Saturday, December 31, 2011

Flippin the bird

While we were in NC over Christmas, we got to go to my old church (the same one where Jesse and I got married) for their Christmas play. We sat up front so we could see the stage and hear everything that was going on. It also happened to be "Treat Bag Day" which is a BIG deal. I had really talked it up to Josie and Sadie and Adelaide - I mean, it never seemed like Christmas to me when I was little until i'd had my White Oak Treat Bag!

Anyway, the whole time the play was going on, Josie kept asking things like, "Are the treat bags here yet? Where are the treat bags? Did we miss it? Have they given out the treat bags yet?" and MY personal favorite: "Okay, okay, so is it a TREAT, or is it a BAG?" While I was busy answering all of her questions and taking Adelaide back and forth to the bathroom three times, I didn't notice exactly what Sadie was doing. When I finally looked her way, there she was, all dressed up in her beautiful ladylike purple Christmas dress, feather in her hair, looking all around at everyone while holding up the middle fingers of BOTH of her hands. Yes, my sweet little Sadie was "flipping the bird" at the church Christmas play. I immeidately smacked both of her hands down onto the table and hissed, "Hey! Don't do that!" And she, of course, said, "Why not?" I said, "Because, just don't." "But why?" "BECAUSE." "WHy?" "It means something bad." "What does it mean?" "I'll tell you later." "Why? Can I do this finger? Or this one? How about this one? And my thumb? The thumb is good, right?" "Yes, yes, just not the middle one." "But WHY?"

I left it up to her daddy to explain it to her later... and I guess he did a pretty good job. She told me later that it means that you're saying every bad name and that I hate you and you're stupid and ugly and all kinds of bad things if you do that with your finger.

Sheesh. I'm glad he explained it and not me.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Famous words

After reading "Growing up Where Jesus Lived" we had a discussion about Passover and the Pharoah and all of that stuff. Josie was concerned about all of the firstborn dying. Sadie said, "Well, I guess that was bad news for me." Josie said, "Did the other kids die, too? No? Whew. Good." Adelaide then pretended to be the Pharoah and I was supposed to be Moses. I kept asking her to let my people go, and she kept refusing. I finally asked, "OH, PLEASE, PLEASE let my people go!" and she rolled her eyes, sat back, and said, "Okay, fine. Get outta here."

Adelaide: "That thing is hunormous."

Josie, pretending to be a sheep at Christmas: "Baa-aaaah. Hum-bug."

Mommy to Adelaide, while hugging: "You're my girl."
Adelaide to Mommy, while hugging: "You're my mom."

Jedidiah, after fake coughing to make fun of Mommy and straining and reaching to make fun of Daddy, while making Cheerio soup to splash his hands in on his high-chair tray: "Goggle gog gog, Gee go go, AAAH! GigglegigglegiggOOOH!"

Adelaide walked into the room, looked at me, and said, "Well, Mom, I don't have any plans." Then she walked out.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Same old Song

Josie's version of "Here Comes Santa Claus"

-I pretend that I am sleeping
But he knows that I'm awake
He knows that I'm not being good
Dooby, dooby, dooby, doop

Sadie's favorite new song, thanks to her dad:

-Jingle bells, Daddy smells
from fifteen miles away
picks his nose with Cheerios
and eats them everyday! HEY!

Sadie and Josie's new (and unfortunately, catchy, tune... coined on our trip to look at Christmas lights in Willoughby):

-"Howdaya catch a candy cane on your anniversary? Heyheyhey! Howdaya catch a candy cane on your anniverSAREE!? HeyheyHEY!"


Adelaide's favorite song of the year:

-It's the most WONderFUL time of da YEAR! WONDERFUL! OF da YEAR! THE YEAR!
Josie: You're weird.
Adelaide, matter-of-factly: No, I'm not. It IS the most wonderful time. Of the year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Spirit of Christmas

I made it almost twelve whole hours before I flipped out.

