Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Our Weekend with Team M.E.A.T (Minus the M)

We missed you, Mark!

Up until last Thursday, the weather had been cool and miserable for someone desperately waiting for warm weather. Trista, Abby and Ethan were set to arrive for a Memorial Day weekend visit and I wanted the weather to be a pleasant change from Michigan. Well, the temperature far exceeded my expectations. As they say... be careful what you ask for. It was so hot and sticky Thursday afternoon while we were waiting for the gang to arrive that we had to wait inside the local pet store. At some points, it was almost unbearable - for the adults. The four kids enjoyed every moment we spent outside.

We had a wonderful visit with our best friends. I was so happy to have them here. Despite the minor inconveniences (Allison developing croup Wednesday night/Thursday morning, Abby coming down with a viral infection in her hip and backing into a parked car while leaving the pediatrician's office), I wouldn't have traded the weekend for anything in the world. We kept ourselves busy, too. Who rests on a vacation, anyway?

Danny and his father got our swing set put together Thursday morning and the kids had a ball with it. It was so much fun to watch them smile and hear them laugh as we pushed them on the swings. There's something about spending time with kids on swings that makes me ooze parental bliss.

Saturday afternoon I arranged for my favorite daycare teacher to come to our house and watch the four kids. Michelle brought her daughter, Carmen, along too. Trista and I left shortly after 1 that afternoon. First, we did a little clothes shopping. We each found some really cute and inexpensive things at Catos. There's nothing like new clothes to start a wonderful afternoon of sweet freedom. Then, we went to see "Thank You for Smoking." Although this may not seem like much of a compliment because I haven't seen many movies at all in the past few years, I can't remember when I've seen a better, more enjoyable movie. I have found my new favorite movie quote. I can't document it here because I don't want to give anything away. Let's just say that one line from William H. Macy's character is worth the price of admission and then some. After the movie we ate at a nice little sandwich shop just down the street from the theater. We each tried a new adult beverage. Trista chose the Russian Punch and I went straight for Sex on the Beach. What better way is there to cap off a wonderful afternoon with your best friend than eating on the patio while sipping something that does not belong in or around a toddler's sippy cup?

Sunday we went to Amazement Square, a wondeful children's museum in Lynchburg. We met up with T.M. and Miranda there. Miranda is as beautiful as ever and it's hard to believe that she will be four in July. It seems like yesterday T.M. and Michelle brought her over to our house to meet Emma. She couldn't have barely been three months old then. I'm so glad that Trista could meet my good friends from my homestudy group. Everyone had a great afternoon at the museum. I'm so glad that T.M. mentioned this place. It's hard to say exactly what the children liked the best - milking the cow and collecting eggs from the hen house or getting bare foot and painting the walls - and each other. Allison was so inspired by the trip that she didn't sleep a wink the entire hour and a half home.

Monday night we got our pool out. Such a small investment (we got it on sale at Target for $10 or less) paid off big dividends. The three oldest went from the pool to the Elmo sprinkler and back to the pool again for more than an hour. Allison was a little more tentative about it which surprised me. She loves her bath and has no problem getting water in her face. I guess the pool water was a little too cold for her taste. By the end of the evening, Trista and I were in the pool reenacting the grape crushing seen from "I Love Lucy." Our pants got soaked, but the kids absolutely loved splashing around with us.

Tuesday was our last day together. We spent it at the Mill Mountain Zoo and getting Allison's 18 month pictures taken. Thankfully the zoo is small and quaint. I don't know how much more we could have pushed our double strollers around before heat stroke set in. It was such a hot day. On the way to the mall, the temperature read 99 degrees. Allison took some wonderful pictures and we got such a sweet group shot of the four kids. It's sort of become a tradition to get a group photo taken each time Team M.E.A.T and Our Shady Tree get together. I really love that tradition. The pictures come back on June 12. I've already marked my calendar!

Today was an odd day. It felt funny getting back into the routine of getting ready for work and taking the girls back to school. Emma and I both were a little sad on the drive into town. When I sat down at my desk, I felt like I was coming off a three day drunk. Four children under 3 and a half is a blessing - and a lot of work! I must not have showed it, though. One of my coworkers commented on how much more relaxed I was. It all goes to show the power of friendship!

Uncle Danny, Aunt Jennifer, Emma and Allison love our Trista, Abby and Ethan (and Mark) so much! Thank you for blessing us with the gifts of your company. We can't wait until July when we can return the favor! Long may we team together in the shade.

Monday, May 22, 2006

It’s a Small World After All

When I first moved to this area, Danny joked about how he ran into someone he knew just about every time he went out. Where I live now is smaller than where I grew up, but not that small. Turns out you can’t even be robbed by someone here who isn’t somehow connected to you. Danny called me Thursday afternoon. As it turns out, the 18 year old who stole my credit card is the friend of Danny’s manager’s son! I could almost sell this plot to a soap opera. Add a few nights of illicit passion to the mix and it is quality daytime television – not a bad way to introduce the child you never knew you had due to the months of amnesia you suffered in the convent hospital on that remote desert island.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Art and the Life of Christ

Danny recently wrote an interesting post about the upcoming release of Ron Howards' "The Da Vinci Code." It is a hot topic this summer and there are strong opinions on both sides. My history with this subject is very limited. When the book first came out, my sister read it and enjoyed it. Her email about it convinced me to get on the waiting list at my local library. I tried to read it, but I just couldn't get past the early chapter where the albino assassin was flogging himself. "Okay," I thought, "I get that this ultra-right wing Roman Catholic monk is evil or, best case scenario, severely messed up. So what? I don't have to flogged so hard with your prose for me to get the picture. And by the way, I might have enjoyed figuring that out for myself." I returned the book to the library the next day. When it comes to literature, the hard sell just doesn't work for me.

