Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012


Do you like getting Christmas letters?

The Christmas cards have dwindled at our house, probably because I have not sent out Christmas cards in the past 2 years.  I’m afraid friends and family think I don’t love them anymore. 

I do love you.

I’m just unorganized. 

I love Christmas cards, but man, I looove getting Christmas letters.  They come in three categories: Informative and cheerful, downright obnoxious, and full of absolute horror. 

Example 1:  My oldest daughter Lizzy got married to a wonderful man this summer!  The bridesmaids wore yellow and we were blessed with a beautiful,  sunshine-filled day.

Example 2:  My oldest daughter, Lizzy, graduated with honors from Harvard in the spring and then married an aspiring brain surgeon on a private beach in Hawaii in July!  The bridesmaids wore Versace and our good friend, Bill Gates, gave a moving toast that brought everyone to tears. 

Example 3:  Well, my oldest daughter Lizzy got knocked up and decided to wed her boyfriend, who would be in med school if he could just pass the MCATS.  We’re so hopeful for their future.  I’m going to kill him. 

My letter this year would have gone something like this,

Dear Friends and Family!

How are you?  But more importantly, how have we been?

You’ve been waiting all year to hear.  I know this year’s letter will not disappoint:

JOHN:  John has been semi-catatonic since the demise of this year’s NHL season.  He made a little moan after the election results came in, but I haven’t really talked with him since July.

HOLLY:  Holly has been experimenting with yo-yo dieting!  It hasn’t been as successful as you would think.  She remains the primary source of transportation for her four children and is eagerly awaiting the return of The Walking Dead in a few weeks. 

CALEB:  Caleb took up the baritone this year.  In other news, our neighbor’s house is up for sale.

BEN:  Ben’s teeth remain too large for his head.   Everyone notices.  It’s totally embarrassing.

DANIEL:  Daniel is so cute that sometimes I drag him out of bed at night just to cuddle him and weep because he’s getting older.  My therapist told me this is “weird” and to “stop doing that.”  I promptly fired my therapist.

ELLA:  Ella had her first opthamologist appointment ever where she received sunglasses and walked down the hospital corridors screaming, “I can’t see!  I can’t see!”  This has become a game we play at home now.

KIAH:  Kiah wants everyone to know that if anyone calls her “tri-pod” ONE MORE TIME, she will bite you.  She’s serious this time.  SHE WILL BITE YOU.  Oh, who are we kidding.  She will jump on  you and wag her butt, but she will be crying on the inside.

And that’s the news from the Jennings family.  We hope you have a very merry Christmas and a decent New Year.


Thursday, December 27, 2012


I am continuously waffling between writing a “final blog post” and making a commitment to blog more often.  I’m reticent to just end it all because… what if I decide I want to start blogging again?  Would I start a new blog?  What would I name it?  I don’t think I can come up with something as creative as “Holly Goes Lightly” again. 
Also, I don’t want to be the Brett Favre of the blogging world, in the sense that he kept coming out of retirement.  Not in the sense that I am awesome at blogging like he was awesome at football.  That is not what I am saying.

It’s been a rough year.  Naturally, I don’t feel like blogging when things aren’t going well.  Of course, there’s always that slightly optimistic feeling when one year closes and another opens, and we pump ourselves up with “2013 is going to be the BEST year ever!  BOO-YA!” proclamations.  As if, with Cinderella-like magic, the clock stroking midnight on New Year’s Eve will usher in a clean slate and you won’t have all the emotional and physical baggage that’s been hanging on for months any more. 
Also, I’m about to turn 35.  So that’s happening.

I’m a lot of fun to be around. 
I’m planning a “Books read in 2012” post, and am waffling about the rest.  If I decide to ditch the blog, I will do so in a lovely final post that will have an image attached, and I will thank my supporters in appropriate fashion. It will be a lot like an Oscar speech.  You might cry.  

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all that jazz.  You know what?  I have this funny feeling that



Monday, November 19, 2012


I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I think that school busses are dens of iniquity. There’s one driver and one hundred and ninety two kids. It’s not really a workable ratio.

 The other day, I had the misfortune of pulling out behind a middle school bus. Three boys looked at me and started making goofy gestures. I grinned at them. Then they started making obscene gestures. It got awkward. I didn’t know where to look. Straight ahead, with a disapproving look on my face? Turned away, as if I were disinterested? Or should I pretend to be frantically searching for something on the floor? I went with the third scenario. There’s a fun-sized 3 Musketeers lolling about there somewhere. These days, all that remains of the kids’ Halloween candy are flavored tootsie rolls and Necco wafers. A rogue fun-sized 3 Musketeers bar is a hot commodity, and I’m determined to find it before Ben- who is also aware it’s down there somewhere- does.

I fretted about putting Ella on the bus. I contemplated driving the kids to school and back each day. But with gas prices the way they are and the whole “it gets really freaking cold here in Ra-cha-cha” thing, on the first day of school I put my babies onto the giant yellow tube and went back to eating my cheerios.

The bus is where Caleb learned the f-word. It’s where Ben got punched by an extremely moody eight-year old. It’s where Daniel fought off a fellow kindergartner who bragged of depantsing “everybody in the world.” (Because that’s how kindergartners talk, in gross exaggerations.)

I worried about what Ella, who is a parrot, would bring home from the bus.

I never would have guessed show tunes.

Last week, she came home singing “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” from Annie. Complete with motions. “Who caaares what their wearing from Main Street to Saville Row…” “Ella! Where did you learn that?” I asked. Not that I wasn’t thrilled. Annie was my favorite record when I was her age. When “Tomorrow” came on? My sister and I totally lost our crap. We ran around the kitchen table singing at the top of our lungs. It’s only a DAAAAY! AAAAAWAAAAY!”

I knew Ella hadn’t learned the “Hey hobo man, hey Dapper Dan” lyrics from her prim and proper teacher; therefore, I deduced she was being taught by someone on the bus. Ben confirmed my suspicion. “It’s this third grader who hates me and Caleb and all boys, really. But she looooves Ella.”

