Tuesday, January 29, 2013

let's not repeat this story at sunday school

Henry is in a Christian preschool and it has been going great. In addition to learning his alphabet and numbers, and the importance of sharing with peers his age, he is learning to take direction from others, and how to sit still for music lessons and story time.  He learns a different Bible verse every week and will often share them with us during dinner.  


As it turns out, Henry is still in a phase where he is adamant that he wants to marry me.  Sometimes, when his siblings want to drive him crazy, they'll whisper, "Henry, I'm going to marry Mom. She isn't going to marry you anymore." Henry will inevitably burst in to tears, which will prompt me to respond, "Guys, you know I'm going to marry Henry. Please don't make him upset..."  

So, yes. Of course I'm somewhat to blame for encouraging his Oedipus Complex. 

These days, he doesn't call me "Mom" anymore, he calls me "Sweetie" or "Honey" or "Sweetie Honey Pie."  It's the cutest darn thing I've ever seen. Especially when I walk in to pick him up from preschool and he screams, "Oh yay!! My HONEY is here!!" Recently, he was telling his father that he was going to marry me. I should probably point out that marriage to our five-year-old means that he dresses up in his little button down striped oxford shirt and I wear a dress. Then he holds my hands and we dance to The Wiggles (Henry the Octopus) in the kitchen. At the end, I'll scoop him up and plant a kiss on his cheek. Per this practice, we've been "married" no less than 27 times in 2013. 

Charlie, accustomed to this routine will always smile and respond, "Oh no you don't, she's MY wife!" whenever Henry (literally) proposes such an idea.  But tonight when Charlie tried to thwart his young son's plans, Henry became indignant. "I AM TOO GOING TO MARRY MY HONEY!" he declared. "AND THEN..." he continued in his sweet little voice, "WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!" Henry stood silently for a moment, before he concluded, "... and we are going to name him Jesus!" 


Charlie and I both tried to suppress our laughter as I said, "Henry, I love you completely, but you might be taking this a little too far..." 

Honestly, I'm not too alarmed. It just goes to show my son has BIG plans. If he was enrolled in a Buddhist preschool as opposed to Christian, I imagine he would have wanted to name his child Siddhartha. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

two-hour delay

It snowed last night.


And that snow? Every bit of that one-inch stuck. As it turns out, it really helps snow stick when the ground is frozen and since it's been in the 20's the past few days, the ground is plenty frozen.


It's supposed to snow again tomorrow night. Which is great news for us, because we're supposed to take the children skiing for their first time ever this weekend.  It'll be the first time I've been on skis in 12 years and I'm a little nervous. Not because I don't know how to ski. I know how to ski rather well, but it feels like there's been a lot of aging that's happened in the past 12 years and I'm not so sure my knees are as stable as they were in 2001. Especially following my little skating mishap last year.


School was delayed by two hours today due to the snow. With those extra two hours, the kids dug out all of their winter gear and ran outside to make snow angels, snow balls, snow men, and walk on the frozen creek in the backyard.


Next week, it's supposed to be in the 50s.  This weather projection troubles me, greatly. I know there are more important things in the world to think about and pray for, but I've been praying for a white-out blizzard that traps us inside for a week and will require our children to wear the gear that they've donned less than six times since we've moved here.


If one day, we suddenly up and move stakes to Canada ... understand it was because I couldn't stand the thought of our children outgrowing boots that were hardly ever worn.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

one little, two little, three little indians

This past weekend, I had the most vivid dream that I'd received an e-mail from my children's school. In effect, it read that although the school district would be providing all of the curriculum for their appropriate grade level, due to budgetary restraints, effective immediately, they would no longer be able to provide a location for learning (i.e., classrooms), nor the staff to educate our children (i.e., teachers).

I woke up in a cold sweat. Surely this was due to my subconscious working in overdrive after spending an entire week alone trying to manage work and children and feeling like I was short-changing both.

Not very long ago, I had fantasies of homeschooling. Sometimes, I still do think about it but whenever I think about homeschooling now, it's because of certain social dynamics I'd like to shield our children from and not because I think that I could teach them more than what they're learning in school. Perhaps at some point before the children graduate and move away to college, I'll have the courage to take them out of school and do some international travel. Although, considering I can hardly make it through homework on any given night without grabbing my hair and biting my tongue, my visions for a full year traveling abroad might be a little ambitious.

Regardless, if the day ever arrives that I shelf my career to become a schoolmarm, I aspire to have the patience, creativity and overall awesomeness of our children's current second grade teacher who "looped" with them from the first grade.  Our teacher is amazing. The past few weeks the children have been studying various tribes of the American Indians and I'm including a few photos from the little books that they created in their class.

Introducing: The American Indians.


Second grade style.


(Please, just bear with me as I post 20 pages of my children's school work and drone on about how adorable they are. My babies! My little tiny 3-pound babies that were in the NICU for six long weeks are now writing and illustrating their own stories about Native Americans!)


