In Which I Win “THE VOICE”: Van edition (and other Friday Funnies)

Standard

fridayfunniesMichael, holding a paper back mouse with whiskers on one side:

“I’m naming my mouse ABCMouse.com!”

Me: “I’m definitely raising 21st century children.”

Julianna, holding a baby doll:

“Mom, my baby name, is, Dzustin…Bieber!”

Me: speechless.

Nicholas, at prayer time following an ice storm:

“I pray for good roads and a lot of snow.”

Me: “You do realize those two prayers are completely at odds with each other.”

Alex: “No they aren’t! I don’t want ice, I just want a lot of…well…I don’t care if it’s on the SIDEWALKS, I just want it not on the STREET!”

Christian: “Alex wants twenty inches of snow to fall only on the yard.”

Our Advent season car soundtrack:

Michael: “BLAH BLAH BLAH BLEE BLEE BLEE!”

Nicholas and Julianna: “You’re a grand old flag! If you like to talk to tomatoes….Veggie ta-a-ales, veggie ta-a-ales, there’s never ever ever ever (ever ever…ever…ever) been a show like…”

Alex: “NO, NOT AGAIN!

Nicholas and Julianna: “Fine. O SAY CAN YOU SEE?”

Alex: “Aaagh!”

Me: “Alex, you should start singing the theme to the Flash. You’ve got to fight back!”

Alex: “But they LIKE the theme to the flash.”

Me: “You’re thinking about this all wrong. You’re not trying to find something they don’t like. You’re trying to find something YOU DO. Like…like this.”

Me:

In the car:

Dead silence.

Ha-ha! I won!

 

What An Ice “Storm” Reminded Me About Family

Standard
Photo by Lina, via Flickr

Photo by Lina, via Flickr

This past Friday, it rained some trace amount that couldn’t be measured, and my entire city went berserk.

All weekend, the weather, the accidents, and how long it took to get home were the only topics of conversation. Hours. We spent hours talking about it.

It caught everybody off guard. See, it was supposed to warm up Friday afternoon and melt everything before school let out, but it didn’t. So as the day went on the chorus of “oh crap, the world is a sheet of ice!” grew steadily more pervasive until all else in my Facebook feed disappeared entirely. Teachers and administrators stayed at schools until seven, eight, nine at night, waiting for busses to arrive. One principal got on the last bus of the night, to make sure the kids got home safely. Some kids didn’t make it home until one in the morning. Around town, busses were crashing into mailboxes and Jeeps. Cars were crashing into each other. A pileup shut down the interstate, and in town a drive of twenty minutes took three hours. I heard that Carl Edwards brought out his tractor and started pulling people out of ditches, trying to clear the road so people could get home.

I was supposed to have carpool duty on Friday. But the other mother was already on that side of town, and she said, “It doesn’t make sense for us both to be out. Do you mind if I pick up your kids early?” I opened up Google maps and ran the routes for her to figure out the best path home.

I didn’t know Google maps had a “burgundy.” But there it was, interspersed with bright red, right along the route from school to home.

It took them well over an hour to make a drive that usually takes 8 minutes. And then we began waiting for Julianna’s bus.

And we waited…and waited…and waited.

An hour after dismissal time, I managed to get hold of to the school. Only one bus had arrived yet. “Oh!” I said. “I’ll come over and get Julianna, then.” I mean, it’s only about a mile and a quarter from our house.

Well…a mile and a quarter that includes a steep dip into a ravine and back up the far side. We live at the bottom of a much more gradual hill, and by the time the van and I had slipped and slid past about six houses, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

I went back home and called the school back.

Between then and 5:45, when Julianna got home, I spent a lot of time fretting and anxious. It’s bad enough to have your kids caught out in bad weather. It’s worse when you aren’t with them and you realize you have absolutely zero control over their safety.

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get people to leave me alone. I can’t work when it’s noisy. I can’t think. And this year, with Michael home in the mornings and bored out of his ever-loving skull, I am really, really short on work time. I dream of the day they all go to school all day.

And yet every so often…like, when my daughter’s safety is outside my control…I find myself imagining a world in which they don’t exist at all. A world in which I am alone—a situation one of my short story characters found herself in. (As a matter of fact, it’s the situation faced by my newest novel character, too.)

