Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Threat with Teeth

Me: Kolbe, go outside or you're trying on clothes.


House Guests and Rotating Beds

Our nephew and cousin Jacob has been a sweet addition to our family this week. He is witty and helpful and totally in love with his baby cousin, Ainsley.

Our house being our house, overnight visitors require a Chinese fire drill when it comes to sleeping arrangements.

Jacob took over Kolbe's bed. Kolbe headed for the guest bed. John's trundle bed migrated to our room. Not a great plan, but a plan. Except that it didn't work. For reasons unknown, Ainsley has been up to the wee hours just wanting to PARTY! So John's been in our bed, Kolbe's taken over the trundle, and I find myself doing my evening reading by light of a Boyscout headlamp so as to avoid rocking the slumbering ship.

Yes, the other night, there I was reading the fourth installment of The Thirty-Nine Clues by the light of a headlamp while eating a Reece's peanut butter cup.

I washed it down with a plastic cup of chardonnay (I'm becoming my father!! And not in a good way!!) and I was wearing my reading specs, so I guess I'm still a grownup.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Day in Atlanta

Ainsley's job was to be cute. She does this very well.

John rode the zip line about a hundred times.

Kolbe wondered about my favorite part of the day. Without a doubt it was seeing delighted faces such as this one.

Don't Look Down!

Images from the ropes' course.




Perspective. Tim and Jacob were one level above the figure in this shot.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Small Successes!

Join the women of Faith and Family Live! as we encourage one another. Here's the good news from our house:

1. Cousin Jacob arrives from Michigan this afternoon. The big boys have been counting down the hours! I think he's bringing a cold front with him. We may stay below ninety for the first time in, hmmm, about ninety days.

2. Our beloved piano teacher is taking a sabbatical this year. Yesterday, I found a new teacher who gave us a great time slot and - drum roll, please - will come to my house for lessons. Who-wheee!

3. Kolbe's latest joke: What do you call a blind dinosaur? An I don't think he saurus.

From the Archives

Where did this little rascal go?

Birthday Blues

Faith and Family Live! ran a piece I wrote. Click here to read Birthday Blues.

Sting, Stang, Stung

We spent the evening in the emergency room with Tim.

Around 7:00 he came running into the house complaining of an unidentified sting. I supplied ice and Benedryl and then watched as Tim's face broke out, his eyelids swelled, and his ears turned red. When his throat became scratchy and he began to cough, it was time to call Dad home from church and head to the hospital.

One shot of epinepherine and a dose of steroids later, Tim was doing fine.

All and all, Tim handled both the sting and the treatment quite well; the hospital gown, however, about undid him.

"It's not a gown; it is a tunic," he quipped, quoting Night at the Museum II.

Whatever you call it, he couldn't get it off his body fast enough. A little too drafty, I suppose.

Episodes like this make me so thankful for first rate, accessible medical care.

This has already been on my mind as we have passed several scorching afternoons playing The Settlers of Catan and The Oregon Trail. You want to be grateful for the little things in life - a hammer, salt pork, immodium? Pack up your Conestoga wagon and head west.

The settlers didn't have epinephrine. I am very grateful that we do.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Kolbe, swallowing some nasty allergy medicine: Tastes like chicken!

Tim, imitating Calvin's dad: Calvin, go do something you hate. Being miserable builds character.

Catch and Release

We had a few laughs (and screams) the other morning as this little guy darted through the house. We let him go mostly because John's brand of love is a little too aggressive, and I don't think he would have been long for this world in our house.

Dart away! Dart away!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Small Successes


Visit Faith and Family Live! to share encouragement. It's been a quiet week. Here are the highlights from our abode:

1. John started school. We turned onto the street in front of the school this morning, and John started yelling, "Whoo wheeee!"

I wish the older boys were that excited about school.

2. I found the cap to a green Sharpie. Never a good omen. I eventually found the marker itself. It appears that the sole casualty is John's shirt - a nice shirt, but at least it's not the couch. I guess that's not much of a success. A disaster averted, maybe, but not a success.

3. We continue to enjoy almost daily rain. Some might find this dreary, but our town has been mired in a decade-long drought. Typically our front lawn is solid brown by August. Today it is lush and green. I am so thankful for rain!

