25 February 2010

The Work is Killin' Me but the Kids are Keepin' It Real

Whoo-boy. I've been working like a banshee lately. That is, if banshee's work their asses off. Anyway, I'm working again tonight and have left the home premises to do so. I'm hiding at mom and dad's, drinking their beer, and working. Yup, it pays to work for oneself. Beer is allowed.

Anyways, I thought I'd take a break and share some "overheards" around my house these past few days. The best has got to be: "Mom, I really need your help. I need a new butt, because my old one has a crack in it." Thank you, 9 year old.

There have been some other gems too. Such as:

"Every time you put me in a time out, I still love you." -- my adorable three year old said that. Totally cool. This is especially good news, since her recalcitrant little arse finds itself in time outs frequently.

"Can you get out of the kitchen for a little while?" -- my five year old, with her hand on the freezer door, after I told her she could NOT have ice cream. Yeah, sure Lady E, I'll just step outside and let you pilfer an ice cream sandwich from the freezer, and I'll NEVER KNOW. Whatever.

"I can't touch Bob Dylan!" -- a distraught three year old, with sticky hands, after eating a sticky cereal bar. Oh, I guess the important bit of information here is that she got a very large stuffed monkey for Christmas and named it Bob Dylan. You've never seen a kid more excited about wet wipes.

"You guys hate all technology, don't you?" -- a disgusted 11 year old who doesn't have his own cell phone and who believes that the scant amount of time he gets to play his wii is a violation of the Geneva Convention. I could hardly stop blogging, facebooking, and emailing to agree with him.

My nine year old is also responsible for this one: "Probably. He usually does." This was in response to my expressing some doubt about something Rick told the kids, but qualifying that doubt with: "Well, maybe he knows something I don't." Yeah. Parenting is not an endeavor that builds up one's self-esteem. Ya' kinda gotta come to the game with an extra supply. My kids are rapidly trampeling on mine, so I'm hoping I can find some on eBay or Freecyle.

And the nine year old again, on his way to play Solitaire on his ipod: "I guess I'll go play the Card Game for the Lonely."

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It's like having front row tickets to Comedy Central. Except when it turns into Shakespearean tragedy, but even that has it's beauty, I suppose.

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15 February 2010

Olympic Reflections

The Olympics make me cry.

I listen to the stories of the athletes, and I weep. I listen to coverage of them crossing finish lines, or beating the odds, or achieving a "first," and I choke up. I watch them interviewed after they've won their medals and their joy makes my eyes well.

Yesterday, the Canadians won their very first gold medal on Canadian soil. I wept.

Yesterday, Johnny Spillane won the first American medal (a silver!) in Nordic Combined, a combination of cross country skiing and ski jumping. I choked back tears.

Don't even get me started on figure skating. (Although, for some reason, pairs skating leaves me cold.)

So what's this all about? I've done some thinking about it, and I think it's my response to the sheer amount of dedication and hard work these athletes have devoted their lives to. I am awestruck and moved by their commitment and their sacrifice.

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And I have a tinge of envy mixed in too: what an amazing gift it must be to be able to concentrate with singular purpose on one thing, to excel at a talent and to rise to the top.

I was once a pretty good piano player, and even started my college career as a music major. I quickly discovered that I did not have what it takes to really be a musician. Maybe that was because I lack the requisite devotion or maybe it was simpler than that, that I just didn't have enough talent or interest to do it right. It was not a difficult decision to drop out of music, but it is one that I regret a little bit. I regret not trying harder and seeing where it might have taken me. Today, I can hardly play a note.

I dabble now at writing. And I wonder where my writing could take me if I tried harder, committed myself more fully to it. What if I had enough time to give most of it to writing? What if five little people weren't constantly pulling at my arms, my coattails, my mind, my heart? Yesterday I decided to keep track of how often someone needed something from me, whether that be just an answer to a question or for me to find something or do something, feed someone, wipe someone. I stopped counting after 5 requests in under 5 minutes.

For now, they are my great opus, my canvas and my pages. For now, that is good and right. Someday? Maybe I'll have the chance to pour myself into some other endeavor and see where it takes me.

