Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sometimes They Surprise You

Lately, I've felt like I'm failing with the boy.

Parenting is hard. You never know if you're really doing a good job. Every stage brings it's own set of challenges that give you one more opportunity to ultimately screw the kid up. And you really won't know if you've successfully guided them through each stage for decades. Even then, they could one day start making choices that reveal that, yes, you did in fact mess them up for life. It's a pretty awesome and rewarding job. It's a good thing unconditional love and devotion kicks in at birth, otherwise you might give up about the time the terrible twos hit.

The boy has been challenging lately. He's a pre-teen displaying all of the hormonal emotions that come with that. Including the kick of testosterone that makes him want to fight with all of his pre-teen friends who want to fight with him. He's challenging my authority. He's been making fun of his sisters and ignoring them in the hallways at school. He's angry with his dad for leaving. Of the three, he's taken the separation the hardest. His mouth has been moving at break neck pace with one negative statement after the next. He's just plain moody.

It's hard to watch and it feels like everything I try to say or do to help him through this stage is falling flat.

But the thing about parenting is, just when you think you've screwed them up beyond repair they surprise you with some incredibly thoughtful act. And instantly your hope in raising a kind and responsible adult is restored.

Today, the boy surprised me.

He went on a field trip with his class to the state capital. He went to the government building, the science museum, and the history museum. His teacher had told them that they could bring money for the gift shops. So I gave him some money so that he could get a little souvenir from his trip. When I picked him up I asked him about the day. He told me about all of the fun he had with friends and the interesting things he learned. Then he pulled out the little bag of what he had bought at the gift shop. First, he pulled out an arrowhead key chain he had bought for himself. Then, the boy who ignores his sisters in the hallway and calls them annoying, pulled out two rings that he had bought, in front of his friends, just for them. Then he gave me a beautiful stone and showed me the one he had bought for his dad. I was shocked by the thoughtfulness of it all. I couldn't believe he had spent his money on us. Especially when he told me that there had been something else he had wanted to buy but couldn't get it because he wouldn't have been able to get the gifts for us. I've couldn't quit telling him thank you and that I was proud of him.

The gifts were little things. But they meant the world because he did it completely on his own.

Maybe we'll make it through this stage after all. Maybe it doesn't matter as much if I'm not perfect at this job or that I fail occasionally. Maybe it has a lot more to do with the fact that underneath the pre-teen emotions and mouthiness is a good heart.

He's my boy. He has the potential to completely break my heart and to completely warm it. Either way I love him more than life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dear God...

This is Analiese's prayer before bed tonight. I had to come to the computer immediately because I wanted to make sure I remembered it exactly as she said it. It's just about the most perfect prayer I've ever heard. This girl can bring me to tears faster than anyone I've ever known.

Oh, my sweet girl. I love you.

Dear God,

I hope you're feeling well today. I have pink eye, but I got to hang out with my mom today. Thanks for my friends. Oh, and I hope Jesus is ok today, too. Take care of daddy please. And God, even if everything goes bad, I still love you. The end.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekends Are For...

...staying in your pajamas too long. And snuggling up with your sister to watch your favorite Saturday morning cartoons.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quietly Entering Spring

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." - Charles Dickens

That is exactly how the first day of spring arrived here. It was warm but the clouds were low and heavy with rain. I think we'll be sleeping through a spring storm tonight.

The spring fairies seem to be waking slowly from their winter slumber.

That's fine with me. I like spring in small, bright bursts of rainbow-colored flowers and God-green leaves.

Let the winter slowly fade away as the earth arises to the spring. This way the rejuvination of the season will last longer so that I can be repeatedly reminded that, though winter may bring darkness and death, spring will always brings new life and light.

Friday, March 18, 2011


This is home to me.

A simple and delicious meal set for my family. Home to me is a familiar place of comfort where you can rest from the world in the people you love. It's talking and laughing and filling our bodies and spirits with nourishment. It's having someone to take care of and someone to take care of you. It's sharing a moment, a look, an inside joke, a fear, an up, a down.

This is a scene that makes my heart swell with joy. It's the moment right before I call them to the table and they pour in, a loud, jumbled mess of beautiful.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish For The Day

Oh, the music in the air!

