Friday, October 30, 2009

Holiday Rush

Today is the second day this week that Griffin has had to run for the bus with his his hands.  Except today he was dressed as Spiderman.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beautiful, Beautiful Blogland

I am a regular visitor to Blogland.  It's a beautiful place.  Almost like a fairytale at times, which only leaves me to conclude that...some blogs lie!  Well, at least I think they might stretch the truth a bit.  Or maybe they just don't include the bad stuff.  That is the only explanation I can come up with for what has happened around here these last couple of days. 

You see, sometimes as I peruse Blogland I see all kinds of neat things going on.  Fall traditions galore:  kids crafts, carmeled apples, pumpkin butter, and roasted pumpkin seeds just to name a few.  And then I start thinking (which is never a good thing) "I'm not doing anything special...Not a craft in sight...What kind of fall traditions do we have around here anyway???"  Then I start feeling (which is worse).  I feel bad for my kids and I feel a little/sorta like a bad mom, or at the very least not a very creative one, and I always thought--when I pictured myself as a mom--that I'd be the kind that would be creative and delightful.

I want to be creative and delightful.  I want fall traditions, especially the kind that are pictured in Blogland.  They look so fun and festive, and everyone is happy, and the pictures.  Oh, the pictures!  They're beautiful.  Creativity never looked so good or so clean.  Not a speck of spilled glue anywhere.  And the kids, all scrubbed and coifed in their JCrew sweaters, look angelically joyful.  See?  Right there.  That's the life I want.  And I was sure I could get it at Hobby Lobby. 

All I needed was an idea.  Then I remembered:  Somewhere during this last year I saw the most adorable halloween lanterns made from paper mache.  I had never done paper mache, but I was sure my kids would love it.  My craft, at last!  I gathered and bought the supplies, which in and of itself took far longer than I anticipated.  (After 8 years, I still forget how little I can get done with kids in tow.)  By the time I was finally ready to start the project, I was already behind in laundry and dinner wasn't started. Perhaps that should have signaled a warning bell in my head.  It did not.  My friends call me unrealistically optimistic.  It's a fitting description.  I plowed ahead.

The next day, Sunday, we had a rare afternoon with no meetings, choir practices, home teaching visits--nothing.  A perfect time to do a family craft!  And so it began.  Almost immediately there was paper mache everywhere.  I wanted to take a picture, but Mr. Wicke and I couldn't clean up fast enough.  Logan insisted on washing her hands after every strip, and Griffin was...well, Griffin was Griffin.  Dirty and messy and going a mile a minute.  Wait a second.  Blogland pictures don't include dripping paper mache and messy countertops.  What was I doing wrong? 

By the time we finally worked out a system, the kids were bored.  "Okay, we've done one.  Now can we go play?"  The kids in blogland never get bored.  Crafts out there are exciting and the kids finish every project with gusto.  In my house it was a little more like this:  "Hey.  We've got to get five of these done.  Now get back here."

Mr. Wicke and I spent the next two hours paper mache-ing together.  He loves being married to me.  It's fun.

Tonight it is three days later.  I'm still not finished.  Not with my schedule.  And in the little free time I do have, I'm so busy repairing, painting, and modgepodging paper mache lanterns that my house is a disaster.  I have yet to decorate for Halloween.  It's two days away.

Look, either there's something really wrong with me, or someone out there ain't tellin' the whole truth.  As much as I'd like my life to look like it stepped out of Martha Stewart magazine, that's just not my reality.  And I could feel really badly about  myself if I tried to live up to those glossy photos every minute.  Life is just messy, especially when you're busy living it, and that, I think, is okay. 

Just don't expect any pictures.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Brian Regan on Men Speak

This one struck me funny.  Sometimes, when Mr. Wicke and I can't seem to get on the same page communication wise, which happens pretty frequently, I look at him and say, "It's like you're trying to speak to me."  It's two different languages, people.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Female Thinking and the Nice Guy

Last night, between segments of Sports Center and when we got bored with the 50th repeat of the Yankees/Angels highlights, we flipped to Dateline.  Okay, I flipped to Dateline, and I didn't catch much, but what I did see was a woman who, after being married for 8 years to a man she thought was a retired rear admiral, not only found out he was none of the things he said he was, but was nearly killed by him with an ether soaked rag.  Wow. 

During the next flip, she related how she now thought that her car accident, fall down a flight of stairs, that glimpse of a gun in his briefcase, may all add up to attempts on her life.  Five attempts on her life to be exact.  Wowsy.

When we flipped back again, the interviewer said, "How did you feel when you got the news he had died?" 

And she said, "I cried."

"After all he had done to you, you cried when you heard he had died."

