Monday, December 20, 2010

Temporary Solution

Does anyone else have trouble with sibling bickering?  Please tell me it's not just me.  Please!  Here at The Tea Party Place we have two children who love nothing more right now than a good game of "Uh huh, nuh uh, yes sir, no sir."  It's not so much fun for me.

I've tried various tactics to get it to stop; they haven't worked to a great degree.

But today...I may have landed on a solution.  Well, at least for a week.

Having been out of school for officially 1 hour and 47 minutes this morning, they were already testing my patience.  "Alright!  New rule.  Ready?  Here it is:  If I hear any bickering--any at all--you get one warning.  If it continues, you will each have to go downstairs and pick one present from under the tree to give back to me?  Got it?"

"No!  Please, Mom.  Don't make that rule!"  And that was my first clue I was onto something good.

"Why are you already crying?  You haven't lost a present yet," I queried.

"Please, Mom..."

"Wait a second.  Who's in charge of whether or not you'll lose presents?  Not me!  You decide whether or not you'll fight and bicker.  So just don't do it and everything will be fine."

They walked away only slightly encouraged.

A few moments later I heard the beginnings of "Uh huh, nuh uh, yes sir, no sir" bubbling from the next room.  "That's a warning!" I cautioned.  And then?...

Blessed, peaceful, quiet.
Even as I write this, quiet.
I've never liked quiet so very much.

How long do you think it will last?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Entertainment Field Trip

This choir knows how to put on a show!  Check it out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Caroling, Caroling, Now We Go

This is not how it went.

One of my new favorite holiday memories was created on Saturday night.  The choir I recently rejoined was having their annual Christmas party, and as per tradition a little caroling was involved.  Singers singing?  Weird, right?

Now this wasn't your average group of carolers.  These are some serious musicians, and I don't mean to brag, but I will say that if my doorbell rang, this would be a group I would wish was there to provide a little mini concert on my front porch.

Some people don't agree with me.

Like the teenager who made the mistake of answering the door.  Apparently, and much to his chagrin, no one else was home.  When we launched into "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," I could actually feel his discomfort.  He couldn't even meet our eyes.  I felt a little sorry for him through the first verse.  (Yes, we sang two.  As any singer will tell you the whole story is never in the first verse, discomfort be damned!)  But then as we headed into the second verse, and his whole body sighed, I began to notice his rolling eyes often lighting on what looked to be the reflection of a video game in the background.  Suddenly, his impatient toe tapping began to make sense.  What is caroling in the name of Jesus when compared to God of War III?  I mean, really?  I nearly couldn't finish the song for my fit of giggles.

Then, just a few houses later, we saw the homeowners in the garage, so we varied our routine of doorbell ringing and began singing upon arrival.  We only made it through "Joy to the world, the Lord is Come.  Let Earth re--" before the grinding closure of the door put a sudden stop to our musical offering.  Can you imagine the oddity of that situation?  20 singing people standing in your driveway and a slowly lowering metal door between?  I only wish I had had the nerve to rush forward and sing all the way to the ground.  Instead I threw my head back and belly laughed.  Someone else said, "I think it's time to go home."  Imagining the homeowners hearing it all, I could only continue to chortle.

Caroling may have become a lost tradition, I'm afraid.  But it's still the most fun I've had in a long time...though, perhaps for all the wrong reasons.

Monday, December 13, 2010

You're Invited: A Holiday Cyberspace Mingle

I wanted to throw a Christmas party and invite you all.  A little holiday mingle, if you will. 

Here how it's gonna' work.  Leave a comment about yourself here.  Include things like who you are, how we might know each other, something you are passionate about--whatever you want--and your blog link if you so desire.  Then click on someone else's link, check them out, and leave a comment saying you were there and wishing them a Merry Christmas.  Maybe we'll make some new friends and spread the Christmas cheer.

If you were at my home I'd make you wassail and something delectable to eat, but since we are across computer screens I will just send a (((hug))), thank you for adding a bit more happiness to my life, and wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Serindipity

What is it called when two random components intersect to make circumstances better?  Serindipity?  Well, whatever it is called, that is what I am enjoying this Christmas.  Let me explain.

A number of weeks ago, we watched our friends' exotic bird, Dexter, while they vacationed over fall break.  Dexter pecked me on the face within the first hour.  Hard.  After that I refused to go near him.  The bird only loved Mr. Wicke (who can blame him really?) and spent most of the time when he was at home happily perched on his shoulder.  I called him Long John Silver. 

The bird did, however, finally surrender to Griffin's overzealous care.  Kind of like Lenny from Mice and Men, Griffin can express his love for animals in a none-too-gentle manner, but as the bloody peck mark on my cheek proved, the bird was not defenseless.  At the beginning of the week when Griffin complained, "Ow!  The bird pecked me!"  I would say, "Well, put it in it's cage and leave him alone then!  Stop messing with him!"  But Griffin could not be convinced in anyway to ignore such a fascination.  All week long, almost every hour of every day, Griffin manhandled the bird.  By the end of the week, Griffin had loved him into submission.  Dexter would render himself to Griffin's hands, quite sure, I think, that any disquietude would merely prolong the torture.

But his rendering did not apply to the rest of the family, especially to our toddler, who, like me in the beginning, was a bit fascinated with his beautifully colored feathers.  One bite to the finger took care of that, and for the rest of the week, Lincoln distanced himself from the bird.

Now, fast forward to Christmas. (Trust me, this is going to come together.)  I was sure that our tree would be demolished this year.  Sparkly glass balls and a 21 month old have no business being in the same room.  And as the rest of us decorated our fruit, berry, and bird themed tree after we put him to bed, I couldn't help but wonder how I was going to keep Lincoln out of it in the morning.

When he awoke and we brought him downstairs, he certainly was fascinated with the wonderful beauty of the thing, but after 4 days, he continues to maintain his distance.  Staying at least a foot away, he merely squeals with delight, "Birdy!  Birdy!  Tweet, tweet, tweet!"  He has yet to lay a finger on it. 

Thanks to Dexter, the birds are standing guard this Christmas.  I only hope it takes him longer than three weeks to realize they are not really alive.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

She is a Reader

Would you mind too awfully much if I bragged just a little.  Not about me.  No.  But about my daughter?  Because I'm super proud today.

This morning as I was making her bed (and yes, I still make her bed because it's a twin pushed up against the wall and it is really hard to make with her shorter arms) ANYWAY, as I was making her bed, I glanced at the bedside table and it hit me.  You know what was stacked there?  Books.  Generally books that we read together.  Generally books that I guide her toward, but not anymore.  She has built a stack of books on her own that will take us some time to get through.  And not just any books.  Here are the titles:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Hamlet, Anne of Green Gables, and Gulliver's Travels.  I had to sit down.

And as I did so, I thought of her backpack this morning, loaded with three more books:  The Moffats, Marley--A Dog Like No Other, and Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief.  She is in the middle of all three of them, despite my protestations that she finish The Moffats before starting the Lightening Thief (which she persuaded me to buy two nights ago.)  "But Mom," she argued.  "That's our newest book club book!"  Yes, she and her best friend have a book club.

She is a reader, I silently gushed as I picked up Gulliver's Travels and fondled the worn hardback cover.  How she came to choose that book I do not know.  I didn't put it in her hands.  I have never read Gulliver's Travels, but I have a fondness for good books and old bookstores, and sometimes I buy them because I'm like a greedy child who grabs more cookies than she can eat just because someone else will get them if she doesn't.  A classic book must have a home.  I have meant to read Gulliver's Travels, and it has been sitting on my shelf for some time, waiting.

