Friday, February 26, 2016

crossing the bridge

This past weekend, William bridged from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.


I am so proud of him for this accomplishment,  and so proud of Charlie for how he has supported him on this journey.  Also, for finishing up the Arrow of Light a few minutes before the ceremony began.


My husband really deserves so much credit with the success William has had in Cub Scouts. Charlie was his devoted Den Leader for four and a half years (Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelo I and 1/2 year of Webelo II); found a new Pack for him to join in Texas after we moved - and has continued to encourage him to wrap up his Super Achiever award, which is no small feat ... particularly when you move and are joining a new Den.

They're both awesome and I'm so proud.

Here's the day, in pictures...

William, being handed his Arrow of Light.  I'd handed my camera to our good friend, Jon, and after doing so, quickly realized that I had no tissues so couldn't remain on the stage.


I've now retreated from the stage - found a box of tissues - and take pictures of Charlie removing William's Cub Scout kerchief...


Blue Cub Scout tabs from his shoulders...


And his Cub Scout hat.


He then shook hands with his Cub Master, who held that handshake for a long moment, while he had some important words of wisdom to share about the road ahead.


I'm telepathically communicating with my husband, "PSST ... I HAVE TISSUES..."


William selects a black Sharpie ...


To write his name alongside the names of all the other Cub Scouts who have crossed the Pack's  bridge to Boy Scouts.


And then ... just like that, he crossed the bridge.

That wasn't so bad!  I thought.


And it wasn't ... for the two whole milliseconds until the group of YOUNG MEN met him on the other side.


This troop of young men quickly set to work.


Affixing his olive green Boy Scout tabs to his shoulders...


Tying on his Boy Scout kerchief, which hung down way past his itty bitty belly button...


And sliding his Boy Scout kerchief holder in to place.


The nose was sniffling, and the eyes were weeping because ... my baby.


MY BABY!   The days are indeed long, but the years are far too short.


We left the Blue and Gold Banquet (I'm sure he looks older here) ...


And headed straight to the soccer field, where Henry's Ricardo's team won their fourth straight game...


While his big brother practiced his mad soccer skills.


See?! Totally awesome!


I'm so proud.  :)

Sunday, February 21, 2016


I'll preface this post with the statement that Charlie and I love our children more than life itself. Our children are the most precious gifts that we've ever been blessed with, and I cannot imagine any greater joy in the world - than the joy of raising children.


There's no doubt, the Universe has given us the greatest possible gift when we received our four miracles and I am eternally grateful for them.  I'm also certain that it is because of our children that Charlie and I are becoming religious fanatics. We go to church every week and pray every day.  I've never felt the need to give so many thanks for our blessings, while asking for God's grace and mercy, than I do in this season of life.


For example.

This morning we learned (again) that hell hath no greater fury than a parent who finds that their beloved tweens have placed clean - folded clothes - in the dirty laundry hamper, because it was easier than putting them away.  We've been down this road before, why don't the children remember??

That parental meltdown was literally dampened by an overflowing toilet and observation of water on the bathroom floor, resulting from a tween who had tried to flush a plastic Dixie cup down the toilet and has since learned the excellent lesson that plastic Dixie cups, DON'T FLUSH.

By then, it was only 8:30 AM and we went to church, because church is Good.  


On the way to church there were several upset children, because someone was in someone's seat.  Also, they didn't want to go to church. And once we arrived, they didn't want to go to their class.  Someone looked at someone.  Someone touched someone.

Someone breathed annoyingly. 

I'm digging deep to stay calm.  REAL DEEP.  It helps that I'm in a sacred place.  Why isn't it helping my children?  Why aren't they acting angelic?!


After church, Elizabeth brought her brother - Henry - a donut from the 5th grade religious education class.  This was such a thoughtful gesture, because the 2nd grade religious education class doesn't have donuts.  Ah, but the donut was blueberry.  Or more appropriately, yelled in an ear-piercing grievously disappointed shriek in a room with ridiculously good acoustics, "BLUEBERRY?!?!?!?"

Henry doesn't like blueberries. Obviously.  Although, had he not looked at the donut, I doubt he would have even noticed the blueberries. (Note to self, next time tell him to eat it with his eyes closed.)  No big deal, we let it roll of our backs. Even if not in this moment, we'll surely look back on this and laugh one day.  Maybe not TODAY, but ONE DAY.


