Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Top Ten Things I WON’T Give My Man This Christmas December 22, 2009

Shopping for my husband is nearly impossible. While other men would not be fit to appear in public had their wives not imposed a fashion intervention, my man is very particular about what he wears. The same goes for his penchant for software, hardware, music, video games, tools, boating or camping equipment, you name it. Even when he specifically asks for something, I am left on a wild goose chase to nail down the exact make and model that he would most enjoy…and I am invariably incorrect. 

And, while I am somewhat of a (ahem)  tightwad, my husband is comparatively more loose with his money and will buy exactly what he wants exactly when he wants it. What is boils down to is that it is nearly impossible to shop for gifts for him. To add to the pressure, he is a wonderfully thoughtful and generous gift-giver, who (I just know!) will present me (pun intended) with a variety of intuitive, sentimental yet practical gifts on Christmas morning. Mind you, thanks to his good love and our holiday-crazed offspring, I  already have  everything I’ve ever truly desired, so everything else is Sephora, er, icing on the cake.

I just want to give him something that says: “I know you so well, and here’s X to prove it!”

In the midst of my dilemma (and because I do know him well), I came up with a Top Ten List of gifts that he would–without question–NOT want to receive.

1. Neck ties or woollen scarves (Ties and his neck: nary the twain shall meet)

2. A set of hankies to match the neckties

3. A pocket watch (Among other things, his iPhone does tell the time. Besides, there’s probably a pocket watch app anyway)

4. A man-purse 

5. A gift certificate to get his ear pierced (the only jewelry he has ever acceded to is his wedding ring)

6. A dozen little throw pillows for our bed, each showcasing an applique, sequins or other adornment rendering them “useless” as a pillow.

7. A flask (To quote Jim Gaffigan, “I think giving someone a flask is a nice way of saying: ‘Hey you seem like a drunk on the go This would be good for you in your car.’”)

8. A software package barring adult online content

9. A carton of cigarrettes (he has a zero tolerance policy on smoking)

10. A life-size cardboard cut-out of Robert Pattinson.

Having the same problem? What WOULDN’T your man want to receive?


Saying good-bye with love December 17, 2009

Filed under: Lacko Family Chronicles — rjlacko @ 12:52 pm
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Earlier this week, we celebrated the life of my dear father-in-law, who was recently taken by Ideopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. At his funeral, my husband courageously gave the eulogy. With his permission, I’m posting his lovingly chosen words for family and friends who could not be there, and so that we can all pause to remember what an incredible man he was.

My father was a patient, giving, and dependable rock of a human being.  He did more with slivers of fortune than most men could do with a mountain of gold, yet his humility kept him well grounded.  His hand was ever open to the people whom he saw promise in and while occasionally his goodwill was taken advantage of, he never let it cause him to lose faith in the possibility of fruitful enterprise.  He had the uncanny ability to see a future that most others would throw their arms up at and lose faith in.  I should know…I was one of those futures.

He worked hard.  You could say to a fault, but the world in which his loved ones live is radiantly green because of this ethic.  He slept in, but he stayed late.  He knew the details of every single investment he had going at any given time and his execution of entering into and exiting from their folds was flawless…well, a good 95% flawless….let’s say 90…but that 90 most often resulted in windfall.

He had an incredible staff that was always in tune with his business sense.  Some have been around for a long time and some are more recently added, but all that have shared his business vision have given themselves 120%.  And not because he demanded it, but because he warranted it.  His own commitment to excellence brought out the best of the people who worked alongside him.

He loved adventure.  He loved to ski in water and on snow; scuba dive and snorkel; drive fast cars and boats; lay out in the sun with nothing but butter to protect him from the rays of the sun.  Wherever he has gone on to, I am pretty sure there is a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic SPF2 tanning oil in his closet.  He drove Corvettes, Porches, Ferraris…Buick Estate Wagons.  He would fly to exotic locations like Hawaii, Maui, Oahu…

He cherished his friends.  He kept his inner circle small because he knew exactly with whom he felt the most joy and with whom he could trust his life and personal moments.  Those of you who are here today will miss him, I know, but he will remain with you…he will continue to laugh with you and cry with you and enjoy life as long as you do.

He loved two very distinct women in his life.  His first wife gave him five children and the balance that he needed as he found financial success in his hard, hard work.  She raised me and my sisters and nurtured us and gave him the ability to focus on our future.  His second wife helped him to find joy in unity again just earlier this decade and helped him to find the strength needed to face his body’s last fight.  Two amazing women; each helping him to find happiness and strength in this often turbulent existence.

