Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If I Should Die

(Monday morning sunrise by Ella)

Tonite the three oldest kids and I went to the funeral home to pay respects for one of our former neighbors. When we left the funeral home, we had the most incredible, passionate, thought provoking dialogue about life and death and families.

You see, our former neighbor Jenny passed away. Jenny was an older woman with a grown up son. Jenny and her son Michael lived two doors down and they both suffered from mental illness. We were neighbors for close to 10 years and came to have a very trusting relationship. Jenny and Michael weren't the sort of folks that you invited over for dinner or went garage sale-ing with. They kinda kept to themselves. They could easily be candidates for the hoarders show AND the pet hoarders show. But they were nice to us. And they watched out for us. And I knew that if there was ever ANYTHING I needed, Michael would help me.

The kids also had a nice relationship Michael. This man that could have easily been scary to the kids became someone that they knew and trusted and a part of our daily lives. And even though we aren't neighbors now, the kids still go out of their way to say hey to him at the grocery store and are concerned for his well being.

Over the years of being neighbors, we rarely saw Michael and his mom have company. There was very little sign of family trying to help them out. Life was very hard for Michael and his mom. We knew that there was another brother. But really, it seemed like they had little to no family or friends ever around.

The point of this is, Michael's mom died this past weekend. Our very very favorite neighbor of all times, Denise, called us today and told us. So we went to the funeral home for visitation and to pay our respects.

I left the funeral home sad and frustrated and bummed out. The funeral home visitation room was jammed packed with people. Probably 50 or more. We saw the most beautiful pictures of Jenny as a cute toddler, a sexy young woman and a glowing mother. The same woman that we have seen with uncombed hair, bad teeth, constantly wearing a housecoat. She was beautiful. You could see love and joy in her eyes in every single one of the photos. How did Jenny go from a beautiful young woman, daughter, mother to living as a recluse in her house with her grown son and 30+ cats? How do those things happen?

We learned that in addition to her two sons, Jenny also has a daughter. What?!? A daughter. A grown daughter that looks just like some regular lady and is a school teacher. Holy cow.

I was shocked. The kids were shocked. Neighbors for 10 years and we never knew she had a daughter. There were so so many questions as we were driving away.

Where did all of those people come from?
Where were all of those people the past 15 years?
Why didn't we know she had a daughter?
How can you all be here and dressed in your finest and laughing and talking around this casket when you never tried to help her and Michael when she was alive?

So so SO many questions.

Families are hard to explain. The things that grown-up people do to each other are hard to explain.

We all think we are doing the right thing at the time. And then years go past and we have regret. Loads and load of regret.

At first I was full of judgement. A ton of judgement.

But then I came to my senses and remembered that I have no business judging. Every single one of us has something. SOMETHING about our family that could easily be criticized by anyone looking in. I reminded myself that I could be at the funeral for my parents and people could wonder where I have been all of this time. Or that our parents could come to our funerals and the people in our day-to-day lives could wonder why they haven't been more a part of our lives.

We just don't know what is going on in another person's home. There is just no way to know.

So, I made a pinky promise with our kids that I would always love them. No matter what. ALWAYS LOVE FOREVER. And that I will always be here to take care of them if they need me. We are family. That is what OUR family does.

I made them pinky promise me that if I go nuts, they'd either build a padded room for me in the basement or they'd come and visit me in the special hospital.

I also gave the kids permission to call the hoarders program and to remove the 600 pets from our house when things go a little crazy in my old lady world. And I apologized in advance for all of the things I am going to do to screw up.

And then I reminded the kids of how important it is to tell people that you care. Don't be the person that shows up at the funeral home with nothing but regret.

I could have never guess when I opened my eyes this morning that this is how our day would end. I am glad for the opportunity to have this conversation with the kids though.

And I will go to sleep tonight knowing that I am trying my hardest to make sure the people that are my people know how much I care.

I do really care.

The pictures were taken by Ella on Monday and today. Most mornings she watches the sun rise above our beautiful city on her way to school and she LOVES it. And she loves taking pictures of it. These are for Denise, because she is discovering how much she loves to watch the day begin too.

(The sun comes up over our beautiful city this morning as seen through Ella's camera.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Power of a Dum Dum

Sometimes when you are the youngest of 5, things can be hard. Like watching your siblings walk to school with their friends every morning.

