Thanks, Mom & Dad.

Last week on Facebook, there was a copy & paste status that read:
At the age of 4: Mom knows everything! At 8: Mom knows a lot! At 12: Mom doesn’t know everything. At 14: Mom doesn’t know anything. At 16: Mom doesn’t exist. At 18: Mom's old fashioned. At 25: Maybe Mom does know about this! At 35: Before we decide, let’s ask Mom! At 45: I wonder what Mom thinks about this? At 75: I wish I could ask my Mom. 
While I would contend that the "Mom doesn't know everything" part has already affected my six-almost-seven year old, the rest of it rings true.  For me, at least.  My poor mom.  Poor moms in general.  It really is the most thankless of jobs, even when we try to teach our children the importance of gratitude.

Sam and I decided to join in on a parenting class offered at our church.  We went for the first time last Sunday and I'm really excited to dive right in.  We watched an introductory video that talked about the way our parents and grandparents were raised and how dramatically different our generation raises our children.  It was a sobering reality to say the least.

As he spoke, I naturally thought back to my childhood and how my parents chose to raise my sister and me.  There is no doubt that their parenting was a product of how they were raised.  It seemed incredibly unfair at the time, but looking back, I'm so grateful for the model they provided for me.  

As a mother now I can honestly say that the task of parenting is a daunting one.  I am sometimes consumed by the fear that I will cause irreparable damage to my kids as a result of mistakes that I might make.  This lack of confidence is caused by my attempts at parenting on my own.  Without God's guidance.  And if that keeps up, I will fail at parenting.

Parenting God's way is not the popular thing to do, especially not these days.  (That cliche I read on a poster in high school comes to mind - "What's right is not always popular, but what's popular isn't always right.")  It has become an era in which we are consumed by accomplishment, not by attitude, behavior, and respect.  We place relentless pressure on our children to do better, learn more, succeed at any cost.  But where is the pressure for them to treat people with respect, use their manners, have integrity?

In reminiscing back to my childhood, I remember playing independently for hours at a time with my Barbies, riding my bike back and forth on the sidewalk in front of our house, kicking a ball back and forth in the back yard, reading books.  It never occurred to me to even ask my mom or dad to play with me.  And I didn't feel less loved because of that.  I just learned to be creative, so as not to get bored (the dreaded "B" word that was forbidden in my house).  When it came time to start school, my parents never pressured me to do anything more than my best.  This was a huge blessing as I put more than enough pressure on myself.  I wholeheartedly believe, though, that if my best had been less than straight-A's, that would have been completely okay with them.  There were no rewards for good grades.  I was expected to do chores (even if I did figure out that if I claimed I needed to do homework right after dinner before I did the dishes, that my mom would end up doing them for me).  I simply knew not to interrupt when adults were talking, to sit still and be quiet while we were in church, and to use my common sense when it came down to making choices.

Children today don't have those simple luxuries.  It gets increasingly harder with each passing day to do right by our children, because so many other do not.  It is incredibly difficult to explain to a seven year old why a certain behavior is unacceptable when he is the only one being held to that standard.  

Was I a perfect child?  Absolutely not.  Am I a perfect adult?  No way, no how.  But I do think that I was raised well.  And I wholeheartedly intend to fight the uphill battle that is raising children with traditional values in a postmodern world.

Today, I want to acknowledge my parents who taught me that life is about more than accomplishments.  That life is about loving God, doing the right thing, living up to my God-given potential (which is the definition of success), sharing my gifts with others, being respectful, and simply, well, living simply.  It is a gift that could not possibly have more value.  As I think back, I am filled with thanks.  Because everything was simpler then.  

And that's how it should be.

"Dear Lord, as Sam and I continue to raise the three children that you have so graciously lent to us, may we always remember to look to you for guidance.  Please help us be the parents to them that our parents were to us.  Please help us instill a good character in them in order to withstand the pressures of our world.   Allow us to encourage and nurture their gut instinct, which is a combination of your Holy Spirit and their own common sense.  Above all, please allow our marriage and lives to be a model for them, so that when they are starting families of their own, they will think back with gratitude and maybe even a smile to the way we loved each other and the "unfair" and simple way we raised them.  Please help us remember that events may transpire and the world may be change, but that You never do.  Thank you for that."
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Unwrapping the priceless gift of a simple childhood today at...

tuesdays unwrapped at cats


Flashback Friday - "When's your baby due?"

Disclaimer:  Once again, I can't speak for women on whole, but I'm a woman, and I know how I feel, so I'm speaking for myself. If you happen to agree, please let me know because you make me feel [slightly more] normal.

Most women I know who've endured the throes of pregnancy, delivery, and a rebounding postpartum body have at least one example of a time when someone said something hurtful to them about their size, status, and/or stature.  It might have been something someone meant as a joke, like, "Whoa!  You sure you don't have twins in there?!"  (By the way, that's not funny.)  It might have been a facial expression, like when someone asked you when you were due and you said, "I've got three more months", and then they give you the saucer eyes that suggested they thought you were going to deliver right there in the middle of the grocery store before you even made it to checkout - because - you know - you were that big.

For me, it happened after I delivered my firstborn.  Bless his crying little heart.  I'd had enough of his 24/7 outrage and opted to clear my head for an hour or so.  I went to get a very much needed haircut.  I sat in the chair, chatted with the stylist, and the subject of the baby came up.

Then she said it, "When are you due?"

Despite my raging postpartum hormones and the tears that welled up in my eyes, I calmly and quietly replied, "Ten days ago."

She was confused for a second, then she realized her error.  

Then, she apologized profusely.

