Saturday, August 30, 2008

Our Story, Part V

(Go here for Part IV.)


That Friday night was January 29, 1993. My last night of being 18. Dan picked me up at my dorm, and we went back to his fraternity house to pre-party before going out to another party. The phone rang at his house, and it was for me. My roommate told me there was a package waiting for me at the dorm’s front desk. I told her I’d get it later, or maybe the next day. She said I had to come get it now – it was too big for the front desk to store overnight. What?! So Dan had to drive me back to the dorm to get the package.

I walked into the dorm, and there was a HUMONGOUS refrigerator box sitting in the middle of the lobby. It had my name and address written on it, in my mother’s handwriting. And all of a sudden, it moved. Then it started lifting itself up, and then one of my best friends from high school popped out from under it. My friend Sheila was in the box! I hugged her and squealed, then my parents appeared from behind a corner, videotaping it all. What a laugh! I hugged them, then introduced Dan. And that, my friends, is how Dan was ambushed into my family.

Sheila joined us that night and we all went to a party at the AEII fraternity house, along with some of my sorority sisters. Here’s another excerpt from my diary: “I got sort of quiet because it hit me about how much I care for Dan and also that I was about to be 19. He thought he had done something wrong and I just said I realized how much I needed him. He said he finally realized something also but he wasn’t sure if he should say it. So I said nothing and waited. He finally told me he loves me… Then I got so excited because I realized he must really love me. I mean, he waited until he was sure and until he felt it was right. He didn’t say it just to say it or because I said it.”

So simple, so matter-of-fact. He handed his heart to me on a silver platter, the best birthday present I’ve ever received. (Although the diamond studs he gave me for my 30th are pretty awesome too.)

The next day was my birthday, and my first “official” date with Dan. I had my camera with me since my friend Sheila was visiting, so I am one of the rare people who has a photo of herself and her husband on their first date. Good Lord, we were so young!

Check back later for Part VI.

Friday, August 29, 2008

First Book Report

I have the most amazing five-year-old in the world. Or at least in Missouri. Definitely on our street, no doubt about it. Why, you ask? She read a book by herself last night. All I had to do was help her pronounce the word "away." That was IT. Can't you tell that even Jackson was amazed?!

After reading the book (Cinderella at the Ball by Margaret Hillert), she had to write a book report on it. My heart was bursting with pride at her ability to spell and write. Here's a copy of the report:
She copied the book title and author letter by letter, then answered the questions herself. It says:
I liked the book because it max me happy tat they got mared (it makes me happy that they got married.)
A part I didn't like was when step.sistrs tot tey wr goweg to git the glasas slipr (stepsisters thought they were going to get the glass slipper.)
The picture she drew was of Cinderella in her lacy dress. And to top it off, the five blue smiley faces Katie drew are supposed to be the grade she gave herself. Five smileys mean you did excellent work. Isn't she funny?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

First Rollerskating, Or How I Lost Feeling in My Hand

Ouch. It hurts to type.

Wish I had remembered my camera tonight, but I didn't. So you'll have to just imagine Katie in rollerskates, and me walking beside her. Or, rather, me trying to walk beside her while she clings to my arm and clutches my hand like a dying man clutches to breath. Seriously. The first trip around the ring was funny. We both enjoyed the novelty of trying to stay upright while the world rolled beneath her feet. I laughed a lot, and was so glad I came. "What fun to experience new things with Katie!" I thought to myself.

We made it three times around the ring, then my arm lost feeling and my back was spasming. Not so much fun anymore. Ouch! The things we do (and the pain we endure) to build lasting memories for our children. Note to self: next time, don't wear Croc flip flops. Steel-toed boots would be better.

Truly, I would do it again. But next time we're buying those beginner skates (the kind that have wheels that only spin in one direction: forward) and bringing those with us. It'll save us both lots of pain and grief!

Bigs Help Littles

Last night, I said a prayer of thankfulness to God that my children are almost four years apart in age. I was trying to get ready for Moms' Night Out, and trying to feed dinner to the kids while Dan finished mowing the lawn. I came into the kitchen and this is what I saw:

My sweet, grown-up Katie had moved around the table to my seat so she could feed dinner to Jackson and entertain him. Thank you, God, that she is not only self-sufficient, but has empathy and a helpful heart!

And then at the park today, Jackson paid it forward by trying to feed his little friend Baby Alex. Life is good when the bigs help the littles!
Isn't that a great way to look at the world? We are so much better off when we use our experience and generosity to spread blessings to each other.

Our Story, Part IV

(Go here for Part III.)

After that night at the fraternity party with Dan, we spent the next day (Sunday) together. I don’t remember much about it. I’m sure we studied or ate or did something fun together. Who knows! But I do remember the next night, Monday.

After classes, I invited Dan to my dorm room to study with me. (Boys were allowed in your room, but only until a certain hour.) We studied a bit, but I think we did more talking than studying. Here’s what I wrote in my diary about that day: “I told him to look into my eyes and tell me what I felt for him. So he looked into my eyes for a few seconds and asked, ‘Do you love me?’ I was completely awed! I mean, he knew! He guessed without me saying a word! I think that shows how close I think we are, doesn’t it?”

PUT THE BRAKES ON! Wow! Can you believe I actually told the guy I loved him after only “truly” knowing him for two days?! Aack! Even now, I don’t think I knew what I was saying. I might have felt infatuated by him, but I had no idea what love was at the time. (At least not compared to what I know now.)

