Flashback Friday - Digital Rejects

With the advent of digital cameras, we have the luxury of taking rapid-fire pictures in hopes that we can get a great shot.  Usually out of the twenty rapid-fire pictures there's one worthy of keeping/sharing/printing.  We used to be a lot better about purging our camera of unwanted/unworthy pictures, mostly because they take up mammoth amounts of computer hard drive space. 

Lately though, we've gotten pretty lazy about it.  And by "lately", I mean in the past two or three years.

This year, I made Sam a little photobook from Shutterfly for our anniversary, and in doing so dug through countless amounts of  delete-able photos.  I gave some thought to deleting them as I went along, but then realized I would miss out on what could be considered the "bloopers" of our photographs.


Another luxury of digital cameras is that I no longer have to pick and choose which moments I capture on film.  (Read:  I don't have to be quite so selective because I'm too cheap to buy film.)

Without that luxury, I'd miss out on pictures like this:


And with that, I wish you all a fabulous weekend!

#65 Make my own pizza dough.....check!

I'm somewhat embarrassed about this list item.  It turns out that this was almost a non-event it was so easy.  That being said, I probably wouldn't have done it if it hadn't been on my list.  So there's that.

With Sam out of town, we're (I'm) trying to keep busy so that I don't realize how lonely it is without him.  In an effort to make things less stressful, I was successful in meal-planning for the week, and declared Monday night homemade pizza night.  I enlisted the help of the kids, who were responsible for stirring (tasting), spreading, sprinkling, and placing.

Then I put it in the oven.

So, pictorially, it went something like this:

Step 1:  Stir pizza sauce (or taste it & consequently get it all over your body resulting in a shirt change).

Step 2:  Prepare the dough (a task that wouldn't be complete without getting flour EVERYWHERE).
Up close and personal with the dough.  You know, it REALLY doesn't look appetizing like that.  I think it was a little "sticky".  I guess it didn't matter too much.

Step 3:  Apply sauce to dough.  (For Abby, step 3 is "Kick older brother off the stool", which you will see she completes successfully.)

Step 4: Continue to apply sauce to dough.  (This took a REALLY long time.  Ben's somewhat of a perfectionist.)

Step 5:  Sprinkle with Cheese!  (Of course I failed at having enough mozzerella on hand, so we supplemented with a little cheddar.  How American of us.)

Step 6: Place the Pepperoni (...and bake!)

Step 7:  Enjoy!

I won't say it's the best pizza I've ever had, but I can say with absolute certainty that it was the best pizza I've ever made from scratch!  (wink, wink)  I now know some things to tweak on my next go round.  But really...it was INCREDIBLY easy to do.  Hooray!

Mom Things!!!! (They actually aren't worthy of 4 exclamation marks, but read them anyway.)

You've been pantsed by a toddler trying to scale your leg, probably while in the kitchen trying to prepare a meal or load/unload the dishwasher.

You feel obligated to apologize to strangers for your 8-month old's "staring problem".

You and your husband have verbally compared/contrasted the size & shape of your children's naked hineys with each other.

You hear the word "supply" and your thoughts immediately go to breastmilk.

You alternate between 20 minute power naps and coffee to get you through the exhaustion.  The jury is still out on which works better.  (So far, the guess is neither.)

As soon as you find out you're pregnant, you are suddenly barraged with pregnant people...friends, strangers at the grocery store, people on tv...they're all pregnant.  Why is it that you never noticed that before?

You've given yourself a mommy time-out, whether as a disciplinary action or as a reward. 

You've contemplated putting the kids to bed in their school clothes so as to skip that step the next morning.  The only reason you reconsidered is that you know there will be syrup involved at breakfast and that would totally defeat the purpose.

The most fun you've ever seen your kids have is when they found a tiny frog swimming in the kiddie pool in the backyard, and also when a tree fell on the fence, and they subsequently piled all of its wood into a bonfire pile.  You witness it and smile, relishing the free entertainment.  Then you wonder, why on earth do you pay to go to places like the aquarium and fair? 

Only a parent would know that when your child asks to watch "Jello Man and Woman", she's talking about "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."


My Big Toe

I rarely, if ever, blog on weekends.  I'm making an exception this weekend as the kids are in bed, and the husband is out of town on a business trip.

The fact that he's out of town is rather significant.  You see, tomorrow is our 7th wedding anniversary. 

For the first six and a half years of our marriage, we had an incredible streak going.  Some might think it's crazy.  Others might think it's sweet.  Maybe others pathetic.  No matter.  The fact is that for six and a half years, we did not spend a single night apart from each other.  It was one of those "whither thou goest" things, I suppose.  We're best friends.  We never really had a reason to be apart.

Apparently, when you get to be good at your job, they make you start going places.  And so, in June 2009, we spent our first nights apart when he went to Oklahoma City for a week to train some other nerds how to do nerdy things.  (Sorry, Sam.  You know I mean "nerd" with the utmost respect.)  In October, he went to Baltimore for a few days to do more of the same.  Luckily for him (wink, wink), he got to hang out with my parents in his down time.  (And if nothing else, got to enjoy a By the Docks crabcake.)

Now it's January 2010, and he's in Utah for ten days teaching the folks at Hill AFB all about electronic test equipment.  This will be our longest stretch apart yet, and my longest solo stretch with the kids.

[Let me pause briefly to thank the men and women whose spouses serve in the Armed Forces and regularly  face extended stretches like this as a part of their lives.  You are heroes as much as the soldiers themselves.  The sincerest of thank yous and applause from me to you.]

I know they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and maybe that's true.  But I can't help feeling like my arm is missing when Sam's away.  I always think of the line from Stripes, "An Army without leaders is like a foot without a big toe."  Of course, I amend it in my mind to play, "Jennie without Sam is like a foot without a big toe."

