a time to remember

A rare precious moment I never want to forget. My daughters dressed as superheroes. My boys followed suit. Since the girls were done first, and Fritz was rushing to catch up, he said, “Don’t save the world without me!” The neighborhood kids got dressed up too. The whole lot of them ran off to help the poor and oppressed. These are the moments of childhood I find most precious. Would that they all continue to try to save the world the rest of their lives.

Local superheroes: Jacob Pearl, Billy as Spiderman, Danielle Holdeman and Jenny as Supergirls, Katie, Sam Chase as Darth Vader, Tucker Chase as Robin, Fritz as Batman and Erin Chase.


I went shopping yesterday. I had a mission: to buy a formal dress. The last time I had to do this, I decided to sew my own dress. I still have that dress and like it a lot, but I’m still 11 pounds up (but only 11 pounds up!) from my pre-pregnancy weight and it’s just a bit tight. I’d rather be comfortable, and it’s always good to have a spare dress…or two…or three…

Along on this mission I took a young woman I know. She is 20. It was good to take her, since she kept me from even looking at the old woman dresses. These are very nice, very modest dresses that look best on someone who is 45 or older. I’m not there…yet. Soon, but not yet. So, it was nice to have someone along who kept me focused on younger styles.

The problem with taking this particular woman, though, is that she is a size 4 with A cups. I am currently a size 12 with C/D cups. So, every dress that she tried on looked fantastic on her. Ugly dresses looked great on her. Beautiful dresses looked beautiful on her. And I looked like an slightly overweight, soft-bodied mother of 5, which I am.

big sigh

Anyway, I looked at the dresses that were available and was so very disappointed. Every dress is either strapless or spaghetti-strapped. I couldn’t even find any sleeveless dresses. To make things worse, the cleavage on these dresses dropped below the breasts. And most didn’t have backs, either. Now perhaps I am a bit of a prude and I’m not interested in showing off my body to a whole room of strangers…but from a purely aesthetical standpoint, I really don’t want to see that much of somebody else’s body either. Unless it’s a really nice body. Some dresses simply shouldn’t be made in a size larger than about 8. And perhaps it is fashionable to go about without a bra, but if you’re bigger than a B cup, it’s really not attractive. Really, it’s not. And dresses that have no back, have spaghetti straps and have cleavage to the navel do not allow for the wearing of a bra.

I tried on 6 dresses and settled on one with spaghetti straps. I bought a sheer black scarf to go over the shoulders, since I freeze at normal room temperature. And I’m determined this coming fall to start another sewing project. I’ve got to figure out a way to make an attractive, stylish dress that adjusts without too much trouble to the constantly changing measurements of my constantly changing body.

And with that invention, I’ll make a million bucks!

rhymes with duck

All the fun stuff happens around the dinner table. Billy announces that he knows how to spell “yuck.”

“Y – u – c,” he says.

“K,” says Fritz.

“Oh, y – u – k,” says Billy.

“No, honey, ck. It rhymes with duck. y – u – c – k Yuck, duck, same ending,” say I. First of all, why is YUCK a word being spelled around MY dinner table? Should I be taking this personally? (yes) Secondly, why do I not see where this conversation is headed? I have become so naive over the years.


And so the boys and I begin to list all the words we can think of that rhyme with yuck. Finally Billy comes up with one that starts with F.

I was completely blind-sided but managed to maintain composure. “Oh, we don’t say that,” I said. Thankfully, the kids translated that as, “Oh, that’s not a word,” and we went on to buck and luck.


A common everyday miracle

Is there such a thing as a common miracle? Of course. These are the things that happen naturally, and we tend to never give them a second thought. But I try very hard to praise God for all things.

So, you can count yourself lucky if you find a parking spot right near the door when you’ve got a doctor’s appointment and 3 children in tow. You can smile when the forecasted storm blows over on the day you planned to go to an amusement park. You can sigh in relief when your toddler gets distracted instead of rushing head-long into traffic.

And when your tiny baby is diagnosed with a miniscule hole in his heart that will most likely close and even if it doesn’t will only require antibiotics before dental work…and when you take this baby 6 months later back to the cardiologist for a follow-up appointment and he declares that the hole has in fact disappeared, you could just smile and think it’s great and then get back to your everyday life.

OR…if you’re like me and this happens, you can be nearly reduced to tears that God has been so kind and gracious as to permit you peace of mind and a healthy baby. Thank you, God, for my many blessings and especially for closing the hole in Peter Damian’s heart. Amen!

