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Sandra’s Thoughts

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Our Christmas Letter, 2011

The following was sent out with our Christmas picture/ card:

Dear Friends and Family,Merry Christmas! We hope that 2011 has been a good one for you and that 2012 looks full of promise and love.

If you’ve looked at the enclosed picture, you already know that we went to Disney World. Our trip this year stretched over the Thanksgiving holiday and included both Grant’s and Michael’s birthdays. It was a good thing we had a nice long trip; Michael woke up sick on his birthday and missed out on the fun for 2 days! Nevertheless, we had a good time. And yes, we noticed that Michael’s eyes are closed in this shot. Michael, now 5 is in an obnoxious phase where he rarely looks normal in pictures. I’ve decided to keep all of them to use for future blackmail.

Our other great vacation in 2011 was a trip to Ludington, MI, for Independence Day. My dad’s family gathers there each summer, and I’ve been eager to show Grant and the kids the beautiful home and more of our family. We went with my parents and two of my sisters and had a magical time. We toured lighthouses, enjoyed sunsets on Lake Michigan, and basked in the glow of family. Both kids now speak of the Michigan house and of my great uncle Bruce with affection. As a bonus, Michael was introduced to Mario Kart for Wii by some sweet older boys and came home to his own copy, bought by Grant. It started quite the love affair for him!

Life at home has been “ordinary,” but never boring. Megan continues to thrive in school. She also continues to be involved in as many activities as possible, though the constant in her life continues to be her dance class at the Y. She takes joy in showing us the steps she’s learning and delights in dancing through the house. Six-and-one-half years old now, she already shows signs of the young woman she’ll be: she’s fiercely independent while desperate for our attention and affection, highly intelligent and yet a bit “ditzy” at times. In short; she’s a mess, but a pure blessing.

Michael is in the middle of his last year of preschool. We switched him from two days a week to three days a week and it has proven to be a blessing with many returns. His letter recognition and motor skills have improved, but he’s also just happier with the new arrangement. He has good friends at school and has fantastic teachers. He continues to be 100% boy, obsessed with Star Wars and discovering Legos for “big kids.” He even has a small, fresh scar on his face from his first set of stitches, earned in late October. Cuddly and wild, curious and smart, Michael keeps us on our toes and makes us laugh often. He and Megan have their differences but are still wonderful playmates, and for that we are grateful.

Grant and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary this past June. We, too, have our differences but remain wonderful playmates. Our marriage-strengthening is made easier by the fact that we have two sets of grandparents here, ready to watch the kids so we can go have time to ourselves. We even have time to be in a book club together. Even better, that book club is full of other couples whom we are lucky enough to call friends. These are good days, and it will only get better.

Friends, this doesn’t mean we don’t argue, whine, or complain. It doesn’t mean we don’t threaten to throttle the children (even at Disney World!). I only mean to tell you that we have many little moments which add up to make for a happy life. As I was writing this note, I stepped away from the computer a moment to watch the kids, playing outside while Grant worked in the garage. They were down at their old Little Tykes playground equipment, climbing up and over, seeing who could stand from the tallest spot and make Mom scream first. (Megan won.) Beyond the hint of panic I felt at seeing my children use their plain-old rubber sole shoes to climb smooth plastic and risk a trip to the Vandy Children’s ER was a wonderful sense of peace and calm at the sight of my children, playing contentedly together at my home on a Sunday afternoon. It was so normal, so blissfully ordinary that I just had to thank God for the miracle of it all.

I apologize for my lack of brevity; I meant to just let you know that we are well. We hope you are too. There are many reasons to be sad and find the dark in this cold, rushed season. I hope the lights decorating your area are little reminders of hope for you on your daily journey, and that love and happiness find ways to sneak into your daily existence. May 2011 end well for you and may the new year bring renewed hope and joy.Blessings and Love,  The Glewwe Family

The age-old question of age

This post *totally* qualifies as Too Much Information, so if you don’t want to read on, go back to your business.

Still with me? Thanks. Here we go!

I went to a new GYN today. Mine had retired right after Michael was born and the one who took over her practice made me wait 2+ hours to be seen, so I changed. Today’s visit was the standard annual appointment. Get weighed, pee in a cup, get squeezed, wear ugly garments, and pray for warm instruments. First, however, the doctor came in to chat. To keep me willing to chat, she did this before my clothes came off which made me grateful.

When the doctor asked if I had any concerns, I mentioned the same thing I mentioned last year (to the old GYN, after 2.5 hours waiting): my periods are crazy. (I warned you!!) Without getting into too much detail, I just said that I don’t have the same cycle any two months. I go from a 28-day cycle to a 21- day and then back again, and I go from horrible, short periods to annoying, long periods and experience everything in between. I just want to yell at my cycle, “Make up your damned mind!” Actually, I do yell that on a fairly regular basis.

So, now we’re at the reason for me over-sharing with you. She said a few things that gave me pause. Apparently, this is where menopause begins. I interrupted: “Oh no, my mom is *just* finishing her periods and my grandmother went late.” Nope. Turns out I’m on my own calendar, and I’m about 4 years ahead of the curve (for once in my life, I’m a trendsetter). In about 10 years, things will likely come to a close. She added “It’s good that you’ve already had your children. You won’t ovulate as regularly anymore.” People, I celebrate DAILY that I have two wonderful children that I love very much and that they love each other so much and that I won’t have to be up at 3am again with a child attached to my boob. However, when she said that, I mourned a little that the door is closing. Forget that Grant and I closed the door, nailed it shut, and covered it with a nice tapestry: as soon as she implied that I couldn’t turn around and birth another baby as “easily” as I did the last two made me sad. Not “cry” sad, but still, I felt a little something. Okay. Moving on.

