Tuesday, December 18, 2012


When I was a child, my paternal grandmother was my greatest pen-pal.  We would exchange letters back and forth between my home in Washington and hers in California - discussing everything from my constant irritability with my brother to my angst over 'girl drama' to advice about what to be when I grew up.  I wouldn't say I'd forgotten the time I spent writing those letters, but my recent discovery of a stack of correspondence from my grandmother (that I'd somehow managed to save for more than twenty years) brought back a flood of memories.  I could almost hear her voice through her typed letters on thin blue paper, always signed 'Bernice' and never ever Grandma, correcting my grammar and spelling mistakes.  (You can blame her for my pet peeve of bad grammar - this blog not included.)

I must have interjected a lot of guilt for not writing more frequently or promptly upon receipt of her letters quite often, because in several of her letters, she reminded me to never apologize for not writing.  Rather, she told me to share an interesting story versus bemoaning the overdue time between letters.

So I won't apologize for my lack of writing on this poor, neglected blog.  (Even though I want to.)  I won't go into the nitty gritty details of why I've been too busy or occupied to write (although if you've read long enough - I'm sure you can figure out why.)  Rather, I'll tell you that despite single parenting, sick children (including an allergic reaction to a virus - a stinking virus - in Jack), and a whole lot of crazy, I still managed to get all of our grant applications out in a timely fashion - and for the first time in our company's grant writing history - we did NOT have to drive to the airport for the 9 o'clock UPS flight.

I'll tell you that I've been up to my eyeballs in my children - and that I have a whole new respect for single parents who have to do this job in perpetuity.  I'll tell you that I managed to make it through Thanksgiving without too many tears shed from missing my parents - and that the holiday was one for the record books - including a raw fried turkey, a caramel cake that was an epic failure, a vomiting Anna, and an allergic-reacting Jack.

I'll add that I'm starting to think that our house will never sell and the kids and I will never actually move to Virginia - even though 90% of our belongings are packed away in the POD (including every single stitch of Christmas decorations) in anticipation of the move and 'house staging,' and that keeping our 2,600 square foot home tidy and clean 24 hours a day in the hope of a showing is making me even more neurotic then I ever thought possible.

Someday - somehow - I will actually catch up the stories that are drifting around my head - and add in some photos of the kids, their recent activities, and our makeshift Christmas.  But for now - I won't apologize for the lapse in time (I heard you loud and clear Grandma), but I will tell you I've missed writing and filling up my little corner of the world.

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Menu Planning - Week 3

Because I'm not gonna get a chance to do this later ... and for Kathy - cause my menus are so amazing you'll want to make the same thing as us (ha ha ha ha!)

Saturday/Sunday - Deonne in town (i.e. he gets to figure out what to feed the children - I'm guessing grilling of some sort...)

Monday - crazy kid day
Dinner out at Tio's (which by the way - kids eat free at Tio's on Mondays - and it's right across the street from Town Theatre where Anna's acting class gets out at 7:00 - yes, you read that right, 7:00, which is why we eat out immediately following.  Local peeps - you should try it!)

Tuesday -
Pumpkin Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Salad (greens + apples + goat cheese + craisins + raspberry dressing) for the older kids and I
Frozen peas for Mr. Picky (Jack)

Wednesday -
Church programs and dinner

Thursday -
Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Oven roasted new potatoes
Steamed zucchini

Friday - Grandma Shelby overnight to help with children
Dinner out (TBD)

Saturday -
Baked Pumpkin Donut Holes
Scrambled Eggs
Turkey Sausage

Shelby with children - sandwiches, apples, and pretzels

Dinner: Movie Night!
Turkey Sausage Calzones

Monday, October 15, 2012

Menu Planning - Week 2

Did I just commit to planning our menus?  Funny how planning to plan is now an activity on my momAgenda.  Awesome.

So this week is nutty - with lots going on and very limited time at home (not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing - less cooking for me - but getting home late with the kids is never a good thing...)  At any rate - going forward:

Saturday - (past tense) - Oktoberfest at Incarnation Lutheran

Sunday - Pumpkin Pasta, Fall Salad (because we didn't eat it last week - took a spur of the minute trip up to the NC orchards and didn't make - thank goodness I had the brains to freeze the sausage and everything else was either in the pantry or had a long expiration date)

Monday - Crazy kid activity night - dinner out at Tios

Tuesday - Grandparents Day and Early Release for Anna and James
- pick up kids at the BL Fireman Spaghetti dinner fundraiser

Wednesday - Church Programs and Dinner

Thursday -  Butterfly Pasta (Jack's never ending request)
*Modification of Kathy's Broccoli Pasta:
1 lb. bow-tie pasta (or as Jack says butterfly)
1 lb. turkey Italian sausage
1 head broccoli (cut into small pieces)
Parmesan cheese

Brown sausage in non-stick skillet and set aside.  Boil pasta according to package directions for al dente.  5 minutes prior to end of cooking time, toss in broccoli and cook until bright green and tender and pasta is al dente.  Drain.  Return to pasta pot, add sausage, stir to combine.  Toss with grated cheese.  

Friday - Family Trip to the State Fair

Maybe next week I'll actually cook.

