Thursday 13: Pregnancy "Favorites"

Pregnancy is full of joys and blessings.  There's simply no denying it.  There's also no denying that the mere sight of a pregnant woman causes, for a large portion of the population, all tact, decency, and sane human behavior to evaporate into thin air.  Okay, that might not be an undeniable truth, but in the mind of an emotional pregnant woman, it feels as such.  We're not exactly rational ourselves.

I've had the joy of being pregnant four times, and each experience has been entirely different from the others.  But even after all these years, I can think back with a chuckle and an eye roll on some of my "favorite" pregnancy memories.  You are "lucky" enough to hear about some of them today. 

1.  The Backhanded Compliment - "You look great!  It only took three pregnancies."
2.  The "When are you due?" Inquiry - not so bad, except, I had the baby 6 weeks ago.
3.  The kind bathroom attendant at the Hard Rock Cafe in Atlanta who, upon the sight of me in my 8th month, insisted that I use the handicapped restroom.  Out of spite, I shrugged her off and attempted to navigate in the inhumanly small regular stall.  In retrospect, I could have taken her suggestion and been a little more comfortable, but, you know, no one wants to hear they can't fit into a bathroom stall.  Even if it's true.
4.  The way my taste buds change rendering my favorite foods like meat and coffee inedible and causing the strangest things I've never liked like black olives, red onions, and all things cupcake to be suddenly irresistible.
5.  The Predictions - "I can tell you're having a boy because your nose got bigger."
6.  The Sage Advice - "Don't bend over and put your head below your knees or your baby's cord will get wrapped around its neck."
7.  The clever quips that never cease to be awkward, especially coming from someone like your great aunt or grandmother-type-figure - "You do know what causes babies.  Right?"
8.  The Touchers...you know, the complete strangers who come up to you in the produce section of the grocery store and start rubbing the belly, as if for good luck.  Really...it's not okay to do that to anyone pregnant or not.  Probably especially not.
9.  The unabashedly vocal souls who find themselves in a state of shock at your mammoth body - "You sure you're not having more than one baby.  Whoa!"
10.  The Incredible Shrinking Booths - Restaurant booths seems smaller and skinnier with each passing day.  I never in my life imagined I'd be one of "those people" who had to sit in a chair because I might not physically fit into a booth.
11.  The Loss of Wind - Beginning in the second trimester, I start to feel breathless - and not doing anything necessarily physical - doing things like reading a bedtime story to my four year old and moving laundry out of the dryer and then from the washer to the dryer.  A kind friend recently told me this probably has to do with the double amount of blood coursing through my body, causing my heart and the rest of my organs to work extra hard.  Yeah.  Let's go with that.
12.  The Temporary Demotion of your Favorite T-Shirts - It's no secret I like to wear the same rotation of five or six t-shirts and yoga pants 24/7/365.  At some point though, it ceases to be comfortable/feasible when greater than 50% of my belly is hanging out of the bottom of the t-shirt.  Two words:  Not cute.
13.  The Fateful Day - Maybe this doesn't happen to every pregnant woman, but in my house - there's the day when I pass my husband on the scale.  I have this fear of our house burning down, my legs suddenly not working, and Sam having to carry me out to safety, but not being able to.  (These, by the way, are the types of dreams I have when I'm pregnant.)

So maybe it's not that bad.  I know so many who would give anything just to be pregnant, and it's a gift I don't take lightly.  The thing about pregnancy is...the end result.

You get to take home one of these.

So all of ^that stuff^ can be summed up in two words - 

Worth it.


After a brief hiatus from the Mom Things- back with more!

After a quick survey of the playroom, you consider that if naked baby dolls were currency, you'd have to be among the richest families in the world.

Although you don't exactly enjoy hearing your two year old cry every other time you get into the van, you do find it endearing that she gets that upset when you don't go to church.  She starts the inquisition in the garage - "We going to church, Mommy?"  If the answer is "no", she defaults to requesting a trip to Chick-Fil-A and/or the library.  Can you tell the places we frequent most often? 

You applaud your childrens' creativity and hate to squelch it under most circumstances, but when they start using dining room furniture to build an indoor playground, you have to put a stop to it.  You know, in the name of safety.

