Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This Too Shall Pass

This past year has been, hands down, the hardest of my life. It’s not because I was adjusting to being the parent of two young children – in fact, that part has been surprisingly enjoyable.

It was my marriage. It was missing my old friends. It was accepting hard truths. It was going without money, without things. It was living in the middle of nowhere, in a trailer none the less. It was feeling like I should be doing more, for my children, for my husband, for myself even. But the days became a blur, one day seamlessly weaving into the next and all the while my goals remained unmet, something large was missing, I kept feeling as though I should have been doing more. What “more” was I could never say, but I knew I wasn’t doing enough.

It’s been hard to deal with but I learned that the only thing I could do was to trudge forward and make the most out of every moment that I could. Those moments when Faith was incredibly sweet and tender, crawling into bed to curl up next to me with her long strawberry-blonde hair tickling my nose. Those moments when the kids somehow miraculously played happily together. The moments when Jeff and I managed to get grandparents to babysit so we could get a dinner out. When James said “mama”. When we went on car rides as a family, the children falling asleep, their faces mirroring each other. Those joyful moments of stepping on the scale. James, clutching tightly to me, with his precious smile and urgent need to have me near. Faith, singing, theatrically – reminding me of just what I thought a child of mine would be long before I ever had children.

I remember a framed section of cloth near the door of my grandmother’s house. It had the words “This too shall pass” cross-stitched onto it. I used to think that it was an ominous reading into the future, something to remind us that everything will be gone and forgotten one day, in an apocalyptic way. Instead, as my grandmother told me with arched eyebrow, it meant that our troubles will all pass one day, just as suddenly as they came.

That comes to me often now. This too shall pass.

And on the horizon, better times, more happy moments, joy found in unexpected places. I’m so ready for it that my breath catches in my throat to think of it.

Happy New Year, world.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


The Sunday before Christmas Jeff and I went to Atlanta to continue our new-ish tradition of a couple of days spent kid-free in the city. We got a room that looked out onto Centennial Park, which was all done up in lights and Christmas music drifted out from the ice-skating rink that was set up in the middle of the park. It was beautiful at night, entertaining during the day. I could have spent most of the weekend staring out the window, looking at families and couples celebrating the holidays outdoors in the freezing (literally) cold.

We ate lots of good food, had fantastic seats for the hockey game, were able to sleep at night without a baby kicking our heads, but I was very happy to come home to the children and our own little Christmas tree with a handful of presents underneath.


We had three separate Christmas celebrations, all different. We are now swimming in a sea of barbies, ponies, and tiny trucks. My mother went overboard, like she always does, and gave Jeff and I an Xbox and now I am obsessed with the Indiana Jones lego man game. I have kept Jeff up late the past couple of nights playing it, until he tells me that he HAS to go to sleep now.

As usual, I’m glad and sad that Christmas is over. The magic is gone now, the anticipation of everyone opening up the gifts I’ve gotten them is over, and I’m ready to throw out the tree to be burned so I don’t have to vacuum up needles anymore. The sweet and melancholy music is not relevant anymore.


Back when Jeff and I were just dating, before marriage and children, we had conversations of what kind of Christmases we wanted to have with our own children someday. We talked about the best parts of our Christmas celebrations as kids, what we wanted to repeat, what we wanted to start new. Yes, we wanted to go crazy with gifts for our children. Yes, we wanted to make the season a big deal. Yes, we wanted kids of our own someday who were thrilled with every moment, enchanted by the lights and the sounds, who stared wide-eyed at the bright boxes under the tree.
So it was more than fulfilling this past week to watch them have all the things we wanted for them. And very satisfying indeed when Faith opened up all her gifts, looked amazed at all she had and looked up at me, blue eyes round and serious , and said “Thank you Mommy”.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Everything is going along just swimmingly. The offer on the house was accepted, another financial move fell easily into place and then my father, out of nowhere, tells me that he has some work needed to be done on an up and coming project of his and do I want to do it from home to make extra money? Well, yes I do, Dad and thank you for asking!

I've always had a fairly strict policy on working with family – that it should NEVER be done. My father owns his own company and at any given time there have been at least three or more family members working there.


It's many things. The fear of other people thinking I had gotten a job not because of my intelligence but because of who I was related to. The fear of not seeing my father as my dad anymore, but my boss instead. Or my sister. Or uncles. Etc.

I wouldn't ever want to question anything myself either. I would want to know that I had received a raise because I deserved it, not because my parents knew I was having hard times financially. I would want to be promoted when I earned it and never question if “Daddy” was just helping out again. So over the years I have stood firm and always knowingly smiled at my poor sister's woes of working with my father and now I have succumbed. Because I am poor and I need the money and I have no shame.

Tonight, though, when I did my meager share of work sitting at my antique desk with my Christmas tree softly lighting the room, I felt that small soaring feeling again. I was doing work, real work that I'm going to get paid for. And it felt good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How We Got Here, Where We're Going

Once upon a time Jeff and I lived in a comfortable little house in Dallas, Georgia which is about thirty or so miles west of Atlanta. We fixed it up, worked hard, loved our serene and cozy home. It had a huge, flowing river birch in the front yard and dogwoods dominating the backyard. It had a little window over the kitchen sink that looked onto our miniature magnolia tree. The sunlight filtered through the windows like poetry, lighting our happy little home with warmth and sunshine.

Jeff took a year off of work to go to school. I took a year off to raise our baby girl. Money was tight. We accumulated debt. We couldn't afford the house anymore. We put it up for sale and it had a contract on it less than two weeks later.

Since then we stayed with my mom for a long while, carving out a little corner in her massive home, then eventually migrated north and eventually settled in my in-laws' trailer. I have often had moments where I suddenly stop and my temporary blindness is stripped away. I abruptly see everything clearly and want to ask myself “How did I get here? Since when do I live in a trailer?” and then things continue to unfold in a familiar way and this is just where I sleep, eat, take care of the kiddos – it's where I live, unfortunately.

I try to think of my grandmother, who raised three children in a tiny two-bedroom blockhouse. Or my husband's grandmother who raised seven children in home that may not even be classified as a “house”. We have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, clothes on our backs. That's all that matters, right?

The plan was to build our dream house on this land. The house we want, the house we've wanted for years, costs too much for us to build. We don't want to settle for something less because once we build it here, well, it's here forever. So we're stuck. We don't WANT to live in a trailer, but we can't afford our dream home.

The solution? Something in between. We signed a contract to buy a house today.

I feel a little breathless.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Tonight we went and bought a tree (I was tempted to chop one down from the land just because I could, but, oh well, am lazy) and we dug out our old Christmas boxes and decorated. It felt more than a little ridiculous, dragging a tree into an already cramped trailer, squeezing it in amongst our over-sized furniture in a tiny space, but as I brought out familiar old ornaments one by one . . . well, it made me a little teary-eyed. The large beaded blue star, and the gold star made of mesh (I always had a thing for stars), then the ornament that Jeff's mom gave us when Faith was just a little red-headed baby – a little strawberry blond angel girl that looks remarkably like Faith, and after that the personalized ornaments: Jeff and Jenny, two bears kissing, a tree that lists Jeff, Jenny and Faith, 2006. Last year – all four of us as a penguin sled-riding crew – for some reason all of these little things touched a sentimental and heartwarming spot making me feel like I was part of something much better than just myself, that I was making traditions.

Of course my babes are just too little. James was interested in immediately pulling down any ornament we had just hung, Faith only concerned with what I was placing so carefully among the limbs, wanting to dismantle what I had done only to do it over herself. I had to remind myself many times, they are just babies still, they won't remember this, the year we lived in the trailer, the Wednesday that we decorated the tree.


We went to Dahlonega tonight, the old gold-mining city of Georgia. We are all settled on top of ancient mines actually, there are some on this very property long since fallen in and forgotten. Dahlonega is a special little city though, full of character, new and familiar at the same time. The trees surrounding the old square are hung with lights, swags laid deep in the tree branches lighting up the historic buildings, catching our imaginations and lighting up our faces as if we were children ourselves.


I love that about Christmas. The fact that something so simple as white lights can seem suddenly so magical and fascinating, how decorating a tree can be something that we can look forward to all year. How I can be mesmerized by sitting in the rocking chair in the dark, staring at the lighted tree, listening to music and feeling just like I did at 26, 22, 16, 9. I want to set that same stage for my children – look around, feel how fantastic this is, family and lights and Christmas, full of wonder and love. I know it sounds a little silly, but I felt it when I was a kid. I don't want mine to be cynical and doubtful of the world. I want them to see the lights and feel the clean and cold air and have that feeling that anything is possible.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I woke up this morning and immediately looked out the window behind our bed, viewing the outside world upside down. The sky was that dark egg color that always makes me think that it looks like snow weather and right at that moment when the thought was working it's way through my still sleepy mind I saw that there was actually snow falling. I flipped myself over to see our yard right side up, a lightly dusted world, still and quiet and cold.

