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Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Wishes and Christmas Miracles

Yes, Virginia,
There really is a Santa Claus. Christmas wishes really can come true and Christmas miracles are possible.

I'd like to tell you the story of our Christmas....

Last February I posted a blog called "Family and Forgivenes" about how I royally screwed up the one thing that means the most to me...family. I knew I was the pariah and I accepted my fate. I knew I wasn't wanted within the confines of Stan's family...it became a game of semantics ~ "Stan's family" and "family" were two totally different images in my mind. I had to separate them in my mind to keep myself a little sane. I tried what I could to apologize and make amends but time was what it would take to mend all broken hearts, mine included. There was more than enough hurt to go around and I didn't hold out much hope for forgiveness or reconciliation.

There was nothing I wished for more than for this family to be whole again ~ it was my one big Christmas wish. But I didn't see how it could possibly happen. I climbed into the car last Thursday to head to Maine with a pit of fear in my stomach. I prepared for the worst but prayed for the best. We would be in and out quickly, I thought. Please God help me through the weekend, I prayed. I sat quietly and looked out the window as the miles clicked off closer and closer to our final destination. I wondered what the weekend would have in store for me. I wanted nothing better than for my kids and Stan to have the kind of Christmas they deserved but I wasn't sure how everything would play out...

Christmas was our time to forgive and move on...
 
One of my favorite traditions from Stan's family, our family, is the breaking of Oplatek (which is a thin wafer designed to be shared with one another)...wikipedia explains it best. "Family members and friends break off a small piece of the opłatek wafer and give it to one another along with a blessing. Breaking off and exchanging part of opłatek with someone is symbol of forgiveness between two people and is meant to remind participants of the importance of Christmas, God, and family."

Forgiveness was given and family mended. What happened is past and we all agreed to move forward. I can't be more thankful and blessed than I am right now.  The saying "getting stronger through adversity" couldn't be more applicable to a situation then it is to this one.  My vision is for a strong, healthy family as we move toward a bright new future.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago and Claire used it this year in her gift to her grandfather. It sums up what family is to me...

Family

This is the legacy of our family.
It may not be perfect but it's what has made you and me
.
Through life's imperfections we learn everyday
Not to take for granted those for whom we pray.

We hold in our hearts the memories of us together, you and me.
We hold in our hearts the certainty of our family tree.

Through tears and through smiles
We walk together braving the miles.

We have gone through challenges fraught
And through the trials we learned what was taught.

There were good days and bad days ~
Days which we hoped would just fade away.

There were days made of love and laughter.
Those were the days we chased after.

There were weak times and strong times,
Times when the walls, oh, we so wanted to climb.

There were times of giggles and sunshine.
Those were the days of our family defined.

All of these times made our family all the stronger and given each of us a legacy.
We have taken the lessons to heart and built our family.

As I was preparing for the weekend, I was talking to one of my friends, telling her about my feelings of fear and anxiety.  She told me she had similar feelings one Christmas.  She and her family traveled out of state and she was dreading the trip as much as I was dreading ours.  She went on to tell me it was one of the best Christmases she and her family had.  I went into the weekend believing this Christmas would go down in history as one of my all time worst ~ I came away with the feeling this Christmas was one of my favorites.  Thank you, Kendall for giving me faith! 

This Christmas is more than I could have ever hoped for and I am blessed.  My Christmas wish has been granted and Christmas miracles really do happen. This family is mended for the love of my children....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lessons Learned in 2011

As we come to the close of another year that has passed too quickly, I thought I would take this time to write down the lessons I have learned in this year...

1. Stan and the kids are my greatest treasures in the world. I already knew that, really, it was just solidified.

2. I have the best friends in the world. They stick with me through thick and thin. I couldn't get along without them or be more thankful for them.

3. Apologizing is hard but never hearing the words "I forgive you" is torture.

4. I have learned the true meaning of family ~ it is not necessarily comprised of those related to you by blood ~ family is really those who stick by you and put their arms around you when everyone else has walked away.

5. I love to write. It gives me purpose and makes me happy.

6. I can write a 50,000 novel in 27 days...maybe not a good novel ~ definitely not publish worthy yet...but it's a damn good story!

7. I don't handle stress well.

8. I have more friends than I ever imagined I could.

9. I'm not too bad of a person.

10. I don't like time with my kids passing so quickly.

11. Being judgmental gets you nowhere.

12. I love having my parents in Richmond now...it was quite and adjustment but I'm so glad they are there.

13. I love country music. I'm embracing my Kansas upbringing.

14. Road trips with the kids are an actual trip now...tv's are off, the kids are unplugged and they are engaged in talking to us ~ thanks Jan!!

15. I, and all of us, miss Jan and can't wait for him to come back this summer.

16. The beach is my favorite place in the whole world ~ ok, I already knew that too, it just was reinforced this summer.

17. I love playing games with the kids.

18. I don't really like TV.

19. I love baking for Christmas and having a houseful.

20. I am blessed.

I've learned a lot this year and look forward to all of the lessons I get to learn in 2012...for the love of my children...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Away From Home For The Holidays

This time 15 years ago I was singling momming it and headed to Maine with a 10 month old Zach.

In September of 1996 Zach and I said our goodbyes to Stan and left him in the Philidelphia airport as he left the States to serve a seven month deployment in Bosnia. Zach was six months old when Stan parted ways with us.

Zach and I went to live with my parents in Kansas during Stan's deployment to make things, in theory, easier for me. I decided that for Christmas, though, I wanted to be closer to those who were more like my love so I packed up Zach and headed to the great, white, frozen tundra with my little darling baby.

It was one of the hardest Christmases of my life...celebrating without Stan. There were so many times I choked back tears when I thought of what Stan was missing ~ his first Christmas with our son. We were so very fortunate that it was our only Christmas apart.

My heart aches for all of our servicemen and women who are away from their loved ones this Christmas. Please say a prayer for all who are in harm's way this Christmas and celebrating the season of giving without their loved ones nearby. I wish each and every service member the peace of the season, the thanks of a grateful nation and the secure knowledge that their presence here at home is missed more than they will ever know.


As you celebrate the season please remember all of those who have are serving our nation far away from families. Their sacrifice is more than you will ever know...for the love of our children.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cookie Baking 101

It's that time of year ~ baking pans coming flying out of cupboards, cookie cutters are dusted off, measuring cups are dug out of the back of the drawer and baking supplies are restocked. Last night was our first foray into baking Christmas cookies and it was lead by none other than Nana.

Nana came over with her grocery bags loaded down with the ingredients to make Spritz cookies with the kids. She wanted to make wreaths, Christmas trees, stars...you name the Christmas shape she was ready to make it. Nana had her trusty spritz cookie maker ready. She had the red and green candied cherries ready to decorate the trees and wreaths. She got the colored sugar out to sprinkle on the cookies before they baked. She was ready.

This is the first year my mom has gotten to make memories baking cookies with the kids at Christmas. The kids came out of the woodwork for this one. My mom figured it was just going to be Claire helping with cookie baking but she couldn't have been more wrong. Zach and Lucas were more than interested and ready to make the first batch of Christmas cookies with their Nana.

Last night was a cold and dreary night full of torrential amounts of rain and yuck. I don't think there is a better way to spend a wildly, crazy, rainy evening than hunkered down making cookies and memories. Cookie baking 101 happened last night with both the kids and Nana learning and working together to make a big ol' batch of Christmas cookies.

Ah, for the love of my children....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Favorite Things

During this crazy, wild, stressed out time I'm sitting back and thinking about one of my all-time favorite songs full of favorite things...




"When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad..."

What better message to have this month than that of remembering favorite things when times are crazy and we're all stressed. So here are some of my favorite things.

To me happiness of the season is...

Stan.

Watching the kids decorate the tree.

Baking pies, baking cookies and making candy.

Mistletoe.

Seeing the house all decked out in it's Christmas glory.

Blasting Christmas carols through the house.

Holiday cheer.

Nutcrackers.

Candy canes (and the story behind them.)

Ribbons and bows.

The smell of cinnamon in the air.

Christmas parties.

The bright, twinkly lights on the trees of our street.

The generosity of the season of giving.

Smiles and giggles.

Holly trees.

Frosty the Snowman.

Santa ~ and the generosity of spirit his original story brings to my mind.

Nativity scenes.

"The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado

Baby Jesus.


So when the dog bites or the bee stings or I'm feeling sad, I'll simply remember my favorite things and then I won't feel so bad.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Love Actually

This past weekend was chock full of hockey games ~ all in different cities. So Stan and I did what any normal hockey family would do. We divided and conquered. I was in Reston, Virginia on Saturday with my trusty hockey partner in crime, Lisa, for Zach's game and then back to Richmond that night to get ready for Sunday's home game. Stan was in Rockville and Gaithersburg, Maryland on Saturday traveling to Columbia on Sunday. So, our weekend was spent apart ~ he with the dads of hockey and me with the mamas and then home.