What about you?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Joy Ride

My New Dishwasher!

It has an average noise rating, but when you trade a 25 year old model for a new one, trust me, it sounds silent as a grave.

It's stainless steel, not green, but I'm nervous about taking the protective wrap off of it. I'm going to end up like one of those old ladies who keeps a plastic cover on her couch.

Orientation: Consider Your Direction

John is thrilled to go back to 'cool this week.

He and his buddy attend a Child's Morning Out program that John absolutely loves. He pulled out his 'Piderman lunchbox and his Buzz Wightyear backpack. He's ready to roll.

Orientation took place yesterday. My friend Rachel and I met the teacher and filled out paperwork that included a dozen or so questions about habits, fears, medical issues, etc.

A few of these simple questions stumped us both.

What household responsibilities does your child have? What disciplinary techniques do you use?

Rachel got my attention, and we both began to laugh.


I racked my brain and finally scribbled - and I wish I had just left it blank - "John takes items to the trash can."

How lame is that?

As for disciplinary techniques, I wondered if I should provide the long one (ones tried) or the very short one (ones we've found effective).

I moved on to goals. Goals? I want to clean my house and have it remain free of Rescue Heroes, Thomas and Friends, Matchbox cars, and smeared peanut butter for four consecutive hours, six if John naps after 'cool. If I get the house done quickly, my goal is to eat cheese dip and pico de gallo with my friend Anna.

Sure that these were not the goals the teacher had in mind, I actually wrote:

1. Have fun.
2. Relate well with peers.

The teacher passed out bags for each child. She asked us to write the child's name on the back so he'll begin recognizing his name in print. While I was puzzling over John recognizing his name in print, the teacher and a mother began a serious conversation about writing the name in all caps or using a combination of upper and lower case letters.

Clearly this orientation was more for my benefit than for John's.

Orientation is "the ascertainment of one's true position." It means to confirm your direction. All of the events of this morning nudged me to consider the direction we are facing with the one-of-a-kind, brown-eyed bundle of energy that is our John.

This summer, in truth, has been less about lofty goals and clear direction than about:

1. Having fun.
2. Surviving the heat.

(I would add a third item - Complete potty training - but to even put this in writing is to allow the slightest doubt as to whether or not we are done. We are done. I am done. It is done.)

Summer is waning. Fall is nearly upon us. It's time to think about goals, to consider our direction.

During my years of parenting, I have had a number of "aha" moments - such as this orientation - that brought into stark focus some aspect of child rearing.

Just after Kolbe's birth, I was hit with a debilitating case of mastitis. I literally couldn't stand up. As I was waiting for Dave to come back home from work, Tim woke up hungry. I told him what he should eat and where he could find it. He managed fine.

Just after John's first birthday, I read a parenting article that said a one year old should be able to bring an item to you when asked.

"Ridiculous!" I thought.

I looked over at a nature puzzle and said, "John, bring me the bird." He did it!

Last spring I was preparing to spend Mother's Day with my ailing mom. I began pondering the number of household jobs I had never taught the older boys - how to cook something besides mac and cheese, how to run the washing machine, and the list went on. As I went through my days, I began to show the boys how I did certain things. I find that when my children have to do something - lo and behold - they are fully capable of doing it.

The other morning I left Tim charge as I took Ainsley to a doctor's appointment. I called to check on the home front and heard an epic meltdown in progress. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I heard Tim yell to Kolbe, "Just put a show on for him! Just put a show on for him!" Him being our dear John, of course.

"Just where did he pick up that strategy," I wondered.

To be sure, there is a time to keep the peace. Many a dinner around here has made it to the table with a little assistance from Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber.

There is also a time to consider our orientation, to adjust our direction, to set a few goals, both lofty and mundane. There is a time to take a toddler by the hand and help him grow into a little boy.

That time is upon us.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Noxious Fumes

I had just learned that my dear friend is expecting a daughter in January. In a wave of sympathetic hormones, I felt compelled to sort through Ainsey's infant clothing to see what I could pass along.

A noxious odor pervaded the closet and utility room.

"Did we toss a diaper in here" I wondered.