"Well, I loved him.  We had a lot of good times together.  It was like he was two different people.  There was the man that was good to me, that I loved, and there was the man that lied to me and tried to kill me."

Thomas and I gaped at each other.  Uhhhh...

I didn't watch the rest.  Sports Center was finally playing the football highlights, but Dateline is on loop in my brain, because sadly, I think that woman represents a lot of female thinking, albeit on a dramatically enlarged scale.  But if you boil it down, I bet we see this kind of thinking infect many relationships in a more subtle way.

For example:  A few years ago I was at my mom's house for a visit.  A number of us were playing cards late one night, and my niece, a freshman in college, was talking about her friend and her friend's on and off again boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant, deserted her, and was in and out of the picture.  I don't remember the details of the conversation, but I remember that she said, "I mean, he's a nice guy--"  I heard the brakes screech in my brain.

"No, he's not."  I interrupted none too politely.  "He is not a nice guy.  A guy who gets a girl pregnant, does nothing to help her, and deserts his child is NOT a nice guy.  Period."

Why do some women excuse bad behavior in the name of love?

The guy treats her badly around his friends, playing it cool, but "he's not that way when we're alone."  The guy lies to her, "but it was only that once."  The guy cheats on his wife/girlfriend, "but he'd never do that to me."  The guy is jealous and controlling, "but it's only because he loves me."

Somehow she seperates that bad behavior from everything she wants to see.  And she settles for potential rather than actuality.  She ignores all the red flags and hopes that it will be different later.  She wouldn't play those odds in Vegas, but she'll play them with her life. 

I want to tell every young girl this:  Please, let's not dishonor the real nice guys out there by ever using the phrase, "...but he's a nice guy" to excuse bad behavior.  Truly nice guys have it hard enough as it is.  They may not be exciting, and charasmatic, and king of the grand gesture, but they are good, and honest, and reliable.  They don't need to be divided and subdivided to make sense.  They don't keep you guessing.  They are straightforward and easy to read.  They are there when you need them.  Solid.  Good.  And nice.  Let's let them keep that title.  They actually deserve it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baby Wings

I have said a million times that I just want to enjoy this baby.  I just want to soak in every minute, especially since in all likelihood he will be my last.  So why is it that he is in such a rush?  Didn't someone tell him we're relishing this babyhood? 

I guess not.

Because yesterday he stood up.  It made me audibly gasp.  I've come to terms with him crawling like a maniac already, but when I saw him reach up, grab hold of his walker, hoist himself up, and stand on those chubby legs, I was shocked.  Doesn't he know he's only 7 1/2 months?  Trying not to distract him, I called to Mr. Wicke.  And you know what we did?

We clapped and oohed and aahed.  Yes, we did.

Because no matter how badly I want to slow things down, I'm always happy to watch my kids fly.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Facing Transition

Transitions.  They're hard.  I'm not good at them.  And I've been struggling lately.  A heavy hearted kind of struggling. 

We've decided, I think, that our family is complete.  I don't know about the complete part, but we think we are done trying to add to it.  Realistically, it's probably the right idea.  For a lot of reasons.  And all of those reasons make sense, but my heart--oh, my heart.  It's sad.

I had to switch out baby Lincoln's 3-6 month clothes for his 9-12 month clothes, and I couldn't get past that lump in my throat.  It threw me into a dark place.  A mourning spot.  I didn't finish.  I walked away from the piles of little onsies and sleepers and tiny socks and shoes, and left them there.  Maybe when I was stronger?  More ready?  Luckily, sweet Mr. Wicke silently took over, and when I came in a day later, it was done.  All packed away into a plastic bin.  The bin is still sitting there...staring at me.

Transitions.  Leaving one stage of life behind.  Completely.  I don't like it.

I turned 39 this week, which isn't so bad, but I feel my feet planted on the inevitable road to another trasition.  Another marker of no return.  The older I get the more I feel like life is just a wisp of smoke.  Visible for a moment and then swept away by the winds of something ever so much bigger.  How quickly it passes.

Perhaps that feeling has been made more tangible this week as I have sat in a hospital with a woman facing death.  As a double mastectomy turned to the overwhelming news of stage 4 cancer, I have sat with her, prayed with her, and cried with her, but I am helpless to make this transition easier.  My heart, it hurts.   

Transitions.  They're hard.  I'm not good at them, but I guess that wrestling with them is the only way through.  Then, maybe, when we poke our heads out the other side we'll find that we've transitioned to someplace surely different, but somplace just as good, maybe even better, with a new happiness waiting for us. 

I think that's what they call faith. 

