Monday, April 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Again. And Again.

My Mom had a stroke a few weeks ago. My family was very worried she wasn't going to make it for a short time right afterwards. We all quickly came to the conclusion that my Mom has nine lives, She has had all kinds of issues over many years and each time, rebounds much better than we could even anticipate. This time was no different. She is already walking, talking, laughing and joking as she used to. She also has short term memory loss and so we assumed the stroke might have a dramatic impact on her memory overall. While there have been some issues, she is doing remarkably well.

My siblings have been heroic in their love and care of my Mom these past 2 months. Each of them has been giving time and love and resources to help my mom recover and feel safe and at ease in her home once again.

It is going swimmingly well. Except that it is Thanksgiving. Every day. Its one of those interesting loops the mind creates that settles her back to a familiar time. I am sure there is some science to how it works, but I don't know about that.  She talks all about life, and kids, and weather, and health and things long past and then she asks you  if you put your turkey on yet. 

It has been interesting watching how my various siblings answer that question. Some answer immediately "Mom, its not Thanksgiving" and move the conversation to more familiar terrain. Others politely reply "Yes- we are having turkey" before moving to a new topic. Still others explain why they have not prepared themselves as of yet and how they will do so shortly. Some go to check on the turkey for her. Others inquire what side-dish and desserts she'd like with it.  

Being far away, I have been celebrating Thanksgiving by phone. Mom remembers to ask for Fred and the kids each call, and then tells me how proud she is that I home school my kids well before we ever get to the turkey piece. All my siblings want to know why she keeps going back to turkeys and thanksgiving.

Sometime last night after saying goodnight to my Mom, and wishing her once again a Happy Thanksgiving the thought sunk a little deeper in me. Today it was fresh on her mind, and mine as well, when Jacquie dialed my number late afternoon. 

"Hi Elle- Happy Thanksgiving" we started once again. 

But this time I was ready.

 "Happy Thanksgiving Mom" I answered. 

"Did you get your turkey yet?"  

"Yes and I will also make pumpkin pie this year- do you like pumpkin pie Mom?" 

"Yes. How bout you Elle?"

Yes, I like pumpkin pie Mom-but I want to ask you something important  first"

"Ok- what?"

"What are you really so thankful for this year Mom?"

She grew quiet and reflective. Slowly she answered me:

"Well, I am thankful for my family."

"uh-huh, what else Mom?"

"I am thankful for my health too. I mean Elle for my age, I am in pretty good shape, and I feel good!"

"Thats great Mom- you're right.You are in remarkable shape all things considered."

"And I don't really have any troubles or problems. When I think of what some other people have on their plate, I mean really I am thankful.I wouldn't want to trade places."

"I know Mom thats true too. Is there anything else?"

"Yes, I am just thankful for all my kids. They treat me really well. They are so good to me, all of them. And I have so many, and each one, I am grateful for. Really.I am "

And now I fell a little more quiet, and understanding. And as I switched gears and did a quick catch up with my sister and a run down of general family news she asked what I was up to. I told her I was not doing too much, just getting spaghetti and meatballs on the table and waiting for Freddy to come home from work. We said goodbye. 

But I thought about it,  as I laid the plates and mixed some lemonade, and broke up a few spats between my kids before dinner. I thought  about how right my Mother is. 

I am in good health too.

And I don't have many problems.

And when I look around me at what other people have to go through I wouldn't want to trade places.

And I am so thankful for my children, and my Freddy, and my siblings who are there for my Mom, and one another and even me from a distance. I realize that every day really is Thanksgiving, or should be. But sometimes we remember that  truth better over spaghetti and meatballs instead of turkey and pumpkin pie. And my Mom still has a few things left to teach me. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Backyard Monsters

    Facebook has a game called Backyard Monsters. My boys are ALWAYS sending me requests to enter the game. I have managed to escape so far. But I decided to face some different kinds of backyard monsters tonight. When we moved in here, the back yard had the loveliest little grotto I ever did see. Barney and Deb and Mare ( who lived here first) spent lots of time making it beautiful along with all the rest of the land. I don't have a particularly green thumb, but its not awful either. I started working on it after a couple of years and really loved that back piece. We had May crownings each year and I loved watching things grow up and flower.

