Monday, June 30, 2008

Okay, Susy... I Think It's Time

My new blogger bud Susy tagged me recently, asking me to create my own "The Ten Things I Really Love" list. I know some of you may think now is NOT the time for me to respond to this particular task, but given the last post I just submitted, I'm willing to bet that thinking loving thoughts might do me a world of good right about now.

So, without further ado:


1) My husband. Before you start groaning at me, I know deep in my heart that this man I married is my true soulmate. He "rescued" me from a time in my life when I felt all was lost in the love department. He took me by the hand, and in his own, gentle way, led me toward a life where trust and devotion and commitment are second nature. He is my hero, the one true love of my life, and my very best friend.

2) I love my son for being one of the kindest, gentlest people I know. He does things on a regular basis that make me so proud of him, and that show me what a truly unselfish young man he can be.

3) I love my oldest daughter because she is, without a doubt, one of the most loving, happy-go-lucky kids I've ever met. She lives her life with a reckless abandon that makes almost everything she does a real adventure. She's got a smile that lights up a room, eyes that will pierce through a man's soul, and a genuine heart of gold. Whatever she winds up doing with her life, she'll do with passion, with dedication, and with love.

4) I love that my little one is such a spitfire. She's incredibly beautiful, incredibly funny, and incredibly intelligent. She makes me laugh on a daily basis, and loves doing it. She won't take crap from anyone, and is fiercely defensive and "cub-like" with everyone in her "clan". I call her my little Wal-Mart greeter... she'll say hello and talk to anyone, and is so cute and so engaging that people can't help but want to talk back.

5) There are certain smells that I love, because they bring back significant memories for me: The smell of the ocean reminds me of all of the wonderful summers I had growing up where my entire family would gather together for two weeks every August and go away together to a cottage in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. It brings me such peace and contentment to sit with my feet in the sand, and feel that warm ocean breeze on my skin;

I love the smell of lilacs, because they remind me of spring;

I love the smell of Johnson's Baby Powder, because it reminds me of all of those gentle, warm baths I gave to my teeny tiny little babies;

I love the smell of Youth Dew, because it reminds me of my mother;

I love the smell of oil, because it reminds me of my dad;

I love the smell of fresh brewed coffee, because it reminds me of growing up in my house as a kid;

I love the smell of roasting turkey, because it reminds me of everything good about every holiday I've ever shared with my family;

I love the smell of the Border Cafe, because it reminds me of the time when my husband and I were going out on our first few dates together, and discovering the love we had for each other.

6) I love Christmas morning. I get such a rush out of watching my children, and the sheer excitement and joy on their faces as the paper flies through the air, and the squeals of delight when they've discovered that they really have been on Santa's good list and have received their most desired treasures.

7) I love to watch my babies (big and small) sleep. The look of pure peace on their sleeping faces is the closest I'll ever get to seeing Heaven here on Earth.

8) I love completing a craft project I've worked on for a long time. That sense of accomplishment is a pretty powerful thing.

9) I love hearing that I'm a good mom. Although that particular compliment doesn't come very often (as it shouldn't, for it's a pretty weighty one), when I do receive it, it makes my heart swell with pride.

10) I love all of the people who love me, because at the end of the day, and in spite of everything, they truly do make me feel blessed.

Oops, I Goofed.

So, even though my day started off fairly well, it didn't end that way. My daughters got me to the point where I was so sick of yelling at them to "stop running", "calm down", "stop the yelling", where I just snapped. I went into the bathroom to get washed up and ready for bed (and to make sure I had all the sweat and grime washed off of me from today's cleaning frenzy), only to discover my oldest daughter in my little one's room. My little one, who should have been lying down and calming down to ease her way into sleep, was LITERALLY bouncing off the walls of her room (as she was JUMPING on her bed!). My oldest one was in there, with her water bottle in her hand (after I specifically told her, more than once today, NOT to bring anything to eat or drink into her sister's room). I yelled at my daughter to get out of her sister's room, and go upstairs and go to bed. Boy, did I feel like a royal heel when she looked at me, with tears welling up in her eyes, saying, "I was only waiting to give you a hug goodnight, Mama." Nevertheless, she was jumping all over my last nerve, and I was DONE with them today.

Further, when I went into the bathroom, I noticed my husband's undershirt -- on TOP OF the basket of magazines in the bathroom! Guess it was much too difficult for him to walk another TWO FREAKIN' FEET to put it into the HAMPER, where it belonged, huh?

So, I went off on him, after my oldest went stomping off to bed. I told him that cleaning this house is the furthest from fun that I could possibly imagine, and that I don't particularly enjoy sweeping, or dusting, or vacuuming, or doing other people's dirty laundry. I would really appreciate it if, at the very least, people would stop treating me like an indentured servent around here, and be respectful off the fact that I've worked my fanny off around here too, and PICK UP AFTER THEMSELVES!

Now he's pouting in the living room, looking like a dog with its tail between its legs. And, I'm sitting here, trying to get my blood pressure to go back to normal.

I was looking forward to putting the kids to bed tonight, and sharing a little bit of "intimate time" with my husband tonight. Guess I blew that one, huh?

Sometimes the Help is Appreciated, and Sometimes It's Not!

My son began his first day of volunteer work as a Youth Leader at our local Boys and Girls' Club today. He spent most of his summer last year either scheduled as a volunteer, or working one of the various "jobs" at the Club, to earn a little extra money. He was on the fence about doing it again this year, even though I strongly encouraged him to sign up again: Not only will it ultimately look good on his academic "resume", but he's out of the house, DOING something, and he's giving back to the Club.

But still, he hemmed and hawed about it for awhile. That is, until he overheard his grandmother and me talking about how, if he volunteered for work and didn't take the hours earned to sign up for an activity at the Club himself, I might be able to have some money deducted from one of the girls' activities I've signed them up for. In his own quiet way, he's always trying to do whatever he can to help ease the financial struggle we always seem to be in. He truly amazes me sometimes.

This morning I decided that today was going to be a heavy-duty cleaning day around here. As I began the somewhat daunting task of cleaning our downstairs area, I sent my oldest daughter upstairs to clean her room. I've long since learned my lesson about venturing upstairs, to their dens of drudge and mire, because each time I do, my heart starts racing just a bit too quickly, and the frustration and anger begin to boil my blood. I've just decided that I'm not going to subject myself to that particular brand of torture anymore, and leave it up to my oldest daughter and my son to clean up after their own messes.

Knowing how bad my daughter's room had to be, I figured that I wouldn't see her for quite some time. Cleaning is the only activity she participates in that tuckers her out consistently, so she is required to take many "breaks" while up there. The entire morning went by with no sign of her, and she finally emerged at noontime to pilfer through the refrigerator for some lunch.

As she sat, with her feet up on my dining room chairs (!!!!), S-L-O-W-L-Y chomping away on her leftover pizza, and stopping every five seconds to watch the television show that she'd put on the TV in our adjoining living room, I got to the point where I had just about enough of her stalling, and asked her the $10,000 question: "Is your room clean yet?" She gave me her best deer caught in the headlights look (it always amazes me how surprised she is with this question; like she thinks I'd never even THINK to check up on her like that!), and she said, "Well no, not completely." I tried my best to remain calm, and not bear my gums as I said to her, "Well, then... why don't you go upstairs and COMPLETELY clean it... NOW!".

She quickly cleared her place and moved her cute little fanny back up the stairs.

She finally came down, just a few moments ago, assuring me her room was "finally all clean". She then sighed (actually sighed!) as she said, "Cleaning's hard work, so I stopped for awhile and took a little nap." Boy, what a life, I tell ya! Of course, she headed for the kitchen to poke her head around in the fridge, once again, for her afternoon snack. (I swear, that child would eat anything that wasn't bolted down on the floor if I gave her half the chance!).

