Monday, September 30, 2013

Special Day

I am a sucker for anniversaries.  I always think, at this time last year...  Or at this time 5 years ago...
Please indulge me while I stroll down memory lane.  Since I cannot celebrate "our special day" this year with David, I am just going to tell you about it.

So today, I am thinking:
On this day, 16 years ago, I was student teaching.  But David invited me to have supper in Dahlonega with him.  (Y'all know I robbed the cradle and graduated before him!)  It was a special day because it was the one year anniversary of when David gave me his lavalier.  So I finished with my classes and headed from McIntosh High School all the way up GA 400 to meet him for supper.  I kind of knew something was up because a couple weeks before, David had talked with my parents.  Alone.  And after their talk, Mom made a funny comment about finally getting rid of me...

So I met him at his dorm.  I parked my car and hopped into his car, presumably to go and eat.  But first, he drove me back to the parking lot.  At the time, it was called the Green zone.  And it was the place where we first met.  My roommate and her boyfriend had set us up so he could go with me to a sorority formal, and I knew he was amazing because he agreed to go before even meeting me.

Ah formals!  College was so much fun!
I was totally unprepared to meet him then.  I had a HUGE zit on my forehead.  The kind of blemish that today, years later, he jokes about the extra nose growing out of my forehead.  But not on that day.  We shook hands and chatted, all while I was nonchalantly trying to hide my forehead. Mom said on that day when I told her the story, "Wouldn't it be funny if you married him and told your children that story about how you met?"  Indeed.

So we parked in the parking lot and he handed me a red scrap of paper that said, "We started here in the parking lot.  Your head was a little red and uncertain."

Then we drove over behind Donovan Hall, the dorm where we were RAs together during summer school.  I was the RA of some super cool NGC girls.  And he was the RA to the GA Tech Football Team who had to attend summer school with us that year because of the 1996 Olympics being in Atlanta.  We spent a lot of time hanging out every night, just talking and laughing.

We walked to our "spot," and he handed me another red scrap of paper.  It said, "In rough, difficult times and places, our love grew."

We hopped back in the car and started driving.  We ended up on Crown Mountain.  This was another landmark at NGC.  The cadets always ran up the hill on the last day of Frog Week.  It was a long standing tradition.  And when my parents were at North Georgia, my Daddy gave my Momma his lavalier on top of crown mountain.  My sweet D knew that, and so that is where he gave me his lavalier.

We walked off to the side and he handed me another red scrap of paper.  It said, "On the mountain, we went higher to the next step, your lavalier."
My lavalier candlelighting
We were back in the car and started driving.  The way we were heading, I thought we might be going to Pine Valley, a popular place for parties and socials.  But then he turned off.

We were headed to Amicalola State Park, a favorite spot for us to hang out and sometimes study and picnic.  He drove to the top and we walked out onto the bridge over the falls.

He handed me another red scrap of paper.  It said, "Now we are higher than before, and you now have all of my heart."

It was at that point that I realized that the scraps of red paper were actually like a puzzle that he made.  And now that I had all of them, they formed a heart!
I can be a little slow...
He got down on one knee right there on the bridge and popped out the ring.  Strangers were gasping and watching and giggling!

I was crying and so excited, he said, "Will you marry me?"  And I immediately hugged him.  He put the ring on my finger.  And I think we were back in the car before he said, "Um, I don't think you answered me.  Will you?"  And I said, "YES!  OF COURSE!"

I so wish we had a picture of that night, but that was in the dark ages before cell phone cameras.
Here is one of our engagement photos, though.  
Infants, we were!

So 16 years ago today, he asked and I said YES!
Happy Special Day, D!
(And thanks for letting me tell our story.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Life with Jack Handey

I may be dating myself a tad, but who remembers Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey?  We used to love those things!  My whole family would look forward to them every week on Saturday Night Live.

Well, I live with Jack Handey.  Well, not the Jack Handey, but our own smaller version of Jack Handey.  We just call him Spencer.

Spencer is always thinking.  And always planning.  I never know what questions are going to come out of his mouth, what questions I will then have to answer, or what plans he is making.  Here are a few recent topics that little Jack Spencer has wanted to discuss.

