mature sweet nothings in my in-box

Last night it was nearly 8 pm and Bill hadn’t called to say he was on his way home yet. 90% of me just sighed a heavy sigh and was prepared to face another evening of putting the kids to bed by myself.

But 10% of me was convinced he was dead.

I tried to imagine the police informing me that my husband had been killed in a car accident, and thought I was in a perfect mood to receive such news. I thought I was so tired, mentally and physically, that I’d surely be able to call my sister and hold things together, on auto-pilot, until she could get to me. And then I would probably need some drugs.

Do all women plan their possible reactions to the possible news that their husband is dead? My mom once told me she does/did. My sister does. Maybe it’s a unique genetic thing?

This morning I told Bill about it.

“Michelle, I’d have had to die in the parking lot. I call you as soon as I’m backing out of my parking space.”

“It could happen. Perhaps it was the one night you were distracted or decided to run an errand before calling me.”

“Yeah, right.”

Silly, huh. He laughs. But this is the same man who was worried to death about me last month. A neighbor was hosting a hen party. She would be moving soon and needed some help finishing up some open bottles so she wouldn’t have to pack them.

It was an act of charity to attend. My parting words at 9 pm:

“Oh, I don’t want to go…I’d rather stay here with you. I’ll be back in an hour.”

Two hours later, he left our sleeping children alone in the house (shocking!) to walk over to the alleyway a half block away. From there he could see the neighbor’s house on the next block and hear us “cackling” as he called it (“clucking,” I think, being a hen party). He decided that he was being ridiculous, that there was no way I was lying dead in the road in this ultra-safe neighborhood (military post, folks) with streets and alleys lit up so brightly that the street-facing windows glow with the light of a pre-dawn morn all night long.

Another hour and a half later, I returned home and he tried to be mad at me for causing him such worry, but then he decided that a few margaritas make me quite amusing. I guess it brought back the old days when we dated in college, and I would on rare occasions have a few sips of wine and get a bit tipsy.

(That’s my child-friendly version of life in college. I’m practicing for when the kids are older. How’d I do?)

Many months ago, Bill told me he was pondering our old age and couldn’t decide who he wanted to die first: Him, so that he’d never have to suffer a day without me, or Me, so that he could spare me living without him. Yes, he’s still quite the romantic. I find these thoughts very sweet. This morning, after last night’s contemplation of his early demise, I informed him:

“I’ve decided. I want to die before you. I’ve suffered enough days and nights without you already.”

He laughed. We agreed that we’d rather just die at the same time, despite the immense grief it would cause our offspring. They’ll get over it.

Earlier this week, Bill sent me an email from work with this picture attached. Here are his words:


I was sitting here looking at the picture I have on my wallpaper and thinking about us and how great life is and great it will be to grow old with you and be with you through retirement. I figured I would sit down and write a few lines to express how much I love you. You are so wonderful and thoughtful. I love you.


This picture is now my wallpaper too. I really hope, God willing, that I get to grow old with this man.

live by the bomb, die by the bomb

“We want to give you the joyous news of the martyrdom of the mujahed sheik Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” said the statement, signed by “Abu Abdel-Rahman al-Iraqi,” identified as the deputy “emir” or leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Joyous, indeed.

May his “martyrdom” lead to peace and healing for all Iraqis.

open mouth, insert foot

I once read that the whole point of etiquette was NOT to make people feel like buffoons if they didn’t get it right, but rather to provide guidelines so that everybody felt most at ease and comfortable. This was accompanied by a chastisement for those who would make somebody feel uncomfortable for committing a gaffe.

With that in mind, I strive to follow my golden rule of etiquette which is to treat everyone respectfully and also to not take offense at the omissions of others. For example, I try to remember to introduce someone who joins me in conversation with another person, but if I am the person who should be introduced and my aquaintance fails to do this, I just do it myself and don’t get worked up over it.

Well, yesterday I failed completely in my attempt to “make everybody feel at ease.”

I took Katie to her last Start Smart Baseball program session (oh, thank goodness this is over!) yesterday afternoon. One of the other participants is the younger sibling of a girl from Fritz’s CCD class. Olivia had said, at one of the last CCD classes before they made their First Holy Communion, that she wanted to have a party – not just for her FIRST Holy Communion – for her 100th Holy Communion. I asked her to please invite me if she did have such a party.

So when I saw Olivia, I asked her, “How many Holy Communions have you made, Olivia? Four?”


“No? Oh, come on…at least 2 or 3, right?”

“No, just one.”

