Oh my gosh! We got it months early! We’re all clean, looking at the camera, and the Washington Monument is perfectly placed in the background. This is just winning. The camera bag is hiding my pooch, and for some bizarre reason, I’m even wearing lipstick.
WE ARE ALL SO HAPPY AND SMIIIILLLLINNNNGGGG!
wait…OH. Hold the phones.
Tags: The Girls
May 12th, 2015 · Comments Off on Pinterest Can Call Me. Maybe.
So here is the conundrum, should you choose to accept it: You would like to make your PTA President a birthday treat, and present it to her at the last PTA Meeting of the year, which also falls ON her birthday. She loves M&M’s. Easy. Have a TON of M&M’s. Should be golden. Knowing her sons really, really want to win the M&M cake, you’re thinking you’ll make a second one, making everyone happy.
But there’s a catch: Her son WINS the M&M cake (aforementioned T.S. Adam), negating the plan ALTOGETHER.
Dare you date Pinterest? Pinterest is a lying, cheating boyfriend, who swears by his plans, and then halfway through a date, disappears into thin air, leaving you stranded, without a ride home. OH, but he WOOS you back, time and time again, with his sweet promises of delicious dinners and a dream home with the world’s largest veranda-deck-thing.
I was a sucker for the bad boys in my 20’s, so I couldn’t help myself but give Pin a 2nd chance (or 10th?): M&M cookies on a lollipop stick, balanced across a glass of milk with a chocolate and nonpareil rim.
(1) I used melting chocolate and EVENLY dipped the rim. I had Sara on guard, monitoring my dipping. DO NOT upright the glass. [We used Ball Jelly Jars, because after exhaustive searching, we could not find the shape of cocktail cup we so desired. Sara to the rescue…reminding me I have about a hundred jam jars, just begging to be used.]
(2) Dip the wet chocolate in a bowl of the tiniest nonpareils on the market. Anything larger than a pinhead, and it will gloop up. This has happened to me in the past on “Pinterest Decorate An Apple” Night. DAMN YOU, PIN! Immediately place the jar in the fridge for a few minutes to harden. It won’t need to be stored in the fridge. In fact, it will be so well secured, you’ll have to chip it off with a sledgehammer later.
(3) I used this M&M cookie recipe, and I always read the reviews: Instead of all shortening, I went with half shortening and half pure butter. I don’t trust any recipe that doesn’t call for butter; however, I really love shortening in a cookie as well. I kept the dough cold. This is a must, or it will spread out too far as it bakes. I did press a few candies into the top of the cookie for effect. [Always pull your cookies out before you think they are done. Even if you take them off the sheets within a minute of oven-removal, they will continue to bake.]
(4) After much thought and contemplating, I realized these cookies were baked with the lolllipop stick already inserted. This was a huge a-ha moment. Make a round ball of dough, slide it through the middle, form it a bit around the stick, and put it on the baking sheet (using parchment or a silpat).
(5) You must lift the ends of the sticks, or they will punch through the cookie on the lower third. Nice try, Pinterest. That wasn’t in the directions, but I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER, ASSHOLE. I just slid a lollipop under the sticks, and they held up beautifully.
(6) In the original instructions, the cookie was centered on the stick, and was balanced across the top of the cup. My jar openings were too narrow, and the cookie would have covered the opening entirely. SO, I put the cookie at the top of the stick, and made it look more like a straw.
(7) I stored the cookies overnight, wrapped in parchment, and sealed in tupperware. I covered the glasses with foil, and transferred them to school on the tray. I packed my funnel, so that when I got to school, I could easily pour milk in the jar without spilling it all over the rims.
(8) Present your “Milk & Cookies” treat to the Birthday Girl (who did a FANTASTIC job as the PTA President, and can now sleep through the night without waking up in cold sweats, dreaming she showed up at school AFTER an event occurred, completely unprepared, and mass chaos has broken out.) Not that I ever did that. More than once…or twice.
So Pinterest sticks around to see another round. I tried, you guys. I really did. We had “the talk” about not meeting each others needs, and how we should move on. See other websites. He all but begged me to stay, showing me cozy library nooks at the tops of stairways I’ll never own, and garden beds even Martha Stewart couldn’t maintain. I KNOW! I know it’s a LIE, but I can’t help myself. The whole thing is such a tease. So tell me girlfriends…tell me about the greatest lie Pin has told you, and then make me feel better about giving it another shot!
Tags: The Girls
Let me start by saying I had NO idea this anti-gravity cake would create such a stir. I try to make a cake-currently-in-vogue every year for the school carnival (remember these?). In 2015, “anti-gravity” cakes are all the rage in the cake-making world. Cake Pops are just SO 2012, guys. Per usual, Pinterest is a lying whore, and this project took 4x the amount of time and M&Ms as was written in the instructions, but this isn’t my first trip to the Pinterest Prom. I came prepared with Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and Plan “I hate Pinterest and I’m buying cookies”.
I bought the cake already iced at the grocery. For 8 bucks, someone else can make the cake, because I think we can agree: this cake has very little to do with the actual cake.
Sorry, I didn’t take step-by-step pics: I used a bag of melting chocolate, a dowel rod, a hot glue gun, 2 large bags of M&Ms, plus a smaller bag for the cake (all carefully chosen to as wrinkle-free as possible), and marshmallows.
Slowly paint the dowel rod with melted chocolate and attach the M&Ms one at a time, waiting for it to harden before adding a new row…this method does work. But it’s MESSY. It looks MESSY after it dries. I used tweezers, spoons, basting brushes, Q-tips, plates, and bowls. Getting hot, wet chocolate on the back of a tiny M&M, and then attaching it to wood…is REALLY HARD.
Other crafts made when I wasn’t covered in chocolate: tiny pillows to match a baby boy shower theme I hosted with family members.