Once again, I asked her, "Are you SURE you're room is completely clean now?" She almost puffed out her chest at me as she answered, "Yup!". I continued, "So... if I were to go upstairs and check out your room right now, I would think it was clean, too?" Silence. Then, after a few moments, "Well, I'd better go check under my bed, just to make sure there's nothing left under there." Needless to say, she's back upstairs now, and I probably won't see her again until dinnertime! :)

As for my little one, she's become my newest "helper" whenever I clean down here. I pulled out my broom and dustpan, to begin the task of sweeping all of my floors, and she ran to get her toy Dirt Devil. "Are we gonna vacuum again, Mama?" "Yes" I told her, "but not right now. I have to sweep and then dust the furniture first. Then you and I can vacuum." "Can I help you dust too, Mama?" "Uhm, no, sweetie... I'll do that today. Maybe next time." Now, it's not that I don't want her helping me. In fact, just the opposite is true -- I think it's great that she gets so excited about helping me clean, believe me! It's just that, whenever I go to either dust or Windex any surface in this house, her idea of "helping" is to grab any cloth she can lay her hands on and use that to do her fair share too. She's been known to wipe down surfaces with an old paper towel, or a used tissue, or the facecloth still left on her table, with all the remnants of her last meal all over it. So, I wind up with all kinds of lovely smudges and other little "gifts" all over my furniture, TV set, computer monitor... you get the idea. So, those tasks I have to do on the sly, when she's distracted with something else. If she even so much as catches me Windexing, she'll be right behind me, gooping up the surface I've just cleaned.

But, I adore her when she wants to vacuum with me. I do each rug first, and then she goes into the room I've just done, and makes sure I've picked everything up by running over each rug with her play Dirt Devil. She even insists on putting her vacuum right behind mine where I keep it!

Sometimes she's just too cute for words!

So now, my house is all sparkly and purdy. I only hope it'll stay that way for awhile! :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm Warming Up To Susy's Tag with the 20 Year "Tag"

I promised Miss Susy I'd do her "Things You Love" tag, but I really need to think about some (no.... not all!) of those before I write out that one.

So, as a warm-up of sorts, I'll do the 20 Years Tag:


1) I was almost 25 years old.
2) Unbeknownst to me, it was the last year of my first marriage. It was also the last year of my father's life.
3) I had been at the College where I used to work for three years and four months.


1) I was almost 35 years old.
2) I was a little over four months pregnant with our second child.
3) I had been at the College where I used to work for for thirteen years and four months.


1) I was just about to celebrate my 40th birthday... a major milestone that, for some strange reason, was freaking me out a lot more than my 30th birthday did!
2) After working my way up the ranks to obtain the Executive Assistant position for the President of the College, I felt morally obligated to leave, after a little over 18 years of working there. It was a difficult decision, but one I felt absolutely right in my heart about doing.
3) I'd found a rekindled spirit awakening, as I was FINALLY able to be the stay-at-home mom I'd wanted to be for years.


1) We'd just gotten past the celebration of our third child's first birthday.
2) Our oldest daughter was "officially" diagnosed with ADHD, and started taking her "listening medicine" as she called it, to help her focus more at school.
3) My husband accepted a new position as a washer and dryer repairman for a major department store.


1) I was getting a bit antsy, and feeling the need to find a way for me to do my part to earn some extra income.
2) Our son was working part-time at our local Boys and Girls Club.
3) Our oldest daughter was thriving in school, getting the extra help she needed for her phonics and spelling, and doing well on her medication.


1) After doing some praying and soul-searching, I asked for, and received, an excellent job prospect that I'm hoping will pan out for the best!
2) I watched my "baby" boy graduate from middle school.
3) Life as a stay-at-home mom has had some challenges (especially since our youngest has found her independence in some pretty vocal ways!), but I still firmly believe that my children are so much happier than they once were.


1) Worked really hard to get all of the remaining housework done, so we could all relax and take it easy today.
2) Found ways to entertain my two girls, who are getting a bit "house happy" because of all of the rain we've been having.
3) Made an appointment for my husband, our son, and I to attend a scholarship assistance conference in July, in preparation for his college career (YIKES!).


