Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joy and Narcissism

Leave it to the interwebs to make another seemingly innocuous thing controversial. There was this post about the ice bucket challenge that brought up a very good point. The ALSA donates some of their funds toward embryonic stem cell research. There are many people, myself included, who find this line of research immoral due to the the destruction of life. Not everyone agrees, I understand. However I have another, perhaps more practical, reason for opposing money being poured into this type of research, which is: never, not once, has this research been effective at producing a practical solution to the problems it seeks to address.

Adult stem cell research, however, has had multiple successes. Let's focus our time, talent and treasure on that which offers the most practical hope and does not have legions of people concerned about the ethics of such research.

But there was another issue at hand in this post that I have seen other places. The idea that these things are wasteful and rooted in and encourage narcissistic tendancies. First let's talk about narcissism. I will grant that social media seems to feed the beast that is our Culture of Me and our cultural lack of empathy. Of course this is true! Anything that gives a person the chance to put on a "display" can indeed feed that sort of darkness.

That being said, there is a large blindspot in this claim. You see, the ice bucket challenge is fun. Yes, doing something seemingly inconsequential, and daring others to do the same is playful. Playfulness can build community because we tolerate one another so much better if we know we can set all of the baggage down once in a while. Sure, it's seems wasteful. Isn't all fun peered at from the outside looking in a bit wasteful? "But good drinking water!" I hear you gasp. Stop it. Unless you protest swimming pools and water parks, just stop your nonsense. We have access to water, and using a little for fun is okay. If there is a draught where you are, then yes, by all means refrain from the challenge. But also? Be creative. My sister, Geek, chose instead to sing "Ice Ice Baby" in carline while waiting for her children to be let out of school. (Gee, I hope she wasn't wasting gas by keeping her car idling!) She was nearing the 24 hour deadline, and decided that she could be creative and meet the challenge in a fun and silly way.

The second blindspot is this idea that all things displayed on social media are inherently narcissistic. If that is the case, then all things done publicly must be so. Do we not understand yet that Facebook and Twitter can be much like the water cooler? We live an online life now, and that is not a sin. Maybe it's not as good as authentic in-person relationships, but it can also keep those relationships strong when time and distance cause them to whither.

My parents had weak relationships with their siblings when I was young. Oh, sure we were family, and God knows we had one another in times of trouble. However, the day-to-day sharing and caring was missing because we didn't live close, and there was this weird thing called "long distance rates" that meant calling someone in another area code cost money. When you are raising a young family, those expenses have to be held to a minimum. But now? Our family is strong. I love my cousins and I know how to contact each of them. Each of my 8 siblings is on Facebook, but none are in my hometown. We make each other laugh, we call if we are concerned, and we groan when one of us is getting too righteous online.  That is just my family. I can't tell you the number of friendships I've strengthened online. My friend Sarah, whose ups and downs have allowed me to cry and cheer in communion with her family. The boy from grade school who reached out to me on Facebook and told me of the troubles he had faced post college. He later committed suicide, and while I am heartbroken, I am so glad I could lend a shoulder to a suffering soul for just a little while. Nora Rose, whose family has been in our lives for a very long time, but whose journey I could follow first hand thanks to social media.

I understand the impulse here. The ALSA donates to things that are sketchy. ALS is a horrid disease in need of eradication, and posting a video of getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head seems to make light of a very serious disease. But the world needs light. The world needs fun. The world needs communion and understanding and encouragement. This is what this challenge can offer, my friends. The good news is there are organizations that you can donate to that won't fund embryonic stem cell research. There are hospitals, maybe even local organizations, that can hunker down and help out your actual real live, and not just virtual, neighbor. You can look it up and post that on Facebook as your ALS charity of choice. Celebrate the charitable inclination of your fellow man and have some fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kindergarten 4.0

The Blurry Child Who Never Stops Moving
Dear Handsome,
You are the fourth child I have seen off to Kindergarten. On Monday we brought your supplies and met your beautiful teacher, Mrs. G. She is a Buckeye, which I'm sure makes Cappy (and Kiki, of course) very happy. Today you dressed in "button shorts", a belt and a golf shirt. You wanted your hair combed like Cappy, something that makes you feel connected to the man you hardly remember. You ate breakfast with a tea towel around your neck and on your lap, and you were barely still for the photos I wanted to take. You seemed excited because you kept getting into the car before it was time to leave.
His genuine smile is like a vampire--never  to appear in photos
Two pretty girls and a goofball.


