Thursday, September 6, 2012


My eight year-old son has taken to liberally punctuating his conversations with the word "clearly".  I love this and smile every time he does it.

He hates that and asks me why. "Because you're just so cute," I say.

"Mom, I play violent video games, so clearly I am not cute."

And I couldn't help it.

I smiled.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm every woman

Firmly entrenched in my last trimester of pregnancy, I've lately been in need of a new pair of jeans. The pair that has seen me this far is now indecently tight on my rear which is simply not a look I'm comfortable sporting. And so, I've been searching.

Target was out of my size. Old Navy was out of my size. JCPenney was out of my size.

These stores weren't out of sizes, mind you, just my size. Which is an M or L if you're measuring using the alphabet and a 12 if you're using numbers. Oh, and a short length. Don't forget the short part.

This isn't just a pregnancy problem for me - it happens in a rather reliable kind of way at all the other times in my life, as well. So, apparently, I am every woman. I am you. And you take all the good stuff before I can get to it.

You even took all the reasonably colored maternity panties at Target, leaving me to buy up four pairs of these green-colored beauties:

Thank you for that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Finding my snarky voice

I am an overly polite person - to the point of absurdity. It's the bible's fault, really. In 1 Corinthians 8 I read about how certain kinds of behavior can lead others to sin, even if we know that behavior to be not particularly sinful in itself. The problem comes in when someone else thinks it's sinful and sees you, The Christian, doing it. You could be harming that person's faith. Now, the bible passage is specifically talking about eating meat sacrificed to idols - I took it to mean being rude.

Yes, Being Rude is my personal Eating Meat Sacrificed to Idols. I'm so afraid of turning people off of faith and religion simply by my poor behavior that I oftentimes overcompensate by being too good. That's probably why no one ever invites me to go out drinking with them. That and I'm usually pregnant.

I think I'm overcoming this fear of Being Rude, though. I simply don't have the energy for it anymore. Today at the supermarket a man couldn't get past my son in the aisle. With a great flagrant flair the man flew up his arms, sighed heavily, and maneuvered past my boy. Instantly angry I said to the man, "Awww....did we just ruin your whole day?" in my best fake sympathy voice.

And I didn't even recognize myself.

I was so rude. So deliciously rude. I hope this isn't the beginning of a new bad habit. Next thing you know, I'll be dropping my "please"s and "thank you"s. My world will come crashing down as I cut people off in traffic and start yelling at telemarketers.

Or, maybe I'll just pray for patience, pray for that man, and pray that the children didn't hear their momma Eating Meat Sacrificed to Idols.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The love of a man

A child of the '80s, one of the first cultural buzz phrases I can remember is "women's lib". I didn't really know what that meant, but over time it seemed to mean that my future husband should help with the housework. At least that's the basic feminist expectation I took with me into the '90s which saw me married. It's an expectation that has not been realized.

I've spent the last decade-and-a-half trying to make my marriage look like what I envisioned all those years ago. I've ebbed between nagging, anger, pouting, and defeat - with nothing to show for it. Every once in a while, though, my husband surprises me. Every once in a while, when our four children need new clothes, he takes them all to the store and gets them some.

By himself.

This is not a task I'm capable of doing without serious care and thought taken first. I need organization, planning, and plenty of lead time to allow for procrastination. I need quiet and concern surrounding me as I calculate the perfect ratio of pants to shirts. I need little people to realize that I know what Thrifty means and if they would only trust me, instead of having a limb-flopping crying-filled tantrum in the middle of the store, we could get through the trip without much ado. But somehow these things I need are never supplied, and so the chore remains unfinished.

My husband, however, has no problem with children running through the clothes racks as he helps one of them pick out shirts. He doesn't mind spending money on quality name brand shoes, because after all, that's what he would want for himself if he was suddenly six years old again. He doesn't notice the child tornado that surrounds and moves with him as he goes from store to store. It is thus that the clothes shopping gets done.

As the family sweeps into the house with their bags of purchases, balloons and snacks in hand, I stand by and wonder, "how does he do that?" I watch him carefully for signs that he needs a rest, but there are none. I listen as he cheerfully goes over the bargains he found and prides himself on the outfits he put together for everyone. I stand by in silent admiration as this man that can't be bothered to lift a finger in the kitchen tells me how he did this chore for me because he knows how much I hate clothes shopping.

Just when I think he doesn't hear me, or care, or feel concern, he turns the table on me and takes me by surprise. He shows me love in an unexpected way. He reminds me that he has his own strengths - and suddenly all is forgiven.