A quick sweep of the room ended any further wondering. Yech. Off to interrogate the usual suspect.

Me: Why did you poop in the utility room?

John: Weelllll ... I needed a 'crewdriver.

Alrighty then.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Faith and Family Live! ran a story of mine. Click here to read "Do the Right Thing."

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Grass Really Is Greeener

A buddy from across the yard just got contact lenses and his own cell phone.

I overhear a woebegone voice lament, "We don't have a cell phone. We don't have cable. We don't even have pages!"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Small Successes


Visit Faith and Family Live! to encourage and be encouraged. Here are a few highlights of our week:

1. I need a drum roll for this one ... I sent my first text message. I can summarize the experience in one word: tedious. I feel forced to concede that texting is here to stay. I can only hope I get a little more proficient. Where is that manual?

2. Ainsley had her one year check up. She has gained a reasonable amount of weight and is no longer anemic. Yes!

3. Kolbe continues to make me laugh. His favorite cereal is Honey Bunches of Oats. He picks up the box and says, "Honey Bunches of Goats, not baaaaad!"

HT for the joke: Brewster Rocket.

What about you?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Let the Games Begin

I've always loved playing games. I whiled away the summers of my childhood playing endless games of Monopoly with my best friend, Susan. College evenings with Ami, Kate, and Anne were filled with Trivial Pursuit and nachos from Tijuana Bob's. It's a rare board game I don't enjoy. Vacations with my extended family are filled with hours of Scrabble interrupted by rounds of Uno and Euchre.

We just acquired a new game - The Settlers of Catan. The older boys and I sat down to play this morning.

Playing with kids brings a few challenges I don't typically find when it's my mom or my sisters battling it out. My mom doesn't usually cry when she loses, and my sisters can make the dice land in the vicinity of the board.

Not so with young kids.

We have large age gaps, so right from the start finding the right game is tough. I try to find a game not too banal (think: Candyland), but not too competitive (think: Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?), and, most importantly, not too long (think: Risk).

Game chosen, we then have a few behavioral challenges to overcome.

We may or may not have a family member who can not manage to throw dice in such a manner that they actually land anywhere near the board. If the dice do happen upon the board itself, rest assured we are playing a game with dozens of tiny pieces placed in strategic locations. The dice go a flyin' and so do the pieces. Otherwise, the dice go a flyin' and land under the table, typically within Ainsley's grasp.

You know, when the dice skedaddle once or twice, it's no big deal, but, trust me, by the eleventh time, you want to shriek "Settlers of Catan, be gone!" and get a cold compress and a few Advil. We've learned to throw the dice into a plastic tub. No flying dice, no choking hazards, no pain reliever required.

Other troubles are not so easily solved.

We may or may not have a kid who can never ever remember whose turn it is. Like the flying dice, this gets old fast.

There's the kid who can't stand to lose. We have actually rehearsed good sportsmanship lines. Repeat after me: Good game, fill-in-the-blank.

Then of course there's edifying conversation such as the exchange between Virtuous and Kindly that took place this morning:

Virtuous: What's that smell?

Kindly: I thinks it's your face.

At such a point I begin hissing comments about kindness and civility and doing unto others. The message gets a bit murky as my patience wanes, my jaw clenches, and each word sounds like a bark.

I remember suffering through identical trials with my oldest nieces and nephews. Candyland, Life, and the mercifully short-lived, Pretty, Pretty Princess. There were tears and fits and clandestine stacking of the deck in favor of the youngest. Today these same folks are some of my favorite opponents and partners at play.

This afternoon we returned from the pool and stumbled upon those serendipitous moments when the dice didn't fly, the youngest didn't get totally creamed, the babies napped simultaneously, and we laughed and played and enjoyed the simple pleasure of each other.

When that happens, all of us are winners.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Small Successes or, More Accurately, Graces Untold

The readers at Faith and Family Live! encourage one another to embrace the life God has given to them. Stop by for a visit and be encouraged.

It's been a week of blessings and challenges around here. Of note:

1. It was one year ago today that I heard my niece Megan utter those unforgettable words: It's a girl! One year of my precious Ainsey-love! The complicated tale of our path to the family we have today is told here. The Readers' Digest version is that I never thought I would have a daughter, and I certainly didn't think I would have four children.