I know my foot will be whole again in ten days.  Until then, we'll take it one day at a time.  We'll make it.  And if you happen to read this, Sam:  Happy Anniversary.  I love you!

On a semi-related note, I'm happy to report that the first nine hours of single-parenting have been mostly uneventful.  (Unless you count the few minutes that I couldn't find Abby, only to locate her hiding in the dark playroom behind this toy eating a donut she stole out of the box on the counter before dinner.)  This is one time when boring is absolutely fantastic.

I am grateful for the list, as it proves to be a good distraction.  We will be making homemade pizza dough tomorrow night (#65).  And I intend to use any post-bedtime time to myself to work on ordering prints of photos from April 2009-present (#56) and/or reading a book (#74).

(And this completes the most random blog post ever.  I think maybe instead of a foot missing its big toe, I'm more like a brain missing the ability to organize and communicate thoughts!)

Flashback Friday - Do you like my hat?

I might not be a huge PD Eastman fan, but my kids are.  Go Dog Go was the first book Ben read on his own.  There's an exchange between two dogs that repeats several times throughout the book.  One wears an absurd hat and asks the other "Do you like my hat?"  He replies (until the last time), "I do not."  Then they part with a "Goodbye!"

Lately, Abby has taken this up as her favorite game.  She'll rest any random object on her head, walk up to me, and say "How do you like my hat?"  It could be anything from a newspaper, to a toy, to a blanket.  I always reply, "I do not like that hat."  It repeats...indefinitely.

I could have seen this coming.

Abby has always had an affinity for putting things on her head.


Unless of course, it was something that belonged on her head:


I guess she was thinking, "I do not like that hat."

The Hard Questions: Parents, they're coming.

I never did write Part Two of the New York trip.  It's coming.  Eventually.  If I had written it already, you would have heard about our final destination being a brisk walk past Ground Zero towards the Path station where we would catch the train back to our car that was parked in New Jersey.

Ben is only six years old.  So, doing simple math, you can conclude that he hadn't been born yet during that fateful day in September of 2001. 

As we walked past Ground Zero, I told him a (very) general story of the events on that day.  Some mean men decided to crash a plane into each of the buildings.  It was much worse than anyone ever imagined.  The towers fell.  It was terrible.

I don't think he really got it at that point.  He's 6.  It was freezing outside.  We'd been walking around the city for hours and hours.  And that was fine.  There really wasn't a need to press the issue at that point.

Switching gears a little, with the NYC trip in our memories, we were home again.  I decided to drop by the library and pick up some books for the kids to read on the way home from work.  Before I went, I made a list (alphabetical by author, of course) so that I could pop in, get the books, and leave in a minimal amount of time.  The list included all of the Caldecott Winners in recent history that our library carried.  One of them was The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, the winner in 2004.  We read this book last night at bedtime.  It's the true story of Phillipe Petit, the French street performer who walked a tight-rope between the Twin Towers in 1974.  (It was an awesome book.  I'd highly recommend it!) 

I thought it was timely given our trip to New York, and apparently reading this book was all it took for the magnitude of such magnificent structures being "gone" to sink in with Ben.

As is the case so often at bedtime, Ben started with the questions.  Why did those men crash the planes?  Were there other people on the plane?  How many?  Were there people in the buildings?  How many?  Did they all die?  Are they in heaven?

It's conversations like this that always catch me off guard.  Then *I* start with the internal questions:  How much should I tell him?  What if it scares him?  What if he lies awake thinking about it all night?  How do I put a positive spin on something so terrible?

Against my better judgment (or not), I pulled out the Life magazine publication on September 11th and picked a few of the less graphic pages to share with him; a picture of the city pre-9/11 with the Twin Towers on the skyline, some of the firefighters, an aerial of the city with the unbelievable dust cloud in the aftermath of the collapse.

I answered each of his questions as factually as I could.  I talked about the heroism of the people involved in the rescue.  I told him that it brought the people of this country together afterward, and it helped make us stronger and safer and more aware that there are people who don't like us so we can prevent something like this from happening again.  A lot of people died.  I hope they're in heaven.  If they believed in Jesus, they are.

Apparently, this discussion took a much larger emotional toll on me than him.  In typical male fashion, he was snoring just minutes after I turned his light off.  I guess he put it in the "Topics Already Discussed" compartment and went to sleep.  (I wish I could do that.)

It's just another sobering reminder that he's growing up.  He's asking the harder questions.  He's no longer shield-able from the tough subjects.  It's a reminder that even harder questions are going to follow.  I just pray that I (and we, collectively as parents) can find the answers.

A Lesson on Bus Stop Ettiquette

I was running late yesterday morning (really, is anyone surprised?).  It was worse then usual though because I was 30 seconds later than the norm, and so instead of pulling out of my court in front of the school bus, I got stuck behind it.  It's not a huge deal (or shouldn't be) because our neighborhood is pretty small, and we don't live too far off the "main road" where there aren't bus stops.

The first stop was about two houses beyond our court intersection.  The flashing lights go on, the little stop sign pops out (all they need now is a bullhorn that yells out, "Stop the car!  Children potentially crossing the street!), and I wait.  Curiously, as the doors open, I don't see any children in sight.  And we weren't at an intersection.  We were at someone's driveway.

It wasn't a hugely long wait for the kid to come sauntering out of the garage, but it was long enough that I got a little irritated.  Why was he in the garage?  Why was he walking from the garage to the bus?  Put a little hop into it kid, some of us are late to work.  It's not like it's super cold or precipitating in any way today.  He was just chillin' inside his house.

We got to the next stop, no more than four houses down the road.  I calmed down a bit because it was actually at an intersection and there was a little girl there waiting, who, after the bus stopped jogged across the road to get on.  But why weren't the doors closing?  About 30 seconds later, a little boy walks out of a house and saunters down the driveway to get on the bus.  What is the deal with that?