S: Mom, what is the difference between a Catholic and a Methodist?  Or what about someone who is Jewish?
This led to a lengthy discussion where I explained Protestants and Martin Luther.  To which he said, Martin Luther KING?  And I said, no.  And he asked again, oh, you mean Martin Luther KING JUNIOR?  It took some time, but I think he eventually got it...
S: Mom when I grow up, I want to have a cat.
Me: OK, buddy. That sounds good.
S: Do you think I should have him micro-chipped?
Me: I guess so, that is probably a good idea.
S: Yeah, that's what I thought, too.
S: Mom, I know that we have to move because of the army.  Can people who are not in the army move, too?
Me: Of course they can, it is just a little harder because the army pays for our moves and schedules everything for us.
S: Aw.  But when I am a grown-up, I want to move. But I don't want to be in the army.
Me: Son, you can still move.  Daddy and I will help you.
S:Oh, OK, good.

S: Mom, when I grow up, will you be upset if I don't live in the same state as you?
Me: No, son, but it would make things more convenient when you visit me the required once a week.
(he grinned at my joke)
S: OK, well, I think I want to live in either Illinois or South Carolina.
Me: Alright, where in Illinois?
S: O'Fallon.
Me: Perfect!  And you already know where to go to church!
S: Yes.  Wait, what was the other place I said I wanted to live?
Me: South Carolina
S: Oh, yeah.  What's in South Carolina?  Would I like it there?
Me: Oh yes!  There is Charleston and the beach and it is close to GA.
S: OK, then.  I will live in Illinois or South Carolina.
S: Mom, I am going to open a school when I grow up.  And I will be the Principal.
Me: That is a great idea, buddy.
S: Do you think that I can still teach at my school, even if I am the Principal?
Me: Of course!  It will be your school.  You can do whatever you want, I think.
S: Good.  I think I will teach Pre-K.
Me: OK.  Why Pre-K?
S: Well, that is before the kids start to get rough.
Me: Son, do you need to tell me something about school?
S: No, why?
S: Mom, when I grow up, do you think I could go to Niagara Falls?
And he has planned his future dogs.  They will be one boy names Gulliver and one girl named Constance.

S: Mom, can I ask you a question, since you know, you are a grown up?
Me: Ok, sure.
S: Can 2nd graders be boyfriend and girlfriend?
Me: Well, I think that 2nd graders can have crushes and like each other and be really good friends.  But y'all are a little too young to be too serious.
S: OK.  It's just that my friend Chris LOVES someone in our class a lot.  And he said that you can are boyfriends and girlfriends until you are 18 and then you get married.
Me:  Well, maybe it is OK to get married when you are 18 in Chris's family, but in this family you can't get married until you graduate college.
S: Oh, OK.
Me: You have to be able to take care of your wife.  You need a good job, so college first, OK?
S: That makes sense.
I was in the middle of writing this post when Spence struck again:
While I was cooking supper, he was hanging in the kitchen with me.  He ran his hand along the wall.
S: Mom, I think I know why our walls are white.  I think that a lot of Christians all have white walls.
Me: Why do you think that, buddy?
S: Well because white walls are like clouds.
Me: Yep, they are.
S: And clouds are very peaceful.  And if you are a Christian, you are peaceful.

This kid!
I pray that I can always answer his questions and appreciate his thoughts.
And I pray harder that he is always as receptive to my answers, even if they aren't exactly what he wants to hear.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Still my little girl

Jessa cannot wait to grow up one minute, and then wants to be a 4 year old the next.  She wants to be in college and preschool all at the same time.  I can remember wishing I was little again, too.  And I also remember wanting to be older.  This is the story of life, though, right?  We can't wait to grow up and then when we are grown, we long for the carefree days of childhood.  (I mainly just wish someone would make me take a nap.)

Jessa has taken to wearing these shoes that are almost high heels.  They are wedges, and they are fancy.  Someone made her feel bad about how tall she was last year, so now she always tries to make herself look taller.  The wedges fit the bill, but they make her look so grown-up.  Sometimes I can't believe how much.  Most of the time when I look at her, I still see my baby, you know?

