Tuesday, December 11, 2007

When an Angel leaves this earth

I don't know what it is, but lately it seems that I am reading one heartbreaking story after another. The characters are a little different from tale to tale, but the story always ends in one of two ways: a child is clinging to life or a child has died a horrible death. I am so tired of hearing about children being hurt by the very people who are meant to protect them.

I think there are few things worse than inflicting pain on a helpless person or animal. And yet the punishment rarely seems to fit the crime. You often find harsher sentences passed down when someone kills a stranger, rather than their own child. And how hard is it to read about newborns being thrown away or killed by a mother, knowing the number of childless couples desperate to adopt a baby? I always wonder what must happen within a murderer's brain. How does someone go from being an average Joe to rationalizing the murder of their own offspring?

I have often wondered if the so called "safe haven" laws should be extended. Why not make it easier for overwhelmed parents to get help? I can see that a lot of children might be abandoned by their parents, but often these parents have virtually abandoned their children long ago. They are not supportive emotionally and are often barely supportive financially. But at least the kids are alive. It is far from ideal, but something needs to happen to help these children before they become another headline.

Every parent has had moments when they are less than proud of themselves. Their buttons have been pushed, their sanity is at the brink, and they want to scream/cry/get away from their offspring. So what makes some parents able to keep going, and what makes others cross the line? How do I get to the point that I tell myself it is okay to hit/whip/scald/burn/beat /strangle/torture my child? And how do I have the nerve to offer any defense at my trial for those actions? How do I dare argue that I am being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment when I offered no such concessions to my own flesh and blood?

How do I find an answer to the questions that plague me whenever I hear that another child has suffered at the hand of a caretaker or parent? There aren't any easy answers. There aren't any easy solutions. But hopefully society can make it a priority to find the solution. It's time to speak for those who can't speak for themselves and who don't have any political or financial power.

I know this post has been a departure for this blog. I try to keep the focus on my family, but I feel that these children need someone to talk and worry about them too. And I do. In my heart, they are all my children. I miss them. I mourn them. And now I want to help them, even if it's just by getting other people to think about them the same way. I don't want to lose another angel. Heaven knows that we need more angels here on earth. So speak out for those with no voice, be a friend to the friendless, and protect all the children in your life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An "Enchanted" evening with my daughter...

I must admit to a bit of scheming last week. Miss B was to have a skating party on Tuesday night and we were to bake cookies for Thanksgiving on Wednesday evening. I convinced Miss B to bake cookies on Tuesday, skip the skating party, and go out to see Enchanted instead.

I knew it was the kind of movie that would either be very good or very bad. Luckily for us, it was excellent. We loved every minute of it (and B was very excited about the preview for the upcoming Chipmunks movie). It got a bit nerve-wracking for Miss B towards the end, but I reassured her that everything would work out fine. And of course it did.

It was quite funny. I teach a college course on Disney and hope that this film comes out on DVD in time to use it next semester. If you have ever poked fun at fairy tales, Disney princesses, or silly showtunes, you will love this movie. If you adore fairy tales, Disney princesses, or silly showtunes, you will also love this movie. It has something for everyone.

And I suggest you take your favorite 7 year old with you. This certainly enhanced my movie-going experience. I rarely see movies in the theatre, so I especially hate to feel disappointed by a film (which would explain why I was so angry after watching Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle... my most recent movie theatre experience). It was nice to spend that time together and to talk about the movie later. I've got a cool kid, and I like for her to know that's how her mom feels about her.

*Note to Parents* This movie is rated PG. Young children might get a bit frightened or nervous near the end. At one point it seems as if the heroine might die. Later the wicked queen turns into a dragon (ala Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty) using very realistic looking CGI effects. Please know your child and prepare them or walk them through accordingly.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

There she goes...

There she goes again,
Racin' through my brain,
And I just can't contain,
This feeling that remains.

-Sixpence None the Richer (among others...)

So while Sister Goldenhair has returned to her efforts to be the ultimate two year old, Miss B has turned seven. Seven. How dare she grow up before my very eyes? There is something so satisfying, yet so very heartbreaking about watching my firstborn grow up. I remember the very second I first saw her. My life was forever altered. It was as if all I had ever done was leading me to this moment in the delivery room.

And I have delighted in motherhood ever since. Sure the pay stinks and the appreciation isn't always there, but I dearly love the role I have in the two miracles I help to raise. But this unexpected pain is so bittersweet. I always knew it would be hard to have her leave home someday, but I didn't expect to feel a twinge at every milestone.

I adored Miss B as a baby. She was soft and sweet, outgoing yet still Mommy's girl. She grew into an inquisitive toddler with curly hair and big blue eyes. Her sense of humor has always been present, as is her love of words and dancing. She has always been a blessing to me, a girlie girl in love with all things pink and sparkly. She's even a big part of the reason I fell in love with the house we bought.

Our home is a typical Midwestern ranch house built in 1956. It was well-kept but out-dated, and though many features caught my eye, it was Miss B that sold it. She ran through the house in pure, unadulterated, 18-month-old joy. I could hear her little feet thumping on the hardwood floors as she laughed and danced in each room. My heart was won over in that instant. Sure, the pitter patter of little feet is cliche, but I can still remember how I felt when I first heard it.

But now she's gone and really started to grow up. First it was starting kindergarten and turning six, now she's seven. First grade. Losing baby teeth left and right. Getting calls from a boy (!). I have always been aware of this inexorable progression, but it was really brought home last weekend. My brother got married and Miss B and SG were asked to be flower girls. While much of the attention was focused on SG (would she or wouldn't she walk down the aisle? would she through a fit?), I couldn't help but notice how Miss B seemed so grown up.

Sure, she danced and giggled like a little girl, but she also behaved beyond her years. Her hair was pinned up and tiara-ed, and she got to wear a dab of makeup. But it was more than appearance. She was always there to take her sister's hand and lead her or to quietly help SG know what to do. Many people noticed the blond cherub sprinkling petals, but I don't think many could ignore the quiet beauty of this princess. She has grown in beauty since the day she was born. Her blue eyes have turned a bit gray and her hair no longer curls, but she still takes my breath away.

