24 June 2014

You know you have a big family when...

…your teenager sees baby doll feet poking out from underneath a pillow and momentarily panics that there has been a serious mishap with a baby.  Some baby.  Not sure whose baby, but somebody's baby.  Because there have in the past always been lots of babies around here.

* * *

Poor kid.  He came upstairs half laughing, half crying in relief that he did not, in fact, stumble upon the scene of a homicide.

Makes me wonder what his reaction was when his last sister was born.  I imagine something like: "Oh look, another baby.  Pass the pizza, please."

* * *

19 June 2014

A Chore Deferred


What happens to a chore deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore--
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it make a mama's head explode?

* * *


  1. It does not dry up.  It will not go away.  Ever.  You will always, always have your chore to do, and there is no avoiding it or hoping that it will just go away.  That will not ever happen.  
  2. It will fester.  And then it will ooze all manner of grossness -- rotten, rank, family grossness -- all over your iPad, your plans with friends, your Instagram profile, and your brand new, shockingly ugly, overpriced soccer cleats.  The ones I will buy you when hell freezes over. 
  3. It could turn crusty.  But then, you'll inadvertently pick it like a scab and the whole nasty festering process will start over.  It could turn sweet.  If by sweet, you mean every possible county fair deep fried chocolate butter HFCS mess, consumed in large enough quantities to make a person vomit.  That's the kind of sweet it would be. 
  4. It does indeed sag.  Like a dirty diaper, and just as stinky.  And as heavy as a full Diaper Genie bag in the Duggar household.  And it will drag you down and down and down until you do something radical, as in, until you do what you are supposed to do anyway.
  5. And yes.  Your mama's head will explode.  Making an ever bigger mess for you to clean up.  You and your siblings will have to decide who's on brain detail.

* * *

Child of mine, I beg of you: do not defer your dreams.  But do your chores first.

* * *

My (for lack of a better word) inspiration

15 June 2014

12 June 2014

The World Cup is Here!

When Sam was seven years old, he colored thirty-two flags for every nation in the 2006 world cup, and thus was born a tradition.

The Wall of Nations!
Flags will come down as countries are eliminated.

For the record, we are supporting -- of course -- the United States, as well as Croatia (my heritage) and Spain (because we love them).  

For the record, we are NOT supporting Ghana or Portugal.

For the record, we are psyched, ready, giddy, and not a little bit bummed that this thing called work will get in the way of lots and lots of soccer viewing.


To players and fans everywhere -- enjoy the next four weeks!  I know we will!

* * *

08 June 2014

When Hopscotch Goes Bad

My 7 year old daughter drew a hopscotch in front of our house a few weeks ago, with multi-colored chalk.  She drew the requisite ten boxes, and busied herself for a time hopping up and down our sidewalk.

Shortly, though, ten boxes just wasn't doing it for her, so she added more.  She added and added.  I'd check on her progress every so often: twenty…thirty-two…forty-three.  She was finally content with her masterpiece when sixty-one colorful numbered boxes lined our sidewalk.  Much jumping ensued, the kind that keeps children happily playing outside into the waning light of a summer evening, hoping to stay outside forever.  It was awesome, just the kind of simple but magical thing that makes me love watching my children grow up.

This is where we all smile, and sigh, and remember the sweet innocence of youth.

However, it seems some mischievous neighbor, or perhaps just a passer-by, thought her artwork lacking.  Someone came along and added, in chalk, which he either possessed already, or came all the way up to our front porch to get, three large drawings of the male anatomy.

That warm nostalgic feeling I had about childhood and summer evenings?  Not so much anymore.  My front walk went from children's fairyland to a red-light district just like that.

They've now been there for three days: we've had so many places to be this weekend that no one has been home long enough to clean them up, until today.  In fact, my 13 year old son, V, is out there as I type, taking care of the problem.  My catalyst to clean came from this conversation, on our way home from a soccer game today:

From way back in the third row, Little T announced that she couldn't wait to get home and play on her hopscotch "court."  I glanced over at V, who knows about the graffiti already because I had to ask him if he had done it (he had not) and said quietly: "We gotta clean that up."

Predictably, my small side comment to their brother, said practically under my breath, was heard perfectly clearly by the same girls who can't hear me saying their names over and over and over and louder and louder and louder when I need them to stop bickering.  But they heard me this time, and immediately wanted to know why.

"Why?  Why do we need to clean it?  Don't get rid of it!  It's fun!  
Why would you clean it? Why MOM WHY?!?!?!?"  

Tallulah started to get upset -- how dare I suggest that we get rid of all her hard work!  That's when V leaned over to me and said: "Yeah, when [his buddy] Andy came over yesterday, he said 'Uh…dude…you know there's a big dick on your sidewalk?"

This did nothing to quell the girls' curiosity.  While they didn't hear what V said, busy as they were demanding answers from me, they couldn't help but see my reaction, which was to spit my water all over the steering wheel.   I could. not. stop. laughing.  I could not control myself.  And if the girls could possibly get MORE curious and demanding, they did:

"What??  What are you laughing?  What's so funny!??! 
What happened to the hopscotch!  

Somehow--maybe V turned around and told her--the nine year old figured it out: "Oh my gosh, I thought that was a SMILEY FACE!"  More high-octane hilarity, this time with V and one daughter joining in.

The 11 year old also figured it out and wanted everyone to STOP TALKING ABOUT IT NOW.

