Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How Do You Measure, Measure A Year?

This picture was taken on October 2, 1994; two days after my son was born. Fourteen years ago. Five-thousand, one-hundred, and ten days ago. A ridiculous amount of minutes ago.

So...why does it feel like last week sometime?

I can clearly remember that afternoon. I'd just given my newborn son his very first bath, so he smelled delectable; all lotioned and powdered and oiled. As most kids do, his bath relaxed him, and he was soon drifting off to sleep, draped across my shoulder. I just LOVED the feel of his tiny little body in my arms, and I was hard-pressed to put him down. After almost two stress-filled, apprehensive years of trying to conceive him, and a lifetime of dreaming about him, I had a hard time ever letting him go.

I loved everything about him. His porcelain skin, his insanely tiny, paper-thin fingernails, with the little pink buds of newborn skin underneath, the mass of jet-black hair that not only covered his entire head, but swirled around his body in soft little tufts. I loved the way his bottom lip virtually disappeared when he slept. And, mostly, I loved holding him, nurturing him, making him feel safe.

It's incredibly hard for me to fathom that that little bean; that adorable little bug resting so soundly on my shoulder, is 14 years old today. He's grown almost man-like, with his facial hair, and his deepening voice, and his height that now towers over mine. But, if I look somewhere in the deep recesses, I can still see remnants of that little boy, that I wrapped up and brought to our home; the little guy my husband snapped the picture of on an October afternoon, all those years ago. He's still there when he's sad, he's still there when he doesn't feel well, he's still there when something's bothering him. How do I know? Because he still turns to me to nurture him, and to make him feel safe.

And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Happy 14th birthday, son.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I don't know why, but something woke me up at about 5:30 this morning. And, seeing as how I have a 45-year-old bladder (that's suffered the abuse through three pregnancies), whenever I am awake enough, well... a visit to the restroom is HIGH on the agenda!

I lay there for awhile, hoping the urge would pass. No such luck. So, I crept up out of bed, hoping not to wake my little one, who, due to some small miracle, had slept through the night. Poor thing -- she's been suffering through some TERRIBLE dreams, which wake her up in such a fright. I was thrilled when I looked at the clock and realized she'd slept through.

I was in the bathroom, washing up, when I heard this obnoxious, blood curdling scream coming from outside the door. It was loud enough to wake my oldest daughter, who was sleeping in her room on the second floor! I bolted out of the bathroom and met my little one in the little hallway that connects my kitchen, dining room, my bedroom and hers. She was crying her fool head off, screaming at the top of her lungs, and making a beeline towards me.

She practically jumped into my arms, and was shaking like a leaf. I held her tightly, rubbing her back and asking her what was wrong. She told me what I'd feared.... that she had a bad dream; monsters were chasing her.

Since we're still dealing with the remnants of Hurricane Kyle here on the East coast, and since it was still before 6 a.m., it was pitch black outside. I brought her into my room with me, and laid her down on the bed between my (still sleeping) husband and me. She clung to me, saying she wanted me to stay with her. I did until the alarm went off -- then I had to go wake up my son for school. This job is normally done by my husband (who's much more of a morning person than I, and doesn't mind waking up at 6:00 as much), but I figured, since I was now wide awake, that I would just go wake him, and leave my husband to snooze a bit longer.

My son wasn't feeling so great last night -- I think he caught the stomach crud I'd had earlier last week. He went to bed with a headache and an upset stomach -- and an old bowl, to put beside his bed (which was thankfully empty when I went to wake him up this morning!). After letting him wake up a bit, I asked him how he felt, and he said "a little bit better". But, after attempting to take a few bites of his morning cereal, he confessed that he still felt just as sick as he felt last night.

I ordered him back up to bed, and called the absence line at his school. Hopefully, he won't have too much homework to make up today. And, I hope even more that he won't be sick for his birthday (tomorrow). That would be the PITS.

I came back from the grocery store a little while ago, and he said he'd taken some Pepto Bismol, and had two pieces of dry toast, and his stomach was starting to feel a bit better. Hopefully, that's a good sign. I know the crap I had only lasted 48 hours. Let's hope the same is true of him.

Needless to say, I'm a tired Mama today. Miss S. is obviously a bit worn down today, too. Maybe, after I come back from picking R. up at school, I'll give S. a nice warm bath and (hopefully) get her to lie down with me. A little snooze might do us both some good.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sometimes, They Make Me So Very Proud

Today was clean the house day. Whenever it's necessary, my husband and I both pitch in to get everything done at once. And, with my crazy "Mom's taxi" schedule last week, my house was definitely in need of a GOOD cleaning.

Here's the difference -- this week was the FIRST week we got all three of our kids involved. Usually, I decline their help, mostly because they typically do more playing than cleaning. But today, I allowed them to do certain tasks, and they actually pleasantly surprised me by getting them done, and doing them well!

My son swept all the hardwood on the main floor, and vacuumed all the rugs. Then he took the vacuum upstairs, and did his rug, his sister's rug, and the runner in the hallway, before bringing the vacuum back down and putting it neatly away.

My little one helped put her clothes away, with a big, ear-to-ear grin on her face! :)

And, I'm most impressed with my oldest daughter, who WANTED to learn how to do the dishes, AND the laundry! Not only that, but she was excited about it, too! :)

I'm one proud Mama!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Toddler Song (Too Funny Not To Watch!)

*** Disclaimer*** None of the "people" in this video belong to me. This is simply a video I snagged off of YouTube. Also, I'm piggybacking the disclaimer at the end of this video, as well!

To those of you who have, or had, toddlers in your lives... this one's for you...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sometimes It Pays To Be An Early Christmas Shopper!

I think I've mentioned before that I start shopping for Christmas EARLY. With limited funds, and a large family, putting things on layaway, and getting a jump start on the holidays is essential for me. I don't deal with panic or frenzy well, and the idea of doing last minute shopping on Christmas Eve makes me break out in a cold sweat and start to hyperventilate!

I like to take my time, shop around, look for sales. ESPECIALLY since I have the growing boy child, whose "wish list" has NOTHING on it with a value of less than $50 dollars. I kid you not.


