Monday, April 30, 2007

Frederick's Birthday

Fef is three today and we talked to him in Virginia, before he went out to play with his brothers in the sunshine. I am hoping we get to spend a lot of time with him this summer, so I can get to know him better. It is hard to live so far away from half our grandchildren. Gody says he is passionately attached to his Captain Jack Sparrow t-shirt and is reluctant to take it off.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Times They are A-changin': Secular Version

Back in the 70’s, 808, 810, 814 and 817 Barrington Road housed seventeen children under twelve. That meant that the kids always had someone to play (or fight) with and we mothers always had someone to help us out in a crisis. We were all “stay-at-home” mothers and we could always count on a neighbor to watch our children while we took care of errands, doctors’ appointments, school conferences etc. If our immediate neighbors couldn’t help, there was always someone from church or school we could phone. If our charges were around when a mealtime rolled around, we fed them and we usually figured out eventually which ones were in diapers and which ones had to be reminded. It didn’t require complicated scheduling and on one occasion where a lot of blood and an ambulance were involved I just shoved the remaining kids in someone’s back door and ran.

I was always happy to do my bit. We didn’t keep records of how many hours who had done what, but we always had a vague sense of when it was our time to cash in. I can only recall one really traumatic experience. My friend Theresa had just had a baby, so the doctors didn’t take her stomach pain too seriously until they realized she needed an emergency appendectomy. Her next door neighbor had been watching the two and four year old and the brand new baby, but she had take her five year old to a doctor’s appointment (and leave behind another two year old.) So Lucy, who was all of four, and I went down to help out. There were two immediate problems:

  • Although I had five children, I had never prepared a bottle of formula.

  • There was a large and much beloved dog. He ran away.
I can’t remember how I figured out the formula business, but I think I must have. Then came the question of what to do about the dog. I decided he was on his own.

What brought back all these memories? It was a syndicated article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune entitled What to do before your child begins a play date. Man, did I do it all wrong. Delma Francis, the author, believes that “managing play dates is among the earliest and greatest challenges for parents.” Apparently I was supposed to woo the mothers first. She quotes a mother (called Muggy) who “ prefers the first play dates to be on neutral ground — at a park or a lunch spot. That's when the moms begin to build a relationship; then the kids can move on with theirs.” Apparently a note wouldn’t have come amiss ("Tony wants to play with Connor. Come on over. The coffeepot's always on.") The article cited play date etiquette involving rules of the house and choice of snacks, “whether there are guns in the home, any concerns with pets, the ratings of movies that each child may watch and so forth.” Give me a hungry baby and a dog any time.

By the way, the dog came back and Christopher grew and flourished.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Henry is Two

Henry celebrated his second birthday today, along with his parents, brother, sisters, grandparents, some aunts and uncles and some cousins. It was a lovely day and the kids could run around outside and get tired and dirty. And hungry. Here's Henry about to attack his Thomas the Tank Engine cake.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Times They Are A-changin'

A few days ago Ernie received the latest edition of the alumni magazine from the small midwestern and—to protect the guilty—nameless Jesuit university where he earned his undergraduate degree and where Elizabeth received hers some forty years later. He started reading the first article, the President’s message, and within a few minutes he was harrumphing. The theme of this edition was the service being given by students of the university both in the United States and throughout the world. The examples are certainly impressive and the good father drew parallels between the students’ ministry and the Jesuit theme of cura personalis. For anyone not familiar with this phrase (and that includes me), he launched into an explanation of the concept which apparently referred originally to a Jesuit superior’s responsibility to care for the unique needs of every Jesuit. Now you should know that Jesuit formation takes up to fourteen years including extensive training in philosophy and theology and that the Society was the first order which enjoined by its very Constitutions devotion to the cause of education. So where did Fr. X go for his explanation? To St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the order? To Fr. Pedro Arrupe, or his predecessors or successors as Superior General of the Society? To the countless scholars in the order such as Avery Dulles? No, he went to Wikipedia. Harrumph indeed.