So this morning, we went to church.  She wore her fancy shoes, of course.  And it was an absolutely perfect day.  After church, we went to Subway and picked up lunch.  Then we took it to a playground to eat.  They hurried through their sandwiches to get to the playing part of our impromptu picnic. 

As they started to run toward the play area, Jessa realized that wearing those fancy shoes was not the best choice for playing.  So even though she looked so pretty and so grown-up in her church clothes and those fancy shoes, at that moment, she wanted nothing more than to still be a little girl. 
 So she kicked off her shoes and off she went.

And I enjoyed watching her play a little bit more than I usually do.  Because she is growing up.  She is learning so much.  She understands so much more.  Every day, I feel so proud of her accomplishments and her amazing spirit.  But every day, I also feel sad because she is a little less my baby girl.

So on this beautiful first day of fall, I watched my girl play.

I watched her hair blow in the wind.  I watched the sun shine on her hair.
I heard her rich imagination as she described avoiding the lava covering the playground
and the kid Olympics that she and Spencer were competing in.  I celebrated her victories when she made it across the balance beam with no hands.
And when she climbed all the way to the top of "Mt. Everest." 
 I listened to her make beautiful music on the drums.
And I loved looking at her feet.
Her sweet bare feet. 
With dirty bottoms from playing without her shoes.
With chipped toe nail polish.
And I savored the afternoon with my Jessa, who is still my little girl, no matter how fancy her shoes are or how much she can't wait to live in the dorm.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Put a fork in me...

You know how when your husband is deployed for a year?  And you are sad when he leaves, but you are super determined to put on a brave face and "soldier on" at home?  And there are a few days, especially at first when you feel weepy and little things make you cry like a baby?  But then you get in a routine and the kids are busy and school is busy and you are doing great.  And you know how you are super proud of your husband and what he is doing for our country?

And how proud you are of yourself and your kids for not falling apart and for being tough and courageous, even though some days are just plain hard?

Then you know how one day, you look up and say, "You know what?  I am done.  I am over it.  Let's just end this now."  Yeah.  I had one of those days.

Nothing happened out of the ordinary.  The kids were in good moods.  We got lots done at school.  I bought groceries.  I cooked supper.  The dogs were nice, and Fergus did not have one accident all day long (KNOCK ON WOOD).  The kids did their homework without a fuss.  Things were just fine.  Normal.  Above average, even.

We are doing OK.  But then a wave comes over me - and I am just done.
Where in the heck is my husband??

Every deployment has those moments.  Every military spouse has those moments during every deployment.  The crazy thing is that you don't usually see them coming.  There are those obvious times that you miss them.  I can vividly remember holding a 2 year old Jessa at 2 AM after she threw up all over my bed, while 8 months pregnant with Spencer.  I actually said outloud on the verge of tears, "Where is my husband?"  No one answered.  But I changed the sheets.  Jessa was OK.  I was OK.  We survived, but it would have been awesome to have him there.  Or perhaps the most obvious moment of all, the moment that I am laying in labor and delivery about to meet Spencer.
Without him.

I am not talking about those times.
I am talking about the times when you are running into the PX to pick up a couple things around lunch time and you see nothing but couples meeting for lunch at the food court.  And your heart actually hurts for a split second.
Props for Spencer's photo bomb :)

Or you are just walking out of the school building and you see a Daddy headed to the car holding the hands of his children.  And you almost can't breathe.

Or those times when you can't decide what to cook for supper and the thought crosses your mind that today would be a perfect day to grill...
But your master grill chef isn't here.

Or you are looking out the window and you see a family walking their dogs after supper.  And you wish your family could do something as simple as take a walk.  All together.
Or when the house is quiet.  The kids are asleep.  I am laying in bed trying to go to sleep.  And Fergus wants to go out.  Odds are, even if David were here, I would be the only one who heard him get up.  But I miss being mad at him for not hearing Fergus!

Now, even though I had a "moment," by the time I woke up the next morning, I was thrust back into the daily grind.  I had my head down, powering through another day.  Make lunches, pack snacks, fold clothes, drop off, pick up, feed dogs, clean out cat litter, take out the trash, cook supper, grocery shop, all the day to day "stuff."

And before I know it, the day is over.
I erase another day from our countdown board.
And I smile because we are one day closer to this actually being over.