If you're going to use art to explore the life of Jesus in a non-traditional way, why not be subtle? "The Last Temptation of Christ" was an intriguing look at what might have been. You know from reading the Gospels that Jesus was tempted by Satan. You can only imagine that it was constant. It's what makes him human. Exactly how he was tempted, we'll never know. But we can imagine. I remember the film ending and being awestruck by the idea that Jesus could have chosen to live a [hopefully] happy, domestic life. Instead, he chose to die for my sins. Whether Jesus ever was tempted by images of himself with a wife and children is irrelevant. The realization that His torment went beyond the purely physical was an awakening for me. In no way am I trying to diminish the physical sacrifices Jesus made in His last days. "The Passion of the Christ" drove that home ferociously well. Still, human beings are more than just flesh, bone and blood. Our spirit truly gives us life. Without that, we are beautiful - albeit mere - animals. You need to consider the spiritual suffering of Christ to get a picture of His complete sacrifice.

I've never finished Dan Brown's book and I have read very little of the debate that surrounds it. My gathering is that "proof" is discovered in this book, against all odds and an evil albino monk, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and one or more children resulted from their union. This is not unlike the portrayal of the tempations Christ may have suffered on the cross in Martin Scorsese's film. What remains to be seen is if there is a true difference between "exploring possibilities" and "declaring truths" within fiction or film. Is one a heresy? Are both? Does it matter?

The Unit

Emma and Allison are like a unit that has always been together. Every day they become closer and closer. It's a sweet thing to watch.

Tonight we went to Burger King for dinner. Emma picked the restaurant. Apparently, just with Taco Bell, Charlie likes to eat there. It just so happens that our local Burger King has a small outdoor play area. I'm not sure how, but I got them to eat inside the restaurant first. I was going to get a highchair for Ally, but as soon as Emma sat in the booth Ally pointed at the spot next to her and said, "Sit." [I am happy - and a little sad - to report that Ally no longer begins the word sit with a "sh" sound] I figure why not give it a try. You know what, they did really well sitting next to each other. They ate really well and stayed put for the most part. It was fun for me, too. You get visions of what's to come at those times.

Just before we threw our trash away, Emma asked Allison, "Are you my Sweetie Pie?" Ally got a twinkle in her eye, shook her head and said, "No." Even Emma knew she didn't mean it.

Both girls ran into the play area like they'd been forced to sit all day. Emma waited for Ally to go down the double-sided slide and they both yelled, "Whee!" I really wished that I had my camera. There was a gradual set of stairs to the slide area and a traditional playground type set of stairs. As soon as Emma tried out the more upright set, Ally would have it no other way. I stood behind her each time, but she really didn't need me. She handles stairs like a champ. When Emma walked up the slide, Allison walked up the slide. I couldn't believe my eyes. That girl can keep up when she sets her mind to it.

Our beautiful Unit is going to have a lot of fun growing up. Hopefully they'll choose to use their powers for the good. I hate to think what will happen to Danny and me if they ever try to gang up on us...

You Had Me at “Tay”

Ever since I’ve gotten back from Las Vegas, Allison has really started touching me with her words. It happens mostly when she awakes in the night and wants to come into bed. I’m not exactly sure what this says about me, but I’m thankful that my attempt to teach her to sleep through the night by herself never went anywhere.

Not too long after I went to bed the first night back, Allison started to stir. Typically when this happens, I lie perfectly still and try not to breathe. It is inevitable that she’ll end up in the bed at some point during the night. Still, I like to get a little sleep under my belt beforehand. She didn’t cry or even whine. She just said, “Momma.” I’m not sure how to capture her tone in words. It was a combination of question, longing and trust. It’s funny how so much can be communicated with just one word. Now how do you turn that down? I got her out of her crib and held her close to me for a minute before I went back into the bed. I slept very well that night.

Tuesday night Ally started to cry just as I was getting ready to go to bed. I walked into the room and her crying stopped. I said, “Ally, I will get you after I put on my jammies.” In the dark of the room she replied, “Tay.” It just warmed my heart. I’m not really sure why. Thinking back on it, it was actually a pathetic kind of response – the response of a child not immediately getting what she wants but agreeing to be patient only as long as necessary. In the end, she still started whimpering because I apparently didn’t undress and redress fast enough. Maybe it touched me so much because she’s at the age where she’s beginning to more effectively express her likes, her dislikes, and small amounts of frustration to those around her. I feel like we’re at the same crossroads. The love I have for her – the love that has been there all along – is finally being made known to me. The disconnect I have been living with since her birth is starting to fade away, allowing the language of my heart to rise over the once constant din in my brain.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Our Shady Tree's Ode to Amazing MommyBloggers

I am coming a little late to Her Bad Mother’s contest to love the heck out of other MommyBloggers you call friends. Over the past 19 months, I’ve experienced the worst lows of my life. The upside to that is that I’ve discovered just how lucky I am. Blogging and reading other blogs has been therapeutic. I’m not sure what I would have done without them. I’m adding my Ode to the post-Mother’s Day week celebration of marvelous mommies who inspire me and make me glad to be human, a woman, a mommy, a sister and a friend.

