Monday, June 30, 2008

House of Pain

Uh oh. Our family visit has turned into an infirmary.

Yesterday before church, Peyton started puking. Wally stayed home with her while the rest of us went to church. She continued puking all day, and then Hannah started around 5pm. And, of course, Katie joined in at 1:30 this morning.
Luckily, we have one adult for every child in the house, so we played man-to-man defense overnight. Dan was up with Katie first, then I took over and slept in her room on the trundle bed - in between the sprints to the bathroom. Hannah slept in the guest room (close to the bathroom) with a baby monitor on while Mary listened to her from the living room couch. Wally and Peyton slept in the basement. Dan was on duty for Jackson's four wakings last night.
Jackson seems to have avoided all of the illness - or else maybe he started it with his own little puking fit last Wednesday? Anyway, he didn't have any today. I called Grandma and sent an S.O.S. signal, and she came to pick him up this morning after his first nap. I feel bad sending him away while our family is visiting, but I know it's for his own good.

Today was filled with lots of TV (plus two movies), small sips of clear liquids graduating up to bananas and rice, sanitizing every floor and toilet and doorknob, and about 20 loads of laundry (thanks, Mary). I think we've contained the breakout, and Katie and Peyton are recovering - FINALLY. But poor Hannah is still racked out on the couch and is now hitting hour 24 of puking, which has turned into dry heaves. Poor girl. It seems she got the worst case of it.
I mentioned in my last post that when Mary visits, she brings all kinds of trashy magazines with her. It's a throwback to the waiting rooms when Mom was sick. So what happened today? Mary had to make a run to the store for ginger ale and white bread. In true Steele Sister fashion, she looked for more trashy magazines for us to read while we played nurse to the kids. Guess what? It turned out she couldn't find any magazines that we didn't already have. But she DID bring back candy bars. Right on!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What We've Been Up To

If you're wondering why I haven't posted since Wednesday, it's because I was busy with a puking baby and cleaning the house and then Mary, Wally, Hannah and Peyton arrived on Thursday. (That would be my sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces.) Oh, how I love to see them!

I spent Thursday cleaning, then waiting for them to arrive. Kind of like watching a pot boil - it takes forever when you're watching in anticipation. So they finally arrived and we had dinner and stayed up late visiting.

On Friday, we visited the zoo. St. Louis has one of the best zoos I've ever been to - and the best part is that it is FREE. There are some sections and exhibits that you have to pay for, but 90% of the zoo is free. I love it! Everyone but Dan went to the zoo and we really enjoyed it. Even Jackson had fun, and didn't have any fits except for the one at lunch when he squeezed a tube of yogurt all over himself, then screamed when I tried to clean him up. (How rude of me.) Jackson loved seeing the monkeys in the Primate House, and was captivated and pointing at the animals in the Reptile House - all those snakes and toads and tortoises and alligators.


Katie used her new kiddie camera to take dozens of photos at the zoo, too. Peyton helped her a lot, so I'm not 100% sure which photos were taken by whom. But here's one of their masterpieces. (They also took photos of the monkey's poop, but I opted not to share those with you. You're welcome.)
One of the nice perks to my sister's visits is that she always brings trashy magazines with her. I think it hearkens back to when Mom was in the hospital for six weeks. Mary and I hit the gift shop and bought all the lame-o magazines that I never have time to read... all the gossipy ones and the sexy ones and the ones about fashion (that a stay-at-home mom never even has the time to care about.) We would also buy candy bars and then go sit in the ICU waiting room to eat and read trash.

So, we've been having a good visit with them so far. Today we plan to hit Michael's to find shirts for all the kids so they can make matching cousins shirts. My 13-year-old niece is not thrilled about this. But I promised her she can pick the color she wants and write whatever she wants on it. I'll post a photo of the results later.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention Jackson's two newest skillz. (Ha.) He has learned a new word - the least favorite of all parents out there! Drum roll please... It's "NO!" Ta-da! And his other new trick is climbing onto the couch and standing on it like he conquered Mt. Everest. He really does enjoy it, although I have heart palpitations every time he does it. Especially since he tries to climb onto the back of the couch and stand on it, or he wants to climb onto the bar area behind the couch. Aack!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fifth Birthday Letter

Dear Katie,

Forgive me for typing this letter. I type much faster than I write these days, and time is of the essence! It seems I never have enough of it.

I wish I had more time this past year to lay with you and cuddle, and read books. You’ve enjoyed going to the library every other week and picking out five books to “buy.” (You always say, “buy” even though I tell you we’re just borrowing them!) We read them over and over, until you can recite them yourself. And lately, you’ve actually started to read lots of the words on your own!

I wish I had more time to watch your favorite shows with you. Every evening after bathtime, you pick one of your favorites to watch: Clifford, Word World, Little Einsteins, or Curious George. You even sleep with a monkey that you call Curious George. (You also sleep with a dog named PJ, a duck named Molly, a bear named Apple Bear, and a penguin named Perry.)

I wish I had more time to swim at the pool with you this summer. I have enjoyed watching you take to the water again. You are fearless, except when you are in the inner tube with Sammi and Rebekah. You’re always afraid it’s going to flip over. But the rest of the time, you LOVE the pool. You are a great natural swimmer. Now I need to get you started in some true swim lessons so you can learn real strokes!

I wish I had more time to drive with you in the car, watching you sing your favorite songs out loud. You can really belt them out! Your favorites are “Our Song” by Taylor Swift, “Kung Fu Fighting” by Bus Stop, and a new favorite is “YMCA” by the Village People. You recently told me you’re going to be on American Idol when you grow up, and I’ll be able to watch you on TV.

