Thursday, December 31, 2015

Moving Preparations Commencing (sort of)

As December marched on, I could no longer deny 2016's imminent arrival.  And with 2016, of course, comes our impending move, which I have mostly ignored to date (except for that whole learning Vietnamese full time thing).  The mental coaching articles always tell you to live in the present, right?  I'm not sure if I actively was choosing to live in the present, or was secretly living in denial that we'll miss family and friends, but either way, time to face the music and get our stuff in order.

As noted in past posts, parents in the DC metro plan summer camps early.  Our kids have exactly two weeks between when school lets out and when July comes.  We have no idea when in July we are moving, and I do hope to squeeze in a trip home to Texas before we head overseas again, so the last two weeks of June are it for camps.  Thankfully, the stars have aligned and, in the limited time we have that we can actually commit to something, at least one of Wm's friends is free for sleep away camp, and a day camp Patch wanted to try is offering a theme he is super excited about.  Summer camp, check.  (now I just have to remember to sign up when registration opens on January 30, since we have very little leeway!)

And then the ever-dreaded pre-move shopping.  Forced shopping is never fun, especially when, with every purchase, you are forced to remember why you are buying things (i.e., you are moving to the other side of the world).  Don't get me wrong, I love our job and all the fun experiences we have once we're there, but leaving each place (especially leaving America and our family) brings sadness and dread.  However, on December 26, I faced the music and purchased a fake 6.5' Christmas tree.  

With two relocation-related activities under my belt, I can now face the myriad of tasks in 2016 with a little less dread.  Takes a few pushes to get the ball rolling.  

-- PS: side funny note on the Christmas tree --
(1) We had a fake Christmas tree, purchased in Hyderabad.  It was funny looking and only 4' tall, but it served us well for four years in two countries.  This Christmas, I went to take it out to loan to my office for holiday decoration - only to find we only had the middle third in our storage closet!  I have no idea what happened to the top and bottom!  

Either (a) they are hiding somewhere else in our house and we will find them when we pack out / unpack on the flip side or (b) a mover along the way needed only a top and bottom, leaving us with a labeled box, but not a complete tree.  It seemed prudent to purchase a new tree now, in any case, so that we do have one for the next Christmas (and not take our chances on (a) above).  

-- PPS: Christmas tree woes, part II --
Finding an unlit tree is tough!  We need an unlit one so we can put 220V lights on it (few places are 110V like the US).  Luckily, Target came through.  Also luckily, I had exactly one choice in the post-Christmas sale, so I didn't have to make a decision (only spend my time online confirming that I did, indeed, only have one decent-looking option).  

-- PPPS on shopping -- 
No tiny babies making this move!  No mountains boxes of diapers and wipes!  No mounds of tubs of back-up formula!  No having to guess how quickly a baby will gain weight and move out of one diaper size or wonder how much formula, if any, the baby would need.  Most other things I purchased locally (after all, people have babies the world around :) ), but sensitive skin and sensitive tummies in our family seemed to prefer American products for those two items.  One whole (expensive!) category of "consumables" exorcised from the shopping list.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Teaching Disappointment

Last night and this weekend, I'm having to teach disappointment and dealing with the consequences to Wm.  It is rough!

Background: His school has "jobs" for kids.  Third graders are in charge of the mail delivery system, aka "backpack mail."  I love this system - I can just send in something to the PTA noting the subject mater on the envelope, and the kids have a list of which type of info goes to which child in which class to get the envelope to the right PTA parent volunteer.  If I need to send a letter to a specials teacher or front office, ditto.  If a kid is interested, s/he can sign up to be a "postmaster" (sort the mail in afternoon) or "delivery agent" (deliver mail before school).

William wanted to be a delivery agent.  He came home one day super excited about this.  While he thought the post master job might be more interesting, he said he knew he couldn't do it because with three kids, there was already enough going on after school.  And, he also told me he only volunteered to deliver mail on M/W/F, because he knew it would be too hectic for Lea to get him to school early on days when Ian had to get to school.  Really, I was quite proud of him for thinking about all this.