Today, Ella came home singing, “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am by this development.  She really nails the whoo whoo whoo part.

In other news, I have a single Twinkie in my pantry that I was hoping would make me rich. That’s right. I put Twinkies in my kids’ lunch boxes. Not all the time, but every once in a while, because I love when they get off the den of iniquities, run into my arms, and say, “Will you put a Twinkie in my lunch box tomorrow, too?” And I say, “No. That was special for today.” And they say, “Why do you hate us?” And I say, “I don’t hate you. I love you.” And they say, “Then, can we have Twinkies for snack right now?” And I say, “No, my loves. I ate them all.”

And I don’t even like Twinkies. I don’t know if my taste buds completely changed or if I’ve evolved beyond processed sponge cake with chemical filling. It’s possible I’ve evolved. I mean, I like foie gras- heck, I know how to SPELL foie gras- so it’s beyond me why I eat Twinkies. Because I like to irritate my children, I suppose.

Hostess chocolate cupcakes are a completely different story. 

Anyway- there is one Twinkie left in the box. My plan was to sell the sucker on eBay and buy myself a pretty frock to wear this holiday season. Now it looks like the unions and the powers that be are going to negotiate a deal that will save Hostess, 18,000 jobs, and the Twinkie.

Now I don’t know what to do with my Twinkie.

It will probably sit in my pantry for the next 20 years. I’ll feed it to my granddaughter and my daughter-in-law will get pissed because doesn’t EVER feed her kids processed sponge cake with chemical filling. That’s the kind of daughter-in-law I’m going to get; I just know it. Nevertheless, I’ll send future granddaughter home with a belly full of sugar and a repertoire of show tunes. Hopefully she’ll run around the kitchen table a hundred times singing “Tomorrow” at the top of her lungs, driving her mother absolutely crazy.

One can hope.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Purple Dinosaur Song, or I'm Totally Going to Lose It

In 100 years, a melodious tune with sadistic lyrics will drift from a children’s playground:

“I hate you!  You hate me!  Let’s go out and kill Barney!  With a big shot gun and a bang bang on the floor!  No more purple dinosaur.”

One child will pause and ask, “Who’s Barney, anyway?”

“According to the song, a purple dinosaur.”

Because that song will never, ever die.  Daniel is helping it to live on right now.  And it’s fine.  I’m not on the verge of losing it at all.

I’m totally on the verge of losing it. 

Since Ella’s diagnosis, life has shifted a tiny bit- the future looks a little blurrier than a few weeks ago.  Ella’s had two weeks of relatively good behavior at school.  She has settled into the routine.  Of course, she is removed from her classroom throughout the week for various therapies and assessments.  I think her absence endears her more to her teacher and contributes to the positive feedback we’ve been receiving. 
We got the results of her physical therapy screening yesterday, and John said it was the most amusing thing he’d read all year.  It was filled with fascinating observations:

Ella can transition from the floor to standing through a right or left-kneel position without using her hands.

She can gallop with either foot leading, hop on her right of left foot inconsistently up to five times in a row and skip.

She runs with functional mechanics and speed.

The therapist noted that Ella did trip a couple of times when she was in the physical therapy room.  This is thought to be due to her impulsivity and distractibility.

Ella’s gross motor skills are currently functional for the school setting. 

Her school report card was rough.  A lot of “not meeting expectations.”  I think I cried a little.

Okay, I cry all the time.  I cried during the preview of the film “Les Miserables,” even though I find Anne Hathway’s singing voice sub-par.  I cried during Obama’s acceptance speech.  I cried during Mitt Romney’s concession speech.  I cried during a documentary about Walmart, because you would not even believe how many women are raped and then murdered in Walmart parking lots. 

I also watched a National Geographic show about volcanoes with Caleb.  The other week, I was worrying about global warming bringing about more Sandy-type hurricanes.   Now I know Yellowstone’s massive volcano is going to erupt any time now, and an ice age will commence.  I thought about raising my kids during an ice age. 

I cried about that, too.

The kids seem un-phased, not because I am particularly good at disguising my emotions, but because children are narcissists who only care about themselves.  And they always want snacks.  All the time. Like, I’m on the phone with a friend having a rather intense conversation, and Danny’s all, “Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom. Mom.  Mom.”  I put my hand over the receiver.


“I want a snack.”

Sometimes I yell at my kids.  And then I cry about it a little bit.

But sometimes something like this will happen:

“Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom.”

“What Ben.  What.  What.”

“Have you seen my spork?”

I know exactly where his spork is.  It’s in the dishwasher.  He is thrilled to be reunited with it.  Turns out, apples taste better when they are sporked.  Ben’s on a quest to rid the world of frivolous eating utensils. 

The kids sit at the table and eat their apples- most by hand, one by spork- and begin singing the no more purple dinosaur song. 

What do I have to cry about?  Perhaps I’m not really on the verge of losing it after all.  Perhaps things are actually just fine. 

(Though that makes for much less interesting blog fodder…)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


When Ella was born, she had multiple defects that prompted genetic testing.  She had heart defects, kidney defects, skin tags, and funny, floppy ears.  The genetic test gave no indication there was any underlying problem.

Major advances in genetic testing have been made, apparently, in the past five years.  Her doctor sent her off to the lab again, where the technician failed to find a good vein in her right arm but found success in the left.  Ella screamed and pleaded and cried and a good time was had by all.  Therapy has helped everyone involved.

Last Wednesday, the doctor called to tell me Ella had a genetic anomaly:  Deletion 22q11.2 syndrome, also called Velocardiofacial syndrome or DiGeorge syndrome.  Velocardiofacial syndrome affects about 1 in 4000 babies.  (Comparatively: Downs syndrome affects about 1 in 800.)

The most common symptoms of Velocardiofacial syndrome include heart defects, cleft palate/ feeding problems, kidney problems, immune system abnormalities, small stature, characteristic facial features, learning disabilities, hypocalcemia, thyroid issues, oh the list goes on.  There are about 180 presentations of this syndrome.