I made it to the car before I all-out sobbed from the apparent fact that I still looked oh-so-very pregnant.  

In light of that oh-so-fun-to-remember trip to the stylist that happened nearly seven years ago (and yet remains a vivid memory of mine), I've come up with a few suggestions for those of you who feel compelled to say such things to women, pregnant or not.

Jennie's Guide to Not Offending a Woman with Respect to her Potentially Pregnant Body 

1.  Never, ever, ever ask a woman if she's pregnant.
You can ask her husband privately (knowing you run the risk of him mentioning it to her later which won't be good for either of you).  You can ask her friends.  You can ask everyone on earth.  But DO NOT ask her.  Even if she weighs 85 pounds and looks like she literally has a basketball shoved underneath her shirt.  This is not a mistake you want to make.  It's a question you'll forget that you asked 10 seconds later, but a question she won't forget being asked for 10 years (if you're lucky).  

2.  Never, ever, ever ask a woman "how many" babies she is carrying.  
Again, I can't speak for everyone else, but I'm a big gainer when I'm pregnant.  The least I've gained in three pregnancies was 26 pounds and I worked oh-so-very hard at it.  The thing is, I still looked like I had gained about 62 pounds.  I looked and felt like a beached whale.  While I'm sure it was fun for other people to speculate that there were surely sextuplets in there, it wasn't fun for the beached whale.  Beached whales have feelings too - violent ones.  Do not tick off a beached whale.

3.  Don't give backhanded compliments to pregnant women.
While I'm sure it was well-intentioned, your compliment about how good someone looks "this pregnancy" carries with it the insinuation "but you looked like a beached whale with the other ones".  Pregnant women don't hear the compliment part.  They just remember looking and feeling like a beached whale.  And then there are more tears.  You don't want to be the one who makes a pregnant woman cry.

4.  Hands off.
Please don't touch pregnant bellies.  In general.  But especially don't do it if you're not sure whether they are indeed pregnant or not.  Because then you run the risk of being that weirdo who touches non-pregnant bellies.  Do you really want that reputation?

I will conclude this little tirade now, but not without saying that sometimes a woman might want to wear a cute, new empire-waisted peasant top to work on casual Friday without being point-blank asked if she's pregnant.  Especially when said woman has been working out and was finally coming to terms with her post-three babies body.  And especially when the shirt was so forgiving after a big meal at the Mexican joint.  Dang it.

Guess "she" will be burning this shirt.

For kicks - here's a pregnant Jennie picture.  (I felt the need to caption it so you won't mistake it for a beached whale.)

I believe the facial expression can best be summed up with, "I will punch you in the teeth if you comment on my size."

P.S. - I do apologize for the tone.  I have had three very blessed pregnancies, deliveries, and beautiful babies.  I recognize these all for the gifts that they were.  I have worked very hard not to spiral out of control with my weight both during and following my pregnancies.  It just really does hurt in the midst of that for someone to ask that question.  Pregnancy does not offend me.  Being asked if I'm pregnant...kind of does.  Here's a promise, if I want you to know whether I'm pregnant or not, I will tell you.  

For the record, I am not.

With that, I hope you all have an excellent weekend.  See you on the flip side.


A Simply Wonderful Memory of a Man

I started blogging about a year ago now.  It's been a wonderful outlet for me.  Perhaps, truly one of my only hobbies in the busy life of being a wife, mom, and engineer.  Just for kicks, I looked back at that first official blog post this morning.  It was no coincidence.  Today is the birthday of the the man about whom I first blogged; my grandfather.  It wouldn't be a stretch to say that he was the inspiration for this entire blog.  I loved that man so, and still do to this day.

A few years ago, a while after his passing, a niece for whom he endeavored to build a clock found a letter he had written to her in the process.  (I have no idea how many clocks he built in his lifetime, but each and every one of them is a work of art...and even moreso, a legacy.)  She forwarded the letter to Grandpop's sister, knowing she would enjoy reading it.  Aunt Myrtle then passed it on to my father who scanned and emailed it on to me for the same reason.

All I have to do when I need a smile is open that email and look at his carefully executed draftsman handwriting.  I have a chuckle at his cynical humor which is not terribly unlike my own.

I am blessed with the simple pleasure that is and was the privilege of knowing my grandfather.

Here is the letter (I apologize, but you'll have to click to enlarge the text):

Won't you take the time to notice your simple pleasure today?

Project Simple Pleasures2


Mom Things: The Question Edition

Being a mom means hearing approximately nine bajillion questions a day from the time your child is old enough to utter the simplest "Why?" until, I can only presume, the day they start thinking they're smarter than you, which at this rate, will be when my oldest is around eight years old.

The mom things today are a sampling of such questions.

There are the intellectually challenging ones:

~ Why does the water coming out of the faucet feel cold on my fingers, but it doesn't feel cold in my mouth?

~ Why do you put money in a bank?  Do they really have all that money in the building?

~ What is fog?

~ Is infinity a number?

~ Why isn't Pluto a planet anymore?

~ Why doesn't God let it snow in Georgia?

There are the ones that make you go "Awww..."

~ These shoes don't fit me, can we give them to someone who doesn't have any shoes?

~ Do we have any extra food in our pantry to share with people who are hungry?

~ Grandpop, where are your Mommy and Daddy?  [In heaven]

Above all else, there are the funny ones:

~ Mommy, do you know what "Warp of War" means?  (No, what does it mean?)  It means "please" in Spanish.  (I think you mean "Por favor"...)

~ At the hospital, I didn't see, how did that man get Abby out of Mommy's belly?

