Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's getting very Christmasy up in here.

I am making an advent calendar tonight!  Because putting it off until the last minute is fun and exciting!
  1. Bring the Christmas books up from the basement
  2. Treats
  3. Candy Cane Craft (bought a little kit at Hobby Lobby for those beaded ornaments)
  4. Treats
  5. Shop for the Giving Tree
  6. Christmas Cards (Speak now if you want one!)
  7. Snowflake Craft (http://marthastewart.com/article/crystal-snowflake)
  8. Treats
  9. String popcorn for cherry tree
  10. Treats
  11. Tilles Park lights
  12. Breakfast with Santa
  13. Trim the tree!  Deck the halls!
  14. Treats
  15. Craft TBD
  16. Treats
  17. Make fudge
  18. Treats
  19. Living room picnic and Christmas movie
  20. Cookies!
  21. Gingerbread House Part 1
  22. Gingerbread House Part 2
  23. Treats
  24. Put out cookies for Santa and food for reindeer!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One of us is wiggly

I just made the hat this weekend and someone felt a little silly.

Monday, November 23, 2009

PSA: Marshmallow Warnings

  1. Do not attempt to make rice crispy treats in between making pancakes.  Yes, it feels like you are wasting a lot of time standing by the stove, spatula in hand.  Yes, your eyes might come to rest on the box of crispies while you are waiting for bubbles to form and edges to dry.  Yes, it might feel like a particularly inspired idea to multitask two very simple tasks.  But don't.  Just don't.
  2. If you ignore the above and forge ahead with this reckless combination of projects, then consider the microwave instructions for crispy making very carefully.  If you dump the entire bowl of marshmallows into the 1.5 quart bowl and wonder to yourself, "Wow, that bowl looks really full." then STOP.  Get a bigger bowl.  Instructions are not always correct.
  3. If you ignore your inner voice and use the small bowl, then stop the microwave the instant you smell sugar.  Don't stand there pouring pancakes wondering what could be burning.
  4. If you do not stop the microwave in time, use the silicone potholders to remove the smoldering mass from the microwave.  Melted marshmallow tends to embed itself into terrycloth.
  5. If calling for help, make sure to specify that you need adult help.  Otherwise, an eager junior pancake flipper (seriously, he makes terrific pancakes) will show up to rescue you.  The only problem is that junior pancake flippers are afraid of the oven.  Since you stowed the pancake platter in the warm oven, the junior pancake flipper will likely stand in your way waving the spatula around while requesting that you just open up the oven already so that he can assist. 
  6. If you manage to save the pancakes, give up on the ill-conceived idea to make the crispies.  I repeat, CAPITULATE!  Do not under any circumstances return the mass of marshmallow goo to the microwave.
  7. If still forging ahead, stop the microwave as soon as you smell burning.  Again.
  8. If somehow you manage to scrape a fair amount of melted marshmallow from the microwave interior, be sure to reduce the rice crispy measurement by a suitable amount.  Calculate the amount of marshmallow left on the potholders, the microwave, the counter, and quite possibly in your hair, then reduce the cereal measurement by the same proportion.
  9. If you fail to adjust the recipe, make a rule that the resulting treats be eaten only in the kitchen over the trashcan so that you don't have to spend the rest of the evening clearing up crispy cereal bits from all over the house.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When is the solstice again?

It's dark.  It's dark when I get up.  It is so dark that I am a little afraid to take a shower.  Our shower has a window in it.  Of course, the glass is that odd blurred stuff appropriate for showers.  And also of course, the window faces the brick wall of my neighbor's house across the 5 foot strip of weeds and air conditioners.  Yet still I feel on display, showering in front of the pitch black window.  I freak myself out with vague ideas of Watchers skulking around outside. 
It is dark the rest of the day too.  Not the pitch black of night, but the gloomy gray dark of yet another rainy day after what feels like a month of rainy days.  I know we've had sunshine recently, but for some reason that is harder to remember than the gray days.  I huddle in my cubicle and avoid looking out the window.  It is just too depressing.  So instead, I daydream about new projects in bright colors.  I'll embroider kitchen towels!  I'll make crazy fluorescent paper snowflakes!  I'll craft gigantic felt flowers in obscenely bright colors to wear in my hair!  I'll make a Christmas tree skirt out of the glitteriest gaudiest red liquid lame that will sparkle and gleam!
Then, when I leave work, it's dark again.  All my cheerful projects flit right out of my head.  I trudge home in the dark, moping all the way.  It's odd for me.  I usually love winter despite the short days.  I like the tingling ache that comes from breathing cold air - although it hasn't been that cold yet.  I like sitting under a cozy blanket while the darkness presses on the window.  I like the holidays lined up like dominoes - my Birthday!  Thanksgiving!  Claire's Birthday!  Christmas!  New Years!  Super Bowl!  - followed by the long slow yawn of early spring.  But this year?  Not so much.
Tonight?  I'm going to finish some Christmas sewing come hell or high water.  I am trusting that some cheerful snowmen will shake me out of of these doldrums.  And if not, then at least I can feel virtuous about having accomplished something, right?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On the Cusp of Readerhood

A month or so ago, Claire's preschool teacher told me that they'll be working on sight words this year.  My eyebrows shot right up over my head as I struggled to make a coherent response.  "But...four!  Early!  Really?  Four!"
"I know," she said.  "But the new kindergarten entry standards..." yada yada yada, "but don't worry.  If they get it they get it.  If not, no stress."  I was unsure about the standards and also unsure about speaking up with curriculum concerns before I knew there was a problem.  So I satisfied myself with a vaguely negative countenance, gathered my children, and went home to stew.
Several weeks later, Claire was recognizing words all over the place.  "Look, Mom!  It says 'the' right there."  I looked at the box and saw the word "mother."  I blinked, looked again, and saw the word "moTHEr."  During bedtime stories, she pointed out first one word, then two, then three or four on a page.  I wondered if maybe she was a little more ready for reading than I originally thought.
Then, a few days ago, Claire proved that she is not only ready to read, she is already on the cusp of readerhood.  I was in the bathroom attending to, erm, business.  Claire piped up from the hallway, "P! O! P!  Does that spell poop?" 
"Very close, baby!  P-O-O-P is poop.  Oooooo has two ohs."
She thought about it briefly, and replied, "Oh, like boo.  B-O-O."  She might just be reading by her birthday next month.  She'll definitely be reading before kindergarten.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sweating the Small Stuff

