Monday, May 17, 2010


It's morning now.  Almost time to wake the kids for school.  I've yet to go to bed. 

Insomnia? Definitely.  It's pretty much the norm around here.  But tonight (or rather, this morning), it's something different. I like to call it butterflies. 

My husband is on his way home.  I haven't seen him in 204 days, and he's only two days away from being right next to me.  It feels like New Year's Eve, 2001, when I waited for him to pick me up.  What was supposed to be a large group outing that night fatefully turned into just Jelly and me--and the rest is history. 

It's morning now, and I find myself waiting again...for an email, a phone call, a message that he's caught the next leg of his four days of travel home to me.  The butterflies keep me awake, but that's okay.  I listened to my children sleep.  I watched the sun rise and heard the doves awaken.  I counted the helicopters en route to the medical center.  I passed the time.

And now it's morning.  Time to wake the cranky munchkins and get them off to school.  But that's okay, too.  Because it is morning.  And that's one night closer to being complete. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Writing in Neutral

I've neglected my blog.  I knew this was going to happen.  That's one reason why it took me so long to start a blog in the first place.  My perfectionist tendencies dictate that if I'm not doing something perfectly (or at least pretty darn close), then I won't do it at all.  I's not a good habit.  That's why my scrapbooks stop when Maddi is a year old, and my closets aren't organized.  I'm working on it. 

I've tried to write for ten days now.  I start with a topic, veer to the left, hit a pothole, cross over into incoming traffic, and ultimately roll off the cliff.  It's not pretty.  When my students faced a similar problem in class, the former English teacher in me would say, "Just write. Just put pen to paper and write.  Even if you're writing about not being able to write, just write."  So here we are. 

I offer to you a short list of blog topics I've talked myself out of this week:
  • Why waking up Sunday morning with a hangover, a black eye, and a lost camera was so worth it
  • How pouring 10-12 bottles of Bath & Body Works body sprays down the shower can create toxic fumes and set off your explosive gas detector
  • Potty training a toddler and a dog at the same time
  • Whether I should finish hanging pictures in my home or quit now since we're moving in three months
  • The adventures of the Topsy-Turvy upside-down tomato planter
  • My children's odd fascination with cleaning windows but leaving trash on the ground
  • How the word "help" means something different to everyone
  • The creepy guy at Barnes & Noble who has hit on me two separate times, two months apart
Maybe I'll revisit a topic or two another time.  Maybe posting this list is enough to get my mind back in the driver's seat.  Where I'm going from here...hmm...time will only tell.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Maddi at the Bat

My six-year-old started playing softball this spring.  Thankfully, it's working out a lot better than soccer which she seems to have erased from her memory.  I'm not sure if that's because she was only three at the time or if it's because the whole soccer experience was so traumatic that she's blocked it out.  What can I say...she is my daughter.

I was never much for playing team sports.  I played t-ball for two years, and we won one game.  My dad helped coach, and my mom helped run the concession stand.  My mom still has nightmares about sticky sno-cone syrup and popcorn machines.  I think they both were secretly relieved that my interest in softball never really materialized.

Maddi told me last weekend that she really loves softball--as much as she loves gymnastics.  That's saying a lot.  Her favorite part? The sno-cones.  I guess some things never change. 

I put together this short video for her dad.  I know it's killing him to miss seeing her cross home plate.  I know he wants to be the one to teach her to catch pop flies and run the bases.  Unfortunately, missing out on the little things is part of the life we've chosen to lead.  There's always next year. \

Click the link below to see the video (and if you've never played with Animoto, it's super fun!):
Maddi at the Bat

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Seven years. No itch.

My husband and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary this week.  Well, we didn't exactly celebrate it since he's currently 7,000 miles from home, but you get the idea.  Wow.  Seven years.  One of my best friends asked me this week if it seemed like seven years.  She seemed to think time had flown by, and my husband tends to agree.  Not me.  For me, our seven years feels like so many more--but in a good way.

