Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Grace Under Pressure

I woke up this morning to a migraine headache, something I get a few times a year, usually when a cold front is coming through and smashing up against a warm front. I was thankful that I had a few hours before I had to go pick up the kids from school and drive them way out east for a basketball game.

I managed to consume a banana and a cup of tea so I wouldn’t have to take analgesics on an empty stomach. Then I snuggled up with my toddler on the couch and watched a Thomas the Tank Engine video.

She roused me at the end of the video and I realized it was time to go. I felt absolutely nauseous and was not sure how I could possibly drive. “Go get your hairbrush,” I told her.

She was on her way up the stairs, when she complained, “I think there’s something stuck in my nose.”

Thinking it was a “boogie”, I stuck my finger in her nostril to see if I could clear whatever was bothering her. I didn’t feel anything.

“There’s nothing in there,” I said.

“There’s something stuck in there!” she insisted.

So I placed her on the couch and looked up her nose. She was right. There was a miniature jingle bell stuck up her nose. I hadn’t seen this happen since my eldest was two and had stuck a bead up her nose; it had required a visit to the pediatrician to remove it.

I looked up at the clock nervously. If I couldn’t get it out, maybe the school nurse would remove it for me. I picked up a tweezer and a toothpick, random items left on top of the microwave.

The toothpick fit perfectly into the hole in the jingle bell, and it came smoothly out. She seemed to suffer no discomfort. “Phew!” Suddenly my nausea was gone. That fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline had kicked it out of my system. Thank God.

As we drove, I felt the pain in my right eye gradually dull, fading into my sinuses. We stopped at a light and the sun peaked out of the clouds at me. I found myself thanking the Lord for the headache, which had reminded me that I always need to ask for His Grace to get through a busy day of being a mom.

It was a long drive. When we arrived, the coach went into the gym and came out to tell us that, due to a drama rehearsal, the game was being delayed for a half hour. We were welcome to hang out in the snow-covered parking lot in the meantime. I realized we had forgotten to bring water. We took our extra time to go to McDonald’s for some nuggets and shakes. At least dinner was out of the way for the night.

The game started with the other team ahead. Finally, a close game, one worth watching, I thought. We had been undefeated, and none of the other teams had given us much of a challenge. I soon realized that the other team was composed of experienced eighth graders, towering over our mixed team of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. By half-time it became apparent that we might be in for our first loss.

Our poor girls really suffered at the hands of the opposing team. There was scratching, slapping, kicking, elbowing…not a girl escaped without a mark to her face or body. Sure, they had fouls issued, but the damage was already done.

So we walked away from our first loss, bruised in body and ego, but knowing we had played by the rules and done our best. Kudos to the coaches as well, for giving all the sixth graders some playing time even when we were behind. I am sure every parent drove home giving their children lessons to be learned about sportsmanship even in the face of the lack of the same from the other team.

Some days just aren’t that great…but we can still glean some great thoughts from them. Like when you get a gift that is hard to appreciate at Christmas, but then you still remember it’s a gift. Every day in this walk is a gift, and with our children in them they are all golden.

Picture above is from a game played in Dec. 2009 - both teams displayed good sportsmanship in that game.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Review of “Poet”: Forty Poems by Paul Gerard Dextraze

Paul Gerard Dextraze has self-published a book of his forty poems. Originally the purpose of his book was to preserve them as a legacy for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. However, as he began to share his writing with his friends he was encouraged to publish his work for the enjoyment of others. He sought out beautiful photographs to complement the subjects of his poems, obtained permission from the photographers to share them, and printed up his book. The purpose of the book was to share his gift with others as a blessing.

Paul’s poems follow the traditional rhyme with rhythm. Most of the poems are in quadrants, either with rhyming couplets or with every other line rhyming with each other. I found this to be a refreshing change from the often confusing ramble of non-traditional poetry. There is even a poem on “Modern Poetry” that discusses this pet-peeve of classic poets.

The poems are on a multitude of topics that hit the high and low notes of every emotion. The humourous poems made me laugh out loud. The sad poems bring tears to the eye but, unlike the poems of Robert Frost, they still have an undercurrent of joy.

Section I, entitled “Humour”, discusses the writing of poetry, animals, aliens, and chastity (in a play of words entitled “Unchased Virgin”). The last of these is followed up by a cartoon in the back of the book in which a reader, puzzled, asks, “Doesn’t he know how to spell ‘Unchaste’? Oh wait - I get it!”

Section II, “Nature”, is a collection of lovely poems about various animals, accompanied by colorful photographs. Even my three-year-old was delighted by them. With the author’s permission, I quote the shortest of them…

A Northern Cardinal Visits a Fool (By Paul Gerard Dextraze)

December rose, I dare to ask
The reason why you wear a mask –
To shield your eyes when snows are bright?
Chip! He says, and takes to flight.

Section III, “Sorrow”, delves into Christ’s life and death, and personal pain. Section IV, “Grief” is composed of some tear-wrenching poems about the loss of a child. Section V, “God’s Love”, shares the omnipresence of God throughout our trials. Section VI, “Rejoicing”, celebrates autumn and Christ’s sacrifice. Section VII, “ Romantic Love”, brings to mind Shakespearean love poetry; it includes a chaste look at marital love. Section VIII, “Love of Child”, covers both the joy of a parent in his or her child and the sorrow of a child who has passed on. Section IX, “In Defense of Babies”, has both an anti-abortion poem and a poem rejoicing in pregnancy.

