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.

Something About Six

SONY DSC

July 2016

There is something about turning six that just reminds this Momma that her son is growing up in a blink of an eye. Just like the years before, year number five has been a big adventure. This is my diary to you, dear son, so we can remember what the fabulous fifth year looked like for us. The members of your “fan club” will enjoy this blog post and all others-well, it may be too long of a read.

Five has been a dirty year. You come home from school so dirty from a day of fun learning and play. I have purchased and used more bottles of stain removal spray this year, than I have in my entire lifetime. I am pretty sure I have gained muscle mass from scrubbing your finger nails every night. At school this year, you told your class I was pregnant, when I was not. You learned the “f-bomb” the first week of school but weren’t quite sure what you learned or how to use it. I spent the first week of school drawing dinos and funny pictures on your lunchbox napkin, until you told me to “stop because it was so weird.”

As rough as you are, you have a sensitive heart. You are the ethical watchdog of the family for catching us saying a “bad” word. I remember one day after a verrryyyy long day, your father and I were talking about something and I may have used a “bad” word during what I thought was our private conversation. I didn’t think you were listening, but you were quick to say that I hurt Jesus’s heart and Mary’s and Joseph’s too because of my poor choice in words. Talk about a guilt trip.

You experienced the loss of your paternal grandmother this year. You tell us often you miss her. During the funeral procession, you asked to carry her urn to the gravesite. When I told you “no” because it was too heavy and that you might drop it, you replied in amazement “well, then grandma could be everywhere.”

You are a backseat driver. You are constantly worried about people littering. You love the outdoors. You still pick up all kinds of creatures. Your teacher dubbed you the class bug catcher. You like to draw and make things with your hands.

You are still obsessed with Legos. You had a brief stint of all things Pokémon. You love anything Star Wars. You like WWE. You like the show Family Game Night-it’s on our bucket list to be on that show one day. You love Little Big Shots and have said,” if I just had a band I could do that show.” You love American Ninja Warrior and BattleBots. You have discovered neighborhood friends and you all have a blast playing together and eating popsicles. Your best bud is your cousin, Cole. You are always quick to remind him that you are bigger than him by an entire six months. Your favorite playmate is still Daddy. You look forward to “home days” which are what we call Saturday and Sunday. On home day mornings, the first words out of your mouth are “let’s go upstairs and play Daddy.”

You still say you want to go to college at Notre Dame. You want to be “Cooper the Wild Animal Adventurer” and have a show one day. You tell us you want to live with us forever and you are not getting married because kissing is gross. You still have a sweet tooth. You eat the same foods you have the last five years. You did expand your horizons and add Meijer’s soft pretzels and Lunchables to your mix. We love our Starbucks dates where I get coffee and you get a cake pop (who said you can’t have a cake pop for breakfast, right?).

This year you were fierce on the soccer field in your Viper cleats. You learned to ice skate. You like to fish. You love playing games. You love to hide and scare the bejeebers out of me EVERY single morning. You moved up a belt in karate class. You learned how to swim. You know all kinds of new things about math and the planets. You love Snapchap (SnapChat). You keep up with politics and can tell people about Hillary Kitten, Bernie Sandwich, and Donald Trump. You love your family and enjoy doing special things with each member of the family. You loving celebrating anything celebratable and creating various family traditions. You are always counting down to something- the school week, vacation, birthday, Christmas, etc.

In the car you constantly ask questions like “how much is 1,379,441 plus 891 plus 62,300,101? Umm…here’s the iPhone-add it up. Or you ask things like “how many armpits does a starfish have since it has a bunch of arms?” Speaking of questions, you are so inquisitive about family history. Recently you asked me if my great great great great great great great grandmother died in the ancient times of 1996. Well, not really that was the year mommy graduated from high school.

You have inherited my love of music and my ability to sing the wrong lyrics to songs. We have had lots of laughs singing this year. Our loud voices have caused your Dad to go crazy at times. Some of my favorite song memories are:

  • Not too long after your first month in a catholic based Montessori school, you learned to belt a new song. Since we are not of the catholic faith, it took me a little while to decipher “Holes on Earth in the Highest” to be Hosanna in the Highest. Shout out to my catholic friends for help on that.
  • At Christmas time you couldn’t get enough of Rudolph’s “why are you such a fitbit (misfit)?”
  • We both had a lot of fun with Adele’s song “Hello” -we would crack ourselves making song lyrics to the tune.
  • You like to sing Mumford & Sons’ “I will wait for you.” Ironically, usually when I was waiting on you. Have I mentioned I started calling you turtle this year because you are never in a hurry-a quality I need to learn from you. You have dubbed yourself the Christmas Turtle-because both are slow to arrive.
  • If we heard them once, we heard them 10000000000000000 times. “I like big butts and I cannot lie” or “Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days, When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed ouuuuuttt” or “Ah ya ya ya ya I keep on hoping we`ll eat cake by the ocean.”
  • And there are more songs- “Give it to me I’m worth it, Baby I’m worth it, Uh huh I’m worth it,” or your revised version of Rihana’s “we DON’T want to go to work, work, work, work.”
  • However, the ear worm you just can’t seem to get enough of these days (but ALL of us around you have had enough) is our state song “My Old Kentucky Home.”

