Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Bad Tooth Day

So, you know how when you move it can take you awhile to get into the swing of your new community? Things like figuring out where the grocery store, the dry cleaner and the post office are happen right away. Finding a pediatrician, when you have six kids, follows shortly after. Inevitably, however, some things lag behind. Such as finding a dentist.

I am ashamed to admit that it has been nearly two years since I have been to the dentist. I went regularly before we moved but just haven't dealt with finding a new dentist down here. I took the kids to their old dentist last summer for checkups when we were in town for bible camp, and this only further reduced my urgency to take care of this detail of our new life.

In the last month or so, Julia has been complaining of a toothache, so I finally had to get my act together and find a dentist. I asked people for recommendations and finally settled on a family dentist rather than the pediatric/adult dual dentist situation I had up north. Simplify, simplify! Anyway, in making the appointment for Julia I figured I had better get myself taken care of too and since I had already picked a dentist for us all, I had no further excuses.

Now, I figured I would need a little work. A thorough cleaning. A repair of a chip in some old bonding. An old silver filling that looked as if it had seen better days. But since I take pretty good care of my teeth by flossing regularly and using a sonicare toothbrush, I was in no way prepared for what his high-tech tooth camera made very clear, even to my untrained eyes: my teeth are a mess!

I need--now brace yourself--two crowns and 12 fillings. Yes, I did say 12. As in a dozen. I really should be too embarrassed to admit this in a public forum, but since becoming a mother I have no pride left, so what the hey.

It would be my inclination to believe this new dentist was exaggerating my need for dental work in an effort to fill his pockets, but I could not ignore the visual evidence. I myself could see large fractures in two molars, hairline fractures in two more. These teeth are just waiting for the crunchy tidbit that will split them in half. The old silver fillings were literally crumbling and I could see the dark pits of cavities in previously healthy teeth. To top this off, I need some sort of special deep cleaning to repair the gum damage I did in letting my teeth go uncleaned for so long.

I asked the dentist if this was some sort of record, and he said, to my chagrin, that my teeth weren't bad at all compared to some he had seen. How scary is that?! He further "reassured" me by saying that my teeth were simply aging along with the rest of me. Soothing, that comment was, let me tell you.

At any rate, he and I are about to become good friends, I'm afraid. Just how I wanted to spend my summer...in the dentist's chair.

Now doesn't this make you want to go and brush?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Unlikely Gardener

Those of you who know me well know that I don't have a green thumb. It's more like a black thumb, since any plant I touch suffers a certain, rapid death.

I have never been able to understand this. I am an intelligent, determined person, and almost anything I really want to do, I can at least become proficient at. But so far, gardening has eluded me.

Even my littlest kids know I am famous for this. Which is why, when they saw me plant a few things in our still-sparse yard this week, they actually mourned the plants in advance. "Why do you want to kill those nice plants, mom?!"

This insult is added to injury because both my mother and mother-in-law are talented gardeners, who can grow pretty much anything (although both specialize in spectacular roses). So the kids like to throw in helpful comments like, "Why don't you just let grandma do that, because she won't kill them." Thanks, kids.

At any rate, I have been taken down with a case of spring planting fever and am, once again, trying my hand at gardening. I, who couldn't even successfully plant in fertile Northern California, am attempting to create Eden in the High Desert, a place where even the best gardeners have trouble thanks to our extreme hots and colds, high winds and sandy soil. I am doomed to fail, yet I am enthusiastically trying again.

Why? Because I love to see green when I look outside, and there isn't a lot of that here naturally. Because if I can nurture six children, shouldn't I be able to keep a few plants alive? Because anything that beats me down only makes me more determined to succeed.

I am not flying blindly. When we planned the hardscape for our dirt lot over a year ago, our landscape designer threw in a planting plan that included plants suited for our desert climate. So, today I began executing that plan by planting Purple Fountain Grasses, Daylilies, Rosemary and Roses. Tomorrow I will attempt to find and plant a California Glory Flannelbush, some Blue Oat Grasses, some Honeysuckle, some Lion's Tail and a Foxtail Agave. We have a very large planting perimeter so I have begun with a 16 x 3 foot section to see how it goes. If I am even marginally successful I will extend that area on both sides until I have completed the plan.