Could happen - you just never know.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Menu Planning: Week 1

I've realized that I must get myself organized in order to face the dinnertime rush with my children.  It's hard to run in the door at 5 or 5:30 and get dinner on the table - and even moreso when I'm not sure what I'm feeding them and have to scramble through the freezer or pantry to put something together.

I used to be pretty good at meal planning - and then the Great Move of 2012 began - and I was thrown off-kilter.  And my former method of scratching out recipes and shopping lists on random scraps of paper isn't working so well anymore - when I rush out of the office and forget the list - and wander around the grocery store with my ever helpful brood of children trying to remember what it was we were going to fix.

So - in an effort to keep the plan easily accessible - with recipes and ingredients close at hand (as long as I don't lose my phone) - I'm planning to keep record here.  Boring, I know, but necessary.  At least for now.

So without further ado - here is our week - starting tonight.  Now if I can just figure out how to get to the grocery store today to get ingredients ready - I'll be all set.

October 5 - October 12 (dinners)

Friday - Family Movie Night
Fruit (grapes + apples)

Saturday -
Fall salad (greens + apples + goat cheese + pecans)

Sunday -

Monday - 
Eat out - crazy kid activity day

Tuesday -

Wednesday -
Church dinner

Thursday -

Friday - Family Movie Night

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Scarecrows in the Garden (and a shameless plug)

Our kids love the scarecrow exhibit that happens each October at the Historic Columbia Foundation's Hampton-Preston mansion.  It's fun to wander around the historic gardens and see the cool scarecrows that local businesses and proprietors create.  In fact, the kids love it SO much that they're prone to ask when they can go back and see the scarecrows every time we happen to drive by the location.  Every.  Time.  Even in February. 

In an effort to keep my sanity and not go crazy with three kids all day long on weekends the kids busy while we're going through this separation from Deonne, I've been scouring local events to figure out what we can do that's manageable and cheap/free with the kids.  When I happened to see that families could participate in the making of a scarecrow for the annual exhibit for a nominal fee - I knew we were on to something.  Turns out the scarecrow-construction workshop was the same weekend as Anna's birthday - which meant Deonne would be in town.  Even better.  

Next came determining a good theme for our family scarecrow.  We first thought a superhero of some sort would be good - but that was nixed because I couldn't come up with anything creative or catchy - I mean what sort of superpower could a scarecrow have?  (As Nici pointed out - warding off bird poop?)  When that failed - I turned to classic literature - and landed on Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins is a favorite in our house - the kids love the movie - sing the songs on a regular basis - and when I started imagining a Mary Poppins scarecrow - it started to come together - and thus, "Scary Poppins" was born.

A trip to Goodwill for a hat, shoes, dress, handbag and overcoat, Hobby Lobby for some fake daisies, cherries, and black spray paint (to cover the hat), and Target for an umbrella, gloves, and scarf - and we were set.

Oh, the kids were excited.  They had a great time stuffing her innards with hay - and Anna loved being the artist to draw her face on the pillowcase.  She looked adorable.  

After she was all put together and looking lovely, Deonne asked me - now what - how do we put her up?  To which I replied - that's your job.  I came up with the creative part - you're the engineer - you figure out how to hang her from the tree.

You can't really see it in the photographs, but that big piece of paper sticking out of her bag is the 'letter' that Jane and Michael wrote at the beginning of the film when they knew they needed a new nanny - you know - the one that Mr. Banks ripped up - tossed in the fireplace - that Mary Poppins magically pulled out and reassembled on her cloud above London.  Yeah - so I typed and printed the lyrics to that song out, ripped it up, and then laminated it back together so it looked like the one in the film (yet protected from weather.)  Am I a genius or what?  (sarcasm)

And at her feet is another sign '17 Cherry Tree Lane' - the Banks' address.  I wanted to do more with the address - but we sort of ran out of time.  In fact, I was spray painting and hot gluing daisies and cherries on her hat the morning of Anna's birthday party - right before we headed to Crepes and Croissants!

So following the creation and installation of Scary Poppins, Historic Columbia had the official exhibit opening last Sunday.  A fun little afternoon with crafts and snacks for the kids, a chance to see the scarecrows up close (all of them), a scavenger hunt, that sort of thing.  And, judging.  Now, in the car ride to the opening - Anna asked 'what do we get if we win?' to which I went into this long diatribe of how winning isn't important - that we had fun together with their daddy was the most important thing - and there is no prize for winning, rather the satisfaction of knowing that you created a great scarecrow.

I don't think she was convinced.  

Especially when they announced the winners - and the Long Family Scary Poppins was announced as the First Place Family Entry.  Woot! Woot!  The kids were SOOOOOOOO excited!!!  They proudly marched up the steps to receive their 'trophy' - a cool ornament that looks like a scarecrow - and a cash prize (that I had no idea existed - until I took the envelope James was carrying around away from him - because he was spilling green goblin juice all over it - and discovered the prize.)

Anna said 'this is my first trophy ever!  The first time I've ever won first place in anything!'  And you know what?  I think it's mine too.  

The only thing that would have made receiving the award sweeter would have been for Deonne to be with us (seeing as he's the one who had to figure out how to string her from the tree and all...)  

