Friday, July 30, 2010

Things My Kids Say...

My girl:  Mom, do you know anyone with manboobs? 
My youngest: (Holding a picture of his oldest brother)  Mommy, Isaac nosey boogers!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guess where I found my youngest today?

It has been a super busy and crazy fun week around here.  As a result, the house is a mess and there is laundry, in various stages of folding and sorting, piled all over the place.  This morning I had some time to tackle the piles in an attempt to bring order once again. 

I brought C upstairs with me so he could play either in his room or in my room.  He chose a different room.  I was deeply engrossed in my task when I realized that I could hear water splashing.  I ran to the bathroom and found C bent over the toilet with his arms in all the way.  He was laughing and obviously having a great time.  It wasn't just toilet water he was playing in, though.  Yes, you guessed it.  One of his brothers forgot to flush.  He was playing in pee!  I didn't stop to take a picture.  I grabbed the happy boy out of the toilet, stripped him and plopped him right down into the tub where he had a nice long soak. 

After the "horror" of the moment I just had to laugh.  Now, I'm laughing again and drinking a glass of wine.  C was not worried about the fact that he was playing in urine.  He just knew he was having fun.  Maybe there is a lesson in there somewhere for me.   I should quit worrying about stuff and just have more fun.  Easy enough, right?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oh my gosh....

I recently finished reading, The Sweetnes at the Bottom of the Pie.
The novel begins with Flavia, the 11 year old main character, tied up (by her sisters)  in a closet.  Now Flavia's mother died and her father is quite absent.  So, the antics of Flavia and her sisters can be seen as a bit extreme.  Until now.  I just overheard my oldest child telling his sister that she was just fine because she had food and water.  Apparently, he had locked her up  in the closet.  I, of course, hollered that he must let her out.  Then, I hear her yelling, "owie, owie, owie!" When I asked her twin what that was about, he said that the aforementioned older brother had duct taped her legs as she was made his prisoner.  When questioned about the thinking behind locking his sister in the closet, my sweet son said, "Well, she wanted me to."

To which I responded, "WHAT?!" 

"Yes, I said that I wished I could duct tape S and lock him in the the closet and she said I could do it to her!"  This very much sounds like something my girl would say.

When questioned, she said, "Well, I didn't know he was going to duct tape me!"  Imagine my strong feisty girl saying that with attitude.

Oh my! Unlike Flavia, my children have two very present parents, but this is the week with NO summer activities lined up. I guess my children are bored and tapping into their creative juices as they play.  Yes, that must be it.  Because, if I start comparing my girl to Flavia de Luce I might have to pull my hair out. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Letting go

     So, I'm a bit of a control freak.  I know this is difficult to believe, but it's true.  I like things to be clean and in order.  Having four kids has completely disrupted the order of my home.  Chaos is king and flexibility is key. 
     Last weekend, I got up early and cleaned my kitchen.  By "cleaned" I mean that I scrubbed the floors, the sinks, and the counters.  The dishwasher was emptied and the coffee was brewing.  Aah....a quiet moment all to myself in a clean and orderly room.  I hadn't even poured myself the first cuppa when the oldest two came bounding into to my space wanting to make breakfast.  I offered cereal...they didn't want it.  I offered yogurt and fruit....they didn't want it.  Whatever I offered....they didn't want it.  They wanted to make their own breakfast.  Of course they did not want to make the same thing.  The oldest wanted peanut butter french toast (Darn that Rachael Ray kids cookbook!) and my girl wanted to waffles.  So, what did I do?  I let them.  The condition was that the kitchen had to be restored to its original condition when they were done (yeah right). 
   Well, the kitchen has yet to fully recover, but the kids practiced following a recipe, enjoying the fruits of their labor, and cleaning up (kind of ) after themselves.  As for me and my coffee....I think I had to warm it up at least twice before drinking it down.  But, I view this as an investment in my future.  One day they will do this without supervision.  I'll expect to be served french toast, waffles, and most fresh cup of coffee. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


