Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself." -Maya Angelou

On my drive home tonight, I was thinking about blog topics.  "Maybe I should write about things that annoy me," I thought so cleverly to myself.  I had this great list of things that annoy me and was even going to end it in such a witty way.  But I don't know if that is where I want to focus my attention.

Another thought was to write about my lack of motivation and overall stagnation these days.  My motivation level is low, and I'm pretty much just coasting along in so many ways.  

Perhaps I could write a little bit about what it is like to be a multifaceted individual (aren't we all?) that can put on a good, strong front, but also go through the battles and challenges of depression, low self-esteem, or life's general ups and downs.  Just seemed...boring.

Something else that has been going on lately is that I've felt very detached from a social scene and in my friendships.  Right now I'm going through some challenges with someone who I love very much, and it really fills me with sadness.  Friendship is such a gift, and I've been lucky to build many terrific friendships, especially in the 8 years that I've been living in Florida.  I miss my friends.  The time I have to invest in my friendships is stretched thin, and there are so many things I am missing.  It is like a void that I fill with twizzlers and other miniature Halloween candy.  Frankly, it just sucks.

There is no real point to this blog.  There are so many things on my mind these days.  I want to feel motivated, connected, involved, and engaged (hardy har har) in my own life and experiences.  Maybe Winter is getting to me.

On another note, I have decided to end this blog on a high note.  Since I didn't participate in the infamous 30 days of thankful on FB, I am going to do it here, in one fell swoop.

I am thankful for...
  1.  Our friends and family who are such a critical part of Ayla's childhood.  It takes a village...
  2. Humor.  I take things too hard sometimes, but having humor has helped!
  3. My dogs, who love me no matter how grouchy I can be.
  4. My God-given abilities.  It's nice to have gifts.
  5. Western and Eastern medicine.  I've benefited from both an epidural and acupuncture.
  6. The internet.  It just makes life so much easier.
  7. Good books.  I love to get lost in a book, or even better, a series.
  8. Electricity and running water.  Really.
  9. A salary that we manage to make ends meet with.
  10. Grace, forgiveness, and understanding.
  11. Cell phones.
  12. Oster's immersion blender.  It was a lifesaver when I made Ayla's baby food.
  13. Having a fiance' that I will get to call my husband and share my life with.
  14. Naps.  I love naps so friggin' much!
  15. My childhood.  I am so grateful that it shaped my life for the best.
  16. A safe vehicle.  After driving an old car for years, it is nice to have a car that will last for the long haul.
  17. Music.  Every emotion and memory can be tied to a song.
  18. Magazines.  I love magazines almost as much as books.  When I have no time to read, I love magazines more!
  19. Awesome coworkers that make work infinitely better.
  20. Sunny days and shorts weather in November.
  21. Rain.
  22. The right to vote.
  23. Chocolate.
  24. I get to be a mom.  I will never be the same again.
  25. Long, hot baths (so not eco-friendly, but I indulge).
  26. The blanket my mom got me when I was a baby.  Still love it.  Always will (if Ayla doesn't permanently steal it from me).
  27. Better health in my present than I've had for most of my past life.
  28. People that I love.  My parents, my family, my best friend, all of my wonderful friends.  My family goes beyond bloodlines.
  29. Knowledge
  30. Did I say chocolate yet?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes...How do you measure, measure a year?"

December is almost here!  December is this week.  This year, like last year, has flown by so fast.  Summer break flew by, then Thanksgiving break.  Three work weeks until Christmas break.  I am so excited for Christmas break, let me tell you!  

When I was younger, I remember my parents and other adults talking about how fast time flew by.  I didn't understand back then, but I certainly do now. For instance, I remember once asking my dad how old he was.  His reply was, "Twenty-seven."  "Dad, you're old!" I told him.  On December 31, I will be turning 27.  Brandon just turned 27.  My daughter is 1-1/2.  I remember when she was just 1-1/2 days old.  I remember when we measured her age in weeks.  Now it is in months. Before I know it, we'll be counting her age in years, just like we do for ourselves.


Somehow, I think having the job of a teacher seems to make the time fly by even faster.  My job is punctuated by holiday breaks and spring break.  Punctuated by interim periods, 9-week grading periods, and from test to endless test.  Many times I've told my students about a teacher, Carrie Gasche, who made a huge difference in my life. When I first met her, she was an intern teacher in my 4th grade class.  We later reconnected, and she is just so special to me, even though we don't get to talk often.  She impacted my life in a huge way, and I am grateful that I get to be her friend in my adulthood.  Someday, my students will be adults, and I hope that I get to hear or see what great things they will become.


My puppy, Boo, is not much of a puppy anymore either.  She'll be 4 on Easter, and our little baby, Oscar, will be 1 on New Year's Day.  My brother and sister-in-law are the parents to 3 little ones, and my little sister will be a senior next year, with her heart already set on becoming a doctor.


Because our precious little time goes by so quickly, I find myself wondering how we waste so much of it.  I, for one, am quite guilty of this offense.  I watch too much television and spend far too much time on the computer, Facebook namely.  My house is never clean, the time I spend in the great outdoors is limited, and I think that I need to do something to change how I spend my time.  Brandon and I recently got into a discussion about how things are predictable.  Now, this isn't necessarily always a bad thing, but I think that becoming too stagnant is definitely a negative.  Perhaps I will make a right-now resolution to find better ways to occupy the little time I have between working, eating, showering, and sleeping.


I wonder if anyone else has found themselves in this predicament, as well...

"How about love?  Measure in love.  Seasons of love." -Rent

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles...Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings...These are a few of my favorite things."

Many people that know me know that I enjoy couponing.  I don't do it quite as often as I used to, but I enjoy couponing with my partner-in-coupons, Mom.   She was a couponer back in the day before there were even websites with all the deals laid out in black and white.  

Tonight, I decided to try out one of my recent scores, a Schick Intuition which offers the luxury of all-in-one shaving.  Being pretty lazy in the shaving department, I decided to give it a go.  These retail around $10 at your local drugstore, such as CVS, and around the same price at Walmart even.  Who is going to spend that much?  I might have before couponing, but never again!  I got two of them for free after coupons and CVS extra care bucks.

Many of the products I purchase, I give away to friends and family, and I have a box filled to the brim with items just waiting to be donated.  (I just have to get out and drop them off...)

However, I will admit there are some products that I've gotten for cents or even free that I L-O-V-E and seek out every time they have coupon deals.

