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Dianna laughs that these intros are written like someone else is doing it. It’s me. Trying to pique your interest in my blog. I have lots of boys and a husband of lots of years, and lots of boxers. I’ve been on the battlefield, in the boardroom, and served blissful years as a PTO President (glad I’d been on the battlefield). I love good food, good friends and good laughs.

Pour a cup of coffee, or perhaps it is a glass of wine, and share a moment with me. For extroverted folks like me, connecting is life. Even if it is connecting on the web. Webs are about connections. Let’s do this!

Coffee with a Slice of Life

Mommy, fix my bike chain

“My kids are going to kill me.”

I remember a mom coming by my office one lunchtime years ago when the boys were all very young. She smiled whimsically as she glanced at a photo of my babies.

I was a wreck at that point of my motherhood experience. My hair had grown out of whatever color I’d slapped on it the last time; my eyes were bloodshot, and earlier, before a meeting, I was cupping my hand up to my mouth, breathing out and then in to see if I’d remembered to brush my teeth. The nights tending to four boys age 5 and under were a blur of activity and not much sleep.

“You know it only gets harder as they get older.” She turned on her heel and headed out of the office leaving me staring in disbelief. Her words stung my brain as I processed what she’d said.

I wanted to run after her and throat punch her. How in the world could that be true? How in the world could it get harder than going for weeks without sleep, cleaning up spill after spill, managing tantrum after tantrum and spending more cumulative time in the “time out” space than any grown woman should have to spend?

As the boys have grown to men, I get it now. The transitions we’ve gone through have been hard—really, really hard. And now they are men.

I no longer control anything in their lives. I don’t always know where they are. I mean exactly where they are. I don’t screen and check who they are with. I don’t know if they are getting enough sleep, wearing their retainers or cleaning their ears. Gone are the days when I could pull them in and hug them whenever I wanted to or appear as the wise sage with an answer to everything. I have been replaced by Google.

Now the “boys” are either at college, on some education abroad program, or driving themselves who knows where to do who knows what. In many ways my early mothering had been a clunky sort of logistical experience. Feed them, change them, coach them and discipline them. Now mothering has turned into an art. Now my children have a vote as to whether they listen to me or not, whether they come home or not, whether they step out and live according to how we’ve raised them.

When they visit they have their own ways of doing things and while they aren’t terribly different from what they were taught I’ve had to accommodate their habits of staying up late or going out for coffee with friends at 10 at night.

Every time they pull away from the house I’m still amazed that their feet touch the gas pedals. How is it I can’t lift them to me and hug them with their legs dangling in the air? Now I have to climb the stairs and turn around so I can see them face to face.

Their little boy issues are now adult man issues and believe me the adult issues are way more confounding.

“Mommy, fix my bike chain” is much more doable than “Mommy, fix my heart.”

“Mom, I’m going to Timmy’s house” is much more calming than “Mom, I’m going rock climbing with just a tiny little piece of white twine that can’t possibly prevent me from plunging down the side of a cliff, a sheer wall of rock that will break my legs and leave me lying in the pit of my own making.”

What was a simple issue of finding the right baseball team has become watching as they try to find the right career path, and whilst these are all their life decisions I can’t help but want to be invited in for counsel and perspective.

Sometimes I am.

And sometimes I’m not.

I know. They’re men now but I sure do miss those little guys. The ones who ran circles around my chair, the ones I could soothe with just a hug or a Batman Band-Aid, the ones who would race to see me when I came into a room.

“It gets harder as they get older.”

She was right. It does. In so many ways it does.

And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

I love you boys.

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Just a Minute

“A minute is a long time,” she said. “A lot can happen in a minute.”

I was visiting my best friend Charlene in New Jersey and we were walking into a local bar for a beer. It was a moment of normal in what was a terribly long stretch of abnormal in our 40 year friendship. Charlene’s husband and my very dear friend John was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in April 2018. About every six weeks since her husband’s diagnosis, my husband and I make it a point to get together with them up in Jersey.

JohnJohn and one of their three Bernese Mountain Dogs

When Charlene said “a minute is a long time” I paused. I’d never told her that her husband taught me that life lesson many years ago. In the hours of driving from Virginia to New Jersey, staying 36 hours and returning home, I have spent many minutes appreciating his lessons to me and to my family but this one is worth sharing.