For a second I thought that she just didn’t realize that every time you go to Mass, and you go to Communion, you would count that. But quickly, my brain caught up with the reality of the situation and I knew that, no, she really had only received Communion that one time, nearly a month ago.

And I felt awful. Olivia was probably unaware of my point and quickly discarded my comments as that odd talk that grownups do. But her mom was only a few feet away and very likely heard everything. It’s not that I don’t think they shouldn’t be attending Mass every Sunday. It’s not that I don’t think it’s hypocritical to have your child attend CCD and receive the sacraments but to not go to Mass on Sunday. I really do. I could never have gone through the motions of “raising my kids Catholic” without full faith, without full soul. It’s dishonest.

But I don’t want to make somebody who isn’t where I am spiritually feel bad for not being where I am spiritually. I think it’s the job of priests and DREs to tell parents how to properly raise their kids in the Catholic faith. If she had asked my opinion, I wouldn’t have lied. But in casual circumstances, I don’t think there is much to be gained by making somebody feel bad.

I am just now reminded of another similar circumstance where, once again, I opened my mouth and inserted my foot. It was at a meeting at my last parish. I was a part of the Elizabeth Ministry, which is a great ministry for women. The original group of us who began this ministry were all extremely devout Catholics – most of us had been “born-again” fairly recently. We all grew in our faith tremendously as a result of working together in this group. It was fantastic. This particular meeting came more than a year after the original group formed, and many of the original members had moved on to other things, or were not present at this meeting, and many different members were there instead. Bill was deployed at the time and I happened to describe to the group that I had a babysitter for one thing, but was trying to squeeze confession in as well, but there was some special pre-Cana Mass going on and confession was canceled without warning, making me pretty mad, since my opportunities for confession without kids in tow was limited. One of the ladies present dropped her jaw. She hadn’t been to confession in over 10 years and couldn’t imagine that somebody would want to go so badly that they would get a babysitter.

She felt bad, guilty. I felt bad, for that wasn’t my intention. I was just comisserating with my fellow die-hards.

But my gaffe must have been the prompting of the Holy Spirit. She decided she wanted to go. Her son was in the 2nd grade and would be making these sacraments too. It took about 3 or 4 months with me asking her, at her request, if she had gone yet and with me providing some info on how to go to confession, but in the end, she did go, and felt good afterwards.

So, perhaps my ignorant comments to Olivia did not fall on the deaf ears of her mother. Perhaps she will feel a little guilty for not going whole-hog Catholic (I don’t mean that somebody has to obtain and use every single sacramental or icon or statue available…I just mean if you intend to raise your kids Catholic, then have Catholicism be an integral part of your being). Maybe it will only take Olivia two years to reach her 100th Holy Communion, and not a lifetime.

identity theft

“…names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of as many as 1.1 million active-duty personnel from all the armed forces — or 80 percent of all active-duty members — are believed to have been included, along with 430,000 members of the National Guard, and 645,000 members of the Reserves.”

It’s highly likely that my husband’s and my brother-in-law’s information was among the data stolen. Maybe even my dad’s. And even though a credit check has revealed nothing bad outside of a disputed $73 that we allegedly owe for a medical supply (but I knew about that, and personally told the scam artist collection agency to take a flying leap), I pointed out to Bill that if the data isn’t secured, the government could face reassigning millions of social security numbers. After all, in ten years, his name, birth date, and SSN will be the same and the SOP for obtaining credit will be the same, so the data will be just as useful in 10 or 20 years as it is today.

But a more urgent fear is the physical security of military personnel and their families whose addresses could become the common knowledge of nefarious foreign interests, if the data works its way into the right black market. The hope, my hope, is that the theft was innocent enough (simple theft, not theft with intent to commit treason or even theft with intent to commit fraud through the use of another’s identity), and the perpetrators will see the news and decide to anonymously turn the hard drive over to authorities. Stolen items are called hot…but some are considered scorching.

nothing original

OK, I have nothing original to say today. I’m just copying stuff from other people.

First, a visit to Catholic Mom led me to this cartoon at Happy Catholic. Having recently met Catholic Mom, I have to agree that meeting people flushes out a character and adds a whole dimension that just can’t be obtained strictly online.

