Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today You Are One

It is hard to believe that at this moment one year ago I was lying in the hospital resting and feeling triumphant about your speedy and drug-free birth. I was probably breastfeeding you or just staring at you in awe. You were so perfect from your smushed little nose to your to your tiny toes, and I have never felt so alive as I did at that moment.

Today you are one year old, and I can hardly stand how fast this year has flown by. You have gone from a tiny 6 lb baby to one that seemed gargantuan to one who is now just right. You started out life as a dream of a sleeper but then turned on us and slept only sporadically, waking frequently and for long stretches each night. At one, you are finally settling into a better sleep routine and we thank you. We really thank you.

You were born a calm, sweet, and cuddly baby, and over the year you have not only remained so but have become even more sweet and cuddly. Your hugs can warm even the coldest person’s heart and your smiles can spread cheer to the grumpiest of souls.

You have yet to say any identifiable words and you still lack mobility on your feet. Just like your brother, you refuse to crawl in the traditional sense and instead scoot like an orangutan on your bottom with one leg extended and the other bent with your foot on the ground for support. You have one of the heartiest appetites I have ever seen in a baby. When we gave you your first real table food, you looked at us in a way that said, “Finally!” You eat almost anything we put in front of you, and you polish it off in record time. We are constantly amazed at how fast you eat. We put food on your tray, turn around for maybe ten seconds, and when we turn around again, POOF! The food is gone. I do not look forward to our grocery bill when you are a teenager.

When I watch you play with your big brother, I am delighted to see how in love you are with him. You love to touch him, follow him, and mimic him. You adore Charlie, and when he comes into the room, your face lights up and you smile. When he cries, you are genuinely concerned and will scoot back to his room to make sure everything is okay. I look forward to watching your relationship develop, and I hope that you will be best friends for life.

Henry, when I look at you now, I no longer see a baby. I instead see a little boy who is growing up way too fast before my eyes. I feel lucky to have been able to spend so much time with you this year, but I wish time could slow down, if not for only a little while, so I can enjoy you as a baby for a bit longer. But no matter what, you will always be my baby. Happy Birthday my sweet Henry!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Camping in Arkansas

A long, long time ago back in April, on Easter weekend in fact, we decided to take Charlie camping. Henry, still an uncertain sleeper, stayed in Memphis with his grandmother. Neal, Charlie, the dogs, and I headed west to Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. We did a little research before our trip because we had certain criteria - a short drive, an easy pull-up car campsite, bathrooms, short hikes, and some sort of natural entertainment (if it had just been Neal and I going, all we would have needed was a campsite and hiking). Petit Jean more than met our needs with several hiking options with fantastic rewards at the end of the hikes like waterfalls and caves. My favorite hike was the Rock House Cave Trail, which took us first along a rock bed with hills of rocks that looked like enormous turtle shells. The short hike ended at the Rock House Cave. Walking toward the "cave," I got a sneaking suspicion that I had been there before.

Looking at the "cave" paintings and watching Charlie climb on rocks and kick the dust around, I recalled a time when my parents took my sister and I (around ages 13 and 10 at the time) on a two week camping trip with family friends. We drove from state park to state park across Arkansas and camped out every night. My sister was miserable the whole time. What no television? No air conditioning? My father probably wondered how my mother ever talked him into such a trip. And our travel companions probably wished they had not invited this unseasoned family along. I remember the make-shift shower that my father made, so my prissy sister would not have to shower in a public bathroom. Instead, she opted to stand outside with garbage bags draped around trees to hide her naked body with a giant plastic container of COLD water pouring over her head. Because it was cleaner.

Another incident occured one evening after dinner. While my sister, the daughter of our travel companions and I compared sit-up techniques, we heard our mothers fretting over something. My sister and Mary went outside the tent to see what was happening. I waited for them to come back and moments later I heard screams come from outside the tent. I bolted out curious and afraid. Instead of witnessing some terrible accident, I found my mother, my sister, Mrs. J. and Mary standing on top of the picnic table clutching each other tightly, shivering with fear. They had spotted a skunk. A skunk. A skunk made them leap in unison to the tabletop. Fortunately, their screams scared the skunk just enough to make him retreat into the woods rather than spray us with a foul odor in defense.

