Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'll Leave the Kitchen Light On

Troy and I are suckers for old houses, which explains why we hastily bought our own Victorian beauty without looking once at anything else in the neighborhood. Lately, however, we've found her "quirks" to be less than charming. It's been one thing after another and I'm ashamed to admit that my eyes and heart have wandered, have gazed lustily upon the up and coming subdivisions boasting street after street of newly constructed masterpieces featuring whirlpool tubs, walk-in closets, granite counter tops. "Our lives would be better," I convince myself, "Not only better, but safer and perfectly perfect, if only..."

Late last night I came back from the grocery store and from the garage saw the golden glow of our kitchen, all warm and welcoming. Just beyond that creaking screen door were the remnants of a meal shared with my very favorite people in the whole wide world. Just up the stairs and around the corner, there were books being read and kisses exchanged. Just inside those cracked and plaster covered walls was my firecracker of a family: a gift worth more, so much more, than the time I've been wasting on pining for luxuriousness, for ease - for an illusion.

Monday, December 29, 2008

she's the best around

Much like Ralph Macchio she was the underdog, openly mocked by the bigger, more experienced knights who were stronger, yes, but no match for her speed or her passion. It was David vs. Goliath, Daniel Larusso vs. Johnny, all over again. Throwing caution to the wind, Mary faced her dangerous adversaries head-on in a "winner-takes -all" battle of wits and brawn. They snickered at first, due to her tiny frame and her unconvential choice to don a lacy peach gown beneath her armor, but they didn't laugh for long - oh no. Sweep the leg, kid! the crowd screamed and cheered in unison. That's all it took to awaken within her the raging beast that would force her trembling competitors to surrender on the spot and prove to everyone that she's the best - the best around.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

our finest gifts we bring...

Pause Mr. Cash before playing video

I had no doubts that Priscilla would give 155% to her performance. For days and days she practiced, Listen, mom, listen! And then I sat down on the couch for yet another round of Drummer Boy, Jingle Bells and What Child is This? With gusto and emotion reserved only for the most special of occasions, Priscilla provided those well-known Christmas classics with new life (and sometimes alternative melodies and lyrics). Benjamin, on the other hand, was not as...well, I guess the word would be dedicated to the process of preparation.

This morning we all oohed and awed at our transformed church basement, now a dimly lit stage worthy of Broadway caliber musicals, and the children, excited children, fidgeted their way through liturgy. I pulled Benjamin aside before he darted down the stairs, No silliness, please, I reminded him ... again.

They were angels, all of them, angels -sweet voiced and exuberant. Benjamin, especially, embraced the experience of being heard by an attentive and encouraging crowd of adults. I was so proud, so delighted, so transfixed by the adorableness of the moment.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Well, it's Christmas and we are soaking up the loveliness of Divine Liturgy, feasting foods, togetherness and yes, presents. We've had a wonderful day and I am bursting at the seams - I will explode, in fact, if I wait any longer to tell you that I'M B-A-A-A-C-K! Guess who received a new and better digital camera from her parents and grandfather to replace the one she broke? Guess! Are you stumped? O.K. fine, it was me and I am so surprised and thankful. After the New Year, I hope to inundate you with Snapshots a Plenty, but for now, my dear friends, I wish you a Blessed Nativity! Enjoy your families, your festive meals, and most of all enjoy the peace that comes through faith in the Incarnation. May God bless you with joy, with unfazable hopefulness.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

wedding dress, wedding dress

This evening, I received an early Christmas present from my brother, Bobby. Eleven years ago, he wrote a poem for Troy and I. The first time I heard it was when he read it out loud at our wedding. After the chaos of the reception, the honeymoon, the moving in to Troy's apartment, the getting used to being married, I wanted to display it but alas neither Bobby or I could find a copy of it anywhere. This week, while digging through his basement, Bobby discovered an old journal containing, hooray!, the entire poem, which he kindly typed and framed for me. It is a masterpiece, an extraordinary description of the truths I would later discover by way of living and loving and tripping and falling - truths he managed to foretell while still so young, so inexperienced. I am sharing it with you below - this treasured, treasured memento from my past:

July 5, 1997

The young in you
The fever summer flushing out blushes
Salt oil for your joints; joint grass hair-
Inky, tangled, prolific

Like the doodle-mark spirals drawn by the
child in you
But dark and stiff like brush bristles-
In protruding stalks of winsome thoughts
That grow happily and easily
From a head heavy with time
So much time

A future being fed to you in ladles of


This dream in you

The young in you

Is not yours.

The God in you

Not the silver-flecked figure

Packaged neatly in gilt-edged hymnals

A sardine in his opaline soup

A quivering iridescence

Caught like cod this God in you

Solid and secure in a snarled neuron net

(more holes than thread)

But the mystery - silver, too, only quick and


An early morning sunbeam dazzle

That's felt, even seen in your half-


Then neither seen nor felt nor heard from

Once the SNAP

The numbing shock of consciousness

So it's engaged

Like thrusting your head into mountain


(Do you own the stream?)

Like tapping a tree for sweet syrup

(Can you possess the wild and rooted?)

Like sucking vinegar from a wide-mouthed

cup of salvation

Clumsy, earthly activities all

To punctuate days and lure back the dawn
in you
The God in you

Who is not yours.

The you in you

The he in you

The she in you

Who acquires who

In the hammering out of years
Like the pounding out of armor

To protect what's afraid in you?

Cracked coffee cups, growing laundry heaps

Converging like tectonic plates

That turn molehills into mountains

Credit checks and checkered pasts

Dead flakes off burnt steaks

What's really at stake?

Even Sunday morning papers and the
greasy pleasures they afford
Leafy autumn walks, drowsy midnight talks

drunk with verbosity

A shared plum

The illusion of being known

As when a twin finishes the other's


The other in you

Even the you in you
Is not yours.

So what's left in you

When all that's real to you

Will fade like a summer tan

And the young in you

The God in you

The other in you

Prove as ethereal as spoonable weather-

Caught rainbows, canned snowflakes

Beat, whipped, and spread thick on brown
What then is left in you?

Breath, for one thing, breathing

Life, my two friends, living

Faith yawning, eclipsing doubt's


Comings and goings, trips and treasure

Transcendence found like silver dollars on


For foolish spending
Love, loving

Moments that roll around your tongue

Drip from your mouth

And stain your clothes with scarlet passion

Relent, release, retreat, my twilight companions

For it's into twilight that we're born

- Bobby Maddex

Friday, December 12, 2008

I saw one (difficult to assemble) viking ship come sailing in...

When: December 25th, 2003

Where: A fairly nondescript two-flat in Chicago containing memories so sweet and significant, my heart burns if I merely dabble in the act of reminiscing by viewing photos from holidays past and then remembering the sights, smells, and tears shed during our time there- both from pain and hysterical laughter.

Context: My mother and I piecing together a brand new Playmobil ship for a very anxious and impatient Elijah in my redder than red dining room.

Conclusion: Five years later, I find the details have shifted, filtered themselves and settled neatly, seamlessly, into a yet another sealed and airbrushed layer of my history, the whole of which has been nothing short of thrilling, terrifying .... extraordinary.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nicholas the Saintly

Our intention was to make it to Liturgy, but then on Saturday we woke up all red and raw and barking like seals and so we canceled our plans, involving a festive St. Nicholas Day celebration at the Orthodox Church in Merrillville, and opted for a quiet feast day at home including mugs of hot chocolate spiked with Dayquil. The children set out their shoes, like always, in a row from smallest to biggest by the front door. They placed in them carrots for St. Nicholas' donkey and curled up in their beds with excitement, anxious as all get out for the sun to rise so they could run downstairs and see for themselves the treats he'd leave behind in exchange for their offering of belief and fresh produce. "Is he staying for a sleepover?" asked three year-old Mary before finally drifting off on Friday evening. And I imagined us in our jammies eating breakfast the next morning across the table from the kindly bishop holding a staff in his hands and glowing boldly with a passion for mercy, goodness, love and truth. "I wish he could," I whispered, mostly to myself since little Mary had already started in with those last massive breaths and tiny twitches signaling sleep was overtaking her.

There are many things - many, many, many - that I treasure about the Church and this is one of them. Few events have so spiritually enriched my soul as much as the shattering of my concept of an impassible brick wall between this world and the next I had once thought shielded those who had passed on through death from the pain of earthly sorrows and unpleasantries. A "curtain" is how I now understand it, thin and gauzy. Within our grasp, within earshot, stand a host of righteous ancestors interceding on our behalf and communing with us and inspiring us to keep on despite the syrupy, hollow, sweet-talking lies and distractions suggesting I'm crazy, fanatical to a fault, ridiculous for sweating and often crying my way up a path rife with mountains and dangerous twists and turns never found on the wide and smooth yellow brick road known as compromise, lukewarmness, indulgence.

It's hard to rise above the catalogs from Target displaying all I've ever wanted topped with red satin bows, drool inducing commercials for MacBooks, iPhones, digital cameras...(ooh, a Kodak camera with 12x optical zoom - c'mon now, Molly, focus!) and oh yes, a brand new Lexus for that someone really special, parties merry, but lacking, I mean completely void of anything having to do with Christ and His incarnation or our salvation made possible by the gift of God taking on flesh and living, and then dying, among us, but try I must. And here, so close to Nativity, is the feast day of St. Nicholas, our beloved St. Nicholas, our living, victorious example of Christ-like generosity beckoning our attention away from cheeriness for its own sake and onto joy rooted in substance that doesn't end, but rather truly begins, on the 26th of December. Here, so close, when I reach for it by way of prayer and the sacraments and fasting, is all the sustenance I could ever need to keep trekking undeterred toward the Source of all life and all purpose and all meaning, despite the hardships required for my ultimate purification and refinement. Here, so close and yet so easily overshadowed by my attraction to what is shiny and easy and soothing for the moment...

Oh Holy Saint Nicholas, pray to God for me!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

for your kindness...

Thankful. Thankful. Thankful. I've already thankful-ed it up over at Close to Home but now as I ready our family for this Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to specifically say a special thanks to those of you who visit me here, where random thoughts mix with favorite photos and my eclectic taste in music. The talented and beautiful Ser, over at Just Another Mama Blog, recently posted about her own appreciation for being able to interact and share her every day experiences with those old friends and new on-line acquaintances she would rather get together with over coffee (and later, wine) but cannot due to the miles that separate them. I echo those sentiments and often marvel at how the very same technology which can suck us into ourselves if we are not constantly aware of that danger and vigilant in our dedication to stay connected, promoting community over individualism, can unite the otherwise un-unitable.

So to those who've traveled alongside me for years now, and you know who you are, holding my hand (sometimes literally) though the births and deaths I've reveled in and endured throughout my life thus far, and to those I've had the privilege of "meeting" through the process of blogging, whose faith, honesty and wit have earned my deep respect and admiration, I'll have you know that I am braver and wiser and filled to capacity with gratitude because our paths have crossed. Let us keep on, then, spreading love, belief and friendship willy-nilly all over the place.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

my little mouth, my winter lungs...

We got nine inches last night and now our yard looks like a scene from out of a Thomas Kinkade painting - all timeless, softly lit, and too good to be true. Within minutes of gathering the boots and layers necessary for snow ball, man, and angel making, I was reminded of how much slush and clutter gets strewn around my kitchen, living room, dining room in the winter months. But then again, there is something about flushed icy cheeks, frigid mornings and emaciated tree branches covered in billowing mounds of sparkling, starry snowflakes that make coffee taste even better and staying inside all snuggled up together on the couch a preferred, glorious, comforting way to pass the hours. Will it get old? Oh yeah, come February, we'll be clawing at the walls and dreaming of greens and pinks and yellows. But today, the white on white effect is mesmerizing and magical.

I'm preparing, devising a plan, the goal of which is health and making it all the way to springtime without caving in to the eye-twitching madness accompanying those extra hours of dark, and isolation. I'm a moderate optimist - hopeful but realistic, thus I'm ridding my house of chocolate and keeping a gym bag packed with spandex-ey shorts and a water bottle for those 6:00 pm exercise classes at the YMCA. I have learned the very hard way that stay-at-home mothers cannot live, cannot thrive, on positive thinking alone. Now is the time to gird ourselves with better soul, mind and body affirming choices. We have so little control over our stuff and our unpredictable schedules, but no one is holding a gun to our heads and shoving junk food down our throats or forcing us to dress in shapeless sweatpants and sluggishness inducing fuzzy slippers. It IS going to be messier, and more difficult for awhile to stay afloat emotionally amidst all the usual parenting demands plus the loneliness, and the added complication of finding mittens and hats, scraping off vans, shoveling driveways before errands can be run.

Please, join me in prayer, in fueling ourselves with wholesome nutrients and aerobic activity, in writing letters to old friends (see two posts below), offering sincere and specific compliments as often as possible, surrounding ourselves with quality, beautiful, thought provoking (as opposed to numbing) stimuli, and staying aware of and away from those temptations that when yielded to leave us agitated, regretful, morose and depressed. There is power in numbers and a higher chance of success when accountability is involved. So tell me, what will YOUR tactics be for staying sane and robust this season? I could use some inspiration and support!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

put out the fire

The blaze has died down some. Our streets are lined with the last remnants of autumn, piles of gold and red all earthy scented and muted from the raking and the trampling of sweatshirt-ed children still resisting the confinement of puffy coats and mittens. Gone too, for the most part, are the heated accusations and the scorching debates burning holes in the theories and characters of rivals. The time has come to retire our weapons, cool off, declare a ceasefire - the race is over. Let us be neighbors now, exuding warmth. Let us think in terms of today and peace and respect for the whole of humanity. Nothing's changed this season, for those who recognize the bold and brilliant Brightness glowing lucid amidst uncertainty, but the weather.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Please read the letter...

There is a question whether faith can or is supposed to be emotionally satisfying. I must say that the thought of everyone lolling about in an emotionally satisfying faith is repugnant to me. I believe that we are ultimately directed Godward but that this journey is often impeded by emotion. I don't think you are a jellyfish. But I suspect you of being a Romantic. Which is not such an opprobrious thing as being a fascist. I do hope you will reconsider and relieve me of the burden of being a fascist. The only force I believe in is prayer, and it is a force I apply with more doggedness than attention (pg. 100).

I've been slowly making my way through her numerous letters. She penned hundreds between 1948 and 1964, when she died too young from complications related to Lupus. The book is called The Habit of Being and within it are the humorous, brave, extraordinary and intimate insights of the very talented and witty Miss Flannery O'Connor. I am awestruck by the sheer volume of them and the thoughtfulness that went into each. I am wishing, now, that I could sit with her awhile.

I can't remember when I last constructed a letter. Staccato e-mails have replaced the girly stationary and detailed correspondence about every day events I used to send and long to receive from my high school and then college friends, because I'm old enough to have made it through four years of higher education without help from the Internet. Cursive writing, with actual ink on notebook paper, has become painful and awkward. My penmanship, which I used to agonize over, is now sloppy and illegible. I communicate by typing, using facts - who, what, where, when -instead of offering a piece of myself by way of hand scrawled stories and spit sealed notes addressed from me to the recipients on my mind and in my heart. We hit "delete" and there is nothing left to treasure or hold on to.

I am thinking that I'm not yet ready to throw in the towel, to surrender to this frightening epidemic reducing the beauty and complexity of language to cryptic abbreviations in the form of text messages on cell phones. I am suddenly quite desperate for lengthy paragraphs, complete sentences, floral envelopes and a roll of stamps. It's not my personality, really, to rock the boat, make a fuss, protest, but in this case...I'm too scared not to - for the sake of my children and their future, potentially void of truly meaningful interactions, of literary and historical keepsakes. This week, one letter - I dare you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

forever dreams of a better day

This photo of Mary was taken two Novembers ago and there is no need, I am sure, to rehash the fact that time is flowing forward with the force, speed and steadfastness of a rushing waterfall. You get it, already - I am stupefied by the rapidity with which we all are growing older, and hopefully wiser and less impulsive, more accepting of our limitations when it comes to not knowing everything or having all the perfect answers. The closer I get to the other side, the less I nitpick over the details and stomp my feet in a royal huff shouting, "This is the way things are, I am certain of it!"

