Friday, June 29, 2012

As June Draws to a Close

Seven Quick Takes -- A Few Memories of June

1. Ainsley, looking at my toes and doing her best imitation of Yoda: It's polish you have. I like it.

2. What you get when bad behavior meets a sarcastic sense of humor:

It's probably not a good sign that this made me laugh.

3. Even Dolly - this one's named Susie -- is catching potty training fever (or maybe the boys gave her a swirly?).

4. I'm not breaking my heat related whine-fast, but I am simply pointing out a fact: The temperature reading at the bank across the street read 113 this afternoon.

5. Blogger's spell check feature has ceased to work for me. This is unrelated to the fact that I have lost any ability to proofread so much as my my first name and get it right. I don't know who or what to blame, but, believe me, I'm working on it.

6. June has been a month of firsts: John can swim, John can jump off the diving board, Kolbe can dive, John lost his first tooth, and Tim shaved his head:

7. I know it's been a good first month of summer when I realize July is nearly upon us and get just a little bit sad.

Head over to Jen's to add your Seven Quick Takes.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Order - Fighting the Good Fight

Deep cleaning today. I call it excavating. Hand me my pick ax. Toss me a hard hat with attached headlamp. I'll send the sacrificial canary into the boys' room ahead of me.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go!

Among my finds:

1. Legos, Legos, Legos.

2. Money. Mostly pennies, a dime or two, one quarter.

3. Batteries and lots of them -- one C cell, a sprinkling of triples A's, double A's like you wouldn't believe. If magnetic North is slightly askew, you can confidently pin it on the Dolins.

4. My cell phone -- in three pieces, in the dryer. Better than the washer, as Dave so helpfully pointed out to me. It's warm and wrinkle free, but surprisingly still working.

And as I clean and straighten and purge and organize, I -- for the nine hundred and eighty second time -- reflect on the crushing amount of baggage we haul through this life. It is a first world phenomenon, this life of plenty and excess, this house of closets and spiffy storage containers.

How best to tame it?

1. Don't let it in the door. -- There's nothing like a day spent purging to dampen any shop 'til I drop mentality. Our bookshelves are full. Our closets are stuffed. If there's nowhere to put it, why buy it? Even the free stuff really isn't free. Corralling and storing, sorting and organizing -- make no mistake about it; all this costs us plenty.

2. Get rid of it. -- Danielle Bean once said, "Let it earn a place in your house." Wise words. I tolerate the Legos because we have gleaned hours innumerable of fun and creativity from these bricks I've stumbled over, swept up, and sucked up. They are worth the hassle. Then there's that Old MacDonald game that has sixty-seven pieces and absolutely no discernible point and an annoying song to boot.

(Don't tell the littles, but Old MacDonald just bought the farm.)

3. Hide it. -- My older boys are messy, no two ways about it. I finally moved an armoire into their room. This thing is large, and it has doors. We keep them closed.

4. Deal with it. -- There is no getting around the daily grind. My kids forever lament that there is always work to do. Such is life.

We all want a system, a plan, an inspiring book, something to make it all so very much easier. All these are great, and I've found help in all of them.

But there is no replacing hard work, hard, hard work.

It's not glamorous. It's not flashy. It's not fun. In fact, every one of these steps involves discipline -- saying no to something we want. Putting things away when we'd rather let them slide. Waking up every day and running the dishes, folding the laundry, vacuuming the rug.

And that's all child's play compared to the next step in family life: passing these jobs on to the kids. Directing the children to put away their toys, mow the front lawn, load the dishes. Listening to them kvetch and argue and distract. Redirecting them to put away their toys, mow the front lawn, load the dishes. Surveying their work and instructing them on how to better put away their toys, mow the front lawn, load the dishes.

And doing it all again tomorrow.

You want an SAT word I learned just recently? Acedia. Wikipedia defines this as "a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray" and as a "precursor to sloth."

In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas writes that sloth becomes a mortal sin "on account of the flesh utterly prevailing over the spirit." Wikipedia continues, "Acedia is essentially a flight from the world that leads to not caring even that one does not care."

In the physical realm and in the spiritual realm, in battling our appetites or in raising our children, when we try to quit smoking or yelling or speeding, in going to work morning after morning year after year, we prevent the flesh from utterly prevailing over the spirit.

In short, we fight the good fight.

A friend's message on Facebook the other day: Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes it's the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I'll try again tomorrow."

So true.

As I fight the good fight to wrest some order in this house of mine, I have high, high hopes that my children will stumble upon another truth: Hard work brings with it a sense of accomplishment. We capped off a day of chores with pizza and a l-o-n-g trip to the pool. Ainsley tried out her new float; Kolbe learned to dive; John swam like a fish. We arrived home to a clean kitchen, orderly rooms, a spiffy lawn.

I'm guessing they weren't quite as thrilled as I was, but maybe one day . . .

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Should Take This to Heart

Plato: Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Money, Blogging, and Cheese Dip

I was sitting with a friend eating cheese dip and pico de gallo. We've done this once a week or so for the past twenty years. We make it a priority. We've called for a sabbatical when she's nursed sick parents, or I've had unidentified toddlers who did not belong in the public eye. We eat our Mexican food and solve the world's problems.

(We're a little fuzzy on why, exactly, the world still has problems.)