There it was that Logan found it on her own one day and added it to her stack of books she wants to read.  A stack of more books than she has time for.

That is a good problem to have.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On Becoming More Acquainted with Apple Juice

Yesterday, as I wrote that little blurb to post, I thought my baby Lincoln was quietly playing in the other room.  And he was...just with a 2 quart bottle of apple juice unbeknownst to me.  Do you know how sticky apple juice is?  I do.  It's really, really sticky.  So sticky, in fact, that you will have to mop at least three times and then once more just for good measure.

And of course you'll have to wash and wipe the counter at least that many times as well.

And then, when it drips into your drawers, you will have to remove all of the utensils, give them a good going over, wash the trays and mats, and thoroughly wash and wipe out the drawers.

And when it drains into your cupboards and pools in the center, you will have to pull all of the small cooking appliances out and give them a good washing, sop up all the excess and give the cupboards a good wipe down as well.

And then, you will have to do a load of laundry to wash the myriad of towels you have used to clean up the incredible mess that a 21 month old can make without making a sound.

That's a lot of sticky fun.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sounds of the Season

I say it every year:  "Christmas is eating my lunch!"  Every. stinkin'. year.  And here we are again.  You won't believe it (but you really might) but my tree is now up but not decorated.  We haven't started adventing yet.  Remember those Christmas cards?  Not out yet.  Nope.  The shopping is somewhere in the middle of completion. 

Here's what I've been doing instead.

See that person in the middle with her arms up?  That's me leading our primary children in song.  They sang three numbers for our church's Christmas party, and they were fantastic!

And I got to sing with these guys for their holiday concert because I rejoined this choir which means I get to sing really great music with really great people, and despite not having my tree decorated and my shopping not done and my cards still sitting on my counter, I have really felt the Christmas spirit.  There is nothing like singing "Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.  Hallelujah!  And He shall reign forever and ever!  King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Forever, and ever, and ever.  Hallelujah!" to joy in the Season of His birth, and watching children sing with their sweet innocence, "On this night a King is born in a cattle shed," to really feel what it means.

And last night, while we were singing Silent Night with the lush sound of a full symphony orchestra accompanying us, I looked out into the audience to see a man quietly weeping, tears just running down his face.  Immediately, I was reminded what it meant, personally, that our Savior did come on a silent night, most holy night.  And then my heart rose up in a simple prayer, "Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you."

And now...for your listening pleasure....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ready to Order?

I woke up today with the realization that it is December 1st.  I'm not ready.  I say that every year, despite the fact that every year I really try to get ready.  This year, as you may recall, I even ordered my Christmas cards early.  But they are not done yet.  This year, I even started shopping earlier.  It doesn't mean I'm any closer to being finished.  In fact, I have not yet even decided if we are going to give Logan and Griffin the cornsnake and tortoise, upon which decision the pattern of Christmas shopping depends.

However, I am glad I started earlier this year because if I hadn't I'd really be in the weeds.  Just to make myself crazy, I took on two enormous projects: Writing and editing a family cookbook for the holidays and repainting my kitchen and family room.  Finally I got rid of that gold paint that has been really bugging me.  I spent Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving painting my guts out while Mr. Wicke entertained the kiddos.  I'm not sure about the timing of the whole effort, but I did it, and I love the new color.

Now if I could only get my house back in order and feel ready for Dec. 1st.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gratitude List 2010

Thanksgiving may be fast becoming one of my favorite holidays.  I love the tradition and simplicity of it: the idea of setting aside a day to recall your blessings.  So here's a partial list this year, in no particular order.

I am grateful for:
1. healthy kiddos, and thus, by correlation, their fingerprints on walls and tables, extra messes, and laundry as well.
2.  an unselfish and thoughtful spouse.
3.  a dog who is super loyal and patient, even though I don't have enough time for her, and I constantly call her a him.
4.  a mother who loves me to the moon and back again.
5.  a curious nature.
6.  good books.
7.  great teachers for my kiddos.
8.  baby talk (from real live babies, never ever from adults).
9.  40 years on this amazing planet.
10.  girl friends who support me and inspire me.
11.  our nation.
12.  our founding fathers.
13.  my ancestors and their many sacrifices.
14.  truth, faith, and everything in between.
15.  my Savior.
16.  a comfortable bed.
17.  saturday morning breakfasts.
18.  Sesame Street.
19.  the moments when my children aren't bickering.
20.  the ease and comfort of living in the 21st century.
21.  siblings who make me laugh.
22.  good neighbors.
23.  blog writers who inspire me.
24.  friends I've never met (that may be YOU).
25.  technology, even though it makes me feel super old.
26.  sunshine.
27.  the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
28.  laughter.
29.  more time to practice being better.
30.  freedom.
31.  education.
32.  compassion.
33.  heavenly guidance.
34.  do-overs.
35.  hugs and kisses from my kiddos.
36.  hugs and kisses from my Mr.
37.  old friends who are still in my life and continue to make it better.
38.  home.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Soccer 2010

It's over. (Sigh of relief.)  It's not that I don't like soccer...well, maybe I don't like soccer.  But as long as my kids like soccer I'll be out there.  Even if I alledgedly say something like, "Hey, Griff!  I did not come out here to watch you stand around."  Maybe I might have said that...once. 


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I remember quite clearly the day I lost my vanity.  It was perhaps a year or so ago.  We were out to eat, and at the end of the meal I excused myself to use the restroom.  Upon returning to the table, I had a fleeting thought about the condition of my lipstick.  And then it hit me:  I'd just been face to face with a giant mirror, and I hadn't even taken a peek at my reflection.  Not even a glance to check my lipstick or adjust my hair while washing my hands, my face a mere twelve inches away from the glass.

How often does that happen?

I am no Narcissus, gazing forever at my own reflection, but I have logged countless hours makeuping, grooming, picking, plucking,washing, and viewing this face.  I used to worry about this face, disliking my nose and always trying to cover up that pesky skin.  And the hair.  Oh, the hair.  Give me one teenage girl that hasn't thrown a brush across the room in utter frustration.

And then, last year at the restaurant I didn't even give this face a second thought.  I don't know what else I was busy doing or thinking, but it wasn't about this face.  Not any more. 

Don't get me wrong, I still make up and wash and comb and groom and fight wrinkles.  I'm a big believer in putting my best face forward, but I like this new season of life where I fix it and forget it.  This season of life where other things are more important than the physical me.

And I wonder how I got here.  Is it the children that have given me a new perspective?  Having children has certainly forced a little more selfishness out of me, that's for sure, but they've also taught me how much richer my life can be when living for something beyond myself.  My children are ever present, either physically or mentally.  They have usurped all the empty, nonsensical space in my life, and some of the already filled space as well, to be honest.  It is exhausting sometimes, but there is something freeing in it, too.  As much as I may give up of myself in this mothering gig, I've also given up some pretty petty concerns.  I see life beyond myself.  That's a gift.

Perhaps, too, it is my age.  After 40 years, I've made peace with this face and the rest of me as well.  Maybe there is something to this aging thing.  Maybe it just takes this long to settle into one's skin.

But whatever it is, that night, at the restaurant? I smiled.  Because I know one thing for sure, and that is that this face--this body--is not the essence of me.  It is simply the shell I walk around in.  The real me is much bigger and deeper than I can comprehend and vanity has no place in it.  In fact, the temptation to judge ourselves based on our outward appearance robs us.  It keeps us from knowing who we really are, for we are so much more than we see.

