Saturday, March 17, 2007

Luck is in the Eye of the Beholder

I'm not sure if it's because I'm half Irish (give or take a few fractions), or if it's because because I always see the bright side of life (my sister can stop laughing now!), but I feel I've lived a fairly lucky life so far. I have a good husband, three great kids, and all the necessities such as food, clothing and shelter. What more could I ask for?
Well, there's world peace, there's for people to take global warming seriously, how 'bout my husband not to go back to war again....
But that has nothing to do with being Irish. When I was little, I always wished I had red hair so that I could be a "real" Irish person. Not really knowing that people from Ireland have all colors of hair and all different eye colors. I assumed they were all redheads with bright green eyes. I had dumb old pond water hazel eyes. Not bright green like the rolling hills of the motherland. So when I was about 16, I told my mom I was dying my hair red. She never let me be too adventurous with my hair in the past, so I was surprised when she said, Okay, and helped me pick out a nice shade. Which wasn't actually very nice. I think it turned my blond hair a nice shade of orange. Orange hair and hazel eyes, yep, very Irish! For a Leprechaun!
My Irish family clan name is Riley. When I was little my mom told me a story about when they came over on "the boat". She said that when they were in Ireland, their name was O'Riley, but to make themselves more Amercian sounding, like many Irish families did, they dropped the "O". However, when the ship landed here in the US, the "O" was waiting for them on the beach.
It sounded cooler when I was little. Anyway, every year my mom's family marches in the St. Patrick's Day parade in our hometown of Madison, WI. They represent the Riley clan. Usually the kids and I are with them, but this year it was too far of a drive.
Here's pictures from last year, though:

{Drew and Louisa marching in the parade. They also got to throw out candy, but this was the end of the parade and the candy was long gone!}

{My nephew Andrew got to push Hunter and carry the Riley/Manson family sign.}

{My mom with the kids after the parade all decked out in their green duds. After the parade we would go inside the state capital building. The parade goes around the capital square. It was a nice place to warm up before we headed home.}

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Picture time again!

Partly because I just unloaded my camera, and partly because Hunter has some new kicks to show off, it's picture time again!

This morning when we woke up it was thunder storming outside and the sky was pitch black. Drew crawled in bed with me for a few minutes and we listened to the rain hitting the roof and windows. It was nice to take a minute, just me and him, and be a part of nature.

After lunch it had stopped raining, so Hunter and I took a walk down two blocks to the mail box to mail some letters. He had on his new Sponge Bob crocs and was jumping in all the puddles. We stopped to look at a tree that had blossomed. We barked back at all the dogs that barked at us. We picked up sticks and pine cones. We enjoyed nature.

If the kids remember anything about growing up with me as their mom, I hope that's it. I hope they remember all the times we just paused and looked around us, marveling in all that God has created. That's one of the biggest memories I have of my mom growing up. All the walks we took, her letting me get as messy as I wanted, and letting me pick up any "treasure" that caught my eye.

Keeping in the spirit of nature, here's some pics of the kids playing outdoors:

{Here's Hunter playing in the backyard the other day. Notice his new shoes? This is new shoe pair number one. His camouflage crocs. They are the littlest cutest things! He's picking clover, but don't worry, there's plenty more for the bunnies!}

{This was on our walk today. New shoe pair number two. His Sponge Bob crocs. One kept falling off. He thought that was pretty funny. Here we had to stop and pick these little yellow flowers growing in the grass.}

{Drew playing in our little house in the backyard. The kids love to play in it. I bought it in the fall last year for really cheap. It doesn't hold together very well, though, because I lost the screws! So sometimes it becomes a puzzle!}

{Louisa is getting more and more gorgeous by the day! Her bright sunshiny face is one of the best gifts I have. She is so great at helping me take care of the boys. I'm very blessed to have her.}

{Here's Flash, all tuckered out after playing chase with the kids.}

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Things it took me 29 years to learn, and things I still have to learn

