Thursday, July 30, 2009

heroic women in the making...

Reilly wasn't about to let 106 measley degrees stop her from raking in the ribbons today, though I prayed all day she'd change her mind. As expected the turn out was considerably smaller than usual, but as luck would have it, everyone who did show up was a 9-10 year old girl, so Reilly still had to fight for her wins.

As always, high jump, followed by what is rapidly becoming a customary jaunt to the long jump, while she waits for her heat. She never returns happy from the long jump because, well, despite jumping two times her own length, she is the runt of the litter and can't hide her disdain for her fourth place ribbon, even when I point out that the other 62 kids over there got Participation ribbons.

Anyway, today there was a new girl, and she exuded fierceness from 100 yards away. She was in a formal looking practically neoprene suit with fancy shoes and she meant business. She cleared the pole with ease (though so did Reilly) and it became clear that she was our main contender.

When it came time to race, said superstar ran the 1,500 alone, while Reilly readied herself for the more popular races.

(Smooth segue)

Superstar's mom happened to lean against our risers and I couldn't help but ask her about her daughter's irrefutable excellence. She explained that she has been participating in triathlons since she was five, and since losing her dad to prostate cancer two months ago, she has taken up the cause nationwide, sponsored and trained by Lance Armstrong. She participates here simply to exercise, and her successes around the country have enabled her to donate literally millions of dollars to the American Cancer Society. Her name is Winter. (I had to ask her siblings' names--all boys--Magnum, Yukon, and Ruger.) I liked them already. Mom was explaining that Winter was a born competitor, often racing against adults, and she has a thriving website and basically all kinds of spectacular shit going on. And yet, despite her dedication to athleticism, she's a regular kid, who eats Fruity Pebbles (I asked) and she and Reilly talked about how Reilly shaves her legs while Winter does not. We explained Rei's natural aptitude for movement, speed, stamina, etc., citing her mind-blowing knack for rock climbing as an example. Dawn got excited and said they go to the same gym we do, and invited Reilly to join on Sundays. Man, that means I have to become a belayer in the next 2.5 seconds. But we were really excited. Somehow I can't see Reilly's life dream being an Ironman, as is Winter's, but Dawn was quick to point out that when she's not appearing on Rachael Ray's show (that's right), she likes to be a regular kid.

Winter is amazing. She has her own clothing line "Team Winter," speaks in front of hundreds of physicians, while presenting them with checks she earned one stroke, pedal, and step at a time, all to raise awareness for the cancer that took her dad. I look forward to getting to know them better. This is Winter:

But this is the girl who took home 1st place in the race. Again:

I'm just sayin. Reilly, you are my superstar!

Check out Winter:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

a little bit of reilly in my life

Signs of my girl everywhere I look:

Reilly is more conservative with her affection than her brother but when it comes to her mama, she has an awareness of my needs which never ceases to amaze me. One night I came home late, everyone was sleeping, and I was greeted by my bed made beautifully, and this note.

Reilly doesn't always use her powers for altruistic purposes. Months ago she got scolded for something fairly minor, which led to a family discussion during which she would not talk no matter what. We were powerless, as Reilly has the strongest will of any human being on earth. We were sad that she reacted so severely to a minor infraction, and after our talk I found this note on my mirror. Ha ha ha! She'd kill me for posting it because she hates the handwriting, but, my blog, my prerogative.

The kids share a small room, so I have to give them some grace for cramped quarters, but I noticed this weird menage-a-trois the other day and had to capture it. Note the duct taped ear, the shades, the lei, pirate headband, the Rudolph getting, um, oh! Protected so he can guide Santa's sleigh? He's being mounted, who am I kidding. The whole scene is pretty suggestive, and while I am 100% certain Reilly has no idea these critters are doing anything but saving space, I kind of wanted to look away and give them some privacy.

Rei knows that rainbows make mama happy. Last week she sensed I needed a pick-me-up, so she painted this for me. Very uniform, with mod dots. She's incredible.

After my most recent surgery, feeling dopey, she brought me this Froot Loop rainbow. She is always thinking of me. (Melt.) Then I asked her to make me a bowl and I was even happier.

Reilly recently put "chap stick" on the grocery list, and I reminded her that I just bought ten lip balms from Carmela--far superior to anything sold commercially. I told her she could choose any flavour, for keeps. I was really afraid she'd take my only almond one, but she bested me and snatched one of my two prized, discontinued Obalmas. Ouch. But I couldn't deny her, and the next day I saw this. She must have sensed my sacrifice, lol.

