Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pets: fake, lost and found

Charlie and Mary Clare have a decent amount of Beanie Boos, the modern day Beanie Babies. While I am admittedly freaked out by their oversized eyes and teeny-tiny bodies, the kids love them. Mary Clare has four that she lines up on the pillow next to her each night, making sure that I tuck the covers up to their chins, the way she prefers to be covered up as well. Charlie, well, he loves them because Mary Clare loves them. And I love that Charlie calls them "Peanie Poos," no matter how many times Mary Clare tries to correct him. And he's not even going for the bathroom humor audience on this one. For once. 

In the living pet world, the kids are obsessed with missing pet flyers. If we are driving along, they beg me to slow down or wait at the stop sign long enough for them to read the flyer. After I get the okay to go, they then proceed to look for said missing animal. And they're serious. We've found two cats so far. Not necessarily the cats that were missing, but we've found two cats. According to Charlie, that is. The other funny thing about this is that if, say, we're about half a mile past the point where we first saw the poster, Mary Clare will suddenly declare, "Okay, you can stop looking now, Charlie. There is no way the cat would have made it this far." I don't bother arguing with her. They have found two cats, after all. 


Sunday, December 20, 2015

At least he wants to be close

Charlie, as you know, is quite the talker. As I worked in his room earlier today, putting away his clean clothes, he started on one of the many streams of consciousness I have come to block out love.

"Mom, do you know that I am stronger than you?" he asked.

"Oh, really? Why do you think you are stronger than me?

"Because," he said, puffing out his chest, "I am strong and you are almost a grandma."

"A grandma," I choked. "Really, you think I am almost a grandma?"

"Yes," he said, a little too matter-of-fact for my taste. "And when you are a grandma, I am going to call you Grandma Debbie."

"Well, that seems like a good name," I said. "Grandma Debbie sounds nice."

And, unfortunately, it did not end there. 

"Mom, what kind of nursing office are you going to live in?" he asked.

"Nursing office? Well, I haven't given it much thought, I must say. Where do you think I should live?"

"Well, I guess you can live in a nursing office close to my house," he said, rather generously. "That way I can still see you a lot."

And talk at me, no doubt.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Nine years. Niiiine years. Niiiiine yeaaaaars.

The passing of time is an interesting thing. Like, when it comes to the kids, with each birthday I have small moments of sadness because my babies! They are growing up so fast! And when it comes to my age, I tend to not really care so much, age being just a number and all that jazz. But when it comes to our marriage, I think of the years as an achievement. And also sort of like a drop in the bucket. Like, "Yes, nine years is great ... and we have so many more ahead of us." And I mean that in a good way. I do. (Well, except on the days when I text you DISHWASHER.) Because I do look forward to experiencing life with you. And I appreciate how reassuring it can be to know that no matter what, I have you by my side. 

So here is to nine years, dear husband. You, and you alone, not live-in car maintenance or handy man work, are the reason I married. And I love you. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Random is an understatement

This morning when Charlie woke up, he was in a cuddly mood. Some morning he pops right up and is ready to go wake his sister and wreak havoc on the house, and other mornings he is sweet and likes to sit a bit while getting his bearings. This morning was the latter. The pitch-black mornings do have their benefits.

As I plucked him from his bed, he put his head on my shoulder and snuggled in while I opened the blinds. We sat down in the chair, and he asked in the sleepiest voice possible, "Mama, how do you fall in love?"

It was a lot for 6:45 a.m., but I rallied.

"Well," I said, "You meet someone who is kind, and caring, and smart and funny, and because of that, you just want to spend all of your time with them. And they make you happy, and that makes your heart happy." 

"Okay," he responded, and then paused to process this. But not for too long, because a second later, he piped up again. 

"Mama, you are a rocket ship, and we are blasting off into space!" he declared. "And I just tooted on you."

Monday, September 21, 2015


This morning Charlie and I were both busy at work in the office. I was doing work-work, and he was building with blocks.

Charlie sings while he works. Loudly, and non stop. While we typically enjoy highlights of Top 40 hits, he is clearly a fan of the songs they sing at school. His current favorite is a little ditty he likes to call, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Goats." It's really quite wonderful.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Never mind that he is currently sporting a black eye and a banged-up knee. Charlie is all about safety. Not so much his personal safety, per se. He's more interested in the big picture—the safety of homes, schools, entire cities, etc. You get the idea.

So we talk about storms, fires and other natural disasters on the regular. A firefighter and a police officer visited his classroom over the summer, and of course drills are a regular occurrence at his school, so safety is clearly top of mind.

