Friday, December 18, 2009

Why girls shouldn't pee standing up.

I was having a conversation with a friend and she brought up something about her daughter having tried to pee standing up. Well, that brought a flash back to the following story. Out of extreme curiosity about how boys peed standing up, I tried it. I had no brothers so I simply had to use my imagination. Well, it worked poorly and ran down my legs. What a horrible mess. But the curiosity and the freedom of that act stayed with me into adulthood.

A few years ago my husband and son and I had been doing some hiking. It was always a big pain when I had to go pee outside because I had to go fairly far off trail to find good coverage, squat, and fight all sorts of factors to keep myself upright and dry.

But one day, I found on the internet, a quite ingenious device. It was called the Travelmate and it looked sort of like a medicine spoon with holes at both ends. The purpose was for women who were kayaking or hiking to have a more modest and easy way to pee in the woods. I was thrilled. I was so excited, in fact, I ordered one for myself and one for my mother. I knew she had secretly dreamed of being able to pee standing up as well. That, and she LOVES gadgets.

The package insert explained that I would need to practice. And practice I did. It felt quite silly and it was really hard to release those muscles after years of training to only do it in a squat or sitting position. One simply pressed the "spoon" end of the device up against the appropriate place on her body and aimed. Then she had only to tap or shake just a little to keep from dripping.

I was beside myself with excitement when we got ready for our next hike. My Travelmate device was snugly and discreetly tucked away in my front pants pocket. We hit the trails. I was sure to drink plenty of water since peeing outside was no longer going to be a harrowing ordeal for me. Before long, I felt the inevitable urge to water the trees. (I had heretofore only been able to water the grass, poison ivy, and dead leaves.)

I walked just a little ways off the trail and confidently applied my urination device whilst keeping my rear end covered and maintaining both dignity and balance. In a moment of excitement I willed myself to just let it go. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to be one of the boys, I had not placed the device snugly enough against my body to get a good seal. I had a stream of urine leaving the end of the tube and running all over my hands and down both legs. I used the hand sanitizer in my other pocket and sheepishly returned to my waiting family on the path.

Neither my son nor my husband would walk near me the rest of the hike. And wet jeans just weren't comfortable at all. I kept the device with plans to make a better go of it next time. But I could never bring myself to try it again. After a couple of years, I threw it away in disgust. Who needs a medicine spoon with holes on both ends? Too bad I tossed it. A friend of mine suggested it might be helpful during labor.

When I looked the device up on google, I was surprised to find there are all sorts of devices which might be more user friendly these days. Enjoying browsing. If you use one... please let me know how it goes. Here is a link to the Travelmate device so you can buy your own

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hannah Plans to Assault the Doctor

Yesterday we had two well-child checks and my prenatal visit. As we got ready to leave, Hannah crossed her arms over her chest and declared with a pouty lip, "I'm not want to go to your puntment."

That's okay, I explained, we were going to her "puntment" right then. She uttered back something about not liking doctors. (Keep in mind the child has never had a shot in her life.) I tried to soften the blow by demonstrating how he'd take a stethoscope and put it on her chest to listen to her heartbeat. In shock, she blurted, "BUT I'm not have a baby."

Um, well, that's true. Babies aren't the only people with heartbeats...

She seemed resigned to the trip so I finished strapping her into her five point harness and we drove down the road. After a few minutes of silence, Hannah remarked that it was raining and wondered if she could take her umbrella into the doctor's office. I was relieved she was no longer insisting she wasn't going to go and readily agreed the umbrella would be a great thing to take in.

There were about ten more minutes of silence. Then seemingly out of nowhere, my sweet girl who likes to dress in beautiful clothes and secretly rearrange all the ornaments on my Christmas tree, says in a slow, deliberate monotone, "I don't like doctors. I will poke him with my umbrella."

We had a talk about how that wouldn't be nice at all and how we weren't going to hurt the doctor. When we arrived, she was terribly disappointed, "Awwww man, it's not raining anymore...." I explained it was still okay to take the umbrella in but we were going to leave it in the waiting room so the doctor would stay safe. Luckily this doctor runs on schedule so there wasn't enough time for her to plot an alternative attack.

I suppose Hannah deemed the "puntment" non-poke worthy. Dr. Schindler was on his best behavior when I warned him of the potential danger of my umbrella wielding three-year-old. Plus she got stickers so the situation was somewhat redeemed. But on the way home she realized she'd been robbed of the experience of peeing in a cup. Ahhhhhh, it's a hard life being a three year old.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pregnant Bowling

We went bowling the other day. When your belly exceeds the size and weight of the bowling ball, it might be time to put away these sorts of things until after the baby is born. We had a fantastic time, though I did ache a little afterwards. Please, no one tell my chiropractor what I was doing.

Please enjoy the pictures! Notice almost all the John photos are blurry. He's a speed bowler. Hannah had time to leave for Starbucks between the two rolls of each frame. LOL She sure loved going "Bullying"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Odor Free Preschooler

I, for one, believe in good hygiene. I'm a little dubious of all the chemically laden products out there. I tend to eschew chemicals and fragrances. I use baking soda in lieu of deodorant. But I am believer in cleanliness, nevertheless.

It is interesting to note which of our priorities get passed on to our children without much thought from ourselves. Today, Hannah had a potty miss. They don't happen often and it is usually because she is very distracted by something. I was contemplating what might have held her attention to cause her to do the thing she personally hates so much, when her naked self came to me for help redressing.

At that moment I had a strong, emotional sense of appreciation and longing for my husband. I wondered if it had something to do with some random, strange pregnancy hormones when I realized Hannah didn't smell quite... like... Hannah. This was outside the realm of the presence or absence of ammoniacal urine smells.

So as I maneuvered my cumbersome abdomen so I could bend to assist my little girl, I sniffed deeply. It might be illogical to sniff a child, but it is some maternal imperative that requires I find the source of all unusual scents. At once, loving thoughts of my husband sprang to my mind.

Aha, that was it. "Hannah, did you use Daddy's deodorant?"

"Yesth! He will be thso happy at me! He will like my armpits!"

So the pants wetting was related to an attempt at armpit hygiene. I get that now. And, I have a good plan for when Theo is out of town. Just lather the girl in his deodorant and sniff till my heart's content. Nevermind all the chemicals I can't pronounce, the man does smell good.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hannah washed her own hands

Hannah got wide-eyed and sorta jumped as she blurted, "I half a pee-pee!" She tore off to the bathroom only to leave and run to the other end of the house for her footstool. She came back lugging the large wooden object. A few seconds later, I heard the tinkling sound of success from the next room.

I heard her move the footstool to the sink and the hand washing began. I didn't pay much attention as the sound of running water is apparently somewhat hypnotic. After what must have been an inordinate amount of time, I called, "Hannah, I'm sure your hands are clean now. Turn off the water, please."

She immediately complied and I was confident in my parent prowess. You know how that goes.



I heard the slick wringing of still soapy hands and suggested she turn the water on and rinse off quickly. Next I heard joyous three-year-old giggles and "Bubble, bubble, bubble" in a sweet sing-song. Ok, it was well overdue that I stood to investigate.

Half an industrial-sized box of baking soda, entire container of hand soap, lots of water, one footstool and an Elmo shirt = Sudsy Happy Hannah. She's mastered the lather, now on to rinse and repeat.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Celebrating and remembering.

Yesterday, thirteen members of my family gathered at the courthouse in Sevierville. I was grinning as we got out of our car. Then I realized all the other people in the parking lot were not smiling and I remembered that a trip to court is only very rarely a reason to smile. But our contingent of 13 had plenty cause.

