Random comments

Last night at bedtime prayers, Pete sat with his hands nicely folded. He has no idea what all these words are that we say, so instead he just randomly said words that he did happen to know. “Hail Mary…” “JUICE!” “…full of grace…” “DADDY!”

With the change in seasons and clothes, Jenny now has a new wardrobe consisting primarily of things that Katie was wearing not too long ago. I love seeing these old favorites on another child. I only wish my boys hadn’t progressed to the point where the destruction of clothing didn’t seem to be their primary goal in life.

My kids like to go “back and forth” when eating their breakfast and lunch (this is not permitted at dinner). No non-food items are allowed at the table while they are eating, and so my children will go from one activity (like drawing a picture at the dining room table) to the kitchen table to get a bite of sandwich and then back. I really don’t prefer this behavior in my older children, and I keep telling them that it is hazardous to leave their food unattended. Sit and eat, or else. This is a very real threat. Between Pete and the dog, there is no guarantee that your meal will be waiting for you when you get hungry for another nibble. Jenny has just come in crying because Peter ate all of his pancake and then moved on to her (unattended) pancake as well. This seems to be one situation where natural consequences are not enough to convince them to change their evil ways.

My husband needs to go to the eye doctor. He’s having trouble reading and needs to put paper farther away from his face than normal to read the fine print. Yes, we’re getting old. I remember a time when I knew exactly how old I was at all times. If you ask a kid how old he is, you don’t expect him to have to think about it. Last night, though, I had to do the math to calculate what my age will be in two weeks when I have a birthday. Sadly, if you ask me in May how old I am, I’ll have to do the calculation again: 36. Despite the gray hair, I didn’t realize that 36 would feel so young!

We’re having a mini-Easter today. Yes, it’s early. Friend Stacy’s husband Doug got back from Afghanistan about two weeks ago, and they are having an open house welcome home party pretty much all day today. “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?” (Matthew 9:15). No, he’s not Christ. But it is fitting to celebrate his return. I’m making meatballs that taste like Swedish meatballs but the sauce is made with Guinness beer. And since Bill drank all the Guinness he bought in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, he will just have to go out and buy more. Twist his arm.

There is an offensive odor coming from Pete, and I want to get in a run before it rains. Two weeks until Easter!

A wing and a prayer

There was a time when I dutifully made long to-do lists. And I dutifully checked off the things that I did as I did them. I would refer to this list throughout the day, re-prioritizing as the day progressed, adding new things as I remembered them. And the next day, I would take the old list and rewrite it with any new obligations for the new day.

It was a very good system.

But I stopped using it about four years ago. Bill deployed. I was pregnant with Number Four. I started homeschooling Fritz. At that time, my to-do list was the same thing every day:

1. Pray.
2. Get self and children dressed.
3. Feed self and children.
4. Pray.
5. Do school.
6. Wash obvious dirt off children.
7. Pray.
8. Put children to bed.
9. Cry/pray/fall asleep.

I really didn’t need a list to keep me on track.

That was then. I’ve been telling myself for the last three years that school is my priority and everything else I can manage to accomplish is gravy. I still make to-do lists, but they are usually for the weekends, and I don’t check them constantly, and they’re not the full and detailed ones of the past. Basically, I’m winging it.

This is not a good system.

First of all, school continues to be a top priority, but it doesn’t (always) take all day long. Especially now that we are in the home stretch – the last 10 weeks – the workload is easing as we complete workbooks and other projects. And especially now that the days are longer, there seems to be more time available. I have projects and planning and reading that I need and want to do.

Secondly, school is very important, but there are other very important things. And sometimes these very important things don’t take that long to do, but they need to be done. And sometimes these very important things need to be done at the right time. Like calling your mentally handicapped brother on his birthday. Not the day before, not the day after, but on his birthday. Because that really matters to him.

And when I fail in such a little, important thing, it is time to go back to a system wherein I not only look at the calendar and say, “Gee, Glenn’s birthday is this week,” I actually write down on my list: Call Glenn on Thursday.

And then I do it. And then I check it off. And then I’m happy knowing that the very important things in life are being done.

Sleep, baby, sleep

Jenny threw up in the car on the way to Bill’s office.

She threw up in the car on the way home.

She spent the remainder of the day sleeping, and her poor little body was burning up. At 5 am, after about 14 hours of sleep and 24 hours of limited activity, she appeared in our bedroom and decided to climb in bed with me. The fever was down, and she seemed chipper compared to yesterday (although it is too early to tell if this is due to her good rest or if the virus has truly worked its way out of her system). She closed her eyes and lay quietly beside me, but when I got up 20 minutes later, she was still quite awake.

I told her I would come back soon, right after I said goodbye to daddy. And after I checked email. And after I drank some coffee.

When I did finally go up, about 45 minutes later, to retrieve Peter, she had relocated to her bedroom. I guess she decided to get up and get dressed. She got halfway through this task – namely, she got her pajamas off – when she must have been consumed with exhaustion. So, she took a break and fell sound asleep, wearing only panties, on her bedroom floor.

This is the day that the Lord has made

I have to love days like this. Ones where nothing goes according to plans. After all, they really just remind us how little control we have over our lives anyway, right?

