Friday, March 30, 2012

Kindness, Kindness, Everywhere

Day 172
With the kids on the kindness clock this week, I’m kicking back and enjoying the show. 

They’ve always been good kids (some days more than others) but I’m proud of how they now actively look for ways to be kind to strangers.  Everyday.  I’m waiting for it to translate to each other, but I’m a patient woman and we still have six months to get there. 

Changing behaviors takes time.  I know this.  When I worked at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, I worked on a statewide seat belt campaign designed to get people to change their habits and buckle up.  A state trooper once told me it takes 21 consecutive days to adopt a new behavior.  Remembering this gives me an idea. 

Our new experiment within an experiment is to be kind to a member of the family every day until it becomes as natural as finding ways to help a stranger. 

“Let’s try something new,” I start.  “From now on, we are going to say one kind thing to each other every day.”

“Starting when?” F. asks. 

“Starting now.” 

I. and F. look at each other and bust out laughing. 

“F., you’re awesome!” Pause.  “There.”  F. rolls his eyes and falls on the couch cushion in hysterics.

For some reason, I question his sincerity.    

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tasmanian Devil Hand Slapping

Day 172
“Mom, are you seeing this?”  A. yells from a neighbor’s driveway as he struggles with their recycling bin.  The dark green plastic container dwarfs him but he battles on. 

“Good job!” I say and give him a thumbs up, the universal sign of “you rock.”

Walking back down the drive, he bends and picks up the same neighbor’s paper.  A. raises it above his head and waves it, “This is my second act of random kindness!”  He walks to the front door and hits the doorbell. 

“Just put it on the porch,” I say.  “That’s good.”  He drops the paper and marches proudly across the lawn towards me. 

He stops, leans over and picks up a small piece of trash.  “Number three!”  He holds the trash over his head like a trophy. 

“High five!” I hold my palm out ready for some skin.   

“Mom, I did three things you know.” 

“Give me fifteen!”  That’s what I’m talking about.  

I am who I am

Day 171 
Strangers often mistake A. and F. for twins.  Between the matching Ohio State jerseys and the new identical buzz cuts today they’re nearly indistinguishable.

This wouldn’t normally be a problem except they’re at Sunday school and have a habit of switching names to confuse the teacher.  On purpose.  At church.

Their teacher stands eye level with my third grader and lit more than a few boxes of candles on her last birthday cake.  Boys, I tell them, it’s not nice to pick on little old ladies.  Anywhere.  But it’s especially not nice at church.     

I give each of the boys the eye, the evil one.  “No name switching, right?” It’s not a question. 

“No, Momma,” A. sings sweetly. 

For the boys to be well behaved and pass on an easy trick certainly falls into the category of random kindness. 

I’ve told the boys that this week it’s all on them: the ideas and the follow-through.  It’s day one.  I say a small prayer during the service that they make a good choice. 

“How were they?” I ask at pick-up.  “Any name changing?” 

“Good,” she says. 

“Really?”  I ask.  “You can tell me the truth.” 

“I knew who was who the whole time,” she says.


Lucky, Lucky Girl

Day 170
“How about Wrigley?”

We’re in route to pick up the rescue puppy but still can’t agree on a name.  I lobby hard for my favorite.  It’s not in my nature to give up. 

The boys aren’t sold. 

“Are you sure?  It’s a great name…” 

I’m really pushing.  My oldest’s love of baseball verges on obsessive and being a Chicago girl growing up watching the Cubs, Wrigley feels right to me. 

Chaz laughs from the driver’s seat.  “You’re not going to win this one.”

I concede.  “OK, OK.  What else?” 

“Snowflake!” A. holds firm to his first choice.  I don’t disagree that it’s a good name only that the color of the puppy’s fur is more peed on snow that freshly fallen. 

“Angel!” F. suggests. 

“There are NO angels in our house,” says Chaz. 

In the past fourteen days, the boys have changed the name from Lucky to Tikki to Cinnamon Toast Crunch to Wrigley to Angel to Snowflake. 