Due to a complicated series of events, I became a co-chair for the PTO social committee.  Well, really, it wasn't all that complicated.  I opened my mouth to complain and was promptly invited to participate by an adroit PTO president.  Good for her!  So, the upshot is that I am to work with another parent to provide refreshments at various events throughout the school year.  I thought this would be a low key way to support the school.  Instead, I have managed to turn it into a veritable wasps' nest of stressballs merely by being myself.  If I don't hear from the other chair I panic - never mind that she has three children and two jobs.  I wake up at 2am to worry about the budget.   I fret over cake orders even after confirming the pick up date.
So, my latest little stressball is really no surprise.  Next week, there is a Girl Talk meeting.  I have only the vaguest idea of what the meeting is about.  I think there are some girls and they will be talking.  It's some anti-bullying initiative or character-building initiative or some other sort of initiative for either preteen girls or mothers of preteen girls.  The one thing that I know is that it is girly.  Between my (almost entirely) self-imposed budgetary stress and my knowledge of the girlyness of said event, I hit upon the perfect refreshments for the event.  The menu would include coffee, cocoa, biscotti, and fruit.  What preteen girl would not thrill to a mocha and an oh-so-adult biscotti?  What mother would not appreciate a variation from the standard meeting fare?  The PTO puts out a great spread, but it can get a little monotonous after 6 or 7 years of school meetings.
So, one would think that all is fantastic!  It's an easy, enjoyable, inexpensive menu.  All was well until around 3:30 am this morning, when I realized that I have no idea how to operate the school's coffee urn.  So,should I take a risk and try to figure it out on the fly?  Or should I retreat to the tried and true?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Second Verse, Same as the First

Jacob, First Grade
"But, Mom, why should I raise my hand?  The teacher doesn't always call on me and then someone else just gives the wrong answer.  I can just answer it right the first time."
Claire, Preschool
"I don't want to take turns answering.  I know the right answer so I should just tell everyone."
I rarely compare my children, but there are moments that just scream for comparison.  And those moments are generally followed by a few deep breaths.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Even When It's Expected...

A while ago, we adopted a couple of mice.  They have been surprisingly fun pets.  They have also provided the life lessons expected.  Jacob learned to put their needs before his own.  He feeds them every morning before his own breakfast.  He takes time out from weekend fun to clean the cage.  He carefully protects them from Claire's enthusiasm.
And last week, as expected, Patches died.  I'd noticed a few weeks ago that she was looking a little rough around the edges.  Jake and I talked about it.  He had already noticed and started making little changes to make her life easier.  He put the food on the floor of the cage so she wouldn't have to climb to reach it.  I noticed mid-week that she wasn't running around the cage.  I actually thought she escaped.  I eyed every corner of the cage and couldn't find her anywhere.  I spent the week surreptitiously looking behind furniture.
On Sunday, I reminded Jacob to clean the cage and broke the news to him.  "Patches is missing.  I can't find her anywhere."  His eyes widened and he ran to the cage.  Then he found her as he was taking apart the cage.  He handled it so well.  I found a box.  He took her out of the cage and buried her in the garden.  Then he cleaned the cage and worried about Peanut.  He told me that she looked upset.  I thought maybe it wasn't Peanut that was upset.
Later, in the quiet of the evening, Jacob commented that he wasn't feeling well.  I asked him if he was sick or upset.  "I'm just a little sad about Patches," he said in a tight voice.  I'm a little sad about Patches too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Saints All Stars

We've been up to our ears in saints around here lately.  Last week, Jacob participated in the schools traditional third grade All Saints prayer service.  Each child chose a saint.  They dressed up as their saint of choice, then read a little blurb about that saint's life and patronage.  It was interesting and the kids were adorable.  Yesterday was actually All Saints, of course, and the homily was fittingly about how fortunate we are to have this tradition.  So, I thought I would pay a little tribute to my All Saints All Stars - the team on whose intercession I rely and who provide for me a composite image of what my Christian life could and should be.
St. Monica
St. Monica was St. Augustine's mother.  And St. Augustine is known for being spectacularly bad before he was spectacularly good.  While Augustine was tramping around having a high time, Monica was following him around and praying for his conversion.  She eventually prevailed and Augustine became one of the greatest thinkers in the history of Christianity.  Our faith is richer because of him, and we owe much of that to St. Monica in my opinion.  St. Monica had great faith in both God and her son.  Her faith is a reminder to me that I must remain constant as a mother - a reminder that I might have to tell my children umpteen times to stop and THINK about the consequences of their actions before they actually hear me.  And I ask her to pray for me almost every single day.  She would probably be sick of hearing from me if she weren't such a saint.
St. Therese
OK, I know almost everyone loves St. Therese - but it's for good reason!  Her Little Way teaches us all that any life can be holy.  Plus, look how she influenced Blessed Teresa of Calcutta!  When I was very young, I used to sing songs from a children's hymnal called "Hi God!"  They were cheesy, childish, feel-good songs from the 70s.  My favorite was "Bloom Where You're Planted."  St. Therese's life was definitely about blooming where you are planted.  There is dignity, love, and even salvation to be found in the hundreds of small, selfless acts that we can all incorporate in our pedestrian lives. 
St. Frances Cabrini
Mother Cabrini is an absolute inspiration to me.  She gave new meaning to resourcefulness and a can-do attitude.  She is a saint who Gets Things Done (yes, with capital letters!) and she's my go-to for those moments when I wonder "How am I going to do this?"  I firmly credit her for getting me through sticky situations ranging from a complicated report at work to constructing a St. Nicholas costume at home.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I ask for help from the woman who arrived in the US with six nuns and went on to establish many schools, orphanages, and hospitals.  She must have felt overwhelmed every day of her life.
So, who is on your All Saints All Stars team?  Even if not a saint, who inspires you with their life or ideas?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How much wood can this woodchuck chuck?

As soon as the scrape on my chin heal to a round pinkish suggestion of a blemish (No!  Not a pimple!  A scrape!  Because falling is somehow better than breaking out.) the flu hit the house.  Much like a tornado, this flu hopped over some of us only to completely level other members of the household.  It is a matter of some debate whether those sickened got the luck of the draw.  The sickies are convinced that they have the worst of it - shivering, coughing, barely able to muster the attention necessary for Family Feud.  The healthies are exhausted and crabby from digging through the rubble and trying to bravely carry on in the face of the disaster.  During flu epidemics, we are all melodramatic martyrs. 
We are on the upswing now - I absolutely insist on that - and beginning to resemble our normally happy household.  In a spurt of inspiration last weekend, the children and I made some ghosts and decorated the stoop for Halloween.  Claire drew a jack-o-lantern on a sugar pumpkin that she got on a preschool field trip.  She set the diminutive Jack on the stoop.  He's crooked and dwarfed and ever so slightly forlorn.  We had to do something to make Jack look a little more intentional.  So ghosts it was!  And after 15 minutes of labor the stoop looks, well, the stoop looks like we took a stab at it.  Good enough!  Bring on the ghouls!
In an uncharacteristic lack of procrastination, I finished Claire's fairy tutu on Sunday night.  I was puffed up with accomplishment for finishing a whole FIVE days before absolutely necessary.  Then this morning, I saw that the preschool Halloween party is not actually on Friday but is today.  I depuffed.  Still, though, I finished ahead of time!  Almost!  I had only to tie some tulle on a scrounged toy drumstick while gobbling Cheerios and making ham sandwiches to finish the ensemble.  Good enough!  Bring on the insanely red and pink fairy!
Then, as if I don't have enough in my soup bowl, I signed up for a chili contest at work.  I am going to win - not by a superior chili but by superior meat.  It's ingenious, I think.  I will make the same old tired Midwestern combination of canned goods that everyone uses for chili.  But instead of ground beast, I will use chunked up beast.  I am absolutely convinced that all tasters will be so overwhelmed by the sensation of actual chewy beef hunks that they will put their vote in my cup while still engulfed in a meat daze.  Wish me luck!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall. And then a fall.