You have lost two teeth and you were certain you heard the tooth fairy buzzing around your ear when she visited you. You cut your own hair recently with cuticle scissors. This is the first year of your life we haven’t had a dislocated elbow! You are convinced you have found one strand of hair on your “dude” (aka man parts) and that you are becoming a man. I am pretty sure it was cotton fuzz. When I couldn’t walk this year due to surgery, you had way more fun riding my scooter than I did and took great joy out of hiding it from me.

You have so many funny words and sayings. You think the world “wifi” is a cool word and use it like a gangsta. You make a funny high pitch voice and say “oh my gosh Brittney” when you act shocked. You like to say “mailed it” (nailed it) when you do something good. You say “that smells like sandwiches” if something stinks. You talk about how your heart “beaps” (beats) and that your friend’s mother “breathfeeds” her baby (breastfeed- and you believe it is through breath-you totally don’t get this one).

We have had lots of great adventures. We have hiked at the Garden of the Gods and Stone Mountain, hung out in museums, and watched movies. We took an airboat ride in Florida. We had a blast a SeaWorld where you became totally hacked that Shamu splashed you-like level 10 melt down. You still love water and waterparks. You love the beach. You are obsessed with laser tag. You have spent countless hours playing on your inflatable waterslide in the backyard. We have had snow ball fights and splashed in the rain.

Every morning on our way to school we laugh and make jokes about a strange manikin that sits on the front porch of a house we pass by. You have named him “Robert Jr.” Every morning we say hi to Robert Jr. when we drive by-he practically feels like family now. You like for your Mimzi (grandmother) to pick you up from school early so you can hang at her house, eat snacks, and play on the iPad. You take all of my loose change to Mimzi’s house because you are saving for a monster truck. Hopefully monster truck is code for “college fund.” You love Chucky Cheese with your Poppy and going to the farm with your Poppa.

At Montessori school you shared with me that a priest told you that everyone had “sin.” When I asked you what that meant you said “duh, Mom it is all over your body” and pointed to my “skin.” You also told me that you gave up chocolate for lent. But that I could give you a piece of chocolate because lent meant that you just couldn’t get a piece of chocolate yourself. Religion, it really is up to individual interpretation, isn’t?

We love your funniness, quick wit, kind heart, and adventurous spirit. I love holding your dirty hands, feeling your squeezing hugs, and lending my nose for an Eskimo kiss. What a great year number five has been loving you!

Today my spoon is full of gratefulness for the many good memories we have made.

 

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.

Four-Ever Memories of Three

To my soon-to-be four year old:

How can you be four? Wasn’t it yesterday that you were just four seconds old and I saw your chubby face for the first time? Wasn’t it yesterday, that you were four months old and eating Gerber turkey and gravy and sweet potatoes baby food for Thanksgiving? Four years sure have flown by. You remind me daily that you are super deep big (deep apparently means a LOT) and that you have hair on your legs. Your adventurous spirit has made me a thrill seeker of your life moments. I try to burn those moments and your contagious giggle deep into my mind so I can reminisce on these days when I am 100 years old sitting in my rocking chair.

You have had a BIG third year of your life and I am sure number four will prove to be equally as adventurous. Three years old started out with a month-long celebration of your birthday (you have already been celebrating your upcoming number four for two weeks). You started preschool this past year and you have learned so much. You can write your name, rattle off numbers, recite the ABCs, and recall random facts about the weather, seasons, animals, etc. I have learned and relearned so much from you. For example, I know about dinosaur species-which dinos are meat eaters and plant eaters; what every creature eats and where they live; the workings of every type of construction vehicle and crane; and old nursery rhymes and games are new again. You have sung songs from the movie Frozen and Blake Shelton’s Boys Round Here no less than 100 times per week (that is 5,200 for the year). I particularly love that in Shelton’s song you sing at the top of your lungs that you are kicking up “ducks” instead of dust. We have watch lots of Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, and Superhero Squad. You are proud that you can reach the light switches and climb into the tub on your own. You enjoy Facetime and talking on the phone with family. You see yourself as the protector of your best buddy cousin “Tole” (Cole) who is only 6 months younger. You have caught turtles, frogs, lightening bugs, butterflies, crawdads, and salamanders. You still pee in the yard, but I have at least contained you to one tree. Every time you see an airplane fly overhead, you fling your arms out and say “take us to the beach.” You have completed your first 5K on Mommy’s shoulders because you would not ride in the stroller; went camping and canoeing; explored caves, museums, and zoos; taken swimming lessons; joined the Padres’ T-Ball team (and asked me what is a Padre every game and asked why can’t you be on the Pirate team); had a blast on Halloween as Captain America; were amazed when you saw an off-duty Santa eating at local Froyo place and wondered where his reindeer parked; built snowmen and gingerbread houses; played endless games of boomerang, soccer, football and army men with Dad; have flown a kite, fed ducks, donkeys, and cows; went fishing; lived off of yogurt, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza, fettuccine, strawberries and watermelon; and you have started to like salad.

