Flashback Friday

As you well know, I'm new at this "blogging" business. I've seen lots of cute alliterative titles relative to the days of the week. I can't help but feel a pang of jealousy when I see them. They're all used up. I can't possibly come up with something new. I am discouraged.

Despite it all, this morning, a vision came to me while I was in the shower. Okay not really "a vision"...but for some reason, I remembered (quite randomly) a picture of Ben that makes me laugh every time I see it.

And so, I decided..."Flashback Friday". I'm sure this is not creative, not original, not new. BUT, since I haven't seen it on any of my friends' blogs, then it's going to have to be 'good enough'.

As for the picture, the quality leaves much to be desired. I could write a whole blog about the evolution of technology since my firstborn joined this world. It was taken on a 35mm camera, and scanned in using the scanner/copier/fax at my office. For a little background, we were attempting a photo shoot that was apparently cutting into snack time for Ben.

I call this, simply, "Hungry, fella?"

Yes. He is eating his belt. God love him...our quirky little weirdo.

How to Know You're a Mom (Installment One)

Disclaimer: If you know me, you know my penchant for lists. It's a compulsion really.

That being said, I was reflecting on one of my Facebook statuses from the other day (as I darted for the restroom with haste because it had been so long since I'd last peed), and decided to make a collection of "You Might be a Mom if's"... I hate to limit myself to the ones I could think of in a few minutes at work, hence, Installment One.

Without further ado...

How to Know You're a Mom (Installment One)

  • You have no trouble reminding your kids to go to the potty, but by the time you go yourself, it's a pee-in-the-pants emergency.
  • You choose your parking spot based moreso on the proximity to the cart corral than the proximity to the front door.
  • You can remember to pack lunches, sign papers, make bottles for daycare, send diapers & changes of clothes, clean and pack the breastpump bag, and start the dishwasher, but you forget to change out of flip-flops before you leave for work.
  • You've ever prayed that your deodorant is strong enough to mask the Eau de Spitup that you were christened with as you dropped the baby off at daycare.
  • You subsequently prayed that you remembered to put on deodorant that morning.
  • You're out of milk, bread, eggs, fresh fruits & veggies, toilet paper, and diapers, but you decide it's time to get creative because taking all of the kids to the grocery store just isn't worth it.
  • You qualify 'tossing around an unruly 2-year old' as your daily workout.
  • You actually start to like eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.
  • Hours pass before you stop and wonder, "When *is* the last time I ate something?"
  • You can't find your mascara, chapstick, or a pen in your purse, but you have a whole arsenal of Color Wonders markers, restaurant crayons, used tissues, and stray Goldfish if you need them.
  • You are completely unaware of current events, but you can sing the theme song of every show on the Disney channel verbatim, recount the number of wet/poopy diapers your 3-month old had in the past 24 hours, and you now know more Spanish (thanks to Dora) than you learned German in 3 years of high school instruction.
  • Your idea of a night out is a cup of coffee and a solo trip to Kroger.
  • You've entertained your kids using nothing but a straw wrapper.
  • Your child finally sleeps through the night, just as you develop a severe case of insomnia.
This concludes Installment One. Rest assured, others will follow!

As explained by a two-year old...

After a harried morning of maybe-fevers, breakfast in the bathtub, and packing lunches while the kids waited for me strapped in their seats, we finally arrived at the daycare. Phew.

Another car pulled into the parking spot next to me, and while applying my dulled-scratching-my-eyelid eyeliner in the visor mirror, I noticed the little boy out of the corner of my eye. He looked about Abby's age, so I said to her, "Is he in your class?" She looked at him for a second and said, "That's Skye."

Pause for a sec. I should clarify that I'm not all that familiar with the kids in her new class yet. When she was promoted after summer, they scattered the kids from her old classroom among 3 new rooms. So, there are several different new kids that I don't yet know. I am, however, 100% positive that this little boy was *not* Skye.

I said to her, "Abby, I don't think that's Skye." She, of course, insisted. What 2 year old (or 5 year old or 25 year old) doesn't like to argue? We went round and round a couple of times.

Pause again. It amazes me that these kids know every parent in their classroom. Whenever I go to pick up Abby in the afternoons and she doesn't notice me first, there is a whole chorus of "Abby, your Mommy's here!" and "Hi, Abby's Mama!" and "Look, Abby! Your Mommy!!!" Just yesterday, Abby announced a child's arrival based on the vehicle that showed up in the parking lot. "Look, Mommy, there's Reese." When I asked her how she knew, "That's Reese's daddy's van." Too cool.

Anyway, the mother got out of the car next to us, as I had made my way around the van with Abby to get Sarah out. There stood the four of us, almost touching each other. Abby stares quizzically at the pair of them for a moment. Then, as if a lightbulb goes off, she turns to me and announces, "Skye got a new Mommy!"

