Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a Happy New Year from the Bernheisels!

As for me and my house, this News Year's Eve day we will be renting a movie for Mama and Vati to enjoy tonight, getting Jay a temporary membership at the Y (he's jealous of all my bad yoga moves), and shopping for laminate flooring. I might even enjoy some fruit of the vine tonight. Whatever happens, I assure that we will all be in bed before midnight.

Hope you have a wonderful, safe evening and a new year filled with joy!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Serious Theological Inquiry

After a not-so-smooth morning at home, Joshua, Clare, and I headed out to Target for some last-minute shopping. We were listening to Vaughan Williams' Hodie. Joshua had some difficulty understanding the words, so I was telling him what the vocalist was singing: "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people...'" We got to the part about finding the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and Joshua was able to correctly identify Jesus' location as a manger.

"Mama," he said, "Was Jesus a boy?"

"Yes, he was a boy," I said.

"Why, Mama?"

"Well," I said, "the Israelites were waiting for a Messiah, and they believed that Messiah would be a man. So Jesus was a boy." I was so stinkin' satisfied with myself I almost ran off the road.

"Mama?" Joshua asked. I was ready for anything, any follow-up question he could throw at me.

"Does that mean he had a penis?"

"Yep, Jesus had a penis."

Merry Christmas, little theologian. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Liver Slivers

First of all, Jay and I need to say a huge thank you to everyone who has sent us words of encouragement and let us know that you are thinking about us during this not-so-easy time. It has meant so much to us to know that we have so much support and so many people praying for us.

Second, we need to give mad props to my parents for being troopers on our behalf today. This day went as smoothly as it could have possibly gone, and that would have never happened if my mom and dad (and stepdad) hadn't come through for us big. My dad served as primary chauffeur and waiting room sitter from 9:30 this morning until 4:00 this afternoon, picking up Jay, taking him to the clinic, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting. My mom and stepdad served as babysitters on steroids, entertaining our little tyrants all day long. The biggest miracle of the day was that Clare didn't completely freak out when she woke up from her afternoon nap to find that I wasn't home. Instead she played happily all afternoon with my mom. Whoa.

On to the procedure. Jay first had a CT scan this morning that, as far as we know, showed nothing. That's good.

The really good news, however, is that the surgeon was able to do exactly what he wanted to do. He was able to get a guidewire all the way through the common bile duct and expand the entire length of it to roughly 4 mm (that's the size of a normal common bile duct) using a balloon. He didn't use a stent because, as he explained, bacteria can colonize around the stent if bile gets backed up around it. This can cause an infection. So, no stent. The surgeon was really positive. He was obviously excited that the procedure had worked and took great pleasure in telling me all about it. I was happy to oblige. He said that he had seen great results with the procedure in the past and that in some cases had seen dramatic, long-term improvements (sometimes even for years) from it. The dose of reality he injected was that this procedure might not actually improve Jay's condition at all. If that's the case, we'll know that the jaundice was caused by general liver damage instead of a backup of bile due to the stricturing of the common bile duct. The surgeon said that, if we see results, it could take up to two weeks before we notice a change in color.

Then I talked to the doctor. It was the first time he'd actually seen the inside of Jay's liver, so he was pretty realistic about things. He reminded us of what he had said to Jay previously, which is that Jay's liver functioning is still quite good, but that the liver itself looks pretty torn up. And it does. The films I saw looked fairly similar to the films I saw upon diagnosis eight years ago. The doctor wants Jay to have bloodwork done in about six weeks, here in Jackson, and then wants to have a face-to-face with Jay after that to talk about what comes next.

So the summary is that the procedure was successful, but we will have to wait and see whether or not it has the desired effect. We'll know when we see if Jay's color changes and when we see results of the blood tests in a little over a month.

I was telling my friend Terri the other day that the most difficult thing about this for me is that it feels like a constant waiting game. My hope is that we learn something definitive (and definitively good) in the next few weeks and that we can get off of this pincushion that we seem to be sitting on.

Thank you again for all of your support. You can't know what it means for us to know that we have so many people rooting for us. Bless you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Santa Claus is Coming to Town?

Is my kid going to be traumatized when he realizes there does not yet exist a picture of him with Santa Claus? Because he's never had his pic made with the old guy. The last two Christmases he's been scared to death by the old man, and this year it just hadn't occurred to me to do it. In fact, we've kind of avoided the whole idea of Santa Claus. Joshua hasn't asked; therefore, it's been a moot point. And we've been reluctant to introduce the idea of Santa Claus because bringing it up ourselves seems somewhat deceptive: "Hey Joshua! A big man in a red suit is going to come down your chimney and bring you presents!" The last time I checked, that was a complete lie, and I'm not sure I like the idea of it.

One of his friends at the children's gym asked him if he'd been to ask Santa Claus for presents and he just stared at her blankly. I shook my head 'no' behind him and she didn't press the issue, but it made me wonder if I'm making him miss out on something altogether. Maybe he'll be interested in Santa further down the line and we can introduce a little of the magic without being completely deceptive. I was reading some posts on one of my favorite sites where many of the mothers talked about how magical it was for them to believe in Santa Claus, and about how wonderful it is to see their own children believe in Santa. Are my kids missing out?

We were going to celebrate St. Nicholas Day this year, but that didn't happen since St. Nicholas Day is December 6 and I was still reeling from Thanksgiving. Maybe we'll try again next year.

What do you think? Will my child be scarred for life because he doesn't know about Santa? Are we missing out?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Three-Year-Old Theology

To look at my children's toy and book collections, you'd never know I was a pastor. To hang out at our table at dinnertime, you'd never know I was a pastor. Joshua never said a blessing until he started singing the blessing at his school's snacktime, and we have nary a children's bible in the house save the one that my dad gave him. It was a book that my dad used to read to his mother when she was in her last stages of life and needed a distraction that would keep her from repeating herself and making random comments, an effect of her Alzheimer's disease. It's still a little old for Joshua's comprehension and it doesn't yet hold his attention.

To be quite honest, we haven't talked much about God in our house. Joshua went to see his friend Olivia's little sister be baptized. In the weeks leading up to the event, I told Joshua that the act of baptism included putting water on Baby Emma's head and telling her that God loved her. We rehearsed the same scenario prior to Clare's baptism as well. But that's as far as the God discussion has gone in our house.

I think my hesitation comes from my desire to give Joshua thoughtful, intentional answers to the questions that will inevitably arise when we start talking about God. I want to avoid giving him the anwers that portray God as the old man in the sky who watches us and plans our lives for us...a divine Santa Claus if you will (which is another whole post in and of itself). I want Joshua to understand that God is love, but I don't want that explanation to come across all squishy and noncomittal. I want him to learn to connect with God, but I don't want him to think that prayer is an opportunity to ask some entity "way out there" for all the things that we want. And how do I teach a child to give thanks to that which is so far removed that we can't see it? I can barely get him to say thank you to people right next to him give him things So I've gone the route of not saying much at all. Maybe that's a mistake. I don't know.

One of the great joys this Advent has been opening his advent calendar with him every day. His calendar is composed of twenty-five miniature books that start with Isaiah's prophecies and end with the birth of Jesus. It's apparent that he's not quite getting everything, but he perked right up when we talked about John the Baptist. We spent yesterday morning looking at the pictures of Joshua's baptism and talking about why John baptized in the river and why we baptize in the church building. It was something that he could connect with, and that made the conversation easier.

