The Weekend’s Low -and High- Points

October 20, 2008

His scream pierced the night. “Mommy! Mommy! My mommy!” Before I could move my heavy form off the mattress, Gruff was up and out our door. I heard Smooch’s voice louder – hitching sobs and cries for me. Gruff soothed and whispered and patted, but Smooch only got more upset.

“That’s enough.” Tired and frustrated at not being able to comfort our son, Gruff’s voice got a wee bit sharper. “Smooch, that’s enough.”

My mama-heart clenched to hear the refrain that -it seems in my memory- was lobbed at me so often in my childhood. My parents meant well, they meant only the best. Looking back on it, I think they were often overwhelmed by the ferocity of my storms of emotion. I was generally a happy, pleasant kid; but when I felt something, I felt it. Big, loud, unrestrained tears and long, wistful sighs and elaborate huffs and stomps. Those were my canvas, my oils. I wanted the whole world to know how I FELT. I think my parents were trying, in their way, to teach me the art of restraint – of discretion – of knowing how, and when, and where it was appropriate and safe to vent my feelings. But as a kid, I didn’t see it that way. I felt that my emotions were inconveniencing them (they probably were) and that they just wanted me to go away and come back when I could ‘behave’ (they probably did) – and, more importantly, I felt that their attempt to add a little temperance to my tempers was a rejection of ME.

Whew, did you hear all that? Don’t I sound well-balanced, to be able to reflect on all of that so clearly? It took my marriage nearly imploding and subsequent therapy to reach those realizations. Our therapist helped me to see that the pattern I learned (or assumed) as a kid – that my feelings needed to be bottled, and filtered, and made potable before being aired, or else I might be rejected – had become very unhealthy for me as an adult.

But back to Saturday night.

I joined my husband in our boy’s room, and I scooped his long body from his bed. He’s a toucher, my little guy – he seeks out skin contact nearly all day. It’s his thing, his love language, his coping comfort. He stretched his little arms as far around me as he could and started rubbing and patting my back as I patted his, and slowly his sobs quieted down. It was a long night, though. His tears flared up again and again as we tried to figure out what had upset him so, what would help him fall back to sleep. My emotions (and hormones) were close to the surface, and I cried a bit myself. Finally, around 2:00, we were all ready for bed again. Smooch had been able to tell us that he wanted to come to our bed, and we finally settled him down on his mattress on our floor – a compromise, since Mama’s ever-expanding girth makes it hard for me to get comfortable just sharing with Gruff, much less if we added a squirmy two year old to the bed.

As I laid there in the dark, quiet surrounding me once more, I wondered: am I really ready to add another babe to this mix? I want to be ready – I deeply love this little girl-child inside me, and I can’t wait to see her face to face. But there were moments, facing my son’s tears, upset with my husband, and wrestling with my own childhood ghosts, that I felt utterly incapable of the family I already have. How then can I handle one more human being, one who needs me completely and desperately and wholly?

I know I’m not the only expectant mom to worry and wonder. I read Mrs. Chicken’s blog while she was expecting Shaggy, and I loved the way she wrote about both the joy and the anxiety of bringing home the second baby. I know that we’ll find our way, as she is finding hers, and that somehow I will make room in our lives for Doodlebug. That I’ll manage, as millions of mothers before me can testify, to handle the new needs of our bigger family.

And my first step toward managing? On Sunday evening, fueled by a whole day’s worth of coffee and rest and food and time together, I approached Gruff about his words to Smooch. We talked about our expectations of our oldest – who is really not so very old, at 33 months – and how we can handle another outburst like that one. I talked about my need to be supported, even comforted and consoled, when I become emotional in the face of Smooch’s upsets. I talked about my childhood, and not wanting to communicate the same undercurrent to our kids. And then I listened – to his feelings and fears, and bless his heart!, to his apology. We ended our conversation in that best of ways, by meandering around a hundred unrelated topics, laughing and giggling, reminiscing, and cuddling.

It makes me believe that we will be ready, in 12-or-so weeks, when she joins us in the outside world.


Bloggy Giveaways Carnival! *now closed*

January 28, 2008

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Shannon, she of Rocks In My Dryer fame, is hosting another amazing carnival of giveaways! I had so much fun entering these back in the fall — seriously, folks, there were well over 400 blogs participating! All giving something away for free! Amazing! — that I told Gruff I was going to participate in the next one. And lo and behold, the time has come. It’s the Bloggy Carnival and I’m giving away right along with hundreds of other bloggers! Woo-hoo! (Ed. note: the carnival went live at 8 a.m. It is now 9:24 and I’m #178 on the list. This is going to be BIG, people.)

