Thursday, April 29, 2010

Small Successes - The Kids' Edition


Danielle Bean encourages moms to encourage each other. Here are a few highlights from our abode.

1. Ainsley cut two teeth! They are barely visible, but her gumby days are numbered.

2. John loves 'cool as he calls it. His teacher says he's doing great, and I think she's telling the truth.

3. Kolbe continues to make me laugh which, really, is a big success. Here's his latest: Why did the potato farmer plow his field with a jackhammer? He wanted mashed potatoes.

4. Tim memorized The Charge of the Light Brigade in 90 minutes. Whew!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's Good To Be Adored

Ainsley hears me come in the room. I catch her eye and watch her face break out in that precious gumby smile.

She sighs a sigh of delight that encompasses her whole body. This simply at the sight of me.

I go back to last August when Ainsley was a mere four days old. She was crying that cry that makes a newborn shake and warble. I picked her up and she shushed in an instant.

These are the powerful, humbling moments a mother cherishes. They are fleeting as well. There will come a day when, like her high-spirited older brother, she will give me that look and say in her poutiest voice, "You da pest, Mama!"

In the meantime, it's good to be adored.

On Forgotten Lunches

Returning home from the mad shuffle that is morning carpool, I walk into the kitchen and find a lonely brown lunch bag sitting on the counter. Sigh. A certain someone has forgotten his lunch.

The boys’ school is a mere two-minute drive away, but I choose not to run back with the wayward lunch.

Several years ago neighbors we respect introduced us to Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. This parenting approach strives to raise responsible kids by placing a heavy emphaisis on natural consquences.

Too many parents today, the authors purport, are helicopter parents, hovering around and bailing out their kids at every turn. With the older two, in particular, we try to avoid bailing. Sometimes this works; sometimes it backfires.

Take the kid who has a tendency to forget his lunch. I don’t scurry after him and bring it to school. Problem is, all his friends chip in and my boy tucks into finer fare than I ever pack.

Then there’s the issue of P.E. clothes. Elementary students who don’t dress out spend a chunk of class writing sentences. Fine with me. Not so this year for our son who has moved on to middle school. I told someone again and again to remember his P.E. clothes only to find his bag hanging on a chair when I returned from drop-off.

Anxious to hear the middle school penalties, I made a few casual inquiries.

“So,” I asked, “Did you write sentences?”

“No,” he said, “We’re having, like, three months of mercy.”

I inwardly groaned. Talking to Dave later, he, too, wondered about the old natural consequences.

“They’ve declared a year of jubilee,” I replied.

When I say “I inwardly groaned”, I probably sound rather heartless. I take no joy in doing all this, but I agree with the Love and Logic folks: life is full of natural consequences. We do our children no favors by shielding them from these consequences.

The Love and Logic authors call the consequences of today “significant learning events.” They encourage kids to learn responsibility in small fits and starts while under your roof. Children pay a small price for their youthful mistakes (a bad grade, a missed meal, a bounced check) and hopefully avoid paying adult consequences later (flunking-out, bankruptcy, jail). Love and Logic encourages early independence with pre-paid credit cards and pay-as-you-go cell phones.

The system is not merciless. If we have had an unusual morning, sickness, or an unforeseen problem, I willingly tote the lunch or clothes or whatever up to school. But as a rule, we don’t bail.

For the younger set – i.e. two-year-old John - Love and Logic focuses on what the authors call “German Shepherd commands.” Come. Go. Sit. Stand. No doubt the term “German Shepherd” would offend many parents’ sensibilities when applied to training tender young ones.

Try it out, though. A typical conversation around here goes something like this:

Me, cheerfully: We sit down to eat our mac and cheese, John.
Me, firmly: John, sit down if you want to eat.
Me, determined: John, sit.
Me, frustrated: Sit now!
Me: Sit!

We start with the niceties, but quickly distill conversation down to what could accurately be captured by the term “German Shepherd Commands.”

We are working hard on teaching John to come when he’s called. We share a common backyard with fifteen other families – no fences, acres of wide open space to run. This is all very good, of course, once you’ve mastered the idea that the street is bad, very bad. I am not sure that we are there yet and even the Love and Logic people draw the line at some natural consequences.

The other issue is that I can’t scoop up eight-month-old Ainsley and go tearing across this enormous yard simply because John won’t come when he is called. Coming when you’re called is not optional.

The other day I called John and was most impressed when he yelled, “I’m coming!” He then proceeded to dash in the opposite direction. As I said, a work in progress.

How does all this Love and Logic pan out in the long run? Our oldest is 12. Look for a follow-up in about a decade.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pick a Mood, Any Mood

John, the napless wonder, has morphed into a wailing creature that sounds half-man and half-beast. He has brandished a croquet mallet and thrown a brick (a brick!) at someone. We are both at wit's end.

"Why are you acting like this," I ask.

"I don't know," he says looking bewildered.

His fit ends abruptly as he hears me begin to fake cry. He runs and wraps his squishy arms around me.

"Stop cwyingt, Mama," my little changeling pleads.

