Monday, February 28, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog To Bring You...

The Stomach Flu!

Yes, I have been gone for a few days. I have been unwell. Stomach Flu. Achiness, fever, chills, and that overall yucky feeling that comes with the package. "I'll take the Stomach Flu for a thousand Alex!" Of course every time for the last 18 years I have been unwell it has been associated with 'pregnancy' and so poor me doesn't even know how to tell the difference any longer! ( And, No, I am not pregnant for all of you out there on the edge of your seat right now. I have two pregnancy tests sitting in my bathroom if you'd like to come over and look at the proof.)

I am so grateful so many of you asked about me when you noticed I was not blogging! To think only 2 weeks worth of posts and already you want more. I promise when I am feeling a bit better that I will get back to all these random silly thoughts you seem to want to hear ( you do know there is something wrong with you for that don't you? Better get that checked out...)

I am already much improved today, but honestly might fake it a bit longer to get the rest of the crew to be gentle on me. Lets see how much sympathy one overworked mother can get in a house full of testosterone and tools.Until then, be patient with this patient. 

Thanks ever so much!

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Numbers Up....

So, I’m dying again. Well maybe it’s not quite that serious.  I found a lump under my tongue on Wednesday. It doesn’t hurt. I made an appointment with my dentist for this afternoon ( yet another neighbor who went to India on a mission trip with Fred a couple of years ago and has since become a friend.) When I came into his office he asked what was up.

“I have a lump under my tongue and I want to make sure it’s not cancer.”

He looked taken aback. 

“It’s kind of cool you can say that, most people are too afraid to say what they are scared of.”

 I went on:

 “OK here’s the thing, my dad died of cancer, I had a sister I never met who died of brain cancer at 2, and my brother who is just a couple of years older than me has stage IV colon cancer (I left out major coronary artery disease not wanting it to sound too incredible even if it was) and so I get a little freaked out by lumps.” 

So he looked at it, measured it, gave me a prescription for penicillin and told me to come back in ten days. Until then I was not to worry about it. I was to put it out of my mind. Probably nothing at all.

By the time I got home fifteen minutes later I had already been through 3 rounds of radiation treatment, had lost 15 pounds (as luck would have it, the same 15 I have been trying to lose for the last 6 months since I quit nursing), was starting chemotherapy and praying my hair didn’t fall out, I had said goodbye to my children lovingly, and hoped Fred could make it on his own. Poor Uncle Ed looked so sad at the wake. I still cannot believe Billy didn’t fly in for the funeral- MAN some people!

When John Paul asked me what was for dinner I snapped out of it. (He actually asked me 3 times before I could formulate an answer.) What I wanted to say is “John-Paul can’t you see I am in the middle of chemo treatments?” but instead I said “I’ll throw together some leftovers honey.” When I told my friend Karen what I was thinking she said I should let her know how things turn out because she already has someone in mind for Fred, causing me to burst out laughing and move forward. 

I know I’m not the only one out there that does this. I think most of us do. I can remember talking to my sister when she was pregnant with her first daughter and she very nonchalantly mentioned they were doing a follow-up mammogram. A few weeks later when she got the results and all was clear she burst into tears that almost leveled me. I was stunned not only by how worried she had been, but by how she kept the fear hidden for weeks, as if saying it out loud just might make it true.

 Of course the fact that I am never sick, take relatively good care of my health, am active, don’t drink or smoke makes no difference.  I know cancer’s has a non-discriminatory policy. It’s more about the “I told you so”.  That unspoken rule in our society that we all know is true. You know the one that says ‘Humph, she is just doing too well lately; no one would ever expect her to get sick- she is way too happy and  has much too good an attitude, if randomness is what we are all about- lets strike her!’
We all know you’re allowed to have a good life for a while, but it better not be too good or for too long or you are just pushing your luck. If the rest of the world is miserable and you’re not, it’s time for a heart attack, or the Big “C”, a flood, or insert your favorite terminal illness/natural disaster here:

Thankfully I am married to Captain No-Your-Not.  It makes no difference whether I am genuinely suffering from some ailment, or just worrying about its potential lurking around the corner, Fred is always there to say “no-your-not.” Case closed. If I say “I hope it’s not cancer”, Fred tells me “it’s not”, Maybe its lupus? “No its not” “I think it’s a heart murmur”, “No-its-not” Most of the time he is right, so I just listen to what he says, ignore what bothers me, and it does go away. 

