Friday, December 2, 2011

Deck the halls...

This was taken last Sunday night when we officially started the Christmas decorating. This year Bobby is almost three years old, which puts him right on the cusp of "getting" the holiday. As soon as it was time to begin putting ornaments on the tree, he was ALL OVER IT. This is one of those photos that, to me, instantly warms the heart. I am sure it will be treasured by Jeff, Bobby and myself for many, many years.

Bobby's love affair with the tree -- specifically those shiny, irresistible ornaments -- is ongoing. The first couple of days had him coming up to us, reporting, "I broke another ornament." Sure enough, one of the silver balls would be in slivers on the floor. So, why would we be foolish enough to even put them on the tree in the first place? Good question. You'll have to ask Jeff, though, since I stepped down as "Tree Decorating Coordinator" this year. I felt like for the past several years I've been standing there supervising the kids, making sure no one fell into the tree as they put up their own ornaments. It was so relaxing and fulfilling to sit and watch... even though I felt really lazy doing it. I probably saved myself from being an emotional wreck, since every year when we get the kids' handmade ornaments out, I have to look at each one, remembering the pride with which they crafted them. Shaky, crayon-scribbled signatures adorn the backs of the paper decorations. A few sequins always manage to dribble off some other creation. And the glitter... my god the glitter! Who knew one Kindergarten masterpiece could ever leave our floor looking like Friday night at Showgirl?! But they're all worth it. Every last glittery, sequined one.

This weekend I'll be finishing up the last of the decorating (outdoor). Photos to follow.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day One, Part II

It all began with a baby in a stable.
No onesie.
No knit cap for His head.
No flowers for his mother.
No medical care.

Nothing but a new life and those who had faith.

The faithful believed.
The believers became travelers.
The travelers came to see the baby.

But there was no grand reception.
No buffet.
No beverages.
No opulence and shimmer.

Just silence.
Reverent silence.

They stood in the stable,
On the dirt floor, among hay that was fed to the animals.

Witnessing a precious new life, who
Would one day make the ultimate sacrifice for them.
Giving them precious eternal life.

What image is in your mind's eye right now?
Think. Be there.

Now, can you quickly imagine the mall or any retail store right now,
And not almost feel ashamed or embarassed?
The gaudy, overrun, irreverent spectacle.

Go back to the stable.
Return to the silence.
Revel in it.
Stand in awe, in the glory of Our Saviour.
There in the cold, wrapped only in a thin blanket.
The baby.
Because it all started with Him.
A baby in a stable.

Day One

December 01, 2011

I received an email from Jenny with a forwarded message from a blogger (who, as I just learned is a scrapbooker/writer/photographer... so it's like looking at what I want to be when I grow up) with this interesting concept to Journal the Holiday. She prompted this project with a Christmas Manifesto (at left). I'm not usually one to immediately "bandwagon" myself to someone else's manifesto of beliefs -- but this one spoke to me. I haven't had time to fully investigate and digest all the surrounding details, but the idea is to create a daily reflection of the holiday season through words, photos or crafts. I love all three with a passion, so that part should be easy. The hardest part will be finding enough time to do it. But where there's a will, there's a way. And this IS the season of miracles, yes? Hope anyone reading will enjoy the ride with me. This should be fun. :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

I just finished eating what will officially be my FINAL meal of Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s been a steady stream of turkey, stuffing, corn casserole and sweet potatoes – in varying amounts/combinations – since last Thursday. We did break for pizza last night, but that was out of sheer desperation. (Long story.) I’ve eaten enough of said Thanksgiving foods that I am teetering on the verge of being disgusted by them. I’ll only need a short break, then I’ll be able to resume enjoying those sweet and savory dishes just in time for Christmas dinner… when the turkey will likely be replaced by ham, but the sides will be pretty much the same.

That said, I have officially switched gears and have my sights set on Christmas. Every year, I hope beyond hope that we will somehow manage to give our family a nice Christmas, while weaving in a meaningful thread of charity/humility/spirituality. (Take your pick.) There has been such buzz lately about “going local” that, once I really thought about it, it made complete and total sense to me. If I was a small business owner, I would be doing everything I could to compete with everyone likes to call, “big box stores.” I get it. They have Corporate America on their sides; and who does the little guy have on his side? Exactly. So, I kind of had it in my mind to start thinking of ways to support local businesses and integrate those items into my gift list.

Then, this past weekend, a very well-known “big box store” royally screwed us over. Let’s just call the store, “Greatest Purchase.” (I know you’ll get it if you think about it for a minute.) Anyway, Greatest Purchase, offered a Black Friday online deal for a video game system that Jeff wanted to buy for our family. Anyone who knows Jeff can attest that he will research a purchase thoroughly before making a move. (If “research thoroughly” means having no less than seven different browsing windows open on one computer at a time, each one with a different review of the same product.) So, once he found the deal he wanted, he purchased this video game system from Greatest Purchase, and opted to pick up the system in person at Greatest Purchase’s store in Muncie, IN. (The Fort Wayne stores were sold out already.) Yesterday, on the way home from Indianapolis, Jeff stopped at the Muncie location, presented his receipt and paperwork, which clearly stated that the item WILL BE HELD well past the November 27 pick-up date, only to find that there was nothing for him to pick up. The store sold out of the game system before someone bothered to pick the item for online orders. Again, anyone who knows Jeff can attest to the fact that he not only took issue with the sales clerk, but the store manager as well. In the end, it was all for naught. They were happy to offer a different game system as a replacement, but would not offer the Black Friday price. Ugh. Corporate America strikes again.