(This stuff is much more fun to look at than the compounds I'll post about once they get to organic chemistry. Yes, life will be tough for these children as they grow up and have to deal with me as I barge in to their work place and declare, "MY BABIES! They had a gavage tube for a month! Look at them now!! Earning money and paying taxes as a contributing member of society!!)


So, as I was saying: The children studied three different indian tribes: the Powhatan Indians of the mid-atlantic, the Lakota Indians of the central plains and the Pueblo Indians of the southwest.  Pochantas was a Powhatan Indian and she was like a ROCKSTAR because her father was the chief of the tribe.


Powhatans lived in wigwams.


In the mid-atlantic, it is cold in the winter and warm in the summer.


The Powhatans hunted for food. They also fished and had gardens.


They made clothes out of raccoons and deer.


And they used the WHOLE body of any animal that they took, then they celebrated for the life that helped them survive.


OH. But then!! The white skinned people came to the land where they lived!!

(Cue ominous music....)


They were looking for the indians who would help them find gold.  But apparently unsuccessful in their search as illustrated by this befuddled tracker who is following a turtle.


The white skinned people were mean, but the indians were nice. In this picture, the indians are wearing very little, while the white skinned person is wearing a lot of clothes and is turning purple because it is so cold. Maybe it's 12 degrees, like it was here this morning?


But the Powhatans, and especially Pochantas, was kind to everyone.


Next up, the Lakota Indians.

The Lakotas lived in the central plains and were migratory because they followed the buffalo. The world was much bigger for them, because they had to travel around so much.


Because they moved around a lot, they lived in teepees which could easily be broken down.


The women put up the teepees.... 


While the men hunted the buffalo.  (That looks like a hungry and angry indian.)


But they had to be VERY QUIET when they hunted the buffalo and not make a sound or else the buffalo would stampede! (If you read the captions backwards, you'll see that the buffalo was thinking, "I will get you!" while the little indian on their knees was yelling, "AAA HELP!" Thankfully, the little indian would be saved by their father who was hiding behind the hill.)


Because they moved around a lot and chased after buffalo, the Lakotas rode horses. WHEW those horses would get tired!  Here's one that seems to have a bit of narcolepsy.


Last but not least: the Pueblo Indians of the southwest.


The Pueblos lived in adobe huts that were made from clay.

No tools were used in the creation of these homes!!


The clay dried by the sun.


They Pueblos were mostly gardeners.

Although according to the research provided herein, they had at least one deer. .


While the men did manly things, the women made beautiful pottery.


In case you had any doubt, this information is based on a true story.


Also, as a note from one of the acclaimed authors ... if you ever want to go around the world and visit these indians, it is recommended that you first "read this book before you begin your great jurney."


And here is a little bit of personal information about one of our authors...


His mother took the liberty to erase his telephone number, home address and bank pin. Sometimes, it's hard for a writer to know just where to draw the line in sharing personal information!

Friday, January 18, 2013

the best gig

Charlie and I have developed informal "roles" in our house.  It's just sort of happened that I'm primarily responsible for managing all of the finances, decorating, organization and procurement of clothing and household supplies and keeper of the "Honey-Do List" ... while he is primarily responsible for laundry, cooking and liaising with the children. Whenever Charlie goes out of town - all of those responsibilities fall to me. And while it's a lot of work ... I love it.

I've driven more this week than I've probably driven in the past three months, shuttling the kids to and from school and preschool and from teacher's homes to our home and from swim team and gymnastics and art classes to Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts and Odyssey of the Mind and Chess Club. But I've loved it. I've loved feeling in those moments like a mother that is spending time with the most important people in her life and doing exactly what it is that she is meant to do.

I've loved packing their lunches every morning and slipping in little notes telling them how much I enjoy them. I've loved getting them off to school and tasking them with "three good deeds" they need to do for others - that they'll need to explain to the family that night during dinner.  (For the record, reporting back on the three good deeds has yet to happen. They usually wind up telling me one good deed and two despicable things that others did to them, but this is a process.)

I've loved meeting them when they get off the bus in the afternoon and hearing - first hand - the things that happened at school that day.  I've really come to appreciate the bus driver that won't pull away until he sees me - or another parent - making sure that the children are safe getting home before he leaves.  I've loved unpacking their backpacks and taking out the various assignments and creations that they've worked so hard on.  And I've really come to appreciate the teachers, even more so, for the incredible talent and dedication that they show to our children.

(This weekend, I'll try to post the American Indian books that our second graders came home with today that are quite possibly, the most adorable things I've ever seen.) 

I've loved spending an hour of quiet time with Henry once I get the older kids off to school.  He accompanies me through all the different rooms of the house, while I make beds and scurry to get prepared for work.  The 60 minutes I have to get ready between the start of elementary school and the start of preschool is usually reduced to less than 10 minutes because Henry will sweetly ask, "Mom, will you draw me a picture of Spiderman?" He knows that I can hardly draw a stick figure, but he asks me, anyway.  Once I draw a picture of Spiderman, he'll ask, "Mom, will you draw me a picture of ... the Hulk? ... Batman? ... Captain America? ... Iron Man?"