On the way to school we said our prayers. We asked our Gaurdian Angels to care for us and and help us make good choices, as well as keep us safe. We prayed for everyone going to school, and then I heard a little voice say, "Help Molly not be scared...and maybe me too."

We've had a great summer, you and I. We bonded over our hatred of being spoken to in the morning. We snuggled deep under covers when you were not supposed to be in our bed. You started really taking becoming a gentleman seriously. I began to see that my baby boy is not a baby at all. Even when you pitched fits over things like swim lessons, I saw through your naughtiness and learned to coach you. Your skin went from pale to brown over the course of a few weeks, and any chunk left from the toddler years disappeared to reveal bones and ropey muscle.
Not an ounce of body fat anywhere but those cheeks and lips!



As we walked in to the room, you grew quiet, but this year you didn't bury your head into my hip. You showed Dad your desk, we hung up your backpack, and you handed Mrs. G your papers. Mae sat next to you. I snapped a picture, which happened to reveal the truth; you were very scared.
Mae is ready for Kindergarten, while her brother is ready for this to be over already.

Dad and I left anyway, knowing we had to let you march through to the other side where happy chatter and friendship waited. Before I left, I kissed your cheek and reminded you that I couldn't wait to hear about your day. There was a small smile, or at least a corner of your mouth lifted in an attempted smile. We left to go find some friends and to peek at your sisters, but my heart stayed right there with you desperately, hoping you would feel better fast.

Molly's Motto: Why carry bags when you have so many other's willing to do it for you?
********************************************
You were first in this afternoon carline today. Your hair was sticking to your scalp like a 90's Clooney. You had a huge grin on your face. As you climbed in the car you said, "Hi Mama, good seeing you!" I asked how your first day of Kindergarten was. "Oh, great! It's not hard work at all!" That was all I got from you, though I was waiting for stories about friends and teachers. Instead you asked if you could buy lunch tomorrow, letting me know for certain all was well with you.

I'm glad you still love school Buddy. I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Love,
Overly Sentimental Mama

Thumbs up for Kindergarten!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quick Takes Pre-Back-to-School


It is Back To School time, y'all. Remember that commercial with that guy going through the Staples buying supplies with the song, "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" blaring? Cut to his kids who are not feeling it. Imagine that, but in reverse up in here. My kids love the beginning of school. They have long forgotten about homework, early wake up times, bed times, the desperation of looking for the other shoe, and my demands that they continue to make their beds and brush their teeth. All they can think of is that they will spend 8 hours a day with people they like who don't expect them to empty the dishwasher and feed the pets.

I, however, have enjoyed the luxury of no homework, not caring as much about hygiene (because the ocean is sterile, you guys. It's Science!), and lax bedtime/wake times. This year I was so smart and created a spreadsheet for school supply shopping, and then went to the inter webs and had it all delivered to my house. I don't do the school sponsored boxes. I never remember in time, or, when I do remember, I have spent all my money on froyo.
But then I decided to do a room switcheroo. You see, the oldest will be semi-homeschooling with virtual school. She made a really good point that she would like to sleep in a little, and yet shares a room with a sibling who will be getting up at 6:30. That, coupled with the fact that the baby was starting to get closer and closer to getting out of her crib, lead me to the decision to move the kids around. K has her own room, M &C are together now, and the baby and Paul are bunking in the "camp" room, that I will one day finish decorating as a camp bunk because the furniture is very rustic.

Let me tell you something about trying to organize and swap clothes with a two-year-old in the house; it's terrible. Especially if this particular child likes nothing better than to "reorganize" all the shoes you have lined up to weed out and repurpose. Especially if said child also loves to pull perfectly organized clothing onto the floor and then "refold" it and place it somewhere you shall never look until you move. She's a helper, that one.
Kate has her own bathroom. I recognize that this is a risk I am taking. She is already very entitled as witnessed when I told her she would need her own toilet brush.