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12 February 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday: Vol. 5

I refer you back to this post to explain the yawn factor here at AIRY-5. And without further ado, here are my 7 quick takes for today:

1. Candy is evil. Suffice to say the kids had Valentines Day parties in their classrooms today. Candy, and all of the multi-colored wrappers it comes in, are evil.

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2. My sister's house was broken into this week, and her computer, digital camera, and TV were stolen. These are just things and they will be replaced without much angst, although with more than enough hassle. (She also spent this week, which included her birthday, tending to her sick 5-year old, who decided to ring in his momma's birthday with a marathon barfing extravaganza. Not much to put a candle in.) Throughout the break-in ordeal, she has been grateful that nothing was vandalized and that nothing of sentimental value is gone. But oh -- the violation. The images of some stranger walking around her house and looking through her stuff...that part is creepy and awful and stress-inducing. So my heart goes out to her, my brother-in-law, and my lovely nephew. To the three of you: (a) this too shall pass and (b) when's the moving party?

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3. Potty training complete. Well, except for the more complicated of the two potty operations. But complete enough that I no longer leave the house with a diaper bag and that alone is cause for some serious dancing. HOWEVER. A newly trained kid is actually a little bit MORE work than a non-potty trained one. I'm spending lots of time wiping her bottom, and waiting for the tinkle, and helping her on and off the pot and generally being a frickin' cheerleader regarding the potty-use. One might be tempted to slap me across the face and say: "Just enjoy this, you cynical, glass-is-all-but-empty downer!" That's why I like this blog: you can't reach me and I can't hear you. I'm just sayin' that the whole thing is a lot of work. And I'm a little weary of cheering at pee. That's all. But really, I'm thrilled.

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4. Somewhere in my youth, or childhood, I must have done something good. Here's the proof.

I am richly rewarded.

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5. At our house, we talk a great deal about youth sports. Rick coaches the kids' soccer teams, we attend multiple games every weekend, and we encourage the kids to play and work hard at the sports they love. We come in contact with ALL KINDS OF PARENTS and COACHES in the crazy world of youth sports. I wish I could have them all read this article. I especially like the way the author opens up her piece: it was familiar and made me laugh. It's a good reminder to parents and coaches about the right perspective to have when helping kids learn, enjoy, and maybe even excel at sports. Read. Discuss.

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6. The countdowns at Casa AIRY-5 have begun:

31 days (give or take) until my biggest project of the year is at the printer and out of my hands.

79 days until our annual garden tour.

117 days until the end of fourth grade.

And the best of all: 126 days until Toy Story 3 hits theatres! We'll be there with bells on, celebrating our third child's 8th birthday with Woody and Buzz. Maybe I'll even buy theatre popcorn for the occasion!

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7. And on a more serious note. Today marks the 5th anniversary of the death of our nephew, an incredible, beautiful 20 year old young man. So today, my heart goes out to his mom and dad, his sisters, and his entire extended family. He is still so much a part of their lives, and his name lives on in his 3 year old nephew.

I will never forget that day, getting the call that he had been in an accident. Rick left immediately, to get to the hospital about an hour and a half away. I will never forget getting the call from Aaron's aunt, sobbing, telling me that he was gone. I will never forget calling Rick on his cell phone, as he was on his way, and having to tell him. All I could say was: "He didn't make it. He didn't make it."

I think about Aaron frequently. He pops into my head when I'm thinking about my own kids. I look at pictures of him holding my babies, and I ache at the loss. I think about his mom, and wonder what the past five years have been like for her, because while I can safely say that they've been hard, I cannot truly imagine what it's been like to lose a child. My kids were little when Aaron died. My fourth child was only 5 months old and my oldest was 6. The boys remember him, and talk about him, and bring his picture to school for their classroom altars when we celebrate All Soul's Day.

Aaron, your family is strong, and they have done many wonderful, beautiful things in the past five years, and there are lots of little kids who will grow up hearing stories about you. The stories are great. But we wish you were here.

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Go visit Conversion Diary for the original 7 Quick Takes, and links to others.

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05 February 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday: Vol. 4

1. We survived Catholic Schools Week. And yes, it was nice to not cook for two of the nights when we went to Pizza Night fundraisers instead. And our school raised over $2,300 for Haitian relief, with kids buying raffle tickets to win all kinds of things including a grand prize of a full week of free dress. I am inspired by how much we raised at $1 per ticket. Imagine if every school in the country did that: we could do so much good.

