Word Origins

Peter to friend: “It’s called a watermelon because it’s a melon and it’s made of water.”

Awed pause.

Peter to friend: “It’s called a cannonloupe, because it looks like a cannon.”

Awed pause.

Buzzkiller Mom: “It’s not a cannonloupe, it’s a cantaloupe.”

Reflective pause.

Peter to friend: “It’s called a cantaloupe, because it can’t…it can’t…it can’t lope!”

Whatever.

Home at Last

To fully appreciate Disney World, you need…

…the sense of wonder and marvel of a preschooler…

…the wild imagination of an elementary aged child…

…the love of adventure and thrills of a middle schooler…

…and the stamina of a 20 year old Marine.

(We were moderately successful.)

We took nearly 600 pictures.  I shall only subject you to half of them.

After downloading…

…and finishing Harry Potter Year 6.

Travel Advisory

When your 5 year old has a meltdown at 9 am, to include phrases such as “I hate Disney,” it is probably an indication that said child needs a day off.  Be thankful that he did it before you left the hotel and not at the park.

Note: the 5 year old has been happily playing with his older brothers’ LEGOs all morning, the ones they have nastily told him he may not touch, and neither he nor his 3 year old sister seem to mind at all that they are “missing out” on the “Magic.”

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When your 3 year old cries at 2 am, and you groggily get out of bed and imagine that the blurry path between you and the bedroom door is a queue with a feather pillow as a swinging gate at the end, it is probably an indication that you need a day off.  Or at least more sleep.

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There is no single food kiosk at Disney that will please the palates of all 8 members of my family.  Besides the obvious parent food vs kid food dilemma, the selections are generally so limited at the fast-food restaurants that somebody is bound to be unhappy.  Better luck might be had at the sit-down restaurants, but the cost would be enormous.  Fast-food eating with sharing of fries and drinks runs us $55-$65.  The nicer places would cost at least $200.

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Staying in a suite with a full kitchen and bringing a cooler packed with home-cooked meals, lunchmeat, and even convenience food saves you big bucks.  And honestly, a ham and turkey wrap followed by cheap store-bought chocolate chip cookies is healthier, yummier and more filling than fried food or popcorn.

But splurging on ice cream is always worth it.

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I love having a washer and dryer in my hotel room, even if they are so tiny I can only wash one outfit at a time.

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When looking at an extended forecast, remember that it is only a forecast, a prediction.  Pack for temperatures ten degrees up or down.  Just as it would be annoying to not be able to use the pool when the temps were unexpectedly mild, it is equally annoying to be freezing one’s nether regions off because the temps are cooler than predicted. 

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If I’m not paying for it, I like the heat to be set at 74.

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There is no way to see everything at the Magic Kingdom in one day, at least not if you have little children in tow.  Little children can only handle about 5 or 6 hours at an amusement park before becoming overwhelmed/exhausted/insane.  It’s best to get out before the meltdown.  If you want to see the fireworks at 8 pm, do not go to the park until long after lunch and maybe naps.

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Gifting your children with souvenir/snack money is a great way to eliminate older children’s begging for stuff.  It’s amazing how stingy they become when it is their own cash they have to cough up for that really-cool-thing-strategically-placed-right-where-they-will-see-it.  And the snacks brought from home taste much better than the ones sold at the park when the ones in the backpack are “free” and the cost of the ones at the kiosk induce heart-attacks in otherwise healthy people.

Note: this plan does not work with 3 year olds at all.

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Packing beer, gin, and tonic water is prudent on so many levels.

Random Procrastination from my Chores

Given the long list of things I have to do to prepare for an impending vacation (laundry, putting away Christmas decorations, calling the kennel), it was with amusement that I discovered myself vacuuming the garage.  I’m sure there are many who will think that vacuuming the garage ever is sheer lunacy, but for every one of you, there is someone else nodding her head in agreement.

And for every one of those, there is someone else saying, “What’s the big deal?  I vacuum the garage weekly.”

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Another really important task that absolutely had to get done before vacation was dropping off the various bags of items I’ve been assembling to give to Goodwill.  As I furtively loaded the car, I impulsively grabbed the exersaucer and loaded it up too.  I’m not sure if this means I’m (a) admitting I am done having children, (b) thumbing my nose at Murphy and his laws, or (c) sick and tired of the bulky thing taking up space in my garage.  I’m leaning toward the last one.

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When I stopped at the recycling center, I learned that they no longer took glass.  I rarely have aluminum cans, but always have some glass to recycle.  When I bemoaned this fact to a long-time resident, her response was, “What recycling center?”  I will never again feel guilty about tossing a cereal box in the trash bin.

