Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Cast, a Quilt, and an Angel

Tomorrow, he loses the cast.

From quilt and cast

For Wally, the cast has been a nuisance standing between him and his pirate ship in the bathtub, an everyday accessory of his favorite color, and a hindrance to his getting a good grip on the rock climbing wall at the playground.

For his brother and sisters, the cast has been a weapon to be feared in the car, and, as of yesterday, the culprit of "what's that smell"?

But for me the cast carries fond memories of that night.

That night that followed that day.

We awoke with a start. Down an adult, since Somebody was traveling, we had only 20 minutes to get everyone ready and out the door, with extra pressure having played our "overslept" card the day before.

With my own hair wet from a quick shower, I asked Kennedy to put the boys in the car while I did Ellie's hair, and a ponytail's time later Wally was crying in pain.

The sound of the school bell loomed, so with no time to solve the mysterious arm cry, I buckled him up and scrambled to beat the clock.

When we got home, I found the door from the garage to the house locked, and remembered Somebody nagging me to carry a key, which I hadn't gotten around to yet. The only key was with Kennedy, at school where we had just left. Now grateful for having thrown shoes into the car, I drove back, walked in wet hair and all, and grimaced as the receptionist announced over the intercom, "would Kennedy please bring her house key to the front desk for her mom".

And Wally was still crying.

I went to make Stevie's lunch, and found grain moths rampant in the pantry.

And Wally was still crying.

I went about my day, running errands and doing whatever it is I do that sucks time, talent and energy and leaves nothing but crumbs to show for it.

And though Wally had taken a break from crying he was not using his arm.

I picked up Ellie from dance that evening.

And Wally had returned to crying.

Sensing a bad night ahead, we went to urgent care for 2.5 hours of being trapped with all 4 kids in one room, where the nurse felt so bad for me she brought my kids popsicles, crackers and juice boxes and me a Diet Coke.
From quilt and cast

And Wally was still crying.

We left at 8:30, still no dinner, to run to Michael's for the supplies to finish the science project, then got dinner at a drive through.

And Wally was still crying.

Pretty much that night, Wally was still crying.
He couldn't get comfortable in bed, so I finally resigned myself to the fate of the two of us spending the night in the big leather chair. Fall is a fleeting flirt in the South, the sun warms the days, but leaves cold nights. You don't know whether to run the AC or turn on the furnace, so you do neither. This night I was uncomfortably cool, so searching for something to keep us warm, I happened upon the quilt, the heirloom quilt.

I love heirlooms, but own very few. This quilt I begged off my mom, not because I knew some great history behind it, but because I was drawn to the retro vintage fabric in it. I learned it belonged to Grandma Nelson and was likely quilted by her mother, Grandma Johnson. I got it with the intention that it would keep me warm, not realizing it would also keep me company.
From quilt and cast

As I sat that night, drifting in and out of sleep as Wally whimpered in pain, I felt so alone. I was exhausted from a chaotic day, and now I couldn't even take respite with a few hours of sleep in my comfy bed alone, and it would be another day before help would arrive. It was 2am, there was no one to call to buoy me.

As I snuggled beneath the quilt with little Wally, I felt a strange but calm sense of strength and love exude from the stitches. I thought of my great grandmother I have never met but is revered as any woman could be in my family. I thought of her struggles, losing her husband with a house full of children in the Great Depression.

I thought of Grandma Nelson, a woman I never knew to say a bad word about anyone, a woman who found a contagious joy in every child she loved. I thought of my mom, as solid as a rock, who never sits down and never seems tired. I found strength in these women, in my heritage, and in the quilt. I felt their spirit and their love wrap around me through the quilt. And when morning came, I didn't want to fold it up and put it away.

I heard the most wonderful talk in my church's conference where a leader discussed how God sends us angels to comfort and help us, some living some not:

In the course of life all of us spend time in “dark and dreary” places, wildernesses, circumstances of sorrow or fear or discouragement....But I testify that angels are still sent to help us, even as they were sent to help Adam and Eve, to help the prophets, and indeed to help the Savior of the world Himself.