K: What for?
Me: To clean your toilet. I'll get you shower cleaner too.
K: Why do I have to clean the toilet?!
Me: The same reason you have to make your bed and vacuum your rug. You use it, you clean it.
K: That seems excessive
Me: I regret to inform you that if you neglect your bathroom you will become responsible for all the bathrooms in the house. Also, please make a note that the size of your bedroom will be about the size of your first apartment, if you are lucky, so try very hard not to be too comfortable.
K: Oh yeah, living here is so luxurious.
Me: Glad you understand.

I am so looking forward to the teen years.
The baby sleeps in a bed. Like, actually gets put in a bed, falls asleep in that bed, and then stays in the bed until morning or nap time is over. I would like to know, what in the heck in going on, Internet? It should be noted that this is for her own safety. She began to get her leg up on the railing a couple months ago, and had since built little stools out of books and stuffed animals to make it easier to get out. She has not been successful (low muscle tone, FTW!), but it was coming. Because she is a bit weaker, even if she puts her arms out to catch her fall, she would likely bust her face. The bed is very low to the ground with a bunky board rather than a full boxed spring.


The bonus is that Paul has stayed in his loft bed since her move. He is there to protect her, after all, and he takes this very seriously. For now.
I am walking a lot lately thanks to my husband shaming me with his Hop-Out-Of-Bed-And -Go-Running routine. Wait, first he does push-ups and dips, then he goes running. Lying there listening to all this productivity has shamed me into at least taking the dog for a power walk. Running is too excessive in the summer. I've done it off and on every summer since moving to FL, and I simply hate it. I also have an easier time meditating and counting my blessings if I am not panting and hating life. I'm also nicer to my kids when I get home. It's really a lose-win-win-win. The loser is my bed, who loves me so dearly and surly misses our coffee-and-news mornings. Poor thing.
Can I just say, I finally get the mother/son relationship lovefest? Paul has always been turned to 11, regardless of that being good or bad. He overwhelms me with his full-throttle passion. However, I'm slowly learning about his particular needs and finally meeting them. Everyone has sensory needs, it's not a diagnosis, or problem, it's just like nutritional needs vary, so do sensory needs. Paul is a proprioceptive seeker. Think wrestlers and football players. So when he's hurt, he hits things and runs around, and when he's happy, he snuggles you to death and kisses you so hard your nose feels broken. Now that I understand, I've been able to give him lots of input and now he's so much calmer, and more charming, and hilarious.

One interesting thing I have found is how easy anger is for him. Since he was a baby, if he were scared, hurt or sick, he would get mad and hit people. Now that he is a little more mature, I can say that he can just be hurt without being angry, and it hits just the right note for him. He'll start to spin out, and then come in for a hug and tell me what is bothering him and what he wants to fix it.  The weirdest thing is to see how that has translated into his ability to admit when he is wrong and to apologize as well. Yes, some of this is maturity, but a lot of it is the sensory needs being filled too. I can see how much he neede this from ME. He needs a woman to understand him better just as the girls need their Daddy to work to understand their needs.

One thing I want to leave with is the fact that I'm tempted to feel guilty that it took me 5 years to get it together with Paul. Yes, I use the term tempted. Some guilt is constructive and helps us keep trucking toward being better human beings, and some is destructive and makes us naval gazing depressed narcissists. I let a little of the guilt hang out enough to remind me to be patient when he needs it, and I tell the rest to buzz off. I love my son, and I'm confident in that. I will never meet all of my children's needs no matter what. I'm comfortable with that most of the time. That's how I handle the guilt anyway.
There is a lot of bad news in the world, and I mean a. lot. of. bad. news. Sometimes it makes me think God made a mistake when He promised not to wipe us all out and start fresh a la Noah. And then there are stories like this.  I was lucky enough to meet this fine lady at my little Edel excursion and she is amazingly funny and interesting and silly. I then found out she had a blog and I was all up in that business. I promise you, if you were to meet her, you would not for a minute think she has a bunch o' kids, that two have SMA, and that she home schools. I mean, honestly you wouldn't because there is no blinding halo keeping you from getting too close. So, yes, humans are awful. However, they are awfully wonderful also. Congrats to Kelly and her family. It is a well deserved blessing.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Edel 2014

