Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I just Know It's Here Somewhere

I’ve found  a common thread among the moms in my circle: We are all scratching our heads wondering what’s happened to all that free time we were expecting to come our way once school was back in session.

I just know it's here somewhere.

My friend Amy from Raising Angels writes:

I had visions of gloriously finishing all these lingering projects now that the kids are in school and I've yet to do any of them. Well, I did clean out both freezers but that's not saying much as they are currently in their 3rd week of school. The day goes kind of like this. We wake them, feed them, comb hair, brush teeth, double check homework, pray together and then I cart them off to school. I go home, blink, and it's time to pick them up again. I have determined that getting clothes clean, keeping a house in order and having a meal on the table takes up a tremendous amount of time.

Amen to that!

I just caught an episode from the new season of The Gist. Rachel, Danielle, and Carolee are talking about getting back into school routines.

I was very much encouraged by what Danielle had to say:

Once you’ve got a certain number of bodies under the roof, just keeping them fed and clothed and cleaned and educated is a major undertaking. If you’re making forward progress, moving yourself and your kids closer to heaven day by day, you’re doing a darn good job.

Can I get another amen?

So it's busy, but a very different sort of busy than summertime and certainly a welcome change of pace (except for that pesky thing called homework which comes in droves once high school hits).

In the midst of the busyness, I am trying to keep in mind a thought Rachel shared:

The older my kids get, the more I’m like, we’re really ticking down the number of summers that they’ll be home. I’m learning to relish these days.

Amen again.

And since I've quoted both Rachel and Danielle, I'll add a line from Carolee who made me   laugh out loud with this one:
    Breakfast and lunch when   
    they're not in school, when
    they’re on vacation, is endless.

Amen, amen, amen!

If there's one thing I don't miss about summer, well, the first thing would be the blistering heat, but the second thing would be the endless breakfast which would begin at 5:45 with Dave and run until, oh, 10:00 when the resident teenager ambled into the kitchen.
You can find The Gist here. Now I'm off to join all the other mothers as we search for that elusive free time we are expecting to discover any minute now, any minute.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why We Don't Have Cable

Three words: Toddlers and Tiaras.

Midway through the endless road trip I have described in excruciating detail,  we pulled into America's Best Value Motel in Somewhere, West Virgina and collapsed in five sticky, exhausted heaps.

We brushed our teeth. We changed our clothes. We collapsed once again.

I scrounged the remote and began to surf. It was about eleven o'clock at night, so there was precious little family programming. And then I came across a show I've written about but never seen -- Toddlers and Tiaras.

We were hooked -- Destiny and Ashley, Emma and somebody else. Who would win? Who would melt down? Which mother would cry? Would pixie sticks and soft drinks keep those two-year-olds perky for the judges?

The episode we watched actually generated quite a buzz because the theme was the 1950s and rather than outfitting her daughter in a poodle skirt and a sweater set, Destiny's mom dressed her three-year-old daughter as Sandy from Grease, complete with the leather pants and -- I'm not making this up -- a cigarette. It was a fake cigarette, Mom was quick to point out. Destiny pretended to smoke it, threw it to the ground, and stubbed it out with her high heeled shoe.

The show is the last word in awful, but oddly mesmerizing, drawing you in the same way you might crane your neck to catch a glimpse of a fire or a car accident.

In the morning, I checked the news trying to hear what was happening with the hurricane headed toward New Orleans. Before I found the weather station, I found A Baby Story.

I can't pass up A Baby Story. On Kelly's list of must see T.V., it's neck and neck with Little House on the Prairie with The Waltons pulling in at a distant third.

We got to watch baby Emma (popular name, Emma) come into the world.  Of course, I flipped channels at the appropriate moments. I cried. Ainsley got all excited. The boys rolled their eyes.

And this, my friends, is why we don't have cable. If I can watch Toddlers and Tiaras, I am hopelessly lacking in self-restraint. Best we don't let it in the door.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Long and Winding Roads Continued

As I related on Wednesday, we went North, and I managed the return trip solo.

I've already recounted the riveting, heart pounding tale of the first nine miles of the seven hundred mile trip. On to the next 691!

