Thursday, December 22, 2011

On Gay Marriage...what I couldn't fit in a Facebook status update.

Discussing any controversial topic on Facebook is like trying to have an intelligent conversation using only post it notes. It is simply not a forum that encourages much thoughtful, respectful dialogue. (Not you, of course. I'm sure that you, dear reader, are just enlightening other people left and right and with utmost kindess and respect). So I try very hard to avoid those kind of topics there...what is the point? People are more interested in being a sound bite then in actually trying to understand each other. They are all too willing to hide behind the electronic medium of delivery and pretend like the things they are saying are not hurtful to actual people with actual feelings...people who may even been thier "friends", or at least friends of friends. I'm sure this is probably true for people on both sides of any given issue, and probably more true for some people then others (some people are just LIKE they were born to be cyber bulies). However, it is a pitfall that I imagine most of us have fallen into at least once. I know I have "liked" something that referred to people on the other side of an issue as "stupid" so then I had to go and un"like" it. I mean, some of those people might be stupid, but some are just ignorant and some...dare I say it...are intelligent, thoughtful people who have given the issue deep thought and have simply come to a different conclusion than I have! Viva la differance! (I can't spell that and my spell check doesn't do French but get it). I don't understand why they are on that side, or exactly how they got there, what flavor of crazysauce is in thier water, but I can accept it and still treat them with respect. You know, as much respect as I can muster for an ignoramous...(I kid!). I can treat them online with as much respect as I would treat them in person, as I would treat them as a guest in my home. It doesn't mean that another invitation to my home would be forthcoming if the same respect is not shown to me (or any other guests in my home whose views may differ from thiers) but I can START THERE. I can do that, at least.

The controversial topic that currently has me ignoring my children to type as quickly-as-I-can- since-whatever-game-they-are-playing-with-the-Lincoln-Logs-is-not-going-to-last-forever? Gay Marriage.

I believe that Gay people should be allowed to get married.

Now, I get it that I am Catholic and that the Catholic Church does not want to marry gay people. Well, to each other. I believe I understand the Church's teachings. IT IS NOT MY PLACE NOR MY OBJECTIVE TO CHANGE THE CHURCH. (Although my understanding is that it is ok to BE gay, just not ok to have the gay sex as it is not open to life. To this I have two things to say: 1. There are plently of people who are not gay who are married in the church who are having sex who are not open to life and we still let them be married...I mean that kind of detail is really between them and God so why should it be different for the Gays? and 2. How do we know that the Gay couple is not open to life? Sure science guarentees that it won't happen but that is true for people who are older, or for medical reasons CAN'T get pregnant and yet we don't look at those facts of science for THEM. We ask them to be "open to life" which is possible for any couple, gay or straight-but-100%-infertile...)

But I digress. My point is not to change the Church. As I promised when I was confirmed (remind me to tell you this story another time) I remain open to hearing what the Church as to say, to listen respectfully to Her teachings and prayerfully consider these matters, giving great weight to the Church. I do so and I will continue to do so. Luckily, I am not gay so in this case it is all academic. If I was a gay Catholic I imagine this would be a much more difficult road for me.

So. Church's (all of them...not just mine) can say yay or nay to who they marry. Not everyone is Catholic, however, or Christian, or even RELIGIOUS. In the Untied Staes we are lucky enough to have a little bit of crazy present from each belief system you can imagine, including the "I don't believe in any of the systems". Our country was founded on the desire to create a place in the world where that was possible...that while there are common laws to protect the common good no one, by God (or not) could tell anyone else what to think! Hazzah!

And the fact of the matter is there are people (and plenty of them) who want to marry other people of the same sex. And these people are consenting adults and citizens of the United States of America. They don't think or believe like you do nor do they require that YOU think or believe as THEY do. They just want to enjoy "certain unalienable Rights...among these are Life, Liberty and the persuit of Happiness." (Sorry, didn't mean to quote the Declaration a bit carried away). When the government doesn't allow two consenting adults to marry each other (for reasons like religious beliefs, color of their skin, sexual orientation) they are infringing upon these rights. Religious groups don't have to like it, they don't have to perform the marriages if they don't want to, but we have (tried to) set things up in such a way that in our country religious groups don't get to tell others how they can or can't live. Nor can our government tell one belief system that it is better or more right than another. I mean, that was the whole POINT.