"But what of the children?" I used to wonder. How do I mesh for them God's omnipotence with the passion heard here on earth in arguments heated, perhaps noble yet still divisive in their desperation to uncover the truth. Where should I draw for us as a family the line which separates faith and empathy from a no holds barred acceptance of immorality? How is it my place to construct barriers when I am clinging with white knuckled fingers to Grace unlimited, unconfined?" Maybe it's lazy of me to forfeit but I just can't see the point, anymore, of summarizing.

Love is life, wrote Tolstoy, All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.

Peg me as foolish or naive. Say I'm in danger of calling a spade a Queen of Hearts, but I'd rather err on the side of peace, forgiveness, kindness, beauty, hospitality and HOPE, HOPE, HOPE (did I say that already?) than fear and judgment with its weighty assumptions that could be turned back on to me because I, my friends, am a mess - I have plenty to work on.

So here is what we'll do, kids: pray for mercy on our own infirm souls and then love as we've been loved - illogically and with no strings attached.

We'll simplify.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If I should fall behind

I knew that if I started to fall behind, this baby of mine (my Snapshot O' the Day) would inevitably be affected. I love this blog for its therapeutic properties and creative opportunities but, believe it or not, I've got approximately 85 other things of high priority all queued up to be handled and completed by yours truly. That, and something so, so sad happened only days ago involving my beloved digital camera (used recently by my sister-in-law, Carrie, and I to take countless pictures, including the one above, testing the lighting and shadows in my own backyard) and a certain adorable three-year-old who happened to knock it out of my hands and onto the hard and unforgiving kitchen floor. It's broke, is the horrible long and short of it, and my kids keep needing food and heat and stuff, so I can't, in the near foreseeable future, replace it. Thus my plan is to, for now, use the photos I already have in my computer and my trusty old scanner to update this site every third day or so because I like to do it- it brings me joy, helps me remember all I have to be thankful for and to document moments and events I'd surely forget in the hustle and bustle of raising a family. So, dear friends, if you can forgive me the slight time delay between my posts, I'd be thrilled if you stuck around. Your company has been encouraging and enjoyable, to say the least. Now I'm off to bed, before 10:00 pm, like a good girl. I'm trying, really trying, to pace myself.

Friday, October 24, 2008

...if you needed me to

Dear Benjamin,

I'm a sucker for that face (just ask daddy). You were my biggest baby, 9 lb. 6 oz, and your delivery was so long and so excruciating, I thought I'd die. You arrived a scant 15 months after your older sister, Priscilla. "Irish Twins!" people would say to me whenever I dared to go out in public with my three tiny children, age 4 and under. You used to introduce yourself as "the nicest boy in the world." You're snuggly and generous, which to me makes up for the mayhem and the destruction that tends to follow in your wake. "BENJAMIN LEONARD SABOURIN!!" is how I usually call your name - how most people do if they spend more than fifteen minutes with you. Tomorrow, you turn six-years-old. It's hard to believe, really. You can't fathom that there was ever a time in my life without you in it ("But where am I," you wonder when you see our wedding pictures). For six years you've been stretching me, delighting me and keeping me always, always, always on my toes. I'd do anything for you, go anywhere. I'd scale a mountain, wrestle a bear, swim across an ocean, play Rescue Heroes, Star Wars, Matchbox Cars...if you (really) needed me to. I wish for you health, peace and love. And for myself, I wish for but a fraction of your exuberance. Happy Birthday, sweetheart.



