Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Past meeting the Present

As a child in my mother's family, we would all get the opportunity to attend "Lake Camp." My aunt, Spooky, and her husband bought a lake house on Lake Martin when we were all quite young. Before boys, before we shaved our legs, and before we understood the power of a kid's memory.

We would drive to Atlanta and spend the night in their large, three story, gray stucco house before rising early the next morning and pile into the wood-paneled van with the sliding door and merrily drive across the state line into a new time zone. Not just Central Standard, but Lake Standard. This is the house that had a dormitory in the basement, complete with bunk beds on the walls and futon mattresses. We would spend the days jumping off the dock into the freezing water, thankful that they dropped 100 pounds of gravel in the swimming area at the beginning of each summer so our feet would not be in mud. The cousins would pile in the ski boat or on the jet skis and head over to "The Rocks" where everyone from ages 6 to 26 would park their boat and climb up the rocks to find flight for a quick few seconds before hitting the water and rising to do it all over again.

These Alabama summer days stretched out before us and every summer, we would get excited to spend the hottest months with our cousins at "Lake Camp," with my aunt at the wheel of the van, the wheel of the pontoon boat, or the wheel of the kitchen. Stepping over toys, instructing the girls on how to cook the perfect cookie, or the boys about the fundamental level of enjoyment of Bob Marley, she seemed to have ever-more patience, ever-more love, and ever-more life. This was in the early days of a dial-up modem and her office overlooked the lake. While we swam, she would work. My uncle would join us on the weekends, taking his turn in the office and giving her respite from the work week.

As we got to high school, the challenge of leaving our friends for the summer became too great and the distance too far for too short of a trip and "Lake Camp" became a thing of the past. They would eventually sell this beautiful home before moving up to Blue Ridge and buying a new, albeit smaller, lake house for the rest of their days. They sold their ski boat, but trailered the old pontoon boat- new when they purchased it 23 years ago- and trucked it down the interstate, across the state line, and up the mountain to their new home.

And then the oldest cousin had children of her own and none of us could remember why Lake Camp ever ended. What a foolish reason to stop coming together because of those friends whose names we cannot even remember now. Jenn packed up her two daughters and a different aunt packed up my youngest cousin (10 years my junior) and Lake Camp was resurrected for the next generation.

Spooky married off her children and she now has grandchildren. She also has great-nephews and great-nieces and we can never remember to put the "great" or the "grand" in front of them. How can we possibly be the 'adult' generation? How can my aunts be the generation of the 'ultras' now? How can we be getting so old so fast?

Every summer, "grands" would pile in the car with their mom or dad and head up the mountain for a much condensed version of our grand memories. All of the spouses are curious as to why we pile in the car and head to see our aunt and uncle five hours away. The Rocks are still in Alabama, but the family is in Georgia.

Last week was my first Lake Camp on this side of the maturity bell curve. While shorter than a summer, it was an amazing two days to see my daughter run up and down the same pontoon boat, swim without a bathing suit, and paddle in the same kayak as I did. My cousin held my youngest while I regaled my oldest with tall stories about skiing and swimming across the lake late at night. My cousins became legends in her eyes, and probably in my eyes, too. Those stories always get better with age.

On the way up the mountain, we stopped in Atlanta and LMC met a living legend, my grandfather's sister, my daughter's namesake, my great Aunt Bennie. Bennie has outlived all of her siblings. In the past few weeks, she has left us many times, only to return to her children who are watching and waiting. Aunt Bennie tells them that she has seen their father, she has seen her sister- Helen, and she has seen the babies she lost on the other side of the Pearly Gates. Brady and Helen are ready to welcome her, but she is not ready to go as of yet. None of us are ready to let her go. I fed Baby Bennie a bottle while Aunt Bennie simply could not take her eyes off of the littlest in my arms. Working with great might, Aunt Bennie slowly found a way to get her hand out from under her blanket and softly patted the bed.

She would say sweet nothings like, "Such a big girl," and "Such a sweet dress."

I asked her if I could put Baby Bennie on the bed and she emphatically nodded her head. Baby Bennie sat and kicked her rail thin arms and pinched her papyrus skin, making me jump each time, telling her not to do such things.

As if the 8 month old could understand me.

Aunt Bennie shushed me and said, "She's fine. Let her be."

I let her be and started to internally cringe instead.

Aunt Bennie wrapped her sinewy hands around Baby Bennie's waist and held her tight, as a mother would do- making sure for her to not fall. Baby Bennie grabbed Aunt Bennie's old finger and for an instant, their was a flicker of light in those old eyes as the smile stretched across her face.

