The Mom List ~ Last Day o' September

  • You've ever been relieved to catch a red light on the way to work, even though you're already beyond late,  because it gives you a chance to throw on some make-up before you get to your office parking lot where someone might see you.
  • Follow-up to last week:  You've instinctively caught someone ELSE'S kid's vomit, chewed up food, or other regurgitated matter in your hand.  Force of habit.  (True story...I caught an entire handful of chewed-up Cheez-Its as I was substituting in the 3 year old Sunday School class last Sunday.  Then I thought to myself, "Why?  Why did I do that?!)
  • You feel a little guilty about the whole processed foods thing, but wonder if it's feasible to eliminate corn dogs and Kraft singles from the family diet.
  • Mealtime is always an adventure thanks to one kid who won't eat meat and one who only eats meat.
  • You know that the secret to getting out of a bad mood is a single glance of your sleeping angels.  Never underestimate the healing power of an innocent, peaceful, snoozing baby.
  • You have conquered fears of your own, so that you wouldn't transfer them to your children.  Like when you tell them it's *not* scary to go to the dentist as you try, with all your might, not to have a look of horror on your face.
  • Sadly, you truly don't know how to answer when people ask you what you do for fun.  So, with your best joking face on, you not-so-jokingly reply, "I don't have hobbies.  I have kids."
  • There is no stain you can't remove.
  • You had no idea you'd ever get so excited about bodily functions.  "Aww, that was a great burp!" and "You tee-tee'd in the potty?!?!  YAY!" and "Hooray for poop!!!"
  • Sometime between bedtime last night and breakfast this morning that tiny person you gave birth to turned into a little boy.  (Or it feels that way anyway.)
  • You have cried more since the birth of your child than in your entire life before them.  You cried when you dropped them off at daycare for the first time, when they got their first shots, when they fell down and you weren't able to catch them, when they just wouldn't go to sleep, when you dropped them off at elementary school, when they went through the lunch line all by themselves, when they wrote a story all alone just by sounding out the words.  It's not just things they do though.  Commercials, movies, snippets from Chicken Soup for the Soul, news stories.  They all move you to tears.  Daily.
  • You have become an old lady when driving through residential neighborhoods because you are uncannily aware of small children and their affinity for following balls out into the street.  Conversely, it takes all the restraint you have to resist the urge to throw toys/trashcans in front of cars that whiz by your home without regard to the speed limit. 
  • Wizards of Waverly Place is quickly becoming one of your must-see television shows.

Might as well face it, I'm addicted to lists.

So....I was reading a friend's blog when I read about the Day Zero project. Immediately, I was intrigued. A to-do list with an expiration date!? Right up my alley. The premise is simple: you have 1001 days to complete 101 tasks. You pick the start date. You pick the tasks. For the past several days, I have compiled my list. I'm already excited about this. In following suit with the theme of 101, I will begin my tasks on October 1st (10.1.09). This means my finish date will be 6.28.12.

I am hoping to use this as an exercise for improvement, in myself, in my relationships. I see it as an opportunity to do some good and have some fun, while forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone (even if only slightly). Wish me luck! And I hope you will join me!

Without further ado...

My List

In Progress
Not yet started

For the Sake of being a Responsible Adult

1. Get up when Sam gets up for one month.
2. Join a committee at Ben's school.
3. Write my will.
4. Vote in all city and county elections.
5. Take the Professional Engineer Exam.
6. Pass the Professional Engineer Exam.
7. Write a letter to my Congressman.
8. Write a letter to the Editor.
9. Don't let people's beliefs (political, religious, moral) affect the way I feel about them.
10. Be on time for one whole week; to work, church, Mission Friends, and childrens choir.

For the Sake of the House
11. Sod the backyard.
12. Repair or replace the tire on our riding mower.
13. Plant an herb garden.
14. Make my bed every day for two weeks before leaving for work. (15+/14)

For Money's Sake
15. Organize a community/court-wide yard sale.
16. Set up an ING savings account for Ben, Abby, and Sarah.
17. Eat every meal at home and bring my lunch to work everyday for a week.(21/21)
18. Sell something on Ebay.
19. Save more than 50% on a grocery order at Kroger.

For 100% Selfish Reasons
20. Have my teeth whitened.
21. Have my eyebrows waxed.
22. Highlight my hair.
23. Have more confidence in myself.

For Health's Sake
24. Run a 5K.
25. Drink nothing but water for a week.
26. Cook a vegetarian meal.
27. Reach two new "tens-places" in my weight.  (For instance, if I start at 480lbs, I need to get to 460.) (0/2)
28. Complete a 30 Day Challenge on EA Active. (30/30)
29. Convince my mother to schedule her mammogram.
30. Play tennis with Sam at least ten times, no matter how horribly he kicks my tail.(1/10)
31. Take my vitamin every day for a month. (31/31)
32. Convince my kids to eat carrot sticks.
33. Take a mental health day.

For Spiritual Growth
34. Share my faith with at least one person.
35. Read the Bible in 365 days. (Day 1: Jan 3, 2011)
36. Support CBC's Singing Christmas Tree.
37. Make it to Church AND Sunday School for an entire month in a row. (6+/4)
38. Attend a couple's retreat with Sam.
39. Pray with my children. 
40. Begin and maintain a prayer journal.

For Others
41. Send a note of cheer to someone twice a month.  (36/66)
42. Pay for the person behind me at a toll booth.
43. Pay for the person behind me at Dunkin' Donuts.
44. Donate blood at least three times. (0/3)
45. Fit into or give away all of the clothes in my closet.
46. Buy something on Etsy.
47. Take dinner to a friend who has just had a baby.
48. Anonymously do 10 acts of kindness. (7/10)
49. Take treats to the kids' teachers once a month. (33/33)
50. Compliment a stranger once a week.
51. Donate 100,000 grains of rice on (45,790/100,000)

For the Love of Family
52. Make Abby and Sarah matching dresses using my grandmother's sewing machine.
53. Breastfeed Sarah on her 1st birthday.
54. (With Julie's help) Send my parents on a bombin' retirement trip.
55. Read the entire classic works of Dr. Seuss to my children. (63/63)
56. Print my favorite digital photos from April 2009-present.
57. Organize all of my loose photos into albums.
58. Teach Ben to ride his 2-wheeled bike.
59. Play catch with Ben using a real baseball glove and baseball.
60. Teach Abby to swim.
61. Take the family to Hershey Park.
62. Leave the dishes in the sink, the laundry in the hamper, and just spend time with my family.
63. Enroll Abby in dance.
64. Make Callaway Gardens an annual Christmas tradition. (3/3)

For the Sake of Making Things
65. Make my own pizza dough.
66. Make Abby ten new hair bows. (10/10)
67. Make 10 homemade gifts. (2/10)
68. Keep a journal of my favorite quotes.
69. Duplicate a restaurant favorite at home using
70. Make an advent calendar at Christmas. (3/3)
71. Make homemade play-doh.