I wish I had more time to take you to the movies too. About a week ago, Grandma watched Jackson while Daddy and I got to take you to see “Kung Fu Panda.” It was so nice having alone time with you. I also got to take you to see “Alvin and the Chipmunks” one day when Jackson was at Parents Day Out. You truly are a joy to be around – so smart, inquisitive, funny, and full of passion and excitement.

You have turned into such an amazing little girl this past year. You’ve grown tremendously - learning to read and write, and getting ready for school. You’ve also accepted all of the upheaval and changes we’ve had this past year with true grace; you have welcomed Jackson with open arms, and are so good with him. He adores you, and laughs at your funny faces the most. I can never get him to laugh at me the way he laughs at you!

In just one month, you’ll be starting Kindergarten. And all of a sudden, time will have moved on and I’ll be begging for it to stop. I can’t begin to tell you how much I will miss you during the day while you are at school. I’ve spent the last three years at home with you, and I am so very glad that we made the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mommy. I wouldn’t trade the last three years for anything. We strengthened our bonds, and did a lot of loving and learning together. And who’s going to help me entertain Jackson when you go off to school? :)

On the other hand, I am very excited for you to start school. I know you will excel, and I know you need the structure and regimen that school will bring. I can’t wait to see you grow and learn in the coming year. I know you’ll amaze me and Daddy every day. I have to admit I have fear in my heart that you will be learning things from other kids that I don’t want you to learn… but I guess that comes with the territory.

It’s odd for me to say this about a five-year-old, but I have faith that Daddy and I have already instilled a moral compass in you. Of course, we’ll spend the next 13 years (or is that 33 years?!) strengthening it and fine-tuning it, but I truly believe that you have a good heart inside you and it will lead you down the right path.

So all that’s left to say to you, my big five-year-old girl, is that you are in for an awesome year. I look forward to watching you grow more in to yourself.

And maybe this coming year, time will slow down a bit and we can live part of it in slow-motion. One can only wish…

I love you, sweet baby girl. “As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

Love,
Mommy

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Only Momma Will Do

Tonight, Jackson was playing with Dan and Katie while I got dinner ready. (Or, more accurately, while I nuked dinner!) I think he fell down, because he started crying and I heard Dan trying to comfort him.

The next thing I knew, Jackson came tottering in to the kitchen, crying and screaming. I knelt down to his level, and he ran up to me and fell into my arms. He immediately stopped crying, and I almost heard a sigh. I thought to myself, "How sweet that Mommy makes it all better."

Note to self: don't get too cocky! Remember the rest of Jackson's ten waking hours today? He was mad that I took the phone away from him (he was trying to call China). Mad that I pulled him off the sofa, which he was using to climb onto the bar area behind it. Mad that I wouldn't let him splash in puddles in the street. Mad that I wouldn't let him eat rocks. Mad that I kept him from drowning at the pool. Mad, mad, mad.

Oh, joy! The silver lining is that he isn't an infant anymore. Yay for me! You KNOW how I feel about infants! Or at least how I feel about my own infants. (I like other people's. You can give them back!) I'll choose a temper tantrum over a crying newborn any day. Jackson's temper tantrums are louder, but at least I know why he's crying, as opposed to when he was an infant and cried just for crying's sake.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Katie's Eye Exam

I have to share a cute story about Katie. Today was her first eye exam. She did very well, except for the crying when she got those drops that dilute the pupils. (I can't blame her there. I hate those too!)

During the exam, the doctor showed her the eye chart and said, "Can you read that to me?" Katie said no, so the doctor went to the next line of letters that were bigger. Again, she asked, "Can you read that?" Katie said no, again. So the next line of even bigger letters were revealed. The doctor asked, "Can you read that to me?" Katie answered, "Of cblt."

Get it? She was trying to read the "words" to the doctor, just like the doctor asked. But since she didn't recognize those first few lines of letters as words that she knew, she told the doctor no, she couldn't read them. It made me chuckle. My smartypants is such a literal thinker!

My Bucket List, Part 2

A while back, I promised you I'd post my list of Things To Do Before I Die. Well, now's the time! Here it is.

Things To Do Before I Die
1. See a bull fight
2. See the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain
3. Go to a presidential inaugural ball
4. Go to the Olympics Opening (or Closing) Ceremony
5. Go whitewater rafting
6. Spend New Year’s Eve at Times Square
7. Visit a Hollywood movie set
8. Visit Graceland
9. Visit all 50 states
10. Visit Australia
11. See the Egyptian pyramids and sail the Nile River
12. See a shuttle launch
13. See the Oscars, or at least watch the red carpet live
14. See the Eiffel Tower
15. See Mt. Rushmore
16. Eat at Carnegie Deli
17. Go dog sledding
18. Go on an archeological dig
19. Go parasailing
20. Go hang gliding
21. Go to synagogue
22. Become a member of the Mile High Club
23. Learn to play the piano
24. Make a piece of stained glass
25. Learn sign language
26. Take a painting class (watercolor)
27. Take a pottery class
28. Take a cooking class
29. Go to clown college
30. Shave a man’s face
31. Fly a plane (at least sit at the controls)
32. Ride in a semi truck
33. Drive a Harley Davidson motorcycle
34. Watch a sea turtle hatch
35. Take a hot air balloon ride
36. Ride in a fighter jet
37. Ride in the Goodyear Blimp
38. Ride in a Zorb
39. Meet a movie star
40. Swim with dolphins
41. See the inside of a Mormon temple
42. See the 82nd Airborne All American Chorus perform
43. See a taping of the Oprah show
44. Drive in Europe on the left side of the road
45. Spend El Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico
46. Learn to hula hoop
47. Go on a Mexico mission trip with church
48. Host a foreign exchange student
49. Volunteer to teach English as a Second Language
50. Join the church choir or praise band

