Lucky Number Seven

Seven. Many say seven is a lucky number. It is, indeed, a popular number. There are seven days in a week, seven Dwarfs in Snow White, seven continents, seven virtues to live by, seven deadly sins to avoid, seven colors in the rainbow, and there are Seven Wonders of the World.

Most important to me, there is a special boy, Cooper, who is now seven.

This past year has produced so many laughs and good memories. Many things have changed and some have stayed the same. My name of Mudder is now Mom (or Big Stace when you are being funny), you don’t hold my hand as much, but you still love Momma Radio (me singing you to sleep). You still love to sing and dance. In my face, in the car, in the shower-ALL THE TIME. You play the same songs over and over on your iPad. You sing your little heart out to “To Kill a Word” by Eric Church and Charlie Puth’s “One Call Away.” You love Bruno Mars “That’s What I Like,” the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Fireball” by Pitbull. You have discovered the 1994 Tootsie Roll, but in the song intro you say “1894”-I doubt anyone was tootsie rolling in 1894. You also spent a few weeks this year shouting, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart by Jackie DeShannon.” You had a short stint at guitar lessons, but said you were bored with learning the strings you wanted to just rock-n-roll. We will give it another try later.

You have learned a lot this year such as how to dive, backstroke, and be a better swimmer. You can ride a bike without training wheels. You are still kicking it in soccer. I love that your bold heart matches the bold, crazy soccer socks you wear each game. You apparently met a soccer coach from Notre Dame during a recent summer camp and told him you were going to play on his team. You started Futsal this year and loved it.

Your favorite shows to watch over and over include the Three Amigos, Harry and the Henderson’s, SING, Little Big Shots, Tom and Jerry, and Animal Fight Night-anything National Geographic.

You love being with your cousin-he is your bestest bud.You have such fun playing with your neighborhood friends-you all are making so many good memories together with Legos, Nerf guns, slip-n-slides, and popsicles. Your all-time favorite playmate and hero is still Dad.

You are obsessed with your grandparent’s dog, Moxie. You and that West Highland white terrier are kindred spirits.

You added Pokémon cards, fidget spinners, and Beyblades to your likes. You have an extensive collection of weird things such as a turtle shell, a rabbit foot, reptile feet, and unique rocks and seashells.

You are still full of questions. When you do not think I am giving you the correct answer or if I don’t happen to know how many hours it is to your birthday, when it is months away-you just say, “Give me your phone, I’ll just ask Siri.”

You like to tuck all of your shirts in, even when I tell you sometimes it looks dorky. You have got into the fad of having a design shaved in your hair.

Speaking of hair, you have a comb over technique that you have started that I try to fix before you walk out the door each day. You have lost seven teeth and have one barely hanging on.

 

We have had many adventures in places such as Florida, Alabama, Indiana, and Tennessee to name a few.

We have watched Monster Trucks, canoed, roller-skated, ice-skated, built sand castles, shot pellet guns, bowled, rode go carts, and played miniature golf. We conquered the State Fair. We visited the Huntsville Space Center, as well as many other museums and aquariums. We have explored caves, seen waterfalls, and hiked. We visited Rock City and you thought it was the coolest. We survived an animal safari where you were bit by a zonkey (zebra + donkey). On the safari, I was stalked by a creepy emu and your Dad was licked by the world’s largest buffalo. What a wildly fun adventure. We have jumped on trampolines and in bounce houses. You are a master at laser tag. On your bucket list is to visit the Leaning Tower of “Pizza.” You are going to be disappointing to learn it is Pisa.

You have picked everything from boogers and scabs to strawberries and honeysuckles. You melt my heart when you ring the doorbell and say “special delivery dear mother” and have a flower or a weed you have picked just for me.

You started Kindergarten this year. I will always remember picking you up with Mimzi (grandmother) on the first day of school. When you hopped in the car, we were both anxious to learn about your first day. I said, “how was your first day of kindergarten?” To which you replied, “some kid trashed talked me in the bathroom line and said the “a” word.” When I asked what the “a” word was, it was actually a word that started with an “s”-but hey, that’s what kindergarten is for, right?

You love the days when you are an car rider after school. You are a math whiz. You are learning to read. You have learned to tie your shoe. You have learned the Seven Habits and use them against me at times. You learned about being a bucket filler or a bucket dipper. You received an award for being a bucket filler-that made me proud. You won an award for citizenship and math. You’re a good friend. You will not stand for bullying. You love theme days at school. You have two Os in your name and you discovered you can make a smiley face out of your name by using the Os for eyes. I taught you to write sentence by using two fingers to make a space-to separate the words. When you first started reading you would say the “two finger space” dog “two finger space” ran “finger space” away “period.” 

You aspire to be a zookeeper or a scientist who makes potions. Your current plans are to live with me forever and have two boys named Campbell and Carter (after your favorite twins) and a girl named Kendall (not sure where that one came from). We really hope the babies’ Momma is in the picture and you have your own house where I don’t feel like a zookeeper.

You love traditions like looking at Christmas lights in the park and Valentine’s dinner, to name a few. You had a blast this year placing For Sale and Welcome Home Baby signs in our families’ yards for April Fools.

 

You are a master of iPad games, love Face-timing your family and your grandparent’s dog. You have us in stitches with Snapchat pictures and videos you create. You know about Amazon Prime and track my orders for me. You are your neighborhood buddies have been talking about starting a Nerf Gun Youtube channel.

Food wise, not much has changed. You have added French toast and “momma chips” (Stacy chips-which are named after me) to your mix. You have consumed a least a field or two full of strawberries and watermelon this year. You love to make coffee on Saturdays for your parents-you have perfected your brew-but it is still strong.

You are quick whited and funny. You see the world in a simple, loving, adventurous way. While on vacation this year, you witnesses for the first time, a homeless person. I tried to have a great parenting moment and explain what was going on and why. You replied, “nah, I think they just ran out of energy on vacation and needed a nap and some food.” I wish the world would stay that simple for you. You love big and your best days are spent with your immediate and extended family.

Today, my spoon is full of the all the great memories and adventures from year six and excitement for being the lucky one who gets to share seven with you.

Walking Away

As a Mom and an education professional the beginning of this school year looked different for me than the start of school years passed. This school year was different because my five year old son started a new school. I started the school year on a scooter after having surgery on my ankle. Instead of driving my son to school and myself to work, my mother picked us both up and delivered us to our destinations…kind of like the old days when I was a child and she was my taxi; except we are older and an extra mini-me is tagging along in a carseat.

I was determined to “walk” my son into this new building with new faces and new ideas…that’s what mom’s do, right? So my Mom would pick us up each morning, drive us to my son’s school, and unload the scooter so I could “walk”, I mean “roll,” my son into school. Then my mom would load me up and take me to work and unload me again. I would roll away, dreaming of day I can walk away from the car on my own without assistance.  After about two and half months, I was cleared to walk again and our routine returned to normal.  I walked away.

On scooter or feet, there were many days at the beginning of the school year, when I walked my son into school and he held my hand tight or clung on to me because goodbyes can be hard (and kids are generally experts at guilt tripping parents). There were days he clung to my neck like a chimpanzee and days my skirt felt like it might fall to my knees from him tugging on me.  After dropping him off at school, I would get in my car and on the way to work worry about him. Luckily, my drive time worries were short lived with less than a mile drive to my place of work and the realities of my workday smacking in the face as soon as I enter the doors. But, on the short drive and throughout the day I worried about how long this behavior would keep up? Was he not transitioning well? Was there something I was missing? Shouldn’t he be outgrowing the clingy stage? And on and on the questions grew within my heart and mind.

For the first months of schools, we kept our routine up each morning, me talking about how big boys act at drop off and shoving him onto an activity with his friends or into the arms of his teacher as I dropped him off. I bribed him with ice-cream treats and other rewards if he acted like a big boy.  And then one day, it happened. I walked him into his classroom and he just walked away without a kiss, hug, or a goodbye. No tears. No chimpanzee moves. Nothing. I was stuck between the two conflicting universes of happy and sad. Should I skip out of the school singing or mope out crying? I think I skipped out of the building and then I cried.

Then a few days later, something bigger happened. We pulled up to his school one morning, I parked the car to get him out, and he said “Mom, I am going in by myself today. Just stay in the car.” To which I replied “well, I will walk you across the parking lot to the building and get the door for you.” And he replied to my suggestion with “No, I don’t want you to. I got this Modder (Mother).” So off he went across the parking lot with a bounce in his step wearing his oversized backpack and carrying his lunchbox. I watched him walk away.

As I watched him walk away, I recorded the moment in my forever memory bank. I played it over and over in my head for days to come as I thought about his new found behavior…his new freedom to walk away.

The remainder of our morning drop offs this year, go something like this. He unbuckles his car seat and hops out of the car. I help him put his backpack on and give him his lunch box. He gets a big hug and kiss from me. As he walks away, I yell out “I love you, have a great day, and make good choices.” Without turning around he yells back, “Okay, I love you too and I will. Okay Mom.” I watch him walk away from me and bounce with pep in his step to his next adventure. I walk away and I get in the car, close the door and my heart says a silent prayer of thanks for him with a universal request that the world is gentle on him today. And, let’s face it, that he will be gentle on the world, too. Each time he walks away, I can’t wait to hear about his great adventures on the other side of his day.

Not too long after he started walking into school on his own, I captured this video to remember the feelings and emotions I experienced of him walking away.

I have thought about the emotions associated with walking away. I know my Mom was happy to see me walk away and not have to haul me around anymore as a teenager and as an adult on a scooter, but she was probably also a little sad that she wasn’t needed in that same capacity any longer. It seems that society has programmed us to think of walking away with sadness and loss. Walking away has a bad connotation to it- it makes us feel like we are giving up, calling it quits, or losing something. When I think about moments I have walked away, for good/happy reasons or failure/sad reasons, it seems that happiness always emerged eventually. So maybe walking away isn’t so bad and it really is about seizing the next opportunity, rather than losing something you are walking away from in that moment. Maybe what you are walking into is more exciting, than the loss of what you are walking away from.

It’s my job to teach my son when and how to walk away. There will be various forms of chimpanzees that want to hold on to his neck to hold him back and prevent him from moving forward. Heck, there will be a day when I am senile and I might act like a chimpanzee. However, I want him to know the strength of being able to walk away and listen to his inner voice that says “I got this.”

There will be lots of times, this precious boy of mine will walk away. This life is his journey to walk, not mine. Really, I am just fortunate to be along for the ride…even if my view is his backside walking away. I hope I am lucky enough to see him walk away to his new big school next year, to middle school, to high school, and on to college (if any Notre Dame reps are reading this-he has plans for a soccer scholarship so just call us because we can commit early). I want to experience the joy and excitement when he walks away from me and onto opportunities like field trips, special adventures, traveling the globe, and serving others. I look forward to seeing him walk away from me and walk down the on isle to commit to the love of his life, to his first job, to go meet his first born, and all the other life moments HIS journey holds. A journey that includes many stops that are his to walk without me.

Today my spoon is full of anticipation of when I get a chance to walk with him like old times. For example, like when his valentine box was just too much too carry and he needed my help or when we had two dozen cupcakes to drop off at school. I proudly jump out of the car and walked with him.

Full Hands, Full Heart

What are little boys made of? According to a 19th century nursery rhyme

          What are little boys made of?

          Snips and snails    

         And puppy-dogs’ tails,

         That’s what little boys are made of.

The same rhyme states that little girls are made out of sugar, and spice, and everything nice. As a girl, I would have to agree. As a mom of a boy I can attest that on top of the snips of just about anything snippable, snails, and puppy dog tails that little boys are full of sugar, spice, and everything nice as well.  Mothering has allowed me to learn a lot about boys…and inadvertently I have a better understanding of grown men. Having a boy was meant to be for me. I think I must have had an intuition that I would raise a son. When we were thinking about starting a family, my husband and I only had a boy’s name in mind. The night before our ultrasound to determine the gender, I dreamed the baby was a boy…and indeed it was clear by the very first ultrasound picture our baby was a bouncing baby boy. I should have known by all of his kicking and squirming during my pregnancy, that I had an adventurous fellow on my hands. As a matter of fact, he punched and kicked me so much when I went into the hospital to be induced, it turned out to be more than him kickboxing my internal organs…I was already in labor and didn’t know it. He was ready to discover the world…he has always been a step ahead of me.

While he has spent the last five years discovering this grand world, I have had the opportunity to rediscover its beauty and simplicity through him. The last few years have been filled with my son saying hundreds of times “Mommy, look!” and then each squeal of excitement for me to look is usually followed by his hands opened wide to show me his newest discovery. I will admit, sometimes when he has been too quiet for too long, I meet him with a little hesitation afraid of what I might see. When this started occurring on a regular basis, I started taking pictures of his hands each time. I wanted to savor the moment because it meant more to me than just seeing a turtle, frog, or a bird. Luckily, we haven’t picked up a snake…YET.

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In all of his discovery and my picture taking, I was reminded how much I love those little hands that grow in size and bravery each and every day. Those little hands are the sugar, spice, and everything nice…the gateway to his curiosity, imagination, and heart. They are the hands that stole my heart. On the days that my hands are full with love, life, and work, his tiny hands remind me to keep an open heart and mind, as well as, to see the beauty in the moment – to “look” at what surrounds me at THAT moment rather than what is behind me or before me.

He uses his tiny hands to stuff his little cheeks full of watermelon, to pray, to make messes, to dig in the dirt, to discover the world around him, to share, to clap, to play games, maybe pick his nose when I am not looking (ughh), make funny dance moves, etc. He loves to use his hands to color, paint, and make creations out of Legos, towel rolls, rocks, and sand. I love when he reaches his hands out to me for a hug. I love how he twirls his fingers in my hair when we snuggle. I love holding his sticky, dirty hands. My hands and heart are full, thanks to this little guy.

His hands remind me of a quote by Taisen Deshimaru, a Buddhist teacher which states “Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.” I strive to teach him to always have his hands open to explore, to help others, and to make a positive mark on this big that world we all share.  I hope his excitement for life, for discovery, for people, for nature doesn’t wain as he grows. I hope he always extends a hand to help others, and has the wisdom to know when he needs to accept a helping hand. I hope he knows when to use his hand to give someone a pat on the back and occasionally, give himself one. I hope when life deals him a bad “hand” that he will find the beauty in the ugliness and not close his hands and heart-only feeling the grit. Mostly, it is my hope that I raise him with open hands to share with the world so that he is free to find his place in this world, that I find joy in his discovery, and I don’t feel the grit of the years passing us by so quickly.

Today, my spoon is full of a handful of lessons learned from snips, snails…and a boy begging to add a puppy dog tail to our house.

A special thank you to our daycare

This week was my 5 year old son’s last week at his daycare/preschool. He has been counting down to his next adventure to kindergarten with excitement. Each morning he says,” how many more days, Mom? Sarcastically followed by “are you going to cry on my last day because you are sad I am growing up?” I told him I would not cry even though I knew I probably would (And…I did!). My how time flies. It really is bittersweet. The bitterness of life’s fleeting moments and the sweetness of new experiences for him in “big boy” school.

I remember visiting his daycare while I was pregnant with him. The owner showed me around the entire daycare from the bed baby to the preschool rooms. I have this memory in my mind’s eye of glancing into the preschool room where I saw children playing with friends, back packs hung on the wall, and kidos doing an activity using kid scissors. As I peered into the classroom I remember thinking to myself “wow those kids are so big and that it would be forever before we are in this room.” Forever turned out to be a very very short five years.

My son started attending his daycare at 8 weeks old. I am pretty sure the first day I dropped him off I had a typed listed featuring everything you need to know about my son. I am also sure the teacher thought I was nuts. I remember sitting in the parking lot and shedding a tear the day I dropped him off at daycare for the first time. I cried because it was my first time leaving him. Truth be told, I may have shed a tear or two of relief because it was the first day in 8 weeks he wasn’t screaming at me (see previous post about colic). He didn’t scream at daycare-he waited until I picked him up. True love.

This is a picture of my son on his first day at daycare.

First Day at Daycare September 13, 2010

First Day at Daycare
September 13, 2010

And…here is his picture on the last day of daycare. He looks a little different in this big old chair now.

Last Day at Daycare August 7, 2015

Last Day at Daycare
August 7, 2015

This blog post serves as a special thank you to his teachers and the owner over the last five years. You each hold a special place in this chapter of our lives. This is why you all are so great:

  • You helped teach him some of the most important life lessons-sharing, caring, taking your turn, manners, and the list goes on and on.
  • You always communicated with me about my son’s day with you.
  • You developed, within my son, a love for learning and exploration with classroom visits from community helpers, like policeman and firemen, and daily hands on activities.
  • You make learning your ABCs, 123s, animals, songs, and rhythms so much more fun than I could have ever made it. As a matter of fact I have relearned a few things myself. For example, I can’t get “bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” out of my head this week. Last week it was “boom chicka boom.”
  • You have helped him create arts and crafts that I will always treasure.
  • You provided assurance about the stages in the life of a small child. We survived colic, a year stint of my son biting like a vampire, multiple dislocated elbows (to no fault of the daycare) and potty training together.
  • You have high expectations for my child.
  • You provided encouragement, comfort, love to my child.
  • You helped teach him how to be a good friend, student, and helper.
  • You helped him understand right and wrong and good and bad choices.
  • You were made by a greater power to love and teach children.
  • You are a beautiful example of women lifting up other women.

It takes a village to raise a child and our daycare is a part of my family’s village. As important as this place has been to my child, they have been equally important to me. They have greeted me with a smile and open arms EVERY day. Days when I am on time. Days when I run late. Days when life is perfect. Days when I am tired, don’t feel well, or want to quit. They have provided me the confidence I need each day to know my son is safe, happy, and learning. That confidence allows to go to work and spend my days empowering others in my profession.

This week my son and I were talking about the new building, teachers, and friends that come with kindergarten. During the discussion he said “sometimes when you try something new, it’s scary but you just be brave and it turns out good, right?” Sometimes I think he is wise beyond his years. With a positive attitude like that, I assured him that great things are in store for him. As we transition to the next phase of my son’s educational journey. These years at daycare/preschool will always have a special place in my family’s hearts. For this experience I am grateful.

As we drove out of the daycare parking lot on our last day, I wiped a tear from my eye and then I heard my son say “this air conditoning in the car is making my eyes cry a little (such a tough guy). When do I get to go back and visit?” I knew then he understand the great experience he had there.

Today my spoon is full of many great memories of our special daycare experience and the friends we have made along the way.

My Sonshine is FIVE!

I Am 5

I Am 5

To my Sonshine:

Did you really turn five yesterday? Yes, it is true. I tell you daily that I get a phone call from Jesus and he tells me that you have to stop growing at four years old and just stay my four-year old forever. You laugh every time, like it’s the first time that you have heard me say that and you always say “I’m turning five and getting big, Mooooommmmm” followed by “Jesus doesn’t know your phone number, does he?” There are lots of fun memories from this year that I will always cherish.

You still rely on macaroni and cheese, fettuccine Alfredo, strawberries, apples, watermelon, yogurt, and honeybuns (Honey Bunnies as you call them) to survive. You have added deli turkey, steak, and root beer (thanks Mimzi) to your diet. You like carrot cake cakepops…so that is one “vegetable” in the mix, right?

You are so smart. You say SO many funny things, I cannot possibly write them all down. Your Cooperisms keep me laughing…actually your words keep anyone who knows you laughing. Here are a few of my favorites from this year:

  • In the wintertime, you put your “hook” on each morning…aka your jacket “hood.”
  • You say funny, endearing things to me like “yes dearest mother” “my sweet love” and “my precious baby girl”…these usually come out of your mouth when you are headed to timeout.
  • You have a combined the word mustache and beard to create the term “mushbeard.”
  • The first joke you told (which I am not sure where you heard it) was “What does a butt crack say when it wakes up? Crack a doodle doo.”
  • You have asked me if there is a Mother’s and Father’s Day, when will it be Kid’s Day. As if every day isn’t about you at our house.
  • You spent most of the month of February talking about “Beaver Day” which was supposed to be Groundhogs Day.
  • Anything taking over 1 second is “forrrrrrever!”
  • During a conversation in an airport bathroom stall, you had the women in the stalls next to us laughing when we had an impromptu discussion about “pirate parts”…aka private parts. Needless to say, I did not want to exit the stall.
  • You have learned to look both ways when crossing a street, so you “don’t get flat.”
  • You tell me “You drive me crazy like a car” when I ask you too many questions about your day.
  • You told me you wanted to be a “Rine” (Marine) like your Dad and fight the bad guys. I told you that you couldn’t because I wouldn’t let you go far away to a war. You replied that you were “big enough” and a few minutes later came back and asked me “how do I get home from being a rine.” I think you are worried about missing your Mommy.
  • You like to talk out loud in public about people making “bad choices” to smoke or have their undergarments showing. These usually take place at Wal-Mart.

You love your family, your cousin “Tole” (Cole), and you love adventure. We have had lots of adventures this year. We have seen Disney on Ice, which you told me was boring; I agree. We have seen Marvel Superheroes Live which you loved. We have ridden on planes, trains, bicycles, ski lifts, escalators, elevators, amusement park rides, and horses. We had a blast on our Disney vacation. You loved the water rides at all the parks and thought it was so funny when I got soaked (like dripping wet) and you and your Daddy didn’t. When we got stuck on “It’s a Small World” we all started to go mad after a few minutes of hearing the famous It’s a Small World song over and over.

We have picked pumpkins, apples, and honeysuckles. We have swam, played soccer, and started our newest adventure “ninja school” (karate). We have camped (uggh), visited museums, watched movies, and went tubing. We have made snowmen and built sand castles. You love bounce houses and laser tag. You love being at Poppa’s farm. You love anything outdoors, especially if it involves water.

You love when Mom occasionally goes out-of-town for work and you and Dad have “boy time”. You love to play with your Dad-he’s your best bud. You like to pretend shave with Dad while he is shaving and spray (soak yourself) in his cologne to “smell good”. You have a cowlick that I spend each morning trying to tame…we usually concede and just turn it into a mohawk. You still love my snuggles and like me to sing you to sleep-occasionally.

