Friday, December 16, 2005

My Favorite Things

I’m not really sure if there is any correlation, but I think about The Sound of Music during the holiday season. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of musicals. There are a few, however, that capture my imagination. Julie Andrew’s voice is beyond compare. I would follow her anywhere. “My Favorite Things” is probably my favorite song in that film. It’s been playing over and over in my head for at least the past week. I think that’s especially appropriate this year. It’s very easy to get caught up in your own life. How much less stress would you have in your everyday life if you would just step back and think of your favorite things? It would be hard to keep feeling so bad.

Maybe there is a correlation between Frauline Maria and this time of year. As my friend Trista mentioned in one of her posts this week, we are in a spiritual period of waiting. When we meet Frauline Maria, she was waiting to find her calling from God. What we do during a period of waiting on the Lord is entirely up to us. We can choose to do absolutely nothing or we can make choices or take risks that help prepare us for God’s will. Just like Maria, I’ve found that twiddling my thumbs only makes the wait seem longer. This year, I’m choosing to spend this time being thankful for the gifts I’ve already received.

In honor of my favorite song from my favorite musical, I am listing out a few of my favorite things. They are in no particular order. Maybe you will be inspired to add a list of your own.

The sound of my children’s laughter – especially when they’re laughing together
Listening to the pitter patter of growing feet in my house
Kissing a baby’s soft spot and feeling his or her pulse on my lips
Hearing my husband say that he loves me
Learning that I’m going to be an aunt again
The Joshua Tree by U2
Reading my dad’s theology papers
Hearing the passion in my mom’s voice when she talks about decorative painting
The thrill of giving a cross stitch project as a gift to someone I love
Making Trista laugh
Watching my children play with their grandparents – especially the twinkle in their grandparents’ eyes
The smell of a new car
Sitting down with a new book
Snuggling with Danny while watching a movie
Seeing how much weight I’ve lost by trying on old clothes
The smell of spring and the smell of fall
Dancing around the living room with my family
Watching older couples who are still very much in love
Being a godmother
Chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven
Handmade cards
Grandma Currie’s potato salad
Grandma Dodde’s pea soup
Teasing my grandpa’s about sports
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Writing a great paragraph
Taking long walks
My childhood memories
Listening to friends and family when they are talking about something for which they are passionate
Reading the blogs of people to whom I am close
Pictures of babies eating their first birthday cake
Working on scrapbooks or stitching with my friends
Watching my children’s faces light up when I pick them up at daycare
Making someone smile
Being used by God to help someone – especially when I find out about it later
Watching Emma and Charlie play together

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Marriage of Figaro

Emma's daycare offers two optional enrichment programs - Melody Makers, a musical educational program and Moonbeam Express, a gymnastics program. Originally, we had only enrolled her with Moonbeam Express. One extra activity is enough. One day, I picked Emma up and there was a note attached to her daily. The note was from Melody Makers indicating that her tuition for the month of September. I took the note to Lenora, the director, and told her that we hadn’t enrolled Emma in that program. It turns out that Charlie, one of Emma’s friends , had dragged her with him to Melody Makers with him. Since Emma and Charlie went together to the Tumble Bus, no one thought anything of it. They both have a great time with each other. After Danny and I wondered what other kinds of mischief Charlie was getting Emma into, we decided to sign her up officially.

Apparently, Melody Makers is having an impact on her. Friday morning, while we were driving to daycare, Emma asked me, “Mommy, do you remember Wuffgang Mozart?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I flipped the rearview mirror back to look at her. “Did you say Wolfgang Mozart?”

“No, Mommy! Wuffgang Mozart. Do you remember him?”

Once I agreed that this person was Wuffgang, the conversation didn’t get much deeper than that. Still, I spent the rest of the day in wonder over this little three-year-old girl in my charge. She is picking up everything that she hears and I get to rediscover things along with her. What an awesome gift. What an awesome responsibility. I’d better bone up on my classical music. I don’t want her to start thinking she knows more than me for at least another few years.


Both Charlie’s mother, Becci, and I not-so-secretly hope that they get married - after college. I'll be writing more about Emma and Charlie's "relationship" soon. I have some pictures on the camera of our trip to make candy in Ironto.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Does Adoption Hinder Bonding with a Newborn?