And I then I smile even bigger because I realize that when David gets back he will be on my nerves within a week.  The laundry will double.  I will trip over boots in the middle of the night.  He'll forget to tell me he'll be late.  He'll be frustrated with me for not getting gas in the car until the light comes on.  He'll sigh as I tell him a story that should take 5 minutes, but when I tell it, it takes 20.  He'll toss and turn trying to go to sleep because I need the TV on for noise, but he wishes it was quiet.

But I will also get to enjoy watching him help Jessa with her homework or help Spencer with a computer game.
And we can take a walk after supper.
All together.
And then all will be right with our world.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good Boy Fergus?

When we got Fergus this summer, I was wondering how long it would be before he figured out the doggie door.  Molly picked it up pretty quickly, but her older dog example was Max.  And he was not too big on going in or out or getting up or being awake.

So Molly didn't really "get it" until she was around Abby and Cooper while May and Bay were visiting.  But Fergus had crazy Molly to teach him.  And even though he was only 6 weeks old when we got him, and even though he only weighed 4.5 lbs, he was throwing himself out that door within about 2 days.
This is the 3rd day after we got him:

So with the doggie door comes freedom.  Molly figured this out pretty quickly.  Freedom to go out anytime you want.  Freedom to come in anytime you want.  And freedom to take whatever you can drag through the hole in the door outside. Molly loved this part the most.

So it was only a matter of time before Fergus figured out the dragging things outside thing, too.  Sometimes it was things that he wanted to eat/play with/chew up without us trying to stop him.  Sometimes it was shoes.  Sometimes it was trash or yarn or water bottles or snacks.  You name it, he wanted it outside.

One time, he dragged yarn in and out and all around to create a simulated laser maze.

And I will be honest, I knew that he was continuing to drag stuff outside.  But unless it was a shoe that one of us wanted to wear right then, I had the tendency to just leave it out there.  But this week, I realized that I hadn't cut the grass in months.  (The backyard is really shady, so it hadn't needed it.  But then David just informed me that it is just like hair and I need to trim the dead ends.  Who knew?!)  Before I could cut the grass, I needed to go on a scavenger/ Easter egg hunt: Fergus Style.

I tried to take a picture of what it looked like before I picked everything up.

I am not sure if it makes the severity of this situation clear.

So I started just putting everything that I picked up on the table.
Well, I think that you can tell from this picture that he has a problem.

Apparently, there are few things he will not try to take outside.
One day I saw this when I got home:

Thank goodness we didn't get the large doggie door!  But can't you picture that 9 lb dog trying to get that pillow that is bigger than him out that door???

Oh and a day or so after I cleaned up the yard, I went to the grocery store.
That Fergus!  Apparently, he wanted to help me unload the bags.
Later that afternoon, I found these out in the yard.

Bless his heart! 

He was trying to help me clean!

I guess I'll keep him.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Froggie Door?

We have a doggie door.  We have had one since we lived at Ft. Stewart, the second time.  It is in the storm door, and we move it with us.  David has to figure out how to get it installed at each house.  He does this with incredible skill, many trips to Lowe's, and some choice words.

I love this darn thing.  It makes life so easy.  I never worry about getting stuck somewhere and the dogs not being able to go out to the bathroom.  It does have a few drawbacks.  On occasion, Molly has been known to catch birds.  Sometimes she brings in dead birds.  Sometimes she brings in live birds.  On these days, I rethink the convenience of the doggie door.  I have made great strides in my dealing with unwanted creatures in the house, but things with skeletal systems are a problem for me.  Birds are new, since we got Molly.  But I have had to handle lizards and frogs when we were at Ft. Stewart, the first time.  (I may be using the word handle loosely.  In this case, it may mean screaming and crying like a 2 year old, trapping them under Tupperware, asking David to come home (from Iraq), and paying neighbor children to help.)

I don't like dealing with frogs or toads outside, and certainly not INSIDE.  So imagine my surprise panic, when my sweet boy came into my room after the whole house was in bed to report that there was a frog in the house.  He saw it in the kitchen when he went to get some water.  And he thinks it must have come in through the doggie door.  Oh. Crap.

