Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday, Baby Boy

Dear Sawyer,
Today you turn a year old.  My sweet, chunky, cuddly, smiling baby is already turning into a big boy.  I'd be lying if I said I'm not a little bit sad about that.  I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I want to freeze this moment, keep you just like this.

I love that you only have two teeth, one on top and one on bottom, and that you crinkle up your nose in a silly sort of smile to show them off.  I love that your hair is just starting to grow and that it's so light that you still look bald.  I love that your hands and face and clothes and hair are usually sporting remnants of whatever food you were testing out at the last meal.  I love that you play with my rings while you're nursing, curled up in my lap in your chair, and I love holding you after you've fallen asleep and watching your angel eyes flutter as you settle.

These baby moments are fleeting.

You keep showing me that you're growing up.  I am proud of you.  I really am, no matter how bittersweet it is to admit that you're not that tiny bundle I pulled up onto my chest and kissed for the first time a year ago.

At a year old, you're becoming a chatterbox just like your big sisters.  You are saying more and more words every day.
"All done.  Uh-oh.  Mama.  Dada.  Ball ball.  Cup.  Sista.  Weee!  Dancin'.  Pappaw.  Pop.  Up.  Minn-uh (for Minnie and Mickey).  Choo-choo.  Mmmm.  Dog.  Cat.  Thank you.  Hi.  Hey.  Bye bye.  Whassat (what's that)?  This.  Yay!  Oh.  Whoa.  Wow.  Duck.  Clap.  Baby."
There are more that don't spring to mind right now, and we are in awe when you attempt to repeat even the most difficult of words.  It's impressive.  You also do a mean quack and growl.

Last week, you took your first steps.  You walked to me, and I beamed because I knew you put forth a lot of effort to get to your Mommy.  I'm a little happy that you're still unsure about walking and refuse to do more than a couple of steps at a time.  For a little while, at least, I get to see your silly "gorilla crawl"--your on-all-fours mode of transportation.  You are so adept at it.  And I love to see your little booty stuck up in the air as you speed across the room.

You have a way of making everyone so happy.  We can't help but smile when you dance and clap and laugh.  You have always been so sweet, so calm, and so full of love.

When you were born, I was filled with such a sense of power and pride, and those feelings have not ended.  I am proud to be your Mommy.  I am amazed at how you made our family feel whole, like you were missing all along, the third sparkle in my eye.  You bring joy to us all, and you are loved beyond what you will ever be able to comprehend.

My Mommy's Boy. 
Happy birthday, love.
I hope your day and your life are filled with as much happiness as you bring to all of us.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Little Pig, Little Pig...

(And another child of mine begins the incessant knocking and waiting at the bathroom door.  I'm destined to never potty alone.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Salmon Burger Experiment

First and foremost, y'all know I don't cook.  Or at least that I don't cook well.   However, lunch rolled around a few days ago and some factors came together that forced me into it.

1. I'm trying to eat healthier foods.  The pool in our neighborhood opened a couple of weeks ago.  As in, it opened in April, as loony as that is.  Will I be there anytime soon?  No.  But hopefully I'll be able to shed a couple of pounds and convince myself to pull on a bathing suit and splash around at some point this summer.
2. I need to go to the grocery store in a bad way.  My pantry and fridge are pretty bare, so I was forced into creativity, which is usually dangerous.
3. I miss Disney World.

What does Disney World have to do with cooking, you might ask (perhaps not so nicely)?
I'm in the middle of planning for our next trip, and when making all our dining reservations, I perused over all the menus.  One of my favorite things I've ever eaten (ever.) was at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  The menu at describes it as "Akershus Salmon Burger--on a Toasted Onion Roll with Tomatoes, Arugula, and Spicy Red Pepper Coulis."  Mmmmm.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Norwegian?  I thought this was a southern specialty!

Growing up, we had salmon patties (no silent "l" according to my southern mama--"SALmon," she calls it) quite often.  These concoctions are pretty basic.  Can of salmon.  Corn meal or flour.  Eggs.  Salt.  Pepper.  Fry in oil.  And boy are they tasty!  Now that I'm married to a fish-hater, I rarely get to eat them.  And since I am trying that healthier approach, the fried aspect wasn't going to work.

I went to my pantry for inspiration.  I knew right away that I didn't have all the ingredients for the delicious salmon burger.  Not by a long shot.  So it was time for one of my creations.

Don't say you haven't been warned.