Already Done
51. Own my own craft business (halfway in 1998)
52. Go snowmobiling (Jan. 1993 in Alaska)
53. Take a riverboat cruise (7/4/97)
54. Drink a bottle of Dom Perignon (10/98, 1/05)
55. Register to become a bone marrow donor (1/12/99)
56. Pet a monkey (5/8/99)
57. Skydive (9/5/99)
58. Ride a gondola in Venice (2/13/01)
59. See the Kentucky Derby (5/4/02)
60. Ride an elephant (5/18/02)
61. Go to the circus (5/18/02)
62. Have a baby (6/17/03)
63. Take a dance class (1/19/05-3/9/05)
64. Go inside the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile (4/19/06)
65. Walk a labyrinth (4/26/06)
66. Milk a cow (10/7/06)
67. Go to a World Series game (10/27/06)
68. Go to a Jimmy Buffett concert (4/24/08)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Busy Weekend

Whew! It was a busy weekend for us.

On Friday night I went to the Muny (the St. Louis outdoor theater) and saw The Producers with my mother-in-law. It's a yearly tradition for her to use her two season tickets and invite her daughter, me or her other daughter-in-law to pick a show each summer. She takes us to see whatever show we choose. Since it's an outdoor theater and I hate being sweaty (unless I'm swimming - ha, ha!), I always pick the first or second week that the Muny is open. This year, the first week was The Producers. I've never seen it before, and it was pretty good. I love theater and musicals espeically (thanks to Mom and Dad). There's nothing better than the entire chrous on stage belting out a song.

Saturday morning, we woke early and took the kids downtown for the Race for the Cure. Almost 64,000 people showed up, raising $3.3 million. Wow! This was the first year I've done it, and it was pretty amazing. (Dan has done it lots of times before.) I'd like to do it again, but without children. Does that sound mean? It's just that 64 thousand people make it hard to keep track of your kids. And pushing a stroller during a race is hard too. (Thanks, Dan.) But being in the middle of all those people united for one cause is pretty amazing. I wish there were that many people (and that much money) raised for lupus, which both of my parents had. There is a lupus walk on October 5. I'm thinking about walking.

So after the Race for the Cure, we came home and scrambled to get ready for the a carnival party for Katie yesterday. We invited Dan's family and some friends over to celebrate. I made some carnival booths like a duck pond, bean bag toss, etc. It was a fun time, and I think Katie enjoyed herself. We were exhausted at the end of the day, and collapsed after the kids were in bed.

Today has been pretty low-key. I took the kids to church while Dan went to work to catch up on things. He didn't get much work done on Friday because it was Katie's special day at the office. Ever since she was about three years old, she has asked to go to work with Daddy. We told her she had to be five. She remembered that and talked about it lots, and we knew we had to stick to our word when she turned five. So Friday was THE DAY and she got to work with Daddy. Here's a photo of our big working girl:
We'll be busy this week, too, getting ready for my sister and her family's visit. They are coming on Thursday or Friday (they haven't decided), and I can't WAIT to see them! Katie is so excited too, and we have lots of plans for them when they get here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Groundhog Day

(Just writing the title of this post makes me chuckle. That movie cracks me up.)

Anyway... guess what we have living under our front porch?
Can you see it? No, the camera isn't broken or unfocused. Those things that look like spots on the lens are actually fingerprints on my windows. (Have I mentioned I'm not a good housekeeper?)

I was sitting with Katie in the LoveSac this morning, and saw a bit of fur on the front porch. I got up and looked out and saw this little dude just hanging out, sniffing the air. I grabbed the camera, and he noticed me watching him. He scurried off the side of the porch, down to a little hole that's been dug under the concrete slab. I had seen the hole, but thought it was the bunnies back at work (like every summer). Nope. Apparently, we have a groundhog/woodchuck living with us. Wikipedia says they are called Marmota monax. I have no idea if a groundhog is different from a woodchuck or how they might even differ, but if you Google "woodchuck" a photo of our little dude appears. Here he is going under our porch:

I emailed the photos to Dan at work, and he said he'd come home tonight and "take care of him." Aack! What does that mean? Groundhog stew? Dan started singing, "Great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts..." from Caddy Shack. Poor guy. (The groundhog, not Dan!) I also called the city, and they said they don't remove animals from private property but could refer us to a service we could hire. Anyone have any ideas of how to evict our vermin?

I would prefer not to have a Bill Murray trilogy going here. First Groundhog Day, then Caddy Shack?! That doesn't bode well!

Brain Dump

I've got lots of frenzied thoughts crashing through my head today, and couldn't pick just one to blog about. So, I'm performing a "brain dump" and unloading it all here. Enjoy the ride!

Katie's Birthday was great. She enjoyed herself all day. She got to wear her new "High 5" shirt that I made her. (One of my specialties is making custom t-shirts for kids. Maybe I'll post some photos of them one day.) She also wore an "I'm Five" button that I made her. We had lunch with Dan, and then opened presents at his office. Her favorite gift from us was a Barbie Mariposa laptop computer. She's been playing with it nonstop. It's a small laptop, and geared towards her age. Her cousin Peyton gave her a different Barbie computer for Christmas, but it's a little too "old" for her and she can't work it well yet. So this new one is more her style.

