Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hits and Misses

Like all the rest of us, Santa wins some and he loses some.

Take, for example, the simple game of Uno that he left in Sam's stocking. This is a winner, pure and simple. We all enjoyed playing it together tonight and are left looking forward to the next go-round.

In sharp contrast, we have the Baby Alive that he brought for Julia. I don't know what he was thinking. This baby is constantly hungry, eats disgusting glop and then actually poops it out into her diaper. She went through her entire supply in the first 6 hours Julia had her. Does Santa not know that we have two real babies here that do this? This is not an area in which we needed a simulation.

Again in the "hit" category is the giant bed he brought for Trooper. Trooper loves it and no longer leaves fur balls on my family room rug. The dog is happy, I am happy. The kids are happy because Santa remembered the dog. This is all good.

On the other hand, we have the take along castle he brought for Sam. The box boasted that it had a gazillion pieces, as if that was a plus. These pieces are now spread throughout my house with no hope of ever being reunited with one another in their entirety. Sigh.

Ah, well, we can't blame Santa. He's only human. (Or IS he? Hmmm...)

A Belated Merry Christmas!

Between preparations and recovery, I did not get this posted when I intended to, but the sentiment remains the same: Merry Christmas to all of my friends in the blogosphere!

I hope your Christmas was as lovely as ours has been and continues to be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quote of the Day

Julia, in a fit of four year-old defiance:

"I am going to do what I want and nothing is going to stop me!"

(Pause.)

"Except a spanking."

Monday, December 17, 2007

True Humility

As a mother of six young children, I am never lacking opportunities to practice the virtue of humility; my children humble me constantly. Yet, there is nothing quite as humiliating for me as a trip to the carwash.

I always go to the same carwash because it is cheap, fast and fairly friendly. I can't tell if the quality is great because, given what I start with, there is only so much they can do. Nevertheless, it works for me, so there I go.

I am quite certain that they know me and my van by now. I am sure they must pray, every time they see me drive by, "Please, God, don't let THAT turn into our driveway today!" When I do turn in, I am guessing that the workers are busy calling in favors, changing their workstations around and working whatever deal they can, just so long as they don't end up being the poor sap stuck on vacuum duty for my vehicle. Perhaps they use me as a hazing ritual for new employees.

And, really, I can't blame them if they do. By the time I carve out the time to go to the carwash, I can assure you that my van is disgusting. The amount of crumbs on the floor could feed a small country. The trash could cave in a landfill. And did I mention that the cats pee in my car whenever a child leaves the door open? I might actually quit the carwash job rather than vacuum my own car. It is that bad.

Do you want to know the scariest part? Before I even get to the carwash, you can be sure I have invested nearly an hour cleaning the jackets, shoes, socks, wrappers, crafts, school notices, books, toys and cups out of the three rows. Worst of all, I do this fairly regularly.

So far, I've only mentioned the inside. Want to know what the rest of the car looks like? Outside, the kids have written their names and "Wash Me" in the dust on three sides, top and bottom. The car-length scratches from somebody's toy car stand out, even beneath all the dust, like a garland of silver tinsel on a Christmas tree. To top it all off I am missing a hubcap, as if I needed any more help looking like I should be playing a banjo on my front porch.

YUCK!

Some days I wonder, what is wrong with me that I let this get so bad? Why don't I discipline the children more about what they leave in the car and what they bring in the house? Why do I let them eat in the car, play cards in the car, take their shoes off in the car?! But I know the answer...I do what I can, where I can, and I fight the most important battles. If I tried to fight them all, there would be no peace in my family. For me, the car is one of the areas I am not willing to fight, because by the time we get home from wherever we have been, I am generally exhausted and the kids can't wait to get out of the car. This is not a good combination for the state of our car, but often it's great for my sanity to see them dash away into the house, especially after a long time in the car together. So what's a mom to do? Be humbled by the car washers for now, I guess.

I must thank my dear friend who sent me this link a few days ago, to let me know that my situation is not all that unusual. I laughed so hard I actually cried. It made today's car wash visit, well, a little less humiliating.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Story of Christmas

She gave birth to her firstborn son...


...and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.


Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.


But a sword will pierce your own soul too.


Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.


What a beautiful narration of the Christmas miracle, as presented by the 72 three and four year olds at Mission Bell Preschool. Are you thinking I cried as I watched? You bet I did.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Nine Months Old Already


And then some! I have been so distracted by Thanksgiving and Christmas that I almost left off a month in Isabella's first year posts. Since this is the only baby book she currently has, I must not fail!

At any rate, my nine month old baby finally has a tooth, has discovered the fun of tossing out the plastic cups from their oh-so-reachable drawer and loves to "help" me unload the dishwasher. She is everywhere, constantly in motion. But best of all, she has a brilliant smile that lights up her entire face and, consequently, mine.

Although I do not have evidence of this smile in the above photo, I was so pleased with her cute little outfit that I had to post it anyway. Plus, she hardly ever sticks her tongue out anymore, so this may be the last evidence of that baby habit that had us so concerned.

Happy nine months, Isabella!

Monday, December 03, 2007

I Just Don't Get It

Why, oh why, would a car sit in the Costco parking lot, watching me unload a cart very full of groceries (and a number of small children) for more than 10 minutes, with its blinker persistently letting me know it is waiting for my parking spot, when there are a number of spots open about 6-8 slots down from mine? Or one row over? HOW LAZY ARE YOU PEOPLE?!

(Sorry. Had to rant, just a little.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mmm, Mmm Good

I love IKEA. It is one of the world's greatest shopping experiences. Things are bargain priced, unique and useful, and the selection is plentiful. The bathrooms are set up for children. There is a check-in playground. There are even kid activity kiosks in areas where a mom might get bogged down and wish to thoughtfully consider a purchase for more than 30 seconds. Say, for instance, in the window treatment section, where I happily spent a good 15 minutes today, even with 4 children in tow.

But even better than all of these things is the IKEA cafeteria. The meatballs with cream gravy and lingonberry jam are absolutely delicious, and with kids' meals priced at just $1.99, what could be better?

Not much, in my opinion.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mother Mary...Or, More Correctly, Mother OF Mary

Julia has been cast as Mary in her preschool's Christmas pageant. This is a really, REALLY big deal at her school, let me tell you.

For months now, as soon as people learn that Julia has switched to Mission Bell preschool, I have been hearing, "Wait until the Christmas Pageant, you are going to LOVE it!"

Now, I am really, truly not one of those stage moms who pushes. As long as my kids are happy with what they are doing, I am happy. But I could not help but catch the enthusiasm of the teachers when they gave me the news at pick up time today. All three of them gushed over her, saying how perfect she was for their Mary. They pointed out how similar her facial features and hair were to the likeness of Mary most often portrayed and how her natural mothering way was perfect for the role. They handed me a pre-made costume (THANK YOU!), complete with hair clips, and a dialogue sheet to practice lines with her at home, and sent me on my way. By the time I walked out of the preschool, I was puffed up like a peacock.

I believe there is little I will ever look forward to seeing as much as I am looking forward to this performance. There are three preschool classes of about 20 kids each that are all coming together for this one pageant. The 3 year olds will be the angels and lambs while the 4 year olds tackle the subtleties of the more complex roles. I can't stop thinking of that book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever where the whole thing is a disaster, but even if it is, how could it be anything other than a completely adorable disaster? I truly can't wait to see it. This would be true no matter what role Julia was playing, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled to see her cast as Mary.

Naturally, I'll post pictures. I might even have to figure out the whole video link thing. (But don't hold your breath for that one!) In the meantime, I am enjoying this holy influence on my occasionally-somewhat-less-than-holy 4 year old daughter. May it live on, long beyond Christmas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy New Year!

It was Fall Luncheon time at Sacred Heart School again today. This year's theme was "Happy Holidays". Each of the 10 tables celebrated a different holiday, and ours was New Year.

Here we are, the hostesses with the mostesses. We are the same five who put together China last year and had a great time working together again.



Here is the whole length of the table. It runs from the champagne fountain at one end, to the painting of Times Square in the back, seating 40 guests in between. Most of the guests sat at our table last year as well, so we were serving a friendly crowd.