I also remember spending time with my father among some splendid natural surroundings. Although I know he did not have a wonderful time on that trip spent with a bunch of girls who were way out of their element, he does know how to appreciate the simple things and the beauty that we explored. I also remember jumping along rocks, hiking through the woods, and seeing some serious water falls.

That was the first and last camping trip my family ever went on. Somehow though, that trip stuck with me and I have loved to go camping ever since. I love the simplicity of sleeping in a tent and cooking food over a fire that I built. I love sitting by the campfire at night with no music or television, but just time to talk, share stories, and reflect on the way we live our lives at home. Some of the best conversations Neal and I have had have occurred while keeping warm by the campfire. I love the minimal amount of stuff needed to get through the day. I love the fun of getting dirty without worry.

Our most recent camping experience was a few weeks ago at Village Creek State Park in Arkansas. We took Henry along for this one night camp out hoping to gently introduce Henry to camping. The park was very nice but completely empty. We later found out that no one was there because of a recent accident involving a man from Memphis who went missing while kayaking on Lake Austell. Neal and I were sad to hear such news but we soldiered on.

The weather was nice but the bugs were awful. I doused myself in Deep Woods Off and almost made myself sick from the fumes. Wanting to protect the young ones from the fumes, we dressed them in long sleeves and pants and gave them a light mist of a spray with a lower deet content. The boys did fabulously well. I think Henry was the only one who actually slept well that night, nuzzeled between Neal and I. We went on a couple of nice short hikes, which proved to be a smart decision since one of us had to carry Henry in a sling (he's a big boy!). It was a decent trip at best, but nothing close to the camping Neal and I long for like we used to do in the Adirondacks. One day, maybe...

I hope that I will be able to share more camping experiences with my boys in the years to come. Charlie has now been on three camping trips, Henry one. We will eventually (and hopefully) brave a camping trip in which we hike to our campsite sometime when the boys will be willing to schlep some of the gear and, oh yeah, actually walk without whining for us to carry them. I may be waiting on that trip for a while, but it's fun to dream.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


One of the things I love about spring is the magnificent blooms in our rose garden. I can't take credit for them, but the previous woman of our house (of 30+ years) was a dedicated gardener. And fortunately, she left at least 10 rose bushes in perfect condition. They are remarkably easy to care for and produce blooms month after month from May to September. I sometimes hope she drives by her old home to admires her work and is happy that we have cared enough to take care of them.

Birthday Boy

Charlie celebrated his third birthday last Friday. I thought it fitting to write about the occasion on Mother's Day while everyone in the house is taking a nap. Yea!

First of all, I hoped that Charlie would wake up on his third birthday fully potty-trained and completely free of all of the behavior issues we've been dealing with over the past year. Nope. Nothing. In fact, I think he spent most of the day at school sitting on the naughty bench. Maybe he peaked on his third birthday, and we'll start moving down the slope toward a happy, well-behaved child by the age of four. Is that too optimistic?

On Friday, he participated in the around the world birthday tradition at his school. All of the students gather in a circle to watch the birthday boy or girl travel around the sun while holding the earth. Technically, you are only supposed to go around the sun the number of years you are. If Charlie's rotations around the sun mean anything, he would be about 20 right now. He enjoyed getting to take part in this ceremony and definitely liked all of the attention, unlike last year. After walking around the sun, he got to show his friends and schoolmates pictures of his life up until the age of three. That part was awesome.

That evening, we took Charlie to his favorite restaurant - El Mezcal (or El Moo-cow in Charlie-ese). He got the royal birthday treatment with the sombrero, a birthday song in Spanish, and a GIANT bowl of ice cream that I was sure he would not be able to finish. He did.