Insert random superhero character here __________________ followed by, "Mom, will you draw me a picture of that?"  Of course I will. Because one day I'll remember this time - and hopefully you will, too. And I want you to remember that me taking the time to draw you a picture, was much more important than me curling my hair.

The letter of the week for Henry's preschool class was "J" and I loved helping him pick out something that started with that letter. He was adamant that he bring a jragon more commonly referred to as a dragon.  When he held up the figurine he wanted to share, I told him, "Henry, that's a dragon. That doesn't start with the letter 'j...'" and he vehemently replied, "Yes it does. It's a JRAGON, Mom."

Then he sounded it out for effect,  "J-J-J- JRAGON."

I've loved listening to William tell me about his dreams, while I cook dinner.  His dream, that takes him more than 15 minutes to describe and which I realize at some point, wasn't actually a dream but rather a movie we watched three months ago.  I've loved brushing the girls shiny hair and measuring the length every night, to figure out how much longer it needs to grow before they can donate to Locks of Love.

I've honestly loved just about every thing that comes from being with them everyday. What I always remember, when I spend a week solely caring for our children, is that in growing their hearts and minds, I'm growing mine, too.  YES,  for those few days - once a quarter when Charlie is on a trip - I am totally synchronized with the children and their needs, and the house and it's needs, and it satisfies a need in me I can't fully explain.

Although, if I had to do it for more than a week straight, I'd probably pass out from exhaustion.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

life in the fast lane

This morning, our preschool teacher who has been looking after Henry for a few hours while I work in the afternoon, called to tell me that her daughter was home sick with a temperature of 101.


Whether or not we wanted to bring Henry over was entirely up to us. No sooner did I hang up the phone with the teacher, when it rang again with the pediatrician's office calling to tell me that the strep culture they ran on Henry this past Monday, came back positive.  He was in the doctor's office for something totally unrelated, but they did a culture while he was there because he had been complaining of a "little" sore throat. So this morning, Henry is running around the house pretending to be Spiderman - and I'm thinking about the big meeting I have at 10 AM in the office and I'm stuck with the dilemma of a sick child and work and no support and ....

What do I do?  

I could drop him off at school and pick him up when it's dismissed at 1:00, instead of working until 3:00 like I've been doing every day this week.  Or, I could take the day off.  But I'm in a new job with a new boss and a meeting today to discuss my new responsibilities. Unable to think straight, I call Charlie in California for whatever wisdom and guidance he could offer at 5:45 AM, local time.


My groggy husband suggests that I bring Henry to school because he's been acting fine all week. Then, he suggested, I just go by and pick him up once school is dismissed instead of letting him go to the preschool teacher's house so he's not exposed (or exposing) to the next round of illness.  "Sounds like I plan!" I agreed as I scooped Henry up and dashed out the door.

But on the way to Henry's preschool, a little voice in my head called a Maternal Conscience bellowed, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You can't bring a child who has been diagnosed with strep throat to preschool!" And then I suddenly remembered that there are two children at his school who have recently undergone chemotherapy and their immune systems could still be suppressed and um, no. So instead of making a left to his school, I instead banged a u-turn and drove straight to my office.    


Henry came with me to my big meeting. In the conference room, there were men in suits and my five-year-old with his little backpack and coloring books. He sat at one end of an 18-foot long table and alternated coloring pictures of pirates and rolling a snack sized apple the length of the table.  My new boss was understanding and accommodating and extremely appreciative that I made it to the meeting, despite my circumstances. 

Following the meeting, I left the office - had lunch with Henry - stopped to pick up his prescription, did some grocery shopping while we waited - and the whole time felt like I was suppressing a panic attack. There is work that I'm supposed to be doing. People are waiting for me, looking for me, needing something from me. This feeling, it's not uncommon. It's so common it's damn near constant. 

Be in the moment, I keep trying to tell myself, as I'm looking at my beautiful child but not really seeing him ... hearing his chatter, but not really listening. Touching his hand, but not really feeling his touch. 

Last night, when I probably should have been managing my time better, I was reading Becca's blog. If you remember, Becca lost her little sister, Julia, this past July in a tragic auto accident.  As it turns out, Becca's father and I worked for the same company.  He retired soon after his daughter died because he probably woke up one morning and decided, "There are much more important things that I should be doing with my life."  Becca, who is expecting her second child any day now, had linked to a post she had written last year about her decision to be a stay at home mother. Her decision, it turns out, wasn't entirely hers.  She was reflecting how ashamed she felt that she couldn't find a job ... and my comment to her was that I'm so ashamed that I haven't given mine up. Especially when I know how much angst it causes me every day ... why do I keep doing it? 

I've overanalyzed this situation to death. Believe me, I know.  But what I've concluded is that there has to be some kind of middle ground. I'm just trying to find it before I have a stroke. 