You love Star Wars, Curious George, Horton Hears a Who, Happy Feet, and Ninja Warriors. You enjoy hanging out on our Hammock. You can make a stick into just about any kind of weapon. You play on my iPhone. You have more apps than I do on my iPhone. You have your own folder of “Cooper’s Jams” in my iTunes. We have listened to and sang at the tops of our lungs, Uptown Funk You Up, Boys Round Here, Little Red Wagon, Beyond Me, Who Let the Dogs Out, Roar, Stronger, and Gangam Style until I cringe every time it comes on…again. Some night we fall asleep watching YouTube videos of funny cats, Herman the Worm, or Boom Chicka Boom.

We had some tough conversations this year. Our cat of fifteen years passed away. It was our first talk about dying. You had lots of questions. You thought it was “so rude that Jesus would take your cat and not give it back.” When we visited family graves for Memorial Day, you had lots of questions for me about what do dead people do under the ground, is there a city under there where they eat and play, and wondered if they come out at night like zombies. Such a complicated subject for a little mind…heck it is complicated for an adult mind. You have learned that some kids don’t get to live with their mom and dads and other people get to love on them and be their parents.

You have shown me your kind heart by giving to others, you have brought me flowers, bugs, and all kinds of critters. Thanks to your Mimzi, we have a miniature Gnome garden in the landscaping at our house. I swore I would never have yard art! You love the Gnomes and rearrange them regularly.

You still have your hermit crab and haven’t noticed yet that one kicked the bucket while we were on vacation (he’s asleep in his shell, right?). You have stopped carrying and sleeping with your “blue” blanket and “Brown” the bear. You have become quite the photographer. I love when you grab my cell phone or camera and take pictures-everyone always smiles for you without hesitation. You have lots of questions and you pretty much talk ALL the time. Some days, I have to ask you to just rest your voice for a minute so my brain can catch up with you.

You have shared with me an amazing fourth year. I love seeing the person you are growing into. You bring me joy each day. I love being your “Mom” because you no longer call me “Mommy”. Dad and I love living life with you and making memories each day.

Today my spoon is full of lots of fond memories of year number four and ready for the spoonful of life year five will bring.

Presence: Life’s Present

We have all savored something. Maybe it was the taste of a fine glass of wine, a made from scratch dish from a family recipe, or a scrumptious dessert. In that moment of savoring you think, “mmmm” this is the peak of excellence that you want to remember. There is much to savor about life that is not related to just food. Perhaps it’s a destination checked off the bucket list, the moment you say “I do”, the first time you glance at your newborn child, a graduation, a milestone, the sun setting or rising, or the glow of a summer or winter day. You know one of those moments, even if the world is not perfect-for that moment in time life feels, taste, or seems perfect. I have found that on the best of days, life is perfectly imperfect and that you can savor the perfection in imperfection.

My life always provides bountiful topics to blog about. However, I have not been writing as much as I typically have in the past. Why? Mainly, because I am just savoring. I have reached a stride where I am enjoying motherhood by savoring rather than sharing the moment. I have always loved the job of mom, but I am particularly fond of being a mom to a three-year old. For us, year three (only 2 months left until four years old) has been a good one. The kind of year that makes you wonder when the bottom is going to fall out because the journey has just been so fun. My toddler has had good health, we have gone over a year without a dislocated elbow (I stopped counting at the 7th dislocation), he has soaked up a wealth of information, he only follows me to the bathroom 75% of the time, and he acts more human than animal most days. He likes to remind me constantly that he is “growing up” and is “getting bigger” and that he might even be so big when he is “forty” that he will be a “really, really big giant.” Yes, I like the job of mom to a three year old.

One thing I have tried to become more aware of is of my toddler’s presence. Granted, it is hard to miss this funny, rambunctious kid. However, I am talking about the evidence of his presence that I was probably never meant to find. The presence I could have easily wiped off with some type of cleaner, tossed in a tote of toys, or maybe even never noticed. When I started consciously looking for tokens of his presence, I noticed my toddler leaves a trail of his three-year old self everywhere. I know one day, I will terribly miss these sweet tokens because they will be replaced by smelly socks and gym shorts.

Throughout the year, I have been trying to click mental pictures of life with a three year old that I do not want to forget or even worse…overlook. I want the moments with my three year old seared in my memory. In addition to mental pictures, I have been taking iPhone pics of the funnier moments that remind me of my toddler’s presence. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I have discovering them.

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Take time to notice the presence of others and not just in the physical form. You will be pleasantly surprised by the lessons you might learn, the appreciation you might gain, or the joy you may experience. Sometimes the quiet, unexpected, and the seemingly unnoticeable moments show us the most about people and life-becoming a present to our soul. When you are rushing through life it’s hard to see little things that you take for granted. When we take time, even if it’s only for a minute to notice our surroundings, we can truly appreciate our life and those in it.

Today, my spoon is full of presence of a three year old who steals my heart every day.

I Love Fools

Abraham Lincoln once said “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” On that principle, I focus on fooling “some of the people” in my life ALL THE TIME…each April Fools’. I anxiously await April Fools’ to roll around like a kid waits for Santa. Each year I can fool my “some people” which include my family.. .after all, nothing says I love you like making a fool out of you!

My love of April Fools’ comes from my father. I can recall as a child, he always worked very hard to fool one of my aunts. Additionally, the “holiday” was always fun because my maternal grandmother would anxiously await a phone call to hear the stories about how we “got” our April Fools’ victim. Over the years, I have developed my fooling technique to an art form. In fact, so well that my Dad tried to call a truce in 2010 while I was pregnant so I “wouldn’t get hurt.” Nice try, Dad! My family threatens to not accept any form of communication (call, text, written) on April 1st from me. Luckily, they can’t seem to resist me.

My ground rules for fools are nothing mean, hurtful, stinky, or dirty. I only conduct pranks that evoke a good laugh on everybody’s part…or at least almost every one. There are two types of pranks a person can play on April 1st. The first type is the run-of –the mill one I call the old “hot iron strike”…. you strike when the iron is hot.

  • For example, my brother is one of those crazy University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans. Typically, near April Fools’, March Madness has wrapped up and the sport is narrowing in on the Final Four. So because he is cray cray mad with his sports this time of year, I have gotten him year after year on something about the KY Wildcats. “Did you hear so and so broke a leg?” “I can’t believe Tubby is coming back to coach?” “Did you hear Rupp Area caught on fire?” Gullible-party of one, your April Fools’ joke is ready!
  • Another example of a hot iron strike can be illustrated with my husband. Last year, he was very tired on April Fools’ Eve and constantly asking are you going to “get me” or “what are you doing to me tomorrow?” My family lives in fear of this day! We went to bed on the Eve around 11:00 PM. And…he was awakened at 12:01 by his alarm that I set and me saying “April Fools’”. Dead asleep, unsuspecting…you strike.
  • Let’s take this year for another example. My hubs has been very excited that he has gotten off work “on-time” or at least not drowning in work the last couple of days. I noticed he left his laptop in the car when he came home last night. Honestly; I am surprised the laptop doesn’t have a pillow in our bed. I casually inquired if he had any work to do before we went to bed and he said “no”. I then checked his calendar on his iPhone to make sure he wasn’t meeting with anyone clients first thing in the morning on April Fools’. Nope-just a conference call on the calendar. STRIKE-the iron is hot! So, I snuck out to his car, took out his laptop and fitted it with pair of animal print underoos. That laptop patiently waited for him to push her buttons all night until his 7 AM conference call.

The second type of fool, is what makes for a great April Fools, I call this type the “Legendary”…you know the type that families talk about for decades. I can hear it now, “Remember when Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother Edds-Ellis did….” Okay, maybe I won’t be able to hear because I will be a goner by then -but you get the gist of what I am saying about legendary-they are EPIC!! Every now and then, the opportunity to enact a Legendary style fool creeps up on you when you least expect it and other times it takes careful plotting. I typically reserve the legendary status for my father. I know he was fooled if he pretends it didn’t happen and wants to act as if he can’t be fooled-all while secretly pouting. My April Fools’ sensei has now become my favorite victim. So what are some examples of the legendary plots?

  • Probably my all-time favorite on my Dad is when I moved his truck at work. He always parks in the same spot, but lucky for me and unluckily for him I know his key code to the truck door and where he hides his keys. This particular April Fools’ he worked the closing shift so my husband and I sit in the parking lot of his work watching for him as he walked out the door to go home and started looking for his truck in the spot it was always in and it was gone. After he wandered around for a few minutes, he headed to talk to the security guard patrolling the parking lot so we had to break our silence and yell April Fools’.
  • Last year, was my parents first April Fools’ in their new home. The lot they built their home on is unique because along one side of the lot is a brick privacy wall. My parents discussed numerous times about how they got “lucky” to have a lot with a wall that helps enclose a portion of their backyard, how it works well for landscape, etc. So…..I capitalized and wrote an official letter from a fictional city department informing them their wall would be torn down due to road expansion and would take some totally unreasonable time to rebuild. The notice was taped to their front door. I think my Mom and Dad both fell for it because my father wouldn’t answer my phone calls all day that day or the next.
  • Another epic fooling happened today. Last week I notice that my Dad set a cage that is a trap in his front landscaping. Apparently, something has been digging up the mulch in his landscaping and each time he recovers it, this critter clears the area again. So, my Dad decided he would catch this city critter and relocate to his farm. He and my mom have put out lettuce, cat food, a hotdog etc…trying to catch this unknown critter. Well, this April Fools’ they caught something! I took a coon skin hat my parents brought back from a vacation as a gift to my toddler (I promise we have no lineage to Duck Dynasty) and I stuffed it and pinned it to make a shape of a critter. And I lovingly secured a small sign to the critter’s “belly” stating “April Fools’.” My husband dropped it off in the wee hours of the morning on his way to the gym before work. Little did he know at the time he had a little critter in his backpack inside his laptop bag…hehehe.

So you might understand now why my family avoids me and lives in fear on April Fools’ Day. Don’t think I just pick on the men in my family, I believe in equality and I get the women too! And if the truth be told, a co-worker got me this year. And…my husband pulled out my old trick from last year and set my alarm for an earlier time than usual. Even a pro like me can be a victim every now and then! To carry on this family tradition, I started training my son on the art of April Fools’ on the way to preschool this morning. We traded fools on the way to school and practiced on our fool for Dad later tonight. Muwhahha!

Today my spoon is empty…April Fools’! Today my spoon is full of good laughs at some of the people I love fooling all of the time.

Gas Up Your Mini-Vans

Life was easy in a minivan. I don’t drive a minivan nor am I minivan hating on those minivan loving mommas. However, there was a time I drove a minivan-it was my Mom’s. It was a costumed ordered, sleek Mark III Minivan. The hottest minivan on the late 80s or early 90s market, with a pink and grey stripe down the side and lush velvet curtains on the interior windows. Mom, please tell you got a h*ll of a deal on this…looking back it was so ugly. Oh did I forget to mention that it was before I had my driver’s license? I was probably about eleven or twelve when me and a childhood bestie would take my mother’s minivan cruising. We weren’t driving on the road, we were driving on my parents’ property and my uncle’s adjoining property. We had a couple of acres to cruise.

Looking back, I have two thoughts on the minivan adventures. First, why did my mom let me and my friend drive around in her minivan all over her property when we probably hadn’t even hit puberty, let alone have a license to operate a vehicle? I guess she wanted us out of the house. She purchased a lot of fuel to keep us occupied. Second, life was just plain easier in that minivan.

So to take you back to those minivan rides in the late 80s and early 90s…We always wore our seatbelts. There was a safety campaign then to promote wearing seatbelts, so we took that seriously and “buckled up”. Remember the Crash Test Dummies? We probably had lots of hair spray on our tall “mall” bangs and wore neon colored clothing with tight rolled jeans (also sprayed with hairspray to hold the roll). On beautiful days we rolled down the windows. We always listened to our favorite radio station (or cassette tape) which played the latest hits of Madonna, Milli Vanilli, Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, and Janet Jackson. Come to think of it, these artists’ lives were simpler in that minivan, too!

We were living the American dream in that minivan with our “baby” dolls in the back seat. I am pretty sure we didn’t adhere to any car seat laws for our little bundles of plastic. Oops! We had imaginary roads with stop signs, stop lights, etc. We had certain areas that we pretended were drive thru windows for banks, fast food etc. We also pictured ourselves as career women. Our career choices were being teachers and being presidents of a bank that we would own in our spare time.  We both landed in the education profession, but we don’t own any banks. I am not sure why we were intrigued with the banking industry other than we knew there was lots of money in a bank. And, I am sure we thought business suites looked cool and sophisticated. We would drive around for hours (literally) on my parents/uncle’s property. The neighbors and passer byers had to think my mother was losing her mind.  We could go up to 35 mph, without getting yelled at by Mom for driving too fast and then made to return the van to the garage. We really had no plans of where we were going during our drive…just cruising through life. We pretended to drop off the kids at school, cash a check at a bank (this was before ATM cards folks!), and run mom “errands”.  We would pretend our husbands were at work. Thank God we didn’t marry those guys! We giggled and we talked as we lived out our duo fantasy of supposedly working fulltime as a teacher and bank president. Our babies never cried or talked, no cell phones existed, no text, no social media, no blog that needed updating, no GPS, and no bad drivers on the road (just us). Yes, life, love, and parenting sure was easy in that minivan.

This same bestie that I use to cruise with when our feet barely reached the pedals now owns a minivan. She does have some great land for taking a drive, but we haven’t taken her minivan off road…but that might be an idea for escaping reality for a few minutes! If we were to hop in and take a cruise in her minivan, life would look much different than we had anticipated…it actually turned out better than we could have planned. However, I do miss the innocence of the simplicity we expected out of life as moms and as adults. If we were to take her minivan off-roading we would be so excited to have a moment to dedicate to each other to catch up, that we would literally run out of gas before we did conversation topics.

If we were to replay our minvan cruising as adults …here is what it might look like. First, we can now drive on the road legally and go over 35 mph…which is symbolic of life being such a fast pace now and often having more privileges than time. We have many blessings to talk about these days that involve spouses, children, and special interests. However, these days, our kids do cry, get sick, and act less than perfect occasionally (qualities totally inherited from their Dads-just to clarify-that is one dad per family….not of bunch of baby daddies here!). We have days we would generally like to rewind and just do over. We have days we feel like Wonder Women and days we feel like wandering women. My kid is nothing like a plastic baby- he is practically a backseat driver! Imaginary spouses, plastic babies, pretend jobs were much less complicated.  Text and email would be chiming in on our iPhones. We might even take a selfie and update our Facebook status or Instagram. Errands just plain suck as adults and aren’t as fun as we imagined. Hopping in and out of the vehicle a dozen times or going through various drive thru windows just aren’t as glamorous when they hold your day hostage, while you are toting a crying toddler, and using “your” “real” money to pay bills. Gas was cheaper in the 80s, therefore our trip might be shorter this time around. In our childhood minivan, the thought of worry, pain, illness, loss, etc. never crossed our minds. We didn’t understand how to love so much it could hurt at times. We didn’t understand the serious work of raising little people to be positive contributors to the world. We didn’t realize that dates with your sweetheart are few and far between and it’s the little every day moments that mean the most. We didn’t realize there would a national debate on moms who “stay” home and moms who “work” outside of the home (we are all working are butts off!). We didn’t realize the unfortunate cruelty in the world that can unexpectedly blindside you or cause you sleepless nights. Life was simple, easy, good, and fair in that minivan.

Life isn’t as simple, easy, or perhaps as fair as we anticipated…but it sure has been a good ride thus far. I wouldn’t trade all the joys of what this complicated world has bestowed upon us. Let’s gas up your minivan soon, friend. And for those of you who haven’t cruised in a minivan…crank up some 80s music and give it a try with a best friend!

Today my spoon is full of life adventures in a minivan.

When did “trick or treat” become “tramp or treat”?

Trick or Treat. Please be sweet. Give me something good to eat. In a few days children and adults alike will be celebrating Halloween. SONY DSCWhen my son was an infant and we picked out a chicken costume for him, I recall my husband telling me that I better enjoy picking out cutesy costumes for our child because the day would come when our son would aspire to be a superhero, villain, or scary creature. That day has abruptly arrived. Not only did our toddler pick out his costume, he picked ours too! He went back and forth on the Incredibles, Hulk, and Captain America before he nailed down his final pick.  This Halloween we are superheroes-Captain America (toddler), Superman (husband), and Wonder Woman (me). For you comic lovers, I do understand this means two DC characters mated and created a Marvel character, but that’s minor details for a three year old. Honestly, my first selfish reaction to the costumes my toddler selected was to thank the Master of this great universe that I do not have to be Mrs. Incredible “Elastigirl” and wear a skintight red leotard. And this rest of my neighborhood should be thankful too!

Finding a Captain America and Superman costume for the “boys” of the family was a piece of cake…or a real “treat” in Halloween terms. We visited a few online sites, found the costumes with the best sculpted muscles, cape, and fighting accessories-WHALAA! Their costumes arrived in the mail before I even found mine. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, took a little more time and creativity; mainly because it was tough finding a costume that didn’t fall into the category of Wonder Whore.

This costume buying experience has brought to light a whole new dilemma that moms across the globe face this time of year. How do you dress up for Halloween and not look like a trick or a treat if you catch my drift? Mothers, our choices are to look frumpy or look like a tramp. The magic words of Halloween are “Trick or Treat” not “Tramp or Treat.” Let’s explore our costume options. There are the cute costumes like M&Ms or clowns and then the scary ones such as a witch with warts on her nose. This is the appropriate holiday to sport the broom I normally ride all year, but who wants to be an ugly old witch with warts?

If you don’t like cute or scary, you can try the prostitute end of the spectrum, like the Transylvania Tramp, the Firehouse Hottie, or the Devilicious Devil. How about a construction worker costume made from maybe one yard of fabric and accessorized with a construction cone bra and five inch orange stilettos because that is what construction workers across America look like?!? Or maybe a naughty nurse is more your speed because so many nurses wear a short white apron, white gogo boots, and a bedazzled bra top in the operating room. After all, it’s the costume that says no gloves are required, infections are free. Maybe you would like to chase away goblins and pray for poor lost souls while wearing a sexy nun costume. Can we give these celibate sisters a little respect, please? Or maybe you want to dress up like something out of this world such as a sultry astronaut. In the USA, we cannot get enough girls in this nation interested in engineering and math, so let’s put them in Frederick of Hollywood style lingerie and send them to the moon. Makes sense, eh?

Let me pause here to say, ok, maybe these costumes are not made for moms. But they certainly aren’t made for children or teens either! Maybe they are for the single ladies that look like supermodels, who are attending parties and not raiding their children’s candy. However, I would still beg that somehow male costumes have remained the same and female costumes have become over sexed and are made with less and less material every year. Should we really have to buy a plus size costume just so our “pumpkins” don’t pop out of the costume? And in my neck of the woods, it is cold this time of the year! Yet, another reason to cover up!

What are we doing here? Are we dressing up for Halloween or trying to live out some fetish under the pretense of Halloween? And news flash, this should be about children having fun, candy, and spooky stories. As adults we have taken over Halloween and have done so in a distasteful manor…especially to women. Adults, we had our Halloweens as children, let’s leave it there. I rocked a Big Bird, Little Mermaid, and Cabbage Patch Kid costume as a child-just to name a few.

However, that doesn’t mean I want to sex those characters up as an adult! The only reason I am dressing up, is to create a memory with my toddler, and well, because he told me to.

I have come to the conclusion that the costume choices for “mummies” are slim pickings. I won’t be walking around my neighborhood with my Captain America and Superman in stilettos or fishnets.  Mommies, have some pride, get creative, and cover up! Costume makers…get some more material and cater to a market that is looking to be treated.

Today, my spoon is full of the truth about Halloween because I am caught up in the superpowers of Wonder Woman’s golden lasso!

Peace, Love & Belly Rubs

Belly RubEvery night when I put my toddler in bed, he says, “rub my belly mommy.” He stretches out on the bed, pulls up his shirt, places his hands behind his head, and sticks his Buda-like belly up in the air and I begin rubbing his belly like he is a puppy dog. One night in the quietness of the belly rubbing, I started thinking about time and my interactions with people. How we have a limited amount of time each day to accomplish or experience what we choose to experience out of life (note: our daily interactions are not totally in our full control because sometime life surprises us with choices good and bad). And, how the people we interact with, by choice or fate, impact our lives and happiness. As a matter of fact we have 1,440 minutes in each day or 10,080 minutes in a week. Now that I am a mom, how I use my minutes is more important than ever because I have a lot to accomplish in a limited window…and I want to savor my spoonful along the way.
One way I have been saving time and energy is through my interactions with people and the time allocated to various folks. Do you know anyone who is a funsucker which is the equivalent to a vampire sucking the fun out of life and people? Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of funsucking vampires in the world that like to sink their pointy little fangs into your life’s minutes. You know who they are…some days you may be one yourself.
Let’s see there are the manipulators, downers, users, chronic complainers, drama addicts, guilt trippers, paranoids, conspirators, naggers, the judgers, the holier than thou, and the worst….are the passive aggressives! There are also the know-it-alls, the close-minded, the I-got-a-better-story to tell than you, the I-am-somebody because I am descendent of somebody that was important 50 years ago, the been there done that type, the I will pretend like I am listening while I wait for a more important person to talk to, and the it will never work naysayers. They come in all different varieties…just waiting to suck the minutes out of your life!
Each moment we have a choice of whom and what we allow into our lives yet most of us do not give it a second thought and continue to drift through life as though we have no choice. We are adults, PEOPLE! Stop being victims of prey for funsuckers! Over the past few years, I have made the choice to limit or greatly lessen my time with funsuckers and cautiously select how I use my time and with whom I share my time. A wise chic shared with me that “those with whom we assemble, we soon resemble” and that statement is so very true!
Have I seen a surplus of time at the end of each day? Absolutely not-life is just busy. However, the good news is I have experienced a surplus of happiness and better utilized my life minutes for myself and for others that I care about.  Call it selfish, you may, but out of the 1,440 minutes in the day-I don’t want to share it with someone or something draining the life out of me. So, I focus on not being a funsucker and I surround myself with folks who like to rub bellies…so to speak.
So is your ying and yang off balance due to funsuckers? If so, reprioritize your minutes. Like vampires, funsuckers run from the light of happiness and will move on to using their vacuum power suck-tion somewhere else. Cloak yourself in the garlic of peace and the light of happiness and the funsucker(s) will move on to their next victim. I promise you won’t miss those nagging little fangs of the funsucking vampires! Rub more bellies-life is too short!
Today my spoon is full of peace, love, and belly rubs.