For Fun
72. Learn to use my DSLR in manual mode.
73. Host a party at the homestead.
74. Read 10 new ("grown-up") books. (10/10)
75. Come up with an idea for my very own children's book.
76. Travel to a state I've never visited.
77. Patronize the local book store.
78. Plan a surprise party.
79. Learn to use my French press.
80. Eat breakfast with Santa.
81. Sleep outside.
82. Ride a jet-ski.
83. Go kayaking.
84. Grow my own pumpkins.
85. Eat something different from my "usual" at least once each at Carrabba's, Chili's, and Zaxby's. (3/3)
86. Eat at 10 new restaurants. (10/10)
87. Meet at least 2 more WOHMs & 2 more LSMs.  (2/4)
88. Fix something instead of buying a new one.
89. Set up the aquarium for the kids.
90. Get lost in a Maize Maze.
91. Swim in a river.
92. Ride a horse...or at least sit on one.
93. Laugh to the point of tears.
94. Commit 10 jokes to memory. (1/10)
95. Give more hugs.
96. Say "I love you" more often.
97. Learn to hula-hoop...Wii Fit doesn't count.

For the List
98. Donate $5 for every task not completed.
99. Blog about each task as it is completed. (46/101)
100. Write a letter to myself on Day 1 to be opened on Day 1001.
101. Inspire one person to make a list of their own. (1/1)

Making It Happen Monday!

In case you can't tell, I'm a little excited for October 1st to get here.  I'm VERY excited to get started on my list.  It is about pushing my limits, raising the ceiling, doing good, learning more about myself.  In the words of my good Irish friend (who isn't really my friend, but it would be fun if he were),

"I'm tired of dreaming.  I'm into doing at the moment.  It's like, let's only have goals that we can go after." ~Bono

Okay, Bono.  I will.  And I do.  (Starting Thursday.)
And I was going to end there, but I have this issue with brevity.  It's impossible for me.  It's just that I was suddenly reminded of a self-esteem assembly we had in elementary school.  Now, I know I'm not ancient or anything, but it was long enough ago that I don't think I should remember the lyrics to the songs we learned.  For some reason, though, they always stuck with me. 

There were two songs.  The first one was called, "I Like Myself".  It's great and all, but the one I want to talk about was more of a chant, called, "Yes I Can".  The lyrics are REALLY tough.

I can do it if I plan.
Yes I can, Yes I can.
I can really make it happen.
Yes I can, Yes I can, Yes I can.

(I guess we've figured out why I haven't forgotten these songs.  There are a total of 11 different words in it.)  At any rate, what a great song to have playing in your head through the years! (I'm certain I've sang both of these for Sam at some point....embarrassing.  Anyone from JES remember these?  Or is it just me?)  I think the assembly people would like to know that it had a lasting effect on me. 

I have planned.  And I can do it!

Flashback Friday - September 25th

Birthday season is coming to a close soon in our house, and shortly after that comes Halloween.  One of the weeks in between, however, is reserved for the Georgia National Fair, which has become an annual tradition for our little thrill-seekers.

If any of you watch the weather channel, you may have heard that we've gotten "a little bit" of rain here in Georgia in the past week or so.  It's somewhat localized.  My poor in-laws have gotten almost nothing and we're flooding.  Go figure.  Anyway, that seems to be how it goes with rainfall in Georgia.  It also seems to go that you'll have had NO rain at all...until the Georgia National Fair is in full force.

This was the case for us last year.  We had just enough time to eat a hot dog and buy our wristbands before the heavens opened and the deluge poured down on us.  I would say it was a record, but there are some serious rainfalls down here.  I'm just usually not standing outside in the middle of them.  We waited it out for almost an hour, and we finally got weary enough of waiting that we were going to make a run for the car.  But!  Not before we crafted some rain gear for the children on the not only wet, but unseasonably cool day. 

You might think that we got some strange looks.  You'd be wrong.  The only looks we got were those of envy.  (Okay, not really.  I'm sure more than one person criticized our parenting skills for wrapping our kids' head in plastic bags.)  At any rate, we made it home and life went on.  And if my memory serves me correctly, they didn't get a cold after this!  That was the fear that prompted crafting the raingear for our snotty-nose prone children.  Parenting success!  Kind of.  Or we could have brought an umbrella. 

And to think, all I wanted was a funnel cake.

Which fruit reigns supreme?

Apple 2 (13%)
Pear 2 (13%)
Banana 5 (33%)
Orange 2 (13%)
Some kind of berry 4 (26%)

Banana?  Really?  You're wrong.  I'm so not a picky person, but that's one of about 5 things I just cannot bring myself to eat.  (Fun fact, I know.)  The correct answer is Pear.  (Oh, you thought this was a poll?  It was actually a QUIZ.)

Obviously my sample size makes this statistically insignificant.  Will that stop me from immediately posting a new one?  Heck no!  Vote on!

How to Know You're a Mom ~ First Week of Fall Edition!

Admittedly, these have absolutely nothing to do with fall.  I just love it!