~ Why can't I wear just underwear to the restaurant?  

~ If you aren't alive, you can't open presents. Right, Mommy?

~ How do you tell the difference between a bank robber and a kid robber?  (Which, by the way, is apparently another term for kidnapper.)

~ Why did God make sharks? They're just *so* mean. 

~ (Counting in the car) ...one hundred and eight, one hundred and nine...a million! [pause] Mommy, what comes after one hundred and nine?

~ If you get arrested on the side of the road while you have us kids in the car, what will they do with us?  Take us with you?  Or leave us on the side of the road?  (Why would I be arrested on the side of the road?)  For speeding.  

~ (After emerging from bed following tuck-in, almost nightly) Mommy, why do people have...[pause as she looks around, frantically trying to think of a subject for her question]...ceilings/floors/hair? 

~ Are we going to Bone-Jangles (aka Bojangles...chicken & biscuits)?  (Bone-Jangles just doesn't sound tasty.)

~ (In reference to my eyeliner) Is that a cigarette?  (Not quite.)

~ Why is the llama licking the toilet paper?

(To clarify, the llama is actually pitching a fit whilst shopping with Mama which caused the contents of the cart to fly all around.  I believe the llama is yelling and the "toilet paper" (paper towels) are supposed to be a backdrop. [from Llama Llama Mad at Mama])

~(Holding up the middle finger)  Daddy, is this a bad sign?  [Seriously, that is terrible, but I still had to stifle the laughter while he answered that one.  By the way, he did not learn that from us!]

That's all folks!  I'll be back next week with some more-traditional Mom Things!

Linking up today with...


A Bit o' This & That

I do believe this has been my longest blog hiatus since the beginning of July or so.  Is it embarrassing that I know that? (The answer is yes.)  Is it embarrassing that my longest blog hiatus was a mere three days?  (Again...yes.)

I might have skipped Flashback Friday because I was dragging by the end of last week due to my week o' water only, or because I was actually pretty busy at work, or because I didn't have a suitable picture to post with the flashback that I still have typed up and ready to publish.  Or it might have been for all of those reasons.

I might have stayed away from the computer all weekend because Sam and I cleaned our house from top-to-bottom, or because I was busy enjoying my first kid-free, at-home weekend in as long as I can remember, or because I was celebrating my birthday.  Or it was totally because of all of those things.

At any rate, I'm going to be even more random than ever in today's post because I want to talk a little bit about each of those things.

Business first.  That list thing?  I knocked another one off last week.  In an effort to make some headway I decided to just bite the bullet and go for one of the items I was dreading the most.

# 25 ~ Drink nothing but water for a week.

I'm not going to sugar-coat it.  It was brutal.  I'm a caffeine fiend.  I crave it like nothing else.  While I'm nothing like I used to be, I just simply don't start my days off without at least one cup of coffee.  Well, last week I did it.  Water only.  Iced water.  Not even bottled Propel water.  Truthfully, I didn't have withdrawal headaches (which surprised me).  Interestingly enough, I actually felt like I had more energy because there were no post-caffeine crashes.  The problem was I switched to eating my morning caffeine which I am certain is less healthy than drinking it, calorie-wise anyway.  I'm pretty sure that I actually gained weight on my water only week, despite the absence of caloric beverages and  my return to running.  Go figure.

In the interest of brevity, I will say that now I know I can do it if I have to.  I found it curiously empowering.  I guess that's how most anything is when we convince ourselves that we are able.  I wonder how many other things I've talked myself out of because of my lack of self-confidence.  Tons, I'm sure.  

But, I'm totally going back to my coffee.
(#25 - You've been checked.)

My 27th birthday weekend rocked my socks off.  It started with one of the best presents I can ever receive - the gift of time with my husband - made possible by my in-laws who so graciously took all three of my children to their home for the weekend.  I know it wasn't easy (especially after confessing that by 9am Saturday morning they were ready for a nap), but I appreciated it so much.  It afforded me the simple pleasures of ending my Friday evening in the comfort of a clean home, with a finished book under my belt, and a few moments to vainly and unsuccessfully attempt to capture a photo of lightning.  (But I had the time to try!)

(There's Sam after mopping my briefly clean kitchen floor.)

On Saturday, I was treated to a shopping spree where Sam insisted that I buy "5 nice, complete outfits" for my birthday present.  Naturally, I started sweating at the prospect of spending that kind of money.  The best part is that we ended up at Belk (where I traditionally don't shop - I'm a Kohls/Marshalls/Ross kind of gal) where they had an unbelievable sale going on.  Our total savings was 79% on our entire bill.  And I got way more than 5 complete outfits.  New clothes at a bargain without having to rush through the racks or search for scrambling kids.  It was like the Twilight Zone.
We enjoyed a mindless movie at the theater for an afternoon treat.  That evening, we partook of a fabulous meal at a fancy restaurant, a very rare treat. 

After a morning of church and before we met the in-laws to retrieve the kiddos, I got a new pair of kicks for my running endeavors.  I felt like a queen.  Thank you to everyone who made that possible.

Then there was Sunday afternoon, where we fell back into our groove of life as a family of five.  Sarah gave me the gift of wanting to hold my hand, which is something I'm not sure I've experienced from a 15 month old before.  She ran around me and extended her right arm, grabbing my left hand as we made our way across the parking lot to pick Ben up from choir.  It melted my heart and reaffirmed that while it was awesome having one-on-one time with my husband, I missed these little people.  

We finished the evening off with baths and some help folding a load of towels...

And an oil and water experiment by my budding scientist...

