Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joy and Narcissism

Leave it to the interwebs to make another seemingly innocuous thing controversial. There was this post about the ice bucket challenge that brought up a very good point. The ALSA donates some of their funds toward embryonic stem cell research. There are many people, myself included, who find this line of research immoral due to the the destruction of life. Not everyone agrees, I understand. However I have another, perhaps more practical, reason for opposing money being poured into this type of research, which is: never, not once, has this research been effective at producing a practical solution to the problems it seeks to address.

Adult stem cell research, however, has had multiple successes. Let's focus our time, talent and treasure on that which offers the most practical hope and does not have legions of people concerned about the ethics of such research.

But there was another issue at hand in this post that I have seen other places. The idea that these things are wasteful and rooted in and encourage narcissistic tendancies. First let's talk about narcissism. I will grant that social media seems to feed the beast that is our Culture of Me and our cultural lack of empathy. Of course this is true! Anything that gives a person the chance to put on a "display" can indeed feed that sort of darkness.

That being said, there is a large blindspot in this claim. You see, the ice bucket challenge is fun. Yes, doing something seemingly inconsequential, and daring others to do the same is playful. Playfulness can build community because we tolerate one another so much better if we know we can set all of the baggage down once in a while. Sure, it's seems wasteful. Isn't all fun peered at from the outside looking in a bit wasteful? "But good drinking water!" I hear you gasp. Stop it. Unless you protest swimming pools and water parks, just stop your nonsense. We have access to water, and using a little for fun is okay. If there is a draught where you are, then yes, by all means refrain from the challenge. But also? Be creative. My sister, Geek, chose instead to sing "Ice Ice Baby" in carline while waiting for her children to be let out of school. (Gee, I hope she wasn't wasting gas by keeping her car idling!) She was nearing the 24 hour deadline, and decided that she could be creative and meet the challenge in a fun and silly way.

The second blindspot is this idea that all things displayed on social media are inherently narcissistic. If that is the case, then all things done publicly must be so. Do we not understand yet that Facebook and Twitter can be much like the water cooler? We live an online life now, and that is not a sin. Maybe it's not as good as authentic in-person relationships, but it can also keep those relationships strong when time and distance cause them to whither.

My parents had weak relationships with their siblings when I was young. Oh, sure we were family, and God knows we had one another in times of trouble. However, the day-to-day sharing and caring was missing because we didn't live close, and there was this weird thing called "long distance rates" that meant calling someone in another area code cost money. When you are raising a young family, those expenses have to be held to a minimum. But now? Our family is strong. I love my cousins and I know how to contact each of them. Each of my 8 siblings is on Facebook, but none are in my hometown. We make each other laugh, we call if we are concerned, and we groan when one of us is getting too righteous online.  That is just my family. I can't tell you the number of friendships I've strengthened online. My friend Sarah, whose ups and downs have allowed me to cry and cheer in communion with her family. The boy from grade school who reached out to me on Facebook and told me of the troubles he had faced post college. He later committed suicide, and while I am heartbroken, I am so glad I could lend a shoulder to a suffering soul for just a little while. Nora Rose, whose family has been in our lives for a very long time, but whose journey I could follow first hand thanks to social media.

I understand the impulse here. The ALSA donates to things that are sketchy. ALS is a horrid disease in need of eradication, and posting a video of getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head seems to make light of a very serious disease. But the world needs light. The world needs fun. The world needs communion and understanding and encouragement. This is what this challenge can offer, my friends. The good news is there are organizations that you can donate to that won't fund embryonic stem cell research. There are hospitals, maybe even local organizations, that can hunker down and help out your actual real live, and not just virtual, neighbor. You can look it up and post that on Facebook as your ALS charity of choice. Celebrate the charitable inclination of your fellow man and have some fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kindergarten 4.0

The Blurry Child Who Never Stops Moving
Dear Handsome,
You are the fourth child I have seen off to Kindergarten. On Monday we brought your supplies and met your beautiful teacher, Mrs. G. She is a Buckeye, which I'm sure makes Cappy (and Kiki, of course) very happy. Today you dressed in "button shorts", a belt and a golf shirt. You wanted your hair combed like Cappy, something that makes you feel connected to the man you hardly remember. You ate breakfast with a tea towel around your neck and on your lap, and you were barely still for the photos I wanted to take. You seemed excited because you kept getting into the car before it was time to leave.
His genuine smile is like a vampire--never  to appear in photos
Two pretty girls and a goofball.

On the way to school we said our prayers. We asked our Gaurdian Angels to care for us and and help us make good choices, as well as keep us safe. We prayed for everyone going to school, and then I heard a little voice say, "Help Molly not be scared...and maybe me too."

We've had a great summer, you and I. We bonded over our hatred of being spoken to in the morning. We snuggled deep under covers when you were not supposed to be in our bed. You started really taking becoming a gentleman seriously. I began to see that my baby boy is not a baby at all. Even when you pitched fits over things like swim lessons, I saw through your naughtiness and learned to coach you. Your skin went from pale to brown over the course of a few weeks, and any chunk left from the toddler years disappeared to reveal bones and ropey muscle.
Not an ounce of body fat anywhere but those cheeks and lips!

As we walked in to the room, you grew quiet, but this year you didn't bury your head into my hip. You showed Dad your desk, we hung up your backpack, and you handed Mrs. G your papers. Mae sat next to you. I snapped a picture, which happened to reveal the truth; you were very scared.
Mae is ready for Kindergarten, while her brother is ready for this to be over already.

Dad and I left anyway, knowing we had to let you march through to the other side where happy chatter and friendship waited. Before I left, I kissed your cheek and reminded you that I couldn't wait to hear about your day. There was a small smile, or at least a corner of your mouth lifted in an attempted smile. We left to go find some friends and to peek at your sisters, but my heart stayed right there with you desperately, hoping you would feel better fast.

Molly's Motto: Why carry bags when you have so many other's willing to do it for you?
You were first in this afternoon carline today. Your hair was sticking to your scalp like a 90's Clooney. You had a huge grin on your face. As you climbed in the car you said, "Hi Mama, good seeing you!" I asked how your first day of Kindergarten was. "Oh, great! It's not hard work at all!" That was all I got from you, though I was waiting for stories about friends and teachers. Instead you asked if you could buy lunch tomorrow, letting me know for certain all was well with you.

I'm glad you still love school Buddy. I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Overly Sentimental Mama

Thumbs up for Kindergarten!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quick Takes Pre-Back-to-School

It is Back To School time, y'all. Remember that commercial with that guy going through the Staples buying supplies with the song, "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" blaring? Cut to his kids who are not feeling it. Imagine that, but in reverse up in here. My kids love the beginning of school. They have long forgotten about homework, early wake up times, bed times, the desperation of looking for the other shoe, and my demands that they continue to make their beds and brush their teeth. All they can think of is that they will spend 8 hours a day with people they like who don't expect them to empty the dishwasher and feed the pets.

I, however, have enjoyed the luxury of no homework, not caring as much about hygiene (because the ocean is sterile, you guys. It's Science!), and lax bedtime/wake times. This year I was so smart and created a spreadsheet for school supply shopping, and then went to the inter webs and had it all delivered to my house. I don't do the school sponsored boxes. I never remember in time, or, when I do remember, I have spent all my money on froyo.
But then I decided to do a room switcheroo. You see, the oldest will be semi-homeschooling with virtual school. She made a really good point that she would like to sleep in a little, and yet shares a room with a sibling who will be getting up at 6:30. That, coupled with the fact that the baby was starting to get closer and closer to getting out of her crib, lead me to the decision to move the kids around. K has her own room, M &C are together now, and the baby and Paul are bunking in the "camp" room, that I will one day finish decorating as a camp bunk because the furniture is very rustic.

Let me tell you something about trying to organize and swap clothes with a two-year-old in the house; it's terrible. Especially if this particular child likes nothing better than to "reorganize" all the shoes you have lined up to weed out and repurpose. Especially if said child also loves to pull perfectly organized clothing onto the floor and then "refold" it and place it somewhere you shall never look until you move. She's a helper, that one.
Kate has her own bathroom. I recognize that this is a risk I am taking. She is already very entitled as witnessed when I told her she would need her own toilet brush.