Friday was the "exam" day.  I wished him luck when I left for work.  When I got home, I asked him how the test went.  He immediately broke down in tears - somehow, by the time he arrived at school, he went into autopilot and went right to the cafeteria to line up for class.  He forgot to go to the classroom to take the test.   (He walks with a friend, so Lea wasn't there to remind him about the test once he arrived.)

I emailed the teacher, but unfortunately there is no make up test.  It was a one time deal.

Through his sadness, he said he wanted to do this because the job he really wanted for the school was to be a "patrol" (i.e., the 4th and 5th graders who help line kids up for buses, make sure the little kids get off at the right bus stop, etc).  But, we won't be here for 4th or 5th grade, so this would be his only shot.

Part of me really wanted to explain these special circumstances to the teacher.  But part of me realized - both for me as a parent and him as a kid - we both need to learn right now.  I need to remind myself I can't do everything for my kids, and he needs to learn he is ultimately responsible for himself. And for both of us to remember that "failure" isn't the end of the world. (let's face it, I don't fail very often, so I don't take failure very well either!)

There's been a lot of discussions about the high rate of anxiety and depression among new college students in articles and in books like "How to Raise and Adult."  I haven't read the book and have only skimmed the articles (in general, I don't like reading parenting advice), but I get the general idea that it's important to help your kid learn how to cope with disappointment, especially when they only have themselves to blame for that disappointment.

So, we'll have a few tough days with tears.  And a few conversations which I'm sure will involve him shouting about how dumb his teacher is and me reminding him he can't blame others for his mistake (and him storming off to his room).  But, fingers crossed, in the end he'll move on and find something else to be involved in.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Starting Kindergarten

Long time readers will remember what a terrible time I had with the Montessori --> public school transition.  It could have been moving from the Philippines to the USA.  It could have been many things.  But, as I was rationalizing my frustration with starting school here, I rationalized that it was because of my difficulty adjusting between two very different instructional methods.

The Montessori school Wm attended in the Philippines had a wonderful parent education component.  We knew exactly what the school was teaching and why, and were encouraged to reflect the same methodology at home.  It made things work so smoothly.  Wm could move ahead quickly and independently in areas where he excelled, and the teachers were there to support him in weaker areas (reading, ahem ahem).

The more rigid system here combined with feel like I didn't even speak the same language as his teacher, frustrated me beyond belief.  Hi first grade year, I felt like I was struggling to catch up and understand how to work with him and the school.  Thus, for Patch, while we could have sent him to a Montessori school up the road, I opted for a more traditional play-based American pre-K curriculum. I'm sure Patch would have excelled just as Wm did in Montessori - but I couldn't go through that transition again.

Luckily for me and Patch, try #2 paid off.  He reports that kindergarten so far is boring.  He doesn't read yet, so there are definitely things he needs to work on this year.  Overall, though, the rhythm of the class is very similar to what he was doing half-day last year.  As for me?  I'm not stressing out about his transition at all.  Piece of cake.

I know - you'll tell me a lot of it is that we're now in our third year in America, and I can now speak the same language as his school.  But, given that I believe the difficult transition into first grade was because of the Montessori-public switch, it only logically follows that this easy transition was because we stuck with similar systems.

Now, fingers crossed I don't flip out when we move to Vietnam and enter the international school world... 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Being an Extreme "NT"

Three weeks ago, I took a leadership class.  As part of it, we did the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.  I've done this a few times before, and am still the same type: INTJ.  The only difference is that this time, all of the types were more pronounced, especially the T (thinking) and N (intuition).  Basically, my take away from the class is that when I manage people (in theory, I should do that at some point in my career, since I do hope to get promoted :) ), I need to make sure that I don't come across so matter of fact that I'm unfeeling.

This also, apparently, applies to parenting.

Case in point:  At back to school night, the parents were encouraged to write a "doodle note" to their child.  I had NO IDEA what to write.  So, I wrote: "Hi William, Um... we were here - ha ha ha.  I guess you're not next to Raul anymore.  ~Mama."  And I drew a soccer ball and baseball.

Later, walking around the class, I glanced at the other mom's notes.  (yes, even with two parents in the class, only the moms seemed to write the note.  I think this is because the paper had hearts all over it with "doodle note" written in a very feminine script.  I won't start to go into how much Comic Sans and "cutesy" fonts are used in elementary school, which absolutely drives me up a wall.)  Every other note was something like "you're a super star!" "i'm so proud of you!" etc etc.

