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.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Charlie, four years

Oh, Charlie, life with you is so very fun. Actually, life with you is very everything — big, fun, fast, important and loud. So loud. You live life as if every action, statement and expression is followed by an exclamation point.

You are inquisitive, imaginative, funny and surprisingly sensitive. You are also quite the charmer, and frequently respond to my requests to clean up or calm down with a compliment. While I appreciate that you like my dress, my bracelet and/or my choice of nail polish color, that doesn't change the fact that sometimes I just need you to listen. And oh, those dimples and twinkling blues eyes. They will be your saving grace and the death of me.

You are in a constant state of motion, and have grown quite coordinated in the past year. You can swing with the best of them, handle a soccer ball fairly well,  and are slowly mastering all of our wheeled toys. When confined to the indoors, you are prone to leaping from the furnishings, climbing on counter tops and generally doing things that frighten yet impress us.

As I mentioned, your attention span can sometimes leave a bit to be desired, but yet you are continuing to hit all of the necessary academic milestones, and can write your name, spell your name (ad nauseum), recite the alphabet, count and correctly identify shapes and other items.

Even on your worst day, Mary Clare would agree that you are a pretty great little brother, always game for Legos, Playmobil and pretend. The stories Mary Clare makes up for the two of you an get pretty involved, and you not only keep up, but add your own creative touch to the mayhem.

Basically, you are the best little guy and we are so very proud. We love you, Charlie Bird, and can't wait to see what you do next.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

All the love

Last week I may or may not have turned rage eyes on Chip and threatened, "If you do not handle these kids right now, I am going to lock them outside and go upstairs." 


Rage eyes and threats aside, lately when it comes to the kids, I have been filled with ALL THE LOVE. Maybe it's just me, but parenthood seems to be comprised of peaks and valleys—often in the same week, day or hour—and right now Mary Clare and Charlie are perched up on top of a mountaintop, gracing us with their beatific smiles. They are constantly making my heart explode with pride and love. Each day they blow me away with what they know, what they do and how they interact with one another. I'm telling you, the cockles of my heart, they are warm. 

Mary Clare is just so grown up. It saddens and excites me all at once. She nailed the end of Kindergarten, is reading like a pro and is ready to be a first grader. The books she creates will make you cry, they are so heartfelt and clever and cute. And funny. She is funny. But now she's using not just words, but expressions and gestures to make her point and make us laugh, and it works. The girl has good delivery. She is as genuine as ever, and so, so brave. This week she is at an all-day gymnastics camp, and leading up to it she did not ask me if her friends would be there, much less how the days would go. It turns out she didn't know a soul there, but that did not bother her in the slightest. She made friends and is having an outright ball. I continually marvel at her flexibility, independence and desire for new adventures. 

Charlie is equally excited about everything. Everything. There is nothing he does not like. His demands are endless, but delivered in such a way that you cannot help but be charmed. He just wants to do all the things. Preferably now. While his energy level is seemingly at an all-time high, he can rally and deliver some patience and good behavior when it matters most. He loves to be outdoors and is getting to be quite the coordinated little guy. He mastered the swing and is getting quite comfortable on the next-step-up scooter and his bike with training wheels. And oh! The looks he gives upon mastering a new feat. They will melt even the coldest heart. "Are you so proud of me, mama?" he frequently asks. And not one to be outdone by his sister, he has taken to approaching Chip or I, board book in hand, and asking, "Would you like me to read this book to you?" Trust me, you want him to read you the book. And you most definitely want one of his tighter-than-tight hugs.

I am so proud. Of both of them. And so in love. So very in love*.

*At least until the witching hour rolls around and all hell breaks loose. Then Buddy is back to being my favorite.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


We had two busy days and two late-ish nights back to back this weekend. On Friday morning the kiddos and I went with some friends to MoBot. It was warm, and the kids played hard. So hard, that I was confident this would be the day they would both take much-needed naps, since we were going to see Circus Flora that night. Of course they did not nap, of course they were fine at the circus and of course they hit a wall the second they got into the car. As Chip carried Mary Clare into the house, she whimpered, "I should have taken a nap." Charlie, naturally, still took a good 15 minutes to settle down.