So that is the legal part. The government not only should allow gay people to get married, they are OBLIGATED to do so. If you don't like it then don't get that kind of married.

Now onto the moral part...People who argue that a gay marriage somehow undermines their own marriage. That gay marriage is somehow dangerous to children, to society, to the "sanctity of marriage". That somehow, allowing gay marriage is a danger to the "common good".

Respectfully, I call "Bullshit".

I'm not saying all gay men and women are upstanding members of society, anymore than straight men or women are. I'm not going to cite the many short marriages of straight celebrities that do more harm to destroy marriage in our kids eyes when they see THAT TRAIN WRECK on the news then most gay couples could do on their worst day. I'm not going to make a trite joke about how crappy married life is and that the gays are welcome to it.

What I can write about is what I know.

The gay couple that we love and respect so much we asked them to be Godparents to our kids. The gay couples that we know that show our family examples of real love, respect and commitement through good times and bad. The gay couples that we know that are wonderful parents. These friends who have made our life better, the lives of our family and our children better. These friends that are examples of the "sanctity of marriage". These friends that I couldn't deny "Life, Liberty and the persuit of Happiness" to just because they were born who they are...kind, warm, loving, strong, funny, intelligent...and also gay.

Friday, December 2, 2011

How to be an ass (and win parent of the year) in 19 easy steps.

1. Instead of going to the park, storytime at the library, the YMCA to workout, or any other wholesome healthy kid appropriate activity, decide intstead to spend this beautiful sunny morning getting a pedicure. With your three year old along. Even though you could wait ONE MORE DAY and go on your own on Saturday.

2.Feel smug as your three year old boy child is a DELIGHT during your pedicure. He is charming the pants off everyone in the place. You are totally doing this! He is sitting and chatting and behaving and playing with your phone. You have completely ignored your self-imposed rule to always avoid taking a child to a non-child friendly place and it is working out great!

3. Sit your Smuggy McSmuggerson self down in a chair with your toes under that purple light so they will dry faster. Think to your self that you have turned a corner! After 10 years of dragging a small child around everywhere and planning everything around this fact, the smallest child is not so small anymore and you can do things like get pedicures on a Friday! This is totally aweso...


5. Realize child has touched that purple light thing with his fingers. Even though he is sitting right next you and you are totally talking to him and holding his other hand he has still somehow managed to touch the one hot thing in the entire room.

6. Scoop him up, saying, "Shhhh. Sh. Sh. Sh. You're ok. You. Are. O. K." I mean how hot can that thing be? Your toes are right under it and they are not hot. Try in vain to find exactly where he is hurt but his hand looks fine. Keep telling yourself that. HE IS FINE.

7. After a minute, since he is still crying, hoble over to the sink with your pretty red (for Christmas!) toes and run his hand under the cold water.

8. Look at his fingers repeatedly, even though he screams every time you pull them out of the cold water to do so. Finally see the two angry blisters on his pointer and middle finger.

9. Somehow leave the nail place. You have blacked out the details but your level of embarassment and chagrin is exactly equal to the smugness you felt five minutes ago. You ass.

10. Drive to Target. Yes, Target. You have to go to the other boys school in an hour to drop off their lunches and you don't want to drive all the way home and then back again....whatever. Drive to Target.

11. Get ice from the Target Cafe, put it in a cup and have him stick his hand in the cup as you walk over the the pharmacy to ask if there is anything else you can do (note: not really)

12. Grab some ibuprophen, open it and give him some right there in the middle of the aisle. The pharmacist said it might reduce the pain and you are hoping that the idea that you are giving him some "medicine" to "make it feel better" might help him calm the hell down. This totally breaks your other self-imposed rule of never opening things in the store before you pay for them but hey, breaking the rules is really working for you...keep it up!

13. Look at his hand again and realize how cold his fingers are. Wonder how long it would take to get frostbite by keeping your hand in a cup of ice. Since you don't really have a better option at the moment, stick his hand back in the cup of ice.

