29 July 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 10

1. I do believe I now have confirmation that Western Civilization is in a downward spiral. I just saw a commercial for a product called Booty Pop. It's like a padded bra, but for your backside. It promises the wearer more confidence. There are just too many things wrong with Booty Pop to even begin to name. Not that I couldn't use a little confidence myself, but geez, I would really like to find it somewhere besides a two-for-one, $19.95 cable TV advertisement. Somehow, I can't quite believe that the Booty Pop company really has my best interests at heart.

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2. I watch a scootch too much late night television.

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3. I left my house at 11:30 am today, two young girls in tow. Here's what happened next: I went to the gas station to fill up so that I wouldn't run out of gas. Then I drove 25 minutes away to pick up Child #1 at soccer camp. Camp got out 25 minutes late. Drove 35 minutes back in traffic to pick up Child #2 and Child #3 at art camp. Stopped at home briefly, long enough to create an invoice for a client and to send it to her via email. Then I drove over to where Rick was working, to unload the oldest for a little father-son bonding time, and to pick up some paperwork from him from another client. Next I took Children 2 through 5 to get some lunch; they behaved remarkably well, which was a relief because the past few times I've had them out I ended up feeling like a clown show on parade. I loaded everyone back in the Torture Chamber that is my van, and drove another 30 minutes out to a client's house to pick up check. This meant we were deliciously close to a wonderful old-fashioned candy store, so of course, I stopped to pick up some bribes salt water taffy for the kids. Up the hill to pick up the check. Down the hill back in the direction of home. Out to a friend's house to drop Child #2 off, so he could go to a BBQ at the beach. Next was a stop at the bank. Next was a stop at a copy place, to drop off the newsletter I do each month for printing. I arrived home a few minutes ago at 4:45. I'll be here long enough for Child #3 to pack her overnight bag, so I can head back out in a few minutes. Before dropping her off at her soccer teammate's house, I'll pick up the completed newsletter. After dropping her off, I'll stop at the grocery store to buy stuff to make a bumblebee cake for my dear friend's housewarming party tomorrow and stuff to make a coffee cake to drop off at the girls' sleepover tomorrow morning. Later, I'll finish up the newsletter mailing so I can get it in the mail tomorrow.

That's how I roll.

* * *

4. My daughter told me today that she was the "popular-est" girl in her school. I told her that must be because she is such a warm and wonderful person. She said: "I know! There's just something about me! Everyone likes me!" While Western Civilization may be on the decline, Lady E is on the upswing. A few minutes later, she was counting all the girls at her school who like her. She systematically went through each class, from K to 8, and counted 'em up.

Can you imagine spending time counting up the people who think you are a fabulous, rockin' rock star? What a happy way to live! So much more affirming than worrying about who you pissed off today or who thinks you're a nut job or who thinks your kids are wild savages. For example, I mean.

* * *

5. Recommended reading this week: Atul Gawande's feature in August 2, 2010 New Yorker magazine, called Letting Go: What should medicine do when it can't save your life? Beautiful and thought-provoking.

* * *

6. I have ridden our exercise bicycle five days in row. I am holding my breath. I am not making any grand plans. I have made no promises to myself. I am just pleased as punch I've managed it this far. One. Day. At. A. Time.

* * *

7. Oh, and did I mention? I'm planning to homeschool my kids this Fall. Yup! Took 'em out of school and am diving in. Yee-haw!

Of course, much more on this in future posts. But I just thought I'd throw that one out there.

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Go visit Conversion Diary, from whence 7 Quick Takes Fridays sprung forth.

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28 July 2010

A Dog's Life

"Mom, how come dogs get all happy and excited when they see another dog, but humans don't get that way when they see other people?"

Good question, son. I think part of the reason is that a certain amount of the human population is comprised of teenagers and pre-teens. Whenever I act happy to see you, you respond in equal parts disgust, indifference, and mortification.

I didn't actually say that. I didn't say what I was thinking either, that a dog doesn't carry a bunch of emotional baggage with her. She doesn't get insecure. She doesn't worry if that labrador will think her butt looks big in these pants. She never gives a moment's concern to whether or not her leash is "in" this season. She definitely doesn't hold a grudge. She doesn't compare herself to other dogs, or covet their doggie toys, or wonder why her owner isn't totally cool like Snowball's is. She doesn't need video games or cell phones or fancy refrigerators. She doesn't care how big her house is or where she gets to go on vacation. She doesn't worry one iota about herself.

