Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The moment you first hear a swear word leave your child's darling mouth is nothing short of electrifying. There they are, wolfing down contraband goldfish and cheerfully playing with their dolls, and they drop the "S" bomb. It sounds so strange, hearing such a word leave the mouth of an innocent babe.

Your next thoughts are not really thoughts, but desperate questions; "Will she say this word again in front of other people? Will they judge me?"

I can answer these burning questions quite easily. To the first, she will indeed repeat the forbidden word in front of others in a situation so humbling and awkward it will seem as though it was a calculated act on the part of the child. To the second question, Absolutely. You will be judged. The kid heard it somewhere, and it was either from you, or some awful T.V program you allowed your kid to watch. BAM. Judged.

It happened to be in our case that Brad uttered the offending word while we were recklessly driving through downtown Louisville (lost! and late!) on the way to see our nephew, who was about to become also our Godson, receive the sacrament of Baptism. After thoroughly berating my husband, because of course *I* have never modeled anything but perfection for our children, I began wondering. Will she say it again?? And when?? And then a terrifying thought occurred to me. What if she repeats it at school?

Part of the anxiety of sending your child to school is wondering what it is that they do there all day, and what is it that the teachers are saying about your family. Does your kid look slovenly? Is your kid incredibly obnoxious, unbeknownst to you? Is it the talk of the school that you possess a tragic inability to arrive on time? And now that you have a swearing child, will the teachers be saying things to each other like, "Wow. Gianna's family huh. They must really be swearin' it up at home."

I tried to explain to Gianna, "We don't use that word, it's not a very nice word..." but she saw through me. As I explained she stared at me and I could see she was thinking, "Uh. Yeah. Pretty sure we do. Pretty sure I heard Daddy use it this morning." The talk was getting me nowhere. I had to do something else, something more drastic, to ensure that we stayed on the "good parent list" at school.

So. I opted for the preemptive disclosure. It's a ballsy move and involves a little bit of humility, but ultimately can make you look like parent of the year, which is what we're going for here. Pay attention, and you, too, can use this method whenever you desire to engender respect and awe from your child's teacher, whether or not you actually deserve it.

When we got to school the following Monday morning, I quietly and apologetically told the entire story to the teacher, adding humorous anecdotes and bits of human interest to lure her into a place of sympathy. Then I said, "So, I just wanted to you be aware that Gianna did repeat the swear word and she may repeat it here at school, but that we are fully aware of it, and are taking appropriate measures to handle it."

The preemptive disclosure produces a two-pronged effect. Firstly, it makes you, the parent, look at once conscientious and self-deprecating. Secondly, it lends your parenting a certain air of involvement in your child's life, regardless how much time you spend a-wastin on the Internet, that is guaranteed to win the hearts and minds of your kid's teachers and place you squarely back on the "good parent list." Easy game.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thoughts on a Marriage

Today B-rad and I celebrate 5 (that's FIVE) years of wedded bliss. In some ways, 5 years doesn't seem long enough, and in others, it seems like a lifetime. If someone would have told me, in my senior year of high school, that that jerk Brad who stole my parking space was destined to be my lawfully wedded spouse...well. I probably would have laughed right in their face. If someone would have told me all the things that we were getting into, I'd probably pass out from exhaustion, but if it's one thing I've learned, the graces of this sacrament are real. The graces are what gives you strength.

We've been through job searching and moving to a new city and state away from family.

We've produced two fantastic children and managed to keep them alive and relatively well-adjusted.

We've bought our first house.

We've discovered the joy and the anxiety that comes with a child with special needs.

We've learned that a good marriage is a lot of work. It takes praying together, and playing together, and dreaming together, to keep this beast up and running. And bacon.

It's a pretty incredible thing, to promise to hang out with someone FOREVER, regardless of what kind of crap is going down. Interestingly, I don't think I wish for only happy times. It's the hard stuff that binds you, if you let it. Anyone can stick around while it's good. It's the rough stuff, the hard decisions, the middle of the night baby cries, the job searching, the grocery shopping, the budget meetings, the socks scattered about the house, the never being on time...these are the matter and the form of the sacrament of marriage, behind these things, hidden but ever-present, is the love.