In any case, Dan did not respond in kind. Here’s the conclusion of what I wrote in my diary: “So I told him, but he didn’t say anything back. That sort of upset me at the moment, but I realized later that it’s good he didn’t say ‘those words’ back because then he wouldn’t have meant them. By not saying it, he showed me how honest he is and that he wouldn’t say something just to say it if he didn’t truly feel it. The next morning when I got up, I thought about what I said and I realized that I was happy I had done it. Then I realized the biggest thing of all: I must truly care a whole heck of a lot for him because it didn’t bother me anymore that he didn’t say ‘I love you’ back. And that’s how I know this is real (for me, at least).”

The rest of that week was spent pretty much glued to each other’s hips. We met at the library to study and talk, and spent all our free time together. We made plans for our first real date that coming weekend, which was also the weekend of my 19th birthday. We were going to a different fraternity party on Friday night, then Saturday was the big date. He had asked me to go on his fraternity’s date party. However, it didn’t go quite as planned.

Check back later for Part V.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Our Story, Part III

(Go here for Part II.)

The rest of my first semester in college was spent going to class, socials, and exploring the campus. Every now and then I’d run in to Dan at some party or a sorority function (he knew a lot of girls in my house and ended up going to a lot of my date parties). At first, I was so completely embarrassed to see him. I had thrown myself at him and gotten rejected. When I first started running in to him, I’d kind of give a sheepish smile and bolt out of his presence as soon as possible. After a little while, it kind of turned into a shrug and a wave, but not much else.

The semester ended and I went home for Christmas. I got my grades, which weren’t so hot. They weren’t awful (a 3.21 GPA), but I knew I was capable of much more – and I better start performing if I was going to get into the Journalism School. When I started my second semester, I vowed to clean up my act. No more dating, and I needed to scale back my social calendar.

Over Christmas break, my sorority pledge mom and her long-term boyfriend (Dan’s fraternity brother) had broken up. She came back to school broken-hearted, and knew there was a party that very first weekend between the Phi Psis and another fraternity. She wanted “revenge” of sorts, so she talked me and two of my pledge sisters into going to the party. Here’s a photo of us before we went out that night. The date was January 23, 1993.

Pretty much as soon as we walked into the door of the party, my pledge mom and her boyfriend were back together. So that left me and my two pledge sisters to our own devices. We started mingling and met some guys, and started dancing after a while. I was dancing with this guy Kyle (also a Phi Psi), and we had been dancing together for quite a few songs. After a bit, this girl comes up and says to him, “I’m going to tell Misty what you’re doing!!!” I said, “Whoa! Who was that?!” And he replied, “My girlfriend’s roommate.” Oops. I told him he better get a move on, and he high-tailed it out of there.

That left me by myself in the middle of a song, while my friends were off dancing with other boys they had met. I went over and stood against the wall, feeling so out of place. After a few minutes, that Dan guy walked up and said hello, and asked if I wanted to dance. Of course I said yes, because I had gotten over most of my embarrassment by then. I think the first song we ever danced to was “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants. And the second song was the epic “American Pie” by Don McLean.

Dan and I had a great time dancing and talking, and we stayed up until around 3am. It was a great night, and we hit it off from there.

Check back later for Part IV.

Falling in Love

It's happening. Not that it didn't already. But now I'm amazed by it because in comparison to the last year or so, these moments have been few and far between.

I'm falling in love with my little man, Jackson. He is changing so much, and becoming enjoyable. The first year or so of a baby's life isn't so enjoyable to me - too much crying and dependence and nursing and poop. But now Jackson is learning independence, and really endearing himself to me.

There isn't one specific thing he's doing that is making him oh-so-lovable; he's just all-around cute. I love how he points and says, "Wa dat?" Or how he jabbers away with words only he understands. I love how his face lights up every time he sees me, as if I am his entire world. (I love that I can see that he loves me!) I love being chased by him through the house while he's wearing oven mitts. I even like some of the annoying things he does, like sneaking up and stealing the mouse when I'm on the computer.

I feel like we're on the cusp of all the fun parts of childhood now. Yes, I know, we're not out of the woods of difficulty yet. There will still be plenty of days of frustration and tears (mine), but it's nice to just stop and exhale for a moment and appreciate where we are. And as soon as the moment comes, it's over. Pushed aside in the never-ending marathon race of raising children.

By the way, thanks Mom-101 for the Truth About Two. My favorite quote: "You forgot that it takes time to know a person before you can truly love her with all your being." I read that post and realized I feel the same way, so I had to write about it too!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Story, Part II

(Go here for Part I.)

That Friday was September 25, 1992. The very first memory I have of Dan is that I was standing on the lawn of the fraternity house (an old cattle plantation house) in the dark during a party. I was there with sorority sisters, talking to the Phi Psi brothers, and remember being introduced to this guy named Dan. I thought he was pretty cute, and kind of talked to him for a bit, jockeying for a spot next to him. After talking for a few minutes, he said he needed to go inside to get a drink.

And THIS is where the story veers off the path for a moment, because Dan HATES it when I tell the story in chronological order. He hates that I leave a very important detail until the end, so for posterity’s sake (and to appease my sweet husband), for once I’ll give the “punch line” now. Then you’ll see how it fits in later.

The important detail is that, unbeknownst to me, Dan had a girlfriend at the time. Dinah was her name. Nice girl. I ended up getting to know her later, and she married one of Dan’s frat brothers too. But that’s neither here nor there.