All I said was that a dog has absolutely nothing in the way of the joy she experiences in life.

I kind of want to be a dog now. And I really miss ours, who died almost 6 years ago now.

Chelsea, we miss you. Even Lady E and Little T talk about you all the time, and they never even met you. I just told the story last night about the time you got in between a hot, open oven door and a careening 11 month old Sam, and pushed him out of danger, while I watched helplessly from the other side of the oven with a heavy, steaming casserole balancing in my oven-mitted hands. You were always happy to see me. You never threw a tantrum. You did not pester me all day long with "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" You were a treasure.

You did shed a ton, though. The kids got you beat there.

* * *

Go Climb a Tree

You might just end up being this happy:

And, if you learn how to get back down all on your own, your mommy will be happy too!

* * *

26 July 2010

Three Cheers for Great Writing

I wanted to share a lovely essay from the Lives series in the New York Times Magazine. Montana Soccer-Mom Moment is written by Laura Munson and captures a beautiful moment between her and her daughter:

This essay literally took my breath away: at the final line I was all at once speechless and teary. Admittedly, there may be some chemical reasons for that. But there is also the very large fact that my kids are catapulting towards their teenage years and I already see glimpses of these moments in my future.

Plus, I googled her, found her website, sent her an email telling her how much I liked her essay, and she wrote back! So she's awesome, right there. Her website led me to another essay of hers that appeared in the NYTimes, which is also a lovely read.


* * *

It's a Little Crowded in Here Already

My boys discovered our fire-bellied toads, uh, wrestling the other day. They thought this was hilarious, that the one on the bottom (the "boy" frog named Beans) kept jumping around the entire tank, while the one on the top (the "girl" frog named Bella) just kept right on...holding on, so to speak.

Apparently, our random gender assignments were backwards.

Imagine my not insignificant consternation when I found this on Wikipedia:

Fire Bellied Toads mate several times with the male embracing the female in the pelvic region. The female of the species typically lays 80–300 eggs that can be found hanging off plant stems. The offspring develop in pools or puddles. Their metamorphosis is complete within a few weeks, peaking in July–August.

Later today, I will be making a panicked call to the East Bay Vivarium, from whence came Beans and Bella.

Because this is cute, right?

Well, 1 or 2 of them are cute. 300 of them? Not cute at all.

* * *

25 July 2010

Dona Nobis Pacem

"What is that?" my son asked, scorn and disgust splayed across his face.

We were at Mass this morning, listening to the song playing during the Offertory.

"That's Latin, for 'Give us Your peace.'" I said.

He looked, if possible, more annoyed that he was now aware he was listening to Latin, of all things. I was amused. And grateful. He focused my attention on those three words. If not for his impertinent question, those words would have floated on by, drifted up and away into the big dark wooden beams of the church ceiling.

* * *

It has been anything but peaceful around here. Three barfing babes, one sick husband, summer camps, chores, stress, mess...the usual.

Oh, and my daughter got three bug bites two nights ago. She's allergic, so they swell up dramatically. This time, she had one on each of her hands and one right next to her eye. Both of her hands were so swollen and stiff she couldn't use them; her left eye was completely swollen shut. She looked like someone had slugged her, hard. She's had an itchy, uncomfortable few days. She hasn't slept well. Translation: I haven't slept well.

Oh, and I'm also in that "it-sucks-to-be-a-girl" time, so I'm being pummeled by all manner of physical, chemical, and emotional sucker-punches. My whole self feels like Lola's swollen eye.

* * *

I'm trying to focus. Trying to get myself started on the right foot for the coming week. For me, this means making a list.

It's pretty, isn't it? Yeah, my handwriting gets super neat when I need order.

The trouble is, I can't figure out if this list is helping or if it's just clarifying the impossible and adding to my anxiety. I am **alternating between organizing and hyperventilating.
**(I just consulted an online thesaurus for synonyms for the word alternate: I found so many fantastic words that capture how I'm feeling that I decided just to keep alternate, and list my favorites here instead. So, in addition to alternating, I am also: lurching, careening, teetering, tergiversating, floundering, cycling, dangling, dithering, wobbling, and undulating. See how I couldn't pick just one?)
Whoever said domesticity lacks excitement clearly isn't familiar with the exhilaration of trying to raise a family, run a household, and have everyone's health and well being riding on whether or not you can cross things off your to-do list. (At least my current list avoids exclamation points, with one fun exception.)