Here’s where I need you. The doctor recommended a progesterone cream that I would use about 10 days a month just to help normalize my cycle some and make periods more predictable. No pills; a cream that (it appears) is rubbed on the arm and absorbed into the system. She said she hasn’t tried it yet but would love to hear from me after I’ve tried it a few months. She said she likes hearing from her patients how something is working for them, though she didn’t offer me other anecdotal evidence of success for others. I asked if this isn’t what the hullaballoo is about on tv, women complaining that we’re fighting the natural aging process by adding drugs. She said the cream is natural and that it is part of the hullaballoo, but it would also help me cope and bring back a part of me that was missing. As I sit here, I’m trying to remember regular-period girl and make sure I liked her. I think I did… I asked about weight gain/ loss; she said it won’t directly affect weight gain, but would help me sleep better and maybe give me more energy. That could lead to loss…

So, what do I do? I took the prescription and told her I’d think on it and check on the financial aspects of it and the other parts of it all. I left, leaving a message for my mom to call and discuss it with me. I’ve tried to think it through, but my mind drifts to safer, sillier spots in the midst of “problem solving” like this. Should I keep a journal for a few months, reflect how I’m doing each day, how I feel (How you feel, where you are, always use the verb estar. Yep. I need help.)? Should I “just do it”? Is this therapy working for someone else out there? Isn’t there a circle of women who can sit around, wine/ beer in hand and tell me their experiences? Want to meet Thursday? Am I wrong to fight aging? I don’t yet dye my hair, but only because I don’t yet have to. I use my Mary Kay faithfully and hope and pray that my oily skin will follow my mother’s oily skin and look good for years. But that’s all external stuff. Do I want to rub on a cream that would counteract what my body wants to do? I’ve counteracted other things my body wanted to do. I took birth control for a decade. I had C-sections because I didn’t do labor right. I’ve had surgeries to fix and change internal issues. Should I embrace this as a good thing or run and hide??

Feel free to trap me in a corner and give me your opinion. Feel free to e-mail me or comment on fb. I might not heed your advice; I might not heed anyone’s! I know each of us have different bodies and different experiences and should do different things. I’d LOVE to know what you’d do to confirm that the next step is the right one.

Women, Retreat!

This past weekend, I participated in my 2nd ever women’s retreat with my church, The Church of the Good Shepherd in Brentwood. If you have the opportunity next year, come retreat with us! If you are involved in your own church and it offers a retreat, TAKE IT. What follows is just a brief list of WHY our women’s retreat is AWESOME. Reasons are listed as they come out of my head, so there is no actual order to them. They’re still good ones, though.

1. Location, Location, Location. Our retreat is held at DuBose Conference Center in Monteagle. It’s just far enough from the city to feel like a get-away but not so far as to be a butt-numbing drive. It’s close to Sewanee, a beautiful campus with a wonderful bookstore and lots of reason to walk around and enjoy nature. Two nearby chapels, one HUGE and one tiny, offer chances to admire and practice prayer in God’s house. DuBose itself isn’t terribly fancy, but it is homey and has an attractive campus for a quick walk. We have worship space, living space, eating space, praying space, and chatting space. It’s just what we need! When I got off the interstate this year, I felt HOME. I knew peace was present. It’s all good.

2. Prayer Chapel. Oh, this can’t even be described properly, and a picture wouldn’t do it justice. Just know that there is a quiet room set aside with stations designed simply to let you talk to God in your own way. These are physical prayer activities and the only sense not taken advantage of here is taste. Imagine a room where you can have guaranteed alone time, no matter how many people are nearby. And imagine that someone left instructions and tips and all that you’ll need to feel at peace as you commune with God. And imagine that the woman at the station before you just left a drawing with “All is well with my soul!” written on it. Read it a few times and you believe it.

3. Prayer Partners. Up on the mountain, where you come to escape and find love, someone is “assigned” to pray for you all weekend. Little notes and what-nots remind you that you are loved and you matter and nothing is expected of you. Go ahead; pay it forward for your prayer buddy and send a little love her way too. Ain’t nothin’ better than knowing someone’s watching out for you.

4. You never know what late-night girl talk will lead to. Maybe a discovery of new and wild ways to present your next birthday cake?

5. Prayer services, formal sessions, informal chats, all leading you to a new relationship with God. And it all takes on more meaning because you’re there with people who want to be there and the scripture comes alive and the words take on MEANING when you’re not handing crayons to kids while trying to hear what’s being said. I even got to take part in a Taize service. I was terrified when they mentioned 10 minutes of silent prayer and reflection and SHOCKED when I ran out of time. Amazing, amazing stuff.

6. Healing prayer. Praying for yourself and for others. Feeling physical relief as weight is lifted from your body as you offer your heart, your problems to God.

7. Friday night chili supper, a potluck brought in by friends you’re still getting to know.

8. All other meals prepared by a staff. They serve; you eat in gratitude.

9. Opportunity to color, write, laugh, cry, walk, talk, hear, and be heard. And there is a schedule but you don’t have to follow it. This year’s theme was “Sacred time, sacred place.” Boy, did we find it in abundance!

10. A craft that you’ll WANT to take home and you’ll keep. A physical reminder of peace and God’s love is, after all, very necessary when home again. Those other people you live with didn’t go to the retreat, you see, and they tend to forget you need sacred time and a sacred place. My rock from last year says “peace.” It lives on my bedside table and my kids know that if they try to take it I will beat them over the head with it until I get peace. (okay, I’m kidding there. Mostly. It’s a small rock, after all. Ugh, don’t sing…) This year’s craft was a bottle of time, I mean sand, representing how I spend my time. It’s a nice reminder each morning to make sure I’m taking the time I need. It’s a work in progress, as am I!

11. My favorite reason, and the last one my addled brain can currently produce, is the reason my friend Chrissie offered up. In fact, I’m just going to steal her comment from Facebook and put it right here: 

My reason is this: is it easy to remember what gifts you received even as recently as the past year for birthdays, holidays, etc? Not for me. I went for the first time in 2010. I think about the theme of the Women’s Retreat and what I learned: I’m Under Construction - a work in progress every time I water my plant centerpiece or see the garden rock I chose in it. I build a little more upon my work with these visual reminders of the Retreat, and I smile as I remember some fun moment or warm embrace received. This year, Sacred Time and Sacred Place, I learned different things about deepening my prayer habits that will help even more. I am excited about this! What a wonderful time we all had and to leave with the blessings of renewal and friendship and meaningful spiritual gifts that are remembered for years and continually compounding is amazing!

 Gosh, I think I could’ve just posted Chrissie’s comment and been done. There I go with overkill again!

Now, really ladies. Retreat.

For Uncle Ken

I got a text earlier today from my cousin, Davida: Uncle Ken died last night. My mom’s uncle by marriage, Uncle Ken was a much-loved, infrequently-appearing character of my childhood. He was a truck driver, just like my grandfather, but was based out of Florida. When time allowed, he’d stop in over at my grandparents’ house to visit and we’d all come see him. Covered in tattoos, generally sporting a shaved head, always with a cigarette in hand, he was like something out of a book, some magnificent hero of the road. He was marvelous!

