Thursday, March 21, 2013

the count down

We're leaving tomorrow on a big road trip.


The kids are incredibly excited, as evidenced by the calendar that Elizabeth created and has been marking off, every day for the past three weeks ...


Everything is so much bigger - so much greater - so much more exciting! through the eyes of a child. And now, multiply that overwhelming excitement times four.


Things have been a bit chaotic as the children try to convince me that they really are big enough to pack their own bags. One day soon, I promise that I will relinquish this great responsibility. But for now, they just need to trust me that on or about day two, they'll be very glad that they have more than a pair of pajamas, three bathing suits and 42 stuffed animals.

Monday, March 18, 2013

punxsutawney phil was a bit off this year

With the spring solstice less than a week away, this is what we woke up to yesterday morning without even having to flush any ice cubes:


Unfortunately, the temperatures weren't quite cold enough so although snow was falling, it wasn't sticking to the roads. Hence, school buses could drive down those roads and as a result, the children cried wee, wee, wee all the way to the bus stop...


While I cried wee, wee, wee all the way to the office. It can be so difficult to be eight-years-old. But I think it might be even more difficult to be 41-years old and want nothing more than another Snow Day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

the path (xiv)

Last year, I wrote a series of posts that explored "the path" that I've been on thus far in my life. For a while now, I've felt moved to add to that collection. Consider these additional installments further soul-searching, history revealing stories that help me better understand the person that I am today and who I hope to become, tomorrow.


Growing up, I went to seven different schools before I was in ninth grade. So by the time I reached high school - I didn't feel like I had much stability in the friendship department.  What does it take to be a friend? What does it take to be liked? What does it take to fit in?  Those were just some of the big questions that I was navigating at a critical point in my life: my early teenage years.  

My freshman year, I became fast friends with someone who was a native from the town. A native from a town that was very keen on its natives. It was a southern town that less than 26 years prior had undergone desegregation of the public school systems and held very firmly to its conservative roots.  The new friend was beautiful and athletic and had been very popular in middle school - which was a catalyst for her being very popular in high school. Moreover, her older brother was a senior heart throb on campus.

One Saturday afternoon, we arranged that she'd come over to my house for a few hours. My house being a very cozy two bedroom condominium on the second floor of a complex that I lived in with my mother.  And what I honestly didn't know until the day she was scheduled to visit was that my mother would be gone for the day.  So when she arrived to an adult-less house, the first thing that she did was call her quarterback boyfriend and invite him over. And then, she asked me if we had anything to drink.

I'm sure everyone's thinking that I had more to do with the trouble that we were about to get in to, but let me just state for the record: Up until my senior year in college, I'd always been very naive.  For example, when one of my college roommates asked if I'd like to "join" her and her Citadel boyfriend for the evening, I thought they meant by going out to dinner. When she said, "We were thinking of a ménage à trois..." I thought she meant a FRENCH restaurant.  Cross my heart, that's a true story.  Just ask my mother whom I called in a state of hysteria at 10 PM once I fully understood their intentions.

So there I am in ninth grade, holding a glass of ice water for my new friend and she scoffs at me.

"No, what I was wondering is if you have something to DRINK." She poured out the ice water before asking where my mother kept her "alcohol." My first instinct was to show her to the bottle of alcohol that we'd use for medicinal purposes - before I thought it best that she clarify. She laughed again as she set about opening various cupboards until she found what she was looking for.  My mother was not much of a "drinker" but she did have bottles of Kahlua, vodka and Creme de Menthe for when guests (that were older than 14) might come over.

My friend took all three bottles out of the hutch and poured approximately equal parts, in to her glass. Then she walked back in to the kitchen and opened the fridge. She extracted a Diet RC cola and a jar of maraschino cherries, which she liberally added to her cocktail.  At approximately the same time, her boyfriend arrived and they started to make out. And right about then, a little alarm in my head started to go off:  WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP.

The next hour was a blur. I do remember trying a sip of my friend's special concoction and thinking it was the grossest thing I'd ever consumed. So I ate a graham cracker instead. Meanwhile, my friend inhaled her drink and poured herself another one. Her boyfriend kicked off his shoes and turned on the college football game (Clemson vs. Alabama) on our 12-inch television set.  After her second drink, my friend who was leaning on her boyfriend's chest - dozed off to sleep.