I am humbled and grateful in the face of God's generosity.

2. At the pool yesterday, John pulled off his swimmies, jumped into the pool, and sank like a stone. He was in clear, shallow water, and I was just two or three feet away. Needless to say, I was still shaken. Once again I am reminded of how absolutely vigilant we have to be around water.

3. We have enjoyed more rain than we have had in years. Green grass is August is a beautiful sight.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

On Her First Birthday

And we asked him for one more soul
One more voice for the heavenly choir
One more soul
That is all our hearts desired
Custom made by love divine
A new creation for all time
One more soul

Marie Bellet

Monday, August 02, 2010

Celebrating One Year of Ainsley!

From Kolbe's prayer journal. Her jaundice really wasn't so bad.

Why . . . Someone Tell Me Why

As I'm straightening the kitchen, I move some ripe peaches to the middle of the counter so that we'll eat them pronto. A few minutes later I notice a puddle of juice under them.

"What happened to the peaches," I ask a nearby child known here as Nameless.

"Well...I bounced them up and down. Boom, boom, boom," Nameless informs me. "Kinda like that."

From the Cry Room

Our church no longer has a cry room: it's the Training Room, thank you very much. But let me tell you, the scene in the Training Room this morning was enough to make a saint cry.

Our day began auspiciously enough. Tim was serving Mass, and we were - drum roll, please - early! Ainsley had just fallen asleep as we arrived. I figured she was out for an hour or more. Throwing caution to the wind, we passed up the nursery and took John into the big church with assurances that he could be quiet.

That lasted about as long as the processional hymn.

John squirmed and squawked, eventually loudly enough that he woke up slumbering Ainsley who decided it was high time for a bite to eat. I exited stage right and headed for the training room.

Not much training going on in there, let me tell you.

Now, the babies were just being babies, and the toddlers were just being toddlers. There was also an older man with his disabled adult daughter. I have seen this gentleman around for many years. He's a daily communicant, and I think recently widowed. His daughter is probably thirty or forty and has profound physical and emotional disabilities. If she's having a good day, she and her father sit in the back of the church. On rough mornings, he retreats to the training room.

The problems didn't stem from any of the above, but from two mothers who began talking in normal conversational tones and would not stop. Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak. And then more yak.

The dad and I strained to hear through the mediocre sound system and above the din of the endless chatter. We joined in the communal prayer for vocations and gradually I found us praying louder and louder.

Nothing stopped these two.

Finally the man leaned over and asked them to stop talking. They responded kindly and did in fact button it.

A few minutes later John joined Ainsley and me. Dave had been recruited to usher and there was no leaving energetic John in Kolbe's tender care.

Eventually, behavior was such that we washed out of the training room. Not ready for prime time on any front! Out to the narthex we went. I gently cajoled, I hissed a threat or two, all to no avail. Apparently John missed the memo that clearly explained: You are no longer two! Shape up! There was no shaping up to be done this morning.

Suddenly we three Dolins were joined in the narthex by - guess who? - Chatty Cathy and companion. And what do you think they started doing? Chatting! Non-stop.

Kids clothes, what so and so said to so and so, shoe sizes. I promise you, they never paused for a breath. The consecration went on and so did they. I finally leaned over and said, "I'm sorry, but it's really hard to hear."

Usually this kind of thing can get me angry, but I found myself very sad instead. These mothers made the effort to get everyone dressed and transported to Mass and to what end? To converse just as if they were at the pool or the bowling alley? Bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ, and they chattered about everything and nothing, perfectly oblivious.

Rather than getting upset, I turned to reflect on my own lack of interior recollection.

While I don't engage in the nonstop banter I witnessed this morning, I often let my mind drift to earthly concerns on par with what these women discussed - What's for dinner? Did I call so and so back? Ohh, cute shoes! Boy, it's hot in here.

No doubt my haphazard thoughts can be as noisy to God as these conversations were to me.

My favorite priest and spiritual mentor, the late Father Edward Randall, had a sign in his vesting room that read, "Priest of God, Say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass."

I am going to take this to heart.