Here are some favs:
1. Purex Complete 3-in-1 sheets definitely earn a spot on the top of my list.  When I saw the commercials for these things, I thought, "What a waste of money!"  Indeed, I would not like to pay the retail price of $6-$8 that they typically run.  But with my coupon deals, I've managed to get these for around $1-$1.50 each.  20-24 loads and the soap, fabric softener, and anti-static all in one for under $2?  Can't beat it!  They smell great, and they come in a a few scents, including one that isn't scented-Pure and Clean.  After you wash the load of laundry, throw them in the dryer with the sheet you threw in originally with the wash, and 30 minutes later: ding!  Laundry's clean, ready, and smells fab!  These would be great to take with you when traveling or for someone who doesn't have a lot of space for bottle after bottle of separate products.

2. Pampers Cruisers are another product I love.  After the 6 month supply of diapers I received at our baby BBQ...that's right, 6 months worth...I started buying the Up & Up (Target) brand diapers.  They run about $14 a box, and they really work wonderfully.  They are reformulated from the days a few years back when the Target brand diapers were a waste, and they have the cutest blue and green polka dots.  When CVS ran a deal where I got the Pamper Cruisers for around $10 a box, I couldn't resist.  Even though I was hesitant after hearing about babies who had problems after using different Pampers (Baby Dry), I had no problems.  Ayla loves Elmo, so the Sesame Street characters are a bonus.  Now, anytime I can get them for the same price or less than the Up & Up, I snatch them up!  When Ayla was tiny, I loved the swaddlers, and these are the closest match I've found for a "big girl."  Also, Pampers does "Gift to Grow" points where you can redeem points for prizes after you enter the code on the diapers/wipes you purchase.




3. Olay Foaming Face Wash is my new favorite facial cleanser.  Typically, I don't like anything except for the ones where you wet the cloth and wash your face.  This made me totally change my mind.  My skin feels so clean and yet still moisturized when I'm done washing.  It makes me want to wash my face (which I'm not always good at after a long day) all day long!  Plus, I paid under $2 for this baby with coupons!


4. Excedrin Tension Headache is my new favorite version of Excedrin.  I've gotten several bottles FREE after coupons recently, and I actually like it better than the regular version (which is my good ol' standby).  After years of having migraines and little success with prescription medicine, I have found that Excedrin taken with Gatorade (old wives' tale for headaches-works!) and rubbing some Unkers on my neck and shoulders does the trick!  The Tension Headache version is aspirin-free, which is awesome since I had to go Excedrin free when I was pregnant.  I know that caffeine isn't great when pregnant, but neither is being in so much pain you can't move--so this is on my list for emergency meds when I have another bun in the oven. ;)

By the way, Unkers is not a couponing product, but we buy it by the case...literally.  It helps with muscle aches, headaches, dry skin, burns, cuts, bug bites, bruises, and more!  It is a wonderful product that has helped people I know with Rheumatoid Arthritis to muscle injuries, to me with my RSD.  Incredible!

For those of you interested in couponing, here are a couple of my favorite sites.  I love couponing at Publix and CVS the best.  Believe it or not, I get most of my cleaning and personal care items FREE at CVS! :)


Southern Savers
Hip2Save
Mojo Savings


I'm thankful for God, my family, my friends, my health, and Florida sunshine.  And coupons, too!  Happy Turkey Day!

 

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Death and Dying

This week, it seems like death has been a topic on the forefront in my life.  I don't even feel like I can say that without somehow having to face such tragedy myself.

When I was at Publix last night, I ran into the mom of one of my former students.  I wasn't even a "real" teacher yet.  This was about 7 years ago, when I was still a volunteer.  That year, I spent much of my free time with a 3rd grade class.  My wavering choice whether to become a teacher or not was decided by the experience I had with that class.  The students were wonderful.  They inspired me.  Anyway, you know those times when you see someone you know and you sometimes say hi, while other times you are too busy?  Well, last night I saw Josh's mom, and I said, "Hey!  You're Josh's mom!"  To which she replied, "Yes, how are you?"  I have been amazed that she always remembers who I am.  I told her I was doing well, and I asked her how Josh was doing.  "He passed away."  I was sure I didn't hear her right.  "What?!"  I thought maybe I'd mistaken what she said for her telling me how he passed the recent grade he was in.  No.  He died.   She explained to me that he was diagnosed with leukemia, and he died 2 months shy of his 16th birthday.  She could tell I was shocked, and she said, "I thought everyone knew.  There were 1,000 people at his funeral."  How did I not know?  I explained to her that I don't watch the new...that with having a little girl at home it is too frightening to watch the news.

I didn't know what to say to her.  She went on to tell me that he was himself all the while, as he fought cancer those 8 months.  That wasn't surprising.  He was one of my few favorite kids in the class.  He was always happy to see me, and I always loved working with him.  Spitfire, full of energy and smiles.  I hugged his mom with tears in my eyes, and luckily I didn't fall apart in front of her.  When a mom loses her baby, you don't get to cry.

It hurts.  My little sister is 16.  She goes to the same school as he did.  She has always been at the same school as him.  And he's gone.  It just isn't fair.  How do we get to be survivors?  Why him?  The death aspect of life just seems so unfair to me, and I don't know how to wrap my head around it.

Brandon emailed me to let me know that his good friend's father died of cancer over the weekend.  He could face 6 months of a hard battle, or he could enjoy the time he had left.  He spent his last day conscious with his family all around him, happy as can be.  He's gone now.  It just isn't right.

When I hear cancer, it almost has a numbing affect.  My grandfather died of cancer, and yet I still feel nothing when I hear the word.  Sometimes when you hear something so many times, it just doesn't hit you.  This week, it hit me hard.  

Someone very close to me, who will remain nameless for privacy, lost her cousin tragically last year.  He was my age.  He was a funny, spirited guy who was just so full of life.  

I have been blessed to be able to keep the people I love in my life for so long and so close to me.  I've watched both my brothers lose good friends to tragedy, and there is nothing anyone can say to take that pain away from them.  I've lost pets, and I've lost my grandfather.  When I was a little girl, our family's very close friend, Libby, got up one day, made a grocery list, and shot herself.  When my mom told me she had to tell me something, I immediately asked her (at age 6) if she had cancer or dad had cancer.  That was the worst imaginable scenario my mind could come up with.  She explained to me that Libby had killed herself.  Earlier in the day, she contacted my school to share with them the tragedy, and unbeknown to me, the counselors that came and talked to my class that day about death were really there for me.  How incredible it was that my school and teachers could take the time to be proactive about discussing tragedy with my whole class in a broad way before I went home to have this news delivered to me.  Libby was awesome. I loved her so much.  All I remember now is her curly brown hair, her glasses, and her pretty long, red fingernails.  She cross-stitched beautifully, and since she couldn't have children of her own, she treated me like a daughter.  She spoiled me rotten with her time and her gifts.  Anger was my emotion.  Anger that she would leave me...because isn't that how a 6-year-old's mind thinks?