We were there to witness the finalization of my niece's adoption. She's been home with her Mommy and Daddy for six months now. And her name now officially matches what we've been calling her all this time.

I believe it was particularly poignant for John and Theo and I. We were in the same building six years ago swearing to continue being a family as we had already been doing for the two years before that. That was six years ago. And John remembers the event.

When we told him where we were going yesterday morning, he asked, "Oh, like when we did my adoption... when I went up and hugged the judge? -- Of course, everyone probably does that."

No my dear son, I don't believe hugging the judge is a normal course of action in any proceeding.

After we pledged to be John's "official" parents, an almost four-year-old John rushed toward the front of the courtroom. Our flabbergasted attorney managed a quick "Your Honor, May John approach the bench?!"

He flew around the bench, climbing into the judge's lap and hugged his neck and uttered a breathless "Thank You!" Our fast-thinking DCS worker snapped a photo.

And let the record reflect that no one remembered John at the courthouse yesterday by name or looks. But as soon as we mentioned the hugging of the judge... both the judge and the attorney grinned as widely as we were and insisted they indeed remembered the event. No John, you rarely do anything that everybody else does. And that's only one of the many things we love about you.

Thank you Addie for sharing your adoption day with us. You and John will always have this special way of entering our family to share.

Pictures from John's Adoption Day: August 13, 2003 In the group photo, Addie's parents are on the far right second and back row. :D They had no idea they'd be back there for their own child in six years.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Of Napkins, Movies, and a Hannah

Tonight we rented a movie for the family to watch together. I was in the kitchen picking up a little and preparing popcorn and drinks. I didn't have as big a lunch as the boys (Mexican buffet -- the big dweebs), so I pulled out the rotisserie chicken from Earth Fare and started enjoying a little cold chicken.

Then Hannah sauntered slowly into the kitchen. Sauntering is how she generally moves so it wasn't terribly surprising. "Whatcha eatin', Mom?" Of course I offered her some chicken too. She polished off a wing and reached for more. I obliged. We chit-chatted while we ate and gathered movie snacks.

Finally, Hannah, covered in a rotisserie spice beard, with greasy fingers reaches into the drawer where we keep cloth napkins and explains that she needs one. I offered her a plate, but she said that no, she just wanted a "napakin". She sauntered back out of the kitchen.

A little while later I arrived in the bedroom for the movie. Theo said,

"She spilled kombucha all over the couch. I sent her to the kitchen to get a napkin. And about twenty minutes later, after I cleaned it all up, she came back with a napkin and a chicken bone."

Hahahaha. That's my girl. No reason to hurry, ever. But she's responsible enough at age two to remember the reason she originally came to the kitchen. Theo still doesn't know my side of the story. I'll have to share it with him in a few minutes, when he's done playing piano.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Minister of Music

(Warning: miscarriage discussed if that is a sensitive topic for anyone.)

The house is dark. The children are in bed. Theo is out of town. And yet, I am listening to him play guitar and sing praise songs on a CD he made five years ago. He is the minister of music in our house.

In November 2004, Theo went on his first foreign mission trip. I really wanted to go but had a small son with special needs and I was pregnant with our first biological child. It was best for me to stay home.

Theo and I knew it would be difficult for John to be without his Daddy for almost two weeks. John adored Theo and could barely wait for him to come home everyday after work. Every night Theo played piano or guitar and sang praise and worship songs after John was in bed.

At that time, John's bed was against the wall the piano was on. He would lay with his body pressed to that wall to feel the vibrations as the piano played. John always fell asleep quickly, before Theo was finished playing. At the end of the music, he would turn off the night light in John's room and say "Good night, my precious child," into the room as he went to our room.

Knowing how important this ritual was to a boy who had suffered so many attachment issues, he made some special provisions that I had no idea about. He wrote a letter to us each individually to open each day of his absence. Each letter revealed the location of the following day's letter. John's note always included some stickers too. With the first letter, I discovered Theo had created a CD of himself playing his nightly music, complete with the good night wish to his precious child.

Theo had no idea how important that CD and letters would become while he was in Romania. While he was on the plane, moving farther and farther from us, I found out that I was going to miscarry. We discussed his coming home but I insisted I needed him to follow through with what he was doing, though I missed him and wanted him terribly.

It was a time that allowed many, many people in my family and church family and other friends to care for me in ways they would not have done if Theo had been here. Love and support poured in. My mother-in-law and I developed a very special and tight bond as she cared for me in his absence. After the first few nights, I wanted to be back at my own house to mourn by myself and I found myself so greatly soothed by Theo's CD, as I'm sure John was.

The time passed in a haze and Theo was home for the hard part when I actually miscarried on Thanksgiving Day, a couple of days after he returned. Since then, I've miscarried twice more. Once on an anniversary of the first.

I've also had a healthy pregnancy that gave us Hannah. I'm now pregnant for the fifth time and find myself reminiscing as Theo is out of town. This baby has a heartbeat and has lived longer than any of the three we won't meet until heaven.

What a comfort to hear his voice, his words of praise for our God, the comfort of songs he's been singing for years. This time the CD soothes two children to sleep and also soothes a pregnant wife who has been changed and improved though she now bears more scars than when the music was originally recorded.

Thank You, Father for providing me with such a provider. Thank you, Theo for being my husband of 14 years and my love for 18. I really look forward to your live music ministry when you return. Good night, my precious husband. I miss you.

Homeschooling Hannah?

It's been quite funny to watch the schooling that Hannah has "caught" simply by watching her brother's education. Bible is our first subject of the day. Of course, I invite Hannah to sit on the couch with John while I pray and tell a Bible story and draw horrible stick figures to represent the action on our whiteboard/easel.

Most of the time, my spirited two-year-old simply roams around and waits to have access to the dry erase markers. For months though, she's been hanging around long enough to pray and add her own amens. Then she usually gets up and is off to do something else.

Occasionally she stays nearby to listen whilst caring for naked Barbie's needs, whatever they might be. Naked Barbie almost always needs shoes and pistachios. That's just how Barbie rolls.

This morning Hannah firmly planted herself on the couch next to John. She was duly armed, not with a Naked Barbie, but with a pad of paper and a pencil. She gestured with her pencil as I paused to evaluate this new development and urged me with a nod and her sweet toddler voice, "Go on, Mommy. I'm ready."

I began the lesson with my stick-figure-Jesus, who always sports a goatee, in a boat telling parables in Capernaum. I asked John if he remembered what a parable was. My second student piped up, "I'm gonna write that down, but, go on."
She sat through the whole story, applauding when the grain fell on good soil.

Now: she's partially naked and playing with blocks. But I think Barbie might be dressed. Be prepared. It's a topsy, turvy world today!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

John Writes Tragic Story

Who knew that a four sentence story could end tragically? Who knew that it could end that way when the assignment was simply, "Please write four sentences about a bird who lives in our backyard."

I was a little nervous when I assigned this task to John. He has been very resistant about the whole writing thing. I had to limit the robot suit stories. I have had enough robot suits, hamsters wearing robot suits and robot suits that wear robot suits. So today's simple assignment was a little out of John's comfort zone.

He attacked the paper greedily as he wanted to play with his cousin. He wrote furiously while she ran around waiting for him to finish. I've never seen him churn out four sentences so fast in his life. Usually he whines and complains how he can't think of anything and then he whines and complains how he forgot whatever he finally came up with. But today, he only paused for some occasional spelling assistance. My curiosity was certainly piqued.

He smugly presented his writing like an inmate with discharge papers. And then I read the story (Thunderbolt is our cat):

A bird lives in my bakyard. He runs awy from Thunderblot. The brid flies awy from Thunderblot. thunderblot caught the brid.