Last night, as Jeff detailed the situation at Greatest Purchase for me, including the conversation with the store manager who repeatedly claimed “there’s nothing I can do,” Jeff posed the question, “Where has the concept of taking responsibility for actions gone?” He’s right. I’ve felt this way for a long time. I have seen more than my fair share of people who – for whatever reason – firmly believe they have no responsibility for their own actions, and repeatedly blame other people, their cars, the weather, cats, dogs, shrubbery, etc. You name it, and it’s the root of all the problems for these people. Personally, I cannot stand that character trait… or, I should say, character flaw. There have been a few times when one of the kids will start in with the whole “it isn’t my fault” argument, and I immediately nip *that* in the bud. There will be no throwing of anyone or anything under the proverbial bus, in order to escape taking responsibility for something. “Have character,” I tell them. “Take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Period.”

So, to recap… Buy local. Take responsibility.

Not quite the warm and fuzzy holiday message, but it’s a start.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm back. And with a response to an email scam artist.

Actual email I just received:

Dear Friend,
First of all, anyone I consider a friend would address me by my name.

How are you today? Hope all is well with you and your family?
I hope this mail meets you in a perfect condition.
Why thank you. How sweet.

You may not understand why this mail came to you. But if you do not remember me, you might have received an email from me in the past regarding a multi-million-dollar
business proposal which we never concluded.
OK. There are days when I am so busy I forget to eat. However, even if I “might” have received an email in the past regarding a multi-million dollar business proposal, I would hope to holy hell that I’d remember something as colossal as that. Especially since yours would be my first multi-million dollar business proposal. Ever.

I am using this opportunity to inform you that this multi-million-dollar
business has been concluded with another person who financed it to a logical
conclusion but i know that people has been using my identification to
contact you as a fraud act so i want you to decease from contacting them
because I know they just making earns out of you.
OMG. Where do I even begin? I am not quite sure how one finances a deal to a “logical conclusion.” Let’s focus on the use of singular vs plural verb tense; “…people has…” makes me cringe. And the fact that you want me to “decease” from contacting people? Well, that scares me a little. Lastly, I have no idea what “earns” are, and why are people making them out of me? Is that like making wigs out of human hair? Or, worse yet, like the guy on “Silence of the Lambs” who made the suit out of human skin?! Kind of makes me wonder about the use of “decease” in the prior sentence…

I thank you for your great effort to our unfinished transfer of fund into your account due to one
reason or the other best known to you.

But I want to inform you that I have successfully transferred the fund out of the security company to my new partner's account in London that was capable of assisting me in this great
venture. Due to your effort, sincerity, courage and trustworthiness you showed during
the course of the transaction
Wait. Didn’t you say earlier that our deal never concluded?

I want to compensate you and show my gratitude to you with the sum of $950,000.00. I have left an international certified bank draft for you worth about $950,000.00 cashable anywhere in the world. My dear friend I will like you to contact Barr. Eglin Williams for the
collection of this international certified bank draft have authorized to
release the international certified bank draft to you as soon as you contact
him regarding this issue because as soon as you contact them the package
will be forwarded to the delivery company.
Ugh. Again with the grammar. You’re killin’ me. Oops! We’re back to the “deceased” thing again.

At the moment, I'm very busy here because of the investment projects which myself and my new partner are having at hand.
Please let one of the investments be an ESL class.

Please I will like you to accept comply with Mr. George Williams so that he will send the draft to you without any delay.
CONTACT: Barr. Eglin Williams
ADDRESS: 102 Daytona ave. Holly Hull, City 32 Abuja.
TEL: +234 81 53 671 539
Therefore, you should send him your full Name and telephone number/your
address where you want him to send the draft to you I want you to give him a
call as well for verification.
I am really resisting the urge to send a card to this address, thanking them for my $950,000 windfall… just because. And I think it’s supposed to be “globalmail” not “globomail.”

Thanks and God bless you and your family. I am very busy now i may not reply
to any email for sometime.

Best Regards
Mr. David Moore.
Well, Mr. Moore, I truly appreciate you wishing God’s blessing on me and my family, but invoking a Holy blessing under the guise of an OBVIOUS Internet/email scam… well, Sir, that’ll buy you a first-class ticket to Hell for sure. Busy schedule or not.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Full Circle

Today I registered our two (almost) 12-year olds for middle school.

Middle. School.

That's, like, practically high school.

I left the school and headed back to the office feeling very,... well... just weird. Navigating through registration was no big deal. Getting their bus schedule, gym clothes and yearbook photo taken didn't phase me in the least. It was after we got their books -- when we found their lockers and they began working the combination locks that it hit me.

I remember middle school. Clearly. Maybe not like it was yesterday, but at least within the last few weeks. Except we called it "junior high" way back then. I remember the day I stood at my first locker, spinning the numbers R-L-R and feeling like I'd won a Vegas jackpot when it actually opened. (I was worried that I wouldn't be able to open my locker, causing me to be perpetually late for classes and sent to the principal's office just because I couldn't operate a combination lock.) It was really hot that day, and I distinctly remember not being able to wear shorts (oh, kids these days have it SO nice!) so I had on a pair of jeans and a kelly green/white jersey shirt with my name on the back. (Yes, I am cringing at the very thought of this Fashion Don't, but in my defense, it was in style.) I remember glancing over at my locker neighbor -- a girl named Jill. She had honey-blonde hair, blue-grey eyes and braces. I remember silently rolling my eyes behind my dorky glasses, pushing my drab brown hair off my sweaty forehead and wondering if any of the boys who will undoubtedly be flocking around her would talk to me out of pity.