Now, who is going to help me put all these clothes away?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Counting the cost

Lately, it seems that I'm always counting the cost of Life's demands. The children wake up before I've finished my coffee and I count the cost:

my alone time

The kids fight, bicker, hit, lie, scream, pout, argue back and I count the cost:

my sanity

My back aches, I gain weight, I'm constantly tired, I have heartburn, I look to the near future when our baby is born and think about the next few years of breastfeeding and carrying a young child around and I count the cost:

my body

I watch my husband go to work at a job that he is good at and gets paid well for and I count the cost:

my self-image

I do laundry, cook meals, clean spills, sweep the floor, and negotiate chores. Again. Without thanks. And I count the cost:

my self-worth

When I'm yelling, impatient, tired, irritable, condescending, and critical I count the cost:

my soul - and theirs

But when things are quiet, electronics humming their efficiency, children playing nicely, things tidied away squarely and a few free minutes on my hands, I count the blessings:

love, health, family, food, and shelter

And it's enough to get up and try again.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A messy home is a happy home

A job change recently took us for a year from our home in Texas to one in Washington. Upon our return, one of the first things my husband and I noticed about our house was the stained disgustingness of the carpets. Four children growing from infancy and toddlerhood leave lots of stains. And not just in the carpets.

There are stains on the baseboards. On the door handles. On the doors. On the light fixtures. On the ceilings. On the couches. On the Everywhere. We had visitors' eyes when we returned home and everything seemed to be generally tore up or torn down. So we had new carpets installed and vowed to never let the children touch another thing in the house ever again.

But then...

Then they watched Home Alone and felt inspired to use string for creating elaborate traps all through the house and their bedrooms. And I let them.

Then they read a book about magic tricks and felt inspired to create a magic show which requires papers, coins, socks for ventriloquy, and glue (?!?!). And I let them.

Then they learned that their friends have lots of broken crayons and needed to be invited over to make new crayons from the old bits and pieces using the crayon maker machine we have, whereby crumbs of crayons make little colored scratch marks all over the linoleum and counter tops. And I let them.

I know our home must look like a wreck to outsiders. It's not filthy, mind you - it's just used. And loved. And lived in. And despite my best efforts at keeping the children from using their imaginations within our four walls, my heart always gets tugged just enough to let them have this one last turn at creating something wonderful. And they always do, even if it's only just a mess.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The natural cessation of ninja cannonballs

I used to watch moms hang out at the side of our neighborhood pool to tan in the sun or read books. Their kids were old enough to not need their direct help every minute and I envied those moms. Now, I am one of them.

I can sit on the side of the pool or get in, whichever I want. Lately, I've been choosing the sitting. Sometimes I read, sometimes I make notes for a design, and sometimes I just watch. I watch my kids jump and splash and play. I watch them do cannonballs. Specifically, I watch them do cannonball variations, my favorite so far being the four year-old's ninja cannonball.

The ninja cannonball maneuver involves jumping off the side of the pool with ones legs cocked out to the side and ones arms punching the air. He loves doing it. I love watching it. His siblings love copying it. It's great fun for the whole family.

Mixed with the joy, though, is an awareness of and sadness for the day when the ninja cannonballs will end. Signs of the end are already showing. It shows itself when the children make their own lunches. It shows itself when afternoon clean up time is minimal and each child is an effective helper in his or her own way. It shows itself when the youngest has an older sibling read to him at the doctor's office instead of me.

There was a time when I felt overrun by babies and toddlers and I would have gladly taken these signs as the welcome moments of relief they would have been. Now, though, they are simply reminders that time goes by fast. Way fast. But I'm consoled with the idea that even though time might bring with it unwelcome changes, it also brings with it new and exciting ones. I see these changes happening in my older children and they fascinate me.

So, I'll take the good with the bad and enjoy the ninja cannonballs while they last. Maybe I'll even start getting in the pool.

Friday, June 8, 2012

An unexpected pregnancy

Ash Wednesday of this year began like any other regular day, with the exception of seeing the word "Mass" written down in my personal calendar as part of our daily activities. I woke up, did school with the children, made the lunch, and then distractedly wondered why my cycle hadn't started yet.

Flipping to the "other" part of my personal calendar - the one where I keep notes on my cycle and fertility - I suddenly began to suspect that I might be in need of a pregnancy test. So sometime in the afternoon hours I procured one. That sucker came back positive so quickly that I thought it was laughing at me and enjoying itself.

Hands shaking slightly, locked in the bathroom lest any of my other four positive pregnancy tests decided to enter without being invited, and armed with my cellphone I called one of my close girlfriends. "Do I tell him today," I asked, referring to my husband. "Yes, I think you should," she said. So I did, but not without a great deal of hesitation.

You see, my last pregnancy was definitely not a welcomed one by my husband or family members. The former, a man who loves each of his children dearly, was hesitant to talk of the pregnancy with anyone and worried about what people would say. He had no joy and a great deal of concern. My husband and I had "taken a chance" together, but when that chance resulted in pregnancy and no emotional support from him, I felt lonely and abandoned. From the latter ranks I received harsh words and disapproval mingled in with others giving their half-hearted but well meaning support.