So to me, the cast reminds me of that night, and a small part of me will be sad to see it go, but my heirloom now has another story.
From quilt and cast

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Love Letters . . . from the edge

warning - schmaltzy blather ahead, written by a desperate housewife

Dear Somebody,

It's the end of a long week - my nerves are frazzled, my patience worn thin, my coping skills at rock bottom. We are all wondering, "when is Daddy coming home"?

I like to see myself as an independent woman, who can run her life with no interference from a man. And my relationship with you is more like Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" than Air Supply's "Two Less Lonely People in the World". But you are my partner. My Depeche Mode "Somebody".

I want somebody to share the rest of my life . . .

. . .listen to me, when I want to speak, about the world we live in, and life in general

From love letters

. . . though my views may be wrong, they may even be perverted, he'll hear me out, and won't easily be converted (well you could be a little more easily converted)

From love letters

to my way of thinking, in fact he'll often disagree, but at the end of it all he will understand me
From love letters

someone who'll help me see things in a different light
From 2007

all the things I detest I will almost like ohh, there were too many pictures for this one :)
From love letters

but when I'm asleep, I want somebody, who'll put their arms around me and kiss me tenderly
From love letters

though things like this, make me sick, in a case like this I'll get away with it

So, somebody, come home. And I hope you're still wearing your tie, cuz I'm going to grab hold of it and pull you close for a kiss you'll remember every time you get on an airplane without me.
From Nashville

Love, Punk Rock Girl

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Swing Voter

From election

So, it was every bit as fun as I thought it would be to vote for Obama. And McCain I have to say gave one of the most gracious concession speeches I've ever heard. I was proud of him, and grateful to have the old McCain I actually love and respect back.
From election

But as much fun as that vote was, I felt a victim of geography of sorts last night and would have loved to cast votes in a few other races, such as:

Senate Race in North Carolina - Hagan v Dole

Senate Race in Minnesota - how fun to vote for Al Franken

Prop 2 in California - standards for farm animals

Prop 8 in California - equality of marriage

House Race Minnesota - Bachmann (diarrhea of the mouth surrogate) v ?? don't even care who

Senate Race in Alaska - Stevens (the convicted felon) v ?? again don't even care who

House Race Florida - Mahoney (crazy scary philanderer of interns I would like to disown from my party) v ?? again I don't even care who

And most of all:

LUMPKIN COUNTY GEORGIA SCHOOL BOARD - Unc (aka Brandon Reynolds) - but he was a winner even without my vote!! Yippee!!!
From election

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Party On

From rally

When I picked Stevie up from preschool yesterday they told me they'd held an election.

Me: "Who'd you vote for?" (cringing and worrying since I'd failed to properly educate (brainwash) him)
Stevie: "I voted for ROCK OBAMA" (it sounds pretty hip when you say it that way

The results:
Obama 2
McCain 7

Ellie's class was pretty similar
Obama 4
McCain 15

All this talk of schoolyard elections got me thinking about my childhood. I first discovered I was a Democrat in the 3rd grade when I was one of 7 who voted for Jimmy Carter (I think there were more than 100 in my grade - ouch).

I hear a lot about people being proud to be registered Independent instead of belonging to a PARTY and I began questioning whether I'm less intelligent or open-minded by limiting myself to my PARTY. And of course, I decided, NO.

Just because I don't agree with every Democrat or everything they do, doesn't mean I can't join the PARTY and be proud. It doesn't mean I have to vote for every Democrat. It just means the place I find the most of "my people" happens to be there. And I will not hold my nose while I vote or hide behind being undecided. I am Decidedly Democratic.

So, last night I decided to teach the children how to PARTY and took them to the Democratic rally at the state capitol. It was so thrilling to hold signs and cheer for Obama and the other Democrats.
From rally

From rally

I must give proper credit to the calendar gods who so nicely put election day on the heels of Halloween though, because the boys were mostly entertained by their candy.
From rally

But the girls got into the music and the mood. They know how to PARTY.

