Because no matter how hard or often I beat that horse...

...it just won't die.

Wait.  That's not the expression is it?

Okay, so I'm not killing horses.  (That's weird and not very nice...even if I'm not a big fan of them.)  What I am doing is going back to that pesky work-out-of-the-home mom (WOHM) topic.  It's on my mind again.  Just when I come to peace with the fact that I don't owe anyone an explanation about my choice to work outside of the home, something (or someone) else pokes at me with a big, fat meanie stick and it all comes rushing to the forefront again.

I grew up in the Mid-Atlantic as a child of the 80's and 90's.  I would venture to say that out of my core group of friends, half of the moms worked outside of the home and half of them stayed home.  It never occurred to me to care about it one way or the other.  My friends were all awesome, mostly well-adjusted, equally quirky, and responsible kids.  Clearly, whether or not their moms worked at a job other than homemaker wasn't an issue to me.  It just didn't seem like a hot-button topic at the time.  Or if it was, my mom surely never let on.  She stayed home with my sister and me, but I don't remember her saying derogatory things about the moms who didn't or maybe couldn't.

Fast forward to now.

I live in the South.  I don't know actual statistics, but I can tell you that it feels like I am the only work-out-of-the-home mom I know.  Surely that is not the case, as my children attend a wonderful, amazing, loving childcare center full of kids.  They can't all be from single-fathers, can they?  I feel alone in my situation most of the time.  The woman I work with (in my male dominated field) is childless, the majority of my friends are childless or stay-at-home moms, and my sister and mother are also in that latter category.  I have an excellent online support group, and I love them dearly for helping me feel normal.  But sometimes, I just don't feel normal here.

[Please wait while I look up said actual statistics.  Due diligence and all.]

My findings (for the U.S.):
72% of moms with children over 1 year old work (about the same as childless women) , vs. 39% in 1976
55% of moms with a child under 1 year old work, vs. 31% in 1976 [source: Happy Worker]
Obviously I was unable to find any specific geographical demographics.  I presume those would have been significantly more enlightening.

I can't speak for anyone but myself.  Despite what others may think, this applies to everyone.  I cannot condemn another family's choices because I have not spent a single moment in their shoes.  I expect the same consideration in return, but I have to tell you, there is a vicious paradigm about this WOHM thing.  People assume a lot of things about me because I work.  Here's a list of some of the most common stigmas attached to work-out-of-the-home moms:
  • I am letting someone else raise my kids.
  • I work, primarily, so we can have luxuries like a fancy wardrobe, car, and house.
  • I am not cut out to be a mom, so I pass them off during the day and live my own life.
  • My children must be little discipline-lacking demons as a result of my almost complete absence as a parent.
  • I work because we are so deeply in debt that I have no other choice.
  • I spend little to no quality time with my children because my days are full of work and my nights are full of chores.
  • My children will grow up to be miserable and self-loathing because I put my career ahead of them.
I'm here to tell you those things are all true.


It feels better getting that off my chest.

If it's not obvious that I'm kidding - 

I'm not going to go through those point for point and try to dissuade anyone from thinking such things.  It's a little thing called "your prerogative" (and plus, I've already kind of done that here).  Consider this post my own personal, virtual therapy session, and you've [strangely] been invited to watch it unfold.  

At the end of the day, I am happy with my decision to work.  I feel that I am doing what I was called to do.  I love my kids with all my heart and I know they know it (even when I call them nerds).  I am completely at peace with their caregivers.  I look forward to the evenings when I can go home and play with them and listen to them say off the wall things and read them their bedtime stories, even if it means extra laundry and a sink full of dishes for another day.  We don't live an extravagant lifestyle and wouldn't even if we could, because that's not what we want for our kids.  I am doing the best I can.  I think most of us are.  It's called parenting.

The thing I have to ask myself when I feel that big, mean stick prodding at me is this:
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.  Galatians 1:10
Then suddenly, I am at peace again.

And isn't it so appropriate that this song just came on the radio?  I think these will be my parting words.

So let's leave it alone, 'cause we can't see eye to eye.
There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys.
There's only you and me and we just disagree.

Today (though perhaps not the best blog post with which to take this leap for the first time - I'm probably alienating readers before they even start!), I am linking up with:

Maybe later I'll break my own personal blogging rule and post twice in one day with a Flashback.  But I just couldn't not write about this today.  Thanks so much for letting me let it out.  If this is your first time stopping by, please come back.  I'm not usually so grumpy!


Thursday 13 - Fun Facts about my Favorite

In honor of my favorite person in the world's 28th birthday today, (WHOA, 28?! That's nearly 30!!!) I am dedicating today's 13 to my dearest husband, Sammy (to me) or Sam[uel] (to others).

I thought about listing 13 reasons I love him, 13 of his many-more-than-that virtues, 13 reasons he is justified by being completed annoyed by me 24/7 but miraculously isn't, 13 strange but lovable quirks.  None of those felt quite right.

So instead, I'm going with generic fun facts.  Who doesn't like random fun facts?  (This might be rhetorical.  Because I like random, and this is my blog, darn it.)

13 Fun Facts about My Sammy

1.  When we were dating, we used to sit side-by-side in my dorm room for hours and play SimCity separately on our own computers, and yet it felt like we were playing together.  These were a few of many moments where I knew we'd be together forever.  Because, well, we were both big nerds.  (And remain nerds to this day.)

2.  We still argue about what our first "official" date was.  He says it's when he asked me to his cousin's wedding.  I say it's when we went to see We Were Soldiers at the movies nearly a month later.  I guess it doesn't really matter...because the rest is history.  (But I'm totally right.)

3.  On the way to said wedding, I was asking about his family (whom I'd never met, except for seeing his mom in the parking lot one time) and he told me, "My dad is really scary."  I believed him.  Then I met his dad.  I'm 99.9% sure that was a big, fat lie, but to this day there's a part of me that's a little bit afraid of him, just in case.

4.  We took a lot of classes together in college.  I studied a lot and took constant notes.  He rarely studied and took notes even less.  And he killed me on every test.  Mr. Smarty Pants.  (Or wait, maybe he's just average and I'm really dumb.  Something to consider...)

5.  He has purchased somewhere around 10 pairs of the exact same shoes since we've been married.  He wears them every day until they wear out and then he buys some more.  I totally approve of this.  (They're really good looking shoes and all the more closet/shoe space for me.)  It'll be a sad day for both of us when they stop making them.

6.  For years when he ordered a cherry coke at Sonic, he gave me the cherry right off the bat.  I always thought it was because he didn't care for them.  I only recently learned that he likes maraschino cherries, but he loves me more.  (It's the same reason I give him the pepperoncini from my salads.)

7.  He can fix anything.  This is no secret.  But one of the most amazing things he ever did (in my opinion) is replace the motherboard on our almost new, but still broken refrigerator.  A) Who knew fridges even had motherboards?  B) Who can even figure out a fried motherboard is the problem?  C) Who knew you could buy spare refrigerator motherboards on ebay?  D) Who is brave enough to tackle this?  The answer to all of the above - My Sammy.