  • You know the alternative uses for elastic hairbands, including but not limited to: giving you a couple extra inches on your pants (either before you're big enough for maternity clothes or as you're trying to fit back into regular ones) and allowing you to pump hands-free.
  • Politics aside, you just couldn't get past the Bob the Builder-ness of Obama's campaign slogan in the last presidential election.
  • You keep a mental list of which stores' restrooms are easily accessible and, more importantly, not icky.
  • You've quite literally cried over spilled [breast]milk.
  • Your son is only 6, but you start feeling sad about him going off to college and getting married.
  • You become an oracle of sorts, and surmise that your son is destined for a career as a civil engineer when, at the zoo, he cares very little for the animals, but wants to know how they get their water, why the water in the penguin tank is swirling, and what happens when it rains.
  • Thanks to her charisma and evasiveness, you fear that your "innocent" almost-three year old is destined for a career in politics.
  • You've caught spit-up or vomit in your bare hand. Gross? Yes. But that's reality.
  • A large portion of your phone messages and grocery lists are written in crayon.
  • You've had the most embarrassing of conversations in the not-so-private confines of a bathroom "Mommy, who's pooping? I heard a toot! (snicker)" To which you reply, "Shhh...we'll talk about it later." Or, "Shh, I don't know. But that's what bathrooms are for..."
  • You have had to explain why it's not acceptable to go pantsless in the front yard...or at a restaurant.
  • You become a translator, for a language that you don't really speak. After many frustrating tears and a lot of yelling (and not just by your two year old), you finally figure out that when she says she wants to watch "Warner Robins", she means she wants to watch the movie, "Meet the Robinsons".

The Annual "I Love Fall" Post

All my life, I thought that September 21st marked the first day of fall.  My world was rocked this morning when the local news told me I was wrong.  Fall or autumn (as my more-pretentious friends would say) officially begins tomorrow, September 22nd at 5:18pm.  This begs the question, "How much do I trust the local news?"  But that's beside the point.  All technicalities aside, fall is near.  According to the calendar at least.

No one calls me Webster (or Merriam for that matter), but I have a very specific definition for fall/autumn.  Fall is what you feel when you walk outside in the morning and the air is crisp enough that, at first, you think it's cold, but then you realize it's just awesome.  You can breathe.  You don't immediately break out into a sweat from simply standing outside.  The leaves have started to change from their lively green color to  warmer, though just as vibrant, shades of yellow, orange, and red.  You can pack up the shorts and get out the jeans.  Dinners transition from the grilled meals of the hot weather to the oven-baked goodness of cold weather.  Scents of pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon fill the air.  Turkey is on the horizon.  Buzz of Halloween costumes picks up fervor.  Hay rides ensue.  It becomes socially acceptable to drink coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate, and hot apple cider any time of day.

Now that I live in Georgia, some of these things have changed, but this will always be my definition of fall.  Always.  Living in Georgia presents fall in a different way, so I'm always left feeling a little gypped when I'm still wearing shorts in November, the amazing leaf-change doesn't quite happen, and I still sweat from simply standing outside.  The positive is that I get to wear sandals just about year-round.  And I now know the joys of a bag of hot boiled peanuts.  So, there's that.

(I would be remissed if I didn't thank God for springtime in the South.  It's beauty does help to take the sting of a lacking fall away...some.) 

I'm not sure if disdain for heat is genetic, environmental, or conditioned.  At any rate, Ben is not a fan of Georgia summers.  I know only a handful of people who actually *like* this brand of heat.  (So that whole myth about people from the South "liking" the heat...not true.)  Needless to say, Ben was excited to find out that fall was on the horizon.  This morning I asked him if he knew what today was (he didn't), so I told him it was the last day of summer.  He looked back and me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "Does this mean it'll be cooler tomorrow?" 

"Sorry, bud.  But at least there's more of a chance now!"

In the meantime, I will wait (patiently, ha!) for my crisp morning and oven-baked dinners.  Because no matter what...

I Love Fall!!!

Flashback Friday ~ Screaming Edition

I've been feeling especially nostalgic these days with the 3rd birthday of my middle born child quickly approaching.  Funny thing is that I handled Ben's recent 6th birthday just fine.  I guess his 5th birthday and starting pre-k last year were emotional enough that age six and starting kindergarten seemed kind of anti-climactic.  At any rate, life is going faster than I ever imagined it would.

Since Abby was born, Ben has been head over heels in love with her.  He is, without a doubt, the most loving, patient, tolerant big brother I've ever witnessed.  Sure, sometimes he locks himself in his bedroom for a moment of peace.  And every once in a while, he raises his voice to his "pesky" little sister.  But in general, he's a saint.  Even though he desperately wanted a baby brother, he's just as in love with little Sarah.  It does my heart good to see them love each other the way only siblings can.

I was peeking at old pictures the other day trying to decide who Sarah looks like (she's definitely changing and is no longer a dead ringer for Ben like she was at birth) when I came across one of my favorite pictures of all time.  I was blessed with newborns that liked to cry.  And adding them to our house always requires an adjustment period.  Mostly though, it's a waiting game until they magically, one day, stop crying.  This is a picture of one of those days during the waiting period.  As goes the paradox of motherhood, it feels like yesterday and eons ago, all at the same time. 

About sums it up.

Ben was just barely 3 in this picture, the age that Abby (the screaming one) will be in just two short weeks.

I'm happy to say that I can look back on this picture and smile.  Laugh even.  These little moments...the stuff that life is made of.

The Big Coupon Debate

So, I'm closing the coupon poll (not surprisingly because I am impatient.  See Today's other blog.).  As suspected, the results are inconclusive.  I still have no answer.  So I guess that means I get to do what I want. Incidentally, I pronounce it coo-ponn, despite the fact that it makes me feel like a British snob...or something.

Out of 18 votes, 9 go to cue-ponn, 8 go to coo-ponn, and only 1 doesn't frickin' care. 

Now I get to ask another random question.  For no other reason than I *heart* polls.

And I want it NOW!

Patience is a virtue that I don't consider myself to have in abundance...or at all.  That being said, I'm blaming cultural and societal factors for this.  (Surely it can't be my very own fault!  Personal accountability?  HA!  I laugh in the face of personal accountability!)

I've been alive for twenty-six years now.  Not a long time in the grand scheme of life expectancies, but long enough to see dramatic changes in the way the world works. 

Remember back in elementary school when they taught us how to use a card catalog to look up a book of interest?  We'd see if they had the card, find the call number, walk to the shelf, and see if the book was there.  It might have taken 5 minutes per book.  Now, I can type the name of any book from any office, my bedroom, in line at the grocery store on my phone...and with an instantaneous click determine whether a library has a book, if it's checked out, whether its in the process of being re-shelved, and I can even tell them to hold it for me.  Or, I can download it to my Kindle and skip the process of looking for and reading an antiquated "book" altogether.

Then there are the cell phones, which probably play more heavily into our lack of societal patience than anything else.  We all carry cell phones (and if you're one of the holdouts, props to you...for real).  It's to the point that we get stressed out if we're without them.  We turn around and go back home if we forget them on the way to work.  We work ourselves into a panic attack if the battery is dying and we're without a charger.  You see people talking on them constantly.  Shoot, even on the way to work in the morning, or dropping the kids off at school, I see people talking on them.  Who is awake that early in the morning and what are they talking about?  And here's the real question:  is it *that* urgent that you couldn't wait the 5 minutes until you'll be in the office to say it to your coworker/boss's face?  Or wait the 10 minutes until you'll be home to tell your husband who you saw from across the Kroger parking lot?  Imagine if we all only had landline phones!  Or, even worse, had to rely on the US Postal Service (which probably *used* to be faster/more reliable in the "olden" days than it is now).  Not only would we be more patient, but it would be a nice exercise for our cultural attention-deficit disorder.  It's not too often we commit things to memory anymore...

Writing paper checks takes too long, now we use debit cards. Or we buy things online, and skip the whole process of going to the store altogether.

When dial-up wasn't fast enough we got cable.  When email wasn't fast enough we got instant messenger.  When VCRs weren't good enough, we got DVDs, and now DVRs.  We don't have to watch commercials anymore.  My kids don't understand the concept of live television.  "Mommy, can you fast forward the commercials?"

We live in an instantaneous and yet, somehow, still impatient world.  We are not satisfied, despite the fact that life happens faster now than ever.

Our culture breeds impatience.  And now our children don't know how to wait.  For anything.  (Or work for anything, but that's an entirely different blog for another day!)  I don't have patience myself, so how can I expect my children to?  This is a huge struggle for me.  It's Me vs. Society.  And my kids only know my example. 

This is not going to be an overnight transition for me, but I truly desire to become the opposite of what I am now...which is to say that I am an impatient, get-er-done, flying through life's little moments woman.  My prayer is that I can teach my children the virtue of patience by example.  We wait for good things.  We wait for four years (or more) to get our college diploma.  We wait as long as it takes to find our soulmate.  We wait for nine months to hold a new baby.  It behooves us to wait.  Waiting makes us stronger, better. 

And!...I will wait for patience.

The Mom List...again. Tired of it yet?

I realized yesterday that I posted the "How to Know You're a Mom" lists for three consecutive weeks, giving me just a couple more days to think of a list for the accidental trend I started.  Does this mean I'm crazy?  Then I cut myself some slack because, really, this is a blog.  And it's not like I have readers who are counting on me to post anything at all, let alone a weekly list of things that probably only apply to me.  Then I decided that maybe I *do* want to make it a weekly thing because it's fun for me, if no one else.  And now, I'm posting it. 

I also realize that my posts would be a lot shorter if I didn't first carry you through my excessively random thought processes.  Sometimes I feel like my brain is full of thoughts just floating around like a room full of butterflies...that have all consumed a couple of Red Bulls and a pack of Vivarin.

With that, here is my maybe-weekly post of How to Know You're a Mom-isms.  Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy coming up with them!
  • You've said, "Yes, you can have another hot dog...if you eat a few more Cheetos."  And several minutes passed before you realized the absurdity of that statement.
  • The prospect of dessert has become one of your best bargaining tools.
  • You start to identify your children based on the stereotypes in the Breakfast Club.  You have a brain, an athlete, a basketcase, a princess, and a criminal.  Ultimately though, Brian was right, each one of them is a little bit of them all.
  • You've learned to point your kid towards the nurse giving shots so they don't associate your face with the pain.
  • You ask your kids if they have any special requests from the grocery store, knowing full well the answers will be chocolate pudding and fruit snacks.  Every time.
  • You spot your two-year old carrying around a box of vanilla wafers that you know you left on the top shelf of the pantry.  You don't have to try too hard to imagine her scaling the shelves to reach it.  And really, after an effort of that magnitude, didn't she kind of earn them?
  • In an attempt to make the bedtime routine even a little bit shorter, you do collective storytime.  This means your six year old boy has to sit through Purplicious, the story about how fabulous the colors pink and purple are, and your two year old girl has to endure Dinosaurs: the fossil hunters, the juvenile non-fiction book about paleontology. 
  • Before having kids, you swore up and down that your child would never love dinosaurs, go out in public with crazy hair or a mismatching outfit, or cry in a restaurant.  Then you had kids.  And you learned that "never" is a term that can't be used lightly.
  • Christmas morning has become exciting again!  (Yes, it's worthy of an exclamation mark!)  Perhaps even more than ever!
  • There's no sweeter sound than your kids singing the blessing together before a meal.
  • Lists are your friends.  Not because you're super organized, but because since having kids you have the memory of Dory.
  • You get hand cramps signing all of your family's names on Christmas cards....after the first couple.  (Seriously..."Love, Sam, Jennie, Ben, Abby, & Sarah" is a lot of writing!)
Until next time...

Wedding Entertainment Guide: The Kid Version

This past weekend we packed the fam of five up for a drive to Tennessee for my dear cousin Merry's wedding.  It was the perfect wedding, complete with a beautiful, obviously oh-so-in-love couple.  The ceremony was quick, the vows were so heartfelt and perfect, and there was some humor to keep things light and fun.  It was fabulous.

The reception was outside, and just my style (not that anyone asked for my approval).  It was light-hearted, casual, and celebratory.  We sat with family that I haven't seen in way too long.  All around, it was great.  And I was so very proud of my kiddos, all three of them.  This was the first wedding they'd been to where they were attendees, not participants.  Even without a decent night's sleep, a nap, or a real lunch (I warmed up leftover pizza in the hotel room and they ate in the car on the way because, shocking, we were running late...or so I thought), they were well-behaved.