Knowing this cake had to be transferred to school, I switched to Plan B: I hot-glued the M&Ms to the rod. Trim the M&M bag, empty it out, fill it with marshmallows, and then glue the dowel rod into the bag (fully inserted for support), but at an angle (it should appear as if it’s being poured); finally hot glue the sides shut around the dowel rod. Stick it in the cake (or wait until after you placed down the horizontal candy, so you aren’t fretting that this thing will fall over the entire time you work on the cake).
At this point you’ll realize this your contraption is top-heavy and will need supports. I glued ladders of candy together, attaching them to the rod, circling the stick. I filled in with smaller ladders and loose M&Ms to give the appearance of a pile.
I made 45-feet of pennant banner for the baby shower, and managed to take a picture of 2 feet of it. Well done. I’m calling my little flowers, “zhuzh pots”, of which I made 5. All different, all with coordinating flags. Got a picture of how many? ONE.
The M&Ms on top need to be laid out like a spill, one at a time; otherwise, you won’t get a good dispersing of colors. Oh yes…ONE-BY-ONE. You can’t use the bag as it’s packaged, because it’s not an equitable number of colors. For some reason, this company hates yellow. Use melted chocolate on the backs to create a 2nd layer, covering all of the white icing. ONE-BY-ONE. The lower layer on the side of the cake can be pressed into the icing, but the rest will have to be glued with melted chocolate. I can lift off the anti-gravity piece and chuck it, but I needed the cake to be edible.
I stood with anticipation at the bakery counter, explaining this cake to someone whom I’m certain meant no harm…BUT he also meant no good (while I won’t name the guilty party, I will say it’s not Greg, who applauds 99.9% of my efforts, and usually ends up helping). The response I received was, “This project sounds very…Suburban Housewife.” Those words stung…and then left a mark.
How much time do Suburban Housewives have to spend on creating paper banners from scratch? ALL THE TIME. We can think about this stuff for WEEKS.
I delivered the cake, not thinking very much of it, or of what it meant to donate a cake to the Carnival. It’s just a cake, after all, along with 3.5 hours of candy-coated giggling while dancing to Motown, followed by a kitchen covered in chocolate. As I walked through the halls, balancing this rather bizarre creation, my life turned to slow-motion. Kids just…STOPPED. And SCREAMED. And BEGGED to know how was this HAPPENING?!!! THEY HAD TO KNOW! NOOOOWWW!!! THEY MUST WIN THIS CAKE!!!
Kids are fun, when they aren’t in my backseat at the end of a long day, singing La Bamba in Spanish at the tops of their lungs with fake Dracula teeth in their mouths (not a made-up story).
The next evening as the Carnival began, I worked my way out to the lawn and spied my gal pals. They were gathered around the Cake Walk, watching a huge gang of kids, waiting in anticipation for the games to start. Again, I didn’t give any of this a second thought, until my friends announced the students had not stopped talking about the cake, to the point it had to be protected. Apparently this cake needed security detail. I mean…COME ON…I DEFIED GRAVITY.
Don’t be silly, I said. It’s just the gimmick of a Suburban Housewife.
Before I could explain, the first round began, and the music ended. Tiny-Sweet-Adam (my actual nickname for him), suddenly morphed into Brandi Chastain winning the Olympics. He jumped off the Cake Walk, screamed at the top of his lungs while pumping his arms, grabbing the attention of the entire school, “MOOOOMMMMYY!!!! I WON THE CAAAAAKKKKEEE!!!!!”
And then he ran full speed towards to the cake table, with such force I feared he would knock the entire thing over. I dashed after him, making sure he didn’t eat hot glue before he read my note about the inedible dowel rod.
Who has time to collect an entire basket of the world’s best books at discount bookstores all over town? Seriously, the good stuff folks: If You Take A Mouse…, Curious Garden, How Does a Dinosaur…, the entire collection of Kate DiCamillo (you saw that coming), Library Mouse, Rainbow Fish…WHO has this kind of time?! Suburban Housewives.
Watching T.S.Adam win his cake made my entire year, and quite suddenly my “job” became crystal clear: I am a Suburban Housewife, and I make magic. I can make a memory for a 6 year old, so full of fireworks and mayhem, that I’m fairly certain for the rest of his life, he’ll never forget the night he won the Anti-Gravity Cake at the school carnival. The sweet memory this created for me is absolutely priceless.
So hear this Cliché-Swinging Nay-sayers: I’m a SUBURBAN HOUSEWIFE, and it’s absolutely awesome work if you can get it. Magic Wand not included (but available in the form of wood dowel rods for $2.49 a bag).
Wisdom Comes Suddenly.
Tags: The Girls
Every Mother in America knows it’s spring, not by the blooming of tulips, and not by the pollen-bombed red eyes filling her minivan. Moms know spring has come because it’s…PROJECT SEASON.
Field trips and field days, independent reports and dioramas, poster boards and powerpoints, spring recitals and plays…spring is a veritable potpourri of almost schizophrenic project and performance energy.
Sara is studying Indiana history, complete with a full day spent in character, as if it were 1892. Her class took a trip to one-room schoolhouse, in costume, with authentic lunches packed in baskets. Sara didn’t even want colored rubber bands in her hair (I did not point out she wore an Under Armor shirt under her Prairie Dress, because I’m not one to split fine hairs…or her ends).
Sara was quite clear: it MUST be authentic! No color! Only browns and creams!
I was quite clear: make it yourself! I’m not sewing a full Laura Ingalls dress from scratch! Get creative!
And she did. Sara traded me a full summer of math tutoring, no complaints, for the work I put into making her a dress. I can’t help but feel I made quite the deal.
The back of the dress is my favorite. I don’t know why. It just felt…satisfying to finish that tie and have it knot so nicely.