K: What for?
Me: To clean your toilet. I'll get you shower cleaner too.
K: Why do I have to clean the toilet?!
Me: The same reason you have to make your bed and vacuum your rug. You use it, you clean it.
K: That seems excessive
Me: I regret to inform you that if you neglect your bathroom you will become responsible for all the bathrooms in the house. Also, please make a note that the size of your bedroom will be about the size of your first apartment, if you are lucky, so try very hard not to be too comfortable.
K: Oh yeah, living here is so luxurious.
Me: Glad you understand.

I am so looking forward to the teen years.
The baby sleeps in a bed. Like, actually gets put in a bed, falls asleep in that bed, and then stays in the bed until morning or nap time is over. I would like to know, what in the heck in going on, Internet? It should be noted that this is for her own safety. She began to get her leg up on the railing a couple months ago, and had since built little stools out of books and stuffed animals to make it easier to get out. She has not been successful (low muscle tone, FTW!), but it was coming. Because she is a bit weaker, even if she puts her arms out to catch her fall, she would likely bust her face. The bed is very low to the ground with a bunky board rather than a full boxed spring.

The bonus is that Paul has stayed in his loft bed since her move. He is there to protect her, after all, and he takes this very seriously. For now.
I am walking a lot lately thanks to my husband shaming me with his Hop-Out-Of-Bed-And -Go-Running routine. Wait, first he does push-ups and dips, then he goes running. Lying there listening to all this productivity has shamed me into at least taking the dog for a power walk. Running is too excessive in the summer. I've done it off and on every summer since moving to FL, and I simply hate it. I also have an easier time meditating and counting my blessings if I am not panting and hating life. I'm also nicer to my kids when I get home. It's really a lose-win-win-win. The loser is my bed, who loves me so dearly and surly misses our coffee-and-news mornings. Poor thing.
Can I just say, I finally get the mother/son relationship lovefest? Paul has always been turned to 11, regardless of that being good or bad. He overwhelms me with his full-throttle passion. However, I'm slowly learning about his particular needs and finally meeting them. Everyone has sensory needs, it's not a diagnosis, or problem, it's just like nutritional needs vary, so do sensory needs. Paul is a proprioceptive seeker. Think wrestlers and football players. So when he's hurt, he hits things and runs around, and when he's happy, he snuggles you to death and kisses you so hard your nose feels broken. Now that I understand, I've been able to give him lots of input and now he's so much calmer, and more charming, and hilarious.

One interesting thing I have found is how easy anger is for him. Since he was a baby, if he were scared, hurt or sick, he would get mad and hit people. Now that he is a little more mature, I can say that he can just be hurt without being angry, and it hits just the right note for him. He'll start to spin out, and then come in for a hug and tell me what is bothering him and what he wants to fix it.  The weirdest thing is to see how that has translated into his ability to admit when he is wrong and to apologize as well. Yes, some of this is maturity, but a lot of it is the sensory needs being filled too. I can see how much he neede this from ME. He needs a woman to understand him better just as the girls need their Daddy to work to understand their needs.

One thing I want to leave with is the fact that I'm tempted to feel guilty that it took me 5 years to get it together with Paul. Yes, I use the term tempted. Some guilt is constructive and helps us keep trucking toward being better human beings, and some is destructive and makes us naval gazing depressed narcissists. I let a little of the guilt hang out enough to remind me to be patient when he needs it, and I tell the rest to buzz off. I love my son, and I'm confident in that. I will never meet all of my children's needs no matter what. I'm comfortable with that most of the time. That's how I handle the guilt anyway.
There is a lot of bad news in the world, and I mean a. lot. of. bad. news. Sometimes it makes me think God made a mistake when He promised not to wipe us all out and start fresh a la Noah. And then there are stories like this.  I was lucky enough to meet this fine lady at my little Edel excursion and she is amazingly funny and interesting and silly. I then found out she had a blog and I was all up in that business. I promise you, if you were to meet her, you would not for a minute think she has a bunch o' kids, that two have SMA, and that she home schools. I mean, honestly you wouldn't because there is no blinding halo keeping you from getting too close. So, yes, humans are awful. However, they are awfully wonderful also. Congrats to Kelly and her family. It is a well deserved blessing.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Edel 2014

As a mom of young kids, I know we all experience the same feeling of defeat. We all experience that moment, sometimes more often than we care to acknowledge, where we must escape. Like a caged and beaten animal, we find ourselves longing to run away, far far away, and nurse our wounds. It doesn't matter how many children you have, if you work or stay home, if you are rolling in cash or drowning in debt, we all experience that sensation that we must flee.

That's not why I bought my ticket to the Edel Gathering.

The Edel Gathering was named for Venerable Edel Mary Quinn, and I think the two founders may have found her name by googling "Patron Saint of Partiers". I was only half listening to that sentence because there was a really distractingly cute baby near me. At any rate, Jennifer Fulwiler and Hallie Lord, decided that mommies, and specifically Catholic mommies, needed a weekend to refresh, renew and recharge themselves back to the amazing and wonderful individuals they have always been. There are a lot of wonderful things to say about these two women, but I'm going to save that for another day. First, let's talk about moi.

The day I bought my ticket was rotten. My husband was out of town, The children were needy, and I was depleted. I had considered it, but there was no decision made by the time the tickets went on sale.  So, that day, when I spoke to my husband, I told him I bought my ticket, and I was staying at the Omni downtown Austin. We have a policy of discussing any several-hundred dollar purchases in advance, so he had every right to be angry with me, but he was not. Surprised, maybe. Probably a little frightened, wondering what kind of desperation would lead me to forsake our agreement, but completely on board. Because he is the best.

What followed was one month after another of really bad news, really deep heartache, and really hard days. One day, I think perhaps in May or early June, Scott said, "Well, at least you get to go to that conference." and I nearly burst into tears. "That Conference" was months away. I needed a break right then. I couldn't see past the sunset, let alone weeks ahead. I was afraid I was becoming someone unlikable. I was afraid I had made a mistake in choosing to go alone, and not even trying to make some kind of e-connection with the other attendees. I misunderstood and thought it was mostly an opportunity for self-promotion of personal projects. I didn't have anything to promote, I didn't want to buy anything. I didn't need a massage. I needed to find out if I could exist outside of who I had become, and in that moment, I didn't want to do that because I was afraid I would not like it, I would not like me outside of my roles.

My sister lost her husband in February of 2006. He was 30, she was pregnant with their second child. My father-in-law died in 2011. Sweet baby Nora died in June. A lot of people spent their lives identifying themselves with these loved ones. My sister started dating Mitch since she was 15, but had decided to marry him in 5th grade. My mother-in-law had not only built a life with her husband that included children and grandchildren, but she spent his last years being his caretaker. Aleisa and William spent all of Nora's 2 plus years caring for her and nursing her and chronicling her witness for the world. Identities wrapped in these relationships and then they were gone.

I spend a lot of time caring for my children, especially Mae. But I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. While many of the ladies at the conference were experiencing the crushing isolation of motherhood, I have a life full of well-built relationships. I've been where they have been, for sure, but that's not where I am now. I have 4 amazing, beautiful, hilarious sisters who love me dearly. I have 3 tough, compassionate and generous brothers who love me. I have two holy and patient parents who love me. I have a husband who thinks I am the closest thing to the Virgin Mary on earth. (I am so very much not that, but I do not seem capable of ridding him of that delusion.) I have a parish and school community that love our family. I have friends who "get it", and support me even when they don't. We have a neighborhood full of people who like each other and are prepared for the onslaught of Fryman Teenagers when the kids get to that age. I have in laws and cousins and aunts and uncles and even the cashier at the grocery store who gives me coupons and let's me break up my order so I can use more than one $10 off $50 coupon. I am not rich, I'm filthy rich.

Which is why the reading of the rich young man haunts me. Money isn't my comfort, relationships are. The experience of these past years have taught me that it is possible that I could lose all of this around me. The day I bought my ticket I had realized this and I could not answer a question that thundered into my thoughts; Did I even like being just me?

