Monday, April 30, 2007

Two Sheeps-worth

I have two sheeps-worth of wool in the back of my car. Not material, not yarn -- but the honest to goodness real fluff that comes off of honest to goodness real live sheep.

It all started with a townwide email claiming to have duck eggs for sale. "Not your average white egg. Some are green, and yellowish." Sounded interesting. I figured I could blow out the eggs and use them for Christmas ornaments. So I replied, "I'll take a dozen," and in two days a lady was on my backsteps with a dozen of her flock's eggs in hand.

We chatted about living off the land. Of course, I had to mention we make our own Maple Syrup.
"YOU DO! My son just went out and bought the fake stuff."

The hairs on the back of my neck bristled. I had tried some fake stuff in Disney and it was horrible. I handed over a jar of our own and told her to enjoy it.

As our conversation closed, she commented on the half knit sock lying on the kitchen table. "You knit?"

"Yes, mostly socks and mittens. They're smaller projects that I can carry anywhere."

She mentioned she had a friend who was trying to get rid of 6 sheep worth of wool. "Do you want some?"

"Sure, I've never spun, but why not try."

Ten minutes later, from her car, she called me back. "My friend says you can have two, for free. Is that enough?"

Since I have never done this type of work before, two seemed plenty,

So, now I have two sheep-worth of wool in my car. It's silvery, and champagne, clean, and bug-free, and waiting for me to figure out how to spin it into yarn. And then there will be socks.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Coffee-induced Parenting Thoughts

While chatting with friends over a few coffees, (bet you thought I was going to say a few beers), the subject of parenting came up. Quickly it became apparent to me that for as many people there are on this planet, there are that many plus 5 or 6 more different parenting styles. It's amazing. And even more amazing, to me anyway, is how one person can have different styles, or approaches, based upon the situation.

There are a few parenting techniques, or styles, or mistakes hanging around this house. One of the more common styles is the if I could put myself in your place style. Where I find myself taking on their load and carrying it. The cleaning of the room, the doing of the homework, the selling of the cookies, the fundraising for this or that until I'm not only blue in the face, but blue all over. The practically selling of my soul so they can do whatever it is that they want. And lately I wonder if this is right. Am I doing any justice to my sweet loves by picking up their balls and juggling? (No, I don't have boys. Remember this is family blog...)

And then there is the style that beckons back to the old philosophy that you can't hold a newborn too much. The idea that you can't spoil a baby. And I believe you can't. But sheepishly I have to admit that I still try to cuddle all my loves in that cradle hold while kissing and hugging them. There is a part of me that does not want any of them to grow up. Despite the fact I noticed the youngest's legs now go completely to the floor and my oldest is just about ready to tower over me. When did that happen? When did they grow up?

Of course, my oldest has taught me a thing or two over the years. Just when I sincerely, with every fiber of my being, thought that I was going to be repeating every lesson and then some, of elementary school she notified me, "I can do my homework on my own." I wanted to say, "Since when," but I didn't. I let her take back control. While letting her know that I'm here, especially for math, and reluctantly for spanish. However during spanish study sessions, she always teaches me a thing or two.

My oldest and now the middle one are also in the process of training me that sometimes when they are in that mood, it's better if I just walk away. This lesson in parenting has taken me the longest to learn. How can I walk away? They are upset, crying, angry. How can I change the subject or just ask them to take it elsewhere. What do they gain by having me not be there?

Surprisingly, I think they gain a sense of respect, a knowledge of limits, and sense that their self control really starts with themselves. For years, I would rise to the fighting occassion.

"MOM, the sun is green!"

"No it's not. It's a yellowly white, sometimes, pinkish red and if you squint hard enough orange."

"I said green."

"Oh that's silly."

"No it's not."

"Yes, it is."


Usually by now, but sometimes not, the light dawns on marbleheaded me and I see that the facts aren't important here. All that is being sought after is a fight. And now when I see the light, I stop my fight. Change the subject. Walk away.

I've come to realize that it does me and them no good to continue. I put them in control by not feeding their moodiness. I've come to realize that eventually they have to be responsible for their own situation, moods and physical being.

Yesterday, for example one of my loves was pitching a world class tantrum over the stress that was being felt over a talent show. Two minutes of singing torture that she brought upon herself by signing up for a spot with a friend. The friend was over to practice and my love wasn't participating. The friend suggested my love quit the act. At which point the walls and roof came tumbling in.

