Monday, October 26, 2015


Ainsley in a huff: That's it! I'm running away! Can I do that?

John, yelling to his friend: Hey, Paul. Don't forget to cover the trip wire with branches.

Sorting through the ever-growing pile of unmatched socks and finding buried within a baby doll and a plastic hand grenade.

Ainsley's teeny, tiny mary janes.

Kolbe's impossibly deep voice.

The way Tim still calls me Mama either late at night or if he's in need of cash.

Kolbe, imitating Kermit the Frog imitating Beyonce: For all the single tadpoles . . . For all the single tadpoles . . .

Ainsley: There are five things I love about church. First, praising God. Second, seeing Colette. Third, donuts. Fourth, Faith Formation. Fifth, seeing John's god-sister, Tessa.

Ainsley's sweet young voice mingling with that of our eighty-five-year-old house guest, Evelyn.

Evelyn coming out of her room with a hand grenade she found mixed up with the

The sound of Tim at the piano playing Nocturne late at night.

The feel of  Ainsley's sweet cheeks.

Kolbe learning How To Save a Life in memory of Uncle Keith.

The sight of John's filthy clothes and feet as he returns from a productive afternoon at the fort.

Ainsley's backwards Y.

Piano notes written on John's fingers as he trudges through Pop! Goes the Weasel!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Blanket Training

Dancing on his blanket.
The Internet abounds with stories of Extreme Parenting.  There's the dad blasting his daughter's laptop with a rifle. (Awful, yes, but I'd simply be forced to fist bump the guy if I ever met him. I so understand his take on electronics). There's the Adrian Peterson story which is just too sad for words (and he ain't never getting a fist bump from me).

One of the more bizarre tactics I've encountered is something called Blanket Training. So you have a mobile baby maybe twelve months, eighteen months, and you train the baby to stay on a blanket. The baby, it seems, is highly motivated to stay on the blanket because every time he moves off of it, a loving parent delivers a whack and puts him back on the blanket.

And that's just phase one.

Phase two involves -- and I swear I'm not making this up -- placing the baby on the blanket with a clear command to Stay! and then putting a favorite toy just out of reach. You can probably guess what happens when baby ventures off his blanket to retrieve his favorite train or stuffed animal.

I have two thoughts on the matter:
1. I'm fairly sure these parents are confusing raising children with raising lab rats.
2. Eventually these automatons will reach puberty, and I hope we get an update on how all this worked out in the long run.
While I reject this out of hand, a few recent observations give me pause.

Scenario #1:
We're eating dinner and I've cleared the dining room table but overlooked a paperweight. A nameless child spends the entire meal --- every second -- reaching for the paper weight, fiddling with the paper weight, tossing the paper weight from hand to hand. This goes on and on and on until I'm suddenly thinking that we missed the boat with Blanket Training.

Scenario #2:
We're at Mass and an unidentified child lifts up the hymnal and finds a plastic fork. Let me repeat that: It was a plastic fork. It was not a fifty dollar bill or a live tarantula. It was a plastic fork. I guess it all boils down to an odd juxtaposition. A plastic fork in the cafeteria? Not weird at all. A plastic fork next to the hymnal in church? Weird. Nay, enthralling. Captivating. Mesmerizing. Let's get out the thesaurus and find a few more synonyms for Way More Riveting Than Mass! So long Gospel, so long homily! The questions, oh, the questions! Why is it there? Who left it? What are we going to do with it?

Is there verbal Blanket Training?

Scenario #3:
So I'm at Mass again, this time with two unidentified siblings. Unidentified sibling #1 sneezes and sends a booger flying onto unidentified sibling # 2. Oh, the scandal! Nay, the outrage! I rifle through my purse -- frantically and in vain -- for a tissue and finally scoop up the, ummm, leftovers with a piece of scrap paper. So long Gospel, so long homily! Oh, the questions! Where is the booger? Where did you put it? What are boogers made of? What are we going to do with it? 

Bronze it, I tell you, I'm going to bronze it and hand it to the kid who passes Blanket Training wherein I place a paperweight, a plastic fork, and an actual booger in arm's reach and reward the kid who doesn't touch any of it and who can repeat a single word of a Gospel passage I read during Blanket Training. Most importantly, the winner must refrain from asking a single question.

Sadly, there would be no winners, and I would be stuck with a bronzed booger.

But seriously . . . I sat with a friend today and talked about how parenting is a path to holiness. Self-denial, fortitude, prayer, hope -- parenting demands all this and more. Some days we (I) might not be up to the job, not even a little bit. 

Oh, how I miss this!
But to those parents studying the fine art of Blanket Training -- those planning to have kids but still be free to leisurely shower or read or go get a pedicure -- while their toddler, his curiosity successfully overcome by fear, cowers on a blanket, to them I say this: Parenting isn't easy, and it's not convenient. If you've turned to Blanket Training as some sort of panacea thinking this is the ticket to parenting without interruption, without mess, without unanticipated behavior of any kind, well, you probably should have thought a tad harder about having children in the first place.

Like it not, one day they'll move off the blanket.

A friend of mine told the story of his daughter who passed her driver's test after numerous attempts and then proceeded to run two red lights on the way home from the Department of Motor Vehicles.


While we're still dealing with behaviors outlined in the above scenarios, even I recognize them for the trifles that they are. With a senior in the house, we are also grappling with higher stakes -- college choices, driving, moving out, moving on.

And I force myself on a daily basis to dwell on the fact that God loves my son even more than I do.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Fourteen Points about My Fourteen Year Old

We celebrated a birthday the other day and here are a few thoughts about the birthday boy:

Kolbe is funny. As we were finishing some back-breaking yard work, Kolbe adopted a faux southern accent and uttered what is, perhaps, his best line ever: I haven't worked this hard since I pushed out the twins. Call me odd, but there's something about a teenage boy  -- one you're not wholly convinced even understands rudimentary facts about childbirth -- delivering these lines. I laughed until I cried.

Kolbe is compassionate. He is near to the broken hearted, always.

Kolbe has initiative. That boy of mine hounded me to get an announcement in our community newsletter offering lawn mowing and pet watching services. Kolbe worked hard and flat raked in the loot this summer.

Kolbe is a builder. He always has a project in the works. Grandpa should be proud.

Kolbe can turn a phrase. When he asked me to proof-read his seventh grade research paper, I circled a number of expressions I thought he might have inadvertently failed to cite. Nope. His words. Good words. His Great Grandmother would be proud.

Kolbe is quick to reconcile. A wonderful trait I hope he holds onto.

Kolbe is diligent. Thank you, good and gracious God! He dots his i's and crosses his t's and generally comes home with no homework because he is highly motivated to get it done at school.

Kolbe is grateful. Kolbe regularly expresses how grateful he is for our neighborhood, his school, the old house, the new house.

Kolbe is dependable. Best babysitter ever.

Kolbe remembers the underdog. A mom called me the day of Kolbe's birthday shindig. Her older son was invited to the party, but she was trying to find a place for her younger son. Would Kolbe mind if he crashed the gate? Kolbe didn't. He never does.

Kolbe is prayerful. Quietly, faithfully, without fanfare.

Kolbe is affectionate. Openly, faithfully,
with fanfare. And I am so grateful.

Kolbe enjoys simple pleasures. The plan for Kolbe's party? A Nerf gun war, milkshakes, and a movie.

Kolbe is fourteen!