And a very vain attempt at capturing "Blue Hour" with my camera...which only took me 27 years to discover thanks to one of my favorite blogs ever.

This concludes my ramblings on about this and that.  I wish you all the happiest of Mondays.  (And yes, that is an oxymoron.)  If not a happy Monday, how about a wonderful rest-of-the-week?


Simple Pleasures: Night Running

I'm trying to get back on the running wagon. I fell off around mid-May and I have the waistline, thighs, and general malaise to prove it.  Running is my favorite exercise because it provides the maximum efficiency - the biggest results in the least amount of time.  It helps me sleep better.  It lets me not feel [as] guilty about that delicious piece of gooey butter cake I ate for breakfast...and again for dessert after dinner.  It gives me the aches and pains that let me know my body is getting stronger and faster.  It enables me to clear my mind, to just count my steps, to pray, to listen.

With three kids, a full-time job, and a household to run there's simply not a lot of time for exercise.  The no-brainer solution would be to do it before the kids wake up and before the husband goes to work.  That sounds reasonable...except that he goes to work before the roosters crow.  I'm talking before 5am.  I'm pretty sure that hour is unfit for human activity of most kinds, but especially exercising.  That leaves my lunch hour, which is too short and too sweaty, or after the kids (and generally the husband) are asleep.  I choose the latter.  It's still sweaty, but it's one of the only times I don't feel pulled in a million different directions.  It's just me and the pavement.  It's my shadow under the safe security of our suburban streetlights. 

Plus, there's no one around at that hour to hear how badly I'm huffing and puffing. 

(...until I pulled out the camera to take this picture.  My neighbor just so happened to be outside while I was rolling around in the muddy gutter.  I can only imagine what she must be thinking.  Perhaps I should clue her into my blog?)

I realize that my safe, street-lit security is a blessing in and of itself and I don't mean to take it for granted. But boy, am I going to soak it up while I have the chance.

This - running at night - is my simple pleasure.

Join us as we celebrate our simple pleasures every Thursday...

Project Simple Pleasures2 


Mom Things: 50 is the charm

I feel like it bears noting that this is the 50th edition of Mom Things.  Not too shabby, and of course, that means I've been on the blogging scene for about a year now.  Dare I say I think I've finally found a hobby? Thanks to everyone who reads and comments, and also to those of you who read and don't comment.  (Seriously though, what's holding you back?  I'll pay you.  But not really.)   Anyway, without any further jabbering on my part, I give you the 50th edition -

You're not at all alarmed to hear the words, "Sarah, stop eating your feet!" from the backseat of your car.

When you set your daughter up at the table for breakfast at school and another little girl steals a piece of pancake off her plate, she gives one of the dirtiest looks you've ever seen given.  Both the dirty look and her territorial nature over the food make you say out loud, "That's my girl!"

You don't think much of it when your monkey-of-a-daughter climbs in and out of shopping carts unassisted, but you can see the nervous fear in the other customer's eyes so you feel the need to chime in with a patronizing, "Don't hurt yourself!"

As much as you despise packing lunches for your first grader, you love getting to put cute little love notes inside, especially while he still likes that you do it. 

You envy your three year old's zeal for life, when at the dinner table/in the middle of her bath/at bedtime when she's supposed to be winding down, she spontaneously bursts out in song - with vibrato even.  (See for yourself...if you so desire.)

You can't be sure if you were the only one because you didn't look around to notice (out of sheer embarrassment), but when one of the first grade teachers read this poem out loud at your son's open house, you totally teared up.  Because being a mom means you cry all the time.  At things like this:

And for a fleeting moment you considered sharing that "little confection" of two delectable chocolate chip cookies with your first grader, but darn it, you're the one who went to the PTO meeting and open house.  You consider it a perk of being the mom.  (And they were delicious!)

Sometimes you try to be Super Mom and bring an after-school snack with you for your apparently-famished children to enjoy on the ride home.  Most of the time, however, you forget.  And every once in a while, the hunger prompts requests like "Are we going straight home to make dinner?  I don't care what we have as long as there is meat..." from your apparently-carnivorous son.

You almost cry (again, I know big surprise, right?) when you notice that your sweet little three year old has learned to write her name without any prompts or assistance, apparently signing each of her masterpieces when she finishes.

You now know that given a hefty supply of pipe cleaners, a couple strings of Mardi Gras beads, a dumb Twilight Burger King "toy" bracelet, and a few moments to play alone in his room, your six year old will end up creating this - (I'm told it's a trip wire, which, by the way, makes putting laundry away pretty darn difficult.)

Linking up to lots of other "Mom Things" here...


Dusting off some cobwebs

Does anyone remember that 101 list thing?

Oh good...I'm not the only one who has all but forgotten.  It's not that I've been purposefully neglectful, but this pesky old living life with three kids thing is really cramping my task-accomplishing style.  And while that probably sounds like a complaint, it most assuredly is not one.

At any rate, I whipped the old list out last night and gave it a gander.  Lo and behold!  I've accomplished two tasks without even stopping to take note of it.

#37 Make it to church AND Sunday School for an entire month in a row.

At the beginning of the summer, Sam and I began teaching a four year old Sunday School class - for the summer.  When the school year rolled around, we agreed to teach for the upcoming year.  So, thanks mostly to this, we've been at both hours of church every Sunday since our last trip to Maryland over the July 4th weekend.  That makes six weeks with no anticipated end in sight.  The kids are awesome, and the no-excuse-but-to-get-up-out-of-bed thing has been an unanticipated perk!  Needless to say, we're in the groove now.

#77 Patronize the local bookstore.