Sure, he should have considered more than the occasional request for spelling assistance. Sure, there's a sentence begun with a lower case letter. One must, however, appreciate the ironic simplicity of the piece. I particularly like how he used repetition to get two sentences out of one concept. Hmmm, perhaps I sense a lesson on conjunctions sometime in the near future.

It's a genuine foray into nature versus nature. It's certainly not what I had expected. He did it willingly and with gusto. It was enough to warrant the end of his schoolwork for the afternoon and a fun romp with his little cousin.

I'm thinking of changing the cat's name to Thunderblot. It sounds even more dangerous than Thunderbolt.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Comfort Fit, My Rear!

Don't get me wrong. You all must know that I love being pregnant. I mean my original goal was to have 19 children, because 20 might be over the top. But that doesn't stop me from suffering pregnancy symptoms or from whining just a little. While my epidural-free birth wasn't as painful as I imagined it could have been, I won't pretend it didn't hurt.

So onto to a slightly-amused-at-my-own-predicament style rant about maternity clothes. Last time, my maternity clothes rant was because I couldn't find any pants with pockets. Now there are pockets everywhere but I can't stand the comfort fit waist.

Comfort fit, my rear. And I mean that. The problem is my rear. I have a flat butt. Well, no butt really.

And this is not a form of bragging. I know there are lots of women out there who have the opposite problem. I understand these things as I'm quite ample in the breast department and basically am never, ever able to wear a shirt that buttons in the front. I lost 80 pounds and retained G cups. So don't hate me for my non-existent derriere.

I also realize women who are heavy-chested sometimes wish they had less and women who are small-breasted sometimes wish they had more. Women who have curly hair can wish it was straight and vice versa.

But this time it has nothing to do with vanity, other than my not wanting to be naked in public. The enthusiastic sales woman at Motherhood Maternity said this new style was wonderful because there were no seams to rub or annoy anywhere around the entire waist of these miracle pants. I hadn't remembered being rubbed the wrong way by the seams in my pants before, but hey, I'm always up for anything that promotes more comfort. (Except epidurals, I suppose...)

The first issue, though minor in comparison to my main complaint is related to thermodynamics. (I don't know if that word applies here, but I'm going with it anyway.) All that extra fabric has to go somewhere. I can either roll it down and have one of those bulging, digging rolls similar to what happens after an entire day of control top panty hose, or I can stretch out the miles of miraculously expansive material to just under my breasts. Everyday of this very hot summer, due to the "comfort fit", I wear at least two layers of clothing over my already incubating belly. I didn't need the help maintaining my core body temperature, really.

The other more important issue involves my butt. Apparently I will not stretch that tube sock-like band out enough to hold these things up until I'm roughly nine months pregnant. Every few minutes, I have to hike them up because the crotch ends up somewhere close to my knees and I have trouble walking.

Remember that scene from Mary Poppins where Dick Van Dyke stretches his white pants down to his knees and dances with the cartoon penguins? Yeah, that's me. I know I will eventually waddle. It's bad enough I'm showing this soon, let's not have a wardrobe malfunction related waddle in the first trimester. I'd prefer a little dignity, please.

The tails of my shirts ride up in the back whilst the pants ride down and I end up showing that not-so-comfy-or-fitting-waistband off like I'm a gansta poser. My toddler uses my baggy butt fabric as a handle. I need help!

Anyone else feel my pain? Any companies making maternity clothes with a simple belly panel like they used to? Oh, and it wouldn't hurt if they came with pockets.

The shirts are cute though. You win some, you lose some.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Things are going swimmingly!

Wow, it's like the ghost of athletics past has come to visit me. I used to be the one racing. I used to be the one with dry, green hair. I used to be the one slipping into a cold pool every morning. I've gone back in time to watch it all again, only it's from the outside. I'm the mother of the swimmer now. And it's not a little weird.

It's taken John a long time to reach the point where we've come to believe he can emotionally handle the rigors of participating in a sport with his peers. I still wince when it is time to wake him up for the pool after a particularly hard day.

But each morning, he gets up without complaint and dons his cute, little snug speedos. (The long ones are in, nowadays. They're called jammers, I believe). He leaves the van before I've turned off the engine and is in the pool before Hannah and I slowly approach the deck.

His first day in practice went pretty much as I expected. He cried. Hard. Sobbed. Twice. And said he was never coming back. Since then, he's only had two more crying spells and they were very, very minor and somewhat age appropriate.

On Wednesday, John participated in his first swim meet ever. He was lined up behind the blocks. The heat right in front of him had just taken their marks, when the meet was halted due to thunder.

We spent the next two hours holed up in the van trying to wait out the intense lightning storm and hail. Don't let me forget to note that this pool was an hour away from our house. Hannah had a great time freely roaming the van and pushing all the buttons she could find. When I turned on the van Thursday morning, I was a little unsure of how to turn off the rear windshield wiper and I was tired of listening to rap music.

The meet was scheduled to be completed on Thursday but there was a 40% chance of rain. I hoped that he'd at least get to swim long enough to complete one roughly, 30-second journey down the pool this time. They were going to pick up right where they left off.

I asked if he was nervous. (I certainly was.) No. Though he'll cry at the drop of a hat and suffers from intense anxiety in most other areas of his life, apparently he has nerves of steel when it comes to racing. Go figure.

He stepped on the blocks. (He usually does his somewhat awkward bird legged leap from the wall.) He kept his arms in perfect stream line position over his head before the starter even told the swimmers to take their marks. The field was off. Three other boys, aged 9-10, shot into the water in sleek, shallow dives then erupted, all splashes and arms, several yards down the pool. John performed a gut-wrenching belly-flop/walk-on-the-water maneuver and had to start swimming from a near stop. He buried his head and stroked half the pool with no breath.

I knew it was coming. Eventually his need for oxygen would supersede his athletic ambition. He suddenly rolled to his side and breathed for what seemed like five minutes in the middle of the pool while his three competitors duked it out for first place at the wall. He put his face back in and swam with all the vigor he could muster. He never slowed, other than to breathe twice more and came in strong at the finish, long after the others has exited the pool.

I was proud of his courage, his dedication and his lack of upset at being last. I cried. It was the silent, swelling cry I always have when I watch the Olympics. Here is a swimmer with heart. And he was cheered for accordingly, by more people than his mother and his coach. He was nonchalant about the experience and ready for his other two events.

He also swam the 25 yard backstroke and the 25 yard breaststroke, even though he's never been instructed on the highly technical requirements of the latter. He came in last each time, undaunted. After the breaststroke, when he was disqualified due to flutter kicking and touching the wall with only one hand, he was thrilled. "Hey, Mom, that wasn't bad for my first time!" I LOVE that boy! So unselfconscious, so happy, so tough. I'm glad I'm finally getting to know him, even if it means schlepping him to meets across East Tennessee.

He lounged, ate, and frolicked with other kids for the remainder of the meet. There was plenty of good, healthy mud from the previous night's storm. He was the only one from our team that I saw approach the other team's camp and look for playmates. I also saw him shake hands with a swimmer from the other team and say, "Good Meet."

He is learning discipline and perseverance and about having fun. He knows this sport is about improving your personal best. He challenges and inspires me. I can't wait until Tuesday when I will bask my sweaty, pregnant body in the sun once again and scream "Go, John, Go!" till I am hoarse. And then I will drag our exhausted bodies back to the pool the following morning where we all will learn a little bit more about dedication and hard work.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nerves of Steel

My labor with Hannah was induced mostly because there were no accelerations in her heartbeat. Yet, she was born were perfect Apgar scores. Since I've gotten to know my stealth baby, I've come to realize that her heart rate probably rarely accelerates even today.