This is where the road splits in two, only to meet up again on the other end of the neighborhood.  In essence, I raced the bus to the other side of the neighborhood (but it wasn't really a race, I didn't speed). 

Is this annoying to anyone but me?  Here's where I turn into a grandmother again, but I used to have to walk several blocks to the nearest bus stop.  If you weren't there when the bus stopped, it stunk to be you.  The driver didn't drive to your house and wait patiently for you at your driveway as you dawdled down to the bus.  I've actually seen kids who were just "on the way" to the bus stop get left behind.  Those drivers had a schedule to keep, not to mention so do the rest of us.  (While I didn't have to walk uphill both ways with newspaper for shoes in the snow, I do vividly remember waiting for the bus in winter with wet hair that froze into icy tendrils.  That was probably really good for my health.)

I know I'm one of those people who thinks about what other people think way, *way*, WAY too much, but even as a child when I got on or off the bus, I did it quickly because I didn't want to hold anyone up. 

So is it laziness or selfishness on the part of the kids?  How about the parents?  I probably get on Ben & Abby's cases too much about hurrying up.  I've said before and I'll say it again, their nicknames are "Christmas" and "Molasses" because...well, they are as slow as those things.  I don't want them to be the reason we're late.  I don't want them to be the reason someone else is late.  (This is clearly not successful, but at least I am TRYING not to be late all the time.) 

If Ben rode the bus, you can rest assured that I would do everything in my power to have him be waiting AT the bus stop before the bus got there, and if I were anywhere within shouting distance, I would be "kindly encouraging" him to move quickly.  I might even suggest that he walk to the next closest bus stop a whopping three houses down the road to save the bus one stop.

Am I crazy?  How lazy can we be?  Or is it a disregard for others?  Either way, this is not the model I want for my children.  And if this is your child, PSA for you:  Please tell your kid to put a little bounce in their step, if for no other reason than to help keep my blood pressure in the healthy range.  Thanks. 

Mom Things - 1.20.10

During the course of wearing maternity clothes you've experienced any or all of the following:  a button clinging for dear life across your bust, shirts too short to cover the bottom of your gigantic belly (to which you say, "Oh well"), and/or a gigantic bleach stain on the ONE shirt/pair of pants that fits you at the end of the pregnancy (to which you also say, "Oh well").

You fondly remember those days pre-kids when you could go braless.  No longer.  'sigh'  No longer.

You've declined the chance to do something fun because it interfered with your child's nap schedule.

You learned to never leave your mascara out in the bathroom.  (Admittedly though, you were surprised at how skillfully your 3-year old applied it.)

The answer is most likely, simply, "because I'm the mom".

As an infant, your son was afraid of parsley.  As a toddler, your daughter was terrified of garbage trucks.  These irrational fears make for good leverage when you need to get them to behave.  As in, "Stop tearing the covers off my paperbacks or I'll get the parsley/call the garbage truck!"

Whenever the caller ID reads the school's number, your heart instantly jumps into your throat and your blood pressure rises into the unhealthy range.  It only calms down when you realize it's just a recorded message from the principal reminding you of fundraiser night at a local restaurant.  Then you're just a little bit annoyed.

You love hearing your children sing, especially when they take liberties with the lyrics.  For instance (from Snow White):  "I'm wishing (I'm wishing) for the one I love to find me (to find me) TUESday!"

You realize that "I need help" can often be interpreted as "I just *want* you to help me because I love you, and you're the best mommy in the world, and I like when you give me undivided attention even if it's just while I put my socks on or do this puzzle that I've already completed by myself 100 times before."

You completely understand that any significant amount of time spent with grandparents whether at home or away will require intense de-grandparenting.  It's even less fun for you than it is for your child.

#93 - Laugh to the point of tears...Check!

You know how you have that nagging feeling you're forgetting something?  I had that...on this task.  I knew that I laughed to the point of tears recently, but couldn't remember when or why.  My memory is the worst!

Anyway, it came to me as I was looking through some pictures today.

This is the picture that reminded me of the tear-inducing laughter:


The above picture was from Easter during our trip to MD while I was 37 weeks pregnant.  What were we thinking? 

(This is already one of those stories that isn't going to be funny to ANYONE else but me, but in the interest of accomplishing #99~Blog about each task as it's completed, here goes nothing.)

Back to the matter at hand...the pole in my parents' basement is good for hours of fun.  Since I was Abby's age, I remember going down there and spinning until I couldn't stand up straight.  (Why is that so fun to kids?  Seriously.)  On our most recent trip to Maryland, I ended up sitting on those steps in the picture watching Abby spin around and around on the pole.  It was the morning after we'd driven overnight so I was exhausted.  I regret that I didn't have my camera by my side at the time but I wasn't expecting anything momentous to occur.  Anyway, her cousin, Justin, decided that he wanted to spin too.  So he jumped in behind her, only he was spinning slightly faster.  In about one and a half revolutions around the pole, Justin was smashed up against Abby, forcing her to go faster.  Their heads were positioned side by side, and Justin's arm was extended farther than Abby's, so that it looked like he was spinning with his arm around her.  They both had these HUGE smiles plastered on their faces.

That's when it hit me.

They looked like figure skaters.

And apparently, when you're on no sleep and partially delirious, it is a thought like this that makes you laugh to the point of tears.

#93 ~ Laugh to the point of tears...check!

I can assure you this is only the first of many, MANY times I will do this in my 1001 days.  And thanks to my random memory, I have laughed about this countless times again today.  Don't you just love remembering funny things?

Real dads change diapers.

We're in the middle of a series on marriage in Sunday School (which has been completely and totally awesome so far, I must say).  The first Sunday, the speaker was a male counselor who spoke to us on how women think.  He said that we think in "pop-ups" (if you will), whereas men think in compartments...one thing at a time.  The pop-up thing is true.  It's no wonder I feel constantly overwhelmed.  My mind goes faster than I can pen a list.

