Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why We Do What We Do

We arrived home at midnight on Monday and hit the ground running. Forty-eight hours of non-stop baseball, soccer, homework, and atrium.

Completely spent, last night I sank into the bed next to John to enjoy a few minutes of milk, Merlot, and Frog and Toad Are Friends.

"Are we going to Gwamma's house," he asked. "Because I love her."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Well Groomed

Me: Did you comb your hair after your shower?

Nameless Male Child: Is this, like, an everyday occurrence?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

At midnight we returned from a whirlwind trip to Detroit.

Seven days, one grubby van, two exhausted parents, four cranky children, two stuffed Scooby Doos, a zillion suitcases, 1800 miles...

The good news? One Papa appearing good as new. One Oney recovering slowly but surely.

Lots of memories. Among other milestones, I bought cigarettes for the first time in my life. Suffice it to say that the corporal works of mercy sometimes take an unexpected form.

It was good to be there. It is good to be home.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The boys are in the pew behind me embroiled in a heated argument over -- get this -- who is next in line to go to confession. Oy vey.

Friday, April 15, 2011

High Brow Humor - Part I

Christine, my faithful Internet friend from Scotland, asked about High Brow Humor - Part I. Here it is straight from the archives. Visit Christine's blog and be inspired by beautiful scenery, lovely knitting, and a spirited cat.

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 our fair city. 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.

High Brow Humor - Part II

Kolbe is talking to Ainsley, going through the words of Good Night Moon, one of her favorites.

He begins, "And the quiet old lady whispering..."

"Shut up, fool," Tim interrupts.

That resounding thud? Why that would be Margaret Wise Brown rolling over in her grave. 

Meanwhile John is wandering through the house singing a new take on that stodgy Christmas classic, Walking in a Winter Wonderland. The alternative version is called Walking in My Winter Underwear. Let me share a verse with you:

Does it scratch? Yes, it scratches!
Does it itch? Yes, it itches!
With a tug and a pull, a hundred percent wool.
Walking in my winter underwear!
Amazing what boys learn sitting around the campfire with their buds. Even more amazing that this mom hears these things and laughs until she cries.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Small Successes - Just Keep Swimming


We are in the midst of week on steroids --  an unfortunate combination of over-the-top busyness and sleeplessness. Easter break starts at 3:00 on Friday. At 3:01 we are heading to Sonic for milkshakes. Here are a few highlights from my week:

1. Tim has tackled more homework in the past two weeks than he has done in the past two years. He's uttered nary a word of complaint (despite what I shared in my last post). The boy shows no lack of fortitude. He calls me on.

2. I cleaned out Ainsley's armoire as the first step in a major reshuffling of desks and dressers. An armoire is great for hiding stuff. I have concluded that our current worst eyesore involves a load of junk in the older boys' room. The armoire is heading their way and hopefully will bring an improvement in both appearance and function.

3. Despite the crazy week, I chaperoned a birding field trip. Gorgeous weather; kind, funny, helpful students; lots of neat wild life; no snakes -- a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively). What a treat to see forty middle school students interacting with teachers, parents, and grandparents.

Hop over to Faith and Family Live! to share your successes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm on the Phone with Dave

Me: Tim's finishing up his research paper...

Tim, from the other room and in dramatic fashion: Against my will! Dad, help me!

A Dicey Start

As we squeal into the school parking lot, Tim holds out his finger and says, "This is what took me so long."

Blech! Infected bordering on septic, I'd say. Home again, home again to soak it, sterilize it, wrap it, and get the boy back to school.

I return home and shortly thereafter spot Ainsley playing in the toilet with my toothbrush.

"Toiwet," she chortles. "I did it!"

I round the corner into the kitchen just in time to spot John armed with a sharp object popping a hole in Ainsley's favorite ball.

"Why did you do that," I ask.

"Because I did," he responds.

John has a buddy over and spends ninety minutes ordering him around. John bawls his little eyes every time the browbeaten pal doesn't follow John's edicts to the letter.

I straighten the bathroom and note that we are down to our last roll of toilet paper. Minutes later I hear a splashing sound. I find the final roll submerged and Ainsley giggling.

Ainsley goes down for a nap. John wakes her up.

A babysitter stops by the house to watch the little people while I'm in the atrium. John takes her house key and pitches it in the bushes. They invest an hour trying to find the lost key.

