Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Do I Love Coffee? Let Me Count the Ways!

I've noted before that the traditional list of the corporal works of mercy -- feed the poor; clothe the naked -- lacks just one item. That would be caffeinating the Dolins.

Tongue is just barely in cheek.

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon panhandling throughout our near environs in dire need of half and half. Most of the panhandling was of the virtual variety -- i.e. desperate texts shot to a variety of coffee-drinking friends. Do you have a little half and half for an under -caffeinated friend? Do you have half and half I could scavenge?

Kolbe, bless his dear heart, I sent in person across the street to hit up my friend Sue. Moments later the phone rang.

"Mom," Kolbe began, "Aunt Sue wants to know if powdered creamer or milk will work."

I tried to explain to Kolbe how to politely decline. Thank you so much. My mother is just over-the-top picky. I fumbled for the right words because, hello!, under-caffeinated because, hello, again!, no half and half. Vocabulary is just out of reach, syntax won't jibe, subjects and verbs won't agree, every noun morphs into the word "thing".
Image result for funny coffee images
Apparently, Aunt Sue heard my end of the conversation and got the drift. I was after half and half and could brook no substitutes. Meanwhile Sarah responded to my text. Only powdered creamer and whole milk, she replied. I am a bad combination of desperate yet picky, I responded.

Powdered creamer and milk? A vast and nefarious conspiracy, oh, yes, it was. I felt a nervous twitch coming on.

I don't do cream wanna be.

Coffee-mate? Cremora? The vast array of wretched, wretched brews concocted in the kitchens of International Delight? Well, delight is not the word that comes to my mind. Interested in the most egregious breaches of coffee creamer decency? Please click here for a telling expose.

White Chocolate Macadamia.

Almond Joy.

Cinnabon and I'm not even making that up.

Girl Scout Cookie Thin Mint. Clearly a sin against both coffee and cookies. A veritable war crime, that one.

Red Velvet Cupcake? Head bang.

I can't go on.

It's wrong, I tell you, it's just plain wrong.

Now, any reasonable person who has stuck with this drivel this far surely must be pondering a simple question: Why didn't you just go to the store?

In my defense, I had gone to the store, and said store was fresh out of half and half. Now, my gut instinct tells me they probably had shelves full of that International Non-delight. I returned home empty handed and a tad worried. And I didn't immediately go out again because John was sick.

Motherhood brings oh! so many transitions. Two such transitions are significant but get little
press: the day early on when you realize leaving the house for any purpose is a multi-step and unbelievably time consuming endeavor and the day you realize it's not. I've been in the "not" camp for some time now. I can dash to the post office, zip to the gas station, head to Kroger for half and half (or a whole basket of groceries). These days I'm caught off guard when I can't leave (or shouldn't leave). And so it's been for a few days. John was sick, sick, sick over the weekend. Raging 104 degree fever, vomiting. And you don't leave, not even for half and half.

John's fever subsided. The vomiting ceased (thank you, good and merciful Lord). I headed to Kroger, procured my half and half, and sat down to a tasty brew.

Aaaaaaaah!, I texted Sarah. (Actually, the text read Hf and half . . . aaaaaaah! because, hello!, can't spell while under-caffeinated).

John is better, Two quarts of half and half sit in my fridge. And all is right with the world.

Friday, April 24, 2015

1.  Since I have a proclivity to whine about the weather, I have to say Augusta has been so very beautiful of late.

Now, we had nearly ten solid days of rain that left everyone feeling like they needed to buy a happy light. And ten days of rain wreaks havoc with the soccer schedule. We're always thrilled when something gets cancelled, but it's just coming right back at you at a less opportune time. This week we have six games scheduled over about four days.


But the weather is now beautiful. Beautiful.

2.    So I've made the great leap forward and bought a smartphone. I ordered a case on Amazon expecting that my two day, free shipping deal would have it here in a jiffy. Alas, I didn't read the fine print. Tracking information indicates that it will arrive in Augusta, Georgia, between May 15th and June 6th.