Here's a list of things it took me 29 years to learn:
~saying I'm sorry fixes most situations
~rinsing off the dishes right after dinner saves me a lot of work later
~having the kids help me with chores isn't a bad thing
~laughing at myself makes life more bearable
~being grateful as often as I can is healthy
~giving without expecting anything makes my life fuller
~good friends are real- they do exsist!
~family is family no matter the distance
~distance makes the heart grow more fonder than I ever wanted to know
~vacuuming the house does not cause an allergic reaction
~neither does washing windows
~they both, in fact, burn off calories
~that I later put back on while eating cookies and milk
~it's ok to eat what I want, like cookies and milk
~God forgives us, but we have to ask and actually be sorry
~there is no sin we can hide from God (thanks Bible Babes!)
~the kids grow faster than anticipated and I can't stop it
~use time with the kids wisely, play games, read books, be silly

Things I Still Have to Learn:
~not everyone is like me
~not everyone WILL like me
~people can change, but most probably won't
~folding clothes does not cause an allergic reaction
~even smart children can do dumb things
~smart adults WILL do dumb things
~children can't read our minds
~husbands can't read our minds
~the trash doesn't take itself out
~the dog can't walk himself
~the cats are always going to be lazy
~I don't always get to be lazy
~I am not a cat
~I can walk the dog to be less lazy
~cats do not like going for walks

Monday, March 12, 2007

The story of Louisa

This is another one of those, Louisa-doesn't-know-I'm-listening, things. She was outside talking with the neighbor girl, who lives in the other half of our duplex, the other day and I was sitting here on the computer. Apparently the girl's dad, isn't her dad. The guy she lives with is her step-dad. I feel bad for her because her mom is deployed to Iraq and won't be home until September. The step-dad seems nice enough. He's always smiling and playing around with the kids. And I don't hear him yelling, but I know he hears me yell all the time.
I can hear the girls talking through the patio door. They were sitting on the big plastic castle we have out back and I heard Louisa ask her friend, "Do you know your real dad?" The girl said no she didn't.
Louisa then replied, "I don't know mine either." She went on to say that she thinks his name is Lou or something and she's only seen him once. That's kinda funny. Up until she was two I tried to force her "real" dad to be a part of her life. I fought with him constantly about how he needed to stand up and be her father. I heard things like, "I didn't choose to have this child, you did!" and "Just because your life is all about being a mom, doesn't mean I have to put my life on hold to be a dad". Oh, and I can never forget the time he told me that he left me because I was such a nag and that he found someone else who not only doesn't ever nag him, but she waits on him hand and foot and if I wanted to wait on him more, maybe he'd take me back. Keep in mind that she was 17 and he was 21.
Anyway, when husband came along Louisa had just turned two. Things progressed so quickly with husband and I that I no longer saw the need to fight with Louisa's bio-father every day to force him to be the dad he was never going to be. I didn't need to be put in those hurtful situations any longer.
On August 1, 2000, Louisa and I moved to Savannah, Georgia to be with husband. We were a real family and Louisa soon had him wrapped around her finger. He was young. Younger than her bio-father, but he was responsible. He married this chick with a kid and didn't think twice about it. He knew Louisa and I were a package deal and he was excited. He told me one day, after we'd been married several months, that he never knew how great it was to have someone waiting at home for him. He was excited every day to get off of work and come home to us.
We lived in Savannah for two and a half years. Not once did Louisa's bio-father write, call, send cards, or attempt any contact what so ever. But when we came home for breaks and vacations, we were expected to bring her by to see him. Mostly I brought her over to see his mom. She wrote, she sent packages and presents and money. She kept in contact with her granddaughter. Oh, he still payed child support, but that was court ordered.
When we moved back to Wisconsin in January 2003, I got the news that he was getting married. Good, marry him off, let him have some kids of his own so that I can get Louisa away from him. There was a big fuss made about Louisa being a flower girl in his wedding. A flower girl??!!! In some guys wedding that she didn't even know, who was marrying a woman who would become her step-mom that she never met??!! That's ludicrous!