The demand was laid down that I send this friend home. The idea that they weren't friends anymore was suggested. While the kitchen floor was being washed with tears, the declaration was made that I cared more about the friend than her. I sought out the friend, and asked, "What happened?"

"She wasn't practicing. I suggested she quit."

At least their stories were the same. I returned to my own. Put for the advice to practice or not. Paticipate or quit, but mop up the floor. The tantrum continued. I walked away. I can't ride these emotional roller coasters. No one wins, and thankfully I was pulled further aside by the phone ringing. And while talking on the phone I realized that I was now hearing two voices singing where before there was only one very quiet one. I yelled down the stairs, "Sounds great girls!" The session continued.

In the end the request for the friend to sleepover was made.

My first thought was, "Who are you? And what have you done with my love?" Followed by the answer, "No, it's a school night." God give me strength.

So what did we all learn from yesterday:

1. Once again the point was driven home that my love is still just a little one. And she is so shy, and gets so nervous over being in front of a crowd that she'll pick a fight just to have that emotional release.

2. And once again my not solving the problem, and walking away, gave her the courage to solve the problem, and face her fear.

What'a all this mean? I don't know. I'm still figuring things out. One thing I have learned is drinking coffee makes the mental wheels turn long into the night and even further into the morning. It might be water for me, from now on.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reading Forever Yours

The little ones have Mystery Readers once a week in their classrooms. At the beginning of the year I signed up for two or three days, to come in unannounced, (to the children) and read. I did it twice in early November and now again, yesterday.

But what to read? The whole school is working on improving their writing skills, so I figured I would bring in my book.

My first day back in November, I got the question, "What are all the cross outs for?"

"I'm still editing." I hold up the pen in my right hand.

"How many times have you rewritten your book?"

"Not including the individual chapter rewrites, before I completed the entire book, this is my eleventh time."

Waves of gasps, as if I'm a ghost myself rise up from the class. These children still think whatever they put down on paper, the first time, is a go. Complete. Ready for publication. I wish I shared their confidence. But that's a blog for another day.

When I returned to the Mystery Reader chair yesterday, happy hoots and hollers filled the room. I smiled.

"Do you remember who Sarah is?"

Twenty hands go up. "She's the little girl."

"And Charles?"

"He's the caretaker."

"Good, let's start from when Sarah is home alone and Melody comes over. Who is Melody?"

Another sea of hands to choose from. "She's the girl Sarah met on the first day."

As I read I am amazed by what they remember. Amazed and delighted. They actually like my story. They actually remember my story, and it's been months.

The twenty minutes allotted to read flies by. They ask for just two more minutes, please. Ms. Wonderful agrees,"But that's it!"

"Can Mrs. Ptcakes come back later today?"

Ms. Wonderful looks at me, and offers, "Maybe toward the end of the year Mrs. Ptcakes can come back a few times and finish."

"I'd love to."

Cheers erupt, and I'm happy. I love reading to these children.


Back home I putting on the computer the final round of edits suggested by the Nobscot Niblets. And even as I read through the changes, I find myself making even more. It's amazing, all the edits, all of Sarah's mood swings, all the fun reading to a group of euthusiastic children can be.

Whatever the outcome. Whatever the publishing record, Forever Yours is rewarding unto itself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The power of a meeting

Recovering from a vacation is tough on everyone. No one wants to get up. No one wants to cook; especially me. No one wants to make lunches. And no one seems to function to a deadline. So we plod through until our vacation clock reverts to our normal hectic clock. In the meantime there is trauma.

Trauma over no milk in the frig. Trauma over the favorite pair of pants not being washed. Trauma over no good snacks in my lunch. Trauma over not being able to sit and get through homework.

"Write just one sentence about your vacation." I try to help, prod, coax. Offer subject suggestions. Do everything but write the sentence myself.

I get, "I CAN'T! I CAN'T! I can't do it!" The wails and cries of my sweetdrop. Complete with flopping about on the floor like a beached perch.

Instead of loosing my mind, (the truth be told, it was lost years ago), I go about my own business. Figuring if there is no one to react against, the wailing will stop. And it does indeed deminish. (I learned this with my oldest....) But it doesn't stop, until I mention walking the darlings to school and talking with the teacher.