So are you interested in seeing our competition? Thought you might.  If you're local - I encourage you to go see the exhibit in person - it's free - just drive over to Hampton-Preston, check in at the gift shop at the Robert Mills house, and wander away (and don't forget to cast your vote for your favorite scarecrow - whoever that might be....)

And if you're not a local reader - visit the Historic Columbia facebook page - and 'like' your favorite one for the people's choice award.  I won't be checking or anything....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Joyeaux Anniversaire

Ever since Anna started taking French classes as a wee kindergartner, she's become a total Francophile.  She loves all things French, gasps at the sight of any French item (Eiffel Tower, mention of the word Paris, etc...) and is convinced that she will one day live along the streets of Paris as a famous artist.

Who knows - the kid just might.

When her birthday rolled around - she requested a big Hawaiian Luau - complete with grass skirts, lei's, and hula dancing with all of her friends.  I said 'no.  We're keeping it small this year.  You can have five friends over for a sleepover.'  She was disappointed - but agreed (reluctantly) - and perked up considerably when I showed her the invitation I created for her Parisian Themed party.

 As part of her French obsession - she adores Crepes and Croissants - a new restaurant that opened in downtown Columbia.  The proprietor is actually French - and employees the same - so not only is the food authentic but so are the people working there.  In fact, when I took Anna by for the first time, she immediately recognized the girl behind the counter as one of her French substitute teachers.  How is it that my kid knows more people in Columbia than I do?

At any rate, I figured to make things easy - we'd do a sleepover on Friday night - a few sweet treats, some French Fashion paper dolls, a Barbie French Fashion movie - and then the next morning, have the big activity - a special trip to C&C where Laurent (chef and owner) would demonstrate the art of crepes and the girls could have their fill.

I made things REALLY easy.  As in - cashed in a gift certificate to Cupcake to have Anna's birthday 'cake' made.  Red velvet mini cupcakes with cream cheese icing + vanilla mini cupcakes with chocolate icing = happy girl + not-overtired mama.  Win - Win.

I have to admit - I did feel a little bit guilty that I didn't make any baked goods for this girl's birthday...

Thankfully I have amazing friends like Nici - who made the most amazing Eiffel Tower sugar cookies.  Not only were they delicious - but beautiful - and worth every single bad word she said sweet thought she uttered when she made them for Anna.

The morning after the sleepover (which is a bit of a misnomer - I discovered this year that five little girls nearing age eight don't really sleep - rather - they squeal and scream a lot...) the girls got their goody-bags ... a red beret, red shorts, and t-shirt with the same logo as the invite (thank you Photoshop.)  And then it was off to C&C.

I couldn't help thinking 'In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines, the youngest one was Madeleine...'  or in our case, six little girls in one zig-zag line...

Laurent and Amandine made things really special.  I think they were excited to have a little girl's birthday party at their restaurant.  The girls had their own table reserved for them, that they had decorated in balloons, and where they placed flowers that Deonne had sent in advance for Anna.

 I was a bit nervous about how the girls would react to the crepes - some aren't the most adventurous eaters - and notoriously picky.  However, each little girl carefully chose her crepe - ranging from ham and cheese to nutella to just cheese - and after watching Laurent make them on the big crepe irons - enjoyed every single bite.  (Emma said 'it looks really gross but it tastes really yummy' in reference to her nutella crepe.)

And then it was time for 'joyeaux anniversaire' - and Amandine came out with a homemade cake for Anna - and sang her 'happy birthday' in French.

It was a really great time - and I think Anna thoroughly enjoyed it.  She got to have the company of her bestest buddies, to savor one of her favorite treats, and the best part (as she says) had her Daddy home for the weekend to celebrate together.

 Happy Happy Birthday my Sweet Anna.  I love you more than I can ever say.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

And Now She is Eight

I could probably scroll back through every birthday entry for every child and read the phrase 'I can't believe (insert name) is (insert age) years old...it seems like just yesterday they were tiny babies in my arms...'  Because that's what always comes to mind when I think of the calendar pages turning over and the years rolling by.

When I was a kid - my mother and I were obsessed with musical theatre.  Not only did we see every show available in our limited corner of the world in Eastern Washington state - but we rented videos of the classics.  Victor/Victoria.  Westside Story.  Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Oklahoma.  Fiddler on the Roof.  We'd sit together on the big black vinyl couch in our family room and watch these movies over and over - until I had the songs memorized.  My mom always got teary eyed when Tevye belted out 'Sunrise, Sunset' in Fiddler.  It was like clockwork - her nose would get red, her eyes watery, and then she'd wipe away the tears with a smile.  I never understood why, and in my pre-adolescent mind could never figure out why a song about sunrises and sunsets would make her weepy.

Until now.

Is this the little girl I carried?

Is this the little boy at play?

I don't remember growing older
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he get to be so tall?

Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?