As I watched Charlie and Jack, I began to wonder how they will be perceived by their new classmates. Will they be liked? Will one of them do something really funny and win their affections? Will one of them inadvertently say something silly and make everyone wonder where in the world he came from? Will they fit in? Will any of the older kids try to screw with them? Almost exactly at that moment, Charlie interrupted my thoughts asking "What if someone tries to shove me in my locker?" Upon seeing him try to "see" if he'd even fit in there (they're really narrow lockers) I had that flash of protective mother instinct and worry. Yes! Yes! What if that happens? How will I protect him? How can I save him the embarrassment of being picked on? I took a deep breath and reassured him that he couldn't possibly fit inside the locker (I hope) and nothing like that will happen (fingers crossed). I realized then and there that it's officially time to let go a little. I cannot possibly be there for them every day. And I'm sure they will be just fine -- dealing with the natural element of craziness called adolescence.

I lived through it to tell about it. And so will they.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

There was once a girl who grew up in a very conservative family. One might venture to say she lived a somewhat sheltered life, although to say she was naive would not be quite accurate. She went to college and met all sorts of interesting people. All these different people – from small towns, the East coast and beyond… those who drank and/or smoked pot, those who did not… athletes, scholars, musicians… bookworms and slack-asses, gays and straight – all of these different people and their personalities helped mold and form this girl into a different person than she used to be. She took in the influence of their personalities, habits and passions to make her own decisions, form her own opinions and create a newer version of herself. After four years, she liked the person she’d become. She was more comfortable in her own skin and genuinely enjoyed her own company if no one else was around. She listened to music that spoke to her. She watched indie movies, where the cast members were relatively unknown, yet the story was incredibly powerful. She was creative and wrote from her heart.

And now she’s gone.

Oh, she still comes around now and then… here and there. But she isn’t here like she used to be. By now, the 20-odd years that have passed have been filled with even more people and experiences that have molded and shaped her into yet another version of herself. The younger version of the girl could be best imagined as the rocky face of a cliff – with definite depth, areas that jut out and force themselves against a clear blue sky in an announcement, “Look at this part of me!” As the wind and rain, all the elements can weather and change the rocky surface, she has changed. By now she is perhaps not so brash or bold against a blue sky, but smoothed over. A surface that is still strong, yet softer in its silhouette.

The girl – now a woman – now thinks more before speaking, has been made wiser through experience and never underestimates anyone anymore. She rarely trusts anyone unless they have proven that they can be trusted. She now has a much smaller “inner circle” of friends, where she used to take pride in the many she counted as close friends. Betrayal will make a person do that.

Every now and then, the woman will catch a glimpse of the girl – sparked by a word, a lyric a melody – and she will want to bring parts of that life back. Not to take over and change her life; rather to create a more complete version of who she is now -- to get back to her “roots.” And when she does this, she can share it with those who are important in her life now, so she can once again say, “Look at this part of me!” and hope they appreciate and love that as much as she does.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hostage Situation

OK. So I took the boys and Kate to pick up a few (SALE!) items for our upcoming vacation. The item of choice in the boys' department was athletic shorts. They each became strangely attached to a pair that they HAD. TO. HAVE. These kids aren't necessarily hurting for shorts, but considering I've started thinning the herd every time I do laundry (because I nix the wearing of stained/ripped clothing. Imagine!) it couldn't hurt to supplement by one more pair each. And, they were on sale. Winner-winner, chicken dinner.

Throughout the remainder of our shopping adventure, the boys seemed to take turns ramping up Bobby and getting him all riled to screeching level. In a good way, though. Still, heads were turning. When we arrived home and the boys were beside themselves to get into those COOL, NEW SHORTS, I said... "No."

They were appalled.

"What?!?! What do you mean we can't have them?!?!"

I told them that their behavior in public had been obnoxious -- borderline atrocious. They would receive the shorts when their behavior changed for the better.

That was Sunday. Today is Tuesday. They're still not wearing the shorts.

Yesterday and today have provided damn-near a smorgasbord of obnoxious behavior. Granted, the weather is making people do crazy things -- because 95-100 degrees in 100 percent humidity does that to people. Still, there are three boys in my house who need to recall how to get... and keep... themselves under control. Period.

I had a fleeting moment of self-doubt this afternoon, and asked Lindy if I had completely lost my mind, holding three pair of shorts hostage. Not only did she champion my cause, she even offered a few good points that will work nicely into my prepared speech the next time one of the boys asks, "When do we get our shorts?"

Does anyone else think I've lost it? Would you (or have you) held back something strange from the kids until they stepped up the behavior?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

10... 9... 8...

Lindy just texted "When do u leave for vacation again?"
As I responded with "A week from this coming Sunday," it hit me that Sunday is just three days away. Add the seven days, and with my spectacular math wizardry I realized we leave in 10 days.

Ten days until we jam-pack two cars and drive 24 hours to Key Largo, Florida. It really is a blessing that we are able to swing this trip. Vacations are the last thing on our budget list. So when Jeff found a condo at an oceanside resort for way inexpensive AND the rates don't fluctuate with high-and low-season, well... he snapped up the last week of July, as well as the week prior to Christmas. The thing is, it will not only be Florida in July, but extreme south Florida in July. Damn near Cuba kind of south. If our trip to Florida two spring breaks ago is any indication, all but one kid in our van will be pleasantly pacified with hand-held games and/or iPod entertainment -- providing we have our small power source plugged in for recharging. Bobby is the exception to the rule since, at just 2, he has no use for PS3's or iPods. I am considering hauling out an old LeapPad for him to play with, just so he's got something. (NOTE: Any suggestions on keeping a 2-yr.old happy on a 20+ hour car trip would be welcome. I am desperate at the thought of having an angry boy who has had enough of being strapped into a car seat for hours on end. I will employ almost any idea you can throw at me, just short of hiring a clown to make him laugh and create balloon animals for the entire trip. Because, you know... clowns can be kinda creepy.)

