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!