Friday, December 15, 2006

Where Did You Get Your Jingle Bells?

It doesn’t happen very often any longer, but last night was one of those nights where Emma waited to tell me that she had to go to the bathroom after I got Allison strapped into her car seat and we were on the way to put her in the car. I remained patient. I got Allison back out and went back into the daycare building. As per usual, Emma had to go Number 1 and Number 2. If there was a competition to see who could take the absolute longest time to go Number 2, Emma would win hands down. I took a deep breath and sat in the employees lounge with Allison to wait. It isn’t as though we had to get any where quickly. She finally finished as one of the newborn teachers came in to use the bathroom. We chit chatted for a second with Ms. A and walked back out to the car.

After I strapped Allison back into her car seat, I turned to Emma and said, “Let’s go.” After she moved to walk around the car, I closed the sliding door. The second I let go of the handle, I noticed that her left ring finger was in the way. Although I was watching all of this in slow motion, I couldn’t stop the door from slamming shut on her finger. As her finger bent back the wrong way at the tip, I almost threw up. I opened the door immediately and caught Emma up in my arms. I couldn’t have felt worse if I tried. All I wanted to do was wipe her tears away and make her screams my screams.

Ms. A walked out of the building not long after this happened. She told me about the times she had done the same thing when her kids were little. She helped me to look at the finger to see if she needed medical assistance. She was leaning in my direction that we should head in. Emma wouldn’t bend her finger and there was a nasty gash on the pad of it. She ran back in to get some ice. Ms. A is definitely an angel.

Danny was going to make a grocery store run last night. When I called him, he had just gotten there. I told him that I wasn’t sure what to do. We decided to take her to the emergency room and that he would meet us there. As soon as Emma figured out where we were going, she started screaming at the top of her lungs again. She didn’t want to go to the hospital and she didn’t want to get a shot. As I promised her that she wouldn’t get a shot, I was praying that she didn’t need stitches. Those technically aren’t shots, right?

When we arrived in the emergency room’s triage area, there were cops everywhere. Sitting behind us was a cop and a man handcuffed behind his back. Apparently it was a rough night last night. There were several bad accidents and a shooting that left three people dead. On our walk to the waiting room after I found this out as we waited in the family room after x-rays were taken. A group of youngish men were sitting in there talking about it. “One of those guys got shot in the head,” one of them said before laughing as if it was a joke. I wished that there was a children’s waiting room there.

Thankfully they seemed to put Emma on a fast track. We were seen by the doctor by 8:30. Thankfully, no bones were broken. The laceration was nasty, but it was pretty superficial. He looked me in the eye and said that it wasn’t necessary treat it as if were not. I could have hugged him for not mentioning the word “stitches.” He told us that a nurse would come and clean it up and get her ready to go home. I was so happy! After he left, I said, “See Emma, no stitches – except the ones I’m going to give you in the belly!”

We both giggled and pretended to give each other shots until we heard a noise heading our way. When we heard a noise heading our way, Emma wanted to play hide-and-seek from the nurse. It wasn’t the nurse. It was a young prisoner from a local county jail dressed in white and black stripped prison garb. The noise we heard was the shackles around his ankles.

“Why is he wearing those ugly shoes and wearing those jingle bells?” Emma asked.

In her defense, those prison issue rubber flip-flopping things were darn ugly. I whispered in her ear that the man was a prisoner and it wasn’t nice to talk about people because it hurts their feelings. She nodded her head in agreement. In the loudest whisper ever, she asked, “Why is he in jail?”

“I don’t know.” I whispered.

“Did he beat someone up with a punch? Is that why he’s here?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Did the jail give him those jingle bells for Christmas?”

I again whispered in her ear that it wasn’t our concern why he was in jail and that he was here because he wasn’t feeling well. She was quiet for a while and then tried to get off the gurney to get a closer look. As gently as I could, I held her back and told her that it wasn’t nice to look at people like that.

In what actually is the loudest whisper ever, “You’re right! It’s not nice to look at naughty people. I don’t like people looking at me when I’m in time out and I have pretty shoes!”

As a sign of mercy from above, the nurse finally came and cleaned Emma up. She was a trooper and didn’t flinch or cry. She still hadn’t forgot about the prisoner next door, though. After I signed the papers to leave, Emma turned toward the next gurney instead of heading out with me. In some attempt to make the obvious seem accidental, I said, “Say hello to the nice police officer, Emma.”

She did, but I could tell who she was really looking at. “Let’s go find Daddy and Ally so we can go home.”

She turned back to follow me with a bit of a skip. “Can we still go get ice cream like you said?”

I smiled and said yes. I wonder who was most thankful that her thoughts turned away from the prisoner, the ugly shoes, and his jingle bells?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our Premier Christmas Program

Emma had her first Christmas program Tuesday night. The three preschool classes performed together in front of JCPenneys at the mall. I found out about it the morning of, so I had to run to Wal-Mart during lunch and pick up a red shirt. I was excited. It’s a preview of coming attractions. Kindergarten is only a one and a half school year’s away.

At dinner before the performance, Emma kept mentioning that she had to be really careful not to slip. This should have been my first indication that this wasn’t going to go necessarily as I had hoped. She was happy to be there, until she had to get on the stage. We had two choices, we could let her not go up there with the kids or we could make her go on stage. We actually found somewhat of a happy medium – well really more on the forcing side of medium. Ms. M, one of our favorite teachers, was sitting on the bleachers with her daughter. She took Emma from me and kept her on her lap. By the time Lexie arrived, she was okay enough to calm Lexie down. She sat on Ms. M’s other knee.

Since she’d calmed down, I sat down in the front of the crowd with Allison. Danny stood in the back. Once the music started, I couldn’t wait to watch her perform. The problem is that I couldn’t see her. She wouldn't stand up. I recorded her lack of participation for posterity. The arrow indicates where Emma would have appeared if she were standing.

After a while, if I craned my neck, I could see Emma and Lexie swaying slightly. I’m not sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me, but their lips seemed to be moving. Lexie’s arm was around Emma’s shoulder. It made me smile. I can see them 20 years from now (I hope) doing the same thing at an Irish pub.

Intermittently, Lexie would pull out her lip gloss and Emma her lip balm and they would freshen up. I about died.

"Excuse me, but all this singing is ruining my makeup. We’re taking a break to powder our noses."

All of the other kids are belting out the songs and doing the moves they must have practiced over and over at school. Since they were sort of singing, I had high hopes that the girls would eventually stand up and join in. I did get my wish. At first Emma would stand up and sit down. Finally, when she stood up for good, she huddled in her corner with her buddies ~ gossiping and applying lip balm, paying no attention to the program under way.

What a hoot! I can tell you now that unless she’s a cheerleader, Emma will not be one of those students who attend sporting events to watch the game. She will be roaming around with her friends, being careful to ensure that she looks her very best whenever XYZ (hopefully Charlie) walks by. As scared as I probably should be about this, it makes me happy. I remember those times very fondly. I hope that Emma will, too.
Thirteen Things about Michigan, its People, and its Places
1. We have absolutely no accent (assuming you're not from the UP).
2. It's the only state that allows you to use a body part to show outsiders where you grew up (assuming you're not from the UP).
3. It has the best fresh water beaches along the west side (Lake Michigan).
4. It's one of the only places Madonna won't go.
5. School isn't cancelled based upon a meteorologist's preminition of a 1/4 inch of midnight snow.
6. Where do you think that Eminem and Jack White got their inspiration?
7. It allows the most liberal (Michael Moore) and the most conservative (Ted Nugent) to thrive within its borders.
8. The best blueberries in the world are grown in Grand Rapids.
9. Where else can you go to Hell and Climax in the same day?
10. We got rid of Gerald R. Ford first.
11. Christopher Reeve once walked with Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman on Macinac Island.
12. American Pie is based upon my home town.
13. Only those who rock are allowed!
Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Heart of Darkness

How many people do you allow to look inside the darkest part of your heart? Have you ever even acknowledged its existence? Can you be honest with yourself about it? Can you really know a person without knowing that dark place? Are people capable of hiding the evil that lurks within or do others simply ignore clues out of fear of where they will lead?


My father called me last night with some unsettling news. At Mass on Sunday, a letter was read at the request of the diocese. This letter regarded a well-loved former priest from the parish. It was used to announce that he has been defrocked due to the sexual abuse of at least one young male parishioner in the 1970s. The letter explained the allegations, indicated that Fr. M continues to deny his involvement, and called for anyone who experienced sexual abuse at his or any other parish staff member to please contact the Diocese. Despite Fr. M’s adamant denial, it’s hard to believe that the Diocese would down and out defrock him without just cause. Permanently removing a priest from ministry, remove his right to call himself a Roman Catholic priest, and from wearing priestly garments is a very serious matter. The Diocese must first request and receive approval from the Vatican. Without a high degree of certainty, this wouldn’t have happened.

This news horrifies me. It makes my cheeks burn. I am conflicted and don’t know how to feel about it. He was a priest I trusted and admired. He oversaw my Confirmation studies. He encouraged me to attend what was a life-altering TEC retreat. He chose me to receive the parish’s first ever college scholarship award. He heard my confessions. I worked for several years cleaning the rectory and his office after graduation. How do I reconcile the man that I knew with what he has done? To me, Fr. M is a good, holy man who loved Jesus and Notre Dame. To others, he is a monster. Now that I know, which view should take precedence?

