Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Making of The Band

Jack (10) is so excited. Tomorrow at 4:30 a group of 6 boys will be gathering in my home to form...The Band. Jack on electric guitar and lead singer. 2 buddies on guitar also. Another buddy on bass guitar and singing back-up. Brother on keyboard. Neighbor on drums.

Jack's itinerary for the first jam session: (below I will type exactly what he has written very neatly on a sheet of looseleaf - however I will correct his misspellings)

LIST of Rock.

Logic - Rock History (one rock star each week)

Watch and Learn - Listening to the rock stars' music.

Rest of time - Rock ON.

Other - Get cd of 11 songs

Most - Practicing the songs we're doing.

Learn - Learn about the instrument. Homework - Listening to music on cd - practice instrument.

Projects - Make song due next week's Friday.

He is so into this, I know very well that it is taking up most of his brain power whilst he is supposed to be working at school, but I have to admit I am just thrilled to see him so interested in something that he really does seem to have a talent for. So, what does this all mean for me? It means tonight on my date night, my husband and I will be finding a place that has both wifi and alcohol, and we will be downloading music, simplifying it, separating the different parts for different instruments, figuring out "garage band" on my ipad so I can use it to help us, and burning classic rock cds for The Band. It means my photography load and my "freetime" just got replaced by managing The Band. It means that on Fridays, my house will be even louder than usual (however my sweet neighbor and mother of the drummer will likely be holding many of these sessions in her home!). It means I have something super fun to work on with my Jack! : )

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Hug

Setting: We are at the Great Wolf Lodge. The kids have all been getting along with each other swimmingly. Seriously has been just some beautiful family time together. I'm sitting watching Elaina and Ben color some coloring pages in the "Cub Club" room, and Scotty and Jack are off playing the game of Magiquest together. Just as my mind begins to wander into the happy thoughts about how well the kids have been getting along Jack and Scotty appear... Jack: (handing me his wand) I quit. I'm done with this. Scotty: He is just mad at me. Jack: (lip quivering) He embarrassed me in front of a whole bunch of big boys. He just wanted to be cool in front of them! Scotty: I was joking! And there were like TWO boys standing there. Jack: No! He said I was just a puny wizard magi! Right in front of them! It was so embarrassing! Scotty: (lip quivering) I said I was sorry! Jack: He doesn't mean it. He keeps saying "but..." after it. Mom: Scotty, do you feel bad? Are you sorry you hurt his feelings even if you were joking? Scotty: (lip quivering) Yes! Jack: No, he doesn't mean it. Mom: Follow me. You two can sit here in this corner and work it out. When you both come back to me happy -and I'm your mom, so I can see it on your faces!- then you can go back to playing. This has been a very nice vacation, and you aren't going to ruin the fun on your last day of the Great Wolf Lodge. Now sit. They sit and stare at each other and I go back to the little guys in the Cub Club. A while later they are back. Scotty: He won't accept my apology! Jack: Because you don't mean it. (Wiping his eyes now) Scotty: yes I do! (Rubbing his eyes now) Mom: Jack, how many times did Jesus say to forgive? Jack: a lot. Mom: 70 x 7 times Scotty: that's 490. Mom: that's a lot. What He meant was "ALWAYS." It may be hard sometimes, but you have to. Now, Scotty, hug him. And Scotty squeezes him hard and jack begins to grin. Jack: (chuckling a tiny bit) That's more of a squeeze. Scotty lightly puts his arms around him while laughing. Jack: (chuckling) That's not a hug either. Scotty hugs his head hard. They both are cracking up now. Mom: Now, Jack, Scotty will let you put your new woopee cushion under him every night at dinner for the whole time we are at Aunt Mo Mo's. So he can feel what its like to be embarrassed. Scotty: Yes! And I won't even say that it is a woopee cushion! Mom: He will just say "Excuse me." They are cracking up. Jack: ( a thoughtful, considering look on his face) Hmmmmmm, I guess that's good. At home, I have left their squabbles alone. I have not intervened for about the past 2 years. And they have had fewer and fewer squabbles. But on MY HAPPY FAMILY VACATION ... Well, I had vision of happiness and joy, and I couldn't let them ruin that : )