8.  He's not really one for sweets (unlike me, who will eat sweet or savory anytime anyplace), but there are a few desserts he won't pass on:  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (chilled in the fridge), Molten Chocolate Cake from Chili's, Wilson's or Donna's Glazed Donuts, Cinnamon Rolls at Cici's, Cheese Danish, and Cheesecake.

9.  I've said multiple times before that everything I know about parenting I learned from him.  He's amazing.  What I haven't mentioned is that he thinks of tricks to calm the kids down/distract them/get them to eat their dinner so quickly on his feet, and I see them work so well, that I start to borrow them.  And inevitably wear them out.  (Sorry Sam, but I know you'll be able to come up with some news ones, right?)

10.  He has helped me get over my irrational fears of dentists, calling people on the phone, and canned biscuits.  (Okay, so I'm still a little afraid of all of those things, but he's definitely helped.)

11.  He has survived the phenomenon that is Life with a Pregnant Jennie not once, not twice, but three times.  There are no other words required.  This man deserves a medal.

12.  Back to that first trip to his hometown for that wedding - I noticed the rural night sky and was amazed by the clarity and brilliance of the stars.  Call it the suburbs in me showing, but I commented on how beautiful it was.  A little over a year later, he took me out under those very same stars and asked me to marry him.  And
I'm so glad he did.

13.  Even when I'm in one of my pessimistic moods, Sam has a knack for finding the positive in any situation.  He might be facing an uphill battle for the rest of his life, or he might turn me into an optimist yet.

I am so very grateful to have been blessed with this man's partnership.  We've had some good times and we've had a few bad times, but the best part is that we had them together.  And I can't wait to share more of life's little moments with you.

I love you, Sammy.
Happy, Happy Birthday!

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Mom Things: That's what it's all about

It's Wednesday again, so you know what that means.  Time for this week's installment of Mom Things.  Enjoy!

Halfway through the work day you look down at your hand and see this:

You laughed hysterically when your three year old asked if an 18-wheeler was a "Choo Choo Truck".

You are acutely aware of the fact that the best way to get two perfect handprints on your bathroom mirror is to clean it.

You love that your 14 month old sits without instruction when she sees food, nail clippers, or q-tips.

You also have mixed feelings about the fact that one of your 14 month old's most consistent "tricks" is that she  also sits on command.  On one hand, it's really cute.  On the other, you feel kind of bad for treating her like a dog.

You realized it would only be a matter of time before your very intelligent children figured out that Toys 'R Us wasn't just a "toy museum".

The free Publix cookie is better (because it's free), but the dollar bins at Target are a close second when it comes to bargaining chips for your wee shopping companions.  (The mostly likely selections will be a puzzle for your six year old and some sort of beauty product for your three year old.)

Speaking of Target, you secretly curse them and their popcorn-smelling front entrance for the immediate reminder when you walk into the store.  (But hey, that's also a dollar well spent on good behavior.)

After three consecutive mentions of bargaining chips for good behavior, you feel compelled to share that you don't always reward behavior that is expected.  (Because that's how insecure of a parent you are, apparently.)

You learned the hard way that when face-painting, bounce houses, and 100+ degree weather are involved, it would be best to do the face-painting after the bouncing...because even three year old princesses sweat in that kind of heat.

Linking up today at...


Thank you, South. (Again...)

A while ago, I posted a thank you, of sorts, to the South for introducing me to so many delightful things, mostly of the edible variety.  I would be leaving out a very large portion of my southern education if I didn't mention some of the other lessons I have learned or explicitly been taught since moving here from Maryland.  I will now default to annotated list format (because that's what I do):

1.  Use of ma'am and sir is not optional (even when said ma'am and sir are the same age as or younger than you)
I always considered myself to be a pretty polite child.  I said please, thank you, you're welcome, and excuse me at all the appropriate times.  It wasn't until I got here that my simple no's and yes's (or occasional yeah's) seemed so curtly rude without the softening touch of the necessary "ma'am" or "sir" afterward.  In Maryland, if you call someone ma'am or sir and they're under the age of oh-I-don't-know 80, they almost get offended.  As if you're saying, "Yes, and you look like you're 70 years old."  This is a major cultural difference.  (And one that is waning in popularity among children of my children's generation.)  Being the transplant that I am, I'm learning it along with my children.

2.  When at a wedding do as the mother-of-the-bride does
This is first in a long line of wedding-related learning experiences (like taking hostesses of bridal shower a gift).  Long story short, you do not automatically rise as the bride enters.  Sometimes, the bride prefers everyone to be seated, and if that is the case, the mother-of-the-bride is the person to whom you look for direction.  If she doesn't rise, neither do you.  While in attendance at one of my first southern weddings, I started to stand up as the bride entered (and I wasn't the only one), but was snatched back to my seat by the elbow with a stern look and a whispered "Don't you know how to act?!"  I had no idea what was going on, but was educated following the ceremony.  I can assure you this is a lesson I will not forget.

3.  The best cooking tips don't come from a cookbook
The most invaluable tips regarding cooking (something else about which I know nearly nothing) come from the people who have shed blood, sweat, and tears in the kitchen, pouring their love into every dish.  Among these tips are:
  • You know your frying oil is ready by flicking a few drops of water into it.  When the water pops, you're ready to fry.
  • The smaller the vegetable, the tastier and more tender it will be.  (So you can keep all of your prize-winning, giant squash to yourselves.)
  • If something tastes good, it's probably due to a very large amount of butter, bacon [and/or drippings], sour cream, or cream cheese.  (P.S. - Paula Deen does not own the rights to all things butter.)
  • If you dip your spreading device in warm water between swaths, it really helps when icing a cake.
  • If you don't have a piping device, a sandwich baggie with a tiny corner cut off is the perfect substitution.  (And this is the one and only way to fill deviled eggs.)
  • To make the beloved Sweet Tea - place teabags into a small pot of water on the stove.  Heat until just before boiling.  Let steep, but don't let it cool off.  Pour into gallon-sized pitcher over desired amount of sugar (for us, 1 cup plus just a little bit of extra).  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Fill to the brim with water.  Stir again.
  • Shucking corn is easier if you cut both ends off.  It helps you grab hold of the silk.
4.  There are serious rules at the dining room table
The salt and pepper shaker must always be passed together ("like they're married"), even if a person only asks for one or the other.  You must never stack dishes on top of one another at the end of a meal (no matter how claustrophobic you may be feeling).  You might be eating ribs off a paper plate at a non-air-conditioned BBQ shack, but you must always put a napkin in your lap.  I know there are others slipping my mind (which happens more frequently with each passing day).

5.  Chivalry (or at least common human decency) is not dead
It might be in the form of a stranger holding the door, a wave from another driver as they pass, or the simplest eye contact and a smile, but there is a warmth down here that you just don't get anywhere else.  People are not afraid to speak to each other.  They are happy to help an elderly woman down the stairs, bring a meal when someone gets home from the hospital, help an old man load groceries into his car.  And you know what?  I absolutely love it.