She has wanted this quilt since we saw it online two years ago. I recently found it at Target. She keeps her bed very neat, but with stuffties hidden everywhere. This made me happy. Rainbows and order, what could possibly be better?

These are the ribbons Reilly has amassed in her very short experience with track and field. She took second in the high jump the first and second times she tried, as well as various races (they really work those kids!). Yesterday while waiting for her heat (high jump), she trotted over to try long jump, where she did amazing. I'm realizing she is the shortest nine year old competing. Very weird to have one giant and one runt. Anyway, she returned and threw her fifth place ribbon down, and nothing we said convinced her that fifth place out of about 50 kids is really fucking good when you've never done it before. Then it was time to race. The previous week she was sick so got one second and one participation, as she collapsed into my arms in the last 50m. This time signed up for the 100m, 200m and the 400m. For some reason, the 200m is the most anticipated, and all parents were on the sidelines. Quinn was all nerves watching her hunch down into position. They waved that flag and my tiny girl led the whole pack of much taller kids. A tone point toward the end a long boy was right at her neck and I screamed down the track as loud as I could "Push it Reilly, go go go! He's right there!" I have never seen such determination on her face. From where I stood, it was a photo finish, but a mom I had spoken to earlier, and whose ears I'm certain I ruptured, looked at me with thumbs up and said, "First!" Rei didn't believe it until we went to the ribbon booth and the guy found her blue ribbon and said loudly, "Reilly Fitzpatrick, first place!" People cheered. I was so proud. Our media card bit the dust so we haven't brought our camera, and my mom tried using her phone, but Rei was just a streak, lol. Anyway, I am so proud of her and just hope that now that's she's tasted first place, she still appreciates ribboning at all.

Reilly hates trainers, always has. We've tried, oh how we've tried. Nada. She prefers punky skate shoes, but mostly flip flops. After her first day at track Todd told her she had to get running shoes or else. And, thanks to the added coup of finding days of the week socks, she is the proud owner/wearer of these very shoes, which led her to the most thrilling victory in documented history.

To my baby girl, I hope you always love rainbows, keep your bed neat, and know that you always come in first with us. Well, in a tie with Quinn of course. Also, if your stuffties get more risque` I will have to banish them, or have the talk. I love you baby, never change.

quinn in pictures

Things around the house that characterize my growing boy:

We are very fortunate that lying is not one of the issues we typically face with Quinn and Reilly. Thus, I have displayed this note prominently for eight years. When Quinn was three and a half, he asked me for something, which escapes me, and I said no. (Parish the thought.) To my surprise, Quinn made his way outside where Todd was, and returned bearing this note. You see, he couldn't bring himself to lie out loud, lol. I was so taken aback by the gall, the misspelling (which embarrasses him to this day), the gorgeous penmanship, and his face as he sheepishly handed it to me. I did not punish him, I laughed until I cried, took the note outside, showed Todd, who doubled over, laughing until he wheezed, and we basically celebrated the awesomeness of our clever, sweet son, and his first, and basically only, foray into the dark netherworld of deceit. And no, he didn't get whatever it was.

A precious Valentines card Quinn bought on his own for his sister. His willingness to express affection freely is one of my favourite qualities of his.

This has been Quinn's towel for four years. It's like seven feet long, with a grid. It's a spa towel. We also have it in white, but he only uses the green one. Thankfully we stay on top of the laundry, so it's available 99% of the time. Meanwhile, I prefer tiny, old, scrubby rag-type towels. To each his own. I'm sure it's going to college with him.

When he's not enjoying the finer, plush things in life, Quinn is busy toting things like this to his friend Israel's house. This is a gun (duh) constructed out of a vacuum hose by my brother Chris, exclusively for Quinn. I'm very un-PC in that I don't try to banish gun play, and I love to think of Quinn learning how to make such things, and impressing his friends with his custom-made implement of death!

Gun-toting thug though he may be, he is very particular about his hair. He currently uses approximately seven gallons of my $16.99 hairspray everyday. I rue the day we gave him control of his hair.

I love the Willow Tree figurines, and had two of them for a long time, but I don't collect things because of a statement in 1990 wherein I express a fondness for an elephant in my aunt's home, and spent the next 15 years receiving every type of elephant everyone I knew could get their hands on. Anyway, two christmases ago, he hitched a ride with my mom, shelled out his very own clams (my kids insist on buying presents with their own money), and presented me with Heart Boy. It was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen, and I bawled and bawled. It looks like my Quinny, and as he said, it's holding the heart we share.

I am militant about keeping our big bookshelf clean and clutter-free, but due to limited space, I granted Quinn's request to keep his wallet, watch, iPod and however many coveted booklights he can hoard in this box on the bookshelf. As charming as it is that he has stuff, it's also a sign that he's growing up, and I'd like him to slow down.