On Saturday, we had planned a very low-key inexpensive birthday party for him, his schoolmates, and friends. We had planned a park party in Overton Park. I mean, what 3 year-old thinks he's getting jipped by getting to spend the day in the park with 30 of his closest pals? For free? Unfortunately, we had rain the entire weekend, so we had to cancel the party. I should have known better than to plan an outdoor party (with no rain plan) on the same weekend as Musicfest. Duh!

A lot of parents of the kids invited seemed to be surprised that I did not want to reschedule or take all of the kids to some indoor location. But please, the kid is only three. It's not like I crushed all of hopes and dreams by cancelling his party. He will have plenty of years ahead (that he will actually remember) to have more elaborate birthday celebrations. I also don't have the money for an alternative indoor location. After the food, cupcakes, and cheap party favors, I had already spent more money than I wanted to. I am relishing the time that have left that I can get away with being a cheapskate for my child's birthday. Besides, Charlie got to have an extra special day in spite of us cancelling the party. He got to have his first ever playdate.

His BFF from school came over for a few hours. And boy did they play! At first, we weren't sure what to do with them, it being our first play date and all. Do we play with them? Do we leave them alone? We opted to let them hang out in Charlie's room for a while and test the waters. After a minute or two, we heard the two of them giggling in Charlie's room. I checked on them and they were totally fine and perfectly happy dragging out every toy Charlie has ever owned. Twenty minutes later, they were ready to lick the icing off of the birthday cupcakes.

My dad and sister also came by to wish Charlie a happy birthday and brought "presidents" for Charlie to open. So he had a great day after all.

(And to all the parents out there who thought it was odd that I requested you not bring gifts to his party - again, he's only 3. And my house is only so big that I cannot spare one more corner to house all of the toys that Charlie owns. I can assure you that I am not one of those hardcore anti-material parents who does not allow my son to have toys. He got plenty of presents from us, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends. He was well lavished.)
Happy birthday my beautiful boy! I hope you had a wonderful third birthday!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Silver Lining

I have a job!

In a weird twist of events, one of the teachers at Charlie’s school left. To help the transition, the woman who worked in the office went upstairs to help in the classroom, thus leaving a position open for someone to work in the office. Thanks to Stacey’s recommendation, I immediately contacted the director of the school last Monday and started working there on Tuesday.

Working at Charlie’s schools is, let’s say, interesting. At the beginning, it confused him. “Why are you working at my school?” he repeatedly asked on the way in on Tuesday. Throughout the day, he frequently popped by the office to say “Hi Mommy” and make sure I was still there. By Thursday, he was ready to spend the day with me in the office in my lap. By Friday, though, he finally warmed to the idea and understood that Mommy is working and he has to stay in his class. Once we got that taken care of, Spring Break arrived - just in time for our routine to be disrupted. So, I expect we will begin the process again on Monday.

I have to say that in any other circumstance, I would not like this job. I am doing basic office work, it is fairly disorganized, and the pay is low. The fact that it is (hopefully) temporary and that I get to spend more time with Charlie makes up for all of its flaws, though. I love being able to check in on him throughout the day. I am also excited to see what goes on in the school, learning about the Montessori method and getting know the happenings in the elementary classrooms. The people I work with are super-cool and laid back. It is a great atmosphere and I feel lucky to have found such a nice solution to my unemployment. Another plus is that I can take Henry to work with me. I probably won’t take him every day, but certainly 2-3 days a week. I am planning a trial run with him on Monday. Hopefully, he will continue to be his chilled out little self and I’ll actually be able to get some things done.

Aside from being with Charlie, my favorite part of last week was getting to participate in the elementary class’ Favorite Food Friday. The theme was round food and each elementary student brought in something round to eat. We had a feast! Some of the dishes included quiche, melon balls, bagels, and pie for dessert. There was so much food and the kids seemed to have a great time serving it. They were all so proud of their dishes and wanted me to try everything.

