Nice Summer

May 27, 2011 by Rieshy

For some reason that I still do not fathom, my parents, - who in every other way loved me- chose one summer to put me in a day camp full of the biggest and toughest, meanest girls known to man.    I was skinny, short and had no skills.  Skills being defined as: double-dutch jumping, cussing, playing jacks and having a boyfriend.

By the end of the summer I could play jacks and cuss.  The cussing, incidentally, made me a 4th grade playground star back at my fancy-schmancy elementary school the following fall.

The supposed point of the camp was to learn to swim.  However, the bus was almost always broken down so we almost never got to swim.  Mostly we sat around a hot, mainly concrete Baltimore City park, and in a sort of Lord of the Flies atmosphere we practiced the above listed skills.

While I didn't really learn swimming I did learn how to not get beaten up.  I learned how to fly under the radar without crossing the line into toadyism.  I learned how to be nice to everyone, while always watching my back.  I learned to eat the good part of my lunch before someone could take it.

I was perpetually scared.  It was exhausting.  I think my mom thought "swimming" really wore me out.

At the end of the summer imagine my surprise when I was awarded a trophy- a trophy that my husband found in a box and put up ontop of my kitchen cabinets to see how long it would take before I noticed it-  a trophy for being the "nicest" girl of the summer.

It's the only trophy from childhood that I still have.  It's the only trophy I truly sweated for:
Susan, Queen of the Park

Sometimes nice girls do win... or at least stay alive.


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Hints For Other Unthoughtful Moms

May 25, 2011 by Rieshy
I'm not sentimental.  I don't like Hallmark cards, I don't collect figurines of any sort.  I always forget my loved ones birthdays.

So I try and pay attention to real-life thoughtful people. 

My daughter above is playing Austrian streetball.  She's in Austria going to school for the summer while living with a friend of mine from high school. This friend of mine, Doris, is a real life thoughtful person.  
Doris' whole family is thoughtful.

They put up a Picasa album and every day they add a few photos of what my daughter has been up to with their family.  

Balm for a mother's heart.

I had a friend's daughter from Switzerland stay with us for a month last summer and this idea never occurred to me.  

Next time though... Next time we have an extended visitor...
I may not be thoughtful but I am a great mimic.


Birds and Angry Birds

May 24, 2011 by Rieshy

Last night my 15 year old daughter and I were attempting to watch the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice while the 5 year old sat between us.

5 year olds wonder out-loud, a lot.  While watching things like Pride and Prejudice they wonder ad nauseam about who the bad guy is... and when will he (finally) show up?

We came to the scene when Darcy and Mr Bingley are walking across the estate with other men, all holding guns.  Sudden silence from the 5 year old.  Blessed silence.

The scene continues- servants startle pheasants into the air and suddenly all the men shoot.

Silence.  I thought perhaps the 5 year old had fallen asleep.

Then 5 year olds most wondering voice of all, "Do they just really not like birds?"


I popped my head into a classroom at church to see if the teacher was there yet.  A two year old was sitting neatly at the table waiting.  I waved hello and asked how he was.

He looked at me, dressed in his Sunday finery, and with the utmost earnest expression on his face declared vehemently, "I LOVE ANGRY BIRDS."

Well then.  O.k.

I'm still trying to figure out what an elderly teacher who had never heard of that app. would think of his announcement.

Dating Your Spouse

May 17, 2011 by Rieshy

Why do my husband and I sometimes go grocery shopping together when I have a houseful of teens that can shop for me?  

Because we have a houseful of teens.

because getting to be alone together and find marketing genius like the example below makes life good.

Lookin' good, mister.  Really- women say that all the time- but only if you have the right socks.

Kind of like how men used to always say, "Gee, your hair smells terrific."

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The Aftermath of a Child's Periodic Hospital Stays

May 15, 2011 by Rieshy

I've been thinking a lot about what I noticed after our last hospital stay with our 5 year old.  The aftermath, so to speak.  I've compared it with my memory of his various hospitalizations.