So I went to Austin alone. I met other women without one of my children licking them first. (True story, happened more than once.) I went for walks. I slept in a bed alone. I went to confession. I went to mass. I partied. A lot. I talked to strangers. I ate yummy food. A lot. I smiled. I cried. I watched Gravity and cried like it was me in space with one thing after another going to hell. I identified a little too closely with Gravity. I missed home. I sat in Saint Mary's Cathedral. I thanked God for the weekend. I thanked God that I had met all these women. I thanked God that The Body of Christ is made up of wounded a broken people who want nothing more than to love and be loved. It was in my gratitude for the weekend, in the pleasure I felt at actually absorbing a mass undisturbed, that I knew I absolutely could not ever stand to be alone. The good news is, God Almighty promised me I never would be.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


I have had much to say, but a lacking desire to post it. So much has happened in the past two months that I do not wish to share only because I have been allowing myself and the family to process these things together. So, yes, I haven't posted, but I think those sabbaticals are something I will need to allow myself. This post has been rolling around my thoughts for a while, I hope it bears out well.

The background began last fall. My oldest girl came home unhappy about life and began to ask me about hair removal, specifically arm and eyebrow. A girl had pointed out to her that her arms and her eyebrows were, shall we say....generous. I have no way of knowing if this girl made a big deal of it or not, it really doesn't matter at this age anyhow. It stuck and thus the exploration of what I would allow her to do began.

I know kids, and I know my kid, so I had the conversation as though I was completely fine with it. (I was not. She was 9. What the heck?!) I explained that she could do as she liked with her arm hair when I wasn't paying for it, but that shaving it would cause whiskers on her arm. I offered her some Sun In and a hair dryer as a consolation prize, which she accepted gratefully. As for the eyebrows, I offered to pluck them. 

"Does it hurt?"

"Terribly, though perhaps when you are older I will take you to get them waxed. That hurts also, but is much faster."

"I can wait." (Toldja I know my kid.)

A few weeks ago the eyebrows came up again. Rather than force the poor thing into a dance with the devil, who would surly tempt her to pluck them behind my back, I offered to take her to a pro. If any of you are judging me harshly for this, I thumb my nose at you. I sported eyebrows shaped like sperm for a year because of my poor plucking skills, a fate I spared my daughter. I deserve a medal for that. (Incidentally, the woman who did the work was very good about only removing the extra growth under the brows, did nothing to shape them, and left them looking like the eyebrows of a little girl who is not especially hairy.)

As we drove to our appointment we began to discuss some of her social anxieties. These car rides with my children always bring forth such great conversations about life, this was no different. In regard to one girl in particular, she stated that because this girl is so admirable and likable my Kate used to want to be her. It made her feel anxious to be more like this girl, but now she just wants to be herself. It was as if the Holy Spirit dropped a script into my lap so that I wouldn't screw this up. Usually I would go on and on and on about "Be yourself! You are the best you!" Instead I went against type and asked her what caused her to change.


I began to string my next question slowly, as though I were luring a wild rabbit into my hands. "What is it about Mae-mae do you think that made you change how you....that made you want to be more yourself."

"She has to be happy just being herself, so I thought that maybe I should be happy with who I am. Maybe that is what we are supposed to do."

My soul leaped with joy in that moment. There was no self congratulatory feelings that we had done well as parents. Right then I saw the soul God Almighty designed, and right then I saw the absolute glory of being shown such a thing. If you knew her you would know how much she wrestled with self-doubt and how much she plays Peacekeeper. You would understand the profundity of such a statement. In that moment my daughter showed such beautiful receptivity to life lessons, such clarity on how to allow something to inspire, and a vulnerability without a hint of guile. Forget pretty, her whole being shone with Beauty. 

This is the intangible about life that we try so hard to communicate to the world about our loved ones with Ds. Many of them won't ever leave home, make a great living, make any exciting discoveries, or even pay much in taxes. We need not act as though our loved ones count as much as the next person. We know it, we live it, we experience the change it brings forth. We become more human as we give more of ourselves to a future that is uncertain. We teach and teach and work and work and coax and coax in never ending hope that it will yield fruit, and it does, though it is a different fruit than we could have ever imagined. It is the fruit of a sweeter life, a kinder soul, a more compassionate nature. It is the fruit of loving more deeply and with less self interest. The good of the other becomes more in focus, almost surprising us out of our blinders we had worn unnoticed. It is the fruit of longing to become whomever you were all along, but somehow shut out of your life in pursuit of becoming whomever you wished to be.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man about how education had become focused upon raising people to think without the being encumbered by morals and emotions. One of my favorite quotes of his was, “It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.”  His point was not some feel-good, "Follow your heart." philosophy, but that all the knowledge in the world is still lacking if we have no ability for compassion, love, understanding, empathy, grief and joy. This is what Mae brings to our family. She makes each of us better because she teaches us the importance of being beautiful rather than chasing the fickleness of looking so.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Molly: Age 7

Really?! Molly is 7? I feel like this is some kind of cosmic joke. My baby is growing by leaps and bounds, maturing and becoming a kid who has empathy and generosity. Molly was always my Molly, you know, that girl who does what she does on her own schedule when she feels like that is a good idea. I noticed at some point this year when her teacher would say things like how disorganized Molly is and I would tell my princess how she is so neat and here is a cool way of staying on top of things, and then this girl went and took my advice.

I give all credit/blame to La Dee, my sister. She and Molly are the same. She's the one who told me Molly is a carrot v. stick type kiddo, and so it turned out to be true. Perhaps all this maturity is due to getting older, or perhaps I have unlocked the amazing puzzle of my Molly. It's hard to say. What I can say is that 6 has been good to this girl. She got the exact teacher she needed, one who took her measure early, but was willing to be proven wrong. I will never forget that parent/teacher conference and being told Molly was doing just what was asked and that she would probably have trouble the second half of the year. I can't forget it because it was one of those times when I knew what it meant to know your kid best. I knew why Molly was doing just what was expected. I knew that she had figured out how to skate by with good grades, but not expose her hand of brilliance. Molly is so so bright, manipulative and crafty. That is not to say she is dishonest, but that she can charm you out of your favorite shoes and make you feel good for it. This girl has the rest of us figured out.

I have to say, Molly is delightful to raise. It is precisely because she is so different from me, and because she scratches that itch I have always had to work puzzles. Between her special inflammatory responses to foods, her charm, her quiet defiance and her comedic genius, I find she is the girl I wished I were growing up. She's gorgeous, but unimpressed by it. She moves fluidly through peer groups, she defies expectations (for better and worse), she is always her own self and she never tries to be anything but her self. Recently we had specialty cupcakes at the house for Charlottes birthday sleepover that had to be postponed. Molly was aching for one. I offered her the chance to make the choice for herself by telling her that it was up to her to deal with the consequences. 

"What are the consequences again?" she asked as she eyed the Boston creme cupcake.

"Eczema, belly ache, and possibly those joint pains, but I'm not sure if that one is a compounded issue or not."

"Forget it, just give me the icing." she replied dispassionately. She had calculated the risks and deemed them unacceptable. When I was her age, I'd have devoured 6 of those suckers and enjoyed every ache that came from it.

I know she isn't perfect. I know she needs to be better with girls her age and needs to learn to try someone else's idea once in a while. She's stubborn, yes, and that has had major drawbacks. But this year, I've seen maturity, empathy, and interest in others bloom. I've seen her take responsibility for something someone else was blamed for, a major deal for a girl who is happy to be naughty undetected. I've even seen a healthy dose of humillity, which just about knocked me over.

Maybe I idealize this golden child. She is so different from the other kids is so many ways, I notice her nuances. Maybe because she reminds me of the big sister I idolized, I feel awed that I get to raise one like her. Maybe because Molly is in the middle I pay special attention to not letting her get pushed aside or ignored. Who knows why this little girl captures my affection so easily? All I know is that she was supposed to always be my baby, but she's started to grow up anyway.