If everything works out, I’ll be able work there through the summer and begin teaching in a city or county school in the fall. And then it will be back to the grind of flying out the door in the mornings and rushing, rushing, RUSHING to get things done in the evenings so we can all get to bed so we can wake up and do it all over again. I happily embrace my current situation for now.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Please hire me

While on maternity leave last fall, I decided to make some positive changes in my life. First on the list was getting all of my information (resume, applications, special “forms”) together for the lengthy process of applying for teaching positions in our area public schools. This is something I have been working toward for the past year and what better time to go through all the legwork than when the new baby is sleeping?

Five weeks ago, I got a call from a principal at a very good high school in Memphis. One of his teachers was leaving the school to take a new job at a different school. Thus, he had an opening and wanted to interview me. The interview was wonderful! I have never felt so good about an interview, and this opportunity seemed to be a perfect fit.

A few days later, the principal called me and offered me the job teaching 9th grade English. I quickly completed the necessary paperwork and faxed it off to the school system’s human resources department. I was then told to wait. Thinking that this position would surely begin in the coming weeks, I turned in my notice at my current job. I wanted to be ready to go once everything was in place.

And then I waited. And waited. And I heard nothing. Two weeks went by, and I worked my last day at my previous job. I thought that I would for sure hear something during that first week of my unemployment. That first week went by in a blur due to the passing of my wonderful grandmother. I felt that not hearing anything was a sort of blessing from somewhere because I was able to be with my mom during such a difficult time. Then, week two rolled around and I continued to wait. I called the human resources office repeatedly and got the same report over and over again – “Your paperwork is ready. We just have to wait for the deputy superintendent to sign off on it. There should be no problems. He is just really busy.” I patiently waited and tried not to worry.

Then came week three. On Wednesday of this week I got a call from the principal of the school at which I expected to begin work any day. He reported that because of budget issues in the school system, all new positions have been frozen. Thus, the teacher who planned to leave to start a new job (as in a newly established position) was not leaving, leaving me with no position to fill. And now I am out of a job. And no one from the human resources office has bothered to call me.

I feel like an idiot for quitting my job in the first place. I should have known better. This is, after all, a school system that is not praised for its fiscal successes, among other things. I should have at least waited until I signed a contract. I should have expected the possibility that things might not go smoothly. I should have been smarter about the whole thing. In my excitement to continue on with career of choice, a career in which I can hopefully make a positive impact, I completely screwed up. In a time when our economy is depressed and when thousands of people are losing their jobs by no fault of their own, I am the dingbat who quit her perfectly fine job. And now, I am left scrambling, hoping, and sort of praying that I will find the silver lining.

While being a stay at home mom for the past three weeks has been nice in many ways, I need a job. There’s only so much laundry, cleaning, and cooking I can do to distract me from the fact that our bank account is dwindling down farther and farther by the minute. On that note, is there anyone out there looking for someone who is willing to start yesterday?


  • Certified in the State of Tennessee to teach English grades 7-12 and English as a Second Language
  • Experience with writing grant proposals and sales proposals, managing grant budgets, managing an office
  • Works well under pressure and deadlines. Usually makes sound decisions except when is unknowingly about to get denied by potential employer
  • Willing to do almost anything!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Old Forest Trail

Sunday morning I woke with big plans to participate in one of Citizens to Preserve Overton Park’s regular nature hikes on the Old Forest Trail. I was itching to get outdoors and to find a way for Charlie to burn of some steam at the same time. We got everyone up, fed, and dressed. And then I checked the website to confirm the time. Oops. Wrong weekend. The hike is scheduled for this Sunday, January 25. I was a week early. We decided to go on our own hike in the park anyway because the weather was just too nice.

It was a cool and sunny day and the trail was nice and dry because unfortunately, we haven’t seen much rain since January 5. The lighting while on the trail was amazing. All the leaves sparkled and the sky was the perfect blue.

