Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Storytime Ooops!

One of my favorite parts about helping in the school library is storytime. Because the kindergarten and first grade only get 45 minutes to divide between library and computer class, we don't get to have storytime every week.

Today, though, the librarian was helping to chaperone the 8th grade trip, and I was flying solo in the library. The lesson plan she left for me included storytime for both of the primary-grade classes I'd see. Bonus: I got to pick the story!

The first-graders had let us know earlier this year that they are big fans of Tomie dePaola. Me too--I've enjoyed his picture books since the time I used to read them to Big Brother. So I went to the bookshelf and chose one of Big Brother's favorites: Tom.

In this story, a little boy's grandfather shows his mischievous side, giving Tommy two chicken feet. Tommy takes them to school and uses them to scare his classmates--and a teacher.

We were just getting to the good part when the first-grade teacher walked into the library to collect her students. And there I was, reading all about how this little boy caused a little playground mayhem with a couple of chicken feet.

So...what do you think the odds are that I'll be asked to substitute again?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Oddest Memorial Day Ever

It began normally enough. We woke up and got ready to attend the Memorial Day parade in the next town. Big Brother and Middle Sister were helping the Boy Scouts, who cook and serve hot dogs (888 this year!) and cold beverages to all who march and attend the parade. TheDad and Little Brother were marching with the Cub Scouts. I was the only one in the family who actually watched the parade this year.

And that part was weird. I didn't have Middle Sister to people-watch with, and parades are almost as good as carnivals in drawing out some pretty strange people. Homeless-looking old men who picked up candy that was tossed in the street--and handed it to nearby children. Women "of a certain age" who still shop at stores like Forever 21. Other women (older than "a certain age") who go for the star-spangled look: full red, white, and blue glitter from head to toe. And quite a few pit bulls. I didn't have Little Brother to clap along to the bands and beg me to buy him a pretzel/water/balloon/flag/pop gun/Silly String/noisemaker/all of the above. Hope springs eternal with that one: we bring our own snacks and drinks and I never buy the junk.

After the parade, we came home and a bunch of Little Brother's friends came over here to swim. I was in the middle of the laundry stream, and found that the utility sink was half-full of water and it wasn't draining at all. I finally forced TheDad out of the pool to try to snake out the drain.

He concluded that we had to call a professional.

We waited 3 hours for the professional to not show up or call back, and then we called a different professional who got here in 30 minutes, took care of the problem, and required a nice fat check from us because plumbers on Memorial Day are expensive.

I began admiring my Parade Tan, which consists of sunburn on 1 1/2 knees.

Meanwhile I took Middle Sister and Little Brother to rehearsal for "Song of Mark" at church (they're in the children's chorus, I'm accompanying on guitar) and Big Brother's friends came over to swim and eat.

We ran the whole show in a non-air-conditioned church and then I came home to the dishes that had piled up all day because I wasn't able to do any dishes since we couldn't use the water.

Now there are 7 college students trying to play Guitar Hero quietly because Little Brother is sleeping. Good luck with that.

Big Brother bought a lemon meringue pie to feed his friends. I think I'll go have a nice big slice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dead Giveaway

I was all over this article on home organization at BHG.com (Better Homes & Gardens) until I got to page 7: the Living Room Art Station.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Parents will see the problem immediately.

White carpet. Paint on a low, accessible-to-toddlers shelf. Presumably there is a playroom or family room somewhere else in the house. I'm sure there must be a kitchen somewhere--one that doesn't have a white carpet.

Clearly the people who came up with this brilliant idea have never spent any time with small children. (To her credit, Middle Sister saw the trouble with this room instantly.)

Image credit: BHG.com

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spot On

As always, the Zits comic nails life with a teenage boy.

He returned home from college 3 weeks ago. Last night he asked me if I'd seen a certain item of clothing. I hadn't. He said he knew he'd brought it home from school...I suggested it might be in his footlocker.

He replied, "Didn't you empty that out?"


Still-unpacked bags and crates of class notes litter his room and beyond. I imagine it'll stay that way until August 19 if I let it (he returns to school on the 20th.)

Time to crack down. He's a good kid--a real good kid. But he's definitely got a clutter problem.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Long summer ahead!

With a swimming pool comes great responsibility. As I type this, there are 6 kids in the pool. Only one of them lives here. The more time they spend in the pool, the more time I need to be outside on the porch. I am a terrible swimmer and have gone two years without even putting on a bathing suit, but I have to be the combination lifeguard, peacekeeper, referee, towel police, and monitor of four-letter-words.

The Street Urchins and Little Brother were surprised today when I informed them that baseballs are not pool toys.

It's going to take something stronger than a caramel latte to get me through these summer days.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In Case of Rapture, We're Planning a Sleepover

Big Brother just finished telling Little Brother and Adventure Boy all about the Rapture that's scheduled to happen just before 6 PM Eastern, according to Harold Camping of Family Radio. The boys considered the possibilities.

