Saturday, July 20, 2013

Plans...

In case you don't know this about me... I am a planner. I love plans. I love checklists. I love marking things off all neat and tidy. I also have a very strange love of amortization tables and seeing things paid off.  I don't like debt, but house debt is a necessary evil if you are going to invest in rental properties. I have spent a HUGE amount of time over the last couple of months pouring over our finances and moving towards expanding our rental business.  I am a bit OCD when it comes to these things. Even if I have worked through the numbers once or twice, I must do it again and again to be sure I did it correctly.  At the beginning of this year, I pulled a notebook off my bookshelf.  It was a partly used notebook - well because we homeschool and notebooks get used randomly, but not always finished. As much as I love my iPad, I have a need to actually write my budgets down on paper.  I flipped to the back of this notebook and found several pages of Timmy's handwriting.  It was his Apologia Biology homework from a decade ago. These things stop me in my tracks. I always am aware he is gone from this world. Occasionally, little things pop up and it feels like I have been kicked in the gut and at the same time I feel joy because it is proof that he was, indeed, HERE! Where am I going... don't you love how I ramble? So, at the very front of this notebook I began my typical monthly budgets. We use our credit card for nearly everything and while it is online - again, I feel the need to actually write down the purchases and make sure we are in line with out budget. Yes - I have Quicken. I do it there too, but not daily. Yes, I said I was OCD, remember? Recently, I decided to do a much larger business plan. One that projected the next 5 to 10 years. I broke out the amortization tables (yes, I am a nerd).  I figured one scenario and then another. At the end, I felt satisfied. I had done the homework. I had built in several emergency plans. I was at peace with our decision to move on and purchase more properties. Then this life event happened... my newest granddaughter in love was born last week. And I really, really want to go down and just hold her. I want to talk baby talk to her and tell her that Mama Kari loves her to the moon and back. But I have these plans and they are written in a notebook. They say that realistically, I should rent these properties as soon as we close, save for a bit and then head to Florida. Disclaimer - I fully believe you should live within your means. For me there is living within our means and then living within a very strict set of sometimes INSANE means that I set up. Seeing the baby isn't really the problem with the budget. The other part of my insanity is that I think if we go to one place, then surely we should go to another. If we are driving to Tampa Bay, then why not go further and drive to the Florida Keys? Sebastian has never been and we haven't been in 10 years.  Coincidentally, about the same amount of time as when Timmy wrote those answers in this notebook that is sitting here staring at me.  We took the whole family to the Keys in August of 2003.  We had plans to take Timmy snorkeling for the first time.  Then Tim got a kidney stone and he had to get him home for surgery. The snorkeling got canceled and I remember very clearly telling Timmy that we would plan for another time.  Well, that time never came. We never were able to make it back down to the Keys. When you lose your child, you have so many regrets. Silly little things and big, important things.  So, I was sitting here looking at the page on the left that holds our long term goals for the next 5 to 10 years and on the page next to it - my son's biology homework. I was thinking that we don't know how long we have on this side.  We don't know what the future holds. We do know there is a sweet baby girl in Florida that we have never met. And we do know that we could make amazing memories with our kids in the Keys. So, here I sit wondering... do we stick with the plans or occasionally throw them clear out the window (with caution, of course!)? 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fear and Motivation