I am daunted by my coming week, the busiest of my summer so far. I am craving peace, I am seeking protection from all anxiety, I am hoping I can get to Friday.

Pray. Exercise. Write. Those are the places I am starting each day.

I hope that works better than Put Away Clean Dishes. Fold Laundry. Wipe down bathroom. My usual way to start each day hasn't been giving me any peace at all lately.

Dona Nobis Pacem. Please.

24 July 2010

Imelda's Got Nothin' on These Girls

The clothes sorting continues.

I counted 57 pairs of shoes in my girls' closet the other day. 7 pairs of slippers. 11 single shoes missing their mates. Assuming that the missing mates are somewhere in the house, garden or car, that means my daughters own 75 pairs or 150 shoes in total. Because I enjoy public humiliation, I documented the obscene excess and offer it here for your ridicule (and also because I told Nicole I would):

I should say, they did have that many shoes, before the Shoe-Devil visited her wrath upon their dwelling place. Tears were shed. Fingers clutched worn out metallic pink sandals. Bodies dove protectively across Sketchers and Sunglows. Their efforts were in vain.

I have disposed of the excess shoes. They still have loads of them, but then again, there are three of them, and two of them play soccer, and they needed special shoes just for school, and then nice shoes for dressy occasions, plus summer sandals, plus cowgirl boots for dress-up, plus the water shoes they inherited from their cousin, plus....

Oh, who am I kidding? It's pathetic, even after the huge bag of banished shoes has left the house. So I guess my new goal is to strive to be less pathetic. I'm all about setting achievable goals.

* * *

We watched The Incredibles together tonight. What a classic movie, full of memorable lines.

Social commentary:
"It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity!"

Sound advice on being present:
"I never look back, dahling! It distracts from the now."

And something I really wish would work with my kids:
"Stop it! We are not gonna die! Now, both of you will get a grip! Or so help me, I will ground you for a month!"

And given our recent burglary excitement, boy do I wish I had Bob Parr as an adjuster:
"Complaints I can handle. What I can't handle is your customers' inexplicable knowledge of Insuricare's inner workings. They're experts! Experts, Bob! Exploiting every loophole! Dodging every obstable! They're penetrating the bureaucracy!"
It has been 47 days since we were broken into. All of the scenes between Bob and his smarmy, creepy, corrupt boss elicited strong responses from my wii-deprived son: "That's just like our insurance company! We should do that to our insurance company!" Truth be told, I do wish I could get all Elastigirl on my adjuster.

If you haven't seen this movie, ever or in awhile, treat yourself and your family: it's awesome.

* * *

We each wore 3 pairs of girl shoes while we watched it just to make me feel better about the girls' closet. Rick looked super cute in the Mary Janes.

* * *

23 July 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 9, the 9 Year Old Edition

My 7 Quick Takes for today are brought to you by my Quick Nine Year old.

1. The other day, while wearing royal blue sweats and a royal blue t-shirt (one of the ones we kept), he kept saying the most random things and then announcing: "That just came out of the blue."

* * *

2. Recently, I told the kids about my dear friend Abby, about how when we were in college we used to call each other Abster and Monster. 9 year old? "Is she funny? Cuz if she's funny you could call her Abstract."

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3. We went to pick up his older brother the other day. 9 year old walked right past him on the sidewalk, kept looking straight ahead, and quipped. "Dude. You need a haircut." (It's true, he does.)

* * *

4. Rick was talking to the kids in the car about pursuing the things that are important to them. He talked about how you only get to be young once, and this is the time in their lives to enjoy things they are passionate about. "You only get to be 9 once, you only get to be 12 once, etc." 9 year old: "Actually, that's not true. I get to be nine 365 times. And then, if you think about it, there are 24 hours in a day, so that would be 24 times 365. And then, there are 60 minutes in an hour. Oh yeah, and 60 seconds in a minute. And I bet you could figure out the milliseconds, too. And..."