After retrieving an unidentifiable skinny, red object from your two year old's mouth, you ask her what it is, and she happily replies, "It's clock!"  Yup.  That's the second hand from your cute, miniature wrought-iron table clock.  What on earth possessed her to rip it off and taste it?  We'll never know.

Whether you ran to the grocery store for milk, spent an evening with friends, or walked down the driveway to check the mailbox, you love that your girls are just as excited to see you walk through the front door as if you'd spent a year abroad.

You find out the fastest way to infuriate your eight year old is to tell him you have a surprise for him.  Turns out, he's not into mysteries.

You couldn't help but laugh when your hot-natured-by-genetics eight year old walked out into the oppressive late-September heat one Sunday afternoon and vehemently declared, "I wish we lived farther from the equator!"  (Preach it, brother.)

As penitence for a punishable offense, your eight year old was subject to be your personal gopher for an entire evening of chores.  After a surprisingly agreeable two or three hours of service to you, he thought it would be clever to begin saluting you every time you gave him another instruction.  You can't lie.  You kind of liked it.

Although it's been nearly a daily occurrence in your pantry for months, you finally snapped a shot of your toddler's primate-like climbing skills as she endeavored to reach a lollipop on the 4th shelf.

You know that most parents tend to have biases towards their own kids' abilities, but when you pulled the family painting out of your four year old's bookbag, you were impressed.  And you felt justified when even her eight year old brother admired the artwork.  Kudos to the budding artist in the family.  Lord knows she didn't get that from her mother.

 (Additional commentary on the painting:  That's a black sun in the sky and on Mommy's shirt.  Not a mother spider swooping down to rescue a baby spider off of Mommy's belly.  And Abby, herself, is not in the photo because she "didn't feel like it".  Sam and I maintain she just ran out of room.  Too many people in our family already, huh?  She's going to have to learn to go landscape instead of portrait.  She totally nailed the dark circles around my eyes though.  Love her attention to detail.)

Blessings, my friends!  Have a Happy, Happy Wednesday!


Filling my cup...

I've said a time or twenty before how my cup runneth over.  I've reminded you, my "readers", that your cups run over as well.  It's all about taking the time to recognize our blessings.

In case it hasn't been obvious (in which case, hooray!), I've been a little out of sorts lately.  Not sure if it's my identity crisis or my wavering sense of purpose fulfillment or if it's the fact that in this season of my life, I've transitioned from an active state of doing to a much more difficult state of just being.

Sometimes, though, that's what we're called to "do" (for lack of a better word).
Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10
I'm a mover and a shaker and an eternal list-maker.  But all that means is that I'm used to being busy.  And sometimes, busy is the last thing we need.  Sometimes if we don't realize this on our own, God will find a way to make us stop.  To force us to be still.  And even more simply - force us to just be.

I'm in a Season of Being.

I'm thankful for the opportunity.  If nothing else, it's a clear contrast to the lifestyle I'd grown accustomed to, and a distinct chance for me to round out my "life resume", if you will.

While my cup ran over back in the other times, my cup still runs over today.  And I've thought about the different ways my cup gets filled.  After a particularly great day, I tend to stand in the shower and think at least once, "My cup is full right now." (Unrelated note:  in case anyone is wondering, I just broke the Guinness World Record for the number of times the word "cup" was used in a single paragraph.)

Turns out, it doesn't take much -

It can be a couple of hours one Friday night free from the responsibilities of child-rearing thanks to a husband who came home from work and took the three kids and split so I could spend time with my lady friends, whether I've known them forever or just met them, laughing over commonalities, great food, and yearbook pictures.  Because, man, we all look better now than we did then.  Even if some of us (cough, cough - me) have gained a couple of pounds over the years. 

It's the sight of a older, unfamiliar child befriending my Sarah on the playground, whether she needs help or not, just because they have that sweet helpful spirit.

It's a husband who hears my demands for random pregnancy cravings like cracker candy and salmon croquettes and finds his way into the kitchen to make them for me.

It's walking into church and seeing smiling, familiar faces that genuinely care about me and my family.  Spending every Sunday and Wednesday and days in between with people who truly commit their lives to being more like Jesus.  And knowing that my children would rather be in their company and at church than anywhere else.

It can be the simple victory of not bowing to the fatigue of pregnancy, and instead being productive around the house or taking a walk or even just reading a book.  

