Friday, November 20, 2015


We're well into the second quarter of school here. The kids are doing well. I'm busy volunteering and working on some freelance editing and writing as well as training as a swim instructor. I'm at a loss for words tonight, so I'll just let the kids do the talking:

Can my name be Buster [from the Arthur cartoons] because he's always hungry? Owen asks.

A few days later, as we're eating burgers:
Can my middle name be Burger Smash? Owen asks.
So you want your name to be Buster Burger Smash? I ask. Seems totally appropriate.

Owen, what are you looking for? I ask.
Have you seen my taxi?
he asks.
No, but I'm sure it's not in that bucket of candy [that you're rifling through].

Please take this out to the compost.
[Insert long explanation by Owen how it's Fiona's turn to do it and finally grudging acceptance of the task.] But I'm going to be grumpy when I get back, Owen says.

They have police dogs, but why don't they have police cats? Yeah, they can chase bad guys that go up trees, Owen says.

Fiona is a hot mess as usual.

Fiona, please clean up whatever pee is on the bathroom floor.
It wasn't me who peed there!
Do you know how much pee I clean up that is not mine?
[Blank stare from Fiona]
How do you know when you'll have a baby? Fiona asks.
Well, when you move into a house with more bedrooms than people, then you know, Jim answered.

Mom, is Santa real or do you and dad buy the gifts and stomp your feet on the doorstep so we can hear Santa? Fiona asks. Um, how did we get here so quickly? For crying out loud, she's SIX. I simply asked her "What do you think?" She gave me a wicked smirk. She totally knows.

A few recent arguments that I've refereed:
Mom, Fiona is kicking me, Danny calls up the stairs.
Stay away from her feet, I called down.

Mom, I was just standing in the TV room doing nothing and Owen kicked me, Fiona wails.
Stand somewhere else, I told her.

Mom, Danny kicked me in the belly.
Danny's explanation? I was trying to help him get his sweatshirt on.

Fiona comes up and informs me that Danny was lying down on her. Upon further investigation, I learn this from Danny:
Did you lie down on your sister?
Mom, I wanted to lie down. I didn't want to lie down on Fiona. 

Right. My children are masters at martyrdom.

Words I never thought I'd utter:
Ketchup is not soap. Fiona was rubbing ketchup into her hands, claiming it was soap.
Stop painting with ketchup. Owen informed me that he was finger painting with ketchup, other wise known as making a mess.
Please don't lick me. Owen had just informed that he was hungry and then licked me.
Stop following me around the kitchen with that butter, I told Owen who was trying to "help" me cook dinner.
Stop parachuting down the stairs, I told Danny who nearly jumped on me while holding plastic grocery bags above his head.

Till next time. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Grace and Gratitude

I woke this morning with a plan. A complicated, multi-pronged plan for getting kids and parents three different places at all different times at opposite ends of town. Both parents scheduled to work at overlapping times, one kid who needed to be one place with a parent, the other two left as loose ends to be tied somewhere and no plan for contingencies.

One phone call and all plans were out the window. The husband had to cover someone else's shift at the last minute. As the default, on-duty parent this morning, I did the only thing that made sense. I called out of work myself and took over. In the end, it was a simpler morning that kept all five us relaxed, happy and on the same side of town.

Today was the kind of day I dread. Our family tends to avoid these weekend rodeos. As a majority introvert family, we prefer to pace ourselves with carefully selected (and free) activities that fit into our family. These years with them come only once and we'd rather not spend them in a flurry of activity with little time for all of us to reflect on who we are and who or what we belong to.

Today was also an anniversary for me. Sixteen years ago today I began learning and reflecting on who I am and who I belong to. I slowed down. I put the cap on the bottle of booze. I listened. I cried. A lot. I raged. I accepted that broken part of myself and I began recovering.

Sixteen years ago today, I walked into a room full of strangers and was offered a cup of coffee by a kind woman who asked me when I last drank. Noticing my shaking hands, she handed me half a cup. I tried hard not to spill it. We talked. She told me her story. She stayed with me all day long, helped me empty bottles of wine, and took me to her house where I cried on her sofa for hours. Janice, who is among many women who helped save my life, died this year.

On that day, I also briefly shook hands with the man who is now my husband. I was surrounded by women at that moment and he thought it best to leave me alone for a while. After all, he thought, that woman is a mess. (I'm sure he still thinks this some days.)

And this week, I could have easily melted into that mess of a woman with a wine glass. I didn't, though I really wanted to. It would have been much easier than dealing with the barrage of monkey wrenches thrown into an overfull schedule.

You see, my son was suspended from school this week. On the evening of his unplanned day off, he and I attended a workshop for his First Reconciliation process. Today there was a retreat for his class to which I planned on sending him with his father. Someone knew that I needed to be there with him.  Reconciliation is about forgiveness and we both needed that reminder this week.

So instead of executing the complicated and stressful Plan A, I spent the morning talking about forgiveness and conscience with fellow Catholics and participating in a meal-packaging service activity with my son and daughter.

Then I went home, introverted pretty hard, and took a nap. I can't think of a better way to celebrate 16 years of grace and gratitude.