Showing posts from 2014

Cupcake Dreams

I want to be a kid again.  I want to tell stories the way my youngest daughter does.  I want to dream about cupcakes.  And I really, really want a Dream Teller of my very own. During dinner last night, Little T was devouring my homemade spaghetti sauce and making me feel like Martha Stewart, Julia Child, and Ree Drummond , all rolled into one, and she mentioned that she knew she was going to have a good dinner tonight because her Dream Teller told her so. Come again, daughter? Your what ? That's right.  She has a Dream Teller.  Every morning, after a night of dreaming about cupcakes and unicorns and whatever other lovelies visit her while she is sleeping, her Dream Teller tells her what her dreams mean.  Here's last night's: Actually, I don't want to be a kid again: I want to be THIS KID. * * *

Averting Awkward Alliteration

Little T learned about alliteration today in school, and she had a great time creating little one line "poems" with her classmates. My personal favorite, koan-like in its profound simplicity, is this: The careful cat cooked colorful cupcakes in the courtyard. Let that soak into your brain for a moment. It's pure beauty, right? She remembered many of the others she composed at school: The lion licked lots of lemon lollipops. Savana slid down several slippery slides . The seal told his sister several silly stories. Then we started making up our own, Little T, Lady E, and I.  I'm guessing the ones we did here at home used the words "butt" and "poop" more than the ones Mrs. Onu collected from her 2nd graders. I'll save you most of those but here are a few of the gems we came up with: Happy hippies hold hands and hop through hothouses. Isabelle has a big icky contagious illness. The canine’s colorful crap cool

Mr. Angry Truck Driver Guy, this is for you.

Driving home in the twilight tonight, my two youngest daughters in tow, we encountered one of those teachable moments. I had just managed to avert a potent Clash of the Sisters, and was basking in the success of having steered us successfully away from the threat of punches to an invitation to "come up on my bed when we get home" from the top-bunk dwelling sister.  It was glorious.  And rare. We were sitting at a red light, when my youngest asked for pain medication and a drink of water.  She is currently in a wrist brace from a slight sprain, and her wrist was hurting.  Also, she can't do some things, such as open a water bottle.  I glanced up at the light, marking that it was still red, grabbed an ibuprofen from my purse, gave it to her, and then reached for the water bottle, opened it and handed it over.  She took the pill, drank the water, and handed back the bottle. In the time it took for those things to happen, which seemed quite brief to me, the light turned

Hey, I'm a Literary Mama!

This is me: just imagine that's a bottle of Simple Green in my hand, and not a skull. I am pleased to share with you that today I joined the ranks of some women writers I very much admire: Literary Mama has published a piece of my writing !  There are two reasons this is fun for me: First, because someone other than me posted something I wrote.  That's just awesome. Second, because I can share Literary Mama with you!  Please visit, browse, share, comment, and repeat.  It's a wonderful space for the "maternally inclined. Enjoy! Post Script. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do wear poofy Elizabethan sleeves and tights while cleaning.  Doesn't everyone?

Thank you, all

Thank you to everyone who has shared kind words with me after my latest post about my mom .  Each one made me tear up a little bit…good tears, as opposed to the sloppy, nose-running, blotchy-faced, sleeve-mucking business that sometimes happens to some people but not me.  Ever.  Mostly. I haven't been able to keep up with this blog very much in the last several months due to having a job I love and a family I pretty much like well enough.  But I'm very grateful that I have this space, for those moments when I need to write something down.  Writing, as many people have said, is a solitary activity.  But reading -- and commenting and sharing -- those things create community, or show you one was there all along.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading and responding. I'm grateful for you all. Much love, Monica

Dancing Hands

Dementia and decline. Decline and dementia. Disease and depression and doctors. It can feel all consuming, as if all those "D-words" are the only things that exist, as if the person suffering is hardly there, crowded out by D's big and small.  My father's time these days is spent managing all those D's, trying to make sense of them, trying to respond to them, and trying to make BIG D DECISIONS about care for his wife of 49 years, 8 months, and 18 days. My too brief visits with my mother these days are overwhelming for so many reasons: guilt that I cannot visit more often; anguish over what she is experiencing and our inability to help; compassion for her, and for my father; gratitude that I can be there at least in some small ways.  And great sadness over how much she has changed. It is a painful time, but it is not without its bright moments.  As is usually the case, one such bright moment came to me, and to my mother, courtesy of one of my kids. I broug