Yesterday, the speaker was a female counselor who talked to us about how men think.  We all know what she had to say, right?  (wink, wink)  Yeah, that's right.  Apparently the sex compartment is a big, regularly opened one.  She reminded us that our bodies are each others, which reminds me of the verse: "This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one."~Genesis 2:24.  When two become one (how many of you just hummed the Spice Girls?). 

We had started the talk with a discussion on how the men in the room proposed to their wives.  There were a lot of romantic stories.  The counselor shared hers, which she casually mentioned was probably less romantic because of the generational difference between her and our class.

A big fat "Phooey" to the so-called 'generational' difference.

I could preface this blog with a praise of my husband, and I will.  He is exceptional.  He is not scared of cooking, cleaning, taking care of babies.  Perhaps I just lucked out.  Maybe I'm a *really* good judge of future-husband material.  Whatever the reason, he is the only husband I've ever had, and is therefore the barometer by which I measure other men.

Since becoming a mother, I've heard so many praises, especially from my parents' generation and especially from women, on what a phenomenal father Sam is.  (I know.  He really is.  Thank you.)  But it doesn't stop there.  A sort of personal history comes with the praise.  Something like, "My husband *never* gave baths/changed diapers/cooked dinner/played with the kids."  Sometimes it's, "Wow, the guys these days.  Fathers just didn't do those things way back when."  I've even heard (from a male), "What are those *men* doing on the floor in the kitchen cleaning up the glass?  You wouldn't catch me dead in there doing a woman's job." (True story.)

Here's my take on the reality of the situation.  The generational excuse is dead.  Women hate the smell of poopy diapers just as much as men.  Women have re-entered the workforce, so the man can cook dinner from time to time.  When I hear women who are beat-down and exhausted lament their husbands failure to lift a finger, I don't tolerate the "woman's job" excuse.  If you have kids, they're his kids too.  If you have a house, it's his house too.  If you're a dual-career family, the woman simply *cannot* do it herself.  There aren't enough hours or caffeine to make that feasible.

So, huge props to the men of my generation who have broken the mold.  Hooray for the Sams.  Thank you for doing the undesirable jobs from which the fathers of yesteryear were curiously excused.

When the two become one, we must cease to be selfish.  This means having to change diapers, having to help with the plumbing, and maybe just maybe it means having sex anyway when we just really don't feel like it.  Marriage is not bliss.  Marriage is hard.  We're promised that.  Marriage means sometimes doing what we don't want to do.  But in the end, (in my six days shy of seven years experience) marriage is worth it.  Every day.

#85 - Eat something different than my "usual"...check!

Let me just kick this off by saying that I have a feeling all food-related list tasks are going to be somewhat easy for me to accomplish.  The irony of my love for food is that it's counterproductive to my other list item of losing two decades of weight. 

That said, I have successfully completed item #85~Eat something different than my "usual" at least once each at Carrabba's, Chili's, and Zaxby's.

In our "old life", this would have been one of the first tasks completed, but Sam and I dine out WAY less frequently than we used to partially thanks to list item #17~Eat every meal at home and bring lunch to work every day for a week creating a new habit and partially thanks to us coming to our senses about spending money on dining out.  Not to mention, it's less enjoyable to dine out with three kids.  They're pretty good, but really.  It's just not easy.

I am one of those people who gets pigeon-holed when it comes to menu items.  I find something I like and order it ad nauseum.  (Or, at least, it would seem ad nauseum to others.  I don't generally grow weary of things.)  So, this might seem like an easy task, but I'm not much of a risk taker.  Why mess with something great, ya know?  Well I did it. 

At Carrabba's, I typically order the Chicken Bryan.  It's hard to improve on goat cheese, lemon-butter, and grilled chicken, so you can see why it was difficult for me to order anything different.  As luck would have it, we went there one day when I was completely and totally in the mood for pizza, so that's what I ordered...the Italian Chicken Pizza.  It's topped with grilled chicken, pine nuts, scallions, cheese (of course), and an Italian sweet & sour sauce instead of traditional tomato-based pizza sauce.  In a word, it's awesome.  So now I have two choices when I go there.  Who knew there were *other* good things on the menu?

At Chili's, I bounce back and forth between the Southwestern Cobb Salad (which is probably the least healthy salad in the history of the world) and the Chicken Fajita Quesadillas.  Perhaps it's not a huge stretch, but my alternative menu choice was the Jalapeno Steak Quesadillas, since they were an option on the 2 for $20 list.  They were super tasty.  Though I'm not sure they'll become a new "usual" for me.  (Random aside:  When Sam and I lived in our apartment in Macon, we could literally walk to Chili's.  We ate their so regularly that after we were seated, the server would automatically come to the table with our drinks and chips & salsa without even asking.  It was the first place I ever had that "Norm!" feeling.  It was nice, albeit slightly embarrassing.)

Finally, there was Zaxby's.  I found it humorous that this was the last one for me to accomplish.  If I had made this list even a year sooner, Zaxby's would have been the first place I'd have been able to cross off.  While we worked on the infamous bathroom project we regularly ran to Zaxby's in lieu of cooking.  Sam and I both *always* order the Kickin' Chicken Sandwich meal.  (In my older Zaxby's days, I ordered the Italian Chicken Sandwich which is no longer on the menu.  It was a sad, sad day when I discovered that.)  I met Sam for lunch last Thursday and tried the Asian Zensation salad.  It came with a cute little spring roll.  It surpassed all of my expectations.  (Another random aside:  Sam ran a report in Microsoft Money several months ago and determined that of all of our dining out expenditures, Zaxby's ranked in the top 3.  This is pretty ridiculous considering how inexpensive their food is.  We have eaten there A LOT over the course of our marriage.)

