a heart-felt holiday

A repost from December 2009. It’s worth it.


Having neither spectacular accomplishments nor grave misfortunes to report, and, to be honest, having exhausted the vein of humorous family anecdotes over the years, I will tell you instead that we are all well and fine, and hope that you are too.

Instead of Srajek family details, which are really much the same as any other family’s day-to-day lives, I offer this story about something that happened to us this time last year, at the start of a long Midwest winter.

In our local paper there used to be a kid’s feature called “Letters to the Editor,” where school kids responded to a question from the editor, and then some responses from each school got published.  One week last December, Jacob’s answer to the question “What is the top item on your Christmas list this year?” turned up in the paper.  He wrote that since he wanted to be a carpenter when he grew up, he had “always wanted” a carpenter’s plane.

If he didn’t get that, the number two thing on the list was “lots of nice building wood,” a response that makes him sound quainter and less electronically minded than he really is, but, well, he was probably writing what he knew had the best chance of getting published (they’re never too young to play to the crowd).

About a week after his response appeared in the paper, we received a letter in the mail from a woman we did not know. She apologized if we were not the parents of Jacob Srajek, said that she had looked us up in the phone book, and she hoped her writing was not an imposition to us.  A clipping of Jacob’s letter was neatly taped to the corner of her own letter, which was printed on paper with a decorative floral border.
Continue reading “a heart-felt holiday”

Some Useful Lies About Raising Boys

A professor I knew used to begin one of his classes by saying, “Everything I’m going to tell you is a lie.  But it’s a helpful lie.”  Today’s post contains a very short poem (just a quote, really), and two useful lies about raising boys: 1) you cannot raise boys without weaponry, and 2) you cannot raise boys without meat.

Maybe this counts as one lie with two parts; I’m not sure.  And just to be clear, the weaponry and the meat are for the boys, not you, though weapons would come in handy, particularly anything with a trapping device.  I feel strongly that even if these two things are not true, someone needs to stand up for them because they seem to cause a lot of pressure and anxiety for parents who frankly, have more than enough to go around.  My advice to people who are fighting the battles of guns vs. no guns, and/or meat vs. no meat is this: give up immediately.  There are so many more important things to worry about, such as why there is never any dirty underwear in your sons’ laundry.

Continue reading “Some Useful Lies About Raising Boys”

In Which I Write About Jacob’s Accident & Become Famous

As some folks know, Jacob was hit by a car last month while riding his bike to school. The driver didn’t stop (yes, you read that right. Someone hit a child on a bike, knocked him over and kept driving.)  Jacob wasn’t hurt.

It was a very powerful learning experience for all of us.  I wrote a short piece about it for the website ChambanaMoms.com, and it is my Very First Guest Post Ever.  Go here to read it (Mom, that means you have to click on the underlined words).

Happy May Day all!

10 Things Not to Leave on the Counter for Your Babysitter to See

Hello everyone!  It’s been a while since we’ve visited here and I’ve missed you!  Has it been a busy spring for you so far?  Did you enjoying watching the world becoming green again?  It seemed to happen overnight here in east central Illinois and there was more lushness to take in every morning. 

I hope to have some exciting writing news to share with you soon, and a longer blog post is on the way as well.  In the meantime, below is a little list you may find useful.  (One of the blogging advice articles I read recently said that “readers love lists,” and this one occurred to me as I was rummaging through the area of our kitchen counter that we call “The Bermuda Triangle”). 

[Note:  Not all of these pertain to my kitchen counter; however, I have personally encountered each one of these items, so this is sort of a PSA.]  Feel free to write in with any additions!

10 Things Not to Leave on the Counter For Your Babysitter to See

1.  Bills for therapy. Of any kind.

2. Prescription medications except for antibiotics that have been prescribed for a child, and preferably only for common ailments such as ear infections.

3. OTC medication except Tylenol or ibuprofen, and particularly not anything related to digestion or skin rashes.

4. Naked pictures.  Of anyone.  Not even artistic ones, or ones of you when you were pregnant.

5. Bottles of alcohol, particularly not very large ones that are nearly empty.

6. Report cards with bad grades on them, or any other school communication pertaining to your child unless it has the words “award” or “honors” on it.

7. Bills stamped “Past Due,” and anything with the words “collection agency.”

8. Greeting cards with personal messages inside, especially not those with intimate details about how you plan to celebrate a particular holiday.

9. Laboratory/test results, or any other medical communications, especially not those related to your weight, white blood cell count, or any communicable disease.

10. Self-improvement and/or advice literature of any kind, particularly nothing related to: infidelity, sexuality, addiction, mental illness, divorce, or “raising difficult children.”

If you’d like to send in your ideas for things to add to this list, I’ll post them here!

My Garden is Nicer Than Yours. And I Have the Name Badge to Prove It.