As we chatted, Anna asked me about a household issue. "It's just not a top priority," I said, "and -- you know what? -- I don't think it ever will be."

That thought has stayed with me for a week or two.

Some things will never make it to the top of the priority list. We all suffer from the tyranny of the urgent -- the ringing phone, the nasty, nasty, nasty bathroom, the Boy Scout laundry that screams for attention. But wheels that don't squeak? Those jobs that need to be done, but don't smell, threaten to mold, take up half the hallway, force us to execute the running long jump to get past them? They don't get the grease, i.e. they don't get done.

A friend of mine has one of the loveliest houses I've ever seen. The layout, the decor -- tasteful and soothing. And in the middle of her well-appointed living room, this friend had a toilet. Yes, a toilet. Just past the Waterford lamp and to the left of the sage velvet couch. And there it sat for eighteen months. See, the toilet was headed for the second floor bathroom, and the wife, well, she couldn't lift it, and the husband, well, he had other priorities. So there it sat.

When I stand at the sink and wash dishes, I look out a small window -- a small window that for a l-o-n-g time has looked like it's speckled with yogurt. Something opaque and sticky exploded some time back and left a thick residue all over the screen and window. But that window? I don't trip over it, and it doesn't reek; ergo, it will never rise to the top of the to do list.

Last week I decided to move one long neglected task to the top of the to do list everyday.

I washed the window. I dusted the window sill. I washed a few other windows.The next day I cleared off the clutter on my desk. The day after that I folded an air mattress and put it away. These trifling jobs each took about fifteen minutes and gave me a little lift all out of proportion with the task itself.

In Ephesian 5, Saint Paul writes, "Defer to one another out of love for Christ." In the nitty-gritty world of marriage and family life, this means shifting out priorities out of love for the other person.

Like most people, I tend to be faithful to the household jobs I like (or at least those I don't positively loathe). I do the laundry, but I invariably put off matching the socks. I clean the bathrooms, but ignore the ironing. I am really, really bad about entering receipts and checks into our budget program. During the weeks Dave was out wandering the Far West, I had a print out of our bank statement sitting on the desk. Balance me!, it screamed. I think I put my hands over my ears.

I don't actually set out to be so negligent. Homework and dinner and, um, blogging and, er, eating cheese dip with my friend Anna, well, priorities, people!

So Thursday I sat down with not one but two months worth of statements to tackle and, my goodness, what a jumbled mess. I couldn't find the May statement, so I decided to dive right in and tackle June.

Note to self: um, no.

After two hours of entering figures and crossing off numbers and squinting and pondering what in the world that charge was for, I had succeeded in reducing the discrepancy from $965 down to a mere $300 or so.

Dave does a stellar job of handling our bills, a job that formerly fell on my side of the ledger, a job that I am perfectly content to pass off to him. And, you know, it's tough to pay the bills when your spouse says, "Okay, this is what we have in the checking account . . . or maybe $300-900 less than that. I think . . ."

I need to make his priority my priority, enter my receipts, and then get back to blogging and cheese dip.

Dave would probably spend less time travelling than I would. I say, "Let's go to the beach!" And he usually says, "Okay with me." I say, "I really want to go to Hannah's graduation." And he says, "Alrighty." He makes my priorities his priorities.

Meal planning is another big one for me.

I'm a snacker. Given the option, I would rarely sit down and eat a meal at a table with silverware and a napkin and the whole deal.

But snacking is not good for a growing family. It's not cheap, not healthy, not efficient. Hence the need for meals.  Have you seen the cartoon with the wailing woman, book on the floor, crying, "Why do they have to eat every night?"

That would be me.

But they do eat every night, and it all goes better if I plan on that rather than ignoring it.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Three Cheers for Three

Since it's Friday, I'll stretch it to seven and call it Seven Quick Takes - The Ainsley Edition.

I was holding Ainsley yesterday and looked down at this baby of mine who is totally not a baby anymore and felt that familiar wave of grief and elation a mother knows all too well.

Instead of getting morose, I'm focusing on the positives:

1. A three year old moves mostly under her own steam. -- Nowhere was this more apparent than at Disney World. Because of the rain, I ended up ditching the stroller in a covered shopping plaza somewhere between Frontierland and Fantasyland. Ainsley just ran -- actually it was more a skip -- and loved it.

2. A three-year-old can go to the library without costly and embarrassing repercussions. --  No mindless ripping of books from shelves. No tearing of pages. She sits and "reads." Her rendition of Green Eggs and Ham is worth videotaping.

3. A three-year-old is no longer two. -- Ainsley has her moments, for sure, but she is a mere amateur compared to her nameless brother -- O, he possessing the brown eyes and Coppertone tan. And at nearly three she is much more reasonable than she was at two. Even when she's ornery, she tends to very proper about it.

"I wanna take off these boots," she informed me this morning.

"Okay, but put them in your room," I replied.

"No, thank you!"

Cheerful! Clear! Articulate!

4. A three-year-old has the cutest voice ever. -- Ainsley reiterates everything she says. I love Elmo. I do. Daddy is so nice. He is. I can't wait to go to the pool. I can't.

5. A three-year-old still naps. -- If John naps, it's time to find the thermometer. Ainsley doesn't nap everyday, but I appreciate the break when she does.