When she was born I loved her for what she was, now I love her for who she is. She is funny, articulate, bright, sensitive, caring, a good sister, and a blessing to all who know her. Sure, I still get frustrated with her when her room is a mess or she doesn't listen. She is in many ways still very much a child, but she is in many ways so grown up. I'll happily deal with a messy room if I know that she is trying so hard to be a good sister and friend.

It's just hard to watch a part of my heart grow both more dear and closer to maturity at the same time. Part of me wants the world to see and appreciate this beautiful diamond, but part of me wants to hide this jewel away to secretly enjoy. She's always been my girl, dependent on me for so much. But now she is her own person in so many ways. And so I try to support her in all her dreams, even if they will one day take her away from me. 'Cause if I thought it was hard to some day let her go, it would be harder still to make her stay.

She says things are fallen into place
Feels like they're fallen apart
I painted this big ol' smile on my face
To hide my broken heart
If only she knew
This is where I don't say what I want so bad to say
This is where I want to but I won't get in the way
Of her and her dreams
And spreadin' her wings

-- Billy Ray Cyrus (who ever thought that Billy Ray would say it best?)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Absence makes the heart grow fonder (and brings the babies out the woodwork)...

First things first, Woody is much better. It seems he was suffering from a "rare, but serious, side effect" to his cholesterol medicine. Who knew? He also has a bulging disk in his neck, so his problems aren't all solved. But at least he can hold a pencil!

So I spent last weekend in Baltimore for a conference. I was able to leave with the knowledge that although we didn't yet know what was causing Woody's problems, the MRI showed it wasn't anything truly terrible. Miss B is old enough to understand what was going on and to think nothing of it. Sister Goldenhair, on the other hand, was probably confused as to why her mommy got a little teary-eyed dropping her off that day.

This was the first time I'd ever been away from her for so long or such a distance. And while some people are able to put their parent side away for a time, I have no such ability. I thought about the girls constantly. I tried to enjoy my time away, but I found myself thinking about home and wondering what Miss B was doing in school or if SG was asking for me.

Baltimore has spent a lot of money trying to beautify the inner harbor area. At first it seemed quite picturesque. But then my inner mom took a good look and was properly horrified. Here is a picture taken in that area. Can you see the problem?

If you said, "Oh it's actually quite lovely." You probably don't have a small child, or at least if you have a small child you are likely not from a totally landlocked area.

If you said, "Holy crap! There's no railing! What in the world is supposed to keep kids from falling in the harbor and drowning?!"... Ah, welcome friend. Welcome to the world of panicked parenting! You're just one newscast away from a MRSA-induced panic attack. So the prospect of taking your child to a large, brown body of water unguarded by even a slight barrier is horrifying to say the least (I mean come on, not even a curb to keep strollers from rolling in? They're killing me!).

So while I am glad I did not have to worry about my kids taking a dunk in the harbor, I still missed them a great deal. And just when my longing was most acute, God would have a little fun with me. Cute babies were suddenly everywhere. Adorable toddlers abounded. Even beautiful little girls seemed to be coming from everywhere.

Even when I didn't see them, I heard them. Delicious giggles and sweet little voices floated in the air. Even frustrated cries in the shops were given a rosy tone. Happy or sad, those voices were music to my deprived ears. Like a homesick child at summer camp, I longed for the routine chaos of home.

It was hardest first thing in the morning and last thing at night. My evenings at home are spent snuggling with the girls and getting them ready for bed. SG and I have been singing "Baby Mine" together lately as I rock her to sleep (*sigh*). And mornings around here are pure magic to me. The girls end up snuggled in bed with Woody and I, dozing and tickling and just relaxing and playing before the day really starts. Oh how I missed this.

Despite all this I am planning to go to next year's conference in Chicago already. I did enjoy the opportunities to gain some professional knowledge and to get to know some coworkers better, and I do believe that it was good for the girls to have me go and come back. Maybe I will do a bit better next time around. But then again...

Monday, October 15, 2007

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom, "Let it be"

I know, I know. Long title.

But it's a song that is stuck in my head today. I think it's trying to speak to me, and I know it is a message I need to hear.

In case it isn't obvious from my other posts, I am a worrier. It is an irresistible force to me; if there is a potential problem, I *must* worry.

Do I hear one of the girls coughing? What does the whooping cough and croup sound like anyway? Are there any active cases of TB around here? What exactly are the symptoms of the plague?

I'm flying to a conference for work this week in Baltimore (home to one of the highest rising murder rates in the country). And as you can see, nothing is ever easy with me. That's not entirely true, but you get the idea. My worries of late had centered on this trip. It will be my first real separation from Sister Goldenhair, and I will miss Miss B's field trip to the pumpkin patch. I have worried about making sure they have someone to watch them while Woody's at work on the weekend. I've worried about packing their clothes early, because Woody doesn't always check what Miss B packs (temps last week lingered around 60 degrees and she took shorts and a tank top to wear at Granny and Papaw's house).

But today things changed.

Woody had been having some pain and was diagnosed last week with an infection. He took a dose of meds and woke up the next morning feeling completely relaxed. We thought that the cramping he'd had must have left his muscles spent and weak. But Sunday saw no improvement, and Monday brought more problems. He arrived at work with no memory of the trip and couldn't grip a pencil. A trip back to the family doctor resulted in a same day appointment with a neurologist, which resulted in a Wednesday night MRI appointment. Words such as "quadriplegia" and "paresis" have been bandied about.

Mother Mary? Check please!

Just how do I let this be? I mean the advice sounds great, and if you're going to take advice from a song it might as well be a Beatles song. But it's hard to embrace letting go and letting be when I haven't fully explored the realms of worry in this scenario. I mean sure, I've explored several disturbing options. WebMD? Check. Stroke symptoms? First thing that came to mind. Muscular dystrophy? There are 8 types to read more about. Could we keep our house if Woody went on disability? I warned you that I am worrier (I plan to go pro after the Olympics).