In a bowl, I threw together:

  • 1 can of salmon, drained, broken up with a fork
  • 2 tbs dried minced onions (you could use about a half an onion, but this is lunchtime and I had no time for chopping with a baby on my hip!)
  • 1 whole egg, plus another egg white.  Keeping these things sticking together is key, and eggs are "sticky," to use a technical term...
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder (could use a clove)
  • 1/2 tsp dill...because it's fish?  I'm not sure why I threw it in.  I think I read somewhere that dill is good with fish.
  • About 3 good shakes of hot sauce.  This was a nod to Akershus' Red Pepper Coulis, mostly because I have no clue how to make a coulis but know I like a little spice.
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce.  My husband would be proud.
  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread, crumbled up, to add more stickiness.
  • Just a small shake of Parmesan cheese, since I knew I would not be allowed to melt a big hunk of cheddar on it.
Can you tell we shop at Publix?

Here is probably the most important thing you should remember:  MIX THIS GENTLY WITH YOUR HANDS.  Oh, yes.  It is squishy and wet and gross.  And there is no other way to do it without turning that fish into a paste that won't stick together at all.
Go ahead.  You know you want to squish it.

So, rings off, gently mix it and  lightly roll it into a small ball.  Roll that ball in flour, smash it into a burger shape (it will be smaller than a regular burger), and plop it into a non-stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray.  Fill up the pan with these babies, and after about three minutes, carefully flip them and cook three minutes on the other side.
Those crunchy bits?  The best part.

Inevitably, you will have some breakage.  If you try to make them big, they will all completely fall apart.

I didn't have a potato bun, so I used whole wheat ones.  I took some more Akershus inspiration and laid down a bed of spring greens on my bun.  I didn't have the coulis, so I topped with...wait for it...ketchup.
Fancy!  It said so right on the ketchup bottle.

Now, it was no restaurant quality salmon burger by any means, but it wasn't bad for just haphazardly grabbing ingredients.  I think it needed more crunch.  Maybe next time I'll add chopped celery or bell pepper.  The ketchup was even good on it, I'm embarrassed to say, but if it had a little horseradish mixed with it it would be even better (isn't that cocktail sauce, though?  oh.).  Also, after I took a picture, I added another patty to my burger because it seemed skimpy.  Delish.

Don't take my word for it, though.  This was Julia's plate when she finished.
Probably all I *should* have been eating.

There are tons of salmon burger/patty/cake recipes out there, all very similar, I might add.  I might just try those.  But for now, this mish-mash worked just fine.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sawyer's Nursery

The breaking news around this house is that not only does Sawyer have a nursery, but he actually does spend time in it!

Yes, he's almost ten months old and has a nursery for the first time.
And, yes, he only uses it for naps and for that time of evening between falling asleep and waking for his first nursing session, and then he bunks stretched out in our bed while we're nearly pushed out of it.

But it is being utilized and is super-cute, so I thought I'd share.  And as long as I'm sharing, you might as well know that this has become my favorite room in the house in which to relax.
Sans baby.
This is the room that houses THE chair, and this is the room that is more well-decorated than any other room in our house.  During my "me time," you might just find me with my feet propped up in THE chair, drink and snack nearby, reading by the soft lamplight.  Minus the kids, it's quite relaxing.

The nursery has been in the making for a while now.  It all started when Sawyer started rolling around and trying to sit up, and I no longer felt comfortable with him sleeping on my bed during naps without me in it.  Try as I might, my other kids just weren't going to let me take a nap each time Sawyer wanted to snooze.  He refused to sleep in the pack-n-play now that his beloved cradle insert was off-limits, so we needed a crib.  We bought a cheap (but lovely), in-store, flat-packed crib and chest of drawers from Babies 'R' Us, and we assembled the crib in about five minutes that night and put it by our bed.  Nap problem solved.

Our fourth bedroom was being trashed used as an upstairs playroom for the girls, complete with princesses and fairies all over the walls.  Honestly, they weren't playing in there much, but instead liked to throw all the toys in the floor and leave it wrecked for weeks on end.  Getting frustrated with that whole scenario, and also coming to the conclusions that (a) kids really don't need two playrooms and (b) Sawyer was starting to not sleep well in our room while we were still milling about before our bedtime, we decided it was time to convert our fourth bedroom into his nursery.