As summer draws to an end, I begin to ask my children what they'd like for Christmas. My son puts his list up on our bulletin board in the kitchen, and adds to it whenever he thinks of something new. Of course, he's not getting EVERY SINGLE THING, but so far, here's what he's requested, and here's what we've purchased:

Gears of War 2 (for XBox 360): Retails for $59.99 -- this game doesn't come out until November, and we may wait until after the holidays are over for this one.
Guitar Hero 4 (for XBox 360) Retails for $150*
Guitar Hero Aerosmith (for XBox 360) - Retails for $49.99 -- we got him this
Unreal Tournament 3 (for XBox 360) -- Retails for $59.99 -- we got him this
Call of Duty 4 (for PS3) -- Retails for $59.99 -- we got him this
iPod (we got him an Onyx MP3 player for his birthday, 'cause I refused to spend $200 bucks for essentially the same thing!)
Rock Band (for XBox 360) -- *Can't decide whether to get him this or Guitar Hero 4 -- they both cost about the same, but we will ONLY get one.
XBox Live 3 Month Card -- Retails for $50 -- Probably won't get this for him.
1600 Microsoft Point Card -- Retails for $20 -- I think my mom's getting him this for his birthday.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance (this one's new on the list, so I don't know which system he wants it for, or how much it costs, or if it's even OUT yet).

I also got him some clothes, which he'll probably think is boring, but he needs them desperately.

Miss R. is a bit all over the place with her Christmas list. The ONE thing she truly wants is her own XBox 360 system, which we got for her, as her "big" gift from my husband and me. She's also been asking for Bakugan playsets. She wanted both the launcher, and the starter orbs, which look like this:

Because I start my Christmas shopping early, I found both the launcher and this particular set of red orbs (they come in different colors, you see... each color represents one of the five elements, I believe), and purchased them for my daughter, who will be thrilled BEYOND belief when she opens them. She said she wanted both the blue and the red orbs, so I've recently been trying to track down a package containing the blue ones.... and they're SOLD OUT EVERYWHERE. And I mean EVERYWHERE. My husband thinks that people are buying them and selling them on EBay, which could definitely be a possibility (as awful as that is... to take away toys from a little kid so you can make a profit is disgusting to me), but I've searched and searched, and can't find any more starter sets anywhere. The good thing is, she'll definitely be over the moon with the set she will get! :)

As for my little one... well, she's got me turning to look at the television every five minutes, telling me she wants a different toy being advertised. In a nutshell, she wants EVERYTHING. But, I did ask her, "If you went to see Santa, and you could ask him for only ONE thing, what would it be?", and she said she'd either ask for Mermaid Barbie, or the Peek-A-Boo Petites Barbies. Again... Mama, the early-bird, already has both stored away, and the Peek-A-Boo Petites are a hard item to find, too!

So, I'm thrilled that I got in early on these hot new toys, and that I'm not going to be forced to be one of those parents who has to get up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving, and head out to a toy store, get in line, and put my name in on a lottery to be one of the lucky ones to be able to purchase these. Nor will I have to scour the pages of EBay, hoping to score a deal. I have these little treasures, all tucked away, ready to be wrapped and placed under the tree for my little ones.
I can't tell you how excited that makes me! :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Twilight (Darn you, Michelle! :)

For those of you who've been living under a rock, or have just touched down from another planet, let me enlighten you about the whole "Twilight" phenomenon. Stephenie Meyer is a cute, young author from Utah, who just happened to write a series of four books that are equal in popularity, and often compared to J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series. However, instead of young witches and warlocks in training, and the Muggles who just don't seem to understand their importance, Ms. Meyer's theme went down an entirely different path of good vs. evil. Her main subject of choice was a family of vampires, with specific emphasis on the "Romeo and Juliet"-esque love affair that develops between a young vampire named Edward, and his beloved Bella.

(L to R: Alice, Emmett, Bella, Edward, Rosalie and Jasper.)

Now, I know... before you start groaning and throwing things at your computer monitor, I will say I felt the same way when I heard of this series. I couldn't seem to quite grasp how a love affair between a vampire and a human could amass such a frenzy, especially with seemingly intelligent, rational, grown women. It sounded far too much like Harlequin Romance meets Stephen King, and I resisted heading down that path.

That is, until I read my friend Michelle's blog.

She expressed her sheer excitement about standing in line at Borders Bookstore at midnight, with a HUGE group of her peers, waiting for the latest installment ("Breaking Dawn") to be released. I must say, my curiosity was definitely piqued. When I questioned the validity of this phenomenon, both she and our mutual friend Natalie strongly urged me to read it, and see for myself just how engaging the books can be.

So... I succumbed. I went on EBay, and found a copy of "Twilight" at a fairly reasonable price. Since my oldest daughter was back to school, I knew I had a fair amount of reading time coming up, during my sit and wait time before she got out of school for the day. I figured I'd give it a shot. I mean, with all the frenzy surrounding these books, I figured if I didn't like it, I would most certainly find someone who would be more than happy to take it off of my hands.

I started tentatively, still fairly dubious. But, by the time I was 20 pages or so in, I was completely hooked (or, as Bella states, "I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love...").

I devoured the book in just a few short days, and have already purchased "New Moon", the second book in the series (to be put away as a Christmas present from my husband). Earlier this afternoon, I was sitting up in my bed reading while my little one was napping next to me. My husband came into our room to talk, and when he saw how far into the book I'd gotten, and teased me to "read slower", so as not to be too anxious to receive my present!! :)

Late last week, I also stepped a bit out of my comfort zone, and went on an excursion to snag "Breaking Dawn" from a generous Freecycler, and will now STRONGLY encourage my husband to buy "Eclipse" for me, so I can read the rest of the series over Christmas break.

I only hope he's hidden the second book well. I don't know if I can wait that long! :)

And, I may have to take a solo trip to see the movie in December. That is, unless one of my friends from Utah happens to be in the neighborhood at the time! ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Just Some General Jibber Jabber

I can't believe how quickly the day's gone by already! This is the first real time I've sat down to read e-mails and check on all of my other computer "stuff" since first thing this morning. For some reason, my computer wouldn't boot up, so I had to leave without being able to check in first. I'm sure I have TONS of e-mails to go through, but I wanted to update here first.