It's been a pretty rockin' adventure thus far, and I can't think of anyone else with whom I'd rather be working out this vocation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No More Frump Girl

It could be vanity or insanity, or both, but when I actually get dressed in real clothes I feel more motivated throughout the day. Pretty much everywhere you look "the experts" say that wearing your PJ's all day limits your mental potential. Or something like that. Alls I know is that when I've made an effort toward my appearance, and I happen to catch glimpses of myself in the mirror lugging a laundry basket or quelling a tantrum I pause for a moment and I think, "Well. At least I make this look good." Unfortunately these instances are few and far between because I am at heart a very lazy person.

I shower every few days. That's a fact. I'm not exaggerating.  I have really wild, giant hair that fortunately does not get very oily, so I can get away with the infrequent showers. But I usually end up feeling like a bum. It doesn't help that I wear the same clothes a few days in a row as well. Nice, right? My SOP is to sleep in yoga pants and a tank top, and my major wardrobe adjustment in the morning is to add a bra when I take G to school, and depending on the weather, a t-shirt or a sweatshirt. FANCY.

So here's the deal. I don't think I can give up my yoga pants. For one thing, they are too comfy, and for another, they make me look sporty when I'm actually not. But I am challenging myself to put away my t-shirts for 4 weeks. And get DRESSED every day. Maybe even wear some earrings but the general idea will be to not look like a bumski, but like an actual, real-life adult. Maybe then I'll start acting like one??

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Doing of the Self

"I WANT TO DO IT MYSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

What parent hasn't heard this impassioned cry, the huddled masses yearning to break free, the voice crying out in the wilderness? This one phrase has the capability to wrench forth many emotions; pride, fear, and on some days, a weariness that seems to seep into the bones. Oh, we know, us modern parents, that we should not stifle our child's independence. We must encourage his autonomy. We must never do for him what he can do for himself, lest he end up living in our basement when he's thirty.

I believe these things. It's crucial. Just not at 7:23 in the morning. At 7:23 in the morning, I am dying inside while Gianna puts on her socks in an almost leisurely fashion as the time is just roaring by and I am attempting to strangle my own shouts of agony; "We're late, LATE, LATE!!!!!! Just....give me that sock!" Ah, but in the beginning, it was not so. The first time the little tyke did anything for herself, I naturally reacted by throwing a small parade, dancing around squealing, "Ooooohhhhhh you put your shirt on all by yourself!!!!!!!!!! Genius!!!!" The first outfit chosen solely of her own volition, there was much picture-taking (well....there would have been if I were the sort of mother who took lots of pictures. I'm working on it) and indulgent smiling at the mismatching colors.

I promised myself before my children were born that I was not going to make an issue out of things that were not illegal, immoral, or dangerous. Despite my promise, many a morning I've found myself cajoling, wheedling, and advocating certain shirts over others, this dress over that one, these shoes instead of those....I should have been a lawyer. Or maybe a marketing executive. But I was an English major, you know, and so I've got a a way with words. Unfortunately, my words fall on deaf ears. (Pause to note the irony of that statement. Ok. Now we can move on.)

Most mornings, I begrudgingly end up allowing Gianna to wear whatever offensive combination of patterns she has come up with, and I move on, but gone are my triumphant shouts of, "You did self!!" These have been replaced with a mumble, usually uttered while I'm dropping her off (late, always late) at school, trying to avoid looking the teacher in eye, I hand over my garishly adorned child and say, "I dunno....she dressed herself...."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Orange French Toast

I'd thought I'd get you ready for the weekend with a really yummy french toast recipe. We had this for dinner last night, with scrambled eggs and cheese to assuage my guilt for serving so many carbs. I was going to cut up some pineapple but that seemed like a lot of work at the end of a long day. So I didn't.We'll eat extra fruit tomorrow to make up for it.

You'll need these guys:
Admit it. You get giddy inside when you see the Manager Special sticker on something that doesn't contain offensive ingredients.
 Eggs, orange juice, vanilla, and some bread. And the cinnamon. Again and again!

 Whisk the eggs, OJ, vanilla, and cinnamon together. I used 5 eggs for 4 people last night, I like really egg-y french toast. Again...makes me feel like we're getting more protein. It's all about the placebo.