We are staying at my grandma’s house for Christmas and, though we love it, we are crammed in here like sardines. Sardines with too much luggage, a week’s worth of diapers and a pack-n-play.

Sardines with a “pallet” built out of foam rubber, two sheets and a comforter on the floor of the extra bedroom. Sardines who can’t find their jackets, their math workbooks, their boots or their blankies. Hot sardines – because Grandma keeps her house a tropical 80 degrees.

Now, I am a person who likes to live by the creed “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Unfortunately, that motto will just not work when we’re here.

Laundry, toys, luggage, presents, shoes… stuff is everywhere. We have no dresser drawers, no closets. Though it’s all part of being on “vacation,” it makes me crazy. Especially during the holidays when everything’s kind of crazy anyway.

The day we got here, the girls decided they wanted to go and surprise their Papaw at work. To make the surprise work, we had to hurry and get dressed and arrive at exactly the right time or we would miss him.

After digging through our bags to find jeans, sweaters, and jackets, we spent the next ten minutes trying to find three sets of matching shoes. To save space, I only packed two pairs of shoes for everyone: regular shoes and church shoes. Both kinds proved to be somewhat elusive.

Once they were finally ready to go, I sent the kids outside to get in the car while I finished getting myself (and the baby) dressed. I assumed, since their dad was outside, that the girls would be supervised. Big mistake.

I searched through a pile of baby stuff, looking for the wet wipes. When I reached for a diaper, I dumped all the makeup out of my makeup bag. My only tube of lip gloss landed in my suitcase and disappeared amidst books, yoga pants, a flatiron and pajamas. I think maybe I lost the Spirit of Christmas in there somewhere, too.

Annoyed and with decidedly un-glossy lips, I finished with the baby and headed outside.

There, I found my husband leaning back on the porch, apparently lost in thought. All three of the girls were nowhere to be seen. This was because they were looking for Rudolph in the backyard – in the sopping wet grass and mud.

In their only pair of regular shoes.

I snapped.

After I yelled, “This is all your fault! What are you even DOING?” at Jesse and “Get in the car NOW!” at the kids, I stripped them of their shoes and socks. I hollered something along the lines of: “We are trying to leave! Don’t you even think? If you’re trying to be on time, why would you mess up your only pair of shoes (besides church shoes) when you are supposed to already be in the CAR?” And so forth.

Jesse decided he should probably just stay home. I said “Fine!”

I stomped into the house, slung the soppy shoes in front of the heater, dug around until I found everyone’s church shoes, then stomped back to the car.

I threw sparkly silver (Adelaide), black patent leather (Sadie) and red kid leather (Josie) shoes in through the window and slammed the car into reverse.

Just then, Josie said, “Mommy… Mom. Hey, Mom. It’s Christmas!”

I stopped. I breathed. I sighed. “You’re right,” I admitted. I apologized.

Jesse came back to the car. We talked with the kids about how it’s hard to be away from home when you don’t know where all your stuff is, when everything is a mess, when you are so cramped and crowded (and hot.)

The girls thought about this for a minute. Then Josie said, “Well, here’s the good thing. The good thing is it’s Christmas and we are all cozy and warm. And we are all together.”

Who knew that I’d find the missing Spirit of Christmas right there in the backseat of my mini-van?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

-from my 12/25/11 article for

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tooth Fairy

Josie lost her front tooth while we were in North Carolina over Christmas. She has lost three teeth now, and EVERY ONE of them came out while we were in North Carolina! We were sitting on the couch at Great Grandma's house, and suddenly Josie said, "Aaaah!! My toof! My toof came out!" and sure enough, there it was in her hand. It always makes me a little bit sad when one of my kids loses a tooth. There, in her little palm, was the symbol of her babyhood! Her very first little top tooth that used to chew on her crib rails, her teething ring, and (sometimes) her sister. Sigh.

Josie's take: "Well, now I can thing "All I want for Chrithmath ith my two front teef."

