Category Archives: parenting

Katie’s New Life


April 3rd, 2011, was a day I’ve been praying for since my beautiful daughter was born, twelve years ago.  That was the day Katie declared to the world that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Lord and Savior of her life!

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  -3 John 1:4


“… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  -Romans 3:23

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for an unrighteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  -Romans 5:6

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  -John 3:16

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’  Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.'”  -Acts 2:37-39

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone; the new has come!”  -2 Corinthians 5:17

Lost and Found


I know we all misplace things sometimes, but it seems that Katie and Caleb have raised the art of losing stuff to a whole new level.

I don’t know if it’s all kids, or just mine.  Routinely, they can’t find their homework, their shoes, or their lunch boxes.  I give them their allowance and it disappears somewhere in the twenty feet between the front door and their banks.  One day over a year ago, they were playing hide-and-seek with their favorite stuffed animals, and Caleb’s precious penguin, Flipper, hid so well that he hasn’t been seen since.

Perhaps the most exasperating ongoing battle to get them to keep track of their stuff revolves around a little gadget called the Nintendo DS.  They had both been saving up forever for this handheld gaming console when Paul and I surprised them last year by springing for the difference as a reward for an especially great set of report cards.  Katie got a pink DS, and Caleb’s was red.  By the looks on their faces, they thought all their Christmases had come at once, and it didn’t take them long to rip open the packaging and start playing the games that had come with the units.

It took approximately thirty seconds for Katie to lose her stylus for the first time.  The stylus is a tiny pen-shaped plastic stick that is essential for using the DS.  It slides into a little channel in the back of the DS and clicks into place.  Unfortunately, the “click” doesn’t last long for a heavy user, and soon the stylus slides freely out place any time the unit is tilted.  I have lost track of all the times either Katie or Caleb has lost a stylus.  Paul and I used to participate in the ritual combing of the house, turning over pillows and looking under beds until the wayward plastic nuisance was located, but after the first thousand times, we stopped doing that, hoping that the irritation of having to search all alone would motivate the kids to keep better tabs on their things.  I’m sure it’s going to start working any day now.

And it’s not just the styluses (styli?).  The games, which are about the size of breath mints, also go missing regularly.  While they’re playing, Caleb and Katie have a bad habit of tossing the game they just removed from the DS onto whatever surface is handy–bed, floor, table.   It’s not unusual for me to run across loose games while I’m cleaning the house, often just before I almost vacuum them up.  I used to take the games away for a week when I found them out of their cases, but that didn’t seem to help.  They just turned to the next game and waited with annoying patience for the “jailed” game to be free again.

Finally, though, they lost something they do care about.  A few weeks ago, they misplaced their one remaining working charge cable.  Neither of them was sure where they had lost it.  Maybe at a friend’s house where they spent the evening.  Maybe at home amidst the carnival of crud holding sway in their bedrooms.  No idea.  We’ve searched, we’ve called, we’ve checked everywhere they can remember having it, but it has not turned up.  It’s been a DS-free zone at our house for almost a month.  Paul and I, meanies that we are, flat out refused to buy a new cable to replace the one that had been lost.  At last, today, the kids broke down and asked if I would take them to the store to buy new cables out of their allowance.

So that’s what we did.

Paul thinks that having to spend $15 each of their own precious savings to replace the cables will act as a good incentive to be more responsible.  I sure hope he’s right.

As for me, I’ll keep watching where I vacuum.

Fighting for the Kids


This morning over breakfast, Caleb turned to me with a serious look on his face and asked, “Do you and Dad ever have fights?”

I almost laughed and blurted out, “Of course we do!”, but caught myself.  Instead, I tried to give the answer a gravity equal to that with which Caleb had asked the question.

“Well, we don’t have the kind of fights where you throw things or hit people, if that’s what you mean.  But we do have arguments and disagreements.  Haven’t you heard us arguing about anything before?”

He thought for a moment.  “No, not that I can remember.”

I was aghast.  I assure you, Paul and I have the normal number of squabbles and differing opinions.

Caleb asked, “What do you argue about?”

I tried to think of the last few times we’d had to work out a problem with each other.  “Well, let’s see… we’ve had arguments about how to spend money, and about the best way to discipline you kids.  We’ve also had silly disagreements–about things like whether or not your dad was going to take cold medicine, or where to store our game controllers.  All married couples have arguments.”