Your little chubby face and legs are still chubby but not as much as they once were. As I have watched you grow throughout  your third year, there have been many times throughout the year that I have paused because you have reminded me of one of our family members; after all you are the perfect combination of years of DNA. Some may say it’s because I want to see those traits from the one’s I love, but I believe the fabric of your being is made from generations of love.

me 3Mom: You know me as Mommy or Moder (mother) if you are being silly. Some wonder if you even belong to your Dad or if you’re an asexual reproduction. Simply put, you are me with boy parts. Pictures of me, age birth through  four look just like you. You also have my organizational mind and love of trying new things (except for new food-you don’t stray). You have my tough spirit and do not let much get under your skin. We share a love for seeing, experiencing, and enjoying this great world.

clay 3Dad: You know him as Daddy and he is your best friend. You have your Dad’s mechanical brain. You can put stuff together and take things apart with ease. You have his strong, patriotic heart. You have his fratboy party spirit for good times and adventure (God, help us!). You have his athletic ability. You are both gentlemen.

 

SONY DSC

Maternal grandmother: You know her as Mimzi. You have her quick wit and because of this you both spend most of your days as friendenemies (friend + enemy) trying to push one another’s buttons. You can both be stubborn, but will fight for what and who you love. You have her weird toes.

 

SONY DSC

Maternal grandfather: You know him as Popppa. You have his round face, brown eyes, his love of sweets, and his love of Four E Farms. You also have his heart; you have said that you want to work like Poppa and help people when you are big. Maybe he will finally have an offspring who follows a career in pharmacy.

 

di and grePaternal grandfather: You know him as Poppy. You have his love for nature and the great outdoors. You are also kind like he is and always willing to help others. And…we can’t forget your Paternal step-grandmother: You know her as Nana. You aren’t blood, but she loves you just like family. You both know how to enjoy a good time and like giving Poppy a hard time.

SONY DSC

Paternal grandmother: You know her as Grandma. You share her creativity and her persistence.

 

 

SONY DSC

Maternal-Maternal great grandmother: You did meet Maw, but you were too tiny to remember. She was so proud of you. You have her love of music and her blind faith in something greater. She was also on alert for bad weather and you are always asking about “cornadoes” (tornadoes).

 

SONY DSC

Maternal-Maternal great grandfather: You know him as Grandfather. At times, I think you laugh like him. He has a distinct chuckle. You also have his mind and hands-on ability to build and create just about anything you set your mind to. I hope you have his great complexion-he has made it to his eighties without wrinkles.

 

photo 2

Maternal-Paternal great grandfather: You never had a chance to know him, but, like your Momma, you have his big lips. He also had a big smile like you-this picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

 

Granny

Paternal-Paternal great grandmother: You never had a chance to know her. She would have loved you! You possess her love of family and ability to see the best in people.

 

 

photo 1

Paternal-Paternal great grandfather: I never met him, nor have you. However, your Dad tells me you are strong like him and share his sense of humor. He was also a very smart man. He spent his career studying oceanography-maybe that is why you love the beach.

 

As you can see, Son, you are made up of some pretty remarkable people. You have some of their best qualities. The fabric of your being is uniquely you, yet a part of others. I have loved watching you bud into a little person this past year, as well as having the opportunity to reflect on the family I love as your actions sometimes remind me of them.

Four years old, marks the end of the toddler years and beginning of the child years. As you turn four you will grow smarter, taller, and stronger-but as I tell you-you’re always my baby. To which you say “you mean BIG baby!” It is my promise to you, to make the child years as adventurous and loving as the toddler years have been.

I love you the mostest,

Moder

XOXO

Today, my spoon is full of four-ever memories of my toddler.