In school I learned about lo-gain and high-gain personalities. Those with high-gain personalities receive more stimulation from a situation or experience than one would expect. Those with lo-gain personalities receive less stimulation from a situation than one would expect. They are the risk-takers. They seek out new and exciting things to do, all while seeming slightly bored.

John is the perfect example of a high-gain personality. John is an intense person and every event is the most thrilling, most terrifying, most sad thing in the whole world. Perhaps it's his personality. Perhaps it's a symptom of his emotional issues. But many of our family members have determined whether the correct present has been selected for John's birthday based on whether he exhibits the excited face rub or not. Evidenced by his earth shattering wails, I thought the poor boy was going to die right then and there with Marley when we went to see Marley and Me, thinking it was simply a sweet movie about a dog.

I've decided swimming is a great sport for John. There are only four strokes and only 25 meters of pool. Every practice is strikingly similar. It's safe and calm enough for him to enjoy. I think that's why he enjoys camping so much, he can go at his own pace and explore as his personality dictates. Amusement parks are too harried for this kid.

Hannah is closer to lo-gain than the other end of the spectrum. Nothing much excites her. I think she enjoys life all around her, but she likes to enjoy it from the height of the bookshelf or from the top of the kiddie roller-coaster. (She just isn't tall enough for the good stuff yet.) She moves slowly and sure-footedly. She calculates and takes risks. When Hannah experienced the rather intense Marley and Me she asked me several times in her sweet, mildly concerned voice, "Oh Mommy, that doggy is sick? They gonna fick it?"

She'd be the kind of person who would make a good surgeon or lifeguard or military leader. She is methodical and unflappable. When it is all just too much for nine-year-old John, and he goes to his room in hysterics, Hannah will calmly inform me that she will go check on him. Then she enters his rooms and says, "Awww John, you need a hug?" She sees and acts on what needs to be done and isn't influenced by the electric emotions buzzing all around her. Nerves of steel, that one. Nerves of steel.

On our recent camping trip, we took a beautiful train ride to a mining camp. Hannah adores trains almost as much as babies, shoes and letters and yet, she did not exhibit the behavior of an over-excited two-year-old, bouncing in the seat and giddily talking about being on a train. She was very absorbed in her surroundings and enjoying the experience. She staunchly insisted on standing in the seat and hanging half her body out the window for a good portion of the trip. My mother diligently held onto her so she could experience the ride safely from that angle.

Look at her face in the picture above as she watches the passing scenery with all the relish her lo-gain personality can muster. Don't worry, she is, in fact, having a fantastic time. I know, because when we talk about the trip, she calmly and assuredly says, "Again. I want to do that, again." Notice the lack of exclamation points.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Swamp Thing

We went camping over Memorial Day weekend. My sister and her family came with us. So did my parents. We camped in a beautiful setting in the woods in Big South Fork National Park in Kentucky.  But it was like we went camping without John. He spent most of the weekend in a swamp.

John is getting close to ten years old now. Only two summers ago, I was having to literally teach him how to have fun. Birthday parties often entailed a great deal of excitement only to end in toddler style tears and tantrums when something innocuous to everyone else would happen, like there would be skating at a skating party. It has been especially difficult as John is quite big for his age. He looks at least a year older than most of his same age peers.

Last Summer, I watched him play tag on the playground for the first time.  And it didn't even end in tears.  Then he began making friendships that he could maintain for a couple of hours without getting called mean names.

This summer, it's like Pinnochio has finally become a real boy. When John is in a social group at this point, most of the time, strangers would have absolutely no idea of John's issues and I'm very happy that's the case. It means he's having fun and he's growing emotionally.

Theo commented after our weekend that he was sad he didn't spend much time with John. Oh, but I wasn't sad at all. I posed the question, "When have we EVER done anything for three whole days where John was HAPPY the whole time?" It has never happened before.  It's never even been close.  

There were about ten boys in the campground aged 6-12. They played most of the weekend in a bog doing boy things. They caught salamanders and tadpoles.  They chased the only two girls in the campground. They visited each other's campsites and played cards. They started at about 8 in the morning and John would wander back to camp exhausted and starving when it was finally dark around 10 pm. It was hard keeping him quiet and not knocking on  doors before 8am.

Theo went to let him know that dinner was ready at one point and he said, "awwww, do I have to come?" Theo told him he was just letting him know that it was hot. He appeared a couple of hours later and wolfed down some food barely sitting long enough to warm the picnic table bench. The few family activities we did do that involved a ride in car or some other reason he had to sit still, meant he was sound asleep.

He was dirty and he stank. He was covered in mosquito bites and encountered a tick who decided it wanted to stay in a very private area. He was overtired. He was underfed. He hung out in a group of boys just as slime covered as himself.  I was so proud! I can't wait to take him camping without us again!

And the girls just sat around reading trashy magazines.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Theo had a Hot Date on Saturday Night

I just spoke to my Mary Kay lady/previous Pastor's wife. She's a wonderful, fun, bubbly lady with a great sense of humor. I'm always happier after I talk to her. I was downright giddy after our phone call today.

I had seen her son a couple of days ago. Theo and I were on a date and we stopped by the highly romantic destination of U.S. Cellular. It'd been a while since I'd seen Chris and I marvelled at how he was "all grown up". I think he's about 20 now and wasn't a scrawny teenager any more. He spoke with us for a few minutes and went to speak with an agent across the room.

I kept sneaking looks at him. Theo once taught this man in youth group. How weird that he looks so old... but Chris kept looking back and making eye contact. I decided I must be making him uncomfortable so I willed myself to look elsewhere.

I asked Terri if he'd mentioned seeing us. And she said that yes, Chris came home and told them he saw Theo. She asked if he was with anyone else, since they know so many of our local family members. He said yes, but he didn't know who she was. Trying to rule out people, she asked if the woman had red hair. No. So it wasn't Theo's sister or mother. She asked Chris to describe the lady.

Her immediate response was "Chris, that's Holly."

He said, "Mom, it's been a while since I've seen her. But I think I'd recognize her."

She asked if the lady had spikey hair and he confirmed it was so. She repeated, "Chris, that's Holly!"

He said something to the effect of "...if you say so..."

I have to wonder what he thought about the fact that Theo's pregnant girlfriend was so chatty with him and mentioned buying Mary Kay from his mother! I've been bursting out into random peals of laughter ever since I got off the phone!

This is a public service announcement in defense of my husband's reputation: In case you haven't seen me in a while, Theo is not dating another woman. I have lost 80 lbs. I have spikey hair and I now use accessories like purses and jewelry. I wear makeup and am pregnant.

For the time being, I still have a large mole on my chin. Until I get it removed, please feel free to use that as a reference point.

The first picture is roughly how I looked the last time Chris saw me! The second is sorta how I looked when Chris saw me on Saturday, minus the toddler and plus a preggo belly. 

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fresh Flowers. Good Food. A Little Conversation.

I think I'm going to like being a swim mom. It's kinda like being a soccer mom without the shin guards. And never you fear, I do have a minivan. We were on our daily "minivanation" into Sevierville for practice. That is when I spend time trying to keep my younger child awake and trying to avoid learning way too much about butune lighter enhanced robots and cars that transform into boats that transform into helicopters from my elder child all while navigating traffic.

The highlight of the trip was a phone call from Theo. He was headed home and asked if I had something planned for dinner. I explained there was a chicken thawing and he should feel free to go ahead and roast it.