I knew that her father would be coming to pick her up at 5:00 PM and since it was around 3:00 PM, I thought it was fine if she just took a little rest.  What I didn't expect was that less than five minutes in to her nap, she'd projectile vomit all over her boyfriend and my mother's couch.  The boyfriend jumped up, helped me get my friend up, and together we walked her in to my bedroom.

See, I really was naive. Because if I'd had any idea what was happening - or what was about to happen - I would have brought her directly in to the bathroom.  But no. We brought her in to my newly renovated bedroom and had her lay down on my lovely bed with the lovely down comforter.

And of course she threw up. Again. 

All over my bed. And her blond permed hair. And her Forlenza shirt and sweater vest and Guess jeans. I pulled her upright and together, with her boyfriend, we brought her in to the bathroom. Once we sat her limp body on the toilet seat, I decided that a shower was definitely in order.  So we got her in to the bathtub before I shooed the boyfriend out of the room so I could get her clothes off.

(Modesty. There's always time for modesty.)  

I filled up the tub and shampooed and conditioned her hair. I drained the tub and refilled it with clean water. I rinsed her off, dried her off, and dressed her in my clothes until her clothes - that I had put in the washing machine (twice) - could be cleaned.   With her boyfriend's help, I got her out of the tub - dried her hair - brushed her hair - and had her lay down in the bathroom with a bowl.  I then stripped the covers off the couch cushions, stripped my bed, and queued up the next four loads of laundry.  I scrubbed. And scrubbed and scrubbed.  It wasn't long before the house smelled like a combination of PineSol and Creme de Menthe with a subtle hint of vomit.

Her father called. He was on his way over to pick her up because she was supposed to be babysitting the neighbor's children in less than an hour. I re-dressed my friend in her freshly twice washed albeit not completely dried clothes (while ignoring the chunks of maraschino cherries that were still embedded in her sweater vest) and recruited the help of her boyfriend to help me get her down the flight of stairs to the street level. Her boyfriend then kissed her on her inebriated head before hopping in his car and leaving me to await the arrival of her father. Alone.

A few minutes later her dad arrived. So long as I live, I'll never forget watching him pull up in his white two-door BWM 325i. The sunroof was open. The sun was glistening off his short silver hair. I nudged my friend to stand up and making sure she had her sunglasses on - opened the passenger side door and helped her get in to the car.  Her father was chatting about something, so seemed unaware of his daughter's condition. In hindsight - this seems unbelievable to me, but I know for a fact that he pulled out of the parking lot without so much as a question as to why his daughter wasn't talking and acting rather floppy. 

From what I understand, when they arrived back at her house, she opened the car door - got out, took two steps and passed out cold in the driveway. Her parents quickly deciphered that she was two sheets to the wind.  That night, after my mother had arrived home and I fully revealed to her what exactly had happened earlier in the day - my friend's father called to talk with my mother and ask if perhaps she could come down and meet him at his Law Office one afternoon later in the week?  My mother obliged.  And. As it would happen, my friend's father told my mother that his daughter was forbidden from spending time with me in the future.

It was clear that I was a bad influence and since they were an upstanding Christian family in the community, he had a reputation to protect.  He went on to tell my mother that it really was no surprise that this situation had occurred at OUR home considering my mother was a divorced, single parent, and obviously provided no guidance or boundaries for her child (me!).  There's more to the story surrounding the trouble my friend seemed to find herself in throughout high school. But twenty-eight years later, that whole situation still leaves me almost speechless. (I don't think anything could ever leave me completely speechless, but this one definitely comes close.)

on this day in 1928

Give me a HAPPY... 


Give me an 85th... 


Give me a BIRTHDAY... 


Give me a PAPA ALEX... 


What do you get? 


Today - Saint Patrick's Day 2013 - marks Papa Alex's 85th birthday.  When he is not busy traveling, swimming, playing golf, or voraciously reading - from all accounts, he is enjoying a wonderful life with Kathleen.  Those two are living their lives to the fullest and are the poster children of what the golden years should be.