We're also giving him a more age-appropriate bible storybook for Christmas. I'm much more comfortable talking about the story of Jesus in the context of the whole Bible story...God as Creator, God who chooses to love us before we choose to love God, God who loved us enough to become one of us, God whose love for us inspires poems and songs, God who expects us to treat people the way we would like to be treated. I'm hoping the book will give us an opening to talk about all of these things in a meaningful way that doesn't begin and end with an anthropomorphized God who's happy when we do the right thing and mad when we don't. Because I love to talk theology. And I refuse to do it poorly when my kid is involved.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Bought a Little Notebook Today

Last August my friend Andrea came over to bring me her collection of Christian Century magazines since I was to be taking on the role of Christian Education chair at my church. We started talking about church life in general, and somehow the subject of the annual women's retreat came up.

"Oh, I totally intend to go this year. I really wanted to go last year, but it was too hard with Clare being so young. I can't wait to go this time!" I said.

"Well good," said Andrea, "because I've met with the committee and we were hoping you would be our retreat leader this year. This subject is the Holy Spirit." And she proceeded to give me the details.

Somewhere in the middle of the detail-giving, I remembered that last year's retreat leader was a well-known and highly-respected professor from Lambuth. In fact, she was one of my cousin's favorite professors, which is saying a lot. The boy is picky.

"I'd love to do it," I said, "but I can't believe you're making me follow Dr. Wesley."

Last August, is seemed like the first weekend in February was a million years away. But during the first week of December, February seems to be right around the corner. Don't get me wrong, I've thought about it. I've been to planning meetings. I even grunted a few times when we were choosing the guiding scripture for the weekend. (That particular meeting was during Rush at Lambuth, when I was functioning on ridiculously little sleep). But I haven't yet thrown myself into the whole business.

This weekend, however, I decided that it was time to get serious, to start outlining some of my thoughts. So I bought a pretty spiral-bound notebook at Wal-Mart, hoping that the endless pieces of blank paper would inspire me to get going. So far I haven't written anything, but I'm sure I will.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

But What I Really Want to Say Is

I feel like I've been marking time here on the old blog for the past few weeks, trying to fill in the gaps with any old thing, just so there's something here. But there's a lot happening under the surface, and I finally feel like it's OK to share.

Some of you will remember that Jay was diagnosed with a liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis back in 2001. PSC is an autoimmune disorder in which Jay's body attacks his liver, causing a buildup of scar tissue in the bile ducts. The scar tissue impedes the free flow of bile through the liver. Walter Peyton had PSC, although the ultimate cause of his death was cholangiocarcinoma, a type of cancer that occurs in patients with PSC. Jay's doctor used an ERCP to make the diagnosis. A bit of research showed that there was no known "cure" for the disease, but that there were some steps to slow its progression. The cure, in fact, is a liver transplant, but the time from diagnosis to a transplant varies from person to person. Jay's doctor at the time offered regular testing that would help us "stage" the disease.

When we moved to Jackson, Jay found a new doctor who suggested a colonoscopy. One of the risks of PSC is colon cancer, and many people with PSC also have some form of irritable bowel syndrome. The doctor wasn't happy with the state of Jay's colon and put him on a drug that has been shown to reduce the possibility of colon cancer. Roughly six weeks later I came home and noticed that the whites of Jay's eyes were actually yellow. My heart skipped a beat. Itching and jaundice indicate a buildup of bilirubin, which the liver is supposed to process into bile and excrete. The next day Jay called his doctor who told him to come in immediatley for labwork. His bilirubin level was 18 mg/dl. Normal is .20 mg/dl to 1.5 mg/dl. The doctor scheduled another ERCP right away.

The first time Jay had an ERCP, the surgeon placed a stent in his common bile duct to improve bile flow through the liver. The common bile duct leads from the liver to the small intestine. This time, the stent had fallen out, and the common bile duct was so strictured that the contrast dye wouldn't even go through. It kept siphoning off into the gall bladder. There was no way to even see what was happening inside the liver because they couldn't get there. After the procedure, the doctor used the word we had expected: Transplant.

It took four weeks, but Jay finally got an appointment with a specialist at Vanderbilt, and today was the day. The doctor looked at the films from the most recent ERCP and Jay's most recent round of bloodwork from late last week. He pointed out something that neither of us had considered: Jay's liver is actually still functioning in many ways. We've always looked at the numbers that are out of normal range without paying much attention to the numbers that are within normal range. So his liver's not great, but it's not failing completely.

The Vanderbilt doctor wants his own surgeon to do another ERCP. The surgeon has already looked at the films and thinks he might be able to open the common bile duct enough to get a stent in it, which will help the flow of bile and thus return Jay to a normal color. Being yellow is the least of his worries, but it really does make him look sick--probably sicker than he actually is. There's actually no immediate danger in the buildup of bile, but if left unchecked for a long time, it can become infectious and cause scarring of the actual liver tissue. They'll also do a CT scan to see what they can see. He'll follow up with the doctor a few times each year to see if things are progressing, and he'll get the joy of increased colon cancer vigilance - a yearly colonoscopy.

Not once did the doctor mention a transplant. He's going to look at the bloodwork done today to see if Jay's occasional fatigue is related to his illness or if there's something else going on. Of course, there are still the possibilities of colon cancer and cholangiocarcinoma (liver cancer), but since the doctor is going to follow Jay so closely, there's no reason to think that either of those things would progress too far before being caught. Big can of worms we're not even going to look at right now.

So, things aren't nearly as bad as we thought. Jay gets to keep his liver for now, there's hope that his color will return to normal after the next ERCP in a few weeks, and he's got a great doctor who is pretty clear about how to best manage the disease.

Your continued thoughts and prayers are appreciated. It's hard to remember when Jay is his normal pasty self and his energy is high (both of which will hopefully happen soon) that he has a chronic illness, but it lingers still and remains a source of concern for both of us. Prayers and thoughts of healing, hope, and courage to live boldly are always welcome.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Day Update

We had twelve people here for Thanksgiving dinner and somehow managed not to get a picture of the spread or most of the weekend's festivities. But my was it fun. A mini-college reunion plus some family and a stray student made for a wonderful time. Our spread included turkey, leg of lamb, stuffing, gravy, twice-baked sweet potatoes, green beans, creamed spinach, challah, whoopie pies, chocolate pecan pie, and pumpkin pie. On Saturday we decided to forgo the traditional leftovers and instead feasted on California roll, sam gyup, sal, kim chee, rice, and some unbelievably delicious Korean yogurt drink. There was lots of staying up late, catching up, playing games, laughing, and having a really great time. Hope yours was as wonderful!

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Important Message

I'm guessing none of you went to Lambuth University here in Jackson. But just imagine how you would feel you were attending a college that you loved, only to find out that two of the major donors decided to take their money elsewhere, and that your beloved college was in a serious financial crisis. So seroius, in fact, that there's a question about the overall financial viability of the university. So even if you're not moved to give, which you probably aren't, at least think positive thoughts about these students as their community faces some serious challenges. And I'm at all proud that a few of my girls are in the video. Really, I'm not.

Monday, November 24, 2008


My boys got back home way past bedtime last night and Joshua, who rarely sleeps past 7:00, stayed in his coma until 9:30 this morning. Today he's been especially creative (and cranky) and entertained me for 20+ minutes by strumming his imaginary guitar and singing lots of songs. We've run the gamut from "This Old Man" to "The Lamp Song," which he asked me to sing while he strummed. There is no "lamp song," of course, but he seemed happy with the words I came up with. He's even been singing his playschool songs which have been heretofore kept secret from us. I don't know if it was a bump on his head or a pressurized cabin, but the kid is oozing with fun.

According to both Joshua and Jay, it was a wonderful trip. They ate great food and reconnected with old friends. They slept in a big, big, big, big, big bed in a nice ho-tay-yel and rode lots of trains and buses. We're going to have to work harder to explain "vacation" to Joshua because I think he was pretty disappointed this his time in Chicago came to an end. It's just shown us how important it is for each of the kids to have "special time" with each of us, and how wonderful it is to give them experiences that they can't even imagine.