 

 

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

All in a Day’s Work

Recently my toddler and I were in the car on the way to preschool and work. Even though my brain is not yet awake, he loves spending our short morning commute asking questions-most of which I do not know the answer to or the answer is too complicated for 7:45 AM. Things like, “why did that tree grow there?” “Does Santa go on vacation to the beach?” “How old was I when you were a baby, mommy?”  “Why do donkeys like to eat carrots”? “How old will I be when I have a beard?” “Will I grow up to be a giant?” And the questioning goes on and on and on until we get to his preschool. Recently during the morning commute, my toddler was asking me about why people work and what they do for “work”. He questioned me on the “work” of all of the family and friends he could possibly think of (like 500 people) and we talked about what they do for work. He then said, “what’s my job, momma? Where do I work?” I responded that he works at preschool and his job was to learn all sorts of new things, have fun with his friends, and to be kind and helpful (terrible threes-that is a real hard performance measure to achieve some days). As we pulled into the parking lot to his “job” (AKA preschool) my answer about his work seemed to pacify him and he jumped out of the car to head in for a hard day of work on pajama day.

Fast forward to a few hours later that day, I was at my work in a meeting. I spend way more hours than I care to calculate in meetings. At this particular meeting my mind drifted off for a split-second (really, it was just for a bit) and I started thinking about my toddler and wondering how his “work” day was going. I then begin to think, what if my toddler took my place for a day at work. How would his day be different than mine? I mean I could use a pajama day and some time to play with my friends. What would my toddler do (WWTD) if he was sitting at this board room table in a meeting? Looking around at my colleagues picturing them as toddlers, I thought if I acted like a toddler in this meeting by mimicking some of my son’s behaviors, it might look something like this.

Example

WWTD

How   to apply to apply it in the adult “work” world

Action Items Say NO to every question and request just because you can.  Do you think we should implement this initiative? NO! Do you want to schedule another meeting? NO. Do you think we can all agree….I said Noooo! Sometimes you need to say NO. Keep a healthy work and life balance and say NO where and when you should.
Meeting Discussion Dominators Make funny objects or paper airplanes out of meeting notes and agendas and throw at people who talk too much. Break the “rules” and think outside the box.
Ice Breakers Eat boogers or let one rip and then giggle. Have fun. Have a good laugh at yourself. Take the opportunity to get to know others and allow others to know the authentic you!
Questioning Ask “why” as many times as possible. Why are we doing this? Why are   these chairs so uncomfortable? Why are we meeting again? If you don’t understand something, question it and keep asking   questions until you get it.
New Technology Use your electronic device app with a talking cat, lady bug or dino. Record everyone talking in the meeting and   play it back with the cat, bug or dino voice on full volume. Try something new to get your message across. No death by PowerPoint or reading word for word. Be creative with the tools available!
Buy In  I “Insert Name” you are being   very ugly.  or “You are rude.” or “You are not my very best friend anymore.” Speak your mind, let it go, and move on. If you don’t like someone or how they are acting-tell them. Don’t hold a grudge.
Integrity Be a tattle tale – “I just broke your toy?” or “Insert name” is being   mean.” Sometimes you have to call it like you see. Even when it means be   truthful with your own behavior.
Camaraderie Call people names. “You are a chocolate monkey butt”. (This is an endearing term my toddler uses for his aunt) Forge meaningful connections with those around you with humor.
Attendance Show up and sing to your own tune! Insert my toddler’s mean mixture of Katy Perry’s “Fire” and Blake Shelton’s “Boys Round Here”. Be present (guilty-that is how I came up with this blog idea).
New Ventures “I want to go home. Where’s my mommy?” It’s okay to be anxious when trying something new or sticking your   neck out.

Oh, and I failed to mention, in the above toddler boardroom scenario, I am sure mints and coffee would definitely be replaced with Goldfish crackers and juice. Also, pajamas would be the new business casual and you could bring your favorite toy. Without a doubt, leaders can learn a few things from toddlers. Really, they remind and teach us about the basics of savoring life that somehow the world deprogrammed from us. As parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc. we have a lot to learn from children that can easily be transferred to our “work” life. The next time you are leading or attending a meeting, embrace your inner child. Eating your boogers might not work out so well, but hey a paper airplane never killed anyone, right?

Today my spoon is full of “work etiquette” from a toddler (said in my talking dino voice).

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.

A Tale of Donkey and Elephant Living Together

All the “Sequester” talk and action (or lack thereof) in Washington has me very disappointed in our elected officials-all of them. I was trying to simplify this very complex problem the government is wrestling with and the best analogy I could think of was my own household where one democrat (that’s me some may call liberal) and one republican (that’s my better half some might call conservative) harmoniously live and make decisions to move our family forward in a positive direction daily (well, darn near most days). Of course in our household there is an occasional roll of the eyes or shaking of the head when we discuss some topics; but all in all we make magic happen on a daily basis in a divided household. So, Washington, take a few tips from our unequally yoked union!