Door to door, Augusta to Detroit is a fifteen hour drive. If I leave from my parents' house on Pelee Island in Lake Erie, we shave three hours off the drive.  I have a theory about long drives.  It sort of fits the 80/20 rule, but please don't do the math. The first "half" of the includes 80% of the time involved; the second "half" is the remaining 20%. On a fifteen hour drive, the first twelve hours seems like "half" of the trip; the remaining three hours feel like the second "half." Bottom line: The three hour shave makes the whole trip seem much more manageable.

Paper airplane flying through the van bearing the message, "Mom, can I have something to eat?"
Except that the 80/20 rule still applies. The first half is nine hours; the second half remains the final three hours.

No matter how we slice it, the last leg kicks our tails.

Our twelve hour tour began in Sandusky, Ohio.  There I got a bit befuddled trying to get on the Ohio Turnpike and finally opted for the scenic route which would lead us to I-77. Normally I avoid scenic routes because the only scenery I'm really interested in is my bed in Augusta, Georgia, and the faster we get there the better.

What can I say about Ohio? When you grow up in Michigan and attend the University of Michigan, you're really not supposed to say anything nice about Ohio. If I were to be completely honest here, I would admit that a bag of hand-me-downs recently came my way and in it was a perfectly serviceable Ohio State t-shirt.

I threw it away.

How awful is that?

But, really, we simply don't do Ohio State sportswear in our family. No.

But there we were in the Ohio, turning onto Highway 250, and I have to admit, it was lovely. Rolling hills, grass of a shade of green you find only in areas that get heavy snow falls. This is Amish country. The hills are peppered with white houses and bright red barns, The kids spotted horse drawn buggies, little girls in blue dresses, little boys in straw hats.

Our route took us past Dover, Ohio. Our dear friend Bob V. hailed from Dover. As we drove, I prayed for the repose his soul.

Pretty as Ohio is, it's also long. By the time we reached West Virgina, I thought John Denver was spot on when he called this state "almost heaven." It's the most mountainous state along I-77, offering gorgeous views of sprawling farms and, like Ohio, green, green hills. West Virginia also offers two bridges and two tunnels which, of course, the little kids love.

But this go around, West Virgina also offered a challenge we were not anticipating: constipation. Yes, I promised some mention of bodily function, so here we go.

Many mothers think about potty training and ask pertinent questions such as: Is the child ready? Am I ready? I think about potty training and focus on one succinct point: When are we driving to Michigan? A half-potty trained toddler in a car for fifteen hours? No.

So we potty trained in June. Problem solved. But when you're sitting for hours on end and not running around as usual, well, as they say in those commercials, things can get irregular.

"I've got to go potty," Ainsley informed me in the middle of Nowhere, West Virgina. And I do mean Nowhere. Miles and miles and miles from an exit or rest stop. So we pulled over. And this was scary. The road was curvy, and big rigs were everywhere.

 Ainsley looked at me with a woebegone little face and said, "It's just not working."

And we got back into the van. And merged into traffic cruising at 70 miles per hour. And I don't like that.

And fifteen minutes later: Mama, I need to go potty. And it still wasn't working.

And twenty-two minutes after that.

I put her in a pull up and begged her to go. Well, let me tell you, that is an indignity of the highest order. When you've cheered her every success, mounted a chart with stars on the refrigerator to track her progress, invested a bundle in cute, cute panties, well, there's no going back to pull ups.

And on it went.

West Virgina was long. And not very heavenly.

Then we were on into Virgina. What can I say about Virginia? On the far western end, it's skinny -- mercifully, blessedly skinny. In and out. Welcome to North Carolina. Can I hear a great shout out for the state of Virgina? Love you, Virgina!

As for North Carolina, this state offered the nicest rest stops, the cleanest bathrooms, the prettiest wild flowers, and no constipation. Thank you, North Carolina!

But North Carolina, too, is long and by the time we reached South Carolina, the old eighty twenty rule, as stated earlier, was kicking out hind quarters. What can I say about South Carolina? Lived there for eight years. Home to Charleston, which I would deem the prettiest city in The United States. Gorgeous beaches. Of course none of this is anywhere near where we drive. Our route follows a long, boring, non-descript path.

We passed Winthrop College, notable only because Dave and I attended Engaged Encounter there many years ago and because there's a street called Dave Lyle Boulevard. We laugh about it every time we see the sign because Dave's middle name happens to be Lyle.

Dave Lyle Boulevard. How cool is that?

