Day 31*: I am Thankful for Michael

Dear Michael,

No matter where we are or what we are doing, people want to engage with you. They smile at you, ask you questions, try to draw you out.

Most of the time, you act shy. You take awhile to warm up, even around family you haven’t seen for awhile.

I don’t know what draws people to you. I, of course, am biased. I think you are extraordinarily handsome, have the sweetest personality, are funny and engaging. Maybe people can sense your personality even as you try to hide behind one of my legs.

You are truly a joy. You have such a happy nature, and the simplest things can elicit a robust “YAY!” from you.

Of course you are headstrong and willful. Of course you pout and sometimes hit when you don’t get your way. Of course you have meltdowns and tantrums. You’re a child!

Otherwise, your father and I could not have asked for a better final addition to our family. You made us whole. We feel so blessed.

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I love you, little man. Happy birthday!

Love,
Mommy

*I know November only has 30 days. This is a bonus, just like my M.

Day 30: Thanks, Dad (and Mom)

Saved the best for last.

My parents are pros at the drive from Pittsburgh to Wilmington. They emailed their directions to us on Tuesday (the day we were originally going to leave). My dad drives a route designed to keep away from Beltway traffic. Although I will remember that it’s I 81, not 80.

Additionally, between them and my sister, they know how to procure a nice beach house and get around Wilmington and the islands.

My mom did the bulk of the cooking on Thanksgiving. My dad directed most of the clean up. They watched the children last night so Dan and I could hang out at Fermental. Dad even came to pick us up at the end of the evening, saving us the cost of a taxi. On top of all that, mom did a bunch of laundry, and my dad got us snacks for the car.

And my mom bought M his very first skateboard for his birthday.

This post is a little bit of an inside joke. I talked about how my parents are part of my child-rearing village before. But they are also fun to vacation with. Their grandchildren adore them. And they’ve earned a special place in my Days of Thanks series for just being all-around awesome people.

Day 29: I am Thankful for Wilmington, NC

Here are a few things Wilmington, NC has that Pittsburgh does not:

Sand pipers
Pelicans
Sea shells
Prickly pear cacti (so cool)
Jellyfish (gross, but fascinating)
A beach
The ocean

My children like the beach and the ocean as well. So much so that telling them they could take off their shoes to wade ended up with M falling down (very upsetting accident) and Kate wet up to her neck (on purpose, although she found the walk back to the beach house upsettingly chilly).

Here are two other cool things Wilmington has that Pittsburgh doesn’t have.

A Serpentorium. Which, whoa.

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And my BIL’s business, Fermental. If you can’t find it here, it’s not worth drinking.

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Here’s the most important thing in Wilmington.

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This is my sister Kristen. Doctor Sis. She’s been a lot of places: Florida, Baltimore, Ocean City, Virginia, Ithaca, Indianapolis.

Here is where she has found a home. A family (husband, stepdaughter,  dogs). A practice. A business.

I am thankful on her behalf.  And I am so, so glad we made the drive.

Day 27: I am Thankful for my Ford Flex

I was going to make this longer, but I can’t find my motion sickness pill, and Dan’s driving. So I’ll keep this brief.

I can fit comfortably in this car, the following:

One large suitcase with my clothes and M’s clothes
One large duffle with Dan’s clothes, plus three hanging shirts
The girls have a medium bag each
Two toiletry bags, one for the grownups and one for the kids
Three kids, each with a car bag, a pillow, and a blanket
A purse, a laptop bag, and a portable DVD player
And two adults, both of whom are pretty weary of this drive

What do you love about your car?

Day 25: I am Thankful for Writing Prompts, II

This is the BlogHer writing prompt for last Friday. I am using it today because I am so stressed I can’t think of something to be thankful for. (Stress because: I am trying to get ready for the drive to North Carolina, trying to plan driving by myself with three children in the back, waiting to see what the weather is going to blow in and if it’s going to blow in before I hit the road with the kids tomorrow, and, you know, trying to figure out how to do this on my own because Dan’s pneumonia and a patient in crisis have completely upended the idea of him driving and me nagging from the passenger seat.) (For the record, as long as the weather is good enough, he’ll be following, probably on Wednesday.)

You get to choose one superpower. Pick one of these, and explain your choice:

the ability to speak and understand any language
the ability to travel through time
the ability to make any two people agree with each other

Now, if that last super power would be “I could get people to agree with ME” I could at least use it to end pointless political arguments with my FIL. I say pointless because neither of us is going to change our mind. I wouldn’t use it on everyone, only because it would be boring if we were all the same.

I would choose the ability to speak and understand any language, and then I would travel like crazy (budget allowing). I would take my kids to France, Italy, Ireland, Russia, China, Japan, and South America. If language were not a barrier, I would go to small towns in Europe and tour the countryside.