Seems it just boarded an inflatable Spiderman raft in Shanghai and is headed out into the East China Sea with a six-year-old at the helm.

3.   I have an alter-ego and her name is Mrs. Pattmore. Remember this exchange?

“Is there any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistance?” Cora asks after introducing the idea of, gasp!, a refrigerator. Mrs. Pattmore, a woman after my own heart, responds,“I wouldn’t mind getting rid of my corset.”

I'm glad we're not stuck with restrictive underwear, but new technology intimidates me. I'll just admit it here: I'm afraid of my smartphone.

4.    Mostly I'm afraid of breaking the darn thing. Hence the case. For years I've watched nieces slide their fingers across splintered glass and wondered if they still have intact fingerprints after all that shredding. Quite possibly they could embark on a life of crime and never get caught.

You know, you don't really worry about dropping a $10 phone. Believe me, it's been dropped, dunked, even cooked. Now, this smartphone? Not cheap.

5.    Dave and the gang of boys joined a robotics competition last week. This is a first for our school, and from the kids' response will be something we continue.

Team mascot.

6.    So John garnered a first place trophy in the Pinewood Derby, an event that will surely make saints or sinners of us all.

I am a much more mild version of my former self in regards to the venerable Derby. I set my expectations low and then am happily surprised if all goes well. This year, when I realized John was winning quite a few heats, I walked away and stopped watching.

So the top three finishers from each den compete to decide an overall winner. In that final round John came in second or third, and at that point you could just forget about the glory of winning a first place trophy just moments before. Friends were snickering as I attempted to get a shot of John smiling with his trophy.
John, ordered to smile for the camera.

"There's only one kids in the whole room who's happy right now," my friend Sarah told me.

Yep, and that would be the overall winner who was not my John.

Twenty-four hours later, John had regained a little perspective and, in fact, slept with his trophy. When they're not pouting about the Pinewood Derby, gosh, I love seven-year-old boys. Love them, love them, love them.

7.  And then we have five-year-old girls.

Ainsley likes to be near her people. Since she was tiny, she's wanted someone to lie down with her at night. It's never been an ordeal. She just likes a little company when she drops off to sleep, which used to take about a hundred and twenty seconds and now takes maybe five minutes.

And if we're engaged elsewhere, she's happy to find spot to curl up nearby. Maybe on the piano bench.

Love my girl. Love, love, love my girl.

Head over the Kelly's to add your Quick Takes. She's talking Kristin Lavransdatter, quite possible my all time favorite book.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Human Face of Food Stamps and Matters of the Heart

Simcha Fisher hit publish on a post that struck quite a few nerves. The Day I Bought Steak with My Food-stamps is Simcha at her best: honest, unblinking, challenging.
My purpose here is not to introduce a debate on approaches to public assistance because:

a) I don't do politics,
b) I firmly believe people of good will can legitimately disagree on methods.

No, to me Simcha's piece raises a more fundamental, a more universal matter. A matter of the heart. Specifically our hearts. My heart. Your heart. 

On receiving food-stamps, Simcha writes:
It wasn’t our fault. We didn’t mean it to be this way. We’re really trying. We’re not worthless, truly not!
And they hated us anyway. Oh, man. They told us everything I had been saying to myself: freeloaders. Not willing to work. What’s wrong with America today. Culture of dependency. And all the while, we went around the house with winter jackets and three pairs of socks on, because we couldn’t afford to turn the heat above 60 degrees when it was below zero out. My kids never got a new toy, never got new clothes . . . And we were thoroughly, thoroughly stuck in a neighborhood where everyone was on parole for beating, cheating, or molesting someone else on the street. They set the actual street on fire once . . . My kids were not safe in their own yard. I would let them play in the rain puddles only after checking for used condoms.
I couldn’t stay away from comment boxes about food stamps. And every single one told us that we were shit, because we needed help buying food.

During Lent, my friend and former student Sam Alzheimer penned a beautiful reflection on a scripture that has perpetually both stymied and worried me. Jesus admonishes us not to call another "fool". Now, "fool" just doesn't seem so very bad to me. I mean, does this apply when talking to telemarketers? When driving on Bobby Jones Expressway? I need particulars.