After matching the apron trim (BROWN! I promise!) to the sleeves (which had to be redesigned from a $1 pattern I snagged at the fabric store), I was in no mood to look at a bonnet pattern. But Sara really wanted a bonnet, and…math tutoring…without complaint. I gave this bonnet a solid 1-hour effort, freehand, screw the overly complex internet patterns. It has plenty of raw edges and looks a lot like a hat I might wear to mow the lawn, but I doubt 1892 was full of perfectly crafted bonnets. I’ll bet Ma Ingalls got pretty tired, trying to make hats for growing heads by candlelight, and more than once said, “Screw it. I’m not missing Flip or Flop for this thing.” Oh mark my words, SHE SAID IT.
Sara said 1-Room Schoolhouse Day was the greatest field trip of all-time, and spending a day learning from an 1892 teacher with 1892 supplies was one of the top 5 experiences of her life. So glad we bought her that computer. It now seems we could have bought her a quill pen and a small chalkboard instead.
On the very same day, at the very same time, another little bird in my house needed a costume. But not just ANY costume, as she was portraying half of a duo, so TWO costumes were next on the to-do list. Quotation Marks #1 & #2, coming right up.
I’ve written at length about our creative differences regarding my choice of bow ties, and how she wanted tuxedo jackets with tails. TAILS, guys. Some kids didn’t even WEAR costumes for the Grammar Musical, and my daughter wanted tuxedo tails! WHERE DOES SHE GET IT? [Insert my most sincere smirk and wink.] I told her top hats and bow ties were my limits, and NO TAILS! I felt like Edna E. Mode from “The Incredibles”: NO CAPES!
I used Daddy’s bow tie as a pattern, traced it onto freezer paper and then ironed it onto felt. Cut it out, tie it as a bow tie (and by “tie”, I mean Daddy did it), and add velcro to the back. Done. Kelly was thrilled when she put it on. Of course she was. I didn’t spend a summer as a Theater Costume Shop Apprentice, chasing an Auntie Mame character around with a white velvet gown I was instructed to make “from the recesses of my mind” while my crazy Actress engaged in a grapefruit diet (How many times can you take in white velvet in the heat of summer stock? It cannot be calculated. It is the Chinese Postman’s Problem of Costume Design), to not be able to envision the most perfect way to turn a child into punctuation.
I found simple top hats for nothing, but kid’s sizes? Those are ridiculous. $17 for one top hat, and I don’t want to tell you what these online stores charge for prairie dresses. Wait. I don’t need to tell you. You’re knee deep in hot glue right now, trying to make a pterodactyl fly through a diorama, aren’t you? We’ve all been there. You’re out of Michael’s coupons, you just discovered your 10 year old used up a jumbo bag of hot glue sticks, and the clay dried out over the weekend, sitting on your dining room table. Hugs and wine, honey. Hugs and wine.
I solved the big hat problem by gluing a large piece of felt across the inside of the hat, so when they wore them, they wouldn’t fall down over their eyes. Perfect, considering Quotation Mark #1 was wearing the largest neon orange arm cast I’ve ever seen on a 2nd grader; these costumes had to be easy-on, easy-wear, easy-off.
The Quotation Marks were absolutely ADORABLE, in their little Groucho-Marx-esque duet. It was downright yummy.
When all was said and done, I spent a total of $20 on all 3 costumes, and about a week of free-time in Mom hours. Like my joke? Free time? Ha! A week of time I should have spent doing laundry and grocery shopping. Oh sure, my kids looked amazing, with their bellies full of take out and their butts covered in 3-day underwear.
There is no time to rejoice, as Independent Projects are next. Kelly is insisting she can glue SAND, and Sara is making a power point on the Lincoln Memorial before switching to her Independent Project; something involving the stratification of the cat family? She’s already done genus work, so she wants to expand up the family. Um? I kind of skipped that day in college? Here’s a hot glue gun and 10 bucks. Good luck to you sweetie.
Godspeed fellow Mommas. Godspeed.
Tags: The Girls
I talked about my relationship with God in relation to having a child with Special Needs, but I didn’t address Sara’s relationship with God. I thought the whole “Jesus & Children” thing was simple: you go to church, drop the kids off at Sunday School, they are taught that Jesus died on the cross and therefore, you get chocolate bunnies on Easter. Voila!
Jesus loves the little children. It’s IN the SONG, and [insert delta] kids love church. I can do parent-math all day long. Here’s one: Monday Morning + Uprighting of the house = Chaos Theory was applied by my family over the weekend + Don’t touch anything without gloves which I cannot immediately identify. Multiply that warning x2 for anything green or brown, and x3 for anything which appears to be wet.
Sara had other ideas about church. Her main outline for Spring 2015 was titled, “I will not be going to church, no way, no how, go ahead and try to make me, and WATCH THIS…”
Has she been the only 9 year old in the crying room during service? Yep. Did she melt down right in front of her visiting Grandmother while sitting in the pew? OH YES. How many headaches has she had on Sunday mornings? All of them. Have we dragged her into church with unbrushed hair and partially dressed in pjs? YES-SIR-REE.
We’re used to embarrassment, but I struggle when strangers are subjected to it. The weekly ritual of standing and greeting thy neighbor at the beginning of service is akin to having my eyelashes yanked out, one by one. Well-meaning people lean down to shake Sara’s hand, and my child who is clearly old enough to shake a hand, scowls like a tiger and turns into my waist, week after week. As a parent, what can you say? “I’m so sorry. She’s an extremely complex child who can behave normally at times, and is actually quite gifted, but has a crippling LD in Math, ADHD, and horrid stranger anxiety. And migraines. And well…you know some other stuff which causes loud spaces and crowds to make her skin crawl.” Oh! Is she Autistic? “No. It’s…her specialists…she’s the only….GOOD MORNING! How are YOU?! God Bless!” (Divert! Change the subject! Look! It’s Jesus!)
