Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ahh... Summertime!

Whether summertime makes you think of watermelon, beaches, or bbq chicken, down here in Loosiana, it's officially here! And it's hot. And muggy. And the bugs are out in full force. And did I mention... HOT?!

Today was Louisa's last day of school. She flew through the year with straight A's and is now a 5th grader! I'm one proud little mama!

Drew is going to do some more lessons throughout the summer. We will do a fun "summer school" sort of program. Mid-afternoon here is too hot to play outside anyway. Most kids go in around noon and come back out after dinner. We can use that time constructively. Hopefully.

There is a school that is not in our school district that I'm going to try and get the kids in next year. I can't in good conscience send them to the schools they're actually slated to attend. Neither one would get the schooling they deserve. It's difficult living in a state where the school system is so far below any standard you're used to. One of the downfalls of being a military family and moving around so much, especially if you can't afford private schools and the kids don't respond to homeschooling. People don't understand what the schools are like here. They don't believe the stories I tell about the understaffed, underfunded schools my kids have to attend. So, we're praying that we get the kids in the school we are applying for.

Back to summer! I'm off to eat my corn on the cob that I grilled... all by myself! Because yes, I grill a mean burger, without the help of a husband :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

That's Mrs. Head-Playgroup-Organizer to you!

Yes, I'm officially the new playgroup Organizer. And for my first act of duty I'll panic, bother the old organizer relentlessly, and chew my fingernails in worry! I'm slowly realizing I may not be cut out for this. Okay, quickly realizing. It sounded like a fun idea until I actually took over... less than a week ago.

We have our own website that can be found here. If you are thinking of starting a group that needs a calendar to post it's activities, is great. We have our calendar, and when you add a meet-up to it, an email gets sent to all the members letting them know there's a new meet-up added. They can go to the calendar and RSVP yes, no, or maybe. That way we know how many to expect. And some meet-ups, like ones in our homes, have a set limit. With the calendar, and the RSVP's, we can set it to a maximum of 6 or 8, and then the RSVP's turn off as soon as it fills up. Nice, huh?! There's also a message board that we keep pretty hoppin'!

Now here's where my problem comes in. Summer is typically slower (although this is only the 2nd summer this particular playgroup has been in business). A lot of the husbands/daddies here have summer leave, wives/moms who's husbands are deployed go home for the summer, and it's just too darn hot down here to meet at the park all the time like we do in the fall and the spring. But it seems to me that it's all personal. I feel like everyone is saying "Oh great, SHE'S taking over! I'm not going to go to meet-ups anymore!"

Yes, that's silly! People wouldn't actually do that.... would they?

Why does it always feel personal when everyone drops out of activities as soon as I take over? This really is a reoccurring thing for me. And I take everything personal as it is.

So I email the former organizer, yet again, asking her if I'm doing everything okay, and why did everyone drop out of the past two meet-ups when people are usually so excited to go to them, and why isn't anyone RSVPing "yes" for the new meet-ups I put on the calendar? And did she worry this much when she took over? She told me she stressed a lot in the beginning, too. She worried that there wasn't enough on the calendar, that people weren't happy, that people complained all the meet-ups were full all the time... but she realized after awhile that she wasn't ever going to make everyone happy. She settled for making some of the people happy some of the time.

So I'm not crazy! That's good to know.

And it's okay if I don't have 25 people signed up for my Father's Day craft. I have 8, and that's good, and that's 8 Daddy's who will get cute little handprints of their kiddos, and that's all I need to do!

This won't be the last you hear of my playgroup woes, I'm sure! I have a long road ahead of me. I'm excited, though! I've never been in charge of anything big like this before. I'm always the one helping out in the background.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bragging 'Bout My Weezie

Weezie, Sheesha, Baby Girl, Sweetpea... she's got many names in our house, and every day she makes me a proud Mama! Sure she's got a sassy mouth and likes to argue and always has to have the last word. And true she bosses her brothers around and acts more like a mommy than I do sometimes, but I also know that she'll be able to stand up for herself when she needs to, and that she can take charge of any situation.

All year long I've been getting notes from her teachers about how they are so impressed with her maturity, leadership, creativity, and so on. And every time I nod and say, Yep, that's my Girl!