R. went to school this morning, despite still not feeling well. I gave her some liquid Tylenol, and some cold medicine, and sent her in with a note to her teacher, explaining that she still wasn't 100%, and if she really wanted to come home, I could be contacted on my cell. After picking her up from school, I asked my daughter how her day went, and how she felt in school today. I was shocked and more than a little upset to hear that she gave her teacher the note I'd written first thing this morning, and then proceeded to ask her teacher... TWICE... during the course of the day, if she could call me to come get her. Apparently, her teacher's response was, "you don't look that sick to me". Hmmmm.... sounds like someone (or several someones) needs a SEVERE talking to!

S. had her first day of preschool today. She whisked into her room, with barely a goodbye to me (which is always a good sign!). I killed a few hours by hunting around for an MP3 docking station that would work with the Onyx MP3 player I got for my son for his birthday. Sure, I could find TONS of iPod stuff, but it took me three different stores before I found something that I think will work for the "generic" MP3 player I bought. I only hope it works! My husband and I will be giving him the MP3 player as his birthday present, and the docking station is from the girls.

One of my stops was at Target. While there, I picked up three sweatshirts and three pairs of leggings for S., as well as a long-sleeved t-shirt. I also got three pairs of leggings for R., too. I went through S's. fall clothes yesterday, and switched everything out in her room. Turns out, I have a HUGE trash bag filled with clothes that are too small for her! She's definitely gone through a MAJOR growth spurt, and a ton of her fall stuff from last year is now just too small. The only thing she really needs, though, is sweatshirts. But, between the three I picked up today, and the few that I've recently won on EBay, she should be all set for a little bit.

I also found the second book in the "Twilight" series on sale, so I picked it up for my husband to give to me for Christmas! :) I called him and told him that I'd found it, and that they had the third book in hardcover for $13 bucks... and that it was on him to get that one! :) I picked up the fourth book from a VERY generous Freecycler yesterday! :) I'm halfway through "Twilight", and it's definitely very intriguing, to say the least!

S. woke up three times last night, claiming she had bad dreams. I think she was anxious about school today. She also said she had a sore throat this morning, so I gave her some liquid Tylenol too. Sigh. And to think... it's only the 14th day of school!!

N. had picture day today, and I'm praying that his picture turned out halfway decent. I told him it's going to be weird to see his picture without braces! It's the first time in four years he'll be taking a school picture without 'em! R's picture day is scheduled for this Friday (and of course, it's going to be raining all day long.... so her hair should look absolutely lovely, thankyouverymuch!). I only hope she's feeling well by then. It'll be bad enough that she has a total frizz head from the rain... I don't want her to look like death warmed over, either!

And of course, because it's the beginning of school, my stomach has been feeling quite nasty the last couple of days. I even went to far as to cancel my dentist's appointment tomorrow (go ahead, twist my arm! ;), 'cause with my gut doing flip-flops, the last thing I'd find comfortable right now is to have someone's hands in my mouth, and the smell of old fillings being ground down to pulp! Yuck-o!

Well, I'm off to read my 3790809560949708234 e-mails. We're going to have grilled cheese and tomato sammies for dinner, and I think I'm going to whip up a batch of Loaded Potato Soup (a delicious-sounding recipe that one of my friends passed along to me). I only hope I feel well enough to try some later!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ahhhh. Solitude.

I don't know how I managed it, but I wound up sneaking off for a few short hours earlier... by myself.

I needed to go out and return a bunch of things my mom purchased for my kids for Christmas. Bless her heart... I know she meant well, but when she handed me the things she'd put away on layaway for them, and I opened the box, I knew that the toys and crafts were not exactly my kids' "style". She tried her best, and I love her for it, but really... there are other things that they'd much rather have "Santa" bring them on Christmas morning. So, she gave me permission to take them back and get them what they really wanted.

I have to say, I felt horrible pangs of guilt leaving the house by myself. It was so strange, not needing to buckle a small child into a carseat, not having to ask if everyone's buckled in, not hearing anyone asking me to change the radio station to Radio Disney or Jammin'. I got to drive with all the windows down, listening to MY music, and didn't have to break up a backseat quarrel ONCE. Heavenly.

The woman at the customer service desk thought it was a real hoot, when I explained to her my rationale for returning things. She agreed that it was best to get them what they really wanted, rather than fill up the spaces under the tree with "stuff". I walked out of the store a few hours later, feeling so good knowing that the kids will definitely have a good year this year, and they'll be totally psyched about what Santa brought. It tickles me more than I even care to admit, especially because they really are good kids, and they don't get much at all during the year in the way of "treats", so to be able to be a bit generous at Christmastime just warms the cockles of my heart.

Not to mention I wasn't being hounded for a toy, and had to face the deflated looks on their faces when I had to tell them no. That's always so hard on me.

We were watching "Baby Mama" last night, and there was a scene where Tina Fey's character is in an elevator, and standing in front of her was a young mom, holding a baby who couldn't be more than 9-12 months old. She gently caressed the baby's little hand with one finger, then cautiously leaned forward to smell the baby's head. I turned to my husband and said, "I know exactly how she feels. I've been having that 'itch'" again. Of course, he looked at me as if I'd completely lost my mind. He even invited me to find someone else to have the next child with, if I so desired (teasing, of course).

Logically speaking, I know it's the absolute wrong thing to do to my body. At 45 years of age, it wouldn't be the wisest thing for me to put my body through, or my heart, for that matter. My old eggs might not produce a healthy child, and I just don't want to set myself up for that.

I guess, as long as I'm able to bear children, the longing will exist. I only hope it goes away once I hit menopause.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Dad

It's been 19 years today since my father died, and I posted this video, for him.

