29 October 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 17

Welcome to Friday! You made it, I made it, we all made it. Please visit Jen at Conversion Diary for her Quick Takes and links for everyone else is playing along.

~ 1 ~

We are going on a field trip today to an art gallery! A local artist is featuring his watercolor work. Oh, and the local artist is my dad. I'm not sure if photography is allowed, but if it is, I will post pictures later. You can also view his work at this link.

~ 2 ~

I am currently reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. From what I had heard of this book, I had the impression that it was a very heavy psychological examination of a dysfunctional family. And I suppose, it sort of is, but it's so much more than that. First of all, as Homemaker Man told me in a comment, it is very, very funny. And again, it's more than funny, too. I am struck by Franzen's observations of people and relationships, and his searing way of describing them. He is one of those writers who dares to go where most of us do not: straight into the dark and funny heart of what he sees. Sometimes, my reader response is sort of half "wow, I can't believe he really just wrote that" and half "wow, he just hit that nail right on the head!" The characters he has created are alive, kicking, screaming and gnashing their teeth. And yes, the family is dysfunctional, but only in a way that we all recognize because we're all that way to varying degrees, and yes, it might be called psychological, but a better word is probably existential, because none of us can easily escape the burdens and boundaries we experience.

So, I am enjoying it immensely, and I highly recommend it.

~ 3 ~

I have never been much of a meditator. I do pray, but my prayer sort of follows my thought process, and I've heard meditation described as a cessation of the thought process. I can't make my mind go blank, and I can't seem to really get in the groove of all that awareness, clarity and bliss. But I think I could get into my 6 year-old daughter's version of meditation.

The other day, while visiting with my brother and sister-in-law, she struck the meditation pose and intoned the "Ommmm." She held her hand just so -- with both middle fingers proudly extended.

Now that's a meditative attitude I can relate to!

~ 4 ~

I took my daughter to get her new eyeglasses today (her others broke...for the second time), and in our travels we drove by a local elementary school's Halloween parade. They were parading up and down a main shopping street, and they were darn cute. There were quite a few police officers around, since the street was blocked off and the traffic had to be redirected. I noticed a group of three or four police officers, one of whom was in costume. He had a hat on his head that was fashioned to look a milk carton. His face was framed in one panel of the carton with the word MISSING in large letters across the box right above his forehead.

Really? At a school parade? I was little appalled. How exactly did he respond to the 1st grader who asked him what his costume was? "Well, little Cinderella, I'm a milk carton that is publicizing child abductions in the hopes of finding stolen children, arresting the crazy, mean, awful kidnappers that are out there in the world and bringing the kids safely home!" Doesn't that sound just a touch inappropriate to you, dear readers?

~ 5 ~

Three cheers for me! I finally, finally re-did our chore chart! No more haphazard "Uh...you do this! And you there -- you do THAT!" We have morning chores and evening chores, and none of it is getting done perfectly (as in, my way) but most of it is, in fact, getting done. I will tinker with it a bit, to add things that are more important and take out things that are proving a little meaningless, but I'm pretty happy with it. The kids are still getting used to it, to varying degrees. There is still way too much complaining. But there is a lot more work getting done, too, so we are definitely going in the right direction.

And it only took me forever.

~ 6 ~

I heard an interview today with Ingrid Betancourt, the one-time Colombian candidate for president who was taken hostage by Colombian guerillas and held for 6.5 years in the jungle. She has a new book out, Even Silence Has an End, and is on quite the interview circuit; this is the third or fourth time I've heard her interviewed.

She spoke eloquently about one way in which her captivity changed her. It taught her that no matter what you are faced with, no matter the limitations, obstacles or deprivations, you always have the freedom to choose what kind of person you will be. She talked about how before her kidnapping, she was an ambitious candidate for office, with a high sense of who she was and what she was capable of. Being held hostage deprived her of the freedom to make even the most basic choices; the only thing left to choose was who she would be in the face of her situation.