6. A three-year-old adores, well, everyone. -- She dashes to the door to greet Dave every evening. She holds my cheeks and says, "You're the best Mama ever, ever, ever." She thinks Tim's a total rock star.

7. A three-year-old is out of diapers --sort of, kind of, almost.  -- We are poised on that great divide separating "trip trained" and "potty trained." Ainsley will perform on demand, but as for showing initiative? Well, that is sadly lacking, I'm afraid. But we're getting there. We are getting there.

Head over to Jen's to add your Quick Takes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Yo Mama

Invariably the Scouts return with a plethora of icky socks and a fresh supply of Yo Mama jokes. Among my favorites:

Yo Mama is so big I swerved to avoid her and I ran out of gas.

Yo Mama is so dull she went to the dentist for a bluetooth.  (Okay, so they say stupid, but it's not one our nice words)

Yo Mama is so slow it takes her two hours to watch Sixty Minutes.

Yo Mama is so old she sat behind Moses in the third grade.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

She Couldn't Make Toast without Consulting the Recipe

Mommy blogs, mommy blogs.

Some make you laugh; some make you cry; some make a vow of celibacy sound like a really good time.

I read one the other day about how mothers just can't manage a shower. This mother has a ten-month-old (?) and can't get the five to seven minutes it would take to rinse, wash, and towel off. She and her husband don't flush the toilet after 7:00 because they don't want to wake the baby.

And I think to myself, "Puh-lease!"

Then I realize I didn't get a shower yesterday.

Now, I'm certainly not blaming my slovenliness on my children. No, the blame rests squarely on the Boy Scouts of America whose inspiration resulted in seventy-two pounds of damp, noxious gear encrusted with the red earth of Georgia all entering my house sometime Saturday afternoon.Which is all a long-winded way of saying I worked my tail off yesterday.

The attic is stuffed once more, the house looks pretty darn good, but I'm a mess.

But let's forget about the Boy Scouts and get back to motherhood.

I am convinced that God gave me the combination of kids I have and gave them in the order in which they arrived so that I could learn one essential life lesson: humility.

If Kolbe had been my first, I would have said, "What do you mean the baby doesn't sleep?You nurse, you rock, you put baby in the crib . . .  and you greet baby the next morning."

But Kolbe was not my first. Tim was my first, and he never slept. Okay, never is a bit of an absolute. Twenty minutes was a "good nap." He cried a lot. He wanted to be held all the time.  He eschewed pacifiers, avoided the swing, tolerated the bouncy chair, but mostly wanted me and only me.

Getting a shower was a challenge. While Dave and I routinely flushed at will, I clearly remember the night I needed to go the other end of the house which required a very risky maneuver -- walking past Tim's room. I went out the back door, walked around the house, and knocked on the front door so that Dave could let me in. I wasn't walking past his room.

I remember the night Tim finally conked out. Two teenagers decided to tie their dog to a little red wagon. The dog came yelping up my driveway and woke Tim up.

I'm lucky I didn't wind up on probation.

I remember another night the long battle to La La Land had been fought and won when a neighbor of mine banged on my door (at 10:00 p.m.!) and woke him up. The neighbor heard shrieking, looked at me with amazement, and asked, "Does he cry like this every night?"

To this unidentified neighbor: I have forgiven you. It's taken thirteen years, but I'm totally past it. Really, I am.

Sleep deprivation is tough, tough, tough, and no one expresses this better than the hilarious Simcha Fisher who writes about her little daughter's sleep habits:

          Basically, she was sleeping through the night, I would say.
          For as much as two hours at a stretch, all through the night.

I couldn’t make toast without consulting the recipe. I would try and start the car when it was already running. I would use “thing” to substitute not only for nouns, but for any part of speech, as in: “Could you please thing this thing in the other thing over there? Yes, you. You Thing, with the red thing on.” And of course I lost things — school books, hot cups of coffee, children ... you know, things. I spent a good half hour hunting for a misplaced bag of parsley, which couldn’t have roamed very far from the soup pot of origin, could it? By sheer chance, while searching for my keys, I discovered the parsley tucked safely inside the dishwasher, where, oh yeah, I put it because, um, because of some reason, surely.
Read the whole thing -- it's Simcha at her best. She goes on to say that, though the baby is now sleeping better, "I couldn't make toast without a recipe syndrome" lingers on:

Yesterday I lost three-and-a-half pounds of ground beef. Where could that meat be, where could it be? The previous day, I had forgotten to take it out in time to have hamburgers, but left it out so that, if I forgot again the next day, it would at least be partially defrosted. But then I forgot to put it away. So where was it now?

So I asked my husband, who knows me, What the hell did I do with that meat? and he had an inspiration: Maybe it’s in the washing machine! In fact, it must be in the washing machine. That’s where I put it to defrost, because — I dunno, to make room in the refrigerator for some laundry?

All that happened was that I located the meat while the washer was only half-full of water and soap. The situation was saved before any kind of whirring, churning or centripetal force came into play.

The worst part was that the blood leaked all over the clothes; but if you think about it, that’s really pretty good timing in a bad situation. It’s like breaking your leg in the lobby of the hospital, or punching your brother while in the confession line: At least you're already in the right place.
Punching your brother while in the confession line? Hilarious. Not that things like this ever happen around here.