I guess I am not really fighting cancer, or heart disease, or lupus- I’m just fighting me. I am still convinced I might make it out of this world alive. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But isn’t that what most of us humans suffer from? That mistaken notion we have forever. We don’t you know. Our number could come up any time. It’s good for me to remember that- even if my number isn’t coming up today. One day it will. But the threat of death does give us better eyes for this world. It helps us to see the things that matter more clearly. It helps us to recognize those we love, to behave as we ought, and to act as if everything matters.

 And of course- it does!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We're Missing Friday

Mondays child is fair of face,

Tuesdays child is full of grace,

Wednesdays child is full of woe,

Thursdays child has far to go,

Fridays child is loving and giving,

(Of all days to miss....LOVING AND GIVING! ugh)

Saturdays child works hard for his living,

And the child that is born on the Sabbath day

Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

 ( psst....wanna know what day you are?)

A Girl Named Sue

I was kind of low after the fire yesterday, so to cheer me up last night Fred took me to the homeless shelter. Don’t laugh.No, I'm not fooling. Truth is  we actually already planned to go there since I received an email from Sue Rudy (who  started and runs the shelter) saying they were in need of blankets and food.  I’ve known Sue for a few years now and we see each other at least every few months. We met after Thanksgiving back a-ways when I had a glut of food and knew it needed to be shared. A friend and I looked up the name of the nearest shelter and found “Silence of Mary Home” listed among the addresses. The name caught my eye. My friend and I got lost on the way to Harrisburg and called Sue for directions. I am REALLY bad at directions.  In fact some days I need a GPS to find my way to the bathroom.  Sue is dyslexic. When I began asking her to guide me through the streets of Harrisburg she started saying things  like :

“ make a turn towards the passenger side door”

“Do you mean right?”  I asked quizically.

she answered "I don’t know is that the passenger side?”   

 I hesitated...."Yes"

"OK - good! Now  go to the driver’s side door, and then at the next block, another driver’s side door…”


when I reached the place safely I knew a friendship had been born.So  last night we packed up a few of the kids and took along some of the donations we collected at Sacred Heart Tutorials, (the cooperative the boys belong to 2 days a week) and we headed to Harrisburg. ( below is a picture of Sue and her husband Vern. Matty took it with his DS so its a little blurry.)

It really is one of my favorite places to go- isn’t that strange?  I have never left there without feeling uplifted by the generosity and magnanimity of all I meet. Last night was no different. When Fred and I arrived Sue immediately greeted me with a big “Ellie!” and a cheerful smile and hug. Fred and the boys unpacked the trunk as we chatted. She walked us over to a van stuffed full of blankets, food and clothes that will make their way to Fort Wayne,Indiana over the next few days where Sue is opening a new homeless shelter. She currently runs two houses in Harrisburg, has a few folks living at home with her and, and spends a lot of time at the local shelters as well where she has gained such an impeccable reputation with the state that they call on her when they are filled to their max. There is a good deal of love when you come into the home.  Kids come running up to you smiling and peaceful. Adults laugh and shake your hand, normal chatter fills the air. That can only come from feeling safe. I know my children get a lot out of the visits. I think I get more.  What a genuine gift to know people who love so much.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The People in Your Neighborhood

Remember that song from Sesame Street? I  found I was whistling it around my house a lot yesterday. The music in my head had been prompted by a visitor the night before. We were finishing up dinner dishes in the kitchen when a sudden knock, knock came.

Joe reported there was someone at the back door. Fred walked out to answer. A young man, clean shaven and not much older than Andrew or Peter appeared. He had a soft voice and asked Fred if he could have the trees that were laying in our back yard. Fred asked him what for-  
“firewood”came the answer.