I look at Anna and wonder - when did my little girl stop looking like a child and start looking like a teenager?   How are we nearly half-way through our time with her - before she cuts those apron strings and heads out into the big bad world?  How is time going so fast?  I want to stop the clock - to slow things down - to spend unlimited time doing all of those things I want to do with her that we never seem to find the time for - like cooking and baking, making beaded necklaces, picking wildflowers, having Barbie fashion shows.  All too often when she asks me to do one of these things - I'm too busy to stop or in too much of a hurry to allow her to help.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

I know that all too soon, the requests to braid Barbie's hair, to play with paper dolls, and to dress American Girls will come to a halt.  It's already happened with her night-time stories ... she prefers to snuggle into her bed and read her chapter books alone than to read picture books with her brothers.  I no longer turn out the lights after kissing her goodnight - now she reads to the agreed upon stopping point, puts her book down, turns out her light, and settles herself in.  By herself.  And while it is totally amazing to see her mind at work as she devours classic books that I love (like Anne of Green Gables), it also makes my heart hurt.    

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

I constantly worry that I'm failing her - that I'm not doing enough, or loving enough, or being enough for her.  Our days are so full - and with the added stress of parenting without Deonne on a day-to-day basis, I have very limited time to spend with her.  I'm frazzled, to say the least, and not handling this separation well.  At all.  And I want nothing more than to sit down with her and talk and hear about her day, answer her questions, make cookies, and braid doll hair - unfortunately our reality is me constantly brushing her off - telling her 'not now' - and not giving her the time she desires.  What is that teaching her?

What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?

I just hope and pray that she knows in her heart of hearts how much she is loved.  How much I adore her, and thank God for her presence in my life each and every day.  A good friend of mine recently noted on her daughter's birthday just how much she's learned since she became a mother - how much her child had taught her about life and love.  I learn from my daughter every day.  Every day she challenges and teaches me, stretches me to my limits, and loves me unconditionally.  For that I am eternally grateful.

It's been a very long road, these short eight years, with lots of bumps and a few bruises (figuratively) along the way.  We've struggled and pushed, loved and prodded, and finally come to understand what makes this girl tick.  Over the summer, we went through the battery of tests and examinations to figure out what makes Our Anna 'Anna.'  And following the heels of those testing results, we've implemented a few changes.  Since those changes were put into place, I've learned more about my daughter in the past two months than I have in the past two years.  I've seen more of her personality, heard more of her ideas, seen more of her strengths and weaknesses - and really truly understood the girl she is becoming.

She is wildly imaginative, and insanely creative.  We always knew this - but now we understand the depth.  Her thoughts are more focused now, and clear, and when she's imagining a story - she actually gets to the finish line;  reaches a conclusion.  When she recalls something that happened at school, or a funny thing she read or saw - she makes a point - gets to the punchline. (Often times the joke is second grade humor - and not funny to us in the least - but at least there's a punchline.)  And she's able to express herself in written form.  When she's mad or angry or hurt or upset - she writes it down.  When she's happy or has a secret thought to keep - she keeps track of it in her journal.  (Sometimes it's funny/sad to see the things she's written - like the note she wrote to her nanny yesterday when she was mad at her for making her do her homework... oh the unfairness of it...)

She is completely tenderhearted.  It might sound a bit harsh to admit - but I had started to wonder about her ability to feel compassion.  Prior to working through her recent diagnosis, Anna was sort of numb.  She'd say or do something that would hurt anothers feelings - but have no remorse.  We'd correct and instruct her to apologize - and she would - with total indifference.  Of course she still does or says things that hurt others feelings - she's human like the rest of us - but now, when she realizes it - she is very sorry, visibly upset, and will do her best to right the wrong.

In fact, she shows signs of being over-compassionate at times - very concerned about the world around her - worried about war and strife in countries far away - worried about the economy here at home - concerned about when our house will sell so she can be with her daddy.  (Which we've come to learn is part of the 'gifted' part of her diagnosis - being overly sensitive about others around her.)

And, as I've written about numerous times, this girl is wicked smart.  Sharp as a tack.  Not only able to quickly understand and solve math problems and to read way beyond her age level - but able to put larger and more complex issues together.  The things she says, the discussions we have - hey surprise and shock the hell out of me.  On a daily basis.  I didn't expect to have deep political discussions with my eight-year old daughter.

Yet, despite her ability to process these very involved ideas - she is still very much a little girl.  She still loves to play pretend - and will play 'scenes' with her Barbies, figurines, and American Girl dolls for hours upon hours.  And I love that.  I desperately want to keep her the little girl she is - and not rush to get to the teenage years.  Some of her friends are starting to outgrow Barbies and dolls - and prefer to pretend play 'rock star.'  I'm happy to see her play that as well - but am so thankful that I hear the strains of Disney music coming from her CD player vs. Taylor Swift or Katy Perry.

She still loves and adores her little brothers - even though she won't often admit that, and has clearly drawn the line in the sand about what is hers and what is theirs.  Her 'big' birthday gift this year was a desk and chair for her bedroom - which spurred Deonne and I painting over the Peter Rabbit mural that has been on her wall since her room was her nursery, as well as new bedding (made by yours truly) with a French theme, and artwork/accessories that reflect her adoration of all things French.  (Yes, we have a true Francophile - thanks to two years of French lessons...)  So now that she has her 'big girl' room, she has also limited access for her brothers.  And I can't say I blame her.  It's time for her to have her own space - and not have her little brothers underfoot or getting into her 'stuff.'  And as much as she says they 'irritate' and 'annoy' her - at the end of the day, she is very watchful of her younger siblings, and loves them with all her heart.  (In the photo below she's walking James to his classroom on his very first day of kindergarten.)