Saturday was rainy and lazy, which was quite nice, as we had to head to the Cardinals game late that afternoon to meet up with Chip's entire family. Due to rain delay after rain delay, we finally left around 8:30 without seeing any actual baseball. The kids were beat. As soon as we were in the car, Mary Clare started begging all of us to be quiet so she could sleep. Unfortunately, she has a brother who is anything but quiet. So while Charlie chatted and tried to cajole his sister into joining him in some small talk, Mary Clare begged and screamed for quiet. As we neared the house, Mary Clare snarled, "Charlie, I am not going to come to your birthday party. I don't like super hero parties." 

Equally exhausted, but never one to let anything go, Charlie whimpered, "But Mary Cware, you have to come to my birthday party."

"I won't!" she shouted. "I don't like superheroes!"

"What do you like?" he timidly asked.

"NOTHING!" she screamed.

"Then I will have a nothing party!" he triumphantly exclaimed.

As we pulled into the driveway, Charlie was ebullient, Mary Clare was sobbing and Chip and I were shaking with laughter. Ten minutes later, both kids were in bed and sound asleep, and as of this writing, the superhero birthday party is back on and Mary Clare is planning to attend. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The mystery sibling

The other night, Chip and I were trying to have a quick chat while I made dinner and he prepared to head out for the evening. We were on the deck, and the kids were playing in the yard. But not happily.

"Daddy, pleeeeeeease come and play with us," they pleaded.

"Guys, you're fine." he responded. "Dinner will be ready in five minutes, and mommy and I need to talk."

"But we are so booooored!" shouted Charlie.

"Play together," he said. "That's why we had another kid."

Charlie* looked up, startled, and said, "Where is he?"

"You, buddy. You're the other kid," Chip responded. "Now play with your sister."

*The look on his face. I wish you could have seen it. Priceless.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

She has my number

Despite the fact that Mary Clare has to wear a uniform to school, she actually has a lot of options when it comes down to the various components. Red or white shirt, long sleeve or short sleeve, solid red, navy or white cardigans, sweaters and sweatshirts, fleeces and half-zip pullovers with the school logo are allowed with either her jumper or solid navy bottoms. Last year when she started at Holy Redeemer, I had all of the options for her, including navy shorts and navy pants, which she absolutely refused to wear. She carried this refusal straight through the first semester of Kindergarten as well.

Now it is spring, and it's possible that she is getting a little sick of her jumper. With that in mind, last week I floated the idea of wearing a pair of her shorts to school. Daring, I know. She jumped at the chance. Loved it. Thought it was the greatest day ever. Couldn't get enough of the matching plaid belt with the heart buckle.

The next day she wanted to wear shorts again. Now, she has two pairs of shorts, but she had already signed off on the clothes I laid out for her the night before, it was early in the morning, I was tired and I did not feel like looking for the other pair of shorts. 

So I lied.

"Mary Clare, can you please just wear your jumper?" I asked, in what I'm certain was a somewhat whiny tone.

"But why?" she demanded. "I really want to wear shorts. I can run more in shorts."

"Well, you only have that one pair of shorts, and they are in the wash," I responded.

"Well," she harrumphed, as she eyed me up and down. "I find that very hard to believe." 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

IHOP is not playing

Mary Clare had the pleasure of spending Friday with her Gramps and Gram Lindh. While Mary Clare loves Kindergarten, the full-time school gig has cut into her quality time with grandparents, and nothing makes her more upset than hearing that Charlie gets a special grandparent day while she goes to school.

On Friday morning, after Charlie and Chip had left for the day, I walked into her room and whispered, "Do you want to spend the day with Gramps and Gram?"

Her eyes lit up.

"Finally!" she exclaimed. "I have been waiting FOREVER."

Upon her return, she recounted her G&G adventure to us.

"And we went to IHOP for breakfast, and I had pancakes, and I even put syrup on them!" she exclaimed.

"Really?" I said. "And you ate them? Usually you only want butter."

"Yes," she responded. "They had all of these great syrups. Blueberry, strawberry and poison berry. I mixed them all together. It was so good."

"Sweetie," I said, "I think you mean boysenberry, not poison berry."

"No, mom," she firmly answered. "It was poison berry, and it was so good. I love poison berry."