No one wants to hear their kid has a syndrome.  Syndrome is such a negative term.  Nothing good ever came from a syndrome.

The doctor answered my questions the best she could and referred me to the geneticist.

“Will she always have learning problems?” I asked.

“She will always need support in school, yes.”  was the reply.  “And be careful what you read on the internet.  There’s a lot of scary information there, but not all of it will apply to Ella.  Wait until you talk to the geneticist before forming any conclusions.”

Naturally, as soon as I got off the phone, I spent the next two hours combing the internet.  And there were some scary things about the syndrome.  Increased chances of seizures, infection, and an increased chance of psychological diseases like schizophrenia in adulthood.

100% of people with VCF have learning disabilities.

I found foundations for VCF and even a celebrity, Cubs player Ryan Dempster, who has a daughter with DiGeorge.  Riley Dempster can’t swallow and spent the first 18 months of her life in the children’s hospital.
Ella, thankfully, has never had any feeding problems and her heart defects never required surgery.  We were lucky.

Ryan Dempster and his wife had a foundation that raised thousands of dollars for kids with DiGeorge.  I was filled with warm fuzzies reading about them.  Then, I clicked on a suspicious link.

Ryan Dempster and his wife are getting a divorce and Dempster is, perhaps not coincidentally, off to play for the Rangers!  What about their kids?  What about Riley?  What about their foundation?

I became depressed.  John came home to find me curled up on the couch reading survivors' testimonies about the holocaust.  This is a true story.

A week later, I’m still coming to terms with this diagnosis.  While I feel relieved to have an answer to the mystery that is Ella, I am of course sad that she will have to face these physical and psychological challenges for the rest of her life.  

No one wants their child to have a syndrome.  Yet, it is who she is.  It has always been who she is.  And I love who she is.

I will always love who she is.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


It was quite the week.  There was a death, a birth, and a wedding.  And I climbed a mountain. 
"Was there much color?" my grandmother asked me today.  I have been spending Tuesday afternoons with Grandma, who has just recently relocated from the mountains to the suburban hell that is Greece, NY.
"You could write a book about your time spent with Grandma," my dad said.  "You know what you could call it?"

"Tuesdays with Grandma?"
He thinks he's very clever.
I told Grandma we arrived just a few days past peak color.
"You people think you have color around here, but it's not like the Adirondacks," she stated, bluntly.  "You people" is us "city folk."  According to Grandma, we drive too fast, talk too fast, use too much technology, and our grocery stores... well.  They are just obscene.  How is one supposed to make choices in a Wegmans?  And now our leaves are just not colorful enough.  I didn't have the heart to tell her we hadn't reached our "peak" yet.  (Admittedly, brightly colored leaves displayed dramatically on a looming mountain is visually more satisfying than the splash of color from the paltry woods behind her apartment building.)
All in all, Grandma is holding up well, disappointing fall foliage notwithstanding.
My friend Lydia and I headed north to hike Cascade Mountain, which is the "easiest" climb out of the 46 Adirondack high peaks.  Cascade was chosen because we both have a horrific fear of hiking down rocky mountains in the dark.  Also, Lydia is afraid of black bears.  She will probably refute this, but there was a brief moment where she was considering NOT bringing Snickers bars because they might attract black bears.  I may have to find someone else to hike Yellowstone with. 
We made it down with plenty of daylight to spare. 
Here is a conversation I heard on the way down the mountain:
"Look, when it gets to be 4:00, we'll turn around."
"Or maybe someone could just plan better next time."
This is why I don't go hiking with my husband.  Lydia would never talk to me that way.
We made it up and down in about 5 1/2 hours.  Some seven year olds made it up and down much faster than that; I know because they passed us, unapologetically. As did a black lab named Spike.   
Don't even get me started on the Boy Scouts.
The trail was crowded, rocky, and very muddy, but ultimately worth it for the view.  I'm a sucker for a good view. 
We also went shopping and sightseeing in Saratoga Springs, Lake George, and Lake Placid.  Rather, we ate in Lake Placid and ogled the Olympic sites that dominate the small village as we drove through.  I went into two different Eddie Bauer stores in the course of two days.  The insanity of it all.
View from atop Cascade Mountain:
View of Mt. Marcy, which is the only mountain I can definitively recognize. 

My bangs- blowing unceremoniously in the wind. 

It smells so unbelievably good there.  In the mountains, not in Eddie Bauer.

As per the death, the birth, and the wedding:

John's grandmother, "Nana,"  died at the age of 93.  We had a family graveside service Wednesday.  She was a sweet lady and, honestly, I can't believe she's gone.  We will be having a larger memorial service later this month.

My stepbrother got married in Colorado, where he lives.  I'm sorry to have missed the wedding.

John's little sister, Mary, had a baby girl just yesterday.  The circle of life! Seriously.  It's all circling like crazy around here. Soon, the kids will get off the bus and I will rush them off to dance class and piano lessons.  They'll probably all grow an inch just this evening.


Life's too fast. Go ahead and climb a mountain.  Preferably not on a holiday weekend. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Crimes and Misdemeanors

It has come to my attention that after I wander up to bed at night, Kiah the Wonder Dog jumps on the couch to sleep. I caught her the other night. She wasn’t even repentant. She looked at me smugly, stretched and curled up like a cat in the corner, yawned, and then I think she drooled on a pillow. This is a total breach of trust and our relationship is suffering.

My relationship with the kids’ school is also suffering. This has been a long yawn of a week. Ella came home with an inevitable cold and I’ve kept her home two days. This has totally messed up my home-alone routine, which does NOT consist of watching What Not to Wear on the tv because that would be a complete waste of time, no matter how valuable I think the information provided might be. (I am in serious danger of becoming a 30-something frump, according to the pretty people on the tv.)

Ella could have gone to school. I could’ve slathered Vaseline under her nose, armed her with lotion-infused tissues, and sent her on the big yellow bus. But I fear she annoys her teacher when she is well; a sick Ella might push the poor woman over the edge.