She talked about how that helps her now, after being rescued. She described how she has the freedom to choose how to respond when someone wants to talk with her and she thinks she doesn't have time for them, or when she really wants to go to sleep, but her children need her at that same moment.

Well, those two specific examples sounded quite familiar. I will never be a hostage in a Colombian jungle. I will only be a hostage of my own fears and insecurities. Hopefully, I can walk through the world today, and the next day, and the next, with her words in my mind. I have the freedom to choose who I will be for my children, my spouse, my friends, for strangers, and for myself.

Thank you, Ingrid.

~ 7 ~

As I said in Quick Take #3, I do not meditate, but I do pray. My prayer this week is quite focused: I am trying very hard, for the millionth time, to live with the delayed gratification of motherhood. I've written before about how motherhood (parenting, really, as I'm sure this is not the sole experience of women) is like planting seeds and trusting that they will bear fruit. The problem is the long, long waiting for the seeds to sprout. I get impatient. I doubt. I fear. I worry. I forget the nature of planting and harvesting.

So this week, I pray that I can trust the soil, trust my planting, trust the rain and the sun that come to help, and I pray that for the moments and days I am living in now, that this will be enough.

* * *

27 October 2010

Nothing Grand

Morning's first light is grand.

Peace and promise are in my hand.

The early child's an angel,

Until the next ones do finagle.

So whispers rise to shouts.

So screams derive from pouts.

So my day goes down the drain.

Nothing grand can I sustain.

* * *

With respect to Robert Frost.

* * *

26 October 2010

Homeschool Challenge

We have been homeschooling for about two months now, and WOW! My kids have had some amazing opportunities to do some really interesting things. Rock climbing, farm visits, science classes, outdoor education hikes, theatre, carpentry, art, and the list goes on. The majority of the "schooling" they are doing is coming to them in the form of adventures and experiences that light them up.

Zing! Exactly what we were shooting for.

One of my greatest challenges, however, is getting them to do some very few things I want them to do, or need them to do for the Charter School we are enrolled in. I see that as my motivation to get creative. So they don't want to learn about history? Maybe I can think of a book to read to them or a movie to show them that covers a given topic. They turn their noses up at math? Time to do some baking and measuring.

But how does one get creative when it comes to reading books? This morning, one of my kids told me: "I just don't like to read."

Ouch. Ick. Bummer. Problem.

I loved to read as a kid. Both Rick and I are readers and lovers of literature. I don't see reading as valuable because it's educational; I see it as valuable because of the way reading has touched me, made me feel connected to the world, inspired me, and the list goes on. I don't want my kids to read because "it's important," I want them to read to experience that particular joy.

So what do I do with a kid who doesn't like to read?

I would love to hear responses from other people who homeschool their kids. What's a mom to do with a non-reader? Please share this question with any homeschoolers you know: I'd love to hear as many responses as possible. Thank you!

* * *

22 October 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 16

~ 1 ~

Recommended perusing: This week, the radio program Fresh Air featured an interview with Harold McGee, a chef who has a new book out and who had all kind of interesting things to say about cooking and food science. Fascinating. And for a fledgling cook like me, who is forever pondering the difference between wood cutting boards vs. plastic ones, the show was an education.

~ 2 ~

Recommended listening: Playing for Change: Peace Through Music. I am watching PBS right now, in a Friday evening red wine-soaked haze, and the station is featuring the story behind this incredible CD. On the CD, the producer took the song Stand By Me, recorded a musician "in the joy business" in L. A. playing it, and then went all over the world to record musicians playing along with that recording. Beautiful! Listen. Buy.

~ 3 ~

Recommended attitude adjustment: For my 4 year old. Who asked me ever so sweetly yesterday if I will forever be her mommy. When I said yes, she said: "But what about if you get old?" I told her that no matter how old I get I will always be her mommy. And she said: "I don't want an ole lady for a mommy."

~ 4 ~

My oldest daughter is getting curvy. So that pretty much tells me that it's time to completely FREAK OUT! She's EIGHT. Hyperventilating now. Need more red wine. Before I go fill my glass, I will be researching convents for her to spend the next 30 years in, followed closely by her younger sisters.