His children, while each completely unique from one another, all seem to be founded on his most important qualities: loyalty, generosity, humility and patience.  And it seems quite clear to me that we are passing those qualities on to our children as well.  A legacy that I believe makes us richer than any amount of material fortune ever could.

The culprit that took him before his prime was Pulmonary Fibrosis; a disease that bookended his life by taking his mother when he was only 13 and his brother, Robert, just earlier this decade.  Maybe it was his familiarity with it that caused him to face it with the strength and stoic determination that he did.  Right to the last two weeks of his life, he had his visitors convinced that they would see him well into 2010.  I saw him as often as anyone who lived outside of his home saw him and I have to tell you…there is no way for a man to behave more courageously, more dignified, more resolute than my father did.  Simply put, he was a rock of a human being.


What the? Almost 1 in 5 people report injuries due to “gift wrap rage” December 16, 2009

Over the years, we’ve all been warned of dangers lurking in holiday celebrations. For instance, poinsettias have long been accused of being poisonous. has confirmed they are actually rather innocuous. Certainly, glass ornaments can pose a potential threat to little ones, but the worst culprit for holiday hopsital visits lies within the the all-consuming rage experienced by would-be gift-recipients in the process of opening a wrapped present.

Yes, you read that right. The act of unwrapping gifts can send people into a rage resulting in personal injury.

According to a poll of Pennsylvania adults, about 17% of Pennsylvanians experienced an injury or knows someone who was injured (such as receiving a cut that required medical attention) while opening gifts during past seasons.

According to the American Dialect Society, wrap rage is defined as anger brought on by the frustration of trying to open a factory-sealed purchase. The organization recognized the term in 2007 as one of the “most useful.”

A March 2006 story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  quoted Todd Marks, a senior editor at Consumer Reports, as saying, “Today’s packages force consumers to fight tooth and nail to get at what’s inside.”

The same article also claims that 2001 Census Bureau data shows people suffer twice the injuries from packaging than injuries from skateboards or swimming pools.

I guess this proves it truly is better to give than to receive.

As we enter the holiday season, avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room by following these tips:

  1. If you must use a knife or another type of sharp object, cut away from your body.
  2. If you must use scissors, use ones with blunt tips.
  3. Wear protective gloves.
  4. Avoid opening tough-to-open packages in a crowded area.
  5. Don’t use your legs to keep the product stable.

For our children’s good pleasure (and to free us from having to work through all the little twist-ties and clamshell packaging while our children practically vibrate with anticipation) we, er, Santa will be displaying much of our children’s gifts front and center in our children’s little play area. On Christmas morning, we will open the door to reveal ready-to-play-with toys… without the fear of injury, or the excess waste paper.


5 Ways to Teach Your Kids the True Spirit of the Holidays December 15, 2009

The holiday gift-giving season is an appropriate time to involve children in charitable giving and teach them why the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive,” is true.  Here, courtesy of the amazing people at World Vision, are five great ways for parents to lead by example and teach their children the true spirit of the holidays.

Five ways for parents to teach children the true spirit of the holidays

1.  As a family, select a charitable organization you’d like to support. Use online tools like Charity Navigator to find an organization that you trust. Give your children a budget and encourage them to decide how your family will donate to that organization this holiday. (In our family, we are supporitng the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.)

2.  Cherish the stories of your family. Have your children talk to their grandparents and write down the stories of their past. Create a book to share with the entire family or record it online through Story Corps.

3. Consider do-it-yourself gifts, like no-sew fleece blankets, that you can make with your children. Donate those blankets to a local homeless shelter. Find other homemade gift ideas at’s Family Crafts page.

4. Work with your children to create a coupon book for your neighbors that might need an extra hand this year.  Coupons could include shoveling their sidewalk, watching their children, or providing a meal.

5.  Bake cookies or sweets with your children and deliver them to your local nursing home or school-in-need. Get started with this list of holiday recipes.

Despite the recession, Devin Hermanson, a charitable giving expert and national director of World Vision’s Gift Catalog sales, reports charitable giving figures arehigher than last year’s figures at this time.

“The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. There are gifts to purchase and wrap, cookies to bake, and family and friends to visit, but when we pause to help our neighbors in need, we all experience Christmas in a more meaningful way,” says Hermanson.

For each item in World Vision’s Gift Catalog, the giver makes the purchase in the name of a friend, family member or business associate. World Vision then sends special cards to those individuals, describing the gifts and their impact. Last year alone, World Vision’s Gift Catalog raised $25 million and provided assistance to more than 500,000 people worldwide. The Gift Cataloglaunched in 1996, and while a goat ($75) is still World Vision’s number one seller, there are many affordable items for $35 or less.