He went back to his breakfast, question answered.  I, however, was still wondering.

Perhaps, I thought, Caleb just hasn’t been very observant and doesn’t notice our occasional moments of discord.  I tried to remember the last time Paul and I argued with each other in front of the kids.  I couldn’t think of one instance.  Maybe we’ve been so deliberate over the years about presenting a united front to Katie and Caleb in matters of parenting and discipline that the habit spilled over into shielding them from all of our conflicts.

I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

It’s important for kids to witness the way that adults work things out.  Psychologists tell us that children learn how to handle conflict by watching others, especially parents, handle theirs.  Have we left a void in that part of our children’s education?  How else will they learn the give and take of compromise, or the unconditional love that isn’t shaken by momentary frustration or anger?  If we don’t model the techniques of asserting, listening, and reflecting, where will they learn to communicate effectively?

I’m not entirely sure that we have a problem in this area (I should probably expand my research pool to include Katie, who’s four years older and probably more tuned in to the adults in her sphere), but it’s definitely something I’m going to be more aware of from now on.  Conflict is a inescapable fact of human existence, and I want our kids to know how to approach it in a healthy way.

Now I just have to pick a fight with Paul.  Hmmm… maybe we could argue about who would win in a cage match between Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs.  That should keep us going for a while.

Motherhood: The Lesser Known Lectures


By the time I got pregnant with our first child, I considered myself something of an expert on motherly lectures, having been on the receiving end of countless iterations of such classics as “If Everyone Else Jumped Off a Cliff, Would You Do It, Too?” and “This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You.” I could recite “Well, I’m Not Everybody Else’s Mother” in three languages, and I was already rehearsing “Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees, You Know” in anticipation of the onslaught of kid-centric advertising sandwiched in between Saturday morning cartoons.

In short, I thought I was prepared.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Perhaps our kids are just unique. Or maybe my memory of childhood is not that clear. Whatever the cause, I have found myself cast adrift, forced to spin parenting soliloquys from thin air for situations I never dreamed of as I prepared to bring a new little life into the world. It was clear as soon as my tiny darlings began to walk and talk and interact with others that there were some pages missing in my Motherhood Manual, key lectures that I was forced to deliver with little or no preparation. Allow me to list a few of them for your edification. And, as if the subjects aren’t strange enough, remember–these are all speeches I’ve had to give more than once:

  • “Girls Don’t Like to Be Told They’re Squishy, Even If They Are”
  • “The Coffee Table is Not a Surfboard” (closely related to that maternal classic: “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”)
  • “Are You Really Standing There Telling Me You Didn’t Do It When You Know I Just Saw You Do It?”
  • “Underwear is Not Optional”
  • “You Two Are Family, and Family Doesn’t Hit Each Other In the Face With Light Sabers”
  • “If You Come Upstairs to Wake Us Up Before Six A.M., Your Hair Better Be On Fire”
  • “School Starts In Ten Minutes! Why Didn’t You Tell Me You Needed to Dress Up As a Dr. Seuss Character/Baseball Player/Ice Cream Sundae Before Now?”
  • “Don’t Just Say You’re Sorry–Show You’re Sorry”
  • “After You Belch or Pass Gas, The Correct Response is ‘Excuse Me’, Not ‘Good One!'” (This one is not limited to the children of the house, I’m sorry to say.)

How about you? What unexpected parenting lectures seem to take place over and over in your house?

Parenting Confession #113: The Candy Basket


It took becoming a parent to realize just how many of the holidays we celebrate every year are top-to-bottom, sugar-encrusted, caramel-coated, nougat-filled candy fests.  There’s Halloween, that celebration of extortion and vandalism in which tiny cute people dressed like cartoon characters give you a choice between handing over your Hershey’s Miniatures and cleaning egg off your front door.  A couple of short months later, Christmas follows, and the stockings hung by the chimney with care are stuffed with candy canes and five pounds bags of M&Ms.  In the spring, the dastardly duo of Valentine’s Day and Easter litter the landscape with conversation hearts and marshmallow bunnies.

And those are just the national holidays.  Then there are the birthdays with their attendant goodie bags, the special party days at school, and the candy treats from Bible class given as rewards for learning memory verses.