The very first time I heard this song it had just been released, and I was driving to somewhere. The day was so busy with errands I was surprised when I forgot what day it was. It was a few years ago....today. By the time the middle of that song came, and I heard Luther sing about hearing his mother crying in her room, I had to pull over. I had tears running down my face and couldn't see well enough to drive. I still can't hear this song all the way through without welling up. It's been hard losing him... and it's even harder when I think about all the things he's missed about my life since he's been gone. The failed marriage I finally left because it was just simply WRONG for me, which opened the door for me to find the RIGHT guy, whom I've been with for over 16 years, and have had three amazing kids with. He didn't even walk me down the aisle then... my husband-to-be and I walked hand in hand through the door together on that day. A symbol, I guess, of my first real "adult" act since my father's passing.

My dad was VERY strict (sometimes to the point of being downright mean, in my estimation), but he was incredibly smart, had a wonderful, dry wit about him, and offered a balance to my mother that really hasn't been there since. And there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about him in some capacity. I miss him every day, and feel the "empty space" in the room whenever there's a family function, knowing he should be there to celebrate with us. Mostly, I wish he were here to talk to, and to seek advice from. He died way too fast, too young, and too soon.

So, Dad....wherever you are... I hope you've found a comfortable rocking chair, and are kicking back, drinking a Schlitz, chewing on some sharp cheddar, or a slice of pepperoni, munching on some Wise potato chips, and watching a game somewhere. I wouldn't even mind if you called me into the room, just so I could change the television channel for ya.

Love ya... you old coot.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad

If my father was still alive, today would have been my Mother and Father's 61st wedding anniversary. So, in honor of the occasion, I dedicate "their song" to them:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Have Succumbed.... To Rock Band

My son likes the way I sing, and is thoroughly impressed with my musical repertoire. I keep explaining to him that the reason why I know so many songs on the radio is because I choose to listen to radio stations that play the songs I listened to growing up. Turn on one of HIS preferred radio stations, and I'm like a fish out of water. The closest I can get to possibly recognizing, and MAYBE singing along to any sort of "new" music is Radio Disney, and that's only because I swear they play the same five or six songs overandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandover again!

So, last night, after dinner was through, we all sat down in the living room. My husband and I tried our best to watch "Jeopardy" while the girls fought....er.... played with some toy that they both wanted to use. During a commercial, my son shyly asked, "Mom, would you be the singer for me in Rock Band?"

Now, mind you.... we don't OWN Rock Band, so I thought my son had finally gotten tired enough from all of his super-early mornings to become a bit loopy. He explained to me that one of his friends had let him borrow his system "indefinitely", because he never plays with the thing anymore, and so he told my son that he could use it until he "beat the system". I'm not sure how long that would take, but I would presume it might be awhile.

I asked him where he would like me to perform this particular endeavor with him, and he suggested his room. Since I tried to avoid the two upstairs bedrooms like the plague (the sight of them, at times, can potentially lead me to want to hurl myself out the nearest window!), I said, "Since your sisters are making too much noise for us to be able to hear the television clearly anyway, why don't you bring the game system down here and set it up?"

Well... I didn't have to tell him twice. He was off like a shot, with his little sister in tow, to grab the gear to set up the game.

I'd never seen Rock Band in action before, so I had no clue really what to expect. Setting up this game is a bit like setting up an actual stage show for a band... there's all kinds of wires to plug into certain ports, and the drum kit has to be assembled. Once everything was in place, my son turned the game on and scrolled down the list of song selections.

Most of the titles (and artists) were completely foreign to me. They did, however, have a few Aerosmith selections, a song by The Clash, one by The Rolling Stones, and one by Boston that I did know.

I started off with the Boston tune... "Foreplay/Long Time". Since I grew up on Boston, I chose the "expert" level, and got a near perfect score. My son was grinning from ear to ear when the song finished, 'cause I guess getting a good score moves him up in the ranks somehow. All I know is, although I can carry a fairly decent tune, I'm no Brad Delp! But, if it helped him along, and it was all in fun, that's all that really mattered.

We played a bit more before I shooed them all off to bed. Even my little one got in on the action, pretending to be the newest rock-star singing sensation. It was quite the hoot.

So, today.... we were driving back from the grocery store, and as always, I had the radio on. I was running through channels, trying to find something other than commercials or "talk radio", when I heard the distinctive sounds of that very same Boston tune. I left it there... and cranked it.

And, as I did last night, I sang along with Brad. My incredibly intelligent, smart-as-a-whip little girl exclaimed, "Mama! That's YOU singing! That's the song you sang last night!" And, when the guitar solo hit, during the middle of the song, she cheered, "That's BROTHER playing! Awesome job, brother!!"

What a howl! There's never a dull moment with that kid, I tell ya! (Who, by the way, now thinks we're all rock 'n' roll stars! :)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

And So.... It Begins....

My son shaved his "beard" off, for the first time this evening. I took a few pictures, then took a small patch of his virgin beard hair, and put it in a tiny little plastic pouch for safekeeping. Sentimental fool that I am.

I think I'm going to go crawl in bed and cry myself to sleep. :'(


I was putting my little one to bed this evening, and after our usual nighttime banter, she said to me, "Mama, I think you're beautiful." My heart swelled. I said, "Well, thank you, baby. I think you're beautiful, too." She asked, "Do you think I'm beautiful when I'm sleeping?"

"Yes, sweet pea... you're the most beautiful of all when you sleep."

Let's hope SHE doesn't slip away too fast.

To Everything There is a Season

This is a hard blog to post, not only because the subject matter is difficult for me to talk about, but it's a subject I was hoping to avoid for another, oh, say, twenty years or so!

My daughter and I were driving back home from her school one afternoon last week. She and I were the only two in the car -- my little one decided she was too bushed to join us and plopped herself down for a nap, so my mom came upstairs to keep an eye on her while I picked up my oldest daughter. R. must have felt it was the perfect opportunity to talk to me about something, because after the average line of questioning was finished (How was school? Did you do anything fun? What did you do in class today? Did you make any new friends?), she turned to me, and tentatively asked, "Mom, would you be upset with me if I told you I had a crush on a boy?"

It was all I could do to keep myself from slamming on the brakes, smashing my head against the steering wheel, and shrieking out, "NOOOOOOOOOO!!! Not my baby!!! You can't have my baby!!!!!"

But, you'll be proud and relieved to know I remained calm. And my forehead remained in tact.