6.  You can tell a lot from glancing at one of those seemingly endless fields of crops
If the corn is twisted, it needs to be watered.  If the corn is as high as an elephant's eye, it's probably sometime in July.  And stray cotton, when it blows out of the back of a truck, looks uncannily similar to dead chickens.  On another note, it is perfectly acceptable to pray for rain.  (And, no matter what the naysayers claim...it worked.  And I'm proud to live in a place where people will pray for rain.)

I have learned so much, and still have so much more to learn.  Maybe someday I'll do "Thank you, South - Part 3".  Excepting those first transitional months where I couldn't figure out why everyone was trying to make eye contact with me and say hello, I have loved every minute of living in the south.  Instead of resisting it, I have learned to embrace it.  And now, there's just no going back.  (Sorry Mom & Dad.)


On Playing Favorites

If there's one thing I can say about my parents, in retrospect, it's that they were excellent about not playing favorites.  (Actually there are lots of things I can say about them, and most of them are good, but I've got to narrow it down in the confines of this little blog.)  My sister might contend that I didn't notice because I was the favorite, but I would argue that.  Granted, there were only two of us, so it might have been easier to divvy up the love, but I don't think that was it.  If a parent is going to show favorites, it seems that it would be more likely to happen if your kids are very different from each other, and you relate to one more than the other.

Julie and I are very different from each other in some ways, and very much alike in others.  Since having my own children, I have noticed how incredibly different two children from the same parents can be.  Shoot, my first two kids could be the test group for a case study on this very subject matter.  They are exact opposites.  In just about every way.  Ben is very serious, task-oriented, and literal (think Amelia Bedelia).  Abby is very fanciful, spirited, and energetic.  Ben likes to stay home.  Abby likes to go...anywhere - "Kroger again?  Sure!  Wait for me!".  Ben can sit and concentrate on small, menial, boring tasks for hours on end.  Abby has other things to do and can't be bothered with things like coloring or flashcards.  When Ben tells stories, he gets bogged down in details.  When Abby tells stories, you can almost physically see her brain take a turn when it starts to get a little drab and she starts to color it with her imagination.

They're just different from each other.

And yet, equally precious.

(I do have a third child, but her personality is just blooming, it's not that I am discounting her or playing favorites to my two eldest.  The comparison between Ben & Abby is just for illustrative purposes.  This concludes my disclaimer for this post.)

The subject of favoritism came up yesterday at church, and has actually come up several times in the past few weeks.  You see, it's a pattern, and it's obvious even in the Bible.  Isaac and Rebekah played favorites to their two boys, Esau and Jacob, respectively.  Maybe because of that, Jacob thought it was only natural to show favoritism towards your kids, and clearly favored Joseph above all of his other brothers.  Whether we like it or not, we "inherit" these behaviors from our parents.  They are the only model we have to emulate.  Or, the most prominent one, at least.  This doesn't mean patterns can't be broken, but it does take a conscious effort not to fall into these conditioned traits.

I will admit that when I got pregnant with Abby, I was simultaneously elated and terrified.  My primary concern throughout that pregnancy was - "How can I possibly love another child as much as I love Ben?"  I just didn't think it could be done.  Some people tried to reassure me that I'd be fine.  Just wait and see.  But being the eternal pessimist and guilt-ridden type, I already felt guilty for falling short as a mother before little Abby was even born.

And then, one day, she arrived.  And it was an experience so unlike having Ben.  I knew what to expect.  I already knew I was a mother.  I didn't have to go through the "whoa whoa, I have to take this home with me?!" emotions.  And instead, I just enjoyed her.  The beautiful blond-haired little girl in my arms had stolen my heart.  All of it.

And here's where I throw out a cliché, because it was the most beautifully appropriate thing I'd ever heard up to that point in my life.  And I can't tell you how many women I've relayed it to that were experiencing the same fear as I was.  (Of course, there's simply no believing it until you experience it, in my opinion.)

A Mother's Love Does Not Divide.  It Multiplies.

So wait, how is that even applicable to favoritism, you ask?

Maybe it's not.  But I assumed Ben would always be my favorite, even though I didn't desire for that to be how it played out.  I never imagined a little girl could come along and steal my whole heart so completely as well.  I'm happy to report I was wrong.

While I'm not perfect by any means (and neither are my kids), I think I do a bang-up job of being fair and loving my kids equally.  There might be some days where it doesn't go the way I wish it did, but it's not a constant struggle like I imagined it would be.  I think I owe this to my parents for exemplifying impartiality.  I also, once again, like to think of it as one of God's little tricks on us.  It's a tiny glimpse into his complete, impartial love for us, each one of us - regardless of how strikingly different we all are.

I'll put it like this - In the winter, I love my heater.  It's my favorite.  Come summertime, I love my air conditioning.  It's my favorite.  

They are completely different, I love them completely.  And, yes, they are my favorites, for the purposes for which they were intended.

And that is how I feel about my three crazy and precious children - 

And maybe it sounds overly-diplomatic and hokey, but the truth is ~

They are all my favorite.

Flashback Friday of the Recent Variety

That "104 Days of Summer Vacation" thing a la Phineas and Ferb is a myth.  At least around here.  Summer vacation is but a blip on the screen in our school system.  The last day of school was May 26th and they go back on August 9th (which is actually later than the anticipated August 5th due to a couple of furlough days).  That brings the grand total of vacation days to...74 including weekends.  Our family of five had lots of fun things lined up (like a trip to Orlando, a trip to Maryland, VBS, a potential trip to the gulf depending on the conditions of the beach), and with my dad newly retired and my mother-in-law also being on summer break we had lots of family willing to lend a hand in keeping our eldest occupied (and bonus - out of daycare, cha-ching) for the summer.

It really did work out great.  And the even bigger bonus is that when things didn't work out as planned, we weren't in a complete lurch, because my boss is a family man, and he loves children.  He knows that Ben is almost 100% able to occupy himself in one of the empty rooms, and "doesn't mind one bit" (his words) if he comes with me.  I can't help feeling like I'm taking advantage when it happens, so we try to limit his time spent here, but he really is a good kid and it really isn't any trouble.  (Even if by the end of a 40 hour work week, he drives me crazy as a result of our very close quarters.)

This was one of the weeks that life didn't work out as planned.  My in-laws have been dealt some unexpected health issues this summer, and have been unable to help out as anticipated.  Obviously, our concern is getting them better.  This absolutely isn't a woe-is-me plea or anything like that.  I think they were more disappointed than anyone.  Ben is popular.  Seems that everyone wants to hang out with him.  I'm personally still trying to figure out why.  (Poor Ben.  I hope he knows I love him.)

Anyway, this was the perfect week to have him here with me because the office manager was on a week-long trip to Indiana, so I didn't have to stress about him making too many weird noises or stomping up and down the hallway.  He's been an angel all week, even being sad when 5 o'clock rolls around.  Not too many six year olds I know can be so resourceful and self-satisfying.  He's a gem, this kid.

The flashback this week is a list (of course) detailing the various ways my sweet Ben occupied himself in our little engineering office for the past five days.

And here we go...

~Used spare plotter parts to fashion antennae (which he occasionally wore whilst riding the measuring wheel like a horse)...or maybe he was just trying to pick up local tv.  Either way, it made me laugh.