Next stop, Germany! Coming Summer 2009!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Little Worked Up

I'm trying to be "cool mom," but I'm sending my boys to Chicago tomorrow and I'm a little undone about it. Jay decided that he wanted to take Joshua for a weekend in Chicago, just for fun. And I'm sure that Joshua will have a great time. But I've only ever spent one night away from him. It was the night that I was in the hospital after having Clare, and even then I only went 24 hours without seeing him.

I'll admit, every time I think about him going away, I get a little weepy. Seriously. For the last three years I haven't spent more than 24 hours without him. You get pretty attached to someone when you spend that much time with them.

Then there's the fact that I'm going to have to feed Clare and I. I'm pretty good at cooking for four. But 1 1/2? Really? Fortunately for us, Jay is a dream and is making us three mornings worth of hard-boiled eggs and breakfast breads before he leaves. I guess we'll scrounge something up for dinner and survive.

But I'm going to miss my sweet baby boy. Lots.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

14 Years Ago Today ...

...Jay and I met, and we've been together ever since.

It was the day of the Monon Bell football game and DePauw had lost, so spirits were a little low at good old DPU. I was studying with my friend Kristin when she reminded me that another sorority sister, Allison, was bringing her boyfriend and some of his friends to campus that day to rollerblade. Neither of us had met the boy and we were anxious to do so. Soon we heard a commotion on the front lawn of the sorority house and, what do you know, it was Allison's boyfriend and his friends, all students from Rose-Hulman.

We went outside and allowed ourselves to be introduced to the mystery men, then sat down on the curb to visit for a minute. The day was chilly and Kristin and I soon decided to head inside. Kristin stood up first and I held up my arms in a "help me up" gesture. Kristin took one of my hands, but before she had a chance to take the other, one of the skaters took it instead and hoisted me to my feet.

Kristin and I had only been inside for a few minutes when we heard footsteps running down the hall. Allison called my name and burst into the room where Kristin and I were studying.

"Do you want to go on a date tonight?" she asked.

"Which one?" I replied.

"Jay," she said.

"The tall one?" I inquired.


"The readhead?"


"Then I don't remember. Is he nice?"






"Sure, I'll go."

The boys went back to Rose-Hulman to shower and change, and then returned to DePauw. Our evening consisted of Marvin's, watching Tombstone at the house, and attending a drunken blowout at one of the fraternity houses. It was early in the morning when they finally left, and I was happy. That Jay guy was really sweet and we had a wonderful time. He said he'd call. Normally I would have been skeptical, but somehow I knew he would. And he did. And we went out again. And again. And we just kept going out. And then we fell in love. And here we are.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What A Night!

My children and their peers will never be able to remember a time when this country didn't have a black president. I am hopeful.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Artsy Fartsy, Cont.

After perusing the 'net for what seemed liked ages, I finally settled on a Martha Stewart "make a pumpkin costume out of a pillowcase" project. Minimal materials, minimal sewing, minimal hassle. Plus, her website actually included a video. What should have been very simple, however, turned into a major production. There was yelling, there was scissor-throwing, there may have even been a few tears. But at last there were two pumpkins.

Since my sewing machine started to smell like the motor was about to burn out, I imposed on Rhonda to sew the "stems" for me. Inspired, I returned home to sew two drawstring treat bags without a pattern. "What's the big deal?" you ask. For me it was a major triumph. I don't cook without a recipe. I don't sew without a pattern.

I should've glued the faces higher up so that the pumpkin mouths weren't wedged in their crotches, but I didn't think it was too bad. And they're just cute anyway.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Artsy Fartsy

For the last two years we've gotten away with ignoring Halloween. Jay and I have never been "into" Halloween and Joshua's been utterly clueless. So October 31st comes and goes and no one in this house is the wiser. Until now. I noticed on the Playschool calendar that one of the agenda items for last Tuesday was "talk about Halloween costumes." Great, I thought. Here we go.

When I picked up Joshua on Tuesday I asked him about his day. It was a busy one. He brought the snacks, and it was also school picture day. I finally got around to asking him about whether he had talked about dressing up for Halloween.

"Yes!" he said.

"What will you wear?" I asked.

"A costume!" he said. (This was the first time he'd ever heard of a costume, so I was pretty impressed the climbed that curve).

"What kind of costume?" I asked, fully expecting him to respond with "Can you say it?" which is his way of saying that he doesn't know the answer to whatever question you've just asked.

"A PUMPKIN!" he shouted!

And when Vati asked him later that day what he wanted to be for Halloween, he answered again, "A PUMPKIN!"

If you know me at all then you know I haven't a creative bone in my body, which is probably why I've never really been excited about Halloween. So here I am, trying to find a DIY pumpkin costume for my son (and daughter. Why not make them match?) If I were Jenny, or Rhonda, or Sarah, this wouldn't be a problem. But alas I am not, and it will probably take me from now until midnight on Wednesday to figure this out.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Up until last night I had about 10 randomly assorted boxes of pictures, old photo albums, and other picture-containing envelopes sitting on the shelf of my closet. The pictures are of both Jay and me, and range from before we were born until roughly 1999 when I started putting all of my pictures in identically-shaped albums. My original plan was to take all of the random pictures from the random albums and put them in identically-shaped albums, too, so that they would all fit neatly on my shelf. The bonus is that they would be in chronological order...all of them.

Would you like some of my crack?

To being with, my head hurts from trying to remember when these were taken. Then consider that some are 4x6, some are 3x5, and some are 3x3! Oh, and don't forget the senior pictures collected over the years. I've dated about a third of them so far, but I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do with them when they're finally sorted chronologically. I bought some photo storage boxes at Hobby Lobby today, but that seems a bit silly since the idea is to make them more accessible, not less. But at least my storage system will be more uniform if all of the random pictures go into boxes.

Has anyone else done something this ridiculous? Any ideas?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I made another appearance on Good Morning West Tennessee last Monday. This time I was promoting the YMCA's "FatBuster" contest coming up this week. I was a little tired, which is understandable given that I had to be there at 6:30, and I was a little unsure of myself since I had a lot to cover in a short amount of time, including showing off our handy-dandy little body fat monitor that will take the place of caliper testing.

But I'm still not sure what I was thinking when I decided that I should look directly into the camera and talk for about 15 seconds. Fortunately, I eventually realized that the news anchors were sitting next to me and looking directly at me while I was staring straight ahead. Jay didn't watch since he was fixing breakfast and wrangling two little people, but I think the camera operator was smart enough to close in on my face rather than pulling back and showing that I was completely ignoring the anchors in favor of staring at my (very exhausted-looking) self.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I Read Banned Books

Here we are again in the middle of Banned Books week! If you're interested, the American Library Association has a list of The Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2007. Have you read any of them?

As promised during Banned Books Week two years ago, I finally got around to reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which, as you might remember, was taken off of the reading list during my junior year of high school by my best friend's mother. While it was admittedly disturbing at times, I really enjoyed it and am pretty sure I wouldn't have been scarred for life had I read it 17 years ago.

I also managed to read Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut in honor of his completed life. It didn't make this list, but several other Vonnegut novels did, so I'll give myself a pat on the back for that as well.