So on your eighth birthday my sweet Giovanna, know that you are a love.  I wish and hope and pray that you will one day understand just how much you are loved.  Just how important you are to me, to your daddy, your brothers, and everyone whose life you touch.  You are a fun kid to be around, and the sound of your laughter and giggles is music to my ears.

Happy Happy Birthday my love!

Single Parenting Sucks

That is all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might...

... have this wish I wish tonight.

I want my mama.

My daughter turns eight-years old on Friday.  Eight.  Years.  Old.

I clearly remember being eight.  I remember my bedroom (yellow climbing roses that covered my bedspread and wallpaper, yellow tinted French-provincial furniture, yellow and brown shag carpet that always reminded me of Rice-a-Roni.)  I remember my favorite outfit (white knit pleated short skirt, matching white knit top with puffy sleeves and a black geometric pattern with rainbow hearts... hello... it was 1982.)  I remember my 8th birthday party (complete with a white layer cake iced with love by my mother with those gel icing things you could get at the grocery store - of a big fat rainbow and white puffy clouds.  I remember my favorite 8th birthday gift (a new Barbie doll, Ken, AND the purple corvette ... hello... it was 1982.)

But mostly I remember my mother's presence. Her smile and laughter.  Her touch when she smoothed my hair as she tucked me into bed at night.  Her ability to make sense of my blossoming awkward in-between years.

What I can't remember clearly is her voice.  It's getting lost in the fuzziness of my memory.

I want my mama.  I want to feel her touch on my hair.  I want to hear her voice.  I want to talk through the craziness that is my life - for assurance that we're making the right decisions.  I want her guidance.  Her counsel.  Her love.  Her advice on how to let my daughter go - just enough - without losing touch, and somehow managing to keep her close.

I want to share her namesake's birthday with her.  To see the two Giovannas smiling over a glowing birthday cake.  To see her eyes sparkle and dance when Anna tells her intricate tales and stories.  And I want to celebrate one of my child's birthdays without the cloud of darkness hanging over my head - that perpetual cloud of unfinished business, unsaid words, hurt feelings, broken hearts.

Mommy... I miss you so.  And wish, with every falling star and every birthday candle that you could be a part of our lives - and my family a part of yours.

I wish I may, I wish I might...

Monday, August 27, 2012

A New Routine

I wish I could write a fantastic post about our new routine.  Of how our children are adapting wonderfully to the drastic change in our lives, of how I'm taking it all in stride and successfully stepping into my role of single parent.

But I'd be lying.

Truth be told, single parenting is for the birds.  Big fat ugly buzzard birds.  It's not the amount of work involved with the feeding and cleaning, dressing and grooming, transporting and caring for three small children.  Nor is it the incessant volumes of laundry and never-ending instructions to pick up and clean up so our house stays somewhat tidy while it's being marketed for sale.  Neither is it the ongoing dialogue of 'stop bickering', 'leave your sister alone', 'stop whining', and 'I don't care if he breathed on you - it's his air too.'  And it's not even the stress of trying to push these children out of my mind and daily thoughts while I try my best to focus on the communities I am writing for as we embark on Grant Season 2012.

No - it's the little things that I'm completely unequipped to deal with.  Like what?  Here's a few examples...

Jack - locking the bathroom door shut - the bathroom door that leads to the laundry room - that God forbid we can't access as it not only holds the obvious but also all of the medical crap we've accumulated over the years (thermometers, band-aids, medications, etc...) as well as the majority of cleaning supplies that are constantly in use thanks to two little boys whose names both start with 'J'. Thank goodness for good friends - Brian - if you're reading this - thank you for your knowledge in how to pick locks - after the stupid lock still wouldn't disengage after taking the doorknob off - and the only way to open the door was via the old 'credit card' trick.

James - screwing around in the garage - and then coming upstairs to proudly tell me how he'd made ice!  My half-hearted listening to his tales of his recent scientific experiment resulted in my discovery that the freezer door had been left open - for who knows how long -- effectively defrosting boxes of breakfast items, lemon-ade ice pops, pizzas, rolls -you name it - the once fruitful bounty of my stock-up trip to Sams - now a sad puddle on my garage floor.

James - again - pooping prior to getting in the bathtub - and in his excitement to get into the water with his brother to play with the new bath toy - neglecting to take care of proper sanitary business - resulting in my return to the bathroom to wash hair - only to find two little boys playing in bath water littered with pieces of (ahem) crap.  Because I have unlimited time to transport wet boys to another bathroom to scrub - then disinfect the bathtub and all contaminated toys with bleach.

And it goes on and on ...

Kids doing stupid stuff.  Me losing my patience.  Kids crying.  Me feeling horrible.

Clearly I'm not cut out for this.  And all of you who think I have it so 'together' and am doing such a 'great job' - yeah - I have you completely fooled.  Because I don't.  As evidenced by my night-time ritual of dissolving into tears.