I cannot tell you how weary I am of receiving e-mails detailing Ella’s many crimes and misdemeanors. This is a completely new experience for me! My first two children were, of course, perfect in every way, and remain perennial favorites among the staff at the local elementary school. You can imagine what a shock it is to have spawned an imperfect daughter, one who colors on the desk and dances at inopportune moments during the day, say during computer time.

Apparently, the good people at the elementary school have never seen the likes of an Ella! They remain baffled and are constantly asking me why it is that she refuses to flush the toilet. My answer, “she’s terrified of flushing toilets,” does not go over well with them. Is it so inconceivable that a child with a sensory disorder might be unnerved by the sound of a flushing toilet? What sounds like a mere whoosh to me sounds like freaking Niagara Falls to her. If every time you flushed the toilet it felt like you were about to make a watery descent into the Niagara River, you might be reticent to push the lever too. Even if you’d just gone #2. (It is a felony, apparently, to go #2 at the local elementary school and not flush. A felony, I tell you!) As I imagined, the first fire drill of the year did not go over well, either.

There was a note home about that, let me tell you. That was the day after I received a terse e-mail informing me that “Ella refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance today.”

Holy crap! Refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance??? Stop the presses! This is truly newsworthy.

There are other concerns. Ella does not transition well. Ella always wants to be first. Ella cries a lot. Ella eats glue. Ella randomly takes off her shoes and flings them in the general direction of the door. (Because that’s where shoes go, by the door.)

Ella showed her belly button to the entire class and said, “I naked! Ha ha ha ha!”

I, a worrier by nature, am not sleeping at night. Not even after taking Benadryl! This is unprecedented.

So this afternoon, I told Ella she had to take a nap so I could take a nap, but the child would not sleep. Noises came from her bedroom. After twenty minutes, I wandered in and caught my chapped-lip daughter rolling around in her bed, eyes squeezed shut, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with panache.

I wandered downstairs to make some tea and caught a sheepish Kiah lying on the couch. After some consideration, I decided not to let it bother me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Why I Cried in the Wegmans Check-Out Line

“I see you’re purchasing medium-bristled toothbrushes,” said the cashier.


“Actually, it’s best to purchase soft-bristled toothbrushes. Dentists recommend them because they’re a lot gentler on your gums.”  She ceased scanning the remainder of my items as she waited for me to have a come-to-Jesus moment about my toothbrush selection.

I stood my ground.

“So you want to stick with these, then?”

“I think so,” I said. She sighed.


The gum-destroying toothbrushes went into a bag, along with other assorted items she did not pass judgment on, including non-organic spinach and a bottle of Mountain Dew. Her disapproval was implied, however, in the way she handled my peanut butter.

“Do you want your milk in a bag?”

“No, that’s okay,” I sniveled. I tried to forcibly send the tears back into the ducts from whence they came, but, alas, it wasn't happening.

I mean, who was she to pass judgment on my toothbrush choices? I feel like my teeth are smoother and cleaner when I use the medium-bristled toothbrushes. It’s not like I’m forcing them on my kids. I’m not pushing a medium-bristled toothbrush agenda on my friends and family. I’m not making it a topic of debate in the upcoming presidential election.

Emotions are raw. The kindergarten teacher has already had the school psychologist come in and observe Ella. This happened on the first day! I’m concerned this is some kind of school record that will be discussed in the faculty lounge for years to come. Yesterday, the school counselor came in to assist with Ella because the teacher was unable to handle her on her own. Meetings are being scheduled, IEPs are being revised, and an emergency school-wide assembly about how to handle my daughter is being organized. They’re doing it on the same day as the first fire drill.

Dear God, I can’t imagine how Ella’s going to respond to the fire alarm. I hadn’t thought about that.

Every single fear I had about Ella and kindergarten has already come true. (Except the fire-drill concern, which just came upon me 20 seconds ago.) The first week, and all my fears were realized. As you can imagine, I am ridden with anxiety and have been rendered physically unable to do any housework. Also, I cry a lot.

Like on the phone with the secretary at the Kirch Center.

I told her I needed to get in as soon as possible, that Ella was having serious problems at school.

“I can get you in March 9th at 2:00,” she said. My heart dropped, like, into my feet. This was unacceptable!

“This is-“ (snivel) “unacceptable,” I said. Then I threw a minor tantrum. As I said, emotions were raw. But you’ll never guess what. The secretary found an opening on October 2nd! Isn’t that amazing?

There’s a method to Ella’s madness, at least in the tantrum department.

Caleb had a bone scan last week and his results came in on the first day of school. He has a rather severe bone growth delay. He is 9 ½, but his bones think he’s 6.

Stupid bones.

The tears came forth. Ramona was perplexed.

“It’s okay. I don’t mind putting the milk in bags,” she said.

“I have kids,” I blubbered. “and it’s the first week of school.” Ramona nodded. An unspoken understanding passed between us. She is a mom as well. Her kids are lucky, to have a mom so passionate about gum health.

My kids are lucky, too. Because when she’s done crying, their mom is going to move mountains to make sure they get the help they need.  Then, and only then, she might clean the house.


“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Tales Part 2: The Terrible Reign of Ella

Ella and I watch Little House on the Prairie together.  We both agree Almanzo was seriously miscast.

Ella has exhausted me this summer.  Between her and the three-legged wonder dog, I think this house has gone significantly down in value.  Not that we’re thinking of selling anytime soon. 

Kids across this suburban landscape are headed back on the big yellow bus next Wednesday.   When I think of Ella getting on that bus, I get a little anxious.  And by anxious I mean that I burst into tears and hide in a closet.

Ella is doing great!  Ella is thriving!  Ella has not had any speech therapy this summer because she showed no signs of regression throughout the year!  Ella’s hearing is perfect!  Her hearing loss was due to chronic fluid build-up, which seems to have resolved itself. 

