Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This One

Is taking off. Things I have been waiting for, patiently and not so patiently,  over the last few years, are suddenly happening.

Suddenly, she is more confident in the pool, jumping in and going under water with the Gutsy Dad. Having tea parties on the bottom of the pool. Paddling out on her noodle to make new friends.

Suddenly, she is recognizing type and words as more than just letters. She is associating more complicated, blended sounds with letter combinations. She is barely, just barely, starting to read. I can see the caverns of her mind opening. I know she can sense what the ability to read will mean. She wants to practice reading all the time; she wants to be in the cavern. (She still does not believe me that reciting a beloved book from memory is not reading, however.)

Suddenly, she is pushing down on those pedals without hesitation or self-defeating remarks, and she is taking off, biking around the cul-de-sac and begging to ride with the neighbors. She is finally learning first hand that hard work and practice pay off. (She was struggling to take our word on this one.)

She delights me with her independence. She kills me with her independence. When she gets home, she runs first to her friends and their mothers, and then to her sister, and then--finally--to me. She lovingly hugs and kisses me goodbye at the bus stop in the morning, but in the afternoon she puts on a show of rebuffing me.

She is bursting with creativity; has a million new ideas of things to make every day.

She always, always wants to be part of the crowd, part of the fun.

She is crafty. She is thoughtful (as in reflective). She prays about a lot of things, for herself and for others. But she wants it her way all the time. She wants the first turn, the preferred color of cup, to be handed her vitamins before her sister is handed them, to choose two books to her sister's one, to always have a clean, purple dress. 

She has an unpredictable temper. (Hmm.)

She has a huge heart. There is room for everyone in there.

She's on fire: "Mom, the best thing happened at school today. We went to the computer lab for the first time, and it was AMAZING!!!"  "Mom, can we please, please build a hair salon?"  "Mom, can I please, please be in charge of the grocery shopping?"  "Mom, I wish I could live at Lily's house, but without you there." 

"Mom, I just really, really love you." I just really, really love you, too, kid.

I want both to shelter her (already she has come home in hysterical tears because she was not chosen as the "Dancing Queen" in P.E.) and to push her a bit more. But neither seems appropriate.

In the end, all I can do is just let her be herself. And to love her tremendously even when she wears me out.

I often say to Jillson, "Never forget how much I love you!" and she always responds: "Mooom. How could I forget THAT?" Ok. Phew.

(All photos are from July and August 2011.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Music Mojo: a song for Maddie

People, for the last three summers, two dear old friends of mine, the Stevenson brothers, have been serenading me and my daughter with a barbershop version of "Paddlin' Madelin' Home."

I was reminded of this by my dad who visited this weekend, and I thought "Why should the Stevenson brothers have all the fun?"  So just today I downloaded the Spike Jones version from iTunes to learn and sing around the house and car and whenever.  (The Bobby Darrin/Johnny Mercer duet also sounded awesome.)  

"Paddlin' Madelin' Home" is from the 1920's, but you can watch a video of a Welkian performance right here.  This is so goofy, I don't even know where to start.

(ps: The mojo must've worked.  Dogs have been bathed, as have I. So what if I forgot to put the garbage out.)

Full Term

I cannot tell you what a relief it always is for me to reach this point in my pregnancies.  Now that I am over 37 weeks, I can heave a sigh of relief that the kid is considered fully cooked and can come out of the oven at any time without major risks to anyone's health.

That said.  I feel I am having a crazy on-again off-again relationship with the passage of time.  Days seem to fly by.  Hours crawl.  While I cannot WAIT to meet this baby, and am, therefore, extremely anxious for her birthday to get here, I know that every day that passes puts us another day closer to the Gutsy Dad's departure.

Hurry up, Father Time!  No, wait, I mean slow down, Father Time!

Today I am--in theory--motivated to finish up some projects around the house that are currently creating physical stumbling blocks on our second floor landing. (Might be nice not to have to stumble over them post-op.) But I have done none of that.

I want to blog about each of my four girls (two human, two canine) with a little pre-baby status report.  Hm.  Perhaps that will happen. That does not involve standing up or moving around.

First, though, I need to bathe the dogs, which, alas, involves both standing and moving around. This is a rather time-consuming event given their size and mine. But for those of you who remember the Great Fox Poop Incident of 2008, rest assured that bathing the dogs now, with or without fox poop, is a far, far more pleasant task in this home's gigantic shower than it ever was in the teensy shower in Germany.

And now that I have rambled on in yet another post that will be of interest to no one other than my own mother, I will sign off, make a latte, eat a raspberry twist, and bathe the dogs.