I thought very carefully for a moment, before answering her. Give her too much information, and she'll feel overwhelmed. Give her not enough, and she won't be prepared to know what's probably going to happen next.

I couldn't look at her. To see her face would have been too much. My adorable, 9-and-three-quarters girl. My BABY girl. Instead, I kept my eyes on the road as I began to speak. I asked her who the boy was that she liked, and was completely relieved when she said the name of a boy that I just adore. He's a sweet kid, and his parents are good people, too. That's always a help. Not that I was making wedding plans, or anything! :)

Then, as matter-of-factly as I could, I said, "Of course I'm not upset with you, lovey. J. is a sweet boy, and I can understand the reasons why you might have a fondness for him. But, you need to know that you're going to have LOTS of crushes in your lifetime. Some may be meaningful, and some may be in passing, but they're all a part of teaching you how to deal with true love, when it comes along."

The question that came out of her mouth at that point was one of the most touching things I've heard in a long time; "You mean like the kind of love that you and Daddy have?" It was such a lovely testament, to know that my kids can plainly see just how my husband and I feel about each other, even after all these years.

"Yes, sweetie," I said, now fighting back the tears, "just like your Dad and me. You have to understand that giving your whole heart to someone is like giving them a very precious gift. And, they have to PROVE to you that they've earned that gift. It's not something you want to give away lightly, because if you do, you're going to get terribly hurt. You're going to get hurt anyway....that's unfortunately part of falling in love with the wrong person sometimes. But, my only hope for you is that when you're REALLY ready to give your heart away completely, that you find a man just like your father. Someone you can trust, someone who's your very best friend, and someone who can love you with all their heart, too. Until then, you do your very best to keep your heart protected."

She listened very intensely, wanting to seemingly grasp every single subtle nuance of what I was saying; to absorb it into her system, and to adjust it so that it fit, somehow, into that tiny, girl-like body of hers. At least that's what I hoped she was doing.

I know this marks the very beginning of my daughter's growing up years, and I know I have to let it happen, even though I'm certain of the pain and the heartache she's inevidably going to suffer through as a result. As much as I'd love to protect her and keep her from feeling that sort of emotion, it's as certain as the world rotating on its axis. To everything there is season. Turn, turn, turn.

But, as we got out of the car, and she ran to the garage, grabbed her bike, plopped her helmet haphazardly on her head, and began to ride away, I hoped that particular rite of passage would take its sweet old time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Showdown at the Park (or, Don't Mess with Mama C. and Her Cubs!)

Yesterday marked the first full week of back-to-school for my oldest two, and we all mustered through the earlier mornings and the longer days relatively unscathed, albeit a bit more weary.

I quickly adapted a new routine, especially formulated with my little one in mind (so she wouldn't feel quite so abandoned by her ever-present brother and sister, who were pretty much at her beck and call all summer long). After she and I go to R's school to drop her off in the mornings, S. and I head off to the park, where I find a sunny spot and read for about an hour, while she plays with all of her newly-made toddler friends. I get to enrich my mind and sprout some new neurons, and she gets to blow off some steam. It's a win-win.

After the morning park visit, we're either off together to do whatever necessary errands there might be, or we come home so I can take care of stuff here. Then, in the afternoons, we head up to R's school again, where S. hangs out in the little park (located right in front of the school building) to play, until it's time to go wait at the front door for R. to emerge from the mass exodus of children. Then, it's back to the "big park" across the street for a few hours more of play.

Since the afternoons are a lot busier, both with children and parents, sometimes my book reading gets pushed aside. I have to keep a sharper eye on my kids, constantly navigating my view so I can keep them within eyeshot.

Since last Wednesday was a beautiful fall day, we followed this routine exactly, and wound up at the big park so the girls could play. As luck would have it, a gaggle of R's girlfriends were playing at the park, too, so not only did she have a small group of friends to pal around with, but so did S. (they all "mother hen" this child to death, and she eats it up with a spoon! :).

I waited for a spot on THE prime bench to open up. This particular bench is located on the "fifty yard line" of the park, so no matter which structure the kids ran to, I can always locate them pretty easily. When a seat became vacant, I plopped my keester down, and looked forward to continuing on with the book I've become very much interested in ("A Redbird Christmas" by Fannie Flagg, for those who might be wondering).

I was happily engrossed in my book, stopping from time to time to scope out my children. Once I had them in my direct line of vision, I'd continue reading. The kids were blissfully chasing after each other; there were four or five 9-year-old girls, two 9-year-old boys, and one 3-year-old runt... all playing happily together. A small slice of Heaven.

Just when I thought we were having ourselves a pleasant afternoon, I spotted one of the mothers walking towards R. The troop was hanging out in the middle of one of the smaller structures, laughing and singing and having a grand old time, and by the time this mother finished her speech (which, from my angle, looked as if it was directed RIGHT at my daughter), there was a deathly silence in the group of once jovial kids.

I immediately removed myself from my prime spot (a Herculean task at best -- once you relinquish this seat, you know that it might never be re-claimed), and walked over to my daughter to see what that particular fuss was about. I called R. over to me, and looked at her with shock and dismay as she relayed the encounter. Apparently, this particular mom didn't like the fact that the girls were screaming, and she went over to ask them all to stop. Are you kidding me????? We were in a freakin' PARK!!!

I was just about to walk over to this clearly demented mom, when she saved me the trouble by heading towards R. and me. I thought for sure my daughter must not have heard her right, and I was determined to get to the bottom of this.

But, come to find out, my daughter's hearing was as perfect as ever, for that's EXACTLY what this woman told the girls! She further explained that it looked to her as if the boys were antagonizing the girls, and that's why the girls were screaming, so she asked them all to cut down on the noise and to leave each other alone. She felt that "girls should play with girls, and boys with boys".

Well.... I probably don't have to tell you what transpired next.

But I will. :)

After the smoke stopped pouring out of my ears, I turned to her and said:

"My daughter has been going to this school since she was in Kindergarten. My son, who entered his freshman year in high school last week, went here before her. I have NEVER encountered such a shallow-minded, prejudiced woman in my life here at this school as I have with you today.