Yeah, Abby, I'm thinking that just wasn't Skye.

Oh to have the reasoning capabilities of a two-year old...

Available in All Shapes & Sizes

It's hard to believe that it has been eight years since I graduated from high school. It is even harder to believe that eight years ago I thought I was fat. I've never been skin and bones. Even at my lightest, in high school, I weighed 135 pounds of solid girl. My legs have always been like tree trunks. (Who in my gene pool is responsible for this, I'm not sure. Both of my parents have spectacular, not-tree-trunk-like legs, I think.) My tummy has always held a little pudge, even though I played field hockey & lacrosse and never slept a wink. It's not like that was a surprise given my eating habits, which included indulging in multiple dinners each night, and regularly gorging on full-sized bags of Cool Ranch Doritos all by my lonesome.

When I got to college, I packed on the Freshman 15 or so. Thanks to the less-than-stellar meals choices in Jesse's Cafeteria, I frequently opted for mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. I quickly learned what that'll do to you (besides make you feel like crap).

Then I got pregnant with Ben. I could end the blog here and say, "The rest is history", but you're not going to be so lucky today. I gained about 40 pounds during that pregnancy. I just knew he was going to be 20 of that, but alas, he was only 8 pounds 13.7 ounces. The other 30+ pounds weren't going to be gone so easily.

In an attempt to be brief(er than usual), blah blah blah and 2 more kids later, here I am. I weigh today what I weighed when I got pregnant with Abby. That's a pretty good milestone for me. Of course, I'd prefer to lose another 10...or 20...or 30. But I'm changing my perspective. I am in the middle of convincing myself that it is NOT about the number on the scale so much as it is about making healthy choices, fitting into my clothes, feeling confident, and establishing habits that will serve as a positive example for my kids.

I also have a different point of view when it comes to how I perceive my body. It has been a vessel for life. It has sheltered, nurtured, nourished, and protected a tiny life from conception to birth three times over now. After birth, my body has fed my babies for 4 months, 7 months, and hopefully a year or more. My body is now the home to what some might call battle scars; stretch marks, loose skin, sagging breasts, a few pounds in places that didn't carry weight before. I don't think of them as battle scars, because that implies some sort of struggle between my body and pregnancy, and my experience was quite the contrary. My body was designed for this purpose.

I'll call them after-effects.

I have a long way to go before I am giggly over how my body looks, and truth be told I probably never will be. But I am no longer sad about it. It's been through a lot, and on the same vein, has accomplished a lot. Moms are not made from a cookie cutter. We're available in all shapes and sizes. What we look like has very little, if nothing, to do with our parenting.

So, you can take your BMI and shove it. For now, I will chip away at my "overweight" status by playing with my kids and trying not to keep so much junk food in my house.

To the moms out there who don't love their bodies, don't get down. Small changes bring about big ones. And you are *not* alone!

Things I want for my children...

It's so easy to be a parent...before you're a parent. I've learned in my brief tenure as a mother that I know pretty much squat about raising kids. It's the most humbling, emotional, learn-as-you-go job I've ever had...and for that reason, it's the most rewarding.

It's so easy to sit back and condemn other parents for their choices...of course, it doesn't mean that is right or even useful. I'm sure we've all done it though..."Oh look at so-and-so. I am NOT doing that with my kids!"

Like it or not, my mom and dad provided me with one of the few models I have to follow on how to be a parent. First and foremost, thank God I had them. They were tough, and maybe not affectionate enough, but they taught me invaluable lessons about this life and how to live it.

In light of those lessons, I wish for my kids to understand the following:

~That the things they learn in school are inconsequential in the grand scheme of life. The most important thing we learn in school is how to learn. School and academics are just a jumping off point.

~That the squeaky wheel might ultimately get the oil, but it is *always* better to give the sweetness tactic a go first. People respond much better to sugar than salt.

~That failure is not always merely just a failure. It is a means to improve ourselves. We live and learn...and if we don't grow from that, only then are we an actual failure.

~That we are responsible for our own actions. If you did it, it's on you. No one else. Finger pointing might be a knee-jerk reaction, but basically, it just makes you look like a jerk. And that is all.

~That all of our blessings are just that. We have been blessed with more than we deserve, and it can all be taken away in an instant. We need to accept all of life's blessings with gratefulness, and share as much of it as possible with people who haven't been as fortunate as us. It's not an obligation, but a responsibility.

~That getting dirty, getting hurt (both the physically and emotionally), being embarrassed, saying the wrong thing, making the wrong choices are all a part of life. Your other option is to live in a bubble (but even that won't protect you from all of those things).

