Saturday, July 28, 2012

Happy Birthday to John

John is now five. Five!

We celebrated his birthday during our trip to the mountains. On the agenda: two waterfalls, a scenic gorge, gem mining, and ice cream.

To appreciate how this afternoon unfolded, I have to return to Mother’s Day 2009, our last trip to the North Carolina Mountains. I grew up in suburban Detroit. In Michigan, we have lakes – Great Lakes, you know – but we don’t have oceans, and we don’t have mountains. When I moved south twenty-five years ago, I knew I’d love being so close to the shore, but I had no idea how much I would come to love hiking, camping, exploring waterfalls, white water rafting, tubing, etc.

I want my children to love what I love and high on the list is this magnificent landscape God has given us. Mother’s Day 2009 rolled around, and I told Dave I wanted to spend it in the mountains. I was just entering my third trimester with Ainsley, so white water rafting and strenuous hiking were out.  On the agenda: two waterfalls, a scenic gorge, gem mining, and ice cream.

It was Sunday, so we headed for Mass in Highlands, North Carolina. We were halfway through the twisting, curving route when Kolbe emitted a primal groan. “I feel sick,” he said. We made it to the church parking lot before Kolbe lost his breakfast.

After Mass we headed down Highway 64. We drove behind Bridal Veil Falls. John and Tim were marginally impressed. Kolbe just groaned some more. We headed for Dry Falls, a spectacular water fall you can walk behind. We spotted the sign ahead, but it was covered with burlap or something. As we reached the boarded-up parking area, it was clear that Dry Falls was under construction, and we would not be seeing it that day. We headed for Callasaja Gorge. Kolbe threw up again. He was too sick to get out of the car to take so much as a glance. We headed for level ground and gem mining, but by the time we descended into Franklin, North Carolina, we concluded that Kolbe wasn’t recovering anytime soon and that gem mining just wasn’t happening either.

I was crushed.

Fast forward three years. We were headed for Route 64. Kolbe was pumped with Dramamine and feeling swell.  Agenda unchanged: two water falls, a scenic gorge, gem mining, and ice cream. We hit Route 64 and could hardly miss the flashing lights that said “Road Closed Ahead.”  But it was closed eight miles ahead. We’d miss the gorge, but the waterfalls and gem mining were okay.

We drove behind Bridal Veil Falls and headed for Dry Falls. And then we spotted the burlap covered sign. No way, I thought. There is No! Way! this waterfall is still under construction.

Yes, we passed the parking lot, and it was full of construction vehicles. The gem mining operation was about a hundred yards before the road closure, and the gorge was just beyond it. Gem mining was in, the gorge out.

The kids absolutely loved gem mining. The attendant was very knowledgeable and told the kids all about mining history as they scooped and sifted through sand. The skeptic in me figured the “gems” were planted, but if they were, well, at least they planted lots of them. It really was cool.

Gems sorted and bagged, we headed back up the mountain for ice cream which did not disappoint. On the way back to our condo, we decided to hike to another waterfall, this one not under construction. It was a steep, one mile trek.

(Note to self: When you spot returning hikers who are:  a) two thirds your age and  b)half your body mass index and  c) huffing and puffing and dripping sweat, you might reconsider the hike.)
But if caution had prevailed, we would have missed the real gift – better than Dry Falls or Callasaja Gorge or ice cream. And that would be the gift of John, my brown-eyed bundle of verve and humor, John of my heart, one of my two late-in-life wonders.

As we headed down the path, John spotted one sparkling rock after another. “It’s a gem,” he yelled and stopped to dig it up. He’d hand his gems to me and off he’d run.

“I’m a gem working man,” he told us with all the wide-eyed enthusiasm that is age five.

Pretty soon John lost interest in sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.

“Gold,” he yelled. “It’s piratey treasure!”

Don’t tell the gem mining folks, but there’s gold in them thar hills, and John found plenty of it. Trust me; I hauled it all back to the van. The return hike was a tad daunting. Gem working guy eventually collapsed in a heap and urged, “Just leave me here.”