Whenever she brings home a report card I tease her and say "You know it's ok to get a B once in awhile!" but at the end of the year when she gets honored for her straight A's I see how important it is to her that she didn't get any B's. (I, on the other hand, was the queen of B's. And C's for that matter!)

Yesterday the boys and I went to an awards ceremony for our Sheesha (as Hunter calls her). We sat a little too far back so I didn't get any good pictures of her receiving her many awards, but that doesn't matter. The look on her face every time they called her name is what matters. The realization of just how hard she worked all year is what matters.

It was an hour long ceremony and I was surprised with how well Hunter was sitting through it. He had a few books to look at, and he enjoyed clapping for everyone. After awhile he decided it was time to go visit Sheesha. He ran over to where she was sitting and sat on her lap. She loves that she has a little brother who looks up to her so much, and he loves that he has a big sister who pays so much attention to him.

She got called for an award, so he sat on her chair until she got back. Then he decided it was time to go see what everyone was walking up on stage for. He ran up to the front and stood by the asst. principal. The AP looked at Hunter and smiled, then he grabbed a program that was sitting near him and handed it to Hunter. Hunter, thinking he'd won an award too, turned to face his audience. He smiled and everyone clapped for him! Most kids would be embarrassed if their little sibling did that. Not Louisa! She clapped for him, too!

There was a very tearful moment when Louisa's gifted & talented teacher was handing out Math Olympiad awards (of which I didn't even know Louisa participated! ha!) At the end the teacher paused and said she had one last special award to give someone who was very dear to her. She got teary and said that she's had a hard year, as most people know. Her grandson spent the past year in St. Judes being treated for leukemia, and the school did a tremendous amount of fundraising for the family and St. Jude. She wanted to give a special award to someone who worked hard and earned the most money in the St. Jude Math-a-Thon. I got very teary and tried hard not to cry. This G&T teacher is amazing and she will be one of those teachers Louisa looks back on someday, knowing what a big impact the teacher made on her life. Louisa volunteered a lot of her time helping the G&T teacher with the younger classes and I know they grew a strong bond. So Louisa walked up to receive her award and I wanted a picture but I was too far away and I was trying hard not to cry. The teacher hugged her and was saying something to her and the award is so cute!

Her other awards include: "A" Honor Roll (all year), President's Award for Educational Excellence, Math Olympiad (although she didn't "place" at the state level this year, she did work on 6th and 7th grade math and she's only in 4th grade).And two big accomplishments for her this year were getting elected as class Treasurer on Student Council, and applying for and getting a job working in the library where she did everything from re-shelve books to helping the little ones find a book to check out.

Also, the school popped a big surprise on us. The 4th graders had their standardized testing this year. In each category the highest score you can get is "Advanced". There are 4 categories, math, reading, science and social studies. Louisa got Advanced in all but math, but she got the next highest score in math which is called "Mastery". The principal said that 27 kids got at least one Advanced score, and because of that the school was giving the kids each a WalMart gift card with $10 for each Advanced! Louisa looked straight at me and you could see the dollar signs in her eyes!! She holds up three fingers, knowing she'll get $30! She was the only 4th grader to get three Advanced, and there was one girl (Louisa's best friend) who got all 4 Advanced. So those two girls really made out!

I'm so excited to see what lies ahead for this girl!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Day for Moms