So here I am, on the front lawn of a frat house, trying to talk to this very cute guy. He says he needs to go inside, and I (being the forward person I am) suggest that I go with him. He kind of hemmed and hawed for a moment, but I went with him anyway. Of course I didn’t go by myself! I took my pledge sister Julie with me. We went upstairs and Dan led us out onto the roof so we could overlook the party. We sat down, and I was in the middle between Dan and Julie. After talking for a bit, I (being the forward person I am) reached down and held Dan’s hand. That went on for a little bit longer, then he said he needed to go inside to get another drink. Julie and I decided to wait outside for him. But after a while, we realized he wasn’t coming back. I could see through the house windows that he was talking to some other people who had brought the party inside. I dragged Julie inside too, and sidled on up to Dan as if I owned him. He was talking to some other girl, and I needed to “stake my claim.” So I tried to get in on their conversation (being the forward person that I am), but realized he wasn’t really responding to me. After a while, I pulled Dan aside and said, “Hey, do you want me to just leave you alone?” He kind of shrugged, so I realized I had been dissed and I told Julie it was time for us to leave. And that was that.

Here’s where the important detail comes in. That girl he was talking to? Yep. That was Dinah. Wow. (Of course, I didn’t know that until a LONG time later.)

Check back later for Part III.

New Haircut

I got my haircut this past week. I didn't like it at first, because I thought it was too short. But I got home and showered and let my curls take over, and now I like it so much more!

Back in the day, I used to fight my curls and straighten my hair. But since I had kids, I slowly stopped fighting and let my natural curls have their way with me. I don't think I've "let myself go" per se, because I still try to make an effort to look nice, wear makeup, and glance in the mirror at least once before I head out the door (although it might not look like it some days). But I think I've "let my curls go" instead of fighting their natural tendency. I'm putting the energy I used for fighting my curls into other, more important battles.

And the funny thing is now with my hair cut shorter and my curls running loose, I think I look more like my mom than I ever have in my life. It's kind of eerie.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Our Story, Part I

One day, I would like for my kids to know the story of how their parents met. And I'd like for it to be relatively clear to them, not muddled up in their minds (like the story of my parents is - they met under a beer garden table? Huh?). So my plan is to bore the heck out of the 9 blog readers I have, and write Our Story - in installments. Humor me, okay y'all? It's for my babies!

So... here we go!

I grew up in Georgia, in a suburb of Atlanta called Marietta. It's the Home of the Big Chicken. Yep. It's a "big chicken." Really. (We're pretty descriptive in the South.) Anyway... this is not My Story, is it? I'll try to move quickly onto the "Our" part, but you gotta have a little background to understand the "how."

I decided I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up, and work in TV news. So I went to the University of Missouri-Columbia, the best broadcast journalism school in the nation. Ahem. I had lived my whole life in Georgia (with the exception of my first 3 months or so), and heading off to school in Missouri without anyone nearby was both terrifying and exciting. I had no one to answer to but me. Yeehaw! Here's a photo of me and some of my "posse" (ha!) on the day I left for Mizzou:

I went through sorority rush, and pledged Alpha Omicron Pi. Those first few months were a blur for me, going a little wild spreading my wings and finding myself. I remember lots of parties, sorority date nights and meeting so many new people. About a month after school started, my sorority participated in the Phi Kappa Psi philanthropy event. A philanthropy event is the fundraiser for that sorority or fraternity's cause. (My sorority's cause is rheumatoid arthritis.) Each Greek philanthropy lasts about a week, during which there are silly events for raising money. The Phi Psi 500 required participating sororities to do things like an obstacle race, buy event t-shirts, perform serenades & skits, and decorate our sorority house. This is a photo I took of our house the week we did the Phi Psi 500:

When a sorority does a fraternity's philanthropy, they get two or three frat members assigned to them as their "coach" or liasion or whatever. When AOII (my sorority) did the "Phi Psi 500," we had three coaches assigned. One of them was this guy named Dan. I think he was only our coach in title, not in presence because he was busy that week with school work. So I didn't meet him until Friday night of that week, at a party on the Phi Psi house front lawn. This is where the "Our" part of the story starts.

Check back later for Part II.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yes to Us

(I jotted this down last night, before passing out in bed.)

We're exhausted, at least I am. We've said yes to helping others or volunteering or whatever too many times, at the expense of each other. At the expense of time together, alone. We collapse in to bed and here's our only in-person conversation of the day. Me: "I didn't get a chance to ask how your day was." He: "Fine. Normal stuff."

And that's it - the extent of our existence as a husband and wife today. We have to learn to say no to others, and yes to us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fun Links

I really should be doing something productive with my time. Jackson is napping and I have only 30 minutes until Katie arrives back home. I have lots on my To Do List (write Grandmother, balance checkbook, edit a church memo... on and on), but I'm futzing around with a link that I found through Reiza's Stepping Off the Spaceship blog.

She has a link to this website called In4mador, and people go post links to other cool web features. I already made a Bob Dylan sign video, played with the Idea Generator and also the Cubescape, and made personalized money.
And now I want to go use the Official Seal Generator. Ooo, fun. I would not recommend going to this In4mador site unless you have time to spare. And I don't. So I need to Just. Walk. Away.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Perfection

Let me get some random thoughts out of my head:

First, we got a new bed. We returned the foamy tempurpedic-type one to Costco (thankfully, they have a great return policy) and bought a new one. Last night was our first night in the new bed. I didn't feel 100% better when I woke up, but I did feel greatly improved. So that's a blessing!

Secondly, we had to buy a new (used) beer fridge after our old one was unsalvageable. Dan found a good deal at a scratch-and-dent store, and we had some money leftover from the bed return to cover most of it. Dan is currently out in the garage moving it into place and re-stocking it. I'll be glad to have an extra fridge on hand. And, yes, I do realize how blessed we are to have an abundance of refrigerators in our house. Some people in the world don't have running water, much less ONE fridge. We have two. We are privileged by the standards in many parts of the world.