I might never have started my blog without the example of Trista. Danny had a blog and even encouraged me to create my own. Still, it wasn’t until I visited Team M.E.A.T. for the first time that I began to grasp the importance and fun of what I now know as MommyBlogging. She has been my best friend for more than a decade. I can never honestly doubt that God exists or that God loves me because of her. She is honest, hilarious, loyal, caring and a joy. We experienced the ups and downs of adoption and first-time motherhood together. We’ve experienced the surprise and tribulations of unexpectedly soon second time motherhood (hers more unexpectedly sooner than mine – HA!). When Danny’s father had an emergency double bypass surgery just a few weeks before Ally’s due date, she came to my rescue. Since Ally’s birth, she’s always been there with support and has never once made me feel like a burden – although I’m most certain I have been. Last but not least, she has an awesome MommyBlog. If you are unfamiliar with adoption you will learn a lot. Abby and Ethan are so very close to my heart. I’ve never been so honored as I was the day that Danny and I were asked to be Ethan’s godparents. I love you with all my heart, Trista!

Blogging seems to have a domino effect. I started my blog after Trista. My sister, Donielle, started her blog – Triple Happiness – after seeing mine. Donielle’s blog details the life of a multi-cultural family. Her husband, Peter, is from China. Together they made one beautiful little girl named Sophia. There is five years between Donielle and I. We fought a lot as kids, but grew closer after I went away to college. She’s the only person other than Danny with whom I’ve shared a bedroom. How much closer can you get? I would love Donielle and want to be her friend even if we weren’t related. It’s nice to be able to feel that way about your siblings. I know that not every one does. Most recently I love the fact that we get to be MommyBloggers together. I never expected to be having children with my siblings because of the age differences. Thankfully life usually doesn’t go along as expected. Because of the distance between me and my family, blogging has helped us maintain contact and see each other’s children grow up. Even though you’ve known a person for almost 30 years, it is surprising what you find out by reading each other’s blogs.

Keeping it all in the family, Trista’s husband’s sister Tracy has a wonderful blog about her family. Her children are precious and looking at Lana is like seeing baby Tracy all over again. I remember very well when she was just a tiny baby – and I mean tiny. There is a picture that I have etched in my memory that was taken when Tracy was less than a year old. I have always had a pretend love-hate relationship with Tracy’s father. We tease each other mercilessly. In this picture, I am jumping in the pool to splash Tracy’s dad and he’s wagging his finger warning me not to. Tracy’s mom is in the background holding Tracy. I will say again that she was so tiny. There were many times I would be holding Ally on my hip like Tracy’s mom and I would stop and think, “This must be what it was like to hold Tracy.” Tracy has the most spirit of anyone I know. She was in my youth group and we had so much fun together. I hope that my girls are like her. It’s hard for me to believe that she’s a wife and mother now. Isn’t she still in high school? We both have moved away from our families and that is a bond that we share now. I remember well how it felt those first few years after I moved to Virginia. I read some of Tracy’s posts and I am right there with her. I hope that when it feels that way that she knows that she’s not alone.

Danny is an only child, but he did have a friend growing up that comes as close to being his brother than anyone else – Daniel. Luckily for me, Daniel married a wonderful woman who I get the pleasure of calling my friend – Melissa. She homeschools Jack and Katrina and they are the sweetest and most polite children you’ll ever meet. I really respect the way they are raising their children and blending their family. Her children are slightly older than mine. Watching the way she parents them gives me confidence in myself. I can’t tell you how good it feels to know that other mothers have had similar experiences and have survived to tell the tale. Her friendship and advice has meant so much to me.

Although I’d like to think otherwise, Trista’s life continued on after I moved to Virginia. In order to be closer to Mark, she moved away from Grand Rapids as well. It is there that she met Jenny, the friend I’ve never met in person. Trista must have told her about my blog. One day out of the blue she responded to one of my posts about Allison’s birth. I am so thankful. I don’t know what else to say. She, like Tracy and I before her, followed Trista’s example and started a blog about her family. I hope that someday we can finally meet in person. Until then, it’s just nice to know that she’s out there planning scrapbooking weekends with Trista.

Over the past few months, Kary has been an important part of my life. At one time we worked together. She still works with Danny. Danny mentioned my blog to her and the rest has been history. We’ve bonded over Weight Watchers at first, but we share a lot more in common than that. We are able to build each other up with our strengths and understand each others weaknesses. It always makes me happy to find an email from her waiting for me. Had I happened upon Her Bad Mother before Mother’s Day, I wouldn’t have been able to add Kary to my list. It’s as if it was meant to be. Kary Nation made its glorious d├ębut today. I’m looking forward to watching her blog evolve.