It's knowing that the reason that Ben has such a hard time getting up in the mornings is because he cannot put his book down in the bed at night.

It's having Thursday morning Bible study to look forward to every week, knowing that I have the unconditional support of friends I may have just met, but won't likely soon forget.

It's things like seeing the unrestrained joy on Abby's face when you tell her that this is the last time she will ever be four years old on a Monday again.

It can be a glimpse of my three children sitting quietly, side-by-side, enjoying a movie we recorded on a free movie weekend, wrapped up in the new comforter on my bed.

And just like that - my cup is filled.
And running over.
How was your cup filled today? 


I don't know what I am: Reprise

In a moment of weakness or insecurity or extreme-open-bookedness (yeah, I know, that's not a word), I posted the original "I don't know what I am" post.  Then, that evening, as I opened up my book to do my Bible study homework from Beth Moore's Beloved Disciple, wouldn't you know, my dear friend Beth asked us to do a little self-examination.  As a baseline for our present perceived identity, at the beginning of the study, she had us write in our workbook Who You've Discovered You Aren't and Who You've Discovered You Are.

Isn't it funny how God puts these things on our heart first, and then right in our face next?

Everyone on earth fills a variety of unique roles.  Me?  I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, grand-daughter. At various points in my life I've been single, a girlfriend, and a married woman, working full-time, working part-time, staying-at-home, a student.  I'm a picker.  I'm a grinner.  I'm a lover.  And I'm a sinner. 

Sometimes...I'm a joker. 

Some days, when my guard is down and I'm feeling especially insecure (and it doesn't help if I'm hormonal and pregnant on top of that), Satan gets a foothold and pushes me down.  On those days, thanks to my dear friend Beth's biblical wisdom, I have learned to remember John the Baptist.

He was a man who knew who he was.
I am not the Christ. John 1:20
And who he wasn't
I am the voice of one calling in the desert, "Make straight the way for the Lord".  John 1:23  (ref Isaiah 40:3)
He knew his position compared to Christ.
He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  John 1:27
Yet, on that note, and I underlined this straight from my workbook - 
"He understood Christ's greatness and how unworthy he as in comparison, but he didn't see himself as having the value of an inchworm under a rock.  His life had value through its connection to Christ." ~Beth Moore
As life goes on, I think it will become abundantly clear to me that trivial things like whether I'm labeled "homemaker" or "engineer" will become less important to me when I put the immeasurable value I have due to my relationship with Jesus at the front and center.  

Self-esteem, schmelf-esteem.  I've got Jesus.  And He is security.  
How about you?


A Little Purging

Question:  What is all of that?
Answer:  All of the clothes in my closet that I either haven't worn in years, don't fit into, or that I have given up on ever wearing in the next decade.  Another acceptable answer would be "An unconscionable amount of extraneous articles of clothing"

Upon taking this picture there were 74 pieces of clothing including sweaters, blouses, jeans in the single digits, skirts, a suede skirt suit, and a way-too-revealing, never-been-worn maxi dress that looked awesome online but less than awesome on my body.  I added more to it as I delved into my dresser drawers as well.  

Let me tell you, if there is ever a time to purge your wardrobe, the fourteenth week of pregnancy is ideal.  I'm to the point that I need to start making room in my closet for my "totally awesome" and equally "stylish" maternity clothes, and I'm also to the point that if something isn't comfortable to wear, I am totally willing to part with it.  (See above photo of 74+ articles of clothing.)

So instead of lugging these unworn clothes up to the attic, I am donating them.  The best part?  This was on my list.

#45 ~ Fit into or give away all of the clothes in my closet. 

Done.  And couldn't be more relieved.  My muscles and bones might be aching a little bit more from my growing belly, but the rods in my closet just breathed a huge sigh of relief.

#45, you've been checked!

I'm not going to jinx it by saying too much or counting my chickens before they hatch, but I'm optimistic that I will be checking off at least one more list item this weekend.


Slightly more light-hearted: The Mom Things

Because "Mom Things" are more fun than melodrama, current events, and whining...

You celebrate the fact that your toddler is so insistent on helping you to vacuum that she doesn't even care if she's bare-bottomed.  Not exactly sure June Cleaver would approve of this.

You find it especially fitting that while vacuuming bare-bottomed your unpredictable toddler pauses to play a tune on the harmonica.  SO typical.