The following day, the Twist section of the Detroit Free Press profiled Sister Julie Viera of the IHM order in Monroe. When we first came to Detroit, forty years ago, it was virtually impossible to meet anyone who had not been taught by a member of this venerable order of teaching sisters. Why is Sister Julie deserving of a newspaper interview? In addition to being the youngest professed sister (she is 35 and the median age of the order is now 86), she is the author of a rather pleasant blog. This section of the interview caught my eye:

What did you give up for Lent?
I didn't give up anything this year. I wrote about it on my blog, and how one of my blogging friends talked about random acts of kindness. That was something I focused on during Lent.
Give me an example.
In the drive-through at Starbucks, I gave the cashier an extra $5 -- so you can pay for the person behind you.
Drive-through? Starbucks? I thought back to Ernie’s aunt, Sr. Marie Charlotte of the Dubuque BVMs. Back in the day, if she wanted to go somewhere she first needed permission, then she needed a companion/chaperone and they squeezed their long bombazine habits in the back of a car driven by an elderly gentleman of impeccable reputation.

What a kick she would have got from a drive-through! And how she would have loved Starbucks.

"Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis." Try looking that up in Wikipedia.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday, 2007

How to commemorate this day? What photographs will record Easter Sunday, 2007? It was certainly an atypical celebration. I want to write about the weather—but that is old news. Snow for Easter! Look carefully at the photo: the tulip buds are drooping, the leaves are drooping. Fortunately I had not cleaned out this bed. I was waiting for the oak leaves to fall and I hope they give these flame colored tulips some protection.

Forget about the snow and let me celebrate the people with whom I spent the day. Our numbers are diminished. Elizabeth and her family went to DC to visit her brothers, packing their shorts because April in Washington is hot. Wrong assumption, but they lit lots of fires and had a great time. Patrick, Daniel, Charlie and Eleanor, together with their parents, ate ham and lamb cake with us.

I've neglected this blog in the past week. I'll fill you in next time.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I Was Had

One of these photographs is an April Fools joke. Ernie had the sports page open at breakfast time and I caught sight of this disgusting looking . . . thing. Even more disturbing was the accompanying recipe for “sucker patties or burgers.” The ingredients were quite standard—flour, onion, egg, olive oil and breadcrumbs—until you got to the bit about adding a pound of sucker fillets put through a meat grinder. “That”, I informed Ernie, “is an April Fools joke.” Indeed, on the same page Eric Sharp had also written about a $2.3 billion underwater fence to be built from Duluth, Minn to the head of the St. Lawrence to keep out new fish diseases.

I went to check my e-mail, which included a note from my brother asking me if I wanted some of the new jam being made by our friends at Tiptree. (For those of you not familiar with Pimms, it is an alcoholic base in which fruit is macerated and the whole business is added to lemonade. Ideally it drunk while standing around on an English lawn, wearing a floppy hat and thinking wistfully of Hugh Grant.) Brian explained his theory that it was a marketing ploy to get back at the folks at Marmite. He’d written to me a couple of weeks ago about a limited edition of Marmite (if you’ve been paying attention you know about my inexplicable passion for this yeasty goodness.) The new version was made with the leftover yeast from the production of Guinness. Such was the frenzy to buy this product that it was snatched off supermarket shelves as soon as they were restocked and it was selling for £50 a six-pack on Ebay. Of course I wanted some Pimm’s jam, I told Brian.

Several hours later, I checked my e-mail again, only to discover my brother’s “got you” note. And fully aware of my piscatorial ignorance, I had asked my friend Caroll to check with her husband about suckers. Roger is the outdoorsman par excellence and he passed on the information that suckers are something of a delicacy.

I am beginning to doubt my sense of reality. The BBC website had an article about hoaxes, citing the spaghetti caper I mentioned earlier. The article mentions the Museum of Hoaxes in San Diego. Maybe that’s a hoax too.