After about an hour, Aunt Bennie was starting to get tired and we needed to head up the mountain. Lake Camp waits for no one. I kissed her good-bye, she squeezed Baby Bennie's hands and held her gaze for a second longer. She makes me wonder what secrets she will carry with her. I stroked her pale hands and thought about how the map of blue veins remind me so much of her sister, my great Aunt Helen, and my grandfather. These women-- they are iconic in my heart and were never thought of as anything other than my aunts-- surely not a great aunt, people don't know their great aunts at the level we knew and loved ours.

Up the mountain, it was time for LMC to head up to her great-aunt's house and be introduced to Lake Camp.

Spooky trusted LMC to help cook dinner- because a four year old should totally handle raw chicken. Wide-eyed, she watched my aunt and did exactly as instructed. If I had been the one giving instructions instead of taking pictures, she surely would have created a salmonella disaster and we would have the hospital bill to prove the story as fact.

LMC played on the deck, asked one hundred and thirty five questions and got one hundred and thirty five answers from both my aunt and my uncle. Their patience for these children is immeasurable. It was a trip that she might quickly forget or only vaguely remember, but it is one that will go down in the books for me.

The Polaroid Camera has long since hit the trash, but the pictures on the bulletin board of our memory remain.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Church with Children

Now that we are getting settled, we are making a more concerted effort at attending Mass. This task is easier said than done. It's easier to prepare for Mass, load two kids up in the car by myself and drive with my eyes closed in the rain than to get them to sit still for 55 minutes (yes, we totally sneak out after Communion. Those last five minutes are excruciating to the wiggling baby and stubborn four year old. It's at that moment that this mom has had enough.)

There are few excuses for a Catholic to skip a Vigil Mass-- they are typically at 5pm on Saturday and 8am, 10:30am, noon, and 6pm on Sundays. Before brunch? After? Before dinner and drinks out on a Saturday? Before Sunday supper and the start of a great week? Really, there are no excuses.

Because Catholics love babies and lots of 'em. And that priest who has no children is totally cool with that two-year old running down the center aisle with the pregnant mother chasing after her, or feeding Saltines to a small one just to keep them from screaming singing at the top of their lungs. High blood pressure? No worries- that'll be something to deal with when they are older, like six. And kids are perfect at six. They won't need Saltines. They'll need life support. But mostly, they'll need a little Jesus in their lives with all the CTJ meetings I foresee in my children's future.

CTJ? Come. To. Jesus.

We've all had them, some involve a little more Jesus than others.

I digress. Yesterday, Husband was on call and it was both rainy and chilly. I thought to myself, 'I said, "Self- Let's get these girls dressed and go to Mass. That seems like a great idea on this Friday afternoon after traveling all day."

Self agreed.

Self was an idiot.

But, Self moved forward with her plan- asking LMC to change her clothes and dressing Bennie in a new smocked number. If they are going to be minions, at least they can be cute minions.

Cute only travels so far.

LMC grabbed two packs of Cheez-its and I opted for packing the contraband in lieu of a lecture as to why she could not eat in church. Contraband in my diaper bag, we set off on the rainy Saturday afternoon to be just in time to be early.

Early is never good when it involves kids- it is just precious minutes when they could have been quiet when it counted, not when it didn't.

Mass starts, LMC munches quietly on her contraband, and Bennie starts.... well, she starts being Bennie. She's noisy. And not that quiet kind of noisy, rather that, "Who brought that kid noisy?" Bouncing Bennie does not prevail. Patting Bennie's back fails. Tipping Bennie on her head only makes her sing louder... and the thing is, she is actually singing. "LALALAAAAA OIYEEEEE LALALAAAAAA REDRUM LALALAAAA REDRUMMMM" More shushes from Self and LMC looks over, covered in Cheez-it dust and actually says a little too loud for my taste... and the taste of those within fifty feet of us...

"SHUSH BENNIE! You are in CHURCH and we have to QUIET."

And then I started getting squall-eyes from the senior citizens sitting around me, who seem to have forgotten about how children are in church at this age. I smiled, thinking it was both humorous and embarrassing all at once.

"LALAAAA REDRUM REDRUM.... LALALAAAAA" and we pulled out the Ritz crackers. Bennie is still learning to eat, so LMC is covered in Cheez-it dust, I'm covered in Ritz dust and Bennie is fresh as a daisy, except the lone Ritz bit tucked under her chin within the rolls of fat, save for a later date or the apocalypse, whichever comes first.

My money is on the Apocalypse.

Admitting defeat, LMC and I not-so-quietly ask our neighbors to step aside so we can move to the back of the church.

"EXCUSE ME. We need to get out NOW.... please."

Thank you, LMC- I think they got the memo written in crackers.

At the back of the church, LMC thought it would be great to sit down on the smooth marble floor. This was perfect; there was a moment of silence before she discovered that the smooth floor + her cotton romper = a perfect ability to slide and slip all over, taking care not to slide on the green marble spots.