Yesterday was the annual Garden Walk in our fair cities, where gardening is a religion.  The Garden Walk is an event where you pay lots of money to walk through other people’s gardens that are much nicer than yours will ever be.  Like many religious ceremonies which purport to inspire you to transcend your human flaws and encourage you to be a better person, this one shows you examples of what you should aspire to be, highlights your sins (envy, sloth, greed), and leaves you feeling grovelly and inadequate. 

To combat this, my sons and I made fun of the plethora of floppy straw hats and unflattering khaki shorts.  Also, as a defense mechanism against my feelings of inadequacy, we made a little list of the ten most inappropriate things you can do on a Garden Walk, which you can read below, and possibly use if you are ever in this situation.

Continue reading “My Garden is Nicer Than Yours. And I Have the Name Badge to Prove It.”

God Hates Noone. On the Road to Gatlinburg.

We are spending our Spring Break in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and since this blog is leading up to Lent, I thought I would share a timely Tennessee law, just in case this affects your upcoming plans: “No Christian parent may require their children to pick up trash from the highway on Easter day.”  I didn’t drive on the almost 9-hour ride down here because it is also “illegal for a woman to drive a car unless there is a man either running or walking in front of it waving a red flag to warn approaching motorists and pedestrians.”  Although that’s only in Memphis, we didn’t want to take any chances given my recent car-related run-ins with the law.  And though I’m fairly sure I saw evidence of this law being broken, it is a laudable one nonetheless: “You may not have more than five inoperable vehicles on a piece of property.”  Finally, while we ourselves certainly did provide evidence of the following Tennessean legal assertion at various points during the drive:  “the definition of ‘dumb animal’ includes every living creature,” I can assure you that we were not alone.

Continue reading “God Hates Noone. On the Road to Gatlinburg.”


My 12-year old son does sports at school, and that means that his parents “do” sports as well, meaning that we drive places, and then drive back from places, and “volunteer” to help out at sporting events.  Right now, it’s basketball season, and this week I was “volunteered” to work the concession stand at one of the games.  I love to watch my son move; I love to see him run when he’s doing cross-country, sprint when he’s doing track, pass and shoot when he’s playing basketball.  What I do not love is wearing plastic food-service gloves and selling dried out pizza to snotty 13-year old girls, who, with their masses of barrettes and braces, travel in packs and never say “please.”

Continue reading “Concessions”

Why Everyone Needs a Superhero

Halloween at Gabe's daycare

In the dark early hours of the morning, I saw a shadowy figure in my bedroom, and my first thought was that it was Jesus.  I’d been reading some Anne Lamott the night before—the part of Travelling Mercies where she describes what she later came to believe was Jesus’ presence in her bedroom as she was struggling alone, drunk, strung out, through the aftermath of an abortion.  Anne writes that she could feel the presence so strongly that she got up and turned on the light to see if someone was there. 
Continue reading “Why Everyone Needs a Superhero”

As Cool as the Air in a Redwood Grove

One of the chapters of Anne Lamott’s Travelling Mercies is an account of a health scare she had with her son Sam.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective (and mental health), we had a similar experience this week with Gabe.  But before I tell you about that, I want to show you this picture by Toni Frissell, a female photographer in the 1940’s and 50’s. 

It’s from an underwater shoot of models all wearing white, fluidy gowns.  To me, it evokes many things: surrender, descent, freedom, and something of the seductive power of depression.  It also reminds me of the scene in “The Piano” where Holly Hunter almost drowns because she lets her leg get tangled up with her piano when it falls overboard.  (Hunter plays a mute woman in the 1850’s who is sent to New Zealand for an arranged marriage.  Her piano is, quite literally, her voice).  She is very calm at first, quietly observing the water around her, gracefully allowing herself to be pulled down, down, down.  Then suddenly it’s like she wakes up and realizes what is happening, and she struggles to free herself and swim to the surface.  The camera shows her discarded boot sinking slowly deeper, while she swims up, towards a life that she is not sure she wants, certainly one she knows nothing about, but one she is not ready to give up. 

Continue reading “As Cool as the Air in a Redwood Grove”

Transitions & Resilience: “Just do your best, then say ‘Amen'”

Today in Target I had one of those thoughts that I suspect you should probably not say out loud.  For the first time in my life, I thought, “I’m not sure if I should have had kids.”  Since I am not Jennifer Aniston, i.e. since people are not constantly querying me about my desire and motivation to have children, and since my children are already here, I’ve never spent much, if any, time thinking about whether I should have had them.  And I certainly think someone should have had them; I truly believe they add something to the sum of human goodness.  I just don’t know that that someone should have been me.

Me before I had kids

Continue reading “Transitions & Resilience: “Just do your best, then say ‘Amen’””

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: