Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To be continued...

I just wanted to post a little note up here to say that I'm taking a break from this blog. I've never been great at updating regularly and now I'm just going to leave it for a while, until the mood strikes again (maybe after the summer). If you know me in real life, I'm sure you're already on my facebook, otherwise you can find me occasionally posting ridiculous nonsense on twitter. I'll leave you with this. Have a wonderful summer!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Forward we go

It happened as it has happened two times before. Our baby realized that she could move on her own, after months spent lying in one spot on the floor. She's been trying to get moving for weeks, but has faced the predicament of all fairly new babies - she was stuck. In the beginning that was fine, she was happy to sleep and watch things pass her by. But as those first quiet months passed and everything became more and more interesting, the frustration began. It spurred her onwards to restlessly roll and writhe and push herself up, kicking her legs and squealing until she finally realized the magical combination of arm and leg movements that bring you forward. Her face lit up for a moment, but I knew that satisfaction wouldn't last. Babies are ambitious.

This is a bittersweet milestone. I didn't feel that way when Dylann and Jack were babies. When Dylann was a baby, I was so excited for him to start moving; to see what direction he would choose and what previously unnoticed parts of the house he would decide to explore. I had no idea he would progress from crawling, to walking, to climbing, to running within about 6 months time. A year later he would be riding a scooter and a year after that, his little red bike. Now he's 8 and has been riding without training wheels for years. He rides to the park on his own with his friends. He rides a skateboard, rollerblades, ice skates and desperately wants a dirtbike. He's constantly in motion. And it all started with that first little scoot on his hands and knees.

I don't even remember when Jack started crawling. He moved so quickly from crawling to walking, he practically skipped it all together. I wrote the date in his baby book, but I didn't ponder my emotions about it. There was no wordy blog post written to document it. He crawled to try to keep up with his brother, who ran everywhere he went. It's like Dylann tagged Jack when he was a pudgy little baby, stuck in place on the floor and said, "You're it!" And Jack has been trying to tag him back ever since.

Now we are watching our last baby wake up every day a little bit older and wiser than the day before. And although I'm excited to see what the future holds for her, I also just want to hold her close for 10 years and never let her lose her baby rolls and her nubby little nose. Every time she meets a new milestone, the universe sends me a message that says, "You can't hold on." You can't hold on to the fleeting moments. You can only look forward and be optimistic.

The world is a big place for one baby on her hands and knees. I just have to try to keep up.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A bird could build a nest in it and I might not notice

Linsay from Midsummer Moon tagged me to participate in this and also gave me the sunshine award.

If there is one thing that I cannot resist looking at in a department store, it's the handbags. I am continually on the lookout for the perfect purse. It has to meet a lot of requirements in order for me to buy it. I have to be able to carry about 50 lbs. of junk in it, it has to go well with most clothing, it has to be made of soft, buttery leather, and it must rest on my shoulder and whisper sweet nothings into my ear. For the past two years I have mostly been using a coach purse that I bought out of the trunk of a car (sweet!) and it looks kind of like this:

It turns out what is IN my purse is a lot less attractive. Old receipts, candy wrappers, tissues...okay, I'm boring myself here. The must-have stuff in my purse is usually my crappy little camera, my cell phone (which may or may not be charged), my iPod (which also might be dead or dying), chapstick, a small umbrella, a few diapers and wipes, a playmobil guy with one arm, my dayplanner, a deck of cards, broken crayons, and a lollipop. And my purse has very few pockets so it is a giant mess and it takes me two days to find anything. I can also fit my laptop in it if I have to. Handy dandy!

Now, inquiring minds want to know...what's in your purse? Tell me everything. Extra points if you have a flask in your purse. Also if you participate, you get to steal the sunshine award from my sidebar and put it on your blog. Then pass along the sunshine!

Mommy Wants Vodka
The Only Girl
Quite Dear
From Here to There
Bombadee's Garden

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't eat the beady little eyes

We have a history of taking a lot of road trips. Over the years they have taken us from one end of the US to the other. Every few months something comes over me and I need a change of scenery. Immediately. It amazes me when I think about how far we've driven and how often we've done it. We've gone from Georgia to Minnesota, from Minnesota to Texas, from Georgia to Texas, and from Minnesota to Arizona, just to name a few. Minnesota and Texas pop up a lot because we have family there.

