Thursday, October 31, 2013

Saint Angels

Warp speed . . . That is life around Casa Dolin these days. All will slow down soon . . . in about nine days to be precise.

But the next thirty-six hours are devoted to All Saints celebrations of various sorts. Tonight, our backyard celebration, parade of saints, and oodles and oodles of candy. Tomorrow night, All Saints Day Mass.

Ainsley just overheard me tell John to get dressed for school.

"Isn't John going to Saint Angels," she wondered.

Saint Angels. That's what she calls All Saints Day.

I remember Danielle Bean writing about homeschooling. I'm sure I'm taking horrible liberties with her thoughts, but a typical exchange went something like this:
What she would say: We home-school.
What the other party invariably would hear: Because we're obviously superior parents, and I can't believe we associate with riff-raff like you.
Saying that we celebrate All Saints Day can elicit similar responses. This time of year the Internet is rife with emotional diatribes on All Saints Day versus Halloween. In a few weeks bloggers will take on the commercialization of Christmas, Santa Claus and Saint Nick, Christmas carols during Advent. These are predictable, seasonal, annual events, kind of like the World Series and Black Friday.

I'm not dissing bloggers for offering their thoughts on weighty subjects. Hey, I'm offering my thoughts here, am I not? Early in this journey we call parenting, I had plenty of opinions, most of them vehement, on all manner of controversial subjects: Do you celebrate Halloween or All Saints? Do you take the kids to see Santa? How do you keep Christmas out of Advent?

Sixteen years into motherhood, here are my brilliant conclusions:
1. Use the grace and wisdom God gives every parent to discern what is right for your family.
2. Know that what you do today will not be precisely what you do tomorrow or next month or in ten years.
3. Relax.
As a younger parent, I, mentally if not verbally, took a hard, hard line on Santa. I'm not lying to my kids, thought the much more orthodox Kelly. Let's not mingle the holy -- the birth of Christ -- with the secular -- reindeer and chimneys, cookies and milk, shiny noses and sleigh bells.

My Jewish brother-in-law would be interested to hear that he very much influenced my line of thinking. I remember having breakfast with him one Christmas morning. He was mystified -- perhaps disappointed would be a better word for it -- by the feel of the Christmas experience we had just shared. Orgy was the term he used, if I recall. And an orgy it was -- kids over-the-top excited, paper flying, noise, mess. Yep. I celebrated Hanukkah and Passover many times with his family, and I'll say this for our Jewish brothers and sisters: Their religious holidays are religious. Oh, I think some Christmas commercialism has found its way into Hanukkah, but for the most part, their religious observances are free of ornamentation.

I like that.

My desire to celebrate the birth of Christ in a less frenzied, materialistic manner translated into one specific practice: I wanted every ornament on my tree and all my wrapping paper to be religious in nature. Santa was ousted. No reindeer, no elves. Angels and trumpets made the list. Ornaments that spelled out Peace and Joy were great. I collected dozens of nativities to hang on my tree and received a gorgeous ornament of the three wisemen. Seasonal baubles like snowmen and snowflakes barely made the cut. But no Santa.

Some time after this, I began my training with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I learned about the beauty of liturgical seasons. Advent and Lent are seasons of preparation for the Feast; they are not intended to be the Feast. I read beautiful reflections on the waiting and preparing. They stirred my heart to focus on the wait. I had visions of decorating our tree on Christmas Eve and celebrating all through Epiphany. (And I eyed with disdain those slackers who put their tree up on Black Friday and had it out on the curb by noon on December 26th.)

But something happened on the way to liturgical purity.

I became first an aunt and then a mother. In short, kids happened. Kids bring several things to bear. Mainly, they bring joy. Unbridled, over-the-top excitement. And it permeates the whole house. The idea of a sterile, minimal Christmas? Just not much fun. I still want to wait, and I don't want the orgy, but I want some of the chaos, some of the mess, some of the noise.