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

FAMILY Vacations

Its not that I don't enjoy that my kids have friends. I'm thrilled when they make good friends. I stress when they don't make close friendships. I try to find moms of children I like to be MY friends, so our kids can be friends. I schedule playdates, put my kids on teams with their friends and talk to them a lot about what it means to be a good friend. But let me explain where friends don't belong - on our family vacations. (This obviously does not include when we go to visit our friends out of town during our family vacations - that is different and lovely.) Yesterday while standing in line with Elaina for the water slides at The Great Wolf Lodge so many awesome "family moments" happened right before my eyes. Moments that would have been obsolete if each kid had a friend along. I would have missed seeing Scotty and Jack figure out together how to get the enormous double tube up the 8 flights of stairs together. I would have missed their laughter as they dropped the tube, and their ranting through laughter as they recalled the slide they just finished riding together. I would have missed seeing them negotiate together on which slide to ride next. I would have missed Elaina talking me into riding a terrifying "toilet bowl" double tube slide. I would have missed playing mermaids with Elaina in the "grotto." I would have missed racing Ben down a super fast slide and hearing him excitedly explain to me how fun it is to go on "the dark ones that you are scared of mom." I would have missed seeing my 2 older boys "sneak" out at 10pm to go play the Magiquest hotel wand game together for some "big boy" time, and missed getting their arguing phone call about what they each wanted to do next - but also I would have missed hearing Scotty eventually be understanding to his brother's request for him to help him get caught up in the game. I would have missed seeing Jack take his little brother Ben off to do a bunch of Magiquest quests together, and Scotty take his little sister Elaina to do the same. I would have missed snuggling and watching a movie with Elaina. The list goes on. When we rely on each other for their fun and their joy and their comfort, we build stronger relationships. I mentioned how "I would have missed...." But the truth is THEY are the ones who would have missed out much more than me - THEY will only forge these friendships with each other by BEING with each other. Within our own family is the place we can truly be ourselves. No one knows us better than our family. It is very similar when we vacation with extended family. Keeping cousins close is a beautiful thing too. And how wonderful for my kids to witness me interact, negotiate, tease, and find joy with MY own siblings too. How blessed we are to have so many built in friends right here within our own family.

"Her Tears Are Magic"

We were all watching Tangled (for the 3rd or 4th time), the adorable flick where boy and girl save each other from the evils of the world. And right as it is getting tense, and it looks like the hero is toast, and Repunzel's magic hair has been cut short, Jack says, "Her tears are magic too Scotty, he is going to be fine." My husband and I couldn't help but chuckle, and grin at his need to remind his brother, and himself, that everything turns out ok. He may be turning 10 on Sunday, but well, he is only turning 10. While there are kids playing Call of Duty on their game systems, and there are kids picking fights on the playground, and while my own 10 yr old even is trying out new words, and showing off strange new emotions, I'm glad to say he still likes a happy ending. And he likes it to come quickly. I'm thankful for the childhood innocence that is sometimes so hidden, but always there, in childhood.

McDonalds and the Wonder of the iPad

The plan was this: I drop my friend at her meeting at Loyola (we're in Chicago visiting) and I take the 7 kids on a little venture through the McDonalds drivethru, and eat in the car or at a nearby park, and then go pick up my friend from her meeting. So, we dropped my friend, we drove though. We found a park, but could not find a parking spot for the park. So, we ate in a "no-parking" spot and that's when I heard it. "I have to go potty." Now, since the day before my friend and I encountered 3, count them, THREE, sets of wet pants from 3 different children, during our outing, I figured I should take this statement seriously. So, we headed back to the McDonalds. I sat in the parking lot for a second trying to talk my 10 year old into taking the 2 2.5 year olds inside to go potty, but he didn't feel he could handle it. And since I wasn't really sure he could either, I decided to march the 7 children into the McDonalds to use the potty. We safely make it across the parking lot, head to the back of the restaurant to the restrooms, and that's when I see it - the yellow caution sign. And a bunch of suds coming out from under the door of the ladies room. REALLY. Fortunately we are at McDs during brunch (not a busy time) and there's a big booth open near the restrooms. I sit them all down and we wait for the ladies room to reopen. But now there are two requests for potties and I'm feeling desperate. I end up talking the 9 and 10 year olds into taking the little guys into the men's restroom (gross) then I go insane with the antibacterial soap when they emerge. In the mean time though, I have ingeniously begun the playing of Toy Story 2, the movie, on my IPAD, and all children are sitting quietly entranced by the glowing screen. So, at this point we are just hanging at McDs to pass some time, and watching the movie. So, my whole point is this - to thank my husband for the awesome Ipad he got me for Christmas : ) I don't know how my parents did it before all this fabulous technology. And people may think; oh, but all the technology reduces the creativity, and moments of quiet, etc. To them I say this: In moments like this Technology reduces my stress, and therefore enhances happiness for all. In moments like this technology is a friend to us all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The very sharp penceil, and How to collect rocks