This was my first time decorating a boy nursery, and I honestly kind of gagged when I saw the offerings for decor.  Teddy bears?  Cars?  Or, Heaven forbid, Sports?  No, thanks.  I looked online and strolled around baby stores until I found my inspiration...monkeys.  And modern monkeys, at that!  (Do those exist?)  It was a set by Mod Pod called Pop Monkey, and it had all the soothing browns and greens I like.  Let's face it, it was ALL about what I would like, since half my day would presumably be spent nursing the baby in this room (and it is).

One decision made, it was on to the next one: paint.
Brown?  But not too brown?  Tan?  We settled on Behr Premium Plus in New Chestnut from Home Depot, and we chose eggshell finish with primer built into the paint.  Wouldn't you know it, it STILL took two coats to erase all evidence of princesses and fairies!

The bedding was ordered, the lamp grabbed from the store, brown light-dampening curtains were hung, THE chair scooted into place.  Things were coming together.

Then, weeks later, it was complete.
View of THE chair from the room, with blanket from bedding.   
His crib (it has since been lowered for the wild man).
Made the decorations from unused bumper pads and cross stitching hoop clamps.
Dresser, lamp, ceiling mobile, TV where I watch The Golden Girls.

Monkey lamp.              

Genius!  Toy baskets hidden under the bed.

Stuffed animal basket.  All my kids have one.

Monkey light switch cover.

LOVE this monkey mobile.

Even his drawers are organized!

This is probably the best nursery ever.  Just sayin'.  And the older he gets, the more Sawyer will enjoy it and actually sleep in it.  For now, it's really nice for me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Citar: Sisters

"Citar" is Spanish for "quote."  Sunday Citar is a time to share your favorite quotes and images, and to celebrate the memories of both.

This week I'm sharing the powerful love of my girls.  Sisters.  They love their parents, their friends, their baby brother.  But most of all they love each other, and no bond could be stronger.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.”
"If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you."

"It's so much more friendly with two."

"My very best, best friend."

(All quotes from the great bear himself, Winnie the Pooh, a favorite of my girls.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

School Daze

On Thursday, I registered Julia for kindergarten at the school down the road.  I cannot possibly put into words how torn my emotions are about this.
(But I'll try.)

I have a love/hate relationship with public schools. 
When I was in elementary school, a public one, I loved just about every moment of it.  I looked forward to getting out of bed, shoveling my cereal into my mouth, and hopping in the car to have my mom drive me the three minutes to my school.  Admittedly, I was more than a little bored with the work and finished way ahead of schedule, but that didn't bother me.  I looked forward to chatting with my teachers while the other students worked, and I ran errands and went to the library and wrote stories...I filled my time.  My teachers?  The BEST.  I'm still in contact with some of them today.  The worst thing about school was getting in trouble for talking to my friends, and I had a lot of those.

Until Middle School.  Grades six through eight were hard on me.  Being smart went from being something about which to be proud to being something that made me different and disliked.  And if you're different in Middle School, it's apparently not a good thing.  Again, my teachers were spectacular (::waves:: Hi, guys!), as were a core group of my friends in our school's gifted program.  But talking with these people and my one day a week in gifted classes was just not enough at that point.  I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning.  Glasses.  Braces.  Kids hated me for being a "teacher's pet," when in actuality I talked to the teachers all the time because they were the only ones who were nice to me.  (Also, they were the only ones who could hold an interesting conversation, in my opinion.)

I thought high school would somehow be different.  I was wearing contacts.  My braces were removed.  New students from a school across town would be merging with our school, and they wouldn't know that they weren't supposed to like me.  A week into school, they knew.  I never realized how fast a label can carry; it's like I was wearing a big sign on me that said, "Hey!  Hate me!  I'm different!"  I did enjoy the classes more than I ever had in the past.  I was able to take honors and AP classes, and I was actually challenged more than I had been in the past.  Classes were more fun.  My social life, however, was not.  I learned things I should not have been learning and did things I should not have been doing, and in the end I spent most of high school depressed and moping.  What a waste.
College was more of the same.
And then?
I started teaching.  In a public elementary school.