In honor of Papa Alex's birthday and to celebrate the homeland of my great-grandparents who came across the Atlantic from County Cork in the 19th century, we dressed up our dolls (the children and the American Girl variety) in the handmade shamrock outfits that my mother had sent....


We're also trying to make corned beef and cabbage in our crock pot. Emphasis on the word "trying" because as easy as everyone tells us this recipe is (and how delicious everyone else's corned beef and cabbage tastes) for 20 years now Charlie and I have yet to make a corned beef and cabbage dinner that is edible.  I know, I know ... boiling beef.  How difficult can it be?

Friday, March 15, 2013

favorite thing friday: berenstain bears

Books. Books. Books.  We love books.


In every room, we have bookshelves and baskets overflowing with books.


Many years ago, when I was more disciplined about writing on Fridays about one of our Favorite Things, I had intended to write about the Berenstain Bear books. But for whatever reason, I haven't written about these books yet despite the fact that they are among one of the absolute favorite things in our entire house.

And perhaps on the planet.


When the triplets were around three-years-old, my sister Beth shipped us the entire collection of Berenstain Bear books that she had previously bought for her son (my nephew), Michael.  Beth tends to do things like that ... ship us amazing things that Michael has outgrown. Like the entire collection of Berenstain Bear books. And the entire collection of Dr. Seuss children's books. And the entire collection of the Magic Tree House books. And the entire collection of the Hardy Boys books. And the entire collection of  Curious George books. And nearly every Lego complete character set (Harry Potter, Spiderman, Batman, Star Wars) that has ever been created.

Did I mention before that my sister Beth was generous?

I don't actually think "generous" is a strong enough word.

So we received this big box full of Berenstain Bear books when the triplets were toddlers and they have loved them every single day since.  Loved them so much that several of the books have lost covers...


However, thanks be to the power of 3M packaging tape ...


I've been able to affix most of those covers back on.


Presto! Good as new.


When I was the Girl Scout leader, I would read one of the Berenstain Bear books during each and every meeting because for whatever topic we would be covering in Scouts - there was surely to be a Berenstain Bear book that was applicable to that same topic.

For example... the importance of diversity and inclusion?


The importance of restraint?


The importance of helping out?


The importance of doing your homework?


Oh how we love these books. We've read about welcoming members to the family...


And bullying ...


And the responsibility of pets ...


And what it means to be neighborly ...


And what it means to fit in ...


And what it means to be polite...


And what it means to apologize ...


And what it means to Do The Right Thing.


But I think my favorite Berenstain Book of all time is the book about the Messy Room.


Every time I read one of these books I'm always so impressed with Mama Bear's gentle demeanor.  She's got it totally going on in an awesome Mama Bear kind of way.  And well, it might sound kind of dumb but I always feel like Mama Bear is the gold standard for what Mamas everywhere should be and many days I feel like I'm so, so, so very far from that gold standard.  I'm not even a copper standard.

Maybe tin.  Or aluminum.

So imagine my TOTAL DELIGHT when I read this book and watch Mama Bear have a thorough meltdown.  You ready? It's perfection...

In a nutshell, Brother and Sister Bear share a room and they are bickering about cleaning up their messy room. As you can see from the expression on Mama Bear's face, she doesn't like this scene one little bit.


So while her cubs bicker, Mama Bear does what most Mama's might do ... she decides that if anything is going to get done, SHE NEEDS TO DO IT HERSELF.  Enter the grimace and expression that says, "I've done this 1,000,000,000,000,000 times already and it wouldn't surprise me at all if I continue do this every day until the day I die."


Oh, but then she yanks a muscle and steps in a wad of ... silly putty? gum? chemical experiment? And SNAP. She marches out the door while Brother and Sister Bear are oblivious to what is coming next...

ENTER ... the box. 

Roh, roh! 


Commence Mega Purge! I'm not sure what happened to the goo on her foot or aching back, but Mama Bear suddenly has limitless strength and speed as she starts flipping damn near everything ON the floor IN TO that box. You have no idea how much I love everything about this picture.  The looks of horror on the little bears' faces ... the look of determination on Mama Bear's face ... the arc and blur of things flying in to the box. She's got nine things AIR BORNE all at once.

Rock on, Mama Bear!