My relationship with the mirror is a funny balance as are so many things in life.  Sometimes I celebrate the looking--in the acceptance of this face and this body; in the desire to care for it rather than the wish to change it; in feeling gratitude for it rather than pining for something very different.  In that way I celebrate the looking.  And I think that is possible because of the not looking, and so I celebrate that, too.

I don't, actually, think it is possible for vanity, or ego, or pride, or selfishness to fall away in one night.  I think it is a process that has been a long time at work, and I'm sure I'm not done yet.  But I got a glimpse of how far I have come in not glimpsing myself at all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

So Cool

This girl, right here,
My Photo
is really, really cool.

At first I thought her name, which I saw on a mutual friend's blog, was cool.
So I checked her blog out.
And then, it turned out that I liked not only her name, but her brain, too.

I really, really like her brain.  'Cause the things she says make me go, "Yeah.  That's right!" and they make me laugh, and cry, and nod my head, and feel inspired.

And I pretty much want to read everything she writes.  She's that good.
And she wrote a book.

  Yes, she did!

And it's really, really cool.
Check it out here.

And someday, we're gonna' do lunch.  How's that for cool?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holiday Progress

So you know when I'm freaking out about how much there is to do for the upcoming holidays, the only thing that can be done is to get started and check some of those items off the list.  That's what I've been doing.  Let me give you one example to illustrate how well it is going.

I ordered my holiday cards from Costco this year.  Homemade was not going to happen.  Something's got to give.  AND our picture does not look holiday-ish at all--I don't care.  Got it done.  So I order them to pick up the next day.  Of course there is no school, but being the unrealistic-optimist that I am, I think I'll kill two birds with one stone and grab a quick Costco lunch and pick up the cards.  Bwahahahahahaha. 

Nothing happens quickly with kids.  Nothing.  Especially when they bring a friend.  And especially when the snowbirds are out in abundance giving you very dirty looks about said kids who have the audacity to dance around, and get excited, and don't look where they're going.  Basically acting like kids.  I guess kids annoy a lot of old people.  Whatever.

So we finally get the lunch, go to get the pictures when Griffin informs me he has to "go."  Number two.  Fantastic.  Did I say we were going to get this done quickly? 

After the bathroom we finally we get through checkout.  The line out the door is forever long.  Baby is now melting down in the cart.  I'm just trying to keep track of the other three, when I look down and see that baby has spilled soda all over the Christmas cards.


That's how it's going.

I managed to salvage them, but if you get a card with a little soda stain on the envelope, you'll know the rest of the story.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Holiday Hyperventilation

I woke up at 6:15 am on November 1st in a panic.  My eyes flew open before the alarm and my heart was already racing.  I don't know what kind of dreaming was going on, but I was half-way through making my holiday to do list.

The panic has not yet subsided.

There is so much to do at this time of year.  Not only do we have Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but three birthdays, and--Hey!--let's throw in Veteran's Day!  Why not!  We need one more holiday packed in there.  Between that, Thanksgiving, and professional learning days, my kids don't have a full week of school the entire month.  That's messing with my schedule.

If I think of everything that needs to be accomplished, I start hyperventilating, so I try to limit that to just once a day, just to get the plan in motion.  The rest of the time I am just focusing on the task at hand.

This week?  Finishing Christmas Cards and Mom's exciting but enormous Christmas project.

We can do it.  Right?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Bargain's in the Eye of the Beholder

I thought it was a joke when I saw the giant produce box of over-ripe bananas sitting on my counter.  I really did.  But I should have known better.

"Only a dollar!" Mr. Wicke brags.  There is nothing my man loves more than a good bargain.  A close second is food.  Now you put those two together, and we are talking about a heady kind of euphoria. 

He shops a grocery store as most women browse the mall, picking up whatever catches his eye.  There are things I never, ever buy and yet we are always stocked (or overstocked) with cold cereal, ice cream, jello, cake mixes, canned frosting, cottage cheese, cool whip, and Kool-Aid.  Some of these items don't even register in my consciousness, but one look at my pantry would convince you otherwise. 

Stopping by the grocery on a whim or to pick up a real steal, Mr. Wicke will return home from work with bags of goodies; then the real fun begins.  We get to play the game, "Guess How Much This Cost?"  It goes something like this:

"Guess how much this cost?"

"Uhhhh, $25.00."

"No!" he crows, joy radiating from every cell in his body.


"Lower!" he nearly sings.

"I give up."

"$3.00!  And guess how much I saved?!"

"I don't know."

"Four hundred and eighty-three dollars and ninety two cents!"

Something like that, anyway.  And then the real fun begins because I get to play, "What the Heck Can I Make With This Stuff Anyway?"  Inside the bags will be rice, motor oil, nutmeg, Jell-o, and Kool-Aid, of course.  So then I have to go to the store and spend the $400 he saved so we can actually eat.  But it makes him happy, so...whatever.

But the bananas?

"A dollar?"  I repeat far less enthusiasm.  "What am I supposed to do with an entire box of rotting bananas?"

"Banana bread?" he gapes as though the answer was so obvious.

"Two loaves of banana bread takes 3 bananas.  There are like 15 bunches in there!"

And did I mention that this is the Friday before Halloween?  As if I have time to makes loaves of banana bread!  I've got a school party to run, costumes to pull together, candy to buy, cupcakes to make, a side-dish to make, decorations to gather, pumpkins to carve and now banana bread?  Loaves and loaves and loaves of banana bread?  Who needs this kind of pressure?!

Oh, and I know.  You can freeze bananas...but only if your freezer isn't full of FIVE GALLONS OF ICE CREAM!  There was not even enough room for the NINE LOAVES of frozen bread dough that he ALSO brought home because IT WAS SUCH A GREAT DEAL.  I had to cook those up on Saturday and take them to the church Trunk-or-Treat just to get rid of them.

I am drowning in good deals around here.  Good deals and loads of bananas.  And those great deals are costing me my sanity.  I'd take time for the breakdown I deserve, but I've got banana bread to make...and banana muffins, and banana chocolate cookies...and banana....well, you get the idea.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Advice to a New Mother

This is a copy of a letter I recently wrote to my niece who is expecting twins.  This last week she has been in the hospital trying to keep those babies in her tummy as long as possible and giving them the best chance at starting this life well.  I am thinking of her, praying for her, and sending positive vibrations in her direction.

Dear Erica,

You are on my mind a lot these days, what with your new adventure beginning shortly. I have only been mothering for nine years now, so I certainly don’t know everything, but I can tell you this: There is not another job on the planet that is neither more meaningful nor more sacred. Yes, it is demanding. Mothering has caused me to stretch in every direction, and that kind of growth is always accompanied by growing pains. But, building a human being from the ground up? What is more important or more exciting than that?!

That feeling, though, of being wholly responsible for another was at first somewhat overwhelming. Maybe you’ll feel the same way. I didn’t feel prepared. I knew I didn’t know enough, knew I didn’t have all the answers, knew I wasn’t smart enough, or wise enough, or brave enough, or tender enough to give these little people everything they would need. And that’s all probably true.

BUT…here is something else I have learned: Something incredibly holy happens when they place those babies in your arms. I believe, with all of a mother’s heart, that at that moment, you are anointed and set apart for that sacred calling that is specifically yours to mother that child. What does that mean? That means that there is no one, on earth, that will be able to mother that child better than you, for only you will have the insight of Heaven regarding that child.

Of course this all depends on a mother’s willingness. But I promise that as you pray, as you seek Divine guidance, God will give you inspiration. He will tell you what these babies need. He will give you more ability to do what they need than you have on your own. And here’s the miracle: Christ’s atonement will cover your natural failings. God knows we won’t be perfect, and that’s okay. He already has that covered. He just expects that we will do our best. That we will love them unconditionally. He can make up the rest.