14. Look around for a toy or something to disract him (ok...let's be honest. It is to allieviate your guilt) but in the end DECIDE AGAINST BUYING IT. Why? I don't know, because you are an ass.

15. Feel grumpy about the fact that your pedicure is probably all messed up from putting on your shoes too soon and walking around Target.

16. Come thisclose to leaving the store without paying for the ibuprophen but realize it at the last minute. Feel grateful that you did not have to add "Watch your mom get arrested for shoplifting drugs" to the list of things he will have to tell his therapist someday.

17. Realize you are totally going to write about this for the internet. Add that to his therapy list as well.

18. Make him go with you to take his brothers lunch instead of taking him home to watch Mickey Mouse and get the "boo boo bunny". (You don't really have a choice about this but whatever...he is whimpering, "I just wanna go hooooome" in the back seat. Mentally kick yourself for not having your act together this morning and making the older boys' lunches before they left for school).

19. Finally get home. Give him the boo boo bunny and turn on Mickey. Check your toes and feel cheered that they aren't messed up as bad as you thought they were going to be.

Hope your Friday went better than his did! (He is totally fine by the way...he is running around just like normal. I mean, he still has blisters on his fingers but other than that...)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear Candyland,

First, I'd like to thank you for being the perfect preschooler game. You've got it down. You are the gold standard: You are simple, require no reading, and have a short and sweet playing time. You are a classic. You have taught generations of children how to take turns and the true meaning of the phrase "You win some - you lose some". Honestly, I wouldn't change a thing. That being said I have, respectfully, a few notes:

1. What is up with the 4 pages of instructions, front and back? It is the simplest game in the history of games, except for maybe tic-tac-toe. Ok, I guess the back is the instructions again in Spanish, but still. You know the cards you put the colors on to play? You could put the entire rules to Candyland on one of those cards and save a tree.

2. On that cardboard box insert thing that holds the game board up and the pieces and cards go underneath....we don't really need that. It tells "The Legend of the Lost Candy Castle". My kids don't care. Another tree saved. You are welcome future generations!

3. I was going to comment on the Candyland movie here but I couldn't bring myself to watch it. Sorry. (Eddited to Add: There is a Candyland video but the movie I was thinking of apparently hasn't even been made yet. I just remember hearing about it (maybe I saw a trailer?) and thinking, "No. Just no.")

4. Why do Queen Frostine and (to a lesser degree) Princess Lolly have breasts? Really?

(On a side note: You get some weird stuff googling Queen Frostine. I'm just saying).

5. You know those shortcuts...Rainbow Trail and Gumdrop Pass? My kids love those. They get more excited about those than anything else on the board. Good job with that.

6. The spots with the black dots where they lose a turn? Also good. They get excited about those too. Not sure why they so gleefully remind eveyone to "Skip me! I'm on a dot!" but they do. Kids are weird.

7. Thank you for not having dice. Seriously. This makes the game much easier to lose on purpose. I'm not saying I make it a habit to throw the game, but there are times when getting him done with the game and into bed fast and happy are more important than winning. A quick glance and shuffle of the cards while he is busy moving his own piece can usually seal the deal. "Oh! I got Plumpy! And you got Double Blue! You win! Time for bed!" Excellent.

8. Thanks for teaching my preschooler the word "double". When both he and his brother had school one day my son called it a "double day." It was adorable.

9. For some reason (Nostalgia? The Candy? Maybe it is Queen Frostine's chest, in which case I will have to rethink point #4...) the older boys are willing to indulge their brother in a game once in awhile. This is very helpful, especially when it happens at about 5:30 in the afternoon.

10. You would be an excellent theme for a birthday pary. Or a themed family Halloween costume. I just haven't gotten to it yet. No one is going to want to be Plumpy, though...and I doubt I could talk the older kids into it at this point. Oh well.

11. As long as I am here I would like to suggest 5 playing pieces instead of 4. There are 5 people in my family, you see, and that way we could all play without someone being a penny or a lego piece or something. The consensus around our dinner table is that there should be an orange gingerbread boy added to the red, blue, green and yellow already there. I mean, your own slogan is "The best part of playing is playing together." We would LIKE to PLAY TOGETHER. Thank you. (Note: This could just be a problem here....not for other families...although while you are at it you could throw in a purple piece as well in case we have a friend over or something...but more than 6 would probably be too many to play, so you should stop there.)