He likes to mess with us.

* * *

5. 9 year old made "dinner" for everyone the other night, or at least for anyone who wasn't interested in our paella leftovers. (Side note: we make paella relatively frequently, but the one Rick made this past Tuesday was the best one ever: melt in my mouth delicious. I was so happy when three of the kids opted for sandwiches or toast for dinner on Wednesday: more paella for me!) So anyway, my 9 year old got to work, busily filling plates with sandwiches, apple slices, chips and bell peppers. He really got into it.

My oldest child walked into the kitchen and promptly announced to the 9 year old chef: "The butter isn't melted on my toast. Make it melted." and then walked out again, after dumping his plate unceremoniously on the counter. The chef took one look at the plate and talking only to himself said: "I'll just make it look like the butter is melted." He mushed his finger all over the two pieces of toast, pronounced it good, and delivered the plate to his brother with a cheerful: "Here you go! Melted butter!" It worked.

* * *

6. He asked me if the dinner I served last night was chicken tenders, and I told him that they were actually called breaded chicken breasts. His response: "Eeeew. You didn't have to tell me that. You didn't have to use that word. That's just wrong." Which led him to thoughtfully review of all the foods that have inappropriate names, such as chicken breasts, wieners, meatballs, etc. He was deeply disturbed that people eat things with such names.

* * *

7. On a recent car trip, the 8 and 9 year olds were messing around and laughing hysterically. Still joking, Vincenzo started telling his sister she was annoying him, and that if she didn't stop, he was going to serve her a bowl of Smackadamia nuts. More hilarity.

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He's also quick to get away from a camera when I'm trying to snap a picture.

Go to Conversion Diary for the original 7 Quick Takes, complete with a venn diagram!

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22 July 2010

I Worry

Being a parent is really hard. Who's with me?

Today was a tough day. My 8 year old daughter crawled into bed next to me at about 12:45am, complaining of a tummy ache. This was about an hour after I had finally decided it was time for me to sleep. She slept peacefully next to me for about 15 minutes, and then the barfing began. Six times in the next five hours, she made the dash to the bathroom with a garbled and desperate "Come with me mom!" It was not a restful night of sleep for her, or for us. By the fourth time, I was so groggy I nearly fell backwards into the bathtub.

Another kid succumbed today as well, plus one husband, so we had a regular sick ward around here. I went through ungodly amounts of Lysol and hanitzer.

When people are sick, I get positively turbo about cleanliness. I'm not normally a neat freak, but stick a barfer on my couch, and I turn to the Simple Green, the broom, and the garbage can like I'm a cracked-up, Type A, OCD poster child. I have just stopped moving, after constant dashing to and fro since getting up 15 hours ago. Seven loads (and counting) of laundry have been completely processed and put away. Dishes leapt out of the sink and into the clean drainer with alacrity. Blankets were folded up as soon as any warm body left them behind. Shoes were not allowed to linger with nary a foot in sight for more than 5 minutes. Empty glasses of ginger ale were swept away before healthy hands could even think about handling them.

I'm so glad we don't get sick that often: this level of efficiency would surely kill me.

I think it's a fear of succumbing myself that keeps me hyped up. If I can just keep moving, maybe I can outrun the germs. So today was physically hard.

But I'll be honest here. The hard part of parenting on my mind tonight is the emotional part, the constant worrying about what they will become. I worry about their work ethic. I worry whether they will be compassionate to those less fortunate. I worry that they will be Republicans. I worry that they will be afraid to try new things. I worry that they will embarrass me in public. I worry that they are growing up feeling entitled. I worry that I yell too much. I worry that I am not patient enough, that I don't give them enough time to learn life's lessons before expecting them to "act right." I worry about their priorities. I worry about their hair. I worry that they will be Republicans. Wait: I already said that. Well, it's a big worry. I worry that my worrying is bad for them. I worry that they will grow up to be like me.

And I'm the lesser of the two worriers guiding this ship. (love you, honey!)

The antidote to worry? Faith. Detachment. Trust. And more of that damned patience.

At least my house is clean while I sit here with all this worry and pray for detachment.

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21 July 2010


I don't even know why I'm sharing these little gems. All of them are embarrassing or somehow unseemly. Please, please, tell me these are normal. Please. Lie to me, if you must.