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2. I took Little T and Lady E to the doctor today. The younger has been sick (turns out she has her first ever ear infection) and the older needed two vaccines. The drive to my pediatrician's office takes me by a hillside that contains a single cross for every American casualty of the Iran/Afghanistan wars. I've posted about this before. Today's total is 5,302, up from 4,012 when I first wrote about this hillside in April of 2008. I am against the war. But I am grateful for and awe-struck by the sacrifice of those who have died and I wonder about their families, how they cope with such a loss. I do not know anyone personally who has died in the war, but I wonder how much longer I will be able to say that.

I also think about that number, 5,302. That represents ONLY American troops, no soldiers from any other country, no civilians, no American contractors: just U. S. military deaths. I don't think the hillside is big enough to include any other group.

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3. It's Friday night. It's the weekend. Remember when weekends used to be relaxing? What the hell happened to that? These days, I get to Monday morning and experience relief akin to nirvana. Friday night used to be the time to let off steam; now it's the time to batten down the hatches.

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4. I am looking for good book suggestions. I need a few more books to pretend to read and to leave in a pile next to my bed for weeks on end. Eventually, I'll pick one up and re-read 25 pages I've already read at least 3 other times. Feel free to send me some titles. Especially if the first 50 pages are really good, since chances are slim I'll ever get past page 51.

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5. We got a webcam for Christmas and it's sitting in a box on my desk staring at me and challenging me to figure out how to use it. Am I up to the challenge?

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6. I took the girls to a bookstore today to get four birthday present for various parties this weekend, and was humbled to discover that I have become that parent who lets their children run wild in public. I will admit defeat. Little T sees any store as an opportunity to practice the art of escape and today, I just didn't have it in me to chase her. Might she get lost? Some nice person will find her and probably bring her back waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too soon. Might she get kidnapped? So very unlikely, and then if she were, pity the unsuspecting napper who gets stuck with that little terror. I could probably get money from HIM to take her back. So I let her be impossible. It wasn't pretty, I wasn't proud of it, but I didn't pour on the Mama Nazi routine until I was trying to get her in her carseat, and I'm sporting a scratch on my chin for my troubles. I refuse to play that particular scene inside of a store, on display for other patrons.

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7. And yes, four birthday presents. Which leads me to my next great insight: birthday parties should be outlawed. (Except Cait's, of course!)

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Go visit Conversion Diary for the original 7 Quick Takes, and links to others.

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02 February 2010


This week is Catholic Schools Week, the annual celebration of Catholic education that involves lots of activities and events and whatnot. The whatnot is going to kill me.

Tomorrow? Here's what I need to coordinate. This is AFTER attending the K-4th grade pizza night fundraiser tonight and BEFORE attending the 5th-8th grade pizza night fundraiser tomorrow night. In between:

My 2nd grader has an Ancestor project due tomorrow. We started it way ahead of time. And then left it alone, so she must finish it tonight. I am her subject, so I'm pretty involved.

Tomorrow is Stuffed Animal Day. I don't even want to get started on my real opinion of Stuffed Animal Day. I'll just say it drives me bonkers.

Tomorrow is the Multicultural Pot Luck. This means FOUR dishes, for FOUR class potlucks. And I can't convince the kids to let me throw four heads of cabbage in their back packs and call it a day.

Tomorrow is the 100th day of school, which Kindergarten celebrates by having each child bring in 100 somethings to share, which of course the Kindergartner is supposed to be in charge of counting, what with her new-found counting skills and all. This will be painstaking. She can do it. I will go grey in the process.

My 5th grader is carting around the "pretend baby" he is supposed to be caring for 24/7, along with the "baby's" shoe box house. It's anyone's guess if he'll actually be able to find his "baby" when we need to leave for school; if yesterday morning is any indication, we'll turn the house upside down in great angst and upheaval because we think we put the baby through the laundry.

OK, so let's recap. I worked all day long. We've got one art class this afternoon and one basketball practice. We've got the pizza night fundraiser. I somehow must shop for whatever half-assed excuse of a contribution I come up with for the Multicultural potluck. I must throw together said half-assed excuse. We have to finish the 2nd grade project. Have everyone else do their homework. Get the Kindergartner to count out 100 goodies.