When John and Charlene’s now 22 year old daughter Tori was young, about five I suppose, John and I were sitting at the kitchen table and as usual John was surrounded by newspapers that he would carefully and deliberately read for hours during the weekend. I respected his time with his papers. They were important to him so I tried to not interrupt his weekend ritual and instead I would consider his joy as he allowed his mind to get lost in the print. Those days in Jersey were lazy, with windows flown open to allow in fresh air breezes and Bose speakers playing some eclectic bluegrass radio show focused on the music of the 50’s and 60’s. On this particular morning I listened when Tori asked John to get her a juice box from a kitchen shelf that was too high for her to reach.

He said to her, “I will in a minute.”

Since I was there I jumped up and said, “I’ll get it for her.” John took his hand and patted it in an up and down motion telling me, visually, to relax.

“No, no,” he said, “I want her to experience how long a minute is.” He folded his paper down on the table and pointed to the clock on the kitchen wall.

John put his arm around his daughter and said, “Okay, you see that hand going faster than the others?”

She peered through into the kitchen and said, “Yes”.

He continued, “Let’s watch now and when the little hand hits twelve we’ll watch till it rounds twelve again.” She stood there tucked under her dad’s arm and together they watched the clock for the duration of the minute.

It was long. I’m sure for a little girl waiting to get her juice it seemed even longer. But she stood there patiently watching and when the minute passed he got up to get her juice.

“It’s a long time, isn’t it Tori?” he called walking from the kitchen and handing her the juice. She smiled and nodded looking up at her dad. “Thank you,” she said, and off she went. I didn’t forget that minute or that lesson. After this long a time it still comes to mind occasionally. That minute with John and Tori watching the clock was and is a touchstone for me.

I love seeing my friend John get lost in things “for a minute”. A new leaf on a tree begs his attention and he’ll stand there, touch it, turn it over and examine it as if it was the first time he’d ever seen such a thing. The biggest tomato at the Jersey market always gets a minute as does the smallest poinsettia on sale at the local gardening space come December. If he decides to bring them home he is delighted with what they are and announces them to the household as if they are the most perfect finds in the world. He is so simply pleased with it all.

Lawn mowing gets a “minute”. One of John’s joys he told me about many years ago, is seeing a freshly mown lawn where the stripes go back and forth shifting the blades of grass so the colors have a tiny change in hue as they stand against the next strip. A PhD from Johns Hopkins, and this wonderful man is happy as a lark to take a minute to admire the cut of the grass. Now I notice the grass too and I am lifted as well.

John’s minutes pass more deliberately now. Simple acts are not so simple. As he gathers himself after a rest or after a few bites of food he’ll have someone bring him a drawer from an antique table and he will start rifling through the contents. His mind passes over the “things” in the drawer. He’ll pause holding a photo and try to remember who and what it captures. He’ll find a piece of jewelry that is old and delicate and fragile and stare at it for just a moment, turning it around on itself.

“These were my dad’s cufflinks,” he shares. We pass them around and speak to the beauty and the delicacy of the cufflinks, knowing that they take him back to his childhood. We admire the cameos he gave his mother as those pass from hand to hand, and the burlap tie his daughter made him in kindergarten for Father’s Day. Old, delicate and fragile, and we look at them, so pleased with it all as we touch them, examine them and give them their minute.

My friend John’s minutes are precious now, especially to all of us who love him. We hold hope that the minutes will be plenty more—full of stories and laughs, and lots of memory making.

Always my mentor, always my friend, John continues to show me the awe, wonder, joy and love that exists in the minutes of life we share together.

That minute with John and Tori watching the clock and the many lessons I’ve learned from him are a priceless gift. A minute and a lifetime are a long time.

But sometimes they are both simply too short.

*********

John Henry Ludwell Glascock Jr.

October 1, 1943 - April 26, 2019

"I will miss you every minute..."

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Travels with Kids—The Struggle is Real

I drove up to New Jersey this past weekend. I cannot help but think the dozens of trips I took up there with four boys below the age of five for holidays and visits. Some of you might be going home on vacation soon so I thought I’d share the image of some of my most perfect drives with the guys!