     Eleven years ago today, at 10:08 pm, my oldest son was born.  Eleven.  How did that happen so quickly.  I vividly remember the days that Bob the Builder lived at our house.  He was an honorary member of the family and I was sick of him.  Had I known how quickly my boy's affections would shift I would have enjoyed having Bob around a little bit more. 
     Isaac.  We had his name picked out before we were even engaged.  I remember a date where Steve and I were walking around a park.  For some reason I remember lots and lots of bats swarming (do bats swarm?) through the trees.  That night we talked about wanting kids and with that conversation took another step closer to marriage.  We discussed names that night and the name "Isaac" came up as one we both liked.  While I don't completely understand the story of Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac (how do you understand God asking you to sacrifice your son??) I do love the meaning of the name: laughter.  Sarah laughed when she learned that she was pregnant at her advanced age.  I laughed when I learned that the baby I was carrying was a boy.  Laughter and happiness are intertwined and the happiness I felt at carrying this little man was palpable.   As soon as him "manhood" was confirmed via ultrasound, we named him.  We talked to him by name, the family "knew" him by name, and baby showers were all held for Isaac. 
     Gerald.  This is his middle name.  It is Grandpa Jerry's first name.  Grandpa died right before Steve and I were officially engaged, but he knew we were going to get married.  He welcomed me into the  Ruff family with open arms and I will forever love him for that.  Isaac's middle name is a gift to Isaac and gift to Grandpa.  They will meet someday. This I know.  Until then, Isaac carries a little bit of this amazing man with him wherever he goes. 
     Bob the Builder has been replaced by Zelda and Manga.  Though I'm not fans of those either, I know they are temporary visitors and will be replaced by other interests as he grows.  I embrace them as a part of my boy's life.  I'm flooded with memories of birthdays past. The third birthday Bug Party, the sixth birthday Pirate Party, and last Sunday at Grand Slam.  I remember pushing this boy out of me, nursing him while singing lullabies, rubbing his head and soothing him while he cried.  The first day of kindergarten and the last day of elementary school earlier this month are all rolled into one.  Recently, when he broke his wrist and had surgery, I was reminded that though he is growing up - a "tween" he says - he still needs me.  I hope he always will.  I need him.  He lives up to his name.  He brings me happiness and laughter every day of his life. 

                 I love you, Isaac.  Happy 11th Birthday! 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Good-Bye Big Red...sniff sniff

    Today, after eight year, we replaced our mini-van.  Mind you, driving a mini-van is not my top choice.  I used to dream of driving a British racing green Mazda Miata with a tan leather interior.  Last week, however, the dream car changed.  I saw an adorable convertible Volkswagen Bug with brightly colored daisies all over it.  I was drooling.  Alas, with four children and carpooling duties, the dream car has once again been put on hold for practical reasons. 
     Though Big Red (our '96 Dodge Caravan) did not make my heart beat wildly, it was a good and faithful car.  It was harder to say good-bye to her than expected.  After all, 3/4 of our children came home from the hospital in this car.  We drove this car with three kids and my parents to Missouri for a family reunion.  It has taken us to the Jolly Fisherman Resort, to Chicago, Fargo, Omaha, Oklahoma City, and LaCrosse.  Kids have been driven to school,birthday parties, karate, soccer, gymnastics, and dance in this car.  When three of the kids broke bones, Big Red was there to get them to the doctor.  When two of these breaks resulted in surgery, our trusty van drove us to the hospital and home again. 
     There were the two times, both this last year, that Big Red was violated.  This fall someone opened her up and stole a car seat.  We were thankful she wasn't damaged.  Then, a few weeks later she was injured.  While the family enjoyed the The MN Institute of Art, someone smashed one of her windows - just because.  We lovingly had her patched back up.  And she loved us right back by going and going and going....
   Today, the things I was growing to hate about this car became endearing quirks.  The cassette player with the squeaky speakers, the rear window that would not open, the broken air conditioning, the cracked bumper and rusty doors, weren't really that bad, were they?  The engine was still running strong and had many more miles to go.  However, Big Red's oil changes and maintenance checks had made it clear that her time was running out. 
     So, today we said good-bye to her.  We entrusted her to the Honda Dealership in hopes that they will take good care of her.  We lined up behind her while the salesman took our picture.  And, while the kids piled into our new Odyssey, I patted her on the side, wished her well and silently thanked her for her years of faithful service. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Sadly, I got very few pictures of my parents and the kids when they were here last month.  There are, however, many wonderful memories that will be engraved in my memory - and that of the kids.