Does this seem like a bit much for a Sunday morning how-do-you-do? Because seriously…I THINK IT MIGHT BE A BIT MUCH. But we kept going, because we hoped Jesus would come.
I asked advice of my Special Needs Support Group, thinking they’d know the App to download. It’s probably got some catchy-title like, “Get God”. Kids follow a map of the church on an iPad as they wind their way through the donut line, earning virtual treasure-in-heaven points if they make it to Sunday School dismissal. One-by-one, we went around the circle:
“We gave up years ago.”
“Never had the guts to try.”
“We tried. What a disaster.”
“We go, but I’ve never gotten him into Sunday School. It’s a weekly battle.”
This repeated around the entire circle. No one had survived the pressures of getting through church. After struggling for 5 days each week to get through school, therapies, meals, and things ONE MUST SIMPLY DO, why would you add to it? Some kids need the weekend off to simply decompress. This has been our 9 year story too. Would Jesus help us this time? Would Jesus come?
Greg and I are determined for Sara to know Jesus. She NEEDS Jesus. He has a purpose for her, a promise, and well…this kind of important thing known as “Salvation”. We’ve tried showing her God’s love at home, but we knew it was a big, fat failure. Parenting failure…we may know a thing or two about that subject. But I digress.
Last Sunday was 3rd grade Bible Dedication, and above her screams (literally) and fits, we ordered the Bible and inscribed it. We attended the information session (where Sara rubbed her eyes non-stop and fell asleep with her head on the table, right in front of her teacher, but not before she fidgeted so hard she almost fell off her chair.)
Saturday night we held hands and prayed for God to give her the strength to walk forward and accept her Bible, and maybe even survive 2 seconds of the receiving line. I warned her teacher it might not happen, who smiled (I love her already…she was put in my path by God, I just know it) and said, “She won’t be the first child who can’t do it. It’s totally OK. It’s ALL OK, no matter how it plays out.” We prayed so earnestly, but we’ve prayed before. So, so hard we’ve prayed. I won’t say our prayers have gone unanswered, because I now know God needed us to grow in a certain direction through the experience of parenting Sara. But some days those prayers have felt unanswered.
The morning of, Sara put on her dress at the last minute, and shot looks of fire at her Bible, which I carried for safe-keeping. Again, literally. At the end of the service, Sara took a deep breath (giving me a look like she was jumping off a 50-foot diving board), and walked forward. Greg and I held our breath, for fear even a molecule of air moving would wake us from this dream. Upon being called, we walked forward and presented her with her new Bible. Her smiles were downright contagious! She even smiled and shook hands in the receiving line! (Not willingly…not without serious bribing and coaching, but it should be noted that Sara has never responded to bribing. Show your cards, and she’ll gladly share her “thoughts” on overt manipulation.)
I assumed when we got home, she’d toss the Bible aside, telling me that was the worst experience of her life and I HOPE I’M HAPPY FOR NEARLY KILLING HER WITH GOD-STUFF, IN FRONT OF GOD! But no. That’s not what happened at all.
Quietly, with a grace too pretty to describe, Jesus came.
Sara sat down and started reading. She started making notes. She started flagging that entire Bible with post-it notes. Since Sunday, she’s been hanging post-it notes with verses that speak to her all over the house. She sat me down last night, hugging her Bible, because she just had to tell me that church makes sense! SO THAT’S what you’ve been talking about! These stories…they are in a special order…and the wording is so different and poetic…I SEE! And when the Pastor refers to them, I know how to look them up now! Now I know why you like the sermons so much! It’s supposed to be stories about how we live!
This miracle isn’t me, and it isn’t Daddy, and it isn’t our collective wishing or prodding. Jesus came to Sara, and he showed her his words. He opened her heart in a way we never could. Jesus came even when my heart doubted through prayer. Even when I felt deflated, and lacked enough faith for my own child, Jesus loved Sara right through my fears and showed me he’s more powerful than any diagnostic list of special needs.
So what’s next? We bought Kelly “The Jesus Storybook Bible”, thinking we could do a better job of preparing her for next year’s Bible Dedication. She read it in 3 days, walked downstairs at bedtime, tossed it on Daddy’s lap and said, “Here. Finished your Bible. Good stories, but no fairies. Does Jesus not believe in fairies? Fairies are REAL, and I’d think Jesus of all people would KNOW THAT…And by the way, the DEVIL is really scary, and I don’t know why he has to be included in ANY stories.”
OK Jesus. ‘Member that time you showed up with some grace and understanding? Might need to double the dose on this next one…I’d like you to meet a child known simply as “The Kelly”…
Tags: The Girls
April 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Let It Be Me
Our “We’re Too Sick To Do Anything Over Spring Break, So Let’s Make Pillowcases” Project.
It’s official! We will be spending another glorious summer with Cousin Avery! I had trouble falling asleep last night from the contentment this news brings me. I picked my beautiful niece up from school yesterday, and I do believe she grew 2 years in the last 2 weeks. Because…well…she has contacts now, you know. She had also grown 5 feet in 14 days, and her hair was styled in a snazzy new cut.
WHAT?! I told her to turn right around, march back to the classroom, and return with my REAL niece. She could leave this brilliant supermodel where she found her. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
The turn from kid to tween happens quickly, and is charging at me faster than I’d like. I was relieved when we jumped into the minivan, and her stories were just as ridiculous and silly as they’ve always been. Her giggle was unchanged, but her speech was somehow smoother…more coherent. The halting “um’s” of childhood are disappearing.
We did A LOT of this together, accessorizing with 1 bajillion Kleenex.
