Monday, October 31, 2011

the only picture I have is the one in my mind

At some point this afternoon, I had the notion that tonight, in lieu of strolling around the neighborhood (that just two days ago was dusted with snow), and freezing myself in to oblivion while my children trick-or-treated, I would instead stay at home and make a bonfire in our front yard.

My plan was that I'd set up lanterns around our cul-de-sac and our Jack O'Lantern would be perched beneath our street sign. In addition to our candy offerings, there would be an abundance of ingredients for 'smores and water for thirsty trick-or-treaters. And for the parents, there would be wine and pumpkin ale for them to sip while they warmed their bones by the raging fire.

At around 5:30 PM, just after I made dinner for the kids - and while Charlie was carving our pumpkin - I started to scramble putting my plan in to action. I dragged the fire pit from the back of the house to the front. I dumped out the water and mucky leaves that had accumulated since it's last use in … June? July? Meanwhile the kids were running around the yard collecting kindling and we dragged logs from the back of the house up the hill.

The sun was setting fast and there was much to do.

I'm darting back and forth from the house to the yard, getting children in to their costumes (two butterflies, one vampire and a Batman) while also pulling out all of the supplies that I'd need for my front yard fiesta. Charlie has just put the finishing touches on the wagon that he'd use to cart children around the neighborhood (decorated with glow sticks) and I'm preparing to grab my *sob!* I need a new camera so badly it hurts camera phone to snap off some pictures of the children, before igniting the bonfire, when suddenly, I hear Elizabeth say, "Mommy, someone just pulled in to our driveway!"

I look out the window and I don't see anyone.

But at Elizabeth's urging, I look again, and standing there is Jim.

As in, Jim, my mother's husband.

And then, I see my mother, wearing a bright orange pumpkin mask and waving her arms in the air as she is nearly knocked over by embraces from three of our four children, as the fourth FLIES out the front door and jumps in to her arms.

Mom and Jim decided to surprise us by driving 500 miles from South Carolina to Virginia...


… and they couldn't have timed their arrival more perfectly, since they pulled in to the driveway mere seconds before our entourage took off trick-or-treating throughout the neighborhood.

My focus immediately shifted from taking pictures to HOLY CANNOLI, MOM AND JIM ARE HERE AND HOW AWESOME IS THIS?!

There were hugs and laughter before we bid Charlie and the children farewell, settled Jim in front of the football game, and made our way outside to start the fire. Within minutes, people started to drop past and I promised that if they returned in an hour, we'd have a raging fire and 'smores. After 10, 20, 30 minutes … I began to worry because the fire ring was damp, the kindling was damp, and the leaves that I'd thrown on with the hope of success, turned my tiny fire in to a smoky smoldering mess.

But then, the Spirit of Halloween smiled upon us, and the puny smoky smoldering mess IGNITED in to the most awesomely warm beautiful bonfire. And very soon, people started appearing out of the darkness.

It was an occasion I want to sear in to my memory, forever.

The scene of my mother and I standing in the front yard, greeting people on Halloween. We had on matching black down vests. Mom had on my red headlamp and was sipping Pinot Noir out of a styrofoam cup. She had graham crackers lined up on our small patio table with squares of Hershey's chocolate atop each that were just awaiting a perfectly toasted marshmallow.

My mother has the most incredibly magnetic personality of anyone I've ever met and people who stepped in to the glowing circle, remained there. While their children contentedly roasted marshmallows and stayed warm, they shared stories about themselves. We heard stories about our neighborhood. How not very long ago, there were very few children who lived here. But now, there are an abundance.

The fog wafted above us, across a crescent moon. It was dark and bitter cold. But the small lanterns illuminated a path toward us. And the warmth of the fire was made even warmer by the wonderful people who came to share in the glowing light.

This was our best Halloween ever.

And without question, the beginning of a new tradition.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

the first tooth

Henry has a plastic snake that has become his absolute favorite toy. He carries it with him everywhere he goes and despite the fact that his sister lopped it's head off with a pair of gardening shears, he still sleeps with it, every night.


He calls it "Snakey."

Although Carolyn has lost (and swallowed) three teeth, up until last week, she's been our only child to depart with any of their baby teeth. Last week, I noticed that Elizabeth had a slightly loose right bottom tooth. The next day, when she was playing with her wittle brother, she thought it would be a good idea to bite the tail of his beloved Snakey and Henry not thinking that was such a good idea (on her part) decided to whip Snakey away.

