Friday, December 29, 2006

On the Third and Fourth Day of Christmas... true love gave to me, four needle sticks, three game controllers,

two duelling dog lovers, and my health and some sanity.

Four Needle Sticks

It's baaaaack! Gestational diabetes, that is. I thought perhaps I would escape this fate, as it did not rear its ugly head when I was pregnant with Tony, but alas I have not. I miserably failed my screening test and am dutifully turning myself into a pin cushion by testing my blood sugar four times a day.

Really, it isn't that bad. I have done this before (controlled the condition with diet alone) and I can do it again. It's just like giving up sweets for Lent, except a few weeks longer. Is it wrong to consider this a pre-offering for Lent and skip the giving up of sweets when Lent actually begins? Since Lent begins right about the time I am due to deliver, it would be a total of 16 weeks with no sugar, and I am not certain I can do this, especially immediately postpartum when I most crave sugar. That would be superhuman for a sweet-a-holic like me. Maybe I can give up something else this year. Like pregnancy.

Three Game Controllers

We are currently visiting friends who have a Game Cube. We don't have video games (not on principal, just haven't ever gotten around to it), so needless to say my kids are transfixed. This system happens to have four controllers, so many of the kids can play at once. Except Tony carried one off and we haven't yet uncovered it, so for now we have three.

The kids we are visiting got a new game for Christmas rated T for Teen instead of E for Everyone. When they asked if they could play it I replied that I had to watch for awhile to see how appropriate it was for my younger children. The game is some variation of Super Mario Brothers where the characters beat each other up.

I grew up in the 80s playing some Karate Champ game where "real people" tried to best each other with kicks and hand chops. I loved that game, and at first blush this game fondly reminded me of that one (although I would not now let my younger kids play that one since the people are "real"). But as I generally try to keep the kids away from anything at all blatantly violent, I watched carefully to see how this one would play out.

About three minutes into it I was laughing so hard I almost fell off the couch. The characters are not real people, they are Super Mario cartoon characters ranging from Donkey Kong to some fire breathing turtle thing. There is also a princess that kicks high like a can-can dancer in her ball gown. I watched my sweet Lindsey, the fire breathing turtle, attack my monkey older son and take him down completely. For some reason, this was so incongruously funny to me that I could not stop laughing. When another player, the princess, came and kicked the fire breathing turtle off the flying ship with a swoosh of her ball gown, I almost lost it.

I let the kids play.

When my friend came home I learned that she had asked her husband to return this game because of it's violent nature. Oops. Just goes to show how subjective parenting rules can be, even between families that share the same values.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On the Second Day of Christmas... true love gave to me, two dueling dog lovers,

and my health and some sanity.

Yes, you've guessed it, I am going to perform my very own 12 days of Christmas according to what is going on in our family. Today's theme is: DOG!

Until last Christmas, we had a family dog. A 200 pound, stinky, drooly and loveable Mastiff named Pumbaa, to be exact. He died just after Christmas last year of old age and Jay was devastated. We were all sad, but he was really Jay's dog, and so he missed him the most.

In the year since Pumbaa's death there has been some discussion of getting another dog, but I have put it off since having a dog simply adds to the mess and chaos in the house, and I have been enjoying the reprieve. No more fur on the floor, no more shaken drool splotches on the walls means that, especially since we moved into our brand new house in February, I have not been anxious to rectify this dog absence. However, I am slowly losing the battle. The cries are becoming louder and more frequent, and my peace is about to come to an end. It's not a question of if but when and, more relevent to this week, how.

You see, Joey asked Santa for a dog for Christmas. I always advise the children to ask for three things to give Santa some alternatives in case he cannot provide their first choice. Up until now, this has worked like a charm. But this time, my oh-so-clever son decided to stress test the system and ask for a yellow lab, a chocolate lab and a golden retriever for his three things. What is Santa to do? Especially when this is probably the last year of Santa magic for this particular child and this mother knows that she is losing the dog battle anyway? I was ready to give in to my boy who really, really wants a dog to pal around with and play fetch with during his rather lonesome homeschooling breaks while the other children are at school.

But, alas, nothing is ever simple. Jay joins Joey in this overwhelming desire for a dog. But he wants another Mastiff, and for very good reasons. Mastiffs fit our family very well. They are slow moving, not too active, and not destructive. They are patient with children and don't jump up (after a little training, of course). Pumbaa was a fantastic dog that gave us very little trouble and Jay is convinced another Mastiff is best for the family. But there is one big problem: Mastiffs don't play much fetch and for Joey, this is a fatal flaw.

Now, I know that the types of dogs Joey has requested can make excellent family pets, but they are unfamiliar ground to us. Moreoever, they are likely to have a highly active puppy period that I'm not sure we can persevere. An excited jumper, chewer, digger or escape artist is not something I would welcome, and I know from experience that Mastiffs pretty much lay around and snore. So, even with all their disadvantages (drool, odor and size), I am inclined to agree with Jay even as I want to agree with Joey.

As it turns out, it doesn't matter much what I think about this. They two of them have begun to bargain and cajole, doing something that resembles the "Dance of the Duelling Dog Lovers" as I am beginning to mentally refer to it. Joey has some say in the matter since Santa, in a desperate effort to resolve his pickle, brought Joey a dog bowl, collar and leash, along with a letter saying that live animals can't travel in the sleigh, but here is the equipment he will need for the pet that is sure to be forthcoming. So, the battle of the breeds is on.

I suspect the way this is going to resolve itself is by whichever breeder comes up with a puppy first. Whichever dog presents first is sure to be fallen in love with, regardless of breed. So, the breeders have been contacted and the wait for a puppy commences. Which will it be? Who knows?! But just to complicate the situation, we are going to a massive dog show on Saturday so the duelling dog lovers can duke it out in the presence of their favorite breeds.

Should be good, clean family fun, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On The First Day of Christmas... true love gave to me, my health and some sanity.

Today marks the first of the 12 days of Christmas and, yes, I did receive a wonderful gift. After four days of feeling pretty yucky, I am back! I tend to be generally healthy and shamefully take it for granted, but today, as I accomplished several household tasks for the first time in days without feeling as if I were nearing death's door, I remembered that I should never take a minute of good health for granted.

How much easier it is to get that laundry washed and folded when I am feeling energetic and good! How much more balanced I feel when the house is ordered and clean and I am being proactive rather than reactive!

So, for the first day of Christmas there is no greater gift as far as I'm concerned.

(Oh, and thanks so very much, Jay, for keeping it all together while I was down. You are amazing and I appreciate you so much!)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

There Must Be Some Mistake

An error has been made, somehow, somewhere. Because, you see, I am sick. Not the annoying "don't feel so great as I go about my business" sick, but the "haven't been out of bed AT ALL for 36 hours" sick.

And, in case anyone is unaware, Christmas is in 2 days. Mothers, whose families are counting on them for magical Christmas memories and yummy Christmas dinners, are NOT supposed to get sick right now.

I have presents to wrap (and a few left to buy, even!). Groceries to buy. And a scary-messy house to order. I have a choir to sing in. How can this be?

Unless--wait--could this actually BE the plan? Am I supposed to learn something from this? Am I supposed to remember that this holiday isn't about me at all? That it isn't about a perfect roast or a perfect house? That it isn't about me feeling like I pulled it all off and made everyone happy?

Hmm... I'll have to think about that. Later.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

Let me set the scene:

1. Jay has been in South Africa for 9 long days (he will be home this afternoon).
2. I woke up this morning feeling yucky with a sore throat, runny nose and cough.
3. I have five children.
4. One of them is a bonafide toddler now.
5. One of them is 3.
6. I am pregnant. Very pregnant.

Now, no matter what I am going to say next, need I say more about my situation? You can guess how it's going to go.

This morning Sam's Kindergarten did a little nativity show during the school's morning mass. He was a shepherd. There was no way I couldn't be there to see him, as he was so very excited.

I braced myself for mass with my toddler and 3 year old, which is never fun, by praying extra hard for good behavior, having the kids set out all their clothes last night so we wouldn't have a stressful morning, and by making sure everyone was well-fed and well-rested before we went. By all measures, I should have been set up for as successful a mass as can be hoped for when toting children of these ages.

Feeling myself in the role of realist (as opposed to optimist) today, I went straight to the crying room (normally I retreat there in shame and defeat sometime during the homily). There I exchanged smiles with four other kindergarten moms who I don't really know but see at drop off and pick up. They all had their younger children with them. I relaxed, thinking at least Tony could toddle and squeal and Julia could sit on my lap. How bad could it be, here in the crying room with compadres all around?

It turned out to be the most horrible, awful mass experience of my life. Tony did not want to be held or put down, and shrieked through the entire thing. He hit me in the face, pulled my hair, and scratched me. (He is usually a pretty good natured kid, and I can't imagine what was wrong today.) Julia was OK for the first half but then started crying half way through because I wouldn't let her pull on Tony and make him scream. Once she started crying she did not stop, and added her shrieks to the cacophony in the cry room. Trust me when I say that we were a disgrace for even the crying room. We should have left, but because Sam was counting on me, I could not.