He is not the first priest I know who engaged in the sexual abuse of minors. Back in junior high, my family attended a week-long Catholic summer retreat in Indiana that we called Family Camp. Fr. R ran this camp. Each day, he said Mass and it was a wonderful experience to merge the Eucharist and nature. Unlike weekly Mass at church, I actually enjoyed those daily Masses. I can’t say that I remember any of his homilies, but I remember him as being bigger than life. I didn’t think that there was anyone closer to God than him. I would have followed him anywhere. Fr. R ran a sports camp toward the end of the summer. I always wished that I was more athletic so that I could spend an extra week with him. I believe it was there that the sexual abuses occurred.

Ultimately, instead of facing the criminal charges against him, Fr. R fled to Haiti, where he continues to be active in social justice causes. Several years after I moved to Virginia, I read an article in the Catholic Virginian about a speech he gave in Richmond. I saw his picture and was torn. Half of me wished that I had been there to see him again, give him a hug, and tell him that I love him. The other half wanted to call the Diocese of Richmond and tell them exactly who they booked as a speaker. In the end, it was easier to push aside the fact that I ever read that article.

My stomach hurts. I still don’t know how to process this. How was it that I came to look up to men capable of such horrible things? How did I not sense that something wasn’t quite right? How many other people like that do I believe in and with whom I would trust my children? Has this become an X-Files world where the best bet is to trust no one?

I grew up believing that God can work through any person or situation. My parents have always said that we have to look for Jesus in everyone. Is it all as easy as that? Today I wonder how it could be Christ that I saw in them. How truly present could Jesus have been in their ministries after they stole so much from those children? Ever since the phone call I have vacillated between two sets of opposing emotions: downright disgust and empathetic thoughts for the victims who were robbed of so much more than their youth and warm memories of both priests as “good men.” How much do those acts negate my experiences? Why am I having such a hard time deciding?


Can you spend years getting to know a person and honestly have no clue that they are [insert worst nightmare here]? Or, do you eventually become an accomplice - even if only on the subconscious level - because you choose to look away from what you don’t want to see?

Monday, December 11, 2006

All that You Can't Leave Behind

We found out that E selected us to be her baby’s adoptive parents on a September afternoon. That night, it occurred to me that my Grandma D would never meet my children. I don’t know if it was the height of my emotional state to begin with, but this thought made me very sad. There is always the hope that she sees my family from heaven. I thought about it that way to get back to the joy I really wanted to feel that night.

A couple of years later, Emma’s Grandma and Grandpa D came to stay with us for a visit. It was the spring after Allison was born. Dad brought his kite and hoped to interest his eldest granddaughter in it. It didn’t quite work out that way. I saw him flying his kite in the backyard by himself and I went outside and played with him. While we were flying his kite, we talked about Grandma D. It wasn’t until then that I knew that Dad was mad at her in a way. He was mad at her for losing the will to live when there could have been more life ahead. Although she had heart problems, she wasn’t debilitated. Her quality of life was good for her age. He didn’t say so, but I think there was a sense of abandonment. It must be weird to think that your mother would rather die than live on with you.

Her Bad Mother wrote a post about death that touched me. The gorgeous pictures of her daughter drove the point home. It’s hard for me to imagine being at a place where I wanted to die. Especially after I became a mother, I think of death in terms of what I’ll be missing my children do. If I’m lucky, what will I be missing my grandchildren do? I can’t imagine my life without them; but, every child has to come to terms with living part of their lives without their parents. It’s the cycle of life.

It’s interesting that my thoughts about Grandma and flying that kite with my Dad are that I can’t understand not wanting to be with my family. In reality, it wasn’t all that long ago when I was begging God to take me home and then despairing that He wouldn’t help me because, if I left, no one else would love my baby. There have been times since those early days of Ally’s life when I would start to panic just thinking about those days. I could relive the misery as if time had stopped and I was still there with a screaming demon at my breast. That woman wearing her husband’s thick green robe, feeling utter hopelessness as she rocks her peaceful, sleeping baby at 3am, is a stranger to me now. I forgive her. I regret that she had to live like that for even a minute. I feel compassion for her. I love her dearly. Still, she is not me. She never was.

Grandma, if you are looking down from the heavens and having a whiskey and water with Uncle Randy, I forgive you. I regret the moments we could have shared with my children. I love you dearly. I want you with me. Most of all, I want you to see that I’ve found my way home.

Friday, December 08, 2006

2007 - Dead Ahead

It’s about that time when you inevitably think about what your life is going to be like during the New Year. I’m not making any New Year’s Resolutions for 2007. I can’t ever remember one that I’ve completed successfully anyway. It may be the thing to do, but I’m checking out this year. Instead, I’ve been thinking about ways in which I want to shape my life. Here is a list of some hopes and some insights about 2007:

“The Year of Grace”

In fine Catholic tradition, I am dubbing 2007 “The Year of Grace.” My goal is to keep grace continuously on my mind. I will be aware of the grace sent my way and I’ll be vigilant in looking for ways to be a source of grace for others. I might even dabble in being a source of grace for myself.

The best part of making grace my focus in 2007 is that when I fall into laziness or selfishness; it’s another opportunity for grace. I’ll forgive myself and move forward. There’s no need to wait until 2008 to try again.

Double Digits

It’s hard to believe, but Danny and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary next year. We’ve done well for ourselves over the years. We have two beautiful and delightful children to show for it. I will look back on those first 10 years as building years: building our careers, our home, and our family. Now we can also focus on building our relationship. It’s the foundation for the rest of our lives.

To celebrate, we’re planning a second honeymoon of sorts in October. We haven’t entirely decided where we are going to go or what we’re going to do. What we do know is that we’re going to be together alone. It’s going to be a great time.

Creative Endeavors

Beginning this Saturday, the girls and I will be meeting at the Rec Center of a good friend’s church to do sewing. I have four quilts in some kind of progress and two that are ready to get started. The beauty of this arrangement is that the Rec Center is kid-friendly. There’s plenty of room for the girls to play and ride around on bikes and tricycles. If all else fails, we can use the folding tables to barricade them on one side of the room while we sew away on the other.

I’m also contemplating asking the director of our daycare center about opening the preschool building on Sunday mornings each week for mothers to get together and scrapbook. I don’t know if there are any legal considerations, but the kids would have plenty to play with there and there’s plenty of space to spread out. It would be a nice chance to get to know other mothers who share similar interests.

Okay, this is going to sound a little bit like a resolution, but I’ll try to word it in such a way that it’s not. Mark’s post about a story so old that I don’t have a soft copy of it has really got me thinking (actively procrastinating) about creative writing. Starting with re-keying the above mentioned short story (I can’t even remember its name), I’m going to set aside some time each week to simply write. I can use my lunch break at work or perhaps get up early a couple of mornings a week and sit at my computer. I’ll start with some semi-structure (so as not to make this a resolution) and see where it flows.

Loss of Toddler hood / Last Full Year Before School

For all the frustrations that toddlers can bring, I love them. They have spunk and are just in love with doing new things. I have nothing against preschoolers, but they are beginning to mature and care about what other people say and think. Toddlers will say and do anything at any time. They are crazy and cuddly. What’s not to love? As Ally turns three during 2007, our house will be toddler-free. That is going to be bittersweet. Bitter because my baby is growing up. Sweet because the future will very soon be diaper free.

Due to Emma’s late October birthday, she cannot start kindergarten during the 2007-2008 school year. I have another year before my baby really and truly becomes a big girl. From all accounts, life moves into warp speed once your children start school. It’s already going too fast as it is. Thinking about her first day of school already can make me a little weepy. You would think that I would be fine with it because she goes to daycare every day. It’s just not the same. When she gets on that school bus, she’ll be beginning the ride leading to her future. A future in which her world expands and she learns to live as an adult. A future in which she needs me in the most basic way less and less. 2007 lets me cling to the Mommy as Fulfiller of Most Every Need paradigm just a little while longer.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dreaming of a Pink Christmas

Ho! Ho! Ho! We're getting ready for Christmas.
Santa visited at Danny's office yesterday. I took the girls by after work. It's a nice time to visit with the children of people we are close to there. You don't realize how much difference a year makes until it comes around.
Ally wasn't interested in seeing Santa. "Mommy, I like Santa more." [trans. I don't like Santa anymore] For the price of a cookie, Ally gave in and sat on his lap. I have no idea what it would have cost for a smile. At first she cried and wanted me to pick her up, but she stopped when Emma joined her. She got down the second the pictures were done, but not without having more cookies.
Emma was really excited about seeing Santa and kept telling me what she was going to ask of him. She's growing up so fast. I can't believe it. She knew that she needed to ask what she wanted. I didn't have to prompt her. When we got there, the story changed a little bit. She hung back with Danny. After I forced Ally to sit on Santa's lap, she figured it was okay. After the pictures, she finally worked up the courage to ask Santa for what she wanted ~ a pink Barbie car (has Granny planted that idea in her head? LOL) and LOTS of beads.
How fitting that this picture has a weird pink hue. Perhaps it wishes it could have a pink Barbie car, too.
I can't wait for Christmas this year. I am looking forward to Emma reacting to seeing the presents under the tree in the same way that Abby reacted when she opened her $5 Barbie doll. 2006 is going to end on a high.
I hope that each and every one of you have a safe, warm, and wonderful holiday season. I can't wait to see your pictures, too!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Right Now

Right now I'm sitting at Danny's computer with Ally on my lap. Since all my favorite blogs are linked to on my page, I go there any then branch out from there. Every two seconds, Ally either wanted to look at my signature picture or another picture of other children. Even as I type, she's poking my face saying, "Do gen! Do gen!" Now, to add to the excitement, I'll have Allison type y'all a message:

yhtr..e tyk mtrtgtgjjjjjjjjjjjjkhhhhhhhhhhh bf jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjmdddddddddddddddddddddd

Have a great week! Love ya!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Adoption and Loss

Today I read a couple of posts about adoption from the perspective of the other sides of the triad. I first read a post written by Third Mom in response to a recent study that suggested that more care should be taken with parents (mainly mothers) who place a child for adoption both before and after the adoption takes place. Third Mom is an adoptive mother with a heart for first mothers. They have no better advocate than her. Her blog lead me to an enlightening post written by Joy regarding her grief as an adoptee. It’s amazing how easily people negate the grief that an adopted child feels. It’s all very human. We want to say something to help another person feel better and we have a tendency to bury what is uncomfortable to us ~ even when it has nothing to do with us.