Fall has arrived.  I could not be more thrilled.  I don't care that it has rained more days than not.  I don't care that my yard is a pit of mud and 14 inch lag bolts (the neighbor built a new garage and my son is a scavenger).  I don't even mind that I had to make an emergency glove run because somehow, against all logic, all our gloves have completely gone missing over the course of the summer.  I only care that the weather is cool, soup is on the stove, and my lazy hazy summer brain is back to its normal sharp state.  Well, almost back to normal, anyway. 
Yesterday, I was walking a few blocks when I noticed a helicopter overhead.  I kept walking while I looked up at the sky.  Earlier in the day, I overheard a rumor that a local high school had hired a helicopter to hover their sport field and dry it out for a big game.  I was irritated by the wastefulness of it.  So when I saw the helicopter, I tried to figure out if it was heading to the local park or some nearby soccer fields when SPLAT!  Or, more accurately, THUMP!  SLAP!  THUD!  KERPLUNK!  I tripped on nothing.  I turned my attention back to my situation on the ground at the exact moment that my knees thumped hard.  I tried to save myself by quickly slapping my hands onto the pavement, but still managed to pitch forward thudding onto my chest.  I ended the whole series with a kerplunk right on my chin and then slid a few inches for effect.  It was a spectacular fall.  A passing motorist even stopped to check if I was ok.
Fortunately, I am ok.  I'm missing a bit of skin on my chin, but my clothes were intact.  My dignity wasn't intact to begin with, so no great loss there.  Today I am stiff and crabby - my regular self.  Ahhhhh!  Feels good to be me again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Near Nowhere and Close to Forgotten

There is a book that I love to read to my children called The Tin Forest by Helen Ward.  The book is nominally for children, but I think it's truly for everyone.  It starts with a house in the middle of a junk pile "near nowhere and close to forgotten that was filled with all the things that nobody wanted."  Eventually, the man who lives in the house transforms his environment into a beautiful home for all manner of creatures.  The book ends neatly by showing the little house in the middle of a jungle "near nowhere and close to forgotten that was filled with all of the things that everyone wanted."  I enjoy this book so much - the gentle images, the soft words, and most especially the idea that we all have the ability to make our world a beautiful place, the kind of place that has the things that everyone wants. 
A parochial school in the next parish over is closing after this school year.  I had an opportunity to sit down with some of the parishioners recently and listen to them.  It's a great neighborhood, a great parish, filled with all the things that everyone wants.  Except, somehow, it turns out that people don't really want those things.  Every day, I hear suburban and exurban people bemoan their commutes, their lack of walkable neighborhoods, their lack of community.  Yet somehow, these people flee the very neighborhoods that offer answers to those problems.  And for what?  I do not understand and I sometimes fear I never will.

Monday, June 22, 2009

To Be Continued

If you were to look at my fridge right now, you would see my whole life.  You'd see the Pentecost picture that Claire colored.  The apostles all have red noses.  Another clip holds three pieces of paper with around 845 phone numbers.  There are baseball schedules, both big and little league, calendars, fliers for very important events, and a recipe that I have committed to memory but keep on the fridge just in case.  And then, right smack in the middle, is one of the last papers that Jacob brought home from 2nd grade.  In huge writing, it says:
The reverse of the paper actually has an illustrated story.  I can't remember - it might be the story about how Superman saved a man who was hypnotized by his television.  Or it might be a story about Prince Caspian.  Or it might be some other story entirely that I have forgotten.  All I know for certain is that the story is unfinished.  Somehow (and I suspect that it is by the grace of God), the paper got flipped from the story side to the TBC side in the past week.  Around 8 times a day, I am reminded that stories don't always fit nicely into pretty packages.  Sometimes, they must be continued.  Sometimes, they must take the form of serials.  So it is that I am inspired again.
Claire started dance lessons.  Tonight is her third class.  I arrive just in time to see the last fifteen minutes of class.  Claire grins so widely that I can see her tonsils as she ballerina walks with the other girls.  I was telling my mother-in-law how happy Claire is after dance.  She said, "Well, as long as she's having fun.  That's what it's all about.  We all know that she's not going to be a ballerina."  No, I don't know that she's not going to be a ballerina.  That story hasn't been told yet.  And while Claire's aspirations currently involve rainbow princesshood, I'm not ready to tie off any dreams for her.  Maybe she will be the first rainbow princess ballerina.  To be continued...
Jacob has been self-starting his own dual careers as musician and talent manager.  Six weeks or so ago, he decided that he had waited entirely too long for me to arrange guitar lessons.  He took matters into his own hands.  He marched next door and convinced the neighbor's musician son to teach him.  He even finagled a free introductory lesson.  Not satisfied with his own lessons, he has since arranged lessons for a friend who lives down the alley.  He also has a band lined up for himself.  He is working on securing lessons for the drummer next.  Why audition a skilled drummer when your friend can be trained?  I expect to attend a concert in a year or so.  To be continued...
I am working diligently on my 101 goals.  I have completed almost none.  But still, the story is in the progress I think.  The point of the goals was to shake my wagon out of its rut.  I have at least succeeded at that.  I'm careening across the prairie.  Sometimes I'm moving in circles.  Often, I'm moving backwards.  But whatever, it's a fun ride and I'm discovering new territory.  To be continued...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fat Mom to Lean Kids

I have been losing weight over the last few months. It is quite possibly the slowest recorded weight loss in the entire written history of the world, but nonetheless, I have been losing weight. I've lost enough weight that people have noticed. I have not lost enough weight to hit my first benchmark. I have two pounds to go before that, so I'm thinking I should hit the benchmark by the end of June if I maintain my current pace. Don't blink - I wouldn't want you to miss it. My goal from beginning to end is to lose just over 50 pounds.

Nick has also been working on losing weight. I'm not sure what his goal is or where he is on his path, but he has been working out in sort of patchy streaks. When he gets his streak on, he drops weight quickly just by working out for an hour a day. (Insert rant #1 about how unfair it is that he can lose so easily and rant #2 about how unfair it is that he has an hour a day to work out.)

Somehow, despite the weaknesses that Nick and I so obviously have, our children are thus far lean, strong, and fit. They make healthy food choices. They lead active lives. They are athletic and beautiful and I want nothing more than to preserve that for them.

So how does a fat (for now) mother lose weight without influencing the already healthy attitudes of her children? I cannot hide the fact that I am making lifestyle changes. I don't think that's particularly healthy. I also don't think it's particularly healthy for my kids to see me working so very hard to make choices that seem natural for them. Last night when I told Jacob that I was going to walk around the park while he played, he suggested that I run instead. "I really think you should start running, Mom. That'll help you lose weight." I teased him about becoming my personal trainer. Then later, I wondered if he is serious about that task - that he is taking my weight on as his own problem.