So there it is.  This puts me at 13 tasks completed.  "Only" 88 to go.

When I Say _____, You think _____

I'm a big fan of the word association game.  You know...where someone says a word and you say the first thing that comes to your mind.  I play this by myself and in different capacities all day, every day.  What can I say, my mind is on-the-go at all times.  This is how I bounce from one thought to another.  Sometimes, when I get thinking about something REALLY random, I stop what I'm doing and retrace the thought processes that got me there.  (I remember that Brenda and I used to do this quite regularly back in the day.  Only out loud.)

Perhaps one of the more interesting brands of the word association game I play with myself is the stigmas or stereotypes that pop into mind when I think of places.  For instance, when people tell me they're from Lousiana, I think New Orleans, Cafe Du Monde, Katrina, and Cajun.  (It's a tie between those four things.)  When someone says they're from Montana, I immediately think Unabomber (because, really, what else is MT known for?).  Idaho is potatoes.  Hawaii is not a word, but an image of a whole pig roasting in an open pit with an apple in its mouth.  Maryland is a familiar warm, fuzzy feeling of home, steamed blue crabs, lacrosse, and Orioles.  Delaware used to be tax-free shopping, but since our trip to New York, that's been replaced with exorbitant tolls. 

So now I want some feedback.  Play the word association game with me, if you will.

There's only one word:

1.  Georgia

What's the first thing that comes to mind? (Or the first few things, you don't have to stop at one.)  Just say it.  I promise not to be mad.  (wink, wink)

Flashback Friday: This (In)famous Bathroom Project

Today, I will be brief...with words anyway.  I might inundate you with pictures instead.

I flashed back to this time last year.  2009 brought a lot of changes.  Most notably, we added a new family member in our precious, little Sarah.  A close second though, on the scale of momentous 2009 events, was the undertaking that we call "The Bathroom Project". 

Beginning in January, we transformed this:

Into this:

And this:

With all of this in between:
(2009 also brought about a potty-trained Abby, who no longer walks around sans diaper or underwear.)

And so there it is.  Where we started a year ago, and where we ended up mere days before Sarah graced our family with her presence.

This was, without question, the greatest homeowner's task either of us had ever taken on.  I have to give 92.4% of the credit to Sam, but I helped some!  You know, as much as a woman can in her late 2nd and 3rd trimesters!   (And some might argue more, but you know I don't idle well.)  We made some SERIOUS memories throughout the course of this project.  I'm so glad we did it, and I'm also SO glad it is behind us. 

The moral of the story is:  When your highly-motivated husband says, "Let's remodel the bathroom", he's not kidding.  Get ready to sweat.

Mom Things - The 5000th View Edition

You have retrieved any or all of the following from your children's mouths at some point:  tiny pieces of carpet padding, dried up ground beef from last night's dinner, poinsettia petals (yes, those are poisonous), and self-inking stampers.

You've made more bedding changes in the wee hours of the morning than most people do in one lifetime (you know, during normal human hours).

You become "cross" when forced to watch Thomas the Train.  Why do kids like that anyway?  It's like the transportation version of Calliou.

You've learned to get over any issues you had pre-motherhood with staring children.  You just can't stop an 8-month old from staring at someone in a restaurant.  I dare you to try.

You let your 3 year old answer the phone when solicitors call.  Give them an earful of "I went potty all by myself!" and "My favorite color is Pinkalicious!" and just see if they call you back again.

You are eternally grateful to the inventor of adjustable waist pants for children.  Now if only they'd institute that in ladies pants, the world would be a better place.

People are constantly asking you if you're "done" having kids, and "how many more" you are are planning to have.  You've started replying, "We're just getting started" because, if nothing else, it's fun messing with people.

Ironic though it may be, there's nothing more spirit-lifting than to hear your three year old declare that she's grumpy.

The strangest things move you to tears since becoming a mom...like the State Farm commercial that plays the song "I'll Be There" and seeing some random kid hold the door open for a smaller kid at the morning school drop off.  (And don't even get me started on country songs.)

You have learned that foot odor is not only for the mature adult.   Baby feet stink in leather sandals too.

On an unrelated note:  I have noticed that the number of views on my blog has surpassed 5000!  Wow!  That probably means very little to anyone else, but it means a lot to me.  I'm flattered by your viewership (readership?).  Many thanks for reading, and I hope you walk away from this with at least a smile every now and then. 

Delegating Chores (also referred to as "The Reason I had Kids")

Last night was one of those nights.  Or maybe it was one of *those* nights.  You know what I mean.  It had been a long day (or really, a long 2010 so far, but who's keeping track?).  After basketball practice for Ben and a stop at Publix, I found myself in the kitchen pondering what to make for dinner.  (Yeah, that meal planning thing hasn't happened yet.) 

When it gets to be 7pm and the kids haven't eaten yet, I start to get into a bit of a panic.  When I panic, my mind races even worse than normal.  Then things start to fall apart.  It's not pretty.  Luckily, it didn't get to that point last night though.  And I was so proud of myself for thinking to delegate some things to my kids while I prepped their grilled cheese & apple/pear slices.  (We went the easy route.)

Partly because it was time anyway, and partly due to all of the sickness in our house, I washed our bathroom rugs.  They'd been in the dryer waiting to be put back in their places for over a day.  I remembered them while I was cooking the grilled cheeses, so I called on Ben.  I gave him the job of pulling the rugs out and taking them to the bathroom.  (Before you think "so what?", understand that this is a big deal.  I don't delegate well.)  Several minutes later, I could hear him still fussing around in the laundry room.  I should mention that Ben doesn't move particularly quickly.  He's got that southern easy-going pace going on.  It drives me crazy, but I think it's another one of God's clever ways of teaching me patience.