At the end of June, my oldest best friend and her brand new husband embarked on a honeymoon tour of the South.  By crazy happenstance, their travels brought them within a mile or so of our house and, so, we made plans for a (way too) brief visit with them.  I came up with the brilliant plan (the morning of) to compile a Georgia-themed gift basket for them.  What can I say?  I'm a procrastinator.  I got the usual things:  peanuts, pecans, Braswell's Vidalia onion steak sauce, and Braswell's Pepper Jelly (okay, that one as a little unusual).  Then, I popped into the local used bookstore (that just so happens to be owned an operated by a fellow Mercer alumnus), where I purchased copies of Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, The Color Purple, and Ferrol Sams' Run with the Horsemen.  Gone with the Wind would be the obvious choice, but I'd already given that to her years ago.  At any rate, I consider myself a patron now.  And I will most definitely be back...considering Sam got me a gift card for there for our anniversary in January and I have yet to spend it.

So those are the two "Checked" items on the list, bringing me to a total of 30 items completed.

Other items in progress:

#3 - Write my will.  I've purchased the documents, but have yet to complete them.  This is a big priority for me!

#4 - Vote in all city and county elections.  Ben accompanied me to the polls for the primary and runoff elections for our governor and local positions.

#5 - Take the Professional Engineer Exam.  I'm signed up to take the exam on October 29th.  Happy Halloween to me?  Guess I need to crack a few books sooner than later in prep for this beast.

#25 - Drink nothing but water for a week.  I began TODAY.  This one is huge for me.  I'm a caffeine addict in the worst way, be it in the form of sweet tea or coffee (or hot chocolate or the very occasional soda).  I'm 3 hours into my work day and surviving thus far.  Is it cheating to drink the milk out of cereal?  Because I totally did that.  My motivation on this one is to make healthier choices in hopes of whittling my waistline.  I have been on an upward trend this summer, with no beach trip to keep me motivated to look good in a suit (yes, I'm that shallow) coupled with unbearable temperatures for exercising outdoors.  (Excuses, excuses.)  At any rate, I'm hoping this helps.  And it can't hurt.  Plus, the last day of my week is my birthday and I'm totally giving myself a cup of coffee as my reward for making it.  It doesn't take a lot to motivate me.

#54 - (With Julie's help) Send my parents on a bombin' retirement trip.  I had big plans for this one.  Julie was thinking some place tropical.  I was thinking someplace rocky (like Salt Lake City).  My dad wanted nothing more than to go to Gettysburg and learn even more than he already does about the Civil War.  I don't really "get" the history buff thing, but that's my dad.  So we hooked them up with a giftcard for a sweet B&B in Gettysburg, PA to be redeemed whenever they decide, but since they have yet to actually  on the trip, I refuse to mark it off. 

#55 - Read the entire classic works of Dr. Seuss to my kids.  (49/63)  My next order of business is to request the remainder on interlibrary loan.  I'm pretty sure our local branches don't have the more obscure titles (nor do the book stores). 

#74 - Read 10 new (grown-up) books. (1/10)  I used to be an avid reader.  Now I have kids, and there just isn't time.  But, I still devour a book when given the opportunity.  Unfortunately, the opportunities are few and far between, and not nearly long enough.  Right now, I have not one, not two, but three books that have been half-devoured and left unfinished - Bleachers, Understanding Exposure, and Chasing Superwoman.

There are other list items in progress, but those are the few I've chosen to update you on.  Consider this your (excessively long) Status Memo.  I'm sure you've all been wondering how the list is going.  Right?  I knew it.

And if you find it in your heart, I can use all the luck, encouragement, and good vibes for getting through the week sans coffee.  Thanks a bunch!


Flashback Friday - Bring on the Rain

If I had to pick a word for this summer, just one word, it would be


Capitalized, even.

It's not just me and my barely acclimated Maryland blood.  Lifelong Georgia residents have grown weary of it too.  Summer came early and hard around the middle of May and hasn't relented one bit since then.  I don't remember the last time we had a high temperature of less than 90 degrees.  (I believe the single occurrence was the weekend of the 4th of July, during which we traveled to Maryland and enjoyed their hottest temperatures yet of the summer.  We took it with us up there, I guess.  You're welcome, Georgia neighbors.)

It hasn't just been the temperatures, but in true Georgia fashion, the humidity has hung right up there in percentage along with the reading on the thermometer.  You haven't experienced "hot" until you've come to Georgia in the near 100 degree temperatures with 90% humidity and heat indices in the 1-teens or higher.  In conditions like that, you sweat, of course - but your sweat mechanism no longer functions the way it is supposed to because there's so much moisture in the air that your sweat has no where to go.  And that's why it feels even hotter than the thermometer reads.  That's why heat index is a much more accurate measure of misery.  You know it's pretty darn miserable when your body's cooling mechanism is rendered useless.

It's been so hot that I find myself getting excited when it's "only" going to be 91 or 92.  What's up with that?  That's still hot, Jennie.

Have I lost you yet?  This post is not starting out in a very chipper manner.  I apologize.

What's been different about this summer, for me, is that we haven't been getting the typical afternoon thundershowers.  In summers passed, we could count on an afternoon thundershower a few times a week even if it only lasted a couple of minutes.  I've always felt like it was nature's form of sweating,  God's way of saying, "Wow, it was pretty hot for you guys (and plants and animals and parking lots) - here's a drink to quench your thirst."

And even though it's intolerably humid after those thundershowers, at least it kept my grass fairly un-crunchy.  And my flowerbeds mostly un-shriveled.  And the sidewalk cool enough that it didn't blister the bottoms of my feet when I went out to check the mail.