Here is a closer view of the table. Each guest received a split of champagne and a wrapped gift to take home, as well as a party blower. All the champagne-bottle centerpieces have labels with New Year's Resolutions on them.

As it turns out, the combination of flowing champagne and noise makers made our table one of the rowdiest...but that's the way we like it. It is a total hoot to see the old guard of our parish come out and party down in the middle of the afternoon.



As before, all three of our priests attended (our pastor, who sat at the "Christmas" table was wearing a "I believe in Santa Claus" hat, which was nice touch) along with a few Carmelite sisters, the principal, a good number of Knights, the former principal, at least half a dozen folks from my choir, and many, many others. It made for a diverse, fun group, though it was hardly intimate at 400 seated, plus their servers.

I, as madame treasurer, will be counting the money later in the week (give me a few days, I need to recover from this first!) but all indications are that we pulled off a very successful event for our kids.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Did It To Myself

Sam (as he is voraciously gulping down the shrimp scampi I made for dinner tonight):

"I don't want macaroni and cheese anymore. I just want this."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You Can Call Him Sir

Sir Knight, that is. Jay is now officially a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus.


Here he is, decked out in his full regalia (he's holding the plumed hat in front of him and you can't see the sword very well, but, trust me, it looks great).

Shortly after this photo was taken, I had the pleasure of dressing in formal attire and accompanying him to a dinner. I put makeup on, I curled my hair, I wore a floor-length gown that was not in any way nursing-friendly. It was great! It has been so long since I've dressed up like that that I forgot how fun it is. Sorry I cannot post a photo...if you can believe it, I forgot my camera for the weekend! Someone was kind enough to give me the one above.

At any rate, I am very happy for Jay and, indeed, happy for our whole family that we are involved in such a fine organization.

Now I guess you can say I'm a Lady of a Knight. (Hee hee hee)

An Angel and a Saint

I would be remiss if I did not also post our All Saints Day photos.

I cleverly recycled Sam's dragon slayer costume so Lindsey could be Joan of Arc.

Jay gently suggested that we might remove the horns in order to make a more authentic Saint Joan. However, since I had just spend several evenings frustrated lovingly hand-tacking these horns (did I mention that this fabric is thin and slippery?) to the costume, I was disinclined to do this. And, after all, since the only known portrait of Joan of Arc was long ago destroyed and we now have only artists' imaginative depictions of her likeness, can we really be sure that she didn't have horns on her armor? It must have taken a lot to make a 17 year old girl seem scary to the English and perhaps that's just what she needed to make her point.

At any rate, I regretted my decision when we went to the school mass and had no trouble picking Lindsey out in the crowded pews because her horns were the highest point in the row. Turns out, it's not really the best adornment for mass. Ah, well, live and learn.

Sam decided he wanted to be Saint Michael the Archangel.

While I applaud the decision overall, he decided to do this the day before when I, certain that he would be using the Franciscan robe we already had, was little in the mood to go find a white robe and wings for him. Now, who would have imagined that shopping for Halloween-type accessories on Halloween afternoon might be a little trying? I was unable, in three stops, to locate anything resembling a white robe (although, thankfully, I did find good wings), so there I was at my sewing machine at midnight, turning a Walmart sheet into a robe fit for an Archangel. Luckily, he looked so cute in it that I nearly immediately forgot my irritation.

So there you have it. An angel and a saint. Now if they'd just stay that way...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Halloween Photos (Part 2)

Sam required an entire post of his own because he simply could not choose what to be for Halloween. Over the course of the school day, trick or treating and two parties, he was four different things, one made just for him this year and the other three pulled out of the Halloween bins in the garage. Here I present to you the many faces of Sam.


His official costume: Dragon Slayer


America's pasttime...only this time he's the player and the ball!


Some scary, flashing red-eyed ghoul...



...and, of course, the classic dead motorcycle rider.


He's worse than the host of the Oscars. But at least he had fun.

Halloween Photos (Part 1)

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep...


...and found it!


Hermione casts a spell...


...and turns Joey into a rapper.

Tony is delighted to be Thomas.


(More photos on their way.)

Friday, November 02, 2007

It's All Monkey Business to Them

Driving along in the van yesterday, Jay and I began talking about his upcoming 4th degree exemplification in the Knights of Columbus. This event requires a tuxedo, so we were talking about different styles of shirts and which he would be wearing.

We were having trouble finding the style of shirt Jay needed, so Jay joked that he would just go bare chested. I said he would look like Chippendale if he did that. Joey, who of course had no idea what Chippendale is, said, "Actually, dad, I think you would look like Donkey Kong."

Not exactly the look Jay was hoping to achieve, but a very funny image nonetheless. I guess that's why they call it a monkey suit!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

8 Months Old Already


Happy, strong-willed, mobile, curious, wiggly, toothless, and very, very loved.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Election Without Consent

I don't remember running for office, yet I was elected anyway. Somehow, I have become the Mayor of Whineytown, and it is not an position I relish.

I suppose I should thank my consituents, without whom Whineytown would not exist. They are dedicated, beyond belief, to their society, so much so that their fearless leader cannot talk on the phone, visit the bathroom, or read her email without their near constant input.

Today's townhall meeting was held in the bathroom while I took my shower. I had hoped for a "closed door" meeting featuring just the chief executive, but Whineytown's citizens would not stand for this in their community. So commenced the "revolving door" meeting, one I would not recommend to other townships.

It began with poor, downtrodden citizen Lindsey, who was stuck in the dreaded time warp in between her visit to the pumpkin patch and her trip to the bowling alley. She whined and cried that she couldn't watch TV during the 40 minute stretch and WHAT WAS SHE GOING TO DO WITH HERSELF?! Further her commitment to being a good citizen of Whineytown, obviously.

Lindsey was not gone a full minute when in came outraged citizen Sam. Why, he wanted to know, did Lindsey get to go the the pumpkin patch when he didn't? It would be difficult for me to accurately represent his level of indignation at this injustice, so I won't even try. But suffice it to say that, even when reminded that he got to go to Universal Studios last week and she didn't, his commitment to the Whineytown name was so strong that he could not be deterred in the slightest.

Sam was passed on his way out the door by sobbing citizen Julia. Her complaint was that I had dared not inform her that I was going to be taking a shower. She reminded me strongly that she ALWAYS wants to know when I take a shower in case she wants to join me. WHY, WHY didn't I tell her?!

The irony of my response was lost on her: "Because I wanted to shower alone."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Drive-Time Amusements

Today I saw a sticker on the back of a car, the kind you have custom made at the kiosk in the mall.

It read "Truely Blessed".

All I could think was that, apparently, these people have all the blessings in the world, with one glaring exception: they aren't blessed with the ability to spell.

I laughed pretty hard at that one. It's nice I can crack myself up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Convergence

Joey is gone this week, on an educational road trip to New Mexico with my mom. As much as I miss him, it is also a nice break from the routine of homeschooling for me. I fantasized all last week about the things I would accomplish around the house while the other kids were at school...closets would be cleaned out, seasonal clothes would get sized and rotated, aromatic fall foods would bubble away on the stove each afternoon.

None of this is happening.

I forgot, when planning this week, that this is the time of year when all of my volunteer projects come to a head at the same moment. I have four different events or activities that all need my attention this week in a major way. This happened at this same time last year as well, but apparently I blocked it out. I am good with selective amnesia that way (obviously, or I wouldn't have so many kids!).

At any rate, I spent all day yesterday entering information for our school directory and all day today sewing chair covers for our school's fall luncheon. Last night I was taking care of treasurer duties at the school and tonight I was working on the church's capital campaign. I must admit, I love it all.

So, as usual, this week I will be a little behind in the laundry and a little panicked about what's for dinner. I thought I might actually have it in me to be the perfect homemaker for this brief moment in time, but I suppose it's all for the best. After all, the family would be in shock if this happened, and I would hate to put them through that.

I'm only thinking of them. Really!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Should Have Known Better

Murphy does not take vacations.

I know this for a fact, because I spent the entire day rolling around and moaning from my own case of the stomach flu while five of my children vomited unceasingly around me. All over the freshly cleaned carpets, when they could not make it to the bathroom in time.

Just as I was consoling myself with the fact that, at least, the carnage was confined to the upstairs and that the downstairs still looked fine, the dog, too, came down with it and threw up in the dining room. I didn't know dogs could even GET the flu.