So, long to-do list: more spring cleaning, sewing, laundry, bills, trip planning, and, naturally SCHOOL.

Then the phone rings:

Bill: Michelle, I’m really sorry. I need to go to that dinner tonight in civilian attire. Would you please bring me a suit and tie?

Me: Sure, honey. No problem.


Jenny: Mommy, I don’t feel well.

And then vomiting. And now she’s passed out on the dining room floor.

So, short to-do list: visit Bill at the office, extra laundry, and hopefully, SCHOOL.

Do small black moustaches show up on ultrasounds?

Eric Scheske, who is certainly not the master of politically correct verbiage, had this to say regarding the high numbers of babies aborted due to a Down’s Syndrome diagnosis:

How can they tell whether the fetus is mongoloid or merely vibrantly French?

I’m sure most people will find this comment to be horribly insensitive. I, however, am reminded of the conversation my mother relayed to me that occurred after the birth of my brother, Glenn. Glenn will be 37 years old on Thursday. Back then, they didn’t have AFP screens with high false positives, nor did they have ultrasound. And since my mother was in her early 20s, who would have suspected that her child might have a genetic abnormality usually found in children of older parents?

But after his birth, the doctors and nurses looked at him and then approached my mother with the likelihood of his mental retardation. What makes you think he has Down’s Syndrome, my mother asked. They then proceeded to point out his physical characteristics, one by one, to which, each time, my mother responded that her husband had similar features. In fact, my brother does have Down’s Syndrome (and my father does not). But it does make one wonder if some of the babies are not misdiagnosed with Down’s, when in reality, they just look like their parents.

My husband, when describing his own father to people who do not know him, mentions that he looks like Adolf Hitler – a look I think my very nice father-in-law cultivated to frighten his own children and those in the neighborhood.

My father, on the other hand, looks more like Napoleon. Now Napoleon hailed from Corsica, not France. But the historically xenophobic French accepted him as their leader, so he must have passed himself off fairly well as one of their own.
And so, if my Down’s brother looks like my father and my father looks like Napoleon, how can they tell if a baby in utero is mongoloid or merely vibrantly French?

A real idealist

Do you know one of those couples who can finish each other’s sentences? Perhaps you are one of those couples. Some say it comes from a decade or two or three of living with someone. I once knew a couple who would relate stories of their shared experiences at the same time. It was a bit like watching a tennis match. My head would jerk back and forth from one to the other as one would begin a sentence, the other would overlap in speaking and then finish the sentence, and so on. It was…cute, in an annoying way.

This is not Bill and I. Try though we may, we think so differently at times that for one of us to finish the other’s sentence results in a rebuke from the speaker: that’s not what I was saying. And I’m perfectly happy with our differences. Otherwise, I would not experience amusing conversations like the one we had yesterday.

We were discussing the most charitable way to handle one of those tricky “love thy neighbor” situations. Or rather, Bill felt, I was criticizing his methods. That’s not really true. I just had some suggestions for how I felt he could have handled it differently…”better” I think I may have said. Of course, there is no right answer on how to deal with obnoxious neighbors. Perhaps calmly and politely explaining to them that their behavior is unacceptable is a good thing to do. Perhaps the situation requires silently offer up your personal suffering.

The end result of this discussion, though, is my husband’s conclusion (which he reaches every time we discuss something ambiguous like this), is that I am always right and he is always wrong. Unlike my husband, I make it a point to avoid arguments that I don’t think I can win. Naturally, he is permitted to be right quite often and without debate, whereas I am forced to defend my positions every single time. So I pick only winning battles which only lends credence to his claim that I am always right and he is always wrong – a statement which I am not fool enough to argue, so therefore he must be right.

Following his usual pronouncement of my victory, he said that such discussions were to be expected since one of us was an idealist and one a realist…he being the idealist. Oh no, dear husband, I said, I am the idealist and you are the realist. We then went on to explain why each of us was what we thought ourselves to be and the other was the opposite. But I don’t know why he even bothered to argue with me.

After all, he had already said that I was always right and he was always wrong.

And he was right.

corned beef and cabbage…on Jewish rye, please

I do know that the Reuben sandwich is not Irish, but neither was St. Patrick. The Reuben is my favorite way to eat corned beef and is traditional fare at my home on March 17th.

If you have never tried a Reuben, it is likely that some or even all of the ingredients are not foods you prefer. I introduced this sandwich to Bill early in our marriage. He balked. He didn’t like corned beef, swiss cheese or sauerkraut. I assured him that I didn’t like them or rye bread either, but somehow, grilled together, they produce a most satisfying meal.

Yesterday, I made them for lunch. When dinner rolled around, he asked me what I was making. “Well…,” I said. “Reubens?” he asked. “If you don’t mind…,” I said. “YES!!” was his jubilant response. He’ll be happy to know there’s just enough rye and corned beef left for one more sandwich today for each of us.

If you have leftovers from yesterday’s corned beef dinner, I highly recommend making Reuben sandwiches, even if you don’t think you’ll like them. And for all you Irish purists out there, I did also make Irish Whiskey Soda Bread. Yummy.