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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
A moved down the stairs into the living room I’d decorated a week ago before I left on my whirlwind trip. I ignited the lights on the Christmas tree, as well as those running up the stairs interlaced with garland. My quiet home began to wake up and come to life. I decided to play David Tolk’s new Christmas album (if you haven’t heard it yet, it’s simply amazing…but then again, all of his music is). As its strains filled the house, it intermingled with the smell of pumpkin spice candles and tortellini soup, bringing that distinct feeling that Christmas is just around the corner.
What is it about the first snow that seems to erase all that is bad in the world and brings a feeling of newness? Is it the idea that slumbering beneath the blanket of white is a whole new world waiting to be born yet anew in the spring?
I think that’s part of it…
I can remember my own childlike wonder on the day of the first snow. I remember looking out the large picture window of our small house on that stretch of winding country road. I remember dressing up against the snow and chill with coat, mittens, scarf, and winter hat. I remember venturing out into the slowly drifting flakes, floating like cotton-fluff on the air, softly stealing way to the ground like manna from heaven. I remember holding my face to the sky as I would allow these crystalline flakes to settle on my tongue, despite the warnings of my mother that snow spiders lived in them, that they would crawl onto my stomach and lay eggs that would hatch during the night, and baby snow spiders would crawl out of my ears and nose while I slept.
Let the snow spiders come…snatching the flakes from the air with my tongue was worth it.
I remember dad coming home from work and we’d all climb into the old, white Ford pickup to go and find the perfect tree which would complete Christmas. I remember the drive taking a long time, but not really caring, the exhilaration of the moment had me practically bursting with excitement. We pulled off the road somewhere deep in the heart of the Huckleberry Mountains. We trudged through snowdrifts that were well past my knees – all in the hunt to find that perfect tree.
When we got in the tree home, we set up in the living room, coating it with multicolored lights, troves of decorations we had since forever, and the homemade paper chains, popsicle stick decorations, and strung lengths of cranberries and popcorn. Once it was finished, entire house seemed to come to life in a way that was only possible at Christmas.
Mom would play her Christmas albums, and the sounds of the season would intermingle with everything else. Sometimes she would get out the old, orange Betty Crocker cookbook and make Candy Cane cookies.
I can still taste them.
I sit in now my house, thinking of years gone by as the cotton-fluff flakes continue to gather over everything I see. You know, there’s just something about the first snowfall when nearing Christmas, and starting to feel that selfsame glow from days gone by, and Christmases past.
Let it snow…
Monday, November 29, 2010
I have to smile at myself for fulfilling the single-most laughable stereotype regarding pregnant women and cravings. I've never really dealt with cravings before. Aside from the occasional "I'd-really-like-a-steak" or "man-McDonald's-french-fries-sure-sound-good" sensation, I've pretty much been able to eat as usual during my pregnancies...if a little more.
But suddenly, in the last few days, I have discovered the Wonderful World of Pickles. Sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickles with sharp cheddar cheese, pickles in the morning, pickles at noon, pickles in the evening...just pickles.
It actually occurred to me this morning after my third Clausen dill that perhaps I was actually doing damage to myself by ingesting so many pickles. After all, if I had a craving for milk, I wouldn't worry. I'd just tell myself that I must need the calcium, and carry on. But pickles? What health benefit to pickled cucumbers carry? Is brine good for you?
So I did what any normal woman would do under the circumstances: I ate another pickle, and then I Googled. "How many pickles in a day is too much?" I felt kind of silly typing in the query...how many answers, really, might I find? How many people were as paranoid and slightly demented as me?
Er...quite a few. Apparently I'm not the only one with pickle cravings. The landscape of answer.com, justask.com, and several other sites were littered with the same general question, including one hysterical chat from a husband who was concerned about his pregnant wife's massive pickle intake. According to kBg and ChaCha, eating too many pickles can cause stomach cancer and/or hypertension, due to the sodium content. According to other people, you can simply garner an upset tummy.
