Category Archives: Children

Parenting boys: Holy Angels kids earned their wings

Thirty-four years ago, when we parents walked our little boys into the kindergarten doors for the first time, we weren’t thinking about now. We were sizing up the other wide-eyed six-year-olds in the room that day. The scent of white paste hung in the air, paper alphabet letters decorated the walls, and children bolted to the toy trucks and blocks in the corner, or clung to our arms.

These boys, these little boys who first met in kindergarten, would be part of the Holy Angels Class of 1989 that, throughout grade school, was just a bit larger, a bit more creative, a bit more rambunctious, and at times more hot to handle than most for their persevering teachers. The boys’ common lot and spirit bound them together—my son Jeff, and Matt, Tony, Ross, Pat, Dan, Peter, Kevin, Bobby and more.

When teachers caught Jeff looking out the window more than at his books, his friends defended him. “He’ll discover something great out there,” was their attitude. When a snowball fight got out of hand, the friends were quick to explain it was “all in fun.” When it was time to party, the boys turned to music and started a band.

So on the night after Christmas 2014, in downtown West Bend, a packed crowd came to hear Mandi, Matt’s younger sister, sing out her beautiful, soulful heart @WestBendTap+ Tavern. Matt, a musician too, was there from California with his wife and six-year-old son. Matt and Mandi’s parents Steve and Sharon were there, and other parents of some of the boys from the Class of ’89. In a way, we were representing our sons, who lived in so many other places now and would have come if they could. The night took us back, and we reminisced, chatting over wine and beers, about those growing-up years for our boys, the struggles we all faced raising our children, our worries for them, and how our visions of the future often collided with their own dreams and definitions of happiness.

So here we were, settled in at the pub, as Mandi played the guitar and sang the blues. The circle was unbroken, families once thrown together by chance, still connected. Common bonds, music, and social media keep our sons’ friendships strong through cross-country moves, job changes, and the arrival of their own sons and daughters. Maureen brought a book Ross sent with photos of his family. I shared Jeff and Malissa’s amazing and difficult year with their two little boys. Matt told me his son went to surf camp over the summer.

Sharon expressed what I am sure many of us were feeling. That, after all these years, after all the worrying we did about our sons, their education, and their choices, our sons are good people and they really are great dads. We couldn’t ask for anything better.


A Thanksgiving Serving of Stories

Along with the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy this Thanksgiving, we’ll have a generous serving of family stories. Many of those stories revolve around food, just as the old kitchen table (not a TV tray) was the hub for family roundups and daily debriefings.

My Dad, Mike, (he married my mother, a widow, when I was 19) grew up in a big family of 12 children raised by immigrant parents, including a strong-willed, persevering Croatian woman everyone knew and loved as “Grandma Ogee.”

In one of the charming family books prepared for reunions and remembrance, Mike remembered some of the “loaves and fishes” miracles a18e87749a0db9e048328226bdc9e1f3 mother had a way of creating for her struggling family.

“I remember when Ma would send the children to the meat market to ask for some bones for the dog (which we didn’t have). Invariably the butcher would put in some nice ‘bones’ with an ample amount of meat on them. From these she made delicious soup.”

He recalled that she always blessed the bread when she put it into the wood stove on large wooden paddle. And blessed it again when she cut the large, round delicious loaves into pieces for her family. She also had an “uncanny” way of making a whole pot of egg drop soup with only one egg, my Dad remembered.

So thankful was my Dad and all of his family for growing up in a home, not with a lot of meat, nor with a lot of eggs, but with so much love. These are the riches we pray for this Thanksgiving.

What family stories will you tell? Which ones will you make?

A small boy’s world as seen from pillow hill

My Dear Abraham,

I am so happy you are feeling better. You will soon be four and so big! I know that you have had to spend a lot of time lately on the sofa, at home in bed or even on your back in your room at the kid’s hospital. That was important because you needed to rest and to take your medicine.

But you had to think of ways to have fun while you couldn’t run around! You had lots of good ideas. There were interesting books to read, movies to watch, silly games to play with aunts and uncles, even a puppy named Jig. And of course, toy cars and trucks of every size and color! Monster trucks like Grave Digger and little cars like Mini Cooper raced over mountains of pillows and blankets while you made up the stories for their adventures.

I was thinking of you when I read this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, a famous writer who also wrote the book, “Treasure Island,” which I hope you will read someday. He was very sick when he was a little boy and made up stories while he lay in bed. And he didn’t have a TV or iPads to keep him busy — they hadn’t been invented yet!

You’ll need to know that a “counterpane” is another word for bedspread or a cover for your bed.

I hope you enjoy this poem, too, and think of how far your imagination can take you, no matter where you are.   Love, Gramma


The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

– Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894