After that time, I have lost my great-grandmothers.  I wasn't terribly close to either, but I did have a connection with my Grandma Millie, who was my paternal great-grandma.  Denny, my mom's father, was her son and the glue that held their family together before his tragic death (see earlier post) in the 70s.  She was a teacher, a literature lover.  She is the reason the Hans Christian Anderson story The Little Match Girl has been passed down orally in our family.  What a tragic, beautiful story about death.  I got up at her funeral and shared my memories of her, long before she was overcome by her dementia.  I am the only one of my siblings with memories of her before she was in the nursing home.  Memories of her before she was delighted by the same infant toys as my baby sister.  I read the story of The Little Match girl.  

My class' hermit crabs, Pete and Pickles, died about a week after I brought them to school.  I told them, honestly, what had happened.  Some people thought I should just replace them and pretend nothing had happened.  Death is a part of life, and I don't feel like sheltering children from it helps them.  I think it does the opposite.  Why not learn about death with something small, like a hermit crab or two, rather than have to learn about it by learning that your mom's best friend shot herself?  To my mom, I have to give kudos.  Kudos for being honest, for having the bravery to have the hard conversations with me.  I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.


As I come here to an end that is messy and unfinished, I wonder why I wrote this blog at all.  Death is something we all face in life, something most of us don't know how to talk about.  But just because someone is gone doesn't mean that they aren't with us.  We live on through the stories and memories of those we left behind.  I hope those stories will be my legacy someday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

From the mouths of babes. Also known as, fun things Ayla says...

Ayla has lots of words now, and I don't want to forget how fun this age/stage of developing so much language is.

Some things Ayla says, in no particular order:
  • Hep me (help me)
  • Thank you (which sort of sounds like thin thin)
  • Upol (sounds like apple, means open or up)
  • Down
  • Boo
  • No
  • Na nice (not nice)
  • Yes
  • 'rush (Brush, as in her teeth)
  • Nana
  • Oma
  • Elmo
  • Pa (for G-Pa.  We literally call my dad G, like the letter, pa...for grandpa of course)
  • Amer (for Amber...we're teaching her our names)
  • Branbran (for Brandon)
  • Palm Bay (ask her where she lives)
  • One (when asked how old she is)
  • Sitting (when asked what the rule for the couch is)
  • Get (when she wants the dogs to back off her)
  • Cheese
  • Dog, owl, cat
  • Car
  • Peese (please)
  • Sorry 
  • Hug
  • Poop
  • Pee
  • Potty (sensing a theme?)
  • Boob (she says this while pointing at mine...funny)
  • Elbow
  • Baby, Mama, Papa, Daddy, Mom 
  • Been been (blanket)
  • Tummy
  • Taz/Tash (the name of two of the main the cats in her life) 
  • Nose (she says this when she wants a tissue)
  • 'side (for outside)
  • ...set, go! (she finishes after someone says "Ready...")
She also makes lots of animal noises.  To name a few...
  • Moo, like a cow
  • Elephant noise (blows air through her lips, Brandon is the best at this)
  • Meow, meow
  • Whiny dog noise (since that's what our dogs do)
  • Whoo whoo, like an owl
She also does lots of fun things, which I could go on for hours about...
  • Reads books, turning the pages and jabbering on what she sees, also making accompanying noises
  • Climbs on the couch and up and down off our huge bed
  • Eats with a grown up fork
  • Drinks out of a big girl cup and any kind of water bottle with much success
  • She discovered the thing in the tub that you pull up to make the shower turn on
  • Claps
  • Has discovered that candy tastes good (thanks Halloween!)
  • Dances/does zumba moves
  • Lots of sign language words: more, eat, please, thank you, juice, water
  • She can point to her head, ears, eyes, mouth, teeth, tongue, butt, and toes.  Discovered mom's elbow tonight as well
  • She steals my blanket and snuggles up with it, so of course I let her have it
  • Her giggle is the best
  • She plays jokes on us, like pretending to give us food or a kiss, only to take it away at the last second and laugh
  • She makes the best, biggest pursed kissy face
  • Her latest hobby is riding Boo like a horse.  Boo is such a good, tolerant pup.
These little moments are my treasures.  I'm not bragging, I'm just proud to be her mom and never want to forget these big little moments.

"Money, it's a crime...Share it fairly, but don't take a slice of my pie ..."

Money.

For most people, the subject of money is very touchy, very private, and very stressful.  Last night, I was watching Downsized on WE (television for women).  The gist of the show is a blended family with a total of 9 people, the father's construction company went bankrupt, and the mom is a teacher.  This mother never had to want for anything as a child, and she spent most of the episode beside herself for not being able to do the same for her kids.  She also was sneaking Starbucks coffees and hiding her trash, even after meeting with a financial adviser.

Lately, I've spent a lot of time thinking about money.   It seems like having two college-educated adults in the household should somehow equate to not feeling as though you're drowning in financial hardship, but it doesn't.  Let me preface this whole post by saying that I know a lot of my friends are struggling even more than I am, so I am not trying to compare, but rather just share my honest experience.

We want to have a wedding, but practically everyone we've talked to has scared us with the figures they are throwing at us.  Luckily, I have some money saving ideas that I hope will bring the cost down.  The one place I am not willing to sacrifice is in the total number of guests I'm inviting.  There are a lot of people I want to invite still, but I can't.  The majority of our list are family members, including extended family.  We have some close friends on the list, and my hope is that the people that were not invited understand that we still love them lots and that they aren't any less important to us.


In my opinion, we live a pretty comfortable, yet modest lifestyle.  Our house is old and has lots of repairs to be made, including flooring in our kitchen (since it was left unfinished) and our disastrous yard.  There isn't a sprinkler system, and even if there was, I don't think we could afford it.  So our backyard is a sand-bur ridden, green weedy sandpit. I wish that we could fix our yard because I would love for Ayla to be able to just run around and have fun out back.  Put that on our list of "wishes."  We also need a new fence desperately, as it is falling apart a little more each day; it was a piece of work from the time we bought the house.  Brandon replaces slats once or twice every couple months.


Lucky for us, we have a house.  We have the luxury and fortune of being in a place we can call our own.  We are able to make our mortgage payments each month and keep a stable home for our family.


We each have cars that run well, but I won't be ashamed to admit that when I am out from under my car payment, I will be so thankful and never buy a brand new car again.  At the time I was buying a car, I was just starting to date Brandon and still living at home, rent-free thanks to my awesome parents who wanted to give that one thing to us, as they have also worked hard to make ends meet.  Do I regret buying my Honda Pilot new?  No.  I feel extremely safe in it, even after having been rear-ended 6 months after I bought it.  Our entire family has gotten so much use out of it.  My brother, Denny, has taken it to Tampa for a bowling tournament, where my car acquired an ugly scrape on my driver's door handle.  We've taken it to Sea World, to Amway to see Rascal Flatts...to see Elton John and Billy Joel.  The Pilot has taken us to see the Eagles. It has taken us to Iowa to say goodbye to my dying grandfather.  Ayla came home in that car, and our future child(ren) will come home in it, too.  However, it is personally my biggest expense between the actual car payment (which I am so glad I was able to re-finance), the insurance, and the gas cost.  My maintenance cost is minimal, thanks to my car being only 2 years old, but when it comes time to replace my tires, I will be crying for sure.