This situation reminds me of when I was pregnant with SG. We had a test performed called the quad marker screen, and we got some wonky results. My OBGYN's nurse called me at work to give me the results:

"Mrs. Indywriter, I'm sorry but your quad marker screen showed an increased likelihood of trisomy disorders such as Downs Syndrome."


"Your doctor is out of town right now, but if you like you could talk to a doctor you've never met before."


"We've scheduled a level 2 ultrasound in about 3 or 4 weeks so you can get more info."


I was insane by the time I hung up. I broke down and called Woody, crying hysterically. We managed to get an earlier ultrasound, but I was still consumed with worry the whole time. And though the results were promising, I was never able to feel complete joy during the rest of my pregnancy. That fear was always hanging over me. I've never been the lucky one before, so why should I expect it when it really mattered?

As it turns out, SG is perfectly healthy. And I have a new OBGYN.

But now it's Woody who's sick. And I can see obvious symptoms of problems. So this time it's not in my mind. It's all real. I just don't know what *it* is. How can I not worry about something like this?

I know that I shouldn't worry. I know that it won't accomplish anything. I know that it won't likely be anything nearly as bad as I imagine.

My computer is playing random music from my library right now and "Have a Little Faith in Me" is playing. I believe God speaks to us through any means necessary, and I think I know what the answer should be. My faith should be enough to give me peace in times of trouble (yep, Mother Mary is still hanging around). But doubt creeps back in with alarming frequency.

(Okay God, the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark is on now. I must admit that I don't see the connection this time. And since the theme from Jaws is next, I assume you are looking to communicate through another medium.)

And so I will wait. And no doubt I will worry. Mother Mary will continue to speak to me, and I'll try to let it be. And I will learn to accept personal failures. And not worry about them. And the Father will hold my hand whenever I lose my way.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

On joy and grief

Recently we were thrilled to hear from our dear friends that they were expecting their second child. They had always wanted to have another baby, and she had been extra responsible in working to get as healthy as possible before trying. They were waiting to share the news with family until after a long-awaited trip.

My friend and I talked about the baby and how she wanted another girl. We talked about names and clothes and breastfeeding. She was planning how to make life with a new baby work for their family.

Sunday night she called me. I felt something was different from her greeting. And when she started to talk, I knew what she was going to say. I wanted to not hear it, but I knew.

They lost the baby.

At ten weeks pregnant people say things that they think will be comforting, but they aren't. The body knows when something isn't right. Women who are much farther along lose babies and it's harder when you're farther along. You can try again soon. At least it happened now and not later.

My friend summed it up with, "No one writes a eulogy for a ten-week-old fetus."

We met for lunch this week and she is holding up well. She has a tempest of emotion though bubbling beneath the surface. She confessed that she didn't know what was the appropriate way to grieve for her situation. A close friend of hers had lost a year-old child. So does that make it wrong for her to grieve as much as her friend did?

For all of her strength and toughness, she has the tender heart of a mother. I cannot say I know how she feels to have lost a baby, but I know the love of a mother's heart. It doesn't matter to a mother how old her child is, the loss is devastating. God willing, she will never have to experience something like this again, but that is the only way any of us can know the difference.

How can anyone say whether it's harder to lose a child you have held and kissed or the baby who is still physically part of your body and sharing your blood. This unborn blessing holds all the dreams of family and friends. The potential for anything was there, but is now gone.

I tried to comfort my friend as best I could. I didn't want to offer empty platitudes and generic tidings of sympathy. So I tried to explain to her what I wrote here, that her journey is her journey. She can only know what she feels right now, and God willing, she will never have a basis for comparison. But she can't worry if her grief is appropriate to others who only saw a fetus. She is grieving for a child, a confidant for her daughter, and a dream of infinite possibilities.

As her friend, I want to comfort her. As a person, I hope it never happens to me. But as a mother I grieve too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

She's sooooo good at being 2.

My youngest daughter is 26 months old. Two and some change. And she is frighteningly good at it at times. Sister Goldenhair is a body full of passions. What she wants may change from time to time, but rest assured she really, really, really wants it. Bad.

Where Miss B was all easygoing charm and in love with the world at large, SG is more the brooding silent type. At least as far as everyone else is concerned. Miss B takes after her dad, and Woody never met a stranger. Poor SG takes after her mother, and I take some time to warm up to people/situations. But once I know you, you would never usually think me the shy, retiring type. So it goes with SG.

But for those of us blessed to have her in our daily lives, SG is pure toddler. Her vocabulary is growing every day, yet she can't express herself as she likes. This results in tantrums. She is growing more adventurous, but doesn't like to be pressed into trying something new. This results in tantrums. She can understand what she's told and knows that there are rules, but doesn't like it when the rules are enforced. This results in tantrums. Are you seeing a pattern here?

I don't want to give you the idea that SG is a rotten little kid, she's just a typical kid. There are few things that warm my heart more than her infectious giggle and silly faces. But there are few things that frazzle me quicker than when SG is on a rampage.

This past Sunday found my sweet baby in rare form. She got to sit with me during church because she is recovering from yet another ear infection (and I didn't want to expose all the other kids). During Sunday school she hounded me for cookies that she had seen me pack in her bag. I told her firmly that the cookies were for later (during church). She persisted, until I explained that in church she would see Papaw and Granny -- then she could have cookies. SG was quiet for a minute, then began to say, "I want Papaw." She is a smart little girl.

Church then saw us visiting the bathroom 3 times. After the first visit, she felt compelled to announce to those seated nearby, "I go potty!" We left a bit early (I hate distracting everyone else with our constant comings and goings). As usual we went to Granny and Papaw's for dinner.

Dinner time found SG unhappy with her food choices. Granny had thoughtfully bought her some chocolate mousse yogurt. SG has had this before and loved it. But this time refused to try it. She even sat in the corner rather than try one bite.

Back home and after her nap she continued to pursue perfect two-ness. She managed to reach onto a cabinet and snag the Lysol. I heard a hissing sound from the laundry room and found her spraying Lysol in the family room, utterly fascinated. Her stint in the corner turned into a stint in her crib after she refused to stay put, saying simply and clearly, "Want out."