I couldn't find the book he's reading, but this is his essence. Sweetness, luxury, a healthy dose of simulated violence, and attentiveness to hygiene and using all my hairspray. I don't know what I'd do without Quinn.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

goodbye o'clock

In the random sentimental attachment category, which frankly, is bursting at the seams, I must finally throw out an old relic from my childhood, and felt a proper send-off was in order.

I bought this alarm clock when I 13, when Sprouse Reitz (gag!) was going out of business in Newport in 1990 and we went to peruse the off-brand disgusting crap.

This clock got me through eighth grade, all of high school, zero period AP classes, a full time job, 4am Street Law competitions, where I totally kicked ass, and that snooze button was my saviour.

Later on, this surprisingly trusty Sprouse Reitz clock got us to the hospital in time to be induced with Reilly, got Todd off to jobs that started at the most ungodly hours, got us on the road early for long trips, and everything in between.

A few years ago, when my dad was dying, it kept me on a regular schedule of caring for him, and it got me to all functions fun and not so.

It finally just petered out, after 19 years of dutiful service. Mostly, I cannot believe I've owned and used something for 19 years. There is no denying I am really getting old.

Todd bought this new high falutin clock, which I'm sure is plenty wonderful, but I was surprisingly attached to mine and have snubbed this one for the most part.

I know it's silly, but 19 years! It's okay though, I am seriously ready for better times...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


During a recent perusal of one our favourite haunts, Old Navy, Quinn, who has actually grown to hate the place, and holds his breath when we pass the mall, in in effort to keep us from pulling in, spotted a t-shirt he had to have. It features a red foam finger, something we had just talked about as we watched Jon & Kate (yes we watch, we love, we are deaf to your criticisms) and their foam-fingered brood. The shirt said "#1 fan Mom's." I told Quinn he could get it but upon subsequent inspection I became outraged by the apostrophe, assuming the shirt's message was that "I am the #1 fan of moms," as in plural moms? Moms in general. I was utterly dismayed and told Quinn he could not have the shirt. In fact, where is management? He said he really wanted it, the apostrophe, while misplaced, was small, and the over all sentiment was really important to him. Ugh. I told him I was colouring over the offending punctuation the instant we got home, because my OCD would sooner kill me than allow my child to brandish an errant apostrophe. Well, it just so happens, Quinn has quirks of his own, and taking a Sharpie to his new shirt is one of them. Simple. I made it the condition of the purchase and he had no choice. So we get home, he dons the shirt, I take a picture to show everyone I know, and whip out my Sharpie. Quinn winced, as if to say, "Must you?" And I coloured furiously. "I must."

This is the shirt, in its shame:

Mom's effort to erase the evidence of apostrophe ignorance:

No sooner had I made the world a better place did I realize the mistake, was, um, mine. I suddenly became aware of what the shirt was actually trying to say, which is "Mom's #1 fan," and could also have been read as, "#1 fan of Mom's," both quite correct. In fact, I really have no idea how I came to read the shirt as being wrong in the first place. Somehow I really thought the "Moms" was plural, thereby rendering an apostrophe offensively out of place. But the instant I "fixed" the shirt, it all became clear, and I had, in essence, ruined it. Now "Moms" has to be plural, which will be counter-intuitive when reading the shirt. I don't blame myself though, I mean, who prints sentence fragments on foam finger t-shirts and expects everyone to get it? Least of all me, the ultimate Grammar Nazi.

Let this be a lesson in Old Navy fever, a phenomenon wherein prolonged exposure to the lights, the colours, some good, some bad, two trips to the dressing room, and gift cards burning holes in your purse result in spontaneous illiteracy and half hour contemplation of such things as faded denim jackets that would even make the Indigo Girls cry.

So please, if you're ever going to write me a letter, don't do it on a foam finger.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

right now i am grateful for:

My amazing, indescribable, beautiful, healthy children, who love me so unconditionally I am humbled everyday. They make me laugh, they enthrall me with insights one could never imagine in beings so young, they tell me they love me ten times a day, they take care of me if I'm sick, write me precious notes, and damn they're getting good at cleaning!

My mother lion. Enough said.

Todd, hands-down the best father I've ever known, one hell of a provider, a gracious friend, and thankfully, a willing and capable cook.

Friends who are so fantastic I've gotten home two nights in a row as the sun was coming up because they are just.that.great. Friends who will stand beside me in an ambush, make sense of the truly senseless, listen without prejudice, and continue to offer the ever-elusive perspective.