Both posts dealt with the common theme of loss and grief as part of the adoption experience. When one thinks about grief in terms of adoption, I’m sure that first mothers and adoptees come to mind quickly. The truth is that the whole adoption triad is rooted in loss. To the outside world, adoptive parents are seen as having gained the world. Adoption for them is the end of the grieving experienced before adoption, when they were unable to conceive or to carry a child to term. They’ve got a baby now, right? What’s there to grieve? There is an element of truth to this. I’ve never been as happy as I was during the first two years of Emma’s life. To me, that was an idyllic time. Still, I never forgot the grief that E and her family were in and continue to experience. A lot of the happiness I experience is in knowing that Danny and I made the right decision. E and her family will always in our lives – and most importantly in Emma’s. As much as it was tempting at first to pretend or imagine what it would have been like if Emma were my child by birth, E has never been far from my mind. I love her a great deal. I grieve along with her. My great love for Emma doesn’t stop me from wishing that E had been pregnant with her at a better time in E’s life. A time where she would have been able to make the decision to parent. Better yet, a time when a decision wasn’t needed at all.

What I read today ties in with something that is weighing a little heavily on my heart right now. I am just starting to recognize a sense of loss in my own heart now that my mental skies are so much clearer. As an adoptive mother, I am mourning the loss of an innate physical connection with Emma. Had I not had the opportunity to experience biological parenthood, I may have been inclined to blown this off as insignificant in the grand scheme of things. So what if I didn’t experience pregnancy and feel her kick and roll inside of me? So what if I never nursed her? The days contained within those regrets are so very few in comparison to the lifetime I have to be her mother. Trista touched upon this regret in August. I was too cynical about life to relate to her at the time. Little did I know that we shared the same ache.

With Allison, I have what feels like a primal connection. There is an intimacy that only the two of us share that is hard for me to put into words for fear of it sounding sick and twisted. It is a joy to cradle her in my arms as I once cradled her in my womb. When I’m cuddling with her, I feel like we are communicating without speaking. She is a complete mystery to me, yet there is a sense of knowing her from before time began. The depression and anxiety I experienced stole that from me and wouldn’t let go of it for a long time. Had I been able to feel that intensity during those early months, Allison’s colic might have been much more bearable. Maybe then I could have held her during those hours and days and somehow made sense out of what is beyond understanding. I might have felt as if we were riding that storm together instead of daydreaming of escaping to a world in which she didn’t exist.

I have always treasured the time I get to cuddle with Emma. Even though I jump at every chance I get to be physically close to her, it’s not the same. I have cared for her in every way any mother would from the evening of her second full day of life, but it’s not the same. As wonderful as my life became when my world began rotating around her, I can’t have that missing piece. I can’t force or morph our relationship into something it can never be. I grieve the loss of what E has with Emma just as E grieves the loss of what I have. Because of our Destiny, we are permanently connected in a most meaningful way.

I could choose to allow myself to believe that my heart is playing favorites. I could stew in never-ending guilt about it. I won’t. I won’t, because it is simply not true. I wouldn’t long for that intrinsic connection with Emma if that weren’t true. I wouldn’t have hugged her tight to me at four o’clock this morning willing myself to feel that same sense of timeless knowing. What is there, however, is just as significant and unique to the two of us. There are four years of memories, the beauty of the relationship we’ve built together, and the choice that I made freely with my husband on Friday, October 25, 2002 to love her unconditionally for all of eternity.

The sorrow over what never can be only intensifies the joy that already is. Loving Emma feels damn good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mom2Mom Advice Needed (Dads Allowed, too)


Emma loves bugs. She loves to look at them. She loves to hunt them with her Daddy. She loves to kill them herself when they are in the house.

Allison is also interested in bugs - from a distance. Actual bugs don't seem to bother her much, but imagined ones are quite frightening to her.

A couple of Saturdays ago, Danny was giving the girls a bath. Allison saw a piece of lint in the bath water, pointed to it, and started saying, "Bug! Bug!" Emma picked the lint up in her hand, agreed that it was a bug and put it back in the water. That was the last time since that incident that Allison sat in bath water voluntarily. She now believes that there are always bugs in the bath water.

Giving Allison a bath at this point is a short, but gruesome experience. You have to close the door to the bathroom to keep her in (did I forget to mention the struggle to get her in the bathroom in the first place?). You have to force her undressed. In order to avoid figuring out that her toes and feet are almost as strong as you are, you have to lift her high enough over the tub so that not even a toe nail can catch the edge. Her immediate response is to throw her right leg back over the tub. It doesn't matter how much you try to soothe her, reason with her, or tell her that it's almost over. She screams. She screams bloody murder. She could vomit when you sit her down to rinse off her private areas. Then, until the child is fast asleep, much of the discussion in the house revolves around how there are or are not bugs in the bath tub.

The hope is that she will eventually forget about the bugs or get over her fear. Last night, Ally went into the bathroom while Emma was in the tub. We've separated the two for now. After she walked in, Emma, who is now grounded from candy for a week, told her that there was bugs in the water. I'm not sure if I dare to hope for a carefree bath experience again for a long time.

Have you ever had to deal with a child's fear ~ especially when an older sibling continuously adds fuel to the fire? Even if you haven't, do you have any advice? I'll try anything.


I tried Trista's suggestion and had some success. We had some Tylex (sp?) and Danny and I figured that we'd kill two birds with one stone ~ clean tub, happy toddler. Allison enjoyed spraying the tub with me. She didn't try to stop me from putting her in the tub. She stood the entire time holding the Tylex. When I asked her to put it down so I could wash her arms and hands, there were no complaints. She even let me sit her down for a minute to rinse her private area. I am happy, but not lucky. After she was dried off and dressed, she headed straight for the bathroom. The tantrum hit after I wouldn't let her have the Tylex outside of bath time. Ah well... At least we've made a little progress. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions!

Monday, November 20, 2006

In Search of Community

Our family was invited to a bonfire at the church attended by one of the girls’ daycare teachers as well as someone I know from my 9 to 5. We all ate well and had a great time. While we were there, I kept thinking about how nice their community was. Oh, I’m sure that there are squabbles and disagreements just like there are at any congregation. That night, there was really a sense of togetherness. I really miss that.

Before I moved to Virginia, I belonged to a Catholic parish in an adjoining suburb of Grand Rapids. It was my home parish since I was five years old. I can’t say that I always felt that I belonged there. During my school years, I felt out of the loop because I didn’t attend the same school system as a majority of the kids my age. In high school it really didn’t matter because I attended my religion classes at my Catholic school. This parish became my community when I made the decision to go into teaching. I chose working with the youth group to get the required volunteer hours that I needed. It was through retreats and other get-togethers that Trista and then Mark became my best friends. During that time I felt closer to God than ever before or ever since.

Moving to Virginia was such a shock to me. There are very few Catholics here in comparison to Grand Rapids. Any of the churches in this area are a good 30 minutes from our home. I’ve been registered at just about all of those parishes at one time or another. Before Emma arrived, I did get pretty involved at a parish in Fincastle. It was nice, but the others were a good 25 years older than I was. It wasn’t the same.

Being a member of a community takes time. Volunteering in some form of ministry can put you on the fast track. Just attending Mass is not enough ~ especially when those Masses are few and far between. The priest suggested that I join the Mother’s group. I got excited to get involved. The only problem is that the Mother’s group is made up of stay-at-home moms. On their calendar of events, there wasn’t a single meeting that wouldn’t interfere with my work schedule. I don’t have the time or energy to form another group for working mothers. Right now I feel the need to be ministered to, not the other way around.

During the summer I experimented with attending a United Methodist church that was close to home. While the traditional service reminded me somewhat of a Catholic Mass (watered down, anyway – please don’t be offended if you are Methodist), I found the modern service to be engaging. They played praise and worship songs as well as what I gather are traditional Protestant hymns. Once a month they hold a communion service. The prayers leading up to communion are quite familiar. There was more reverence than I expected; but again, it felt watered down to me. That being said, it was treated as such a special experience that is often lacking in the Catholic church because you take for granted the “ordinary.” All in attendance were welcome to participate. I questioned what I should do over and over and ended up joining them. After I received communion, the pastor asked if Emma could, too. I agreed. I don’t know if that was a mistake or not. Emma felt that it was special and wanted to do it again.