What is a pregnant, hormonal, tired, overwhelmed-by-Christmas-preparations-and- feeling-sick mom to do? Yep, you guessed it. I started crying too. Because it helps the situation so much! (NOT!) And once I started I could not stop. I completely humiliated myself in my own church, in a glass room with 300 children, their teachers, and many of their parents looking in at me. I had simply reached my breaking point and it didn't matter who was watching. Let them see the crazy lady with so many children she can't handle them--I was beyond it all.

I was such a mess that I almost skipped communion, but realized that a little humble pie in the presence of Jesus was exactly what I needed, so I kept my head down and raced past the children to the front, hoping no one would notice the state I was in. I was able to do this only because my mom (bless her!), arrived to rescue me and take over the children.

So, you may be wondering, what is the silver lining? It came in the form of the four other kindergarten moms, who all came over and hugged me, told me I was doing great, and wrote their phone numbers down for me. I learned that one had six kids, one had five and another had four. They all knew what I was going through and none of them thought I had too many kids to handle. They understood that I was just having a moment.

I had been wanting to get to know these moms, but was always so busy rustling kids at pick up and drop off that I didn't have time to chat. But through my utter humiliation today, I know that I have made some friends. I'm glad to know it wasn't completely wasted!

Thanks for joining me in my pity party today. I feel much better having shared.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Party Animal

The Sacred Heart Kindergarten had its class Christmas party today.

The kids were 15 minutes late getting out of class, and when they did emerge, they stumbled out in a daze, clutching balloons and goodie bags.

Sam shuffled up to me and said thickly, voice filled with awe, "That was a REAL good party."

Hmm. Should I start worrying about college now or later?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

That Magical Milestone

There is a milestone in every child's life that is not mentioned in "What to Expect" books. There is no line for it in baby journals, and mothers don't compare notes as to when their children acheive it. But it is a critical one nonetheless.

Yes, I am talking about the day a child first pays attention to a television program. For the whole 15 minutes.

This is, as many milestones are, bittersweet. After all, it marks the passing of babyhood. However, for a busy mother, it is also a thing to be celebrated. Because even mothers who seriously limit television for their children can always use another tool in their kits. One that allows them to complete an important phone call. Or get dinner on the table during the "witching hour".

Tony reached this milestone today, while his brothers and sisters were outside jumping on the trampoline. Since this is something he can't participate in yet, he was stuck inside with me without a ready source of entertainment, as I was busy baking Christmas cookies. He had already unloaded the dishwasher, the roundabout cabinet and the plastic cups and bowls. He had banged the mortar and pestle until we were both practically deaf. He was not interested in snacks or his push car. He was simply underfoot, close to a hot oven, so I decided to give the TV a try, just to see if it could distract him long enough for me to finish the cookie batch I was working on. I put on "The Wonder Pets", and darned if it didn't do the trick. He was completely captivated for a full 15 minutes. I simultaneously rejoiced and felt totally guilty, as I rushed through and completed my baking.

Many of you mothers will understand me when I say "yipee" and "uh-oh" at the same time. Now I must resist the urge to turn to television too frequently when I need to get something done. It is no longer his lack of interest that keeps the TV beast tamed, it is my discipline, which is imperfect at best. But at the same time, I am relieved that there is something I can turn to in desperate times that can buy me the few minutes that I need. I cannot send him outside or to play a board game, as I can with my older children when I want them to turn off the television. He has to be in my sight, and sometimes I need him reliably occupied. Today, this is within my power.

So, happy milestone day, Tony. And good luck to this mom!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Happiest Place on Earth at the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, we are back. And I think the photo below says it all.

This is pure happiness for a child. A giant lollipop, mouse ears and the parade down Main Street. What could be better?

No matter how you may feel about the mass marketing machine that is the Disney corporation--and I know this is a complicated subject in and of itself--it is such a joy to give a child these moments of fantasy and bliss. We completely immersed ourselves in the magic of Disneyworld on this trip and have no regrets.

Jay was very busy 180 days prior to our trip. He learned on our last trip that all the best activities and meal opportunities book up 6 months to the day, sometimes to the hour, ahead of time, as this is when reservations open. Although I am somewhat embarassed to admit the extent to which we joined in this craziness, I am also proud of Jay for learning and working the system so our kids had a truly magical experience. We had to eat anyway, so why not at the hard-to-reserve character breakfasts?! At least this is how I am justifying all this.

Because of his diligence, the boys went on a Pirate Cruise and searched for treasure in the lagoon outside of the Magic Kingdom, while the girls had tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter.

And just so you know that I showed some restraint, our girls did NOT visit the Bippety Bobbedy Salon for princess hairdos before the tea, as did many of the other participants. We just went au natural, considering just being there to be enough. And you know what? It was!

The whole family enjoyed dining at Chef Mickey, as evidenced below. Our kids waved their autograph books (yes, we even did THAT) and the characters came right to the table to sign them. This was really a gift for mom and dad who did not have to stand in line to meet the characters in the park.

The real show stopper was breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Castle. Did you know there is a small restaurant upstairs in the the Fantasyland Castle? I never did, but it's there! Jay got up at 3am West Coast time one day to secure this reservation, as it fills up within minutes of opening. At the time I thought he was nuts, but we had so much fun. The castle is beautiful inside, the breakfast was wonderful and well-served, and we got into the park before it opened, a benefit we reaped even after breakfast was over. Everyone was so nice, especially to Julia who was a little shy of seeing her favorite princesses in the flesh. Jasmine took the time to sit down with her when Julia was too shy to get up to greet her.

Throughout the trip, our encounters with Disney "cast members" was nothing short of exceptional. They all went above and beyond to make sure our kids had a wonderful experience. When we entered the Pirates of the Carribean, our boys were still clutching the swords they received at Cinderella's Breakfast (they were young knights, of course!) and the man telling us what boat to get into whipped out his own sword and engaged them in a sword fight right there. A completely unexpected joy for young boys, I assure you.

The stunt men in the Indiana Jones show and the Car Stunt Driving Show at the Disney/MGM park both stayed after and chatted with the kids, giving them a really good time.

Jay and I especially enjoyed our dinners at Epcot, the only place on earth I know of where you can have an authentic, ethnic meal in a good restaurant with kids in tow! My favorite was Japan, where they cook on the table in front of you, and Jay's was France, as we rarely get French food (for five obvious reasons!).

Yes, it was a magical, fantastic, indulgent week for us all. How lucky we are to have this silver lining to Jay's travel. It is fitting that we use all the points he earns while away from us to bond us all back together again.

And just in the nick of time--Jay left this morning for South Africa for 8 long days. It is the farthest and longest he has been gone from us. But, we thank God for his job and for the recent vacation memories we have to sustain us. And I'll just think of all those airline miles and hotel points reaccumulating for our next magical vacation.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Vacation Time

We are off! This morning (after 6:45 mass with the kids which, in anyone's estimation, should be a real hoot), we are boarding a plane for Florida.

You guessed it, the Di Silvestris are doing Disney World and we are so very excited!

One benefit of Jay's travel is the accumulation of hotel and airline points and about every 2 or 3 years we cash them in and take a mostly gratis trip to see Mickey and friends, and always this same week in December when the parks are unrecognizably quiet.

Tony is staying behind in the care of grandmas and grandpa. It broke my heart to say goodbye to him last night, but when I checked on him a few hours later he was singing in the background, so he hardly seems traumatized. As I DID NOT pack diapers, a stroller and a car seat for the trip I was reminded that it really is best for everyone involved. After all, he really is too young to appreciate the Indiana Jones action show or Bugs Life in 3-D. These things would just scare him and Jay or I would be waiting outside with him much of the time.

I may blog during the trip, as Jay has his ever-present laptop, but I may not. But either way, look for pictures when we return. Have a good week everyone!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Goodbye Mullet

It's official. Tony is a big boy, as evidenced by the disappearance of his baby mullet. Here he is, in all his freshly coiffed glory.

Incidentally, this photo was taken at the hair salon just before Tony rearranged their nice row of chairs by pushing them systematically across the room (while I was busy instructing Joey's stylist), careening into hair care product displays on the way by.

Yes siree, they were happy to see us leave today. It is not the first time I have had that reaction. Probably not the last, either.

But, hey, at least the boys have fresh haircuts for our Christmas picture...and that is what I was aiming for.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Joys of a Modern Tract Home

Nearly all of my adult life, I have lived in quirky, individualistic homes with lots of character. You know the type: half a century or more old, wood framed windows (some painted shut for decades), old fashioned fuses, questionable foundations. These houses are, without a doubt, charming. The unexpected built-ins, one-of-a-kind floor plans and unique curb appeal are a true delight to behold.

However, once you have near half a dozen children, these things tend to lose their appeal. You start becoming focused on things like asbestos, lead paint, exposed wiring and earthquake safety standards. You long for modern laundry facilities, sound garages with lots of storage and toilets that, well, flush when they are supposed to.