Non-camping Mom’s Survival Story

In my ranking of fun things to do in my spare time, camping ranks a very close second to a root canal. Anyone who knows me shouldn’t be shocked by my previous statement. I love the outdoors-kayaking, hiking, swimming and enjoying the goodness of the beauty we are often surrounded by, yet carelessly pass by in our daily hectic lives. However, my enjoyment of the outdoors comes indoors at bedtime. Once a tent enters the picture…my love for the outdoors comes to an abrupt halt. This is the point where yours truly prefers to check into a hotel or return home. Please note, anything less than 4 stars is equivalent to camping. My husband is not as high maintenance as me…for goodness sake he survived living in a giant sandbox with dust storms and only an occasional shower for months while in Iraq. I would have withered and died if I couldn’t have caught the next camel out of there! So for him, camping is nothing to complain about. For me, camping is everything to complain about.

Camping as Sweethearts

Camping as Sweethearts

This is a picture of me and my “boyfriend” now husband on our first camping trip when we were dating in college. And note to self, why do I have on mom shorts at this stage in my life?!?! I should have worn daisy dukes when I had the body. Okay, back on topic, yes that is a smile on my face…but you do crazy things for love. We were camping with our best friends who we still love dearly and who also got married and had a son much like ours. I vowed that day to my friend that I would NEVER EVER again camp.

I didn’t know it then but looking back that was when camping was actually fun.  Adult beverages of your choice without dealing with the bladder of a mother (ladies you get this), no worries of laundry, unpacking, etc., on the next day. No worries of your first born getting lost and having to be raised by a pack of wolves. Yes, I should have enjoyed the “spoonful” of that trip more.

Now. Fast-forward about 13 years. For the past decade plus, I have been avoiding camping with my husband. He says I tricked him and sold him a false bill of goods… my response, “he didn’t read the fine print”. However, I have lost the battle. My husband made an alliance with our three-year old and guilt tripped Mom into camping with the boys.

Seriously...one night!

Seriously…one night!

So…last weekend, we packed our SUV to the guilds like we were being evicted from our home and set out for our first family camping adventure. Here are my three pieces of advice for people who hate camping and end up going any way…

  1. If you are married, pack as much stuff as you possibly can. You never know what you will need. On the flipside, this reminds your husband/spouse just how difficult it is to pack up and live outdoors for the night at this stage of life. In other words, make him work.
  2. Expect the worst. Serial killers could be hiding in the forest, pedophiles are probably lurking around every tent or RV, creepy killer spiders could potentially invade your sleeping space, and that is just to name a few dangers that one might encounter.
  3. Finally take a deep breath and say to yourself, I can survive anything for 24-hours. Then…
  4. Relax and make the most of it. Throughout the world, people are living with incurable disease, being sold into slavery, and having the worst day of their lives…so relatively speaking…feel lucky to be outdoors in a safe country with great park systems where you and mother nature can safely cohabitate.
Camping with my Sweethearts
Camping with my Sweethearts

This is me camping now. Much has changed and watching this little guy have so much fun, I in turn had a blast. Okay, not a blast…but a good time. My husband said “we should do this next month”. Hold the phone!! I will only commit to one camping trip a year; with the caveat that it is not a primitive site, but a site with an electrical outlet…a girl has to dry her hair! I could had added a glamping caveat. New to glamping? Google  “glamping”- it’s a form of glamorous camping where outdoor meets hotel. Really, “glamorous” and “camping” together is a bit of an oxymoron…but I can handle camping in style with a butler, a luxurious mattress, and a spa.

Times have changed with this trip. Instead of multiple adult beverages, I only enjoyed one, because I didn’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night and make a trip to the bathhouse and meet an axe-murderer. Squatting in the woods was not on the list of options. I am not going to lie, there was a time around midnight where I almost enacted my executive veto on this trip and packed it up to head home. I wasn’t sleeping worth a darn…but inhaling a few deep breaths of the clean fresh outdoor air settled me down. Our SUV was filled to the brim with everything you could imagine compared to our first camping trip…where we stuffed a sports car full.  I don’t recall even owning bug spray in college. However, this trip I sprayed the parameters of the tent, doused my child in organic bug spray, and had enough candles burning for a séance. In college a sleepless night in a tent, meant napping all day the next day. Now, well…what’s a nap?

The beauty of this trip was enjoying each other, the peace and quiet of limited cell phone coverage, no Disney movies, no iPad…just us three healthy,happy people snuggled in a tent. And at the end of each day…peace and a happy family is all a mom really wants.-even if it is under the stars and out in the great outdoors.

Today my spoon is full of memories of bugs, s’mores, and a sleepless starry night.

The Not So Terrible Twos

Tomorrow I will be a mom of a three year old. I am not for sure where time has gone. A few days have felt like a decade and all the others have felt like a Nano second.  All in all, the days have added up to a lot of great memories. We have come a long way baby (screaming baby)! There have been challenges but also a time of great milestones and imagination.   We have moved from me stressing out as to whether a “heaping” scoop versus a “full” scoop of formula would kill you. Heck, now you eat dirt and your own boogers. I used to be tortured by your Dad looking for all of the answers to our questions in the What to Expect the First Year book. You don’t know how lucky you are to still have your Dad…I had many images of using that book as a deadly weapon during our 2 AM quests for knowledge about poop, screaming, eating, snot, etc. Now, we just go with the flow and hope for the best.

Every day this week my toddler has asked me “is it my birthday yet?” Followed by “I want my birthday!”, “I want to be three!” and “I need my birthday party!” Before we venture into 3s there are a few things I want to always remember about you being two. Everyone says the twos are terrible, but I found them to be terrific!

  • You have been blessed with great health. One ear infection all year! I guess boogers are great for the immune system.
  • Your second birthday party started out with a major flood. The Dino theme party I planned for you was saved when the sun finally popped through the rain clouds. You never even noticed that the rain messed up the dino dig I had planned for your special day.   I’m still ticked about it and now own more plastic dino skeltons than I care to admit.
  • This year you have road on planes, trains, a boat, a four-wheeler, a golf cart, a Gator (not the animal), a replica of the Nina, a Ferris wheel, a hot air balloon, an elephant, and a camel.
  • You have fed ducks (got bit by one), turtles, donkeys, goats, peacocks, fish, and a lama.
  • We have been to the beach twice…which you love and instantly turn into a pirate the minute you feel the sand between your toes. “Arrghh”! You have visited museums, zoos, and aquariums. You have seen a play (okay it wasn’t Broadway…it was Elmo Live) and a dino exhibit.  You attended your first WKU sports event…Go TOPS! You were the only kid that hated Shrek on Ice.
  • You took a drink from the Fountain of Youth (I was hoping it would keep you two for forever!), splashed at water parks and made your first snowman.
  • You have a new fascination with superheroes and getting the “mean men”. You even can cast a pretty good Spiderman web. You also gain superhuman strength each time you put on your Batman or Spiderman PJs.
  • You started the twos out in diapers and sleeping in my bed. Now you’re a big boy wearing underoos and sleeping in your own bed. You are the proud owner of 250 Hot Wheels that I bought off of Ebay and used to reward you each time you used the potty. Now I want to hit myself each time I step on one of those darn cars. We have mastered potty training, now if you will just quit dropping your pants and peeing everywhere and stop watering my landscape with your urine…it will be a complete success.
  • You had your first trip to the dentist. All that torturing you with brushing your teeth-paid off! However, you did make me look like an idiot because I didn’t realize you had a gash in your gums from where you fell down the day before. But you clearly articulated to the doctor what happened when she asked. Mother of the year here!
  • You have learned so many words and repeated a few that I shouldn’t have said!! Some you have worn out like the word “why”. Others you have your own way of saying them…here are a few of my favorite.
    • Orrrange  and Raannnnch (with a French accent)
    • You call your boots “boops” and your hat “hook”.
    • Your “yessss” has such a definite hiss to it.
    • Who can resist your “sorrrrrwey” and “pleeeaze”?
    • We need to work on your grammar -“Yes I is” “No me Not” and “Me Am” will only be cute for a few more years.
    • Cooper is “Pooper” which has some symbolism
  • You had your first brain freeze. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I laughed until I cried.
  • You have had your first crush on a girl.
  • You attended your first “friend” birthday party.
  • We built you a fort that probably could qualify as taxable living quarters.
  • You love to celebrate. You were excited for Halloween, but mad at me when your costume was a pirate bird, and not a real pirate outfit. You said you were “just a bird, not a pirate”.
  • You had a blast at Christmas. The drums you wanted for months was a real hit and you named your band the “Mud Truck Band”.  Maybe one day “Mudtruck” will be in flashing lights!
  • You can count, you know your shapes, and we are working on ABCs.
  • You are obsessed with anything construction and especially enjoyed watching our new home being built.
  • You love going to Pop’s Farm to feed the donkeys. You have even claimed it as “your farm”.
  • You become very attached to your tennis shoes. You don’t like to change. I had to throw away your Car tennis shoes in a dumpster in another state so you couldn’t get them out of the trash to wear.
  • You are proof that a human can live off of juice, pop tarts, nuggets, mac & cheese, and fruit for two years now.
  • You have a memory like an elephant which is a reminder to me to always strive for positive days to yield great memories.
  • You love to be on the move and you adore your family. You have a carefree way of enjoying them for just who they are and never seeing their short comings. I hope you always keep that spirit.
  • You love your “Titty Tat” (cat) but deep down you wish she acted more like a dog.
  • You have been mad at Santa ever since I told you he took your Christmas tree down. I passed the blame to Old St. Nick because you were disappointed and you are still asking when he is bringing it back. Surprise….it will be back in late November! You also hated the Elf on the Shelf which worked out great for me because I couldn’t ever remember to move the stupid thing. You were mad because he made messes and bothered your toys. So we decided he would just set on the shelf and not move.
  • On those few long days when we have had a time out…I can’t help but laugh when you are sitting in the timeout chair and yelling at me at the top of your lungs that “I is a good boy now”. Your tone is not so convincing. You now try to put us in timeout if we do something you don’t like.
  • You think kisses from girls, including me, are yuck…but I steal them from you anyway.
  • You try to tell jokes and crack yourself up. I have to admit “Hey Mom you have a fat elbow” is pretty funny when you say it. As long as you don’t say I have a fat rear end…I’ll keep laughing at your jokes.

There are so many more good times, but these are a sampling of ones I always want to savor in my spoon. I can’t wait, my dearest Coop, to see what adventures and fun the age of three will bring. Thank you for all the joy and excitement you bring to our life. You certainly keep us laughing and are a constant reminder that my spoon runneth over.

Today my spoon is full of fond memories of the not so terrible twos.

I am Brown Bear!

Is it a person, place or thing? Brown Bear is a “person” at our house. He was given to my precious bundle of Coop at my Baby Shower by two very dear childhood friends. Once he was evicted from living in my belly…all 9.5lbs of him, my son, Coop, was instantly attracted to Brown Bear. This may have been because Brown Bear set on a dresser near his crib with a tranquil face as Coop lay nestled is his bed snuggled with his “Blue” blanket given to him by a dear friend from my college years (okay, usually he was screaming…remember the colic blog). I remember his first interaction with Brown…he (my son, not the bear) was just learning to scoot around the house and he came slivering down the hallway with Brown hanging out his mouth like a dog with a chew toy. Brown had fallen off the dresser and from that point on Coop and Brown have been friends. Brown has been slobbered on, chewed on, peed on, and thrown up on. He has been snuggled, tossed, fed, ran over by motor toys, met the fate of swords and other miscellaneous tools and survived. And I have a sneaking suspicion that he has endured even more adventures than I care to know. I try to make a conscious effort to come home during lunch once a week and throw him in the washing machine for a bath-he takes a delicate spin in the lingerie bag. Brown has been quite the traveler, as well as Blue. He’s accompanied us on planes, trains, and automobiles to Florida, Virginia, Texas and LOTS of places in between. We have spent all trips at the homes of family/friends and hotels with Brown in tow and I am equally concerned about losing or leaving Brown somewhere as I am my child. How do you replace a bear that has withstood so much? You can’t.

I have noticed in the last few months that Brown gets tossed to the side more than he used to. Brown isn’t the first thing on my son’s mind when he goes to bed or wakes up. However, he always wants him when he is sick or wants to be snuggled. And…any parent who has watched Toy Story a gazillion times, starts subconsciously giving life to toys! Seeing Brown lying around the house reminds me a lot about motherhood. I have been slobbered on, chewed on, etc…just like old Brown. I have survived stepping on Legos and being attacked by a two-year old pirate. My toddler constantly reminds me that “he am big” and he can do any task “himself”. He asks me if his legs look longer, as he stretches high on his tippy toes. He asks when will he be three and he even wants his baby teeth to fall out because he “not a baby, I’m a big boy.” He can get his own snacks, get himself dressed (I am not saying he doesn’t look like a clown) and go to the potty. When I get him out of the car at daycare he tells me not to hold him “no more-that’s it”. I feel your pain, Brown, I know what is liked to be tossed aside as our little guy gets older. However, just like you ….I will be ready and waiting when he wants to snuggle or isn’t feeling so well and wants his Brown and Momma.

Today my spoon is full the realization that I am Brown Bear.

Why? Why?!? Why!!!

Why haven’t I been blogging lately? Well, I have been busy. Well, why have I been busy? Because I have been drowning in “whys” and it has apparently zapped my creative juices and energy. Why?!?

Being the mother of an almost three year old, my day from sun up to sun down (and sometimes even when the sun is fast asleep) consist of approximately 100,000,000,000 “whys” a day. Why is the sun bright? Why does they sun hide behind the clouds? Why does it rain? Why is that car black? Why is grass green? Why are there big trucks and little trucks? Why do we have to wear clothes? Why does our cat not work (yes, I have wondered that too, I mean it would be nice if she earned her keep or at least cleaned her litter box)? Why do cats have tails? Why does a cow moo and not bark? Why do I have to wash my hands? Why do we have to go this way? Why is that building there? Why is the Easter Bunny not at the Mall every day? Why don’t we have a beach (honey, I work in education, Momma can’t afford a private island). Why, why, and why? Each of these questions grows into about 3 or 4 questions about the subject until I can’t think of any answers. Frankly, I don’t know most of the answers at all. I am not a scientist, physicist, meteorologist, engineer, etc.? I just go along with the marathon of questions and answers until either I have to lie or admit defeat. And when I don’t know, I usually get “why don’t you know momma”? It’s painful to admit that, well, I don’t know everything and I certainly don’t know as much as I thought I did (but son, don’t tell your Dad). How do these girls on 16 and Pregnant survive when I have a dang Ph.D. and can’t think of all the answers?!

It’s exhausting. But the educator in me loves his inquisitive nature and strives to cultivate that and explain the world around us. I never want to mute his inquiry…I always want him to ask. I really think instead of a book on “What to Expect When Expecting”- I would actually read and benefit from a book entitled “Why: Everything you need to know in three year-old speak”. If there was only an iPhone app for “Why” (and I have been known to Google during desperate times). I have even tried a little reverse psychology and said “well, you tell me why.” To which, my son replied, “no you tell me why, you da momma.” It’s hard to be put on such a high pedestal of know it all.

I know one day, I will be in the car with my son and praying for something more than a grunt to come out of his teenage mouth. I guess that is when the payback begins and I can start asking him so many questions…to which I am sure he will make up the answers as well. And if that isn’t pay back enough, then I am sure he will have to repeat a lot of conversations during my elder years. Until then, I’ll savor the moment of him thinking I know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING because one day he will discover I am not a genius.

Today my spoon is full of why. Why? I DON’T KNOW!

Miss Kitty: The Cat’s Meow

Recently our family celebrated our cat’s, Miss Kitty, 13th birthday. This may sound like I have a teenager in the house, but in all actuality-she has moved on toward retirement. Thirteen equates to 68ish years in human years. Geez-no wonder cats need nine lives. In our eyes, she is the purrrrfect cat. As my toddler says “we wuv our cat much”. In 13 short years, she has survived 5 moves, endured a house remodel, sit by our laptops as we have worked to earn a combined 5 college degrees (she’s a smart cat), made peace with not being the only-child when our son made his debut, and went missing in action a time or two. Miss Kitty isn’t a lap cat, but you can always depend on her being somewhere near keeping an eye on life. Even though she isn’t as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as she once was, her belly sags, and she moves a little slower- she still has a little spunk left in her. In the past thirteen years, she has taught me a thing or two about life. If you love dogs, don’t be a sour puss, you might learn a thing or two from our cat.

  1. When life is crap, kick some litter over it, and move on. And…if you’re lucky, somebody might clean it up for you.
  2. Don’t wait for the sun to find you…find the sunny spots and move as they shift.
  3. Being man’s best friend is over rated. It is a dog-eat-dog world and it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen if you compare yourself to a dog. Make your own world, even if you don’t have nine lives.
  4. Be independent. Enjoy the company of others, but be able to stand on your on 2 feet (or paws).
  5. Look at things from different perspectives. Sitting on top of an armoire provides a different view than from under the bed-always take in different perspectives. Know when to stand out and know when to blend in.
  6. Spat, forgive, and forget. Life is too short to hold grudges.
  7. Use your claws wisely, bite seldom, and hiss sparingly. Scratches and bite marks may heal, but emotional wounds can remain forever.
  8. Be near the ones you love. Even if you aren’t a lap cat, enjoy the company you keep.
  9. Speak up when you want something. If someone doesn’t listen….speak again. MEOW!
  10. There is peace in solitude and silence. Sometimes retreating away to a hiding place is good for the soul.
  11. Take a cat nap: never underestimate the power of a good nap
  12. Pounce on every opportunity the world has to offer!
  13. When you are feeling spunky-play. Even if it’s a 2 AM and everyone else wants to sleep.
One cool cat.

One cool cat.

Ahhh..the sun.

Ahhh..the sun.

Please...I am trying to nap!

Please…I am trying to nap!

Cat in the Inbox

Cat in the Inbox

Checking out the dryer vent.

Checking out the dryer vent.

Know when to blend in.

Know when to blend in.

Expert Cat in APA

Expert Cat in APA

Today my spoon is full of great lessons from my cat. In my eyes, she is the Cat’s Meow!

Putting the Equal in Equality

In full disclosure, this blog posts contains words such as “feminists” “Hillary Clinton” “gender” “women’s rights” “Margaret Thatcher” “equality”. If you are excited by such topics, please keep reading. If you are rolling your eyes, well, roll them back into focus and keep reading; your perspective might be informed. Despite your stance on these topics, there is much to gain from discussing them. For women the value should be obvious. For men, the value should be obvious; you arrived on this planet via a stork known as a female. Chances are you may have a wife, a sister, a daughter, or other family members and friends who are female.

This post isn’t intended to stir a political debate. Regardless if your political beliefs align with Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, or a combination of both, it should be undeniable that these women have made advances for all women in a predominantly male-driven culture. I am sure both Margaret and Hillary have stories to tell that would cause us to gasp, if we knew of some of the stereotypes that have been assigned by others and overcome publicly and privately throughout their careers and personal lives.

Additionally, this post isn’t intended to debate different types of women-working moms or stay at home moms, race, economic status, religion, etc. The ground rule for this post is as women, and as individuals, if we are doing what are bodies, minds, and souls were designed to contribute to this great planet Earth-then we are living a fulfilled life. In a fulfilled life there is no need to debate differences. Embrace the similarities and the differences and live a richer life.

Finally, this post isn’t a man-hater post. When I get on rants regarding women’s right my husband jokingly calls me a Fembot. I have a father, husband, and other males in my life who never slight me for being a woman. I also have males in my life who perpetuate stereotypes and I am challenged to defy their ignorance. So I “heart” the male race.

So, what is this post intended to do? With the aforementioned labels removed, I would like to propose three charges.

  1. We need more Iron Ladies in the world. And we need more men (and women) who can work with Iron Ladies. Nancy Regan shared that Margaret and Ronald were political soul mates which is a profound statement that says a lot about Nancy, Ronald, and Margret’s strong character. They were able to stow away insecurities and biases in the name of a better world. We need more women, who like Margaret Thatcher, are proud to embrace the qualities of being a woman, spouse, and/or mom while living a fulfilled life and making a difference. We need more women who make their own fulfilled paths on their terms. We need women who do not fear being bold leaders in their homes, communities, and world. We need women that create a conundrum where extremists (both feminist and bigamists) are left scratching their heads while work is positively moved forward.
  2. Women’s equity issues need resurgence. Love her or hate her, thank you Hillary for recently moving this very topic back into our view. Since the Declaration of Sentiments in Seneca Fall, New York in 1848…women have \ placed major cracks in the glass ceiling by gaining rights ranging from the right to vote, advancing women’s health issues/rights, and making gains as comprising a large portion of an educated society and workforce. Most “modern” women, can’t imagine a time that we couldn’t vote, work outside the home, attend college, or even not be able to have a credit card in your wallet without your husband’s name on it (hold the phone Dave Ramsey lovers, I am not endorsing credit cards-just say’n the financial world hasn’t always accepted women as responsible). Great gains have been made ladies and gentlemen! And these gains took bold women and bold men to change and not accept the status quo. However, I beg that for the past few decades, women have been enjoying the fruits of our forefathers foremothers. It is time to reenergize and move the conversation of equal rights to the 21st Century; not in an attempt to take over the male race, but in an effort to create equality for men, women, and families. Opportunities have increased for many minority demographics, but an increase in opportunities does not necessarily yield equality. Enjoy the rights gained, but let’s revive efforts to focus on continuing to build equality. Examples might include laws that don’t penalize single or double income families. Laws that promote men enjoying such things as maternity/adoption leave. Speaking of maternity leave, the USA really can learn some lessons from our European friends in this area. Equalizing women’s pay. It is true that women earn 71-81 cents for every dollar a man earns. The figure varies by state and report, but I did the math for my profession and it was dead on. Census statistics from 2012 estimated that based on the median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers that men’s earning in 2011 were $48,202 and women’s were $37,118. This equates to a difference of $11,084 per year. Add this figure up over a lifetime…women you have earned $275,000 less than your male colleague. I’m no mathematician, as my transcript will suggest but regardless if your salary is the median, above the median, or below the median surely we can agree that a difference in pay adds up over a lifetime. I can certainly think of ways to share, spend, and invest $275,000!
  3. Women, the work starts with us! How you might ask? 1. Removing the barriers we create for each other through pettiness, stereotypes, and judgments. 2. Support and advocate for other women living a fulfilled life. 3. Have the tough conversations about equality and live YOUR fulfilled life! 4. Use the angst in your gut to make a change for the better.
    Being bold often requires hard choices. If you look throughout history, it is the bold choices both women and men have made that have provided courage to others to break free from the chains of limiting belief patterns, society stereotypes, and religious conditioning that often times keep individuals suppressed and from living the fulfilled life they were designed to live.