When I was young, if my mother mentioned this tact, I would've sat my then little bottom side in a chair and done something to complete the work. But now, my little one starts beaming and packing her backpack for school.

Strange. Am I seen as a defender of all that is not completed? The person who will tell Ms. Wonderful Teacher that my little one should be excused from work because of this reason or that? I didn't understand the mood change and I still don't.

We skipped to school. I kissed one child good bye at the line and then walked the other one in to find Ms. Wonderful.

"My sweetdrop here is having a hard time completing her assignment from last night." I say.

"How far did you get?" Ms. Wonderful checks out the work. "Oh, you just need to write three descriptive sentences. Could you think about your vacation?"

My sweetdrop is all smiles, "OH yes, I was going to write about Everest."

"That's a great idea. You can do it during DEAR (drop everything and read)." Ms. Wonderful is all smiles too.

My sweetdrop is now dancing about the room. Stopping only to kiss me and hug me good bye, as if I'm leaving for a long vacation - alone. Never to return.

Before I leave I mention to Ms. Wonderful that the now charm queen was not so charming 20 minutes ago. She is taken aback. How could this sweet child ever cry, wail, complain, flop around like a fish? I shake my head.

Later in the day I get an email from Ms. Wonderful thanking me for coming in to discuss the homework. That once again all is right in the educational world.

The power of one little meeting. Who knew?

Obviously I didn't. I wonder if a little meeting with Ms. Wonderful will help with picking up their room?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Disney World

In my whole life I have ever seen so many people enjoying themselves and at the same time saw or heard so many children crying or whining, or parents sighing with exasparation. Staring ahead blindly wondering if all the money they're spending is worth it. Disney is a place of magic and stress. And it's unbelievable.

We arrived last Sunday after a non-nights sleep. Would our flight be grounded due to the storm? Thankfully after waiting in extensive lines for check in, we just made it out. (JetBlue could take a lesson from Disney on moving large numbers of people quickly, and happily.) But flying over or through the storm was rather bumpy. Insuring the fasten seat belt sign stayed illuminated for the majority of the 2.5 hour flight. The kids didn't seem to mind. But I kept wondering if I ventured into that little space they call a bathroom whether I would be shaken up like a joy ride in a spray can. (BigMama's image stayed with me for the entire flight.)

It took us 4 hours to go from deplaning to walking into our room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. And no we didn't wait for our luggage. Disney was handling that. That was the line waiting to get on the bus to Disney, the ride to Animal Kindgom Lodge from the airport, and the check in line. My nerves were frayed, and the vacation hadn't even started. Thank God the children were being good.

First night we opted to go to Magic Kingdom. I am not myself in crowds, so I figured better get the first immersion over with. As we walked down Main Street I was faced with a solid sea of bodies against the back drop of the most magical castle in the world. Still I am amazed by the thought of that many bodies all moving (pretty much) in the same direction; towards the same castle. We moved with them.

But the castle wasn't our goal, Space Mountain was. So, at the center circle, we veered off to the right and that is when I heard that first child crying. It was my own middle one. "MOMMY don't go on Space Mountain. Stay here with me." No I wasn't going to leave her alone, Nana and Grandpa were there. Mift I waved the rest of the family on ahead and then sat with the child. Who, of course, didn't want to be with me after all. We waited, and waited, and waited. There was no line outside of Space Mountain but the internal line was huge, and only one side of the ride was functioning. This turned out to be the longest line we encountered the whole six days. As I said before, Disney is the premier master of managing crowds.

The next day was The Return to Space Mountain. With side trips down Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. The middle one was more agreeable to going on the rides. But I had to be with her. As we crisscrossed the park repeatedly, I wished for a pedometer. There is no way anyone doing Disney could gain weight. We must've walked ten miles if we walked one. And as that afternoon curled around the moon, the crying and dragging of feet became the mantra around me. Fatigued parental faces, not knowing what to do when their charges were refusing to take another step, or ride another ride, or get back into the stroller, or leave their sister alone, surrounded me. And the craziness of being in such a wonderful place and having that same place be the root of so much happiness and stress hit home. I found myself in a bit of a shock. I was unprepared for these turn of mood events. But it would stand to reason. Doing Disney means you are going to get very over tired.