1) Ran to our local meat market to buy meats to use for our dinners for the next few weeks.
2) Also went to the grocery store, to pick up the few remaining ingredients I needed to make the lasagna I promised my little one I'd make for her today.
3) Relaxed for the better part of the day, and enjoyed time with my family.


1) Piddle around on the computer a bit.
2) Possibly take the kids to see "Kung Fu Panda", once I find out what my son's volunteer schedule at the Boys and Girls' Club is like for this coming week.
3) Do the usual "mom" tasks: straighten up the house, and maybe do some laundry, if needed.


1) Start my new position as a counselor for kids at a local after-school program, IF all the negotiations work in my favor (please pray for me that they do! :)
2) Watch my son enter into his first year of high school (again... how in the WORLD did that happen????)
3) Probably stress over my oldest daughter entering into fourth grade, which is a HUGE MCAS year for her this year.

I now tag my three blogger friends:


Let's see if you guys really DO read my blog! :)



Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer's Here, and the Time is Right.... for Losing my Freakin' Mind!

We've quickly switched gears in our household, from school mode to summer mode, and it feels like just the same amount of work for me, that's for sure!

My two girls have been enrolled in activities at the Boys and Girls Club this week, so the three of us our out of the house shortly before 9:00 a.m., so they can both be on time.

My oldest daughter has been taking gymnastics, and with the oppressive weather we've been having, she's going into the Club looking all cute, put together and perky, and coming out all red-faced and dragging! :) She loves it though, and it's been really good for her to burn off some of the never-ending energy she seems to have. I've even let her stay past her dismissal time of 12 noon, so she can hang out with some of her new playmates she's met this week and have lunch at the Club with them. Too bad lunch (which to me, means a slice of pizza and a drink) to her means candy and junk from the vending machine! Ah, well...guess you're only a kid once, right?

My little one has been enjoying her summer "camp" sessions with a group of other kids her age. I pick her up every day at noon, as well, in the toddler playground located behind the Club (weather permitting, of course) -- and more likely than not she's soaking wet from jumping in the sprinkler, and has had more than one bucket of sand dumped in her hair! After struggling with her to get her to leave the premises (I still can't seem to figure out why I have to fight with her to go most mornings, then fight with her to leave in the afternoons!), she does a quick rinse off in the bucket next to the gate leading back into the Club, then it's on with her Crocs and into the car.

Once home, she has a quick bath, and then her lunch, and then a nap. Of course, that's on a good day. There have been some days where she won't nap, and chooses to whine miserably instead. Those are the days when I feel like pulling my hair out by the roots!

I've allowed my son to take this week off from any activities. I figured, after all of the hard work he put in to make sure his projects were finished and passed in, he deserved a little de-stressing time. He's been sleeping in late, and only popping downstairs to eat and use the bathroom. I've barely seen him! That's why I was so suprised to see him emerge bright and early this morning, wanting to go to the Club with us this morning. I guess he figured that there just might be life outside of this house, after all.

I did ask him to speak to the Director while he was there, to find out if there was a job that he could do there for some part of this summer. The Club has various volunteer jobs that they assign Youth Leaders to work for. Not only would it be good for my son to be productive and useful, but it will also teach him responsibility and help him to "pay back" to the Club a bit, since they've been so very good to us. We'll see how well he does with that undertaking.

Next week is their "off" week. I figured it would be good for them to have a week with activities and a week without. Hopefully, the down time won't prove to be too much of a mistake, and I won't have to pull them physically apart from one another!

Wish me luck! :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Messages On My Voicemail (or, He Went In A Boy, But Came Out A Man)

I can't tell you how many times people have come into my home and noticed that there were 15 messages on my voicemail. They try to be kind, I guess, by reminding me of them. I think they thought I must have been way too busy to notice, or just forgot to delete them.

The real reason I keep them all is because they're an archive of sorts, and they're just too precious to me to get rid of them. You see, all of those messages are from my son over the past three years or so. When he entered into middle school, my husband I thought it best to purchase a cell phone for him. We figured his schedule would get a lot busier, and a lot more complicated, and I felt better knowing that I could reach him at any time, and vice versa. He was thrilled to be among the ranks of the "cool" kids.