Sam writes: 
Heart disease is a top killer in America.
I’m not talking about the kind of cardiac problems your doctor warned you about . . . No, I’m talking about heart disease of the spiritual variety—the kind Jesus diagnoses in today’s Gospel reading when he tells us not to call others “fools.” 
Call it what you will—contempt, hostility, resentment—it is the disease of negative judgment. It’s having a heart clouded with mean-spirited assessment of others. Need an example? It’s the interior disposition on display on political talk shows. Need an example closer to home? It’s how you feel about that one person who gets under your skin.
I suspect there is a distinction between soberly assessing another person’s faults (when you’re in a legitimate position to do so) and flying off the handle because someone pisses you off. To me, the chief difference is the emotional temperature on display. When your blood boils, the Great Physician is saying you’re in critical condition, spiritually speaking. There’s something in your heart opposed to love, which should be the heart’s primary purpose.
The take away? Mean-spirited judgment of another is real sin . . . The Gospel implies that bad-mouthing (or even quiet, angry judgement) is bad enough to keep you from the altar. Jesus says it leads to hell.
Read the rest here.

A few months back I faced a long day of errands none of which seemed to go swimmingly. I struck out at two different pharmacies trying to get an odd prescription filled. I zipped into the Dollar Tree for some minor item and got stuck in line with a broken cash register. Unbelievably the same thing then happened up the road at Lowe's. My final stop involved a return at K-Mart, never a pleasant prospect.

I stood in a long line at customer service stewing about just how little I had managed to accomplish in a substantial chunk of time. And as I stewed and stood and waited and stewed just a little more, I spied a woman coming through the front entrance.

She was wearing slippers and pajamas.

Now, we all know this is a thing, right? College students wear sleep pants to class. Adolescents come into the pediatrician's office in their jammies.This took the trend a step further. We're not talking pseudo-lounge wear, just down a notch down from yoga pants. No, no. This lady was wearing a thin nightgown.

Naturally my thoughts moved from the state of customer service in America (Horrible! Inefficient!) to the state of dress in America (Ridiculous! Scandalous!).

I eventually made it out of customer service and meandered over to the pharmacy to give that prescription a third try. Long story short, the woman in her jammies was there.  We ended up waiting and waiting and waiting and in the course of waiting we began to chat. 

At some point I peered into her basket, and here's what I saw: newborn diapers, onesies, infant formula, maxi pads. And I looked at the woman and saw beyond the infamous nightgown to her rounded belly, to the bandage on her hand. 

And suddenly she told me, "I just got came from the hospital. I had a baby."

We chatted some more.

"Can you check my nightgown? Do I have a stain," she wondered.

"You're fine," I told her. 

"I need these prescriptions," she told me, "and sometimes it's just easier to pick them up yourself, you know?"

I nodded because that's what you do. 

But I don't know. 

I've never left the hospital with a newborn and headed to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. I have a husband and two sisters and a vast slew of friends and, no, I don't know -- at all -- what it's like to be newly post-partum standing in line at a pharmacy wondering if you're visibly passing blood.

And I was ashamed. 

Of every petty, provincial, judgmental, holier than thou thought that I had so willingly entertained.

Sam's words capture it all -- contempt, hostility, resentment, the disease of negative judgment, mean-spirited assessment of others. 

In short, heart disease.

Classic John

John, to his beloved sister: You are w-e-i-r-d and I'm not exactly sure how to spell that but you're it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Parenting Via Facebook

If you're enjoying a stress-free, conflict-free day, my advice is to set aside your peace and tranquility and invest a little time on Facebook where someone's always spoiling for a fight.

Click here to read about the latest conflagration, The Kid Who Tore Up His Allowance Money, an online kerfuffle that has the usual suspects grabbing their virtual pitchforks and searching Dictionary.com for words synonymous with spoiled, entitled, and over-indulged.

Is that a twenty? I could use this kid's allowance.

