Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name

Little Brother was just helping me unload the dishwasher. Picking up a slotted spoon, he asked, "Mom, where does the FILTER SPOON go?"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just for the Record

I'm not taking away the refrigerator magnets.  Other than this one time, they've been a source of fun for the kids and I do want to keep it that way.

But before the teens reappear next week, I'm open to suggestion for what the next message (posted by me) should read.

An Empty Nest, an Apology, a Reprieve, and a Thank You

This week, the only kid we'll have at home with us is Little Brother.  The other two kids are off on vacation with their friends who generously invited them along.  Lucky kids!  I won't miss the all-day, everyday consumption of Dr. Pepper, Ellio's pizza, and pretzels that seems to happen when my teenagers are around, but I'll miss their company nonetheless.  So will Little Brother.  (I'm trying to plan a little extra fun into his week).  That's the Empty Nest part.

The young man with the colorful vocabulary has come forward to apologize.  We're glad about that.  And he was rather eloquent about it as well, expressing his regrets for his lack of respect to my daughter, to me, and to my family.  That's the Apology part.

And now we've got six more days before there will be any teenagers around here.  That will give everyone a chance to cool down, and--I hope--a fresh start next weekend.  I've got a big sense of relief right now.  I'm glad that a confession and an apology took place before Middle Sister departed for the shore.  I'm glad for the opportunity to take a bit of a break so I can start fresh next week.  And I'm glad we stuck to our guns on this issue, even though my daughter doesn't "get" what the big deal was.  Hopefully, one day she will.  And that's the Reprieve part.

Finally, the Thanks part, in which I express my gratitude to you for your show of support in the comments, and for the prayers that I am certain strengthened me through the rest of this week.  Thank you ever so much!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Inspiring Me Today

Great affairs do not disturb us so much as a great number of little ones; therefore, receive these also with calmness, and try to attend to them in order, one after another, without perturbation. Thus, you will gain great merit by them. -- St. Francis de Sales
I found this very timely quote over at Faith & Family Live.  While blogger Kelly Dolin was discussing life with toddlers, it's no less true when you've got teens and grade-schoolers in the house.

After I found myself defeated, again and again, by the "little things" this week, I need the inspiration.  It's not like there have been any major crises.  But it's been a tough week, that has included:

  • Little Brother running a fever of 103.7, complete with a spell of vomiting.
  • An extended-family medical issue that culminated in a 2-day houseguest.
  • A bunch of teenagers who don't follow the "say hello to the adult at home" rule when they show up to swim.  They also don't bring their own towels, and they empty my porch refrigerator of all beverages.  And they leave their mess behind.
  • A teenager (yet to be identified) who thinks it's funny to spell out one of George Carlin's "7 words you can't say on TV" with the ABC magnets we keep near the porch refrigerator.  (Usually those are used to wish a friend a happy birthday.)
  • Adventure Boy vomiting on the pool deck (but fortunately not in the pool itself.)
It hasn't been pretty, and I haven't handled all of this well.  And some of it's not over yet.  Now we have to play hardball with a bunch of 15-year-olds until someone apologizes for his use of filthy vocabulary and lack of respect of us and our daughter.

I think I'm going to have to pull out my Francis de Sales book and see if he has any more advice for people like me, who can handle big things pretty well, but let the little things pile up and pile up and pile up until they lose it completely.  It's going to be a long summer, and I'll need all the grace I can get.

Mr. Malaprop Rides Again

As we sat and chatted around the dinner table, one of the Big Kids mentioned the name of a friend.

"Does your friend have any brothers or sisters?" TheDad asked.

"No," replied the Big Kid.

Little Brother piped up:  "She's SINGLE?"

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Earlier this month I reported for Jury Duty.  While it was a big inconvenience, managed only because Big Brother was already home from college and able to retrieve Little Brother from the school bus in the afternoon, I don't regret participating.

However, I am relieved that after 3 days of voir dire--involving 500 jurors--I was not selected to hear the case.  After listening to the indictment, I was quite sure that there was no way I'd be able to be an impartial juror.

The two defendants were indicted on nearly 50 counts involving the sexual abuse of four teenagers over the course of several years.  One defendant was a police officer in a neighboring town.  One woman left the courtroom in tears after telling the judge that she could not serve as a juror in such a case.  The two defense attorneys managed to get any juror with children over the age of 2 tossed out of the pool right then and there.

