Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer Reading

A mathematical/analytical type could have a laugh aligning my posts about used books stores, Amazon, and Goodwill and those more emotional rants about clutter, de-cluttering, detachment, hand-wringing, and discontentment.

There's a correlation, not doubt, but I'm too busy perusing my stack of finds to ponder it for long.

Yesterday afternoon was short on peace and long on I Have Nothing To Do. Yes, we had just hit the one week mark on summer vacation, and apparently there wasn't a book to read, a game to play, a ball to kick, a friend to see.

(Note: There was no shortage of electronic games to play and as for kicking, siblings are always far more diverting than soccer balls.)

We hit the used book store late this morning. Here's our haul:

1. Ender in Exile 
2. The Invisible Detective 
3. Here Comes Charlie Brown
4. Out of the Silent Planet
5. The Tempest 
6. The Magic Tree-house: Polar Bears Past Bedtime
7. The Magic Tree-house: Christmas in Camelot
8. Dora Loves Boots.
9. Artemis Fowl

Cost: $33.00. Absolute silence on the drive home: priceless.

Tim and I are planning to read The Tempest out loud to each other. We'll see if we make it past Act I. Signing off  now . . . C.S. Lewis awaits.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

When in Doubt, Spell It Out!

Tim and and I are debating John's reward for completing today's reading practice. I'm in favor of half a Nutty Bar. Some people around here exercise no self-restraint whatsoever! where Nutty Bars are concerned, and this is a trait I'd hate to pass down to my dear children.

Tim recognizes half a Nutty Bar for the lame, lame, lame reward that it is, so he suggests ice cream. To his credit, Tim has already squirreled away a key parenting trick that should one day come in handy with my grandchildren: When in doubt, spell it out. He gets as far as I-C-E when Ainsley and John shout "ice cream!" in unison.

Prodigies, both of them! Some spelling skills are mastered at a very young age.

When I was a kid, we had a dog who could spell "O-U-T." Alright, so maybe he never said it out loud, but if one of us spelled the word, to the front door Whiskers flew.

We had a particularly bright pooch -- sadly misnamed Bozo -- who knew the days of the week. Or at least he knew Friday. My parents drove to our cottage every Friday night. By about noon on Friday, Bozo wold park himself by the driver's door and wouldn't stray five feet away until the time of departure arrived.

I-C-E is Ainsley's fourth spelling word: she's also mastered Ainsley, Dolin, and Hope (the name of her buddy up the street).


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Giver of Gifts

There's nothing quite like a three-year-old in a princess costume chiming, "School's out! School's out! Teachers let the fools out!"

Her brothers have warped her sweet little mind, no two ways about it. But this was a welcome comic relief in the midst of my second migraine of the week.

After this brief electronic foray, I plan to retire to the rocking chair and pray the rosary with the little people. Earlier in my life, I found the rosary sooo monotonous, kind of a spiritual drudgery. As my life has stepped up a notch or two (or seven) in intensity, I find myself taking comfort in a slow, quiet type of meditation I could previously engage in out of devotion, but never out of joy.

I glanced at the older boys during Mass on Sunday and fully recognized the distant, bemused looks on their faces.

It's easy to space out.

Especially when Mass is long. And when the sound system is seriously mediocre. And when the little people are restless. And when our pastor speaks with an accent.

We have to choose to be present, to enter into the gift that Mass is.

As I was thinking about the gift the rosary is, I thought back to a post I had read over Light and Momentary. Jamie was looking back on joining the Catholic church. She wrote:

This morning at Mass I was thinking about all the gifts I didn't know were waiting for me. Lots of life's transitions are gradual, but that one is a bright line. Life with and without the Eucharist, life with and without reconciliation. I never even suspected what I was missing.

The Blogosphere has been a buzzin' with commentaries of all sorts. Elizabeth Smart recently spoke at Johns Hopkins University. Among her remarks were criticisms of abstinence-based sex education. Teachings Elizabeth was exposed to left her feeling that she was damaged goods, a chewed up piece of gum. Who would want that?

I am not prepared to beat the drum for abstinence-based sex ed (or sex ed of any other variety) because a) um, migraine and b) far more articulate writers than I have tackled the topic.