Again, I would like to thank you for all the good times you have brought to children for generations. You are the perfect first game and we have enjoyed having you around. You have taught my kids to both win and lose gracefully (well, it's a work in progress but it started with you) and I'm sure my kids will have many fond memories of playing Candyland with thier own kids someday...and I'll be playing it with my grandkids! Maybe by then I won't have to lose on purpose since getting small grumpy children to bed on time will no longer be my problem. I look forward to it.



Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Last First Day of Preschool

I am gleeful, almost giddy. My third child is starting preschool and I am faced with the prospect of six glorious hours a week of child-free time. So far the first day of preschool for one of my boys has always been experienced while uncomfortably end-of-term pregnant with the next one, but not this time. This time I will be footloose and fancy free. I will shop! I will brunch with friends! I will write! I will...well I don't know what else I will do but it's going to be glorious and whatever I want! I try not to smile too broadly at the women working the table set up near the enterance of the school with coffee and muffins and tissues, ready to offer support and encouragement to other moms. "That's sweet" I think, "but not for me!" If it didn't seem slightly inappropriate among the tearful first timers on that beautiful Tuesday August morning I would have danced a little jig right there next to the hamster cage and the building blocks. 

My youngest son, Matthew, is almost (almost!) as excited as I am. He has been waiting his turn to go to school "like my big bruddahs!" for awhile now. People ask me every once in awhile how I manage with three boys. The secret truth is that it is pretty easy. I just point the smallest child at one of his big brothers and say, "There! Do it like that!" It has worked with most things so far, from kicking a soccer ball to potty training (OH! How much easier it is to potty train a boy when there is a big brother around with the right equipment to demonstrate!) and it is working for school as well. On that first day we walk into the room and BAM! he is already playing with the play doh the teacher has left out on the table to entice the little ones away from their parents, talking up a storm to the kid next to him who looks a little shell-shocked and slightly more uncertain about this whole school thing. 

(Flashback! 2004: My oldest son's first day of preschool. What a completely different experience that day was. He was not at all sold on the idea of being left at school although I was sure that he would love it once he gave it a chance. Of course, I was a LITTLE worried...what mom of her first child isn't as they head off to school for the very first time? As far as I can remember, my inner monologue went something like this: "I've pretty much gone on every adventure with him so I sure he is ready to take on this one by himself? He can hardly pull up his own pants. Look at that nice, grandmotherly teacher helping them find thier cubby. She seemed so sweet at orientation, although I guess technically it is true that I don't really KNOW her...what was her last name again? And look at these other kids....that one over by the blocks looks pretty big. I'll bet he could knock my precious little sunflower over without even a backward glance.  What was I thinking? Hey! OUCH! What is this baby doing, kicking DOWN?? That is not cool. Man, look at my feet. They are really swollen. Good thing it is flip-flop season or I wouldn't be able to wear shoes. I should probably go sit down. OK then kiddo, fun and finger painting for you, naps and nesting for me. Let's do this thing!")

Back to the present. The teacher smiles, gently says it is time for parents to say goodbye, that our little ones will have so many stories to share with us when we return in just a few hours time. I smile back, trying not to look guilty. I feel very much like I am getting away with something, like someone is going to tap on the window of my car just as I'm about to pull away and say, "Nice try!" It just can't be this easy! After almost 10 years of being accompanied daily by a child everywhere - to the store, to the doctor, to the bathroom - sweet, sweet freedom is just a few minutes away. And, AND they are going to let me do this again next week! There must be a catch.

I walk over and give Matthew a big kiss on the cheek, "Bye Matt! I love you! See you later!" I tell him. He looks up from his play doh and smiles at me, so big in his brand new shirt and light-up shoes for school, so little with his chubby cheeks and mile long eyelashes. "Bye Mama!" he says, throwing his arms around my neck. He smells like baby shampoo. "I love you too! See you later! Bye Mama! Bye!"

It was the "Mama" that got me.

"It's the end of an era!" I think as I walk down the hallway toward the front of the school. My days of constant pint-sized companionship are coming to an end, as are the days of that precious little voice calling me Mama. Before you know it I'll be Mom, and then MOTHER. The nine year old, that first boy I left at preschool all those years ago, is already there.