Like I said yesterday, Murphy's Law is generally as reliable than the Law of Gravity. Silly me for thinking there could be an exception.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Murphy Must Be on Vacation

I say this because Murphy's Law, which I generally find to be as reliable as the Law of Gravity, failed us today.

And this is a good thing.

Because, by some miracle, our pre-scheduled, semi-annual carpet cleaning coincided nearly exactly with the end of poor Tony's 36-hour, 103 degree fever vomit-fest.

Now, how often does something that wonderful happen? Thanks, Murphy. Wherever you are.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lab Rats

Our family is participating in a research study at UCLA. Today Joey and I spent 7 hours taking all sorts of tests in an effort to help researchers identify a genetic component to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

We did all sorts of things, ranging from simple IQ tests to blood tests to brain wave mapping. We did mental math, we spelled, we made shapes with blocks. We stared at a dot on a computer screen with an electrode cap on our heads. We answered lots of questions about our learning styles and showed off our right-brain vs. left-brain dominance through the exercises that were administered. Surprisingly, we both had a lot of fun!

Joey was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago, by UCLA, after extensive testing to see why he was struggling in school. As his teacher, I strongly suspect that he is also dyslexic, although he has not been specifically tested for this. Joey is a very smart, creative boy, and it kills me to see how difficult academics are for him and how much he dislikes schoolwork of any kind. I am sure that I could do a better job of teaching him if only I knew what techniques might be more effective for his style of learning. It was with this in mind that I contacted UCLA again this month to see if they could help me, as I did not think to have them give me a formal diagnosis with all the paperwork to go with it the last time we were there.

Happily, I learned that UCLA was currently conducting a family genetic research study that would provide me with the comprehensive diagnosis and evaluation I need in order to request special help from Joey's virtual school. Although homeschooled, Joey is technically a public school student and therefore entitled to modified curriculum, testing assistance, and other resources that may help me to reach him better. I just have to have an official diagnosis to receive these services, so off we went to get one.

The researchers are focusing on several genetic markers they have identified in children with ADHD. They believe that this is a genetic disorder and are interested to see how it runs in families. Our family, with so many children, is a dream come true for them in terms of "studyability". Lindsey, Sam and Jay will go next week and do the same things Joey and I did today. At the end we will receive a report on how we all did and where we are on various evaluative spectrums. Fascinating stuff, this is.

I, for one, did not believe ADHD was a real disorder until I had a child that clearly had it. Like so many other people, I believed that ADHD was the result of bad or lazy parenting or largely created by drug companies to sell more pills. Now that I know better, I am happy to be part of research that not only validates this as a real condition, but that will lay the groundwork for acceptable educational alternatives for children who cannot succeed with traditional curriculum. Children with ADHD are generally very bright and often have special gifts to compensate for their difficulty in traditional education. The researchers I worked with today celebrate and support the child with ADHD rather than attempt to stifle or routinely medicate him, and I love that.

As much as I enjoyed today, I now have a new respect for research subjects. The whole thing was exhausting and mind-numbing! Rest assured that this rat is happy to be out of the maze and back in her cage for the night.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bridging the Gap



And what a gap it is. But not for long, thanks to the miracle of modern orthodontics.

Congratulations, Lindsey, on your new braces! We are glad we can help put things in line for you. But always remember: it is not straight teeth that make you beautiful. Your smile is already gorgeous, because it reflects the light that is inside of you.

Shine on, girl!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Big Boy Beds and Brotherly Love

It's official...Tony is a big boy, as evidenced by his transition from crib to bed.



This is a trying milestone for this mom, who likes the crib to double as "toddler jail" as needed. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time for all of us, as we get used to having Tony on the loose and delight with him in his new situation.

(Yes, yes, I know there are some outlets I need to cover. I'm on it.)

At any rate, part of the adventure of having a toddler free to climb out of bed whenever he chooses is the unexpected joy you experience when you see how he chooses to use that freedom.



Tonight Tony wanted to sleep with his big brother Sam, and nothing or no one was going to stop him. Certainly not those pesky crib bars (good riddance!). Not even Sam, who was less than thrilled, but reluctantly agreed to host him as long as I promised to move him as soon as he fell asleep, which I did.

My favorite part is the sippy cup he brought along and unceremoniously dumped at the top of Sam's bed. Toddler litter. Cute, in't it?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What I Did Today

At the beginning of the day, our sadly overlooked RV access side-of-the-house planting area looked like this:



As you can see, it is the only area I did not weed regularly throughout the season. I'm sure our immediate neighbor loved how it added to the curb appeal of his house, although to his credit he never mentioned a thing about it.

After a few hours of weeding, transplanting, raking and staking (and because I don't ever want to pull another weed as long as I live) it looked like this:


Now, it looks like this:



It's just a few bags of tan bark (and maybe a few more plants) short of a cared-for planter. I'm quite pleased.

That is a fruiting olive tree in the middle, by the way. I love these trees but never had one because they are so messy. However, this is a little used, off-to-the-side area for us, so I figured it could fruit and drop all it wanted here. Plus, I figure it is a nice thing to do for all the birds who already use our hot tub as a bird bath. They can come to the tree for their morning snack when they are finished bathing.

At any rate, I am truly surprised by how satisfying gardening can be. I never thought this would become a hobby of mine, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

Now let's just hope the plants survive the winter, because, according to anyone that knows my gardening track record, that would be the strangest thing of all!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Seven Months Old Already


Seven months of sweet snuggles, baby sighs and interrupted nights. Seven months of light-up-her-whole-face smiles, babbling and drool. Seven months of milestones, growth and diapers.

Seven months of sibling affection. Seven months of joy. Seven months of love.

No wonder seven is my lucky number.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Too Busy?

There is a fine line between being involved in your community and being, quite simply, too busy. I may not have actually crossed the line, but I am dancing close to it.

This week I have not been home one night. Every single night there has been a meeting or an event that I have had to attend (or, I should say, chosen to attend, because, really, it's all a choice, right?).

The kids don't seem to mind--they love having a babysitter and I have kept it varied for them by rotating through our stable of sitters this week. I, too, like the variety of the various activities, especially since we have actually managed to sit down for dinner as a family each night (except one) before I have run out the door. But tonight I have found myself asking, "When is one more thing too much?"

Not every week is this busy. This week we had two back to school nights and a lovely dinner at the rectory as extraordinary additions to the usual routine of choir practice, Opus Dei, sporting and scouting events. By themselves, each item we participate in, either ongoing or extraordinary, is worthy of our time. But when do we decide that the best use of our time is doing nothing at all beyond spending the evening together in our home?

I love being involved in our church and school. I love that our children ultimately benefit from our activities through the friendships we strike up with other involved families. However, I am sensing the onset of diminishing returns in all that we do, and I am hoping I can be a good judge of what I should say "no" to. I want to enrich my children's upbringing through community involvement, not neglect them in the name of volunteerism.

I guess that is what the downtime of summer is for--doing much more "nothing" and a lot less "something". But how to make it through the longer months of the school year? Well, I guess Nancy Reagan said it best: Just say no. Perhaps I should give it a try.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Idea of the Year

Our playroom is out of control. Baskets upon baskets of toys, most of which are no longer played with, fill so much of the space that there isn't enough room for the kids to enjoy the things they actually do use.

I know I have to go through and get rid of stuff, but I dread this task for many reasons. Most of all, I cringe from the inevitable chorus of "What happened to _______ ?" that is sure to start just as soon as the items have left the premises. Items I could have sworn the kids had forgotten about are suddenly their most favorite, treasured toys and I am the Wicked Witch of the West for sending them away.

As I was pondering this today, I had a rare and sudden flash of brilliance. Why not let the kids administer their own playroom thinning? Sounded good to me, so I decided to give it a try.

After dinner I had each child go upstairs and select three items from the playroom that they could part with. Next (and this is the good part) I had them get buy-in from their siblings on the items they had chosen. For example, if Lindsey couldn't bear to part with something Sam had chosen she had the right to veto it, but then she had to go choose something to replace it. They could veto things as many times as they wanted , but they were not free to go until they had collectively delivered me the whole lot of a dozen things.