As I prepared dinner she rummaged my craft area and found my markers. Luckily we found each other before anything could be ruined. She also found the cookies in the lunch drawer, and was quite put out after I took them away.

Again and again we found ourselves at cross purposes, and each time I thwarted her plans was like a crushing blow. She wept and sought solace in my arms, loving me even though I had been the one to devastate her. And I, for my part, could not love her more if she were the compliant, people-pleaser type. She is my shy little spitfire, and I wouldn't change a thing. I might long for peace and quiet, but I wouldn't give up an ounce of what makes my girls unique. The old song is true, "one is the loneliest number." And I know that someday my girls will grow up and leave home. I am holding on to this time for as long as God lets me. I'm in no hurries to have Miss B and SG grow up. So Sister Goldenhair can continue her reign of toddler terror, and I will always be there to give solace and a hug.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Consequences of Speaking Too Soon

So in my last post I made the bold statement that I could handle the usual childhood traumas involving blood or other injuries in a calm, efficient manner. Stomach fluids are the only thing that really gets to me, I asserted.

Unfortunately, it appears that I must now qualify my claims of grace under fire. It seems that I can muster my inner Scarlett O'Hara only when I am witness to the injury. Otherwise I fear that I seem to muster my inner "chicken-with-it's-head-cut-off." I'm not quite as bad as that sounds. But until I know exactly what happened and the severity of the injury, I am a wreck.

This was clearly revealed to me about a week and a half ago. My family was attendig my Dad's union picnic. As the annual raffle was starting, a friend noticed that someone's ticket was stuck to the lid of the drawing barrel. I hopped up to fix it, leaving Sister Goldenhair sitting next to my mom. As I was about to return to our table, I heard SG begin to wail. I saw my mom holding her and assumed that SG had tried to follow me and was told no. SG is two, and "no" is the kind of word that can quickly conjur tears (in both of us). As I got closer I still didn't realize that what happened was more serious than hurt feelings.

But then I saw Sister Goldenhair's face, covered in blood. It seems SG had indeed tried to follow me, but got her foot caught on the picnic bench and face first in to the cement slab underneath. Her chin took the brunt of the blow and she very nearly bit through her bottom lip. The bleeding was profuse. I tried to use napkins to absorb the blood and ice to dull the pain, but it was useless. I was useless. Mimi was also on hand and I asked both mothers/grandmothers if I should take her to the ER for stitches. Another mother in crowd came over and said the same thing had happened to her grandson and three stitches were needed.

I would have been a bit panicked even if I had seen everything that happened, but the not seeing made it so much worse. I tried to get a firm hand on that inner-headless-chicken. Granny and Mimi helped talk me down, and the bleeding finally stopped. No stitches were needed and SG would be running around happily later that same evening.

There was a turning point in the whole situation. A moment when Scarlett O'Hara began to win out over the chicken. When SG realized through her pain that I was there. She called out to me, and I took her in my arms. She calmed down quite a bit, and so did I. I was still tense as I asked Granny and Mimi what I should do, but in those same moments I had some peace. I knew that I had done something right in my life if this sweet little girl found comfort in my arms. She even fell asleep once the bleeding had stopped. I held her close for so long that afternoon that my arms hurt for several days afterward. Usually I would have passed her to a grandmother, but I could not seem to let her go.

I do not know if I'll ever really be able to let go of either of my girls. They are such perfect gifts from God. Part of the danger in loving someone so much, is that the potential for hurt is so much greater. Sometimes in my life, I have been able to pull back from someone to avoid being hurt. But not with my girls. All my cards are on the table with them. We are never guaranteed another moment on this earth, so if nothing else I want them to always know that they have my love.

P.S. This was SG's third union picnic. At the first (when she was only a little over a month old) she was stung and bitten by a yellow jacket. Her whole arm swelled up. Last year she was unhappy about needing a nap. After this year, I think we might be forced to reevaluate our attendance of this particular picnic.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Attack of the Mysterious Barfing Flu

As you can guess from the title, the time since my last post has been a bit hectic. The girls were both stricken with what seems to be a yearly bout of the Mysterious Barfing Flu.

And just what makes this barfing flu so mysterious? It seems to stalk its unsuspecting prey, waiting for the right moment to strike. And just what is the right moment? It has become obvious to me that it must include nocturnal regurgitation of the sort that requires an immediate change of bedding and deep, motherly soul searching (such as, "Why didn't I put a trashcan next to Miss B as soon as she said her stomach hurt?" or "Why God, why must barf smell like this?").

And you should also know that barf is my Achilles heel. While I never like to see my girls suffer, most illness, injuries, and emergencies seem to bring out my best poker face. While I inwardly scream and mentally catalog all the possible negative outcomes, I appear to be confident and assured of a happy end to whatever episode is occurring. I can think clearly and rationally, I just can't stop also thinking of all the what ifs. Barf is different. I cannot maintain an appearance of calm when faced with the most thankless of mom jobs: vomit patrol. Sure, it looks gross, but it's all in the smell.

Once, when I was pregnant with Sister Goldenhair, Miss B was struck by the most dreaded of Mysterious Barfing Flu bugs: The Mysterious 15-Minute Interval Barfing Flu. I was forced to call my husband at work and plead for him to leave work early. Whenever I've been pregnant my sense of smell has been incredibly sensitive, so this particular strain of TMBF was particularly excruciating for me. And since it lasted for most of the night...

What? The girls were suffering too, you say? Well that's a given, but as a mature, responsible parent I can still say, "Yuck!" There's nothing like a little stomach acid to make a woman want her mommy. And once Miss B began to recover from her bout with TMBF, we foolishly thought that was it.

We were wrong. Two nights later, Sister Goldenhair was laid low by this evil bug. And even worse, at her tender age of 2, she was confused and frightened by the stomach-emptying spasms. Any attempts at collection/containment were met by tears and fervent attempts to be held. It was traumatizing for both of us.