As the week passed, our family too, experienced it's own stress-filled moments. I don't think anyone is immune. And at several times I wondered, if at the end of our trip, would I remember the good times or the bad. The wonderful eligant French meal in Epcot, or the not so good flat bread pizza for dinner at the ungodly hour of 11 PM. The firework cruise or the tantrums. The safari dinner or the huge expense to keep a family hydrated in the heat. The Breakfast with Mickey and friends or the hitting. La Cirque du Soleil or the fact the bus system was running so late we missed our final dinner reservation with the rest of our family in Downtown Disney. As we got on the plane to come home I still wondered what I would say when anyone asked, "How was your trip?"

And now, after a day of resting and laundry, and another day of quiet and raking, when asked how was your trip? I have heard myself say on more than one occassion, "It was great!"

Would I go back again? Sure. And I'd even take the kids. Disney is a magical place. It would have to be.

Everest, rest assured, we'll be back.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Roller Coasters R US

If you asked me ten years ago if I liked roller coasters, I would've said loud and clear, "NO!"

If you asked me last year, last month, or ten days ago, my answer would've been the same. I hate them. They give me a headache. I can't walk a straight line for hours later. And can't eat for longer.

Last year, my eldest had the wonderful opportunity to go to Disney World. Our phone calls were filled with chatter of "OH, MOM! You'd love Space Mountain! Oh Mom, you'd love Splash Mountain! Oh Mom! You've got to ride the Rocking Roller Coaster!"

Seriously, I sincerely thought my eldest had lost her mind while riding her new found love. I hated roller coasters. How could I have a child that now seemed to live and breathe by them?

Fast forward to this year. Last week, for example. A huge family gathering in all places -- Disney World.

First Day -- Splash Mountain. We rode it at least 4 times, if not 5. But we'd been on the Flume at Busch Gardens. And where water is involved, could it really be called a roller coaster? It was an easy mountain to conquer and wet my interest. Could I handle all the mountains Disney had to offer?

Next was Thunder Mountain. A rickety train ride. I went once. Survived, but didn't care for being bounced about. Still, It wasn't anything too hard to handle, stomach wise. The rest of my family gleefully rode at least three times. While I waited to take pictures as their car cruised past my vantage spot.

Space Mountain -- a roller coaster in the dark, mostly. The beginning was set up under internal stars. I was amazed and wished that all planetariums offered similar experiences. Almost, until as we started swooping and turning among the supporting scaffolding. Then I realized that having the lights on would've been an improvement. Still, I survived. Two of my three children road Space Mountain at least three times. Maybe four. I lost count.

The final mountain to conquer with Everest. Some say it's the worst. It is the biggest. And we found out, it's the best. We hit Animal Kingdom with a plan. Ride the ride, do the rest of the park. The bus dropped us off. We spun the admission turnstill with tornado force. To Asia... to Everest. We were met with a minor twenty minute wait. After all it takes twenty minutes to walk through the grand people moving, crowd controlling maze. (If there is one thing Disney does well -- it's move people.)

Sitting next to me was my thrilled youngest daughter. (Over the previous three days she discovered she LOVES roller coasters.) Her smile couldn't have been bigger if I had handed her a hundred pink clad Barbies.

"Are you ready for this?"

"YES!" she screamed.

As the cars started, our trekking expert waved us on our journey, and I wished I shared the little one's enthusiasm. My eldest had warned me, "It goes backwards." When we stopped, I closed my eyes. The linkage of cars rocketed to the rear. My stomach wasn't in total agreement, but remained intact. Once heading forward again, the ride thrust us around step curves and down hills, under the watchful charms of the Yeti. And then it was over.

"Is that it?" I asked. "That all?"

The answer was the squeals and screams and delight of my children. "Can we go again?"

My answer: FAST PASS.

We conquered Everest four times. In the process I discovered if I kept my eyes open, my brain and stomach were in much better shape at the end. We bought t-shirts for the whole family boldly announcing our accomplishment; my accomplishment.

The next day was MGM. That night I wondered if I could do the Rocking Roller Coaster. My eldest, our family Disney coaster expert, said, "It turns you over a few times."

"Really? How many times?" I'd never been turned over on any amusement ride.

My husband chimed in, "Three times to be exact."

And to make this blog story short -- I did it, twice. The first time it was a bit unsettling. The second was a joy. And who knew Arrowsmith had more than one song?

