home sweet homes

I just read the last several days of Danielle Bean’s blog, which has left me in tears of laughter. Her life is so much like my own, especially days like this.

We returned last night after a long working vacation in New Jersey. It was much more work than vacation, but we managed. The purpose of the trip was to clean up and fix up our house in Hamilton and find new tenants. We were half sucessful on both accounts.

Highlights of the trip include:

  • Getting a speeding ticket in Florence Twp, NJ. Apparently, they are notorious for this. Nobody bothered to tell me, though. So, here’s a warning to you. No breaks cut for military spouses even though it was Memorial Day either. Full damage TBD.
  • Weeding my garden (MY garden, even though I don’t live there anymore) and looking up and realizing that all the work Bill and I did a year and a half ago was really paying off. And having a neighbor say that the tulips were really beautiful a few weeks ago was wonderful too.
  • Neglecting and/or abandoning my children for 5 days, much to their pleasure. Their diet consisted of way too many hot dogs and chicken nuggets and too much soda. They spent most of the time playing with old friends in a mostly unsupervised environment. They had very few baths and went to bed more than once with visible dirt on their little bodies.
  • Attending Hamilton’s Memorial Day parade with these same grubby kids. During the first 2/3 of the parade, the people on the floats threw very little candy. I was sitting with 2 friends and we had 12 kids altogether (2 infants). Somebody would throw 2 or 3 pieces of candy in our direction and 6 or 7 little street beggers children of God would scramble for them. Finally, the paraders started throwing some serious candy and the kids had more than enough. Pete started getting fussy, so he got to sample his first, second and third Dum Dum lollipops. And since I was holding him, I got sticky lollipop goo in my hair and down my face, arms and shirt. A good mom would have brought decent snacks and drinks. Oh well.
  • Hopefully finding some tenants for the place, but not sure. We are sure that we’ll get somebody though, since we’ve had lots of inquiries.
  • Realizing for the millionth time that God really takes good care of us. A house down the street is listed at $250,000. A house across the street was bought (off market) for $215,000. We were the last ones to buy in that neighborhood for cheap ($125,000). Three or four months later, houses on the street were going for $150,000 – $180,000. So, basically, in 6 years, we’ve about doubled our investment. This is due only to good luck and God’s blessing.

We’re glad to be home. We have to go back in 2 weekends to finish up. But for now, we’re just really glad to be home.

movie review

Days and days ago, Eric Scheske was asking readers to recommend his site, The Daily Eudemon (apparently his kids need shoes). I’m finally getting around to it. Eric is a pretty funny guy, and I love his blog and his columns for Catholic Exchange. I used to have a link to him on my sidebar, but when I changed my template I lost it and haven’t gotten around to putting it back up (weak, I know).

Anyway, hat tip to him for this review of The Da Vinci Code at Decent Films. I especially appreciate the comparison of media’s religious interest in The Passion of the Christ (the indignant cries of anti-Semitism) to the deafening silence on their part for these same issues with The Da Vinci Code. As Bill always says, “It is socially acceptable to be intolerant of Catholicism.”

My favorite part of the review is the end:

Catholic writer Mark Shea tells an anecdote about a college bull session among students at Central Washington University over The Da Vinci Code. “Even if it’s just fiction,” a student opined, “it’s still interesting to think about.”

To which another student replied: “Your mother’s a whore.” And then, to the first student’s stunned incredulity, he added, “And even if that’s just fiction, it’s still interesting to think about.”

My mom used the “it’s just fiction” line to me when expressing some interest in the book and movie. I responded with, “There’s a lot of fiction in the world…why waste your time with crap?”

And that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

tragedy averted

We had another common everyday miracle last night. This one was pretty dramatic.

We had just sat down to dinner on our patio. We were saying Grace Before Meals:

“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord.”

Of course, I generally think that the gifts we are about to receive are the nutritious and delicious foods we are preparing to eat. Last night, we were about to receive a different gift.