Lo and behold, as he did so, Elizabeth's tooth flew out of her mouth and across the room.

(Henry was horrified but Elizabeth was delighted. Truly. Her first lost tooth!)


As of Thursday, October 27, we have now lost FOUR teeth at our house. Although this is the FIRST tooth that we have actually recovered and been able to present to the Tooth Fairy.



If not for an extremely powerful subconscious that jolted me awake at 4:30 on Friday morning, and had me scrambling for my wallet, our sweet little daughter would have woken up two hours later to her very first baby tooth sitting idly in the Tooth Fairy Pillow that she inherited from her cousin, Michael.


I don't know if it's more surprising that I forgot, or that my brain is wired in such a way that I would suddenly remember in a deep sleep?

Maybe "wired" isn't the correct word choice and "short-circuited" is more appropriate.

Honestly, take a look at where I put the eggs after I finished making an omelette for myself two weeks ago. This picture was snapped off, courtesy of Charlie, who discovered the eggs when he was reaching for a coffee mug.


I guess this just proves there's been a lot on my mind.

Friday, October 28, 2011

i must have been a dentist in a prior life

So, where was I?


Oh yes...

Tuesday night the doorbell rings, just as we're sitting down for dinner, and the kids jump up and run to the front door. Less than two seconds after the Ding Dong! echoed through our house (count ... ONE ... TWO ...) all four of the children had flown up from the table, and without their feet even touching the ground, arrived at the front door which they had swung wide open.

I'd like to interject here that no matter how many times I tell the children to not rush and open the front door without their father or I next to them, my children? They really aren't the best listeners. I could say, "Please don't open the door!" 5,000,000 times and hook an electric zapper up to the knob and neither of these things would matter one iota.

OK. Maybe the zapper. But just for a moment.

The children it would appear, are like, growing up? And they think that they have some kind of domestic obligation to answer a door and/or the telephone whenever it rings? Unlike ME who prefers to NOT answer the telephone when it rings. Like ever, never, ever. Because when I answer the phone, my children pull off this amazing trick where they transform in to cannibalistic acrobats right before my very eyes.

It's true!

They could be perfectly fine and happy playing with Play Doh, but as soon as I get on the phone and my attention is diverted AWAY from them for a split second, whatever peaceful scene had just existed, vaporizes and someone is chewing someone else's arm off while others are doing front flips from the couch.

Now, if it happens to be ME on the other end of that line, as sweet and wonderful as it is to hear my offspring's voices on the telephone, it's never good when they answer before their father even hears it ringing and then after we exchange pleasantries for a few minutes and when I ask to talk with their Dad, they'll put the phone down to go get Charlie, only to become distracted with a fruit fly orbiting a banana in the kitchen and suddenly, I'm unable to call home for the next hour because the line is off the hook.

I can just see that black phone, abandoned in some remote area of the house, with my voice barely audible. "Carolyn? CAROLYN. Elizabeth? ELIZABETH!!! PICK UP THE PHONE. William? WILLIAM!!! HELLLL-OOOOOOOOOO. I PROMISE I'LL BUY A PONY FOR WHOMEVER PICKS UP THIS PHONE. CHARLIE? CHARLIE!?!?"


Anyway. Back to my story.

So there it is, Tuesday night, and perched upon the top step, is a Halloween'esque bag full of goodies. And yet, whomever dropped that bag was nowhere to be seen. At least theoretically. Because, we could see that the whomevers that had dropped the bag were BOOKING IT as fast as their legs would carry them across our front yard.

All this to say: we received our first Virginia Boo. We'd received these, in California, in years past, and I always enjoyed paying forward (aka: spreading) the cheer.


This year, I picked up a few "Boo Bag" supplies for the two families that we were planning to Boo. One of the families had just moved in to the neighborhood, and although their son is in William's Cub Scout troop, they haven't really "settled" in, yet.

(Then again, neither have we and I still get lost going to the store because the roads around our neighborhood will have a minimum of two names, more commonly three, and interchangably, might just be referred to as the route number. Who can keep that straight?)

Prior to dropping these bags off and ringing the doorbells, in the pitch black of night, the children helped me do an inventory of the "goods" in each bag and after oohing and ahhing the festive hair accessories ...