Thanks to Facebook's "On This Day in 2009/2010" feature, you have enjoyed more than a chuckle or two at the things your funny kids have said and done in years passed.  Among your favorites in recent days - when your three year old took some liberties with the lyrics to Old McDonald - "And on this farm he had a cow - EIEIO - and on this farm he had a horse - EIEIO - and the horse loved the cow!" - and when your six year old scoffed with hilarity at the mention of "Michael Jackson" - "Is that a name or a thing?"

You are elated to enjoy the fruits of a long hard labor - one of which is your soundly sleeping toddler, in her bed, with nary a resistance.  In case you don't recall, there were days this time last year when it would take hours to keep her in her bed, calm, only to finally fall asleep.

On a related note, you tell every new parent you meet, that the best things for your children and your family are rarely the easiest.  If it's easy, you'll likely pay for it some day.

After a long summer of water play in the back yard and a few weeks of no activity back there, you decide to put the pool away and let the grass grow back in that crop-circle-looking area off of your back porch.  Of course, this would the very same day that temperatures plunged into the 60's and your girls decided to don their bathing suits and have a water fight.

In case it's not obvious, the superior weapon did Sarah little good.  Abby kicked her tail with nothing but a cup.

You let your eight year old watch the George W. Bush 9/11 Interview because of his unfailing curiosity about the events that transpired that day.  When it was over, you asked if he had any questions, and he said, "I have a few."  Bracing yourself for some big ones, you wait.  His first question?   "How did they make it look like the president was just floating in a black room in space?"

Guess he wasn't all that traumatized by the footage...but the camera tricks?  Those blew his mind.

Birthday parties are guaranteed to get out of hand at Grammie's house.  Thanks to his Aunt Star this new eight year old had a jug of Hawaiian punch all to himself.

After spotting your toddler with a Dorito in one hand and a chocolate chip cookie in the other, there is simply no denying it...she is your daughter.

While cleaning up her room, your four year old proudly announced, "I'm just going to hide the little stuff behind my door!"  You almost hated to spoil her brilliant idea by telling her that was unacceptable.  She was so proud of her plan.


September 11, 2011

Ten Years.  


We will likely always remember where we were (my freshman dorm room), what we were doing (sleeping in before my first 10:50am Tuesday class), and how we reacted to the news (my roommate came back from breakfast, turned on the tv, and we stared at it in silence with our hands on our faces in shock).  Though I don't know anyone who died that day personally, the sights and sounds of that morning will never leave my memory.

I shy away from politics, for the most part on this blog, though most people who read it, I suspect, know my leanings.  September 11 is not the time to discuss politics.  Today is a day of remembrance for the lives who were lost.  Yes, even those lives who masterminded the whole thing.

I will say this.  As I watched the George W. Bush 9/11 Interview on the National Geographic Channel, I remember how so very grateful I was on that day and I remain to this day that we had a leader like him at the helm of our nation.  Not even a year into his presidency, George W. Bush encountered a crisis the likes of which most United States presidents pray they never have to face.  He did it with grace, with gumption, and with determination.  And I remember thanking God for his leadership.

If you were unable to watch the interview, it's showing again today at 3pm (EST), and if you can't watch it then, allow me to offer you some excerpts courtesy of a man who showed unwavering resolve when I have no doubts many of the rest of us would have crumbled:

After receiving the news that the second tower had been hit while he sat in a classroom of children in Florida -
I had been in enough crises as governor to know that first thing a leader needs to do in a state of emergency is protect calm.  I hastily scribbled a statement and walked into a classroom of parents where they were expecting to hear "Man, what a great reading program you have" and instead they were going to hear the president say, "America's been attacked."
I remember thinking that the first plane was likely an accident, the second one was an attack, and the third plane was a declaration of war.
After being whisked away from the elementary school and prepared to board Air Force One at the Sarasota airport -
The stewardess was at the top of the stairs sad, concerned, and frightened, and I remember giving her a big hug and saying, 'Everything's gonna be alright.'
This, to me, shows where his heart is.  Here this woman stood, likely terrified to be flying with the president, and he took the time to stop.  And comfort her in the midst of unthinkable tragedy when he was no doubt preoccupied.
There was a lot of sadness on Air Force One.  We saw the images of people dying and I just knew the heartbreak was ravaging families.  The most powerless I ever felt was when I saw people jumping to their death on TV and there was nothing I could do about it.
It became apparent we were facing a new kind of enemy.  This is what war was like i the 21st century.
You really don't know what it's like to be a war-time president until the moment occurs.  I never campaigned on "Please elect me, I'll be the kind of war time chief you'll be proud of."  The war came upon us unexpectedly, and at that point in time we just deal with the issues.  There's a certain gravity, of course, that comes when you start making decisions that involve life.  It's one of these moments when you can't weigh the consequences or think about the politics - you decide.  And I made the decisions as best I could in the fog of war.  And I was determined.  Determined to protect the country, and I was determined to find out who did it and go get 'em. 
From speech at Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, LA -
Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward.  And freedom will be defended.
The resolve of our great nation is being tested.  Make no mistake.  We will show the world that we will pass this test. 
From Offutt AFB in Nebraska where he learned at a National Security Briefing that it was likely the work of Al Qaeda -
I made the decision I'm going back to Washington against the objections of just about everyone else.  I'd had it.  I said I need to get home.  A lot had developed.  It was important to wrap the day up with a presidential speech assuring people that the government was functioning and responding and that we would take the appropriate action as necessary to protect our country.  And I damn sure wasn't going to give it from a bunker in Nebraska.  I wanted to give it from the Oval Office.  I didn't want the enemy to have the psychological victory of a president speaking from a bunker in the heartland of our country and not speaking from the capital that had been attacked.  So I told the secret service, I'm coming home. 
I felt I needed to strike the right balance between comforting and grieving and going on the offense. 
The Oval Office speech was as close to a declaration of war as we could get without declaring one.
One of the things that changed on September 11 is the notion that we were protected by oceans.  In the past, conflict would happen in remote lands.  We were protected at home.  The shock was profound. 
On September 14, George W. Bush flew to Ground Zero -
From the air it looked like a giant scar, but when we actually got to the site...it was like walking into hell. 
There were firefighters, police men and women, rescue workers lining the way in.  I decided I was going to shake every hand.  I looked in everybody's eye, I could see bloodshot eyes from people working overtime.  As I worked my way down, people started saying, "You get 'em", it was kind of a palpable blood lust.  These workers were interested in finding out whether or not we were going to go find that enemy and bring 'em justice.  That's what they wanted to know. 
As I got on top of a pile of rubble that ended up being a destroyed firetruck, somebody handed me a megaphone.  I didn't have any prepared remarks, but I knew I could cobble something together in front of the crowd that would comfort and reassure them.  "I want you all to know, that America today is on bended knee in prayer for the people whose lives who were lost here, for the workers who work here, and for the families who mourn." 

(We can't hear you!)

"I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
The terrorists never won.  They may have thought they won.  They inflicted terrible damage on people's lives and our economy, but they were never going to defeat America.  They just didn't understand us.  They didn't know that we were a nation of compassionate, kind people who are courageous and who would not yield to their barbaric tactics.
May 1, 2011 -
President Obama called me and told me that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  And my response was I congratulated him and the special operators that conducted a very dangerous mission.  I was grateful.  I didn't feel any great sense of happiness or jubilation.  I felt a sense of closure and a sense of gratitude that justice had been done. 
Eventually September 11th will be a date on the calendar like Pearl Harbor day.  For those of us who lived through it, it'll be a day we'll never forget. 
Yesterday, George and Laura Bush, VP Joe Biden, Representative John Boehner, and former president Bill Clinton went to Shanksville, Pennsylvania to honor those who died heroically on United Flight 93. 

In the remarks George W. Bush gave, he quoted one of the most well-known speeches in our American history - the Gettysburg Address.  It was chilling to note the parallels, however un-similar the events that prompted the address -
We can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. ~Abraham Lincoln, from the fields of Gettysburg, PA, November 19, 1863
Today, I'm going to remember how deeply loved by God each of us are.  You, me, the misguided souls who devoted their lives to destroying the lives others, the men and women who were simply going into work for another day of their lives to never come again, the countless rescue workers who either lost their lives or devoted their lives to helping in the aftermath, and to the men and women who guard our freedom in this country day in and day out.  If there's something more uniting than the horrible aftermath of a tragedy, let it be this.  We are God's children.  Every single one of us. 