We continued our trek. There was swimming, choking, goggle-adjusting and coloring whilst sitting on bleachers. Then we returned home. That trip involved wildly dramatic children's songs sung by myself in a continued effort to maintain consciousness on the part of a very, very tired two-year-old. At that point in the afternoon, John usually eats his snack and remains mum on all his typical plans to recreate his favorite super heroes using parts from gutted remote control toys.

We arrived home to find that Theo had the table set and a delicious hot dinner prepared. He made roasted chicken and baked potatoes coated in olive oil and sea salt. There was even a vase of melon-colored alstroemerias sitting in the middle of the table.

Immediately after shoving her first bite of chicken into her mouth, Hannah discovered the flowers. She deduced they were purchased exclusively for her. "Thank you, Flower...mmmm, yum...Daddy! I like chicken. Pretty."

We lavished our thanks on Theo for the hot dinner ready the moment we stepped in the door and discussed the day's schooling and practice and all those tid bits we share at dinner each day. Hannah was obviously still processing the glorious centerpiece.

"I touch it." She said as she slowly rose from her booster seat with a chubby hand extended toward the flowers.

"They are pretty, Hannah. They aren't for touching, just looking at." Her benefactor explained.

Deterred but not crestfallen, she returned to her seat and ate some potato. As she chewed, she apparently wanted to know more about the events surrounding her father's demonstration of love. She cocked her head and gestured with her fork, "You buy those at Wal-mart?"

Theo stifled a giggle and said, "No, I bought them at Food City."

At last, her questions were answered to her satisfaction. She nodded appreciatively. Many good things come from that grocery store. "Ahhhhhhh, Fooood City." She said breathily, as if to approve of his choice.

Good food. Fresh Flowers. A little conversation. It's what a toddler girl wants.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Weird Pregnancy Dreams

So the weird pregnancy dreams have begun....

I had two in one night. The first involved a visit from John's biological parents which is really odd as I haven't heard from them in a couple of years and haven't seen them in about five years. We had a nice visit catching up and she showed me pictures of two little girls. Then she told me they were her youngest daughters and wondered if I'd adopt them too.

Then I had a dream about my sister, who, in real life, has recently adopted a beautiful little girl from Ethiopia. Stephani had researched and discovered a new way to increase the bonding between herself and her daughter. It was called the "re-womb" experience. The adoptive mother underwent surgery to open a cavity in her chest and the child was sewn up inside for a period of two to three months.

When I asked my sister why didn't they use the uterus instead of the chest, she had a perfectly rational explanation (for a weird dream). She said that there were organs in front of and behind the uterus making it too difficult to access during abdominal surgery. (Tell that to OB's who do C-sections everyday...) It made more sense to utilize the extra space behind the ribcage which is only used when you breathe deeply. Besides, the ribcage would also protect the child during the re-wombing.

So my sister underwent the surgery despite my desperate attempts to suggest she try a sling instead. She walked around for two months with a big pregnant chest containing a 22 lb one-year-old. She also touted the benefits of the experience rebooting her daughter's nutritional profile as she was a little undernourished when they met.

Two-months later, Addie was removed from her re-womb and was a fat, little, roly-poly baby. I never did find out how it impacted their attachment.

Please feel free to share your weird dreams!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Naming Babies

The process of naming children is always interesting to me. My interest is renewed as I contemplate the name of the child I currently carry in my womb. I always thought I'd want to use creative, rare names for my children. And then my first child came pre-named. I really never expected that to happen when I envisioned my future family. But I never expected to become a foster/adoptive parent, either.

At first I was a little underwhelmed by what I perceived to be the most common boy's name in history. It grew on me, though. Actually, we offered John the opportunity during our adoption finalization, when John was four, to choose his own name but he chose to keep his original given name. I was glad. His birth parents were surprised and honored that we chose his original last name as his new middle name.

By the time of his adoption, we had decided that he was officially named after John the Baptist. If I were naming him as a newborn, that's what I would have done. And our first biological child's name was also a Biblical name: Hannah. I was thinking last night that both children have personalities and hearts similar to their namesakes.

John has certainly proven himself to be a man of the wilderness. He adores being outside and experiencing all the glory of the creation God has made. He has an uncanny ability to recognize spiritual truth. And just as his namesake jumped in the womb at the prescence of his savior, our John would also exhibit his joy in a very physical way. I see my John as one who is bold and audacious and sometimes poorly understood. If he strongly believes in something, he will not back down. He is also one who recognizes only ultimate authority, but when he does he will demonstrate humility and declare himself unworthy to even untie the sandals of the Son of God.

Hannah also shares traits with her Biblical namesake. She is named for the Hannah who prayed desperately for a child. I came to pray Hannah's words for my self after two pregnancy losses. Hannah was conceived not long after I began praying that prayer.

Hannah is a peaceful child, calm, quiet but one who makes known her desires. She will doggedly pursue her dreams and goals with a faithful steadfastness. As Samuel's future mother prayed unselfconsciously for a child from God, our Hannah is not a performer. She behaves in whatever way she behaves regardless of who is watching. Our Hannah also exhibits a love for children and babies. She spends a great deal of time each day caring for any representation she can find for her future children. She also sings to them about how Jesus loves them. I pray she will grow into the kind of mother who will choose to give her children over to the service of her Lord.

We never intended to begin a tradition of naming our children after Biblical characters, but I know our Lord designs all things and that His ways are higher than our ways. I believe we may continue in this tradition and I wonder now who is my third child. Is this an Isaiah who will have a willing heart and say, "Here am I, Lord, send me."? Or is he a Paul who will share his gospel with an unmatched passion and dedication? Or is this a Sarah in whom promises will be fulfilled and who will laugh. Or is this a Lydia or Rebekah or a wise, older Elizabeth who can mentor and support others in difficult times? Or is this Ruth with a fierce dedication and undying faith? Or is this a child who will stay with us for such a short time, we won't discover his earthly personality like some of his siblings before?

It will be a while before we know. We are opting this time to allow our child to be knit together in secret, without invasive tests and gender identification. But we can't wait to meet this gift from God. I pray that this child will have a name worthy of the plans his Father has for him.

(Or her, of course, just using the masculine pronoun convention)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Personal 1198th Reason to Homeschool

With any decisions I make as a parent, there are always doubts. That is even the case with things that I KNOW are right. Homeschooling a child with special needs has definitely been one of those situations riddled with uncertainty.

Last weekend we had a wonderfully exhausting camping trip and I decided to let John sleep in this morning to help him recover. When he sleeps in, I spend more time on the internet.... and then the kids find some things to entertain themselves while they wait for me to reenter reality.

Sometimes they do some pretty amazing things. This morning, they decided to share the rocking chair and Hannah asked John to read to her. They are already on book number two. It's a good thing Hannah tolerates Star Wars and Walle! Aren't they sweet?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I stumbled onto this set of photos from last summer whilst looking for a photo I needed to blog this week.  The kids and I spent the day picnicking and swimming in the river at Metcalf Bottoms.  
We tied up the baby wrap into a hammock for the princess.  And John body surfed the rapids till he developed quite colorful bruises on both of his newly skinny hips.  

I packed homemade spaghetti in a thermos along with a bunch of guacamole.  There were grapes and dark chocolate and lawn chairs.  It was a great day.  I sat on a little earthen landing, listening to my father excitedly share some historical tidbits which are forever lost to me.  John continued to body surf and Hannah explored the rocky beach.  She went around a large boulder to explore even more rocks.  

From my perch, I could see she was perfectly safe.  From my mother's perspective, she went around the boulder and dropped from view, possibly into the swirling current.  Her instinct to rescue Hannah was flawless.  Her foot placement however, I believe, causes her pain to this day.  