I know I sound super religious, but I can not talk about mothering outside of a spiritual context. It is the most sacred thing I have ever done. It, above all else, has driven me to my knees, and I have found that God honors mother’s prayers. I believe there are angels sent to help us. He loved these children first. He wants the best for them. He will help us in all that we do.

Okay, now for some hands-on advice. See? Your mother made a huge mistake in asking me to write advice. You know I’ve never had an opinion I didn’t like! ;0) But these are some things that have really helped me.

1. Look to mothers whom you admire. Borrow their best ideas.

2. Protect sleep—both yours and the babies’. Do everything you can to make sure all of you are well rested. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, this seems like an impossibility, but nap when you can, and do what you can to get them on a schedule. Sleep time saves sanity!

3. The best advice I got when I was a brand new mother was this: “Do everything you can to build a good relationship between your children and their father.” I have found great success in this bit of wisdom. You will be with your child far more often than Justin. It’s just the way it is. Teach them to love their Daddy. Not only is it important for their development, but it gives you a much needed break. Some of my favorite phrases are: “Daddy is such a good man. He works so hard for us.” “Yea!!!! Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” “We love our Dada!” I also always try to teach them to say Dada first, which makes Thomas feel great, but…shhh…don’t tell: I like it when they ask Daddy for help first! :0)

4. Speaking of Daddy, remember to keep your marriage strong. Sometimes it’s really tempting to give EVERYTHING to the kids, but the best thing you can give your kids is a good marriage. It makes them feel safe; it gives them a terrific role model; and remember, at some point the children will leave. You want to still like each other by then!

5. Try to enjoy it. With my first two, I was always in a rush to move to the next stage. “I can’t wait until they can do some things on their own. I can’t wait ‘til they’re out of diapers! I can’t wait until they can just tell me what they want!” Always looking ahead. And then all of a sudden that time of life was done. They weren’t babies anymore, and I was surprised—looking back on it—how fast that time had gone. Now I wish I could go back and see their baby faces just for a minute. That I could sit and rock them to sleep. That Logan’s eyes would light up instead of rolling when I say something! What I have learned is that childhood is so fleeting that it is a shame to wish any of it away. That’s hard to remember when you’re in the thick of it, but I promise you will agree with me in a few years.

6. Don’t lose your sense of humor. Believe me you’ll need it.

7. Remember: Motherhood is not an occupation for the proud. Those kids will embarrass the heck out of you. You will deal with more bodily fluid than you ever thought possible. You will feel like a circus anytime you are in public. Strangers will roll their eyes at you, sometimes they will even be so bold as to give you their opinion! No one, unrelated to you, will want to sit by you on an airplane. Hold your head up. This too shall pass, and like I said, probably all too quickly.

I love you, Erica, and I wish only the best for you. You are beginning a grand adventure. It won’t be easy; it will have more twists and turns than you can imagine. But it will be the making of you. Mothering is funny that way. God, in his great design, gives us children to teach us about ourselves. I wish for you only happy days, but on the hard ones, I hope you can remember just how lucky you are to be a mother.

Hugs, kisses, and best wishes,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

On Why I Don't Blog as Often

 Need I say more?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Goin' In (the finale)

The next morning I wake the kids, feed them breakfast, and tell Griffin to get his shoes on.

"I don't need any shoes.  I'm not going to school," he argues.

This little red flag induces me to warn, "Right, but you're going to need your shoes 'cause you're going to work like you've never worked before."  In my mind, I know this day is going to have to hurt or I could be digging myself a huge hole.  "While you're at school, I have all kinds of work to do.  If you're not going to do your job, then you will have to help me do mine." 

Let the slave driving begin.

From 8:30 am until noon we do all my jobs and them some without stopping.  He washes the car mats, makes beds, helps with the laundry, cleans toilets, dusts, washes counters, washes windows, weeds, waters flowers and trees, vacuums, and mows the lawn.  And because he is only six, I work right alongside him.  Now most days I work hard, but this day?  This day makes me tired.  But Griffin?  He works like a maniac and doesn't complain once.

And that's when I get a little insight into my boy.  I think if it were the 1800's and we were homesteading somewhere in the Midwest, this kid would rock.  He belongs outdoors, sweaty and busy.  But this is 2010, and now we only sweat in our off times. 

At noon we break for lunch, and then it's on to schoolwork.  Because it is a half day at school, the teacher doesn't have a lot to send home, but not to be deterred in my evil plan of torture, I cull through the workbooks I have in the closet and pull out worksheets that supplement what they are working on in class.  I don't tell them they weren't part of his teacher's packet.  To be even that more torturous, I insist he practice his penmanship which is atrocious.  Overall, I find that he is a good sport.  Unlike my oldest, this one actually listens to me, and I realize that--if I had to--I could probably homeschool him.  And then I wonder if maybe that isn't what's best for him right now...except that he needs people like everyone else needs air...oh, why is parenting so complex?  Why is it that we must search so hard for the answers?

In the end, I still don't know what the right answer is for my boy, so I ask his opinion. At some point during these two days at home I asked him again what he meant when he said that he didn't feel "ready."  And I said that if, in fact, he didn't feel ready for first grade there were three options I could think of and that I would be okay with any of them (and that really was the truth.)  "Son, if you don't feel ready, the first option would be to do kindergarten again.  There wouldn't be anything wrong with that, and then you could review all of the stuff you need to know and feel more ready next year."  Griffin didn't like that idea.  "Okay...the second option is that I could teach you at home."  Admittedly I held my breath on this one, but if that's what it came to, I could do it.  Gratefully he shook his head on that one as well.  "Alright then, the third option is that you go back to school and do what it is that you need to do to be successful in first grade, which means obeying the rules."  He thought it over and agreed that he wanted to go back to school.

Once that decision was made, however, he also thought he should be able to go to soccer practice later that evening, and I was tempted.  Sorely tempted.  Because the real truth is, I don't enjoy taking things away from my kiddos.  In fact, I would rather give them everything, including soccer practice.  Ultimately, though, what I really want to give them is character, and that is something worth fighting for.

I am beginning to realize that there is no easy solution, no overnight success kit in raising kids.  No.  The answers come through a process.  I wish I could report that Griffin went back to school the next day and was a brand new child, but that wouldn't be the truth. The truth is, he has had good days and bad, but he is trying.  He is learning, growing, attempting, and sometimes failing, but more often succeeding, too.

The process of change is written slowly, in bursts and spurts two steps forward and one step back, I think.  And it's not just the goin' in that counts, it's the quiet resolve to see it through.  It's the willingness to patiently stick with it, even on the step back days.  It's not getting discouraged, or at least not remaining there.  It's celebrating the small victories.  It's not just goin''s stayin' in until the very end.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Have you Seen This?

Push play.  You won't regret it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Goin' In (part 4)

I put him to work as soon as we got home.  The only trouble is that it was also the first day that Rachel, my teenage "mommy's helper" reported for work.  She is pretty and has long hair, so of course Griffin is smitten with her.  And in 6.75 year old boy speak that means a lot of annoying and teasing.  In 39 year old mom speak it sounds like this:

"Griffin, get busy...If you don't get moving, son, you are really going to get it...Griffin, what are you supposed to be doing?...Leave her alone and finish up...I have another job for you...I told you to stay out of here..."

Poor Rachel,  I think.  She probably wonders, I am sure, just what she had gotten herself into.  So I say, "I'm not usually such an ogre mom.  He just had a really bad day at school, and he's in quite a bit of trouble."