Baby’s language development starts in the womb December 5, 2009

Surprisingly, the sound of a newborn’s cry varies from hospital to birthing center around the world. Two babies born at the same moment in two different countries will cry a melodic rendition of their parents’ mother tongue, according to  a new study published by Current Biology. The findings suggest that infants begin picking up elements of what will be their first language in the womb, and certainly long before their first babble or coo.

“The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their fetal life, within the last trimester of gestation,” said Kathleen Wermke of the University of Würzburg in Germany. “Contrary to orthodox interpretations, these data support the importance of human infants’ crying for seeding language development.”

In many ways, this news shouldn’t come as any surprise. Early studies have already shown us:

  • Human fetuses are able to memorize sounds from the external world by the last trimester of pregnancy, with a particular sensitivity to melody contour in both music and language. (Anyone who has played a particular song or music while pregnant is delighted when baby shows recognition and preference for it!)
  • Newborns prefer their mother’s voice over other voices and perceive the emotional content of messages conveyed via intonation contours in maternal speech (a.k.a. “motherese”).
  • Earlier studies of vocal imitation had shown that infants can match vowel sounds presented to them by adult speakers, but only from 12 weeks on. That skill depends on vocal control that just isn’t physically possible much earlier, the researchers explain.

Although prenatal exposure to native language was known to influence newborns’ perception, scientists had thought that the surrounding language affected sound production much later, the researchers said. It now appears that isn’t so.

Wermke’s team recorded and analyzed the cries of 60 healthy newborns, 30 born into French-speaking families and 30 born into German-speaking families, when they were three to five days old. That analysis revealed clear differences in the shape of the newborns’ cry melodies, based on their mother tongue.

Specifically, French newborns tend to cry with a rising melody contour, whereas German newborns seem to prefer a falling melody contour in their crying. Those patterns are consistent with characteristic differences between the two languages, Wermke said.

“Imitation of melody contour, in contrast, is merely predicated upon well-coordinated respiratory-laryngeal mechanisms and is not constrained by articulatory immaturity,” the researchers write. “Newborns are probably highly motivated to imitate their mother’s behavior in order to attract her and hence to foster bonding. Because melody contour may be the only aspect of their mother’s speech that newborns are able to imitate, this might explain why we found melody contour imitation at that early age.”

  1. Mampe et al. Newborns’ Cry Melody Is Shaped by Their Native Language. Current Biology, November 5, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.09.064

The gifts of loaves and fishes December 3, 2009

I wrote this story for the December 2009 issue of San Clemente Presbyterian’s NewsBreak.

Shortly before the first Christmas, Joseph informed his betrothed, the very pregnant Mary, that she would be undertaking a lengthy trip, by donkey, over rough terrain. If you’ve ever traveled a long distance as—or with—a woman in her final days of gestation, you understand that Mary may have endured some of the worst holiday travel in history. How do you say, are we there yet in Aramaic?

When the couple arrived in Bethlehem and could find only shelter with livestock, from the standpoint of modern marriage, I have to wonder whether they were reduced to squabbling, stress, or simply exhausted disappointment.

And then a miracle occurred.

Mary gave birth and wrapped the Child who would be Prince of Peace in mere swaddling clothes—and she and Joseph marveled at the knowledge that His birth was as God ordained.

For many families, anticipation of the holidays brings a combination of joy, fond memories—and anxiety. We are already busy enough. How can we afford all these gifts? What about broken or tense relations between relatives, families suffering from divorce, separation, or job loss? Are we blessed on our own bumpy road to Bethlehem?

Christmas offers a bright new possibility of giving the peace of Christ–that we might know Christ’s peace.

This Advent, let us extend our God-given forgiveness to one another. Certainly, you can’t give away what you don’t have. But, through Him, we have all been forgiven–and indeed abundantly so. When we choose not to judge (or begrudge), and let go of past wrong-doings, that small yet tremendously healing gesture is multiplied exponentially, much like loaves and fishes.

Ask yourself whether you want to be right or have peace; Do you want restitution or resolution? Discard all “debts” owed to you, or your personal circumstances, by having the courage to look upon them as Jesus does–with infinite love and potential–and in doing so you will find peace.

Offer yourself the same mercy: Forgive yourself your past failings. Jesus does. Amend for long hours of work or worry by laughing with your children, spending time with your spouse, family, or a neighbor in need. As the body of Christ, within us lies the Holy Spirit, and we can help move His grace through the world by doing His work, and in doing so be lifted up.