While neither Woody nor myself were infected by TMBF, I consider myself a victim just the same.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Uniformity. It's just so... uniform.

This past Monday marked Miss B's first day of school. This year she's in first grade. Can you believe it? My little girl is growing up. And frankly, I want it to stop.

But as I have yet to master the skills/powers necessary to stop the passage of time, I pretend to be happy that my sweet little baby is becoming a young lady. I know that first grade is a long way from college, but I know how it works. One day it's first grade, the next it's her first boyfriend, and the day after that she's moving into a dorm. Luckily Sister Goldenhair has no desire to grow up. She refuses to accept the title of "big girl," instead saying, "I baby."

But this is Miss B's milestone. For not only is this the first year that she's in real school full time, this is also the first time she's had to wear a uniform to school. I don't know where you stand on uniform policies. If you're like me, you hadn't given them much thought. My daughter goes to public school. Then the school board started talking about uniforms and started a pilot program.

In principal I don't have anything against uniforms. I was greatly annoyed at the manner the school board adopted this policy. Notices of meetings to gather input were sent home with students the night of the meeting. I found myself having to miss this event or try to attend with two hungry children. Have you ever tried to calm a hungry toddler? It's not pretty.

There have been protests, angry outbursts at school board meetings, and an ill-advised lawsuit all trying to stop the uniform requirements from being implemented. The town newspaper has become a battlezone, its pages full of letters and its website full of anonymous vitriol. The arguments for uniforms are from parents who claim they are more affordable. Even a recent editorial cheers them for being cheaper than designer clothes. And since new clothes have to be bought, this isn't as expensive as the detractors are saying it will be.

Here's my issue with that arguement: I do not, nor have I ever, bought designer clothes for my kids. I watch for sales and haunt the clearance racks. I even sew several things for the girls. Another consideration is this: a lot of parents do not go out and buy a new wardrobe each fall. My kids continue to wear older things that fit.

So now Miss B, the girliest of girls, has to dress like all the guys. Sure, she can wear skirts and jumpers, but the tops all look the same. What's a girly-girl to do? Hope her mom and grandmas can sew, that's what. While I have enough khaki, black, and navy blue fabric to sew for an army, Mimi has made the most significant contribution to girliness.

Mimi has made 5 of a projected 10 shirts. Each is made of richly colored broadcloth. Since our schools allow any solid-colored top, we are taking full advantage of the possibilities. While Miss B can no longer wear her adorable butterfly tunic T, she is sporting turquiose, purple, lilac, hot pink, or mint green shirts with decorative stitching. My focus is on bottoms, and some are forthcoming. But khaki capris pale in comparison with a hot pink shirt.

Uniforms aren't all bad, but it does feel like the many are paying for the crimes of the few (and you hoochies and gangstas know who you are). I'm glad we've found a way for Miss B to follow the rules and follow her heart.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Warning! Craftster.org may be hazardous to your free time

I frequently visit a fabulous blog, Baby Toolkit. While I have assured it's author that I am not stalking her, the tips and hacks found on her blog make even the most discerning parental units rejoice. Her reviews are excellent. And she makes the best diaper "bag" ever The Diaper Valet.

Anyway, a recent column on Adrienne's blog described her new found infatuation with a new web forum, Craftster.org. Ever the skeptic, I clicked over expecting to find a bunch of oddballs who only occasionally post (there's nothing more disappointing than a message board that's never updated). But I was wrong.

So wrong. Craftster is filled with witty, creative crafters from all over the world. They shared their projects, tips, tricks, and wisdom. And they are welcoming to everyone. This alone makes Craftster different among online communities. And on one of my first visits to the children's clothing forum, I found the cutest project ever! With a tutorial, even!

I was immediately inspired to scope out the local Goodwill for a cool men's shirt to recon for Sister Goldenhair. The results? You decide.

I really like the pattern of the shirt and colors. For her part, SG seems to like wearing the dress. And everyone else is shocked when I tell them how it's made. And it was so easy!

And even though the first picture is great, I have to throw in this one just to show off my sweet little girl.

I have found much to inspire me on Craftster. Plus, I have been able to offer advice a couple of times. It feels good to be able to share with other crafty sorts. The only problem I face now is how to come up with more free time. I have already planned projects that need my immediate attention (like school uniforms and Halloween costumes), but I have also be formulating some other plans too, thanks to some new inspiration (felt play food, recon, and just being creative).

So many projects, so little time!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Professional wrestlers have nothing on me!

So Sister Goldenhair is sick again/still. She seemed to have a mild cold, lots of nighttime coughing, and the occasional snotty nose. But her symptoms morphed into something worse, she was having trouble sleeping.

It takes some time to get to know your kids and how they really work. Miss B, for instance and like her mother, can cough all night long and sleep right through it. She may feel a bit run down the next day, but she did get some sleep. SG, on the other hand, is at least half-awake when she coughs at night. The result is a very cranky little girl and very cranky parents.

And after a trip to the doctor earlier this week, it became even more obvious just how different my girls can be. Miss B loves to take her medicine. I can really only remember one or two times when she was much smaller that she resisted. Sometimes she will request medicine (this concerns me on many levels), but even if the medicine is quite unpleasant she will take it.

SG's doctor visit resulted in two possible diagnoses: ear infection or severe allergies. The consequences: augmentin and loratidine liquids (two of the nastiest tasting meds around). We asked the pharmacy to add bubblegum flavoring to the vile taste the manufacturers call "cherry." [rant]It is obvious to me that pharm. companies must hate children. Otherwise they would try harder to make their meds palatable. This is also proof that they hate parents and want us to suffer, covered in sticky, vile tasting syrups ejected from the palates of those who would gladly eat paper, dog food, and anything found on the ground if they had the chance. [/rant]

What happened next should appear on the next Smackdown video released by WWE. Woody and I double teamed SG after civil attempts at medicine dosing were rejected in stunning, spit-take reactions. The old medicine-in-the-chocolate-milk trick was shot down as well. And our one-on-one wrestling match was traumatizing to us both.