I said she could go only because her grandma was moving back to Puerto Rico that week and it would be the only time they could see eachother before she left, but no flower girl. When she got to the wedding, the bride's mom and aunt kept insisting Louisa be the flower girl and Louisa kept telling them no. So they gave her a basket and asked her to just toss some flowers from her seat. I didn't even make her toss flowers for me at my wedding! I think that's weird!

Now that bio-daddy was married, he thought he'd try this father thing again. Husband was very patient and nice about it, although I know it was hard for him. She was his little girl, and now he had to share her with some guy who chooses to pop in and out of her life and send measly child support checks eventhough we know he's making more than he claims to the courts.

We agreed on one weekend a month, but he would have to call to let us know which weekend. The first month I completely hyperventilated all the way to his apartment. Husband drove us there and I cried and couldn't breathe and looked at my two sweet children in the backseat thinking about how much I screwed up everyone's lives all because I had once tried to force this guy to be a part of his daughter's life. How could this guy all of a sudden decide he wants to be a father now? She's 5 years old! Where was he before? Why does the father get to make this choice? Don't the courts know how volatile this can be to a child's life? They say a child needs a father and a mother and that it should be the bio- father and mother. This guy broke my little girl's heart time and time again. Over and over he disappointed her, made her cry, and made her wonder why there was someone out there who didn't love her. And a court tells me that she needs this guy in her life?

May 2003 came and went and we never heard from him again. Halleluia, my prayers were answered!

August 2004 we went to see a lawyer. We asked what it would take to let husband adopt Louisa. We wanted this legal and we wanted it now. We hadn't heard from her bio-father in a year and three months. But, he was still sending child support. The lawyer said, Hey, no problem! Child support means nothing, as long as we can prove he's had no contact with her in over a year it's called abandonment and the family circuit court judge hates abandonment. He'll award husband full adoption rights and we'll be a legal family. We had to go to court once so that the bio-father could have his say in court or try to keep his rights or whatever. Just as predicted, he didn't show.

November 1, 2004, husband's sister Tabitha died. How could we celebrate the upcoming adoption now? The whole family was excited, we were going to have a party and everyone was invited.... now what?

November 12, 2004, Louisa was officially adopted by her daddy. Having children and getting married, all wonderful days in your life, but I cannot describe how wonderful it felt knowing that my husband had all 100% official legal rights to our little girl! If anything ever happens to me, I can die resting peacefully knowing that she will be taken care of by her real daddy. I lived in such fear for the 7 years before that. Fear that "that man" would some day take her away, fear that if I died he would get custody and take her away from her daddy and her brother.

After the recent tragedy, husband's parents told us what a blessing it was to have Louisa officially in the family and take their last name. The adoption helped them focus on other things, if at least for a little while.

Fast forward to today. Well, the other day. The girls were talking and the neighbor girl said no, she's never met her real dad and she doesn't know much about him. Lousia talked about her adoption and how she was so happy that her daddy chose her. I make that a point with her. We don't get to pick our children, they are born to us and we live with them. Louisa's daddy did get to pick her. As Montgomery Gentry would say, "That's something to be proud of!"

Louisa has no real memory of her bio-father. She thinks she was an immaculate conception of sorts. If I had married husband and made her with him, explaining the facts of life would be much easier to do with her. But I can't figure out how to tell her that I once had sex with some guy who didn't love me and we made a baby. Some guy who, two weeks before I found out I was pregnant decided that a 17 year old cheerleader in high school was more his style, then later claims he dumped me because he knew I was pregnant.

Louisa has since kept in contact with her grandma who is living happily in a mansion in Puerto Rico, and her aunt who is living happily with her "best friend". I love for Louisa to have a connection to them, as long as it's a positive connection.

I find it interesting, though, that she knows his name. I never say it. If I ever refer to him, which I don't, it's either "that guy" or "asshole". I also find it interesting that she only has one memory of him. I don't know what it is. I haven't asked her. I hope it's a good one, though. I don't want her to know what he was really like. Most people have no idea what he was really like. He was a cool, smooth talker who could get what he wanted from who he wanted. He made anyone believe any story he laid out.