Whenever I contemplate this world, I think of the freedom I would have, the luxury of spending as much time devoted to work as I wanted, the ability to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted—and I shudder. I shudder deeply and shut my brain off, because the emptiness of that world is more than I can bear to think about. What would be the point of all that freedom and potential for productivity, if I didn’t have this gang of destructicons? Even an introvert draws her strength from the presence of those she loves.

family-21-alternate

A good realization to ponder on the cusp of Christmas break.

Kid Moments, To Brighten Your Day

Standard
halloween-2016

Pinkeye, Xbox remote, blue-blooded ghost, and Tinker Bell

Alex, 11, as we pull in the driveway after school: “You guys used 30 pronouns in the time between the stop sign by the pool and here.”

Me: “Were you counting?”

Alex: “Yes, and that was another one.”

**

Julianna, 9, in the van, listening to Puff the Magic Dragon on the beat-up Peter, Paul & Mommy CD: “…AND FOCKUS IN DEE AUTUMN MIST…”

Me, because there are way too many words that, in the mouth of a child with speech problems, turn into the F-bomb: “Julianna. Frrrrrrrrrollllllllicked.”

Julianna: “Frrrrrrooooccc—frrrrroolllllllick.”

Me: “That’s it! Good!”

Julianna: “PUFF THE MADZIC DRAGON LIVE BY DA SEA AND FOCKUS IN DEE AUTUMN MIST…”

Me: (Face palm.)

**

Nicholas, 7, making his breakfast the day after throwing up.

Me: “Nicholas, have you had any funny moments lately?”

Nicholas: “No.”

Well, there you go.

**

Michael, 4 11/12, on Halloween, wearing a sloppily-cut sheet spattered with blue paint, made by Mom, who is not the whiz of Halloween costuming in the house. He is tripping over his hem, and the sheet keeps getting pulled sideways, so the eye holes are nowhere near his eyes.

Michael: “It’s HARD to be a ghost!”

And finally…this year, it’s official: We’ve had Christmas carols for 12 months straight. They never stopped singing them the entire year.

Parenthood. A nonstop adventure.

Ten Simple Ways To Model Mercy For Your Kids

Standard

cedar-berriesAs the Year of Mercy winds down, I thought I’d bring things down to a practical level. As parents, we have primary responsibility for forming our kids’ view of and approach to the world. Providing a good example alone isn’t enough—we do have to teach—but it’s a darned good start. Here are ten simple ways to model mercy in the mist of your everyday life.

1. Take a deep breath and say a prayer before reacting to whining, breakage, spillage, or fighting. It doesn’t have to be fancy or particularly eloquent. I think the most fervent prayer I ever pray is: “Lord, help!” (I use that one a lot. Ahem.)

2. Measure your words when discussing political candidates, work associates, and others who upset you. For many of us, speech is where mercy disappears first.

3. Lead the way in mending hurts. You may have to send your kid to his room when he’s behaving badly, but go in and offer love—cuddles for little ones, gentle words for older ones—as soon as you’ve calmed down.

4. Banish “It’s okay” from conflict resolution—because if there truly was an offense, then it isn’t okay. Instead, take a deep breath and embrace the difficult words “I forgive you.”

5. Instead of trying to resell your kids’ outgrown clothes (or yours, for that matter), donate them. School nurses always need clothes. So do shelters for abused kids and battered women. There’s also Goodwill, and USAgain bins (for usable clothing) and PlanetAid (for holey socks and threadbare shirts).

6. Keep protein bars, water bottles, or jars of peanut butter and sleeves of crackers in the car so you have something nonperishable to give to the homeless who beg at major intersections.

7. Make a family charity jar. Give your kids the chance to do small chores, and afterward let them put $.25-.50 in the jar. When it’s full, choose a charity as a family.

8. Donate blood. (You don’t even have to take your kids along. Because you know if they see the tape around your arm they’ll ask about it!)

9. Help with funerals in your local community.

10. Offer child care, kid transportation, adult transportation, grocery shopping services, or lawn care to an individual or family facing illness.

Practicing mercy doesn’t have to be dramatic or time-consuming. Small, simple, and realistic beats grand gestures every time.

How do you model mercy in your home?