Or watching your brothers and sisters gear up for a bike ride around the neighborhood.

And believing with all of your might that you can do it too.

And then they ride away from you, and your little legs can't catch up. And you just can't believe that they would actually leave you.

And then you tip over your tricycle and cry because you didn't have on a diaper and it really really hurt your hands and your private parts. (sorry no pictures of that, I was trying to soothe and calm both myself and the baby!)

So you come inside crying your eyeballs out and your mom realizes they only way to make this sadness go away is to give you a Dum Dum and turn on Yo Gabba Gabba.

And then you stop crying.
And when the first Dum Dum is gone, you cry again.
And before you know it, you have had three Dum Dums and your mommy has been able to wash some of the stoopid dishes. You know, the dishes that she put in a laundry basket and hid before the big 8 year old birthday party yesterday.

Oh the power of a Dum Dum.

Friday, September 24, 2010


What you see here is our fool-proof method to keep away visitors, solicitors, and robbers. Yes, the smell coming from these shoes is enough to penetrate through the front door. DIS.GUST.ING. BARF.

Even the dog doesn't want to walk through the front door.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Breakfast of Champions...NOT.

For a handful of years, I have been reading the NieNie Dialogues. Every Monday (I think), NieNie poses a question to her millions of followers and asks us to respond by making a blog post and linking on BlogHer. I have answered the BlogHer question a handful of times and have linked my response back to her BlogHer page on more than one occasion. (Cause I think it is fun.)

This was Monday's questions:
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

And just like that, the can of worms was opened. Oh, I mean one of my many cans of worms was opened.

I have been thinking about his dumb question for the last 48 hours. Dumb question - why ya gonna go and make me examine myself? Grrrr....

So here is the answer, in big fat color for all of the world to see.

(Gallons of soda. I ain't proud.)

I use to take pride in the fact that I would get my morning coke as soon as I dropped the kids off at school. No harm, no foul - the kids don't know cause they are at school. Sadly, Sweet Baby Wyatt has been taking sips of my coke for as long as I can remember. Now when I go to get my morning coke, I usually get him an apple juice slushie.

And truthfully, the big kids aren't stoopid and they know that I should just go ahead and get a coke (ca-cola) IV. Terrible. I know.

You might wonder how I can afford this coke (ca-cola) addiction. Well, my FRIENDS at Sonic (yes, I go there enough that they know me) save survey receipts for me and they are good for one free Route 44. I rarely pay for this habit. Except for Tuesday and Thursday when I am buying the little one his slushie. And if I need to purchase a Sonic soda, I go in the afternoon during Happy Hour and get one for half price ($1.07).

Why can't I stop? No will-power, I suppose. I know that if I stop, I'm bound to lose some weight.
I have been rationalizing this problem by saying clever things like 'this is my coffee'. Everyone walks around with a Starbucks cup in their hand. How come the coffee folks aren't frowned upon like me carrying around this giant Route 44 Sonic coke?

And I was thinking about our parents. Kinda funny that I have no memory of the older generation walking around with a cup in their hand. Tons of parents take their kids to school with a coffee, water or other beverage in hand. When did we become this beverage obsessed world? Although I do remember the giant metal thermos with the small plastic cup lid. So maybe they were carrying around a drink all of the time and I just don't remember.

I have got to get a hold of myself and break myself free from the grip that the coke (ca-cola) has on me.

But how?
Is there enough Tylenol in the world to help me for when the terrible caffeine headache arrives? And should I plan to quit during PMS so that our family doesn't suffer a double dose of freak mommy in one month?

I guess I should just get a coke and think it over.


And you know what I remembered when I was in the school pick-up line just now? Back in the day, it wasn't uncommon for a mom to have a can of coke, smoke and Butterfinger for breakfast. Ya know, in the trailer park. Now that's a Texas lady for ya.

Oh, and how 'bout that Heather just sent me a text pointing out that kids didn't carry water bottles around all day either. I know that our kids don't go anywhere without one.

I think my grandpoppy would've thought I was crazy if I told him I was going to pay a few bucks for a coffee. He'd make fun of me if I came home with some sort of smoothie that I PAID money for. And I am certain that he'd never dream that I'd be buying 44ozs. of Coke-Cola at a time at the Sonic. My, my. How things change.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This About Sums It Up.

For the last two weeks, Jena's 5th grade English Language Arts class has been learning about how to write an interview. Last week they even had a real reporter from our local newspaper come and talk to them and give them some tips.

Without me knowing, Jena chose to interview my very best sister friend in the whole wide world, Heather. So when Jena came and asked me for Heather's phone number, I was a little defensive - like 'why are you gonna be callin MY friend?' defensive. ha. (Jealous of a 10 year old is cool.)

So here is the interview. I hope you are able to see the love that we have for our Heather.

Heather Barthelme
I think it is so nice when people do something to help others. Heather Barthelme is a close family friend that I have known my whole life. Heather lives in Kansas along with her husband, Stephen Barthelme.

Stephen is in the United States Army, so Heather and Stephen have to live in Kansas right now. They were stationed in Kansas on August 10, 2009. Before that, they were stationed in Mannheim, Germany. They had to live in Germany for 3 years. It was a fun adventure to live in Germany, but it was hard for Heather to live so far away from her friends and family.

Heather said that she likes living in Kansas because it is closer to family and friends. She is also very happy it is in America.

Heather’s job is to help support families when a family member is deployed. Heather is called a Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA). An FRSA helps families to get use to how the military works when they are new to the military, are moved to a new post or have a family member deployed. The reason she chose to be an FRSA is because she was once a new military family that needed help. But her absolute favorite part about the job is seeing families be reunited.

Heather likes families. Before she was married, Heather was a foster parent. She took care of a baby boy for over two years before he was adopted by a new family. It was hard to see him go, but Heather was happy she got to love him and help him.

I hope that you have enjoyed learning about my great friend Heather Barthelme. The reason I chose to interview her is because I wanted you to read about someone that I love very much that has a very big heart and always helps the people around her.
By Jena Carr

Friday, September 17, 2010

No Recall on These Tears

Yesterday I cried.

Yesterday I cried in front of a stranger.

Yesterday I cried the ugly cry in front of a stranger that was shocked and had no idea how to handle me.

Last weekend we started cleaning out the garage and we decided it was time to get rid of our baby crib. I knew it was time. I think Wyatt might have slept in it ONCE in his whole two years.

(Sweet Baby Wyatt - 1 month old)

We bought that crib about this time 14 years ago. All four of our big kids slept in that crib every single night until a new baby came along and kicked them out.

We have been saving it in case we have another baby.

(Jena - 5 months old)

We have been saving it in case our kids want to use it for their babies.

I listed it on craigslist last week. We only had one inquiry and it turned out to be a scammer.

So Wyatt and I took it to the resale shop just up the street.

(Wyatt helping to haul the crib into the store.)

I was shocked. Not only did they willingly give me a very nice check for both the crib and the less than two year old mattress, but they also pointed out that ours was one of the very few drop side cribs that isn't on the giant recall list. Wow wee!

So I get the darn crib unloaded. Carry the crib, the mattress and the baby into the store and the gal begins to write me a check. She wasn't really poking around, but it sure seemed to me like she was taking her own sweet time. Ya know, things kinda go in slow motion when you are trying to hold back the flood gates.

(Our crib has been put into a corner.)

Before she could sign the check, the water works started. The full on ugly cry. She tried to comfort me and remind me that the crib would really be helping a family that needs one. She signed her name quickly because she realized it was only going to get worse.

I drove away bawling my eyeballs out. Our crib is gone.

Maybe if she had tried to comfort me by telling me that I am taking the first important steps to not being on the Hoarders program I would have felt a little better.

Oh, and just cause we got rid of our crib doesn't mean that we won't welcome another baby. So if you are reading this and know me in real life, don't assume that another baby was an 'accident' or 'unplanned' or 'unwanted'. Cause if you do, I might just hafta punch you in the belly. Besides, if we are lucky enough to have #6, I'll most certainly never put him/her down.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

CinderELLA, Hard Work Pays Off

So you all know the story of Cinderella. Well, we have our own version. And I think you might enjoy it.

There once was a girl named CinderELLA. She wanted to go to the ball (try-out to be on her 7th grade volleyball team). She worked hard perfecting her dance moves beforehand. She was very nervous.