Calah at Patheos wrote Sloppy Seconds Sex Ed. It promptly went viral.

Mary at Better Than Eden offered a thoughtful response with Abstinence Only --  A Quasi Defense From a Former Teacher.

Betty, also at Patheos, added In Defense of Abstinence (As Opposed to Abstinence-Only Education) and followed up with Redeeming Abstinence.

When I hear of people thinking of themselves as backwash or recycled gum or Swiss cheese or some other twisted metaphor, I am sad. Sad because so many people have so obviously missed the main point of Christianity. Not just the point of human sexuality, but the whole point of Christianity itself.

Christianity is about redemption and healing and wholeness.

It's about grace and blessing.

Weeks ago, I responded to the Liebster Award. Among the questions I answered was this one: What message would you give your children?

My response came from 1 Corinthians 2:9: Eye has not seen; ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love Him.

Upon further reflection, I would also point out Revelation 21:5: Behold I make all things new.

And if they were still listening, I would add 2 Corinthians 5:17: If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.

And Romans 8:38-39: I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow -- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.

And I would also whisper in the ear of my children -- these boys sometimes bored at Mass, these young men now sifting through this faith for themselves, now facing on a daily basis the wide gamut of human temptations and blessings and failings -- and what I would whisper is this: There's always a way back.

There's always, always, always a way back. 

And the process isn't complicated.

In the atrium, we meditate on the Kingdom Parables -- those parables that Jesus uses to explain to his followers the nature of the Kingdom of God. Among these parables are the stories of the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure. The Kingdom of God is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds the pearl of great price, he sells everything he has to acquire it. The Kingdom of God is like a man who finds a hidden treasure in a field. He buys the field.

In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we break our objectives into two parts: direct aims and indirect aims. When meditating on the Kingdom Parables, one of our indirect aims is to draw the children into a crucial, pivotal understanding about God: He is a God who can be found.

And I would add this important message so obviously over-looked by people throwing around terms like sloppy seconds and images of chewed up gum: He can be found again.

And again.

And again.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: God is a giver of gifts.

Grace is a gift. Wholeness is a gift. Prayer is a gift. Human sexuality is a gift.

Many of us are like Jamie: We can look back and wonder at all the gifts that awaited us -- gifts that we never imagined; gifts, like the rosary, that we didn't fully appreciate. In the Catholic church, this is the Year of Faith. Faith itself is a gift -- a gift I pray God will give to these sweet children of mine, a gift I pray they will accept and cherish always.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oh Say Can You See?

Not very well, thanks for asking.

Farsightedness is a stealthy foe, sneaking up slowly.

First you find yourself squinting at a book, holding a newspaper or a receipt out as far as your arms will stretch. This vaguely reminds you of your mother and the television guide in the mid 1980s. Dim lighting (i.e. the cash register at your favorite Mexican restaurant) is difficult. Strangely, overly-bright lights (i.e. fluorescent lights at the grocery store) are equally as problematic.

Then you have a baby at 43. In that blurry, mad moment of birth, you keep thinking, "There's something they're supposed to tell me. I know there's something they're supposed to tell me."

"It's a boy," someone finally says, handing you a tightly bundled form. You look down, and it's all a blur.  It's not pain or tears or raw emotion; it's farsightedness.

Glasses -- readers, as most people call them -- become your constant companion. You buy lots of them.

Occasionally, though, you can't locate a pair.

So you think you're buying Yoplait strawberry and banana yogurt, but in reality, it's strawberry and white chocolate which sounds like an enticing combination in real life but not in yogurt.

And you run out to buy four bottles of Silly String for a birthday party . . . and come home with four bottles of temporary hair dye.

You play Scrabble with other forty--something women and play pass-the-lone pair-of -specs.

And maybe you were shopping just the other day because Kolbe's making another movie and needs props. While he heads for the toy aisle and John entertains himself looking at plastic Bowie knives, you decide to pick up a little something for Ainsley . You quickly hone in on a plastic flip phone with multi-colored buttons.

You arrive home and present the gift to a clearly thrilled Ainsley who tears it opens and immediately squeals, "Make-up!"

"There's make-up in that phone," John asks, clearly perplexed. "Whoa!"

Whoa is right.