According to several pregnancy sites, though, there is a reason for the pregnant lady/pickle craving thing. In the second and third trimesters, a woman's blood volume increases, which creates a need for more sodium. Voila! A method to the pickle madness. More pickles equals more sodium to satisfy that higher blood volume.
I feel much better now.
So good, in fact, I may go eat another Clausen.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day. ~Irv Kupcinet
I think traditions are great.
I think they are great and immeasurably important because they connect the generations and help develop a sense of family history a feelings of roots and stability. There's no limit to what a tradition can be. Even everyday family routines, such as who sits where at the dinner table, or reading a bedtime story every night can become a tradition. But, let’s face it most traditions revolve around holidays. Holiday traditions are usually something that is a little more special - something that's anticipated and that you're greatly disappointed if it doesn't happen.
And that, right there is why traditions can also be tricky
Much as we might want to we can’t always hold on to our traditions. Kids grow up and families change and as much as stability and roots might be what you hoped and worked for, tradition can sometimes be a transitory thing. This has certainly been my reality – especially over the last few years. Holidays are just hard for me. Every discernable holiday tradition that evolved while my boys were young has pretty much evaporated. Now don’t get me wrong, I have some great times with my boys and we still have our traditions – it’s just that holidays are tricky for us. One of the things that I feel strongly about when it comes to my boys and the holidays is to not make it a stressor for them. I had to make the decision a few years back to give up the sentimentality of holiday celebrations because I don’t want the boys to feel torn. But those darn holidays come around every year and I’ve found that it sure takes a whole lot of energy to not feel stressed out.
I’ve been thinking lately though, as with so many other things at this time in my life, I have to find a new holiday tradition reality – and maybe that is to not have any. I don’t mean not celebrating the holiday, but maybe my new tradition will be to never make a holiday plan…and just see what happens. I pretty much did that this year and everything has pretty much worked out. Even though I had no guests coming over to my home, I still got to bake 11 Thanksgiving pies and watch 25 teenage boys devour them with gusto. Even though I wasn’t planning buying the traditional Thanksgiving bird I still put a turkey in the oven on Thanksgiving morning, got to smell the great turkey roasting smell and I and know that people enjoyed eating it.
My Thanksgiving 2010 was traditionally non-traditional and wouldn’t make a very good spread in a Martha Stewart magazine – but it was good and I am thankful. I am Thankful for unknown blessings that I’m sure are already on their way.
Monday, November 22, 2010
I have a valid reason.
The dog ate all of my timepieces, including the little digital clock in the bottom right-hand corner of my laptop, and I had no clue that it was already a little past eight o'clock.
She was hongry.
Actually, I spent the morning hours driving around town (and a neighboring town) taking care of various things--the weekly bank trip, the post office, fundraiser collections, dog to kennel--so I could then spend several many more hours in the car as I made my way to grandmother's house for Thanksgiving. That's the kids' grandmother, my mom, who lives in Columbia, SC.
Normally, I make a four and a half hour trip just four hours. I'm special that way. No bathroom breaks and a respectable ten over usually does the trick. Today, though...what a day.
I had carefully planned on leaving Monday for SC and returning to VA on Friday, figuring that most families would have left either over the weekend or on Wednesday, and would be returning the following weekend. And I think I was pretty accurate in that...I only saw four cops and the traffic was fairly doable. Until, that is, I got to Charlotte, NC.
You see, my morning errands ran over just a bit, which unfortunately put me close to Charlotte around rush hour. If you've never been in or around Charlotte during rush hour, just close your eyes and imagine a Walmart parking lot on Christmas Eve. And there you have it: H-E-double hockey sticks.
My four hours ('cause I was making good time, people) quickly turned into five hours. We've all been there. It's adjusting your seat so you can stretch your legs and feet, rotating your ankles, which are screaming from all the back and forth brake and gas action, cracking your knuckles to relieve some steering-wheel-grip tension, and answering the same question from your eight year-old twenty times in the space of three miles. "No, Lawson, this is still North Carolina."