1.  Abuelita playing "fofi fofi."  This is a game my mom made up when the kids were babies.  No, that's not true.  She did this to my brother, my sister and me.  She holds up little baby feet and sniffs them and then says, " Mmmm Hmmm, fofi fofi!"  She pretends the sweet little baby feet are stinky.  For some reason babies love this!  The problem comes in when those sweet little baby feet become real big kid stinky feet.  While C will always be my sweet baby.  He no longer has fresh lil tootsies.  So, Ita was not play acting when she reacted to those chubby little stinkers.  Yes, she still plays with the big kids, but only after they come out of the bath!

2.  The one picture I did manage to get was of Paw Paw brushing L's hair before school.  She loves her long hair.  She hates to brush it.  The fact that she let Paw Paw at it is a sign of her love for him.  The fact that he noticed her snarly tangly hair needed brushing is a sign that he loves her.  This picture makes my heart ache at the distance between my kids and their Beatty grandparents.

Thankfully, we live close to Munca - C has nicknamed Grandma Ruff, "Munca."  It has stuck and we are all starting to call her that now.  We had dinner at Munca's on Sunday.  C had on his MN Twins jammies and decided that he  needed to play ball with Munca.. Munca was sitting down drinking her coffee when C decided to "recruit" her.  He ran over to her and grabbed her shirt to pull her up.  He'd pitch to Munca - big wind up of the arm included.  She would bat the imaginary ball and he would run the bases, crossing home plate by jumping onto the couch.  He was giggling the entire time.  This whole thing was repeated several times.  Each time, C and Munca laughed even more.  And, darn it - I forgot the camera.  All I need to do, though, is close my eyes to see those two playing imaginary ball together. 

What a blessing grandparents are to their grandchildren.  What a blessing cameras can be to capture those memories.  But, if like me, you find yourself in the midst of a Kodak moment without your camera - just let the moment soak into you and  burn itself into your heart and your memory.  You will always find it there.  And, honestly, it's a lot easier to scrapbook those pictures than the ones taken with your camera!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Story of My Caleb

My baby boy turned two about 45 minutes ago. I can't believe it. This baby whom I never dreamed I'd have, is here and he's two. He's one of the great loves of my life and he's two years old already. Time really is flying by and I am enjoying the ride.

So, let's go back in time to 1996. Steve and I got married in August of that year. We knew we wanted children. We talked about it quite a bit. He wanted at least four (he's the youngest of seven) and I wanted a maximum of three. I figured, it is my body doing the work so I get the final say. Three it will be!

We had our first in 1999 and the twins followed in 2002. As far as twin pregnancies and labors go, mine were fairly straight forward and uncomplicated. Don't let that fool you, though. I'm 5'4'' tall and I carried two babies to 36 weeks. I was partially bedrested for the last six weeks. This would have been heavenly - imagine watching movies and reading books all day - had I not had a two year old who needed me and whom I needed. Two year olds don't understand why mommy can't get up to play choo choos with you or give you horsie rides. Mommies have a hard time understanding, too.