Then reading Happy Catholic’s postings from yesterday, June 6th, 2006, the dreaded day of the beast: 6/6/6, brought me to the comments written by TonyR which are too funny not to copy here:

666 Biblical Number of the Beast
660 Approximate Number of the Beast
DCLXVI Roman Numeral of the Beast
665 Number of the Beast’s Older Brother
667 Number of the Beast’s Younger Sister
668 Number of the Beast’s Neighbor
999 Number of the Australian Beast
333 Number of the Semi-Beast
66 Number of the Downsized Beast
6, uh… I forget Number of the Blond Beast
666.0000 Number of the High Precision Beast
665.9997856 Number of the Beast on a Pentium
00666 Zip Code of the Beast E-mail Address of the Beast Website of the Beast
1-666-666-6666 Phone & FAX Number of the Beast
1-888-666-6666 Toll Free Number of the Beast
1-900-666-6666 Live Beasts, available now! One-on-one pacts! Only$6.66 per minute! [Must be over 18!]
666-66-6666 Social Security Number of the Beast
Form 10666 Special IRS Tax Forms for the Beast
IAM 666 License Plate Number of the Beast
Formula 666 All Purpose Cleaner of the Beast
66.6% Tax Rate of the Beast
6.66% 6-Year CD Interest Rate at First Beast Bank of Hell ($666 minimum deposit, $666 early withdrawal fee)
$666/hr Billing Rate of the Beast’s Lawyer
$665.95 Retail Price of the Beast
$710.36 Price of the Beast plus 6.66% Sales Tax
$769.95 Price of the Beast with accessories and replacement soul
$656.66 Wal-Mart Price of the Beast (next week $646.66!)
$55.50 Monthly Payments for Beast, in 12 easy installments

And since joking about the devil is pretty serious stuff, and some may feel that it’s just not very wise…in fact, I myself would not encourage such behavior in those of little faith…I simply must defend my levity with this:

If the Lord is powerful, as I see that He is and I know that He is, and if the devils are His slaves (and there is no doubt about this because it’s a matter of faith), what evil can they do to me since I am a servant of the Lord and King? Why shouldn’t I have the fortitude to engage in combat with all of hell?

– Saint Teresa of Avila

Of course, God knew Job could handle everything that Satan could throw at him, and Job got it all. Yes, he had faith. But he had a miserable, wretched life, too. I’ll just tread lightly here and not foolishly offer any obscene gestures in the direction of hell.

all boy

Just an FYI in case you are confused: they are light sabres, not light savers. It’s bad enough that I have correct the boys, but then I heard a mom saying it yesterday too. Sabre, as in sword, the kind carried by a cavalry officer back when they rode horses and charged into the melee that defined milleniums of warfare swinging their heavy curved blade down on the heads of the common foot soldiers. Gruesome. Menacing.

This is a sabre. This particular sabre cut my wedding cake. We didn’t have a military wedding, but the sabre was a nod at military tradition (my husband was a 1LT in the Army Reserves) and my husband’s years of fencing experience. Hanging in front of the sabre is a Stetson, a part of my husband’s dress uniform when getting together within a cav unit (very much frowned upon by the non-cav higher-ups, which is part of the reason they do it).

Light saver conjures images of an aging hippie with a gray ponytail talking about ways to reduce your electricity consumption. Or it sounds like life saver, which is a floatation device or a candy with nice fruity flavors. None of these ideas inspires much fear.

We have an arsenal of light sabres, around 8 of them. Three of them make noise, light sabre swooshes and clashes. Pretty cool. One has Yoda’s voice offering advice.

Last night, Pete, age 11 months, picked up one of the light sabres and started attacking Billy with it. Billy was armed and happy to “fight”. The part that really had Bill and I laughing was the noises coming from the baby. He was dueling Billy and making the appropriate sound effects too! I cannot speak for all girls, but in my experience with my mixed-gender family, the use of sound effects in playing or telling stories is a guy-thing. I do not generally use sounds to describe events. My girls don’t usually describe the sounds they hear. But Bill and my boys would be hard-pressed to tell me something without making noise.

Suppose Katie is swinging on the swing and Billy is running in the yard. Suppose there is a collision:

Katie: {sob sob sob sob sob} Mommmmmeeeeee, I {sob} was {sob} swinging {sob} and {sob} Billy {sob} was {sob} running {sob} and I {sob} hit {sob} himmmmmm. {sob sob sob}

Billy: OW OW OW! MOM! I was going whoosh whoosh whoosh like Flash and Katie was going swish swish on the swing and then BAM! KaBLAM and I went SPLAT and it hurts OW OW OW!

So, it doesn’t surprise me much that Pete is already making sound effects. It just shows me that his verbal skills are right on track.

For a boy.

Pete is a trained sabre swallower. Please do not try this at home.

Last week it was peanut butter…

…slathered all over her naked torso.

Tonight it was margarine.

When her siblings called out, “Mom, Jenny’s covered in butter,” I said to my sister on the phone, “Oh my gosh, I gotta go.” click. She never called back, so she must have guessed it was a disaster, not a tragedy.

