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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

the retrospective – a.k.a. how to put a positive spin on procrastination

I’ve been running abysmally late on everything for the past year, so it should come as no surprise to me (or anyone else for that matter) that I am just getting around to writing The Great Mother’s Day Post. Mother’s Day has never been a big ordeal for me as a mom. Usually it is spent honoring my own mother and my mother-in-law. This year, my mother-in-law’s back surgery and my mother’s work schedule provided an opportunity for the entire first half of the day to be spent with just my husband and children (and a few hundred other church goers for a few hours - if anyone is keeping track of statistics). Should you be one of the aforementioned statisticians, take note. You must subtract one of my children from your log books as he couldn’t be bothered to get dressed in time to leave the house (or even come down the stairs).

After church, the children decided to take me out to lunch (on their father’s dime, of course) to the only local non-fast-food restaurant with no waiting time, where we feasted to our hearts’ content on mediocre fare. After the meal, I was sent off to the seclusion of the automobile while the brood descended (with force) upon the nearby discount store. My eyes were duly averted until the homeward journey was accomplished whereupon I was gifted with multiple blessings.

Things started out on a traditional path. The abandoned sixteen year old had ridden his razor a mile and a half to the grocery store where he purchased a single rose (somewhat wilted from the return journey through un-seasonal heat). The girlchild proudly handed over a flower of a different sort.

I have often marveled at the offbeat style my children possess. They are not normal by any stretch of the imagination (though enough ordinariness adorns them in day to day life to present a somewhat convincing portrayal of sanity).

Spongebob puffed up his six year old chest with great pride and anticipation as he handed me the gift he had chosen.

The freckled one grinned as he surrendered his personal selection, chosen with great care and the whole of his eleven year old heart.

My little leprechaun practically leapt from his eight year old skin as he produced his offering.

The sly, almost hidden grin of The Instigator – age 14 – caught my periphery briefly before his token was revealed.

And alas, the pink one had yet another gracious honorarium.

It is, therefore, with great pride that I present to you
The Face of a Mother:

Of particular interest to me are the words upon the pink one’s final gift - not clearly visible in these blurry excuses for photography: "Catapults babies up to 15 feet! Note: Real babies should never be catapulted or thrown."

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


fade to pink

wasn’t it yesterday
that I enveloped you -
my blood-pulsing breath
enfolding you in a cocoon
of protection?

my soul holds you, still,
but I can no longer contain you

you break free
in hair flung
butterfly ballet abandonment.

wasn’t it yesterday
that I marveled
as a second x chromosome
made you silence
the ranks
with your femininity?

you set up your throne
and proceeded to charm
your royal subjects
into willful servitude.

wasn’t it yesterday
that you teetered uncertainly
on upright legs
with Columbus-like spirit?

discovery voyages
launched you forward
into the era of

wasn’t it yesterday
that you were
my baby girl?

-tle 2007

Happy birthday forever-baby. I love you.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

teething biscuits

sleeping with bread

Many moons ago, I became a parent for the first time. I was graced with the chance of staying home to parent. This almost didn’t come to pass, and it didn’t promote financial abundance, but it did happen. After a few short months, the N boy developed wanderlust. Considering the fact that his world was the size of the blanket I placed him upon before this transition, his initial explorations were not of great distance. He swam across the parquet flooring with fervent determination and almost equally intense effort.

In those years, I was known to peruse the occasional parenting tome, so I adhered to the philosophy that it was simple to reform a mischief-seeking child. The books all agreed: If a child is getting into things they should not be touching, merely distract them with something they are permitted to explore. Nothing to it! This advice worked well until the boy discovered the bottom shelf of the wall unit. On the left, the shelf held various books. To the right, the album collection could be found (for you youngsters, think great big CD’s that had to be played upon an enormous contraption called a turntable). At first, this bounty was relatively safe. The boy merely ran his fingers across the spines of the books. Before long, however, he could often be found sitting on the floor with rifled books and de-jacketed records strewn about him. My entire library soon bore bite marks.