We believe she lodged her foot under a tree root and pivoted in her attempt to run.  Instead she broke her ankle and her thumb.  She yelped and tried to get up again in concern for her granddaughter.  She wouldn't lie still until I had yelled repeatedly that Hannah was okay.  Only then, did she stop to consider herself and the cracking sound she heard when she fell.  

It was a good day.  We had a great time playing together and I saw sacrificial love.  I'm just sorry my Mom got hurt in the process.  Thank you, Mom.  I love you.    ... Even if you did tell me I had garlic breath as Dad and I helped you to the van.  I hadn't planned on being quite that close to you after we ate that guacamole.  

****This was a year ago.  Mom has completely recovered. ****

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So little time to blog

Wow, time can really get away from a person. I've been busy!

OnWednesday night, Hannah developed a fever. It didn't go away all day Thursday. She was a pitiful, melty lump on my lap the entire day. She threw up one time early in the morning. I was sure she had the flu but it was a weird time for her to come down with something as the only logical source of exposure could have been church on Sunday. 

She missed the fun on Friday. (Read below). And she was fever free for 24 hours by Saturday so she could be unquarantined to attend that day's fun. (Read Below) 

By Sunday night, I was tickling her while we worked on a puzzle on the floor. She threw her head back and laughed.... and I spotted four little white peaks poking out of her gums in the upper, left side of the back of her mouth. I hadn't even considered teething! Poor baby!

On Friday, John had a field trip to the airplane museum in Sevierville with my father.

During the field trip we had a girl's day playing with new makeup colors with our favorite Mary Kay Lady, Terri Houser! My Mother's Day gift to Mom was a fresh face. She got to pick out eyeshadows, lipstick, gloss, lipliner, eyeliner, blush, bronzer and other fun stuff. I think she enjoyed it. It was especially cool how Terri adapted to Mom as a visual learner. She kept getting her attention and making eye contact and performing very visually for her. It was fantastic!

The party, at my sister's house, included my sister and her baby, my sister-in-law and her toddler, and my mother. After the party, John and Dad returned and we all had homemade pizza. 

Then my sister-in-law shared that she was pregnant. I was very excited because Krista and I were pregnant at the same time before. I was pretty sure that this meant I'd be pregnant within the next four months. I certainly hoped that history would repeat itself.

On Saturday we celebrated Addie's birthday! We partied. Addie made a huge mess of herself with a purple-iced chocolate cupcake. Her mother made sure she was whisked away quickly by a grandmother who returned Addie after a quick scrub down and costume change. Addie played with her friends and cousins and was summarily passed about the room as relatives are wont to do with a baby who can't quite run fast enough to get away. John ate copious amounts of food and played video games.

On Sunday, we celebrated Mother's Day and Addie's church dedication. It's like Ben and Stefi are new proud parents or something. This was a totally Addie-centric weekend.   >Giggle< 
At the dedication,  she wore a beautiful pink eyelet lace dress and did quite a number waving her father's tie in his face and also the preacher's. 

We all went out to lunch afterward and were very surprised to find many restaurants in Pigeon Forge practically deserted, even on Mother's Day. We ate at the Flying Horse Grill and they handled the allergies wonderfully. None of their food is pre-marinated or pre-seasoned and they even bread their own chicken tenders so they grilled some gluten free ones for John. 

Sunday Evening we celebrated my brother-in-law's 30th birthday. (Do I add the apostrophe to the brother or the law?) We had a great time with some friends and family. John had a great time playing with a little boy about his age, which is a great treat for him since he's always surrounded by toddler girls! 

There were fireworks, which Hannah calls "fu#*erworks". Don't worry, I only had her repeat it a million times as all of the adults tried to snicker inconspicuously with their hands over their mouths. 

On Monday we tried to get back into the swing of school but started late since we had all partied late the night before. At some point during the morning, I discovered that swim team sign ups started that day and we rushed around to get ready for that. 

This will be John's first time ever participating in an organized sport. It doesn't hurt my feelings at all that it is the particular sport of my youth. He looks so cute in his new snazzy goggles and longie speedos. I'm so proud and excited for him! 

On a whim, we went out to watch Star Trek in the theater!  The show started at 7pm after we had a nice dinner on our front porch.  By 8:05, Hannah had peed her pants, demanded water, refused to share with John and then loudly proclaimed she was indeed sharing, and then fell asleep.  I was able to watch the second half of the movie with only the small distraction of a sweaty face plastered to my chest and neck and the tingling feeling of my sleeping limbs.  

In a whirlwind rush of activity I arrived with a thud on Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoons, I pick up my share box from Green Man Farm and visit the farmer's market and the co-op. It was already scheduled to be a busy day. 

But then, I noticed something I hadn't really paid attention to during my busy week. The evidence of my monthly fertility renewal had fizzled. I suddenly had reason to run to the neighborhood grocery store first thing this morning with one lanky nine-year-old in unmatched, wrinkly clothing and one shaggy-haired, be-stained two-year-old to pick up a fancy stick that I could bring home to urinate upon. How's that for a classy experience?! 

Well, to add to my very, very busy week I spent a great deal of time jubilantly screaming and staring at the peed-upon stick! Praise God!  I also had a few phone calls to make and some farmers to visit. Wow! What a great few days. Please forgive my not blogging it in real-time! :D

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Writing on the Walls

Some of you are familiar with Hannah's sneaky antics from this entry and also, this one, oh,and this one.
With that background, suffice it to say that I found Hannah drawing on her bedroom walls with sidewalk chalk. I had gone into her room to get her dressed for the day.  As I took off her pajama top, I discovered the writing. "Oh.... Hannah..." I said with that slow, disappointed tone in my voice. "You aren't supposed to write on the walls." I finished dressing her and passed a half-hearted wipe across her drawings with the inside-out pajamas.

The. Chalk. Easily. Wiped. Off.

Enter the internal dialogue: Um, dilemma. Crossroads. Remember to be consistent. She simply should not draw on walls. But it wipes right off. What a fun thing to do. No, be responsible. You are the mom. But it's just so neat!

Finally, I plopped myself right there in the middle of the floor and drew all over my daughter's walls. It was so much fun! What freedom! I think she was so disturbed by my antics that she hasn't drawn on them since, even though she has my expressed permission to do just that as long as it is with chalk.

Really, you ought to give it a try. Void where prohibited. Restrictions may apply. Only tested on semi-gloss.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Big Girl Haircut

First of all, I'd like to thank my hairdresser, "Mr. F", for helping me to break out of my old style and find my new spikey groove. So, when a guy totally takes me out of my comfort zone as far as my hairstyle goes, the agent of my first impressions, what's a girl to do? Why, take her two-year-old daughter to see him, of course! Truly, he gives a great cut. My hair spikes straight out of the shower. I knew his confident, creative hands would cut something cute into the shaggy canvas that was Hannah's hair.

Hannah was very excited all week about getting her hair cut. She even told people about it over the phone. I took her potty before we left for the salon, reminding her where we were going.

"We're going to go get your hair cut."

"Yes, it's Thussshhday!" lisped my eager daughter.

She was ready. She was all giggles and excitement in the car. Then John had to explain about the scissors and how Mr. F was going to cut her hair but it wasn't going to hurt. Yeah, that's the line that first teaches little kids that not everyone in the world is truthful. They know what follows isn't going to be pleasant. I briefly considered decapitating my own child with barber's shears. Hannah was somewhat more reserved as we approached our destination.