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I don’t get 9 year old girls.  They are foreign creatures, and I deny ever being one.  Case in point:

“Katie, would you please play Play-Doh with Mary instead of doing your school work?”

Moan, whine and wail: “But then I have to clean it up!  Why do I always have to clean it up?  I don’t want to play Play-Doh with Mary!”

“OK, then.  Fritz, would you please play Play-Doh with Mary instead of doing your school work?”

“Oh, sure!”  For a 12 year old boy, the choice between Play-Doh and schoolwork is obvious.
 
Moan, whine and wail: “But I want to play Play-Doh with Mary!  How come I never get to play Play-Doh with Mary?!”
 
Sorry…I thought “I don’t want to” meant “I don’t want to.” 
 
My husband has explained to me that this behavior is typical of all females of every age.  When you see him, ask him if he gets a good night’s rest on the couch.
 
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The 3 year old girl is doing her best to exhaust me.  Frequently she interrupts my day to announce, “I have to go potty.”
 
“Then, GO,” I will say.
 
She will start to leave, but then will tum back and say, “You’re not coming, Mommy!”  And she’ll wait for me to get up and come.  If I’m not fast enough, she’ll do a little dance to show how urgently I need to move.
 
When there, I’ll try to help her pull down her pants.  “I DO IT!”  Fine.  I’ll try to help her up on the pot.  “I DO IT!”  Fine.  I’ll try to help her wipe.  “I DO IT!”  Fine.  Pulling up her pants, washing and drying her hands: “I DO IT!”  Fine.
 
But that’s only half the time.  The other times, she needs me to do everything for her, and there’s no telling which mood she’s in.  If I leave her independent self alone in the bathroom, she’ll call me back in.  I’m beginning to think she just wants the company.  Katie and Jenny tend to go to the bathroom together, another behavior I just don’t get.  I generally manage to hit the restrooms without a partner.  Maybe I can get Mary to ask her sisters to tag along instead of me. 
 
But then I’ll probably hear moaning, whining and wailing.  “I don’t want to!”
 
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It’s been a long time since I had a little 5 year old boy to school.  Peter, who has always charmed me with his brilliance, is nevertheless still just a little boy.  He’s not too happy with school, because I actually want him to sit down and do it.  I watch him squirm and fidget and move up and down and all around, and it drives me nuts.  For the first few months of the school year, I seriously thought there was something wrong with him.  Jenny wasn’t like this; Katie wasn’t like this.  But then I stopped to think.  Jenny isn’t a boy; Katie isn’t a boy.  Billy?  Fritz?  Oh, yeah, wiggles and wriggles big time.
 
I pity kindergarten teachers.
 
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Fritz had to write a ~700 word essay.  He chose to write about the Greek gods. 
 
Editing that paper was…painful.
 
I pity middle school teachers almost as much as I pity kindergarten teachers.
 
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And since I feel bad if I mention only 4 children in a random post, I have to add a few things about my other 2. 
 
We did a morning chore swap, and now Katie and Jenny are emptying the dishwasher instead of Fritz and Peter.  While I no longer have to help Peter differentiate between the big and small forks (which have different receptacles), I now have to guess in which drawer Jenny decides various utensils belong.
 
A friend loaned me the complete Harry Potter series, and I’ve worked my way up to the 4th year (I had read books1-3 previously, but I re-read them so I could remember what happened).  Billy discovered the stash and dove right in.  He now disappears for hours on end, and is up to the 3rd book (I need to get moving!).  Unfortunately, I have to hide the book in order to get him to do chores, schoolwork, eat, go to the bathroom, play outside in the sunny, mild weather, etc.  It’s a good thing breathing is an automatic thing.
 
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And now, back to work.

A Feast to Remember

“Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Mark 5:19

Today is the feast of St. John Neumann.  I would be negligent if I did not remember with a grateful heart his intercession.  Below is a reprint from his feast day in 2008:

The orthodontist called at 8:15 in the morning. “Your son has a cyst in his jaw, and he needs to see an oral surgeon right away,” she said. My eight-year old son, Fritz, had only gone to her for a consultation the afternoon before. She had taken pictures and then shooed us out of the office promising to call in a day or two. “I didn’t want to alarm you, especially not in front of all your children,” she explained on the phone. He would need a biopsy to determine the nature of the cyst.

My husband, Bill, is in the military. Fritz was referred to the Dental Clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.. It would be two weeks before they could see him.

At this initial consultation, a doctor pointed out that Fritz’s jaw was bulging. His chin, on his right side, was more pronounced than on his left. You could clearly see it. But we hadn’t noticed it. Later, I looked at a photo of him from a year earlier, and I could see it there too. We never noticed it.