I remember the Christmas my niece came up to me and said, "Mommy bought you a really nice gift, and it's a BIG secret, and I'm not supposed to tell you what it is, but it's a sweater."

As I saw the room get quiet and one of my sisters move toward me with the camera, I thought to myself, "This must be a really, really nice sweater."

I opened up the box and found a Mrs. Beasley doll to replace the one our dog had eaten around 1978.

A happy, crazy Christmas memory.

I remember the year my brother dressed up as Santa. You'd have to meet my brother to appreciate just how wild that was. Eeyore meets Saint Nick. Ho, ho, ho, you'll shoot your eye out! 

I remember how much we laugh watching Elf -- truly a liturgically bankrupt offering, but so funny, so very funny. No singing at the North Pole! Yes, there is! No, there isn't!

I keep in mind the advice a priest gave to a friend of mine who was worried that her kids weren't "getting Advent": Relax and enjoy your family.

Relax and enjoy your family. On Christmas, on Halloween, on All Saints.

To return to those questions I, the young mom, pondered:

1. Do you celebrate All Saints or Halloween? We celebrate All Saints. It's a great opportunity to talk about heroic virtue, of deep love for God and fellow man. I do not think people who celebrate Halloween are worshipping the devil. I don't like the ultra-skimpy nurse/waitress/lady pirate costumes on the cover of every store circular. I don't like the child/zombie on the front page of the Chronicle this morning. John about jumped out of his skin when he saw it.

2. Santa or Saint Nicholas? We don't take the kids to see Santa. We don't dis Santa, either. We have a simple and sweet Saint Nicholas traditions of filling shoes with chocolate coins and a small gift.

3. How do you keep Christmas out of Advent? Short answer: We don't. Long answer: We have Advent traditions that include an Advent wreath and various calendars, small sacrifices, a few Advent songs. But we listen to Christmas carols before Christmas. We put up the tree on a night that works for us, not one dictated by a calendar.

I know there's a way we can get deeper into the trenches of parenting and sort of throw up our hands and cynically conclude that all positions we once held dear now seem ridiculous. Certainly that's not what I'm attempting to communicate. Parenting has proved to be far more challenging and, therefore, more humbling than I would have expected. We have not reversed course on most of what we held important back when Tim was tiny. But we have -- I have -- reconsidered ideas I once viewed as carved in stone.

So All Saints begins tonight.

All of us are pulling out Bibles and Lives of the Saints, pointing out Blessed So and So and the Venerable Such in Such. My friend Colleen asked her five-year-old who she wanted to be for All Saints. Casey cut to the chase: Who's the prettiest one in the Bible? See, most girls don't want to be the Saint who purposefully made herself plain so that she wouldn't attract men and be distracted from her vocation as a nun. No, no, they want to be Queen Esther who spent a year getting one serious makeover.

Meanwhile the boys are solely focused on blood and gore. Kolbe will be Saint Ignatius Loyola because, well, he's a soldier. John will be Saint George because, well, he slayed the dragon. Saint Lawrence is always a hit because who wouldn't want to be shot full of arrows?

Relax and enjoy your family.

And when you return home, go to You Tube and search for Matt Maher's litany of the saints. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and a perfect reminder that beyond the candy and costumes lies a vast cloud of witnesses ready and willing to intercede for us.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Five Favorites

Hallie over at Moxie Wife is collecting Five Favorites. As Christmas is starting to come to mind, here are five of the bests gifts we've ever given or received:

1. Rip-stick - Awesome.

2. Tin tea set. The single best girly-gift ever. So fun. Unbreakable.

3. Legos - Pretty much any set. Better yet, forget the set. Purchase one of the large building platforms, and let them at it.

4. Legos Mindstorm - When they've gone beyond Indiana Jones and Star Wars, Legos Mindstorm is a great way for them to keep building while also adding in technology and computer programming. Tim produced a rocking science fair project with this.

5. Wooden Trains - Limitless hours -- nay, years! -- of fun

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Clear Sign That I've Purchased One Rotisserie Chicken Too Many

John: What are you baking?