You see, half of the drivers on the 95 corridor between Virginia and New Jersey have seen my butt. I’m not proud of it, however any mother who has travelled “shotgun” with their family when small children are involved, knows that you spend half the time turned around hanging over the back of your seat.

I know it is dangerous, bad form, and particularly disturbing to other drivers on the road (well if you have my butt, it is), but how in the world are you supposed to get from point A to point B without being turned around interacting with the children? I used to travel with a dozen pacifiers when the boys were toddlers and I still remember that sick, sick sound of the last available “binkie” falling between the baby’s car seat and the truck door.

“Just reach back there and get it,” my husband would offer, as he zoomed up 95 at 75 miles per hour.

I’d sigh, turn around, reach my arm through the small clearing I had between the door and my seat, extend the bones in my fingers beyond the skin of my fingertips trying to touch just the end of the binkie. Straining and stretching, wiggling and pushing, I’d finally get my middle fingertip and my index fingertip just around the top of the little pacifier ring. Now red-faced with leather seat burns on my cheek from pushing into the headrest, I’d slowly coax the binkie onto my knuckle and then with a squeal of delight I‘d pull up the binkie as if it I’d just found a pearl in an oyster. Not once did one of the twelve binkies I carried with me fall toward the center of the truck, where I could just reach down and grab it.

I don’t know how many times I’d sit backwards for 20 minutes holding a bottle, leaning over the back of my seat to reach the baby’s seat, which, oh by the way, was turned around and buckled backwards for their safety (insert irony). How many times had I stuck the bottle in their noses, or eyes—pretty much anywhere but their mouths—because they were screaming at the tops of their lungs and we’d just stopped for a potty break 10 minutes before. The older ones would sit there coaxing:

“Higher mom, no, lower, up just little...ah...got it mom”.

As the boys got older, I took them on many, many trips without my husband. Probably my most challenging adventure was coming home with the four boys, then ages nine, seven, five and three all the way from Orlando, Florida. My husband had to stay for business so I thought, no problem, I can drive the boys (and the two full sized boxers) home in about 14 hours.

We left at five in the morning and about 7 pm that night we were on track and only 17 miles from home when my 3-year old said:

“Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom.”

Are you kidding me? We were supposed to be eating dinner at home by 7:30 that night.

“Pee in the cup honey,” I instructed.

“Really?” he asked, as the other boys perked up at the thought of something new and exciting occurring during the drive that would never end.

“Yes, just stand up, take the cup from lunch and pee into it,” I outlined.

“Okay,” he giggled.

All the boys were laughing and straining to watch their brother do something they all agreed was very cool.

“Good job,” we all pronounced when the little guy was done.

Now, I had a cup of pee to deal with.

“No problem,” I thought as I rolled down my window.

I did not once think about the logical result of attempting to pour pee out of an SUV doing 75 miles per hour heading up 95 North. I didn’t even consider the “you don’t spit into the wind” advice passed down through the ages.

Before I knew it, my entire arm was covered in pee, and the boys in the back seat, who unfortunately had their window rolled down, were screaming like there was no tomorrow. By the time I realized what was happening, the entire cup of pee was emptied right back into my SUV. The only ones thinking this whole incident was the least bit fun at this point were the dogs. They thought the new car smell was wonderful.

I have learned that schedules, while important with children, really must stay flexible enough to include Mother Nature. I’ve also learned to bring an extra shirt when we travel because I am who I am, and a schedule IS a schedule.

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Injustice

I am SO mad. The college “cheating” scandal has me fuming. To be clear, I don’t have a dog in this fight. We told our boys they were going to school in-state unless there was some magical hand full of college tuition scholarship money handed down from the heavens. Um...there was not. None of my boys were booted out of a premier school because of another parent buying their child’s way in. But I do know teens, good hard-working teens, who were accepted into big name schools because of hard work and academic prowess; and I know some who were not accepted despite their hard-work and academic prowess. Did someone buy their acceptance and keep these kids out?

I hate injustice. I absolutely hate it. Surprisingly I am still shocked when I see and hear how often it happens. There is something pretty basic about having your child actually earn their way into the school they are going to attend. Just seems like something parents should be on board with as a collective whole.