Happy birthday Molly Mack. I love you inside and out, upside and down. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quick Takes Volume: Scatter Brain

Spring break was a bust. We all had some kind of illness in a staggard timeline, so no one realy got to do anything fun. Charlotte turned 9 and had her birthday saved by my dear friend. She hosted C on her birthday and then I proceeded to ruin a night in with her husband by using her as my therapist when I went to pick C up from her house. Luckily, we are close enough for me to call myself out to her husband, who was gracious enough to laugh at me. Good friends are the best medicine, are they not?
I will be bragging about my children in this post. A lot. First up is K & C combo. These girls won an iPad at school because some wonderful person donated enough money to the Fun Run and then asked that two students who had worked hard, but got smaller donations be given iPads. Kate and Charlotte walked the neighborhood together and turned in a sheet explaining that they wanted to work together for a bigger prize. They really wanted to collect $700, but fell way short even though every neighbor did donate. I was very pleased that they were able to learn that hard work is rewarded in unexpected ways, and I am very happy someone had that insight when making their large donation. It's a good idea to pay forward, for sure!
When things get a little wonky in terms of familial chaos, I sometimes get a little fixated on things I can control. Like painting inside the house, painting Molly's new loft bed and reseeding the lawn. That lawn. It is my nemesis, I tell you. Just shy of a year under purchasing this house we spent an obscene amount of money to redo the front landscaping because the landscaper for the builder thought that half the front yard should be mulch and the other half should be covered with the cruddiest sod in the southeast. Now I'm convinced our soil is poisoned because everything is dying again. In my fantasy Scott would pull up everything, including the topsoil, lay manure and organic soil, new sod and beautiful flowering bushes. And hire a painter. And a contractor to build a half-sized barn door at the bottom of the steps that swings all the way to the wall and latches there as well as wood shutters for the XL window in the stairwell and also put the distressed wood panels under the bar. And not go into debt. Luckily, I've been pulled out of my fantasy because we are all well again and order is going to be reinstated. 
I must brag about Kate again. She one second place in an art contest. It was one that included many schools from the area and her category included three grades. We were not able to go to the show because of the illnesses in the house, but I couldn't be more happy for her. The truth is, I'm not even proud of her, just happy she gets to experience success at something she enjoys. So often we enjoy things we don't have a lot of time to develop, and that's okay, but kids often abandon things they enjoy because they mistakenly believe they ought to be great at it. Kate doesn't seem to be a remarkable artist to me, but she does have a good eye and great imagination. I hope that this award gives her a boost to continue enjoying this portion of her creativity. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong and she's got phenomenal talent. Either way, I am thrilled she was chosen and thrilled she won something.
Molly is going to be 7. The wonderous thing about her is that she is acting like a 7 year old. I always thought Molly would be my baby forever, but instead she is blossoming into a kind and considerate girl. I blame her teacher. No, seriously though, her teacher does a beautiful job of teaching the kids that life is about learning skills and information, and that they are all capable. She has been sending home "concerns" about Molly here and there, and you know what? They are all slowly being weeded out. Molly is trying to impress her teacher and show how bright she really is. Her teacher has gone from being concerned she wouldn't keep up to recommending she be tested for the enrichment program. Better than her academic success, I have over heard her being kind and generous to her siblings and to her friends. She is really growing up, and I feel so lucky to be able to know her.
                                                                       --- 6 ---
Um. We have another snake. That's two total living under my roof. I know. I feel compelled to be an amazing mother here, you guys, and I don't even think my kids understand how amazing I am being. This snake is named Olaf, and he is Popcorn's brother from the same clutch of eggs. Whatever. I hope St. Francis is taking notes. Also? Paul needs to take notes. I mean, really.
John Paul II and John XXIII are being canonized this weekend. If you are not familiar with these two wonderful people, I hope you will find out more about them. I was not familiar with John XXIII, but have read a little and find him to be an very interesting person in a very interesting time in history. As for JPII, well Charlotte is named for him in a round about way. In short, I'm a fan.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Three-in-One Postacular

I know. I know. I know. I flaked on the 3 posts/week pretty quickly. How was I to know that raising 5 children while caring for a 6th M-F during school hours and my husband gone most weekdays would be so busy? Honestly, what am I, a fortune teller? Let's not split hairs over whether or not I should or shouldn't have been posting. Let's move on and talk about  more important things.

Last week was incredibly busy. There was nothing bad-busy about it, but I found myself with more appointments than I recalled making and more decisions than I ever feel comfortable with. Scott was taking the last of his out-of-town trips, which had been getting rather taxing on everybody. Because he couldn't do it, I felt I needed to show up at some school functions. Obviously I had to be there for Kate to receive her Principals Honors certificate since 4th grade has been a bear. 3rd quarter I let it go, as they sing these days. Low and behold the child came home with straight A's. Well, and I bribed her with goodies. Either way it was super fun to see all the kids afterward and have to stop Mae from trying to slip into line with the big kids and head off to class.

The next day I felt it would do the kids good to see me at the Fun Run, which incidentally was actually fun. They did a great job, and I was able to see all but Kate. I didn't watch Molly run, but I saw her at PE, so that was neat. Once again, Mae wanted to join the big kids running laps. After Paul's class finished they all got popsicles, and Mae kept going up and leaning toward their faces with her tongue out hoping for a lick. Little Guy got to see one of his big sisters, and I was so happy to see how excited she was to see him at school two days in a row. I had to haul it out of there to a pediatric consult, and was nearly late because I also needed coffee.

Friday was a rough day. All week I could feel myself running on mental fumes. My short term memory was so fuzzy I wondered if I needed a boost in Synthroid. That afternoon I did something so boneheaded I knew instantly I would carry that mistake for a while. I locked Mae and Little Guy in the car in the hot sun. Both sets of keys were in there, one in my purse the other on the console. I contemplated smashing the window with a bat, but I was afraid the glass would cut the kids. I called 911. When the rescue team arrived I learned they didn't have jimmies anymore because if they broke my window they could be held liable.

This is the craziest thing I've ever heard. I was furious. Who on earth would hold the fire department liable for his own mistake?! I did this, you guys. I locked babies in a hot car! MY FAULT! I didn't care what happened next as long as those precious people were safe at the end. When it was clear that the locksmith that 911 called was not going to come for some time, I told the firemen to break the window. They have that cool window punch that causes all the glass to fall like rain rather than spatter everywhere. I immediately grabbed both babies out of the car. Poor Little Guy was a ball of fury and sweat. Mae was mildly uncomfortable and damp, but then again she's a full 19 months older than the baby. I cooled off the baby with a damp towel and we made sure he and Mae were fine, though I think they were more concerned about me. It turned out alright with the glass guy coming the next day and completing the install before the afternoon downpour. I ended up feeling extra blessed because LG's mom still had us over for my birthday and spoiled me with yummy food and a cool gift of relaxation gear. I spent the weekend recouping mentally and physically by sleeping as much as I wanted to and going to lunch with my friend.

Mae is just becoming some kind of kid. Lately she is all Daddy's girl. She dives over into his arms when he gets home, turns to me and says, "Bye." waiving her fat little hand in a dismissive manner. She continues to do this particular dismissing when she doesn't want you giving her the business for something she suspects she shouldn't do. Catch her mulch throwing? "Bye." Tell her to use her spoon? "Bye." Prevent her from smacking the baby with a toy? "Bye." She is also guilty of a LOT of technology thievery. Don't leave your phone laying around because Mae will have that sucker in no time, and will be very dismayed if you try to take it back.

I guess because Daddy is bearded she has also shown an indiscriminate preference for bearded fellas. One of her OTs is bearded and she loves him. Today there was a student at therapy and she wouldn't leave that guy alone. The second he put her down, she would pull on his pant leg and demand, "Up." She lay her head on his shoulder and fully intended to take a nap right there in his arms after speech. In fact, she has been a little reticent in speech lately, but with our dear bearded friend present she suddenly was a little mimic. I find it interesting that she prefers males and shows bearded men even greater preference. Her little mind is a mystery.

Other things of note are that my brother finished a 150 mile ultra. While I am impressed and happy for him, it has not inspired me in the least to run more. There are a lot of birthdays in our family this month. We still have spring break to look forward to, and I am forcing my children into either swim team or swim lessons. Yes, that includes Mariana. I am interested in how this will turn out since swim team seems more like a cult than a sport with all the practice and regulations and such. Who knows, maybe it will turn out I'm one of those ladies with the sticker on her window proclaiming to be a "Swim Mom". (Okay, I know that I'm not one of those ladies because I announced very early in this parenting gig that I would never have an Olympic commercial dedicated to me.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Can We Pray for Snakes?