Though I felt his pain, we persevered and made it back to the condo, sweaty and weary. Dinner was left-over birthday cake, whatever snack food we could scrounge, wine and beer (for those of age). We ended the day with a rousing game of Sorry. Just as I was attempting – with practiced stealth – to stack the deck in John’s favor so the birthday boy wouldn’t come in dead last, he drew a one and managed to get his last guy home.
It wasn’t the birthday I planned, but it was beautiful birthday nonetheless.

Happy birthday, John. What a gift you are.

Friday, July 20, 2012


As I glanced across the pool this afternoon, I spotted Tim and Ainsley at the snack bar. (Yes, this would be the snack bar I swore my kids would not be frequenting. Oh well.)

There stood Tim looking tall and tan. And there stood little Ainsley perched on a stool.

The boy with the dark, shaved head. And the girl with the blonde bob.

The one conceived with all the naive over-confidence of the young and healthy who think,"Gee, it'd be nice to have a baby about now" and it happens. And the who arrived completely by surprise after years of longing and loss.

My first born. And my baby.

As I overhauled Ainsley and John's room the other day, the state of the closet gave me pause. The dresses, oh the dresses. I started to count them and then I had to stop. The total is probably hovering around thirty. Thirty. Maybe just twenty-five. But maybe more.

Whatever the number, it's excessive.

Whenever I confront our excess, I imagine standing before God and facing this element of life in middle class America, this element of my life.

And I start to imagine the excuses I'll proffer.

-- Well, you know, most of these were hand-me-downs.

-- Well, you know, of the few that I bought, most of them came from consignment shops. (I'll be sure to point out the brown velvet with the faux leopard trim that I snatched up for a mere three bucks.)

-- Well, you know, I always pass them down to other people.

And then I think, no, I'll dispense with all the silly excuses.

I'll stand in the presence of God and say: When I was forty-five years old, you handed me yet another gift -- wholly unplanned, wholly unexpected, so very much wanted.

And, you know, I enjoyed every minute of her.

And God will say you're wlecome.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Can't Touch This!

Photo credit: Christine @ Writing From Scotland.

1. She is a woman.
2. She is a mother.
3. She has at least one boy.

How do I know this, you ask.

2. I am a mother.

Can't Touch This!

I walked into the kitchen the other day and saw one of the boys move back and forth from the stove to the sink to the fridge . . . all the while stepping on a dish towel. I doubt he threw the dish towel on the floor, but why, Why, WHY couldn't he pick it up?

Not on their radar.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Fruit of Boredom

I really wanted to make it to the pool yesterday, but the sky looked gray and vaguely threatening. The previous afternoon found us packing up our gear to leave the pool post haste when a whopper of a storm moved in. It was one of those storms I would have loved to watch with the kids . . . from the safety of my living room, not from the right lane of the Bobby Jones Expressway.

We prayed an Angelus, we watched lightening hit a pole, I cried a little, Tim held my hand.

No joke.

So today, what with the fear and the hassle factor, I wasn't heading for the pool unless the coast was clear.

We did a whole lot of nothing. As a rule, I'm not a big fan of A Whole Lot of Nothing because inevitably we dissemble, and the results are usually not pretty.

(And, in the interest of full disclosure, there was some of this. John, bless his heart, is an easy target. The older boys and a friend started fake whispering behind their hands, leaving John with the impression that he was being left out of some fantastic plans or big secret.

He shrieked. Loudly. And then I dealt with the boys. Loudly. Then I apologized. Then they apologized.)

And then we got back to having the perfect lazy summer day.

The boys played Clue.

Kolbe made super hero costumes for John.

Tim and I taught Kolbe to play Euchre.

I re-organized John and Ainsley's room.

We erected a tent in the living room.

Tim played his guitar for a long time.

Kolbe worked on his script.

Tim spent an hour building Viking Lego guys with John.

This has been the best summer ever. I'm not entirely sure why. I spied the Back to School sales circulars and had a pang of wistfulness wash over me.

In early May, when sports and car pools and homework and to do lists and permission slips overwhelmed me, when I looked forward to the blissful, unhurried days of summer, it was this day I imagined.

 And now I'd better run. We have water colors to do.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary

Image lifted from Karen's blog.
To my summer reading list, I am adding a book I that arrived last week: The Rosary: keeping company with Jesus and Mary. This is written by Karen Edmisten who blogs over at Karen Edmisten: The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title.