You know how people say that schools today aren't what they were like when we were kids?  True.  For better or for worse, that's true.  Now I was the teacher with the one kid attached to me at the hip, begging for conversation, pleading to help me sort papers or run errands.  Now I was witnessing kids being ostracized for being different from an age much earlier than what I experienced.  Too smart.  Not smart enough.  Too  much money.  Too poor.  Looks funny.  Talks funny.  Is funny.  I tried to help students work through their differences.  I tried to teach to the various skill levels in a class.  And in the end, I decided that I just couldn't make this a perfect environment.  I was agonizing over something that just doesn't happen.  It's impossible to make everyone get along.  It's impossible to make sure no one falls through the cracks--you can't put all your energy into helping one person write a thesis AND put all your energy into helping their neighbor learn the alphabet.  A teacher's energy is halved, at best.  Or at least mine was.
And that's the thing.  Many teachers are AMAZING, whether they teach in a public school, a private one, or at home.  They are much better teachers than I was and somehow never seem to be spread thin.  But the reality in today's school systems, with huge class sizes, and pressures of THE TEST, is that lots of teachers are just like me.  Lots.  They want to be all they can be for every student, socially and educationally, but realistically there's never enough time in the day or money in the budget.  That's the teachers that want to be there and do their best--what's scary is that not all of them want to be.

When Brynn was born and I decided to become a stay-at-home mom and hang up my ruler and grade book, Julia was just a few months past turning two years old.  Already I could see that she was a smart cookie.  She knew her letters and letter sounds, could count to at least a hundred, and had a better vocabulary than me.  Already, her creativity knew no bounds.  By three years old, she was reading books on her own.  And at age five, she's reading chapter books.

This started to worry me a couple of years ago.  If she goes to school, will she be bored?  What will she do when all the other kids are learning their letters?  Is she doomed to a life of trouble for talking and fidgeting and being a social outcast?  How will they possibly challenge her enough?  She began to remind me so much of myself, so I instinctively went into protective mode.

I decided that we would home school.  After all, I have a teaching degree, a little bit of knowledge, and we were already basically doing "unschooling" anyway.  The days passed, she learned more and more, and we had sort of a learning groove.  I knew how to challenge her.  I made sure she had activities so she could be around other kids.  And this was just for preschool!  YAY!  We were doing this!  This is working great for us!

Then a few months ago, she dropped a bombshell on me: "Mommy, I can't wait until August so I can go to REAL school!"
What does she think we're doing here?  Is this pretend?  And where did she even learn about an actual school building, much less that it starts in August?  Either someone had been informing her, or she read about it.  Either way, I was more than a little upset.  How do you explain to a preschooler that a school doesn't have to be an actual building?  That it doesn't matter where you're learning, as long as you're learning?  How can you say, "I know what's best for you, and that's being home with me so you're challenged and don't fall through the cracks?"
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I had my answer.

You don't.
We are firm believers in letting our children form opinions about things in life on their own, as long as it's not something that will harm them.  Julia was so excited about school and all the things she thinks will happen there, and I knew it was something I should allow her to experience.  But being away from her for hours every day--yikes!  I wanted to send her to a half private/half home school here, but our family's one income, though my husband works very hard for it, won't support the cost.  She may go to a traditional school, realize it's not for her, and ask to home school again.
Or (gulp.) she may go to school, love it, and thrive.  She might have one of those teachers like I had in elementary school, one who seems to be able to find extra time for her, no matter how hectic the school schedule.  Maybe they'll be able to accommodate her learning needs.  Maybe she'll make lots of friends and feel like she fits in.  I hope so.  I really, really do.
And if not, I'm here for her.  We'll do this until it doesn't work anymore.  If Brandon and I sense that she's losing out academically or she's becoming bored and frustrated, we'll try other options.  If she starts learning or doing inappropriate things constantly, we'll try other options.  There are always other options, but there's just this one time to start kindergarten.

She was so thrilled to be at "real school" on Thursday to register.  As I filled out her paperwork, she was literally bouncing around that cafeteria.  They did a quick skills assessment on her (knocked it out of the park, of course), and she became fast friends with a teacher who shares her first name.  She pointed out the lunch lines, the ice cream machines, the Girl Scout registration table.  She didn't stop smiling for the entire hour we were there.
PleaseOhPleaseOhPlease let her keep that smile.  Please let her keep that love of learning.  Please let this be okay.

After all, who am I to say I know how she'll learn best?  Who am I to think that my experience will be hers?  Who am I to think I can keep all the negative out of her schooling?

I'm her mom, that's who.  And I'll be here to help guide her through this, no matter what happens or what she decides.

Please let this be a good thing.  Please.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To Brynn, Age Three

Dear Brynn,
Three years.  I cannot believe you have been in our lives three years!  It seems like yesterday that you decided to make your entrance to this world three weeks early, just so you could surprise me and be born on my birthday.  I ate my cake in the hospital room and stared at your beautiful chubby cheeks and long brown hair.

