Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our baby turns 10 today.



This calls for a movie.



It's hard to believe 10 years have passed already.

I'm so proud to be this beautiful girl's mama.

*sniff sniff*


Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday. And there is much to do.

Poor Ladybug is so confused. Daddy was here and now he's gone. The kids were here, now gone. And I'm not always here, but here I am today. And I'm buzzing around the house, cleaning and straightening and tripping over her because she is hot on my heels. When she's not following me around she's sitting in a chair by the window keeping watch.

 See?

I feel for her. The last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind and we're all out of our usual routine. It was so nice, as always, to have Steve home. He hit the road around 4 this morning to go back to PA. I imagine it will be spring break before we see him again. Boo. Sad face. Sad, sad face.

The good news is we definitely made the most of his time here. At the last minute we decided to take Rachel to a local hotel with a pool and water slide because that's what she wanted for her birthday - to swim. Actually she wanted a big ol' par-tay by the pool, but she settled for inviting one friend for one night at the hotel, eating out at her place of choice (that's kind of our birthday tradition) and cupcakes in the hotel room. Her birthday is tomorrow and she will turn 10. Ten big ones. Hardly seems possible. I'll bake a cake and we'll do a little something special for her tomorrow evening, too. Today is all about catching up on the stuff I ignored while Steve was here ... the usual: laundry, dishes, bills, and general housekeeping. And while I am sad he is gone again, I am definitely enjoying the quiet time alone, and I have plenty to do to keep myself busy.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Remembering ... and celebrating.

These last couple days I've had so many thoughts running through my head it's hard to sit down and write any one of them out. Today is no different, but there are a few that come to the forefront.

First, today marks one year since my grandma - my mom's mom - died. That day was much like today - cold, but sunny and pretty. I remember because after standing vigil at her bedside around the clock for several days I had decided to finally go home, sleep in my bed, hug my kids, and get them off to school for a little sense of normalcy, then go back to be with grandma and my parents and aunt and uncle. About the time the sun was coming up on that Tuesday morning and I was saying goodbye to Sam and Rachel, grandma took her last breath. When my dad told me over the phone I was not sad that I wasn't there. I knew it could happen at any time and I was OK with that. I chose to go home to my kids that night because that's where grandma would have wanted me. There were so many times over the weeks before she died that she was in pain or tired and she would ask me about my kids. She'd tell me to go get them, go be with them. Because that was grandma: she would rather you focus your attention on someone else, even if she was the one in need.

When I finally did get to the rest home that day I kissed grandma's forehead, still warm, and reminded myself that her body was merely a vessel that had carried a precious spirit, a soul which I believe left this world long before her body gave up the fight.

She was my last remaining grandparent and I was honored to spend the last few months of her life helping to care for her. I miss her terribly. And tomorrow is my mom's birthday, which adds some level of weird emotion ... to want to celebrate life and allow ourselves to continue to grieve at the same time. Incidentally, my other grandma - my dad's mom - also died in February. It was 1995, I was a freshman in college, and I still miss her, too. My relationships with my two grandmas were different, but both very special. I am so fortunate, so blessed, to have had time to know each of them.

Today is also Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent for Christians. I've written about that before, here. Last night the kids and I had a traditional Danish aebleskiver dinner with folks from church as our own way of celebrating "Fat Tuesday" and tonight I plan to attend the Ash Wednesday service. Which leads me to the third big thought in my brain today ... that Steve is on his way home for a few days' visit. I have a feeling the kids will want to hang out with him, or waiting for him, rather than take the time to go to church with me, and I'm OK with that. Spending time with daddy is important.

And besides, I'll have plenty of opportunity to get those little buggers into church over the next 40 days of the lenten season.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: 2.19.12 edition

I am sooo tired. So I'm gonna' make a few notes here and then hit the sack and hopefully get rested up for another busy week ahead.

All last week I felt like I was playing catch-up and never quite got there. Today, one simple thing made me feel like I was finally (almost) on top of things: after we got home from church and before we left the house again for Rachel's Girl Scout meeting I put a roast in the slow cooker for dinner. So when we got home late this afternoon I baked some potato slices for chips to go along with our pork BBQ sandwiches, and the kids and I actually had a home-cooked meal - something other than frozen dinners popped in the microwave - for the first time in several days.