OK, so first, my 3 year old is quite a little singer. She is forever making up little songs and boring the rest of us with them. My personal favorite goes something like this: "I love my mommy. She's so pretty. I love my mommy. She's so pretty." Repeat. Seriously, this one has an emotional depth to it that just knocks you off your feet. Or maybe that's my feet. Another popular one features Bob Dylan, her stuffed monkey: "Bob likes pickles, and climbing in trees." At least, I think it's about the monkey; I don't know how in the world she would know if the real Dylan actually likes either of those things. Anyway, the point is, she sings.

And she's the youngest of 5. So she hears a whole lot of stuff that's far more appropriate for kids who are older than she is.

So today, I was doing important things like seeing which of my Facebook friends had posted the most annoying status and watching my blog hits, when I overheard her singing to herself in the bathroom. She likes the bathroom. Loves brushing her teeth. Likes to make goofy faces at herself in the mirror. So she's in there singing in a soft, sweet little voice: "My brother really sucks...my brother really sucks...my brother really sucks."

Just gets you right here, doesn't it?

* * *

My nine year old attempted to spit on my from his perch high in our Magnolia tree tonight. He thought this was funny. I narrowly escaped the glop with a nimble, hearkening-back-t0-my-in-shape-20's hop. When we were both on the ground a few minutes later, his only defense? "But I didn't get you!"

* * *

My eleven year old was at a friend's house the other day. He told me that he and "Johnny" were watching the Kim Kardashian reality show (WTF?) and they paused it just so they could look at her for longer. Can someone please come install a filter in this kid? I mean, I'm glad he feels comfortable telling me stuff, but can we talk about discretion, maybe? Being his mom has shattered any sentimental notion I may have had about wanting my children to discuss everything with me. I'm fine if they hold back a few things.

I think after my tirade about celebrities who are only famous for being socialites or wealthy and how the way a person looks mean absolutely zilch about who they are on the inside, he was probably wishing he'd held that one back as well.

Yup, I pour it on thick and serve it with a side of The World Is Going To Hell in a Handbasket. I have come to realize that I am fine with being that mom, the one whose kids roll their eyes when she gives the What's Really Important in Life speech. And they have given me copious chances lately.

* * *

One of my kids asked me the other day if sex is the one and only way to have children. As in: "You mean, if I want to be a parent, I have to do that?"

* * *

I spend half of my time trying to figure out how to respond to their various mind-benders and the other half of my time sweeping the freakin' floor. It's a glamorous life I lead.

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19 July 2010

Restlessness Passes. Thanks Mom.

My last post was a little...well...restless, wasn't it? It matched my mood. I suppose the mood makes much more sense in light of the fact that I had gone to a memorial Mass on Friday (the day before The Great Restlessness) for my son's 5th grade teacher. We just left the warm embrace of her classroom last month, and now she is gone. She was a wonderful teacher, a wonderful woman. We will miss her very much.

So I think I was recovering a little bit when that post came pouring out. Too bad I didn't realize this on Saturday; I might have been much easier on myself. But the comments I received helped in that regard, so thank you to everyone who wrote.

Especially lovely was the note I got from my mom, who couldn't get the commenting window to work on my post and sent it in an email instead. (Don't worry mom, it probably wasn't you: the same thing happened to me today when I tried to leave a comment on another blog.) Here's what she said:

Anyway, I just wanted to comment on your "restlessness" piece - actually, taking your kids to the park and getting a load of laundry done is a pretty good day's work. You know all those people you see making "progress?" They think they are not getting anywhere. They could not begin to do what you do in a day.

It depends on how you define "progress." Just getting your kids through another day is progress.


Thank you, mom. Those words helped. I will have to hear them many times over the next several years, but this weekend, they helped enormously.

I did get them to the park, and they had a fabulous time. I did too, even if it was a lot of work to shepherd them around, coax little ones to use gross bathrooms, tend to boo-boos, and yes, push the damn swing. (Why am I so swing-averse?) I took them out again today, to Wildcat Canyon. Fresh air does wonders for us.

To thank my mom, I am posting a sort of photo album of our recent Fresh Air Refueling trips. Restlessness passes. These smiles live forever.

17 July 2010

Untangling Restlessness

I am restless today. Unmotivated. Unsatisfied.