I am mostly buying from Lowes who has a one year guarantee on all plants, and you can bet I'm saving those receipts. I will likely be needing them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

That's Why I Married Him

I was a grump today. G-R-U-M-P.

This certainly would have been a good day to practice the Christian virtue of cheerfulness, but I did not take advantage of this opportunity. Rather, I groused and grumbled through the whole day.

After a long afternoon of bickering children and little patience on my part, I finally met up with Jay, who took one look at me and declared "family ice cream night!" He took us all to Baskin Robbins, insisting that I partake as a medicinal measure.

I love that man.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Three Months Old Already

Happy baby, light in our family, gift from God. What a joy you are, Isabella! Just three months in the family, yet we already can't imagine ever having been without you.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sacraments and Milestones

It was a big weekend here at the Di Silvestri house.

Isabella was baptized on Saturday by our friend, Deacon Ron. He baptized 18 babies in an hour and a half, and these baptisms were sandwiched in between two (of five) first communion services for the religious education students of our parish. What a beautiful reminder of how active our thriving parish is (although I must admit that I did enjoy the individual baptisms of our other children in our smaller, quieter parish in Northern California)!

Here is sweet Isabella with her godparents, Colin and Melissa:

Isabella is wearing the same "white garment" that all of her siblings and, more notably, her father, were baptized in. I love this tradition and truly hope it will live on another generation.

The next day, Sunday, was Joey's 9th birthday, and we had a big party to celebrate. This was truly wonderful, because Joey has not had a birthday party since we moved down South. It was hard for him to leave his friends up north and it took him awhile to make friends down here. Being homeschooled this year has not helped speed this friend-making process up, so I was thrilled when he decided he wanted to have a party this year, and even more thrilled when I realized that he actually does have quite a few friends down here now, and that they are a really great bunch of kids.

There were about 25 kids at Joey's party. They were from Sacred Heart School (boys he met when he attended there last year and still sees at school events we attend with his still-enrolled siblings), from his Cub Scout pack and from his baseball team. In addition, there were friends he made in one grandmother's neighborhood and one grandmother's Daughters of Norway group.

This was a milestone birthday for me, as it marks him halfway to adulthood. Gulp. How can this be? How can my active mothering of Joey be halfway over? I can't think about this too much or I get unbearably sad. Nine years from now the children will begin the flying away process and I can't bear to think of it. I am well aware that I am currently living the best years of my life, years when all of my children are safely at home and we are all together. I don't want this to end! But, alas, it must. And, those who have been through the teenage years tell me that, in another nine years, I will actually be ready. Perhaps they are right, but I can't imagine it from where I sit now.

At any rate, Joey, I wish you a very happy birthday. You are such an amazing person. I love spending time with you. You are clever, funny, insightful and loving. You have a generous heart and a genuine concern for others. I am very proud of the young man you are growing to be and feel so privileged to be your mother. I plan to treasure the remaining half of your childhood with all of my heart. I love you!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, Julia!

So, I'm running a bit late. Her birthday was last Sunday (Mother's Day). But anyone who reads this blog knows that my motto is "better late than never", so I had to stop and wish Julia a very happy 4th birthday.

Julia Mae, our dear, sweet daughter, we love you so very much! My big helper, our fish-girl (because she loves to swim so much), Isabella and Tony's nurturing big sister. You are all of these things and many more. You are a bright light in our family and we are so glad God sent you to us four years ago.
Happy, happy birthday!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Finding Equilibrium

After many combinations, they finally found one that worked for good teeter-tottering.