Dip the bread in the egg/OJ mixture and cook on a med-hot griddle with butter. The real stuff. Accept no substitutes. 

 Serve with plenty of maple syrup. And more butter.

That's nice, but where is the bacon?
Don't you dare cut my French Toast into small, manageable bites! I will freak the heck out. I wanted it cut in STRIPS! I wanted to DIP it in the syrup! With my hands!

 So...let's review:
Eggs and OJ whisked together+
Splash of vanilla+
Goodly amount of cinnamon+

Once, I made this with Challah bread (I am a sucker for that manager special sticker) and it was wow. Serve this to your fam this weekend and be their hero.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

If Mama Ain't Happy, Nobody's Happy

For as long as I can remember there was a standard-issue wall hanging in my parent’s kitchen that read, “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.” It’s the kind of thing you can only find in a place with “bazaar” in the title. 

As a kid, I used to study my mother and puzzle over that statement. What did it mean? My mom worked three 12’s a week as an ICU nurse, volunteered at our elementary school, and bused us to numerous after school activities, not to mention the cooking and cleaning and homework-assisting. She was forever scheduling and coordinating as our busy lives swirled around her. I was fascinated by the assertion that if SHE wasn’t happy, no one was happy. Was it true? And indeed…when I paid attention, it was.  Not only was it a downer if the Madre wasn’t cracking embarrassing jokes, but nothing was quite as fun when she wasn’t around. I’m a grown up now (or so I’ve tricked people into thinking) and still…when I am visiting my parent’s house, if my mom isn’t there for dinner, it’s just not as fun. I’ve discussed this phenomenon with my siblings and we are in agreement. Everything is better when mom is around.

Mothering is hard work. Ask any mama. It’s a lot of bodily fluids and sleepless nights and endless permission slips to keep track of and worry. Always the worrying.  And to add to it that you alone are responsible for your family’s happiness? Must I always be cheerful, lest my crankiness, or annoyance, or frustration, inhibit my family from being joyful? Is that even possible? For a long time after Gianna was born, I struggled to figure out how to be a mother, and a wife, and still be….me. Should my marital status totally define me? Should my status as a primipara define me? Who was I? So much about me had changed, was there anything that had stayed the same?

I’m not sure when I realized that no; the proverb in my mother’s kitchen didn’t mean I always had to be the smiling love slave to everyone else. Rather, that simple statement acknowledged a power that is unique to us mothers: the power to set the attitude within our homes. It’s the power to serve gracefully and to call our families into service as well, to give of ourselves and be an example of sacrifice and charity for our children. Ah, but if only we always used our powers for good. Who has that kind of energy? I wondered. And where can I get some? 

When Gianna started taking a weekly ballet class, another buddy of mine said, “We should do that. We should go back to ballet.” So, after nine years out of the studio, I bought myself a pair of shoes, tights and a leotard….and went to an adult ballet class. For ninety glorious minutes I thought of nothing else but plies and tendus and when I left I felt….refreshed. Oh, I had my pitifully out of shape derriere handed to me but…I was back in the game, baby. I was ready to change diapers and slap on band-aids and read the same book over and over again.

Every mama needs a ballet class. A time to go running. A place to do yoga. A girl’s night out. A spa day. A drive around the block in a quiet car where she can listen to whatever music she wants. The chance to luxuriate in bed for an extra 30 minutes on a Saturday morning. An hour of quiet adoration before Our Lord. It’s hard to find these moments, for two main reasons. For one, we’re the mamas and we get all guilty if we take time to ourselves. For another, it’s hard to admit we can’t do this on our own steam. However, we must find the time, cuz if we ain’t happy….nobody’s happy.

Why, I'd love to read you Strega Nona for the 10th time today!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Did This Happen?

It's amazing. When did this:

Become this:

And when did this:

Morph into this:

Every parent marvels over the growth of their children. "He's just getting so big!" They exclaim. And, "I can't believe it, I feel like just yesterday she was a newborn!" This morning, as I watched Gianna dress herself for school and Dominic fed himself Gianna's left over oatmeal, I couldn't help thinking to myself for the millionth time, "Who are these big children? And when did they get here? Where are my babies?"