And then, tomorrow morning, I must leave the house with:

4 stuffed animals.
4 potluck dishes.
100 goodies.
One completed ancestor project
One late assignment that was due today, but our printer futzed out, which reminds me, throw a trip to Staples for new printer cartridges into this evening.
One box and "baby" for the 5th grader.
The usual four backpacks and lunch boxes.
AND the five kids.

Let's hope that, unlike this morning, we have access to our garage. This morning, after our three-year old completely jammed our locked garage door, rendering it un-openable, we were separated from our clean school uniform laundry for about 20 panicked minutes, way too close to departure time for comfort. We only gained access to said unforms by going through the garden gate, REMOVING a window from our back garage door and essentially breaking in. And then gathering the clean laundry and walking back through the garden gate, around the house, and back in the front door. It was nutty. And dramatic. And supremely annoying.

For those of you who might see me at pizza night, you'll find no need to question why I am weeping into my beer.

My minivan isn't big enough for the next 24 hours and all of the sudden I have an overwhelming desire to homeschool my kids. And now, to accomplish before Pizza Night: bank, staples, grocery store, art class pick-up.

Oh yeah, Kelly, I need that hermitage.

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01 February 2010

The Reason I May Be Boring You to Tears

It's February 1, 2010.

Let the games begin.

In this case, by "games," what I actually mean is "the insane amount of work I do between January 15 and March 15 of each year."

I am a freelance editor/writer and graphic designer, in addition to helping my husband run his -- our -- garden design company. Every year, we participate in a tour of local native plant gardens; the tour takes place the first Sunday in May. We are extraordinarily busy during February, March, and April, preparing 3-5 gardens for the tour, ours included.

With my graphic design hat on, each year I produce the booklet that every registrant of the tour receives. It's usually around 100 pages, contains tons of useful native plant information, and features a garden description page for each of the 50 or so gardens on the tour. I love this project: it is both my biggest and my most enjoyable paying gig of the year. It's also the most work, and right now is crunch time. It's due at the printer sometime around March 10th or so...so by March 15th, I will have put this baby to bed.

These two Herculean efforts -- the tour booklet as well as the garden prepartions -- join the juggling act already in progress that constitutes my life as a wife, mom, freelancer, small-business owner, and last, but God help me not least, person.

Guess what is suffering the most? My beloved writing outlet: this blog. I have few brain cells left to respond to my favorite NPR stories, relate hilarious kid-anecdotes, muse on parenting, or try my hand at something resembling real writing.

I hope you stick with me for the next month and a half.

A blog I read and enjoy has a link on the left hand side that reads: "Regular writing; occasional brilliance." I like this. I need to work on the regular part. This may not be the month to devote myself to that effort, but it's where I hope to be when the dust settles and I just have the usual too much to do instead of the certifiably insane too much to do.

So for the next month and change, I will try to keep up, with both reading blogs I like (and commenting) and writing for my own. But if I seem to have disappeard, or if I'm here but boring, remember that I will try to return when the games come to a close.

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Fingers Crossed

I got in a disagreement with my sons today on the way to school; perhaps you all can help us determine who is right.

Son #1 was saying something and had the fingers on both of his hands crossed, as a way of not meaning what he was saying. (You know, like "Wow, mom, I LOVE these brussels sprouts. Not.)

So I told him that he was only supposed to have ONE set of fingers crossed if he, in effect, wanted to say a big ole NOT; two sets of fingers crossed is a double negative, and therefore, a confirmation that he does in fact love brussels sprouts. Or whatever it was, because the actual content escapes me.

Thus started the argument. The boys say no, two hands with crossed-fingers means you are basically lying, but you don't get in trouble for lying. One hand with crossed-fingers means you are telling the truth.

I tried to reason with them: What is the point of telling the truth and crossing one set of fingers? Isn't that the same as not crossing any fingers at all?

I was holding firm, until Son #2 said: "Mom, you need to get out in the world more!"

What a smart aleck. Wonder where he gets it.

OK, fair enough. So I'm reaching out into the world via my blog. Which is it people? Which gesture means the speaker is lying, one hand crossed or two?

I don't care who is right about this, I just want to know. (Guess how many fingers I'm crossing right now?)

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