I grew up with a morbidly obese mother. I remember my mother trying various diet and exercise programs. Even worse, I remember my father buying her exercise equipment for Christmas. I also remember when Mom gave up and decided to just be fat forever. She was just a little younger than I am now. My mother's weight struggles are hers, not mine but I would be a fool to deny that her problems have affected me.

Like my children, I was lean when very young. I began chubbing up in my teenage years. I've been thin a few times since then, but in the past I have always gained the weight back after a year or two. This is the last time that I am losing this weight. Once it's off, no matter how long it takes, it is staying off. But dealing with the day to day problems of weight loss is more challenging than I ever thought it would be. What do I say to Claire when she sees me counting out my pretzels for a snack? How do I answer Jake when he asks me why we hardly ever get donuts on Sundays anymore? How do I make the changes that I need to make without changing what is obviously working for my kids' health right now?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Author & Author (but not me)

Jacob has been writing stories for a while now, which comes as a surprise to exactly no one. He started a series of comic books early in the school year entitled The Adventures of Joe and Bob. You'll have to take my word that the books were more imaginative than the title indicates. He even had a marketing plan. The comic was to be a six book series. The first book was free. Each remaining book would cost $5. After only one classmate expressed interest in purchasing a $5 handmade comic book, Jacob abandoned the plan.

His next series was entitled Fartman. I read the first issue in which Fartman and his sidekick Beano defeated a cat thief. Their superpower also emptied an entire skyscraper in seconds. Fartman was confused about why the residents fled. Nick and I were impressed by his nuanced potty humor and he started a sequel immediately. Then he was sidetracked by a forgettable story, unfortunately. I am hoping that one day, Fartman will fly again.

His current projects include a story about a family who lives in a sewer and a biography of Mary Magdalene. The biography is actually a collaboration with a little girl who has had a crush on Jacob for a while now. Her family often sits a few pews in front of us at church, and she (not so) covertly looks over her shoulder at Jake. I suspect the collaboration was largely her idea.

So I was really not at all surprised to see a page covered with childish handwriting on the desk yesterday. Then I read it. "I love you, Sleeping Beauty!" Since Jake is convinced that girls have cooties and that he will never, ever be interested in doing anything yucky like kissing them, I was a little confused. I looked at the page again and noticed Nick's handwriting up in the corner. Claire had dictated to Nick, then painstakingly copied her own words. She can't read or spell, but she can write.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I started crying on Friday evening.

Jacob received his First Holy Communion a few Saturdays ago. He and his classmates have been preparing for months. I have been complaining. There were too many notes home, too many books to read, too many meetings, too much money, too much fuss, too much arguing about ties, too much too much too much. After all, I argued, this is just the first of many. It isn't that big a deal. The important thing is what happens for the next 80 years of his life. I kept working on whittling it down to size.

Then I went shopping for his gift. That was the beginning of the end. I was standing there in the huge Catholic Supply store (because I suppose it takes many supplies to be Catholic) with my mother when she said, "Christy, it's his First Communion."

My throat was closed by a seven pound lump and I whispered, "I know. I know!" I left Mom standing next to one of six special First Communion displays. I browsed through the crucifixes until I stopped crying. I went back to pick up a white embossed memento box and met Mom at the cards. As soon as I read the first card, I was off crying again. We eventually managed to actually purchase a few things and headed home.

The next morning, Jacob started trying to get dressed three hours before the big event. I told him that he could put on his brand new white shirt and tie no sooner than 9:05. He spent the rest of the morning wandering into the kitchen every 3-4 minutes to check the time. By 9:20, Jake and I were on our way out the door. The rest of the family was to meet us at church after the picture sessions were over. "Are you excited?" I asked him. He nodded, then slipped his hand into mine. He held my hand all the way to church. He's a big kid now but he knows that every once in a while, I still need him to be my baby boy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

5 Joys of Parenting

Mary tagged me with this and it's taken me a few days to be in the right frame of mind to tackle it. Jacob is on spring break and is therefore bored out of his gourd, my diet is stalling out, Nick is writing term papers, pick your reason. It's been a long week. But! I have just about managed to free my inner Pollyanna and end this week on a good note. So, without further ado, I present 5 things I love about parenting:

  1. Little League. No, I am not living vicariously through my child. It turns out that an hour at the ball field is a rollicking good time. I sit next to my husband for a whole hour. I talk to friends. I watch the occasionally hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking moments on the field. I yell, "Wooooooooo!" or "It's ok! You'll get it next time!" I hold my breath whenever the uncoordinated kid goes to bat, hoping that this time he manages to hit the ball. And when he does, I leap to my feet and roar with the rest of the parents. At the end of the night, I am grinning like a fool. The first game of the year is on Tuesday. I cannot wait.
  2. Confidence in my own abilities. In my childless days I assumed that if I wanted to learn a new skill, I had to enlist an expert to teach me. My kids have taught me that I can figure out almost anything. I can make a Halloween costume from a picture in a comic book. I can decorate a cake to look like a clown. I can fix a bike. I can speak entirely in rhymes for an hour. And it's not because I'm particularly talented or intelligent - it's because a child believes that I can.
  3. Singing. Having very small children is a great excuse to sing at any time. I love to sing and there are only a limited number of situations in which singing is an option. Add a child to the equation and that number expands exponentially. And they sing too!
  4. Poetry. Children, especially when they are learning to speak, are astonishingly poetic. They don't have a large vocabulary so they have to use their small vocabulary creatively. "I'll make my feet whisper," Claire told me the other day when I said her jumping would wake up Daddy. When Jacob was feeling anxious, he told me that his heart was "bouncing around." They just throw these phrases around like they're nothing and then wonder why I am smiling.
  5. Jokes. What does a bunny sing at a birthday party? Hoppy birthday to you! It just doesn't get better than that.

I'm tagging Cheri, Chelsea, Sara, and Lisa (but I'll be patient since she's having a baby right this very instant).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The whole story

I was in the shower at 6:15 this morning when the bathroom door banged open. I heard the toilet seat hit the tank. "Good morning, Jake!" He grunted back at me then walked out of the bathroom, leaving the door wide open. About 30 seconds later, Claire started screaming. I ducked my head under the water and pretended not to hear anything.

A few minutes later, Claire skipped into the bathroom as chipper as can be. I stepped out of the shower, mistakenly believing that the coast was clear. Jake came roaring into the bathroom complaining, "Claire hit me, kicked me, and bit me twice!"

"Are you bleeding? Did you lose a finger?" I asked. Jacob shook his head. "Then get out of here and we will discuss it when I am dressed. He left in a huff, mumbling about the injustices of the world and the plight of innocent, bitten boys.

A little while later, I peeked my head into the kids' room and asked, "Claire, did you hit, kick, and bite your brother?" She instantly put on her Lying McLiarson face and protested. "Don't lie to me. Did you hit, kick, and bite your brother?"