Ella still has a “severe’ speech delay.  She talks.  A lot.  You just can’t be sure what she’s saying.  My friends smile and nod politely when Ella speaks, in an animated fashion, about her small, important life.  She finishes her speeches with a jump and skips away, happy as a clam.

“Did she say hairspray?” my friend asks.

"I dunno.  Maybe.”  I pause.  I rush to my bathroom.

Over the summer my daughter has changed my house from what it was to something so much more colorful. Like a puppy, if you don’t consistently corral this child’s energy, she will use that energy for evil.   

First, she thoughtfully painted her brothers’ bedroom carpet with a variety of watercolors.  After much scrubbing, the beige carpet looks like it was tye-dyed. 

Last month, she took a sharpie marker to my beige couch.  Red sharpie.  She spelled Ben’s name on it and drew a man with a disembodied head and rectangular-shaped eyeballs.

I know what you’re thinking.  Stop it with the beige.

There was a lot of crayon doodling on walls.  Caleb had bouncy-ball making kit.  That was a sticky mess, let me tell you what.

There was the bead incident, the sand hoarding incident, and the toothpaste-smearing incident.  She decorated her rug, her door, and her vanity mirror with blue, sparkly Crest. 

She took a large, fully loaded orange pixie stick and dumped in on her carpet.  Pixie sticks, apparently, stain beige carpets. 

Her hair has yet to recover from the great summer haircut of 2012. 

I’m exhausted. 

I'm learning, at a snail's pace, to let things go. 

I will never have a Pottery Barn house.  It will it ever be spanking clean.  That’s not me.  That’s not us.  I’m not good at it- housekeeping- I don’t like it. 

I wish my carpets were, well, just beige.  I wish Kiah would stop shedding so much.  I wish I didn’t have this overwhelming sense of guilt- why does (fill in the blank) have it so much more together than I do?  Why can’t I keep up?  Why do they have so much energy and I feel like sleeping 14 hours a day?

Why is Almanzo such a whiny chauvinist jerk?

Ella and Dan are going to school.  When Caleb was born, I felt like I’d  lost myself- that I would never gain footing as a mom.  That I’d never be me again.  Nearly ten years later, I feel the same way, because they are all moving on, growing up, and I'm still here, in this house, needing to be needed. 

Who will wipe the peanut butter off of Ella’s face after lunch? 

That question kept me awake last night. 

I suppose if she came home with peanut butter on her face, the world would not come to an end.  We’d go on. 

I’d wipe it off when she got home. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Tales Part 1

Every morning, I look at the clock and wait for an appropriate time to gulp down a Diet Pepsi. According to a book I’m reading, Diet Pepsi has been linked to cancer and something else horrible, maybe scurvy. But damn you, Diet Pepsi. I just can’t quit you. Somehow it’s perfectly acceptable to gulp down a coffee at 8am, but pop open a DP and your husband raises his eyebrow at you and says, “A little early, isn’t it?” as though you are an alcoholic. There would be a lot less judging if I were a coffee drinker.

We’ve recently acquired an extra refrigerator- now permanently situated in the garage- which my husband promptly filled with root beer, Diet Pepsi, beer, and a large bottle of nearly empty lemonade/iced tea that had been taking up a lot of room in our regular kitchen fridge. In the freezer there are about 100 freeze pops I’ve been doling out to all of the children in the neighborhood, who have all heard about our new fridge and the wonders inside it. Which brings me to our other recent acquisition: a child named David.

My kids have come of the age where they go out to ride their bikes around the neighborhood and return with hanger-ons who want to climb our front pine tree and eat freeze-pops in the garage.

I won’t let them in the house.

David arrives at the front door promptly at 9 and stays until about 4. He is perfectly comfortable peering into my house and asking for a drink.

“Mrs. Jennings, are you drinking a Diet Pepsi? It’s not even 10 o’clock yet!”

I resist the urge to tell him he’s a leech and to get lost. I'm short-tempered due to lack of sleep.  We've been watching episodes of The Walking Dead before bedtime. This is an apocalyptic show about zombies who roam the streets looking for things to eat, acting much like elementary school kids during long, hazy summer days. “I want a snack,” they tell me, in monotone voices with hungry eyes. I chase them away with a garden rake.

Two nights ago, something woke me up in the middle of the night. It was in my bath tub, it was staring at me, and I was pretty sure it wanted to eat my brains. Turned out it was Kiah the Wonder Dog, who is absolutely infatuated with the cool acrylic surface of the bathtub. She was reluctant to go back downstairs. I was very put out and, thanks to the initial fright, my heart was beating rapidly.

“My heart is beating so fast,” I told John.

“Oh baby,” he mumbled, and turned over in the bed.

“It’s probably all the caffeine you’ve been drinking during the day!” David called from down the street.

It’s going to be a long summer.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Reading Post!

I have some wonderful news. I have been diagnosed with hypotension, which is a fancy way of saying I have ridiculously low blood pressure. Today I told my friend I was “hypoglycemic.” I became confused as to why she kept bringing up sugar levels, and then I fainted. Such is the life of a hypotensive. The doctor told me to increase salt intake, and practically wrote me a prescription for all the pistachios I can consume in a single sitting. Pistachios might be my all-time favorite food, right after frosting and butter.

Dizziness is the enemy of standing, so I’ve been getting started on my summer reading. Right now, I’m in the middle of three books, and am slowly compiling a list I want to tackle over the next couple of months. They include:

Paris in Love by Eloisa James: James is a Shakespeare professor and a writer of romance novels. She and her family left their U.S. home to spend a year in Paris. This book mainly comprises the Facebook status updates she wrote over the course of the year, along with some essays. I’m halfway through the book and find it charming, and also I am thoroughly jealous. (How annoying would that be, by the way, to get a daily reminder of your friend’s glorious life in the city of light, eating cheese and crème de fraiche and visiting art museums and sipping hot chocolate under the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know what crème de fraiche is, but it sounds delightful. )

Faith by Jennifer Haigh: I’m about 30 pages into this and, from what I gather, it’s about a sister whose brother, a priest, behaved badly. We’ll leave it at that.