Those colorful buttons you assumed were, um, numbers are, in fact, lip gloss (in shades of pink, green, and blue). This well-equipped device flips up again to reveal a sparkling palate of eye shadows.

So you confiscate the  phone, hoping against hope that the child who still remembers where she lost her last pacie two years ago will forget all about the sparkly phone with more make-up choices than the Clinque counter.

She wakes up this morning and says, "Where's my phone what has the make-up?" which quickly morphs into, "W-H-E-R-E-'-S my phone what has the M-A-K-E-U-P?!!!!"

For a split second you wish you were slowly losing your hearing rather than your sight.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In Kolbe's Backpack

Required reading:
1. Grammar
2. The Bible
3. Exploring God's World

And then:
1. The Search for Reality: The Art of Documentary Film Making
2. Adventures in Cartooning
3. The Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes
4. Kolbe's Notebook: Do! Not! Touch!
5. The Far Side Gallery 3
6. Ductigami: The Art of the Tape
7. Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction (i.e. 101 uses for Tic Tacs and rubber bands)

Kolbe, pure Kolbe.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Too Funny

A bulletin board in the elementary wing of the boys' school:

Boo Hoo Hoo! It's the end of school!

Said no student or teacher ever.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes

1. Folks, we are three field trips, seven lunches, and two detentions away from Summer Vacation!

2. This is a good thing because I, for one, can no longer maintain a grasp on a pace of life that since mid-April has been nothing short of frenetic. A recent conversation serves as a case in point:

Tim: Mom, are you coming to school?

Me: Are you sick?

Tim: It's 3:10.

Alrighty then.

3. This time of year reminds me of the last weeks of pregnancy. Labor, delivery, and weeks of no sleep with a newborn all add up to No Big Deal compared to being pregnant for another ten minutes. Scorching temperatures, soaring humidity, loose structure, squabbling kids: Bring it on, I say! As long as I don't need to pack another lunch.

4. That last point completely ignores the reality that we do, in fact, eat during the summer. We actually eat more. And at different times. And anytime these inconvenient truths rear their ugly heads, I say,"Back under rock, troll! Let me enjoy this fantasy a little longer!"

5. Times they are a changin' at our school in terms of summer work. In years past, it was a matter of having the older kids tackle a few books and being encouraged to read aloud with the little ones. Not so, this year. All three boys will come home with an ambitious packet of summer work. I've always been in favor of this. Now I have the added benefit of being able to blame it on someone else.

6. We popped in on the Spring Dance Saturday night and Wow! was that something to watch. Kids I've known since birth in formal wear and floor length gowns. We returned home to get a Bad Report on one John Patrick who had this to say for himself: Ainsley was asleep, but I wanted her to watch a show with me. So I kicked her. But it didn't work.


7. And now I'm off to Monkey Joe's and McDonald's with the kindergarten. Whooo weee!

Head over to Jen's to squeeze in your Quick Takes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pulled from Circulation

In 1982 I left the Marian High School (student body 700 girls) to attend The University of Michigan (student body 34,000 undergraduates). The transition wasn't as difficult as you might think. Except for the library.

Undergraduates were supposed to use the Undergraduate Library (appropriately dubbed the Ugli). But everyone really used the Graduate Library, and it was HUGE. Supposedly the largest open-stacked research library in the world. Floor after floor of shelves that meandered deep underground; compasses embedded in the floor. North, south, east, west.

I have been applying the concept of Circulation and Stacks to household management.  A while back I wrote that life in a family of six all boils down to dinner and laundry. Sad but true. As we enter into the summer, I am attempting to simplify one of these jobs through a two step process: Reduce Circulation and Close the Stacks.

I am forever de-cluttering. The other day I had a sudden inspiration: Forego the normal approach to purging (getting rid of the ill-fitting, torn, stained, worn out items) and instead strip everything to a bare minimum.

The truth is, I keep just above the minimum in terms of my own clothes. I have a few pairs of fat jeans and one pair of skinny jeans (because there's always hope, right?), but for the most part, the stuff I have, I wear. Yeah, I wear the same things over and over again. But it's stuff I like.

What if John had four shirts and four pairs of shorts? What if I did the same for Ainsley? She could try on every last outfit -- as she is wont to do -- and clean-up would take a matter of minutes.