“How about Lucky?” I ask.  It’s where we started two weeks ago. 
Looking at my life, it’s how I feel.  Great kids.  Happy marriage.  Healthy family.  Loyal friends. I stand corrected.  Lucky feels right.    

“Lucky it is.”   We all agree. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Take Two, or Twenty

Day 169
It’s been one of those days. 

I forgot to send in the permission slip for after-school pick-up.  Around ten, I realize I’ve missed today’s deadline to send in an “action” photo for a first grade project.  No worries.  I can fix this. 

I scribble out the slip and download a great picture of F. from last Saturday’s lacrosse game.  I’ll drop them both at the school on the way to meet a friend for lunch.  See?  All fixed.  Then the printer breaks.  Ugh.   

Plan B: I drop the slip at school and email the photo to F.’s teacher to print.  Done.   

The rest of the afternoon flies by, the last one before spring break.  I’m throwing in laundry and working on my blog when I notice the time.  And panic.  What time is pick-up?  I have a mental block and for the life of me can’t remember.  Early on-set Alzheimers or over-stressed Motherhood? 

I race to the school.  Twenty minutes early. 

“Here again?” the front secretaries ask. 

“You won’t see me next week,” I answer.  “Spring break!” 

They cheer in unison.  I’m hoping it’s for spring break. 

I see a friend through the double glass doors removing kids’ art from the school entrance. 

“Need help?” I ask.   

“Thanks,” she looks up from pulling tape off the back of one picture.  “I wanted to finish before the kids get out.”   

“I have a few minutes.”  I tell her.  In fact, I’ve got twenty.      

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Home School Humor

Day 168
I’m sitting in a classroom at UC-Blue Ash waiting for orientation to begin.  A neighbor whose son cuts our grass has asked me to help judge a regional speech and debate competition for home-schooled kids.  Two of her three boys will compete. 

In my former life, I worked as a political speechwriter.  She thinks this qualifies me to judge.  I’m not sure about this but am flattered and sign up anyway.

I haven’t realized there will be so many kids.  Boys and girls ranging in age from 12 to 18 from southern Indiana, northern Kentucky and southwest Ohio are here to compete explains the woman running orientation.  Today’s speeches are the last chance for kids to win and qualify for April’s regional meet.

After orientation I pick a ballot for the speeches I want to judge.  They range from biographical narrative to philosophical to impromptu.  “That one,” I point to a gold stack of ballots.  The official hands me the paperwork and room assignment for humorous speech. 

To be clear, I have no idea what I’m getting myself into.  In my mind, I’m thinking home school stand-up.  Sounds fun, right?  Plus, I’m curious to learn what today’s kids find funny.  Half the things my boys laugh at I do not understand. 

Ballots tucked under my arm, I start off to room 258 where I’ll join two other judges and a timer. 

The first contestant, a tall, blond girl dressed in a patterned skirt and short blazer walks to the front of the room and turns to face us.  “Judges, are you ready?”  Her voice is clear and strong.  We nod.  “Timer, are you ready?” The girl turns to another teen sitting at the table with a stopwatch.  The timer nods that she is.  And we’re off.  

Each competitor recites a memorized ten-minute speech from a work of fiction: Ramona the Pest, Hank the Cowdog, Mark Twain, the real story of the Big Bad Wolf.  There’s no stand-up but it’s still entertaining.  The kids are poised, self-possessed and polished. 

In fact, they’re pretty amazing.  I can’t fight the feeling that I’d never have been able to do this at their age.  They had me at “judges, are you ready.”

I love it so much that I sign up for the finals in three weeks. 

*If you live in the Cincinnati area and have three hours to spare, consider signing up.  They’ll need more than 400 judges for the three-day event to be held in West Chester.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It Takes A Village

Day 167
I hear them before I see them. Laughter travels faster in sunny weather.
A preschooler on a ride-on scooter is barreling towards the road.  Legs straight up and a smile that splits his face, he’s going for broke.  Nothing’s going to stop him!  

Except me. 