Abby happened to walk by around this time (blankie tag in her mouth, of course), so I enlisted her help in the rug job.  I could hear Ben instructing Abby, "Just get on, I'll pull you."  (pause)  "No, nevermind.  Get off.  You're too heavy."  (long pause)  "Okay, Abby.  Get behind those and pull them, just like me.  Watch how I do it."

It was taking quite some time to accomplish what, I had thought, was a pretty easy task.  (I mean, the grilled cheeses were long since finished, and *I* was about to eat them.)  I had to investigate.  I turned the corner to see Ben slowly and carefully pulling a neatly stacked, unfolded pile of rugs across the bedroom floor towards the bathroom.  Following close behind him was his little sister with a similar, but slightly smaller pile of rugs.  (We have a lot of rugs in the bathroom, in case you were wondering.)  It was, perhaps, the sweetest thing I'd ever seen. 

It didn't end there, like I had imagined it would when I said "Take the rugs to the bathroom". As if they'd been doing it all their lives, they teamed up without a spoken word to put the rugs in their appropriate places, each one grabbing a side, and carrying it flat to its home on the floor.  When they were finished, Ben called me back in and asked, "Did we get them all in the right places?"  After one small switch, everything was where it should be.  But, really...it was perfect the way they had it.

I scooped them up, hugged them, and thanked them for being such great helpers.  Then I herded them into the kitchen where they ate the insides of their grilled cheese sandwiches.

Now I know, when stressed, put the kids to work.  (Don't get me wrong.  They have chores already, but I think I need to utilize them even more.)  It's rewarding in just about every possible way.  Not only does it teach them responsibility and teamwork, it warms my heart.  It fills me with joy.  So *that's* why people have kids, huh?  (Plus, it gets you out of having to put the rugs back yourself!)

Thank you, South.

When I first moved to Georgia, all I had to do was open my mouth and everyone knew I wasn't from around here.  There were certain words that were a dead giveaway; home, bone, phone, hockey, yeah.  I couldn't really even tell the difference between what was saying and what they were saying (though I *can* hear the difference now).  I scoffed at the "new" words I was hearing including reckon, fixin' to, a whole lot of "ain't", and lots and lots of references to hunting, fishing, and just general outdoor things (like muddin'). 

It goes without saying there was an adjustment period.  I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before.  (At least, I remember blogging about this, but don't think that it happened on here.  Must have been Myspace...remember THAT place?  Ha!  Maybe one day I'll copy those blog posts over here.  Some of them were pretty good.  What was I talking about again?  Oh yes.  Focus, Jennie.  Focus.)

The reason I was thinking about this today is because I discovered some goodies laying on the table at the end of the hall up for grabs.  Among them was a small package of divinity.  Divinity is something I had never seen, heard of, and definitely hadn't tasted during my tenure in the Mid-Atlantic.  For those of you in the same boat as I was, this is divinity:

Aptly named, divinity is a small piece of heaven on earth.  Especially if you're a sweets lover like me.  (Well actually I'm a sweets & savory lover.  This is why losing weight is particularly difficult for the likes of me.  In case you cared.)  It's kind of like a marshmallow...kind of like fudge.  Maybe it's meringue.  I don't know what it is.  I think it's classified as candy.  It's a puffy, soft delectable treat.  And I don't care about titles so much as taste.

At any rate, there were five pieces of this sinful treat at the end of the hallway.  Now there are just three.  By the end of the day, we'll see how many are left.  (I can't blame it on anyone else either, I'm in the office alone.  Shucks.)

It got me thinking about other things I've discovered since moving southward.  You know, in addition to the muddin' and divinity.  I would be remissed if I didn't mention sweet tea, Zaxby's, pulled pork barbeque, and pecan pie.  Sure, we had some of those things in Maryland, but they weren't the societal norm.  The South also has nicer beaches, families that ask for God's blessing unashamedly before eating in a restaurant, "Yes ma'am" and "No sir", and cheaper gas prices.  So thanks, "South", for those things.

Conversely, I also realized that some things are strictly mid-atlantic in nature.  Who knew the south didn't have scrapple, pumpkin rolls, Herr's potato chips, gravy fries, or Tasty Kakes? 

I guess this is why people travel.  To discover all of life's different cultural (and more importantly culinary) subtleties.

I wonder what kinds of delicious treats they have out west.  Hmmmm....

A book a day keeps the cobwebs away.

Or at least gets you to Level I in kindergarten!

Stop, Jennie.  Back up.

In the midst of a sick household, I didn't even look in Ben's bookbag until this morning.  (Good thing he didn't have any homework!)  Turns out, it was report card day on Friday!  Hooray!  (That's what the nerdy kids say when they get passed out.  Dorks.) 

I opened it up.  Ben got straight 3's...which means "consistently meets the grade level standards" in all of the subjects.  So yay for that.  But there's more.

Apparently Houston County has developed their own brand of literacy assessment, the results of which they included with the report card.  It is a scale based on the letters A-W (x, y, and z weren't present on the day they decided which letters to include).  The letters are broken into ranges representing each grade level's target abilities.  Or instead of me explaining it (because I am intrinsically bad at it), just look at this:

And, look at *this*:

A little blurry, perhaps, but that "I" stands out without question.

I am one proud mom today.  My halfway-through-kindergarten son is reading at an early 2nd grade level!  Turns out that book (or four) each night is paying off.  Here's to a lifetime of reading ahead!

My PSA for the day...a book (or ten) at bedtime makes for more than memories.  It makes for readers.

:)  <---That's me, resorting to an emoticon to represent the beaming smile that news brought to my face this morning.  I am just so stinking happy for my little reader.

Flashback Friday: (Literal) Baby Steps

At the risk of sounding like I'm bragging, all of my kids have been pretty phenomenal when it comes to becoming mobile.  Even Ben, who was the largest of my kids (by FAR) had amazing motor skills, taking his first steps a week before he turned nine months old.