If you've ever been to my part of central Georgia, you might know how unbelievably flat it is around here.  As a civil engineer, it makes things interesting for designing stormwater runoff systems, but I know most of you don't care a bit about that.  It also poses a challenge for contractors who build roads at minimum slopes.  One such example of this can be found in front of my very own house.

Every single time it rains intensely, we get a pretty little river in the road.  My flashback today is one part river and one part rain.  Both of which seem to be nothing but a memory for me right now.

I remember discovering the drainage problem when we first moved in...before Abby was even born.  It's not something that can be easily fixed without significant damage to our front yard, nor is it really a problem other than some standing water that eventually goes away.  But, I'll tell you what...Ben loved it.  (And still loves it, along with peering in the inlet to which the water is supposed to drain and watching the amazing amounts of water rushing through the pipes.  My little engineer in the making.)

There's a 50% chance of rain tonight and a 60% chance of rain all weekend.  I apologize to anyone whose plans would be ruined by rain this weekend, but I say "Bring it on".  I am craving a good rainy day, happy grass, and the chance to let my kids splash around in our own personal front yard river.  I'm craving the pitter patter of raindrops on my window.  I'm craving a cloudy day that makes colors pop like no other.  Throw a rainbow in on top of that, and I think my soul could handle another four month drought.

To everyone who stops by my little blog, I'm so grateful for you.  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  

And if it rains on you this weekend and you don't want it to, I'll take full responsibility and make it up to you with cookies.  Cookies make everything better, right?


Simple Pleasures: An Empty Catchall

I mentioned trying not to dwell on messes here and there because the cause of those messes is a gaggle of youngins for which I am so grateful. That reminder was a dramatic one for me. And it has played in my mind countless times over the past week. While I admit to being a less than stellar housekeeper, I promise that reminder wasn't just a convenient way to excuse my own messes.

One month ago while the two older children were visiting with my parents for a few days, Sam and I cleaned this entire house from top to bottom.  It has never been as clean as it was for those...few hours...before my kids got home.  Over the course of the month, little messes have shown up here and there.  A stray power cord here.  A pile of plastic dishes there.  A random bath toy in the living room floor.  A beaded necklace on Ben's bedroom floor.  And of course, there are those paths and paths of mysterious sticky drops all across our tile floor that I find myself constantly following with a dishrag and spray cleaner.  And each of those things is a common byproduct of life as a family of five, three of whom are elementary age and younger.

One thing, though, that we have been vigilant about since The Super Amazing Housecleaning Caper is keeping our [former] catchall free from shoes.  Underneath those bar stools is the most tempting place to stop when we enter the house and mindlessly free our prisoners (feet) from the bondage of their oppressors (shoes) as we scatter our random papers, keys, purses, diaper bags, what have you on the kitchen bar.

Most days, it requires a reminder.  But some days, like today, it's just empty - free from princess flip flops and tennis shoes and leather sandals.  

And that, friends, is one of my life's simplest pleasures.

Linking up today at...

Project Simple Pleasures2


Mom Things: Good, Bad, & Ugly in a Neat Little Package

You feel like a broken record most days with the constant Take Your Plate to the Sink, Put Your Clothes in the Hamper, and That is Not Where Your Shoes Go reps...but every 10th time, when they do it without instruction, you feel a pitter-patter in your heart.  It's called hope (and a little bit of accomplishment).

On jelly toast days, you have found that the best way to prevent your children from looking like Joker's offspring is to cut the toast diagonally in fourths.  Just trust me on this.

Your three year old is a little too interested in beauty products and has helped herself to "lotion" of the Vicks Vaporub and Sarna Anti-Itch varieties.  (And if you don't know how pungently these smell, consider yourself lucky.)  Those aren't something a bath can remedy in one shot.

You understand the dangers of what might be lurking in the silence when the kids are awake.  It goes without saying.  Sometimes, it's a 14 month old who has escaped to the office, moved the desk chair, replaced it with a step stool, and is proudly pounding away at the keyboard.  And that's just so stinkin' cute you have to take a picture.

After a blood-curdling scream by your three year old at the sight of a spider, you see her knight in shining armor (her big brother) come to the rescue by throwing a soccer ball at it.  It really is the simple moments like this that make your heart sing.

For some reason your three year old thinks the gigantic bank on the way to school is "where Ben has to go if he gets in a fight", and she is terrified of it.  You assume this means she thinks it's a jail.  And you're not above using this to your advantage when she's being unruly...

On a ten minute trip to Kohl's to spend your Kohl's cash two hours before it expired, your son broke his flip-flop, your middle daughter dropped the entire contents of the purse that she insisted on bringing into the store in the middle of the men's department, and your toddler ripped no less than 16 articles of clothing off of their hangers.  After you check out you think, "Phew.  That was a pretty successful trip!"

Just when you had come to terms with the idea that your son didn't need you to walk him inside on his first day of first grade, he changed his mind and said, "Maybe you can walk me in today."  And you didn't even bother trying to conceal your smile.  Maybe he still "needs" you after all.

You have an emergency lesson on tact with your kids after an embarrassing meal at IHOP resulted in your son pointing out someone's very large ears and your daughter announcing that she was "scared of the lady with pink hair".

You know that this is your third child because you would have never let your first get that close to the edge of a pool without being close enough to catch him.  And you surely wouldn't have taken a picture when they chose to dive right in.

Bonus #11 (because it's my blog and I make the rules):  When your three year old says, "I need to go to the potty really badly," you beam with pride.  Score one for the three year old who uses adverbs correctly!