She decided that the Tooth Fairy would definitely come while we were in NC, so she wrote a little note and put it with her tooth under her pillow. Then she said, "The Tooth Fairy has written Sadie TWO different notes, but I haven't gotten one yet!"

Well, as luck would have it, the Tooth Fairy DID leave her a note that night. Then she said, while greedily counting her $2.50, "Hmm. Sadie's Tooth Fairy note was sparkly and gold. Mine is written in PENCIL!"

Sheesh. The Tooth Fairy does not have as many craft and art supplies at Great Grandma's house!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The First Three Days

On a whim, we decided to take off on Thursday night. You should've seen their faces! I thought Josie would literally explode with happiness and that Sadie's face would crack in half...and Josie grabbed me and hugged and hugged me so tight. Then we drove ALL night, arriving around 4:00am on Friday morning. Adelaide asked MANY MANY times how many minutes it would be until we got to North Carolina. The kids all finally went to sleep around 11:30 after we made ONE stop to get gas and cheese fries at Wendy's. Except for Jed. He sat in his little seat and sucked on his two fingers and looked around (he just got turned face-forward) for TWO hours! They were really good... we listened to Christmas songs, and talked, and it was a good trip. Jesse got us here (miraculously, and without speeding, and WITH a cartop carrier) in about seven hours.

The kids love getting here in the middle of the night, and Great Grandma was happy to see us! They wanted to just pile in and surprise her, but I didn't think that it was a very good idea to scare her to death in the middle of the night. :)

No one knew we were home, so we decided that we'd go and surprise Papaw when he got back from work. I called Mamaw to find out what time he'd be back (Josie said, "You don't think Mamaw will TELL him, do you!?") and we met him just in time! Even though it was raining, we pulled in and parked about 2 minutes before he came wheeling in. The girls jumped out and ran across the parking lot just as he got out of the Jeep and they yelled, "SURPRISE! We wanted to surprise you at work!" And he said, "Well, you did!" and then they went inside with him for a couple of minutes and met his boss and a couple of people he worked with. It was fun.

Next I went to see my friend Becky at her new job and then we met Papaw and Mamaw for lunch at the Mexican place. Sadie and Josie went back to their house with them while we went to Walmart and then back to their house. We had a good evening, talking and playing and snuggling Jedidiah.

Saturday we ate Bojangle's for breakfast, and Jesse took the girls to see Cameron's basketball game. Grandma and I went to Betty and Dean's thrift store and the pawn shop (I looked at shotguns :) and later we went up to play at Angela's. The girls saw their first "deer kill" when Scotty and Cameron got back from hunting in the woods. Blech.

Next we ate spaghetti and salad at Mamaw's and Papaw's house and had storytelling hour! We heard about ghosts, angels, and Papaw's dog-shooting days. Jed (and everyone else) could not keep themselves off the treadmill. Why is that thing so much fun?

This morning, we got up early and went to see Cameron get baptized! It was exciting and it also brought tears to my eyes. It was so cute to see his giant grin on his little face :) and we got to see Adam and Laurie too, which was nice, since we haven't seen them in two years!

Next, we stopped and picked up Grandma and Nettie and headed up the mountain to White Oak for the Christmas play and more importantly, TREAT BAGS! Apparently, I have really talked up the treat bag tradition more than I realized. The kids were so excited about getting their little white bags filled with an apple, orange, candy bars, a marshmallow santa, nuts, candy canes, gum, etc. Josie couldn't stop talking about it all through church.... "Psst. Mom. Where are the treat bags? Did they give out the treat bags yet? Is it time for the treat bags? Are the treat bags after church? Or after the play? Or what?" and my personal favorite: "So is it a TREAT, or is it a BAG?" :)

My other favorite part (besides the treat bags and seeing lots of old friends and loved ones) was seeing Bobby dressed as Santa driving the church van. Priceless! Wish I had gotten a picture!

