Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Accepting Help


To quote Betty Duffy,” I had a booger of a sin to confess.”   I decided last night I couldn't put it off any longer so I scoured the Internet looking for a local church that holds confession during the week and I made plans to go.  I knew I would have to bring all the kids with me because John was working.

I was dreading the scene.

Had it not been for the blackened condition of my soul, I would have skipped this trip altogether.

But I knew I couldn't and as such, I decided I would bite the bullet and take all of them to Mass since we were going to be there anyway. 

I had accompanied my children to daily Mass the previous week and was very grateful to the kind lady who held the baby so I could collect the toddler crawling up the aisle on all fours, his tongue waging like a dog.  His behavior was offset, of course, by my other precious angels who were busy tossing books, talking, and standing and walking fully erect across the pew to get to a desired spot.

After the “short” 30 minutes, I confess to having questioned Jesus’ invitation to ‘Let the children come to me.”

Since, however, I’m a glutton for punishment I needed Confession, I decided to recreate the fun again.  Sadly, my darling progeny’s behavior wasn’t much better save for the fact the three older kids managed to irritate a nun.  At the end of mass, she hobbled over and chastised all of them for messing with the Sisters' things.

By the time we collected bags and books and dropped possessions and found the Confessional, the wait had morphed into one you might find at a Bon Jovi concert.

I considered leaving.

They're never gonna be able to sit this long, I thought.

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes: The Tough Stuff Of Parenting And The Sweet Stuff Too

1.  I took Patrick to be evaluated yesterday by both a physical and an occupational therapist.  He's fine, but in August we visited with a neurologist and she recommended we see a few specialists to make sure Patrick is growing properly and to ensure his muscles and balance and coordination are up to par.  So yesterday, he and I drove to a rather large, but very reputable medical facility to have his body poked and prodded and exercised.

It was painful to watch the therapists work with him.

Patrick lacks a great deal of balance, strength, coordination and basic body awareness.  He's also on the short side and as skinny as they come.  His physical weakness and short stature makes keeping up with his peers and doing basics things like carrying groceries or even his backpack harder for him than the "regular" kids.  To add insult to injury, he's also on a special diet, which makes him even more different than the other children his age.

A few times throughout the morning, I had to fight back tears as I realized just how hard certain tasks are for him.  On the one hand, I felt great relief for the medical progress we've made with him (I mean, dealing with physical weakness is much easier than dealing with life threatening illness).  However, on the other hand, I felt sad Patrick has to suffer at all; I felt sad he faces these burdens.

But here's something else I realized while the therapists were working with Patrick:  this kid has many gifts.

He's got a tack sharp memory, he loves to read, and he doesn't struggle with academics, like some of my other kids.  He's also a people person.  He enjoys meeting others and talking to them, especially if those people share a common interest in history.  Making friends comes easy to him.

It's actually good he has these small crosses because these are the things he's going to learn from the most.  We don't grow from the things we are good at.  We grow from the things that are hard for us, the things for which we don't have natural talent.

Patrick's weaknesses will keep him aware of his need for God.

If he were an astute student, people savvy person, AND a physically strong specimen capable of moving boulders with his bare hands, why would he need God?  What lessons would he need to learn?

His weakness is a gift.  It's a present wrapped with a big red bow and a note signed With Love From, God to keep him humble and aware of his neediness.

I have my own gifts of weaknesses which keep me needy for God. 

2.  It's that time of year.  The stores are already going crazy decking the halls and the Christmas tunes can be heard frenetically floating through the air at local craft stores.  It's so insane how big industries have turned Christmas into one, big gigantic money making opportunity.

Most years, I walk right into the corporate track.  I buy and I get stressed out and I worry that the small gifts I have to offer are not enough.

But not this year.

This year, I'm not buying gifts.  At all. 

Instead, John and I are thinking about taking the kids on a small trip the day after Christmas.  Maybe to New York City?  To see the lights and maybe a show?  The money we spend doing this will be so much better than any money we spend on barbie dolls and hot wheels.  We're buying time to be together as a family--time away from our usually chaotic routine--and I think that is more valuable than anything.

This year I want to buy an experience for the kids, not a toy.

Friday, October 31, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: All The Things I Loved About Our Trip To Mexico

My sister took the photo of John and me on my phone.  It's one of my favs.

1.  The Travel:  Right before my dad drove us to the airport last Thursday, he said, "I looked at your flight schedule.  It's awful.  You have two layovers and you travel all day."

I grinned, patted him sympathetically on the back, and shook my head in disagreement.  He must have forgotten that drinking hot coffee, eating fast food, and sleeping every second I was seated in an airplane seat was vastly easier than running after my six kids.