As we were finishing the prayer, a gust of wind whipped into our patio area. The patio is nestled between the house and the garage. We have an umbrella with our table, and its span pretty much fills the space inside a U-shaped roofline. As we sat there, the wind lifted the umbrella from its stand through the table and over our heads.

For Bill, everything was slow motion. For me, there was a long hovering moment like when Billy was born and he wasn’t breathing and I waited for his cry. Only seconds long, but the whole world just.stood.still. The next second, the umbrella crashed down onto the table and then the pole smacked Jenny in the face. Bill picked it up and threw it in the garage; Jenny climbed in my lap; and Bill went to get ice for her and another drink to replace my spilled one.

He was shaking, he told me later. All I knew was that the umbrella had been lifted up and crashed down quickly. He actually watched it hovering over his head just out of reach and saw it crashing down as he stood there helplessly on the wrong side of the table. He realized right away what only occurred to me about a half hour later: she could have been killed. The umbrella only weighs 20 or 30 pounds, but it fell from a height of probably 15 feet. Had the umbrella not hit the table first, the full force of its landing would have could have been absorbed by her little head. She had a black eye last night. I haven’t seen her yet this morning – I hope it isn’t worse.

And not only could she have been killed, but Pete was there next to her and Billy was on the other side. I don’t know, from a physics perspective, how the umbrella managed to land the way it did. It hit the table, but only spilled my drink and knocked the ketchup bottle onto my plate. And somehow this 10 foot long pole bounces off a 4′ diameter table crowded with 5 kids and 2 adults and only hits one person in the face.

It was a humbling experience.

So, thank You, God, for these gifts we receive, daily, be they food or a nice home with a patio or five beautiful, healthy, precious children. Thank You.

pray for peace

As unbelievable as it may seem, Fritz went to the last Pack Meeting of the year expecting to receive some acheivements (this time: 3 arrow heads and 3 belt loops) and once again he came home empty handed. If I can’t get him into a different den next year, I don’t know what I’ll do.

A few months ago, I wrote about being at peace. I had forgotten last fall’s soccer season and the previous spring’s baseball season. It is so difficult to be quietly joyful when every day of the week is jam-packed. My calendar looks like my 2 year old scribbled all over it, and there are very few days that are white. When my kids were little, I saw other moms running around like maniacs and vowed to never be one of them…but having 2 boys in 1 sport each is more insane than I could have ever imagined. The other moms in the neighborhood and I try to help each other out, but none of our 8 year olds made it to the same baseball team and only 2 moms got their 5 year olds on the same soccer team (Billy is on the 6 year old team and another mom went with T-ball).

I know two families who do swimming only. It reduces the amount of running around, especially when you have multiple kids. But my kids like soccer and baseball, and I think team sports offer something that individual sports don’t. Next year, the boys will be on the same baseball team, and things should be better, unless Katie wants to do a sport too.

I feel I can’t complain. A callous proponent of the one or two child family would just say that I have too many kids. I can’t give them each the opportunities they deserve. Those who have many kids, but who opt for no or limited extracurricular activities would just tell me that I’m trying to do too much and I should find one thing (like swimming) for all the kids to do, even if their talents lie elsewhere.

There has got to be a happy medium. Or should I just resign myself to 2 months of agony twice a year?

Between the crazy schedule, my husband’s long work days, details like Fritz not getting his deserved awards, Jenny’s recent desire to run away from whatever activity (generally in the direction of traffic), Pete’s curiosity and mobility, and the continued disarray of a recently moved household, I am definitely not at peace. Every night at dinner, my family prays for “peace, justice and forgiveness.” (When my sister visits, she says, “peace, justice and the American Way.”) Sometimes that peace we need is not a grand global peace, it’s just peace right here, right now.

vain confessions of a novice runner

It has been nearly two full days since I went for a run. And I am really sore. Why?

OK, I ran 5.3 miles and since I consider myself a novice runner, that’s really far. But I’ve run that distance before, and recovered from the sore muscles within 24 hours.