She smoothly shifted tactics. "My brother?" she asked, her little eyebrows furrowing together in faux confusion.

"Yes, your brother Jacob. Did. You. Hurt. Him?" I raised my voice in frustration. Jake heard me and scurried into the room, his mouth moving as fast as his feet. Claire, realizing that she was cornered, attempted to cry. She covered her eyes with her hands and wailed, then checked her hands for tears. They were dry. So she poked her fingers in her eyes to make real tears.

As my blood pressure approached record levels, Jake realized that it was only a matter of time before Claire spilled the whole story. He blurted out, "Well, I didn't know she was on the couch when I sat on her!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Park Cleanup: Boys and Graffiti

Jacob's cub scout pack volunteers to clean up our local park for the annual Easter egg hunt. It's one scout activity that I actually enjoy. The boys are hard workers (as are the parents) and the weather is usually nice. Also, I am convinced that if we spend enough hours picking up trash during these years, my son will not be one of the boys throwing his beer bottle against the handball courts in ten years. I hope.

This year, we discovered more than the standard fast food wrappers, broken beer bottles, and cigarette butts. Several of the boys were picking up butts around a bench a few dozen yards away from me. I saw them huddled around the edge of the bench, then they all came scooting across the lawn to me. "There's some writing on the bench!" I looked around for other parents and realized that I was the closest to the action, so I allowed myself to be pulled back to the bench. One of the boys read the graffiti in his very best read-aloud voice. "For mindless sex go to ..." followed by a web address. The boys all looked at me with big eyes as the reader asked, "What does it mean?"

I gulped, then attempted to distract. "Oh, what a shame! Who would write on a bench like this? That is just not nice. You boys know better than to vandalize the park like that! I'm so glad that you are nice boys! Good job on the cigarette butts. Let's go over by the garden and look for more!" Six eyes stared back at me. They weren't about to let me get away with it.

"But what does it mean?" They waited expectantly.

"You boys are going to have to ask your parents. Jacob, wait here and we'll talk about it." The two other boys shot across the park with lightning speed, screaming for their parents the whole way. I blabbered some sort of explanation to Jacob, most of which I can't even remember. I do remember wrapping it up with a stern warning that the writing was not appropriate for children and that if the other boys had questions they should talk to their parents about it. Jake wandered off after getting bored to tears by my lecture. I made my way back up the hill to the other parents.

"Sooooo, what did you say?" I asked.

"Well," replied another mother. "I said that we'd talk about it later. And then my son said that Jacob's mother knows what it means and if it was ok with me, he'd just go back and ask you again." She laughed and we went back to picking up litter. Ten minutes later, the boys were back at the bench again.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I have been very busy doing a lot of nothing lately. Actually, a lot of that nothing includes conversations with my children. Someone flipped a switch that turned my normally chatty children into extraordinarily chatty children. I have been reminding myself of the hours my mother listened to me and taking many deep breaths. I love the idea of talking with my kids. I love the results of talking with my kids. I love the occasionally fascinating conversational tidbits that only very small people can offer. I do not love putting down my work to listen. One day, I will be a good enough mother to listen joyfully. At the moment, I am only a good enough mother to listen.

Claire, two days ago, told me, "This doll's name is Dya. Not diarrhea. Dya." I'm relieved that she cleared that up for me.

Jacob confided, "Sometimes, when my friends are doing something wrong and the teacher knows that someone is doing something wrong but she doesn't know who, my friends get very quiet. I think that's like lying. I always speak right up and admit what I was doing." I didn't know how to respond to that one. I'm proud of his integrity. I also wish he had a stronger sense of self-preservation.

I walked Jacob home from his after-school program the other day. He gave me a blow-by-blow account of a special visit from an owl and a caretaker from the bird sanctuary. They dissected owl pellets. I was informed of the size, color, and contents of each pellet. I was also treated to a re-enactment of a kerfuffle while we waited at the corner for the light to turn. Jacob stripped off his backpack. "Somebody whistled and the owl got scared! He fluttered his wings! I was standing right next to him and I said 'AAAGH' and jumped like this!" He leaped backward into the light post, hitting the pedestrian call button with his back. The call button beeped, further surprising Jacob who then leaped sideways almost, but not quite, over his backpack. The backpack tripped him, causing him to stumble further sideways while his mouth was still talking, "Wow! Wow! Wow! Well, it wasn't quite like that with the owl!"

"Do you know how much I love you?" I asked Claire. She answered, "Yes. Eighteen hundred and fifty. That's a very big number." It is indeed a very big number, but not quite big enough.

Monday, March 16, 2009

That's Ms. Hammer to you!

Spring has sprung. I can tell because

  • The daffodils are up.
  • There are buds on the trees.
  • My sinus pressure is rapidly approaching the point where my eyes might actually be pushed out of my head.
  • My children have completely lost their minds and forgotten that people call me The Hammer for a reason. (People really do call me The Hammer. Mostly people who I have specifically told to call me The Hammer because I find it amusing, but it still counts.)

Yesterday, Jacob was laying on the couch under 5 feet of blankets. He was complaining of headache, stomach ache, and any other ailment that he could invent. Since Claire had a stomach bug on Friday, I was willing to believe the stomach ache. I told Jacob that he could skip church if he spent the time working on a book report that I had been nagging about for a full week. He readily agreed. I arrived home an hour or so later to discover a three sentence book report on a book with 50 words in it. 50 words! Not 50 pages, but 50 words! The Hammer came down and lo, there was much weeping in all the land. Eventually, Jacob read a book that was a little closer to his reading level and wrote a 4 sentence report.

Then this morning, Claire got in the act. I was in my room trying to get dressed in the dark without waking Nick. Claire was in her room on her bed, completely dressed except for socks. She hollered, "Where are my socks! I need my socks! No tights! I need my tights! Red tights! New red tights!" By that time, I was in her room hissing at her to be quiet little missy and don't you dare wake up your father because I am tired and he is tired and he is going to sleep for 15 more minutes so help me God. She stuck out her little chin, pointed her little finger, and said, "I don't want to hear what you are saying."

I replied, in my most mommish voice, "You are going to hear what I am saying because you know what, little girl? U Can't Touch This."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Best Compliment This Year

"Wow! Your eyes are really green! You look like the Incredible Hulk!"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Little Toughie Flies a Kite

We had a false spring over the past few days. It was warm and windy and beautiful. Everywhere I went, people were outside taking advantage of the weather. We were no exception. I spent more waking hours outdoors than in. The children were out even more than that.

Saturday evening, Nick told me about football in the backyard with the kids. I knew that they had been out there because I heard the squeals and giggles through the window. Nick told me that they'd been tossing the ball around and tackling each other. At one point, Claire snatched the football from Nick. She held it in her hand while giving the sinuous booty-shake that is universal among 4-year old girls - a sort of nya-nya-nya-nya. Then, in a moment of pure brilliance, she said, "You think you can get his ball from me, Little Toughie?" When I finally stopped laughing at Nick's portrayal of Claire, I determined that his nickname shall evermore be Little Toughie. I might occasionally shorten it to L.T.