The first messages were left at the beginning of his 6th grade year. You can still hear so much of the little boy in his voice. As the messages progress, from 7th and onto 8th, his voice became first crackly-sounding (think Peter Brady), to man-like. Honestly, there have been times when I haven't recognized him on the phone.

My heart sinks a little, when I listen through those 15 messages, to know how quickly those messages were accumulated on our home answering machine. My son really did enter into middle school as a little boy, and has come out a young man.

Oh, and he managed to pass in all of his work on time, to get a decent grade in English. Which meant that he was able to attend, and receive his certificate for, middle school graduation last night. I was very proud of him for stepping up and working like crazy to get everything done.

I wish that I could wave a magic wand, and bring that little boy back again. The boy with the chubby cheeks, and the flashing smile, who lit up the room whenever he entered it. The little guy who always wanted hugs and kisses from his mom. Now he's too "old" for all that. I know I have to let him go -- to let him fly, but any mother out there who's worth her salt can attest that's easier said than done.

So, I guess if I want a glimpse of my little boy, I'll just press "play" on my answering machine.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just When I Thought I'd Seen It All

Every year, as the school year draws to a close, my oldest daughter's school has their annual June Fair. She loves it because she gets to go and play with her school mates. I love it because they have a terrific indoor "yard sale" (usually located inside their cafeteria), and I almost always score some pretty terrific deals.

This year, the June Fair was this past Saturday (6/14). My son had to go to take a placement test at the high school he'll be attending in the fall, so when he and my husband came back from that, my daughter and I took off up to her school. I handed her a couple of bucks for her tickets, and headed inside to scout for some bargains.

Within 10 minutes, I'd already accumulated a small pile of really nice summer and fall clothes for my little one, and had them draped over my arm. I was just about to reach the end of that first table, when the moms of one of my daughter's class mates approached me to say hello. We chatted for a bit, and I spotted a really pretty long-sleeved dress for my youngest. It was solid colored lilac on the top, with a "skirt" of lilac, cream and purple flowers on the bottom, and a hem of lilac lace. VERY boutique looking. The only problem was, it looked HUGE (even though it was marked a size 4).

Since the mom was from somewhere in Europe, I held the dress up to her, and asked her -- "Does this look too big to you? It says it's a size 4 on the tag, but is that equivalent to an American size 4T, or a European 4?" She took the dress from me, briefly examined it, and handed it back with almost a look of disgust on her face. She said, "It looks to be the right size, but I wouldn't buy it. See that marker spot on the sleeve? It looks worn."

Now, as I was pilfering through the clothing, there were some things that I just wouldn't even consider (not even for play clothes), because they were badly stained, or ripped beyond repair, or just too worn out. But, I have an arsenal of cleaning products on my laundry shelf, and I can give even some tough stains a run for its money. But honestly..... upon closer inspection of this so-called "worn" marker stain, the size and color of the offensive blemish looked like about the size of a Bindi:

See the orange dot on this beautiful woman's forehead? Picture something like that, only not as symmetrical, and red instead of orange, near the seam of the sleeve. She found THAT offensive enough to suggest that I put the garment down!

I actually said to her, "You're joking right??", which again, produced that look of disgust. She said, "I personally wouldn't buy it, but you do what you want", and walked away from me.

I thought I'd seen everything that could possibly prove to me just how shallow the parents are whose children attend school with mine. I thought I might be imagining things when they began to treat my daughter differently, because she didn't wear Crocs in the summer, or Uggs in the winter, or dress in head-to-toe Gap, Limited Too, Hanna Anderssen, The Children's Place, or at the very least Old Navy (even then, she'd be on the fence). And, because she doesn't participate in Brownies, or Karate, or Dance, I always got this tinge that she was looked upon as something a little bit "different". These Stepford Wives moms never allowed their precious bundles play with my little girl, because she wasn't part of their little cookie-cutter clique. But, that brief interaction with that one particular mom, who actually turned up her nose at a beautiful, European-boutique dress because it had a small red dot on the sleeve.... well, that was almost too much to even bear for me!