Perhaps my pedometer is off and I really ran farther. It’s possible. I haven’t calibrated it on a known distance recently. And I’ve been trying to improve my stride and increase my pace – which would alter my stride length and hence my overall distance. But not by that much. Maybe I ran 6 miles. Maybe.

But I have a much better theory as to why I am so sore this time.

Tuesday was a beautiful day for a run. It wasn’t too hot. It was late morning – close to lunchtime. Birds singing. Puffy clouds.

The joint was jumping. All the lunch-runners were starting to come out. All the lunch-walkers were starting to come out. All the moms with babies in strollers were out. People on their way to the O Club for lunch were passing at the slow limit of 15 mph. People running errands on their lunch hour were driving past.

And this novice runner didn’t want to look like a novice runner, oh no. So, those knees were going a little higher than usual, shoulders back, smile and wave. Gotta look good. Oh, the painful price of vanity.

I confessed this to a friend yesterday who recounted her own recent experience of running. She wanted very badly to stop, but a pickup was passing. She waited until he had turned the corner and then slowed to a walk. But as soon as she turned the corner, there he was parked and out of his car (apparently, he lived right there). We agreed that this is the time to check your watch and loudly say, “Hoo boy, 4 miles in 30 minutes, not bad!”

Birthday boy

Happy Birthday,

Frederick “Fritz” Joseph.

You made me a mother.
You suffer through my trials and errors of parenting.
You suffer through my trials and errors of teaching.
You are sweet. You are generous.
You are an awesome big brother.

And somehow, seemingly overnight, you went from being my little boy to being a big kid.

May your 8th birthday and every day of your life be filled with joy, love and the peace of Christ.

some pictures

There were 26 children making their First Holy Communion this past Sunday. Fritz is front row, second from the right. His teacher is on the top left. I should have been in the photo, too, as teacher’s assistant, but the family got stuck behind dawdlers in the chapel and if I hadn’t scooted, dodged and pushed my way through, we wouldn’t have had this photo at all.
It was great to see my parents and brother, Glenn. This photo was taken just before they left yesterday. I hope to see them again in a few months. Notice Katie’s fashion statement of blue knee-highs worn with shorts and brown cowboy boots.

Although they flew up from Florida, they are driving home in my old mini-van that I’m giving to my sister. Lest you think I’m such a nice person, this 10 year old vehicle will be driven my my brother-in-law and will finally free my sister to visit me without him.

The mini-van works fine, but the inspection expired in April. I asked my dad if he would mind driving it with an invalid inspection (everything else is ok – the registration is fine and it’s still insured). I already knew his answer: he is more than happy to drive it as is. The idea of “breaking the law” but not being responsible for any penalties is very appealing to him! That’s my dad.

Then he told me, “Oh, you shouldn’t have told your mother about the inspection…” She’s, of course, very upset at the idea of doing something illegal. That’s my mom.

And then he laughed at the idea of her being uncomfortable with all this minor law breaking going on. That’s my dad.

And then I laughed too. That’s my father’s daughter!

the daily flog

Billy lost his first tooth yesterday.

The Tooth Fairy blew him off last night.

It’s the little failures of motherhood that make me feel so awful.

Update and for future reference: the Tooth Fairy has an email address: toothfairy@toothlandclinic.com. I wrote to her this morning and she wrote back:

Dear Tooth Fairy,

my son, Billy, lost his first tooth yesterday. He put it under his pillow last night, but it was still there this morning. I explained that perhaps many many children lost a tooth yesterday and you might have been very busy. I found your email address here, and thought I’d see if you would write him an explanation. He will put the tooth under his pillow again tonight.

Thank you,
Billy’s mom

Dear Billy,
Hi and how are you? Hope that you are not too upset that I could not visit you yesterday but things have been very busy for me lately, and trying to visit all the kids at once I apologize and I promise that I will be passing by real soon, so keep your tooth under the pillow.
Make sure that you take good care of your new teeth!
The Tooth Fairy

Billy is now very happy, and so am I.