Somewhere along the line, we came up with the Candy Basket.

It’s brilliant, if I do say so myself.  See, whenever a candyful occasion comes up, we let the kids choose two or three pieces of candy to eat right away, and the rest of it goes into the Candy Basket.  From there, it can be doled out for occasional after dinner treats or tucked in a lunchbox.

Or…um…  repurposed.

Specifically, for the same events where we got the candy in the first place.

That’s right.  This morning, along with craft kits and Dollar Tree toys, I filled my kids’ Easter baskets with candy from the Candy Basket–candy gleaned from past Halloweens, past birthday parties, and–yes–even yesterday’s Easter Egg Hunt.

And if that’s not underhanded enough, would anyone care to guess where the bulk of that Easter candy went after the kids were done going through their baskets?


I told you it was brilliant.

A Pox on Thee, Dav Pilkey!


This morning after recess, we took a few minutes out of class time to practice for the talent show.  With the big night only two weeks away, the kids have been buzzing with excitement, visions of their own American Idol moments dancing through their heads as we work on our bring-down-the-house kindergarten musical numbers: Magalena Hagalena, Grandpa’s Farm, and the class favorite, Fishy.

“Have you ever seen a fishy on a hot summer’s day?

Have you ever seen a fishy out swimming in the bay?

With his hands in his pockets and his pockets in his pants,

Have you ever seen a fishy do the Hootchie-Kootchie Dance?”

We’ve sung it a thousand times, but during today’s practice session, the giggles and squeals grew progressively louder, exceeding the usual gleeful enjoyment that accompanies each child’s personal interpretation of the “Hootchie-Kootchie Dance.”

I looked around for the source of the uproar, and there he was.

My son.

His jeans were puddled down around his knees, his Disney Cars underwear boldly flashing back and forth as he clapped in time to the song’s rowdy chorus.

“Caleb!” I screeched.

The note of hysteria in my voice finally penetrated the cloud of delighted chaos that had overtaken the class at the sight of one of their classmates in his underwear.  A hush descended as they all waited to see what hideous repercussions might befall the perpetrator of such a shocking act.

What are you doing?” I hissed.  “Pull your pants up!  Why are you doing that???”

He did as I asked.  Finally, nearing tears, he explained, “Mom, I was just showing everybody the Underpants Dance!”


Oh, no.

Oh, no, no, no.

I recognized that dance.  Somewhere inside, I had always known that my carefree, lackadaisical attitude toward juvenile reading material would one day come back to haunt me.  As it turned out, today was that day.

My baby, my precious little boy, had been hopelessly corrupted…by Captain Underpants.

I tried to continue with the class, but, as with a natural disaster or a cataclysmic world event, there was no going back to normal life without a pause for closure.  We finished singing our other songs, and I looked around to see Caleb, dejected, staring at the floor, barely moving his lips.  As the class took their seats, I gently asked him, “What’s wrong, bub?”

“I’m embarrassed about myself, Mom.”

“It’s okay, buddy,” I reassured him with a hug, having had enough time to recover my own composure.  “You didn’t know.  And everybody in here still likes you just fine.  Right, class?”

“Right!” they echoed dutifully.

“For future notice, though–and this is a rule for everyone,” I emphasized, raising my gaze to take in the entire room, “Underwear is private.  You’re not supposed to show it to anyone else.  Okay?”


And just like that, it was over.  We moved on to math, and the incident wasn’t mentioned again all day.

Still, a part of me is waiting for that phone call from an irate parent demanding to know just what kind of talent show we’re running here.

Crowning the New Spelling Queen



The spelling bee brought together all the private schools in the area.  Grade by grade, the spellers stepped forward to sit in a row of cold metal chairs beneath the glaring gymnasium lights.  Fourth grade started things off, drawing numbers and sitting in order, nervously fidgeting and kicking their feet while each awaited his moment to stand up and twist the letters of the alphabet into one of their numberless permutations.

In the stands, I was tense.  Not for the outcome, which didn’t concern me so much, but for Katie’s feelings.  Part of her struggle with Asperger’s is an occasional inability to cope with strong emotions, and I was afraid of how she would handle the losing part of competition.  Would she be overwhelmed and burst into tears of disappointment?  Or would she bear up with stoic seriousness until the round was over?  Although I had tried my best beforehand to prepare her for the possibility, I held my breath every time she stood to spell.