As a mom of young kids, I know we all experience the same feeling of defeat. We all experience that moment, sometimes more often than we care to acknowledge, where we must escape. Like a caged and beaten animal, we find ourselves longing to run away, far far away, and nurse our wounds. It doesn't matter how many children you have, if you work or stay home, if you are rolling in cash or drowning in debt, we all experience that sensation that we must flee.

That's not why I bought my ticket to the Edel Gathering.

The Edel Gathering was named for Venerable Edel Mary Quinn, and I think the two founders may have found her name by googling "Patron Saint of Partiers". I was only half listening to that sentence because there was a really distractingly cute baby near me. At any rate, Jennifer Fulwiler and Hallie Lord, decided that mommies, and specifically Catholic mommies, needed a weekend to refresh, renew and recharge themselves back to the amazing and wonderful individuals they have always been. There are a lot of wonderful things to say about these two women, but I'm going to save that for another day. First, let's talk about moi.

The day I bought my ticket was rotten. My husband was out of town, The children were needy, and I was depleted. I had considered it, but there was no decision made by the time the tickets went on sale.  So, that day, when I spoke to my husband, I told him I bought my ticket, and I was staying at the Omni downtown Austin. We have a policy of discussing any several-hundred dollar purchases in advance, so he had every right to be angry with me, but he was not. Surprised, maybe. Probably a little frightened, wondering what kind of desperation would lead me to forsake our agreement, but completely on board. Because he is the best.

What followed was one month after another of really bad news, really deep heartache, and really hard days. One day, I think perhaps in May or early June, Scott said, "Well, at least you get to go to that conference." and I nearly burst into tears. "That Conference" was months away. I needed a break right then. I couldn't see past the sunset, let alone weeks ahead. I was afraid I was becoming someone unlikable. I was afraid I had made a mistake in choosing to go alone, and not even trying to make some kind of e-connection with the other attendees. I misunderstood and thought it was mostly an opportunity for self-promotion of personal projects. I didn't have anything to promote, I didn't want to buy anything. I didn't need a massage. I needed to find out if I could exist outside of who I had become, and in that moment, I didn't want to do that because I was afraid I would not like it, I would not like me outside of my roles.

My sister lost her husband in February of 2006. He was 30, she was pregnant with their second child. My father-in-law died in 2011. Sweet baby Nora died in June. A lot of people spent their lives identifying themselves with these loved ones. My sister started dating Mitch since she was 15, but had decided to marry him in 5th grade. My mother-in-law had not only built a life with her husband that included children and grandchildren, but she spent his last years being his caretaker. Aleisa and William spent all of Nora's 2 plus years caring for her and nursing her and chronicling her witness for the world. Identities wrapped in these relationships and then they were gone.

I spend a lot of time caring for my children, especially Mae. But I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. While many of the ladies at the conference were experiencing the crushing isolation of motherhood, I have a life full of well-built relationships. I've been where they have been, for sure, but that's not where I am now. I have 4 amazing, beautiful, hilarious sisters who love me dearly. I have 3 tough, compassionate and generous brothers who love me. I have two holy and patient parents who love me. I have a husband who thinks I am the closest thing to the Virgin Mary on earth. (I am so very much not that, but I do not seem capable of ridding him of that delusion.) I have a parish and school community that love our family. I have friends who "get it", and support me even when they don't. We have a neighborhood full of people who like each other and are prepared for the onslaught of Fryman Teenagers when the kids get to that age. I have in laws and cousins and aunts and uncles and even the cashier at the grocery store who gives me coupons and let's me break up my order so I can use more than one $10 off $50 coupon. I am not rich, I'm filthy rich.