We arrived at the salon and met Hannah's makeover entourage: Grandma Kathy, Aunt Krista and Audrey. We entered the salon like over-proud ballet parents gushing and with cameras in hand. Yep, Hannah got the picture this was kind of a big deal. She marched in with all the celebrity she could muster. Then Mr. F spoke to her. Somehow she shinnied up my body and was in my arms with her head buried in my chest. Honestly, I don't remember picking her up.

It's okay, Mr. F has been here before. I sat down in the chair and held her in my lap while Mr. F offered Hannah her own comb to hold. She took it with wary reluctance. But then, in a stroke of brilliance, Mr. F offered her a sucker. With the gravity of a man accepting his last cigarette before execution, she partook of this small comfort. It became her focal point and she released her death grip on my collar with grim resignation.

Mr. F moved quickly and surely. I found ways to get her attention so she would hold her head in specific positions so he could create an undercut. It was over before I knew it and there was the blowing off of the debris and spraying of the hair. That was also a great move. Hannah adores hair spray. Upon her release, with still damp locks, Hannah danced as one celebrating salvation.

Hannah's entourage was headed to K-mart for some retail therapy. Her cute little bob went swinging against her neck. She suddenly looked so much older. She marched straight into Payless ahead of us. (Um, you have to follow if your child goes into a store without you.)

If you are going to know anything about Hannah, you should know that she is obsessed with three things: babies, letters, and shoes. As long as I can remember, I could show Hannah toys in a store and she'd gleefully play with them for a minute and allow me to put them back on the shelf. In contrast, she would cry and cry when we would dare to leave any sole behind in the shoe department.

She recovered nicely from her ordeal with some nice, lime green flip-flops with large rhinestones. She knew they would go brilliantly with her Spring wardrobe though her mother tried to recommend some multi-colored floral sandals. A girl just knows when a pair of shoes are destined to become hers. At least they were less expensive than the sandals. (Despite my having not experienced trauma, I purchased some pretty zingy silver shoes, myself.)

It must have generally resonated as a positive experience for the girl. Yesterday, we were discussing how cute her new cut was and Hannah piped up. "I want a sucker. Mr. F cut my hair, give me sucker." She was crestfallen when my mother-in-law explained we had to let it grow some before she could get it cut again. She dipped her Hannah-safe bread in her homemade potato soup and dreamed of her next trip to the world of toddler glamor and sugared excess.

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Hardy Boys

Not many people can say their child came with a book. We can. Most of the clothing John had when he came to us did not fit, but he had a sweet cardboard book about P.B. Bear. We have no idea in which of his many homes he acquired the book or his love of stories, but both came with him at the ripe old age of twenty months.

John always eagerly curled up beside us as we read to him from any number of books. It was a good thing because it encouraged good, appropriate touch and helped form some of the elusive attachment he so desperately needed with any caregiver. One cardboard book gave way to two or three cardboard books a night. That gave way to multiple picture books.... and then we graduated to chapter books and illustrated/abridged classics.

Nearly every night of his life with us, John has begged for more reading. While homeschooling, there are times, especially rainy days, that we declare it a reading day and take turns reading to each other. The ratio is something like five to one and I end up reading aloud till my throat is raw. John's been listening to chapter books since he was four. We've read through some of his favorites more than once. Though he understood little of the language specifically, he still enjoyed listening to Tom Sawyer just as old Mark Twain wrote it.

With all of John's mood changes, rages, difficulties and anxieties it has been hard for him to learn to read. I think that his well-ingrained love of stories has kept him motivated somewhere deep inside to persevere through the process. He's suddenly reading billboards and signs on buildings to his own surprise and delight. We can no longer spell things in front of him.

Though this is all happening a little behind his same-age peers, it is the same developmental process. We are on the cusp of watching him flip that switch to becoming a completely autonomous reader. The key then will be, as it is for all children once they can read, whether or not they want to read. I'm pretty sure John's got that part in the bag.

I think it's apt that a boy who's had to endure so much would particularly enjoy reading a series about the Hardy boys. I hope that autonomous reading switch flips soon because while Kate DiCamillo is a joy to read aloud, Frank W. Dixon's mysteries severely trip up both of John's parents' tongues.

Friday, May 1, 2009

John's Date with his Grandma

Our family does a good job of trying to, at least occasionally, spend individual quality time with each of the children. Yesterday was John's turn for a date with his paternal grandmother.

During their time, he tried to convince her that they should play video games. The night before, however, we had discussed with John and his grandma that dates should include activities that were mutually enjoyable by both people. My mother-in-law was undaunted by John's attempts to coerce some video game time from her in leiu of watching a movie.

Kathy has been substitute teaching for a few months. It was only natural, at long last, she used her "teacher voice" to end John's obnoxious demands. John's reaction was quick and interesting and just plan hilarious.

"You've never yelled at me before" said John in a dumbfounded voice. "My feelings are kind of hurt. I don't know what to do."

His feelings apparently recovered and the incessent video game begging ended. They had a wonderful evening involving allergy-free yet horribly processed food and watching a movie. I also think my dear son spent some time developing a whole new respect for his grandmother.

It's hard to pull off no-nonsense and unequivocal fun at the same time. Kudos to the woman who raised and nurtured my husband. Good job last night, Grandma!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

$5 Swag Photos!

Yesterday, I went to a jewelry/accessory sale at Children's Hospital. Everything there was $5 each. John helped me take a few pictures of my new fashion trinkets...

This is a very messy and eager Hannah modeling a necklace I purchased. The green earrings I'm wearing in some pictures below came with it. Hannah is still wearing that necklace right now. I may not be getting it back.

This was a full length shot to show the cool shoes I already had and the $5 "magic" shirt. I'm so diggin' this thing. It fit Hannah. And it was disturbingly pretty on John! It has some of my new yellow signature color in it.

This is a closer pic to show my bracelet and two rings. Five dollars each! Aren't they great?!

This is a really pretty turquoise and purple necklace. It has matching earrings but I put the big square hoops (?) on to show them to you all. I also got a large, white, wooden, painted bracelet that I forgot to photograph. I'll post when I get a picture of it. You may have to click on this photo to see the squares.

So much fun! :D

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What a Girl Wants!

You all remember what happened with my hair, right? Well, since then I've gotten interested in becoming hipper. I told you I needed a whole new personality to go with my spikes. And that personality had started to wane as my hair grew long enough to lose its oomph. Five weeks is entirely too long to wait between cuts with this sort of 'do. (I used to occasionally put off cutting my hair for up to 6 months.)

So yesterday, my dear hairdresser, Frankie, fixed my spikes to be sassy and bold once again and my desire to accessorize reignited. By the time you are reading this entry, I will have gotten up to run at 4:45 and then driven to Seymour to meet my sister-in-law at 6:30. We are going to the $5 accessory sale at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. I don't even know all the details but it supports the hospital and there are $5 purses and jewelry.

I'll be wearing a lime green tank with a short cropped denim jacket with cap sleeves and a white denim skirt and lime green kitten heels. I'll also be wearing a hot pink purse and earrings. This is all an attempt to be edgy enough to complement my hair. Only part of me thinks I'll just look plain, old doofy. I'm always afraid it's going to be obvious to everyone that my hairstyle was completely accidental. I'm out of my comfort zone trying to match the height of fashion my hair has reached. But in a totally fun, hot pink and lime green sort of way.

Last night I decided yellow would be my Spring wardrobe signature color. I've never really had a Spring wardrobe or a signature color. Do you see what Mr. Crazy Scissors has done to me?! So I'll be looking for some FAB yellow accessories. Of course, I'll photo my finds. You, my loyal followers, will be the first to see them.

So now I should say something glamourous and trendy as I sign off ---

The Holl-ster has left the hizz-ouse.