As I mentioned in my last entry, an email from Adoptive Families, one of my favorite magazines, prompted me to do some thinking and writing about adoption. Their email asked the following questions for subscribers who have previously adopted a newborn domestically: Before your adoption, were you concerned about bonding with your baby? After your newborn came home, what parenting techniques did you practice that enhanced attachment? What do you recommend to other new adoptive parents?

I found this topic to be a very interesting and was compelled to respond to them. I have had the experience of adopting a newborn and giving birth to a newborn. There are some distinct differences between adoption and having a baby biologically. You don’t necessarily have to have experience with either to list the most significant differences. Bonding with a newborn is not one of them. I would give all parents expecting a newborn – no matter how that newborn is coming into their family – the same advice.

Still, there are those who, for whatever reason, create or look for differences or issues where there are none. This is true of those who have adopted and those who have not. For example, Emma didn’t sleep through the night until she was 16 months old. Even still, getting her down for the night is a bigger challenge than I imagined it to be. When she was still an infant, I was talking this over with someone who had never adopted. This person responded: Do you think that she doesn’t sleep because she misses her birth mother? I could have really taken that comment to heart and worried about it. Thankfully, I approached it logically. My five-month old couldn’t yet grasp the concept of object permanence. She’s not staying up all night longing for someone she hasn’t seen since she was two days old. Adoption isn’t the cause of all problems that adopted children face. Am I saying that no adoptive parents ever have bonding issues with a domestic newborn? No. I just don’t believe that those issues stem from the adoption itself.

The following is my response to the magazine. To get to my point, I veered of the topic a great deal. I would appreciate your input.


My husband Danny and I adopted Emma as a newborn in October of 2002. While we were waiting to be selected by a birth family, I was not worried about bonding with my future child. My main concern was being good enough or worthy of being selected as an adoptive parent. This stemmed from lifelong insecurities about my weight and the belief, which I tried to squelch, that God didn’t find me to be parent material. Why else would I not be able to conceive?

Perhaps naively, I felt that bonding and parenting in general would “come naturally”. I didn’t have any preconceived notions about our first meeting or the moment of becoming a parent. Thankfully, for Emma and me, bonding came naturally. I distinctly remember holding her for the first time in the hospital room. Even though her birthmother and birth grandparents were in the room with us, it was as if the entire world disappeared. Only my beautiful baby girl and I were there. I fell madly and deeply in love with her in that very instant. I was hers and she was mine. I thought to myself, “How could this moment be any more magical if I gave birth to her from my own body?” We brought Emma home on our fifth anniversary. It was like riding on a high.

No one can prepare you for the demands of parenting until you are actually a parent yourself. I’d never been so happy and so thoroughly exhausted in my entire life. You try to find and settle to a routine as soon as possible. Nothing brought me more joy than caring for her – dirty diapers and all. While on maternity leave, I lost about 25 pounds. After I returned to work, I decided to join a weight loss program to keep the weight coming off. I wanted to be an active mother for Emma. I didn’t want to sit by the sidelines or cause her embarrassment. Over the next nine months, I lost 90 more pounds. In more ways than one, Emma had been the answer to my prayers.

Not long after I lost 90 pounds, I discovered that I was pregnant. I was thrilled and nervous at the same time. I had the same emotions that I did when we got the phone call about Emma. Erin, Emma’s birthmother had now given me the gift of motherhood twice. There would never have been a pregnancy without Emma. My due date happened to be nine days before Emma’s second birthday. I realized that two years prior - perhaps to the day - Erin was discovering that she was pregnant. I thought about how much she must have wished then and now that she could raise her baby. I cried for her and for me for a long time and felt an even deeper connection to her.

Unlike with Emma’s adoption, I did have definite ideas and opinions about the arrival and first moments with a biological baby. I would call the baby by name and hold him or her up to my chest. I would investigate the baby from head to toe. I would count and kiss all of the fingers and all of the toes. Danny and I would try to figure out who our new bundle of joy looked like. It would be more of the same magic I experienced with Emma, without the fear of seeing identifying information on hospital wrist bands or hurting anyone’s feelings. This moment was just going to be about the baby, Danny and me. [Okay, I’ll be honest. The first few moments were really about the baby and me. I was just going to let Danny watch.]