Me: Chicken.

John, clearly perplexed: I didn't know you could do that.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Because I Still Need a Wife

From the archives, I stumbled across this. Never -- and I mean Neva! -- have I had a greater need for a wife than this week!

So here it is:

I can't participate in Seven Quick Takes this week. I might be able to pull together two thoughts, maybe three, but seven? Not happening.

But I did head over to Conversion Diary and laughed at what Jen had to say:
A friend alerts me that the new trend among homeschoolers is to hire tutors so that busy parents can outsource some of the grunt work. These aren't necessarily experts in the subject (at least not for elementary school kids); rather, they function more as teacher’s assistants who answer questions and help young children stay on task. This was a bad can of worms for me to open, because it got me thinking about the resources I could use to make homeschooling run a little more smoothly around here. My list ended up looking something like this:
  • Tutor
  • Babysitter for baby
  • Second tutor
  • Masseuse
  • Sommelier
  • Grape peeler
  • Security guard (to stand outside my bedroom door while I take a nap)
This is just a start, obviously. I haven’t even gotten to the tour guide to arrange engaging field trips and the chauffeur to take them there.
For me, it comes down to this: I need a wife. I may be plagiarizing Barbara Walters who, at the height of her career with ABC, once expressed this very idea.

I need a helpful someone to point out to me -- preferably while I'm still in a store -- that, in fact, I've been in some sort of retail establishment that sells bread every. single. day. this week. And do we have bread? No, we do not. I guess I will be visiting one of those establishments again today. An unbroken record! Go me! I think a wife could help me with this issue.

I would find a wife who is under forty and who has better eye sight than I have. She could point out the flaws in my make-up that I can't see even with a magnifying mirror.

My wife could handle all the meal planning. I'd even be willing to do all the cooking if only I had that helpful someone who would just plan the darn things. I'd handle breakfast and lunch -- which go fine around here (as long as we're not out of bread). Wife, handle dinner for me, please, oh, please!

I'd keep my wife busy running items to the boys' school. I went in there yesterday and told our beloved secretary that they really should install a revolving door with my name on it. Better yet, the school could initiate a courier service that pops by my house each morning around 10:00 to collect the forgotten lunch, the PE shorts, the calculator, the Secret Saint gift, etc., etc., ad nauseam. If I had a wife, the courier service would be rendered totally unnecessary.

I need someone to keep track of my appointments. My wife could analyze my calendar and conclude that there is no logistical way the Dolins could be at six places at once. She could make the seventeen phone calls required to iron out the whole mess.

If I had a wife, I would be free to concentrate on those elements of marriage and motherhood I love -- relaxing with my husband, reading to the kids, finger painting with the little people, going to basketball games, watching Monk with the big boys.

My friends and have laughed about the life captured in Downton Abbey. If I woke up inhabiting that universe, no doubt I'd be Daisy the kitchen maid and not the glamorous Lady Grantham. If somehow, someway I woke up and found myself to the manor born, it wouldn't be O'Brien the lady's maid, I would most appreciate. No, I think every family could use Carson the butler -- that calm, unruffled stickler for detail to iron out all the pesky details of life (and even iron the newspapers).

Carson's not showing up anytime soon, so I'd best get back to it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


So it's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson, and this week's theme is W. 

Here's Woody (made of Legos):

Here's Winter (Augusta's last big snow storm):

Here's Who (the coolest and easiest Pinewood Derby car the Dolins ever fabricated):

And Water or Winner:

Head over to Cari's to add your photos.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Real life has trumped on-line life. I am uber-focused on a) this little family of mine and b) a vast, vast list of projects too complicated to detail and too time consuming to spend much time either or reading.

But I think I can manage Quick Takes:

1. So John is considering his career options. He's always expressed interest in becoming what he calls "one of those polices." Seems, though, that "one of those polices" reacted badly to part of his training at the old Police Academy -- mandatory tazing.