Isn't this like life? We're all searching for balance, and only through trial and error can we figure out what works.
And, just when we think we've got it figured out, someone gets off and we start all over again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Abbey Road

Thanks to the magic of the internet, we were able to be tourists with Jay this morning. Here he is, crossing Abbey Road at roughly 4pm London time today:

Thank you, Abbey Road webcam, for bringing us this fine family moment!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Someday I will be able to sleep as late as I want to on Mother's Day. But this Mother's Day I was awakened early with a coo and greeted with a wet, gummy baby smile.

Lucky me.

Someday I will be served breakfast in bed on Mother's Day. But this Mother's Day I hopped out of bed and served my small children breakfast because my husband was up early himself, frantically assembling a basketball hoop for his son in the garage, only because he thought everyone was still sleeping.

What a wonderful dad my children have.

Someday I will receive sophisticated gifts from grown children on Mother's Day. But this Mother's Day I opened hand drawn cards with wobbly printing, filled with treasures from their hearts: a hand beaded rosary, a colored rose with a child's photo in the middle, a paper flower, earrings to replace ones my son noticed I had lost.

Could there be better gifts?

Someday I won't have to do any work on Mother's Day. But this Mother's Day, after eating a delicious brunch prepared by a loving husband, I diligently cleaned the kitchen as he raced out the door to catch a plane for a week-long business trip to England.

How lucky we are that Jay has a job that provides for us so well.

I sure hope "someday" takes it time in arriving.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Survival Training

Tonight I was busy at work around the house while the kids were playing, relatively harmoniously, all together. I tuned in and out to what they were doing, keeping an ear out for high-level arguments, extreme mess making and physical harm, but was mostly delighted that they were leaving me alone to get some much needed housework out the way.

As I passed through their play space, it began to dawn on me that their game was oddly familiar. Some sort of ritual I had witnessed dozens of times. I slowed down to make sense of it, and this is what I saw: Joey was standing expectantly over the kids with a box in his hand, looking official. Lindsey, Sam and Julia were scribbling madly on pieces of paper. As I watched, they folded them and placed them in the box, taking a seat on the floor when they were done. Joey said, in a very familiar cadence, "I'll go tally the votes."

Darned if they weren't voting one of themselves out, Survivor-style. Out of what, I don't know (the family?! I hope not!) but it had something to do with sharing Joey's popcorn while we watched American Idol later in the evening, so I wasn't too alarmed.

There are two shows we watch as a family each week: Survivor and American Idol. We really enjoy this time, predicting together what will happen next. We especially love the challenges on Survivor. The kids talk about them all week. So, I knew they were in to Survivor, but I was nonetheless stunned at how dead-on Joey's impersonation of Jeff Probst was, and how perfectly the children carried out their role as voters without any instruction. They knew just what to do, each playing their part.

This reminds me of what sponges kids are. I figured they were just understanding the challenges, but the social aspects of the show are not lost on them either. They see everything, processing at a subconscious level as well as at the surface. I don't have a problem with what they absorb from a show like Survivor, but I should never assume that anything we watch with them is over their head.

I must say, Joey was not a bad host. Now, if one of them could just bring home the million dollars...

By the way, the Di Silvestri picks for the winners are nearly unanimous in our family: Blake (although after last night's performances the vote is in a minority split for Jordin) for American Idol and Yeoman for Survivor. We shall see!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Every Day's A Party

"Ahh, you're having a party!" said the cheerful pizza delivery man at the door, as he looked past me, through the house and out to the yard where masses of squealing children were running around in bathing suits.

"Nope." I replied. "Tonight it's just us."

Monday, May 07, 2007

I Suppose I Deserved It

Yesterday at the school picnic, Jay brought folding chairs for us to sit in. He gave me the nice one and took the aging one for himself. So you'd think I'd have been really kind and sympathetic to him when he sat down, cracked the chair and rolled over backwards onto the grass. But no. I laughed, as I have a tendency to do in these situations (remember Joey riding his bike into the pool?) Yep, I had a real good laugh. Naturally, if he had been hurt (or Isabella, since he was holding her at the time and did a fantastic job of keeping her safe during his tumble) I wouldn't have laughed. But he looked so, well, surprised, that I just couldn't help myself. I laughed, along with him, until tears were running down my face.