What followed was a morning of pure parenting torture. Since SG would not take any of her meds, I was forced to ask the doc for an antibiotic shot. If you ever consider this to be an easy alternative to ten days of twice-daily dosing, let me tell you just how crazy you are. I did not expect it to be easy, but after she received the shot I was informed that even adults don't like it. And as someone who had to help hold SG down as she received a shot in each leg at once, I can assure you that it was agony for us both.

She cried herself to sleep in the car, and I felt terrible for her. It's especially frustrating that she is too young to really learn from this. Actually that's not completely true. She definitely learned to resist medicine in syringes, but will not realize that not taking her meds can result in something more uncomfortable than a bad cherry flavor. So tonight, when she was sore and a bit feverish, she would not take the ibuprofen that she used to take without reservation. She is untrusting and stubborn for now.

And I'm sure somewhere, someone is developing a medicine for that too. But for me, I'll try to win her back with loving attention and hope it is more palatable to us all.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The little things, they really do mean a lot

So it's been awhile since I posted. Life has been crazy as usual, and, also as usual, I have gone out of my way to make it crazier. I had my summer sinus infection, Miss B had her regularly scheduled ear infection, and Sister Goldenhair, realizing even in her tender years that misery loves company, came down with the crud as well. And since her birthday and my vacation were scheduled for last week, I had several little projects to tackle. Maybe someday I'll try not to sweat the little things, but for now I'm sweatin' all over the place.

And it seemed important that Sister Goldenhair have a beautiful cake for her birthday. So instead of making a simple, plain cake, I stayed up making purple, monarch butterflies out of candy melts. And while the cake was good, it turns out that the only thing SG was really interested in was those butterflies. She popped them into her little mouth as if they really could have flown away. She should have known better than to reward my obsessive tendencies, but I must admit that the feeling I get remembering her chipmunk cheeks stuffed with candy is one of gratitude.

How lucky am I that I have these two girls in my life? I feel so grateful when I get it right, when it seems I so often get it wrong. I catch myself getting frustrated by normal kid stuff, and I cringe when my reaction to my girls seems more in line with the reaction deserved by the rudest of strangers. But the sad thing is, I would never treat even rude strangers that way. And so I work twice as hard to change.

And sometimes I get it right. I can live in the moment and appreciate all I've been given. Sure, a mouthful of melting butterflies does not a happy childhood make, but it's a step in the right direction.

The end of July also brings my usual summer vacation. I have taken to spending a few days at my in-laws house and taking pictures of the girls in Mimi's garden and around their beautiful church. And the results? The girls always look cute in the garden, don't you agree?

I took over 500 pictures in two days. Most aren't posed, and I think that's the way to go. While a lot of the pictures aren't anything I'd print (blurs, empty frames, backs of heads, etc.), I caught some unexpected treasures. I caught glimpses of attitude, personality, and magic. One of my favorite pictures of the girls came with an impromptu set of races on the side stoop of the Wayne County Historical Society. SG urged her big sister along with frequent shouts of, "Hurry!" (which sounds more like huh-ree). They raced back and forth, laughing all the way. I hated to call an end to it, but before I did I caught one of my favorite pictures of my whole trip.

Not only am I glad I took so many pictures, I'm glad that I spent time picking out fabric and making their dresses. I like having a way to show them how much they mean to me. And so I do those little things that make them feel special and that I feel good about too. I'm glad I didn't spend all evening watching TV, when I saw how Miss B's face lit up when I told her I had finished her picture dress. She understands that there is effort behind it, and I know that she loves dresses. We're all pretty happy in the end (and that whole sewing machine thing was a good move on my part, that guilt trip is over thank goodness). I see this as a way to show the girls how important they are to me, that even when they aren't around or awake my thoughts and efforts are for them.

So when I think of the time since I last posted, it was well spent and sweetly remembered. Miss B catching her first fish, SG's first look at her birthday tricycle, the slobbery kiss I got when she thought I was sleeping, wading with Miss B in the icy creek, and carrying sleeping little girls to bed. The little things don't just mean a lot, they mean everything.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Overstock.com (or how I learned to stop being a martyr and love myself)

Recently I grew a bit maudlin and bemoaned the fact that I couldn't buy myself something I wanted and needed (a new sewing machine). Only now I have done just what I thought I'd never do, and I have Overstock.com to thank for it. I never imagined that Overstock.com would even sell sewing machines, but in performing some searches for the lowest price available on the model I wanted, I found that they do. And at a significant savings.

So thank you, Overstock.com, you've made my impossible dream come true. And while it's true that this is a reconditioned machine and my instruction manual is obviously a xerox copy of the original, I think that helps me feel a bit better about it. It's hard to stop being a martyr cold-turkey, so these facts are like a martyr patch.

And I have already put it to good use.

As you can see, I've had some fun with the applique stitch on my new baby. I know that this isn't likely the greatest thing you've ever seen, but I'm pretty happy with it. So I'm throwing in the closeup as a bonus.

This little number is for Sister Goldenhair to wear for her birthday party this weekend. It's hard for me to believe that my little girl will be two. Hopefully, someday she'll have a little girl and will be able to pass on some of the things her mother made for her out of love. I can think of no greater compliment than having something I made be passed to another generation. I'm not saying that this cupcake shirt will be it, but I sew lots of little dresses and outfits for both girls (including those in the banner picture of this blog).

Anyways, I just want to thank Overstock.com for the great deal. It's hard to feel too bad about indulging when you score a great deal on something you will use the heck out of. Maybe later this week I will be able to share this year's picture outfits. In the mean time, be good to yourselves... You deserve it!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Sad little carnivals and lessons on mortality

The town I live in decided to host a carnival this week. Nothing says we admire the sacrifices of our forefathers like the opportunity to cheat severe injuries on a hastily set up tilt-a-wirl. And I imagine that George Washington weeps tears of pride each time someone buys a deep fried twinkie and a lemon shake-up.