The other debt that I am crushed under the weight of is the amount of money I still owe the hospital for having Ayla.  I pay a little at a time, but 15% of a $20,000+ bill is still a lot.  Of course, some people say I should go with an HMO, but I know the ugly, dirty side of HMO business.  Not to mention, when you have any previous health problems, an HMO is a death wish.  I guess I know too much to just take the easy way out and accept the lower cost of an HMO with its select doctors.


The reality of our situation is that we make it paycheck to paycheck.  It isn't ideal, and it isn't how I want things to be.  However, it is what it is right now.  I know I'm not the only one out there facing this reality either.  I'm not ungrateful; I know we are blessed to both have jobs.  Things could be a lot worse.  It just seems like it shouldn't have to be this way.  My paycheck should not be under $1000 after the insurance cost for Ayla and I.  It really shouldn't.  No family should have to choose between gas and groceries, yet we find a way to scrape enough together to make it just one more day til payday.  Thankfully, we save a lot with couponing, which helps soften the blow of the sheer expense of groceries.


Many families I know are stuck in the in between place.  The working poor.  I watched a show on Oprah a couple years go addressing this issue.  Basically, on paper you make too much money for any kind of relief, but in reality you don't make enough to get by.  Something is wrong with this.  There is something wrong with the filthy rich in our country getting more breaks than the people who need it.  Again, I'm not trying to start a debate or open a political can of worms.  I am Democratic.  I don't view socialism as modern communism.  If I were rich beyond my need, I know I would have no problem with giving back.  In fact, I know many working folks feel the same.  The last I read, working low-to-middle class citizens contribute a higher percent of their incomes to charity than people who can actually afford it.


Something just isn't right.  I shouldn't have to debate between gas and groceries.  No one should.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wedding madness

For most of the day, my mind, time, and energy has been devoted to the planning and daydreaming of our wedding.   It is hard to believe that at this time next year, I will be a newlywed.  A newlywed with a two-and-a-nearly-half year old daughter, at that!  

The number one thing I have dreaded about having a wedding is the wedding dress shopping.  In my mind, I've considered not shopping for a dress until the last minute or even having a courthouse wedding just to avoid trying on dresses in my current state of weight.

Based on the recommendations of a couple of my girlfriends, I decided to start at a local shop called Elda's.  The owner, Kristine, and the consultant, Ericka, were wonderful.  I certainly think they ooh-ed and ahh-ed a little more than I found believable, but then again, maybe I'm wrong.  I tried on several dresses, including some that didn't even make it out of the dressing room.  My decision came down to a beautiful satin Alfred Angelo and an organza Ella gown.  After trying on the Alfred for the second time, I realized how the Ella gown, which I wasn't sure about at first, was perfect for me.  If I got married tomorrow, I could walk down the aisle in a dress that I feel pretty in, even though I'm 30 lbs overweight.  

We've been discussing caterers, venues, and various other aspects of the wedding, and I am excited and overwhelmed.  Our life is the life of a married couple.  We bicker over silly things, we help each other and work as a team to raise our daughter into the kind of person we are so proud of, and we love each other with steadfast commitment.

All my life, I've been a bit of a paradox.  On one hand, I am traditional and classic, yet on the other hand, I am totally quirky and out of the box.  Kind of like chocolate covered pretzels.  Salty yet sweet. 

So many times, I have questioned why on earth Brandon loves me so much or treats me like no other man ever has.  I guess with my track record of less than savory boyfriends, I am amazed that I can be loved by a man that is wonderful, kind, gracious, funny, and thoughtful.  Now, I am in this place where I always hoped, but never dreamed, I would be.  I am a fiancee'.  I am going to be somebody's wife.  And I get to be a mother.  Never in a million years would I have believed that this would be my life right now if you had forecast it for me.  

At the end of the day, when the wedding madness has taken over, I vow to take a breath and kiss my fiance' and hug my daughter...because when it comes down to it, that is why I am getting married.  To put the icing on the cupcake of my family life.  To make it "official."  It isn't about the fanciest dress or most lavishly decorated ceremony.  My vision is to have a big celebration with the family and friends that love us and love that we get to be together in this crazy life.

Goodnight. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Acorns

With it being only 11 months away, I figure it is probably time to start planning the wedding we are planning to have.  My eyes are on a specific venue, I know a store I want to check out first for dresses, and oh yeah-I have the fiance that I definitely want to marry.

Originally, I wanted a springtime wedding.  Nice and green, lush, and lively.  And now I guess I want a brown, dead one.  Kidding, really.  I think somehow I got sucked into the idea of a fall wedding whilst looking through wedding stuff online.  Acorns, pine cones, squash and pumpkins, indian corn.  Orange, yellow, brown, cranberry red.  How I miss fall-I spent 18 years watching things die and come to life later, and I guess I didn't get a good appreciation for fall until I was gone.  You see, when fall came, I started dying away.  I spent the fall and winter of my life ages 12-17 falling to pieces physically once fall hit.  Many of those years I'm not sure I got out of the bed, except to pee...and even that was a challenge.

Now, the lovely autumnal season carries a new meaning to me.  I found out I was pregnant in the fall.  I fell in love with Brandon in the fall.  And acorns, oh how I love acorns.

When I had my first sonogram at approximately 10 weeks, I was so excited to see the little bitty in there.  Validation that I was actually a mom, something I never thought I'd be lucky enough to have the chance at.  From the time I was young, I knew I wanted kids, but finding a man to love me and have those kids with seemed unlikely.  Suddenly, here I was.  10 weeks pregnant.  Relived that those 5 pounds I'd put on and tight pants had a reason besides my affinity for food.

Brandon and I watched the sonogram in amazement, and I couldn't wait to show my mom the pictures they'd printed for us.  Upon viewing the sonograms, my mom pointed out something she noticed on one of them.  "It's an acorn hat," she remarked, pointing to a funny shadow or something, perched right atop of our little "sweet pea's" (as we called her) head.  So, my mom started calling the baby "Acorn" since we didn't know what we were having.  Heck, I didn't even think I wanted to find out.  My mom hadn't found out with any of us, yet she just KNEW what gender each of us were.  I didn't have that same instinct, or rather, I doubted myself too much to say what I really thought.  When the time came to decide, I let Brandon's pleading eyes make that choice.  He would've gone along with anything I'd wanted, but this was the one thing he truly wanted-to know if he was having the daughter he was hoping for.  Not to mention the fact that I didn't want to miss seeing our precious pea on the big screen.  