I did end up "celebrating" Mother's Day after all. I couldn't let the kids down by telling them I didn't want to open their lovely homemade gifts. Mother's Day technically has nothing to do with my husband and whether he's here or not. So... I guess, we'll do this Mother's Day thing and make everyone happy.
I did enjoy my gifts, though. Louisa learned how to make a Power Point in school, so she and Drew sat down one morning and whipped me up a very nice Power Point, complete with pictures and pretty backgrounds and sound. So proud of them!
Drew made me a "nature bottle" which consists of everything you might find in nature.... all dumped into a bottle. He enjoys making them. He'll put a little dirt or sand in, then some sticks and flowers and rock and whatever else he can find. He wrapped up the bottle all on his own. He was quite happy with his gift and it's sitting next to a jar full of seashells I've collected over the years.
Hunter refused to tell me Happy Mother's Day, insisting that it's still Daddy's birthday. Daddy's birthday was on May 10, the day before Mother's Day, and Hunter had a great time telling Daddy Happy Birthday over the phone, many times. And then singing it for the rest of the day, and most of the day Sunday and Monday as well. Daddy is quite pleased that he's so high on Hunter's list of important things.
Two of my friends are first time mommies, and this was their first Mother's Day. Without hubbies here to spoil them, we couldn't very well let them sit at home all alone. So the kids and I invited them for a fun day of shopping and eating in a very old Louisiana town called Natchitoches (pronounced Nakadish). We had a yummy Mother's Day buffet, and I ate a seafood lasagna that was awesome! We did a little shopping, but I had forgotten that many businesses in the south are closed on Sunday's. Being a northern girl, that concept is totally foreign to me.
I hope I made the day special for my friends. It's hard doing all these "firsts" without your husband. You don't get that back again. Even if you have another baby, all the "first" firsts are gone. I did take some pretty good mommy and baby pictures for them to send to their husbands, though. Hopefully the husbands can take some comfort in knowing that their wives and sons have friends here who care about them and help them when they need us. I know it takes a load of my husband's mind knowing that I have a big, solid support system here.
And on that note, here's a cute Mommy's Day picture of the Chaos Kids. Since I was behind the camera for most of the day, I didn't get one with me in it! But that's okay because without my three wonderful, loud, crazy, creative, smart, amazing Chaos Kids, I wouldn't have a Mommy's Day to celebrate!

Hunter's doing what my friend called the "toddler squat". When I squat down to take a picture, he often squats down with me. And as you can predict, he did fall in the water. Luckily I had an extra set of clothes for him. Drew slipped and fell as well because the part they are standing on was slippery. I didn't have extra clothes for him, though. He got to come home wet and stinky!

It was a nice day and I'm so glad I had the kids, and friends, to share it with.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Looking "Forward" to Father's Day

Yes I am a Mother, and by default "Mother's Day" is a day for me. However, we're not "celebrating" my mommy-hood this year. And yes, I'm being stubborn. I have no husband here to run and get me my donuts when he wakes up at 6:00 am. I have no husband to take the Chaos Kids out and buy me all sorts of the little trinkets they like to buy me. So nope, no Mother's Day this year. Besides the fabulous homemade gifts I know the kids made me, it's just a regular day in my house.

We are, however, looking "forward" to Father's Day. We want to make sure this Father's Day is special for Daddy. Even if he's 7000 miles away! Last night the kids and I met up with some of the families in our family support group to make Father's Day cards. Everyone brought whatever arts & crafts supplies resided in their homes, laid it all out on a big long table, and let the kids have at it! They all made some really great cards and some of them (like Drew and Louisa) had time to make more than one.

We had a few moments where one little guy got emotional about making his daddy a card. He's 7 and this is the first time in his whole life his daddy has ever been away. He just doesn't understand. His daddy had never missed a birthday before, or Christmas, or Father's day. My kids are old hats at this by now, but for some it's new and this hurt in their heart is something new. We gave him lots of hugs and made sure his card was extra special! By the end he was running around with the kids and fighting with his brothers as usual.

I did have a bad-mommy moment, though, because I had to make the executive decision to leave Hunter's "card" there. It started out very nice, with some glitter glue and creative cutting. But when I came back to check on him it had turned into a giant glob of glue/glitter/sticker mess that was best left in big circular file (as my 6th grade teacher used to say). I will take the time with Hunter one on one to help him make a new card for Daddy before we mail the box. He's very creative, but he needs someone there helping him a little. Daddy has been impressed by all of Hunter's creations that we've sent him so far. He has all the artwork that the kids have sent him hanging on his wall, proudly displayed for his fellow soldiers to see and go, "Wow! Your kids are great artists!" and to which he'll nonchalantly reply, "Ya, I know".