Fred next asked if he needed it right away and the boy said no, probably for next year, he was just trying to get a jump start. I poked my head around the corner and said hello. He introduced himself as Ricky, he lives a stone’s throw from our house. Knowing that times are hard for most right now we asked a few more questions. Ricky is the man of the house at his young age. He has two younger sisters and a Mom who works full-time to make ends meet. I have seen him now and again snow-plowing on a four-wheeler long hours into the night.  We all shook hands and Fred asked him to let him know if he needed anything else, and off he went. 

Say who are the people
In your neighborhood
In your neighborhood
In your neigh-bor-hood

The image of Ricky kind of got stuck in my mind all of yesterday along with the song. I kept looking at my own teenage sons and thinking how different their lives were in comparison. He seemed to have so many responsibilities on his young shoulders. Thanks God at least he has a roof over his head I reflected. I tried to imagine Andrew or Peter having to handle all those responsibilities. I brushed the thoughts away like unwelcome cobwebs.

In your neighborhood
In your neighborhood
In your neigh-bor-hood

This morning my mind was clear and I had moved on. Busy with housework and schoolwork my thoughts were occupied elsewhere. I got a quick peck on the cheek from Fred as he left for work. He was putting the finishing touches on a house across town. It had burned down in the summer and devastated the owner, a professor at the Mount and her teenage daughter. We hadn’t known them too well at the time but have since been happy to call them both friend and neighbor. They were so happy Fred was able to get them back ‘home’ by Christmas. This week he was officially done with the project and ready to close the door behind him.

In your neighborhood
in your neighborhood
in your neigh-bor-hood

After we finished most of our subjects up we decided to take a break for a few minutes. The kids were all happy and making plans to build a snow fort with the few inches left on the ground after our Monday night storm.  They went out to pick a spot.  Matt and Joe came running back in. 

“Mom, I think our neighbors’ house is on fire!”

I heard sirens in the distance.  I went out the front door to see a plume of black smoke rising two doors down. Within moments the street and yard were buried in Fire engines and emergency vehicles.  I called Fred who came rushing home immediately. It was Ricky’s house. I watched as fire-fighters broke windows and glass to let the heat out. The house became engulfed. Fred went walking over knowing, as did all of us ,there would be nothing left. Quickly we were told no one was hurt. Fred stood with Ricky watching the firefighter’s work. At some point He noticed Alex and Chris helping put out the fire. Two neighborhood boys who used to play in our yard just a few short years ago. Now here they were risking their lives to keep us safe.

They're the people that you meet
when you're walking down the street
The people that you meet each day

It took hours to put it completely out. While I am infinitely grateful no one was hurt I cannot help but be deeply saddened by the loss Ricky and his families have just suffered.  We pack so much into our homes. Not just stuff, but habits, and rituals, and memories. A fire doesn’t just destroy tangible items; it robs us of a place to feel like we belong, a place to call home.  And Ricky, he just really seemed to need that roof.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toy Stories


I am a big fan of the Toy Story movies. Most parents I know get more then a chuckle from those oh-so-familiar scenes being played out. I am awed by the imagination of young minds. We don't have a whole lot of toys around here, but we have enough. The truth is most of the really good toys (meaning the ones the kids play with for a long time and go back to again and again) are often the simplest ones.
So instead we stick with the basics. Buckets of army men,a sturdy doll house from a friend,a used rocking horse,some giant puzzles and we're all good - Thank you very much!

I have sometimes sighed thinking of the really beautiful toys we just can't keep here. You know the prized dolls some children have, dressed in layers of fine clothing with lace trim and hair that looks like it was styled at the salon.

"When did you get this doll sweet heart?"
a tiny voice replies:
"3 and a half years ago for my birthday from my great Aunt Adelaide."

Meanwhile Mary is back there with a doll that looks like its been homeless for at least a few years , wearing a ripped dress and her hair inexplicably tangled up in a miniature pink plastic brush. The surgery needed to extricate it from her head leaves it looking more like Chuckie then any recognizable toy form. Have you ever tried to get a brush out of a dolls hair? I mean really tried? Its worse then super glue. If you asked Mary when she received her doll she's likely to reply :

"yesterday- gotta problem with that?"

And really I don't.