In the agonizing 8 weeks prior to our sonogram to reveal the gender, we talked about names.  We talked about names from the day we found out I was pregnant, actually.  One day, I came across the name "Ayla" and was reminded of a movie from my childhood, Clan of the Cave Bear (which is based on a highly popular series of novels).  Scenes from the movie played in my head.  My favorite as a child--though this was not a children's movie, I insisted on being quite grown-up from the time I was a wee one--is the part where Ayla spins in circles, saying her name over and over.  The character of Ayla is quite strong and brave and determined, which are all great qualities to have.  I sent Brandon a text to see what he thought.  We agreed on almost every girl name the other liked, and this was no exception.  "How do you say it?" he asked.  "Ayla like ay as in play.  Ay-la."  (Kayla with no K, as I now explain it).  His reply?  "Ayla Marley?"  And in that moment, we'd decided upon our daughter's name, though it wasn't set in stone until we found out she was indeed a girl.

The meaning of Ayla is "Oak tree," which happens to grow from the seed of, you guessed it, acorns!  Brandon insisted that this meant that we would not be having a girl, since everything fit so perfect and that would be his shit luck.  Ha!  Turns out it was perfect because she was exactly what God planned for our little family.

Ayla was born on May 26th, which shares the same day of the month (26th) as my mom's birthday, which is February 26th.  For the Christmas before Ayla was born, my mom gave us a beautiful organic, handmade knit hat that looks like an acorn top.  How appropriate.




Planning my wedding will prove to be quite the adventure, but even in doing so, you will see that my little acorn is not far from my mind or heart.  In fact, she already helped me start a collection of acorns for some wedding projects I have in mind.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Anger

I have to say, I am rather embarrassed to even go here, but I have a serious temper/anger problem.  It doesn't come up often, but if I'm stressed beyond belief, I really just snap.  It has been like this for years, and it isn't something I want to keep up.  Tonight, I couldn't find my purse anywhere, and after losing my wallet recently, I couldn't take anything else!  I was slamming doors, swearing, and literally on the floor beside myself.  Feels like someone just took over my body...

I guess I need to figure out a better way to cope with the extreme stress of a situation rather than falling to pieces and throwing a grown-up sized tantrum.  I'm not quite sure how to change this old habit, but the Irish gets the better of me, and I'd rather not set that prime example of what not to do for Ayla.

Phew.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Crazy owl lady

Our wonderful babysitter, Danielle, is like a sister to me.  She has been in our lives by way of her relationship with my brother Denny for years and years now.  One day, she remarked to my mom that Ayla had worn owls of some sort pretty much every day that week.  

It's true.  I can't resist the urge to purchase all things owl.  Ayla's toddler bed set is an owl/forest theme (even though she's too little for it still).  The lamp in her room goes with the theme.  I buy her owl pajamas, owl shirts, and various other owl-inspired ensembles.  
Not only does Ayla get to be surrounded by owls, but my students do as well.  I got an awesome owl-themed classroom jobs kit, as well as other various owl classroom products.  This year, my class theme is the Wise Owls.  I've never been able to commit to a theme before this, but now...I've got one!

My love for owls has a story.  My grandmother, Kathleen, was a wonderful artist and nurse.  She was involved in her church and community.  She was stunningly beautiful; her eyes were two different colors.  My artistic grandma painted a rock like a little owl, and my own mom (her daughter) remembers her love for owls.  As I previously mentioned, she and my grandfater were killed on their way home from a bridge tournament.  They were both in their 30s.  They had 4 children, one of whom they had recently adopted.  Nick, Kari, Jennifer (my mom), and Andrew.  When I see owls, I get to connect to the grandmother that I never got to have.  There have been times in my life where I have strongly felt the prescence of my grandparents with me, and I love them both very much even though I won't get to meet them in this world.  

My grandfather, Dennis, was known by those who loved him as Denny.  My brother was named for him-Denny...not Dennis, but Denny.  Grandpa was a doctor, a man who loved fishing, who loved eating, and he laughed all the time.  He especially loved children, and my mother's fond memories of him eating big bowls of ice cream at the table with them brought him to life for me.  

There aren't many belongings of my grandparents that were saved for my mom and her siblings, unfortunately.  The few things there are have always been so special and treasured to me, from my earliest memories.  I have an old apple necklace and a hippie flower pin that once belonged to my grandmother.  Her oil paintings hang in my parent's home, and along side them, the oil paintings that my mom did...the ones that I did.  

My paternal grandparents were both living until my grandpa LeRoy died this past March.  I have great memories of him from my childhood.  We would go to the coffee shop, and I would order pumpkin pie (which I used to hate).  He would have to eat it for me.  Throughout my life, he was in and out of our lives, depending.  Injured in a motorcycle accident back in the 70s, he had damage to his brain, which affected him for the rest of his life.  He was a veteran, and he was so proud of his service, especially on the USS Intrepid, which is now a museum in New York.  Some of his old comrades laid him to rest in New York, as they all vowed they would do for one another.  The ashes that are left accompany his military flag that was sent to my father.  LeRoy was not always the nicest man, but he was my grandfather.

Back in December 2009, my mom, sister Alexis, and I went on an impromptu trip to Iowa to surprise visit old family and friends.  (I grew up in Des Moines).  We decided that we would make the long trek to Tingley, Iowa to see him.  My older brother Dave made the trip with us.  We tried calling over and over, but got no answer.  When we arrived at his trailer, he wasn't there.  The Wagon Wheel cafe is down the street from the trailer, so we stopped in there to ask if they'd seen him.  Tingley is the kind of town where everyone knows everyone (and their business).  The folks there reckoned that he had gone into "town" to get supplies since they'd recently been hard hit by snowy weather.  Ayla was crying in the car, so we had to fix her a bottle.  We decided that we'd leave him a Christmas card and one of the family photos of Brandon, Ayla, and I at his trailer, saying that we had missed him.

I put my rental car in park in the middle of the street (what traffic?) to run through the snow to stick the card in his door.  When I ran across the street back to the car, there a car was, turn signal on in the direction of his driveway.   It was him and his lady, Rosemary.  Grandpa LeRoy was delighted to see us, especially the great-granddaughter bearing his last name as her 2nd middle name (my current, maiden name).  I hadn't seen him or communicated with him in 7 years before then.  We knew he'd become sick with cancer, which he believed to be a result of Agent Orange exposure.  He'd lost his eye, part of his ear, and his voicebox (which I'm sure years of chain smoking didn't help any).

We later found out, the day that we drove to see him was his birthday.  Wow.