An' the joy that's irvywhere -
Shure, the whole blue vault of heaven is wan grand triumphal arch,
An' the earth below is gay
Wid it's tender green th'-day,
Fur the whole world is Irish on the Seventeenth o' March!

-Thomas Augustin Daly

Nothing perks my spirits quite like the day of the Irish. The green, the shamrocks, the leprechauns, the fairies. It's a no expectations, mystical, fun celebration of a day. I love this day! And so do my three sprites. Even the boy got into the leprechaun-dressing. (And it only took 10 years to get him to overcome his shyness in order to fully jump into the fun of it all.) We started the day in good Irish spirits and we'll end it with a hearty Irish stew and some soda bread, with some good mischief made in between. It's a good to be Irish, if only for the day.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The air around our house is stale with winter. So I threw open the windows to let in something fresh. As I did a petal fell from the dying roses by my bed. Small and seemingly meaningless, yet I stared at the fallen petal wondering at the symbolism.

My heart is dying from the cold of winter. I need a little spring.

I got a babysitter to come that very night and went out for the first time since he left. I've been everything around this place, alone, for nearly two months now. I needed a minute to breath. I melted into an arm chair at a friend's house and laughed and forgot for a minute my upside down world.

I came home feeling refreshed. I kissed each sleeping child on the forehead with a smile. Then I made my way to my own room and came face to face with those damn roses. Still by my bed, dying. I can't escape this winter.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekends Are For...

...roller skating in old school roller rinks with polished wood floors and disco balls. On old school tan four wheeled skates. For learning to balance and dancing on skates. For pizza breaks and red-cheeked happily exercised kids. For little sprites wondering if they'll ever be as fast and smooth as some of the older kids. For watching goofy teenagers show off for each other and appreciating that your three aren't there yet. Oh, the nostalgia of it all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


*warning this post contains a naughty word repeated...but it's so funny it's worth it.*

Yesterday I was sitting at the kitchen table with the kids helping them with homework. The older two were working quietly and I was helping Sicily make a chart of rhyming words. Across the top were the words Ham, Fox, Cat, and Sit. She added sit, it wasn't even supposed to be there, but she's an excited learner so I let it go. She was supposed to list 5 rhyming words under each one. So we start with Ham: Sam, Jam, Nam, Clam, and Sham. Good. Now Fox: Box, Nox, Cox, Lox, Shox. And so on. I should say at this point that she has recently learned the 'Sh' sound and she loves the way it feels to say it so all of her writing has had a lot of 'Sh' words. And now Sit: Mit, Kit, Bit, Lit, Shit. And then our conversation went something like this.

Me: "Oh, sorry honey. You're going to erase that last one."

Sicily: "Why? Shit is a good word. It rhymes."

Me: "Yes it does, but that's one of those words that we don't say. I don't think your teacher will like seeing it."

Sicily: "Why? It's just shit. It rhymes and I like that word and it says S H. I want to write shit."

Me: "I'm sorry baby but you're going to have to erase it. We just don't say that word. OK?"

At this point the other two can barely contain their laughter because naughty words are hysterical to children but they are about to be rolling in the floor.

Sicily: Now she's heated and yelling because she a feisty little sprite, "I like SHIT. I'm using shit. I'm leaving it. I like the word shit. It's a good word. Shit. Shit. Shit! See it rhymes with sit."

Me: very calmly, "You have to erase that word. It's not a word we use. I'm sorry but your teacher won't like that word."

Sicily: Arms crossed, lip stuck out, "Fine." She plops back down in her seat and erases the whole Sit column.

Somehow I've always known that of all of my children this child would be the one yelling at the top of her lungs "I like the word shit!". Oh, my feisty little sprite. I fear she's going to be a mess of a teenager. It's a good thing she's so damn, I mean darn, cute.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's a Mouse-Mobile

This has been the bane of my existence in the last few weeks...

What is it? It's a vehicle propelled by a mouse trap, of course. It's Chris' Odyssey of the Mind problem. And every parent with school aged children knows that if your child has a project you have a project. You may be reading this as a parent of young children or no children and saying to yourself, "Not me. That's cheating. My kids will do their own work." But that's one of those silly things that people without experience in the field say. You will help them because watching your child crumble to tears over the impossibility of finishing this on their own will make it impossible for you not to help them. Now, I'm not saying you should do it for them. Just "help" them. And by helping them, you will be the one crumbled on the floor in tears over the impossibility of doing this project. Or maybe that's just me on this particular project.