Nothing like peer pressure to get a job done fast. In less than 5 minutes they had cheerfully delivered me a nice pile and got on with their evening. No tears, no surprises and I am on my way to a cleaner playroom. Now if I can just keep this up about 3 times a week, in a few months the playroom will be painlessly trimmed down.

Yes siree, I am feeling mighty proud of myself tonight. But we all know that pride cometh before a fall, so check in with me in a week or so to see how the mighty have fallen. Or simply failed to continue to enforce this really good idea, as the case may be.

Not that this has happened to me before or anything.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I Guess They Showed Me

What, exactly, I don't know, but clearly they were making a statement of some kind.

We have two cats that have been alive forever and show no signs they will be leaving us anytime soon. They used to be real pets, but, I'm embarrassed to admit, have been demoted over time to garage-dwelling nuisances. The birth of each child knocked them further down the status chain until they reached their current sorry state. We don't abuse them, we just don't give them much attention. This hasn't seemed to bother them. Until now.

Apparently, the cats are tired of their ranking in our family and have given some thought as to the best way to let me know it. I must admit, their methods are compelling, as they certainly have my attention.

For, as I pulled out Isabella's feeding blanket to use at a school board meeting tonight, I found that it was soaked with cat urine. Apparently, they had climbed in the car and left their mark after one of the children had left the door to the van open this afternoon.

Let me tell you, there is little more charming to bring to a school board meeting than a cat-urine soaked blanket and a hungry baby.

I think I'll buy some catnip the next time I'm at the store.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Escapade

We got out of Dodge this weekend.

As usual, I did not want to leave the house. But leave we did, all eight of us plus the dog. And, also as usual, I was glad we went and, yet, equally glad to return home. Some things never change.

We drove up to Northern California where we attended Jay's company picnic at a wonderful venue, Saratoga Springs, in the Silicon Valley. I had a chance to meet his coworkers for the first time, and the kids had a great time on the super sized inflatable slide, obstacle course and playground. There was a creek to explore, volleyball, swimming, balloon animals, face painting, glowing necklaces when it got dark, a bonfire and s'mores. Jay's company went all out for its families and we were appreciative recipients of their hospitality.

As if that wasn't enough fun for one weekend, we found out just as we were leaving that our old parish, not too far to the north in Marin County, was having its annual BBQ the very next day (today). We were coerced (twist our arm, really!) by our dear friends to stay over with them and attend, which we gladly did.

It was really nice to see everyone from our former parish and school. Although we have been to visit many times since our move south, this was the most comprehensive and concentrated gathering of the folks we so hated to leave when we moved. How lucky we are to be able to maintain contact with this second community, where we still feel completely at home. Joey, now a fourth grader, saw his kindergarten and first grade teachers there and was very warmly embraced by both (to his simultaneous delight and horror). All the kids caught up with friends from our annual week of Bible Camp and we adults were free to visit with old friends while they enjoyed yet another day of inflatable obstacle courses and face painting.

So here I sit, completely unprepared for the upcoming week, surrounded by unwashed clothes and unreviewed lesson plans, but totally content with our brief yet fabulous family get away.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Beginnings



Julia, as you can see, is delighted with her new preschool. Today was her first day as a student at Father Serra's Mission Bell Preschool, and it went very well.

After much debate, we decided to switch Julia to a new preschool this year. Though the reasons were all good ones, I still worried as to whether or not we had done the right thing, since she was happy and thriving at her previous Montessori school.

So far, so good, is all I can say. She is thrilled with her new school, and I am happy to have her at a Catholic preschool, close to our house, with children who will be in her Kindergarten class next year.

Although I am a supporter of the Montessori method, I do not see that any of my previous three children have been at an academic advantage as a result of their Montessori preschool years. Since my later-born children are so immersed in a child-friendly environment at home now, with plenty of opportunity to do things for themselves, I no longer think Montessori is the requirement that I once believed it to be.

So, we are experimenting with traditional preschool. My sense is that it will be a successful one. Happy new beginning, Julia!

Monday, September 03, 2007

And You Thought Nothing Grew in the Desert

Well, you're partially right. Nothing you WANT to grow in the desert grows naturally.

But weeds sure do.

Normally I love our big lot. I love that the kids have tons of room to run, that we have room for a pool and a play area, that we are not right on top of our neighbors. However, when I am weeding (which, incidentally, is all I seem to have been doing for weeks now), I am cursing our abundant land with every yank.

"Why," I think to myself as my back locks into a half-bent-over position, "didn't we find ourselves a nice home with only a patio? Or something in a high rise? Or, even better, a house with no landscaping at all aside from the natural vegetation that takes care of itself?" And then, I am inevitably reminded that we have six children that really like to run and tumble, and--oh, yeah--there IS no natural vegetation here other than Joshua trees, and the whole house decision makes sense once again.

I thought I was really clever as I began my weeding hour(s) today in my bathing suit. How refreshing it will be, I thought, to simply jump in the pool when I get too hot. And it WAS it pretty good idea, as the water felt heavenly when I did just that. However, I failed to account for the fact that my back never gets sun and that I would be bent over, back up to the sun, for quite some time. So, now I am enjoying a painful sunburn to go along with the crick in my back. And the strained hamstrings. And the thorns in my fingers because I was too lazy to go get my gloves.

But, hey, I sure got a lot of weeds. A whole yard-waste container full of them. And I can enjoy looking at my weed-free yard for a least three or four days before they all grow back again.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Momma Called the Doctor and the Doctor Said...

...that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Isabella's mouth or tongue and that, go figure, she probably just likes to stick it out. She should outgrow it within a few months.

Just what I thought, but it is good to know for sure.

If she is still doing it pervasively two months from now, they will regroup and do some basic screening to rule out rare, but possible, neurological causes. Thankfully, the doctor believes it is highly unlikely that we will get to that, and believes Isabella is a perfectly healthy little girl.

So there you have it, hot off the medical presses.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Six Months Old Already

Here are the results from Isabella's impromptu 6 month photo shoot:

Attempt #1 = Hmm. Not looking as bright as I might like. Let's try again.



Attempt #2: "Now why would you want to take a picture of the baby when you could have a picture of me instead?!" inquires Tony in not-so-many-words, as he positions himself strategically between Isabella and the camera and waits expectantly.


Attempt #3: Getting closer, but, seriously, can you stow the tongue for the official photo? You are awfully cute, though.


Attempt #4: The camera hog has wormed his way back, after several forceable removals on my part, this time with a hearty, "CHEEEEESE!"


Attempt #5: Thank goodness. We got one.



And just in time, too. Because...she's outta here!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Jesus Meme

4andcounting tagged me for this meme a shamefully long time ago, and I am finally getting around to doing it.

Why did it take so long, you ask? Because it is a toughie, that's why! It's one I really wanted to think about, and by the time I get to blogging at the end of the day, I don't have much coherent thought left. But tonight, half of my kids are at Sea World with grandma and I have enough iced tea in my system, so I am feeling up to the task.

I'm supposed to name 5 things I love about Jesus. There are so many choices that it is overwhelming for me to pick the 5 most meaningful, but here is my attempt:

1. He is Always With Me

I never feel alone, even when I am. I sense Jesus' presence all the time, wherever I am, and I chat with him throughout the day. He is with me when I am reading to the children, doing laundry, weeding the garden or chopping an onion. He is my constant companion, and I love that.

2. He Fills Me With Peace

When I am angry, frustrated or scared, all I have to do is focus on Jesus and ask for his peace and I feel it instantly. It fills me up, from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head, and is a physical as well as emotional sensation of release for me. I should never forget to do this when I am upset, yet, sadly, sometimes I do. Yet, when I ask earnestly and prepare myself to receive it, he delivers every time.

3. He Is At Once Fully Human and Fully Divine

This is such a great mystery, and I love to contemplate it. I turn his experiences around and around, wondering how this seemingly impossible combination worked. For example, as a fully human infant, he would have little awareness of the world around him, yet as our fully divine Lord, he must have always known who he was. How can this reconcile? I can't wait to find out.