Things did not work out all as I had envisioned. My natural childbirth plan was thrown out the window when my labor did not progress. Although a week overdue, Allison was a tiny baby. She was trying to be born head and shoulders together. I ended up having a c-section after 12 and a half hours in labor. I was exhausted when they prepped me for surgery. I made Danny promise that he would wake me up if I was sleeping when the baby was born. Once the procedure began, I did stay awake. She was born just 24 minutes shy of Emma’s second birthday. I called Allison by name as they brought her to the warmer and told her that her mommy loved her. Danny was the first person to hold Allison. He held her close to my face so that I could see her. I’m not certain if I touched her or not. Danny promises me that I kissed her. I loved her then, but it wasn’t the same as my dramatic connection in those first moments with Emma.

The first time I held Allison was at 4am. I made a valiant attempt to make those first few moments with her all that I had planned, but it was all forced. I spent a majority of that hour fighting to keep my eyes open. Looking back, I wish that I had been able to put things into perspective. I had a beautiful new daughter who arrived in this world safely through the skilled and caring hands of my doctor. The hows and whys really aren’t that important. 100 years ago, one or both of us might not have survived to see the next day. Instead, my focus was on what I’d “lost”. As a result of that outlook, I didn’t have the sensation of falling in love with Allison until she was three months old. It’s amazing how unrealized and unrealistic expectations can leave you feeling like you’ve been robbed of all your wealth when you’ve really been given the world on a platter.

I would give expecting adoptive parents the same advice I’d give expecting biological parents: Do the planning that is required, but don’t place any expectations on yourself, the upcoming experiences, the baby or how it will all feel. Every child and every situation is unique. I have learned that love is not a feeling. It is a voluntary and complete giving of oneself to another person. It is for love that we maintain an open relationship with Emma’s maternal birth family even when there are times it feels like a burden to “share” her. It is for love that we rocked Allison for hours through her colicky months when caring for her felt like a burden and all I wanted to do was “share” her. Don’t worry if the emotions aren’t as you’d hoped in the very beginning. The change that a baby makes in your family is awesome and overwhelming. But make no mistake - the love and the bond are there whether you feel it or not.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Oh, Happy Day! or Let's Talk About Adoption, Part 1

Dear Reader: I meant to post this on Friday, but I was unable to finish it. Let’s just say that this topic is “To be Continued”.

I haven’t written about adoption since I began my blog in October. Psychic forces are pointing me in that direction. It’s not that I don’t want to write about it. Adoption is a beautiful and meaningful way to build a family. There are just times when life moves forward and not a terrible amount of thought is paid to how your family got started, expanded or completed. I’m sure that this is true of all families – biological, adoptive, foster, etc.

The first push to writing about adoption came in my email yesterday. It was from Adoptive Family magazine. We’ve had a subscription to this magazine since Emma was born. They submitted a request for input from couples who adopted newborns domestically. They wanted to know if we had been worried about how we would bond with our adoptive children, what parenting techniques we used to form this attachment and what advice we’d give expecting adoptive parents.

The second push came about this morning while I was dropping Emma and Allison off at daycare. There was another car in the parking lot with a sticker that caught my attention. It was a simple heart with the caption, “Touched by Adoption.” I immediately felt a connection to the family that owes that vehicle. I was hoping to run into that parent on the way out, but they had left before I returned to the parking lot. I’m hoping that one day I will.

The final push came as I turned my daily calendar from December 1 to December 2. I read the note I’d written on this date at the beginning of the year. Today is the third anniversary of the day that our At Risk placement with Emma ended. Although her adoption wasn’t finalized by the state until the following September, we were considered Emma’s legal guardians from that day forward. This was a momentous day for our family, but it is bittersweet. For that day to happen, the parental rights of Emma’s birth parents had officially terminated. In order to cement the connections of our family, others had to be broken.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

They Might Be Giants

This week, Allison moved from the baby room to the early toddler room. Typically, this room is for children aged 16 to 24 months. The daycare is doing some restructuring at this point, so Allison transitioned a little early. She’s ready for the change. They haven’t rearranged the baby room she’s been in since her first day yet. It is still more geared toward early infants than to babies entering toddler hood. The other toddlers in Allison’s new room are 4 to 6 months older than she is.

By all accounts, Allison is having a blast! There are kitchens and other fun toys to play with and explore. She eats with the other children in a table that has holes around the edge large enough to accommodate the plastic chairs that slip into it. It’s a lot more social environment. Instead of sleeping in cribs, cots are pulled out. I have to stop by and see her sleeping at lunch some day soon! I remember watching Emma sleeping on a cot for the first time. I can’t tell you how cute it was.