I'd like to have the time to care for all these lovely things, but I am often too busy putting on band-aids, counting math on my fingers, or peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwiching to do much else. Most days I am trying to redress the wrongs in my house- forget about redressing Barbie.
Let Barbie fend for herself.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Do This Every February

Tomorrow's forecast: SNOW

My year starts out in September- I know, I know, all of you are sitting there correcting me for saying the beginning of the year is September instead of January, but its true at least for me. I have always felt that the year was begun in September when all the new stuff for school and life cannot be put off any longer for  swimming, sunning, and summer vacations. It 'feels ' like the start and so I have always considered it to be so.

What is more interesting and quirky is that I am still willing to admit that the year ends in December. At least that’s when my steam begins to run out and the rest of the work is done on sheer will power (which I am in no short supply of- thank goodness.)

So, I love the fall. It’s my favorite time of year. Leaves dancing, great vibrant colors, sweaters and fires that make the heart  and home feel just swell. Yes there is work in starting school but that work seems good. It comes after a long rest and plenty of reflection, and time enough to be bored. It is a welcome change to work in the fall after the wonderful summer of life.

By the time the winter arrives we are in the throes of holidays and Christmas time. It is easy to make way for that season. But somewhere after Christmas and New Years when the snow keeps coming and the school work does too, and waking up in the dark loses its thrill; The rest of that time between January and May I sort of block out and just 'deal with' til I get back to the good stuff.

And then it happens.It happens to me every February. One blissfully sunny day, or, better still,a few in a row where the sunshine absolutely soaks into every pore and reminds you of what’s just around the corner. I know we call that sweet break in the fall Indian summer, but what about the annual dupe that occurs every spring?It's a big weather con game and nobody has named that yet. Why not? (Maybe as a matching counterpart we could call it Indian-giver Spring?)

Terribly cruel trick in my opinion. It gives us a taste that turns out  after all to be just a tease .

Fred has noticed  something perculiar in my behavior for an otherwise rational human (ahem, give me a break - most days I am somewhat rational!) He says one day I simply announce “OK – winter is over” next thing he knows all the winter apparel and gear disappears. He cannot believe I actually go through with it  year after year.

"Just because you say so, doesn’t make it so.” He has told me on more than one occasion.Perhaps he's right but denial can be a powerful tool in my mental arsenal.

So yes, I have  put away my coat already. And NO, I won’t be taking it back out.

I would rather be cold and hopeful then pretend the temperature outside last week didn’t reach 70 degrees.
I refuse to look at the weather gods and declare
“OK you got me- again. That was a good one!”
hardy- har- har.

(Like H-E-double hockey sticks!)

So instead I do my best to infuriate them by acting as if spring is already here. “Look at that fool” they must be shouting from the clouds. And I go about my business with no more than a wrap or sweater on my shoulders. If I am really feeling bold and angry, I’ll break out my Birkenstocks.

I do get quite a few people who ask me if I am cold which only makes me happier as I reply “NO, I am just getting ready for Spring!” knowing Zeus or Apollo are  up there somewhere sneering.

I am toying with the idea  of starting a petition to end winter early next year. I bet a lot of people would sign it. Who knows maybe the only thing standing between me and an earlier spring is a quorum. I’m willing to give it a try. How bout you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Brothers Keeper

His name is Said Musa. He is a 46 year old father of six. His oldest daughter (8) is mute. While serving in the Afghan army he stepped on a landmine and lost a leg. He now has a prosthetic one in its place.He worked for the Red Cross for 15 years.

Said Musa is scheduled for execution.

When you ask?


Some of you might want to know what this man did wrong. What unspeakably heinous act did he perpetrate that would allow him to be executed any day now? What horrors lie within this man’s soul that his mere existence must be snuffed out lest he infect others in society with the same ailments he suffers from?

I will tell you his crime if you will brace yourself for it.

Steel your heart for what I am about to say.

Come a little bit closer so I might whisper it in hushed tones in case the little ones are around to hear.

Are you ready?

8 Years ago Said Musa became a Christian.

And today, in reading his story, he became my brother.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Getting Warmer

Fred pulled his blue pick-up into the driveway today to find all the little ones running around  outside in the magnificent weather we are having. The last traces of snow leaving the yard to be replaced with mud.