Our Shady Tree is proud to be part of the MommyBloggers sub-culture. Until last night I never knew that such a thing existed. It’s amazing the things you will uncover simply by clicking on the Next Blog button. If you haven’t lost hours doing that before, it’s well worth it. You might run into freaks but you just might find some friends that will soon become a part of your daily life.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Light on Snow

I hope that everyone had a wonderful, relaxing Mother’s Day.

My gift from my children and my husband was seeing “Mamma Mia” in Las Vegas. Still, I had a nice, leisurely day that felt so wonderful. During Allison’s nap I started reading a book entitled Light on Snow by Anita Shreve. I picked it back up after Allison went to sleep for the night. By the time I went to bed, I had finished the book. I cannot tell you the last time I read a book from start to finish in one day. It was a fabulous book and a good feeling.

Finishing that book got me thinking: it would be nice to have someone to talk to about it. I took that thought further and wished I could join a book club. With two young kids, I don’t know where I would find the time and opportunity to actually go to the club to join in on the conversation. Thankfully, the digital age makes things a little simpler for those of us home bound for one reason or the other. Would any of you be interested in picking a book, reading it by a scheduled time and then posting your thoughts in a blog? One person could be chosen to start first and then we can all add comments, etc… It wouldn’t be the same as sitting in the same room discussing the book face to face, but it will also be a lot harder to get side tracked talking about something else. If you’re up for the challenge, you know where to find me.

Emma’s “Little Cuties”

Emma has become obsessed with bugs – ants in particular. When we’re outside, you’re more likely to find her crouched down with her face near the ground than you are to see her walking upright. Saturday she spent a good 45 minutes in our yard in an area where there are/were a lot of ant hills. At one point she showed me the ants she had caught. There were three or four in the palm of her hand. Only one of them survived the trip from the ground to her hand uninjured. She was completely oblivious. She said, “Aren’t they so cute?” and asked me if I’d like to hold one because they “tickle.” Allison and I went inside first Saturday. Emma stayed outside while Danny put the toys away. He had to stop her from bringing the ants in the house. Emma tried to change his mind by calling them her “little cuties.” All of this has me thinking that Emma was either an aardvark or an exterminator in her previous life. Danny took her to Big Lots this weekend and found a magnifying toy that is used to watch/torture bugs. It looks like she’s well on her way to becoming an entomologist in this one.

Imitation of Big Sister

Allison is watching everything that Emma does. Last night during their bath, Emma started to wash herself. She’s really good at taking her own bathes and does not like any part of the bath that she cannot do herself (don’t ask about getting her hair washed). As Emma washes her body parts, Allison makes the same gesture on her own body. It is really cute. I told Emma that she was Allison’s teacher. Emma looked up at me and said, “I’m not a teacher.” I said, “Yes you are, look what you’ve taught Allison.” She wasn’t very impressed.

This morning, Allison was imitating Emma again – before Emma even woke up. Emma likes to pretend she’s a lot of different things right now – a dog, a cat, a baby, etc. While I was preparing my breakfast, Allison got down on all fours and started barking (she says “fuff” instead of “woof”). She crawled around and randomly barked. It was hilarious. While I was eating breakfast she added another dimension – she bent her face down to the floor and pretended to eat. I wish that we had our video camera out to capture that. It was too cute.

Speaking of video cameras, we’re buying a new one. It is a Digital 1.5" LCD Screen Camcorder. It is smaller and doesn’t take the quality of video of our current video camera. The advantage is its size. We really want to start capturing more of the kids growing up but we’re hindered by getting the bulky video camera, setting it up, etc… This is more like a digital camera. Once it arrives, we hope to post some videos on Ashamblesburg. We hope that you’ll be seeing more of Emma and Allison in streaming video very soon.

From the Mouths of Babes

There is a Taco Bell at the intersection we go through every day to leave daycare. In recent months, Emma has been pointing that out to me on an almost daily basis. The Friday before I left for Las Vegas, I decided to take the kids there to eat. This intersection is also the through way used to get to the local Wal-Mart. It would not be an understatement to say that this intersection is a zoo.

I drove to Taco Bell’s parking lot and got the kids out of the car. As we walked up to the door, I noticed that they do not accept Discover. Since my VISA was stolen, Discover is all that I have. On top of that, I had no cash. I took a second to prepare myself for a huge fight with Emma. I told her that we couldn’t eat there. Much to my surprise, she was not the least bit upset. She likes the pizza place in the strip mall connected to Wal-Mart and asked if we could go there instead. I was very relieved – until I tried to put Allison back into her car seat. Let’s just say it wasn’t going to happen. Despite the fact that the sky could have opened up at any second, I decided it would be easier to walk to the pizza place. Both girls ate well and were well behaved in the restaurant and on the walks back and forth to the car.

While I was in Las Vegas, Danny told Emma that I would pick the girls up from school after I got home. He also said that I would take them to Taco Bell. Much to Danny’s surprise, Emma told him that they weren’t going to Taco Bell “because Mommy doesn’t have the right card.” I have no idea how I explained why we couldn’t eat at Taco Bell that night, but I must have said something about not having the right card. Not much gets past Emma these days.

Luckily I did come back from Vegas with cash (how many people can say that?). We went to Taco Bell the next night. After all the talk about Taco Bell, neither girl would eat their tacos. They ate my pizza instead…

Friday, May 12, 2006

I’ve Been Subpoenaed

Earlier this year my VISA card was stolen. As this was not the main card that I used, I didn’t notice that it was gone until the credit card company called us about some suspicious charges. One of those charges was for over $4,000. Danny and I worked with the credit card company to detail what was and what was not a valid charge. They credited our account for everything that we did not purchase.