We met Becky, Stephen, and Hailey for lunch at (where else?) Village Inn! Yahoo! Unfortunately, everyone else in the county had the same idea. It was crowded and HOT. But good. And Hailey came home with us to play too... they played over at Nettie's, and found "fairy snails" outside on her garage door.

Then we went over to Madge and Steve's house to listen to some "picking and grinning," which was awesome! They played us some Bill Monroe and some Ricky Skaggs and it was very cool and bluegrassy. Then they played beauty shop till Hailey had to go and then Sharon, Thomas and Elizabeth, and Britt and Natasha and their kids came over. We ate pintos, cornbread, and potatoes for supper while the kids played. Jed and Colton both share the same interests: playing ball and playing in the toilet. Bayleigh informed her mom that "Adelaide doesn't bite anymore except for when she's mad."

Forget the Bad List

“Okay, girls, it’s time for bed,” I make the dreaded announcement to my Christmas-pajama-clad daughters.

“But MOM! We haven’t even started playing yet! We just finished setting up!”

Since they’ve been at it for well over two hours, I can’t understand how this is possible. It is, however, a pattern I’ve noticed with my children. They spend so much time “setting up” that they hardly ever get to actually play anything.

Now, I could take this one of two ways. I could feel sorry for my kids that they don’t spend sixteen hours a day “playing ponies” or paper dolls (fourteen of those hours for setting up, of course), or I could just be glad that they enjoy the setting up.

Decking the halls, trimming the tree, making the presents, wrapping the gifts… my kids somehow inherently know that “getting there is half the fun.” They have unknowingly adopted this mindset as their life’s philosophy.

The excitement, the build-up, the waiting, the anticipation of birthdays, parties, sleepovers, vacations, traveling, Christmas – life’s a journey, not a destination. Maybe I listened to too much Aerosmith during my pregnancies, but somehow my girls get it.

Somehow, they’ve missed the problem that I’ve always had: High expectations lead to big disappointments. Over the years, I’ve learned that the lower my expectations, the better off I’ll be.

A pre-marriage book that my husband and I read advised us to go into our marriage with very low expectations. “The lower, the better,” it told us. And Ben Franklin once said, “Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Funny, maybe, but there’s a bit of ironic wisdom there too, isn’t there?

But my girls spend their entire lives expecting. Waiting. Dreaming. Anticipating.

A lot of times, things don’t turn out the way they had hoped. Maybe the tea party wasn’t exactly what they expected. Maybe the long-awaited trip to the theater downtown was boring. Maybe their picnic got rained out. Maybe The Nutcracker was sold out. Maybe Santa got confused on the difference between Fairy Friends Barbie and Fairy Secret Barbie (it does happen, believe it or not!).

They don’t water down their dreams, though. They don’t protect themselves by pretending that they aren’t excited. And strangely enough, even when things don’t go their way, they aren’t disappointed very often. They smile, dwell on the good parts and forget about the bad parts. What a way to go through life!

I constantly learn things from my children. This Christmas I’ve learned that maybe I should spend more time enjoying the process of my life. I need to do more "setting up" myself. Maybe it’s not my great expectations that cause me to be disappointed (or not) in the end. Maybe it’s my own attitude and how I choose to deal with the gifts (and gag gifts) that life sends my way.

-from my 12/18/11 article for

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making Memories

“Be careful, Adelaide! Don’t squeeze that one too hard or it will break,” Sadie admonished her little sister. “We already broke one of those hearts last year. Remember how you cut your finger? And Mommy and Daddy got those when they first got married.”

We are decorating the tree, one of my (and my girls’) favorite Christmas-y things to do.

My earliest Christmas memories involve our tree. I got choked on a pine needle when I was about three, and I remember my panicked mother. I remember our little blond angel tree-topper who held a little red twinkle light in each hand (or maybe the lights were her hands). My favorite ornament was always a one-inch-tall Christmas elf in a red dress with a glittery umbrella. She always was at the top of the tree so I couldn’t snatch her down and break her.