I thought and thought about what to give away. I noticed a lot of gift cards at the last one, and I for one was ALL ABOUT entering those giveaways, let me tell you. Plus, a gift card is easy-peasy to mail to whoever wins. Plusalso, it is easy to buy and have ready for the carnival (unlike my first idea, to handcraft some little piece of artsy crafty fabric-y goodness, which would invariable be not quite finished by the time the carnival rolled around). So then the question was, what kind of gift card should it be?

No sense in keeping you in suspense – there’s no big relevatory reason I chose this particular one. We were having a nice breakfast at Cracker Barrel a few days after Christmas when I decided to share the love: I’m giving away a $10 gift card to Cracker Barrel.

You can fill up with hot coffee and a big heaping plate of Momma’s French Toast Breakfast (I’m just saying. That’s what I get every.single.time. But you are free to choose other plates of deliciousness, as you please.) or, if you’re not the eating type (not that I’ve ever met one. But I hear those types of people do exist.) then you can browse in their little front-half-of-the-restaurant Old Country Store and pick up something to complete your collection, like this:

Willow Tree
(Again. Maybe that’s just me.) You can check here to see where the nearest Cracker Barrel is – luckily for me, I’ve never lived more than a few minutes away from one. Nothing beats a CB breakfast, especially on a lazy Saturday morning.

Now here are the rules: you must leave a comment on this post between now and February 1st. You have to use a valid email address, since that’s how I’ll get in touch with the winner. You don’t have to be a blogger, but if you ARE a blogger, I hope you’ll include your URL so I can come by and visit. Last but not least, as much as I love global blog readers, you must have a US or Canadian mailing address to participate. I’ll close comments on Friday and will draw a winner using one of those spiffy random number generator things. (I have no idea how they work, but apparently I don’t have to! It’s like electricity! Just flip the switch and voila – TV on! TV off! But that’s neither here nor there.)

Have fun – and remember to visit the Carnival for the whole list of bloggers who are giving something away this week!


You’ll never guess

January 16, 2008

…who called me tonight. Read the rest of this entry »


Oh, the frugality

January 13, 2008

I just have to brag for a minute. I went grocery shopping this afternoon — having planned meals for fourteen days, plus needing a few pantry staples, a few household items (paper towels and toilet paper), and three cards for a family member facing a new medical diagnosis — and exited an hour and a half later. I spent $106.23. If I subtract the cards, and average everything else out, that’s just $7.14 a day to feed all three of us! (To be honest, I will likely hit the store at some point next week for another gallon of whole milk for Smooch, a loaf of bread, and another bunch of bananas – so that might bring my average up to $7.85. Still not bad.) Considering that for a while, I was spending $350-400 a month on groceries, I’m really feeling good about my ability to pinch pennies and still come up with a nice variety of healthy meals. Yay for the little housewifely victories, eh?


30 days

November 24, 2007

One month from today, I’ll be arranging the presents under the tree “just so,” probably for the dozenth time. I’ll be checking the mail for those down-to-the-last-minute cards and newsy updates from friends far-flung across the globe.

I’ll be blasting the carols and the pop songs, the Christian Contemporary and the comedy, the many CDs and the playlist on the iPod. And (naturally) I’ll be singing along at the top of my lungs.

I’ll be watching at least two hours – if not more – of the 24-hour marathon of the best cult-classic ever, on TBS.

We’ll all be getting ready for the candlelight service at church (although it’s going to take some serious thought, how to handle a candlelight service with an almost-2-year-old) and we’ll walk out with a sense of wonder and joy.

When we get home, I’ll be dressing Smooch in his festive red & green snowflake pajamas and posing him for pictures. I’ll be drinking hot chocolate or eggnog, and munching on a whole variety of cookies.

I’ll be missing my family, since they’ve all decided to make their next visit in the Spring. The refrigerator will be full to bursting with all the food – way too much for just the three of us—that I’ll be ready to cook.

And I’ll be snuggling with my sweetie, praying for a beautiful snow overnight, and whispering our excitement about seeing our little one when he wakes up.

My countdown begins today. I can hardly wait for Christmas.