Of course with that kind of "cleaning" effort, it's no surprise that the children scream so loudly that Papa Bear, who is outside hears the commotion and has to come inside and inject himself in to the situation. He's playing the Good Cop to his wife's Crazy Cop.  That's only happened 1 or maybe 2 as in HUNDRED times at our house.


In the end, Papa Bear swings in to action and helps build boxes, shelves and a peg board that the bears will use for organization.


And Mama Bear introduces her cubs to color coded boxes and a label maker.


Soon, the room is perfectly organized and every one lives happily ever after.  Wouldn't you know, that's exactly what it's like around here, too.  (For at least 20 or 30 minutes.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

treasures of creativity

For someone like me, who is the anti-hoarder, I'm having a very difficult time clearing out some of the adorable crafts our children create.


I've always prided myself on my ability to clear out the clutter and to that end, purchased four bins (one for each of the children) that are intended to preserve those select items that are worthy to be saved. The trouble is: the tubs are now almost full and we're not even through second grade. Perhaps my definition of "select" needs to be tightened up a bit.  Here's an example of a recent creation Henry brought home recently .... it's his little baby dinosaur that he created in preschool:  


He loves this little figure that is comprised of two popsicle sticks, a wine cork, and googly eyes. It's SO CUTE!  And unlike a large number of things that I don't think twice about tossing (when the kids are looking the other way of course), there's no way I could ever throw this dinosaur out.  (Elizabeth's wild assortment of random cardboard boxes in another story altogether.)   But should Henry's dinosaur break or be left outside, or chomped upon by the dog before it is deposited in the holy grail bin repository of childhood treasures, I feel good knowing that I at least have a picture of it.

Please note: If random photos of art projects start showing up on my blog - now you can better understand why.  To illustrate:


This is a hinge that William affixed, all by himself, with tools!  It was such a proud accomplishment. But, you know .... I'm not 100% sure there is room for it in the bin.

Monday, March 11, 2013

... and this one's for aunt alice

My father's younger sister, Alice, passed away last Tuesday.  This is the candle that I lit for my Aunt Alice and her children, my cousins Candy and Scott, yesterday at church:


Aunt Alice had been struggling with Alzheimer's for the past few years and while I don't really know much about the disease, I do understand the devastating effects that it has on both the patient and those who love them.  I've witnessed several of my dear friends lose their parents to this degenerative disease over the past few years and it is heart wrenching.  While I didn't see my Aunt Alice much when I was growing up, except when we'd drive through Virginia on our road trips to and from South Carolina and Massachusetts, oddly enough, I now live less than five miles from where she raised her family. When I drive to work, I pass baseball fields that I'm certain are the same fields where my little cousins played and were captured in the photographs Aunt Alice would always include in her Christmas cards.

With Aunt Alice's passing comes to me the reminder yet again:  Life is short. Life is precious. Have an adventure and make memories whenever possible. Even if it means spontaneously busting out a dance move with your family in the middle of cooking dinner. Do your best to be a beacon of joy in this world.  Smile more than you scowl.

And whatever you do ... don't forget to tell those that you love just how much you appreciate them.

this one's for uncle fred

This picture - that I snapped off at church yesterday and tried to post on Twitter never went through. And now that I've uploaded it to my computer and it's no longer on my phone - I have no idea how to post it to Twitter because I'm technically challenged.  

Jodie and Michele ... this candle was specifically lit for Uncle Fred:


As a scientist, I know that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. So it is my most heartfelt prayer that you always feel his loving energy surround you. Cancer is a terrible, terrible thing.  We've lost far too many people to that awful dreaded disease over the past few years and I pray with every fiber of my being that in my life time, we find a cure.  I also pray that it lifts your hearts to know that a family you've never met is holding you so tightly in theirs.  How blessed and lucky you were to have Fred - and how blessed and lucky he was to have you.

Michele. DC in October. You can do it.  I'll even help push you up the hills.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

springing forward at warp speed

We've had a very busy go - go - go weekend.  Frighteningly, we didn't even do all the things that we were supposed to do. We missed William's first lacrosse practice this afternoon and we ditched swim team tonight. We probably could have made both events - but last night, I decided I'm allergic to being too busy. I break out in hives and hyperventilate.

