I recently commented on Facebook that my job is much like childbirth. If women didn’t forget the pain of each birthing experience, the human race would eventually cease to exist.

I know. I birthed three boys. Only once did I have an epidural and it was quite possibly the worst experience of my life.

So childbirth. Like my job. I’m a university event planner. I love what I do. Except when I don’t.

The three weeks between Thanksgiving and our Winter Commencement are, in a word, busy. And I don’t mean busy as in a busy-weekend-three-kids-and-each-0f-them-has-to-be-a-different-place-all-at-3 pm-busy.

I mean busy like our office has a role in literally every single event that takes place on campus. And those three weeks are like every single department perked up and said, “Huh. The semester’s almost over. And we still have thirty-five-eleven meetings to get through. And we need to schedule our holiday party. And the honors assembly. And the donor dinner. And we forgot to schedule our event for the first week back in January.

And don’t forget the department that absolutely MUST plan the conference that is scheduled for March. Two years from now.

It’s a bit crazy. Much like my life with three children. When we were a family of three I thought my life was busy.

Then we became a family of four. With a dog.

And then Little Darth was born. Somehow along the way I forgot about the pain and the busyness.

And life was good. Because the busyness fades into peace. And the crazy gives way to calm.

And you realize that you are grateful for it all.


For Sandy Hook

Every night at dinner Little Darth stands up in his booster and reaches his chubby little arms around my neck. “Tisses Mama” he murmurs…and proceeds to kiss my face multiple times.

Every night at dinner I recognize this as his “stalling technique”…and after a few kisses I gently sit him back in his booster. “Thank you sweetie. Mama loves kisses but it’s time to eat now. No more kisses. Mama wants to eat. Time for Little Darth to eat too.”

Tonight dinner waited. Tonight I took those sweet chubby arms and little wet “tisses”. All of them.

And returned them with sweet sorrow in honor of the mommies and daddies who couldn’t.


Auld Lang Syne

So in an attempt to recover what’s left of my sanity reflect on the last 12 months and blog more regularly, I’ve decided to join #WEverb 12. I’m sure the writing will be very different that using the prompts that my middle school Language Arts teacher used to provide us.

Or at least I hope it will be. I’m still holding out some sort of dream that I have the Great American Novel a book somewhere in me.

At any rate, since today is the 2nd already (Seriously?! December 2nd?! And it’s 62* and sunny in Chicago. People are putting up Christmas decorations in shorts and t-shirts. Really.), today is a two-fer on the writing prompts.

If you’re a blogger (or not, #weverb12 says you can even use a crumpled piece of paper in your cubicle to participate!), be sure to link up and reflect with the rest of us who may or may not have used writing prompts since 6th grade.

December 1st–compose [CREATE]: Write a haiku for 2012.

Uhm…again, I’ve not written a haiku since, well, this might be more recent (relatively speaking), as I think I had to write haikus in my high school creative writing class. I’ll confess I did have to look up the syllabic configuration.

Three lines, 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, if anyone’s curious.

So here goes…a haiku for 2012.

Twenty-Twelve, a good year.

But the days passed too quickly.

The boys grew like weeds.

Yeah, I’m not gonna win any poetry contests.

December 2nd–watch [LIVE]: What movie did you see this year that you would recommend to a friend?

Really? A movie? I have three boys, and Little Darth is 2. I value the opinion of the other moviegoers my sanity way too much to brave a theatre with a  toddler. And when we do watch movies at home, I rarely see the entire thing. Too many “mommy distractions”.

That being said, I did manage to watch “Brave” with The Manimal during the Thanksgiving Holiday. It was classic Disney/Pixar, and VERY well done. Loved everything about it, especially since I’m sure I was Irish in another lifetime have this thing for Irish folklore. And now all of my children want to learn archery.

It’s the type of movie I’d probably go to a theatre by myself and watch.

Oh, who am I kidding? If I had two or three hours by myself, it would likely signify the end of the world, and I’d want to do something way more fulfilling than see a movie.