Karen introduces her book by saying, "I'm not an expert on the rosary, unless expert can be defined as 'an average Catholic who prays the rosary and has found it to be powerful, comforting  and worth talking about.'"

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the loss of our friend and community member, Patrick McKeown. Rachel Balducci, who knew him much better than I did, penned a beautiful piece about Patrick. Rachel writes:

When I was growing up, my friend Susie (Patrick's daughter) was the only person I knew who said a daily rosary. I knew lots of people who said the rosary of course, but no one else came from a family that said it every single day. Seven p.m. sharp. No matter what.

This is the main thing I always remember about Susie’s dad, Uncle Pat . . . he was constant.

Many Catholics -- like the McKeown kids -- grow up praying the rosary. My mother probably did. She attended Catholic schools in the forties and fifties, first grade through college. I attended twelve years of Catholic schools, but this was the height of those experimental, post-Vatican II years.  I prayed the rosary exactly once. I think it was in a religion class on the sacraments. And this class of mostly cradle Catholics had to be taught and tested on how to pray the rosary since few of us grew up with this traditional devotion that must have become passe along with communion rails and Latin.

It would be ten years before I would prayer the rosary again. Then I began working with the Missionaries of Charity. They love the rosary. They pray a long, meditative rosary every morning in front of the blessed sacrament. They scatter a decade here and a decade there as they do their work, ride in the car, meet with shut in folks, run their soup kitchens.

They love to introduce others to the rosary. For many years we had a volunteer -- I think his name was David (?) -- who wasn't Catholic. He'd hop in the van every morning with me and one of the sisters. As soon as the van was in drive, sister would ask which mysteries we wanted to pray. David was always keen to pray the Happy Mysteries. "You mean the Joyful Mysteries," sister would say. "No, the Happy ones," he would tell her. We would point out that there were no Happy Mysteries. David was convinced there should be.

(I should let him know that we now pray the Luminous Mysteries, but still no Happy ones.)

I prayed many a rosary with the Missionaries of Charity, but it typically (not always) felt like I was just getting through it. Hail Mary . . . gosh, it's hot in here . . . full of grace . . .  got to remember to bring the glue sticks to camp today . . . the Lord is with thee . . . wonder if Sister Miriam ever had a boyfriend before she became a nun?

It wasn't always like that, but I struggled (as most of us do).

Lately, though, I have found tremendous solace in quiet. At our parish, Mass opens with an introit, a chant sung by the choir alone. This used to bother me to no end. I have a thing against choirs that perform. One of our neighboring parishes had an accomplished choir that had a penchant for choosing tunes I promise you no one but the choir could follow. Occasionally people would clap for them.

This, too, bothered me to no end. I'm not an expert in liturgy, but it seems to me, Mass calls everyone to participate. It's not a performance.

Back to the introit . . . It no longer bothers me. I see it as a chance to quiet myself after the hurly burly of getting six people in matching shoes, more or less unwrinkled clothing, brushed teeth, etc. all looking presentable and in the pew on time. It's a two minute Whew! And then we sing the opening hymn.

I used to get restless at the pace of Mass. Now I love it. It may well be the single part of my week that doesn't scream faster, faster, faster, hurry, hurry, hurry! In fact, when I go to other churches, I sometimes feel that we're playing a record on the wrong speed. Where's the fire, I want to ask.

Once a month Alleluia Community hosts a quiet prayer meeting. Most of our prayer meetings are full of joyful, lively praise and worship, but once a month, we slow it down, we quiet it down, and we sit in silent meditation. This, too, I now love.

And along with all these shifts -- rather seismic for my personality type -- has come a desire to pray the rosary more frequently. While my mind is no steel trap and is still prone to wander, I find myself in a very different place and much more open to quiet, meditative prayer. With the inspiration of Karen's book and Pat's example, off I go.

Or, I should say, off we go. I read chapter one aloud to the older boys. I was struck by the words of Blessed Bartolo Longo whom Karen quotes:

The Rosary is a teacher of life, a teacher full of gentleness and love, where people beneath the gaze of Mary, almost without noticing, discover they are being slowly educated in preparation for the second life, that which is authentic life, for it is not destined to end in a very few years, but to go on unto eternity.
I'm already inspired.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Seven Really Quick Takes

1. Selectively Deaf:

What I said: Turn on Dora for Ainsley.