I purged like a mad woman Tuesday morning.

I took a bid chunk of useful clothing and put it into the Closed Stacks -- in the top drawer of a tall dresser in my room. Mostly I focused on clothes and books. Tomorrow I'll tackle toys.

It is an amazing first world phenomenon how things seem to multiply. How did we ever come to own twenty-five baseball caps? And while I'll swear I am detached from many material items, apparently baby blankets are not among them. Tim has two beautiful blankets crocheted by dear friends.  Keepers, both of them. Kolbe has a flannel blanket with the funnest fabric ever -- I Love My Mommy and Daddy in a cute script in primary colors. My sister Kate knit (knitted?) John a gorgeous cotton blanket that won't leave my house until it's ready to snuggle a grandson.

And then there's Ainsley.

I probably had ten blankets for her. To my credit, I've whittled them down to four or five or six. See, she has lots of dolls, and I keep thinking dolls need blankets. The fact that she, like, never, ever swaddles the poor things is somehow immaterial. She might. One day. And she needs to have a blanket (or six).

In a feat of heroic detachment, I gave one of her blankets to Goodwill. And you know what? I cried.

Because three and a half years after her birth, I'm still overcome by the goodness of God and the sweetness of this blue-eyed, blonde-haired spitfire of a girl.

And all my efforts at paring downing and sorting through and moving out are geared at being able to better love and serve this family I am still sometimes surprised to see is mine.

As I washed and folded and bagged up jeans and dresses and shoes, I stumbled on an ironic thought. Ainsley was at pre-school. I was paying money for childcare so that I could get rid of stuff. Stuff comes with a price tag and it's not just the retail cost that ends up on your American Express bill.

But . . .

Turns out that I hit pay dirt in the midst of my epic overhaul. I wrote a while ago that I've sworn off the library in order to a) avoid deadlines I'll never remember and b) avoid the debtor's prison that is, no doubt, looming in my future as a result of a).

Well, wouldn't you know, one pesky book entitled Cinderella was yet to be returned. I pulled up my account details on-line and looked at an image of the book.

"You know," I told Dave, "I don't think I checked that book out."

My account showed two strange transactions. It appeared that the book had been checked out and then immediately returned. This only strengthened my argument: Their mistake. I never touched the book. Just to be on the safe side, I popped into the library and asked about it.

"No problem," the kind lady told me. "We'll report it as an unrecorded return."

"And the fine . . .?" I mean, let's just cut to the chase, shall we?

"Oh, don't worry. You won't be fined."

Really? Promise? Can I get that in writing? Did you record this conversation for quality control purposes?

Long story short . . . In the heat of the purge, I pulled back Ainsley's book shelf, and there sat the elusive copy of Cinderella, the very book I never checked out. The good news is I won't have to sell a kidney to get back in the good graces of the library. They let you get away this not just once, but twice!

As I chatted with yet another nice librarian, I noticed a stack of hardback books on Franklin Roosevelt. Oh, I'm a sucker for history books.

"They're for sale," the librarian told me. "We're pulling them from the shelves."

Reduce Circulation and Close the Stacks. Here and at the library. A work in progress.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Experience This

Years ago John and I began a spring tradition of hunting for birds' nests. We have a window around early March when the birds are nesting, but the trees are still bare. Nests are easy to spot. In fact, they're everywhere once you start looking for them.

A week or two ago, John came running in the house with a half a speckled egg. It was beautiful and unique and somehow disappeared.

Last Tuesday, John came running in the house with a nearly intact egg. What a find! I carefully put it on a table and told John we'd put it in a box so that he could bring it in for Show and Tell. 

Ainsley smashed it to bits.

I think I was more upset than John. We went in search of another egg or a nest. We found an abandoned nest or two, but no eggs.

This morning I jumped out of the car in front of a neighbor's house. Right there in front of me sat half a Robin's egg. I picked it up and put it carefully in the car. I peered through a nearby bush and saw a nest and a beak!

So cool!

As we were leaving the atrium this afternoon, I told John I had a surprise for him. He climbed in the van and slammed his hand down on what he thought was a rubber ball but turned out to be -- yep! -- the Robin's egg. 