Normally the way it goes down is the boys spend most of the trip trying to kill each other in the back seat, while continually asking for food, and Donn and I try not to kill each other in the front seat, while continually throwing food at the savages in the back. There is also usually some kind of bathroom emergency at least once a day.

And there's a natural progression of everyone's moods as we go down the road. In the beginning everyone is hopeful, buoyant, ready for the long haul. In the middle we are all turning sour. And towards the end we are ready to drive ourselves off a cliff, but just before things get too dire, we arrive! And then all parties are happy and the world is a good place once again.

Since moving to England we have taken two road trips, both shorter than any of our road trips in the US, but just as difficult to manage because the roads over here are not very driver friendly. On our most recent road trip in February we drove to Spain. I planned it out like I plan out most of our trips. Last minute and by the seat of our pants.

It was a 16 hour drive from our little village in England to the tiny mountain village in Spain where we stayed. We drove across the entire length of France, which was pretty dull. We all yawned a lot. Our drive didn't go through any of the exciting parts of France, it was just mile after mile of flat land with an overcast sky and industrial buildings everywhere. And a lot of graffiti. In French, so that was exciting.

Crossing the border into Spain was fun. I made the kids all sing Never Been to Spain because we love singing together and being wholesome when we're not yelling at each other. Helena was in the back seat making farting sounds the whole way. She learned that just as we left for the trip, so she kept herself (and the boys) entertained.

The village in Spain where we stayed was about as quaint as you can imagine. I think the actual population was around 40 people. It was part of a string of little villages spread out along the Picos de Europas mountains.

The view from pretty much anywhere in the village was amazing. I really couldn't believe that there are people who go about their daily lives surrounded by that view. Truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.

We saw quite a bit while we were there and managed to eat out a couple times, despite our children's requests to only eat items made out of reconstituted chicken formed into a nugget. I had paella with shrimp and octopus and some other sea critter bits in it. I'm used to dealing with shrimp that's already been cleaned, but these shrimp were looking at me with their beady little eyes. Tasty once you pulled their heads off!

Don't eat us!

Every night we wound down with a glass of rioja and Spanish tv. Reality tv is definitely more fun to watch in a foreign language. There was also some strange German helicopter rescue show that was always on. Germans dubbed over to look like they were speaking Spanish - only slightly confusing. People were constantly shouting "Ayudeme!" and then some burly German would toss them into a helicopter and away they'd go.

Our drive back to England was long and torturous for all of us. We got yelled at in French at a toll booth, didn't have cash to pay for our dinners on the ferry, someone (not going to name names here!) wet their pants, and we couldn't find the pounds to pay for the toll when we got back into england (we only had euro), but luckily they let us in anyway.

It's been about 2 months since we took that trip, so according to my calculations we should be due for another pretty soon. Where will we go? Depends which way the wind blows.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


When I looked at the sky
I saw a pale lit moon

That caught fire
Set the birds to their ribbon swoops
And turned the grass honey green
And greener still when you smiled

Spring has had a slow start here in England. It hasn't been unbearably cold, but not exactly warm either. Not really warm. At all. But this last week was gorgeous. Instead of making me happy right where I am, it has made me want to go somewhere really warm. Tropical. Somewhere the heat comes down from the sky and soaks right through you. Near a beach of course, to cool off. But the water can't be too cold either. Conditions have to be just right.

But for now - yipee, the sun is back!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Birth of Helena

A little over 7 months ago...

I was 3 days past my due date. I woke up at about 4:50 AM feeling strange, but that was pretty much a normal feeling for the entire last month of my pregnancy. It was late August and I had spent more than a few warm, summer nights up until well past midnight with contractions and general "weirdness." I would try to move things along, rolling around all over the floor with my pilates ball like some kind of sad cirque du soleil reject, or marching up and down our little country lane, so pregnant I looked like I had swallowed a watermelon whole and then eaten 50 lbs. of bacon and a milkshake.