And cool neon necklaces and rubber balls that light up when you bounce them ...


The children asked, "Why, Mommy, when everyone else gives out CANDY for Halloween, you give out toothbrushes and toothpaste?"


My response was that I give out toothbrushes and toothpaste because I genuinely care about oral health. But I suppose it also has something to do with the Practical Gene that I inherited from my mother. A woman who has been known to give toilet paper as a Christmas gift.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

the trooper

I'm pleased to present a picture of the world's most adorable Tiger Scout proudly wearing his sparkly clean new uniform.


And .... here is the world's most adorable Tiger Scout with his incredibly dashing, bold and brave Den Leader.


A bonus to the Man Uniform is versatility. Check it out, the pants zip off to SHORTS!!


For those about to rock, We Salute You!


Brave and Bold, people.


Monday, October 17, 2011

... and then they were seven

The nice thing about seven-year-olds, is that streamers and balloons magically transform an ordinarily boring kitchen in to PARTY CENTRAL...


Small tote umbrellas carefully wrapped with ribbons and bows, are the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENTS EVER...


And a "7" candle in a breakfast bagel ... is BEYOND AWESOME.


Perhaps our kids are just easy going, but once we fastened pins to their chests that were approximately the circumference of their heads...


And pointed out the Happy Birthday flag flapping in the breeze, the children skipped off to school happier than I've seen them in their seven full years on the planet.


Henry joined me on Friday afternoon to shop for little pumpkins.


Which we brought to the children's classroom.


Where, along with Charlie, Uncle Steve and Aunt Kathy, we sang Happy Birthday with their entire first grade class ... THREE SEPARATE TIMES.


The children came home from school and opened a few small presents which included Razor Scooters (I never could find bikes that we liked, hopefully Santa can whip something up in his shop between now and Christmas) and Lego sets. And while they certainly appreciated their new toys...


What they appreciated most of all were the musical cards that they received from Aunt Grace.

(The best part of this almost five minute clip are the, "Oops, I messed up! Can I start again?!")

This year, there wasn't an abundance of activities or presents or friends in attendance at some HUGE party. But there was an abundance of balloons and candle-lighting ceremonies and people who love our children and celebrate their presence here on earth. They were happy, so I was happy. Or perhaps, I was happy - so they were happy.

Whatever the case, I'm more convinced than ever: the things that bring us the most joy are usually the most simple.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

when all else fails, put up streamers and balloons

When half of your family shares the same birthday, it's necessary to decorate your breakfast nook in streamers and balloons.


It's also necessary to decorate your breakfast nook in streamers and balloons when ... well ... it pains me to admit this, but all my grandiose plans for a birthday party for the kids hit the skids because.... (scratching head)

Where have the last three weeks gone?

Wasn't it just September ... yesterday?

Charlie's brother and sister-in-law are in town from California and they are two of the most creative, thoughtful people you could ever meet in your entire life. Both Steve and Kathy are incredibly talented and plan things out so well with meticulous attention to detail. They are the kind of people who start organizing a party months before it happens. They are the kind of people who will have all of their Christmas shopping completed in June.

I'm the kind of person that has all their Christmas shopping completed in January. One month late. Not 11 months early.

Tonight, they stayed home with our children while Charlie and I - the exact antithesis of the planners that they are - went out shopping. Yep, there's nothing like hitting Target at 10 PM the NIGHT BEFORE your children's birthday to try and round up some of the gift ideas you had jotted down on a notepad but are now trying to recall from a rapidly failing memory, because WHERE IS THAT DARN NOTEPAD?

(It's clearly hiding with the three weeks that I've lost.)


The bike supply at Target was lean to say the least, so we scrapped that idea and sought out Legos. William has developed a fascination for building things lately ... and all things Harry Potter ... so we figured a massive Harry Potter Lego set would keep him happy for days.


Once we loaded the 1,000+ piece set in to our cart, I headed straight over to the organizational aisle and stocked up on storage containers that William could use to keep all the little parts straight. It would be really sad for everyone if I tossed the whole thing by Saturday night because there were small plastic blocks scattered throughout the house and embedded in the soles of my feet. As for the girls, we bought them some really nice umbrellas.