~That in this life you will meet people who challenge you, infuriate you, raise your blood pressure, make you think. Thank God for these people. They will either enlighten you or convict you, perhaps both...but they are the people who make you *you*.

There are many more things I wish and hope and pray for my children. I pray that they will be successful, that they will live up to their God-given potential, that they will be happy. I pray that they will be respectful and gracious. I hope that they know they are loved. At the end of the day, I know that it is on me to provide the foundation that allows for these things to happen. These are the things I wish for them. And for the parents, I wish for us the patience and fortitude to do right by our children.

My Quarter Life in Retrospect

Today is the last day of my 25th year (at least, kind of...there's that whole year before your first birthday, but that's too much for me to think about. Gosh, math is hard.). Tomorrow I turn a whopping 26 years old. If you'd have asked me 10 years ago where I thought I would be when I turned 26, the answer would not have been, "Married with 3 kids, working as a civil engineer in Georgia." Not by a long shot. In fact, it probably would have been the opposite...something like, "Working in the medical field somewhere in the northeast whole-heartedly devoted to my career. Family? Eh."

Funny how life takes us exactly where we are meant to be. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you can't plan for everything, and you have to be prepared for anything.

Other things I have learned:
~how to make sweet tea
~how to survive culture shock
~how not to scream like a little girl at the sight of a roach
~how to pack for a week long trip for a family of five in about an hour
~how to say "I Love You"
~how a sewing machine works
~how hard it is to be a mom
~how worth it is to be a mom
~that, sadly, I am rarely right
~that a cold rag and a lollipop can cure just about any ailment
~that mother-in-laws can be one of life's great blessings
~that I can't eat like I did when I was a teenager anymore
~that I shouldn't have eaten like that then
~that the dishes and laundry will always wait for me
~that humility and self-deprecation are not the same thing
~that my body is "made for making and having babies"
~to take pictures of the moments in between, because that's what this life is all about
~to just let it out when I need a good cry
~to immediately change into jammies when I get home
~to listen more and talk less
~to not be afraid to talk when the need be
~to try to find the positive in every situation (but it's still not natural for me)
~to learn from every encounter
~to trust in God's plan

My last 25 years have been an amazing ride. I can't wait to see where the next 25 take me. (At this rate I'll be a grandmother!)

It's easier if you do it...

Those of you who know my mom know that she is...a character. Really, there's no other way to describe her. She can bring a room to life in an instant. She's never at a loss for words. And, despite often saying things before realizing their implications, I genuinely think that she does mean well.

As for my dad, he's a trooper, to say the least.

Anyway, one particular exchange between the two of them has come to play over and over again in my mind...as life constantly reminds me of the situation.

When we lived in Joppatowne, one of my dad's most-loathed tasks was doing anything that involved going in the attic. We had a lifetime worth of junk stored up there, and we were constantly adding to it. I can't remember if it was after Christmas or at some other random point during the year, and it doesn't really matter. My mom had apparently collected enough of a pile of junk to warrant pulling down the attic steps and fighting with the attic.

In a casual exchange after dinner, she said to my dad, "I have a bunch of stuff that needs to go up in the attic. I was going to take care of it, but it's easier if you do it."

He replied with a shake of his head and a chuckle, "Of course it is."

I don't think she meant to utter such telling words. Surely she had no idea of the societal implications of "it's easier if you do it", but isn't that our mentality in general? I can't be fooled up with doing something myself...I'll let someone else take care of it. I want someone else to take responsibility for me and my actions/piles of junk. This little phrase "It's easier if you do it" has become a running joke in our family.

I think I should give serious thought to devoting this entire blog to my mother. I'd never run out of material. God love her.

A Great Man Remembered

August is bittersweet for me. It's my birthday month....sweet. It was also my grandfather's birthday month...bittersweet. As I pulled the milk out of the fridge this morning, I happened to read the expiration date, August 26. I thought of my grandfather for two reasons. August 26th was his birthday, and it was also his anniversary. He told me he got married on his birthday because there was no better birthday present than to start his life with the woman he loved. That makes me smile. In fact, there aren't many thoughts about my grandfather that don't make me smile.

He was an all-around amazing man.

Grandpop was born in Baltimore, a typical city kid. He excelled at everything he ever attempted from baseball with the neighborhood hooligans to solving nearly-impossible math problems without a college education or the use of a calculator in the middle of combat during WWII. He was a deeply feeling person, the first man I saw shed tears while telling a story. He was willing to talk about his time in the Philippines during the war, and remembered every detail like it was yesterday. Though clearly a math & science-type person, he had a deep love for Shakespeare, which prompted a curiosity in me, and allowed me to appreciate his works myself at a young age. He was an amazing craftsman, and there is no telling how many people's homes are now adorned with one of his many hand-crafted clocks. He made comebacks from just about every type of physical ailment a grown man can have, and I attribute that partly to his good health in his older years, but mostly to his stubbornness.