I won't even mention the various Morons who attempted, more frequently than I've ever experienced, to sideswipe me and push me off the interstate. I'm not sure what the problem was...I must've forgotten to remove my invisibility cloak before leaving home or something. At any rate, I very politely slammed on my brakes to allow the Morons to assume my position in the long line of cars we were currently in. And I didn't mouth anything about checking blindspots or putting your glasses on, or anything like that.
But we finally made it. We limped into Mom's driveway somewhere close to seven p.m., and made our way into the house, loaded down with bags and suitcases and as many of Lawson's thirty stuffed animals he couldn't live without. Mom was waiting. "There's my fat girl!" she screamed, throwing her arms around me and everything I was carrying.
I swallowed a retort. After all, I was cranky, hungry, tired and well aware that as the granddaughter of Myrtle Elliott, niece to four Elliott sisters, and daughter of the fifth, I was fair game for rude and insensitive comments regarding my weight and any fluctuation thereof.
I didn't have to wait long for more. "You have really gotten huge!" Mom said, a big smile upon her face. She curled her fingers around my bicep. "Even your arms!" I cringed inwardly. Rub it in, already. I can't do push-ups anymore, for Pete's sake.
The torture continued. "And I mean this as a compliment, but I have never seen your butt so big!"
A compliment? Really? "Thanks, Mom. Really. You do understand that my butt has to grow bigger in proportion to my stomach, right?"
"Well, I didn't mean--"
Lawson giggled. "Your butt is bigger?"
"Yes, Lawson. You see, you can't carry around this big ole belly Mommy's getting on scrawny little chicken legs. So my butt is getting bigger to help balance things out." He laughed.
"And you are aware that I am still a size six, right--my pre-pregnancy size?" Mom's eyes grew wide,
I sighed inwardly. Relatives. Gotta love 'em.
*Guys, I am so sorry this post is late! Mom's wireless is experiencing problems, so I am currently in PANERA Bread trying to get this posted...albeit late.
Friday, November 19, 2010
The road to success is always under construction - Lilly Tomlin
Over the past month or so there has been a bunch of road construction in front of my house AND around my work. In front of the house they are laying a big water pipe and in front of my work…I don’t really know. But whatever it is, it’s taking a long time and using A LOT of heavy machinery.
I had to go to the dentist today and maybe because I’m driving through and around it every day, I couldn’t help but notice that going to the dentist is a lot like road construction.
In front of the house the surveyors, took pictures, measurements and marked up the road.
At the dentist the assistant took x-rays, measurements and marked up my chart.
In front of the house the construction dudes brought in that special concrete cutting machine to make a precise cut in the road before excavation began.
At the dentist the Doctor used the special needle to give me a precise shot (well 3 or 4 actually) to numb up the area before excavation began. (By the way, I love my dentist. He kind of hides the big needle out of the patients view so you never actually see the giant hypodermic going into your mouth and he’s really so great at it that you hardly even feel the needle go in – brilliant!)
In front of the house the construction dudes barricaded the street then brought in all sorts of heavy equipment, parked it in the middle of the street then disappeared for about a week.
At the dentist the Doctor barricaded my gums with those big cotton rolls to lift the cheeks away from the teeth, filled my mouth with a bunch of braces and other equipment, then disappeared for about 15 minutes to finish up with another patient (waiting for the novocaine to REALLY take effect I guess).
In front of the house the construction dudes used the concrete cutter, the jack hammer, the front loaders and just plain dudes with shovels to dig out a big section of pipe we never even knew there was problem with. They made a lot of noise and caused a lot of dust and irritation to the neighborhood. But if they hadn’t dug it out, it would have eventually caused a lot of pain and irritation to a lot of people.
At the dentist the Doctor used the small drill, the big drill (the one that feels like a jack hammer), the rinse and sucker thing and then just those little hooky pick things to dig out a big section in the middle of my tooth that I never even knew there was a problem with. He made a lot of noise and caused a lot of smoke (or maybe water vapor – I don’t know, but at one point there was definitely some kind of smoke-like substance coming out of my mouth) and irritation to me. But if he hadn’t dug it out it would have eventually caused me a whole lot more pain and irritation.