To my left I see an oncoming car equally as oblivious to the oncoming child as the boy is to the speeding car.  I run across the street and block the cul-de-sac entrance.  I jump back and forth to slow the boy who giggles at my crazy dance, drops his legs and stops.  On his feet again, he grabs the scooter’s handles and drags it back up the street.

Would the boy have stopped on his own?  Maybe.  I wasn’t willing to take that chance.  Like all mothers, I possess a unique ability to see disaster in every situation.  (I know.  It’s a gift.) 

Wet floor: You could slip and BREAK your neck!  Forgotten hat:  Put that on or you’ll get pneumonia!  Every crosswalk: STOP and look both ways, TWICE, or you’ll get run over by a car! 

I know what you’re thinking.  Wow!  She sounds fun!  I want her at my next party! 

I see the words hang in imaginary conversation bubbles above my head and wonder when did I become so crazy.  When did I start to see catastrophe where reckless fun once prevailed?     

Yes, it takes a village to raise a child.  What can I say?  Every village also has its idiot.   


Day 166
I. and I notice the stopped car from further up the street.  Inside, a man and woman appear to be arguing in the front seat.  One points left while the other shakes her head and points right.

As we walk closer, the man pushes his head out of his open car window and yells to us on the sidewalk.  “Hey?”  He waits until he has our full attention.  “Do you know where Kroger is?” 

We do.  The boys and I often walk to the grocery store after school to pick up an item or two that I’ve forgotten for dinner.  “Turn left, follow this road until it dead ends then turn right.  It’s on the other side of Tollgate.” 

The man smiles.  Relieved.  The woman turns away from him in the seat.  I’m guessing she’s been the one lobbying for turning right.

The man flicks his hand in a wave and turns down the corner in the direction of the store. 

“Does giving directions to a stranger count as a random act of kindness?” I. asks.

It does I tell him.  Helping someone lost find his way absolutely counts.  

Tricky Leprechaun

Day 165
When I was little we didn’t have any McKenzie O’Shamrock.  

Santa?  Yes.  The Easter Bunny?  Absolutely.  The Tooth Fairy?  Occasionally, if my parents remembered.  Not today's kids.  They've got a list of others, most of whom I'd never heard of until the boys introduced us. 

The first St. Patrick's Day McKenzie O’Shamrock visited our house, he dyed toilet water green, filled my car with green helium balloons, filled the kids’ rooms with helium balloons and sprinkled rainbow glitter in a path from their bedroom to the pack patio. 

The next year, he slacked a bit.  He got the toilet water (always a winner) and tied one green balloon to the boys’ doorknobs with a bag of rainbow Skittles. 

This year: toilet water and a box of Lucky Charms.  I think the cereal is genius and am actually quite proud of myself.  A dapper leprechaun smiles out from the package of the sugary cereal I normally refuse to buy.  

“That’s it?” the kids ask when they see it.  

“Guess so,” I reply.   

“But where’s the candy?” A. says.  “He always leaves us the candy.” 

I remind him that technically he’s only left candy the one year.  “Leprechauns are unreliable,” I tell them.

After some more grousing, we agree to write McKenzie a note.  “How’s he going to know if you don’t tell him?” I reason. 

“Will he come back?” A. asks.  “You know.  With the candy?”   

I assure him he only visits each house one time.  “Keep your fingers crossed for next year.”

Although it may seem a contradiction, the addition of more magical houseguests gives me as a parent an opportunity to slow down.  With kids growing up a million miles a minute, if a box of sugary cereal left by a trickster leprechaun puts on the brakes, I’m all for it.   

And for those who’ve never tried it, nothing beats green toilet water for funny. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rear End Push

Day 164
Today’s entry isn’t about what I did but instead of what I didn’t. 

It’s got me thinking. 

My husband often comments on people’s lack of self-awareness.  Walking in downtown Chicago, someone bumps the kids and keeps going without a look back or even an insincere “sorry.”  Maybe a driver pulls into a parking spot at the mall that you’ve been idling with your blinker on waiting for it to open up.

Things like this happen all the time.  Sometimes you’re the bumper.  Sometimes you’re the bumped.     