It happened recently that Carolyn lost the blue ice block that goes in her lunchbox and I told her that she needs her blue ice because without it, her food can spoil and she can get very sick.  I don't think I was very compassionate in my explanation though, because my daughter is crying that she doesn't want to throw up and I'm telling her Well, She Needs To Keep Better Track Of Her Things Then.  

Charlie is informed of this conversation and he gives me a puzzled expression as he says, "Jen. Listen. You can't talk to the kids like they are your co-workers. They aren't PEOPLE they are CHILDREN. You expect way too much from them."

I'm not sure when he got so smart.  But it struck me: the more time I spend with the children, the more I understand them. As a result, the higher my tolerance and the lower my expectations. The converse is definitely true which is that the less time I'm around the children - the lower my tolerance and the higher my expectations. Having a patient demeanor around children isn't something that just happens. It's a characteristic that comes with exposure and experience. And possibly medication. 

On the upside, I spent the entire day with my son and there were some definite highlights.  Like when our security chief gave him a lollipop and he thought the model race car in our lobby was the coolest thing ever... 


Until ..... 


I showed him the real one. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

an apology letter to the universe

Charlie is out of town on a business trip. It happens once a quarter that he is gone for one week and this is the week. He'll be home soon, but until then - I'm holding down the fort on my own. At the risk of sounding like an overwhelmed working mother of four, I'll just admit that it can be a bit frazzling to be solely responsible for several small children, three of whom are in after school activities nearly every day and have an abundance of homework at night. While also being responsible for a full-time job that is located in the Corporate headquarters of a major oil company (aka: you can't just stroll in with your unwashed hair in a bun wearing baggy sweatpants and a pair of UGGs).


The other night, in an effort to combat the anxiety that I could feel building up in my heart and shoulders, I pulled out my old dusty yoga DVD and popped it in. For the first 15 minutes, the children were engaged and we all did yoga together. AS A FAMILY.  It was unbelievably zen.

But then ... suddenly the children were bored, which I fully expected would eventually happen. What I didn't expect was that as I was in the triangle pose visualizing energy channeling through my fingertips, that I'd say in a not so very calm voice to my precious children pushing each other off the couch behind me, "Dear Ones. If you keep that up, I'm going to take you straight to the orphanage." 

Did I mean it?  No, of course not!

Why do I even say things like that?  Where in the world do those horrible thoughts come from because they're most definitely not in my heart.  Good Lord these children know how to push buttons that I didn't even know existed.  As do people in traffic that honk their horns for no good reason. Why is it that I feel compelled to throw my car in to reverse and just back in to them?  SMASH!

Today, William received a "Think Sheet." This is the first time that he's ever received disciplinary action at school to the point that the school has notified us about it. Apparently, he was the recipient of two Think Sheets, but the first one accidentally ended crumpled up in the trash, something or other.


My sweet son, my once three pound preemie baby, who is sharp as a tack and has the propensity to be a very polite little gentleman, also has the propensity to be an over-the-top absolute clown that jumps around like a fool.  The things that this child will do for a laugh. We've definitely reached the "goofy" age and I just keep hoping that eventually, he'll realize on his own that the laughs aren't worth the sacrifices to his dignity.

But then I'm reminded of Jackass movies, and understand some boys never grow out of it. 

As we were driving home today, I asked what had happened.  For the next seven minutes, as William would try to talk, his sisters were interrupting him.  "Eli punched him in the head, first."  "William was banging on a drum to make everyone laugh!" I was trying to shush the girls so that William could tell me what had happened, from his perspective. Around and around and around the story went because there is no such thing as a factual summary from an eight-year-old, especially when his eight-year-old sisters have their opinion.  I probably shouldn't have been annoyed, but my patience meter was tapping out - so as we were driving down the street to our house, I suddenly pulled over to the side of the road and climbed out.  Opening the back door to the van, I asked a terrified William (Oh My Dear God, what is she going to do to me?!) WHAT HAPPENED? 

A crystal clear story suddenly emerged. He and his friend, Eli, were playing in the cafeteria.  They were joking around and started to punch one another because isn't that precisely what second grade boys do? The cafeteria mom witnessed the tomfoolery and told the teacher that they were punching each other and voila. Think Sheet One.


In music class, the teacher asked them to line up against the wall at the end of their session, but William thought it would be more fun to go play instruments than listen and voila. Think Sheet Two.


Once I had the details, I tried to determine what would be the most appropriate response.  Elizabeth was whispering, "You're busted! You're busted!" but when I asked her to explain what "busted" means, she was under the impression that it meant something altogether different.  In the end, I decided that I'd have him sit down and write apology letters for both events.  William told me that he was so sorry and that he promised he'd never make a mistake again.  I told him that while it's always good to try our best - we're human and we ALWAYS make mistakes. The important thing is to recognize your mistakes, apologize for them - and if you happen to be on the opposite side, extend forgiveness.