Jeff and I are both having a hard time accepting that it is already December. We've been busy with birthdays and getting with our families for Thanksgiving and errands and groceries and raising children and being alive that we didn't really get to stop and smell the roses (the fallen leaves? What is the proper analogy here?) in November. The down times were spent sick, runny-nosed and sore-throated. Last month was mostly happy moments, peppered with bad news and small plagues. Now it is the time to immerse ourselves in trying to find perfect gifts for everyone, personal yet inexpensive, decorate like eager children, drink egg nog and eat cookies and complain about waistbands getting tighter all while trying to remember the true meaning of the season.

It's already exhausting me.

So, lately. Faith and James both have an aversion to sleeping all night in their own beds. I have grown so accustomed to James waking up every night, because the child still doesn't sleep all night without waking up, that I somehow sleepwalk into his room every night and just bring him back to bed with me. He sleeps fabulous tucked into my side. Faith is now waking up every night and shuffling her way back to our room also, climbing up the trunk at the foot of the bed and making her way to my other side falling back asleep with her head on my shoulder. Now is where I am supposed to say complaints and frustrations, but honestly? It's sweet. Not always comfortable, that's for sure, but I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, no exaggeration. I do feel a sort of failure on my part as a parent, I know that I should be encouraging them to sleep in their own beds but I suppose that I am rather lazy.

It's also that I somehow feel that there isn't so much time to keep up with our little indulgences. December is supposed to be that last month of free time and living it up (ha!) as a stay-at-home mom before I am to dig in my heels and be aggressive in looking for a job. Although who is to say that when that time comes that there will be any jobs up here in the middle of nowhere, it very well could be like it was before. Once again I am at this impasse, not knowing what to hope for, what to dread, so instead I shall just enjoy this carefree month for what it is.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Little Dark, A Lot Dreary

I suppose I was hoping that the next time that I wrote here I would have this fabulous news, this life-changing information, but it didn't happen. Financial turns, deals never made, and in the end I am in the same place I started out, but I feel as if I have lost something that I never had in the first place.


This isn't the first time. For the past couple of years, Jeff and I have occasionally hung our hopes on something too high and been disappointed with the inevitable. I am more numb to it now than before, I was halfway expecting the bad news to come and it stings to think that I now expect anticipate the worst. No big deal, onward and upward and swallow the thick before it chokes you.


We've all been sick. First it was me, sore and tired, then James, coughing and leaking thick nasty out of his nose. Jeff is now feeling the beginnings of Something Bad, Faith the only one unscathed so far. No one had been sleeping well and every morning I wake, folded into strange positions between two toddlers, in our thankfully large king bed. Jeff lays sprawled out every morning, seemingly unaware of the three other coughing, dreaming bodies in his bed. The children crowd only me for some reason, perhaps because they know that I'm the one who will wake up when they cry or crawl into bed beside me. It is my arms on which they lay their little round faces, it is me who sleepily walks to the medicine cabinet to fish out the suppressant needed in the wee hours of the morning. It's always me.


Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it already feels off balanced. My nieces and nephews are with their father this year. My mother-in-law has to work. We're having dinners on different days and missing people, as if it were a rehearsal dinner instead of the real thing. I am designated to desserts, like every year, since I am the youngest. With Jeff's family, however, I hold some cooking clout, being the best cook they have in the family. I look forward to making something that actually gets eaten at the table. I'll be happy to see the holiday come and I'll be just as happy to see it go. I wasn't always this way.


It's not a good day, or week, and tomorrow is a new day that will be filled with expensive coffee, pleasant routines, and my two sweethearts. As always I need to see the light in their faces before the dark creeps up around me, deceiving me into thinking things are worse than they are and only hopeless futures await me.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I know that I've already been through this, but it is so bloody bleak and gloomy around here that if I were inclined to be depressed about turning older then I would be in the depths of despair. Luckily, I'm not so . . . I'm not. Instead the kids and I are starting to get a bit of cabin fever. Our car has brake issues and Jeff, for some strange reason, doesn't want to ride his motorcycle in the rain, and the windshield wipers on his mustang have, impressively, been flung off during the last time he drove it. So Jeff is borrowing one of his dad's vehicles and I am seriously stuck here, even more stuck than usual. So we've read and played dolls and I've removed several things from Jamie's tightly gripped hands (toilet brushes, broom, disgusting old crumbs he dug out from under the stove, a cat). We've watched movies and chased each other and argued over whether nap time is really necessary. Faith is still a little under the weather, so I'm trying to have extra patience with her, but there's so much whining and unexpected crying and her telling me that we're not best friends anymore, which really kind of hurts my feelings and then I feel rather pathetic for even thinking that.

In other news, I failed at November's challenge of writing here everyday, so yay, go me. What I have learned from this experience is that I really don't like writing every day when I “have to”. Yesterday, the cats brought a disgusting and mangled dead bird to the front door, freaking Jeff and Faith out horribly when they started to walk outside last night. What I've learned from THAT is, hey, the cats remembered my birthday and were bringing me a gift! I have eaten all of my hummus, yes I did, and then I made the mistake of looking at the nutritional facts and seeing how many calories I had just consumed. What I learned from that . . . well, I'll stop this now because I will just start stating the obvious. Suffice to say that this isn't a very good month for eating well, what with all the birthday cakes and pies and hummus and bagels and what do you know, Thanksgiving right around the corner.

Some random cute things: When asked what my name is, Faith responds “Jenny Soup!” which is much more adorable than my super-country actual name of Jenny Sue. James makes smacking noises, like kissing, but when asked to give us a kiss he grabs ears and lunges forward with a wide open mouth, giving us the most slobbery attacks possible. It's gruesome and endearing at the same time. Faith asks us all the time if we “remember this, mommy? Member that, daddy?” and yes, we always remember, and it is such a joy to see that she remembers too. It's odd, actually, that a just barely three year old can remember so much from a really long time ago. Also, (and this really isn't all that cute but something that makes me think, hey life is really not like it was several years ago) while I've been used to having a bathroom buddy since Faith was a baby, now I have a whole bathroom posse. Today James, Faith, AND both cats went to the bathroom with me. Instead of mourning my long lost right to privacy, I just have to look around me sometimes and think, wow this is really odd but I don't really mind all that much if it means no one is screaming.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Twenty Nine

It's a dreary day. The sky is completely gray, not dark enough to be ominous, just dark enough to make you feel like staying in bed and reading a book, only you can't stay in bed and read books because you have two toddlers to take care of. It was raining earlier, not raining enough to make music on the roof, but enough to make my straightened hair poof out into waves. It's dark and dismal, we're stuck inside where it's even more gloomy.

Today is my 29th birthday.

I used to think that birthdays were a big deal, something to make as big a fuss about as possible, but now with Jamie's birthday and Faith's being so close and being so recent, it seems a little silly to make a big celebration for me. Jeff bought me bagels and hummus (the way to my heart is through my stomach, aw yee-ahh) (also, I never buy those for myself because my favorite hummus is super expensive and bagels are a weakness of mine I can't allow because of the calories) and a pot of fiery-colored mums. My father-in-law came by to haul off our trash and wished me a happy birthday. The sweetest one I received so far though came from Faith. She crept into our bed sometime in the middle of the night so first thing this morning, she told me “Happy Birthday, Mommy” as if she had been waiting to say it. So my heart melted before I even had my coffee.

I'm so happy for another year of life, and health. This past year has been the most difficult of my life. I feel as if I've aged ten years, and still feel grateful to look into the mirror and see a youthful face with just a few very faint lines and those being smile lines anyway. I'm a little sad that this is going to be the last year of my twenties, and even more sad that I'm not celebrating it with many friends, but the truth is that I just don't have many anymore. I just realized the other day that my former friends, whom I spent every birthday with for more than ten years, never laid eyes on me when I was 28. It hit a note of melancholy that I wasn't expecting.

Enough of that. So here's to making 29 the best age yet, the year that will be filled with laughs and love and family.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hey, Jealousy

When people always warned me about jealousy between siblings, I assumed they meant on Faith's part. The day we brought James home, however, set the tone for the next year. She knew we were bringing a baby home and just wanted to hold it and see it and then she was done. There have been a handful of times that she's wanted to sit on my lap when I was holding him or wanted me to feed her food like I did for him, but for the most part she's been extremely generous with giving up her share of our time. She watches out for him, checks up on him, shares her toys, translates (uncannily) what he needs when all he talks is nonsense babble. As a big sister, Faith is awesome.

James, on the other hand, not so much the easygoing sibling. He is never willing to share the attention with Faith. When I hold her on my lap he will go to great and daredevil lengths to wedge himself between us. He'll climb up the backs of chairs just to launch himself over our heads and hopefully into my arms. He'll angrily squeal/whine (oh, that awful noise) when he sees me playing with Faith alone, or when I take something from him to give back to her. The worst of all, though, is the hair pulling. He knows that it's effective, so that is his favorite form of revenge on her. When we hear Faith yelp all of the sudden, we automatically shout for James to let go of his sister's hair.