And while I struggle, I'll keep one hand grasped on that hope.  It has to be enough to pull me through the darkness until I see the light again.      

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Dinosaur Party for Griffin

The party season has begun!  From October 1st through Christmas we are very busy here at The Tea Party Place.  Griffin's birthday is the kick off, followed by my own, then Halloween, then Logan's birthday, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas.  Whew! I'm tired just thinking about it, so I try not to.  "Just one party at a time," that's my motto.

This one was a huge success.  The kids loved making their own dinosaur fossils out of salt dough and the archeological dig in the park for "dinosaur bones" was a blast.  Luckily for me they were selling a bag of bones at the halloween store.  Once I got Griffin to stop telling everyone I was burying "people bones" we were just fine.

Making Fossils

Party Hats

Digging for Dinosaur Bones

Now it's on to planning a Clue party for Logan. Since she loves mysteries--particularly Nancy Drew--I had the bright idea of basing the party off of the Clue board game. She's I just have to figure out how to do it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Christmas Shopping

It's that time of year again.  You know.  The one where moms begin to say, "I'm going to be done with my Christmas shopping by the end of November." 

I want so badly to be done by the end of November...I won't be done by the end of November...because I never am...but I want to be.

I also want to buy things that are unusual, or unique, or beautiful, or extraordinary.  Maybe something handmade and especially meaningful.  That means I've got to get started!  And I may need some inspiration.

So I think we ought to start sharing ideas, y'all.  If you have a great gift idea would you let me know?  I'd love to hear it.

This is what I ordered from Etsy last night:

These are coming for baby Lincoln.  You can see them here, and while you're there you should check out all of their other really cool stuff.  I love the jumping grasshopper.  Delightful!

I also ordered the patterns for these:

You know I hate to sew, and originally I thought I was buying the already made set; when I found out I was just buying a pattern, I still couldn't pass then up.  My kids will love telling the stories over and over. (If I get them finished, that is.  Cross the fingers for me, will ya'?)  If you're into sewing, or if you're like me and you will do it even though you hate it, you should check out this seller's inventory.  She has some amazing things.

And I haven't ordered one of these yet, but I'm really loving them.

Isn't that darling?  A brooch made from vintage zippers.  Clever!  I think I need one.  (Merry Christmas to me?)  The only problem will be choosing; they sell them in every color and design imaginable, and I love them all.  A lot.

Have you ever noticed that when you spend time shopping you find a lot of things out there that you didn't know you needed?  ...that's probably why I'm never done at the end of November. 

(Don't forget.  Show me some love and give me your great gift ideas!!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Overheard in Our House Today

Griffin (talking to our dog Roxy):  Hey, Roxy!  I'm six today!

Birthday cake #1

Happy birthday, Griffin!  Let the fun begin!

p.s. Just to be sure, we're not going miniature golfing.  Remember that one?  Oh the horror!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Arise and Walk

The other afternoon I decided Master Wicke and I needed a little time out of doors.  It was an hour before we usually meet the kids off the bus and he was fussy, so I loaded him in his stroller.  Since I had a little something that I needed to drop off to a woman in the neighborhood anyway, and it was such  a lovely day (they have finally arrived here in the southwest) I thought we'd just make a little adventure out of it.

On our little jaunt, it wasn't long before I bumped into a friend who was unloading groceries from her car.  Stopping to chat I heard her husband say, "Laurel!  What are you doing out of the house?  I don't think I've ever seen you exercise before!"

Now, I'm not sure you could call what I was doing exercise.  I was wearing a skirt and flipflops after all, which is what I was explaining to him when he said, "It's just your mode of transportation.  It's so unusual for you."

He likes to tease me, and I probably wouldn't have thought much of it if, on my way home, I hadn't run into another friend's husband in his front yard.

"Laurel!  What are you doing outside?!"

...Oh, brother.  I think I may need to get out more.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Discovery and Recovery

I mulled over that post about my dad a lot this last week.  It was all true.  But it wasn't complete.  Certainly there is the darkness that is the loss of him, but at the same time--even as it was happening--there are and were discoveries of hope, of light, and of love.  Without those the story is only half told. 

Death of a loved one is life at it's most dramatic.  For me, facing mortality had an incredibly clarifying effect.  In those moments when I had to look death in the eye and reliquish our beloved father, every peripheral, unimportant element of my life slipped away.  Things that I thought were important, things that I thought I wanted, suddenly weren't.  What I did for a living, the size of my home, the style of my car, who knows my name and who doesn't  just...didn't...matter.  What was left after the blazing heat of grief was the crystalized understanding that few things follow us into the life hereafter.  Love, faith, and the time spent with both are about all we get to take with us.