"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!"

Happy little cries reached through the open window and greeted his ears.

"Hey Guys!" He called back beeping the horn in three short and quick successions.

  These greetings have a way of melting  Fred's heart quicker then the sun melts the leftover snow left on the ground beneath him. The others gave  him a quick hug then returned to the swing set and the stream respectively to continue some terribly important adventures. Our seven year old lingered at his fathers truck.

"Its a nice day out here, huh, Tommy?" an extra pat on his head from a dusty calloused hand.

"Yes it is - and do you know what Dad?"said Tom cocking his head to one side.


"Its so nice out today I don't even need a hot shirt!"

The smile across Fred's face spread as he replied

"you're right Tommy, today you don't even need a sweater!"
Enjoy the sunshine.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

We Went to a Wake Tonight for a Man We Don’t Even Know

Last Saturday on the way home from work Fred along with Andrew, Peter, John-Paul and Matthew encountered a fatal accident on the highway. They were the first on the scene.

I spent the next several days wading through that mysterious world of men’s emotions. There hasn’t been a lot of talking about what happened, but I know full well it can be difficult to process and takes time. Initially Fred seemed angry, though I wasn’t sure of why or at who. Eventually it seemed to give way to sadness and some questions. By the third night Fred admitted to me that for the last 40 years of his life he has always wondered what he would do if he ever came across an accident like the one he did on Saturday afternoon. He says he had played it over and over in his mind asking God to give him the courage to walk over instead of leave and to pray with the victim. He asked me what I thought of that. I told him I had never once imagined such a scenario myself and that it struck me that perhaps there was a reason he had pictured it so many times before. He grew quiet and the conversation ended.

He didn’t seem to want to talk much more about it and so we didn’t. But the faraway look that haunted his eyes and the computer search for obituaries told me where his thoughts were at more than once.

This afternoon he called announcing he would like to go to the wake. I thought this was a good idea. Then the phone rang again -did I want to go too? “Just 30 seconds” That’s all he would need he assured me. As if I had some other place to be then by his side. We pulled up to the parking lot of the funeral home, it was crowded. We worked our way through the crowd to the door. A line formed of about 300 to 400 people. Five rooms were filled for a well loved man. 

Assessing the situation Fred turned and said we should go right to the front. He merely wanted to say a few words and keep on going. “30 seconds is all Elle” came the words once again. He made his way to the front. And now we could see the family. A wife, a daughter, a son-in-law, some grandchildren. I pointed to the son-in-law and whispered “try to speak to him.” Fred stepped forward and began to explain. He whispered and then the man turned to his wife and spoke to her. Her strong and steady tone grew quiet as she reached for Freddy’s hand. Her eyes locking on his face to take him in. Questions rose and words spilled out.
Let’s not tell Mom yet she is not strong enough.
Could we have your phone number?
Of course.Anything we can do. We’ll leave it up front. 

And then Fred turned to say goodbye. And this daughter reached out to grasp his hand. And I heard her try to say ‘Thank you Fred for coming tonight’, but what came out instead was a gentle moan as her heart broke and she pulled him in and crumbled in my husband’s arms. The room grew still as two hundred pairs of eyes grew fixed on this embrace. A flood of tears poured out and seemed to echo through the room.

And Fred who wanted nothing more than to leave, did not. He stayed and held a perfect stranger in his arms to let her cry. He comforted her and told her it would be okay. He said her Dad did not suffer any pain. He told her that he held his hand and prayed and stayed with him until till he was gone. He told her he was peaceful as he went.

As we walked away her fingers lingered on his hands. Not wanting to let go of the man who had last been with her father. Wishing she could pull from Fred the grasp that held her father’s last. 

I do not know why God chooses what He does. I do not understand the details of his plans. But I do know our lives are not our own. We belong to one another in a way we don’t even realize most days until of course, we are forced to. And inexplicable as it seems, I believe God wanted my family to be touched in this man’s death as all those other hundreds had been touched in his life.

