Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Understanding My Mother’s Prayer

October 4, 2014

Like many women of a certain age, I find myself repeating my mother’s wisdom and sayings on a regular basis. A wise, strong, generous woman of deep faith, she often says that her prayer for me and my three brothers was not for our happiness or accomplishment. Rather she prayed, “May they have help when they need it.”

As the mother of three teenagers, I’ve prayed this many times over the years and been so grateful that help has been present even in frightening and unlikely circumstances. Like the man who witnessed Michael getting hit by a car just happened to have my phone number and called me after calling 911. Or the known and unknown (to me at least) times that a friend stepped in to say, “I think it’s time we leave this party” or “That doesn’t sound like a great idea.”

Help may indeed be all around us, but often we have to take the first step, especially when there’s no one else (like a parent) to give a nudge. “Don’t worry, Mom, I’m washing it every day and using triple antibiotic ointment,” Kevin said last month in describing an elbow scrape from the rugby pitch.

The surface wound healed beautifully, but 12 days later the elbow was suddenly swollen, red, and painful. After class, he went to the university health center and was promptly sent to the local hospital emergency room where he was admitted and hooked up to IV antibiotics. .


By the time I arrived the next morning, the meds were working their magic. His fever had dropped, and the swelling had decreased and stopped spreading, but it still looked pretty nasty.

With a cell phone charger borrowed from a nurse, Kevin was able to email professors, friends, and teammates to let them know that he wouldn’t be able to meet various commitments as planned. With a TV all to himself, we hunkered down for a couple of days of college and pro football games.


After 48 hours of antibiotics, he was discharged — looking forward to a shower and grateful for his student health insurance, good medical care, and a pizza lunch courtesy of Momma.


Anne Lamott says that all prayers can be simplified to three basic prayers: Please, Help, and Thank You. Sounds right to me.

Next year already

May 22, 2013

As a Boston Red Sox fan, “there’s always next year” has been my defense mechanism fan philosophy for decades. Each spring, I relish the return of the MLB season. The game radio broadcast is the aural wallpaper of my home: the play-by-play commentary, the background sound of the crowd as voices rise, fall, and cheer, the pause between pitch and swing, between hit and defensive play.


Baseball season is also prime knitting season. The slow pace of the game is the perfect complement to whatever is on my needles. On weekday evenings and weekend days, I knit at Michael’s baseball games — glancing up regularly to watch a play or pitch, usually (but not always) when he’s involved. I learned long ago that my kids don’t really care — or even know — that I’m watching their game or performance, so I feel no guilt if I miss a line drive or strike.


There’s a new life in the neighborhood, so I’m making a blanket, the Illusion Cube Blanket, something I’ve had on my radar screen for several years, just waiting for the right time (and the right human). Takes me about six or seven innings to knit a single “cube” depending, of course, on how exciting the game is or how often I put down the needles and cheer or how much I chat with fellow parental fans.

Christmas Presence

December 20, 2010

When Michael recently told me his favorite part of Christmas, I thought he said “presents,” but he continued, explaining that he really likes the “presence” — the smell, sounds, sights, anticipation, tastes, and as he put it, “the feeling you get from all of that and all the love.” Out of the mouths of babes (OK, he’s 12 but you know what I mean!).


Sometimes traditions can feel stifling, but most of the time, I find them comforting and reassuring.  They’re like blazes on a trail, marking the way, letting you know where you are.  Even if you’re not sure where “here” is, even if you’re tired or grumpy, you pause and say “here I am. This is the place. Take note.”

Lights in the windows on the first Sunday of Advent, shining in the afternoon darkness. The next weekend, the “building” of the creche on the mantel.  It’s become a bit of a hodge-podge with figures added over the years — a toy giraffe, a cartwheeling angel, a Caribbean drummer. Note the knitted stocking, made by my mom nearly 50 years ago — with my name knit into the edge even.  She’s good!