Like sleep.

See you tomorrow for some more reflection with #weverb12. The theme for December 3rd is “stay [LISTEN]”. Ironically, I’m pretty familiar with both of those words, having used them approximately forty-seven-eleven times every day this year with either a boy child or Princess, The Wonder Dog.


The Gift of Christmas

The Tweenager learned a valuable life lesson yesterday. He experienced something that very few people TRULY understand before they have children.

It warmed this Momma’s heart on so many levels.

For the first time, he’s decided that he wants to buy Christmas gifts for the thorns in his side his brothers. He’s got The Manimal taken care of, thanks to a Black Friday deal on Webkinz at our only BF shopping stop, Menards (yeah, we’re cool like that).

He decided that Little Darth’s current obsession with a certain blue steam engine meant that he would like some Thomas the Tank Engine cars. Being that I am crazy have already been through the Thomas stage with two other boys, I knew the best place would likely be that toy store that drives parents to drink holiday paradise for small children–Toys R Us.

I don’t know what possessed me to bring Little Darth with us on our exploratory journey. Actually, I do know. It was my desire to keep Diva Husband as sane as possible. You see, he is home with Little Darth during the day, so at night, I try (whenever feasible) to take the littles with me if I need to go out. The Manimal had an appointment, so during that 90 minute respite, I took The Tweenager and Little Darth to the store.

Let me just say that I rarely go to TRU. And by rarely, I mean almost never. I think the last time I was in the store was 2009. Maybe.

On the way there, I tried to explain how children’s brains turn to mush when they cross the threshold at TRU. How even the most well-behaved children cannot resist the siren’s song of a store whose mission statement reads something like “To convince the children of the world that they NEED ALL THE TOYS”.

He laughed.

And then we arrived.

I could feel Little Darth’s heart rate increase when we entered the store. He was going into sensory overload right before our very eyes. And the minute we found the Thomas aisle, it was as though Sir Topham Hatt himself was standing in front of him. He screamed “THOMAS!”, and wriggled his little body out of my arms.

For about fifteen seconds, The Tweenager just stared, while Little Darth grabbed boxes from the shelves and tried to tear them open with his teeth. I calmly said “watch your brother, I’ll show you what I was thinking you could get him”, and walked five feet to the end of the aisle. The Tweenager started chasing Little Darth around the Thomas (and now Chuggington) toys, grabbing the random boxes and toys that were left in his wake. Every time he tried to pick Little Darth up and remove him from the melee, Little Darth would stiffen his body, flail his arms and scream “MINE THOMAS!”

The Tweenager was shell-shocked, and after five minutes of me corralling the small one and The Tweenager trying to put the aisle back into some semblance of order, we headed (screaming toddler in my arms) to the car aisle, where I had the bright idea of bribing said toddler with two Hot Wheels cars (his other current obsession) so we could finish our errands before adding The Manimal back into the mix.

As soon as we turned the corner into the Hot Wheels aisle, the screaming was replaced by “TARS”! He grabbed the two closest to him and looked at them longingly. We all but ran to the checkout, where the nice young cashier asked if I wanted a TRU loyalty card. I looked her right in the eye and said “No thank you. I avoid this store like the plague.”

She didn’t quite know how to respond.

As we walked out of the store, The Tweenager said “I guess it makes sense why you never want to come here. I think maybe when we come back to buy the trains, Little Darth should stay home with Dad.”

Genius. Good that he should learn that lesson before he has kids of his own.

Maybe by then I’ll have learned my own lesson. I’ll be a savvy grandma, who does her Christmas shopping online, far away from train-crazy toddlers.



Oldies Station

I remember as a kid listening to the “oldies” station on the radio in the car. At the time “oldies” was music from the 50s and 60s–music from my parents’ generation. I enjoyed the music, but preferred my own, of course.