But since this carnival is practically in my backyard, I agreed to take the girls for a quick visit. Killjoy that I am, I maintain veto power on which rides will be enjoyed by my progeny. The whirling-bullet-of-death was quickly deemed unacceptable, so Miss B settled for a ride down the wavy slide. I then followed holding Sister Goldenhair. Luckily, SG loved it (at the risk of appearing to be a big chicken, I will not comment on my own feelings). Miss B then climbed up a giant, inflatable shark, sliding from the tail to emerge from the mouth.

I then took SG on the carousel. She was a bit reluctant at first. Unfortanately her reluctance grew with each passing second. We spent the majority of the ride entangled in a frantic embrace. Miss B desperately wanted to ride the flying swings, but finding herself one ticket shy instead enjoyed her own ride on the carousel.

Then it happened. Miss B spotted the booth giving away goldfish as a prize for landing a ping pong ball in an ivy bowl. She tossed several balls before asking for my help. What happened next was one of my greater mental lapses. I actually took aim and let fly, and my ball was victorious. Why I didn't take the dive, I'll never know. Instead, my 6 year old daughter was the lucky winner of a goldfish (I thank my lucky stars that none of our balls landed in the special center bowl, in which case we would have won a rabbit!). A fish was pulled from a trashcan filled with cloudy water and presented to Miss B.

Miss B, in all her tender-hearted glory, was enraptured with her new pet. We immediately left the fair to get fish food. I made Miss B pay for the food, and her willingness to part with any bit of what is termed her "American Girl Money" made me feel better about the unexpected pet. We went home and carefully prepared fresh water for the fish Miss B named "Lucky."

A few hours later we were arriving home after fireworks. Miss B had hurried in to check on Lucky. I was met by her teary face. It seems that Lucky died while we were gone. My husband flushed him (I'm sure he was humming "Taps" or "Nearer My God To Thee" at the time). My daughter was heartbroken, and I was again glad that we hadn't won a rabbit.

The bright side of all this is that I think Miss B may be ready for a pet. We will likely try another fish, though one bought from PetSmart and hopefully it will have a shot at living longer than 6 hours. I don't think I'll ever be able to go to a fair with out thinking of Lucky and the little girl who loved him so.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The impossible dream...

If you read the title of this blog and heard music in your head, you're not alone. But it's a different song I'm singing these days. Life has been crazy both at work and at home, but I saw something last week that touched me deeply and inspired me a great deal.

I sometimes watch America's Got Talent, but had never seen the British version before. Somehow, I found a video of the winner of Britain's Got Talent, Mr. Paul Potts. Potts is an unassuming man; a bit large of build and quite humble. He took the stage with the confidence of someone who has known ridicule. He stated that he was a cell phone salesman and sang opera. The judges were as disbelieving as I and the rest of the audience were. If you watch any reality shows you know that when they give you background on a contestant it can only mean one of two things: great talent or a complete absence of talent. I hoped that Mr. Potts would do well and not be destroyed by the judges.

And then the most amazing thing happened. This average man opened his mouth, and the most amazingly beautiful tones emerged. He sang Nessun Dorma, my favorite opera piece (not that there are many to compete with it). Within seconds my eyes welled with tears, and I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. There was just something about that voice and the soulful eyes of the man who sang. He looks like someone who knows pain. The crowd adored him, yet he looked as if he expected a rebuke from the judges. They also loved him.

In later rounds of the competition, Potts revealed that he had been bullied as a child. His voice was his best friend and comfort. He was in debt due to medical problems, and very nearly didn't even audition. Luckily for us all, his wife encouraged him to pursue his dreams. Click here to see his first appearance.

I'm sure that you have figured out that I am more than a bit sentimental by nature. I can be sarcastic and doubtful, but it is merely an act meant to protect the tender workings of my heart. And this man touched my heart. I wonder if I would have the courage to pursue my dreams in such a manner. So often it seems we all get bogged down in the day to day, that we forget to even dream, let alone pursue our dreams.

We are often martyrs. Unintentionally surrendering our dreams for the greater good, we think that our suffering will make things better. I'm not saying that self-denial is a bad thing. But maybe we need to be clear on just what the benefits will be.

I have been eyeing a sewing machine for a few months. I've wanted an upgrade for some time, and finally picked a good candidate. But did I buy it? Of course not! My 9 year old machine works fine. The buttonholer doesn't work, but the other 12 stitches are okay. The machine I want has over 60 stitches and many improved functions. It's not outrageously priced. But I cannot buy it. It's too much to be spent on just me. I tell myself that the money would be better spent on other things for the family.

The only problem is, I couldn't show you what we did instead. I can tell you that instead of spending money on a fence, we spent it on new french doors instead. The improved security and insulation are tremendous (especially since our old sliders were propped shut with a broomstick). I can tell you that instead of buying Mimi some flowers for Mother's Day, we paid our way into a state park and spent all day with the girls instead. But I practiced self-denial and have nothing to show for it, except the ability to say that I went without.

And so it seems to go with many dreams. I cannot tell you why I haven't tried harder to follow my dreams. I can only say that I haven't. I probably think that I have done this for the betterment of my family (i.e. in saving money or being around more), but wouldn't my family be better off with someone who isn't afraid to try?

And I imagine that a big part of the problem for many of us, is that we cannot clearly state what our dreams are anymore. I no longer dream of a career in pop music or of being an astronaut (two of my early career choices, though I also wanted to be a waitress). I tend to know what I don't want, but can't always say what I do.

My goodness! I certainly didn't mean to wax philosophical. Maybe it's the stormy weather or that fact that my father is quite ill, but either way I need to lighten up and dream a little dream of me.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Father's Day

This Sunday is Father's Day. So how will you celebrate?

As I am lucky enough to have a father and father-in-law who are still living as well as having a husband who is a father (and yes, I mean to my children. If there are any other children of his out there you may soon notice a drastic change in the tone of this blog.), we will be celebrating a multi-faceted Fathers' Day.

For my father-in-law, I have purchased a "funny" card. I leave the choice of gift up to my husband. Since Woody's folks (Mimi and Poppy) are leaving for a cruise, we won't be seeing them this weekend.