This morning, while I was lamenting that my girls were born in different seasons, and therefore had very few clothes that overlapped, I counted on my fingers to determine what month Abby was nearly 8 months old (like Sarah is now).  It was May of 2007.  So, being the nerd that I am, I looked up some pictures from then.

It was then that I realized this was when Abby took her first unassisted steps.  Just shy of eight months old, and she was daring to walk on her own.  I remember that we were on vacation in Destin, clapping for her to walk to us.  She took a step.  Over the next two months, she got pretty good at it.  Adding steps here and there. 

For fun and for those of you who've never seen it, watch this video that Sam made. A Tutorial from Abby, if you will.

As a mom of three, I no longer desire for my children to break early walking records.  I'd LOVE it if Sarah took her good old time.  However, she seems to be falling right in line with her older brother and sister.  She rang in the New Year with me, squealing and letting go of the couch on which she was cruising.  (It resulted in face-plants on the carpet.  She's clearly not in the "unassisted steps" category yet!)  I want my baby to be a baby for a little bit longer.  I guess that isn't something I get to decide, huh? 

The City that Never Sleeps, Part One

This is Part One of a yet undetermined amount of blog postings about our trip to New York City.  I started typing, got a little verbose (per usual), and realized no one will ever read my blog if I make it one loooonnnnngggg post.

If any of you follow my (excessive) Facebook photo postings, you probably noticed that we took a trip to New York City over the holidays.  You may have also noticed that "we" was just me, Sam, and Ben.  In case this is weird, allow me to explain.

Ben is mildly obsessed with the Night at the Museum movies.  After a clever brainstorm by my resourceful husband, who is all about less toys for Christmas, we decided that Ben's "big gift" would be a solo trip to the American Museum of Natural History while we were in Baltimore visiting my parents.  Perfect!  (Provided that they were willing to watch our girls for us, of course.)

We got him two books so he'd have something to physically open (New York, New York & a Coloring Book about the AMNH).  Sam generated a "ticket" to the museum, which we stuck inside one of the books.

When he opened them on Christmas morning, it took him a minute to understand the implications of the books and ticket.

Then Sam explained it to him and it was like a lightbulb went off.

So we planned to go to New York on the Monday after we got to Maryland (December 28th).  We (Sam & I) were so flipping tired from our Christmas shenanigans (including our Christmas Eve trip to Sylvania-Warner Robins-Sylvania again) that it just didn't happen that day.  We postponed it to Tuesday.  When we checked the weather on Monday night, we noted that the windchill in NYC on that day was in the single digits.  Call us wimps, but we live in Georgia.  We don't even own clothes for that kind of weather.  To our chagrin, we postponed it to Wednesday.  The weather for that day was still in the low 30's, but it was sunny and less windy.  It would do.  The only potential issue we could predict was a bigger crowd, what with it being New Years Eve Eve and all.

I don't know why, but we always run late, so Wednesday morning, we didn't leave the house until nearly 8:00am.  It's about 3 1/2 hours to NYC from my parent's house.  We didn't eat breakfast because we thought we'd grab something on the way.  We stopped at a service stop on the NJ turnpike for gas and food around 10:30.  Burger King had already stopped serving breakfast, so Ben had a Whopper Jr and Sam and I shared some french fries (perhaps the ultimate breakfast of champions?).  We parked in Harrison and took the Path into the city (it *only* took us 10 or so minutes to figure out the Metrocard).  After one transfer, we ended up at 33rd Street.  Since it was nearly noon by this point, we just decided go on up to the museum (despite having lots of closer things on the agenda).  Looking at our printed subway map like the trio of tourists that we were, we finally figured out how to get there (and I'm not even going to say how many times we messed that up).

When we got off the subway at 81st street, the line for the museum (which is so cool it has its own subway station) was all the way up the ramp onto the street.  I truly should have taken a picture to convey the gravity of this.  I saw the sheer number of people and my stomach just dropped.  We had come all the way to New York solely for the museum and I had doubts we were even going to get in before they closed at 5:45pm.  Waiting in line was not an option.  We took our spot.  After a couple rounds of thumb wars, I took out my camera for the first picture of the day.  I wanted to commemorate that which I guessed would be a theme for the day (and I was right).  Here is Ben.  I call this shot: Waiting in Line.

I'd be remissed if I didn't give props to the AMNH.  The line was insanely long.  The wait, however, was only about 25 minutes.  I was shocked.  (But again, I say this is where pessimism pays off.  You know, the whole being-pleasantly-surprised thing.) 

While I waited for Sam to purchase tickets in the lobby, I seized the opportunity to pump.  This was my primary concern about being in a strange city for an extended period of time without Sarah and without a "home base" (like a car).  I got in line (again) for the ladies restroom.  Noting that there was a handicapped stall with an "Out of Order" sign on it, I asked the bathroom attendant if I could go in there since all I needed to do was pump.  She got on her walkie-talkie with another bathroom attendant and found me a clean, albeit broken restroom stall in which to pump.  After butting my way up in line amid nasty glances and choice phrases from unknowing line-waiters, I was set up in my stall.  Done.  (And thank you to the restroom attendants.  They were fantastic!  They were like bouncers in their own right, defending me as I pushed my way past everyone, "Be quiet!  She needs to do something!")  That wasn't so bad after all.

So I'd pumped, we had our tickets, and we were ready to find the big dinosaur skeleton (because really, I think that's the main reason we went there after all).  I'm not sure if the people of New York hate cold worse than southerners or if it's because there must have been nine million people inside the AMNH alone, but it was stifling in there.  As we squeezed our way inside, we stripped off our clothes, piling them inside and eventually on top of my once-small backpack.  I think on a normal day (that is, any day besides New Years Eve Eve) we could have spent hours, days even, inside that museum.  However, I regret to say that the influx of people, the temperature, and stomachs running on meager rations of Burger King food affected the length of our visit.