In the old room, I didn’t pay any attention at all to Allison’s height. Most of the babies in her room could barely sit up. There was no basis for comparison. Now there is. She has been eating everything in sight since her birthday and it’s starting to show. She’s no shorter than a boy four months older than her! Okay, this should come as no shock to me since her father is 6’ 7”. Still, she was so darn tiny in every way when she was born. The girl could wear a 0 to 3 month onsie until she was nearly 10 months old. She’s no longer my little mini-baby. Part of that makes me proud. Part of that makes me sad.

Before you think I’m going to get all mushy about it (and I could), I most of all think it’s hilarious! You should see her in some of her pants! She has a 12 month sweat suit that was a gift from my Aunt Mary and Uncle Dave. It’s adorable. I finally dressed her in it this week. Well, if I dry this outfit after it’s washed, she won’t be able to wear in anymore. It would look like shorts on her. The tips of the cuffs do not touch her shoes. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily funny. What’s hilarious is when you step back and take in the whole pair of pants. If she was wearing suspenders, it would look like a clown’s pants! Her waist is a good two inches too small. You can see her diaper all the way around! Who needs pockets when you can wear pants like that! I truly think the only thing holding those pants up were her stout legs. The pants fit perfectly there.

The day that my daughter becomes taller than me will probably arrive sooner than I think. I am going to enjoy these days now when I look down at her with joy and pride. The fact that she’s not my mini-baby does give me a twinge now and then. It's true. But, that’s nothing compared to the twinges my neck is going to give me when I have to look up to the sky to see my beautiful little girl.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Imitation of Life

Both girls are going through different phases where imitation is everything. Some of those things are more humorous than others. You don’t realize how much you are being watched and studied until it comes back at you from a toddler or a three year old!

One morning, Emma had taken off one of her socks. Danny was ready to take the girls to daycare. He asked her where her sock was and she couldn’t find it. After finally looking in her bedroom with no luck, she threw her hands up in the air and yelled, “Shoot!”

Lesson learned by Emma’s parents… Be careful how you express your emotions. You’re teaching your children how to react.

Last night, Allison was holding one of Emma’s small plastic dolls. Danny plays a game with the girls that Emma calls “Boing, boing”. It started with Danny carrying Emma around in a hopping motion. It became tossing the girls over his head. When Emma says, “Boing, boing”, Danny knows what she means. Danny was playing this game with Emma in the hall. After he finished, he looked and there was Allison lifting the doll over her head repetitively. Where was the camera??? Danny and I were so tickled.

Lesson learned by Allison’s parents… Have fun with your children. It’s part of how they learn to be parents someday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Little Things

When I got back from my scrapbooking weekend, one of the first things Danny asked was whether daycare was open the day after Thanksgiving. My gut reaction was no. They’ve always seemed to be off for most of our paid holidays. Much to my delight, there was a sign on the classroom doors Monday night wanting to know if the children will be dropped off next week Wednesday or Friday. I felt like I had won the lottery! I immediately called Danny with the good news before I left the parking lot. We’re both in heaven!

So, now that we have an entire weekday to ourselves, what are we going to do? We’re going to do something that we’re both looking very forward to doing – organizing our house! Yes, you read that right. We’re going to organize our house. It has not truly been organized since we moved in almost three years ago. Danny and I don’t go on as many dates as we should, but we don’t usually have any trouble getting someone to watch the kids for a couple of hours. Getting someone to help while we work around the house is an entirely different prospect. If the kids heard us moving around they would be at the gate begging to go downstairs. We’re going to put up the shelves in our pantry so that we have room for all of our non-perishable foods in there. That will free up some cabinets in the kitchen and will allow us to better organize our pots and pans. Danny’s also going to work on his office while I finish organizing my craft bar and get set up to scrapbook a couple of nights a week (Trista, take your nitroglycerin!). We’re not going to get to organize the room underneath the stairs or the storage closet, but we should be able to pull everything out into the garage. With everything out in the garage, we can go through the containers after the kids go to bed and work on that piecemeal. In no time, we’ll finally be moved in. Next we’ll just have to decorate…

When the Mommy is Gone...