But I bet he remembered real quick. 

The kids stayed with him.

Thanks, Colonel.

Inaugural vacation cup.  And the choir of angels in heaven sang "Alleluia!"

2.  The Room:  This is what it looked like. 

Every day someone came and cleaned it and made my bed.  Someone left me a comfy robe and crisp white slippers to shuffle around in.   When I opened my door, I could hear the Gulf of Mexico.

My view

And at the touch of a button, I could order hot coffee and someone would bring it to me.  I had to keep reminding myself I had not died and gone to heaven.
(Side note:  John and I have been wondering what exactly Patrick digested from the Birds and the Bees talk John gave him.  When my mom showed Patrick the picture of our bedroom, he said, "Isn't that funny?  Well, they are married so it's perfectly OK."  I guess he got the memo, John.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Micellaneous Hodge Podge (AKA: My Kids Make Us Look Bad)

1.  My mom took Meaghan and Mary for a special weekend recently and the girls regaled her with all kinds of factoids. I present to you a few text exchanges between myself and my mother.

(My mother's texts are grey and mine are in blue.):

Just to summarize, according to my daughters, I'm a two ton heifer and John's a drunk.

2.  After a morning of misbehavior from Camille, I told her she was not going to be able to attend a tea party my mom had planned.  Camille, devastated by this turn of event, ran to John.

John:  Is there anything she can do to earn back the tea?

Me:  Yes, obey me right away for the rest of the day.

Camille:  Ok, I'll do that except....if what you say is weird.  Then, forget it.

Tea party with all the girls

Fancy pinkie finger

3.  Another confidence boost from Camille, right before Mass on Sunday morning--

Me:  How do I look?

Camille:  Ummm...yeah...I like your lipstick.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How To Keep Your Kids Catholic

I don’t remember much of the arithmetic or history my fifth grade teacher, Sister Matthew Marie, a religious with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, taught us.  But I do remember that when she needed our attention, instead of yelling, she whispered.  She sometimes played soccer with us on the playground during recess, and watching Sister run --with her habit billowing in the wind and her rosary beads clinking as she darted to and fro--reduced me to fits of giggles.  She couldn’t consistently keep track of the ball because it constantly rolled under her habit.  You were foolish to let Sister’s habit or her vocation tempt you to soften your game, though.  Sister Matthew Marie was a fierce competitor and she did not embrace the current politically correct tactic to “let” the children win.   
On the playing field, Sister was out for blood.  Read the rest at Integrated Catholic Life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Desperate For Doublemint?

 I stood at the counter dicing vegetables and browning hamburger for a Mexican casserole when Camille asked me to cut a large wad of gum out of her hair.  I had seen her chewing something but I didn't think to ask her what it was because I was multitasking.  There's only so much room in the this brain to manage trifling inquiries, so I sadly neglected to solicit important information.

"I don't buy gum," I said to her, looking up from my mile high pile of green peppers and onions.  "Where did you get it?"

"From the cement outside."


I was hoping she was kidding, but her wide eyed expression confirmed that she wasn't it.  I worried for a moment that my strict no gum policy rule was working against me.  I mean, I know Wrigley's promised double the pleasure and double the fun, but as all parents know, those marketers flat out lied. 

(Am I the only child of the 80's that has this commercial and song emblazoned on my memory?  Please, tell me I'm not.)

Doublemint has brought the Duggan's nothing but heartache.  I've found the sticky stretchy stuff stuck between bed linens, in the washing machine, on my van windows, in children's armpits (not a joke!), on my carpet, and almost anywhere else I don't want to have to deal with it! The result?  I don't buy gum (or band-aids) anymore.  At all.

Still, for a moment, I wondered if my refusal to allow my children gum had reduced my child to picking gum off the cement and gnawing it like a cow chews cud.  Maybe the no-gum rule had created a forbidden fruit mentality?  Would my kids grow up with weird oral fixations all because their control freak of a mother said Hubba Bubba was Satan's spawn?

"Do you really have gum in your hair?"

She blinked at me, nodded, and used her chubby hands to lift up blond hair.  I put my knife down, walked around the counter and sure enough, there it was--pink Extra glued to the back of her neck and entangled in a huge clump of hair.

"I'm gonna have to cut that out, Camille.  It's disgusting.  You can't pick up gum from the sidewalk and put it in your mouth!" I said.

"I wanted it.  I love gum."

"Do you love disease?"

Her brow furrowed, communicating an unspoken confusion about what I had just said.  I pushed thoughts of hepatitis and strep and herpes and all other kinds of horrible infections contracted through saliva out of mind.

