Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Once Upon A Millennia - or maybe twice...

Few things in life are more memorable than your first kiss as man and wife.  Unfortunately for some, wedded bliss doesn't last.  But I'm happy to report (and so are our Critters!) that Hubby and I are in it for keeps.  And today, 12/12/12 at 12:12 p.m. he gave me something that I'll remember forever, something so special and rare that I just had to share it with you.....

...kind of.....

Friday, November 30, 2012

Better With An Audience

I recently became aware of a little known fact as it applies to myself, Hubby and the Critters, and more than likely, to you too.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it applies to the majority of the human race.  As a side note, I'm positive it applies to dogs, especially our Fudge.

Here it is ---- drum roll, please.....

We're better with an audience.

Okay, so that was anticlimactic since the title gave it away.  But I wasn't sure if you were listening yet.
And just to be certain, let me reiterate: We're better with an audience.

Case(s) in point:  

Normally the most mild-mannered-though-extremely-intimidating-to-strangers, lady-like, well behaved canine in the world, Fudgie nonetheless becomes a sneaky, cat food pilfering, trash snarfing, toy chewing mongrel when left alone in the house.  We have taken to closing every interior door on days too cold to leave her outside.

The Critters - Let me count the ways! 1) Left to their own devices they would exist solely on chips, chocolate and ice cream.  Unless I'm counting as they go out the door, two gummies packs, two chewy granola bars and two bags of chips will accompany every lunch bag to school.  Stashes of Nestle's morsels have disappeared into the ether on more than one occasion.  To ensure something will be in the pantry when I need it nowadays, I hide it!  2) They often "forget" to do homework, chores and self-care/maintenance, but I've never known them to miss a line on stage, and believe me, they've had a LOT of opportunities.  3) Oh, and the stuff that goes on when I'm not looking!  Snapping towels, siblings in headlock, monkey bites (if you don't know what that is, ask a kid).  Yet, when I come back into a room all I find are innocent smiles and angelic faces.  4) Okay, no!  I don't need to go on, you get the picture....

Husband - Cookies are his weakness.  We purposefully own a cookie jar with a noisy lid to help him be good.  But, other than that, he's pretty much a saint...

... and then there's Momster (that's me) - I spend a fair share of time on my own recognisance.  Being an artist and writer, I don't necessarily like an audience while working, but I'm certainly more productive  at least knowing that someone is going to enjoy what I create.  Otherwise, I procrastinate, boredom eat,  fritter away time online, and am generally lazy - at least, artistically speaking.  Okay, okay, and generally speaking too!  Which is why dinner is often late, the carpet bears striking resemblance to the dog, and the furniture looks like it might be from a house in Pompeii.  Unfortunately for Sweetie Petite-y and her allergies, it would be better if she were here more during the day as a constant reminder of my responsibilities.

How about you?  Are you "good" on your own, or like me, would you be inclined to exercise more and binge less with your own personal trainer constantly hovering?  Would knowing your actions affected others make more of an impact if they were staring you constantly in the face (or sneezing into it!)?

I get tired of policing the family, tired of nagging and double checking.  Yes, the Critters do better when I'm watching, but sometimes I just want them to make those right choices without supervision.  And when they do, it makes me so happy and proud!*

I believe that must be how God feels.

Now... if only we'd remember that even when it seems like he's left the room, He's always watching...

* The Critters really rose to the occasion recently. They not only held down the fort while Hubby & I were away celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary, but they handled the food preparation for the Thanksgiving feast all on their own!  Kudos, Critters!


(Sooooo...... you would really be doing me a favor if you checked in occasionally, and shared this link with your friends if you enjoy it! A click on the Top Mommy Blogs icon will boost my ratings too. Wanna help put me in the top 25?  I really am better with an audience, so the bigger, the better!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Time Vortex

FaceBook is a GREAT BIG time-sucking black hole! - But.... no offence, as the Critters would say.

I have only been on a few weeks, and am already wasting more time than with any other form of entertainment.  Because that's what it is - entertaining.  Especially if you're not so much active participant as spectator.  Not that I don't occasionally comment or even Like something.  I'm even catching on to emoticons, leaving the text language to the kids.  But, while I don't mind sharing a few personal tidbits on this rather anonymous blog, I'm hesitant to really put myself out there.  Contradictory as it is, I'm a very private, gregarious person.  Also, afraid of accidentally insulting someone who I can't see face to face.  I have a way of putting my foot in my mouth whenever I open it, so instead, opt to just put a sock in it. 

Most of the time.

Consider another time-sucking vortex: American political campaigns.  Why does it take four years (and billions of campaign $) when the last two weeks decides everything?  Not that I'm not glad its over....

