Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Even Reading to Your Children Can Be a Problem Sometimes

Every Saturday morning we have a young woman come to the house to watch the girls so we can get things done around the house. E is currently working on a MFA in Writing Children’s Literature. She let us borrow some books to read to the girls. These books were amazing even though they were a little above Emma and Allison’s comprehension level. One of the most interesting and creative of those books was The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman. I loved reading the book. The illustrations were great. I think children would have even more fun reading it themselves because of the way it is put together.
As much as I enjoyed reading the book, it posed a parenting problem that I wasn’t anticipating. At one point during the book, a brother gets mad at his sister and torments her by telling her that she was adopted. I was on a roll and read through it without before I had a chance to think about it. I immediately looked over at Emma while I continued to read. She didn’t have any reaction this time. The next time I read that book, I can easily skip over that part. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that Emma isn’t always going to be in the company of people sensitive to adoption issues. They will not know to insert something else or to avoid it all together. Even then, Emma will one day soon be able to read herself. I won’t be able to review everything she reads to make sure that it is adoption friendly. Emma is going to hear someone refer to adoption as an insult.
As much as I want to shield her from the ugliness in this world, sheltering her would hurt her more in the long run. She is going to have to learn to come to terms with adoption in general just as she will have to come to terms with her own experience. The same is true for me. I wonder if it would be the correct thing to do to skip or substitute unflattering references to adoption. Should I protect her from that or use it as a teaching moment when she gets older? She’s too young to catch on to what was read yet. When that time comes, should I bring it up myself or wait for her. Not saying anything about such literary references lead her to believe that I agree with those statements or don’t care about her feelings? Would saying something make an issue where this isn’t one for her?
I’m unsure of how to handle this. Has anyone else come across this before? If so, how did you handle it? If not, I would really appreciate your thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Even Closer to Home

There were five other couples in our adoption home study group. Our common struggles and hopes for having a family brought us close together. L & M were the first of us to bring a child home. E, their son, was such a beautiful baby and is now such a handsome little boy. I knew that Lisa worked for Virginia Tech. She took that job after E was born. She was so excited about it. One of her responsibilities is planning the tail gate parties before home football games. I called her and left a message to make sure that she was okay. I didn’t hear back from her; but, since I didn’t know exactly where she worked, I wasn’t worried.

This morning I received an email from her at work. She worked at Norris Hall and was there when that hell was unleashed there Monday morning. I’ve read and heard many first hand accounts of that day, but this was written to me from my friend. My feelings are so conflicted. I wish to God that I knew where she worked so I could have taken off work and gotten down there to help with E and do whatever M might have needed. On the other hand, if I had known I’m not sure how I could have lived waiting to hear from her.

Some of you know that it was my building (Norris Hall) that was under attack and some don't so please bear with me as I try to write you an email......my hands are trembling. It's been so traumatic and I think more and more of the events that took place are hitting us worse now than when it happened on Monday…

Our office met yesterday on campus and although it was really hard to go on campus, after seeing everyone and knowing they were okay, I really think it helped with some of the pain we are going through right now …

This morning we are going in the building to get some essential things and I ask that you pray for each of us. I say now that I think I can do it but of course don't know what will happen once I get to the building. …I almost feel the need to stand in front of the building and let it all out.

Our building will be closed for a long time… we don't want to go back and hope it will be torn down. I don't know when I will feel safe again.

Also pray for E… He has been traumatized not only by the Morva incident and now this. First thing Monday when I didn't pick him up as usual and when he overheard M tell someone that it was my building..... he asked M was I killed…

Please continue to pray for us and the families.........

Last night I checked Drudge. I went to the link about the package the killer (he doesn’t deserve to have his name used or remembered) sent to NBC. I don’t know why I didn’t expect something similar to what I saw, but I was shocked when I saw the picture he had taken of himself in that jacket with guns in both hands. I gasped and choked at the same time. This sick b@st*rd created a life and image for himself to be known by after his finished his sadistic rampage by wimping out and taking his own life. It made me sick to know that I was seeing what those poor men and women saw in their final moments. I had to turn away from the news report – the same reaction I have when watching movies with torture in them.

Knowing now that my friend was in the same building with that maniac only intensifies my disgust. Right now I don’t care that he was troubled or had a terrible childhood. I don’t care who the “you” he mentioned in that tape was – if his words can be believed in the first place. I hate what he has done to all of his victims and family. I want to spit in his face. Actually, I want to do worse. Mostly, I want him to be forced to watch the scene of the 4 year-old boy I once had the pleasure of cradling in my arms asking his father if his mommy got killed.

In my heart I know those thoughts are useless. They are simply an extension of wanting to lash out and being unable to do so. In my anger and disgust last night and again this morning, I have reminded myself that he was someone’s son. As much as I might take heart in the image of him standing in front of a wrathful God, I implore the Loving God caring now for the dead and grieving to care for him as well. More than anyone else, Cho Seung-Hui needs the mercy and forgiveness of his Father.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We Are Virginia Tech!

You cannot destroy our spirit. You cannot kill our souls.

Man, you just lost my vote

I wondered which of the 2008 presidential hopefuls would take the tragedy that took place at Virginia Tech and attempt to make some political capital. I must say, though, that I'm outraged at the way in which this happened. Comparing the sadistic slaughter of innocent lives to the "verbal abuse" of Dom Imus? Is he serious? Is he so lost inside of his own intellect that he cannot see reality for what it is? Was he concerned about the two days of in your face media coverage he "lost?" WTF?


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Outside of Blacksburg I doubt that there is no place more dedicated and devoted to Virginia Tech than the Roanoke Valley. Traffic is a mess during the football season when there is a Hokie home game and there is no where you can turn where you don’t see a Virginia Tech flag, car magnet, sticker, or article of clothing. One of my wonderful neighbors played for VT in his day and you can’t help but get in the Hokie spirit when you see his house decorated for the football season.

