Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year from all of us over here in the Western NC mountains, where we are fervently wishing for just a little bit of snow!


Friday, December 28, 2007

My Father's eyes

In my father's eyes...

How do I appear?
What am I to him? Source of pride, or cause of restless indignation.
Is he regretful of who I have become?

In my father's eyes,
Do I exhibit strength?
Or have I succumbed to weakness, the culmination of bad choices. The 'told you so' poster child perhaps.

Is there respect? Admiration?
Or just lost dreams and wishes for what could have been, should have been. Hope and potential dashed.

In his arms I danced, just a little wisp of a girl, tiny and innocent with all of life stretched out ahead in colorful beckoning, sunny liquid dreams just waiting to be absorbed.
In his face, I gazed.
On his lap I took comfort.
In his arms I took refuge.
On his feet, I walked. Trying, yearning to be like him. To be be strong, to carry life with dignity and intellect.

My Daddy.
Have I let you down?
I have not always taken the high road and have made some choices I regret; choices I would change, if this world allowed second chances on such things.
Daddy, I implore you, I am trying to make it all right. As I raise my children, without their Daddy.
Am I strong enough?
Can I be Mommy and Daddy to my little boys and my little girls, offering security and comfort as you did?

I weep as I watch my girls search for Daddy's lap, not able to imagine the pain in their hearts as it eludes them.
Who will dance with them?
Whose feet will they stand upon?
Into whose gentle, forgiving eyes will they gaze?
Whose strong arms will scoop them up when they fall?

Daddy, I am sorry.
I have created pain, in not following your advice, in failing to heed your words, so many years ago.
I disregarded the wisdom I knew you held fast.

Daddy, please forgive me.
Please love me despite my transgressions and mistakes.

Nothing else matters except my reflection,

In my father's eyes.

Edited to add: Ok, so it isn't that nothing else matters, really. It is just that I often wonder, from the eyes of a parent, how my own father views me and the choices I have made. Truth be told, I also wonder about my mother's perspective of who I have become.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas chores may not be so bad after all

I hate to wrap. Not just Christmas presents, any present. I feel it is a waste of time, a lot of effort for nothing, not to mention a waste of cash.
BUT, it is what is expected of gift-givers, especially during the holiday season. So wrap I did, last night, after I felt I could really put it off no longer.

I retreated to my room, locked the door, and readied myself for the task ahead. I turned on the holiday music station, began listening to Delila choose songs for the woeful, the happy, and the Christmas music addicts (of which I actually am one, so I can't say much there). I sorted my accoutrement's ~ tape, scissors, gift tags, etc. I unpacked the festive paper covered in snowmen and Santa's, left from last year because I must have thought wrapping paper would no longer ever be manufactured so therefore bought like 1800 feet of the stuff. Ironic, I know. But, a sale is a sale, what can I say?

I wrapped the first gift.
Then the second.
I listened to the different stories of Christmas traditions being told by the callers to the radio station.
And then it happened.
I realized that I was actually having a good time. I was on the 7th, then the 8th gift and found myself no longer watching the clock, coming up with distractions or wishing I was doing something else.

I began thinking about the course of events in my life these last few months, the snowballs life has thrown my way, and the fact that I still haven't found employment, despite my vehement efforts; I realized that I should be grateful that I even have presents to wrap for my children, not whining about the required duty of wrapping. After all, there was a time I thought I wouldn't have anything for them. I reminded myself that there was a time, not too many weeks ago that I was planning the discussion I was going to have with my children. How I was going to be forced to break it to them that there would be no magical Santa gift, no presents under the tree on Christmas morning, and how that actually made my heart physically hurt. How quickly we forget.

I began to ponder how lucky I am that I have my children with me and they are not far away fighting a war of pain and suffering, or gone ~ lost forever, leaving me with nothing but the memories.
Still wrapping along, I listened to one story after another of people that do not have their loved ones with them this holiday season. One mother hasn't seen her son for three years and won't see him for three more years because he is stationed overseas and neither one can travel to the other. Six years without the chance to hug her son, to touch him, to cook for him, and yet she was sounding positive and grateful for what she did have. Of course, some of the callers wanted to hear a song that expressed their love toward a spouse or significant other, a connection that seems to bolster during this time of year.

Before I knew it, I was wrapping the last present, one for my youngest daughter. I smiled as I thought of the fun she would have playing with it, the laughter I would hear, the carefree happiness I would be privilege to observe.
Last piece of tape applied, I stood back to admire my job, one that took less than two hours. A chore that turned out to be a joyful experience and a learning experience as well.
I sat down and listened to one more personal testimony followed by one of my favorite songs of the season ~ Christmas Cannon ( Merry Christmas Night) by the Transiberian Orchestra.
Somewhat reluctantly, not wanting the time to end, I put away my wrapping tools, packed away the rest of the paper, strategically repositioned the gifts in various hiding places until the magical day. I turned off the music, turned around once more to make sure everything was hidden, caught the light and walked back out to join my children.

Christmas chores may not be so bad after all.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

To my children



To My children,

My babies,

I watch you grow, learn, live.

I love you all more than I thought possible. Far gone are the days when, pregnant with each of you, I asked myself, "will I have enough love to go around"?

I watch you play and be with one another, most of the time happily, sometimes frustrated with each other but fostering and cultivating relationships that will outlast, out stand, and outwit any others each of you will form with others in your lives. You are brothers and sisters.

Forever.

I try to instill in you the values, the morals you will need to be strong with and for one another, to confront the world, to stay connected to who you are and where you came from. From love.


I gaze into your little faces, noticing each day a little more knowledge, a little more independence, more awareness of the way this world works. Which frightens me and thrills me simultaneously. I see you experience pain, and my heart breaks as I want to take it from you, but I know that in order to become well-rounded and complete, you must experience pain.

I watch you revel in joy and eagerness and my heart sings.


I hear you call for me, a sweet sound on my ears, and sometimes I don't listen to you. I hurt you with my ignorance, with my impatience.

I see each of you changing, just as I grow comfortable with who you are in the moment. This keeps me on my toes and I thank you.

I feel your arms wrap around my neck for a squeeze, or ask for a kiss, and I want to melt into the moment and save it, bottle the feeling for the days when you are all grown and gone from my home, living your own busy lives, as time marches on.


You are all teachers, to me, to each other.

Thank you for coming to me, for trusting me to be the one to teach you, to mother you. Sometimes I fall short of my duties and you forgive me with the innocence of your childlike hearts.

We are a family, my children, you and I.
Forever.
Edited to add: Ok, so the picture is a bit off center, my hair is a wreck and pulled back from my face, Jacob looks half-stoned, and we all look worn out, but hey, it was Thanksgiving! We were drunk on turkey and way too much pumpkin pie!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spirit of the Season

In the spirit of the season, I am going to write about what we did today.
The Christmas cookie baking marathon.
I will have to post the pics later, though, as I am worn completely out and don't want to face the task of fighting with my camera to upload the pictures (my camera and my computer tend to gang up on me whenever I try to upload a specific picture and the whole process can drag on for a long time).

The soundtrack from Polar Express playing, we gathered around the table for cookie shaping, decorating, tasting, and finally baking--a mere formality of course. It was the perfect day to be indoors surrounded by the aroma of fresh baked treats. Snow flurries blowing, wind whistling.
Children chattering, growing more excited by the moment, also getting stickier as each minute passes. Sounds of the season floating along the air, landing on our ears and inviting Christmas into our hearts.
Cheery, rosy faces, dancing eyes, the decision of which frosting to dig into next. Which shape to form, which sprinkles are worthy of the creation.