Now combine the two and what do you have?  Endless confrontational rants by normally civil friends and relatives over increasingly polarized political viewpoints.  Eternally grateful that I refrained from entering the fray, I nonetheless eavesdropped on (was invited to witness?) the circus as it played out online.  It was more riveting than another Grisham novel....and just as unnecessary to read.

One thing that isn't a waste of time? Watching the Critters take to field and stage.  There have been far fewer instances of the former than latter, but then, theater blood runs through their veins.  After sitting through countless rehearsals over the years (they do summer children's theater too), and enjoying the vicarious thrill of applause for my offspring, recent performances in particular swelled this Momster's heart to overflowing.  Earlier in the year it was Firstborn as the Jester in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and, the very same weekend, Only Son, Third Child and Sweetie Petite-y were the Captain, Louisa and Brigitta Von Trapp respectively.  (As Maria in a former incarnation, that was especially sweet... the hills are alive!) Last weekend, Firstborn rocked her first college production as part of a six person cast in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Revised.  If laughter is the best medicine, she provided a near fatal dose!  And here I sit, twenty-four hours after seeing Only Son crucified in Godspell, still  reflecting.  His performance (and Third Child's as part of the ensemble) was, well...divine.  What could make a mother more proud - or more humbled - than watching her offspring confidently proclaim the Good News to an enraptured audience?

Husband & I have been going around and around about how much time the Critters spend in theater related activities vs. other extra curriculars (not to mention how much time we spend driving them).  Popular theory is that they need to diversify to improve their chances at college scholarships.  But, will it really make them better individuals to comply with popular theory rather than focus on what they love and excel at?  Isn't time spent on a soccer field wasted when one is longing for the stage?  And how much time and energy should a parent waste being the bad guy when the payoff is so uncertain? Especially when it means encouraging your children to participate in mediocrity instead of striving for excellence?

Time is our most limited resource. I don't always use mine wisely, and neither do the Critters.  But since theirs is not something I can repay, I'd rather they not associate me with a GREAT BIG time-sucking vortex.  It's much more rewarding just being their loving, supportive Momster.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope your day is filled with much to be grateful for..... and I'd so be grateful if you would click on the Top Mommy Blogs icon to cast your vote!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Taking the Plunge

The world of technology is like the ocean.  Some people approach it with caution, sensing the awesome power of something so much bigger than themselves.  Wary of currents that might pull them under, they wade in slowly, and stay near shore.  Others dive right in, sink or swim, just knowing they wanna get wet.

I have been resisting Facebook since its inception.

After all, I am my father's daughter, a very social person.  I grew up being introduced to strangers like they were already friends, since Dad seemed to know everyone.  I like people, and usually (hopefully) they like me. But since becoming a mother, I have become leery and (over?)protective.  While the Critters are perfectly comfortable growing up in the techno-age, and see the connectedness of the web as normal, I'm constantly watching for the spiders waiting in the shadows. 

Firstborn, our guinea pig, was the last of her friends to take the plunge and "get connected".  Only Son was allowed to wade in a year earlier as a Sophomore, and Third Child dove right in  as soon as we let her her Freshman year.  Sweetie Petite-y just recently got email - no swimming in shark-infested water at our house until high school - and Bonus Baby is still in water-wings.  The ancient, hand-me-down computer  she uses isn't even hooked up to the web, though she knows how to surf for Dora games on my touchscreen like a pro.

As for myself, I've been content to scour the shore for treasures, occasionally dipping my toes in the water (email, web browsing and this blog), but otherwise content to play lifeguard.

All that changed when Firstborn went to college.  While she was more than eager to share photos and tidbits gleaned from her well-connected news feed, Only Son is only interested in the hilarious & freaky, and Third Child bristles at POS (Parent Over Shoulder - though I'm not "allowed" to use "breives" online).  Since they are both good kids (and because occasional POS happens or more stringent restrictions apply) I have finally decided its time to swim...........or at least float.  Hopefully not sink.

I quasi-set up my page and immediately friended several relatives (if I missed you, it was an oversight, not intentional - this family is HUGE!).  It was only then that I realized I only knew how to dog paddle and this was the Olympics.  Someone posted on my timeline, and I didn't even know I had one!

Mere minutes after I friended her, Firstborn sent me the following, used here with permission.  Apologies for the fine print, but click to enlarge and/or dig out your reading glasses over-thirty crowd :

Since keeping in touch with her was a motivating factor, I'm happy to abide by these "suggestions". 

And when I don't feel like following the rules, there's always this blog...

P.S.  Remember to vote for me!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Love/Hate Relationship

It's a horrible shame...

What started out twenty-three years ago as a passionate love affair has quietly disintegrated into tolerance and occasional loathing.  I wish it wasn't so, but it can't be helped. You've changed too much, and not for the better.