"Please," I begged, "please, don't put chewed up gum in your mouth.  It can make you VERY sick."

She nodded solemnly, but I didn't feel very confident she understood my pleas.

The next time she was in the shower, I took a pair of scissors and sliced off the chunk of pink paste.  We watched wisps of hair wash down the drain and when it was all gone, I reaffirmed my anti-Wrigley's commitment.

And thus ended the great gum debacle.

Or so I thought.

A few days later, I knelt on the church pew in prayer and tried to ignore Christopher whose unintentional kicking kept landing right against my side.  When I couldn't take the pummels any longer, I looked over at him and noticed his chomping away on something.

"What's in your mouth?" I leaned over and whispered.

He looked at me, grinned and remained silent.  I asked again and he grinned again without answering.  On my fifth request for information, I threatened severe consequences.

"Fine," he said, with grave hesitation.  "I'll tell you.  It's gum."

"Gum?" I hissed.  "Where did you get it?" 

"From under the pew."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We Are Family

John had just finished helping him tuck and pull on his uniform clothes this morning when Christopher confessed to the kitchen that some impulsive kid finds it amusing to tug on Topher's belt during circle time at school.   

Slouched in his chair, he whispered,  "I just don't like it when he pulls on me."

I was unloading the dishwasher and the children were devouring their morning cereal at the table, but when my older children learned another child had the audacity to "mess" with their sibling, they swooped down to protect Topher like a hawk plunges to save her young from dangerous predators. 

There is no other way to put it:  The fact another child  "intentionally" upset Christopher undid my children.

They all stood, shoved back their chairs and swarmed Topher like a pack of protective dogs. 

Patrick spoke first, "You have a lot of power, Christopher, and you can use it.  You can't let that kid push you around."

Then Mary butted in, "Toph, this has happened to me.  Don't put up with that kid.  You have to tell him, 'No!'"

Meaghan, with her arms folded like a pretzel against her chest, nodded, "Toph, you teach people how to treat you.  Have you mentioned this to the teacher?  You may need to tell her if he doesn't get the message."

And, Camille, who isn't even school aged yet, elbowed her way through the lot of taller children and saddled right up to Toph.  She put one hand on her hip and with her other hand used a finger to point into Christopher's face, advising him with the following:

"You tell that kid to 'BACK OFF OR I WILL SMACK YOU!"

"Do I need to find him at recess?  Patrick interceded again.  "I have no problem saying something to him."

Patrick turned to John and with the confidence of a Philadelphia lawyer said,

"It's unacceptable, totally unacceptable that this kid is pulling Christopher's belt.  I will handle this, if I need to, Dad."

"Guys, guys, could everyone just settle down?" John said.  "Let Mom and me talk to Christopher."

And we did.

We told Christopher he needed to communicate to the child that even though Christopher really liked the kid, Christopher did not like when the kid pulled on him.  We told Christopher to be firm but kind.  We encouraged him to set a boundary.  We also assured Toph that the kid probably didn't know he was annoying Topher, so it was Toph's responsibility to tell him.

"You are really doing him a favor," I explained.

Christopher blinked his brown eyes at me, unconvinced by my words.

"Besides," I said  as I walked over and wrapped my arms around him, "Even if he never wants to be your friend again, I will always be your buddy.  No matter what."

Once John and I were sure Christopher had the necessary information he needed to set a boundary with the kid, we went back to task of getting everyone out the door.

But the rest of the breakfast conversation revolved around Patrick's, Meaghan's, and Mary B's ardent desire to set this kid straight.

I have to confess, I've never read The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, (I know, I know) but in one of my online binges recently, I stumbled across this brief exchange between characters from The Fellowship Of The Rings:

“But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,' said Frodo.

Sam looked at him unhappily.

'It all depends on what you want,' put in Merry. 'You can trust us to stick with you through thick and thin--to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours--closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”

As I zipped book bags and packed lunches it dawned on me that although we Duggan's are besieged with many interpersonal weaknesses, (like the tendency for to go off half cocked at all hours of the day and over the smallest of transgressions , for instance) there is one strength that runs deep and wide in the Duggan gene pool:


Like the characters in The Fellowship Of The Rings, the kids will not let their siblings face trouble alone.  They will, in fact, use their life and their words to protect each other, no matter the cost.

So while I'll continue to work with my children (and me) on harnessing our intense passions, I also recognize that with intense passion comes a willingness to fight for the good, the true and the beautiful.  Intense passion brings with it a willingness to protect those who can't protect themselves.

And that kind of loyalty is a noble thing indeed.

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