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian: This is supposed to be creepy- a good old fashioned ghost story? I wish I knew how to pronounce Bohjalian.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: I’ve never read it. I have, however, often sung the song by The Police that refers to this book. I’m always surprised they play that song on the radio. It’s quite subversive.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker: Ms. Hatmaker simplifies her life seven different ways. (Gwyneth Paltrow’s severed head does not make an appearance in this book.) I am looking to simplify MY life! Maybe Ms. Hatmaker, who has an even cooler last name than Nabokov and Bohjalian, can help!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Everyone is talking about this book, written by popular suspense novelist Ms. Flynn. I’m trying to expand into some genre fiction for fun, after a disastrous attempt at reading a David Foster Wallace novel, and this has been described as “addictive.” (Infinite jest, my foot.)

Middlemarch by George Eliot: An old favorite that needs to be revisited.

I am open to suggestions! My book choices as of late have been uninspiring. Ho-hum. Blasé. What book(s) have grabbed your fancy as of late? (I’ve read The Hunger Games, The Help, and 50 Shades of Grey.)

Yes, the nice Christian girl read (most) of 50 Shades of Grey. (Did she skip ahead to the sex parts? Why yes, yes she did.)

In case you are totally out of touch with popular culture, 50 Shades of Grey is about a super-rich guy who meets a bland virgin who bites her lip a lot. Guess what drives the rich guy absolutely CRAZY with desire? When our virginal protagonist bites her lip. Like, so crazy that he wants to spank her. And she’s left with this decision- do I let super rich guy spank me every time I bite my lip, or do I hold on to my self-respect? And that, essentially, is the plot of the story. I’m not even joking.

I tried out the biting my lip thing on John and it didn’t go over well. He wanted to know what was wrong with me.

“This is supposed to drive you mad with desire!” I exclaimed.

“You’re weird. Are you fainting again?”

Why yes, yes I am.

I do not recommend this book. Why did I read it? Because I am curious, naturally, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
I submit that if the book had been about a gas attendant with a secret sex room in his basement, it would have probably been a suspense novel by James Patterson. Alas, what 50 Shades of Grey shows us is that lots of money makes anything seem… sexy. (Imagine a dramatic step off of a very tall soapbox now.)

And this concludes my summer reading post!

Friday, June 22, 2012

On Bullying or A Humble Defense of the Town of Greece

I’ve been religiously following the story of Karen Klein, the bus monitor who was verbally abused and humiliated by a bunch of middle-schoolers from my hometown, Greece, NY. I have spent the last 15 years defending my hometown to those who live on the east side of the city. This story hasn’t helped my cause, much.

Why Greece should be cast in such a negative limelight is beyond me; it’s not as if bullying is limited to the boundaries of western New York, though it sometimes feels like it. Caleb was recently excommunicated from his lunch table by a bunch of bullies, who suddenly and inexplicably turned on him at the end of the year. He came home at the end of each day, eyes brimming with tears, with a story of a new name he was called. “Midget, little girl, midget lady…” And I was filled with righteous anger. Spankings were in order! We should line up these kids and berate them like drill sergeants! Their parents should be fined hundreds of dollars!

These kids are nine.

Instead of throwing a hissy fit and marching into Caleb’s school with purpose, I quietly reminded Caleb he was better than the way he was being treated, that kindness is always the best policy, and that summer was right around the corner. That he can’t control the way he is treated, but that he can control the way he responds. I read from the bible:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

“Burning coals on his head?”

Maybe that wasn’t the best verse to read.

In the interim, I have donated to Karen Klein’s “vacation” fund. I have cried. I cried for Caleb, and for kids who are too scared to speak up for what is right, and I cried for kids who are so weak that they spew evil things from their mouths in order to fit in. I cried because next year I have to put my babies on the bus, or rather, on the big yellow den of iniquities.

I threatened to homeschool.

I thanked God to be done with the public school experience, which wasn’t my favorite time of life.

I took courage in my faith, and in God’s word, which really has more wise words to say on the subject than the talking heads at Fox News, The Washington Post, and CNN.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Matthew 5:38-41

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Mark 12:31

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Romans 12:18

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Power, love, self-control, strength, courage, generosity, tenderness, sympathy, humility, justice- peace. If my children can foster even half of these attributes, they will be blessed. 

Life is hard. And despite what those commercials say, it might not get better. But, if my kids live admirably and in accordance with the verses above, I believe God will bless them. If possible, so far as it depends on them, I will admonish my kids to live peaceably with all. And if they make the wrong choices anyway, then they will see the righteous anger. 

See? People from Greece aren’t all bad.  Also, we are a biodiverse community with many excellent Italian restaurants and lovely lakefront homes.  So there you have it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

An Examination of the Home Library

I’m working on a “summer reading” post. This is a pre-summer reading post examination of home libraries. It’s adapted from a post I wrote a while ago for No, it’s an interesting post. Please don’t go.

The Wonder Dog has ruined the carpet in the “library,” which means we will soon be tearing up the carpet and replacing it with something more dog-friendly. And child-friendly. And John-friendly. Packing up the books and the bookshelves is going to be a pain- I will have to choose what to put aside and what to stow away in the basement. Who knows what I might feel compelled to read? It’s summer! Time for reading in the sunshine and screaming at your kids not to splash you as they jump into the kiddie pool! (Which is just one of the reasons I don’t frequent the library that often.) I am a firm believer in the “whoever dies with the most books wins” mantra. Unfortunately my husband is, too. I think we’re “collectors.” Others call us “hoarders.”

As I was deciding what to pull from the shelf, I was astonished how many of the books I hadn’t gotten around to reading yet. I wanted to read at least 50 books this year. I believe I am up to 13. If I don’t step up my game this summer, I’ll feel sheepish. In other words, my home library, as expansive as it is, is not an actual representation of all the books I’ve read.