So it didn't take Popcorn long to get himself into a fix. We have a warming rock for this snake so that he doesn't die of hypothermia. Because I was worried about him getting loose I told Scott to use Gorilla Tape to tape the cord of the rock to the side of the enclosure lest this snake climb the cord and somehow with his massive snake body push the 5lb books off the lid and escape. Hey, what do I know? Not much other than a loose snake in the house is to be avoided. I guess the action of rooting around in the mulch for the snake caused the tape to come loose and the snake did in fact climb the loose cord, but he became stuck to the tape. Enter panicked children.

Now Mama has to treat this beloved creature like, well, an actual beloved creature. Listen, I love nature, I really do. I still have preferences, like birds not flapping their wings near my ears and keeping their bird feet from my person. Another preference I have is to avoid animals that seem sneaky. I easily startle, so while I can admire a creepy-crawly on a hike in the woods where I expect to encounter it, finding a scorpion on the underside of the toilet seat causes me to jump back 10 feet in a 5 foot wide bathroom. (Incidentally, if you are holding the toilet brush, you get the added pleasure of flinging toilet water and toilet cleaner on your face.)

Had you been there you would have seen 6 (2 were school friends) children hovering around while I expertly cut the large piece of tape smaller until I couldn't get any more off without cutting the skin. This was done while the beloved creature writhed and wrapped and constricted himself around me, the tape and himself. The poor thing was freaking out, not that I blamed him. I really felt sorry for this troubled snake who had now become an educational experiment for a family of small and loud humans who were giving off major stress pheromones. Much to his credit, he didn't bite me, or even attempt it. I would have, had I been him, but I'm surly that way.

So now Popcorn has some tape on his back, and faces peering in on him and grimy fingers touching him to confirm he is still alive. I have assured the little ones that he would shed his skin and all would be well. Would y'all mind praying for Popcorn? If you are not comfortable praying for an animal used in the bible to represent Satan, then just pray that I'm not a liar and that I haven't destroyed my kids trust in me. Thanks!
In other news: Gorilla Tape makes an excellent snake trap.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Comic Relief

On Sunday Scott and I went to see Brian Regan perform. Let me tell you something, Brian Regan is by far the funniest comedian in the known world. I understand that comedy is difficult to gage, but know this; every comedian working today thinks Brian Regan is a genius. Every. single. one. The reason is simply that on the way to a punch line every detail of his story is funny. All of it. He squeezes the comedy out of every story like an apple through a Breville juicer. My goodness he's hilarious.

Comedy is my favorite art form. I consider myself an art appreciator. I am not creative and I cannot produce art, but I am the exact person an artist wants to show his work. (Real artists, not faux artists who excrete edginess and condescend to those who don't get it.) I admire those who can take their ideas and create intricate pieces of art. I can most easily see God in the artist as he creates beauty out of seemingly senselessness. It never matters what the art form is, I love it, I appreciate it, and I'm transformed by it, even when I don't expect it. I'll notice the craftsmanship of a hand carved door and have an emotional reaction to its beauty and integrity. I love comedy because it draws out the simple joy of being happy. It makes fun of the painful moments in life and allows the audience to release those frustrations in laughter. It cuts tension, releases endorphins and creates a natural high that will last you a few hours if you are in good company. A good comedian will make everyone in the room feel funnier and does it in an extremely vulnerable fashion.

This week threatened to be overwhelming. Scott was leaving early Monday morning and I had many appointments and a messy home to attend. Mae had her MMR vaccination, one I can not stand because combo vaccines usually result in crabbiness for a few days. There are a host of other things still coming down the pike that I am hopeful will go off without a hitch. Needless to say, starting my week taking in a show performed by my favorite comedian was a great way to cut all the anxiety I was feeling about the coming days. It was a feeling that lasted through the week as I faced tantrums and teething and sibling rivalry. When I couldn't sleep Monday night I thought how it would make for a good story if I wasn't jerky to the kids the next morning. (I mostly succeeded, but one kid got under my skin and I fell short of perfection.) I found myself finding the silliness of having two babies crying in stereo while the dog gagged and I raced to get her outside before I had another mess to clean. It's all a little silly when raising little kids who have free will and wield it often. What a gift to have the eyes to see the joys in all this chaos and loosening all that anxiety with a little laughter.

My friends, comedy is God's anti-depressant, and it usually fertilized with pain. Rejoice in the gift of comedy, quick, before you lose your mind!

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Down Syndrome Day

I am super tired these days because we have a weirdo insomnia running through the house. Posting is tough thanks to the lovely creativity drain that not sleeping adds to the mix. The nights I sleep well, one of the kids doesn't. The nights they sleep well, I don't. Pray for me, my patience is way depleted, but I am resisting napping because I want to sleep at night, like a human being.

It is still World Down Syndrome Day, and we are so blessed to have Mae to celebrate today with us. While Down Syndrome causes some complications in our lives, it's added more patience, love, kindness and consideration to our household. May we all be so lucky to love someone with Trisomy 21. If you are so moved, look right, pick a place and donate $3.21 to the charity of your choice! It'll be fun!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Rise and Fall of the Gator Killer

So, Gator Killer died. Who is Gator Killer? Why he's Paul's lovely Christmas gift from Santa. Nothing says "Happy Birthday Jesus" like a serpent, I always say. I mention the news because Scott and I were actually very sad. We had just fed him his first "fuzzy" which is a baby mouse that has fur and is a little bigger than the "pinkies" he was eating before. While I despise the process of feeding the snake, I do appreciate that the kids learn something about nature and the circle of life. At any rate, the weather has been up and down and the light we were using for heat needed a new bulb. We did our best, but snakes need a good amount of heat to digest their food, so poor Gator Killer died from hypothermia.

I was keeping my eye on him because he hadn't been moving, but he doesn't move much after a meal, so I wasn't really concerned until yesterday. I ventured to open the hatch in the terrarium and touched him. He was freezing and his tongue didn't dart out in its usual fashion. I felt so deflated and sad. I felt sad for Paul, of course, but honestly I felt sad at the loss of our snake, a snake I never really wanted and never really cared for during his short stay. There was still the issue of informing our kids, who did care for him and did enjoy him. Over text Scott and I considered a quick switch. C was home sick today, so I asked her what she thought about parents who did such things with gerbils and fish.

"That's lying. Who would do that? If my pet died I would want to be sad about that. I don't want to just pretend it didn't matter." Leave it to Charlotte to explain to the big people the damage deception really does. It also left me in the position of not wanting to tell her that I knew Gator Killer was dead. So I didn't. I let Paul find him. Paul came running into me saying Gator Killer had mulch in his mouth and wasn't moving. I went to see and sadly informed him that Gator Killer had died. "I'm sorry Buddy." I really was. I told him maybe we could get another snake soon, which cheered my little guy up.

Losing a pet stinks. I was sad Gator Killer died not just because we had a responsibility to him, but also because we did make fun memories with him. The pride Paul felt in showing off his pet to his friends and our neighbors was beautiful to watch. The care he took in making sure to handle Gator Killer every day so that he didn't become skittish was a flash of maturity we had yet to see in our little guy. Paul loved that I didn't like snakes but let him have one anyway. He loved that most of his friends were forbidden from having a snake. He loved that Daddy loved snakes too. He really enjoyed when people who were nervous about snakes would hold Gator Killer anyway. It felt good to him to facilitate someone overcoming nerves.

When I asked Paul if the new snake would be called "Gator Killer Jr." he, without any hesitation, said, "His name is Popcorn." Popcorn came into the family last night. Apparently Daddy couldn't stand the idea of going one night without a snake in the house. He also came with a bigger terrarium, a new water dish and a heating rock where Popcorn can snooze after a big meal and digest his prey. I have so much joy to express about this turn in our lives.