A couple of months after this took place, I received a voice mail message from a police officer asking if I was the Jennifer [middle initial] [last name] from whom a credit card had been stolen. Wouldn’t you know that there are at least three other Jennifers with the same middle initial and last name in our area. I called him back and informed him that I was this person. It turns out that my credit card was stolen from a local car wash by an 18 year old. He never gave me my card back after I paid for my gas and car wash. This young man then enticed a minor young man to make the felony purchases using my card. When the last attempt to use my card was denied, they burned it. They got caught because they discussed what they had done within earshot of a teacher. That teacher contacted the police officer who called me.

Danny and I met with this police officer at the police station later the next week. Although we were not at fault, it was a little nerve racking to be interviewed by a police officer. I would have been really nervous if Danny wasn’t there with me. He took all of our information and our contact at the credit card company. He said that he would be in contact with us as the case developed.

Our interview took place as long as two months ago. Until this week, we hadn’t heard a word from the police officer. We did receive a form from the Commonwealth asking us to state any loses we incurred and file that with the judge for compensation. As we did not incur any financial loss, we didn’t fill anything out. The form didn’t specify when the trial was, either.

When I got home from Las Vegas, we went to the backyard to play with the kids. The subpoena was rubber banded to the back door knob. Why it was left there, we’re not sure. It didn’t seem like the most likely place for us to find it. The Commonwealth requested that I appear in court on May 15th. If I hadn’t been so exhausted from my trip, I probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep that night. I know that I did nothing wrong, but the thought of giving testimony and being cross examined scares the daylights out of me. I watch too much Law and Order.

It’s a good thing that I didn’t lose any sleep over the subpoena because the Commonwealth’s Attorney called me at work on Thursday. She called me to let me know that I would not be needed that day. They were going straight to the defendant’s plea. I won’t be needed unless he pleads not guilty. I told the Commonwealth’s Attorney that Danny handled most of the aftermath of the theft. She set my mind at ease when she told me that my testimony would consist of claiming ownership of the stolen card and indicating that I had not given the defendant authorization to use the card. I think that I can handle that. If this case, which is against the 18 year old, goes to trial, it will be sometime in June or July. The Commonwealth’s Attorney did tell me that I would soon be receiving a subpoena for the minor’s hearing. This could prove to be an interesting summer.

Vegas in a Nutshell

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed Las Vegas. The conference was educational and enjoyable. The other attendees that I met were very helpful to me – especially as we are looking into purchasing new “tools of the trade.” Thankfully I attended this conference before we purchased anything. It was definitely enriching to me where I am today and where I want to go in the future. I attended several seminars that discussed Usability Engineers. At first I thought “Usability Engineer” sounded like a made up job; but, the more I learned, the more inspired I became. I’m not sure how to get there, but I’m going to head in that direction.

The “fun” part of the trip was just that and more. I have not slept less since Allison was a newborn. Actually, Allison probably let me get more sleep. I didn’t worry too much about that because I didn’t go to Las Vegas to sleep.

Monday night, after my seminars, we ate at the Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay. It was hands down the best burger I’ve ever had. We then went to “Mamma Mia.” It was a lot of fun – especially the first half and the finale at the end. We were singing along to “Dancing Queen” and dancing in our seats. We then visited other casinos and walked through their shops. I have never seen so many high end shops in one place in my entire life. You don’t shop on the Strip on a budget. It’s a good thing I’m not at my goal weight. There were so many gorgeous outfits in every window. (Un)fortunately none of those stores sold anything in my size. Our bank account was saved. The Bellagio was so beautiful. The flower garden was a sight to behold. The “dancing water show” outside was spectacular.

Tuesday I had the opportunity to get in some pool time. I used sun screen liberally but that was not enough. I am a lobster. I don’t know what other way to describe myself. The pain and itching I’m experiencing now reminds me of the rest and relaxation I experienced at the pool. I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to sunbathe.

Tuesday night we toured other casinos on the Strip. We went to the Venitian and Caesar’s Palace. We did our gambling at Caesar’s Palace. I ended up making 25%, but that only added up to $6.25. At one point I won $15. I should have stopped right then and there. Oh well…

Along with everyone else, Jeanne and I found ourselves eating dinner at 2am EST (11pm Vegas time) like there was nothing unusual about it. Tuesday night we ate at Mon Ami GABI in Paris on the patio. It was a perfect view of the Bellagio and we were able to watch the water show five times. The food was excellent and it was such a relaxing time.

We weren’t able to get to the Golden Nugget like I’d hoped. There just wasn’t enough time. I’ll have to save that for another trip. If I was there another day we could have, but I was ready to go home when I did. Las Vegas is definitely a land of sensory overload.