The nightly ritual at my grandparents' house included the $64,000 pyramid, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. Grandpop always knew the answers...or at least more than I could ever hope to know. (Grandmom wasn't too bad at it herself.) He was grumpy, but he'd earned the right to be. You did not want to enter into a debate with my grandfather. If you went to his house during the day, he was undoubtedly listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. He chopped his own firewood into his 70's. The man's work ethic was unbelievable. He had an affinity for budgets and thriftiness. As a result, he was a frequent and [very] active participant in our church business meetings. He seemed to always know the absolutes of right and wrong. His clothes rarely matched, and he didn't care. It was one of his quirks. He probably had a lot of them. Though I know he loved all of his grandsons just as much, I would catch him looking at his granddaughters while they were doing nothing in particular at all with a smile on his face, and often a chuckle. Little girls held a special place in his heart.

When my grandmother got sick, he was by her side every second he possibly could be. For years. When she finally lost her battle with congestive heart failure, a part of his own heart was gone forever. Grandmom was his pulse. She was his "Patsy"...a nickname he had randomly come up with for her in their early dating life, though her name was Louise Anna. I know he was lonely after she was gone, but he didn't stop living. He learned how to use a computer, emailing me while I was away at college, even downloading songs that reminded him of Grandmom, and he took over where Grandmom left off in the kitchen, often experimenting with new recipes (that he'd probably found on the internet or seen on Food TV).

One of the highlights of his life, post-Grandmom, was when some young gun tried to swindle him out of some cash. The man was a professional and called my grandfather from the airport. Grandpop asked if it was the Lieutenant calling (my grandfather's nickname for my brother-in-law, Jonathan...he had a nickname for everyone). The man took that and ran with it, telling him that he was a friend of the Lieutenants'. That Jonathan had asked him to call Grandpop because he needed some cash for some reason or another...a lot of it. Hundreds of dollars. I don't remember the exact sum or the particulars of the story (my memory isn't even a fraction as sharp as my grandfather's was). Long story short, my grandfather smelled a rat. The best part is that he beat the swindler at his own game. He told the man, "Sure, come on over to the house...I'll have the money ready for you." Then he promptly called my father and the police. It was a regular old stakeout. My father and uncle were hiding inside the house. The police were there in various locations. They arrested him on the spot. That man had tried to trick the wrong elderly person. You don't mess around with Grandpop. And that man didn't get another penny from another unsuspecting grandmother or grandfather again...thanks to Grandpop.

The last time I saw Grandpop, I was at his house cleaning before heading back to Mercer for my sophomore year. When I walked inside, he was sitting at the computer with his head down listening to music. I didn't want to scare him, so I called out, "Grandpop!" He lifted his head, tears trickling down his face. He told me the name of the song and said that it had been one of the songs he and Grandmom had listened to when they were young. I felt awful for infringing on such a private, tender moment, but he didn't seem to mind. He seemed almost glad to have been able to share it with me. I went about my cleaning regimen. When I finished, he asked me if I cared to join him for lunch. He had made some kind of sausage and sauerkraut casserole (and thanks to my German heritage, that actually did sound appealing). I can't remember where I was in a hurry to go because it was no doubt unimportant, but I declined the offer. I regret that to this day.

Without question, above all else, Grandpop loved with all the love a heart could give. He didn't just say it, he acted it. He was a demonstrative man. I'm not half as emotionally open as he was, but I can best describe his love for my grandmother as unadulterated. Think of Noah in the Notebook. Think of Carl in Up. That is how my grandfather loved my grandmother. Not just my grandmother though, he loved his entire family. He taught us how to love. I know this because I loved him. Every time I think of him, it brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

I wish he could have met my kids. He would have loved them; Ben for his quirkiness, and Abby & Sarah for no other reason than they are just precious little girls.

We don't know what took him that November morning nearly 7 years ago now, but I will always believe he died of a broken heart. I wish that my last memories weren't of him being sad and lonely, but I am comforted by the fact that he is no longer sad, and definitely no longer lonely.

I miss you, Grandpop. Thank you for being the ultimate role model to our family.

Love always,

What do you know...I have a blogspot!

So I haven't been on here in a while. In fact, I forgot that I even created this...until I remembered that I used to "blog" on myspace, and I got a little bit sad that I don't go there anymore. So...it goes without saying that, here I am. I'm excited to have an outlet for my (often random) thoughts.

With that, I shall be back. Probably more than anyone wants me to be.

Until then, peace and lots of chocolate.
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