Today my spoon is full of “crazy” ideas of making the world a better place for all. Lets work on continuing to put the equal in equality. Anyone up for a 21st bra burning?

 

Forever Young….Forever 21

Recently, I was shopping with my husband and son. Well, my husband was trying to entertain my son at the mall while I shopped. I hit some killer sales on some high-end items and well, I had to have them. No really, I saved BIG! I ventured outside of my box a little and purchased some outfits that were not as conservative as I typically select. I was on a roll so after my bargain adventure, I headed to Forever 21 to purchase a few more trendy items.  In my head, I was thinking….oh yeah maybe “Stella has her groove back.”

When I go in Forever 21, it takes me a moment to reframe.  How many clothes can a store cram into one location? I mean the shirt crammed into the rack at the front of the store might be a perfect fit with the pants hanging in the back corner of the store. Don’t trip over all of the size 0 girls you might not see along the way when you are trying to get to the back of the store or dressing room. Really all senses have to be engaged during this kind shopping experience. I was just getting in my groove and my cell rang. It was my husband. He said “Hey! We are on the other side of the mall at Chucky Cheese if you are looking for us.”  To which I replied, “Well, I was going to be looking for you after I left this store-but if you are at Chucky Cheese maybe not.” That phone call was a dose of reality for Stella. Needless to say, I lost my shopping momentum. Nothing reminds you that you cannot be forever “21” like a call from Chucky Cheese.

I left the teenage clothes and headed to Chucky Cheese where my two loves were playing a lizard game. My husband excitedly informs me that you can apparently really rack up the tickets on the lizard game-good to know!  Then my husband says, “do you want to eat here for dinner?” To which I replied in a rather disgusted voice, “I would rather lick the public toilets in this mall than eat here”. The food may be great at Chunky Cheese, but there is just something unappealing about eating while you are surrounded by folks who can’t fit in the booth they are sitting in (Chunky Chucky Cheese) and you are inundated with background noises ranging from a singing mouse to racecars blares to machine guns. And let’s not forget there are probably more germs on those game handles than in any science experiment funded by government research. It overwhelms me and honestly just grosses me out to the point I can’t even  enjoy my favorite food pizza there.

As my toddler and husband used the last of their game tokens (I hid half of them in my purse), my mind drifted back to Forever 21. What is it about 21…or at least the early 20s that makes you want it to last forever? A few things quickly came to mind.  Is it the college years and the wonderful world of freedom? After all, there are few responsibilities, no managing people, no 401ks, a perfect metabolism, no bundle of joy to wake me like a rooster at the crack of dawn, spontaneous travel, no “real” plans…just living for the moment ….forever 21. Then it dawned on me, Forever 21 needs to revamp to a new market demographic (see I knew that marketing minor would come in handy one day). The new and improved Forever 21 should look like this…a store I could walk in with my husband and toddler and we would all leave happy. In the middle is a germ free play land which serves organic food and is operated by Phds with degrees focusing on children. The attendant would take my child and hand my husband and I an iPhone-like device so we could watch our child gleefully playing at any time. In this play land, my child would have a blast but would also get a healthy dose of information on manners, potty training, sharing, sleep habits, etc. The workers would also pick out clothes and shoes for my toddler and they would fit perfectly-no need for returns.

My husband would go to the right of play land to the man’s world…which would be a combination of a pub, sporting goods, Eddie Bauer, Lowes. Please note, no trashy waitresses allowed. He could shop, drink Guinness, and enjoy sports. Probably a little of Beastie Boys, Toby Keith, AC/DC, Mumford & Sons, and Robin Thick would be playing in the background.  While my husband and toddler are entertained, I would head left. My first stop would be for peddie/mannie and a massage by a buff 21-year-old male. Hey, don’t judge-this is my idea, it wasn’t happen stance that no trashy waitresses were allowed on the man side. My side of the store would have clothes that fit mothers. Not a mother that had kids at 16 and their figure rebounded. Mothers like me-waited until I was not forever 21 and my hips will forever never be the same. The clothes would be a mix of Forever 21 and H&M style of apparel. A personal stylist would be at my beck in call and pick out the perfect clothes for my body style and every size that fits me says size “0”. Justin Timberlake, LL Cool Jay, and Lenny Kravitz, Adele, and Miranda Lambert would be serenading me throughout my shopping excursion. I could check on my precious toddler with a push of a button while sipping on a martini. Awwww…the feeling of forever 21. Then my husband, my child and I would greet each other in the middle…. refreshed and happy with bags full of clothes. That’s what Forever 21 feels like in your 30s…and for that I would pay dearly.

“Look mommy, I got a pider (spider) and a car!” My toddler exclaims who is proud of his prizes earnings at Chucky Cheese which are probably imported from a foreign country and contain toxins…snapped back to reality…not forever 21.

Today my spoon is full of memories of 21.

Loyally Being Disloyal

Loyalty Card Ring

Loyalty Card Ring

I thought I was clever when I designed this contraption, I like to call the Loyalty Ring, to organize my loyalty cards (Type A personality, here…so it is alphabetical).

Okay, I didn’t patent it-but I should have added some bling and sought a patent. I designed the contraption so that my wallet didn’t weigh a ton and cards were not bulging out of every crevice of my wallet.  All in all, my contraption has worked well over the last few years. Although I have advanced to the iPhone app to store my loyalty cards I still kept my loyalty ring for backup.After years of packing this wad of plastic around, I am wondering why the heck am I doing this and what am I getting out of it. Out of the 28 loyalty cards (which could confirm my husband’s belief I shop too much), I believe I get an actual perk or discount from about five of them. I am beginning to think that this “loyalty” concept is a scam! The only person being loyal in this relationship is me; dutifully swiping my card.  Loyalty point by point I am being loyal and making companies wonder why anyone would need diapers, a tackle box, and lipstick all in one purchase. Okay, maybe the companies are being loyal too by collecting information from every one of my purchases each and every time; silently stereotyping me into some marketing demographic. Heck maybe loyalty cards trade information with each other and try to triangulate their information to figure out who we really are as shoppers.  Maybe the government is involved. Okay, I don’t’ really think that. But really, why am I carrying these cards? Why am I loyal? I don’t care if I am a VIP at a pet store, grocery chain, or a yogurt shop.  Why do I dig these out of my purse in a checkout line while simultaneously begging my toddler to be patient one more second in hopes of being rewarded for my loyalty by a future discount?

All of this loyalty talk has changed my mindset. I am going rogue and disloyal on at least 23 of the 28 cards. Maybe if we ban together and enough of us are disloyal we will just all get good, fair prices when we checkout. No coupons, no points, and most importantly no LOYALTY! Burn them, recycle them, turn them into guitar picks (you can really do that-they create a gadget for everything), or covert them to art or jewelry…just quit being loyal.

Today my spoon is full of disloyalty.

Thoughts for my Daughter-in-Law on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is here. Love is in the air and candy hearts and chocolates are making their way to our hips. I have never been a lover of Valentines. Don’t get me wrong, I always love a surprise from my love. I personally think Valentine’s just has a forced feeling of “love” – too commercialized. So for Valentine’s my husband and I try to bring our A game all year…not just on February 14th.One of my fondest Valentine’s memories is of a friend and I sending each other bouquets of flowers from a secret lover while we were in high school. Who could it be? Geez, I don’t know! It was for a good laugh and we had fun with the “mystery.”This Valentine’s Day is different. I have been doing a lot of thinking and daydreaming about love. Not in my life, but that of my son’s life. I know he is only two, but life slapped me in my face a few weeks ago when his teachers jokingly shared with me that he is a little “gentleman” to a girl in his class. My first thought, well at least he is exhibiting traits of chivalry, and not pimp-like at a young age. That’s positive, right?  I know this little gal is just two, but that little hoochie (I promise I am not jealous) is already stealing my son’s heart. After naptime, he apparently helps her off her mat and has a date with her during lunch and snack each day. When I told my husband he said, we need to separate their mats! Really-they are two, we are maybe over reacting. Adding insult to injury, my son received his first birthday party invite last week-from a GIRL; who by the way is an older woman-she will be three! This innocent crush on his girl buddy and the party invite from a cougar has me thinking that in a blink of an eye I will be a mother-in-law. That is the worst label ever-so many stereotypes go with that term.

My husband’s mother, made it very clear that she was “losing” a son when my  husband I dated and later married. Since she doesn’t have access to my blog, I won’t take any dirty punches. However, there is nothing I hate more than the shallow thought of “a son is a son until he takes a wife.” Really, I have to start now to plot how I will be the best mother-in-law that ever existed and defy the horrible stereotypes.  How do I turn this ship around now so that I don’t “lose” a son, but instead gain a daughter?  I know there will be Valentines Days to come where my son will be touting a teddy bear to school for his love or sending roses to some vixen that isn’t the marrying type. However, I am skipping over those brief moments in time and going straight for the kill-the ONE that will last- YOU, my daughter-in-law. I have decided to start thinking and planning for our relationship now, so I penned this open letter to YOU my dearest daughter-in-law (who is not taking MY son).

Dearest Beautiful, Smart, Perfect Daughter-in-Law:

I know you are perfect because my son has good taste thanks to my positive influence on his life and let’s face it-his mother is nearly perfect. Now that we share the same last name, I would like to say “welcome” to our family! Please know I don’t view you as a thief in the night who stole my son. Actually, the joke is on you-your stuck with me, my husband, and our crazy family.  So I beg of you, just go ahead and embrace us-there are many fun times ahead. Drop the mother-in-law stereotype. You will find me likeable. Honestly, you have fallen in love with my life’s work, so I sincerely accept your thanks for molding a young man into a perfect mate. I started working on your behalf before we ever knew each other. That is how great of a mother-in-law I am! If you think about it, we have a lot in common since we both love the same man. I fell in love with him the first second I gazed into his big brown eyes right after he took his first breath. And you…fell for those same eyes yourself!

The good news is I will not ask you to wear my wedding dress. I have already donated it to a good cause and it is long gone. So, find one of your own that fits you and your dreams. I won’t upstage you on your wedding day, but know I will look damn good when I am lighting the candle that forever unifies us as one big, happy family. I won’t judge the cleanliness of your house or the gourmet appeal of your food. If you spend your life cleaning and picking up after my son and your offspring-it is no one’s fault but your own because I taught him differently.  I won’t harass you about how you parent. I won’t harass you about your sense of style (well, that might happen if you are embarrassing the family name). However, I will nag you to enjoy the ride of a perfectly imperfect life and will be there to support your journey.

I assume you picked my amazing son because he is gorgeous (I mean he should have been a model, I know), he is intelligent, a good conversationalist and listener, he is open-minded, loves adventures, has a good sense of humor, and is practically perfect. Or maybe you picked him just because I came with him. Let me tell you, honey, this level of perfection you fell in love with didn’t happen overnight. His father and I have been training him for years to not be a narcissistic narrow-minded idiot who cannot function independently.

Right now you may not even be born yet or you may be playing with Dora the Explorer stuff and obsessed with everything pink. However, I am working for your future happiness now, and he is only two! Let me give you a few examples.

  • You will enjoy not falling into the toilet seat in the middle of the night. Putting the lid down has been incorporated into potty training at our house.
  • You will not have to clean up after him. Thanks to me, he puts his own stuff up and doesn’t have crap scattered everywhere. He knows how to put his plate and sippy cup (hopefully, he has progressed to an adult cup) in the dishwasher. Well, thanks to my OCD tendencies, we “clean-up” every night. I am sorry if you have to sing songs about how fun cleanup time is while he does his chores.
  • You will enjoy dinner on the table when you get home. He helps me cook. He is an excellent stirrer of all ingredients. I will incorporate moving those ingredients into a pan in his “oven and stove 101” training when he is older.
  • You will enjoy that he can balance respecting an independent woman and chivalry. Well, he learned that one mostly from his dad. He will always kiss you before he leaves and before bedtime. He has spent his years watching his mommy love her family and balance a career. He has seen days where I was superwoman and days were I was a failure-he knows it’s hard.
  • You will notice he has good manners because he understands the importance of please and thank you. 
  • You will like how he is a good communicator and has lots to talk about. Well, his father and I have been cultivating an adventerous spirit by toting him around the world and to museums before he could talk. I have spent countless hours talking about and explaining life to him.
  • You will like it that he is a good listener. Like my husband, he has heard my “hearing vs listening” lecture many times (I’m a communication major). You don’t listen to mommy when you are watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; that is “hearing” not “listening”. The TV goes off until you can be a good listener. You’re welcome that you won’t be ignored every time a sporting event is on TV.
  • You will like that he doesn’t think your one of the boys and enjoys hearing his bodily functions like burps and “toots” as he now calls them. It might be fun with Dad, but he better keep the noises to himself around the ladies.

Hopefully, these actions which I have already starting working on will show you that from the beginning, you and I have been on the same team-we are not each other’s competition or enemies. I don’t want to be your BFF, just your MILF (for those of you with your minds in the gutter-that means “mother-in-law friend”). I know I will be replaced as his truest love and that is okay. I can only hope you picked him because of the qualities I have worked so hard to instill in him…and that maybe he picked you because we are alike. Hey, they say you marry your mother-which scares the hell out of me! I can’t promise I won’t be annoying or I won’t be too involved, but I promise it will all come from love. Let’s face it, you love my baby, I must have done something right.

Sincerely,

Your mommy-in-law

Today my spoon is full of chocolate Valentine’s Day Candy as I sulk at not always being my son’s Valentine.

Big Boy in a Big Bed

As you know from previous blog posts, yes I am “one of those” moms who let my child sleep in our bed-or “momma’s bed” as he calls it. Yes, I ignored all of the books I read, my doctor’s advice, and parental wisdom from friends. I have spent the last six months sandwiched between a 13 pound cat and a toddler. Yes, most of those six months were sleepless nights because my toddler tosses and turns like a rotisserie chicken. Many nights, I cried mercy and left the cat, toddler, and husband in the bed to catch some zzz on the couch or in my toddler’s bed. I am thankful to survive sharing our bed with our toddler without a broken rib or black eye.

He slept in his bed great as an infant and did great until right before he turned two and his two year molars snuck up on us. Teething caused him a lot of pain and kept him (us) up many nights-so our bedtime routine went to hell and stayed there. The combination of his strong will and my lack of sleep ended up being a disaster…with my husband on the worst receiving end of it (love you honey!). We tried the yelling it out method and sending Coop back to his bedroom. That ended with him kicking the inside of his bedroom door and yelling “let me out” and “you a rude momma”. And, my toddler wasn’t the only one yelling it out. My husband and I were “screaming it out” at 2 AM and all other hours of the night. Seriously, I’m thankful we don’t have night court in our home town; we might have dissolved the marriage on one of those sleepless nights. In the name of a little more wink eye and not making “to death do us part” a reality-we caved and just let our toddler sleep with us. I mean really, not every culture agrees that everyone has to have their own bed, right? For crying out loud…it was just for six months-don’t be so judgmental. Did you notice I said it “was”? Yes, the New Year brought about the new goal of reclaiming our bedroom! As dumbfounded as I am to report this, the transition from momma’s bed to Coop’s bed has been a breeze.

I will admit, on January 1st I was sick to my stomach on making this transition. I dreaded the lack of sleep and the fight to keep him in his bed. But that was what my husband and I agreed on-and well, it was to late to back out this time. I had already agreed that when we moved in our new home in November that we would get him out of our bed. We were too tired from unpacking and juggling life-so I just ignored that agreement. Then my husband remembered and got us back on track. I spent the first day of the year strategizing how to not bite my husband’s head off when we were walking around like zombies in the middle of the night keeping our kid in his bed. I spent the entire day talking to (no, brainwashing) my toddler about how “big boys” sleep in their bed and “don’t you want to be a big boy.” At bedtime we did the usual, read the same five books we have every night for the past 3 months. My toddler fell asleep, we put him in his room, and the rest is history. Being a “tad” over protected, I surrounded him with king size pillows, put a baby gate on the outside of his bedroom door frame, and shut the door. This gave me a three-step warning alert if he got up and out of bed. I spent the night sleepless, staring (with the volume on full blast) at the baby monitor watching his every move like he was a newborn. Surely this would end any moment. He won’t stay in his bed without a fight. Well, he did and he continues to do so. He has had a night or two of waking up at 5 AM and wanting in our bed. However, in the name of not making bedtime a fight, I let him join us (and in a sick way I missed him kicking the crap out of me). My approach has been making a big deal about his success on sleeping in his bed and not fighting him to return to his bed for another hour or two. He has been snoozing in his big boy bed all of 2013.

ZZZZZZZ

ZZZZZZZ-Snoozing like a “Big Boy”

I keep waiting for this to fall apart. Given our track record of parenting obstacles, nothing has come without a fight and tears (from everyone). Is this divine intervention? Is this a healthy dose of good karma coming our way? I don’t know, but whatever the reason we will take it! Many have said it takes 21 days to make a habit, so we are almost half way to creating a good sleeping habit for 2013.

I share this with you, because sometimes as a parent, you just have to do what is right and works for your family at the moment. I would venture to guess that for most families, bedtime is perhaps the worst part of the day. Don’t be ashamed, feel like a failure, or be embarrassed. Life is what it is. Others may roll their eyes or tell you that your approach is crazy. The experts may warn against it, but it’s your life and your family’s sanity. As my toddler reminds me every morning and night when he goes to bed or gets out of bed, “I’m a big boy”. I must admit, I am happy we have our bed back, but a little sad that he is indeed becoming a big boy too quickly. As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

Today my spoon is full of bitter sweet rest.

A perfectly imperfect start to 2013

When I started blogging I did not realize that my blog host provides an annual
report card on Spoonfuloflife’s blog activity. My type A personality LOVES this
feature. I am already dreaming of the possibilities of what the 2013 report
card will yield. So now that the stats are in…well, gosh darn it people like the
posts/site or are really bored and need something to read. None-the-less, March
2012 kicked off the debut post on Spoonfuloflife and the year finished up with
a total of 35 posts; and I was afraid of running out of things to share! Even
more exciting is the fact that Spoonfuloflife has seen over 2,700 viewers
(don’t worry I don’t know who you are!) from 26 countries! Most visitors came
from the United States. Canada and the United Kingdom weren’t far behind the
good ol’ USA. This stat on location at least reassures me that my family members
are not the only folks reading the blog over and over.

So what will 2013 mean? Who knows? Some of the best life has offered has been unplanned. I do not make resolutions. Frankly, I stink at keeping resolutions. Despite previous resolutions…I still need to shed some pounds, will most likely never run a marathon or have abs of steel, and I haven’t made it to Bora Bora (yet). Isn’t life a constant resolution in some way?  Absent of a blogging plan or an official New Year resolution, I promise to continue to learn from my spoonful of life and to authentically share my spoonful with you. I have found through this blog that sharing my imperfections has provided some comic relief for readers, but more importantly has eased the struggle of people I know, as well as, completes strangers who struggle with the same imperfections. Life is tough and it is darn near impossible to be perfect in all of our roles (spouse, parent, friend, professional, community member, etc.) every moment of every day. Acknowledging that your spoonful is not perfect makes one human, approachable, and real! So what if your silver spoon is a little tarnished?

A friend recently shared a post on facebook which hits at the heart of why spoonfuloflife was launched. I traced the post back to the original source which was a blog post entitled The Disease Called “Perfection.” It is especially relevant as you embark on the New Year’s resolutions you have set (or not set). The Disease Called “Perfection” was written by Dan Pearce a few years ago when he was new to the world of blogging. His candid post on perfection went viral and literally spiraled into a popular blog and a book. Now going viral (in a good way of course) would make a cool annual report for my 2013 stats! Check it out here. You won’t be disappointed in this profound, raw look at how being real with the imperfections in our spoonful yields deeper life connections and happiness, as well as, eases the struggles of society.

Today (as well as everyday) my spoon (a little tarnished) is full of imperfections which will continually produce a vast amount of blog material to share in 2013!

If Only Spiderman Could Fix All Evil

This week’s post was supposed to be filled with the Christmas holiday spirit; however, like many of you, my heart has been so heavy from the tragedy in Connecticut.  So many spoons once full of life, now so empty.  Upon hearing the news, as a mommy my mind shifted to the morning of the tragedy. Most likely, the last moments the parents shared with their child. I know the last moments are only a glimpse in time, but they must replay in the parents’ minds. Some parents and their children had great mornings before school drop off. Aren’t we always grateful for those mornings (well, we should be)? Other parents and children may have experienced a hectic morning filled with meaningless arguments of what to wear, get your backpack, we are running late, and hurry up. Don’t we always hate those mornings? And for some, the morning was just as ordinary as their cereal for breakfast and expected after school pickup. Regardless, no one knew the fate of the next hours-none of us really ever do.

I tried on Saturday morning to watch the news about the events. Just a quick update to be informed- much more would have been torture.  In the background noise was the giggles of my toddler in another room. Watching such horror while a giggling toddler was near did not seem right. So I quickly turned off the news to join in a game of super heroes and wrestling with my two year old and husband.  My mind and heart were torn as whether or not to talk about what had happened on a two-year old scale to my toddler or to save the conversation for later years. My toddler has the memory of an elephant-so I decided to say something, even though small, rather than nothing. I believe in equipping kids with the reality they live in at every age. So, I sat my toddler in my lap and in two year old language told him “if you ever see a mean person trying to hurt kids at school or anywhere, run and hide like when we play hide-and-seek.” He really seemed to listen and I was proud of my parenting moment. So I followed up with, “now tell mommy what you would do if you were to see a mean person trying to hurt you or other kids?” He jumped up into a fighting stance like he was in a boxing ring, cast his spider man web hands and said “I beat you up mean man.” Can you tell his dad was a Marine? Okay, so maybe two is a little early for this talk. But even if a seed was planted and it protects him until he is old enough to understand more, then so be it.