There were only two down sides to my trip – you couldn’t get a Diet Coke anywhere and my delayed flight to Roanoke. It is a sure sign that you are, in fact, in a land of sin when you couldn’t find a Diet Coke to save your life. I was anticipating racking up a lot of Coke Rewards (those lovely red caps) while I was gone. I only have about 266 more caps to collect before I earn my six can mini Coke refrigerator for work. Oh well… Las Vegas was no help for that. My flight out of Atlanta was delayed due to maintenance. Instead of getting in around 5pm, we got in about quarter to 6. I was hoping to be able to pick the girls up from daycare but it wasn’t meant to be. I still would have been able to meet the girls at daycare, but it took 25 minutes for our luggage to be unloaded. That was a long 25 minutes because I wanted to see my family. It all worked out in the end. Danny and I arrived home at the same time. The family was just as happy to see me as I was to see them.

Emma, Allison and their “Special Surprises”

Emma was excited to see what her special surprise was the minute she saw me. I was excited for her reaction, too. I got a Paris themed magnet story board for her. It was for Gigi and Jacque – two dog friends. It is something I would have loved when I was a little girl. When I pulled it out of the suitcase, I did not get the reaction I was anticipating. Instead Emma said, “I don’t want that!” She crossed her arms across her chest. “You’re not my best friend.” Apparently she was expecting candy or something to eat. I have some work to do teaching her about graciously receiving gifts. I had also bought both girls a bouncy ball with the Eiffel tower inside. Both girls were excited about that. Then, I pulled out an Olivia the pig pail for Allison. She just looked at it and then walked away.

The moral to this story is to only buy the cheap toys. They’ll think you’re the best parent in the world and it will save you $20.

Thankfully I got one gift right – Danny absolutely loves his Tiramisu chocolate balls.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Gay Pari

I am here in Vegas at the Paris hotel and loving every minute. My first conference isn't until 11am Vegas time so I'm checking in while I have the chance. We got in last night/this morning around 1am Eastern Standard time. I got a second wind that lasted until I finished unpacking. I had the most wonderful peanut butter crepes for breakfast this morning. It was so rich that I'm going to have to save my chocolate/peanut meringue for later. Tough situation, eh?

I had a great flight from Atlanta to Vegas. I sat next to someone who could very easily be Danny's best friend. I took out my MP3 player just as he was taking out his and we spent a good 2 and a half hours listening to what each other has. It certainly made the long flight tolerable. He very much complimented Danny's taste in music and we spent a lot of time talking about early 80s music in Athens. He went to law school in Athens and saw a lot of cool bands. I turned him on to Miracle Legion and the Veils. He introduced me to Luna, Morcheeba and a few other bands that I can't remember anymore. It was nice. I wish that Danny could have met him. I found out the name of his business and I'm going to send him a link to Danny's podcast.

I have a pretty full day of conferences today and I'm looking forward to meeting my peers and getting some new ideas. After that, we're off to Mandalay for dinner at Burger Bar and to see "Mamma Mia". I am so excited!

I talked to Danny this morning and he and the girls are doing well. While he was getting ready this morning, Emma was pushing Ally around in a baby doll stroller. Periodically she was handing her toys, too. I'm glad that they are doing well.

I'm loving life here at the Paris. I'll post again tomorrow.

Au Revoir!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Easter Egg Hunt

We had a great time at the Easter Egg Hunt the day before Easter. It was held at the Baptist Church that Allison's daycare teacher attends. We finally got the pictures back to show it.

Emma is a seasoned veteran this year.

We thought the way that Ally held and picked up her basket was so adorable. She didn't take long to figure out how Easter Egg hunts work.

Happy sisters with their full Easter baskets.

Isn't She Lovely?

Danny tried to take a picture of Allison in natural light, but the flash went off. I think this picture is really cute anyway.

Vegas, Baby!

Sunday I leave for a technical writer’s conference in Las Vegas. I am getting so excited! I am staying at Paris Las Vegas and it looks spectacular. There is a courtyard type area with people dressed up in period Parisian costumes and a reproduction of the Eiffel Tower. I was initially going by myself and figured that I would probably just spend my free time alone. It would still be nice to have a break from routine, but not necessarily a lot of fun. When Jeanne, my friend from work, found out that I was going, she asked to join me. Her beach vacation that she had planned didn’t work out and she had just the right number of vacation days left. I told her that she might get bored because I would be in seminars from 8:30 to 5 and she said, “So what? I’ll be at the pool.” Enough said. Since my hotel room is for two people, it is a relatively inexpensive vacation for her. I think we’re going to have a great time together.

We just booked tickets to see “Mama Mia” – the Abba musical - on Monday night. I think that it is going to be fabulous. Did I say I was so excited??? I’m also planning on going to downtown to Frank Sinatra’s Vegas. My Grandma used to go to the Golden Nugget and bring us back their used decks of cards. I always liked that. I’m definitely going to go there and gamble a little. I know that Grandma will be there in spirit – and you know that I’ll be buying some of those cards, too.

Viva, Las Vegas!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I've Finally Been Begged to SING!