What he heard: Fire up Despicable Me.

3. Totally makes up for #1:

John: Teach me to read, Tim! Teach me to read!

His first word? T-i-m.

3.  Insatiable:

Says growing teenage boy: Taquitos, hmmm, steak and cheese. I'd better have one . . . or four . . . better make it five.

4. Missing in Action: one fish, went by the name of Tony Stark.

5. Devoured by his tank mates: another fish, went by the name of Tony Stark II. So much for the Fraternal Bonds of Tankhood.

6. Warning: If you get the allusion in #5, you've watched too many Disney movies.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Behavior Versus Outcome

Head over to Scrutinies and read what Dorian has to say about self-discipline and encouragement and change. She is honest; she is insightful; in many ways she is me.

On her struggle with nutrition and health, Dorian writes:
So, the focus now is on behavior, rather than on outcomes . . .  I need to cultivate those healthy habits the experts recommend.

Behavior is within my ability to control. Outcomes? Not really. I can control whether or not I’m doing the things that should produce the outcome, but – you never know. For me, with my wacky personality, using mini-goals like “5 pounds down by the end of the month!” is always, always, ALWAYS going to backfire.

But if you tell me: here is this small goal for your behavior for the week – that will be a lot more likely to work.
A while back I penned a post called Let Your Effort Be Your Goal. In it I wrote:

Ainsley at meal times is a sight to behold. She is determined to master the use of utensils. She holds her Winnie-the-Pooh spoon rock steady and then picks up her chicken in her chubby fingers and carefully deposits a bite on the spoon. Down the hatch it goes!

When we pull into the driveway, she yells, "I do da keys! I do da keys."

She toddles to the front door and wrestles with the keys until -- Woila!, as John is want to say -- she turns the key.

For a pseudo-type A mother who is perpetually in a hurry, all this requires patience. Because the point of it all is To Eat the Dinner! or To Get into the House! On to the next task at hand.

For toddlers the process is the task at hand.

Last Sunday's epistle echoes the thought Dorian captures. Saint Paul has a thorn in his side. God knows all about the thorns in our sides. In his permissive will, he allows us areas in which we founder and squirm and struggle. Is it all like that? Of course not. I have areas of my life in which I have appealed to God to help me change and been met with sovereign, unmistakable grace to do just that. And it all happened in such a manner that I could not deny that God himself had moved.

God has three answers to prayer: Yes, No, and I have something better. Sometimes I have something better means cultivating the virtues of humility, empathy, kindness, and gentleness. Sometimes the process is more important than the product. Sometimes our effort should be our goal.

Dorian writes:

As a teacher, I had greater success when I rewarded students (particularly younger students) for certain behaviors rather than specific outcomes.

I actually could say a lot more about this but for now I’ll just go with – as a book-smart kinda gal, I think my own struggles with fitness have helped me really understand what it feels like to tell yourself you’re not going to be successful no matter how hard you try, and that has made me a better teacher. It lets me relate to the student who is discouraged and doesn’t even want to try.

I close with a quote from my friend and former pastor, Father Brett Brannen. He's the author of To Save a Thousand Souls, a beautiful reflection on discerning vocations to the priesthood. Father Brett writes:

A proud priest is an unmerciful priest. He treats God's people and his brother priests poorly and he is unmerciful in the confessional. God will sometimes use a man's struggle with sin to keep him humble, to keep him on his knees praying for help -- to help him be merciful to other sinners. Saint Augustine wrote, "We learn to do good by having done bad." God is orchestrating all things to make us into the saints he is calling us to be within the vocation he is calling us to embrace. And God is so awesome, so good, and so powerful, he can even use our sins to accomplish this.
And he continues:

Eventually a life of prayer will help him to love God more than he loves this particular sin. Only then will he stop. And when that day comes, this man's faith will be much stronger and more mature. He will not become proud and unmerciful. He will know both in his mind and in his heart that the words of Jesus are absolutely true: "Without me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
The other day I was Determined! that we would be On!Time! for the potluck I would be attending with three kids and no husband. And I was. But I barked at the kids and berated myself for my lack of organization and generally failed miserably in the area of charity no matter how you measure it.