Emma and Allison continue to amaze, delight and make us laugh more and more each day. I thought I would share some of the funny things that happened with Emma and Allison while I was gone this past weekend:

Chuck E. Cheese – Apparently the Chuck E. Cheese costume left quite an impression on Emma over her birthday weekend. She was timid and scared when he was around, but she’s found a hilarious way to deal with her emotions. Danny said that one evening they were all in the living room. Emma put her socks on her hands, walked over to Allison, started patting her head and body in a weird “Mr. Roboto” way and said, “I’m Chuck E. Cheese! I’m Chuck E. Cheese!” I die laughing every time I think about that. I wish I had seen it the first time. She was more than happy to repeat it with me. We’ve got to get that on tape!

Ring Around the Rosie – Emma pulled out one of our foamish play mats that we have over the tile floor downstairs (we’re not sure if it’s to protect the kids or the floor…) and asked Danny to play Ring Around the Rosie with her. Allison must have been watching them like a hawk the entire time. When Danny and Emma got off the mat, Allison jumped on and started playing Ring Around the Rosie by herself on the mat! Danny said that afterwards she would pull out the mat and play RAtR each time they went downstairs. Danny even got her to play with him – again, we’ve got to get that on tape. I can’t wait until this weekend.

The Pooh Chair – This last cute story happened this morning. The girls were watching Maisy. Allison was hovering around the television, unsure if she wanted to watch or find something to play with. Emma was sitting in the Pooh chair drinking her morning juice. Allison walked over to where Emma was sitting, turned around and parked herself on Emma’s lap. Danny and I instantly erupted in laughter. It was so cute! It reminded me of the time Grandma and Grandpa visited for Emma’s first birthday. Dad was laying on the floor on his side. Emma walked right over to him – as if he were her chair – and sat herself down on top of his legs. The Emma/Pooh chair didn’t last long. We think our laughing startled Allison and Emma was none too pleased with being sat upon. I’ll have to remind her of that the next time she struggles to get Allison to sit with her on the couch.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

No Tears for Mommy

I really enjoyed my scrapbooking getaway with Trista and her family near Cleveland. I want to thank the Schmidt girls for taking me in as one of their own! I had such a good time talking with everyone. Trista, your nieces are the neatest young women I’ve met in a long time. What a neat family you have! Your in-laws are even great! I can’t wait to see the pictures taken. Everyone made such great memories.

We all got so much accomplished. If you could have been there with us when we showcased our own work, you would have been amazed. Our styles and subjects were so different. We each made one diamond page as a challenge and they all blew me away. It is one of the favorite pages I did that weekend. I finished 14 pages and got through Emma’s first Halloween. It was a far cry from getting the first three months of both girls’ lives scrapbooked, but it was such a boost to my motivation to press on and get caught up. I’m going to finish Emma’s first month and then start on Allison’s. I look forward to the challenge. Once I get caught up, I’m planning on learning more techniques and improving in the craft. I would love to learn all about embellishments. This one little piece of pink ribbon Trista suggested really made a difference in the last page I finished.

I had a great time with everyone, but I still missed my family. Due to traffic issues, I didn’t get home until nearly 9pm Sunday night. Emma was in her bath and she was so happy to see me. It really warmed my heart. I would have imagined that Allison would have had the hardest time with my absence, but our Daddy’s girl really missed her Mommy. Danny had the “good fortune” of dealing with that. It was hard on him, but I have to admit it made my heart feel good. I also didn’t have to wait until morning to kiss and love on Allison. She was up on and off the entire night. I normally would have been exhausted, but I really enjoyed the night-time snuggling that night. The next morning at daycare, Allison must have smelled the sausage biscuits (her favorite breakfast food at Honeytree), because she ran up to Ms. Rachel as fast as she could and started begging for them. She didn’t drop a single tear or even whine when I left her. She was practically pushing me out the door with her eyes so that she could eat. How’s that for treating the Mommy you’ve barely seen since Monday? For the most part, she’s a Mommy’s girl. As she continues to grow, I think that she’s going to be our independent little spitfire.