More fun to come, I hope --

The GM

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dare Devil

At two and a half, Madelyn is a fearless swimmer.  In fact, this little video seems to encapsulate her entire approach to life these days.  Jumping right in, arms flung wide, smiling. (Click the four little arrows in the bottom right corner to watch the movie in full-screen.)

I also love that you can hear my Dad, off camera, counting along with Madelyn.  You might also be able to hear Jillson asking a friend if she can use some sort of pool toy.  (The friend says yes.)

Monday, August 22, 2011


Please hang in there with me as I make adjustments to the blog layout.  I hope the ending design will be one I can stick with for awhile, but in the meantime, it may look a little strange around here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

From the Other Side

I am cleaning off my desktop, the one on my computer.  I often save things to my desktop so I can find them quickly.  I have a number of "LRN" files (Life Right Now) that I start when I need to brain dump.  Most of these are useless and can be trashed after they have served their therapeutic purpose.  

This one I thought was still interesting, three months later, on the other side of this move.  Here's what I wrote back in May:


May 13, 2011
It’s always a strange feeling to be moving, even when you want to move.  Leaving Germany was terrible because I loved it there and loved the people there.  Here, I love my house (though not in an emotional way) and I love the people here, but I am perfectly okay leaving Kansas.
At this point, we have moved into the condo.  We’ll be here for 8 days.  It is fine, but I always feel a little icky, a little too transient.  I was kept up by the sound of the guy in the next apartment coughing and then talking on his phone.  The girls are thrilled by the condo.
I hate the juggling back and forth between the two places.  Being in the condo, but still having some of our stuff at the house.  Still needing to clean the house.  Clear it out.  Oversee the movers getting the rest of our stuff out of the house and into the truck.  Watching our whole lives getting boxed up, compartmentalized, stuffed into a truck, alongside the entire lives of strangers.  There are three families’ worth of stuff on this one truck.
They packed all of our food.  Open boxes of cereal, open cruets of oil, open jars of peanut butter, every spice, every morsel.  So now I will cook without spices for a month, being too stingy to buy what I need again.
Jillson is bewildered that she still has to go to preschool this morning, even though we are not living in our house anymore.
At the house.  Maddie with [the Gutsy Dad] on post out-processing.  Jillson at preschool, going home with her friend Shawn.  Dogs still at kennel.  The packers all left yesterday, and we have just the two movers here.  They are doing an awesome job getting our stuff onto the truck.  It is going on two trucks this time, which makes me nervous.  The first truck already has two other families’ worth of stuff, also going somewhere in GA.  The second truck is not here yet, and who knows how many other families’ stuff will be on there.
I am wandering through the house, locating random things the movers will not take or have forgotten to pack.  A “HABA” castle block set the kids adore.  Now in a Ziploc bag to travel with us in the van.  A letter opener that Aunt Alison gave me for Christmas one year when I was about 12.  A small pair of red and yellow sunglasses belonging to one of Jillson’s Groovy Girls.  “The Belly Book” which is a pregnancy memory record book I started when preggers with Madelyn.  I only filled out a few pages.  Maybe I should notate those and fill the rest out for this chickadee.  A favorite New Yorker cartoon that has fluttered to the floor -- who knows where I had it taped -- tucked now inside the Belly Book.  A small collection of tiny seashells.  A few hair pretties.
Feeling lucky this is not an overseas move and that these items can be tucked into one of the cars and carried with us, eventually to be reunited with their proper counterparts.

That's it, folks.  Sounds to me like I got interrupted by the movers.  Or maybe I lost my internet connection.  Who knows.

And, for the record, I have NOT been writing in the "Belly Book."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nine Years Ago Today

I married this cute guy for the second time. I've always said that I am a lucky girl because I got to have not one but two dream weddings. The first was a dream come true for my heart and soul. The second was simply a fairy tale celebration. I still love every single thing about that day.

I spent two years in Kansas mourning the loss of our "extra" wedding photos album. By some miracle, this album surfaced here in Georgia.  I scanned in a few of my faves, so now I can show you a little bit of what made me SO HAPPY nine years ago today.

 I carry you with me. I carry you in my heart.

Lighting the candle in memory of the Gutsy Dad's parents. There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish I could have known them.

I knew what was coming at the end of that saber arch! (But I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into, marrying into my husband's career.)

What's better than a man in uniform? Ten of them!

Yes, our photographer literally had me twirl across a field. I was so happy that doing so, it did not feel weird at all. But looking at these photos this evening with my girls, Jillson asks, "Mom, what were you DOING?!" (In the extra photos album, there is a series of about 50 twirling shots.) I answer: "twirling around like a princess!" She looks at me like I am nuts and explains: "But, Moooom, Papa is not with you!"  What, a girl can't twirl like a princess on her own?