~Built a fort in the file room with old plans and cardboard boxes (but evidently it wasn't too sturdy because it collapsed into a heap of paper and cardboard before I could snap a picture)

~Rebuilt a fort in the file room, using different paper, same cardboard, and even more tape

~Learned how to make coffee using my french press.  (Seriously - score!)

~Colored/Drew pictures then scanned them in color and emailed them to people with helpful 8-step instructions provided by moi

~Accompanied me to the polls on Tuesday and received an "I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker

~Read an entire stack of library books in a single day, and returned the following day for more...can I get a hip hip hooray for the public library?  (Also, I highly recommend the book The Giant and the Beanstalk.  It's great.  Because I had to read all of the books too before we turned them back in.)

~Constructed two 3D woodcraft cars from a kit (which he has taken home and his sisters have already almost completely destroyed)

~Smashed leftover wooden pieces from woodcraft kit to smithereens using a screwdriver

~Made himself useful by utilizing the 3-ring hole punch and She-Ra stapler for legitimate business purposes

~Revived old DVD favorites including Jay Jay the Jet Plane and Barney (and he'd probably die of embarrassment if he knew I told people about this)

~Depleted the Hershey stash we have hidden away in a file drawer so my boss doesn't know about it (who told Ben about that, anyway?)

~Delivered items from the printer to the appropriate offices

~Delivered phone messages to my boss

~Took out the trash

~In three words:  "Unlimited" scotch tape

~Created life-sized likenesses of himself and me on giant recycled plan paper.  (Though I would contend the one of me is slightly larger than life.)

He got a little creative coloring on mine.  Please, try not to be jealous of my orange, blue, and green polka dotted shirt, plaid bell-bottom pants, and apparently exposed white underwear.

We're saving the highly-anticipated task of vacuuming for this afternoon's clean-up adventure.  (Because if you call it an adventure, almost anything sounds exciting.)  

And that is the account of Ben's week at my office.  

P.S. - Collating plan sets upwards of 150 sheets is slightly above the abilities of a six year old, even an exceptional one like Ben.  (Maybe next year...)

Happy Weekend, All!  

(And if you would find it in your heart to do so, please say a prayer for my in-laws Tommy & Lisa.  They're having a go of it this summer!  And we love them so!)

Thursday 13 ~ Stupid Comedy Edition

I have to tell you that I am a glutton when it comes to stupid comedies.  I'm not sure if this is something people would expect from me or not.  I am sure that I'm not exactly proud of it, but watching movies like Dumb & Dumber (to name a classic) is my ultimate release.  My guilty pleasure isn't confined to the realm of cinema, however.  I enjoy mindless television too.  I won't even touch on reality tv (which I truly am embarrassed to confess that I watch).  I'm referring to the late, great comedies that were Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends...to name a few.  I'm pretty sure it's in my genes.  My father is the same way.  So I can either thank him for it or blame him for it.  Either way...

In the words of George Costanza, "I don't know, I like stuff you don't have to think about too much."

That is, to me, the definition of relaxation.  Allowing my brain to take a break.  Completely.  And then add laughing to it.  Bliss, I tell you.

I'm sure there are other (better) ways to reset the brain.  Feel free to share those with me.  What do you do to give your brain a vacation?  That's your homework assignment.  Please enlighten me.

In the meantime, for your entertainment, please enjoy my favorite lines from thirteen of my favorite brain vacations:
  1. Airplane
    Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
    Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
    Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.
  2. Dumb & Dumber
    Harry: I thought the Rocky Mountains would be a little rockier than this.
    Lloyd: Yeah, that John Denver is full of [another word for poo], man.
  3. Down Periscope
    XO Pascoe: Buckman! There was a fingernail in my food, you moron!  Yesterday, it was a band-
    Buckman: I'm sorry, sir. The Band-Aid was holding the fingernail on.
  4. Young Frankenstein
    Inga: Werewolf!
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Werewolf?
    Igor: There.
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: What?
    Igor: There, wolf. There, castle.
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Why are you talking that way?
    Igor: I thought you wanted to.
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No, I don't want to.
    Igor: [shrugs] Suit yourself. I'm easy.
  5. Blazing Saddles
    Lyle: Come on, boys! The way you're lollygaggin' around here with them picks and them shovels, you'd think it was a hundert an' twenty degree. Can't be more than a hundert an' fourteen.
  6. The Naked Gun
    Frank: It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girls dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day.
    Jane: Goodyear?
    Frank: No, the worst.
  7. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
    Clark: Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?
    Eddie: Naw, I'm doing just fine, Clark.
  8. Spaceballs
    Dark Helmet: So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.
  9. Hot Shots: Part Deux
    Topper Harley: Ramada, I want to be with you. I want to hold you. I want to meet your parents and pet your dog.
    Ramada Rodham Hayman: My parents are dead, Topper. My dog ate them.
  10. Robin Hood Men in Tights
    Little John: Let me introduce you to my best friend: Will Scarlet.
    Scarlet: Scarlet's my middle name. My full name is Will Scarlet O'Hara. [pause] We're from Georgia.
  11. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
    Bill: So-crates - "The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing".
    Ted: That's us, dude.
  12. Happy Gilmore
    Shooter McGavin: You're in big trouble though, pal. I eat pieces of [another word for poo] like you for breakfast!
    Happy Gilmore: [laughing] You eat pieces of [another word for poo] for breakfast?
    Shooter McGavin: [long pause] No!
  13. Billy Madison
    Principal: Mr. Madison, what you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
    Billy Madison: Okay, a simple "wrong" would've done just fine.
This concludes today's (PG version of the) Thursday 13.  To see more participants, go here!

Mom Thingyma Rinky Dinky Dinks

You can feel yourself becoming one of those moms whose children are lightyears ahead of them in tech savvy.  Especially when your six year old son proclaims from the backseat of the van that he fixed the DVD player that you previously couldn't even get to turn on.  (In your defense, he also had the instructions, to which he gladly resorted.)

Each day your ears hear no less than 849 questions.  True story.  You counted.  (But not really.)  Sadly for you, the number you are actually able to answer with absolute certainty is somewhere around eleven.

Thanks to a Blistex incident that involved two carseat armrests and the employee of an entire wipes container worth of wipes in the daycare parking lot, you have been forced to keep all lip care products under lock and key.  (But your three year old does have the best looking, most kissable lips in town.)

Your 14 month old will happily identify any and all birds in sight with a pointed finger and an enthusiastic, "Bird!", but ask her where Mommy is and she all but snubs you.

Your three year old is more popular at daycare than you ever were in high school.  She can't make it from one end of the hallway to the other without stopping to dole out hugs, high fives, and waves to someone in every classroom.  (And secretly, it makes you kind of proud.)

You signed your kids up for the summer reading program because you knew they'd read enough to earn the free book.  What you didn't know is that between the two of them they would earn seven kids meals at various restaurants around town.  Just another reason you love the public library (and your read-aholic kids).

You've had this conversation:
Kid:  Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!
You:  Yes?
Kid:  (pause)  I need to ask you a question.
You:  What's the question?
Kid:  (really long pause)  Umm.  I love you?
You:  I love you too.  Now go back to bed.