And maybe that's just it. Maybe I need need a new sort of measure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

For the Single Gals

It's 1993. I'm a bridesmaid for something like the seventh time in twelve months.

"You've been a bridesmaid SEVEN times," my neighbor Gary exclaims. "What does this mean?"

"I have pastel pumps in every color of the rainbow," I tell him.

(I should have added that I was also flat broke. When you're always the bridesmaid and never the bride, your bank balance takes a beating.)

Eventually, of course, I was the bride. Marrying at 32 meant that I was single for what seemed a
l-o-n-g time. Those were years of adventure and of challenge. Any time our life takes an unexpected turn, we struggle. I can't speak for the widow who thought she'd be married into old age or for the ex-wife who thought her marriage would be until death did they part, but I can speak to the opportunities and to the pot holes that came from being single well beyond the age I thought I'd marry.

Emily Stimpson has written a book that might have made those single years a little less challenging and a little more joyful. It's called The Catholic Girl's Survival Guide for the Single Years. I haven't read the book, but I liked what I read in Emily's interview with Lisa Hendey of Click here to follow their discussion.

Now married fifteen years, I look back on my single years with colorful memories of teaching and world travel, with gratitude for the people in my life who encouraged me to seize the day, and with just the smallest bit of regret for the energy I wasted on worry and self-pity.

I have a few suggestions for my young (and not so young) friends who are now where I once was. I wouldn't call these pearls of wisdom, but rather a few thoughts from someone who found Mister Right in her early thirties and knew very well what it was to be single when she really, really had hoped to be married.

So here they are:

1. Embrace your single years.

Marriage brings wonderful and radical changes. Children are an unbelievable blessing who turn your world on its head. While single, you have freedom and time and choices that won't always be options.

2. Dote on the little people in your life.

When you're single and an aunt or a Godmother, you have more time and possibly more money to shower on the babies in your life than you will when you have a few of your own calling you Mama. I will be forever grateful to Megan, Nick, Lissi and Hannah -- my oldest nieces and nephew -- who, without a doubt, gave me far more than I ever gave them.

3. Plan things to look forward to.

Great advice given to me from my good friend Dian. Travel, redoing a room, joining a book club -- these can give you a lift, lead to lifelong friendships, help you find joy in simple blessings.

4. Don't put off everything until you get married.

 If you've always wanted to go to Brazil, go to Brazil. If you've always wanted your own home, buy one. If you've thought about that master's degree, pursue it. Pray first, of course, but know that being single does not mean put your life on hold.

5. Seek wholeness.

Seek prayer, ministry, therapy if you need it. Heal the hurts life showers on us all. Whether you eventually marry or remain single, you will be more wholly the person God wants you to be. I attended a retreat during which a wise speaker commented that marriage won't cure what ails you. If you're reclusive or angry or depressed, cheerful or optimistic or prayerful -- well, you'll be those things as a married woman as well. Deal with as much baggage as you can.

6. Recognize that your marital status is just one part of your larger vocation.

The patients you treat, the students you teach, the players you coach, the aging parents you care for -- this is your apostolate, one that is every bit as valuable as marriage and family.

7. Recognize that you are carrying a cross.

No, being single is not cancer or poverty or war, but when your heart's desire is to marry and have children and that is simply not in the picture, you suffer. Sometimes all we need to pick up our cross is to have someone say, "You know, that's really hard."

8. Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Married or single, we are all one step closer to eternity where our only vocation will be to worship God.

If I get my hands on this book, I'll post a review. If you read it, let me know your thoughts. I'll close with a few of Emily's words:

First, we can’t fall into the trap of feeling like our life won’t begin until the husband and babies show up. Today, this moment, is our life. God has something for us to do right now—some lesson to learn, some work to take on, some person to love—and he expects us do it and do it well. Second, we need to always remember that the goal in life isn’t a husband; it’s holiness.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Things They Say

"Mama, I love you," Ainsley tells me as we're heading to the pool "You're the whole world."

Wow. The things they say.

This morning we had yet another potty training accident. This is getting so old, so very old. For whatever reason, I've very much taken the This too shall pass line of thinking. My blood pressure has remained stable. Ainsley will not require ministry or harbor deep-seated insecurities because of her potty training ventures.