Any plans for Banned Books Week?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Status Updates

I have a bit of a Facebook obsession. One of the things I enjoy most is the Status Update feature which allows the user to post a sentence or two about what's happening at the moment. I think it's spoiled me because it's so easy to throw up a thought or two every few days. Much easier that actually blogging. So instead of copping out and updating my status every five minutes, here's what's been on my mind.
  • Missing the City. I went through the drive through at Seattle's Best yesterday for a little pick-me-up as I've recently discovered that I'm a better mother when caffeinated. It was disappointing the say the least, but it's the only decent drive through coffee in town. This got me thinking about all the mornings in Boston that I enjoyed Peet's Coffee at Brigham and Women's Hospital, which made me think about Espresso Royale Cafe, that bastion of coffee goodness for BU seminarians and anyone else who lived and died for a mocha the way I did. On the way home from the disappointing coffee adventure, Colin Cowherd was making fun of sentimental Yankees fans. One of his comments was that "New Yorkers are some of the most well-read people in the country for no other reason than they have all that time to read during their 40-minute commute to work." I remember having all that spare time to read, to think, to doodle, to look out the window, both in Boston and in Chicago. Good coffee and a pleasant train ride. I could go for that again.
  • Looking forward to Fall. I've always been a spring and summer gal, but when Joshua showed me his "apple tree" art project the other day I almost exploded with excitement that Fall is so close. I've never cared much about Fall, but this year I do. I'm ready for the oppressive heat to go away. I'm ready for cool, crisp air. I'm ready for long sleeves and apples and winter squash and crock pots and pretty leaves. I'm ready to share fun Fall things with Joshua, who's finally old enough to enjoy them. I want to drink apple cider with him, carve a pumpkin with him, go on a hayride with him, and play outside with him without having reapply sunscreen every twenty minutes.
  • Too much growing up. Joshua loves playschool. Oh, he'll occasionally say that he doesn't want to go, but when I tell him that I'll call Miss Penny and tell her not to expect him, he almost immediately changes his tune. We were all over at the school this weekend laying rubber mulch on the playground, and we took our lunch break in Joshua's classroom. I thought about how he knows the ins and outs of that room while I know nothing. He does things in there that I'll never know about. He participates in a whole world that I'm not part of. And he's thriving in it. While I love that he's doing these things I his own, I'm still trying to figure out how to stop this growing up business. Maybe if I sit on him he'll stop growing up so fast. Or maybe if I hug him alot. If anyone knows the secret, tell me. Part of me wants this sweet little guy forever, you know, except for all the times he makes me want to scream.
  • Domesticity. I've been working so much and spending so much time advising my sorority women that I've hardly had time to do anything in my own house. Last night I finally finished ironing, but I would give anything for one whole day to dedicate to cleaning my house. We're not quite to the point that the health department would be interested in taking a look around, but we're not far from it. I don't who this person is that actually wants to clean the house, but she needs to go away.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Bathroom Humor

Today was "red day" at school, so we sent Joshua packing in his red polo this morning. When I went to pick him up I was surprised to see him in his green shirt that we had sent along on the first day in his "change of clothes" bag. Miss Libby stuck her head in the car to tell me that he had gotten "a little wet" but that everything was fine.

After we pulled out of the parking lot I noticed that he was wearing the same shorts that I had sent him in, so I asked him if he had an accident in his pants. "No."

"How did your shirt get wet?" I asked, thinking that maybe he had actually spilled something on it.

"Well," he said, "my penis was on the wrong way."

I hate it when that happens.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That's a Relief

I didn't know I was a yeller until I had a two-year-old. Or maybe it started upon the arrival of a second child. Anyway, I'm a yeller. I'm loud anyway, and the frustration of the Terrific Twos sends me into yelling mode on a regular basis. It's not a screaming rage, mind you (most of the time) but it gets loud in our house and it's not always the under-three set causing the commotion.

I was getting Joshua set up to watch a video this morning while I put Clare to bed and when I turned on the TV "One Fine Day" was playing. Michelle Pfeiffer was in the police station yelling frantically about whatever it was that was upsetting her (I've never seen it), and Joshua said, "Is she yelling, Mama?"

Never one to pass up an opportunity to make myself feel more guilty than normal, I said, "She sure is. Does that sound like Mama? Does Mama yell like that?"

He thought for a moment before answering, "No. You don't. I think you're always fine."

Maybe I'll take a quarter out of the therapy jar and buy me something nice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First Day of School

And would you believe we all survived?

Joshua has rarely been happy in the church nursery. For about six months after Clare was born he did OK, but once she started having some separation anxiety, he decided that the nursery was no place for either of them. We haven't even been to church in about three months except for the few occasions that I've had leadership roles in the worship service, and even then Jay stays home with the kids.

I was understandably nervous about the preschool thing. I wrote Joshua a book and we talked about school for weeks. We even went over to school last Thursday so that he could play in his classroom for a few minutes and practice using the potty. He assured me over the weekend that he wouldn't cry when Vati dropped him off and that he would have fun.

And wouldn't know it? He did! I sat nervously on the bed waiting for Jay to get home from dropping him off and braced myself for the bad news. Jay reported that there were no tears at all, just a simple hand off and goodbye. Huh? Seriously? We waited for the next hour for the phone call and then realized that it wasn't going to come. Huh. Seriously.

I picked him up at 11:30, before the regular dismissal, and found him on the "toyground." He was happy to see me, but equally happy to continue playing. I found his teacher, whose first words were, "He's adorable!" and got the rest of the scoop from her. No tears. Got along great with everyone else. "He's so good!" she said.

I finally convinced him to go with me and he sweetly told Miss Libby goodbye. Then as we walked off of the playground he informed me that he wanted to go back to school. Immediately. I think he can probably wait until Thursday, but I'm not sure he'll be happy about it.

I didn't get too much info about the day, although I heard repeatedly from the backseat, "Aaallll through the toooown!" so I'm assuming he sang "The Wheels on the Bus." When I asked him what books the teachers read he said, "Oh, all kinds." so I guess I'm not getting much more info about that. He had Cheerios for snack. Beyond that everything's a mystery: Someone sat in a black chair, but we're not sure who. There's another Joshua in the class. And someone got germs in someone else's mouth.

My inner drama queen is a little disappointed that the whole thing was so anticlimactic, but I really am glad that he had fun. I don't know if I'll ever get used to not knowing what was happening in his world for a whole six hours each week. For three years I've been the keeper of the knowledge about Joshua, and now I share that role with two other people. I trust them implicitly, of course, but it's strange that there are entire chunks of time that I can no longer account for.

When Joshua doesn't know the answer to a question or isn't confident that he has the right information, he says, "Can you say it?" When we asked him questions about his day yesterday, there were a few times when he said, "Can you say it?" "Buddy, we have no idea!" we answered. That's weird. But fun. Sort of.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Don't Know if I Can Do It

Jay and I went to the orientation for Joshua's playschool tonight. He stayed home with Jay's mom and watched videos and put together puzzles. And when we got home he hugged me tight, gave me big kisses, played with my hair, and assured me that he'd rather go to school than stay home with me. And then I rocked him in his room with his head curled up on my chest while his soft little baby arm held onto my neck and I thought, Why on earth am I going to send this child away from me? Ever?

Not the Biggest Loser!

So today was the awards ceremony for the Lose to Win competition. I got an inside tip this morning from a gal in my aerobics class that they call the members of the winning team in the days before the ceremony to suggest that they might want to make an extra effort to show up. Having not received a call, I was pretty certain that our team wasn't going to walk away with any money. But we all got T-shirts and water bottles, and I got to cheer loudly for the top teams. The first and second teams lost 26% and 27% of their combined weight, respectively, and the winning team lost 40%! That's serious business!

My mother-in-law, who is visiting, went with me. We were privileged to sit next to the second place team, Chubby Buddies, and the winning team called themselves "Who's Yer Fatty?" Personally, I would've given them the money because that's just funny.

The winning individual lost 16% of his weight during the nine weeks of competition. Jay and I had just about decided that it would be next to impossible to lose more than 15%, but this kid did it. Pretty awesome.

The best part was that the coordinator of the program shared with us that she and her colleagues had received emails throughout the course of the competition thanking them for the motivation that the contest provided. I didn't win any big money, but I was pretty proud to be in that room today.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Last night we watched Constantina Tomescu-Dita win the women's marathon at the Olympics. I'm certainly no running enthusiast and I have zero familiarity with the world of women's distance running, but I watched the race thinking, "Man, her name sounds so familiar!"