4. He Came Down to Us Out of Love

When I say "came down" I am not speaking of the physical aspect of earth being below heaven. Rather, I mean that our creator, so far above us in all things, put himself here in the physical company of those not worthy to receive him. Not only that, but he gave himself many of the worst possible circumstances: poverty, riddicule, betrayal, faithlessness, hatred and, of course, the worst death imaginable. How ashamed I am to think of our dear Lord, who loves us so much, subjected to the cruel reception he received here on earth by those so far beneath him in every way. He could have been an earthly king, but he chose instead to give us a perfect example of where our values should be. So it makes perfect sense, yet still overwhelms me when I think of it. How loved we are.

5. He Remains With Us Physically

Although Jesus was assumed into heaven, he left us with the gift of the mass. Being fully human (and, of course, fully divine), he understands how important physical contact is to human beings. This is how we connect best. Knowing this, he arranged it so that, not only can we sit in his presence, but we can actually consume him. We can bring his body and blood into our own bodies every single day. There can be no greater intimacy.

* * * *

So, there you have it. Now you know why it took me so long!

Thanks for the tag, 4andcounting--I like doing memes.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Day of Triumphs and Milestones

For those keeping track, I thought I'd share some milestones and victories for our family.

Yesterday, Isabella crawled for the first time. She is not yet six months old, which makes her my youngest crawler yet, besting even Joey. After three babies that didn't crawl until 9 months and didn't walk until 16 or 17 months, I was quite honestly hoping that Isabella would follow suit and sit happily on her blanket for another few months at least. This is not to be my fate, however, and I am quickly picking up small choking hazards and hiding electrical cords.

She did this while we were at the baby shower of a friend of mine. I had placed her on the floor so I could concentrate on winning the word scramble shower game, and was--I'm embarrassed to admit--annoyed at the interruption when someone started saying, "Look, she's crawling!" I, who have been known to be a tad bit competitive when playing baby shower games, said something resembling, "Don't bother me now!" Enter me in the mothering hall of fame, will you? Anyway, congratulations, Isabella. Take your time cruising, OK?

Also in the milestones category, Isabella got her first taste of rice cereal today. I try to hold my babies off on the solids as long as possible for my own personal convenience. The sole nursing keeps my body offline a little longer, and the diapers get much smellier once solids are introduced. I have managed to make it about 7 months before starting solids with most of my kids. But this little one is ready. For awhile now, she has been grabbing for my food, voraciously sucking anything that resembles food, and getting frustrated with nursing (especially the privacy blanket, which she will simply not tolerate any longer). So, I plopped her in the high chair today, cued up the video camera and waited for the initial response all my kids have had to solids: confusion, thrusting the food back out and some cute yucky face expressions.

This did not happen.

Isabella saw the spoon coming, ripped it out of my hand, shoved it in her mouth, sucked it clean and then stared fixedly at the bowl, waiting for more. I couldn't believe it. She ate and ate like a pro. I didn't even need a bib, so efficient was she at sucking down anything that got even close to her mouth. Then, when I was sure she'd had enough, she shrieked in protest when I removed her from the high chair.

That's my girl. We're definitely related.

Now, in the shameless maternal bragging category, I have to report that Sam was in a karate tournament today and won both divisions he competed in. He came home, hid the medals in his closet and actually kept the secret until dinner time, when he shared it with his siblings at our traditional dinnertime 'round the table "how was your day" report. Both categories involved breaking pine boards with fists or kicks, and I can't believe he could even crack one, much less multiples. I am bursting with pride and happiness for my little dude so I could not resist sharing.

So, it's been a busy week for us Di Silvestris. Next up: back to school. Sigh.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More Magic

This time the magic is not scouting badge stickers...it's Magic Mountain, the Six Flags amusement park I took my kids to last week as a reward for good progress made in their summer reading program.

This mountain really is magic. I went there often while growing up, long before it was owned by Six Flags. I have seen it grow and change over the years, in both good and not-so-good ways. But I am here to tell you that the day we spent in the park together was nearly all good. We had so much fun!

One of the changes Six Flags has made in the park is to add a lot of new, "extreme" roller coasters. As someone who likes the classics, like Colossus and the Revolution, I look with suspicion at these metal giants, that are so bumpy and jerky that they are more painful than fun. However, when Joey begged and pleaded with me to go on one of the relatively new coasters called "X" with him, I agreed. I even waited an hour and twenty minutes to do it. I never, ever wait in lines that long. Except to make my kid happy.

Anyway, as we were getting on the ride I told Joey, "No ride on earth could be worth a wait like this one." When I got off, I said, "That one was worth every minute." And it was.



If you've ever been on the Zipper, a classic carnival ride, this might remind you of that. But this would be the Zipper on steroids. It whips you around, face down to the ground, except this time you are much higher, falling farther and there is no cage around you.

I loved it. And so did Joey. But it's most definitely not for the faint of heart.

Long live this magical mountain!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's A Girl Thing

Lindsey reached a very important milestone today, a rite of passage for most girls. She got her ears pierced!

This is my girl who doesn't like even to have her hair brushed and winces at relatively little pain. Yet, bravely she sat, enduring pain for beauty's sake, as all women eventually do to one degree or another.

I don't know what prompted it, but a few days ago she started asking to have them done. After I described the process and the discomfort level associated with it, I thought for sure she would postpone. But she was undeterred, so away we went to the Piercing Pagoda, and I watched her fight back her tears and fears while they machine gunned the posts into first one ear and then the other.

I was exactly her age when my ears were pierced, so I felt an extra close connection to her today. What fun we had picking her first earrings (little gold dolphins) and having lunch together afterward.

Congratulations, Lindsey. You are beautiful, inside and out.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Recovery of the Best Kind

I am here. All is well.

We have had guests non-stop for two weeks now (and I am so glad, what a wonderful two weeks it has been) and I have been too busy enjoying their company to do much else.

I am in recovery mode now...laundry, grocery shopping, summer reading with the kids, all the things I have neglected in favor of irreplaceable time with friends.

I'll be back in the groove soon.

P.S. 4 and counting, I saw your meme tag and will respond soon...I promise!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Happy Birthday, Sam!

Sam is 6 years old today. How can it be? I know, I know, I always say that on the kids' birthdays, but it's true. Only yesterday he was my toddler. What the heck happened?!

Sam celebrated his birthday with a karate-themed party on Sunday. Boys from his class, family and friends gathered for swimming, Asian finger foods and a karate demonstration by an 11 year old brown belt who was amazingly composed for his age...or any age for that matter! Thanks, Josh.

As you can see, I did not manage to get a great shot of Sam during his party, but I did manage to capture the embarrassingly large pinata before it showered the children with obscene amounts of candy. At Joey's birthday party back in May, we had a too-small pinata and ended up with crying children who did not get any. Jay, in particular, was scarred by this memory and made absolutely sure this would not happen again. I am certain there must be a happy medium in a pinata that is not nearly the same size as the birthday boy. But I digress.

Today we kept it simple, with a homemade cake (thanks for the help, girls) and Sam's choice for dinner (Mac 'n Cheese from a box--hey, at least it was easy!).

Sam is one of those rare, naturally peaceful people that is difficult to ruffle and almost always happy. He is low-maintenance, self-sufficient, and flexible. He has a "whatever you want!" kind of attitude that I could learn a lot from. He is enthusiastic, clever, funny and imaginative. He is an all-boy bundle of energy with, thankfully, a high tolerance for the pain the comes with his many bumps and bruises. He is a rough and tumble kid that is also one of our snuggliest. Sam is our resident narcolept, who plays hard and sleeps hard, succumbing instantly wherever and whenever fatigue strikes. This is one of our favorite Sam features.

Sam, this world is a better place because you are in it. You keep us all grounded and lift our spirits with your innocent joy. Watching you grow and learn, and develop your naturally kind heart and good character is a true privilege. I love you very much. Happy 6th birthday!

Monday, August 06, 2007

It Really Is Magic

I am oh-so grateful to the inventive folks over at Badge Magic.

Because, even though I enjoy sewing (and even do it from time to time), there is no way Lindsey's Brownie Uniform would look like this without them:


Rather, all these hard-earned patches would be sitting in a basket on my sewing table, waiting for their day in the sun, and poor Lindsey would be attending event after event with my apologies and promises that I really would sew them on soon.

Nor would Joey's, Sam's and Jay's Cub Scout shirts be properly adorned.


