Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sometimes, having a good memory sucks.

Twelve years ago today was a Sunday.

My sorority semi-formal had been the night before. Earlier in the week, I had missed my French Film class; it was something legit, but that detail I don't remember.

My then-beau, a classmate, and I sat down that afternoon to watch the missed movie. It was some medieval period piece from the black-and-white era. After it was over, the hockey game was on, so we watched the end of that. Then two of us went to dinner at the campus mess hall (my beau had forsaken his meal plan for financial reasons).

I think I had a sorority meeting that night; after, then-beau and I were watching TV. I was awaiting the usual 10:30 PM Sunday night phone call from home.

Right on time, the phone rang, but it wasn't my parents. It was my off-campus "family," affiliated through the local parish. "Sorry, Karen, I can't talk. My parents are going to call any minute."

"That's why I'm calling," she said. And life as I knew it ended.

Karen was calling to tell me that my father had suffered a massive heart attack. He was in the ICU in the hospital where I was born, some 140 miles away. The world started spinning.

I had to get home, I had to pack, what do I do first? How do I get there? Should I leave now, or wait for Greyhound in the morning? How can I get in touch with my mother? How long will I be there?

I called my advisor, in hopes that she could contact my other profs. I called some sorority sisters in vain, trying to find someone with a car to drive me.

I called a former teacher who lived about midway. His wife was quite short with me (it was 11:30 by this time), but he recognized me and was instantly sympathetic. Murray had an 8:30 class the next morning; I could hitch a ride with him back that far at the end of the day. I could find a ride from there. Later, I learned that his wife had purchased a bus ticket from Brighton back to Royal Oak.

Then my sister called. I couldn't wait until the next day to get home; they weren't sure he was going to make it through the night. I had to get home that night.

I called Karen back. Her husband Dan got to the house not 15 minutes later; my fellow housemates helped me to be ready. It was a long drive in snowy February weather.

We got to the hospital around 4 AM and Dan made sure we were in the right place. He didn't stay for coffee or much of anything, but turned right around and headed back.

What else do I remember from the worst week of my life? My brother's buddy Russ coming in after working his midnight shift and falling into tears when he heard things were no better. My aunt and cousin coming in with ashes smeared on their foreheads. That I read Dumbo to him that night that I stayed (his favorite Disney song was "When I See an Elephant Fly"). At some point through the week, his siblings--all eight--were there, us kids were there, our friends were there. Even thour the ICU rules said only two visitors at a time per patient, we pretty much took over one of the waiting rooms.

He died at 8:34 AM Saturday, February 27, 1993. He never regained consciousness. He got Extreme Unction at some point, though I couldn't tell you when. I still miss him.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Home Makeover

Is there anyone with a soul that doesn't like this show?

Seriously, it makes me want to go for a spree at Sears. The kids like the big machines at the beginning for the demolition, Dale and I like the family story, I like the reveal and decoration ideas.

The fact that ABC is smart enough to run commercials that won't give kids nightmares (remember Van Helsing during the Superbowl?) is another detail.

Did I say I love this show?

The Thief.


When does time sneak past me? How does it evade my vigilant gaze, maturing my children right before my eyes?

I swear to you: I have been watching the whole time.

Fridays are good days for yours truly. They are either days off, or paydays. Neat system, eh? It sure works for me.

This meant that Madeleine and Dale were my particular charges last Friday morning. I ran them up to the playgroup at the local elementary school. It's a nice program--the kids get some structured playtime with Mom/Dad and several other children, have a story read to them, and eat a snack before picking up the place. It runs for an hour and a half. Nothing remarkable happened: I helped Maddie with some Playdoh creations, and Dale with some vehicular toy issues. They listened patiently to the story, and didn't wolf down the animal crackers. All in all, a good time had by all. For having twelve toddlers, it was hitch- and meltdown-free.

Afterwards, I had to run a couple errands. First, to deposit a couple of checks at the bank. This was the site of the first Moment. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, out of the blue Maddie piped up with:

"You're really beginning to freak me out, Daddy."

With an incredulous laugh, I said "What?!" She just laughed in response. Little girl, I thought, save the sounding like a teenager for at least seven more years. I've been thinking that a lot lately. She's not nasty or rebellious-sounding--the speech is just far too mature.