A mere 10 minutes later, just to prove my point, the kids did something - created a mess, left a mess, teased each other, who the heck even knows what - and my head fell clean off my shoulders as is prone to happen. While my head doesn't actually detach from my body physically, it does so mentally because I do and say things that I'd never do or say in a sound state of mind.

I'm slowly going insane.  I just know it.

Tonight as I was tucking the children in to bed and saying our evening prayers, I apologized. "See," I told William. "You're not the only one that has bad behavior and makes mistakes. Every day, we just have to keep trying to do better. Unfortunately," I added, "Sometimes the bigger you are, the bigger the mistakes." He smiled and said, "Yeah, but that just means you need bigger forgiveness."

Perhaps that's why I blog. Writing here helps keep me honest.

And my apology letters would never fit on a single sheet of paper.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

lessons from the BK lounge

My senior year in college, I took a class on sedimentary petrology. It was taught by one of the most awesome teachers I've ever had ... Dr. Tom Anderson.


(This photo isn't from that class, this picture is from my igneous-metamorphic petrology class led by another awesome teacher, Dr. Rolfe Erickson. But the cast of characters was the same. That's me in the blue jacket, standing in the back row - second from the right. Next to me is my sweet Julie and my dear friend, Lorie is kneeling on the bottom left.  Hey LB, wasn't it this trip that you were medivac'd out of camp with kidney stones?)

Tom was everything that a geology professor should be and more: He was smart, rugged, engaging, witty, handsome and challenging.  He was an excellent instructor but he was known as a tough grader. To receive an A in one of Tom's classes was an incredible accomplishment. A grand feat, worthy of praise and admiration.

Mid-way through the semester, we took a field trip to the outer skirts of Death Valley to apply what we had learned in the classroom.  And as it often happens on geology field trips, once the tents go up and the fire is lit, people tend to get a little "lit" themselves.  On this particular trip, I was introduced to Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum. Charlie had packed two bottles of the stuff for me to take and share with my friends during our five-day outing in to the wild.  At the age of 22, I hadn't ever had Captain Morgan's before and I can say that without a doubt, nearly 20 years later - I haven't touched it since because OMG. That stuff is devil juice.

One evening as we sat around the campfire, Tom divided the class up in to teams of three and asked me, the appointed leader of my little group, which outcrop our team would like to study and map.

Like a buffoon, people later confirmed that I had willingly suggested the "Bonanza King" which is a Cambrian dolomite that is located at the top, very - very - very top, of a rugged mountain range.  What I'd studied on the formation had interested me and although I knew it's stratigraphic position, in my somewhat woozy state, I thought it would be SO MUCH FUN! to map the rocks at the top of the mountain. Woo hoo!! Party at the peak!! 

Now, if you haven't spent much time around 500 million year old dolomite outcrops in the desert, I'll just tell you that it isn't the kind of stuff you want to be walking around on. Shale would be better. Or even sandstone. But definitely not dolomite, that will easily rip through your pants and skin if you should trip and fall - or simply decide to sit down for lunch. You especially don't want to explore dolomite that is located two miles straight up a rugged range covered in jagged talus that is subject to landslides with one misstep.

What I remember from the evening is that Tom sat down with a bottle of Captain Morgan's next to him and was slowly pouring little splashes of rum in to an aluminum camping coffee cup, while six or so of his students shared the second bottle. At some point, I recall telling the crowd around me that I'd never been sick before from drinking alcohol in the entire 19 months that I'd been of "legal age".

I think they call those, "Famous last words." 

Lo and behold, the next morning, I thought I was going to die.  Dying I'm sure would have been less painful.  The horrific feeling that enveloped my body eclipsed the horrific feeling that had been brought about by too much tequila (which I've also never touched since) that I'd had consumed during a different geology trip to Texas. That is precisely why these days when I go camping, I drink Shirley Temples.  Straight up. With four cherries. On the rocks. Lessons are sometimes learned the hard way.

After being thoroughly repulsed by breakfast - a critical meal when you're on a geology trip because it provides the much needed energy to fuel your body - and turning my head while stuffing a salami and cheese sandwich in to my backpack (just in case I regained my appetite during the day) to try and suppress my gag reflex, we drove from our campsite along a bumpy road to the "range" that our class would be responsible for studying and mapping.

The whole way there, I prayed that we'd get a flat tire or experience a mechanical difficulty so great, that we'd have to stop and I could go hide behind a cactus.

When we finally arrived after the LONG, BOUNCY, SWELTERING van ride, I climbed out of the vehicle and actually laid down on the side of the road. I propped my head on my backpack and pulled my hat over my eyes so it looked like I was simply resting and not say, gruesomely hungover.  When Tom's van arrived - he hopped out and with a happy swagger - which confused the heck out of me how he could do that since he consumed more than a half dozen of his class combined - and surveyed the scene of his 20+ students, most of whom were predominantly horizontal and moaning.