So, I know I don't blog as often as I would like. There is always something else to keep me busy, but blog posts still roll around my mind.  Today, the topic of FEAR came to me. I have written about my fears here before. This is a bit different. It is not just about fear, but how fear is a motivator. It can either motivate you to act or motivate you to stay the same. There are a lot of big decisions going on in the Clayton household these days. My anxiety level is at a high.  That is not all bad. Actually, most of it is not bad at all.  I was thinking about how many times in my life that fear has kept me from doing what I needed or wanted to do.  I think back to being really little and being afraid of riding amusement rides. To this day, they terrify me and I have tried to conquer that fear. Ain't happening. Then I think about how I was afraid to even talk to a boy, much less walk up to his door and ring the doorbell of a boy I did not know. But, somehow, I did just that. On the other side of that door was the boy I would someday marry. I didn't let fear stand in my way.  When I was 25, we were ready to buy our first house. It terrified me! I ran numbers and wrote out budgets on backs of envelopes for weeks. I was just so nervous about making such a big decision. When we decided to homeschool, my right eye twitched for months!!! I kid you not, from May till August, my eye had a whole life of its own. I was sure I would mess my kid up and ruin his life. Finally, of all things, a bumper sticker gave me peace on that. I had been considering the Waldorf method for my curriculum. I had all but decided to enroll him in 5th grade, when there was a bumper sticker in front of me that said, "Education from the inside out." ~Waldorf homeschooling. I took it as my sign to go forward.  Not long after 9/11, something happened with my job. It was being merged with another department.  I had been working the same job, happily, for 8 years. I loved my job! I remember my boss, Bill, calling me into his office to tell me the news.  I was a basketcase.  The thing is... he was calm and understanding. He told me that he had a different job for me. It was a full time job that was an in office job, but he was going to take that position and turn it into a part-time telecommuting position custom tailored for me. How great was that? It was perfect, but I was stressed. I was afraid. He gave me a book and told me to read it. It was Who Moved My Cheese? It was a corny little book, but it made a lot of sense.  It is so strange how there are little pieces of your life that form you. Just chance moments, impromptu conversations, random life.  They shape you and transform you into a different you - hopefully smarter, stronger and better than before. So, today, I am on the other side of some decisions I was putting off because of fear. I am realizing that I still fall to the same old bad habits of letting the unknown control me to a certain extent. I would like to say that I have gotten a whole lot better at dealing with my "cheese" being moved, but I would be lying. I am, however, moving forward - pushing the fears back - making educated decisions and always looking up.

Friday, April 19, 2013

School is out - year 14 of homeschooling is complete...

This was her classroom of choice on a warm January day.

I have been puttering around my house this week. Cleaning a bit, decluttering a bit, taking a minute here and there to really look at some old school work, some old pictures, some of the past. We are getting ready to go on vacation and we were just finishing up the last bits of school. Savannah was sort of a ninth grader this year - I say that because I am taking high school as a journey rather than a sprint. We are in no big hurry to push her out the door and into adulthood. So... we are learning rather than checking the boxes. That may happen to be finished in just 3 more years or it may very well take 4. She started school a year early and I feel like we have the freedom to pursue gymnastics, travel, field trips and many other things before she grows her wings and flies away. Mind you - I have a rule... my children can fly and plant their roots no farther than two hours drive time away. I think we made some huge progress in writing this year. This is her second year of using Institute in Excellence in Writing. I'm so happy with the results. Wish I had bought it years ago for Timmy, but you live and you learn.  I don't assign literature to her because if she finds a book she likes - she finishes it in a day or two. I think if I made her break it down and read a couple chapters at a time - it would kill her love of reading. I know she understands and processes what she is reading because she "feels" the book much in the way I am when I read a book.  Math - oh how I dislike you - I decided that the definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.  With that - I put aside the algebra and I bought the ENTIRE set of Life of Fred. Now some of that is way, way too below her skills. I figured it was best to read a whole series though and I wanted to read it with Sebastian. So far - she is enjoying Fred's take on life and mathematics. I ordered Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Finance for teens. We are gonna work our way through Fred and this... and then back to algebra. I remembered that this is one of the reasons I homeschooled - to take the winding road and curvy path that is the best way for my child.


This was one of his favorite projects this year - making a life size body with body parts.