After we returned to Florida, he wrote letters to all of us, especially his pride and joy Ayla Marley.  My father reconnected with him, and he asked us to come down to his trailer and get the things of his that we wanted.  He knew he was very sick, and he knew he wouldn't be with us much longer.  Still, he wrote letters talking about how he was going to drive to Florida once little Ayla was walking and talking so he could see her again.  About how he'd take her to the beach and then to get ice cream or pizza or whatever she wanted.  Instead, we drove up and saw him for the last time in February of 2010.  I am so glad that my dad got to hug him and that they could tell each other how much they loved each other...those two stubborn men, more alike than either of them could admit.  The last time I saw my grandfather, I cried and hugged him because I just knew it would be the last time.  He looked me in the eyes and told me, "You will survive.  You will survive."  I think he wanted me to know that.  To know that I would survive losing him.  That I will survive the challenges I will face during my life.  LeRoy always signed his letters to "be brave, no matter what."  So I guess that in my life, I will fulfill his simple request.

He was a patriotic man;  his trailer was red, white, blue, and eagles all over.  I will miss him, but when I see a flag, I am reminded of him.  When I say the pledge with my students, I say it with pride-for him.  Ayla Marley is walking (and running) and talking (and screaming), and I know he is smiling down on her.

As for my paternal grandmother, she has never been "grandmotherly" to me, and I will spend my life missing the grandmother she never was.

I'm a crazy owl lady because I miss my maternal grandparents, even though I never got to meet them.  My mom tells me how much they'd love my little family because they were involved in civil rights, and they are surely smiling on my interracial family that can live in this world today in a way that didn't exist in their lifetime.  When I see a big bowl of ice cream, I think of Grandpa Denny.  When I see an owl, I know my Grandma Kathleen is with me.  And that's a pretty amazing feeling.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guilt: just a "4-letter" emotion

Of all the horrific and terrifying tales I was told while pregnant, I was never told that as a mother, a feeling you are destined to experience on a frequent basis is GUILT.  Now, I'm not saying that I don't recognize it being misplaced.  Unfortunately, it doesn't make it any easier on me or any other mom.

Tonight, I felt guilty for growing frustrated with Ayla as she climbed to a stand on the couch over and over again, despite my telling her repeatedly, "Sit down."  I tell her, "Look at mommy, what did I say?"  She shakes her head, saying, "No no no.  Sitting."  After one of her many full-on, fall down screaming tantrums for the evening, my patience was done.   Guilty.

If ever I should fail to read her a story when I put her to bed (though this is usually Brandon's specialty-reading the stories with excellent sound effects), I feel guilty.  


When she gets chicken nuggets and frozen peas for lunch, I definitely feel guilty because I saw Food, Inc. and was shocked by the disgusting processes and secrets of our food industry.


At night time, she sometimes pees out of her diaper.  Guilty.  How did I not magically know that she peed at 3 am?  Because I should have known; I should have changed her so she didn't get all cold and clammy.


The feelings of guilt started from the first day she was born.  Trouble breastfeeding?  Guilt.  Remembering things I said in anger during a fight?  Guilty.  Guilty!  Being too tired and in excruciating tailbone pain (that her big head cracked on the way out!) to wake up with her the 7 times she got up in the night?  Double guilt-guilt for being a "bad" mom and a "bad" girlfriend.


Issues of guilt stem from other places throughout the course of motherhood, such as the guilt of being a neglectful friend.  Suddenly the thoughtfulness I may have once had (or the attention span) to juggle and maintain my friendships--gone.  Well, you know what comes next.  That sinking feeling of guilt.


What is it about parenthood that takes so many parents to a place of such a feeling of worthlessness and failure?  Are we hard-wired to feel that way so that we are able to protect and care for these precious babies we've been entrusted with?  Do we learn it from our own parents, the media, or even society?


I don't know, but I can tell you this.  When it comes down to it, I will still take the guilt if it means that I get to be Ayla's mom...if I get to be a mom to Ayla's sibling(s) someday.


You too?  Guilty!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meet the other Kiddos

Driving home tonight from some couponing at Publix, I was thinking to myself that I haven't really written about my other "babies" in my blog.  

Our first dog was rescued by Brandon up at the SPCA in Orlando.  We decided on a different dog that was days from her demise, but luckily when Brandon went to see her, she'd already found a (hopefully) forever home.  Then, there was Boo.  We bantered back and forth while walking down the beach during one of the tumultuous times in our relationship, discussing names for the dog we put our hopes into.  Somehow, we came to the agreement that we both liked Boo.  Sidenote: the first dog I had as a little girl was named Bo Jangles.  My dad let me pick him out.  He was a german shepherd and my best buddy as a little girl.  When we had to let him go to a home with more wide-open spaces, my heart broke and so did my dad's.  So...pretty exciting getting a dog.  When I drove to Orlando to see Brandon and meet our new puppy, I was terrified.  She was this big girl, red and white, with a spot right on her forehead.  And when I tried to walk her, I got taken on a wild ride.  Anywho, our Boo turned out to be quite the "Marley" dog while she lived with Brandon's mom (whom we are so grateful to), eating her out of couch and chairs.  She was a nervous dog from the beginning, terrified dreadfully of thunderstorms especially.  She has always hated being left alone, and she is a nervous/excited licker.  Addicted to licking.  Annoying as can be, but I'll miss it someday I know.

Boo girl went through two round of puppy school, and she was definitely the class clown.  She's a beautiful dog, and we had to stop taking her to the dog park because she 
was being humped in the face by all those pervy boy dogs.  Needless to say, this caused her to become rather defensive upon further returns to the parks.  

When we brought Ayla home, Boo was not with us for the first week.  She came home when Ayla was a week old, and they were instant buds.  If Ayla cried and we didn't respond within say, 2 seconds, Boo was whining at us and leading us to Ayla.  Never have I seen a dog walk on eggshells around a baby like our lab/boxer/beagle/something mixed up mutt.  She keeps my feet warm at night, and she loves us unconditionally.  At the end of the day, Brandon is the one she will listen to the best.  I'm guessing she remembers who saved her that day 2-1/2 years ago.

Then came Oscar.  I told Brandon for mother's day I wanted a mother's ring or a puppy friend for Boo.  We fell in love with a girl Boston Terrier on craiglist by the name of Lucy.  As fate would have it, Lucy was already promised to another owner.  We scoured the county looking for other Bostons to no avail.  When we went to the pound, the dogs all had distemper, so we drove to find a pet store that was out of business.  I had resigned to the fact that we wouldn't find another Boston, but I happened to look on craiglist one last time.  At the top of the list for a price we couldn't beat, there was a 4-month old male Boston.  We drove to meet him, and when we saw little "Monty" we were in love.  Excitingly, he was around a baby girl from a very young age.  The couple just couldn't keep up with him, and we should've known we were in for it when she told us his theme song was "Bad Boy."  