Uncle Ken’s visits weren’t terribly frequent nor were they terribly long, but I remember them always being joyous ones. I can picture him sitting at the little table in my grandmother’s kitchen, smiling, talking. The strongest, clearest memory I have of him, however, is from a conversation at my parents’ dining room table.When I was young, my parents took an outdoor picnic table (and its benches!), filled in the cracks with some sort of wood putty, and painted it with a cedar finish. It was weird and so very wonderful; I can still feel the small bumps and ridges under my fingertips. My memory of Uncle Ken involves sitting at that table in our dining room, listening to stories, the usual pastime. At one point he looked at me and said “Sandy, if you’re ever in a bar, find the little old man sitting by himself and ask him something to get him talking. You won’t be lonely, and he’ll be grateful enough for the company that he’ll likely take care of your bill.” He shared a story of doing just that, of asking a man where he was from and getting hours of story in the answer. Uncle Ken got up to leave at one point, thanking the man for sharing but confessing he shouldn’t order anything else and needed to move on, and the man kept buying him drinks,  grateful for an open ear.  Honestly, I’ve used that advice on more than one occasion; I felt I was using it that night! The “little old man” often has great stories and wonderful morsels of wisdom, and I haven’t yet regretted befriending one in a social gathering. And no, I’ve never tricked one into paying my tab!

Thanks for that chestnut, Uncle Ken. Godspeed; may perpetual light shine upon you. Rest in peace. And give Mema and Big Daddy kisses for me.

Kindling the Classics- “Jane Eyre”

I am an impulsive person. Sometimes I can slow down long enough to check into something before jumping into action, but more often than not, I think about the action in mid-air or just after landing. This impulsiveness affects me daily, sometimes in minor ways, sometimes not. What follows is an example of that impulsiveness and what is actually a minor effect, but still worth (in my mind) talking about.

 A few weeks ago, we *finally* dragged our lame-o butts into the theater to see HP7. Coming out of the theater, I noticed a poster advertising the movie Jane Eyre, set to come out in March. I vaguely remember the poster showing a young woman, maybe with dark hair and a splash of red. (Gee, I hope I didn’t imagine all this and get set on this journey for nothing!). I thought “Hmm. I haven’t ever read that. Maybe I should.” We went home, I grabbed the Kindle (a gift from me to Grant a couple years ago, though I use it more than he!), found the book in question in the Kindle store, downloaded it, and started reading.

When one purchases a book in the store, one can look at the cover for a clue to the contents, then read the back cover to see what the book is about. This isn’t true with the Kindle. Now, it is possible to read an explanation of the book in the Kindle store before downloading the sample or the book itself, but I chose to ignore that and just start reading. I’m not sure why. Certainly, when given a brief synopsis, it’s easy enough to start looking for clues and paying attention to possible foreshadowings along the way. Nope. I just went in blind, wondering who would be in the movie.

Now, I feel it my duty to tell you that stuff about the book- aka spoilers- is coming in the next paragraphs. If you haven’t yet read Jane Eyre and want your own surprise, head on over to U-Tube and come see me another time. Otherwise, here’s what I have so far:

Jane Eyre begins as a story told by the child, Jane, herself. It’s told in the first-person and when we meet Jane, she’s about 9 years old and is living with an aunt who treats her unkindly. Jane’s parents have died and her mother’s brother took her in as a babe, only to die himself a short time later. On his deathbed, he begs his wife to promise that she will keep Jane Eyre and raise her as her own child. Well, she keeps part of the promise. Jane is treated as a servant, though she sleeps in the nursery with her bratty, abusive cousins. Things get a little ugly, Jane blesses out her aunt, and she is locked in the room where her uncle died. In this room, she perceives a ghost, has a fit, and the doctor/pharmacist (?) is called to look in on her.

Okay, stop for a minute. Is there really a ghost, or is this child oversensitive? Is this to be a horror novel, focusing on a child who will die in the end from neglect and being left in scary rooms? That’s what I’m asking as I’m reading…

So, the doctor/ pharmacist guy encourages Jane’s aunt to send her away to school. A guy comes along and promises to make Jane feel shame and eat little and become a better person, and Aunt Reed sends Jane off without delay.

The next section of the novel covers Jane’s experiences at Lowood, the school for orphaned/ unwanted children she attends. She never hears from her family again and has decided that someone as worthless as herself is meant to be lonely forever, but she does make a few friends and start to do okay at the school. She fears all is lost when the guy that first spoke with her aunt, Mr. Brocklesomething, comes to the school for his little regular visit and makes Jane stand on a chair in front of everyone while he tells all what a horrible little person she is. However, this is when a few adults and many of the girls decide they think she’s wonderful and things turn around a bit. It turns out that Mr. BrockleSomething is pretty terrible to the school in general; the girls are rather neglected and often shamed. A wonderful bir of irony occurs when he comes in and points out what harlots the older girls are for keeping long hair and how girls should feel shame and dress to show it, only to be followed into the room by his elegantly dressed wife and daughters. A little comedy in our wierd novel.

As we continue, Jane’s life improves when her dear friend- and dozens of other girls- die from illness and the townspeople see the dreadful way the girls are being treated. The school is taken over by kinder people and conditions are bettered overall. At this point, of course, I still don’t know what this all is. Is it background, neccessary for the understanding of the woman she is to become? Will Jane end up running the school? Certainly, I see character development: this child, so often told she is worthless and dumb, is slowly coming around to an understanding of her own value and values. She’s observant and intelligent. She keeps getting in rough places and is able to make the best of them and /or get out of them. But I can tell, by the dots on the bottom of the page, that I’m not even halfway through. How long is this book? Are there appendices and study questions at the back? Should I go check Amazon or Wikipedia and read a description of the book and get an idea of my progress? Nah, let’s just keep trucking.

Jane finds her happy-ish place at Lowood (gosh, I hope I’m remembering that name right! I don’t dare check online because you KNOW I’ll cheat and read all I can!), the school that was looking like her Doom, Part 2. She becomes a teacher and befriends the teacher who was so kind to her. When her mentor gets married and leaves, however, Jane knows she needs to go, too. She advertises and secures a governess position at some other place. By the way, Bronte chooses to not let us know many of the locations in her book, instead denoting them, at least in my copy, as “-shire.” It’s a little distracting, but luckily it doesn’t come up often.

I digress. Now Jane is moving on. She find an -ahem- interesting situation. Lovely older lady as head servant of this household, and a sweet French child to educate. The man of the house appears to not live there often, and it seems he has some great dislike for it. He, Mr. Rochester, only has the house because his dad and older brother both died and he inherited it. However, we don’t meet him at first. Jane gets comfortable in her surroundings and the only oddish thing (other than the owner not being in and the little French child, not his daughter, being there) is the mysterious servant Grace Poole and the odd, hyena-like laugh she has. Jane never sees Grace laugh; she never even sees her talk or smile much. However, she hears it through the walls and the laugh is a little disturbing.