Mantel with nativity creche

My family has what my late cousin Sarah called “the food gene.” We like to cook, eat, think about cooking, gather for meals, read recipes, cookbooks, and cooking magazines. The Advent and Christmas seasons have lots of food traditions, of course.

spices for St. Nicholas cookies: clove, cinnamon, cardamon, cinnamon, anise

Every December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, my mom (also a wonderful baker and cook) would make St. Nicholas cookies.  Delightfully spicy and cut into little “bookmarks,” they are perfect for dunking — or just munching. We’re not Dutch and don’t celebrate St. Nicholas Day in any other way (no candy & toys in boots at the foot of the bed).

I’m sure my mom found the recipe in a cookbook or magazine sometime in the 1950s or 60s and, knowing a good recipe when she sees one, she made a batch…every year!  This year when I emailed my youngest brother to say that I’d made these yummy treats, he replied that his first batch wasn’t so great and that he planned to make a second batch that evening.  It’s not just me.  Try them yourself.

recipe for St. Nicholas cookies

With my high schoolers having mid-term exams this week, I’m staying up late, being present, and knitting.  The wrap is off the needles, blocked, and awaiting buttons.  More on that later. I leave you with Hannah and her sister-friend Charlotte preparing the tree, another tradition.


Sweet Girl

December 2, 2010

As a parent, you really can’t choose which child you love the most. Don’t get me wrong — from day to day (or even moment to moment), I may have an especially warm spot in my heart for one or feel the sting of pain, frustration, or anger with another.

I love my three for the individuals they are. My goal is to give each the love, attention, and care that s/he needs whenever and for however long it’s needed.  I like to think it will even out over time (for those who keep score). But only one of these marvelous children sparked my metamorphosis to motherhood.

Seventeen years ago today, my sweet Hannah arrived, changing the world — my world — in ways I could only imagine and will forever treasure.  Hannah is one of the most generous, creative, intelligent, beautiful, brave, passionate, and resilient people I have ever encountered. Of course, I’m biased, but I also have very good judgment, particularly of an individual’s character — really.

From the beginning, Hannah captures your attention.  She has a spark about her — it burns within her — and she’s got gorgeous red hair to boot.  When she was four months old, I held my breath as a group of Japanese tourists took turns holding her as they were photographed amid the cherry blossoms by the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.  I can’t help but chuckle at the thought that somewhere in Japan there are family photo albums with pictures of Grandma and Grandpa holding a beautiful, rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed, quite bald American baby girl.

Her acting, singing, and dancing abilities never cease to amaze me.  No offense to my dear husband or me, but it’s recessive genes in action.  When people compliment me on one of her performances, I smile and agree with them.  It’d be cheating for me to say “thanks” since I really can’t take any credit.

Hannah is a fiercely loyal friend who is blessed with a cohort of true Sister-Friends.  Buddies since 1st grade, they are marvelous young women who share nearly everything (as their laundry basket contents attest), support each other through the turbulence of life, challenge, encourage and watch out for each other, plunge fearlessly into adventures (and ocean waves), and laugh frequently with abandon, despite all the crap the world dishes out to teen girls.

My dear Hannah, I’m so very proud and honored to be your mother, and I look forward to many, many more years of love and friendship. Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

Double whammy birthday

September 13, 2010

Sometimes life has a way of putting everything into perspective.  Generally it’s the small moments of grace and gratitude. And occasionally it’s the full-force, dope-slap-to-the-head that you just can’t miss.  The latter is
what I experienced Friday afternoon, as I was at the library writing a blog post about my Michael on the occasion of
his 12th birthday. A phone message made everything else fade to nothingness.

“Michael was just hit by a car while crossing Parker Street. He’s fine. An ambulance is on the way. Call me as soon as you can,” a neighbor’s voice crackled onto my phone, the sound of traffic and loud voices in the background.

Fine?!  As I drove the mile or so to the accident scene, right near our house, I thought of the range of possible meanings of “fine.” Until I was told otherwise, I resolved to believe it meant that his brain was still in his skull, that he had no visible massive bleeding, and maybe that he was conscious.  Anything else — broken bones, cuts — would really be fine, thank you very much.

I’m in regular daily conversation with the Good Lord,  so that’s who I turned to as my throat tightened and my breath
started to come in gulps.  The writer Anne Lamott says all prayers can be divided into two categories: please, please, please and thank you, thank you, thank you.  That’s certainly my experience. “Please be with Michael and let him know I’m on my way.  Oh, and could you help me to get a grip so I don’t get into an accident while driving, too.  Thanks, pal.”

