Tuesday, July 30, 2013


We hit the Detroit Zoo today. As we walked out of the parking garage, John lifted my shirt to kiss my tummy. Ainsley followed suit.

"No, no," I told them. "Mama's tummy doesn't see the light of day in a public setting for Very Good Reasons."

Call it a corporal work of mercy -- feeding the hungry, burying the dead, keeping those stretch marks under wraps.

Over at Darwin Catholic, Mrs. Darwin has this to say about beauty in general and gestational beauty in particular. She writes:
Childbearing permanently alters the body for better and for worse, and it's okay to mourn those changes because they can be traumatic.  Women don't have to view our stretch marks as "tiger stripes" or battle scars or precious badges of honor; they can simply be stretch marks. Being pushed to acknowledge the marks and scars of childbearing as beautiful when our aesthetic sense rebels against such a designation is simply a form of cultural conditioning.
An interesting piece.

As for me, I am thrilled I just penned approximately eight sentences and a fragment. This time last year I wrote Splinched, a post that captured the sad, sad demise of key mental faculties in the face of intense familial togetherness. I wrote back then:

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. 
Well, it's deja vu all over again.

But I've now written more sentences than I care to count (even if I did start with the zoo, move on to stretch marks, and end up discussing my splinched state of mind). There's progress there somewhere.

I think.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy Birthday to John

John at six.

Driving through North Carolina on a recent vacation. I squished into the far back between John and Ainsley to keep them company for a while. I wasn't happy to spy this on the back of the headrest:

But then I peered at the headrest in front of John and found this:

Hiking through the Smokey Mountains. Upon the advice of a friend who is an experienced hiker, we decided to forego the hike deemed moderate  in favor of the one considered family friendly. Good choice. Really good choice. We clomped through miles of mud, sometimes eight inches deep. John lost his shoes a few times. He found snail shells, minnows, and gems, lots and lots of gems. And sharks' teeth. And who are we to set the record straight in the face of John's unbridled joy?

We trudged through the muck. John sprinted. We began to grouse. He loved every minute of  it. On our return hike, John begged and begged to ditch his shoes that were by that time full of mud and pebbles. Finally I caved.

"I'm free!," he yelled. "I'm free! Ouchhhhhh!"

Trolling the waters of Lake Erie with Grandpa. Determined to catch his first fish. And he did.

Burning up with fever the night before his birthday. "Mama," he calls. "Come snuggle." He watches Scooby Doo meets the Harlem Globetrotters for the nineteenth time.

Searching the beaches of Pelee Island for sea glass. Our biggest haul? Seventy-two pieces on the west side of the island. We're looking, looking, looking, and then John spies treasure and dashes off to explore. A minute later he scampers back to my side, reaching for my hand. His hand is soft and brown; my hand is veiny and freckled. For years my sister teased that he was switched at birth. He doesn't have my looks.

But he has my heart.

I love this brown-eyed fire cracker of a boy and thank God every single day that he's mine.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Five Favorites

Hallie at Moxie Wife is collecting Five Favorites. Here are a few of mine:

1. If money were no object, I would buy every single item of Ainsley's clothing at Olive Juice.

Too, too pretty. Alas, money is an object.

2. Kolbe. His middle name is Edward, and we call him Steady Eddie. Love this boy. Love all my boys. But Kolbe has been a rock this summer. A rock. A rock who makes me laugh because of exchanges such as this one:

Me: Is the lawn done?
Tim: Yes.
Me: Kolbe, do you concur?
Kolbe: Yes. 
Kolbe: What does concur mean?

3. Reading Bob Books with John (oh he of crooked and now missing teeth).

There is a limitless supply of books for new readers, but here's the thing with Bob Books: Young readers can nail every word. They are great for building fluency and mastery. Interesting characters, riveting plot? No. Unless your kid is enthralled by Pat sat on the sad cat. Every other "First Reader" kind of book throws curve balls at kids -- words totally off their radar, words they can't even sound out. Kids like John enjoy success, and Bob delivers.