"I don't know if I want to be one of those polices," John informed me upon hearing this tale. "They get donuts, but I don't want to get tazed."

Can't say I blame him.

Note: The Internet disagrees on whether it's tazed or tased, tazing or tasing. FYI.

2. A typical Ainsleyism: Stop it, John! You're a chair, and I'm going to sit on you!

Right up there with tazing.

3. A not so typical exchange:

Ainsley: Can I play with my ball?

Me, half asleep: Sure, just don't put it  in your mouth.

Ainsley: I won't, Mama.

4. A more typical exchange:

Ainsley:  I love Barney!

Tim: You know, Ainsley. Barney died last night.

Me: ????

5. I can't actually identify the precise website a certain older member of the household was viewing with his six-year-old son, but I'll leave you with two observations:

1. It should come as absolutely no surprise that Ainsley took her apple-shaped speller and had it sing the letters I C U P.

2. I am convinced that mild mannered, slightly serious, mostly male engineers charged with our nation's nuclear safety sit in conference rooms and have to work very, very hard to stifle a chuckle or two over the fact that the chemical symbol for plutonium is PU. Then again, I believe men very much like them invented the chemical symbols. Coincidence? I think not.

6. Which all reminds me of a recent Baby Blues comic strip that Tim and Ainsley now have memorized:

Ainsley's line: I had the most amazing dream last night! I was flying to my very own fairy princess castle! Of course, I had on a sparkly gown made of butterfly wings and silver thread... And I was riding on the back of a unicorn with pink wings that I named Cotton Candy!

Tim's comeback: That dream makes me want to trap a bear and barbecue it while I watch hockey in my underwear.

Some families memorize scripture or Shakespeare. Hmmmm.

7. A friend recently passed us a bag of girly hand-me-downs. Ainsley took one look at it and gushed -- I mean Gushed! -- "Oh! My! Goodness! This is so incredible! Kolbe, I have the most exciting news!"

Yes, we are living, breathing stereotypes around here, and we make no bones about it.

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dear Big Pharma

Dear Big Pharma,

If you spend any time at all on the Internet, you are well aware of the legions of people who take issue with your Big Profits and your Big Conspiracies. I, however, want to take issue with a different Big issue: your Big Pills.

I first encountered Big Pills when I was about four months pregnant with my first child. See, I became anemic, and my doctor prescribed iron tablets. I trotted off to the pharmacy, filled the script, and began to laugh out loud when I took a gander at the pill I was expected to swallow.

No way!

Look, I was nearing the twenty-week mark, about thirteen weeks into nearly-incapacitating nausea. I could barely choke down my favorite foods, and I was going to swallow a really wretched tablet half the size of my finger?

I don't think so.

(I would be remiss if here I didn't pause to point out that it was you, Big Pharma, who produced Zofran, AKA Ambrosia, AKA The Nectar of the Gods, for women with debilitating morning, noon, and night sickness. Some bright chemist in your ranks tinkered with compounds long enough to produce Zofran, that blessed substance that elevated me from a miserable lump in the fetal position to one of the walking wounded. While the rest of this piece is tongue-in-cheek, this bit is not. I am grateful).

Now for the rest of my rant.

A year or so ago, my doctor encouraged me to start taking heavy doses of calcium and vitamin D. It took a little doing to find the right combo, but eventually I located a bottle with the recommended strength, brought it home, and began to laugh out loud when I took a gander at the pill I was expected to swallow.

No way!

Just a trifle smaller than the iron tablets, just as horrible to the taste buds, and these bad boys were chalky to boot. I turned to a pill splitter  for assistance.  And the result? The split pills were just as nasty, just as chalky, and, on top of that, sharp!

For the past few years I have taken Lysine to stave off fever blisters and mouth ulcers. It works like a charm. (So, again, thanks, Big Pharma!) I ran out of Lysine the other day and scoured the medicine cabinet for another bottle. I found one, but the pills were enormous, chalky, and foul tasting. I zipped over to Target yesterday and picked up a new bottle. I returned home to find the new tablets were infinitesimally smaller than the other horse pills. Maybe. I halfway choked one down today and then spent the rest of the afternoon feeling as though I had an enormous lump in my throat because I'm fairly certain that I did.