With satellite radio in my car, I can listen to just about any kind of music or talk radio. When my kiddos are in the car, the dial is usually set to Radio Disney or Kids Place Live. I have been known to subject my children to the “80s on 8” channel from time to time. Unfortunately for me, this typically only lasts about 10 minutes before the kids can’t stand it anymore and The Tweenager asks to change to Radio Disney.

Earlier this week I was singing out loud in the car (trying with no avail to embarrass The Tweenager). I was singing the Robert Palmer hit from my generation “Doctor, Doctor”.

As I belted out “Doctor, Doctor, give me the news! I’ve got a bad case of…”, my Tweenager  looked at me with that look that says “I’m rolling my eyes at you in my head”, and completed the line with “a bone fracture?”

I wonder if Robert Palmer’s children rolled their eyes when he sang in the car.


Lost and Found

“At the temple there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.”
(Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden)


I feel things very deeply–joy, sorrow, pain, enthusiasm, gratitude, loss. I may not always show those feelings, but my emotions run very deep, rising up from the very depths of my soul.

Last week, I shared some thoughts on friendship. Old and new friends, both of whom should remain close to your heart. While the post had been cooking for some time, it was the sudden illness and death of an old friend, with whom I had just recently reconnected, that made it so urgent that I express those feelings.

I first met Jenny in 6th grade, when I changed elementary schools. She was very friendly and outgoing. There was a pretty strong clique of girls at my new school, but Jenny always had a great smile for everyone. We were in the same class for the remainder of our years at the Catholic school, and then both went on to the same Catholic high school. I remember her as a talented musician (she played guitar and sang at Mass) and cheerleader throughout grade school and high school. She made friends across the high school social scene, from jocks to nerds to band geeks to cheerleaders, and everyone in between.

As is often the case, we lost touch after high school graduation. I would occasionally see her at church or around town if I came home for a weekend, but we didn’t reconnect until Facebook a few years ago, and our 25th high school reunion this past summer. Through FB, I found out that she had married and was mom to two sweet kiddos. At our reunion, she was exactly the same. Outgoing, friendly, talking to everyone. Didn’t matter that 25 years had passed, she was the same social butterfly, greeting people and catching up.

Then a few weeks ago, her life changed. And when her life changed, so did the lives of all who knew her.

I don’t know all of the details, but Jenny was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor. She went in for immediate surgery, and at first, the surgeons were hopeful, sure that they’d gotten it all. Word spread quickly, from Jenny’s family to our group of classmates, connected by our Facebook pages.

It was utter disbelief, followed immediately by massive prayer.

And while we prayed for miraculous healing for our friend, God had other plans. Our friend, who was always so sweet and outgoing, had a bigger role. God would use her to provide miraculous healing for others.

For in their grief, Jenny’s family agreed that they would donate her organs.

So a small piece of Jenny’s spirit will live on in the bodies of others.

And in the hearts of each person who knew her and counted her as friend.

Today Jenny’s body is laid to rest. Family and friends will gather to celebrate her life. We have not lost her, she has simply found a new home in Heaven.

Rest in peace, my friend. We look forward to seeing your smiling face again.

Pie Jesu
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Dona eis requiem.

Agnus Dei
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Dona eis requiem.

Sempiternam, requiem.

Merciful Jesus
Who takes away the sins of the world
Grant her rest.

Lamb of God
Who takes away the sins of the world
Grant her  rest.

Everlasting rest.



One Is Silver and the Other Gold

When I was seven, I joined the Girl Scouts as a Brownie. I learned the classic Girl Scout song “Make New Friends”. For those of you who don’t now have the song stuck in your head (you’re welcome, by the way), the lyrics go like this:

Make new friends, but keep the old.

One is silver and the other gold.

Simple lyrics, simple melody, sung in a round. Aside from loving music in general, I loved the friendship theme.

You see, by seven, I had already lived in three states and been in two different schools. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I had attended six different schools and moved seven times. Being an Air Force brat, I was always in a situation to “make new friends”.

I was fortunate that during my sophomore year, my dad retired from the military, so we were able to stay put. I made lots of friends in high school, then went away to college.