I look at you just sitting there, oblivious to how repulsive you've become to me - a smear of oatmeal across your once immaculate face, now weary with age spots and ugly stains, layered scars from a lifetime of abuse.  Even surrounded by loving family, though the memory of how you used to look - how you used to make me feel - remains, the reality leaves me cold. Sure, there are still glimpses of our former romance, but the dreams of beauty and perfection we once shared have worn away like old varnish, uncovering the sad truth -


(What? You thought I was talking about Husband?  No way --- he's still a hunk!)

You were already an antique when I rescued you from obsolescence at a mouldering old resale furniture barn.  The darkened, crackled varnish of your six ornately carved, lathe-turned legs offered stunning contrast to your gleaming polished tabletop surface. Six sturdy chairs - one an armed captain's! - with matching front spindle legs and classically jigged center backrests adorned you.  And though your extra leaves were missing, your grooved apron skirt was pristine and gunk-free.  You were a steal at $275, yet the dealer, anxious to be shed of you, threw in a matching buffet and stoneware service for eight.

I gobbled you up.

For three years you graced my little apartment.  Whether dining alone or with soon-to-be-Husband, you were always there, supporting me.  I prayed at one end of you and created at the other, decorating your center with seasonal offerings whose images mirrored in your glassy face.

But time and circumstance have changed you....

As much as I would love to upgrade, the Critters are adamant that they will always love you.  And so, I suppose I should look for reasons to too....


Guess you're safe for now.....

In case you didn't know it, you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them to full screen for closer inspection.  And please remember to vote for me by clicking one of the Top Mommy Blogs icons whenever you visit --- help to move me up the rankings!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Help! I'm Becoming My Mother!

I love my mom!

She is one of the most non-offensive people I have ever met.   

She quietly tolerates her grown offspring's differing values and opinions, rarely contributing her own and never subjecting them (us) to emotional maternal tirades.   Her tongue must have scar tissue a mile thick from the number of times she's bitten back angry retorts, complaints, unsolicited advice, and those four sanctimonious little words - "I told you so!"  She has the heart of a servant, jumping up to accommodate the needs of others, often at the expense of her own.  And she's been patient beyond belief as we try to help her adjust to living alone.

Well... not entirely alone.

G.O.B. Bachelor Brother is still there.


Anyhow, if my mother is such a saint, why do I object to becoming her?

Because I am -

- for real!

Mean & Ornery and Hard to Get Along With (M.O.H.G.A.W.) is my mother's catch phrase, her standard response to any inquiry as to how she's doing.  The thing is, she's not.  She really is just as I described her--- nowadays, that is.  Such was not always the case while I was growing up.  Granted, my dad was the one with the larger than life personality.  His strong opinions ruled our household, and Mom took the backseat, not the driver's.  I've always known I take after him.  However, while in the throes of raising her rambunctious brood (often alone while Dad traveled) Mom was, more than occasionally, MOHGAW.  Just like I am now.  I've often blamed perimenopause, lack of  sleep and exercise, and heck! - even lack of date nights... but really, I'm pretty sure now it must be hereditary.  The dominant gene gets passed from mother to every child-rearing daughter, and is especially prevalent in those with more than 2.5 offspring - in other words, the outnumbered ones. 

When the Critters don't pick up after themselves, have to be nagged to help out, and just generally try my patience, I can be MOHGAW to the max!  You've probably heard the saying - "When momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"  Well, I am the epitome of that, plus infinity!  My only saving grace is that I acknowledge it and am striving to change.  For the most part that involves controlling (with varied degrees of success) not only my tongue and temper, but self-pitying thoughts.  You know the kind - "Am I the only one in this house that knows how to load a dishwasher/run a vacuum/use a toilet brush!?!"

Probably my mother struggled with the same issue.  But as busy as I am, she had almost twice as many of us to raise, so I don't think she had time to think - period.

I've come to think of MOHGAW as the homemaker's demon.  It doesn't sit on your shoulder battling it out with your conscience.  No, it hides under layers of forced smiles and buried frustration until some poor, unsuspecting Critter leaves one too many dirty socks laying around and then - 


- the next thing they know they're grounded for a month and doing everyone's laundry!  And the rest are tiptoe-ing around on eggshells till Momster has crawled back into her ever-deepening pit of mother guilt.

I still have alot to learn about making MOHGAW tongue-in-cheek and not a reality, but there is an upside.  Since adopting "mean and ornery and hard to get along with" as my own catch phrase,  my friends think I'm funnier than I really am, and my Critters are reminded that at any moment I might crack! 

This hasn't really changed any behaviors on their part, but it does keep them guessing....

... and there's always the hope that in the future, they will think of me with the same warmth and affection as I do my mom.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Listening with Ninja Ears

There are things we tell the Critters that go in one ear and out the other, mostly rants


 or instructions... which when not followed to parental satisfaction turn into rants.


And then there are things that we want them to listen to with Ninja Ears....   