Sneaky fingers lick the tasty sugary concoction ever so quickly. Maybe Mom won't notice, but she does and she smiles, as she too grabs a finger-full.
Children talking excitedly of wishes and desires, hopes for what might lie beneath the tree on the most magical morning of the year. Will it snow?
Times like these are to treasure, to relish, to savor.
Every year, the kids and I make cookies, as many families do. It is a fun, loud, messy occasion, but one I wouldn't trade for a million dollars. Time to bond with my kids, time to be a bit childish myself, time to just be together. Time to teach my kids what the season is really all about, because I know that above all, gifts will come and go, but when they are grown they will remember these times of being a family, of being with one another and having fun, and that is what the season will mean for them, as it does for me.
A Happy Holiday Season to all of you, thank you for your constant patronage of my blog. It means a lot to me to see the comments you leave, the time you take to read about my life. May you all be blessed this season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Thinking Chair

I can see her.
She knows it, but wants to make sure.
Entirely sure. Every two seconds.

She peers around the corner, ever so slowly...
"Journey. Sit up straight" I say.
She obeys. For 10 seconds.

She peers around the corner again. Almost without even moving.
"Journey" I say sternly. "I said sit there for your five minutes".

I hear her sit back, defiantly, somewhat defeated, but not completely. Never completely.
I watch. Without watching.

One minute passes, legs begin swinging, humming commences.
"Journey" I say. "You must be quiet while you are sitting".

A total of three minutes have passed now, since the girl had to go to the thinking chair. Eternity.

She peers around the corner at me with big eyes. She knows the rules. Yet, still I see the flicker of playfulness on her lips. She isn't suffering yet.
"Journey" I say, trying to sound angry, hiding my mouth as it smiles.

She sighs, loudly, dramatically, and settles back for her few more minutes of torture.
Tick..
Tock..

I watch.
Eyes peer, once again around the corner, to see if I am watching her sit like a big girl, all nice and quiet-like. 'Cause there is nothing harder in the world for chirpy, giggly girls than to have to sit still AND quietly for five minutes.
"Come here Journey" I say, and she runs to me, glad once again for her freedom. I give her a hug and off she runs to frolic.
Carefree.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Just my biased opinion




My boy, Max.

Today is Max's birthday. He is turning seven and I am literally wondering where the time has gone since that sweet thing was curled up on my chest sleeping peacefully.

Those cheeky cheeks, the deep baby blue eyes so full of trust. Why was I chosen to be a mother to this precious little person? How am I worthy?

Max isn't like most other 7 year old boys, you see (yeah, of course I am biased, but just listen). He is different. Well, at least I think so. Naturally, he loves cars and trucks, Lego's, and the other things that boys this age do for fun, but there is something beyond that for Max. He reaches out, and from that he gains satisfaction. He is a person that constantly thinks of others. He helps his little sisters voluntarily. It is rare that I have to fuss at him, and when I do, it is usually just enough to sternly say, "Max!" He loves to cook. He is a protector. He is a bright child with promising academic potential.

Never have I met a child that is sometimes so selfless he could be an example for most adults. I stand in awe. The child offers of himself, his affection, his love--all so unconditionally and gladly. He has a certain intuition like that of a wise old man. He is an old soul, wise beyond his seven little years.

Unfortunately, along with this type of sensitive personality comes hardship, especially for a child in a world like ours. Because he is sensitive and visibly affected by things that happen, he is ridiculed for his feelings, the neighborhood children take joy in making him cry. They bully him and jeer at him, calling him names like 'gay boy' and 'pretty boy' . Yet, he stands strong. At least, for right now. He isn't afraid to be himself, but how long will that last? Will kids like these finally chase the caring nature from my son forever? These are worries that keep me up at night. I vacillate between interfering in these incidents and letting him work it out on his own--not wanting to make it worse. An age-old problem with bullying. But, nowadays, with incidents like Columbine, we see what bullying can cause even the most normal children to do when pushed to the edge.

I want to protect my son. To convince him that the way he is...well it is special, something to treasure and protect, and those children that hurt him, when they grow up will realize this. Or at least they will come to realize what is missing from their own hearts.

But will it be too late for my little boy?

Today, though, is not a day for worries like these. Not today.
Today is a day filled with surprises, happy decorations, excitement...and most of all--CAKE.

Happy Birthday Max.


Mommy loves you beyond measure.

edited to add: The picture above is of Max at the fair this fall, helping out with Serenity while we were waiting on the circus show to begin. For me, she was squirming, screaming, wanting to get down and run. For him, she sat pleasantly as he talked to her and fed her his treats.



Friday, November 30, 2007

The Journey

Five years ago, the Journey began.
To my daughter Journey, who yesterday welcomed her fifth birthday with the zeal and vitality only five-year-old girls can muster.
My daughter, five years ago, I held you for the first time. Inspected your tiny toes and fingers, held you close to my bosom, drinking in your delicious baby scent.
My daughter, five years ago, I wondered how I could possibly love you so much the moment I met you.
I asked my self How was I going to be as a mother to a little girl? Boys I could handle, but a little girl?
You entered this world rapidly and beautifully, but only after changing your mind twice, and today, my child, you are still the same in mind and spirit.

The morning of your birth, it was discovered that you were in a position that was unfriendly for the birthing process. The doctors forced your little body to turn around and initiated the labor process. They said it was necessary to go ahead and hurry you up a little bit. You would not be commanded so easily, and you showed them that by turning around again, happy as you please. That caused the situation to intensify because the doctors feared a cord accident if you remained in that position during labor. So Mommy was prepped in a hurry for a C-section. There were no signs of distress, but the doctors wanted it to stay that way. As I lay immobile on the operating table, the nurse spoke in a voice I will never forget.

"Doctor? That baby has turned herself around again! Take a look at this!"
The doctor ordered for an ultrasound machine to be brought in, and sure enough. You had decided on your own time to position yourself for birth, and by golly, you couldn't have been more perfectly situated, nicely engaged in the birth canal just hanging out, waiting on everyone else to regroup and discover that they were not in charge of your birth, you were.
Now with no reason or medical justification to perform a c-section the medical team wheeled Mommy back to L&D and labor began immediately and efficiently. The midwife examined and said, "Oh, it will be a few hours", so off she went to grab a bite to eat, having been at the hospital for hours already, by my side through this whole experience. I said to your Nana, who was also there the whole time, "you know, I think it will be a lot sooner than that". Two hours later, I was holding you. Three hours before they thought you would be ready. Once again, it was obvious, you were in control.
The next evening and days were tough and wonderful. Exciting and full of anxiety. As I welcomed you, got to know you, tried to understand you and care for you the way you were demanding. Questioning my abilities and feeling my instinct kick in to guide the way.

Throughout my pregnancy with you, I felt myself open up and become more sensitive, more feminine, more gentle. People would say to me "Heather, you actually glow". I would just smile and shrug my shoulders, but I felt it too. Never before had I been able to cry at movies, offer hugs freely, or... wear pink (laugh if you must, but it is true). Carrying you I embarked on a journey of personal growth and discovery. I could feel your spirit, so innocent and angelic, so feminine and friendly. You were going to be a 'girlie' girl, yet I also felt a strength from deep inside you. A strength that would one day hold power.