The hair pulling in turn has resulted in Faith gritting her teeth and doing a awkward arm-swing maneuver that is her way of hitting without really hitting, I suppose. While I don't necessary support her reaction, I can certainly understand it. I feel bad for her most of the time. She never asked for a brother, and she got one anyway, one who dominates our time and attention, one who demands to be held constantly, and what does she get in return? Her hair pulled.
I guess the moral of the story is to keep one's hair in a ponytail as often as possible.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


The weekend is almost over and even though Jeff has a couple more days before he has to return to work, we'll be down at my mom's house, so the chance to do all the things we wanted up here is over. Thankfully, we got a lot done, including dropping the kids off at grandma's so that we could go on a four-wheeler ride.

We have over a hundred acres of forested, mountain, family-owned land. Over all of that we flew, Jeff laughing in the wind, me with my arms clutched tightly around him. Up steep hills, down into ditches, getting caught going over logs, knocking down small trees in our way – all immensely enjoyable, if not a little frightening at times. Some of the time I kept my head down behind Jeff's back with my eyes squeezed shut because of ground-up leaves that had gotten in my face. Other times I leaned back to stare at the incredibly blue sky, vast and spotted with powdery white clouds. We rode past one of Jeff's aunt's house, through her large clearing at the top of the highest part of land, where we caught views of Appalachia stretching out before us. We darted through another aunt's land and eventually wound up at the old abandoned home place, which lies directly behind where we live.

It's where Jeff's great-grandfather lived once. It's been abandoned for decades, the porch has long since fallen off, the windows no longer exist, vines cover all walls and over the roof, creeping into the lone upstairs window. It's beautiful and ghastly, melancholy and somehow touching. Jeff used to show me the old decrepit house back when we used to visit during holidays and I would openly shudder. “Creepy.” I've only dared to go in once before, only staying in there moments before seeing an old shirt hanging in a doorway and then shrieking and fleeing outside. I still attest that it looked like a MAN STANDING THERE and I had to run for my life. Little did I know that one day I would be living just a couple hundred yards away from the spooky old place.

Yesterday, we pulled the four-wheeler up beside it and dared to step inside. I figured the colder weather had driven out the spider (or at least I hoped, FERVENTLY) and was willing to explore. We stepped cautiously through the kitchen, floor littered with dozens of mason jars, an ancient refrigerator and stove still in place. While I started to question Jeff why these old appliances were still in there he had darted over chairs and glass into the next room. It must have been a living room, there was a fireplace, but also an old bed with several mattresses heaped on top. Women's shoes, mostly dressy, were strewn all over the floor over long-ago printed magazines. Jeff wanted to poke in every corner while I wanted to study the items I was finding and finally he led me to the staircase. Which you wouldn't have been able to see unless you were looking for it, since it seems like it was built INSIDE of a wall, tiny narrow steps leading up to the attic. “Uh, no.” I told him, firmly and definitely. After his persuasions I found myself gingerly tip-toeing up the stairs, hoping that they didn't come crashing in and I found myself at head level with the attic floor when I decided I had gone far enough. Jeff, being a mountain goat, trip-tropped along the floor, somehow psychically guessing safe spots to stand. I saw a red dress hanging on a hook from the ceiling, swaying in the breeze from the open window, strangely still intact after decades of being left to the elements. I begged Jeff to grab the dress, he would not, proclaiming it was not ours (the old house is technically on his uncle's land) and I told him that I truly doubted anyone cared since they were leaving the house to fall in. On his way over to retrieve the dress he said he found words written on a beam up there. “Held? . . . uh . . oh, it says help me,” he said distractedly working his way back to the stairs. I stopped in my tracks. “What did you just say?” I asked him. He worked his way down the steps getting himself and me halfway through the house. “It said 'help me',” he repeated and I flew the rest of the house outside to the safety of the four-wheeler.

But I still want that red dress. I don't care if it's haunted.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008


Sometimes, when my mother is off on one of her seemingly endless trips to Savannah to visit her family, my sister and I end up calling each other more - perhaps to make up for the non-existent daily phone calls we each have with Mom. Or, when my sister has a rough day at work with Dad (yes, they work together amazingly) she'll call me afterwards, fuming or frustrated, venting to the one person who she knows can understand. When our parents drive us crazy, we go to each other first, not looking for answers, but just to commiserate.

It's one of the many reasons why I'm so glad I have her. As an adult I'm so glad that I'm not an only child. During holidays or birthdays, when all of our family is together, we'll sometimes start funny stories about some horrendous thing Dad said or some outrageous thing Mom had done. I worry about my parents' health and I know that when the dreaded day comes, as it inevitably will, my sister will be standing beside me, holding my hand. In the times of supreme happiness or unbearable grief, we have each other.

Tonight, I pretended to drink Jamie's milk, upturning the cup over my face and making loud noises accompanied by silly faces. Both kids started cracking up and then, instead of just watching me and laughing, they turned to each other and their eyes crinkled up even more, and all of the sudden they just had a moment. It was caused by me, but it didn't include me. It was as if they said to each other “hey, isn't Mommy funny?” without using any words at all.

I suppose it just occurred to me that parenthood isn't all about me, or my individual kids and what I can give to each of them, or even all together as a family. They have each other, like I've had my sister. They'll have each other to turn to, to call or email, about whatever horrible trauma I've caused them. They'll have each other to finish amusing stories at Christmas about how I used to embarrass them, or how Jeff had whatever strange hobby that kept his attention. Whenever Jeff and I go, hopefully a very long time from now, they'll have each other's hands to hold.

Deep thoughts, man. Now I'm off to contemplate Dark Side of the Moon. (not really.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Trying, Not Puking

Today was the first (half) day of Jeff's many days off in a row. So, that means we will be getting so much done! We'll start cleaning out Grandma's house, we'll backup all the pictures on our computer, we'll go on dates, we'll take kids to the park, we'll visit with both sets of families! Actually, I can tell you right now that we'll be lucky to get just one of those things done. We rather suck when it comes to following through with our well-planned intentions. We're really quite lazy.

Although we DID go to Brasstown Bald today, just because. It's the highest point in Georgia with spectacular views, and it's just around the corner from where we live. We headed out the door a happy family of four going on an adventure and came back in as two cranky and sleepy kids, a highly nauseated wife and a daddy who was JUST FINE because he was in the driver's seat. I learned that wearily saying “Barf.” won't get you too much sympathy, only a suggestion to roll down your window and stick your head out of the car to force the fresh air into your face at 50 miles per hour. It doesn't work.

The leaves up here are amazing and brilliant in deep golds and rusty oranges. This week has been the most gorgeous yet, a little late, but surprisingly beautiful. This is the first year that I've spent an autumn in the mountains, and when there are forested mountains all around , the leaves fall slowly and continually like a slow snow. There are thousands of crunchy leaves on our driveway, in the yard, in mounds that That New Cat likes to burrow in. I'll be sad when the trees are barren and bleak and motionless. Blah, Winter.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Today was a good day. The kids and I went for a drive with windows down and music loud. I looked in the rear view mirror to see them each doing their own versions of head banging. Faith started asking for her “present mail”. I quickly glanced behind my seat to try to identify what she was pointing at. “What?” I asked, trying to drive a straight line. “My present mail, Mommy! Yes, that!” she happily confirmed when I picked up a birthday card her aunt had given her. Birthday card = present mail. Cute. It kept a smile on my face for a very long time.


I knew my in-laws must be going through a hard time, what with my little sis-in-law and all. I decided to make them muffins to cheer them up and give them comfort. All of them. Even Miss Trouble herself. Faith stood on a chair beside me and helped me with the process. James, of course, climbed up beside her and only fell off once so I feel like that was a success in itself. We had fun baking, the three of us. Jeff came home and I told him we had to hurry next door to deliver the goodies while they were warm, so off we trekked, up the long driveway. It was too silent when we walked in. We found Jeff's dad downstairs, angrily working on his basement, building shelves in frustrated silence. Jeff's mother and sister were not there. Another twist in the the plot. More bad news. Very bad news. We left the muffins on the counter and drove home.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Waiting, Wondering, Hoping

So. It's the fourth of the month and all, but is it to late to do that thing? That nononano, noblomofosho, whatever. You know. Where you HAVE to write everyday, lest you be spontaneously imploded or some other most unpleasant misfortune? Okay, then I'm doing it! I know that I am only setting myself up for failure (Wow, the former optimist that used to be me would be highly displeased with that comment) but I must try. It's probably going to come out as some strange stream of consciousness thing that made my high school journals very strange and hard to understand. Good luck!

Right now Faith is asleep in her bed, hair still in braids. She fell asleep next door, curled up in Papaw's armchair. James is behind me on the couch feeding himself a bottle. Jeff is outside, escaping the world for a few moments of privacy and cold, fresh air. I am writing (but you didn't need me to tell you that, did you?) and watching CNN.

I've never been this excited about an election. This morning I actually woke up feeling a little giddy, like on the first day of school or actually more like when you have that ultrasound appointment that tells you what gender your unborn child is. All of the sudden everything that you presumed or made tentative plans around suddenly falls into place.

This election day will remain forever in my mind though for another reason. My sister-in-law, notorious for being a consistent and problematic troublemaker, just dropped a bomb on us all. I can't get it out of my head. I don't want to go more into it right now, just in case one day I'll actually tell my family that I have this little hobby here and they suddenly find out that I'm writing all of their secrets. But imagine, shocked silence after unexpected words and a hasty exit from Jeff and I.