Oh! I love this photo. The happy family of three. On this wedding day, we had actually been married for almost 11 months, and during that time we adopted Zephie and became a family. I was so happy that she came to our reception (for a spell). I even forgave her for running up to my bouquet and taking a giant chomp out of one of the hydrangeas. She sure looks proud of herself for that move, though, huh?

Most. Delicious. Wedding cake. Ever. It almost slid off its base, but it was tasty. Not a morsel remained.

Proof of loyalties. Strapping on the spurs to hit the dance floor.  Somewhere under all that tulle is a yellow garter, too. If you know what I'm talking about, then say it with me: "If you ain't _____, you ain't ____ !"

And on her lover's arm she leant,
And round her waist she felt it fold.
And far across the hills they went
In that new world which is the old.
Across the hills, and far away
Beyond their utmost purple rim,
And deep into the dying day
The happy princess follow'd him.

from "The Daydream" 
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Making Things

We've been here (in Georgia) for about two months. In about one month, I will have another baby girl to hold and love. And about a month or two after that, the Gutsy Dad will go on another RLBT.

All this adds up to a constant dance of preparing, stressing, maxing out, collapsing, reflecting, recharging, and preparing.

And lots and lots of dreaming. (This usually occurs when I am energized but unfocused.)

I am dreaming of making a living.
I am dreaming of accomplishment.
I am dreaming of getting in shape.

I am dreaming of motivating other people, of helping women enjoy their lives as much as I enjoy mine.

I am dreaming of writing things that people might actually pay money to read.

I feel as though I could take on the world, if only I knew where to start. I am perplexed that I haven't started. I am determined to start. And then I remember: I am barely in control of my life as it is and I am about to throw two major wrenches into the master plan. How can I possibly start something?

Unable to answer, I go organize something in the house.

Or... I make something!

I've been in a creative rut since at least May when the movers came to Kansas and took all my fun stuff away. But this week, things finally felt "in-place" enough around here for me to take a deep breath and make something.

I've been working on a mini-album called "Words to Live By" in conjunction with the free, two-week workshop of the same name at Big Picture.

So far, I've made these pages. Each page is only about 6x6.

You may notice that there is no journaling and there are no photographs added yet. This is because, while my creative juices are starting to flow again, I simply CANNOT focus on any kind of personal meaning here. (Weird, huh? I pride myself on being able to infuse anything with personal meaning.) 

Right now, though, while I can get cute and crafty and make the cute thing, I just can't get personal to make the cute thing mine. I think this is because my mind is too preoccupied with getting ready for the upcoming changes in life.  

For the moment, I am thinking of this book as something I will make for the girls to read when they are older.  

And... since TODAY is our 9th wedding anniversary (of wedding #2) and we will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (of wedding #1) just a week after we welcome Baby #3, I'd like to cast the book as lessons learned through marriage.

So, it would kinda be a "Words to Live By: Things I've Learned During Ten Years of Marriage to Your Wonderful Father" type of thing. But that might be casting my net a little too wide.

You (and I) will just have to stay tuned.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not the Only One

I used to tease my mother about the fact that, being the third child, I had no baby book.  No record of my first word, no mention of when I started to crawl or stand or walk, no time of birth documented anywhere.  You get the idea.  On the other hand, my biggest brother (who probably didn't and doesn't care as much as I about such things) had a baby book.  We all know that cracker was his first word and that when he was born my father went to the bakery and bought two half-moon cookies in celebration.  (One for himself; one for the dog.)

I never understood this cruel discrepancy in the recording of our baby years.

Until I had more children myself.

Let me just say: Jillson is not the only one who started school ten days ago.  Madelyn, too, made her first foray into the world of school.  Sure, it was just preschool.  But she couldn't wait.  (You may have noticed that she wore her backpack to the bus stop with Jillson on Jillson's first day.  Eager eager eager.)

August 4th, 2011 was the first time that both of my little chickadees were out there in the world officially being taught by people other than me.  And I've been suffering from a fair amount of maternal guilt that while Jillson's send-off was well and truly documented here, Madelyn's was not.

I will admit that Madelyn's first day was a far less emotional affair for me.  Preschool can still sort of be looked upon as daycare, whereas kindergarten is the start of the long, long journey called Education--a journey which will take my daughters from kid to adult, from coloring pages to writing theses and dissertations, and, ultimately, from the safety of our little nest to unknown destinations AWAY FROM ME.  But I digress.

This is a post about Madelyn.  I swear it is.

