The BEST Presents…

…are ones you can’t wrap.

My sister and her family, who have been living in Alaska for 3 years and whom I have not seen since May 2009, are coming to my house today!

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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. 

No.

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.

Root, root, root for the home team

Fortunately, the home team won.

Apparently, the home team routinely has Monday matinee games with $1 admission. And $1 hot dogs, drinks and chips.

I’ll have to remember this next spring, since today was the last game of the regular season. The Savannah Sand Gnats did make it into the playoffs. Maybe I’ll pay them some attention.

We just happened to get the paper today for free. And I actually sat and read it. And I noticed the $1 admission, so Bill and I decided that would be fun.

And it was. I love minor league ball.

We also just happened to run into a season ticket holder who was unloading his extra tickets. He gave us 5, so we got in for $3. Spent $11 on hot dogs (Fritz ate three), $9 on chips (Fritz ate two), and $14 on drinks (it was hot).

The key to appreciating baseball is being able to slow down, relax, and not think about all the things on your to-do list.

And having “your” team win helps, too.

March 17, 1966

I have mentioned before that my father stole fire from the sun. At least that’s what his daughters believe.

He sent me this email a few days ago. Of course, I was raised listening to this story over and over again. It never grows old. I’m not a fan of falling or of drowning, so the image of my dad jumping from a helicopter into the ocean fills me with awe, even now. He has copies of each of the photos shown below. They are the artwork of my family history, as familiar as any family photo. Dad was nineteen years old at the time of this jump.

On this day in ARS History astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott blasted into space on the Gemini 8 mission. Their flight was aborted after only six orbits and the capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 500 miles east of Okinawa. A three man PJ team consisting of Sergeant Larry Huyett, Eldridge Neal, and Glen Moore, jumped from an HC-54 to the spacecraft. This was the first time USAF air rescue forces came to the rescue of a Gemini capsule; and the first time PJs attached a flotation collar on a Gemini space capsule. The astronauts, spacecraft, and PJs were recovered by the USS Mason. (source data from Pararescue 50 Years)

This was a HIGH-visibility mission at a critical time. The PJs were invited on the Ed Sullivan show, and the publicity added support for approval of the beret and bloused boots – the distinctive uniform we wear today.

NASA Photo ID: S66-18603, File Name: 10074316.jpg Film Type: 120mm
Date Taken: 03/17/66
Title: Gemini 8 crew stands on deck of recovery vessel

Description: The Gemini 8 crew stands on the deck of the recovery vessel, the U.S.S. Leonard F. Mason, with three U.S. Air Force pararescue men. Left to right (standing) are Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, command pilot; A/2C Glenn M. Moore; Astronaut David R. Scott, pilot; kneeling, left to right are A/1C Eldridge M. Neal; and S/Sgt Larry D. Huyett.

Photo source – submitted to USAF U.S.A.F. Pararescue Association Digital Historical Archive by multiple sources

Widened Circle of Love

Content warning: emotionally difficult stuff. Just because I am compelled to write it does not mean you should feel compelled to read it.

Two weeks before Bill left, I realized I was pregnant. I was angry at God. This was not my plan.

Three days later, I had names and Godparents picked out. I was mentally rearranging the car seats in the van, thinking ahead to bedroom assignments, and wondering if I should spend time and effort to fix and paint the crib or if I should just get a new one. I wouldn’t say that I was joyful, but I was definitely making room in my heart for another.

Three days before Bill left, I started bleeding. The day he left, I had an ultrasound and confirmed the miscarriage, the “abnormal pregnancy.”

The night before, Bill asked me, “You said you were angry at God when you found out you were pregnant…did you ever wish you weren’t?”

“Yes. And you?”

“Yes.”

And there it was, our collective guilt. We wished we weren’t having a baby, and now our baby was dead. And we were grieving.

I do not know how a man feels when he has to leave his family for six months. I know that Bill’s eyes were moist and his jaw was clenched as four children clung to him, wailing and begging for him not to go. They were hurting, and it was his fault. It’s a heavy burden. I didn’t want to add to it, but I could not change the reality that I was having a miscarriage. How helpless he must have felt.

When I got back from the doctor’s, I tried to comfort him and myself as well. “God does not grant the impetuous wishes of someone if they are not also His will.” He was leaving so soon, and we had not a moment to ourselves. Our every conversation, our every embrace had many little witnesses who often wedged themselves between us. It was important to me that the kids not know. I could not add to their grief. This was just between Bill and I, but we could not talk about it. We could not work through our loss together.

Two days after Bill left, I passed the baby. It was unexpected, in the shower. I held it in my hands and then it was gone the very second I realized what it was. Not only was the baby gone, it was washed into the public sewer system. That was when I first really cried.

I am reminded that these are not our children. They belong to God, and He decides how long they are in our care. This one was with me so briefly, but, nonetheless, I feel that our family dynamic has changed. In my head, my family litany goes from oldest to youngest and ends with the baby, as yet unnamed. “God has given us a saint in Heaven to watch over us,” I told Bill, pointing out that we might be concerned that He feels we need one.

Bill and I have been in phone contact while he is down South getting equipment. But our opportunities for intimate conversations have been limited. I was finally able to voice to him my concern that this would be something that happened to me, and that it would not be a shared memory. He assured me that the wound was a deep one, and that I was not alone in my sorrow.

This pregnancy was not the first unexpected and unwelcome child to enter my life. But always my passion for the child grew with the circumference of my waist. Never have I birthed an unloved and unwanted child, and always have I been able to make up for my initial resentment with years of kisses and caresses and nurturing. I am sad I lost the baby, but I am also sad that I will have to wait a lifetime to prove to him or her and to God that my heart did, in fact, have room to love this child.

Sibling rivalry

My kids were caught being nice to each other.

“There’s nothing to do,” she moans during every baseball game. “Some of us are watching the game,” I’ll suggest. But hugging your brother is another option.

Tickle the baby: nearly 20 months in, and the game still hasn’t gotten old for either of them.

Sharing the iPod. We have a docking station, but it’s not out on the deck. And this leaves one ear free to listen to the birds.