Just as the jubilation of winning a championship reverberates throughout my adopted hometown, yesterday’s tragedy filled us with terror and sadness. Three of my co-workers have children studying at VT. I called them to make sure that their children were okay. Thankfully, they were. I wasn’t the only one frantically making phone calls. It breaks my heart to know that not all of those phone calls met with the same relief I experienced. During my lunch break yesterday I went to a local mall to walk with a friend. The mall is usually full of activity. It was shockingly somber there. It was so quiet that we overheard a young woman on the phone trying to find information on a friend or loved one.

Unlike with the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, and September 11, I have always been a safe distance physically and emotionally from the tragedies. This is not to say that I didn’t mourn for my fellow citizens and their families. I most definitely did. It’s just that then I could not possibly fathom the affect such a violent tragedy has on the greater community. Southwest Virginia, which includes Blacksburg/Christiansburg and the Roanoke Valley, is a tight knit community. It seems that we can’t leave the house without running into someone we know or someone who knows us through a common friend. It was in this way that the Virginia Tech Massacre has hit home most directly for me.

I received an email this morning from L, a dear young woman I have twice hired as a contractor. She is the first person I have mentored as a technical writer and I’m very proud of where she’s taken her career. One of the first things I learned about L, other than that she is Greek and proud, is that she is an avid and dedicated member of VT’s Tae Kwon Do club. Even though L’s no longer a student at VT, she was voted to be the club’s treasurer this year. The whole club was like an extended family to her. L emailed to let me know that she is safe. Unfortunately, two of her fellow Tae Kwon Do club members were killed in the massacre. L lost two sisters yesterday. I grieve for them because I grieve for Leslie. Her world, like that of so many others, will never be the same. There is nothing I can say or do to change that.

I truly feel as though I am living figuratively and literally in the valley of the shadow of death. For how many students and facility will it be impossible now not to fear evil when they walk into classrooms or enter their dormitories? Who will feel safe this spring as the community attempts to celebrate graduation? How many parents now dread to leave or keep their children away at college – not because they are leaving the nest, but because they are scared that they might be killed? When will the fear of evil leave Blacksburg?

President Bush invoked our loving God yesterday. I do as well when I pray that someday soon the green pastures of the beautiful campus and surrounding farm lands will be what people think about when Blacksburg is mentioned. I pray for the rest and restoration of all of our souls. Loving God, do not let the sadistic act of one disturbed young man destroy the beauty of your creation in Blacksburg.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Signing Off

I'm taking an extended vacation from blogging. I'm not sure when I'll post here or on The Jennifer Tree again. What I feel like writing most of the time I don't feel like making available to the world (boy, do I think highly of myself, eh?) I'm thinking that signals a time for introspection without considering what other people might say. I'll still be dropping by your blogs from time to time ~ just not as often as I used to. Feel free to send an email. I really would love to hear from you.

If you're just dying to read my writing, I will still be working on my 52 Books or Bust. I'm really enjoying that project and I'm always looking for suggestions on what to read next. Feel free to drop by anytime.

I love and appreciate you all. Have a happy spring.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Beware of the Baby Bear

When someone gets hurt at Emma and Allison’s daycare, the child is given a piece of ice wrapped in a paper towel or a sterile glove. So, when the girls get hurt at home, often they want to get one of the ice packs out of the freezer. The ice is rarely used for long. The mere presence of it seems to sooth them ~ or at least provides acknowledgement of their injury.

Last night, Emma twisted her ankle while dancing to a song and saying, “Mommy, can you do this?” Danny got her the pink kitty ice pack. Wouldn’t you know it, one of Allison’s boo boos from the other day started to hurt, too. When Danny went to get her some ice, Emma asked for the blue ice pack instead. It wasn’t long before she didn’t want it any more. After she gave it to me, I stuck it under her shirt. She didn’t appreciate this until after I did the same thing to Ally and Ally giggled.

After I put the ice on Emma’s neck so that she could giggle, I told her to “Go get Daddy.” Emma ran over there and put the ice pack on his back. He squealed and giggled and told Emma to “Go get Mommy.” When she didn’t, he ran over to me and put it down my shirt. It was a fun little game, but my reaction must have led Allison to believe that Danny had hurt me. She became very upset and told Danny to stop hurting me. She wasn’t in his face wagging her finger at him, but all of that was implied in her tone. We didn’t take this too seriously right away. She doesn’t like anyone to touch me that much. Danny and I can’t hug or talk in her presence without her trying to stop us. Even after we said that it was just play, she laid down on the couch and was very sad. It took a good deal of explaining and reassurance for her to feel better about what happened. Emma and Danny kept icing each other to help prove the point.

Momma Bear’s Baby Bear is a spunky one. She lets you know exactly what she thinks. It doesn’t matter if you are her parent, sibling, teacher, or friend. You will hear from her if you piss her off. If you start a fight, she’ll finish it. I wouldn’t mess with her Momma if I were you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Momma Bear

I am not what anyone would consider a confrontational person. Every personality test I’ve taken has indicated that I am a supportive person who finds consensus more valuable than fighting for my point of view. I am a Libra for crying out loud. My dad simply summed it up at one point by telling me that I am a “pleaser.”

That’s not the case when it comes to my children. We went to a birthday party at a local kids’ party place that is filled with giant bouncer equipment. My kids really enjoy themselves there. All of the children were running around going from one piece of equipment to the other. At one point, Allison was climbing in when a six or seven year old boy climbs right over her to get in first. I can’t be certain that he heard me, but I yelled at him to be careful of the littler children. Allison wasn’t hurt, but I decided to keep my eye on him. Later on, Emma, Allison and I were alone in the basketball bouncer. This child, we’ll call him Zack, came inside. The very first thing he did was try to shoot baskets that just so happened to be aimed at Emma or Allison, not the basket. I told him again that he needed to be careful. When the next shot hit Emma on the top of the head, I started using a tone of voice that the girls instantly recognized. They stood back. I told him to apologize to Emma for hitting her. When he smiled and said that it was just an accident, I told him that if he tossed a basketball anywhere near one of the girls again that I would bring him to one of the staff members personally to tell them what was going on. As it was, I was tempted to drag him out right then and there. I guess that he was smart enough to leave on his own two legs while he still could.