On the day that they were handing out ball tickets (try-out morning), 70 girls waited in line. She was certain that she wouldn't be one of the 20 chosen to dance (play on the "A" or "B" team). Sure enough, she was right. Many of the other girls had much more beautiful gowns (club volleyball girls) and were chosen to dance instead.

She was very sad.

CinderELLA heard that there would be a few more tickets handed out before the day of the ball. Everyone in village (mom/dad/sibs/teachers/friends) encouraged her and helped her prepare just incase she was asked to the ball.

CinderELLA worked very hard.

She tried her hardest to please her step-mother and step-father (coaches). She even wrote a one page essay on why she would like to serve her step-mother/step-father (not evil) and step-sisters (girls on the team).

So her step-mother allowed her to come to the ball (practice/games) as long as she was working hard (team manager).

CinderELLA arrived before the sun came up to begin her daily chores.

CinderELLA cleaned the floors.

CinderELLA provided the refreshments for her step-sisters.

CinderELLA picked up after all of the guest.

CinderELLA even made sure that all of the girls at the ball had a place to sit.

Well one morning, CinderELLA showed up early to serve her step-sisters and was called in for a talk with her step-mother/step-father. CinderELLA was very nervous.

Her step-father told her that she would be allowed to dance at the ball. CinderELLA's hard work was paying off. CinderELLA was very very happy. She felt proud of her accomplishment and was very very thankful.

Tonight was CinderELLA's first dance at the ball (game). All of the other girls had already been to two balls. CinderELLA was very nervous. The people in her village (mom/dad/siblings/friends) were very nervous for her too.

CinderELLA was thrilled to ride in the carriage with her step-sisters.

CinderELLA got to wear her beautiful dress (uniform) for the first time.

CinderELLA had the time of her life. She knows that she still needs to work hard on her dance moves (serving, etc.) but she smiled the whole time she was dancing because she was so thankful to have the opportunity to attend the ball.

The End.

P.S. And btw, these stinkin spandex shorts almost caused a war in our home. When Ella told us that she made the team and 'needed' the darn shorts, I said NO WAY and Jeff said YES WAY!!

Why in the world are these shorts allowed? They are SO inappropriate. (In my opinion.) Of course, I realized tonight that Jeff was right and if I didn't buy the shorts for her that she'd be THE ONLY girl out on the court learning a lesson in modesty. Maybe tonite wasn't the night for this 7th grade girl to hafta learn that lesson in public. And yes, I was probably the ONLY mom in Academy measuring the inseam of the make-us-look-naked shorts to make sure that I got the longest pair. I tried to buy her bike shorts, but the sales gal highly discouraged me. I guess she was right too!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Do You Really Want People to See That?

This morning when Jeff was leaving for work, Wyatt and I followed him out. We normally do because Wyatt likes to wave at dad riding away on the little scooter. But I also had the car keys in my hand. Jeff asked what I was doing. I was going to the car to get the camera. He asked why. I told him that I was planning to make a blog post about how I hate doing the laundry and the dishes. He said 'do you really want people to see that mess?' ha.

I told him how a few lady blog friends write about making their nest comfortable for their kids. And how it gives them pleasure to serve their families.

Me, not so much.

Don't get me wrong. I like to have a nice home. I like for our kids to have what they need. And I want the kids to grown up remembering that they were well taken care of.

But I don't love washing clothes. I hate folding clothes. And I can think of a million things I'd rather do than wash the bazillions of dirty dishes that we have every day.

Funny how I don't mind keeping the porch clean. I like working outside and tending to the plants and the front of the house. I love walking up and having a clean and nice entryway. Just don't come inside. The mounds of dirty clothes and dishes my cause you to faint.

I feel very fortunate that I am able to mostly stay home. I feel like one lucky ducky to have this family. This home. This life.

I guess we all have some sort of job that we hate doing. Just so happens that the two jobs that I hate the most will never never never go away.

I guess I need to work on my attitude about these jobs.

Oh, and did ya notice my fall wreath? I keep thinking if I decorate for fall that maybe, just maybe, the temperture might drop from 97 to 91. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

We're All Friends Here

Last Friday night, we went out with our friends Amy and James to celebrate Amy's birthday. It was a perfect night to head to the Rattlesnake Inn in Florence, Texas. The weather was almost fall like, the beer was cold and one of our favorite Texas singer/songwriters, Max Stalling was performing. What a GREAT way to celebrate our friend being born.