I realize of course that large contributions to libraries and large donations that build wings on educational buildings often soften the path of a child getting into their desired school. At least when I process that injustice, I can reconcile that those buildings and donations to new libraries benefit every child at the school. Having the half million dollars line someone’s pocket because their child would rather make product endorsements than study for their grades? That has a different ring to me, not that it is too much better. Some of the deception methods outlined in the legal complaints make my skin crawl.

If your child is good at the YouTube thing, mom and dad, let them do it. Leave the higher education to those that want more than a “name” school to go along with their “name” suits or shoes, and leave school to those who might actually do something of value with their degree. You know the whole “cure world hunger” thing.

I know my children have more privilege than many. Part of my parenting responsibility is to knock them upside the head (figuratively...and once in a while literally) if they start feeling too full of themselves. It’s how humanity stays connected, and doggone it if my kids don’t learn anything else from me, they will learn they have led a privileged life. That doesn’t mean they’ve had all the money in the world, but they have been supported and loved and cared for in a way so many children are not. They need to take what they have been given and go out there and be someone’s hero. Lord knows we need more of those in the world.

I know I can’t stop the stink of this type of foul misdeed. I know there are more companies out there that land deals like this, giving extensions of illegal support to more than just educational opportunities. But I can stand up and show my disgust when it comes to light and I can work hard to keep my world and my family balanced.

So, I’m mad and it won’t change anything. But the next time I hear something like this I’ll get mad all over again. Because it is just not right.

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The Front Porch

Many years ago I was sitting on my front porch having coffee with my mom.

I said to her, “This is my favorite place in the world.”

She was surprised.

“New Jersey?” she asked.

“No,” I said glancing around. “This porch right here; in this spot next to you.”

Fast forward 20 years and now I sit on my own front porch. The one I shared with her is gone. I don’t “go home” any more. It’s weird really, when both your parents are gone and there’s that moment you realize that “home” isn’t someplace else. It’s the spot you create for your children where you are. You're the grown up, the center, the hearth. You have become home.

One of my must-haves when we built this house was a wraparound porch. I remember porches were always important from back when I visited my grandmother’s house in Bluefield, Virginia. She had one of those old porch couches on a slide. It was wide enough for about five of us to sit on. We could make it slide back and forth just by moving our legs and after about three back and forth movements it would invariably hit the house. That would happen once or twice before my grandmother would come out and chase us off the swing; but those first few moments of intense motion were absolutely exhilarating to a five year old visiting her southern cousins.

The boys and I have spent many a thunderstorm out on our front porch, wrapped in blankets and watching the lightning. We’d sit and rock and feel the wind whip around the corner of the house. Occasionally we’d lose power and of course that only increased the excitement. We’d count the time between the lightning and the sound of the thunder and decide whether the storm was coming or going. They’d be just on the edge of terror but being wrapped in a blanket; rocking and counting seemed to make it all a bit easier to bear. Even now that they are young adults we come out and sit in the rockers. We don’t sit as long and they’re not scared of the thunder anymore but it’s still fun. Sometimes we look at the stars or plug in silly porch blowup figures I have for the holidays. We rock while the air pump sounds off, the small light inside the blowup turns on and the holiday figure grows into focus.

Sitting on my front porch is a sure sign spring is in the air. Spring on the East Coast is unique and beautiful. The trees of the woods I live in, and always give up for dead about mid-January, start to wake up their newest leaves. The leaves are almost lime in color; small and young. It’s their season to reach toward the sun. The phlox blooms a bright pinkish purple and white cones stretch up from the laurel. I can’t wait to smell the azaleas and lilacs in the coolness of the mornings while I sit with a blanket and enjoy a cup of coffee.

This is home now. When my boys say “I’m going home” to their friends, this is where they’ll come. They’ll join me on the porch and look around the property they’ve trampled with their youth. We’ll talk about the times they explored, the knees they scraped, the storms we watched and the times the chairs knocked the house.

Perhaps as they head here to visit from their travels they will say to their friends, “I’m going home.”

And if I am very lucky they will add, “It’s my favorite place in the world.”

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Postpartum Support Virginia

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For new and expectant mothers in the Fredericksburg area, Postpartum Support Virginia stands as the help and support for women and their families who are experiencing postpartum depression. Founded in 2009 by Adrienne Griffen, Postpartum Support Virginia offers one-on-one support, free peer-led groups, a robust site of information including screening and diagnosis overviews, fact sheets, and training sessions.

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