At exactly 5 AM I started having contractions. Not a big deal, because I had been having them for weeks. But these felt different. Normally the contractions started out pretty weak and then gradually became stronger as the day wore on, finally becoming strongest when I climbed into bed. These started off strong. I had the feeling they meant business. "This is it!" I thought. "THIS IS IT." I called my friend April to come pick up the boys.

I paced the length of the house, timing contractions that were quickly becoming stronger. The boys rushed around, gathering all of their necessary items like 10 teddy bears, 500 legos, and 3 shoeboxes full of old corks. I didn't bother to intervene because I was too busy leaning against the table or the wall, realizing I was going to definitely be pushing a human being out of my body that day.

I wasn't moaning and groaning or yelling. I wasn't huffing and puffing. There were no lifetime-movie worthy dramatics going on (yet), and I had the feeling April and Donn were both wondering if this was really it. I thought maybe it would be helpful if I started shouting every time I had a contraction, or maybe flailing my arms or banging my head on the wall, but alas I could muster no such shenanigans. I just stood still and tried to become a sea of calm every time I felt another one coming on.

By 6 AM we were in the car on the way to the hospital. It was overcast and cool outside, a very typical English summer day. The radio was playing some annoying BBC Europop. I think it rained for a little while. I don't remember what Donn and I talked about during the drive. I just remember feeling focused and freaked out at the same time. Like maybe how a lemming feels before it makes the big leap.

When we reached the hospital I knew there was no turning back now. My day was going to get much more painful and disgusting from here. But I knew that somehow, by the end of that day I would have a daughter. I tried to focus on that and not on the fact that my insides were trying to strangle me. I waddled my way through the parking lot and into the front door where a man directed us to walk halfway across the world to where the labor and delivery unit was. I was actually glad to be walking because the contractions were easier to handle when I was up and moving.

Once we made it to the labor and delivery unit, the midwives gave us the hairy eyeball for not calling first. Technically, the policy at the hospital is to call first and then they will evaluate somehow, magically over the phone, whether you are actually in active labor. I had skipped that part because I didn't want to mess around trying to convince someone over the phone that my contractions were the real deal.

Things moved remarkably slow once we got to our room. They didn't even ask me to put a gown on right away. I think the midwife suspected I wasn't really in labor. It seemed like no one was taking me seriously because I wasn't wailing and rending my garments. I suppose it would have been useful if I had done that right away, but I was too busy trying not to have a heart attack or wet my pants.

We waited about an hour in the room, just Donn and I. I told him to put in the CD I made for the delivery room. It was all classical music that I carefully selected to be soothing/awe-inspiring/perfect to hold a new baby with. But I only chose one really cheerful song, because I didn't want anything that would be annoying. That song was Ode to Joy and I was hoping that it would play the moment Helena entered the world. If I were making the soundtrack for my life, that's how it would go. However, I have no idea what the hell was playing at that moment because of all the screaming. Someone was screaming. It might have been me. It might have been Donn screaming as I ripped his ear off. But we're not there yet...back to the muzak.

The first song came on. Donn said, "Hey, this is the song from the killing scene in Platoon." And I said something along the lines of, "Oh, blargity blah, uggggggg....never seen Platoon." Then he shot back, "What?! You've never seen Platoon?! That's one of the best movies about the war in Vietnam." And I laid there half-dead feeling like I very well might be starring in the killing scene in Platoon. So I said, "There are too many movies about Vietnam....rrrrrAAAAARARRRGG!" And that ended our discussion about Platoon.

Finally the midwife came to see how dilated I was. I was afraid I would not be dilated at all and she would tell me to go home and that I was a dummy. However, she assessed the situation and announced that my baby was barely being held in there because I was dilated to 8 cm. I was so relieved! Even though I knew that meant things were going to get very crazy very soon.

My only pain control option at this point was something the Brits call "gas and air." It is some kind of mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. I didn't need it right then, but about an hour later I was whacking Donn on the head and telling him to bring me some gas and air...or a crowbar to just put me out of my misery.