So we were whipping down I-77 at 72 miles an hour, and suddenly I caught a glimpse of green on the side of the road and realized there was a Dave Lyle Boulevard sign lying on the shoulder of the highway. I was going too fast to make a sudden stop, and were already like a zillion hours into a drive that would be a zillion hours plus three. But guess what? I threw caution to the wind, took the next exit, drove eight miles NORTH!, and got back on I-77 South to find the sign.

I slowed down, looked for it, looked for, it, and there it was! I pulled over and told the kids what I was doing. They, of course, were convinced this was Grand! Larceny! They were absolutely undone that their crazy mother was about to "steal" a street sign. I began to freak out just a little and grabbed Kolbe's coat to cover up the contraband sign. I loaded it into the car, and we all had a laugh that we were now the proud owners of a Dave Lyle Boulevard sign.

And on we went.

And let me tell you the last hour or two had all the flavor of the Bataan Death March. Ainsley napped briefly only to wake up wailing, wailing, wailing, "I can't take it anymore!"

I think she spoke for all of us.

I directed Tim to the hidden stash of M and M's and told him to dole it out judiciously-- this was our final cache of chocolate.

We made it home.

We always do.

On every trip like this, there is at least one excruciating moment that gives me pause, that leads me to ask myself, "What were we thinking? Why do we do this? Why?"

The short answer? It's just what we do.

Some years once, some years twice, one year three times -- this is what we do. I wouldn't hazard a guess as to how many miles (both frequent flyer and road) we've clocked. We travel for births and deaths, for weddings and anniversaries, for graduations and Bat Mitzvahs.

It isn't easy.

But we continue to do it.

And now for the long answer . . .

We do this because, despite growing up seven hundred miles from their grandparents, my kids think Grandma's basement is magical and that Grandpa is the best chess player ever.

Because my children cheer for the Wolverines even though they've never lived in Michigan.

Because all of them remember sitting on Papa's lap listening to colorful renditions of that Dolin family classic, Harvey's Hideout.

Because my kids are so close to their cousins, you'd think they grew up a block apart.

Because John and Ainsley will never forget the evenings we spent catching fire flies in Grandma's yard or the afternoons playing in her little pool.

Because Tim and Kolbe remember the year Papa grew pumpkins for all the grandsons and carved their names into them.

And, finally, we do this because of  the phone call I received on the road, just north of Charlotte. It was my sister calling to say my mother had fallen and re-fractured her collar bone.

While we sit in the Dodge Caravan hour after hour, we wish time would only move faster. But in reality, it's moving fast enough, and not a one of us knows how much longer we'll have together.

Decades ago, Dave and I left Michigan, but we didn't leave our families. The road is indeed both long and winding, and we'll keep on travelling it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Long and Winding Road That Leads to My Door

So we capped off a good summer with a trip north that ended just before the start of school.

My sister left her cottage the night before we did. She packed and cleaned. We swam and played cards. She left with plenty of time to catch the boat back to the mainland.

About seventeen minutes before All Ashore Who's Going Ashore sounded, we got a frantic phone call. My nephew's passport was sitting on a shelf in the kitchen. I grabbed the passport, zipped across the island, and handed off the passport to my frantic sister.

"It's always a mad dash," she told me.

The next morning we were on target for a calm and unharried departure. The van was packed. The house was clean. Tim was begging me to fry up the whopper of a bass he had landed. I told him that I would cook the fish if everything else was finished by 10:30.

At 10:30, we were in fine form. I fried the fish and moved on to my final three jobs: pour a product called The Works into the toilets, empty my parents' trash, spiffy my parents' kitchen. I hit the downstairs bathroom. No problem. Then I entered the upstairs bathroom. Big problem. Big, yucky problem that, out of respect for my readers' sensibilities, I will not detail here.

The plunger, I knew from an earlier incident, was down the beach at my parents' house. Not a problem. I'd grab the trash, grab the plunger, spiffy the kitchen, and come back to plunge.

The clock was ticking, and the morning that had gone so smoothly was now feeling decidedly pinched.

I got in the van and immediately began to interrogate the usual suspects.

"Who shoved all the paper into the toilet," I yelled to the back of the van.

"Not me, " said Tim.

"Not me, " said Kolbe.

"Not me, " said John.

"I did it," croaked Ainsley.