Sebastian is finishing his 2nd grade year. I see the most progress with him because when they are younger - you see the huge jumps in skills.  He is less writing phobic, but I won't say I have cured him of his phobia. I fear that may take many, many years.  It is not that he doesn't know the answer or isn't learning... it's just that he does NOT in any way, shape or form want to pick up a pencil and actually write it on paper.  I have learned some things about him this year - what works and what doesn't.  I started with some very creative lapbooks and unit studies. Getting him to write out the answers in each book took every little ounce of my patience. After Christmas - I decided that I was just not going to take this route anymore. I changed over to Story of the World for history and geography. I didn't require him to write the answers - just answer them back to me. I order tons of the suggested reading from the activity guide. He loves the mapwork and each day I tell him to choose a book to read. He will sit and read for a very long time without a single complaint. He loves his workbooks because they are very defined. He knows what is expected and laid out for him. So - moving on into third grade - we are gonna go with Mr. Q science and the worksheets, more Story of the World and several different workbook based programs to round out language arts. We are gonna keep on printing for at least half of the year before we move to cursive. I am toying with doing a couple days of school a week on summer break to break it up a little more during the next year. Not really sure where we are headed on that, but it will come to me eventually. Oh and after I wrote this - he finished his math for the year. He was dancing GANGNAM STYLE all around the house. I told him to sit down and finish his math. He replied, "I AM DONE!!!" and continued to dance all through the house. Silly boy!

So, here I am - 14 years of my life - homeschooling.  I started for Timmy. My motivation was that I was so tired of asking him what he did wrong at school that day. Did he have a negative note? Then it turned into letting him learn to be his own person. To explore who he wanted to be. Now it has evolved to my two other children. Who do they want to be? What trek should we take? I still have about 10 more years on this adventure. Looking forward to it.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

A 20 year old card from my mom for my 21st birthday...


My mom gave me this card on my 21st birthday. Its been hanging on my refrigerator actually refrigerators - I think it has been through 6 refrigerators
since then. I cannot believe it has been 20 years. I mean, I feel like in many ways it has been 20 years. When I look at the card just hanging there every day - I never really thought about it being 20 years. I can't even remember my exact reasons for liking this card so much. I guess because it just fit.

"God gives us dreams a size too big so you can grow into them." 

When I was 21, I had been married for close to 3 years. Timmy had just turned 4 years old. I was in college and had a full time job. We lived in the converted in-law apartment attached to my parents' house. We wanted to buy a house and start our "real life". I had so many things I wanted to do. Finish school, buy a house, have babies, take vacations, make memories. It all seemed so far off - so big - so much to work towards. In 20 years - I have finished school. I have bought a house or actually 7 houses including my parents' house that had that in-law apartment where my house dreams were just beginning. I have had 2 more babies and taken more vacations that I can begin to count. And memories... I have an ocean full of them. And, yet, if my mom had given me that card today - it would still apply.

"God gives us dreams a size too big so you can grow into them."

I still want to buy houses. I still want babies - not my own, but lots of grandbabies and nieces and nephews. I love to think about vacations. And memories... I think this drives me the most. I want to make as many wonderful memories as I can. 

My birthday is hard for me. I don't love celebrating it because my sweet boy will never have another earthly birthday. It is hard to explain, but it is a feeling, an aching feeling. My head and even part of my heart tells me that God left me here for some purpose. I believe to be a mama to my kids. To be the other half of my husband. To be a good friend, daughter, sister, aunt and other mother to many. But I still have not great feelings about celebrating another birthday. And then there is this...

"God gives us dreams a size too big so you can grow into them."

Twenty years later and I still believe this to be true... I am gonna leave it on my fridge - for maybe another 20 years and see where I am then...



Tuesday, February 05, 2013

My version of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie with Ordering from Rainbow Resource

Ordering just one curriculum item from Rainbow Resource has somehow become my own personal version of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie... It goes something like if you are going to order, you should order $50 or more for free shipping, then you should order the whole elementary set of Life of Fred, then you should also get the bigger graph paper that is hard to find... Oh wait... You should sell some math curriculum you aren't using to help pay for this... You should probably ask your curriculum junkie friend, Christina, if she wants anything... You should order another Spelling Power workbook for next year, but wait are you sticking with Spelling Power? Maybe you should go research Spelling for the 40th time even though you always, always end up back at Spelling Power... While you research spelling, you start to read about Language Arts... Oh my... What should we do for that and should I figure that out while I have enough for free shipping? And look they have spiral bound graph paper in the size Savannah uses, but is that less paper than the ones you can find at the Harbison Walmart and not the Red Bank Walmart? That makes pyou think of Savannah's math and then you wonder if you should get the other older Life of Fred books for her since you are already ordering and there you are back where you started with ordering Life of Fred.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Milkshake Economics 101