Standing in line at Joann Fabric, I mentally list the craft projects on my current to do list and wonder what in the name of all things sacred would possess me to ask the clerk to cut me fabric.  And then I ask her to cut me fabric. 

The pull of $1.99 patterns and the idea of a snuggly spring robe to sit and sip coffee in prove too strong to resist.

Arms full of material, I walk toward the front to check out.  A young mother stands in front of me.  Her daughter sings a song I’m fairly certain she’s making up as she goes at a volume a mother of three boys appreciates.  She’s loud and proud. 

I love this.  Except if it were my own child, then I would be shhh-ing and wondering why my kid is always the loudest in the store.  But it’s not my child, so I enjoy the performance.  Rock it, girl. 

As the little girl belts out a second verse, her mom does the one-hand maneuver.  It’s been a few years since I needed to balance a newborn in one arm and fish out my wallet, rummage through to find the right card and sign a receipt with the other hand.  She manages all this without waking her infant.  She moves off, her daughter’s song reaching a pitch that wakes the baby. 

“At least he’ll only cry in the car and not the store,” she quips to me.  Oh, no.  The store’s better, I think.  Closed spaces and crying babies are bad.  It hasn’t been THAT long. 

I step forward and place my items on the counter.  I’m thinking about cutting fabric and notions and completely oblivious to the mother struggling with the heavy double door. 

Did I remember to pick up matching thread?  Do I have elastic at home in my sewing box or should I pick some up? 

“Do you need help?” It’s the clerk who calls over to the woman.  Her words shake me from my daze.  The mother’s turned backwards and pushes the heavy glass door with her rear end.  It’s an awkward but effective move.  With a last grunt, she’s on the sidewalk. 

How easy would have it been to have run over to help her?  Easy.  But I wasn’t paying attention. 

As much as I write how opportunities abound.  They don’t if you’re not paying attention. 

Lesson learned, momma.  Lesson learned.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy, Healing Thoughts

Day 163
Walking into Cincinnati Children’s today brings back memories.  Diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis at two days old, our youngest spent the first several weeks of his life in and out of the Heart Clinic. 

Today, a healthy, hell-raising, five-year-old, it’s hard to imagine a time when he struggled to breath. 

Ironically, A. who entered the world the most frail of our three now threatens the safety of his brothers nearly every day.  The kid is a monster.  Strong and athletic, he’s four feet of coiled muscle ready to spring into action.  The fact that he lives and breathes super heros and dreams of growing up to be Captain America, if there’s a rumble, place your bet on my boy. 

What a difference a couple of years can make. 

In our house, his earlier heart condition is a non-issue.  The doctors fixed it.  It’s done.  We don’t want him to grow up thinking he’s different (health-wise) than any other kid.  We also don’t want our other boys to feel like they’re less special because they were born with healthy hearts. 

I’d push the whole memory from my mind if it weren’t for our annual check.  That’s why we’re here.  

We share an elevator with a mom, dad and their infant son.  From the number of times they check the directory, I’m certain this visit is their first.  The mother coos at her son and pushes a piece of downy hair out of his face. 

I know what she’s doing.  I do.  I remember constantly touching A. to remind myself that he was OK.  Or would be soon. 

I also know her guilt.  When you have a child born with a congenital defect, there’s a lot of blaming.  What could I have done differently during my pregnancy?  How did this happen?  Why? Why? Why?     

It was author Elizabeth Stone who first wrote, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  I look at this mother and know she feels this.  Imagine the devastation when that heart is broken.    

I say a prayer and send happy, healing thoughts to the family.  They may have a long road ahead of them.  I don’t know the details of their story and I don’t need to.  If they are here, they are scared.

If you don’t believe in prayer, believe in positive energy.  As long as it’s heartfelt, it all helps.   

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sing for Spring

Day 162
It’s one of those gorgeous spring days when people talk to strangers like they’re friends.   

I zip through Kroger and grab the few items I need for dinner.  I want to spend as little time inside today as is humanly possible.

An elderly woman pulls in next to me as I’m unloading my bags into my car. 

“Can I have your cart if you’re done?” she asks. 