I delivered my two little monkeys and delivering two babies one right after the other did all sorts of unpleasant things that I won't even get into. Follow that up with a raging bout of post-partum depression that I didn't share with anyone. You didn't hear about it much in those days. And, while I knew something was wrong, no one was going to take my babies away from me! All of this to say....I was done! No more babies coming from my body!

While I truly did not want to be pregnant again (remember, I run the "risk" of twins), I had this sense, this feeling, this weight that persistently veiled itself around me. It was the feeling that someone was missing. There was a little Beatty Ruff that had not yet arrived into our family. This person was an important thread in the tapestry that is our family. Without it, we were incomplete. So, the adoption discussions began. Steve had always known that I was interested in adoption. During 2006 he began to show interest as well. I was overjoyed. I "knew" that this was going to happen. God and the universe would send us our fourth child. She (because this way we'd have the girls' room and the boys' room) would hail from Latin America as a nod to my Panamanian roots. We researched adoption agencies. We picked one. We decided on Guatemala. We filled out paperwork. I was getting to know people on the boards and beginning to follow their adoption journeys, learning from them the joys and frustrations of of adoption. We went to a meeting. At this meeting they showed a video that featured a song by Rosie Thomas. I hadn't even known who Rosie Thomas was until a few months before that. A friend of mine from Seattle had sent me one of her cds, just because. This song was a sign that all was progressing as it should. I was elated. As we walked out of the agency, I was ready to start writing checks and to invite social workers into our home. However, it was not to be. To embark on a journey as important as this one, both parents need to be on board. Steve was not. His intuition told him that this was not our path. I cried for two days. I was mad at Steve. I was mad at God. How could God have imprinted this need for a fourth child onto my heart and then not followed through? Remember, I didn't want four children.

The time that followed was dark. I blamed Steve. I blamed God. I ignored the feeling, but it wouldn't go away. We got a dog. I expected it to fill this hole in my heart. I love my Pooh like crazy, but he's a dog. You can't fit a dog into a baby sized hole.

We had some other issues surface during this time. So, we sought counseling. This was the best investment in our marriage we have ever made. We were both humbled by what we learned and continue to carry those lessons with us. I also saw this therapist on my own. During this time, I also met a person who has some incredible spiritual gifts. She calls herself a psychic. I see her as my spiritual healer. The decision was made (and I hope I shared a sense of how difficult this decision was) to get pregnant again.

Now this next tidbit doesn't have anything to do with the story, really. It is more of a side note, but one that I find interesting. Having four children is not "normal" in our society. It is a lot of work and people just don't "do" that anymore. So, I was shocked and disappointed that when we announced our pregnancy, there were some negative comments. "I hope you are having your tubes tied after this." "Oh my God, are you crazy?" Don't get me wrong, almost all the comments were joyful and supportive, but not all of them. I don't care what pregnancy it is, or how many children as family has - you just don't say things like this - to your friends. This child is just as important as the first, or the second or the third.

Back to the story. I was determined that this pregnancy was not going to wreak havoc on my body like the second one did. I worked out, I saw my therapist and my spiritual healer. I talked to my dr. about depression and was prepared with meds as soon as the baby was born. If all my pregnancies had been this good, I might have had four (or more) children a whole lot sooner!

At the ultrasound we found out it was a boy and started thinking if names. I liked Henry. Steve liked Eli. We had loosely decided on Eli Henry. However....Steele is a family name on my side of the family. A name that I had always wanted to use. Also, years before I had a student named Caleb. He was the most delightful boy. I remember thinking when my student moved on to sixth grade that if I ever had another boy, I'd name him Caleb.

Now we are are at March 2008. I was at work waiting to pick up my class from their specialist time. I started talking to the baby and calling him, "Caleb." I completely surprised myself. We had not made an official decision about a name. And, Caleb, while on the short list, was not at the top. I shared this experience with Steve that night. He said that something similar had happened to him that day. He'd been thinking of the baby as Caleb that day, as well. So, it was a no brainer. The baby would be named, Caleb - Caleb Steele.