I arrived just after the paramedics loaded him into the ambulance, and my heart soared as Michael reached his fingers, from under the back board’s security straps, and sobbed, “Mommy, it’s so scary!”  He really was fine — banged up, scraped, and terrified, but nothing else.  After a few hours with the wonderful folks at Children’s Hospital Boston (who delivered birthday balloons and a game), we headed home to enjoy a dinner of pizza and ice cream cake.

As he does each year, Michael asked Patrick, “Dad, what’s the best birthday present you ever got?”  “For my 36th birthday, I got you; that was best,” Patrick replied, as always.  This year, the gift was new all over again.

The post I’d mostly written is gone now — a victim of my speedy exit from the library and my technological inability to retrieve it.  Ah well, in thanksgiving and celebration of the wonder of Michael, photos will have to suffice.

Age 2.5 wearing sweater knit by Nannie

The kid’s got style! Sporting a sweater knit by Nannie (for an older cousin) at age 2.5.

Patrick & Michael at the beach

The birthday boys (ages almost 7 & 43) waiting for sunset at the beach.

A yarn winder is almost a toy and winding a few balls is a good cool-down after basketball practice :-)

Michael & 10-layer birthday cake

A 10-layer cake for a 10th birthday. You can’t see the rainbow-colored layers: purple, blue, red, orange, yellow, green, 2 chocolate, 2 gold.  Michael designed and helped bake and frost.

Two brothers & a cousin

Most days, Michael likes having an older brother. But he’d really like to BE an older brother and savors the times when his younger cousin Aidan (a.k.a Superman with blue kitchen gloves) gives him a chance to pretend.

His true sports loves are basketball and lacrosse, but I only have photos of baseball and football. Go figure!

Thanksgiving Day hike up Blue Hill

MPD's first dog-walking gig

Just a few weeks ago, Michael had his first dog-walking gig.  He loved it (and no, we’re still not going to get a dog.)

Happy birthday, my sweet boy.

Boy Wonder

July 8, 2010

The longer I’ve been a mother, the more I side toward Nature in the whole nature-vs-nurture debate. My primary, completely unscientific data are my three children, each with a distinct temperament, each of which was pretty much discernible shortly after birth.

Case in point: my dear Kevin, who turned 15 yesterday. It’s a pleasure and privilege to watch him become more fully who he his.

A remarkable human being in nearly every way, he’s unafraid to throw his arms around me, in front of his teenage friends no less, and say (after planting a kiss on my cheek), “how’s your day going, Mama?”

He’s energetic, empathetic, creative, smart, funny, and plays some mean guitar. Through him, I’ve been able to rediscover the music of my teens, listening to AC/DC, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd.  While driving to or from hockey games, we listen to classic rock, quizzing each other on bands and songs. He’s handsome, too — can’t take total credit for that myself, of course.

His wonderful kindergarten teacher enlightened me to his “tactile nature,” which explained his propensity for deliberately bumping people and things, for being unable to fall asleep unless he wrapped himself tightly (“cocooned”) in his covers.  Instead of reprimanding him for not sitting still while trying to read, she had him sit in a bean bag chair or lie on his stomach on the floor, “grounding” his body so his brain could focus on the task at hand.  Brilliant woman!

He’s long possessed leadership qualities, but they’ve become more evident since he — and his friends — have entered their teens. He has no qualms about telling a friend to stop being rude or to clean up his language around younger kids or to wash his own dishes (after the gang has made and devoured a pound of pasta & cheese).

I’m not naive enough to believe that this quality will ensure he makes safe decisions when it comes to alcohol, driving, drugs, and all the other dangers that make a parent’s breath catch in her throat.  But he’s got a strong enough sense of himself that he can say, “Nah, I’m not gonna do that” and not really care what others may think of him. For that, I’m grateful.

He knows how to knit — made a scarf for his 2nd grade teacher, his favorite teacher of all time.  And he’ll even ask me to make and then wear — and be photographed in — his own hat.

Happy birthday, sweet boy!

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