My baby is now -- I can barely stand to type the words -- pushing three. Ask her age, and she'll chirp, "I'm two and a half." Ask her birth date, and she responds, "August forty-ten."

Everyone sleeps great. (Although we get visitors. The visitor who knows how to be inconspicuous is welcome; the one who gets cold and grabs all the covers and then gets sweaty and kicks them off or kicks the closest parent, well, she can just scamper on back to her own digs).

I still don't sleep well.

While Ainsley is pushing three, I am now pushing fifty, and one of the pesky side effects is insomnia. On the days I can sleep late, I don't in fact sleep late. I long for a night I fall asleep reading around ten and wake refreshed around seven. This would require medication, and medication, I've found, generally comes with side effects.

"I couldn't make toast without consulting a recipe."? I get it.

The Campers Return!

And so does the laundry:

Tim learned to sail:

He learned to solder stuff because soldering is just plain fun:

He learned to shoot:

He had a great time, and I'm glad he's home!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Tooth Is Broken!

So John came to me yelling that his tooth was broken. In fact, it was hanging on by a thread, having been given a nice shove by all the surrounding teeth that are smushed and crooked and an orthodontist's dream come true.

After some wiggling and wobbling, out it came:

Monday, June 18, 2012

To Dave

Thank you for making me a mom.

Thank you for being open to life when you were forty-five and forty-seven.

Thank you for enduring all the comments about "becoming a grandfather" with good humor and grace and never barking, "I'm the father, darn it!"

Thank you for all the sacrifices that you make so that I can stay home and corral this bunch. I may complain sometimes, but I really am grateful.

Thank you for being a man of faith, a man of humility, a man who seeks God, does it imperfectly, is willing to admit his failings, gets up, and walks some more. Our children have seen what it means to persevere.

Thank you for being a man who has a tender heart for the poor, the forgotten, the elderly, the single parents, the sick, the lonely. We once left on a family trip three hours late because you brought grocery and  baby supplies to a homeless woman with no insurance and no money.You call me on.

Thank you for adoring your daughter. She adores you, too.

Thank you for indulging Kolbe's many creative outlets even when this involves both money and mess.

Thank you for giving Tim and John your brown eyes.

Thank you for passing on your mathematical gifts. When they take the SAT, they'll be so glad they didn't get mine.

Thank you for spending a week enduring rain, consuming prison-quality meals, and sleeping in a hut so that you share Boy Scout camp with Tim.

Thank you for letting John go along with you wherever you go.

We love you, and we thank you.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

She Said, He Said

Me: Kolbe, go get Tim. Do not be loud. Do not be mean.

Kolbe: Tim, the warden wants to see you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Planning a Good Summer

Years ago I attended a mom's meeting at our parish. The topic was planning a good summer. The speaker was my friend Ellen, an exuberant woman of faith and mother of seven. I took away three important points that have defined our summers ever since:

1. Clean in the morning. Schedule a quick pick up before dinner. Aside from this, don't sweat the state of the house.

2. Declare one day a week "Fun Day." Get ideas from the kids and do them.

3. Have each family member set goals for the summer: one spiritual, one practical, one fun.

So here's what we're about this summer:


Spiritual: Start the day with prayer. Focus on consistency, not perfection. Finish the CD series "Battlefield of the Mind."

Practical: Work on cleaning and de-cluttering one room a week for the summer. Develop some sort of vision for the back garden. Think about exercising. Is that sufficiently vague?

Fun: Bike or walk or hike a beautiful place once a week. Lunch with the gals once a week.


Spiritual: Go to Mass with Mom once a week.

Practical: Finish potty training. We're so close!

Fun: Paint toes (I should clarify paint toe nails) with Mom. Be cute! Be happy! Run in the sprinkler! Jump in the pool!


Spiritual: Go to Mass with Mom once a week. Read saint books with Mom.

Practical: Learn to swim. Improve swimming! Go off the diving board. Learn to make bed.

Fun: Be cute! Be happy! Run in the sprinkler! Jump in the pool!


Spiritual: Have a morning prayer time.

Practical: Work on handwriting. Take over part of laundry.

Fun: Work on stop-frame animation. Make a movie. Learn to play Chess. Have fun!


Spiritual: Have a morning prayer time.

Practical: Learn to sight type. (Seems like this was last year's goal).

Fun: Improve Chess game before visiting Grandpa in August. Work on guitar. Have fun!

Three of our friends were ordained as deacons a few weeks back. In talking to the kids about what it means to be a diocesan priest, it dawned on me that they have a very dim concept of what religious orders are. After twelve years in Catholic schools, I at least knew what nuns were. A friend of mine shows The Sound of Music to her kids every once in while -- that's their only exposure to women in habits.

I've begun compiling a list of spiritual movies I plan to show, at least to the older boys. I have all sorts of grandiose visions of exploring Franciscan spirituality, and the Benedictine rule, and who knows what else. We'll see where this takes us.

So far I am enjoying the slower pace of summer. No lunches to pack! No uniforms to wash! Things never go quite as I plan, but they have been very, very good. We have spent loads of time at the pool. John's hair is getting blonder, and his skin is getting darker! I, of course, am totally jealous.

A friend called the other day, and I had to confess that was 11:00 and I was wondering why I was still in my jammies.

"Because you can," she told me.