Here is our economics lesson for the day... Savannah and I wanted chocolate milkshakes. Now I could have just went to McD's, but it has been an expensive month going to be followed by 2 more expensive months in the Clayton household. We are teaching our kids to budget and live within their means. We run our month from the 5th of the month till the 4th of the next month because we use our credit card for everything and that is how the cycle runs. We still have a few more days to go with an out of town competition coming up tomorrow. So... when the kids wanted ice cream... I had 3 choices:

1. Be mean and just say NO!

2. Run to McD's (so nice of them to just build one right down the street) and order us up          some ice cream.

3. Run to Walmart, buy some French Vanilla ice cream to make our own.

The first option costs us nothing... but we have been sick and food has not been our friend. Both Savannah and I thought ice cream sounded good to eat and that says a lot since we have barely eaten in a couple days.

The second option was to buy shakes at McD's. McD's being way cheaper than the Sonic option across the street will still run you about $2 a shake - could be slightly more or less depending on location. So - $6 for 3 shakes.

The third option - buy ice cream at Walmart - $2.97 for a half gallon of French Vanilla. We already had milk and chocolate syrup. We used maybe half of the half gallon (that's a tongue twister!).  So, about $1.50 in ice cream and maybe if we were going to be on the pricey side for milk and chocolate - 50 cents for that stuff. So, we are up to $2 for 3 milkshakes.

Here's the economics lesson... we could have spent $6 or we could have spent $2. The taste was basically the same. It took a bit more work, but heck... I needed to pull that blender out of the cabinet to find that I had not one, but two blenders. Then I asked why I had 2 blenders and Savannah reminded me that one was Timmy's. He bought a blender while were at Disney for mixed drinks and then just left it in my van. Yes, he was funny that way and that made me smile - so I'm glad I got a happy memory to go with digging out the blender. So... all in all... this is a no brainer here - it was a good idea to make our own milk shakes and hopefully some day - my kids will get that when they are at the end of the money and there is still some month left to go - they can make milk shakes and all will still be well with the world.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tears - not always sad - some come from joy

Over these past couple of years, I have become quite the crier. If you asked my brother when I was a kid - he would have told you that I cried about something every single day. I distinctly recall him saying that to me and challenging me to not cry for one single day. I was very determined to meet his challenge. Ummm... yeah... I lasted like maybe 4 hours and I cried about something. As I grew up, I became much less of a crier. I would say I didn't cry more than the average teenager or 20 something girl. I became more emotional in my thirties and well since my sweet boy has gone to heaven - forget about it - I cry all the time. Not because I am always sad though. Nope - not at all the reason. Just recently, my niece - Jo Jo - came to visit at Thanksgiving. It was the first time I had seen her obvious baby belly. When she walked into my kitchen to say hello - oh my goodness - I looked at her beautiful face and then I saw the sweet joy of that new life. And then the tears came to my eyes. Oh - so much love! When Rachel - one of my homeschool family - did her floor routine at the gymnastics meet... yep - tears and pride for how well she did! My other niece, Tabi, came to visit us in July. Oh her sweet boys - seeing them with my mom - their Great Grandma - happy tears. And then tears to say goodbye to them. Not exactly sad tears - just tears of emotion. Last night, I thought for sure I would be crying the whole time these lovely young ladies got ready for their dance. Well, I was in super curling hair mode and focused on that. When the beauty work was done - I walked out in my living room and I didn't just see my immediate family - I saw so many families that I love! We were all here to celebrate with our sweet babies. I still didn't let the tears fall although I knew they were right there. Then the picture taking began. This morning I have been sitting here looking at all the pictures and you guessed it - tears. I just love these kids so much and to see their happiness overwhelms me to the point of tears. At one point last night, I had Savannah and her cousin Karis get together for one of just the two of them. That was it for me - the tears they were coming. My mom said, "It's okay. Don't cry momma." I held it together, but the tears. You see these two cousins met when they were just a couple months old. We drove up here from FL in February of 1999. Debi and I wanted our sweet baby girls to meet each other. We dreamed about how they would somehow grow up loving each other even though there was 550 miles separating us. They saw each other a couple of times a year. They were instantly friends from the time they barely could walk or talk. And last night - they were going to a dance together. Oh tears - happy tears. A little bit sad tears, but more joy than sadness. You see I have learned something about tears over these last couple of years. I have learned that tears lessen the pain of grief, but tears also happen when you see how absolutely beautiful life still is.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My parents and their agape love...