But, to the victor definitely came the spoils.... I wound up with three completely STUFFED plastic grocery bags of clothing, two bags full of toys, a hobby horse (that whinnies and nays when you press a button on its ear), a school bus fort, a Little Tykes shopping cart, some play food and cooking utensils, and a few articles of clothing and a really pretty pair of flip flops for my sister -- all for a whopping $7.50!!

Oh, and the best part.... a little Oxy Clean got that marker stain right out! :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Fathers Day

I may be a bit biased, but I think my man is one of the best fathers and husbands in this world, and I plan on doing my best to spoil him rotten tomorrow! :)

I hope all you dads out there are cherished, pampered, valued and loved.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Our Son and His Dissolving Brain

My husband and I were so ticked off at our son last night, we were spitting nails! Apparently, he thinks that he can "check out" of school early (even though he's got a critical week and a half to go before school lets out for the summer). I got a phone call from his English teacher yesterday, who relayed to me that my darling boy has neglected to turn in quite a few things for her class:

1) Her progress report (which gives us an overview of his grade, his efforts in turning in homework assignments and projects in on time, and his overall behavior) -- this was given to him on May 26th, and neither his father nor I have yet to see it;

2) The timeline for his Biography project. My son told me that the entire project (which counts for 35% of his grade) was due yesterday, and he "forgot" his timeline in his room. Turns out -- they were supposed to be presenting their project (orally) yesterday -- the written work was supposed to be handed in LAST Friday;

3) A questionnaire for his complete writing folder, a section of which he's supposed to complete (with questions like, "Which assignment did you find to be most difficult?", "Which assignment was the easiest?", etc.), and questions he's supposed to "interview" us on. That was due yesterday, too. Never saw it.

4) Three missing journal entries (he's actually missing more, but these are the only three she'll allow him to turn in, because they were due this term);

5) His one-on-one conference with his teacher regarding the extra reading book he's supposed to have completed by now. The conference is scheduled for next Wednesday, so he needs to finish reading the book.

Aside from the obvious, here's the REAL problem as to why this completely infuriates my husband and me. Not to toot my own horn here, but our son is an EXTREMELY bright child. He could read by the time he was two years old, and has always had a photographic memory. By fifth grade, he was approached by both People to People, asking him to be one of their Student Ambassadors (and, if we could have afforded the opportunity for him to go, that would have meant a trip to England, as a representative of his particular elementary school!). This student selection is by invitation only, and is only offered to the most academically talented kids in the country. He was also approached by Johns Hopkins, and was asked to be a part of their academically talented program. His final MCAS scores on the elementary level were in the top 5% in the State, and in the top 10% in the country.

Now, knowing all that, to hear that he's being downright stupid and not only not completing his work, but worse -- he's DOING the work and not passing it in (how asinine is THAT??) -- well, it just SENDS me!!

My husband and I had a three hour conversation with him last night, and I let him have it, but good. I told him that he was wasting a precious gift that was given to him, instead of using it to its fullest advantage. I also told him that if he thinks Junior High is hard, wait until he gets into high school and college. He'll be expected to be COMPLETELY responsible for all of his own work, and if he doesn't pass it in, there will be no coddling or babying or patronizing involved -- they'll just flunk him out of their class, plain and simple. I also told him that if he was ready to give up now, that he could go ahead and just quit school, but he's finding a full-time job and paying his way to live here, and that he might as well go and apply to McDonald's now, 'cause that's about all he's going to get without any kind of education. And, even McDONALDS is cracking down and asking for some sort of degree! (Not that I would EVER down McDonald's -- I think working there is HARD WORK -- my point to him is that that massive brain of his is capable of so much more, if only he'd allow himself to think that way!).

So.... needless to say, he's being SEVERELY punished this weekend. ALL of his game systems are off limits. So is his television and the phone. The ONLY thing he'll be doing this weekend is working on all of the projects his teacher dictated to me over the phone last night.