I did so great on my program while I was gone! I can’t tell you how proud I am of myself! I used some of Weight Watchers’ Tools for Living. I asserted myself and let people know what I was doing. I also planned out how I would handle traveling and eating. There were yummy snacks and sweets everywhere and I wasn’t really tempted at all. In fact, Tracy put a big bowl of Hershey miniatures on our table and I barely gave it a second thought all weekend. I had my eyes on the prize – I wanted to be proud of myself when I returned. It paid off. I feel great AND I lost 4.2 pounds on my first week back at Weight Watchers! Yee Haw! I learned again that you don’t have to eat food to have a good time.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Gettin' Scrappy

Warning: Please be sure to remain seated as you read this post.

I am going to start both Emma and Allison’s scrapbooks this weekend.

Whoa, even I’m feeling woozy just writing that sentence. This must be a sign of the Apocalypse! Someone please call Jack Van Impe and Jerry Falwell!

In preparation for my wonderful scrapbooking weekend adventure in Cleveland (Thanks for organizing this, Trista!), I’ve been compiling pictures of both girls over the first three months of their lives. For Emma, this wasn’t too much of a challenge. A majority of her pictures were placed in an album in chronological order. There were some digital pictures that Dad and Danny took along the way. Rounding those up to get printed were no problem whatsoever. Allison was more of a challenge. None of her traditional prints were anywhere near an album (I gave up cataloging my pictures after Emma’s first birthday). However, they were on my desk. That was the easy part. Two thirds of them were taken on one of three digital cameras. All total, I had to review 300 pictures of Allison and about 100 of Emma. Of those 400 pictures, I selected to print around 270. They are now all printed and waiting to be packed. I have to admit that I’m more than a little overwhelmed at the daunting task ahead of me. I’m happy for the experience all the same. It has been wonderful to relive those first few months with my girls. It’s even been therapeutic. Given her tummy trouble those first few months, there are a good number of pictures in which Allison is crying or screaming. I just got so tickled looking at them. I didn't think once about what a sheer nightmare some of those times were. Danny should be afraid… very afraid…

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Winds of November Change

This past year has been rough for me. Giving birth did not live up to my unrealistically high expectations. My beautiful, colicky baby left me living for and anticipating the day I went back to work. Unfortunately, the power struggles that were going on from all sides made my inexperience stick out. Being promoted had the opposite effect of boosting my confidence and morale. While all of this was going on, I pretty much stopped going to Weight Watchers. My old habits returned rather quickly and I’ve gained back the baby weight I worked so hard to lose during my maternity leave. If you asked me to describe myself I would say fat and beaten down.

That’s all changing.

One bright spot has been taking my Dale Carnegie course. Being able to stand up in front of (once) strangers and speak effectively about personal matters has really boosted my spirits. Dale Carnegie’s book on worry and anxiety is really hitting home right now. Two simple statements have really made a huge impact on me since the end of October – “You can’t saw sawdust” and “Count your blessings”. It’s time for me to move on from the feelings of failure, insecurity, abandonment, etc. and start looking toward the future. Dwelling on how I’ve been let down by myself and others is getting me nowhere – at least not to any place I want to be. On top of that, I have so much for which to be thankful. Enough said.

Over the past week I’ve started walking the trail at work more regularly. Peggy and I have both gotten out of the habit. We’ve let working in separate buildings work as an excuse as to why we aren’t walking anymore. Last week, she told me that she was going to start walking again with or without me. I can’t let that happen! At almost the same time, a few of my other co-workers asked me to take walks. It’s such a gift to me. It’s nice to get to talk to people outside of work. My eating habits didn’t fall in line immediately, but the exercise makes me feel better.

I have had pictures up in my office from when Emma was born. I was at my heaviest weight then. They used to make me proud and motivate me. They were a good reminder. Over the past 9 months, they’ve had the opposite effect. When I looked at them I would have a lot of negative thoughts about myself and my hopes for the future. As of today, those pictures are gone from my sight. Mom Schmidt took a picture of me while Allison and I were home for Meridith’s wedding. I was at my smallest weight since I don’t even know when. Even though I felt like a ball of anxiety that entire trip, I look so happy and full of joy in that picture. That happiness and joy is what I want for myself. I’m getting copies of that picture laminated. I want to keep them everywhere. They will definitely keep me motivated. I guess that the fat pictures worked before because I’ve never been what I would consider thin before. Unlike other people, I didn’t have skinny pants or a skinny picture. Now, although I wasn’t at my goal weight, I have a picture from before to work as a positive motivator. Thank you, Boots!