This church has Sunday school for all ages. It would have been nicer if I knew the people better. Still, I felt comfortable enough to participate. It was nice to have an opportunity to continue to grow in my spirituality (recently it wouldn’t take much). I felt like I could be ministered to in that group. As a Catholic I feel sometimes that you’re on your own after Confirmation, unless you join the religious life. Being on your own isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of resources easily within reach. In fact, it’s gotten easier and easier in the Internet age. I’m just not comfortable alone. Prayer in a group can make me feel on fire. Alone, not so much. That’s interesting because I normally have very little difficulty starting a conversation. I can even be the entire conversation if I have to be. In God’s presence, chirp, chirp, chirp.

My experiment with the United Methodist church lasted exactly four weeks. After the communion service, we went on vacation. I got out of the habit and haven’t gone back. I guess the

The bonfire really started me thinking about finding a community to join and within which to actively participate. The people at that church were very inviting and I quickly felt at home. The kids loved the family center and Charity, the cat that has been adopted by the church. I’ve never been to a Baptist service before, but I can’t say that I’m comfortable with the idea of attending a Baptist church, let alone being a Baptist. Mark wrote a post that sums up why being a Baptist would be “too” Protestant for me.

I think that a reason why I don’t feel at home in a Catholic Church right now is due to the fact that I am unable to follow the its teachings on artificial birth control. On the grand scale, I understand why the teaching is. Still, my experience with Allison has frightened me away from my fertility. I’m a little less freaked out at the thought of another pregnancy, but I’m very, very far from being open to new life. I’m sure that I am wrong, but if God wanted me to have a third child, my second newborn would not have been Allison. Can I belong to a church when I knowingly go against such a mandate? I know that there are millions of Catholics who don’t give it another thought. I feel guilty – but not repentant – about it anytime I walk into church. It’s what I think about when I am walking to receive Communion. I believe in the Apostle’s Creed – every word of it. That is the bottom line of what you have to believe. Still, the Church’s stance on birth control is every where. You can’t subscriber to a Catholic magazine without it being mentioned in every third issue. For me it’s kind of the same thing I’m struggling against with my weight loss ~ If I’m not 100% perfect, there’s no need to continue.

So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I can’t believe that these experiences outside of Catholicism are for naught. I’m sure that I’m being led somewhere. I just don’t know where yet. Someday I hope to find that community I’m looking for. Maybe it will find me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

There Comes A Time...

Update at the End

... in every young child’s life when are caught breaking the 8th commandment. For one young four-year-old I know, that time is today.

Friday is my standing lunch date with Emma. I picked her up to take her to JC Penneys to get some knit pants. She fights having to wear anything else most of the time and I’m tired of fighting that battle. On the drive to the mall, Emma announced: "I got a bear in my pocket from the Treasure Box." [the incentive program for good behavior in Emma’s classroom]

"What did you do to get that?" I didn’t realize that the kids got to pick a prize so early in the day. I thought it was an end of the day type of thing. I was curious.

"Because I have been so good." Had that conversation stopped here, I wouldn’t have thought anything else of it. The conversation didn’t end there. "But don’t tell Miss E. or Miss M."

That got my attention. If anyone was going to reward her from the Treasure Box, it would be either E or M. "Emma, did a grown up tell you that you could pick a prize?"

Looking in the rearview mirror, I could tell that what was to come would be a complete fabrication. "Yes."

"Did you ask for the bear?"


"Taking something without asking is stealing. That is a very unkind thing to do. Are you sure you didn’t take the bear without asking?"

"Uh... huh."

The funny thing about this is that I could also tell by her expressions and body language that she thought she was getting away with it. She was completely at ease. "Who did you ask for the bear?"

"Miss K."

I dropped the subject as we pulled into the mall and I found a parking spot. After I got her out of the van I asked, "Emma, who did you ask about the bear again?"

"Miss C."

"Emma, don’t tell me things that aren’t true. The first time you told me that Miss K gave you permission. Why did you take the bear without asking?"

Emma never really admitted that she did steal the bear. She kept looking down at the ground and got into her whining, grumpy mode.

"When we get back to school, you are going to give that bear back to Miss E and you are going to tell her what you did and say that you are sorry. How would you feel if she came into your room and took something of yours without asking?"

She made her typical "leave me alone" grunt noise as we started walking to the store. "I don’t want to give the bear back. L has one and she’s not going to give it back. She’s going to take hers home."

I was not at all shocked to hear that L was involved in this little scheme. "I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to give the bear back and tell Miss E that you are sorry and will never steal from the Treasure Box again."

"When I say sorry, I’m going to say it really quiet."

"You’ll either have to whisper it into Miss E’s ear or say it loud enough for her to hear. It hurts people’s feelings when you take things from them. You need to apologize using your manners."

She didn’t say anything else about it the entire time we were out. We went through the drive-thru for lunch on the way back because time was running short. I wanted to ensure that I had enough time to address the issue appropriately.

As we drove into the parking lot of her daycare, Emma said, "Mommy, do you want to know how I’m going to apologize to Miss E?"

A feeling of pride washed over me. She must have been thinking about what she did while we were shopping. "Yes, how are you going to apologize?"

"Like this." She then mouthed the word sorry.

Pride evaporated. "Emma, you are going to say that you’re sorry loud enough for Miss E to hear you."

"But Mommy, it’s nap time. I don’t want to make the class wake up."

"We can go somewhere with Miss E so that you can use your normal voice."

As I was punching my access code to get into the building Emma said, "I’m not going to apologize." She didn’t say it defiantly. It was her last ditch effort to get out of it.

"I’m sorry, but you are."

Unfortunately, Miss E was on her lunch break when we got back. Miss M was subbing in the room today because Mr. D had the day off. We’re close to Miss M. She’s even babysat the girls on a couple of occassions. I told Miss M what happened and made Emma give her the bear. When I saw the bear, this entire incident became even more funny to me. I wanted to say to her: "If you’re going to steal something, steal something worth the trouble!" Why would you steal a green, hard plastic bear that wasn’t even an inch tall? Anyway, Miss M ensured me that she would make sure that Emma apologized to Miss E.

I then got on my knees so that I was at Emma’s eye level. I wanted her to know that she was still a good girl but that she had made a bad decision. She wouldn’t look me in the eye no matter how hard I tried to get her to do it. I told her that everyone steals something when they are little. It’s one of those lessons you have to learn the hard way. I don’t know if she was listening to what I was saying or not. I hope that she at least heard me tell her that I loved her. It’s important to know that your parents love you even when you messed up. Miss M had Emma lay down for her nap by her chair and she set the bear on a shelf right in Emma’s line of view. She started to ask Emma questions about our lunch, but I could tell that Emma was sad as I walked away.

It’s good that you live as a child before you become a parent. How can you not empathize because you have been there before? Although I didn’t get caught, I remember very distinctly my dabble into stealing. Coincidently, it occurred during my preparation for making my first Reconciation. We were at a local grocery store and I asked my dad if I could have a Marathon bar. He said no. So, I picked one up, sneaked down a few aisles from him, opened and ate it. I have no idea why someone didn’t see what I was doing. How do you conceal eating a braid shaped candy bar filled with caramel and covered in chocolate? Had I been discovered, I would have been mortified. Still, I didn’t get off scott free. As it turns out, my parents had invited Deacon Chuck over for dinner that night. I spent the whole dinner wondering if I should tell him even though I wasn’t technically cleared to make a confession. It was an evening full of anxiety. I never worked up the courage to talk to him. It didn’t end there, either. I felt the guilt every time I saw or went into that store. The only thing I could think of when I saw Deacon Chuck was that candy bar. I think that the initial mortification would be better. I can’t remember if I ever did confess about that...


Emma lied about getting the bear out of the Treasure Box. It was one of the "counting bears" that are out in the play area. Boy, she came up with a whopper the first time out of the box.

When I picked her up, I looked in her pocket. There was 6 cents in it. She said that Miss E. gave it to her at first. When I kept looking her in the eye she said, "I'll give it back, but I won't apologize." I made her do both. Apparently she found it in a cubby or something. Ahh... Just when I thought that parenting was complicated enough...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Costume Party

I am finally posting about the girls' birthday party. We had a great time. Emma was very excited about her costume. Allison's didn't last long. As for the hostess, I wouldn't wear another Halloween wig for two hours again to save my life. Ahh... the sacrifices we moms make...
We couldn't have asked for better weather at the end of October. The sun was out and it was nice enough not to wear jackets. God was surely smiling down on us this year.

Meridith came down for the party with Mallory and Trent. Mallory was an adorable fairy and Trent was the cuddliest lion ever. This picture also has proof that Allison's costume didn't last even until the party started.

One of the activities I planned was to give each of the kids a tattoo. I bought the boys and girls tattoo kits from Stampin' Up. It was a big hit. Cherries, butterflies, and princess crowns were universally requested. These kits will pay for themselves when I figure out a way to use them as rewards at home. They are in hiding at this point because I would never hear the end of "Can I have a tattoo, pulease???" if they saw them.