"Yeah, when I told him he'd better listen to you or he was going to get in trouble, he said it was okay; he couldn't get in any more trouble," she said, not knowing that single phrase entered my ear and shattered my brain.

Oh, really? 

Every teacher knows that there are some children who must be compelled to humility, ala Annie Sullivan wrestling a willful Helen Keller all over the dining room until she would consent to eat using silverware.  Mae Carden, a teacher and education innovator summed it up by saying, "Sometimes it is necessary to make a student cry."  Looks as though Griffin and I, two willful souls, were preparing to wrestle, and someone was going to come away crying.  I'm not saying it will be him, but I can assure you it won't be me.

Later, when it is just he and I in the kitchen, I say, "Rachel said you told her you didn't think you could get in any more trouble.  Is that right?"

He simply shrugs.

"Griff, you need to know that I love you, but there are only two things I am required to do.  I have to keep you alive and teach you about God; the rest is extra.  Soccer?  Extra.  Wrestling camp?  Extra.  TV, computer time, sleepovers, play dates?  Extra, extra, extra, extra.  You don't think you can get more in trouble?  If you want to keep going, you might just end up with a mattress on the floor, one blanket and two pairs of clothes, 'cause everything else is extra.  You getting me here?  'Cause I love you, but if you want to keep misbehaving, you will see just how much trouble you can get in."

I know...I know.  Griffin is not yet 7, but I also know that Griffin will one day be 14. And while I know that there are many worse things than minor misbehavior at school, those are exactly why this fight is particularly important.  As my mother said, fighting the good fight right now is like drawing a fire line around them for their own good.

But it's enough work to make me sweat!

(to be continued...for the last time...)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Goin' In (part 3)

"Hi again," I say to the woman at the front desk.  "I'm checking him out for the day."

"Ohhh," she responds empathetically.  "Is he feeling sick?"

"No."  I feel sheepish having to explain my crazy plan.  I try to see if I can get through it quickly.  I'd like to avoid a lot of questions.  "He has had some behavior issues, so he's going to be home with me for the next couple of days."

Her eyes fly wide open.  "Oh!  Would you like to speak to someone?  The Vice-Principal, perhaps?"

"'re fine..."

"Well, I'm sure he would like to know what is going on.  I'd be happy to get him."  This is said with such crazy energy that it seems she is trying to preempt an angry, raging parent.

"Griffin, could you go over and sit over there for a minute," I direct.  When he is out of earshot I say, "Look, I'm not unhappy at all.  Mrs. Quayle is doing an amazing job with him.  I'm just trying to teach him a lesson about the behavior I expect at school."

With this her eyes narrow a bit and she looks at me quizzically.  "Are you sure you don't want to speak to anyone?  I'm sure the Vice-Principal would like to know what is going on."

And I wonder if she means with me or with Griffin?  I'm leaning more toward me.  She still hasn't handed me the check out sheet yet. "Well, I don't feel like I need to talk to him, but, I mean, it would be fine, I guess."

"Um, he's out of the office right now...but--"

"Oh, that's fine.  Like I said--"

"But I could get the school psychologist.  She would be happy to talk to you--"

"O...kay...sure, that's fine."  It's obvious I'm not getting out of this school without discussing this to someone.

She walks me over to Mrs. Manzatti's* office where I fill her in on Griffin's past behavior and my crack-pot scheme.

We are sitting at her child-size table over which she leans and asks, "Griffin?  What's going on?  Do you not like your classroom?  Are you having problems with Mrs. Quayle?" Mrs. Manzatti spoke in a high voice only reserved for talking with problem children.

"No," Griffin mumbles, his eyes downcast.  "I like Mrs. Quayle."

"Well, it sounds like you are having a hard time, buddy.  What's going on?"

In the silence that follows, I wonder if you had to develop a voice like that to become a school psychologist.

Finally Griffin speaks and begins to cry.  "I just don't think I'm ready."

"Ohhh..." Mrs. Manzetti says nodding her head understandingly.  Then turning to me, she says in her authoritative adult voice, "He may be feeling overwhelmed."  Then, switching back to her child psychologist voice, she says to Griffin, "You know, Griffin, you are going to learn all kinds of things in first grade.  You're going to learn how to read, your going to learn'll learn all of that.  It's okay if you don't know it right now."  Then back to normal voice and to me, she says, "First grade is very different than kindergarten.  There are a lot more expectations academically, a lot more seat work...And Mrs. Quayle--she is a very good teacher--but she does expect a lot of the students."

Now it was my turn to nod understandingly.  I'm not sure we're all on the same page here, Griffin included.  "The thing is," I say, "he's doing all of those things already.  He can already read and he is trying to solve his sister's math problems, so...I'm not sure what he means when he says he not ready."

Then I say in my mommy voice--which isn't all that much different than my adult authoritative voice...well, maybe their exactly the same-- "Griffin.  I don't know what you mean when you say you are not ready, son.  You are doing really well with your school work.  What don't you feel ready for?"

"I don't feel ready to follow the rules," he blurts, wiping his eyes.

Mrs. Manzetti is back to nodding understandingly;  I, however, don't feel as if we've discovered any new territory.  That much was clear to me three weeks ago, but feeling ready or not, what are the options here?  The rules aren't going to change; I know that much, which is what I'm waiting for her to tell him when she says to me, "I just don't want him to get the idea that he can misbehave and then he gets to go home."

And I wonder how many stupid parents this woman has to deal with.  "Oh, no.  This isn't a 'get to go home' situation," I clarify.  "No.  This is a 'have to go home' situation.  He is not going to have any fun at home."  And this part is mostly for Griffin's benefit.  "No.  If he's going home, then he is going to not only do all of his schoolwork and then some, he is going to have to do all the work that needs to be done during the day as well.  If he doesn't want to do his job here, then he can work at home.  This is not going to be pleasant, and then we will see how good school looks."

"Oh.  Oh, I see."  I'm not sure Mrs. Manzetti is on board the crazy train, but she seems more interested in watching it pull out of the station.

(to be continued...seriously, how long is this story anyway?)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Goin' In (part 2)

author's note:  Still here.  Still without a computer.  Hopefully I'll be back, fully on-line, early in the week.  Don't give up on me.

"Hi."  I greet the woman at the front desk hesitantly.  "I'm Griffin's mom."  She gives no sign of recognition at his name; I take that as a good sign.  "His teacher called, and apparently he has had some behavior issues today?"  Still nothing.  Phew.  "I called back but couldn't get through, so I thought I had better come down."

"Who's his teacher?"

"Mrs. Quayle."

"Okay..." she says, searching her schedule list.  "She is at lunch.  Would you like me to call her?"

Poor Mrs. Quayle can't even get a lunch break.  "Yes.  I suppose I had better visit with her."

When I see her coming down the hall, I rise, sheepishly shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes.  She laughs, and this puts me at ease a little.  "I'm so sorry to interrupt your lunch!"

"Oh, that's no problem.  He's had a tough morning."  Rightly said, it should have been, I have had a tough morning because of him, but Mrs. Quayle is too nice to speak the actual truth.  "Does Griffin know a boy named Eli Jones?" (Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.) 

"Ummm..." I am racking my brain for that name.

"Because that is the little boy he bit at recess.  At first he said he didn't bite him, although three other boys said he did.  When I asked him why three other boys would say that he bit Eli, Griffin said, 'I don't know, but I didn't.'  Finally, though, he gave the reason that he had gone over to Eli's house and Eli had pushed him off a shelf and he had gotten hurt."