So, without further ado, I present to you a few pictures of MADELYN'S big preschool debut.

The first step was getting Jillson on the bus.  Here they are "smiling" for the camera.

Next, we have Maddie, loaded into the "Jay-Jay Bus," as she calls it, i.e. the minivan.  I talked her into a semi-smile.

Too cool for school in front of St. Anne's.  (Click to see slightly larger, but I must confess that Maddie's first-day photos had to be taken with my iPhone because the battery on the good camera--which I had checked neurotically before Jillson's first day--had gone dead before Maddie's first day. I know. I am terrible.  What's it going to be like for MY third kid?  Oh, yeah, I think you went to preschool before kindergarten, but who knows....)

"No more pictures, Mom!  I want to go IN!" Running, running, running into school.  LOVE HER.

Since these pics, Madelyn has had three days of preschool (she only goes two mornings a week), and her wonderful German teacher informs me that she has taken to school like a duck to water. This does not surprise me one bit.

Miss Claudia also reports that Maddie went pee on the potty twice at school, so there remains a shred of hope that I might not have two kids in diapers at the same time for very long.  (Madelyn's potty training progress was stilted by the move.  She currently insists that she wants to wear a diaper "until the baby comes out" at which point she will give her diapers to the baby and start wearing underwear.)

We shall see.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Conversations About School

Over the weekend, the Gutsy Family was driving around town in Jay-Jay (the minivan) when Jillson suddenly blurted out:

"What if people at school laugh at me?"

"Oh, honey," I said, "Nobody's going to laugh at you."

"But what if they do?"

I thought for a moment and then said "Well, you can always find a friend who isn't laughing.  Or you can tell Mommy all about it at the end of the day.  Or you can always talk to your teacher about it.  She's there to help you.  But no one will laugh at you.  You are going to have a great time at school!"

"But I'm just a little nervous about it.  What if they really do laugh at me?"

So the Gutsy Dad said, "Just laugh back!"

And she said "No, Papa, I don't want to laugh back because that might hurt their feelings."

I just love her.


After dropping Jillson off at the bus stop yesterday morning (first day of school), Maddie grabbed my hand and said, "Let's go home now!"  While we were walking back, she said:

"It pretty here." (pause.)
"It pretty here than Kansas." (pause.)
"Jillson on the school bus. She not here." (long pause.)
"I sure she come back later."

I just love her, too.

We've Been Busy

The last few days have been a whirlwind for the Gutsy Mom and girls alike.

We started the week with back-to-school haircuts.  This was Jillson's first "beauty parlor" haircut, as she called it.  She enjoyed the attention and the purple lollipop that Marinda, her stylist, gave her at the end.

It was not only Madelyn's first beauty parlor haircut, it was her first haircut ever.  She ate it right up, and her stylist gave us a special hairclipping memento to take home.

Next up was back-to-school shopping, the highlight of which (for all three of us) was lunch at Panera Bread:

We then had "rehearsal" day, in which all Gutsy Females rehearsed the morning routine.  Mommy got up early and showered, fed the dogs, woke the kids, fed them breakfast, doled out medicine and vitamins, brushed hair and teeth, got everyone dressed, donned backpacks, and walked to the bus stop.  (Jillson was disappointed that the walk was so short.  The stop is one house down from us.)

We even practiced taking pictures:

That night, we got everything ready.  We picked our outfits and laid them out.  We discussed the morning timeline and what to do if at any point during the school day Jillson felt lost.  Jillson declared she wanted to eat the school lunch, but bring special strawberry milk from home.  We packed the backpacks.  We bathed.  We went to bed.

We (and by that I mean, of course, they) chattered away in bed out of pure excitement until 9:30pm.

And then, the big day came.  This is the best smile I could get out of J, who was frustrated that I wouldn't let her run off to the bus stop right away.  ("Moooooom, why do you need more pictures?  You took pictures on rehearsal day!")

And then off she went.

There was a lot of time to play with our new neighborhood friends at the bus stop.  (The bus was quite late.  Apparently this is normal on the first day.)

Yes, I even remembered to hand the camera off.  (Please note Jillson's expression.  This is the face she makes in 99.9% of the photos I take.  This is why I have to take 100 pictures of every event.)

And then that bus pulled away.  Carrying my heart on it.  My sweet, precious, kind, sensitive, stubborn, brooding, gung-ho, giggling kid.  On that bus, going away from me.  And from here on out, people, she will spend most of her waking hours with others.  Not with her mom.  Not with her family.  How on earth did we get to this point?

Thankfully, we mommies had this little gang of younger siblings to amuse us still.