No distraction ever seemed powerful enough to sway his purpose once he set out for the shelf. When he began to rejoice in the sound of ripping paper, I realized my tactics had to change. The parenting experts were ready for just such a happening. Saying, “No,” repeatedly was, according to the pundits, the surest way to break the fragile spirit of my child. As a result, I embarked upon the grievous task of reorganizing my storage system – placing only child friendly items on the bottom shelf. As he grew, so did his determination. No shelf was too high. “No!” served only to make him look guilty if he was caught in the act. It was never sufficient to keep him out of trouble in the first place. My books were exiled. His toys took over every accessible surface. I had to wonder if it wouldn’t have been easier and more effective to introduce him sooner to the concept of the definite NO.

In the Garden of Eden, God set up a play place for Adam and Eve. Everything was an acceptable toy – except for one tree. I notice from the scriptures that He placed that tree in the center of the garden. There were many distractions for his children around the periphery. Years of productive play could be possible without thought of that tree even intruding upon their merry-making. I also notice that He told them, “No,” right off the bat. They seemed content.

One day, that crafty serpent brought Eve’s attention to the tree. Like the N boy running his fingers over the pages of the book, gradually growing his anticipation by the sound of rustling paper, the serpent’s words awoke Eve’s curiosity. I can imagine if I were in her place - the subtle hiss of the serpent’s voice provoking such insatiable curiosity, the curiosity gnawing at my thoughts until I could no longer think of anything else - the first tentative steps to briefly touch the fruit, then smell it, then caress it. With each successive investigation, the temptation to experience the forbidden treat would mount until becoming irresistible.

Temptation comes in many forms. Often, I am tempted to dwell upon the familiar. God made the world so vast and so full of variety. There is always some new direction to grow, some new blessing to see, but somehow, I keep reaching for the old standard. Refusing to stretch into the next stage of what God has in store for me, I rest comfortably in the mundane.

Eventually, the N boy grew even more. He stopped chewing on my books and started reading them. Adam and Eve, while expelled from the garden, attempted to raise their children with knowledge of the awesomeness of God.

As a child of God, I too must grow. My growth cannot be purely internal. I need to open up my spirit to a willingness to be taken out of my comfort zone. Am I up for the challenge? I’m not so sure, but He is strong enough to lift me should I stumble. He is patient enough to remain by my side no matter how small my steps.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Did you know? (edited)

If you add one atypical brat to one mother of a brat and attempt to get that mother a quick chest x-ray in preparation for back surgery, time suddenly loses all meaning?

After spending a slight portion of the afternoon on the phone with a very close friend and bringing her up to date on the past week’s activities (and the ones upcoming for the next few), she said, “I pray for you…gosh, I don’t even know what to pray for you.”

I responded, “A sense of humor.” I figure it’s the only way I am going to survive the next few weeks. In that vein, maybe some of the more humorous aspects of the day will tumble out of my fingers in this greatly abbreviated account. I have my doubts.

The plan:
-Drop the N boy off at work in AM
-Pick my mother up
-Quickly take her to get the x-ray
-Take her back home (allowing extra time in consideration of my traveling companion, I still thought I could be home in time to possibly feed the other children lunch, and squeeze in a respectable amount of schooling).