Which is why the reading of the rich young man haunts me. Money isn't my comfort, relationships are. The experience of these past years have taught me that it is possible that I could lose all of this around me. The day I bought my ticket I had realized this and I could not answer a question that thundered into my thoughts; Did I even like being just me?

So I went to Austin alone. I met other women without one of my children licking them first. (True story, happened more than once.) I went for walks. I slept in a bed alone. I went to confession. I went to mass. I partied. A lot. I talked to strangers. I ate yummy food. A lot. I smiled. I cried. I watched Gravity and cried like it was me in space with one thing after another going to hell. I identified a little too closely with Gravity. I missed home. I sat in Saint Mary's Cathedral. I thanked God for the weekend. I thanked God that I had met all these women. I thanked God that The Body of Christ is made up of wounded a broken people who want nothing more than to love and be loved. It was in my gratitude for the weekend, in the pleasure I felt at actually absorbing a mass undisturbed, that I knew I absolutely could not ever stand to be alone. The good news is, God Almighty promised me I never would be.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beauty

I have had much to say, but a lacking desire to post it. So much has happened in the past two months that I do not wish to share only because I have been allowing myself and the family to process these things together. So, yes, I haven't posted, but I think those sabbaticals are something I will need to allow myself. This post has been rolling around my thoughts for a while, I hope it bears out well.

The background began last fall. My oldest girl came home unhappy about life and began to ask me about hair removal, specifically arm and eyebrow. A girl had pointed out to her that her arms and her eyebrows were, shall we say....generous. I have no way of knowing if this girl made a big deal of it or not, it really doesn't matter at this age anyhow. It stuck and thus the exploration of what I would allow her to do began.

I know kids, and I know my kid, so I had the conversation as though I was completely fine with it. (I was not. She was 9. What the heck?!) I explained that she could do as she liked with her arm hair when I wasn't paying for it, but that shaving it would cause whiskers on her arm. I offered her some Sun In and a hair dryer as a consolation prize, which she accepted gratefully. As for the eyebrows, I offered to pluck them. 

"Does it hurt?"

"Terribly, though perhaps when you are older I will take you to get them waxed. That hurts also, but is much faster."

"I can wait." (Toldja I know my kid.)

A few weeks ago the eyebrows came up again. Rather than force the poor thing into a dance with the devil, who would surly tempt her to pluck them behind my back, I offered to take her to a pro. If any of you are judging me harshly for this, I thumb my nose at you. I sported eyebrows shaped like sperm for a year because of my poor plucking skills, a fate I spared my daughter. I deserve a medal for that. (Incidentally, the woman who did the work was very good about only removing the extra growth under the brows, did nothing to shape them, and left them looking like the eyebrows of a little girl who is not especially hairy.)

As we drove to our appointment we began to discuss some of her social anxieties. These car rides with my children always bring forth such great conversations about life, this was no different. In regard to one girl in particular, she stated that because this girl is so admirable and likable my Kate used to want to be her. It made her feel anxious to be more like this girl, but now she just wants to be herself. It was as if the Holy Spirit dropped a script into my lap so that I wouldn't screw this up. Usually I would go on and on and on about "Be yourself! You are the best you!" Instead I went against type and asked her what caused her to change.

"Mariana."

I began to string my next question slowly, as though I were luring a wild rabbit into my hands. "What is it about Mae-mae do you think that made you change how you....that made you want to be more yourself."

"She has to be happy just being herself, so I thought that maybe I should be happy with who I am. Maybe that is what we are supposed to do."

My soul leaped with joy in that moment. There was no self congratulatory feelings that we had done well as parents. Right then I saw the soul God Almighty designed, and right then I saw the absolute glory of being shown such a thing. If you knew her you would know how much she wrestled with self-doubt and how much she plays Peacekeeper. You would understand the profundity of such a statement. In that moment my daughter showed such beautiful receptivity to life lessons, such clarity on how to allow something to inspire, and a vulnerability without a hint of guile. Forget pretty, her whole being shone with Beauty. 