....tidbits of knowledge and wisdom (they're different, you know!) that are essential for living a productive, values-driven life.


Years ago in an akido class, I embraced the notion that in order to retain my balance, I must "feel my center".  Planting feet at shoulder width, knees slightly flexed and weight evenly distributed, breathing slowly and deeply and all tuned in, I could feel my "core" - that solid, sturdy place of strength low in my abdomen.  (We mothers know it has another name: uterus.)

Anyhow, the idea was that if we could remain in our "core" we couldn't be thrown, but if we leaned too far out from center, either while defending or initiating, we could easily be flipped for a loop.  And it was true. 

Not to brag, but my pre-Momster self was pretty unflippable.

Fast forward twenty years....

These days equilibrium is not my strong suite, but then, I'm pretty outnumbered.  I could withstand almost any barrage while defending just myself, but trying to protect a restless nest-full who haven't fully learned where their own "center" is takes more focus, patience and strength than I can often muster.  I push and push, even though the golden rule of akido is to use your opponent's own energy against them. While the post modern world circles, seemingly (to the Critters) innocuous, but (to me) trying to pull them off balance, my pushing against it only seems to make them lean further away.  Hmmm....

Even Ralph Machio as "The Karate Kid" (Jaden Smith in the remake) and David Carradine as "Grasshopper" needed to become one with what lies within before they could kick any serious butt on their own. Not to promote their personal philosophies, but pondering how to keep my children centered, feet firmly planted, maybe I haven't fully demonstrated the importance of listening.  Not to me, but to the truth that lies deep within each of us. Trying to reason and explain the "why"  to the Critters before they've built up their own spiritual muscle is like expecting them to do that crouching heron thingy on a pylon without all the wax on/wax off moves --- well... sort of.

Somehow, I don't think either Pat Morita or Jackie Chan can help me with this one!
(Chuck Norris?  Hmmm, maybe....)

When I flip out (Third Child's description, not mine) over the decaying values we're constantly bombarded with in the media (and on the street corner, for that matter), I'm not exactly displaying the kind of calm assurance and strength that ends with a dogpile of fallen foes at my feet. Admittedly, my own Ninja ears could use a tune up from time to time.  But when I stand firm in what I believe in - with letters to the editor, actively taking part in rallies and campaigns for life, turning off that offending television show, reaching out to those in need, and living a joyful life despite hardship or frustration - those actions speak volumes.

As much as I wish I could, I can't pinpoint every danger for them either.  And even more importantly, I can't always fight their fights.  They will have to learn what truth is, and what's worth fighting for.  But like my akido instructor did so many years ago, maybe I can help them find their core, to listen for and recognize it.

Hint: it speaks in a still, small voice....


Thanks to everyone who kept me in their thoughts and prayers.  I'm on the mend, back at work, and sporting an interesting new belly-button for good measure!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Well! - She's got gall!

Indeed I do, and stones too.

And sludge.

All of which are located painfully under my right ribcage.  But not for long.  Next week I will undergo a non-emergent, though much needed gallbladder removal surgery.  And I thought balancing my already overloaded schedule was a challenge! 

Since this is an outpatient procedure, I plan on working at my job the evening prior to surgery.  I mean, I've been working all along despite feeling crummy and broken, and since I had previously switched shifts with a co-worker who needs the evening off, no sense messing with her schedule. My employer (and great friend, by the way) has graciously offered to cover for me for a few days afterward, but I'm planning on climbing back into the saddle by Friday. I am woman - hear me roar!  Or, as seems to be the case with gallbladders - hear me belch.

Husband, who I already know to be a saint, has been exasperatingly wonderful. I say that because I have horrible Mom-guilt.  If I hadn't been so vain and wanted to lose those extra pounds that the Critters say made me all soft and cuddly, I wouldn't have cut back so drastically on carbs and stuffed myself instead with meat and nuts.  Having a  spouse with a natural metabolism that allows him to consume all the cookies he wants and still wear the same size jeans as when we got married does something to the psyche.  But to tell the truth, I felt a lot better getting the weight off.......until I didn't.........feel better, that is.  Anyhow, Husband will be picking up the slack on the home front, and doing an enormous amount of extra driving, besides taking over as M.O.O.H.D.S. - Main Overseer of Homework & Dispute Settler - which can try the patience of even the most sainted.  So the quicker I recuperate and get off my duff the better!

The main reason I need to get on with things is that the world doesn't need more whiners.  There is so much genuine suffering out there.  Belly-aching about something as trivial as a gallbladder when wars are raging, homes are being broken, and children are starving seems so self indulgent.  We personally know couples in the middle of divorce, an eleven year old child who just underwent a 10 hour surgery on her spine (not her first either) and people in their prime with terminal diagnoses.