So. Here I sit, wondering about our nation, wondering about my little-sis-in-law.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Three Years

We're finally getting back into our normal groove after the past few days. There was Halloween, which was spent at my sister's, and then Faith's birthday was yesterday and we actually had a real party for her (poor James, he will feel like the un-favorite) (making up words here). I'm glad that the kids get to enjoy all these festive times spent with cousins and such, but truthfully I am sort of glad it's over with. I just wasn't very prepared this year, not like I had thought I would be, so everything felt harried and it just seems like I haven't been my very best lately.

However, seeing Faith with her little cheap plastic tiara, smiling at the large crowd gathered around singing for her, in front of the cake bought just for her, just makes my heart warm and all aflutter. I am so unbelievably proud of her, proud that she is mine. She's my little strawberry-blond fairy of a child, blue eyes that cut at me when she's saying something surprisingly clever, a teddy-bear face that bursts into grins and giggles at the slightest provocation. I love showing her off, telling her accomplishments or the cute things she says. It's wonderful to see the pride that her grandparents take in her. At the party, all the adults stood in a circle talking of this cute thing that Faith did or that funny thing that she said. My mother tells me that sometimes I forget just how good of a child she really is, or how she's the easiest out of all five of her grandkids to take care of.

I do know this; this past year has been made immeasurably better because of her. My darkest days have been brightened by her presence, my tears turned to laughter because of her attempts of uplifting conversation. I remember the day that she jumped with both feet at the same time, on the sunny front porch of my in-laws brand new house. I think of how easy potty-training was, one day I just stopped using diapers, and she got it. She understood what she was supposed to do and she did it. She is a child of memory, she has learned an order to things that I know I haven't instilled in her, and she is diligent in preserving this. She remembers things said between Jeff and I weeks ago (which makes me realize I have to be VERY careful of what we say around her). She loves imagination games, loves girly toys, loves making her barbies dance with the one “prince” doll (beach Ken with scary hair). She runs outside at every opportunity, sneaks cats in whenever she can, and tries to reason her way out of everything.

Faith has a short temper, always has, and shows fiery explosions of anger. She loses her patience quickly, like her father, and gets worked up into a furious fit before I can calm her down. She has also has, thankfully, a sweet side that makes the fury all worth while. Every morning, no matter who wakes up first or what stage of the morning routine we are in, we have to cuddle. I have to stop whatever I'm doing and grab her and snuggle down into the down comforter and ask her about her dreams (strawberry shortcake band aids, unicorns, cake, That Calico Cat) and smell in her curly hair that always holds the scent of her shampoo. I'm always scared that one morning she won't want to cuddle anymore, that she will reach that age where affection from her mommy is no longer something of importance.

I can't believe she is three years old. It still seems like she should be my tiny baby, swimming in newborn clothes too big for her. I still catch glimpses of that, especially when she sleeps all long-lashed and rosebud mouth relaxed in peaceful slumber. I can't wait to see the person she becomes and at the same time want to keep her my tiny girl for as long as I can.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Funk on an Upswing

Forgive me if I am about to complain too much.

It could be that Faith didn't go to bed last night until after 1:00 for some mysterious reason. Then James woke up an hour later and when I sleepily felt of his skin I realized he was warm. He was running a fever and didn't feel well, he just wanted to lay on me as I rocked him. I gave him some baby motrin, a bottle, and my chest to lay tiredly on as we watched some middle-of-the-night television. Jeff, who wakes up at 4:00 every morning, found us on the couch and encouraged me to go back to bed. I couldn't fall asleep for another hour after that, though I was exhausted.

Or maybe I'm not in that great of a mood because after turning around my eating habits I've completely fallen off of the wagon. As my friend Mandie would say, I've fallen off the wagon and it has run over me. With Jamie's birthday and then Faith's less than two weeks later and then my own following hers less than two weeks again I sort of gave up on the idea that I could do autumn healthily so I've stopped trying and now I feel my pants fitting tighter, but you know what? Maybe I should lay off the popcorn at 9:30 at night. I know better. I KNOW BETTER. That's what bugs me the most, the backsliding.

It could be the lack of money. It could be that when I do feel inspired to find a job (even though Jeff and I decided that I should wait until after the first of the year) there is nothing, I mean NOTHING, around here. It could be that going away for the weekend without the kids was so enjoyable that now that I'm back to the whining and diapers and constant meal making and nap times that don't seem to happen that I'm disappointed. It could be that I'm disappointed for being disappointed, because that makes me a crappy mother. It could be that I didn't wash my face or brush my hair until after noon today, instead I just crept around here in my over sized sweater clutching a coffee mug, even though I will freely admit that I had the time, I just chose to not do it.

Blah. I am depressing myself.

Whenever I have days like this, a little funk that comes and goes, I always try to cover it up. I don't want Jeff to know because my bad moods drag him quickly down and then it becomes a Big Thing. I'm afraid he'll think it's something more than it is, so I try to fake happiness then I become resentful and boohoo, I just want to lay face down on the bed and tune the world out. Instead I held Faith close for awhile while James fake-cried to get to us and Faith, in some strange perceptive way, turned to look at me as if it were the first time she had really seen me all day and reached out and patted me, then turned away. And then it was as if a switch had been flipped. I splashed water on my face, combed my hair, and did laundry, washed dishes, made lists, held kids, and just started moving and feeling alive and normal again.

So maybe I am a crappy mother, but I have wonderful kids and they balance out everything.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back Again and In Denial

Yesterday Jeff and I returned from a long weekend camping trip that was taken without the children. It was romantic, it was indulgent (as much as sitting in the woods for three days can be indulgent), and being without responsibility was almost intoxicating, making us giddy for no reason at all. We ate when we wanted to, took walks when we wanted, I read actual chapters on end with no interruptions and I even took a long fantasized about nap. When I wasn't stuffing my face or absorbed in a book, I stared at the campfire, one of my very favorite things to do in the world. I love to pull up a camp chair and settle down and just stare at the flames and let all thoughts speed out of my head, or maybe swirl around in a nonsensical way that is peaceful and soothing.

We took walks through the woods and along trails, the views where we camped were spectacular. The ground was covered in shades of bronze, gold, and burnt orange with the odd light green mixed in. We crunched through dry areas and I slid through the wet ones, glad that the path was so narrow that Jeff couldn't see my face at my near falls. We briefly entertained the idea of coming back out at night with a flashlight but decided that the chance of running into a spider-snake (the combination of each of our biggest fears) was just too horrifying to bear.

As much as we enjoyed ourselves, there was still that nagging, small voice in me that wanted to call and check on the kids constantly. “No one can take care of them like I can,” I reminded myself too often. Or I would bring up cute things they've done lately, things I'm sure I've already told Jeff about dozens of times, but he would still smile or laugh and then we would be quiet for a few minutes missing our babies like crazy.

Of course, they were fine. Jeff's sister did crafts with them (I felt like a failure when I saw that it IS possible to do crafts with toddlers, but now I've got flare for my fridge) and they ate well, slept well, behaved well, no accidents, no new bruises. It was a success. A success I'm sure my whole in-law family is glad is over.

Now this week has already started and Halloween is this week (I have no costume for James), Faith's birthday is Sunday (I'm still in sugar shock from Jamie's cake and have no presents, NOTHING), and Jeff has got days and days of work ahead of him. So I'm going to go to bed now, and pretend I'm still in la-la land of no responsibility and go read until I fall asleep and the book hits me in the face.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Un-parties and The Plots Against Me

There are many reasons that living out in the middle of nowhere can be amazing. For instance, this past weekend Jeff and I left the kids with their grandma while we went riding around in tiny neighboring towns and as we drove through a little farming valley I was struck by how absolutely beautiful everything was. It was like a scene from a movie or a postcard. It was sunk down in a valley, with tree-filled mountains rising on each side, the leaves had begun to turn, the rail fencing lined peaceful rolling pastures that housed old red barns, the road curved lazily as giant oaks leaned over the street, sigh, it was so soothing to see and this is everywhere up here, a picturesque scene in our backyard.

However, I couldn't find any place in a twenty mile radius that sold party hats.


Jamie's party was last night, held too late, with too few people and the only ones actually there during the whole lit candle singing part didn't actually SING, except for Jeff and I. Which was . . . awkward to say the least. It made me wish we had just stayed home, but oh well it was only next door and I would have felt slightly anti-social to have stayed home. Someday I will just accept the fact that I kind of AM anti-social.

I made a cake. It wasn't store-bought-pretty or anything, but it was really good and I just ate some and oh look at that, it's 11:45 at night.

So tempting.

James was good last night, waiting patiently until we finally let him dig into the cake and then he thoughtfully perused the toys that Faith viciously unwrapped for him. He got some firetruck thing that plays a little song that has already embedded itself into my memory and I keep hearing the sing-song tune and of course that's his favorite toy NOT the old-fashioned wooden ones that I tracked down and bought him. Those are already pushed to the side, positioned perhaps deliberately so that I will keep stepping on them and momentarily wishing that I still cursed the way I used to.