So, your name, Journey, is appropriate for a multitude of reasons. Right now, you love your name and I hope that you will throughout your life, recognizing the importance and meaning behind it. To this day, the nurses and midwives in the doctor's office, when speaking of your birth, marvel in your ability to maneuver around in such a tight space, not just one time, but twice (babies don't usually do that so close to birth because there is just not enough room left for them to move around). They had never seen anything like it before.

I can't wait to see what the next five years hold in store for us.
I love you.
Mommy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Warning! Very hyper, yet undeniably adorable child trying to obliterate the 8 pm bedtime






Yes, after an hour of climbing, wallowing, wrestling, and giggling around, this little angel finally went off to sleep.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Out of the loop

I am so behind on posting, but I have been reading my blogroll, although leaving very few comments behind I am afraid.
I have not yet figured out how to blog, maintain sanity, and stay home all day with my kids. The girls are ready to have my full attention before 8 a.m. and I am still on coffee mode at that time of the day. We have danced to Hap Palmer, painted, colored, played with play dough--all by 10 a.m. usually. and how many trips to the library in one week is allowed before people wonder? I am enjoying the time with my girls, but alas, something must give and it has been my blogging, which I sincerely miss.
I guess I will be in and out for awhile, but still reading and keeping up with you all. I will also be updating on the surrogacy, but all still looks well and transfer is tentatively scheduled for late Jan/early Feb.

I think we are ready to welcome the holiday with all of it's chaos and eating too much food. Hope everyone else has a wonderful turkey day,
'til next time.

Heather

Thursday, November 8, 2007

S.O.S.

My son Jacob. My eldest, my most challenging child.

I wonder, is it possible to love your child, but not like him very much?
I ask because, lately Jacob and I have been butting heads about everything and anything, from less serious things like the clothes he wears to more serious problems such as his disrespect and attitude toward the members of his family recently.

He is a wonderful boy and I cherish his existence, but I am wondering if he and I will survive his preteen years, let alone the teenage years! During these past couple weeks, Jacob has been mouthy, rude, too aggressive with his brother (that begs another whole post - why MUST boys wrestle?), and attempting to emulate the 'bad crowd'. Yes, there is most certainly a bad crowd already in the fourth grade - especially in public schools. Heck I think Kindergarten has it's rising issues in that area, as children these days place significant importance on clothing, shoes, who has which video games/Ipods/cell phones, but that also needs it's own post.

If I say one thing, my son says the opposite. No matter what. No matter if he knows he is right, it is simply to contradict me and I see it. I have tried taking privileges away, grounding him, and sitting him away from anything and everyone in an effort to take all stimulation away (a form of behavior therapy that worked with him for years). But gosh, now the child is simply unpleasant to be around and I feel myself brace when he comes in the door because I just know it isn't going to end well - whatever it is.

Those of you with boys, or girls, who have been dealing with issues such as these, or of course any of you readers that may have expertise in this area of parenting, I beg you to please offer up some new ideas. Parenting mags just don't cut it anymore. I am tired already and we have barely begun the journey.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

One Day at a Time

We all know the phrase, "One day at a time", but let me expand on it's significance in my life as of late. Oftentimes we focus on the future, what might happen, what could happen, and get ourselves all worked up before we even really know what is in fact going to occur. I subscribe to the theory that if we remain in the present, in the moment, we can achieve a happier state of being and truly be at peace with whatever we are confronting in the moment.

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis are aware of my situation concerning the scam and it's repercussions on my job and family. So, as a person must in this kind of circumstance to keep from going crazy, I have stopped fighting and questioning and berating myself, and embraced the way things are going to be for now. Of course, I am human and that does not mean that I don't have some moments of tears and frustrations, but I think the key to moving on and opening new doors is to not remain stuck in all that fear and emotion but let those feelings have validation and flow through. As I wrote a few days ago, being more aware has brought me a feeling of peace and I have been in a different state of mind for the past few days.
Don't get me wrong, I have focused on finding work from home, but not obsessed over it, following whatever lead presented itself. I have practiced holding fast to the state of mind that knows everything will be okay, and relaxed. It is amazing how things are simply falling into place, as I focus on taking it day by day, moment by moment, even those things I thought were not going to take place for such a long time.
As of yesterday I believe I have found a little something to do from home to earn enough money to be okay right now, so that burden is lifted, thankfully. But at the same time, along with that satisfaction, is an unexpected yet pleasantly surprising development.

Much to my delight and surprise, the carrier agency I had been working with for a long time ( to be a gestational carrier) contacted me last week with good news. I had pretty much shelved the idea of being a carrier and as is often the case, things are falling into place now that I have stopped trying to make it happen.

First, let me offer some background info on this situation with the agency. After 10 months of working with this agency (since Nov. 2006), being matched, and then everything falling through at literally the last moment (in July 2007), I just backed off figuring it just wasn't meant to be or wasn't the right time. In August, I let the agency know that I was still interested and when they had a couple, they could contact me, but that until then, I was not going to initiate contact or inquire further. I just had to let it go and wait to see if it would come back to me in it's own time, knowing that if it did, then it was meant to be. The whole situation was very disappointing because I had really wanted to be a gestational carrier, put a lot of time and effort into getting all the required documentation, and most importantly, felt a connection with the Intended Mother with whom I had originally been matched. But, hard as we tried, it just wasn't meant to happen. There was always some kind of issue that was holding everything up and the process lingered on for months, frustrating everyone involved until finally all the blocks tumbled down around us, disintegrating the whole thing.

My motivation for being a carrier was/is that I can't imagine life without my kids and since pregnancy is something I enjoy and I have experienced no health problems while pregnant with my children, I determined that I had something to contribute, and it was my heart's desire to do so. I put years of contemplation into this decision and initiated the process in 2006, feeling that I had reached the place in my life where I was ready. To make a very long story short, my profile was sent out again last week and was accepted by a couple who sound very nice. This time things are moving along at a rapid pace and the pieces are falling into place effortlessly. I am very much looking forward to this opportunity and, if it actually happens I will post updates often - especially when the transfer takes place and whether or not it means Baby!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Down the Road

...The glow of the red tail lights against the cool, still-dark morning
...The brightness of the interior lights beckoning all to come within
...Children's excited voices purring
...Parent's nervous small talk
...The hum of the heavy engine

We arrived a half hour early and still found ourselves swallowed up in a huddle of parents, teachers, and excited students, arms heavy with paper lunch sacks, CD players, and water bottles.

The boys and girls, most of whom arose at 4 a.m. due to sheer anticipation are headed off on an adventure. The fourth grade field trip - lasting 13 hours.

For many, it is their first experience riding a charter bus and the excitement is too much to contain, spilling over in ramblings about nothing and everything all at once.
My Jacob is a member of this drone of carefree travelers.
My baby.
Headed down the road, in a very large bus. Without me.

Sometime last month, the conversation went something like this:

"Jacob, do you want me to go with you?" I asked.
"Aww Mom, I am old enough. Please can I go by myself?"
"Well," I say, trying to decide if I thought he was ready, "ok, buddy, I guess you are old enough." I rationalized that although he is only nine, he does very well in school (actually was just invited into the AIG program), has a good relationship with his teachers, and has been showing some maturity around home lately.