Even though I'm not loving the snake thing I will close with the acknowledgement that allowing Paul to have a snake has been a spiritual exercise for our family. It's all well and good to know that to deepen our relationships in life we have to be willing to be uncomfortable at times, it is a whole other to live it. While I am the parent and, "I do not like them." is as good a reason as any not to get a pet, it's also a good reason to allow certain things. There is no danger in having Popcorn or Gator Killer because neither are dangerous animals (unless you are a mouse). I have a partner in caring for the animal if the little boy wasn't quite up to the task. It was a lot better to say yes to this uncomfortable experience than say no because I not only was gifted with watching our family bond over a seemingly unlovable creature, but I also showed my children that this family is not all about what mom and dad want all of the time. The kids don't see all the sacrifices Scott and I make, as they shouldn't, but in this case they did see one that I made, and that's good also. As for Scott, well his wife trusted him that it was important that the sole boy child in the family have some boy child experiences, which apparently include serpents. I call it a win.

RIP Gator Killer. Go give Saint Patrick one of your kisses. I heard he loves snakes as much as I do.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The I-Can't-Believe-You-Call-This-A-Post Quick Takes

YOU GUYS. I'm a rock star. Just the fact that I have made it through this week + no one was injured *knocks on the woodlike desk* = ROCK STAR HUMAN.
Paul woke up with a fever on Monday. It was a low grade fever, which means I wasn't all that convinced he was very ill until he threw up when I was packing up my loot from Target. Luckily he had one of Mae's Aiden and Anais blankets, so that absorbed most of the ew. He only did this one time, and it was probably due to the fever. My major prejudice in life is the effect fevers have on people. Our oldest runs unusually high fevers, and though she is far more chatty than her usual chatty self and has trippy dreams, she still is very collected about the whole deal. Therefor, when a kid runs a 100.3 degree fever and gets super lethargic and sickly, I think he's milking it and haul his Motrin-ed body to the Target. (Which I realize isn't so much Rock Star as Negligent and Narcissistic, but read on to be more impressed with my mothering skillz.)

So then, I've been battling some wicked insomnia and Monday into Tuesday it came a courtin' yet again. Unfortunately my stealthy throwing off the covers type behavior kept Scott awake and he missed his early flight to wherevertheheck. He then had to rent a car, but was able to help with Sick Kid, who wasn't really sick, but was banned from school until he was 24 hours fever free. I took Little Guy and Mae to therapy where we impressed everyone with our "How old are you?" routine.  But then I had to care for Sick Kid, Little Guy and Mae all day until pick up (Hero). That night I was battling slight insomnia so I spent a lot of time mopping. Our steam mop broke back in December, and no, I hadn't really mopped since then. #dontjudge #gross
On Wednesday I actually stayed home and did lots of housework and laundry and stuff. It was amazing. I washed the sofa slipcovers. I still haven't put them back on because we have a new OT coming for an evaluation tomorrow and I would like the dog hair to be at a minimum when she comes. This is the OT Mae has already had and who is well acquainted with my brand of crazy and Mae's bad side.

Also on Wednesday I removed two seats from Mama Grizzly and put three bikes in the back so K, C and M could go to triathlon training after school. This was incredible because I had a slight major backache.  I also managed to get Molly's change of clothes to her via Mrs. M.  I also cooked a delicious and healthy dinner of left over chicken, peas and mashed potatoes. As evening crept toward nighttime I cleaned the outside of my cabinets with furniture polish. Send me a medal.
And then there was Thursday. Not only did I knock out a pre-written post. I also broke out the bank card and did a little Zulily shopping. I know. You can not even handle my greatness. I did manage to take care of Mae and Little Guy while doing these Very Important things. I also kept up with the laundry, took out the trash including things that are not taken by the trash company, but are taken by the dumpster divers. I really wanted to tip those guys when I saw them loading up my stuff. I know that isn't how it works, but my garage is slightly less hazardous.

I picked the Big Kids up from school, talked to a neighbor while Kate made snack, broke my lenten sacrifice, made dinner that was questionable, made Paul clean his room (sarcasm aside, that was a freaking feat), snuggled Mae-Bee, and sat down to blog. I'm beat. Where's my awards?
Friday in lent is a day of abstinence. I shall abstain from further bragging. Instead let me complain in a more-than-a-little ironic way. You see, our neighborhood has a Facebook page, which is chock full of good info and a great place to ask for recommendations on fence companies, painters, etc. However there is an epidemic of the aggressive complaint. Let's just say that neighborliness doesn't seem to mean the same thing on this page as it does elsewhere. You have the posts sarcastically thanking the person who flew through the neighborhood and ran over a kid's remote control car on Christmas followed by a string of insulting comments about said offender. This often leads to the offender commenting with something like, "Hey, I live down the street. Come talk to me. I am really very sorry, but I don't think I deserve to be tarred and feathered here. Of course I am sorry and I'll fix the situation to the best of my ability." And then you have the posts that say, "What are the rules about dogs peeing on the grass nearest to the street because my daughter was just screamed at by a neighbor." which leads to the "Everyone needs to chill around here." and "Actually I don't appreciate YOUR dog in MY yard." comments that never ever end well.

Can we all agree to just handle our business in private with the people it actually involves without the public shaming? I'd really hate to quit our neighborhood page because Some People don't know how to act.
My incredible productivity this week is crushing my creativity and now I don't know what else to write. You guys, this is really hard! Seven is a lot of things. Perhaps I should point out those dog paw bumper magnets that say, "Who saved who?" drive me crazy and make me want to turn to vandalism. There also is a current commercial that I heard twice--and paid close attention the second time--that messes this up. It is "Who saved whom?" "Whom" friends, it's a word. Look it up.
Oh yeah! Pope Francis. It was his 1 year anniversary as pope. Gee, I love this guy. I love him for making me feel like a dirty dirty sinner and yet like I'm super special to God Almighty and can go to confession and do better! Pope Francis is the kind of guy you'd feel like calling Frank without being invited first. Pope Francis would not be impressed with my Facebook woes or my grammar frustrations. Though I think I could slide on the grammar thing since I feel like I'm honoring my mother when I get stabby about grammar. I read one of his quotes that said the Christian cannot be sad and I was all, "Want to bet? Tell it to weeping Jesus!" But that was my baggage talking, and I realize he meant as a state of the heart. We get to have Hope in the darkest dingiest recesses of our souls, and he's so right about that. I really hate the celebrification of religious people, but I don't feel like a fangirl. I feel like I just want my kids to go and give the guy a hug and introduce him to our pets. I wonder if Pope Francis is afraid of snakes.
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Feed The Hungry

I've mentioned before that Scott and I decided to focus on works of mercy as a family for the year 2014. We are extremely scattered people, so it wasn't as large an undertaking because there are 52 weeks in a year and 14 works of mercy. As Catholics we do not believe that we can work our way into heaven as many wrongly infer. However, we do believe that if a person has true faith, his works will bear fruit. The works of mercy is a list of ways we can serve our fellow man either physically in the Corporal Works of Mercy, or spiritually through the Spiritual works of Mercy. The works are as follows:
Corporal Works of Mercy
  1. To feed the hungry;
  2. To give drink to the thirsty;
  3. To clothe the naked;
  4. To harbour the harbourless; (or shelter to the homeless)
  5. To visit the sick;
  6. To ransom the captive;
  7. To bury the dead. 
Spiritual Works of Mercy
  1. To instruct the ignorant;
  2. To counsel the doubtful;
  3. To admonish sinners;
  4. To bear wrongs patiently;
  5. To forgive offences willingly;
  6. To comfort the afflicted;
  7. To pray for the living and the dead
The first work we tackled was to feed the hungry. As a mother, this is easy given how often I feed my children. The children were responsible for feeding their pets, Kona,  our dog, Gypsy,  our cat, and Gator Killer, the snake.  We also sent in can goods to the food pantry on Wednesday of that week, something we are guilty of forgetting though it is what the school does every week at the all school mass.

This was a very easy work to accomplish, but I thought that it was good to point that out to the kids. Sometimes what God asks us to do to serve each other isn't earth moving. Sometimes God just wants us to do something, even if it is a small thing, to serve one another. It also made me realize that I often feel inappropriate guilt that I am not out handing out sandwiches to the homeless. I am a mother and therefore many of these works will be built into my daily living. It is good to make certain I go outside of my routine to be of service, but it is also important to really see the work I do as service to others. If I do not, I run the risk of feeling bitter and keeping score. Thoughts of "Don't these rotten kids see everything I do for them? Why is it never enough?" can invade our hearts if we do not have the eyes to see the good we do.