The game the older kids played required them to carry a marshmellow on a tongue depressor (courtesy of my doctor's office - thank goodness I got strep earlier in the week). In theory, the child who carried his/her marshmellow the farthest would win. I discovered that this game was a bit advanced for four year olds, but that ended up being the fun, anyway. Every time we counted to three for the kids to begin, someone's marshmellow would drop off before we got to three. The kids ended up giggling too much to care who won. I think Pocahontas won. That's the person who took home the prize. The most wonderful costume at the party belonged to Dorothy. Her mother not only French braided Katie's hair (which impresses me in and of itself), but she sewed the dress as well.

This was the first year that Emma blew out her candles without help from Mom or Dad. Go Emma!

Allison still needed a little help. When she would blow, she curled her bottom lip up so that the air tossled her bang (can't quite call them bangs yet). Mommy helped out. Luckily for me, the pink hair didn't go up in a blaze of glory while I was at it.

Present time really belonged to Emma. Once Allison opened the Dora backpack from Grandma and Grandpa, she had no interest in anything else. Lexie (Emma's red-headed best friend) and Gracie (more anxious to see what was inside then Emma) were right by her side the entire time.

The party was a great success. The food was delicious and I've met some new moms that I would love to get to know better. It was a great day!
After the excitement, we opened Emma's new Raffi DVD (an instant classic in our house) and watched that while Emma went over and over her gifts. If you've never seen a queen, you need to see Emma at a time like that. Emma, you were such a delight to behold. Happy fourth birthday, my beautiful Em&Em.
It wasn't long after we put on the DVD that Allison laid down on her Dora (siamese twin) backpack like it was a pillow. The next thing we knew, she was down for the count. Allison is not one to fall asleep randomly like that, but being the birthday girl sure tuckered her out. Happy second birthday, my sweet Baby Doll!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Good When Men Don't Notice Your New Doo

We had a cross departmental meeting this evening to go over a project that was just released into production. Our VP led the meeting. While waiting for the last person to arrive, he welcomed back one of my co-workers from her maternity leave and asked about her baby. I happened to be sitting next to this co-worker. After he finished talking with her, he looked at me kind of funny. Then he said, “Is this residual Halloween or a new look?” [I got my hair done yesterday and I got some ginger highlights added to the blond] Luckily I thought quickly on my feet and replied, “It is a new look, but I sure appreciate the Halloween reference.” He went on to make some kind of joke about him just giving me a real reason to stab him (picture him making a Norman Bates type of stabbing motion).

My first reaction was pretty much to be thankful that he recognized that I was even in the room. Frequently, he’ll say we need a team and will say that every sub-department in our area needs to be involved by name - with the exception of mine. Other times, he’ll say we need a team and will say that every sub-department in our area needs to be involved by name - with the exception of mine – and finish the statement with “and everyone else.” Currently, that every one else are the two people in my department. I’m not sure which of those types of statements angers me the most. Not being mentioned at all or being grouped in a general category all by myself.

The “at least he noticed I exist” reaction dampened down the first time he talked about teams in this meeting (that time my area was completely off the radar). It died the second time (when I was grouped in that wonderful generic category all by myself). Then the paranoia about my hair set in. Others, who I trust not to lie to me, have been very positive about the new look. Danny doesn’t think it’s even that much of a departure from what I’ve done in the past. So why do I dwell on one tactless remark and let that deflate me? I mean other than that he made that statement in front of a vast majority of my colleagues. If I like it, shouldn’t that be enough to me? I should be able to ignore it and move on. So why can’t I? Am I lacking confidence? Am I too vain or self-conscious? A combination of both?

Either way, writing about it is a step in the right direction. Instead of just eating these feelings, I’m expressing them. I swear that I am going to be kind to myself even if the VP couldn’t. I’m not going to take these feelings out on myself by binging or eating only junk food. As God as my witness, I’m also not going to let this make me ornery or impatient with my family tonight. If a volcano has to erupt from all the pressure at the end of the night, I can beat up a pillow or go outside and let out a primal scream. No matter what, these feelings are going to be pointed in his direction, not mine, not my husband’s and not my children’s. It’s a good opportunity for me to experiment with turning this embarrassing situation into a personal grace. I’ll get there, and with red highlights to boot!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quick and Dirty

I haven’t had much of a chance to write since my last post. I just wanted to thank every single person who has supported me over the past two years. I couldn’t have made it through without you. I appreciate all of you and pray for you every day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


After Danny and I found out that I was pregnant, we agreed that if we had another girl, Grace would be part of her name. We were first struck by that name before the pregnancy while watching an Adoption Story. If I remember correctly, a subtitle after a commercial break contained that word in a beautiful statement. Once I became pregnant, that name fit even better for me because I felt that this baby came to be by the grace of God. That is where the Grace in Allison Marie Grace came from.

As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, October has been one of the best months of my life. This month of October was an epiphany for me. When you spend so much time focusing on the existing, assumed, imagined, anticipated negatives in your life due to depression and anxiety (or just because you’re plain pessimistic), you lose sight of all the good and all the joy that you have in your life.

My awakening began the moment a gorgeous birthday bouquet of lilies arrived at work from Trista. The tangible beauty those flowers brought into my work space reminded me of the indescribable and encircling beauty her friendship has added to my life. It’s not that I forgot that she was my best friend. It’s not even that I took that friendship for granted. It’s that I forgot to be thankful for that gift which flowed first from God to Trista and then through Trista to me from her own free will. Friendship is a powerful thing.

For the first time since Emma’s first birthday, I was excited about celebrating my children’s birthdays. I loved designing their invitations myself. The creativity invigorated and excited me. Before they were sent out, I spent some time with my friend, Becci (Charlie’s mom). I mentioned the spider theme of the party to her and she hit the ground running. It was as if I was doing her a favor to allow her to make – actually create – the snacks and food for the party. She didn’t ever fully understand that this gift she thought she was giving to Emma and Allison was really a gift to me. Of all the parts of throwing a party, food prep is the only thing I dread. After she received the actual invitation, she gifted me in another, more significant way. She loved the invitations so much that she wants to start a party planning business with me. Not only did making those invitations fulfill a need to show love for my children through creativity, through Becci I learned that what I view as simply a hobby is actually a valuable talent I can provide to others. Nowhere in our area is there a business that offers customized party themes. Assuming that there are people out there who would love to throw a party in their own home but don’t have the time, energy, or creativity to come up with a theme and put it all together, we have a real shot at success. This just might be the way I am able to be at home for the girls after school and I had it in me this entire time. Talk about receiving a shot in the arm of self-worth!

Meridith drove down with her children and my parents to be here for Emma and Allison’s birthday. Just her even thinking about doing that made me so happy. Trent turned three months old the day they arrived at our house. She didn’t let the fact that traveling with such young children could be a complete nightmare dampen her enthusiasm or stop her. I was so thrilled to be able to meet Trent for the first time while he was still a baby. As it turns out, the reason why it was so important to her to come to Virginia was not just to celebrate the girls’ birthdays. She wanted to ask me in person to be Trent’s godmother. There is no greater honor than that.

I learned that someone I love dearly is experiencing some of the same depression and anxiety that I did. It breaks my heart that anyone has to go through that. This person trusted me enough to talk with me. I shared my experience and offered some advice. Hopefully, having someone to talk to will help her see that what she’s feeling isn’t real. It’s a result of her depression and anxiety, not a sign that she’s a horrible mother. As I was talking with her on the phone, I was thankful that I could – at the very least – listen to her with the ears of experience. I was thankful that she doesn’t have to go through this alone. Isn’t that being thankful for the most painful experience in my life?

Danny and I celebrated our 9th anniversary on the 25th. I have to admit that this day was not the foremost in my mind. The girls were having their 2 and 4 year checkups that day and I was concerned with making sure that I ask all of the right questions. It was foremost in his mind. On the afternoon of the 25th, a dozen Sterling roses arrived for me at work. Imagine – flowers twice in one month! They were pale lavender and I have never seen such beautiful roses in my life. Once I got over my shock and awe, I sent him an email thanking him. His reply: “There’s more, give me a call.” That email took my breath away. Wow! What more could there be? Danny researched the traditional flower for a 9th anniversary. Since no one on this continent had poppies, he chose those uncommonly beautiful roses. Because the traditional gift for a 9th anniversary was boring to him (pottery), he went with the modern gift – leather! Danny told me to pick out the leather coat of my dreams. I could have died from delight (and I just might when I pick my coat Saturday). I’ve always wanted a leather coat. Was it the gifts that made me feel like a queen? No. What made me feel like a queen that day and what continues to make me feel like a queen today is the knowledge of just how much Danny loves me. The past two years of our marriage have not been storybook to say the least. Through it all, he still loves me and wants me to be happy. He wants to build on our relationship. Having children can change a couple’s focus from each other to their children very easily. As much as children need their parents, both parents and children blossom within a healthy marriage. Deciding to make our marriage a priority again is going to be a great adventure in the years to come. His love and companionship are the most valuable gifts in the whole world.