I have lots of thoughts on children and chores, children and allowances, children and money. Today is a busy, busy day, so I'll list just a few Lessons Learned.

It's Easier To Do It Yourself

Yep. It's true. At least in the short run. And FYI: The short run is w-a-y longer than you would think. The short run, in short, is not short at all.

Watch a small child tie her shoes, make his bed, empty the silverware. If efficiency is all you're after, well, you probably should have thought twice about having those kids to begin with.

Teaching children to do household chores demands patience and endless (endless!) repetition. Those are both easy to come by when children are little and sweet and so obviously possessing immature fine motor skills. During this oh! so brief period, they try their best and they want to be like Mom and Dad, to please Mom and Dad.

Enjoy this phase. It lasts about two and a half months.

Suddenly they're a little older and perhaps not quite so sweet and possibly possessing perfectly fine fine motor skills, and it can be just a tad more difficult to summon the patience, to persist with the repetition.

"It's like pushing a rope," a friend used to tell me when she'd summon her teenagers to household chores. Herding cats is another apt metaphor for the laborious task of keeping kids on task. Here I should insert one of many hilarious scenes from that American classic, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

"Set the bar low," Rodrick informs his impressionable younger brother in an attempt to school him on the ins and outs of Managing Parents 101.

Rodrick and Greg proceed to wash the van with filthy, grease-stained rags. Dad enters stage right and launches into a tirade before shooing the boys away and declaring that it's easier to do it himself.

Once in a while it does feel like a well-executed, nefarious plot to get you to cry uncle before the lawn is mowed, the kitchen is clean, the room is clean.

It is easier to do it yourself. But you can't cry uncle. Sorry. Find a happy place, employ a little Lamaze breathing, above it all do not utter the words swirling through your brain.

Press on.

Hard Work Really Isn't Its Own Reward

It's a nice adage. Yes, it is. Hard work should be its own reward. And perhaps, just maybe, I will live to see this cheerful saw come true. But as of 6:21 p.m. today, as I am typing this, hard work, in the eyes of 100% of my children, remains just that: hard work.

Nothing Happens By Magic

I think it a good, useful, real-life lesson for kids to see that life doesn't happen by magic. There is no Insta-Vacation, Insta-Move, Insta-Laundry, Insta- Gourmet Meal, Insta-you
get the picture. I'm not Mrs. Weasley with the self-stirring pans and the knives that chop, dice, and produce julienne fries with a flick of a wand. I do have a pretty amazing stand mixer, but magic it ain't.

It's okay for kids to see the effort we expend.

Now, I'm not suggesting we mothers tell our kids to wrap their own Christmas gifts or do anything but lick the bowl to get a birthday cake on the table. But. As they get older it's a healthy thing for children to realize that vacations, holidays, moves all require effort. A reasonable extension is that some of that effort be shared.

Believe me, I am not about sending children down the mines. And Mother as Martyr? Not attractive and not especially useful. Ask me how I know this.

We're All in This Together

Having recently completed the epic chore that was The Move, I have seen how very good life can be when we all adopt an attitude that says We're All in This Together. In between viewing the new house and signing the contract the buy it, we sat down with the older boys to make sure they were on board. They were. And their enthusiasm  translated into helpfulness. They helped with the yard sale, with the packing, with the straightening, with showing the house, with the big move. For the most part, they saw this as a good move for all of us and realized that Mom and Dad couldn't do it alone. Mostly they rose to the occasion.Not always. But mostly.

In a rare, risky financial move, we bought the new house before selling the old one. It all worked out, worked out beautifully, in fact. But we had a few tense months that translated into austerity measures the likes of which the Dolins had never before seen. I explained this to the older boys. I tried to emphasize the fact that  a) God is in control and  b) Mom and Dad are responsible for our financial well being.

On the fiscal scene, they rose to the occasion as well.  For them this meant a simplified approach to Christmas, forgoing school lunches for peanut butter in a brown bag, contributing to more of their incidental expenses on sports trips.

Whining, I'm happy to report, was at an all time low. They got it. We were all in this together.