People, Big Pharma, are supposed to swallow these pills. Not elephants. Not the camel in the Geico commercial. People. Can't we coat these bad boys? Instruct us to take two smaller tablets? Make them chewable?


A Concerned Customer with a Lump in her Throat

P.S. I had never heard the term Big Pharma until I watched Stuff Crunchy Mamas Say.  Are you going to the Chicken Pox party? Best line ever.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


So it's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson, and this week's theme is Double. Here is a picture of the little people in our now retired double stroller:

I bought this double stroller from my friend Colleen for $18. Strange as it may sound, this was so much more than a used stroller to me. My first paid piece of writing was My Double Stroller Makes Me Cry. It's a post that chronicles our years of secondary infertility, sub-fertility, and repeat miscarriage. That stroller somehow encapsulated the work of healing and undeserved generosity God had done (and continues to do) in my life.

My Double Stroller Makes Me Cry 
The first time my stroller made me cry, my daughter Ainsley was two weeks old, John a freshly minted two-year-old. My post-partum hormones were raging, but so was cabin fever. I needed to get out of the house.

“Road trip!” I thought gamely. I loaded up and headed for the photo store intent on ordering birth announcements.

Thirty minutes later I exited the store with a shrieking newborn, a flailing toddler, no birth announcements, and a memory card I was sure I had erased.

I headed to the van and buckled everyone in. I attempted to fold the stroller and then attempted again and again. On about the third or fourth try, the stroller gave way and indeed folded nicely, crushing my finger in the process. I cried. I uttered a bad word or two. I envisioned a long interval before I would leave the house again.

Fast forward two weeks. The hormones were better behaved as were the babies. I strolled around the block with my double stroller and reflected on the fact that I now need a double stroller. I need a double stroller because I have two babies. And two older sons. And I still can’t believe it. I cried in gratitude. I cried for prayers answered. I cried for years of waiting and hoping, of disappointment and loss.

How We Began

When I married thirteen years ago, I approached motherhood full of hope. Dave and I wanted a baby and—voila! - along came dear Tim in short order. What a joy he was and is. 

When Tim celebrated his first birthday, we began to hope for a second child. Eventually I weaned Tim to improve our chances. And then we waited. And waited. We saw a doctor and then another one and then a specialist. We began tests and novenas and more tests. Three years passed with no diagnosis, but no baby either. 

We were in the throes of secondary infertility. In the middle of this season, I attended a potluck at the home of my friend, Bev, a mother of seven. She related a story of her adult children hosting their first Thanksgiving dinner. I pictured the crowd, the laughter, the bustle and started to say, “That’s the joy of having a large family.” 

I couldn’t get the words out and started to cry. Bev – kind, wise woman that she is - put her arm around me and said, “It’s not over until it’s over.” 

Four years and six rounds of fertility drugs later, we had our dear Kolbe. We were overwhelmed with gratitude. I told the Lord that I would be content with these two souls. Truth be told, I was content. In my heart of hearts, I still wanted more children, but never again would I take for granted the ability to conceive.

Roller Coaster Rides

I was stunned to find myself expecting when Kolbe was just 14 months. We lost the baby early on, only to conceive and miscarry again weeks later and yet again a few months after that. 

In October of 2005 another positive pregnancy test sent us on a roller coaster ride of hormones and hope. Unlike my previous three pregnancies, this time I was slammed with the nausea and ravenous hunger so constant when I carried Tim and Kolbe. Ultrasound confirmed a strong heartbeat. My belly expanded, and I donned maternity clothes with joy. 

At twelve weeks I awoke in the early hours of the morning to dull, rhythmic pain radiating from my back to my abdomen. “I’m in labor,” I thought. 