Not that there is anything wrong with frozen dinners.

Family meals are important to me. Whether we kick back in the living room and watch Jeopardy while we eat, or talk with each other around the dining room table, I appreciate the time we spend together when we gather for a meal.

This week part of my plan is to inventory what we have in the freezers and make a menu. Steve will be home for a few days later this week to see his dad and Rachel for their respective birthdays, and I'd like to make his visit as relaxing as possible. Family meals, a clean house to come home to ... that will make it relaxing for me, anyway. Heh.

First, a little reading and a good, long sleep.

Have a blessed week, y'all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A few pics from our trip.

I feel like I'm still recovering from our weekend trip to PA. Or ... maybe not "recovering" so much as my heart and mind are still there with Steve, even though my body has been back in Michigan for a good 24 hours.

I didn't take my camera with me but I got a few pictures of the scenery with my phone. And most of them were taken while either I or my subjects were on the move. But I'm not sure even the best camera (or photographer) could capture the true beauty of these hills and how that beauty brings about a certain sentimentality. Which is a weird word. But a good one considering it's Valentine's Day, huh?

Anywho, a few highlights: 


 
Steve took Saturday off to hang out with us, but he did take us up the hill to see where he's been working. This is the road he takes every day. On one side of the truck it goes straight up, the other side straight down. And this isn't even the "narrow" stretch.


This is the well pad where he works. Probably not much rhyme or reason if you don't know what's happenin' here, but it's kinda' neat to see from up above. 

The three loves of my life. This is a lookout where, if it hadn't been so foggy, we could have seen the little town down below. But ... fog. So all you can see is the shadowy hill in the distance. And it's a little creepy looking.

I don't know.
Snow. Mud. Mountains. It just looked like a GMC commercial.

 There is water everywhere. Creeks running alongside the roads. Beautiful to look at (as long as you're not driving), and beautiful to hear when your husband stops the truck to let you take a picture.


Crossing the Susquehanna River into the city of Lock Haven.

This just cracked us up ... vicious bear turned ... badger? This is in front of the place where Steve and my brother, Jim, were staying.

Monday morning on our way out we stopped to get gas and Rachel took this picture. That hill in the distance? Steve works up there. It was a beautiful sunrise.

The perfect ending to a great weekend.

Monday, February 13, 2012

We're back!

Oh boy, does it feel good to kick back in a recliner in my own living space and stretch my limbs after a loooong drive today. It took us 12 hours to get home - at least 11 of that in driving time, the other hour or so spent on potty breaks, snack stops and gasoline fill-ups.

Hmm. Maybe 10.5 hours of driving. Which by the way? I have decided is my limit.

But two days' worth of driving sun up to sun down - to Pennsylvania on Friday and back home again today - was worth every minute to be able to spend two full days together as a family. I think it was a morale booster for all of us.

I have lots to share about our trip, and a few so-so photos from the camera on my phone (because yeah, my camera was one of a handful of things I forgot to take with me) but it will all keep until tomorrow when I am a little less bleary-eyed.

For now, bedtime.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Road trip!

If I let my children live through the evening ... *ahem* ... we will be leaving before the crack of dawn to drive to Pennsylvania for a long weekend with Steve.

I can't wait to see him!!

The key is making it through the next few hours when Sam and Rachel are excited, bouncing off the walls - and each other - and I am thinking about how I'm going to get everything packed, get some sleep, not leave the house in a shambles, and make it through a 12-ish-hour drive tomorrow without my two offspring driving me crazy.

And now, I will let Ladybug and Patch the Kitty demonstrate what I hope to be doing tomorrow night at about 8 o'clock:


Dontchya just wanna' rub Patch's belly?

Have a great weekend, folks. See you next week!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A thrifty find from the files of "Who Knew?"

I have this mental list of things I look for when I am out and about shopping. When I go to the grocery store I often (ok, always) buzz over to the home goods side of the store and check out the clearance racks. If I have a little extra time while I'm in town I swing by the Goodwill or Habitat ReStore to take a gander at what new items have popped up.