Aaagh. Insert Choking Sounds Here>

~ 5 ~

First birthday party: canceled because the birthday boy had a fever of 104.

Second attempt: canceled due to injury, and if you think in this age of internet research that I am sharing the nature of the injury so that some insurance company someday can somehow deny coverage to some member of my family based on some silly blog post, well, I am not playing that game, peeps.

Third attempt: canceled due to rain, since the party was a camping trip.

Fourth attempt: skeptical 12 year old pretty much thinks it's never going to happen. I vow upon All Things Tween that it will indeed happen.

Mom's next attempt: to convince the 12 year old that life does not suck.

~ 6 ~

Food always, always, tastes better when someone else cooks it. The love of my life made homemade pizza tonight. It was so good, I'd say yes again if he asked me to marry him tonight. The wine helped too, because instead of buying 2 Buck Chuck, like I do all the time, he brought me Ravenswood. Proof he loves me. Proof that God loves me. Proof that love and truth and beauty and all things awesome will prevail in the land of canceled birthday parties and mean 4 year olds.

~ 7 ~

Some of the things my kids did this week: made acorn flour in the woods...climbed into a cave made by the roots of a redwood tree...waded in a lake...went rock-climbing...read a little...painted a store window for Halloween...went to Carpentry class...rehearsed Fiddler on the Roof...put together a magnet model of the solar system...painted pictures for their grandfather, who is turning 75 this week...got used to a new chore chart...complained bitterly about the chore chart...gave the dog a bath...practiced soccer in the rain...started working in their new math workbooks...cheered on the San Francisco Giants in their Pennant Race...and reminded me every day how much I love them and how much I want to pitch them out the window 33% the time.

* * *

Happy Friday everyone! Visit the original 7 Quick Takes; you'll always leave with food for thought.

* * *

17 October 2010

Life is a Mystery

This weekend, I stayed cheerful and energized despite the fact that I was subjected to these and like-minded comments for two days straight:

We have the most boring tasteless breakfasts. Everyone else eats better food. Why can’t we have better breakfasts? I eat toast every single morning.

Are you serious? Why do I have to clip my nails? You make us do the stupidest things.

This is going to be the worst day of my life.

Has dad ever cleaned up around here?

I hate this. I’m going to be basically cleaning the house all day. This is so stupid.

We never get to do anything fun. We need a better house.

I have to do everything around here. You never tell anyone else to do anything.

* * *

Three different kids said that last one to me within an hour of each other, which provides you with all the evidence you need to take absolutely everything my children say with one large dose of salty salt.

How is it possible that I love them more than life itself, these people who harangue me at every turn, who pile disgust on top of ingratitude on top of narcissism? How is it possible that I am still feeding them, doing their laundry, and finding their soccer socks on game day?

This is truly one of the great mysteries of life.

* * *

15 October 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 15

Visit the Hostess of 7 Quick Takes Friday.
Learn a thing a two about killing scorpions.

~ 1 ~

Four birthdays in six weeks ended this past Wednesday. But two of the parties are still pending, so we can't quite say we are finished yet. I'll be finished just in time to raise my head wearily from a pillow and realize it's time to start shopping for Christmas presents.

As my babies get older, I find myself staring at little newborns and getting all misty-eyed and wistful. Babies are pure possibility, pure potential, pure opportunity to be the best we can be. Toddlers...school kids...pre-teens...well, they also represent potential and hope and possibility, but mine also provide all those moments when I am less than who I want to be, the moments I yell too much, or lack consistency, or make the wrong decision.

It gets so much more complicated as they get older. Children growing up is a true test of one's belief in second chances and never giving up. It's never too late to be the mom I want to be. It's never to late to be the parent you want to be.

~ 2 ~

Speaking of being the kind of mother I want to be, it has come to my attention lately that I (a) am a pushover and (b) do far too many things for my kids and for my household that my kids can and should be doing. This was actually a New Year's resolution of mine, to stop doing so much and start teaching them "how to fish," so to speak. I have come some distance towards this goal, but I still have a very, very long way to go.