There is another point I like to make when I chat with people about donating food to the food pantry. Many of my friends get frustrated that their families are on a budget, while it seems like the people who are "takers" have no appreciation, and in fact, have an entitlement problem. My friends, who cares what the disposition of the hearts of those who receive our gifts are? When we serve one another, there is no guarantee that we will be appreciated, but it seems we as human are inclined to keep score anyway. When we feed the hungry we ought to consider how God sees it, rather than how the recipient sees it. I personally can not tolerate the idea that a person went hungry when I could have done something to help. It's why I give money to those who ask for it, even if I am convinced they will use it for drugs. I can not help what a man will do with what I have offered, but I can help myself be more compassionate toward those who are in need.

As we continue to explore the works of mercy, I think it will become obvious that feeding the hungry is one of the easiest works to accomplish. Feeding the birds, our families, or donating to a food pantry can be done with zero discomfort. If you are looking for a place to start being merciful to your fellow man, I suggest this one. You will be surprised how easy it is to pick up the tab for someone else's bagel and coffee, and how often you consider it. Feel free to share in the comments any ideas you have on ways to feed the hungry. We are discovering that there are seemingly infinite ways to accomplish our works of mercy, and we love hearing about things we haven't thought about.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Boring Update

Last week was a cluster of appointments. Mae had her blood draw on Wednesday, a pediatrician appointment on Thursday and the geneticist on Friday. On Thursday we discovered Mae is still on the typical growth chart, though barely. This is a great sign that her thyroid dip wasn't too big a problem. Her weight is in a higher percentile than her height, but because we are so careful with her diet, we don't have anything to worry about. There was a vaccine, and she lost her mind for the very first time, so that was new and exciting. Her pediatrician said that socially and emotionally Mariana is developing typically. There are some things that put her a little behind, but that can be environmental because she is the youngest sibling. As the youngest sibling in my family I take offense. I mean really!

Friday we had the pleasure of MG's company because her mama had a baby on Thursday. MG is 18 months old. She and Mae have similar hair, are about the same height and have similar behaviors. Scott and I took MG, Mae and Little Guy to the geneticist, Dr. P's office. We were such a funny sight, I am sure. I had Little Guy in the Ergo, MG in the stroller and Scott carried Mariana. They all behaved beautifully. Mae had her show off moment with Dr. P. I asked her, "How old are you?" We had been practicing that question a lot.
"Tee!" she exclaimed.
"No Mae, how old are you?" I asked again.
"Tooo!" she told Dr. P.

Dr. P. also confirmed that socially and emotionally she is on target for a typically developing child. He also encouraged us to look into fully integrating her in a normal classroom. Admittedly this is something I struggle with. I want her to be able to keep up with her typical peers, but I also want her to accomplish academic success in her time with reasonable expectations. Because we will be feeling our way through this. I truly want what is best for Mae and unfortunately the experience others have had isn't necessarily going to be helpful. Mae seems to fall between what typically works for kids with Ds and what works for a typically developing child.

Both Dr. P and the pediatrician, Dr. M. impressed upon us the need for the assertion of authority with no give. They explained that Mae is carving neuropathways that will be with her forever. Even if we break habits down the road, those pathways will be sort-of a "default" position she would fall back on in stressful times. They were clear that we are not to be angry or punishing, but that strict and consistent authority is a must. Everything we expect of the older kids about cleaning up and behavior we must expect of her. Of course she will need help and patience in following through, but we have to require her to follow through. It's exhausting just thinking about it, but I've seen results already. She prays with us at mealtimes, she climbs in and out of her carseat when Little Guy isn't already in the car. (I don't want her to climb over him because she's rough on him.) She has to walk into the house and to the car. I'm adding responsibility as we go along, but she's responding pretty well. We have *knockonwood* had fewer tantrums actually, and more verbalization. I expect the tantrums will come in cycles, and we are just in a good phase, but I'm enjoying the heck out of it!

The next few months I am trying to build up my courage to focus on potty training. If I want her to go to fully integrated Pre K 3,  she will have to be fully potty trained. *sigh* I am fine with fooling around with it, but it's going to be months of work, and I'm not looking forward to spending all day going potty every 30 minutes for months on end. Pray for me!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Better Buy That Gift. . . .

It's officially Lent! Typically I like Lent as it feels like a cold and windy spring downpour. It's unpleasant yet refreshing all the same. Today was a day that God Himself seemed to want to gift me with extra graces, and did I ever need 'em. I can't claim it to have been a bad day because I was able to roll with all of it, but if Mae were able to remember today, she'd probably demand a re-do.

First thing this morning we had a blood draw. I left the house not having eaten which required a stop to purchase coffee. Lent was not off to a great sacrificial start, but I know my limits, yo. The rain was coming down, it was a chilly 43 degrees outside, and traffic was unfortunate. Luckily my sister, La Dee called and I didn't have time to get myself in a tizzy over the whole CBC-what-if-my-baby-is-dying thing. When I got to the hospital the rain had stopped and with Little Guy strapped in the Ergo and Mae strapped in the stroller, we set off to Dr. P's office across the street to pick up her lab order. Mae charmed everyone we passed and before we knew it we had been up to the 19th floor and back down again. Off we went to the hospital lab.

When we got to the hospital the receptionist checked us in while sharing her tales of woe regarding her wedding planning and the insane amount of vendor emails she was receiving. From there we went to the lab waiting area. Mae wanted to get down from her stroller, and I, with a dose of bad judgement, let her loose. Good bye Mae, nice knowing you! I spent the next 5 minutes chasing a very determined two-year-old while a 5 month old was strapped to my thorax. They called us back before I lost my mind. This is where I strapped Little Guy into the stroller so that I could hold Mae still during her stick.

Worse draw yet.

Mae flipped out, and not your average flip out either. She lost her ever loving sense, which sent Little Guy into a panicked frenzy of cries. As I futilely attempted to calm Little Guy and Mae, the poor phlebotomist fished for a vein. This was the first time we have ever had a bad stick, and it was not helping at all. Finally I was able to put Mae into the stroller, but as I picked Little Guy up, my nose alerted my brain that a diaper change was in order. We stepped into the bathroom, where the babies cried in stereo while the bathroom acoustics blessed the entire floor with their music. After the diaper change, I sat in the waiting area and fed Little Guy a bottle. When I got into the car the clock said 10:35. Time flies when you are having fun.

We made it through lunch okay. After lunch we played a bit. Mariana received some fun gifts that we explored. While I cleaned up a little, she flounced about in her dress singing and dancing while Little Guy played in the highchair. Soon it was time for someone else to get a new diaper. At this point I discovered that there had been an attempted jailbreak from the diaper. There was, ahem, waste on the floor, on the clothing and down the legs. Being a master at prioritizing messes, I quickly buckled the Little Guy into his swing and grabbed Mae in a hazard-containment fashion. The clean up was meticulous, but certainly as speedy as possible since I still had some tiles to sanitize. Down the stairs we went only to discover. . . .nothing.

Er, we have a dog? And she kinda thinks the kids are her puppies? And if they have an accident? She might clean up while I clean up the kids? And I sorta forgot she was in the house. Instead of cleaning one or two tiles, I cleaned about ten in the hope that I killed the germs that may have lingered. Ugh.

After all that delightful activity, we went to pick up the rest of the crew, drop off the Little Guy and his sisters, and get back home. We had a pretty laid back afternoon/evening, minus a little bit of neediness from Mae, not that I can begrudge her that. She did have her blood drawn which can leave her a little lethargic.

You may be wondering where God's grace was in all of this. It was there, I promise. Not once did I feel overwhelmed or frustrated. Go back and read all that chaos. Recall what I have written about past blood draws and how my fears come alive. I can't even muster a false sense of anxiety right now. Today, the whole day, even when the babies were crying inconsolably in the bathroom, I had a view of the bigger picture. This was one moment in one day of many days. I had things to do and no one was going to be helped by my emotions becoming a factor. I wasn't dead inside, I felt horrible for those little people! However, they were best served by a calm, decisive and loving person, and God allowed me to be that person. I know for a fact I am not that person without God's grace. I'm a hot mess of loose wiring. There was even a moment, when Mae and Little Guy were sitting next to each other on the couch watching ABC Mouse on the iPad mini, that I thought to myself, "I'm so lucky to see this sight." Little Guy was playing with his toy, while Mae was holding the iPad. Mae looked at her buddy, leaned over, kissed his arm and rested her head on his.