Maybe I'll stop at the table for coffee and a tissue after all.


Monday, February 28, 2011


I could not believe that three days after I wrote that last post my phone died. Kaput. Nothing. I had turned it off because it was being slow and sluggish and then found I could not turn it back on. The phone is four years old so it wasn't completely unexpected. My husband I had been talking about the possibility of replacing it for my birthday next month but it was sort of a pain that it just stopped working while I was using it to entertain the two year old during the six year old's basketball game. Also, it freaked me out a little. I mean I'm sure God is busy with so many things that he wouldn't be smiting my cell phone from above because I am playing too much Words With Friends. Right? I was a little embarrassed that the thought had even crossed my mind.

I went 24 hours without a phone. Luckily it was the weekend and my husband and kids were around so I wasn't worried I would miss one of them trying to reach me. I ran one errand by myself without it, and spent more time worrying about needing it than was warranted. I mean seriously, I used to go places and do things without a cell phone for back-up all the time. It was not neccessary for me to spend the entire errand worrying about what I would do if my car broke down. Also, I spent a lot of time and energy wondering what time it was. I don't even own a watch anymore and I had to ask another person to tell me the time. She looked at me rather oddly. Also, during that 24 hours I REACHED for my phone approximately 1 billion times when bored for more than 30 seconds. I did not realize how often I pull that thing out to kill time while my husband fills up the gas tank or I am waiting in line. It was alarming how quickly I got bored in these situations which were, really, only a few minutes long. Five tops. I should be able to be alone in my own head for five minutes!

While that was an interesting and telling little experiment, I don't really feel like I need to be running all over town with no phone so on Sunday we were off to see the experts. I fully expected them to tell me that while we'd had a good run together, my phone was gone (like I said it was old...the person who looked at it to see if it could be fixed was...I don't know if impressed is the right word but she DID comment on it) and I would need to buy a new one. "Well, so much for that being a sign" I thought. Surely if it was a sign I would not be getting a new, fancier, faster, more memory having, gadget-ier phone a week or so before Lent. That didn't make any sense at all.

(I am not even 100% sure I believe in signs, I told myself, not for the first time over the last 24 hours. My younger self would have called the death of my phone so soon after that post as a coincidence. A funny, HA HA coincidence).

The expert looked at it and then looked at me and said, "This is an old phone. It may be time to buy a new one." I nodded. This was exacly what I had expected her to say. I had already spent the time waiting to be helped picking out the fancy new case I was going to put on my fancy new phone. "Or, if you'd like, I can try to get this one working again but I will have to erase everything on it."

And there it is. Free will. Make a choice. No to my lenten resolution meant a fancy new phone which I was sure to load up with time-sucking gadgets in no time! (Let's be honest. There was no way I was going to be able to keep from taking it for a test drive. Let's get this baby out on the open information superhighway and see what she's got!) OR, YES. Yes to fixing my old phone which would come back to me bare bones, with none of the old time-sucking apps that used to be there. Yes to my Lenten commitment of focusing more on what is precious to me. By saying yes I was pretty much agreeing to the exact scenario that I had claimed to want...have my phone available to me for emergencies and the basic tasks that make my day easier without all the other things that were such a temptation. I'd already been green lighted for the purchase of a new phone, I was due for a new phone, the pretty pink case was going to look so pretty on my new phone!

"So, do you want to give it a go with the old phone?"


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So, this ended up being about Lent. I did not see that coming.

I have a love-hate relationship with my smartphone.

It helps me so much it is hard to imagine how I got along without it. I can check the weather without turning on the TV in the morning. I can look up a recipe while at the supermarket so that I won't forget any essential ingredients. I can text my husband to say "Where are you?" when he wanders off at Costco (the answer is electronics). I can pull up a saint or prayer to match my need or situation. I can keep a grumpy two year old entertained when dinner is delayed at the too-fancy-for-toddlers-what-were-we-thinking restaurant. I can access an email to remind me of the address of my destination, and then just touch the screen to make that address turn into a map and directions on how to get there. I can find the location of the nearest Starbucks. I can check Goodreads to find a book recommendation or to enter a title I found while shopping so that I can later look it up on the library website. I can check my library website! I can chuckle at something on twitter, follow a link to a new website or interesting article that inspires me or gets me to think. I can see what my friends are up to on Facebook. I can take pictures when I've forgotten my camera and email the pictures to my husband at work. I can even use it as a phone to call my mom.