We were all invested in the move, and investment, I think, matters. Tim's current piano instructor agreed to take him on as a student if Tim was willing to pay for the lessons. Investment matters. Tim is attending a pricey music camp this summer. We agreed to send him if he agreed to pay the deposit (a substantial chunk of change for a cash-strapped seventeen-year-old.) Investment.

Parenting Via the Internet Is an Ugly, Ugly Business

Every six months or so, some parent makes headlines for implementing innovative "discipline" that is, in fact, nothing short of public shaming. Think of the father who shot up his daughter's computer after she whined about the inefficiency of their maid. Think about numerous parents who have ordered a kid to stand on a street corner holding a sign detailing their crimes (I stole from my Grandma! I lie to my parents!).

Are these folks simply being provocative? Let's ratchet up a few likes and shares by showing the world how macho I am? I can't help but thinking it's all about them (as in the parents) when discipline should be all about them (meaning the children). I'm no purist, believe me. I could (but won't) list my parenting woes here. They are legion. It's not easy, this parenting gig. Just this morning Kolbe came from a piano lesson across the street and informed me that he could hear me yelling from the sidewalk and that a car had driven by at that precise second and that the driver had starting laughing.

Go, me!

There's certainly a part of me that understands wanting to shock a truly wayward child into reality. But public humiliation? In the most serious of these situations, I think parents long ago lost the battle, and in the trivial ones I think humiliation will hurt more than help.

The excerpt I read on Facebook indicated that the shredded allowance may not have actually happened. The poster simply posed the question: What would you do IF this happened?

So what if it did?

I can see discontinuing allowances. If the child asked for money, I could understand the parent gesturing to the pile and suggesting she tape it together. I could see taping it together myself and donating it to charity or using it to get a pedicure.

But here's the thing. I had an unidentified child once do an unidentified and fairly destructive thing. All I'll say is that sometimes there's more going on than meets the eye. Perhaps the Facebook child is entitled, spoiled, over-indulged, insert your first world parenting dilemma here. That could very well be true.

Sometimes, however, there's more to the story and our initial, knee-jerk reaction -- while perfectly understandable -- wouldn't be in the best interest of anyone.

My two cents.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Easter Bunny Didn't Die on the Cross, Kids

My friend Lauren penned a beautiful reflection on Easter and her entry into the Catholic Church. How well I remember when the Lotts entered the Catholic Church. We were next door neighbors at the time. I laughed when I read Lauren's account of the sufferings she inflicted on our former pastor, Father Allan McDonald.

I doubt she exaggerates.

Lauren is a thinker, and, believe me, she chewed on the tenets of the faith long and hard before assenting to them. Gnawed good, they were.

Lauren writes:
Angels rejoiced, Fr Allan heaved huge sighs of relief. St Peter welcomed a fellow sinner and my Patron Saints, Patrick and Columba, held me up while shaking to the very core of my being I spoke the words of Faith, “I believe in the one, holy catholic and apostolic church … ”
And my life was forever changed. 
Read the rest here.

I appreciate Lauren's thoughts on a candy-coated Holy Week:

As a person who spent decades looking for truth amidst baskets of candy, I sometimes wonder why those of us who call ourselves Christians would allow such frivolity to take primacy in our lives this week of all weeks. People who for decades told me I needed to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior prancing about in bunny outfits and painting eggs – pagan customs, all. I know that sounds harsh and I don’t mean it to be, I really don’t. But I can't help thinking – as a person who searched and searched for meaning in life and who is still on a life journey – how these Traditions build our Faith in Christ when our children know more about the ‘Easter Bunny’ than they do about the Road to Calvary.

Now, we don't do the Easter bunny.

"The Easter bunny didn't die on the cross, kids," I've told my kids, gently, gently I hope. Ain't no way we're headed to the mall to get anyone's picture taken with the rabbit. 


We really don't do Santa Claus either. We celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on or about December 5th. In fact, that's just one of the reasons Saint Nicholas flat out rocks. You can lay out shoes the night of the fourth. What, you forgot all about it? Set them out on the fifth! No harm, no foul. Try getting away with that on Christmas, ya lazy heathen. Taint gonna work.