In front of the house they replaced the pipe, filled in the hole, repaved the hole, and moved all the equipment off of the street. And now the neighborhood is pretty much back to normal. There is a long dark lump down the middle of the road where the new concrete that covers the trench isn’t quite as smooth as the old road surface - but all in all things are good.
At the dentist, the Doctor replaced the portion of the tooth that he dug out with a filling, smoothed the whole thing over and took all of the equipment out of my mouth (whew). And now my mouth is pretty much back to normal. It’s a little sore around the edges of my tooth and the filling isn’t quite as smooth as the old tooth surface – but all in all things are good.
On our front door the other day we received a notice that the pipe replacement project would resume again on our street in 2 or 3 months.
Before I left the dentist, the Doctor suggested that I come back again in 2 or 3 months so to work on the molar on the other side of my mouth.
Some tortures are physical and some are mental, but I think when it comes to road construction and dental work – it is both.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
This time of personal reflection has brought about a bit of a problem, however - every thought seems to be laced with emotion. And I'm not talking pregnancy hormones. I have just been overwhelmed with thankfulness for how amazing my life is. What's the problem with that? you may be wondering. The only way I can think to describe it is to say that these thoughts and feelings are something for me alone - they are personal and even sacred to me and they are all I can think about. This makes for scarce blogging - because I don't really want to share how awesome my husband and kids are. I'm afraid it will come across the wrong way and those who read will roll their eyes and think I'm seeing through rose-colored glasses. (I'm not.)
It makes me feel braggy but I have a grateful heart nonetheless. Let me give you the gist of it...
Every time I look at my husband or any of my children lately I am overcome with a mixture of pride, happiness and emotion. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the gift I have been given in being able to bring another little one into our family. We are immensely blessed to have Allen love his steady job at an incredible company that is supportive of families. We live in a wonderful neighborhood - not only for the location but especially for the good people that we are lucky enough to call our friends. My family is in good health. Honestly, I could go on. And on. This is not bragging. The simple fact is that my life is awesome.
I have noticed that quite a few other bloggers use this month to write every day about something they are thankful for. I think that is a great idea and something I may even try one of these years. However, for now, instead of writing more about me and my blessings I would love to hear from you. Let's take time to recognize and focus on the great things that are happening in our lives. If you have to, go ahead and put on those rose-colored glasses. It's time to remember what we have to be thankful for...
Even if it's Christmas music playing 24/7 on the airwaves.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
As I glanced out my side window, I instantly noticed the early-90’s-hair-puffed-boy-band howard-jones-esque-look of man’s hair who sitting in the car next to me. It made me smile. As the light changed to green I found myself fumbling with my iPod to find an appropriate song for the moment. Moments later, “Is it Love?” by Whitesnake blared from my speakers.
After all, it big hair rock bands and their awesome music seemed pretty fitting to celebrate the moment…
Thursday, November 11, 2010
She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
I am about to embark on an…excavation. Yes, I think that excavation is probably the right word for it, an excavation of my waistline…among other body parts. I am about take up a serious effort to lose some weight. Now not serious to the point of surgery or anything – so maybe regimented effort would be a better way to put it.
I’m a little hesitant to actually put this down in writing, not to mention send it out into the internet void because once I’ve said it out loud (so to speak) I really have to do it. I mean it’s out there. There are witnesses. I’ve changed it from something I can just quietly strive for in unobserved obscurity (which I suppose is what I would prefer) into a publicly announced effort - But what the heck. Maybe if I put it down in writing and send it out into the blog-o-sphere, my goal itself will be less likely to slip away into obscurity.
I’ve been one of those lucky folks that have had “weight issues” for a long time. Most of the extra weight gain came while baby building…then unfortunately stuck around after the baby was born. But as I just married off my first major weight gain, it seems a fitting time (and about time) to get rid of the “baby weight” once and for all.