THEN today James climbed up on top of a counter, like Spider-Baby, and gleefully threw down my glass pumpkin which shattered into millions of shards on the kitchen floor. I yelled for Faith NOT to come in there (which, so stupid, I should have known that if I hadn't of said anything then she would have stayed happily in her room) so immediately she runs in asking “Why Mommy? What did James do? Why I can't be in here? Why? Why?” and I tried to keep them away as I swept up the tiny pieces and got three splinters of glass in the bottom of my foot. All the while, still not cursing. I deserve some sort of medal.

However, he's really cute. So, that counts for something.

Monday, October 20, 2008

James Stone - One Year

Continuing on this theme . . .

One year ago today I woke up with contractions, finally. Waiting around to go into full labor, and never doing so, Jeff and eventually went and got sandwiches. The man taking our order asked me when I was due and I still smile at the look on his face when I replied “Three days ago”. Then went back to my mother's house and we both took a nap for a couple hours.

We woke up that evening and the contractions were back but no one was taking it seriously anymore. My sister's ex had her kids for the night and she was planning on going out but had stopped by for awhile. My dad wanted me to show her some video of a high school football player on my laptop and while we were watching the contractions suddenly became more intense. I stayed silent with my dad on one side of me and my sister on the other side and when my sister cracked some comment about how I was going to be pregnant forever I told her no, I didn't think it would be long at all and told my mother to go ahead and curl her hair (my mother's hair has to be curled for every occasion).

I tried writing the times down, but my labor was following no sort of pattern whatsoever. I went into the back room to start getting things together for the hospital and it was getting late, almost time for Faith to go to bed so Jeff took her to go lay down and I was dimly aware that this was the last time I would see her as my only child and I knew that I should make this moment more special somehow, but my body was starting freak me out a little bit. Contractions came sporadically – two minutes then five then back to back, all the while becoming more intense. Jeff came back a little while later and watched as I doubled over holding onto the edge of the couch. When I straightened back up the look in his eyes held everything, concern and alarm and a question. “Yes,” I told him, “I'm calling the midwife now”.

I went into the hospital a few minutes later and was in extreme pain by this time. I remembered how contractions worked, coming in waves, peaking, and then easing back out. For some reason, however, mine stayed peaked for too long, I didn't recognize this intensity and it scared me. I didn't know how long I had, if I would be able to get my epidural in time, wishing they could just hurry me past triage because I was obviously in labor.

They moved me to a room at last and hooked me up to an IV. At that point everything seemed to move quickly, nurses coming in and out, my midwife trying to encourage me through contractions while promising me pain relief soon. I started to feel frantic when the contractions began but seemed to never end. I told Jeff to not let any of my family in while I was in pain like this. They came to insert the needle for the epidural and I tried not to move through contractions and waited for relief that seemed to never fully come. The IV felt like it was filling my body with ice water and I alternated between having contractions and shaking uncontrollably in between. Then, suddenly, they told me it was time to push. Jeff ran to get his mother, my mother, and my sister, the baby watching crew. The hospital room was not designed for many people and instead of them being able to stand back and not have to witness explicit delivery action, they had to stand near the foot of the bed. I remember wishing that they could stand somewhere else, but I really no longer cared at that point. I feebly asked the nurse if I could push the button for more epidural and she told me it would do me no good at that point, so I just tried to remain stoic.

The midwife told Jeff to stand beside me and I hoped he wouldn't pass out. He stayed way behind my head when Faith was born and I didn't think he could handle it. Actually, when James made his appearance the midwife took her attention off of the most pressing matters at hand to ask Jeff if he would be okay since he did a major jump-type of move. She told me to grab my baby so I reached down and pulled him to my belly.

I could sit here for hours staring out the door trying to think of the words to describe that moment and I would never be able to. To hold the child that was on the other side of my belly just moments before, to be able to look at his face, to see that everything was well, no, better than well, just perfect, was beyond amazing. I teared up, continuing to cry (and still shake) after they whisked him off. I kept looking at him and back to Jeff, my sister and mother and I kept saying “Isn't he beautiful? He is really so beautiful!” and they told me yes, he was.

He was actually born after midnight so his birthday isn't really until tomorrow, but that day leading up to his birth is etched upon my memory. Such a strange feeling to not be able to wait until you can see your child, but almost regret the end of a pregnancy, especially when you're not completely sure that you will have another one.

Once he was here though, I was in a constant state of wonder. I had forgotten how tiny babies could be. I had forgotten the non-stop all through the night care that they required. I had forgotten how I could spend hours staring at that brand new little face.

Since the moment I had found out I was pregnant with him everything suddenly became a comparison of the past – my pregnancy with Faith, how I found out, the due date, the birth, how he developed compared to her, their ages when they reached milestones and so forth. After awhile though, he wouldn't let me make the constant comparisons because he proved that he is his own person, he is James, full of a personality that is so HIM, his own way of learning things and his own method of experiencing life.

I have watched him for this past year, going from that tiny newborn to such a little character. He is incredibly loving and affectionate. He climbs everything he can, frightening me everyday with his death defying stunts. He is walking, more like Frankenstein's monster than a child, but he slowly lurches around getting to where he needs to be. He has slept through the night only once in the past year, keeping me hoping for a repeat of the miracle but only to wake me up every night at midnight. He wants to be held, wants to see my face, wants to be near me always. He won't let anyone else take him from me, howls when I walk away. He's chubby, has comical hair, bright blue eyes, soft skin, and gives slobbery kisses. He's my heart and I can't imagine that there was a time before James.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last Year

One year ago . . .

My due date was drawing closer with no sign of impending labor whatsoever. A usually happy pregnant woman, I was nearing that feeling that I could not possibly get any larger. I was walking every day and night, eating spicy foods, doing as many of the infamous labor starters that I could bear.

I was ready to stop being pregnant, but I was also trying to remember every moment of it. Most of all I was ready to meet my son.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lately, In Pictures

I really do have a camera. I just never do the whole camera-to-computer thing. When I finally do I have hundreds of pictures to sort through. I good intentions with this little blog. I thought I would have pictures in every post, that sort of thing. Let's pretend I did that, shall we? And now for catch up.

This is my artist's rendering of our cat, Chick. And then this is her.

Uncanny, no?

The new cat whose name has yet to be set in stone. Right now we rotate between Tiger Lily, Clover, That Calico Cat, That New Cat, or That Little Cat.

The famous "Letter Game" which Faith loves. Any time I get on the computer she starts to beg to play it. James, of course, does not want to be left out. So once I start it I can't stop it, my lap begins to burn from the laptop and I have children surrounding me and it kind of makes me never want to get on the computer.

Taking a walk over to Grandma's, with our giant dog Baxter. For some reason Faith is crawling like a dog. I'm surprised she didn't get accidentally trampled.

And for the finale, the classic reaching-for-the-camera shot. I can't tell you how many of these I have. And yes, my children are color coordinated for church. I can't help it.

I suppose it is time for me to finally put a picture with my blogger account, which is really rather hard. Today I was sorting through recent pictures and realizing I look OLD. With real lines around my eyes. I was tempted to use a more flattering picture from a couple years ago but that sort of feels like cheating.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This Season, Still

The days have gone from a warm, thick heaviness of air to a goose bump-raising chill. The leaves are starting to turn, the wind is whistling through foggy days. On nice days the sky is a crisp and clear blue, the air fresh, the sun still shines. For the past couple of days, however, it is like the setting for a scary mystery movie. It’s been a constant drizzle of rain, the sky never lightens from a deep slate color.

It’s starting to throw me off. Usually the first thing I do every morning is open the windows and doors and let the light in. It’s not doing much lately. I’m starting to feel like a hermit.

Luckily, the kids have hit a patch of awesome lately. Faith’s age combined with a new phase of less tantrums and more understanding is adorable and sort of amazing. She is starting to try to figure things out, why this happens or what to expect from people. She’s smart and clever. She comes out with the most precious things. She says “thank you” and “please”. She gives everyone kisses and hugs when she says goodbye without prompting from us. Right now as I am typing this she is stripping on the front porch while watching a “sick butterfly” (it’s like the scariest moth I’ve ever seen and it’s turning slow circles on the porch floor in a slow death dance), so I’m not sure how that ties into her learning manners and such, but there you go. When James isn’t climbing to the highest point in the house and balancing precariously on a countertop or dresser he’s playing with toy cars and building blocks. He’s starting to entertain himself or let Faith entertain him. They both love the kitten and he’s now saying “kitty” (more like kee-kee) which is his second word (the first is bye-bye). They are consistently happy children and it not only warms my heart but keeps a smile on my face as well.

This year we look forward to taking Faith to pumpkin patches and corn mazes, this year she is already talking about costumes and jack o’ lanterns, how ghosts are NOT real but ARE really scary. This year we’ll also take our children (plural!) out to hikes to warm our bodies on Jeff’s days off, we’ll take pictures of them together smiling and happy. I can actually be in the autumn pictures since I won’t weigh forty tons like last year.