Truth be told, there was no need to ask. Sitting right beside the malfunctioning Loo was a pair of pink flowered panties, size 3T. I need to inform Ainsley that if she's going to manhandle the sewage system, she'd better do a quick sweep for evidence before exiting the scene of the crime.

So we pulled up to my parents' house. I  told Tim to grab the trash. He couldn't budge the bag. Two days before, a veritable monsoon had moved over Lake Erie. Both the over-sized bag -- my Dad calls it a "body bag" -- and the can were overflowing with water. We wrestled the bag out of the can and lugged it over to the van. Unable to think up a better idea, I poked a bunch of holes in the bag which immediately spurted a viscous soup of rain water and trash seasoned with mounds of old coffee grounds. I was showered in it. Shoes soaked, legs dripping.


Tim and I wrung out the bag as best we could, grabbed the plunger, and headed back to my sister's. Mom and Dad's kitchen would not be spiffied that morning. The clock was ticking. The Waste Transfer Station -- a.k.a the dump -- was closing shortly, we had a boat to catch, and I was starting to panic.

Back in my sister's bathroom, there was like two rolls of toilet paper stuffed into the woebegone toilet. Suffice it to say, the job demanded a little fishing expedition before I could even plunge.  I put the, um, refuse into a large Solo cup and plunged and plunged and plunged and tried hard not to think about the clock ticking away.

Free at last, free at last, I sprinted down to the van and hurled the non-biodegradable Solo cup 'o refuse into the woods where it will remain for the next 800 years or so. I hopped in the van, threw it in reverse, and checked the time. We would make it to the Waste Transfer Station with minutes to spare.

Heart racing, legs covered with coffee grounds, nostrils sucking fresh air, I put the pedal to the metal and cranked up a CD I had swiped from my parents along with the plunger.

A classic -- David Cassidy of Partridge Family fame belting out Heyyyyyyyy! I think I love you! So what am I so afraid of? I'm afraid that I'm not sure of a love there is no cure for!

Really, does it get any better than this? Once again, I'm ten years old, wearing bell bottom jeans and a striped turtleneck, spinning one of David Cassidy's forty-fives on my parents' record player.

I don't know what I'm up against. I don't know what it's all about. I got so much to think about. Heyyyyyyyy! I think I love you!

I was rocking out as we sped across Pelee Island to the dump.

My kids were slack-jawed, gawking at me in disbelief.

"Okay, Mom," Tim told me gently. "You're scaring me."

We pulled into the dump at 11:51, well before closing time at noon. I got out of the van, still trying to breath deeply, still trying to bring my heart rate down, still trying to ignore the fact that my hands, legs, and shoes were covered with all manner of ick.

"I am calm. I am calm," I kept repeating to myself.

"That'll be two dollars," said the man at the dump, eyeing me with suspicion.

Body bags unloaded, we headed to the dock where I was able to locate the diaper wipes and at least make some attempt at sanitizing myself.

And that, my friends, is the story of the first nine miles of a seven hundred mile trip.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it was not the end; it was not the beginning of the end; it was, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

And if you're wondering why my gallant husband was not plunging the toilet and handling trash detail, I did the return trip south solo. Yes, me, four kids, one van, twenty-seven bags, six states, one Canadian Province, and a Partridge Family CD.

Come back tomorrow for part II of The Long and Winding Road That Leads to My Door. I promise to touch on a few more topics related to bodily functions.

So you have that to look forward to.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eyes and Ears and Mouth and Nose

1. A friend calls this morning.

What she says: I just stopped by. You weren't there.

What I hear: Do you want to have coffee? I'll be right there.

So I respond: Sounds Good.

And hang up the phone on her.

2. This reminds me of a problem I've had with my cell phone, admittedly the cheapest and now surely one of the oldest in the history of cell phones. The dinosaur records minutes. I look down at the micro-screen and read, "428 minutes, Kel."

I thought that Dave, who generously handles all our techno-issues, had personalized my menu and added the name Kel. Sort of sweet, you know.

After years of viewing this message, I finally looked at while wearing my glasses and discovered that it actually reads "428 minutes left."

Left, Kel - what forty-eight -year-old woman can tell the difference? And does it really matter?

3. These day I have fewer problems of this variety because I have my glasses with me at all times. I tired of going to the grocery store and wondering if I were about to pay $7.92 per pound or $1.78 per pound. Life's full of gambles, but I'd rather place a wager on something more interesting than ground chuck.