I would love to tell you that I kept my cool.  And that I sprung into action.  Picture me calmly walking down the hall, telling Spencer about all of God's creatures being precious.  I lean down, I say, "Come here, little fella."  I carefully lift the sweet little frog up.  Spencer pets him on the head.  We smile, and share a moment.  Then Spencer opens the front door while I carry Freddie (because that's what we named him, of course) out into the front yard.  We put him down in the wet grass.  We wave to Freddie.  He starts to hop off, back to his froggie family.  Then he stops, looks over his shoulder back at us, his saviors.  And we could almost swear he winks at us as he hops out into the night.  I put my arm around Spencer.  He puts his arm around me.  And we walk back into the house together, basking in the glow of this precious moment in time.

That my friends in NOT what happened at our house tonight.  I immediately started freaking out and telling Spencer he is a boy.  Boys are supposed to handle things like this.  I had children so that I would not have to deal with this sort of thing.  A hundred years ago, my kids would have been working in the fields on our family farm.  Now, all I ask is that they take care of stray critters that wander into the house.  Dang it, I don't ask much!  Put your clothes in the hamper and catch frogs.  That's it!  You are letting me down, son.

So he and I are both talking fast and sweating.  We were relieved that the dogs were already in bed.  I closed my bedroom door to keep it that way.  Our first order of business was containing it.  See, neither one of us were willing to just pick up the little frog.  So while we formulated a plan, we needed to make sure he couldn't hop away where we couldn't see him.  How could we sleep with a rogue frog hopping around willy nilly?  So we cornered him with a framed picture, a card table, a box, and a poster.

So we needed to trap him.  A cup would be too small, and it would require precision.  I went for a bowl. 

And then we decided that we needed Jessa.  She is the toughest of the 3 of us.  She was already asleep.  So being the caring, amazing mom that I am, I let her keep sleeping I tiptoed in her room and woke her up.  Go ahead and give up ladies, Mom of the year, right here!

My daughter, who has caught frogs and begged to keep them, who is my tomboy wannabe, was not interested in helping.  She wouldn't even leave her room.

So Spencer is on one side of the dog gate.  He was not taking any chances on my barrier failing.  I offered him $10 to pick it up.  He said he would with gloves.  I said, "Really?  If I search and find gloves, you think you can pick it up for me?"  He thought for a minute and said, "No. I don't think so."  Thanks for your honesty son.

Then I offer to buy them a new game they have been wanting.  I was desperate people.  It was 10:30.  On a school night.  I needed to get this situation under control.  The time for drastic measures had arrived.  The frog has moved a couple times.  He was glaring at us with those shifty eyes.  He was planning something.  We needed to move.

Once the game was on the table, the kids were way more excited about helping.
Jessa changed clothes and put on gloves.

On of my shirts and gloves - frog germs, don't ya know?!
 She crept up behind the frog,

and she was able to toss the bowl on top of it.  Progress!

Then she scooted it over to the rug using the bowl, while it was trapped under.  Then I propped the front door open, risking 52 other frogs bum rushing the house.  And Jessa held the bowl down while Spencer pulled the rug closer to the front door.

Then they decided to try wrapping the rug around the bowl.  Then Jessa picked it up and hurried out to the front steps.  Then Spencer hollers from inside, "There's another one!"  So Jessa and I peek under the bowl.  It was NOT another one.  In the shuffle, they let him out.

So we are back to square one.
But Jessa REALLY wants that game.
Formulating Plan B?
So she tosses the bowl back on it.

But now the rug is not in play because it is still on the front porch.  Spencer wants to get another rug, but I convince them that we would risk him getting out.  The rug didn't work so well the first time.

 Then we used the broom to slide the bowl over toward the front door.  But the door jam stopped us.  Then Jessa lifted the bowl slowly. She pointed the open part toward the door.  Once she lifted the bowl, we all cheered and shook the broom to make sure he kept heading on OUT the door.
Go frog go!  See him on the door jam?? (Jessa fell asleep with wet hair, can you tell?)

He did!