During the reception, Ben was elated to have been given permission to enjoy an ice-cold Dr. Pepper from a can, all to himself.  Thereby conjuring up mental images of Forrest Gump, "I wasn't hungry but thirsty.  I must have drank me fifteen Dr. Peppers."
After a meal of baked beans for Ben and cupcake icing for Abby (awesome on both counts), I started to wonder how long it was really fair to make a six year old and almost-three year old sit at a table.  Behind the reception tent, there was a large clearing, and so Ben asked if he and Abby could go play back there.  Sure kid, go for it...just be careful.

It wasn't thirty seconds later before Abby found the much-larger-than-her pile of wood that was precariously stacked and clearly intended for a bonfire.  She started trying to pull one out from the bottom.  Just as I stood up to stop her, she moved onto sprinting around behind Ben without causing a collapse of the bonfire pile.  Phew.  Disaster averted.

The next thing I knew Ben was back at the table, sans little sister.  I said, "Ben, where's Abby?"  He gave me a very unconcerned shrug.  So I stood up and scanned the area.  I found her quickly, since I had stepped into "If I were Abby what would I be doing" mode.  As if there were no other place she could possibly be, she was hanging like a highly caffeinated sloth from the ropes that were supporting the big tent.  I would've snapped a picture if I hadn't been scared that she was about to cause something like this to happen.  I made my way over quickly and removed her from the ropes.  She looked at me and proudly proclaimed, "I'm hanging there!  I'm a monkey!"  Surely a 26 pound almost three year old can't cause mass destruction of that nature, but you can never be too careful when Abby is involved.  Another disaster averted.

As is the case when there are more adults than children, someone always thinks the kids are in the care of someone else.  I promise we're not irresponsible parents.  It's just so easy to think that someone else has them (because they did a mere minute earlier).  But, again, I found myself at the table doing a quick headcount and coming up one short.  Guess which one was missing.  I stood up and did yet another scan of the area.  This time, I found Abby attempting to crawl underneath the barbed-wire fence surrounding the reception area.  Unfortunately for her, her dress got barbed and she was tugging and tugging with all of her might.  The photographer had spotted her around the same time as me, and I feel a little bit guilty for hip-checking him out of the way as I ran (as quickly as I could, which isn't too fast these days) over to rescue her.  Just as I got to her, she ripped her way free.  I mean that quite literally.  Her sweet little dress has a bit of a snag in it now, but at least the skin on her back was unscathed.  I looked at her and said, "Abby!  You don't crawl under fences, they can hurt you!  You go around."  She looked back at me as if the thought had never even crossed her mind, "I go around?"  Hmm...  As you can probably imagine...there's no picture of this either.  Yet another disaster averted.

Abby wasn't the only one finding creative ways to keep herself busy.  Ben accidentally pulled the tab off of his soda can, which jogged his memory that they collect those for the Ronald McDonald House at his school.  The resourceful little dude then proceeded to go around to all of the abandoned cans on the tables and amassed quite a pile of them in little plastic cup.  Someone spotted his affinity for recyclables and gave him the job of picking up all of the cans and bottles in a bucket.  He's a good little helper. 

The fourth and final time we "lost" Abby, we located her up on stage under the supervision of Aunt Mary Anne, hamming it up for the photographer.  Too bad he snapped the shots of her at the end of the reception when she was all disheveled, torn, and dirty.  Truth be told though, that's Abby in her truest form.

As for Sarah, she was too busy smiling and having fat cheeks to get into too much trouble.

So, the next time you're at a reception and you don't feel like dancing, here are some ideas to pass the time and keep you entertained, courtesy of the lil' ones:
  1. Drink as many Dr. Peppers as you can before someone cuts you off.
  2. Find a rope (any variety will do) and swing from it.  Upside down.
  3. Find a fence (any variety is fine, but the more dangerous it is, the more exciting it will be) and crawl under it.  Bonus points if you tear your clothing in the process.
  4. Drag the photographer away from the bride and groom with your charm and make him take pictures of you.
  5. Stand next to people and stare awkwardly at them until they take the last sip of their Diet Coke so you can take the tab off of their can.
  6. Stuff your cheeks full of cotton, knock all of your teeth out, and smile at everything everyone says to you even if it's not funny. (On second thought, maybe it's best to leave this one to the babies.)

Flashback Friday ~ September 11th

It's hard to be light-hearted on the anniversary of such a sobering event in the history of our great nation.  (So I won't be.)  I can't believe that it was eight years ago.  I can't believe how much our nation and, on a more personal note, my life has changed since then.

I would venture to guess that all of us who lived through that day remember with excruciating detail where we were when we heard about or watched the planes hit the towers, and the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania.  As for me, I was awakened by my earlier-rising roommate, my freshman year in college, as she returned from breakfast.  She told me, "A plane has hit the World Trade Center."  We had no idea what the implications of that were...then we turned on the tv and watched the second one hit.  We figured it out.  What probably stands out the most in my mind on that day is going to class at 10:50, Introduction to Problem Solving.  My professor was a retired Army Colonel, and a scary, scary man.  He took a moment to discuss the morning's events and added that while what had happened was a true tragedy, America has wronged a lot of other nations...and that their anger towards us might well be justified.  I couldn't believe those words came out of his mouth.  It just didn't seem like the right time or place, no matter how much truth he was speaking.

I don't want to rehash the political implications of 9/11.  I don't want to demean the lives lost in that way.  Each and every man, woman, and child that died that day as a victim is a hero...whether they were an innocent bystander, whether they risked and sacrificed their lives in the aftermath, or whether they stormed the cockpit during their flight because they simply couldn't allow for any more Americans to die at the hands of terrorists.  I like to think that their lives were not taken in vain.  I believe that we've learned that there are evils in this world, at home and abroad.  Our country changed that day.  It was amazing to see, for the first time in my lifetime (and I fear it will be the only time) a truly *United* States of America.  Politics aside, we banded together in mourning, in patriotism.  How quickly we have forgotten.