So. My main question today is, how do I go the rest of the way? I'm not looking for answers that include chore charts and consequences and systems. I'm looking for a way to crack the whip around here with compassion, firmness, and detachment. Compassion, because we are all learning a new way to be and we all need help doing so. Firmness, because I'm given to caving -- or at least waffling -- when the kids resist. Detachment, because I am also given to despair when things don't go the way I want them to.

My kids do not help out around the house willingly. They mount massive fronts of resistance. They whine and complain. How do I combat those forces?

~ 3 ~

Halloween is looming. This year, we've got a monkey, Violet from The Incredibles, a mad scientist, a bloody version of Edvard Munch's Scream, and an "old-time, classic" gangster. My task will be to keep my mouth shut and help them realize their Halloween visions. Although I prefer a little creativity when it comes to costumes, I might end up stealing my 10 year old's costume, since this entire time of year makes me feel like this anyway:

~ 4 ~

Three of my children are participating in a fantastic outdoor education class called Trackers. So far, they have learned how to build fire without matches, hiked all over Tilden Park, made plaster molds of wild animals' paw prints, learned how to remove bitter tannins from acorns in order to make them edible, discovered "quick mud," and caught fish with their bare hands. Oh yeah, and the boys stepped on a wasps' nest. I don't think that last thing was technically part of the curriculum. They each came home with a nice collection of wasp stings (4 for one and 16 for the other) as souvenirs.

Viva la homeschooling!

~ 5 ~

Recommended reading: Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers. I had not heard of this book before my husband brought it home to me earlier this week. He knew how much I loved What is the What, also by Eggers. Zeitoun is an amazing book, all about one family's experience of Hurricane Katrina. As the back side of the books says: "The true story of one family, caught between America's two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina."

Eggers is a wonderful writer and story teller. I devoured the book in about two or three days. This is one of those stories that should be more widely known, a cautionary tale we should keep in mind. I knew about the terrible things that happened in New Orleans because of the hurricane, but I had no idea how the war on terror intersected with that disaster. I'm saddened by what representatives of this free country did to our own citizens. All I can say is the book was an education. Please read it.

I'm reading The Corrections next. Another upper...but at least this one will be fiction.

~ 6 ~

Do you ever feel like it's impossible to keep up with the interesting and important things and people in the world? This past week, I wanted to watch miners get rescued, read about the bullying issues rocking the nation, learn more about the winners of the Nobel prizes this year, listen to enough NPR to win Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (albeit from my kitchen), read more of this week's New Yorker than the cartoons, catch up on blogs I follow, and figure out how I'm voting in the upcoming election.

What did I actually do? Battled the on-going ant invasion, made an imperceptible dent in the laundry pile, lamented the state of my home and fed people mediocre meals. And drove people places.

There is a quite large gap between how I would like to spend my time and how I actually do. That makes for some interesting dissonance right there.

~ 7 ~

I've been thinking about poems lately, because I'd love to incorporate poetry memorization and recitation into my homeschooling. The one minor obstacle to overcome is the fact that, when invited to read and memorize poetry, my children roll their eyes so far into their eye sockets that they can read their own minds. So I guess I'll put that idea on hold for now. Instead, I will share a short and wonderful Robert Frost poem I memorized and grew to love in high school.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

As Summer slides into Autumn in melted wax-colored light (it happens late here in California), this poem keeps rising up in my mind. I am thankful that even though nothing gold can stay, nature's first green will keep coming back, outside my window and here within my own four, sticky-with-little-handprints walls.

Here's to second chances and never giving up.

* * *

14 October 2010

Solano Playlot

My neighborhood is in the running for $25,000 to renovate a local playground. Currently, the space is a dismal patch of mostly dirt and some tired metal equipment. A group of people in the community adopted it and are planning to transform it into a place children can actually play.


Please go to the link below, register (a quick and painless process) and then:

Next, go directly to your to do list, write a new bullet point that says Do Something Good For Children Today, and then cross that sucker off.