[Image] A week later I was at my Bible Study. The group was looking up something related to the reading for that day and I decided to look up Caleb. I knew Caleb was an Old Testament name. Our two other boys also have Old Testament names, this name choice worked well with the others. That was the extent of my knowledge. We chose the other two names because of their meaning. I felt I needed to know more about this name that had fallen into our laps. Caleb, it turns out, was a contemporary of Moses. While Moses did not make it to the Promised Land, Caleb did. You see, God permitted Caleb to enter this land because he was a man of great faith. I remember tears welling up in my eyes at this moment. My journey, while bumpy, was a journey of faith. God named my baby and in doing so reminded me to have faith - to continue having faith - because He is by our side and He is always faithful.

Now, as I look at my beautiful boy, I am struck by just how faithful God has been. Our tapestry is complete. We are all at the table. God showed me that my way is not always the way....that there is joy and peace in following His way. Do I remember this all the time? No. Do I practice this as much as I should? No. But, when I'm down and feeling like God has forgotten me and those whom I love, I look at Caleb and am reminded to have faith. What a beautiful gift. Thank you, God, for my boy. Happy Birthday little love bug! Mommy loves you.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Two quick anecdotes from our "Ruff" life the past two days:

1.  Paw Paw to Sam: What city do the MN Twins play for? (Sam is a big fan!)
     Sam:  St. Paul and St. Louis Park!

2.  Not more than 10 minutes ago I was putting laundry away.  Caleb went into my closet.  I heard him pulling out some paint cans his dad had stored in there after painting the upstairs bathroom today.  I kept putting clothes into my dresser and the kids' various piles.  Then, I went to hang up my blouses and guess what I found?  Yup.  Caleb had opened one of the cans and had his hands in the paint.  There was paint on his pjs, his face and the carpet.  We got it all off of him.  He cried and pointed to the closet while saying, "yogurt!"  Now, does anyone know how to get it out of the carpet?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Latin dancing

One of the things that I love about my children's school is that they are exposed to so many different cultures, especially latin american cultures. Sadly, I have not done a very good job of keeping the Panamanian culture alive in our home. Luckily, though, the kids' school offers an extra-curricular folkloric dance program. It's a little (ok a lot)  more structured than our family dance parties! My oldest participated for several years. This year was the first for the twins. They had the opportunity to get all dressed up and dance a Peruvian polka, la pitita. They also dance with partners that were not each other! Though, it's not a panamanian dance, it's a step in the right direction! I hope you enjoy their dance!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The tub

I'm having breakfast with kids this morning, when Miss L excuses herself to use the bathroom. Seconds later we hear, "We must have been really dirty last night!" Of course the brothers want to know what she's talking about. She replies, "The tub is disgusting!"

You see it was a beautiful weekend here in MN. The little rascals were outside as much as possible playing at the park, in the yard, and at a friend's house. When we got home last night, the big kids wanted to bathe with their little bro. So we let them. Four Ruffs in the tub rub-a-dub-dub.

This morning my girl was the first to look into the tub after the bubble fest. Um, after the water drained and the bubbles dissolved, the evidence of our beautiful spring weekend was left behind. Guess I'll be scrubbing the tub today!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My heart is melting...

As Steve and C were getting ready to pick up the kids at church tonight, I looked at my baby and said, "I love you!" He looked at me with his big bright smile. Then, guess what happened? He said it back. Yes, I kid you not, he said, "I love you!" Ok, so you have to understand his 22 month old pronounciation, but he said it. It's official. My baby loves me. My heart is melting and my spirit is soaring. I can conquer the world.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter 2010