I can't find a way to settle down and be "in the moment," the way we are always told to be.

If I could do something of my own choosing today, I would curl up with a good book: I've been trying to read What is the What for weeks. But I can't do that, now, can I? Of course not. My life is not my own right now. I see people out and about, doing...things. I see them in their yards making progress on home projects. I see them bustling about doing errands and Getting Things Done. I see them spending time with friends. Whatever. Whatever they are doing looks divine, because I can't do any of it.

Two days ago, I spent 45 minutes untangling Toy Story parachuter army men from each other. That night, I found them again tangled in a compromising heap. This morning, I spent 25 minutes untangling a First Communion cross necklace that had four knots in it. So far today, in addition to untangling the necklace, I've done one load laundry, hung our new shower curtain, picked up a payment from a client, and fed people one meal. It's not so satisfying.

I yearn for more. I yearn to be creative and to be engaged in something interesting. Instead, I'm probably going to take the kids to the park, where I will engage in the most mind-numbing of my motherly duties: pushing a swing for as-yet-unable-to-pump-for-themselves children.

I also yearn to lose myself, to stop thinking about myself, to get caught up in something "other." The kids don't count, since apparently my words and actions determine their happiness and success so BAM! we're back to me. It's a sickening paradox: how do I pray for a loss of self, which necessitates being aware that what I want is a loss of self?

And I'm also thinking of the word restless. It means unsettled, uneasy, lacking peace and calm, being fidgety, dissatisfied and unfocused. But it also means without rest. I'm sure I would feel better if I could go to sleep for awhile. I can't.

Oh, and I'm also thinking that I eat too many carbs.

I'm kind of a mess.

And I'm off to the park with my kids.

* * *

13 July 2010

Jesus, the Nonviolent Frequent Flyer

This morning, Little T asked me to tell her the story of when Jesus died. I was a little occupied with 3 or 4 other multi-tasking distractions, so I tapped her 5 year old sister for the job. (Little T told me a few weeks ago that Lady E had told her the story before, so there was precedence.)

Lady E happily complied:

So when Jesus died, there were these people who put nails on his wrists and his feet and put him up on a cross because he wouldn't punch his pilot.

Unfortunately, she never made it to the Resurrection part of the story because her mother was howling too loudly with laughter. The real question here, then, is: WWJF? Which Would Jesus Fly: Coach or First Class??

* * *

My New Domesticity Plan

I have trouble getting motivated to clean my house. Oh, I do a spit shine nearly every day, and that works decently. But really cleaning it, beyond "good enough," happens once in a dry mattress. We know that having people over is about the only thing that will make us really clean. I like having folks over, because even I prefer being somewhat social to living like a bat, and also because I get to enjoy the benefits of having an orderly home, at least for a short while.

But there's a lot more that goes into hosting people than just cleaning the house. There's the food preparation, the extroverted energy required, the clean-up afterwards, the lost facebooking time, and the list goes on. Maybe there's a more practical way to get myself to clean the house besides having a party every weekend.

I was talking with a friend of mine recently who spent the past couple of years being a foster mom. She was, I'm sure, the best foster mom ever. I can't imagine a better fit for her warm, direct, tough, goofy, unconditionally-lovin' self than helping kids get through a difficult time in their lives.

She recently moved back to California, so we were on the phone arranging for her to come over for dinner with her fabulous son; she and I were pregnant at the same time 12 years ago, so my oldest boy and her son have been buddies since the womb. I thanked her for coming over, since I needed the extra motivation to dig out of my normal clutter and restore some order around here. And then, she mentioned that as a foster parent, she had twice monthly visits from a social worker, which provided her with the spark she needed to gussy things up a bit around her house.

AHA! That's it! All I need to do is turn myself in to Child Protective Services, get myself in the system, and BAM! Twice monthly strangers in my house who I do not need to cook for, entertain, or share stuff with, but whose visits will get me to clean up on a regular basis! It's PERFECT. I'm so pleased.

Now I just have to figure out what to turn myself in for. I'm thinking all the yelling I do is a good place to start.

* * *

10 July 2010

Is That So Wrong?