Red bell peppers, my favourite food. (Note: A green bell pepper is not the same, I am eating one now, and am sorely disappointed.)

Meeting new people.

Dasani water (1 ltr.) bottles being on sale for 99 cents.

Truth, as it is in such short supply.

Sharpie gluttony. Good god.

Sam. I know I said friends but she's in a league of her own. There are no words.

Mesina. She's in her own league as well, but abroad. In a few short weeks I will have loved you for 20 years (holy shit!), and I will continue to do so well past eternity.

I mean, Kirkland wipes, obviously.

New activities, new scenery.

Being asked by someone I just met "How did you learn to speak so well?"

Seeing the words "President Obama" every morning.

Elyse hugging me, "Cheyemme."

Visits on the patio.

Being on a run of excellent books.

Nordstrom's liberal return policy.

Love in unexpected places.

Santa Cruz Limeade.

Music. What I salvaged from the wreckage.

Brainless television, because shit, I can't be all reasonable and philosophical 24 hours a day.

The soy yogurts that do not taste like shit.


Three-tiered hangers.


Knowing everything that I know, regardless of how I came to know it, even the things that felt like they might kill me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

some people are just this way:


In psychoanalytic theory, reaction formation is a defensive process (defense mechanism) in which anxiety-producing or unacceptable emotions and impulses are mastered by exaggeration (hypertrophy) of the directly opposing tendency.[1][2]

Reaction formation depends on the hypothesis that

"[t]he instincts and their derivatives may be arranged as pairs of opposites: life versus death, construction versus destruction, action versus passivity, dominance versus submission, and so forth. When one of the instincts produces anxiety by exerting pressure on the ego either directly or by way of the superego, the ego may try to sidetrack the offending impulse by concentrating upon its opposite. For example, if feelings of hate towards another person make one anxious, the ego can facilitate the flow of love in order to conceal the hostility."[3]

Where reaction-formation takes place, it is usually assumed that the original, rejected impulse does not vanish, but persists, unconscious, in its original infantile form.[2] Thus, where love is experienced as a reaction formation against hate, we cannot say that love is substituted for hate, because the original aggressive feelings still exist underneath the affectionate exterior which merely masks the hate to hide it from awareness.[3]

In a diagnostic setting, the existence of a reaction-formation rather than a 'simple' emotion would be suspected where exaggeration, compulsiveness and inflexibility were observed. For example,

"[r]eactive love protests too much; it is overdone, extravagant, showy, and affected. It is counterfeit, and [...] is usually easily detected. Another feature of a reaction formation is its compulsiveness. A person who is defending himself against anxiety cannot deviate from expressing the opposite of what he really feels. His love, for instance, is not flexible. It cannot adapt itself to changing circumstances as genuine emotions do; rather it must be constantly on display as if any failure to exhibit it would cause the contrary feeling to come to the service.[3]

Reaction formation is sometimes described as one of the most difficult defenses for lay people to understand;[1] this testifies not merely to its effectiveness as a disguise, but also to its ubiquity and flexibility as a defense that can be utilized in many forms. For example,

"solicitude may be a reaction-formation against cruelty, cleanliness against coprophilia",[2]

and it is not unknown for an analyst to explain a client's unconditional pacifism as a reaction formation against their sadism. In addition,

"[h]igh ideals of virtue and goodness may be reaction formations against primitive object cathexes rather than realistic values which are capable of being lived up to. Romantic notions of chastity and purity may mask crude sexual desires, altruism may hide selfishness, and piety may conceal sinfulness."[3]

Even more counter-intuitively, according to this model

"[a] phobia is an example of a reaction formation. The person wants what he fears. He is not afraid of the object;he is afraid of the wish for the object. The reactive fear prevents the dreaded wish from being fulfilled.[3]

The concept of reaction formation has been used to explain responses to external threats as well as internal anxieties. In the phenomenon described as Stockholm Syndrome, a hostage or kidnap victim 'falls in love' with the feared and hated person who has complete power over them. Similarly paradoxical reports exist of powerless and vulnerable inmates of Nazi camps creating 'favourites' among the guards and even collecting objects discarded by them.

The mechanism of reaction formation is often characteristic of obsessional neuroses. When this mechanism is overused, especially during the formation of the ego, it can become a permanent character trait. This is often seen in those with obsessional character and obsessive personality disorders. This does not imply that its periodic usage is always obsessional, but that it can lead to obsessional behavior.

-As familiar as an old blanket...with poisonous thorns stuck in it.

The good news is, unlike other plagues, you can ignore this one and it will go away...unfortunately, to ruin the lives of others instead.