I was at the end of the random list of 500 jurors--and one of the last 13 who had not yet been interviewed (50 questions per juror) by the time all attorneys agreed that an acceptable jury had been seated.  But I figured that if I had made it to the interview process, they wouldn't like my answer to the question regarding my ability to hear this case impartially.

I have two children and seven nieces and nephews in the same age group as the victims in this case (plus my older son and older nephew who are both now over 18).  My husband and I are both deeply involved in volunteer work with children.  And I was ready to be perfectly honest with the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney that I did not believe that I could put my first instinct--to protect a child--aside in a situation like this.

I was not ready to say that the defendants were automatically guilty, as I believe in and respect the principles on which our justice system is based.  But I could not be fair about it, and that's just the way it is.

Unfortunately, this case did not come to trial last week as planned.  The day before the trial, one of the defense attorneys perished in a house fire caused, fire marshals suspect, by smoking in bed.  Now the jury that had been assembled has been excused and the whole thing will start all over again.  Next year.

If children were victimized in that situation ending in 2008, their nightmare is going to continue another year as they wait for justice.  If the two adults were falsely accused, their nightmare will continue.  Either way, it's not good.

When it comes to backyard disputes over whose turn it is to use the Super Soaker or who made the mess, I'm as impartial as they come.  (You can share it, or it's mine; and I don't care who made the mess--I just care that you pick it up when I tell you to.)  But this is way more than a fight over a water gun or the scattered pieces of a board game.  The stakes are too high.  Both sides deserve what I could not give them.

Both sides deserve prayer too, and I struggled to remind myself of that during the reading of the indictment and the juror interviews that followed.  I struggled even more after I was excused from the case and went home to google the gory details--and those details were quite gory.

Even if the adults in this case are found to be innocent, there are many adults who are not.  Today, pray for them and for the children who are their victims.  And pray for those falsely accused and for their accusers.  It's heartbreaking.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Concede

Sometimes I get frustrated when my husband doesn't do things the way I'd do them.

OK, I always get frustrated when my husband doesn't do things the way I'd do them.

Controlling much?

(I spent half my time on jury duty last week rethinking their systems and figuring out how to eliminate potential jurors more quickly.  Yeah--I'd say I'm controlling.)

It's a good thing my husband puts up with me.

I'm the nuts and bolts around here; he's the dreams.  I worry about the practical stuff like what's for dinner and who has to be where and who's driving them there and how long has Little Brother been playing on that Game Boy, anyway?  He wishes for exciting vacations and gives in to Little Brother's "five more minutes" requests and lets the kids have sleepovers.  He says "yes" when I want to say "no."

And when Little Brother and Adventure Boy have a sleepover that involves making "forts" out of all the cushions in the family room, he lets them.  And when they're too scared to sleep in the family room when everyone else is upstairs, he sleeps down there too, on the couch.  On Father's Day.  And then when we go out to a restaurant for Father's Day, he invites Adventure Boy to come along.

It's a good thing that we have him in our lives.  He might make me crazy sometimes, but we really do need that balance, that other side, that he brings to things.

Happy Father's Day to my husband, TheDad!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Teach Your Children Well

My Big Kids know how to use utensils, but I can't figure out where I went wrong with Little Brother.  I have never met a child so resistant to the use of a knife and fork.  The kid even eats ice cream with his fingers if you don't stop him.

Overheard at my dinner table tonight:

"Little Brother, ravioli is not a finger food."

"It is if you fold it up like a taco!"

That didn't fly...we made him pick up his fork.

You can lead a child to silverware, but you can't make him like it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Small Consolation

Eeek, I have just qualified for the Bad Mommy Award.  Looked up at the clock and realized it's 9:30 and Little Brother is not yet in bed.

So as I packed him off to bed, I mentioned that I hope he isn't grumpy in the morning.

"It's your fault, Mom," he reminded me.  "YOU didn't tell me it was time to go to bed."

"You were being so quiet, I didn't even realize you were up," I said.

"I like to be quiet."

"REALLY?"  (That's news to me.  He's rarely quiet.)

"It's good to be quiet," he continued.  "I think I'll be quiet more often.  Maybe tomorrow I'll even be quiet in class."