So, there I was this morning, standing off to the side with my cup of coffee which had grown cool in the crisp morning air, as my little/big boy climbed aboard with a quick "Bye Mom!"
I watched him clamber to the back of the bus, locate his buddies, plunk his backpack down, and settle in.
As I turned to walk back to the car, I can't be sure, but I believe the sound I heard was apron strings popping. But, I can't be certain of course.

Edited to add: The Boy has returned, safe and sound. And asking for an Ipod.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pirate's Booty...well, kids' Booty is more like it




The Loot...Need I say more?

Well, I will, of course. We made a 1 & 1/2 hour trek through the neighborhood last night. This was the first year in a long time, I think since Jacob was 2, that I took the kids trick-or-treating. We have usually gone to various church festivals, but this year decided to give the trick-or-treating thing a whirl. Was fun, but sure has changed since I was a kid.

People are nice enough but only give out one small treat or a roll of smarties (one roll) or a piece of gum. I mean, come on. These kids get all dressed up, are trained in the polite spiel of "trick or treat" and "thank you", their parents' feet hurt, and all these people can part with is one snack-size Snickers bar?

But, as you can see, we ended up with more than enough to go around, I actually did not have to carry Serenity, didn't lose any kids, no one got hurt, and I think we even had a little bit of fun.

Thank goodness it only comes once a year!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Owls

Here is a special Halloween/Fall treat we enjoy each year. Try it out!

Recipe:

2/3 cup shortening, soft
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. crunchy peanut butter
1 1/3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. oatmeal
1 1-oz envelope no-melt chocolate
semisweet chocolate pieces for eyes
Whole cashews for nose

Combine shortening and sugar; beat until creamy. Add egg, vanilla, and peanut butter; blend thoroughly. In another bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the creamed mixture; blend well. Stir in oatmeal. Divide dough in half. Set one half aside. Shape other half to form roll 8 inches long. Add envelope chocolate to remaining half of dough. Roll out chocolate dough on waxed paper to form and 8 inch square. Place other roll on top of chocolate dough. Wrap chocolate dough around roll to make a log of sorts; pinch seam together, ends should show both chocolate dough and other dough. Wrap in waxed paper; chill at least 1 hour. Let stand at room temp for 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 1/4 inch slices. Lay slices flat. Pinch chocolate dough on each slice at top to form ears for each owl face. Place the chocolate chips for eyes, and the cashew for the beak. Place on cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350-degree oven. Makes about 30.

Kids and adults love these and they are actually somewhat healthy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wave of Peace

It is hard to describe the way I felt this morning standing outside my apartment in the early sunrise, gazing at the colorful trees high on the mountain top through the layers of fog for which the Smokies are so famous. The air was a crisp 27 degrees; the perfect fall morning.

The feeling was sudden, it washed over me like a tidal wave. It covered me. I felt such a sense of tranquility and calmness flow through my body. My mind wanted to scream "but look at what is in front of you, look what just happened, what are you going to do!!" But, for some reason, and I am having a hard time finding the words to lend justice to the feeling, nothing mattered in that moment except for the feeling of peace. I reveled in it, feeling myself uplifted and placed back on track, knowing that although things look very dismal right now, all will be okay.

Today, I feel myself regaining balance, inner clarity and strength, though I can't explain why today and not yesterday or tomorrow, for everything is still in circumstance as it was when I retired to bed last evening. I have no tangible reason to feel better.

Yet, I do.

As I look around, I see things I do not usually notice within the hustle and bustle of normal activity. It is almost as if they are placed there solely for my awakening.

The car with a flat tire - a problem I do not have to face today.
The homeless person sitting in the intersection -- a problem I do not have to face today.
The jar at the gas station asking for money to help the child with cancer -- a problem we are not facing today.

I realize, with unarguable certainty, that although my family is up against some hard times, we could be facing even larger insurmountable issues, and within my gratefulness that we are not, I find lasting peace.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thank You Virtually Much

I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for spending a moment on my blog to read my story in the previous post and taking the time to leave words of encouragement and advice. It truly did brighten my dark time to know that there are folks out there that care. And a special thank you to Slouching Mom, who sent people my way to read and pass it on.

I am frantically searching for some kind of work that I can do from home, that is legitimate of course, to hold us over for a little while until I can find a permanent job and a new daycare for my girls that I trust. That is the long-term hang-up right now -- I can't snap my fingers and enroll them in a new daycare, because the decent ones are always full and have long waiting lists, and without daycare, I can't work -- viscious circle, but one we will overcome eventually. So, if anyone has any ideas in the area of jobs from home, it would be extremely helpful right now.
Thanks to some of the commenters on my post, I checked into NC Jobnetwork.com and filled out a couple of apps for work from home jobs like transcription and customer service calls, which also led me to other web sites that offer the same type of office work from home. I figure, as long as it isn't attached to my bank account in any way or asking me to pay for the job, it might be ok. Who knows? Just doing all I can do and keeping my fingers crossed at the same time that something will follow through.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

SCAM

Contrary to the fact that I thought a certain amount of wisdom and the ability to recognize an untruth comes with age, I was scammed this week.

Hopelessly, unexpectedly scammed. Beyond repair it seems. I have reached, or should I say sunk to a new level of gullibility.

Backing up a bit, let me explain. For the last three months, since finishing WCU, I have been job searching for something in the field of criminal justice or social work, as those were my programs of study. I have been working, while searching, as a preschool teacher because that has been my livelihood for thirteen years. I love working with children, but unfortunately, one cannot actually make a living working in childcare if he/she has a family to support. Very unfortunately.

So, three years ago I dropped everything, moved into subsidized housing (to minimize rent expenses so I could attend class full time), downgraded what luxuries we did enjoy, and hit the books for a solid three years until August of this year. Tough transition for all of us, but one I truly felt was going to benefit us in the long run. I was embarking on a journey that I thought would lead to a better life for my little family, as it had become apparent that their father did not want to participate in their lives long term. (By long term, I mean past the point of conception. He pretty much lost interest after that).

So, back to present times. I have sent out over 40 resumes, all to no avail. It seems that each time I hear the standard, "oh, we love the fact that you graduated Summa Cum Laude, however we need two years experience. Come find us then!". OR the job turned out to be something that would not fit my lifestyle as a single mother, which of course does not allow me to work nights or 12 hour shifts. It also appears that Asheville, where I reside, does not have a high call for social workers or court service workers, as it is mostly a tourist economy. Who knew? Guess I should have.

In frustration, I began to accept the fact that, for now, it was obvious that I would continue to work in the daycare and at least that would sustain us until I could either move to a different city or find more permanent employment. I posted my resume' on Careerbuilder, as a last-ditch effort to rake in the possible categories or places in the area that I had overlooked or didn't know about. WELL, do I wish I hadn't done that. Here begins the slippery slope.

I was contacted by a company stating that they had an opportunity for me, had reviewed my resume' through Careerbuilder and sent me an email with a link to a web page explaining their business, should I choose to accept their offer. I was intrigued, naturally, especially because the position would allow me to work from my PC at home and stay with my girls. I clicked over, read the entire site, felt it was legit, but just in case I sought advice from someone close to me. To make this part of the story short, I decided to take the offer, after a few days of thinking it over and looking into it a little deeper -- albeit, not deep enough. I reasoned that it couldn't be a scam because it was through careerbuilder, payed reasonably well for the task requirements, and I could begin immediately. Oh, if only I had had a crystal ball.