The only one still in the dark was the 7 year old, the original hopscotch artist, who was fairly beside herself by now demanding to know why her work needed to be destroyed.

I tapped the 9 year old for the job: "You tell her -- I don't want to be the one to say it."

Matter of factly, the 9 year old delivered the news: "Someone drew a penis and some testicles on your hopscotch, Little T."

For a split second, the mayhem ceased, as we waited to see what T would say.  Being the super mature one in the group, I just tried not to guffaw audibly or drive off the road.  And then:

"Is THAT all???  I thought it was 
going to be something BAD!"

And that, my friends, is how you respond to vulgarity when you are the youngest of five.

And she still doesn't want us to clean it up.

* * *

02 June 2014

What's Happening to Grandma

My mother feels abandoned.

She is 77 years old, and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, or at least, that's the best guess of doctors who have been trying for over two years to figure out what exactly is going on.

This is not a post about who she really is, or how unfair it is that dementia has so utterly altered her.  I am positive I have words upon words to fill up posts on that topic, posts that may or may not ever get written.  Suffice to say that I cannot think about my mother without a torrent of thoughts and feelings about the difference between what she is like today and what she was like before "the troubles."  I think she would appreciate that reference, scholar as she is of all things Irish.

This is a post about watching my children struggle with watching their grandmother struggle.

I've read things before about the so-called Sandwich Generation, that place in a person's life when she is both dealing with aging parents and raising children.  Before being one of those people, I only ever thought about the difficulty of doing both.  But over the past couple of years, I've realized the emotional challenge of (a) not having my mother around to talk to about raising the children and (b) having to help my children deal with what's happening to their grandmother.  This part of the sandwich is all about feeling the weight of the two generations on either side of me.

It has scared me, having to tell my children sad and difficult details.  It has scared me, imagining how they will react to her continual decline.  But two experiences recently have helped me realize that these children of mine are strong, and that helping them "deal" with all of this is actually helping me as well.

A few months ago, I took my two youngest daughters, ages 7 and 9, to visit my mom.  Honestly, I wouldn't have done this if I didn't have another errand to do near my parents' house and the timing was such that I couldn't go without them.  I wouldn't have done it otherwise because visiting mom is hard enough for me, and I couldn't quite imagine what it would be like to have my little ones along.  I took them first to the local park, to swing and play and grab a snack.  When I realized it was almost 6pm, I hurried them away from the park, saying: "Come on girls, we need to hurry.  I want to make sure we get to the bakery before it closes."

7 year old, almost brightly: "And, we want to make sure we get to grandma's house while she's still alive!"

Kind of a shocking thing to hear.  I tried to take it in stride and hear it for what it clearly was: acknowledgement that things are not OK for grandma.  I told both girls that while grandma was sick and having a hard time, I was sure she would be there and happy to see us when we got there.

When we did get there, it was a tough visit.  The girls hadn't seen grandma in months, so there was the obvious and striking physical decline for them to deal with.  Also, my mom was feeling lonely, with my dad away for the day and her usual caregiver out for a few hours.  So she kept telling me and the kind woman filling in as caregiver that she has been abandoned.  We assured her this wasn't true.  But when it came time for me take my daughters home, it was pretty tough to be telling her goodbye while she kept wailing "Abandoned!  Abandoned!"

I was devastated that my girls had to hear all of that.  We talked about it on the way home.  They talked about it with their dad over the next few days.  Our seven year old, in particular, wanted to talk about it being sad.

But a few weeks later, when I was again going to see my mom, my youngest daughter begged and pleaded to come too.  She wanted to see grandma.  She wanted to tell grandma that she loved her.

She was not scared off by the dementia or the sadness: she wanted to run back into that house and be a force for good.  I tell my children, almost every morning, when I leave the house or drop them at school: "Be a force for good in the world today!"  Usually, I'm being goofy, although I do mean it, every time.  Apparently, the little one is listening.  Actually, it's probably not me: it's probably just her natural instinct to hug people who are sad.

The other story comes from my oldest.  He also came with me to see my mom recently, and he hadn't seen her for over a year.  He was shocked.  I was sad for him, and still am, because I know that what he saw that day is staying with him.  I know this from the questions he has asked me every couple of days since that visit.  First, he told me that it was really hard for him.  I told him I knew that it was and that I was so proud of him for being able to talk to her directly and kindly, even while it was hard.   Then he asked me these questions:

What is this like for you, mom?
Is grandma in pain?
Does she laugh anymore?

A few days later:

How is papa (grandpa) doing with all of the stuff grandma is going through?  Is he OK?

A few days later:

Does grandma remember her friends?  Does she still care about them?

A few days later:

Does grandma get to go places anymore?
Does she enjoy things still?

Each of those questions gave me a chance to say a little more about my mom and what she's going through.  And surprisingly, articulating the answers helped me realize that I was worrying over many of the same questions.  His questions also made me (again) marvel at the way his mind works, at the way he always pushes us, always wants to understand what other people are going through.  Talking to him about my mom is helping to demystify for me the whole scary process of helping my kids deal with what's happening to grandma.

These two stories from my children make me grateful.  Grateful that despite being uncomfortable and nervous and fearful, I have had the chance to talk to them about what's going on.  It has helped me more than it has helped them, I think.  They have what they need: the instincts to love the people they love, and the need to ask all the right questions, the ones about laughing and pain and remembering our friends.

All I have to do is pay attention.

* * *