Oh, that hair!  When your sister first saw you, the first thing she said was, "That baby's got a lot of hair!"  It fits your personality so well!  Wild curls like yours are for free spirits.

We had some interesting phases with you as a baby.  Colic.  Reflux.  Screaming just to hear yourself scream, happy or sad.
(Not much has changed about that last one.)

But I could feel you loving us right from the start, and every moment you've ever been happy, you have been positively blissful. When you turned six months old, all the fussing stopped, and your real personality began.

I have always loved that intensity about you.  You cry wholeheartedly, and you laugh with every fiber of your being.  When you give hugs, you grab us around the neck and hold so tightly I think you'll never let go.  But you do let go, mostly because you don't want to be still.

You are my energetic girl, running and giggling, curls trailing behind you.  Making funny faces, jumping on the bed (my little monkey), splashing water out of the sinks, laughing loudly, trying any excuse not to wear clothes.  You're a girl who likes her freedom, for sure.  And we're going to have to discuss that before you're much older.  ;-)

You've always been a constant eater, so much so that it's almost humorous!  When you were a baby, you'd nurse for long periods of time and very often.  Now, you want to graze all the time...peanut butter and honey sandwiches, pickles, celery, apples, and parfaits are your favorites, and when you visit grandparents, you go straight for the popsicles and chips.  I don't know where you put all this food, you're so tall and skinny!

At three, you are turning into such an interesting, empathetic, creative person.  You're getting better at sharing things, and you love to play with your best friend, your sister.  When Sawyer cries, you sing him "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and he calms down almost immediately.  You've always needed time to yourself, and I often find you carrying an armload of princess or animal figures to a corner to play.  I love to listen to the conversations you make them have in your not-quite-perfect three-year-old voice.  And my heart melts when you tell me, "I wuv you, Mommy."

I wuv you, too, Miss Brynn.  You are such a sweet girl, and you make everyone around you feel so joyful and alive.  I am amazed by your beauty and your pure spirit.  Thank you for being my unique and perfect Brynnie.

Love, Mom

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


"I walked across an empty land,
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand..."

We walked, hand-in-hand, down this familiar path.  Only months ago, we'd walked this way for the first time.  Together.

We had been nervous, and the day had been filled with silence, and giggles, and cheeks burning bright red.  Today would not be much different.  But today I knew him, inside and out, and today I was comfortable with my hand in his.

"I felt the earth beneath my feet..."

Pieces of mulch crept into my shoes.  When he told me to get dressed this morning, he failed to mention where our adventure might lead, and sandals were not a wise choice for a walking trail.  With relief, we sat on the wooden bridge that crossed the babbling creek.

"Sat by the river and it made me complete."

I brushed off my feet and dangled them off the edge, smiling into those brown eyes that were mine now.  This was our place.  In the middle of thickets of pine trees, the sun managed to peek through and hit exactly this spot.  Months ago, the heat had been welcome, but now it was stifling.  He leaned in for a kiss, almost an exact replication of our first one. 
Same bridge.  Same water.  Same trees.  Same butterflies.
I could never keep from smiling when he kissed me, and some things never change.

We sat silently for a while, just taking in the warm day and the cool water.  I watched it wash over the smooth, brown rocks.  The water was shallow and clear, and the sun reflecting off of it made me look away.  As I turned, I showed him the Queen Anne's Lace I picked from the bank.  It reminded me of the pattern on a wedding dress.  And as I was about to tell him so, I glanced up to find his eyes.  Instead, I found something gleaming and blinding.

Before I understood, I heard his honeyed voice.  Would I make him the happiest man in the world?  Would I be his wife?

The ring was on my finger and tears were in my eyes.


The Queen Anne's Lace floated down the creek as my fingers laced around the back of his head and I pulled his lips to mine.

This was our place of beginnings.

"So why don't we go somewhere only we know?"

("Somewhere Only We Know," by Keane)

Top Ten Tuesday: Movies

I'll just go ahead an admit from the start that my favorite movies are not sophisticated.  They are not even really that tasteful, if we're being honest.  But what they are is AWESOME!

I'm not a huge "movie" person.  I probably would be if I had the time to actually sit down and watch them, but that hasn't really been the case in the last five years.  (Hmmm...wonder why that would be?)  Any time I do have a moment to watch a film, it's almost always one of these ten, so obviously they've made an impression.  Here are my favorite movies, in no particular order.  Judge away.