Take heart!  Be strong! Stand firm!  Little T, that mighty girl, that force of nature, that pint sized hurricane…even she can listen to her mama. Parents, everywhere, if this kid can listen, absorb, and change behavior accordingly, then guess what: this parenting thing isn't impossible after all.  We can make a difference and -- dare to hope -- raise contributing members of society! Little T came to me the other day and said: "Mama, I'm having a lot of maturement lately!   I just put my shoes away the first time you asked!  And I was going to yell at you from the couch to bring me more food, but I got up and made it myself instead!  I even warmed it up in the microwave and put the parmesan cheese on and everything!  And I was really mad at Sam, but I didn't even yell!  I just took a breath and it all went away! I'm so maturement!" (While not a fan of the exclamation point, I find it necessary here.  While she may be getting "more matu

She's On To You, New Teacher

I took my 5th grader to a Meet and Greet with her new teacher this evening.  She seems very nice.  I liked her bearing.  Lady E was charming and sweet.  Then, when I mentioned to the teacher that the 5th graders are a great group of kids, Lady E said: "Well…we're a little goofy. Or a lot goofy." Ms. New Teacher said: "Goofy is good!  I like goofy." Later, at home, I asked Lady E if she liked Ms. New Teacher.  She said sure.  I remarked that I liked what her teacher said about being goofy. Lady E cut to the chase: "They all say that at the beginning of the year.  At first, it's all ' Oh! Goofy is great !' and then by half way through it's all: ' STOP BEING GOOFY !' She's just trying to sweet talk us and pull the wool over our eyes." Teachers beware: Mixed metaphors aside, this is one nine year old you will not be able to fool or trick or otherwise befuddle.  She's a sharp little thing who won't let you get

A Mother's Soliloquy

Just imagine that's me, and I'm holding a spray bottle of Simple Green.   To clean, or not to clean—that is the question. Whether tis better in the main to suffer The grime and messes of outrageous children Or to take arms against a sea of clutter And by opposing end it.   To clear, to wash No more—and by one wash to say we end The chaos, and the thousand natural shocks That kids are good for.   ‘Tis an insanity Foolishly to be wished.   To wash, to clean To clean—perchance to rest; ay, there’s the rub, For in that space of clean what chances come When I have straightened up this living room Must give them strength.   That’s the truth That makes calamity of so much cleaning. For they will grab the chance and scorn my time, Th’ mother’s wrong, the proud children crazy, The pangs of unpleasant work, the dirty dishes, The insolence of children, and the spurns A patient mother endures from piles of toys When she herself might her good boo

Don't Say Hurry

Note: first published December 2007.  Reprising today because I need the reminder.   I went to the grocery store tonight, because dinner was, well...waffles...and we were out of powdered sugar. (What? You've never had pizza for breakfast?) We've been out of powdered sugar for a long time, and more than a few folks in our house prefer this confection to syrup on their griddle cakes. Powdered sugar is the one thing I keep forgetting to put on my grocery list, and we've been suffering without it. So when Rick said he would make waffles for dinner, he had a condition: Get Thee To The Store and Come Back With Powdered Sugar. And fruit shake makings. OK, I decided that was a fair deal. I took Elizabeth with me. The waffle iron was already hot, and the batter was ready, so this had to be a fast trip. Not TOO fast, of course; after all, one moving violation a day is enough, and I've already had a chance to chat with Johnny Law today after "not coming to a complete st

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." * * *

A Chore Deferred

Question:  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? * * * Answers: 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.   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.  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,

Best Goal Celebration So Far...

…goes to the arm-waving Columbians! Why It's Called the Beautiful Game

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

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 pos

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.

Creativity Cures the Crazies

Yeah, so it's been crazy around here. Like 15 soccer games in one weekend crazy. Like "why did I take on that freelance project? crazy. Like three car repairs in one month crazy. Like too many people needing too many socks and too many meals and too many interventions crazy. But it turns out, there's a cure for that.  I found it in my very own, crazy whack-a-doodle house yesterday morning.  I was racing around trying to get everyone out the door, which I'll just say up front I really suck at doing.  Spare me the lecture about teaching everyone to do for themselves.  I'd suck at it if were only me I needed to get ready.  I'm raising little apples that aren't falling far from me, so they all suck at it too. So there I am, racing, stressing,  and spreading my unique brand of freak-out far and wide among my minions. The angst was high, my friends, the mama was frazzled.  But all of the sudden, and for no particular reason, I got stopped short by thi

Parenting Books Are a Racket: Here's Why

You know those parents who always talk to their kids in calm voices?  And are always saying things like, "I think you could have made a better choice"? And are irritatingly peaceful when their children are doing things that would make the rest of us want to scream and/or run for the hills? I used to roll my eyes at them.  Now, I want to be one of them. I used to think they were acting that way because they were sure that doing so was a better parenting strategy, that they would raise better children with this method than with all that yellin' the rest of us do.. Lately, I'm thinking that this is not the case.  I've tried that calm voice thing.  For days on end now, I've been curbing my yelling, encouraging better choices, offering positive alternatives, and modeling the change I want to see in my children.  It's totally not working.  They remain shrill gremlin-like harpies. I don't think parenting makes a whit of difference.  Case in point: K

Good Friday Rerun

Originally posted back in 2010. 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? ? * * * Postscript: the 3 and 5 year olds of this story are now 7 and 9.  I still howl every time I think of it.  Also? The first time I posted this, I got two awesome answers to the real question: Sandy   said... Don't be silly - He'd be the c

Kurt! I Had No Idea I Loved You So!