I feel like this is going to be one big cliche, but I want us all to remember that our lives are precious.  They are a gift.  We shouldn't take one moment of it for granted, because in an unpredictable instant, it can be taken away.  Treasure the small things.  Thank God for your blessings...big and small.  Tell someone you love them.  Tell them you're sorry.  Tell them how they changed your life for the better.  Make it count.

Today's picture is not a's a picture of my present, for which I am so grateful; the culmination of my life up to this point, a collection of a million memories, experiences, and blessings, one of which is having the privilege of living in the United States of America.  I hope and pray that my children are lucky enough to know what it is to have pride in your country, to be able to say that they live in the greatest nation on earth.

September 11, 2009

Reasons #472 and #473 (give or take) in favor of having kids

Some of you may know that there was a bit of an engagement ring "fiasco" at my house this week.  It began Monday evening when I realized that the dish where I keep my rings was harboring only my wedding band and right hand diamond. 

I should probably back up and explain that I have some sort of claustrophobia that makes me take my rings off when I get home.  It's like my fingers need to breathe or something.  My mom purchased a little bowl-like thing for me to put my rings in because I used to just put them anywhere without rhyme or reason (like the mantel, the little half wall in the foyer, on my dresser, next to my bathroom sink, etc).  And even though she's not here much, it became obvious to her that I spent too much time in the mornings searching for my rings to wear to work.  Hence, the bowl.  Thanks Mom.

Anyway, I noticed my diamond ring was missing and started to freak out a little.  I vividly remembered  taking it off with my wedding band and putting it in the dish.  So this was not like the other times my rings went missing, because those times they were missing together and not really "missing"...just misplaced...because I'm a dingbat.

Immediately my mind went to Abby.  She had been playing at the bar (the dish's home) that evening.  I didn't see her near the dish, but she's stealthy.  Surely she could have snatched it.  Unfortunately for me, she was asleep, so I couldn't quiz her about it.  (Actually, that's a lie.  And here's where I'm a bad mom.  But I totally tried to wake her up to ask her where my ring was.  She was unresponsive.  She's not exactly lucid when awakened from a deep sleep.)  It would have to wait until the morning. 

So I laid down in an attempt to get some sleep knowing that the trash wasn't being picked up, I had yet to ask Abby point blank if she knew where it was, and I hadn't checked at work (because I also take off my rings whilst I'm doing all the typing/clicking all day long).  Amazingly enough, I slept pretty well.

The next morning came and I couldn't wait to get to Abby.  I felt like an interrogator about to crack a case wide open.  I asked her, "Abby, did you take my ring last night?"  Nod.  "Did you put it somewhere?"  Nod.  "Where did you put it?"  Momentary contemplation and the response, "In your bedroom, under the bed."  So...I checked.  Not there.  "Abby, did you make that up?"  Nod.  "Abby, where's my ring?"  No response.  I repeated this question approximately 75 times between her waking up and me strapping her into her seat for daycare.  Apparently, she had enough of that and incredulously replied, "I *didn't* take your ring!"  Hmmm.

I dropped her off, made it to work, checked the desk...not there.  This is the point where I really started to freak out and I just knew I would be digging through the trash that evening when I got home.

A couple of hours of work later, Sam and I decided to meet up for lunch.  After a chimichanga for Sam and an El Jaliscience salad for me, we went to the register to pay.  Sam pulls out the wallet and notices that all of his cards are rearranged.
This is where I should rewind again to the night before, when I saw Abby carrying Sam's wallet around the living room.  I can't remember what I was doing at the time that prevented me from grabbing it from her, but I said to her, "Abby, put Daddy's wallet back where you found it."  Then I didn't think any more of it.  Apparently "back where you found it" was interpreted by our middle born as "shove it in between the TV and DVD player in my bedroom", which we not-so-quickly discovered just a short while before the ring was noted to be missing.

That probably should have been a clue.

Anyway, there Sam stood reconfiguring the contents of his wallet when I said to him in jest, "My ring's not in there is it?"  A slight smile graced his face as he handed me his Movie Gallery card and tilted his wallet over so that I could see the sparkling rock shining back at me from the depths of a credit card slot.
This brings me to the reasons you should have kids...

#472  Built-in scapegoat.  (Sure, they're probably guilty of the accusation, but in case they're not, at least you have someone besides yourself at whom to point the finger.)


#473  There's never a dull moment.  (Be it stolen engagement rings shoved into the abyss of a wallet crevice...or a stamp pad doubling as eyeshadow, using a matchbox car hood for the applicator.)

'Nuff said

How To Know You're a Mom: Part 3

  • You realize you took all of the simple things in life for granted until you had being able to safely and quickly cross a parking lot, open a door for yourself without juggling a carseat carrier, a pack of diapers, & the biggest, puffiest blanket your daughter could possibly choose to take with her to daycare, and use public restrooms without having to give constant reminders not to touch anything.
  • That line from A Christmas Story, "My mother had not had a hot meal for herself in fifteen years", rings a little too true.
  • You've "pretended" to have to use the restroom just so you could have 30 seconds peace.  That fails, though, as two year olds follow the scent of their mother like a bloodhound follows a rabbit, and ten seconds after you're in your 'sanctuary' you see tiny fingers reaching under the crack of the bathroom door.
  • The longest book you've read in recent history was written by Dr. Seuss.
  • Before you had kids, you were appalled when you heard parents threatening their unruly kids with the whole that-man-is-going-to-take-you-if-you-don't-sit-down ploy.  Now, it's one of your best tricks.
  • You've learned that some things just aren't worth arguing about.  Sure, kid.  You can wear your Spongebob life jacket to Sunday School.
  • You've discovered that you can throw all of your commercial thermometers in the trash because nothing detects a fever better than a kiss on the forehead.
  • You find yourself doing constant headcounts.  For a fleeting moment, you consider instituting the Sound of Music whistle method...that seemed to work pretty well.  You reconsider because you know you'd end up spending more time looking for lost whistles than using them to keep track of your kids.
  • Speaking of which, your most frequent pasttime is searching for lost cups at dinnertime and lost piggies and blankeys at bedtime.  Note:  frequent, NOT favorite.
  • You never really knew what it meant to multi-task before.  Now you can nurse a baby, cook dinner, find missing cups, repair cardboard boxes, and talk on the phone all at the same time.  [This makes me think of that quote, "“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”]
  • You graduated at the top of your class in high school.  You won awards in college for your senior engineering design project.  And yet, you've never been more proud of an academic achievement than the first time your child sang the alphabet without skipping any letters.
  • You know that it doesn't matter what time you walk out the door with the kids, you could still be what will feel like hours from actually leaving after strapping everyone in, retrieving forgotten items from inside, refilling cups, and whatever other apparent life-or-death situations arise.
  • You start to understand God's sense of humor.  You prayed for patience.  He gave you kids.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ~Emilie Buchwald

I've recently rediscovered my passion for reading. More specifically, my passion for the public library and their unending supply of new reading material (for free!). While I'd love to say that I'm reading adult books, I find that I don't have the time or attention span for those anymore. My new passion is finding new books to read to my babies.