I met with my therapist today and related to her all of the wonderful things (and only a few are mentioned here) that had happened to me in October. As exciting as it all had been, that much happiness makes me uncomfortable. It’s not like I’m waiting for the hammer to drop. I just wonder if I really deserve it. Susan asked me what I thought about grace. I responded that I’m far too clumsy to have very much of it, but I knew what she meant. To be honest, although I memorized its definition in catechism and have attributed many things to the “grace of God,” I don’t really have much of a feel for it. My focus is on the wretch I am, not the grace that’s so amazing. From that point of view, grace is harsh, scary and foreign. Susan led me with questions until I understood for myself for the first time that grace is a gift without condition. Grace is a friend treating you to time away from the world. Grace is a sister traveling 12 hours in a car with her two children under the age of 15 months just to see you. Grace is being asked to be a godparent. Grace is the opportunity to watch your favorite baseball team win its only game in the World Series with your father. Grace is the top of a jean quilt made by your grandmother. Grace is watching your parents play with and love your children. Grace is a sister telling you how she has seen God working in her life during the worst of times. Grace is a husband standing behind an unstable wife and taking care of the kids when he’d rather just be alone in peace and quiet.

As we continued to talk about grace, I started to get tears in my eyes. In a flash, I thought about Allison’s name. I remembered how I first learned to appreciate destiny through Emma. Whether you know it or not, names are very powerful. At the time, I simply believed that my pregnancy was a gift, or a grace from God. Only now do I understand that Allison was brought into my life through grace to teach me about its very nature. How can I not cry? What felt like complete abandonment into the 8th circle of Hell was actually God carrying me to the place I needed to be. I never would have made that journey on my own.

I can also see how I have been a source of grace for others. After all, when you get right down to it, grace is a mother loving and caring for her inconsolable baby day after day when she’d rather just run away. Grace is a circle, expanding without end.

Monday, October 30, 2006

They Didn't Cover This in Our Adoption Homestudy

On our way to daycare and out of the deep blue sky, this morning Emma announced, "I just pooted (passed gas) with my vagina."

I always assumed that I would be able to talk about any such topic with straight forward facts. No problem, right? If I hadn't been driving, I might have tried to run away. I'm not sure why this embarrassed me.

I didn't want to leave her statement unanswered. It felt like the big pink elephant in the car to me. I now know how my Dad must have felt when I asked him (as part of writing my paper against Tipper Gore and her "assualt" on music) what he thought the lyrics, "Good golly Miss Molly / You sure like to ball." The color drained from his face and he said, "Uh... oral sex?"

So, I took a quick breath and this is the best I came up with: "Uh... That happens to me sometimes, too."

If a four-year-old can make me roll up into a giant ball of embarrassment, what do the years ahead hold?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tea Party Interrupted

In an attempt to stop the bickering over the baby from Emma's Barbie nursery set or the Tinkerbell cell phone, we took the kids downstairs for a change of scenary this afternoon. Thankfully, it worked. They played on the beanbag and played on the slide. They took turns and had a much better time.

At one point, Allison dumped out the pieces of one of Emma's puzzles. After a few minutes, she went and got out the tea set. I said, "Ally, you have to pick up the puzzle before you can have a tea party." Without skipping a beat, she went over to the puzzle to start cleaning it up. The only indication of how she felt about my request was the exclamation of "Shoot!" on her way across the room. Isn't it nice when the hardest thing about parenting at the moment is to not laugh yourself silly?

As soon as the puzzle was cleaned up and she made sure that I acknowledged her effort, Ally set off to having a tea party. Emma didn't want to attend. She perferred to sit on her Sit 'n Spin and pretend not to eat/put in her mouth the green playdoh in her hands. Allison didn't let that bother her at all. She methodically passed out dishes, cups and spoons to Danny and me. She takes her tea parties very seriously. Our cups and bowls were kept full to overflowing at all times. I would eat and drink as quickly as I could. I just love the way she comes over with the tea pot and pours it haphazardly with such earnest. The best part is the sound effects. Every time she pours, she makes a "shhh" sound. She's a great little hostess.

Southern hospitality begins at home.

So I Missed It...

Yesterday was My Shady Tree's first anniversary. As per usual, I'm late in celebrating... So be it.

I can't say that it's been a great year, but who cares? I made it through. If this month is any indication, life it changing with the time. This has probably been one of the best months of my life.

I wish that I had the time and energy to fully explain why, but I've witnessed first hand how blessed that I am. I guess that might truly be the reason why things that happen are allowed to happen. When life is good (pre-October 2002), you tend to take things for granted. If that's not exactly true, you forget that you alone are not responsible for all that good. Sometimes you need a little reminder. Perhaps I needed quite a long, drawn out reminder - lest I ever forget.

So I raise my glass to Our Shady Tree. May its life be long and happy.

Friday, October 06, 2006

How Crazy Am I Now?

Y'all might think I'm crazy for the way that I reacted to the man with Buffalo Bill's voice, but it's time for you to think again. The danger is real!

Off to a Great Start

As much as I don’t like the idea of turning 35, it has been good to me so far:

My lovely sister, Donielle, sent me Weight Watchers’ new Walking Kit. I love it! It has a DVD for walking inside, a CD for walking outside and a book that includes a program. It is truly wonderful.

My other equally lovely and talented sister, Meridith, sent me my presents from both herself and my parents. She put a “Do Not Open Until 10/8” tag on it. I’m really excited to see what they sent.

My good friend, Jeanne – who is my stamping buddy, got me the wheel runner that I wanted and took me out to lunch at the new Red Robin. I am still sleepy from the food. It was so good. The best thing is something she hasn’t finished yet. She bought a book entitled “Subversive Cross Stitch.” She had me look through it – and it is hilarious! I loved it so much that I asked Danny to get it for me. Anyway, the design that made me laugh just about the hardest is a design with a criss-cross border. Inside it says, “Boo F@cking Hoo.” [the @ is really a u, but I don’t want to type that word here…] I about rolled on the floor laughing. Cross-stitch is such a dainty craft. Seeing that kind of language in cross-stitch cracks me up. She told me that she made that pattern for me and is decorating the frame this weekend. I can’t wait to see it!

The biggest surprise came this morning at work. Trista, my bestest, dearest friend sent me the most beautiful bouquet of lilies. I couldn’t believe it. I have no idea how she found out the address at my building because it is different than our headquarters. This picture does not capture even half of their beauty. The coral ones are probably the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen. It was drizzling when they arrived, so the flowers were lightly covered with rain. GORGEOUS!

Tomorrow I am spending the day with my friend, Peggy, at a craft fair. I can’t wait! It’s also part of my birthday present from Danny. He’s taking the kids tomorrow so I can go and enjoy myself. What a wonderful husband! On my actual birthday, Charlie’s parents are watching the girls while we go to see “Little Miss Sunshine” and then to dinner. It’s going to be so nice.

I can say all I want that I am leaving my youth far behind. The truth is that the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Banner Day

Today I got my first listen to The Killers new CD. Although reviews are mixed, I'm loving it! That being said, the first single is entitled, "When You Were Young." I think that someone is really trying to tell me something. ;)

I've discovered that Adobe FrameMaker has saved my life (figuratively, of course). I can't tell you how much I love it. I'm beginning to feel a little bit like a nerd about it. I have set a reminder up on Outlook to remind me to get ready to pick the kids up. I'm sure that the luster will fade over time, but it's such a wonderful application that creates such professional looking documentation. I doubt I'd ever be interested in working at another company unless they used FrameMaker.

Last but definitely not least, the kids are really getting to be so darn cute together. One of my favorite things is to watch them dance aroud the living room to the Wiggles. We have to get that on tape. Can I tell you how darn cute Emma looks when she's shaking her hips like Wags the Dog?

Speaking of Emma, she is growing up right under my nose. SHE CAN SPELL HER NAME. Where did my baby go? I was watching her from across the room the other day and for a flash I didn't recognize her as the maturing preschooler that she is. She getting so lanky and expressive. I know that I'm going to keep having those types of flashes for the rest of my life. It's incredible. She is really starting to get knowledge from her music and gymnastics class. She mentioned the cello one day and I told her that was one of my favorite instruments. She then went on to describe the type of sound it made (I can't remember the word - I'm illiterate when it comes to formal music), but I was shocked because it sounded right to me. ;) She also knows the names of various gymnastics positions and can show you how to do them. She's one smart cookie.

Allison is really growing socially. She talks a lot about Joshua and Regan from her class. She also knows the names of all the teachers in her building along with their rooms. She's a firecracker, and the teachers seem to enjoy her antics. She's getting ready to move to the next room and her current teachers are sad that she's leaving. They say that she prevents them from having to go after the kids. She's right there telling the other kids exactly what they should be doing. Apparently, the kids listen to her, too. She's processing what goes around her. When something happens, she's sure to ask "What happened?" I will overlook that she takes delight in that question when Emma's being punished. She won't go to bed at night without giving each and every one of us a "kisshug." It's so adorable.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Acne of Defeat ~ or ~ Adding Acne to Injury

One thing that I’ve always prided is my clear skin. In high school, if I had more than one pimple at a time, it was a major crisis for me. I remember faking a stomach ache one day during my Junior year because I had three zits. I just couldn’t face the public.

Jump to the present… Not long after I went on my medication for anxiety in June, I noticed that the skin on the sides of my face started to feel bumpy, not smooth like usual. Not long after that, those bumps got a little bigger and some got enflamed. They also spread from my cheeks to underneath my jaw and on my neck. I bought several brands of acne fighting skin cleansers. Over the next 10 weeks, not a single product changed anything. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve even stopped wearing makeup to try to alleviate the situation. My condition has only gotten worse.