Mercy Monday small

Related Posts:

Mercy On A Monday

The Incredible Sick

Standard
8138060640_dda4529e46

Image by Sky Noir, via Flickr

Every superhero movie these days involves a mind-blowing escalation of the final battle. You know. The Avengers are fighting creepy mechanical creatures that fly around knocking New York City to pieces. You think it can’t get any worse, and then it does: there’s a lull in the action, a low-pitched roar, and my kids start singing, “The FISH thing! The FISH thing! The GIant GIant FISH thing!”

 

Sometimes life feels just like that.

Every two or three years, in the early fall we have an epic, extended Battle of the Ick. (In case you haven’t intuited it? We’re in one.) This year it got an early start with a dry, hacking cough around the 20th of August. I remember that because I saw my 90+ year old grandmother on the 26th and I was afraid to kiss her because I thought I was probably incubating the boys’ bug.

A month later, we’re all still coughing. And before anyone invokes the almighty doctor, we’ve been to urgent care twice and the regular doctor once, each for a different person. So far in the month of September, we have spent $200 on copays.

It’s not a bad illness, but it wears on you after a while. Nicholas is dramatic by nature, but when he gets sick, he’s even dramatic in his sleep. His coughing can keep the entire house awake, because he sounds like he’s choking. Mama Kate hasn’t been sleeping much the last month, and most of the time it’s not because of a full brain. It’s because I’m getting up and rolling over sixty-pound kids, smearing them with Vix, re-dosing them with Triaminic or Dimetapp, and the like.

In the past three days, I finally feel like we finally started getting a handle on it.

But now we’re staring down the barrel of one of Those Weeks: upcoming deadlines; catching up from a weekend trip to Illinois that set me back by five days; the need to grocery shop on a Monday because a bunch of the weekly staples are flat out gone; the lawn that is threatening to turn into a set for the Jungle Book (see: out of town over the weekend); an NFP class to teach; a massage for which I’ve been waiting for over a month, to fix the burning tendons in my feet; a flute lesson; a DS group plotting session…

And that’s just Monday!

And on the eve of That Week, we came upstairs at bedtime to discover…well, I’ll spare you the details.

So here’s the thing: there’s this little set of instructions for Christian living called the works of mercy. And one of them is “visit the sick.”

But in the past eleven years I’ve had ample opportunity to beat my head against the fact that nobody wants to visit the sick, because nobody wants to GET sick. In fact, as a mother I’ve often felt that the time I most need support is the time the support completely evaporates.

439220235_22e2e1a92b

Photo by muscalwds, via Flickr

It got me to thinking that we take these works of mercy too literally. The thing is, when you have a sick kid, the rest of your life doesn’t stop. The deadlines are still there, the family still needs to eat, the lawn still has to be cut, and the other kids still have to do their homework. Some things can be rescheduled. Many can’t.

I realized this weekend that we need to rethink the meaning of “visit the sick”. There are ways to help a family overwhelmed by illness—even the petty kind that lasts a month and doesn’t threaten anyone’s life–without exposing yourself to the same illness. Mow their lawn. Rake their leaves. Bring the un-sick family members a meal, or just pick up a handful of groceries and drop them off. Help transport the un-sick kids. Supervise them outside, where carriers will be less likely to share their germs, so they don’t have to tag along while parents drive the sick kid all over creation to see doctors who have oh-so-thoughtfully decided to move their practice to the OPPOSITE END OF TOWN.

Do the things the parents can’t do, because they’re too darned busy taking care of the stuff that can’t be put off.

And when it’s all over at last, help them catch up with everything they had to let slide in the interim.

We’ve got to stop putting mercy in a box. Mercy wants out. Mercy means finding a way.

*****

Note: this is not a thinly-disguised plea for help. God willing by the time this posts, I’ll have the lawn mostly mowed. I’m just realizing we’ve got to quit thinking two-dimensionally and give mercy a place in real life.

Mercy Monday small

I Give My Kids Experiences

Standard

It turns out that physical things don’t buy as much happiness as experiences. It’s experiencing things together that binds us. This makes sense to me. My kids want an Xbox. We’ll let them earn money to buy it themselves, but we’re not buying it ourselves. We don’t have room in our living room for any more crap, and anyway there’s too much useless screen time in our house as it is.