Now my principle struggle is in the shower where, understandably, I do not stow a spare pair of specs. While staying at Dave' s parents, I held a plastic bottle as far as my short arms could reach trying in vain to decipher whether the label read conditioner or shampoo. Eventually I decided to live dangerously and just guess.

I have the same issue with shaving my legs. Now, rather than looking to see if I need to shave, I just shave.

4. Meanwhile back to ears . . .  I've just picked up John from school because his left ear is stuffed with green Playdoh that seems to be migrating brainward. The classroom, he informed the principal, was getting a little loud for his liking. His pediatrician was very sympathetic to John's attempt to muffle unwanted noise, but recommended he try ear plugs instead. After a fair amount of poking and prodding followed by a lavage rinse, I think John just may follow the doctor's orders the next time his classmates get on his nerves.

For the moment John is all about safety, walking around the house offering pearls of wisdom like: Never put sausage up your nose.

Sound advice, that.

5. And finally, on the issue of mouths . . .  My precious, darling girl now has one of the loud variety. Oh, does she have a shriek and do we ever get enough of it! Some kids pull out all the stops at two; Clearly, Ainsley was saving it up for age three.

Loud or soft, there's nothing like the voice of a three-year-old. "Oh, my stickers! They rip did," she tells me.  "Oh, the bathtub! You cool off did it!"  "Daddy's not here. He go did."

Did -- the all-purpose suffix that converts the present tense into the past tense without all that pesky conjugating.

I love it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Painted Ladies

So Ainsey and I went out for pedicures.

"We're getting our toes painted," I told her as we pulled into the parking lot.

"Oh!" she said with great anticiaption. "Is this the paint store?"

Friday, September 14, 2012


  Note to self: Before you get too aggressive frisking the little people and confiscating odd items before they march off to school, you might ask a few clarifying questions because maybe, just maybe, it's Show and Tell day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'm Going to Prepare a Place for You

My sister may or may not have turned fifty this year. There was a rumor of this milestone on the horizon, but I think she squelched it, declaring herself perpetually 43.

Meanwhile, my mother claims to be sixty-five.

On our recent visit, Mom became a touch, ahem, irritated with dear old Dad and said, rather forcefully, "I'm sixty-five years old. I think I can decide that for myself."

Kath and I tried not to laugh -- oh, how we tried! --  but we just couldn't contain ourselves.

But, you know, if Mom's sixty-five, Kath's a mere forty, and I'm a youthful thirty-eight.  And we're all good with that.

So for Kath's birthday (whatever the number), I framed a cross stitch I had made for her years ago. It reads: In my Father's house are many mansions. I want the one next to yours.

The year I originally cross stitched this and gave it to Kath, the house next door to hers was renovated and sold. The price tag? If memory serves, it went for a cool 1.3 million dollars. I told her that though the sentiment was sincere, I wouldn't be moving next door anytime soon.

This morning as I toted two little girls to pre-school, we listened to The Donut Man singing I'm going to prepare a place for you up in my Father's house. I'm going to build you a mansion, too, up in my Father's house.

I love The Donut Man, and I especially love this tune.

Years ago I experienced a season of deep consolation in prayer. For reasons I only partially understand, I had a grace on my prayer life, and all my struggles with consistency and distraction and dryness just seemed to be evaporate. I experienced the reality of God's presence in a way I had never understood before and haven't been able to be recapture since.

It was a grace, pure grace.

One day I was sitting on the backyard swing and began singing that line from The Donut Man: I'm going to prepare a place for you up in my Father's house.

For an unforgettable instant, I fully understood the reality of this. I was overwhelmed by God's love for me and me alone. Out of the vast sea of humanity spanning century after century, millennium after millennium, the God of the universe was preparing a place for me.

So personal. So true.

This morning I grabbed John's sweet brown cheeks and peered into those gorgeous brown eyes and told him that God could have given him to anyone on planet Earth, and he chose us. How amazing is that!

I was doting on John in part because, well, he's my John and so very, very sweet (except when he's not). And, in part, I was doting on John because I was on the brink of investiagting far away military academies willing to house his older brothers.

This time last year we dubbed two of my nieces Serbia and Croatia in light of their uncanny ability to foment dissension and unrest at a moment's notice. No issue was too trivial; no opportunity was overlooked.