Jeff’s about to be off of work for a week (this schedule is wonky, but I love it when he’s off) and we have so much planned that we will undoubtedly fall short of all we have to do, but I’m looking forward to the next week like a little kid would. I suppose I’m excited because I’m about to see autumn through Faith’s eyes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


The other day I opened the front door and hollered for Jeff (because I live in the mountains and we holler, we don’t just yell) and Faith told me that he was down in the yard saying “here kitty kitty”.

While I think it is adorable how Faith can give accurate details about what is going on, I was more perplexed as to WHY Jeff was saying here kitty kitty when our cat (Chick the Cat, fat and white) was laying on her side at my feet like the big, lazy thing that she is. I went back inside to tend to whatever I was doing and forgot about it until a few minutes later when Jeff called me outside telling me to look what he had. In his arms was a calico kitten. I immediately switched baby for kitten (I am a sucker for kittens and puppies) and went to the rocker and declared that this kitten was sent to us for a reason. I expected Jeff to roll his eyes and maintain his firm position on his NO MORE BABIES NO MORE ANIMALS rule, but instead he just looked thoughtful for a moment and said that we would need to get her fixed soon.

In turn I just stared at him, my mouth might have been hanging open. Was this . . . my husband? Surely not. Was this a trick? Possible. But why? I was trying to figure this out as Faith squealed and laughed, delighted with this new toy, I mean creature, and I soon got distracted by setting up a makeshift home for it in our garage.

Jeff continued to be very easygoing about the whole cat thing, petting it as he went by or calling it kitty boots, which is his own little name for cats and I continued to be amazed and a little suspicious. Jeff was all for animals once, but more of a dog person and only really excited about getting our great dane as a puppy. The rest of the animals were sort of an act of surrender, his giving in to my endless begging with an air of resignation. We both came to the decision after having kids, however, that we just didn’t have the room, the finances, and the time for extra responsibility for any more animals. But seeing a helpless little kitten melted away all of my icy level-headedness, and I really didn’t expect Jeff to be the same.

When I talked to my mom about it she said something that made me think. “Maybe he realizes that your days are monotonous and he’s letting you have something that makes you happy and takes your mind off of it,” and I was really surprised. That my mother would put that together without me even telling her what’s been going on lately and that I didn’t think of it and that Jeff would do something sweet for the benefit of me.

Even though it means vet bills and another animal to take care of, it’s such a simple pleasure to watch a kitten do that butt-wiggle and pounce thing, all things playful and joyful attack. It reminds me that little bursts of happiness are found in the most ordinary places.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Time Away

I will be the first to admit that I’ve really got it made. I get to stay at home every day, I don’t have to wake up in a rush every morning and fight traffic just to go and spend my whole day at work. I can do what I want whenever I want and I pretty much love this.

However, two kids may not always want to do what I want, like when what I want is to go to Target and wander the aisles aimlessly for a couple of hours in silence. The children probably clap their little chubby hands with glee at the thought of making a shopping trip turn into their opportunity to shriek and scream and reach for breakable objects and pull hair and push each other and so the mere thought of doing something like that becomes a big, neon, flashing NO sign in my brain. So I don’t go out too often is what I’m saying.

Then I began to fantasize about small things. Reading a book in peace, or going out for a warm pumpkin spiced coffee and sitting at a table staring off into space, or sitting in a bookstore for an hour browsing novels and getting inspired. To take a walk, or go to a random store, or anywhere for that matter all alone. Let me say that again. ALL ALONE.

The story is always the same, though. Jeff works long hours and is exhausted when he gets home. We live out in the middle of nowhere so even if I wanted to escape for an hour, it would be another two hours to get somewhere and back. We don’t have the money to drop on expensive coffee or shopping. We don’t have the money for gas even. So my fantasies often stayed that way and never became reality and one day would end and another would begin and slowly I began to go a little bit crazy and maybe get a little depressed.

I mentioned it to Jeff awhile ago and instead of him saying something like “you know what honey, you always stay here with the kids and never go out and do something you would like to do so go ahead and enjoy yourself and I’ll stay with the kids” he said something like this “that’s not going to happen” and then I fumed and it turned into a stupid argument (because I don’t know how serious he was in the first place and I was in a bad mood already) and then it grew and I did the idiotic martyr move of “well fine I’ll just stay at home every day and never leave the house”. Well that sure showed HIM! I’ll just stay at home every day and never get time to myself! Oh. Wait.

Last week my husband said the words I needed so badly to hear. “You go ahead and take the car and spend the day doing what you want and I’ll stay here with the kids. Have fun,” and I grabbed the keys and sprinted towards the car and listened to my music and drove a little crazier than usual and suddenly I felt a million times better.

Once upon a time, before I became a wife and a mother, I was just Jenny. I had my own hobbies and interests. I liked to have time alone even before I was married. I liked my privacy and the occasional solitude. Now if anyone were to ask me to tell them about myself I would first say that I am a wife and mother, and truthfully those are the things that I am most proud to be. Once in a while though, it’s nice to be just Jenny again. A day alone here and there to just be me, and not everything else, is a salve to wounds that I don’t often realize that I have, and an opportunity to feel refreshed and relaxed. A chance to just BE without having to always DO. It’s also a chance to drive eagerly home to see the faces of the people I love most who are happy to see me return.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Quick Thinking - FAIL

“Ew, James! I smell the stank!” I announce. (I often announce things, like dirty diapers, or how I am now going to do a load of laundry when the children are the only other people in the house. I don’t know why I declare things like this out of nowhere. I can’t help it. I often break into song for no reason at all. It can be very loud to live with me.)

(People wouldn’t know this unless they are Jeff. I am really shy around everyone else.)

“I wanna see! I wanna see!” Faith screams as she runs into the room. (Faith has an odd obsession for wanting to be present during dirty diaper changes. It’s really rather disturbing.)

“You don’t want to see this,” I say. (I tell her this every time.)

“I gonna watch you, Mommy, okay?” (She says this as if she is explaining something to a very young child.)

“If you have to,” I tell her absently as I’m already starting the disgusting job of wiping slimy foul matter off of Jamie’s tiny rear.

“Mommy. What’s THAT?” (She is pointing to Jamie’s special parts.)

“His poopoo?” I say to buy some time as I hurry up the process.

“No, Mommy! THAT right there!”

“Oh you mean his pee pee?” (Yeah, pee pee. Code for the real word. I’ve heard other parents use that. Sure. Okay. This will work.)

“No, that’s not pee pee,” she sounds exasperated at my stupidity. (Of course! Because everyone knows that pee pee is urine, NOT a body part.)

“Damn.” I don’t say this out loud. Instead I say, “uhhh,” like the intelligent and quick thinking person I am.

“Uhhh,” I continue. (Do I give her the true technical term? I suddenly have a vision of her announcing what the names of Jamie’s parts are in church. No. I can’t tell her the true name. Must come up with toddler slang.)

“Umm,” I stall. (I don’t want to confuse the child. I imagine her saying that’s not a ball or that’s not a nut. Why can’t I think? I am the parent, why am I suddenly stumped by something so stupid? What the hell am I going to say when she asks where babies come from?)

“Mommy look! Clifford the dog is on!” she exclaims happily as she runs off.

I breathe a sigh of relief and look down at James who has been staring confusedly at me this whole time. “Ummm!” he suddenly says.

Great. Glad I’ve taught you something wise, son.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Autumn of Discontent

It is now officially autumn.

Of all the seasons, I love spring the best. Or maybe summer. I love how the world comes alive again in the spring, I love to see green again. However, in summertime there’s something sensual about the heaviness in the air, the way skin remains damp no matter what time of day it is, the fireflies that hover in multitudes in between trees in the dusk.

Fall, though, is special. There is the sense of expectancy that I’ve written about. Sometimes it is ominous and foreboding. Sometimes it is hopeful and eager, filled with plans and the knowledge of time spent well. It is often mysterious and is the perfect time of year to ponder Great Things.

The girl who was my best friend for years absolutely loved this time of year. She enthusiastically decorated her house with fall and Halloween paraphernalia. We often went on long drives down deserted dirt roads or over ancient bridges at night just to freak ourselves out. She sent emails on the first day of fall declaring her love for it all over again. It was well known that fall was her time. I could not, and still can’t, pass a place that is filled with the rusty colors of autumn without thinking of her. I pass by salt and pepper shakers in the shapes of fallen leaves and think how perfect they would be for her. I wonder what her house looks like, I wonder if she’s breaking out all of her sweaters, I wonder if she’s planned any trips to the corn maze or pumpkin fields.

I miss her so badly. I think of her every day. I wish I could pick up the phone and call her and just listen to her talk for hours, to catch me up on the past year of her life. I wish I could send her a card saying that I am thinking of her, or just to tell her that she’s in everything I see around me this time of year.

I can’t.

The hardest thing in the world I’ve had to ever do is see the hurt and pain that the people I love most in the world experience because of me. To know that they could have not had to suffer it if I had been different, if I had made different choices, or even if I had never been in their lives. To think that I am remembered by someone who I truly love as a big waste of time or the most horrible time of their lives absolutely kills me. After a year it is not any easier. I still miss her. And I can not tell her that I do. Her life is better off without me.