The next few hours were a blur of confusion and pain as I moved from spotting to near hemorrhage. In a moment stunning in its beauty and searing in its desolation, I delivered a tiny, lovely baby we named Alex. We still feel the loss of this precious soul. 

Over a six year period, we lost six babies to miscarriage. We saw many a doctor and tried this test and that drug, but no diagnosis and no baby. 

In November of 2006 I found out that we had conceived once again. Fatigue and appetite swings set in for about two weeks and then nothing. I had been down this lonely road too many times before. I waited for the inevitable. 

Prayer Power

We called our friend Bob for prayer. Bob is an engineer who travels from Beijing to Brussels on business all the while dealing with debilitating motion sickness. The day after our call, Bob flew to Belgium. He met his co-workers at the airport, and then rode through Brussels at a break-neck pace. Bob arrived at his meeting overcome with nausea. He excused himself from the meeting every hour to vomit. While his co-workers lunched, Bob lay as still as possible on the floor of the conference room. 
Bob offered up his suffering for the life of our baby. 

Two days later, I was making Christmas cookies with a friend. When we tired of consuming dough, I heated up some Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese – my go-to comfort food- and promptly became ill. Not one to put two and two together quickly, I heated up a little more for breakfast the next morning with the same result. Hope began to stir. 

In July of the following year, our precious John Patrick, our third son, arrived. Appropriately, Bob – our faithful intercessor - is his Godfather. We rejoiced in our three boys – our quiverful of souls to love, enjoy, and raise.

Then a funny thing happened. We blinked our eyes, and we were expecting again. Without specialists or novenas, without clomid or charts. Ainsley Elizabeth arrived last August. We call her the “bonus baby” – so unexpected, so unplanned, so very much wanted. I’m 45 years old and don’t know anyone who has become more fertile in her forties. 

Drinking It In

While waddling around the pool last July, I struck up a conversation with a dad. Noting my condition, he laughed about all the pregnant women in his church. “Don’t drink the water!” he joked. 

I laughed because that’s what you do in these conversations, but part of me wanted to say, “Drink the water. And thank God for the immeasurable gift of being able to conceive and bear life.” 

My double-stroller sometimes feels heavy and unwieldy as does my life as our family has gone from small to largish over this short season. As I survey the array of car seats, the boxes of diapers, the burgeoning pile of laundry, I consider all of this a sign of God’s generosity, of His gratuitous love. 

And I am deeply grateful.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Playing Hooky

So Kolbe had a doctor's appointment and rather than rushing him back to school, I decided we'd just play hooky.

Please don't inform his school.

I love being a family of six. I am so very grateful God gave these kids of mine brothers and a wee sister to enjoy (most of the time) and to love (all of the time). But here's the truth: I miss spending time alone with the kids. And here's another inconvenient truth: You really can't play hooky in high school. I'm seizing the day while I can.

Kolbe is a great kid.

We are not big on nicknames in our family. Most of the monikers that get bandied about are veiled insults at worst, light teasing at best. Perhaps this isn't entirely true. John goes by John John sometimes and Little J occasionally. He does not like being called Bill, a name his cousins and brothers like to call him just because it gets him riled up. Ainsley is Ainsey or Ainsey Girl or Ainsey Boo. She does not like being called Ainsley Long Legs, a name her cousins and brothers like to call her just because it gets her riled up. Tim was Timmy until he put his foot down in 8th grade. We called him Tiger when he was small (a point he'll vigorously deny).

Kolbe has mostly just been Kolbe unless we consider the sarcastic nicknames. Kolbe's middle name is Edward, so for a while Tim called him Eddie Boy. Then he somehow became Smart One which alternated with Genius so often Ainsley was convinced Genius was a bad word. Smartacus reared its head from time to time. Then there was the uninspired Klob and more recently, Klobeson.

Not long ago I put my arm around Kolbe, gave him a hug, and called him Steady Eddie. There wasn't a hint of sarcasm involved.