What?  I don't even know a...wait a second..."Last Christmas I went over to Eli's mother's house so my mom could buy a necklace that she had made...We were there for like 15 minutes, but I think Griffin did get hurt while they were playing...Nine months ago?  I can't believe Griffin would hold a grudge for nine months, but that is the only time he has been to Eli's house..."

"Well, whatever the circumstances, Griffin felt that gave him reason to bite him.  The other issue was that during carpet time..." 

She continues to tell me about another instance of Griffin neither listening or obeying.  That is old hat around here, but the biting?  That one blows my mind.  I am at a loss, which is what I tell her.  "Mrs. Quayle, I really don't know what to do with this kid right now."  Even as I say it I'm pretty sure that is not an impressive thing to say, but my mind is whirling, trying to come up with some sort of meaningful punishment.  Something that will make a difference.  But what is it?  What? 

"I just think he needs to realize that coming to school is a privilege," I continue.  "...Maybe I need to take him out of school for a couple of days...make him want to come back...maybe..."My mind is still spinning, but there might be something here...possibly.  "I don't know.  I just think he needs something that's going to rock his world a little bit."  I'm hoping here that she will chime in with an opinion; clearly I am a mother grasping at straws.  She doesn't.

So I continue, "What do you think?"

"Well..." she hesitates, and I think maybe I'm crazy.  "In my position I can't tell you to take your child out of school--"

"--No, of course not."  It's official.  I'm crazy.

"--but if you think it will help, it may be worth a try.  Why not?"

And that's where I fell in love with Mrs. Quayle a little bit.  Right there.  Because I don't know what will help.  I really don't, but I'm willing to try anything.  And something in my mother's heart tells me this kid needs a wake up call, something big, something bold, and maybe a little crazy, and if she can get behind crazy, then she's on my team.

"Do you want to get him now?  They are just coming in from recess."

"Sure.  Yeah."  I try to sound more confident than I feel.  "If you could send home his work from the rest of today and for tomorrow, I will see that he gets it done.  I just want to make sure I'm not making things harder for you..."  And then I realize Griffin will be out of her class for a day and a half.  I laugh, "Actually things will probably be a little easier, huh?"

She laughs with me, but doesn't totally disagree.  I respect that.

When Griffin sees me standing next to his teacher as he comes in from recess, his face lights up.  He smiles and waves excitedly.  Inside I shake my head at his complete oblivion.  Outside I narrow my eyes and beckon him with my pointer finger.  His smile quickly fades and he walks over reluctantly.

"I am not happy about being here right now," I seethe quietly.  "Do you know why I am here?"

"Because I got in trouble."

"That's right.  And now you have to come home with me.  Let's go get your things."

While the rest of the class finishes their bathroom break, Mrs. Quayle accompanies us to her room.  While she gathers his papers, I lecture.  "Now, you look at Mrs. Quayle.  She is your teacher.  She is not your babysitter, or your mother.  She is your teacher, and she should not have to spend all of her time dealing with your misbehaviour when she has 25 other students in the room to look after.  You need to say you are sorry for not listening and obeying."

"Sorry," he mumbles humbly. 

Griffin," I continue, "school is a privilege.  There are lots of kids that do not get to go to school.  You should feel very lucky to be here, but if you can not behave, then you can not be here.  Now, Mrs. Quayle loves you, and she wants you to be able to come back, but if I can not trust you to behave correctly when you are out of my sight, then I will not allow you to come back to school.  You will just have to stay at home and do all your work with me where I can keep my eyes on you.  We are going to see how it goes the next couple of days, and you are going to have to prove to me that you want to come back.  Do you understand?"

He nodded yes.

"Here are your papers from today, and the rest of the work we will be doing this afternoon," Mrs. Quayle says, and then in a move that is akin to jumping up behind me and spurring the crazy horse on, she takes his little face in her hands, looks in his eyes, and with the severest gravity says, "I hope you can come back, Griffin."

Me?  More in love with Mrs. Quayle than ever!  She's on board and, though we don't know exactly where we're going, we're riding this train all the way to the station--or at least the the front office, 'cause that's where I run into a little trouble.

(to be continued...)

Friday, September 17, 2010

What's Up

So, my computer crashed.  And it's pretty hard to write part two when my computer won't even turn on!  Argh!  But hubby has his laptop home this weekend, so I will write.  And post.

I miss my computer...but boy is my house sparkly!  :0)

Monday, September 6, 2010


Just a few things:

1.  Nothing gives Griffin more pleasure right now than popping his own microwave popcorn.  He's got the big bags down just right.  However, popping an individual size popcorn bag for three minutes will leave my house smelling like burned popcorn for two days--at least that is how long it has been despite my candle-burning-bowls-of-vinegar-on-the-counter-attempts.  Pee-u.

2.  I much preferred the faint odor of maple syrup that hung around for two days after baby Lincoln covered himself and much of the kitchen in it.  Messy, yes, but much better for the nose.

3.  This morning I discovered the load of laundry I forgot to take out of the washer on Saturday.  It is being re-washed as we speak, which means I am now officially behind in laundry.

4.  I will not be able to finish my "to be continued" story today because we are taking the kids to the Diamondbacks game.  I love baseball in person.  On the TV?  Not so much.

5.  Happy Labor Day.  Here's to all the laborers out there!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Goin' In (part 1)

"Hello.  Mrs. Wicke?  This is Mrs. Quayle, Griffin's teacher?  I just wanted to call to let you know that I had to take away both of his hand sanitizers because they were quite distracting to him..."

It is only the second day of school, and already I'm getting a call from his first grade teacher.  I'd focus more on the embarrassment of that situation if I could think anything other than, "Hand sanitizers?  Both?  What?"

"I tried to tell him that he was only to use them when he sneezed, or blew his nose, or...but he kept playing with it under his desk, so I took the one away, and then the next time I looked he had another..."

I still can't get past "hand sanitizers."  I'm not a hand sanitizer kind of mom, as my friends will tell you.  They are the germaphobes; I'm the mom who considers dirt a form of inoculation.  Besides, trying to keep Griffin clean is like trying to hold back the tide.  And now I have a teacher who can only surmise that I am the most germ-conscious mother in the room, for not only do I send one hand sanitizer but a back up--just in case!

"Anyway, I just wanted to let you know in case Griffin came home and said that I..."

"Mrs. Quayle, I'm so sorry.  I don't know where he got those in the first place.  I certainly didn't pack them for him.  And secondly, please feel free to take anything of his away from him at any time and keep it as long as you want."  In my estimation, Griffin's teacher needs free range...obviously.

The next time we talk, she informs me that Griffin is not finishing his work because he isn't staying on task, and I tell her that she is preaching to the choir; well, not in those words exactly.  "You know, Mrs. Quayle, we are dealing with these same issues at home.  He's not a bad kid, he just seems to be in a bad pocket right now."

"Oh, no," she quickly agrees, winning my heart.  "He's not mean or malicious about anything.  He just seems impulsive and highly social."

Impulsive and highly social.  It's a good description of my boy.  "Well, I appreciate that you can see the goodness in him, and I just want you know that you have our total support here at home.  We are working really hard on this end, too, and we're willing to do whatever you need."

I initiate the third conversation with a request that she do a daily behavior report for Griffin.  As a firm believer in bribery, I have a plan:  With good behavior at school he could earn points toward getting a lizard.  Crazy pets in exchange for compliance?  Any day of the week.  Especially when she further reports that she has a small collection of toys that he has smuggled into school.  I tell you, if it's not one thing it's another with this kid.