Okay, so that’s a little odd. Is there a mystery to be solved? Is Grace crazy? Is she a murderess? Is anyone going to ever have sex in this book, or do I need to go read a little Nora Roberts real quick?

Mr. Rochester, the master, appears. He’s an odd duck. He wants to chat Jane up, then he ignores her and gets cold to her. She’s half in love with the guy and he’s driving her nuts! One night, she wakes to hear that odd laugh in the hall. Stepping out, she smells smoke and finds it’s coming from his room. She enters the room, sees a fire, can’t wake her master, and takes matters into her own hands by dumping the wash basin on his bed and person. He’s a little agitated, of course, but says things to her which get her all gooey inside, then sends her back to bed. The next morning he’s gone, to be back in a week or two. You know how those rich playboys are- “You’ll see me when you see me!”

Again, I am puzzled. Is this a mystery? What’s the deal with the crazy laugh? And even Jane wonders why Grace Poole is still in the house, since she’s sure that Grace did it. Well, I keep reading.

Mr. Rochester brings back friends and a supposed bride-to-be when he returns. He still gives these odd, 8th grade-like hints that he cares for her, and his fiance treats Jane terribly, but mostly the other rich people do, too. At one point, he poses as a gypsy to try to get her to admit to caring for him. Jane, though, remains Jane. She refuses to act in a way unbecoming to her station, though she will defend herself verbally when attacked. She’s growing in her confidence, yet remains careful to not cross any lines behaviorally. As things start to get interesting and you think Mr. Rochester is either going to pull out the Ouija Board or pour out his odd little heart, Jane hears from Mrs. Reed, the neglectful aunt of her past. A servant of hers comes to beg Jane to return to -shire and see Mrs. Reed one last time; Mrs. Reed has had an apoplexy (love that word! I know, I’m wierd. Duh!) and has, for some crazy reason, been calling for Jane. Jane goes to visit, but not before promising Mr. Rochester that she WILL return.

She goes, and the angry and embittered Mrs. Reed, after 10 days of delirium, confesses that she received a letter from one of Jane’s father’s relations a few years ago, asking for Jane’s contact information so that he can get in touch with his niece and make her his heir. Hateful Mrs. Reed wrote back that Jane was dead. She gives Jane that letter.

Hmmm. Still wondering. Is fortune set to change? Will she be rich and allowed to marry Mr. Rochester and get his hateful fiancee to go away? Something must be about to change; the girl just went away 100 miles for a 1-month visit with people who treated her like dirt; it can’t just be that Bronte was trying to get in a few more paragraphs… And do we want her marrying odd Mr. Rochester? He seems old and grumpy. Will they have children? He doesn’t seem to like them. Ugh. Plug on, Sandra.

Jane returns to Thornfield, home of Mr. Rochester. Lots of drama follows as he sort-of forces her to admit to her feelings for him. I’m proud of her here. Though she feels it will do her no good, she is finally honest with him and takes some risks and tells him she cares. She also maintains her honor. He, the odd boy, tells her that his fiancee already dumped her (he made her think he had less money to test her love; she failed) and that he intends to marry Jane in one month.

Wait. There are still a lot of dots at the bottom of my Kindle. Are we getting a happy ending or not? Oh! Nora makes me suffer a little sometimes but she ALWAYS delivers the goods! And I know that Wuthering Heights was written by one of the Brontes, and it’s craziness and dark. Crap! What have I gotten myself into! Oh, Sandra. Plug on.

The couple seems ready to be married. They even head into the church when- GASP! It is revealed that Mr. Rochester is already married!

Oh, let me back up and tell you that a night or two before the wedding, Jane woke to find some odd monster-like creature with scary eyes in her chamber and that the monster tore her wedding veil. This monster-like creature, hairy armed and thinner, I think, than Grace Poole, seems to maybe be the person who also attacked the “mystery guest” the month prior. He had a stab wound and bite marks. Bleck! Again, I ask. Is there a bit of science fiction at work here? Is Grace a werewolf or some other sort of shape-shifter? Really people: I should’ve read the damned synopsis!

Okay, so now it’s revealed that Mr. Rochester is already married. He takes Jane to the hidden chamber in the house and reveals his wife, of whom Grace Poole is the keeper/nurse. Jane describes some hairy monster sort of person. I’m trying to picture her, but I can’t. Does she need to shave? Are her hormones off and she has ape arms? Why is she crazy?

I am now at the point that Mr. Rochester has revealed how this whole thing happened. His dad and brother arranged the marriage with the father of Crazy Girl because Crazy Girl comes from good money. Can’t be that good; it is crazy money. Inbreeding? Who knows. We do know that Crazy Girl’s mother was Crazy too. Great. So Rochester, the idiot, married the girl after seeing her a couple times at social occasions (never alone, and yet, he didn’t suspect?), then spent the next 15 years regretting it. She’s tried to kill him, she’s terrible, yada, yada. He had brought her to this hated home and hired Grace Poole to take care of her, then he sought out love all over the world. Three mistresses- worth of expenses later, he returned to ThornPlace and found and fell in love with Jane. He’s now begging her to stay with him and be his mostly-wife, to have and to hold, regardless of legal stuff, forever. She’s being a firm little Christian girl and telling him it’s wrong and she can’t. There are still lots of dots on the bottom of that page, people. I must read on.

By the way, the rich relation is still alive; I’m sure he’ll come into play again soon. How will money change her life? Again, I must keep reading. Damned classics.

Wish me luck.

Santa Claus is Coming to Townes!

Merry Christmas!

As I write, the kids are in bed, one last pie is finishing in the oven, the DVD of home movies is beginning its burn. It’s Christmas Eve. This Christmas is a little different: two kids with the flu meant no church service for us, no Webster family gathering. Instead, I read a little from the BCP and a little from the bible before letting the kids open a couple gifts, then go to bed. Our quiet little Christmas made me a little melancholy though,  I must admit.

Some Christmas traditions, however, will not rest for mere illness. Megan insisted on getting all the treats out for Santa herself; she refused to trust her pitiful old mom to take care of such an important matter! An insulated cup of milk, some wrapped cookies, and some chocolate coins from Disney world rest just behind me. Also present, a note from the girl child which reads “Dear Santa, the carpet is new. Please be careful. Love, Megan.” Priceless!