For this reason, I convinced my reluctant husband to buy a brand new house last year. For him (and, honestly, for me too) this was a bit of a sell out. We left quirky Marin County, California, where virtually no tract homes exist and anything mass produced is shunned, and moved to the land of every-house-is-the-same. At one time this would have been our worst nightmare and, to many of our friends up North, it still is.

But I could not be happier with the day-to-day convenience of this new home. I have storage space. I have insulation. I have a square, level lot and a convenient place for my trash cans. Who needs cute at this stage in life? Give me functional!

Today, as Jay strung Christmas lights under the eaves of our cookie cutter new home, my happiness became complete. For, conveniently located under the eaves, he found all the outlets he needed and, even more conveniently located inside, I found the switch that turns all the lights on and off. No more extension cords. No more going outside at 11pm in the freezing cold to pull the plug (or worse, trying to figure out that whole timer thing). Thank you, Pulte (our builder), for thinking of this simple yet highly satisfying detail.

Sold out? Perhaps, but who cares?! This is working for me!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cowboy in the Desert

Today I took a dirt road shortcut through the desert and saw a delightful sight: an authentic cowboy on horseback. I thought fondly of Lonesome Dove as I approached him, and took comfort in the fact that I live in a part of the west that is still just a little bit wild.

As I got nearer, I realized that he was not riding as a cowboy should. He seemed distracted and somewhat sideways in his saddle. Curious, I looked closer. He was holding something to his head. It must be a rag to ward off the dust, I thought, thinking of the classic kerchiefs of years ago.

As I passed alongside him, I took one last satisfied glance at my own local piece of history. It was then I realized it wasn't a kerchief at all. He was, in fact, talking animatedly on his cell phone. In his chaps and cowboy hat. On his horse. In the middle of the desert.

So much for Lonesome Dove.

From A Child's Perspective... stomach is getting alarmingly large.

Julia, for example, is starting to become concerned. Yesterday she was going with me out to the garage (aka my external pantry) to get some napkins for dinner. She noted that, due to the holiday, some things had been stacked in the narrow hall between the laundry room and garage door. She evaluated the size of the opening, turned around and took visual measure of my girth and said, "Mom, are you sure you're going to fit through here?" with all of the innocent concern that a 3 year old can muster.

It's nice to be loved.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Among The Many Things I Never Considered Would Be A Part of Parenthood

If you are easily offended, do not read this post. It's content is mildly disgusting, so I considered not posting this. Yet, as it is so representative of my life, I simply could not help myself.

The scene: Busy kitchen right before dinner time. Jay and I are in the final stages of food preparation.

Joey (distraught, running into the room): I was washing my hands in the bathroom and I accidentally dropped my new flashlight pen in the toilet!

Jay: Was there anything in the toilet?

Joey: No.

Jay: OK, then. Don't worry. I will go take care of it as soon as I'm finished here.

Five minutes pass in a flurry of frantic kitchen activity. (You know what's coming next, don't you?)

Lindsey (really, really distraught, running into the kitchen): I just pooped on Joey's new pen! I didn't see it was in the toilet until it was too late!

Stunned silence from Jay and I. A wail from Joey.

Lindsey (loudly whispering): Should I flush, or what?

Yes, another eventful day in the Di Silvestri household.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Fall Luncheon

Yesterday I had the priviledge of co-hosting a table at our school's annual Fall Luncheon fundraiser. Five months of planning, gathering supplies and learning about our table's theme culminated in a beautiful table, 40 very pleased guests and five happy but tired hostesses.

This year's theme was "United Nations", so each of the 12 tables represented a different country. We were China, and were joined by Ireland, Nigeria, the USA, France, Jamaica, Mexico, and Italy, among others. No matter the theme, lunch is always the same: traditional turkey and ham with mashed potatoes and all the fixings. A little strange when you are sitting with your chopsticks in China or with your chips and salsa in Mexico, but what can you do?

This event has been going on at our school for decades, and brings the parish and school together like nothing else. All three priests were there, several sisters from the nearby convent, both school principals, and lots and lots of parishoners who otherwise are not tied to the school, but may have been in years past and continue to love this event. There is so much history and goodwill in the room that you can't help but feel good just being there.

Following are some photos of our table and serving area.

Wine bottles, properly dressed for a trip to China:

Our honored guests:

The lion's head, made by hand by one of our hostess' moms:

We were delighted to win "best table", as demonstrated by monetary votes of the guests.

As tired as I am, I'm already looking forward to next year.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An Unforseen Benefit of Tivo

Tonight I was catching up with some work at my desk, letting the children watch a before-bed TV show when I was interrupted by pervasive peals of laughter coming from their playroom.

I got up to investigate and found the four older children watching Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, remote in hand, pausing and rewinding and starting the same part over and over again. I sat on the couch to observe what was so funny and they were only too delighted to show me. Again, and again and again.

They had latched on to one scene where Hamilton the pig steps on Maggie's foot while dancing. Mildly funny to be sure, but not worth the hysteria that was ensuing. The good part, as they defined it, was to pause the program at the exact moment when Hamilton's hoof squashes Maggie's foot and she cries out. Viewing at normal speed, one would never have seen the exquisite detail with which the animators captured her anguish. However, viewed frame by frame, we could see exactly how painful this must have been for her, as her eyes screw up and her mouth opens to 5 times its normal size. For some reason, each child found this funny beyond measure and watched it again and again and again, howling with laughter at each progressive frame.

I don't get it, but I guess I don't need to.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Last night I was cold in bed. It wasn't that cold in the house, but still I couldn't get warm under the covers. I was laying there thinking that I needed to get up and put on a sweatshirt or something when Sam, who happened to have a fever last night, climbed into my bed and pressed himself against my back.

Problem solved. I was warmed, in more ways than one.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Request from The Grandparents

Where are the Halloween photos?!

I have heard this cry and am responding by posting now out-of-date but still amusing Halloween photos, particularly for the enjoyment of the grandparents.

My clown, zombie biker, ghost, Bo Peep and unidentified scary red robed thing (oh, and some crazy purple haired witch):

My wishes-for-the-quiet-life-of-a-monk husband along with his clown:

Pumpkin prep (I had the brilliant idea of letting them scoop out their own darn seeds...and it worked out great! I sometimes underestimate what they can do for themselves.):

And the fruit of their (OK, our) labor:

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween!

Report from the Front Line

Contrary to what may be becoming popular opinion, I am still here and all is well! Thanks to those of you who have prodded me to see why I haven't posted lately. Things have been crazier than usual around here and something had to give...the blog was it. Here is an update on our hectic but happy life.

Jay, who absolutely loves his new job, has been out of town for the past 3 weeks and is due to be gone again next week. This should not be normal in the long run, but is necessary at first as he gets to know the product, company and clients. We all miss him a lot when he is gone, but we do alright overall. However, after having him home for so long I have been in a bit of shock without him! Running the house on my own during the week coupled with my near-entry into my 3rd trimester--the slow and tired trimester, as I refer to it--has put me in bed along with the kids by 8:30 every night, leaving little time for my personal endeavors.

Virtually all of my free time has been devoted of late to my volunteer work at Sacred Heart School. I love being involved there and enjoy the people I meet through the work. This year I am treasurer of the Parent's Association and we have had several big fundraisers in a row, which has meant lots of accounting for me. I also compiled the family directory, which I just turned in yesterday (yipee!), and have been working on the annual Fall Luncheon, which is Tuesday. A lot of the things I do at the school all came to a head the same two weeks, and I have been gasping for air a bit--but I secretly love being this busy, having my fingers in so many pies.

Homeschooling is going well overall, and we just finished our first quarter. This week Joey and I met with the teacher that supervises me (we are enrolled with the California Virtual Academy, which is a public school, so I am required to meet certain standards and attendance requirements). We were both nervous ahead of time, but it went really well and we both left feeling as if we had an advocate rather than a "boss". Most days are very good, but we have the occasional challenge. This quarter we are going to work more on writing, which Joey hates but needs to improve, so I am bracing myself for more resistance. He is doing particularly well with math, and his reading has improved greatly, although he still dislikes it. Having this time with Joey is a gift for us both, and I have no regrets.

My choir is gearing up for Advent and Christmas, so there have been extra practices and some early concerts scheduled. I am grateful for this outlet in my life, as it is truly my down time.

The most fun news of the week is that after 9 months of looking at dirt out the back windows of the house, we finally have a lawn! Sod is a magical thing. One minute there is dirt, the next a beautiful green carpet. I am so grateful to have the majority of the dirt in the yard covered over, as there is already notably less dirt in the house and certainly in the pool. The yard is almost done. Just the vegetable garden and play area left to do, along with some perimeter planting in the spring. Patience, patience!