The only good news is, he's not failing English. Even if he didn't pass in any of this stuff, he'd still graduate (with an "F", though). Of course, I'm not going to let him know that. He'll be told from me that if he doesn't pass all of this in, he'll be flunking out of English and will not be graduating.

I'm so disappointed in him, and I told him so last night. He had so much promise -- so much potential -- and his priorities have gone all wonky. So, it's my job to REALLY reel him in, before it's too late.


Friday, June 6, 2008

The "Great Cathedrals" of Motherhood -- An Awesome Read!

Although I didn't write this, I really wanted to share it. It's a wonderful testimony to all of us "Invisible Moms".



It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?'
I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated Summa Cum Laude, but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' The workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become'.

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder.

As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime, because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine for a monument to myself. I just want him to come home.
And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

A Wonderful Reminder About Slowing Down

Author Anna Quindlen once said "The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make...I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."

I think that's a wonderful reminder for all of us parents. In our haste to get things done, we are sometimes neglectful of all of those minute, wonderful, here-and-now moments that can pass us by in the blink of an eye, if we're not mindful of them.

I can look at a photograph of my son, taken when he was just three days old, and remember where we were, what I was thinking as I held him, how he smelled (like baby powder and baby oil, after just having his bath!). It's so precious to have that memory, especially now that he's 13, and soon to be a high school student!

It really is true... they grow up so fast. So, if we all take the time to take the time, not only would it be a very valuable lesson, but a wonderful, cherished gift, as well.


*Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.

*Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.

*Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles.

*Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck and I will buy you one if he comes by.

*Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made where you are concerned.

*Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.

*Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.

*Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you.

*Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.

*Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.

*Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.

*Just for this evening when I run my finger through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.

*I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they can't handle it anymore;

*And when I kiss you good night I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that I will thank God for you, and ask Him for nothing, except one more day…

Okay... I Win The Bad Mama Award of the Week!

You'd think I know better by now, but the end-of-the-year school activities always seem to throw me for a loop. With three kids, it seems like I'm being pulled in three different directions, and attending every function, celebration, and activity under the sun! It's an exhausting undertaking, that's for sure!

This past week, my two girls had significant events with their school. My youngest had her playgroup's Family Fun Day. Despite the yucky, misty rain that continued to fall all day (which prohibited all of the outdoor activities), it was a wonderful event, and my littlest little absolutely loved being there with all of her little friends (who were all so cute together!). She enjoyed all of the crafts, too. She brought home a fish she made, and a necklace she hand-decorated, too! And of course, Mama took TONS of pictures!

We left before the event was over, though, because I had a few errands that I had to run. But, as a consolation for missing out on the pizza lunch, I treated her to a Happy Meal at McDonald's (what kid doesn't love THAT??!!). She happily munched away in her carseat as we travelled throughout town, taking care of the stuff that needed to be done.

It was soon time to pick up her older sister from school. Despite my reluctance to send her to school that morning, she begged me to let her go, because her school was celebrating their Colonial Days unit, where they learned all about the life of the men, women, and children during Colonial America. The unit culminated in two days of "Colonial-type" activities (like candlemaking, butter churning, weaving and textiles, a one room school house, Colonial law, etc.). The most exciting part for my daughter was the wearing of her Laura Ingalls-like prairie dress (after a frantic search on EBay, I finally found her adorable dress for only $9.99!), which she was really looking forward to wearing.

My reluctance to send her stemmed from her flu-like symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, and general lethargy. She and I went back and forth about it, and kept assuring me she was fine, and that she really wanted to go to school, to be a part of the festivities. So, I loaded her up with cold medicine and children's Tylenol, and told her that if she felt even a smidge worse, she was to call me and I'd come pick her up right away. She promised me she would, and I dropped her off, still unable to shake that knawing feeling in the pit of my stomach.

By the time my little one, my husband (who had his scheduled day off from work) and I arrived at my oldest daughter's school, the entire 3rd grade class was making its way out onto the basketball court in front of the school, to take a breather and have some pictures taken. Since I still had my camera in the car, I grabbed it and got out to take my own pictures of my daughter with her classmates and teacher.