Someone in my sphere, (and I’m sure without intention of malice), suggested I only wanted Avery so I could be a child again. This person clearly did not know me as a child! I was NOT good at it: Nerds can often excel at school, but “fail to meet standards” at life. However, I’m fairly certain I covered the kid check-off list: Disney-check. Crazy cousin weekends with a full farm at our disposal-check. Weekends hanging with the Grandparents who worshiped me-check. Slumber parties full of Barbies and movies with my gal pals-check. Rollerskating to the Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight”, hoping boys didn’t notice my obvious inability to be mobile on wheels-check. Bikes, skinned knees, sledding hills, spelling bees, awesome neighbors, hating the school bus, arguing with my sister over who would marry which Duke of Hazard-check, check, triple check.
I completed childhood rather clumsily, but I made it. Ticket punched, not sorry I visited, but happy to be home in adult-land when I can go to bed whenever I want! I had a donut and coffee for breakfast today. It was awesome.
Thanks for modeling, guys. Yes, we did this too. 21 days of THIS.
My joy from being with the kids comes from the simple fact that it gets to be me. When they need to giggle about bras, they giggle with me. When they can’t solve the world’s HARDEST GIRLFRIEND PROBLEMS EVER IN THE HISTORY OF ALL PROBLEMS, and there are NO possible solutions AND LIFE IS OVER…they come to me. When they fear they can’t win, I get to tell them that winning isn’t everything, and many times, it isn’t even the most important thing. In the quiet moments when we’re not at camp, swimming, playing, tutoring, or washing dishes (we’re usually washing dishes), I get to know their hearts. Actually, I take that back: I find washing dishes is the best time to get to know someone. Chatting makes the time go by faster, and when young ladies’ hands are moving, their mouths turn on. You can’t always just sit a kid down and talk. Color and chat. Do a puzzle and chat. Or better yet…get those dishes washed…and chat. If there were words to describe this treasure of knowing them as they evolve, I would share it here, I promise. As of yet, I haven’t found them. Thousands of posts, you’d think I’d be getting closer, wouldn’t you?
Our first summer together. How did I survive this?!
When they are all grown-up, and childhood is just a big hope chest of memories, I want them to remember their story was a good one. There was a voice in the background, reminding them to grow towards patience with themselves and each other (and sometimes that voice needed more patience than is currently available on the planet Earth). I’m the voice they’ll hear when they have their own children to convince cauliflower is yummy. Hopefully they’ll remember how perfectly imperfect we were together, and how we turned our differences into something beautiful.
And even if they never remember a specific day, or piece of advice, or how I expertly stopped their bickering (Ha! A Mom can dream!), I pray they’ll recall a deep, warm, welcoming love, holding it together. Please God, let that be my story. Let it be me.
Tags: The Girls
April 21st, 2015 · Comments Off on Announcing a New Fruit of the Spirit
I know what you’re thinking: “Lori, just because you finally joined a church doesn’t mean you can ADD a fruit of the spirit at your choosing. The Bible isn’t available for editing.” So let me say up front: it wasn’t me.
Mommy: Girls, what fruit of the spirit do you think you should focus on today?
Sara: List them for me again?
Mommy (singing them in my head from my 7th grade youth group musical): Love, joy, and peace. Patience and kindness. Gentleness and faithfulness and self-control. Goodness is also in there, but as it was NOT part of the song I memorized at the age of 12, I simply cannot include it. Kindness includes goodness, that’s my rationale, and I’m sticking to it.
Sara: I choose patience.
Mommy: Good one!
Kelly: I choose obedience.
Mommy & Sara: NOT A CHOICE!
Kelly: I don’t care. I choose obedience.
Mommy: OK. I’ll take this walk with you. Did you brush your teeth this morning after I asked you to?
Mommy: Obedience it is.
Kelly is 7, and she’s really, really good at being 7 right now. Let’s chant this together: WE WILL MAKE IT TO 8. I guess my fruit of the spirit today is patience as well. Or peace. Or gentleness. Or tooth-brushing…
Tags: The Girls
Everyone tells the Mothers of Daughters that the drama heats up as time goes by. In your heart you KNOW it, but you can’t FEEL it. You think it will be of similar flavor and texture to the 3 year old who insists on wearing the same dress for a week straight. Ah…we used to be such sweet, sweet rookies; good times, good times. Here is a typical week in the lives of 9 and 7 year old girls (I’m using only my last 72 hours, exactly as they happened):
Kelly: You know the Yellow Penguin I waited for Santa to bring for a WHOLE year? Polly? My favorite penguin in the whole wide world that he brought after leaving me a letter that he would have to make it especially?
Kelly: Well Lilly saw me carrying it today, and she said it was a stuffed animal from Korea! Santa doesn’t live in Korea! She said it’s the most popular stuffed animal in Korea, and it’s name is Porro! Not Polly!
[Insert Sara & I wildly exchanging glances, as Sara knows full well I spent a year looking for a yellow penguin. I even tried to commission one. I finally found one…in KOREA. REALLY? What were the chances a 7 year old was going to out me?!]
Mommy: Oh that’s right, Lilly spent Christmas with her family in Korea. How lovely. Well I’m glad some kids in Korea got Polly too. Such a great toy. Santa must have been so inspired by your drawing that he made several. He delivers to Korea first! Makes sense! Porro is “Polly” in Korean.
Kelly: You think?
Mommy: No. I think I got on my private airplane, flew around the world, and picked that penguin up for you…IN KOREA. In my free time. During the month I had the flu.
Kelly: RIIGGHTT. That DOES make sense. Whew. Those lucky kids, getting copies of my Polly. She’s the best penguin in the entire world.
Sara: Logan puked in the bathroom today, but he didn’t go home.
Sara: Because he didn’t tell anyone.
Mommy: Then how do you know?
Sara: Well, he told ME.
Mommy: And you didn’t tell a teacher that a kid was throwing up?
Sara: NO! I’m not turning in someone for a little vomit! If he wants to tough it out, good for him.
Mommy: Well, I’m glad you have some principles.