Obviously, my NT was shining strong.  Not one iota of F (feeling) in my note.  I felt slightly bad for Wm, but, hey, he gets to deal with the mom he has, right?  Better learn young :)

I forgot about it, until the note came home from school today.  I took it out from the folder and was again embarrassed to the point of needing to bring it up.

Me: Um, William, I think I have to apologize for that doodle note.
Wm: What?
Me: Well, did you read the notes your friends got?
Wm: Yeah.
Me: So, what did you think of mine?
Wm: It was the worst in the whole class. [love his brutal honesty! especially when true!]
Me: Yeah, so that's what I'm apologizing for. I love you, you know, right?
Wm: Yeah, I know. I don't need a doodle note for that.

*phew. No lasting damage, at least from this parenting misstep.  And I'll work on putting a little more S and F (sensing & feeling) into my parental feedback mechanisms, too.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Growing things in our backyard has caused me to look up many recipes that use: cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, thyme, parsley and mint.  I'm drinking cucumber mint water as I type this because, seriously, one can only eat so many cucumber spears, even tasty fresh ones.

What to do with 4 pints of cherry tomatoes about to burst?  Perusing various websites and blogs, I came up with some great ideas.  Sadly, it seemed highly unlikely that my children would eat any of these things, since they're currently in a "familiar food only" phase.

Except, KETCHUP!  They eat lots of ketchup.  And 4 pints of cherry tomatoes makes 2 cups of ketchup, so I wouldn't even have to worry about jarring it.  The concept of actually making ketchup was so novel, I had to document it.
Wm chopped about half before he lost interest
They wanted to taste and smell all the ingredients
Patch helped pour it all in,
then we simmered for about an hour

Wm did the blending (but no pics of him during,
since I had to make sure ketchup didn't splash everywhere)

Final step was pushing through a sieve.  A quick poll of my Wellesley FB group suggested this was not entirely necessary, but the boys thought the seeds in the ketchup was too weird, so I did.

Of course, having fresh ketchup (currently chilling in the fridge) requires hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner.  Getting the grill ready right now!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

$6 and 15 Minutes

That's all it took to solve a nagging organizational issue in my bathroom closet, that I've been mulling over for a year.  I've been debating multiple solutions to keep things in their places, but haven't wanted to invest in anything, since we'll just pack up in a year.  It's so easy not to use that excuse not to make decisions or really set up a living space in a way I'd fully enjoy it.  I just tell myself I can deal with it temporarily.

Except, by that logic, then my entire life becomes temporary, because there's always going to be another move on the horizon.

So, last weekend I decided I should take hold of a few of the temporary spaces that nag me.  The trick then becomes to find organizational items that are multifunctional (i.e., not specific to the space needed right here and now) and not too expensive (i.e., probably not from the Container Store, as much as I LOVE that store).

Thankfully, Target had some wire bins on sale for $3 each.  I bought two.  Results below, which only took 15 minutes of rearranging things.  It won't be winning any closet organization awards, but, in the interest of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, at least my bathroom closet doesn't feel temporary anymore.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Putting things in his terms

Between Facebook and the newspaper, Wm asked about "pride" and "same-sex marriage" and rainbows.  He already knows about LGBT, so it was more a discussion about why it marriage wasn't legal in some places before.

Then, after some reflection, he said: "Well, I guess for kids who like boardgames, having two moms would be great.  And for kids who only like sports, having two dads would be great.  But, for me, I like having a mom and a dad because sometimes I like to play boardgames and sometimes I like to play sports."

And, now you know what Greg and I each play the most often with Wm.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gender & Generational Change

For your amusement, an excerpt of our dinner conversation last night:

Wm: Did you know that "William" is the second most popular name for U.S. presidents tied with "John"?  There were 4 Williams.  "James" is the most popular - there were six.  

[discussion on how no Patricks or Ians]
[discussion on me/Greg/my mom trying to name all the Jameses and Williams]

Wm: My teacher didn't tell me what the most popular girl's name was for the presidents.  Maybe "Susan" because of Susan B Anthony?
My mom: No, she wasn't a president.
Wm: Well, who were our girl presidents? 
Greg: Um... we haven't had one.
Wm: WHAT? How can no girl have been president EVER? 