Bennie started in with her "LALA REDRUMS" and I gave LMC a look that could cut glass and hoped to put the fear of God in her.

She crossed her arms and stuck her tongue out at me.

My head started spinning.

The usher standing next to me, stared down at the Clampetts over her long nose, popped collar and pompous air. I stifled a laugh upon seeing this older woman and got down on my hands and knees before jerking LMC back beside me.

Obviously, I was really getting a lot out of Mass on this day. The homily had something to do with family or divorce or leaving children on stranger's doorsteps. Something valuable.

Scaring LMC within an inch of her life, I held my head high and skipped the thirty three rows in front of me to get Communion and safely find escape from the usher in sneaking out a few minutes early, only to be caught by Fr. Charlie-- who probably understood. He's deaf, but he ain't blind. We walked across the street to the new Ice Cream shop.

What? You don't think she deserved a treat for good behavior?

Neither did I.

"LMC, I want you to ask the lady behind the counter what those machines are."
"Excuse me, what dose machines?"
"They are ice cream machines. Would you like one?"
MOTY interjects--- "Well, LMC, I wanted you to be well behaved at church and you had several chances at redemption. We will try next week and if you are well behaved, we will come back here and you can get any ice cream you want."

A FOAF ensues. I scoop her up on my other hip and carry her out in the rain, which was shockingly cold.

I load up two screaming kids in two-part perfect harmony and merrily went on our way.

Next week. We will try again next week.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Skeeters will carry me away...

Yesterday's blog was not my best- the pictures were good, but the words were not in the best order. We will have good blogs and bad blogs. At the typing of yesterday's blog, LMC was not not considering eating coins and Bennie was not not crying. The phone was not not ringing off the hook and the doorbell had not not been pressed 144 times. It was a touch of crazy around here.

Today, well at least- this morning, things are a little calmer. LMC is resting on the couch having felt puny this morning and Bennie is sitting in my lap rotating between chewing on my old college t-shirt and gnawing on the ancient desk Husband bought me several years ago.

The week leading up to the Baptism was crazy-insane. My in-laws delivered a new load of furniture and artwork. The workers installed attic fans and LMC heard from my parents 154 times that "the mosquitos are going to carry me away!"

Why do I mention this little factoid?

Husband was on call one night last week. Bennie was finally all cried out and I fixed LMC dinner (hotdog and potato chips with a Capri Sun- MOTY, I know) and told her that I needed to get a shower. Please don't mess with your sister, she is sleeping.

"OK, Mommy. It's okay I watch My Little Pony?"
"Sure" -- this little show buys me 24 minutes to hose off the sweat of the day and decompress for just a handful of those 24 minutes before drying off, dressing and heading back up front to make sure all is as it should be.

19 minutes later, I am a new person- a better mom and just a little more sane.

Walking up front, I see LMC smearing something on her legs. This is gross, I know, but I thought she was smearing the grease from the hot dog on her legs.

in a small whisper, "Dis is da bug spray. It makes me shiny."

Only it was not the grease of the devoured hotdog, it was the container of Vaseline on the chair. She reaches in for a second (fourth?) time and smears another coat on her arms, saying, "Dis so da skeeters don't carry me away."

Hand back in the jar, she spies me spying on her and says, "Hey Mommy. Will you help me put the bug spray on my face? I don't want da skeeters to carry me away."

"Honey, um.... the skeeters won't carry you away."

"I have to cover my whole body to make sure they won't."


A little closer inspection determines that she has, indeed, covered herself from the very tips of her toes to the very last inch of her hair with Vaseline. A hot bath did not melt away the waxy layer nor did the bath soap. We washed and washed her hair (conditioner was not necessary) and made the discovery that Vaseline is an excellent hair gel.

The next morning her skin was silky smooth and her hair was standing on its end, after being washed and slept.

Mental note: Vaseline should be kept out of reach. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Sweet baby Bennie was baptized this past Saturday. Wanting to keep it small, we kept it to family and the closest of friends. Enfamil Alice is her godmother. Alice should be my godmother, as she is always there for me. Everyone should have a friend like Alice. When I need advice and when I need a friend- she is there. 

A laugh, decoration help, whatever-- she is there.

And I love her. I love and trust her so much, we put our youngest daughter's faith in her hands.

My godfather is my mother's cousin. He's Uncle Pat to me. He and his wife lived down the street from my parents and across the street from my brother-- the circle of trust, as my father calls it. At one point, my grandfather, parents, brother, aunt/uncle, another aunt/cousin, and her son all lived within the neighborhood. It's a big neighborhood, but it's a bigger family.

When I was about six, I gave my godfather a set of pink suspenders for Christmas. He told me how he wore them into a judge's office and popped them out with his thumbs and think he won the case because the judge liked those sharp pink suspenders so much. 