The two oldest kids will be driving the car, because unless we draw straws to see who gets strapped to the roof of the van, we are not all going to fit inside the van. I never in a MILLION YEARS expected to look longingly at 12-passenger vans, thinking "My God we could use one of those."

Since we will be doing beachy kinds of things, I'm guessing everyone will pack lightly. Swimsuits, t-shirts and sunblock will be the staples of our existence that week, so I don't have to drive myself jackass batty doing a bunch of laundry for packing. I plan to dig out our snorkel equipment and beach paddle set, so that's just one trip up into the attic. I may get out of town with minimal stress yet. I expect the REAL stress will hit around mid-week, when one of the kids (God-help-that-child!) is all, "I'm bored." Because, remember? It's going to be hot. And while I don't enjoy hearing complaints in pleasant weather, I will not field boredom complaints in that kind of heat. Not. Happening. I will be all "You know what? Counting grains of sand is a really awesome way to cure boredom," and require a written total by sunset.

Oh, I'm not really all that mean -- I'll let them round up to the nearest tenth.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ten Random Shots of Summer... So Far

Around this time last summer, I chose 25 random photos and posted a glimpse of how we'd spent our time and fun things that happened. This year, however, since my camera now has not only a non-functional flash and a USB port that fell into the wrong hands (long story) I have been forced to document our summer on my Blackberry. Let's be clear about this: a Blackberry is awesome for making calls and keeping oneself organized. Taking photos? Not so much in the awesome category. But, hey... you make do with what you have. Here goes...

These two photos are from Jack, Charlie and Sam's Academic Achievement night. All three boys earned straight A's every grading period, thus landing them Principal's Honor Roll for the year. Sam is in the top photo, standing to the right of his good (and very tall) friend, Deonte. Jack and Charlie are smack-in-the-middle of their group in the bottom photo. They're the two who look like they are carrying on a casual conversation while, say, waiting for the bus.

In June, I had the opportunity to travel to my company's office in Greensboro, NC. I got to ride in the company jet. Very nice. After a day at the office in a variety of meetings, I checked in at my hotel and set out to explore the open-air mall across the street. I was delighted to find a nail salon that had walk-in appointments. So,... I walked in. And got a pedicure. It was blissful.

Happy, happy feet. :)

Jack, Charlie and Sam started baseball in late April/early May, if memory serves. It is now July, and we're just starting the final tournaments. This is a long, long time to be heading to baseball games -- several times per week. Especially if you are 2 and don't particularly understand the game, other than "swing, batterbatterbatter...SWING!" and "runrunrun...HOMERUN!" It helps to have a big brothers who, when they aren't playing, will sit and play in the dirt with you.

I saw this somewhere on the Internet and it totally cracked me up. It was titled, "Cat Storage." How can you NOT laugh?!?!

June 14, 2011. Jeff and I celebrated three years of wedded bliss and happiness. We shared our celebration with our "honeymoon baby." Seemed appropriate enough.

Bobby and Sam brushing a goat at the zoo. You don't even want to know how much hand gel I made them use afterward.

Jeff and Bobby on a bike ride. This was Bobby's first experience doing so, and you can totally tell by the expression on his face. This may very well be my new favorite picture of them.

Lastly, I took up knitting this year, and have settled into a niche of baby beanies. I love making them, and am tinkering with the idea of selling them online. In the meantime... if you need a baby gift, just let me know!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jeff left for his usual 24-hr. shift at 6:30am. I got up, got ready for work, woke Bobby and got him ready to go to daycare. Dropped him off and talked him out of a crying fit because he didn't want me to leave him. Wanted to cry as I left daycare because I had to leave him there. Went to work and tried to shift my focus to two hefty-sized projects that need to keep moving forward. Ran errands at lunchtime, dealing with a temperamental van that only offers air conditioning on a whim -- usually NOT when it's sunny and hell-hot outside... like today. Arrived back at my office (a sweaty mess) and ate lunch at my desk. Happened to catch CNN at 2:12pm, seeing that the Casey Anthony verdict would be read at 2:15pm. Sat stunned in my chair from 2:16pm until, roughly, 3pm. I have wanted to cry since the moment I heard the words "not guilty" spoken from the clerk of the court. And I'm not talking tears of joy, either. Left work, drove to daycare (in my "Chevy Oven") to fetch Bobby. Got home long enough to change clothes, re-pack his backpack and fill water bottles with ice water. Headed to Sam's baseball game where we sweated ourselves into silly puddles in the late afternoon heat. Watched as they lost a close one, simply because they ran out their 1 hr, 50 min time allotment. Packed Sam and Bobby into the (still) hot van and we ran a couple of errands, picked up a modest fast-food dinner and went to the station to visit Jeff. Wolfed down said food as I tried to help Jeff corral Bobby, who was in FULL OUT RUN mode everywhere he went. Piled back into the van and drove Sam to get picked up by his dad. (Jack and Charlie were at a baseball game tonight, otherwise they'd have played into the mix as well.) Made the final drive toward home. On the way -- at precisely 9:21pm -- Bobby completely lost his shit when he realized Jeff still had the two pieces of "I-made-this" (artwork)we brought from school (a.k.a., daycare) today. He wanted those two papers back. Immediately. I tried to tell him in between his screaming sobs that Daddy wanted to put his artwork in his locker so he could think about Bobby while he was away tonight. Ummm... no. This kid was having none of that. So, we rolled into our neighborhood with the windows pretty much up, but not all the way (because it's still HOT in there, remember?). I had to do something to keep the evening walkers/runners from hearing his hysterical screaming fit. We pulled into the driveway and I carried a still-sobbing Bobby into the house, directly upstairs and got him ready for bed. He managed to pull himself together for a brief phone call to Jeff, where we asked him to please bring the drawings home in the morning. Bobby was still doing the staggered-breathing thing that kids usually do following a knock-down, drag-out, holy hell's bells fit. We sat and looked through one book before I put him into bed, gave him a kiss goodnight and told him how much I loved him.