Little Brother (to Adventure Boy): Sleeping over tonight?

Adventure Boy: YEAH!...oh wait, there's not gonna BE a tonight.

Little Brother: You can just stay here for the rest of your life.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Base Hit

Little Brother just emptied his schoolbag and brought his lunch box to the kitchen. Then he came out here to show me the plastic container that I used to pack his sandwich this morning. (Containers prevent sandwiches from getting squished, and I also don't have to buy so many sandwich bags this way).

The container was shattered all along the back.

"What did you do to your lunchbox, jump on it?" I asked.

"No...it was home plate."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dare Not to Compare

On Wednesdays, Little Brother's class has gym Phys Ed. The kids in his school wear gym clothes to school all day on their gym days. It gives me a nice little buffer zone to get his regular uniforms all clean and ready for the rest of the week.

Last Wednesday, though, Little Brother's class had a field trip, and they were required to wear "dress" uniforms. That threw off my whole routine--and I woke up Thursday morning only to realize that there were no clean uniforms for Little Brother that day.

Little Brother is nine years old. There is no such thing as a "gently used" uniform when it comes to nine-year-old boys. So re-wearing the previous day's clothes was completely out of the question. He leaves the house in the morning looking reasonably neat and returns looking like Pigpen from Peanuts.

He told me that kids have just worn their gym clothes to school in that situation, and their moms write a note to the teacher. So that's what I did. When he came home, I asked what his teacher had said. He said she laughed--which is about what I figured would happen.

This morning I saw his teacher when I was on my way in to school to volunteer. She told me that it made her day to get that note, because she doesn't always have it together, and it was a relief to know that some other mom didn't have it together all the time either.

I was rather shocked that she thinks I have things even close to all together. And then I realized that I always thought she did. I've known this teacher for 8 or 9 years, as two of our older children have been in the same class.

We see the surface of other people's lives, and that little bit that we show to other people is only the tip of our own personal iceberg. Yet we compare ourselves, basing our self-esteem on what little we see of what someone else is, has, and does. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; the other line always moves faster.

And then it becomes a great relief to see that someone else is human too; that they are in the very same boat we are; that we all get behind on the laundry sometimes.

Wouldn't it be a great gift to ourselves if we'd just dare NOT to compare once in a while? Wouldn't it be a great gift to those to whom we are comparing ourselves, as well? After all, they're probably behind on laundry, and that's OK.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wishful Thinking

Little Brother just headed down to the basement, where we have our pantry bomb shelter.

"Mommy?"  I heard his muffled voice call from downstairs.


"Where are the goldfish?"

"What goldfish?"

"The goldfish you bought at ShopRite."

"I didn't buy any goldfish..."

"The chocolate goldfish!!"

"I didn't buy any chocolate ones either!"

This Kid Needs a Village

TheDad is not fond of the expression "it takes a village to raise a child."  To him, it represents the invasion of government into a family's life and structure.

But when it comes right down to it, TheDad exemplifies the expression when you think of it as meaning that friends and neighbors have an influence, even a vital role, in a child's life and upbringing.

Adventure Boy has been having a rough time lately.  And while we don't see as much of him now that he's 9 and involved in sports--and there are other boys on the block now, so we're not the only game in town--indications are still strong that he sees us as part of his family.

We're his God-family.  TheDad and I are his godparents, and he calls Little Brother his God-brother.

In the past couple of days, we learned just how much it meant to him when TheDad used to bring Adventure Boy to church.  That pretty much fell off when our parish started holding CCD (oops, Faith Formation) on Sundays--including a Mass--so he hasn't come to church with us for quite a while.  Apparently he misses it.

All 3 of our kids are busy during Mass.  The boys are with me in the Folk Group.  Middle Sister is an altar server.  So TheDad is in the pew by himself.

Today, though, he'll have company.  Adventure Boy is coming to church with TheDad.

I know that I have resented this child's ubiquitous presence more often than not.  But I have to remember to lose the selfish attitude and allow an emotionally needy little boy to share my family's life.  We're his village right now, and he needs us.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Kool-Aid Mom Lays Down the Law

Over the weekend, TheDad and the Big Kids opened the backyard pool for the summer. It's not warm enough to swim, but the Street Urchins who hang around with Little Brother have already been showing up at the door in their swimsuits, towels in hand. (I'm guessing they remember my ironclad rule from last summer: no towel, no swim.)

That's not the only rule I'm going to have to enforce, however. This mom is really tired of people leaving stuff around for me to pick up. They're all old enough to clean up after themselves. And if they won't bother to get their friends to clean up, then they can clean up after their friends as well.

And then there's the whole "availability" issue. When people are in the pool, I have to supervise. Even if they know how to swim. Even though I really don't swim well at all. Having a pool brings a huge amount of responsibility with it. I'm not a fan of the Street Urchins' tactic of "arrive home from school, change into swimsuit, and show up at my house." So...my red light/green light sign has gone back on the front door.