Sunday blew in from Kansas. Jake took one look at the wind and unearthed the pocket kite that Santa had left for him. Unfortunately, Santa is a cheapskate. The pocket kite experience was a vast disappointment for both Jake and Little Toughie. It was such a disappointment that L.T. made the trek to Target to buy a bigger kite. He arrived home with a 55" Spiderman kite and a maniacal grin. "Jake! Let's go out into the backyard!"

"Erm, Nick..." Our backyard is a city backyard. It's large by city standards but only because we don't have a garage hulking back there. The entire backyard is scarcely larger than the footprint of the house. "I'm not sure there's enough room for this big kite back there."

"I know what I'm doing. It'll be fine. JAKE! CLAIRE!" I zipped my lip and watched them go out the back door, the kite tails stretching from out the back door, through the porch, and into the kitchen. I giggled when Nick shut the door on the ribbons.

I had just settled myself into a chair when Jake came running back into the house. "I've got some good news, and some bad news, and some good news. The good news is that we got the kite up. The bad news is that the kite got stuck in a tree. The good news is that Dad got it out." Little Toughie hollered from the back door that they were going to the park and thirty seconds later, I was alone and laughing.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A little fun

Lifted from Katie because it suits my mood. Pick a musical artist/group, then answer the questions using song titles from that artist. Guess who I chose.

  1. Are you male or female? My Sweet Lady
  2. Describe yourself: Looking for Space
  3. How do you feel about yourself? Rhymes and Reasons
  4. Describe where you currently live? Back Home Again
  5. If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Two Different Directions
  6. Your best friend is? Annie's Song
  7. Your favorite color? Cool an' Green an' Shady
  8. You know that? Some Days are Diamonds
  9. What’s the weather like? Southwind (or windy)
  10. If your life was a TV show, what would it be called? Sunshine on my Shoulders
  11. What is life like to you? Poems, Prayers, and Promises
  12. What is the best advice you have to give? Let It Be
  13. If you could change your name what would it be? Calypso (OK, not really. But that would be fun for a day or two.)
  14. Your favorite food is? The Eagle and the Hawk (or roast poultry)

Yes, some songs are covers. I am ok with that and I encourage you to be ok with that too.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gulp. I just sent this note.

Good afternoon, Ms. Kindergarten Teacher!

Jacob has been talking a lot about the mice in your classroom lately. He told me a week or so ago that you offered to give them to him after the school year. Is that true? If so, would you be willing to let us have a trial run of caring for the mice over spring break?

Jake is really pulling hard for this at home, so I want to make sure that we all have the same understanding. I am not familiar with mice as pets at all and so am unwilling to just say yes to him. So if adopting the mice is a possibility, then fostering the mice might be a good idea.



UPDATE: Eeek!! It's not a misunderstanding. So I guess we'll be mice-sitting after Easter.

Thank you?

I have been turning inward a bit lately. I am trying to have a productive Lent. My spirituality has been a little mechanical lately. So I'm giving something up (which I have not done in years and years) in the hope that a little more focus and a little less distraction will eventually bear fruit. So far, not so good. That's the trouble with fruit. It requires patience.

Last Wednesday, I attended the most unsatisfying Ash Wednesday service ever. I was sick. It was my lunch hour and I was feeling rushed and pressured. It was a different parish than my usual and I didn't know the priest. The church was newer, with less decoration than I prefer. The homily was about wild fires. Pick an excuse - it just was not working for me.

Instead of fighting it, I let my mind wander a bit. I knew that I had to develop a lesson plan for Sunday's Children's Liturgy, so I started thinking back to activities that had succeeded in the past. That's when I remembered the sin lesson. I found the lesson online the first year I taught Children's Liturgy. The goal was to teach the children how sin can change us from the inside out. I had a heart shape cut from plastic transparency, a marker, and some Windex. We took turns talking about ways that we hurt other people and putting a big black mark on the heart to illustrate that sin. Once the heart was almost black, we held it up and looked at each other through it and laughed about how very distorted we all were. "Sally is missing her nose!" Then, of course, we Windexed the transparency clean again to demonstrate God's ability to transform us.

Since then, I have been mulling over my marked up heart. It is patently obvious that I'm viewing certain people and events through a dirty filter. It is a little less obvious exactly how to get that filter sparklingly clear again. How do you get a fresh take on a not-so-fresh relationship? Where do I buy spiritual Windex and can I get a coupon?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Meanest Mother Ever ™

On Thursday, I asked the children to clean their room.

On Friday, I asked the children to clean their room.

On Saturday, I asked the children to clean their room.

On Sunday, I asked the children to clean their room. Then I informed them that I would be entering their room with a trash bag in thirty short minutes. Everything on the floor would be put into the trash bag and then carted to the dumpster.

A short while later, I walked into the room to find a pile of toys on Claire's bed, a pile of toys on Jake's desk chair, and a pile of toys precariously balanced on top of the wheelie 3-drawer bin thingamajig. The actual drawers in the thingamajig were empty. There were still toys on the floor. I took a deep breath. "JACOBANDCLAIREYOUGETINHERERIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE!" Then I took another deep breath and told them to put the toys away, actually away where they belong, and I would be back in another hour with the trash bag. And I was rudely informed that I was the Meanest Mother Ever.

I should mention, perhaps, that I am frequently accused of being the Meanest Mother Ever. It has happened frequently enough that I have been able to determine that the A#1 best response to being called the Meanest Mother Ever is to say, "Great. I think maybe I'll get that put on a t-shirt and I'll wear that shirt everywhere I go with you. In fact, maybe I'll get several shirts, all in different colors, and a fancy one to wear to church so that everyone knows that I am proud to be the Meanest Mother Ever." The target child(ren) generally choose that moment to scream about how really really mean I am and about how they NOW KNOW that I truly am the Meanest Mother Ever. Then I force a grin because I'm mean like that.

I played some video games and took a shower and generally tried to ignore the wailing and gnashing of teeth that was emanating from the children's bedroom. Eventually, both children exited the room and claimed that it was clean. "Are you sure? Because I have the garbage bag and I'm not afraid to fill it." I made a feint toward the room and both children ran back into the room screaming. "Five minutes! Then I'm coming in!"

Ten minutes later, I went in with my bag. I went behind Claire's bed and started shoveling the pile into the bag. "Mom! Don't! Are you really going to throw that stuff away? Don't! You are the Meanest Mother Ever! I don't think this is going to work! I think that you should just send us to bed early! Doooooooooooooooooooon't!" I put in a teddy bear. "Dooooooooooooon't!" I put in a toy sword. "Doooooooooooooooon't!" I saw a piece of leg armor from the Prince Caspian action doll that Jake picked out as a reward after a particularly good week at school. I put in a frog instead. "Dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon't! It's not going to work!" Jake spun around and around. I took advantage of the moment to shove the leg armor into my pocket, then shoved a handful of valentine's into the bag. Eventually, I had a bag filled with toys that I was more than happy to discard and a pocket filled with two pieces of leg armor, one prickly brush block thingy, and a mancala marble.