Anyone interested in this quality book of poetry may email Paul at for the free pdf. A limited number of free hard-copies of his book are available for serious poetry fans.

The picture above is taken from the cover of the poetry book. This picture was taken by Fred Walsh and is copyrighted to him. The link for this picture of the northern male cardinal is

For more of Fred Walsh’s beautiful photographs of birds, please visit his picture blog at

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Apple of my Eye

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings – Psalms 17:2

One of my very favorite things about being a stay-at-home mom is that mornings are so laid-back. The school-aged children know how to get themselves ready, and the bus stop is right at the end of my driveway. They kiss me and my husband goodbye and we go back to sleep, cozy and warm, until we are good and ready to start our day.

My three-year-old, now nap-free, goes to sleep at the same time as the older children and sleeps until around 9 a.m. She comes into our room and climbs between us, where we snuggle as our brains come to life.

On my husband’s side of the bed I have set up his favorite mementos: some Star Trek stuff, and a picture of our three older kids in front of the old Shea Stadium, circa 2005. Every time I dust, I think of replacing it with one that includes all the children, but I just can’t bring myself to put his beloved Shea away in a box.

This morning after my husband rolls out of bed she studies his personal belongings and declares, “Mommy, I not in there!”

I think about the significance of her statement.

He comes back over and I say, “Tell Daddy what you said about the picture.”

“Daddy, I not in there!”

“You weren’t born yet,” he explains.

“But - why I not in there?”

We are at a loss for words and answer by giving her some more morning snuggles.

An old saying comes back to me. Old friends of my parents used to say to me, “I knew you when you were the apple in your mother’s (or father’s) eye.” That statement puzzled me as a child. Then I learned in General Psychology that the pupils dilate when one is in the early stages of romantic attraction, and the saying became clear.

Although I always had the number four in my head for the number of children I would have, as a couple we have taken things one kid at a time. We never knew how many we would have – we still don’t know – but God always knew.

So in a larger sense, this little three-year-old was there in that picture. She was the apple in my eye, and in her father’s eye, and a plan in God’s eye. They always were, and always will be.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No heat in the middle of winter?

After our main heating unit broke down twice within three of the coldest days on Long Island this winter, I wondered what a family would do if they did not have a backup heating source, or a close friend or family member with whom to spend the night. Today's Examiner article tells the whole story of what happened to us, what we did, and what I suggest families do to have some kind of an emergency heat disaster plan.

My fears of freezing to death really were worse than the actual cold, and I was left feeling more sympathetic than ever toward those in the plight of having no shelter whatsoever in this weather.

Visions went through my head of the people who must have suffered in the camps at Krakow, Poland. I visited there when I was 18 and I can still remember the small, bare hovels. My imagination peopled those rooms with women and children, no meat on their bones, struggling to keep each other warm as snow came in the poor shelters.

We have so many comforts in our modern life, with much to be thankful for. If you are reading this on a computer, you are probably in a well-heated environment right now, with clean tap water within reach and something good to eat if you desire it. Say a pray of thanks.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Visit at a friend’s house

I park in front of my friend’s historic house and get my things together. My three-year-old is all excited to go to “Sissy’s” house. I’ve broken the rules of social engagements by inviting myself over, but my friend never minds. She lives right around the block from my children’s school, which is a half hour from my house. So whenever I am at the school volunteering, I give her a call and invite myself over. This time I am serving snack from 12 to 1, and have to be back again at 2:30 for a basketball game.

She usually puts out something nice for lunch, but I don’t want her to fuss, so we bring our own sandwiches and eat them in the car. When I arrive, I am glad that I did that, because she is still trying to get five minutes to eat her microwaved birthday dinner leftovers, as her two- and four- year-olds vie for her attention.

My three-year-old instantly makes herself at home, trying on Disney Princess dresses with Sissy and sipping “tea” while watching Little Bear. Every corner is a delightful discovery. In one corner is a writer’s desk, clear but for a laptop and a notebook. In another is a quaint table with antique tea cups – which kids are still allowed to use. On one wall you find an unused mantle where a life-sized china cat keeps watch over some dried flowers. Nearby on a Victorian-style couch lays a huge, long-haired, real white cat.

We alternate between sitting and getting up, as my friend attempts to eat something while her two-year-old, no longer restrained by gates, roams to far corners of the house asking for her help. The conversation doesn’t stop for anything – we have too much to cover in the course of an hour. Writing goals, personal dreams, childhood sicknesses, and housekeeping rants all need to be shared.

For an hour, I feel like a person with no required functions. I am just me, and my friend appreciates all that I have to offer without expecting me to actually do anything. Except listen.

It is over too fast, and it is heart-wrenching to have to force my three-year-old out of her Princess dress, leave her friends, and go out into the cold to go back to the school. For the next three days, she repeatedly pesters me, “Mommy, I want to be a Princess at Sissy’s house again.”

“Me too,” I reply.