He shouted at all of us, "Whatta bunch of pansy light weights. I'll flunk all of you if you don't get your asses up that hill and get to work!" Then he came over and peering down at me said, "Hey Foley. We're supposed to be MAPPING not NAPPING. Don't you dare come crying to me when I give you an F in this class. You signed up for the Bonanza King, remember?" Then he pointed his finger at the top of the mountain range and said, "Better get a move on. Hopefully, you'll get to the top before nightfall...."

"Wait a minute," I said, holding up a shaky hand to block the rising sun while squinting at the top of the mountain. "Are you sure it was me that got the Bonanza King? I don't remember that...." He nodded his head yes and gave me a wicked smile. I turned around away from him and placing my hands on my knees, took a few deep breaths willing myself not to pass out.

Right then, I decided that Tom was evil. Why, I'll bet he was drinking water the whole time, trying to teach a lesson to his budding geologists.

When I looked up, my two teammates, Aaron and Sabrina, were standing in front of me.  They weren't feeling so good themselves, and they glared at me when I whispered that we had been assigned the Bonanza King ... that gray dolomite, way, way, way, way, way up there at the very, very, very, very top of the mountain and they might want to go ahead and start walking.

I'll try to catch up soon. Or at least by next month. 

My teammates shuffled off while I gathered my strength. My body was suffering severe hot flashes and sweating spells alternating with bodily chills. It took me nearly three hours of hiking to catch up with them, and once I arrived, I plopped myself down and put my face on a jagged outcrop. Then for the next four hours, while my teammates measured thicknesses and bedding planes, I observed everything there was to observe about the Bonanza King. I wrote about the texture and the fossil marks and then I cracked a piece open with my rock hammer and wrote about the differences between the weathered and fresh surfaces and I can't even remember what exactly I wrote, but I filled my little yellow field notebook with observations and various sketches about the Bonanza King.  There was nothing else I could do, since I couldn't really walk and I didn't want to go back to the van and be chastised again. So I sat and I scribbled. And scribbled. And scribbled.

At the end of the semester, Tom handed out one A for his field class.  It went to our team due to our "outstanding and unsurpassed lithologic descriptions." I'm not sure if Tom was more surprised or me.  But I know that in the end, I learned a lot more from that class than just sedimentary petrology.

I learned about the importance of self respect. I learned about knowing your limits and being accountable to your team and those who rely on you.  I learned that taking the time to observe and then write everything there is to write about a subject can sometimes be the surest way to redemption.  And I learned that even when the odds are severely stacked against you and you have dried vomit on your shoe, if you put your nose to grindstone (or sedimentary carbonate dolostone in this case) you can still come out ahead.   Also, Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum?

No thanks. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

life in this moment

The older our children grow, the more difficult it is for me to sit down and string together a cohesive thought.  The kids don't nap anymore, their bedtime is slowly creeping later, and whenever I do have an opportunity to sit down - it feels like my mind is a jumbled mess.  How can I sit to think and write when I should be:

- Spending time with my husband

- Exercising and meditating

- Sleeping

- Meal planning

- Communicating with friends and family

- Reviewing school work

- Cleaning up from the day

- Reviewing my calendar

- Paying bills

- Preparing for tomorrow

(In the interest of full disclosure: I rearranged my list above after I wrote it.  Initially, the first item on my list was cleaning up from the day immediately followed by preparing for tomorrow - and the last item on my list was exercising and mediation. That certainly seems unaligned based upon what I really consider to be important in life.  For some reason, my priorities always find a way to get completely out of whack without my conscious consideration and rigorous stewardship.)

At this stage in my life, the more difficult it is for me to know what to do.  

It feels like everything is so important and so critical, it's a juggle to know what exactly to do and when. Something of equally critical importance on my list will need to be shifted. And then there's writing, which is vitally important to my soul, but how do I make sense of the things that I'm thinking about when I have so many other competing priorities?  Of course that doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of things on my heart ... there are so many I feel like I'm looking at a heap of tangled yarn, trying to figure out how to even begin unraveling it.  Usually, the task is too great given the energy and focus required to write about them when I finally have the opportunity to be still. 

Stillness, that's what I really crave - more than anything else.  Because in stillness, there is a peaceful voice that gently guides me. I crave to jump in to a big ocean of stillness and drift around - letting it carry me with the tide.  But to achieve stillness, all the other things on my list of things to do have to be done. How can my mind possibly rest when I'm still in my pajamas at 10 AM and there are leftovers from our Christmas dinner in the refrigerator? (Two facts).

So instead of an ocean and the ability to float, I get little drops when I'm brushing my teeth. Or maybe a puddle on my drive to work.  And yet, I know how much I need stillness to keep the ship that is my sanity off the rocks of insanity.   Today, wishing that I had a block of time to eloquently craft a detailed description of puzzles in life that have me perplexed, I'm going to instead bridle the tiny bit of time I have on this foggy morning while Charlie prepares breakfast and I sit next to the Christmas tree that we'll be taking down later today - and try not to let the blank Girl Scout cookie order form that is due in three days distract me - as I jot down a few important things on my mind.