I researched acne on the web and discovered contraceptives and anti-depressants can cause acne and that adults typically develop acne on the sides of their face. After reading that, I was pretty certain that my medications were causing this. At my follow up appointment yesterday afternoon with Dr. M (the doctor who listened to me and got me headed on the right path). I told her what had happened to my skin and that it had happened shortly after starting my anti-anxiety medication. I was anticipating her agreeing with me and giving me something to help take care of it.

Never anticipate anything.

“Hormone changes in your thirties can often cause acne in women, even if you've never had it before. I don’t think this has anything to do with your medication.”

Then, as if what she said had no negative impact whatsoever, she went on to remind me that I needed to get my baseline mammogram next April. It won't be long before they're a yearly experience. All of this, just 6 days shy of my 35th birthday. If medication had caused it, I wouldn’t give it another thought. It would just be a small price to pay for feeling better. This age thing is a whole different ball game. In some things, I guess, age is the great equalizer. At the rate I’m going, things are just going to get more and more equal faster and faster. Ha!

My assignment for my next therapy appointment is to write a list of things that I like about my body or things that my body has done that has been helpful to me (my body type made me the perfect softball catcher, etc.). Should I cross clear skin off the list now? Nah… 34 ½ years of clear skin is better than nothing at all. Besides, the cream she prescribed seemed to help with only the first application. Clear skin may just be another one of those things I’ll have to put some work into from now on.


Feminine topic described below. Do not read if you are faint of heart. You have been warned!

For those of you who care, I also found out that the random leaking from my right nipple that I've been experiencing when I don't wear a bra ever since I've stopped nursing Allison may be a special treat that might last "forever." I didn't ask, but I'm hoping that when she said "forever" she only meant until menopause. Could you imagine me as a wet nurse in my 80s?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I Want to Throw Up

This morning, as I walked into the lobby of my building, I noticed another person at the other end. My first thought: The woman looks like a cross dresser – too tall, weird hat, broad shoulders, etc. We met in the middle of the lobby just before I was to turn right to head to my office. This person most definitely was a cross dresser. This unfortunate man put a lot of effort into looking like a woman, but he does not have the femininity to pull it off. The extremely acne scared skin didn’t help matters. No big deal, right? You’re saying to yourself – Jennifer want to throw up just because she saw a cross dresser?

Background: I threw up at the movie theater while watching The Silence of the Lambs. That’s a post for another time, but it’s very important to this story. To this day, I am traumatized by the voice of Ted Levine, the actor who played Buffalo Bill. Ask Danny. I can pick his voice out in a crowded room with 99.9% accuracy. His voice creeps me out so much that I can’t watch Monk. I’m sure that I would love that show. I just can’t watch it because Ted Levine plays Monk’s boss. I should write him a letter and explain to him why I just can’t be his friend. It’s a testament to his acting ability.

Back to the lobby: As soon as I heard her voice, my heart started to pound and I started feeling a little bit panicky. She sounded almost exactly like Buffalo Bill. She said, “Where’s Room 104?” I mumbled “104?...” I looked at the number on the plaque outside my office praying to God it wasn’t 104. Thankfully, it’s 101. I’ll have to remember that. She said, “Thanks anyway, it’s down here.” I turned away from her toward my office. As she walked to the temp agency, I heard her bangle bracelets making (to my ears) a ‘warning, you’re in danger,’ plasticy jangle that I hadn’t noticed before. I punched my security code into my area and scurried to my desk.

The very worse thing is that I’m jonesing really bad for a Diet Coke. As luck would have it, I would have to go out into the lobby to get it. There’s no way I’m heading back out there – at least not by myself. Since I’m too embarrassed to ask anyone to walk with me, I’m sitting here spooked out with caffeine withdrawals. I guess I’ve learned that there are some things I won’t do for a Diet Coke.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Prayer Request

Update: Danny's mother is doing fine. They checked to make sure that the arteries in her neck weren't involved. Thankfully they were not. Thank you so much for all of your prayers. I'm sorry for not posting this update sooner!

We got a call about an hour ago from Danny's father. Eunice's blood pressure had gone sky high and the paramedics were there. Danny is with them now and I believe that they are heading to the hospital. Any and all prayers would be so appreciated!

Heartfelt Thanks

Thank you so much to all of you who responded to my last post and/or kept me in your prayers. My appointment with Susan went very well. I read my post to her, cried a lot, and worked on where to go from there. I left there feeling even better than I did when I finished writing the post that morning. A good portion of what I'm going through can be attributed to the changing seasons, but we've started digging into body issues and that is difficult for me. Still, working through this will only make me stronger and will help me be a better mother to my daughters. I know that this is not in vain.

I love you all very much. Thank you for being there for me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's after 4am, I can't sleep, and I'm enjoying my Diet Coke

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow morning. My assignment for the meeting prior was to write a letter to my body. I wrote that letter and it was less than pretty. Quite honestly, my body did not deserve such a vicious attack. It's just an easy target. My assignment for this month is to write a letter from my body to me. Thus far, I've been unable to do that. I can't relate to my body and have no idea what its voice might sound like.

Yesterday was a rough day. I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and I can't place where it's coming from. For once, it's not work. Although my department went from four to two within the last week, my job is going very well. We're looking in to new software solutions to provide documentation more efficiently and effectively. I'm learning new skills and that has breathed a lot of life back into my work. I'm even planning on my next career move - at my current employer. Regardless, my energy level was way low yesterday evening when I picked the girls up. Emma's grumpiness was way high. Although it was over by 7:30, it was not a pleasant evening for either of us. I know that no parent is perfect. Still, it must be hard to be a three year old living with a mother with so much anxiety. Will I find patient, empathetic Mommy today or will I find strict, authoritarian mommy today? I somehow have to harness this. When I'm done writing this post, I'm going to go into her room and give her a kiss and just be with her quietly. She's an angel and one of the two most beautiful things in my life. Amy's post from yesterday helped make that quite clear.

As much as I'm feeling so much better since April, I'm starting to feel removed from other people again. I've started feeling this way over the past few weeks. I don't know how else to describe it. There are very few people with whom I feel any emotional connection right now. My family is a stretch. One of my oldest friends resigned her position in my department and I had very little emotional reaction to it. Regardless of all that transpired over the past few years between the two of us, her last day should have been bittersweet at the very least. Nope. It was just like any other Friday - counting down the hours until the weekend came and knowing that I'd then start counting down the minutes until my work week started again.

Over that same time period, I have more often than not fallen to sleep for the night along with Allison. It's like when she was first born. I remember the first night I stayed up after she went down for the night. It felt like a revelation. I woke up at 9:30 last night and went out into the hall to see what Danny was doing. The only light on came from under the office door. I went to the bathroom and then just went back to bed. I really needed to talk to him, but I didn't have *whatever* I needed to make the effort to walk through the office door. I need him very much and I don't know how to express it fact to face. Also, I don't want to be another burden on him. I need to take care of myself.

I haven't been making calls or emailing the people dearest to me. My parents had to hunt me down last week to finally get in touch with me. They left messages and emails for a full week and I just didn't have *whatever* to make the effort to back to them. Did I want them to worry? Do I really want that kind of attention? Honestly, no. I just don't have *whatever* right now. Meridith called Monday night just before bedtime. I love to talk to her. I told her that I would call her back. Even though I didn't just go to bed after Allison went down for the night, I didn't call her back. I knew that I needed to, but the *whatever* just wasn't there.

Good thing I see Susan tomorrow.

I woke up this morning some time around 3ish having thoughts about childbirth. This happens a lot when I'm anxious. It's almost like a confirmation that yeah, my jaw was clenched a lot today because of anxiety. They weren't about my failure this time. Thankfully I've gotten over that part of the equation. They started with remembering that the first night that the nurse's button on my bed wasn't working (it ended up being on the TV remote). What if I had started bleeding out and had no way to contact anyone? My mind followed that train of thought in what seemed like an endless loop. It's all craziness and as much as I kept telling myself that it's just anxiety, I couldn't go back to sleep (hence I'm here writing this post).

Before I got up, I was able to steer my thoughts in a more positive direction. I thought about that letter that it due at my appointment this morning. That letter that I haven't even started. If my body could write me a letter what would it say? "Give me another occupant, please." Ha, ha. That's not very constructive at all. Although I've been told this by numerous people, I'm not sure that I "got it" until an hour ago while tossing and turning in my bed. There is a part of me that is simply not nice to me. It constantly judges me and expects much more of me than anyone could ever live up to. It's a harsh dictator that is making my life miserable.