A couple of years ago, we went with friends to the enormous book sale in Ithaca. While perusing the kids’ books, I overheard a college student say the following to his friends:

“Guys. You don’t know how important this is. We’re going to graduate soon. This is the time we need to really start thinking about our home libraries. Did you know you can walk into someone’s house and learn more about them by looking at their library than by talking with them?”

I bet he was a Cornell student.

While I suppose there’s some truth behind this statement, I would submit that it’s mostly malarkey. Here’s are some misconceptions and potential truths that hide behind a person’s library (or lack of a library):

1) This person has a lot of classic literature. He or she must be really smart. Very possibly. Or this person buys up classic literature and displays it on his bookshelf to appear smart or just because he’s an especially pretentious human being. He has, however, read the first two paragraphs of Decameron, Middlemarch, and The Art of War.

2) This person has a lot of romance novels. A person who reads such garbage must be really stupid. These women would beg to differ.

3) This person has no books in his house. He hates to read. Or he takes advantage of his local library. Or, he listens to books on tape in his car during his long commute to work. Or, he buys books and immediately gives them away. Not everyone believes that “whoever dies with the most books wins” mantra. Some believe that you can’t take them with you.

4) This person has so many books! She must read all the time! It is more than likely that this person has a book-buying compulsion that she has a hard time curbing, and that she buys a lot of books because she thinks “the covers are pretty!” This person is NOT me. Nope. Not me.

If I had the chance to take this kid aside, I might have suggested to him that perhaps he should keep trying to talk to people rather than just looking at their collection of books. And I mean really talking and not just gazing into the distance until the conversation drifts back to the subject that interests him the most- himself.

What does your library say (or not say) about you?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baseball and Toads

Last night I was privileged to watch my oldest child play baseball.  My dad came to watch the game as well.

Baseball is more confusing than I had originally thought.  Apparently, the first foul ball you hit is a strike, but only if it’s the first or maybe second strike.  I think.  Also, if a runner is on second and there’s a pop up, he (or she!) can not progress to third until the ball is caught.  And if the catcher drops the ball after the pitcher throws it to him, the ball is considered in play and the runner can advance bases, but it’s not stealing.  Stealing is when the pitcher is holding on to the ball. 

No one, not even God, knows what a balk is.

“I don’t know as much about baseball as I thought I did,” I admitted to my dad.

“Quite frankly, I’m alarmed at how little you know,” he said. 

Caleb pitched for the first time last night, and during the second inning, he struck out three kids in a row.  I am proud as a peacock and a little hard to be around at the moment.  Caleb also hit a kid in the foot, but that kid never made it home, so it didn’t really matter.  I mean home in the baseball sense, not the physical embodiment of a dwelling place sense.  No harm, no foul. 

We came home, everyone had a popsicle, and went to bed.  I let Kiah out to go to the bathroom and then went out on the deck to escort her back in the house.  Kiah demands an escort.  She previously used her end-of-the-night bathroom break to play the “let’s chase me around the yard like a looney-bird” game, but although she can still gain speed when need be, the lack of her front leg has made sudden turns and playful bounds difficult for her.  She understands this and no longer waits for me to come within two feet of her before she laughs like a hyena and vanishes into the night.  Instead, she stands submissively and allows me to lead her back inside.  This new routine has honestly been a lot easier on my nerves.  My blood pressure has gone down and I swear a lot less. 

When it rains, all the toads come out, hopping around like they own the backyard.  In an effort not to step on one last night, I slipped on the deck and fell into a puddle as Kiah looked on and the toad hopped precariously close to the entrance of my house.  I blacked out for at least twenty minutes.

That’s not true.  I did not black out at all.  I added that for dramatic effect.  In fact, I was fine, although quite damp.  While I lay there, stretched out on the slick deck, Kiah galumphed over my legs, went into the house, and jumped with muddy feet onto the beige couch.

Sometimes I don’t like her. 

I don’t like toads lately, either. 

I do like baseball.  In the late hours of the evening, I changed into my comfy pajamas and climbed into bed.  I had just begun to read a book when I heard Caleb talking in his sleep.


I can only assume he was having baseball dreams and was blissfully unaware of his mother’s close encounter with a brazen toad.  If he had been awake, he would probably have pronounced me out and Kiah safe at home.  Because that’s the way you think when you’ve got nothing but baseball on your mind. 

Don't tell me about the world. Not today. It's springtime and they're knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball. ~Pete Hamill

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Best Days

These are the best days: the daylight stretching beyond bedtime, cokes out of bottles, children shrieking as they dodge sprinklers, retirees fussing over their straw-like lawns. Sunburns and sweat and pony-tails and graduation parties. Hot dogs and jello salads and the solace of a soft breeze. Griping about the lack of air conditioning, griping about rainy days. Plans of hikes and visits with friends and vacations to places with clear lakes and winding creeks and raging rivers. Picnics in the park and Shakespeare in the park and fireworks and campfires with marshmallows. Sticky kisses from kids who have eaten said marshmallows. Late mornings and later nights and dim fireflies in jars because your kids don’t want to ever let the light go. The groan and whirr of the window air-conditioner; tank tops showing off bare shoulders and arms freckled from the sun. Bare feet and dirty floors and dandelions in cups. Dancing with your husband beneath starlight to Ryan Adams or The Righteous Brothers or Melody Gardot. The aromas of a day well done blending together in the bathtub like soup: a mélange of dirt and sweat and hard play. Boys dilly-dallying in the bathtub. Light snores mingling with the cacophony of crickets chirping, bullfrogs croaking, beagles howling, teenagers laughing, that retiree mowing his lawn at 8:30 because it’s cool enough to stand it.

A good book, cool sheets and nimble dreams.

The moon in the window like in a fairytale.

Two cats hissing and fighting and screaming like they’re dying at 2am in your backyard. And no, I really couldn’t get back to sleep after that.