I put in notice at my existing job at the daycare, also let them know my girls would no longer need to attend, and plunged forth into a new opportunity. I was unbelievably excited at the prospect of being able to work from home and stay with my kids. I was going to be able to be with them, watch them grow, experience their joys, and enjoy their days instead of passing them off to a teacher every morning for her to do those things and enjoy my children the way I longed to. For those of you aware of how daycare works, there is always a waiting list at the good schools, so when children drop or terminate, their spots are usually immediately filled.

Two days ago, the bomb dropped. One day after I put in notice at my job and removed my girls from the school. Within a two hour period, as I attempted to process the first transaction requirement for my 'job', I came to the realization that something was dreadfully wrong. The transaction would not go through Paypal. They put a hold on the account awaiting further investigation. At first I was blinded by anger, then finally a silent, slow resolve fell over me like a dark cloak of doom.

This was indeed a scam, I was told. A money-laundering scam. A bogus company that preyed on people like me, through agencies such as Careerbuilder that made their facade seem even more legitimate. Because who would think that fake companies could gain access to people's personal info and resumes on job sites that proclaim the utmost security? They operate by stealing websites of reputable companies, rerouting the emails to their personal email and operate as such, using unsuspecting people like myself to do the dirty work of processing the fake shipments and accepting the dirty money payments into the Paypal account. What?! Excuse me? Fake payments? Dirty money?

I could not believe it. It was like a movie, or something that happens to someone else. How could I be so gullible and stupid as to not see the signs that I am certain must have been there. Did it sound to good to be true? Maybe. Did I want it too badly? Probably. In any case, I am left holding a very empty bag with very few possibilities left in it. I have no job, my girls have no school, and well, as a single parent those two issues are inconceivably huge to overcome.

Thanks for listening. Please pass this testimony on to anyone you love or care about in an effort to squash these companies and force job-searching sites to enforce even higher security measures. Because let's face it. Scam artists are everywhere. And anybody is fair game.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

All in a Name

There are many positive and rewarding aspects to working with young children, but one of my favorites is the cute nicknames their parents call them when they arrive at the end of the day to pick them up. Some of the names are just love names, some are variations and butcherings of the child's given name, still others are siblings attempts at pronouncing the other child's name and it is just considered so cute the whole family has to join in.

"Hi Bean!"
"come here Be'be' "
"How was my little pea's day"?
"Where's Jaxie?" (Jackson)

It goes on and some of the little nicknames will probably stick on into childhood, much to these children's chagrin.
For example, when I was younger and my brother Jonathan was born (much to my delight by the way), I nicknamed him "Thins". It wasn't as if I couldn't pronounce his name (I had actually learned to enunciate and speak in full sentences by the time I was 18 months old, so speech wasn't an issue) but rather just a way for us to be connected. It stuck, and throughout the years, as we were growing up I referred to him as such for various reasons -- to show I loved him, to irritate him, to embarress him, whatever and whenever the urge struck. There were times he didn't mind and there were moments I know he could have strangled me with his bare hands. My prents tried to force me to stop, but nothing worked and even now from time to time, I will dig into the recesses of childhood memories and pull out that little token of affection when talking to my baby brother.

With my own children, well, yes we are guilty of nicknaming.
Jacob is referred to as Jacoby pronounced Ju-ko-bee, with the emphasis on 'ko'.
Maxwell's name is of course already shortened to Max, but he still gets 'maxy' which I am sure he HATES, or soon will, and from other non-family members he gets dubbed names like Maximus, Maximillian, Maxwellian..the list goes on unfortunately. People seem to really have fun with his name. Poor kid.
Journey is 'sweetness', my name for her when she isn't whining or carrying on. So, needless to say I don't say it often! Kidding.
Serenity's little pet name is 'peek-ums'. Don't ask. Her brother designated that one when she was about 6 months old, I think because she was so enthralled and amused with peek-a-boo.

I have noticed around here a regional favorite that everyone calls their baby at some point is 'boo' . Regardless of name, gender or age. This one I do not understand, never heard before moving to the south, but alas, hear it nearly everyday when parents arrive to retrieve their little angels, and I can't help but smile.

Do you have a nickname? Do your children have love names or unfortunate nicknames that have stuck no matter what?
If so, do tell!




Sunday, October 14, 2007

It went something like this

The setting:
Our oversized, but not-so-comfy recliner in our living room, just after naptime. Journey was cuddling on my lap for a few blessed minutes before her sister woke up--a Sunday afternoon ritual in our home of late. Little did I know what that blond little head was cooking up and was about to spew forth from it's perfectly-shapen miniature pink lips. Oh mercy.

"Mommy?"

"yes, Journey?"

"Mommy, just where do babies really come from?"

As my heart flutters and I nearly choke on my diet coke, I stammer. NO, not yet. She can't be asking me this yet. Her brothers still have not inquired, for which I have been eternally grateful.
I fish around madly for an answer that will suffice until I can issue a more prepared and accepatable one--like 10 years from now. If only we could have some kind of parental-alert that would give us even a five minute lead on questions like this.
Yeah.

"Well, Journey, babies, well, er, come from inside mommies' bellies"

Pause. A pregnant pause, if you will.

"No, I know that already, 'cause that is where Serenity came from. Cause she was in your belly, then you went to the hospital, then the doctor helped, then she came out, then she came home. But How did she get in there?"
Sigh.
Of course, my exquisitely curious and out-spoken daughter was not to be placated with this kind of beat-around-the-bush response. No ma'm. SO, in brief, I kind of explained to her what helps a baby "get inside the tummy".
After our chat, which actually took only a few minutes, and much to my relief remained G-rated, allowed a few more minutes for me to compse myself while my daughter looked at me very accusingly. Her mind was trying to make sense out of what I had just told her, I convinced myself.

Her comment:
"No wonder I don't like to play with Porter, Mommy. I just knew he was up to something".

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Mom Song Sung to William Tell Overture with Lyrics

Thanks to Mitzh, many funny minutes of laughter with this video! Please listen and enjoy!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Repeat Performance

Darkness
Fear
Familiarity


lockdown
breathe
stay
survive


let it happen
live it
let it go

feel it
leave it behind

until next time..


Life is full of odds. And ends. And repeat performances.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

This and That X 4

Thanks Painted Maypole for the tag on this meme'!



4 Jobs I have had:


  • a pounce-on-customers-as-they-walk-in person at Gymboree (yeah, a bit scary)

  • Nanny

  • Infant teacher

  • Preschool teacher

4 Movies I love to watch over and over:



  • Erin Brockovich

  • Sound of Music

  • The Story of Us (from this movie I adopted a tradition at the dinner table with my kids each evening called High/Low, in which we talk about the best and worst parts of our day...very fun!

  • Parenthood--because it is just SO like that.

4 Places I have lived



  • Memphis, TN

  • Iowa

  • Rudolstadt, Deutschland

  • Maggie Valley. NC

4 TV Shows I enjoy watching. I despise comedy shows and I am not much for drama shows, so here are my choices when I watch TV.



  • The Closer

  • The First 48 Hours

  • John & Kate +8 ( show on Discovery channel about a family with a set of twins and a set of sextuplets--gives me strength to see them go through their daily life as it is with that many kids and know that i have nothing in the world to complain about!