Juggling Jeff came over to celebrate Katie's birthday. (Jeff is Dan's cousin.) He wanted to put on a special show for her, and I invited the neighbor kids to our driveway to watch it. I did some face painting for them first, then Jeff put in a GREAT show. Even all the adults were cracking up. Jeff juggles balls and bowling pins and FIRE and also jumped rope on top of a huge ball. Wow. It was a fun time. [Side note: he's for hire!]
Parents' Day Out: Did I mention that Parents' Day Out started back up on Monday? (Oh, how I love them!) Jackson is going two days a week this summer, so Katie and I had two Girls' Days this week. We took a tour of Recycle City (where the city trucks dump their loads for sorting), played with friends, got to see Alvin & the Chipmunks at the theater (for free!), and had a little photo session at the local park. The photos turned out very well (in my humble opinion). She is just so photogenic and cooperated so well! What do you think of the pics?
Jackson has also been a joy the past few days. I think one major factor is that he hasn't been sick. I haven't wiped his nose in at least a week, which is a record for him. And I think his pre-molar teeth have finally broken through. He's been laughing and even used sign language for the first time to say "more." His favorite thing to do these days is run past Katie with his signature "catch me" screech, and see if he can bait her into a game of chase. I love watching them do this, but I also have a tiny bit of dread because (I can hear my mom's voice saying this), "Someone always gets hurt." Of course.

Speaking of moms, I talked to my stepmother today and she said she's been reading my blog. She mentioned the entry where I was bemoaning my life as a mom and how hard things were, and gave me some good advice (she's the mother of three adult daughters, so she speaks with experience). She said, "You need to enjoy it because it's gonna get worse." And then we both cracked up laughing, because we know how teenagers can be.

Katie said something really sweet today. We were in the car, listening to my iPod. The song "Walk on the Ocean" by Toad the Wet Sprocket was on. She asked the name of the song, and I told her. Then she said, "Jesus can walk on the ocean." I affirmed that, and she asked why. I told her He's God's son, and God can do anything. Her response? "I can hold God's hand and walk on the ocean too. That's what I'll do when I grow up." Atta girl!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Birthday Eve

I just hugged my four-year-old daughter for the last time. Ever. Tomorrow morning, I'll be hugging a five-year-old. I am so happy for her (because she's so excited!), but also sad to say goodbye to year #4. She and I both grew so much!

As we were cuddling in bed (after a sweet reading of Love You Forever by Robert Munsch), I asked her how old she is. She said, "Four." I told her it's the last time she'll get to say that. She said soon she'll be six, and won't be able to say five anymore. "And then seven and then eight and then... [counting, counting, counting] 30!"

The thought hit me that one day, I won't be alive to celebrate her birthday eve (or birthday) with her. And I know she'll feel alone and have lots of "what if" and "I wish" thoughts (because I still have those same wishes for my own mom). So I hope, Katie, that you pull this out and read it when you hit those big days in your life and I'm not around.

Know that you are the love of my life. You are pure joy, pure emotion. You are the rising and the setting of the sun for Daddy and I. Your happiness and generosity is captivating. And I'll never admit it directly to you, but even your stubbornness can be charming sometimes. You are a force to be reckoned with, and the culmination of an amazing love between your father and I. I look through the coming years, and I can see what an amazing woman you are going to be.

God willing, I'll be there with you through most of it all. But there will come a birthday eve when I'm no longer there. When that day comes, know that the pride I have in you will never die. Neither will my love.

"I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." And even when I'm no longer living, you'll still be my baby. Mizpah.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What I Love About You

Three shades of freckles.
The way you hide bedtime books in your shirt.
You always do bathtime.
No complaints.
Pretzel rods, chips & salsa.
Your passion for politics and efforts in trying to educate me on them.
Dancing to "Just Another Day in Paradise" with Katie.
No matter which episodes of Friends is on, you say "This is the best one!" without fail.
Tag-teaming the kids with me.
Playing airplane with Katie.
Your stability, loyalty, kindness, work ethic, passion, strength.
You always have tears in the last scene of The Color Purple.
Your belief that I will make a million someday.
Strong arms for holding babies and for falling asleep in.
Letting the kids chase you with the oven mitts.
Your ability to fix anything.
The way you sometimes remind me of my dad.
Your voice of reason.
Never saying no to a Boy Scout, Girl Scout or lemonade stand.

You have become a new man these past five years, as I've watched you father our two kids. You've been my compass, guiding me as I make decisions as a mother. You've been my sounding board, my Kleenex, my coach and my cheerleader. Thank you.

I can only hope that our son will grow up to be like you, and our daughter will marry a man even half as wonderful to her as you are to me. I love you, Hooney!

Father's Day without Dad

This morning, I was thinking about what we were doing five years ago today. It was Father's Day, and we had a c-section scheduled (to deliver Katie) in just two days. We went to see Finding Nemo with Dan's parents. I remember sitting in the movie theater, feeling the baby kick and move inside me. I was so excited for the next day: we would be picking my dad and stepmother up at the airport so they could be at the hospital for the baby's delivery.

I think Dad really wanted to be there for the delivery for a couple of reasons. Of course, because I was giving birth for the first time. But also because I think he was hoping for a boy. We didn't know the baby's gender yet, and I know he really really wanted a grandson. Now we know that he didn't get one the first time around. Oh, how I wish he'd been alive to meet my Jackson. I can just imagine the look on his face when he met his grandson for the first time!