Fast forward twenty-odd years.

My university’s summer Alumni Weekend took place in June 2011, and it was my 20th reunion. The wind ensemble conductor had planned a reunion concert and I was able to participate.

It was, in short, amazing.

I managed to capture my feelings in words a few weeks after the concert…

As always, the experience was so much more than the music. It was spending time with old friends and making new ones. It was celebrating those who’d been able to make it to the reunion and hearing about those who had previous commitments.

And remembering those who would never be on stage with us again, but who would remain in our hearts forever.

 It was sharing photos of children, growing all too quickly. Talking about work and family and life. Sharing stories of “remember when” and wondering “whatever happened to?”.

It was realizing together that the walk back from uptown (after a night on the town) was WAY longer than we remembered. It was recognizing together that Scott Hall smells EXACTLY like a res hall always smelled. It was knowing that we are SO not as young as we used to be, and that’s just fine.

The embouchures and chops may have been a bit rusty (or not). The eyes just a little less sharp (or not). But the hearts? The hearts were there in full force. Whether it was twenty, ten, five years or just one year ago that you last played with the MUWE, it didn’t matter. I daresay that when the CD arrives in the mail, I’ll probably play it non-stop for days. I’ll close my eyes and for a brief moment will be back onstage.

This year, I returned home to celebrate again with old friends. This time, it was for my 25th High School reunion.

A lot of us reconnected on Facebook, and many still live in the area, but for the most part, I hadn’t seen any of these people since Graduation in 1987.

And you know what? It was amazing too.

It didn’t matter that twenty five years had passed. A few extra pounds, a few more wrinkles, a little less energy. Old friends reconnected as though no time had passed at all. And old stereotypes were gone.

Cheerleaders, Band Geeks, Nerds, Jocks, Drama Queens. None of it mattered any more.  “Remember when?” and “Whatever happened to?” replaced the social awkwardness of high school. Photos and stories of our kids’ antics and accomplishments meant more than our own high school activities and academics.

I found myself wishing that I could share that reality with my fourteen year old self.

Because when it comes right down to it, high school and college activities (and life, for that matter) are less about how you spent your days than who you spent them with.

Sorry, Miss Wourms, for ending that last sentence with a preposition. It had to be done. Blame Mr. Hemmert. He was my creative writing teacher.

I was blessed to spend time with old friends over the past couple of years. I am blessed every day with relationships to be nurtured. Time is fleeting, relationships should not be.

Make new friends, but keep the old. Keep them close to your heart.





To Everything, There is a Season(ing)

We’ve FINALLY hit some typical Fall weather in our fair city. After facing record highs this summer that threatened never to end, even into early September, I can’t say that I’m disappointed to see highs only in the 50s and 60s.

This, my friends, is my favorite season of the year. I love nearly everything about fall–the clothing, the food, the activities.

Of course, that’s not really the kind of season I want to talk about today.

The Diva Husband and I have been together for 15 years, and married for 13. One of the areas in our relationship that took some serious adjustment (and still takes some adjustment!) is food. I’m a self-proclaimed foodie, and love to try different types of food. I love to plan meals and cook.

He would eat the same darn ten foods every single week.

Sometimes he more picky than the kids. At least The Tweenager is developing a somewhat adventurous palate, and he seems to enjoy cooking.

But I digress.

One meal that our whole family agrees on is Taco Night.

The very first time I made tacos for Diva Husband (Fiance, at the time), I was so excited. I cooked up all the components, and proudly set the table with all of the fixings: ground beef, tomatoes, sour cream, lettuce, rice, beans, onions, cilantro, avocado, and tortillas.

He took one bite of the meat and said “What.Is.This?”

“Taco meat”, I replied.

“What’s IN it?”

Now, you have to understand that I am a Midwestern girl of primarily German/Slavic/Finnish descent. When we had tacos at home, it was Old El Paso or nothing. I thought I was doing pretty good by serving soft corn tortillas instead of the hard taco shells I’d grown up with.