Voting ends tomorrow; you can vote once per day. So add that same bullet point to tomorrow's list as well.

I thank you. My children thank you. The Solano Play folks thank you. (<------- That link will tell you more about the people involved in making this happen.)

* * *

10 October 2010

Parenting 101

By 9am, the kids have already given their bickering and arguing muscles robust work outs. By 9am, the breakfast dishes have taken over the kitchen, and don't seem inclined to clean themselves. By 9am, I've seen disgust, anger, defiance, and tears. By 9am, it is clear that what is needed here is a new paradigm, a shift in the family pattern we've fallen into of late.

Parenting seems to be a continual process of returning to who we know we should be for our kids.

Two of the biggest challenges I face as a mother are: (1) Finding the motivation to do repetitive, mundane tasks, such as doing laundry, washing dishes, and correcting misbehavior. The seemingly immediate need to do it all over again lays me low. And (2) Continually finding the patience to show the kids how to be patient and kind with each other. Based on their finely honed ability to be searingly sarcastic with each other, I know they are capable of learning things from me. I'd like to see them be kinder and more patient with each other and guess what? I think that starts with me. Or rather, with us, the parents.

So today, I am borrowing from my Catholic faith, and from a blogger I enjoy reading, and keeping two beautiful mantras in mind:

Do small things with great love. -- Mother Theresa

The simplest and most effective way to sanctity is to disappear into the background of ordinary everyday routine. -- Thomas Merton

These two ideas, expressed by Catholic "saints," could be titled Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Parenting. I don't think you need to be either Catholic or religious to understand the truth they hold. They speak to the exact requirements of parenthood, I think.

Throw in a sense of humor, and I just might make it through another day.

* * *

09 October 2010

Something New Under the Sun

Well. We had a new thing happen around here last night. This is a first for us.

My 8 and 5 year-old daughters are in bunk beds, with the younger one on the top bunk these days. They switch sometimes. Long about midnight, I heard this little one crying desperately in her room. She sounded completely panicked, and as I rushed to her room, I fully expected to find her in a puddle of vomit. Instead, she was sitting, immobilized, at the top of her ladder. No vomit. But she could not move because she had to pee so badly (apparently, we had neglected the most critical of the bedtime routine steps). Actually, by the time I got there, she was sobbing uncontrollably and gasping out between sobs: "I....can't....hold....my....peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Sure enough, she started going. Over the slats of her bed. Right above her sister's head. Right down onto her sleeping sister's head and pillow.

The challenge before me was to soothe the pee-er and move the pee-ee, without getting peed upon myself. And when a girl needs to go that badly, there is no small amount of pee in question. I realized quickly that there was no stopping the watershed. Once loosed upon the world, it was coming in its entirety. So I turned my attention to the girl on the receiving end. I slid my arms under her as best I could while keeping a safe distance, which can't be done gently. I half rolled, half tossed her over to the other side of the bed. Mission complete. The pee kept on coming, and coming, and coming. The pee-er's sobs continued unabated. It was a pitiful sight.

When the deluge finally came to an end, I gently lifted the miserable little pee-soaked child down to the floor, tried my best to comfort her without actually coming in contact with urine, and helped her up to the bathroom for a midnight bath.

She cried and cried. She was cold and miserable, and the tub took a long time to fill up enough to keep her warm. She was heartbreakingly sweet and cute at the same time: my heart melted and re-melted during the entire bath.

I left her there cold and miserable for a moment, to go remove the former pillow, now pee lagoon, from the 8 year old's bed. I eyed her for a few moments, determined that she was fast asleep enough, and sufficiently saved from the worst of the pee, that I was going to leave her until morning. I didn't need two crying girls in the middle of the night.

All ended well. I got Lady E cleaned up, dried off, and cozied up in fresh jammies. I tucked her into bed next to her daddy, warm and happy.

I removed all pee soaked bedding from the bunk beds, and left a damp daughter sleeping unawares. When she woke up in the morning, and padded into the kitchen with some funky hair and a sleepy disposition, I suggested in my most inviting and encouraging voice that she take a nice warm bath to wake up. She thought that sounded lovely, and off she went.