While I’ve always been pretty good about exercise and going to the gym (falling off of treadmills not withstanding) I have to cop to some deep-seeded childhood issues when it comes to food and to weight. They are the kind of issues that make me feel rebellious about food. You know how it is when the food choices are made for you as a kid or if you’re not given choices you tend (well ,I do anyway) to feel rebellious about people telling me what to eat or when I can eat it. The show-off dieters are another thing I am rebellious (and disdainful ) about. The “I only eat salad” people,” the “ I count every calorie that goes in my mouth” people. The “I look down my nose at anyone that eats dessert” people. Of course these people are usually pretty thin and look great. But again, my derision is deep-seeded and is rooted in the complicated quagmire of my childhood – and how much sense does that ever make? So a lot of these issues, plus just spending a significant amount of time wading through emotional angst over the years have contributed and kept me from ever really committing and getting serious about losing weight.
But recently I was approached someone who is more than an acquaintance but not quite a friend…yet. He’s someone that I’ve known for a long time in a professional capacity but we know stuff about each other because we’ve lived on the fringes of each other’s lives for about a decade and have had some pretty good conversations over the years. Anyway, the last time I saw him was a couple of weeks before Superdude’s wedding. As you may remember, with whole wedding thing I was (am) in an even weirder than usual mental/emotional state and being a good guy he notice my crazily conflicted kind of mood. And you know how it is – sometimes you’re just fine right up until someone asks. Poor guy, his innocent inquiry precipitated a little emotional breakdown for me and we had one of our little talks about changing times and changing circumstances. I guess my apparent mental instability stayed with him because a few days later he called me out of the blue (not our usual friend/acquaintance dynamic) and asked me if I’d be willing to try something - a weight loss plan he’d come across and he offered to act as my mentor/coach for the process. It’s something he wants to get into and could use a guinea pig (so to speak) to get the ball rolling for this business.
Surprisingly enough, even though I’m hugely uncomfortable with the thought of having to have someone else involved in my weight, it wasn’t really a hard decision. Losing weight and concentrating more on my health is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently - it’s almost like I’ve been kind of expecting some kind of opportunity like this to turn up.
French poet Anatole France said: All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
This describes exactly what I’ve been feeling lately. With the kids grown up and moving on it’s the end of one life and the opportunity to enter another. While I’m at it, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to leave some of myself behind as well.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
When I was in high school my friends were all much more intelligent than I. It's not that I wasn't smart - I just didn't have any expectations to meet so I suppose you could say I didn't care about what grades I would get as long as I was going to graduate. High school graduation was as far as my parents got and it was as far as they expected me to go.
Fast forward to my senior year...
All of my friends were getting acceptance letters to colleges and universities before I even knew what the ACT Test was. I found out that my long-distance friend in Washington was accepted to a junior college in Idaho called Ricks with a whopping ACT score of 17. I didn't even know what the ACT was, but I signed up to take it so I could apply to Ricks and be roommates with her.
A score of something close to 17 became my goal.
Actually, the term goal is used loosely in that last sentence since I showed up the morning of the ACT armed with a pencil and my driver's license. I didn't even think about studying because I didn't know exactly what the ACT was or what I would be tested on. A few weeks later I got my score: 25! I was ecstatic.
Now fast forward to the present...
Not only do I want my kids to receive a college education - they desire this for themselves. It started with reading books and learning colors and letters with them as wee ones and continued throughout elementary, middle and high school. Education has always been a priority and they know it. Learning happened as much at home as it did at school and there have always been expectations.
My eldest child is a senior in high school. Not only did he study for the ACT well in advance, he took it his junior year. He got a score of 32 and was disappointed. He took it again last month and found out that he increased his score by one point. He was pleased, but still wished for at least a 34. For those of you who may not know, a 36 is the highest score you can get. I love that he sets such high expectations of himself.
I try not to brag too often in the blog world about how awesome my kids are, although I am tempted to do it all the time because they make me so dang proud. In fact, about 10 things just ran through my mind that I could gush on and on about, but I will refrain. The point of this post is this:
I love how a major, positive change in a family pattern can happen in just one generation.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
"So, Alia told me something today. She said, 'I want to tell you something, but I'm afraid you're going to faint.'"