This is the intangible about life that we try so hard to communicate to the world about our loved ones with Ds. Many of them won't ever leave home, make a great living, make any exciting discoveries, or even pay much in taxes. We need not act as though our loved ones count as much as the next person. We know it, we live it, we experience the change it brings forth. We become more human as we give more of ourselves to a future that is uncertain. We teach and teach and work and work and coax and coax in never ending hope that it will yield fruit, and it does, though it is a different fruit than we could have ever imagined. It is the fruit of a sweeter life, a kinder soul, a more compassionate nature. It is the fruit of loving more deeply and with less self interest. The good of the other becomes more in focus, almost surprising us out of our blinders we had worn unnoticed. It is the fruit of longing to become whomever you were all along, but somehow shut out of your life in pursuit of becoming whomever you wished to be.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man about how education had become focused upon raising people to think without the being encumbered by morals and emotions. One of my favorite quotes of his was, “It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.”  His point was not some feel-good, "Follow your heart." philosophy, but that all the knowledge in the world is still lacking if we have no ability for compassion, love, understanding, empathy, grief and joy. This is what Mae brings to our family. She makes each of us better because she teaches us the importance of being beautiful rather than chasing the fickleness of looking so.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Molly: Age 7

Really?! Molly is 7? I feel like this is some kind of cosmic joke. My baby is growing by leaps and bounds, maturing and becoming a kid who has empathy and generosity. Molly was always my Molly, you know, that girl who does what she does on her own schedule when she feels like that is a good idea. I noticed at some point this year when her teacher would say things like how disorganized Molly is and I would tell my princess how she is so neat and here is a cool way of staying on top of things, and then this girl went and took my advice.

I give all credit/blame to La Dee, my sister. She and Molly are the same. She's the one who told me Molly is a carrot v. stick type kiddo, and so it turned out to be true. Perhaps all this maturity is due to getting older, or perhaps I have unlocked the amazing puzzle of my Molly. It's hard to say. What I can say is that 6 has been good to this girl. She got the exact teacher she needed, one who took her measure early, but was willing to be proven wrong. I will never forget that parent/teacher conference and being told Molly was doing just what was asked and that she would probably have trouble the second half of the year. I can't forget it because it was one of those times when I knew what it meant to know your kid best. I knew why Molly was doing just what was expected. I knew that she had figured out how to skate by with good grades, but not expose her hand of brilliance. Molly is so so bright, manipulative and crafty. That is not to say she is dishonest, but that she can charm you out of your favorite shoes and make you feel good for it. This girl has the rest of us figured out.

I have to say, Molly is delightful to raise. It is precisely because she is so different from me, and because she scratches that itch I have always had to work puzzles. Between her special inflammatory responses to foods, her charm, her quiet defiance and her comedic genius, I find she is the girl I wished I were growing up. She's gorgeous, but unimpressed by it. She moves fluidly through peer groups, she defies expectations (for better and worse), she is always her own self and she never tries to be anything but her self. Recently we had specialty cupcakes at the house for Charlottes birthday sleepover that had to be postponed. Molly was aching for one. I offered her the chance to make the choice for herself by telling her that it was up to her to deal with the consequences. 

"What are the consequences again?" she asked as she eyed the Boston creme cupcake.

"Eczema, belly ache, and possibly those joint pains, but I'm not sure if that one is a compounded issue or not."

"Forget it, just give me the icing." she replied dispassionately. She had calculated the risks and deemed them unacceptable. When I was her age, I'd have devoured 6 of those suckers and enjoyed every ache that came from it.

I know she isn't perfect. I know she needs to be better with girls her age and needs to learn to try someone else's idea once in a while. She's stubborn, yes, and that has had major drawbacks. But this year, I've seen maturity, empathy, and interest in others bloom. I've seen her take responsibility for something someone else was blamed for, a major deal for a girl who is happy to be naughty undetected. I've even seen a healthy dose of humillity, which just about knocked me over.

Maybe I idealize this golden child. She is so different from the other kids is so many ways, I notice her nuances. Maybe because she reminds me of the big sister I idolized, I feel awed that I get to raise one like her. Maybe because Molly is in the middle I pay special attention to not letting her get pushed aside or ignored. Who knows why this little girl captures my affection so easily? All I know is that she was supposed to always be my baby, but she's started to grow up anyway.