"My children have been brought up to believe that friends are friends... no matter who they are, what they look like, or what race, color, or SEX they are. Until now, it appeared to me as if all of the other children, and their parents, followed the same principle.

"To me, it looked as if the kids were playing tag, or some similar game, together. At the very least, they were having FUN. Not only is it completely ridiculous of you to suggest it, but it also defeats the purpose of being here when you ask the kids to stop screaming. I don't know what your intentions are for being here -- maybe they're to perpetuate more of the stupid gossip that goes on with the clique-y little 'coffee clutch' of moms that are an unfortunate side-effect of this institution -- but my purpose for having my children here is to allow them to blow off steam so that they're not screaming in my HOUSE."

"If you're so close-minded to think that boys should only play with boys, and they should leave the girls alone, I would firmly suggest that you speak with your SON about the situation, and remove him from the group. I also ask that you never, EVER speak to my daughter like that again. If she's got any sort of 'problem', here or ANYWHERE, whichever family member is with her at the time is the ONLY one with the authority to walk up to her and correct it."

And, with that, I told my daughter to go back to her friends and play.

After the woman picked her chin up off of the floor, she started backpedaling a bit. She introduced herself to me ("Trish"... like I really wanted to get to know her at that point!), and said that she used to work as a lunch lady at another school (poor kids!), and that she got pretty good at seeing when a situation was developing into something that might be threatening to one of the children, and she was just afraid that their screaming might escalate into something more serious, and....

I put my hand up to stop her.

"Trish," I said, trying to sound as calm as humanly possibly (although at this point I wanted to pop her one right between the eyes), "How many children do you have?" (knowing full well the answer before I even asked the question). She answered, "Well, Mark is my only child, but I also have a 22-year-old stepdaughter."

"So, you basically only have ONE child, right?" She nodded in agreement. "Well, then, I hate to say this, Trish, but one child just doesn't count. You aren't fully schooled in the subtle nuances of play between children. And, trust me when I tell you, they were just PLAYING.

"You see that bench over there?" We looked over, and of course, my prime spot had been scooped by some little kid, no less. Damn. "THAT'S where I was, and as you can clearly see, it's within direct eyeshot of the children and where they were playing. As the mom of THREE, if I had caught even a glimpse of wrongdoing, I'd have been over there like a shot to find out what the problem was. But, there was no problem, except for the one YOU created. You just need to figure out how to chill and let your child play, because if you don't, he's going to wind up being very lonely, and you're going to have a miserable little boy on your hands. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and try to find another good spot to watch my children, and maybe squeeze in another chapter or two of my book before we have to go home."

She went back to her bench, which was co-occupied by a friend of hers, who seemingly left once "Trish" started her tirade, and I gave the kid who stole my seat the hairy eyeball until he got up and bounded off.

I sat back down, pulled "Redbird Christmas" out of my pocket, and went back to Alabama, while I listened to the wonderful sounds of my two girls.... who went back to screaming their fool heads off. A small slice of Heaven, I tell ya.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reflections of 9-11-01

It was a Tuesday morning, and I was at work early, helping my boss prepare for the weekly Senior Team meeting. As usual, as soon as I got to work that morning, I entered my office, booted up my computer, then turned on the radio. I was typing out the agenda for the meeting, when one of the DJ's came across the air, announcing at first that it appeared as if a helicopter hit one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. Now, I've been to New York numerous times, and I know just how ridiculously TALL the Twin Towers were, and because of that, I clearly remember thinking that it was so odd that ANYTHING could hit those buildings on a day like that particular September 11th was; a beautiful fall morning, very crisp, cool, and clear, with a perfectly blue, CLOUDLESS sky.

A few moments later, the same DJ interrupted the music again, to say that it wasn't a helicopter as they initially reported, but a commercial aircraft that slammed into the side building (which I thought was even WEIRDER, but dismissed as some sort of malfunction with the plane. It HAD to be that....there was no other explanation, as far as I was concerned).

After a little bit longer, the DJ came back on the air again, and announced that the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. had been hit by yet another commercial aircraft!

Just then, the Executive Secretary for the Dean of Education came bolting past my office, and ran into my bosses office, interrupting the private meeting that occurred right before the Senior Team meeting. I immediately got up from my chair to chase after her, to try and stop her from entering his office, until I heard what she was crying out, "The DJ on the radio is announcing that this country is being attacked by terrorists! You might want to come and take a look!" We all rushed off to one of the empty classrooms, and immediately set up a television set, and turned it on just in time to see the aircraft slam right into the side of the second Twin Tower. It was an image that I will never forget as long as I draw breath.

I rushed back into my office, and tried desperately to call my husband. Because he worked nights, I knew he'd be home. I quickly learned that ALL of the phone lines were dead, and it was futile to try and contact him, either by land line or by cell phone. So... I did the next best thing. I logged onto AOL Instant Messenger, praying he was online. I can't even begin to tell you how relieved I was when I saw his screen name popping up in response. I asked him if he'd been watching TV, and he said no...that he was busy straightening up from that morning's breakfast, and playing with our then 2-year-old daughter. I told him "Go turn on the TV... NOW! We're being attacked!" He must have thought I'd completely lost my mind (and to be quite honest, I felt like I had just stepped into the middle of some horrible, twisted prank myself), but he complied. When he came back, he typed the words "Oh my God! The Twin Towers are on FIRE!!!" I told him the Pentagon had been hit, too, and that I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but considering all THREE planes departed out of Logan Airport, and they were speculating that The Prudential Center might be the next target, that I wanted him to go get our son out of school .... NOW, and that I would be coming home as quickly as possible. The first thoughts that came to mind were we were experiencing the beginning of World War III, and if there was even a remote chance that we were going to be killed, then I wanted to be hugging my family when I went.

Before leaving, I stopped back into the classroom where we'd set up the television. By this time, co-workers from all departments had filled the room, glued to the set and hanging onto every word and video with growing horror. Just as I positioned myself in a spot where I could see the TV screen, the first Tower collapsed. An uncontrollable gasp escaped from me, and I began to sob. I remembered hearing that, although they were working really hard to get all of the people out of the buildings, there were many who hadn't emerged yet. I also recalled that there was a Preschool located on the first floor of one of the buildings. So... I sobbed for all those people...those ordinary people who were just going to work or attending school...whose only mistake that morning was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I sobbed for all of those lives senselessly and carelessly lost.

