee's commercial comes on. Simultaneously we recognize the identity of the voice-over.

"T-bone!" we yell.

For the uninitiated, T-bone is the bull-dog in Clifford The Big Red Dog. Economic times being hard and all, apparently he has taken a second job doing commercials.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

To Infinity

Kolbe's mass producing these for all his buddies.

I'm Lovin' These...

Nothing tastier than baby bananas. I have to say that I'm always thrown off when the pediatrician asks, "Is the baby eating solids?" Yes, folks, this substance is considered a "solid."

Three times the price of the cheap variety and worth every cent.

Love this Bumbo. I saw one at the store, but was too cheap to shell out $30. My dear neighbor called and offered hers. Ainsley loves sitting up.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

John: Ma hat is broken Daddy bix it I get ma tools.

Whew! Take a breath!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Chinese Fire Drill!

At the foot of my bed, I find John. At the head of my bed, I find Ainsley. I stumble to the kitchen to find coffee.

I read the book. I followed the plan. The baby slept. I declared victory! A little too soon, it appears.

Friday night began like a dream. I nursed Ainsley as I read stories to John. Lights out at 7:30!

Around 11:00 Kolbe had had enough of Pinewood Derby preparations. He curled up in our bed and was out like a light. At 11:30 Ainsley started fussing. By 12:00 Ainsley's fussing woke up John. I carried John into our room in hopes that Ainsley would settle down. John took one look at Kolbe and barked, "Get out of the bed!" Kolbe complied. Out goes Kolbe, in comes John. Ainsley never settled down. Out goes mom. I spent a fitful night soothing Ainsley, dozing in John's bed, and snoozing in my own.

Why is this, I wonder? Stuffy nose? Ear problems? The recently diagnosed eczema? We saw the doctor this morning. A clean bill of health! It's back to baby boot camp.

As sleep problems go, this is minor league. Our first baby left us grizzled veterans of foreign wars. Back when Tim was a baby, I sought the help of La Leche League because nursing had degenerated into the all-night cafe. I arrived at my first meeting spent - totally and completely spent.

Now, I love the La Leche League. Their well-informed counselors solved at least two difficult nursing problems for me. If you encounter nursing issues, no one is more knowledgeable.

At that first visit, however, I didn't find what I was looking for. I was sleep deprived and couldn't take it another day. They handed me a book called The Snugglers (or was it The Cuddlers?) that pictured a glowing family of six plus the family dog all happily sharing one bed and greeting the morning with smiles and good cheer. Now I felt then, and still feel today, that I could write the dark sequel to The Snugglers. Call it The Shriekers, The Howlers, The I'm Hopping the Next Plane for Bora Bora (ers).

To be brief, though we utilize the family bed as a stop-gap measure for a host of reasons - itty-bitties, sickness, travel, or night-terrors - I like my space.

The tricky part this time around is that, at least in theory, Ainsley and John share a room. With babies past, a little fussing (or in Tim's case quite a lot) didn't disturb anyone but me.

I sat at the Pinewood Derby last week dissecting our sleep issues with my friend Annette, a mother of fifteen children.

"We're trying to get the babies sleeping in the same room," I shared. "I hear it's been done through the centuries."

To Annette's enormous credit, she didn't laugh at me. Her kids all sleep at night, and it's not because they have fifteen bedrooms. This too shall pass.

I'm reminded of a favorite expression of our friend Dennis: Keep doing the right thing long enough and eventually you'll be successful. Fortitude, fortitude, fortitude.

Dave's 35th Birthday

A thoughtful husband, a dedicated father, a diligent provider, an all-around stand-up guy - all our love to you on the 13th anniversary of your 35th birthday!