Yesterday, Richard Simmons premiered a three hour radio talk show Sunday on Sirius radio. Danny gave me a heads-up and I caught about an hour and a half of it. I have loved Richard Simmons for a long time now. I remember his stint on General Hospital and I remember exercising with Mom when his show was on television. He is a personality to say the least and I know that he rubs some people the wrong way. One thing that can’t be denied is that he is genuine. He’s been there and he’s kind and compassionate. The portions of his show that I caught really motivated and inspired me. It also made me realize how much I miss my Weight Watcher meetings. For me, there’s just something about being with a group of people who have or are sharing your struggles. I am joining Weight Watchers again today during my lunch break. I am excited to go back! The program helps me work on my body and my self-esteem at the same time.

I am going to start this journey in a really positive way. This Friday I’m leaving for a long weekend to spend some time with Trista and her family scrapbooking. It will be time just for Jennifer. I need that every now and then. Eating while on a trip could be seen as a problem. Luckily, you really can’t eat and get much scrapbooking done. Since I haven’t started either of my girls’ scrapbooks, I’ve got too much work to do to stop to eat even for a minute. Besides, I’m looking at this as an adventure in building myself back up. I will be feeling really wonderful about myself when I get back from this trip and have stayed on program.

Not everything is related to weight. My unhappiness and lack of enthusiasm for my job is not healthy. I spend a great majority of my day at work. Through my Dale Carnegie course, I’m learning a lot about leadership. I’ve felt more fulfilled since I’ve started putting those principles into practice. I’m also – and more importantly – thinking outside of my job. I’m putting thought and effort into my next move. I might not make another move for years to come, but feeling trapped would only make things worse. What do I want to do? I can’t say that I have all of the answers, but I’m exploring more of myself. One thing I’ve always dreamed of doing is writing a novel. It’s hard to do that when you don’t spend time outside of work writing. I’m using this blog as a start. I’m writing about my family and what we enjoy doing. That’s a great start. I soon hope to start putting some ideas down on paper. You never know. I might be out on a whirlwind book tour someday soon!

Typically, January is the time of year where everyone makes resolutions to change their lives. I think that November is the perfect time for me. The season’s finally changing and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Constant Craftiness

I enjoy cross-stitching. I thoroughly enjoy stitching something for someone I care about. It is so relaxing to me that I could spend an entire day working on projects. I am looking forward to the day when Emma and Allison are old enough to learn. I realize that they might never become as enchanted with it as I am. I will try not to take that personally (please don't bring up the fact that I've not forgiven the teenagers I student taught for mocking The Old Man and the Sea)… No pressure, girls, but it would make your Momma proud!

My current piece will one day be a pillow for my Aunt Donna's kitchen/dining room area. We found it while she came down for a visit out of one of my many magazines. I’m working it on linen, which means that I’m stitching over two threads. There are a bazillion colors included in this pattern, but the effect is so beautiful. I haven’t worked on something with such wonderful shading since I stitched the Madonna Magnificat for my Grandma. I have been promising Aunt Donna a sneak peak for a while now and I thought I’d just include everyone. I scanned a picture of the entire project to date as well as a smaller sample. The smaller sample better shows off the detail. I hope that she will love it as much as I do!

If anyone has any wishes, let me know. I can’t promise anything. I have my own house that I should really start decorating. I want to start making more handmade cards. Trista keeps giving me a hard time about not working on scrapbooks for Emma and Allison. Peggy keeps wanting me to delve further into decorative painting and quilting with her. The desire and demand for craftiness just never ends. Oh, and before I forget, my family likes to have quality time with me, too. :) Still, you never know what I might pick up when the stitching bug bites next…

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Emma – Worldwide

One of Danny’s greatest passions is music. He’s always on the lookout for something new and incredible. One way Danny discovered to find new music and new mixes of old music is through a podcast. A podcast is like a mini-broadcast of music that's made available on the Internet as a streaming or downloadable MP3. Podcasts aren’t restricted to music. Any audio source can be used to create a podcast. In fact, CBS just started making Guiding Light episodes available via podcast. And some bloggers provide "audio blogs", where the blogger basically talks about various subjects in a podcast instead of writing about them. All you need is some software, an idea and some patience.