Really.... I mean, I teach Sunday School.... what was he thinking?!?!?!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My "Babies"

Hannah has made friends with my feet and subsequently, my hands. It all started when my toes "talked" to her one day to keep her busy while I was looking at something. Immediately, the idea that something even remotely life-like was talking to her was irresistible. She stopped what she was doing and regarded my feed in a whole new way. She froze, bent down with her face inches from my feet and said, "Hello... what did you say?"

Well, who could resist the fun amusement that was? I wiggled my toes and spoke at the same time. That was the first of many conversations my appendages have had with my daughter. Of course, my feet are smaller than Hannah, thereby putting them squarely into the category of baby. And woohooo, they were twins! She found an improvised imaginary bottle and "fed them" and rocked them and covered them with a blanket.

It's been months and my feet are still her babies, especially if I'm wearing sandals. When we get into the car, she asks if my babies are coming with us or if my babies are hot or cold based on the weather. If I sit cross-legged, she worries if the babies are okay. I just have to remind myself to speak life into an inanimate object not attached to me the next time I need to keep her busy for a few months.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Evader

Since we stayed in a hotel last week, there was a lot of excitement and consternation over the elevator. Elevators are always exciting anyway. We don't encounter elevators on a daily basis and here we found ourselves inside a moving, steely box multiple times daily.

There was the rush out of the hotel room and the race to be the first to push the button. Then there was the attempt to guess which set of doors would open. There was the rush to determine which floor number to push and be the first to depress that number. There was also the coup de grace of being rewarded with a backlit glow acknowledging the floor selection.

Hannah adored the elevator on a whole number of levels. For one thing she is obsessed with letters and she recognized several letters on the control panel. She loved the power of choosing and engaging our path to the destination. She looked at the shiny ceiling and identified each passenger by his reflection. She also loved trying to peer down in the crack between the floor and the elevator itself each time the doors opened.

So with all that elevator chafuer service, I had time to think. (Yeah, right) Why did they love so much this device that Hannah called the "evader"? And why was I so fascinated with her name for it? I thought about how an elevator could be like an evader. I think it is a diversion. It is an escape from the mundane. It's a little space-aged-feeling departure from what is normal.

The doors close, shutting us off from the place we've just been. Once those doors are closed and we begin to move, we can't go back without first going somewhere else. When the doors open, we are in a new place. It make look similar to the floor we just left, but we all know something has definitely changed and it's not just the elevation.

There is music in the elevator which doesn't match the music in our ipods or the hallway. Cellphone service usually ends in the elevator making it one of the last few places to evade this technology and continuous contact with society at large. I think somehow an elevator seems like we're cheating. We're being transported with almost no effort on our part.

When we climb up or down stairs we are aware of the work of moving from one place to another. We see and feel that progress in our straining muscles, lightly sweating bodies, and the glide of the handrail underneath our palms. We count stairs and flights of stairs.

The elevator is not like life. We do not leave our current spiritual or emotional circumstance only to be moved anesthesia-like to the next level. When we sleep through these transitions in real life, there are consequences. If we want to move a level, real life involves stairs: cold, hard, cinder-blocked, echoey, musty stairs. An elevator is a great, fascinating mirror-topped, soothing-musacked departure from reality. This time, can I be the one to push the button on the evader and feel that ticklish dip in my belly as gravity tries to remind me that I won't always be so lucky or so evasive?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Pivotal Kitchen Experience

What does a family of whole-fooders with food allergies eat when they travel as often as we do? Well, we start by finding a grocery store in town. Most of the time, we stay in a hotel that has a kitchenette. That takes the need for extreme creativity way down. Residence Inn by Marriott and Staybridge are two of our favorites. If we didn't have to worry about allergies, we'd take advantage of their free breakfasts which offer some "real food" choices alongside the super-processed cereals and pastries.

Our current kitchenette boasts a refrigerator, dishwasher, two stove eyes and a microwave. There is no need to worry about the all-important work triangle when designing a kitchen this small. Every thing is within reach from one position. In fact, I found I could load the dishwasher while browsing in the fridge and watching some nitrate-free bacon fry in a pan. The most important cooking skill in this type of kitchen, may well be the pivot. Once that step is mastered, the hotel cooking dance is a breeze.

A nice feature of hotel kitchenettes is the brand-new nature of most of the equipment. I have some fear that hotel kitchenettes may fade out of existence as they are obviously, severely underutilized by guests. The hotels shoot themselves in the feet with this particular issue. Staybridge offers a reception three nights a week as well as breakfast every day. It is apparent to me. most of the time. that I am using virgin cookware: shiny, unmarred pots and pans. Nearly universal to hotel stove tops is the weird two-eye configuration where the elements are off-level and you have to press them down into place before turning them on. Occasionally they'll spring back up during cooking! It makes the experience a little more exciting. But, not to worry, one can just pivot from whatever else she may be doing in the kitchen and deal with the launched burner.

Our current hotel was not expecting our family to stay in this room. Though we have a skillet, a saucepan, a large pot, two knives and a cutting board, we have table service for three. This works out alright for plates as Hannah simply uses a smaller bread plate for dinner. But it means that someone is using a spoon when a fork is called for, or a fork when a spoon is called for. That's been the adventure du jour for this particular hotel cooking experience.

Most of the time, we also have a table, not so in this efficient suite. The kids get their own version of mini-tables (end tables) in front of the couch and someone sits on the bed, plate in hand, while the other lucky duck gets an office chair at the desk. Heads or tails: you can choose appropriate silverware or the desk. It's a balancing act to maintain fairness. With Theo off to work before the kids are awake most mornings, the distribution of tableware (sans table, mind you) becomes easier as the number of people equals the number of dishes and cups for breakfast and lunch.

The other morning, based on what was left in the glass selection, I poured three servings of apple juice. Hannah drank from a coffee cup and John was offered a choice between the wine goblet and the 8 oz glass. I explained that they both contained the same amount but that .... I was going to say that the glasses were just different but John nodded his head knowingly and said "...but this one is classier." Goblet it was, for my nine-year-old son who is so well-versed in all things classy. I drank out of the short glass suddenly aware of feeling a little like a second-class citizen. I should be so lucky to drink from a goblet.

This week our temporary mini-kitchen has produced bacon and eggs, rice-pasta with grass-fed ground beef and red sauce, Thai curry salmon, and buffalo burger patties as entrees. Side dishes have included fresh green beans, salads, sweet potato slices fried in coconut oil, brussell sprouts (don't knock them till you've tried MY recipe), corn and broccoli. We also got a small grass-fed roast hoping there'd be an oven available. Never fear, the hotel has propane gas grills available in the courtyard. We'll grill it tonight. It's been marinating in half a bottle of salad dressing for two days. There have also been copious amounts of grapes, grapefruit, apples and bananas. When our creativity sags, we have allergy-friendly bread and peanut-butter.

We celebrated my birthday while we were in Atlanta this week. Without an oven and some of our staple ingredients, making an allergy-friendly cake just wasn't an option. While we can occasionally find cakes that are safe for one child or the other, quite elusive is the pre-made soy, dairy, gluten-free cake. So we enjoyed some coconut milk ice cream and some safe cookies. We had no candle though. The kids suggested I try to blow the cookies off of my ice cream. Ummm, how is that a win for the birthday girl who would have lost her cookies AND had to clean up the mess??? I ate my ice cream from a goblet (classy, you know) while sitting at the desk. I ended up with the fork but a girl can't exactly have it ALL, can she?

Stay tuned for our next adventure in cooking away from home: Parking lots and whole foods. They aren't mutually exclusive afterall!