Mommy: Girls, we’ve been to every shoe store in the city, and I give up. I can’t find shoes to match your flower girl dresses anywhere, so we’re going to try Von Maur, no matter how expensive their shoes are. Take off your sports socks, and put on these hosiery footies.
Sara: WHAT ARE THOSE?!
Mommy: They are like hose, so you can tell if the shoes will fit while you are wearing hose.
Kelly: These are like…brown, floppy, DEAD THINGS! I’m not putting these on my feet! And I’m NEVER wearing HOSIERY! I AM SEVEN!
Mommy: You’ll wear TIGHTS. I should have said glittery TIGHTS.
Sara: Brown tights? We’re wearing BROWN TIGHTS?!
Mommy: NO. You’re wearing silver tights in the wedding. These are brown. They are not permanent.
Kelly: I can’t do this. I can’t even figure this thing out. Is it like a baggy? It has a STRING! I can’t wear tights with STRINGS!
Mommy: You aren’t WEARING them IN the wedding. It’s just for trying on shoes, and then we’ll throw them away.
Sara: We try on BROWN hose-feet for 3 minutes and then we throw them away? That’s ridiculous! Who wears socks for 3 minutes and then throws them away?
Kelly: No, seriously. I can’t do this.
Mommy: Let me just put these on you, so we can try on the shoes before you both get hosiery PTSD.
Sara: Kelly, did you see that guy over there with all those boxes? What is HE DOING?!
Mommy: He brings out the shoes.
Sara: Why would a grown man want to buy that many shoes?
Mommy: NO. He WORKS here. It’s different than Payless. SERIOUSLY? I’ve NEVER taken you to a shoe store where they bring the shoes to you and put them on your feet?
Kelly: PUT THEM ON YOUR FEET?! That’s IT. Here’s your HOSE-THINGY. I’m GOING HOME. No stranger is putting shoes on my feet while I’m wearing…these…weird…floppy things.
Sara: OH NO! Look Kelly! I’ve put the shoes ON. Look how dumb they look with these fake hose? They look awful! We can’t wear these in Auntie Amanda’s wedding! She doesn’t want this!
Mommy: You AREN’T WEARING THE BROWN SOCKS! I PROMISE!
Kelly: Look at my feet! It’s like I have brown sacks on my feet, only all crumpled up. This can’t be right.
Mommy: Do the shoes even fit?
Sara & Kelly (in unison): No.
Kelly: They are so tight, and look: I’m walking right out of them.
Mommy: They are too loose and too tight, at the same time?
Mommy: We’re going home. You can go barefoot in the wedding.
Girls: YEAH!!! But let’s get a hot pretzel before we go.
Mommy: Excellent suggestion.
Sara: I can’t HANDLE IT, I can’t TAKE IT, this week is TOO MUCH!
Mommy: Sweetie. What’s going on?
Sara: It’s Staff Appreciation Week AND it’s Safety Week! All at ONCE!
Mommy: And? What am I missing?
Sara: The school is full of parent volunteers, and they don’t know the rules! They don’t know the times we can leave the cafeteria to go back to the room and read. I am in the middle of a very important book! I have to go back AT 11:50! ELEVEN-FIFTY MOMMY!
Mommy: That must be frustrating.
Sara: They don’t know half the names in the carpool line, and they are trying to pronounce them over the walkie-talkies, and it would be rude to correct them, but COME ON!
Mommy: To be fair, I find some names to be hard to pronounce too. A very large proportion of your school has a last name of Asian origin. Some languages are just hard to master, even if they are being used in an English context.
Sara: So you’re saying when you are doing carpool on Friday, and you see Balasubramanian on a carpool tag, you won’t be able to pronounce it?!
Mommy: Um? I will DO MY BEST, and I hope you’ll be patient with me. Now. What’s wrong with safety week?
Sara: There are DRILLS, DRILLS, DRILLS. Tornado drills and fire drills and lock down drills. You don’t know WHEN. What if it’s during the Noetic Math Test? That thing is timed. What if it’s cold? During some tornado drills, they let BOYS into the GIRLS bathroom Mommy! How inappropriate is that? GROSS boys in our BATHROOM!
Mommy: I think you will survive both Safety Week, and a week of parents not knowing you’re allowed a second trip to the salad bar.
Sara: You have no idea. It’s total CHAOS.
Mommy: Kelly, did you fill out the paper for your Independent Project? It’s asking for you to commit to a product. You can do a TV style commercial, a poster…you have to let the teachers know in advance.
Kelly: I’m doing a diorama.
Mommy: AGAIN? Let me see the paper. KELLY! It asks why your product fits the topic, and you wrote down your resumé of dioramas!
Kelly: I know! It asks “Why a diorama”, so I wrote because I’m VERY good at them. I have a long history of doing very, very good dioramas, SO, CLEARLY, it’s why I chose it.
Mommy: What they want to know is WHY it’s the right showcase for your topic.
Kelly: Really? REALLY. You think my teachers want me to write that a BOX is the right SHOWCASE for some SAND and SHELLS.
Mommy: Actually…yes. I think that’s exactly what they want.
Kelly: I answered the question. It’s done.
Mommy: Writing a song is a choice. Do you want to mix it up a bit and write a song?
Kelly (I wish I could describe her face, but it cannot be summarized with words): ARE YOU JOKING?! Write a song about SHELLS, and then SING IT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE?! HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?
Oh My God. Do you think someone will choose a song? I’m going to DIE for them.
Mommy: Diorama #358 it is.
Kelly (in hysterical tears): Rachel has broken her arm!
Mommy: I know. Isn’t that awful? I talked to her Mommy today, and she’s having surgery today.
Kelly: WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!!
Mommy: Well…maybe we could take her some balloons?
Kelly: NO! I mean about the MUSICAL?! She’s Quotation Mark #1 and I’m Quotation Mark #2. You can’t sing a duet about Quotation Marks with only ONE QUOTATION MARK!