Since he's spending the week with you at the office, you put your six year old to work stapling, three-ring hole punching, and collating.  After a morning of that, he declares, "This is fun!  I want my job to be just like this."  So there you have it.  Your son is destined for a life of clerical work.

The fact that your girls are most often described as "spicy" and "spirited" by those who love them makes you smile.  Truer words have never been spoken.  (Just look at them.)

You now know that you cannot hold a one year old and a to-go cup with a straw in the same hand, unless your objective is to have your one year old suck the cup dry of whatever was in it that you were planning to take with you.

Check out some more at...

P.S. - If anyone is wondering from my post last Friday, the mouse batteries are still kicking it.  See, I told you.  I'm not crazy.  (Okay, just a little.)

Little Blessings ~ Road Trip Edition

As some of you may know (since I mentioned it briefly in a previous post), our most recent return trip from Maryland to Georgia was, hmm, an adventure.  My poor husband got deathly ill somewhere around the North Carolina border.  At that point we were too invested in the trip to turn around, and he was too ill to want to stay in a hotel room (his exact words were, "I just want to go home").  So we pressed on towards home.

It would be an understatement to say that I was tired.  It would also be an understatement to say that I was bored.  (And I know how many people despise that word.  My mother would be so disappointed to hear me say that.)  But given that it was well after midnight on an oh-so-straight, neverending interstate full of nothing but pine trees with a snoozing baby in the backseat and a nauseated husband next to me, the brutal truth is, simply put, I was bored.

I enjoyed a few hours of Blue Collar Comedy on the radio.  I sang my heart out to some Prime Country from the 80's and 90's.  I switched it over to the regular 90's music and sang some more.  There may have been a few delirious minutes where I had entire conversations with myself.  (I mean, really, who can say for sure?)  My crossword puzzle-doing, chatting buddy was writhing in the passenger seat and it just didn't feel right to strike up a conversation.

Amazingly though, I didn't feel sorry for myself.  Ordinarily under the circumstances, I would be having a "Woe is me" moment.  Despite the fact that Sam typically does the majority of the driving and the roles were reversed, my pity tank was empty because I'd used it all on my poor, sick passenger.  I think this was a good thing.  Because even in the midst of mostly dire conditions, I found it in my heart to make a list of things I was thankful for on a sheet of paper I found by fumbling through my purse in the darkness of I-95 south. 

I didn't find the list until today, which is why two+ weeks have passed since the infamous trip home and I'm just now posting it.  After a trip like that, you are so ready to not spend time in the vehicle in which you traveled, you don't even stop to empty out the trash for a couple of weeks.  (Or maybe I'm just a slob.  You decide.  But that's rhetorical.  I don't need to know.) 

The list was an attempt at positivity.  I think it succeded.  Here goes nothing.  (The original print is in bolded font, my parenthetical notes are just a bonus - lucky you!)

Things For Which I'm Thankful on this Long Trip Home

[A two year old bottle of] Zofran [prescribed to our three year old, but self-administered by my ailing husband.  We think it worked, at least to stop the vomiting.  I'm sorry, pharmacist friends.  I know this is not good practice.  Desperate times and all.]

Knowing where to find cheap gas [the answer is most anywhere but Maryland]

Finding unexpected bargains like gas being 20 cents/gallon cheaper 1/2 mile off the exit [while en route to a 24-hour Super Walmart for ginger ale, even if we weren't able to get gas there because for some reason they closed at 4:15am while Sam was purchasing said ginger ale]

Points of Interest in the GPS [for enabling us to find 24-hour Super Walmarts 1/2 mile off the interstate]

Hazard Lights [to keep us safe whilst pulled over on the side of the road]

Backseat sunshades [that allow my one year old to continue sleeping despite the daytime lighting conditions of 24-hour gas stations and Super Walmarts.  Do they really need to be that bright?]

So little traffic I get to use my high beams on the interstate [it's a stretch, but flipping them on and off helped to keep me awake...and helped me look for deer on the sides of the road]

24-Hour Dunkin' Donuts [really, does this need any further explanation?]

Snack Bags [because if ever there is a time when it is appropriate to binge on Doritos & Twizzlers an overnight road-trip surely qualifies as one of these times]

XM Radio Comedy Channels [because "Here's Your Sign" and "You Might Be a Redneck" are even funnier between the hours of midnight and 6am]

So there you have it.  A Top Ten list, inspired by real events en route to home on July 5th & 6th.  They might not be the greatest blessings I'll ever experience, but they are blessings just the same.  And I was very thankful for each of them that night.

From there to here, from here to there, funny things blessings are everywhere.   (Okay, and funny things too!)

A Little Bit Country

I started listening to country music about halfway through high school.  I don't really know what came over me.  After many years of listening to Alanis Morrisette, Jewel, Counting Crows, and even the Beastie Boys, I suddenly expanded my horizons (if you can call it that) to the realm of country.  Well, pop country at least.

I can most likely attribute it to hearing "When You Say Nothing at All" by Ronan Keating on the Notting Hill soundtrack.  While the Irishman Ronan Keating is hardly a country singer, hearing his version of the song led me to Alison Krauss' version of the song which I loved - along with all of the other songs on that album (Now That I've Found You: A Collection).  Thus began my love affair with country music.

It's something that ebbs and flows with my mood.  I seem to be particularly drawn to it when I'm pregnant.  I'm a glutton for punishment, I suppose.  In my most volatile, emotional state, I torture myself with unbelievably heart-wrenching country songs.  When I want to reminisce about my early years, dating Sam, I turn on some good old Garth Brooks.  Then again, I sometimes go months without listening to it.  Inevitably though, I'm drawn back to it - because, let's face it, country music has the best lyrics ever.  (And somehow, I'm even able to look beyond the bad grammar.)

Today, I provide you with a list (of course) of the country lyrics superlative variety:

Best Pun
Timber!  I'm falling...in love.
~Patty Loveless, Timber, I'm Falling in Love

Best Advice from a Bartender
When you get home, she'll start to cry.
When she says 'I'm sorry' say 'So am I'
And look into those eyes so deep in love,
And drink it up.
'Cause that's the good stuff.
~Kenny Chesney, The Good Stuff

Most Honest Lyric about the Nature of Men
When you say a back rub means only a back rub then you swat my hand when I try.
Well now what can I say at the end of the day,"Honey, I'm still a guy."
~Brad Paisley, I'm Still a Guy

Most Empowering Lyric for Moms
Some people look down on me, but I don't give a rip.
I'll stand barefooted in my own front yard with a baby on my hip.
~Gretchen Wilson, Redneck Woman

Best Retort following Heartbreak
Well, here's a quarter, call someone who cares.
~Travis Tritt, Here's a Quarter

Best Truth about Tough Times
There's bound to be rough waters
And I know I'll take some falls
But with the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all
~Garth Brooks, The River

Best Farm-Related Metaphor
Hard times are real
There's dusty fields
No matter where you go
And you may change your mind
'Cause the weeds are high
Where corn don't grow
~Travis Tritt, Where Corn Don't Grow

Best Advice about (not) Procrastinating
Wouldn't change the course of fate but cuttin' the grass just had to wait
'Cause I've got more important things like pushin' my kid on the backyard swing
I won't break my back for a million bucks I can't take to my grave
So why put off for tomorrow what I could get done today
~Toby Keith, My List