I have learned more cool stuff about Kurt Vonnegut in the last few weeks than I ever thought I would want to know. First, there was the article in the Huffington Post  about the letter Mr. Vonnegut wrote in 2006 to a class of high school students who had asked him to come and visit them.  He declined the visit, but gave them the best life advice ever.  Good for students, good for people.  Good for curmudgeonly moms too. "Do art, and do it for the rest of your lives."  Go read the rest .  Seriously, do it right now. And it turns out, writing was not his only art!  Page-turner, a New Yorker blog, has a post up about Vonnegut's "whimsical drawings."  Here is one: My favorite! Look at that.  It's awesome.  And I do not mean to diminish his work one teensy bit when I say that it reminds me of my kids' art.  Their art is awesome too.  I particularly love the way he has colored in some of the shapes created by his free flowing black lin

So Over Frozen

After disappointing my daughters this morning and earning the title Meanest Mom Ever for the umpteenth time by not agreeing to buy a Do You Want to Build a Snowman ringtone for my phone, that song was -- predictably -- stuck in my head.  I even made a graphic for it: It stuck in my head so badly, that I finally just gave in and came up with an impromptu version of my own.   Perhaps a few of you can relate. So here, for your enjoyment,  is an ode to my daughters, who are making me koo-koo-for-cocoa-puffs with their endless, infernal repetitions of those damn catchy Frozen numbers. Do You Wanna Make My Ears Bleed?   (Sing along…I know you know the tune.) Me: Child? (Said child, rapping on my skull: Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap, rap) Do you wanna make my ears bleed? Come on, admit you do. I always hear you, everyday Singing away It's like you’ve pushed me far Off the deep end, baby And now, I’m nuts I wish you would stop sing-EEEENG Do you w

Denial is a river you can float pretty far on...

Sunday started far too early yesterday.  Curse that Daylight Savings Time thing.  There I was, cuddling up with my youngest at 6:45am, feeling the full effects of missing a precious hour of snooze. She, on the other hand, was radiant at that ungodly hour.  She climbed in bed, looked up at me with a satisfied smile, tucked her hands behind her head and sighed blissfully: " Ahhhh, it felt so good to get an extra hour of sleep last night !" While it was inspiring to see someone so happy at that hour of the morning, I felt the need to correct her.  I told her that I was happy she felt so rested!  And that actually, we lost an hour of sleep overnight, instead of getting an extra one. " Oh no, no, no, mama!  I went to bed early last night!  I was asleep when you all skipped that hour of sleep, and then I stayed asleep even longer, so I got an extra one! " Little T springs forward with panache. :) * * *

What I Want My Daughters To Know. And My Sons.

The deeper business of being beautiful on the inside. Please share this far and wide.  Lupita, I am so grateful to you for your words. * * *

Don't Miss This Opportunity

Yesterday, I found out why I've been experiencing muscle pain and muscle fatigue for the past several months: turns out I have a pretty severe Vitamin D deficiency.  How delightful that my inability to move is not a character flaw!  How delightful is health insurance!  How delightful that, with Vitamin D supplements on board, my children might remember me for something besides collapsing on my pillows!  I am so looking forward to feeling better. This discovery is a good reminder that we should listen to our bodies.  I've been ignoring my collection of symptoms for a long, long time, assuming that it was just a matter of not getting enough rest, or just because I'm getting older, or just not important enough to pay attention to.  I would never have ignored the ongoing, chronic aches and pains of one of my children; why was I willing to ignore my own? Think about your own body: are you ignoring anything that you maybe should give a little credence to?  Anything worth aski

Bella Gets Her Wish

Transcription : Once upon a time a princess lived.   Her name was Bella.   Bella worked hard for what she wanted, which wasn’t very hard because she got whatever whenever she wanted.   One day Bella saw normal children doing normal things getting dirty in the dirt.   She smiled.   She wished she could get dirty and laugh.   She always had to be clean and dainty.   She thought “Ick!” “I hate being all dainty and pretty!” said Bella.   The next morning she woke up in a ordinary green house instead of a castle.   She went into her living room and found her parents but they were ordinary parents not dainty parents.   Bella smiled and thought “My wish came true!” For the rest of her life she will be normal and dirty not dainty, not clean, and not a princess, but a soccer player.   The End. * * * Why yes, we do live in a green house, as a matter of fact.  And yes, we are rather ordinary.  I love this kid's stories.  Here