     The last few years we have been doing inside work. Fred built our addition thus pulling us both to other areas of life. It can be busy around here. Fred told me at dinner tonight he was almost ready for some yard work ( we still have odds and ends to finish up inside, but we're getting there). We both decided it was time to head back out to the grotto. Needless to say it was full of backyard monsters. Weeds and overgrowth  three years old. We looked at each other and the amount of work ahead and decided to call for reinforcements. Its days like these having seven sons ( and a handy dandy back hoe) actually pays off. Look what we accomplished in 2 hours. Granted, we have a whole lot of planting and weeding and mulching still to do, but we have begun. I'm looking forward to that space again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Sarah has been thinking about coconuts today. She asked me:

"Mommy, do coconuts come from the sand ?"  (Hmmm- no- clearly they come from Coco puffs.)

She asked  later on what coconuts turn into when they grow up. ( bowling balls)

They seem to have taken on a magical property to her. Sort of like pineapples have for me. I never ate pineapples as a child. I had my first bite of one as an adult and was transported into spiritual ecstasy for a moment. I late found dipping them in warm caramel is spectacular to the taste-buds.  When I visited Nicaragua I tried white pineapples, which are indeed though hard to imagine- better and sweeter than  a 'regular' pineapple.

I am not a huge fan of coconuts, but I think maybe I will find some neat things to do with them this week to see how Sarah reacts.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The New Timeline

I am not a fan of the new facebook timeline. I cannot believe so many of you have signed up for it. I have a devil of a time figuring out when you did what you did now,and how long ago something was posted. I don't even really know how to click 'like' accurately anymore.

Tell me please, what was so wrong with a neat vertical chronology? Why did we have to jazz things up so I don't know the difference between when your friends post on your wall, and when you do? Its not even neatly lined up side by side. Its actually off kilter. And it also makes it look like there isn't much going on in your life as I can scroll down so very little before running into last months news. Pathetic.There is no real "Pop" an longer when you post something in your feed. It just fades into the other boring stuff you've been doing the last few weeks.

I don't totally mind the over-sized picture at the top though. That is, kind of, a nice feature.
New timeline = Boo.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Don't Work Either

"She hasn't worked a day in her life." I am sure plenty of you read those headlines. They were all over the media today. The voice trying to silence that sentiment was louder by afternoon. Hilary Rosen accused Ann Romney of never working a day in her life. Ann Romney raised five children, battled MS and breast cancer and I assure you she knows what hard work is. I am also sure Hilary Rosen does too. It's interesting what we all think counts as work- even other women speaking on women. 

It is not uncommon in the normal course of my day ( and in all of our lives)  to have all sorts of people ask me "if I work" and since I know what the official answer they are looking for is,  I purse my lips and wag my head back and forth and reply 'nope'. What they seem to mean,  I have figured out over the years is "do you collect a paycheck for what you do" and so my 'nope' is actually the accurate answer they seek. But not collecting a paycheck doesn't mean I don't matter. And it doesn't mean I have no opinions or thoughts. And it doesn't make me out of touch with the real world. And it doesn't mean I am old fashioned or dumb. And it certainly doesn't mean Fred tells me what to think. But that is often what people believe it to mean. They are wrong.

Most of what I do daily is drudgery. Wiping noses, sweeping floors, and washing the 8 billionth dish is more a form of slow torture than work, at least for me. It is very sacrificial in nature. Raising children is difficult but also incredible rewarding and joyful as well at times. Those parts don't really feel like work, even though parts of it involve work. Enjoying days that are sunny, and pool time in the summers, driving kids to the park and teaching them to read, those are awesome parts that don't feel much like work at all. Playing with children, or teaching them how to use the kitchen is fun, truly. I like it. Lots of people like their jobs. That is considered a blessing through all societies I know of. I have no boss. The only people I answer to for how I spend my days are Sophie, Sarah, Mary, Michael, Thomas, Joseph, Matthew, John-Paul, Peter, and Andrew. (Fred and I are so in sync we don't answer to each other at all- it is more one body in two places most days.)