The reality:
-I called my mother to remind her of the time I would be picking her up in order to give her adequate primp-age opportunity.
-I called my mother again to let her know that I would be arriving in approximately 15 minutes.
-I called my mother again to let her know that I had, indeed, arrived.
-My mother informed me that she would be another 5 or 10 minutes.
-Knowing my mother, I began cleaning out all of the rubble that accrues in my vehicle during rec sporting seasons instead of coming inside to wait (which would have made her get ready more slowly because of conversation possibilities).
-My mother emerges from her home approximately 39 minutes after my arrival.
-She motions for me to come lend assistance as she has too much to carry.
-My mother’s neighbor comes outside and they discuss other neighbors and health issues for approximately 15 minutes (during which time I am loading her things into the car, then continuing to clean).
-We finally get into the car several minutes after I had projected entry to the radiology center would occur.
-We drive to the radiology center.
-I begin to park.
-I pull back out of the space as she has located another spot she feels is closer to the entrance (it isn’t).
-I suddenly change direction before pulling into that space when a spot which truly is closer becomes available.
-We enter the building.
-We detour to the bathrooms.
-We sign in at radiology.
-We begin the (short) wait.
-I allow myself to inventory the items she brought into my car and suffer the beginning symptoms of dread.
-When she is called back for the x-ray, I quickly exit the building and call home to inform the S boy that he will need to make a (late) lunch for his siblings.
-I re-enter.
-My mother comes out from the back.
-She sits back down.
-She explains the reasons she should have gotten a copy instead of having it sent to the doctor directly.
-After five minutes, she tells me, “Oh, I’m done, by the way.”
-We head back to the car.
-She requests a stop at the mall across the street to return one item.
-As we pull toward the store for return, she spots a restaurant at which she meant to pick up a gift certificate.
-She requests another stop there after the return.
-The return takes much longer than expected as the attractive male employee is having great difficulty with the computers while trying to assist the drop-dead-gorgeous young woman returning an item.
-After this errand is complete, I drop my mother at the door to the restaurant and attempt to find a parking space closer than ¼ mile from the door.
-I finally succeed.
-I enter, but cannot find my mother anywhere.
-I walk back out and attempt to call her cell phone.
-Her cell phone is not turned on, so I am directed immediately to her voice mail.
-I re-enter and eventually find her sitting down at a booth (she has ordered something to eat).
-She suggests we sit down and enjoy a meal together, which I decline on basis of time constraint
-When her food comes up (to go), I leave to get the car so that she will not have to walk that far.
-I swing around to pick her up, but she is nowhere to be found.
-I drive around in circles for 6 more minutes.
-She finally emerges.
-She requests that we stop to take care of her dry cleaning.
-We do.
-She asks if I can drop her off at that mall after tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment (3 hours after).
-I say we will talk about it.
-I drop her off at home.
-I arrive at home a mere 4 hours later than expected.

During this trip, I did learn a few things:
-A myriad of details about several groups of friends and their extended families.
-Personal details about the finances, last will and testament, and mother-daughter relations of one close friend to my mother.
-Various names and affiliations of people who I may or may not have to contact about possible happenings in a month or so.
-The fact that I really need to grow a backbone.

P.S. I do love my mother very much, by the way.

edited to add: As I fell asleep, I felt a little guilty about this post for one main reason: not knowing my mother, the humorous aspects of this post might not come across, and it would sound more like a complaining rant - which it is not. Some basic things to keep in mind: My mother and I are very similar in some ways, and in others very different. On shopping, I am an "in and out" type of shopper while she likes to stop and look at everything. I don't think there is anything wrong with either of those tempers. Combining the two, however, can lead to a lot of interesting comedy. My mother is also the high queen of tangents (I did come by it honestly). Often, she embarks on tangents without warning and launches into discussions about people and things I do not know, so it is a little hard to follow. As she has aged, the abrupt changes have become more pronounced. Add pain medication to the equation, and, well....more comedy. Also, she is ALWAYS running late (a trait I never realized I shared until I had children), but to such an extent that we often give her a meeting time of a half hour before the actual event. All of these are characteristics that my sister, my mother, and I regularly joke about together. End edit.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

turning over a new loaf

bread from heaven

I don’t always remember to thank God for answered prayer. This is something I discovered about myself long ago. This weekend, I learned those times are even more numerous than I had realized for one simple reason. I wasn’t including the times that my gratitude is unvoiced because my eyes are not wide enough to see that the prayer has been answered at all.

On particularly frustrating days, it is often possible to hear me muttering something along the lines of the following: “Sometimes I wish I could work outside of the home for a mere week or two – just long enough to miss my children terribly.” So firmly convinced was I that a granting of this request would refocus my attention to the more positive aspects of constant home-parenting my brood that often the thought alone would bring about a more positive attitude.

The past few weeks have been much more packed with activity than is normal for me. Much of that activity required time and energy dedicated to my mother, my mother-in-law, my extended family, and me. It has, therefore, caused me to be away from my house and my children on an incredibly consistent basis. It wasn’t until after the funeral on Friday that the fact struck me. My prayer had been answered.