As I approached her, I could see that she looked really peeked. Her cheeks were flushed, and she didn't have the sparkle in her eye that she normally does. Even her teacher said that she noticed that she just wasn't acting like her old self that day.

A little while later, school let out for the day, and once my daughter got into the car, I started grilling her about her day in general, and her health, in particular. Did she feel any worse? No. Was she okay throughout the day? Yes. Was she able to eat any of the "Colonial-style" food. Not much -- the only things she liked were the cornbread and the turkey.

Our initial plan was to pick her up, take her home to get changed (and to see if our Stimulus Check had arrived in the mail), and then to make a trip out to ANOTHER set of furniture stores, in our quest to find the perfect living room set (which our Stimulus Check is earmarked for, and which we desperately need). Once home and changed, I asked my daughter if she felt up to going out, or if she'd prefer to just go lie down and rest. She said she felt fine and wanted to go out, so off we went.

During the course of our browsing, I noticed that she just wasn't being her perky, after-school self. She just moped on store displays, waiting patiently for us to finish. On the ride there, she passed out in the back seat. On the ride home, she was completely quiet. Again, NOT normal for my daughter.

I told my husband, on the way home, after observing her behavior and listening to her constant, hacking cough, that I was calling her pediatrician's office once we got home. Something just didn't seem right about her -- AT ALL. Thankfully, Thursdays are her pediatrician's late nights in the office, so he was still there when we got home.

I explained her symptoms to the receptionist, and she told me to come in right away, because the doctor had an open spot. So, my daughter and I put out coats and our shoes back on, and out the door we went again. I let her bring a microwaved chicken finger along for the ride, because it was dinnertime, and she's usually ravenous by then. She barely took two bites. Again... NOT normal.

We got to her doctor's office, I checked her in, and she was called into the exam room right away. The nurse did a throat culture on her (for strep), which came back normal. She took her temp, which was also normal (probably because of the Tylenol I'd given her again, as soon as she came home after school).

The doc came in -- a sweet, middle-aged man who's known all three of my children since they were all two weeks old -- and in his own, gentle way, got down to the business of examining her. He looked in her mouth; fine. He looked in one ear; perfect. The other ear; perfect, as well. All the while, he was asking her questions about her condition -- when did the cough begin, did she have a sore throat, has she had any headaches, any upset stomach, any vomiting?

He began to listen to her lungs. He checked out the front; fine. Moved to the back -- checked the lower left quadrant, then the lower right; both okay. Moved up to the upper left quadrant, and started squishing up his face in a funny way. Moved to the right upper quadrant, and then looked completely disgusted. He turned to me at that point, and said, "Ewww, I don't like the way that right lung sounds at all -- she sounds like she's got lots of junk in there."

Turns out.... she has PNEUMONIA!!!! I KNEW something was up with her! Her doc teasingly chastised me a bit for sending her to school that day, until I explained that it was all her... she BEGGED me to let her go this morning, and despite my better judgement, I let her go ahead and do it!

He did say that if she didn't have a fever this morning, she would be okay to go into school today (which she so wanted to do, because the Colonial Days celebration culminated today). But, her father said he didn't think it was a good idea for her to go into school this morning, and when I saw her -- all mopey on the living room chair, she started in with her "Oh, please can I go in to school today Mama, ohpleaseohpleaseohppllleeeeaaaasseeee???", I just repeated what her doctor had said last night. We went to check her temperature, and it only confirmed what I'd already seen (with her rosy cheeks) and felt as I touched her furnace-like skin; she had a temp of 102.2. So, I gave her more medicine and promptly set her up for a day of refuge in my bedroom.

I definitely feel like the guilty Mama for going against my better judgement (and my Mama radar!) and sending her into school yesterday!

I'm just glad she's relinquished to the fact that she needs to stay in bed and rest. Now, if only I can keep my littlest little from wanting to take advantage of the fact that her big sister's home and play with her best friend, that would be wonderful!