But the fourth conversation--oh, the fourth conversation!--is the worst.  I come home at noon to discover a message on my machine.  "Hi, Mrs. Wicke; this is Mrs. Quayle again.  We've had a couple of issues with Griffin today.  Uh, he bit a child at recess.  He denied it, but three other children said that he did.  I did look at the other child, and there were bite marks.  It didn't seem like a really hard bite, but it did draw blood.  Then when we were doing calendar time, I noticed he was playing with a pencil and when I asked him to please put it away he--" Beeeeeep.

The machine cuts her off, and I stand there in stunned silence.  Biting?  He has never bitten another kid in his life.  Even his sister, and, out of anyone, he should have bitten her a couple of times.  This is a whole new low.  And what was the rest of the story?  What horror could he inflict with a pencil?  Take the whole classroom hostage?  And what was I supposed to do?  Go get him?  Are they holding the little vampire in the office?  What?

I try to call the school back only to get a busy signal.  I wait.  I call again. Still busy.  Never one to exhibit much patience, I determine that I'm going to have to just go down there.  I call a friend who generously comes over to sit with baby while I head out the door.  As I drive the short distance to the school, I realize that I don't know what to expect, nor do I know what I'm going to do. 

All I know is that I have to do something.  I might be "the" mom of "that" child right now, but I am THE MOM.  I stand between him and the cliff he seems determined to throw himself off of.  But what's my next move?

That I don't know.  So I phone a friend:  I pray asking that I will know what to say or do to get through to this child.  Then I take a deep breath and suit up. 

'Cause I'm going in. 

(to be continued...)

p.s.  While I finished writing this this morning my baby covered himself and the kitchen table in maple syrup.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here We Go Again

School here in Mesa started August 11th.  On August 13th I got a call from Griffin's teacher.  For those of you who are math challenged like me, I'll interpret:  GRIFFIN'S TEACHER HAD TO CALL ME ON THE SECOND DAY OF SCHOOL!  Oh, boy.  I'm that mother again? 

It appears so.  The last three weeks have been a bumpy ride, so strap in, because if I get the chance today I'm gonna' tell you all about it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Failing and Grace

"I feel like I'm failing most of the time."  My throat began to swell with the hard reality of that phrase.  The worst thing about parenting is the attention it calls to my own weaknesses.  Most of the time I feel like I'm being allowed to do surgery without having finished med school. 

"Oh, sweetheart.  You are a wonderful mother," my own mother's soothing voice came through the receiver.

"Oh, but I'm not," I cried.  At least I am not the mother I want to be. "I'm impatient, and short-tempered, and--I mean, I know these things about myself."  Or, better said, I am learning these things about myself, and I wish I weren't.  Parenting causes me to stretch in every direction, and even after all that stretching, I wish I felt like I was "there."  Instead I feel like I so often miss the mark, and all that is in sight is that raging gap between where I am and where I wish to be. 

Even when I try to do the right thing.  The good thing.  Like this trip to San Diego with Griffin.  I know he has been struggling.  WE have been struggling, this battle of wills it seems:  He doesn't want to do, but there are some things he must do...And so I made a goal that this trip was going to be all about Griffin.  We were going to do the things he wanted, on his schedule.  We were going to remember that we really do like each other, underneath it all.  I don't want him to feel picked on all the time, and I don't want to feel frustrated all the time, either.

"And?" mom questioned.

"And most of it has been good.  Really good.  But last night...ugh, it just breaks my heart."

The night before we had been on our way home to Mesa.  We had spent four terrific days in San Diego, just the two of us, and we had had a wonderful time together.  I said yes a lot.  Yes to a $20.00 bike surrey ride.  Yes to staying up late.  Yes to the bubble gun at Sea World.  Yes to two hours petting the stingrays.  Yes to playing in the park until it got dark even though I was hungry.  Yes to walking two blocks to use the gumball machine.  Yes to eating crepes outside.  Yes to sitting in the Shamu soak zone.  Yes to splurging for the Sea World Skytower ride.  Yes to staying at the beach "just a little longer."  Yes to games of "touched you last."  Yes to falling asleep watching TV.   Yes to buying Scooby Doo 2 to watch on the way home--A lot of yesses.

And I said "I love you" a lot.  And he said it back.  And we snuggled, and held hands, and played on the beach, and laughed, and talked.  And that was good.

Then on the way home we made an unexpected detour.  Having found out that my brother was getting remarried on short notice the next day, I decided we should make the trip and be there; the only downside was that is meant driving until 3 am.  And I was already tired of driving.  So was Griffin, but he was a good sport and watched Scooby Doo-2 ten more times over the next many hours.  Despite my useless pleadings that he use the earphones, that meant that I got to listen to Scooby Doo-2 ten more times as well.  Good times.  Good times.

By 11 pm that night, I was feeling the burn.  Even if we stopped in Vegas, it was at least two more hours of driving.  Shaggy and Velma were fraying my nerves.  We needed gas, and as we filled up Griffin asked if he could drink his very large, red Gatorade, which I had said "yes" to against my better judgement.

"Okay..." I said, unscrewing the lid and handing it to him, "but don't spill, okay?"

Moments later, as I was cleaning the windshield and trying to convince myself that two more hours of driving was not so very bad, I saw his eyes go wide, and I knew.  And when I didn't see him stoop to retrieve it, I knew that, too:  The bottle was sitting bottom side up, gurgling its vast contents onto the floor. 

I ran to the passenger side and pulled open the door.  "Griffin!  What are you doing?!  At least pick it up, son!"  The mess was everywhere, and what ticked in my brain was the extra 25 minutes this was going to add to our trip in clean up time.  My aggravation bubbled over.  "C'mon!  Are you kidding me?  Great.  Just great!  Argh...Move out of the way, son!  I can not believe..."  He sat there silently as I dabbed, and sopped, and scrubbed, complaining both over and under my breath.  Twenty five minutes later, the job was, indeed, done, and I had regained my cool enough to see my son.

Really see him. 

And I knew.  I knew his little heart was hurt.

I took a deep breath.  "Honey, I'm sorry I lost my temper.  I should not have yelled.  You are more important than this car.  I don't want you to think otherwise."  And then I took his face in my hands.  "I want you to know something.  You are a great kid.  You hear me?  You are...a great kid."  And that's when his eyes welled up with tears.

I am ashamed of myself, because I had given him reason to doubt it.  There it is again--that raging gap between where I am and where I wish to be.  I only hope that my failure is not so large that it swallows my children whole.

I am imperfect.  That is one thing that parenting is teaching me very clearly, but this I vow.  I will keep stretching; I will keep trying; I will keep loving despite my imperfections, because they are great kids, and though I sometimes feel that they deserve better than me, I have to believe in God's wisdom.  That He was not wrong in letting us improve one another at the same time.  That there is a built in buffer that offsets the natural failings that come with parenting. Some days I fail.  But some days I succeed.  I hope those days hold more weight.

All I can do is try and pray for grace--both from God and my children, those who see me in all my weakness--and that they will love me anyway, and know, wholeheartedly, that I love them.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I think I promised I'd get back to regular posting.  And then this last week went and made me a liar.  Darn week.

I actually started writing something on Monday.  Something that I don't know how to write.  Something still unsettling to me.  Something both sacred and sad.  Something about which I'm unsure if all mothers will relate to or something that will just make me look like a failure, which is frankly how I felt--make that, still feel.  Something that I will finish writing once I can wrap my mind around it and find the end.