I hope and pray that everyone enjoys their much earned Mommy Day! I feel I have Mother's Day every day because my kids are truly grateful for all I do for them as both Mother, and Father. I don't think I'm missing out on anything because I'm not pausing for one day to go out and eat. We do special things every day, as anyone who knows me well knows! I do have a friend who's spending her First Mother's Day alone and I feel it my personal duty to be her um.... "husband" for the day! Otherwise, the kids and I are are looking "forward" to Father's Day because someone very special to us doesn't get daddy hugs and kisses. He doesn't get to sleep in and have us make him a big breakfast, or take the kids fishing, or go to the zoo. He gets to put on his boots, put on the 80 pounds of "protective" gear, and the 40 pound ruck sack he is required to carry every day, pick up his M-16, walk out into the 110 degree Baghdad heat, slide behind the wheel of his Humvee, and do what he's done every day for the past 6 months. My job is make sure he's surrounded by the love of his children and his proud wife before he steps out of his room and starts his day. Not to worry about what I'm not getting, or what I don't get to do on Sunday, May 11th.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Typical Mama Stuff

Yesterday the kids and I headed to the Big City for a dentist appointment and to play hooky for the day. With gas as much as it is right now, I need to take advantage of being in the Big City with all it's restaurants and stores while I'm there.
Our typical morning is made up of getting ready on time, and then rushing around yelling, being almost late because we all have to go back in the house 10 times each for things we forgot. Yesterday didn't disappoint. I hadn't had time to feed Hunter because I always wake him up last, so I grabbed a sippy cup of milk and a banana (his usual breakfast) and handed them to him in the car. Everyone's buckled and ready to go.... but we need gas. Of course. I've been dreading the moment when I'd have to fill up my monster gas tank, but yesterday I knew I had to suck it up and fill it. *Ouch!* There's few things more painful than watching that money ticker rise on a gas pump. Especially with my husband in Iraq, fighting a war about that very oil that's going in my gas tank.
Finally, we're off! I made sure everyone had their books and notebooks and pencils and crayons and whatever else we'd need for the hour drive. Hunter was happily eating his banana, Louisa was drawing pictures, and Drew was studying his "holy grail", the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Pokedex. We cranked up the music and made the hour trip in record speed (because we were running late!)
When we were not even 10 minutes outside the Big City, I heard a familiar noise from the backseat..... "BWWAAAPPPP" Then I hear Drew and Louisa simultaneously yell, "Hunter barfed!" Yep, Hunter gets car sick. Not often, and not every trip, but sometimes when we're driving more than a half hour and he has just put food in his belly, he gets sick. But hey, at least now I have an excuse as to why we're late for our dentist appointments!
A gas station happens to be up ahead, which is lucky because there are no towns or stopping points on this trip until you get right outside the Big City. I pulled over, got him out, cleaned him up, threw away the stuff he threw up on that wasn't valuable like crayons and pencils and a small notebook, washed up the savable stuff as best I could, took his pants off, changed his diaper, and we were off again. Except now Hunter has no pants (and I forgot to bring shoes in the first place! no clue how that happened), and we both smell like banana barf. Well, the whole truck smells like banana barf, so I rolled down the windows, except that is was unusually chilly out.
I was almost at the dentist when they called asking if I was still coming (because it was 10:08 and our appt was at 10), and happily I said "I'm so sorry, my son just got car sick and I had to pull over. We're almost there." hehehe!!! Now, I'm not delighting in the fact that Hunter threw up and we all get to smell regurgitated banana for the rest of the day, just glad I have an excuse as to why we're late instead of just being late like usual.
When we get to the dentist, I pull Hunter out of the truck and carry him in, realizing how odd it looks to have a toddler his size in nothing but a diaper, and of course everyone has to stare when I walk in. Why do people stare so much? When I see a mother who is obviously not having a good day, I offer a smile and then avoid eye contact as to not make her feel bad. Or sometimes rattle off my extremely long list of bad days to make her feel better!
They called Hunter and Drew and Louisa back for their various check ups and Hunter excitedly runs back, dipey butt and all. As I sit down with a magazine to read a hilarious article about a woman, her husband, their son, and the Star Wars addiction that has overtaken their lives, I notice something on my beige shirt. Banana. Slightly chewed. I pull it off and stick it in the garbage, only to sit down and notice more banana, with some sort of stain that I don't even want to try and figure out. Although to me, this is typical mama attire! What's an outfit without a little barf, spit up, goo, unrecognizable squishy mess?
When the daunting thought that I've been changing diapers for 10 years non-stop hit me a few weeks ago, I also realized that I haven't left the house in 10 years without either changing my shirt first, or using a baby wipe to wipe off whatever the heck that brown stain is as quickly as I can before we get where we're going.
A few months ago, two of my online friends sent the kids and I a gift card for Applebees, so after the dentist we hit the 'Bees with a ferocious hunger (very aware, again, of how odd it looks to have Hunter tramping around in his diaper and no shoes). I ordered the wrong thing, Hunter ate nothing of what he ordered, but we got big desserts to make up for it! As we left the restaurant, I felt many eyes on me, business people on their lunch break, a big church group, a few contractor guys trying to avoid looking at me. I have no doubt they were all thinking "Wow, look at that awesome mom! She can corral those kids like a circus clown in a rodeo!" Until I got home and I realized I had more... um... banana, on my back.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Little Birdies