Speaking of the pool, I have to state that it was definitely a good investment. The kids are still swimming about 3 days a week (and no, it's not heated right now!). They warm up in the hot tub, which I do heat for them when they ask, and then swim a bit and get right back in the hot tub. Here is proof, a photo of the kids swimming in November. I wouldn't have believed it, but am thrilled. If you're going to build a pool, you certainly hope it will not sit unused. I am no longer worried about that here!

Fall is beautiful, and I am enjoying the cooler days and the colorful leaves. Life is good. As these crazy weeks wrap up, I hope to be more regular with the blog. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Saint Francis has a Black Eye

Seriously. Look for yourself.

Since today is All Saints Day, my school-going kids got to dress as their favorite saint. Any student wearing a saint costume got to lead the mass procession, carrying the banner of the saint that their grade chose. I can't tell you how funny it was to see Sam (a.k.a. Saint Francis) leading the Kindergarten procession, with his hands piously pressed together, sporting a shiner. I'm thinking this has to be a first. Or, maybe not, who knows?!

Lovely Lindsey was Saint Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes (chosen in honor of our former parish, Saint Rita). I couldn't figure out a humane way to affix a thorn to her forehead, so I skipped it. Jay encouraged her to grow very, very comfortable in her habit since she will be joining the convent before she is ever allowed to date. That poor girl.

As weary as this mother is after Halloween followed by new costumes for All Saints Day, it is all worth it for photo ops like these. Oh, and for the record...the shiner is a result of a jump house collision with his older brother. And that boy barely even noticed he was injured. Go figure!

Saturday, October 28, 2006


New toy that harmoniously occupies all the children for hours: $20

Batteries to run the toy, per week: $3

Finally having a child old enough to assemble and operate the toy without any help whatsoever: priceless

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tooth Fairy Trouble

* * *

The tooth fairy has been called to our house twice in one week. For the same child, as you can see.

The tooth fairy is normally very predictable in our house. She leaves a dollar, sometimes two for really important teeth, and shows up without fail when a tooth is to be collected. However, she was definitely not at the top of her game this week. Perhaps she is pregnant, too, and has a very bad case of baby brain. Who knows.

For her first visit of the week, imagine how great her surprise must have been when she arrived to find that she did not have any small bills. None. To further complicate the scenario, the tooth pillow that Lindsey uses does not accommodate coin of any kind. What is a fairy to do? After flying madly all over the house at an indecent hour, searching laundry, junk drawers and even the floor of the car in desperation (as I'm sure she must have done), she located a $5 bill.

So great must have been the fairy's relief that she found something smaller than a $20, that she did not fully consider the ramifications of "upping the ante" on the value of teeth in the Di Silvestri household. Foolishly, she replaced the tooth with the $5 and flew off into the night. Good thing she wasn't around to see the reaction of the children the next morning, especially the reaction of an older child who had lost plenty of teeth and never discovered such a booty under his own pillow. This same child, who has saved the last several of his teeth rather than leaving them for the fairy, is suddenly reconsidering the wisdom of this, and may leave 4 or 5 at once, hoping for a tidy profit. Hmmm, troublesome indeed.

The fairy's second call was far worse, nothing short of disastrous. For the first time, perhaps in the whole of tooth history, she did not show up. Can you believe it? How can the tooth fairy not show up at all?! I was awakened by a heartbroken, sobbing daughter whose tooth remained right where she had left it the night before. I can assure you, I felt worse than she did. What kind of world are we living in when the tooth fairy does not show up to a legitimate call?

I began to deal with this terrible situation by swiftly kicking my husband under the covers. I had been out late at choir practice the night before and was not properly informed upon my return home that a tooth had been placed under a pillow. Even as I gave him a death glare, I was aware that at least half of the responsibility was mine. I knew she had lost the tooth earlier in the day; I was just not present at bedtime to be reminded that it went under the pillow. At any rate, while I can't be certain of the nature of the connection, it does seem clear that if a mother is not aware of the status of a tooth under a pillow, the fairy does not come. So, regardless of whose fault it was that mom did not know, she simply did not. And this did not bode well for Lindsey.

I quickly explained to my devastated daughter that the tooth fairy must have been VERY BUSY and simply could not get to her tooth. Since other children had not already lost a tooth earlier in the week as Lindsey had, she had to get theirs first and she simply ran out of nighttime hours to complete her travels. I encouraged Lindsey to leave the tooth again. This pacified her greatly, and that night the fairy returned. With single bills this time. Disaster averted.

The responsibilities of parenthood weigh heavily, do they not? It is not just the big things (like development of character, education and faith formation) that we must concern ourselves with. It is also the little things, the things that make childhood the wonderful, imaginative journey that it should be.

Parenting. It's not for wimps.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

If This Doesn't Convince Someone, Nothing Will

Last night Jay and I went to a dinner benefit for the Antelope Valley Pregnancy Counseling Center. I expected a nice evening out. I expected to greet people we know from our parish. I expected to feel good about supporting an organization that helps women (girls, often) decide to keep their babies rather than abort them. What I didn't expect was to be so moved by the keynote speaker, Gianna Jessen.

Gianna's mother attempted to abort her at 7 months. Gianna miraculously survived 18 hours of essentially being burned alive in a concentrated saline solution and was born alive, to everyone's surprise, weighing only 2lbs. Had the abortionist been on duty the morning she was born, he would have strangled her. At the time, this would have been perfectly legal since she was considered to be nothing more than the product of a botched abortion.

Gianna has cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen deprivation in the womb, but she considers this a gift, as it allows her to rely more completely on Jesus. She walks with a severe limp but runs marathons, so determined is she. She sings beautifully and has dedicated her life to telling her story so that others may not be so poorly treated.

It is difficult to explain how moved I was by her story, as I felt my new daughter kicking inside me. Once, long ago, I bought into the pro-choice culture. I believed in clumps of tissue, products of conception, and a woman's "right" to do whatever she wanted with her own body. It was only after I became pregnant myself for the first time, with Joey, that I understood that it wasn't my body at all--my baby's body was his own. We were just sharing the same space temporarily, and he relied on me completely to keep him safe. His rights were equal to mine, for, from the moment he was conceived, he was a person.

My change in opinion on abortion changed well prior to my conversion to Catholicism, so I certainly don't believe one has to be Catholic--or even religious at all--to be pro-life. One simply has to think clearly about what an abortion really is. Our culture has so clouded this issue that we tend to think that personal freedoms are more important than life itself. But at its base level, this attitude is nothing more than selfishness. It is saying that my life is more important than yours. This is a very dangerous mindset. Yes, babies are sometimes very inconvenient. But they are real people, real lives in the making. I truly believe that anyone who has an abortion or supports the idea of an abortion does so only because they really don't understand what it is they are doing. Because if they understood, they could never do it, any more than they could kill a person who was sitting too close to them on the subway.

Thanks, in part, to Gianna's testimony, there is now a law protecting babies born alive, even during attempted abortions. We have a long way to go still and many muddy issues to resolve, but it's a start. I am not naive. I know that abortions will still take place, even if they are illegal. But we are a people who believe legal and moral mean the same thing. Perhaps outlawing something is the first tiny step in slowly changing our society's view about something that has silently creeped and completely seeped into our collective justification system.

Ending life is wrong, objectively. I don't judge people who don't share this opinion, as many people I love dearly do not, as once I did not. But I am not ashamed to say that I hope and pray that this "tolerance" that has changed in meaning from "loving those who think differently from you" to "everything is equal and OK" ends and soon.

If everyone could hear Gianna speak, abortion would be a very rare thing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Waiting for Perspective

I had a complaint from my husband today that my blog has been a little thin of late. Of course, he is right.

The truth is, I haven't felt much like writing lately. There has been only one topic on my mind, and I have not been ready to tackle it. I have been waiting for some perspective on a very sad situation, and it has taken its time in showing up. But I do believe it has finally arrived, so now I will write with the peace I have hitherto been lacking, and move on with life--and blogging.

Last month I lost a friend. Not an acquaintance, but a friend whose life is completely intertwined with mine. Someone who lives down the street from me, whose children are the same ages and in the same schools and classes as mine. A person I spoke with every day, multiple times a day. The person I sought out at every social event. The godmother of my oldest son.

This friendship was lost suddenly and completely, and there wasn't a thing I could do to stop it. You see, the reason this person no longer will speak to me, or even look at me, is because our husbands (who were longtime friends in their own right) had a business disagreement. Granted, a very serious one, but a business disagreement nonetheless.

I have been over this and over this in my head for weeks. At first, it didn't make any sense to me. How could I lose a friend because my husband argued with hers? One day we were having coffee in her kitchen while our children played and the next she wouldn't even look at me when she passed me in the school parking lot. She and I had no harsh words. Nothing changed between us. We went from friendship to silence in a matter of hours.

In the first two weeks, I made three attempts to make things right with her. I emailed her, tried unsuccessfully to speak with her, then wrote her a letter. I received no response at all. This was so very hurtful to me. I did nothing to her, did not change myself at all, and I was severed from her life. I simply could not fathom it. So our husbands argued about business. What could this possibly have to do with her and I? And then there are the children. My children are simply wrecked over the loss of their playmates, her children. How can I explain this to them? I can't.