Thank you, my oldest one... I guess you can teach this old dog new tricks.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I had a dream

I was driving past my grandparents' house and decided to stop in, unannounced. When I pulled up in the driveway, someone else's car was there. As I walked by, I realized it was the priest's. I wasn't surprised. My grandparents were devoted Catholics. Still, for some reason I got the sense that I didn't know if my grandfather was home, until I walked into the garage and saw boots and shoes lying to the side on the mud rug.

I can't remember if I took my shoes off, but I remember slowing down as I approached the kitchen door. Once I was inside, I heard noises. And wandered through the house until I found the priest in the living room and my grandfather walking down the hall carrying a box of my nana's religious items.

He said, "I'm having the priest unbless some of Nana's things."

Strange, I thought. Why would he have that done? But I didn't have an opportunity to ask him. For when he got within arms reach I hugged him tightly and crying, kept repeating, "I've missed you so much."

I remember him smiling and feeling him hugging me back. And then I woke up.

The room was dark. The house quiet. I wondered if he was here. Just beyond my sight, smiling.

I still miss him, and Nana.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Isn't it how it should be

While walking on the treadmill this morning, a commercial for Liberty Mutual came on the weather channel. The first scene shows a business man stopping to pick up a children's toy off the sidewalk and handing it back to a mother and child.

In the next scene the mother moves another man's coffee away from the edge of a table in a diner.

Then that man helps another man who has slipped and fallen. And on it goes. One good deed paid forward to the next. Of course this is very reminiscent of one of my all time favorite must see movies, Pay It Forward.

And isn't that how life should be?

I hope they play that commercial a lot.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Patiencing the Weather

It's April. The lilacs are budding out. Our sugaring season is over. The plow blade and the snowblower have given room to the lawnmower and lawn spreader. And the forecast calls for snow. There is a lesson in patience here. An opportunity to slow down, to breathe in and out, and let nature take its course. Like many of life's opportunities, there is nothing I can do to stop the weather.

These opportunities happen all the time. Sometimes they are a crowded schedule that leaves you wondering just how am I going to make it through today. Other times it's a bad day at work, traffic, a long line at the grocery store. The answer -- one step, one moment, one smile, one act of kindness, one task at a time. Make the step, take an action.

So what am I doing? Trying not to worry. Digging out some games. Piling up some books. Recharging the camera batteries. And... finding the snow shovels. It always amazes me that during these times of patience, good things come. So, the excitement builds -- What's going to happen?

Patience PT... all in good time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sandbox Fighting

It has always amazed me how heated sandbox fighting can be.

"Give it back!"

"You put it down. It's mine now."

"I had sand in my eye."

"No, I saw you. You were reaching for the dump truck."

Maybe, some fights have to be. But others? Do we need to wage a holy war everytime someone reaches for our shovel?

I say no.

When I was in high school, I lived 6 miles from the school and rode the bus. It wasn't like today where I drive my children the 4 blocks to school when the weather is bad or they miss their bus. My mom didn't drive. So it was bus, walk or bike.

There were two populations of kids at our stop: the quiet ones and the bullies. You could tell them apart as the quiet ones carried books and the bullies carried knives. Back then there was very little law enforcement over weapons, but I'm glad to say the weapons were more for show. Anyway, when the bus pulled up the bullies bullied their way onto the bus. Pushing the shoving to be first so they could have the seats at the back. The quiet ones accommodated and learned, if I don't want to get shoved around, we'll just let the bullies on first. The quiet ones would end up standing for the bus ride across town. Bumping and falling, but who cares -- it's a 15 minute bus ride.

But the bullies noticed they weren't having to fight for their seats. They noticed the quiet ones hanging back as the bus pulled to a stop. They noticed they got on first but were the LAST off the bus. Something had to be done.

The next day, the bullies were at it again. When the bus pulled up, the bullies got behind the quiet kids and pushed them into seats, so that they could stand, and fall, and be the first off the bus.

Soon after, I started riding my bike to school. I was one to the first kids in my school to carry a backpack. I had to -- no other way to get my books there. And for this I was voted: Class Radical for the Class of 1978.

So, when you're in that sandbox and someone takes your shovel -- look to the slide, the swing set, the glider. Or chose to pick up a bucket, a stick.... The other possibilities are endless.