It all made sense when, towards the end of the race, the announcer said that she had won the women's division in the 2004 Chicago Marathon. Aha!

Jay seemed nonplussed when I reminded him that he had actually run in a marathon with her. Yes, he also ran with 37,000 other people. Yes, she was having a post-race rubdown while he was at Mile 13. But he still ran in a marathon with an Olympic gold-medalist.

And I think that's kinda cool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stay Tuned

I have completed the next step on my quest to take over Jackson.

The YMCA pays for a spot on Good Morning West Tennessee every Monday morning. Because my beloved 6:00 a.m. aerobics instructor also happens to be the Marketing Director for the Y, she asked me to appear on the spot last Monday morning to share my success story. It was all of two minutes, I guess, but I managed to plug the Lose to Win program, the Y's website, and the upcoming FatBurner contest, so my beloved aerobics instructor was quite proud. When I went to work out later in the day the woman who works at the desk told me that Amber had dragged the whole class (I would have normally been in her Boot Camp class had I not been asked to share my celebrity with all of West Tennessee) down to the fitness center to watch. A message that I received later from Amber, which was full of energy to say the least, led me to believe that the entire fitness center erupted in applause when I finished. I'm not so naive as so believe that was the case, but Amber now insists that I will just have to go back to the show in the future.

Next stop! Radio!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Super Dad

A few weeks ago we hosted Music Morning at our house. It was just a little get together for my stay-at-home moms group, a chance for the kids to look at, hear, and try out instruments. We had a good turnout of both kids and instruments, including a tenor sax, and alto sax, a piano, a violin, a guitar, a dulcimer, a clarinet, and various percussion instruments. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and after it was over we all ate lunch in shifts around the kitchen table.

After awhile I noticed that Jay and several of the kids disappeared, so I went on a little hunt and this was what I found:
He's either brave or crazy to start up a game of Candyland with four kids (one had left by the time the picture was taken) between the ages of two and four. It didn't last very long, but at the same time no one got hurt, so I guess it was a success. Here's to Superdad!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

15 More Minutes

First a photo in the VIP, then the YMCA's Member of the Month. I OWN this town, baby!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

True Confessions

It has come to my attention that at least one of my readers thinks my blog makes me look like Perfect Mom.

So I'm here to tell you that on some days I find it nearly impossible to do a good job of loving my two-year-old.

Today is one of those days.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Slow Food

I have to admit that when I first came across the term "slow food," I assumed it was coined by a bunch of crock pot enthusiasts determined to convince the world that slow cookers were the real way to prepare food. But as I read more, I realized that slow food was more an attitude than a piece of equipment, a list of ingredients, or a collection of recipes. Slow food is really an attitude. Slow food is about enjoying food--the ingredients, the preparation, the consumption.

For us, slow food is about enjoying the family trip to the Farmer's Market every Saturday. It's oohing and aahing over the box of produce that we receive every week from our CSA. It's talking as a family about what we're going to eat and how we're going to fix it. It's including everyone in the preparation of the food (as much as they can be included. For Clare, this sometimes just means chowing down on a raw green bean as Joshua and I snap them). Most of all, it's intentionally sitting down to enjoy each meal together.

It wasn't until I saw this picture that "slow food" finally clicked. (Don't worry. I'm now 15 pounds lighter than I was in that picture).
I have a similar picture of my grandmother and me, sitting on the couch snapping green beans together. And I can remember sitting in my grandmother's driveway with my grandmother and my great-grandmother shelling fresh peas.

I have a million memories that I want to make with my children, but I hope that the simple ones like this are the ones that will shape them. I hope that memories like this one will remind them that they needn't be in a hurry, that life is best enjoyed slowly, and that there is nothing more precious than spending a few quiet moments with a child.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The More-Than-Capable Husband and the Personal Trainer

As part of the Lose to Win competition I signed up for a month ago, I get a free month of YMCA membership. At first I wasn't sure what to do with it. After all, Joshua's not a real fan of the nursery (any nursery, not just the Y nursery) and most of the classes were either early in the morning or during dinner. After thoroughly enjoying a 9:30 CardioPump class while Jay stayed home with the kids, I decided to make a concerted effort to attend more of the classes. My next effort was a 6:00 a.m. CardioPump class with Amber, a 4'8" British powerhouse who makes me feel like a palsied giraffe. But I loved it. I loved it so much that I now attend three 6:00 a.m. classes every week. Monday is Circuit Training, Wednesday is Step and Ball, and Thursday is Cardio Pump.

I am not a morning person, but this is by far the best self-care I've ever done. I get to listen to ESPN radio on the way to and from the Y, and I get to spend a whole hour just taking care of me. I feel better, I think I look better, and I'm pretty sure I'm more pleasant to be around. Of course I know how lucky I am, too. Jay gets up with Joshua and Clare and takes care of them so that I can have my hour of bliss, and then cooks a wonderful breakfast when I get home. Not all women are so lucky.

Yesterday I showed up for the Circuit class at 6:00 a.m. only to realize that I was the only one there. The only thing more grueling than circuit training is circuit training with a butt-kicking instructor who now has you one-on-one. There was no way to hide, no way to avoid scrutiny. But she was gentle to this poor soul and I left feeling wonderful.

Who knew the kindest thing I could do for myself was get up at 5:30 and have someone torture me for an hour? I never would've guessed, but I'm glad I figured it out. And I'm glad I have a family who makes helps me make it happen.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Taste of Things to Come

Joshua sleeps in a big boy bed now. Actually, he sleeps in a big big boy bed. His friend Charlie was getting a new bed for himself and generously offered his old double bed to Joshua. We hadn't really thought about moving Joshua out of his crib, but when the opportunity presented itself we decided, Why not? And wouldn't you know it, the day after we picked up the bed from Charlie's house, we found out that Joshua's crib had been recalled. We weren't terribly concerned; after all, he's been sleeping in it for 2 1/2 years without incident. But we decided to use the recall as an excuse to go ahead and make the leap to the bed.

Jay set up the bed in Joshua's room right away, but we decided to let Joshua get used to the idea of a bed before moving him into it. He bounced on it, read in it, and rolled around on it. After a few days, we went to Target to pick out some sheets and a blanket for it, knowing that he'd probably sleep on top of the bedclothes and under his baby blanket for at least the next six months.

It took awhile, but we finally made our way out of the "licensed character bedding" aisle to the "we don't watch TV and we just want some plain old bedclothes" aisle. I picked out some comforters for Joshua and let him choose the one he liked best. It didn't take long. He like the comforter with the dark blue/light blue stripes. The only problem was that then I saw the quilts--and they were so pretty--and I knew they would look so nice in his room--and that they would be so much more comfortable that the comforter--and that it was just too bad because Joshua had picked his favorite already.

But I gave it my best shot anyway. "Look at this nice quilt Joshua! Which do you like better? This one (hefting the striped comforter out of the cart) or this one (rubbing the pretty quilt to show how comfortable it was)?"

"I want the stripes. Put it in the cart Mama."

We did this for the next few minutes, until I had exhausted all of the quilt possibilities. My boy wanted the stripes and there was nothing I could do about it.

Or was there?

Yes, for a fraction of a second I thought to myself, "I'm the mom! I have the power here! And if I want him to have the quilt, then by golly he's going to have the quilt!"

Yikes! Did I really think that? Yeah, I did. And then I thought about all the times over the next 16 years that Joshua will make his own decisions and his own choices. I realized that Quiltgate was only a taste of what's to come. All the decisions that I will disagree with. All the times that I will want to wield parental power to gain the outcomes that I desire rather than the outcomes he wants. All the times I will just have to bite my tongue.