One of the hardest things for me to accept has been that this behavior is not like her at all. She is not a cold, unfeeling person. She is not cruel. She is a compassionate, giving person, a good Christian, and I don't believe that ignoring me fits in with who she is. Something was not adding up.

After my befuddlement faded a bit, I became angry. I can see now that this was wounded pride more than anything. No matter what I did, I could not fix or change the situation I was in. I had no control over any of it. My mother gave me some good advice during this time. "Honestly pray for her" she said, "and it will soften your heart." She was right, of course. When I first attempted this, I found I could not genuinely do it because I wanted her to hurt as she had hurt me. Why should she have peace when I had none? As soon as I realized this, I understood that something was wrong with me and my attitude that needed fixing. After that realization, the peace began to come and my prayers for her happiness and peace became genuine.

As the weeks have gone by, and after much prayer, my view is changing. The disagreement our husbands had was, at its base level, about integrity and morality. They disagreed about what the right thing to do was in a business situation, and each felt completely sure that the other was not only wrong, but had, for this situation at least, lost his moral compass. As I realized that in supporting my husband I was essentially making a character statement about hers, I understood--although still do not agree--why she cannot bear to look at me. If she believes that I think her husband has less than 100% integrity, how could she continue a friendship with me? I can truly understand this. But why we couldn't or can't talk about this I still don't understand. Because she has not asked, she can only guess how I might be feeling.

Conversely, I suppose I should not wish to be friends with someone who might be thinking that my husband is anything less than 100% honorable, as she may be thinking. But this is not the case. I am so sure that my husband's decisions are prayerful and moral to the best of his ability, that I am not threatened by the opinions of others where he is concerned. Plus, the husbands' business is their business. Not being in the situation myself, I can only assume that they both did their best in a difficult circumstance.

With my new perspective I now see that our friendship probably cannot continue. There has been too much damage, and trust lost by all. If it were to continue, it would never be the same.

I am truly and honestly glad that she is so supportive of her husband that she has gone to extremes to prove it. He absolutely should have a wife that is totally on his side--every husband should. Her marriage is so much more important than our friendship and if cutting herself off from me helps keep it strong, I am more than willing to sacrifice our friendship for this greater good. I wish she could simultaneously support her husband and be my friend, but I understand, at least, why she might not be able to.

As time goes on, I will continue to attempt to greet her pleasantly when I see her and hope for, at least, a peaceful coexistence. I know too much about her to be indifferent, and will always wish the best for her and her family. I no longer feel anger...only sadness. But this, too, will fade.

Perspective. It's a good thing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

From the Back of the Van

A conversation between Julia (our preschooler) and Lindsey (our 1st grader) referencing Sam (our Kindergartener):

Julia: Did you know that Sydney in my class is a Kindergartener and she comes to my school every day?

Lindsey: Does she do what Sam does?

Julia (after a processing pause): No. She's nice.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Answered Prayers

Today it is official. Jay has happily accepted a new job back in the industry he loves: software. He is excited about the opportunity, the people he will be working with, and the future in general. I am delighted that he will be mostly working from home (which means that he will be home for dinner instead of commuting!). I am also much relieved that we can stay put in our desert community, which I have come to appreciate and enjoy on so many levels.

This has been a strange year of discovery, learning what is truly important, and, most of all, remembering to trust completely in God when nothing else makes sense at all. As always, He was there all along and has provided for us in His way and in His time. It has been a roller coaster of a year, but we are feeling as if we have finally landed where we are supposed to be, and that all is right with our world once again.

Thank you to all of you who were praying for this successful outcome. Please continue to pray for Jay as he adjusts to his new job. I, the proud wife, am confident he will be a wonderful addition to his new company and can't wait to see what he accomplishes there.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Pattern Continues

I don't know how this is happening, because I certainly couldn't plan it even if I tried. Nevertheless, I am delighted to announce that our alternating gender pattern of children continues, and we are expecting a daughter in February. Happily, all seems normal with her development and she is exactly the size she should be.

I, for one, like knowing the gender of the baby as soon as possible, especially since it is now mostly a matter of real estate for us...who is going to bunk with who and how many dressers we are going to need in each room. No matter what the news, boy or girl, I have been delighted every time with whatever has been God's choice for us. But now that we know about this one, I can plan accordingly. Names, clothes, car seat cover, etc. What can I say, I am a practical person!

The kids like knowing the gender, too. The girls are happy to know their "teams" will be even now (although the boys are a little disappointed that they won't achieve total domination), and they like referring to their "sister" instead of "the baby".

I have done it both ways in the past. Twice I did not know the gender until the baby was born, so I know the delight of the surprise as well. But I am over this now, and simply want to know. And now we do. Hooray!

So many blessings, so much joy. Thank you, God.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tony the Pet

At this stage in his development, Tony is more of a pet than a person.

Now, this may cause some of you humanists out there to gasp, but before you flog me for a violation of baby rights, let me assure you that we certainly don't treat him like a pet...he just fondly reminds us of one.

Tony spends most of his day crusing around the house independently, much like an enthusiastic puppy, visiting room-to-room to see who is where and what is going on. Tony doesn't walk yet but is a very proficient crawler, so instead of hearing approaching footsteps, we hear a shuffle-shuffle sound, like the scraping of paws along the floor.

Joey and I, in particular, enjoy this approaching sound when we are in the middle of lessons, and usually stop what we are doing to await his appearance in the doorway. We are generally rewarded with a huge smile and a distorted "hi" when he sees us.

Tony spends a few minutes in each room he visits, tossing items out of drawers, emptying the trash can, generally making a mess, and then moves on to see who is in the next room and what they are doing there. It is impossible to describe what a joy this is to us all.

Jay will be in his office, typing away on his computer, when he is happily distracted by his small visitor. After a hug and some slobbery open-mouthed Tony kisses that only a parent could love (and tend to remind one of dog kisses), he is off again, on his endless rounds of exploration.

Each day, Tony finds me in the shower, where his routine consists of coming into the bathroom, pressing his lips against the glass door, turning the water on in the adjoining tub (wreaking havok with my water supply), spreading my various toiletries across the floor, and joyfully moving on. It is almost as if he considers it his guard dog duty to be sure everything is as it should be and all things happen in their proper order.

He never fails to find me when I am unloading the dishwasher, and often travels long distances to be sure I never engage in this task alone. He loves to "help" by removing the silverware and spreading it around the kitchen, so that it needs to be put right back in for the next cycle. The way he comes at breakneck speed when he hears the dishwasher door open reminds me of how cats come sprinting through the neighborhood when they hear the can opener.

Tony is lightning fast down the stairs when he hears the refrigerator open, so he won't miss an opportunity to unload the ketchup and mustard bottles. A bit like a dog runs to the door if he hears his leash rattle.

And don't forget the laundry rotations, where, for whatever reason, he finds the placing of the lint ball in the trash can offensive and promtly removes it for me, as a cat goes after a ball of knitting yarn put away in its bag.

Tony moves through the house with the innocence and joy of a dog, and the independence and assuredness of a cat. He doesn't yet speak, motors on all fours, and greets us with the baby equivalent of a wagging tail. He is delighted to discover a ball to bat around, and chews on things he can get his hands on with the relish of a shoe-eating puppy. And, he looks just as guilty when a passerby identifies contraband and promptly removes it from his mouth (for instance, the lollipop he pilfered from his sister's party favor bag that she foolishly left within his reach).

Before we know it, Tony will be a walking and talking toddler. Until then, I am enjoying the pet-like person that he is right now. For no dog or cat I can imagine will ever delight me half as much with their pet antics as Tony does with his.

Friday, September 29, 2006

On the Culinary Defensive

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going out for a lovely dinner. This is a rare treat for me and I was so excited that I went online days ahead of time and read the menu, trying to decide what I was going to have. There were so many choices that I couldn't make up my mind. Pastas of all kinds, soups and salads, delicious-sounding chicken dishes, Mahi Mahi...what was it going to be?

When we arrived at the restaurant, a well-meaning person who has known me a long time said, "I'm sorry, Suzanne, that they don't have burgers on the menu. I hope you can find something to eat."

I was stunned. How could anyone think I would order a burger, even if it were on the menu, when there were so many wonderful choices? I began to think this over, and did not like what I came up with.

It dawned on me that, for years, I have been defending myself against my father-in-law's (not in any way malicious) belief that I only eat at McDonald's. For the record, it is only when I have to, or when I have a strange pregnancy craving. Further, I realized that our good friends and former neighbors deemed me to be impossible to cook for and love to make fun of my eating habits. For the record, they are excellent cooks--and hunters--who make some mighty adventurous foods and, no, I actually won't eat some of the things they make. But I love plenty of others!