Later that day, I snuck back into the kids room when they were out of the house. I put the block and marble in their respective homes, and then carefully snapped Caspian back into his armor. After all, I have to protect my reputation.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Not-My-Claire!

February 19, 2004

I walked up to the front door of daycare with Jake in tow. My period had started that morning. It was the tenth period I'd had since we started trying for a second child. I was heartbroken and trying to talk myself out of it. I knew, in the big scheme of things, that my wait hadn't been that long but that didn't lessen the disappointment of that morning. I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I'd have to be happy with a family of three.

We reached the glass door where someone had posted an announcement.

Congratulations to the Smith Family! We welcome baby Claire!
I stood there blinking while Jake tugged my hand and asked me to read the sign for him. He didn't know that I'd been disappointed again, much less that Claire was the name Nick and I had set aside for any future baby girl in our own family. I managed to choke out the words, then kissed Jacob goodbye. I cried in the bathroom at work for a long while that day.

February 19, 2009

I walked up to the front door of daycare with Claire in tow. She was sneezing and sniffling and talking nonstop. We reached the glass door where someone had posted an announcement.

Happy 5th birthday, Claire!
"It's the other Claire's birthday today, baby!" Claire smiled, sneezed, and skipped through the door.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ah, humility.

I was on fire this weekend. I had energy to spare and a long to-do list. On Saturday alone, I washed umpteen loads of laundry, sewed ten patches on a boy scout uniform, organized my Home Control Center (aka the fridge), carted in the recycling, did the shopping, spectated a basketball game, supervised bike riding, gawked at new neighbors, dealt with The Tantrum of the Century, and a few other things that I've forgotten. I was large and in charge and feeling alright.

Sunday morning, I woke up refreshed and sprang out of bed ready for another busy day. I dressed and fed both children, one in the freshly bepatched uniform, before Nick even got out of bed. I was teaching children's liturgy, so I dropped Jake off in the cafeteria with the rest of the scouts and greeted half a dozen parents. Then I ran over to the rectory basement, greeting more people along the way, and set up for the liturgy. Then it was into church for Mass. I went up to the front to process out with the kids, and then back up to the front when we processed back in. Once Mass was over, I headed back to the cafeteria to meet Nick and the kids.

I was feeling entirely pleased with myself when my friend Jenny whispered in my ear, "I've been trying to catch your eye all morning long. You've got your pant leg tucked into your sock." I looked down and sure enough, one pant leg was trapped in my sock halfway up my calf. Oh well, at least I wasn't wearing a skirt!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Oh right. Life is supposed to be fun.

I've been a little melodramatic and self-pitying lately. I don't know if it's the winter or hormones or exhaustion or too many snow days or a virus or any combination of those thing, but I just cannot stand to be around myself. Then, of course, I start berating myself for being such a miserable mess. If there is any worse company than a miserable mess, it's a nagging miserable mess. Last week was The Worst Week of My Life, except that it shoudn't have been because it really wasn't all that bad. Just virus and snow days and hormones and exhaustion which really, in the scope of the whole world and the entirety of history is but a bump in the road. I just managed to hit the bump head on, somersault a bit, and plant myself head first in the muddy ditch.

Friday afternoon, I forcibly plucked myself from the ditch and sent myself to Jake's school for cocoa and books. I read three books to the class and made punny jokes. Then on the way home, Jacob pelted me with snow balls. Since I had forgotten my gloves, I responded the only way possible. I threw the child into a snowbank, bottom first. It was the most fun I'd had in days. It was so much fun that Jacob continued to egg me on so that I'd do it again. By Saturday at noon, he'd convinced me. We were walking to the gym for a basketball game. After the tenth snow ball, I pushed him into the snow. I stood over him crowing while he laughed. Then I realized that another parent/child pair was standing on the sidewalk next to us, watching in amazement. I sheepishly lowered my head then I heard the boy say in a sad little voice, "Dad, why don't you ever do that to me?"

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

7:30 am CST
1° F outside
65° F inside
Attire: Jeans, t-shirt, hooded pullover sweater, cardigan thrown over shoulders a la old lady

10:00 am CST
3° F outside
68° F inside
Attire: Jeans, t-shirt, hooded pullover sweater

noon CST
8° F outside
72° F inside
Attire: Jeans, t-shirt, cardigan thrown over shoulders a la old lady

2:13 pm CST
14° F outside
78° F inside
Attire: Jeans, t-shirt

3:30 pm CST (projections)
20° F outside
85° F inside
Attire: indecent

Is it really that difficult to maintain some sort of regulated temperature?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Say what?

I picked up a magazine the other day - one of those thick glossy things that is supposed to help you make yourself and your home beautiful. As it is the new year, there was a special section for readers to profess what they are not going to do this year. I read blurb after blurb about how women are going to say no, refuse to over-commit themselves, pare back on obligations to others.

I tossed the magazine aside to read through a school packet. In it, I found the volunteer schedule for one of my projects. My volunteer time has been more than doubled because of a lack of volunteers. A little while later, I took the kids to fish fry for dinner. We walked past a volunteer begging table filled with page after page of completely empty sign-up sheets.

I got curious, so I did a little research. In my city, the average volunteer hours per resident is under 40 hours per year. The average volunteer rate is around 30%. If my math is correct, that means that the actual volunteers are donating around 2.4 hours per week. Even assuming that there is a large variance in number of hours volunteered (ie, some people are spending one hour a year and others are spending 300+ hours per year), I fail to see how we women are really so over-extended that we should be writing letters about our need to pare back our obligations.

Women my age are busy, that is true. We have many family obligations. But at the same time, I know that I don't have so many obligations that I can't work a little harder to make the world a better place. Frankly, I don't think I'm significantly lazier or harder working than the rest of the population. If I have time to read a magazine about how overextended I must be, then I probably have time to help mop a floor after a fish fry.

Monday, January 12, 2009

He's a really great kid

Jacob and I were in the car together the other night, driving home from the grocery with half-birthday treats and dinner. We were chit-chatting about life when Jacob brought up his classmate. "Sierra's mom is kind of like her step-mom. She was born in China and her mom went on a plane to get her. Well, first her mom went to China to pick up Marie, then later she went to get Sierra."

"Well, Jake, Sierra's mom isn't her step-mom. She's her adoptive mom. And really, she's just like any other mom. She fixes booboos and tucks Sierra in at night and all that stuff. She's a really good mom." Truly, she is a really good parent. Maria and Sierra are warm, friendly, and bright as buttons. I often see their mother murmuring in their ears and I aspire to her calm manner.

"Why? Why did she adopt Marie and Sierra?"

"Oh. Well, sometimes people can't have babies for some reason. Like Sierra's mommy doesn't have a husband to put a baby in her belly. So those people adopt babies because they want to be mommies and daddies." True to form, I kept blabbering on instead of stopping when I'd given just enough information. "Some people adopt babies from China because there is a law there that..."