Life is full of little bumps and bruises, but that's life.  According to Husband and the Aunties (and the uncles too, I guess), my mother-in-law used to always tell them to "offer it up".  Another favorite saying of hers was "this too shall pass".  Neither is very original, but both hold wisdom that I hope I can pass along to the Critters, since she never got the chance.  Maybe if I just hold them really tight (while I still can), all the whining (which, alas, they already picked up from me) will get squoze out.  And like the sponges they are, they'll soak up the good stuff.

*A note for Firstborn, the only Critter with any memory of her paternal grandma: It is okay, however, to still want your Momster there to take care of you when you have a temperature of 101 and can't even drag yourself out of your dorm room to the food commons!  Wish I could be there, darling girl!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stretching the Comfort Zone

Beware the STATUS QUO!

It has a way of creeping up on you, catching you unaware as you snooze through days driven by sameness.  Not that each day doesn't present its own joys, diversions and challenges.  Its just that...well.... sometimes, unless we purposefully mix things up a little, those things take on a predictable routine. 

Case in point: Weekday mornings

Day 1: Husband -            "Time to get up!"           
           Momster -            "G'mornin' everyone- did you remember to blah, blah.blah..."
           Firstborn -            "...s'morning? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "I don't feel good."
           Sweetie Petite-y - "Hey, Mom- can I tell you about the dream I had?"
           Bonus Baby -        "I'm hungry!"

Day 2: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Ugh, my aching back- oh, that reminds me, we need to...."
           Firstborn -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzz...."
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "Why didn't somebody wake me up?! I can't go to school - I need a shower!"
           Sweetie Petite-y - "Morning already?"
           Bonus Baby -       "Can I have pancakes?"

Day 3: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Man, I slept terrible...but we have to do this and that and that other thing..."
           Firstborn -            "Mmm-hunh...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...."
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "Do I have to go to school today?"
           Sweetie Petite-y - "I can't get up - there's an elephant on my eyelids."
           Bonus Baby -        "Life cereal please!"

Day 4: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Does anyone need to go in early today?"
           Firstborn -            "....mmmm....mornin'...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...."
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "I still don't feel good..."
           Sweetie Petite-y - "Ugh - I didn't sleep all night with all the aliens in the room..."
           Bonus Baby -        "What's for breakfast?"

Day 5: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Finally- it's almost the weekend! Today we all have to...."
           Firstborn -            "Mrrghrphluffff....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...."
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "Everyone needs to MOVE IT so we're not late again!"
           Sweetie Petite-y - "Do I have to take a shower?  The aliens were back."
           Bonus Baby -       "Can I have Apple Dapples in the living room and watch T.V?"

Then, thankfully, there are the weekends:

Day 6: Husband -             "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Firstborn -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Only Son -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Third Child -         "Good morning everyone!"
           Sweetie Petite-y -  "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Bonus Baby -        "Oatmeal - yay!"

Day 7: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Ah, good morning my love..."
           Firstborn -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Only Son -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Third Child -         "Oh my gosh!  I don't have anything to wear to church!"
           Sweetie Petite-y -  "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Bonus Baby -        "Second breakfast, please!"

Okay, so some things never change. 

This could have been last week, last month or last year - the cycle repeats as regularly as clockwork, and we've gotten pretty comfortable with it. However, it won't be that way next year, or even next week, because an event forever changing our family dynamic is about to occur - Firstborn is leaving for college.

We knew it was coming, have anticipated it for years now.  Before we ever settled into this routine we knew it wouldn't last forever - kinda like wearing skinny-waisted jeans. Where children are involved, change is inevitable. And, just as I accommodated a growing waistline line with stretch pants, I have pulled out my "pregnant" mindset and begun to prepare. 

Just how, you may ask, am I doing that?  By purposefully stretching my comfort zone. 


Our first exercise in this was to invite a Japanese teenager to live with us. Just considering it was like scheduling a root canal - you know you should, but you're afraid of how things might turn out. But Hiro was a revelation.  Friends who had hosted exchange students from the same Asian prep school  spoke of shy to stand-offish, awkward young boys who spoke little English and were perpetually jet lagged.  Hiro had the jet lag, but was mature and self-assured beyond his years.  Exquisite manners, excellent language skills and a natural curiosity regarding the American lifestyle (and willingness to share his Japanese culture) made him an extremely enjoyable guest.  Cultivating an interest in "culinary diplomacy", he insisted on cooking for us, producing a phenomenal miso soup.  Despite the two hours it took him to "whip up" this simple traditional dish (we were starving!), he avoided taking any shortcuts, wanting to do things the proper way.  The result was well worth the wait.

Besides being generous with time and talent, Hiro brought little treasures from Japan, having thoughtfully inquired about individual likes and interests ahead of time.  Bonus Baby thought Christmas had come again in the form of Hello Kitty!  The older Critters (whose comfort zones also bear stretching) gladly accepted his gifts, though took longer to feel comfortable with an extra person in the house.  But for Bonus Baby, Husband and I, Hiro immediately became part of the family.  And by the time his two weeks here were up, everyone was sad to see him go.