Suddenly, it became clear. I must defend myself and quickly before this becomes the stuff of folklore and legend, from which I will never recover! Somehow, I have developed a reputation for being a culinary simpleton. The equivalent of a Twinkie in a world of creme brulee. I have officially suffered enough abuse on this count and attempt here to set the record straight.

I will be the first to admit that my gastronomic origins were less than impressive. I was a kid who liked about 5 things, to my mother's chagrin. My mother loves to cook and has long belonged to local gourmet clubs, where a group of people gather periodically to try out cooking and enjoying exotic cuisines. For years this did not impress me.

When I was about 9 years old, I distinctly remember falling out of my chair at dinner, making undignified gagging noises, when a Chinese exchange student who was living with us prepared an authentic meal. I remember this so distinctly because of the punishment I received, although it did little to endear Chinese cuisine to me.

When I was about 11, I went on a wonderful tour of Thailand. I spent most of the time searching out the few restaurants in Bangkok that served Corn Flakes or hot dogs while my mother shook her head in despair over having such a pathetic excuse for a daughter.

Around age 13 I went with my gymnastics coach on a sports exchange to China. Through Beijing, Shanghai and Canton I survived on steamed rice, losing several pounds over 3 weeks, while I counted the days until our arrival in Hong Kong, where I raced across the border and straight into a McDonald's.

I am the first to admit that these beginnings were less than glamorous. But people do change.

In my early 20s I began to genuinely like ethnic food. Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, not to mention Italian (and I'm talking capers and garlic here, not marinara). I began to like condiments on my food and all sorts of vegetables. But on one thing I remained consistent: meat.

Now, my rules for meat are not difficult to understand. I like chicken, beef and some pork so long as it is well-cooked and processed enough so that I cannot tell what it originally looked like. Call me squeamish, crazy, whatever you want, but I like ground beef, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and not much else. I don't want to see fat, bones and certainly not any tendons or tubes of any kind. I won't eat lamb, bear, reindeer, rabbit, or anything else that, to me, tastes gamey and like, well, dead meat. I can say this because, yes, I have tried these things. Once, and that was enough.

Not liking meat (and, admittedly, most kinds of fish) does not make me a foodie oaf. It makes me a quasi-vegetarian. I love pasta with all sorts of vegetables and seasonings. I adore bean dishes. Shrimp and scallops (so long as they are ultra fresh) thrill me. There are few restaurants where I can't find something to enjoy. Even the deep pit BBQ places my carnivore husband loves have chopped beef sandwiches, which I can enjoy with sauces and plenty of pickles.

Let's be clear. You will never see me biting the heads off of crawfish and sucking out the juices. I'm not the one gnawing on the giant turkey bone at the Renaissance Fair. And I don't relish dripping, bloody roasts of any kind. But if you happen to have me for dinner some time and you serve Osso Bucco, don't worry. I will love the sides. And, didn't you know man can thrive on bread and good company alone?

Yes, I enjoy a good burger and various other fast food offerings from places like Subway, Taco Bell, Carl's Jr. (McDonald's is at the bottom of my fast food list, except for the fries, which I love). But I don't ONLY enjoy these things. I would always prefer a salad or pasta dish, a good bowl of soup or a grilled sandwich. Going out for a good meal is a joy. Being served one at the house of a friend, even more so, no matter what is served.

I hope this sets the record straight. I, for one, feel much better!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Jesus Party

Today Sam, age 5, asked how long it would be until his next birthday. I had to tell him it would be 11 months still.

"Too bad, because I already know what kind of party I want to have," he said. "A Jesus party!"

This pleasantly surprised me, so I stopped and asked for more information.

"We'll play Pin the Wings on the Angel," he began, "and we'll put a nativity scene on the cake."

"Oh!" chimed in Lindsey, "I have an idea. Let's get favor bags that look like the cape that boy had where the roses left a picture of Mary."

"You mean the Virgin of Guadalupe." I clarified.

The planning went on for about 10 more minutes and then the kids went off to play.

Just as I was feeling thoroughly satisfied that my 5 year old loved Jesus so much that he would do the honor of theming his birthday party after Him, and just as I finished convincing myself that I was doing a good job of raising Godly children, Sam came back.

"Actually," he said, "I think I'm going to have a ninja party, and the pinata will be a bad guy whose head flies off when you bash him. That's how the candy will come out."

I knew it was too good to be true.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Good Weather, Happy People

I don't think there is anyone happier than me that fall is officially here. Here in the desert, we have long, hot summers, long, cold winters and about 20 minutes of delightful fall and/or spring weather in between. We are currently enjoying our few moments of loveliness, and I am appreciating each one.

It is not so cold that we must lug around jackets, but not so hot that I need to be sure I have a gallon of water along to prevent dehydration. Sitting in either the sun or the shade works fine, depending on how heavy our clothes are. Kids can really run and play without falling over with heat exhaustion, yet they don't catch cold the minute they stop because the sweat freezes on them.

I used to take this kind of weather for granted, having grown up around Santa Barbara, where it is perfect nearly every day. But now I know what a gift it is, and realize how much my mood is tied to the weather. Everything is easier when the weather is suitable.

Fall is my favorite season, and I am getting ready to turn on the oven, light the fires, and cozy up with good books (OK, maybe that part is in my dreams, but one can hope, right?). The leaves will turn their brilliant colors soon.

Our choir is practicing Christmas music (already!) and, unlike last year, I am welcoming the pending season. Life is more settled for us now so I can focus more on why we celebrate Christmas instead of all the things I have to do because of it.

Although life is never perfect and problems persist, it is easy to find happiness amidst it all when the weather is good. Here's to a nice, long autumn in the desert!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


For today, a few questions I have been pondering.

Why do one year olds with runny noses play contentedly all day until the exact minute you put on a pair of black pants for a meeting, and then decide to pull up on your leg and wipe their noses all over you?

Why is the grocery bag your little helper drops always the one with eggs in it?

Why do schools allow children to have chocolate milk on picture day?

Why, when your child is very well-behaved in class, do teachers move the worst-behaved child in the class to sit right next door? Do they think your child's good behavior will rub off on the poorly-behaved child? I'm inclined to think the opposite will be true and my hereto well-behaved child is about to get busted for messing around in class.

Why do groups host mandatory "informational" meetings that are interminable, require the hiring of a babysitter and could have easily been handled with a memo?

Why do terrible fires create such beautiful sunsets for those in the neighboring valley? Well, for this one, at least, I have an answer. Out of everything, comes some good, as is God's wonderful plan.

As for the rest of them...who knows?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

This and That

In the "She's Either Really Smart or Really Not, I Can't Tell Which" category:

Mom (observing 3 year-old Julia jumping off the arm of the recliner chair): Julia! You know better that that! We don't jump off furniture.

Julia (looking apologetic): Yes, mom.

A minute passes, while I am speaking with an adult and my attention turns away from the living room.

I refocus on the living room and see Julia perched once again in her jumping position.

Mom (in her "I Really Mean It" voice): Julia! I don't want to see you do that ever again.

Julia (no longer feigning apology and looking completely exasperated): Well, stop looking at me!

Now, why didn't I think of that? No witness, no crime. Smart girl or dumb criminal? You decide.


Speaking of dumb criminals, I can't stop laughing about my friend's 7 year old son who got in big trouble this week at his small Catholic school for carving his name into one of the freshly refinished picnic tables during lunch. He is the only one with his name in the school, so it wasn't hard for the yard duty to figure out who to punish. No, he didn't really think that one through.

I should clarify that the reason I am laughing is NOT because I think this will never happen to any of my children. As a matter of fact, this situation reminds me of something one of my children in particular might do someday. I suppose I am laughing because it is endearing and a good reminder that children are not adults and really do not have the same reasoning capacity. But, whatever the reason, I am still laughing.


Finally, in the "Shameless Maternal Bragging" category, I can't stop myself from reporting that the Green Monsters (U-6 AYSO soccer for those keeping track) have, after a sad and scoreless first game, posted a score this week. Two goals, both knocked in by my very own Sam "the animal" Di Silvestri. Now, I know this is U-6, there are really no scores kept, and I am supposed to acknowledge that this was entirely a team effort. So, forgive me when I say, "Woo-hoo, my kid can play soccer!!!" But he can, and I am glad for him because it makes him happy

I should probably mention that the second goal, had they been keeping real score, wouldn't have actually counted due to the illegal nature of the throw that preceded it. To be more specific, Sam was throwing in an out-of-bounds ball and took a running start with it that carried him about 6 feet into the playing field before he let go of the ball. This positioned him nicely for a solo run all the way down the field for a completely unfettered goal. He was so proud and had no idea he had done anything illegal because of the kind opposing coach who let it slide with only a muttered, "Hey, I don't think that really counts." Sam's complete determinism amused us all.

I can hardly wait to see what happens next week.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Middle Aged

Today is my birthday. I am 35. Officially middle-aged, if I am not mistaken.