What a rascal this little guy has turned out to be.  Pooping.  Peeing.  Up throughout the night.  I felt like I had another (hairier) child.  Wow!  But...he loves Ayla, and he has calmed Boo's separation anxiety problems significantly (glad that plan didn't backfire).  Once we neutered him, we were convinced things would get better.  Nope.  The little monster eats his own poo and then pukes it, and he continued doing his dirty deed throughout the house.  He likes to chew baby socks and searches out my bras wherever he can find them (and he goes to great lengths, I tell you).  Now that he is approaching age 1, he has matured quite a bit, and when he's the dog in the house, he's a little puddle of needy, wrinkley cuteness.  He wants to snuggle and nap as close to me as he can.  Thankfully, he has grown on Brandon like a fungus that you can't quite get rid of, and Ayla says "Oskie, Oskie" in between moments of telling him "Get.  Bad butt."

A dog is a man's best friend, right?  To us, our dogs are family.  We can't stand them, but we love them anyway. (wink)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blue jeans...

Recently, I began a weight loss challenge group on Facebook, and I have a handful of friends (old and new) involved.  At this point, I've tried everything but starvation and liposuction, so might as well give this a shot.  My brother's ex (from way back in high school) suggested it to me, and when I saw her results-wow!  She looks better now than she did in high school!

First and foremost, I am looking forward to going wedding dress shopping when I've lost 15-20 lbs. of the 35 I want to lose.

Then...my jeans.  I have so many wonderful pairs of blue jeans that I miss wearing so much.  Right now, I'm stuck with these Old Navy ones that are cut higher on my stomach because, well, that's how they'll fit me.  And they pinch, they bind, and they make me so uncomfortable.  Much like my weight.  I can't wait to fit into a pair of old jeans again, a luxury I never thought I'd have to go without.

Colder weather is upon us, and I refuse to go a 3rd winter wearing maternity pants.  I wore them the winter I was preggers and the winter after that.  What a horrid feeling!  So, I either find fat pants that fit (a challenge like no other) or I wear the capri's that fit me all winter.  

Another exciting thing about losing weight is that the first place I lose it is in the ta-tas.  They were ginormous before, and they are even bigger now.  Let me tell you, if I ever wanted plastic surgery (I don't), that would probably be my first request.

My feet have gotten bigger.  Now finding cute shoes is nearly impossible!  It isn't that my feet are fatter, they are just about a 1/2 size longer from all the swelling and stretching they did.  When you're pregnant, your body produces a hormone called relaxin (ha-ha) which helps your ligaments to stretch.  This hormone does not limit itself to your belly.  Hence the feet grow-age that some women go through.

So as I go through this weight loss journey, I remember the following:  A wedding dress is for a day, but blue jeans are forever (or at least til I get preggers again and have to do the whole stretch and shrink over again).

Send my blue jeans and my belly fat your well wishes!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Standing up.

Brr-this chilly weather is getting to my poor, broken body.  Thank goodness my brain functions better than my body does (though that's not saying much).  

I've come to the conclusion that it is so difficult to be someone who tries to be fair and stand up for what's right.  By no means am I perfect-I'm far from it.  I fail often, and my shortcomings are many.  There have just been some instances lately where I have tried to handle situations diplomatically, and I am not sure why I try.  It doesn't involve anyone that I'm close to, and it isn't anything that affects me in my personal life.  Why, I wonder, do we have guidelines and procedures if we aren't going to follow them across the board?  I suppose that this is life.  On a grander scale than the woes of my day-to-day frustrations, I know there are people who commit crimes and get away with it.  A young man drove drunk, killed my grandparents, and got to live his life.  No doubt, he had his own struggles to face, but I think for victims or for those simply trying to do what's right, the lack of "justice" so to speak is upsetting...at times devastating.

Friday is here, and I am glad that I am still standing so to speak.  My levels of exhaustion are so high.  I am constantly tired, drained, exhausted, and buried in a list of to-dos longer than I can handle.  Pure exhaustion-the kind you feel when you just go-go-go, but yet the go-go-going isn't getting you where you need to be.  If I could have one wish (aside from the priorities of health, wealth, and family) it would be for energy.  

The good news is, my dog didn't puke up his own poo, no one has been breaking into my house lately, and I don't have another wallet to lose!  Also, I am thankful for my wonderfully soft sheets, 3 warm bodies to cuddle up to (dogs and B), and a precious toddler that has decided to stop tormenting me with her experiments of what is and isn't acceptable behavior long enough to sleep peacefully, all snuggled with her special blanket and wearing her precious warm owl jammies.

Tomorrow, I challenge you to see yourself for you who are today, and be proud.  Don't cringe at the muffin top hanging over your jeans (like I do) and don't look at your makeup-less face and look away, embarrassed (like I do).  Be glad that you're somebody's mama (like I am) and that people love you (boy, am I loved).  Be glad that you get to live your life and write your story each day, no matter what the chapter before said was likely to happen and the things that are already passed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Update: baby fever has broken, sanity level back to normal

Usually, I'm so excited to pick Ayla up from Danielle's, but lately I've considered hiring Danni for a short-term mother position.  You see, my very bossy and opinionated daughter has decided to really test the limits lately.  How, you ask?

1. She will raise her arms into the air and make her mean face (a classic, I tell ya), demonstrating that she is about to slap the crap out of me.
2. She kicks violently during diaper changes.
3.  When I tell her, "Nice...gentle," she hugs me or touches my face softly, followed by a slap or kick to the nearest tender spot on my body.
4. When I tell her no and redirect her by having her do what I'd like her to be doing (for instance, sitting on the new couch-a rare splurge-rather than running up and down it after just seconds ago falling headlong into the floor), she looks at me, says "No no no no," and does it anyway.
5.  She has random outbursts of crying and/or screaming for no apparent reason.  I know there's a reason, but I can't seem to figure it out.

Being Ayla's mom has been (literally) painful lately, and at the end of the day, I want to smooch and snuggle her.

But tonight was a great reminder of why we are waiting to try for another.  So we can savor this precious time with our kicking, slapping, crying, screaming 17 month old.  Baby fever?  Nah.

Baby fever!

My dog eats his own poo and then vomits it.  I guess we're back to putting crushed pineapple in his food.  Apparently it makes their shit taste like...shit.  Novel concept, really.

Okay, where was I?  Baby fever.  My beautiful, precious, awesome new niece (my 2nd) was born around 4 this morning.  Her name is Elisabeth Mae, and she has an awesome set of parents (my brother Dave and SIL Jess) along with her big sister Naomi and big brother Will.  Is it estrogen-y in here or is it me?  Babies are all around me, and let me tell ya, it's hard not to catch the fever!  We aren't going to try again for awhile, but it doesn't mean that the sweet smell of newborns' heads doesn't tempt me.  I wish I could hop on a plane to Iowa and sniff in the deliciousness of her dark-haired little head!  They make beautiful babies.  My SIL homeschools, and she puts Betty Crocker to shame.  Both of my brothers chose ladies to have in their lives that I happen to genuinely love and consider my sisters.  Nice when that happens, huh?