In the middle of this, Dave calls wondering if he can pick up anything for me. Last time I checked, Kroger wasn't stocking straight jackets or over-the-counter tranquilizers.

Forty-five minutes until bedtime.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


The 6th Annual Glory Run went forward despite the rain. Here are a few snaps.

Third place! Way to go!

A great effort!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Carpooling with Two-year-olds

John's buddy hops in the van this morning, and they begin exchanging pleasantries.

Buddy: You are super John John!

John: I am super John John! Yes, I am. Dat is me.

Spontaneous applause breaks out in the van.

The First Sentence of the Morning...

Boy wonder rolls out of bed and says: My only conclusion is that that estimation is just dumb.

We placed an Amazon order on April 19th. The estimated delivery date is May 10th. Somebody's none too pleased.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Do You Get a Superhero to School on Time?

We had one crazy morning around here, and I’m blaming it all on my friend Rachel of Testosterhome fame.

Tim came running in the house yesterday with a package from Amazon. In it were three copies of Rachel’s book, How Do You Tuck in a Superhero?. I bought one for myself. The others go to two stalwart women who have Testosterhomes of their own – my mother- in-law, Janet, and my sister, Karen, both mothers of four boys.

Tim and Kolbe got their hands on these books and, well, I hope we aren’t looking at a lot of homework this week because they intend to read them cover to cover.

One came running to me to let me know that, yes, corn dogs do constitute the food category known as Awesome. Kolbe was laughing about plans for “play-dates” that might include assigning a friend to call an ambulance should one be needed.

At 8:06 this morning, were they eating, brushing, hopping in the van? No, they were reading Rachel's book. I think Kolbe's half finished. They are mesmerized.

Five or six years ago, Rachel read vignettes about life with boys at a backyard Fourth of July party. Tim was captivated as Rachel regaled us with tales of underwear flying out of second story windows and dinosaur excavations in the yard. At the end of her reading, Tim turned to me and said, “I want to play at her house.” Rachel had hit the mark.

Up until August 5th , we had a Testosterhome of own, of course, but with two big differences. Rachel has five boys; I have three. The oldest four Balduccis are close in age, whereas, the Dolins, previously of spotty fertility, have four and six year age gaps. Thus, I would conclude, that the hormones are slightly diffused.

All that being said, I can relate to so much of life with a bunch of Superhero-wanna bes. It is Lego Land South around here. I fished a small grey piece out of Ainsley’s mouth just an hour ago.

We certainly struggle with our share of hygiene issues. When does a desire for clean teeth kick in? I asked a nameless son if he had brushed this morning. His reply? “No, but it’s okay because I did a really good job last night.” Sigh.

Left to their own devices, my boys would live on macaroni and cheese with a generous side of popcorn. John thinks the base of the food pyramid consists of chocolate and goldfish.

And the state of the bathrooms? Let’s just not go there. No pun intended.

Prior to my years as “Auntie Mame,” to my nieces and nephews, I would have sworn that girl and boy behaviors were enculturated. Then came the day I watched three-year-old Megan grab Nicky’s hands and yell, “Let’s dance!” His response? “Let’s fight!” This went back and forth like the “Less filling! Tastes great!” chant as I sat and pondered what comes hard-wired.

At the pool last summer, I watched two-year-old John standing at the fence enraptured at the sight of a bulldozer moving dirt for a new parking lot. His fingers were entwined in the fence, and he stood motionless. On Tuesdays and Fridays, John listens for the sounds of the garbage truck and darts to the window to catch a glimpse.

Having all of one sex invites attention and comments as I found out after John’s birth. Nobody comments on two of one sex; three seems to a benchmark of some sort.

I love Rachel’s story of the cashier who sized up her brood and then asked, “You didn’t want any girls?” Sooooo funny! I had a very nice man at our church look at our boys and comment, “Time for a girl!” He then went on to tell me – and I am not making this up – that there were certain timing issues that could work in our favor. To call this TMI just doesn’t quite capture the moment. His wife caught a whiff of the conversation and that was that.

After Ainsley’s birth, someone said, “Well you got your girl, but you had to have three boys to get her.” Huh?

I didn’t have to have three boys. Rachel didn’t have to have five. We were open, and God was generous. We are both grateful.

What Rachel does particularly well in her book and in real life is to love the life God has given her. She talks about how most people end up with boys and girls, and then adds, “The rest of us wind up something that looks different than what we imagined but is somehow the answer to the hopes and dreams we never knew we had.”

Congratulations on your book, Rachel! I’ll pop by tomorrow for a private book-signing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ainsley at Eight Months

Thanks to Charlene for the beautiful dress! I love it!

Note the bow. My friend Katharina gave Ainsley a hair clip that requires virtually no hair. How awesome is that! I am sadly lacking in the frilly department, but this eyelet number I find feminine but not gaudy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bedtime Stories

Nice to have a few extra readers in the house.

Milestones – The Good, the Bad, and the Open

We all love those precious milestones in a child’s life – the first smile, the tottering steps, swimming, riding a bike, the first day of school.