*Before you begin reading, please accept my apologies for the random order of the pictures. Actually, I think they might be backwards? Hmm, I'm still learning how this all works. And, one little note of interest...The dress L is wearing was mine when I was young gal in Panama. There's a pic of me wearing it on Facebook.
I love Easter. I love the promise it offers. Normally, I try to do a lot more things that deal with the meaning of the day, but this year it just didn't happen. I've ogled other people's blogs that showcase beautiful and meaningful crafts, meals, prayers etc. Yes, they've even posted all their pictures already. So, in order to make myself feel better, I've decided to adopt the same mantra I chant at work..."I do the best I can with what I am given. I do the best I can with what I am given...." So, that's my excuse. I truly did the best I could this year. Yet, in the midst of my chanting I remember to stop and send out a prayer that my kids will learn to focus on the promise that the sacrifice of Jesus offers and not on Easter eggs and candy. It is in this spirit, that the Easter Bunny added devotion books to their basket loot. Of course, those were hardly looked at on the big day. The Star Wars, Dragons and Dog drawing books received all the attention. However, I quietly stashed those devotion/activity books in a bag kept in the car. When mass gets boring for my three oldest (every week) and they start to complain, I will pull their Easter gifts out of my bag of tricks and then I will be the oh-so-wonderful mom. I figure all will be well if I can keep them somewhat focused on God during their weekly trips to mass. I'm not too concerned about how they focus. Don't know how Catholic this is, but I'm not Catholic! Hopefully my Catholic family won't think I'm a "bad" influence. :-)

Good Friday was spent in Rochester with cousins. We actually did a very beautiful Catholic thing that day. We went to Stations of the cross. But, we did it a bit differently. My sister-in-law, Mary, had picked up booklets written for kids. So as a family of four adults and eight little monkeys, we stopped at each station. The kids took turns reading and then we'd talk about what they read. The kids were involved and (I think) even enjoyed the process a little bit. It was very touching to see all eight children in prayer after reading about each station.

Saturday we dyed eggs. Oh, and the Easter Bunny left four baskets.

Sunday morning they found their baskets and hunted for eggs. Then they made Easter buns. These are so healthy...not! Take a crescent roll square and flatten it out. Then, dip a large marshmallow in butter and roll it in cinnamon sugar. Wrap this marshmallow in the crescent roll dough. The marshmallow melts away, leaving an empty bun. Get it? Empty bun = empty tomb! We made resurrection cookies last year - with egg whites and almonds. It's a great way to involve kids in the passion story. Except no one in our house liked the cookies and I ended up throwing them out. It felt wrong to throw out the resurrection cookies! So this year, I opted for the gooey sugary mess that disappeared in minutes.

Next was mass at the Basilica of St. Mary. WOW! This was Easter like I had never celebrated it before. No one can beat the Catholics when it comes to pomp. The brass was playing, the banners were waving, the bells were ringing, the incense was everywhere and my three oldest were singing in the choir. No, I'm not Catholic, but this was a beautifully perfect celebration.

After mass we joined the Rochester Ruffs and the 3/5 of the Ruff Smith family at Grandma's house. Can I say delish? Grandma cooked up a feast for us and topped it off with her homemade pie. We enjoyed dessert and coffee on the deck, (the weather was perfect) while listening to Pat and Ryan play guitar and sing, as we watched the kidlets running around below. Bliss. It was bliss. The day ended all to soon and it was back to the real world on Monday. But, back to the real world with the promise of hope in each one of our lives. If that is what I am given, I think my best can be pretty darn good. Not a bad deal.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Have you seen the new Southwest Airlines commercial? Did you know that your bags fly free on this airline? Their very clever commercial shows a passenger looking out the window of her plane to see the baggage handlers all lined up and lifting their shirts. On their bellies is spelled, Bags fly free. Funny. Ha Ha. Commercial over. Gloria promptly forgets until....

.....two minutes later Caleb starts lifting up his shirt and waiting for the laughs that should follow. Oh my. I really should be excited because I know he will actually get something out of Sesame Street now. Instead, I know there is no excuse now for having him in the room with me when I watch my "adult shows." Don't need to see my 22 month old stabbing his siblings or stripping his clothes off. Hmm, come to think of it, he already does those things. Where did he learn them?


