Family First: Why I’m Not at the World Meeting of Families

family first missing wmf2015

I didn’t think, when I first heard about it, that I’d want to go. I’m not into crowded places, big cities, traffic nightmares.

It’s the company I’m missing: the fellowship; the chance to see, in person, the smile that’s attached to the author/reporter/speaker/Sister/priest I follow on Twitter. The chance to get acquainted with several writers whose work I admire–my amazing coworkers in the vineyard that is

And it’s the fact that it’s right across the river. It’s closer than the hospital where TheKid sees his endocrinologist. It’s only about as far as Middle Sister’s university, and just a little bit past Big Brother’s rented home in Fishtown.

It’s right here. And I’m not there.

When I saw tweets from my boss as she crossed that bridge that stands between me and the city, it hit me: there’s so much I’ll be missing this week.

Screen capture of tweet by Lisa Hendey.
Screen capture of tweet by Lisa Hendey.

Monday morning, while my coworkers and friends and people I’ve admired from afar for a decade tweeted about picking up their press credentials, I stood in the car line at TheKid’s school, where I was substitute teaching for the day. I opened minivan doors and helped four-year-olds gather their lunches and backpacks. I greeted fifth-graders and chatted with the principal and the PE teacher about my daughter’s rugby game. I stood next to the Paper Pope that the pastor pulled out of the church vestibule, and laughed at the little kids’ faces when they realized they weren’t looking at the real thing.

That’s as close to the Pope as I’m going to get this week, and I’m going to need to be OK with that.

This year, family circumstances do not allow me to attend the World Meeting of Families that’s happening right in my backyard. At this stage of my mothering journey, I can go hours at a time without being needed–but it’s those times when I am needed that count, and diabetes being the random disease that it is, I never know when those times will happen. Right now I don’t see my way clear to be more than 20 minutes away.

My cell phone buzzed in my pocket during Mass this morning: it was the school nurse. TheKid’s been battling a stubborn high blood sugar (plus seasonal allergies) all night, and he just wasn’t feeling good at all. So I went over to school to pick him up, and he’s parked on the couch now with a fresh insulin-pump set and a huge water bottle.

That’s my reality right now. I am grateful that TheKid is doing as well as he is. But I can’t let that lull me into a false sense of security, because diabetes is a 24/7 disease.

My first job right now is to be available for my family. I can hobnob another time. And during those times when I’m not needed right this second, I can watch things unfold on TV, on Twitter, on Facebook and on CatholicMom. I can pray for the success of this week’s events and for the safety of all involved. And I can try as hard as I can to be genuinely happy for everyone who is blessed to be able to be there.

Suburban Snooze Alarm

At this time of year, if you’ve got the windows open, you’ll be awoken by the birds, who start chirping and chattering around 4:45.

And if you live on my block and you managed to fall back to sleep after the birds woke you up, you’ll hear the rhythmic crash of a Dumpster being emptied into a truck, behind the Target around the corner. At 5:15.

IMG_0642I’ll take the birds, thanks. Even if one of them did poop on a shirt I had hanging on the clothesline yesterday.

The Things We Do For Our Kids

Tonight was Middle Sister’s Women’s Rugby team fundraising event. It was a dinner with a basket raffle.La salle women's rugby

Sounds good so far, right?

Wait for it. Wait for it

At a bar. In a neighborhood of Philadelphia whose name is pretty much synonymous with “Pub Crawl.”

And it’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

When we Googled the venue to get the address (which the team did not provide on the flyer we got in the mail), we were treated to this lovely picture on the bar’s website:

Strategically-placed shamrocks prove she's Irish.
Strategically-placed shamrocks prove she’s Irish.

I’m pretty sure that Hubs and I are about 25 years older than this bar’s target demographic.

The Women’s Rugby event was held in the party room, which featured TWO bars, 5 TVs showing college basketball, very loud pop hits music, 3 round tables for 8 and an empty bandstand.

I followed the sign to the restroom and discovered that there was no door for the men’s restroom, which you must pass to get to the women’s restroom.

I didn’t need to see that.

