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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Three Catholic Non-Fiction Books To Enhance Your Faith


For The Men:

Journey To Heaven:  A Road Map For Catholic Men (Servant Press):  Over the past two years I’ve known him, Randy Hain has been one the most encouraging supporters of my work.  So when he asked me to review his new book, I was delighted to return at least one of the many favors I owe him.   

Here’s the problem:  I wanted to write a thorough review, which meant I took forever to actually read Journey To Heaven, a mistake of epic proportions.  

This book is not only well-written and practical, but it’s sorely needed in today’s world.  

In case you hadn’t noticed, many men today flounder in their faith, abdicate parental responsibilities, and don’t know what basic skills are necessary to even exist as a strong man, husband, and father.  Randy’s book is an attempt to provide easily implemented tips and tools and reflections to men of all stripes to help get them started on the path heaven.  

Read the rest at ICL.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On The Importance Of A Daily Examen

Ms. Tanya, the Principal's secretary at the Catholic high school where I worked after I graduated from college, was the quintessential southern woman.  She wore floral pedal pushers with matching button down blouses and cardigan sets, complete with open toed high heeled sandals.  I never saw her without a face full of make up and her rouge always matched her colored lips.  She spoke with a delicious southern drawl that melted away a new person's nerves just like butter melts on toast.

"How's your momma and them?" she'd ask me most Monday mornings and we'd chat about when my parents were coming to visit next and how much I missed them.

As a twenty-two year old teacher and full-time graduate student, my job left me in charge of a bunch of teenagers, but Ms. Tanya knew I was just a kid myself.  She tried to help me when she could by doing small little things for me, like making photocopies or setting up a meeting so I could talk to the principal about discipline problems with my ninth grade pups.  When 9/11 happened, she walked across campus to tell me in person that my dad was not working at the Pentagon when the plane flew into it and that he was OK.

So when I received a phone call one morning that Ms. Tanya's twenty-something year old son had been killed on a motorcycle, I cried for her. 

Ms. Tanya, obviously, was devastated.

She was gone from school for several weeks after the funeral, but she eventually found her way back to her desk outside the Principal's office. 

One day, a few months after the accident, I went into her office and noticed her typing on the computer's keyboard while tears rolled down her cheeks and into her lap.  I walked over to her desk and grabbed her hand, not knowing what to say. 

She looked up at me from where she was sitting and she said,

"Do you know people come in here all day long and they see me sitting here crying, but they don't say anything?  Do you know they just ask me to make photocopies?"

  I couldn't imagine handing a crying Ms. Tanya, whose son just died, a piece of paper and saying,

"Can you make me 50 of these, please?"

But I believed it happened.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: Mother Of The Year, Books, and Birthdays

1. Story Time!!!

Last Friday evening, Christopher came into the house with swollen eyes.  He muttered something about Mary hitting him, which invited a rollicking and "effective" lecture from me about the Importance Of Keeping Our Hands To Ourselves. There was  a lot of hand waving and my voice may have been raised and I was sure everyone understood my message because only a few of them nodded off.

But funny thing, the next morning, Christopher's eyes were even more swollen and he looked as if
he'd been in a bar room brawl.

It was then I realized no one actually hit him (thereby rendering my lecture completely unnecessary), but that he actually was having an allergic reaction.

Yet another parenting win for the books, folks. 

There were many cell phone picks to family members asking if they had a clue why he looked so puffy.
When he woke up Sunday morning with slits where his brown eyes used to be, I hightailed it to the After Hours clinic.  We made it there by 8 am and when the doctor walked into the room, her first question was,

"Did you put your face in the poison sumac?"

I looked at her blankly.

"What's poison sumac?" I said.

"It's worse than poison ivy and as bad as poison oak.  And he needs a round of steroids."

She dosed him up and we were on our happy way.

2.  But It Gets Better!

We eked into the 10:30 Mass after waiting at the clinic for over two hours and we made it through Mass, though Toph was still very puffy and even a bit groggy from the mega dose of Benadryl the doc gave him. 

When Mass was over, we exited the pew and I don't know what happened, but as I was gabbing with a few of my lady friends off to the side, when I heard Christopher scream and then there was a delayed pause and then on cue...loud, very loud crying.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw John walk past me quickly, hissing for me to follow him and then I noticed the trail of blood down Topher's face and all over John's white shirt.

He's always taking one for the team, that John Duggan.

Appartently, Toph ran out of the pew, tripped and cut open his very swollen eyes.

The gash was large enough to warrant some stitches but I was not going back to sit in a waiting room.

So I did what all pushy mothers do, I bulldozed my way over to our doctor friend and asked him his medical opinion.

He gave me very specific, complicated instructions involving super gluing the wound shut, which I totally jumped on, and Boom. 

We escaped a trip to the ER.

Thank you, Doctor Woo.  You're my new best friend.

A few hours after the 'roids and with his new busted eye.  I'm a big fan of drugs.  He's gonna have a scar from that cut, though.
 3.  But wait, there's still more!  

A few days later, I asked Topher to run outside and water my mums.  This has been a chore I'd been having him complete on the daily for the last week.

"I can't" he said.

I stopped washing dishes, turned around,  put my hands on my hips, and in my best mother voice said,

"You go outside right now and water those mums!"

"I can't," he said again.

Now I was getting mad, reved up, as they say.  
This kid doesn't know who he's messing with, I thought.

But then he started crying.  A Lot.  He was hiccuping and trying to talk and the water works were in overdrive.

"What is the problem, Christopher?" I said, when I realized he was seriously upset.

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