I was driving my mother toward home, preparing to take her on a few more errands before picking up my kids and heading off to the hospital. I was suddenly overcome with longing for their physical presence. I desperately missed being present for all of the daily activities. I had a grand idea. I would pick the children up before running the errands. I didn’t need to be without them. Time was of the essence anyway since I had just learned that my husband would be home an hour earlier than usual, and he needed the van. I thought perhaps picking them up first would shave valuable minutes from my journey.

Those of you with children will undoubtedly see the flaw in my plans. Taking a carload of children along on errands is not exactly a time saving device. But alas, loneliness often smudges the clear vision of reason. Within thirty seconds of their installation into various passenger seats, the bickering commenced. As I glanced at the clock, irritation mounted. There was no way I could accomplish everything I set out to do in the allotted time. Something would have to fall through the cracks. Considering their behavior, the hospital visit was the logical sacrificial lamb. The pressure remained even after this conclusion was reached. I am not one who breathes deeply the perfume of relief after a decision has been made. I am far too likely to second guess myself. Even so I had to laugh at the speed with which the gentle breezes in my memory turned into the hurricane gales of reality.

And as I sit in the eye of the storm I call nighttime, it occurs to me: the very irritation that arises in me during the activity – be it with my children or away from them – is the very evidence that the problem isn’t my need for a break from them. The irritation stems from taking everything for granted. For, if I weren’t taking my family for granted, if I weren’t taking my ability to do for others for granted, if I weren’t taking the money that pays for the gas, food, and lodging for granted, surely my heart would be consumed with thankfulness for those things. My eyes would see that the irritations may come, but they also go. My mind would understand that even the irritation of the greatest magnitude will create fodder for the fondest of memories. My spirit would rejoice in the comedy of errors.

Sometimes the answer to prayer is yes; sometimes it is no. Other times, the voice of God requests me to patiently wait. But once in awhile, if I were really paying attention, I bet I could hear the Lord saying, “Just wait until you see what I have in store for you! You’ll never forget this ride!”


Thursday, May 10, 2007

changing of the guard

This week has been one of emotional heaviness for my family. My younger sister had a miscarriage. My uncle died. My mother in law had back surgery yesterday. My own mother is in the preparative stages of her own back surgery. All of the expected emotions are dancing a chaotic rhythm as the band seamlessly shifts from one tempo to the next – my footsteps struggling to keep time to the ever changing beat. But, as I step to the side of the dance floor and take up my preferred wallflower position, there is something deeper revealing itself to me.

Suddenly, the death and age related illnesses are affecting a different generation, the one occupied by my parents. There is a subtle shift of power taking place as they prepare for the eternal leg of the journey, we step into the matriarchal and patriarchal roles, and our children begin entering the age of power. I don’t like this feeling. It is not the ephemeral nature of life which strikes such a sad chord in me.

It seems we spend an inordinate amount of time in our youth striving for the age when we will be grown – to have the power over our own destinies. That power is short lived. Life comes full circle, and with age, we slowly lose those things for which we fought so hard. For some, the journey is graphically symbolized as the ability to drive, care for their homes, tend to their physical needs, and make decisions for their own future is slowly whittled away by degenerative disease. For others, the loss is sudden, unexpected, and profound.

In observing the world around me, I often note that faith seems strongest in young children and senior citizens. Perhaps it is easier to surrender control to an almighty being when the evidence is already so clear that we really never had the power at all. I do not mean that we have no say in this life of ours. There is just so much, always, that we cannot put reins around. Perhaps acknowledging that fact is easier when it is so clearly written in our lives.

We all know this life is fleeting. My prayer would be that I am able to recognize those times in my own life when change is coming and not sit with gritted teeth, grasping hard to reins now uselessly attached to a horseless cart.