Interestingly enough, our children are the absolute best friends when they want to be.  But Cheez-Its in a bucket will they bicker and taunt each other when they don't.   Then they try to drag their mother and father in to their petty disputes (visa vie, "MOM! DAD! MOOOMMMM, DADDDDDD!") and I really try to say something better than, "Please stop talking, it hurts!" but sometimes, those are the only words that come out.  

I can't even remember what the trigger was today, but at some point while I was still IN CHURCH looking in to a 3-day spiritual retreat for Charlie and I, the children detonated my husband's rock-solid patience.   When I returned to the van full of excitement and with hands gripping fliers, 3/4 of the children in the car were crying and Charlie looked like he might be on the verge of a heart attack.


"Oh my gosh, what happened?!" I asked.

"I'm saturated." He replied.  "I just ... I just ... I can't take it anymore; I don't even know what they're mad about? Look at this beautiful day.  Look at US! We're HAPPY and we're in LOVE and we ADORE these kids SO much and they just fight over NOTHING.  It's like they fight and bicker just to do it?  It's driving me crazy..."


So we went to Whole Foods to pick up a few items and told the triplets that they had to stay outside and wait for us.  We've never left them in the car before, but today we did.  Because we figured that they were safer in a locked vehicle than with us.  Charlie, especially, needed a moment to BREATHE.  So we parked at the front, cracked the side windows, took the keys and their little brother, and locked the doors. We were gone for no more than 15 minutes buying expensive produce and yogurt.  When we returned, we found this letter that had been written, crumpled, and then taped to the window:


I'm so grateful for moments of honesty amongst fellow parents who don't sugar coat that as wonderfully awesome as it is to raise children - it is helluva hard work and rearing children well requires a tremendous amount of love and patience, love and kindness, love and forgiveness.  And most importantly perhaps ... love and laughter.  

It's so important to step back and get a grip.  When we step back, we're more likely to get things in the appropriate perspective.  That perspective being that we're surrounded by often emotionally unstable, and physically limited children who need a lot of sleep - a lot of structure - and a lot of love.

As for us, a Nanny might be a good idea.  But look ... we're almost 11.5 years in and we've managed it OK thus far on our own.  Surely, it'll be a lot easier now that the teen years are just around the corner.

Cue laughter.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

on arts and crafts, and volunteering at your children's school

Charlie ... working on William's Arrow of Light for his Cub to Boy Scout bridging ceremony this weekend.   Of notable mention is his accomplishment of the "Super Achiever Award" which means he earned all 20 of the activity pins available in the Webelos years.   This is not only a big deal, it means his Dad has to carefully wrap a lot of itty bitty loops around the "Arrow of Light."


That Mod Podge in the foreground reminds me of a story I'll try to keep quick.

Last year at this time, Charlie was volunteering extensively at the children's elementary school.  During one of the days that he was there, he sat in on a planning session for the 4th graders upcoming "Colonial Day" celebration.  Seeing as we had already purchased our colonial garb - - and were totally waiting in great anticipation of this event - - Charlie was first in line to sign up and help.

One of the activities that the teachers specifically needed help with was sewing little pouches for all of the students, so when they went from one activity to another - they could collect whatever items were provided, in these little pouches.  They looked so simple to make, and seeing as I have a sewing machine - Charlie volunteered that I'd make all the pouches.


For all 100 students in the 4th grade. 

What Charlie neglected to remember is that:

1) My sewing machine has never been repaired following this unfortunate incident.

2) Due to aforementioned unfortunate incident - it's obvious I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SEW.

"But Jen..." he said when I gasped in surprise at what he'd signed me up for, "How difficult can it be? These pouches look so easy to make. Besides, you do have a sewing machine!" 


Soon thereafter, my mother came to visit - and my Aunt Grace flew in to town.  And miracle of miracles, they were at our home when our Small Group from Church came over for dinner one night. As we sat around praying, I specifically asked that people pray for me because I needed to sew 100 pouches for the 4th grade; and also - that they pray for my husband, because he had signed me up. 

Turns out, one of the women in our group was a master seamstress. (I did not know this!!)  So the next day she and another woman from our small group, descended on our house with not one, but two sewing machines.  A fabric roller, and her incredible expertise.