Charlie and I have some dear friends who are among our favorite people in the world. We live in one country, they live in another.  But we met several years ago - when they decided to take off and travel. They settled in San Diego for a brief stint, and while they were there, we quickly realized that we had much in common. They moved back to their homeland and we remained in contact with them, until a few years ago - when they completely fell off the radar.

We were so confused as to what had happened. When several phone calls were unreturned, we began to question whether we did something to offend them?  Did we say something? Write something? Not say or write something?  What had happened to them?

Had they been injured?  We left messages on phones that had recordings in their voices. They never called back.  We sent cards and letters. We never heard back. We almost went to visit them, but thought better of it.  What if for some reason they didn't remember us - or suddenly disliked us? That would be uncomfortable, if we just arrived on their doorstep one day.

Earlier this week, Charlie made a connection with our friend through the professional networking group, LinkedIn.  My husband sent a cheery note that said, "You can run ... but you can't hide!" Then he summarized our life in a nutshell over the past two years.  Within an hour, our friend wrote back and provided his nutshell, over the past two years.  His beautiful son, a year older than the triplets, was diagnosed with autism. He was in a difficult and unstable work situation. His mother was diagnosed with cancer. His marriage dissolved. He was in an automobile accident. His mother died. He didn't feel like being social and felt like crawling in to a hole. Can't say I blame him.

When I read the note, I was heartbroken for them.  I think about some of the challenges that I've faced over the past two years - and they don't hold a candle to their challenges.  But the thing about life's challenges is that they are unique and relative.  When I lost my very early fifth pregnancy, I remember talking to a woman who had just lost her newborn. How could my pain compare with her pain?

It couldn't.

But it could. 

Challenges are challenges. 

Earlier this week, I came home after a long - still not in to the swing of life after the holidays workday - to a little book that Kathleen sent to me.  It seemed like it might hold a few gems of inspiration and seeing as I'd been overly snappy with the kids - and Charlie - and myself - I stole away to the bathroom library and read the entire book, cover to cover.  It spoke to my tired soul so much, that I read the entire thing to Charlie that night.  And then I read it again, the next day.

Then I went on line and wanted to download everything Max Lucado has ever written.

My religion? It's confusing. I don't understand or know what exactly I believe but I do know that I find great strength in going to church, prayer, and deep reflection.   Unfortunately, there isn't much time for those things.  (Refer to commentary above.)

While I struggle with what exactly I believe - especially given my scientific background - I do know that there is solace that comes from believing in Something.  There is a great peace that comes from believing that the world is indeed unfolding as it should, God's Fingerprints are on everything, and miracles and magic abound.  I've come to realize that if you really believe those things in your heart and Do Good, you will channel divinity. It's inevitable. But definitely not a guard against facing challenges in life because those things will continue to happen.

I've said it before. Life is so good for me. I have my health. I have my marriage. I have my family. I have my friends. I have my home. After an extremely harrowing time in my professional career, I received a promotion at work and am now with a manager who is well respected - and who respects me. And despite my chocolate obsession, I can still fit in to suits that I wore 15 years ago before I gave birth to triplets and a 10-pound baby. I'm blessed. And lucky.

Why, then, does it so often feel like I'm drowning? Why does it feel like my best self, my best energy, are going to things that are at the bottom of my Important Life Priorities List?  Why do I have to exercise such rigor to focus on the now instead of the tomorrow?  I had a dream the other night that I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. Terrible, but not Stage 4 bad. The potential for cure was slightly more likely.  In the same dream, Elizabeth had grown  taller.  She still had the same facial shape of an eight-year-old, with missing front teeth and baby cheeks - but she towered over me, as I fully expect she will one day.  Life goes so fast. Do I even know if I'm making the right choices?

Will I realize one day, I've been all wrong? 

Sticking with the analogy above, this little book was like a raft for the ocean of stillness that I so desperately crave. It grounded me and calmed me and was like a flashlight in to darkness.  The one passage that has really resonated with both Charlie and I is this:

Lead kindly, Light. 
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

God promises a lamp unto our feet, not a crystal ball in to the future.

Kindness. Goodness. Seeking stillness, in this moment. So much easier said than done.

If I had a few more minutes to wrap this post in to a tidy ending I would. But my time is up and I need to go get dressed and take down the Christmas tree. William just picked out my wardrobe for the day. It consists of wool socks, a sports bra and snow pants.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

"s" is for scamp

Next year Henry will be starting kindergarten. But for now, he loves preschool and preschool loves him.  He is writing his name and working with letters and dare I say, even learning to read.


When we signed him up for preschool, it was intended to be an opportunity for Henry to socialize with other similarly aged children and take direction from adults other than Charlie and I.  The fact that he's learning to read and getting a jump start on school is just an added bonus.  It's really quite amazing how far we've come in two years when I think back to our little boy that was dismissed from his first preschool after less than a week and was screened by Child Find and multiple psychologists over the past 24 months.