This gives me hope on changes in thinking on gender equality.  

[Side note: Wikipedia indicates there were actually 5 Johns, so William is downgraded to third place.  Sorry, kid.]

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PEPCO's astonishing show of efficiency

PEPCO (our local power co) has been advertising its EnergyWise peak savings program since we've moved in.  I've received countless fliers and emails.  Each time I receive one, I think: I should enroll in this.  Twice, I've even gone to the website to see if I could enroll from there, but after three clicks, I got distracted by something else.  So, I've never enrolled.

Imagine my surprise just now when I got a phone call - which I almost didn't answer because only sales calls call our home phone - from PEPCO.  The agent said that a number of my neighbors had signed up so they'd be sending a crew to my area next week (enrolling involves installation of a new piece of equipment) and she wanted to know if I (a) knew about the program and (b) was interested in signing up.

Yes, thank you!

A shocking sign of efficiency and proactive nature from an old electric power company.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

OK. I will admit it.

I really like my house in the close-in suburbs.  There.  I've said it.

It took eight years of being a parent, three kids, and as many moves.  I realized today as I was walking from my (4 bedroom single family) house to the neighborhood park, waving at one neighbor as she pulled out of her driveway, chatting with another as he was pausing while digging out a tree ... I have a pretty nice set up going on right now.  Room in the yard for the boys to play soccer or baseball, enough space for when my mom moved in with us (well, her style is probably cramped a bit, but still - in general enough space), Wm rode his bike to school this morning - I walked home from the metro - Greg ran to the grocery store on foot this morning when we realized we were out of butter.

I even genuinely offered to host my sister's wedding, if she wanted a casual backyard affair for under 60 guests (probably best for our relationship that she did not actually take me up on this crazy offer, especially since her wedding came two weeks after a state visit when I was stressed to the max at work).

When we were living in Manila and trying to decide where to live, it was hard to give up DC.  Super hard.  I almost suffered an identity crisis (and, maybe Greg actually did and still is?).  But, facing up to the budgetary constraints of two government worker salaries -- and still wanting a home big enough to host Thanksgiving dinner (25 people) -- a decision on space had to be made.  It wasn't made lightly or without minor angst.

I admit, leaving work on time and the absolutely perfect spring evening weather probably had a large effect.  Tonight, that nag wondering if we should have gone with a smaller space in the city is gone.  It's official.  I've become a suburban mom (albeit one who travels the world every 3 yrs or so).

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Crown Thy Good In Sisterhood

It's been a year to think about sisterhood, with the debate that kicked off at my alma mater at the beginning of the school year (read NYT article here and HuffPo article on the College's resolution here).

What I read with most interest (and, I admit, a twinge of sadness) were the last few paragraphs of the NYT article, describing a conflict at the end of "America the Beautiful."

And crown thy good with "____"-hood from sea to shining sea!

I loved filling in the blank with "sister" instead of "brother."  In fact, "America the Beautiful" is part of the standard repertoire of lullabies at our house, and I've always sung it "sisterhood" to my boys.

Until recently, that is.  One night, Patch asked why the song was about sisters, since he had brothers.  Valid point.  I answered truthfully that I sang the song often with my Wellesley College sisters, so that's how I liked to sing it.  We debated what we could put in that blank, since singing "brotherhood," Patch reasoned, would make me sad since that's not how I liked to remember the song (smart cookie!).

For awhile we sang, "childhood," in honor of all children.  Then that became "personhood" to not exclude adults.  Lately, though, the preferred method is just for me to pause and each boy pick some kind of "-hood" they want to bestow upon the world.  Current favorites are "awesome-hood" (Wm) and "canine-hood" (Patch); Ian prefers a silent pause.

With the Wellesley debate tempered down after the March decision to admit trans-students but keep the pronouns in the feminine, and my own internal house debate about how to sing the song settled about the same time, I hadn't thought much about sisterhood in a few months.

Until I read in the WaPo this morning about Sweet Briar College's very likely final graduation ceremony and closing, that is.  The description and celebration of sisterhood resonated.  I hope the few remaining women's colleges open their doors to those women now searching for an institution at which to finish their studies.  And that the few women's colleges left can keep "crowning thy good with sisterhood" rather than hear the refrain of "another one bites the dust."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why do I make my life more difficult than it needs to be?