Here's an overview of what we've had on our docket this week end and these very well may be writing prompts for the next week because each event deserves it's own post:

Friday night the children had a dance at their elementary school.  I took the triplets while Charlie stayed home with Henry because: 1) Henry would most likely run around the dance floor with one arm outstretched pretending he was Superman and until he morphs in to Hulk SMASH and yes, yes, this is the price we're now paying for everyone getting sick at once and Henry watching every Superhero movie in our arsenal; and 2) Charlie was hosting the first annual ping pong tournament for at least a dozen men from our neighborhood later that night so he had to get ready.

(Set up new ping pong net? Check.

Turn on music? Check.

Put beer on ice? Check.

And .... ready!)

Saturday morning the temperatures were in the low 60's and it was a gorgeously perfect day. We had days like that all. the. time when we lived in San Diego, but I don't think we appreciated them very much because they were like that all. the. time. So when you live in an environment where you don't have a day like that for several months and then you do - you tend to blow off your domestic responsibilities like say, cleaning the toilets and instead opt to take your children and a picnic lunch to a lovely little park.


Saturday afternoon, I took Carolyn to the Girl Scout's annual "Thinking Day."  Why only Carolyn? Because Elizabeth had a temper tantrum (drama anyone?) and I decided that Saturday, being the gorgeously perfect day that it was, was also a zero tolerance day for me listening to incessant whining and bickering and The End.  So Elizabeth went home from the park with her father while an abundantly joyful Carolyn and I traipsed off to Scouts.


Saturday late afternoon / early evening, William and a much more pleasant Elizabeth had a dress rehearsal for their Odyssey of the Mind tournament which is next weekend.  The whole family spent three hours at the coach's house finalizing their set design and practicing their skits.

We came home.

We brushed teeth.

We put on pajamas.

We turned clocks forward one hour.

We went to sleep.

Sunday morning, we scrambled out the door to church and the reason it felt we were a whole hour late, is because we actually were having lost an hour to Day Light Savings time.  (Why? Why must we allow the torture of Day Light Savings time to continue in the modern age?) We usually go on Saturday night but preparation for the OM tournament next week was critical.  We returned home from church - wrapped presents and flew out the door to a birthday party for a child from the triplets' class.  The party was held at a local Laser Tag center and while I've been to several laser tag birthday parties over the past two years - this is the first time I've played, too.

OK, so my birthday is next month and I've decided that I want to have a laser tag party.  It was so much fun. SO MUCH FUN.  I've already come up with my invitation:

"Zap! Zap! Jenny is turning 42 ...  let's play laser tag the whole day through!" 

Although I didn't play in the first round, when the parents who were hanging around chatting saw that our little eight-year-olds were getting waxed by a group of older kids on an opposing team - all of the parents suited up for the second round of play.  My game name was "Mars" and I was doing great until last five minutes of the game when I was cornered by a bunch of kindergartners from a second opposing team and they were relentless.  They were following me around and whenever I'd finally be charged and ready to shoot - they'd zap me again then they'd laugh in a cackling little laugh. Fortunately, the game ended before I was able to blurt out, "LEAVE ME ALONE OR I'LL TELL YOU THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA CLAUSE YOU LITTLE MUNCHKINS!!!"


Sunday late afternoon / early evening, we had the Blue and Gold Banquet for our Cub Scout pack.  This banquet is held every year in February or March and is to honor the birthday of Scouting and to recognize the boys who are bridging from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.  It was a wonderful event. There was a huge potluck and a professional magician who kept us entertained. (He handed Carolyn one small sponge and told her to make a fist. When she opened her hand after the wave of his wand, there were FOUR. How? HOW?!)



We also watched the ritual where the boys who are midway through their fifth grade year - have their Webelo scarf removed by their Cub Scout Den Leader, before they ceremoniously walk across a small bridge and are greeted by the young men leaders of their new Boy Scout troop.




Watching this bridging ceremony honestly made me weep.  Considering I didn't even know any of the boys, it makes me worry what kind of wailing basket case I'm going to be when my itty baby crosses over that bridge.  I've got three years.  Which might seem like a long time, but I know it will fly by.

These photos were taken yesterday...




And these photos FEEL like they were taken last week.




Time is going so fast ...



.... I'm really doing my best to savor the moments, now.