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

one safe place

My brother's whimsical front door

Early this morning I stepped outside and for the first time in a long time felt the cold rip through my skin and rattle my bones. We made hot coffee, hot chocolate, wore footed jammies and crowded in close around the book we are reading about Incans, Aztecs and Mayans. Later on, after the sun had warmed our yard enough to play in long sleeved shirts and jackets you gathered sticks, berries and leaves and built houses for the fairies, those poor vagrant Hoosier fairies who have been traveling and never resting but now, thanks to you, have a place to lay their heads. Look, I know I can't protect you from every winter, from every storm but neither am I required to watch on idly, throw my hands up in defeat, declaring exposure to elements cruel, superficial, and wholly distracting from all that is innocent, good, authentically beautiful and righteous as just an unfortunate fact of your life as a kid growing up in this enlightened day and age. They can call me naive, say I'm overprotective, claim you risk ostracization by your ignorance of trends culturally relevant but I don't care. I'll stand guard at the gates of our fortress on the lookout for trojan horses containing dangers concealed in pretty packaging and, God help me, I will not let them in. I'll do whatever it takes, whatever I can, to keep you thinking for yourselves, free from pressure to conform ... safe.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'll be remembering you

Troy's parents, known affectionately around these parts as Papa and Nana, had this gorgeous bouquet sent to our house yesterday and each time I walk past it, I am reminded of how nice it feels to be loved. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and prayers! This afternoon we went to the cemetery and placed flowers at grandma's grave site. Saturday, we will drive to Ohio for a memorial service. There have been many, many questions from my children these past 48 hours regarding death and grandpa's intermittent smiles, laughter, and tears. "We are sad," I explain, "but so very hopeful. Sixty-five years they were married, grandpa misses her." This has been a bittersweet and yet special time for us as a family. We are thankful that we can lean upon one another as we reflect, rejoice in Christ's promises and remember.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

1976 (grandma and me)

2008 (grandma with my daughter, Mary)

This morning I got a phone call from my mother. It was about grandma, she'd been taken to the hospital. When Liturgy was over, she called again; it was time to say goodbye. You never know what joys or sorrows each new day will bring with it. I'd never have guessed that by this evening I'd be drained yet wired and in awe of how heaven and earth are so connected, so entwined. We were together as a family when my grandpa kissed her mouth and told her gently to relax and let go. We were together, singing hymns and reading the Psalms and remembering how funny she was and wonderful. We were there when she gasped, took that final breath. We witnessed her death, her resurrection. Suddenly, the things I thought mattered simply didn't anymore. I had been all in a tizzy, over what?

Memory Eternal, Wilma Jean Maddex. Lord have mercy on your soul and on us who've been left behind. May the magnitude of you passing from out of this life and into the next right before our very eyes, keep us always in a state of wonder and determined to stress, resent, envy less and love more. Thank you, grandma, for everything. We miss you already.

Friday, October 17, 2008

love rescues

My neighbor, Kris, a busy mom of four hilarious and adorable little children, read my post about the hypothetical scenario I dreamed up involving me accepting help from a kindly stranger(s). This afternoon she stopped by to see us, bearing treats. There was soup, homemade applesauce and bread, all of which are making this house smell deliciously (nutritiously)wholesome. And I want you to know right now that if ever you feel frustrated by all you can't do for society at large, if you're concerned about how motherhood and its many demands might be cramping your philanthropic style, that through living "small," and by that I mean focusing wholeheartedly on the people and opportunities right in front of you, you have the potential every day to make a real and lasting difference in those purposely placed in your path. I, for example, because of one thoughtful friend, will eat well tonight. I'll be inspired to keep my eyes and ears open for needs that spring up in others around me which I might be able to meet. I'll say a prayer I probably would have skipped otherwise, because I'm grateful. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to feed my family something besides Honey Nut Cheerios, thanks to Kris and her generosity. May you all have a peaceful weekend!

rescue me

I am certainly not complaining or suggesting that I'm not capable enough to single-handedly whip this place into shape, will away my headache, make learning a grand adventure or offer a meal that isn't cereal to my under the weather children. I'm simply letting you know that if, today, someone were to knock on my door carrying a swiffer sweeper, a cappuccino with my name on it, something delicious and nutritious in a crock pot, and demand that I march straight upstairs to take a bubble bath and read while he/she/they (I'm not picky) deep-cleaned the house, entertained the kids and returned for me all my e-mails and phone calls, I would let them in, because I'm thoughtful like that. You might say I have a real servant's heart.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I can see a lot of bright in you