I grabbed a step-ladder and headed over to the site of the nest. And there we saw this:

I heard a bird squawking. Mama Bird, worm in mouth, sat on a nearby roof, clearly miffed at our proximity to her chicks. As we walked away, we spotted a second adult bird off to the left.  Maybe that was Daddy Bird.

Later we headed out to a nearby swamp because, darn it!, I was determined to find another bird's egg.

Here's the tricky part of raising a family with a large age gap: What thrills the little people bores the big ones to tears. I was chatting with a friend whose family has long enjoyed hikes through the same swap we frequent. Her older set is less than enthused these days. Around here, I say, "Let's hike through the swamp," and I might as well say, "Let's go to Target to buy underwear and school uniforms."

Cue groaning, eye rolling, and sudden onset of intestinal woes.

Tim was complaining about a hand injury that was serious enough I began to worry about the $50 bucks I had just plunked down for swim team. I gave him a pass. Kolbe, I impressed into participation. So off we went -- two excited little people, one resigned older brother.

We headed down the Cottontail Trail -- the shortest one, as Kolbe so helpfully pointed out -- and  came upon a mass of Honeysuckle, a patch of wild raspberries, and a turtle.

"Wait, Mama!" John yelled. "We've got to experience this."

He plopped down on the walkway and pulled off his backpack. We've been reading The Magic Treehouse series, and John clearly finds  young Jack inspiring. Like his hero, John pulled out a notebook and recorded his experiences - raspberry (spelled razberri) and turtle (spelled trdle).

Ainsley insisted we stop at the next observation site as she once spotted a pink pacie in the muck and mire and that obviously brings back nostalgic memories for her. Alas, we found no pacie, but we did spot a LARGE Water Moccasin. To my absolute credit, I didn't freak out. This is one fear I refuse to pass on to my children. I showed the snake to John and Ainsley (and maintained a death grip on both of them). The downside of the swamp is that the rails on the elevated paths have slats that must have 18 inch gaps. I'm forever worried Ainsley will topple into snake infested waters.

John dutifully wrote snake (kinda looks like shake) in his notebook.

Next my little explorer caught a yellow and brown striped lizard. Trouble was, we had no way to contain Mr. Lizard. Ainsley wasn't volunteering her neon pink Papagallo purse to do the job. John hung onto Mr. Lizard until it dropped its tail and scurried away  The tail landed on the path and contorted for about ten minutes.

Nature. Just amazing.

We ran by Sonic on the way home and talked about all our finds. Kolbe grudgingly admitted it was sorta, kinda, maybe fun. Even Tim laughed when we told him about John's antics and enthusiasm.

We've got to experience this.

Age five in all its wonder.

I love it.

(Cari at Clan Donaldson is hosting Theme Thursday, and this week's theme is animals. We don't do animals -- we even killed off our last fish not so very long ago -- so I thought I'd skip this week. But, hey, birds! So we're linking! And head over to Cari's where I have learned a lot about photography and family life).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tim in a Tux

We spent Saturday night at the Civic Center watching Tim and about 2,000 friends enjoy the Spring Formal. It was quite a sight. 

The Augusta Chronicle ran an article about Social, Inc. a few years back. You can read it here. I was interested to learn the director's background is in both business and in coaching.

According to the Chronicle, owner David McLeod focuses on social graces, dance skills, and confidence. Confidence has absolutely been the biggest takeaway for us. Among other lessons, David teaches "the thirty second introduction." What a great life skill to teach young people how to make eye contact, shake someone's hand, and start a conversation. 

And they have fun, lots of fun.

Maggie, Tim's partner, is cute as a button and the spitting image of her beautiful mother.

I always wondered why we didn't adopt something similar on a smaller scale in our community. After two years of Social, I've concluded that the people running this are uniquely gifted. We simply couldn't pull it off with the same level of excellence.

(It's also helpful to have an outside voice telling your children what you've been telling them for years. It's kind of the Peanuts' syndrome: wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!)

Good times!

 Dave and I can't quit humming Engelbert Humperdinck's The Last Waltz. Tim was picking it out on the piano yesterday. Really melancholic, but there's something about listening to it while a sea of tulle sways around a dance floor.

So sweet.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


It's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson. This week's theme is Mom.