My good friend Jennifer is having her baby shower this weekend, and my friend Jeni is pregnant, and my other friend Jenny just had her baby girl. (And my mom's name is Jennifer).  Anyhow, it made me think of the excitement of making a baby registry.  I remember scanning all kinds of things that I thought we would most definitely need.   Let me tell you, you don't need it all.

Top 5 baby products I've lived without (even if I happened to have received them)
1. Baby powder.  Many studies have shown that it is very irritating to babies to inhale the powder that drifts their way when it is being applied.  I've never found a need to powder my baby's face, let alone her behind.
2. Baby nail files.  Brandon has always been fearful of clipping baby's nails, so this became my job.  Clippers, yes.  But I can't imagine ever having a restful enough baby or enough patience to neatly file nails down.  In fact, clippers aren't even really necessary because babies nails tear off neatly and easily most of the time.
3. Baby Bjorn.  I know people swear by them, but I'd take a moby wrap any day of the week over a backpacky, stiff Bjorn.  Plus, they are super easy to make using interlock fabric (which you can buy at JoAnn's).  My friend Amanda swears by the Ergo for a carrier (and also happened to give me my moby that she made) and when baby #2 comes, I'd invest in it early (but I was a little too late to invest in one of this somewhat pricey devices). So in the future, I'd have a moby and an ergo.
4. Munchkin's fresh feeding set looked so amazing in the store, and I was so excited for it. But when it came time to use it, Ayla only used the mesh food dispensing pacifier thingy a couple times.  And the food mill included?  Joke!  I used an Oster hand blender to make all of Ayla's baby food (which I highly recommend...so easy!) with.  
5. Bottle sterilizer.  The idea of fresh, clean sterilized bottles is great.  But...a dishwasher works just fine.  Read the package of a baby bottles.  It says run them through the dishwasher.  The days of nipple boiling and constant sterilizing are past folks.

Can I just comment on how glamorous and stylish and thin all those moms on the baby sites (Ergo, Moby, etc) look?  What new mom looks that clean, awake and energized, and smokin' hot like that?  Don't tell me because if I knew, I'd have to punch them.  Show me a mom with the war zone of a hairstyle and still wearing maternity clothes, only now with the new adornment of spit up and boogers. 


Things I loved (continued)
1. Earth's Best baby food.  I made most of Ayla's food, but I wanted her to have more of a variety than could be stored in my freezer.  Between coupons and Publix's BOGO sales, I managed to make these quite affordable (plus I hate Gerber and refuse to buy their products in the poisonous #7 hot-dog quality plastic).
2. Anything Fisher Price simply because their customer service is unbeatable.  I know they had some recalled products, but if you heard why they were recalled, you'd laugh at the idiot parents who count on baby equipment and toys to parent their babies.  I will buy them again and again because they handle things with such caution and care, in my opinion.
3. It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita I love Heather Armstrong for being crass, bold, brave, funny, and honest.  She gave me strength and courage when I needed it.  Mostly, she made me laugh...and I needed to laugh.  This book is a must read for any sleep-deprived mom.  I promise you'll find the time to read it once you start.


Remember, if you have baby fever but are not yet ready to spend 9 months miserably hot and uncomfortable with leaky breasts and strangers groping your belly, follow these words of advice.
"A man is like a basketball player.  They dribble before they shoot."  My ob-gyn said this to me approximately 14 hours after I gave birth.  With that kind of treatment, you'd think I was a 14-year-old teenage mom working on baby #3.  C'mon!  I know how babies are made...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Surreal

My mom has always told me that I have a story to tell.  A book to write.  Of course, she's my mom so she has to say that.  Incredibly, this spur-of-the-moment blog I created has been well-received.  I wasn't even sure if I was going to put it out there, but I've gotten such encouragement and even praise that I'm driven to continue.  Somehow, my thoughts out there on the 'net have been validated by the people in my life who took a moment to read something I wrote, for whatever reason.  I'm a terrible critic of myself, so it is no wonder I find it surreal to experience such positivity out of the rubble and ashes and ramblings of my exhausted, incoherent mind.

Honesty is so important.  This is a lesson I learned from my mom.  Many parents of her generation have detached themselves from sharing who they are with their children.  On the other hand, my mom has told me everything from the tragedies in her life to the greatest joys and triumphs.  When Ayla grows up, I want to do the same thing.  I want her to be able to see me as a person because moms aren't perfect.  As a child, my mom was perfect in my mind, and even now that I know she isn't, she is the greatest example of authenticity in my life.  Out of the tragedy of losing both parents to a drunk driver and the devastation that a negligent store's freezer cost her family, she brings to the world around her kindness and humor and light.  If it weren't for her, I don't know if I would have come back from the brink of despair in the darkest days of my illness.

RSD.  Perhaps this is the struggle in my life that has shaped me so much. July 8, 1996.  When I was 12 years old, I was shopping in a grocery store with my mom.  She asked me to grab a couple boxes of popsicles from a spot merchandise freezer.  In the moment it took the four fingers on my violin-playing, callused left hand to graze the side, our family's life...my life...changed forever.  As bizarre as it sounds, and as strange as it is for me to tell the story, my fingers got stuck to the side of that freezer for an undetermined amount of time.  It could have been years, as it felt to me with the sensation of all the warmth being sucked out of my hand, the sensation of my fingers being sucked into the black hole of the side of that freezer.  That sole event caused my central nervous system to break, essentially.  I lost the reality of normal that day because every day of my life since then, my body has never been the same.  The first several years of my illness were the worst.  Losing my scholarship to a private and prestigious university.  Losing my friends.  Watching the agony and strife it caused those around me to not be able to help.  Doctors that said, "You know girls this age," and dismissed me as a mental case.  

Fast forward to October 2002.  After many years and many stories later, my family moved to Florida.  My mother was the driving force, and shockingly, her and my father purchased a house in Palm Bay just miles from mine, my brother's, and my sister's future schools.  Just minutes away from my brother's future love of his life.  They did this in just 3 days, in a town they'd never been in.  

I can't say that I would take it back.  I have many years of my life that have been lost, but look at what I have now.  I have health better than I could have hoped for-I'm no longer headed towards a future in a wheelchair, for now.  Suicidal thoughts don't fill the mind of the little girl I once was, full of suffering and loss.  My family is beautiful, my friends are amazing, and I had the chance to rewrite my story.  That's why I don't tell my story because I feel like the person I am should speak more so than the story of what happened to me.  From all the events that transpired from the moment I got hurt, I have arrived where I am.  Where I'm meant to be.  None of these blessings would have existed without first losing so much.

Surreal, isn't it?