She was dripping globs ranging in size from 1 tbl to a quarter cup. And when she saw that I saw her, she ran…around the house…dripping everywhere.

Maybe someday she’ll own a fancy spa, and the famous and wealthy will come from all over for her special butter masks. Maybe she’ll own a line of moisturizer. Or maybe she’ll just always have soft, supple skin. And hair.


School’s Out!

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

– Alice Cooper

I’ve got this song running through my head, so I thought I’d share the pain.

When I thought we were heading to Kansas for next school year, I looked into their homeschooling laws. Apparently, all that is needed is for a homeschool to register as a private, non-accredited school. Maybe I’d have to state who attended my school, but I don’t think so. That’s a pretty homeschool-friendly state, especially compared to Virginia, which isn’t horrible, I suppose, but I feel oppressed here with having to test my kids every single year, including kindergarten. If you’d care to hear why I think that’s wrong, let me know and I’ll fill you in on all the injustices of that law.

But since the plan is to go to Kansas in another year (2007 – 2008 school year), I figure I may as well be prepared with a name of my private school. So, I’ve come up with St. Michael the Archangel Rational Training Institute for Education. St. Michael is our family’s patron saint (and my personal patron too), and so naming our school after him is most appropriate. And the acronym possibilities are irresistible.

Yesterday, here at SMARTIE, we concluded our school year with our second annual poetry recital. Katie and Billy fought over who would be first. Katie won and recited “Time to Rise” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Then Billy did “The Little Turtle” by Vachel Lyndsay. Jenny got up next to do “Twinkle Twinkle” but was immediately overcome with stage fright, showing that her entertainment genes come from her father’s side of the family and not mine. After she cleared the stage by rolling away, Bill sat and recited “Requiem” by Robert Louis Stevenson. He had to peek, but I couldn’t be too harsh on him since he spent all of 5 minutes memorizing the lines, plus I had to peek on my piece, “The Duel” by Eugene Field. I worked on this with Fritz months ago and read it over once before the beginning. I probably could have done it without peeking, but was feeling mentally lazy (plus Bill peeked, so why shouldn’t I?). At least I was amusing, and the kids enjoyed my description of what really happened to the cat and pup. Fritz, my reluctant performer, went last and recited “The Song of Mr. Toad” by Kenneth Graham. He did just fine. Just to include Pete, I sat with him on my lap and we sang “Twinkle Twinkle” while he clapped and laughed. Pete found the production very entertaining.

We videotaped the whole thing, and when it was over we had to watch it, naturally. But then we were officially done with school and went out for ice cream to celebrate. Hooray!

I told the kids: 2 weeks off and then summer school. What?!? Yes, I know how mushy the mind gets if it isn’t exercised for 3 months (and it won’t be if I don’t make them). So, we’ll be doing light coursework to keep up minimum brain cell production. My big challenge: once a week taking a field trip – somewhere for something. Tons of possibilities in the area and I want to make use of them.

Rah rah sis boom bah times 7

Little Petey is doing two new and wonderful things. He is walking (two or three tentative steps at a time) and he is going down the stairs backwards (quickly, successfully, and confidently). He is joyfully practicing these new skills over and over again. It is so sweet to the the grin on his face when he thinks to himself, “I DID it!” after he manages forward motion on two legs.

I remember when Fritz was learning to walk. He had the same pride as he got better and better. But a few things are different with Pete.

For one, Pete’s mom is not the same person as baby Fritz’s mom. I remember those years of early motherhood. I hovered over Fritz. I agonized over every fall, scratch and bruise. I spent hours crouched over while little baby fingers grasped mine and fat baby toes padded up and down the hallway. And I was his biggest cheerleader.

With Pete, I’ve walked him a few times, but only a few. He has older siblings with shorter statures to help him get around. I don’t fret over his falls; I don’t call my mom, the nurse, asking for symptoms of a concussion (I still do for the older kids, but not Pete yet).

And I honestly don’t know if I’m his biggest cheerleader. It’s not that I’m not encouraging his every step with as much enthusiasm as I did Fritz’s – I am. But the competition is stiff here. I can beat Bill, but only because I spend more time doing it than he does. But Pete has 4 older siblings who think he’s just the most amusing and wonderful thing on the planet, and they stand around him telling him to do it again and again and again clapping the whole time.

Those who question an adult’s capacity to love more than a few children and thus encourage small families are missing the point. A family’s love is not limited to the love of the parents for the children and the children’s love of the parents. It is rather the love of each family member for each other family member. And here, at Chez Moi, we got a whole lotta lovin’ goin’ on.