Amen to that.

Friday, June 15, 2012

You Are the Love Song We'll Sing Forever - We Say Goodbye to Patrick

We just returned from a wake for our friend and neighbor Patrick who died unexpectedly last Friday. Please prayer for his wife, children, and grandchildren. Sadly, he died on the eve of his fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Patrick's son, Tim, is a priest in our diocese. Bishop Hartmayer of Savannah joined us to celebrate the life of this man who at six-three stood tall physically but also stood tall spiritually. Bishop Hartmayer pointed out the reading that referred to a body as a "tent." He discussed the temporary nature of our journey here on earth. Our bodies, our tents, provide temporary shelter for the soul that was created for eternal unity with God.

God is the love song we'll sing forever.

Father Tim delivered a homily that touched me to the core. Patrick was a forty-four year-old accountant who had just made partner in his firm when he and his wife, Kathy, discerned the call to join a lay community - The Alleluia Community. They arrived in Augusta with their four young children and for two years Patrick paid the bills by doing janitorial work. Over time he re-entered the field of taxes, but never fully rebuilt the career he had established in New york.

Patrick understood that our bodies are tents, that our homes, too, are temporary dwellings, that God is the love song we'll sing forever. We won't spend eternity singing about our careers or our granite countertops or our cars.

Patrick and Kathy have raised one the loveliest families I know. They have three daughters and a son who love God and each other. Patrick and Kathy put first things first in a radical way and the fruit of their life's work is obvious.

Here in Alleluia we jump start the school year with something we call "The Thirty Days of September." As a community, we might read an inspiring book, limit our use of media, agreed to exercise together, etc. Last year we focused on love and respect. We decided to have the children serve the older folks in our neighborhood. My boys did yard work for Patrick and Kathy. While my kids know most of Patrick and Kathy's grandchildren, they didn't know the grandparents.

How grateful I am that they had an afternoon to spend with these wonderful friends. Patrick and Kathy, in turn, sent my boys the kindest notes along with a finger rosary for each of them.

The prayer and praise at Patrick's wake and funeral along with the inspiring words shared about this dear brother have gladdened my heart and left me with a greater desire to lay aside all that encumbers me and my family and to run this race with a heart less divided.

God is the love song we'll sing forever. Patrick's life and legacy have reminded me of this once again.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

If the Bathroom Door Is Closed

A Christmas Story lands somewhere on the list of my top twenty movies. Among its many charms:

1. Ralphie rifles through the mailbox, grabs the one letter of interest to him, and stuffs everything else back in the box. Not that I've ever been tempted to do that.

2. Ralphie takes his secret decoder ring and dashes to the bathroom, "the only room in the house where a boy of nine could sit in privacy and decode."

Paper Airplane bearing message, " Mom, can I have something to eat?"
Yesterday I was in the only room in the house where a mom of four can sit in privacy, and I hear, "Mom, Ainsey's pooping."

The tone implied scandal, so I gathered this was not occurring in the plastic potty designated for this activity.

Today I'm issuing a sweeping new communications plan.  If the bathroom door is closed, I am incommunicado. There will be no knocking. There will be no shouting. No entreaties. No notes shoved under the door.  Don' t try my cell phone. Don't enlist the help of the Morse code tapper.


There are, of course, exceptions to every policy. Let's review a few possibilities:

1. Popcorn? No.

2. Television? Just forget about it.

3. He just (fill in the blank)!  Unless this ends with fell off the roof, it can wait.

4. Mom! Vague.

5. Can I (fill in the blank)? The answer will be an unswerving no unless the blank is filled in with something like put out the fire? in which case you forget about manners and focus on getting out the door pronto! or, heaven forbid, doing the Stop, Drop, and Roll thing we all learned in Boy Scouts and if it sounds like I'm being glib, I can assure you I am not. My brother and sister set fire to our house when I was a baby, and I'm glad someone got me (and the pyromaniacs) out the door in a timely manner.

6. Vomit. Depends. There is vomited - past tense (too late to do much about that), and then there's vomiting - present progressive (I just might hurry).

7. Blood. Please interrupt, regardless of tense involved -- past, present, or present progressive.

8. Fire! See number 3. And don't forget your baby sister.

Any questions?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Sixteen Ounce Sodas and Sidewalk Chalk

This just in . . .

CNN reports that a homeowners' association in Stapleton, Colorado, is considering a ban on -- Are you ready for this? -- sidewalk chalk. Yes, sidewalk chalk. I am not even making this up. Calling sidewalk chalk "offensive and distracting," the association will mull over this pressing issue and put it to a vote.

Years ago, when news of the Octomom hit the headlines, the press quickly honed in on the fact that this woman already had six children. Reporters began to explore the question of whether she could care for them. Over and over again, newscasts ran footage of her front yard. And do you know what it showed?

Cue ominous music . . .

A big wheel on the lawn.

Take a deep breath. Grab a paper bag if you're hyperventilating.

Yes, this woman had a big wheel on her front lawn.The house itself was non-descript; you might even call it ugly. But not run down. No knee-high grass. No broken windows. No trash. Just an unattractive house with a big wheel on the front lawn.