Okay, now that those little "housekeeping" details are out of the way, I have come to the title of this post: perfection. It's a lie. Truly. I was talking with two friends of mine yesterday, and one of them said she and another friend were talking about me and how I appear to have it all together. And even when it seems things are starting to implode, I look CALM. I about snorted in her face. I mean, it's nice to get a compliment like that, but it's such a reminder that looks can be deceiving. That made me realize there are so many of us moms who are trying to put off this air that we have it all under control, when we're actually living a lie. And, to me, living the lie is one of the worst things you could do - to yourself, and to others who are watching you.

I remember the first few months after Katie was born. I was so (soooooo!) disillusioned and thought something was wrong with me. How could a new mommy feel anything but bliss? Isn't that the story I'd been told to expect over and over by reading all those parenting magazines and watching my friends? (The few of them I knew who actually had kids at that point.) Oh. My. Gosh. If someone, anyone, had just given me a little glimpse into motherhood, and let me see some of the cracks that exist in the mirror of "perfection." If someone had just told me that motherhood isn't all fluffy teddy bears and cooing. Do you have any idea how much angst that could have spared me, not to mention my poor husband?! (Thank you again, Dan!) To be honest, maybe someone did say it wasn't all fluffy, and I chose to ignore them. I mean, really. I knew what I was getting myself into, didn't I? (Ha!) Of course I know what it's like to get no sleep. I've been to college and pulled all-nighters. (Can't you just see the young, naive version of me patting myself on the back? Puh-lease.)

So let me be one of the first to tell those of you out there: motherhood is NOT perfection. Some days it's just survival. You will spend the rest of your life wracked by guilt over the silliest and most serious of things: did I cause the diaper rash by not changing the diaper early enough, or was it something I ate before I nursed the baby? What if the one beer I had 18 hours ago taints my milk? Should I pump and dump for another 6 hours, just in case? Should I choose this daycare/babysitter/preschool/private school/Kindergarten instead of that one? What if the Teflon coating on my cookware is causing cancer? Should I use only organic milk? What about the safety of plastics and hot dogs and soy? Should I let him cry it out? What if... should I? But... AAGH!
Another crack in the mirror of perfection: some days you will wish you could have your pre-baby life back. Some days you will be selfish, and put your needs above everyone else in the family. (And then sometimes you'll feel guilt over THAT too!) Sometimes, the baby's cries will send you over the edge, and you'll have to go out on the front stoop and cry - no matter that all the neighbors are watching you teeter on the edge of sanity. Remember, you're just trying to survive. Screw perfection!

Why oh why do some of us feel the need to put on a mask and pretend we're perfect? I truly don't think I've pretended to be perfect. I thought I let my warts and hairy backside show all the time. But as my friend revealed yesterday, apparently I haven't let all of the "sucks to be me" show.

So, I think it's time to change that. Let's be real, people. I'm going to vow to let it all hang out, imperfections and guilt and cluelessness. Wanna join me? Leave me a comment and tell me the ways you aren't perfect. Let's commiserate so we can come out stronger, realizing we are all flawed and imperfect but full of beauty nonetheless.

Bloggy Winner

Today my Bloggy Giveaway winner, Gretchen, received the photo bracelet I made for her. I'm happy that she's happy, and that she promises to wear it all the time. Yay!

Go see what she wrote, and a photo of the bracelet on her wrist. And if you want one of your own, let me know! I can email you all the details on how to order one.

Thanks, Gretchen!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Temporary

I've had better weekends. This one wasn't as bad as last weekend, but wasn't my best either. Katie was feeling much better by Saturday morning, so that was good. Dan spent LOTS of time trying to fix our beer fridge, but it was all a lost cause. That was a bummer (the wasted time and the dead fridge.) But I think what made it a "bad" weekend in my mind was Jackson being his usual clingy self. Does anyone else get frustrated when their one-year-old won't let go?! Or is it just me, The Bad Mommy?

Yes, I have a need to feel needed. I recognize that. But I just wish I could put a limit on it, because I'm feeling way more than needed; I'm feeling downright CONSUMED. Like I can't breathe. Like I can't see straight. Exhausted. And I fight it, and fight Jackson's clinginess. I wonder if maybe that makes him want to cling even more. Dan says Katie was this bad too, but the difference is I was still working part-time and had an outlet back then.

So... this morning as I was trying to clean the waffle iron (while holding Jackson's 25 pounds on my hip, as usual), I remembered the advice my sister gave me when the postpartum depression set in after Katie was born. Katie was about 10 days old, and Mary told me, "You'll never have a 10-day-old Katie again." I think she was trying to get me to treasure the moments, but the truth is it gave me hope. The good news was that I'll never have a 10-day-old Katie again! That was one of the few thoughts that kept me going in the "early days." I thought of that advice again this morning, reminding myself that I'll never have a clingy 16-month-old Jackson again. It's all fleeting when you look back on it... although it isn't fleeting when you're in the middle of it. (It truly feels eternal.)

Then the pastor said something at church today that resonated with me. She was talking about how people question where God is in the midst of pain, suffering, illness, poverty, hunger, and war. She talked about the freedom God gave us to choose Him, and how that freedom allows evil (and evil choices) in the world. She said God's answer to that evil is that it's all just temporary, because of the ultimate answer of redemption that He offers us in Christ. She said that to the person who is hungry, God's answer is, "Temporary." To the person in pain, temporary. To the person who feels alone or who is grieving or who is tortured or who is lost, the answer is temporary. I felt like she should add one for me: to the mommy who feels that today will never end, God is telling you it's temporary.