With 4 days left in the school year, I'm sure that's a great comfort to his teacher.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore

This morning TheDad and I are on our way to a funeral in our old neighborhood.

When we bought our first home, we were one of only two or three young families on the block.  Most of our neighbors were retired military.  Although it was hard not to have kids around for Big Brother to play with--and I didn't know anyone else with kids, since we were brand-new to the area code, we had lovely neighbors.

The people across the street, with the well-tended home, were "Mr. John" and "Miss Martha" to Big Brother.  Mr. John had served over 25 years in the Marines, including deployments during two wars.  He was in his late sixties by the time we moved in to the neighborhood.

Every day, Mr. John inspected every inch of his yard and sidewalk, sweeping up leaves and bits of trash.  He always had a friendly word as I wandered by with the stroller, taking Big Brother and, later, Middle Sister, for a walk around town.

The only things that were ever out of place in his immaculately-groomed yard were the plastic Easter eggs--filled with pocket change and dollar bills--that he strewed around every Easter before his grandkids came for dinner.  In the fall, a leaf would barely hit the ground before Mr. John had swept it up.

TheDad has always looked forward to their Christmas card, which is less a card than a booklet filled with inspirational stories and poems.  After receiving it, he'd give them a call and see how they were doing.  He'd also call after every snowstorm--and once or twice he just drove to the old neighborhood to help Mr. John shovel his driveway and walk.  And we'd run into them at our church carnival and Polish dinner, because they loved the pierogi!

Today we'll say farewell to the man who, with his wife, took care of five-year-old Big Brother so I could bring Middle Sister to the ER for stitches in her forehead when she cut it on the edge of the coffee table; who always took time out of his sweeping or raking or mowing or relaxing in a lawn chair to come down the driveway and greet us as we passed on our many walks through the neighborhood.

Rest in peace, Mr. John.  We were blessed to have a neighbor like you.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Young Architects?

Little Brother has two visitors, who happen to be brothers.  They've been enjoying each other's company for the past couple of hours, playing board games and Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

These boys live at the far end of our neighborhood, in a similar-style home.  And they've been endlessly fascinated by the similarities and differences in our houses.  Just now, they were walking around with Little Brother, observing that in their house, there's a piano in the spot where we have a bookcase.  They covered the whole house this way.  It's been really funny to listen to the three of them on their little house tour.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Growth Curve

During the past two weeks I've been rehearsing for Sunday's performance of Marty Haugen's Song of Mark, a musical production based on the Gospel of Mark, with a group of musicians and singers that I don't ordinarily work with. It's been a wonderful and interesting experience.

Playing with a new group is always a challenge, and that's good, because when you play with the same people week after week, you start to know what to expect. It takes playing with different people to make a musician grow.

I'm not an excellent musician by any stretch of the imagination. Once I was out of college, I haven't been in a position where I could play my guitar every day. It was more like one or two times per week. That's not conducive to growing as a musician either. And while I had enough basic piano lessons to know how to read music, I'm a self-taught guitarist. The director of this production teaches music and can play just about any instrument. Frankly, if she weren't so nice, I'd be really intimidated.

It's nice being a part of a musical production with my kids. All 3 are taking part. Big Brother is playing electric bass, and Middle Sister and Little Brother are both in the children's chorus. Since there are only about 20 in the entire cast and orchestra, we make up 1/5 of the people involved in this event.

All the music is new to me, and Haugen's music is always a challenge. One of the other guitarists from my Sunday folk group observed that Haugen must hate guitarists when I showed her some of the music, written in tortuous keys and including chords like E-flat, Gm, and the like.  Many of the songs are 6 or 8 pages long, so I also had to learn to work in page turns!

I have loved the opportunity to go and play for almost two solid hours at a time--though my arms are really feeling it.  I'm playing along with a pianist, a keyboard, and Big Brother on the bass.  With only one guitar, I don't have much room for error.  That's a challenge too.

I think the challenge is good for me.  And certainly playing is good for me.  And some of the songs are really, really good.  Here's the refrain from my favorite one:

When the day of our God has come to pass,
The skies will ring out with the angels' song.
The last will be first and the first will be last
When the day of our God comes,
The wondrous day of our God.
That's been stuck in my head for days--and there's nothing wrong with that.