Bullies tire. Their attention span shorten. Don't worry, you'll get your shovel back. And when you do, you'll have to ask yourself, "Is this what I really want?"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Those Darn Lemons

How many of us have heard the old saying, "When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade." (show of hands, please)

How many of us have followed that advice? (hands)

Just as I suspected. We hear that saying and roll our eyes, but if we followed it... the possibilities are endless.

I have a friend who has her PhD, and despite that, she is a fantastic scientist. Lately her lab job has her ordering and shipping mice. Over the past three monthes she has very little data but has gotten on a first name basis with the FEDEX man. Last week, a lightbulb went on. She discovered she can go to the library between all these mice runs and teach herself genetics and statistics. Lemonade.

I have another friend whose hands are tied in their current job. They can't think. They have no real responsibility. Nothing to call their own. And I say, there are hundreds of people in this town who can benefit from their unique gifts. One word and traffic will be stopped in front of their house. Standing room only.

So what lemons are collecting in your refrigerator? Is it time to call over a few friends and share a pitcher of lemonade?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Keeping the Faith

Beverly Beckham had a wonderful article in the Boston Globe this past Sunday, Easter, on how it used to be so much easier to keep her faith when Fr. Coen was alive. Before his stroke, and before the sexual abuse scandal that has disrupted faiths all over the world. Her words touched a cord.

Like Beverly, when I was a little girl, having faith was easy with Fr. Griffin as Pastor. When he wasn't saying the Mass, he was still on the altar, sitting on the sidelines. Afterwards there were always warm words and a hug. Somedays we'd see him out taking a walk and greeting everyone he met. A pillar in the community that never fell.

When I was in high school and college, church wasn't important. And it wasn't until I was a post doctoral associate (working hard for very little pay) that I returned to the pew and found once again, a priest who spoke to me. Someone who addressed my issues and concerns; let me know that God loves me regardless. I was spiritually home once again. But with all postdoctoral work, I moved on, leaving Saint Catherine's behind.

Afterwards, life brought me through a series of parishes, that were only placemarkers. Stopping points along a journey. While I waited to find a place to worship.

And now that we've found a home, once again there are changes in the air. Changes I can't mention here. But pending changes that leave me saddened and wondering about my family's spiritual future. I'm trying not to second guess God. But I've found man has a tendency to blur God's wishes.

Basically, after being moved by the Archdiocese, my children and I are happy. We have a warm, caring parish family. We have our usual pew -- third from the front on the right. We have a Pastor that opens my eyes and the eyes of my children to God's love. And if you asked me about the keeper of my faith I say it was once again rooted with our Pastor, but selfishly I would've taken some of that responsibility on myself too. It's about time. And I would've been partially wrong. Not about the Pastor, for his words and actions speak volumes about God's love, but I left out a big part of my faith. It's my children.

Over the past three years I taken pictures at different parish events, sometimes just snapping up parish life in general. Lately, I've been working on a project that required me to go through all these pictures -- hundreds of them. Many of them include my children. As youngsters talking with the Pastor, Pentecost, playing with Emma, Easter, the parish photo, First Holy Communions, kisses to Sam, the parish fair, our tadpoles at the pet blessing. Over this past week, through these images, I've watched my children grow in their faith. All the while, cultivating my faith right along side theirs.

On Saturday evening, after dinner, I asked the girls, "What meal did Jesus last celebrate?"

Without blinking, my middle one said, "Passover. The disciples went into Jerusalem and found a donkey, then Jesus rode the donkey into the city. And they ate the last supper." She told me the whole Passion story from the donkey, to the crucifix, to the borrowed tomb, to Easter Sunday.

Shocked, she knew, I asked, "When did you learn this?"

"At church, see, I pay attention."

I did see. So once again with life will come change. But with God's gift of faith through the eyes of my children, I will hold onto hope, while seeking God's unblurred message.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Where have I heard that before?
Oh yeah -- me, last year, last winter, last month, last week.

Once again I've fallen off the treadmill and into the trough.
Eating my way through this house. One room into another.
Dinner leftovers for breakfast.
A sleeve of Girl Scout cookies at 10.
Popcorn for lunch and granola bars whenever.
Never crossing a chocolate I didn't like.