I have to believe that the ends justify the means - but right now - at this moment in time when I'm in the thick of three very dependent children who are insanely curious and freakishly smart to come up with some of the stupid crap they do - I have to pause and wonder.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Smell of Strapping Tape....

11+ years of our life together - bundled up in a 16' POD

And so the moving frenzy begins...

Part of Deonne's relocation package includes a generous moving allowance.  When the time comes to actually make the move, professional packers are to come to our home to pack and box, lift and carry, transport and eventually unload the contents of our house.  Up to 12,000 pounds.  I have no idea what equates to 12,000 pounds.  Neither does Deonne.  And we have accumulated an enormous amount of crap beloved items in the 7+ years we've resided at Overcreek Road.

Thankfully, in addition to the 12,000 pounds of professional/packing moving services, we have an extra allowance for 'additional' items that we can use for shipping, storing, and other miscellaneous expenses such as mileage and per diem when we make the final move (kids included), airfare for house hunting trips, that sort of thing.  As part of that, we opted to have a POD delivered to the house - to load with all of the 'extra' things that we don't need on a day to day basis.

So for the last three days, we've been packing, boxing, taping, hauling, and sorting through our life together. And amazingly, it's all bundled up in a 16' POD.  (With ample room to spare, I might add, that Deonne wants to keep filling with random junk - that I'm certain we don't need and should really just toss ... but I digress...) At first I discriminated when packing - thought 'I might need that in the next few months' and kept some things out.  After three days of trips down amnesia lane, however, I'm over that.  If it's not absolutely critical to life as we know it - it's going in the POD.

Christmas, thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter (pretty much every holiday you can imagine) decorations, cookie cutters, cake pans, an enormous array of serving platters and bowls, glassware, glass jars, books, toys, textbooks, party planning stuff, tools, outdoor items, grilling tools - you name it - it's in the POD.  The only things that we've intentionally kept out are the fine china and crystal (I want the assurance that if it breaks - the moving company will replace), photographs (I don't think the POD is stored in a temperature/humidity controlled environment - and I'd be devastated if priceless family photos were somehow destroyed), and a few basics.

Our house sort of echos.  Cabinets sound hollow when the doors close.  Drawers rattle with the few remaining utensils.  The linen closet is nearly empty save one extra set of sheets per bed and a few extra towels.

It makes my heart heavy.

When we bought this house - we joked that it was our 'forever' home.  That we wouldn't move again until we went to the old-folks home.  It had so much space - so much potential - and at the time, it was just D and I and little Anna who was barely walking.  We imagined the pitter patter of little feet as she grew - and who her future sibling(s) would be.  I daydreamed of Anna walking down the stairs in her prom dress - with Deonne standing by a nervous boy in a suit holding a wilting flower corsage.  I fantasized about the family dinners we'd hold in our dining room - and as our family grew - wondered who the someday spouses and grandchildren would be that paired with each of our children.

I know.  I'm a sentimental fool.

So it's been hard to poke through the hidden storage places in our home - pulling out and dusting off the memories to pack away in boxes.  I know that we'll make new memories, have more family dinners, and certainly hear the pitter patter of little feet in our new house (probably more pitter-pattering than I'd like to hear.)  But it's always hard to say goodbye.

Hard to leave the house that became our home.

Hard to leave the place where my newborn boys came home from the hospital.

Hard to leave the home that was the last place my mother visited.

I think part of it (other than my tender heart) is that we don't know where we're going.  We don't know what the house will look like that we're eventually moving to - heck, we don't even know for sure what city we're moving to.  I don't have a floor plan or a kitchen to start organizing and decorating in my mind.  I don't have a living room to imagine where the Christmas tree will go.  I don't have a yard to daydream about which types of flowers to plant or where to put the patio table.

Which makes it all the more nerve wracking exciting.  I know it will be a great thing to get to the other side of this journey.  I know with my whole heart that this is an amazing opportunity for our whole family.  And I know it will be like Christmas morning when we get to our new home - and the kids and I get to unload the POD and discover the hidden gems we've tucked away.

But for now, I'm more than a bit sad.

And tired of the smell of strapping tape that permeates our house.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Letting the Cat Out Of The Bag

I'm free to finally share the news.


It's hard to keep one's mouth shut with news of this magnitude.  You've probably already guessed - or if we're friends on facebook have already read the big news - drum roll please... We're Moving!!!

We.  Are.  Moving.

Exciting.  Scary.  Nerve-wracking.

So after five years of looking for a new job, Deonne finally landed a great one.  Snatched up the proverbial golden ticket.  He'll be working for CDM Smith, an international engineering firm, heading up the new structural engineering department in their Fairfax, Virginia office.

I'm so proud of him.  For five long years he's been overworked and underpaid.  And I don't mean that in a cliche way - he's really been overworked (taking on the tasks of four engineers) and grossly underpaid.  His new salary is 67% higher than his current one, if that tells you anything.  He'll be working with the top engineers in his field - and mentoring junior engineers as he builds his team.  He's finally being appreciated for his worth - for the engineer he is - for his abilities and his creativity.