I return home, find the key, go into the house to deal with John, and suddenly can't find Ainsley anywhere. I dispatch a search and rescue team. Moments later I find her raiding the Legos in the boys' room.

This week can only improve.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Friday, April 08, 2011

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Happy Weekend to you!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Name Dropping and Nightmares

So Kolbe comes home from a camp out and announces, "Augie's Mom is in Boston. Why didn't you go to that L.L. Bean thing?"

That L.L. Bean thing? After a second or two, I realize he probably means Danielle Bean, not L.L. Bean.

So Danielle, you are officially famous if a nine-year-old approximately eight states away drops your name. You are in the fine company of Justin Bieber and The Jonas Brothers (although my boys don't ridicule your haircut or mock your singing. Sorry, Justin! Sorry, Jonas Brothers!)

With all that somewhere in my subconscious, I had a dream about the Mom's Day Away. There I sat enjoying the talks and the fellowship when I suddenly remembered that I had brought three-year-old John along with me. I wracked my brain but could not for the life of me think of where I had left the dear boy. In my hotel room? In the bathroom?

I starting tearing around the hotel in sheer panic. I called the police. In real life, I moved into that half-waking stage and willed myself to concoct a happy ending to the story.

The police arrived with my precious John in tow and did not arrest me for neglect. I woke up with my heart racing. I found John and gave him a big smooch.

So here's another round-up of Mom's Day Away -- from the Mom who was there only in her dreams.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Small Steps - Courage, Vision, and Hope

My friend Susan is facing her third bout of cancer. Her hair is still growing back from the chemo following her first recurrence. Cancer has ravaged her body both inside and out. Side effects from medication have brought a fifty pound weight gain.

After Susan and her husband have spent an evening out, they return home and share an exchange of words that never varies.

Larry: You managed to do it again!

Susan: What?

Larry: You were the prettiest one there.

This is a man who knows how to love, how to encourage, how to build up what disease has broken down.

During the month of April, Small Steps for Catholic Moms focuses on courage. Elizabeth Foss writes today about encouragement. She begins by defining both courage and encourage. The definition that most resonates with me is that encourage means to inspire with hope.

When I think back to the many friends, bosses, colleagues, mentors, and teachers who encouraged me, I think of individuals who inspired me and gave me hope.

I remember my high school English teacher, Miss Kaye Hughes. She had a simple formula for drawing out the very best from us: She treated us like we were smart, thinking people. And you know what? If you are treated like that long enough, you start to act the part. Miss Hughes inspired me.

I remember my first boss in the world of Big Business. As a higher ranking manger, he viewed my success as his primary job. He was my most vocal cheerleader and champion. He gave me courage.

I remember the principal I worked under when I began teaching. He did his job with the passion of a novice teacher coupled with the wisdom of a veteran. Despite decades in the trenches, he was always able to look past the rolling eyes, the sloppy handwriting, the kids straggling in late for class. The joy he found in his subject matter and his love for the art of teaching called out the best in me.

I’ve read that Michelangelo could look at a block of marble and see the finished masterpiece. His job as a sculptor was simply to free it. He was a man of vision.

Last night I sat on the bleachers and watched boys’ baseball try outs. Coaches stood by with clip boards and pencils watching nine-year-old boys miss fly ball after fly ball. Although there was one shining superstar in the pack, for the most part, these coaches didn’t have much to work with.

Good coaches succeed none the less. Like Michelangelo, they picture the finished product. They pull from youthful clumsiness the grace of an athlete. They take awkward posture and dicey gross motor skills and somehow fashion a batter and a catcher and a pitcher. They have to see what isn’t there and build up what is missing. They have to have vision, and they have to impart that vision to their players.

So it is in parenting. We have to envision the finished product.

Sometimes the masterpiece is well hidden. Sometimes our tools are unwieldy and dull. We whittle ineffectively here; we lop off an unexpectedly huge chunk there. Sometimes – many times, in my case – the block and the tools are just as they should be, but our vision is cloudy.

Parenting takes vision. And faith. And hope. And love.

I have looked at my infant children and marveled at their tininess, their vulnerability, their helplessness. I have looked at my older children and often seen them as finished products when they are still so very young, so very unfinished.