Five years ago, we were in a completely different stage of our lives - focused on birth and the beginning of life, and its preciousness. I had no idea that just one year later, I'd be spending my last Father's Day with him. What I wouldn't give to hear him say just one more time, "Don't measure other people by your yardstick." Or maybe even, "Connect the dots!!!" (That one drove me and Mary crazy in his last few years!)

When Dad turned sixty, I wrote him "60 Things Dad Has Taught Me." (I wrote Mom's three years later.) I'd like to share Dad's with you. I wish he were still here! Happy Father's Day, Dad.

60 Things Dad Has Taught Me
1. How to love with all my heart. 2. An appreciation of poetry. 3. A love of musicals. 4. How to make cinnamon toast. 5. A belief in God. 6. How to drive a boat. 7. That people do things in different ways, and no one’s wrong. 8. How to love Tom T. Hall. 9. To laugh like I really mean it. 10. Always go for what I want. 11. To believe in myself. 12. Not to leave my shoes in the living room. 13. How to steam artichokes. 14. To take classes I thought I’d fail. 15. That success has nothing to do with how much money I make. 16. To face life head-on. 17. Keep trying, no matter what. 18. To bat and catch fly balls. 19. To follow my heart. 20. How to tell jokes. 21. To have confidence in my abilities. 22. To use a computer. 23. That Boone’s Farm isn’t really wine. 24. Hard work pays off. 25. How to use a wok. 26. Sacrifices pay off. 27. K-Mart jeans are just as good as any other jeans. 28. How to mow the yard. 29. Happy hour starts when the titmouse sings. 30. Love goes beyond the bedroom. 31. Girls shouldn’t wear baseball caps. 32. Don’t measure other people by your yardstick. 33. To say, “Yes, sir.” 34. Respect for others. 35. How to hunt. 36. An appreciation for history. 37. If you lie, you’ll get caught. 38. Love with all your heart, even if it means getting hurt. 39. How to take good photos. 40. An education will take you far. 41. How to travel foreign lands. 42. Taking risks helps you grow. 43. It’s okay to show your emotions. 44. There’s more to dancing than jiggling around. 45. Ask for advice but don’t always follow it. 46. Always challenge myself. 47. Big trucks are fun to drive. 48. Etiquette isn’t evil. 49. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. 50. Being strong doesn’t mean you have to be tough. 51. To make lists and be organized. 52. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are good! 53. Carving meat is an art. 54. Cards and notes can mean a lot to someone you love. 55. I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. 56. A camping trip can be even better than any fancy vacation. 57. Have faith. 58. True love is worth every ounce of effort, pain and sacrifice. 59. Always have a P.M.A. 60. No matter how old I get, I’ll always be Daddy’s Little Girl.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Toys in Iraq

I recently got in touch with one of my brother's classmates from West Point. He is currently in Iraq. I asked him if Katie and I could send him a boodle box (the West Point slang for a care package), but he said he didn't need anything. He mentioned that he is in an impoverished area in Iraq, so I suggested sending him the McDonald's toys that I usually collect for church missions. He said that would be a great idea. I emailed friends, neighbors, and my mom's club to ask for more toy donations. Everybody has extra McDonald's Happy Meal toys, right? Turns out we had 43 pounds donated in less than two weeks' time! We shipped the toys over to him, and he just emailed me photos of the soldiers handing out toys to the kids. I decided to make a video to share with you.
video

I got tears in my eyes over the photo of a boy holding one of those Parents brand pop-a-bead bug toys. That was our toy. It was given to Katie by my pledge sister, Eve, when she first met Katie. Jackson played with it too, but I decided at the last minute to include it in the box of toys we sent over. I wasn't sure it would be a toy that anyone would even want, since it's mostly just for babies. But now that I see the photos, I realize what an outrageous thought that was! We are so blessed with abundance in America that we have different toys for every single stage of a child's life. It's easy to forget that some kids don't have even one, much less a choice. Of course they'd be happy with a pop-a-bead toy!

My other thought while looking at the photos is that I'm so grateful to the soldiers who are able to hand out the toys on our behalf. Sometimes our pastors at church talk about how the church should be the hands and feet of Christ, and carry out God's mission. I feel the soldiers are doing that for God and for the rest of America. Thank God for them!

I am a lucky, lucky woman. I am an American. I am safe and secure at home. I am blessed with food and clean water. I have a college education. I have entertainment at my fingertips, and a closet full of clothes. I have FREEDOM. And I'm even luckier to be able to raise my children in America.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Katie's Day

I had a great day with Katie. I got to sleep a little bit later, and eat a slower breakfast with her. We went to the park, but didn't stay long because it was hot. Katie kept asking me, "Can we go now?" She wanted to have a picnic at home, so we did. It was much nicer than at the park: air conditioning, a special TV show (she loves to watch Jon & Kate Plus 8), and a cookie for dessert. Afterwards, I spent 20 minutes finishing Dan's gift for Father's day, then we hit the pool for an hour and a half. We held hands and jumped into the deep end, and played a few swimming games. It was lovely!

After the pool, Katie played at Beth's house while Beth and I went to get haircuts. Then I picked up Jackson, and we all went back to Beth's. Dan met us there, and Sean grilled steaks for dinner. It was a wonderful end to a great day.

I loved being able to say yes to Katie for (almost) anything today. I loved being able to actually listen to her when she came running up to me for something. I loved holding her in the pool and singing to her. I loved talking in the car. I loved cuddling in the morning and at bedtime. And I also loved getting to see Jackson again.