As Megan gathered her treats, I remembered that my dad always left Santa cocoa, and told her. She went with plain old milk, but I smiled as I remembered: each Christmas morning when we woke up, there would be two used coffee mugs and the remnants of treats left out. Dad always told us that he “happened to still be up when the old man arrived” and had sat down to have cocoa with him. Dad is a good southern boy, after all. He would then tell us that he “told Santa that (we) had been absolutely rotten all year long and didn’t deserve a thing, but Santa left toys anyway.” It sounds terrible, but that’s only because you’re not seeing the wicked gleam in my dad’s eyes as he delivers such claims.

I remember those bits of Christmas. I remember going to mass, then Mema’s, then to my mom’s friend’s house late at night. Mack was a dear, sweet soul who we only seemed to see on Christmas, but I knew she was special to Mom. We’d rush home late at night, me in a panic over whether we would’ve missed Santa already. He knew to come late though; we always beat him home. Off to bed, then up in the morning to wait at the top of the stairs with GREAT amounts of impatience while Dad started the fire in the basement and Mom got food together. Once released, we ran at breakneck speed down those stairs, stopping just long enough to unceremoniously dump our stockings before moving on to our pile of Santa gifts, so noted by not being wrapped.

Now I am in charge of such things. Megan told Grant tonight that she know Santa wraps gifts, and I guess the movie “Polar Express” kind of sealed that deal. I’ll get to that shortly. I wonder how my children will remember this Christmas. Will they remember missing church, being told to NOT hug family members (my rule, btw) because of being ill, not going to the Webster Christmas, and being sent to bed early? Will they recall that no last minute baking of gingerbread houses and shaped cookies occurred? Or will they remember hanging out here, reading a bit of the bible story, looking at their new books. What legacy am I creating? Too bad I won’t know for another 30 years- if ever!

Merry Christmas. God bless us, every one.

OH!! ONE LAST THING! The title wasn’t a typo. My parents live on Townes, and Dad says I always sang “Santa Claus is coming to Townes” as a kid. Cute, eh? :)

Mama Bear, Mama Bear, PAPA BEAR

The kids and I headed to a local bounce house a few days ago for open bounce. We were able to meet one other set of children and their mother there, and the kids had a great time playing- overall.

At one point, I slipped away to go to the restroom. The other mom said she’d keep an eye on my two (as well as her three!) so that no play was interrupted. I told my two where I was going, took care of business, came back, checked in with the kids, and found the mom again. She was looking a little frustrated. Without much ado, she told me that she had just chastised an older child who first hit, then punched (a few times!) her 4-year-old son. She said there seemed to be no mom around this child, so she had to take it upon herself to inform the child that her own son wasn’t a punching bag. We briefly discussed the fact that sometimes other people’s children must be chastised and I praised her for stepping in as Mama Bear.

We moved on. Play continued and the whole lot of us eventually switched to the second room. While I was watching Megan and her friend race to get up the huge slide so as to come down together, Michael approached me and gave the old arm-tug. I looked down at my obviously upset child. He told me another child had hurt him in the obstacle course. Further questioning led to the revelation that the child had used an open hand to smack Michael in the face, twice. He went through the obstacle course again and showed me which child it was. I said something to my friend, and, when I pointed out the child, she said that it was the same child who hit her son. I was PISSED. The child was hanging out at the very end of the obstacle course, confronting other children as they came through. Again, no adults were around him. Actually, there was one dad in there, but he seemed to not notice- anything. Usually dads are more involved. Not sure what was going on there. In any case, I crawled into the end of the obstacle course and made eye contact with the child. He turned to escape my talking to him and (ah, the things you get away with outside the classroom) I grabbed his wrist. Not enough to cause any sort of pain. Not even enough that he couldn’t easily get away. It was just to get his attention. As he stared at me with mouth open in apparent shock, I informed him that I knew he was picking on smaller children and that such behavior was completely unacceptable. I told him he was not to hit my son again.

Michael got back into the obstacle course. I followed his progress, and he was almost to the child in question when Megan came tugging on my sleeve, asking for some of the water I had in my purse. I turned back to Michael and he was rubbing his lip. The child had kicked him!! I talked to Michael a little about the situation, and he decided to try the obstacle course again. When he saw the child, he did actually say to him, “Don’t touch me. You’re not allowed to hit me” and he did actually get through without getting hit again. However, we wasn’t feeling up to braving it again. Michael switched to the slide, until that same child switched to the slide. I didn’t catch it exactly, but I did see the other child, right behind Michael on the way up the slide, happen to climb over my son who happened to fall down the climbing part. Michael’s been climbing these things with confidence for 2.5 years, and this is when he falls?

Now, enter Papa Bear. Grant decided to surprise us and showed up for the last 20 minutes, right after our playdate family left. She and I had compared notes right before she left, and she had heard two other people chastise this child, but no one seemed to be his assigned adult. Grant came upon me watching Michael like a hawk and asked what was wrong. I pointed to our usually boisterous child, hesitating at each transition in the obstacle course, looking for that kid. I pointed out the kid and told Grant what I had seen, what Michael had told me, and what the other mom had told me. I saw my husband change.

Now, for the three people out there who haven’t seen my husband, allow me to share with you that he’s a pretty big guy. Six-foot-four, an easy 300 lbs. He’s usually smiling and is often wearing a Disney or zoo t-shirt and he’s very playful with kids. However, he saw the fear and hesitancy Michael was showing, and he became some sort of pissed off super-hero looking guy. I saw the back stiffen, the chest come out, the arms assume a defensive stance, and the swagger step forward as he approached the part of the obstacle course where this child was once again hanging out. Since his usual Disney t-shirt was replaced on that day by a long-sleeved Henley, there was nothing gentle about him.  I was a little scared, and I know this guy! Grant walked up and immediately went into anger voice as he told the child that he needed to keep moving and come on out of the obstacle course. He reminded him of the rules and told him which direction to go. I didn’t hear what happened next, but I saw the child leave the course and watched Grant follow. Grant followed him, in fact, to the child’s mother. There, I saw him explaining himself. Though I didn’t hear what was said, I could tell Grant never backed down. Whew!

Grant came up after that and told me he had brought me soup and salad and that it was in the car. I left his capable self in charge of the kids for their last bit of playtime and went to eat outside in the car. A sigh of relief did escape when I saw the child leave with his mother and a younger baby girl- a little sister? Several minutes later, I went in to help Grant get our kids out to the car, too. It was then that he told me what had occurred.

Grant followed the child to the mother. Upon approaching, she looked at Grant and said, with some frustration in her voice, “Has he been hitting again?”