  1. We respect each other’s viewpoints. REALLY! Its starts with no yard signs during elections. That doesn’t mean we agree on a canidate, but we can see value in both viewpoints. We don’t have to mark our territory like a cat to reassure ourselves what we believe in as individuals or a family. Case in point, I held an elective office for six years in my hometown. The office was not affiliated with a political party. In my small hometown, my husband and I canvassed the streets together during three campaigns rallying votes. Yes, a republican and a democrat walked the streets together, because he knew I could do a fine job in office because although our political views may differ, he knew I had enough sense to preserve mine, without attacking his.
  2. We try to walk in the other’s shoes. When resting side by side you will see Timberland Steel-toed boots next to Nine West high-heels. Although we tread different ground, we occasionally take a walk on the other side. No my husband doesn’t wear high heels! For example, I recently completed a conceal carry class. I seriously doubt I will be touting a gun around anywhere, but to a Republican Marine- that was impressive. And my perspective on guns was informed. On the other hand he acts like he enjoys the vegetarian cuisine I create (which I really think he does!).
  3. We listen. I will be honest-this is the hardest part of our marriage some days. Frankly, just like the elected officials, I want to believe that my view is superior to his or vice versa. However, by truly listening and cutting through the fluff, you find you have more in common you can work together on, than what might divide you.
  4. We balance a budget together. Agreeing on finances takes thoughtful planning, common sense, and an occasional compromise. We set priorities together on what we want to accomplish with our funds. We don’t cut out all groceries because I prefer organic free range and he prefers a bargain. He understands why I would own a goat in Africa to help a poor village and I compromise on him building his arsenal of weapons like we are a militia. However, at the end of the day all needs are met, we sacrifice where we need to, priorities have adequate funding to make life happen, and the budget is balanced. More importantly, no one is hanging off a financial cliff.
  5. We accomplish things together. For goodness sake, we created a life! We each share our take on life and do not disrespect the other’s stance in front of our child. We have fun (well, making a baby was fun-but I mean in other context here) contributing our individual strengths to projects. Diverse ideas strengthen any task at hand.

These are just a few ways that democrats and republicans can work together so “sequester” doesn’t become this great Nation’s permanent mode of operation. Really, aren’t these things our elected official should have learned in kindergarten?

Republican with a Donkey....NO that's not me!

Republican with a Donkey….NO that’s not me!

Today my spoon is full of real life ideas of restoring how elephants and donkeys can live and work side by side and be productive!

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.

Celebrating a decade…what 10 years can bring to a marriage!

This week marked mine and my husband’s ten year anniversary. A decade. Wow. Some days life (not our marriage) has seemed like 100 years. Other days those 10 years seem like a blink in time. I remember when we were newlyweds; that our 10th year was supposed to be the year that we adventured to Bora Bora. Our plan didn’t quite pan out, but that dream is still in the making. As a new bride, I also remember asking my husband what he thought about changing our wedding bands to something different every ten years. This really wasn’t a ploy to get a bigger diamond. I thought it sounded fun. After all, as life happens, who you are and what your marriage is changes over time-so why can’t your ring change too? However, my hubby is too sentimental for wedding ring changes. He probably still has anxiety over the fact that I am on wedding ring number two due to a portion of my diamonds (who were my mother’s) falling out of my original wedding ring within the first year of our marriage. Oops.

Over dinner, my husband and I were discussing what the next ten years will look like. Before I could even get a mental picture he proceeds to say “Well, some people in our lives will probably be dead, we will have a tweenager, and we will be wrinkled. “ Wow, thanks for the optimistic outlook on the next decade. Luckily, that conversation was derailed by our waitress. Later on I was thinking about the past ten years and what all those years encompassed. Honestly, when I was a new bride I don’t really remember intentionally planning much of the first 10 years of our marriage. Typically, I am a planner, but considering the day after we married, my husband left for Iraq, I wasn’t for sure what plans to make. Looking back, I think I was afraid if I made too many plans, my heart would never recover if he didn’t come home alive and well to fulfill them. So started our marriages and we have been haphazardly landing in the right places ever since.

According to an online date calculator, we have been married for 521 weeks, or 3,653 days or 87,672 hours or 5,260,320 minutes or 315,619,200 seconds. I am sure my husband has been keeping track of the seconds (insert sarcasm)! So what has this time brought about? Well, here is a snapshot.