We've kept up our reading of Where the Red Fern Grows; we're about half way through. I'm just thrilled with how into it the kids are. We watch a lot of movies around here, so I was especially psyched when, on the way home tonight, one of the kids asked if we could watch a movie, and when I suggested we read instead, they were all way excited and abandoned any thought of a movie. I was happy, since this meant that I would not responsible for the death of a single brain cell under my roof for this night.

One problem. Little T.

She's too young for this reading-a-real-book-out-loud business. She gets too squirrely, needs too much attention. Earlier in the day, when I was thinking about reading later, I remembered how great reading had been the other night when she landed herself in bed early after being a Royal Pain in the Arse. She got her 1st and 2nd warnings, and then got herself a one way ticket to an early bedtime. She crashed and slept hard. The rest of us got to read in peace. So...I was wondering to myself...would it be really bad to sort of taunt her into misbehavior? You know, sort of poke the bear until the bear predictably lashes out? Could I get her to disobey me, or bug her brothers too much, or jump on the furniture as she knows she mustn't, or draw on a wall or something? If I could somehow find a way to get her in big enough trouble to send her to bed early, that would really make reading easier.

I had my little chuckle about this idea. A mom can dream, can't she?

Well, I should have known that Little T needs little to no encouragement for misbehavior. I hadn't made it past the first page of Chapter X before she disobeyed her dad three times in a row, and voila! She went to bed early.

Sometimes, I just love how awful and how predictable she is! Win-Win for everyone! It worked out beautifully.

We read the chapter tonight about the Pritchard boys. I won't spoil it for anyone. Suffice to say, this one packs a punch. I made it through with nary a tear, but I did get choked up at one point.

* * *

And in other news: it seems we are forever in need of learning the value of Simple Things. This past week, we finally managed to take care of two very small home projects that have made a world of difference in our quality of life.

First, I finally hung a window shade in my kitchen. The window is at my sink, so I spend a fair amount of time there. In the morning, the sun streams directly in the window and beats down on the opposite counter, where we keep our wine and spirits, for lack of a better place. In the evening, the setting sun reflects off of the large white wall of my neighbor's house and blinds anyone standing at my sink (that would be me about 99.99% of the time) and slams more heat and light on our liquor. Heat on wine and spirits is very dis-spiriting indeed, and Rick has been after us for weeks (OK, months or years) to hang a shade or a curtain or something already. I went to Home Depot. I forked over $15 bucks for a cheap shade and the stupid little hardware set. I came home and hung the damn thing. The entire process took less than an hour. The kitchen is now comfortably bright instead of blindingly so. We have a touch more privacy. And the liquor: friends, the liquor is safe. That is a quality of life issue.

Second, Rick cleaned out our shower head. Oh my. What a difference. We've noticed for months that the once robust spray had become mostly one thick deluge of water, lacking force and oomph. Again, we've been meaning to take care of it for the longest time. I saw Rick fiddling with it the other day, and got positively giddy about my next shower. Sure enough, that first "new" shower made me feel like I just had a spa day. After Rick took his shower, we were marveling at the awesome-ness of the spray and he said he felt like he'd just had a vacation. Definitely a quality of life issue. I love that shower head, and I love the man who cleaned it out.

So why do we take so long to do these simple things that make such a difference? I've been on the lookout all week for more of these little jobs that improve life so much. I wonder what will be next. Organizing and hiding the cords behind the TV? Cleaning out the school backpacks that are still on the vent by the front door? Making it possible to close the linen closet without having to slam the door and lean into it fast so nothing falls out?

We are unstoppable. Who knows what we will conquer next.

Every now and then, domesticity makes me feel powerful.

* * *

08 July 2010

Sad Today

Today, I learned that a beloved teacher at my kids' school passed away after a long battle against cancer. We are a sad family today, and our community is suffering a great loss.

We have been close to death too many times in the past few weeks: my mother and father will have been to four funerals by this coming Sunday.

My nine year old asked me this morning: "Is it dying season?"

No more than usual, my son. We just seem to be in the midst right now. There is much to learn from this sadness and loss, starting with patience for those we love.

I am awash.

* * *

07 July 2010

The Red Fern Gets Me Every Time

I am reading Where the Red Fern Grows to the kids this week in the evenings. I loved and re-read this book frequently when I was a kid. Reading aloud is such a wonderful activity: I am forced to slow down and savor each word in order to give the kids the best possible experience of listening to it. I've enjoyed it even more than I thought I would.