Since I work so closely to the daycare, when I drive to the other building or to Taco Bell to get a late lunch, I often get the pleasure of seeing Emma playing outside. Today, Emma was running away from Lexie and another Emma. I smiled until I realized that there must have been a reason that she was running away. Based on the way she batted them away when she reached the fence, they probably said something to hurt her feelings. Anyone who knows Emma knows that it is not difficult to hurt those feelings. Still, I wanted to stop my car and get out and find out what was going on. If it was something more than that, I would have some heads (extremely figuratively – these are four year olds, not smartass pre-teen boys named Zack).

If either of those things happened to me – and I know that they have many times, I wouldn’t respond at all. I wouldn’t get angry or be assertive to defend myself. But don’t you dare mess with my babies! This is a typical reaction of mothers across many if not most of the species populating this planet. You protect your young because they are your future. It’s a smart and brilliant instinct.

Now that I know that I have it in me to pounce if I have to, I think I’m going to practice it for myself. Those bastards that have been trying to drag me down had better watch their backs! I’d name them here, but I think I’ll keep the element of surprise and enjoy it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Slander and Libel Begins at Home

For quite some time now, Emma has been calling Allison “baby” or “Allycat” when she is mad at Ally or otherwise wants to get a rise out of her. Allycat is actually one of Allison’s nicknames, but for some reason, Emma’s not allowed to use it. Either baby or Allycat does the trick and has her crying that she’s not a baby or she’s not an allycat. You would think that Ann Coulter was in the house or something. The fact is, that Emma’s been able to get away with this more or less because Ally hadn’t learned the fine art of name-calling. As of yesterday, that has all changed.

I can’t recall what the argument was over yesterday, but it probably had to do something with a blanket or some other baby doll accessory. I was in the dining room and Danny was in the kitchen. When she’d had enough of Emma, Ally called her “Emma Booby.” Danny and I busted out laughing. We both knew that we should never laugh at name calling but we couldn’t help it. It hit us out of the blue and we could do nothing but laugh. We calmed down as quickly as we could and sent Allison to time out. Later that evening, however, Allison shouted “Emma Booby” in the living room again. We were prepared this time and thankfully didn’t laugh. Ahh. The things kids invent to call each other. I’m hoping that Ally heard another child use the word “booby,” but I wouldn’t be shocked if she came up with that one on her own.

Thus far, Emma hasn’t gotten upset yet. Ally’s been punished both times. Emma’s got such a sensitive spirit. It won’t take long before Allison has her crying uncle in the slander and libel department.

This got me thinking about the things my siblings and I called each other growing up. If I remember correctly, “poopbutt” was a favorite. It’s hilarious to think about now, but it sure hurt our feelings at the time. Do you care to share the words you used to defile your sibling’s names? I’d love to hear what else is out there.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Desert Flowers

Recently, both girls have been playing Mommy a lot. They love their babies, ask Danny and me to baby sit and help calm down a crying baby, change, dress, and even put them to sleep. As a sign of how mature she’s getting, last weekend Emma spent a good two and a half hours quietly caring for Kelsey and Alicia, her two babies. I’m sure that for Emma that some of this playacting is due to our recent visit with Aunt Donielle and her new cousin, Heidi. Still, a vast majority of the time she’s had to learn how a mother behaves and loves her children has come from her life with me. Based on what I’ve witnessed, I’ve done a decent job teaching them how to be a mommy. I also know that Danny has done a bang up job of teaching them how to love one another. Parenting skills, after all, are taught by both parents.

Allison has been increasingly more vocal about her love for me over the past month or so. She’ll come up out of nowhere and tell that she loves me. I can’t tell you how endearing that is. She tells me just about everyday, in referring to the trip to Chicago that she likes her “Mommy at home.” She comes up and asks specifically for a kiss and a hug. I absolutely love it. Sometimes as a parent I lament stages that Emma and Allison have grown out of. What I keep forgetting is that moving on means that bigger and better things are on their way. As much as I miss cuddling her to sleep, she couldn’t tell me that she loved me or wanted me to be at home with her.

Sometimes I also feel like I’ve been a less than adequate mother to my girls, especially during those long, dark days that aren’t all that far away in history. But Emma and Allison’s recent expressions of love for me and their love for their baby dolls feel to me like a sign that maybe I wasn’t as terrible of a parent that I thought I was. Also, children are surprisingly resilient creatures. They have an ease with forgiving and letting go that we seem to lose as adults. It’s as if they can see that adults are not perfect and accept that fact at face value. Perhaps if I looked at our every day lives in this way I would be more patient and much slower to anger when they act their age or try to assert their independence.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create a contract for parents and children to sign at the beginning of their relationship?

I, [insert parents’ names here], will not expect you to act like a smaller version of me. I will keep in mind that you do not come with the full ability to handle situations and emotions effectively. I will do my best to remember what it was like to be your age and how it felt to explore my sense of humor, my creativity, and my boundaries. I will be patient as you learn. I will step back when I need to step back and I will forever champion you in what you do.
I, [insert child’s name here], will not expect you to be perfect. I will learn to forgive your faults, impatience, and distance by watching you forgive me when I spill fingernail polish on my beautiful toy box, run around the house with messy hands after eating, and preferring to enjoy my independent being, my siblings, and my friends by pushing my limits. By seeing, accepting, and loving your despite your imperfections, I will learn to accept and love myself when I fall short of my own expectations.