Besides, it may pacify them in the moment they’re actually using it, but if psychology is right, and I think it is, a few years from now they’ll get much more emotional satisfaction out of remembering the cool things we did together.

Like staying at a cool historic hotel (this one, review to come later on Pit Stops For Kids), high on character…

blog hotel room

blog hotel chair

…with a bowling alley in the basement!

blog hotel bowling

Or like walking 1.5 miles each way to visit a 2300-foot-long rail-to-trail bridge.

blog bridge

blog bridge span

Or getting this close to a wind turbine…

blog wind turbine

…on the way to the wedding of Mom and Dad’s friends:

blog wedding

…who managed to do the impossible and have AMAZING food (Ecuadorian!) for a whole lot of people at quite possibly the coolest reception venue ever:

blog N

blog A

blog wedding dance

blog wedding daddy dance

Oh yes, and don’t forget the thoroughbred horse racing we squeezed in between Mass and wedding on Sunday.

blog horse racing
blog horse racing love

It was a pretty intense weekend. We filled just about every moment, because whenever we tried to settle down at the hotel, the littler boys turned on the “stir crazy” gene.

We have two more travel writing trips this summer. In the preparation stages I almost always go through an introvert’s panic attack feeling of being overwhelmed by the desire to stay home and keep things simple hesitation. But I always take a deep breath and push through, knowing that the experience is worth the effort.

 

Why, Hello, Summer.

Standard

It seems that lately, most of the people I talk to about summer plans say, “We have no plans. We go to the pool every day!” Speaking for myself, I might not mind going to the pool every day under two conditions: 1) the water is warm; 2) there’s plenty of shade. But since those two conditions don’t really exist where I live (especially in conjunction with each other!), the pool feels more like a chore to me than a pleasure. I really, really, really, really hate sunscreen. (Really.) And squinting. And when you have four kids who are only so-so swimmers, taking kids to the pool involves being at maximum mental capacity from the time you enter the enclosure until the time you leave it. This will be the first year I feel like I can take them by myself at all.

IMG_1456

Summer break, day one: helping Grandma rid her flower bed of rocks.

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering how to spend these summer months wisely. Field trips are good. I do like the fact that the kids get to sleep in, because it means I have more than 45 minutes of work time at 5:30 a.m., which is hands down my best brain time of the day. I like having evenings open, where we aren’t in a high-stress, get-out-the-door mode.

But unstructured doesn’t seem to work for us. My kids fight a lot. And they get bored easily. And while I could stupefy them with screen time, they always fight more afterward. And it’s really hard to concentrate on, say, novel plotting, while Julianna is reading Sophia, the Little Mermaid, or Anna and Elsa in her compressed, monotone (read that: loud) voice and Alex is practicing piano and the other two are fighting over Lego, or light sabers, or who gets to go first at Gobblet. It’s hard even to concentrate enough to write this blog post.

Since it’s so hard, I tend to problem solve it a lot. And the result is that last summer, I was so focused on creating productive time, I felt like I kind of cheated my kids.

hog bones

But we’re leaving behind the jawbones and other skeletal remains of the hogs that were composted in this sawdust. I’m quite sure every child in my kids’ schools envisions spending Day One of summer break doing just such archaeological excavations.

So this year, I’m committed to doing a better job of splitting the difference. To that end, I’m setting some general guidelines along the lines of New Years Resolutions. Because I know I will make time to write, I’m not even talking about that.

1. Pool twice a week.

2. Practice my flute half an hour a day, five days a week. Well, four at a minimum. (How far I’ve fallen from the years when I walked through a blizzard to practice four hours every single day!)

3. “Homework” time—a single worksheet or flash cards for the three younger ones, at least twice a week once summer school lets out. That may seem cruel and unusual, but the teachers have asked for it.

4. Field trips. I did the prep work, so we already are committed to two multi-day trips and one day excursion for Pit Stops For Kids. And if last summer taught me anything, it is that the distance between the end of summer school and the start of the fall semester isn’t as great as it seems, so I’m only listing three more “must-do” field trips, two of which are local.

5. I’ve promised Alex I will make time from my Womens Fiction Writers Association challenge to read a series of books that he loves, called the Unwanteds. I’m on book two.

What about you? Do you make plans for the summer? Or does unstructured really work for your families?