I can't say it enough.  I'm so proud - my heart is about to burst.

And here's the great part for our family.  Because he'll finally be compensated for what he's worth - I'll not have to work.  Let me say that again. I.  Will.  Not.  Have.  To.  Work.

I'll get to stay home with the kids, catch up on my soaps, and eat bon bons all day.  (that's total sarcasm there.)  What I will actually get to do is stay home with the kids.  Focus on them.  Work with Anna.  Not have our days consist of yelling at my children to hurry up and get in the car to get to daycare, then to hurry up and get in the car to go home, then hurry up and eat dinner to get in the bath, then hurry up and get the bath over to go to bed.

Oh, I know it will be hard - and I may run the risk of losing my sanity with involved conversations on a daily basis about Barbie and Thomas and Super Why.  But this is what I want.  What I crave.  I feel like I've missed out on my children's early childhood.  I missed their first steps and their first words.  They may not remember - but I do.  And while I don't want to beat myself up about what I missed in the past - I'm thankful beyond measure to focus on the things I'll be able to participate in - chaperoning field trips, volunteering in classrooms, taking leisurely trips to the library, spur of the moment picnics, lazy afternoons.

I know.  I'm making this out to be a lot more magical than it probably will be.  I'm sure after two hours I'll be begging to put on work clothes and get behind my desk.  Remind me of this fantasy when I start complaining.

But there's another part - the really good part.  My company wants to keep me as an employee on a part time/hourly basis. So I'll still have my foot in the door - and I'll still be needed to do the things that I like - from home - without having to be in an office.  I'll continue to write grants, design websites, create project brochures, update websites ... basically all of the things that I really like to do.  (And drop the tedious project management crap that I hate.)

I can't wait.

However, it looks like I'll have to.  Deonne reports to work on August 20.  Thankfully my rockin' cousin who lives in the area is going to rent a room to him in her home so he'll be with family - and won't have the expense of setting up an entire household until we can be together.  But even though he's getting a ginormous increase in salary - it's not enough to fund the expense of two households - especially given the housing prices in the DC metro area.  Meaning I get to stay in Columbia until our house sells.  With three children.  And a full time job.  By.  My.  Self.

Yeah - I'm a bit scared about that.  Not about the work involved in parenting three children (even though it will be significant.)  Rather it's the 'what ifs' that I'm so good at festering over.  What if someone needs to go to the hospital in the middle of the night?  What if I get a horrid stomach bug and can't function or take care of the kids?  What if a toilet breaks or a pipe bursts or Jack decides for the umpteenth time to turn on every light in the van on his way out, effectively draining the battery, and I have no means to jump start my car?

I think it's just the anxiety of it all.  The worry of caring for these three little lives without their Daddy around. (Not to mention that I'm going to miss my husband tremendously - well, except for his habits of leaving dirty socks all over the house...)

But if I keep my eye on the prize - if I keep focused on the good things to come - we'll be fine.

I hope.

In the meantime we'll be packing and throwing out and donating and preparing to spiff up our home for a (hopefully) very quick sale.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Girl

I've been hesitant to write about my girl.  It takes a lot to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about your kid - but even more so to share the struggles and challenges we face as parents.  I've wanted to keep this close to my heart - to protect my daughter, my love,  from the negative undertones that seem to accompany what I'm about to write. To shield her in some way from it being true.  I guess in some strange way, I want so badly for this not to be true that I've held off on writing about it - as if somehow - in some way - forming letters into words and words into sentences will make the truth 'real' - and not writing about it will keep the situation in the imaginary world where it belongs.

But the truth is - in order to face this - to truly help my child - I need to come to terms with her - her needs - her challenges - and quite simply, who she is.

When the school psychologist hinted around that Anna displays some typical AD/HD tendencies - I shuddered and immediately thought 'wrong - not my child.'  When her pediatrician gently discussed that there might be some issues we need to get her some help with - we shrank away and chose to try to discipline out the behavioral problems.  When her teacher kindly told us that while our daughter is not on the 'radar screen' as a typical problematic or disruptive child - her inability to focus or stay on track has started to affect her ability to learn - we chalked it up to her being super smart and bored in the class.

But as time marched on - we couldn't overlook our girl's ability to follow simple three point directions.  Nor her tendencies to lash out at other children (particularly her brothers) when she became frustrated.  Nor her habits to stare off into space, sometimes whisper to herself, and spend hours upon hours playing pretend games in her head.

So we sought help.  We enlisted the help of the top child psychiatrist in our area.  We paid out the you-know-what to have a full psycho-educational evaluation (or whatever you want to call it) where our girl spent the better part of a full day testing and playing games with said psychiatrist and her staff - figuring out her abilities.  And her weaknesses.

And Friday we got the results.

We heard how remarkable her reading and comprehension skills are.  (Beyond off the charts.)  We heard how creative and truly thoughtful she is.

And then.

Then we heard how she has a significant delay in Executive Functioning.  How her impulse control is not only very low but borderline.  How her ability to process things efficiently for skills like math are within 'normal' ranges - but are being hindered by that delay - by her inability to apply her intelligence in an organized fashion to accomplish real, day-to-day life goals.