Here is Ainsley's rendition of me -- on a Friday morning I'm guessing, clearly both uncaffeinated, and unshowered, probably moments after packing the last lunch only to hear one of the older boys yell, "Don't forget -- eighth grade lunch sales today, oh, and I need $11.25 for a field trip and a bag of chips, I think. Or was it a two liter drink? Have you seen my PE shorts?"

I am super picky about pictures I like and don't like. But somehow the messy hair, the chocolate on her face and sleeve, the googly-eyed drawing, the remarkably clear penmanship, the sparkling blue eyes -- together it all captures my sweet daughter at three.

I love you, my precious girl! I'm so glad you're mine!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

You Get More Knitting for Your Money

One Christmas Eve -- a rather typical Christmas Eve -- found me in my sister's kitchen baking cookies and a torte, a yule log and and other assorted goodies. Spices were strewn about. Dishes overflowed out of the sink. The floor was dotted with whatever the dog didn't find appetizing.

My brother-in-law came in the kitchen and took in the scene. He shook his head and said something like, "So much work!"

We begged to differ.

I don't remember being stressed or frantic, pushed or burdened. Yes, there was a component of work in all of it, and some of it really needed to be done, but for the most part, we were simply wasting time together.

We baked; we played Scrabble. We washed a pile of dishes; we talked to the kids. We baked a little more; we poured a few more cups of coffee.

The point wasn't the baking.

My friend Christine -- a knitter and  a writer --  was hard at work on a complicated knitting pattern. Discovering a problem, she was forced to do what knitters so often are forced to do: Pull the darn thing apart. Seeing her mother undo her progress, Christine 's daughter put a positive spin on it: You get more knitting for your money.

A few years ago, I spent a few moments in deep thought about my hobbies and ended up examining an interesting question: Did I, in fact, actually enjoy any of my hobbies?

There was cross stitch -- too taxing on my middle-aged eyes. Gardening -- all that confounded weeding. Scrap booking -- thank you, good and merciful God, that blogging came along and photo albums are once again just photo albums. Quilting garnered the best review, at least for a beginner like me. The problem with most sewing projects is that the actual sewing -- hands on the fabric, machine going vroom, vroom, vroom -- is actually a minute component of the whole process. Gathering the materials, ironing fabric, threading the machine, winding the bobbins (and for some reason,  I've always been really, really bad at bobbins) -- well, in the end, you don't get a lot of a bang for your buck. Quilting, however, has a higher ratio of sewing to all that other stuff.

As I thought over all of this, I wondered if I really wanted more knitting for my money. You want more knitting for your money if, and here's the key point,  you actually enjoy knitting  rather than just enjoying the outcome of knitting.

It struck me as odd that I didn't actually seem to like most of my hobbies.

Are we invested in the process or the outcome or both?

I apply this to motherhood. What, for example, is the point of bedtime stories?

a) To spend time snuggling with my kids

b) To get the little buggers to sleep already

c) All of the above

I recently stumbled on a new blog (or, I should say, a blog new to me). Over at The Rhodes Log, I read:

I feel like I'm productive at the expense of mothering.  Or actually. The opposite of that. I feel like I mother at the expense of being productive.
And I feel the expense keenly.  Some days everything falls enchantedly into place, but those are just days when Jake takes three hour naps and then contentedly bangs his hammer on the floor while I hum about my business. I try to remind myself that getting down on the floor with some blocks to appease a fussy nineteen month old is not only doing "something," it's doing something wonderful, something good, something I will miss terribly in fifteen years. But instead I glance warily at the mess in my kitchen or make to do lists in my head or sneak peeks at blogs on my phone. 

There isn't a parent on Planet Earth who doesn't wrangle with this. Most of us struggle far more with being than with doing.

Kids help us to live in the present.
They almost always want More Knitting for Their Money.

Note: This doesn't apply to church, haircuts, car rides, any event that involves itchy clothing,  etc.

But for the most part, young children are wholly unfocused on outcome. There is no anticipated finished product when they jump in a mud puddle. They don't do a quick cost-benefit analysis weighing the stack of muddy clothes and the trail of dirt through the house versus the fleeting moment of ker-splash!

They just do it.

I apply this to my spiritual life. What, exactly, is the purpose of prayer?