The five of us - - Mom, Auntie, Sarah, Jenny, and me - - spent the next several hours cutting all of the fabric, and sewing all of the pouches.  It was a cold and about to snow day, so while all of our children hunkered down and watched movies, we dressed in period clothing, sipped hot tea, traded hilarious stories and sewed.   It was magic.


I was hailed as a hero when the kids went to school less than a week later, with 100 perfectly sewed pouches.  And then I told them the story of how Charlie had "volunteered" his sewing challenged wife, and how my friends had saved me - and the teachers thought that was hilarious.  Also, amazing that Charlie was still alive.

The real HERO in all of this, who I absolutely adore ... PLEASE COME SEE ME, SARAH!


So. This year.  When I was contacted by the 5th grade about helping to make ornaments during the children's Christmas party - I recruited Charlie.  After I committed to having my husband help, I found out that the teachers wanted to use a photograph of the children in the ornament.

My first step was to go to the school and take pictures of all 100 children in my kids' Learning Community.   Then because I wanted to make an ornament that would hold up for more than one Christmas, Ifound these adorable little numbers.

Don't they look SO AWESOME?

And they are.  Although when you're making 100 of them - it turns out to be rather time intensive. Each ornament requires 4, 3-inch lengths of yard stick.  So one yard stick (36 inches) yields 3 frames.   Quick little calculation: 100/3 = 33.33 yardsticks.

While we could have bought them at Lowe's or Home Depot, we didn't want the store's advertising on the yardstick.  So we set off for the store and after cleaning out the entire yard stick inventory at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, and Joanne's Fabric, we had a whopping 12 yardsticks.

So we turned to Amazon and ordered another 24 yardsticks, extras in case we made any mistakes.   Then I went out and bought Mod Podge and had to spend some time understanding what it is, and how it works.  Turns out Mod Podge is the best stuff on earth and I don't know how I've lived with out it before.

Charlie then set about carefully cutting each of the yardsticks.

Then he sanded the rough ends.

Then because I was suddenly exhausted, recovering from brain surgery and all, he carefully stained each of the yardsticks with various colors.  This kept him up past midnight for three nights.


Then he cut the backer board for each of the frames.

Then he printed all the pictures and trimmed them up, just so. 

And then .... we went to school with our glue guns, pom-poms (which I supplemented in to the design) and assembled 100 of these frames with the kids.  This is a partial shot:


When it was all over, Charlie asked me why on earth I had signed him up for this extremely time consuming activity, I shrugged and said, "They looked so easy to make.  Besides, you do have a saw!" 

Then I gave him a hug and kiss because I know that if ANYBODY could pull this off, Charlie would be the one.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

stealing a moment

As is so often the case, I have so (so, so) many things on my mind that I'd love to sit down and write about, if only I had the time.  Long ago, I'd write when the children would nap during the day. And then, as they grew older and went to bed at a reasonable hour, I'd write when they went down for the night.
But as they continue to grow (somewhat inconveniently) older and their bed time inches later and later (OMG it's 10:00 WHY ARE YOU STILL AWAKE?!?!?), any free time I had to myself vaporizes like water on Texas asphalt in July.

When parents of growing children say it feels like their hair is on fire, here's why ...  if the hours available to parents, at this stage of life, were expressed as an equation, it might look something like this:

# of Adolescent Children x ((Soccer) + (Homework) + (Full Time Job) + (Full Time Job x 0.5) + (Scouting) + (Grocery Shopping) + (Cleaning the Kitchen x 3) + (Cooking) + (Eating) + (Laundry) + (Walking Dog) + (School Engagement) + (Personal Hygiene Efforts) + (Fellowship) + (Goal of 7-hours Sleep)) = -8.5 hour deficit each day

What that means is that I need more than 8 hours a day (or is it 32 hours?!) to get done the things that need to be done, on any given day.  And what do we do with this deficit in time??  Well of course, we go sign our kids up for private soccer lessons because playing three days a week isn't enough and they love it soo much.

All of our children, we have determined, have a propensity for obsessive-compulsive behavior.  I can't imagine where they get that??  It certainly isn't from me, who once when a doctor "of the mind" gently suggested I might have OCD tendencies, prompted me to reply, "I think you mean CDO tendencies, because that way it's at least in alphabetical order?"  I think he also said I tend to lose focus and distract easily but I countered, "Well, I've got a lot on my plate and .... SQUIRREL!"