Jake interrupted me in a panic, "People in China can't keep their babies??"

"Well, the law in China is that each couple can only have one baby. Some people there believe that girls aren't as good as boys, so the girls sometimes end up in orphanages."

"That's a stupid belief. We are all the same." Jake was angry. I should have known that would offend his sense of justice.

"Yes, I agree. And so do lots of other people. That's why we know Sierra and Marie and also Claire's friend Gretchen. I'm really glad that they were adopted. They are all terrific girls." Then I realized that I had given Jacob information which could really hurt Sierra. "Um, Jake? Don't talk about this with Sierra or anyone else, ok?" I held my breath while Jake mulled it over.

"Why? Oooooooooooooh! Because Sierra might feel like she's not very good."

"Right, buddy. And I don't ever want Sierra to feel like that," I said as we pulled up to the curb at home. Jake ran into the house to show off his treats. I sat in the car for a few minutes, grateful and hopeful.

Monday, January 5, 2009


As usual, I am late to the bandwagon. A new year is starting, though, and I am surprised to find myself itchy to make some changes. So what better time to start 101 in 1001? The idea is that I have 1001 days to complete 101 goals - some small, some large, all things that I am hoping will improve the quality of my life. Lately, I feel as though I have just been putting in time. I deserve better than that. My family deserves better than that. The world deserves better than that. So! The end is October 3, 2011. The beginning is now.

  1. Weigh less than 190 pounds
  2. Weigh less than 180 pounds
  3. Weigh less than 170 pounds
  4. Weigh less than 160 pounds
  5. Weigh less than 150 pounds
  6. Maintain a weight less than 150 pounds for the remainder of the challenge.
  7. Journal everything I eat for a month.
  8. Eat at least 5 servings of veg/fruit a day for a month.
  9. Try 5 new healthy recipes.
  10. Avoid eating chocolate for one whole week.
  11. Implement vegetarian Fridays (with the exception of Fish Fry Fridays).
  12. Avoid fast food for an entire month.
  13. Walk at least 10 miles per week for 6 weeks (making a new habit!).
  14. Hike 5 trails that are new to me.
  15. Complete the couch to 5k program.
  16. Learn to play racquetball and start playing with Nick.
  17. Pass the FBI physical fitness exam.
  18. Have Claire baptized (something that I am extremely ashamed to admit that I haven't done yet, mostly because of my post-partum anxiety and then ever thereafter because I'm so ashamed that I haven't done it that I don't want to admit that I haven't done it. But there - I've admitted it publicly so I can get it done and stop worrying every single minute that Claire will die unbaptized).
  19. Say a blessing before family dinner every night for a month (making a new habit!).
  20. Go on a spiritual retreat.
  21. Attend the Lenten mission in my parish.
  22. Add the daily gospel rss to my blog reader so that I remember to read it regularly - and then hopefully it will influence me to be more charitable toward others.
  23. Make a Jesse tree for Advent.
  24. Pray the rosary every day during Lent.
  25. Take a look at the adult sections of the parish library and see if there are any books that interest me.
  26. Attend a Mass that Jake's class is leading.
  27. Become a lector.
  28. Knit or sew an item for the parish charity auction.
  29. Knit or sew 5 hats to donate to St. Patrick's center.
  30. Make a baby quilt to donate to Our Lady's Inn.
  31. Donate at least 10 items from my closet to a women's shelter - fall/winter.
  32. Donate at least 10 items from my closet to a women's shelter - spring/summer.
  33. Chair a homecoming booth for the parish.
  34. Participate in Operation Rice Bowl during Lent - full bore participation and not the usual half-hearted putting change in the bucket.
  35. Be a Salvation Army bellringer.
  36. Check with the retirement home across from the park for needs, then donate a basket of whatever they need.
  37. Join the neighborhood association.
  38. Attend a neighborhood association meeting.
  39. Take my kids on a litter walk.
  40. Introduce myself to a neighbor that I don't know.
  41. Attend a block party or other neighborhood function.
  42. Dine at one of the small, locally owned restaurants in my neighborhood.
  43. Get a "City" bumper sticker for my car.
  44. Volunteer to spend a few hours weeding at the park.
  45. Vote for alderman!
  46. Convince Nick to vote in the local election as well.
  47. Start recycling paper/cardboard.
  48. Walk to any location under 1 mile away for a month, with the exception of the grocery store.
  49. Put weather stripping around all the door frames.
  50. Make a worm farm.
  51. Find out what needs to be done with the paint in the basement, then do it.
  52. Check the water heater thermostat and if it's above 120, turn it down 10 degrees.
  53. Avoid plastic shopping bags for an entire month.
  54. Mend 10 items of clothing.
  55. Play hooky with Nick.
  56. Plan a weekend away with Nick as a surprise.
  57. Get a $50 gift card through MyPoints to give to Nick toward his lawnmower fund.
  58. Watch an entire basketball game with Nick during March Madness with a good attitude.
  59. Sneak a love note into Nick's car.
  60. Get an engraved plate for Nick's fantasy football trophy.
  61. Start a semi-monthly family game night tradition and keep it up for 3 months.
  62. Take 6 family field trips.
  63. Make a chore chart for the kids.
  64. Start an allowance for Jacob.
  65. Revive the Sunday brunch in our household by having one for six consecutive weeks.
  66. Take Jacob ice skating.
  67. Make a fleece blanket for Claire.
  68. Invite my mother-in-law to go yardsaling with me.
  69. String my guitar.
  70. Give Jake guitar lessons for 6 weeks in a row, then continue if he wants.
  71. Sign Claire up for dance lessons.
  72. Finish the floor upstairs.
  73. Fix Jake's dresser.
  74. Reupholster the big chair.
  75. Make new curtains for the kitchen/sunroom.
  76. Make a new window covering for the living room.
  77. Make curtains for the upstairs windows.
  78. Swap bedrooms with the kids.
  79. Make curtains for the master bedroom.
  80. Refinish the living room floor.
  81. Landscape the front flower beds. Again.
  82. Demolish the raised bed in the back yard.
  83. Fix the kitchen pocket door.
  84. Remove the shower doors and replace with a shower curtain.
  85. Make a message center/artwork display in the kitchen
  86. Try couponing for 3 months and see if it helps save money.
  87. Make a price book for my grocery shopping.
  88. Go one full week without watching television.
  89. Make a tree skirt.
  90. Sell the train set on EBay.
  91. Work with Nick's aunt to make the family cookbook that she keeps talking about.
  92. Spend a day working in my parents' garden.
  93. Get an aquarium.
  94. Stop biting my nails.
  95. Keep my laundry off the floor in my bedroom for a month.
  96. Sew Christmas gift bags.
  97. Have a family photo taken.
  98. Create a large piece of artwork for the living room as a family.
  99. Attend a play.
  100. Write a children's book and submit it for publication.
  101. Successfully jump in to a double dutch jump rope (I have never, ever ever been able to jump in)