I’ve seen post on Facebook and overheard discussions all trying to make sense of this mess. The truth is that the events were senseless and the only thing that makes real sense is to keep the momentum going in the many little ways that over time might add up to a big difference.  Turning school leaders into gun toting educators isn’t the answer. Educators have enough to do already! This southern gal believes in the right to own guns, but also strongly believes there are major improvements in regulations to be made. Throwing an 8×10 photocopy of the Christian 10 commandments on the wall is not an answer. Posted Ten Commandments do not equate to “God” being back in schools. Did “He” ever really leave? I like to think that whoever is in control of the Universe is a little less shallow than requiring self-portraits and commandants posted in buildings to ensure protection. If you believe “God” (insert your higher power of choice) wasn’t in the school-reexamine the lives spared and the heroes that emerged. Look at the goodwill, love, prayers, and tears poured into a town most of us never heard of before last week. Just like evil, good (and God) comes in many forms.

So where do we go from here? How do you stop the seemingly unstoppable? We do not forget the misery Connecticut feels after the media has moved on to a new story. We encourage the government to put funds into structuring safe schools and we do it with the fever of airport security post 911. We realize that sweet American children are not the only children who face senseless violence-it is worldwide. We demand a thorough review of gun regulations and do something with the findings. We talk more openly with our children about good and evil. We take a hard look at our healthcare system and educational policies to see if they really support families and students that live with mental health issues. We remove the stigma to create open dialogue about mental health issues. We stop pointing a finger at failing parents and schools and start pointing kids in the right direction by setting an example, by mentoring, and increasing self-worth for those that can’t see it in themselves.  We continue talking about this subject and start doing….more. We don’t act like it can’t happen in our children’s schools, in our movie theaters, in our malls and any other place we enjoy everyday freedoms. We play an active role and we continually stretch our thinking so that we may see all sides of an equation in order to arrive at a better solution. We work on savoring every spoonful of life, even the hectic or ordinary everyday mornings.

My mommy brain jumps from the morning of the event, to the reality of where families who lost loved ones will find themselves- with Christmas gifts hid away in a closet, yet to be wrapped for a sweet child no longer on this earth. The empty beds. The shattered dreams of things yet to come- a family vacation to see Mickey Mouse, graduations, weddings, grandbabies, etc. It’s really uncomprendable. May the family and friends of the children and adults who met an unfair fate that day find hope in what is seemingly such a hopeless time in their lives. May their spoons be full of kind moments, momentum for change, and the perseverance to live each day. I will continue to teach my child the realities of good and evil and pray he never has to “beat up the mean people” by casting his Spiderman web.

Coop & His Hero

Casting Webs On Evil

Today my spoon is full of hope for the good that will continue to emerge and multiple from this horrific event.

 

Rethinking the Celebration Behind Your Turkey

Thanksgiving has evolved to be a holiday where we celebrate family and blessings. Modern Day Thanksgiving is typically full of parades, processed foods, napping, and football. Personally, our family enjoys the holiday by departing from hectic life and work schedules to enjoy one another’s personality quirks in the name of giving thanks for the many blessings that have come our way throughout the year; serendipitously or through hard work.

As you feast with your family this holiday, consider the following: (1) First, give thanks for ALL your blessings; you know they come in all shaped and sizes.   Better yet, rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others and do not have a jealous heart. (2) Second, acknowledge and give of yourself- your time, talents, resources, and/or money to those who need it. (3) Third, consider looking at life from a different angle. Viewing a forest from a hillside provides a very different understanding than viewing it from the ground amidst the trees. Just when you think you know or understand something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly, unnecessary, or wrong-give it a try. What you uncover might surprise you.

The harvest time that started the tradition of Thanksgiving was a far cry from our modern day Thanksgiving conveniences. I am sure if the pilgrims and Native Americans were zapped into 2012 they could not even fathom a complete Thanksgiving Feast for $49.99 from a local chain restaurant. Likewise, if we transported ourselves back in time to the “first” Thanksgiving, we would probably find a story that played out very differently than what was taught in school. The first feast was probably tense because of the culture differences between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. And was most likely not a feast by today’s American standards, but was rather what the land and “harvest” had produced. There were no hormone injected turkeys, pumpkin pie out of a can, or gel cranberry sauce.  No black Fridays; well, I guess every Friday was black in the sense they did not have electricity. Perhaps, William Loren Katz the author of “Black Indians: a Hidden Heritage” will open your eyes to a different perspective on the Thanksgiving story and will provide you some food for thought as you baste your turkey and peel your sweet potatoes.  His article entitled “Rethinking the Thanksgiving Holiday” written in 2003 is below.

Since 1621 and Governor William Bradford of the Pilgrim colony of Massachusetts, Thanksgiving Day has been a political holiday. Usually wrapped in warm family and patriotic values, our rulers have shaped it to meet their needs. A presidential proclamation announces Thanksgiving each year, and relatives and friends sit down to turkey feeling they are participants in a moment rich in tradition and worthy of celebration.

But is this tradition something to celebrate? In 1620 Pilgrims from England aboard the Mayflower came ashore in Massachusetts. They were able to avoid disaster and starvation when the Wampanoag Nation brought them gifts of food and offered advice on planting, hunting, and fishing. Since half of the world’s crops had been planted by Native Americans and were unknown to Europeans, the Wampanoags brought the Pilgrims something of a miracle.

In 1621 after surviving their first wiffter, Pilgrim Governor William Bradford ordered a celebration. But Pilgrim thanks were not extended to the Wampanoag hosts but to their white God and deep Christian faith. If the Wampanoags were invited by the newcomers, who viewed them as inferiors and servants, it probably was to have them bring the turkey, corn and other delicacies, or serve the food.

If the Pilgrims learned any lessons about interracial cooperation in 1621, they were soon forgotten. In. 1637 Governor Bradford, who saw his colonists locked in mortal combat with dangerous Native Americans, ordered his militia to conduct a night attack on the sleeping men, women and children of a Pequot Indian village. To Bradford, a devout Christian, the massacre was imbued with religious meaning:

“It was a fearful sight to see them frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same and horrible was the stink and stench thereof. But the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice and they [the Massachusetts militiamen] gave praise thereof to God.”

Reverend Increase Mather, Pilgrim spiritual father and still a hero in most U.S. textbooks, asked his congregation to give thanks to God “that on this day we have sent 600 heathen souls to hell.”

Other English colonists had landed in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, and almost immediately had trouble with their Indian neighbors. In 1619 a Dutch ship sold 19 African laborers at Jamestown, and the rulers of Jamestown treated both Africans and Native Americans as untrustworthy inferiors. In 1622, the year after the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, patience ran out for Virginia’s Native Americans. They staged a massive attack on Jamestown that took 350 lives, and reports historian James H. Johnstone, “The Indians murdered every white but saved the Negroes.” Even at this early date two peoples of color showed a willingness to unite.

In 1789 Thanksgiving was revived when George Washington as first president asked the U.S. Congress to make it a national holiday. By using the holiday’s mythology of generosity and cooperation, he sought to unify diverse ethnic and racial groups behind the new political experiment called the United States.

Thanksgiving then was forgotten until the Civil War again sorely tested the nation. President Abraham Lincoln had to deal with many Northern citizens who refused to support the war effort and his new emancipation policy. Pioneer feminist Sarah J. Hale, editor of a famous woman’s magazine, had little trouble convincing the embattled commander-in-chief that a unifying, humanitarian holiday could serve his political goals.

Thanksgiving again disappeared, until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking to unify Americans threatened by a Great Depression at home and fascist aggression abroad, called on the country to honor the holiday. In 1941, the year the U.S. entered World War II, Congress decreed the fourth Thursday in November a Thanksgiving holiday.

Born and reborn as a unifying political symbol, Thanksgiving has glorified the European invaders, and accepted their oppression of people of color. But instead Thanksgiving could honor those Native Americans and African Americans who became our first freedom fighters, and the unity these two peoples often forged during 500 years of resistance. Their rich history of heroism and unity deserves a Thanksgiving holiday.

This story is far from what I was taught in school. It does not reflect cornucopias, plump pilgrim figurines, and colorful Native American figures that decorate our homes. Instead, the tale shows the struggles, biases, and illusions that we too often preserve today. I’m not asking you to throw you turkey out or forgo the holiday; I will be enjoying the day with family and over indulging in yummy food. However, I do ask you to consider and appreciate the fact, that sometimes history and events in our lives may not be what they seems or what we have been told. Thankfully, our country continues to change and become more diverse. I’m thankful for those brave souls that started the sometimes painful experiment of blending cultures and extending a hand of friendship.  Sharing our vulnerabilities, resources, and differences is what makes the world go round and gives us a great reason to celebrate with Tom the Turkey.

Today, my spoon is full of thanks for being blessed beyond measure. And I am humbled by the fact there are two sides (at least) to every story.

To access this document visit  Rethinking the Thanksgiving Holiday

Transformers: Bedroom in Disguise

Recently we have moved and it has caused some post-traumatic stress to resurface from my days of shopping for a baby bed. Like all parents, when we found out we were expecting, we begin looking for furniture, gadgets, etc. that are supposed to make life easier for parents and baby (what a gimmick!). One item that my husband and I spent WAY too much of our lives researching is our bundle of joy’s bed. Seriously, I can now appreciate the fact that in the “old” days, babies would sleep in a dresser drawer. Before we knew we were having a boy we spent countless hours each evening searching online for baby beds. We narrowed it down from infinity to about 3 bed styles for a boy and 3 bed styles for a girl. So, once we found out that Mr. Cooper was making his debut…we automatically reduced the possibilities by half. The rest should be easy, right? Not so much.

We had too long to think about this piece of furniture. So we continued shopping at retail shops. We thought this was the way to go, rather than ordering online. As a civil engineer guy, my husband was attractive to the convertible bed. After weeks of looking at beds and discussing possibilities, I caved on the convertible bed. I now call it the transformer bed. I am sure there is a kit that comes with it that shoots fire or launches a missile. I had a weak moment-I was tired of talking about it and at the time the thought of not having to ever pick a bed out for my son again sounded great. He can convert it right on to college and then I would redecorate with new stuff. Once we decided on a convertible bed, I was back to the drawing board. We looked and looked and we found the dream bed; or so we thought. But as luck would have it, our dream bed had been discontinued. So, we opted for dream bed number two and placed the order around the 21st week of my pregnancy (for those keeping track….that leaves 19 weeks for arrival and setup).

Then, I get the phone call that some shipping fiasco was occurring in China and that it might take 8 weeks for our furniture to arrive, instead of 6 weeks. Sure no problem! Then 8 weeks turned into 18 weeks. Finally our furniture arrived. Oh wait, I mean one night stand arrived …because that is such a helpful piece of furniture in the nursery (insert cussing). This is where I went from normal to needing to be tied up in a straight jacket. My husband and I called the retail store daily. Only to be promised that it should arrive any second. I mean time was ticking! Dealing with an unhappy pregnant woman who is full term during a Kentucky July is not pretty. When the store grew tired of talking to us, they gave us the company’s phone number. Some lady from the company told me the rest of my furniture was literally sitting on a dock in China and was waiting for a cargo ship that had room. If I knew I wouldn’t go into labor, I would have paddled a boat all the way to China to get that stuff. I will skip the rest of the details because it is just too painful to recant, but the entire nursery showed up 8 weeks after the stork dropped off our bundle of joy; which is a total of 27 weeks for delivery time! I am surprised the store and the furniture company didn’t take out a restraining order on us. Oh, and I failed to mention, that when selecting and ordering the baby bedding, I was schemed once by a fraudulent website, then placed an order that was discontinued and finally found the right bedding the third time. I also went through about 6 different shades of paint in the nursery before finding the right color. Thank you to the hubby for his patience.

So, it should be clear to see why I hate nursery furniture. It is over rated and a waste of time. Transformer beds come with too many parts and pieces. The now headboard has teeth marks all across the top because it was a side piece of the crib when my toddler was teething. It looks like a beaver has gnawed the bed. My toddler doesn’t even sleep in this freaking piece of furniture anymore because he is in my bed. It makes a comfortable bed for the cat! Needless to say, every time I go into the bedroom that houses this furniture, I want to beat it with a sledge hammer. I don’t want to wish Coop’s life away, but I can’t wait until he takes this furniture set to his first apartment and I can watch each time I visit how it has been destroyed wood grain by wood grain by college life.

The moral of this story is you can’t buy rest and relaxation unless it is on a beach with a drink in hand. Don’t waste your money on overpriced transformer beds that promise to send your child off to dreamland comfortably for the first years of their life. Keep things simple. Clean out a dresser drawer and when they outgrow that…scoot over and let them in your bed.

Today my spoon is full of bitter memories of a transformer bed. Now if it would just transform my toddler’s sleeping routine.

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A Letter to Our New Home

Dear New Home:

After dreaming about you for years, we have finally met. As I child I dreamed about what my house would look and be like when I grew up. I was picturing something more like a European Mansion with an exotic view, but that just didn’t work out (or at least not yet). As an adult, I collected magazine pages and pictures of what I wanted you to be. More recently, I moved that addiction to Pinterest (what an awesome website). As newlyweds, we dreamed of plans of what you would and would not be. For example, you would not in any way resemble a fraternity house or hunting lodge. That was probably more of my dream than my husband’s. You would be a great, unpretentious place for friends and family to comfortably gather and celebrate milestones. You would be a colorful reflection of my family. You would be a place that holds our happiest times and shelters us in the unexpected dark times. You would be a place to build memories for indefinite years to come.

We have waited a long time for you to come along. But in particular, the last five months have been the loooooongest. My husband’s civil engineering and project management background has produced a home of near perfection in my eyes. Although, he can point out any place in the house that has a flaw of at least one millimeter in any area. Needless to say, you are the perfect blend of just what we both wanted and dreamed about.

I would like to introduce you to our family. I will pretty much be obsessed with keeping you organized and clean. Any part of your structure that I can produce and slap a label on-I probably will. During holidays, you can expect to be looking great with decorations…no blow up decorations-I promise. You can hopefully, expect the house to be filled with yummy, healthy aromas…some might be carried in from a fine food establishment and some I might whip up myself. You can depend on my husband to fix you just about any time you are broken. He is also looking forward to sharing Notre Dame football games with you. You can count on my toddler breaking things for my husband to fix and you can count on hearing his tiny, yet loud voice and giggles in the rafters. I am sure you will be decorated with his sticky fingerprints and muddy feet. We also have a cat, Miss Kitty, who is nearly 13 years old. She will find one room that she likes and that will probably be about all you see of her. And, you will meet all of our crazy extended family and friends that hold a special place in our heart.

Go ahead and brace yourself, we have some big things ahead that you will have to witness; for instance first on the list is potty training our child. I’m really sorry if you get peed on or worse! There will be many other milestones that you will be such an important part. So here’s to building our relationship, good memories, and turning these nails and wood that make you a house into a home.

Love,

Your Adoring Dwellers

Today my spoon is full of excitement of having a new home.

Lessons from a Salmon

Pike Place Market

In the spirit of writing this post from Seattle, today’s topic (well, really I am writing this at night as I am sleepless in Seattle) is Salmon…living like Salmon as a matter of fact! This may sound fishy, but there are some lessons to be learned from Salmon. Being that chicken, pork, and beef aren’t on my food list of things I like to eat –I eat a lot of seafood; especially salmon. I took a tour of Seattle this past weekend and was fascinated to learn a little more about this pink yumminess that ends up on my plate. I am by no means a “salmon expert” or biological sciences guru, but I will attempt to summarize what I learned about salmon on my tour.

Salmon start out as a little egg that have been deposited and fertilized by mommy and daddy salmon in the gravel/rock of fresh stream water. It takes 1 to 3 months for the eggs to hatch and then they spend up to another five months hanging out around the gravel. They then spend up to a few days or as long as five years living in the fresh water. At the mouth of the streams and river, they school together for a trip out into the ocean. This journey into the salt water can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years.  Once they mature, they head back to their original stream and readapt to fresh water. Their final destination is the original rocks or spawning ground where they were born. There they spawn (breed/lay eggs), bury themselves, and die. Thus, fertilizing and creating a nutrient rich home for the next generation of salmon.

So what can we learn from the salmon?

  1. Remember where you came from and grow from it.
  2. Leave the nest and make your own understanding of this world.
  3. Taste different waters-some might be refreshing, some salty, some murky-but open your mind to new things.
  4. Explore the vast “ocean” before you. Be amazed by its colors and beauty. Do not let the sharks bite you, the fisherman’s nets tangle you up, and other predators steal your joy!
  5. Be flexible and patient. Surely, breathing fresh water one day and salt water the next takes some persistence and flexibility.
  6. Lay your eggs and then die. Okay-not really. Although skipping colic and terrible twos could have some perks. But on a serious note, if you’re a parent-create a new you. This doesn’t mean let your old self “die” necessarily. Take your best characteristics, modifying your worst, and be a good parent. In turn, create a life for your child, do not just recreate your childhood.
  7. Leave something behind to fertilize others…especially your children. Spend your time replenishing others, build their worth, and affirming their value. Be a positive influence and leave the world a better place than you found it.

Today my spoon is full of some of the best salmon I have ever tasted.

Happy New Hallothanksmas Christgivingween Year!

This time of year begins the mad dash of holiday celebrations. From Halloween, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas, and finally we arrive exhausted at the dawn of a new year.  At retail stores we are greeted with an aisle of Halloween goblins and ghosts, then the next aisle is Thanksgiving scarecrows and turkeys, and around the corner are Christmas trees, Santas, and elves. Since we are on the topic of holiday decor- what I hate most are those darn blowup decorations for the yard. I would like to drive by homes and shoot them with a BB Gun one by one. Any ways, back on topic. It’s difficult to enjoy one holiday, without panicking that there is another one creeping right around the corner. Despite the maddening signs that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are near, I always enjoy the holiday season. Each holiday has special memories and traditions that I cherish.  For sentimental reasons and laughs, I will share some of our past and present traditions with you.

I wont’ bore you with 34 years of spooktackular costumes but a few that get honorable mention are Big Bird (Keep PBS!), a Cabbage Patch Kid, a Witch, a flapper, a mermaid (did that twice), a clown, a sock hopper, Chiquita banana, a pirate, a princess, and a cave woman. I am already scheming ways to get my toddler into his costume this year. Since I am a product of the 80s, every Halloween I think about the safety of candy. When I was a child there was a big campaign for trick or treaters to only receive store bought candy-no more homemade goodies. Crazy people started putting needles, razor blades, and drugs in homemade goodies. I guess you can say those kids were tricked and not treated. I remember after hitting up all of the Halloween stops, my brother and I would come home with bags FULL of candy. Then begin my mother and father “inspecting” the wrappers. I’m not sure but looking back, this might have been a ploy for stealing our candy. Luckily, most of our candy passed inspection. One of my favorite treats I received every year was a toothbrush and these red dental dot thingys from a local dentist. You were supposed to chew up the dots after you brushed your teeth to see if you missed any spots. I thought it was much more fun to eat as much candy as possible and then chew the dots to see how dirty my teeth really were.

As a child, our Thanksgiving, perhaps had the strangest tradition—dressing balls. This was a creation of my grandmother. What is a dressing ball you might ask? Well, its dressing that has been mashed into a ball shape and cooked rather than spread out in the pan. You might picture it as a sausage ball on steroids.  I am not sure why she created balls of dressing, but I think they were easy to shove in a grandchild’s hand to make sure we were eating something as we ran around playing. The children loved them, but the adults grew to love and expect them as well. Since her passing, I have been in charge of dressing, so I might bring back the balls for our toddlers to enjoy…and the adults too. They are awesome for leftovers. And lets be real, who can keep a straight face and not laugh when someone says, “pass the balls please.”

One invention that shaped the 80s was the hot glue gun. Really it revolutionized the world. I mean what can you not fix with a hot glue gun? One Christmas season, I remember my grandmother buying a hot glue gun and beginning the endless crafting of Christmas elves. My grandmother and aunt spent endless hours gluing together the elves with plastic faces they had purchased at a local craft store and cutting out and gluing together felt elf outfits-complete with shoes. Ironically, these elves look just like the now famous Elf on the Shelf. I swear someone stole that idea from my family. If we only thought to write a book about those darn elves-we would be millionaires by now and I would be writing this blog from an exotic island somewhere. We started the Elf on the Shelf tradition with our son last year. It seemed fitting to name the elf, Merle, after my grandmother.

One funny memory of Christmas I have is when my dad sent me and my aunt on a mission to buy my mom’s Christmas present. Really, this was an annual mission and we didn’t get a choice to accept or deny the mission. One year, my mother saw a giant, yes giant- a 6 foot, Santa Claus made of dried seaweed/sea grass that she had to have for her house. Seriously, why would anyone want this? This stupid Santa probably weighed 100 pounds. I was about eight years old and my aunt was 18 when my dad sent us to bring this jolly fellow home to my mom for Christmas. Oh, and I failed to mention the store was nearly an hour from our house.  You could imagine what we looked like driving down a major highway in a mini Ford Bronco while Santa’s bottom-half stuck out through the hatch. Every freaking year, my dad and I would hoist Old Seaweed St. Nick up and down from the attic so he could make his grand debut. We hated him and tried some years to break him as we shoved his big rump into the attic-it didn’t work.  I was never so glad to see that guy leave our family when my parent’s had an auction. We could barely give it away. I think it might have brought $5! As a matter of fact, my mom called during the auction and said “who bought Santa”? I have no clue who now has the privilege celebrating Christmas with Mr. Seaweed Santa…but to you I say thank you!