Well, let me tell you, my oldest boys have absconded with the title. Move over, Lissi and Hannah; Serbia and Crotia have moved South.This morning's bout of internecine warfare left me overwrought, newly aware of how blessedly uncomplicated the little people are, and absolutely certain my boys will never, ever, ever express -- in cross stitch or any other medium  -- a desire to live next door to one another.

I wonder if they'll exchange Christmas cards.

Since this less than blissful morning, I've spent time with my friend Annette, mother of fifteen, including eleven -- yes, eleven -- boys. Part of the picking and jabbing and needling is, she tells me, both normal and even a sign of affection. As odd, unfathomable, and even perverse as it all sounds, boys just do that.

A unique love language, you might call it. One wholly indecipherable to the average mother.

I'm accepting this premise on faith.

It's either that or cry (and I've already tried crying).

In the midst of all the strife, it is so good, so very, very good to dwell on the eternal, to ponder the truth that God has indeed prepared a place for me -- a place for me and a place for adorable five-year-olds, a place for aging parents and, yes, even  a place for quarreling brothers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Says You

Me: John, please climb out of the trunk and put your glasses back on.

Ainsley: Mama, may you would you please turn on The Donut Man?

Unidentified male member of the family: John, get a red light on your conduct card. Chicks dig bad boys.

John: Thanks you, God, for making Oatmeal Pies.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Mystery

A glue stick starts off purple

It turns clear when applied to paper.

It remains purple when smeared all over khaki pants and a white shirt?

These Moments


Saturday, September 08, 2012

Week 1

All of us want to be doing this:

Because we've been preoccupied dealing this:

The result of a seventy-two hour shopping spree was this:

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

First Day of Kindergarten

So John started kindergarten yesterday.

It was a hectic and emotional morning for me. We were on time -- spiffy uniforms, crisp, new backpacks, grocery bags stuffed with crayons and paper towels, Kleenex and binders.

(Is it just me or have the school supply lists grown by leaps and bounds since I was a kid? Ainsley needed ten glue sticks. That's a whole lot of glue.)

The older they get, the less they need, but the price tags actually goes way up. You can buy a ream of filler paper and bathtub of hand sanitizer for the price of one graphing calculator. I looked at Tim and issued a simple plea: The calculator, the L.L. Bean backpack, the glasses -- don't lose them, 'kay?

I assembled the lot of it Monday night. As clear evidence of the aforementioned splinching, I briefly found my eyes wandering from the fourth grade supply list to the third grade supply list.

What's this, I thought. I could have sworn John was the only one who needed colored pencils. I realized my error, chuckled at my scattered state of mind, and returned to the fourth grade list. At 10:34 p.m., it dawned on me that Kolbe is entering fifth grade and that the fourth grade list wasn't quite so helpful after all.

What can I say? Splinched!

I scrounged another composition notebook from the diminished stash and went in search of a highlighter. Mission accomplished. Everyone prepared.

Except that I wasn't really prepared.

John walked off in his red polo shirt, his neatly pressed khaki shorts, his new glasses. And I could feel my chest constrict and my eyes start to well. I held it together because John was, well, not quite John. The opening assembly began with a praise song. Everyone in the gym was singing and clapping. John was standing ramrod straight, like a tiny Marine.

After assembly, the kindergarten parents followed the students like a roving band of paparazzi. The kindergarten teacher had a little note for us to read to our children. There was a sticker and a line about sticking together, an eraser and an encouraging word about making mistakes, a Starbust and something about being a star. I couldn't make it through any of it.

He's not the first. He's not the last. But he's John, my only John.

John's friend, Jonah, broke the tension when he found John's name tag on a desk and said, "This one's mine, but she spelled it wrong."

They are a cast of characters, no doubt about it.

John came home happy but just a little put out that he got the soccer ball eraser and not the car eraser and that the older kids were headed for recess while he was headed for home.

I asked him how his glasses were working out.

"Great," he told me. "Without them I can only see pixels."

And I can see a young boy maturing and moving forward to seize life's next challenge (and taking a sizeable chunk of his mother's heart along with him).

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


The bags were packed. They were ready to go. The gang of four started school today.