Anyway . . . Saint Nicholas was (is) a verifiable, historical figure -- a bishop as a matter of fact -- who helped destitute girls get married by anonymously funding their dowries. He threw bags of coins down chimneys.

Now, he did this without the assistance of elves and reindeer. He also did hard time in a Roman prison during one of the persecutions of Christians. Maybe he had a list; maybe he checked it twice. Historians are mute on that point.

I've already shared my thoughts on modern day Santa Claus. 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.

As I've mentioned before, my Jewish brother-in-law 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.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd -- a Montessori based catechism course -- has been a huge influence on my view of liturgy, scripture, and prayer. When 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 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 still don't want the bunny, and Peeps are nothing short of frightening to me. But high quality, dark chocolate and an Easter egg hunt? Those I can get behind. A stylish hat and a cute dress on my girl? Absolutely. 

Kendra writes over at Catholic All Year. (FYI, though I don't know her take on the bunny, she thinks Santa is just swell, elves and all.) On living the liturgical life, she writes:

Can I just get one shot free of gang gestures and rabbit ears?
I knew that we demanded more of our children in the way of faith than other families. We expected good behavior in Mass and for them to sit (relatively) still for the Rosary. We went to Mass even when it made us late for the beginning of the Bears game. We didn't eat meat on Fridays or go to Easter egg hunts on Holy Saturday. We were careful about the TV shows they watched and the toys they played with. It seemed like we had all the stern stuff covered for our kids, but I felt like we were presenting an unfair picture of our faith to our children. All the discipline and none of the joy. All the fasting and none of the feasting.

The last two phrases jumped out at me: All the discipline and none of the joy. All the fasting and none of the feasting. Like Kendra, our approach to liturgical seasons has evolved over time. A life of faith is a walk, a journey. The terrain changes; times change; hopefully, we ourselves change. And this all affects how we live our faith, how we express this faith in liturgical form. 

This is a long-winded way of saying I'm a different Catholic today than I was thirty years ago or even ten years ago.

I know Lauren, and she's certainly not suggesting all the fasting and none of the feasting. Let's just say I know first hand that Lauren enjoys a feast as much as the Catholic in the next pew.  

Rather, she's suggesting what is at the heart of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Truth, beauty, liturgy inexorably tug at the human soul, be that the soul of a forty-year-old convert or a five-year-old child. 

Why candy-coat it? 

In the words of Isaiah 55: Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.

The Easter bunny, in fact, didn't die on the cross. When we step back to reflect on the mysteries of the faith, we find that truth is much richer than fairy tales, much more satisfying than a basket of jelly beans.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Seven Quick Takes

1. Our recent trip to Washington D.C. proved that my OCD tendencies are alive and well and merely lie dormant while I'm in the confines of my own comfortable surroundings. Put me in the vicinity of public restrooms, large museums, public transportation, etc, and they come out to play, especially given scenarios such as the following:

Ainsley, spying an uneaten apple and yogurt resting on a trash! can! on a busy corner: Free food!

Me: ???

John, walking through McDonalds and snatching someone's forgotten lip balm: Free Chapstick!

Me: ???

2. When Mike, our gracious tour guide, joined us, I squished into the back seat between the little people. Another five pounds and that plan will work no more. But it's cozy. And fun. And, gosh, I just enjoy these two so much.

Back row selfie.

Foot selfie.
Ainsley a little more cheerful

3. Night at the museum:

4. And at the monument:

5. And then we came home for Easter.

Pink pastel hat, purple pastel dress, ruby slippers -- we're good!

6. And I got to read John's second entry in his Avenger notebook.

7. And now we're enjoying Easter break, and I get a hug from John along with the highest compliment that can come from a seven-year-old boy: You're the best Mom in the whole stinkin' world!

I'll take it.

Head over to Kelly's to add your Quick Takes. Please pray for the complete recovery of Kelly's son, Fulton, who has been hospitalized with serious respiratory problems.