Some of the things I keep my eyes open for are creative storage pieces. Large, small, and anything in between. I pick up small baskets with straight sides as drawer dividers. I found an old dresser I spruced up to store extra place mats and table linens and candles near the dining room. I have learned that you can use just about anything in your decor - if it is useful or something you love, it works.

On a recent stop at Goodwill I was in the mood to dig. I'm not always. There could be treasures unknown at the bottom of a pile of plastic picture frames and old wooden coat hooks, and I have no problem leaving them for the next person. But that day something made me squat down to see what might be tucked in the back of a bottom shelf. There I found this:

It's glass.

It's Pyrex.

It's French.

And when I picked it up it was ... oh, less than sparkly clean. But it has all those little indentations and I pictured using it as a paint palette or as a little holder for jewelry - maybe rings and small earrings. Plus, I have this affinity for good, sturdy, clear glass. It goes with anything. What's not to love?

I thought the $2 price tag was a little steep for a second-hand item, but I liked it and was curious enough about it I decided to buy it. It took some searching on-line to figure out what it is.

I love teh Interwebz. Almost as much as I love thrifting.

My little jewelry sorter is actually an escargot plate. Snails! How fun is that?

Here's something even more fun: I've actually tried escargot. It wasn't bad. And the fact that I've eaten snails (well ... ONE snail) cracks my kids up.

An escargot plate. Who knew?

It's cool finds like this that make the search for thrifty treasures worth it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A personal financial challenge.

I recognize this place. We've been here before.

After a layoff (or job loss, in this case) and weeks of the finances being pretty darn tight, we are finally getting back on track as the paychecks are coming regularly now. It felt so good to sit at my desk yesterday and pay some of those bills that had piled up while Steve was off work.

It's a bit of a danger zone, though. Like a kid who has been denied ice cream for six months and then finally gets a taste of it again, it's difficult not to go on a total bender. Having any sort of balance in the checking account makes me feel very wealthy, and all those little things I put off buying because we simply didn't have the cash are all within reach now.

I am a homemaker. I like to update the look of our home with a new rug here or a picture frame there. I also love to find bargains at thrift stores and think of fun and funky ways to use them around the house. I never spend very much all at once, but all those little purchases add up over time.

It's time to reign it in.

Steve and I have some specific goals for saving and paying down debt this year. These goals are important to me, even more so than what the house looks like or how much I can expand my garden this summer. So I need to start telling myself what I often tell the kids when they ask for something we hadn't planned on purchasing: Is it within your budget? Do you have the cash with you? Is this an impulse buy, or is it something you've been saving for?

Creating a budget is not where I have trouble; I actually enjoy crunching the numbers. And I do think within a household budget there should be a category for mad money, or "blow money" as financial guru Dave Ramsey calls it - to give each person the freedom to spend X-amount however they dang well please. Starbucks. Snacks. A manicure. Extra giving to charity. Saving up for a concert ticket. Dinner out with friends. Or in my case, to support a stay-at-home mom's home improvement habit. Decorating/do-it-yourself projects are my "thing." Well, that and really good chocolate. (I somehow manage to fit the chocolate into the grocery budget though. It's a perk of being the budget creator and the grocery shopper.)

So my challenge is this: to figure out how much home improvement our weekly budget can handle, create an envelope to put that cash in every week, and then make my purchases out of that envelope, and that envelope only. No fair putting that can of spray paint in the grocery budget just because it will be used on a dining room chair.

This really will be a challenge for me, and I see myself making some difficult decisions over the next few months. As spring approaches I start to get antsy about planting my garden (read: buying seeds, soil, perennials, new gardening tools, etc.) and spring cleaning in the house (read: changing things up, making it all fresh and new). I'm up for it. I think it will be worth the effort when I can look back at the end of the year and see exactly what I've done with the money I budgeted AND that we have made significant progress toward our financial goals.

What's your "thing?" Do you have a line in your budget for it?

Friday, February 3, 2012

On the road to recovery. Or more aptly titled: How would you know if you couldn't remember what you forgot?

It is only because Sam is doing well after thumping his melon that we can joke about it.

For instance, I have to laugh about what the ER doctor told me to expect over the next few days and weeks: Sam might be more emotional than usual; it might be a little more difficult to wake him up; he might have trouble focusing and might be forgetful.