1. Blazing Saddles.  You can blame my husband for this one.  I had never seen it until we were bored on vacation one night, and this cracked me up.  It is not my usual brand of humor; in fact, it is offensive in a multitude of ways.  But that Lili von Shtupp?  Hilarious.  "It's twue!  It's twue!"

2.  The Ten Commandments.  Quite a change of pace, no?  Of course I am referring to the epic version with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner.  I don't watch this constantly or anything, but my family used to watch this every Easter, so it holds a special place in my heart.

3. Toy Story (the entire trilogy).  I am a kid at heart, but these movies have humor that's for adults, least, that's what I tell myself.  I really adore each of these movies, but the third is currently my favorite.  The animation is beautiful, the attention to detail is brilliant, and remembering the toys I had as a child is nostalgic.  These are actually movies I do get to see often, as my kids are in love with the whole franchise.  I don't complain.

4. Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version).  In the UK, it was a mini-series, but it is continuously pieced together on DVD, making it a movie to me.
This has lots of good things going for it.  First of all, it is about my favorite book of all time.  Secondly, the costumes, sets, and locations are gorgeous.  And most importantly, Colin Firth.  Mmmmhmmmm.  If I see a snippet, I have to sit and watch the entire 300 minutes.  Or I just watch the scene where Mr. Darcy jumps in the lake over and over.  Either way works.

5. Peter Pan.  Of course I'm referring to the Disney animated version.  Just typing the name conjures up such a warm feeling.  I remember exact times I saw it as a child, and now I love to watch it with my kids.  It's full of magic...or to be exact, "faith, trust, and pixie dust."  I love the songs, the story, and the themes.  We all hate to grow up, but we have to eventually do just that.  That doesn't mean we have to stop imagining.

6. Amelie.  Oh, fancy!  This French film is visually stunning.  It is a quirky story of a unique girl who sets out to help others in her own way.  I can use the subtitles, or I can just sit back and enjoy the film quality.  It is entertaining and gorgeous either way.

7. The Golden Girls.  The boxed sets count, right?  I'm counting them.  They are on DVD, after all.  I can nearly recite most episodes, and that's pretty sad.  I probably shouldn't have admitted that.

8. Bridget Jones' Diary.  What can I say?  This is just funny.  It also stars two of my favorites: the city of London and Colin Firth.  That alone knocks it into perfect movie territory.

9. Notting Hill.  Brandon's rolling his eyes at this one, but he always secretly watches it and laughs at Spike.  I never intentionally set out to watch this, but if it's on, I'm watching.  I think I like it because I watched it before spending the summer in London once, and it earned instant sentimental points for introducing me to an area I loved to frequent while I was there.

10.  Love Actually.  The rest of the movies are not in any order, but I will tell you that this is my absolute favorite movie of all time.  Number one.  There are so many storylines, all of them good.  I love the soundtrack.  I love Colin Firth (again).  I try to watch it every couple of months, more so during the Christmas season.  After all, "Love actually is all around."

In writing this, I've noticed some things.  I like London.  I love Colin Firth.  And Hugh Grant ends up in lots of movies I enjoy, even though I really have no affinity for him.  I think it's just because he's in nearly every British film.  Or at least he tries to be.  He might be the sole reason my husband hates to watch movies with me; he hates his smarm and his floppy hair, and who can blame him?

What are your favorite movies?  Bonus points if they include Colin Firth.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nice to meet you.

I had a plan, and this was definitely not it.  I'd be at least thirty.  I'd have multiple degrees and a successful career.  I would have been married for years and spent time touring Europe (again) and driving across America (again).

But now I was sitting in a tiny room wearing a paper gown, giving Brandon updates over the phone while he worked.  Just days ago we had celebrated my twenty-second birthday and were making plans to attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  And now?

I was pregnant.

That flu I thought I had was obviously something more.

I would have waited until he got home from work to take the test if I had actually thought it would be positive.  I took it kind of as an afterthought and set it aside.  By the time I washed my hands, there was that word staring back at me on the digital test.


I couldn't breathe.  I took a walk.  I took a drive.  I took another shower.  I took another walk.  My head was spinning.

OHMYGOD.  This is not happening.  This is not my plan.  Ten years from now, sure.  But now?  Not now.  I'm in college and my first degree is still a year away.  I have no career--I'm a career student.  We're going to Boston next month, and there goes that trip; we'll need the money.