Definitely so for the man who used to cradle her easily between his elbow and wrist three short years ago, and is now puzzled that she is more than half his own height. It's at times like that I take comfort in the fact she still has an imaginary friend.

Next was a stop I was semi-dreading. I needed to confirm how late a nearby barbershop was open. Pulling into the parking lot confirmed it was open to 6pm. The Boy™ was overdue for his first haircut, having only received a couple of tentative trims from Mom during the first twenty three months and three weeks of his life outside the womb. Now, it's not as horrible as you might think: he has his mother's curly hair texture, so we're not talking I'm A Boy length here. But definitely getting too long. So today was to be The Boy's™ First Haircut. Given that he had screamed like the donor in the Live Organ Transplants sketch during those harmless trims, I suspected he'd need a Versed dart for the real thing.

We went home, and fed them lunch, and put them down for their naps.

Read: "Tried to put them down for their naps."

Dale was having none of it. After forty five minutes of watching him flop around the crib, I took him out, put his shoes on, and decided to take him to his appointment with destiny a couple of hours early.

The barbers in question had been recommended by my sister-in-law, who said that their two sons had had no problem at all--in fact, they seemed to enjoy the experience. This was theoretically possible, but I reasoned that perhaps it simply meant those two nephews, while good boys, were weird. It didn't matter though--we weren't letting The Boy look like Little Orphan Annie under any circumstances. Even if it meant the hair had to be removed on an outpatient basis.

We walked in, and were greeted by both of the men. Both men radiated the grandfather vibe, which was a good start. Allen, the one with the open seat, said it wouldn't be a problem, and in fact, cutting little boys' hair usually went well.

OK. Sure.

Dale went into the seat--struggling and crying a little. Then the cape went around his neck. Magically, he started to calm down. Huh. Maybe this won't be so bad after all.

It got better: the barber pointed out what should have been obvious--only 8 feet of sidewalk separated the picture window from Van Dyke Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Metro Detroit. Freight trucks rolled by with regularity, and Dale was pleased with that. There's also a large car dealership across the street, and he (and Daddy) had a lot of eye candy to stare at.

It went off without a hitch. He had the chance to hold the electric clipper (power tools!), and thought it was especially cool when Daddy sat down for his haircut. Then he was done.

At that moment the shock hit. The toddler had grown up in a flash. With the clipping of a little hair, the veil was thrown aside and I saw a glimpse of the young man he slowly, inexorably, is becoming. In precisely the same way--only more advanced--that I am seeing his older sister turn into a young woman.

"Great job," I told Allen. In the way that mattered to a barber, I meant it.

Two stops later, we went home and had dinner.

Afterward, I held Rachel. Five months old, and bearing the prize title of "The Baby." Heather told me to feel Rachel's upper gum ridge.

A tooth. Her third, to be precise. The first two broke through two weeks ago. The still-infant grinned at me in response, which was wonderful.

I'm just afraid the next time she smiles at me she'll flash two rows of flawless teeth, complete with a toothpaste commercial "Ping!"

The great thief had stolen into our home again--this time, taking a little more of the baby from each of my children.

I will have to redouble my efforts to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

On the NHL

By now, everyone who cares knows that the 2004-2005 NHL hockey season has been cancelled. Rather anticlimactic, frankly, and no real surprise to anyone. It did seem that they were getting closer together earlier in the week, though.
Do I feel sorry for the owners? Of course not. I'll leave it at that.
The players? Not really. A few, like Yzerman, who will more than likely miss their farewell-before-retirement tour, sure. But most of them? Eh.

I feel for the little guys. The friend's husband who works concession at JLA, who got laid off for a couple weeks because of no hockey. She works part-time as a bookkeeper, and they ain't rich.

I feel for businesses like Andrew's, a former client of my late father's. He is one of many businesses who runs (ran?) shuttles to and from the games.

What about the guys who had parking lots for the games? Or the guys who sold Red Wings T-shirts from a corner stand? There's some father out there who promised a son a trip to a game this season, or some family who worked extra to afford season tickets for the first time.

But nobody with money is thinking of them. As some cynic once said, "He who has the gold rules."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Evelyn Augusta Otillie Euphemia Mertens

...was a real person.
It is she who I invoke when I need an answer to a toddler's silly question. Or when I need to say something out of frustration and the kids' are in earshot.