Soon after, I went back to my office, gathered up my things, and bolted out of work. I made it to the bus terminal a few short minutes later, fighting my way through the throngs of people who were making a mass exodus from their own jobs, their own classes, their own "normal" lives... to make it home to their own loved ones. Of course, my husband all but insisted that he would come and pick me up from work, but I demanded that he stay home with our son and daughter.... if anything happened, I wanted the three of them to be together, at the very least.

As most who take public transportation know, a bus is usually buzzing with people chatting with one another, or talking on their cell phones, or listening to their iPods. But, on this day, EVERYONE who had a cell phone had theirs plastered to their ears... either trying desperately to get through to their loved ones, or talking to people on the other end. Those who weren't on their phones were listening to the radio that the bus driver had on board with him. Some were crying, some were praying, but we were all quiet and still. It was one of the most eerie things I'd ever experienced.

It seemed to take forever to get to my stop, and as soon as I exited the bus, I RAN home, flung open the front door, and tore up the stairs. I don't think I ever hugged anyone for so long, or so tightly, as I did my children and husband when I walked through our front door!

Of course, along with the rest of America (and the majority of the world), we were glued to the television for the rest of the evening, watching the madness unfold right before our very eyes. It was clear that history was being made that day, and that the world, as we knew it, would never be the same again.

I prayed that my kids would grow up to understand exactly what happened to all of us on that day, and that none of us would ever grow complacent enough to carry on our lives without remembering all of those innocent people whose lives were taken away on that day. I know I will NEVER forget.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yet Another "Tag" Response (from Michelle, This Time! :)

I actually don't mind doing these... it makes me feel so loved! Shhhhh...don't tell anyone, though! :)

4 places I go often:
Market Basket
the park

4 people who email regularly:
Karen H.
Karen T.

4 places I love to eat:
The Border Cafe
Macaroni Grille
On The Border

4 places I'd rather be:
At the beach (didn't make it there ONCE again this summer! :(
On a cruise (after the hurricane season is over though...naturally)
Touring Europe
In bed (headed there after this!)

4 TV shows I watch:
Grey's Anatomy
Boston Legal

4 people I tag:

Now....I'm off to do some snoozin'. 'Nighty noodles! :)

The (Updated) Definition of Beauty

"Mom, is it my hair that makes me beautiful, or my body?"

My 9-and-three-quarters, prepubescent daughter posed that question to me one morning last week, while I was fixing her hair for school.

I was so surprised to hear those words coming out of my completely unconceited, self-professed tomboy's mouth, that I was rendered speechless. But only momentarily.

My response to her was one that not only rings true in my heart now, but one that I want her to earnestly believe. "Sweetie, it's not the assets you have that make you beautiful.... it's who you are, as a person, that makes you beautiful. A person could be the most stunning creature on the face of the Earth, but if they have a nasty, cold-hearted, conniving, selfish personality, it makes them completely ugly."

She agreed with me, and we finished up fixing her hair and were on our way.

It got me thinking, though, about the various concepts of beauty I've been awestruck by over the years. In particular, I've realized that my ideals in terms of beautiful men have changed.

In my teens and early 20's, I used to think men like these were beautiful:

Andrew Stevens

Rex Smith

Robbie Benson

Tom Cruise

John F. Kennedy, Jr.

And.....uhm.....oh, yeah.... this guy:

Beautiful? Sure, these guys were all pretty darned aesthetically pleasing. I swooned over them, had their pictures plastered all over my walls (and even kissed a few of them goodnight, before I travelled off to the Land of Nod). But, I was always reasonably intelligent enough to know that these men were completely unattainable to a girl of my "average" caliber. I wasn't a cheerleader, or a starlet, or a model, and I certainly didn't run in the same circles as any of these young men. So, I was resigned to admire their beauty from afar.

Yes, I did date my fair share of real-life "beautiful men" in my younger years, as well. Men who, although incredibly good looking, had lacked the social skills, intelligence levels, or charming grace that were necessary for me to find them attractive for very long. Most of them spent all of their spare time looking in the mirror. Their narcissistic love affairs always made me feel like a third wheel in these relationships, and they always seemed to end with my heart cut to shreds, and laid out to filth.

It wasn't until I grew older (and really worked on how to love myself), that I discovered that I was worthy of a love that went far beyond the realm of good looks. It was only then that I found a man who was not only physically appealing, but who also knew how to treat me with consideration, kindness, honesty and respect. And, quite frankly, I honestly feel he is the most beautiful man I've ever known.

I guess the moral of this story is that, even though my daughter will go through her "beauty as vanity" stage... with her current pretty-boy crushes being these guys:

Zac Efron

The Jonas Brothers

(An aside: To demonstrate how my girls are currently swooning over these guys, as I was pulling up pictures, BOTH of them saw the one with the JoBros, and LITERALLY started squealing behind me; "Oooh, Mom! The JONAS BROTHERS!!! What are you looking at? Can I see? Can I? Can I puhllleeeaaaazzzzeeee??" And the beat goes on! :)

I only hope my daughter doesn't get too hurt before she realizes what her version of real beauty is.

But, I doubt that she will. Because my 9-and-three-quarters Missy is an amazing soul. She sees the good in everyone and everything. She's got one of the most lovable, kindest hearts I've ever witnessed, and really does give every single person a fighting chance, and befriends people for no other reason than because of who they are.

Not to mention she's got beautiful, ice blue eyes, a smile that lights up a room, and a face that, when it reaches its full maturity, will stop traffic.

She's also got gorgeous hair, and a killer body.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back-To-School, Round Two

Today was back-to-school day for R., and N's second "official" day of high school. So, it was a bit rough getting used to moving two bodies along this morning! After we dropped R. off, S. played in the park for a bit, before I had to go to the dentist's to get a cleaning. Then, I had to drop off the final two pieces of paperwork necessary for S. school, and drop off the completed roll of back-to-school pics at Walgreen's (which I'll share privately in a bit, via e-mail).