The Stink Bug Apocalypse

If you don’t know what I am talking about in the title of this post, consider yourself lucky, very lucky-for now. The past few years here in E-burg the stink bug plague has been picking up in force. This past year it was definitely epic proportions. What is amazing is that there is not MORE news on these diabolical invaders. It seems perhaps one of their tactics is to not just emit a foul smelling odor, but to infect the homes they inhabit with a sense of shame as well.
I can almost hear the 12 step group forming:
“Hello, my name is Susan and I have stink bugs….”
"Hi Susan, welcome…what’s that on your shoulder?"
These infernal creatures know no bounds. They will get into any and every nook and cranny in your house and outside as well. They are just plain G-R-O-S-S. They purportedly were sent here from Asia accidentally. Something about this story is utterly suspicious. A creature that has caused this much disgust and repulsion appears to me to be some sort of military tactic.
“Colonel what’s your next plan to over throw the U.S.?”
“I was thinking sir; maybe we could give them ….the heebie geebies.”

I know most of us are out dutifully buying that non-toxic pesticide to rid ourselves and our homes of these noxious pests, but we also know it doesn’t really work. We just feel better doing something, instead of nothing until we hear that some miracle biochemist has come up with a fool proof plan that will eradicate them from the planet. I have tried my hand at a few concoctions so far, sadly none with great promise- yet.
The fact that it is warming up outside doesn’t give me great solace either. Just because they will leave my dwelling for a few months to return in ever greater number and kind next year is not much of a consolation.


Bedtime rituals can be just about the best time of the day here in Wonderland for all sorts of reasons. In our house bedtime signifies the end of my work day. It doesn’t mean that I won’t still load the dishwasher, or fold a few more piles in the mountains of laundry, but it does mean that I no longer have to listen to the incessant screaming of a seven, five, four, two and one year old simultaneously- or pick up any more cheerios from the kitchen floor, or unstick any more lollipops from anyone’s hair for a few blissful hours.

Fred puts the kids to bed each night, and has always done so with night time prayers, and a story. The 5 little ones gather first in the boy’s room for prayers, and then once they are nestled and snuggled in, a quick drink of milk, and a chapter or two from a book. Next, its kisses and hugs before the girls move in to the nursery for bunny hutches and a mini impromptu story about an imaginary pony named Sunshine and his adventures with three good little princesses.

At the end of each "pony story", as we have begun to call them, Fred finishes by telling Mary and her little sisters that the three little princesses were so tired from their adventures that they all fell fast asleep and they slept like a rock! 

Mary found this idea of sleeping like a rock highly suspect and denied anyone could possibly sleep like a rock, let alone three princesses. It mattered not that her father insisted it was so. Old adage or no, she wasn’t buying it. The more Fred insisted that a princess could sleep like a rock, the more she objected to this ending for the pony story. In fact she refused one night to sleep at all until this ending was changed.

Now anyone knows that bedtime rituals are important for keeping the peace in a busy house. Goodness gracious if we can’t get a little peace and quiet by 8 o’clock, production will suffer the entire next day! But Fred found he was in unchartered water. He couldn’t simply use his ‘strong voice’ like he did with all seven of those previous boys. When he had done that in the past we had an overflow of tears that took a good twenty minutes and Mommy back to work before we could resolve it. Fred had to find a way to help the princesses go to sleep but how? 

At the end of the story the next night Fred finished once again by saying “And then the three little princesses were so tired from their adventures that they all fell fast asleep and slept like a rock.”

To which Mary answered, “ No they didn’t Dad.”

Fred sighed, gave in and said “OK Mary, what did they sleep like?”

To which she replied:

“they fell asleep like a Mosquito…(and then as a true little girl- I mean princess- she compromised and added) …and a rock.”

And so for the next few nights the princesses would also fall asleep like a rock and a mosquito (which is certainly no worse than sleeping like a plain old rock)
But as luck would have it, by the next week, Princess Mary was not so sure that princesses did in fact sleep like mosquitoes either, and so she asked her weary father if perhaps the princess could fall asleep differently again?
“OK Mary how did the princesses fall asleep this time?”

She replied they fell asleep like a rock and a pony and a mosquito.
(Truth be told, I have never seen a pony sleep, but Mary is certain that ponies have the best sleep of all, and of course, she might be right.)
And so they did. The princesses fell asleep like a rock, and a pony, and a mosquito-at least for a few nights.