Linking up today with...


A Little Reminder

So often simple gifts present themselves in the most unsuspecting places.

This Sunday, after spending an hour teaching three and four year olds in Sunday School, Sam and I went upstairs to our own Sunday School class.  As is usually the case, we spent a long time at the beginning chatting and catching up with each other about the past week.  When we (finally) convened for the lesson, a class member stood up to share a piece of his heart.

His squadron had lost a soldier this past week in a no-fault car accident, and it was understandably weighing heavily on him.  On top of that, a friend of his wife's lost a four year old child to leukemia.  She'd posted a facebook status to the effect of how she was looking around her kitchen and missing all of the little messes that she used to complain about.  And how she'd give anything to have those messes back.

My heart broke for her loss, as I cannot possibly imagine what she's experiencing.  And yet, I could appreciate the the gift she was giving to the rest of us in the form of a reminder - to treasure what we have.

And that little reminder caused me to pause (and brought more than a tear to my eye).

It helped me stop for a moment before automatically getting upset when I got home and still had to clear the breakfast table of a disaster left by three apparent  tasmanian devils before preparing lunch - because those three tasmanian devils were still here to make that mess.

It played in my mind as my kids begged me to put on my suit and get in the kiddie pool, despite the 10,209 things I needed to do to get Ben ready for first grade the next day.  Those things could wait.  Hot Sunday afternoons with kids who want nothing more than some of my undivided attention might not always be available.  I have no doubts that some day I will look back on afternoons in the kiddie pool as a precious commodity.

The reminder rang in my ears again as I sat fighting traffic at Ben's school...because I was able to drop him off for his first day of first grade.  Who cares if it took a little longer than usual?  I didn't need to worry about that.

This week, a little moment came in the form of the paraphrasing of a Facebook status of someone I didn't even know, but whose message rang clear as day.

As a result, today, I'm choosing to be thankful.

Be Thankful
By Author Unknown 

Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes. 
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary,
because it means you've made a difference.

It's easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.

Unwrapping this post at...
tuesdays unwrapped at cats


I'm not cheap, I'm frugal. (Or maybe I'm cheap...but I'm okay with it.)

All of my grandparents lived through the blessing and the curse that was The Great Depression.  I call it a curse for obvious reasons, but I call it a blessing because I think it taught that generation so very much about finances and material possessions.  And how to be resourceful.  And how to appreciate what you have rather than coveting what you don't.  And how not to overextend yourself financially, because, well, Hello Great Depression.

I will admit to being excessively frugal.  It pains me to spend money.  To the point that even when I need something, I try to figure out a way not to have to buy it.  I am 99.9% sure that this is a result of the way my parents were raised, and in turn raised me.  But when I say "my parents", I primarily mean my mom.

My mom's frugality was her contribution to our single-income family.  She did her darnedest to make sure that every dollar my dad earned went as far as it possibly could.  We did our back-to-school shopping at the Village Thrift Store and Ames.  Needless to say, we didn't wear name brand clothes.  We ate every meal at home, excepting Sunday after church when we'd splurge on Taco Bell, McDonalds, or maybe Subway.  She didn't make impulse buys.  She couponed.  She went to seven different grocery stores in a week to buy the cheapest things that were on sale at each one.  We drank Little Hugs in our lunch every day (which I'm pretty sure is the least expensive beverage to ever be manufactured and sold). If I wanted a treat while we were out grocery shopping, she would lend me the money for it, and she would leave a post-it note on my dresser at home as a reminder to pay her back (i.e. - "Owe Mom $0.33 for Snickers Bar").

And none of that seemed at all weird to me.  

That was life.  

Then I entered middle school.  Apparently middle school is the era in a person's life in which one can only be considered cool if wearing Doc Martens and a Greenday t-shirt.  (Oh dear, I think I'm dating myself here.)  At any rate, it was the first time I became aware of the "need" for name brands.  So I did what I thought any tween would do.  I cleaned houses and saved my dollars to buy my very own pair of Reebok Classics, the first name-brand anything I ever owned.  I bargain hunted for the entire summer and finally bought them at Marshalls because they had the best deal.  And I loved those shoes.  

Times have changed.  Maybe that's not what the typical tween would have done then, but it's certainly not what the typical tween would do now.  I defer to my post about entitlement.  Most tweens would just ask their parents.  And a lot of these parents would simply say "Okay, sure."  But I've already said plenty about that.

Today, I just want to express my appreciation for my mother's frugality.  It all came flooding back to me this weekend as I prepped to send Ben back to school today.  He was toting his washed and good-as-new bookbag from Pre-K two years ago, wearing his Target shoes, and sporting some shorts out of which we were lucky enough to get two summers worth of wear (and I swear they still look great).  His shirt is new.  (We got it on sale at the Gap outlet...with a coupon.)  And boy did he look handsome, if I might say so myself - my big first grader and his two silly sisters.

I don't claim to be perfect.  I enjoy Dunkin' Donuts coffee more regularly than I care to admit.  And while a $2 coffee is hardly a Coach purse, I still feel guilty for indulging.

The point is - I appreciate my mom for her penny-pinching.  Strange as it may sound, I don't feel that I missed out on anything because I didn't have Nikes when I was 6 years old or Abercrombie jeans when I was 16.  Because when I type it out like that, it sounds kind of like a no-brainer.  I didn't miss out on anything.  I had everything I needed.  I appreciate, in retrospect, the fact that she put zero emphasis on having the most expensive clothing, the fanciest toys, or the nicest vehicles.

Oh, the vehicles...I could write another entire post about those.