The midwife came in and gave me the mask to put over my face so I could huff my gas and air. She explained how to do it properly so that it "feels like you've had a glass of wine," at which point I almost gave up completely because a glass of wine would do me about as much good as a hug. But I gave it a chance. I huffed away into my mask and it made these weird gasping noises, so naturally I felt like Darth Vader. A big, fat, miserable, dying Darth Vader.

I had been waiting for my water to break on its own, but it wasn't happening. The midwife had offered to go ahead and break it for me and I finally took her up on the offer. Anyone who has given birth knows that things get a lot more intense at this point. Anyone who hasn't given birth, please take my word for it. I was so impatient for this part to be over, I kept asking the midwife "WHAT'S GOING ON DOWN THERE?! IS SHE COMING OUT YET?!" And she would reassure me that no, not yet, it's only been 30 seconds since I broke your water so just GIVE IT A MINUTE!

About 10 minutes later there was a lot of screaming and some grabbing and pushing and pulling and just like that, Helena was born. She was handed directly to me, screaming and perfect with an unbelievable amount of dark brown hair. I couldn't believe that she was here. All those months of pregnancy and waiting were over, just like that. I had three kids. I had a daughter.

The midwife told us her name means light. She hasn't stopped shining since.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Cheeky Update

Wow, this blog has become very neglected! I've sat down a few times and started to write posts about things we've been doing over the past few months, but obviously it hasn't gone anywhere beyond my draft box. I'm not sure why I stopped updating here. My only excuse is that life has gotten crazier than usual in our little nuthouse and this blog fell by the wayside.

So how is everyone out there? I haven't seen you in so long! You look great, by the way!

I have been moving along with my classes, working on the biggest class load I've taken so far. It was a little stupid of me to think taking 4 online classes at the same time would be manageable. I'm about halfway through and not sure if I will be able to pass them all. There just isn't enough time. And things like Helena's gigantic kissable cheeks, Dylann's incessant requests to play catch, and Jack's multitude of "projects" he wants help with always take priority.

Have you met Helena's cheeks yet?

As my friend very correctly put it, her cheeks precede her. And she has a smile that never fails to break through whatever crabby mood I'm in and turn my heart into a million tiny stars. She brightens all our days so much I wonder how we survived so long without her.

And my boys are busy growing up into little men. I look at them and try to remember when they were Helena's size, but it's impossible. I can't match the grown up boys they've become to the babies they once were. They are busy being real little people with their own lives who go to the park without me and advise me about what is cool (sports, weapons, killer zombies) and what is NOT (mom walking you into the classroom). I must admit, they are definitely cooler than I ever was.

In February we took a trip to Spain - not warm, sunny southern Spain where most people go, but cold, mountainous northern Spain, where no one spoke more than a few words of English. We didn't even run into any other English-speaking tourists during the whole trip. We had an amazing time, except for the drive back which was ridiculously full of crud. I started a blog post about it. I'll finish it one of these days.

I'm going to try to show up here more often. Please feel free to leave a comment or two as long as you're not a meanie. I hope your weekend contains the maximum amount of good times your cheeks can handle.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Fresh Start

I can't believe 2009 is over. It was a good year overall, at least towards the end when Helena became a part of the family. The first part of the year was kind of blah. We didn't know many people here, the weather was depressing, we were all feeling a little out of place. Now we're settling in here, getting to know neighbors and new friends better, the boys have made good friends, and the winter weather hasn't even bothered me this time around.

I have an idea this year will be better than the last. There will be some changes for us. Donn will most likely be retiring from the military in the fall and we are probably going to be moving into a smaller (and hopefully more updated) house. Helena will have her first birthday. Dylann will turn 9, which seems impossible!

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but I decided to come up with a list of things I can realistically accomplish. Here is my list of goals for 2010:

Read one good book every month

Finish 10 classes towards my degree

Cook one new recipe every week

Send gifts to people for no reason when I find/make something they would like

Make my first quilt (even if it takes all year!)

And I'm going to stop there. I could go on, because there are a TON of things I'd like to do, but these are the ones I can realistically stick with. This year is looking like a good one! I hope the New Year finds you also looking forward to what the future holds.