Case in point - my first day postpartum. 7am. I am asleep (thank you, God!). The phone rings. I am no longer asleep (boo!). It's the commissary wanting to know what I would like for breakfast. I had to call them back because I had no idea. I didn't even realize that I would be allowed to eat that soon. Although I didn't really feel hungry, I looked through the menu. French toast with maple syrup and bacon with a muffin sounded so yummy. Nope. Can't have that. Now that I'm no longer pregnant, I must get back on plan. I need to lose this baby weight so that I can get back to where I was beforehand and make some progress again. I ordered egg beaters, a blueberry muffin and orange juice. I picked at the eggs. They were rubbery. I ate the top off of the muffin and was embarrassed that the doctor came in and saw that I had eaten that (Hello! He was just happy that I was eating something - he could care less what). The blueberry muffin was delicious - hence evil. It wasn't helping me lose weight. This is the voice of that harsh critical Jennifer. (Jump ahead to 9/20/06) Up until this morning, I would still wish that I hadn't ordered that muffin any time I thought about it. Just before I got out of bed, I realized that I would have been right to have ordered exactly what I wanted. Why (with me there always has to be a good reason - need to work on that)? I had just spent a full day in physical labor doing anything I could to try to get my labor to progress. After that, I had a major surgery. On top of that, my body was working hard to produce collostrum (sp?) and then milk to feed my precious little baby. What I needed - and what I desired - was quick energy. The fat I craved was what I needed to help kick start my body. That's why farmers like meat and potatoes - there bodies need it after a hard day out on the farm. Had I trusted myself, I would have gotten my postpartum life off with a much healthier start. Critical me was depriving my body and my soul of what it really needed - nourishment.

Another example - the first day I was home alone with Allison. In my mind, I imagined that everything would be the same as it was with Emma when I got home from the hospital. When I was home with Emma, I had to think about packing up the old house to move into the new house. I figured that while I was home with Ally that I could get even that much more done because I'd be off double the amount of time. I was so wrong. Things were not the same once we brought Ally home from the hospital. Physically, I was in the same shape the day I brought Emma home as I was the day before she was born. Not so with Ally. Still, I had to do more. I had to be more. I wouldn't allow myself a ride in a wheelchair to the car. I was "better" than those women who needed it. I wasn't going to baby myself. I'm also sure that the 45 minute walk I took around the maternity ward the night before I left (had to lose that weight - after all, the doctor said he wanted me up on my feet) did me a whole lot of good, too.

Anyway, I noticed that the bathroom floor in the master bedroom really needed a good cleaning the first day home with Ally. Did I ask my mom to do it while she was here? Nope. She didn't come all that way to be with us just to clean my floors (uh, yeah, she did). Did I ask Danny to do it? Nope. I didn't want to place any more demands on him since he was primarily taking care of Emma. So, just a little over one week after Ally was born, I carried a heavy bucket of hot water from the kitchen to the bathroom, got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed that floor. I couldn't finish the entire thing. I was too wiped out. As much as I was beating myself up about not finishing, I was darn proud of what I had accomplished. I was also pretty put off when I showed Danny and he questioned whether I should have done it at all. I wonder if there is any connection with that and that being Ally's first colicky night? This morning, this is what occurred to me - there is a reason why women are pampered and cared for when they've just had a baby - they need it. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help or to accept help. It's the smart women who accept it when it is offered to them.

I can't write a letter from my body to me. The critical, harsh, abusive, bitter Jennifer can:

You are not a bad, lazy, ugly, worthless, piece of shit person. Don't listen to me. All of what I say to you is bullshit. You are smart, loving, beautiful, funny and damn tired. I don't let you rest. You always have everyone else's best interests at heart. If I'd give you the room to breathe, you could take good care of yourself, too. You can trust yourself. You are not the out of control animal that I lead you to believe you are. You are lovable and you deserve to be loved. You deserve to love yourself most of all. You can't be the wife you want to be with me around. You can't be the mother. You can't be the daughter, sister, friend, employee or supervisor. Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Nourish yourself. I don't want to hurt you anymore. Please forgive me and let me go.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Five years ago today it was a Tuesday. It was an absolutely gorgeous early fall day in southwest Virginia. Out of courtesy, the day should have been more like it is today: foggy, misty rain, and dark. A warning. An invitation to remain in bed and remain innocent just a little while longer.

I remember the cell phone call from Danny letting me know that a plane had hit the Twin Towers. My response – what kind of crazy pilot could miss such a big building? The second tower was hit as I waited at the light at the bottom of the hill leading to my office. I knew then that there couldn’t have been two “idiot” pilots who made the same mistake within an hour of each other.

Over the next few nights, I finished a canvas needlework sampler that I framed and gave to Danny for our fourth anniversary later that year. Each square in this sampler took a minimum of 45 minutes to complete. I finished two and a half rows of 12 over those three nights while I was glued to the news. I need to document the circumstances under which that piece was finished and attach it to be the back of the frame for posterity.

On Friday morning as I drove to work, there was a new billboard along the highway. It was quite simple: a flowing American flag with the words “I’m Proud to be an American.” That is when I broke down and cried like an abandoned baby. I was scared about what was to come. I was terrified to have to worry about my safety and the safety of my family just because we were born here. I realized that I felt that morning like many people feel every day. Life shouldn’t have to be that way.

I turned 30 less than a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is funny how hitting that milestone wasn’t as hard as I was anticipating it to be.

Other than anticipating all breaking news stories to be terror related, my daily life has changed very little.

It seems strange to me that my daughters will never experience the 20th century. It’s even stranger to me that they will never know life pre-9/11. What will they think when they get old enough? Since they won’t have lived through what came before, will 9/11 be to them the way that Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination is to me? Will their only interest be in asking people where they were when it happened? At least they won’t have a problem remembering the anniversary dates.

In February of 2005, I flew to Michigan with 3 month-old Allison to attend Meridith’s wedding. We were stopped at the security checkpoint and I was made to take Allison’s outfit off and open her diaper. I was furious that my infant daughter’s privacy had been invaded like that. We were no threat to security. What woman would use her baby to blow up a plane? My anger quickly changed to anxiety as I flew on a plane with a colicky baby. Allison didn’t cry once. I had nothing to worry about.

2006: There are many movies coming out about 9/11. Other than the movie about Flight 93, I have no interest in seeing them. It’s still too fresh for me. I can still recall the visions of those news programs. Just as I’ll probably never watch The Passion of the Christ again, I don’t want to relive that day in the medium of something generally considered to be entertainment.

August 10, 2006: Another airline terrorist plot was foiled in London. One of the suspects: a woman with a baby. She intended to use the baby to help carry out those attacks. Had it not been stopped ahead of time, would they have been lucky enough to check that baby’s diapers?

Patriot Day, 2006: I really would just like to ignore today. I want to forget about its significance. I can’t do that. The luxury of burying our heads in the sand has been lost. As a nation, we were lucky to have held on to it as long as we did. Tonight I will light a candle and set it out on the front porch. A small light to let my departed co-patriots know that I am thinking about them. A small hope that their sacrifices will not be in vain.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

5 Blessings This Week

[Melissa has been posting 5 blessings every day for a while now. I'm not quite that energetic. I'll start with 5 weekly blessings - in no particular order]

1. The weather has grown cooler and less humid.
2. I was able to read "Feeding the Hungry Heart" by Geenen Roth.
3. Despite the resignation of one of my employees, I'm really enjoying my job these days.
4. Danny turned the TV on at just the right time to see some of The Killers' new video.
5. I got lots of hugs, kisses and snuggles from Emma and Allison.

Friday, September 08, 2006

My Little Stingray

[Insert the beautiful song of the angels of heaven] Allison is a joker, a prankster and always on the lookout for games. She is always thinking ahead to what she can do next to amuse herself. She has such a spark of life in her that her smile or devilish grin can light a room and warm your heart. I love this very much about her. In junior high and high school, I wished to have three boys just like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbs. Allison is exactly the child I dreamed of in female form. She's imaginative and adventurous. I know that as she grows taller that her gigantic Pooh bear from E and Grandma and Grandpa B will become her Hobbes. [Exit angels]

[Enter shrill, sinister laughter, two sets of pounding feat on hardwood floors, the smell of sweat, and whatever sounds a mother makes as she attempts to pull her hair out while holding a fresh diaper and a new day's outfit in her hands] Allison has made getting dressed and undressed her favorite game and past time. The moment she sees me walking down the hall with her diaper and clothes/jammies, she's off like greased lightning. Because I am in a constant reactive state and am too tired to be proactive, the chase is on. With lots of laughter and much squirming and wiggling, she's finally dressed and I'm ready for a nap. My conscious attempt to space out my shower, blow drying, and breakfast so as to not be perspiring when I put my make up on is a daily futility. By the time I chase that little girl down and wrestle with her to get changed and dressed, I'm damp. As I wipe the sweat off of my face, I'm sure that I'm wiping off all the cosmetics I just put on so carefully. I have to turn the air conditioner on full blast in the car when we leave for the day just to cool down.

After the events of Monday morning, I've taken to calling Ally "My Little Stingray." I'm sure that she will one day be the death of me. This knickname is given to her in love. Despite all the sweat, pounding blood and tears, I am still glad that Ally is turning out to be my little Calvinette. "My Little Stingray" is a term of endearment. I also mean no disrespect to Steve Irwin or his family. I have been heartbroken about his death. Still, he was a man of humor and a huge magnification of Ally's blooming adventurous spirit. I pray that he is not offended by her new knickname. Steve died doing exactly what he loved most in life outside of his family. If Ally's antics do one day do me in, I will die loving her and the rest of my family that much more dearly. My one request is that I get at least one chance to make Ally chase me around the old folks home in just my used pair of Depends. [Reenter angels playing the opening notes to "Where the Streets Have No Name" on their golden harps - the sound I hope to hear as my spirit rises to the pearly gates]