Best Deterrent for Infidelity
I dug my key into the side
Of his pretty little souped-up 4 wheel drive
Carved my name into his leather seat
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights
Slashed a hole in all 4 tires
And maybe next time he'll think before he cheats
~Carrie Underwood, Before He Cheats

Saddest Lyrics about Infidelity
I can give you two good reasons
To show you love's not blind
He's two and she's four, and you know they adore you
So how can I tell them you've changed your mind?
~Dixie Chicks, You Were Mine

Most Patriotic (?) Lyric
And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.
'Cause we'll put a boot in your [other word for hiney], it's the American way.
~Toby Keith, Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue 

Truest Way to a Man's Heart
Plowing these fields in the hot summer sun
Over by the gate lordy here she comes
With a basket full of chicken and a big cold jug of sweet tea
I make a little room and she climbs on up
Open up a throttle and stir a little dust
Just look at her face she ain't a foolin me
~Kenny Chesney, She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy

Most Chill-Evoking Lyrics
He said,"My name is Private Andrew Malone.
If you're reading this, then I didn't make it home.
But for every dream that shattered, another one came true,
This car was once a dream of mine, now it belongs to you.
And though you may take her and make her your own,
You'll always be riding with Private Malone."
~David Ball, Riding with Private Malone

Most Comforting Lyric about Unconditional Love
They say that time takes it toll on a body;
Makes the young girls brown hair turn gray.
But honey, I don't care, I ain't in love with your hair,
And if it all fell out, I'd love you anyway.
~Randy Travis, Forever and Ever Amen

See what I mean!?  BRILLIANT, I tell you. 

I realize not everyone listens to country, but if you do, let's hear some superlatives of your own.  Hey, I'm not picky...just give me some fun lyrics from any music genre.

(Because no blog post of mine would be complete without a homework assignment.)

Flashback Friday: The random things

You most likely know by now that I'm 99.5% random.  I laugh at all of the wrong times, too loudly.  I think of the most inappropriate things at the strangest moments.  I cry at the drop of a hat anymore.  (Thanks, Mom, for passing that on to me.)  I record things on post-it notes in my office like, "07/13/2010 11:19am:  First notice mouse batteries critically low" so that I can see how long it takes before they actually die.  I have this theory that Logitech and the battery company are in cahoots.  Oh, that's another thing.  I develop a lot of conspiracy theories.

Another thing is that I take pictures of random things.  After I do I always end up thinking, "Why in the world did I just do that?"  Then, months and years later, I'll look at the picture and it will remind me of a time, place, or thing that otherwise (prior to the advent of the digital age) would not have been deemed worthy of photographing and would have, as a result, been forgotten forever.

No longer, friends.

Because now, I will forever remember the following things:

The time I took a photo of my three month old and two and a half year old side by side to record their identical 16" waists

The time I let Ben and Abby have a sleepover in her bed, only to find her mostly assaulting him mid-REM cycle

The time Abby tried to bypass the ladder and attempted to climb a 4x4 to get to the top of the playground

The time Abby got herself stuck in my bed, suspended mid-air

The time I opened the trash can to find that my six year old son had taken it upon himself to hoist our rusted, old metal wagon into it all by his-very-own-determined-hoss-self

The time I couldn't get to my camera fast enough to record the most unusual sleeping position by my seven month old, Sarah

The time Ben played on the computer wearing a suit

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but they never mention that the worth of a single photo is priceless.  

Even a random one.

Happiest of Fridays to you all.

In my "humble" opinion

I have a habit of making quick judgments about people.  I put too much stock in first impressions.  I tend to make assumptions based on what might be insignificant snapshots of a person's life from brief encounters with them.  These are flaws and I'm working on them.  Admitting it is the first step.

Because these faults are part of who I am, I assume that everyone else suffers from the same afflictions and, consequently, spend too much time wondering what people must think about me.  Am I arrogant or humble?  Do I look as, umm, "solid" in person as I do in the mirror?  Am I funny or do I just laugh (way too much) at my own jokesAnd what is with that obnoxious laugh anyway?  Geez.  

To offset the faults, I do have one or two good qualities.  One of these self-proclaimed good qualities is that I genuinely care about other people's opinions.  I want to know about and hear from people who share or absolutely do not share my beliefs, feelings, opinions, etc.

And, of course, I assume the opposite - that you want to hear my opinion.

Hence, this blog.

Well you are in luck, my friends who-may-or-may-not-be-dying-to-hear-my-opinion, because I read quite a doozy of an article the other day that was pointed out to me by a good mom friend.  The title is All Joy and No Fun:  Why parents hate parenting.  Before I dive head first into those opinions of mine, I highly recommend reading the piece.  It's slightly lengthy, but whether you are a parent or not, I think it makes for interesting reading.  I'll wait while you go do that right now...otherwise you'll be relying only on excerpts and my opinions from here on out.  That might not be so bad.  The choice is yours.

The theme of the article is the undisputed research which states as fact that having children makes people less happy.
Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. [Studies] found that child care ranked sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities [by moms]. (Among the endeavors they preferred: preparing food, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, housework.)
Great.  This is the perfect ammunition for my childless-by-choice office manager.  Remind me never to show this article to her.  (Ten seconds after I typed that, I emailed it to her.  Couldn't help myself.  Because, like I said, "I genuinely care about other people's opinions.")

As I read it, I found myself not wanting to relate to it, because I love being a mom...don't I?  Does it make me a horrible mom if I am not 100% happy all of the time, and not elated that my kids do things like touch the walls with their greasy hands, spill toothpaste in the sink every single night, and whine when I don't let them stay up past their bedtime?  Am I less happy to come home to my children who greet me with a smile and a hug before I even have a chance to get out of the car than someone who comes home to an empty house? 
Children may provide unrivaled moments of joy. But they also provide unrivaled moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak. This scene [see article for more details], which isn’t even all that awful or uncommon, makes it perfectly clear why parenting may be regarded as less fun than having dinner with friends or baking a cake. Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing.
And I'm sure it's a matter of perspective, but happiness rests very much on how we view these little critters with whom we share our home and lives.  It is very easy to look at them as chores.  They do generate messes at a break-neck pace.  They require food, shelter, clothing, discipline, and for whatever reason, an ungodly amount of band-aids for non-bleeding injuries.  The article mentions this very fact, "The problem is, 95 percent of the time, you’re not thinking about what they mean to you. You’re thinking that you have to take them to piano lessons."  We think about them in terms of the amount of work they create for us.  And all it takes is a perspective change, a paradigm shift, a simple reminder to ourselves that the ultimate reward in parenting is not a function of how many extra-cirriculars they're a part of or even how few temper tantrums they have.  It's experiencing unconditional love.  It's the opportunity to make the world a better place by the labor of your very own hands. It's being able to mold these tiny minds by helping them reach their full potentials so they can be the very best they can be.

Here's where I go out on a limb.

