He fought a tree and the tree won

I mentioned a desperate need to lower the baby’s crib mattress.

We did manage to get that done the very next day.

He wasn’t very happy about it.

And the following weekend, this happened to Billy:

When I picked him up from camping and saw his face, I asked, “What happened to your nose?!?”  The Scoutmaster was right there to give me some details and assure me that my son had been well cared for.

Bill was out of town, and I felt it necessary to email him the picture.  Billy was concerned, saying he didn’t want his dad to “freak out.”  I asked if he thought I had “freaked out” when I saw him.  “Yes,” he said.  Next time, I shall pretend I don’t even notice that my child’s proboscis is twice as big on Sunday morning as it was on Friday night.  I thought my reaction had been rather calm…

We sent the story of the nose along with the photo:

Billy:  We were canoeing down the river.  We had just turned a bend, and we saw a branch sticking out of the water.  I was in the front.  I told Andrew to turn left, and he started to paddle, and it did start to go left, but it wasn’t enough, and the boat went under the log and hit my chest, so I leaned back and it scraped my nose. 

Fritz:  I was in the middle.  After Billy got scraped, I ducked and I grabbed the back of his life jacket and held his head above the water enough that he could get under the branch, and then I lifted him up on top of the branch and held him there because he could not stand.  Then we got him to shore while we got the water-logged boat free.  Matt and Peter brought their canoe over and put Billy in and got him to the end.  We followed.  Once we got to the end, they took off his life jacket, and an adult leader took him to the camp site.

Billy:  There they gave me medical assistance, wiped my nose off, determined it wasn’t broken, and told me to get in dry clothes.  It didn’t hurt that much.

One day, you are lowering their crib mattress so they won’t fall and bust their noses open.  The next day, they’re big kids and off on weekend adventures, busting their noses open.

Wake Up Call

Regarding the telephone, we go through phases in our lives, and I recognize my entry into a new one.

First, as a child, we have little to do with the phone.  Then we hit our adolescence or teens and early twenties, and it becomes a central part of our existence.  It is a connection with friends, fun, opportunity and adventure.  There is a complete disconnect between the hour of the day and the phone call itself – if you (or your friend) want to talk, you call.  You don’t mind, necessarily, a wake-up call at 2 am, especially since you might not have been asleep at 2 am.

Then, hopefully, you grow up a bit, and start to keep more regular hours.  Perhaps you get news of a family member’s illness or death at a bad hour, and you start to discern whom you can call and during what hours without causing alarm.  Calls at 2 am are not ever welcome, unless it is your husband calling from Shannon, Ireland, telling you he’s having his first beer in 6 months and he’ll be home to your arms within a day or two.

Now I am discovering a new phase, one in which I am the parent of teens who use the phone whenever they think of it, regardless of the time of day.


The boys were able to go skiing/snowboarding this weekend.  I didn’t think we’d be able to afford it, but their fundraising through Scouts covered the cost.  Fritz had been sick with some sort of cold virus earlier in the week, and we were happy that he recovered sufficiently to go.  They left Saturday morning, very early, with enough time to check in at the hotel, change into ski clothes, get to the Saturday Vigil Mass, and then hit the slopes for night skiing.  “Call me tonight,” I told them.  I wanted to remind them to use the hotel dryer for the clothes that would get wet.  They had extras in case they forgot anyway.

They didn’t call, of course.

Sunday, 8:30 am, the phone rings.  That’s too early on a Sunday for the phone to ring.  Unless, of course, you have children of a certain age.  Especially boys who feel guilty for not calling their mother the night before.

And, actually, Fritz didn’t feel too guilty about that.  “Sorry, Mom, we were tired.  We went right to bed.”  I had figured as much.  Instead, he was calling to tell me that Billy was sick, having finally succumbed to the virus Fritz had had.  Billy was not going to be hitting the slopes, but would be staying in bed.  I told Fritz to leave the phone with him and tell him to call me if he needed to.  Poor kid, poor adult leaders.  I knew there was one couple who did not plan to ski, and would be available to deal with any injuries or kids who needed a break.  But sore muscles or a sprained ankle are less of a problem than a lethargic, feverish kid.

Later that day, Jenny went down, so I could compare how she was feeling with how Billy was likely feeling.  She spent several hours passed out on the couch and didn’t eat dinner.  She sipped water and watched a movie and went to bed with everyone else.  She looked and felt miserable.