There was no use arguing. If ever there was a syrup that would make her like syrup, it would definitely be poison.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

No idea where he heard this

Yesterday as Chip was driving Charlie to school, they were talking about the day ahead and what Charlie could tell his friends about his long weekend in Columbia.

Chip said he was in the middle of talking about Charlie's visit to the Mizzou columns when Charlie interrupted.

"Calm down, daddy," he instructed. "Just calm down."

It's terrible when they throw your words back at you.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


So, the other day Charlie spanked the secretary at Mary Clare's school.

I know.

I was signing us out after library duty, and all of a sudden I heard Mrs. G say, "Oh!" just as the other parent in the room gasped. I looked up, and based on their location to one another and the look on both of their faces, I knew immediately what had happened.

You see, a few days prior, Charlie had started saying, "Mama, I have a surprise for you!" and then he would sneak up behind me and pat my bottom. I guess I should have discouraged it, but honestly, it seemed like yet another one of his passing fancies, and I obviously didn't think he would do it to anyone else, much less the school secretary.

So, anyway, of course I reprimanded him and Mrs. G was very sweet about it (and very good about keeping a straight face), and then we got the hell out of there.

Fast forward to the next week, and Charlie and I had to return to the scene of the crime so I could turn in some forms. On the way, I reminded Charlie that when we go into the office, we only say hello to Mrs. G — we don't shout at her or touch her pencils, and we most certainly don't touch her. There was no mention made of spanking or the Charlie surprise special, but he seemed to get the idea. We walked into the office, and I don't know who was holding their breath more, me or Mrs. G. Charlie, of course, was cool as a cucumber.

"Hi, Mrs. G.!" he said, and hit her with his most charming, innocent smile.

"Hi, Charlie," she responded, and inquired about his day.

I handed her the forms, she and I shared a knowing smile, and then we got the hell out of there. I know when not to press my luck.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

She has his number

Last night was one of those nights where I knew no one was going to bed on time. 

Chip got stuck in traffic, so I picked up both kids, which set us back. Then, of course, we had all of the tedious little duties that seem to take a solid 30 minutes, but I deem necessary because surprise, I need order. So instead of immediately launching into dinner prep, I hung up the coats, put hats and gloves in baskets, unpacked lunchboxes, fed the dog, let the dog outside, turned on lights, gathered the mail and sorted the mail while intermittently stopping to cajole, console and manage the latest crisis. 

Because kids. And kids of Type A parents, right?

So, by the time I was ready to start dinner, it was 6:30 and the kids were fried. And I was making a new recipe.

Of course I did what any sane person would do. Plopped the kids on the couch, gave them something to drink and turned on the television. 

I scrolled through the options and after making their selection, I read Mary Clare and Charlie the synopsis of an episode of Sofia the First, which mentioned something about a shy friend.

"I'm not shy," said Mary Clare.

As I got Charlie settled in, I responded, "No, you're not really shy, Mary Clare. Which is so great."

"Well," she continued, "Sometimes I can be a little shy. If it's somewhere new."

"That's normal," I said. 

Not to be left out, Charlie declared, "I am not shy!"

"No, Charlie," I said, "You, my boy, are definitely not shy. Ever."

"Yeah, Charlie. You are not shy," Mary Clare agreed. "Especially around the ladies."

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fair and square

The kids are really into sneaking around the house and spying on us. Because you know, Chip and I are always running around doing exciting, top secret type of things worthy of spying. They have also staked out the first-floor closet and the area behind our bed as their not-so-secret secret hideouts, and playing ninjas (sneaky ninjas, obviously) is a favorite pastime as well. 

On Saturday, per usual, Chip got up with the kids while I snoozed for a bit longer. I was just getting out of bed when I heard a lot of "Shh!" noises outside my door. So, of course, I threw myself back into bed, pulled covers up and pretended to be asleep just as Charlie crept into the room.

And then I waited.

And waited.

And waited. 

But still there was no "Boo!"

I opened my eyes and made eye contact with Chip, who was standing at the door and shaking with laughter. Charlie's belly crawl around the bed was apparently quite the production. 

Finally, after much effort and many, many more noies, I heard a "Boo!" followed by a "Hi-ya!"