The problem with such a contract is that the parent/child relationship is entered with rose-colored glasses. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that soft, strong, and secure safety net that parents provide from birth will grow course, loose its flexibility, and develop holes over time. It’s not meant to be permanent in the first place. Similarly, our children will begin to do everything they can to ignore, work around, and tear and cut away at that safety net much sooner than we expect and can feel comfortable with.

As a parent it appears that I am my own harshest critic. It is equally true that my beautiful, gregarious daughters recognize, accept, and trust me as I am making positive changes in my life. They were not the cause of my own journey through the desert of my heart and soul, but they suffered from the heat, famine, and loneliness. I am working as hard as I can to be the mother they need me to be from here on out. Hopefully during the process they will learn that even in the desert there is beauty to be found if only you look.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

52 Books Or Bust

I just wanted to let everyone know that I fixed the link to 52 Books or Bust. You can actually get to it now if you are interested.

Our Trip to the Windy City Was a Breeze!

Knowing that Heidi had been born made Emma and me want to get there as soon as we could. Thankfully our drive to Charlotte (Emma only mentioned how long the drive was 50 times during the 2 hours and 45 minutes) and our two flights went smoothly. The only thing that I could kick myself about was that I forgot to bring a camera. I didn't get any pictures of Emma at the airport or on the plane. If this weren't a family blog, I'd have a few choice words to say to myself.

Peter picked us up at the airport with Sophia sleeping in the car. Getting Emma to sleep that night was a chore, but once she was out, she was out. Unfortunately, Sophia was sick and wasn’t in the mood to do anything but be held. Emma was so excited to play with her. Thankfully, when Donielle came home Sunday afternoon Emma had someone else to concentrate on.

On Sunday evening, Emma and I also got to visit with my parents and my sister, Meridith. It was so nice to see so many members of my family. Emma had been looking forward to seeing Grandpa just as much as the baby and Sophia. Heidi was universally loved and adored by all. Isn’t that a surprise.

Once the Motrin kicked in for Sophia, she was up and running. It didn't take long for Emma and Sophia started to play and become fast buddies. Yes, they argued over toys, but Emma usually could be convinced to make Sophia happy. I told her I knew how hard it was to be the biggest. Everything seemed to be so unfair. We bonded about that. Sophia was so excited about Emma that Emma became the first person she called by name: Memma. It is so darn cute.

On Tuesday I took Emma and Sophia to the Brookfield Zoo. It was nippy outside, but the girls really seemed to enjoy seeing all of the animals. I have to admit that I was bored to death at zoos when I was a child, but I love seeing Emma’s reactions. It makes me excited to see the animals, too. Emma’s favorite animals were the cheetahs and the polar bear. Mine was the male lion. I’d never seen one before. We were so close to it that you actually were able to appreciate how huge and beautiful they are.

Tuesday Peter and I took the girls to the Shedd Aquarium (Curarium in Emma-speak). Emma and I paid to see the dolphin show and it was so wonderful. I love to watch the dolphins porpoise across the water. The finale of the show was having the four dolphins jump in unison four times in a row. It was very exciting. I think that we could have spent a full day there and still would have wanted to explore. We got to see the beluga whale and the baby born in July. We sang “Baby Beluga” a couple of times. People might have given us funny looks, but we were so happy that we didn’t notice.

After the aquarium closed Peter took us to China Town to eat. I’ve never been to China Town before. Even the Walgreens nearby had Chinese wording on its sign. It was very interesting. Peter took our pictures in front of our animals and then we ate a wonderful dinner. Peter tried to get me to eat things that I wouldn’t normally eat. At least I picked a type of pork dish that I’ve never had before. We both missed Danny and Allison a lot while we were gone. We made sure to bring back some lip gloss and a baby penguin animal for Allison. Still, it was sad to leave Donielle and Peter’s beautiful family, too. It was even sad for me to leave Chicago. There is so much to do and experience there. It makes me long to live in a bigger city. I’ll just have to be sure that we plan a family vacation there someday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Family Blessing

Heidi Barbara was born to my sister, Donielle, and her husband on Saturday, February 17. She weighed 7 pounds and 13 ounces and is 20 inches long. We received the phone call from Donielle just five hours before Emma and I were scheduled to leave for Chicago to visit her family. It was perfect timing.

Heidi is gorgeous and is such a good baby. I got off the hook pretty easily. I had very little middle of the night duty with Heidi. Unfortunately, Sophia, the new big sister, was sick. I was happy to be able to take care of her in the night. It was good bonding time for the two of us.

I don't want to take away from Heidi with more about the trip in this post. Still, I just had to publish this picture, too. It's Emma with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. I don't know why, but I just love it!

More tales from Chi Town to come...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Prayer Request

We just found out this morning that Ryan O'Hara, Danny's second cousin, was killed in a tragic car crash. Ryan was one of three brothers in a very close knit family. He was a college student with a bright future. Please pray for Ryan, his brothers, and his parents, Barbara and Terrence.

Ryan, may you be in peace with Christ.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pull Up Wars

Updated at the end

Last night, when I picked Allison up from daycare, Allison had just gotten over throwing a fit. When A, the evening daycare teacher, last changed her, Allison through a fit because she wanted to wear a pull up, not a diaper. For the next hour she cried for me and kept saying that I would come with her pull ups. A. felt very bad for her. This is the first recorded 60 minute fit Ally ever threw at daycare.

This isn't the first pull up run in we've had with her. Even though I keep telling her that pull ups are for big girls who go potty on the potty chair, she could care less. She wants the status of wearing them without the responsibility. One night she came home from school with a pull up on. Let's just say that getting her in to a diaper for bed was not a pleasant experience.