Alphabet of Thanks

November 22, 2007

When I was a teacher, a colleague set up an enrichment activity for her classroom to create an alphabet of facts about a subject they loved. It made a great hallway display, and it allowed the kids to get engrossed in a project that was fun. They barely realized all the skills they were practicing as they created their posters. I had that hallway display in mind when I started this list, weeks ago. It seemed like an easy enough task – I have SO much to be thankful for, surely I could find one thing for each letter. But, like that class full of kids, I found that I really had to put a lot of thought into creating this list. That’s a good thing, though. Every day that I opened up this page and worked on it, I had to focus on the blessings in my life. It helped center me on days when I was too caught up in the busy-ness of the impending holiday. So, here it is: my alphabet of thanks. I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 

Animals in my life. Currently, we share our home with two sweet kitties, but in the past I’ve had dogs, cats, hamsters, and a guinea pig. I’m thankful that my parents let me have pets as a kid, and I’m thankful for that warm fuzzy feeling I get when I wake up to the sound of purring.

Blogroll of friends and acquaintances. Their words challenge me, amuse me, inspire me. Their skills humble me and dare me to stretch. Their comments keep me going on days when I feel like I have nothing to offer here.

Cellphone, which keeps me in touch with everyone I love, and lets me screen the calls of those I don’t love. (Kidding. A little.) Once my younger brother got a cell, we started chatting at least once a week. My parents weren’t planning to ever get cellphones, but they finally did as part of my dad’s new job, and now I talk to my mom practically every day. I’m so thankful for this connection, because living far away from all of my family and most of my old friends could otherwise be very isolating.

Dad & Mom. My parents weren’t perfect, but they did a great job in giving me a happy childhood. I’m thankful for their marriage (28 years and counting, and they still make out in the kitchen!) and for their commitment to my brother and I. My dad never has an idle moment – and my mom never met a stranger. They take care of so many people, and they set a great example for me.

Early morning. When I manage to put myself to bed on time, I usually awaken naturally at a pretty early hour. The peace and quiet of the house before Smooch wakes up is a balm to my soul. The coffee tastes better, the words I read speak to my heart, and there is a clarity of purpose when I jot my to-do list. I’m thankful for those moments of serenity.

Finger paint. I’ve learned (vicariously) that it doesn’t taste great. I’ve learned that a finger-painted creation makes most people smile. And I’ve learned that it even washes out of hair, eventually.

Gruff.

Hearing Smooch “read” to himself. It warms my heart and reassures me that he’s already developing a love for reading and learning.

Internet groups. I am a member of a few Yahoo! groups and a few message boards. They’ve been a source of information and support during the toughest times of my life – fertility struggles, a cancer diagnosis, and marital trouble. My life is richer because of the connection I’ve found at my laptop, and I’m thankful for all of the members of those groups.

Joyful noises. I know, I know – I just wrote about how great the silence is at my library. And that’s true; I need the quiet to concentrate and find my center. But I’m thankful that my whole day isn’t silent. I love the sounds of my happy little family and my busy little life. I love that we are “Mak[ing] a joyful noise unto God!” (Psalm 66:1)

Kisses. Slobbery baby kisses, memories of first-boyfriend kisses, only-in-my-dreams Patrick Dempsey kisses, and best of all, head-over-heels husband kisses. I’m thankful for them all.

Laughter. I have a goofy sense of humor, and I crack up a few times a day at my toddler’s silly antics. I also married a guy who takes great pride in his ability to make me laugh. It’s hard to stay in a bad mood when you’re giggling, chuckling, chortling, or howling out those belly laughs.

Mommy & Me, the playgroup I found shortly after we moved here. This group of women and kids has really helped me feel grounded here, helped me feel like I belong.

Noodles. I heart pasta. All shapes, all sizes, all sauces. I had a phase where I ate some kind of noodles almost every single day a few years ago! My waistline can’t handle that anymore, but it’s still my go-to comfort food.

Ovusoft. This software accompanies the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility and helps with the charting process of the Fertility Awareness Method. Without it, I don’t know if Smooch would be here.

Pumpkin pie. With whipped cream. Mmmmmmm. I’m thankful for a holiday that lets me indulge in treats like this without compunction.

Quiet time at the library.

Restaurants with lidded cups, comfortable highchairs, reasonably priced children’s menus, and servers who understand putting in those orders first and bringing that food out quickly. I don’t even remember the last time I went out to eat with only adults, so I’m thankful for places that truly are family-friendly and make our dining experience as smooth as possible.

Smooch.

TiVo – for without my beloved TiVo, I’d be out of the loop with all my favorite shows and I’d be up a creek on those restless afternoons when Smooch wants Elmo NOW!