Sadly, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage but not without impressing upon me how conservative we now needed to be with our natural family planning efforts. I am not one to push for babies, but I am one to be faithful to the Catholic Church's teaching on birth control. We make these decisions together, as a couple and with God, so if my husband isn't ready to risk our personal moments on the creation of a new life then neither am I. And so we were careful to follow the fertility rules that one follows when avoiding pregnancy.

And then one month ovulation came early. Like, way early. And that's how the pregnancy happened. I felt betrayed by God, my husband's potential apathy, and a church that I now perceived as being too rigid and unyielding in its teachings. As a society, we were right at the beginning of the "war on women" concerning free access to birth control and it wasn't hard for me to imagine how a lonely single woman might feel when presented with an unplanned pregnancy and how birth control might come to seem like the obvious solution to situations such as these.

As the weeks went on and I began experiencing first trimester sickness and tiredness, my anger sprouted and grew. Anger at God for letting this happen when we'd been careful in following the rules. Anger at my husband for all the help he wasn't going to give me when the baby came. Anger at him and his colleagues for constantly suggesting that he get "snipped", an action that would put my faith and marriage at serious odds with each other. Anger at the loss of manageability that my life had taken on now that the youngest of my four closely spaced children was four years old.

The close of the Lenten season found us out of town and visiting family for Easter weekend. Scrambling about to find a priest that would hear my confession before Sunday, I was finally granted an audience with a local priest who had a few minutes before getting ready for the Saturday evening services. An older gentleman with bared feet, he heard my sons' confessions in a side office while I waited outside on a comfortably shaded park bench. Finally it was my turn and he welcomed me in.

A friendly man, he took my shaking hands in his warm ones when I cried about my faithlessness and an unwanted pregnancy. He reminded me of how the apostles and disciples, to a person, denied Jesus at his Passion and Crucifixion. He said that I was normal and human and asked my permission to laugh a little at the fact that I found out about my pregnancy on Ash Wednesday. He talked about fear and fidelity before finally telling me that he was his mother's ninth or tenth child and an "accidental" pregnancy, as well.

As happens so often with Confession, I came away renewed and cleansed. My anger had subsided and I could see clearly that this pregnancy was part of the path that God had chosen for my own personal trial and growth. Since then, with each passing week, I have become more positive and sure that this road of constant parenthood is the one meant for me.

The end of this pregnancy might find me in a new spiritual upheaval as I face the possibility that my husband may want to permanently alter his fertility or take other similar actions in the family planning department. I will not borrow trouble from that future right now. The end of this pregnancy might also find me with a beautiful, healthy new baby to welcome into the world, to guide into a relationship with siblings, family, friends, and Our Creator.

I don't know of many trials that promise such rewards and I am, now, thankful for this one.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to approach a vain pregnant woman

When confronted with a vain pregnant woman in the wild, you have limited options for safely approaching her. You may approach from the front...

...from the side...

...but never from behind. You've been warned.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I said yes

Aside from "I love you", the only other thing my children hear a gillion times a day is "no". This happens when they ask me to make pancakes for breakfast (everyday), then again at the grocery checkout line, and very frequently when watching their cartoons on cable. And you know WHY they hear "no" a gillion times during their shows, right?


All those $%#&! infomercials. The consummate consumers that are my children raise all manner of fusses and hollers while branded businesses float fantastic images and catchy slogans across our tv screen at a billion beats per minutes. None of this is lost on my kids. So the "no" comes into play early and frequently.

But then.

Then we saw Kaboom (TM) at the store. The very same product that they've been coveting during cartoon time. They went wild for it. All four of them. And I felt like Bill Cosby in that stand-up routine where he mentally checks off all the reasons why chocolate cake is good for breakfast: flour, eggs, milk. We have a winner! My mental checklist was: cheap, easy, kid labor. We have a winner!

So I said yes.

To Kaboom (TM).

They couldn't run to the bathrooms fast enough with their prizes when we got home. I read them the directions and retrieved for them any other necessary supplies. The purple stuff was sprayed everywhere and we all waited for the magic to happen. It was supposed to turn green in the toilet and white in the tubs. It did. But their enthusiasm fizzled quickly.

Turns out that this magic cleaner does NOT do all the work for you. Turns out this magic cleaner thickens the air with chemicals and you simply can't breathe very well. Turns out you still have to apply some elbow grease to that task. Turns out this magic cleaner works no better than baking soda, water, and a scrub brush.

Turns out this magic cleaner sucks.

But my children learned valuable lessons. They learned to not believe everything they see or hear. They learned not all that glitters is gold. (Or, more accurately, that not everything that's purple cleans.) They learned that sometimes Mom says yes.

And that lesson, friends, will afford me at least another month of justified "no"s during cartoon time.