Tomorrow during lunch, I'll head to a REAL bike store.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

life lessons: be kind

The Jesuit motto, alleged to be attributed to Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Jesuit Order, wrote, "Give me a child until they are seven, and I will give you the man." The implication of that statement is that the best opportunity to indoctrinate a lifetime of belief and devotion in to a person, is the first seven years of their life.

My children will be seven later this week. So I've got three days to impress upon them what I believe to be the most important lessons I'll ever teach. And then, I'll have what will hopefully be the rest of my long life to expose them to good people that will help to reinforce those lessons by example.


Children, in your lifetime, you will be presented with an abundance of opportunities to be kind.
Seize them.


Guard your words carefully and resist the temptation to demonstrate your intelligence at someone else's expense. While you might feel superior in the moment, that feeling seldom lasts long and can have devastating effects on your psyche.
It was once said that, "
The kindest word in all the world …. is the unkind word, unsaid."

It is my hope that each of you become a Master of Kind Words.


In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy. ~Karl Reiland

So as you meander through life, try your best to help others. Look for opportunities to lift people's spirits, whether by holding open a door - bringing a sick neighbor a meal - or sending a cheery letter of support to someone that you love.

Because that's what kindness is. It's not doing something for someone else because they can't, but because you can. ~Andrew Iskander


In the 19th century, Darwin proposed that facial expressions don't only reflect emotions, but actually CAUSE them. And more recently, research has shown, smiling will make you happier. So even if you're not feeling like it, smile.

And e
veryday, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.
~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Take the time to acknowledge people and when you speak, look people in the eye and keep your attention focused. Focused on that person you're talking with and not on the conversation happening next to you, or your own reflection in the mirror, or worst of all - the text message that just came through on your phone.

Exert kindness to waiters and janitors and the grumpy cashier in the checkout line.

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. ~Mark Twain


Kindness is gentleness. Kindness is tolerance. Kindness is compassion. Kindness is welcoming a four-year-old boy to swim with you and your friend, when you're a totally cool teenager.

Kindness is teaching that four-year-old how to do a cannonball and gladly accepting his small hand when he tries to help you up a ladder. Kindness is giving him a high-five and saying, "That was fun, buddy! Maybe we'll see you again, tomorrow!"

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~George Washington Carver

Life Lesson #1: Always do your best to be kind.

Believe me, I know!

This won't always be easy!

Just ask your grandmother about the day that she volunteered to drive her house-bound friend somewhere, and that friend turned out to be a real pain in the passenger seat keester, who distracted her to the point that she got in to an automobile accident. And before the smoke had even settled, that friend hopped out of the car and loudly shared with the entire world (aka: witnesses) that they are an expert on automobile collisions because they've been in so many accidents that they've lost their license. And that "friend" will then proceed to point their finger at your wonderful grandmother and defiantly conclude that the accident was COMPLETELY HER FAULT.

God won't ask what kind of car you drove, but will ask how many people you drove home who didn't have transportation. (In my opinion, you're due extra points if that transportation-less person causes you to get in to an accident and then blames it on you.)

If you ever find yourself in a situation such as this, summon the strength to be kind even under duress. Like your grandmother, simply smile and say, "It's just a car, a material possession. It's really not anything important!"

Thankfully, your grandmother knows very well that as John Woodsen wrote, "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

(Even if that someone may be a person who should be hit over the head with a purse.)

Saturday, October 08, 2011

someone's grounded

Several months ago, during our morning meeting (aka: snuggle time) when all four of the children pile in to bed with us before getting up for the day, the discussion turned to names. Charlie was telling the kids that they could call him Dad, Daddy, Father, PaPa, but his preference is "Oh Mighty One."

Everyone laughed because Daddy?

He's funny that way.

Fast forward to earlier this week when Charlie took the children to the store and they all made the plea that he buy them new bicycles. Since we're buying the triplets new bicycles for their upcoming birthday, the answer was an obvious no. My husband didn't tell the children our plans of their birthday gifts, because he wants for it to be a surprise.

According to him, they took the news well that they wouldn't be leaving the store with new bicycles, they didn't make a fuss, and things were going just swell until they were standing in line - in front of several other customers and the cashier. That's when the triplets, in unison, looked at their father with tears in their eyes and said, "Oh Daddy. Oh PaPa. Please can we have a bicycle? Why don't you love us, OH MIGHTY ONE?"