There is one lone person in this world who actually begs to hear me sing – Ally. We had watched a Wiggles DVD on Sunday morning and for the rest of the day I would bust out in song (“Who’s that in the garden / Eating all our red, red Roses? / It’s Dorothy!”). I couldn’t get that song out of my head. That evening, Ally and I were sitting on the couch and I started singing the Dorothy the Dinosaur song. After a few minutes, Ally said, “Sing.” It took me a second to figure out what she was saying. This was the first time she used that word. So, I started to sing about Dorothy again. I didn’t get very far before she said, “No.” I asked her what she wanted me to sing and she said, “Sun.” Her daycare class has apparently been singing a song that I have learned by watching Barnie. I have no idea what the name of this song is, but here’s how it goes:

”Mr. Sun, sun, Mr. Golden Sun
Please shine down on me.
Oh, Mr. Sun, sun, Mr. Golden Sun
Hiding behind a tree.
These little children are asking you
To please come out so we can play with you.
Oh, Mr. Sun, sun, Mr. Golden Sun
Please shine down on me.”

So I started singing the song. Her face lit up as I sang. She even joined in when I sang “sun” and “please”. She really likes this song. I must have sung it ten times before she wanted to play something else.

Although the tempation is there, I am not letting this sudden interest in my singing go to my head. One person’s opinion out of several billion doesn’t amount to much - even if she is my own daughter. Toddlers are the most discerning critics. Besides, in no time she’ll take after her big sister and beg me to stop singing. I'll enjoy my moments in the "sun" now, though.

"Side! Side!"

It’s that time of year when the kids are clamoring to spend time outside. It’s even more fun this year because Allison is getting into the act. If she even hears the word outside she starts demanding “Side! Side!” until you can’t take it anymore. In case you’re wondering, when Ally says side it never means inside.

Monday night after dinner we went out on our deck. Each of the girls took a ball with them and we had a lot of fun playing out there. The girls were giggling and screeching. Toward the end of the evening, Emma wanted to play the stop and go game. I had no idea that they were playing games like that yet. So I started saying “green light go” and “red light stop” over and over again. Both girls had a blast with that. Emma took a few seconds to stop each time and Ally seemed to get go and stop mixed up from time to time. She just thought it was great to be running around with Emma. Ally also like yelling “Go!” and “Fwap!” At some point I stopped saying go and stop. Emma went back to playing with her ball. The next thing I know, Ally is tugging on my pants. When I looked down at her, she yelled “Fwap!” That was so darn cute. I couldn’t help but play with her again.

Jenny, a friend I haven’t yet met, commented on one of my posts that no one remembers being born, but we do remember how we were mothered (and fathered). I thought about that as dragged the kids back in the house against their will. Those are the memories I want Emma and Ally to have of our family. The best part is that those memories are fun for everyone.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Introducing Emma to Adoption

From the very beginning, before Emma ever existed to us, Danny and I decided that we always wanted our child to know where he/she came from. We didn’t ever want that information to come as a shock to him/her. We didn’t want our child to grow up feeling ashamed of his/her roots. We feel that keeping that a secret from the child at any point would give that impression. That being said, it’s not something we plan on dwelling upon, either. A child’s birth into a family, no matter how that happens, is an important part of that child’s history, but it is certainly not the only thing. The challenge is to give the right amount of information at the right time in the best way for your child.

Shortly after Emma’s third birthday I decided it was time to start talking with her specifically about her adoption. She’s getting to an age now where she is curious about the differences between boys and girls, being a mommy and even about death. She uses her baby doll, Kelsey, to work through much more complex issues than I would have expected at such an early age. If she is exploring the concept of death, I felt that she was ready to learn more about what adoption is and how she became part of our family.

One afternoon she started talking about how babies grow in a mommy’s tummy and then eat from the mommy’s breasts. She continued to say that Allison grew in my tummy and that she did, too. I decided that was the right moment. I told her that she grew in E’s tummy. She said, “No I didn’t. I grew in your tummy.” I told her that I wished that she did grow in my tummy and then reminded her of the pictures we have of her when she was growing in E’s tummy. She started to get upset so I changed the subject. It didn’t bother her for long. As soon as the subject changed, she was running around like normal. I hoped that I had done the right thing.

A couple of weeks ago I had another opportunity to talk with Emma about her adoption. At the library, we ran into J, our social worker during the adoption process. We chatted for a little while and Emma asked who she was. I told her that J was our big helper when we adopted her. We continued to talk with J for a little while and that was it. I don’t know if she understood or not. She didn’t say anything about it and eventually ran over to the video section.

Last night, on the way home from work, Emma was full of conversation. I can’t remember now just how the conversation turned toward talk of adoption, but it did. Emma said, “Allison grew in your tummy and I grew in E’s tummy. I wish that I grew in your tummy.” I said, “I wish that you grew in my tummy, too. But, the most important thing is that we are together now.” I reached back and started to tickle her leg. We both laughed and the conversation moved on to other news from her day. Although she seemed upset by the thought a few months ago, she had been listening and she’s starting to understand. I was happy with the way that I responded to her. I want our talks about her beginnings to be natural. I’m sure that there will be many serious discussions about it as she gets older, but I want the gravity of those discussions to be initiated by her.

When I told Danny about it last night I got a little chocked up. I so much want Emma to grow up confident in who she is and where she came from. I want her to know that she was adopted in love on both sides of her family. Her birth family loves her so much and they chose adoption because they wanted her to have a mommy and a daddy who loved her and cared for her in ways that they couldn’t at the time she was born. Her adoptive family is just so thrilled and excited to have her in our lives. Our family would never be complete without her. Most of all, I want her to know that Danny and I couldn’t love her one bit more if she did grow in my tummy. She is just as much of a miracle to us as Allison. Each member of our family is unique and has a special story about how they entered our family. The most special thing is that we are a family. I hope that both of my girls grow up knowing that.