Since toddlerhood, the naptime/bedtime routine in our house has included reading a book (or two) to unwind before the lights go out and the eyes close. I guess I am trying to make my kids passionate about reading as well, and I think, hope, and pray that it's catching on.

I don't know if it's the fact that I'm a mother now, or that I was just dense when I was little, or maybe both, but I am suddenly aware of how depressing so many children's books are.

I remember in fifth grade, we paired up with a kindergarten kid to read them books over the course of the year. It was one of the highlights of fifth grade for me, getting to choose and share books with a captive audience. At the end of the program, the teacher (who had been my second grade teacher, and moved to kindergarten after I had her) read to us all the book entitled Love You Forever. As she read, she got choked up a little bit to start with, and by the time she finished, she was wiping full-fledged tears from her eyes. I have to admit, as a ten year old girl, it didn't evoke the same emotion. I remember thinking, "Wow, Mrs. Smith sure cries easily."

Fast forward to now.

I read that book to my "baby" boy a few years ago and it was all I could do to finish reading it aloud. The poor kid probably thought there was something physically wrong with me, I was practically sobbing. I can only imagine what he was thinking. (Something along the lines of "Mommy's crazy", no doubt.)

I've checked out a good many books that I never read but always wanted to, or have always heard all the buzz about. The Giving Tree is an example. While it didn't make me cry, it did make me sad. And maybe even a little bit angry. How come no one warned me about this? Why do people like this book? The tree gives and gives and the ungrateful little boy takes and takes. And NEVER even utters a thank you. Maybe the tree doesn't deserve a thank the tree created the monster in the first place. Hmm?

Having Googled "Best Children's Books", I decided to check out a book called Someday. After reading it, it was reminiscent of Love You Forever, but it hit home even harder for me. It's about a mother, who starts out counting her baby girl's sweet little toes one by one, wishes her well as she grows up, goes off from home, starts a family of her own, and ultimately suggests that this little girl will end up on a porch, her own gray hair shining in the sun, remembering her mother only in her memory. DEPRESSING. Denial works better for me. I am never going to get old. And I will always be there for my kids. And they will never be old either. I'm going to keep them pint-sized for life. (You can see how well that's working out, as I wished my "baby" boy a Happy 6th Birthday this weekend!)

And then there is Dr. Seuss. I can and have written entire blogs about this man and his books before. I admit to knowing that his books are full of rhetoric clearly intended for adult audiences. It's kind of like the literary version of Shrek. Kids enjoy reading the books, but there's a whole other realm of depth to them that only an adult would understand. I think the entire works of Dr. Seuss should be required reading for life. Read Oh, The Places You'll Go! as an elementary school student, as a high school student, and as an adult. Guarantee you'll get something different out of it every single time.

I'm not sure that I would feel so deeply about these books if I weren't a mother. Kind of like I might not have cried so unbelievably hard at the Passion of the Christ if I hadn't just birthed my own son prior to seeing it. (But seriously, the scene with Mary following Jesus across town. I couldn't take it!) I also probably wouldn't be reading all of these books again or for the first time if I weren't a mother, so there's that.

At any rate, I won't stop reading. I guess depression is a nice contrast to the warm fuzzies. If you didn't hit a figurative low every now and again to make you realize how great your highs are, you'd be one boring plateau.

As always, feel free to recommend children's books to me! Thanks for reading this blog and don't to your kids!

“I find television very educating.
Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
- Groucho Marx

Flashback Friday

This week has both crawled by at a snail's pace and disappeared before my eyes. (I can't explain that but it's true.)

The past six years, collectively, have done only the latter.

Tomorrow, my precious firstborn turns 6 six? SIX!!! years old. (And in case you can't already tell, we're in the middle of a big birthday season in our family! Pretty soon my precious middle-born will be turning 3 three? THREE!!! years old.)

I cannot believe that it has been six years since Benjamin graced our world with his presence. He has challenged me to become a better person, and I think/hope/pray that I have succeeded in doing so. He is a special, deeply-feeling, intense-but-goofy kid. He asks questions he shouldn't already know how to ask, and that I don't know how to answer. One thing I am certain about though, is that in the past six years he has eaten his weight in ketchup several times over.

I am where I am today because of this child. Without him, who knows where I would be? I don't want to.

I remember September 5, 2003 like it was yesterday. It all happened so quickly and felt so surreal, and yet suddenly, there was this life for which I was and still am solely responsible in my arms. It was transcendental.

So this is my Happy Birthday, Ben blog. And however Barney-esque this sounds, we're so glad you're a part of our family!

In the words of my famous acapella friend...

Pop Quiz.

Remember this guy?

No? Need a hint?