Mommy: Don’t worry Honey. She’ll be back to school in time for the big show.
Kelly: But what about her costume?! We are supposed to MATCH!
Mommy: I’ll fix it. It will all be fine, I promise.
Next Day, Phone Rings:
Amie: What cha’ doin’?
Me: Quotation Mark #1 got thrown off her horse in Jumping Class. I’m stretching out her “Grammarosaurus” costume, so no matter how big her cast, it will fit. I’m also trying to figure out if she’ll be able to wear her top hat, or if it will need a strap. Kelly’s definitely going to have to put her bow tie on her.
Amie: You can’t make this shit up.
Me: Tell me about it.
Tags: The Girls
By Saturday night, I was all poured out. I have a system for allowing my living to renew me, so it’s actually rather rare that I reach emotional bankruptcy; but at midnight on Saturday, I laid my head down without having enough energy left to cry.
I was surprised to reach empty on Saturday, because I prayed to Jesus on Friday to meet me in my current state of emptiness, and refill me. I knew I needed to top off my tank before the weekend. But Jesus has his own timing, and Friday wasn’t on his radar. I warned Greg I feared my heart had sprung a leak, and he asked why it had taken so long? Did I think I could be emotionally present for my 2 best friends while they cared for their terminally ill Mothers, while helping my Godson’s campaign for equitable insurance coverage for military families with Autistic children, while helping a bit with a family wedding and baby shower, while making the girls costumes for upcoming school events (the girls and I are having serious artistic differences), WITHOUT springing a leak?
Why YES, yes I did. This isn’t my first trip to the Love-A-Friend Fair. I have SYSTEMS! Friday night I shared a meal with Kelly’s namesake. Her Momma passed away suddenly last month, and we finally found a moment to break bread. I’ve never lost a parent, and I just didn’t know what to say. I was afraid to say anything, for fear she’d see my leaking heart, and it would cause her pain. I was so grateful our lifelong mutual friend was in town for a family slumber party, because I needed the presence of a girlfriend. “Shelley! My heart! It’s leaking! HELP!”
She looked at me with her kind eyes, and said, “Yes. Hearts do that from time to time.” Just sitting with her, and getting to know her beautiful children, gave my heart more than enough to rise on Saturday morning. Shelley is a one-of-a-kind. You can’t be near her and NOT feel better about life.
Saturday was a gorgeous mix of waffles and children and sunshine, and it allowed me to hit the pause button for a moment. I felt my heart’s constant nagging, but I said, “STOP Heart! Plug those leaks today! I have children to hug!” The evening met me with a lovely dinner party. I was SURE the leaking would stop. Jambalaya! Champagne! Dear friends around my dining room table! These are my FAVORITE things!
But Sunday morning, I awoke with my heart bone dry. Church! Jesus will meet me there! He has to…it’s his house. Unfortunately, Sara wasn’t running on empty. In fact, she was filled to overflowing with piss and vinegar, and it was getting on the floor, and splashing on everything around her. After a loud and embarrassing attempt at a Sunday School drop off, she ended up in the Sanctuary with us, where she promptly fell asleep sitting straight up in the pew. I sang, I swayed, I prayed, I listened intently. Come on Jesus…say something into my heart. Anything! Fill ‘er up God!
But Jesus had other plans. By the time Communion was served, I couldn’t even walk forward. Greg looked at me incredulously, wondering how on earth I could skip a sacrament being served right in front of me. God was just going to have to meet me in that back pew, and love me in my brokenness, because I wasn’t going.
As Greg walked forward, Sara crawled into my lap and whispered over and over, “I’m sorry Momma”. I know baby…Momma knows. Then I threatened to carry her to the pulpit and dunk her in Communion wine. That girl NEEDS some Jesus. We were quietly giggling as Daddy returned to our seats, shaking his head at his devilish ladies. Sorry Daddy!
After getting home and inhaling a strong cup of coffee, I decided I needed to just keep showing up. It’s what I know; it’s what I do best. Jesus MIGHT meet me in my living room over coffee and the Sunday paper, but I suspected he MIGHT wish to meet me elsewhere. I grabbed some roses and stopped by St. Monica’s; our School’s Porter was celebrating her daughter’s first communion, and she asked me to come. BUUUUTTTT….she left out one small detail: I might stick out a little. I walked into a church filled with hundreds of people watching a large Mariachi band, waiting for a service to be delivered entirely in Spanish. 3 people flanked me immediately to ask if I was lost. I laughed out loud. “No, I’m here for Paula Cervantes. Have you seen her?” The band STOPPED PLAYING…and no joke, I think 300 hundred people turned around to stare at me. Luckily, one of them was Paula. HI MISS LORI!!! WE’RE OVER HERE!!!
You don’t know love until you’ve delivered flowers to a little girl in a long white dress, while being hugged to pieces by a Momma you simply adore. Paula is as much a part of our school as the name itself. We have spent years asking the state of each others hearts while pushing her janitorial cart through the hallways. Even though I feared I didn’t have the emotional space to walk into that church, I really, really wanted to. So there I was, on my knees in front of this beautiful family, wishing them God’s blessings on their special day. My heart warmed to pink. I felt alive. As I hugged Paula, I felt Jesus at my back, hugging me. Oh! Hello! There you are.
I stepped out into the sunshine and checked my phone: a friend from high school had been admitted to the VA Hospital, and would really love some company. And a candy bar. Any candy bar of any kind. I rushed to the store and filled up a bag we named “the diabetic coma”. You’d think a dark, lonely VA hospital might be the last place God would fill a heart…but here’s a little secret you should know: it’s the FIRST place God would choose to fill a heart.