Ben: "Mom, we forgot it was show and tell day." Mom: "Oh, man I'm sorry buddy." Ben: "That was ok, remember in my backpack I had that VERY SHARP PENCIL!" I love how easy my fourth child is. This week we forgot show and tell again. Again he found his show and tell on the floor of the car on the way to school. And upon finding the half inch tall penguin eraser he says, "THIS IS MY FAVORITE!" Jack is giving a "How to Collect Rocks" seminar to his younger siblings right now: "So, we wash them off in this warm water. Very good. Now they look like we want them to, nice and shiny. OK now we find some sort of tub to put them in, and we take them into the art room. Follow me. Now, everyone got their best big one? So, who wants to put some googly eyes on their biggest rock? Set your eyes down. Take the glue, ok, don't touch them. Now, do you want to make smiley faces? And we can use these feathers for hair. So then set these to go dry, we put them right here. These ones are the dads. Now take a tiny guy (rock) ......." And Ben and Elaina are eating this up! Forget summer camps...WE HAVE JACK!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What you gonna do wif me?

Charlie walks in with wet pants. He's done so well lately, no accidents. Pooping and peeing on the toilet. But when he walks up with wet pants and sees my frustration on my brow, he's wondering: "Will she huff? Will she give me a chilly shower? Will she do that steady breathing thing where I can tell she is trying not to be mad?" And so he says, "What you gonna do wif me?" A zillion options race through my mind. Its the question that is on kids' minds and parents' minds everywhere when their child has messed up, disobeyed, or both. It raced through my mind as I scanned through one of my other son's returned school tests in the car today. 2 bad papers, 2 decent, 3 wonderful. And then the question, "Mom, can I have a friend over on our half day on thursday?" And in my head, "What am I going to do with him?" In these situations, what I want to do is absolutely nothing. There is a part of me that says, let it all go. Life is short. Just enjoy it. Screw all this training and testing and practicing, and just smile and to the question, "what you gonna do wif me?" answer: "nothing." I get tired of having to make decisions like this. If the kids only knew how badly we really want to just do nothing and then not have to deal with how mad they get about our response. But its our job I guess to figure out what to "do wif them." So, today I just gave the furrowed brow - to both the wet pants and the bad school papers. I think I'll let their dad take it from here. I wonder what he'll do wif them?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"What are you doing?"

"Mom, what are you doing?" "I'm cutting up carrots, and I'm putting them in little bags." "Mom, what are you doing?" "I'm switching the loads of laundry." "Mom, what are you doing?" "I'm taking all this chicken off the bones and separating it into containers for the week." "Mom, what are you doing?" "I'm going through all this paperwork from school and keeping the important stuff, and throwing the other stuff away." "Mom, what are you doing?" "I'm making dinner, and helping with homework, and cleaning this mess up off the floor, and changing out the trash bags, and changing your brother's pants, and throwing out the junk mail, and washing your brother's hands, and making flash cards for your sister, and quizzing your brother, and putting these dates on my calendar, and emailing your teacher, and finding a bandaid, and changing your remote control car batteries..." I heard someone say once that she used to be a doctor, but now she is "just a mom." To all the "just moms" I know - Don't ever feel that it is not enough. It may not be glamorous, but even Jesus' disciples asked Him "what are you doing?" as he washed their feet. And what are our children if not little disciples following us around asking us what we are doing all day long. The care we take of our children is ever important, and hopefully will teach them to do the same for others. On this Ash Wednesday, I pray that I can wash their feet with less complaining, and more understanding and servitude.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Motley Crew