So I said, slightly irritated at the inane question, “Taco seasoning. You buy a pack of it, mix it with a pound of ground beef, and you have taco meat.

After he choked a bit on the meat, he said “Uhm, yeah. You don’t put taco seasoning in meat for REAL tacos.”

Thus began my schooling in the finer points of taco cuisine. Apparently, REAL taco chefs only use salt, pepper, and garlic (fresh, of course) in their taco meat. One might, if available, add cilantro or even some potato chunks. But under NO circumstances, is packaged taco seasoning used.

Over the years, Diva Husband has come to appreciate a somewhat “healthier” version of the taco meat. I can get away with ground turkey, ground chicken, and the like. I’ve done mixes of lean ground beef and ground turkey, and he can’t even tell the difference if all of his favorite toppings are available. We’ve even been known, on special occasions, to buy some steak or boneless pork chops to cook for taco fillings.

But I’ve not purchased packaged taco seasoning in 15 years.


Unconditional Love

I have a friend who, in his motivational/educational presentations, would often bring up his dogs. He used them as examples of unconditional love. You know, always excited to see you arrive home after a long day. Thrilled when you show them any sort of attention. Allow the children to swipe their treats without fear of death. Refrain from smothering you in your sleep when you insist on dressing them like humans.

You get the idea.

Now, his dogs, you must understand, were Mastiffs. If you’re from my generation, you’ll forever associate that particular dog with Hooch. That breed’s idea of unconditional love involves lots and lots of dog slobber. While I’ve heard they are loyal, loveable dogs, all that dog spit grosses me out. I have enough bodily fluids in my life with three boys. I don’t need it from my canine companion as well.

Apparently, though, our very own Princess (the Wonder Dog) is a great example of unconditional love as well. She puts up with the “love” that The Manimal and Little Darth dish out, and she even forgives Little Darth when he runs off with her beef-flavored “bones”. They share their food with her, and she, as I explained to a very mortified Manimal, shares her *ahem* treats with us…

If you’re eating right now, you may want to look away…

I’m warning you, it’s not pretty…



Sorry for the quality, but trust me when I tell you that you wouldn’t have appreciated a clearer shot.

Yes, Princess (the Wonder Dog) brought us a bird. Thankfully, she’d already put the poor thing out of its misery by the time she made it to our living room. Even more thankfully, it was The Manimal who discovered it, rather than Little Darth.

This unconditional love thing is more disgusting than I thought.


Works For Me Wednesday: Giving Again?

If you’ve been around my blog for any time or know me in real life, you know that I have three children. All boys.


I love my crazy kids. The Tweenager is a sweet, sassy, musical, athletic eleven year-old, caught in that weird pre-pubescent phase where he’s not really a child anymore, but not really a teenager. He has a tender heart, which makes me tear up when I see him reviewing sight words with The Manimal or playing peek-a-boo with Little Darth.

The Manimal is my study in contrasts. He is the only one in our family who is both a big brother AND a little brother. His black-and-white approach to life challenges me to think differently when it comes to teachable moments in our home. He loves Star Wars. I mean LOVES Star Wars. He may not recall why he got in trouble at school, but I’m convinced that his ability to remember the names of obscure Jedi Padawans and functions of little-known Droids will translate into an ability to memorize obscure historical facts or crazy geometric proofs. He wants to be a big boy, but he still loves his evening snuggle with Mommy.

Little Darth is developing into a stubborn youngest child who refuses to be left out of any activity. When the big boys wrestle, he’s right there in the middle of things. He has absolutely no use for actual words yet, but seems to get his point across with grunting, fussing, screaming, or when all else fails, pulling a chair across the kitchen floor and climbing to the cupboards to get just what he wants.

Although my children make me crazy, I love them all to bits. And we have truly been blessed in so many ways. Knock on wood, we’ve not had any major health concerns. Sure, we’ve had some scares; what parent hasn’t?