Only Son got to see him again only a week or so later when he traveled to Japan - his first time flying and another HUGE stretch for this OCD Momster. Normally, I'm paranoid about the Critters wandering even our sleepy corner of New England alone.  Allowing Only Son to traipse around Tokyo with minimal supervision (and even less contact) grew us both.  On a scale of 1 - 10, he declared his travel experience a 40+.....and considering we both survived the umbilical cord stretching that far, I'd say it was worth the discomfort and anxiety.  Only Son came home happier and confidant, more tolerant of his siblings (perhaps because he missed them) and is still just as cuddly as ever.


As if one Japanese student wasn't enough, a month or two later we opened our home to 15 kids plus coaches from a New York boarding school Ultimate Frisbee team. Wall to wall sleeping bags in the living room and basement made our own rambunctious crew a little quieter than normal, but reinforced how accommodating the needs of others makes us better - and can be downright enjoyable to boot!  The team was great (GO PLAID!) and I'd host them again in a heartbeat.


I've finally reentered the workforce.  Not that I wasn't already busy - Lord knows! - but with Firstborn heading off to college, it was high time to turn a profit.  So.... back to the world of adult conversations, compensation (other than kisses) for my labors, and directly contributing to society.   Yes, I was a little nervous.  After all, I'd been raising kids, not keeping up with work place trends all this time. But I like making my own mark, not hoping one will rub off second hand.  Wish the art and writing had done it, but like ripe cheese, a little age and mold might make all the difference.  In the meantime, now that I've somewhat mastered the skills my new/old position requires, I'm actually enjoying myself, and the Critters are learning just what it takes to keep this even busier household on track, since they have to help to pick up the slack.


Firstborn has been exerting her independence lately by making some choices that we both recognise as... well, let's just say a tad controversial. 

She is spreading her wings, getting ready to fly the coop.  At least... half of her is.  The other half resisted getting her driver's license, procrastinated finding summer employment, avoided completing her college loan applications, and still wants to be Momster's baby girl.  But now that she has FINALLY done the first three, I hope she realizes that the latter is a lifelong thing --- less the financially dependent part, please!


Not that he really wants to, but Husband has had to stretch a lot lately as well.  Not only is he learning to trust in God's provision (timely job opportunities that almost exactly bridged the financial gaps we were facing helped there), but he is learning that in order to age gracefully, we are sometimes required to relinquish things both little (like filling-thieving Milk Duds!) and big.....

( egos!)


Post script: In predictable Momster fashion, I am posting this after the fact.  We dropped Firstborn off this week, and she is settling in nicely.  I'm slightly less of a wreck that I thought I'd be, and trying to avoid managing her affairs from across the state.  Maybe all the stretching exercizes really did help. By the by, did anyone notice that I tried to compact several months worth into one post?  Time is at a premium, and as much as I love blogging, it is becoming an indulgence I can't afford - at least on a regular basis.  I may try to just write and leave the cartoons for special occasions --- if enough of you are still interested in wasting a few minutes with me now and then ....  Drop me a line or comment and let me know how you feel about it.

P.S.S.T.: How do you like my new banner?  I just joined Top Mommy Blogs (note all the link options for you to vote for me ;) and I'm learning all sorts of new computer skills t'boot!  Like downloading this tiny image so that I can link it as a URL for my blog listing.  Yeh, yeh, I know I said I don't have any time for all this, but Bonus Baby is so wiped out after Pre-K that I get a little break while she naps - woo-hoo!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Horse Sense: Proverbs For theThin Skinned

Motherhood is hard!


Having been at it for nineteen years, counting all of the discomfort and sacrifice that starts with morning sickness, you'd think that I would have toughened up, have developed thicker skin by now. But parenting today is more challenging than ever.

Friends and strangers alike warned me about the miserable teen years to come.... but actually, for the most part I've been pleasantly surprised.  I enjoy having real conversations with my older Critters - conversations meaningful to both of us, not just me listening with half an ear to juvenile ramblings (while feeling inescapably guilty), settling constant disputes or negotiating privileges.  There's still a fair share of that, but at least now it's interspersed with the exchange of ideas and co-conscious analysis, a meeting of similarly developed minds.  That's probably why it hurts so badly to be disrespected and misunderstood.

This morning after "words"with all four of the Big Critters, I retreated to my room to hide. (Nothing like undermining your own authority by being a crybaby! And perimenopause definitely doesn't help on that front.) What started as me giving simple advice had quickly escalated into overbearing demands (me) and retorted excuses (them).  Standing in a corner furiously wiping at weepy eyes, all I could think was "I'm not cut out for this".

Kinda late to figure that one out!