Kolbe is a steady guy, and with all the topsy turvy gyrations in a busy household, this is not a quality that goes overlooked or unappreciated. We have a standing piano lesson at 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday morning, The boys alternate who takes this one. The early bird gets breakfast delivered in the car and gets a pass on morning chores -- no spiffying the bedroom, no bed to make, no dishes to load. Last week the morning shift fell to Tim. I started to ask Kolbe to grab Tim's backpack and lunch, and you know what? The boy was all over it without being asked.

Steady Eddie.

Kolbe went through a brief period in elementary school during which he got just a tad OCD about instructions. If a party was in the future, he'd remind me like seventeen times that he needed to contribute a big bag of chips to the affair.

And he'd remind me again and again and again.

"You know I need a bag of chips . . ." he'd begin.

"Yes, Kolbe," I'd respond.

"A big one," he'd helpfully add.

I began buying his assigned items way early and leaving them in the car.

He generally knew where he was supposed to be and what he needed to have.  And there were days it was such a palpable relief to be able to count on him, I would give him a big hug and tell how truly grateful I was for him.

Steady Eddie.

Kolbe turned twelve recently. I did what I have never one before: I hosted a three hour birthday party. Birthday parties under my jurisdiction are typically 1) off site (let someone else clean up the mess) and 2) short (blessedly, mercifully short).

See, I've been burned at time or two. I won't get into too many gory details save to note that I took a super-soaker to the face at one party designed to promote Water Fun! Let me tell you, that proved to be not so much fun. I have been known to pour a stiff drink if the party wraps up 'round about five o'clock or to scarf down a half dozen chocolate cupcakes if the cocktail hour is not yet upon us. If you ask if your child can be picked up three or four or five hours after the designated end of the party, I just might hesitate before answering, and, well, there's a reason for that.

This year, I threw caution to the wind and hosted a three hour party that began at my house -- and included food and beverages -- and then went on to the skating rink which is typically the near occasion of a migraine headache for me.

It was all great fun, and I am not even making that up.

Kolbe is a nice, funny kid in a class full of nice, funny kids.

So today we played hooky. I enjoyed my nice, funny kid. We had lunch. We shopped. We tooled around town and laughed about everything and nothing.

I just may schedule another doctor's appointment sometime soon.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

And Now for My Morning Cry

First, I should back up and highlight my morning laugh.

Ainsley rolled over in bed this morning and the first words out of her mouth were worthy of note: Our house is made out of bricks so the Big Bad Wolf can't puff it down.

My laundry is backed up and my painting project is stalled, but, folks, we've got this going for us.

That was my morning laugh. So on to my morning cry. You can read it here.

I've written before about how much I enjoyed nursing my babies. In a Time to Wean, I wrote about weaning Ainsley. In Why Not Take All of  Me?, I looked at counting the whole (completely incalculable) cost of motherhood.  Yesterday Jamie at Light and Momentary  posted My Body Back.

And here's the part that made me cry:

I will miss the magic. Nursing was an effortless way for me to get it exactly right: to soothe and settle, nourish and nurture. I could nuke the pinkeye pathogens without irritating sensitive little eyes. I could stave off dehydration in a small person who couldn't keep anything else down. I could help to build the brain that would later do the heavy lifting in calculus class. 

When I held my sweet, tiny babies, rocked them gently, kissed their soft heads, for those brief, shining moments, I got it exactly right.

Instantly I feel a need to add a dozen caveats to the words I just typed: Formula doesn't mean you got it exactly wrong. Those brief, shining moments often seemed neither bright nor shining. Nursing hurt like, well, it hurt a lot, as in A! Whole! Lot!

But it didn't involve hand-wringing or second guessing or weighing options. Are we being too tough, too lenient, too clueless? Will drawing a line break his spirit? Will showing mercy soften his heart?