For my dad, I have also purchased a "funny" card. I plan to go out tomorrow and pick up his gift. And how do I show my love for my dad? With a Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker of course! Sure he has one already. And even though it is several years old and missing one small, unnecessary piece, it works fine. But sadly, this is what it seems I've come to: buying replacement items for gifts. My folks are lucky enough to be able to buy the things they really need and most of the things they really want. Anything he wants that he can't buy would definitely be beyond my reach. So since the old man likes his tea, a tea maker it is.

And Woody? He will be the lucky recipient of a Flip Video digital camcorder. Is this because he's such a great dad and husband? Perhaps. But it's mostly because I think it's really cool. I know that Woody will like it, but that I will use it more. But since I will be using it to capture moments that he is missing due to his crazy work schedule (which I swear is meant to punish those with young families), it still seemed appropriate. And in case you were wondering, yes, I also bought him a "funny" card. This one was approved by Miss B however. Woody will be off on Saturday instead of Sunday, so we will celebrate with him tomorrow.

Since I am lucky enough to live near my folks (Granny and Papaw, as they are known to my girls), we will spend Father's Day with my father and his grill. My dad is a steak and potatoes kind of guy. Okay, he's actually a steak and cheesy-potatoes kind of guy, but you get the idea. He loves steak on the grill whenever the weather is agreeable, so I foresee a steak dinner on Sunday.

My dad and I didn't always get along when I was a kid, but we are close now. I'm lucky to have parents who are people I'd like even if I weren't related to them. And the girls love them too. Sister Goldenhair, in particular, adores her Papaw. She can't quite say "Granny" yet, but she can say "Papaw" with an ease and devotion that is sweet to behold. He teases her and tickles her, and she shrieks with laughter every time. Sometimes I'll even hear her call for him from her crib as she first awakens. I'm so glad that both girls get to spend a lot of time with their grandparents. Mine always lived at least two states away, so I only saw them a few times a year. My girls usually see both sets of grandparents at least once a week.

So is a tea maker a good gift for a great dad? When every meal at home was accompanied by a pitcher of iced tea, and your dad's favorite white cup is stained beige from always holding tea, and the only accepted family shorthand is the rattle of ice in an empty glass as a call for refills of sweet tea, I think it'll do nicely.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A fear of the fearless

Sister Goldenhair has become fearless of late. And I'm rapidly becoming a nervous wreck. Sure, I sometimes admit to quite a bit of white-knuckled parenting and days spent pondering the chances that my kid's cough is merely the first symptom of bubonic plague. But this is the big time.

My little monkey has become fearless in the water. She spent time at Mimi's house (Mimi is Woody's mom and the best mother-in-law a girl could have) yesterday and had a blast in the kiddie pool. So much so that Mimi felt compelled to warn me. It seems that SG was putting her face in the water, laying on her back in the water, trying to float, and generally trying to become a water dog.

And while part of me glad that she isn't afraid of the water, another part of me is terrified. As is my nature, I began to worry when Mimi told me all this, but I was worried more about her getting into a kiddie pool without supervision. Then I put my filthy kids in the tub last night for a bath. SG merely saw this as another pool. She laid down completely in the tub, water lapping at the edges of her cherubic face, and kicked her feet. She delighted in covering as much of herself as possible with water. And thanks to her independent streak, she tried to climb out of the tub while I was unfolding her towel. Small, wet children and slick, bathroom surfaces never combine well, and she fell back into the tub. Unharmed and undaunted, she prepared to try again. I helped her out, much to her displeasure, and felt my stomach sink.

While I wouldn't leave her unattended in the tub before, I can no longer feel even remotely non-petrified at the thought of her near any quantity of water. She can somewhat clumsily climb into the tub unassisted. Miss B is not afraid of water, but she gets nervous in a pool. Since she cannot yet swim, I think this is healthy. But what to do about SG? Do you try to make her see the dangers? Can a child of not-quite-2 understand without becoming phobic?

Well, at least I have an exciting new fear to keep me on my toes. Sometimes I long for the days when Miss B was a baby and I was blissfully unworried. Sure, I was concerned about lots of things, but not with the nearly hysterical fervor that seems to grip me these days. It's my job to keep my girls safe and healthy until they become adults, but so much is really beyond my control. What to do, what to do?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Introducing indywriter...

I know you're bound to be so excited you can hardly contain yourself. "indywriter is finally blogging," you say.

Sure. That's it exactly, right?

Okay, so you probably aren't even sure who indywriter is. It's me! (I'm sure that cleared it all up for you.)

I am a do-er of many things. I am most busy with being a mom to my two lovely girls (that's them in the picture). While I do work outside the home, I find that I still spend a hefty portion of most days worrying or otherwise thinking about my girls. If I never do another thing in this life, I am blessed to be a part of them. They are beautiful inside and out, and have such strong personalities.

Miss B is six years old and starts first grade in the fall. She wants to be a "pure ballerina" (which means she wants to wear pretty leotards and pointe shoes). She was reading before she started kindergarten and has a habit of asking the hard questions. She likes to wax philosophical about many topics, but still loves to do kid stuff and watch cartoons. She keeps me on my toes. I never know what she's going to say.

Sister Goldenhair will be two in July. She is rapidly developing her vocabulary and seems to change with every day that passes. She has spent all of her short life attached to me in some way or another. But lately, she's been digging the daddy. I am glad for him and for her (and for me!). She's still my shadow, but it seems that her meltdowns are less frequent and her personality grows more sunny with each passing day. She is a hoot, and quite the little lover. Soggy kisses and pats on the back are her specialty. She learns quickly and is obsessed with remote controls and phones.

Miss B and SG are two of the loves of my life. My husband would be the other. Woody greatly enjoys carpentry and golf (yes, I am clever with the names... thanks for noticing). Woody and I have been married for almost 9 years now. He's fiery (that means red-headed and frequently short-tempered), but great. I'm a lucky woman any way you look at it.

As for me, I like to read, sew, cook, shop, scrap, sing, play, dance, take pictures, and so much more that this list could go on for some time. I will likely share lots of different things here, but who knows? Thanks for reading!