Underwear. Seriously. Can you imagine your life without good underwear? Life is better with the perfect, comfortable, beautiful bra. And you know you have a favorite pair of panties – I’m not the only one. Life is better with comfy undies, and I’m thankful for that.

Visits from family… especially since we’re far enough away that the visits are always planned, always short, and always spaced out. It’s easier to appreciate your relatives when you aren’t sick of them.

Wrapping up my Christmas shopping early. It makes me incredibly happy to be done already, and to be able to enjoy the next few weeks of preparation with things like decorating my house, baking, planning a party, and singing carols. I’m thankful that I don’t have to dash out to the mall and deal with crazy parking lots, crowded stores, and mile-long checkout lines.

eXistential questions. I’m thankful for the freedom and ability to ask the deep questions about my life, and I’m thankful for my understanding of them so far.

You, gentle reader.  Your eyes and your comments make blogging SO much more fun than keeping a paper journal or even a computer folder of writing exercises. I am thankful for you.

Zoos, aquariums, and museums. These local attractions have great prices on annual passes, and I’m thankful that Smooch will get to experience all that they have to offer in the coming year.


By the Numbers: Life Lessons

November 20, 2007

One apartment fire that taught me so much about what’s really important in this life.

Two surgeries and two rounds of chemo for Gruff that knit us so close together. We learned to make the most of each day – and though our relationship got derailed for a while there, we are back to making the moments count.

Three blogs on the road to this one…. hopefully each one has improved on the last, and I’ve learned a little bit about the blogosphere in the process.

Four siblings (and siblings-in-law) who have turned out to be wonderful aunts and uncles to Smooch. I still remember special moments with a few of my various aunts and uncles, and I love to see my baby developing a relationship with his.

Five grandparents in my son’s life. While we’ll probably always have some amount of family drama on the side with the split, I’m blessed to see that both Smooch’s bio-grandmother and step-grandmother are great with him. Each of the three grandmas and two grandpas brings something unique to the table – their own set of life lessons, their own interests and joys – and I am learning to appreciate all the richness that lends to our lives as a result.

Six windows. Through the windows in my house, I see the beauty of the changing seasons; the silly happiness of a boy playing in the backyard with his daddy; the neighbors out and about; the sunsets; the busy airplanes bringing people to and from our nearby big city. I’ve learned that I can feel gratitude and contentment for whatever my eyes land on.

Seven amazing hobbies (scrapbooking, sewing, knitting, crochet, quilting, cross-stitching, and writing) that keep me sane and give me a creative outlet – and something to do with my hands when the in-laws visit.

Eight years since I met a tall, funny, smart man who swept me off my feet. He is spontaneous when I am meticulous; he is wide-eyed at the big picture when I am squinting at the details; he is laid-back when I am wound-up. He has taught me how to let go a little bit, and how to enjoy the ride.

Nine pounds left to lose. Around Smooch’s first birthday, I was back to my ‘ideal’ weight (although I don’t recommend that level of stress as a weight-loss plan). In the months since, I’ve bounced back and forth from around five pounds heavier to, now, about nine pounds heavier. I’m not saying I’m glad that I’m out of shape, or that I’ve learned that fat is fun or anything like that. I’ve learned over the years that my body responds to stress by shedding pounds, usually quickly. When I’m a few pounds over my goal, even though it does signal that I could stand to cut out the latte’s and cookies, I know that my life is feeling pretty comfortable. That sort of makes the pounds worth it.

Ten toenails that look so cute when they’re painted bright red! I’ve whined about how I don’t get as many pedicures as I used to, but the truth is that when I take the time to pamper myself (even if I do it inexpensively, at home) I feel a nice little boost to my femininity. I’ve learned that it’s worth the investment of time to do little things for myself, when I can.

Eleven Christmas songs on the CD in my car. I’ve learned that even though I tease my mother mercilessly about her irrational, seasonless love for Christmas carols… I share the predilection to start playing them far too early in the year. Until this post goes live, it’s been my little secret. Only Smooch knows, and hears, that I sing along loudly to “O Holy Night” and “Angels We Have Heard On High” starting in mid-November.

Twelve classic recipes that form the basis for most of my weekly meal planning – they’re each easy to make, good for freezing, and make plenty for the three of us. Plus, they are things that picky Gruff will eat! I branch out with new recipes or seasonal things, but having a backbone of recipes I can rely on really simplifies everything from shopping to prep.