The Kid and I bought our tickets for the basket raffle, grateful that Middle Sister was selling them, rather than a shorter teammate with a smaller wingspan. We filled them in and dropped them in the bags in front of the baskets we hope to win.

The food was OK: Caesar salad, cheesesteak egg rolls (I didn’t try those), chicken parm and vodka pasta.

Once we’d eaten, we said goodbye to Middle Sister and headed toward home.

We lasted an hour.

Maybe next time we’ll just send in a donation.

Sick Day

Clearly I have pushed too hard in the past couple of weeks.

I had bronchitis over Thanksgiving, which stopped being bronchitis (I thought) after I finished the Z-pack; it turned into asthma that I couldn’t shake. My inhalers did nothing. I could sing–sometimes–but couldn’t sustain a note or phrase; I just haven’t had the air to do it.

Yesterday after school I felt so awful. So, so awful. But it was show night for the Christmas pageant and I had to babysit my homeroom before the show, release them to their parents after the show, and be there during the show to try to keep the kids on tempo during their songs. And being a substitute teacher, I wasn’t sure how I could go about missing this. So I dosed up on Advil and Dayquil, had a bowl of egg drop soup, went to school and got through the show.

Which went fantastically well, by the way. I didn’t have a huge part in this (other teachers did so much more) but I am so proud of how well the kids performed. And they couldn’t have looked sweeter in their tinsel halos and burlap shepherds’ tunics.

I brought all kinds of things that would be needed for today, including sub plans, and left them on the desk.

After the show I came home and texted the two teachers whose cell-phone numbers I have so I could find out how I could go about missing school today. (Again–this is the kind of thing substitutes just don’t know–because how often would you need it?) I reached the principal, who told me which other subs I should call, and I secured a sub for the day.

This morning I spent 2 hours at urgent care, tweeting to pass the wait time.

urgent care tweets

They gave me a nebulizer treatment right there to see how I would respond. It did help, so they prescribed that AND oral steroids AND more antibiotics and sent me on my way.

I came home and rested after all that, and Middle Sister picked up all my medicine PLUS two caffeinated Boost slushies (if you’re not local, it’s like uncarbonated Coke and it’s amazing in a slushy, but chock-full of sugar and caffeine and all the bad-for-you stuff). For lunch, I had a bowl of dry Cocoa Pebbles, one Boost slushy, two Advil, one Amoxicillin and three steroids. I’m wide awake NOW, let me tell you. I’m kind of afraid to try the nebulizer since that made me a bit jittery all by itself!

The worst part of all this is that I’ll be missing the Festival of Lessons and Carols tonight. I’ve been rehearsing since October for this and hands down it’s the highlight of Christmastime for me, musically speaking. The privilege of participating in this event with the high-caliber musicians and vocalists it attracts is a real gift to me, and it killed me to have to bow out. But I know they’ll do great and, at this point, I’m just hoping I’ll be good to sing on Christmas.

Gratitude on a Monday

And Monday is another day. Not a bad day, not a super day, just a day. I’ll take it.

Before I left the house this morning, I made a list of the Christmas Eve Cousins. In my husband’s family, every child gets a present on Christmas Eve from every family who has children. Thanks to Facebook, I had everyone’s name and age. I left the list on my desk with the intention of texting Middle Sister at lunchtime and asking her to go shopping.

That text message never happened. But I got home to find her (and the list) gone. I ran out to do some grocery shopping for the week, since this is the only night I don’t have a rehearsal or a performance. When I got home, there were bags of toys everywhere.

I am so very grateful that she got this huge chore done–and her cousins, I’m sure, will love the toys she chose for them.

Then, my answer to “what’s for dinner” was “hot dogs and fries.”

And the kids cheered.

I was feeling like a total slacker for not cooking them a proper dinner on the one night this week I don’t have to be somewhere. The kids, though, are happy for the hot dogs.

I like this article I just read at  How to Stop Feeling Like a Failure and Stay Focused This Advent.

Hot dogs and fries are OK. Happy kids, even more so. We can have Advent-wreath battles just as easily with plates of hot dogs in front of us as with chicken piccata.