Each year on Christmas Eve, I always enjoy hearing my family whine and complain about a tradition I started a decade ago. Nothing says love like a complaining family. Trust me, they complain about this tradition, but I think they secretly like it. We all have a small notebook with our name on it that is stored in a special Christmas bag all year. Each Christmas Eve when we get together, I drag the bag out and distribute the books. The next 10 to 15 minutes is spent arguing over the “rules” of this tradition. Luckily, one cousin wrote the rules down in her book-so after we get tired of arguing, when all else fails, we decide to read the rules. Next, we write down the events/things we want to remember about the year and then write down what we hope for or are predicting for the next year. Can I just say that me having a baby was mentioned at least every year for the past 10 years! Now that we made that dream come true-they can move on to the next cousin! After everyone jots down their thoughts, we go around one by one sharing the entries from the previous year. You only share what you feel comfortable sharing and try to avoid those TMI (too much information) entries. Some items shared bring a good laugh, some a tear, and others a surprise because you forgot all about them. I am the keeper of the books and honor everyone’s privacy. Seriously, I do not read them. As a matter of fact, our grandmother’s book went to the grave with her.

New Years is spent with some dear friends from our college days. As a matter of fact, since 1999 (and yes we partied like it was 1999 that year), we have celebrated all but two New Year’s together. One year I can’t remember what happened and last year we had a sick kido.  We have celebrated so many together; it is a call of duty to continue the tradition. We have lots of fun stories from ringing in the New Year…honesty, too fun to share. Okay, since kids entered the picture, we usually don’t make it to see the ball drop, but we have a good time none-the-less. We are looking forward to ringing in another year together this year.

As you embark on celebrating the holidays, it might feel like they have all been smashed into one event called New Hallothanksmas Christgivingween Year—but none-the-less, take time to make traditions and enjoy life with the one’s you love…and even the ones you have to love because you’re family.

Today my spoon is full of thoughts of holiday memories and savory dressing balls.

Shout Out About Colic

I recently received a phone call from a friend who was calling on behalf of their family member who has a newborn with colic. Why did they call me you might ask? Well, my bundle of love screamed at us for four months straight…so I have earned my colic survivor purple heart. Most might think, seriously, how much can a baby cry or say it’s all in how you handle it. And to you I say….well, I can’t say what I would like to say to you. But the answer is a baby can cry for 12+ hours a day! If you have never experienced it, take the worst moment you have had with a crying baby and multiply it by 1000000000000000 x nearly 120 days. I haven’t blogged about this topic, because I seriously think I might have some lingering post traumatic stress from this experience. A colicky baby could be used by the government in lieu of water-boarding. I recently showed my toddler a video of him screaming his head off when he was about 6 weeks old. He said “mad baby.” Yes dear, you were the mad baby. So badly mad, that our cat lived in the basement for four months. I was so jealous of her being able to escape.

So this blog post is for any new momma dealing with a colicky baby and for anyone else who might need a good laugh at my expense. Colic entered our house like a thief in the night about two weeks after we got home from the hospital with our 9.5 pound buddle of cuteness. Conveniently, my husband and daunting family members had all gone back to work at this point. So there I was with my beautiful, screaming demon and the cat, stuck in the house in the middle of July; which is pretty hot in Kentucky. And that is when I begin asking myself; did I really mean to take 3 months maternity leave, maybe the standard 6 weeks would suffice?

As a new mother your first instinct is to assume there must be something wrong…so there ensued our weekly visit to our jovial, pediatrician who shoots straight from the hip. Although it was the first week of August 2010, I remember his words like it was yesterday, “it’s probably colic, he will be a new baby by Thanksgiving.” What?? Thanksgiving is like four months away. I stared calculating the months, weeks, and hours until turkey day. And, there is no remedy? We don’t know what causes this? Why have mothers who have experienced colic around the globe not banded together to find a cure? So off I went with my screaming demon to survive the next four months. I have very few pictures documenting his first weeks, mainly because he was screaming and glowing with a bright red face the entire time.

The Sweet Baby I Brought Home (Pic By JoAnne Fowler)

Once you figure out there is nothing wrong with him, you assume there is something wrong with you. For example, how did I jump through all the hoops of a Ph.D., yet can’t handle a screaming baby? Throw in the changing hormones that are swiftly kicking you throughout the day with the questions of…maybe I shouldn’t have been a mom starts ringing in your brain? Maybe he hates me? Did the hospital give us the wrong baby?

Looking back there are some funny moments along the four month journey.

  • My dad would spend his days off with us trying to keep me sane. He spent one afternoon wheeling my son back and forth in his bassinet with wheels because when we stopped moving he would start crying again. That bassinet acquired some mileage around our house that day.
  • I would load my baby up in a stroller and go on walks with my iPod. He screamed while I blissfully listened to my favorite tunes and those that passed us by glared with a judging look for letting a baby scream like that.
  • Upon returning home from work one day (really, I am surprised he kept coming home), my husband said, “just get out of the house and do something for yourself. I got this.” I told him if I walked out the door, it was very likely I was never coming back. So I stayed…and I am grateful I did.
  • My mother would sing religious songs to my baby and rock him. Her music either soothed him or startled him enough that he was quite for a bit. My dad would fall asleep like a baby listening to her, long before the baby ever did.
  • One day, I didn’t get a bath until after my husband got home from work (what am I saying, heck most days I didn’t). He had some work due for his graduate program, so I decided to jump in the shower and afterwards take our screaming child for a drive. His screaming got so bad, I ended up leaving the house with wet hair, no shoes, and no bra (if that picture doesn’t put the stereotypical image of Kentucky in your head, I don’t know what will!). I just wanted the crying to stop, it was worth the sacrifices of clothes and looks. Since I also hadn’t eaten all day, I thought I would drive one hour round trip to the closest McDonalds for some fries. He would sleep and I would drive. Who would see me, right? On my way to McDonalds, I came upon my dad in a car wreck. He had hit a giant cow on the road. You can’t make this stuff up! Nothing like talking to a police officer, waiting for a wrecker, and helping your dad (who was thankfully unharmed) while barefoot, braless, wet dripping hair and wearing a Metallica t-shirt all while your newborn screams in the car. No peace and quiet that night. And no French fries.
  • My aunt’s frantic search for the perfect formula brings a smile to my face. She found one that we called liquid gold, it was pricey but it helped. She brought various brands by our house and we would compare ingredients and call the hotline on the can looking for answers. I was hoping the 1-800 number directly led to God.
  • My poor sister-in-law was six months pregnant during this time and I think this whole ordeal caused her to live in fear of meeting her baby. Luckily, she had a nice quite one!

When a mother who believes her baby has colic asks me what “did you do”, I always hate to answer. Honestly, I want to start crying, curl up a fetal position, and rock back and forth while singing a mixed genre of Amazing Grace, Baby’s Got Back, and Friends in Low Places. The truth is, we did everything and nothing worked. Sure some wives tales or concoction bought us few minutes, but there is no fix all answer. Slowly, week by week, the crying doesn’t last as long, and then around four months it just disappears.

So what did I try? Let’s see… sitting my child by a running facet, sitting my child on the dryer (it was so tempting to put him in on the delicate cycle), singing, dancing, watching TV, playing EVERY genre of music, making up our own songs, long rides in the car, long walks, bouncing up and down, massage, gripe water, herbal remedies, sugar water, acid reflux medicine, sitting outside, swaddling in warm blankets, strapping and wrapping the kid on me in various contraptions, various formulas, various bottle styles, pacifiers, ear plugs, calming lotion, prayers, crying (me, not the baby), wine (again, me, not the baby), and on and on.

Honestly, the two best things that worked were (1) giving him baths-he loved bath time and (2) keeping socks on his feet (that was advice from my grandmother). In reality, the only thing that TRULY works is taking care of yourself. That requires taking time to yourself, making time as a couple to escape, creating a routine that works for you, trusting and allowing others to help. I can’t say I did all of these things, but hindsight is 20/20.

So our household did survive colic. So did our marriage. So did my cat-luckily they have nine lives. Our hearing was probably damaged, but prepared us well for the other joys of parenting such as ear infections and terrible twos. And every year when the leaves start changing colors and falling off the tree and people start talking about getting their families together for turkey time, I count my blessings that colic is over!
Today my spoon is full of bitter sweet memories of my newborn that I hope will help another parent.

Facebook-A Bowl Full of Cherries

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I love being able to keep in touch with my friends and family that I do not get to see often enough. I hate the time I often waste on Facebook. I love the fact that family and friends who don’t get to see my toddler (lets be real, the kid has a fan club) on a daily basis can see him growing up on Facebook. I hate the shallowness on Facebook at times. I love the thought provoking articles and blogs that my friends often share on Facebook. I hate game requests that I get on Facebook. One of the things I find fascinating about Facebook is how we as individuals and a culture cherry pick our status updates to portray a life we want others to see. Come on now…you know exactly what I mean. Vacations, date nights, exotic conference destinations, achievements, pictures that often time only capture the best moments in life. Case in point, I haven’t changed my profile picture for nearly…………., well, since I was on Facebook. Mainly, I like the picture. I’m younger, skinnier, and it doesn’t have half of my husband’s or child’s face smashed against mine or cropped off. We only pick the best “cherries” that life has to offer in our spoonful to display on Facebook.

For you research nerds, Face Negotiation Theory by Stella Ting-Toomey (doesn’t that name just have a ring to it?) is an interesting theory to apply to Facebook. This theory has been sliced and diced by various researchers over the years, but the core of the theory revolves around the conflict of managing one’s identity as an individual or culture. There is a lot more interesting facets of information on this theory, but I won’t bore you with the details. To make it simple, you have all heard of “saving face” which means we don’t like our identity (or who we think we are) to feel conflicted or threatened or our sense of self-worth questioned; well, that is what is at the core of this theory-saving face. This theory, I believe, holds true on Facebook.

So, in relation to Facebook, we create a Facebook “face” that probably only captures some of the best moments (cherries) of our life. There is good reason we do this; really, most things are just best left unsaid. Although some of my friends on Facebook must not believe this; seriously, I don’t care you just did your laundry or took your pooch for a walk. Imagine a world for at least one day where everyone typed status updates or comments that really says what’s behind our face for that day. I am sure it would create a lot of questions, possibly hurt feelings, and realness that we just couldn’t handle. But it is fun to use your imagination and think of the possibilities. Muwhahahah! Here are some examples of the status updates or comments that might surface on the day of true face. Before you go judging, don’t be making your “face” so important that you take these comments personal.

  • I just ate at a five star restaurant, paid out the wahzoo and the food sucked.
  • I didn’t like you in high school, why did I accept your friend request?
  • I didn’t like you in high school, but you are pretty darn cool now.
  • Great picture of you (speaking at the conference, morning worship, and picnicking with your kids)…where is the one where you were dancing on the table last night?
  • Your views on (religion, politics, blah, blah) do not align with mine, and no matter how many times you post them, I ain’t drinking your Kool-Aid.
  • You and your significant other make ugly babies.
  • I just picked my nose.
  • You change your relationship status more than I change my kid’s diapers (which occurs about every two hours!)
  • My (insert name of family/co-worker, etc.) is getting on my last nerve today.
  • Just yelled at my spouse for no reason. I can’t believe he stays married to me.
  • This is a picture of me and my family smiling at the beach but we really want to kill each other.
  • Today I am too fat to fit into my fat pants.
  • I’m only accepting your friend request because I want to stalk you.
  • I just considered duct taping my kid to his bed so he will stay in it.
  • Wow, it may be your sole purpose in life to serve as a warning to others.
  • You have a right to your opinions, but that doesn’t mean we really want to hear them.
  • Jesus might love you but everyone else thinks you’re an a*$hole for that last status update.
  • I hope no one lets one rip while doing the downward dog pose in yoga tonight.
  • If your job is so demanding…get off Facebook and get back to work.
  • I admire your loyalty to that hairstyle.
  • It’s so hot outside I need a spatula to get my clothes off.
  • I am experiencing DEJA POO: The feeling I have when sitting in a meeting knowing I have heard this crap before.
  • I was hoping for a battle of wits but it appears you are unarmed.
  • Oh by the way, thanks for saying hi when I saw you at the grocery store. Exactly why are we friends on Facebook?
  • Why bless your heart. It must take a lot of work to hide your backstabbing ways. While you are sticking that knife in my back, bend on over a bit and kiss my tush.
  • The truth is your lovey, gushy messages to your significant other on Facebook are just weird…do you all ever talk in person? Get a room.
  • I just ate half the container of Oreos instead of running.

Well, maybe it is best that we do save “face” on Facebook. I promise I don’t think of these things (well, at least not most of them) when I read my friends’ status updates. And, often time, I try to spare you from the ugly, meaningless truth with my updates. Remember, behind each status update and comment are real people that have good moments and bad moments. What would be your real update for the day of face truth?

Today my spoon is full of “cherries”.

Thoughts as Thick as Peanut Butter

This blog has been brewing in my heart for a while mainly because just like most folks, I do not want to share these thoughts or think about them long enough to formulate an emotion. It’s a sticky topic, like the glob of peanut butter my toddler likes to lick off the spoon right out of the jar. Tasty, yet messy. Deep thoughts…that, well, in this busy life gets crowded out by meetings, laundry, and Power Ranger reenactments. I often wonder if the human flaw and tendency to live superficially is actually a divine design to distract us from the weight of what it would be like if we truly lived. This might seem like a bit of an oxymoron. But by truly living I mean licking every drop off your spoon…kind of like peanut butter. Living by experiencing the pain and hurt, as well as, the joy and blessings, of others who are living around the world, just not those that are nearest to us. Having the energy and gumption to fight for equality for all-all the time. Spending each waking moment making the world a better place than we found it. Embracing the good that each person has to offer. Seems more exhausting than showing up for work and extracurricular activities, right?

I watched a movie, Final Cut, in 2004 (I highly recommend) where Robin Williams played a cutter who splices and dices people’s historical memory after death (as seen through the deceased person’s eyes). He cuts memories up to form a video highlight reel of the person. Kind of like the PowerPoint presentations we now see at funeral homes, weddings, etc. with pictures portraying your life. The plot was thicker than what I am describing, but, I often wonder if someone had the capability after death to “cut” my memories and share them-what would they be? Who have I made an impact on? How did my life look different from my eyes compared to another person’s eyes.

Experience-one size doesn’t fit all. But for me, these are the things that fill my mind in my 30s that fit into my mind differently in previous years of my life. I am not saying that this is a rite a passage for 30s…I am simply saying this is occurring for me in my 30s…who knows if I am a late bloomer or early! Recently, we had some great friends from college visit us for the weekend. Only true friends brave a rental house in the “hood” (I use that word lightly-I know it could be worse) for some quality time together. Being that we both have toddlers we decided to order take out for dinner. It was a debate as to whether the wives or husbands would go get takeout while the others gave the boys their baths…but we ladies grabbed the keys first and off we went for sushi. When we called in the order, the restaurant told us it would take 20-30 minutes and despite the fact that the restaurant is 3 minutes from our driveway…we felt we better head that way and wait…conveniently at the bar. My friend and I have shared a lot of laughs and stories over cocktails… but this one was somehow different. I found us experiencing the same thing, yet describing it in our own words. In a nutshell, we were worried about sucking all of the juice out of the honeysuckle of life. On our brains were not discussions of work commitments, dreams of Pinterest projects, piles of laundry, or exotic travels. It was simply…how do you know you are living every moment to the fullest and how do you not guilt trip yourself when you fall short.

As our discussion developed, it dawned on me that these were ideas that weren’t a part of our discussions in our 20s. For us those years happened to be more sheltered or innocence; maybe even selfish. In our 30s we have seen friends lose their jobs, marriages crumble, parents and grandparents pass away. We understand the gravity of what it means to have a healthy child. And the fear of that blessing turning into hell with one test result. We have seen the effects of evil diseases. We have watched friends mourn the loss of their spouse. We have seen the beauty in a good deck of cards, and the cruelty in a losing hand. People have disappointed us. We have disappointed others. The list goes on and on…but in the midst of all of that…the core remains how do you live each day to the fullest, how do you not fret over the uncontrollable and the unforeseen. How do you be the best spouse, friend, daughter, sister, etc. you can be? How do you create a life for your child so that he or she doesn’t spend the rest of his/her life trying to sort through it? How do you savor all of the “first” and all of the “lasts” your journey has to offer? How do you indeed leave the world a better place than you found it?

The truth is there isn’t an easier answer or even a single answer. The tactic that works one day is derailed by life on another day. Each day you try to be better than the day before. Sometime this evolution is moment by moment. You continuously deprogram yourself from the jargon that this negative word offers. You keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to a cause or need. You say I am sorry. You say I love you. You get happy. You forgive others. You forgive yourself. You spend more time thinking, believing, and doing what your good at doing. You live in the moment, not the past or the future. And, you eat sushi that, well, was ready long before that conversation finished. Peace, love, and happiness folks…keep becoming your best self!

Today my spoon if full of deep thoughts of licking up every bit in my spoon.

24/7 on the job…Mom

Last week, I had surgery on my knee. The MRI showed a tear in my meniscus.  After 1.5 hours of exploratory surgery-not a single little tear could be found. Arghh!! The good news is I have just been hobbling around like a pirate for a few days instead of being on crutches throughout the upcoming holiday season. The bad news …well, I have a battle wound on my leg (AKA a scar) and we still don’t know what is wrong with my knee. So next steps are physical therapy and taking arthritis medication. Seriously, arthritis?  For those that know me well, know I haven’t worn my bones out from my athletic prowess.  My late grandmother suffered from arthritis.  When the condition would bother her, she used to say her “Arthur” was acting up as if it was her mischievous friend.  I guess, Arthur is now my new “friend.”

My husband has been most helpful and most gracious during my surgery and recovery. And frankly, I am a horrible patient. I am a grumpy beast. I hate depending on others and dislike having to sit and watch life pass me by while my leg is propped up at a certain angle and healing. I am humbled by individuals who have had to be patient while their bodies were healing for a long period of time. Anesthesia and pain killers make me sleep like a bear hibernating for the winter. However, through this experience, I have learned there is one job that you are never off duty for and that is the job of mom. You know you’re a mom when….

  1. In the surgery center recovery area you ask for Goldfish Crackers. And despite the amnesia, you remember being disappointed they were not the extra cheesy blast variety.
  2. Your bummed you got an entire night to yourself in a king size bed (husband, kido, and cat took the couch) and were too drugged to remember it.
  3. Having been sleep deprived for months you first thought after you realized you slept for 16 hours straight is “do I have bed sores?”
  4. While sleeping you remember a pirate with a hammer visiting your beside and you are pretty sure it was your toddler and not a weird dream.
  5. Instead of a bell, your husband leaves you a plastic trumpet on the night stand to blow if you need help. Honestly, my loving husband probably wanted to tell me where to shove that trumpet a few times.
  6. Your family says “It’s been 24 hours…aren’t you back to being superhero mom? “
  7. You have to take sponge baths for a week to avoid infecting your wound, but you forgot to ask the doctor about slobbery toddler kisses on your “boo boo.”
  8. You beg to go to the grocery shopping because it is considered “me time.”
  9. Your first meal post operation you ask for macaroni and cheese.
  10. You still can explain to someone what your toddler is saying even though you are drugged out the wazoo.

Today my spoon is full of thanks for good health! Mom’s don’t have time to be sick!

This “Two” Shall Pass

From birth, heck from pregnancy, most parents are automatically in a competition with each other…especially mothers.  And it is not in our nature to air our dirty laundry.  Doing so is a sign of weakness to the competition. After all, our kid’s perfectness is a direct reflection of our perfection. But for the sake of creating empathy among parents, especially mothers, I am airing my laundry today. Most of us like to think the rest of the world operates in little pockets of utopia where their children are perfect, the parents have the heart of Super Nanny, and life goes as planned. My life has been quite the contrary since the terrible twos became a guest at our house. A dear friend of mine shared the following quote with me which I will PG-13 rate for the sensitive folks.

They are called the “terrible twos” because” f*#&ing awful” doesn’t start with a T.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The mother who texted this quote to me is a top-notch mother in my book and I appreciated her rawness! Seriously, what happens at two? And I thought colic was bad!

Borrowing from an 80s movie reference, my cute child goes from Gizmo to Gremlin with something as simple as the wrong Sippy cup filled with apple juice when he wanted orange juice.  For the past few weeks, our days go something like this. At 6:45 he wakes up. Before his eyes are open he says “nack” which means he wants a snack…AKA breakfast. No worries, Prince Cooper, your Gogurt and juice await you. By 6:47 he is telling me “NO TEETH” and “NO SHOES” which means he has no intentions of brushing his teeth or wearing his shoes today. The clock hands seem to be moving at warp speed as I try to finish getting ready while he downs his “nack”. I hear his feet hit the floor the moment he finishes.  He makes his way crying to the bathroom like I have been gone for weeks. He begins climbing my legs. I swear it is like he is trying to crawl back in the womb some mornings. A few minutes later, we have a WWF wrestling match to get his clothes and shoes on. I won’t even go into the details of how the socks have to be “just right” so they don’t hurt his feet and how the tags on his shirt itch his back.

By this point in the morning, the cat is standing at the door meowing because she wants outside. Don’t we all want to escape Miss Kitty? Well, the luxury of a house cat affords you the opportunity of enduring this fine morning with the family. If anyone is going outside to be alone it is me. For goodness sake cat, you have the house to yourself all day! Next, comes the tooth-brushing smack down. And, really, what’s the point….these stupid things are going to fall out in a few years anyways. All of these morning activities, which may I add, are usually done with me wearing dress clothes and heels!

Fast forward to leaving the house, round two continues  as I try to pile drive him into the car seat. His body automatically morphs into a stiff board the minute the car door opens. As soon as I get one arm in the restraint, the other is out.  Off we go to daycare and work…awww…some peace and quiet. Crap!  The sun is in his eyes. Now he is crying again and yelling “NO SUN.” A part of me secretly thanks God that his beautiful beams of sun are causing temporary angst for this holy terror. Maybe some angelic beams will penetrate him.  Out of the car to daycare we go, a little clingy-but he is always happy to see his teachers. Off to work I go, usually sweating like I am having a menopausal moment. Rushing in the door I manage to greet everyone with a smile on my face despite the war zone I just went through.  Who knows if my clothes match? Heck, I may not even have all of my clothes on. I probably have Gogurt in my hair or splattered on my rear. None-the-less, I am here and ready to conquer the day.