So. A little midnight interlude, and now I can say been there, done that to any anecdote about siblings peeing on each other.

Never a dull moment!

* * *

image credit: pbskids.org

* * *

08 October 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 14, The Crazy Saturday Edition

Welcome to Friday everyone! We made it, more or less, itchy, irritated skin and all. Please visit the birthplace of 7 Quick Takes.

My quick takes for today come from my calendar. As it happens, tomorrow's docket contains 7 bright, shiny items. I've just spent the last 20 minutes staring at those seven items, pondering how it's all going to happen. 7 arrival times. 7 little deadlines. 7 chances to get it right. 7 chances to crash and burn.

The real question is not will everyone get where they need to be. The real question is: Will Rick and I still be speaking to each other by the time everyone rests their heads on their pillows? Leave your best guess in the comments.

~ 1 ~

8:30: Son #2's soccer game; arrive at 7:45. This week is our family's snack duty. Oh, joy.

~ 2 ~

9:00: Daughter #2's soccer game. Cutest thing on a pitch. Plus, she's got a cracker of a kick.

~ 3 ~

10:55: Son #2's soccer picture day appointment. I still need to find and complete the order form. Or not. Don't get me started on picture day. It will unleash my natural cynicism.

~ 4 ~

Noon: Daughter #2's soccer picture day appointment. OK, I can't hold back anymore. Picture day is a racket. Buddy pictures, buttons, calendars, every conceivable items the kids can beg me to purchase...yet another opportunity for them to let me know how mean and horrible I am when I say no we are not going to buy a mouse pad with their cute little faces on it...and yet another envelope of photos to be stuffed in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet.

~ 5 ~

2:30: Son #1's soccer game. Arrive at 1:30.

~ 6 ~

3:00: Get Son #2 to a birthday party. Pick up at 6pm. (Still need to get a gift.)

~ 7 ~

5:oo: Son #1 is the Altar Server for the 5pm Mass. Drag the exhausted family along and hope they don't disturb the folks who attend the 5pm Mass so they can avoid all those little kids who usually go to the 9am Sunday Mass.

* * *

Seven chances for greatness: bring it on.

* * *

07 October 2010

My Kids Have It All

"IT ALL" currently includes:

• 19 wasp stings, on two bodies;
• raging poison oak;
• two wicked paper cuts;
• one blistered, swollen, crazy-allergy-response, 5-inch in diameter bug bite;
• healing blisters from new soccer shoes;
• one really, really bad attitude.

We've been powering through ice packs, benadryl, ibuprofen, neosporin, and bandaids. None of that is helping Little T, who is afflicted with the really, really bad attitude.

Nature is overrated. As are 4 year-olds.

* * *

05 October 2010

Dear You

Dear Lady in the SUV in the Costco parking lot today,

I apologize for cutting you off. I did not mean to drive past you at 5 mph, while you were 20 feet away also traveling at 5mph, both of us approaching a parking lot "intersection." But was it necessary for you to call me a bitch in front of my children? They can read lips. They announced that you think I'm a bitch. I am not a bitch. I am tired, PMS-ing, overwhelmed, and supremely annoyed at the world. Even with the ball of malcontent I am traveling with today, I did not mean to cut you off. However, now I'd kind of like to slam into the side of your SUV like Towanda.

Please go spread your venom somewhere else.


--Someone who didn't need to be called a bitch in front of her kids today

* * *

Dear Daughter,

You are brilliant. I hope someday you grow up to be a stand-up comic so that you can use the material you wrote today when you said, of a kid we know who teases other kids: "He's a pill with side effects."


--Your laughing mama

* * *

Dear School System,

Is there any possibility that I could enroll my kids in one of your schools for between 2 and 4 days per month? I am a happy homeschooling mom most of the time. But there are these specific couple of days in which I should actually not interact with human beings, let alone be in charge of their health, well-being, and intellectual growth.