Danny has a great deal of music in his repertoire. He has a huge collection on vinyl, cassette, CD and in MP3 format. The more he learned about podcasts, the more he wanted to experiment with them and share his collection with anyone else who might be interested. He created his first podcast and published it on Ashamblesburg in September. While working on his second installment, he discovered just how much Emma loved to sing into the microphone on his computer. She loves to hear herself sing, especially when Danny puts an echo affect on the playback. He has captured her generally being silly as well as singing songs, including her current favorite – My Darlin’ Clementine. Being the proud papa that he is, Danny included a sample of her singing in his second podcast.

Danny puts a lot of himself into his Ashamblesburg blog and his podcasts. He's especially excited about sharing the podcasts. Simply loading them on your blog doesn’t seem to get you that much exposure. Just this week, he registered his podcasts on-line. Since then, his work has been downloaded by people in the US, Canada, Great Britain, France, Sweden and Japan! Emma’s voice has now be heard all around the world! How awesome is that?

You should check it out yourself. Just click on the link to experience The Detuned Revue. Or you can subscribe to the RSS feed to be automatically notified when new ones are posted. You’ll feel like Emma’s sitting next to you on the couch - and that's always a good feeling!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Trick Was On Me

Happy Birthday to Pa Pa Conner! We love you!

With both girls being a little older this year, I was looking forward to a fun jaunt around the immediate neighborhood Halloween night. I heard Emma say “Trick or Treat!” and I saw visions of both girls standing on porches with their arms outstretched, waiting for their treat. I was snapping cute pictures the entire time. We had a practice run while Grandma and Grandpa were in town last week. These pictures tickled me and really had me looking forward to Halloween night.

Reality was slightly different.

The plan was that I would walk the girls around while Danny passed out treats. The girls were very cooperative eating and getting dressed. Emma loves her princess costume and was excited about it. I was in the garage getting the stroller for Allison when our first trick or treater came up the drive way. I told the child to come back on by in a few minutes when Danny was at the door. I didn’t pay any attention to the fact that this little boy had his dog with him… Meanwhile, Danny was trying to get Emma down the stairs. She happened to look out the window and saw the dog. That was the beginning of the end. From that time on, she clung to Danny like an octopus using every last suction cup on all of her tentacles. It mattered not that the dog was never to be seen again. So much for Danny passing out candy while the girls trick or treated.

At each house, the girls fought the idea of us putting them down to get their treats. Emma never did say “Trick or Treat” and Allison had nowhere near the interest that Emma did when she was one. Allison, quite frankly, could have cared less about the entire enterprise. The trick was on me because I wanted to relive the fun I used to have trick or treating with my dad. I didn’t take into account that my memories don’t really start until sometime around kindergarten. I do have vague memories of Dad driving me around in my Raggedy Ann costume when we lived in Sparta. I’m sure that Halloween experience left him wanting, too.

Still, I ended up getting a much different treat. The girls, however clingy and uncooperative, were adorable in their costumes and the neighbors ate them up. Although those visions I had leading up to Halloween were (hopefully!) of Halloweens to come, I was as proud as a peacock showing them off to the neighbors Monday night. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Please note, Dear Reader, that the above pictures were taken during a dry run while Grandma and Grandpa were in town. They did great! :) I'll post pictures of the actual event soon.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Where's the Camera When You Need It?

I have come to the conclusion that I’m going to have to have the strap to our camera surgically attached to my hip. This morning, while I was getting ready for work, Danny caught my attention to look down the hall. I stepped into the hall and there were Emma and Allison walking toward their bedroom together. Emma had her hand gently on Allison’s back like a romantic married couple. That picture would have been priceless. It reminds me of a picture of Meridith and LeeAnn walking together in a field. Luckily, I looked at them hard and etched the picture into my memory. Emma wants so badly to be an active big sister to Allison. It’s a beautiful thing to watch – even when that desire manifests itself into pushing and shoving because Allison doesn’t move fast enough. Given how Allison is pushing herself to walk faster and run these days, Emma’s wait is coming to an end.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Welcome to Our Shady Tree

After reviewing the blog of my dearest friend, Trista, I became inspired by this incredible way to keep up with friends and family. In honor of Emma's favorite singer, Laurie Berkner, I've named my blog Our Shady Tree. "Under a Shady Tree" is my favorite Laurie Berkner song. I hope that you enjoy reading about the future exploits of my clan as much as I enjoy experiencing them. I plan on publishing pictures from the girls' birthday exploits and Grandpa and Grandma's visit very soon!