Mental floss

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I took Henry and Lillian to Henry Ford Museum last night. And let me say from the get go: We had a great time.

And now, for the rest of the story. (You have to say that like Paul Harvey.)

My day was madness. I got up and got busy so I could get some work done early in the morning. I was on my own with Cliff for the whole day, so my productivity bounced from writing, to feeding him, to his always successful yet ridiculously frequent potty breaks.

Before I could blink, it was time to pick up Lillian from school, then I rushed to get MC, stopped at Starbucks (because I HAD to), dropped off MC and Lil at home, then ran to get Henry from band. The plan was this: I’d get him, get home, shower, and then we’d go.

Guess what? Band ran 30 minutes long. That was my shower.

Who me? I don't know 'nuffin about no chocolate cake.

We raced home. To my dismay upon my arrival, I found Lillian dressed as a fairy princess and chocolate cake all over the kitchen floor. I guess I should be thankful that the reason for the mess was that Mary Claire was distracted from the moment-to-moment care of her siblings because she was practicing the piano. She was operating under the assumption that no screaming is good screaming. (An assumption–I confess–I too sometimes rely upon when they are 20 feet away and in earshot.)

I had to regroup. Time was not on my side.

For a split second I thought, “Oh forget it. It’ll just be Henry and me.” Then Lillian asked me when we were going. Drat that mind like a steel trap.

She picked out clothing. All of which needed to be ironed. And we were out of time. I put a long sweater on her and told her that she could not take it off at the museum. (Because it would expose the completely wrinkled shirt she pulled out of the bottom of her drawer. I was taking pictures for the blog and didn’t want her to LOOK as disheveled as I felt.) She successfully (amazingly on the first pick) chose tights that matched her outfit, and she willingly put on normal shoes (e.g., not Crocs, sparkly red shoes that would have clashed with the hot pink tights or bubblegum pink patent leather cowboy boots that are painfully too small).

I swept up some of the cake, and barked for MC to get the rest. In the mean time, Cliff sprinkled the floor with his cranberry juice by shaking it out of the lid of a sippy cup. Perhaps he thought the cake on the floor was dry. Or lonely.

I found a hat to cover my hopeless hair, put on some lipstick, ordered Henry to change his shirt (for the third time) and had to ask Mary Claire to tie my scarf. Because I’m challenged that way.

We got in the van and were off. I was worried we’d miss Santa’s entrance, but our timing looked good.

On the road, Lillian informed me that she had brought mittens that she would like me to put on once we reached the museum. I informed her that it wasn’t cold enough for mittens, and the walk would be short. So for the next 20-minutes she pretty much threatened that she would not exit the vehicle without the mittens. Well, that, and she interjected that for lunch I hadn’t put enough mayo on her sandwich, and her grapes had been wet. But her tirade mostly circled back to the mittens.

You can't always get what you want. And hey, look! It's when the chocolate cake saw better days.

Once we found a spot and started to unload, I saw that the mittens she brought were the thick play-outside-in-the-snow kind of mittens. And I knew there was no Buddy the Elfing way I was going to satisfactorily be able to wiggle those five-year-old thumbs into those ridiculous mittens.

She stood at the van door and declared first that she wasn’t coming, then that I had ruined everything, and finally, that she was going to freeze. I grabbed all 33 pounds of her and carried her to the sidewalk and set her down. To the tune of her continued complaints, we began our brisk (and short) walk to the museum, Then Henry said, “Come on Lillian. We don’t want to miss Santa’s arrival.”

She stopped dead in her tracks.

“Wait. Santa’s going to be here?” Some may recall that Lillian is not ever going to be president of the Santa fan club. “I. Am. Not. Sitting. On. His. Lap.”

“Don’t worry,” I assured her that she didn’t have to.

Amazingly, she stopped crying and picked up the pace.

We got in the museum and found a perfect spot. I reminded Henry that he needed to always hold Lil’s hand, and I weaseled my way up front so I could get some good photos of Santa. And I did.

This would have been a great shot. If not for that kid's HEAD. Oy.

Once the jolly dude exited the cool antique electric car he was chauffeured in, I took my place back by the kids. Lillian grabbed hold of my leg, her blue eyes focused on my face:  “I am not sitting on his lap in this environment.”

Now, I don’t have a clue if she even knows what environment means, but that was definitely a winning use of language for a munchkin her size. I assured her again that she was in the clear. She relaxed, and we had an absolutely lovely time. The pressure was off, and we enjoyed all the sights and the sounds of the museum. The kids and I were thoroughly impressed by the Ann Arbor Boys Choir, and we enjoyed visiting with other families as we waited in lines for this and that.

A great moment. A great time.