But how could Princess Mary be sure? Maybe, she reasoned the following week, the princesses didn’t really fall asleep just perfectly like a rock -or a pony -or a mosquito?

And so Princess Mary asked if perhaps the princesses all fell asleep more like something else instead?

Her dad said it was possible, but what could that be?
Mary answered after much deliberation;

“ I think they fell asleep like a toad too.”

(Because we all know toads sleep so well - right?) and so the princesses all slept like a rock, and a pony, and a mosquito, and a toad.

And this has now satisfied our four year old daughter. Pajamas can be donned, and prayers can be said, and teeth can be brushed because three little princesses are tired enough, after all the adventures of the of their day to fall asleep like a rock-toad-pony-mosquito.

Long after the Lego’s have been put away and the smudges have been wiped off of the refrigerator front. When the dolls are tucked beneath still arms, and the shoes have found their matches and are lined up once again like soldiers by the back door. My husband and I will sneak stealthily into the children’s room and peek in on quiet faces who are all sleeping like a,
like a,
well- like a…

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Sarah by any Other Name

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet."  
  Romeo and Juliet

Juliet Capulet is not the only person asking herself that. Fred and I have been pondering the answer to that riddle for a long time now. When we were just beginning to consider names for children way back when, Fred made the decision there would be no funny business when it came to naming our brood. I was not allowed to even entertain interesting sounding ideas. He would quickly cross off anything that hinted at trendy and replace it with a nice solid traditional choice. Years later, I am ever grateful for this hidden and merciful wisdom as I contemplate some of the options I was steered clear of.

We spent nine months battling over the names of our kids, before we would agree and commit. We’d wait for the long anticipated birth, commence the cuddling, clothing, feeding and diapering process. We’d  teach said child to walk and talk, and then one day the ingrate would go and change his/her name. 

The latest name change in a long list of name changes has been Sarah’s. Sarah is two years old and looking at her is like looking at a chubby version of Mary. She is shy and funny and smart as a whip. She announced to us all just recently,

 “I, Eliva Greene”

 Eliva Greene?

That’s one I’ve never heard before, even in Hollywood.

Yup, she’s going with it.

She answers to it when called; she tells people her new name while she giggles and marches onward.
“Eliva! Eliva Greene! Where are you?” Giggles and more giggles abound.
It’s not the first time I have seen this behavior. A good portion of my children have renamed themselves at one point or another during their early and not so early years.


Matt Baby Big boy was a daringly good one (for short we were allowed to call him Matt Baby.)
John Paul decided his name should be Taxi and though we could never figure that choice out, we respected it none the less.
Mary Joan is still convinced her name is Mary Jones and she tells all she meets so, which has earned her the additional nick-name in our family of Jonesey.

Of all the ways we define ourselves a name certainly says a whole lot. Falling in love with a “Fred” was an awakening for me from stereotypes that conjured up images of middle aged men who like Nascar and talk radio. (oh wait -  that’s not a stereo type.) In truth Fred, was actually named for his maternal grandfather. Try to picture my mother-in-law if you will, born and raised on an estate in Kingston, Jamaica with her English accent saying “we’ll name him after my father; Frederick Horace Wildman Munn”, and you will see a radically different picture of what she was shooting for from the Freddy, my Freddy, my hammer swinging-willful-determined-carpenter-is-my-middle-name-all-male-husband. Say what you will, but I am ever grateful his mother didn’t insist on the Horace or Wildman middle names also.
Thankfully, most of my kids have decided that as parents they are pleased with our name choices. You can view the list below turned into a poem by my dear friend Josh. He was trying to teach his son Stephen how to remember my children’s names when our families had first become friends and the room full of unfamiliar faces was a bit intimidating.( We have added 2 children to the list since its writing and so have adapted it to include everyone.)

What We Call Ourselves
Andrew, Peter, and then John-Paul
Matthew, Joseph, name them all.
Thomas, Michael, there’s no Larry
Next in line a girl named Mary.
Sarah has a sweet kind face
And last not least, Sophia Grace.