So if you could just save four chairs for them, they will be there for 3 days every 26 days. Give or take. Usually fewer, especially as I get older, which by the way, what is up with that? Isn't that unnecessary cruelty? Anyway, just pour some knowledge their way three days a month, and that would be swell. I'm pretty sure that if they stay home for those three days, any good I've done in the rest of the month will be swept away in a hormone-induced tsumani.

For the sake of the children and warmly,

--One hopped-up mama

* * *

04 October 2010

You know you have a big family when...

...you hear the following clip in your head multiple times a day.

All the noise sound bite

* * *

And can I just speak to the other mothers of large families out there for a moment? All I hear is how wonderful big families are, how we are blessed with our many children, how fulfilling it is to raise them and see them grow in love and joy and hope and blah, blah, blah.

I love my kids as much as the next mom, but I'd love a reality check once in awhile. All that happy family stuff makes me feel like the only one out there ready to pull out her hair, rip off her ears, and run for the hills. I love them, but man, there are so many of them, and sometimes it feels like they're all against me.

So if you have a large brood, and you feel -- every now and then -- like trading it all in for a Mini Cooper, a collection of CD's, a GPS navigator and a cooler full of sourdough bread and fresh fruit, let me know I'm not alone.

* * *

Thankfully, today, I get a bit of a reprieve. Today, I heard that Grinchy clip on the way to dropping three of the kiddos off at their Trackers outdoor education class. The youngest is currently terrorizing her fellow preschoolers and hopefully not repeating the word "penis" too many times; it seems to be her new favorite word, which her siblings happily encouraged and gleefully imagined her using at school this week.

I am left with one adorable little 5 year old, who is making a magnet and learning about St. Francis on his Feast Day. We are taking our dog to get blessed at our parish at 1pm.

Large families are, indeed, wonderful. They are wonderful, difficult, inspiring, frustrating, exhausting, exhilarating, humbling, fun, busy, hungry, maddening, joyful, surprising, hilarious, and awesome.

So I guess we're not so different from families of any size. Except for the noise.

* * *

01 October 2010

7 Quick Takes: Volume 13, the 12th Birthday Edition

~ 1 ~

We gave our son a cell phone for his 12th birthday today. He was thrilled, of course. When we were running an errand today, and I ran into a shop with him in the car, I got a text message from him: "Can we go home now?" So we may have some things to learn about responsible use of a phone. But shortly after getting this Holy Grail of tween life, he told me the following:
Mom, now I know that having a phone doesn't make me a better person or really feel better or different. I thought it would because my friends were giving me such a hard time about not having one. But now I know.
Man, I love that kid! He is such a thinker and such a talker: I never, ever will have to wonder what he's thinking about. I may, every now and then, daydream about installing a filter between his brain and his mouth. But mostly, I will be grateful that such a device does not exist.

~ 2 ~

My beautiful 12 year old has been looking forward to two things for the past several weeks: (1) His birthday and the attendant festivities, including watching a college soccer match live and going on a camping trip with buddies, and (2) playing a momentous soccer game against some players from his former team and stuffing a victory down their throats. Actually, he's not really that ruthless, so I'm embellishing for dramatic effect, but I can say confidently that he has never wanted to win as badly as he wants to win tomorrow's game.

He has been sick for the entire week. High fevers. A killer sore throat. Stuffy head. Wicked cough. He has been really, really sick. He can't eat, because his throat hurts so much, and even his favorite foods have no taste. Fruit loops -- his chosen birthday sugar cereal -- tasted like cardboard this morning.

So we had to cancel his party and the trip to the college match, and he will not be playing in his game tomorrow. Despair, thy name is 12-year old boy. He feels supremely cheated by the Birthday Gods. This is one of those times when pretty much nothing his parents say will help him; he'll just have to suffer through today and tomorrow, itching to be out on the pitch.

Life is not fair. But did it have to be not fair on his birthday?