I was rehearsing the lead for a play in San Diego when I got the call that my dad was in a coma.  It was because of those rehearsals that I missed our last family gathering and my dad's 70th birthday.  I regret that.  I don't think it's coincidental that I haven't done much auditioning since.  I still love the theater, but it is not the pivot around which my life revolves.  I'd rather be with my kids.  I'd rather have the freedom to make the reunions and birthday parties.  I don't want that gypsy lifestyle.  I want roots and deep friendships.  They require time, and Daddy's passing taught me that time is a limited commodity, there's never as much of it as we would like to think, and I need to be thoughtful about how I spend it.

When I got the second call 24 hours later reporting that Dad's condition had not improved as they had hoped, that things looked darkly inevitable, my husband was 90 miles away.  Or rather, I was away from him, but I needed him.  Immediately.  Thomas told me long ago that I'm a girl that needs a wide berth.  That I don't like being held too tightly, and I suppose that's true, but when things fell apart for me, when I was confused, heartbroken, and lost, I needed him to cling to.  What a felicitous discovery to find that the one person I chose to spend my life with is truly the one person whom I need.  And because I needed him, he flew to my side and held me together. That is a moment that cemented and sanctified our marriage.  My rock.

The plane ride home was miserable.  There were still a lot of unknowns at the time, but words like "brain-damage" and "vegetative state" were being thrown around.  I felt undone in a way that I had never experienced before.  Someone from the family, I didn't know whom exactly, was going to pick me up from the airport, and I worried that I would fall apart when I saw them.  That when I saw their identical broken heart,  my own, which I was barely holding together, would tumble out in gasping shards.  I came down the escalator to find two of my older brothers waiting for me.  As I met their eyes, in that very moment I had dreaded, I was surprisingly lifted up.  I felt stronger, more understood, more myself with them at my side.  This blessing of family that I had always appreciated held new significance.  It was now a necessity.  It was my safe harbor, and it would see me home.

At some point in the days spent in the hospital, it became clear that my father was not going to return to us.  The he that he had been was already gone.  Then we had the awful decision to make regarding life support.  Mom and the seven of us, her children, sought out a quiet room, and we knelt in prayer, each of us taking a turn to pour out our hearts aloud to God, to seek His will.  It was a significant moment for me--for all of us--and when we were done, we knew what we had to do.  However, His peace had settled on our hearts and we were unified in spirit.  Never before had faith meant so much to me.  Perhaps it is only in the darkness that we can clearly perceive its brilliancy.  Without its guiding light, I do not know how I would have found my way through the grief and come out on the other side intact.  But I did.  Not only did I come out intact, I think I came out better than when I went in.

Death is the great unknown, but I agree with the author who said it is like a ship passing beyond the horizon simply out of our sight.  Somewhere I'm out on that wide ocean myself, captaining my own little skiff.  My father's life charted my course in childhood, but it was his death that pointed me in the right direction in adulthood.  In the loss, I more fully discovered who I want to be and where I want to go.  Discovering the light in the darkness is not just the rest of the story, it is the only thing that gives the story any meaning at all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Olfaction & My Leave of Absence

I didn't mean to leave, especially on that sad note, but Logan got sick, and then Griffin got the flu, and when I wasn't taking care of them, I was smelling Lincoln's hair.  I love his hair.  It's so soft and downy, and I love rubbing my face in it, and then it smells so good that I have to start all over.  It's a compulsion I can live with. 

But what I haven't been able to do is clean up vomit, do loads of laundry, sniff baby heads AND blog all at the same time.  Something had to give, and you can be sure it would not be the baby sniffing.  I only have a few months of that left.

I think falling in love with my children involves every sense, but especially strong for me is that of smell.  I remember going into Logan's room at night when she was a toddler just to watch her sleep.  I had waited so long for a baby that I was just thirsty for her.  I drank her in with my eyes, those chubby legs, rosy pink cheeks, and all of that curly blonde hair.  Then I'd crawl in bed beside her and bury my face in her neck, just to breathe her in.  People, in general, are not a great-smelling lot all on their own; something about babies, however, is altogether different.

I remember Griffin sometimes smelled like cinnamon.  He really did.  He has been my only baby that would let me snuggle him, and so I did, a lot.  Could I help it if some sniffing was involved?  He smelled a little like cinnamon.  He doesn't now.  Now he smells like a 6 year old boy/puppy.  That new baby smell does not last forever, that's for sure.

That's why baby sniffing is a top priority right now, and on little Lincoln I catch a wisp of cedar every now and again.  I swear, I do.  But that might be the love talking.  I'll sniff him again tomorrow and get back to you.