I think I'm going to frame that word and place it on my wall somewhere I can see it often. May it remind me to savor the temporary, and praise God that it IS all just temporary.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quite a Day

My day started with, "Mommy? There's a wet spot in my bed." Katie had leaked a little bit, and didn't make it to the potty on time. It happens when she's sleeping deeply, but not as often these days. So I spent the first 15 minutes of the day changing sheets and comforters and starting laundry.

Then Katie and I had breakfast, and Jackson woke. I ran up to get him, only to hear Katie start crying that she spilled her milk. When I came downstairs, I found she had spilled it ALL over. So Mommy got the job of cleaning it all up. Ugh.

Then things were okay for a bit: Katie on the bus, morning walk, shower, nap (Jackson, not me), playdate and lunch at a great park with good friends. And then my phone rang. It was the school nurse, saying Katie had a tummy ache. I talked to her on the phone and she started crying, so Jackson and I drove up to school. I thought for sure she was faking it. She even told me she didn't like the way I did her hair this morning (two ponytails), and that's why her tummy hurt. As I was negotiating with her about returning to class, she grabbed her stomach and said she had to throw up, and the nurse handed me a bucket. Just in time. Blech. Guess she wasn't faking, huh? We got out of there as fast as we could and she came home and crashed on the couch within minutes, sleeping for two hours straight. She puked again after she woke from her nap, but then seemed much better about three hours later. I let her have crackers and a banana for dinner, and she seemed okay for a little while. Then she started looking a little more peaked about an hour later, so we sent her to bed. She's there now, and so far it's been quiet.

The other bummer of the day is that our beer fridge in the garage (where we store beer, among other things like Cokes and marinating meat) pooped out. Dan's trying to figure out the problem, but it might be dead for good. After all, it's at least 15 or 20 years old. I inherited it when Mom died. I hope it can be fixed because we don't have the income to buy a new fridge right now! (We're buying gas for our cars instead, like all of you are too, I'm sure.)

But there is one small ray of light: I was super-efficient today, in between dumping buckets of puke, and trying to drink all the beer before it got warm. (Ha, just kidding.) I made six new custom shirts, plus I finished the photo bracelet for my Bloggy Giveaway winner. Yay! I feel so much more calm and at peace when I finish projects.

Let's hope the kids sleep through the night tonight, and the puking is over. Then I'll be REALLY calm and at peace tomorrow!

P.S. One more small ray of light in my day: Jackson's scab on his skinned nose fell off today. Poor kid looks like he takes a beating, doesn't he?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Katie is Awesome!

Every day, I am reminded in some way or another that Katie is an amazing person.

On Monday, I was in her classroom and her teacher told me she is the best reader "by far" in the entire class. You have no idea how a compliment like that makes my heart sing. I know Katie's accomplishments are her own, but is it wrong for me to share in some of it? It's gratifying to hear that she is above-average, because it means that Dan and I did something right these past five years.

I also put those Post-It note sight words on our wall (the ones that you can buy at the store now), and she read every single one to me, rapid-fire. No hesitation. Last Friday, she also read a book (that she doesn't have memorized), all the way through by herself. It was the Biscuit early reader book. I can't believe how much she's learning in school, and how that's transferring to her learning at home. Every day she comes home with a new rule she's learned, or a new song about colors, or a new skill (like labeling all the items in her drawings).
video
Yesterday, I was also reminded that Katie has such a generous heart. She came home from school and we were getting ready to go to the library. She was coloring a picture, and said she wanted to take it to the library-Ann. (She pronounced "librarian" like it had a middle name.) She finished coloring it in the car, and I decided to take her for a treat to Lion's Choice before we headed to the library. We were in the drive through getting our mini cones, and she said, "Wait! I want to give my picture to him!" (The teenager working the drive through window.) I passed the photo to the guy who had the typical teen boredom look on his face, and told him that my daughter wanted to give him a picture she drew. His face broke out in a big grin, and Katie yelled from the back seat, "My name's Katie!" I rolled down her window so she could tell him again, and he thanked her for the photo. I love that she has a kind and generous heart, and that she likes to give and make other people smile.

After the library, I took Katie to the pool. She was content to do handstands in the shallow end where I was sitting, and search underwater for dive sticks and treasures. She had such great manners: she didn't interrupt my conversations, apologized if she splashed me or Sheryl, and didn't fight with friends. On the way home, we saw a bunny in the yard and I asked if she knew how to spell bunny. Her answer: "B-U-Y-Y-N." So matter-of-fact. Then she corrected herself. She's a smart cookie!

I am amazed and in awe at this brilliant little five-year-old who has appeared in our lives. She is truly my pride and joy, and radiates light from her wonderful spirit. She's incredible. Awesome. Unbelieveable. Man, I love her!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where's Your...

Dan taught Jackson some new tricks. One day Jackson was wearing a romper with Spiderman on it, and Dan asked him "Where's Spiderman?" He taught Jackson to look down and point at his shirt. It's pretty cute.

Dan was also sitting with Jackson last week, and Jackson pointed to Dan's nipples. Dan told him they are called "nipples" and then Jackson pointed at his own. Then this weekend at the pool, Jackson was pointing at Dan's nipples again. Dan said "nipple" and then Jackson tried to point at his own. Except he was wearing his floaty. And this is the photo I took:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I'm Angry

I'm angry. And I'm surprised that I'm angry. I haven't felt anger over this particular issue for a good five years, if not a decade.