A few months ago I read Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy  on the recommendation of Maureen over at Little Stay at Home Momma. In it, the author shares correspondence with C.S Lewis during his conversion to Christianity. One of my favorite letters from Lewis regards his logical proof that there is some other, higher place for which we are all intended. He says,

"We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. “How he’s grown!” we exclaim, “How time flies!” as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal."

Of course, that higher place where there will be no time as we know it now, is heaven. How wonderful that in the swiftly growing bodies and minds of our children we are reminded that we are just visitors here; that we are working for the Kingdom.  In moments of sadness or nostalgia over our no-longer-a-baby babies, may we remember that we are destined to become, one day, inhabitants of Heaven.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Post Where You Learn Everything You Need To Know About Me

About a week after my son was born on my bathroom floor, my mother and I packed up the kiddos for our first trip to the family doctor. I’d never met him face-to-face…a slightly awkward phone conversation where delayed vaccines and the safety of homebirth was discussed was about the only interaction I’d had with the guy.  Through a series of well-timed events I had found myself living in a new city and state, gigantically pregnant, and in need of a new family doctor. He came highly recommended by our new friends as a good, Catholic man who obeyed the Church’s teachings and didn’t prescribe contraceptives. 

As we rushed about taking the then 2.5 year old Gianna to the potty and grabbing extra pairs of underwear and wipes and burp clothes and bags of Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies I told my mother, “I just hope this guy doesn’t think we’re totally crazy. I mean…we kind of are, but mostly we know what we’re doing…..generally I’ve got it together. I have to make a good impression! I need to off-set our weirdness with my organizational skills, my charm, my sheer grit and common sense…” 

I should have known I was quickly heading toward disaster---I was feeling far, far too confident and in control for things to continue to go smoothly. As my mother steered my sticker-laden Volvo wagon through the slushy streets I kept up a non-stop cheerleading session regarding my mothering skills…. “I am SO prepared for this appointment! I have ALL our paperwork…..all the charts from the birth, all the paperwork proving that I already did the metabolic screens, he can’t NOT love us! Even though we’re weird and we birth at home….look how prepared I am!” 

When we arrived at the office (and only 5 minutes late!) we were ushered into an exam room where I boasted about my potent breast milk (“He gained 10 ounces in 4 days!”)  and thrust all the papers at the nurse. She perused them without comment until she arrived at the narrow strip of paper that proved I had already sent Dominic’s blood in to be tested for all the metabolic diseases. 

“What is this?” She queried. Oh, I’d school her…. “I had the metabolic testing done at 4 days. It’s been sent to the lab, that is the proof! I don’t even need that copy, you can keep it!!” 
The doctor arrived and promptly exclaimed over my darling children. He, too, riffled through the stack of papers before pausing over the metabolic screen receipt. 

“Um….what is this?” 

“Oh! That is the proof that I already did the metabolic screen! I had it done at four days, I had someone come to the house…..you can keep that paper….I don’t even need it….he gained 10 ounces in four days…I managed to fold some laundry this morning…” When I get nervous I babble. Especially when the person I am talking to just sits there…..silently….staring…..until finally…

“Yes, well….This …looks…like a speeding ticket.” 

I teach my kids that we don’t just take things from people, but you can believe I took that paper back…snatched it, as it were. Then I did what any good, organized wife does.
I blamed it on my husband.

“Oh that’s not mine! It’s my husband’s! I’m not sure…where the metabolic screen is….the two papers look shockingly alike…..”

At that point, I had to give up my dream of appearing like the perfect mom I am not and just be myself. My mother was laughing, Doms was nursing in that newborn-milk-spraying-everywhere kind of way, and Gianna was methodically licking all the tongue depressors.  Now was the time to sum things up and make a quick getaway.

 I was trying to make a good impression, but here I am. This is me. Mostly, I’m late a lot, I’m constantly getting myself into ridiculous situations, and I really like to laugh.  I have no idea what I’m doing, but I figure if I just make it look good, the outward signs of grace will transfer internally, clean my kitchen, get me out the door on time, and  make my home the kind of place where there will be saints…or at least, the absence of parole officers.

Welcome to the fray!