Throughout my day... the entire crazy, busy, run-here, run-there, no time to sit down and relax day... especially with the tail end of said day punctuated by a 2-yr old's hysterical screaming fit over a paper plate on which he sponge-painted... NOT. ONCE. DID. CHLOROFORM. OR. DUCT. TAPE. ENTER. MY. FRAZZLED. MIND.

And when I bent down to kiss Bobby goodnight, I paused -- wondering how anyone, especially a mother, could ever fathom the thought of willfully harming a child. I looked at him laying with his bear and still couldn't wrap my mind around how a mother could not know where her baby is for a month, as she goes out drinking, dancing and getting tattooed. I lose my mind when I don't know where my keys are, or an important piece of paper. I left Bobby's room tonight, listening to the sound of his breathing -- and said a small prayer for Caylee Anthony, wishing her mother could have seen or felt all I was feeling for my own child at that moment.

Monday, July 4, 2011

I find myself with a few minutes before Jeff and I have our "date" on the patio... with a glass of wine each and a fire in the fire pit. The much-expected pops, booms and (minor) explosions are in the air, much to the dismay of Buddy. Hopefully his meds kick in momentarily and he'll be enjoying his high so much, that the fireworks will not bother him in the least. Ah, yes, the fireworks -- telltale signs of the 4th of July, when we celebrate our freedom and remember those who have fought/died (are fighting/dying) for the privilege. This brings me to the ironic realization that while the entire country is whooping it up, eating picnic fare until they are about to pop and setting fire to small explosions... there is at least one person who is faced with having her freedom revoked: Casey Anthony.

Yes, I have become swept up in this soap-opera of trial, often referring to the key players by name, as if I know them personally. I have looked at Caylee's sweet, innocent face in photographs so many times that my heart literally aches each time they air them anymore. And every time the courtroom cameras cut to Casey -- her gaunt face usually screwed into a malicious scowl -- I just want to slap her. Hard. Whether or not she actually did what she is accused of doing is something only she and God knows. Regardless, her negligence on some part is responsible for that precious child's demise. As a parent, I have felt the pressure of being "judged" -- whether by peers, my mother or the public in general. Case in point: dragging two pre-schoolers and a toddler to the grocery store one afternoon, where the three boys worked me down to my very last nerve. And to ice the cake, the two 5-year-olds unbuckled their little brother as I was smack in the middle of loading groceries at the check-out. Tell me there isn't another parent (or even childless adult) out there who wasn't passing judgement on me as I dashed from the check-out lane through the produce department, chasing a laughing toddler, trying to calmly/sweetly call after him... all the while sweating and swearing in my head.

Yes, I have felt judged. However, the microscope of judgement I felt placed under that day is nothing in comparison to what Casey Anthony must be feeling now. And, again... it's ironic that on a day of celebrating freedom in our country, there are 12 individuals who hold her freedom in their hands. Did she do it? Didn't she? Who did? I'm sure the verdict will come soon enough, but it's way too late for Caylee. I don't envy any one of those 12 jury members, because despite the weeks-long trial, all evidence is purely circumstantial. And no matter if the justice system finds her guilty or not, she will have to answer for her actions -- whatever they were or weren't -- later, under God's judgement.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In which I (almost) have no words

When I sat down to write this morning, I allotted enough time to bring me to 6:20am, at which point I need to continue getting ready for work. That left me a good 10-12 minutes -- a do-able amount of time.


As I was leaving my home "news" page, I caught a teaser pertaining to Justin and Selena (presumably Bieber and Gomez) vacationing in Hawaii together. The copy read something about how they'd been "working their butts off" and needed some relaxation. Boy, do I ever understand that. The thing that made me stop reading was their ages: 17 and 18 respectively. I quickly flashed to what I had been doing as a 17-18 year old. It certainly wasn't vacationing in Hawaii with my boyfriend. In fact, I think the only vacation I took during that time period was a spring break trip with my best friend to visit my relatives in Texas. And even that was something we had to really plan, ask/beg for.

And the kicker? The last line of the article referred rather off-handedly to the couple also "hoping to spend some time with their families." So, this little romantic get-away to the islands is unchaperoned for the most part?

And society wonders why young stars end up so messed up (Hello, Lindsay Lohan) and there are reality television shows out there like "16 and Pregnant."

I think I've officially reached "old fart" status between my last post and today. Oy vey.

(P.S. -- End time is 6:27am, but I have to take into consideration the few minutes I sat staring at the computer screen in disbelief after reading that article.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My ongoing quest...

Years ago, I became quite comfortable adopting the motto from an ancient Huey Lewis song: "It's Hip to be Square." It finally became unimportant to try and match the latest clothing style, hair style or listen to Top 40. I dressed the way I liked and that worked for me. Same with the hair. As for the music? Ask anyone who knows me, and they can tell you my preferences don't stray too far from 80s/alternative.