I was talking to my mom on the phone this evening, chasing Hunter down the sidewalk on his big wheel trike, when I saw a little bird hopping along. Actually, it was pretty big, so I wondered why it didn't fly away from us. A bigger blue jay swooped down by the bird and stood it's guard, then flew back up in the trees again. As this little bird hopped I realized it may be big, but was too small to fly yet.
I told Hunter we needed to head back home because this birdie's mama and daddy were checking on it and they did not look too happy to have us so close. They were flying back and forth between the trees right above our heads, calling out to the baby telling him it was okay, no doubt.
All the while I'm watching this I'm relaying what's going on to my mom. She was chuckling because I obviously haven't changed much since I was 8. I used to bring home every poor baby bird who had fallen out of a nest that I came across. My mom would give me a shoe box and I'd try to make the baby bird comfortable, only to have my heart broken when I'd find it dead the next morning. I felt awful that I couldn't take care of a baby bird.
As this baby bird hopped around aimlessly today, I noticed that Hunter was hopping too. He was telling the bird, "Jump birdie, jump!" Then he started to flap his arms and he was telling the bird to fly. So here's Hunter, running around in circles in front of the bird flapping his arms and hopping, trying to "teach" the little birdie how to fly. It was just instinct for him to do that. He doesn't know that this baby wasn't supposed to be on the ground. That it was too soon for the baby to leave it's nest. For Hunter, this was an equal. A fellow toddler who had just stumbled a little like his friends in playgroup sometimes do.
We let the baby hop up a hill and conceal itself behind a bush. His daddy flew down to check on him a few times, but unfortunately we have several cats that roam the neighborhood and I'd be surprised if the baby bird was still around in the morning.
Then another thought hit me. This mom and dad are completely helpless. They can do absolutely nothing for their baby. They flew down to check on him, and you could see and feel their panic, yet they couldn't help him. There was no way they'd ever get him back up in the nest, and blue jays can't really fight off an attacking cat the way maybe a hawk could. And somehow I'm guessing the nature world isn't *really* like a Disney movie where they could just call their hawk friend to help them. Especially since in real life the hawk would just eat the defenseless baby bird.
I think almost all parents will at some point feel like the mama and daddy blue jay. They'll feel that desperateness where you know that you can do nothing to help your children. I thank God I'm not at that point, but with three kids, it's bound to happen. Even the most perfect parents have that one renegade, the one with the restless soul. I've been that one for my parents, as has my sister at one point. We've both put them through trials and challenges and come out just fine on the other end. Some kids don't. Sometimes a big cat comes along and the parents can't do much more than watch.
I have a tattoo on my leg of three birdies with their wings spread. That's my metaphor for the kids. They are my birdies. I work hard at giving them their flight wings, like Hunter worked hard with the baby bird today. It's instinct. Not really anything my mom could have taught me, just something I had to learn on my own. I hope I'm doing a good job. I've got three great kids. But some day they'll find those wings and fly and all I can do is pray. Pray I've instilled good morals, a solid Christian base, and the knowledge that they can return to the nest whenever their wings get tired.