Can I state a rather obvious fact: Parenting is hard, hard work, and parenting older children is harder still. I remember years ago reading about a fire that broke out in a long tunnel in Switzerland. People stumbled out of cars, covering their faces with anything on hand, walking, walking, walking, feeling for the walls, bumping into people and cars, moving in the direction they thought was right with no light at the end to assure them.

Once in a while parenting seems like a walk through that tunnel.

I hold on to the fact that God is good, that He loves my kids more than I do, that He is more than capable of undoing any number of moronic missteps (those being mine). I hold on to principles, too. (Although at this stage of the game, parenting strikes me as far, far less formulaic than it ever seemed years and years ago.)

Of course I appreciate the moments of joy and levity; the window that shows boys turning into young men; the wit and intelligence and virtue -- sometimes nascent, sometimes obscure, but always there if I'm willing to look for it.

And I look back at those early days and remember appreciating -- even then -- how simple it all was. Feed them and hold them and tell them how much you love them. Nursing -- cracked nipples and all --was the easiest part of mothering. It was, as Jamie put it, "an effortless way to get it exactly right."

I get it mostly right with the little people around here. These days I especially enjoy the simplicity of John and Ainsley. They want time and attention. They want me to save their treasures, to come running to look at what they've drawn or built. They want stories and bubble baths and lots of kisses. They snuggled up close to me the other night, John on my right, Ainsley on my left. They burrowed their heads into my shoulders as we said a few simple prayers. Dave came in the room and sat down across from us. In an instant John and Ainsley moved like synchronized swimmers from me to him.

They remain uncomplicated, these two. Above all, they love their people.

And as for the older pair, the ones who cause us to wring our hands, to analyze and over-analyze, to weigh our options, to pray like mad . . . I like how Jamie ended her piece:

I remember, vaguely, how overwhelming it was to share my body in the early days. Leaking milk into nursing pads. Living life in two-hour blocks, because my first baby nursed every two hours like clockwork. I thought I would be sad when I stopped nursing because I was pretty sure I was going to fail wretchedly at it. I didn't know I would be sad (only a little sad, friends) to stop nursing because it had been such a success. I am thinking back on the 26-year-old me, hunched over an uncooperative Alex in the NICU, and wishing I could tell her it would work out beautifully. I wonder if my future self will look back at the 43-year-old me, the one who is a little wistful and a little uncertain about her ability to guide these growing kids safely to adulthood, to smile and say it will all turn out just fine.

I think I'll hold on to that.

Thursday, October 03, 2013


So it's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson, and this week's theme is Secret. This is a favorite shot of mine -- a blurry pile of lima beans, neatly gathered under someone's chair. The exchange that followed was even more memorable.

Me: Why didn't you just say, "Mom, I don't really like lima beans"?

Young son, clearly baffled by my question: Well, that would be bad manners.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Will Read for Pizza

John has the reading bug.

I would love to report that this is driven by a pure love of the written word. No, no. Book It! has started. Elementary students across the nation will read for Personal Pan Pizzas from Pizza Hut. The purist in me might recoil, but the pragmatist remembers John's ditty wafting forward from the back seat a week or two ago: I hate reading! I hate reading!

Yes, yes. Purgatory for the former English teacher. Nails on the proverbial chalkboard. I hate reading! Bahhhhhhh!

Junk food, however, levels the playing field. What John won't do out of passion, he will gladly do if a Meal Lover's Pizza will be coming his way.

With that in mind, I am joining Hallie over at Moxie Wife who is collecting Five Favorites. Here are five of our favorite books:

1. I can recite this one:

2. Hilarious and clever. The vowels are sly, two-faced creatures who favor the opera. The more common consonants go in for boxing matches. The Y's are a house divided. Can't recommend this one enough.

3. A new addition to our library. Press the dots, and they get bigger. Tilt the book, and the dots slide off the page. So fun.

4. Arnold Lobel just rocks! John can now read this one!

5. And oldie but a goodie:

Of course, I've left off a zillion other winners. Cathedral Mouse, the Carl books, Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, and the list goes on and on.

Head over to Hallie's to add your favorites.