Round after round, she spelled each word correctly.  On a couple of them, she asked for a sentence or a definition.  The pronouncer told me later that as he watched her mull over each word, he could see the exact moment when the light bulb went on in her head.  She spoke the letters clearly and confidently, emphasizing each one with a jab of her finger, as if she could see the word hovering in the air in front of her.


Finally, it was down to two.  Both girls did a wonderful job, but in the end, Katie was declared the winner.  A big grin lit her face and she did a silent herky of joy as the announcer congratulated her, then turned to me with an expression of amazed happiness that clearly said, “Can you believe it, Mom?”  The second place winner, who will be the alternate in the next stage of the competition, tapped Katie on the shoulder and, with the beginning of tears welling up in her eyes, graciously said, “You did a good job!”  “So did you!” Katie returned, and a cacophony of congratulations swelled around us.  For the rest of the day, Katie was a mini celebrity at school, delighted recipient of hugs and compliments everywhere she went.

I thought I couldn’t possibly be any prouder of her.

This morning she proved me wrong.

On the day of the spelling bee, the judges had explained the rules of elimination, including the procedure for having two spellers left in the competition.  At the moment Katie won, I had been expecting her to have to spell another word to claim victory.  When they suddenly declared her the winner, the attendant hubbub as I filled out papers and made proud phone calls to friends and family swept that detail to the back of my mind and I didn’t think of it again all day.  This morning, however, I woke up with it nagging at me, and wondered if a mistake had been made.

I dug the rule paper out of Katie’s desk and looked over it again, but it didn’t shed much light.  I paced and fretted, fretted and paced, until Paul urged me to do whatever it took to set my heart at rest.  I couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing Katie and somehow taking this victory away from her, but I knew that it was important to make sure everything had been done fairly, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wouldn’t be right to let it go without checking.  So I took the matter to Katie.

I explained to her that I was wondering about whether the administrator had made a mistake on the rules.  I pointed out the rule to her and told her what it would mean if we called the spelling bee officials to investigate.  “They may consider the results of the spelling bee fair and binding, or they may ask us to come back in so that you can replay the last round of the competition again.  If that happens, there is a chance you could lose, sweetie.  What do you think we should do?”

She only paused for a second.  Then she sighed a little and said, “Let’s call them, Mom.”

I thought my heart would burst.

As a parent, you always wonder if the lessons you are trying so hard to impart to your children are sinking in.  Treating others fairly, being honest in small things and large, doing what is right even when it is most difficult or costly–these are the hallmarks of integrity, and to see it blossoming in my child made the joyful celebration of yesterday pale into insignificance.

I pulled her up into my lap and told her that.  Later, we called the spelling bee arbiter and explained our concern.  He cleared up my misunderstanding of the rule and reassured us that Katie’s victory was well-earned and would stand.  He wished her good luck and reminded her to study.  He remembered her, he told me, for the smile that lit up her whole face when she got a word correct.  “Like she has a glow inside,” he said.

Yes, I thought.  Yes, she does.

May it shine on.

Another Rule I Never Knew I Needed


I knew it wasn’t good news when Teri pulled me aside after the kids came in from lunch recess today.  Caleb had gone straight to his desk to color and was acting suspiciously nonchalant, which is a hard look for a five year old to pull off.

“There was a little…ah, problem during recess,” she began.  I braced myself.

“Caleb, well…he went to the bathroom out on the playground.”


“Peed.  Out on the playground.”  She seemed to be hiding a grin.

I was dumbfounded.

“Wow.  Um, okay…I’ll, I’ll talk to him.  Thanks, Teri.”

And then she left me alone to have a tête-à-tête with the tiny tinkler.

Seriously?  “Don’t pee on the playground” is a rule that actually has to be spelled out?

Feh.  I guess I’ll just add it to the list.

Clearly I never need to worry about finding something to write with Mommy’s Little Blog Content Generator around.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do


After sharing a room with his sister for all five years of his life, Caleb is not sure how he feels about having his own bedroom.  More to the point, he definitely doesn’t love it that Katie has her own room, a room into which she can retreat at will and close the door on his brotherly pleas for attention.  Tonight, wearied by an unrelenting string of knock-knock jokes, she did just that, leaving Caleb standing forlornly alone in the hallway.