  • Little People Big World ( Great family reality show)

4 places I have been:

  • Paris
  • Venice
  • San Francisco
  • Disney World

4 websites I visit daily ( a tough one for me b/c I am not a web-browser, I do not have enough patience)

  • my email
  • blogs I enjoy reading
  • weather.com
  • Rawstory.com

4 Favorite foods

  • Hashbrowns
  • Romaine salad with sunflower seeds and Ranch dressing
  • Bagels
  • Anything 'soup-like'/ crockpot creations ( I love soups and stews)

4 Places I would rather be ( this one is a bit challenging b/c I am truly happy right where i am right now, but that is probably because the kids aren't fighting!)

  • a beach
  • a cruise
  • on a mountain top
  • can't think of any others!

Ok, so now comes the time to tag and since I am so far behind with this meme' these might have already been tagged!

1)Mitzh,

2)Slouching Mom,

3)Amy's World,

4)Christine

Sunday, October 7, 2007

On the Spot

A few days (weeks?) ago, my new friend Amy over at Amy's World, did an interview and I had such fun reading the responses that I wanted to participate as well, so she sent me the following questions to answer.

Ok, girls' naptime has begun, I have a fresh cup of coffee (pumpkin spice), and I have a candle burning...I am ready to tackle these questions. Here goes!

1) What is the single greatest challenge you face being a single mom of four children? Ok, that is a tough one. I guess my greatest challenge lies in making sure I combine the tenderness with the firm hand in equal balanced doseages. Too much of either throws things out of whack and the results can be tragic and long-term (no stress there, right?) By that I mean with issues like discipline as this one is often tough for me. I have to play two roles simultaneously--mom and dad--and by nature, usually, women tend to be more nurturing than strict or firm. Children need Mommy's lap and a tender hand, but they also need and must have strict firm approach to discipline in order to learn respect, obedience and all that 'other stuff'. I have had to learn, especially with my boys, to kind of set that soft touch aside when they are in need of some 'guidance' and be more assertive in my expectations of them, as well as following through with any consequences I dole out for transgressions. I have had to learn to not let my emotions get the better of me in situations where a man would have undoubtedly commanded more instant respect and diffused the problem a lot more quickly than I mangaged to. Obviously, I can't use the old "Just wait until your father gets home" trick. Unfortunately, I yell more than I would like and we are really targeting that right now in our home. Whew! I kinda rambled on with that one...
2)What is your favorite guilty pleasure? Oh, this is a fun one. I don't get a lot of 'me time' obviously. So, after 9 p.m. when the kids are long asleep and I am able to sit down for a few moments, I allow myself to have a small delectable treat and unwind a bit. Whatever my heart desires. Chocolate, in one form or another, usually wins hands down (I know, boring and typical but what can I say), as I am not much of a cake/pastry eater. I give that to myself, feeling that I have earned it (damn skippy!). Although I should feel guilty because I know it is bad to eat sweets at night, too much sugar will pack on the pounds, heart diesease, blah blah blah., but I don't give a hoot. I enjoy every bite. Guiltlessly!
3)If money were no object and you could spend a week anywhere in the world ~ where would you go?Somewhere you have been before or someplace new? Why would you go there?
Lets see. Having spent some time overseas in Germany (as an exchange student) and France and Italy, I would more than likely go back there for a week. I adore it over there ~ the people, the food, the culture...and I would love to go back and visit some new cities that I didn't get to see before.
4)Looking back on your life, do you have any regrets? If you could go back and tell your younger self something, is there one thing you would change, knowing what you know now about life? Hmmm. As I see it my life is a culmination of choices I have made. A collaboration, if you will between good choices and well, not so good ones. I feel like, if I could go back and whisper something in my 18-year-old self's ear, I would say, "be less gullible and trusting and pay attention, for things and people are not always what/who they appear to be". I learned some lessons in my life the hard way, but I guess most of us do and that actually makes us who we are. Taking those times of tribulation away would diminish character and the ability to perservere through tough times. I do hope that my children grow up strong enough to weather what the world will inevitably throw at them and of course, I will want to protect them from pain and suffering. I have only one regret and that is the fact that the first time I went to college, at age 19, I stopped after a couple of semesters 'to work awhile'. If I could go back, I would finish college while I was young and without children b/c going to school amidst raising children, and having another baby in the middle of a semester, working and generally just participating in life was hard.
5)Your post where you spoke about your decision to have your youngest child rather than an abortion: do you think you will ever share that with your daughter?
This is often something I wonder myself. I think that in the run of things, probably not. If the cirucmstance arises where I feel it is pertinent to discuss ~ say if she one day finds herself struggling with such a decision (God forbid) or if she ever asks me anything about my feelings toward abortion in a personal way, I will tell her the truth. It is such an integral part of her birth story so I feel like someday, she will ask. She will feel led to know the answers to some of life's bigger, more difficult questions, and the opportunity will present itself. I do hope that when I speak of it, I remain non-judgemental, for if she is at that time struggling, she may not make the same decision as I and she deserves (every woman deserves) that freedom, the real freedom, of true choice.

SO, thanks Amy, I enjoyed answering your questions. You came up with some good ones!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Boys!

Meet Dirty McMuddy...



and his sidekick, Dusty McFilthy.


This, my friends is after ONE AFTERNOON of playing outside.
Fun was had by all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Different Language

Driving home yesterday I realized that I speak another language.
Now, of course, many of us do speak a language ( or two) other than our native tongue, but let me explain.
In this case, I mean that I speak toddlerese.

Serenity, having just turned two, is turning the infantile grunts and gestures and one-word commands into actual (well, kind of) words and vocabulary. All fine and good.
However.

Most of her words are not even similar to real words yet, thereby leaving us baffled half the time as to what she is trying to say. A certain chain of syllables means ' big truck' and ' my cup of juice', but the real whole words do not yet fully exist.

It is truly fascinating, development of one's language, and the more I thought about it I recognized that we moms actually do, even if for a brief time, speak a different language during the vocabulary development of our toddlers. We must learn to recognize the chain of syllables that mean a certain word but sounds nothing like the word we know, and commit it to memory in association with it's meaning so we can more rapidly recognize it the next time we hear it. This does not mean that we don't say the word correctly often so as to help our toddlers learn the correct pronunciation. Here I must add that pronouncing a word correctly to a cranky, hungry, out-of-sorts toddler IS NOT a good idea so knowing what they are trying to say is VERY important.

In addition, we must learn to REPEAT everything that our little ones say so they know we are listening, thereby teaching them the art of conversation, which differs from communication vastly. To me it became apparent that right now, with Serenity learning to really talk, my mind feels the same way it felt (exasperated and overwhelmed) when I was living in Germany and trying to translate every word and phrase until I became familiar with the language.

Immediately following birth, infants watch the movement of people's mouths, listen to the rythym of the speech surrounding them, and begin to recognize voices. As chidren grow into toddlerhood, they are learning to communicate their wants and desires through gestures and very basic imitations of the speech they have been listening to for a year. Some children catch on very quickly and can speak full sentences very early, others take the two to three years to fully enunciate correctly most words in their daily language.
I realized, sitting at the traffic light (I am surprised at this point that I remembered to drive as I was so caught up in pondering this ) that as each of my children has reached this point in development, I remember learning to recognize these "new words" and constantly translating their meaning to other people who couldn't understand my child.