Patch will be entering KG this fall.  Yay.  Enrollment packet came home from school the day he had a doctor appointment, and I could actually drop the form off without having to make a second trip.  Double yay.  School gave me six weeks notice for our parent-child orientation day - ample time to take off from work.  Triple yay.  

Now I read the packet more carefully, with everything I have to prepare.  

Birth certificate or passport - check.  
Mortgage bill or other proof of residency - check.  
Social Security Card - um, weird, but ok, check. 

Then the kicker:

"If your child was not born in the United States, please contact the International Student Office at 301-230-0686 for an appointment prior to the dates of orientation.  Children born outside the United States cannot be enrolled without first going to the International Student office." 

Um, ouch.  

Now, I know that since Patch is a citizen jus sanguis - from his blood, the second he was born - I can pretty much tell you whatever this process is or Office is supposed do to, does not apply to him.  I can also tell you that if I showed up with this Certificate of Report of Birth Abroad, the school secretary would have no idea what to do with it.  

Now I am going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that when I call the office, they have enough experience with "international students" like Patch (this is a DC suburb, after all), that I don't actually have to make a special trip to have his status (which is "citizen") verified.  Let's hope!  But, I only have myself to blame for this, of course.

secret to keeping my mind sane

I did not succeed in March (at keeping myself sane), which should be evident because I did not post a single blog post.

But, April 1-7, I'm home for a combination of child-watching and vacation (Lea is back in the Philippines, getting a new visa and visiting family).  Last night, I realized that, since November, I hadn't been following my own advice.  And, this is why I was feeling out of sorts.

My secret to keeping sane, with all the boys and working?  Taking one day off per month to get done all those little things that mount up.  (In honestly, that is tip #2.  Tip #1 is being able to be lucky enough to have a nanny who does laundry, cleans, and cooks dinner.  Without that, I'd be crazy.)  I had been doing a good job all of 2014 in following this piece of advice.  But then we took a wonderful week at Thanksgiving in Texas.  And then I threw out my back and for mid-December through the end of Feb, I was having to juggle two physical therapy sessions per week, so no extra time off.

But yesterday, I was home.  It was crazy running around (and, I admit, I tried to squeeze too much in and didn't make it home in time to cook dinner ... though this sort of turned into a parenting win, because Wm got his long-time wish since he remembered the local pizza joint has kids movie night on Wednesdays).  But, I crossed off some of those little things (my hair cut, second opinion on some bumps Ian has, Ian's hair cut, sorting papers, and I'm sure some other things, too, given how busy I was) and went to sleep happy.

Note to self: don't forget to take that one day per month!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A missing glove, found

I love Japan.  Let's just get that out there, for those of you who didn't already know the obvious.  I leave, spend time in other countries, tell myself it doesn't bother me that I have yet to be assigned to Tokyo.  But, then I have an occasion to visit and, let's face it, I get sad.  Yes, I'm excited to be headed to Vietnam in 2016, and sure if I lived here there would be crazy things I'd remember that annoy me (just like in any place!) ... but Japan just has a special place in my heart.  

Today I walked out of my hotel, went about two blocks, and pulled out my gloves because it was a tad nippy.  Except I only had one glove.  My fingers are long, relative to the general American population, so this was more than a bit of a bummer, since it took me (and Greg - the winning ones were a Christmas present) quite some time to find them.  But, then I remembered that I had worn my gloves walking home last night from dinner, so there was a chance I had dropped it in the hotel.  Which meant there was a chance I could retrieve it on my return from brunch.  

This being Japan, of course the glove was there.  And, not only was the glove there, but the second I walked up to the bell captain's desk, with just one black leather glove in my hand, before I could even utter a word, he looked at me with a huge smile.  I started to ask, but he just said, "one moment please!"  He walked over to the lobby captain's desk, returning my glove, with such happiness as if reuniting my left glove with the right was the absolute best thing he was going to have accomplished all day.  