I don't know what I am

I got a letter in the mail the other day.  At first it made me chuckle, and then it made me a little sad. 

But first, a bit of a preface...

This time last year, I was consumed with the impending Professional Engineer exam.  You may remember.  Aside from working 40 hours a week, doing all the normal work involved in raising three children, and attending a 2-day-a-week boot camp, I was waking up at 4am to study for the exam before I started my day. 

I got by with a little help from my friend.  

October 29th rolled around and I sat for six of the most mentally exhausting hours I can remember in my well-examined life.  Less than one month later, I was laid off from my job of five years, a realization that was as painful for me as it was for my boss. 

Just after the New Year, I got a thin envelope from the testing company.  In two short, but oh-so-sweet words, I passed.  The irony was so thick it almost dripped out of the envelope.  All that I'd worked for in my past five years of the "real world" and the prior four years of engineering school had finally come to fruition.  I had attained my license as a professional engineer.

And I didn't even have a job.

Fast forward to now. 

I walked back from the mailbox with a letter in my hand from the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers addressed to my whole formal name, complete with my PE license number, inviting me to a dinner and reception in honor of the new professional engineers from the October 2010 and April 2011 exams. 

I'm not sure why it startled me.  But it did.  Here I am, nearly a year later, feeling as though that was a lifetime ago.  And, honestly, I don't know what I am these days.

Whenever I have time to kill (aka - the breather I catch from a 25 minute episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), I sit down to fill out internet surveys in exchange for swagbucks so I can trade those in for $5 Amazon.com giftcards.  This is how I "earn my keep".  If I don't make a salary, I can at least earn $5 Amazon cards, right?  (So silly/ridiculous/unnecessary, but this is how my mind works.) 

On almost every one of those surveys, it asks my employment status - full-time at home, full-time out of the home, part-time at home, part-time out of the home, self-employed, full-time homemaker, currently unemployed, retired.

I never know what to pick.  Am I a homemaker?  Or am I unemployed?  At this point, I have settled into my role at home, but I still think of myself as unemployed because had I not been laid off, I would absolutely still be working.  I haven't given up on going back to work, but I am also a realist who knows that civil/environmental engineering jobs are not exactly plentiful in central Georgia at this time.  On top of that, we are now having little Shep #4 in March, so I have a desire to put the hardcore job search off until then, especially if I pursue teaching. 

I don't know what I am.  And when I stop to think about it, this is incredibly frustrating for me.  I have always liked to put people in boxes and categories.  And I don't seem to fit into one right now. 

I've always had an all-or-nothing perspective on life and accomplishments.  Maybe it's time for a paradigm shift.  I can't expect myself to be everything to everyone all of the time.  What I need is to be who I can be, as best as I can be, with no excuses.  And if I do that, who cares what box I fit into? 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.  Colossians 3:23

P.S. - It might not hurt to wake up and say to myself, "You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important."  Who's with me?


Sarah - The World's 8th Wonder

Some things never fail to amaze me - like the fact that someone saw the potential for glue-making out of a horse, the fact that my favorite beverage of all time was at some point developed because someone looked at a coffee bean and said, "I bet we can drink that", and the fact that we have successfully sent human beings into outer space to walk about in a climate unfit for human life and lived to tell about it. 

One of the closer-to-home wonders in my life is really close to home.

It's Sarah.

As I watched her jump off the diving board into the deep end of the pool today where she wholeheartedly trusted without so much as a second glance that I would be there to catch her, I realized it.  She is phenomenal.  I mean that.  She's a pretty cool kid.  Exhausting, yes, but awesome too.

I ran through her recent accomplishments - scaling the pantry shelves, catapulting herself onto every horizontal surface in our kitchen with one reach of her incredible legs, and successfully reaching board games and footie pajamas from the upper-most reaches of her closet.

There's simply no stopping her once she's made her mind up.

Then I remembered something.

I never really blogged about our trip to Virginia back in July.  Now it's September and I've forgotten most of the specifics.  (Not surprisingly.)

But I did remember a pretty awesome Sarah story - and that's why I'm here after midnight.  (That, and I'm waiting for freshly boiled peanuts to cool off so I can put them in the fridge.)