As I tucked Katie in bed tonight I said, "I'm so happy to be your mommy." She replied, "I'm so happy to be your kid." Ah, heaven.

Bad Luck

I have a few friends who have been having some bad luck these days:
D's son has been sick and in the ER. Her husband is also off on a long business trip.
I also heard M has had two sick kids, plus her husband's kidney stone, plus her own gallbladder attacks.
J's two kids have been sick, and her husband had a death in the family.
K has had two deaths in the family, her father's been in the hospital twice for a heart attack and other complications, and she's also had health issues of her own.
And Beth's had a long streak of bad luck: her husband totaled his car, burned his BBQ grill, then his cell phone and computer and weed whacker broke. They also thought they had termites, but it turned out to be just carpenter ants. (It's still a pain, though!) Today wasn't much better. Beth backed out of my driveway and right into my neighbor's car. They have this habit of parking immediately across from my driveway. This is the THIRD TIME their car has been hit by someone leaving our house. You'd think they would STOP parking there. But guess what? When I got home from the pool today, this is what I saw:
The neighbor moved his car onto his lawn. Yep. Seriously. C'mon, dude. How about you just park three feet further down the street, so you're not near my driveway? Ugh.

Anyway, lots of bad juju going around. Hang in there, my friends!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One-on-One Time

Grandma and Poppy wanted to have a special day with Katie today, so they came yesterday and picked her up for a sleepover. Jackson and I got to play outside in the afternoon, which was nice. Then Dan and I had a quiet evening to ourselves, and rented the movie 3:10 to Yuma. It was better than I expected, but that may be because the last few movies we saw stunk: they were No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. (Both those might have turned out to be good movies, except for the endings. Ugh!)

Today, Jackson and I got some good one-on-one time, and it was nice. Grandma and Poppy took Katie to the zoo. I went to their house to pick her up after lunch, and they said I could leave Jackson there so he could have his own time with them. I jumped at the chance to have Katie to myself too! She and I met some more out of town friends before they headed to the airport (not the Omaha friends - these were the Seattle friends), then we got to shop for her birthday. The best treat of the day was Dan and I took Katie to see Kung Fu Panda tonight. She loved sitting between us, laughing at the silly panda (and crying at the scary parts). When we got home, we all picked a favorite book to read, and cuddled on our big bed and read books before bedtime. It was so nice and quiet and wonderful to focus on just one child at a time. (Now I laugh, thinking back on the days when I thought ONE kid was hard. How do people do it with more than two?!)

Tomorrow Katie and I are planning a park playdate, then I hope to take her to the pool before Jackson returns home. These two days have been nice, helping to relax me and fill up my "gas tank" for the days ahead.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Poor Baby!

We had a good visit with our friends this weekend. They left this afternoon. I hate that they came to visit, because now I miss them all over again and wish they hadn't moved away to stupid ol' Omaha. Weenies. Couldn't just stay here and be unemployed, could they?

Anyhoo... I have a photo to share of my poor sweet Katie girl. She fell flat on her pretty little face on Sunday, when we were almost home from the pool. We stopped at our garden to see if the baby bunnies that we found on Saturday were still there. See the photo from Saturday? Can you even see the bunny under the green leaf?So when she fell on Sunday, she and I were leaning over the tiny fence to look for Blister and Stripe (that's what she named the two bunnies) when she turned and her swim shoe must have caught on the block wall surrounding the garden. She fell off, directly onto her face, which hit the side of the curved rock and got her big and bad on the forehead and also under her nose. If you look closely, you can see the whole line down her poor face.
Of course, she started screaming and blood was pouring down her face. I scooped her up and ran inside screaming, "Dan! GET A TOWEL!" He took too long (a whole two seconds) and I grabbed paper towels at the sink and smashed them on her poor face. The blood stopped enough for me to see we wouldn't need stitches, but it was still pretty bad. And not only was she screaming, but Jackson was too. He saw me and wanted Momma (I'd been at the pool, away from him for a whole hour), plus anytime Katie cries or is upset he gets upset too. But at this point, I just wanted to calm Katie and make sure she was okay.

After lots of TLC and holding her and rocking her, she seemed just fine. And it's healing quickly. But I keep having instant replay in my head, and seeing her fall and crash. Ugh. I need an edit button! My poor, sweet baby!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Things I Love

That last post made me think I should add a few more things to my list.

I love scrapbooking on my computer. I use a program called Photo Explosion, which costs about $30. It is very easy to use, and I've figured out some ways to personalize it with my own backgrounds. I also found a website that will turn your handwriting into a computer font, so I used that font throughout my 2007 scrapbook. I love scrapbooking on the computer for many reasons. 1. I don't have to lug all my tools and papers and stickers out and set it up, then put it all away again before the kids get into it. When I scrapbook on the computer, I can just stop halfway through a page and hit save and move on to something else. 2. I have a fear of my house burning down and all my one-of-a-kind scrapbooks going up on flames. Now that I have a digital copy of each scrapbook page, I burn them to CD at the end of the year and Dan keeps a copy at his office. So if the house burns down, I don't have to run to save the scrapbooks (after the kids are safe, of course!). 3. I can print out multiple copies of the same page and make scrapbooks for grandparents, friends, etc. 4. I feel like it's cheaper to scrapbook on the computer. All it costs me is $30 for the software, paper to print it on (I used to use cardstock but now I just use regular paper), a binder and page protectors to hold the pages, and the printer ink.

I love this hand-towel beach bag by Martha Stewart. I've been making placemat purses, but I've been trying to come up with better ideas for handles. I like the handles on these bags. And I also love these drink umbrellas by Martha Stewart. I gotta make these!