Here my friend Mark expresses beautifully the point of deep, saturating prayer. Like Christmas Eve with my sister, it's about wasting time in the presence of someone you love.

Which turns out not to be a waste at all.

We can't snap our fingers or wriggle our noses and presto! find that we've morphed from a doer into a be-er (had to add that hyphen!).

But we can practice.

And we can pray.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Cue the Theme to Sanford and Son

Me: What happened to John's bed?

Ainsley: We're playing junkyard.

Um, yeah.

Thursday, May 02, 2013


It's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson. This week's theme is play. 

An old picture:

A new picture:

My favorite picture:

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

I Thought There Were Lots of Days

Ainsley was sitting with a pile of books "reading".

"In an old house in Paris all covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."

I climbed into the van the other day and spied a sheriff's badge in the cup holder. I pushed a dining room chair back into place and noticed a Dora sticker stuck to it. I walked through the house picking up this and that and heard Ainsley's sing-song voice saying, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you . . ."

My browser tells me the last six searches on this computer looked for the following key words: prop gun, prednisone, Conan, Tardis, and Light Saber.

Ainsley grabbed my face last night and whispered, "Mama, I love you so, so, so much."

I love that John is dead serious about Show and Tell. I love that Kolbe wants to tell me every detail of his latest creative endeavor. I love that Tim has six books in his bed. I love that Ainsley's finds the American Girl catalogue and can't wait to show me every page of her favorite mazagine.

(It'll be a sad, sad day when she says magazine instead of mazagine. Or stops saying "cool-down-did". And it's a darn good thing I made the most of these past few months and Ainsley's (brief!) desire to be rocked.

Tonight she said, "I don't do that anymore.")

"Mama," Ainsley tells me as she puts on her rain boots, "I'm going to have a 'venture outside."

As Tim was gearing up for Confirmation this week. We stayed home one night a few weeks back, just the two of us, to spend a little time reviewing catechism materials. Among other topics, we reviewed the corporal works of mercy:

  • To feed the hungry.
  • To give drink to the thirsty.
  • To clothe the naked.
  • To shelter the homeless.
  • To visit the sick.
  • To visit the imprisoned.
  • To bury the dead.
I thought to myself I do five of these nearly everyday.

Life is full of its trials -- the fallout of Ainsley trying on seventeen outfits every. single. day., the popcorn kernels that yesterday seemed to have landed everywhere but in the trash, the school projects that make me want to don sackcloth and ashes and beg -- beg! -- the forgiveness of every mother of every student I ever taught.

But life -- my life -- is teeming with its little joys, unique and always surprising and sometimes mystifying joys that flow from a life with children.

They bring humor.

They bring wonder.

They bring delight.

Kolbe and I wound our way to Walmart the other day. He regaled me with Diary of a Wimpy Kid anecdotes.  Rowly and Greg were in Human Development, AKA Sex Ed. Rowly heard the word perspiration and passed out.

And Kolbe, well, that boy has perfect timing, perfect pitch, perfect recall. This, believe me, is a mixed blessing, a talent that has caused a sticky situation or two, a skill set that one day not so very far off will merge with adolescent hormones and may generate a few awkward phone calls and a few hard gulps.

Some things don't bear repeating, as in never, ever, at all, amen.

But in the Walmart parking lot, gracious, I had tears rolling down my face. That boy makes me laugh.

"Mama, I thought there were lots of days," Ainsley told me the other day, "but then there are no more."

This sounds more existential than it actually was. I think she was considering that the swim club we're joining opens in two weeks -- e.g. eternity when you're three.

John began running yet another fever over the weekend. Here's a confession I've probably confessed before: I'm happy when my kids get sick. Not really sick, of course. And not icky sick (think: stomach issues). But run a little fever, hunker down on the couch for a day? That I like.

(Yes, there's a syndrome --. Munchhausen's,  I think? -- that involves parents actually making their kids sick. Don't worry. That's not me.)

When my kids are sick, to the best of my ability, I stop. I sit down with them. I mop foreheads, dispense medicine, read story after story.

My priorities shift instantly.

And as we move into the homestretch and gear up for summer, I will strive to shift my priorities not because of a fever, not out of necessity, but out of intention.

Because Ainsley's  words really hit home: I thought there were lots of days, but then there are no more.