We came home, and my mom came up to ask how R's morning went. She and I chatted for awhile, then when she left I got some laundry in downstairs, before needing to head BACK to the school to pick R. up (I was so freakin' afraid I'd get busy and totally forget what time it was, so I kept looking at the clock every five minutes!). R. and S. played in the park (again), and then we went back to Walgreen's so I could pick up my pictures (too cute, I tell ya! :), and then to the supermarket to pick up some milk and N's prescription.


What a day!

And it's not over yet. I still have to go through R's backpack, get clothes out and ironed for tomorrow, get R. into the shower and help her with the conditioner (she can never reach the ends of her hair), then dry her hair after dinner, make N. a lunch (R's all set with her free lunches for this year), get washed up..... and then collapse!

Tomorrow should be a lot better. It'll be easier to deal with the two of them, and I won't have so much pressure after school 'cause of the weekend.

I don't know who's more zonked... them, or ME! :)        

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Well, The Worst Is Over (Or At Least I Hope!)

I am so not a morning person. I never have been. I can remember one summer, in my early teen years (before the age of working summer jobs), when I could hear my dad's alarm clock going off while I was watching TV.

But, as we all know, being a mom brings with it the automatic need to VERY quickly adapt to being a morning person. Little people are just early birds, by nature. It's a bit freakish to me, especially since they're the fruit of my loins, but the youngin's are always up at the crack of dawn, nonetheless, clamoring for food and drink like a soldier out on a three-day-pass.

So, I knew this morning I'd be in for a rude awakening (no pun intended), when I asked my husband to get me up at 6:30 a.m. I wanted to be sure to be up and at least physically vertical when my son left our house for his very first day of high school.

Not only was I surprised to see my son awake and mobile (he's grown to be a vampire, just like his Mama), but he was also relatively chipper this morning. An untrained eye would have to look really closely to see it (especially when his only full sentence to me this morning was, "Where are my clothes?"), but I know him like a book, and I could sense his excitement.

I passed him his (ironed) school clothes, and waited for him to be finished so I could take a few pictures before he headed out the door to wait for his bus. All the while, I was trying desperately to insert an IV into my arm, so I could pump my body full of coffee. I knew I was going to need it today, that's for sure!

I held it together pretty well.... until the moment when my little one and I were standing in front of one of her bedroom windows, looking out onto the street and waiting to see my son and my husband pass by as they walked to the bus stop. I saw him walk by, and fought back the tears. It was so surreal... to be stroking the head of my 3-year-old, and seeing my oldest go off to high school. It feels like just yesterday when I was stroking HIS 3-year-old head, looking out the window to watch for Daddy, coming home from work. That felt like last week sometime. And now, he's accomplished his first day of high school! Unbelievable.

He said he enjoyed it, even though it was a bit overwhelming. The campus is both gorgeous and HUGE (82 acres total), so it's naturally going to take him several days to really get to know where all of his classrooms are, as well as the lunchroom, the library, the restrooms, the computer room, etc. I'll give him a few weeks, and he'll be an old pro.

Tomorrow will be his first full day, when his "real" classes start. Once tomorrow's over, I'll be a little less on edge, just knowing he made it through, found all of his classes, and is getting more comfortable with the school and his surroundings.

And then maybe, I'll be able to sleep until 7:00 or so. Still not late enough to my liking, but hey... I gotta fetch those Cheerios for the clamoring kiddos! :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Last Day of Summer Vacation Marks The Beginning of The Fall Flurry (and a Correction....)

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Today marks the beginning of the Fall Flurry for our household. From the beginning of September, to the end of February, we're right out straight, and those six months just FLY by! Here are the notable dates:

September 2 -- N. starts school (Freshman in high school)
September 4 -- R. starts school (4th grade)
September 19 - S. has her "meet the teacher" day at school
September 23 - S. starts her first day of preschool
September 30 - N's. 14th birthday (with some kind of plan for celebration involved, including a cake on his birthday with us here at home)
October 30 - My husband's and my 15th wedding anniversary (we don't usually do much to celebrate this, but it's coming, just the same)
October 31 - Halloween (of course all you moms know what goes into planning all this!)
November 27 - Thanksgiving (we usually have Thanksgiving here every day, which means I spend all day Wednesday baking and cleaning, and all day Thursday cooking, cleaning... and collapsing!)
November 28 - Christmas shopping day (gotta take advantage of all those sales!)
December 25 - Christmas (this holiday is actually focused on all month long... between the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, the cooking... it's insanity at its best!)
December 26 - R.'s 10th birthday (we also have a party here for her every year, about two weeks before her birthday, and have a cake for her on her birthday)

January something - the Yankee Swap and kid's grab swap for my family (since there are so many of us, being pulled in so many different directions on Christmas Day, we don't typically all see each other. So, sometime in January we have a Yankee Swap for the adults, and a kid's grab for the kids. This is also typically held at my house, but at least it's pot luck, so I don't have to cook EVERYTHING, thank goodness!)
February 22 - S's. 4th birthday (again, we have a party for her sometime in February, with a cake for her on her birthday)

And of course, in between all of those dates is all of the planning, preparation, shopping, stressing, decorating, and detailing that goes into every single one! See why it's such a flurry??

How about you guys? What is your fall/winter season like? Are you as crazy as I am, or does it just pass by you, relatively unnoticed?

On another note, I have to make a correction regarding my last week's weight loss. I gotta tell ya... math has never been my strong suit, and I got my total loss for the week all wonky. I only lost 2.4 pounds in a week (hey... I'll still take it! :). This past week, I lost 2.6 pounds, for a total of five pounds!

We're thinking about using the guest passes I won and taking the kids to the N.E. Aquarium today. We'll have to see how the day unfolds. Guess that means I have to get dressed, huh? ;)

P.S. -- I got your Google tag, Natalie, and I tried to complete it LATE last night. I was halfway into it, when all of a sudden, my computer "blinked", and when the Blogger screen came back, it was BLANK! AAAARRRRRGGGHHH! I'll complete it soon, I promise.