Today, we've lived up election day - first PARTYing with the playgroup (we also made blankets for wounded soldiers and piggy banks to save change to help the poor) and after we vote, we head into town for a results PARTY.

We're making history, my PARTY and I. And as I face the lines this afternoon to join them, I will remember to PARTY ON!
From rally

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Matchless Masquerade

When he insisted he was going to be a pirate for Halloween, my heart sank.

I live for Halloween. I go to great lengths to create costumes. I was on a quest to beat Elvis, Einstein, Marilyn and Jackie from last year.
From halloween

And we were pirates two years ago.

I tried to get everyone on-board for a "resurrection Halloween" where we all recreate our cutest costumes (Anne Geddes flower in a pot? fairy with lights sewn into your dress? anyone? anyone?) but to no avail.

Finally, I came to the realization (after an intervention from my sister and husband) that Halloween, as much as I love it, is not fun if your mom picks your costume (maybe it was a little overreaching of my authority). So, I caved, and no one matched or won a contest, and, to my surprise, it was still fun.

The boys were Pirates of the Caribbean - Captain Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones (for those of you like me who thought Davy Jones was a member of the Partridge Family, no this is the guy with octopus-ish snaky stuff all over his face and body).
From halloween
From halloween

The girls gave up their original idea to be a "Cousin Sandwich" after we saw Wicked. So they were Elfaba and Glinda (and their cousins were Glinda and Nessa). I have to admit, the recreation of the wicked whisper was pretty fun.
From halloween
From halloween

From halloween

And getting Randy to don a wig and stuff himself ala Homer Simpson, was, priceless.
From halloween

When the kids were crying because their candy bags were too heavy to haul up to one more door, we pulled the plug on trick or treating, headed home for witches brew (aka Frito Pie in the South) and the opening bell of the Annual Candy Trade (wallstreet has nothing on these shrewd cousins who take their loot very seriously).
From halloween

From halloween

Wally could not have cared less about the trading, he just sat and quietly ripped into his candy, probably eating his weight in it based on the tell-tale wrappers scattered beside him.
From halloween

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't worry dad . . .

. . . he's all boy.

From summer 08
My dad has an issue with Wally's hair - so do lots of people, and to each I say, go get your own hair cut if you have such strong opinions on hair. But while he's mine, and the curls are so yummy peeking out from under his baseball cap, I'm saving the money on haircuts for the kid's first surfboard.
From don't worry dad

When we went to the doctor for his 3 year checkup, Wally refused to talk. He just shook or nodded his head and gave his notoriously evil eye to the Doctor.

Doc - What's your name?
Wally - evil eye
Doc - Walter?
Wally - shook his head and more evil eye
Doc - Waldorf? Is your name Waldorf?
Wally - doesn't even bother to shake his head, offers condescending AND evil eye

This went on as she went through Wally's name and age and whether he could kick a ball or count or dress himself. But when she got to the primo question, he perked up:

Doc - Are you a boy or a girl?
Before she got the word out Wally piped up loud and clear "BOY!"
From don't worry dad
Other boy funnies this week:

Mel to Stevie - who'd you choose to sit by for snack today?
Stevie - Ashley
Mel - Oh, is Ashley nice? Do you like her?
Stevie - Ya, I like the way she looks.
Mel - laughing too hard to give the feminist talk to Stevie about judging girls
by their looks - it can wait.
From don't worry dad

Stevie to Randy - Dad, did you know that a potty word is also a letter?
Randy - Yep, I knew that.
Stevie (takes another bite of dinner and gets a big grin on his face) Coooooool!
Mel - Ewwwwwww

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quik Trip

I have cultivated a love for going to the gas station in my children. I'm not sure if it's to prevent them from becoming like me - I literally hate getting gas, maybe out of some backwards wish that I should be showered in chivalry so my delicate hands would n'er touch the greasy dirty nozzle or my dainty lungs should n'er breathe the fumes or because the total I spend every trip could buy an outfit, completely accessorized, but there is hardly a chore I detest as much as getting gas. And now that it takes driving for one hour to find a station with gas and waiting in line almost that long to get it (but rest assured, our governor told us we do not have a supply problem), it's a serious bummer.
From Nashville