Please do not take this as an endorsement of the Octomom and her choices; it is not. But if having a big wheel on the front lawn of an unattractive but otherwise livable house is a crime, just call the department of family and children's services on us.  At this very moment there's a bike sitting in front of our shed. In fact, it's laying on the ground. And it's been there for two days! In the rain!

You probably need to report a few of my neighbors, too.

Meanwhile the mayor of New York came under fire for considering a ban on soft drinks over sixteen ounces. (He then went on to celebrate Donut Day, much to the delight of his opponents).

Coca-cola, clearly having a dog in this fight, issued the following statement:

      The people of New York City are much smarter than the New York City Health Department
      believes. New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices
      about the beverages they purchase.


Think of the work hours invested in debating sidewalk chalk, the memos all a flyin' over soft drinks, the film wasted getting a close up shot of that incendiary big wheel.

Really, is there nothing better we could do with our time?

As for me, I think I'll hop over to the Dollar Tree and pick up some sidewalk chalk.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Scout Is Prepared

I realized this morning that I have advanced in the ranks of Scouting. I am now a seasoned veteran of Scout camp. I no longer panic at the sight of a memo detailing an upcoming Scout adventure. I no longer grimace at the thought of the line of credit we'll have to open to finance obscure camping novelties. I no longer wring my hands as I eye the pile of pricey gear that stands about a fifty-fifty chance of ever darkening our door again.

Tim and Dave left for camp this morning.

(Another note to you blog-reading robbers: They left a husky and bad-tempered Rottweiler to guard the house. It hasn't eaten today.)

Tim spent last week at "High Adventure Camp." He arrived home late Friday night with a bag full of N-A-S-T-Y clothes and NO HAIR! Yes, part of the adventure involved shaving his head. We had thirty-six hours to fumigate, wash, dry, and assemble another bunch of gear for Scout camp. Two or three years ago, this would have wigged me out big time. Now I just check our supply of bleach.

After three years of summer camp and weekend trips innumerable, I've learned a few things:

1. Most of the stuff really does come back . . . eventually.

2. We buy most of it used anyway. Let me call for a moment of silence in honor of Value World, the consignment shop near my in-law's house. Nike hoodies for $3.00, new jeans for $4.00,  nearly new Nike running shoes $5.00, the cutest red, tiered skirt for $1.50 (okay, so that's not actually going to Scout camp). Value World has saved me a bundle. Value World has saved me a few trips to confession. Value World has helped me detach from created things.

3. On the subject of miscellaneous stuff (the compass, the sock liners, the headlamp) -- dare I say it? -- I think we now own just about all of it.

4. We also keep it all in one tub so the dashing from one end of the house to the other is minimal.

So off they go for a week of sailing, electronics, archery, and -- gulp! -- riflery. The laundry no longer intimidates me, but firearms do. And then there's the potential EpiPen/anaphalactic thing -- that chills me to the bone. As Tim made his list and checked it twice, I reviewed bee sting procedures with him. First, tell an adult. Do this while you're pouring Benadryl into your mouth. If there's any - Any! Any! Any! - sign of swelling above your shoulders, use the EpiPen!

Better to change the subject.

I look at this young man who is so clearly not the boy I sent off to his first camp three summers back. He's taller than I am; his feet are bigger than his father's; his voice is nearly as deep; he (mostly) packs his own bag.

It's all so much easier than it was. But somehow I found myself crying this morning.

I'm not entirely redundant. I am still in charge of procuring snacks and -- my favorite -- sewing on patches. Let the record reflect, I affixed four last night. Re-runs of Downton Abbey made the job slightly less gruelling. Admittedly, two or the four patches are listing. I still think I deserve a merit badge with an oak leaf cluster for my efforts.

Tim walked into the house Friday, gave me a bigger than usual hug, and said, "I missed you, Mom."

I guess that beats a merit badge with or without the oak leaf cluster.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


I'm cleaning off the desk. It would be much more efficient to start a small, contained fire, but don't tell our insurance company I said that. I stumble across a yellow sheet of note paper. It reads:


This was late July or early August of 2009. I spent my evenings resting my weary feet, watching Monk, and timing contractions.

Sweet Ainsley was on her way, but in no great hurry to arrive.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Disney - Love It Or Hate it

Seems there are two types of people --  and they're not liberals and conservatives. No, there are those who love Disney and those who would prefer dental work to Dumbo, who would prefer a good book to Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too. Those who love Disney mention the magic, the joy, the inventiveness, the seamless operation of the parks. The naysayers highlight the heat, the lines, the cost, the fact that it all seems like artificial fun.

It's true, every bit of it.

Since we've been to Disney twice in the past two years, you can probably guess that we're among the Disney lovers. And you'd be right.

Here's what they do well:

1. Magic

Yes, "magic" and this is coming from someone who rolls her eyes and scoffs at the whole "magic" thing.

I believe I was seven when I first went to the Magic Kingdom. Cinderella's castle, It's a Small World, The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House -- I was flat out enthralled. It is feat of engineering and architecture to make this place as visually appealing as it is. You walk into Frontierland, and you feel you've entered the Old West. You visit Animal Kingdom, and you feel like you're really on a safari.

When Kolbe and Tim were seven and three we walked into the Magic Kingdom, and there stood Buzz Lightyear. I think even Kolbe was speechless. I thought to myself, "This place is grossly over-priced and totally materialistic and we're about to have the time of our lives." And we did.