There are two approaches that immediately come to mind: letting her wear pull ups and worry about the potty training later or forcing her to wear diapers and make the daycare teachers live with her tantrums. For now, I'm opting for the former. Daycare workers don't get paid enough to deal with Allison and her pull up tantrums. She's a stubborn girl and I rather doubt that she'd let this one go easily. The up side might be that pull ups don't retain as much fluid. She doesn't like to be wet or cold. Maybe that will prompt her to use the potty. Who am I kidding? She'll just demand a new pull up.

Today when I dropped her off, I told Ms. M. that if she pottied on the potty chair (I didn't specify the number of times) that she would get an ice cream cone at McDonalds tonight. We'll see what happens. If it were just me, I would fight to the finish over making pull ups a reward for good pottying. It's not just me who has to deal with her, though.

I'm not a big worrier about potty training. I figure that at some point she'll be trained. I don't see the point of getting frustrated over something that will eventually happen no matter what I do. Pull ups are more expensive than diapers, but not that much. So why do I view this as a war?

I guess that with Allison I feel like I'm always backing down. I feel like my parental authority carries as much weight with her as a fuzzy feather blowing in the winter wind. There never seems to be a hill I'm prepared to die on - at least long enough to actually die guarding it. As much as she is delightful, Ally is so bull-headed. I have no idea of how best to handle her in most situations. The only thing I've figured out so far is that when she's throwing a tantrum, putting her off by herself calms her down better than anything else. Am I too much of a pleaser to be an effective parent for her? ACK!

Allison is once again making me eat crow. When I picked her up from daycare, I discovered that she went potty on the potty chair four times that day. Ms. M left a message on Ally's daily form stating that Allison had made wonderful progress. She was proud and amazed. Maybe she's not as bull-headed as I have led you to believe. Maybe I'm the one who's boxing her in to a corner. In the poignant words spoken by Patrick Swazye in his prime: "No one puts Baby in a corner!" This baby's mother needs to keep that in mind.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Emma Fashionista

While getting ready Saturday morning, Emma decided that she had to wear the skirt Grandma gave her for Christmas and a t-shirt. Since it was too cold to go outside, I let her wear what she wanted. Allison, which should come as no surprise, followed right behind her. At some point after I'd put in their "hair bows," Emma told Allison that "if you want to wear a skirt, t-shirt, hair bows, and flip-flops, you have to wear lips gloss.

Here are my beautiful girls wearing exactly what Emma prescribed.

P.S. Emma also thought it was "darn cute" to wear her skirt to bed that night and over her navy jogging pants the next morning to church.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Carnival of Cotton Candy

A local grocery store sponsored an in-doors carnival at the Civic Center. Danny, the girls, and I joined our friends and had a great time. The kids seemed to have fun on the rides, but you can't tell that by these pictures (which I couldn't get full-sized).

Emma is on a boat in case you can't tell.
BUT, they certainly enjoyed the cotton candy! This was Allison's first encounter and her messy, messy face and hands tells the entire story.

And in this picture you can see just how well the "I'm a cat" cleaning technique works and the fact that Ally can now where her hair in a pony tail! You go, girl!

Emma was an old pro at the cotton candy game. She took charge of who got what. Jackson wasn't sure what to think at first bite, but he fell into its many charms just like Allison.

After the carnival we all went to "Old McDonald's Playland" for lunch. Emma was such a mother for Jackson. I can't wait for the kids to grow up just a little bit more so that they can play.
Nicole and Charles are great new friends, too (even though this is just about the kids...)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hypothetical Rant Against the Machine

Let’s say you have the following matching items that you would like to sell from the nursery set that your two daughters used: the comforter, crib skirt and bumper, two sets of sheets, three wall hangings, the lamp, the bouncy seat, the mobile, and one almost complete roll of matching wallpaper and a three foot segment from a second roll. Let’s go even further and mention that all of those items were clean and without stains or any signs of wear other than washing. You bring said items to a nation-wide baby/child clothing/contraption/toy reseller whose name brings about visions of fairy tales. Perhaps you are a greedy SOB, but you are anticipating a generous offer. After all, you saw the same exact set of only the comforter, skirt and bumper on sale at the same location a couple of years earlier while expecting your second child for $125. You kept that figure in your head for over two years because you knew that however sad you might be about it, you would bring your extensive set in for sale yourself. You bring your items to the counter and wait twenty good minutes while the young women look over everything and tap away at their computer. After you are quoted a price, you have to ask for them to repeat it in case you heard incorrectly. Nope. You heard right. You were indeed offended… er… offered $37.69 cents. You miss the rest of the schpeel because you are somewhat in shock. Not even $38? You pack your items back up and return them to your car. As you drive off, you realize you’re not as much of a capitalist as you imagined that you were. Maybe there is more to socialism, fascism, or communism than you have given credit. There was no way you would trade in your memories to a retail store for them to turn around and make what would probably be a whopping profit. Thank God for eBay.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Criss-Cross Applesauce

Last night Emma had all of us sit in a circle to listen to her Care Bear tell the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It was pretty funny to have her pretend to be a bossy, yet caring teacher. While the bear was reading the story, I looked around at us and Allison was sitting in a way that we used to call Indian style. Now they call it criss-cross applesauce. This was the first time I've ever seen her sitting like that and it almost chocked me up a little bit. It's amazing what little acheivements can at the same time make you proud, tickled, and sad about losing your baby all at the same time. She's heading closer and closer to her preschool years. Soon our family will be leaving toddlerhood behind.

I just going to take a deep breath and smile. There will be so many more accomplishments and stages left behind to be my treasured memory. This is just another reminder to enjoy them for who they are today. You'll never have today back no matter how hard you try.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Recent Developments

Allison has started to tell us that she loves things. After I got back from my whirlwind Michigan weekend, I gave her the Dora hat that my mother sent back for her. “I love my hat!” she cried immediately upon seeing it. She’s pretty happy to wear it and also enjoys sleeping with it at night. There is no doubt that she really does love that hat. She also loves different articles of her clothing, my clothing (it warms a mother’s heart), Ms. Misty (her teacher), a hair clip, Raffi, and, most recently, a stuffed, squishy Snoopy doll/rattle. “I love my doggy.” Thank goodness Emma hasn’t paid attention or doesn’t remember that Snoopy is, er… was, hers.