Not to be deterred, Caleb got down on his belly on the floor and directed his comments to the crack under the door:

“But Katie, I love you and I want to play with you!”



The door did not answer.

I couldn’t stand it.  I was on the verge of bursting into to Katie’s new retreat to demand, cajole, and otherwise compel her cheerful cooperation when I remembered that the promise of giving her a sacred space all her own was one of the reasons we moved in the first place.

Instead, I gathered Caleb up onto my lap and tried to soften the blow with some uninterrupted Mommy attention.

It worked pretty well, if I do say so myself.

All the same, as much as we looked forward to being able to provide the kids with their own space, it’s a little bittersweet to close the book on this room-sharing chapter of their lives.  I’ll miss the sound of their giggles as they kept each other awake long after lights out.  I’ll miss the tent castles they erected around their bunk beds with blankets and pillows.  I’ll miss the joint goodnight rituals and Caleb asking to be lifted into the top bunk for our nighttime prayer.  I’ll miss tiptoeing back in hours later to say a prayer of my own over the two sleeping forms in the bed, gazing at the beloved faces with helpless adoration and a painful recognition of how quickly my time with them is passing.

I’m glad I have those memories.  I’m glad they do.

I’m also glad that they’re stretching their legs at last and enjoying some long-awaited independence and privacy.

But I’m still not sure how I feel about that closed door.

I suppose in a few years I’ll be the one on the floor, talking to the crack.



As a fairly busy full-time homemaker and stay-at-home mom, I often wondered how women who worked for a paycheck by day and cared for a home and family by night ever found the time to do it all.

Now that I am a member of the legion of working mothers, I can finally and definitively answer that question for myself:

I don’t.

(Apologies to those of you out there who can and have and currently are doing it all and doing it quite well, thank-you-very-much.  Clearly I’m not talking to you.  You are Super Mom.  I’ve heard of you.  You have inadvertently stumbled across the blog of a well-intentioned, intermittently inspired, but *Merely Mortal Mom.  This blog is like yours, but with whining.  Allow me to redirect you:  Be sure to check out their online store for the stylish new Maya Wrap/cape combo!)

Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh, yes…

I miss housework.

Did I type that?  I must have, but I dozed off for a minute there, so I’m not entirely sure.  It’s true, nonetheless.

When I was at home, I did housework every day.  Mostly when I felt like it, with occasional breaks for reading or playing with Caleb or running errands, but with a regularity and efficiency that rendered my weekends completely free for family frivolity and lovely, languid afternoons of shameless vegetating.

Now the dreamlike landscape of my weekends has given way to a strange continent of laundry mountains, flowing with rivers of dishwashing detergent.  I’m playing catch up, but I must not be very good, because I haven’t caught up yet.

When I was working at home, I stayed up until midnight every evening with my night owl husband, nourishing my marriage with long, soulful talks and marathon horde-bashing sessions, knowing that I could always make up for it the next day with a quick doze on the couch when Caleb went down for a nap.

Now I’m the fuddy duddy falling asleep on the couch at nine-thirty, head back, mouth open as if frozen in the act of teaching my kindergarten class the short “o” sound–which is probably what I’m dreaming about.

When I was a full-time domestic engineer, I ran a tight ship.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  Dust was banished.  The toilet was clean.  The kids’ toys were sorted neatly into categorized bins at bedtime.  I cared about these things, deeply.

In recent weeks, I have waded through the contents of an upturned toy box to tuck the kids into bed, stopping only to kick a clear path to the door.  I have been slowly cultivating a science experiment of alarming color in the bowl of the toilet, and yesterday I wrote my To Do List in the dust on the coffee table.

To put it simply, I’m floundering.

I know the most important things are getting done.  I’m teaching, and I love it.  I’m spending time with my children, hugging and playing and reading a little every day.  Paul does help out when he can, and he and I still get some time together every night, even if we are under the gun to get in bed before my coach turns into a pumpkin.  Life is good, and I have absolutely no reason to complain (but when has that stopped me?)

The truth is, I miss my tight ship.  How do they do it, those other moms?

I am such a weenie.

Where’s a super hero when you really need one?