Give me strength, and elastic waistbands.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Aaron Stein's 21st Birthday Card Count

I know you've been waiting. Curious.
I know I have. But it's tough
to count good wishes where
Pain reigns.

Happy Birthday. Seven hundred and
ninety-seven cards, sixteen packages.
See, You can rely on the goodness of strangers.
Eight hundred and thirteen different ways.
And counting...

Aaron call home soon.
Better yet, come home even sooner.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Sunday Sudoku

Sunday has aways been a day for church, 8 AM Mass - third pew on the right-hand side, scrambled eggs and bacon, maybe yardwork, maybe an afternoon movie or two, and dinner. A dinner that attempts to make up for the lack of weekday culinary planning. Lately after dinner there's sudoku.

It started innocently enough. After dinner, when I finally get a moment to look through the paper. Reading the comics, the front page, the Globe West section, the Parade and the Globe Magazine (GM). In the GM I would scan the articles, but only paying real attention to the food section. Looking for the next great Sunday meal.

Three weeks ago the sudoku puzzle caught my eye. Our family loves these little mind benders. Even the little ones enjoy looking for that one block that will unravel the rest of the numeral placements. We even own a magnetic set for laying out family puzzles. But the quiet that settles over the kitchen after dinner and sometimes late into the evening is new.

Dinner done, the dishes cleared, but not necessarily washed, I'd sit down to have the last of my tea and to read some of the paper. Until recently, when I spied the puzzle I'd give it a passing glance and that was it. Lately, after spying the puzzle, I have failed to move from the chair until it's either solved or I'm stymied.

From that chair I have brushed and braided hair, reviewed homework assignments, quizzed for exams, had quick conversations on the phone, and wondered if all this mental flexing will help push off dementia. All the while the sudoku is laid out in front of me. Last night it took hours. I actually started the puzzle before dinner. Clearing the magazine to the close proximity of the kitchen counter when the meal was ready. And then retrieving it after the table was cleared and dishwasher loaded.

Before dinner I had figured out 5 squares. "I'm going to be stymied," I reported over pot roast, mashed potatoes and carrots. While braiding the little one's hair I announced, "I found another six." And when doing the next set of braids, was relieved I had found yet another six. Still, I was missing that elusive key block that would lay out, like dominoes, the answer before me. My husband stopped by. "You have too much information there for me to see." I like to write all the possible numbers in the squares. It helps me see any emerging patterns.

We ran through the schedule for the next day. There were kisses good night, and reminders to pack up the backpacks for school, before I found it. A four, that led to a five that gave me a seven and then the other five. Ten minutes later, "I got it!" From before bed bookreading in the basement, the choir sang out, "Good for you!"

Afterwards, I stayed in the chair, reading until my own bedtime. My husband had gone to bed much earlier and I was surprised he was still up with a laptop resting upon his belly when got there.

"What are you doing?" I asked, as I peered on to the screen.

It was a sudoku.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Nineteen Minutes

I recently finished a marathon, can't put this book down, read of Jodi Picoult's latest book, Nineteen Minutes. At first, I didn't like it. Her trademark style is to jump around among characters, time, and point of view. Within the first few chapters, I found myself in a tornado of confusion. But I've loved her stuff in the past, even wished for her talent and success, so I pushed on.

As usual, it was wonderful, very thought provoking and made me sit up and view my surroundings. Without giving too much away, the book tackles the concept of bullying. And what exactly could a bully do when faced with daily brutal harassment? In a word, tradegy.

Sometimes I see interactions between the children at the local schools, and I wonder just how far these little altercations will go. Usually not too far before some adult steps in reminding the cherubs to use their words and not to hurt other people's feelings. And thankfully the parties go their separate ways, and that's the end of it.

Personally I don't understand the need to bully. There sure was plenty of it going on when I was growing up. My two siblings were singled out as targets and for some reason I was spared. Maybe it had to do with the fact I beat up two rather large girls when they were going after my sister. Maybe it was because I didn't let their name calling get to me. Even answering to their Big Bird remarks. Who knows.

What I do know is bullying, back then and now, is absolutely wrong. And when someone is bullied there is a slow fuse that starts to burn and eventually it will run out and when it does, we have no right to ask why. All it will take is nineteen minutes.

Ms. Picoult, thank you. Every parent, every teenage and older student, every educator should read Nineteen Minutes.