I don’t know why on earth I am writing this and then putting it on the internet for goodness sake. I wanted to write here honestly and without holds on myself, and so I do. So, world, I miss my best friend from the depths of my heart and I wonder if it will ever let up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Ever since I quit work and stayed at home to be a stay at home parent my inner mind clock sputters and stops. I often lose track of days, my sleep schedule hasn’t been normal in years and usually the only way I can stay on track is by trying to follow Jeff’s schedule. This past week he began a new one however, and it is totally screwing with me. He works three days on, then a day off, then three more days on and then a week off. The past week was his off week and it has been completely strange, but good, to have him here with us day after day. We stayed busy and much has happened and I don’t even know if I should try to bother putting it all down in words. There have been trips to the emergency room, trips to Target, arrests, home projects on OTHER people’s homes, and I made a huge amount of salsa today. I am aware that my story telling and explaining lacks quite a lot, but all is well with everyone, it’s just been another week living close to many family members.

Today was the first cool day that we’ve experienced, sort of strange in an overcast way, never quite raining but making you feel like you need to stay inside. I didn’t though, I walked outside as much as I could today and felt like I could spend hours outside. I tried to absorb as much of that expectant autumn feeling as I could, with just my thoughts and myself.

Every year at this time I have that feeling that something is right around the corner. Last year the upcoming fall meant the birth of James. The year before that we were selling our house and moving across the state, the year before that was the autumn when Faith was born. However, this year doesn’t seem to hold anything big or important just ahead and that’s what makes this year feel odd and makes me feel like I’m ill equipped for the task at hand. I’m not quite sure what I’ve been expecting but knowing that it’s not going to come feels lonely and a bit sad.

I sound a little too melancholy for my own good.

On a lighter note, Faith has informed us that zebras do NOT make the neigh sound that horses make but instead they make “ZEE ZEE” sounds. Jeff and I found that fairly awesome. James continues to be impossibly needy and poops way more than any child should.

Monday, September 8, 2008

On Staying At Home

I stay at home, all day, every day. Most days I have no car. Almost every day I have no money to spend on anything besides groceries. So, almost all of our time is spent at home.


I get to see the sun rise up slowly over the mountains every morning. I get to see the leaves on the big tree in the front yard become illuminated from behind with the gold glow of the morning. I hear the rumbles of the motorcycles that are on their way to Blood Mountain, and the crunch of tires on the rock driveway when my father in law returns from an errand. I watch the dogs run in the backyard and see the cat turn in a circle upside down before her eyes close in tight slits for a nap. I’m here waiting when Jeff comes home for lunch and when he comes home at the end of the day.


I am not only the primary caregiver to the children but almost to the point of being the only one. When Jeff gets home he is tired from working so hard all day and he almost always has a chore that needs to be done before bedtime. I don’t get time to exercise. I don’t get time to take long bubble baths. I don’t ever get to leave in the evenings and drive to a bookstore and spend a precious couple of hours perusing through books. I make every meal for the kids, change all of Jamie’s diapers, attend all of Faith’s urgent potty times, give the baths, wipe the hands, wrestle dangerous tiny objects from Jamie’s grasp, try to rationalize with Faith about everything, struggle with naptimes, rush to every cry, and the only time I can shower or read at my own leisure is after they have gone to sleep and usually by that time I am exhausted.


I am the one who spends my days on the floor playing dolls or building blocks or reading books. I am the one who dances in the living room with the kids or makes monster sounds and chases Faith through every room before finally grabbing her and making monching sounds on her belly. I am the one who gets to rock James to sleep every day and night. I am the one that they want when they are hurt or sad. It is my arms that they run into, my lap that they crawl on. When we’re around other people James will twist up his face when he sees me and can’t get to me. It is to me that everyone looks to when Faith comes up with one of her Faith-isms that they need to have translated. I am the one that they seek out and climb on and laugh with every single day.


I don’t make any money. I have no recognition for my work. I don’t get raises or reviews or a pat on the back when a job is well done. I don’t get to gab with girls at the office or hear any daily gossip. I don’t get to be challenged intellectually or test myself or see what my own boundaries are. I don’t get to have a drive home where I can think to myself that I did a great job that day. I don’t get to come home after a long day of work and kick off my shoes and lean back and relax for an hour. I don’t ever pick up my purse and head to the movies or out shopping just because. I don’t meet co-workers or friends after work and talk about my day. I hardly talk to anyone besides my family members.

I was there for Faith’s first steps and was the one who got to see Jamie’s last week. I heard Faith’s first words, and will be there when James says his. I’ve taken care of them through every sickness, and have been there for every doctor appointment. I’ve been there every day through every phase. I got to see all of those sweet and rare moments that get hidden throughout the day; seeing Faith playing when she thinks no one is watching, or James smiling up at me with sleepy eyes right before falling forward onto my shoulder for naptime. I get the reward of knowing that the next morning they will wake up happy, like they do every day, and that I will have hours of un-interrupted time with them.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Most vs. Some

I wonder if I will ever be able to accept how fast taking care of two very young children goes from being pleasantly busy to CALGON, TAKE ME AWAY.

Most days feel like the movie Groundhog Day. I wake up, change diapers, make meals, get them down for naps, change diapers, feed, change, rock, console, feed, change, and so on and so forth until I feel like I will just become an emotionless robot after a time, just going forward about my day mechanically. On days when things are different, a new errand thrown into the mix or being somewhere else, then I feel like OH NO, the schedule is off and then spend so much effort trying to do the same things I always do, the same things that sort of drive me crazy with the monotony.

Most days though, I am fairly happy about it all, if a little robotic, and sometimes the redundancy seems to be a comfortable sort of tedium, pleasing and harmonious to us all.

Some days however, Faith gets frustrated because something isn’t working quite right and starts howling, or she refuses to take a nap, which wakes up James, who in turn then keeps her up. I, in turn, lose my mind. It seems like an impossible task to find something that she will eat willingly and when I suggest something simple and usually agreeable like a sandwich she will suddenly scream and writhe on the ground as if I am tormenting her and adding another degree of torture to her already hideous life. Or the inescapable temper tantrum that comes with trying to get her tiny toys to line up JUST RIGHT in her toy plane. The black dog has to be in the very back with his head turned just so, the white dog has to be on the right side near the front, NO, NOT THAT NEAR THE FRONT MOMMY AAAAAGHHHHHH, and then when finally they are all in place and she tries to carry the plane across the room and they slide off their assigned spots, then I want to go run and hide from my own two year old daughter because she turns into a really scary monster. The times when they cry all day because of lack of sleep or boredom, or who knows what. I don’t ever know. Then Jeff comes home and I want to say “Here, take your children while I run far, far away and maybe I’ll be back soon,” but I can’t ever say that because once he gets home he has to help his father build a fence or he has to till the garden or fix his motorcycle or . . .

So. Yes. Some days are bad, most are pretty good, but all of them I am so thankful for. I have a feeling that one day I will look back on the days when I grabbed my hair in my hands and howled at the ceiling and smile to myself and maybe miss those chaotic and frustrating moments. Or . . . not.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Say It All

SOMEONE has been on the computer because the curser was HUGE, the font size was 163 instead of 12. Who could have done that? It is like when Faith manages to touch two keys on the keyboard and I spend an hour trying to undo what changes she had made to my settings. Or when James picks up the remote and is suddenly recording some dragon show that I never knew existed and then Jeff comes home and looks at the recorded shows and wonders why he never knew his wife was a fantasy loving geek.


I am sort of sad to say that this Labor Day weekend is not very fun so far. We’ve gone to church, taken naps, I mopped the floor, did some laundry . . . oh my goodness I have to just stop right there. I am envisioning myself reading this years down the road thinking, “why on earth did you sit there typing the most boring list of stuff ever?” although to be truthful, church was really not at all boring. It never is with two small children. It almost seems laughable to think that one can expect their children to respect the quiet holiness of the sanctuary and to be reverent and understand the importance of it all. James would have fallen asleep on my lap but we forgot his pacifier and so right when the sermon began he began his loud and whiny grunting. I took him out to the lobby and saw the doors were open so I stood outside for a couple of minutes swaying back and forth and catching snippets of sound. He finally fell asleep on my shoulder and I stayed out there for a couple minutes more, both to assure he was really asleep and to just enjoy it. It seemed special all of the sudden to just stand outside the church even and breathe in the fresh air and feel the unusual brush of my long dress against my bare legs. When I walked back in we stepped by several other parents with their babies on their shoulders all looking at James and I a little enviously, I thought. “Mine is asleep,” I smiled to them. “You can come back out and take ours!” they grinned back.

We had a full house in our tiny country church this week. We had a guest speaker, well known in our church system, and I believe it was also friends and family day. I sometimes pray to be able to receive the message and I think I did.

The reason why I think I did is this: A year ago, two years ago, well, probably my whole life I never would have written this down. There are many people who don’t believe in what I do, who get turned off immediately by someone who not only has beliefs but states them openly. I didn’t want to turn off people, I didn’t want to stand out and be different.