Let me stop there, people. I don’t know what else was said. I don’t care. If I had a child who was KNOWN to be hitting people, I wouldn’t be taking him out to bounce houses and then not watching him! I know that there are LOTS of reasons that child might be a hitter and that this mom likely needed a break, too. HOWEVER, her “break” resulted in my child being afraid, and I’m sure other kids were too. It also resulted in several children being hurt. People, that just doesn’t cut it. If your child can’t handle social situations, limit them until he/she can. And when there, find a way to supervise said child. And if you’re going to bring your “hitter” to a bounce house, don’t get your undies in a wad when Mama Bears and Papa Bears intervene. Count your blessings that all we are doing is chastising, not literally tearing your child apart.

Mama Bear, signing off.

Disney- September 2010!

I sat down to write a few brief notes about Disney. It turned into this. Sorry! The worst part is, I know I’ll head to bed momentarily and realize what I forgot. Oh well. Enjoy if you can!

In the past year, we have spent approximately 33 days in the four parks that make up Walt Disney World. It started with the planning of a trip with the Holmes family for a week in Disney in February of 2010. As Grant took to planning the trip and looking into all we could do, he came across a free dining plan for several dates in the fall of 2009. He booked us a two-week stay, complete with several enchanting dining experiences. Since we knew we were coming back in a few months, we upgraded to annual passes. And if you’re going to come down for one week, and you already have annual passes, why not make it two weeks? So we decided to come down a week ahead of the family. Then a huge snowstorm was forecasted, and we left Nashville 36 hours earlier than planned and scored an extra day in the parks. Our annual passes expire September 20th of this year. I *begged* Grant to not even look at going to Disney for the summer: the heat, the crowds, and the long lines would make me nuts. Luckily, he agreed to that. However, Southwest put Orlando on sale and then the value resorts were cheap and so we had five more days in Walt Disney World, Labor Day being our last day in the parks.I know. We need to have our heads examined. The craziest part of all is that those five days, the marked end of our annual passes, our 4th trip to Disney since we had children, did nothing to deter me from wanting to go back. The need for time in this magical place was not sated. Somehow, seeing Cinderella’s castle for the umpteenth time still made my heart go aflutter. And let’s not even get to the Main Street Electrical Parade!However, all that being said, even as a fourth-time-mom-visitor, I still made some goofs. What follows is a (somewhat disorganized- sorry) list of my thoughts on the dos and don’ts of Walt Disney World. Here we go! 

WHAT I DID RIGHT:

-          First, most of these “woo hoos” should go to Grant as well. He is the master planner of these trips; he makes all the reservations and the major decisions. He’s quite tolerant of me always answering “sounds good” to his questions. I married well.

-          At Disney, I force myself to follow the rules I give my kids, the most important of which is this: There is no whining at Disney World. Sorry you have an ear infection. Yes, periods suck. I know it’s hot. But hey- you’re at Disney World. There’s PLENTY to be happy about. Figure something out NOW, dammit.

-          Know this: YOU WILL NOT GET TO SEE OR DO EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO DO. I’ve spent 33 days at Disney in the last year. On the way out of Magic Kingdom on our last day, I saw something I’d never noticed before.  Maybe next time… Oh, and please don’t ask Grant about the Tomorrowland Noodle Terrace. Please! Now, accepting that there simply isn’t time for everything and allowing yourself to miss even some of the *really good stuff* will make your whole experience more pleasant. At one point, Michael had the choice of standing in the sun to watch the parade or sitting in the air conditioned Hall of Presidents. He chose the latter. We all appreciated the break from the heat. I recently heard a mom complaining about rushing the kids through Magic Kingdom and trying to do it all and everyone being miserable. PEOPLE! You paid to be here! Make this trip YOURS! Ride Haunted Mansion 6 times and skip Dumbo if you want. It’s okay!!-          We did a great job, I think, of working to pay attention to our needs and the kids’ needs as we went through our days. We expressed what we wanted, and talked about what we could and couldn’t have. It wasn’t perfect or completely conflict- free, but I really feel joy when I think about our trip.

 -          I have spent the last four trips learning just how FABULOUS Disney cast members are. I chatted with a mom of a child with autism who spoke of the special considerations made for her son; she glowed with happiness! I have had people cater to my really silly needs just to see me smile. I watched in awe as a cast member quietly picked up a piece of popcorn Megan had dropped within seconds of it hitting the ground. When Megan fell during this trip and my band-aids were out of reach, she encouraged her daddy to “ask a cast member; they’ll help.” They brought my baby medicine at 1am. They rock. Be courteous to your cast members, but expect them to do great things. They won’t disappoint!

 -          I picked up a dining guide for Magic Kingdom; they had them in Columbia Harbor House. It lists all the available dining options and what foods are served where, and it’s the same size as the time schedule guide. Get one!

-          We used used USED our Photo Passes!!  Disney cast members with Photo Pass badges/vests/cameras are ALL OVER the parks, ready to take your picture. They all have a supply of little plastic cards on them. I highly recommend each adult in the party having a photo pass. When you come across a cast member, have them take pictures of your family. I have asked them to snap photos of Megan while waiting for parades. They will get you in those “Kodak Picture Spots” that are all over the place. Best of all, they’re with most of the characters you can meet on the street. Fabulous! Come home, start an account, put all your various codes in (Grant records the codes in his phone as we get the cards, just in case), edit your pictures, and BUY THE CD! For about $125 (Grant could tell more there), you get ALL the pictures and – get this- the copyright to those pictures! Take them to Costco! Tell Breon I sent you! She’ll print them! Woo hoo!

-          Oh! And those character meals and special meals you attend? The 8×10 has an event code on it that starts with something like “EVNT.” Yep, you can add those to your Photo Pass too! And you thought it a shame you couldn’t use that picture of all of you in your leis for your Christmas card- now you can!

-          Woo hoo for pressed coins! Really! My kids and I love comparing and trading those little jewels with each other, and they are all over the parks!

-          We have limited the amounts of “I want” (or maybe have just blocked them out better) by making sure each child has at least one favorite Disney toy with him or her. Some days they make it to the parks, some they don’t. It’s all part of taking it as it comes…

-          I took my Camelbak 24 oz water bottle with me every day. Any Disney restaurant that sells fountain drinks will happily provide you a cup of ice water, but we all know the cups can be a pain to carry. They do crazy things in the stroller and- well, just trust me. But the water bottle ended up being a great way for us all to stay well-hydrated. Now, had it been my mother, we’d’ve each had our own water bottle. However, I chose to let us share and didn’t regret it at all.