I remember my silk-thread covered “baby ball” ornament from (gasp)
1976. The Elvis commemorative ornament my mom bought the year "the King" died. I remember the shiny gold unicorn with a white feather mane my parents brought me from a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I remember a satin circus horse with jointed legs. A Raggedy Andy on a swing, a tiny church with a green roof, a red jack-in-the-box, a miniature picnic basket.

As the years passed by, I added others: A gold jingle bell wreath my cousin made, an olive wood nativity from the Holy Land, a Hawaiian-shirt patterned mini stocking from a trip to the Ron Jon Surf Shop, a ball that used to hang on my grandmother's tree that looks like a peppermint candy.

These things, brought out only once a year and hung with near-reverence,have grown to mean a lot to me over the years. Now, I tell my children about them as we hang them on our tree. The girls like to know my favorites, the stories behind them, the “history of mom.” I am glad to tell them.

They also like to hear their own stories and hang their own ornaments. They each have their own “first Christmas” ornament from the year they were born; they seem to sense that these fragile things are very special, and they handle them with care. Sadie’s is a white heart with a baby handprint in the center. Josie has a blown-glass snowman holding a tiny green Christmas tree. Adelaide’s is a snowflake frame with her chubby-cheeked baby picture in the center, and Jedidiah’s is a Santa-hat-wearing baby bear swinging on a yellow moon.

Every year they each get a special ornament; this year it was carousel horses with their names on the saddles. They are living their own Christmas histories and they don’t even know it.

I’m not sure how long my heavily-laden tree will hold out – probably for another ten years or so before the first batch goes. My plan is to box up their individual ornaments for them to decorate their own trees with when they grow up (sniff) and move out (sniff).

The girls and I hang the luminescent manger scene, the last icicle and the “special ornaments” from 2007. And 2009. And the final reindeer.

We sit down on the couch and admire our sparkling masterpiece. Theytalk about which ornaments they like best and why. They talk about which carousel horse would win if they could race, and they wonder if the little angels come alive at night when everyone is asleep.

We sit there together and I realize that these things we’ve been adorning our tree with for the past two hours aren’t just Christmas decorations.

They are memories.

from my 12/11/11 article for

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Off to see da wizard

Well, we are well into the swing of Christmas here. We put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and of course Jedidiah is ALL about it. He wants to climb it, eat it, point at it, oooh at it, smile at it, and yes, destroy it if given the least opportunity. He is so cute, and yet, he is a little menace. His looks are deceiving.

Last Saturday, Grandma Beth took us (Jesse, the three girls, and I) to see The Wizard of Oz onstage at The School of Fine Arts. They all dressed up in their little opera/Christmas dresses that Grammie Gail bought for them: Sadie's, long and purple, Josie's, burgandy and sweeping, and Adelaide's, golden and sparkly around the middle AND AND AND good for twirling, just like she likes them.

They were so excited and they had a fabulous time. Adelaide sat between me and Jesse and before the show started she was SO EXCITED she could hardly stand it. I loved watching her even more than the show. Her little eyes were so full of wonder and enchantment and even love at the thought of "HER" beloved Dorofee, up there on the stage. :)

There were some complaints afterward, though: the "girly" trees (from dad), the lack of a pointy black hat for the Wicked Witch (from me), the lack of a crown and a blue dress instead of pink for Glinda (from Sadie, the resident Glinda expert - she has experience, you know), the lack of a funnel hat for the Tin Man (from Josie, although she DID like his sparkly sequin one), and last but not least the lack of pigtails for Dorothy. The Scarecrow was the best singer, and the Lion was the funniest, if not the bravest :) The show was really cute; we all love watching live theater (well, maybe Jesse doesn't LOVE it, but he at least tolerates it these days of behalf of his daughters)... we are lucky to have a Grandma around who thinks these things are important!