I'm pissed off that my brother is dead. And my mom. And my dad. I was thinking about them today, and just having a little bit of general melancholy. The problem is that when the melancholy sets in, I'm not always sure who I'm melancholy for. Jackson? Mom? Dad? So it turns into a mourning session for all three, and that puts me into a tailspin. And then I sometimes feel guilty that I miss one more than the others, as if maybe I didn't love one of them enough. Having three bastard children of grief is pretty darn exhausting. I can't decide who's the neediest at any given moment, so I just bathe all three of them in sorrow. Kind of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Anyway... my point today is that I'm mad. I keep repeating to myself, "It's not FAIR." (As if death should only affect those who deserve it? Would that be no one or everyone?) It's not fair that my brother is gone, and didn't get to live a long life. Twenty-six years is too damn short. Seriously. I know he packed a lot into those 26 years, but come ON. Twenty-six is never enough. What about the trips he didn't get to take? The wars he didn't get to fight? (He was in the Army and disappointed that he didn't see combat.) What about the baseball games he missed, the songs that came out on the radio after he died that he never heard? What about the holidays and the birthdays and the nieces and nephews? What about being there when Mom and Dad died? (Mary and I could have really used him then!) What about the marathons he didn't run and the beers he didn't brew? IT'S NOT FAIR.

Sometimes I wish lives were a commodity that could be bought or traded for this specific purpose. I'd love to take the unappreciated life that a suicidal person decided wasn't worthy and swap it with my brother's. Wouldn't that make more sense? Give the life you don't want to someone who DOES want it. Everybody ends up happy. Ha.

For the last 12 years, I've been through all stages of grief: denial, acceptance, bargaining, blah, blah, blah. And I've hit the anger too, but it wasn't one of the stages I stayed in as long as some of the others. After some in-depth counseling, I was finally able to come to terms with my grief. I came to accept it as a part of my life that was just going to be there until I died. My grief was painful, but also a great motivator and a great teacher. (Twelve years ago, I would have never used those words to describe it! That shows you how much I've grown.) I have learned to live with it, and learned to live with the pity and sympathy that people pass my way when they hear my awful history. I've learned not to offend people by talking about my grief too much. I keep it to myself, and only bring it up every so often. (Although by reading this blog, you'd think I talk about it ALL THE TIME. I've been writing about my deceased family a lot!)

But for some reason today, the anger bubbled back up through the acceptance that I've formed like a callous after so many years. My anger kind of surprised me. Who knew I was still pissed off?

And just now, as I'm writing about it and getting it out of my head, the anger is dissipating somewhat. I still feel it a bit between my shoulder blades, but it's more like a "would you look at that" feeling. I'm saying to myself, "Huh. Guess you are a little pissed off. And who wouldn't be? You just go on ahead being mad and soak it in. Cry some tears because you're right: it ISN'T fair. It sucks. Yeah. It sucks."

And there's not much else to say about that. It sucks. I miss him. And her. And him. Which baby should I attend to today?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Have You?

I found a new blogger named Janera that I'm enjoying reading or, rather, she found me by entering my giveaway last week. I've been reading her blog and loving her Southern Style Writing (sounds like a menu item!). Now I'm copying one of her posts, and I want you to do it too! That means all y'all with a blog. Got it? Jen Cherry? Brina? Catrina? Danielle? Kelley? Robin? And even my new bloggy friends like Gretchen and Kara. All y'all! And then come post a link for me in my comments and let me know you did it so I can go read yours too!

Just copy and paste this list in your blog, and bold the things that you have done. Here's my list:
01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
(if layovers count)
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten tipsy on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
(not uncontrollable, but it was still awkward b/c it was during my wedding vows)
28. Bet on a winning horse (Sigma Derby!)
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse of both the sun and moon
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
(Doesn’t my Southern accent count? Even though I've lost it now...)
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had/Have amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
(Wonder Woman every day!)
58. Sung karaoke (ouch!)
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted a river
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in a Rocky Horror Picture Show
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a TV game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept 30 hours in a 48 hour time frame
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read “The Iliad”
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
(if working at KBIA in college counts)
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Welcome, Baby S!

I got a text message on my cell phone today, with the above photo attached. My brother's widow, Bonnie, delivered her baby this morning. Note the date: it's 08/08/08. And guess what? The delivery was at 8:08am. I don't know any other details - weight or length or name or anything. I'm still waiting to hear back from the proud papa.

I'm going to indulge my self-pity for a moment (or more). When I got the text, I burst into tears. I knew Bonnie was due today and I've been anticipating the news any day now. But I oh-so-badly wish the circumstances were just a tiny bit different. Is that wrong of me?

Please don't read that and think I don't like Bonnie's husband, John. That's not the case! From what I can tell by meeting him at their wedding and corresponding by email, he loves her and is a good man. But I can still wish that it were my brother calling with the news that Bonnie has given birth. I can even hear his voice on the phone, telling me, "Hey, Pooz! We did it! It's a boy!"

My tears were for Jackson, and for all that he didn't get to experience before he died. And my tears are, selfishly, for me too... and all I lost when he died. All the could've-beens and what-ifs that I usually refrain from thinking about are flooding into my brain today. I try to live my life without regret, but every now and then I indulge my "if only" thoughts. If only the cancer had waited just one more year before the onset. If only Bonnie and Jackson had had a baby before the cancer came. If only there were a cure.