My godmother is my mother's sister, Elf. My mom has three sisters and all four have fabulous nicknames. Elf and my mom are the only two that sign their checks with a nickname and are listed in their high school yearbooks as a nickname. Honestly, I should pay closer attention, because I did not know Elf's name was Kathleen until, well, let's just say it took a long time.

I digress... Our Baptism was brought to you by Costco. While I should not share this secret, let's face facts-- we moved, redid a house, and have been doing things, none of which have involved purchasing a freezer. Where would all my hard work be stored? Would it not be more fun to swim or go to the park instead of slave over a stove (a stove that doesn't work)?

So, it was the Baptism brought to you by Costco. It was yummy, it was easy, it was fun.

It was a lot of fun. The party broke up around midnight. After Mass and the priest giving the godparents a pop quiz about the number of commandments (ten, not seven), which one is the most important (honor thy wife), and forgetting the carseat in the locked church, we made our way back to the house and christened it with the first of many parties.

I called my favorite baby sitter, who is a life guard, and asked if she could help me with the kids by the pool. She happily obliged. It was a huge relief to know she was out there. Parents were obviously out there as well, but it was nice to know that there was a set of eyes dedicated to the pool.

Husband's brother came to town. He has five children and a wonderful wife. His wife is LMC's godmother and he is Bennie's godfather. He is a charming, kind, and gentle person. Husband and I love to spend time with them. Though we are quite different, we always have a hundred things to talk about. In the end, Husband and I agree that we want to strive to be like them as both a couple and as parents. They have five kids and have learned a few things in the rearing of five children. After they left, we talked about the things we noticed that they did with and for each other. The love they have between them is so raw and so gentle. Those two are truly a team and each sincerely has the other's best interest at heart and at mind. 

It is wonderful to spend time with family.

Bennie wore the dress that LMC was baptized in and was a perfect angel. With it being August, the church was hot. One guest remarked that they were sweating like a "wh*re in ch... ." Before Mass, I was standing in the back with the excuse of keeping the baby calm, but the reality of standing next to the air conditioning vent. When the priest saw us and met Bennie for the first time, she was naked. It was hot and I wanted to get her dressed at the church.... and we were running late (shocking, I know). Father said we could easily do this Baptism in her diaper; the baby must be hot (said the man in two layers of cassock over his clothes.)

"That's all fine and good in theory, Father, but my mother would kill me if she even knew that I stepped foot in here without this baby fully dressed."

"Fair enough."

It was a good day.

My brother was there. And that made me the happiest of all. He is LMC's godfather and I adore him for being there, both at LMC's baptism and Bennie's-- for very different reasons. For LMC's, he stood and accepted the challenge with love to take LMC's faith in his hand and heart. For Bennie's, he stood and smiled and was there. There with us, not in our hearts- but here, on this earth, with us.

His life has changed in such a strong way and every day is new and challenging to him. Perhaps every day is a Baptism by fire for him, learning new things and trying to accomplish things new ways and baptizing his feet to move forward and his arm to work and heart to grow and and a.....nd. And. 

And our daughter was Baptized in the faith we were raised in. Perhaps she will be Catholic for the rest of her life like her mother, perhaps she will convert to a new faith as Brother did. She can do anything- and she will be forever loved by us and raised in a house of faith in the unknown, faith in God, and faith in love. 

Because that is what we have- Faith.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


I feel neglectful for having not touched my blog in almost two weeks. To say we have been busy is both an understatement and a lie. We have spent time waiting for estimates, running back and forth to swim lessons, teaching MB (whom I think I shall start calling Bennie on the blog because we have a lot of initials here. Thoughts?) about food and having her cut two teeth. Husband has been working, I have been cleaning, though Megan the cleaning lady might beg to differ with that, and we are slowly trying to get settled and find a level of normal.

There have been two trips to the grocery store, one trip to find a dress (epic FAIL), a beach adventure to our old beach house where we reunited with the Preacher Family. They brought news from home and will be relocating much, much closer to us on Saturday. Charlotte is only about two hours away! Husband made a wine rack, that cannot seem to be finished. Not from lack of work or lack of wine, just over and over and over and over with the sanding and the bond-o and the details. He's a perfectionist when it comes to his handiwork. While I can't blame him, he enjoys it, I kinda want to say "GOOD ENOUGH!" but those two words do not go together in Husband's vocabulary.


This was written three days ago- the last time I touched this computer. It's Saturday afternoon and I need to get a shower, clean our room and make the last details for MB/Bennie's baptism. Opening the computer to catch a moment with my email, I discovered this unfinished blog.

Let it remain unfinished to be a continuation of the knowledge that I am a busy busy bee. Oh man, where does the time go?