Of course, I had this epiphany while Serenity was in the back seat screaming "cee bu"..translated "city bus"...this is by far one of the easier phrases to decipher. One of the harder ones as of yet was "wa toma tay pee"...directly transalated "watch Thomas the Train please?"

So, as time moves on and my toddler becomes a pre-schooler, her speech will graduate to new levels in development, none as hard as this initial explosion into communication.
Well, maybe until she becomes a teenager anyway, and I don't even want to talk about what communication will be like during that period of time!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Peaceful Warrior"

Last night I watched a truly exceptional movie that is still provoking thought and wonderment in my mind today. It is called Peaceful Warrior (2007 DVD).

The fact that it has moved me is not based solely on the content itself, but on the fact that it is a true story. It is Dan Millman's true story, he is the author of a couple of books--Way of the Warrior, and The Life You Were Born to Live. A phenomenal story to be certain. I recommend checking the movie out if you are curious as to what your purpose is, or even if you aren't because it is just that good.

How attached are you to your story? Who are you without it? What are you if not ruled by emotion? Can you be in the moment, in the HERE and NOW? What exactly does that mean? How do we release ourselves from the thoughts that rule us and drive our actions? Is it truly possible to love unconditionally those that need it the most?

These questions I ask myself today as I peruse Dan's book, The Life... and ponder different parts of his story.

"there is never nothing going on"
Just sit with that for a moment. How much do we really notice going on in the world outside of our own thoughts and stories?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sky-high with Fun





Apple picking is a traditional family outing/adventure for us every year in late September. However, due to the April frost we had this spring, the crop here this year is non-existent. At least the apples are non-existent, that is.


Turns out you can have just as much fun 'picking apples' even when there are NO apples to pick!
Literally.
We walked around the orchard for almost an hour and retrieved TWO apples from the tip top of a couple of trees. Please take notice of cheerful children although thier little baskets are totally empty.
BUT,
We had a blast, the weather was gorgeous on the mountain top, and we came home with just enough apples (which we retrieved from a trailor set up for pickers that was full of Gala, Fuji, Rome, and others--we assumed what may have been harvested from the far end of the orchard)
to make our favorite dessert--Apple Brown Betty. Scrumptious!
Of course, playing in the playhouse was enormously entertaining, as was drinking apple cider from the apple-shaped sippers that cost $2.50 PER SIPPER.
But all in good fun.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In which my 9 year old beat me

In a race that is!
You know you are getting on up there when your 9 y.o. son can beat you in a foot race across a small parking lot!

"Mom?"

"yes, Jacob?"

"Wanna race?"

"sure, buddy..." (thinking that I will run slowly and let him win)

Yeah, right. It didn't quite work out that way.

Not only did my son win the first race, in which I started off slowly and rapidly realized that I needed to actually RUN. But, he won by a LARGE distance the second race in which I ran as hard and fast as my thirty-something body would allow.

Puts things into perspective..I still hurt and that was two days ago...

Your age is marked by the way you feel and run!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Decision



I had to share this photo of myself and my brother taken last month at my graduation. I will probably hear him fussing at me for posting his picture, but give him a break, he is a conservative/atheist and knows not the sentiment with which I write.

He probably isn't aware, but my brother has been a great source of motivation for me through these past few years as I struggled through school while raising my children and working too. Periodically I received from him little cards that were such moments of encouragement that pushed me to keep on going. I still have the cards and reflect on them when I am frustrated, or feeling defeated and worn out. We have always been close, my brother and I.

Currently, my brother is in the middle of a tough decision, wrestling with deciding whether or not to better his career (in which he excels)by moving to a large, unfriendly city or remain in the city in which he presently lives, and wait for the next career jump-start, hoping that it will be closer and in a more attractive, alluring place to reside. You see, my brother is so good at his job that other firms desire his presence and contribution; he is only 28 and has been out of school for a mere three years. Like, wow. Can you tell I am a bit proud of my little brother?

What makes this a hard choice is the fact that much of his happiness lies in his favorite pasttime--running; a passion he has fervently followed for many years now, and to which he dedicates most if not all of his spare time. He runs marathons at the drop of a hat, facilitates running events, participates in a running training group, and is training for an ultra-marathon next month. If he chooses to move, this particular pasttime of his will undoubtedly suffer b/c of the locality. In the other city, it is hot and all you see for miles is concrete. There are few, if any, lush areas, no trails, and no familiar safe neighborhoods with overly-abundant trees and beauty like where he is now.

What should he do? Which is more important? Happiness, stability, and predictability? Money? The chance to move up the corporate ladder? Would the sacrifice be worth it? What would you do?

Hang in there little brother, things will pull together and the fog of indecisiveness will lift. Trust your judgement, you will not fail yourself.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Little One

Four days old
First few steps..walking to Mommy, away from Nana
First pig tails..stayed in for all of three minutes, while distracted searching for cheese puffs
Screaming at THE TOP of her lungs--these days a favorite activity
Devouring birthday cake with blue icing.
From tiny peanut, to Big Girl.


Happy Birthday Serenity.


Mommy's precious baby, I love you.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fair



FALL IS COMING! Inspired by some of the posts I have been reading concerning the upcoming autumn season, I must also rave a bit about this wonderful time of year. This picture was taken near our home last year, during one of the most vibrant leaf seasons we have ever experienced.

I love fall for many reasons, but today I am focusing on one of the things I look forward to most about this time of year.

THE MOUNTAIN STATE FAIR!

Today we are going to the fair! I think I may be more excited than the kids. I love the sounds of the rides, the aromas coming from the vendors all cooking their specialty--everything from pronto pups to funnel cakes, the excited voices and shrieks from those daring enough to climb aboard sky-high rides, my children jumping up and down wanting to do everything all at one time.

Our fair comes around this time every year and it ushers in the season for us. We spend a day walking around the fairgrounds, visiting the petting zoo, eating, riding, and generally just enjoying being together. The weather is usually beautiful, around mid 70's, and by now a nice breeze is blowing.

The leaves have not yet begun to turn, but it always seems like, when the fair leaves town, the trees take their cue to begin that beautiful process. And here, in the Smokies, autumn is so breathtaking.

Next autumn post--Apple Picking at Sky Top Apple Orchard, complete with pictures--another of our traditional autumn adventures.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Inner Child


Ever notice how easy it is to voice your opinion about something, like kicking dirt off your shoe, and going forward like nothing happened, not wondering the impact of your statement may have left with the other person?

"yes, I totally agree with that" or

"no way. that is SO wrong. I can't believe anyone would ever choose that".


People speak all day long in reference to things they probably have no idea about. Make remarks against situations with which they have never been confronted. I used to be one of these people, until two and a half years ago. I would drop my comments here and there, not really giving my beliefs a second thought. Never asking myself why I felt a certain way towards something, just usually going with the majority. Judgemental? Hell, yeah.


It seems like we can so easily speak for or against something before or without ever having any exposure to what it feels like to be in the position/situation we are attempting to speak for or against. Mostly, I have noticed, that the people offering the advice are the people that have no right to be speaking. They aren't asked for their opinion--they offer it freely and loudly. On the contrary, a person who actually might have something worthwhile to offer, usually doesn't just offer their thoughts forward; they wait until asked or prompted. They exude a certain comforting wisdom when they speak of their experience.


Take abortion for example. SO many people stand either vehemently for or steadfastly against abortion, without even really understanding what a woman feels like to be in the position to have to make such a heavy decision. A decision that has no 'takeback' backroad. A decision that a woman must forever live with, no matter what.