As my years pass, I have noticed a natural tendency to shift my perception of what old is. 60 is the new 30 as far as I'm concerned, since it is now becoming clear that someday I will likely actually be 60. When I am 50, I am guessing 80 will be the new 40. Self preservation, perhaps, but also familiarity and a higher comfort level that getting old isn't really all that bad. What the body loses, the mind (at least at this point) gains in comfort, wisdom and maturity. I would never go backwards in age for a youthful body--it's not worth it!

Faith, of course, plays a huge role in how comfortable I am with getting older. I am now absolutely positive that the really good part starts at the end of this life, so what is there to dread, really? This position sheds light on why we celebrate birthdays, a.k.a. aging, at all.

My kids (with help from grandma) baked me a cake this afternoon. All on their own, they planned a impromptu "party" for me that included homemade streamers cut out and strewn all over the floor and a game of musical chairs completely set up and administered by them. They jumped out and surprised me with a Happy Birthday song when I arrived home and gave me the best, most sincere hugs and kisses I can ever remember receiving from them. Could there be anything better?

This little party was a complete surprise to me (in fact, I had a doctor's appointment planned in the afternoon that I completely missed due to my delight). When the kids woke up, they did not know it was my birthday until Jay told them, and they figured out after school, on their own, what they wanted to do for me. I loved their spontaneity, creativity, and the way they gave of themselves so purely. I will never forget this, as it meant more than any planned party ever could have.

I went out to lunch with my parents at my favorite restaurant (Japanese, where they cook on the table in front of you), and had phone calls, well wishes and unexpected gifts from good friends and family alike. I have another celebration to look forward to with my in-laws tomorrow. But best of all, Joey had a really good school day. Few struggles, high accuracy the first time through everything, work completed in a timely manner. One of the best gifts of the day! How can I bottle this?!

I suppose it is exactly because every day is not like a good birthday that makes one so very special. But the very best elements of today--kids, husband, family, friends and faith--are part of my everyday life. Lucky, lucky me.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Dose of Reality

It can be troublesome, being both teacher and mom:

(as I'm tucking Joey in for bed tonight...)

Me: Let's have a good day of school tomorrow, OK?
Joey: I can't choose that. It just happens or doesn't.
Me: Hmmm (with a smile, because I believe him 100% and appreciate his honesty)
Joey: I love you, mom. I wanted to say that now because I might hate you tomorrow.
Me: Yes, I suppose you might, so let's enjoy this moment, shall we?

I'm not sure why, but I really enjoyed this moment.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Firsts for Sam

The last few weeks have been filled with "firsts" for Sam. It's almost too much for a pregnant, emotional mother to take all at once!

First Day of Kindergarten

I can hardly believe that my 3rd child has begun school. Yet, here is the proof, as Sam and Lindsey were ready to walk out the door for their first day as a Kindergartener and a First Grader. Lindsey has been so sweet with Sam, showing him the ropes of the school and giving him lots of tips about his teacher and classroom, which were hers only a few short months ago.

First Pledge of Allegience in Class

No one here is threatening to take out "one nation under God", thank goodness! Rather, it was with gusto that the new Kindergarten class recited the Pledge of Allegience, causing even non-hormonal mothers to reach for the Kleenex.

First Game of First Real Sports Team

Sam is officially a Green Monster, as he is playing soccer for the first time. While his team did not fare so well today against the seemingly bionic Rattlesnakes, Sam himself made an excellent showing, earning the nickname "animal" from his coach. Could I be prouder? Not a chance. More than anything, it was his broad grin throughout the game that brought me joy.

As an aside, we brought chairs to sit on during the game, but as we settled into them we noticed that Tony was screaming and reaching to get out of his stroller. So we let him out and what do you think he did? Shoved his mother right out of her seat and claimed it for himself, happily watching most of the game perched in his very own lawn chair. Now, who could have predicted that? Next time, he gets his own chair, since I am now washing grass stains out of the seat of my shorts.

Welcome to boyhood, Sam. You are not a preschooler anymore. Now, give your poor mother a rest before you grow up any more, OK?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Grateful for Grandparents

This week Danielle Bean is hosting a discussion on gratitude, so I was inspired to post on this as well. Specifically, on how grateful I am for the children's grandparents (and step-grandparents) and the roles they play in our lives.

I am fortunate enough to have my mother and mother-in-law both within a few miles of my house, and my father just over an hour away. It is a rare day that passes when the kids don't see one (or more) of their grandparents. One or another is always calling, asking if I need help with the children or if so-and-so wants to do this-or-that. This is a joy to us all, children, grandparents and parents alike.

I honestly don't know how I would raise such a large family and be able to do all I do without their help. Babysitting in the quantities they provide would cost a fortune (as well as being inconceivable in general). Because of their help, Tony and Julia get loving attention most homeschool mornings while I focus on Joey. I get to sing in the church choir and regularly volunteer at the kids' school. Most important, the kids get one-on-one time where they can really be individuals, both with me and with their various grandparents, who each bring out something unique and wonderful in the children. This extended family of mine reminds me of the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child". It really does, and I am so happy that my village literally surrounds me.

I always have someone to call if I need to go to the doctor, a parent teacher conference, or Christmas shopping. The biggest bonus of all is that since there are so many grandparents nearby, I can split the kids up so no one person gets the burden of five all at once (well, very ofen, anyway)!

Unfortunately, my father-in-law lives far away (in Guadalajara, Mexico) so we don't get to see him as much as we would like, but even through this distance we feel his love and offer ours.

Thank you, grandparents, for loving the children in your unique and unconditional way. Thank you for encouraging their interests and skills, and for giving them experiences I simply don't have the time or energy to give. Thank you for helping me every time I ask (and so many times even before I ask). Thank you, step-grandparents, for loving the children as if they were your own flesh and blood. Thank you, all of you, for the joy you bring us. We love each of you very much.

Monday, September 04, 2006

My Budding Narcissist

He can't talk, yet he sings. He can't stand unassisted, yet he performs with gusto. I think we're in trouble.

Yes, Joey's sing-along karaoke system has found new life in Tony, who crawls at breakneck speed from wherever he is in the house at the first sound of its switch being thrown. Upon arrival, he wrests the microphone from whomever was silly enough to turn it on when Tony is on the loose and proceeds to make loud, echoing "aaaaahhhhh" sounds for inconceivable stretches of time. He then howls in protest when, at last our tolerance has been exceeded, and someone turns it off.

Indeed, we were in need of a new sound to add to our cacophony...and now we have it. Watch out, American Idol, 2021!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Friday Family Movie Night--High School Musical

I know it isn't Friday anymore (no matter how much I wish it might be) but I had to go back and post about our wonderful Friday night movie, High School Musical. It was so good that we had an encore presentation tonight.

I didn't know very much about this movie when I rented it, only that I had heard quite a bit of "parent buzz" about it. All reviews had been favorable and assured that it was appropriate for kids of all ages, so I gave it a shot. I'm so glad I did!

It is about a boy and girl who break out of their usual roles of basketball player and academic decathalete to audition for the high school musical. This has all sorts of social ramifications for them that ultimately result in a feel-good film with a message about being who you really are, not just what people expect you to be.

The music is very catchy. The kids were singing along almost immediately, and I heard the songs all weekend long. (I must admit, I sang them too.) There is a character for both boys and girls to identify with, so no gender wars sprung out over it being a "girl" or a "boy" movie. Both parents and kids liked it. There was absolutely nothing offensive or even uncomfortable in the film. No bad language, no inappropriate sensuality or innuendos, nothing. WHY CAN'T THEY MAKE MORE MOVIES LIKE THIS?!

Think of it as a totally clean "Grease". Albeit not quite as entertaining, but really good nonetheless.

I give it an A++, my highest rating for a family film.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Homeschool Week in Review

As I close my first week of homeschooling Joey, there is only one word to describe me: exhausted.

I am left wondering, how do people do this with more than one child at home? My hat goes off to all of you multiple-children homeschoolers out there, because this is a lot of work, both physical and mental, and I can't imagine multiplying it over several children, grade levels, subjects and curriculum.

Physically, it is about 5 hours perched next to my son's desk since he is currently unable to complete even a little work without me sitting next to him every second. (We are going to work on independent study, pronto!) In addition, it is about an hour and a half each evening preparing the next day's lesson plans and materials.

But it isn't the physical part that is so exhausting. (I figured the physical part would be about like this, at least at first.) It is the mental part that leaves me begging for a nap each afternoon shortly after lunch. The mental strain is not the course work itself--after all, this is 3rd grade. Rather, it is figuring out how to encourage, motivate, correct, push and ultimately be solely responsible for my child's education, all while building his self-esteem. Whoa. This is heavy stuff.

An example: spelling did not go well this week. My dilemma: how do I show my child, who really practiced his words throughout the week, that he got only 8 out of 20 correct on his test and present this in an encouraging, positive manner that makes him want to get right back on the horse? Especially since he missed most of them by one letter only and I was so proud of how close he came! A dilemma indeed, since any 3rd grader knows 8 out of 20 is a dismal performance. And this is just the beginning, because as soon as this is navigated I must look at my curriculum, my teaching style and all the work we did all week to see where I went wrong and how I must fix it and fast! It is like shooting darts in the dark, praying that you pop a few balloons.