Some of the commonalities after a hospital stay:
  • Trouble going to sleep
  • Trouble with scary dreams
  • Regressed social skills around peers
  • Greater dependence on adults
  • Narrowing of his food repertoire
  • A need to focus on a comfort object for security- i.e. a pillow or stuffed animal
  • Moodiness- or a general sense of being out of equilibrium
Blessedly all these things have always been temporary.  However, I have noticed that my son has less trouble "re-entering" home life and a shorter aftermath period when:

  • We keep a hospital routine as close to our home schedule as possible.  It seems to really help him to keep a normal dining schedule, rest-time, bathing and bedtime routine in the hospital.  
  • I've also learned that if I chat with the nurses and care partners I can greatly reduce the nighttime disturbances.  Small things matter- for instance we keep a blood pressure cuff on his ankle.  For some reason he can sleep right through a blood pressure check on his ankle, while one on his arm freaks him out.  Also, I do all his blood sugar pokes myself because I can do it without waking him. 
  • By coordinating all the checks we can greatly reduce the number of times people are in and out of the room.  I've learned I can just say "No, come back later," if my son needs me to.
  • If he is at all able we try to eat meals sitting at a table instead of bed.  
  • If he is at all able I try to keep up the home routine of him helping while I work, i.e. he puts away toys, stacks his books, wipes down his own food tray.
  • Our children's hospital has frequent Bear Clinics that we always try to go to.  The give each child a stuffed bear, gloves, oral syringes and other various medical apparatus and let the child play doctor.  This seems to be really important to our son.  Generally the bear comes home and is intensely cared for- for a few days. 
  • We time our discharge for as early in the day as possible.  For our son the excitement of getting to go home drains him- being drained is bad news for night time blood-sugar stability. Being drained also means more trouble sleeping.
In general the more traumatic or painful the hospital visit the longer it takes him to get back to a state of equilibrium.

Back to the stuffed hospital bear.   When I eventually find the bear lost and abandoned under the sofa I do a happy dance.  It's the surest sign that the aftermath period is over. 


More Road Side Art

May 13, 2011 by Rieshy

The inspiration?  Klimt's The Kiss.

The actors?  Two heroic trees in the middle of a pasture bring culture to the local cattle.

My 11 year old was not happy with me for stopping the car to take this picture.  Evidently being told to watch for traffic freaks her out a bit. Which I found surprisingly funny.  I do so enjoy motherhood.

Actually, I think the trees missed out on the tone of the original painting; it's vampiric.  In contrast the trees seem to strike more of a "mother embracing a child" chord. 

Oh well, maybe the next time they get clipped by the electric company they can try for a Mary Cassatt.


Breakfast Anyone?

May 7, 2011 by Rieshy


Yesterday morning when I walked, bleary-eyed, out of my bedroom to make the morning coffee I discovered my 9 year old sitting at the dining room table sipping a large mug of fresh hot tea and reading Calvin and Hobbs.


"I wanted to get an early start on school, Mom."


This morning at 5:55 I heard an elephant in the kitchen wrestling with the stove.  When I got up 45 minutes later I discovered my 3 yo, my 5 yo, my 9yo all sitting at a set table eating scrambled eggs and toast and hot tea.  My also bleary-eyed 16 yo was standing by the table looking shocked as the 9 yo handed her a plate of breakfast. 

There was a plate for me and my husband as well.


So I did what any self-respecting mother would do.  I instantly taught my 9 yo son how to make coffee.

Weird works for me.



May 3, 2011 by Rieshy

I'm in the Come and Go season of life.

One child has been in Haiti for almost 3 months.  He comes home today.

A different child leaves in a couple weeks for school in Austria.

A third child goes to Guyana for a week this summer.

Come and Go.

There's a lot of fuss with coming and going.  Luggage packing, passport prepping, heartstrings stretching.

You get used to them gone.  You get used to them back.
 Then they go again.

With my large family this season is going to be a long one.  I'll have the most flexible heart around.