NOT NOW!!  Please.  PLEASE!

Brandon came home and I couldn't tell him.  I just showed him the test, and then he took a walk.

And now here I was in this little room and they were putting cold gel on the wand of the ultrasound machine, looking to see just how pregnant I really was.  Did I know how far along I might be?  No, not a clue.  This wasn't supposed to happen, so I wasn't keeping track of things like that.

Up on the screen was gray and black fuzz, circles, moving lines, and numbers.  The ultrasound tech was really quiet.  I got dressed, and she led me into the doctor's office.  He sat down and looked solemnly at my baby face.

"It looks like there's nothing there but a sac.  We think we should be seeing something by now."

My head started spinning.  I was crying immediately and shaking my head.  (But isn't this what I wanted?  Didn't I want it all to go away?)

"Come back after the weekend if you don't miscarry on your own.  We'll take another look, but chances are that we'll have to do a D&C to get rid of what's left."

What's left.
He handed me some tissues and left me alone for a while.  After I cried (what was wrong with me?) my first round of tears, I walked out of the office, sat in my car, and called Brandon.

Those few days were some of the darkest of my life.  Guttural sobbing, no food, no sleep.  I could not figure out why I was so upset.  Life could go as planned now, right?  And I could finish college, hop on a plane anytime I wanted, grow up before I had to raise someone.  Why did the idea of these things seem so wrong now?

Brandon's mom drove me to the appointment.  He was working his minimum wage job and they fired people who didn't show up, no exceptions.  I never miscarried over the weekend, so I cradled my belly on the way to the office, thinking it would be the last time I'd be pregnant, even if it was with just a sac that never developed into a baby.  I kept thinking that I still felt pregnant and was already mourning the loss of that feeling.

At the office, the OB showed me to the ultrasound room and left me with the tech while he prepared for the D&C.  My mind was trying to be anywhere but here.  Those gray and black blobs popped up on the screen again, and I closed my eyes.  My chest ached as I tried not to cry.

"Why did the doctor say he needed to do a D&C?"
Why was she asking me this?  Couldn't she look at my chart?  So cruel.
"The baby didn't develop."  Tears.

"Really?"  Silence.  "See that right there?"  I opened my eyes and looked at the screen.  What was I seeing?  That infamous empty sac again?
"That's definitely a heart beat."

I stared at the screen, and I was crying more.  My hand flew up to cover my mouth as I just kept staring at that blinking on the screen.  From the seat next to me, my mother-in-law asked me, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

Good thing.  This is definitely a good thing.  I'll never forget that question, because it's the first time I realized the answer.  This baby was a perfect, good thing.

And this baby was supposed to happen.  I want this.  I want this for my new plan, and I want this for us.
As I called and told Brandon the good news, I could tell that he felt the same.  When I showed him the picture of our little baby with a heartbeat (and the words the tech typed, "Hi, Mom!"), he beamed with the pride I'd grow accustomed to seeing on his face.  This is what happiness feels like.
Our first family photo.  January 2006.

Six years and three beautiful children later, our lives are full of more adventure than we could have imagined back then.

College?  I finished my degree, taught fifth grade, and made another important decision--to stay at home with these kids that are my life.

Travel?  We travel often, as a party of five.

My age?  I have three children at an age before I thought I'd have even one.
And I couldn't imagine it any other way.
Our family today.  Julia, Brynn, and Sawyer (each one a miracle).

I will never forget those days of agony when I thought the baby I didn't even know I loved was gone.  I'm sure that this has something to do with the intense anxiety I feel throughout my pregnancies.
Brandon and I are overprotective parents now, admittedly.  We know that nothing in life is guaranteed, and we know how much our family means to us.  At least this experience helped us to make this realization.  The most we ever leave our kids is to run an errand, and we worry about them the whole time.  People joke with us about it, but nothing is more serious to us than the closeness of our family.

This is the family that might not have been.  This is the life that almost wasn't.  And we will cherish each child, each moment, each gift.

ETA: Each pregnancy has had a moment similar to this.  I had a subchorionic bleed/threatened miscarriage with Brynn at 8 weeks, but it resolved itself within a couple of months on its own.  I was on bed rest with Sawyer for pre-term labor.  With each pregnancy, I've learned even more to cherish the blessing of a healthy child.  I have come close to losing them, but thankfully have not had to experience what so many families have to endure.