Max played all of the favorites. We had a great time watching the college sorts be loud and stupid. We enjoyed watching the older couples dance and hold hands.

At the end of the show, we kinda of waited around. James had bought a couple of CDs and he wanted to get them signed. Max is a friend to James and his brother Thomas. They have even had Max out to play at our annual camping trip.

James was waiting in line behind a super cute and fun dancing couple that Amy and I had commented on earlier in the night. They were there with a large party. It almost seemed like it was some sort of family reunion. Well, naturally as the super cute dancing couple got to the front of the line, all of their people started joining them. Amy and I laughed as we watched the group grow larger. And then there was the picture taking. And the autograph signing. And then more introductions. And and now cousin Jill is here, so we should take one more picture.

The whole time, James is just standing there. I continued to make comments to Amy about it. I was growing more and more frustrated by the fact that those people had no regard for James and the fact that he (and all of the folks behind him) had been waiting in line too. All the while though, James doesn't seem to mind at all. This went on for a while (seemed like hours) and finally, James is up! Woo hoo.

So James is talking to Max and then he calls for Amy to come up and say hi too. So I get in line behind the last people. I am thinking since it is Amy's birthday, we should take a Max picture to go with the other 4 or 5 that we have. James is saying to Max 'you remember my wife Amy?' yes yes. And then somehow it comes up that we want to take a picture. Jeff gets the camera. They tell to me come on up. I say 'no no - we'll wait. I'm behind these people.' Those people say 'no, go on ahead' and then I say something assy like 'I watched all of those other people cut and I don't wanna be like them - we are good to wait.'

At that very moment I kinda felt like everyone was looking at me.

And then Max says, 'Come on up, let's take this picture. It's okay. We are all friends here.'

I've kinda been carrying that with me all week long.
What a great way to look at things.
Even though I am still kinda bugged by the whole disregard for the people behind you thing, he is so right.

We are all friends here.

Thanks Max for helping me to keep it all in perspective.

And if you are still with me here, then I think you should take a second to watch Max sing a coupla new songs that I really love.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Mind

(My kitchen nook with some of my favorite things.)

Remember when we were kids and there was the TV commercial for the United Negro College Fund and the slogan was "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste"?

Well, I was thinking about that slogan as it pertains to our kids the other day.

(Hand cut by Joanie for my 38th birthday.)
(This one is a Phoenix, I think. I just noticed the little piece of paper fell off the back. Waa.)

One of the things I love most about summer is that I can see that the kids are not wasting their minds. That they do things that interest them. That they have the opportunity to try things that they wouldn't normally try when in the school house environment.

(Hand cut by Joanie for my 39th birthday.)
(A charm to provide good fortune in the four seasons.)
(And I don't know how to rotate the picture, so imagine it with the square on top.)

About a week before school started, I was finding little cut-up pieces of paper all over the house. Seems that Miles had decided he would be Edward Scissorhands. A few days later, while vacuuming the couch, I found a piece of red construction paper that was folded into a perfect rectangle.

I grabbed it up and was definitely a bit irritated. UGH! Another unfinished project or piece of trash that has been left here for me to pick up!!!

Well, I took a minute and unfolded it before I threw it away. Low and behold, it was beautiful. An incredible, beautiful creation! So shocking and stunning that I had to sit down and really study it.

Turns out, Miles did it. No book. No computer. No TV show telling him what to do. He had just been thinking about making paper designs like the ones that Grandma Joanie has given me for my last two birthdays. And then he sat down and started cutting.

And look at this master piece. I love it.
(Hand cut by Miles, 7 years old.)

Kinda makes me wonder what other things the kids are noticing around our house. And how the things that they see are inspiring them. And maybe, just maybe, bringing out a hidden talent, hidden skill or even an interest that we wouldn't otherwise know about. I'm not a paper cutter. (Or a line cutter for that matter. ha ha. Made myself laugh.) How or what would I ever teach them about this art?

The kids are constantly looking at their surroundings and taking it all in. Are we even aware of the impact that these surroundings are making on them? Do they feel the love that is shown on all of our walls? Love for family, love for friends, love for art?

It appears they do.

And I didn't even know.

Guess I should go get those piles of clothes off of the dining room floor now, huh?

(And P.S. - this is one of the things that I miss most about summer being over.)