Your dress I picked up for a measly fifty cents at the thrift store. On a hanger, its nothing special - all rust red and dated but I knew you'd like the rain cloud and the plaid umbrella. You stripped immediately when you saw it, out of your old clothes, teeny tiny not as bold clothes; given a choice, you'd take anything over the predictable. You weren't the first little girl to step into it, that vintage half a dollar jumper, asking for help with the navy buttons before twirling in delight. These hand-me-down clothes, second time around clothes, are all you've known. But then again, they're all you need to make us smile, shine, swoon at the sight of you, showcase the light in you; that dress, any dress, containing your spunk, your spark, your one-of-a-kind-ness, is a good dress, a great dress, priceless.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How a spy catches a ball

Oh Benjamin,

I adore you - especially on a full stomach and after two cups of coffee and eight hours of sleep. I find it very endearing that:

1. Like Pigpen on the Peanuts, dirt and random messes are attracted to your skin and hair with magnetic-like force.

2. When referring to a single item of clothing, you use the word, "Clo". As in, "After I take off this Church Clo (your plaid button up shirt), I'll be ready to play outside."

3. You sing like Pavarotti.

4. Your eyes and smile are as large and sparkling as "two clear lakes and a shining sun" (Elijah just offered me those dramatic similes and I am totally going with them).

5. You waved down our neighborhood ice cream truck in order to tell the driver that, unfortunately, on that day, you were not going to be able to buy any ice cream.

6. During your Library group, you informed the visiting Firemen that you didn't need a smoke alarm to wake you up because you sleep with your eyes open (to which your teacher replied, "I bet you do, Ben").

7. Last Sunday, more than half-way through Liturgy, I noticed your khaki pants were on backwards.

8. You want to marry someone "curly," just like me.

You keep us laughing, Oh my, always laughing and in continuous, fervent, prayer. Please, darling, I'm begging you, put down that stick, get off the hood of our minivan, hand me that permanent marker and let me hold you for a minute or two. My friends, I believe wholeheartedly that everyone should have access to a "Benji," to keep them guessing, gasping, and from ever, ever, ever again complaining that life is boring.

Monday, October 13, 2008

anything you can do, I can do better?

I have decided to dedicate this entire post to Father James' question regarding Troy and his weekend alone with the children because this very topic weighed heavy on my mind before I left for my "girls only" adventure. "Are you sure you'll be ok?" I had asked him more than once and each time Troy replied, "yes," using the same expression and tone my son, Benji, might employ if I asked him was he certain the Force was stronger than the dark side or if the Chicago Bears was still his favorite football team. Troy is solid as a rock and not easily intimidated but this I thought was different - four kids, our four kids, were a whole lot to handle and maybe he was being just a tad bit naive, forgetting how Mary melts down when she's tired and Benjamin wanders off if you turn your back for even a second. As I waved goodbye, I begged God to protect them. I expected little, really - that they'd "get through it," probably, but would be awfully glad to see me upon my return.

"Have a good time!" Troy told me, which I was so grateful for because all it would have taken to dampen my excitement considerably was a look of apprehension or resentment. Mothers, or maybe its just me, tend to think of themselves as the glue holding everything and everyone together. My husband could do a fine job, but of course I'd always, in general, do better when it came to nurturing the children and managing our home. Had I taught him all he needed to know to ensure those couple of days without my hovering presence would be a success for them, for me, for everyone?

When we pulled up to my house all rested and restored, I found Priscilla, Ben, and Elijah jumping, laughing, and rolling in a leaf pile. Troy sauntered up quite calm-like and hugged me. There were lots of squeals and kisses, partly (or mostly) because of the brightly wrapped packages in a bag I was carrying with the words Oh My Darling Toy Store printed boldly on the side of it. "Whadjyou bring us? Whaydjyou bring us?" they were dying to know. After a whirlwind half hour of thanking my friends profusely for such a wonderful, wonderful time, handing out souvenirs, and emptying my duffel bag, I finally cornered Troy and started questioning him about how everything had gone in my absence. "Fine," he answered, keeping consistent with his usual minimalist approach to my wifely interrogations. "What did you do?" I pressed on out of curiosity. "Oh, let's see," he tried to remember, "...this morning we got the emissions test done on the car, then we went to the DMV, then Ace Hardware, then out for pizza. After lunch, I put Mary down for a nap, we cleaned up the yard and did chores."