Now, with two 11-almost-12-year olds and a 9 year old, I have come face to face with pop culture again. Oy vey. How things have changed. I may or may not have heard the words, "The music you kids listen to these days..." and "I don't get why kids dress like that now..." Basically, I am borderline sounding like my parents. (No offense, Mom and Dad.) Quite often when we are in the car, the boys (usually Sam) ask me to turn the radio on. If Bobby is with us, the answer is a definite "No." Even the most tame radio stations/play lists will end up having some dialogue or verse containing word choices not I'd rather not hear my 2-year old say. Most recently, for example, he's heard "Shut up" and "sucks" and has chosen to repeat them. A lot.

Yesterday morning, afte we dropped off Bobby at school (daycare, really, but he likes to be like his older brothers and sister who go to school every day) Sam asked for the radio. Still nursing my morning coffee, I was in no mood to argue. I did remind him of my number one rule: The first reference to something inappropriate or foul language, and it's turned off. We have two local hip-hop/R&B/dance stations. I tuned in to one of them, giving the mandatory Mom Eye Roll.

Let me just clarify... while I strongly dislike all rap music, I usually don't mind the "dance club" style songs. Amazingly, I do know a few of them, thanks to my cardio interval class -- they can really get you moving. Imagine the boys' surprise when, one time I relented and put the radio on, to hear a song I actually knew (and liked!). "OOOOHH! I love this one!" I said, turning the volume up. I glanced in the rear-view mirror to see three sets of wide-eyes and three mouths hanging open.

"What?" I asked.

"You. Like. This?!" they responded.

It was at this point that I gave them the quick lesson in the difference between dance/club music rap. I don't mind one, detest the other. It wasn't surprising that when I clicked on the radio yesterday, the boys were immediately all about the happy faces and "car dancing." It's amazing how my ongoing quest to be hip (before I am of age to break one) can completely make their morning.

Jack... gettin' his groove on.

Charlie... clearly approving the music choice.

And Sam... who, apparently, will turn bashful when "car dancing" in front of his mom.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Retrospective

Mother's Day was delightful because...

  • I enjoyed homemade blueberry pancakes -- made by my wonderful husband -- with him and the kids.

  • We went to church and heard a really great message about being a mom.

  • We returned home and worked on a few projects (that I wanted to do, as opposed to having to do) with Jeff.

  • I went for a much-needed run with Bobby in the stroller.

  • We picked out flowers for the pots on the front porch.

  • I was treated to grilled steaks for dinner, as well as having the company of Jenny, James, Ethan and Chloe.

  • Jeff made ice cream sundaes for dessert. Yes, even a cherry on top.

  • I got to speak with my mom and wish her a Happy Mother's Day.

  • I took time to acknowledge and appreciate the honor I have to be a mom to Tyler, Kate, Jack, Charlie, Sam and Bobby.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Loving it

Ever since he was a little tyke, Sam (9) has never been able to keep a secret, maintain a surprise or wait to give a gift. He is much like me, when it comes to gift-giving: I want to give it immediately because I want to make that person happy immediately. This character trait of his always makes his older brothers roll their eyes and complain that “Sam can’t keep a surprise.”
Each year, when kids work hard on handmade gift projects in school, it never fails that Sam can’t wait for the holiday or celebration itself (be it Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s day) to give the gift he made. So, it came as no surprise when, yesterday, upon getting home from work I saw Sam leap up and rummage through his school bag. He handed me a small card reading, “To: Mom, From: Sam” on the front. Inside he wrote something about “Butler Blue II” (the Butler Bulldog mascot). Then he pulled out a crumpled, white paper bag and gave me this:

Needless to say, I love it.
In case you can’t see everything written on the porcelain tile, it reads (from top left) “Go Butler,” “Happy Mother’s Day Mom,” “I love you,” “Butler alumnie” and “Joe.” I think it’s all pretty self-explanatory – except for “Joe.” He simply explained that it stands for “coffee.”

You know, like a ‘cuppa joe,’” he said, smiling from ear to ear.

Again, I love it. I love it because he made it with his own two hands. I love it because he obviously put a lot of thought into putting what he knows about me onto that tile. I love the colors he chose. I love it because I know the time will soon come when he isn’t all about hand-making me a Mother’s Day gift (or hand-making any gift for that matter). I love it because it’s so Sam – it’s the perfect gift from him to me. I love it because after he handed it to me, it was followed by a huge hug and a kiss. I love it because of the extreme look of happiness on his adorable face when I told him, “I love it.”

To all my family members and friends who are moms or who will be celebrating with their moms this weekend… Happy Mother’s Day! I hope your weekend is filled with many moments that make you say, “I love it.”

Monday, March 21, 2011


You would have to be living under a rock somewhere to NOT know it's NCAA March Madness time. And, amazingly so, the Butler Bulldogs have stunned naysayers who chalked up last year's performance of a lifetime to just that -- a once in a lifetime thing. A fluke. Yet here they are again, with their dancin' shoes on in the oh, so Sweet 16. I recently read Butler's Big Dance, written by Butler Professor Susan Neville (whom I may or may not have had as an instructor at school). It is an amazing account of the entire phenomenon that gripped my alma mater, our state, the sport and the nation, as the "unknown" Bulldogs came out of nowhere... and proceeded to fight their way to the top of the heap. When Gordon Hayward's shot missed by three inches (yes,... three inches) the team lost the honor of a national championship. But in the process of losing that, they gained the love and loyalty of, well, everyone, it seems. Duke may have added another trophy to their case, they got the hats and shirts and the confetti rained down on them from high above the court in Lucas Oil Stadium -- but it was Butler that people were talking about. And it's Butler they are still talking about. Who knows what Thursday's game will bring. As much as I'd love for them to post another win, really, making it back to the Sweet 16 is an incredible accomplishment in itself. I love my school, I admire the team and Coach Stevens -- they are a classy bunch of gentlemen -- and I love that they are showing everyone, once again, what down-to-earth, hard-working, academically accomplished students they are.