It was when we got home on Saturday I realized what time of year it is and what was calling my name....it is this time every year that I break out my old, trusty DVD of the movie "Love Actually." It is my all time favorite Christmas movie. I love watching Colin Firth and Hugh Grant fall in love over and over. I love watching Alan Rickman (who plays Professor Snape in Harry Potter) struggle with his near foray into the world of infidelity. I love watching Emma Thompson come to grips with the thought that her on screen husband might be having an affair. I love watching Liam Neeson work through his feelings of grief and dispair over losing his wife and his stepson's mom. I could go on and on about the scenes that steal my heart every Christmas but I think I'll stop. Stan will tolerate watching it with me. To him, it's OK. To me, it's all about Love, actually...

This is the first time in the seven or eight years that I've watched the movie that I've really noticed the song at the beginning and end. The Beach Boys start the movie with "God Only Knows." This time, the song hit it's mark. I started thinking about where I'd be without the loves of my life. God only knows where I'd be without them.

Stan ~ the one who pushes me so hard to be the best I can be by believing in me and my abilities. He never harps on my inabilities. He focuses on what I can do and what I do well. God only knows where I'd be without him.

The kids ~ they are the ones who lift me up when I'm feeling my worst. The little hugs and kisses and "I love yous" just when I need these things the most. The unconditional love they give is incredible. God only knows where I'd be without them.

My parents ~ the ones who gave me not only a last name but a family to call my own. They raised me as their own, always believing I was their daughter and never just an adoptee. Truly, God only knows where I'd be without them.

My friends ~ all of the ones who encourage, support and love without bounds. They give of themselves when I need them and even when I think I don't. I couldn't be more thankful for them and wonder where I'd be without them.

As we head into this season of giving and generosity, I want to remember what really makes me who I am. It's love, actually and God only knows where I'd be without it.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Married a Jersey Redneck

When Stan and I first started dating one of his friend's wives said to me "You two don't fit together." Oh, really, I thought ~ this should be rich, let's hear the rest...

She went on to say "You are too prissy for him" or "he is too rough around the edges for you," maybe she said both but I can't remember. I do remember her going on to say "it's like you two are 'beauty and the beast.'" Interesting...

I can say, for absolute certain, I am much less prissy than I was when Stan and I started dating...which is more than good. I can also say Stan is a little more "refined" than when I met him, which I'm not sure is so good for him.

When we met, he was a hunter...full on, no joke. He was my Jersey redneck. He hunted ducks, pheasants ~ any and all manner of fowl. He wanted to go hunting the morning of our wedding. I had to put the kibosh on that idea...I could just imagine them getting stuck some where out in the wilds of Kansas and not making it back in time for our 3 o'clock nuptial mass.

I had the music blaring through the house the other night as we were cleaning up the kitchen and I was reminded of Stan's redneck ways and my more than prissy attitude when the song "Ladies Love Country Boys" came on...

It pretty much summed up Stan and me ~ except he wasn't a cowboy from Kansas he was an Army guy from New Jersey...my Jersey redneck. He drove a truck. He liked to hunt. He kept a can of smokeless tabacco in his car, his bag, his room ~ everywhere. He had a "spit" bottle in the cup holder of his Bronco II. He loved guns...

My polar opposite. I had never dated anyone who did any of these things. Hunt? NO WAY. Drive a truck? You're kidding, right? Chewing tabacco? Can you say EWWWWWW? Guns? Never shot one before in my life. I'm sure I wasn't quite the treat his parent were looking for when I showed up at their door with my giant suitcase full of the latest fashions, gobs of make-up and massively long hair that was perfectly styled all the time.

But somehow the Jersey redneck and the prissy little Colonel's daughter managed to end up getting hitched.

When I was pregnant with Zach, I was 100% certain he was going to be a boy. I also knew that Stan was salivating at the thought of having a hunting buddy years in the future. Unfortunately for him, the hunting gene seemed to have petered out. My penchant for saving every nest-less baby bird was passed on to Zach instead. So instead of taking the boys hunting and teaching them to blow into a duck's beak to make it quack long after it's last breath has left its body, Stan takes the boys to their hockey games and fulfills his rednecky ways through hockey.

Although, I have to say Stan is much more refined at hockey games than I am. I am the one who gets all hot under the collar when the game gets too intense. Stan just stands on the sidelines, quietly observing all of the redneck behavior others' exhibit...including his formerly prissy wife. He just shakes his head and continues to watch the game they all love to play. My Jersey redneck and I have switched places just a little. I guess I should be thankful for that! The kids all benefit from a little refinement mixed in with a little redneck every now and again.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ah, Sweet Victory!

Just a couple of things before I get to the meat of the matter...first, I'm baaaaaaack! And second, did you miss me because I missed writing these little blogs of mine (and ours)! Now, on to the REAL stuff...

I did it! I "completed" my first novel...sort of. Actually, it's more a rough draft of a rough draft but...I achieved my goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days! My victory is sweet.

Really, it wasn't my goal. It's the goal of National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as Nanowrimo which is pronounced just as it looks...nano-wry-mo. (As another author on another blog said it sounds like some crazy greeting Mork from Ork would have used so many years ago.) Nanowrimo comes around every November since 1999. It's goal is simple, to get writers to write. Take the month of November, throw in a novel writing contest on top of Thanksgiving and the beginning of a season of craziness and VOILA you have Nanowrimo.

As many of you know, my friend and blogging partner, Julie Farley, threw down the proverbial gauntlet in October for us to accept Nanowrimo's challenge and run with it. So we did. I don't think I've ever been more nervous than I was when I accepted this challenge. I wasn't this nervous when I paraded my bikinied self around a stage in the middle of a bar waaaay back in the day as I competed in a calendar girl competition. I wasn't this freaked out in the days leading up to the day Stan and I got married. I wasn't this nervous when I brought home a howling, screaming infant and another and another. For some reason this challenge almost brought me to my knees. Maybe it's because it's something I really wanted to do and really didn't want to fail at doing.

The other things I mentioned seemed natural and easy...well, maybe not the swimsuit thing, that was a little push out of my comfort zone. Getting married seemed natural and wonderful and perfect. Having babies and a family is something I knew I wanted with Stan so that was a naturally easy decision, although throwing in the third did throw me for a loop for a while. I knew two of these things were things where I would succeed and if I didn't (ahem, the swimsuit thing again) it would be ok.

I really want to be a writer, so I didn't want to take something so challenging and fail at it. But, if I hadn't taken the challenge I would have failed even more ~ so THANKS Julie for pushing me farther out of my comfort zone than I have ever been pushed before. This past month has been an experience like none I have ever known and one where I learned more than I ever thought I could. Here is some of what I learned...

1. Accepting challenges is daunting but achieving the goal is sweet! Victory is even sweeter when shared ~ both Julie and I achieved our goal!!

2. I learned to push myself a little harder than I have before.

3. Making up stories is FUN.

4. Writing a book is nothing like I thought it would be. My fingers make up stuff before it even pops in my head and then I am astounded at how the story turned! CRAZY!

5. I am more excited now than I was before. I can't wait to see where my story takes me next.

6. I am looking forward to writing more and more and more.

7. I know, now, I can achieve just about anything I set my mind to do! I might not be a famous author but I am, and will continue, having a blast writing.

8. But, who knows, maybe someday I will be a famous author...I can just see my name on the cover of a book or two or three...

9. It's awesome to have such good company in this great big world of writing. I couldn't (or wouldn't) have done it without my friend and partner in writing, Julie.

10. It's been awesome to get the hugs, high fives and kisses from Stan and the kids as I achieved each milestone stone along the way. 10,000, then 15,000, then 20,000 ~ well, you get the idea...

11. I couldn't be happier about the example I just set for my kids. I was given a pretty big goal and I achieved it. I don't think they think of me as just a mom, I think, now, they might think of me as a writer too!

I had a blast this past month and am looking forward to January 2nd which is my next challenge date. Julie, God love her, issued yet another challenge ~ to have our manuscripts ready for the other to read, critique and make better so we can eventually (hopefully) have something to show to a literary agent and maybe even get published. Wouldn't that be something?

Just shortly after Julie and I started working together on Perfect Mamas Confess, I got a fortune cookie that said "Dream lofty dreams and as you dream so you shall become." Well, I'm dreaming my lofty dreams, for the love of my children...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Excerpt II

In honor of making it to 25,000 words today, I thought I would post a little more of my book. Again, keep in mind this is a very rough draft. We are supposed to use November only to write not to edit ~ that's for December.




The door opens and I see an enormously fat man enter Becco's He is wheezing and sweaty. His clothes look to be expensive but they are stretched to the limits across his massive girth. A small movement out of the corner of my eye catches my attention. It is Betsy Lynn signaling to this corpulent man. Oh, my God! It's Burwell...he's enormous. I haven't seen him in many years and I don't remember him ever being this, this FAT! What the hell happened??