 WHAT I DID WRONG:

-          Once again, I missed some key things while packing. One, laundry sheets, was fairly minor. It just meant I had to spend EXTRA money doing laundry. However, to add insult to that, I had to do EXTRA laundry because I somehow only packed 3 pairs of shorts for Michael. For Michael! The one who was only 95% potty trained when we arrived in WDW! (He hit 99.5% while we were there though) The one who hates being wet (see rides) or dirty ever and who really doesn’t ask for much other than clean clothes. Ugh!

-          I also didn’t pack sunscreen. Hello! It’s Florida, it’s summer, and Megan and I are World Finalists in the Palest Momma-Daughter Pair Ever! Of course, they sell it in the park. $16 stupid tax. Do you know what fun I could’ve had spending that in the gift shop!?!?!??

-          Since my kids are soooo healthy most of the time and since we were “packing light” to fly, I didn’t pack any of the kids’ pain medicines. When Megan’s ears were hurting her enough that she couldn’t sleep, I had to depend on the kindness of strangers (cast members) – at midnight. And since Tylenol still hasn’t recovered from that recall, a manager chose to drive to Walgreen’s and bring me generic acetaminophen at 1am. Stupid Sandra. Blessed Manager!

-          We *love* the dining plan, but do a terrible job of using the snack credits. And we’ve done this on every trip this year! We’ll have to go practice some more, I suppose. However: learn from my mistakes. Use your snack credits. (Snack credits may be used on sealed up treats and silly things like Pez dispensers that may be brought home, btw.)

-          Speaking of the dining plan, please note that when you get a counter service meal, the computer doesn’t differentiate between a child’s meal and an adult’s meal when taking credits. Grant and I never have figured out whether one of us could go up and simply order 4 adult meals, but we know we could go separately and each order 2 adult meals. Why does this matter? 1)   Megan filled us in on the fact that the kids’ burgers taste horrible, but the adult burgers are quite tasty. I found this out the hard way when I ordered a burger for me and a burger for her, and she ate over half mine. Poor kid. 2) In general, adult options are tastier- and healthier. Unless you’re dealing with Michael, who won’t eat much of anything anyway. Then we do order the kids’ meal PBJ with carrots and grapes and then we have something healthy for us. 3)   The applesauce is yucky. Just trust me, okay? 4)   The desserts are tastier with the adult meals. Our favorite: the apple dumpling thing at Columbia Harbor House in MK.

-          The Disney Dining Plan is accepted in several places in Downtown Disney. We’ve spent many a snack credit in Goofy’s Candy Shop, and Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant is a counter service meal. Woo Hoo!!!

THINGS I’LL GO TO HELL FOR, REGARDLESS:

-          Michael is now over 40” tall without his shoes! No tall shoes this time! However, we celebrated by taking him on Splash Mountain. It was closed when we went in February (as it should be, I suppose) but Megan had been talking it up, ironic for the child that hated it so. Anyway, we took Little Miss Tough and Little I No Like It on Splash Mountain on our first day. Michael hates getting wet, and though I refused to allow him to change clothes (see laundry issue), I did bring crocs for both children to wear on the ride, and we did promise to head back for the resort (where he knew he could strip down and find his own clothes) for a nap after making them ride. In the end, we literally dragged him, kicking and screaming, onto the ride. We were very grateful that he couldn’t read all the signs about him getting wet and where to get out of line, but he tried anyway! To make matters worse, he and I rode in the front of the car. I could’ve put Megan and Grant in the front row and Michael and I in the back, but when you’re gonna’ go, go all the way! So we did. I comforted him and held him close and he actually enjoyed most of the ride. Grant said the only thing I really did (as opposed to what he and I did as a unit) was to point out- at the top of the big hill, mind you- the great view of Cinderella’s castle. Turns out that’s not so comforting to a child terrified he’s about to get wet. And don’t worry, he did get wet. He got soaked! He’ll hate us for a while for that one. It’s okay though. We won’t make him go again until the next trip.

-          Michael wasn’t the only one doing some growing; Megan is now over 44”! This makes her eligible for Mission: Space, Expedition Everest, and Space Mountain. The child *loved* Space Mountain. We didn’t make her go on Mission: Space (yeah us!), but we did force her onto Expedition Everest. Twice. She went with Grant, declared her UTTER HATRED for it, and then allowed me to force her to go again. She still hated it.

 -          Our plane arrived in Orlando fairly late that Wednesday night. Megan had said her ears felt funny, but we disregarded it as being a plane thing. When the pain was enough to wake her in the night, we medicated her (thanks to our angel, Gray. See above) and hoped for the best. In fact, we did that until Thursday afternoon, when I finally called our pediatrician in Nashville (after hours, of course!). She advised a trip to the clinic, but it was late enough that we chose to stay at MK and take her to the clinic in the am. The child had an ear infection. I am sooooo going to hell for that.

-          I took Megan to breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table on Thursday morning, even though she’d been ill and we were quite short on sleep. We had reservations, after all. Sadly, this isn’t the first time we’ve taken her to CRT while a little ill… a confession for another time.

-          Since the weather was warm (!), we made Michael go on Kali River Rapids. Yep, another chance to get SOAKED. And since the line was short and we were allowed to go again immediately, we did. And we recorded the second trip with my cute little waterproof video camera. Poor baby! I might get out of some time in hell by letting you know that when the opportunity to go a third time came up, I did allow Michael to bow out and he and I went for a dry-off session.

 

 

That’s all, folks! Hope this helped some and entertained a bit, too!

Hydraulic Cement

Well, I did it. Finally. I tackled the project in the basement that I’ve avoided the most: the hydraulic cement.

Early on in the recovery process, I pulled out a couple home improvement books and tried to understand what it was that I needed to do about several different projects. One of the big concerns I had was the holes in the floor where the water came in. These are, per my dad, old holes from termite treatment. Theoretically, they were filled after they were drilled. The flooding, however, revealed at least two through which the water came into my basement. The solution, per the home improvement book, was hydraulic cement. I read and read and decided to just carry the book in with me.

My Lowe’s Home Improvement book tucked under my arm, I entered Home Depot and sought out an orange apron. Honing in on one such apron, I asked the man wearing it about the hydraulic cement, pointing to the part of the book that told me I needed it. He asked another orange apron, and off we went to the end of an aisle. I got the smallest possible container of hydraulic cement and escaped with my new tub of scariness.

I came home, read the instructions on the tub, and set it aside. I repeated this several times in the last two months. Tonight, I put on my big girl panties and decided to deal with it. Then I painted bi-fold doors, cleaned, touched up hall paint (a mistake, actually), cleaned, ate dinner, read the directions once last time, and started gathering materials: a spray bottle, two metal bowls, ice, and funnel. Read directions again. Get stir stick, breathing mask. Read directions again. Add water to spray bottle and bowl of ice. Read directions again. Get towel. Read directions again. Get screwdriver to open container. Read directions AGAIN, out loud this time. Open hydraulic cement, get working.