"Hmm," I reply. "So what did you say?"
"I said, 'I won't faint. I'm a boy.' " His voice is deep with the importance of the facts he is conveying, and if you listened closely, edged with just the faintest hint of embarrassment, and yes...pride.
"Alright. So what did she tell you?"
"She said, 'Ooookaaaaay,' and leaned really close to me, and she told me she loves me."
I gasp, but there is Silence from the back seat. Finally, I ask, "so what did you do?"
"Well, I didn't faint, but my eyes got really big, like this--" he demonstrates in the rear-view. "And then I ran."
That's my boy.
My unwilling, unwitting, and utterly bewildered Casanova. He came home today and stood before me, backpack hanging from one arm. In a voice laden with accusation, he reported, "She said she wanted to kiss me today! Kiss me!"
I tried not to laugh. "Well, I hope you didn't let her?"
"I told her heck, no!" He let the backpack fall glumly to the floor. "And now I have three other girls after me. Four in all. Alia, Leah, Carson, and Savannah. Alia said she wants to marry me."
I would like to tell you that I had all sorts of sage motherly wisdom to offer my child, but I had nothing except giggles repressed with difficulty. "I think it's early days to be thinking about marriage," I told him. "How about a snack?"
He considered. "Yeah, okay."
"Keep your grades up. Don't let all those girls distract you."
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Then maybe I'll have something to say and the time in which to do it. The goal tomorrow is to leave by 5.
Do yourself a favor tomorrow, too...get out.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I love this time of year where we live. I'm surrounded by trees that are shedding their summer glories, fields that are slowly turning golden, and a lovely quiet in which to enjoy it.
I have to confess, though: if there were one time during the year where I wish I lived closer to people, it'd be Halloween.
Each year, I pile the kids in the car and drive away to a location scouted out for particularly worthy Halloween loot. We've discovered some really great neighborhoods and some not so great ones. There's one inhabited largely by older people that we gave up on, despite really cool decorations. I think that whole fixed-income thing had a lot to do with the "single Tootsie roll per child" rule that seemed pretty par for the course.
Then there were the really ritzy neighborhoods that actually had pretty good candy...if you were willing to trek a quarter-mile driveway to achieve each benefice.
The best, I've come to believe, are the standard middle-class neighborhoods that are full of kids. I'm wondering if there's some unspoken competition going on for Best Haunted House, Best Mums, and Best Halloween Handful. We went to such a neighborhood last night, and the kids racked up.
I'm always a little sad, though, that I can't stay home and hand out candy. Nobody comes to our house, because it's a quarter mile away from anyone else's. And then that person's house is a quarter mile from anyone's. It may sound silly, but I would LOVE to stay home and pass out Halloween goodies to adorably decked out kids.
I would make the best little Halloween goody bags, filled with a cool mixture of useless plastic things and truly excellent candy--Reeses' Cups, and Twix. No Tootsie Rolls for me. My yard would be decorated with all of those cool Halloween things...if there were a competition for best decorations, I'd win it for sure. I'm just saying. I'd probably even have a table with hot chocolate.
But alas, it is not to be. When you trade the neatly ordered driveways of a neighborhood for wide open spaces, there are certain things you lose. Neighbors, for one. Instead of little Johnny just running over after school, you carefully coordinate playdates that work with everyone's schedules. Instead of impromptu backyard barbeques, your community becomes your church, and groups of friends with whom you (again) carefully orchestrate lunch dates and girls' nights.
You lose the motivation of someone else's perfect lawn spurring your husband (or yourself) to measure up.
You make up for it in other ways, though. There's that whole "wide-open" thing. Instead of the neighbor's teenage son blaring his stereo, you get to listen to a symphony of squirrel and bird chatter. No one cares if your yard is less than perfect. You're left alone, for the most part, to go your own way and do your own thing, with no subtle community pressure to be a "joiner". You can sip your morning coffee in your underwear in the front yard, and no one would be the wiser. (Not that I do that, of course.)
So. I suppose I'm trading goody bags for peace and solitude. I guess I can deal.