He struggled to get through the tightly packed restaurant but he finally manages to make it to our table. I stand up to shake his hand but instead I am enveloped in a sweaty, musty, nasty hug. He smells like a mixture of cologne, body odor and rancid garlic. In his embrace was not where I wanted to be. I finally wriggled free from him, but he kept my arms locked in his grip. "Let me get a look at you," he says. I desperately want to squirm away. The sweat across his brow is dripping now and a small patch of drool has developed in the corner of his mouth. I am not sure if he is drooling at the thought of what's on Betsy Lynn's plate or if he was drooling because of the aroma coming out of the kitchen or maybe both. I fiercely hoped I wasn't the cause of the drool at the corner of his mouth.

As I stood there locked in his grip he stepped back to get a better look, he said. He went on to tell me how much I looked like my mother, God rest her soul. He said I had the same bouncy, reddish blond curls she had and the exact same eyes. His eyes roved over me in a most disgusting, lascivious way. I wanted to break free and run but the private investigator in me came out and I put on a brave face. I wanted answers and I thought Burwell might be able to provide me with some. I just had to figure out how to pry the answers out from under the nose of Betsy Lynn without her catching on. I think she's well on her way to drunken stupor so I may be in luck.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yesterday We Welcomed a New Teenager Into Our House...

Welcome to the teenage years, Lucas. I can't believe how quickly time has gone. It seems to be just yesterday that you were a snuggly, little toddler saying "rock-a-minute," when you needed some loving or putting up your pinky finger to signify that we needed to stay and snuggle in bed with you for just one more minute or until you were safely in dreamland.

Yesterday I looked at you as a young man, no longer a little kid...So today I reminisce about the little Lucas. I would love to sit and watch old videos of you today but time presses on and I don't have the luxury to sit back and watch little you so I relive my favorite videos of you in my head. I see you as you were way back when you were three ~ your wispy, blond hair blowing softly in the breeze and your little voice carrying through the yard. One of my favorite videos of you is when you are climbing in and out of your little car asking and asking and asking for your Uncle Matt to push you. "Uncle Matt, can you push me? Cannyou, cannyou, cannyou?" being repeated over and over and over again as a run-on word until your Dad finally said "Uncle Matt, can you PLEASE go push him?" In my mind's eye I also see the one where Zach comes running into the house, breathless, saying "Mom and Dad you HAVE to come here now, Lucas got the keys to the Skateboard (known to the rest of you as a Ford Escape) and he turned it on." You did love your cars and you would do anything to get behind the wheel of a car. You were a persistent little booger then, whether it was asking repeatedly for rides, rocking in your rocking chair or somehow managing to find hidden car keys. You are still that same persistent booger now...although, you have grown up so much what seems like the past day.

Yesterday you said it was the best birthday ever and not because of the presents you received or the things you got to do but because you are now finally taller than I am! So, on your 13th birthday, we stood back to back and it was confirmed ~ you are indeed taller than I am. Your persistence paid off there too...you tried and tried and tried to be taller than I am. You would stretch and stand on your tiptoes to try and reach your goal. Goal achieved ~ now you are finally taller!

My only wish is that you don't grow up and grow away too fast. I savor every minute with you. I love reliving the memories of you as a toddler, your stories and your life.

A few years ago I made you a book, filled with my favorite pictures of you ~ three year old you in the tub looking like a triceratops with your hair full of shampoo and shaped into horns ~ nine month old you smiling as you sat in a swing in the warm sunshine of a summer day ~ One year old you dressed up as Batman to Zach's Robin. I could go on and on about my favorite pictures of you, my little, blond boy.

In that book I also wrote these words and I hope someday when you are grown and gone you look back on them and know how much you are loved ~ always...

Because of you
I smile so often.
Because of you
my heart has softened.

Because of you
I tickle until away you wiggle.
Because of you
I hear big old giggles.

Because of you
I get up at the crack of dawn.
Because of you
I feel the warmth of a sleepy eyed yawn.

Because of you
I see beauty in the sky above.
Because of you
my heart is full of love.

Because of you
I am happy as can be.
Because of you
I skip with glee.

Because of you
there is happiness in our place.
Because of you
I have a smile that spreads across my face.

Because of you
My heart is complete
Because of you
Life is complete.

Because of you
Love is pure.
Because of you
the life we share is pure.

All of this and more is true
Simply because of you.

I know you welcomed the step into the teenage years, Lucas. And I know you are beyond excited to have grown taller than I am but I hope you don't grow up too fast and that don't ever lose your sweetness, love of life and laughter.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book excerpt

I'm not sure what my book will be titled yet. Here's a brief synopsis...

Maggie Walker (for all of my Richmond friends...her name is explained in the book) is a young woman who lost her mother to cancer when she was younger. Maggie needs to find answers about her mother, Cece, and her life. As Maggie looks for anwers from her family and her mother's friends she stumbles across volumes and volumes of diaries. The diaries are filled with life stories, rich with history about her mother, her family and Maggie herself.

These are two days from CeCe's diaries. Keep in mind this is an extreme rough draft...


I sit here in awe of the tiny, little miracle I am holding in my arms. Margaret Mary Walker is here today ~ August 11. She weighs in at 7 pounds 11 ounces and she is 21 inches long. William is on his way, bringing Ryan, Bradley and Katie to meet their new sister.

William and I left for the hospital this afternoon and Maggie made her appearance quickly. William scooped her up and true to his word to the kids, he gave her the name they picked out for her ~ Maggie. We sat together, just the three of us, for a little while and just now I sent him on his way to bring the other kiddos to the hospital to meet their new sister.

My parents, brothers and sisters-in-law will be descending on us soon. I asked for a little time with just us before the group grows too big. I can hear the kids trooping down the hall now.

______________________________________________________________________

I have tears in my eyes as I write this. The kids are just so sweet. Maggie and I are home now. That feels good to say ~ "Maggie and I." She is beautiful and perfect, with just a sprinkling of freckles. Her hair is soft and downy, blond with a hint of red. I don't know if it will stay that color or not but it's stunning.

She and I are escorted into her nursery and I am stunned by what the kids and William have done....

The walls are a soft buttery yellow with murals on three sides of the room. The murals, I am told, are all painted by the kids. Ryan tells me about the idea behind the mural. The kids want Maggie to know about life in our family. They want her to learn, through, pictures, what it means to be a part of the Walker family. So each of Maggie's siblings have painted their version of our family on the walls. The beauty and simplicity of their drawings stun me into silence. I look closely at each drawing and see that the kids have all painted their version of our family to include being perfect, with Maggie. She is on every wall. I sit in the rocking chair they placed beside the mahogany crib. And I stare at each of them with wonder and awe.

I continue to look around the room and I see the soft, lacy curtain that cover the window. The are billowing ever so gently in the warm, late, summer breeze that has greeted Richmond the past several days. I see the stuffed animals that each of the kids has raided from their own closets to give to Maggie. I see Frog, Tigger and Franklin ~ some of the kids' favorites. I see two sets of initials on the dresser with the open spot on the wall where they will be hung ~ two sets because we didn't know if we would need MMW or BJW. I see the beautiful mobile hanging above the crib with its moons, stars, cows, cats and fiddles. Books line the books shelves near the crib, filled with favorites of years gone by. I see "Goodnight Moon," "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," " Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You," and "Do You Know How Much I Love You?" just to name a few.

It's a whole new world now. Reality is here and her name is Maggie. I can't believe how much the kids have done to prepare for the arrival of their new baby sister. They have given me more than they will ever know. They have given me the knowledge that Maggie will be well loved.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Race to 50,000

As most of you know, I accepted a challenge from my friend and blogging partner, Julie Farley, to compete in National Novel Writing Month ~ also known as NaNoWriMo at http://www.nanowrimo.org

I don't think I've ever been more nervous about accepting a challenge. When Julie threw down the gauntlet on www.perfectmamasconfess.com, it took me days to screw up enough courage to respond. I don't think I'm one to shy away from a challenge...I challenged myself to be ready to compete in a half marathon five months after Claire was born and I challenged myself to do it again four years later. Those were two of the best decisions and challenges I've faced.

So, why this one was so hard for me to accept didn't hit me until today...

This is something I really want to do and I don't want to fail. Julie and I met yesterday to give each other encouragement and get our creativity flowing. We decided the way to get moving was to do a writing prompt with each other and this is what I wrote ~ please keep in mind this was written in eight minutes so the structure, grammar and cadence may be "off."

We decided to write about our feelings of being a bit "Lost" as we head into this month of writing a novel...