One of my younger sisters once told me that she didn't want to have kids after the age of thirty because she didn't want to be an "old" mother. I was mildly offended considering I was already over the hill by her standards before popping out any of my Critters.  Five blessed events later I've finally figured out that having them at an "advanced maternal age" didn't make me old: Parenting them into adulthood did.....and does.....and will for many, MANY years to come!*  By the time I'm done raising them my AARP card will be an antique!

When they were little, I was The Undisputed Boss, Bearer of the Young!!!  (T.U.B.B.Y. - another gift of motherhood!) And while they did challenge my authority occasionally, they also trusted me to always do what was best for them.  My rules kept them safe, taught them about the world, and helped them grow into healthy, caring and confident young men and women. Sometimes too confident...

With teens comes a yearning for autonomy - on both their part and mine.  I know it's my job to gradually loosen the reigns, but the harder they struggle for control, the more I tend to tighten my grip.  Don't they get that I'd really rather drop the reigns all together?  They perceive any continued guidance as too restrictive, not understanding that the blinders of inexperience hide plenty of deep ditches along the road.  Before I can give them free reign, I need to trust that they are competent to navigate on their own. (Case in point --- Bonus Baby just rewarded me with a big "MY HERO!" hug for rescuing her foot from the crack in the reclining loveseat, then proceeded to bounce again!I hope that someday I won't have to remind any of them to respect other people's time, feelings, possessions and space.  They may strain and try to spit out the bit, but they can trust that I'm just as anxious to take off the reigns.... and see them enjoy the freedom of greener pastures.

Till then, I've adopted these proverbs to help keep me in the driver's seat... and them from upsetting the cart:

...and so on, and so on, and so on.

Obviously there's a lot of overlap here.  I could write a book, but...

..... a Greater Mind already has.

*To give credit where it's due, the Critters are also keeping me young....

...all of them!

                                          And Mom?  Happy Mother's Day - you're my Hero!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Once in a lifetime.

Even if I go again someday, my first trip to the Big Apple was an event of such epic proportions that I came away from it a totally new girl - pretty impressive since I'm now officially an antique!

But it wasn't so much the big city or crowds, or even the amazing food and art experienced there that made my escape to New York so refreshing.  It was the people I was with.  A family so different, and yet so incredibly similar to my own, that I couldn't help but fall in love with them. I was their fortunate guest, along with Firstborn --- which makes sense since it was El Boyfriend's family.

When they first asked us to join them, we were both more than hesitant.  It's awkward being the"have-nots" mooching off the "haves".  Firstborn and I both tend to feel undeserving of extravagant gifts.  That is not to say we don't enjoy them.... they just make us feel guilty.

But what's a good Catholic without a little guilt, huh?

I actually got over most of my qualms by being the only member of our household not to succumb during what seems to be our yearly major flu epidemic. Nothing like nursing achy, feverish, puking family members for several endless, exhausting days to make you feel like you've earned a vacation. (If you've seen the post about last Lent, well, that was tame by comparison.)

El Boyfriend, who has been on the scene since her sophomore year, worked on convincing Firstborn.  His argument?  Since she couldn't visit Mexico to spend time with his family, this was the next best thing.  Combined with the rationale that if she saw any potential future with him, she should see if she could fit comfortably into his world (logical Momster input), he finally convinced her.

By the time our departure date arrived, we both began the adventure excited and bubbly. El Boyfriend and his sister Princessa, also a boarding student here, traveled with us, and needless to say as I chauffeured, none of the homework that was expected to be done during the ride to the airport was.  I relinquished my role of helicopter mom the moment we got there, becoming instead a gaping tourist.

Not counting a trip to the Midwest when she was still a toddler, this was Firstborn's first flight, but she took it all in stride.  I, on the other hand, was giddy over the Airtrain, subway, and my first ever cab ride, following wherever El Boyfriend led like a puppy on a leash. We met up with the rest of his family at a high-rise hotel overlooking Times Square.  An array of Mexican confections had been laid out in welcome, and we couldn't have been greeted more enthusiastically.... making me realize I 've got a whole lot to learn about hospitality.

We did more in a few short days than I would have ever dreamed possible. And certainly more than Firstborn and I would've been able to do on our own.  But rather than bore you with an endless sightseeing litany, here are a few highlights of the trip....