Happy 2nd birthday Mae! Your mom may have forgotten to buy your present, but God made sure she was exactly who you needed today. Thanks for letting me catch your sweetness on camera.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

End The Attitude

Tuesday is therapy day. We arrived a little early this week, and Mae decided to walk down toward the classes. After all, she was turning two, isn't that where big kids go? I picked her up and started back toward the waiting area when a woman stopped to say hello. We chatted and she asked how old Mae is. "She's going to be two tomorrow." I said.

"Oh, is tomorrow your birthday?" she asked Mae. Mae nodded and held up fingers like we had practiced. "Oh my! She really understands us!" the woman exclaimed.

When I was told by parents in the Ds community that Mae would understand the world around her, I didn't really believe them. I thought she would understand things...to a point. I really had no experience with intellectual disability and thought this was the rosy picture that people in denial painted to make our kids seem more like typical kids. I am too pragmatic to bother with denial and I loved my child for who she was, not what I wanted her to be. I laugh at myself now. Mae does understand everything. She doesn't have an input problem, she has an output problem. Sometimes the problem is that she is naturally contrary. Sometimes it's because she can't get at the response in her brain. Sometimes the motor planning isn't working. Sometimes she's just not patient enough to try and wants to do things her own way. Sometimes she has just checked out from sheer exhaustion.

I don't think it's any accident Mae was born on March 5th. It's the national campaign for "Spread the Word to End the Word." It's no secret that I don't love this campaign. But the reason is not because I have some warped view of the first amendment, it's simply that while words matter, so do attitudes. People no longer have any reason to use the words "retard" or "retarded", and most certainly deserve a dressing down for using "-tard" as a suffix. What the use of this word reveals is ignorance or, worse, callousness. It's the callousness that is the greater battle, the battle that seems too big to be won.

On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Jerry Seinfeld made a jokes about the USPS. Included in his set was an insult about the "mentally handicapped cars" they drive. Now replace "mentally handicapped" with "retarded". Is it still funny? If you have a person with an intellectual disability that you care for both versions cut deep. We are not a humorless people either. In fact, humor is sometimes the only way to stay sane in the world of possible outcomes and exhausting rituals. Scott and I have our share of inappropriate jokes that are funny only because we are in the trenches of raising 5 young kids. (I swore I'd never make a poop joke, and I lasted about 4 days into parenthood.) I'm sure when they are teens we will have more material to keep us from developing some kind of nervous disorder.

It isn't that life shouldn't be made into a joke, and it isn't that we are delicate little china dolls. It's that the people we care for hear and understand that you are using something that is true about them to disparage something or someone else. These people that we love often cannot debate the issue for themselves. Some can write letters, but in this world of immediacy, no one has the time to wait on a response from someone like Mae. They've all moved on. How can anyone in good conscience feel good about using a word that describes something that is true about one person as a generalized insult?

My oldest is in fourth grade. This year she took it upon herself to work to educate her school mates on what Down syndrome is and what it means. She did so because some kids were using the word "retard" to make fun of each other. We recently sat down to talk a bit about respect and humor. I asked her if any of the kids in school use the words "gay" or "homo" as insults. She said, "Yeah, mostly it's boys." I explained that Kate should feel the same way about those words as she does when kids call each other "retard". I explained that there are people in the world to whom those words apply and that it isn't fair to turn an adjective that describes someone into an insult. "What if instead of the word 'gay' you heard 'retard'. How would you respond?"

"That's not okay, Mom. I would have to tell them to cut it out."

"Good. You should feel the same way about using those other words like that."

As adults we understand that throwing around words that describe homosexuality as an insult is unacceptable behavior. While we may disagree on the morality of such issues, most of us get that we are talking about human beings and need to be careful and considerate. Now what if you got as upset at the use of descriptors for the intellectually disabled as insults as you do about the words "gay", "homo" and "fag"? I guarantee Jerry Seinfeld wouldn't use those words on The Tonight Show. If he did he would never hear the end of it from the public. Somehow, making fun of our loved ones goes unnoticed.

The world doesn't love Mae. The world doesn't respect her. Some give her a pass because she is functioning well, but should that slow down, she will be dismissed like so many others like her. In Belgium she would be allowed to request to be euthanized. Our family would be denied citizenship in New Zealand because of Mae. In our country conservatives see her as a Taker because we get publicly funded services, liberals treat us like we've sentenced her to life and criticize us for not terminating her while I was pregnant. Strangers look at her face and say, "You're done now, right?" Comics use words that describe her as a punch line. Yet with all of that, our lives are better for having her there.  It would be a whole lot better if we stopped insulting people like her and began appreciating them for who they actually are.

Monday, March 3, 2014

On Commenting

My sister was up in arms over having to sign in to comment.* What evs. I took her feelings into consideration and removed the need to sign in to comment, but I did make it so that I have to approve all comments. Now y 'all have no reason not to give me ideas on what to post about during Lent. Get on it my friends, my ideas are all diaper and laundry based.

*She was not at all up in arms, but she did have the nerve to tell me her comment instead of getting the proverbial ball rolling.**

**She encouraged me to reflect on scripture in blog form. I'm thinking about it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Coming to a Blog this Lent. . . .

It is my goal to post 3 times a week during Lent, but I would like to start now because, good riddance February. February obviously has a chip on its shoulder about being the shortest month because it sure feels like the longest. There are some family birthdays, but since they don't live close enough for cake, February is my least favorite month.

In March you will see a lot of Ds awareness because 3/5 is "Spread the Word to End the Word" about the R words. I have a post in my mind that I've been trying to work out. Though I have pushed back at the idea of ending words, I accept that the language has in fact evolved, so I have some thoughts for that day, which also happens to be Mae's birthday.

Since Mariana's birthday is on Ash Wednesday we'll be celebrating on Fat Tuesday. I plan some cupcakes with a baby baked into one like the King Cake tradition. I'm excited she will finally have an age to match the attitude. She's been a hot mess of toddlerhood these past weeks, and I have to admit, I LOVE IT! I know I say seemingly negative things about babies being jerks and Mae being the worst, but I say it with affection. I am very satisfied watching our kids strike their independence. I feel incredibly blessed to watch a person, never mind 5 of them, change and grow and yet stay steadily themselves.

Today I was speaking to the mom of one of the girls on C's basketball team. She also has two little boys, one of whom has a very rare condition called Ring Chromosome 14 syndrome. It is amazing to learn of these new chromosomal abnormalities, all of which have a host of possible symptoms. The human being is such an intricately designed creature, and yet because we love our children and nurture them carefully, many live happy fulfilled lives. If I ever come across as a zealot crying eugenics at every turn it is because I am a witness to what life can be when you care for someone disabled. When I see the value of a human being, whether a disabled person or a drug-addicted welfare recipient, boiled down to their ability to contribute fiscally to society, I want to punch a wall. It has been implied to me that we are okay to have had Mae because we do not need taxpayer money to help support her. There is no argument in the world that can communicate what value Mae has added to our lives just by being. Every single human alive brings with him an uncountable value to the world.  It is only through the experience of love that we can ever shed our blindness to this reality. I hope to share this month our New Year resolution of focusing on works of Mercy and how it has opened my heart in an uncomfortably wonderful way.

3/21 is World Down Syndrome day. Consider making a donation to one of many places that support research and development as well as advocacy for these children. Or choose another rare chromosomal abnormality to support. I have listed the ones we support on the sidebar, but feel free to comment on any you personally support.

Lastly, I would like to ask for comments in this post on things you would like to learn about our family or my opinions (I have many!). Posting 3 times a week will be a huge undertaking for me since I have developed self-diagnosed Adult Onset ADHD. The H in my case stands for "Hypoactivity", as in "Low". I can not wait to hear especially from people who perhaps are strangers to us. Please introduce yourself and give me your good (or mediocre, I'm not picky) ideas.