He snorted out loud, but then saw that all the eyes within ear shot were sadly nodding at our children. THE CULPRITS. So he pulled them in to a loving bear hug and said, "GOOD TRY."

Charlie came home to tell me this story and said, "I can't believe our children would ever attempt to premeditate an embarrassment like that in public!" Then we saw this video clip and we hope that we never get pulled over by the police when the children are in the car...

As a precautionary measure, crayons and paper are no longer allowed when we're driving.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

... and then there is natural attenuation

One of the other things that I've learned as a geologist in the petrochemical industry is that the environment has an incredible way of healing itself. There exists, in the soil and water, naturally occurring microorganisms that literally feed off contamination that it encounters. Because of these biological processes, the mass, toxicity, mobility, volume and concentration of contamination in soil and water can often be significantly (to completely) reduced. It's a scientific fact that with time, good destroys bad and restores the earth to a well-balanced state.

So, to the hundreds
of people [Good Lord, where have you been hiding?] who have sent e-mails or left kind messages, you are the natural attenuating factors in the reservoir of my soul. Your words have humbled and healed me, beyond measure. And saturated my face with happy tears.

Friday night it was like there had been a death in the family. I went to bed nearly sobbing. There are so many things that I wanted to share (including but not limited to the dogs my mother has been "picking out" for the children and Charlie in his new Troop Leader uniform - I have photographic evidence!) that were thwarted. Obviously, I was going to stick with my plan of making the blog private, but I was in terrible mourning over what it would entail and how would I even begin to track down the e-mail addresses of the family and friends to invite?
AND WHAT ABOUT all the wonderful people, many of whom I've known "virtually" for years? Do I include some of them, all of them, none of them? There's a limit of 100 readers with a private blog and I'm Irish Catholic.

I have more than 100 cousins!

Tonight, I'm sipping a nice pumpkin ale. And because of that nice pumpkin ale + a few good nights rest + my mother and my family and the masses of people who have virtually grabbed me by the shoulders, given me a good shake and said, "Jen! Those carcinogens do not deserve the power you hand them when you emotionally twist yourself into a pretzel thinking of what they said and whether there is any truth to it!" I'm recanting my prior decision, summoning my energy, and tentatively putting up a sign on my blog door that says WELCOME.

(At least for now. I wish I could predict my long-term emotional stability, alas I cannot.)

It struck me: The reason I went down to the 3Day walk this year, with my family clothed in pink, was to spread cheer and support others; I wanted to give them happiness and strength.

The reason I opted to make this blog public (five and a half years ago), was in the event someone experiencing infertility or expecting or parenting multiples stumbled upon it; I wanted to give them courage and hope.

The reason I post the pictures and stories that I do is to hopefully, validate the feelings that so many of us have, that life can be tough at times. But it's beautiful and we need to savor all of the amazingly fleeting moments and maintain faith that things are indeed unfolding as they should.

Like the vast majority of people in my immediate family, it sincerely brings me great joy to bring joy to others. And after hearing from so many "others" this past week that expressed the happiness they've gleaned from this blog, I feel a positive obligation to keep it public. Sure, I know people don't always agree with me. In retrospect, I sometimes don't agree with myself, and might wonder, "What was I thinking when I wrote that?"

But one thing is for certain: it's never been my intent to hurt anyone, especially not my children. Hopefully, the vast majority of things that I've shared here, clearly illustrate the fact that they are my #1 priority. So when I receive passive-aggressive or down right venomous comments towards me, or any one of my children, my natural instinct to not hurt anyone is rapidly replaced with a fiery desire to mow the evil-doer down like a blade of grass.

I've long been aware that I need to be extremely cognizant of our children's privacy. As they grow older, what I write about, particularly in this forum, is an evolving terrain. In so far as moderating public feedback, I'm not quite sure of the solution. Maybe I eliminate comments altogether. Or maybe I eliminate anonymous comments. Or maybe I only allow comments from people who have blogs themselves, and therefore, run the risk of having their every thought and action analyzed and/or taken completely out of context.

I'll figure it out tomorrow. Or eventually.

Tonight, I'm just going to enjoy my pumpkin ale and marvel over the phenomenal ability of good to destroy bad and restore nature to perfect harmony. To those who have offered their generously kind words in an attempt to heal and restore this microcosm, thanks.

You Are Good People.