Long and Winding Road

My Weight Watchers leader sent me a postcard about a month ago saying that weight loss is a “long and winding road.” That is so true. Right now, there’s more wind to my journey than anything else. Four times since November I’ve reached a certain weight and then something happens. Then, I have to work my way back to this certain weight. That happened again last week. I took off the vacation weight and got to X weight. Now I’m most assuredly above that. It could all be a coincidence, but it doesn’t really matter. Somehow I need to break through that barrier. I’m going to try something else.

There are many ways to see your weight loss success than just the number on the scale. This is something that I know, but that scale trumps all other signs. I think that just about every dieter I’ve ever met says the same thing. You can get a good amount of exercise in, stay in complete control of your eating, notice that your clothes are loose – even straight out of the dryer – and feel great. But, the moment you step on that scale and the number does not equate with success you feel horrible. This is part of what can make being a Weight Watcher hard. The first thing you do at your meeting is weigh in.

I have made a commitment to get regular exercise. Not only do I need to do this to enhance weigh loss, I need to do this to improve my mood and to feel strong again. For the month of May, exercise is going to be my focus. In order to give that my complete concentration, I’m not going to use my home scale – not even once. I am going to all of my Weight Watcher meetings, but I’m going to turn my back to the read out screen and keep my member booklet in my membership folder. That way I cannot see what the scale said or be tempted to take a peek later. My rationality is that if I don’t see what the scale says, I won’t know when I’ve reached that magic number that I cannot shake. That should take out the mental component. In place of watching the scale, I’m going to look at my measurements. I took my measurements this morning. I’m planning on taking them again on the 15th and the 29th. I will use those as a measure of how my efforts are paying off. I am hoping that when I see my weigh in on May 31st that it will only serve to back up the changes I’m seeing instead of amplifying or negating them.

Looking at your weekly weigh over a month’s period instead of week by week can also clue you in to patterns that might exist. Perhaps it takes a week or two before results show up on the scale. When you’re not living weigh in to weigh in, you can look at those things more rationally. I no longer want to eat, not eat, exercise or not exercise because of what I’ll see on the scale. I want to do those things to reestablish a healthy lifestyle. In the long run, that attitude will straighten out the path I’m on because my motivation will be in the correct place. If making this change takes off some of the pressure, I’ll continue this every month. I am an impatient person by nature, but even I can hold off on the “instant gratification” when it keeps me healthier and happier.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Shoe Shocked!

I bought some new shoes yesterday. It was the first time I have gone shoe shopping since my pregnancy. I have noticed that many of my shoes felt loose after I went back to work, but I figured that my feet stretched them during my pregnancy. Still, I decided not to buy any more until absolutely necessary. Friday, the sole of my black dress shoes gave out and I didn’t have anything at home to replace them. Off to Payless I went.

I always shop for shoes at Payless for two reasons: the shoes are affordable and they carry my size – 9 ½ Wide. Regular stores either don’t carry wide width shoes or, when they do, they are for the severely elderly and very expensive. Payless always has something for me, even if I have to go up to a size 10 Regular. I found a nice pair of shoes as soon as I got there. I tried them on and I almost fell over when I tried to walk. They were too big. That surprised me. I found the same pair in 9 Wide. Those were too wide. My feet were slipping around inside. Size 9 Regular fit like a glove. To make sure that this was not a fluke – and to take advantage of their BOGO sale, I tried on another pair of dress shoes. Same thing. My feet have shrunk!

If I weren’t wearing said pair of size 9 Regular shoes right now, I would think I was dreaming. I have heard that women’s feet can get larger as a result of pregnancy. I have had the opposite luck. Whoo Hoo! A couple more pregnancies and I’ll be a size 6 Narrow. I can hardly wait. Yes, I am checking to see if Danny is reading this.

There was more joy in my shoe shopping experience yesterday. I had my two munchkins with me. Emma was very interested in helping me pick out shoes. She must pay a lot of attention to the shoes that other women wear. She kept picking shoes out of the box and saying, “Mommy, do you want these? [Becci] [Jeanne] has some just like it!” She reminded me in a way of that American Express commercial with the woman who thinks the stranger is complementing her shoes when she's actually complimenting her twins. Allison was pulling shoes out, too, but not to show them to me. She liked to toss them on the floor and move on to another box. She would put them back when I told her to, but I had to check because she put them wherever it was convenient. Just as I was about ready to pay, Emma told me she had to use the potty. The store does not have a public restroom so I asked the clerk to hold my shoes. She told me that O’Charley’s was probably our best bet. I turned around to leave and Allison was gone. When I called for her, I heard a little chuckle. I walked over to the farthest aisle and there she was holding two twelve packs of men’s socks. Just as I got to her, she dropped on pack of socks and then took off running. She must have figured that two packs would have slowed her down. Boy did she squeal as Emma and I ran after her. If we weren’t in public, I would have been laughing myself silly. That girl loves to be chased. In a chase she can cut corners like the Keystone Cops. It looks like she’s defying gravity. I love it. Thankfully we were able to catch Ally, put the socks back where they belonged and get Emma to a potty on time. I guess I owe O’Charley’s a lunch.