Matt didn’t care if my heart was leaky. He didn’t care when I was 17, and lying in a bed post-stroke, awaiting the date of his open heart surgery, he certainly wasn’t bothered by my half-empty pitcher. I pulled up a chair, he turned on “The Godfather”, and we sat for hours, gently sharing our stories. I will say this for serious illness: it puts life in stark perspective. When time is limited, there is no time for idle gossip. We talked not of people, and very little of the old days. We had more hallowed ground to cover.
Jesus met me at the Veteran’s Hospital, and repaired my leaky heart. I don’t have a childhood home, and I rarely see my parents. When I need a touchstone, it’s my job to create it, even if a magic wand is required. But a friend whom has known me forever, and accepted my faults through good days and bad, that’s a homecoming, no matter how many nurses stopped by to check his infiltrated IV and adjust his oxygen. Matt has little living family as well, so spending time just being known was healing for both of us. In the end, it’s really all there is, in my humble opinion. I leaned over to hug him as I said goodbye, and my heart spilled directly into him. My spirit felt like a liquid I could simply gift away. This act of showing up to each others lives...what a priceless treasure that can be. (And now you have my secret of how my living renews me: As I intentionally allow others to access my spirit, it almost always returns to me more capacious than before. Simply noticing this phenomenon…the boomerang of the earth’s energy interacting with mine…does the trick.)
I drove home in silence, enjoying the warmth of a healed heart. Kelly, even in her grief on Friday, gave me a plant for the new house, and I was looking forward to planting it. As I picked it up off the porch table, I laughed out loud once again. Oh God, how very unsubtle of you: Kelly had given me a Bleeding Heart. Really God, where DO you find the time to theme your presence?
I like to plant things during times of trouble. I imagine my pain growing into something beautiful. This summer, it seems we shall witness the blooming of a
bleeding heart leaking heart. Feel free to share your wisdom of how you repair your heart when it springs a leak. I treasure your stories as much as my own. And as always, Godspeed my dear friends. Godspeed.
Tags: The Girls
Meet my Godson, Mark. I know…he’s perfect, I agree. But before I tell you My Mark’s story, let’s start at the beginning:
About a million years ago, Greg went to college. He became best friends with Matt, whom he calls Matty, whom our girls adoringly call “Hit-Matty”, because he lets them wrestle with him until he’s near death. Matty has survived prisoner-of-war training, so he can tolerate A LOT of “Hit Matty”. Shortly after college, Greg and I married, and over time, we came to understand that while Matty would love to marry and have a family, he was/is an Air Force Pilot during a time of war. Marriage is hard when you’re deployed for 48 weeks out of the year.
Matty was always…somewhere. Seattle, Hawaii, there was training in Oklahoma, and even though we stayed in close contact, and Matty stopped in Indiana whenever he could, Matty was GONE. For most of our married life, he has been in Germany, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan…gone, gone. Matty flies C-17’s, which, as you can see, have 4 engines and can carry an entire helicopter. If you’re at war, having a transport plane that can haul tanks and land on rudimentary runways is important. So it’s not a big surprise that his wife was also in the military and they met in Japan.
Kelly is wonderful, we were thrilled, and their wedding outside of Seattle was a trip I’ll never forget. 2 spouses in different branches of the military is damn-near impossible, so Kelly left the Navy, and they were transferred to Dayton AFB! So close! BONUS!!!
Matty and Kelly are the kind of friends who would drive from Seattle to Ohio, drop their suitcases in the front hallway of their brand new FIRST home, not even look around, so they could DRIVE BACK to Indy to surprise me at my 40th birthday party. Awesome people, if you’re asking me, which technically you are, because you are reading my blog.
Matty started teaching, and he was on the ground more often. For Military families, this is huge. We regular folks take things like holidays and birthdays for granted. War doesn’t care if your first child is due. EVER.
How excited were we for the arrival of Mark? SUPER EXCITED. When Matty & Kelly asked me to be his Godmother, I was sure they were just a tiny bit crazy, but I was thrilled. And honored. And certain I would screw this up. Kelly and Matty are brave people, and I guess they figured if they could survive the front lines of terrorism, they could survive one kooky, creative Godmother.
My Mark is SO great. He’s now 2.5, and soon to be a big brother to Lilah, and I shall love her too. Only now, I have to fly back to Seattle to see them, because being a Military Family isn’t for the weak (I already have my plane ticket!). So here’s what I want to share with you today: My Mark has Autism. I know…you’re looking at this healthy, bright-eyed beauty and thinking, “NO. He’s so happy!” And he is. But Mark cannot say “Momma”, or “Daddy”, or even “doggy”, despite having 2 fantastic pets. He has been diagnosed by the best of the best, so it is what it is. Matty and Kelly are dedicated, smart, loving, patient parents. They took this news like people whom have been tasked with protecting some of the worst parts of the world: they took it bravely.
And when they realized that Matt’s insurance doesn’t cover Autism therapy, they didn’t sit back and become victims. They got busy. Matt has been shot at several times on the other side of the world, protecting MY family and MY children from terrorists, but his insurance won’t pay for the standard of care for Autism. THAT’S NUTBALLS PEOPLE.
Matt has started a petition, which if signed by 100,000, will be viewed by the President. His petition is for equal coverage of Autism therapy for all Federal Employees (some Federal employees have Autism coverage, while others do not. You’d think our military would HAVE coverage, wouldn’t you?).
Here is the link to the petition:
Please sign it. Please, please take 2 minutes and sign it. For me, for Matty & Kelly, but mostly, for My Mark. He has started therapy, and he has spoken his first word. He loves his therapist, he loves his little class and his little desk, and he is actively trying to communicate. My Mark is in there, and he is fabulous. Please take 2 minutes to convince the White House to review Autism medical coverage for our military.
Again, you can sign it here:
My Mark and I need about 120 seconds of your day today, if you’d be so kind. If every one of my readers signed, we would have enough for a Presidential review, so I do need all of you. As always, Godspeed, my dear friends. Godspeed to us all.
Tags: The Girls