Ahhh…I love the great outdoors. Every time I hike on this trail I am inspired to go camping. Maybe I’ll summon up the courage to take an almost 3 year old and an under 1 year old this spring.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Belated December Recap and Happy New Year

I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions. Sure, there’s the usual declaration to be healthier, lose weight, blah, blah, blah. But this year, I decided to forgo any official resolution except for one thing – to try to be a more positive person overall. This spurs from the fact that I have spent much of my life yearning for something that I don’t have, whether it’s my dream job, more time to explore my latent creative side, less debt, etc. Instead of constantly wondering “what if” or thinking about what I don’t have or what I think I need, I plan to focus on those things that I am fortunate enough to have – a wonderful healthy family, a precious yet gargantuan baby, a 2 ½ year old who makes me laugh several times a day, a loving and dedicated husband, a roof over my head, a refrigerator holding food that can feed more than a family of four, a sense of security, a never-ending desire to learn and explore the world, and a little left over for a bottle of wine now and then. And this is the short list. I think I’ve got it pretty good after all.

In honor of my sunnier outlook, I’d like to recap all of the wonderful activities that took place in December.

Charlie attended his first ever parade. We went to the Germantown Holiday Parade and had a fantastic time waving at the floats going by and catching the excessive amounts of candy being thrown from the floats. My favorite part of any parade, though, is the marching bands. I just love to watch these kids play their hearts out and something about the beat of the drums and the sheer volume of it all always give me chills and makes me a little emotional. Weird, but I find marching bands moving. Even at football games, the half-time show always gets me a little choked up. Charlie, on the other hand, got his groove on as the music passed us by.

We also enjoyed a nice – ahem – relaxing day of putting up the Christmas tree. The boys exhausted themselves posing in the Santa hat and trying not to break the glass ornaments. Charlie entertained us with a concert on his “trumpet,” a.k.a. the finial that goes on top of the Christmas tree.

Charlie also performed in his first ever Christmas play. It was absolutely adorable and my thanks go out to Miss Melissa at Evergreen Montessori for putting the whole thing together. I was fortunate enough to be a chauffeur on rehearsal day, and I got to see the pains that go into organizing and managing a production like this. From my perspective, the rehearsal looked like complete chaos and I wondered how they would be able to pull it off on the night of the show. But by the magic dust that I believe Evergreen teachers must have in their arsenals, the production was superb. The kids did a terrific job and I was so proud that Charlie had no qualms about boogying down on the stage. Some of the other kids had a little stage-fright (as would I in that situation), but once Charlie saw me, he started swaying and shaking his booty to the music. He elicited much laughter from the audience, and it made me a little giddy that my kid is such a ham. Where on earth did that gene come from? Unfortunately, that night I came to terms with the fact that my camera is just absolutely useless indoors without extremely bright lights, so none of my pictures are even remotely pleasing.

Charlie was also in awe at the numerous treats he was allowed to ingest during the holiday season. I already mentioned the candy from the parade. He also enjoyed an assortment of Christmas cookies, one of my favorite holiday traditions. This year I made my all-time favorites, bittersweet chocolate cookies with hazelnuts. I also made standard sugar cookies cut into holiday shapes decorated with various shades of sanding sugar. We also enjoyed glittering lemon sandwich cookies from Gourmet Magazine’s annual cookie edition. Y.U.M.M.Y.! Charlie particularly enjoyed daily hot chocolate with a candy cane stirrer. Or, as Charlie pronounces it, “candy can.”

During the month of December, Henry decided to grace us with an abundance of smiles. He has the sweetest little grin that just makes me melt all over.

On Christmas Eve, we went to two separate households – my brother in-law’s and my parents. At my parents’ house, Santa (a.k.a. the neighbor across the street) made an appearance for all of the little ones present. I feared that Charlie might find him a little scary, but he was actually quite happy to sit on Santa’s lap and impress him in hopes of receiving gifts the next day. When I asked Charlie what he thought of Santa’s visit, he said, “He’s soft. And squishy.”

We spent Christmas day at our house with no commitments or plans to go anywhere. That’s just the way we wanted it, and it was lovely. Henry, of course, slept through most of Christmas morning. For Charlie, the experience was entirely different. This was the first year that he understood that Santa would come and bring him presents, so he was very excited.

