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.