Billy called again during dinner to report on his misery and to say that the adults were going to have someone look at him.  I thought he meant an urgent care center, but I think it was just another mom with medical training.  “Call me later and tell me how you’re doing,” I said.

He didn’t, of course.


This morning, 5:30 am, the phone rings.

I was soundly asleep, which is rare for me at that hour.  But Bill is off for President’s Day, so his alarm and my internal clock were silent.  In an instant, however, that phone had me awake.  I nudged Bill.  “Get the phone!”  And he leaped from the bed.  Momentary panic was quelled by a reminder that I have boys of a certain age.  I was concerned, though, since Billy had been sick.  I couldn’t imagine that he had anything worse than a cold, but you never know.

It was Billy, as I suspected.  They were packing up for the return home.  In that early morning quiet, I could hear clearly from across the room as he asked his father, “Can I watch Star Wars Episode III in the car on the way home?”

“I’m going to kill him,” I groaned as Bill groggily tried to explain that asking permission to watch a PG-13 movie of a parent awakened from a deep sleep at an early hour of the morning was, to put it mildly, poor timing.

But at least he’s an obedient son.

My husband, ever the soldier, went back to bed, and is still there now.  I, on the other hand, have a grocery list to write, a dog to walk, laundry to start, etc etc etc.


Billy is now a Boy Scout.

Bill didn’t get out of work on time, and I was worried he would miss the ceremony.  Sometimes it’s a good thing when people don’t get started on time.  He came in and sat next to me.  The Scoutmaster, who had just been about to begin, noticed him and said, “Oh, NOW we can start…now we have an excuse…”

I’m just glad he made it.

The Boy Scout troop set up a rope bridge for the new Scouts to cross.  They chose Billy to go first.  Billy is afraid of heights.

It was pretty wobbly.

But the Scouts, including Fritz, stood ready to help if needed.
He did fine; he didn’t fall.

Getting his new neckerchief.

New Scout, proud Dad.

It’s a bit emotional to see your child leave one stage of his life and begin another.  I think it was easier with Billy than with Fritz, my first.  I suspect it will be hardest with my youngest children.


Billy received his Arrow of Light this past week.

Waiting for the ceremony to begin.

And still waiting.

It got pretty chilly.

Some didn’t mind waiting so much.

She certainly didn’t.
Small to tall.

My parents’ oldest and youngest grandsons.
Almost 15 and almost 6.
He has pretty intense eyes.

The Boy Scouts helped with the ceremony.
Fritz is blinded by the light.

The fire made the waiting in the freezing cold bearable.
But they had to move when it was time for the ceremony.

The Boy Scouts led the blindfolded Webelos over.

Awaiting their Arrow of Light.
The ceremony was very solemn.

Receiving the Arrow of Light.

Pinning the mother’s pin on.

Proud mama.

Happy Scout.

The den and leaders.

They told us to come early, and then they started late.  The ceremony was about 10 minutes long.  But it was worth it.

In 2 weeks, I will have 2 Boy Scouts and 0 Cub Scouts.  In the fall, we start the Cub Scout journey all over again with Peter.

Many thanks to my sister for taking the pictures.

Same old same old

My almost 11 year old son was showing off his pinewood derby car to the almost 12 year old girl down the street.  Since these two are normally at each other’s throats, I was surprised to hear their conversation be rather pleasant.  The girl was suitably impressed with his artwork and asked if he had done any other painting.  It was all very polite and almost adult…and I began to wonder if my son had turned into a different creature.  Should I begin to worry about how he spends his free time?  Might he be beginning to see girls in a different light that would require closer supervision?  Is this the start of him mooning around moping after girls and wondering why they never pay him any attention?

Then the girl asked, “Want to go jump on the trampoline?”

And his response: “With you?  No.”  And they went outside.

No supervision required.

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.”


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.


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.


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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
And now, back to work.

Delegating Dinner – The Humiliating Conclusion (and a recipe)

Friday night, I had a plan for dinner, but instead of cooking, I had been cleaning.  At 630 pm, I needed to pick the girls up from ballet.  Bill, slightly feverish and achy, was coming with me so he could pick up his car at the shop.  I stood in the kitchen with two full trash bags in hand to take to the big trash bucket outside and considered my options for dinner.