I believe in God. I have faith. My faith gets stronger every day. I am not worried about turning people away. I worry more about not speaking up about what I believe. It’s a courage I never thought I would have. I would have just buried the fact that I went to church, I would have written about the laundry instead. I would have cared more about being well written or humorous or thought provoking instead of just being honest.

It’s more than just freeing. It’s peace.

And so I am able to write about it, yes church is part of my life. This week in the life of Jenny featuring children, housework, money woes, martial harmony and discord, the death of a garden, and God.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lately - Complaining and Disjointed

The past couple days have been especially rainy, yesterday being a consistent downpour that lasted all day long. A river formed in our front yard, my in-laws’ driveway washed out, a nearby town flooded completely. It was sort of awesome in that dreary sort of way in the beginning of the day, but woe is me, I live in a trailer. The front porch (porch! Ha! I mean a pile of rusted tin!) (I’m bitter today) leaked, the dogs got into the trash can and tore up dirty baby diapers which got rained all over so the back porch (porch! Ha! I mean a pile of rotted wood!) (Oh, so very bitter) is covered in damp baby poo.

My hair has taken on a life of it’s own. Where my daughter’s hair lays in strawberry blonde ringlets down her back when it rains, mine grows out to extraordinary length and width and the frizz can be like a lion’s mane, or just like a crazy redneck woman who has had a bad perm. I have not had a perm, just to make myself clear. I just have big hair at times.

So it was a struggle this morning with the flat iron. It took me half an hour to straighten my super long hair until it was sufficiently glossy and sleek enough to go out to distribute resumes.

I am still looking. I have applied at places where I am qualified and then I have applied at places that I am completely OVER qualified for and I have not heard a word. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been out of work for so long, or if it’s because of the economy, or if it’s because of where we live. That’s a problem with small towns. The opportunity for work is just so scarce. Jeff had to take a huge pay cut to get on at a shop up here, but it was preferable to driving almost an hour away to go to work. So it was that I applied for a job that would pay me less than what I made when I started my first office job when I was nineteen.

It is just time for me to suck it up and deal with it. It is time for me to find a job already and make money once again so we can build a real house.

The only thing that makes me doubt that is that is just feels wrong sometimes. I feel like I’m supposed to spend my days with my kids. I’m praying for a sign, for an opportunity. In the meantime I am sending out my resume.

In other news, James suddenly went from having two tiny teeth poking through his bottom gums to now having several coming through the top. He’s also discovered the stairs at his Mamaw and Papaw’s and this is sad and involves many frantic sprints by me to find him halfway up the long, wooden steps. He’s also in that unfortunate stage of standing and almost walking, but not quite, so there are many falls and bumps. I want to take him for portraits soon, but he always is sporting some new scratch or bruise.

Faith is just pure wonderful in all of it’s forms. She’s so funny; the things she comes up with just crack us up. She has a temper, yes, but she is so happy all of the time and it just makes me happy to absorb some of that. She’s been especially good with James lately and now that they are at an age where they can play together is something I hadn’t even been anticipating, but now that it is here it is like a fabulous and unexpected gift.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I walked into the mall with a vague sense of where I was going. I knew that there was an indoor playground area for kids to run around in, and I dimly remembered seeing it one of the times I was in there. I found it quickly enough for never having taken my kids to it. I am not that social and often avoid public play areas for kids - I’m just too shy, too awkward.

She said she’d be there. “I have red hair now,” and she was right. I couldn’t miss her hair, but was that her? The girl I met when I was fourteen years old? The girl who I’ve been through everything with? The one who I’ve had hateful arguments with and also the one with whom I declared that Thursdays were our macaroni and cheese nights? The girl who turned me onto some of my favorite books and who I could admit that I loved Laguna beach to?

Yes. It was her. We hugged and then sat back and viewed the one thing that we hadn’t yet gone through together. Being parents.

It happens frequently, I suppose. Conversations shift towards children and how our lives are altered by them. Milestones in development, genetics that make up their hair color, it all gets talked about.

At the end of the day, when we were saying goodbye, it struck me how much didn’t get talked about and I began to miss her already. It was the first time in ten months that I had spent time with someone other than a family member and it hit me like a punch in the stomach. I need this. I need my friends. I can’t let time go on too long or a distance that big come between us again. I missed her and the casual comfort that we so quickly fall into when we are together. She is one of those people that it never seems to matter if I’ve been away from her for two weeks or two years because when we meet again it’s as if no time has passed at all. There no awkward getting-to-know-you conversation that we have to endure before the real stuff pours out. There’s no making ourselves appear as if we’re better than what we are, and no poor-mouthing ourselves either for that matter. We just simply are who we are and we accept it and love it.

I feel a little bit more whole again and in a strange way I have began to wonder how many pieces I was in in the first place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A new Mr. & Mrs.

The first time I heard about him we were at a wedding. While waiting for the ceremony to begin my sister-in-law showed me a picture on her phone. “This is the guy I’ve been seeing,” she said and right away I knew it was something serious and different from past boyfriends. For one thing, he was much better looking in a perfectly wonderful and normal way than any guy she’d dated. For another, she was telling me about him.

At another wedding, two months later, she told me that she hoped I’d have more kids than just Faith and the bun that was baking in the oven (James) (duh). Whenever she had her wedding then she’d have to have a flower girl and by that time Faith would be way too old, she said. “You never know,” I said in a sing song teasing voice. “This guy might marry you one day,” and she just smiled. Yep. Different than any relationship she’d ever had.

This past weekend they got married and Faith was indeed the flower girl. I was a last minute bridesmaid, and the whole wedding was sort of last minute at that. It all came together, as they always tend to do, and we all breathed a big sigh of relief when it was over. Despite all the panic and frantic shopping, decorating, and planning it was awful nice to have a wedding, especially for those two. I’ve seen a new side of her that I know he’s responsible for and it’s always sort of mushy to see two people pledging to love each other for eternity. It makes you want to make meaningful eye contact with your significant other and then maybe slow dance later.

Instead of that though, Jeff and I helped Faith eat several plates of cake and took turns carrying Master James around.

There was an after party where we met people who’d we had heard of, people whose reputation not only preceded them but made one think that perhaps mayhem was in the air. Alas, nothing happened, and yet we still had plenty of stories to inform each other of for the next day. We spent the weekend in that post-celebration fog, relieved to be free of duties and maybe a little disappointed to not have something big around the corner to look forward to and speculate on.

They are on their honeymoon now and I hope that they are taking this time and making it into something that will remain stamped on their minds forever as a ridiculously romantic and deliriously happy few days. I hope that they carry a little bit of it around forever in a back pocket to be pulled out now and then. We all need those moments and those pieces of joy to hang on to.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer Vacation

Whenever I go to Savannah or Tybee I suddenly feel right. I feel like I can relax, I can sit back and soak in the world, I let go of worries, I get inspired, I feel alive. Whenever I come back from there the world starts slowly seeping back in in a slightly unpleasant way. Back from vacation blues times two or ten or a hundred.

My uncle very generously offered us to stay at his beach house for a family vacation so Jeff and the kids and I stayed there, my parents stayed with my uncle right behind us and my sister and her three kids stayed at a family friends home next door. It was sort of fun being able to walk back and forth between houses and also at times a little panic ridden. “Where is Faith?” we would suddenly shriek before realizing she was just next door with her cousins.

Instead of feeling like everyone around was too much of a good thing I really enjoyed it and felt sad when my sister and my nephew and nieces had to leave early. I even had a moment of craziness when I thought about keeping her kids for the remainder of the time. Don’t worry. Sanity kicked in at the last minute.

I love history and Savannah and the island are absolutely ridden with it. It’s small time life with charm and soul. It’s slower down there, even slower than here in the mountains. Jeff and I rode bikes past sprawling mansions that once faced the oceans and then past new cottages painted bright colors decorated with twinkle lights. I spent as much time as I could sitting on the front porch reading and just staring off into space breathing the ocean-tainted air and feeling peaceful. James was ever-attached to me as always, but he even seemed more laid back there. We would occasionally ask each other why we didn’t live there always.

We drove into the city of Savannah a couple of times. My grandmother, who Faith is named after, is buried in a cemetery right beside Bonaventure. Who would have thought that wandering a place of the dead could be so enchanting. In a GOOD way that is.

My aunt used to sneak in Bonaventure at night when she was a teenager. Um. No. I could not do that.

I was down there for four days before I remembered that there is such a thing as the internet. We watched very little television, and relied only on books and each other and the town itself for entertainment. It was wonderful.

It was filled with many tiny adventures: the baby squirrel’s life that I saved, the hundreds of starfish that washed up on the beach, Jeff and I going back to “our” restaurant on River Street, taking James to the beach for the first time, celebrating my mother’s birthday, the silly, yet somewhat entertaining ghost tour that ended at the Pirates House where I did get a little freaked out. Most important, and how cliché of me to say, was the time spent with my family, all of us in one spot with just days to plan or not plan and just be there together.

Of course, you can't please everyone.