I love these Incoco nail polish strips. They're strips of nail polish that you put on your nails and they last for up to 14 days. I'm on day 14 of the latest batch of mine, and they still look half decent. But I probably need to go ahead and take them off. This is how they looked on my nails on day 11.

I love Skype. If you have a webcam, you can download the Skype software and call anyone anywhere over your computer. It's a video phone call! FREE! My uncle got me and my sister hooked up through it. The bummer is they are the only people I know signed up on Skype. I wish more of my friends and family would use it (hint, hint) so I can call them and "see" them more often. I love that it's free long distance, and I love that I can see my sister and her family, and they can see my family too. They were able to call and watch Jackson learn to walk, which is pretty cool. And if I had been thinking ahead, I could have set up the webcam so they could celebrate his first birthday with us. But I wasn't that on-the-ball at the time. You can also use Skype (for a fee) to call internationally too. I have a cousin stationed overseas and I know I could call him, but I haven't figured out the time difference or how to load my account with money. A woman I know also Skypes her family in Hawaii and her military husband when he's out of town.

Random Thoughts

I have random things running around my head right now.

Guess where I was 16 years ago? Spending my first day as a high school graduate. I realized yesterday that it's been 16 years since I graduated (6/6/1992). Good gravy! Sixteen?! Can I truly be that old? Nah. Last time I checked, I was 29. (That was when I found out I was pregnant with Katie. I haven't had time to stop and check since then!)

Katie got her hair cut on Thursday. She looks adorable now, and so much older. I'm glad we got rid of the scraggly hair. Isn't she a cutie? You gotta love her "Girls Rule" sticker, and the sweat band on her arm, and the random marker on her shoulder.
We went for the haircuts with our neighbor Sheryl and her twins. On the way home, Chris (one of the twins) piped up from the back seat, "I lost a tooth!" I'm glad I got to be a witness to one of his milestones, but have I ever mentioned how much loose teeth FREAK me out? *Shudder* For some reason, I don't like wiggly teeth. I can handle them once they've fallen out of the mouth, and can handle seeing the hole from whence they came. But the actual tooth in the mouth hanging on by a little root is enough to make me want to hurl. *Shudder again!* I have no idea what I'm going to do the first time Katie shows me a wiggly tooth. Ugh.

We have friends coming to stay with us this weekend. They used to live across the street until they had to move to Omaha four years ago. We miss them! But almost every year since they moved, they've come back to stay with us. We even went to visit them once. (Remind me sometime to tell you about their weird neighbor who goes out at night and squeaks the garage door handle at least 200 times. Seriously. Every night. Very OCD.) So they are staying with us until Tuesday. Dan and I have cleaned the house, assembled beds in the basement, and filled the fridge with good food. The one thing I didn't finish before they came to visit was catching up on my scrapbook. I got all the way through February and one day in March before I ran out of time. See, I know one of their daughters loves to see my scrapbooks whenever she visits. Oh, well. I guess she'll just have to settle for the raw photos on the computer.

So it might be a few days before I can post again. I don't want to be rude and ignore our guests, you know. Have a great weekend, y'all!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Letting Go

July 20 will be four years since I got the call that Mom was sick. After six weeks in the hospital, she died in hospice in September 2004. I still can't believe it's been four years already!

When Mom died, Mary and I split up a lot of Mom's stuff. One of the things I got was Mom's plate collection - 168 in all. My plan was to get them home and find a collectibles dealer and sell the set. Well, that didn't happen. Part of me just wanted to hold on to them because they were so cherished by Mom, and I didn't want to get rid of that part of her. Yes, I know... plates do not equal moms. But it wasn't like the plates replaced her. I guess I just wasn't ready to let go of her or her collection just yet. So they've been sitting in their boxes in the basement for almost four years. Finally, I've decided it's time to put some feelers out there and get them out of my house and into someone else's. But not just anyone - I wanted someone who would display them and enjoy them, like Mom did. She wouldn't want them in dingy boxes in my basement.

So I posted an ad on Craig's List for the ones I'm willing to sell. (I'm keeping a few, and so did Mary.) One man bought some of Mom's plate filing cabinets (yes, there is such a thing). Then I got an email from a nice woman named Ann. We discussed which ones she would like to buy, and she just came by this afternoon and picked them up. She bought 28 of them, which makes me so happy. I told her Mom's story, and she told me how much she likes to collect and display plates. I helped her load them into her minvan, and as she closed the trunk, she said, "I'll take good care of them." My throat closed up and my eyes started to sting. I realized that I'm letting go of part of my mom.

Yes, again, I know plates don't equal moms. But these kind of do. I grew up surrounded by these plates (Mom's first one was purchased in 1979, when I was five years old), and now they've gone on to someone else's home, to be someone else's friends and to watch over someone else's loved ones. Just like Mom.

I hope they're happy (Ann and her family, that is!), and I hope she's happy too. Miss you, Mom!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thank You God, For:

A happy Jackson, sunshine, computers, friends & neighbors who love my kids as much as I do (sometimes more!), the ability to read, swimming pools, hardworking husbands, board books, chocolate chip cookies, Crock Pots, learning new things, Katie's creativity, cool breezes, dry weather.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Forgiveness

So.... so. This is a hard post for me to write. I feel compelled to do so after two little nudges in the past week. I need to forgive someone who wronged me many years ago, and decided the best way to do it is on my blog. I had other ideas, but settled on this.