But it's getting old fast, and this morning I got cranky over the whole affair.

Minutes later Ainsley's sitting on the mini-potty. She beams at me and says, "You're happy!"

"I'm happy," I tell her. "You know what makes me happy?"


No, sweet sunshine. You should say Me not Pee. You make me happy.

P.S. Let's not say pee. Let's say go potty.

Monday, July 09, 2012

{this moment}

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

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Send Off

Dave and Tim are gearing up for a Boy Scout canoeing adventure.

Responding to an email from my friend Rachel, I wrote: Is it just me or does every mom heave an enormous sigh of relief when the guys and their gear finally make it out the door?

A large part of mothering -- and especially of mothering boys -- involves what I've come to think of as The Send Off.

It begins with pre-school and kindergarten -- you know, spiffy haircuts and new shoes. Then it's on to Cub Scout events and field trips, water bottles and sunscreen. You then advance to Scout Camp and vocations' retreats, backpacking trips and high adventure camp. The list grows long. The price tag inches up.

Mom bakes cookies, locates obscure items, dashes to Walmart for a few odds and ends (sunscreen, fifty feet of bouyant nylon rope, hat with wide brim). That will be $199, thank you very much.

In Mythbusters: The Camping Edition, I marvelled at the amount of gear these adventures demand. Honestly, I thought those days were behind us. Camp this year required a five pack of underwear and some tasty snacks. Done! No cha-ching! We now own it all!

And that is nearly true for general camping. But then we have specialty trips such as this canoe trip that, of course, will not involve a lazy paddle down a stream. No, they're starting in North Carolina and ending in Virginia, hitting class two and three rapids, portaging, purifying water -- the whole primitive camping experience. Fifty miles in three days.

I'll be spending extra time in prayer.

Through an act of the will, I'm putting all Worst Case Scenarios out of my mind and dwelling on what is true and pure and of good report and not on white water and giardia.

The Send Off  follows a predictable pattern. It begins with the initial excitement about the trip, moves into serious quartermaster duties, escalates to They can't get out of this house fast enough, ends with a kiss and a wave.

Mom goes home, brews a fresh pot of coffee, and surveys the debris field. Well caffeinated, she is happy to tackle the mess as long as it doesn't involve rifling through the broiling hot attic in search of some device we're just sure we bought the last time or, worse still, heading out to Sports Authority one more time.

Yes, Tim and Dave will be off canoeing, and we now own dry bags, a water purifying device, and a large number of items designed to wick. Wick -- that may be a new one for you. Wicking materials promise to dry fast and control odor. Where teenage boys and white water meet, these are valuable qualities indeed. Shirts, shorts, socks, and underwear are all armed and ready to wick at a moment's notice.

 As far as equipment goes, we're probably good until we hear rumors about a trip that involves spelunking or mountain climbing through an ice field. The headlamps we pick up for $2.00 at Mistah Harbor Freight probably won't cut the mustard in a cave. I'm guessing Walmart doesn't carry crampons or bottled oxygen.

Sometime in the not so distant future, I envision a different sort of Send Off. At the end of our family line we have this novel creation called a girl. There's so, so much that's awesome about girls in general and this girl in particular. And one of those awesome things is that I'll be on the other end of The Send Off.

Oh, I've attended my share of field trips and visited Scout camp on family night, but Scouting is predominantly a father-son activity (and one that I wholeheartedly endorse). In a few years, Ainsley will join what we call Little Sisters and off the two of us will go to ice skate and to camp, to do crafty things and to bowl.

I'm picturing Dave on the front porch handing me a steaming mug of joe and kissing his girls goodbye.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Be mindful of the goals you set.

So one of my summer goals was to declutter a room a week. I was plodding along, not exactly setting the world on fire with my progress, but making a dent here and there.

And then Ainsley had an accident of the potty training variety and out came the bleach.

And then Dave invited friends to spend the Fourth of July at our house, and I scrubbed and scoured and accomplished an amazing amount in no time flat. He did, too!

And then one of our visitors dumped half a bottle of fish food into the recently cleaned tank that will be sparkling once again in an hour or two.