When I got home, I took Isabella out of her car seat and perched on one of our wicker and wood bar stools in the kitchen to nurse her while I watched the kids running around in the back yard. To my total surprise, with a loud crack the chair broke into three pieces and down I went onto the tile. Poor Isabella. Twice in one day! Poor me! My tailbone hit the tile hard but, miraculously, someone had left one of those gardening kneeling pads on the floor and my head landed there so I was fine. So was Isabella, although she was not happy about the sudden movement or the noise.

Karma? Divine justice? Something! This must have been a case of the universe evening things up. It is true that what goes around comes around, it's just usually not in the same day. And what Isabella had to do with it, I'll never know.

Perhaps I should attempt to contain my amusement at the future comic misfortunes of my beloved family members. Perhaps we should begin a family diet.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Karate Champ...and Success in General

Warning, maternal bragging ahead. Proceed with caution!

The Karate Kid (Sam) can go by a new title now: Karate Champ! In his first tournament, my young son brought home a second place trophy for foot sweeping. This is significant because he was the only white belt in his group--he competed against gold and purple belts, and still only lost to one kid (a purple belt). In addition, he earned a gold medal for his performance in team foot sweeping.

His teacher told Jay after the match, "Sammy is an animal!" Odd, but that is the exact same words his soccer coach used last fall. Animal. I'm not sure if I should be proud or dismayed, but it does seem to be an accurate description of Sam in any competition.

I'll say this for Sam: he is not afraid. Some of the other kids danced around each other, waiting for the right time to make their move. Not Sam. As soon as he got the start signal he went for it, bam. I guess this surprised his opponents. Whatever works, eh?

Anyway, it was a good sports day all around for our family. After the tournament we went to the Sacred Heart School family picnic where the kids played the parents in softball. Joey had a great hit, first pitch, and I was thrilled for him. Then, to my surprise, Lindsey and Sam, neither of whom had ever played baseball before, also got base hits. At one point, the bases were loaded with Di Silvestris. That was a nice moment for me.

It is such a joy for a mother to see her children succeed, and I have seen a lot of that lately, not just on the sports field, either. All of the kids are doing well in school, and Joey in particular has made great strides of late. They are playing well together most of the time, some taking a leadership role, some accepting that leadership. They are taking more responsibility around the house and with a generally good attitude. It is wonderful to see.

Go team Di Silvestri!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Overheard at a Catholic School

A friend, whose children attend a Catholic school in Los Angeles county, shared this conversation that she overheard in the parking lot:

Child: Mom, will you be at my show today?

Mom: No, I'm sorry, sweetie, I have a hair appointment.

Child: Please?!

Mom: No, I'm sorry, I just can't.

Child: PLEASE?!

Mom (now frustrated): Sweetie, if Jesus himself came down from heaven to give me a blessing I could not be there. I HAVE A HAIR APPOINTMENT!

* * *

It's not like I've never missed an event or two for selfish reasons. But, I'm quite certain that I would be able to make it if Jesus was passing out blessings.

Did I mention my friend is changing to another Catholic school where the parents actually practice the faith? I don't blame her.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Intricacies of the Human Brain

While I was going through Lindsey's homework folder, I noticed the way she wrote her name in one of her workbooks:

Notice how her first name is completely backwards--not only the order of the letters, but the letters themselves (most of them, anyway). It seems as if she wrote this while looking in a mirror. Yet, our last name, written at the same time is correct.

Lindsey writes her name properly most of the time, but once in awhile it pops out backwards like this. Sometimes every single one of the letters is backwards, not just most as in this sample. She doesn't realize it when she does it; nothing looks odd to her until it is pointed out.

I don't think I could do this if I tried, and I don't think she could either. It is something involuntary, some strange quirk of the brain that she doesn't consciously control. It demonstrates to me how complicated and mysterious our brains are.

Fascinating, don't you think?