This morning before 7:00 am, I received two wonderful gifts - from my youngest and then my oldest sons. According to Gary Chapman, one of my primary love languages is receiving gifts. Don't get me wrong, I'm not overly materialistic. I also love to give gifts. If I had lots more time, and a bigger budget, you'd all be receiving gifts all the time. I have often said to Steve that if would be really cool if I could follow through on at least 1/2 of my "gifting" ideas. But, I digress....

It's spring break here and I woke up at 5:50 am. Not happy about this, but what's a gal to do? This gal reads. So, I turned on my lamp, grabbed my book (currently Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) and proceeded to lose myself in learning about food and where it comes from. That's a whole different blog entry because now that I'm reading this book, the ideas are percolating in my mind. So, the point now being thatI was engrossed in the book. Then, I hear a little cry. I ignore it, but it becomes louder and more persistent. My little man was awake and clearly going to cry at his door until someone let him out. I freed him from captivity and brought him in with us - planning to continue with my book. No sooner do we get settled in, than I hear Steve say, "turn out the light and maybe he'll go back to sleep. I did not want to turn out the light. I wanted to read in bed, but good wife and mother that I am (or at least try to be) I complied, while silently grumbling.

Then, the most beautiful and wonderful thing happened. My boy turned and snuggled into me. He put his head on the crook of my arm and pulled my other arm around his little body. This boy is 22 months old and never stops moving while he's awake. He is usually way too busy for snuggling his mom. And, when he wants someone, it's either "Daee! or Loli!" This is what I had dreamed of doing when we had #4 and admit I've felt a bit deprived in this area. But, this morning, this morning when I wanted to read, my boy snuggled. All of sudden, "lights off" and "no book" went from nuisance to gift. My attitude did an about-face and I embraced the moment as I tried to memorize it.

About fifteen minutes later, the oldest comes in with an Alex Rider book. Mind you, it's still before 7:00. This boy never gets up before 8:00 on school days. Last night he and I started reading The Omnivore's Dilemma (yes there's a connection to what I'm reading - and to watching Jaime Oliver's new reality show). As were read about mutated/geneticallyaltered plants Isaac told me it reminded him of a scene in a book where the plants had been mutated to become killer plants. If you are a teacher, you know I was thrilled about the text to text connection! Apparently, he did not forget this in his sleep. The first thing he wanted to do upon waking, was to share a book with me! So, he snuggled into the bed, too, and read aloud to me. My son was sharing his love of books and reading aloud to me! Yes, there's another bibliophile in the house! (In case you are wondering, Alex survived his encounter with the killer plants.)

Within minutes of the last one, I was gifted again! I'm hoping that our love of books (and of action/adventure movies) will be the connection that keeps us talking through the teen-age years that are oh-so-quickly approaching. These moments with my family - this is what makes life so beautiful. So, no, I didn't get to sleep in on the first morning of spring break. However, I chose to receive the gifts offered by my boys. The are gifts all around us, we just have to choose to receive them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Din Din Duff

When I found out that I was pregnant with #4, I somehow thought that this would be the child that I would parent perfectly. He would be on a schedule, eat healthy foods and have no issues whatsoever about being the youngest child. HA! I was delusional. He's not even two and his favorite word is, "snack!" He gets to bed whenever we get him there and his sibs dote on him and spoil him rotten.

But, this morning I did something right...something I never had the time, energy or gumption do do when the big kids were little. I actually did the old toy switcheroo, you know the one that all the early childhood educators tell you do. So I pulled all the misc toys to put away. (Note to self - put toys away!) and brought out the din din duff, known to the rest of the world as kitchen stuff. As I brought up the little tykes kitchen and dug through the fake food and dishes, I was reminded of one of my most treasured memories.