So, of course I flung my arms into the air and screamed.

I looked over, and there was Charlie dressed in all black with a belt tied around his head.

"I sneaked you, Mama!" he triumphantly proclaimed. "I sneaked you fair and square!" 

It might have been the world's longest, least sneaky sneak, but I had to agree, it was fair and square. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

All the feelings

As we were getting ready to leave the house this afternoon to pick up Mary Clare from school, Charlie plopped himself down on the floor in the most dramatic fashion. 

"Charlie," I said, "Pop up. We have to go get Mary Clare."

He let loose with a heavy, equally dramatic sigh. 

"But, mommy," he said, "I really need to stay home and rest my feelings."

The good news is that I am getting better at keeping a straight face when he makes these declarations. The bad news is that they come so frequently, that if I don't immediately write it down, I forget. 

I love him. And his exhausted feelings. 


Monday, February 23, 2015

Yes, let's

On Saturday Chip had to do some in-services in Cape Girardeau, which meant that I was flying solo with the kids for the day. 

After breakfast, Mary Clare hunkered down with her American Girl doll, and was not heard from for three solid hours. I inquired about her health on a few occasions and received a smile when I bestowed upon her five doll-sized hair clips I happened upon, but she was clearly content to be in Doll Mode.

Charlie, on the other hand, just wanted to be in Mama Mode.

After hearing "Mama," "But, Mama," "Mama?" "Yes, but Mama?" and "Mama!" for three hours and having him trail me around the entire house, I finally opted for "Mama, where are you?" status and hid out in the office. But, like always, he found me. Quickly.

After rambling around the room and being quiet for a minute that felt like an hour, he quietly approached my chair.

"Mama!" he exclaimed. "I am a good person*. Let's talk."

And so we did.

*Please note, while I may have at one point asked Charlie, to please, please just be quiet for a second, I did not tell him he was a bad person. Or even annoying. (Even though hearing your name for three hours straight can be pretty darned annoying.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

They're taking this pretty hard

I turned 39 a week or so ago, and eh, it's fine. I don't get completely freaked out about age. At least not yet. Talk to me in a year. Or five years. 

Anyway, while I am seemingly unfazed by the big 4-0 looming on the horizon, my kids are not.

On the morning of my birthday, Charlie said, "Happy birthday, mama! How old are you?"

"I'm 39, buddy." 

"Oh," he said. "Will you still be able to pick me up?"

I assured him that I would.

On our way to school a few days later, Mary Clare asked me if now that I'm 39, does that mean I will be a grandma soon? I assured her it did not, which is the beauty of waiting until your mid-30s to have children.

Fast forward to this morning. As I was tidying up some items in the basement in preparation for Girl Scout cookie storage, Charlie came flying down the stairs.

"Mama!" he exclaimed in that important statement/question style of his, "Were there dinosaurs when you were a baby?"

Sigh. It's going to be a long year/decade/lifetime.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reading is fun for the whole family

Last night after reading the kids a few books, we tackled Mary Clare's sight words again. The past two weeks of illnesses set us back a bit, so I was dead set on Mary Clare completing her black turtle sight words this week. (Brown turtle, we're coming for you.)

Of course, Charlie was more than ready to assist.

Having worked on the black turtle words for awhile now, Mary Clare was much more proficient and only stumbled on a few. To his credit, Charlie did not seem upset about not getting to screech "wrong!" and dramatically throw the flash card onto the "additional review required" pile. In fact, dare I say it, he was rather encouraging. He was so sweet, nodding his head and smiling when she got it right.

As Mary Clare battled over "soon," Charlie encouraged her, "Mary Cware, you have to sound it out. Go on, sound it out!"

At this point, I lost it. I started shaking with laughter, which only encouraged Charlie to ham it up even more. Mary Clare, ever intent on wrapping up these blasted black turtle words just said, "Mom, when you laugh like that, it is really distracting."

She's trying to learn here, people. Shape up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I love him for his honesty

Valentine's Day morning, Chip and the kids surprised* me with breakfast in bed. As I propped myself up and put on my glasses, Mary Clare and Charlie scrambled onto the bed, excitedly telling me about the gourmet treats laid out before me. 