I don’t take my children’s lack of medical issues for granted. Not for one single day. And I especially don’t take for granted my good job with good medical insurance. Because I know that, especially in this economy, our situation could turn on a dime. A major medical concern could arise, which would require ongoing care, or a major surgery that isn’t covered by regular insurance.

Anything could happen.

My friends Todd and Kim Pierson are blessed with two beautiful daughters. Their younger daughter, Brooke, is in seventh grade. She’s a musician, a dancer, and a lover of fashion. She loves wearing high heels because she feels that the world towers above her. She longs to be grown-up, and gives her mom crazy fits when she launches into tweenager attitude, but she’s such a good kid, she usually comes back down to earth fairly quickly.

Their older daughter Leah, is fifteen, and has a heart of gold. She is always looking for ways to give to others; to make others happy. She doesn’t often realize that her cheerful hello and mile-wide smile is enough to lighten anyone’s heart, and brighten an entire room. She is so very sweet and kind, and loves acting in school plays, dancing, and participating in our church youth group. She volunteers in the nursery at church on Sundays.

She’s a good kid.

Who just happens to have a wicked case of scoliosis. When Todd and Kim first found out about Leah’s diagnosis, they did what every parent would do. They tried to learn all they could about the disease. They researched various treatments.

And of course, they did this all through the lens of their health insurance. You see, Todd and Kim are self-employed (he is a photographer and she is a graphic designer). And if you’ve ever been self-employed, especially with children, you know what a challenge it can be to find affordable health insurance. So in order to be able to afford health insurance, Todd and Kim took a high deductible policy and worked really hard to keep their family healthy.

So back to Leah. With all previous treatments exhausted, Leah is now facing surgery to correct her scoliosis. In addition to the mental stress of helping Leah prepare for this major surgery and extensive recovery period, Todd and Kim are looking square in the face of an $8000 deductible.


I wish I could adequately convey just how much this family has given to their community, their church, and their friends. And the kicker is they KNOW that there are people far worse off than they are. But the reality is, Leah is going to have this surgery. And the family is going to have to find a way to pay the medical bills in addition to all of their regular monthly expenses.

So here’s where we all come in. As I mentioned, Todd is a photographer.

An a-ma-zing photographer. Especially when it comes to children and families.

Todd and Kim have set up a Portrait Day to help raise money for Leah’s surgery. If you’re local to the Chicagoland area, you NEED to do this. For a suggested donation of $100, you’ll get three beautiful jpeg files of your family, spouse, kids, dog, purple-spotted squirrel…whomever you want to bring to the shoot.

If you’ve ever had professional portraits taken, you know that is a STEAL.

However, through the miracle of the interwebz (which I still don’t completely understand…heck, I don’t completely understand faxing, but this isn’t about me), many of you (perhaps most of you) who read this, aren’t anywhere near the Windy City.

YOU can still help. Todd has set up a blog to tell Leah’s story and raise money. Go meet Leah now. You can come back in a minute.

Why are you still here? I’ll wait for you.

Isn’t she beautiful? Now, in case you didn’t see it on your first visit, there is a “donate” button on the right sidebar of Leah’s blog. Won’t you please help this wonderful family meet that crazy $8000 deductible? Any amount would be so appreciated, I know.

And remember those three beautiful boys of mine? I’ll bet some of you have some pretty neat kiddos of your own. What if you were to donate even $5 for each child you have? Believe me, it would make such a difference.

And yes, I know money is tight. Really tight. People are struggling to put food on their table and gas in their car. Some are on the verge of losing their homes, have lost their homes. I get it.

But for many of us who are able to access the internet? Write a blog? Go on Facebook? We can afford to give a bit. Or a bit more. Let’s help this family.

“What? Giving again?” I asked in dismay.

And must I keep giving, and giving away?

“Oh no,” said the angel, looking me through.

“Just keep giving until our Lord stops giving to you.” (Anonymous)

Giving again. It’s what Works for Me.