Thirteen months since Gruff’s affair ended. I’m not thankful that it happened. I’m not thankful that she exists. I’m not thankful for a lot of things connected to that time. But I’m thankful that it ended of its own accord. I’m thankful that Gruff faced the issues, made the reconciliation, did the work, went to counseling with me, and made the changes. I’m thankful that our therapists helped me see my own issues. I’m thankful that we have created a new marriage where the old one once stood. I’m thankful that my son will have an intact family. I’ve learned that I can honestly say my husband and I are in love, and happy, and committed to one another.

Fourteen books on my “to-read” list. When Smooch was tiny, I had no time to read; but lately I’ve made the time for it more consistently. Reading gives me something to talk about, something to think about, and something to aspire to. I’ve learned that I feel more balanced when I have a steady diet of fiction and non-fiction, biography and poetry, memoir and fluffy chick lit.

Fifteen hours out of an average 24-hour period that my son is sleeping. For this, I am incredibly grateful. I have learned to love -nay, to cherish -nay, to WORSHIP a full night’s sleep. And we ALL know how Fizz likey de naptime.

Sixteen years as a student (well, it was actually one semester shy of sixteen years) taught me more than the academic subjects for which I was being graded. I learned about my mother’s many skills through my years of homeschooling. I learned how to navigate the social waters of middle school, eventually, and then I learned how to multitask and apply myself in high school. I learned how to share a room, share a secret, share a six-hour road trip, and more, in college.

Seventeen days working on this list taught me that once is enough for this blog-post concept. I’ll never do it again!

Eighteen steps in my bilevel house. I’ve learned that having a stair basket is a MUST, so that I can avoid lots of unnecessary trips up and down with one or two little misplaced objects. It also helps me avoid tripping all over myself as I go up or down. I got mine from my mom, and I love it!

Nineteen-eighty. (Okay, that’s a little bit of a cheat.) It was a good year, and I learned a long time ago that the cool thing about being born in 1980 is that I can always calculate my age easily. Especially now that we’re in the 2000’s – you just take the first two digits, and add them to the last two digits. Since I’ve never been good at math, that was a life lesson that made me smile.

Twenty students a year, times five years, equals one hundred children I taught at three elementary schools across the Southeast. I learned so much from them. Sammy taught me that success might look different than your original definition, but that’s okay. Madison taught me that hearing about someone else’s experience can give you courage to get through a hard time. Megan taught me that sometimes, good people get stuck in bad families. I also learned that teaching in public schools isn’t how I want to spend the rest of my life.

Twenty-one months since I welcomed an eight-pound, three-ounce, strawberry blonde baby boy into the world. His life changed mine. My life is worth living because of his.

Twenty-two moms who help me in this journey. I joined a local group when we moved here that has playgroups for the kids, moms’ nights out, family potlucks to get the dads involved, and a very active email group for questions, advice, recommendations, and support. I’ve learned that I need to surround myself with mothers who know what it’s like to stay at home, what it’s like to have a medical spouse, what it’s like to love the job and still have days you feel nuts.

Twenty-three cousins. I am so happy to be part of a big extended family. I’ve written before about how my holidays as a kid were defined by the buzz and bustle of so many cousins, aunts, & uncles swarming around my grandparents’ home. Now that I’m a parent, and my son doesn’t have many cousins yet, I’m even more sentimental about the lessons I learned from all my various cousins – about coolness, about daring, about intelligence, about stupidity, about friendship that goes deeper when you share blood.

Twenty-four times a day Smooch asks me for “Dada,” and I tell him that Daddy is at work. On the one hand, it breaks my heart a little to see that he misses his dad and can’t have him here when he wants him. But on the other, it’s made me incredibly grateful that I’m here with him all day, so at least he’s not asking someone for his Dada and his Mama and sad that he can’t have either of them.

Twenty-five “hurricane days” off from work during my teaching tenure in Florida – some were overreactions and turned out to be fun, and others were scary and stormy. Just goes to show that you never know how a day will unfold, no matter what the experts tell you.

Twenty-six steps to my mailbox. My very own mailbox at the end of my very own driveway that leads up to my very own house. I’m thankful to be a homeowner, finally, with all the sense of roots and belonging that it has given me. I’m learning it’s not all fun and games and trips to Home Depot. It’s also repairs and expense and lack of expertise and… trips to Home Depot.

Twenty-seven years old today. It’s a wonderful life that I’m living.