Overall, though, a lot went well this week. We got through the work we were supposed to, and without too much struggle. All lesson assessments were passed easily (except for spelling of course) and the one math lesson Joey had trouble grasping ended up with his lightbulb going on at the end, which was incredibly rewarding to me. I can already see how happy he is to be home and I absolutely believe that it was the right decision to do this.

So why am I so tired? Where is that energy borne of conviction and determination that a homeschooling mom is entitled to? Anytime it decides to take up residence in me, I welcome it.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Something Fly Lady Forgot to Mention

It is my observation that sticky rice and noodles are far, far easier to clean off a high chair (not to mention a tile floor) when they have had a few hours to dry out. When dry, they simply sweep up. Not so when they are gluey wet.

Knowing this, do you think I always rush to clean them right up so my kitchen shines each night before bed? Sometimes.

Sometimes not.

Sorry, Fly Lady. I still love you!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

"Five People" Meme

Michelle, the author of one of my favorite Catholic mom blogs called Rosetta Stone, has "tagged" me to complete the following meme. So, here I go!

"If you could meet and have a deep conversation with any five people on earth, living or dead, from any time period, who would they be?" (Explaining why is optional.)

Name five people from each of the following categories: Saints, Those in the Process of Being Canonized, Heroes from your native country, Authors/Writers, celebrities.

Five Saints:

1. Mary, Mother of God
2. St. Josemaria Escriva
3. St. Anthony of Padua
4. St. Joseph
5. St. Paul the Apostle

Those in the Process of Being Canonized:

1. Pope John Paul II
2. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
3. Blessed Junipero Serra
4. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
5. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Five U.S. Heroes:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. Anyone on Titanic who gave up their place on a lifeboat to save someone else
3. The firefighters and police officers who gave their lives saving others, especially on 9/11
4. Parents who adopt troubled or special needs children, like Barbara Curtis
5. Joe Montana

Five Authors/Writers:

1. Kimberly Hahn
2. Michael Cumbie (granted, a speaker more than a writer)
3. Danielle Bean
4. James Stenson
5. Marla Cilley (Fly Lady)

Five Celebrities:

1. Dr. Laura
2. Ronn Owens (KGO Radio, San Francisco)
3. Mel Gibson (even and especially now)
4. Bill Clinton (clearly not in the "American Heroes" section, but fascinating nonetheless!)
5. Simon Cowell (can he really be that grumpy and cynical all the time?)

There you are: my answers, for what they're worth. This was actually educational for me as I learned a lot about some of the "blesseds" that I did not know. I had to do some reasearch to answer that one!

This was a lot harder than it seemed, as many of the celebrities and authors I enjoy watching/reading I would not actually want to meet nor have a conversation with! Which should probably tell me something about how I spend my "entertainment" time...but I'll think about that later.

If anyone would like to fill this meme out for themselves, please do so either in the comments section here or on your own blog. I would love to see your answers too!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Appreciating My Husband

I have been consumed of late with appreciation for the husband I have in Jay. With every year of our marriage I become more aware of just how amazing he is and how lucky I am that he chose me too. Now, I am not trying to make anyone nauseous here, but I just can't help waxing poetic for a few minutes. So, consider yourself warned and proceed with caution!

For the first time in our married life, Jay is looking for a job. For more than 10 years he was with the same company (although it was acquired multiple times during his employ), and we became used to that stability. His industry was software/professional services and he was very good at what he did.

Last year we embarked upon an adventure and Jay joined a family business as a real estate broker. Although there were many wonderful things about being part of this business, he realized after about a year that he really missed his former career and wanted to go back to it. Hence the job search.

For several weeks now, Jay has been pounding the pavement, so to speak, looking for the right opportunity. I know this is very stressful for him, as he has a lot of pressure being the sole provider of our large and ever-growing family. But only rarely have I seen the toll this must be taking on him. He has been playing with the kids, taking advantage of his time around the house to make repairs and generally help me with meals and the children, all the while maintaining an active and professional job search.

I know that I am witnessing the actions of a man who truly has the peace of Christ. At no time, even when seemingly excellent job prospects have disintegrated and disappointed, has his faith wavered. He carries on with the absolute certainty that God will provide in accordance with His will. And his calmness and trust is contagious. I, too, know that everything will be fine, whatever the future holds for us.

This summer could have been awful. No one would have blamed Jay if he had been grumpy and withdrawn, stressed and secluded. But instead he was the opposite of all of these things. He helped me through the worst of my nausea, changed Tony's diaper more frequently than I did, was happy to lifeguard the children while working on his internet job search so I could go grocery shopping. He was with us more this summer than he has been in years, and we have all blossomed as a result of his presence.

There is a book that describes The Five Love Languages that people speak. My love language is "Acts of Service" which means that I feel most loved when Jay does things to help me. Things like filling up my car with gas when he's out, watching the kids so I can go to Costco alone, hanging shelves or unloading the dishwasher tell me he loves me more than words or gifts ever could. He has been speaking my love language all summer long and this must be why my heart is overflowing.

We are hopeful that Jay's job search is nearing its end (prayers are requested and appreciated!), and we will be grateful when our future is secured and known once again. But I will never regret this summer, this summer that could have been the worst summer ever, because it ended up being priceless for our family. There is no amount of money I would rather have than this time we had with Jay.

Father Tom, our priest, has a homily about a child who described the saints (whom he knew from their images on the stained glass windows in the church) as "people who let the light shine through them." This is how I think of Jay. He lets the light of Christ shine right through him to illuminate the lives of those around him.

Thank you, God, for my husband.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Middle-of-the-Week Family Movie Night: Back to the Future

In celebration of the last week of summer, we have been going a little crazy around here. That means that we have had pizza (gasp!) on days other than Friday and family movie night (brace yourself!) more than once a week.

School next week is going to be a shock for all of us, I think.

That being said, Joey and I really enjoyed our movie tonight. The classic Back to the Future, starring a very young Michael J. Fox, was thoroughly enjoyable for us both. The younger kids fell asleep 15 minutes in, which was fine because they wouldn't have grasped the concept of time travel and altering the future anyway. But Joey did, and it was really fun for me to see him get his head around this sometimes complicated idea.

Aside from a bad word here and there (WHY do they ruin otherwise perfectly good movies in this way?!) and an event in a parked car that was suggestive more than explicit, there was nothing I found offensive in this film. The kids knew Christopher Lloyd as the voice of "Hacker" in Cyberchase and got a kick out of seeing him in the flesh. Plus, there was plenty of physical comedy mixed in with the plot to delight kids of all ages.

We may be watching this one again in the morning before it goes back to Blockbuster. Because, after all, it is the last week of summer.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Back to School

I've decided that school is far more work for the parents than it is for the students. And I'm not taking about homeschooling, either (that's another story entirely). Right now, I'm talking about regular school.

A few years ago Staples (or Office Depot, I forget which) had a commercial that they ran in August and September with the song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" playing throughout. Parents were skipping through the store throwing school supplies in the basket while the kids were walking sulkily behind. Jay and I used to think that was so funny. What parent wouldn't be excited about sending the kids back to school after a long summer of too much together time? Well, that was before I had school aged kids, and I'm not laughing anymore.

School is, for parents, a marathon that begins with a sprint. This week and last, I have been doing my sprint. I have taken the kids to the doctor, held them down for their rounds of vaccines and badgered the doctors to fill out the proper heath forms. I have beaten my way through the crowds at Target to a picked-over school supplies area, clutching my list of teacher-requested items and checking each off as I toss the things in the basket. I have cleaned out closets and resized clothes, taking stock of what is salvageable. I have purchased new uniform items, mended old ones, and tried pair after pair of shoes on the kids, making sure that they can put them on by themselves and that there are absolutely no "sharp things" or "itchy spots" to bring trouble down the road. I have assembled earthquake kits with loving notes and books to keep the kids occupied until I can reach them in case of emergency. I have negotiated with the children over which themed backpacks and lunch boxes are appropriate for kindergarten (or any grade, for that matter). And you know what? I am ready for summer again.

I am definitely not marathon-ready. Yet, that is what is in front of me. Nine months of field trip forms, homework packets, lunches and more lunches, keeping track of credits left on milk cards and which teacher allows which items at snack time. Then there are the special events. Halloween costumes and parties, valentines (oh, the dreaded valentines), teacher gifts at Christmas time, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Not to mention the waking at the crack of dawn to get everyone fed and in uniform by 7:30.

All this is not worth the few hours of relative peace that the emptier house provides. Bring back summer! Bring back lazy days of hanging around the house, swimming and doing basically nothing. Would it be wrong to allow my children to grow up to be uneducated sloths because their mother was too lazy to send them back to school? OK, so maybe that is taking it too far. But I'm just saying it sounds pretty good right about now.