I had these same types of thoughts when I went to Bonnie's wedding last September. I was so very excited for her, excited that she had finally found someone after 11 years of living with a hole in her heart from missing my brother. And I was excited that she found John. This is a man who emailed me to tell me how excited he was to meet Jackson's sister. He said he owed a debt to my brother, for making Bonnie the woman she is today. Can you believe it? Some men would rather just ignore Bonnie's baggage, but John embraced it and, what's more, appreciated its value in his new wife's life. Wow. That's when I knew that Bonnie had made a good choice. BUT (and that's a big BUT) that didn't stop me, my sister and one of my brother's high school friends from sobbing through their entire wedding. Seriously. I had the sup-sups big time. I was an emotional wreck for the entire evening, thinking about the could've-beens. Ugh.

So, again, today is a joyous, wonderful, blessed occasion. But like so many things in my life these days, it is tinged with a little bit of sadness. I'll forever think of the people I've lost in contrast to the ones that I've gained. Can't have a rainbow without the rain, right?

This leaves one simple little question: what do I call Bonnie and John's new son? I guess technically he could be my nephew, but technically he isn't. I'm sure one day when he's older, he'll wonder who the heck I am and how I even know him. I'll tell him that I'm just some crazy woman who wishes the best for his life, and that I know he holds the promise of a new future for his mommy and daddy.

Welcome, little man. I can't wait to hear more about you, and see you grow!

Naptime

I'm undecided: should I continue Jackson's morning nap, or is it time to give it up cold turkey? Right now he's up in his room, alternately cooing and fussing. So today it seems he's made the decision for me. But yesterday he took an hour and a half morning nap, followed by a two hour afternoon nap. I thought for sure he wouldn't sleep well last night, but he slept straight through (something he's been doing since he got back from Grandma's this past weekend).

About two weeks ago, I decided to stop the morning nap because he wasn't sleeping through the night. I thought he needed less daytime sleep and more nighttime sleep. It didn't help that week, so the following week (last week), I followed the morning nap routine. Same thing this week, and he's been doing okay so far.

And as I'm writing this, it seems the blessed child has quieted down and *might* be settling into a nap. Too bad I have to wake him in 40 minutes to head out for a firehouse tour!

I guess I'll just stick with the routine for now. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it. And, besides, I really like having some extra alone time in the morning so I can shower after my walk and make lunches for the day. Oh, and blog. Tee hee.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zerberts

I caught Jackson on video doing one of the funniest things. If you lay on your back on the floor, Jackson will run over, pull your shirt up, and give you a zerbert on your belly. And he gives GOOD, juicy zerberts. It's so funny, and makes me laugh every time. Which makes him laugh too!

video

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I Stayed on Green

I forgot to write yesterday to follow up on Katie's yellow day last Thursday. She came home on Friday and ran off the bus and into my arms yelling, "I stayed on green!" Then when we got home and she had coloring time, this is the letter she wrote me:
It says, "I love you! Mommy I stad on gren." Then she drew a happy face and a sad face, and then crossed out the sad face to show that she's happy instead.
Yesterday was a green day also. I'm hoping we're on a roll now!
P.S. Go check out the blog train!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer Fun Photo Contest

I saw that my friend Danielle entered a photo in a contest, and I want to enter one of mine too! The prize is $500. Woo hoo!

This is a photo of Katie from this past weekend when we were at the Lake of the Ozarks. I caught her in mid-air as she was sliding down into the lake. I think it was her favorite part of the whole weekend!

Go check out the other entries at 5 Minutes for Mom. Let me know if you enter the contest too. I'd love to see your photos!

Weekend Getaway

We had a great weekend away. We went to the Lake of the Ozarks with our friends Beth and Sean, and their two boys and Beth's parents (who own the lake house). Jackson stayed with Grandma and Poppy, since I really didn't feel up to chasing a 1 year old through a nice house and keeping him away from the water and the boat and all that. And, to be honest, I wanted to relax without Jackson around, since he consumes so much of my energy. I have a bit of guilt over the decision to leave him at home while we take a "family" vacation, but I also know that I need to fill up my own gas tank before I can take care of anyone else.

Anyway, it was a nice weekend. I loved just being able to ride in the car with Dan and Katie, and have a full conversation without any interruptions (Katie was watching a movie in the back). Or to not have a conversation too! We listened to music and just chilled on the ride there and the ride back. And I also worked on a new shirt for Katie.


Saturday morning, I got to sleep in just a little and woke to Dan and Sean cooking everyone omelets. Yum! Then Beth and I went shopping for about two hours at the outlet mall, and came home for lunch and swimming in the lake. Katie had a blast sliding into the lake and jumping off the dock. The adults sat on noodles and drank some beverages and enjoyed the sun. That night, Beth's parents used the boat to drive us out to dinner at a restaurant called Dog Days. Riding the boat reminded me of all the summers I spent at my parents' lakehouse when I was growing up. I used to love laying on the boat and getting a tan while Dad drove us everywhere. There's nothing like relaxing and getting a tan (without the heat, since the boat was always going so fast) and letting the "rrrrrrr" of the boat motor lull you to sleep. I knew even way back then that it was a memory in the making. I used to close my eyes and breathe in the air and tell myself to remember this. Even then, I knew it was special. So on the way to dinner Saturday night, I closed my eyes and breathed in and told myself, "Remember this. You are so blessed."


On the way home from dinner, I sat up at the front of the boat with Katie and the boys. We rode those waves, pretty hard. The Lake of the Ozarks is a very popular lake with lots of boats and wave runners and activity, so the water is choppy. After a while, Katie and Ryan stopped enjoying the boat ride and said they wanted to go home and get off. Poor kids! We got them home and let them watch TV while we assembled a new bunk bed for the lakehouse. Then the kids were off to bed while the adults stayed up to watch the worst movie ever: Shoot 'em Up. Ugh. It was soooo bad, I can't even describe it.