I've read over and over again that, for a long time, babies don't know that they are not you and that you are not them. Now I know what the Terrible Twos are all about. I am not Joshua. He is not me. We have different opinions, different ideas, and different agendas. He copes with that by yelling and crying and throwing himself on the floor. I cope with that by sitting back and thinking,

"Oh, s@#$!"

Monday, July 07, 2008

The New Neighborhood Lawn Service

One thing about living in the country is that you'll never know what critter you'll find in your yard next. We're used to frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, and deer, but the horses were a little surprising. They belong to our neighbor, but they like our grass better.
This one was taken at the beginning of June. I was going out for the evening and was a little surprised to see them in our side yard.
And these were taken just the other day, after I saw one of them walk right past the front door, practically on the sidewalk. We told our neighbor they were welcome to stay as long as they wanted...less mowing for us!

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Big Book Post

From Jenny's Blog:

Updated: Read Gary's comments to see where this list actually originated.

The Big Read is an NEA program designed to encourage community reading initiatives. They've come up with this list of the top 100 books, using criteria they don't explain, and they estimate that the average adult has only read 6 of these. So, we are encouraged to:

1) Look at the list and bold those we have read.
2) Italicize those we intend to read.
3) Underline the books we LOVE (Since Blogger won't let me underline, I've used an asterisk)
4) Reprint this list in our own blogs

Here goes...What about you?

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien*
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling*
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving*
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery*
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood*
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

That's My Grandpa!

They're a couple of tottery old guys, but you won't find bigger hearts. Herb's my Grandpa. Clyde is (obviously) my uncle. Enjoy!

Friday, June 20, 2008


We have long been thrilled with Joshua's ability to spell his own name. He hadn't done it in awhile, so Jay and I both chuckled yesterday when we heard from the backseat, "J-O-S-H-U-A spells Joshua!"

"Very good," I said. "How do you spell your last name?"


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Big Fat Loser

Since Tennessee is the sixth fattest state in the country, and since Memphis is the sixth fattest city in the country, the good people at the local hospital have decided to do something about it. They launched the "Lose to Win" challenge. Each team of four people pays $40 to enter the challenge. That $40 dollars also gets them a free month of membership at the YMCA, and two free months of membership at Aquatherapies. At the end of two months, everyone will weigh in again, and the team with the highest percentage of weight lost will win. The grand prize is $1000 and a free year of membership at the Y (among other things), and there are pretty decent prizes for second and third place teams as well.

Two other need-to-lose-this-baby-weight mamas and I made a team that also includes one of their husbands. The challenge started on Tuesday and things are going well so far. I have changed my eating habits and am feeling much better in general. I've found that it's easier to stay in touch with what's going on in my body when I'm not cramming food into it for comfort or entertainment (I tend to eat when I'm bored).

So we'll see! I'm not sure we're in the running for first place since none of us have that much to lose. But it's sort of fun anyway to see how we'll do!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Nine Years Ago Today

We were married! And now we're going out to dinner! By ourselves! Ta Ta!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Siblings Are Great Leverage

Lunchtime today featured a meltdown of epic proportions. While Clare sat contentedly in her highchair, a bite of fresh peach in each hand while making the sign for "more," Joshua was going nuts. It was to be expected, I suppose, since he had a rotten nap yesterday and got in bed a little later than usual last night.

He had requested a turkey sandwich for lunch and, as usual, had eaten the bread and left the turkey on his plate. He's typically compliant with my request to finish his turkey sans bread, but today he would hear none of it. Tears streaming down his face, he couldn't seem to stop himself from repeating, "I don't want to eat the turkey! I don't want to eat the turkey!" He did, however, want "banana with the peels," but didn't want to accept the fact that he couldn't have the banana until he ate the turkey.

So there he sat, refusing to get down from the chair, refusing to remain at the table, refusing to eat the turkey, refusing any kind of friendly words from either Jay or myself, and refusing to be amused by Clare who continued to sign "more" while holding food in each hand.

"I don't want to eat the turkey. I don't want to eat the turkey."

Finally, I said, "Great, then Clare can have your turkey!"

"I want to eat the turkey!!!"

I exploded in laughter before I could turn away and Jay nearly blew roast beef all over the kitchen. Needless to say, he still didn't eat the turkey and needed some time on the front porch with Vati before he finally got it back together, but there was much tension released and Joshua was once again saved from being thrown in the backyard with the chickens.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More Shameless Bragalating

Not only do I live with a crawler and a 100-piece-puzzle-putter-together, but as of today I live with the recipient of the Howard Newell Innovative Teaching Award.

It appears that I'm the only person around here that hasn't done something impressive lately.

I'll have to look in to that.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's My Bloggy and I'll Brag if I Want To

Today Joshua finished a 100-piece (Ages 5-10 years) puzzle all by himself. Start to finish, it was all Joshua, all the time.
And then there's Clare. She's big. At her nine-month appointment she weight 22.5 pounds, she was 29.25 inches long, and her head was 18.7 inches around. She's off the chart in every category. Even the cute category, but they don't measure that at the doctor's office.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Healthy Communication, the Joshua Way

Joshua's pediatrician was right. He really did jump from using single words to full sentences almost as soon as Clare was born. The funny thing was that most of his sentences were phrased as questions. It makes sense, I suppose, since he primarily heard us asking questions of him:
"Did you fall down?"
"Do you want some more to eat?"
"Did you go to the store with Vati today?"
"Did you have a good time?"
He wasn't asking us to answer those questions, of course. Instead he wanted us to ask them of him. "Did you have a good time?" was simply Joshua's way of saying, "You should ask me if I had a good time!"

Although he is much easier to understand now, he still phrases many of his sentences as questions (he'd make a great Jeopardy contestant). We called my grandmother the other day after we had gotten home from Target. He wanted to talk to her, and when I gave him the phone he asked, "Did you buy a crock pot?" I had to explain to my grandmother that the purpose of our Target run was to replace the crock pot that I had broken the day before. "Did you buy a crock pot?" was Joshua-speak for "You should ask me if I just bought a crock pot!"

The more I've thought about it, the more I'm convinced that Joshua's method of communication is pretty healthy, particularly among those of who tend toward passive-aggression. Instead of moping around the house after an especially harrowing day, waiting for Jay to ask what's wrong, I could simply greet him at the door with, "Did you have a crappy day?" Then Jay would know right away to ask, "Hi Mary Beth! Did you have a crappy day?" It sounds like I'm showing concern for him, which is good for this people-pleaser. But it's really a way to get him to ask about me.

And instead of slamming doors and rolling my eyes, waiting for Jay to ask me what's wrong, I can just walk right up to him and say, "Are you really, unbelievably, mind-blowingly angry with me?" And Jay would know right away that the appropriate question to ask is, "Are you really, unbelievably, mind-blowingly angry with me?"

I think I may be exposing too much personal pathology here, but I just wanted to share my ground breaking insight, courtesy of my 2 1/2-year-old son.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Clare was napping in her bed. I was resting on our bed. Jay was in the shower and Joshua was standing outside the shower, patiently waiting for Vati to emerge. Once Vati dried off, Joshua was full of questions:

"Are you going to shave?"

"No, but I thought I might brush my teeth."

"Do you got a bottom and a penis?"

"Yes I do."

"What do you do with your penis?"

*Chirp* *Chirp*

"Well sometimes I put underwear over the top of it. What do you do with your penis?"

"Sometimes I put a diaper over the top of it. Do you pee pee in the potty with your penis?"

"Yes, I do that, too."

Meanwhile I was pee peeing in my pants.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Need New Babies. Mine Keep Growing Up

Clare's first tooth finally broke through this morning. She's seriously considering crawling, although she still finds rolling much more effective. (That's an 18-month dress on my 8.5-month-old daughter, by the way.)