Because, really, with a Brownie, two Cub Scouts and a double Asst. Den Leader--so far!--in the house, who has the time to properly patch them all? Just changing the thread in my bobbin alone would take more time than cutting off and peeling half a dozen of these magic stickers.

I have been known to use them for karate uniform patches as well. Cheating, you say? So what!

Thanks, guys. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Yet Another Benefit of a Large Family

When you go to your parish BBQ and fill every single seat at the cake walk, you are definitely going home with a cake.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tempered Joy

I have just received news of the best and worst kind. My dear friends have welcomed a new baby and lost one at the very same time.

Please pray for baby Angelo, brand new here on earth, and his twin brother Benny, who is already in heaven.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Six Kids is Nothin'

Lindsey, Sam and I watched TLC's "16 Kids and Moving In" tonight with our mouths hanging open. This family is absolutely fascinating.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have 17 children. I liked Michelle immediately when the program opened with her quote, "Saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers." While I can't honestly say I'm sorry that it is a biological impossibility for me to approach numbers like this, I can definitely understand why having this many children would be a joy for someone.

This woman is amazing. She not only home schools the children, but has developed an organization system that makes it all look easy. The show we watched chronicles how the family built a 7000 square foot house to accommodate themselves nearly all on their own, with virtually no experience. Every kid down to age 8 had his or her own drill and knew how to operate it!

The house is an inspiration: 8 commercial washers and dryers, two kitchens (one totally commercial with a buffet-style tray slide!) and a tube slide from the boys' bedroom to the playroom. The communal family closet, located right next to the laundromat, has my wheels turning, for sure! Lindsey could not get past the 50 shelf pantry, which not only is bigger than our bedrooms, but also has a garage-style roll up door for easy delivery and unloading of the groceries, straight from the family bus.

I was very sad, during a search for more information on the Duggers, to read some of the comments people have put up about this beautiful family. There are some nasty, hateful, intolerant people out there! Certainly 17 children is not for everyone. But to see a family like this one, working in harmony, devoting themselves to God and each other, is a wonderful thing in my book. I'm quite certain each member of the Dugger family experiences a kind of happiness and peace that members of the "Stop Breeding" crowd will, sadly, never understand.

Michelle and Jim Bob, our family is rooting for you!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Homing Pigeon

This is what I've become in my middle age--a homing pigeon. I believe I, like the homing pigeon, could fly long distances on instinct alone to return to my very own nest. And I'll bet I could even find my way with several senses knocked out.

I used to long for vacations and time away from my regular routine, but with each passing year, it gets harder and harder to get me out of the house. I have become a curmudgeon who almost thinks leaving the house isn't worth any amount of pleasure I might receive by doing so. Any year now I am going to flip over entirely and never leave again. "I love my home, I love my nest, East or West my nest is best..."

I returned home tonight after 8 lovely days in Northern California, where my kids attended their now annual ritual of Bible Camp at our old parish. We had a fantastic time, as we always do when we visit with our dear, dear friends and former neighbors, but still I am delighted to be home again. Home in my own home. Where I have backstock on diapers and I know where my cell phone charger is. Where I understand how the remote controls work and how best to load the dishwasher. Where I know how to effectively diffuse the chaos that comes with having six children and a huge dog. Where I have my trusty pair of eyeglasses for those unfortunate days when I have an eye infection.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am an extremely social person. I would shrivel without time spent with my best girlfriends, eating too much and watching chick flicks (which can be done most effectively on overnight visits of course). My children share this social affinity and delight in slumber parties with the children of my best girlfriends. I will not deny them or me this pleasure. But it is getting harder for me to do this fluidly. Part of it is that I simply have to pack a lot more than I used to. Not just for the children, but for me too. I require more products as I age, and I am bound to forget something critical (eyeglasses, antibiotics, nursing pads, you name it!). Part of it is that I am used to being master of my own domain and it is hard for me to relax outside of my own routine. Regardless the cause, the end result is that the carefree days of tossing a few things in a suitcase and dashing out the door are behind me, I fear, for good. Packing requires high level mental effort for me now (and, let's face it, the faculties are fading fast).

However, once I reach my destination, I do love forgetting about the things that nag me when I'm home. Like unpaid bills, garbage collection schedules and all the projects I should be completing instead of watching The Devil Wears Prada and eating ice cream. When I'm at someone else's house, I can purely enjoy these things without guilt, and that alone is worth the packing hangover!

At this time, I must acknowledge my saints-on-earth friends are who continue to invite me and my brood to stampede through their homes. Try as we might, we are not a low impact family, especially with the drooling, king-size canine in tow. Just this week we took out a ceramic pie plate, a plunger, a bedroom carpet and a piggy bank, among other things. What the dog did not chew, the toddler threw. And this is not even to mention the clutter we overran the house with during our stay. And the volume of trash we produced in their meant-for-four-people trashcan. And, oh, the spills, the endless spills. Thank you, Tim, Tina, Kyle and Rebecca for having us in your home so graciously. And thank you to all my other friends and family members who have received us the same way for extended stays. You humble me with your hospitality, truly.

That said, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to have people stay at our house, indefinitely and in great numbers. Come one, come all. Let the homing pigeon stay in her nest and remain a social butterfly. Come to the desert. Come often and stay long. It's the same great company without the mess and destruction in your home. What could be better?!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Final Harry Potter Book... (don't worry, no spoilers here)

...is the reason I have not blogged all week. I have been devouring it, reading until 1 or 2 in the morning simply because I could not put it down.

I had an eye infection yesterday that completely shut down my right eye. Did that stop me? No. I squinted at the book through the other eye as I waited to see the doctor.

Everything in my life ground to a halt as I finished the book I have been breathlessly waiting for, thinking about, trying to predict, ever since the shocking conclusion to the Half Blood Prince.

I absolutely loved the Harry Potter books and am sad that this is last one. I can't remember the last time I was so excited to read! These books, meant for older kids but every bit as appealing to adults, are clever, funny, exciting and completely original. Though they are, at their most basic level, yet another stage for the classic battle of good versus evil, reading them seems to put me in the genre for the very first time.

J.K. Rowling did not disappoint in this, her final Harry Potter book I will not say anything at all that could possibly be a spoiler for someone who has not yet read the book, so all I will say is WOW! What a great ride these books have been and I am happy to have been a part of it.

As a faithful Catholic, I have no objection to these books. They are pure fiction. I don't think anyone who reads them could possibly think they are seriously advocating magic and witchcraft. Rather, they are a fantasy-trip through a fun, sometimes scary world where people can do all sorts things we have all wished we could do from time to time: disappear, silence others, automatically clean our homes and cook. This is no different from a flying fantasy in my view, and who hasn't wished they could fly!? Yes, the books are dark in places, as Harry and his friends try to conquer pure evil. But this is no different that the real evil that exists in our world. The message throughout the books is a good one: don't succumb to evil, even when it seems to be the easiest or only path. Instead, fight it against all odds and at any cost. Keep your guard up and stay true to truth. Isn't this exactly what I am trying to teach my children?

Thank you, J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, for the past 96 hours of pure, wonderful, fantasy. Now, back to the laundry.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Five Months Old Already

She sits up, she grabs for things...she even rocks back and forth on her knees, trying to figure out the whole crawling thing. How is it that the first year goes by so fast?

As you see, Isabella's tongue is still sticking out. This charming little habit is, apparently, not normal and her pediatrician has referred her to a specialist to see what is going on. She appears healthy in every way outside of this quirk, so they suspect it may be a jaw or mouth problem rather than anything systemic. I am still hopeful it is something she will just outgrow without medical intervention, but we will at least have her evaluated and see what the doctors think.

At any rate, another month, another growth spurt. Lovely Isabella cannot be stopped. Grow, girl, grow!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tony's Brush with Fame

I know, I know, two posts in a row about Tony, but I just had to report on his activities this evening because they brought me so much amusement.

This week the four oldest kids went to Vacation Bible School at my mom's church. She was the arts and crafts person, and was delighted to have her grandchildren in attendance at the program. Tonight the program ended with a BBQ and a little show consisting of songs and skits that the kids worked on all week.