I’m using one of the smaller double-decker carts.  While not everyone might agree, I love the smaller compact carts for quick trips.  I turn the cart and push it towards her handle first.  That’s when I notice her cane. 

She grabs the handle and places her cane in the backseat of her car.  It never occurred to me until now that the smaller carts also are makeshift walkers with places for canned corn. 

I hold the back of the cart and she shifts her weight to balance herself.

“Do you need anything else from the car?” 

“My purse.  In the front seat.”

I turn, hand her purse then shut the car door. 

We stand and chitchat about the weather and how the first burst of spring makes us both feel.  Happy. 

I’m feeling happy.    

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Let Me Talk

Day 161
Each week I participate in speech therapy with my oldest child.  The 30-minute sessions give him techniques to increase his speech fluency and tips on living life as a person who stutters. 

This week, we talk about what it feels like when someone finishes his sentences.  This happens a lot with stutterers.  Some do it because think they’re helping.  Others jump in out of their own frustration. 

Either way, it goes without saying: You can’t be heard if no one lets you talk. 

“I mean after four times of being interrupted, I get mad,” I. confesses.  Four?  What a hothead, right? 

He’s got a point.  We live in a house of talkers.  At dinner, it’s a battle to see who gets to share their day first.  Usually the loudest wins.  It’s no mystery Chaz and I buy Tylenol at Costco. 

In my mind, I’ve lumped interrupting together with finishing another’s sentence.  Today, I’m going to not interrupt when someone else is talking.  Instead, I’ll focus on listening. 

Don’t believe that’s a random act of kindness?  Try it.  It’s harder than you might think. 

Happy Birthday to Me

Day 160
In forty-two years, I’ve eaten my share of birthday cake.  Today, I’m not looking for reasons to overdose on chocolate.  I’ve got a different idea.      

Countless opportunities exist to help others.  From across the world to down the street, no cause is more or less worthy than another.  If you need help, you need help.  Period. 

For me, I’m a firm believer in starting at home. Operation Give Back in Blue Ash helps kids within the Sycamore school district.  Three days a week they provide after-school tutoring.
The phone rings three times before the receptionist picks up. 

“Hi.  This may sound crazy.  It’s my birthday and I was hoping to bring cupcakes by for the kids after school.  Do you need snacks?”  Nothing. 


“Today?  You wanted to bring them today?” 

Wendy tells me how many kids they’ll tutor this afternoon.  Within a half-hour, I’m at Kroger buying a mix of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.  I pick the ones covered in cobalt blue frosting and “Happy Birthday” signs stuck in the tops.  Hey, it’s my party.  I just don’t need to be there.   

Pulling up to Operation Give Back’s main offices, I plan to slip in, leave the cupcakes and hightail it home.  Think Dine and Dash but opposite. 

Wendy catches me stacking the plastic containers on her desk. 

 “We were just talking about how we didn’t have snacks for the kids when you called.” 


Wendy grasps her hands together in prayer and lifts them to her face.  “We were talking to the office manager to see how much money we had to spend and the phone rang.” 

A chill runs up my arm.  “I think I just got goose bumps.” 

“We all got goose bumps.” 

How’s that for a birthday present?  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Push Present

Day 159
It’s essential that today go well.  We’re introducing Spot to the new puppy.  The rescue folks will watch the exchange and decide if the adoption is a go. 

I’m a tad nervous but try and put it into perspective.  It’s two dogs we’re talking about not a Middle East peace summit.  (I don’t think I’ll share this with the rescue folks.  They like us.  Clearly we’ve been on our best behavior and I want them to continue to wear their pretty rose-colored glasses.) 

We bring something with us to the meeting.  Think of it as a push present, a time-honored tradition of showering a new mother with a gift after the labor of “pushing” during childbirth.   

When I was pregnant the first time, my doctor gave November 15 as our due date.  Smack in the middle of the month, we felt confident we’d have a Thanksgiving baby.  Instead we had a Halloween one. 