For many weeks now (an eternity around here), Pete has been unable (or unwilling) to go to sleep in his bed and stay there for more than about 15 minutes. Daytime or nighttime, his favorite place to sleep has been in my arms or perhaps in the car seat. It’s a bit exhausting, especially since he weighs about 18 pounds now. I generally take a shower at night before bed, and in order to accomplish this, I would nurse him to sleep, slip out of bed and take a shower, only to emerge to his screams or to find Bill pacing the halls with him on his shoulder. Then I would just go to sleep with him. I don’t mind him in my bed, but every so often, it’s nice to snuggle up to hubby and not kiss goodnight over the head of a sleeping baby.

Ah, but to everything, turn, turn, turn…blessed relief, I’ve been able to nurse him to sleep in the evening and put him in his crib where he remains for, sometimes, a few HOURS. Wow.

Last night I took a shower and went to bed, kissing my husband goodnight with no little body between us. Several hours later, I was wondering “what in the world is that noise?” And fighting that little nagging voice that was telling me to get up. I’m just not accustomed to responding to a crying baby in the middle of the night!

grocery shopping with a swarm of bees

Imagine a warm June day. Suppose you are granted a few moments of rest. You pour yourself an ice-cold glass of lemonade and select a comfortable seat outdoors near some flowers. You close your eyes and raise your face to the sun. One or two bees dance lazily around the nearby blooms, and their quiet humming is a soothing background music that you hardly notice.

Now suppose that, instead of one or two bees, there are five or six or more. Each bee is meandering along, bobbing over and around the same flowers. But the buzzing is louder since there are so many of them. Their music is no longer in the background but commands your attention. You open your eyes. You consider relocating your chair. You remind yourself that they are just bees, that they pose no threat, that if you mind your own business they will mind their own business. But you don’t close your eyes again. You aren’t as relaxed. Your moment of rest is disturbed.

This is grocery shopping with all the kids in tow. Each child, considered alone, is his own hub of energy and is busy attending to the business of being a child (which means observing every person, product or display to determine it’s intrinsic worth; reporting that intrinsic worth to me; making recommendations for purchases based on what commercials have informed them are the main advantages of the product; and attempting to follow and keep up with me while looking in a different direction). Every other child in the store is behaving in much the same manner. Yes, a few are throwing fits, a few are silent and abnormally well-behaved, but most kids are just going through the store being kids.

But unlike that mother over there with one toddler and one preschooler, I have a whole swarm of bees. You can’t ignore us. You hear us coming and are distracted from your shopping. You stop and count. You pull over and let us pass. You marvel at my bravery and/or insanity or perhaps you feel sorry for me and think my husband is an ogre for oppressing me and turning me into a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps you remember those days and your own brood of children and wish you could go back.

I haven’t noticed you. I, the beekeeper, am busy blowing smoke and keeping order. The bees aren’t dangerous, but you need to be careful lest you get stung (toddler has a melt-down, baby begins to howl, preschooler knocks over some items, a child walks backward in front of every other shopper in the store). But I know you’ve seen me. You stop me to tell me your thoughts. Yes, I have my hands full (better than empty). Yes, I will treasure every moment as best I can. Yes, they grow up fast. And then, like those bees, we’re off to other gardens.

Pillow-boy and Pokey-man and double standards

I don’t like name-calling. “Stupid” is a really bad word in this house. One of the chief rules here is “Be Loving”, and name-calling is in direct violation of that rule.

Sometimes it’s easy to label name-calling. There are some obviously offensive words: “stupid”, “poopy”, “girly” (when directed at a boy), and other similar insults.

Other words go both ways and the tone and context are necessary to determine if it is an insult or not: “silly” could mean that I’m laughing WITH you or AT you, “meany” could be a cry of alarm at a true injustice or could be a complaint that things aren’t going my way, and so on.

And other words, seemingly innocuous, could be used in a mean way. “Billy, you’re a tree.” Is being a tree a good thing or a bad thing? Are you recalling the positive characteristics of a tree and being poetical (“Billy, you are strong and steadfast!”)? Or are you simply grasping for an offensive word and know that Mom will yell at you if you use stupid?

I want my children to be empathetic. I want them to realize that hurtful words are just as bad as hits and kicks. I want them to realize that even when they mean something in a neutral or nice way, it could be taken as an insult. Basically, I don’t want them to insult others intentionally, and I want them to pay attention to how others react to their words and to be aware if someone is upset by what they say. I realize that it will take many years to acheive competency in this area. Some adults could use these lessons too.