One of our destinations in Virginia was Busch Gardens.  We went there several times over the course of the week, usually at night because it was just smokin' hot the whole time we were there and hanging out in the long lines with no chance of cooling off at the end in 100 degree temps is no fun, especially with a two year old.  

Overall, the park was pretty kid-friendly.  While Ben and Sam ventured off on the serious thrill rides, the girls and I took the tamer route and rode the safe-for-toddlers rides.  We tried the miniature sleds that go around and around, the log flume, the swings, and the carousel.  They were great, and Abby could sit by herself while I wrestled sat with Sarah.

Then there were the rides where there are no parents allowed.  The first of which were the hot air balloons.  Abby sat across from Sarah.  The seatbelts were really snug, one per kid, and required the attendant to unlock them at the end of the ride.  So basically, there was no chance of escape.  As long as Sarah got on last, and didn't have to wait long for the ride to start, she was golden.  But I was still a nervous wreck watching from the other side of the wrought iron fence.  Lo and behold, it was a success.  No permanent injuries sustained.

We moved to the next ride. 

They were the gliders.  You could sit next to a partner or lay on your belly.  I opted to let Abby and Sarah sit in a glider next to each other.  It's the kind of ride where you pull the lever to adjust how high in the air you go.  The seatbelts went across both of their laps, so they had to share it.  There's no getting that snug enough.  I had only been shuffled out of the gate for about 10 seconds when I turned around and saw Sarah standing up, waving at the kids behind her, completely free from the seatbelt.  The ride attendant didn't seem to notice.  And it was only after the kind gentleman next to me shouted at the top of his lungs to let me back in, that she sauntered over to unlock the gate and let me rescue Sarah from certain death.

Let's just say Abby rode that one alone.

We moved on as a family unit of five to a playground with a ton of kiddie rides around the perimeter.  You know the kind.  They have the same ones at every amusement park/fair/beach I've ever been to.  Cars/boats/airplanes that go around in a circle.  I'll spare you most of the details, save for the boat experience.

These particular boats were two seaters.  One person in the front, one in the back.  The boats were enclosed by a mesh screen that snapped into place after the kids were buckled into their grocery store cart buckles inside.  Between each boat was a wall of plexi-glass that prevented the kids walking along the railing from falling into the water.

Abby sat in the back and Sarah sat up front.  They behaved until the ride got started.  That's when Sarah unbuckled herself from the not-at-all-sophisticated seatbelt and traded seats with Abby while the boats circled the pool.  I'm not sure how many people have had experiences this, but watching your young daughters play musical chairs inside of a moving carnival ride is a little unsettling to say the least.  It didn't stop there.  Sarah ripped the mesh snaps off and proceeded to hang her head out of the side of the boat like a dog out of a car window.  Just as she approached the potentially-decapitating plexi-glass, she pulled back inside - then she repeated.

The best part?  The ride attendant had NO idea this was going on.

The worst part?  Every single parent watching did notice.

Even worse?  I did not want to claim them as my own children.  I thought about joining in the discussion.  "Yeah, look at those wild and crazy girls.  Their parents need to get a handle on that!"

It took the ride attendant no less than 45 minutes (okay slight exaggeration) to park those boats between the plexi-glass barriers, all the while Sam and I were trying to verbally instruct Sarah not to jump out.

She was finally allowed to get out, and, here comes the best part, she helped Ben unsnap the mesh because he couldn't get out of his boat.

Miss Independent.  There is simply no stopping her when she's made up her mind to climb/jump/eject herself.

Impressive doesn't even come close.

She's a phenomenon.

Who?  Me?

Good thing she's cute.

Oh, and if you thought you couldn't hurt yourself on the carousel.  Think again.  Abby managed to skin two knees changing horses.  After exiting the ride, a helpful member of the janitorial staff contacted a medic who came sprinting across the park Baywatch-style with a duffel bag full of bandages.  After signing 10 minutes worth of paperwork promising not to sue Busch Gardens as I was (once again) wrestling Sarah, he finally applied a couple to her bloodied knees.

What's the phrase I'm looking for here?  Oh yes.  Never a dull moment.

Our next adventure - Destin, Florida:  October 2011.  The gulf might be experiencing Tropical Storm Lee right now, but they need to start getting ready for Hurricane Sarah.

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