As the show began, Tony sat eagerly in the front row, watching and listening attentively. About half way through the first song the kids began to march in time. If there is one thing Tony can do well, it is march. With a gleeful shout of "March!", Tony leaped from his seat and ran to join the performers, front and center. He marched and marched and tried to do the hand gestures right along with the big kids. He then applauded enthusiastically for himself when the song ended.

That would have been fine, adorable even, if he had just come and sit down and let the show continue from there. But Tony had experienced his first moment on stage and apparently just a moment was not going to be enough for him. He stayed put for song number two which, also, would have been fine if he had just followed along with the other children as he had in the last song.

But no.

A few verses in, Tony decided he didn't need the other performers and began systematically shoving them out of his way, trying to get them off stage. He knocked over one boy older than himself and then pinched Julia in an attempt to get her out of his way. All the while performing to the music.

Naturally, we had to put a stop to this so we ran up and tried to get him off stage. He wanted no part of that and, of course, limp noodled on us and had to be hauled off, shrieking, into another part of the church.

I should be embarrassed. Horrified, maybe. But instead I am just very, very amused. Tony was so cute, trying to get all the attention for himself, that I was in tears, laughing so hard I could hardly breathe.

Good thing we live so close to Hollywood, eh? :-)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, Tony

Tony is two years old today.

How did this happen? When did he change from a baby into a kid? Right under my nose he has morphed from a helpless infant into an independent, affectionate, determined, intelligent, funny person. Someone I love to spend time with. Someone I can't imagine my life without. Someone who brings unique joy to our family.

When I got married, I thought we would have four children. That number sounded like it would provide us with a nice, full house without too much undue chaos. Imagine if I had clung to that idea! Tony would not be here (not to mention Isabella). I am so thankful to Kimberly Hahn and her wonderful book Life Giving Love that totally changed my thinking about family planning and children. If I had never come across it, this precious child would likely not have been born.

A lot has changed in our lives in the two years since Tony joined our family. We moved to Southern California (from Marin County) when he was just two weeks old. That was a difficult time of change, loss and re-settling for me. But, just as Tony has transformed in two short years, so has the life of our family. Right along with him, we have grown strong and healthy in our new community (which is not so new anymore). We are better off for the changes we made around the time of Tony's birth just as surely as we are better off because of his presence. God, of course, knew what he was doing all along, even when we couldn't see it.

Tony, you are a joy to us all. Your laughter, hugs and kisses, games and determination endear you to us completely. You delight us and I can't imagine our lives, or this world, without you. Happy birthday, my little two year old. I am beyond priviledged to be your mommy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Saved, By the Gentleman In the Back

We went to a family wedding in Carmel on Sunday. It was a beautiful, traditional Jewish ceremony, one of those weddings where everyone in the room really feels how much the bride and groom love one another. I cried through much of it, and I'm not even pregnant!

While we wouldn't have missed it for the world, we were more than a little anxious about bringing six children, to this (or any!) wedding. The groom was Jay's step brother and we were especially concerned about reflecting well on Jay's mom and step dad. We wanted them to enjoy the wedding thoroughly without any scenes or distractions of any kind from our brood. We wanted them to be proud of our family in front of theirs.

So, it was with much preparation and caution that we approached the synagogue. The children were under strict instruction to behave, prepared in every way possible. The bride was kind enough to find someone to play with Tony on the nearby playground during the ceremony so we could relax and enjoy. Even though this significantly improved our chances of anonymity, it by no means guaranteed them, so we were still on eggshells.

Until, that is, we were saved by an elderly guest near the back.

In the middle of the ceremony, this gentleman called out something that I couldn't quite understand. I thought, crazily, that he said, "Who farted?", but I knew it couldn't be. It just couldn't. He was a respectable gentleman who had been nothing but polite in my past experiences with him. And no one would say that during a wedding, of course. So I shrugged it off, even as he got up and moved to another pew. A few people turned around and looked at him, but, like me, I don't believe they thought they heard correctly.

A few minutes later, he got up again and moved back to his original spot. After he was settled, at the critical moment when the couple was about to the seal the deal, he repeated it loud and clear: "Who farted?"

This time, more than a few people turned around. Some young adults began shaking silently with laughter. His wife gave him a swat on the arm and told him to be quiet. The bride and groom did not seem to notice, but just about everyone else did. It was at this moment that I smiled to myself and began to relax.

Because no matter what our kids did during the rest of the wedding or reception, it wasn't that. Someone else logged the entry for the most outrageously memorable moment of the wedding, and for this I am truly grateful.

Who knows what caused this normally well-mannered man to burst out with his question at the time that he did. He is a lovely man in our experience and this seemed out of character. Goodness knows I didn't wish to question his motives as I conversed with him at the reception. Whatever the cause, I am thankful that he lightened my experience, so long as it did not bother the bride and groom.

Yes, it was a wonderful wedding. In every way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cultural Transfer

As parents, it is our job to educate our children. We must be careful to expose them not only to the basics like reading, writing and arithmetic, but also to world cultures and the arts.

It is with this in mind that we took our children to the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo when we were passing through on Sunday. Being especially consciencious parents, we took them to the men's urinal. Even the girls.

It was a lesson in culture, art and physics, all in one convenient stop.

Friday, July 13, 2007

High Tech Toys

I didn't want them. I certainly don't need them. But now I don't want to live without them.

Jay got me an iPod for Mother's Day. At first, I protested the gift, saying how I never listen to music anymore, don't need anything of the sort and why did he get me such an expensive gift. What an ingrate I was.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I am listening to music again, for the first time in a decade, and I'm loving it! No more scratched CDs scattered through the car. No more changing CDs while driving to find the song the kids want. Now, when I remember a song I loved long ago I am just 30 seconds and 99 cents away from hearing it all I want. This thing is great! Besides the music, it has movies and photos too. A perfect mini screen for airplane rides. And I haven't even scratched the surface of Podcasts and books on tape. If there is anyone out there that doesn't have one of these babies yet, I say save up your birthday money and go get one. It's worth it.

Perhaps inspired by my new iPod-driven tech savvy, I finally traded in my 3+ year old mobile phone for a new one. Plan prices have come down during this time, and since my new, fancy, orange(!) phone was (nearly) free as my reward for being a Verizon customer for so long, I felt I could splurge the $5 a month for mobile web. I am now paying $5 LESS a month than I have been for the past 3 years and have a phone that flips open to reveal an entire, usable keyboard from which I can easily access my Yahoo email. I can hardly believe it. I know, I am showing my age by my amazement, but I can't help myself. I'm too excited! The phone has a camera nearly as good as my real camera, too, so I'll never be caught without one again. If you've been living with your phone for awhile, see if your provider will give you a new, cool one for free. I'm sure glad I did! After all, what can be more thrilling than being able to see who has commented on your blog while waiting to see your dental hygienist?

Now, don't even get me started on Tivo, the single greatest thing to happen to television since the remote. This is life-changing stuff. My kids have a very limited awareness of what commercials are, since they have been fast forwarding through pre-recorded, pre-approved programs all their lives. How did people raise children without this tool, I'd like to know. Imagine, never missing an episode of American Idol again! It can happen to you, I tell you.

I am guessing that there are those who read this blog who are not fans of technology. Some of you may not even have televisions. Though I admire your resourcefulness, I am not one you. I embrace technology. I love technology. It's so much fun!

Perhaps I have a little work to do in the "materialistic" category.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Family. Fun?

In the "Not As Fun As I Thought It Would Be" category, I have not one, not two, but THREE entries for today.

1. The kids earned Happy Meals for progress made in their summer reading program, so I took them out to redeem them today. They requested all different toys and actually got them (sometimes they all get the same thing and they don't like that) but then spent the entire meal time trading, arguing and crying over who got what toy and who wouldn't trade or trade back. Nothing says fun like multiple meltdowns in Burger King.

2. I used to make the kids' Halloween costumes back when I had just two and three kids. The last few years I have bought and reused costumes because I no longer have the time or the energy to make them. Last year the kids noticed that the homemade ones were better than the store bought ones and asked me to start making them again. I told the kids if they wanted homemade Halloween costumes, they had to ask me at the beginning of summer so I had time to make them. To my surprise, they remembered and asked me, right when school got out, to start sewing. So, today I thinned the herd and took just Joey and Sam to the fabric store to look at patterns and choose their costumes. (I will do the rest of them in later phases.)