He was the the snake who tempted Eve to taste the apple.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tag, I'm It! A Meme that Everyone with Children Should Read and Consider

The Rural Writer tagged me for a meme. I was a meme virgin. I had to email her to ask her what that was. I am so glad that I am no longer a meme virgin.
However, this meme has a serious tone to it. Online pornography is so easily accessible by children, that something should be done. Get rid of all online porn? No way! What would I have to do on all those long lonely nights when husband is deployed?! (seriously, I've never even visited an online porn site. I've never even been in a porn store! I'm somewhat of a porn virgin as well.)

PowerBlogger has a great solution to the question of how to keep so many kids away from this really accessible online porn:
"Please require a password-protected login before allowing even free access to explicit adult content. We understand that selling porn is your business and we respect your right to make a legal living. But understand our legitimate concerns and work with us. You already have the “warning adult content” on your websites. Yet kids, who are not legal customers of your product, ignore the warning. So to prevent them from having direct access to explicit images, texts and sounds, the simplest way is to have a password-protected login. No more “free tours” before a visitor supplies basic information."

How can I help? you ask? PowerBlogger simply suggests that we copy and paste the previous statement and post it to all "adult site" webmasters. We're not asking to get rid of all the porn sites. That would be impossible and since money rules our world, it would just never happen. Too much money in the porn industry. But just make the porn less accessible to children. That shouldn't be too much to ask for.
If you agree with me and Power Blogger, read An Open Letter to Bloggers Around the World: Help Make the Web Safer for Children and consider helping out.

Oh, and I tag Me and Me Only, and Jonathon's Closet to repost this in their own meme.

(wow, I don't think I've said the word "porn" that many times in years! )

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I've come a long way

I have reached that point in my marriage where I can look at myself and say, Wow! I've come a long way! I have had an epiphany of sorts. It's still funny to me that I'm even married in the first place. I used to tell people I was never getting married. I mean, really, who needs a guy hanging around them ALL the time? I liked the fact that I had many guys to hang around me whenever I wanted. I got to have company or be alone as I chose. But now there's this guy here all the time and he never goes away!
I guess I kinda like that. I like that he's here when I need someone. I like that my best friend is right here in my house so I can be silly, or grumpy, or talk-a-tive and he still likes me. We've come to a point where things are easy. We work out our problems easily, we handle the kids easily... well, most of the time! And we talk easily.
It hasn't always been like this, though. I was thinking the other day about how much we used to struggle with each other. I fought him tooth and nail on everything when we first got married. I wanted things done my way, yet I don't have a very neat and tidy and organized way. My way is kinda like the messy, quick, get-it-done way. He has more order to his way. So my way wasn't better, I just wanted fight about it. I spent a lot of time making up things to fight about. Not sure why, or even where it came from. My parents had their fair share of fights, but it was usually over something plausible like money.
Through the past six and a half years I've learned to let a lot go. When we were first married, if he wanted to go out with the guys I'd throw a fit. I'd yell and scream and cry and he'd end up staying home. Or, if he went, I wouldn't speak to him and he'd have to work extra hard to get me to be happy again. That type of marriage is doomed to fail, and I knew I had to change.
Now I've learned to compromise. Let him go out for his poker nights and then I get more of what I want. If I do the give and take thing, our marriage works much better and both of us are happier. I don't really need girls time, and most of my "girls" are in the computer anyway! I can go out to lunch with friends, bring Hunter, and still have fun and get that release. But I can't drink, and I don't like partying much, so a girls night on the town type of thing doesn't appeal to me.
So recently I was thinking about how far we've come, or more importantly, how far I've come. A good marriage is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but it's worth it. Husband is a good friend who I can talk to about anything.
Now, in the next six years I hope to be able to get this cleaning thing down!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Well, it's official...