I decided to go with my original plan, Shrimp Destin, which is very very easy and gets 6 thumbs up around here (6 out of 8 is an extremely high rating).  I looked over at my 12 year old, watching The Dick Van Dyke Show on the laptop.  The shrimp recipe is so easy that, had I been a better mother, this untapped labor source could have been making dinner the whole time I was cleaning.  Alas, too late, I realized my neglect.  I did not have confidence that this boy could follow the directions on the recipe, and I resolved to walk him through it the next time I cycled through this meal. 

To soothe these guilty feelings, I opted to delegate a portion of the cooking to him.  It wouldn’t put dinner on the table any faster, but would make me feel that dinner was a team effort and not my sole responsibility.

“Fritz, honey, can you make the rice for dinner while I go get the girls?”  He looked at me with a willing, but blank, stare.  He’d never made minute rice before.

“Just put three cups of water on to high heat.  When it boils, add three cups of rice.  And then take it off the heat.”

He nodded understanding, and when I got home, the task was successfully accomplished.  I made the shrimp and steamed broccoli (love those frozen steam-in-the-bag conveniences) and everybody but my sick husband sat down to eat.

Peter, not a shrimp lover, had rice and broccoli on his plate.  After his first bite, Fritz asked him, “How was the rice?”  Peter gave him a quizzical look.  Really, what should one answer to that question?  It tastes like…minute rice.  Fritz turned to Katie who had only shrimp and broccoli on her plate.

“Why aren’t you having rice?” he demanded to know.  She knitted her brow.  What was the big deal about rice? she seemed to be wondering.

“I made the rice!” he declared proudly.

“You made the rice?” asked Billy.  He eagerly started shoveling forkfuls into his mouth.  “Mmmmm…great rice, Fritz!” he enthused.  And then, right in front of me, he leaned across the table and gave Fritz a high five.

Peter, now understanding the fuss about rice, was quick to include his praise of his older brother’s wonderful accomplishment.

Everybody returned their attention to their own plates and eating resumed.

“How’s the shrimp?” I asked Billy. 

“It’s good, Mom,” he answered with that polite tone one might expect if one had asked how the minute rice tasted.

I did not get any high-fives.

I should have.  This recipe is quite yummy.

Shrimp Destin

1.5 to 2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp

1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup butter, melted
1 Tbl white wine
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp dry dillweed
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Saute green onions and garlic in butter until onions are tender.  Add shrimp, wine, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat until shrimp is cooked through.  Add dillweed and parsley.  Serve over toasted French rolls or rice.

Good times

Oh my.  What a day.

Confessions are at 11 am at the Cathedral on Saturdays, so we hauled our sooty little souls down there this morning.  I noticed the line was moving quickly, which meant our usual favorite priest wasn’t there.  The kids went first, then me.  Bill was hanging in the back with the little ones and went after the three people behind me.

A sign inside explained the short confession time:  Deaf Priest.  Do not whisper.

This would have been a good day to have mortal sins.

So, no lengthy explanations, no probing questions, no nothing.  State your sins, say you’re sorry, get forgiveness, get out.

After confession, I like to compare penances.  I got one Our Father.  Billy said he got three Hail Marys.  Goodness!  Fritz admitted he couldn’t understand what the elderly Irish priest had said, so he did the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Angel of God and St.Michael prayers.  Covered his bases.  Katie said she, too, had not understood so she did three Hail Marys.  Then Billy admitted he didn’t understand the priest either.  (Was that a lie he told right after confession?)

I asked the kids if they saw the sign that said the priest was deaf. 


They asked about the man being Irish.  Jenny, being somewhat out of the loop since she hadn’t gone to confession, asked, “Are all Irish people deaf?”

“No,” I answered, “He happens to be Irish and he happens to be deaf.  Not all Irish people are deaf.”

“Oh,” she said, “He’s deaf and he’s Irish.  All Irish people are deaf.”

“No!” my husband said.  “You’re part Irish.  Are you deaf?”

Cheekily, my 7 year old asked, “What did you say?”


Then we went to the store to buy some pants, socks, and shoes because my children keep growing despite my expressly stated order that they should mature, but not grow.  Growing can be done when they have jobs to pay for clothes.