Today, we all went to a really neat Christmas Tea at our church. Again, the girls donned their "gay apparel" and fancily bore their favorite teacups and saucers to church for a Christmasy tabled, holiday-flavored, fancy tea-fooded event. They even had their own little table with their own little specially made choclately mints. Their good manners were in place, thankfully, and we had a good time. Grammie came with us, and we all had fun playing the scavenger hunt (Aunt Becky and Terry won, of course) and then the kids gave up and played Duck Duck Goose in the hallway while still in their fancy dresses. :)

Jedidiah wore his little red zippered Christmas footie outfit with the white snowman snowglobes on it (the Baby Gap one complete with a stripey Santa hat). Unfortunately, when I was getting him out of his carseat and he was still in his coat, I heard a crunchy sound. It sounded like velcro, so I assumed it was something on his coat and I yanked him out. So of course, it was the leg of his little outfit and when I took his coat off, his little chubber-dubber roly-poly thigh was sticking out! Aunt Becky said it was a good tickling hole.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Peace, Love, and a Tom-Tom

My kids aren’t perfect. This was made clear to me as they played tug-of-war with the oatmeal container tom-tom we made last week.

I’m not perfect. This was made clear to me when I yelled, “I will TAKE that tom-tom and THROW it out the WINDOW!”

We all have our faults. We’ve all made mistakes throughout the years. I make mistakes every single day of my life!

“Stop that tapping!” I yelled. My afternoon reverie, interrupted by a mind-numbing repetitive noise, was not to be. “Do not even THINK about tying your sister up and hitting her with that tomahawk!”

My girls, wearing paper feather headdresses while they sculpted a settlers’ colony out of Play-doh, were totally wired up. They are excited about the days we’ll be spending with friends, the food, the presents, the parties, the general “festiveness” of it all. They have been constantly chattering, singing loudly, squealing shrilly, jumping up and down excitedly and getting glitter everywhere.

I won’t lie. They have also been completely getting on my nerves. I’ve been
thinking about asking for a good set of earplugs this Christmas.

There is so much that needs to be done – my to-do list is literally three pages long. Naturally, my mind is on everything that needs to be purchased, wrapped, packed, baked, sorted, tagged, signed, sealed and delivered. I need quiet. I need to focus!

My children, however, don’t care about any of that. Their to-do list is very different from mine: see their friends and their families. Decorate some trees. Sing some songs. Build some snowmen. Read some stories. Look at some lights. Eat some cookies, stay up late, play some games and open some presents. In other words, relax and thoroughly enjoy themselves.

I’m somewhat jealous of their childish enthusiasm; to be perfectly honest, their list sounds like a lot more fun than mine does. As a matter of fact, mine sounds downright boring and joyless.

Am I missing the proverbial forest for the Christmas trees here? Maybe the singing, squealing and glittering isn’t so bad after all. Maybe they have it right and I need to just lighten up!

It seems that the real key to enjoying the holidays comes down to just this one thing: perspective. We need to accept each other for who we are. Warts and all. Things that drive me crazy (like squealing from excitement or singing Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly over and over) might just be the very things that are missing in my own life.

No, the ones I love aren’t perfect.

But loving them, even with all of their faults, is somehow perfect.

It’s amazing how love can do that: it can transform just about anything. Your family (and mine) might not be straight out of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “It’s a Mediocre Life” or “It’s a Dysfunctional Life” might be more appropriate.

But maybe I should go into it this year like my children: with hope and excitement. With a song in my heart. With glitter!

I’m going to be prepared to count to ten. I’m going to breathe deeply, listen to a relaxation CD and try to maintain a non-Grinchy attitude. I may even go outside and find that tom-tom and give it back to them! I’m going to try to forgive the annoyances and maybe, just maybe, let some things slide this year. Who knows? Maybe I’m the annoying one. Maybe my kids are letting things slide because they love me.

I can at least return the favor.

from my 12/4/11 article for