The two oldest were extremely reluctant participants, complaining bitterly that I turned off a movie about the 2006 World Cup (which they've seen a bazillion times) in order to read to them. I gave them a choice: You can sit in here with us and listen, or you can go to bed. They grumpily shuffled off to bed. A few minutes later, they changed their minds and sullenly trudged back into the living room, with blankets and pillows, and harumphed themselves into comfortable positions. Four chapters later, they didn't want me to stop. Victory is sweet.

I can already tell that I'm going to have a hard time fighting back tears while reading the more emotional parts.

What books stand out for you from your youth? Find one, and read it out loud to your kids. Or to yourself, if you don't have a good audience. Or to whomever you can make listen.

* * *

05 July 2010

Paying it Forward

Picture three daughters sandwiched together on the back row of the minivan (hall of hell, is what I call it). Daughter A is walloping on Daughter B, who is stuck in the middle. Daughter B is getting upset, starting to whimper and protest.

Pan camera to the front of the car, where dad is driving and monitoring the situation through the rear view mirror. Mom is leaning her forehead against her hand, hoping the noise stops soon and knowing that it won't.

The fateful words from dad: "Don't let her do that to you, Daughter B. If you don't like being hit, hit back!"

Mom cringes, waiting for the inevitable epic fail this advice will yield.

Sure enough, a loud wail erupts from the back seat, adding to Daughter B's now continuous cries of distress.

Dad: "Don't hit Daughter C! Daughter A was the one hurting you, why did you slug Daughter C!?!?!?

* * *

I knew it would end badly. I just didn't know it would end up expanding outward to involve ever more family members.

* * *

The scene fades as the minivan trundles down the highway to a soundtrack of wailing girls.

* * *

03 July 2010

Date Night, A La Mom of 5


Just had a night out with my hubby.

Can't remember the last time that happened.

It was fun pretending to be a care-free chica, out for fun on a Friday night. Reality came crashing home when I leaned back, in ultra-relaxed mode, feeling pretty happy after a mojito and two glasses of wine, put my hands in my jacket pocket and discovered a pair of soiled underwear hastily stashed there a few days ago.

You can take the mom out of the fray, but you can't take the fray out of the mom.

* * *

A couple of days ago, I took Sam to his housesitting job, with Talllulah in tow. She had an accident while we were there. A small one, I swear. Like super small, not much substance, just enough to justify removing her drawers and bringing her home commando-style.

Just enough to be OK with stuffing the contents in my pocket.

With just enough sleep deprivation and just enough other crap happening for me to forget they were there.

Kind of changed the whole "night out" experience for me. I bet I was the only person in T-Rex tonight with a pair of poopy underwear in her pocket. I am so totally grossed out, and would probably be too embarrassed to blog about it, except that thanks to the rum and the wine, I had a great time anyway.

I have to give a big shout out to F. A. D'Bee, for watching the natives and making this night possible. She's a Rock Star.

I'm going to go do a little laundry, soak my hand in "Hanitizer" (T's phrase for hand sanitizer), and then go rest my alcohol-soaked head on a pillow.

Life is good. Strange, but good.

* * *

02 July 2010


A reflection on memory, inspired by a poem by our incoming Poet Laureate, W. S. Merwin. The poem is called A Likeness, and I heard it this morning on NPR's Fresh Air. Click the link, read the poem.

* * *

I have only what I remember, Take One: The only things that last are the fleeting memories I manage to hang on to. Everything passes, and quickly. Nothing gold can stay. Love, people, things, books, the best meal I ever enjoyed: all of these are mere puffs of air, ghosts that vanish when I try to look at them. I cannot catch them, cannot hold them, cannot keep them. Memories are the only things I am left with, and these are themselves fleeting, capricious, unreliable.

I have only what I remember, Take Two: Everything I have is captured in a memory: the muscle memory of our first embrace, of the first time I held my first born child, of watching five children play soccer in the evening light. All of the important joys and tears of my life, the ones that define me, are here, inside me, carried in my heart and my mind, and no one, nothing can ever take them from me. Everything I have of any value will always be with me, cannot be damaged, cannot be lost, cannot be diminished.

Everything I have is what I remember.

* * *