And then I opened the pantry and spotted moths . . . the kind that begin as something called weevils
 . . . the kind that require you to carefully check every package of dry goods in the vicinity and to scrub and to bleach and possibly to paint.

And then I called the exterminator to come do what he does best and this requires that every piece of furniture be pulled away from the walls and since you can't very well spray a dusty surface, I'm grabbing the vacuum and the Murphy's Oil Soap.

And then a problem of unspecified origin forced me to clean under the washing machine this morning. There I discovered a long lost earring, one of Ainsley's socks, two Legos, no batteries, one penny, Russian currency of an unknown denomination, a tiny burp cloth that must date back to Timothy's infancy, and a Chuck E. Cheese token.

And on it goes.

Many pregnant women experience nesting syndrome. Just before delivery, you wake with a burst of energy and an intense desire to zip over to Home Depot and then dash by the fabric store. Visions of order and beauty and Potty Barn catalogues dance in your head, and you make herculean progress in a brief span of time. If all goes well, this induces labor.

Case in point: I planted mums when I was forty weeks pregnant with Tim. My water broke shortly thereafter.

I should note that where nesting is concerned, there is vast difference between having a baby at 33 (my first) and at 45 (my last). Oh, I had the same intense desire to get it all done, but that surge of energy? Non-existent.

Nesting with Ainsley? I went to Walmart and bought sleepers and diapers. I probably came home and took a nap. I had a long To Do list, but I could barely muster the energy to lumber to the couch and hoist the remote.

And it was August and it was blazing hot and I felt every one of my forty-five years.

Not a total slacker, I invested a lot of time thinking about my To Do list. High on the list was reorganizing the pantry. Not sure why this was such a priority, but it was.

Then I flew to Michigan for a visit. I returned home to find that we had left a potato -- and I think it was just one single potato -- in the pantry. It had been there for two weeks. Now, you can leave many a household item to mold and moulder for two weeks or more, but you can't do this to a potato. Trust me on this point.

The bugs, the stench -- blahhhhhh! The saving grace was that I was long past the morning, noon, and night sickness that would have sent me sprinting for the bathroom.

Awful -- just awful.

I emptied the pantry. I sorted, scrubbed, bleached, and, yes, even painted. I nested. Under duress, but I nested.

Necessity may be the mother of invention; I think it's also the mother of productivity.

It's now been an hour or two, and the fish tank is indeed sparkling . . . but the filter is no longer operating. Necessity is calling, and it's ordering me up to the road to Petsmart.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

A Great Float!

To parents of non-swimmers: This little number -- called a Puddle Jumper -- is the best float you will ever find. Trust me -- we've bought all the rest of them. It's on sale this week at Target for $15.00.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Way To Go!

When I was an English teacher, our ninth grade students had to pass a writing assessment in order to move on to the next college-prep English class. It was a daunting process. After one of these exams, I was sifting through a stack of essays making sure a parent had signed each paper. I came across one that had the required signature and beneath that, "Way to go, Jo Jo!"

It made me cry.

I know this family well. They have lots of children who, over the years, have amassed lots of honors of various kinds. Jo Jo is one of their youngest. And what struck me more than anything was that through many a graduation and first communion, through plenty of dances and birthday parties innumerable, this mom had not lost the ability to celebrate. This was a big, big deal to her daughter, and mom took the extra ten seconds to recognize that fact.

I still remember this story more than ten years later, but it no longer amazes me in quite the same way. I have four kids now. The younger ones are now climbing mountains the older ones have long since conquered.

The thrill is still there.

In some ways, these tiny milestones -- the first steps, the lost tooth, that faltering bike ride -- mean even more because fourteen years of parenting have left me with a sure and certain knowledge of how fast time really passes. Yeah, yeah, yeah -- a total cliche, they're growing up so fast -- But They Are Growing Up So Fast!

Then, too, there is the glee, the unadulterated joy, that small children find in simple pleasures -- the new supply of play doh, coloring books, oatmeal pies and in their new found abilities -- to swim, to write, to go potty!

So here's John's latest feat:

John need not worry about being the over looked third child. First, third, tenth -- when your child suddenly does something he could not do just a day or an hour before, it is thrilling, simply thrilling.

Way to go, John John!