~ 3 ~

Same kid: He told me today that he has had a recurring dream over the past several years. In the dream, he is trying to lift something that appears very light, but when he tries to lift it, it's really, really heavy. At first, I was flummoxed. My fears were that his dream was telling him lacks confidence to do easy things. I asked him if he is able to lift the things in his dream, even though they are heavy, and the answer was yes. So I started talking, and out came the following: I think that dream is saying that even though something turns out to be hard to do, you are able to do it anyway. Which means you are very strong and very brave, that you are able to do hard things even if at first you think they are going to be easy. Hard things do not stop you.

That's about the time I was thanking the Patron Saint of Thinking On Your Feet. If there isn't one, there really should be.

~ 4 ~

We are electing a new governor here in California. I listened with great interest to their debate the other night. My chosen candidate did very well, I thought. That yahoo from the other side was annoying. But both of them get two enthusiastic thumbs down for their response to a question posed to them about immigration. I can't get this out of my head. The question was a two-parter, and I am paraphrasing from memory: First, do you see any positive impact on the state of California as a result of immigration? And second, do you support a path to legal status for those who are currently here illegally? Jerry went first. He completely ignored the first question, and gave predictable answers to the second. Next, Meg completely ignored the first question, and gave predictable opposite answers to the second.

What gives? It can't possibly be that our would-be governors see no benefit from having immigrants here. I can't believe that. Is it then, that they fear alienating those who might disagree with them? And is it remotely possible that a significant number of Californians do not see anything positive about immigrants in our midst? Do these people perhaps not eat any of the bounteous vegetables harvested in this state? Do they see hoards of non-immigrant job seekers lining up to take all those service sector jobs that immigrants take and do with integrity?

I'm curious. And disappointed in my candidate and in that other yahoo for not speaking directly to the question.

~ 5 ~

Having homeschooled for about one month now, I can safely say that there is one thing that homeschooling is not good for: having a tidy home.

If I had a working camera, I could document my dining room table and show you proof that curious minds wreak havoc. Instead, I'll just give you a list: Packaging from a National Geographic Bug Collector and Microscope set; the bug collector and the microscope; dead bugs from the collecting and microscoping fun; a Science View Digging Dirt set; a tupperware full of beads; buttons strewn across the tabletop; glue, some in the bottle, some on the table; scissors; markers, some with caps, some without; a screwdriver; an Anne Bonney action figure doll; a photo album; a thermometer and some fever medicine; a small beach ball; a half-eaten apple; a couple of plates and cups; a broken hair pin; a cardboard box partly covered with glued-down buttons and beads, a castle in the making; and today's mail. Oh, and ants. Because we are once again under attack from the little vermin.

I am living life according The Theory of Loose Parts, apparently, and I didn't even know it!

Thank you Nicole, for giving us the Nat'l Geographic set and the Digging Dirt set. They were warmly and immediately welcomed.

~ 6 ~

Recommended reading this week comes from an article in The Huffington Post. It will make you laugh if (1) you are a mother or (2) you love a mother. Your particular brand of politics will not matter. As a little teaser, I'll give you my favorite line from the article: "That's the key to understanding Moms: we simultaneously control everything and nothing."

If you like the article, and you will, you will want to check out the authors' blog: Rants From Mommyland. It has become my surefire comic relief, and I thank my sister for bringing these two great writers and women to my attention.

You can thank me for doing the same.

~ 7 ~

I spent a good bit of this evening sitting at my computer, hands poised above my keyboard, searching my brain for a 7th take. Giving up, I instead joined my husband in clean-up supervision. It didn't go well. It rarely does. After repeatedly directing my erstwhile laborers to pick up the tupperware next to the fireplace, I was dismayed to see it still there. With no small amount of firmness, I sent Lady E's bad self into the living room to get it. I was clear with her that I was displeased.

Remember that ant invasion referenced above? Well, the other day, I placed an ant trap near the fireplace. Spying it on her way back from doing my bidding, Lady E shoved the tupperware at me and said: "I wish you would check in to that ant hotel!"

Thank you, Lady E, for my 7th and final take of the day. Thus closes another week of Motherhood.

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