And all of this only took like 40 minutes.
Impressive, no?
We high-fived each other and started down the hall to head back to bed.  Jessa said that she was going to write about this in her writing journal.  Spencer said he was going to choose "Work on Writing" as his first Daily 5 to write about the 2 frogs in the house.  (He was still pretty convinced there were 2 of them.)  I am thrilled to provide near death experiences for them to write about.  Not a near death experience, you say?  Did you see the size of that thing?  The cold look in his eye?  We are lucky to be alive, I tell you!

We hadn't made it 3 steps, when Jessa said, "Now, about that game you promised to buy..."
It will be worth every penny.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

4th Grade Politics

So, our Jessa had a tough time adjusting to the move from Scott to Ft. Campbell last summer.  She is a classic "grass is always greener" child who fondly recalls every aspect of life in Illinois through a lovely shade of rose colored glasses.  To be fair, I may have a touch of this as well...  It was a wonderful assignment, but here is good, too!  Last year, she just refused to see it, though.  And every tiny issue she had would make her wish she wasn't here.  She wanted to be back at Scott.  Her best friend in the world, Lauren, moved last summer, too.  But she just couldn't seem to get past the fact that all of her problems (at least in her mind) started when we moved.

I had anticipated this.  They both started to school at Scott.  Jessa went there for 3 years - and that is a long time in the life of an Army kid.  But I did not know how difficult her adjustment would be.  She liked her teacher a lot, and she was involved in activities.  Her grades were good.  But most days, she begged me to let her stay home.  We persevered, though and finished 3rd grade.  Jessa was THRILLED to have summer stretching out before her. 

So when it was time to go back to school, I was a little nervous.  My heart couldn't take another tough year.  I always knew she was fine once she got to school.  Last year, I checked on her lots during the day without her ever knowing it.  But those mornings were ROUGH.

Before school started, she met her teacher because we were at school with the PTO serving the teachers a welcome back breakfast.  And she was instantly excited! 

School started.  She didn't complain.
She still didn't enjoy getting up early, but once she was awake, she was in a half way decent mood.
She didn't fuss about homework.
She was overall, in a good mood.

Then she came home and told me that she wanted to run for Student Council.  As a former Student Council Rep myself, I was so proud.  And ever since she found out about that, she has been pumped!  Even more excited to go to school.  She wrote her speech the day she brought home the permission slip.  She made her poster that weekend.

She came up with her slogan - "Jessa is the Key to Success!"  I told her that I married her Daddy with the thought in mind that someday she or Spencer may need to campaign for something.  Talk about planning ahead!

She came up with ideas of things to hand out to her class to help them remember to vote for her.  I helped with the technical parts, but she really did all the hard work herself.  She even solicited a campaign contribution from May and Bay.  Campaign Merchandise does not come cheap!
She was so focused!  So driven!  So excited!
Key Chains :)

Pencils - to cast their vote!

She practiced her speech.  A LOT.  She read it to David in Afghanistan more than once.  She read it to May and Bay.  And let's just say that Spencer and I could probably give the darn thing without looking at the notes.

She paid attention to how she dressed every day.  Her goal was "professional."  As her mother, I LOVED this because once she started dressing herself, I am not always totally impressed with her choices.

After a week of campaigning, Monday was the speech.  There were 6 children in Jessa's class running.  And all of their speeches were really good.  They were all so brave - they didn't even look nervous.

Note how professional she looks.
 Immediately after the speeches, they got out a piece of paper and voted.  Each kid could vote for 2 people to represent their class.  I promise you that I cannot remember the last time I had so any butterflies in my stomach!  After the vote, her teacher said that it would be announced FRIDAY. 

FRIDAY!?  We have to wait 4 more days?  Really?
I was afraid I might not makes it.  But it was kind of nice to be able to relax and know that it was all over, one way or another.

Then this afternoon, just before dismissal, there was an announcement.
The newly elected Student Council - the announcement we had been waiting for.

5th grade went first.
Hurry up!

Now 4th Grade!

She is beside herself.
And I am so relieved. 
Her hopes were up really high. 
I was really concerned about nursing her bruised ego if she did not win. 
She worked so hard.
I am glad that she can see her hard work pay off.
Plus, she gets to roll up her sleeves and get started right away.

Her first meeting is Monday.
At 7:30.
I am happy for her, really I am.