She was born January 19, 1905, probably in Detroit, the youngest of seven children. Her parents had emigrated from Germany. Her schooling finished after eighth grade and she went to work at Kern's Department Store in the layaway department. She married John MacRobert Ross on November 20, 1926 (his 18th birthday). They had a daughter and lost her to diptheria when she was 3. They had five more children and moved to Hazel Park in 1944, where the previous residents had taken the hot water heater with them (hey, there was a war on).

Her husband died on July 18, 1989 after a long struggle with emphysema. She was called home to God on January 1, 2000, at the tender age of 94. At the end she suffered from dementia and a host of other problems, but I still miss her. She was my grandmother.

Just a reminder: I get to write in red; Dale is probably in black.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

"At least they're going to church."

I have to confess: those words irritate me.

I've heard them regarding siblings who have fallen away from the Church. You know, Cafeteria Catholics, or C & E's.

When said about those who have never been Catholic, they don't bother me. We have some wonderful Christian neighbors, pretty firm in their faith. We talk religion now and again--okay, frequently--and manage not to get worked up. I like having someone intelligent to explain the Faith to, frankly. When speaking of them, it doesn't bother me to say, "At least they're going to church."

But of those who were raised in the Church? Married in the Church? Had their kids baptized? They made promises they aren't keeping. Both at their wedding and their children's baptism, they gave their word. To whom? To each other, to the child? To the priest officiating? To their friends and family present? Were they just nice words to take up some time, but otherwise meaningless?

No. They made those promises to God. He's not going to call them on those promises yet. He will eventually, but probably not in this lifetime.

So why am I irritated if those promises weren't to me? I'm not sure. The unecumenical answer, I suppose. There is a right Church, and while She is as flawed as the human beings who make her up, She has the truth. It matters not just that you get up Sunday morning, but that you have the right destination.

I'm not referring to people who have been wronged by the Church or someone in it; I'm referring to the indifferent. Those who choose a church based on the pretty windows, or the children's service (they get to go color every week! oooh!), or the "uplifting" music. Churches are not interchangeable, despite what fashionable opinion or your local sock puppet official might say these days.

I know this problem isn't endemic to my experience, so suggestions would be welcome.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Decisions, decisions...

Whether to go to bed early, do chores, or blog.
Rachel has detached herself long enough for me to get this much in. I have typed one-handed, but it isn't much fun and takes too long to be worth it.

Motherhood teaches many things: priorities, patience, sacrifice. I've also figured out that some things just aren't meant to be heirlooms. There's a reason pop-up books don't make it into adulthood. Paperback books have a limited life span, usually measured in single-digit years. Never mind that I have inherited my mother's Dr. Spock and it's as old as I am; it's in two pieces and is missing a page or two. It's funnier than Erma Bombeck some days. Candles, as well, aren't supposed to be passed down from generation to generation. Burn the suckers--they aren't appreciating in value! Anything electronic has intrinsic obsolesence, whether battery or solar powered. Even cars, you know.
These things are ephemeral: supposed to be used up, worn out, disposed of, or replaced. Even the Dr. Spock. Ever hear of Dr. Sears? Or Dr. Phil?

Some cookware is supposed to last forever, like cast iron stuff. That skillet Grandma had? Somebody's stuck with it somewhere. Yeah, it's the parrot of the cookware world. Chances are, the heavier and uglier it is, the longer it will last.

I've been thinking of this since I went to a kitchen-item bingo. This company sells cookie sheet liners. Seriously. The big selling point is, you don't want ugly cookie sheets with crud burned and ossified onto them! How unsightly and embarrassing!
Hm. I hadn't much thought about it, having not baked a whole lot of cookies. My cookie sheets are just beginning to look used. I thought it was just me.
However, if everyone's look the same eventually (black in the corners and edges, small patches evenly dispersed over the rest of the surface), what's the big deal? I know my mother-in-law is not going to purse her lips at my cookie sheets in disapproval; hers are probably older and look worse. A neighbor isn't going to whisper over the back fence, "And you should see her cookie sheets! There's burned stuff she didn't get off in the corners!"

So they sell liners to remedy this situation. Um... I think I'll just go buy new cookie sheets, thanks.