Now, if you’ve never used hydraulic cement before, let me tell you a little about why I was so a’feared. The stuff dries FAST. Everyone who’s known I was going to use it (and had heard of it) has told me that. I was pouring it into dowel-shaped holes in the floor, all of different depths. Scary. The coldest possible water is recommended to slow the process. Also, apparently it’s terrible for you. It has whatever chemical in it that causes cancer in California; thank God I’m in TN. :) I actually had to use a face mask. I hate those things. My crazy self starts wigging out as soon as I put one on; I immediately can’t breathe and the coughing begins and the glasses fog up. Bleck.

So, directions memorized, I sprayed the first two offending holes, mixed the cement, and got to work. I carefully measured and mixed the hydraulic cement and water. I only spilled a little; that’s good for me! I mixed it with the big mixing stick for paint and wondered again about what the texture should look like. It was like a thin, grainy cake batter. I started pouring. I put a scant amount of cement into the funnel and watched it immediately stop up. I pulled the funnel out a little and the stuff dripped out in a little tube of yuck. I quickly tapped the funnel on the rim of the hole and watched the cement ooze into the hole. Once it appeared to reach the top, I “smoothed” it out with the stir stick and moved on.

I did a *great* job on the first two holes. Then, realizing that I may only have to mix one small batch of cement, I quickly moved on to the other holes. I finished in the living room and scurried off to the hole by the bathroom. I filled the holes in the hall in an efficient manner and entered the office/ downstairs bedroom. I was starting to be concerned; the cement was running low and getting thick, and I had only two more holes to fill! I wondered about spritzing the cement with the cool water to keep it going and then I remembered: I didn’t wet down any holes after the first two!!! You’re supposed to wet down dry areas so that the cement doesn’t immediately pull moisture out of the surrounding areas. I uttered a quick cuss word into my suffocating mask and made a quick trip around the basement, spraying down around the newly filled holes. I hope this works! I can always do it again, I guess. Next year.

Anyway, I finally finished the last two holes. The texture, once more like cake batter, was now a consistency somewhere between liquid and solid; it’s my own little plasma :). The color, a grayish brown with hints of green, combined with the consistency, was not unlike the substance found in the diaper of a child who’s been crying for 3 hours and you’re not sure why until you open the diaper and remember- oh yeah, we tried spinach out for the first time today. It brought back some not so fond memories. Combine those images with the fact that I was still getting it to come out in a perfect little tube out of the bottom of the funnel to drop into the hole and you understand why I giggled a little while dealing with this harmful substance.

So, I mostly survived the hydraulic cement. We’ll see if it works. And we’ll hope that it does, since I was unable to clean the materials I used (bowl, stir stick, and funnel) and had to toss it all. Now I’m off to the land of denial once more.

Ah, who are we kidding? I’m gonna’ add a few pics to FB and clean the ^$%@( kitchen.

Mom

Tuesday, July 20th of 2010 marks my mom’s 60th birthday. 60! That’s huge! And yet, when I see it on her, it has the appearance of ease and grace, fluidity and calm. I can only hope to be so wonderful at 60. I’d take it at 36!

My mom has taught me, sometimes by example and sometimes with smacks up the back side of my head, how to be a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife. She married a wonderful man with whom she shares a happy life, and their example led me to my own happiness. She is amazing.

When I was younger, I’d get angry with friends over one thing or another and come to my mom, hoping for someone to champion my cause. No such luck. She’d say something like “Oh Sandra. You just don’t know what [pain in my ass’s name inserted here] is going through. He/She must be terribly unhappy to be acting that way.” Whatever, Lady. I *hated* that. I didn’t want to think about the fact that other stuff affected people. However, she hammered her point in. To this day, I wonder what is going on in people’s lives when they’re crappy to me. Even when I worked with Satan, we assumed she was pretty unhappy to be so hateful to me all the time. I haven’t taken the lesson all the way yet; I’m not yet good at praying for the people who treat me terribly. But I’m working on it. And I know it’s my mom’s fault. :)

In terms of family, Mom has passed on the values her own mother shared with her. One, take care of each other. Even if your sibling is a complete pain in EVERYONE’s ass, that is your sibling. You don’t get to ditch difficult family members. Family sticks together, no matter the price. Two, work together. When I was little, I remember Mom and her sisters working out things like carpools and potlucks. I thought that was simply how all families worked! As I got older, they worked together to take care of my grandmother. They took shifts watching out for her while watching out for each other. Nothing was seperated equally; they all did what they could and chastised anyone who was trying to do or give beyond her means. And when my grandmother died on January 1, 2007, I know she left this earth in the comfort of the knowledge that her children would stand by and take care of each other. They’d have it no other way. Mom does all she can for her sisters and brother, even when I tell her she’s going too far. “It’s just what family does, Sandra.” I can only pray that my sisters and I can take as good care of each other.

Finally, Mom has a few good friends who are treasured parts of our family. This last weekend, we had a surprise 40th anniversary party for my Aunt Marie and Uncle David, two people I love love love. Mom’s friends, my children’s Fairy Grandmothers, were in attendance. Mom stands by her friends through thick and thin. They are all so different from each other: in humor, in attitude, in faith, in health. They are bound, however, by fierce loyalty to each other and an extended sisterhood that is three steps past “admirable.”

I can’t, however, not say something about my mom as a grandmother. She’s incredible. Don’t get me wrong: that woman spoils those kids rotten, lets them watch too much tv, and gives them CRAP to eat. When Megan was first born and Mom was teaching me the ins and outs of motherhood, I fought her big time. She laughed me off. When Megan- and later Michael- took to screaming every time my parents would show up because they knew we were “abandoning” them, Mom smiled and said we’d laugh about it one day. I already do, as do the kids. And when BOTH children learned to say “Mema” only after learning the OTHER 3 grandparents’ names, she took it in stride. She answered to “Kitty” for the longest time and still demurs when Michael calls her “Ema.”

Oh, and Kitty the wife! Well, Dad really deserves the star there. :) Actually, those two were meant to be. I can’t imagine how they made it this far, nor can I imagine how they wouldn’t've. They are so good to each other, for each other.

So, on this day, I say: Happy Birthday Mom! I know I was terrible to you for about 20 of the last 36 years; I look forward to making it up to you over the next 20 or so years. I love you!!