Emma’s latest development has been to become more helpful without being asked. While I was on the above mentioned trip, Danny was amazed at how relatively easy my absence was because Emma was there to help him out. She’s helped me so many times with Allison over the past couple of weeks. This stretches outside of the home, which makes me so proud. On Tuesday, I got a note on her daily form from Ms. Lil. Lil said, “Emma was such a good helper for me today with one of her friends. Emma is an awesome girl.” I was so tickled to read that. Apparently a little girl was moved up to Lil’s class and was having a really hard time with that. Emma kept putting her arm around the other girl’s shoulder and played with her until she felt better. What a special, loving little girl.

The Problem with Having Fun Family Weekends

Last weekend we had a great time together. The kids were well behaved and we all just enjoyed playing together and being in each other’s company. Due to inclement weather, my company opened two hours later than usual. We had a good morning getting ready at a much less frenzied pace. Danny put a new copy of Raffi in the DVD player and the girls, especially Allison, were singing away to “The More We Get Together” and “Sing When the Spirit Says Sing.” It was so endearing to sit and listen as I drove to work. Where’s the problem in that? We hadn’t reached sight of the daycare building yet.

As soon as Ally saw her daycare building, she started to cry. Emma decided to stay in the car to wait for me, which I normally prefer because I can get in and out more quickly. Monday morning that was not such a good thing. As soon as Ally realized that Emma was staying in the car, the tears started to roll down her cheeks. “My Emma!” she cried all the way to her room. It broke my heart. I wiped and kissed away her tears for a few minutes once we got to Misty’s room. Usually as soon as Misty motions for her, Allison goes immediately without incident. That morning I had to hand her over and it killed me. Shouldn’t I be used to these things by now?

Although it’s gotten better as the week has gone on, it was another tough morning this morning. The only difference I can think of is that we had a fun time last night at McDonalds Playland. It seems that enjoying my children comes at a cost these days.

The Sleeping Fairy

We recently moved Allison permanently into Emma’s room. For the first week or so it was relatively smooth sailing. We had incidents with Emma getting up and coming into the living room, but given the fact that we previously stayed with the girls individually until they were asleep, this was a vast improvement.

After a while, the vast improvement no longer felt that way and we were on the verge of suicide. They kept talking, laughing, screaming for what seemed like forever. We were slowly slipping back to the “mommy and daddy stay with us until we’re asleep” way of living. Danny and I were not happy campers. Danny did a little Internet research and found something about the Sleeping Fairy. This most wonderful fairy watches for little children to go to sleep like big kids (a.k.a. like their parents want them to) and puts a little reward under their pillows when they do.

We’ve invited the Sleeping Fairy into our house for almost a week now. The first two nights it worked really well. She left chocolate covered raisins and a plastic ring for each girl the first night. She left dollar bills the second night. On the third night, the Sleeping Fairy did not make a stop because the girls had reverted back to their old ways. See, children even test the limits of their fairies! For the past three nights, there has been barely a peep after we’ve left the room. Yee Ha! Following through seemed to do the trick. Not knowing how long we’re going to have to keep this up, we focused on economizing the rewards. We had freebies for two nights in a row. Last night Danny bought a bag of suckers for 99 cents at the grocery store. We can use them on and off. Truth be told, the ease of getting the girls to sleep at night is worth any amount of reward for any length of time.

After we leave the room, Danny and I lay on our bed and talk until they are asleep. It’s nice to have that kind of quiet together time. We lie to the girls when we tell them that we don’t get anything from the Sleeping Fairy.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And the Winner Is...


After much deliberation, I've created and named the newest addition to my blogs: The Jennifer Tree. Although I batted around several ideas (Mark and Danny were so close to getting the candy bar and dedication together with Chainsaw Therapy), I followed DD's advice and connected the name of my personal blog to this one.

It is with pride that I announce the birth of The Jennifer Tree.

Hopefully this will mean more stories and pictures related to the girls here. I feel as though I've neglected them here. It also remains to be seen how well I can keep up with three blogs when sometimes just one is too much work.

DD, please send me an email or leave a comment letting me know your favorite candy bar. I can't wait to send you a treat!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On Organizing My Blog

The idea behind Our Shady Tree was to keep everyone up-to-date on my family. This blog really ended up being more about my struggles with life, depression, anxiety, weight issues, therapy and other things that have happened that are far removed from my family-life. I would like Our Shady Tree to finally be what it is intended to be: stories, pictures, joys, and struggles of raising my daughters and being part of a modern American family.

I want to start another blog specifically for those posts I write in the middle of the night about me and my adult, not necessarily family-related, experiences in life. That way, if you are interested in my family, you don’t have to weed through 500 novels before you find a picture or a story about my children. The only thing standing in my way is a name for this new blog. Any suggestions? If your suggestion speaks to me and I use it, I’ll send you the candy bar of your choice and will dedicate my first post to you.

To get started, I’ve already created a new blog ~ 52 Books or Bust. Yes, I’ve challenged myself to read 52 books this year and write a mini, non-professional level review about each. And I thought the “30 Posts in 30 Days” bloggers were crazy. Any bets on how long it will take before Danny has to have me committed? Do they have books, laptops, and high speed Internet access in those padded cells these days?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reading is FUNdamental

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently. Most of my reading has been taking place around 2 or 2:30 in the morning. For whatever reason, I always wake up at that time. If I don’t immediately fall back asleep and I’m involved in a book, I go into our master bathroom (it’s huge), sit down in the rocking chair and read for an hour or so. You might think that losing sleep like that would exhaust me, but I find reading while the house is quiet and everyone I love is asleep refreshing. Why not carve out time for yourself whenever you can find it?