When he got up on Christmas morning, he tentatively walked into the den. When he saw all of the presents under the tree, he gasped as if he did not believe us all along when we said Santa would bring him presents. Santa wrapped most of the presents, but he left out the super-cool garbage truck (our son has a slight obsession with garbage trucks). When he saw it, Charlie gasped again and said, “He brought me a truck!” And then he meekly asked in a soft scratchy morning voice, “Can I play with it?” Scrumptiously adorable! Henry was, of course, jazzed by all the toys that rattle and that he will eventually be able to chew on.

And finally, my favorite Charlie phrases of the holiday season…

“I think he likes me!”
(Stated after he opened half of his Santa gifts and at various times after Henry has smiled at Charlie)

When asked what Santa was going to bring him for Christmas...
"Santa’s bringing me presidents!”

Indeed he is.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I obviously took a massive break from updating the blog while on maternity leave. It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore the Internet when I don’t have to sit in front of a computer all day. So, here’s the long overdue update and my reluctant step back into the cyber world and work.

I went back to work yesterday after a much too short maternity leave. I can’t say that I am completely heart-broken about leaving my baby and coming back. I am grateful to get back into the real world and out of my baby haze. I am happy to have a reason to get showered and dressed each day, and I am happy to have more routine back in my life. Unfortunately, getting back into that routine means getting back into the daily rush and grind of a working person’s life. I am not happy about that feeling of never having enough time and always having to think three steps ahead of where I am so I don’t completely drop the ball. But, c’est la vie. I’m sure I will get better at it as time goes on. It’s just such a shock to my system right now.

Work is just as I left it. It was nice to learn that I was sorely missed by my bosses, and it was terribly easy to slip back into my desk and my role here in this office. Being back at my desk for only a day, however, is a clear reminder that I need to move on. I need a bit more than what this position offers and I am looking forward to going back to teaching. My biggest fear right now is that the Memphis City Schools might tank and I won’t be able to get a job. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Henry and Charlie are both doing great. Charlie is definitely enjoying being a big brother. He loves to touch Henry and constantly wants to kiss his head. Henry, who would be a perfect baby if he would just sleep through the night, just smiles and giggles at Charlie every time he comes near. And Charlie, of course, gets excited when Henry smiles at him. He says things like, “He’s smiling!” “He likes me!” “He’s happy!” “He’s my best friend!” I just hope this brotherly love continues when Henry wants to play with Charlie’s toys.

Henry, as I’ve said, is an almost perfect baby. When he fusses, he is very easily soothed – unlike Charlie who went through a several week phase of screaming non-stop between the hours of 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. every day. When Henry cries, he almost does it politely. He wails just enough to be heard, but most of the time, when he realizes that you are working toward what he wants (milk, pacifier, sleep, attention), he stops and smiles. The not so perfect part of Henry is his inconsistent sleep pattern. For a long stretch, he slept through the night, allowing the rest of the family to catch up on much needed rest. But for the past week, he has woken up in the wee hours of the morning screaming, jolting everyone else in our small house awake and keeping us that way for almost an hour each time (if not longer). At this point, I refuse to give up hope that he will stop these sporadic awakenings, but the sleep deprivation is starting to get the best of me.

We suffered a nasty cold over the holidays which somehow began with Henry. He slept straight through almost 3 days and then ended up with his first ear infection. Then the cold moved on to Charlie who had a fever and runny nose for two days. And finally, it made its way to me. On Christmas morning, I woke with cold symptoms that continued to get worse and worse over the weekend. I finally went to the doctor when I woke up Monday morning with pain in my cheekbones and teeth. Ahhh…I had a nasty sinus infection. Fortunately, I was over the hump in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve like a 22 year old. Miraculously, Neal was able to dodge the illness altogether.

I think this is the best I can do for the obligatory update post. I hope my next installment will feature Christmas photos and my favorite Charlie phrases about the holidays. After that, I plan to be as random as usual.