Every week, Henry's class works on a different letter of the alphabet. To help reinforce the lesson, their teacher instructs them to bring various items to school and she will spend the entire week writing, creating, and exploring things that begin with that letter.

This week's letter is "S."

Today, Henry wore his favorite stained, shrunk, small, shredded summer short sleeve shirt (that on countless occasions, I've unsuccessfully slipped out of his drawers and slid in to a sack for storage, but he always surprises me by finding it and stuffing it back in his sock drawer for safe keeping.) While his brother supplemented his stash for show and tell, by picking out Shamu, shark and snake from our overflowing stuffed animal supply. Henry was thrilled that he had so much to share with his class as he happily traipsed off to school.

Tonight, during dinner, he recapped his day and showed us the Super Why toy that he had brought home. When I inquired where he had picked up such a toy, he told me, "I STOLE IT!  STOLE with an S!" Hmm. Such a conundrum as a parent.  Disappointed and yet, impressed at his grasp of the English language.


Tomorrow, he'll be bringing it back and saying he's super sorry. This isn't the first time our tot has had sticky fingers. Over the past few months, I've had to return to a few stores with a begrudgingly apologetic Henry who had items tucked in to his pocket, or under his hat, or inside my purse. It wasn't until we'd reached the car that I noticed I'd been hauling around a 8 x 10 picture frame with an image of Spiderman inside that didn't belong to us. That was an awkward moment.

We need to convey to our five-year-old that if he grows up snatching things that don't belong to him, he'll end up in the slammer one day.

(And that'll make me ssad.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

new year resolution #48: don't eat chocolate that was not intended for you

Am I the only one who had an absolutely brutal re-entry to the real world last week?

Egads.  I won't go in to all the details except to say that the box of fudge that my sister, Beth, had sent to my house for my sister Eileen as a Christmas present - which was received the day after my sister Eileen left to return to Michigan - and which we had every intention of sending to Eileen (in Michigan) for her to enjoy from my sister, Beth?  Well, that box of fudge didn't quite make it.


It sat near our front door for four days, and then on the seat of my car for two whole days (before I made it to the Post Office), and in a fit of despair, I tore in to the box using one of my keys to rip away the tape.  I think I was even moaning, "Need chocolate. NEED CHOCOLATE, NOW." 

I opened one little box and ate a few chunks of fudge, thinking ... anticipating ... that I'd send the second box to Eileen, and not even mention that there had actually been two boxes in the beginning.  But would you look at what happened to the second box?


That box opened itself and chocolate squares started jumping out at me. AGAINST MY WILL. And now, it's not like I can send a box with 1.5 pieces consumed.  That would be so totally rude!

In retrospect, it really would have helped me if the box didn't have TUCKS FAMOUS CHOCOLATE written all over the outside of it.  That's just asking for trouble.  Especially when it goes to your little sister's house. (Aunt Grace, am I right?!)

(Beth, I'm wicked sorry. I'll send Eileen something else on your behalf. Promise.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

where's the "reset" button?

Today was our first day back to work and school.

It wasn't an easy transition for us.

This morning when I went to wake the kids up at 6:45, they were all concerned that it was dark outside and possibly still night?  Consider, over the past two weeks, our wake-up time has morphed from 6:30 AM until yesterday, when I didn't stir until almost 10:00 AM and the sun was nearly in the middle of the sky when I finally climbed out of bed.

Once upon a time, when I was 19, waking up before 10 AM would have been crazy early.  In fact, I would steer clear of all college courses that started before 11 AM.  Funny how graduating and landing a job that requires you to be dressed and somewhere before 9 AM, and then - adding a few children to the mix - can turn your sleeping late habits upside down.  There's no question my ability to sleep in yesterday had everything to do with the fact that Carolyn is now tall enough to reach the cereal and prepare breakfast for her siblings ... while everyone poured over the comics.


What I should have been doing is waking up at a consistent time for the past two weeks so this morning wouldn't have been such a shock to my system.  But it was, because I didn't.

So off the kids rush to school and I rush off to work.  And by the time I arrived home tonight, I was baked. My body ached and my brain was foggy from my first day back.  I'm doing my best to think ahead to my gratitude journal entry for the day, and looking for opportunities ~ in those moments ~ to be grateful.

My beautiful children, blessings of my life!  Alternatively titled, "They who will only sit down and complete their homework when I raise my voice seven octaves and go hoarse."

My wonderful husband, who made minestrone soup from scratch today!  Alternatively titled, "The one who brought me a cup of hot tea with honey, but placed it on my dresser leaving what looks to be an irreparable ring."

Our sweet dog, who greets me everyday at the door with his tail wagging! Alternatively titled, "Ye who jumped up and slobbered all over the cranberry stilton that I'd placed too close to the table's edge."

Oh, sometimes I can be such a Mega Crank. This was not what I had in mind for today, only the second day of the new year.  Where's my gratitude?!

I found a good bit of it in our children's journal entries...



The rest of it I found in early bedtimes and peppermint bark.


Also, hot chocolate with marshmallows is always a boon.