I’ve been devouring books written by Jodi Picoult. So far I’ve read My Sister’s Keeper, Plain Truth, The Pact, Vanishing Acts, Salem Falls, and The Tenth Circle. The last four I’ve read in the past two months. So far, Plain Truth and The Pact are my favorites, but I’ve enjoyed them all. Plain Truth begins when a murdered newborn baby is found in an Amish barn. The Pact begins with two teenagers being brought into an emergency room in what appears to be a botched suicide pact. Only the boyfriend survived. I finished The Tenth Circle almost a week ago and I’m feeling the onset of withdrawal symptoms. I’ll probably pick up another one for my trip to Grand Rapids this weekend. I’m thinking about Keeping Faith or Second Glance. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’ve caught up to Jodi. She has another book coming out this year entitled 19 Seconds. Will I have to wait on her after that? My skills for waiting for something I want ~ say knowledge of the sex of a baby, opening presents ~ is not what I’m known for by a long shot. Luckily, I’ve been forcing myself to expand my world view.

In the past couple of months I’ve also read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards and Lucky by Alice Sebold. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is the story of an orthopedic surgeon who has to deliver his child during a snow storm. After delivering a healthy son, they figured out that his wife was carrying twins. The second born, a daughter, was born with Down syndrome. Before his wife awakes from the anesthesia, he decides to have the attending nurse take the baby to an institution. The rest of the story examines the impact lies have on marriage and relationships with children. I highly recommend it. Lucky, which is written by the author of The Lovely Bones, is wonderful read. It is a memoir written about the rape Alice Sebold experienced during her freshman year of college and the impact that tragedy had on her family, her friends, and her future relationships. It was hard to read in many parts, but it is a testament to courage.

Waiting in the wings I have Spider by Patrick McGrath, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. So far, I’ve read half of the prologue written by Yann Martel and can’t wait to read Life of Pi. I’ve started reading The Thirteenth Tale, but I’ve misplaced the book. It has to be around somewhere… I have enjoyed Asylum and Dr. Haggard’s Disease by Patrick McGrath, but I haven’t really been able to get in to Spider. I’ve tried to read it three times already. It’s not a lengthy book. I’ll make myself read it this year if it’s the last thing I do.

On the flip side, I’ve began to work on my writing again. Mark’s gracious post about me and one of my short stories in November put a bug in my ear. His recent bout of appendicitis actually got me going. I don’t have an electronic copy of “The Joke.” I had to dig in the storage space underneath my stairs to find it. It was fun to read it again after 15 years. While creating an electronic copy, I’m editing it. My creative writing seminar professor gave me a lot of good suggestions and being away from it for that long has given me some additional ideas. When it is finished, I’m going to format it fancifully in FrameMaker (the new love of my work day) and have a copy of it professionally bound and dedicated to Mark. I was going to keep that a surprise, but I don’t want him to think that I just blew off his internment altogether. It may be a while before I get it in a state worthy of the meager publication I have in mind.

To all of you fellow readers out there: I’d love to learn about the books you’ve been excited about reading. If you’d like to read any of the books I’ve mentioned, I’d be glad to send it your way. Maybe we could organize an exchange.

Funny How You Can Miss the Forest for the Trees

There has been so much going on since Christmas. I actually wrote down a list for my therapy session this morning so that I wouldn’t forget. A vast majority of them dealt with one loss or the other: loss of regular routine; loss of patience; loss of opportunities to rest; loss of trust in a priest and institution; loss of a wonderful employee; loss of a good friend at work; the loss of family friends. No wonder I’ve been feeling blue. Loss means change. Apparently I’m not as comfortable with change as I thought I was. I can't say that I left my session feeling golden again, but at least I found another perspective to think about. Knowledge is power.

Prayer Request

Eunice, my mother-in-law, has two best friends: Myrtle and Martha. Myrtle is her cousin and is Martha’s mother. Martha lives with Myrtle and cares for her. She also is there to help my in-laws when Danny and I are unavailable. On Monday, Myrtle passed away. She was 97. Although it’s sad that she’s gone, she had a good quality of life until the very end. Martha died of a heart attack at 4am Tuesday morning. Although she had high blood pressure, there wasn’t any preparation for this. Eunice lost her life-long best friends within 24 hours of each other. Please keep Eunice, Myrtle, and Martha in your prayers this week. Danny and I will be attending their funeral tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cramming 24 Days into 1 Post

What a busy holiday season! Although I didn’t have as much to do at the last minute as I have in the past, I don’t feel like Danny or I have been able to rest since the weekend of Thanksgiving. Today I feel weary and I know that I won’t find any relief any time soon.

I really shouldn’t even mention being tired. My family has been quite blessed this Christmas. The girls, especially Emma, were really excited about Christmas. I wondered how Emma would do with not getting everything on her list, but she never mentioned anything about those wishes that didn’t end up under the tree. It didn’t hurt that the Barbie Jeep that E. and Grandma and Grandpa B sent to her arrived Christmas Eve. Even though I thought we were giving up in frustration at 1 am Christmas morning, Danny soldiered ahead ~ surprising us all when we saw that adorable purple machine sitting next to the fireplace. We had a lot of fun that morning watching the girls as they bee bopped to the tunes from the functioning radio and simulated Barbie CD. Too cute.

There were parts of the holiday when I felt that the inmates were running the asylum. At least a week before Christmas Emma and Allison went absolutely nuts. Although things have gotten better, I still don’t think that I’ve charged my patience battery completely back to a full charge yet. I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve been feeling somewhat down over the past few weeks. You picture Christmas as a wonderful experience for everyone where patience isn’t needed. It wasn’t for me and I feel badly about it. Also, I’ve had to change my meds because the XR versions were moved up to the most expensive drug tier in my plan. If I didn’t move to the twice daily generics, I’d be paying double for them right now. It’s been about three weeks now and I still haven’t found a workable way to remember to take my second dose.