On this past trip, I rode the Teacups with John and Ainsley (and let me tell you, they are much, much spinnier than I remember). Ainsley positively chortled with glee. It was magical.

2. Doing It Right

Disney's Parks are exceptionally well run. The parades are spectacular and two minutes after they're over, someone is sweeping the streets. If you lose your tickets (which may have happened to one of us), they hand over another one. I stopped by customer service to upgrade Kolbe's ticket from a child's ticket to an adult one since he's now over ten. When I pulled out my credit card, the cashier said, "We don't charge you for letting your kids grow up." If you have a problem, someone assists you. The bathrooms are spotless.

I've shelled out nearly as much money at Busch Gardens, a tidy sum at Stone Mountain, and a pile of cash at White Water. They certainly offer fun, but lack the attention to detail that sets Disney apart.

3. Minimal Price Gouging

It's pricey to get in, but most things you buy there -- I'm thinking food more than toys and clothes -- are moderately priced. You can bring in anything you feel like carrying around all day - coolers full of snacks, water bottles, etc. Having attended major league baseball games into which you may not bring so much as an ounce of water and where a bottle will set you back about six bucks, I appreciate this aspect of Disney.

4. Taking Care of People

Disney treats sick or disabled patrons like royalty. On our last trip, one child in the group had a chronic and serious illness. Disney gave him a pass to take six people to the front of every line. My sister's friend went to Disney when she was at the end stages of cancer, and Disney pulled all the stops to give her family a memorable visit. The parks are totally accessible for the disabled, for nursing mothers, heck, they even take care of smokers.

You can skirt the issue of the heat by visiting during the cooler months. The crowds and the cost are a little trickier to avoid. Disney attracts people from all over the world, so my bet is that it's a rare day you won't have some lines to contend with. As for the cost, there are lots of ways to trim the bottom line, but it's still far from chump change to get a family of six into the kingdom.

True, Disney is manufactured fun and a very different sort of enjoyment than, say, seeing dolphins as you walk along a beach or hiking to a waterfall. And a steady diet of this sort of over-the-top extravaganza wouldn't benefit anyone. Then again, who can afford a steady diet of this?

While we've loved our visits to Disney, on my last trip, I travelled with two friends who Really! Love! Disney! Enthusiasm really is infectious. It's a good visit when you leave mentally thinking of when you want to return. For us, this will be before Tim graduates and while Ainsley is still young enough to want to do the whole princess thing. Yes, this non-girly-girl has every intention of clothing her daughter in pastel tulle and standing in a gargantuan line so this daughter can meet some well-endowed chick in a flowing dress and a tiara.

If I'm selling out, so be it. I'm confident we'll have a great time doing it.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Of Two Minds

I was snuggling with John and Ainsley the other night and oh! if I could have captured their every word! They prattled on and on for fifteen minutes or so, mostly with Ainsley's running commentary about Disney World. On the divisive subject of It's a Small World, they were of two minds.

Ainsley: Sissy and I rode the Doll Ride. It was so special.

John: I didn't like it.

Ainsley: Mama, John's saying bad words!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

I'm Free!

In light of my highly sophisticated, clearly articulated economic plan that can best be summed up in four words -- Don't Spend a Dime! --  I am compiling a list of summer activities that are free (or close to it):

1. The Columbia County Library and its water park.

2. Other parks.

3. The pool (now that we've paid for it) and if I can convince my kids the snack bar is for everyone else but them.

4. Biking the canal.

5. Ripsticking along the Greenway.

6. Looking at the stars. Transit of Venus was last night! Last one for a hundred years.

7. The zoo. We're already members. Does require a bit of gas money.  Also requires the line about snack bars existing for the benefit of families other than our own.

9. The nearly free movies at the theater.

10. The North Augusta Water park. Haven't been there yet. Hope to try it out next week.

11. Hiking at the swamp.

Our neighbors have a huge dirt pile in the backyard. Their grandson hangs out there with his collection of trucks and is the envy of the pre-school set. I've thought about this as well.

What other adventures are free or close to it?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Because I Thirst

After a whirlwind graduation weekend in Detroit, I am home again, home again and so very glad to be here. Kudos to Dave for keeping the ship afloat and sending off our oldest for a week of high adventure. Preparations apparently involved Dave saying, "Tim, go get packed" and Tim doing so without much fuss or bother.


It was a full weekend, as these things usually are -- lots of coffee, lots of Scrabble, lots of running people here and there.We dedicated a good portion of graduation morning helping my nephew create a board game for U.S. History called Fight to the Finish.  On this topic, I have drawn two conclusions:

1. My sister likes school projects about as much as I do.

2. I have forgotten an astonishing amount of basic facts about World War II.

I bugged out of board game prep to go to 12:00 Mass with Ainsley.There I was treated to three special graces:

1. Holding a sleeping Ainsley for most of Mass. This was a treat not because she was quiet, but because she's nearing three and moments of holding her still and and stroking her hair and feeling her gentle breathing are becoming fewer and fewer. Bliss.

2. A quietly inspiring homily. Nothing flashy -- just good, solid stuff.

3. A singular appreciation of being in the presence of God.

As I genuflected in the direction of the tabernacle, I was struck by my thirst for God and the comfort I experience in His presence.

I thirst.