And Joshua--geez whiz, Joshua. He informed me the other day that the batteries were dead in one of his toys, so I showed him how to use Vati's screwdriver to open to battery cover. We took out the batteries and replaced the cover. I promised him he could put the new batteries in after we bought them. Fast forward a few minutes when he asked for the screwdriver again. I gave it to him and went to clean up the kitchen. When I peaked in on him five minutes later he had taken the cover off of another toy, removed the dead batteries, and was in the process of putting the cover back on. When we bought new batteries later that day, he repeated the process again on the first toy, asking for help only to get the screw going in the right direction as he replaced the cover. He even got the polarities correct when he put the batteries in.

Sure, it makes life easier for me. But now all of the battery-operated toys work again and I have a headache.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Special Day

"O God, it is our prayer that Clare will come to know the joy and suffering of being concerned about everyone she meets; that she will see each person worthy of dignity and acceptance. We hope for her a growth into fuller and deeper levels of humanity as expressed through Jesus.

"We pray that Clare will live in a world where justice is increased and where violence is decreased as a way to settle differences.

"Our hope is that Clare will understand that You alone can give life meaning and purpose and direction, O God; and that she will be on her knees before You with words of thanksgiving; and on her feet for You with deeds of love. This is our prayer. Amen."

--From the Service of Infant Baptism at Broadway United Methodist Church

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Twins and Basketball

If you followed the NCAA women's basketball tournament, GO VOLS you know that Brenda Frese, head coach of the Maryland Terrapins, recently gave birth to twin boys. Her high-risk pregnancy limited her ability to travel with the team to away games, but that didn't seem to affect the players too much. They entered the tournament as a 1-seed and made it all the way to the Elite Eight where they met Stanford, a 2-seed.

And although it made me a little sad that Frese wasn't home with her 5 1/2 week-old boys during that game, I thought it was pretty rockin' that she showed up to coach. She sported her "of-course-I-still-have-to-wear-this" maternity shirt under a black blazer and looked undeniably cute-yet-badass, all at the same time.

The highlight of the game for this mom of two, though, was when Frese was slapped with a technical for arguing with a referee. Jay and I laughed out loud. That poor woman has 6-week-old twins at home, out-of-control hormones coursing through her body at top speed, and probably hasn't had a full night of sleep in the last six months (although I'm sure Maryland is paying a pretty penny to make sure she has all the help she needs). Of course she got a technical foul. That handwriting was on the wall before the game even started.

The funniest part, though, was when the TV cameras panned to her husband in the stands. He looked and her and gave a half-hearted shrug, as if to say, "Now you people know what I'm living with every day."

I say, Go Brenda. That technical was for all of us sleep-deprived, hormone-laden, leaking, lochia-y, postpartum moms who couldn't blow our tops on national television.

Thank you.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Update: We got in!

For the past six months or so I've been struggling with the idea of enrolling Joshua in playschool next Fall. There's a great program run by the big Presbyterian church here in town that people just rave about. All of the staff have at least a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education, and there's almost no turnover among the teachers. And best of all, it's reasonably priced.

I'm not concerned about his cognitive progress. Dr. Vati takes care of that at home. What I really want is for him to be exposed to other kids and to learn to take direction from adults other than Jay and me. He relates really well to adults, but just isn't quite sure what to do around other kids (except his friend Olivia, whom he hugs, sometimes kisses, and generally just adores).
So I talked myself into pursuing this playschool. He would go on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 until 12, leaving Clare and I time to hang out together. If the Tuesday/Thursday slot wasn't available, I decided that I might consider letting him go on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but that seems like an awful lot of time away.

Joshua and I went to visit last week. We went to the room that he would be in and talked to the teacher. Although Joshua didn't interact with the kids, he did make himself comfortable in the play kitchen (big surprise, right?). I was very impressed with what I saw. There was only one incident of pushing the whole time we were there and I loved the way the staff managed it. I asked one of the teachers if she thought that such socialization was necessary at this age. She answered very honestly that, as an educator and a mother, she didn't find it necessary but also believed that it couldn't hurt. Joshua and I also talked to the director, who was so wonderful and friendly and genuinely concerned for all the children. I left the visit thinking that playschool might be a good choice, and Joshua left asking when he could go to school again.

This past Wednesday was the "lottery." Church members get first dibs, legacies get second dibs, and the rest of the riffraff--like me--participate in a lottery. We gathered in the church dining hall, wrote our names on slips of paper, and dropped them in a big box. The director pointed out three piles of paper sitting on the table in front of her. Yellow forms were for the Tuesday/Thursday two-year-old class (my first choice). Purple forms were for the Monday/Wednesday/Friday two-year-old class (my second choice). And green forms were for the Tuesday/Thursday three-and-four-year-old class (not even an option). The names slowly came out of the box and the yellow forms slowly disappeared. My heart sank. Then the purple forms disappeared. And I got mad. It didn't help that both kids were up all night the night before and I was operating on about three hours of sleep. And it didn't help that the woman sitting across from me, who had picked up one of the coveted yellow forms, hadn't even bothered to visit the school yet. In fact, after she registered, she went over to see the school for the first time!

The upside is that we're first on the waiting list. The director wasn't ready to promise anything, but most wait-list kids have gotten in in the past. Now we just wait for a phone call.

And the funny thing is that I still haven't completely decided to send him. I'm just a little chapped that the choice was taken away from me. Bah.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We Have Arrived!

Clare and I made it into the March issue of VIP Magazine. We have climbed as high on the social ladder as we will probably ever get. I can sleep tonight.

Here's the picture.

It was taken at the Mardi Gras Kid's Parade. Not the most elite social function the town has ever seen, but enough to get us in the magazine.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Movie Meme

I'm shamelessly stealing this from HP and inviting all of you to play along!

Pick ten of your favorite movies, go to IMDB and find a quote from each, post the quotes, and make people guess.

Here we go!

  1. "It's time to separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian."
  2. "Okay, I'm pretty sure this isn't what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Help Dean." Look, don't be too harsh. I'm not the first person to ever get the message screwed up. Looking at her, it's like life is too amazing to be this random and meaningless consequence of the universe. There had to be a God... or something out there. "
  3. "What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he?"
  4. "They outrageous, them rules. Who live in this cider house? Who grindin' up those apples, pressin' that cider, cleanin' up all this mess? Who just plain live here, just breathin' in that vinegar? Well, someone who don't live here made those rules. Those rules ain't for us. We are supposed to make our own rules. And we do. Every single day."
  5. "I know what it's like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can't. How you hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside."
  6. "I will not hurt or harm you. Just give me back the board, Lance. It was a good board - and I like it. You know how hard it is to find a board you like."
  7. "On the good days, I feel like I get it, like it all makes sense. I can stay in the moment, I don't have to control everything in the future, and I believe everything is gonna work out fine. On the bad days I just want to grab the phone and start dialing numbers. I want to pull my hair and run through the streets screaming. But thanks to the people I've met in these rooms, like Margaret and Jim and Sarah, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna make it through today."
  8. "Anti-wrinkle cream there may be, but anti-fat-bastard cream there is not."
  9. "Every day I come by your house and I pick you up. And we go out. We have a few drinks, and a few laughs, and it's great. But you know what the best part of my day is? For about ten seconds, from when I pull up to the curb and when I get to your door, cause I think, maybe I'll get up there and I'll knock on the door and you won't be there. No goodbye. No see you later. No nothing. You just left. I don't know much, but I know that."
  10. "I'm hearing horses! Parry will be so pleased!"
If you do this at your place, let me know! And if you can help us out over at HP's place, that would be super!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Purpose?