None of those things would alarm me coming from this particular child.

The hospital discharge papers say "a concussion occurs when there is a blow to the head with enough force to shake up the brain."

A 13-yr-old kid with a jumbled up brain? Imagine.

In all seriousness, Sam's doctor told him today he is doing great neurologically and just needs to take it easy for a while. No rough-housing. No contact sports - so his Saturday bowling league is fine. But no skiing for a few weeks.

Sam is beyond bummed out that he can't ski. I am elated that the doctor made that call for us and I didn't have to be the meanie who told him NO.

Yesterday afternoon and today, Sam told me he hasn't had any trouble remembering things at school. My response to him is, "How do you know if you can't remember something?"

Hmm.

So, other than a mama's obvious concern over her kiddo's recent head trauma, things are returning to normal around here ... though the stress of the past couple days is catching up with me and I am exhausted. Early bedtime tonight, sleeping in tomorrow, and vegging out most of the weekend are all sounding pretty good right about now.

~ ~ ~

P.S. Thank you to all who did (and continue to) pray for Sam, sent good vibes our way, called, sent texts, and generally kept us in your thoughts. We are blessed to have so many people in our lives who care.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A cautionary tale: WEAR YOUR FREAKIN' HELMET.

It is after midnight as I begin to write and here I sit in the dim light in our living room half numb, half high on adrenaline, part of me wanting to crawl out of my skin and scream at the top of my lungs, another part wanting to crawl under the covers on my bed and sleep for a week. Maybe it was all a bad dream.

But it wasn't a dream. No, rather it was that nightmare of a phone call every parent dreads receiving: "The ambulance is on its way. We need your permission to send your child to the hospital for treatment."

It was Wednesday. Wednesday is Ski Club day. Sam wouldn't be home until late, so Rachel and I took the opportunity to have a little date night. We went for pizza - her choice - and then we needed to do a little shopping for a few things to finish a school project. As I parked the truck at our final stop I saw my cell phone glowing in my purse.

Who's calling? Nobody ever calls me.

As I grabbed the phone to answer, the screen went dark. Missed it. I checked my missed calls - there were four of them. Steve, my brother, a number I didn't recognize, and then Steve again. Oh hell. My brother rarely calls me. I thought something happened to Steve. He's in Pennsylvania. How the heck could I get to Pennsylvania fast enough?

I dialed Steve's number. "I just got off the phone with Ski Patrol," he said.

My heart stopped.

In my head: Oh God. Please tell me Sam was wearing his helmet.

I don't know what I actually said. It's all a blur now. I do know I had Steve on speaker phone, and as he told me Sam had fallen and hit his head and been knocked unconscious I heard Rachel gasp and then start to cry in the seat next to me. They were waiting for EMS, he told me, and I needed to call Ms. B, the ski club advisor, so someone could tell me where to go.

By the time I got off the phone with Steve I had a voicemail from Ms. B. I spoke with her, then she handed the phone to Sam and I tried my best to console him. He was scared and didn't know what had happened. It felt like someone was ripping my heart right out of my chest - my firstborn hurt, confused and crying on the other end of the line, my baby sitting next to me crying, worried about her big brother.

I spoke with the gentleman from ski patrol. Sam was ok at that moment, he said, but the ambulance should be there any minute and they might want to take him to the hospital as a precaution. I asked him to call me as soon as they knew more, gave my consent to follow whatever procedure the EMT's felt necessary, and I would drive to get Sam wherever I needed to. I hightailed it home to drop Rachel off with my in-laws and wait for the call.

By the time I got home, Ms. B had called to tell me Sam was being loaded into the ambulance and he would be taken to a nearby hospital. She said he could tell the EMT's where he lived, but he didn't remember talking to me just 20 minutes prior. This concerned them.

The hospital he was headed to is about a 1.5-hour drive from our house.

Longest. Drive. Ever.

I asked my future-sister-in-law Sue to ride along with me. Did I mention it was a long drive? With only the knowledge that my kid had been strapped to a backboard and rushed off in an ambulance. Because he fell and hit his head - sans helmet - hard enough to knock himself out.

He was not. wearing. his helmet.

Crap.