On Sunday, we had breakfast out and then shopped a little bit more and took the kids for go-kart rides. We finished with one last dip in the lake. Then Dan and Katie and I had to leave so we could get home to pick up Jackson. All in all, it was a nice weekend break from the regular world, and a nice chance for us to spend time with Katie. It also brought back lots of good memories of my own lake adventures. I'm glad that we can start making memories like that for Katie too!

It's the Bed!

Yay! It's not me! Remember how I posted about my achy joints and stiffness? We spent the weekend out of town and I slept on a regular mattress. I woke both mornings feeling 100% better! I could actually pop out of bed without having to creep-creep-creep and shuffle my feet until my joints got lubed up. I'm so glad! Of course, I still had a little bit of creakiness, which I think is just middle-age setting in. (Ugh!) It's the same creakiness I had back in May before we got the foamy bed. I'll gladly take that creakiness over all this pain and stiffness!

I called Costco and we can return the bed, so that's great news too. Now we just have to figure out how to stuff the thing back into one of our cars and get it back to the store. AND we'll have to figure out how to get a new bed at the same time.

It's almost like getting a second lease on life. Here I was, convinced I'd have to go see my rheumatologist again and start taking medication for the rest of my life. I felt like that proverbial trigger had been pulled, and I couldn't dodge the bullet anymore. So to feel better again is such a relief, and makes me realize how very lucky I am to have a healthy, pain-free, functioning body.

Thanks to those of you who left me comments with all your concerns and suggestions on things to try. I appreciate all the love!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Giveaway Winner

Gretchen! I loved her feedback throughout my blog, and I look forward to making her a photo bracelet to wear on her many travels.

Thanks to all of you who participated in my giveaway. I know this sounds cheesy, but your comments really lifted my spirits and I think I'll be making lasting friendships with some of you. I think I'm the one who won the contest! Don't be surprised if you see me visiting your blog or contacting you by email. I want to return the love and say thank you personally! It might take me a little while to get around to visiting all of you, though. This Bloggy Giveaway really threw me a curveball. I can't believe all the craziness! The last time I checked, there were ELEVEN HUNDRED giveaways. Yeeow!

If you want to order a custom photo bracelet, please contact me by leaving a comment on this post. I not only give them away in the contest, but I sell them too!

Thanks again to everyone! Please come back and visit me often!

Slipping Through My Fingers and Yellow Days

I saw the movie Mamma Mia! on Tuesday night for Moms' Night Out with my mom's club. It was a silly, but good, movie. A great chick flick. I like ABBA, but didn't know all of the songs in the movie. One of them is Slipping Through My Fingers, and it was sung while the mom helped the daughter get dressed for her wedding.

Oh. My. Gosh. Seriously? You know I've been emotional about Katie starting school, and missing her so much every day. This song - and the scene of the mom helping the bride - made me cry. And it could have turned into that kind of cry that my aunt calls the "sup-sups" because that's the sound of someone trying to catch a breath while sobbing. (I think others also call it the Ugly Cry.) But I held it together as best as possible and didn't sup-sup, although I felt it coming on at one point. Just the first line of the song got me: "School bag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning." Oh, for the love! My girl is growing up, slipping through my fingers every minute. The song has kept playing in my head these last few days, reminding me to hold on tight to her and love her deeply. It won't keep her from slipping through my fingers, but it'll keep me from having regrets!

On a side note, yesterday was a sad day for Katie. She had a "yellow" day at school. All the kids follow a discipline system of green, yellow and red. The teacher moves them to yellow or red if they have not been listening or acting out or whatnot. When Katie came home yesterday, she said, "I might have had a little yellow today." I said, "Oh, no! Katie, what happened?" and she immediately burst into tears. I held her while she cried, then asked her what happened again. She wouldn't tell me, and made me read the note from her teacher on her daily report. It said Katie was disruptive and was banging her pencil box along with others. Katie told me a boy at her table was banging his box, then another boy joined in, then a girl and then Katie. We talked about why that was a bad choice, and discussed punishment of not having a special surprise that I had planned for her yesterday (I bought her two new books). We talked about the choices she could have made instead, and then she asked if I was mad at her. I said I wasn't mad, just very disappointed. And then she asked if I still love her. (Oh!) I said I will always love her, no matter if she's green or yellow or red. Then we cuddled with a few tears in both our eyes. It was so sweet to see how upset she was (does that sound weird?) because I know that she knows that she shouldn't have done it. And, truly, it doesn't matter as much how I feel about bad choices. What matters is that she knows right from wrong, and that her heart reflects that and leads her down the correct paths. Isn't that our job as parents?

I kind of had a yellow day yesterday too. After a trip to the mall, I was leaving and found my tire was FLAT. Ugh. Luckily my friend Beth was with me, so she entertained Jackson and her two boys in her air conditioned car while I tried to change the tire. I had to ask for help from strangers (I couldn't loosen the lug nuts myself), then Dan had to miss a work meeting to come help me finish the job. But, thankfully, the tire got patched and all is well. I was just telling my neighbor Sheryl the other day about how my parents insisted I change a tire on the car by myself before they would let me get my license. Thanks, Mom & Dad!

We're heading out this evening for a trip to the lake with our friends. I am looking forward to it, and can't wait to just hang out and take it easy. Have a good weekend, y'all!

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