Right now I feel lost and discombobulated. Julie is giving us ideas for writing prompts ~ from making a list of favorite words to writing about journeys to favorite cities. And every thought ~ every shred of creativity escaped me as she was talking. How the hell am I supposed to write a 50,000 word novel if favorite words don't even come to mind? I love words ~ their meanings ~ their sounds, but right now - at this very minute they are lost. I am lost and need desperately to find myself - find my mojo and my love of words before tomorrow. I don't want to let myself down again. I don't want to lose the creativity that I know is boiling just beneath the surface. I don't want to lose the respect I have built for myself in the past (almost) year as I wrote something almost daily and felt pride in what I wrote. I don't like this feeling of being lost. I need to re-find myself and reacquaint myself with the focus and determination I have tapped into this past 10 months. Being and feeling lost are two different paths ~ the state of actually being lost is harder to deal with, I think, because it means you, or I, are truly lost. The state of feeling lost is where I am right now. I feel lost which is easier to overcome...it's just a feeling but it's mine and I need to overcome.

I think my feeling of being lost lapped over into my blog which is why you haven't heard from me in the past week or so...nerves took over and I wasn't sure I could do it all.

But overcome I will! Today I wrote over 10,000 words...

Stan and the kids are my four biggest cheerleaders. Stan made a "thermometer" so I can mark off levels of achievement. The first level was 10,000 words ~ I have filled in the bottom of the thermometer...my first goal. Claire was so excited to be able to fill in the bubble for me. Zach and Lucas more than impressed with my word count for the day.

I still feel a little lost and discombobulated but I also feel a tremendous amount of pride in myself for the work I did today. I still have a long way to go, and a short time to get there but I'm on my way. I couldn't have done it without the love of my children and Stan.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Growing Up

Dear Claire,

I thought I saw you today. But I know it wasn't really you. It was a little girl who reminded me so much of you as a toddler. She had blond wispy hair, big brown eyes and chubby little hands, grasping at the table and her food and her mama. She was dressed in an outfit much like how I would have dressed you at two. She had on a leopard print jumper with a white top underneath, shiny patent leather shoes and a big bow in her hair. She reminded me so much of you at two my heart constricted. My time with you has gone so fast. Now you stand eye to eye and toe to toe with me. You are no longer the toddler of my memories, you are a beautiful, intelligent young lady.

The little girl I saw today was out to lunch with her mama just like you would go out to lunch with me. We would sit and have "chats" about what you saw, what you wanted to eat and what tasted yummy. Now, you talk with me about what schools you want to attend, from middle school to high school and even talking about colleges already. Your conversations are so grown up and mature ~ the voice of the little girl is gone. It's been replaced by your ever growing, ever changing presence. You are growing up too fast and today I wanted to sit at lunch with you while you ate a toddler's lunch. I wanted to open a go-gurt for you and break your sandwich into little, bite-sized pieces. I wanted to hand you a cup of milk and wipe your chubby, little hands when you were finished with your lunch.

It's funny, I was at lunch with Nana when we saw the little girl who was so much like you and I have to think Nana still sees me as her little girl sometimes. All of the times she calls you Jenni makes me smile. I know she must still sees me as her little girl ~ through you. So, my darling Claire, when you are grown up and have children of your own I will still look at you and see my sweet little two year old baby girl.

But please stop growing up so fast.

xo,
Mom

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Butterfly

This past year has been one of varying degrees of every imaginable emotion...happiness, sadness, anger, joy, anxiety, fear. It's probably like that every year for every person, I guess. For me, though, I think all of these feelings are more pronounced because I am documenting them ~ writing everything down.

This year has also been a year of intense growth for me, both spiritually and emotionally. As I was preparing this morning for tonight's MOMS meeting I came to read the poem "The Butterfly" and it sums up my feelings on the past year...

Not too fast, not too fast,
Let it grow, let it last,
Nature knows when and why...the butterfly.

I remember one morning when I saw a cocoon in the bark
of a tree,
I remember I marveled that imprisoned inside was a butterfly
waiting to be free.

I was very impatient so I warmed the cocoon with the breath
of my sighs,
And the butterfly trembled and began to emerge like a miracle
right before my eyes.

All at once I discovered that its delicate wings were all crumpled
and torn,
When he still wasn't ready I had made him be born.
I was stronger than nature and I had made him be born.

But the wonder of life had a definite plan,
So he died in my hand by the will, not of God, but of man.

Not too fast, not too fast,
Every one has a moment and I'm waiting for mine,
When I'm finally free.
But I mustn't be hurried.
Give me light...give me time.
Like the butterfly...like the butterfly...

Not too fast, not too fast,
Let me grow, let me last.
Nature knows when and why...like the butterfly.

Written by: Sister Therese Even SSND

These are the words I need to remember, live by and pass on. I need to remember that every part of life needs to be lived in that moment. I need to remember that it is sometimes painful to grow but when we suffer through the painful parts of life, it is then we can become the butterfly.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ah, The Life of a Gecko in Our House

So, we don't have just one gecko, we now have TWO ~ sort of...

Zach's gecko came into our house courtesy of the US Postal service. I was unsure how this whole shipping an animal through the post office was going to work and I was more than skeptical of the whole process once the package arrived. Zach wasn't home so it was up to Claire and me to unpack the crested gecko. We kept the box upright, as we read on the packaging. I slit the tape on the top of the box, undid the lid to see a styrofoam box tightly packed inside the box. I pulled off the lid and was greeted by a nest of styrofoam peanuts. Claire and I rummaged through the peanuts, finding a small plastic container with a tiny, orange, crested gecko. My first reaction was to pull back. It looked like a creature from the days of the dinosaurs...think Jurassic Park. My second reaction was "Is it DEAD?" How the hell could it breath? It was so tightly packed I had NO idea how it survived but survive it did. As soon as the light hit the box it started moving around in its plastic container. Claire and I took it to its cage and set it inside where it promptly made itself at home, crawling into the leaves Zach placed in its cage.

I have been won over by this cool little creature with big eyes set on the side of a large head, its little body with a long tail that wraps around your finger and its sticky feet that allow it to walk on glass and jump from place to place with amazing agility.

Both Lucas and Claire have been won over too. Lucas was so won over he went out and bought one for himself. He didn't order it from "Geckos 'R Us" like his brother. He needed immediate gratification so he got Stan to take him to PetCo and bought one for himself...the cage, the gecko, the rigging ~ all from his lawn mowing money. He's so proud of the new addition to his room.

But Houston, we have a problem...

The problem began this morning when Lucas got up and couldn't find the gecko he named Ricardo...he/she is no where to be found inside the cage. The lid was clamped down and Ricardo was in his glassed in world when Lucas went to bed. We've got a gecko to find....

I'll keep you posted on the status of one gecko in our house or two. Let's hope Ricardo surfaces soon. Let's hope he's hiding somewhere inside the fake log Lucas bought for his home of glass. Keep your fingers crossed that we find the cute, little creature who became part of our world when Lucas brought it home from the store.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lucas ~ Sometimes You Can't Live With Him But You Definitely Can't Live Without Him

I just let out the biggest sigh as I sit here thinking about Lucas...

God love him.  I don't know whether to shake him until his teeth rattle or hug him so tightly that he can't breathe...sometimes I want to do both.  Today is one of those days.

Fridays always have me in a good mood.  It's the beginning of the weekend.  I'm happy thinking about the kids' weekend activities.  I'm excited to sleep in on Saturday.  I want to make the most of my weekends.  But the biggest reason I'm in a good mood on Fridays is simply because ~ it's Friday, for goodness sake and who isn't happy on a Friday?

Since I am in a good mood on Fridays I try to convey that to the kids as they come in the door after school.

I heard Lucas open the door to the house.  I heard him say "Hi" to Stan as he made his way up the stairs.  I hid behind a wall so I could jump out and hug Lucas as he came trooping up the stairs.  I was excited to see my little blond boy.  I was also tickled at the thought of getting a little scare out of Lucas as I jumped out and yelled "HI LUCAS!!" 

My trick fell flat.  Lucas didn't jump.  He just came upstairs, laid his head  briefly on my shoulder and cruised into his room.  Hmmmmmm....

Detective Mom didn't have to do too much digging to find out Lucas had a really bad day.  "I got in trouble today," Lucas said.  Uh-oh.  That ain't good!

"What did you do," I asked.  I heard mumbles as he opened his back pack and then I saw the sealed envelope.  You know the one I mean.  The sealed envelope that comes home from school with the words "To the parent of..." written across the front. 

Well, SHIT!  This isn't the way I want to start my Friday afternoon. 

As I reached for the letter Lucas says to me in a whisper "Mom, can we please, please not tell Dad about this?"  His eyes are washed in tears and his chin is trembling.  Sorry kiddo, that's not the way it works in this house.  Mom and Dad are on the same page...no secret keeping.

I finish reading the letter as I walk into Stan's office.  Stan puts out his hand before I round the corner.  He reads.  We talk.  Lucas is called to the carpet to atone for his sins. 

I have never seen Lucas so upset and nervous as he was standing in Stan's office.  Part of me wanted to go and scoop him up and just hug him.  Part of me wanted to strangle him for acting like a dunce.  And part of me wanted to burst out laughing at the sheer idiocy of what he did. 