Picture my oldest at three...big blue eyes and light brown curls. This beautiful child covered his little table with an old scarf of mine (one he still sleeps with every now and then - it's code name is the "the cloth") and set it with the toy dishes. He has gone fishing using his magnetic fish puzzle to supply the catch of the day. That day, he took my hand and led me to this table - the most beautiful table I have ever been at and the most "delicious" fish dinner I will ever enjoy. I hate, yes hate, real seafood, but this fish dinner was the most magnificent feast because my boy prepared it for me with so much love.

Fast forward to the 22 month old athlete has discovered the "new" toys. He is using a frying pan to whack plastic fruit. I try to provide different toys that will enhance different developmental experiences for this child. And, what does he do? He plays baseball with it! He may never make me a fake fish dinner, but watching him be himself and love the new toys in his own way became another wonderful memory in my treasure chest. I'm guessing there are some serious baseball (and basketball, football.....) games in my future. So, I may not be doing everything right, but at least I'm not screwing him up (well, not too badly). My precious C knows already knows his strengths and I love him fiercely for it!

What are some of your favorite memories of your kids? Or, if you don't have kids - what stories do your parent tell about you when you were little?

Yes, those toys you see on the other side of the gate are still there waiting to go into storage. Any guesses as to how long they sit there before I get that task done?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The World is Different Tonight

Many of you have suggested that I start recording our Ruff family stories. I've been meaning to start this blog since Valentine's Day. I have pictures of our celebration, which included pink smoothies and pink heart shaped pancakes. You guessed it. They are still on the camera.

Then, yesterday, I had an impromptu cranial exfoliation treatment, courtesy of C. I was trying to rest my stuffy head and take a "nap." As I was nodding off, I felt C playing with my hair and running a comb through it. At times he was rubbing my head a little roughly, but I did not have the energy necessary to open my eyes and tell him to stop. Besides, he's 21 months. If I expended all that energy to stop him, his efforts would resume again as soon I got all comfy again on the couch. I discovered when Steve got home that C had been dumping dirt from a nearby plant onto my head and rubbing it in. My head, my sweater, and the couch were all covered in dirt and all had to be vacuumed. I decided that somewhere in some snazzy spa, someone is charging an arm and a leg to rub dirt into someone's hair because of the restorative and replenishing properties of potted plant dirt....right?

But, even that story did not motivate me to take a moment from the evening's duties to get this going. But today, today was an important day. It started with news that my cousin, who has Cystic Fibrosis, had gotten the call for her new lungs. I was happy dancing in the street and crying tears of joy. Seriously, I danced a little jig on the way to the car. I hope the neighbors enjoyed it. Then we found out that one lung was compromised, so this was not to be transplant day. I felt so deflated, let down, and angry. It is time for new lungs. Why not today? Why not yesterday? Why not now? Aargh! I think my cousin handled this with more grace than I did.

Then we received a call with news that Steve's cousin, Pati, lost her battle with cancer today. Though I only met her a few times, I got to know her a little through Steve's stories. She was full of life and left this world entirely too early. This reminder of our mortality made each moment that followed all the sweeter. We really did stop to smell the proverbial roses (as the real ones haven't bloomed yet).

We took the kids to a park and watched them throw rocks into the thawing lake. Later in the day, they tore up the barely budding grass in the backyard. Normally every spring I get paranoid about those new shoots being stomped on by crazy children and torn up by our wild dog. Today that muddy yard was a reminder of all that is precious in our lives. As we watched our gang through the window, Steve remembered an overnight long ago in the backyard with his cousins. Cousin Pati and Sister Mary snuck into the boys' tent and covered their faces with lipstick designs. He teared up as he told a story that used to make him smile. The world is a different place tonight. It is a world that grieves the loss of Pati and all that she was.

Do me a favor, please. Hug your loved ones tonight. Hug them tightly. Tell them you love them and burn that moment into your being.