Allison came down with strep throat last week. Thankfully, it happened before we were forced to cancel our holiday get together with Emma’s birth family. Unfortunately, Danny spending Friday off with the girls meant that we spent Friday night and Saturday morning in a cleaning, shopping, and preparation frenzy. I can’t speak for Danny, but I was exhausted before they arrived. It was a great visit nonetheless. It was such a joy to share our home with E. and Grandma and Grandpa B. They were extremely complimentary of our house and my decorating (or lack there of in my opinion). The Crowd Pleaser platter from Heavenly Ham was simply perfect. We were all full and happy all afternoon. They enjoyed watching the girls open up their presents. They got Emma this amazing doll that was crafted to look like her. It took Emma a while to warm up to it, but she has spent many hours dressing and undressing it ever since. She doesn’t want to sleep with it in her bed, but she loved it when I laid a pillow down next to her and covered “Emma” up. E loved her Destiny Day t-shirts that I had made for her and Emma. The charm for her bracelet this year was a star fish to commemorate Emma’s first trip to the ocean in 2006. It’s funny that the visions I had of that charm bracelet when I first got the idea are so different than the reality (I gave the bracelet and a butterfly charm to E for our first Christmas. The butterfly means new life and each year I add a charm to signify a major milestone or event in Emma’s life). I like it even better the way that it is evolving.

E and Emma had a lot of one on one time Saturday. I wanted it that way. They played outside a lot because it was in the mid-sixties (what’s up with this winter?). They played with Emma’s Play Dough and they made a something out of Emma’s Christmas beads for E to take home. I watched them play together and I was so happy that Emma and E will have memories like this to hold in their hearts forever. I’m glad that they will always have a relationship together. I’m 16 years older than E. There will come a time when I’m not here to be with Emma anymore. What a joy it is that Emma will not be without a mother when that day comes.

For whatever reason, today has been an icky day. The blue feelings I’ve been having on and off over Christmas are pretty strong today. I’m tired and have been fighting a headache on and off. Nick’s last day was Friday, so it was weird coming into work to find his desk empty. If that’s not sad enough, Jeanne, my best buddy at work, will be celebrating her last day here on Wednesday. She’s accepted a position in her field in D.C. I’m thrilled for her, but I’ll miss seeing her every day and day dreaming about stamping and home made cards with her. Sometimes I feel like making a new friend here is a sign to them that they will be leaving the area.

This coming weekend I’m traveling home to Grand Rapids for Trent’s baptism. I’m cashing in a free ticket I earned in October. Although there is no place I would rather be, it’s going to be a long weekend on top of a long month. I leave here at 7:05 and have a layover in Philadelphia before arriving in Detroit just before noon. Rob is going to pick me up at the airport and drive me in to GR. I’ll spend some time with family and then I think I’m going to spend the night at the newly renovated Hotel [censored]. The baptism is at 11. After a small celebration afterwards, Rob is driving me back to Detroit. My plane back home leaves at 5:30. I should actually get home around 11 Sunday night. It will be wonderful to see everyone but I’m not sure how I’ll function the next morning.

Okay. I’ve beaten around the bush long enough. A major catalyst for feeling down in the dumps is my weight. It keeps going up and my friends and family at home are sure to notice. There won’t be any “you look great”s to meet me. I’ve been thinking about this since Thanksgiving. Instead of prompting me to get back in the saddle, I’ve just kept eating. With the New Year, although I wasn’t going to make any New Year’s Resolutions, I decided that a new year would be my new beginning. Monday through Thursday were great days. I walked twice and stayed on program. Friday, I was full of guilt because I wasn’t the one home with the girls. I knew that it was the last day with Nick. We were in a time crunch to get things done around the house for our guests. Had there been no temptation anywhere, I would have been fine. Nick brought donuts in. ‘Nuff said. Saturday and Sunday followed the same slippery slope to fatdome. I’m working the plan again today, but there’s no joy in it. Just a lot of negative thoughts and feelings of dread when I come face to face with Grand Rapids a size larger.

It hit me this morning that I’m always planning to lose X by Y. What I really need to do is figure out what I really want with the rest of my life. When I joined Weight Watchers in May of 2003, I knew I had a long way to go, but I wasn’t concerned with how long it took me to get there. There’s something to that. I’m going to try to focus on things to look forward to instead of dread. I still want to be an active mother for my children. I want to have an 80th birthday party with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I want to feel comfortable tying my shoes, walking up and down stairs (my knees are really starting to hurt), bending over, and playing on the floor. I want to spend my days thinking about ways to improve my life and the lives of my family and friends instead of obsessing over the 2,0349,830 ways there might be to lose 20 pounds in 10 days. I experienced the contentment and confidence that accompanied treating myself with kindness and respect when Emma was an infant and toddler. I don’t have to be perfect to return to that place. After all, I wasn’t perfect then. You have to start somewhere. I have the power to do that. With Weight Watchers, I have the tools to do that. I know from past experience that when I put my heart into it that I can do it and that I enjoy doing it. I don’t have to be perfect to get healthy and to start feeling better. I just have to have the proper attitude. I need to trust and have faith in myself. I might not have that right now, but I can fake it until I do. As my dad might say ~ if I can’t dazzle myself with my brilliance, I can blind myself with my bullshit. And if there is anything my family is good at, it’s bullshit. I’ve got to love that about us.

I ordered two new outfits from JC Penney for my trip this weekend. I may not be the size I want to be, but I’m going to look my very best. I will hold my head high and strut my stuff in my new corduroy pants and jacket with the coordinating silk shell when I walk off the plane. I will present myself well as Trent’s devoted godmother in my new black and white herringbone skirt with the lavender mock turtleneck sweater and matching jacket. I am a good and beautiful person. For once, I’m going to act that way. The way I feel right this minute, I might not even have to fake it.