My water broke four weeks early at my ten-year college reunion.  By the time my two friends and I drove the 40 miles from Granville to Columbus, Chaz had paced a path in the front porch.  The four (or five?) of us headed to the hospital and the fun began.  For the next nine hours the fun continued.  I. entered the world at 7:30 the next morning. 

My husband, the best gift giver ever, asked the nurse to repeat the date.  Twice. 

“Sh#t, sh#t, sh#t,”  he muttered in a wonderful impression of a homeless lunatic. 

At this point, I was more than a little annoyed.  I'd had kind of a night.  What in heavens name had he got to complain about?  Last time I checked, I did the hard part.  "Will you please stop?"  

That’s when he pulled from his pocket a small velvet covered box.  Inside was my push present, a custom-designed ring set with diamonds and blue topaz, the November birthstone.  

“I’ll get it changed,” he said.  “Not a chance,” I laughed.  Years later, I love the ring even more because of the wrong stones.   

Our gift for the puppy’s mom isn’t anything as elaborate as a ring but instead a rawhide bone.  Puppy Pushing?  It counts.  Maybe it counts more since Bella birthed eight kids while I can brag of birthing only one at a time. 

Come on now, eight puppies?  Throw that girl a bone.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pump It Up

Day 158
I’m trying to convince that staying inside the car to watch F.’s lacrosse practice is nicer than running around.  It’s a losing battle.  Who wants to sit quietly when there’s a baseball diamond, playground and tetherball within steps? 

“Wanna play?” A. asks picking up the yellow rubber ball.  A cord of thin white rope connects it to a pole.  We position ourselves on opposite sides and A. gives the ball a smack.  It sails around the pole where I attempt to return it with the palm of my hand.   

“You have to let me win,” he informs me and I dial down my game.  It’s always good to set clear expectations.

After ten minutes, we escape back to the warmth of the car.   

Angus reaches down and pulls an air pump from beneath the front seat.

“What are you doing?” With boys, you have to ask.  Sometimes you wish you hadn’t, but again, like expectations, it’s better to know. 

“I’m going to pump up the ball,” he says as if nothing could be more obvious. 

It’s brilliant.  And completely random.

We walk to the tether where I hold the ball steady so he can push the silver pin in.  A. pulls back on the pump handle and pushes hard, forcing the air into the deflated ball.  The yellow rubber breathes in response.

“It’s working, keep going,” I cheer.  He pumps a couple dozen times until the ball feels firm and full. 

I love how he’s connecting the idea of the blog and finds ways to commit random acts of kindness on his own.  This idea is unprompted and completely his.  I can’t tell you how much I love it.  Or him.  

Read Across America

Day 157
I’m at the Blue Ash Library waiting for A.’s kindergarten class to arrive.  The outing is part of a series of planned activities for Read Across America Week and his teacher’s continued efforts to get the kids excited about reading.

I spy my curly-topped boy as he bounds into the building waving wildly.  “Hi, Mom!” he yells at a decibel frowned upon by librarians everywhere.  “Hi!” I whisper back. 

The other moms and I follow the kids into a community room where a staff librarian waits.  After the kids settle on the carpet and the adults find chairs, the librarian reads the children a book and explains that each of them may choose and checkout one book as well. 

“If you need help, ask a grown-up,” she instructs.  The kids turn and look at the gaggle of moms who sit quietly in the back ready to assist.

“What do you want to pick?” I ask.  I follow A. and a friend who browse the shelves, pull out titles, reconsider and slide them back into their spots.  “Dinosaurs?  Star Wars?  Legos?”  I draw on the oldies but goodies. 

Each selects a book with the care of a surgeon.  It is a painstaking process that involves EXACT PRECISION.  Books selected, we go to checkout. 

The kids and I return to the community room until the school bus comes back.  I open the pages of A.’s book and begin to read.  A child joins our reading circle.  Then another.  Our impromptu story hour numbers in the double digits when we’re told that the bus is waiting.   

I can’t remember a time I didn’t love to read.  My problem isn’t what to read but what to read next.  A stack too high to ever manage teeters next to my nightstand.  Other books clutter my desk.  Books on tape play in my car CD player.  A self-contained book on tape sits in the bowl with earplugs ready for my next walk with Spot. 