We been married twice (but not divorced; see previous posts for explanation). We survived my husband being deployed to Iraq for nine months. He survived me teaching in the Czech Republic for six weeks. We have moved three times. We have moved family and friends a lot more than three times. We have remodeled a home and built a home. We demolished a home; neither of which we remodeled or built. We have had nine jobs or positions between the two of us. I have completed a Ph.D. (really, my husband is to thank for me passing statistics). My husband has completed a MBA (really, he can thank me for editing his papers to perfection). He has fixed a lot of things I have broken and read the directions when I did not. I try to smile and contain the steam from rolling out of my ears when he works on one of our home projects…slow but also perfect. We canvased my small home town to rally votes when I ran for office three different terms (which I won). We have traveled A LOT-some for work but most for pleasure. We have visited (best I can count) 16 states in the USA and traveled to 9 countries together in the name of fun and adventure. When we were in Italy and I bought gelato and like a dumb tourist realized I was taken advantage of because it costs like $20, you still shared it with me (and remind me about it, but it was darn good). He watched me puke my guts out for 10 days on a cruise and kept me from jumping overboard. He has sprayed medicine on my arse when some fat snorkeler pushed me into poisonous coral in the Bahamas. We have enjoyed numerous concerts and plays. He wasn’t embarrassed when I was rockin out at a Bon Jovi concert when I was 8 months pregnant (coincidence my son loves music-probably not). He flew us to see U2 when in fact, he really doesn’t like them, but I do (I think Kiss made up for that). I dragged him to a Drag Show in Chicago for his 30th birthday and he still loved me (best martinis and singing EVER). We made wine together. One batch could possibly fuel a car or be used to clean wounds; and a few batches that we made were near perfection. He graciously pretends to care about my fashion shows after I go shopping and want to show him the bargains I found. We had a fish-and I am pretty sure he is the one that killed it. We cried when we had a miscarriage and then cried more when we rented Marley & Me to watch on the same freaking day. I thought it was going be a fun movie about a dog. I didn’t realize the damn dog died. Bad choice on a bad day. We made the cutest kid EVER together. When he joined our house he yelled at us the first year of his life due to colic, ear infections, and teething. Luckily, those days passed. He is the perfect, clever, witty mixture of us. My man has back aches thanks to bouncing around a metal truck while in Iraq; I have had two knee surgeries that are probably a result of me just being a total klutz. We both have fixed our eyes with Lasik surgery (you were scared, so I went first). We survived over a week without electricity during an ice storm that was declared a national disaster… until I talked you into driving 1.5 hours to a hotel so I could dry my hair and sleep in a warm bed. We have made new friends. We have lost loves ones. We have had a few cars. We lost our dear house cat a time or two (but she is still alive and well). I have had long hair and short hair. He has lost a few hairs. But neither of us are gray! We have gotten older. We have had a few days when we wanted to kill each other (I am sorry for scooping out a large portion of butter out of the container while I was cooking dinner and throwing it at his face that one time when I was mad…but it was pretty funny). We have cried a little. We have been sick a few days but mostly have been blessed with great health. We have laughed, loved, and lived the last decade. Our marriage has been an adventure of love, trust, partnership, tolerance, humor, tenacity all rolled up into one.

Whew…I know I left something out, but as you can see the last decade has been an adventure. I can’t wait until I can reflect on the next decade. I don’t know what it will bring, but I promise to have my eyes, ears, mind, and heart open for the moment and savor each spoonful as it comes. I share this not because I want you to see what we have done, but maybe to reflect on what your next decade will bring. Are your eyes, ears, mind, and heart ready for the adventure? I suggest not planning it, but to buckle up, put the top back, and enjoy the ride.

Today my spoonful is full of smiles as Mrs. E-E.

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

My National Holiday-Hubby Returns from Iraq

Today is my personal holiday called the Happiest Day Ever. I initiated this holiday nine years ago when my husband returned home from Iraq on September 17, 2003. Many times throughout these last nine years, I have thought about how special that day was and how lucky I am that I have that day to celebrate.  So…I remember it every year. Many other spouses and parents have days seared in their minds and unfortunately it is a day of mourning. September 17th was as happy as the day was sad when he left for war. A homecoming definitely replaces the void and helplessness you feel when you see the one you love board a bus to catch a plane to a war. Frankly, I didn’t know where in this big world he was for nearly two months…and communication was monthly at best in the beginning.

While in Iraq my husband, Clay, met a BBC reporter, Michael Williams, at a checkpoint. Clay befriended the reporter during their brief encounter and told him a little about himself, how he had just gotten married prior to deployment, and how he hadn’t talked to me since he left (that had been over a month).  The reporter asked if there was anything he could do for Clay and my husband requested that he call me to tell me he had seen him alive and well. I remember my stomaching dropping to the floor when I heard the voice-mail on my answering machine where Mr. Williams was requesting me to return his phone call. I would check my answering machine a 100 times a day before I figured out the beauty of call forwarding. I thought the worst. I rushed home from work to call.  Even though there were literally explosions in the background noise, it was so great to hear that British accent (I love an accent and pretty much everything British) tell me Clay was alive and well. I don’t even know if Mr. Williams remembers this event…but his good deed made a monumental impression on me.