All of these are good things. I would even go so far as to say that make my life smoother. Easier. Better.


I am finding it difficult to be AWAY from it. I have a bit of a "my precious" Gollum thing going on and it is becoming a problem.

Some days of being a SAHM to three boys are so busy I hardly have time at all, let alone any to waste. Other times...well, my days can involve a lot of waiting around. I wait for school to get out, for practice to be over, for scouts to be done, for the last minute warning on the playground to get the idea. I still think these are great times to use the smartphone. Why not? The perfect way to kill five minutes when no when needs anything from me anyway. The problem is that I am finding it hard to stick to these five minutes. It becomes a habit, you see. A habit that begins to creep into other parts of my day. Parts that I intended to actually use for something else, whether it is reading or writing or exercising or interacting with my child.

Seriously. Did I just type that? Have there been times I have actually shushed my not-going-to-be-a-baby-forever two year old so that I could check twitter? Yes.Yes there have. Not just one or two times but enough of them that I am sitting here writing about this on a Wednesday night. There have also been plenty of afternoons when I've put the baby down for a nap, sat down with my phone and suddenly realized it was time to wake the baby to pick up the older boys. The horrible realization sinks in that NOTHING was accomplished. Nothing. An hour and a half of my day gone with nothing to show for it. I read some twitter and followed some links, checked out Facebook and got a little jealous of friends who seemed to be having a fabulous week compared to my fairly drab one. It would be different if I felt particularly relaxed or refreshed for my wasted time, but I don't.

Now. There are good things about twitter. And Facebook. I enjoy being able to connect with friends who live far away. I enjoy the fact that I've met new friends on the internet and can cheer for them when good things happen or pray for them when they need it. I don't think the sights themselves are the problem (although that last little bit about my friend's fabulous week is a bit telling, isn't it?). The problem is my tendency to fail to maintain moderation. Not every day, not all the time, but enough that it has started to bother me.

So what to do? Luckily, the Church has a solution! Who would have thought something as old as the Roman Catholic Church would have a solution for such a 21st century problem? (Well, lots of people but that's a topic for another day...) LENT is my solution.

My first reaction was to get rid of the smartphone all together. I'll unplug completely! From the computer too! No email, no Facebook no Twitter! Cold turkey baby! I'm going to be so old school! I'll finish novels! I'll knit baby blankets! I'll send people snail mail and they will love it! Hey...I did say I sometimes have trouble with moderation. I actually do need to be able to check my email...people expect me to respond, after all. Sometimes they are telling me where to be and when to get there and it is pretty handy to be able to look up where I am going on a map instead of just getting lost. I honestly have no idea how I would ever be able to get anything from the library with a two year old in tow without reserving it first. The internet, and the smartphone can be extremely helpful. It is a tool and when put to purposeful use a pretty good one. No need to throw the smartphone out with the bathwater.

I'm still working out the details. Maybe no twitter, Facebook, blog reading or other time-sucking activities on the phone at all (I haven't even gotten around to mentioning Words with Friends!). I could only let myself indulge in these things when I am willing to take the time to sit down at an actual computer. Maybe even with that I'll limit myself to 1/2 hour a night. OR maybe not at ALL except on Sundays. Then I'll give myself permission to catch up with everything (if I still want to...there is certainly a limit to how long I am going to care about reading a random tweet from four days ago and really is that how I am going to want to spend my Sundays? I doubt it.) I'm not sure what it is going to look like. I've still got some time to figure it out with Lent starting so late this year but I do know that my overall goal is to be more PURPOSEFUL with my time. It seems to be so limited these days. If you can tell what is important to a person by how they spend their time, then I want to make sure that the way I spend my time reflects what is important to me. While I do think my kids can handle me having a little personal time and it is unlikely I will stop "shushing" them anytime soon as they are LOUD and seem to be ON ALL THE TIME, I don't want them to confuse "my precious" with what is actually precious to me: Faith, Family, Friends, Books...not the smartphone.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Missing My Dad

It is a hundred small things, and they sucker-punch me when l least expect it.