With so many words swirling in my head, they often crowd out coherent thoughts to the point I can’t find the actual word I need to speak.  It’s a small price to pay to be surrounded by stories.      

Saturday, March 10, 2012

White Knuckle Flyer

Day 156
My husband’s recent travel schedule has kept him on the road (or in the sky) every week for the last two months.  The regional trinkets he showers upon us on his return serve as a travel log:  Lone Star sheriff badges, t-shirts from Oakland, California, “moose” droppings from Minnesota.  It’s a virtual touch and feel scrapbook of his cross-country jaunts.     

As a frequent flier, he boards quickly, hunkers down in his seat, opens his laptop and makes himself as inaccessible as possible until he can fall asleep.  Unlike me who treats air travel as a game of “meet your neighbor,” he uses time in the air to decompress with as little conversation as possible.  Which is why his text tonight surprises me.  His response is one I sent earlier about how he enjoyed his flight.    

My RAOK for the day was talking her through the turbulence. 

I immediately text back that he’s making the blog.  For sure. 

Chaz’ seatmate from Chicago to Minneapolis was a white-knuckle flyer returning home after a weekend of wedding planning with her daughter.  “She’s not a girly-girl,” she confided to Chaz.  The two women spent the weekend visiting florists and choosing flowers for the reception and ceremony. 

Every time the plane dipped her fingers curled around the front of the armrest.  With every bump, Chaz, my non-flight-talking-husband, engaged her with conversation of flower arrangements, centerpieces, and “other stuff you need at weddings.” 

He learned more about wedding flowers in his two-hour flight than he did when we planned our wedding thirteen years ago. 

As the plane taxied to the gate, the lady turned and thanked him.  “I knew what you were doing,” she confided.  I imagine she patted his hand in a grandmotherly way. 

To be clear, what he was doing was our family’s daily random act of kindness.  Welcome to the friendly skies! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dog Days

Day 155
As if three boys, a dog and a guinea pig aren’t enough, we’ve decided to add another to the circus.  If there was ever any doubt, let me clarify. Yes, we are that kind of crazy. 
Today was the last step of many to becoming approved to adopt a rescue pup.  Why a rescue and not a breeder?  With so many dogs that need homes, it seemed an easy choice.  We don’t need fancy.  We need family.  A mutt fits the bill just fine.   

Since it isn’t a purebred we’re adopting, the strict application and screening surprised us.  After interviewing all of our references (“How often do they walk their dog?”) and passing a home visit (“Fix that part of the fence.”), we passed.  In the next few weeks, we’ll bring a puppy home chosen by Spot and the boys. 

I say Spot because the rescue volunteers stress to us that our current dog needs to be the one to choose the next dog.  The boys will name him. 

With the addition of a second dog, we’re entered a new phase.  Where once when the kids marked up freshly painted walls I would frantically scrub the spot with a mixture of hot water and pinesol, now I accept new wall dings with a flip “at least the house is still standing.” 

Another dog makes sense.  Chaos likes a crowd.   

We’ve all heard that life is a journey.  I need to remind myself of this from time to time.
I need to embrace every phase.  Every stage.  Every crazy.  Or at least give it an honest try. 

The boys want to name the new puppy Lucky.  How apropos, I think.  How lucky would we all be if we could appreciate what we have when we have it?  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Use Your Words

Day 154
“Thanks, Mom.” 

“You’re welcome.” 

I. considers this.  “Why, ‘You’re welcome’?” 

Hum.  Good question.  Because that’s what my mom taught me to say?  To be honest, I’ve never really thought about it.  It’s reflexive.  It’s automatic.  I know he wants a better reason.  Nothing makes you feel like you’re making it up than having to explain something to your child. 

“It’s a way of acknowledging and accepting someone’s thanks.”  Could it really be this easy?  Oh, no.  He’s not done. 

“But why say that and not something else?” 

I try a different tactic since I have no solid answer to his question.  Nobody can tell me I didn’t learn a thing or two working in politics.  Deflect.  Deflect.  Deflect. 