This year, students in grades 3, 4 and 5 at the boys' school were required to create books for the Young Author's Conference. I, for one was thrilled. Jack, Charlie and Sam? Meh... not so much. They were enthusiastic about the stories they wanted to write, but when it came down to the writing, well... the weather was getting warmer, the basketball hoop was put up and they suddenly had much more important things to do. However, a requirement is a requirement, and three boys dictated three stories which I typed verbatim. (Which, at times, nearly killed the OCD grammarian in me.) In the end, the boys created some pretty good stories, and they were presented well. Today, Sam told me he was chosen as a representative for the 3rd grade to attend the conference in a few weeks. I was thrilled! I had won the Young Author's Conference at my school in 5th and 6th grades. (You know, back when 6th grade was still in an elementary school and we scratched our lessons onto stone tablets with dinosaur bones.) I clearly remember the grumpy mumbling of classmates when I was chosen the second year in a row. "But sheee went laaaast year!" I simply shrugged. I certainly had nothing to do with the selection process -- I just liked to write stories. I read through the paperwork for the conference today, and felt a little jolt of excitement when I saw that parents are welcome to attend the workshop with their child. Trying my best to sound nonchalant, I said, "Hey, Sam... do you want me to go to the Young Author's Conference with you?" He answered yes, and I proceeded to do a little happy dance in my head.


I am still on JoyQuest2011. Some days I kind of forget that I need to be "finding the joy," because someone has positioned his or herself in my path, making it imposssssssible to find my sanity, let alone any joy. But I am still trying. Every day, even when I slip and quietly cuss someone out for driving like a maniac, or politely turn away to roll my eyes privately at a person's actions, or even mumble under my breath some choice words to make me "feel better" about the present situation, I'm stopping myself. I immediately say a quick little prayer for forgiveness, then -- you guessed it -- find the joy in the situation. I feel like I'm still deep in training mode, but there are still plenty of days and weeks left to get the hang of it. Breathe deeply... find the joy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A while back, Lindy had a conversation with her parish priest, in which she said she was “praying for patience” (the topic was kids,… go figure) and the priest told her to stop praying for patience, since the root of that word is Latin for “suffer.” (According to, Latin, patientia, endurance, from pati “to suffer.”) Instead, he said, she should pray for joy. I loved that idea: Take a seemingly bad situation and try to find the proverbial “silver lining.” Find the joy, indeed.

I think my Lenten journey has been officially renamed, “JoyQuest 2011.” I am going to find the damn joy… even if it kills me. (And you know, the irony has not escaped my notice that here I am bellyaching about kids, worrying about finances and bitching that I have no coffeemaker and people in this world (Japan) have lost their kids, homes and all worldly possessions… including coffeemakers.)

So, with keeping the people in the world who are facing devastation and tragedy in prayer, I am also praying for joy. Praying that each day, when something goes "wrong," or not according to my plan... I take a moment to find the joy and remind myself "my" plan isn't the one that matters. When one of the kids decides to work my last nerve, I need to find joy in that I have kids to work that lone nerve. When someone cuts me off in traffic, I need to find joy in the fact that they didn't hit me doing it. When I struggle to get out of bed in the morning to go to work, I need to find joy in the fact that I have a job. When life gets in the way, keeping me from something on my ever-present, ever-growing "list," I need to find joy in the fact that I did my best today, and (God willing) I will have another day to check something else off the list. When I am faced with a challenge or struggle, I will find joy in the fact that I can close my eyes, say a prayer asking for strength/guidance and I know my prayer will be heard -- and answered in time.

Find the joy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Do we all remember this little guy? He's the reason for the title of this blog -- his arrival brought me and his daddy right back to square one, as far as kids are concerned. "Five kids are plenty," we agreed. Little did we know, God had another plan in mind. So, on March 1, 2009, we welcomed Robert Edward Cameron into our family. Bobby. On that whirlwind day, I don't think any one of us could even come close to comprehending just how special this child was... and is today. This precious little nugget of a person cemented a union -- a union that brought two families together into one. His family.

March 1, 2009
April 16, 2009
Today, just two days past his second birthday, Bobby continues to brighten every day with his personality, charm and oh-so-cuteness. You've heard people refer to someone as a "joy" or "delight?" I now know exactly what they mean. Bobby brings so much love, such pure joy to his parents and siblings. He is funny and loves to laugh. His vocabulary is amazing, and it grows leaps and bounds every day. He is the love of our lives right now, adding to the love that brought us all together.

March 1, 2010 Having lunch and a sundae with Daddy and Mommy.

March 1, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday, Precious Boy. You are loved more than you will ever know, Bobby, and you make our family complete. We love you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


"Nothing fits."

This was what I heard as I stood toe-to-toe with Jack and Charlie last night, as they picked out clothes for the next morning.