Sometimes when I can't make sense of something, I have to stop looking at it for a while.  Instead I need to gain control over something, like organizing the playroom, which I did.  Something that requires presence of mind and body.  Something that makes sense out of chaos.  And then I need to do something physical, like take an adult ballet class, which I did.  Something demanding that beats out that pent up emotion.  And then I need to do something comforting, and since I can't crawl up onto my mom's lap anymore, I call her, which I did.  And like always, she drenched me in love until I was dripping with it.  And finally I need advice, so I go to lunch with dear friends, which I did.  And I lay out my burden and pick their brains.

And then I think.

And hopefully
I will write.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jen, Jen, Jen...

I just want to say that I had this idea before Bill O'Reilly.  I did.  When I was reading "The People" (which I like to call it because I think it's sorta' funny) and I read Jennifer Aniston's comments about how lucky we are that we don't have to wait to find a man to settle down with before we had kids, well...something screeched in my brain.  I don't know about all this "destructive to society" stuff.  I'll leave that to the social commentators.  I'm just a mom.  And all I know, as a mom, is that she doesn't really know what the hell she's talking about.

Before promoting the glories of single momhood, she might want to talk to some real moms.  I bet they have a lot to say about the subject.

Here's one example, a letter I wrote to Mr. Wicke this last Valentine's Day:

Dear Valentine,

Do you know what was really romantic? When this harried mom was at the health clinic with our two very sick kiddos, one in tears after waiting for two hours, a baby melting down with a goose egg to boot, and when I really had reached my limit and was grasping the fraying last end of my rope, I called you, and you came. You came quickly. And you took the children, with a smile even. And after I had finally gotten the prescriptions filled and come home, you were feeding them soup, and the baby was asleep, and you weren't even perturbed that Griffin had thrown up in the car all over himself.

THAT was really romantic.

You know why? Because it made me think again that I can't imagine raising these little ones with anyone but you.


Your Mrs.

In a million years, I would never want to do this alone.  I thank God every day that I have a partner in this deep and heavy work.  24/7, 365.  A sperm donor just doesn't keep those hours.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yesterday by the Clock

At 8:22 I waved to my kids as the bus pulled away on the first day of school.

At 8:37 I said goodbye to Megan and her kids, the last of our summer visitors.

At 9:00 welcomed the first guests for our "The Bus Just Pulled Out Breakfast for Moms."

At 10:54 the last of my girlfriends left after graciously tidying up my kitchen.

At 11:05 I put the baby down for his nap.

At 11:09 I enrolled and funded my children's school lunch accounts.

At 11:30 I lay down in my unmade bed.  I listened to the quiet of the house and tried to sleep.

At 12:20 I gave up and did all the stuff my brain was telling me I was supposed to do: laundry and lots and lots of cleaning.

At 3:15 I picked up Griffin for gymnastics.  He reported his first day was "Awesome!"

At 4:02 I returned home just in time to greet Logan off the bus.  Despite not getting to share her bag of 10 things yet, she had a great day.

At 4:15 we walked over to our friends to see how their first day went where Griffin's little buddy broke the bad news that yes, even though Griffin didn't get a yellow card, he did get his name removed from the Respectful Rattlers list--whatever that means, but hey!  We'll take what we can get.  No yellow card?  Success!

At 4:46 pm we left to pick Griffin up from gymnastics. He was sweaty and gross and totally happy.

At 5:06 we stopped at QT for first day celebratory drinks: Diet Coke, Strawberry Fanta, and Strawberry Banana slush.

At 5: 20 we returned home and went through backpacks and finished up new school year paperwork.  (That in itself should be a deterrent to having any more children.)

At 5:32 Daddy came home and all celebrated!

At 5:40 the children took a dip in the pool.  (It is HOT and muggy here!)

At 6:10 dinner was served.  Over dinner we talked about and assigned morning chores.  After much haggling it was still determined that chores would be a requirement.

At 6:33 the kids continued swimming.

At 6: 52 the baby got a bath to distract him from Daddy leaving for mutual.

At 6:58 Daddy snuck out.

At 7:10 the baby got out of the bath and Logan and Griffin showered and bathed.  I am not entirely sure that Griffin used soap, but by the time of my discovery, he was already out and dressed.  Does rinsing count?

At 7:20 I put the baby to bed.

At 7:41 I blow dried and straightened Logan's hair for the morning.

At 7: 47 I insisted that Griffin quit screaming and running with the dog and go get a book to read out loud to us in the bathroom.  He chose Green Eggs and Ham.  Logan was astounded that I could correct him without looking at the book.  I know my Suess.

At 8:00 I told the kids to brush teeth and say prayers..repeating that phrase at least three times.

At 8:07 I rounded the corner just in time to kneel with Griffin who told me he was going to say his prayers to himself, but then changed his mind and said them out loud anyway.  My favorite phrase?  "...and please bless that we will know what to do...and when to do it...and how to do it."  The boy has his bases covered.

At 8:08 We read one chapter of Vin Fiz.

At 8:17 We read one chapter of Nancy Drew #12.

At 8:28 Daddy came home and joined us.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

At 8:34 Daddy and I gave hugs and kisses and turned out the lights.

First Day of School finished!

Favorite Quote of the Day:
When we were walking into Meet the Teacher Night the evening before the first day of school, Logan said, mumbling to herself:  "Okay.  Stand up straight.  Shoulders back.  Chest out.  Deep breath."  I nearly couldn't contain myself.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Forgetting Regrets

Something my kids said the other day was funny.  So funny that I thought, "I have to write that down on the blog."  But I didn't.  Because while they were being funny, they were also being a handful, and I was busy wiping them or wiping something they spilled.  Or picking something off of them or picking something they dropped.  Or cleaning them or cleaning up after them.  You get the picture.

And now I can't remember what they said.  As often as I try to scour that spot in my brain, scratching again and again at the place where that moment once sat, I can not recall it.  I can only remember that I found it incredibly funny.  And that makes me sad, that empty spot in my brain.  (And, by the way, nothing looks any cleaner around here than it did before.  That makes me sad, too, but in a different way.)

Oooh, I hope in heaven I get a DVD of all the highlights, along with a remote control so I can rewind and watch as many times as I want.  Over and over until I'm filled.  Until all those empty spots of great moments that I meant to remember, or forgot to take notice of in the first place, are fully recollected, fully appreciated, fully present. 

Until then, I'll just keep blogging.

Favorite quote of the day:

Griffin (in the back seat tying his new school shoes--his first pair of tie-on's ever.)  Ugh!  I can't do it.  I only got half of the bunny ear in the--hmph!  (Now with a bit of a whine in his voice.)  I only have two arms, and I need three 'cause I have to make two bunny ears and then I can't get!

Me:  I've felt like that a lot of times myself.

p.s.  School starts on Wednesday.  I'll be back to regular posting on Thursday.  That is if anyone is still there.  "Hello?  Is this thing on?"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Discoveries in San Diego

at Coronado

some things I learned/relearned about this kid:

he is a great traveler
he is curious
he will watch the same movie 13 times in a row
asking him not to spill is like asking the wind not to blow
he wants to know just about everything
he wants to tell anyone what he knows
he may be a little nervous at first, but once he gets the hang of it he's pretty fearless
he has no concept of time
he has no concept of money
he'll get grouchy before he realizes he's hungry
he loves crepes
he has a big heart
he loves me
and I really, really love him.

Feeding the bat rays at Sea World.  We spent two hours with them.  Not kidding.

More bat rays.

We're still there and still loving it!

Watching the polar bears.

In front of the USS Midway.

He loved the self-guided tour of the aircraft carrier.

More careful listening.

He was fascinated with the airplanes.  Grandpa Wicke (Col. USAF Ret.)  may have a pilot on his hands!