At the same time, I want my children to be a bit less sensitive. If you break down in tears whenever you perceive the slightest insult, you will have a rough life. There are many boorish people out there who have no idea how obnoxious their behavior is. There are some mean people out there who don’t care how you feel. There are those who will feel the need to educate you, who will tell you that what you believe is wrong. To function in this world, we need to be able to ignore those hurtful words, not take the comments personally, and if the insult is intentional, we need to be forgiving. Plus, I’m not naive. Always discipling one child for name-calling puts a lot of power in the hands of a little child who can tattle about every insult. I’ve seen this power abused.

So, when an accusation of name-calling is leveled, I need to lecture both parties on proper behavior. Being a mom is tough. And then…

I forgot about men.

Men are not women. Men talk a different language. Men actually call each other names and it means, “I WUV you, man…you are my best friend.” My husband calls one of his friends “knuckle-dragger” and “neanderthal.” He means it in a nice way, of course. Sure.

So, when my boys say something like, “Fritz you big dopey,” it really translates to, “Hey, Fritz, wanna wrestle?” And then wrestling or jumping on the furniture or some other boy-fun commences. I can’t get wrapped around the axle over that sort of name-calling. It’s man-code.

Ah, but we have a house full of two genders. And girls don’t talk like that. It is rare that the boys talk to their sisters like that and rare that the sisters talk to the boys like that. No, when Katie calls names, she’s being a big meany. And feelings get hurt. So, there is a double standard being applied. It is ok for Billy to name-call Fritz (sometimes), but not ok for Katie to name-call Fritz (ever).

And then a few days ago, at dinner, Fritz (age 7) is whining a complaint that his mean 4 year old sister Katie is calling him a “pillow.” Even though I know she was being mean, honestly, COME ON….and so I begin with the fact that he is 3 years older, that he needs to not be so sensitive, that she called him a PILLOW…what in the world could he find offensive about that?

But Bill handles things differently. He decides that Fritz is “pillow-soft” for being so sensitive. He proceeds to name-call his own son “Pillow-boy.” This translate, somehow, into “Let’s wrestle” and chaos is regularly breaking out around here. Of course, he didn’t want Billy to feel left out, so he dubbed him “Pokey-man” which is actually pretty funny, since Billy takes FOREVER to do everything and we are constantly waiting for him to finish getting dressed or finish coloring or finish looking at something.

In the meantime, I am working on Princess Cupcake and using her royal aspirations to modify her behavior. After all, princesses are not rude or mean, are they? And thankfully, the boys have a dad who can teach them proper man-behavior in a world where it’s ok to call your buddy the most egregious things, as long as you don’t mind a bit of rough-housing or you can run really fast.

toddler’s pleas spare Raggedy Ann

When the Christmas season of 2003 arrived, Jenny was only a few months old. I received a “congratulatory” poinsetta plant from a friend which had a Raggedy Ann doll included. She’s pretty big, over 24″ long, and holding a stuffed snowman. Her green skirt has poinsetta plants on it. She’s cute. Well, sort of.

This Raggedy Ann is just a little off. I’ve looked hard at her and tried to analyze why she just isn’t pretty. It boils down to her smile. She doesn’t have a smooth arc as her mouth. Instead she has a crooked, zigzag mouth which does curve upward into a smile if you consider it as a whole. But on first impressions, it is just very crooked. And it leaves me with the impression of someone a bit mentally deranged. Yes, she’s smiling, but I’m not sure I like what lies behind that smile. What’s hiding behind that snowman, Ann? Something sharp?

Well, Ann got boxed up with all the Christmas decorations, and I forgot about her for a year. Bill wasn’t home that Christmas, so he got to meet her when we pulled everything out to decorate for Christmas 2004. He too was a bit freaked out by her appearance and has given me nothing but flak for the last two years. Since I wasn’t that fond of her, I decided to find her a new home by giving her to the post thrift store. I had her in a brown paper bag with some other things that I thought someone else might like better than I do. We all got into the mini-van to go to the grocery store (and to drop the bag off along the way) when Fritz asked why the bag was in the back. I casually remarked that it was just some stuff I was giving away. Little Jenny’s eyes got big and she said “Not my doll!” Gee, how did she even know it was back there? And how are her comprehension skills that good? What do I have to do around here to give away things?

Well, I had to admit that it was really hers, since it came to congratulate me on her birth. And I had to admit that she did seem to love the doll and played with her while she was on display at the top of of stairs. So, I promised her that the doll wouldn’t be given away, and I pulled her from the bag when we got to the thrift store.

And now I am resigned to hear Bill’s jokes and comments about the scary doll for the next 20 years by which time I hope Jenny is on her own and can decorate her place with Raggedy Mental-Patient Ann.