Obviously there are people who should not and cannot be parents.  If there weren't, we wouldn't have foster care and adoption.  The fact that these institutions exist indicates that there are unfit parents in this world.  Then there are the couples who have tried and tried and lost and who are unable to have children.  I cannot begrudge them for not having kids.  It is simply not their choice and not their option.

But for the men and women who consciously decide not to have children, while I want so very much to support that decision, I can't help but wonder if they ever wonder what they're missing.  To the reason "I wouldn't be a good mom/dad.  I just know", I say "Phooey" (for lack of any other word to come to my brain).

Here's why I feel qualified to Phooey that.  Before my surprise blessing that was and is my oldest child, I might have fallen into the childless-by-choice category.  I didn't know if I wanted kids.  I felt that there were other things to do in my life that seemed equally important, like having a career and being "successful".  I felt awkward around other people's kids.  I was never the girl people called on when they needed a sitter.

Then I had Ben.  

I suffered with some blues straight off the bat, but ultimately, he became my world.  He helped me grow in ways that I don't think would be possible without having stepped into the role of "mom".  Like it or not, kids reprioritize your life.  For me, it helped.  Tremendously.

And even though I'm still learning and it's not nice to brag, I'm a darn good mom.  Shoot, it still surprises me.

I didn't have more kids for their economic benefit.  I don't live on a farm and don't expect them to milk cows for me at 5:30am like families of yesteryear.  I had more kids because I wanted them.  I wanted them before they even existed.  I can't explain that change of heart, but that's what it was.  Maybe some people have children because "that's just the way it's always been".  Maybe if you go into it with that attitude, it's not going to be fun.  (But in the words of my mother, you need an attitude adjustment.)

For me, though I wholeheartedly admit it that it is A LOT of work, it's worth it.  On the good days and on the bad days.  I am not going to be happy all of the time, but who is?  I might raise my voice.  I might feel like things just aren't working.  I might feel like a complete failure from time to time.  But all it takes is a spontaneous hug, or a goofy smile, or a toothless dance to the tune of a commercial jingle to melt my heart.  And that's a joy that only a parent can understand.   And there is something so freeing about being completely filled with love by something so simple as a three year old's chuckle.

It is very simply, the beauty of parenthood.  In all of it's goodness, badness, ugliness.
I think this boils down to a philosophical question, rather than a psychological one,” says Gilovich. “Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?” He says he has no answer for this, but the example he offers suggests a bias. He recalls watching TV with his children at three in the morning when they were sick. “I wouldn’t have said it was too fun at the time,” he says. “But now I look back on it and say, ‘Ah, remember the time we used to wake up and watch cartoons?’ ” The very things that in the moment dampen our moods can later be sources of intense gratification, nostalgia, delight.
It's magic, I tell you.

Like when I took this picture, I was in the middle of a week+ stint as a "single mother" while my husband was away on business in Oklahoma City.   We went to Publix for the mid-week penny item after a dining out experience with me and the three kids all by my lonesome and after having dropped off and picked up Ben from his Wednesday church activities.  The kids weren't exactly on their best behavior at the grocery store, it was stressful, and by the time we got to the checkout they were about to burst at the seams.  Yet, when I got home, I decided to document the evening with a picture.  When I look at it, I remember losing control of my kids at the register, but what I feel is a full heart.  Because these are my three babies.  And they are an extension of my soul.  And that is happiness.

Here's to the moments as well as the memories.

Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it. 
~William Feather

Mom Things - Why am I still awake!?

And these, friends, are this week's Mom Things:

When something of value goes missing in your house, one of the first places you look is in the kitchen trash can (undoubtedly underneath coffee grounds).  Then in the toilet.  If it's not in either of those places, you are not at all above dumping the outside trash can onto the driveway and wading through the refuse.

It's for events like that above that you consider purchasing a HazMat suit.  It would also come in handy for use both in public restrooms and at well-child visits to the pediatrician where you inevitably end up contracting some sort of airborne illness.

While watching a guest performance from the touring ensemble of "In the Heights" on So You Think You Can Dance, one of the performers faces seems really familiar to you.

Then it hits you - he used to be on the cast of Hi-5!  Shaun was like family as he danced you through your oh-so-very hot maternity leave of 2009.  (Maybe this is a sign you watch too much children's programming.  Who cares!?  We love you, Shaun!)

You know that there are certain public places where your kids turn into Satan's spawn; the public library, Bojangles [Chicken & Biscuits], and Hobby Lobby (to name a few). You have no idea how to explain this, but it almost seems conditioned. Pavlov's dogs-ish, even. Now to figure out how to break the cycle...

While aimlessly wandering around Walmart with your two girls, you notice your three year old has been distracted by a mirror in the ladies department.  She is oh-so-narcissisticly watching herself dance, which elicits a smile from you, which elicits copycat behavior by the one year old in your arms who starts gyrating as best she can.  You can't remember the last time you had that much fun in Walmart.  (Wait.  You've never had that much fun in Walmart.)

When your six year old boy acts up, you threaten to take him shoe shopping if he doesn't get it together.  (That's a good one.  You can borrow it.  You're welcome.)

On a similar vein, you've explained to your six year old boy that the less weird and more cooperative he is in Kohls while you look for three shirts to replace your favorites that have become bleach-stained, torn, or faded, the faster you can leave.  Apparently a quick study, when you ask him for his opinion on several different items, the response is identical; an enthusiastic, "I love that one!  You should definitely buy it."

Your idea of a fun kid-less weekend (note: not the same as kid free, kid-less = fewer kids) is purging the kids' bedrooms and giving the house a deep clean with wholehearted intentions of enjoying it for a few hours before they all come home.

You realize how quickly time flies (and how fast technology changes) when you look at your six year olds' baby pictures and realize that a good portion of them were taken on a 35mm camera. 

You've slathered every inch of your children in sunscreen for a t-ball game, day at the beach, Field Day, etc. but failed to consider that you'd be out in the sun as well.  (A lesson painfully learned by yours truly.)

Linking up today again at...


Flashback Friday - The 1.16[repeating] Birthday

I confess to being slightly annoyed by the parents who choose to celebrate monthly birthdays from birth to the veritable teen years.

You know the type.  When you inquire about the child's age, the reply is some abhorrently high number of months...like 39.  After you get out the calculator, you realize the kid is a little older than three.  Great.  The answer "three" would have sufficed.

I cut some slack on the month-counting before the age of 18 months.  One reason for this is that prior to 18 months, one month can make a huge difference in motor skills, speech, personality, you name it.  There's also something about just saying "one" that seems abrasively concise.  After 18 months, the acceptable answers are one and a half or almost two.  (Apparently, I have a lot of rules.  Maybe I should write a book about it.)  Another reason for cutting some slack prior to the magical 18 month mark is because my youngest child is approaching 14 months of age, and I want to be able to tell people about it.  I'm a hypocrite.  14 months isn't typically a huge milestone month, I don't think, but for the sake of a Flashback Friday of my favorite variety (the kind where I get to compare and contrast my older two with my youngest) I'm taking it and running with it.

Before we added Sarah to create our family of five, I quizzed lots of parents about which transition was the hardest - from zero to one kid, one to two kids, or two to three kids.  I wanted to mentally prepare in case the answer was a resounding "from two to three kids".  The results were pretty equally split between the three choices.  I was freaking out about the people who  answered "from two to three kids" because, for me, it rocked my world going from one to two.  I was secretly hoping that was as hard as it got.