Fast forward….the work day is done and let’s face it…some days are filled with adults who appear to have never exited the terrible twos. Long gone are the memories of the morning stress. Off I go to daycare to pick up my pride and joy. I’m ready to see my little munchkin and spend quality time with him. I am greeted with a big smile. A good sign, right? Yes! He has had a good day. Or at least that’s the report. Maybe his teachers lie to me and act pleasant as if he is a good child for them.  Off we head to the car. Noooo! My holy terror is back for a WWF rematch thrashing as he goes in the car seat. I’m really beginning to wonder…does this kid hate me? People in the parking lot probably think I have taken a child that doesn’t belong to me. The little demon from earlier in the day reappears and the remainder of the night is a battle of wills. Whining, crying, more whining….picking our poor 12 year old cat up with grilling tongs, yelling “NO JESUS” and “NO AMEN” when we say our prayers…and on and on and on. Is it bedtime yet?  Close enough…off to bed we go….all four of us snug in the bed (me, my husband, toddler, and cat).  Please Lord, don’t let tomorrow be Groundhog Day.

I know the terrible twos are a phase and this too shall pass. I wonder why the twos are so terrible? Is the Devil a two year old? If so, I never want to meet him. On average, my child has more sweet and funny moments than “terrible two” moments or we would be looking into a refund policy. Luckily, his cute Gizmo moments, outweigh his Gremlin tendencies. But, unfortunately, those angelic moments, right now, often occur when he is with other folks.  As a parent, I guess this is a labor of love step to condition your heart for unconditional love.

As my husband walked out the door wrestling our angel all the way to the car this morning he said, “I wish we could come home and the Super Nanny’s car would be in our driveway”.  To which my child said “NO NANNY”. Sure, we might be a case for the Super Nanny…but with a lot of love, a ton of patience, and a few ounces of wine…the terrible twos will be distance memories and replaced by the ““what’s that threes”, the obnoxious puberty years, the brainless teenage years, the experimental college years, etc. I air my laundry because life isn’t perfect and mine isn’t either. So if you are a mother of a two year old (or a mother of any age child), take a deep breath and realize that more of us have been to this place than we will ever admit. Keeping moving forward. The goal is to survive the terrible twos and not create an adult who has a persistence case of the terrible twos. The world has enough of those already!

Today my spoon is full of terrible twos. Hmmm…I wonder what my WWF Mommy Stage name could be?

Eat Some Carpe Diem

Quite a few folks have asked me “where is your blog this week” and to you I say thank you for missing me. I have missed blogging. It’s a creative outlet I have come to love. I promised to be authentic on this blog-so to answer your question “where have I been? “ Well…drowning in work and life. Mucho deadlines at work, building a house, a traveling hubbie, and a bummed knee have caught up with me this week. So this blog is short and sweet!

If you’re having one of “those” weeks, in the midst of the busy chaos stop and have a real big spoonful of life. For peace of mind go ahead and resign as general manager of the universe and do something for yourself and those you love. Enjoy the beautiful weather, get your hair or toes did, have a massage, catch up with a friend, go on an adventure with the kiddos, commit a random act of kindness, have a date night with your love, etc. Whatever, just stop and enjoy it.  Tonight, Coop and I are going on an outdoor picnic adventure.

Meanwhile, enjoy your spoonful and see you next week! There is so much to blog about…Honey Boo Boo drama, Todd Akin speaking on behalf of all uteruses, the idiot I met who said kids in daycare go to kiddy kennels (that one sent me over the edge), my 23 days of coke sobriety (let me clarify that-Coca Cola)….got a lot of material stuck in my head! Looking forward to jumping back on the blog wagon next week.

Today my spoon is full “carpe diem” for the things that matter most.

Hello… a Call from Communication Memory Lane

Communication makes the world go round. From smoke signals to pigeons to Morse Code, we as humans have always found a way to communicate. Perhaps the most famous (although a little thing called Apple has given him a run for his money) invention for communication was in 1876 by a fellow name Bell who created the telephone. His innovation created the platform that has undergone a radical transformation in the last 136 years.

Each phase of my life coincides with stories about telephones. Since I was a small child, I have always loved human interest news shows like 20/20. For most of my childhood, I envisioned myself being the next Barbara Walters (hmmm…maybe I can be Barbara Walters of the blog world). I recall one episode about technology and how one day we would be able to see the people we talk to while on the phone. I imagined a giant TV screen that had a numerical key pad and a giant phone connected by a cord. I remember thinking what happens if people call and you aren’t dressed or your hair isn’t fixed…. I guess I never thought you could just ignore the call (now there is a button to do just that). Being able to actually hear someone’s voice and see them on the phone simultaneously seemed space aged to a girl who just started dialing the numerical prefix to phone numbers when the last  four digits would no longer suffice.

My next memory of phone technology occurs in my preteen years. I recall getting the “answering machine” at our house. I remember jumping out of the car and running in the house from the garage to see who had left a “detailed message” after the beep. Although I was embarrassed at the time, I can now chuckle about a group of boys that use to leave long, ridiculous messages on the machine (gosh, wish I would have kept those). I also remember my grandmother would leave a message and at the end of her message she would say “maw” as if she was signing her name to a letter or we didn’t know who she was.

During my teenage years, I experienced what I thought were communication luxuries like calling waiting and caller ID. In hindsight, these were really just efforts for my parents to spy on me and have a fighting chance of having a few minutes on the phone. While I was in high school, my parents purchased their first cell phone. It was in a black bag and came with a detachable antenna you put on the roof of your car. It was for emergencies only. Minutes were pricey and precious. Occasionally, I would get to carry the “bag” phone in my car. Even if I didn’t make a call, it felt so cool to carry that bag out of the house and stick that antenna on my Ford Probe. There is a reason, you no longer see bag phones or Ford Probes and for that I am thankful.

In college, personal cell phones still weren’t popular. I know it is hard for current college students to believe, but I managed to make it to class on time and have an active social life without a cell phone to call or text my friends. Toward the end of college, car phones were becoming increasingly popular. And finally the true mobile phone started hitting the scene. My last year of college, I bought a cell phone plan because it was cheaper than paying for a landline. Heck half the time I didn’t even take it out of my house.

During my early professional years, I found myself a newlywed with a husband in Iraq. I was able to forward our home phone to my cell phone so I could reduce the possibility of missing his phone call. He was among some of the first men and women to be deployed, so calls home were rare because communication systems weren’t established (luckily, this got better further into the war). Since I was carrying my cell phone with me, I noticed I had stopped wearing a watch. After all, I didn’t’ need it because my cell phone always told me the time. I also starting texting during this time period. I will be honest, at first my text included words like “yes” “no” and “k”. After my department started making fun of me for my short messages and got me a texting for dummies book for my Boss’s Day, I stepped up my game.  Now, I have an unlimited texting plan and I can text all sorts of abbreviations, videos, pictures, and sometimes even short dissertations.

In my thirties, I find that “telephone” communication is more important than ever. Somewhere between carrying that bag phone and present time- a revolution occurred in my life. My phone is practically a family member. When my toddler discovers it in the house, he automatically brings it to me as if I should be missing it. My phone tells me where to be, it reminds me of tasks and appointments, informs me of what’s around me, keeps me up-to-date on the weather, notifies me about how much money is in my bank account, shows me how to get places, plays my favorite tunes, keeps track of my exercise, takes pictures and videos of precious moments, serves as a calculator, houses my addresses book, provides games to my child, and serves as an alarm clock. I am actually typing my blog from my cell phone as I wait on a meeting to start. And…as that 20/20 show shared back in the late 80s/early 90s, my phone now allows me to see the person I am talking to. I never imagined 20 something years ago, when watching that show, that I could be anywhere in the world and would be able to read a story with my toddler, sing songs, and say our prayers together. My son, will never know a world where he can’t see the person on the other end of the phone.

I wonder one day what my phone will look like? Will my iPhone seem like the size of a shoe box compared to the phone I carry when I am 100 years old? What will my phone do for me then? Check my blood pressure? Cook for me? The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see and embrace what communication technology the future holds.

Today my spoon is full of cool communication memories.

Dear Secret Lover…

Dear Secret Lover,

Breaking up is hard to do. And it’s not me…it’s actually all YOU. I know we have been together for a LONG time now. We practically met when I had a baby bottle in hand. Our love for each other can be described as Jekyll and Hyde.  You ignite me and motivate me, yet hours later you leave me feeling lethargic and empty. Just thinking of you brings a bubbling sensation to my body. I have tried replacing you, but no one quenches my thirst like you do and I always run straight back to you craving the taste of you on my lips. When I see you, my body aches to touch your shapely silhouette. Even though my husband has seen us together, he doesn’t know the extent of my love for you. He’s out of town all next month which gives me the opportunity to spend even more time with you. I need you. I want you. But this has to stop. This is actually the worst month I could break up with you…I have a huge stack of projects to complete in the upcoming month and a toddler in my life that has more energy bottled in him than a Red Bull.  As fate would have it, I spent the last night with you in the museum having you 60 different ways (ladies….be jealous). As the saying goes…I went out with a bang (and fizzle and pop)! You have such a way of invigorating my very soul. Living without you is not going to be easy but the fact is- your just no good for me. Maybe one day we can have an occasional rendezvous without me falling for you all over again. Until then, I will be keeping a safe distance from you.Good bye…Coca Cola our relationship is over.

Addicted to your love,

Me

I LOVE Coke! I know in the South we call every soda product a “coke” but I mean I really love the real thing! No substitutes. No knockoffs or other brands. No diets. No zeroed out versions-the real deal. I realized I was addicted to the love of Coke when my toddler started calling it “momma juice”. What my toddler doesn’t know is the real mommy juice is brought out when I have a quiet moment while he is in bed.

The Vault

As I have been contemplating breaking up with Coke and blogging about it, fate landed me in an Atlanta hotel close to the Coca Cola Museum. I decided to take a pilgrimage to the museum to say my final goodbyes. I learned about the taste of happiness, watched how the product was bottled, sold, and marketed. I walked by the vault that holds the secret formula that only two people in the world know.God, if I am ever stranded on an island with one other person, please let one of the people that knows this secret formula be stranded with me…and make that person a hot, smart guy!

 

At the museum, I spent most of my time in the tasting room sampling the 60 different Coca Cola products from across the globe. I must say, nothing quenched my thirst like the American Coca Cola. I left with museum with a sovenier glass bottle of Coca Cola that was bottled that day…maybe I will pop the cap on that bottle in July 2013 for a celebration of my one-year breakup with my love.

Since stopping for a Skinny Caramel Macchiato doesn’t fit in this momma’s schedule most mornings…there is nothing that gets my blood going and my brain working like a cold, refreshing Coke. It’s liquid ambition in a glass, plastic, can, or Styrofoam container.  The fact is the product is empty calories and filled with things my body doesn’t need. It’s a waste of my time to avoid certain unhealthy foods, run, and exercise while continuing to drink empty calories. In the name of health, I am breaking up with the love of my life. For now, it’s all or nothing…so I am selecting “nothing.” Maybe one day I can have a sip and not go back to “all.” As the saying going, misery loves company…who is with me?

Today my spoon is full of the last drop of “mommy juice”.

My Boo!

Last week I celebrated a two-year old’s birthday, this week I celebrate the birthday of an 18-year-old. My littlest cousin who we call Boo Boo (Thanks to my son) is turning the BIG 1-8! With this rite of passage, the 18th birthday brings many “rights”… most of which aren’t that great for your mind or body. For example, you can drink in some countries (not the USA), buy tobacco products, purchase a firearm, get tattoos, pierce various parts of your body, and consent to what you want to “consent” to.  You can join the military, get married, buy a house, play the lottery, sign contracts, get a full-time job, and be tried in a court of law as an adult. Unfortunately, some may chose to do all of this simultaneously. Probably the most meaningful “right” you earn as an 18-year-old is your right to vote. Taking a short commercial break for a feminist rant….ALWAYS vote! Boo Boo…many women marched and fought hard for this right. Some women around the world dream of the day their voice is heard and recognized. Not all are on an equal playing field yet…but your voice helps move progress forward.  So always, always rock the vote!

Now back to being 18. I don’t recall much about turning 18. I didn’t get a tattoo, smoke a pack of cigarettes, buy a lottery ticket, etc. The best I remember, it was a pretty uneventful birthday. For some, the ripe age of 18 is a milestone or represents a time in their teenage life that makes them want to stay forever young. I never thought at the time that 18 would be my prime age, but some do. And for those…of course there is a song. Bryan Adams has a song “18 til I Die.” Goes something like this

Can’t live forever that’s wishful thinkin’
Who ever said that must of bin’ drinkin’
Don’t wanna grow up I don’t see why
I couldn’t care less if time flies by

18 til I die – gonna be 18 til I die
it sure feels good to be alive
someday I’ll be 18 goin’ on 55! – 18 til I die

I really can’t imagine being 18 until I die. I would love to have my 18-year-old body…until I die, but I hated the teenage years. The knowledge gained as an adult…with an 18-year-old body is indeed a deadly combination. So for everything there is a season. Even though you gained some extra “rights” by turning 18, it is still lumped in with “teenager” years. However, looking back it was more of a monumental year than I realized. It was the year I shifted from being a “high schooler” to a “college student.” It didn’t’ seem that big of a deal at the time…but hindsight is 20/20 and that year some of the decisions I made set the course for my life (which has been a fabulous voyage thus far).

Our Boo Boo is starting 18 off right; she has earned the recognition of a Governor’s Scholar and is receiving top honors at a one the finest State Universities (Go TOPS!). Boo Boo as you set off on this journey of turning 18, you are stepping into the world of college…the place where you carve out who you are, as well as, how and what you contribute to this world. Yes, there will be days you will miss your mommy…but you will live and come to adore the bond you share as adults. You will miss your family…but there will come a time when you will be glad to get away from them after you spend a weekend at home visiting with them. Heck, some days I would like to pack up and live in a dorm! Watch out…I might visit!

Speaking of home…”home” will never be home again. You will share a tiny dorm space, but it will be “home.” You are now charged with making yourself a home in this world as you chart your course. You will have roommates you hate, roommates you love, and roommates you don’t even recall that much about. You will meet new people and they will influence your life in many ways. Some will detract from your life and bring you more trouble than they are worth. You will say goodbye to old friends, hello to new friends, and eventually hello again to some of your old friends. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own life and who you let in it…or keep in it. You will have the opportunity to travel abroad and see this big world and experience it for yourself. You’ll experience love and heartache. You will be humbled and disappointed by adults. You will meet mentors who ignite your passion for a cause. You will learn how to push yourself. You will learn the value of a dollar and the joys and pain of balancing life and work. You will try crazy things. You will succeed. You will fail. You will grow. And ultimately, you too will be glad you aren’t 18 til you die.

As you turn 18, enjoy what this chapter in life has to offer, but do not let it comprise the opportunities and dreams the next chapters have to offer…for they get sweeter with time. Don’t miss the current chapter or the next chapter, by living in past chapters. And above all, enjoy being 18 while it last.  Happy birthday, my love…Boo Boo.

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Today my spoon is full of birthday wishes for one special gal!

A wise old man…who is two!

Since my son turned two last week, I have been reflecting on his past two years. I recently heard my mom say “days are long and years are short.” I don’t know if she made that up, she is usually pretty clever with words, or if she “borrowed” it from someone. The quote is a good description of parenting and especially the last two years of my life. And though we have had some long days, two years have been short as a parent to my Coop! There has been days that if a phone number existed to the Stork that dropped off my bundle of joy…I would call for a refund or an exchange. Luckily, these days are few and far between and when the fun and pretty merge with the bad and ugly you are left with predominately found memories in short segments.

One thing great about Cooper turning two is that we now can count his age in years. I was so excited when I could quit counting his age in weeks. It’s a lot for a new parent to keep up with weeks, especially on top of feeding schedules, sleep schedules, diaper changes.  Geez the list goes on and on! Then we moved from counting in weeks to counting in months-which is a little easier. Now we get to move from months to years! Maybe I will throw in a 2 ½ just to be cuh-razy!  But none-the-less, I don’t have to count days, weeks, or months in my head any longer. Just years and I am afraid those years will be too short.

There is very good reason for not counting in years. For example, doesn’t it sound better to say I am 34 years old rather than 415 months!  I won’t even calculate the weeks… that would be too depressing!  In honor of not having to count in months any longer, I will amuse you with 24 things I have learned in the past 24 months from my toddler. I mean come on, if I listed just two for his two years of life that would be a boring post. And if I listed 104 in honor of a 104 weeks of life, that would be too long. So here they are (in no particular order)… 24 things I have learned as mommy to Cooper and in return want to remind him about when he is an adult.

  1. Work and play should be one in the same. Whether you are picking up toys before bed time, helping me with laundry, or orchestrating an intense fight between your dinosaurs you are having fun. Your innocence allows you to turn work into play. I hope you always continue to cease the moment and play your way through life. Now, this isn’t to be confused with being a “player” to the ladies.
  2. Learn how to say no.  You do this a little too well sometimes. As an adult, I hope you know when to say no and not be scared to take a chance and say yes. Never allow saying “yes” to interfere with your well being and the ones whose relationships you value the most.   I have found once you say “no” …it is easier and easier to say it again to preserve your inner peace.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed…try, try, try again. From learning to setup, to walk, to putting things in your pocket, to riding your tractor…you kept trying to you figured it out. You don’t let restrictions slow you down or influence your capability. Now, to conquer the potty!
  4. Learn by watching and listening. I am amazed on how much you soak in by being a quiet (or sometimes a loud) observer. Always keep an open mind, eyes, ears, and heart.
  5. Looks don’t matter. Whether you interacting with a child your size, a plump old lady, or Elmo, you look at each of them as humans and wonder what fun and excitement awaits for you by your paths crossing.  Plus, you love me at my prettiest and my ugliest.  Always look for the value in each person you meet and don’t allow their looks to camouflage what you see.
  6. Know when to ask for help. Sometimes in life you need help from others…and that’s okay. Asking for mommy’s “help” or daddy to “fix it” is music to our ears. Throughout life there are people waiting in the wings ready to help if you ask.  Don’t ignore their offers and don’t take advantage of the offers.
  7. Enjoy life at the pace you have defined for yourself. Boy, you have one speed and that is whatever you want it to be. There is no rushing you and no slowing you down. As an adult make your pace match your priorities in life.
  8. Love people for who they are not what you want them to be.  When you see your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, friends you see them for just who (“what” might be debatable at times) they are and love them any way. You have no preconceived notions of what they should be. If you continue to have this outlook you will face less disappointment.
  9. Notice the small things in life. Whether it’s a bird, an airplane, a flower, a rock, a piece of lint…you notice it. Don’t get so busy that you don’t appreciate what is around you and miss the obvious.
  10. If you don’t like someone or something ignore them/it. When you think something is a bad idea, doesn’t sound like fun, is a mean person-you just ignore them and don’t incorporate it into your moment (okay-sometimes you bite, then ignore). I hope you continue to block out things that don’t matter and not spend your time incorporating and fretting over people and things you don’t like. Instead, put your energy into things and people that bring you joy. And…although it could bring great satisfaction you can’t bite people that you don’t like as an adult. Although, occasionally you can whisper to yourself “bite me” which takes biting to another level.
  11. Don’t hold a grudge. Even though you have a memory like an elephant, you rarely hold a grudge. If someone makes you mad you yell, bite, or cry and then you move on. I hope you always have that ability to get over it and move on.
  12. Express yourself. Whether it is singing a song, yelling to hear your voice echo in a public bathroom, sitting down on the floor and protesting…I can always count on you to let me know what you are thinking. Don’t bottle up your emotions and continue to express yourself.
  13. You can’t always get what you want. But as the Rolling Stones say “but if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.” Although you prefer to gorge on fruit snacks, macaroni, and juice… you will find that life is best lived in moderation. However, your mother will always agree that Mac and Cheese and pizza should have been their own section in the food pyramid.
  14. Every day is a new day. Each day you wake up with new energy, a new perspective and the past is irrelevant. That past is just that-over. So learn from it and leave it there.
  15. Go with your gut. Whether it is jumping off the bed, ripping your clothes off and running around the house naked, or snuggling under the covers on the couch (occasionally, you have a sweet moment)…you go with whatever strikes you. Never lose your boldness and your freedom to not care. Although, I must warn you…running around naked as an adult might have its consequences.
  16. Be a minimalist. You live off fruit and macaroni and cheese. Your favorite toys are items I once considered trash. You don’t have to have extravagance to find happiness and fulfillment.  I hope you experience the finer things in life, but always enjoy the simplest of pleasures.
  17. Sometime a timeout changes your perspective. As much as you hate them, an occasional time out is needed for your safety (and my sanity). Know when to give yourself a timeout to have some quite time to think and gain a fresh perspective. Hopefully, as an adult this won’t include tears and kicking your feet.
  18. Know your boundaries. You and the family cat, Miss Kitty, have a constant struggle with boundaries. One of my favorite books, Wuthering Heights, discusses the thin line between love and hate.  This is a perfect illustration of you. When you pet her, I can see it in your eyes the fine line between loving her and pulling out all of her fur. You and Miss Kitty are both protective of one another and curious of each other.  If I am at home and your not…she walks around meowing and looking for you. When you get home, she is the first thing you look for and greet. When you are together it usually goes something like this…you lure her with a snack, pull her tail, she bites you, you cry, and then you chase her around the house scolding here with “no, no Kitty” (that really sounds like “titty”). Remember that thin line between love and hate and how one action can ignite either emotion. And…remember some boundaries are made to be crossed and some are made to be observed.
  19. Let music fill your soul. You came about it naturally; you inherited my love for music. Whether it is beating your drum, strumming your plastic guitar, or singing a song…you find comfort and joy in music. I spent countless hours (and Mimzi did too), singing to you while you had colic. We sang so much we ran out of songs and even made up our own at times. Continue to let the beat carry you through the hard times and celebrate the good times.
  20. Figure out how things work. Like your dad, you are mechanically inclined to make things work and figure out problems. Continue to be inquisitive, think outside the box, and believe you can conquer any problem.
  21. Always say your prayers. This is actually a favorite reminder of your great grandmother and now of your great grandfather. You are so natural at saying a prayer and listing off everyone and everything you love one by one and closing with “maymen” (aka amen). As you grow up I pray your faith in something bigger grows stronger and I hope when this world is ugly your faith brings your strength.
  22. Always check in. Although I don’t let you out of my sight for long (way too risky and you can accomplish so much so quickly) the times when you are playing and I sneak away for a moment…you always holler “momma” just to make sure I am there. You especially do this if dad gets out of your sight. Before we leave for school and work you always make sure that Brown Bear is in his place on the bed (I’m sorry you inherited my OCD tendencies). I hope you always check in on those you love and keep in touch with friends that you make throughout your lifetime.
  23. Laugh at yourself. For some reason you think saying the word “orange” is so funny. When you say that word you have the funniest look on your face and you giggle. It makes me chuckle every time. I hope you can always laugh at yourself in the best and worst of each situation.
  24. Always share. Every now and then you turn into a mine-osaurus, but for the most part you share well with others, even when it hurts to watch your cousin chew on your favorite toy. At your recent birthday party, you would open up birthday cards that contained money and freely give your money to folks at the party. I hope you always have a giving spirit and not expect things in return.