We did get to see the highlights from the movie though.

Of course, the T-Rex:

The "Dum Dum" statue, fuzzy because I'm inept at anything considered "art"...like taking pictures with a camera:

And another one with "Dum Dum"...the back story on the kids being that the mother of these three kids had tied up the statue for like 10 minutes, taking pictures with multiple different cameras.  She already had several photos of her kids all alone.  There wasn't a line.  Some other kids just wanted to touch it, stand next to it, play with it, etc...and every time someone else's kid got near it, she flipped out.  As a matter of principle, because she doesn't own the museum or the statue, and it's not nice to be rude, we let Ben go up there.  (Is that very passive-aggressive of us?)  You can see her irritated hand gesture and three kids in this picture next to Ben.  Hehehe.

And one last museum picture, perhaps my fave of the whole day...posing by the Teddy Roosevelt monument out front.  (Maybe irrelevant, but he's definitely in my Top 3 Favorite US Presidents.)

This concludes Part One...stay tuned for more.  (I *know* you're on the edge of your seat!)  And wow.  That was still really long.

How to Know You're a Mom - While the girls are sleeping

You have a pile of tiny, unmatched socks in your laundry room the size of Mount Everest.

You aren't exactly sure why, but when your 3 year old makes up incomprehensible songs it's funny.  When your 6 year old does it, it's just annoying.

While holding a pair of jumper cables, your son inquires which end (the red or black) is negative to ground.  Flabbergasted that he knows this, you ask him where he learned it.  His reply:  Phineas and Ferb.  See, TV *can* be educational.

You have a sixth sense for detecting ear infections in infants.  (Your accuracy thus far is about 97.8%.  One time you guessed yay and it was a nay.  In that case, it was okay to be wrong.)

It never ceases to amaze you how bad your kids are at finding things.  For instance, you have instructed your child to put their shoes on/the top on a marker/their old cup in the sink, only to hear them respond, "I can't find them/it."  Of course, the object is literally on the floor in front of them, practically biting them. 

You learned the hard way that giving your child sugar wafers  in the grocery store is a bad way to keep them occupied.  Unless, of course, it's your goal to have a hyperactive two year old that sprints and squeals up and down the aisles of Kroger.  (Fortunately, you learned this when you only had one child to contend with.)

You boycott restaurants that don't include a drink with a kids meal.

At any meal, you know to keep a 2-foot radius clear of food, utensils, pots/pans, etc next to any high chair.  Their arms may only be about 10 inches long, but their reach is incredible!

You always made fun of your mother for failing to keep your baby book up to date, and instead recording milestones on post-it notes and throwing them in a random pile of papers.  Then one day you realize that you've fallen into the same pattern, but instead of post-it notes, the dates of your child's first cereal and roll over are written on the back of a piece of junk mail.

You think very carefully before you ask your three year old what is in her mouth.  Sometimes, you just don't need to know.

In the name of "Cheese!"

My last blog post was December 23rd...before Christmas.  Before the whirlwind of our Christmas adventure began.  We decided to just kind of chill over the holidays.  We weren't making a schedule.  We didn't commit to anything (sorry everyone!).  If we made it somewhere, great.  If not, no worries.

Instead of rushing out the door on Wednesday after work, we relaxed when we got home.  We drove around and looked at Christmas lights.  We delivered cookies to our neighbors.  When we woke up the next morning, we weren't in a frenzy, but we worked steadily all day at packing, wrapping, prepping for our week away from home.  (For an extra level of difficulty, Santa didn't come to our house before Christmas this year like he has in years passed.  So we had to account for that too.) 

As a result of our casual efforts at getting out the door, we made it to Sylvania for the Mock Christmas Eve feast just in time.  No worries.  (Well, *I* was worried, but I think I did better than I would have if I hadn't been making a conscious effort not to be stressed.  How's that for convoluted?)  We had a wonderful meal, a fantastic visit with family.  In fact, that family was blessed with so many babies in the past year, I thought, "Hey, I should totally get the camera out and take pictures."  I went back to the bedroom, pulled the camera out of the bag, and flipped the power on.  Nothing happened.  Battery dead.  No big deal.  We have two battery chargers and a back-up battery.  Except they weren't in the camera bag.  In fact, after I thought about it, I remembered that they were sitting side by side on our kitchen counter.  In Warner Robins.  Two and a half hours away.

I cried.  I literally cried over a battery.  A million thoughts ran through my head.  It's Sarah's first Christmas.  Tomorrow is Christmas Day!  We're about to go to Maryland.  *Nothing* is open tonight (and certainly not in Sylvania) that would have a charger or battery for our camera.  How could I forget the chargers?!  I delivered the news to Sam.

We stewed over it for a couple of hours.  The Mock crowd dwindled.  We chatted with Mrs. Lisa.  Ben & Abby wound down for the night.  We gave them their Dr. Seuss jammies to wear on Christmas morning.  (Love those things!)  Ben started turning out all of the lights so Santa wouldn't skip Grammie's house.  (I do believe it's the first time in his life he's ever *wanted* to go to bed.)  It had started to sprinkle outside, so we unloaded the presents and the rest of our "stuff".  Sam kept his shoes on and said, "I'll be back."

My knight in shining armor was going to get the charger.  But not without me.  And if I was coming, little Sarah was coming. 

This was a very long way of saying this - we drove 5 hours on Christmas Eve (returning to Sylvania at 4am) in a torrential downpour to retrieve a battery charger so we could take pictures like this:


So was it worth it?  OF COURSE it was!  Because for every 10 bad pictures we took (like those up there), we ended up with a gem (like the one below).  And now we have a camera card full of priceless memories. 

A Happy, Happy 2010 to You All!  (Or y'all as my southern friends may prefer!)

(If any of you would like to peruse our Christmas pictures, you can do so here and here.)  
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