Happy birthday Molly Mack. I love you inside and out, upside and down. 




Friday, April 11, 2014

Quick Takes Volume: Scatter Brain


Spring break was a bust. We all had some kind of illness in a staggard timeline, so no one realy got to do anything fun. Charlotte turned 9 and had her birthday saved by my dear friend. She hosted C on her birthday and then I proceeded to ruin a night in with her husband by using her as my therapist when I went to pick C up from her house. Luckily, we are close enough for me to call myself out to her husband, who was gracious enough to laugh at me. Good friends are the best medicine, are they not?
I will be bragging about my children in this post. A lot. First up is K & C combo. These girls won an iPad at school because some wonderful person donated enough money to the Fun Run and then asked that two students who had worked hard, but got smaller donations be given iPads. Kate and Charlotte walked the neighborhood together and turned in a sheet explaining that they wanted to work together for a bigger prize. They really wanted to collect $700, but fell way short even though every neighbor did donate. I was very pleased that they were able to learn that hard work is rewarded in unexpected ways, and I am very happy someone had that insight when making their large donation. It's a good idea to pay forward, for sure!
When things get a little wonky in terms of familial chaos, I sometimes get a little fixated on things I can control. Like painting inside the house, painting Molly's new loft bed and reseeding the lawn. That lawn. It is my nemesis, I tell you. Just shy of a year under purchasing this house we spent an obscene amount of money to redo the front landscaping because the landscaper for the builder thought that half the front yard should be mulch and the other half should be covered with the cruddiest sod in the southeast. Now I'm convinced our soil is poisoned because everything is dying again. In my fantasy Scott would pull up everything, including the topsoil, lay manure and organic soil, new sod and beautiful flowering bushes. And hire a painter. And a contractor to build a half-sized barn door at the bottom of the steps that swings all the way to the wall and latches there as well as wood shutters for the XL window in the stairwell and also put the distressed wood panels under the bar. And not go into debt. Luckily, I've been pulled out of my fantasy because we are all well again and order is going to be reinstated. 
I must brag about Kate again. She one second place in an art contest. It was one that included many schools from the area and her category included three grades. We were not able to go to the show because of the illnesses in the house, but I couldn't be more happy for her. The truth is, I'm not even proud of her, just happy she gets to experience success at something she enjoys. So often we enjoy things we don't have a lot of time to develop, and that's okay, but kids often abandon things they enjoy because they mistakenly believe they ought to be great at it. Kate doesn't seem to be a remarkable artist to me, but she does have a good eye and great imagination. I hope that this award gives her a boost to continue enjoying this portion of her creativity. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong and she's got phenomenal talent. Either way, I am thrilled she was chosen and thrilled she won something.
Molly is going to be 7. The wonderous thing about her is that she is acting like a 7 year old. I always thought Molly would be my baby forever, but instead she is blossoming into a kind and considerate girl. I blame her teacher. No, seriously though, her teacher does a beautiful job of teaching the kids that life is about learning skills and information, and that they are all capable. She has been sending home "concerns" about Molly here and there, and you know what? They are all slowly being weeded out. Molly is trying to impress her teacher and show how bright she really is. Her teacher has gone from being concerned she wouldn't keep up to recommending she be tested for the enrichment program. Better than her academic success, I have over heard her being kind and generous to her siblings and to her friends. She is really growing up, and I feel so lucky to be able to know her.
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Um. We have another snake. That's two total living under my roof. I know. I feel compelled to be an amazing mother here, you guys, and I don't even think my kids understand how amazing I am being. This snake is named Olaf, and he is Popcorn's brother from the same clutch of eggs. Whatever. I hope St. Francis is taking notes. Also? Paul needs to take notes. I mean, really.
John Paul II and John XXIII are being canonized this weekend. If you are not familiar with these two wonderful people, I hope you will find out more about them. I was not familiar with John XXIII, but have read a little and find him to be an very interesting person in a very interesting time in history. As for JPII, well Charlotte is named for him in a round about way. In short, I'm a fan.

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