If you don't know it, you're not old like me. Or you live under a rock. And I'm not going to tell you the answer because the name of his big song has been worn out. Seriously, I think if it's said even one more time the whole world is going to explode.
I was just 5 years old when this song came out on MTV. It was before my parents decided to cancel cable, and I remember vividly the catchy ditty playing on the television. How could you not be captivated by it?
I highly doubt Mr. McFerrin had ANY idea what a revolution he would start (if you can call it that). The premise is simple, and at the same time, simply impossible for some of us.
I'm the absolute last person in the world qualified to dispense "Don't worry" advice to anyone. I wake up worrying. I go to sleep worrying. I worry in the shower. I worry while I'm driving. I worry when I'm about to experience something new. I worry when I'm about to experience something that didn't go great the first time I experienced it. I worry pretty much always. Despite the fact that I know worrying "is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum". And I also know that the "Don't worry" advice comes from a much Greater Source than Bobby McFerrin (even if he is a seemingly cool dude). It's one of those things that is simply easier said than done, certainly for me anyway.
The "Be Happy" part is really what I'd like to concentrate on anyway. I don't struggle with this so much. I'm quite capable of being happy. I have an infinite source of joy. I have lots of reasons to smile. We ALL do. It's not about money, fame, career, material possessions, and so on and so forth. Duh. Some of the happiest people I know seem to outwardly have very little to be happy about.
And then, there are the children. Children don't have the same problems with worrying and trying to be happy. They just don't (unless you're Ben) and they just are (unless you deny them a lollipop when they're tired or something like that). I know as adults we're supposed to be the ones teaching them things, filling their little minds with smartness, and their hearts with virtue and all that stuff, but really, we have so much to learn from them.
In particular: Laughter. About nothing in particular.

See what I mean?

I, Jennie, hereby resolve to laugh about nothing in particular today. I have a feeling this won't be hard for me. (And my apologies to anyone who has to hear it. I know I can be boisterous sometimes.)

Here's to a trying-not-to-worry, but definitely-being-happy Thursday!

How To Know You're a Mom: Installment Deuce

As promised, I'm back with more. Forgive me if these sound (more than) a little "specific". Use your imagination as to whether or not these circumstances were actually experienced by *this mom*.
  • You've been out in public with a diapered child who just filled their britches with #2, only to realize you're out of wipes. BUT, you have a glove compartment full of Zaxby's napkins and half of a bottle of water. No wipes? No problem.
  • You don't panic when you hear a catastrophic noise in the next room, as long as 5 seconds pass without someone crying out in pain.
  • You've lost your appetite for hot buttered popcorn, the scent of which reminds you a little too much of your breastfed baby's poopy diapers.
  • You're so exhausted/sleep-deprived/delirious that you not only slept through your husband's alarm that goes off an hour before yours, but you also "slept" through yours (meaning that you woke up enough to turn it off and go back to sleep). You wake up an hour later with 35 minutes to get yourself and 3 kids ready for school...and you're only 11 minutes late to work. Consequently, you consider this to be one of your greatest life.
  • You anguish over every large cardboard box that comes through your house. You know it's good for hours of fun for the kids, but wonder, "Do we *really* need another huge cardboard box in our house?", knowing that if you keep it, eventually you'll have to have the it's-time-to-get-rid-of-the-box conversation. And that NEVER goes well.
  • You have learned the hard way, not once, not twice, but multiple times that the best way to remove crayon from the dryer drum is WD-40. Removing crayon from the clothes in that dryer is more involved than that and requires a formula of Tide Coldwater, Shout, and Hot/Cold soaking/rinsing.
  • Despite yourself, you still haven't learned to check pockets before doing laundry.
  • You've been in this predicament: searching up and down the side of the highway at 2am with a flashlight for a stuffed pig (Piggy, as it were) that may have been left atop the vehicle you rode off in that evening, only to find it in serious disrepair on the shoulder where the pavement meets the grass. After bringing it home, you put your sewing and stain-removing skills to the ultimate test...and pass...with flying colors. You know, or something less specific, but equally heroic with respect to your child's beloved "lovey". (This was actually a *Dad* one, but it totally counts. Love you, Sam.)
  • You are desperate for exercise, but have no one to watch the kids for even 30 minutes, so you calculate how many laps around your backyard make a mile. As soon as at least one of the kids is down for a nap, you and the non-sleeping kids hit the "track". (By the way, it's 12 laps. Shout out to the Houston County Tax Assessor for their impeccable record keeping on the plats.)
  • You have a new wardrobe-centric way of inventorying memories. It works two ways. One, you see an outfit and you're reminded of the fun things you did whilst the child was wearing it (they rolled over for the first time, it's what they *were* wearing before they decided to strip down to nothing in the middle of a restaurant, it was a first day of school outfit, etc.). Two, you use the outfit as a gauge for remembering the date that random events took place. For instance, when trying to decide which trip to Baltimore a certain picture was taken, you decide it must have been Easter, because Abby was wearing a shirt that was 18 months in size. (And why you remember THAT, you have no idea.)

A Helpful Life Lesson (from Ben)

This weekend, as is usually the case when the kids get sick, I got sick. Sam was (as usual) an amazing father/nurse/cook/house-cleaner/traffic controller, at one point locking the bedroom door from the inside in order to prevent the Banshees from coming in there with their squealing & running selves.

It wasn't the worst sickness I've ever had. It was a random fever with an associated horrible headache, followed by, what I can only classify as, the-opposite-of-a-fever and the sweats. But, headaches and Banshees don't mix well, even when the headache bore the Banshee in her womb for 9 months.

While I was sitting in quarantine, I could hear commotion out and about in the living room, but not caring much about that and feeling very sorry for myself, I left it up to Sam to tend to it. An hour or so later, I dragged my hiney out of bed to find a completely spotless living room and two well-fed, apparently-tranquilized Banshees sitting on the couch watching their calm-down night time show. I would say they were sitting still, but Abby doesn't have that word in her vocabulary.

Now finally, the point of this...

I went out to the kitchen to thank Sam for a job well done, get something to drink, whatever. And I hear Ben start to cry. And then he said the words at which I shouldn't have laughed,

"Ab-BBBY! You DON'T step on people!!!!"

I can laugh because no one got seriously hurt, right? The numbers alone make it hilarious. Ben is three years Abby's senior, and outweighs her just about exactly 2:1. You might have to know Abby and Ben's dramatically different personalities to get why this is funny. In her almost 3-years, our spunky little spitfire has made a habit out of beating up on her older, much more docile brother. Take a gander (and note, these are just 3 of MANY examples...all before age 2, mind you. She's much stronger now.):

In summary, the moral of this story is: Don't step on people.

Feel free to apply that in life however you see fit.
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