On September 17th all my worries and prayers of nearly nine months were answered.  Will I see him again? Will he return alive? Will he be healthy? Will he be emotionally or physically scarred? Will life resume as normal? Can we pick up where we left off?

As I have shared in an earlier blog post, there are friends we share for seasons. There were a few wives from the unit that I spoke to regularly. We constantly tried to piece together shreds of information to bring us some peace of mind. The day before our Marines were scheduled to arrive we got a hotel room and practically stayed up all night due to the pending excitement of reuniting with our spouses. With our families, we arrived at the reserve center before the sun was up. We waited and waited…and then we saw our soldiers marching up the hill towards us. People were cheering and chanting.

A sigh of relief swept over the entire crowd. As our Marines stopped in formation for their final orders…I could see my husband right in front of me. He was directing his squad. I decided that Uncle Sam had him long enough…so I broke into formation and gave him a big kiss…all the other wives, parents, and kids seemed to follow.

That’s me eating Clay’s face when I jumped in formation.

I know my husband was briefly embarrassed, but he knows me well enough to know I didn’t care!

Homeward Bound

I keep this picture from September 17, 2003 in my office as a reminder to put things in perspective on days when the impossible seems…well, darn near impossible and I feel like my interactions have been with people that have drank too much crazy juice. It’s not that great of a picture of us, our local newspaper actually captured it (thanks for documenting our story), but for me it is a symbol of blessings and thankfulness. So happy Happiest Day Ever to me! And you…celebrate with me! I hope your day is filled with “happy” too! Maybe you should create your own personal holiday to celebrate your spoonful.

Today my spoon is full of happy!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Savor Every Spoonful…Life is Precious

If you are a regular follower of spoonful of life…you know most of the posts, as a reflection of my life, are sprinkled with humor. This week is dramatically more serious than most…but for everything there is a season. For me, this past week hasn’t been a season of humor. Being humorous in today’s post would be disrespectful to the heaviness of my heart and isn’t authentic (and remember, I promised authenticity for better or worse). Rather than provide you a chuckle, I hope this post encourages a pause of reflection, re-evaluation of your priorities, or creates a moment for you to stop and count the blessings in your spoonful of life. It’s a week like this that causes me to do the same.

On my running to do list (I keep a book, okay-I have three degrees in organizational communication/leadership…cut me some slack) is the task to write my obituary. Many of you might find that morbid. However, I have this on the list because…well, I like to write and I figure this journey is my story to tell. What is at the very heart of this task is….this “to do” item is continuously knocked down to the bottom of the list because I live as if I have unlimited time and complete control of the future. Just to give you some perspective, this has been on my list for over 2.5 years now. So, something that I know is unavoidable is replaced with a mountain of chores that are meaningless and will be replaced with more chores. Why do I wait? I don’t know-avoiding the unavoidable, I guess.

As I write, my heart is heavy for several reasons…all surrounding death. Death-it’s the one guarantee that we all have in this life as we know it. It’s the knock on a door that, if we are honest with ourselves, most do not want to answer. Some individuals have a peephole on their door and get a glimpse that the end is near due to poor health, for others it’s an unexpected visitor.

Over  the last week, I have watched a family member deal with the sudden death of a sibling; closely followed a blog of a retired co-worker who is fighting his last days with cancer, when he should be basking in the glow of retirement; experienced the shock and heartache due to the death of a friend who was unexpectedly ripped away from his fun-loving wife, precious babies, and kind family due to a horrific accident, and watched my family struggle with the death of their dear 15-year old cat, Minnie Mouse (not to compare humans and animals-but Minnie was family!).

If you truly allow yourself to experience and taste life which means feeling the hurt of others-its moments like these that stop you in your tracks and cause you to ask, what is in my spoonful and what am I doing with it? I wish I had some words of wisdom to inspire you to be your best self every day, soak up every breath of life, and savor every tasty spoonful of life… but, I don’t have any words other than DO IT! And do it NOW!! I know, with time, the heaviness lifts and we inevitably are back to being consumed by things that frankly, just don’t matter. It is my goal, to keep savoring each spoonful I have and to continue to minimize putting things in my spoon that doesn’t matter. I am focusing on filling my spoon full of rich, wholesome love and laughter that feed the soul. And…work to avoid filling it with the empty calories of things that are not tasty. Speak your heart, show your love, and spend your time perfecting the taste of your spoonful, friends.

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!

It’s as easy as 1.2.3.4!