But the kids, they'll go anyday. The words "Quik Trip" make them salivate like Pavlov's dogs. Quik Trip has given them the independence that modern era helicopter parenting has snatched from kids. While I feed Great White her stinky expensive formula, they (minus Wally) get to go in the store and pick out a treat (penny, or nickel and dime candy as the case may be for them, and fountain Diet Coke with crushed ice for me), take it to the counter and buy it. The sense of accomplishment they feel far outweighs the nature of the task, but it's really a win-win for all involved.
From Nashville

Now we have added yet another connotation to the term, since we have had our family's shortest vacation ever - a Quik Trip to Nashville.

We still have several good friends in our former city, and two families have added babies this past year. We have stayed clear, not wanting to impose such a rowdy brood with all the burden of having guests upon them. So, we considered going for the baby blessing of the last one, but it fell on a crazy weekend for us. Then, all of a sudden the stars aligned and I remembered how much I regret not making my annual pilgrimage to Washington this summer to see a friend, and we decided if we had to wait for an uncrazy time, we would never go, so we would take the time we had and make it happen.
From Nashville

And that time was 24 hours (and only that long due to the generosity of my sister who offered to work our show by herself for a day)

When we arrived Saturday evening, it was like coming home. Though we hadn't seen these friends in 2 years, it was like putting on your favorite pair of jeans - you just know how they're going to feel even before you slide them up, and they fit snug and groovy showing off the best of your assets without magnifying the size of your trunk.
From Nashville

Oh how I miss my Nashville girlfriends. They make me laugh, inspire me in dressing myself and my nest, stay up with me to talk til the wee morning hours despite having babies to wake them earlier than me. They feed the hollow part of my soul like only a girlfriend can. I love them like sisters. I love their kids like an auntie. I will never let two years pass again, with them or my other girlfriends.
From Nashville

So, now if I mention Quik Trip, I salivate for more than a fountain diet coke. Now I know a quick trip can mean:

24 hours of "catch up"
1,440 minutes of reminiscing
86,400 seconds of gratitude for friends and the sweetness they add to my life
From Nashville

I must give a shout out to the guys - Randy singlehandedly packed us up while pulling chauffeur duty to the softball game and moving someone (and he's one serious catch in his orange tie, don't you think?), Christopher took the pics as I forgot my camera, and Shane made me cry during the blessing on the food
From Nashville

Monday, September 15, 2008

Granny Mel

Being an auntie has always been at the top of my favorite titles on my relationship resume. I was an auntie before I was a mom, and there is nothing I love more than being admired by my nieces and nephews, whether it's because they love my shoes or because I planned a cousins sleepover (like the Butterfield 1st Annual Auntie Mel Cousin Sleepover and Pancake Breakfast seen here this summer)
From Little Miss

Or because I thrive on chaos - like when it feels like they're all monkeys in the tree
From Little Miss

But I was a bit worried when Little Miss made her grand entrance to the world 5 years ago.
From Little Miss

Months before her birth I was so excited to be her auntie, because it was the first (and only) time my sister and I were pregnant together, and we were both having little girls to boot. But as it turned out, when Little Miss joined our family just two weeks after Ainslee left, I was so worried that I would fall short in my love for her. I was worried that her very existence would be a painful reminder of what had been stolen by death from my clenched fists. I feared my relationship with my sister would never be the same, that she would feel ridiculously misplaced guilt by having such a blessing (I hope she never did!) and that I would feel a knife in my heart by acknowledging her joy.