“Using nice words like please, thank you and you’re welcome show people that you care about them, their feelings and how you treat them.  It’s a way to show kindness with words.”   How’s that for answering without answering?  

He nods his head in understanding. 

I. knows words wound.  Last year two boys in his class teased him about his stuttering.  For weeks, he’d cry himself to sleep, angry he couldn’t change the way he talks.       

He also knows words have the capacity to heal.  Many nights we’d talk well past his bedtime about all the reasons his speech doesn’t define him.  He’s a great friend, a caring brother, a kind son.     

Words are powerful and used for both good and evil.  I want the boys to learn to pick their words carefully.      

Monday, March 5, 2012

Whip it! Whip it good!

Day 153
The weather today makes me wonder if we’ve woken up in another month.  From 68 and sunny to 32 with snow flurries, I suffer from a case of weather whiplash. 

Maybe that’s why the bright pink of the flowers catch my eye.  The boys and I are at Kroger.  We’ve snuck out of the house to buy donuts and to let Daddy sleep.

“What do you think of these?” I ask, picking up the bouquet. 

“Pretty!” A. says. 

F. responds with a less enthusiastic shoulder shrug.  That boy only wants things baked in a circle and covered in frosting,  Why?  Why, woman, do you confuse me with these plant thingies? 

“Who are they for?” I. asks. 

“I was thinking for us.  Maybe in a vase on the kitchen table.”  I love fresh cut flowers.  I’ve dedicated an entire section of my summer garden to growing flowers specifically to cut and keep around the house.  Flowers freshen up any room.  I’d pick flowers over floor polish any day of the week.     

“Or we could give them to Mrs. Jacks.” 

Mrs. Jacks lives across the street from us and recently sold her house.  After forty years in the neighborhood, she’s packing up to move to a retirement home.   

“I think that’s a better idea.”

How do you argue with such wisdom straight from the mouths of babes?    

Running Man

Day 152
In January Chaz joined a local fitness group organized by our neighborhood Fleet Feet store.  Twice a week, the group meets and runs together up and down the streets of Blue Ash and Montgomery.  Speakers share running tips.  Nutritionists help fine-tune their diet.  Runners commiserate with one another and bond over blisters.   

It’s a great program and I’m all about exercise. I know from experience that exercise keeps you sane (and slim).  I’m thrilled he’s found something he enjoys and is making lifestyle choices that will ensure that he’s with us for a long, long time. 

But (the real meat of it always comes after the “but”), I admit I haven’t been as supportive as I could be.  After each run, he hobbles up the stairs and ices his knees.  The next day, he wears icy hot sleeves that allow medicine to penetrate his knees for 8 hours. 

“Maybe running isn’t for you?” I ask.  “Maybe something else wouldn’t hurt your knees as much?”  I bite my tongue to not add “permanently damage.” 

He’s frustrated.  With his knees for not cooperating.  With me for not supporting his new hobby.  He really, really likes it.  And, after Christmas, he’s completely outfitted: new shoes, new thermo pants, running gloves, jackets.  Some might say with a diagnosed case of runner’s knee, he’s truly in the club.   

I. and I visit Dick’s Sporting Goods as part of Mason Youth Baseball Appreciation Day on Saturday to purchase new baseball shoes for the spring season.  Baseball players of all ages pack the store.  Everyone’s armed with coupons.  Everyone’s there to buy.  It’s a mad house.   

After we find a pair of size four cleats, I. and I head over to the running section. 

I want to surprise Chaz with some good running socks.  He’s got a pair he loves and I’m trying to find the same pair.  Who knew there were so many choices?  Thick.  Thin.  Thermal.  Wick-weaved.  I’m exhausted just looking.  I don’t need to run, I think I need a nap. 

We pick what we think are the pair he’ll like, buy them and take them home.  “We got you something,” I say.  I. rustles through the bag, pulls out the socks and hands them to Chaz. 

“Are they the right ones?”  I ask hopefully.     

He flips them over and inspects the cotton.  “No, but I’ll keep them.” 

Give me a little credit.  I’m trying.