In other words - the classic display of AD/HD - as represented by the gap in her intelligence and her ability to use it.

And that's a hard thing to hear.  One because I have to face the fact that there's something wrong with my child that I can't fix.  As a mother, I want the best for my child.  I don't want there to be anything wrong with her - to have anything different about her that will make her life more difficult.  Further, I don't want her to be looked down on - or given weird glances because she's doing something strange.  I don't want to see the exasperated sighs from teachers or instructors or other moms because she's yet again, out of control.  I want to protect her - wrap her in my arms - keep her safe from the world at bay.  From the judgments.  From the negativity that often accompanies any type or sort of mental health diagnosis.

But here's the other thing.  The deep, dark, horrible part.  I don't want my kid to have AD/HD for the mere fact that I'm not sure I can handle it.  And what kind of a mother does that make me?  I have never been one for patience.  I get extremely frustrated with things that take too long.  Repeating myself fourteen times to get my child to act drives me insane.  I think Deonne is much more sympathetic and empathetic about Anna's struggles.  Honestly?  I just get mad.  Even though I know there is a clinical reason why my child spaces out - even though I understand why she does the crazy things she does - why she's not able to focus or stay on track - I still can't stand it.

So we go forward.  Starting to take the steps to initiate medication - as well as continue therapy to learn behavioral strategies to help Anna achieve the things her intelligence allows but her inability to stay focused won't.  It's going to be a steep learning curve, that's for sure.  One where Anna will have to learn how to follow simple three-point directions.  One where I'll have to let go enough to accept the fact that even though my daughter is nearly eight years old - she still needs a chart in her room to remind her to put on underwear after a bath, and one in the bathroom to remind her to rinse her toothbrush after using it.

I covet your prayers as we begin this new journey with our child.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Times Are A-Changin'...

After five long years of ups and downs, highs, and lows, and a lot of in-betweens - we're finally on the verge of making a very important decision.

Well - the truth is the decision has already been made - but I'm not at full liberty to disclose what that decision is.  Give me about two days - and I'll be able to blab.  Spill the beans.  Shout from the tree-tops.

For now, suffice to say that our little world is being turned upside-down.  It'll be good.  Once we get through the thick of it.

But I'm finally able to breathe a sigh of relief - knowing that the decision has been made.  And that's always half the battle, isn't it?

So now we hold our breath - hang on for the ride - and let go enough to let things fall in place.

Easier said than done.

Stay tuned.

More news to come.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ballerina Girl/Karate Kid

With the end of the school year also comes the pile of kid performances. You know - where they get to strut their stuff and show us all that we didn't waste hundreds of dollars on them their accomplishments from their year of hard work.

First up this year was James with his karate belt test. This was his second belt test - the first being just before Christmas.  Truth be told - this was the make up belt test - the original was scheduled the Saturday before Mothers Day when he was sick and couldn't breathe.

I've never been a fan of martial arts or self-defense or what at times appears to be intentional fighting (think Karate Kid - wax on, wax off) ... sorry ... distracted.  But I have to say, I love this class.  I love the instructors - and the message they are teaching the kids.  Respect.  Obedience.  Discipline.  And perhaps most important to our extremely out-going boy - Stranger Danger.

James is a wild boy - always flitting around or flopping around - can't seem to sit still - will flutter his hands in frustration - giggle incessantly - basically a hot mess.  But when its time for karate - he actually pays attention.  We arrived a few minutes early for the test - and as we sat there waiting (while corralling Jack and Anna) we commented that seeing James sit on the mat for that long was perhaps the longest we'd ever seen him sit still.  (Unless he's belted and strapped into a carseat ...)

And when he'd get the sillies and start acting crazy - all it took was Mr. Mike to come by and give him The Look to make him sit up and pay attention.

I think we'll be continuing karate in the fall.

He did a great job - and proudly received his solid yellow belt.

Anna's annual dance recital was next.  Due to scheduling issues with her dance studio - the dress rehearsal and performance were scheduled for the same day.  Let me repeat that.  Dress rehearsal and performance.  On.  The.  Same.  Day.  That just also happened to be on my birthday.

So I packed Anna up - slicked back hair and made up face and all - and headed to Lexington High School for the 9am call for rehearsal.  And stayed with her until the final curtain following the 3pm performance.

Thank goodness two of my bestest buddies also had girls (including EG, Anna's bff) in the performance - so we could commiserate, assist each other with hair and make up corrections, share snacks and activities, get light-headed from the amount of hair spray circulating the small windowless room we were held captive in with the multiple classes of tulle-clad girls, and generally laugh at the pure insanity of it all.

We did get out for one break at lunch - where we ate outside at a local restaurant - allowing the girls to run and giggle and play in the fountain (despite being told to stay dry) while we gossiped and giggled and enjoyed each other's company.

It was a good time.

And my little ballerina continued to shine.  It reminded me of the dance recitals and performances my mom and I attended - when I was the tulle-clad, shellacked hair, made-up dancer and my mom was there to reapply and arrange and entertain.

And tears still came to my eyes when I saw Anna come on stage - and I silently clasped my hands to keep from reaching for my own mom's hand.