 (In the interest of full disclosure, I like having John read to me, but he much prefers that I read to him.)

4. Cari's efforts here and Dwija's ability to let the blogging community bless her as she would (and does) bless others.

A little background: Dwija is pregnant and experienced premature rupture of the membranes at ten or so weeks. She's now at about twenty weeks, and baby Nicholas is looking like a fighter! Dwija will shortly be hospitalized for the duration of the pregnancy. Cari initiated an effort to help Dwija's family renovate her laundry room and raised nearly $10,000.  Here's a before picture:

Can't wait to see the after pictures! Please pray for Dwija and Nicholas.

5. And finally, my list of favorites includes forgiveness, reconciliation, a clean slate, in short, the ability to screw up, make amends, and move on.  Love my husband. Love my kids. Love my God.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Gardening Advice Needed

So I planted a zillion Zinnia seeds, and while I have a few of these

mostly I have weeds. Why did so few plants come up? Should I start the seeds in pots, transplant, and then heavily mulch? Right now I'm weeding around the plants I have and then laying newspaper and grass clippings around the stems.

This plot has typically done great with Zinnias, although I had the same problem last year. This year, I can't blame it on a lack of rain!

Any suggestions?

Monday, July 01, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Well, I missed Seven Quick Takes, but here they are anyway.

1. Swim Team is over except for a party Tuesday night. Everyone who has read my crazy summaries will wonder why I'm sad. Here's a bit of unsolicited advice for parents not interested in swim team: Keep you kids in swim lessons. My kids all learned to swim the summer they were three, soon to turn four. We spend lots of time in pools and lakes. The boys have always been comfortable in the water. But here's the thing: I never continued with lessons, so they never learned any stroke but the front crawl. Do a swim team for a year or two or continue with lessons.

End of pitch.

2. The Division Meet was short and sweet, mostly because Tim, who would have swum one of the later races, was out of town. Kolbe shaved nine seconds off his freestyle! I'm so proud of him (and that's not just what he refers to as "Parent Speak").

3. Are you a fan of Pinterest? You know what I look up? Red kitchens, cozy bedrooms, and hairstyles for little girls. Today was a rare Sunday that offered a small window to tinker with Ainsley's hair. She didn't put up too much of a fuss, and she didn't pull it out until we arrived home. I should have snapped a pic as proof that, yes, I styled my daughter's hair, and it actually looked cute. Years ago, I swore if I ever produced a girl, I would style her hair and take up sewing again.

Maybe in the fall.

4. John is much better after a week of sore throat and fever that kept coming and going. I have to say this: He is the sweetest little sick boy you've ever seen. Maybe some of you are married to men who are just pathetic when they're sick? I think it starts at age five. They're just so darn cute, their mamas baby them like crazy, and they kind of enjoy doing it (that is, both the mamas and the boys enjoy it). I''ll have to ask my mother-in-law about Dave in this regard. And to John's future wife: Sorry, honey. He was just too adorable. I couldn't stop myself.

5. So the boys were intrigued by this parenting CD I've been playing in the car. Catch your child doing things right, advises the encouraging doctor. You finished your homework without any prodding! You shared with you brother! Kolbe chimes right in: Thanks for smoking outside, son!

If we could bottle it, it would be scary. We'd be rich, but it would be scary.

6. With no swim practice this week, everyone gets to sleep in. We are going to be lethargic lumps who do a few afternoon chores. I have to pick up Tim's now repaired glasses. And John broke his yesterday, so I hope Cynthia is back on duty. Other than that, slow week. Blessedly, mercifully slow.

7. Blogger ate my seventh quick take. Blogger -- along with two of my four offspring -- has been acting up all day and I'm too tired to deal with the kids or the computer probs.

It's too late to add you quick takes, but visit Jen's blog anyway.