We were running late for church, literally. We were on foot, and bike and scooter, I think. We rushed in and there stood a very nice greeter asking me, "Would your family mind carrying the gifts up to the altar today?" I say, "Sure, no problem." Then I looked at my crew. Wow. This was going to be uncomfortable. Elaina was in leggings and a t-shirt that was a bit too small. And a messy ponytail. My big boys at least had on collared shirts. But Ben was in track pants, and there was some leftover marshmallow on his chin from the backyard marshmallow roast the night before. Charlie looked similar to Ben. I had on jeans and tennis shoes, but at least a nice top. My husband however had on his "paint" jeans. nice. What a motley crew we were. Monsignor Jack took the wine from my son, shook my hand warmly and said, "Caught off guard this morning?" with a big grin on his face. My plan when I had signed that book in the back of church vollunteering us to carry gifts here and there, was that we would be called ahead of time and I would dress my boys in matching polo shirts and khakis. Their hair would be quaffed oh-so-handsomly. My daughter would be in a sweet delicate dress, large matching bow,and of course coordinating colors with her brothers'. I would be in my most slimming dress, a wraparound number from Ann Taylor. My husband would NOT be in his painting jeans. Surprisingly, many sweet parishioners after mass and throughout the weekend commented to me about our "beautiful family" carrying up the gifts at mass that Sunday. God is so darn funny. Reminding us at the most significant times (like when we are coming to Him in prayer) what is really important and what is not. It is not what we wear, or who we are perceived to be, but who we really are inside. And the Villhards are a motley crew, full of imperfections, full of messy hair and marshmallow chins. And full of reasons to say "yes" to Him even when it is uncomfortable. Also I don't want to forget: Mom: "You need to stop telling me what to do. You are 5 and I am 36." Ben: "Wow, that's a big number." Mom: (Good comeback)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The baby just said "camouflage" and "octagon"

Admittedly, our "baby" is now 2 and a half, but he is growing up so fast! I mean the other day he DID say these 2 words in the correct contexts. I suppose when one is the baby of 5 he learns things much earlier than the other kids in the family. He has older brothers, almost 12 and 10 yrs old, who talk constantly, and therefore are inadvertently "teaching" their younger siblings constantly. The trick is to keep these teachings appropriate and in the best case scenario even helpful and interesting. Unfortunately I also have heard my 2 yr old say some things I would rather him not be saying yet, which is the curse part of this "blessing and a curse" situation of being the youngest of 5. But here are a few things Charlie and his young sibling have learned from their older siblings: Tolerance: -If you can handle someone throwing a sponge ball at your head continually just so they can see how it bounces off into different directions over and over again, you will likely be just fine when a coach eventually wants to throw you 100 passes before you leave the gym. -If you can handle your older sister dressing you up like a girl just for fun, you will eventually be fine with your girlfriend or wife making you hold her purse while she tries on 10 different outfits at the mall. Toughness: -If you watch your brother trip and fall and get embarrassed and ruin the rest of his day because of it, you will learn to trip and fall and get right back up so as not to ruin the rest of your day. -If you hear your big brother telling your mom about some boys jumping on his back at PE during basketball, and you hear him decide that next time he will just "fall" on top of them and squish them, then when you are playing basketball, you will know what to do if someone jumps you. -If you get told you are "too little" over and over because you are the youngest in your family, soon you will be proving that you in fact are NOT too little by stealing the ball from your older siblings. Sense of Humor: -If you hear your siblings teasing each other at the dinner table, and now and then get teased yourself, even though you are only 2!, you learn to laugh at yourself for your own funny quirks, and you learn to be able to tolerate and even laugh when someone at school or in the workplace teases you. -If you learn big words and big concepts from listening to people who are older than you talk to each other all day, you begin to understand their jokes at a very young age. Love: -When you witness one brother standing up for another brother in a bullying situation, or you witness your 12 yr old brother still vying for his hugs from his mother, or watch your 10 yr old brother hop on his dad's lap, you are not afraid of love, you are used to it, you embrace it, and you remain comfortable with it forever. At least I sure hope so : )

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Son of Man

Before 8am this morning: I walked in on Charlie spraying aerosol hair oil allllllll over my entire bathroom. EVERY surface is shiny. Then I cleaned up his cereal throwing mess. Next, I cleaned up his potty and poop underwear (and accidentally flushed a pair of underwear down the toilet). Following that, and still before 8am I bathed him because of the pooping accident. Next I cleaned up a fun time that Charlie had with the toilet brush in the toilet water all over my bathroom. I began thinking, "I am going to go get my eyebrows done, and my nails done and get a new pair of jeans and top before Saturday night, because after this morning I have had, I deserve it!" And then I picked up my blackberry and read this quote that a friend just happened to sign her name with: "For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) Point taken.