His behavior the past few weeks has me scratching my head...the (almost) 13 year old hormones are kicking in and errors in judgement are rising to the surface.  What he did to get himself into trouble is neither here nor there. In the grand scheme of life it's not such a big deal. In the grand scheme of growing up and making good decisions it is a big deal.

I seem to remember Zach acting goofy and having major lapses in judgement around this same time and sometimes stretching into the present. 

I guess I'll just have to buckle my seatbelt, sit back and "enjoy" the ride Lucas is going to give me, because sometimes I can't live with him but I definitely can't live without any of him ~ or any of them.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I HATE Being Sick

I can not tell you all how much I hate being sick.  The sickness has been in our house for over a week now and it's time for it to go away!

Stan came home from his business meeting last Tuesday saying his "allergies" were kicking his butt.  I had to correct him and said "you don't have allergies you have a cold."  And a mean, nasty one at that.  The mean, nasty cold turned into bronchitis and he spent all of last week feeling like he was hit by a truck. 

Enter Sunday...

I started feeling a little tickle at the back of my throat but thought it was just because the air was dry.  I went about my day and continued on with my night.  Monday I felt exhausted but OK...something about staying up until midnight and then getting up at 5:45 just doesn't do it for me.  Tuesday morning dawned and I got out of bed feeling like I had 100 mad-men banging away on the inside of head with tiny, little hammers.  I felt like shit. 

Moms don't have time to be sick.  I still had so much to do, so many things to accomplish, so many people counting on me to be here or take them there.  I didn't have time to be sick but sick I was. 

I got the kids off to school and crawled back into bed where I slept soundly until 11.  I got up for an hour or so, ran some errands that couldn't be put off ~ picking up kids meds, lunch supplies, etc...I came home and crashed again ~ hard.  I slept until 4 and even after that I still could barely keep my eyes open.  By 8:30 I was sleeping again.  I woke up at 9 this morning and am still not sure how I feel.

But I know I was "out of the office" yesterday.  I can look around the house and tell that I was not on top of anything.  The kitchen counters are littered with crumbs from dinners last night and breakfasts this morning.  The espresso machince leaked all over the counter with just a paper towel to soak up the mess.  Beds aren't made (not even mine which is a horror and disgrace, I know!).  There are dishes in the sink.  The house isn't too bad, really.  I just hate being sick so I'm going to look for more stuff to complain about on top of being sick.

Today I am spending the day in recovery mode.  I am sitting quietly, writing, catching up and waiting for Zach's crested gecko to arrive.  I have two notes from Zach telling me make sure NOT to pick the gecko up by his tail or it will fall off.  Wouldn't want a tail-less gecko, now would we?  I guess it's a good way to spend a recovery day...waiting for the gecko. 

Let's just keep our fingers crossed that this is the only illness we have in the house this year.  I so hope whatever this is passes right on through and doesn't touch the kids. To encourage this bug to move out of our house I have my box of tissues next to me for when I sneeze. I have my handsantizer for after I blow my nose and I have the clorox wipes ready to wipe down the computer and iPad when I am finished using both.  I don't want anyone else sick.

At least now the kids are old enough to not require so much time and attention when they are sick. When they were little it was painful.  Lucas had constant ear infections from the time he turned two until he was eight or nine.  When he was little he would wail in pain from the pressure in his ears.  Stan and I would feverishly rock him to help ease his discomfort until the anti-biotics kicked in.  Zach was the interesting one when it came to being sick.  Stomach bugs were the worst for him.  I could always tell when he was getting ready to throw up but he would deny it and deny it and deny it.  He would run around in cirlces saying "I'm not gonna throw up, I'm not gonna throw up..." until he threw up, whirling dervish style all over the place.  That was always fun to clean up.  Luckily, Claire was the easy one when it came to being sick, I could rock her and put her to bed where she would sleep until she felt a little better ~ we would just repeat the rocking and sleeping until she got better.  Even though they are older now and easier to take care of when they are sick, I still don't want them to be out. It takes so much time and energy to back on top of it all after being held down with a cold, the flu, strep throat ~ whatever sickness it is that knocks someone on their ass.

So, sickness, just pass right on through....I don't want you here.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Monday, October 17, 2011

In This Home

Many years ago my mother-in-law gave me (us) this framed poem...

In This Home

We BELIEVE in living deeply,
laughing often and loving always.
We BELIEVE we were brought together to support and care for each other.
We BELIEVE in celebrating together ~
our faith, our heritage, our traditions.
We BELIEVE that everyone's feelings count, and that the uniqueness of each of us
strengthens all of us
We BELIEVE
in the power of forgiveness to heal
and the power of love to carry us through.
We BELIEVE in one another in this family,
IN THIS HOME.

I keep this in my bathroom; a strange place for a framed poem you might think but to me it's the perfect place to keep it. I'm in our bathroom every day so I read it every day. I try to carry the words with me through the day as I go about parenting our kids. These are the words I want my kids to learn and take with them as they go to spread their wings.

I want them to remember to believe in living, laughing, loving, supporting, caring, celebrating, forgiving and strengthening our family...always.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oh What a Day!

A perfect one, that is.

The day started out as one of my favorites when Stan came into our room with breakfast on a tray for me. Included were my iPad, the newspaper and a piping hot cup of tea. Breakfast in bed is my idea of heaven. I relaxed most of the morning away but I was so cozy and content under the down blankets on our bed, it was nearly impossible break free.

I heard Stan talking to Lucas as he left our room. Lucas was already up, showered and was looking for breakfast. He settled on a can of chicken noodle soup...this is Lucas I am talking about so it's no surprise to me that he decided chicken noodle soup is an appropriate breakfast.

My back dictates to me when to get up by becoming achy and sore from being supine too long so I throw back the covers, make the bed and emerge from our room refreshed and ready to take on whatever activities we have on tap for today.

As I am headed downstairs I run into Claire whose internal alarm clock woke her at 10:30...good for her!

Claire pours herself a bowl of cereal and heads to our screened in porch. The little rocking love seat calls to her so she settles in, covers herself with the big down blanket we have outside, turns on the tv and makes herself a cozy little breakfast spot.

Lucas has already headed outside to play football with his buddies.

Zach has yet to make an appearance. It's 11:10 and I don't think we'll see him until well past high noon...he's 15 and he's really good at it! Oooooooh, I take it back ~ as I am sitting here writing Zach's handsome face makes an appearance rounding the corner into the kitchen. He must have been up for quite some time, he has a bag of trash from his room in his hand. He heads directly outside with it. When he comes back in he has a wry, little smile on his face and with flourish announces to me that his friend is breeding his crested gecko and he, Zach Pokrywka, is going to get one. He follows me as I walk out of the kitchen, shaking my head. Zach says, in no uncertain terms, that he will have one of these...the coolest thing he has ever held.

We've run the gamot of animals in our house...

Stan and I started our marriage with a golden retriever baby girl we named Charlie. Zach's first pet was a goldfish he named Spot. He progressed to a gerbil named Spike and then he and Lucas got dwarf hamsters named Brownie and Sparkle. We brought two baby chipmunks into the house after our cat killed their mama and we named them (appropriately) Chip and Munk. We've had cats named Fricken' Leroy, Princess and Bartflek (what we thought was German for Whiskers but turned out to be "beard spot". All three of these were barn cats we found when we lived in our tiny German village, Prosselsheim, and were returned to their barns when we moved.) When we got back to the States we adopted a black cat and called her Luci (short for Lucifer thanks to Stan). We added another golden girl to our house when Zach was four, Lucas was 18 months and I just found out I was pregnant with Claire. Zach and Lucas got axolotls one Christmas. The man at the mall pet store assured me they were easy to care for and the perfect pets for young boys ~ they died within a week of bringing them home...cool to look at but terrible pets. Lucas was gifted with a kitten named Shadow on his sixth birthday. He was one of the best cats ever and we still mourn his tragic passing. Now we have Graysee and Tigger. When we moved to Richmond Zach was so depressed and he felt needed an animal to dote on so we got him a mouse he named Pumpkin and then we went on to get three rats named Ellie, Oreo and Cheerio. We adopted a bunny named Sugar. We brought in a field mouse that our cat tried to kill, named it "Lucky," rehabilitated it and were getting ready to set it free when we noticed she was now four. Lucky thanked us for our compassion by producing three more mice, escaping and eventually getting herself caught in a mouse trap. Our goldens are long gone. The cats are whittled down to just Graysee and Tigger. The rats have gone on to rat heaven. The chipmunks left us long ago. So now we just have two cats and the rabbit...seems like the time to add a crested gecko, huh?

Stan is happily ensconced in the basement building shelves so he is blissfully unaware of Zach's desire to bring a reptile into the house...