The only other conflict of the night occurred when Lillian began writing a letter to Santa. She told Henry she was asking for a doll. An Indian doll. Then she proceeded to say that Christopher Columbus was not correct when he called North American’s Indians. Henry tried to explain to her that the term was Native Americans. He told her Columbus thought he landed in the West Indies, so that’s why he called them Indians. She didn’t buy it and muttered, “Christopher Columbus lied.”

After a little coaxing, she got back to business, finished her letter and happily mailed it. As I filled out a slip for a drawing to win some Greenfield Village pottery, the lady behind the table asked Lil what she wanted for Christmas. Lillian said, “A doll. An Indian Doll.” Then she started to share her views on Columbus’ faulty naming; fortunately it was lost on the lady and bystanders as I escorted her over to the cider and donuts.

We found a spot on the floor near the gorgeous and huge tree and had a little donut picnic. I tried to take some photos of the kids with the whole tree behind them. So picture this, I’m practically lying on the floor of the museum, and my hat keeps popping off, exposing my oh-so-luxurious seriously in-need-a-styling hair. (Note to self: Don’t wear that stupid hat when trying to take pictures. It annoyed me all night. It’s too big for my pinhead anyway.)

This one is actually pretty decent.

I’m surprised that I captured one semi-satisfactory photo, since Henry had a “duh” look on his face in most, and Lillian kept make gang-type poses. Why? I have no idea. The cider and donuts were great, though. Especially since—at that moment—I realized that dinner had completely escaped me.

When we left, there was skipping involved. And lots and lots of smiling. We had an awesome time. Once we got in the van, Henry (much to my dismay) brought up the Columbus thing, and I can’t say he won any points in the debate. Telling Lillian that there was no GPS in 1492 didn’t really seal the argument for her, and he pretty much gave up after she shouted, “Christopher Columbus was a LIAR!”

As we were getting close to home, Henry announced that when he’s older, he’d like to work at The Henry Ford. I agreed that he might just like to do that. Helen and Mary Claire have expressed the same sentiment, and Helen’s going to audition to sing during the summer. He said, “I’m either going to work at The Henry Ford or  be a dentist.”

If you know Henry’s history with dentistry, that’s one of the most perplexing declarations I’d ever heard from him.

“What? You want to be a dentist?” I asked for clarification.

“Yes. I want to have an office. Mental Dental.”

“What?” I wasn’t’ sure if I heard him. He was in a third-row seat in the van.

He repeated. Mental Dental.

I asked again. The answer was the same: Mental Dental.

I said, “Henry, what are you talking about?”

“You know, Mental Dental. Like the office we go to.”

“Henry. The office is called Gentle Dental.” I corrected him, trying to keep it together.

“Ohhhh. I thought it was for mental cases like me, who don’t want to go to the dentist. That’s the kind of kids I want to be a dentist for.”

I should note, we did go to Gentle Dental, but had to change to find a pediatric dentist who could to treat Henry, who is (I am happy to report) a recovering lunatic at the dentist.

When we finally got home, after hitting a fast food drive-thru for a healthy evening dinner, it was 9 p.m., and Richard was on a business call. Mary Claire was reading Clifford to Clifford. He cheerfully padded out of his room to greet us, then willingly went back to bed, as long as I followed for a nightly serenade of Gentle Woman and the “baby” song.

It’s all in a day’s work.

It sounds crazy. I know. But I wouldn’t have it any other wonderful way.

I will admit, though, I could use a little mental floss  … the vodka flavored kind.

Where's Waldo? Can you find the craziest Hass child? (Hint: It's a tie.)

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When you’re down and troubled

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This morning I was reading Simcha Fisher at NCRegister. And I responded with this comment:

I hug my kids when they are hurt. But I also wait to see if they are actually hurt. They know my m.o. since often their response even through tears is “I’m okay.” They know I’m there for them, but want to be strong for me. I’ve parented with the hope that they can assess the situation themselves first. If they can. That said, I’m pretty keen on recognizing within a few seconds what kind of response from me is needed. And sometimes, coddling little boo-boos is the cure even if the bruise is one of embarrassment, hurt pride or being frightened instead of physically injured. But true loving occurs not as I rush to their aid or to their (at times over-) reaction to injury, but the solid loving that I give them all the rest of the time. Caring for the needs they don’t even know they have. Offering love and affection when they ask for it, when then don’t, and even when they tell you they don’t really want it at all. That’s the kind of undeserved, unearned love we get from God.

It got me thinking, I hope and pray that’s the kind of loving we can do our best to give everyone. In very simple terms, I’m pretty sure that’s the crux of the “love one another, as I have loved you” bit. And I know how I feel when I am called to love people who very specifically don’t want my love. But that’s when your loving is about Christ and them. And not about you. At all. I’m pretty sure that’s an element of the “emptying ourselves” bit.

Once again. God knows what’s going on. Happy All Saints Day. Prayers of thanksgiving for those saints known and unknown. Truly inspiring.