"All of those things?!" I asked, in utter amazement. "In one day?!" The very idea of it made me feel exhausted. That kind of errand running required multiple snacks, water bottles, and some extra strength Tylenol, items I was certain Troy had not even thought about packing on his excursion. "How did they do?" I winced, figuring Mary had most likely screamed, Elijah pouted out of boredom, Priscilla complained of hunger and Benjamin...well, who knows what? With Ben anything, literally anything can happen. Priscilla, overhearing our conversation, interrupted me.

"Mommy!" she beamed, "the lady at the car place told daddy what well behaved kids we were!"

"Is that true?" I wanted to know.

"Yep," My husband answered. "She said she was impressed by how cooperative and quiet my children were, just sitting there reading their books. They did great." I looked around then and it dawned on me, for the first time, that nothing had exploded. No one was bandaged up or clinging to me. Mary walked by and Troy told her, "It's time to get your jammies on, baby." And so - get this- she totally went right upstairs and got dressed in her pajamas...all by HERSELF.

Troy, I suddenly realized, assumed they could; I assume they can't and because of that, I end up, much of time, over-assisting and ultimately feeding their habit of whining and surrendering when something is difficult. My very capable spouse has opened my eyes to a mindset I am stubbornly clinging on to, and which is hindering me as a mom. I (gasp!) have discovered something valuable and important that I can learn from him in the parenting department: If you insist on aiming low, don't be shocked when no one rises to the occasion. Aim high consistently (argh! that is so hard for me!) and you'll be surprised at what your kids can accomplish on their own.

So, hooray for dads who aren't afraid to step in and get their hands dirty in the nitty-gritty details and the messiness of family life. Your active and prayerful participation in the raising of your children is such a blessing, such a blessing and so vital for creating a cycle of spiritual and emotional healthiness for generations to come. I appreciate, Troy, more than you'll ever know, how hard you work at being available far more than just financially to me and the kids. When you give of yourself, it makes me long to give back to you; it brings me strength and inspires me to do better. So there, I admit it! We're even steven when it comes to our parental capabilities, each enhancing the other through our differences and united in our vision of becoming a compassionate, disciplined, and Christ honoring family drawn together by our laughter, love and shared experiences.

Cheers, partner!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

enter rooms with great joy shouts, happy to be meeting...

The trip, oh my gosh, was wonderful. It is rare for expectations to line up perfectly with reality and rarer still for that reality to surpass in specialness and just plain fun the hopes you've been puffing up for months while counting down the days until your planned event's arrival. Kara brought photos, old but great ones, of us when we were young and fresh faced and so infatuated with our newfound independence and our youth and one another. Alot has happened since then - big things, joyous things, painful things, things which have grayed our hair, wrinkled our eyes, and softened our edges considerably. The fact that we had to plan and to save and arrange many details in order to pull off our reunion made it that much more delightful, meaningful, and amazing. We had gorgeous, crisp, sunshine-y weather and our car ride past trees changing colors spectacular was breathtaking. We laughed till we cried. We ate all our meals out. We saw a movie, shopped at a Farmer's Market, walked by the beach, and tasted every type of wine produced in Michigan (St. Julian's Sparkling Blanc de Blanc was my favorite, in case you were wondering). I did come back refreshed, and feeling incredibly thankful for these women in my life who through their friendship, loyalty, unconditional love and unique perspectives have challenged, encouraged, and stretched me substantially. Yes, I am teary now and dangerously close to crossing the line dividing sweet from sappy so I will stop here and tuck these memories into my heart where they will hold me over until next year, when we'll pick right back up again like no time has passed, each of us better off from our too brief hours spent together.