Anyway, the day is shaping up to be quite a doozy now that Zach has emerged. This blog was going in a completely different direction until the handsome young man with the wry smile came bounding into the kitchen, puppy-like, telling me he is getting a crested gecko and asking me to fix him an omelet for breakfast.

Ahhhhhh, for the love of my children...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Freaky Friday

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to switch places with someone?  The movie(s) "Freaky Friday" comes to mind when I think about what it would be like to swap lives and be someone else for a day or two.  Switching places in the movie worked out well for everyone involved but the reality is, it couldn't happen.  But even if it could, would anyone really want to?

I look at the lives of the stars who seem to live such glamorous, charmed lives.  You see them smiling for the camera, dressed to kill with money and influence at their fingertips.  What we forget about is that their privacy has either been given away or taken away.  However it happened, the reality is, it's gone.  Cameras follow their every move.  Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and their marriage problems are all over the magazines.  Jennifer Anniston is said to be having a baby for the umpteenth time; cameras record her going to a doctors office.  The young royals are speculated about and followed while they are walking together or coming out of a gym.  That's a little creepy.  I don't know about you but I don't want be hounded by photographers when I'm just minding my own business and going about my day.  No privacy.

Then I look at the lives of people who aren't in the media spotlight but seem to lead charmed lives as well.  Maybe they have a gorgeous home, fancy cars or they seem to get every break but what goes on behind closed doors is unknown.  Maybe their marriage is in shambles but they smile just to mask the pain.  Maybe they carry so much heart ache from years of pent up grief.  Maybe they are gorgeous on the outside but truly rotten on the inside.  Maybe their lives aren't so charmed after all.

A recent blog post of mine was titled "This too shall pass."  I've been reading quite a bit lately about bullying and it's effects on our youth.  I read the post on http://www.findcatharsis.com/2011/09/the-bully-factor.html where the author, Laura, talks about her fears about bullying when it comes to her son.  It's beautifully written, giving her perspective on her thoughts about someone bullying her son who is developmentally delayed due to a stroke he suffered as an infant.  Her piece got me to thinking about another blog I wrote not long ago called "Bullying." I talked about my experiences with  bullying as it peertained to my own kids.  All of this got me to thinking about my own life ~ my past ~ high school and how this saying is applicable to the bullying that I endured and survived.

"This too shall pass" is a bitter pill to swallow when you're the victim of bullying. You think it will never end.  I was bullied high school by a group of senior girls ~ the queen bees ~ when I was a junior.  They were the gorgeous girls of the school.  They seemed to have it all ~ the clothes, the cars, the boyfriends.  They were the "it" girls.  I looked up to them and admired them until they turned on me.  The queen bees decided, for whatever reason,  to make my life miserable.  They hunted me down in the halls before school and in between classes.  Every day I would change my route from class to class so they couldn't find me.  I stopped going to lunch.  I hid in the library during my lunch period so they couldn't find me.  My high school boyfriend made sure to meet up with me in between classes when he could so I wouldn't be a lone target.  I dreaded going to school.  I did have a great group of friends but I was so embarrassed to be the target of bullying I didn't talk about it much, if ever with them.  I don't know what I did to cause them to bully me.  I never will.  I thought the year would never end but the time finally passed.  They were gone from school and gone from my life.

While I was being bullied I wished so badly I could change places with someone, anyone, so the queen bees would leave me alone.  Sometimes I even wished I could change places with them so they could understand the knot of fear I felt in the pit of my stomach every morning when I pulled up to school.  I even wanted to switch places with them so I could live, what I thought, was a great and charmed life. But now, I look back on the year in my life in a much different light.  I survived.  I didn't let them get me.  Much later, I realize I became stronger because of their targeted abuse.  I don't know if the queen bees can say the same of their behavior.  Are they proud of how they behaved?  Do they even remember or care how they behaved?  Did they go on to lead the charmed lives they seemed destined to have or are they still beautiful on the outside but rotten on the inside?  I won't ever know the answers to those questions but I don't really care to find out.  I live a great ~ life warts and all and those girls, they have virtually no power over me ~ except to make me want to eradicate bullying in our schools.  I remember their behavior but I didn't let it get me down.  It's the past.  Shockingly, I didn't get change places with anyone, thankfully, or I wouldn't be the person I am today...no "Freaky Friday" scenes for me. 

I want my kiddos to learn to admire people for their character and not for their possessions, looks or any other superficiality.  I want them to realize that people who look like they have everything still have shit going on in their lives.  I want my kiddos to understand that everyone goes through bad times but bad times do end.  I hope they learn to never want to be anyone else.  I don't want them wish for a "Freaky Friday" scene in their lives.  I want them to know that shitty times do pass and we will love them, always.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Bucket List

This really isn't a bucket list, per se, since I don't plan on dying anytime soon.  But I have been thinking more and more about things I want to do and experience.  Maybe I should call this a "To Do" list instead but I already have a daily one of those with the heading at the top of my paper that says "Sh*t I Need To Do Today."

Anyway, since I've been thinking about things I think would be cool, fun, outrageous to do I thought I'd share them with you...

1.  A hotair balloon ride...I don't think I'd actually do it, though.  I think I'm kinda afraid of heights. 

2. Go to Greece. The beaches, the food, the history. Maybe for our 25th wedding anniversary...

3.  Horseback ride on the beach.  In Greece!

4.  Visit Ireland.  My people are calling me.

5.  Learn how to pole dance...just for fun ~ not actually to make any money.  Seriously, who would pay a 40 something year old, mother of three to pole dance? 

6.  Learn how to surf.  I can snow ski and water ski, can it be that much different, can it?

7.  Learn how to speak French fluently. I think it's a gorgeous language and I would love to speak it perfectly.

8.  Be in a movie.  I can't act and I hate seeing myself on TV but I think it would be fun to be a part of all of the excitement of making a movie.

9.  Write the books that are swirling and swirling and swirling in my brain...I think I'd be able to concentrate and sleep so much better if all of these characters and plots were out of my head.

10.  Drive a racecar.  Need I say more?

11.  Be a spy for a day.  Move over James Bond...you got nothing on me!

12.  Meet a President of the United States for lunch.  Not the current one or the past one but one I like...guess I'll have to wait until someone I like is elected. 

13.  Win something big.  I don't know what but I want to win something BIG!

14.  Get my concealed carry permit.  I don't think I will, though.  If I go through with it Stan said he will only buy me guns for my birthday, Christmas, Mother's day, etc...I don't think I want a Glock on Mother's Day.

15.  Have a completely and totally organized house ~ nothing out of place and everything fits.

16.  Live the beach life for a summer.  "I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand, not a worry in the world a cold beer in my hand.  Life is good today."  (Thanks Zac Brown Band!)

17.  Learn how to sail.  I think knowing how to sail seems so totally cool.

18.  Be a motivational speaker for a day.  I would love to inspire people!

19.  Own a convertible.  Top down, music blasting, sun shining, wind blowing through my hair ~ who could ask for anything more?

20.  Learn how to sing on key.  Is that even possible if you're tone deaf???

I am sure there are more I will come up with but for now that's it.  It's just a little list.  None of it's too wild or crazy but the things I want to learn and do will stretch me just a tiny little bit so I feel a twinge of discomfort.  It's when we are stretched and a little uncomfortable that we can grow. 

I want my kiddos to understand that just because I'm a "grown up" (I do use that term loosely when it comes to describing myself) doesn't mean I'm finished growing and learning and reaching for the stars.  I hope they create their own kind of bucket list or "to do" list when, and if, they grow up.

Oh, for the love of my children...

I would love to hear some of your ideas...I need more inspiration!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

These wise words swirl around us, sometimes they sound cliche' but are always pertinent. 

I was reminded of this saying at my Ministry of Mothers Sharing meeting the other night.  Our meetings never cease to amaze and inspire me.  MOMS is a spiritual journey for mothers who need a little reminder here and there of what it is that we give and receive in our families. We work together as women and moms to help affirm each other and help each other grow together to be the best each of us can be.  I love all of the wisdom I glean from my time with each of these women in MOMS.

"This too shall pass" has given me so many thoughts I want to share but I will start here...

I think there are so many times women forget that we, as mothers, are a ministry.  Webster's dictionary defines the word ministry as "a person or thing through which something is accomplished."  There could be no greater accomplishment, in my mind, than that of seeing my children loved, nurtured and confident in their place in the world. 

"This too shall pass."  The raising of children passes too quickly.  I am seeing Zach in a whole new light.  He is growing up faster and faster each day.  Two and a half years is all I have left with him before he goes off to college.  Two and a half years will be gone in the blink of an eye.  It seems like is was just yesterday that I was up to my eyeballs in diapers, high chairs, nap schedules, bottles and sleepless nights.  Those days are long past.  Now, I am looking at curfews, first loves, heart breaks, driving, and children wanting to spread their wings just a little.  I don't want time to pass.