The Missionaries of Charity mount a crucifix in each of their chapels. The crucifix tends to be a realistic one that shows the wounds of Christ. Each crucifix has a sign or inscription that reads I Thirst.

Jesus thirsts for us. He thirsts for deep communion with our souls.

We thirst for Him -- I thirst for him. I have felt depleted for some time now. I can say it's been this year -- a year indelibly marked by long working hours and travel on Dave's part. But, really, I have felt depleted for a few years now. Is it the back to back babies? Being in my late forties? Dealing with teenage angst? My lack of exercise?

Those are probably all contributing factors. But when I read this earlier today, I thought that's it. Sally writes:

And what my confessor says to me, time and again, in his quiet way, is, "Well, you can't give what you don't have." In other words, if I'm running continually on hot, it's because . . . damn, I hate these tidy little metaphors, but the radiator is empty, okay? I'm running on a deficit of prayer, a deficit of quiet, a deficit of contemplation.

One of the best aspects of summer is the flexibility we have with prayer and the sacraments.

(Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, what I appreciate the MOST about summer is that I don't pack four to six lunches every morning, but one of the BEST aspects of summer is the opportunity to grow closer to God).

This morning we will reflect on this prayer pulled from the Missionaries of Charity website:

I Thirst for You. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart.

We can look to our faith as a source of consolation, as the impetus to overcome our faults, as the cause of our hope and joy. Faith is, of course, all these. But at the heart of it all is relationship -- a deep communing with the author of it all. In the fullness of my Christian walk I have, in the words of the psalmist, tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord; I have been to the green pastures.

I want to get back there.

Yes, partly I want to get there so that I can apply the grace of God to this situation or that glaring fault, but mostly I simply want to abide in Christ with no other end point in mind but to see His face and hear His voice.

Because I thirst.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Seven Quick Takes

1. Yes, we did spend fourteen hours in the car to spend about fourteen hours in The Magic Kingdom. And you know what? We had a ball. One of the best parts? I think I spent about $100 total.  Splash Mountain had to be the most memorable ride. I sat behind Tim, John, and Tim's friend, Dane. At every hill, I'd see John's short, brown arms high in the air between Tim's long, white ones and Dane's even longer, even whiter ones. They'd yell, "Bob Saggett!" and down we'd go. Don't ask me to explain the whole Bob Saggett thing, but hearing a four-year-old yell it on a roller coaster is really quite funny. The folks at Disney snap a photo as you plunge down the big hill. Ours was a classic. I looked like I was crying, and John's eyes, I swear, were three times their normal size.

2. I'm writing from the Motor City. Ainsley and I are here to surprise my niece Hannah for her graduation. To my sweet, darling Hannah: Way to go! It's been a tough few years for a number of reasons. My prayer for you is that a brighter day is dawning. Study hard, don't walk by yourself at night, find nice boys, and call your Mom often. May you love, love, love college!

3. To anyone who might wonder . . . Dave and I are not separating, though we've been apart w-a-y too much the last two months. Top priority upon my return: Snag that Calvert's gift certificate and enjoy a slow and quiet dinner with my husband. Miss you, miss you, miss you, Honey!

4. There's nothing quite as exciting as being in a bathroom stall in the busiest airport in America and having your highly articulate two-year-old daughter provide a running commentary. Thank you, Ainsley! And to all my fellow travellers who got free entertainment: You're welcome.

5. Tim's summer schedule is so busy I think he needs a personal secretary to keep it all streamlined. Oh, wait. He has one, and her name is Mom.  One of the primary jobs of parents in general and moms in particular is to send children off. We stock up on sunscreen and bug spray. We lay in a generous supply of socks and underwear. We locate the permission slips and write the checks. We find the missing bathing suit, and we pack the snacks. We worry, and then we remember to pray. We wave good bye and try hard not to cry in front of anyone. It's good, all so very good. Hiking and rock climbing. Paint ball wars and sailing. Growing and being challenged.

6. I indulged in a little retail therapy at my favorite consignment shop. Little is the operative word here. In light of the new AC unit and all of Tim's activities and the trip to Detroit and joining the new pool and the fact that I apparently didn't pay a single athletic fee this entire year, I am adopting a new economic strategy: Don't spend a dime! Admittedly, this may be a tad simplistic but austerity measures are the order of the day. The Dolin children may object, stage protests, even occupy the living room.

I'll send them outside to hug the AC unit.

7. One of the best parts of our visit to Detroit has been spending time with my oldest niece, Megan. In addition to my Irish skin, Megan has inherited my rather fragile sense of direction. We left the Detroit airport and, I promise you, toured no fewer than four major highways en route to the suburbs. As we travelled to Dave's parents' house, we managed to get lost once again, difficult as that is to do in a city laid out in a perfect grid. The upside? Chit chatting with my niece who is unfailingly lovely, kind, and interesting.

Head over to Jen's to add your Quick Takes.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Tao of John

John's spent the day burning up with fever. The bright side of all this is that I got to hold him and rub his head and listen to his always interesting take on life.

John, on news worthy events: My friend London ate leaves and didn't die at all.

John, on safety: Mama, don't take a saw and cut yourself in half or else you'll bleed all over.

John, on his recent trim: I want my hair back.

John, on potty training: Ainsey, don't pee in your pants or else it gets all itchy.