And it would be kind of fun to have a discussion while I’m getting my nails done as well. Or at least know if they were making fun of me or not.

We could use Italian at home. I could raise bilingual (or more) children! That would be pretty cool.

It would open up a number of career options as well. For example, if I could read any language as well, I could do translations, or edit translations. Or I could become a spy! (Probably not.)

Plus, no more subtitle reading!

Which of those three superpowers would you pick?

Day 24: I am Thankful for Clean Sheets

I don’t change my sheets enough.
But when I do, it is my favorite thing, to slide in between them when I go to bed.
And I don’t have fancy sheets. Target- or IKEA-bought, cotton. I couldn’t tell you the thread count. When they are clean and fresh-smelling, it really doesn’t matter. I think I sleep better, when my sheets are clean.

What makes you sleep better than usual?

Day 23: I am Thankful for My Friend The Priest

Friday night, Dan and I had the rare treat of having dinner with one of our favorite people, the priest who married us.

We do not get to see him nearly enough, although we do manage to keep in touch, and, thankfully, every year or two years, we do actually get to sit down and share a meal and some wine.

Ray is what I wish every priest were. He’s delightful, humble, and completely irreverent without being blasphemous. He takes his vocation seriously, and his career as a teacher and chaplain at a local university infuses him with energy. He communicates his love and affection, not just for the students, but for the world in every gesture.

And, oh, the conversation. Ray is a consummate conversationalist. He asks questions about our lives. Not only did he marry us more than twelve years ago now, but he also baptized our three children. He came to the hospital when Gabriel died. When I asked him if Gabriel needed to be baptized, he said to me, “No. He passed directly into a world of love, with no original sin.” His steady presence was such a balm, and I know it meant the world to my husband.

We talked of our lives, our jobs, and our children. Ray reflected on 9/11 with us, and we talked a bit about the Kennedy assassination (the night we had dinner was the 50th anniversary). His views about his students, and about the young people at college today in general, was very sharp. We talked about the dangers of helicopter parenting and entitlement, and what fruits it was bearing now. He could write a book!

It was a rare night for us. Dinner and conversation with a man who has never left our hearts or our lives, even though we go so long without seeing each other. And, oh, the laughter. You probably don’t think of priests as funny, or as down-to-earth. I hope I don’t cause him any trouble or embarrassment to say this is a priest behind which you can see the man: profane, but never prideful, longing for a Church of the people and of love. He’s a huge fan of Pope Francis — he was palpably excited when conversation turned to him.

Anyway, Ray, I can’t thank you enough. God has blessed us by giving us you, and I’m so glad that years ago, Dan said, “Well, if we’re going to get married at the university chapel, I’d like to you meet a friend of mine. I think he’d do it.”

I’m so glad you did. (Oh, and email me that poem!)

Do you get to have dinner with a funny priest? If not, who is your favorite person that you don’t get to see enough?

Day 22: I am Thankful for Funny Children

My children seem to be naturally funny — not just goofy, or doing silly things accidentally that get a laugh. But with a knack for humor and timing. Especially Kate.

And Flora has a wonderful sense of humor. When her father or I make a joke, and she gets it, she laughs, and declares, “I get that!”

Dan recently told the joke about the hunter that was an atheist. (Have you heard it?*) The girls now request it.

Last night, we were at Bella and Tadone’s. Now, I need to set this up a little bit: When Kate was younger, she had problems keeping her pants up. Because little girls don’t have hips, and it seems designers of little girls’ jeans were not wise to that fact. Sometimes, Kate, like your family plumber, showed a little more bum than she ever meant to. And people used to comment teasingly on it.

As we were sitting down to dinner, Kate was regaling Tadone with a story — and I do mean regaling. Tadone laughed when she was done, and said, “Katie, I think when you grow up, you are going to be an actress. You’ll be on stage!” Kate responded immediately, “Well, that’s better than telling me I’m going to be a plumber.”

Of course, sometimes they are accidentally funny too. Flora was asking me about “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” recently. “Could they really hear the shot all over the world?”

“No, Flora, that’s kind of a metaphor. Like you learned about in school.”
“You mean idiom.”
“Okay, a figure of speech. Yes. It wasn’t really heard all around the world.”
“How far away was it heard then?”

* Dan did have to explain what an atheist was first, then he told the girls this joke at dinner:

An atheist hunter was out in the woods. As he was hunting, he accidentally woke up a hibernating bear, who started chasing him. The hunter ran and ran until he came to a cliff and couldn’t go any further. He looked up to the sky and said, “God, you know that I don’t really believe in you. But if you are there, please turn this bear into a Christian.”

The bear stopped charging right in front of the hunter. It folded its paws and lowered its head.

Then the bear said, “Bless us, oh Lord, and these they gifts that we are about to receiveā€¦”

What’s your favorite joke to tell kids?