I never felt capable enough to decide if I believe all women should or shouldn't do anything. Same goes for men. I also don't feel qualified to tell you all how to raise your kids, if you should have another right now, whether  you should home-school them, or even what choices you should make when it comes to laundry detergent. We are, all of us, different. We get at life in different ways with different thoughts and approaches. I think that is not only  OK, it's actually good. But I do think its very important we don't judge one another. We are likely to look like fools if we are sure we know the answer to what  all things 'should' be.   

At the end of most days I am happy to be a 'non-working woman'- but  I am also very,very tired from all that non-work. Go figure. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fred's Fire

Yes, I know I have not posted in a long time. And no, this is some official start back up post tonight. Maybe I will post more. Or Maybe I won't. We'll see. I am in a noncommittal type of mode lately. I have a lot going on in my life currently. And when I have a lot going on in life I actually think a whole lot more. And when I think a whole lot more I have way too much to say. Which is why I am not writing. A blog simply could not contain everything going on inside my head lately. Some of those things are actually quite good and touching and so I have written about those things BUT I just didn't publish it. Other things are probably just ho-hum and so, why bother? 

Of course I could just sit here and tell you all stories about my family life, which never gets dull. I suppose  I could tell you how Fred woke up on Good Friday and almost burned Rome Emmitsburg to the ground. Well, I might be exaggerating a bit. You might remember how I told you it's not a holiday around here unless Fred lights a big ole fire to clean up the yard. This Easter was no different.  

I woke up and decided before the Egg Hunt I should scrub the house. Fred also woke up with big plans. He stepped outside the back door and said "Ellie, I don't think I'll light that fire today. It seems a bit windy and it might not be the best day to do it."  I could hear in his voice, that is as familiar now to me as my very own, his interior struggle. His higher self was in a deadly struggle with his lower self.His male animal instincts which were screeching "Fire, FIRE!" were winning. Little did he realize that the mere mention of the word 'fire' made me turn that inner calm dial to "I can't hear you" and I headed down the hall so as not to argue with my dear husband about all the things he could  be doing to help me instead of lighting a fire. We have been married for too long for me to fall for that old trick. No way. Not today. Its Good Friday.

Hours later the bathroom scrubbed clean, Andrew came and peeked his head in the door.

"Wow-nice job Mom- its clean in here"

 'Thanks Andy' said I.

 "By the way, Dad lit that fire."

 "Oh" I said a bit quieter.

"I took some pictures when you want to see". ( he was gathering evidence)

Then I gulped and started heading to the back door in time to see Fred climbing out of his back-hoe limping badly. "Goodness - go help him" I told Andrew. Once Fred was set down on the couch I asked what happened. 

"Well, I should have listened to myself" he began. "It was just too windy to light that fire today and it started to get away from me ( as it ALWAYS does- but don't let that stop you dear!). "So I decided to get my backhoe and move the logs out of the way so they didn't catch fire too." 

Meanwhile our wonderful neighbors were on alert and Molly sent Mark out to help control the blaze. Fred was filling buckets with water when suddenly "POP!" a muscle in the back of his leg gave out leaving him partially disabled. Mark is having his own knee troubles so I cannot even venture a guess as to how the two of them looked hopping around the yard with hoses and buckets.

When you have been married this long you don't need to say much after the fact. A simple head shaken in disgust will suffice. It didn't hurt that the fire warden called later that day and called a moratorium on all burning due to
gusty weather conditions. It was sort of an outside "I told you so" that didn't cost me a thing. Heck any old fool could have seen that coming- right? In fact the whole of Maryland and Pennsylvania has been on a "No Burn Watch" due to such hazardous conditions. Live and learn. Or don't. His leg is much improved BTW. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blessed Easter

Lent was tough this year. Today He is Risen. That doesn't mean all the crosses get lifted; certainly I am old enough to know that now. But it does mean the cross has meaning. Suffering happens in our lives- all of us. God doesn't desire our suffering. But He does enter into it and hold us tighter through it. Sometimes He holds us so tight we can hardly breathe and we struggle to break free of His grasp. Thankfully He is stronger than we are and will not let us go until He is certain we are on more even ground. Always, He is good.
The Boys
And the Girls
And the Hunt
And the fun
And the children as pretty as flowers