"Nothing?" I asked, sure they were just exaggerating.
"No. Nothing," they replied.
Still very sure they were stretching the truth, I told them we would fully address the issue tomorrow... which is now today. I can now say, without a doubt, they were telling the truth. We spent the better part of two hours this evening, camped out in their bedroom going through the dresser and closet. We now have several stacks of clothes to donate. This purge leaves them with a pair of khaki cargo pants each and an array of shirts. (Sam, on the other hand, the sole recipient of the hand-me-downs, has most of what he needs, wardrobe-wise, but managed to outgrow all his jeans, too.) So, this weekend? It's a jeans-buying bonanza for the boys.

I discovered today that I -- somewhere in the past few weeks -- gained a few extra pounds. This? I am thoroughly unhappy about. Yep... nothing like getting ready for work in the morning, feeling like a wrapped ham in your clothing. The difference between myself and the boys is that my only option is to get my ass back to the gym and have three miles on the treadmill for lunch every day, rather than go out and have myself a shopping spree. And, yes, I started today.

Funny how the kids outgrowing some clothing can make you stop and think... they're growing up. Sure, it's happening every day, but we all get busy and don't see it. Lately I've been noticing small changes in the boys' behavior -- small steps toward a bit more maturity, a smidge more compassion here and there, and I realize that Sam at 9 and Jack & Charlie coming up on 12 are really growing up. Don't get me wrong -- I still get to hear all the petty bickering and arguing. (Oh, how I love the bickering and arguing!) But to realize there are no more fist-fights between them, or chasing each other down, only to catch and begin the pummelling... well, that's just an awesome feeling. I remember fully being in the midst of that behavior several years ago, wondering just when the hell all the fighting would end, and if I'd make it through to that point. "It has to stop sometime," I'd think, weary from playing referee and, literally, pulling them off each other. And now we've made it. I also noticed lately that those boys are really funny. Yes, once in a while they do manage to take a break from the typical "bathroom humor" that boys their age find absolutely hysterical, and say something witty or sarcastic. It still catches me off guard, but it never ceases to make me laugh. Really laugh. Especially Sam.

Change abounds in our house. Bobby just turned two yesterday. Two years old! And talk about a kid who has personality and a sense of humor? I guess that's what happens when your family is as big as an audience, and you are growing up feeling comfortable "performing." Things will change later this year for Tyler and Kate, as well. Tyler will begin his sophomore year of college on Purdue's main campus; something he is desperately happy to have happen. Kate will begin her senior year of high school at the end of the summer -- and so begins all the "last times" of her high school career. At the same time, as she begins preparing for college admissions (another for Purdue!) it marks all the "firsts" as a college student. Such wonderful times, full of excitement.

My hope is that with all the hustle and bustle of life, amidst all the changes, growth spurts and outgrown jeans... Jeff and I manage to stop and take notice. I don't want a single minute of this crazy life of ours to pass us by without pausing... letting the events sink in and giving us wonderful memories. We may periodically find ourselves in a place where "nothing fits," but with a little rearrangement and a little adjustment, we'll once again find ourselves comfortable.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'd like to say I have a good reason for not posting for over two months... but, really, blaming the holidays and the post-holiday slump is so played out. And it isn't like I haven't had some really great material for blog posts, and plenty of photos to accompany them. It's just that when the idea hits, it's nowhere near a good time to post. And by the end of most evenings at my house, the last thing I find myself wanting is to sit at the computer and thrill all eight followers with the funny things that happened that day. (And I'm sure calling out eight followers is strectching things at this point.)

Here's the nutshell version of the past 8-10 weeks:

Ahem. Thanksgiving came and went without much drama or fanfare... I think. We prepped for Christmas and had loads of fun at James & Jenny's one evening, where the kids got their Betty Crocker on, decorating cookies and making Christmas "trees" out of inverted sugar cones, green frosting and a variety of candies.

Closer to the Big Day, we embarked on our annual trek to Pokagon State Park for an evening of toboganning. The weather couldn't have cooperated more, and we had a great time hurtling down an ice-covered run at speeds in the 30mph range. Two days later, we once again packed up the family cars (since we don't all fit in the van), and headed north to Michigan -- Boyne Mtn., to be exact, for a few days of skiing and snowboarding. We even had passes to the on-site waterpark, which we visited Tuesday night. This is when Jack found himself with an early Christmas present, after whacking his head on a cross-bar as he entered a water slide -- six tidy stitches in the middle of his forehead, courtesy of the Northern Michigan Regional Hospital.

I think I may have clinched the Mother of the Year award on our final night, when I took Jack, Charlie and Sam to return their snowboards and boots -- realizing I had forgotten to bring their regular snow boots. The boys had to walk across the resort, to the parking lot in... socks. This? They found HI-LARIOUS. Of course, we had to stop for a hot cocoa at Kilwin's candy shop, just to ensure the maximum number of people fell witness to my awesome forgetfulness.

Christmas was a lovely time, and we had a blast watching Bobby open gifts. Or, rather, open a gift and enjoy playing for a while, before we all but insisted he open another. In the time since the holidays, we have been dumped on with snow and ice, passed a pesky fever virus around to each other and froze ourselves silly with sub-zero temperatures. Good times, my friends. Good. Times. Oh, and also? I managed to get out of Girl Scout cookie selling season, keeping my total number of boxes under double-digits. Quite a feat, when you have a good friend who is not only the mom of an adorable, eight-year-old Brownie, but a master "enabler."

I also recently learned to knit. Currently working on a scarf (which Sam has already claimed for his own) that is, admittedly, full of flaws -- but also brimming with love. I have always wanted to learn to knit, and I am so excited to actually be making something. And it's recognizable.

I think that covers most of the high points of the recent weeks. I still have a boat-load of photos to share, so I will work on a "Photo Album" of sorts to share a few more tidbits of our crazy life.