How can one not love Japan, with vignettes like that? 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Independence & Homework

I need my children to be independent. With three of them - and both of us working full time - independence is not a "nice to have" but an actual necessity, if I'm going to stay sane. Independence takes training.  Yes, it is definitely faster if I pull up my two year old's pants for him ... but then he never learns.  Yes, my oldest son has some cavities because he has brushed his teeth himself since age four, but at least they are in baby teeth and he is now listening to the dentist about how to properly brush his teeth.  The idea is that the investment in time (and, apparently money) will pay off later with kids who are able to take care of themselves.

This is why the second grade homework has annoyed me ALL YEAR.  While the activities could be done independently, they are not presented in such a way that he could do them himself.  The font is too small.  The chart to fill out is poorly labeled.  The instructions are too vague.  After the first two weeks of school, my son gave up on homework out of frustration.  He knew he wanted to do it, but he couldn't quite do it himself, and by the time we got home/ate dinner/bathed kids, it was too late for him to be able to concentrate.  On top of which, he one time saw his teacher throw the homework chart in the trash, from which he deduced that she didn't really care about his work.

And it wasn't worth the struggle for me.  I identified completely with this WaPo article.

Except this week, apparently his teacher finally spoke to him about the fact that he has not turned in a sheet since SEPTEMBER.  I had already informed her we wouldn't be doing the activities, and she had acquiesced, as long as he was reading and doing some math.  Since he reads -- and makes up elaborate box scores by quarter for basic math skills -- I figured we were fine.  We were, until now, I guess.

This homework chart, however, has been causing much consternation this past week.  So much, that Friday night he refused to eat dinner in the kitchen because then he would have to see the blank homework chart and be reminded that: (a) his teacher was disappointed with him and (b) he didn't know how to fix it because he couldn't do his homework himself.

After yesterday's meltdown, I realized I couldn't be quite so blasé about this homework situation, even if I did think the assignments were silly.  So, today, I took the 10 activities on the chart and typed/printed up 10 corresponding "worksheets."  He read the instructions and said he understood them.  We found a "homework folder," placed them in the folder, and agreed he could pick one worksheet each day when he got home from school.  He immediately recognized this wouldn't work on Wednesdays (Patch has piano then Wm has choir), so he asked me to remind Lea to bring the folder to piano so he can work on it there.

Independence regained.  Life back in balance.  Fingers crossed this new approach works.  Again, as with encouraging all independent activities, it will probably take about 30-60 minutes for me every other Saturday to transform the chart into worksheets, but that is a small price to pay for a kid independently completing his work.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

On raising feminist sons

After Ian was born, a friend commented how sad it was I only had boys, since I would be a good role model for daughters about charting one's own way.  Before I could jump in with any number of comments (first of which, honestly, is that most mothers, regardless of work-life choices, strive to be excellent role models for their daughters and I don't do the "mommy wars" debates because I really do believe every person, man or woman, should decide what is best for him or herself, and as long as he or she is responsible and contributing to society, what do you care? .... but I digress...), another friend sitting with us said, "what do you mean? Pam's sons will all grow up thinking moms and dads can do lots of things, so they'll be great spouses!"

Shortly after that, a different Foreign Service spouse mentioned how the two years she spent as a single parent, while her husband was in Saudi Arabia.  I noted my surprise, because the expat compounds in Saudi generally have a pretty family-friendly reputation.  She said she was just worried about the impression it would leave on her then-middle school aged sons, seeing their mom being restricted from doing some things (e.g., driving) or required to do other things (e.g., head scarves) that didn't apply to them or their dad.  And she didn't know how to parent through those situations.

Thankfully, I've never faced those kinds of decisions and really the only sexist comment I've heard from my kids to date is that "salad is for girls" (though, Uncle Andrew worked to dispel that theory last night).  And most days, honestly, "feminism" isn't really a subject of debate at our house.

I think a subtle message must be getting through, though.

Today at church, Wm was working on the kids pew-sheet handout, decoding a message.  He finished, and it read: "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law and about whom the prophets also wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

He immediately turned to me and asked why it didn't say "son of Joseph and Mary," since "isn't he just as much Mary's son."  (and, I replied, even more Mary's son, given the immaculate conception)  Then, he crossed out the period and added: ", Mary and God."

It's a work in progress (he's only seven after all!), but knock on wood things are on the right track.