After surviving a workshop last week with a 187 slide PowerPoint in 1.5 hours about assessment and outcomes…my mind started to drift once it reached saturation-probably at about slide 90. I was surprised I made it that far! The information was great and so was the presentation-just a very deep topic in the field of postsecondary education for the last 1.5 hours of the work day. Not only did I learn a lot, but that day was apparently my lucky day (too bad the mega millions drawing wasn’t the same day, right). My workshop handout had the prized smiley face on the back of it which meant I was the winner of an autographed booked entitled “Kindness: Changing Our World” by Dr. Chuck Wall. I have only had a chance to skim through the book, but I must say I am looking forward to reading it. Dr. Wall started a movement entitled random acts of kindness to combat the many unfortunate random acts of violence we hear about in the media and experience in our communities. I will share more on this book as I read it. However, as I skimmed through the book it reminded me of another great book I read a few years back and have reread many times since I was initially introduced to it. For those who have not read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements” is probably the most influential book I have read. It is simple, yet profound. I found the information in the book freeing and an easy code to live by. Ruiz shares the following Four Agreements as codes to live by…and if you think about it… how could you go wrong using the agreements?

  1. Be impeccable with your word.Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstanding, sadness, and drama.
  4. Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

The agreements are based on Toltec Wisdom. Note: to all Bible Thumpers…don’t let the insight and wisdom from another culture scare you from benefiting from this wisdom. These agreements support Christianity, as well as other religions, and are not cause for abandoning your religious beliefs. You can learn more about the book at http://www.miguelruiz.com

These are the agreements that I use daily when I am making sense of my spoonful of life. I hope you find them useful as well.

Hello!

Today’s the day, I am doing it! Doing something I rolled my eyes at and swore off-blogging! When I shared with my husband that I am creating a blog, he said “the thought of you starting a blog scares the living “BLEEP” out of me.” Often times he has told me that some of the things I say are probably best left in my head. However, for the sake of authenticity, this blog will be true to form and true to life as I see it which usually involves humor. For all of you diehard grammar folks and English majors, please accept my disclaimer that I don’t claim to be an expert in the written word so please forgive my occasional typo or grammatical errors (please also forgive them even if they are not occasional).

I selected the blog name a spoonful of life because it seems in the daily grind of being wife, mommy, daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, colleague, complete stranger, etc. that life always leaves me contemplating about what is in my spoon (figuratively speaking).  A majority of the time in our lives we are either rejoicing or complaining because we have a heaping spoonful of life or we are desiring a little more in our spoon to fill us up. Very few times do we just sit back and say, in the famous words of Goldilocks, ahh my spoon is “just right.”

My goal is to blog at least weekly by catching a few moments in the morning, during lunch (for those of you who are clock watchers…lunch occurs in my world anytime in the day I can catch it), or in the wee hours of the night.  Topics will include what I know best…everyday life and the joy, laughter, pain, confusion, and frustration that go along with it.

I have been asked, “Why do you feel the need to share with the whole world?” Wow, the “whole” world, that’s a bold assumption (maybe I secretly would love Oprah to read it). This blog is written for friends and family keeping in touch, complete strangers looking for some inspiration or empathy to a similar life experience, or the occasional nosey person (let’s be honest…we all do this occasionally). You can decide which category you fall into.

I have to give credit where credit is due…my inspiration for a blog actually came from the loft3 blog. Not only is this chick an amazing photographer, she is an awesome blogger! I have found strength, understanding, and blessings in the rawness of her blog. I was introduced to her blog when her sister, Ali, was diagnosed with cancer. I had the pleasure to cross paths with Ali’s a few times when she started dating and later married her husband, Ben, who attended Western Kentucky University (Go Tops!) with me and my husband.

This picture was taken the first time we met in in November of 2008. Not a glamorous shot of any of us-but no less life in the making! That is me on the right frazzled after attending a Marine Corps Party with my husband. My college bestie, Allison, is in the middle. This was her first night out since having her son, Camden. And Ali is on the left, caught in the midst of a good laugh.

Image

Although our encounters were few and brief, the instant I met her, I knew that she was not only gorgeous on the outside…but she was equally as beautiful on the inside…just one of those gals that is not your everyday variety.

It seems trivial to say that such a tragedy due to cancer changed me for the better. The world would be a better place if she were still here.  Melanie, thank you for sharing your authentic perspective that reminds me each time I read it to enjoy the spoonful I have at the moment! Continued peace and blessings for you, Ben, Olivia, and all the others Ali loved so much.

Learn more about Ali and honor her legacy by donating to the Rock Pink for Ali.Who can resist a girl who loves pink, cotton candy, and lived more in her short 31 years than most of us will in a lifetime! This family is rocking pink and using it to change the world!

So, here I am. Stacy the spoonfuloflife blogger. I am working toward making each spoonful a “just right” moment and I wish the same for you!