You have to admit, we've had a busy seven years.  We've lived in three states (four if you count a brief stint in Altus, Oklahoma) and endured our fair share of deployments and TDY's.  We've transitioned from my sexy little Supra through three other vehicles more suited for family life.  Then there are the children.  We have filled our family with three little ones that continue to amuse, amaze, and annoy us.  Like I said, we've been busy.

So when I say it seems like we've been married much longer, you can see why.  Many husbands and wives stay in one place, space their children 3-4 years apart, and only spend an occasional night away from each other.  I like to think that our marriage has already survived what some might consider a lifetime of adventures, and we're only seven years into it.  And I like to think that's a good thing. 

Maybe one day the years will seem to pass quickly.  Maybe our lives will slow down, and we'll plant roots for awhile.  Maybe not.  But there's one thing I'm confident will remain the same...ours will continue to be a marriage strengthened by our experiences, strengthened by time, strengthened by each other.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I'm okay. Really.

We've been a little busy this week.  There were Easter egg hunts, Easter bonnets to make, and luncheons to attend.  Throw in an early morning home invasion, and we'll call it complete. 

Um...back up.  What was that?  Home invasion? Care to elaborate?

That's the usual response, especially given my standard laidback delivery of those words.  So here's what happened early last Tuesday morning:

2:00 AM--I turn out the lights, turn on the alarm, and go to bed.  Two in the morning is pretty normal for me, in case you're wondering why I was up so late.

2:45ish AM--I start hearing noises in the house.  Nothing earth-shattering, just a few floor creaks here and there.  I tell myself it's just the boys getting up, and I prepare myself for their arrival.  The floor continues to creak (my floors are original hardwood...they are not quiet).  A shuffling and rummaging noise adds to the mix.  I keep waiting for the pitter-patter of toddler feet down my hall and into my room, but it never comes.  So I lie in bed and listen, wondering what on earth the boys are up to? 

Then it hits me...this is not the boys.  These are not the sounds of little boys looking for their mommy in the middle of the night.  These are the sounds of someone trying not to make a sound.  These are the sounds of feet shuffling across my floor, creaking the wood, and standing still to make sure no one noticed.  Then they shuffle again. 

That's when my door begins to open.  I should tell you that my door makes an obnoxious squeaking noise that's been on my list for some time.  I am facing away from my door, paralyzed in fear, but I can hear every little thing happening around me.  My door squeaks--and stops.  Squeaks a little more--and stops.  Squeaks a little more--and stops.  You get the picture.

I peek over my sheets and stay perfectly still.  Shuffle, creak, shuffle, creak.  Then I see him (I assume it's a him).  A figure at the foot of my bed moves toward my chest of drawers.  He's wearing some kind of hat or hoodie.  That's all I see before closing my eyes and pretend to be asleep.

I'm living on adrenaline and prayer at this point.  I pray that this person cannot hear my heart as it beats louder than I thought possible.  I pray that he takes whatever he wants but leaves us all alone.  I pray that, if he does want to hurt someone, he chooses me and that my kids sleep through everything.  I pray that my boys will not wake up and run down the hall to my room right now.  I pray and I pray and I pray.

My best guess is that two or three minutes pass.  I start to think that maybe I'm being too still, too quiet.  Maybe he'll know I'm not really asleep.  (Yes, even during crises, my mind continues to over-analyze.)  I move my feet and shoulders a bit, and he stops.  I hear a drawer close, and he leaves the room.  He kicks part of my boys' toy airport across the floor.  There is no creaking or shuffling now...just footsteps. 

I open my eyes and wait until I hear nothing.  I listen to the silence for close to ten minutes before I get out of bed and call 911.  I flip on lights, and the kids start to come out of their rooms.  My middle son asks me why the refrigerator door is open (I later learn burglars use it for light).  My daughter asks why I'm turning on the lights.  My youngest son asks for chocolate milk.  I hold them all tightly and push back tears.  We are all okay.  We are all safe. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bring out your dead

For some readers, this will come as no surprise; for others, my enchantment with cemeteries may seem a bit macabre.  Yes, cemeteries.  The place where we bury our dead.  I'm not exactly sure when my fascination started, but for as long as I can remember, cemeteries have held a mystic appeal to me.  Where else can you find such pure silence and serenity?  What better place to walk and reflect--not only about yourself but also about the very souls surrounding you?