As my youngest child nears her second birthday, I am and will always be reminded of the fact that I almost did not have her. By my own choice. I struggled for the better part of 12 weeks with the decision of whether or not I wanted to bring another child into the world with a man who had proven himself unworthy of being a father. We were already separated and the fact that the opportunity came and passed during which I conceived her weighed heavily on my mind as immoral and a bad choice on my part.

I struggled with decisions like whether or not it was fair to a new baby to be brought into the world and into a home with three siblings and a single parent, because in my heart I knew that although he was telling me with his words that things would change, he would not step up to the plate any more for this child than the others he could so conveniently forget about. I knew that I was taking it on alone, and I was scared. I was ashamed. I wondered how fair it was to ask my other three children to share yet another slice of the pie- so to speak. Could I have enough Love, patience, and mothering to spread to another little person? Was I capable? I was just getting started in school, was barely making ends meet as it was, I couldn't even imagine another child to care for.


Before I realized it I was sitting in the parking lot of the abortion clinic, my $500.00 in hand, my i.d, and beside me was sitting my mother (I know, she is a true saint--the most non-judgemental, supportive person you will EVER meet). I sat there wondering what I was doing, but still feeling like I had no choice but to abort this new life growing inside me. I was in tears on the inside, some on the outside, having read what lies ahead and not knowing if I could handle this choice either. I wanted a third choice. Where everything would work out perfectly.

My car was surrounded by the protesters with their obnoxious signs, chanting something I thought I would never forget. But have. We probably sat there for almost an hour, mostly in silence. I stared at the white doors and could almost imagine the sterile, cold feeling of the rooms on the other side of those doors. As I sat in my car, I felt a kind of peace drape over me, like a warm feeling. In that moment, my mother asked me quietly, "would you do this if God was walking in beside you?". It was as if I did not even need to think about it. I simply said "no" and we drove away--my sweet baby still inside my belly. It grounds me now to realize how close I was that day to altering my life and the lives of my children forever, irreversibly.

I am not a religious person, but I do consider myself to be a spiritual person. I feel like there is a higher power out there, and religions attempt to encompass it into their own respecive denominations and name it accordingly--Buddha, Alla, Jesus, etc. But the feeling is still the same.


I will forever and always know that if I haven't walked through the pain myself, I have nothing to say. Nothing to offer but a prayer of peace to the person struggling. I do not walk around protesting this or that, but remain constant in what I believe and practice it each day by example.


I look in my sweet, precious baby's face and ask myself, what would I have ever done without her to teach me, to allow me to walk through such a learning experience, to grow as a person..it is part of her purpose and I can't wait to see her fullfill that on a grand scale.


God Bless.

Oh, the ultrasound is of Serenity (now you know some of the meaning behind her name) in my third trimester and if you look at the first one, you can vividly see her eye peering out as if to say Hi! Here I come!


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lets play 'cards'

We all are aware of the 'growing' problem of childhood obesity in our country. America--The land of the free as well as the Supersize Me way of thinking when it comes to food (if you have not watched that documentary, I recommend it). And, the faster the food the better, fits into our speedracer way of life.

About a year and a half ago I began to combat this way of eating and thinking in my home with my children. As I read and heard more about the trend of children being inactive and overweight, and began to learn more about the recommended true portion sizes for different foods (deck of cards, baseball, ping-pong ball, etc.). I decided to try to integrate this into our daily meals/snacks both in and out of home, whenever possible.
At first I was met with some whining and begging for more food, but standing firm in what I knew was enough and that they had really eaten enough for that sitting, I didn't budge. Over time, we began to eat our meals more slowly, talking and interacting at the table (a time of day I now cherish and look forward to with my kids), and no one usually asks for a second helping. They have become accustomed to eating the right amount of food and realizing that they are satisfied and their body doesn't actually feel hungry anymore (we all have heard of the 20 minute rule before going back for seconds).
Perhaps, if I get the kids used to realizing what true portion size is while they are young, it will be natural to them as they grow older and begin to eat more frequently away from home.

So often I see children consuming more food that most adults require at a meal. When I visit the school lunchroom of either of my boys or work in the daycare, I see it everyday and I see how overeating as well as eating inappropriate foods is promoted at an early age.

Look at the typical school menu at a public school, or a childcare center. As far as menu choices, in which a 5- year -old Kindergartener is offered the same amount of food as an 11 -year- old Fifth grader, it consists mostly of fast food, food high in saturated fat and calories; chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza, tacos, cheeseburgers (of the frozen, greasy variety)...you get the idea.
When the schools do offer a healthy veggie option, they either couple it with a somewhat unhealthy choice that kids opt more for, or they drown it in butter and boil it to death so that all the minerals are long gone. The only drink option is milk, which is unfortunate for the growing number of people who are realizing the unhealthy benefits of milk and do not want their children drinking it (see my recent post entitled Don't Drink your Milk ).

At home , my kids are served a healthy portion of their meal--which is balanced out to focus on most of the food groups--and if they are still hungry they can have seconds on the more healthy aspect of the meal such as the veggie or some fresh fruit. Same thing goes for evening snacking, which is kept to a minimum, but because of the outside activity my boys engage in, I realize they are using up a bit more energy and require more to be satisfied in the evenings. However, this "more" is not three slices of pizza or a few cupcakes, poptarts, or cookies--it is a protein snack of some kind, or a bowl of low-sugar cereal. We also keep fresh fruit in the house and have cut/sliced veggie options in the fridge for easy grabbing. Also worth mentioning is what kids drink--sodas, koolaid, energy drinks such as gatorade--children are getting a lot more calories than they need from drinking also. My rule is--they can have a soda when we eat out, they get a Gatorade if we are going to be outside most of the day (pool, hiking, park), and they never have Koolaid.
I also try to portion things out according to the amount of calories each child needs on a daily basis--from oldest to youngest. Around here, my kids are aware of portion sizes, what makes a correct portion, and they realize that the older ones get more than the younger because of caloric requirements. (Of course, it is explained to them in a MUCH simpler way).

Some of my friends support my view on the importance of food portions/selections, others frown and disagree stating that their children will burn off whatever they eat and are already thin so it doesn't matter. To this I respond with the fact that cholesterol and trans fat is still an issue in good health--even in kids that are thin already. America also is dealing with heart diease, diabetes, and other diet-related issues besides obesity. Let's just be honest: It starts at home.

Here is a list of some of the healthy foods that I keep in the home for easy grabbing:
  • Carrot/celery
  • Peanut butter balls (PB, honey, evap. milk, rice krispies--add and mix together until firm enough to make balls--refrigerate)
  • apples, peaches, pears,
  • berries
  • soy yogurts,
  • rice milk ice cream bars
  • all fruit popsicles
  • granola bars

You get the idea...portions AS well as food choices are important, not just for the kids, but for us as well.

Edited to add: I don't mean to sound like we don't occassionally eat fast food, or have unhealthy days, b/c we do of course! The road to health eating begins with awareness and that is my point with this post.

Also remember, when eating out, portion sizes are usually three to four times larger than the recommended serving size (!!). Try sharing meals or packing half of the meal in a to-go box before even beginning to eat.

While at home, practice letting your child serve himself the appropriate portion size so he becomes aware of how much is enough.

For additional and helpful info on children's as well as adult portion sizes, check out MYpyramid.com