Let's just say, when my sister passed up this free '79 Corolla on her 16th birthday, I was elated because it meant I could have it...five years down the line.  And that is how I ended up with my Green Machine.

I hope I pass a small portion of this frugal-mindedness on to my own kids; though maybe not to the extreme that my mom did.  I can probably spring for a candy bar now and then without fear of ruining them or breaking myself.  And I hope some day I can buy a pair if jeans when I need them without sweating about it.

In the meantime, I'll spring for that DD coffee every once in a while, and smile as I think about my mom and her crazy, imparted ways - because that guilty feeling I get at the drive thru comes from her.  And, for some inexplicable reason, I'm grateful for it.


Flashback Friday - The end of "summer"

Today marks the last weekday of summer vacation for the local kids. School starts back on Monday for my big first grader and all of his fellow schoolmates. Yesterday we walked down the familiar hallway, with the undeniable scents of elementary school infiltrating our nostrils every step of the way. Instead of turning left to go down the pre-k and kindergarten hall, my big man turned right to go down the first and second grade hallway. It's strange to me how comfortable and seasoned a first grader can be. For the kids who've been there since pre-k, 1st grade is kind of like the "junior" year of primary school. There's only one year left before they graduate onto bigger and better things - which is the elementary school next door, home to grades three through five.

At open house, we went through the motions like we were old pros. We found the classroom, met the teacher, signed my life away, and volunteered for a snack day.  We took a few pictures, collected the goodies at Ben's desk, said hey to teachers from the past two years, and went home.  I had a great feeling about his teacher, so that was a big relief.  I think it's going to be an excellent year.

My flashback today could be about the past summer and all of the things we did to keep us busy (and to keep Ben out of daycare).

Like our trip to the Nick Hotel

Complete with fun in a cabinet...

And the simple joys like playing out back with random pieces of wood

And catching frogs...

And slip-sliding away

I could flashback to our 4th of July trip to MD

Or the extended stay at Grandmom & Grandpop's house and the trips to Grammie & Grandaddy's house where they made one of Ben's childhood dreams come true...

All of which filled in the gaps to lead us here...Ben's Adventures in First Grade ~ Starting Monday, August 9th.

But what I really want to flashback to is this day...

This is the day Ben started Pre-K at the public primary school.  It's the very same day I realized how much of my heart actually belongs to this little boy.

I imagine it hit me so hard because he's my first.  Maybe that first child is always a little babied.  I just wasn't ready to let go of my baby boy.  Despite the fact that Ben would be the oldest in his class and the fact that he was born with the demeanor of a seasoned old man and clearly maturity would not be a problem, I worried about him.  I didn't sleep the night before thinking about my little four year old entering the big, bad realm of elementary school.  I feared what he would learn from all of the other unruly and delinquent little boys and girls.  I worried that he wouldn't know anyone and that he'd be too shy to make friends.  I stressed about him going through the lunch line, making the purchase, carrying his tray, opening his own milk.  I was afraid of bullies, of teachers who wouldn't be warm and loving, of how he'd hold up in a classroom of that size all day.

The first week of school, I parked my car and accompanied him inside.  I was so distraught I didn't even think to bring a camera.  My focus was my boy, and that was it.  I went with him to the lunchroom where he ate breakfast for a few days so I could watch him do it, and prove to myself that he was going to be okay come lunchtime.  I sat next to him and hid tears behind my sunglasses when he asked me to open his milk for him.  (I learned the sunglasses trick from my own mom who "masked" her tears behind them so many times I couldn't possibly count.)  I told him he needed to try or he needed to raise his hand and ask for help from the lunchlady because that's what he'd need to do when I wasn't sitting next to him.  I watched him balance his gigantic bookbag on his back and his awkwardly large tray out front as he carried the trash to the trashcan.

Then I had him prove to me that he could make it to his classroom.  He could, of course.  When we walked in, his (absolutely wonderful) teacher ran through the morning routine.  (Hey, that was good!  We like routines.)  He put his agenda in the slot labeled with his name and symbol.  He hung his bookbag on the hook labeled with his name and symbol.  Then he gave me a hug and the teacher looked at me and my ridiculously large sunglasses with a sympathetic smile and said, "He's going to be just fine, Mom."  I smiled and I don't even think I spoke.   I turned on my heel and high-tailed it out of there because the waterworks were coming and I knew I wasn't going to be able to stop them.

The truth is, I knew he was going to be just fine.  I was the one that wasn't.  I made it to the car before I lost it.  I felt like I'd made him a meat necklace and threw him into a cage full of rabid wolves.

When I picked him up that afternoon, there was a glimmer in his eye.  Just as I should have suspected, Ben loved school.  Knowing that helped.  

A little.

I still wore those sunglasses for a week.

And I'm still not sure why it was so hard for me.

What I am elated to report is that all of my worst fears were completely irrational.  I underestimated my own son, the other children, and the amazing teachers who spend their days educating our innocent boys and girls.  None of them were (or are) perfect, but they're all doing their best.  And what more can a crazy mom ask for?  After all, that's what I'm trying to do too.  With two years under his belt, Ben's got this school thing down.  He already told me he doesn't need me to walk him to class on the first day.  (Too bad, kid.)

I'll report back to you when Abby starts Pre-K next year.  My fears will be slightly different then, I imagine - along the lines of:  
How do I handle being the parent of the class clown?

See what I mean?

Have a Fabulous Friday!!!  (And if you read all of that, I'll make you some brownies.  But you have to come to my house to get them!)

Blog hopping today at Follow Me, Chickadee...

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