Now, I'm rambling. That's what this project has done to me. Let's get back to the topic at hand. So that is Chris' Mouse-mobile. A vehicle propelled only by a mousetrap. After months of working with his team to complete it, Saturday was the day he got to present it to the judges. And it worked! Sort of.

I feel I should explain Odyssey of the Mind at this point to those who aren't familiar, as I wasn't. It's not just that they have to invent something that solves the problem presented. That invention has to complete a serious of tasks. The team also has to come up with a story and script to present their invention completing these tasks. They also have to build a set and design costumes. And none of the ideas for this can come from the parents. We can show them how to build it and how to use the tools. But the finished product has to be done by the team. (The judges actually ask the kids, who are awful liars, so as parents you really can't have that much input.) On the day of competition, along with presenting their long term problem, they will be presented with a spontaneous problem. Something they have 10 minutes to solve on the spot, such as "You have 2 Popsicle sticks, a plastic cup, a sheet of paper, and a ping pong ball. Build a structure that can support the weight of 1 team member while protecting the ping pong ball." (That was really one of the spontaneous problems in past years.) In sum, this is the most stressful project we have ever worked through. Too many parts for 10 and 11 year old boys. And yet in the end they pulled it off! Sort of.

I keep saying sort of because none of it really worked during the presentation. But the set looked great, the lines were mostly remembered. And the cars moved, in the wrong direction perhaps, but the important thing is they moved.

All in all, I think it was a good, character building experience for the boy. I highly recommend doing it once. We, however, will never do it again.

But I am proud of my boy. He worked hard and pushed through his frustration. And so did I.

Last minute team meeting before the presentation

Proud of themselves after the spontaneous problem. The stickers say, shhhh!, because they can't tell other teams what the spontaneous problem is and they don't because if anyone doesn't like cheaters it's 10 and 11 year olds!

Getting ready to start the long term problem presentation. Their script was inspired by Tom and Jerry, you know because it's a mouse-mobile. Chris is in all black because he's the crew. That means he didn't have any lines, my shy boy, but he and two other boys were responsible for running the mouse-mobiles through the tasks. He stayed calm and composed the whole time, even though they only sort of worked. It was impressive.

The whole team was older brothers with little sisters. The little sisters thought the boy's show was great. They gave the loudest applause at the end.

And now the mouse-mobile at work. Like I said, it sort of worked. It was supposed to raise the flag. He gets two runs to make it work. The first time the string came unwound from the flag pole, but the car made it to the target point. The second time the car didn't make it to the target point so it didn't raise the flag. But he got points for the car actually running. So we're saying it worked. Sort of. Either way I'm proud of him for keeping his cool and pushing through. In the end he made a vehicle that was actually propelled by a mouse trap. I think that's pretty impressive!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Plague

Our house has been suffering from what can only be called The Plague. Oh, it's been an awful bug. Coughing, fever, congestion, stomach knots, and aches all over. Blah, is the best word for it. We've been quarantined from the outside world for two weeks now. One by one falling to it helplessly. Even my big strong boy has been struck down. He missed three days of school. On the fourth day I sent him back thinking he could handle it, only to have him come home and crash in exhaustion. So now he's home again with me, sleeping. Oh, I'm ready to be done with this.

Come spring! Come quickly so that we can air out this house of such sickness!

I have to say it's had a nice positive side, though. I've gotten a lot of mama snuggle time and game time with my babies. Even the five foot one. While my heart is sad that we're all sick, the joy of quality time can't be underestimated.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


It's good to be loved.

There are two things that can really show you how loved you are. Being sick and being heartbroken. If your both the love can be overwhelming.

Notes from dear, old friends come flying in by mailbox and inbox. I keep them by my bed and hold them close to my heart when I'm sad. Care packages start showing up on the door step. It's like Christmas in a box. People start showing up on the door step too. People from both near and far, there just to give you hugs and soup. Grandmas and Aunts buy you special treats that look like dolls and video games but are really hugs and kisses in disguise.

Yes, it's good to be loved.

We feel very loved right now. Thank you.