Oh, the lights! The WIND!
Liberty Island, missing the boat, and that famous photo wall
Playing at FAO Schwartz
Mmmmm, sushi!
Morning at the MOMA
Margarita's shoe
Shopping anyone?
The Barber at the Met
No more photos, please!
Dinner at midnight and more friends
Mass at St. Pat's
Baby, it's cold outside!
Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum
Tearful goodbyes
Lost on the subway

... and here's a poem I began the first evening:

Times Square below,
gracious hosts asleep in the room next door,
I look out upon the
                          sleepless city                                                                                      
simply amazed that I am here.
Me - nearly 50! – living a girlhood dream.  And yet…
how ironic to be dependent on hospitality from south of the border,
 enjoying fruit plucked by foreign hands,
while elsewhere in this great land of opportunity
 my countrymen put guns into the hands of Mexico’s native sons,
and fence Her daughters out.
Tomorrow we will visit a memorial inscribed with names from around the world,
hollows in the ground where once stood Twin Towers,
absence where trade and commerce once unified, a job now left to tragic memory.
We will see Lady Liberty, though our hearts won’t race with the same anticipation
as did the huddled masses’ awaiting America’s embrace. 
We will pose for photos,
hoping that snapshots of Battery Park, New York Harbor, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral
will capture the echo of liberating freedom surrounding us.
We will eat sushi, see an Italian opera,
 view paintings by  Flemish/Spanish/French masters,
each experience highlighted by the easy laughter of friendship- no!- make that sisterhood.
As middle-aged offspring of both North and South
who must return eventually to our respective lives and borders,
let’s linger a while in this American Mecca- this melting pot,
drinking in the sights,
feasting on such pleasant company,
enriched and oh! - so young again.

Everyone expects the "small town girl goes to the big city and discovers there is so much more to life" scenario.  But how often does someone my age, born and bred in the sticks, but living on a mountain by choice, not circumstance, head for the bright lights to get away from it all ---- and come back refreshed and appreciating her rural life anew?

Never, that's when!  People my age head to the hills or the beach to rejuvenate.  We go where the people aren't.  Or if we do go to the city, we stay put.

Guess I'm still a late bloomer.  But you know the saying - "Better late than never!"

To my hosts, I can never thank you enough. Whatever the future holds for Firstborn and El Boyfriend, we will always be friends.....

Post Script - just in case someone is rereading this and notices that I (who speak no Spanish) made the editorial change from Los Boyfriend to El BoyfriendFirstborn, who has taken three years of high school Spanish informed me that he might not appreciate being one of a pack.....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Behind On My Game

For those who have been faithfully checking to see if I've posted, thanks for the interest.  As for the rest of you, hey!  Whazza'matta wid you, hmm?
Yeah, I know I'm REALLY behind. It might have something to do with the fact that I'm so often behind the wheel!  Living in the boondocks has it's upsides, but mitigated drive time is not one of them.  We're considering investing in foreign oil companies; we're sure to turn a profit based on Vantana alone!  Last year we spent more in gas than groceries, and that's saying a lot.

SO.... no time to write, and even less to make art, but to keep this post from being totally bland, I'll throw in a few random past pieces.  Just think of it as stock clip art like newspapers use, and you'll get over it.

(This isn't too far past, and it is a little boring - sorry! I'm now working on a touch screen computer, so of course, I had to try finger painting. Don't worry, I'll improve.)

Okay, where was I? Gotta watch those detours, cuz when this train gets off track, there's no telling where it'll end up!

Oh, yeah...

... a few more reasons I'm behind on my game.  I went to New York in February - but since I've already started another post, you'll hear about that later. 

After a slew of appointments and testing, we discovered Sweetie Petite-y has several food allergies, and we've been poisoning her regularly - hence the nasty ezcema. So, now I'm cooking two meals for every one.  Thankfully, the resulting clear skin and improved memory (hers, not mine) have been worth it.  Keep your fingers crossed; we're about to try rotating some of her trouble foods back in.

While we're at it-

Third Child has had a pretty full social calendar, meaning much planning, trips hither and yon, and many hours of debate over....just about everything.  Some of her activities have paid off.  She just won first place at the science fair with her invention of snap-on high heels.  Guess being a fashionista has merit!

Thing One and Thing Two - er, excuse me... FirstBorn and Only Son - have been flat out with theater practices and performances, music practices and performances, and various and sundry extracirruculars.  So busy, in fact, that they sound like parents wondering how time can fly so quickly.  Seems like only yesterday they were teaching Bonus Baby to walk, and last week we went in for her Pre-K visit.

Added to all of this, we adopted a Japanese teen for a week (another upcoming post), which means I went into OCD cleaning overdrive prior to and during his visit, and now I am determined not to become buried under the rubble again! 

Plus, we're trying to ready Only Son  for his own oversea excursion. 

And, of course, there is the college search and scholarship application process.... 

And getting ready for two graduations, a confirmation, a haf-century birthday, Easter, the garden, a new batch of pigs, etc., etc.,etc.,etc.,etc.,etc.,etc.,etc.,etc., and so on and so forth into infinity.

Enough whining already!  Everybody's busy, and very possibly you are behind on your game too.  But here's hoping you have a reflective and peaceful Holy Week, and a very Blessed Easter.  And thanks for your patience.  In the words of Arnold the Mighty - "I'll be baaaack!"