For those of you who wondered why I had fallen off the face of the electronic world, first, thank you for your concern. Second, let me site three reasons for Internet silence:

1. We were in Michigan and Canada for about three weeks.

2. We returned just in time for a three day frenzy of uniform and supply shopping

3. I've been splinched.

Regarding the third reason, Harry Potter aficionados will recognize the term "splinched." Splinching occurs when one attempts to magically move from one destination to another, a process called apparating. When apparating, one should remember the three D's -- destination, determination, and I can't remember the third one which may explain why I keep splinching.

The result of splinching is that some body part -- ranging from a leg to an eyebrow -- gets left behind.

I've done a lot of moving this summer -- home to mountains, home to Michigan, Canada to home. I've facilitated a lot of moves -- Dave and Tim to Boy Scout Camp, Tim to Boot Camp, Tim to a vocations' retreat. And while in town, we've moved quite a bit as well. Mostly home to pool, pool to home.

I've had lists and bags and tables covered with gear.Suitcases and backpacks and wet bags (or are they called dry bags?) have gone up and down the attic stairs again and again and again.

It's been good, really good. Our recent visit to Michigan and Canada was probably our best ever. In fact, this summer has probably been our best ever. That's if you disregard last Friday and Saturday which were just this side of gruesome. Boys and clothes shopping? Too, too fun, don't you know!

The highlight was heading out for boys' white button down shirts, size 16. Sounds easy enough. Walmart? Sold out! Target? Nary a one in sight! Sears? I found two -- same size, same brand, slightly different design. One was $5.98; one was $16.98. Sold!

Ignoring these rather trying and lengthy shopping excursions, we've had a good summer. Not perfect, but really, really good.

I've been mentally debriefing and attempting to pinpoint exactly why things went as well as they did. I've come up with five reasons:

1. It wasn't last summer. Summer 2011 wasn't a banner one for the Dolins. One hundred and twenty days above 90 degrees. Two non-swimmers. John in, ummm, a challenging season. A bored teenager. A husband working like a dog. Not a horrid summer, but not a great one.

2. This year I made a conscious decision to refrain from whining about the weather. A ten year drought lifted. No joke. Really, if I had known my paltry little whine-fast would alter the entire meteorological pattern of Augusta, believe me, I would have tried this long before now.

3. Our resident teenager had a variety of interesting and challenging opportunities. This was huge.

4. We joined a different pool, one that offers a lengthy shallow end for the little people and diving boards for the big people and lots of friends to hang out with.

5. John learned to swim. We bought Ainsley a puddle-jumper.

And this is all good, very good. But somewhere along the way, I splinched.

Even when it all goes well, summer has a certain intensity. A relaxed intensity in that we typically don't have deadlines and school bells and homework. But we're all together almost all of the time, and that alone can be intense.

In this world, there are introverts and there are extroverts; I would have to call myself a hybrid. I do not do well when I'm alone day after day. Isolation and cloudy weather are a particularly difficult combination for me.

But the opposite is also true.

When I'm never alone -- when I have to post rules detailing the circumstances in which my offspring can knock on the bathroom door -- when someone is nearly always right there needing or wanting something -- eventually, I splinch. Honestly, I don't think I've been alone of two hours since May.

When I splinch, I'm fairly sure the part I leave behind is my cerebral cortex.

I can't think.

You know those calls you get reminding you about a doctor's appointment? They irritate me, at least the ones that require you to call back and confirm the appointment all in some vaguely threatening voice. I already confirmed the appointment, I think to myself. I confirmed it when I made it. My tirade usually ends with the smug thought that it's been ten, maybe fifteen years since I've missed an appointment.

This summer I've missed two doctor's appointment and very nearly missed a third.


I can not think.

While vacationing in Michigan and Canada, I had a dozen thoughts I wanted to write about, but most of the trip involved grandparents and aunts and uncles and lots and lots of cousins. It's wonderful, and it's intense. And I couldn't string two sentences together. Rather than fighting it, I simply recognized my splinched state of mind, put people before things, and enjoyed our vacation.

I've now been alone for one hour. The kitchen is clean. My fingers are typing. Blogger is acting up rather badly. I'm hoping that as I once again take possession of my cerebral cortex, I can sort this mess out.

Maybe then I'll reschedule my dental appointment.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Generosity Goes Only So Far

Our kind neighbor dropped by with a plate of sweet rolls this morning. When I thought someone had eaten his share as well as Dave's, John came up with a quick solution. "We can cut one in half," he generously offered. "But not mine!"