"See the waffles cut into heart shapes?" asked Mary Clare. "That was my idea." 

She continued on, "And daddy made the scrambled eggs, and he made your coffee. He also made the waffles."

Chip added, "It was Mary Clare's idea to fill in that little space on the plate with those chocolate heart-shaped cookies." 

As I oohed and ahhed, Charlie stood, waved his arms and said, "And I ... I did nothing." 

And to say he was proud of it would be an understatement. 

*Please note that Chip, two excited kids, one hopeful dog and our incredibly loud stairs make it virtually impossible to stage a surprise of any sort.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Career counseling

Yesterday Charlie and I picked Mary Clare up from school, and then the three of us headed to Target to pick up some last-minute Valentine's Day items, plus some meds, because ugh, this is the virus that won't quit.

As we were sitting at a stoplight, Mary Clare spied a flag display featuring the U.S., Missouri and POW/MIA flags. After convincing her that the Missouri state flag was not, in fact, the flag of Mexico, she moved her focus to the black POW/MIA flag. I did my best to explain it. We have some good family friends and family members who served in Vietnam, Desert Storm and the Irag wars, so I could make it somewhat relatable by mentioning Carl, Uncle Beef and cousin Alexander. (Thankfully, none of them were POW/MIA, so I glossed over that part to a degree and said it was more to honor soldiers who were hurt trying to keep us safe.)

All of this soldier talk got Charlie riled up.

"When I grow up, I want to jump out of a helicopter! With a gun! And fight bad guys!" And then Charlie paused, and said in this slightly timid voice that completely broke my heart, "And Mary Clare, you will help me? Because I want you to help me."

To which his sister, ever the sensitive soul, responded, "No. I am going to be a cheerleader."

Yeah, let that sink in for a minute.

Undaunted as always, he persisted. "But Mary Clare, I really want to jump out of helicopters and fight bad guys, but I want you to help me, too."

Mary Clare responded, "I really want to be a cheerleader, Charlie." And then she added, "Mom, can girls even be soldiers? I know they can't fly helicopters."

Pause for me banging my head against the steering wheel, wondering where in the ever-loving world did I go wrong with her.

Eventually I regained my composure.

"Yes, Mary Clare. Of course girls can be soldiers. And yes, they definitely can fly helicopters," I said. "One of you cousin Alexander's friends is a girl who flies helicopters, and she flies the really huge helicopters that can carry a lot of soldiers and their equipment."

She seemed convinced. Charlie, of course, was completely on board.

"Yeah! And that is the kind of helicopter I am going to jump out of. With my gun!"

Mary Clare, however, was not to be swayed.

"I really want to be a cheerleader," she said, crossing her arms.

I almost started to tell her that cheerleaders can jump out of helicopters with guns, but thought better of it, because really, it's a sad day when that's the career you're pushing.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It goes both ways

Taking a cue from a certain sister who has embraced her role as teacher, Charlie is more than happy to take on the teacher role when it comes to helping  Mary Clare learn her sight words. The fact that he cannot read is a minor detail.

Last night before bed Mary Clare, Chip and Charlie were doing flash cards. Chip would hold up the card, and then pass it to Charlie once Mary Clare read the word. If Mary Clare got the word correct, Charlie would put it on the big pile. If she did not get it right, it went off to the side for additional review.

Charlie was pretty quick to pick up on his sister's cues. The second she would hesitate on a word or emit the dreaded, "Uhhh ..." Charlie would say, "Wrong!" snap the card out of Chip's hand and put it on the "additional review required" pile.

As you can imagine, Mary Clare was not amused. But Chip was. And that's what teaching  your children to read is all about.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

R is for 'riting

Charlie is working on learning to write his first name. His teacher alerted us a week or so ago that for the first time, he showed some real interest in tracing the dots and forming the letters for "Charlie" in all caps, so we have been working on it at home as well. 

Mary Clare has embraced this new task, and will carefully set up the dots and then coach Charlie as he traces the letters. It's really quite cute how patient and encouraging she is with him. 

Last night Chip and Mary Clare were helping Charlie write his name on the chalkboard. When they got to the "R," Charlie exclaimed, "Oh, I like this letter. This is the fun one!"

It sure is, buddy.