Louisa's gifted! Ok, we already knew that, but now it's official.
In Louisiana gifted classes are considered "special ed", so Louisa had to go through a series of testing before she could be admitted. Back in Wisconsin it seemed like every kid was gifted. There was no testing. If your teacher and the G&T teacher thought you were gifted, well then, you must be. So I like that she's been tested at a state level so that we know for sure and not just because some teacher thinks so.
It's not that I don't trust the teachers' experience when dealing with gifted children, but I like that solid proof that this series of tests gives us. I was upset at first that she would have to even take a test. I thought, Just sit and listen to her talk and you can tell she's gifted!
The first order of business on our Gifted Class schedule is a field trip. A really expensive field trip. The kids get to go to Houston for the day. Houston is about 3 hours away, so they will leave at 6:30 am. They get to go to the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences. She's very excited, but not too excited about getting up that early. And the trip will cost us $30! So I'm not too excited about the price.
So for now, my little gifted girl who has wizzed through 5 Harry Potter books faster than I can say Wingardium Leviosa will just keep trucking on with her loads of homework and her good spirited attitude.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Drew's first birthday party

Drew went to his first birthday party yesterday. His first non-family party, anyway. There isn't much to do here for birthdays, so they went to the bowling alley. There's bowling, roller skating, swimming at the pool, going to the Burger King playland, or having the party at your house. For kindergarteners bowling seems like the best choice.
While Louisa and I were waiting for Drew, we bowled three games and ate nachos, corn dogs and soda. It was good connecting time for us. We don't get that often. Hunter sat in his stroller and cheered us on!
Drew was the only boy at a princess party with all girls. The whole class was invited, but maybe the princess crown invitation turned off the boys in the class. I'm glad he went, though. At home, Drew is used to being the center of attention. He's the "class clown" so to speak. He is always the loudest and the funniest. Louisa spends a lot of time stepping aside for him. Drew needed this birthday party as a learning experience; that he can't always be the center of attention. Sometimes other kids get to be more important. It was hard for him. I kept watching him interract with the other kids. He was trying to be funny and silly to get their attention. The other kids wanted to crowd around the birthday girl, so they weren't paying as much attention to him as they might in school. Drew caught on pretty quick, though. He realized that his ticket to popularity yesterday would lie with getting the attention of the birthday girl.
After awhile he was stuck to her side. He would help her or tell her a joke or sit next to her. When she opened his present he was right next to her telling her what it was and how to play with it.
Now he's talking about his own birthday party, and who he's going to invite and what cake to have and what goodies to give out and what to play and what decorations to have and... and.... and..... His party isn't until May, but I'm sure it will be thoroughly planned by then. And then he'll have his day to be the center of attention among his friends.

Friday, March 02, 2007

In Like a Lion

Wow did March come in like a lion or what? Horrible thunderstorms, deadly tornadoes, more snowstorms for the north....
Louisa had a "Lion" day yesterday, too. We found out she has decay on three of her teeth underneath some fillings. She'll have to go back and have the fillings removed and get her teeth fixed. Luckily they are all baby teeth, so eventually they will fall out. They need to be fixed, though, because the decay on two of the teeth is getting too close to the nerve. And one of her teeth actually needs a crown on it.
I blame my dad.
Or maybe even my grandad.
Either way, this is all the fault of genetics.
We did have a great day playing hooky yesterday, though. The dentist office was a lot of fun. The staff really enjoyed working there and it showed. Lots of bright smiling faces to help calm the nerves of anxious kids. My kids love going to the dentist. They have never been afraid, but I'm glad for such a caring dental office for those kids who are afraid. Even Hunter had fun. He got lots of attention from all those cute female dental hygienists.
When it came time for the dentist to come talk to me about Louisa's teeth, he did a good job of calming our fears and helping us to understand that this isn't serious. She will be given a local anesthetic only and she'll know everything they are doing. He was one of those southern good ole boys. Very happy and jolly and hospitable. I know he'll take good care of her.
After the dentist we went to IHOP for lunch. The kids ate big gooey smiley face pancakes and I had a delicious spinach salad with crispy chicken, bacon, tomatoes and honey mustard dressing.
We had to make a stop at the fabric store to pick out some fleece to make blankets for a few friends who need some extra love. The kids picked out fleece for blankets for themselves, too. There went all my birthday money! Oh well. I can never think of anything to buy myself anyway.
So now I have to go sort through all the Girl Scout cookies I picked up last night. (While I sample a few!)