It was hard not to feel guilty. I hadn’t taken him to the dentist since he was four. We had insurance, I just didn’t feel it was truly necessary. I had made excuses for not going: it is hard to take a whole crew of kids, especially toddlers. But obviously this thing had been growing for quite some time. If I had been taking him regularly, surely they would have seen this sooner.

The doctor told my husband that in a best case scenario my son would be lucky if he only lost a few adult teeth.

The day after this appointment, I wrote:

“I will flog myself for the rest of my life over this. Even if he’s fine. Even if it all works out in the end. But, in all things, I see the hand of God. My wonderful husband…helped me to see it last night. I was in so much need of comfort that he just could not provide. But God, through him, gave it to me. ’We should have been in Fort Leavenworth right now. But we’re not. We’re here, with some of the best doctors in the country.’ I needed to hear that. I needed to know that God is right here actively taking care of us…both the orthodontist and the oral surgeon have asked ‘How long will you be in the area?’ That’s just not good. But it’s OK. My guilt is not assuaged, but my soul is comforted. It will be a rough road. But we’re not alone.”

The biopsy was scheduled for eleven days later. There was plenty of time to worry, to ponder the possibilities, to scour the internet for information. The doctors mentioned a cyst called an OKC which is difficult to eradicate. They didn’t want to talk about what else it might be. I didn’t want to think about it. My heart was heavy, and I knew that I could suffocate in fear if I let myself.

Eleven days were enough time to do a novena. I chose St. John Newmann through whose intercession a boy afflicted with cancer was healed. We also petitioned St. Apollonia, patron of teeth and tooth problems. We begged everyone we knew to pray for our son. And finally, we sought the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick for my child who only earlier that year had made his First Penance and First Holy Communion.

Both Bill and I took Fritz to the early morning surgery. The initial prognosis was good: it seemed to be “just” a cyst and nothing worse. The doctors installed a stent in his jaw through which we needed to irrigate the cyst to help it shrink. They also forbade sports of any kind. His jawbone was extremely thin, and the risk of fracture was great. I thought about my son’s usual free time activities and knew this would be difficult, but I was thankful he had managed to avoid injury so far.

I took Fritz back to Walter Reed a week later for a check-up and for the results of the biopsy. As they suspected, it was definitely just a cyst, and in fact was not the dreaded OKC, but was simply a dentigerous cyst, which is easier to treat and is not likely to return. The staff was happy and surprised that their best case scenario was in fact much worse than the actual results. I consider it to be a miracle.

God gave us a gift of healing. It wasn’t an instantaneous cure, and life was difficult for quite some time. For two months I took Fritz on the hour-long drive to Walter Reed once a week for a check up. Bill’s job required long hours and many days away from home, so the burden of taking my son to these appointments, often with all the children in tow, fell on me. In addition, Fritz still had to avoid activities that risked fracturing his jaw, and we had to remember to irrigate his cyst daily. But he did not have to fight for his life.

Two and a half months later, at his usual appointment, the chief surgeon looked at Fritz’s latest x-rays and exclaimed, “It’s gone!” He had told us it would take six to nine months for the cyst to shrink. He turned to the new resident with him and explained Fritz’s diagnosis and treatment. I was elated to hear him say, “It turned out to be a dentigerous cyst, thank God.” Yes, I silently agreed, thank God.

Needed: Battery Recharging

Happy New Year!

I always love the promise that a new year brings.  I have some general goals for the year, but no real resolutions, except one: to go back to my new month’s resolutions.  Since most new year’s resolutions are forgotten by February or March, better to have a goal for the month, rather than an entire year.  Besides, needs change month by month.  What I need to do in July is often very different than what I need to do in January.

This month, my goal is to sit down for 30 consecutive minutes every afternoon.  Maybe with a cup of tea and a book.  Not with the computer or any sort of work.

I’ve resolved this in the past, and I generally do it.  But then I get away from it, especially during these busy months.  I don’t think I sat down once from noon until about 7 pm yesterday.

As for the coming year, who knows what the future may bring.  A few weeks ago, Bill and I sat on our living room couch and looked around.  We remembered where we were 10 years ago: we had two little boys, we lived in a tiny fixer-upper house; we struggled to make ends meet and thought that life was oh-so-hard.  We had no clue.  We tried to picture our life in another 10 years, and of course, this was impossible.  Chances are very good that one year from today, I will be sitting at the same computer at the same desk in the same room.  Chances are extremely slim that I will live in the same state six months after that.  Long term planning is necessarily relatively vague: to be healthier, wealthier and wiser.

What goals and plans do you have for the coming year?  But mostly, what are you going to tackle this month?