But then you have the dark side of milestones – those events that, yes, may be developmentally appropriate and even necessary, but require a household paradigm shift for everyone’s safety and sanity.

So it is around here as Ainsley attempts to crawl through a minefield of Legos. I have actually banned marbles and magnets, but Legos are a non-negotiable part of the Dolin landscape.

Ainsley is also eating us out of house and home. My sister Kate loves this stage. I, however, am reminded of a line in the movie Baby Boom. The would-be dad scrapes baby food off the floor and comments, “It might be easier to move.” I just spent three days applying a little elbow grease to an unidentifiable splotch of hardened food under the dining room table.

Other milestones we don’t necessarily celebrate:

- Saying (yelling, shrieking) the word “no.”
- Opening an inside door.
- Opening the refrigerator.
- Opening an outside door.
- Opening anything else. Open is bad. We prefer closed. And locked.
- Learning the art of “a little boost.” Think: If I stand on this jar of
peanut butter, I’ll be able to reach the cookies.
- De-coding the child-proof locks on the kitchen cabinets.
- Climbing out of the crib.

Which milestones do you enjoy? Which ones do you simply endure?

Our Little Swiffer

Do you think I can train her to do corners? Slide her under the couch maybe?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Small Successes

1. I cleaned out my purse. See photo below.

2. A friend shared a story from many years ago when she was a novice nun. Her mother superior emphasized doing small, menial tasks with great love.

Yesterday as I was reading to John, I was sorely tempted to skip parts and Just Get It Done Already! Instead, I snuggled a little closer, read every word, did the voices, and cherished a few moments of this very short season.

3. I presented The Parable of the True Vine to a sweet eight-year-old boy who was far more interested in making a paper airplanes. Instead of making him fit into the presentation, I fit the presentation to him. Then I made him a paper airplane.

What small things have you done with great love?

Just Some of the Contents of My Purse...

Two rattles, two containers of dental floss, one tube of Sponge Bob toothpaste, three grocery lists, one Easter egg (plastic, thankfully), John's shot record, and about 112 receipts.

And to think I complain about Tim's locker. Shame on me!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Two Income Family

I've always loved to write. I've never made a dime doing it.

I remember getting my first by-line at age 13 in the CYO camp newspaper. Thirty-two years later, I received my first paycheck for writing. Admittedly, I think the enterprising kid across the street made more with his lemonade stand, but who's counting?

Click here to read about our experience with secondary infertility and the unexpected path that led to the family we are today.

Saturday Afternoon

Tim reading. Ainsley chilling.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I Don't Do Voices

I wasn't long into motherhood when I realized that imaginative play wasn't my bag. As I write this, I realize my self-discovery pre-dates motherhood and actually goes back to the those precious years when I was Auntie Mame to Megan, Nick, and Lissi.

Nick had an elaborate pirate ship and begged me to play him. I'd grab a matey and make a half-hearted attempt at conversation and suddenly hear: Auntie Kelly, you're not playing!

When Tim was a toddler, we invested a pretty penny into wooden trains. I would spend lots of time building intricate tracks complete with bridges, overpasses, and an engine shed. I watched the movies, I perused the catalogues, I bought the t-shirts, the jammies, and the undies. But I hated doing the voices.

I'll play board games all night. I love tiddly-winks and Stratego and Sorry. I'll even suffer through Candyland, though I have been known to hide Glumpy if the game drags on. I don't much care for Risk and I'll venture into Monopoly only on a long afternoon and with a clear ending time in mind. Overall, though, I'm a good sport when it comes to games.

The same holds true for books. I love to read with the kids. I'll read book after book after book, especially if I am well-caffeinated. John's current favorite is Caps for Sale. He will happily hear it a dozen times.

But I don't do voices.

John came running to me this mornings with an urgent request that I play Rescue Heroes with him. I tried, really I did, but it's just not my thing. There I sat with Billy Blazes and Warren Waters trying to make small talk, but actually dreaming up a way to escape.

Five minutes into it, John barked: Talk, Rescue Heroes. Tallllk!

I was a magnificent failure. My out came a few minutes later when, with great relief, I discovered the batteries on the aircraft carrier were dead. Back in a minute...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


I hear odd noises coming from Ainsley's room and go to investigate.

"I in it!" John informs me.

"You get in, Mama," he starts to say. "No, you too big, Mama."

On My Mind...

- My mother who is suffering a wide variety of debilitating ailments with no end in sight.

- Twenty-five dead miners and the many, many loved ones mourning this day.

- A friend carrying a heavy cross.

- Another friend, coming out of a difficult year, and preparing to open a bakery in the next week or so.

- My ten second-graders who will gather tomorrow to meditate on The Parable of the Lost Coin. God never gives up on us!

- How much I loved having my big boys home last week and how much I miss them today. On my good days, I think I would love homeschooling.

- How much I love John's little voice. We pulled into the grocery store this morning, and he said, "I don't like dis house." Well, I don't either, but we were out of milk, toilet paper, and spray and wash.