I'm happy to report that it was.

Sarah has just fit so easily into our family.  It's like she's always been here.  Wild and crazy as she is, she barely rocked the boat.

I think that I am a much more confident mother now than I was with Abby and certainly with Ben (poor kid, it's a wonder he made it out of infancy alive).  So that may have a lot to do with my ability to just enjoy Sarah.  Because of my increased confidence, and resulting lower stress, we've been able to nurse longer (through the present), which may or may not be a factor as to why I feel so closely bonded to her. 

This week, when we left Maryland after the 4th, we traveled back to Georgia with just Sarah, leaving Ben & Abby behind for their first adventure with Grandmom and Grandpop sans parents.  It was a teary departure (not on the kids' parts, they were fine).  But something really cool has happened because of it.  I've been able to spend time with just Sarah, something that I get to do so very infrequently (if ever), and just enjoy her.

Aside from being our beautiful princess, she really is just a joy.  She's got Abby's zeal for life with a side of Ben's intensity.  She is a mixture of both, but more than that, she's 100% Sarah.  And that's all.

Though it simultaneously feels like decades ago and just yesterday that the other two were 14 months old, it makes me smile to remember those times that have passed.

I especially smiled when I stumbled across this video gem of Abby doing gymnastics in the living room, assuming position so Daddy would help her flip again and again.  I had no idea that Abby and Sarah have the same laugh.  (Or that I spontaneously snort when I laugh.  Embarrassing.)

We could have guessed at the age of 14 months that Abby would end up exactly the way she is today. She's has always had that spunk.  It was at 14 months that Abby so excitedly  discovered the long lost socks.

And that smile in the midst of a mess of mischief...how do you not smile back at that?  (I mean, really, where did she find that spool of string?)

To remember Ben at 14 months, I have to dig pretty deeply.  My life has changed so very dramatically since he was a 14 month old toddler.  In November of 2004, I was in the midst of my pseudo-junior year of college.  Ben stayed up late while I should have been doing my homework and entertained us.  Or rather, we used him as a source of entertainment...either way.  (Poor kid drooled like that till he was almost 3.)

At 14 months, we captured the now famous (at least within the confines of our little family) photo of Ben cooking up his beloved Piggy in the oven.

And we tortured him by making him wear his horribly confining Halloween costume.

It's such a pleasure to think back on those times and smile.  Every month, even.  (wink, wink)

Since I've never written a longer Flashback Friday than this one, I feel duty-bound to wrap it up as quickly as possible.  Thank you all for celebrating Sarah's 14/12 birthday with me.

I hope you take a moment to remember something that makes you smile today.

Have a blessed weekend...and try to stay cool!

A Matter of Perspective

I'm not usually important enough to attend meetings at work.  Despite the fact that I am one of two engineers here at my place of employment (the other one being my boss and the owner of the company), I fall so lowly on the hierarchy of importance that most people don't even know my name.  And, truthfully, I like it that way.  I am content to do the work anonymously from my corner of the building.  I am happy to let my boss take credit when I do a great job, and even happier to let him take the blame in the (rare) event that I should mess something up.

Yesterday afternoon, however, something happened.

My boss appeared in my doorway.  (I hate it when he does that.)  And said, "Jennifer."  (I hate it when he calls me that.  Yeah, yeah.  I know it's technically my name and all, but it just feels like I'm about to get in trouble.)  I looked at him and smiled.  He continued, "You've been summoned to a meeting tomorrow.  It's no big deal.  Just a status thing.  You shouldn't even have to say anything."

Well that wasn't the case.  At all.  I had to say lots of things, answer lots of questions, and in front of a large-ish crowd of people I've never met.  And the best part is that they had saved me a seat at the very front of the conference room table.  I wasn't prepared for it, but I got through it.  Another of life's little rites of passage.  Hey, I even elicited a laugh from the room at one point.  (And we all know that's my singular measure of success in life.)  But those things are not the point of the story.

All of that was just to get us into the meeting. 

Each of the people sitting around the table had been grilled by the city manager, excepting one - the Fire Chief.  At the end of the meeting right before commencing things and letting us go, the city manager realized he hadn't put the Fire Chief on the spot yet, so as not to exclude him he said, "How about you?  Why haven't you gotten any grants yet?"

I had less than nothing to do with the discussion on fire-related grant money, but since I was there, I listened. 

The Fire Chief calmly smiled, obviously unshaken by the spotlight.  (There was no signature nervous laughter, like that incessantly offered by yours truly.)  He said, "It's not that we aren't trying.  But here's why we can't and probably won't get any.  One of the four requirements for receiving aid is the county unemployment rate.  In that regard, we're doing just fine."  To which the city manager replied, "We're right at 6%.  That's going to hurt us."

(Fun fact:  In actuality, our county is at 7.3% - much lower than the state average of 9.9% and the U.S. average of 9.5% for June 2010.  Data courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

That's when it hit me.  (And "it" usually does hit me in the most unusual of times and places.)  "It" was another reminder of how blessed I am and my community is.

I work in an industry that is heavily dependent on growth.  Growth is something that, in most places, came to a screeching halt as a result of the economic downturn of 2008.  Our community was a hot bed of growth of residential and commercial varieties, of staggering proportions even, so when it stopped almost overnight it seemed so very dramatic.  And it was.  I don't mean to diminish the fact that our area has been hit hard.  It's just that, in the grand scheme of things, we're actually doing quite well.  (Relatively speaking.)

Okay, so what's that point again, you ask?

The point is that this time last year, I just knew I was going to be out of a job by Christmas time.  By Christmas time, I just knew I'd be out of a job by May.  And yet, here it is July, and I am still gainfully employed.  Those thoughts were the product of a pessimistic buzz...around town, in the industry, by my boss, on every national news website.

Every time, so far, it looked like we were going to have to close our doors, a random phone call came in with a job that kept us plugging along.  It has literally happened this way.  I wholeheartedly believe that this has been God's direct answer to prayer, and one of the benefits of working for a good Christian man.

I could (and often do) lament the fact that I am grossly underpaid, that I haven't gotten a raise in four years, that there is almost no opportunity for me to progress in my current position, BUT (a big one even) I am also still grateful to have the job that I have.  Because it is a job that I don't hate, that may only be a stepping stone in my career, that is helping me grow.

The economy/job situation is grim, I shouldn't say it isn't.  But how much of it is what we think and not what we know?  How much of it is something we can control and shouldn't worry about?  Or that we can't control and still shouldn't worry about?  How much of our whining and complaining is warranted when there are so very many others in much grimmer situations than ours?

While I understand the city manager's perspective on being "hurt" by our (relatively) good unemployment rate, I say, let's hope it stays that way.  Shoot, let's hope it goes down even farther.

Let's try to see blessings for what they are -


A challenge for today:  Consider something in your life that seems like an impediment, put on your rose-colored glasses, and see it as a blessing.  And if you're so inclined, share it with me.  It's amazing how a little perspective shift can change our entire outlook.
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