Fun as this sounds, it was not. At first they couldn't find anything they liked. Then they found inappropriate or too difficult or too expensive things. Then, they couldn't decide on the proper fabric. Then, when the fabric was cut, they changed their mind and wanted to be something else (not a chance, bucko). Then, the baby's diaper blew out in a messy way, in the middle of the long fabric cutting line and she decided to scream about it for the rest of our visit. Next, one of the items I chose didn't have a price and we had to stand there while a slow-as-molasses sales person meandered back to see if she could find something similar to scan. (I finally sent Joey, who returned with the proper item before the tortoise had even rounded the first corner). Nothing but fun, I tell you. And it only continued as we got home and the "when will it be done" and "why aren't you working on it yet" questions began.

3. We all went bowling tonight. To be fair, overall it actually WAS pretty fun. But, when you are at home thinking about how great it will be for the whole family to be together out doing something so special and rare, you forget about some of the details. Like the toddler who, the second you aren't looking, rolls a ball down someone else's lane. And the pitcher of soda that was spilled nearly the instant it arrived, making everyone's bowling shoes sticky. And the mix up of the bowling order that caused one child to tank a frame on someone else's score, resulting in a bit of strong feedback from one child to another.

However, watching Tony trot to the edge of the lane, shove the ball down it, wait breathlessly to see if any pins fell down and finally shout, "Yay, Tony!" (accompanied by enthusiastic self-applause) made the entire experience worthwhile.

Yes, indeed. Family fun. Exactly as a sane person might have imagined it would be in the first place. But not a crazy optimist like me. An optimist who is already excited about our next family adventure.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"Hold Her"

That's what I have been hearing, over and over again the last few weeks: "Hold her. Hold her."

Meaning, "Please, mom, can I hold Isabella?"

So, I let him.


The scene is always quickly followed by Tony's cheerful and emphatic "Done!", sometimes even within 2 or 3 seconds.

But oh, how sweet those precious seconds are.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

That's My Boy

The one wearing the "England" shirt on Independence Day. David Beckham's jersey, to be exact, brought home from Jay's most recent visit to London.

He says he chose it because it was red, white and blue. Yet, when I pointed out he was supporting the very country from who we won the independence we were celebrating, he considered that to be a bonus rather than a problem. Not because he dislikes America. Not because our family is anything short of fiercely proud to be Americans. Just because he's Joey. (And I wouldn't have him any other way.)

My contrary child. I can't wait until he's 14.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

12 Years

Who knew 12 years ago today when I married Jay that I would love him more now than I did on that perfect, wonderful day? I didn't, because I didn't think it was possible. But, as it turns out, I do.

Because, 12 years ago, I did not know what an amazing father he would be. With the birth of each child, my wonder at his fathering abilities increases. I am grateful beyond words that God chose this man to be daddy to my children. For he is far more than their provider. He is their role model, their companion and playmate, their security and their beacon...much as he is all of these things and more to me.

12 years ago, I did not know how his devotion to God would grow, and how that would become the pillar of strength that keeps our family so strong and happy.

I did not know then, as I do now, how hard he would work to provide well for his family, both at his job and around the house. I did not know how unflappable and reassuring he would be when life threw unexpected curves our way.

How could I have known that he would put the needs of all of his dependents in front of his own? I hoped, but could not be sure, that he would still tell me he loves me every day. And he does.

12 years later, he is still taking out the garbage, agreeably eating whatever I cook and putting up with my eccentricities. Not to mention changing diapers, mowing the lawn and assembling whatever random thing enters the house. It is in these little day to day things, done willingly and with good cheer, that I feel his love most of all. Lucky, lucky me. Lucky ALL of us.

Happy anniversary, Jay.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Four Months Old Already

Plus almost a week! Time flies...

Anyway, Isabella is now old enough to enjoy what one of my friends called "baby Vegas", her very own station of fun to be enjoyed while mom is preparing dinner, rotating laundry, or whatever needs to be done without a baby in arms.

I couldn't get a great shot of her because she was so busy bouncing up and down and reaching for the toys, but at least you can see that her signature tongue is still frequently on display.

Jay will be assembling her crib this week. She has become such a nighttime scooter that she is becoming a hazard in our bed. She lodges herself in the space between the mattress and the headboard and tunnels through barrier pillows as well. It's about time the all night snack bar closes for her as well. We will all sleep better, I'm sure. But I still am always sad when this milestone arrives, because I love her snuggled next to me.

Happy 1/3 birthday, my growing girl!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Shouldn't Have Answered the Door Today

There is a boy who lives across the street from us who loves to come over and play. He is a nice enough kid, about 6 years old, who is an only child of dual working parents. He is alone a lot and likes the contrasting liveliness of our house. I welcome him over to play with the kids because I think it is good for him, and because my kids enjoy the addition of just about anyone to their mix.

Unfortunately, however, he is one of those kids you have to watch all the time because he seems to be lacking in common sense and the ability to follow directions. Most of the time my life gets easier when another child comes to play because it engages and occupies my children. But when this kid comes over it is work for me. Today was no exception.

It started with the dog. Our neighbor boy is a small child and claims to be afraid of the 200 pound puppy (now, who could believe THAT?!). So, I gave him very specific instructions about how to avoid engaging our playful giant. "Ignore him, don't run by him, pretend he's not there and he'll leave you alone." Simple enough, and quite effective when employed. So what does he do? Finds a squirt gun and walks straight up to the dog and starts shooting him in the mouth. Then he acts indignant when the dog runs after him barking. The boy was kindly corrected, took about a 10 minute break from this activity and then began anew. The second correction was not as kind and seemed to sink in.

Next came an aquatic adventure. The safety cover was off the pool because three of my kids were actively swimming when our friend arrived and continued to do so throughout his visit. Now, this boy cannot swim, so we've had many, many conversations with him about how it is NOT OK to come in our gate, walk by the pool, etc., etc. Luckily, I never considered for one second that any of this actually penetrated his consciousness and I watched him very carefully during this visit, even more carefully than usual because the pool was open. So, when I saw him approaching the deep end of the pool pushing a bicycle, I was already on my feet and headed his way when he inevitably plunged in, bike and all.

I am a trained lifeguard and water safety instructor (I even rescued a six year old boy back when it was my summer job), so I was never actually scared. It was not difficult to pull this spluttering, sinking, completely panicked child out of the water. No, I was not afraid. Just annoyed. REALLY ANNOYED. Because I had to jump in the deep end, fully clothed and rescue this kid because he is clueless.

The poor kid was really shaken up, although I still cannot understand why he was surprised that he sunk when he knows he can't swim and he, to my eye, almost dared himself to fall in. I have never seen eyes so wide. He kept saying, "I am SO sorry, I am SO sorry." I tried to be kind, and I think I marginally succeeded, but even as I was swimming him to the side of the pool I was already reading him the riot act. I might have waited until he was dry, but I could not. I didn't even think to give the poor kid a towel (it's OK, it was 98 degrees outside) much less any sympathy. I marched him, both of us dripping, right across the street and delivered him to his mom who seemed relatively unconcerned about the incident, simply telling her son that if he didn't listen better he couldn't come play at my house anymore. To top it off, she looked at me and said, "Oh, it looks like you went swimming too." That was too much for me. I emphatically said, "Yes, I HAD TO JUMP IN AND SAVE YOUR SON BECAUSE HE FELL IN MY POOL AND HE CANNOT SWIM!" She answered this by letting me know that he was taking lessons. I can only give her the benefit of the doubt and say she must have had trouble processing exactly what happened. Either that or we simply have drastically different parenting styles.

Anyway, today I had a healthy reminder of what a liability both a backyard pool and a large dog can be. No matter how clueless a child or indifferent his parent may be, if something were to happen to this child at my home, it would be my fault. The very thought makes me want to fill in the pool and sedate the dog. Or never, ever, have anyone over. Ever. But we can't live life like this, can we? We can only take prudent precautions and pray, pray, pray. If we start engaging in "what ifs", we would cease to live at all.

But perhaps, just to be safe, this particular child should not be allowed in my yard in the future. Let's just hope he can't find anything life-threatening upstairs in the play room. Wait a minute...are the screens barred?!