Overheard, the Fashion Plate Edition

Little Brother (inspecting his T-shirt):  thats all you got“Do you think I can still wear this shirt today, even though I spilled Leaky Egg* on it?”

Me: “How about you get a wet paper towel and wipe it up and see how it looks when it dries?”

LB: “Well, I already licked it off, so…”

(*Translation:  a Leaky Egg is an egg over easy. Yes, I know all about salmonella danger. We live on the edge over here.)

The only saving grace here is that the egg seems to have spilled on the bright yellow letters…



Let me begin by saying that I don’t know how third-grade teachers do their job all day. The kids are sweet, but all day long with the same bunch of 8-year-olds who complain that their neighbor is looking at them/breathing on them/calling them names/not sitting in their proper seat/insert harmless-yet-annoying thing here–well, that can be a little relentless.

PLUS, they did not go outside at recess today, which means I had no break time.

AND their “special” was cancelled, which means I had no break time.

And I spent a chunk of the day having conversations like this:

CHILD: “Can I do this in cursive?” cursive writing

ME: “What does your teacher usually want you to do?”

OTHER CHILD WHO CAN’T MIND HER OWN BUSINESS: “She says we can do cursive or print, whichever we want.”

ME: “Just make sure it’s neat so your teacher can read it tomorrow.”

MOST OF THE CLASS: “OK.” (gets busy doing work)

CHILD WHO ASKED ORIGINAL QUESTION:  “So can I do this in cursive?”

God bless the full-time teachers of self-contained classes. They have a special kind of patience.

This Couldn’t Wait for Thursday

I think I get to call it a “Small Success” that I didn’t completely lose my mind when:aXE

  • Little Brother stepped in dog poop while wearing his fairly-new soccer shoes
  • He brought the befouled shoes into the house to ask me what to do
  • I handed him an old toothbrush for the scrubbing job, instructing him to dispose of it outside when he was done
  • He brought the dripping-wet shoes back into the house…
  • …intending to spray them with Axe to make them smell better
  • I got him some paper towels so he could leave the shoes on the porch

And through all of that, I remained calm and did not yell, shout or go all Screaming Meemie on him.

I’ll have to think of something else for Small Success Thursday, because this one just couldn’t wait.

For My Penance, I Will Slow Down

I live a life fueled by adrenalin with a side of anxiety.

In short, I don’t do “slow.”

Just ask my poor husband, who strolls, ambles, and meanders along–10 feet behind the rest of the family because apparently all the kids inherited my inability to decelerate.

I’m always looking for a way to get something done–or to get somewhere–a little faster. I don’t take the highway to Little Brother’s school because that adds half a mile and about 7 traffic lights to the trip. I can get there more quickly if I drive through the neighborhoods.

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw once tweeted:

muffet mcgraw tweet

That’s pretty much how I roll too. And yesterday on my way to Mass at Little Brother’s school (so I could be there for his test-and-dose diabetic routine after Mass) I was driving pretty urgently.

As in 41 mph in a 25 zone.

By the time I saw the police SUV, it was too late. He saw me first and followed me to the school parking lot where I foolishly parked in my usual spot–in full view of half the classrooms.

Did I mention that the police officer had his lights on?

I was polite. He took my license, registration and insurance card and went off to check SCMODS* to verify that I’d never had a speeding ticket in over 30 years of driving.

The officer, mercifully, did not give me a ticket–just a warning that I need to slow down.

Honestly, the embarrassment of being pulled over right in front of the school cost me more than any speeding ticket would have.

So what was I saying Thursday about the hours in the day?

…this Lent is going to be all about letting go of–giving up–the control I want to have over the hours in my day. Resistance is futile, but acceptance is going to be hard-won…

I feel like I go through the day always putting out fires. I only get to what’s urgent, and it’s a struggle not to assign everything to the “urgent” category. Writing these words, I can feel myself clenching up inside.

I’m on a “mission from God.” So is the police officer who handed me some grace in the form of a warning.

*”State. County. Municipal. Offender. Data. System.” If you do not recognize this quote, you need to watch The Blues Brothers. Stat.