It is walking through the seasonal aisle at Target and remembering he used to buy me a box of candy every year for Valentine's Day.. It didn't matter how old I got, if I had a boyfriend or not, even after I was married. He always wanted me to know I was loved.

It is entering the gym for my son's first basketball game ever, and hearing the balls bouncing and the shoes squeaking on the floor and the way that basketball gyms smell and the rush of childhood memories and realizing how much he would have loved to be there, and that he never would.

I mean it is not like I am walking around on the edge of tears all the time or anything. He has been gone for for 7 months. I got through the hard parts: The day after the night he died, the funeral, his birthday, Christmas...I thought I got through the hard parts.

It is suddenly hearing a John Denver song from the water aerobics class in the next pool while doing mommy and me swimming with my son. It could be a Beatles song, or an Eagles song, or Paul Simon or Rod Stewart...I feel like I have lost the songs I grew up with. They have been swallowed up by grief and I am unable to visit the soundtrack of my childhood without getting pulled under.

It is working on Matthew's baby book, knowing that these are the only pictures I will ever have of him and my dad, and knowing that he was too young for them to be actual memories.

I go days when I forget that he is gone. How can that be true? I have three kids...they are busy, I am busy. I lived 100 miles away from my dad and we only saw each other about once a month. Still. How can that be true?

It is looking at old pictures of my boys that I have posted on Facebook, and my dad's comment still sitting there, a little note from him that I forgot I had.

It is watching a sitcom where a character loses his father and I am sobbing. SOBBING. The big ugly cry, because I know. I know how hard it is and how hard it is still going to be and they are talking about his father's last words and oh my God do I even remember what my dad's last words were? He was in the hospital, he'd had a heart attack, and he was so worried about my mom, about how she would get by while he was there. I think he said, "I love you, Mac. Take care of your mom." I think. Why don't I know? Shouldn't I know?

My sister and I are trying so hard not to fight, to not let the stress of my dad being gone so suddenly and my mom's health declining so slowly get to us. Because we have realized that someday the shared story of our childhood will only be found with each other.

It is talking on the phone with my aunt and hearing my uncle laugh in the background and OH! For just a split second it could be him and even though my mind knows better, knows that he is gone, my heart is hopeful and it soars. It sounds just like him.

It is having dinner at that same Uncle's house, and even though I have tried my best to prepare myself, put steel bands of the reality of what has happened around my heart, I see him hug his daughter or pick up his grandson and the tears sneak up on me anyway.

I didn't know about this part. I held it together when he died. I was a rock. I told my sons that grandpa had died, that his heart was just too sick and couldn't be fixed. I talked to them about heaven. I talked to them about the fact that parents usually die before their children, that yes, I would probably die before they did but, God willing, not for a very long time. I took my mom to pick out the casket. I spoke at the funeral. I was strong. I kept it together. I got through it.

It is going out to dinner with my family and telling my boys about how my sister and I both waitressed our way through college, and then remembering how my dad would come in to eat and always leave us a ridiculous tip (20 bucks on a 20 dollar check).

It is the midnight phone call from my sister that my mom is ill again, that she needs to be in the hospital, that we need to find some way to help her more than we are and the realization that this is actually up to us. That we are the grown-ups. That we have to figure this out alone.

And even so, most of the time I am fine. Really! I'm not walking around upset. I don't think I am particularly depressed. I am having fun and laughing and getting on with life. Having little kids will force you to do that. I just didn't realize that after the hard parts there would still be all these other parts. Random moments of sadness that pop up and the most unexpected times, all the more difficult because you just don't see them coming. How could you? Mommy and me swimming sounds fairly safe, tears wise. As does watching a sitcom. And attending a basketball game. And walking around Target, for Pete's sake.

It is my sister, pregnant, due in May with her first and his name will be Charlie after my dad.

It is realizing how completely uncomplicated my relationship with my dad really was. He loved me. Unconditionally, every second, no matter what, he loved me. And, it is realizing how rare and precious that really was.

I miss you dad.