Sue and I got checked in, got directions to Sam's room, and I walked in to find him sitting up in the bed watching NCIS on television. He smiled at me. I kissed him. I touched his head. I stared at him. He giggled. "What?" And he kept giggling, that "I'm a little uncomfortable with all of this and I don't really know what's going on" giggle. If I hadn't been so relieved I probably would have smacked him. There he sat looking like nothing ever happened, save for some dark circles under his eyes, and there I was, heart and mind having gone through the wringer a thousand times on the way there.

He has a concussion. A CT scan came back normal, so he was discharged. Praise God in Heaven. It could have been so much worse.

So tonight I keep vigil, checking on him often. He is released to return to school in the morning if he is up to it. I fear he has a long road ahead as the doctor said the resulting short-term memory loss could last for 4-6 weeks. He must have asked me a dozen times on the way home if I had gotten his bags (I did), and if he would be able to go skiing next week (not likely).

While I drove home, Sam texted back and forth with one of the kids who was skiing with him. He asked his buddy to help him piece things together - how he fell, what he hit, how long he was out. He couldn't (and still can't) remember any of it. The ER nurse said he might never remember. Everything from the time he got on the bus to go skiing until the time he was loaded in the ambulance is gone - *poof* - from his memory.

He read the texts to us. I was immediately sorry he had. It was all I could do not to pull over, jump from the truck and vomit on the roadside. I just kept repeating in my head ... thank you Jesus ... thank you Jesus ... thank you for letting us keep him ... thank you for the friends who were with him ... thank you ... thank you.

And, maybe a little selfishly, I am thankful he doesn't remember the trauma.

I'm sure Sam will want to go to school if he's not too sore; he wants to see his buddies and hear everyone's version of what happened. I plan to go with him to explain to his teachers the whole memory-loss thing.

Hopefully while I'm there I'll have a chance to hug a few kids and tell them "thank you" for getting Sam the help he needed. They may never understand how grateful I am.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A rough start.

It is never a good sign when I wake up on a weekday morning not to the sound of my alarm clock, but to the sound of a little girl's voice: "Mom? Do we have school today?"

And what is it about Mom Brain that causes us to know when our children are approaching our bed, even before we're really aware that we're not sleeping anymore? I swear there is this incredibly long pause between the moment I realize one of my offspring is making their way into my room and the time they actually speak.

This morning, still in that groggy state between dreamland and reality, I heard those telltale creaks from the floor and feet shuffling across my bedroom carpet. It was dark. I actually thought (hoped?) it was the middle of the night and maybe someone wasn't feeling well. But no. It was 6:37 a.m.

Six thirty seven!!

You know that rush of panic, right?

I quickly calculated what it would take to get everyone ready and out the door to the bus stop by 6:50. In 10-ish minutes? Not a chance.

Well. I shouldn't say there was no chance. I've seen them do it. And if I had to be out the door to work that early we would have made it happen. But oooh, I hate that kind of rushing around. So I plopped my head back down on the pillow, alarm clock still in my hands, and told Rachel I guessed I'd be taking them to school today. And then I forced myself to stay awake long enough to reset the alarm clock for about a half hour from then. And then I actually turned it on. Turns out that's a pretty important step.

When Steve reads this I'm sure it will give him a great laugh. We have this thing about the alarm clock. Our routine (when we actually get to sleep in the same bed) goes something like this:
"Did you set the alarm clock?"
"Yes."
"Did you turn it on?"
*eyebrow raised* "Yeeeess."
And then the alarm clock setter/turner-on-er double checks to make sure.

Yeah. We have a history of missing, not hearing, forgetting to turn on, setting for p.m. instead of a.m., or just plain turning off the alarm in a near-comatose sleep state. It does not make for smooth mornings when this happens.

Ah well. We manage. I was actually glad to take the kids to school this morning because it got me outside to feel the spring-like air. It was 50 degrees here yesterday, and it was 37 when we left this morning. By the time I pulled back in from dropping the kids off I could hear birds singing when I got out of the truck. I just finished a cup of coffee, the house is quiet, the dog is lying at my feet, and I have a little time to enjoy it all before I head out to my babysitting gig. I can handle this.

We might have had a rough start to the day ... but it's only getting better.