By this time, they were starving, and we decided to feed them even though, for sure, my son would grow a half inch during the meal.  While we waited for our food, I suggested we play a game to keep everybody’s mind off the fact that we were waiting for food.  I suggested that everybody pick a new name and we would all call each other by these different names for the rest of the weekend.

“My name is Empress Maria Theresa.  You may call me Empress or Your Highness and you certainly may curtsy or bow when speaking to me.  Please speak in German or Czech.”

Bill selected Hector.  Fritz wanted to be called Bob.  Billy, Hades.  Katie, Nancy Drew.  Jenny picked some fairy name, then said she didn’t want to play.  Fine.  Foo on you.  Peter first picked Carson Palmer.  Mary is Mary.

At one point, Peter was acting like a 5 year old and Bill suggested that he act like Carson Palmer, meaning, like an adult.  Images flashed in my mind of the notorious behavior of professional athletes, so I began to protest, “Well, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea…”  Then I pointed to Billy, “He’s HADES.”

“Good point,” said Bill.

Peter changed his name to Joe Hardy.


It was a steak place, this restaurant, but the children’s menu did not have steak on it.  The adult menu had 12 oz steaks or larger (or a 6 oz filet mignon for more than the 12 oz sirloin).  There was no steak salad or steak burger or anything small and less expensive, so I told Billy he could not have steak.  Feeling bad for our carnivorous young son, my husband ordered a steak and gave him some to supplement his chicken finger lunch.

Billy, I mean Hades, when given his portion, responded, “Thank you for your offering.”

If you don’t quite get that, you obviously haven’t read the Percy Jackson books.


More errands.  Mary falls asleep.  The kids are given an option to stay in the car instead of going into Home Depot for air filters and light bulbs.  Katie and Jenny want to come, but the rest will stay.

“Fritz, sit up front and look 12,” I say.  He’s been affecting a “mature” look since he was 11 1/2 so I could run quick errands while leaving a sleeping tot in the car.

“I am twelve!”

“Oh.  Yeah.  Good.  Sit up front.” 


At Bass Pro shops, nobody wanted to stay in the car.  That’s OK.  I came prepared with a book.  I happily stayed with Mary.

Bill wants to take me out to shoot shotguns.  I know, I know.  What a lucky lucky gal I am to have a husband with such romantic ideas for dates. 

He said he needed ear protection.  He said he knows I’m sensitive to things touching me, and thought perhaps the stick-in-your-ear ear plugs might annoy me.  “It’s OK.  I’ll just go deaf,” I said.

After the errand, he showed me the stick-in-your-ear $0.99 ear plugs he bought – for him.  And he showed me the full-cover-over-your-ears, much-more-than-$0.99 ear protection he bought – for me.

This is love.


On the way home, I read him a few snippets from Rachel Balducci’s book.  The theme of these excerpts was Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris is not well known in my home…yet.  I noticed how eerily quiet the car became when I was reading.  My cell phone rang, and I spoke for a minute to a girlfriend.  The din from the back of the van was the usual volume – loud.  But when I hung up and went back to the book: silence.


We went home and somebody said something else very funny.  I can’t remember it.  But I do know that Fritz said, “Mom, you have to put this on your blog!”  It doesn’t matter what it was, really.  His comment wasn’t at all narcissistic, self centered – somebody else was the clever one.  And he has very little clue that complete strangers read this blog.  He knows my blog is our family history.

We ran errands and took care of business.  We ate lunch and spent the day together.  We had fun.

It was just an ordinary mundane Saturday, but we want to remember it.

Wake me up when it’s over

Only 142 days until February 7, 2011.

What is February 7, 2011? The day after the Superbowl.

Fifteen years of marriage, and never an issue during the football season. Oh, perhaps some temper tantrums or grumpy Monday/Tuesday mornings, but nothing that didn’t wear off by afternoon (73% of all Packer fans experience bipolar disorder…85% of all statistics are fictitious…). And I like football, especially if junk food is involved…or good company…

But then I grew an adolescent football junkie. If I hear one more name or statistic or find my browser opened to Yahoo fantasy football one more time, I’m.going.to.scream…


Oh, yeah, and what do you say to two young boys when they want to know why Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for 6 games (reduced to only 4 because he’s been a good little boy)? Football has ceased being fun for me.