There are other things in life that I am more than over and ready to move on but raising my kiddos isn't one of them.  I love being a mom and all of the busy-ness it entails.  I love having carpool schedules to manage.  I love going to games and swim meets on the weekends.  OK, so I don't love homework but that's just one small, minor, detail but, really ~ who does enjoy homework and Claire doesn't count because she thrives on school! Even though I don't enjoy homework, I do love reading what my kids have written and seeing their grades after all of their hard work.  Because of all of this busy-ness I may walk around with bags under my eyes and less than a peppy step from waking up at 5:45 after going to bed at 11 but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. 

I remember when I was pregnant for the last time.  I knew how incredibly fortunate I was and I understood the important role my body played in bringing healthy little ones into the world.  I knew I wouldn't get pregnant again and I wondered how I would feel knowing that my body would never have such an immensely, important role again.  What I learned in the years since is that every stage in life is just as important as the previous one just different.  My time bringing babies into this world passed and my time is now spent trying to raise them well. 

But this time too shall pass and I will go on to figure out my next role when the time comes...for the love of my children.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Call Me Alice

I have lived the past two nights in my own Wonderland. My dreams have been so vivid and weird...no falling down a rabbit hole, cheshire cats or queen of hearts for me, but definitely wild, out there dreams.

I think Lewis Carroll would have a hard time keeping up with the frenetic pace of my dreams the past two nights. I have to wonder what the heck I am eating to cause such wild dreams. Or maybe it's not food related at all but the pace of my life or even possibly the stress of the moment. I don't know but I really would like to sort out these crazy dreams...

Last night I had a dream about writing my blog.

The dream was about me going on girls' weekend with three other moms. We were staying in a swanky hotel that sat on a cliff. I was the first to arrive. I walked up to the front desk to get us checked in. The lobby was gold toned marble with rich wood accents. The effect was one of total relaxation. The lighting was soft and warm, the lights from the crystal chandeliers sparkled onto the highly polished floors. I was greeted warmly and given a key to a room on the fist floor. As I walked down the hall to our four bedroom suite I became nervous at the thought of being on the first floor. I thought I should turn back and request a different room. What if someone knew we were a party of four women and tried to break into our room, I thought? I opened the door to our suite and was greeted by a wide sliding glass door overlooking a steep cliff. I knew then that no intruders would be able to gain access to our room and put all thoughts of switching rooms out of my head.

Since I was the first to arrive I picked my room and settled in. I heard a key in the door. Thinking it was one of the other nameless, faceless girls on my trip I went to investigate. The hotel staff, not knowing I had already checked in, was coming in to make sure our room was fully stocked with bottles of wine ready for us. Three glasses had already been poured and I was handed a glass of wine. I remember being seated in a chair as someone from the hotel began to work on my toes. My pedicure began without my consent and my freshly painted toes were painted over by some amateur pedicurist. Paint was splattered on one foot and the other foot was treated to the nail polish being run completely around each and every one of my toes. My irritation grew as the pedicure got more and more out of hand. I kept waiting for my nameless, faceless girlfriends to arrive but just more and more hotel staff showed up ~ I guess to party in our suite. It was at this point in my dream I started thinking about this being awesome material for my blog. I dreamed that I said "This is awesome. I have so much material I can use because I can't make this shit up!" Claire came wandering into my dream room and it was then that I woke up groggy and fuzzy wondering what the hell just happened!

Two things strike me as funny in the last part of my dream. Well, actually the entire dream strikes me as funny but two things stand out. One is that I said "shit" in my dream. I don't remember ever cussing in my sleep. The second thing is that Claire's presence in my crazy, messed up dream woke me up! I guess even in my dreams I am trying to keep Claire safe from the crazy world of adults. It wasn't like there was anything truly bad going on in my dream ~ no wild and crazy behavior. I guess I just knew it was girls' weekend and that was not the kind of place for my ten year old daughter. I am thankful she woke me from my dream. I don't think I could have handled much more "partying." I am exhausted from the massive party I had in my sleep. I hope I don't have too many more nights of wild dreams or at least if I do they are good material for my blog and I keep working, even in my dreams, to keep my kids safe.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lucas...

Let me preface this blog by telling you all how much I absolutely adore my little blond boy. I love to tell story after story about Lucas and is "blond" moments not to belittle or be mean but to tell the stories that are Lucas.

Story number 1...

The other day I needed to go in for a re-touch on the hair. (It's amazing how much I've embraced leaving the blond behind and becoming a red-head.) The conversation goes something like this...

Lucas: "Mom, if it's permanent color why do you have to get it redone?"
Me: "Uhhhh, because my hair grows."
Lucas: "Yeah, I know."
Me: "Sooooo, when my hairs grows the new hair doesn't have any color on it."

There was a long pause and Lucas says "Ohhhhhhhhhhh! I get it!"

Ah, Lucas!

Story number 2...

Stan and Lucas stopped by Kroger on their way home from a hockey game not too long ago. Lucas was sweaty and smelly after his game so he decided to wait in the car. Stan goes in, gets what he needs and heads out. As soon as he clears the doors of Kroger he hears a car alarm blaring. Stan turns to an employee walking back into the store and says, in a teasing tone "Did you ram your cart into a car and set off the alarm?" She responds "Nope, but there's some little kid sitting in a truck out there with alarm going off." UH-OH! Stan heads to his truck and sure enough Lucas is just sitting in the truck ~ car alarm honking and honking and honking. As the story was retold, Lucas gave his side..."I wanted to open the window so I turned the key in the ignition and the alarm just started going off," he said. He told us all how he tried hitting every button he could find to get the alarm to stop. He said nothing worked. He is cracking himself up, laughing at the thought of the alarm blaring in the Kroger parking lot. At this point Claire and one of Lucas' friends jump into the conversation. And it goes something like this...

Claire: "Did you hit the unlock button on the door?"
Lucas: "No, I didn't think of that."
Friend: "If you would have hit that button the alarm would have stopped."
Lucas: "REALLY?!?"

Ah, Lucas!

I could write reams and reams about Lucas, his stories and his blond moments. He is quite a character and a crack up! God love that kid as he grows up. I know do ~ love him, that is!



OH, for the love of my children...

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Little Bit of Writer's Block and A Whole Lot of Busy Work

This past week I have found myself with a small touch of writer's block.  I think I can attribute it to all of the busy work I find in my lap right now.

Writing takes creativity, creativity takes time.  Time seems to be something that has slipped through my fingers in the last couple of weeks.  The kids back-to-school stuff, getting adjusted to carpool schedules, school activities, dentist appointments, doctor appointments and then throw in trying to keep in shape; it all seems to have sapped my creative juices.

In order for me to feel creative I need to strike a balance between being busy enough so I have material for my blogs and being slowed down and engaged enough to absorb the material around me.  Life has me feeling like a hamster on a treadmill right now ~ too busy to appreciate the stories swirling around me.

This morning was different.  This morning I packed Zach's lunch at the same time as Claire's (Lucas prefers to buy his lunch...he is getting fed lunch, I promise, just not by me), which freed me to be able to sit down and listen when Zach was waking up.  I have resorted to sending Lucas up to the third floor to awaken the beast that is Zach at 7:30 in the morning.  Lucas came down laughing.  He thinks Zach is a riot in the morning.  Zach thinks Lucas is a pain in the ass in the morning, which is why I have resorted to using Lucas to wake Zach ~ maybe if he thinks Lucas is a big enough pain he will start using an alarm clock.  As I was listening to Lucas tell how he woke Zach up, I heard the floor creak and knew Zach was headed to the shower.  I sat and finished reading the paper, waiting for Zach to make an appearance for breakfast.

Stan was reading the paper in one of our big red chairs in great room and I was in the other.  Our kitchen and great room are attached into one open space, easily combining mealtime and chat time.  Zach sat at the bar in the kitchen drinking his smoothie and went over his plans for his evening...hangout with friends afterschool, dinner, a football game and a sleepover.  Stan immediately put the kabash on a sleepover telling Zach he was obviously running himself down because he needed to come home early from school yesterday.  (He had a massive headache and his shoulder was bothering him again so I gave him some meds and sent him to bed, where he promptly fell asleep for an hour and a half...not a normal afternoon for a 15 year old kid.)  Zach whined and fussed, good-naturedly, about not having a sleepover and kept poking a little about wanting to spend the night somewhere outside of the confines of our house.  Stan changed the subject, going on to tell us how sore he was from playing hockey last night.  Stan said "I feel like I just fell of the back of a truck," to which Zach replied "I feel like I was sent down from heaven!"  Stan's response was a deadpan "Oh yeah, well you're still not sleeping over at anyone's house."  Zach gave an audible whimper...

I love it when life is busy and I'm on the move but I also love it when I can truly appreciate the little everyday stories that make up our life.  Balance is good.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Expander Off Day!

YAY!!  Yesterday was the day my expander finally came off.  It was on exactly eight months, 13 days, and 1 hour...not that I was counting, or anything! 