This sign has been around since Little Brother and Adventure Boy were preschoolers. I took one of those foam door hanger things and drew 3 circles on each side. On one side, I colored in the top circle red. In the other 2 circles I wrote "Play Later." Then on the flip side, I colored the bottom circle green and wrote "Friends Welcome." Even pre-readers get the idea. (Little Brother is not authorized to change the sign without my permission.)

I don't want to be unwelcoming, but neither do I want to be the entire neighborhood's maid, lifeguard, and free babysitter. A few limits are a good thing.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

One of the best things about Mother's Day is the charming cards, notes, letters and crafts that young kids make in school to honor their moms. I still have quite a few of those "keepers" from the big kids, though a couple of crepe-paper flowers have disintegrated with time. But I only have one child who's still young enough to make these in school.

With that, I bring you Little Brother's Mother's Day card and letter to me.

He made the card in Spanish class, and it's the only Spanglish greeting card I've ever received:

!Feliz dia de las madres!
Te amo...Little Brother
Roses are red, Violets are blue,
You love me and I love you!

This was adorned not only with a cute picture, but a sticker of a white duck with the words "Right On!"

He also wrote me a letter, using his best cursive writing.  Attached to this letter (making it more than a little top-heavy) is a lily made from his cut-out handprint and a pipe cleaner.
Dear Mom,
Happy Mother's Day! It's been 19 years as a mom. I love you more than anything. (Except for Dad, Big Brother and Middle Sister.) You're the best mom a kid could have. You're the best, remember that.
Little Brother

I love how he very charmingly hedged his bets in that letter, not wanting to play favorites or anything.

Hope your Mother's Day is a sweet one!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Much-Needed Perspective

At Mass yesterday, the message in the homily was, "God does a lot with a little." Not only did we hear about Jesus feeding the multitudes on nothing but some little boy's lunch, but we also reflected on the commitment of those early apostles. They were not Roman lawyers, Greek philosophers, or Asian mystics, Father D told us, though certainly Jesus could have chosen such apostles had he wished to. No, they were ordinary people: fishermen and tax collectors. Maybe, Father suggested, this is because such people would not let their egos get in the way of Jesus' message.

Ouch. I've been guilty of that one lately. We just came through the Triduum and Easter, which means that it was time for my Semi-Annual Musical Pity Party. I sing and play guitar with the Folk Group. We operate on the "Keep It Simple" theory of liturgical music. Keep it simple, and people will feel welcome to sing along with you. It works for us. But our parish also has an Adult Choir. They like things more complicated and elaborate in that choir. And that's the choir that gets to sing at Christmas, and the Triduum, and Easter.

We didn't get asked to participate in the Triduum in any way. We were not invited to join in with the Adult Choir for the Great Three Days.

And it hurt. Boy, did it hurt. I went to Holy Thursday Mass and really felt it. And since Big Brother was playing at another church on Good Friday, we went to the service there. By the time the Easter Vigil rolled around, I was so completely upset that I even skipped the Easter Fire. I just didn't think I could be there without losing it entirely. Even on Easter morning, I was having a rough time.

"You'll feel better after you go to Mass and sing," TheDad assured me. And he was right. I needed to get there, put on my guitar, and belt out the Gloria with everything I could muster. After that, I did feel a lot better.

This is all about humility, really. It all boils down to God doing a lot with a little. Our Folk Group may not have been asked to do anything at all for the Great Three Days. But Sunday after Sunday when we're there at 12:00 Mass, we give it our all. We're not always pitch-perfect, and sometimes a guitarist will (loudly) strike the wrong chord. Yet when we sing the Gloria, we mean it. And people are singing the Gloria with us. That's what we're there for.

It's time for me to let go of the feeling of resentment that we're not "good enough" for the Triduum and just rejoice in the fact that we help people pray though music, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Maybe we just have a little talent, but if we get out of the way, God can do a lot with it.

Mr. Musical Malaprop

Little Brother is 9, which means that he is still given to cute mispronunciations--only now they're of the polysyllabic variety. (I'm really going to miss that when he grows up.)

He took me to breakfast this morning at Chick-Fil-A, just he and I, and one of the workers had been a cast member of The Wizard of Oz with him. Naturally, the whole way home, we sang songs from the play. I think we sang our way through the whole "Munchkinland" scene.

And he's not just an actor--he's a future director. As we finished "We're Off to See the Wizard," he informed me that this is the part where everyone exits the stage. "When we're walking off the stage, we descendo the music," I was told.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Find a Different Pattern

Little Brother came home from school and reported that they had gone to Mass for First Friday.

"We sang, Allaluia, Alleluia, Let the Holy Anthem Rise," he told me.

"Hey, we sang that at daily Mass where I was too!"

"That's cool," he replied. "We also sang The Stripe is O'er."

(Because in Catholic school, they wear plaid.)