On this day, as I leave my house to visit a hospital for one mother, gather in mourning and remembrance of a loved one gone, and take another mother to another preparatory appointment, may I mingle the caring and love of my children into a smaller frame of time. May I hold onto the present with them while preparing for the future. May I keep my eyes always on an even more distant future when all of the parts are again united - when eternity becomes now for us all.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

touch and go

Lately, when I talk, I have data retrieval issues. I will get about ¾ of the way through what I am trying to say, and I suddenly can’t seem to access the word I am seeking. When I type that, it sounds like the phenomenon commonly referred to as a “brain fart.” These are different though. The word could be as simple as “what,” and the intense panic associated with losing the ability to grasp the word – which is hanging out just back and to the left of where my brain fingers can reach – seems to cause the problem to echo. I then suffer through five to ten minutes of frustration as word after word escape my desperate neural office assistant.

Perhaps part of the reason I am not blogging and commenting so much right now is that I am afraid the same downfall will affect the typing portion of my brain. Of course, it is far more likely to be related to having a lot happening and, subsequently, less time to chronicle it (and the fact that most of it deals with boring details about different people’s medical issues and accompanying appointments).

Another issue might be that I finally started working on a massive responsive blog post to Pam that I have been thinking about for some time. It is almost as if I have declined myself permission to write about anything else until I finish that. This is completely self-imposed guilt, but it is effective nonetheless.

So here I am, whining and complaining about all of the reasons why I am not being a faithful blogger, thereby attempting to chase away my loyal audience (subconsciously of course) by my dismal attitude. So utterly kind of me, wouldn’t you say?

So anyway, on to some synthetic bread substitute - obviously, some of the desolation would be listed above. There are quite a few piddly, little desolations right now, but they are just that – windshield bug splatters on the great highway of middle(aged) America(n life).

The consolations? They, too, would be numerous. Some are, perhaps, as inconsequential (in an ounce for ounce comparative analysis) as the desolations, but they are beautiful nonetheless.

My God (not piddly): Psalm 91

My family:

Quotes of the week:

The husband: “Do I have any clean socks?”

The N boy (16): “You know, if you hold the unlock button down on your key ring, the windows open automatically.” (nice of him to discover in five minutes when I have had the thing for a year)

The S boy(14): “I paralyze you in your tracks with armpit stench! Attack, stink!” (imagine evil magician meets monster truck rally announcer voice)

The M boy (almost 12): “I don’t want to wash my pants. I am trying to save the ghost of Elvis ketchup stain for eternity.”

The J boy (8): “ I have elf ears. My elf ears are sunburnt since I never put them in my hat. My friends at church all call me oompa loompa because I am so small.” (all of this said in quite the cheery fashion)

The T boy (6): “I bet I am going to marry R when I get older and she isn’t my sister anymore.” (I seem to have lost my status as the one who will marry the boy)

The pink one (almost…gasp….4): “My friend R (imaginary friend with the same name as her) got hit by car. I take her doctor, but she dead. It’s okay, I put her in my pocket.”


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

still awake?

Yeah, yeah, I know I should be in bed. I am quite aware that I will regret my after midnight mania in the morning hours (especially since tomorrow is chock full of dental appointments, prescription filling, piano lessons...oh, and that school thing I am trying not to think about). But alas, I am wide awake. I will shortly bop myself in the head with a cast iron frying pan or attempt reading the most boring book I can find (by flashlight so as not to wake the hub). First, though, I might as well post something to this blog.

Tomorrow, after dragging my listless self from the bed, I will wander off to the basement to rewash (for the fourth consecutive day) a load of reekified laundry. I will attempt to call (for the third time) the pediatrician's office to schedule appointments for the spawn (but NOT between the hours of 11:30 and 1 when the phone lines are off for lunch - though, ironically these seem to be the only hours I am capable of calling). I will somehow try to pick up a prescription in the morning or after doing school but before leaving for the activities listed above.

I am writing all of this down on the blog because my lovely children steal post-it notes when I try to leave myself reminders that way.

I wonder, will I someday be going through a pile of discarded belongings after they have all gone off to their adult lives only to find several years' worth of post-its underneath a loose floor board?

Well, we'll probably be broke by then, so if I do, I'm sure they'll work well as wallpaper.....