January 21 was the day I got my braces and expander on and right after they were put on I met two of my friends for lunch.  It was no easy feat eating with those suckers on for the first time.  And then, that night Stan and I had a wine dinner...what the heck was I thinking??  Lunch and then a wine dinner with brand new hardware all up in my mouth!  That was crazy.  I remember sitting at lunch thinking how the heck I was going to choke down french onion soup.  The strands of cheese and onion kept wrapping around my expander.  It was a painful ordeal.  By the 7 o'clock when it was time to leave for the wine dinner it felt like someone had taken a cheese grater to the inside of my cheeks.  There was not much dinner consumed by me, but a fair amount of wine ~ trying to ease the pain. 

Yesterday, as I was leaving for my ortho appointment Stan asked if I was absolutely sure I was getting my expander off...well, that put a damper on my spirits.  What if I was wrong?  What if it really wasn't expander off day??  Could I be tortured for one more month with this damn expander getting in the way??  DAMN!  Now, I wasn't so sure....

My fears were eased as soon as I walked into Dr. White's office and was greeted with "I am so excited for you!"  "It's a big day!"  WHEW!!  I was seated and the work began. 

As I heard the expander cracking and popping off of my teeth I got whiff of an odor so powerful and nasty I almost started to gag.  The smell wafting out of my mouth as the expander was pulled off was something I never want to experience again...it was horrendous.  Months of rotting food trapped on the inside of the expander caused noxious fumes to come spewing out of my mouth.  I was fastidious about keeping everything clean.  I waterpiked at least once a day.  My nighttime routine cleaning my mouth takes about 20 minutes but nothing can keep the food out of the expander.  My ortho tech said my mouth looked better than most she's seen.  I don't think I will ever forget that smell but I sure hope I never have to experience it again!

I went right from Dr. White's office to lunch with some friends.  My first meal post expander.  It was almost as interesting as my first meal with the expander on.  I have to relearn how to eat and chew but I truly am OK with that!  The damn expander is gone and I am feeling good. 

I can check getting an expander off my bucket list.  Been there done that and have no desire to go back! 

Claire is next on the list for an expander.  Oh, dear!  I don't envy her but at least I can sympathize and we can have a really big celebration when it comes off!

Oh, for the love of my children...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ah Jeez!!!

Just what I needed at 9 o'clock on a Sunday night....Claire in tears and Lucas doing algebra homework.

Last night, Claire came down into the kitchen with tears in her eyes and a trembling chin while Lucas was sitting at the kitchen counter working on his long put off homework.  Stan was grumpily working with Lucas.  He had asked Lucas all day if he had homework to work on.  At 9 o'clock he broke out his homework and found he needed help.  Stan was summoned (Stan is math and science.  I am English and history). With Stan working with Lucas it was up to me to console Claire.

I took her up to our room and we snuggled down in our bed to get to the bottom of the tears.  The problem was she didn't know what was causing them...I had some digging to do.  I probed here and I probed there.  Bullying?  Bad grades?  Problems with a friend?  Nope to all of those.  Finally, we unearthed the problem.  She lost the bag she was using as her lunch bag.  She couldn't find it anywhere.  It was a bag she made in preschool, with her handprints in red, green, blue and yellow.  She was devastated to think she lost something so precious to her.  It reminded her of the time she lost her baby blanket in Alabama....it was sadness and tears then too. 

Luck was with both Claire and Lucas today.  Claire found her precious bag and we decided it was time to retire it from lunch carrying duties.  Lucas did well on his homework, even though he did not impress Stan with his lack of timeliness in getting his work done.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Breakfast Club

Do you remember the movie "The Breakfast Club"?  It's one of my all time favorite movies.  The movie defined our era.  The 80's spawned so many movies about coming of age "Sixteen Candles," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Mystic Pizza," "Pretty in Pink."  The list of movies goes on and on...  These movies defined our era...the 80's.  All these movies explored teenage angst, cliques, fitting in, not fitting in, wanting to fit in, where to fit in and how to fit in.

In the movie "The Breakfast Club" there were very distinct groups the jocks, the popular kids, the brains, the outsiders...just like my own memories of high school.  Distinct groups, cliques, crowds, teams...they all mean the same thing.  In high school, I think, we were all divided into what defined us.  Or maybe it we let others define us for ourselves, just like the five kids who sat in Saturday detention in "The Breakfast Club." 


Last night was girls' night in our house. Claire and I watched the movie "Prom". It was a throw back, for me, to the movie "The Breakfast Club."  For Claire the movie ventured into a realm she has never seen before.  For me, it was a trip down memory lane taking me back to high school homecoming dances, proms, sub debs and the daily routine of high school itself.

I recently pulled out my homecoming pictures...

The other day Zach told us he asked a girl to homecoming.  That's a big one.  I remember my first homecoming dance, and my second and my third... Stan and I were at odds with our memories from homecoming. Stan said homecoming for him was not a big deal in his high school. I pulled out picture after picture from homecomings of years gone by ~ my homecoming pictures.

Interspersed in my homecoming pictures were pictures from both my junior and senior prom. Watching "Prom" was like a scene out of my own high school experience. In the movie the main character, Nova, talks about how on prom night kids forget about what place they played in their high school experience, they all come together on one special night just to celebrate their class. Again, it was like "Breakfast Club" revisited.

In our high school, as I remember, there were the geeks, the jocks, the ropers, the cheerleaders, the thespians, and the popular kids. As I remember things I think I was kind of a floater.  My group didn't have a distinct title. I floated, with my group of friends, between other groups.  The pictures I found from my junior and senior proms led me to believe Nova might be right.  Maybe prom is that one special night in high school where we forget who belongs to what group.  I found pictures the other night of me posing with classmates and I have no idea who they were.  Stan was shocked...how could I not know who these people are in the pictures.  When we were talking I told him I don't know how I don't know them but now I do.  Prom is that one night where I had the freedom to abandon all pretenses and be with the people maybe I admired from afar, or the people who seemed out of my league or the people who I really wanted to get to know but because they weren't in my little circle of friends, it seemed out of the question. 

I hope Zach has a blast at his first homecoming.  I hope he has many more fond memories of high school dances.  I know I do.  My only wish, or regret, is that I wasn't so compartmentalized in high school and I felt the freedom to explore other groups.

I hope Zach's like the characters from "The Breakfast Club" who don't want to forget about each other and who don't want to let others define them anymore.


Oh, for the love of my children...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

This Is Gonna Be GOOD!

Claire and I are on our own today and tonight. The boys are in Maryland for some hockey. Claire had dance here in Richmond today so Stan and I had to divide and conquer. The boys are together and the girls are together.

These girls have BIG plans for tonight...


Claire and I took a trip to the Asian market to get all the ingredients to make our own Sushi. The Asian market near our house is one of my favorite places to go. It's a big, stinky wonderland. The smell that assaults our noses as we enter the store made both of us cough and gag just a little. The fresh fish at the back of the store gives off the most horrendous odor but Claire and I perservered, as we always do. As Claire and I venture further into the interior of the store we come across all kinds of strange and exotic things we've never seen before and have no earthly idea what they are. We find packages containing God knows what. Things that seem at first glance to be interesting but then you see an eyeball staring back at you. It's all very foreign but very exciting. We have our list, we know what we need so we get right to collecting our seaweed wraps, rice vinegar, wasabi, miso soup mix, sushi crab sticks, rice, carrots, avocado, cucumber, smoked salmon, cream cheese and bean cakes for dessert. I'm sure we've forgotten somethings and other things we just can't find, if only I could read the labels on the packages in the Asian market.

I did ask Claire if she just wanted to buy sushi. Her answer was an emphatic "NO" followed by a "that takes all the fun out of it!" She's right. I know she is. It's girl time in our house...what better way to spend in than making something we both love ~ together?

Right now, the house smells like fresh sushi-zu ~ the vinegar, sugar and salt mixture that is poured over the rice after it cooks. I have the rice rinsed and soaking. In the next few minutes we'll turn the stove on and set the rice to cooking. The cucumbers are peeled and sliced. The carrots are julienned. The rest of the ingredients are just waiting for the rice to cook.












Rice is cooked and we're ready to move on...

Now it's time to assemble our favorites. Claire loves "crab" and carrots. I'm going for a roll with cream cheese, avacado and smoked salmon. I'm also after a good California roll or two. I think rice balls sound pretty good too; rice rolled into a ball and then are rolled around in the sesame seed, seaweed mixture. I do wish I had some good sashimi quality tuna. A good spicy tuna roll sounds delicious but I don't trust myself to pick out sashimi tuna. I'll rely on the sushi chefs to prepare the tuna rolls for me.




The sushi making is complete. Claire and I are headed into the TV room to find a good movie. It's girl's night in our house and it's gonna be GOOD night!

Oh, for the love of my children...

By the way, the sushi is unbelievably good!! Holy cow ~ I think I've died and gone to heaven!!