Each short year, I will continue to prepare you to live in the world in which you will live and not the world in which I grew up. Be the days long or short, I will be there to learn with you and from you and to support your dreams, not mine dreams for you…but those you define for yourself. As I encourage you to not lose your innocence, to not let others make you feel jaded, and not let this world make you judgmental, I work to undo that which the world does to each adult. Little man, you have taught me a lot in two short years, I can’t wait to see what the next years bring.

Mr. Two Year Old

Today my spoon is full of a lot of wisdom from a two year old.

Family Vacations…Best as Memories

Ahhh…Summer-the time for family vacations! My family’s (me, husband, & toddler)  recent vacation has caused me to reflect on vacations past. The best part of the majority of these vacations are just that…they are in the past. AKA over! The only evidence is pictures and stories. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some pleasant family vacations. But the most memorable, are of course, the ones that didn’t go quite as planned. Most of the time, any vacation I am involved in usually has a “National Lampoon’s” feel about it.  I am not for sure if I am to blame or if it’s the company I keep?

This is how we rolled on vacation. The trailer was really for mine and mom’s shoes.

Here are some of my fondest memories of family vacation that might provide you a chuckle or stir up some of your own vacation memories.

The Happiest Place on Earth-Disney.The family “dream” vacation to Disney – it’s the American dream, right? Taking your family to Florida for that picture in front of the magical kingdom and the pictures with Minnie and Mickey-priceless (I couldn’t find any of those). As a child, my mother and father embarked on this same American rite of passage with me and my brother. I was probably about nine years old, which made my brother about five years old during this vacation.

Disney…one happy bunch

The dream vacation to Disney was one of our first vacations with our very own camcorder. This was huge! (Literally….like the size of a large shoe box). My dad wanted to record EVERYTHING! Every flower, every water fall, every amusement ride-you name it-we have it on video. My brother hated being videotaped. So throughout the entire time in Disney, my brother is yelling profanities (yes at the age of five) at my dad telling him to turn off the &*%$ camera. I am talking America’s Funniest Home Videos material here.

This memory, well, really is not much of a memory thanks to my well organized and efficient mother. My mother was in charge of reading the map and cramming in all the attractions we can possibly cram in during our visit. She succeeded! She had us moving through that park at the speed of light. I remember nothing about the Epcot Center except seeing a giant golf ball (Epcot), riding “It’s a Small World” and literally zooming “around the world” within minutes. We spanned the globe faster that day than Santa on Christmas Eve night.

Saddling Up For The Wild, Wild West. My father painstakingly planned a two-week vacation to the great American West to see the iconic Grand Canyon, Old Faithful, and Mount Rush Moore, along with Indian Reservations, a Corn Palace, buffalos, wild horses, prairie dogs…okay, you get the picture. On this trip I was about 13 and my brother was nine. I can remember my dad in his office meticulously planning the trip with a huge booklet map of the USA-highlighting our route page by page. Thank God for GPS these days!! One of the fondest memories of this trip include arriving at Old Faithful. As luck would have it, we just missed it by like 1 minute and 2 seconds (literally). We were probably all in the parking lot arguing over that darn camcorder while Old Faithful was making her debut. So we had to wait a bit for her next explosion. We waited and waited and finally—there she was spewing from the earth with all her glory. Seriously?!? This is Old Faithful??  The water fountain in our swimming pool was more impressive! We couldn’t believe we had waited for this! And we tracked half way across America to see it! Looking back we failed to appreciate the mechanics of this wonder being so “faithful” because we were looking more for a sound, water, and light show.

The Great West…notice the camcorder is family

Also on this trip, my father planned a horse ride down the Grand Canyon.  My mother didn’t want to go, so she told my father the wrong day so we missed our reservations. She was happy with herself-but the rest of us didn’t share her sentiments. On this trip we stayed in Hell overnight, Deadwood, South Dakota. Since our horse riding reservations didn’t work out (thanks Mom)…we arrived in Deadwood a little earlier than expected. All hotels in the town were booked, so we had to stay at the place no one wanted to stay. Our night in Hell started with a Rottweiler growling at us at the check-in counter which was caged in. Our luxury motel room included shag carpet and a fiber glass roof. Seriously, I’m surprised we didn’t get a by the hour rate at this dump. I think this is what we could call karma for my mother sabotaging our horse ride. Thank God for modern services we have today, like, Tripadvisor!

During our stay in Yellow Stone National Park we traded our luxury motel for an authentic experience of staying in these little (I mean tiny) cabins that held two twin beds and an old wood burning stove. My mom and I slept in one and my dad and brother slept in another. You had to use a community shower. During his shower, my brother stepped on a razor blade someone had left behind. During this time in the 90s, propaganda filled the media causing everyone to be scared of “catching” AIDS. So the for the remainder of the trip (all the way back across America to Kentucky), we had to convince my brother that he didn’t “catch” AIDS in the shower. He had a better chance of “catching” something at that motel!

Proof we were ALL there (family member #9 was taking the picture). One BIG happy bunch.

One BIG family. Looking back, my dad was responsible for helping us make vacation memories. I guess he didn’t have the opportunity to travel much as a child-so he wanted to provide his children the opportunity to see more. This desire to travel as a family landed my entire family in Fort Myers Beach, Florida last fall. After taking a nearly 15 year hiatus from family vacations during our college years, I was once again reminded why less is more.  This trip included my parents; my brother and I; our spouses; a toddler; a 10-month old; and a teenager (my cousin who is more like a sister-otherwise she would have been smart enough to stay home).

From this week, I will never forget my mother’s incoherence. I wish I could say she was partying and having fun…but on our return home we found out she had a case of Shingles. I seriously think if we didn’t have pictures to prove otherwise, she wouldn’t have realized that she was there. She surfaced from her bed for meals and to return home and that was about it. Our condo had a gorgeous view of the ocean and landscape that looked like an exotic resort. However, it was a wee bit small for a family of nine. Long story short-it was just too close for comfort that week. Let’s just say by the end of the week, it was not uncommon for one of us to just darn near rip another one’s head off while smiling.  On a positive note, my demon child had an excellent week during vacation. He loved every minute of it, was happy darn near most of the week and a joy to be around. Somewhere on that Southwest plane to Florida, my child evolved from Lucifer to a heavenly angel (he reverted back on the return flight). Normally, this angelic role is played by my nephew. However, my nephew turned into the demon child that week. My brother and sister-in-law aren’t used to dealing with a demon child which left them a little stressed and ready to pack up and go home.

One night we decided to relieve a little stress and go to this spot that is known for its really “good wings”. The meal turned out fine-but as we were leaving the parking lot we noticed my sister-in-law, who was carrying her son, had something brown covering her arm. Yelp-you guessed it. He crapped ALL over her. While the entire family is gagging, my husband comes to the rescue (once a Marine, always a Marine) and changes the diaper. We had a few of these types of blowouts from our son-so this was no big deal for a man that represents ” The Few and The Proud”.  Meanwhile my mom is washing my nephew’s baby clothes in a giant mud puddle. Gives you a new perspective about avoiding puddles, huh?

As we all returned home and packed up our cars at the airport…we vowed (with some expletives) to not see each other before Thanksgiving and that we would never go on a vacation together again. So far, no one is planning a reunion tour. Enough time has elapsed that we can laugh about this now.

We aren’t a picture perfect family with picture perfect vacations-but you can always count on us for a good story, funny pictures, and hilarious video footage. I chuckled as my toddler yelled “no cheese” at me as I followed him around with the camera during vacation (you know…you say “cheese” to smile for a picture…”no cheese” means no picture.).

No Cheese!

My husband said, “you act just like your dad with that darn camera.” I guess some things come full circle. I vow to torture my family with vacations, pictures, and video footage…they will be thankful for the laugh and memories one day.

I hope your summer is filled with making great family memories and not killing each other during the process. Here’s a few more vacations pictures for you to enjoy at our expense.

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Today my spoon is full of ideas for our next family adventure.

Going to the Chapel

My husband and I went through a few years where our summers were filled with weddings. As newlyweds ourselves, they seemed like such hopeful and romantic events. Then we transitioned to attending baby showers…and this summer we are back to weddings. Not necessarily individuals that didn’t work out a few summers back. We’ve attended a charming small wedding, sent gifts to a wedding we couldn’t make, and attended a Vietnamese wedding which I couldn’t understand much (mostly spoken in Vietnamese)-but it was a pretty darn cool ceremony. Being nearly a 10-year seasoned veteran of marital bliss (okay most days), my perception of this summer of weddings is a little different than those I attended a few years back as a newlywed.

Some of my ramblings on marriage are based on personal experience and others on observations.  It appears when we attend a wedding we are more concerned about the gift, the wedding colors/deco/gown, what we are wearing, what is the food, is there an open bar…or for me…what flavor is the cake? I LOVE wedding cake-white cake with white icing. ”Nom nom” (yum yum) as my toddler says. However, in the midst of the entire wedding extravaganza I think as guests (and sometime as the new couple) we often miserably fail on two levels. Unknowingly, most of us fail to #1 Appreciate and support the individual (spouse) on this journey called life and marriage and #2 Support the union.  Often time an individual gets lost in the union, and the union gets lost in the individual.  It’s a delicate balance one must strike as a spouse and as a friend or family member supporting a couple.

It seems that the support needed for a successful marriage is lost with most traditional wedding ceremonies. This was more evident to me as I attended the Vietnamese ceremony recently. In this particular ceremony there was a strong sense of respect for each other; togetherness, yet individuality; and a very strong commitment to the joining of the two families (rather than just the two individuals trying to blend two families). In a traditional wedding-it often appears that rituals pretty much stack the deck for failure against the couples from the moment the wedding is being planned.

Cool pic borrowed from Pinterest.

It starts with whose family is paying for what. Then, it moves to the actual wedding where the groom’s family sits on one side and the bride’s family sits on the other side of the isle (what would it hurt to sit together?). These two lives may join as “one” but darn it-we will live out the Hatfield and McCoy mentality and remain separate as a family for the rest of your marriage.  Then you publicly vow to become one-which really is a lie. You have to be two and learn to work as one. Next is the honeymoon where you can ignore family, work, real life stuff which is not reality. Then after the honeymoon the conversations moves into who gets what holiday, etc. Where does the madness stop?

Now, I may be a bit of a bitter bride. Six months to the date of my wedding (already mostly planned and purchased)…a little guy by the name of President George Bush declared Operation Iraqi Freedom which sent my Marine Reservist (who had less than 30 days on his contract) packing to one of the world’s largest sandboxes. So we were forced to wed with the immediacy of a shotgun wedding (like opening the court house on Sunday for a marriage license-talk about small town gossip). No I didn’t get to wear my dress because it needed alterations. I did wear it later when we had a celebration recommitment ceremony upon his return (Does this mean I married the same man twice? Yes.). So I will be transparent and say I didn’t quite follow the traditional route. However, ten years of life, love, and devotion has provided me a different perspective on marriage. It is also changed how I support people at their marriage.

For me and my house, we are two people who change every day because of life, but constantly work to enrich what we love about each other and maintain the common ground as sacred ground. We remain individuals, yet committed to the same goals for each other and for our marriage. For family and friends, our life and events are open access-we don’t deal with drama of family sides, making everyone happy, etc-but family/friends are free to be as miserable as they desire on their own turf.

If I were to marry my husband again (well, actually for the third time), I believe our vows would be a little different knowing what I know now. I am certainly committed to making a healthy marriage where there aren’t sides, where individuality is appreciated, and a union is sacred-and not only for my marriage. I believe living my/our life with these vows as a foundation impacts my relationships with others, my son’s future relationships, and others in my family for generations to come.  I will extend the same respect and support my friends and their marriage rather than making obstacles and barriers. I will appreciate them as individuals and as a union.  And…the next time I attend a wedding-I might just toss a coin and decide which side I will sit on…or maybe I will just sit right in the middle.

Today…I wish my spoon was full of wedding cake…because it is indeed one of my top three favorite foods!

Red, White, and You

This weekend is designated as time to memorialize. Two years ago (geez I can’t believe it has been that long) I wrote an opinion piece for my local paper after attending a Memorial Day Service. You know the saying… if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So today I am reposting what I shared in 2010.

2008 McLean County VFW Memorial Day Service

On May 31st the 21 gun salute echoed, the taps rang out, and the flags blew in the breeze at the Memorial Day Ceremony at Calhoun Cemetery sponsored by the McLean County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5415.

Words were spoken and songs were sung memorializing our County’s men and women who had made great sacrifices in the name of freedom. I watched as elderly men and women slowly made their way from their cars to the service lugging their lawn chairs and wearing various arrangements of red, white, and blue. In their eyes glared the memories of a war, most likely WWII, where they experienced the loss of comrades, received word that a family member was missing in action, or recalled the memory of sending their solider off to war. I hope you have not personally experienced the grief of war. The experience of my husband deploying in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom, influenced my perspective and provided me a new-found appreciation for veterans and their families.

Beverly Edds-WW II Veteran

Even though my grandfather was a WWII veteran, I don’t recall attending a Memorial Service before my husband’s deployment because I didn’t comprehend or appreciate the value of the moment. Memorial Weekend was a time that kicked off the start of summer, family BBQs, summer sales, and a long weekend to relax. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit we still enjoy these aspects of Memorial Weekend in my family, but we have added a new tradition of “memorializing” the soldiers’ sacrifices that made this weekend (and the rest of the year) free to enjoy. Memorial Weekend holds a different meaning for me now; I am one of the lucky ones-my solider came home.

Each year, I try to attend a Memorial Service out of thanks and gratitude that my love one returned from war without any mental or physical handicaps. I attend because of the moments I get to share with him because he made it back to American soil alive. I attend for the holidays, the birthdays, the everyday moments that won’t be missed because he came home.

One of the best days of my life…Clay returning from Iraq

If you don’t have a soldier in your life that you can celebrate, then I encourage you to memorialize and celebrate the life of the many men and women who never made it home for holiday celebrations, for the birth of their child, for all the dreams and moments that were left unfilled.

I have traveled to many countries, all which offer amazing sights, great food, and fine people. Sure, there is progress and equality to be created here on our own soil, but there is no place quite like the United States of America.

And for a great place to call home, I thank the many generations of veterans who carved out the freedoms of our great nation.

I would like to take this opportunity encourage you to honor the true meaning of Memorial Day. Work or other obligations may prevent you from attending an official service; however, I encourage you to be grateful all year to the men and women who sacrificed all. Appreciate and take the time to explain to your children why we line our streets with American Flags this time of year, stop by and visit a memorial at a cemetery, tell a veteran that you appreciate them, and the next time you place your hand on your heart when you hear the national anthem, do so in honor of all the hearts that ache for someone who never returned from war.

Today my spoon is full of graditude for those that served the red, white, and blue!

Maw: A heap of wisdom and a side of macaroni

Holding hands her last week

It’s been one year today since I saw her take some of her last struggling breaths.There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my grandmother, better known in our family as “Maw”.  I know, how red neck, “maw”.  However, I am the oldest grandchild so I guess that I am the one to blame for that term of endearment.  However, Nancy Merle Stratton Mann was proud of that title. I miss her nagging love and her macaroni and cheese every day.

Losing my grandmother during the first year of my son’s life was filled with irony.

Maw meets Cooper

While he grew healthy, she wilted. He learned to feed himself, I fed her. He learned words, she forgot hers. He learned to walk, she became idle. Two opposite ends of life’s spectrum but all fleeting moments on this journey. Somewhere between taking our first breath and learning to walk to taking our last breath and forgetting how to walk, we impact our family, friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers in ways we might not ever know.

I don’t think we really know the beauty of life until you experience the loss of life. What I mean by that statement is we rarely embrace who a person is and what a person has taught us while they are alive. Maybe we do in fleeting moments-but not profoundly and whole heartedly. It’s not until someone is gone that we experience the absence of what was there that will be there no more. That may sound like a “duh” statement. However, absence means different things for different people and different relationships-from love and support to shackles and chains and everything in between. When I sum up the countless hours I spent with my Maw over 33 years of my life, I have summed up a little what I have learned from her that others may benefit from, below. Some of this wisdom comes from her strengths, while others come from her weaknesses (even though she was Maw-she was still human). Below are the spoonfuls of wisdom I learned from Maw.

Believe in something greater. For my grandmother, this was without a doubt the Holy Spirit. For others, it might come in the form of something else. However, there is very few days that I remember her not humming a song, saying a prayer, or quoting something about faith. Believing in something greater carries you through the good and carries you through the bad.

Spread your wings, but home is where the heart is.  I can’t say that my grandmother ever had the luxury of spreading her wings as far as the experience of higher education (heck she didn’t get the opportunity to graduate high school) or extensive travel is concerned. Frankly, this is an area where we differed. She was content at home; I have a desire to see every corner of the world. However, no matter where my journeys have taken me-it is true that home is where your heart is. No matter how much I hated telling her goodbye and listening to all of her frets about me being gone when I would leave for work or pleasure…I always enjoyed seeing her smile when I returned.

Do your best and be a winner. Whether it was a bake sale or a beauty pageant-my grandmother was there with me to win it. Reflecting, she may have lived vicariously through all of us. But none the less, I can probably thank her and blame her for my Type A personality.

Rest yourself. I can remember when I was a young girl, my grandmother would constantly say “Stacy, rest yourself.” You see, I had lots of questions and lots of things to talk about when I was little (guess that is still true since I am blogging). In an attempt to keep my mom from strangling me, Maw would just say “rest yourself” in other words, quit talking. She could have said shut up, don’t’ say a word, or a dozen other things. Or let my mom strangle me for goodness sake and just put an end to all the talking and questions. However, “rest” has a profound undertone. When you rest, you listen. And in life, it’s important that you have quiet time to rest and listen to others as well as your heart.

If the shoe or bra doesn’t fit-something is wrong with it.  My grandmother suffered a lifelong battle of finding a shoe that fit her long, narrow foot and a bra that fit…well, her curves. I can’t even begin to count the number of shoes and bras my aunt and mother brought home for my grandmother to try on over the years (she hated fitting rooms). None of them fit right and usually all got returned. However, she never gave up hope of finding the perfect pair or the right fit. Most importantly she never questioned her body or at least she never caused me to think she did. I think that it takes a lot of endurance and confidence. Maw, I’m still looking for the perfect bra too…but really, you could have given those genes to another grandchild.

If you have a dog-name him Tip. Really, what this means if you find something that works and you like-why change it. I honestly lost count, but my grandparents have had at least 3 or 4 dogs that all look alike and are all named Tip. In the chaos of constant change, sometimes it’s nice to have something that stays the same-even if it is just your dog’s name.

It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Nancy Merle

My grandmother was a “real looker” when she was younger. I think she looked like Project Runway material! My grandmother was unique in the sense that she had one blue eye and one green eye. Sounds kind of odd-but it was kind of neat. Ironically, Tip 3.0 (or maybe 4.0) also has a blue and brown eye (he is still alive and faithfully hanging out with my grandfather).  I learned from my grandmother that no matter your actual or perceived degree of beauty, riches, etc. treat everyone the same. When we see each other as the same-we treat each other as the same with love, kindness, respect, and dignity.

Control. It’s more than a Janet Jackson song. My grandmother was what we could call a bit of a control freak and a worry wart. I have this same tendency but waving goodbye to my husband as he left Iraq-changed that a bit for me. The moment we realize we have no control is actually the same moment when you learn you have the most control (think about that a second). I don’t think Maw-ever lost control. She liked to know where all of her kids and grandkids were at all times-that was like 20+ people!  And, well she had weekly, if not daily, reports from most of us in the family. Maw wasn’t a big fan of TV but enjoyed her police scanner.  She loved listening to the dispatch calls….I am sure she heard one of us get pulled over a time or two! None the less, I always watched her struggle with control. I believe she truly felt if she controlled and knew everything, then nothing bad would happen. As luck would have it, she had a pretty good run at nothing happening to our family-all healthy and relatively boring. I have to say, her struggle with this, has taught me not to worry-that’s its interest paid on undue debt. Enjoy life, because it’s the moments you don’t worry about and the moments you lost control that you tasted life the most.

Memorialize. My grandmother honored the deceased members in her family EVERY Memorial Day by placing flowers on their graves. We would load up in the car as a family and go visit various gravesites. On our visits to the gravesites throughout our county, she would tell us about the person, who was who, etc. I wish I would have written it all down over the years; especially the last year we went. I could kick myself for not doing it. But I was a clumsy 9 month pregnant woman and she was a clumsy 80 something year old, and quite frankly, I was pleased we both made it back from the gravesites without any broken limbs. Anyways, these yearly visits and her fake flowers taught me the importance of remembering there is a story in every name etched on those monuments and an aching heart somewhere.

Water your flowers. Cover the flowers. Get milk. Get in the basement. When a summer day was going to be a scorcher, my grandmother would call and say…”you better water your flowers.” Likewise, when we would receive a late frost, she would call and say, “cover your flowers.” If snow was forecasted she would call and say…”better get some milk” (which I always did even though I hate milk…better safe than sorry, right?). If it was calling for a thunderstorm she would call and say “you better get in your basement.” None the less, what my grandmother was telling me was be prepared for whatever event life was throwing at you. And… you will have pretty flowers and milk in your fridge.

Let’s be real, there are SO many things I learned from Maw that I will always cherish. I hope the few things I have listed have caused you to think or provided you a chuckle. I wish she were still here to enjoy my rambunctious Cooper, to experience the great accomplishments of her other grandchildren, and to tell me her secret ingredient in that dang macaroni and cheese (I think it was probably love and maybe a little saliva from taste testing).

Today, I wish my spoon was full of maw’s macaroni and cheese; which ironically is my son’s favorite food!