As we walked Mary Clare to school on Monday, Charlie took it upon himself to remind us of what we need to do in case of emergency. He marched ahead, sharing his insights:

"When it's a fire, you have to get out of the house. Run. Don't stop to take any toys," he said, and then turned around to make sure we were paying attention. We nodded and I confirmed that yes, the most important thing is to get yourself to safety. He nodded, pleased that he taught us something. Mary Clare and I exchanged a conspiratorial smile, and he resumed his march, and his spiel.

"Now," he said, "if it is a tomato, you do not go outside. You go to a small room. And you have to go like this."

And quick as can be, he dropped down onto the sidewalk and assumed the crouch-and-cover position we were all taught in grade school.

As he popped up, he said, "That is what you do. Because tomatoes are very dangerous."

That they are, buddy. But now we know what to do. As does everyone who was cruising down Lockwood Ave. that morning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A great woman

My Grandma Thole passed away last week at the age of 97. She was sharp right up until the end, and went in her sleep, per her request.

At her visitation, countless people said to me, "She was a great woman."

And they meant it, delivering it in a straightforward manner that let you know this was not just what they say at every funeral, or that grandma was just your average woman. They thought of her as a great woman, and wanted to make sure her granddaughter knew it as well.

At her funeral mass, my dad gave a eulogy that included the key moments of her life and served as a stunning tribute to the wonderful woman I was proud to call grandma for 39 years.

The oldest of five girls and raised on a farm, my grandma's education ended at seventh grade. But you never really would have known it. She read the paper every day, front to back, and always knew what was going in the world, the state and most certainly her small hometown of St. Rose, Illinois. She was, after all, the one who told me that a high school classmate of mine was "on the dope."

After 20 years of marriage, she was widowed when my grandfather had a massive heart attack, left to raise three children under the age of 15 and run a 300-acre dairy farm. Surely it was hard, but my dad said she never complained. She taught my dad and his siblings the importance of hard work, passed along her inquisitive nature and, by her example, showed them that there is absolutely nothing they could not do without some focus and determination.

As her granddaughter, I remember rearranging the conch shell, rocks and potted geraniums on her astroturf-covered steps. Her refrigerator was always stocked with soda, and I enjoyed countless bright pink cream sodas while stretched out on her ivory carpet beneath the canopy of her always present quilt frame. A talented quilt maker, it was, in fact, a rarity to visit her home and not see a quilt frame occupying the majority of her small living room. We used to visit on weekend nights, and before we left, we sat down in her kitchen for a bedtime snack of cake or cookies, canned peach halves and glasses of milk. While my parents and grandma lingered over dessert, Sherri and I would poke at the wax fruit in the depression glass bowl she used as a centerpiece.

My sister and I would spend short stretches of time with grandma in the summer, and in addition to riding our bikes up and down her secluded road, throwing yard darts and playing with my aunt's old dolls and toys (this is where I first developed my love for ironing), I would spend hours drawing quilt layouts, hoping that one would be good enough for her to add to her book of designs. I don't think any made the book, and while it probably frustrated me at the time, I think that is one of the very reasons I love and admire my grandmother so much. Grandma was a straight shooter and never sugarcoated anything, no matter how young or old you might be, or even if you just so happened to be one of her youngest grandchildren.

Now that I am older and understand the magnitude of the experiences that shaped her life—being widowed at a relatively young age, raising small children as a single mother, running a farm with 15-, 11- and 6-year-old children to help, seeing two sons off to war and being completely self sufficient and independent, essentially up to the very end—I understand why she was not always the most sympathetic or demonstrative in her affections. And yet, I never, ever, for one minute questioned how much she loved me—as well as all of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. She may not have ever said it, but she loved us and was proud of us.

And I am so proud to have had her as my grandmother. How could I not be? She was strong, practical, independent, intelligent, and selfless. She never wished for material items or pitied herself, and she always showed others such remarkable kindness and generosity. At one point in college, I remember visiting during a break and apologizing for not being able to visit that much. "Don't worry about me," she said. "You just visit your other grandparents. They need you more than I do."

At the end, she finally needed us—my dad, my uncle, my aunt and their spouses, specifically—and while, even in her weakest moments, no one was going to tell her what to do, I believe she was relieved and comforted to be in the care of the children who loved her and who learned how to be great parents and grandparents by following her example.

I will miss hearing my grandma's stories, her delivery of "oh, for heaven's sake" and her distinctive belly-shaking chortle of a laugh. And I will forever cherish my memories of her and the lessons she taught me. She truly was a great woman.