Last week I heard sordid details about a father who relentlessly battered his children emotionally. I knew one of the children. His life ended tragically, and numerous people still struggle to pick up the pieces from his untimely death. As I listened to this sad, sad tale, I wanted nothing more than to go home and hug my kids.

When I returned home, the hour was late. I was tired. The house was a bit of a wreck. Usually all this is the perfect prescription for crabbiness and nagging. Not so last week. I surveyed the scene and said to myself, “In an hour or two, most of this will be set right.”

I hugged my kids, asked them about school, shared a few laughs, gave them a job or two to tackle. In light of the story I had just heard, no haranguing would take place under my roof.

When Tim was five or six and had just started studying piano, a new piece would sometimes overwhelm him. One afternoon he struggled and struggled and struggled to no avail. He burst out crying.

I had just finished loading approximately a zillion loads of clean, unfolded clothes onto the couch. I sat next to Tim and told him how disheartened I was by the laundry.

“I can’t do it all, “ I remember sharing. “But I can fold one shirt.”

It was a moment of grace. Believe me, I can go all Tiger Mother on my kids and have done so more times than I care to recall. But this time, Tim pressed on, not because he was prodded and bullied, but because he was heartened, because he was suddenly more courageous, because he could take that small step.

One of my most treasured psalms is “Without a vision, the people will perish.”

May God continue to renew my vision that I might encourage those entrusted to my care.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

I'm Glad They Call Me Mom

I watch Tim finishing up yard work. A minute later three-year-old John comes running into the house. "I need a chiso," he reports. A chisel? I wonder what nefarious schemes are brewing in that blond head of his.

"I'm cweaning the lawn mower with Tim," John tells me. Tim comes in to report how much fun John is having. "We should get all kids this age to work," Tim says. "They thinks it's great!."

The best part is spending time with your oldest brother.

Later Tim tells me what a first-rate job he has done on the yard. "Dad said it was great!" he says. He seems to hold himself just a little bit taller.

You know, we have our moments, Tim and I. Just a week ago a simple bibliography turned into an epic production, hours and hours in the making. But the next afternoon, Tim came in from school and launched into his note cards without word one from me.

"These are due next week," he said. "And I'm not going to pocastinate."

More welcome words have never been misspoken.

Meanwhile, John has passed through that purge and pillage stage of play and now engages in a wide range of more productive activities. As I drank my morning coffee, he came running in. "My bed is a volcano," he said. "I need eye protection."

Of course. Flying lava and all. Outfitted in Tim's ski goggles, off he ran to a world of pure imagination.

John's tantrums have decreased in frequency, duration, and volume. Maybe he just needed something captivating to do.

A year ago I started a post entitled "Fair and Balanced Reporting. " It began:

If I should persevere in this blogging endeavor until John is old enough to read, I fear he will peruse these posts and conclude that he was nothing more than a one man wrecking crew at this age.

For the record, sweet John, you are a precious gift from God. You are the result of persistent prayer - deep, heart-rending supplication to our gracious God for another soul to love.

You are cute, cuddly, funny, expressive.
Though he is still cute, cuddly, fun, and expressive, John is no longer the one man wrecking crew. Ainsley handles that task quite nicely, thank you very much.

Miss Ainsey's vocabulary is positively exploding. She runs to the door and yells, "'Side! 'Side!" She loves the park, her dad, and her brothers.

The more she grows, the more I mourn our nursing days. A blink of an eye, a blink of an eye.

Even Dolly is hitting developmental milestones. It seems she has weaned and is now taking both cow's milk and solids. Adages to the contrary, spilt milk usually makes me want to cry, but this scene cracked me up.

As for Kolbe -- Special K, as we once called him -- he remains steady Eddie. Everyone needs a nine-year-old in the house. He's mostly cheerful, mostly happy, forever planning his next book, his next movie, his next money making pyramid scheme.

I'm glad they call me Mom.

Except for Dolly, of course. According to the older boys, she calls me Grandma!?!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Please Pray

My mom fell and broke her hip yesterday. She is scheduled for surgery this morning at 9:00. She has an aortic aneurysm and many other health issues that make her a poor surgical candidate.

Please pray.

Her name is Kaye.

Update: Thanks to all who prayed. My Mom's surgery went extremely well. Please pray for her recovery.