And let me tell you what- if they do it again, summer be hanged, I will shoot them with John’s BB gun.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gratuitous Pics of My Kids Accomplishments: A Very Special Thursday Post

A blog provides a wonderful platform for bragging about how awesome one's kids are.  My kids are awesome.  And they're cute.  (Ben would be cuter, but he's determined to grow an afro.  I don't know.)  In the course of the past few days, Caleb and Ben performed at their annual studio piano recital, Ella had her first dance recital, and the twins graduated from preK.  I weeped as I wrote thank-you letters to their preK teachers, who have taught all four of my kids, and tried to be optimistic about a future with no... babies.  No more babies!  MY KIDS GREW!  They told me it would happen but I didn't really buy into it.  I thought I'd be up to my ears in diapers forever.  No one even wears pull-ups to bed any more.  


Ben examines his very first piano trophies.

I'm not saying I'd ever be a pageant mom, but I can see the allure.

I think little girls who cut their own hair are frowned upon in the pageant industry.

Then again, she has star quality, I think.

Ella is third from the left.

In a mad rush from the recital to the graduation, the audience doesn't know that Ella wears only a leotard beneath her gown.

She waits for us. 

***  The story of our wonder dog's return from the dead is currently down due to "technical difficulties" but will be back up shortly.

And finally, revel in the cuteness:  (I'm firing my camera person.  She is a disgrace to dance recital moms.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And they all lived happily ever after.

Ben, doped up on Benadryl, lay next to me on the couch determined to keep his eyes open. He was suffering from, I think, an allergic reaction to strawberries. His ears were bright red, he had a fever, and he spoke in a raspy voice.

“Are you having trouble breathing?” I asked, loudly. When I get nervous, I say things loudly.

“No,” he whispered.

“Does your throat feel funny?”

“No. Except I can’t swallow and there’s a lump in it. Like a ball.”


I bundled him in a blanket and put him on the couch and commenced staring at him, watching the slow rise and fall of his chest.

“Do you know how my friend Adam got those two broken bones in his arm?” he asked, drowsily.

“No. How?” I answered.

“He was kicked by a Sith Lord,” Ben said, casually, as if getting kicked by a Sith Lord was a common everyday occurrence. Ben will believe just about anything anyone tells him. Eventually, convinced tonight was not the end for little Ben, I lugged my little guy upstairs and put him to bed. Downstairs, John, Caleb, and Kiah the Wonder Dog came in from the backyard.

Yes, THAT Kiah the Wonder Dog.

That awful Saturday, Kiah was severely injured after she tried to herd the riding lawn mower. In a prelude to a catastrophe, Kiah had broken out of her crate and slipped through the sliding glass door left open by some small person. After a difficult trip to the emergency vet, John was faced with some choices: he could have a) had Kiah put down b) gone thousands of dollars into debt trying to save her leg c) relinquished her to the local shelter, where she might have a chance.

He went with plan C. He came home without a dog and we understood we would never, ever see her again. We didn’t know if the shelter would give her the surgeries she needed to survive, or if they would choose to put her down.

To make a long story short, thanks to the kindness and generosity one incredible person, Kiah came home tonight. She is sleeping at my feet this very moment. She is happy, healthy, and has only three legs.

Which we think makes her even more of a wonder dog.

Life is never easy. Tonight was no exception. But we have our dog back.

We are blessed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

May: A Retrospective

May is my favorite month:  it's sunny and flowery and I get to watch my kids get hysterical if a bee comes within 10 yards of them.  Three of them have inherited my distinct screeching while flapping arms move.  Caleb remains stoic under almost any circumstance.  Two weeks ago, he sprained his finger in school and didn't tell me about it until five minutes before his evening baseball practice was over.  It was swollen and a lovely shade of aubergine.

In early May, John and I went to NYC for the sole purpose of checking out the progress of the Freedom Tower.  We had heard rumors a skyscraper was going up, but after ten years, one wants to see such a thing for oneself.  John told me that when it's completed, it will be 1,776 feet.  Two hours later, I got it.  And honestly, I think it's a little hokey. 

The real purpose for the trip was to attend a wedding reception at The Players Club in Gramercy Park, which is where I'm going to live after John dies and I land me a millionaire.  Gramercy Park, not the Players Club.

The Players Club is not as risque as it sounds.  I was disappointed, too.  Apparently, it's the place where Mark Twain went to play pool.  I know this because they had his pool cue on display above a fireplace.

The next day was Mother's Day.  John took me to a Yankee's Game.  On Father's Day, we're going to the NYC Ballet, because that's how a marriage works.  It's all about give and take. 

We hate the Yankees, but were well behaved and impressed with the beautiful stadium.  We were also surprised to find that the Yankee fans seemed like normal individuals; none of them wore pants made out of one hundred dollar bills.  We ate hot dogs and wrinkled our nose surreptitiously when A-Rod went up to bat.  The Mariners won, so that was nice.

This is the last picture I took of Kiah before her accident:  She's with her boyfriend, Charlie the Chow Chow. 

The twins and their spider hats!  (They won't go in the bathroom if there's even a remote possibility a spider is in there.  Shrieking and flapping if they see one.)

I accompanied Ben on his class trip to the zoo!  We had some important Ben and Mommy time.  And Ben and Mommy and sea lion time.  And Ben and Mommy and polar bear time. 

                                                 Hello, you.

The twins had their end-of-the-year school picnic! 

On Memorial Day weekend, we met friends in Olcott and rode the carousel and threw rocks in Lake Ontario.  My kids could throw rocks into Lake Ontario for the rest of their lives and feel they'd lived lives full of joy and purpose. 

The next day, we had a barbecue at our friends' house.  They have a pool. Ella and Dan floated for a long time.  This picture is taken after Daniel started to sink.  I was successfully fishing him out of the pool when my husband dashed across the patio and plunged into the water, soaking me and ruining his iPhone.  He dubbed himself a hero.  I dubbed him... something else.

Ella cut her own hair this month.  I bought some headbands to hide the problem areas.  This is how she likes to wear her headbands.  She also likes to wear socks in the summer.  Those are not bruises on her arm, but sticker residue.  Sticker residue is the worst.

And that was May.  Where are the pictures of Caleb?  This is a good question.  I'll ponder that over the course of June.