But as President Kennedy said, "we have nothing to fear, but fear itself". Though only motivated by sheer devotion to my sister, I called her the day Little Miss was born, knowing I would be hearing newborn little gurgles and cries in the background, and willing myself with all the grit and determination I could muster not to cry and make her sad on such a wonderful day. I knew as soon as I did that I still had auntie status.
From Little Miss

I had completely underestimated the power of love. A power greater than self-pity, than fear, and than despair. A power to celebrate the goodness of life smiling on someone else when life has dealt you a terrible blow. A power that did not come from me, but worked a miracle in my heart.

Little Miss has been nothing but a joy in my life, and though sometimes I get a little homesick for my own sweet girl, I am never sad in her presence. She is one of my most adoring fans, and I have to say, the feeling is mutual.
From Little Miss

So, when I heard her disappointment that her mom would be substituting for faraway grandmas on Grandparents Day at Kindergarten, I knew it should be me, I would have moved heaven and earth to be there. What I didn't know, was that the reason I was an acceptable substitute in her eyes was that, unlike her mother, I apparently "look old enough" to play the part (them are fightin words Little Miss!).

From Little Miss

With my pride swallowed, as hip an outfit as I could fish out of the closet, and as much anti-aging cream as I could pile on that day to prove my youth, I was there. And though I didn't need one, the look on her face was reward worthy of moving heaven and earth. And she was left with a lipstick kiss to remind her that "Auntie, or Granny, Mel loves you!"
From Little Miss

Monday, September 8, 2008

Copy Cat

In the crazed weekend before the big bad Yellow Daisy Festival, I took a few moments to quiet the humming of the sewing machine, sweep up some of the thread that had scattered like confetti all over the house and spend some time throwing a party for my family celebrating the milestone of the beginning of a new school year.

From back to school
From back to school

Usually, we have small fanfare - a new outfit, pictures and a homemade bag for the girls from fabric they selected. We pretend for the week before that we are getting onto the "school sleeping schedule" but none of us can part with the laziness of a summer morning where we are not expected anywhere but the pool, and even there we don't have to look presentable. We try to go to bed early, but we can't fathom letting a beautiful summer evening go by with out a bike ride or a dance in the family room.

And so, the first week of school, when we are left without a choice, we live on adrenaline for 2 days and then we get grumpy - by Thursday we are all melting down at 4 pm and by Friday the coping skills have disappeared as quickly as the flicker of the fireflies we chased in June.

This year, we added, because I totally copied Nie's idea, a Back to School Feast. When I told the children what we were doing, they wanted to know who was coming (apparently I haven't made them feel important enough on their own for having prepared a feast). I got excited as I baked a special cake and decorated the dining room, scattering smarties as much for the subliminal message as for their cool retro colors.
From back to school

Given our sense of humor, we had to incorporate a bit of it into the family theme - WALK OR FALL - based on a story we heard on NPR of a boy with polio whose dad doesn't baby him but inspires him to learn to walk. We made goals - someone's going to learn to read, someone's going to eat 3 vegetables every day, someone else is going to "not be smug" (bet you can't guess who!), someone else is going to work on prayer and someone else is going to do her "middle split" (definitely NOT me!!). We feasted on fondue and before we dug into the smarties cake, made wishes and blew out candles - one for every grade we enter this year.

From back to school
From back to school

And when the anxiety parted, and school began, here is what we found:

Kennedy is disappointed the new bus driver doesn't have a 5th grade section, I am disappointed we don't have the old bus driver

Ellie again has a class full of friends - I don't think there's a soul in that school she doesn't consider a friend, including the school nurse, who called right on schedule the first week

From back to school

Stevie came home with his name written by him on a paper. Since I spent a year trying to coerce him to just write an "S" I was a little surprised, so I asked how he knew how to write his name. He said, "it was on a box, so I just copied it". Oh, why hadn't I thought of that??

Wally loves his Joy School, we'll see how much JOY I'm feeling next week when it's my turn to host

And I redeemed myself from Loser Mother of the Year after the last day of school when I picked up the girls late with no fanfare and only the promise of a trip to the laundromat. The first day of school I met the bus with squirt guns and a trip to Breuster's for ice cream. So there!!!

From back to school