I got fired from a job seven years ago. My boss there, J, was someone I truly felt was a close friend. He was like a big brother to me, which meant a lot at the time because it was just a few years after my own brother died. So it was nice to have that figure in my life. Yep, I know. That was my first mistake - I should never have made such a tight friendship with my boss.

Anyway, I was his assistant and covered his butt on many occasions. I was overwhelmed with the work load I kept getting (some of the stuff was his job, but he kept passing the buck to me). After a while, I got frustrated doing that and kind of turned into a witch some days. I figured out that I needed to look for a new job, but had barely started the process when I got fired. I know part of it was my fault: I had a pretty bad attitude at that point, and was frustrated at my boss because he was my "friend" but wasn't going to bat for me. He turned on me and during the meeting where I was fired, I was told I mistook "friendliness for friendship." Ouch. That was a hard blow to me. I was covering for him lots of times out of friendship, and was willing to put up with a lot if he would just help me.

So, I was fired. It was pretty rough because I had let my job consume my life; all my friends were from the office, and my weekend free time was spent with them. So getting fired not only took away my means of living, but also my social network. It was isolating. The hardest part of it all was my "friend" had fired me and didn't show even a flicker of remorse.

Of course I recovered and lived to tell the tale. The day after I was fired, my dad called first thing in the morning. He said, "Go look out the window." I did and said, "Yeah?" His answer? "Did you notice? The sun came up. All is not lost. It's a new day."

Looking back on the firing, it was probably one of the best things that could happen to me at the time. My pride was wounded and my trust was a bit broken, but I changed careers, got to spend a month off at the pool, and also learned an invaluable lesson about making my job my life.

So... on to the forgiveness part. I've held an inner grudge against J for a long time. Every time the pastor at church preaches about forgiveness, J's name pops into my head and I kind of just roll my eyes. In more recent years, I've actually become a little more receptive to the idea of forgiving him... I just haven't done it or made any "official" moves toward it.

Last week I read something in a book about forgiveness, and J's name popped into my head again. I finally thought to myself, "I really should just let it go and move on." And that very same day, Dan was reading the local paper and there was a Letter to the Editor, written by J himself. If that ain't a nudge, I don't know what is!

I told Dan that I should write J a letter, and Dan thinks I'm crazy. So, I'll settle for writing a blog entry. Get it out in the open, let it go, and move on. Here's what I would say if I wrote that letter or spoke to J:

"Hey! Remember me? The girl you threw to the wolves? Yeah, not so nice, huh? You and I both know it was a mistake, and we both carry the blame. But it would have been nice for you to give me some warning or the dignity to walk out on my own. I read your Letter to the Editor last week, and it sounds like you have changed a bit since I last saw you. The new church you're going to seems to have made an impact on you. I hope so. Is it too much for me to wish that you've seen the error of your ways? Yes, I guess so - that sounds pretty boastful of me. Oh, well. It's all water under the bridge now. I hope you're doing well. I hear your family has grown. I'm sure you're a fun and goofy dad. I wish you the best, and want you to know I forgive you. Take care."

And, now folks, it's done. Here I am, moving on. Thanks for letting me clear the air!

Super Sized

I put up a bigger version of my block poster this morning. It's much bigger than it looks in this photo! I decided to see what it would look like without the white edges trimmed off. Let me know what you think! Should I trim the edges or leave it as is? Dan's got the final vote so what he says goes, but I like to hear other opinions too!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Things I Love

Lately, I've come across some *great* ideas and I wanted to share them with you. So, here are two of them!

I found an AWESOME website called Block Posters where you can turn any photo into a full-size wall mural. I did it with a photo of Katie and Jackson (taken by my friend Tammy), and here's the result. This is a photo of my computer room with the mural above our wonderful LoveSac:

I think I'm going to reprint the photo a lot larger just to try it. I'm also thinking of printing one from our cruise or Jamaica, and putting it in our beach-themed bathroom. My neighbor Sheryl is also going to do a big one of Busch Stadium for her son's room. Maybe I'll get her to send me a photo once it's installed and I can share it with you.

My other great discovery was while we were in Vegas. Beth and I went to a mall and I found this cool nail art stamp set at a kiosk. I love to decorate my nails and toenails. (Just ask the tweens on my street! I'm the coolest grown up they know. Yeah, right!) This Konad Nail Art system has little silver discs that are engraved with designs. You swipe colored polish over the design, use a little squeegee to remove the excess, then push a rubber stamp over the design and the paint is stuck to the stamp. And then you apply it to your nails with the stamp pad. It's so fun!

I'm hoping to regularly post about "Things I Love" on my blog, so keep checking back to see what I uncover. And if you have any cool things you love, leave me a comment and let me know about it!

Monday, June 2, 2008

At the Park

We went to the park today. Jackson enjoyed picking flowers (weeds) to crunch in his little fists. That's what he's doing in the photo. He also pointed at a squirrel and said, "Dat?" and then tried to catch it. Then he took off after a robin, which promptly flew away.
Katie climbed all the way up to the top of the Spider Web Pole Thingy (I have no idea what it's really called, so that's what I'm sticking with). I remember the first time we ever saw one of those things. I was terrified for her to climb anywhere out of my reach. And now... she's lightning fast to the top and has no fear. Amazing.

We're into June now, and that means my Peepers turns FIVE in just 15 days. I can't. Believe. It. Today I was telling her about how big I was this time five years ago, and how I could hardly move. I couldn't wait to get the pregnancy over with! And, now, she's so... big. Wow. Time is an odd thing - it feels like an eternity for the first 18 months or so, then goes into hyper mode before you know it.

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