It's that time of year again. Time to send the letter to the bishop requesting another year of Family Leave. July will mark two full years of leave and, yes, I'll be asking for a third. As far as I can tell right now, I'll also be requesting a fourth and a fifth. Shoot, I might even request an extension when the time comes.

The decision for one of us to stay home with our children was a no-brainer for Jay and me. Both of our moms stayed home with us and we never even considered anything else. When Joshua was born and I was working a job that provided our housing and health insurance, Jay was the primary caregiver. When he was offered a job that allowed us to be close to my family, I quit my job and became the primary caregiver in our home.

The switch to one income has been a greater challenge than I think either of us anticipated. Even when Jay was in school we still made enough to splurge on dining out, fun vacations, and plenty of impulse buys. But the decision forgo some of the things we used to take for granted is as much of a no-brainer as the decision to keep one of us at home.

What never ceases to amaze is that some folks think that my decision to stay home is just a phase, something I'll get tired of soon enough. I think they fully expect me to run screaming from my home one day, begging for someone--anyone--to give me a job just so I'll have an excuse to get out of the house. The truth is that, during the several budget meetings between Jay and I when we've discussed whether or not I'm going to have to go back to work in order to make ends meet, I've been reduced to tears. Very little is more traumatizing to me right now than the thought of turning over the daily care of my children to someone else. So here I am, for as long as I need to be.

And if I needed any more motivation, my mom was good enough to send me a link to this article.

Thanks mom!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Clare eats food now. I'm sad.

Since November 3, 2007 I have been her sole source of nourishment. For exactly nine months I grew her inside me; and for six months, one week, and one day, I nursed her exclusively. She wouldn't even take a bottle.

And now she eats food.

We went to her six-month appointment and found out that she weighs 19.5 pounds, which doesn't even register on the growth charts. I knew she was a beast, but I didn't realize she was that big. The doctor, who nursed her last two children exclusively for an entire year, said she really had no opinion about whether I should start her on baby food. She obviously didn't need the calories, but I really felt like she was interested in the social aspect of eating.

I think I felt a particular kind of bond with her that I didn't feel with Joshua since he drank from a bottle. It just feels different to have been responsible for every single ounce that has nourished her from the moment she was conceived. I guess I'm just sad that my baby's growing up. I remember that I couldn't wait for Joshua to develop. I was completely intimidated by caring for him as an infant. I just wanted him to not be so needy already. Don't get me wrong, he's my heart and soul--it just took me awhile to adjust to being needed all the time.

Maybe it's because Clare might be our last that I'm sad. But she's going to grow up whether I'm ready for it or not.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The State of Things

I can't believe it's already been almost a week since the tornado. I'll pick up where I left off...

Wednesday morning brought the creation of the Union Emergency website, which has since morphed into the Union Recovery website. On Wednesday afternoon the website contained a phone number to call if you were a student needing temporary housing or a faculty/staff member willing to provide temporary housing. I called and was immediately connected to a junior nursing student. She and her freshman brother needed a place to stay. They're from Memphis, but wanted to hang around at least one more day to see if they could get on campus and find her car. By Wednesday night they had been made aware that her car was trashed, so they arranged for their mom to get them on Thursday morning.

They were wonderful guests. Jay picked them up and took them to Wal-Mart. The two Wal-Mart bags increased her possessions by about 60%--all she had made it out with was her backpack. We went to church for dinner and then came home so they could collapse. Their mom came on Thursday morning. It was obvious after meeting her where they got their "home training," as my 5th grade Social Studies teacher would call it.

We've since been asked on multiple occasions to house a student or two for the rest of the semester. As much as we would love to, our home is simply too small and our children simply too disruptive to make it work.

Things are progressing at an amazing speed at Union. They plan to have housing for the rest of the semester worked out by the end of tomorrow (one of the Baptist church in town owns a hotel and has given it for Union's use until December 2008, so that helps). The Assistant Provost has arranged a new class schedule that will allow graduation to take place on schedule. Dorms rooms are being cleaned out and students whose belongings are available for pickup are being contacted daily. Procedures were set up last week for students to get replacement IDs, driver's licenses, and FEMA assistance. As exhausted as Dr. Dockery is, I hope he still has the energy to pat himself on the back every night for surrounding himself with such unbelievably efficient and competent people. It's truly amazing.

And to answer Anna's question:

We didn't do much, to tell the truth. We opened the windows and turned on the news when we heard the tornado sirens, but that was about all. I sat on the couch with one foot out, ready to run at any second. We already knew that we'd each grab a kid and a mattress and hunker down in the bathroom. It was just a matter of deciding when. But there was never any indication that it was coming our way, so we just sat. Once we heard that Union had been hit we knew it was too far north to hit us. Everyone else I know sat in a closet with a weather radio, snacks, and toys. I guess we should've done that, too, but after living in Tennessee for so long I've become kind of oblivious to the warnings. I know that's not smart. Oh well.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More Updates

For obvious reasons it's been difficult for the university to provide up-to-date information about what's going on. By the time Jay got to campus last night, the students had already been moved twice and no one had any information about where they were or how to get to them. So it was just the four of us last night. We found out early this morning that one of the high schools near our house was being used as an emergency shelter, so Jay went there when we got up. The students were, again, gone. I'm not sure how they've managed to spirit away hundreds of students so frequently in such a short amount of time, but it's pretty impressive.

Anyway, campus is completely closed to traffic. It seems that they are conducing insurance assessments this morning and will begin cleanup tomorrow. At one point they said they were going to escort students to their rooms to claim belongings, and several minutes later said that no one was allowed on campus. I can't imagine how frustrating that must be for the students.

After Jay's outing this morning, we all piled in the car to join the Lookie-Lous that were driving slowly by the campus. I've never seen tornado damage's really wild to see how it obviously cut a clear path of destruction and left everything on either side of that path alone. It's heartbreaking to see those dorms and amazing that no one was killed.

According to the president, 40% of the dorms were destroyed and 40% were severely damaged. They're going to try to resume classes on February 18. I'll be really impressed if they can make that happen.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

All the Good Thoughts You Can Muster

I'm blogging about it because I'm not sure what else I can do.

A tornado hit Jay's campus tonight. A good portion of the dorms were destroyed. Eight students are currently trapped with crews trying to get them out. No fatalities or severe injuries so far, but another line of storms is on the way.

I'm trying to figure out who to call, how to help...The campus is closed to everyone but emergency crews so going there isn't an option. There's no way to get in touch with anyone in the area because the phone lines are down. I just want to say, "We have a warm, dry place and a hot meal for as many kids as you want to send," but there's no one to say it to!

So send good thoughts this way, please, for the students and for all the other folks who lost so much tonight.

Update: About 30 minutes after I posted this, the university president called into the local (rhymes with "yokel") television station and announced that faculty and staff were to come to campus and pick up students. Jay is there now and I'm frantically cleaning the house and preparing for an unknown number of cold, wet, and hungry students.

Other news is that there were no serious injuries on campus but there are several students still trapped inside a dorm. They are in constant contact with the crews working to free them. Classes are canceled until further notice. The university president reports that the damage is ten times worse than the damage sustained from a tornado in 2002, and estimates that the campus has sustained "millions and millions" of dollars worth of damage. Power is out indefinitely in the northern part of the county.

I still haven't been able to contact several friends who live in the area that sustained the most damage. Prayers, good thoughts, please.

Close Enough

Joshua has a new message for all the pre-readers out there:

"Q and U stick like blue."

Words to live by my friend, words to live by.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Decidedly Absent

That's me!

I'm working on a hah-YOOJ freelance editing job that's taking up nearly all of my spare time, and also getting ready to preach at chapel at Local Methodist University.

What I am not doing is blogging. But I'm still alive and still having fun. And I will return to blogging shortly, barring any other fabulously lucrative (ha ha) jobs that might come my way.