As a child, I remember wandering through the above-ground cemeteries of New Orleans on vacation with my mom and visiting family plots throughout northeast Texas.  In high school, a dear friend of mine introduced me to Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, which continues to cast its spell on me even today.  In college, I conducted linguistics research in Central Texas cemeteries, looking at the assimilation of the German language in Texas.  Even on our honeymoon, I dragged Jelly through St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans to peek at the tomb of voodoo mistress Marie Louveau.  Fascination may even be an understatement.

Last week I stumbled across Reeves United Methodist Church in Pittsburg, Texas, where I introduced my children to the tranquil nature of cemeteries.

There I stood--forty miles from the nearest Starbucks--listening to a woodpecker in the tree above.  I imagined what Sundays must have been like at this little church in the late 1800's.  I could almost hear the laughter as I pictured kids running around after Sunday services while their parents shook hands and caught up on country gossip. The cemetery behind the church held just as much allure, but one thing continued to bother me.
It was the children.  There were so many.  Eight children from one family, six from another, three here, two there.  So many children.  What happened between 1900 and 1908? Smallpox? Yellow fever? Influenza? These are the questions I ask while I wander the crooked rows of crumbling stones. 

And these are the questions of my children:
"Is this where we go to die?"
"Where are their heads?"
"What happens if we dig them up?"
"Does God come here?"
"What does it mean to die?"
"Why are some graves outside the fence?" (Try explaining slavery and racism to a six-year-old.)
"Can I pick the daffodils?"

And I'm glad my kids are with me.  I'm glad they aren't afraid to stand here amid the grayness of death.  I'm glad they aren't afraid to ask questions about life, death, and daffodils.  I'm glad that the laughter of so many little children buried there echo in my three as they play amongst the stones.  Their souls must have been smiling...I know mine was.   

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let's Rodeo!

One of the highlights of living in Houston is the annual livestock show and rodeo.  Every year Texans dress up in their best cowboy boots and Wranglers and trek into the world that is rodeo.  Houston socialites don bedazzled blue jeans and rhinestone belt buckles for a month-long celebration of chuckwagons and cowboys.  Ag students from across the state show off their livestock for a shot at thousands of dollars in scholarship funds.  Needless to say, rodeo is no small event in this town.

When my dad and I decided to take the kids to the rodeo last weekend, I admit I was a bit nervous.  The rodeo is big--and my kids are small.  Like most parents, I worry about one of them wandering off, getting tired and cranky, or falling off the ferris wheel.  Spending ten hours playing zone defense with the three of them is enough to test even the Supernanny's patience. 

So off we went, hoping for the best but secretly preparing for the worst.  Imagine my surprise when eight hours later, these smiles were still there:

The day passed without any major meltdowns, and I don't think I heard "Can we go now?" even once.  Nobody fought over who got to sit next to mommy or who got to hold the lemonade or who got to sit in the front seat of the airplane ride.  Yes, there were bribes of ice cream and cotton candy, but even those were filled with sparks of serendipity. 

Just as Jackbug and I arrived at the cotton candy stand, the national anthem began playing.  Naturally, I stopped to pay respect to our flag and country.  And I waited.  I waited for the tugging on my shirt and for the whiny little voice to remind me that we were here for cotton candy.  I waited for the two-syllable "Mo-om" that drives me so crazy.  But it never came.  Instead I looked down at my three-year-old to find him standing quietly, hand over his heart, looking up at me with (what I like to think) was pride in his eyes.  And my heart smiled. 

Maybe it was because I expected such craziness that the day seemed so successful.  Maybe it was the novelty of seeing bull riding and bronc busting up close and personal.  Maybe it was the carnival rides and cotton candy.
Or maybe--just maybe--the day was such a success because I'm doing something right.