Point is, the kids love soccer so much they now play it four days a week.


Henry, who tends to physically, mentally, and emotionally embrace any and all things that he is currently obsessed with ... has recently changed his named to Ricardo.  As in, he will not answer to anything except the name "Ricardo."


Henry's best friend's name is Juan, and Juan just moved to Texas from Mexico.  His parents don't speak a word of English - but little Juan is totally bilingual.  He's amazing and is the impetus for me listening to Rosetta Stone.   Not only is Juan in Henry's second grade class, he is also on Henry's soccer team and he has introduced Henry to world-famous soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.   And now, suddenly, Henry has traded in his dinosaurs and superheroes for soccer balls, and is channeling a hispanic man named Ricardo.  More specifically, Ricardo Ricky Enrique.

Enrique being a little tip of the hat to his given name of HENRY.

Not Ricky Ricardo .... as I've suggested as a tip of the hat to Lucille Ball, but Ricardo Ricky.

I can't make this stuff up. 

Last night at soccer practice, his coach asked Charlie and I if it was true that Henry's real name was Ricardo?  And then another adult trainer asked.  And then I received an email from his school asking if I could please explain the name Ricardo?   

Nope. I'm sorry, I cannot. But if you could just speak to him solely in Spanish, it might help to expeditiously revert him back to Henry.

Speaking of hispanic influences on our family....  

Charlie saw a picture of himself the other day and was aghast that his white goatee made him look so old.  (Forget the fact he'll be 50 this year.)  And so he decided to shave it off and leave behind this little mustache:


I thought it looked awesome and told him that he reminded me of Magnum PI.  All he needed was a red Ferrari!

Because he shaved at night, his idea was to surprise the children in the morning.  As the kids trickled down in to the kitchen, in their groggy pre-school state, they didn't notice their father's new facial-do right away.   But once they did, they all stared in wonder.  I broke the silence by saying that he looked like a dashing bloke in need of a red sports car. And William replied, "I think he looks like he is Mexican in need of a guitar."*


Unless his name was Ricardo Ricky Enrique ...  and then he'd just need a soccer ball.

(Post Note: Just looked it up on The Google, and sure enough, Latin American men tend to have more mustaches than any other ethnic group. Who knew? Other than William?! Is that facial profiling?  I hope not...)

Thursday, February 04, 2016

henry's hut

A few weeks ago, Henry came home with a 2nd grade assignment, that he needed to "construct a house of materials found from nature."  We kept his instructional piece of paper on our desk and looked at it ... at least several times.


We discussed how we'd take a fun family outing and collect various materials found from nature, and leisurely build this house.  Oh yes, we had plans. But as life often happens, time goes WHOOSH and the assignment was suddenly due the next day.

And so it is, I was tasked with figuring out what and how to build this house from nature.  Henry was appointed the job of developing a plan for how he wanted his house constructed, and then - along with his incredibly helpful brother - collected materials from the back yard.  Soon it was his bedtime, so I was left alone to put the pieces together.  I pulled out the glue gun and built a frame. Then I started to affix the sides and roof.  In the end, this is what his house looked like:


I thatched together a ladder, and affixed an "H" from pine needles to depict that this was Henry's Hut.  Because Charlie was out of town on a trip, I was sending him pictures and lamenting that anyone who knows anything would know that if this was up to a second grader to construct - completely on their own - it would be a pile of sticks or rocks.


Ruh-roh ... I did it again.


I sent my sister, Marylou, a text message with a picture of the house and she wrote me back and said, "Wow! He did a great job!!!"  And I wrote her back and said, "He?!"

The day it was due, I drove Henry to school because I didn't want to risk how it would transport on the bus.  And when I abashedly stopped in to his class later that evening during Open House to see the other "Nature Houses" that had been constructed by his class, I quickly realized I shouldn't have been so concerned.


Yep. It's amazing how talented these second graders are!


Over-achiever's unite ...


... In the form of a perfectly constructed bean house!

Monday, February 01, 2016

next stop, eagle

My tweet from earlier tonight:

 18 minutes ago18 minutes ago
 His last meeting as a Cub Scout. I'm preparing myself emotionally for the bridge, next month. Where does time go?!
Embedded image permalink

7 minutes agoHis last meeting as a Cub Scout. I'm preparing myself emotionally for the bridge, next month. Where do

Indeed. Where does time go?