The message in church this morning was about marriages. I was sitting next to my mom and I was thinking not only about my marriage, but about my parents' marriage. As we drove home from church, my mom said something about it not applying to her now, but she hoped that they had shown us that kind of marriage while my dad was alive. It was a very simple statement. Oddly it was very much what I had been thinking about during the service. One of the reasons I blog is because some day I would like my kids and their kids to have my memories written down. I believe understanding your family and where they came from is a wonderful gift. My story began with two people that loved each other. I may have doubted things in my lifetime, but one thing I never doubted was my parents' love for each other. For as long as I can remember, my parents did everything together. My mom has never driven. One would think that would have been quite the hindrance to her, but it really wasn't. I remember being a little girl - preschool age. I think my dad had off on Tuesdays (I know it was a weekday.) He would drive my mom to the bank and to the grocery store. He sat patiently in the car. He didn't have a smartphone or an ipad to keep him busy. He just sat and listened to the radio or maybe read the paper. Now, my dad wasn't perfect. He wasn't one to carry the groceries into the house and help put them away. He had his flaws, but they were pretty minor. I learned at that young of an age that my parents worked well together. She was what he needed and likewise for her needs. Another thing they would do was go to "the club" on Friday night. It was a not fancy social club with a fish fry and cheap beer. They would meet their friends for dinner and maybe some dancing. I was thrilled because we would get tombstone pizza for dinner and I could curl up in their warm waterbed to watch Dallas! Yes, I was an 8 year old hooked on Dallas. When we would go on vacation together, I could tell that they were genuinely happy to have a week off to spend with each other. As I got older, my mom began working days at the hospital every other weekend. My dad was not a hobby guy like my husband is. He didn't have projects and stuff to keep him busy on the weekend. He would get up, read his paper, get his car washed, maybe stop by a friend's house and then he would come home and read some more. He would glance at his watch several times an hour. I knew what he was doing. He was checking if it was time to pick my mom up from work. He was counting down till it was time to get her. He didn't really know what to do with himself while she was away. You could see that he was happy when the time finally clicked away on the clock and he would say, "Going to get mom." as he walked out the door. They would usually stop for dinner somewhere on the way home. None of this is earth shattering. It wasn't like he was buying her diamonds or she was kissing his feet. It was just subtle, daily life. And as I said - they were not perfect. I can hear my mom saying his name through gritted teeth, LEO ALLAN!!! when he would annoy her. I can hear him SCREAMING his loud booming voice over some stupid thing one of us kids did. They were not perfect, but they were good. They were good and loving and decent. Sometime before I had Sebastian, Tim and I were looking at getting a new ring for me. It was a sapphire setting that needed a solitaire diamond in the middle. My mom gave me her wedding ring set to see if that might work. It wasn't set the right way, but she told me to keep it anyway. I wear her wedding rings on my right hand. Every once in a while Sebastian will ask me about why I have two sets of wedding rings on my hands. I tell him that one represents my marriage to his dad - our choice to be a family. The other set represents my parents' marriage and the choice they made to give me the foundation of a wonderful family. They showed me what true agape love is.

Monday, January 07, 2013

So, I'm not a gardener...

From our garden back in 2009

I don't have a green thumb. I don't really like gardening. I'm not a gardener, but the good news is my husband is! He loves growing things. Here is the thing... I love watching the stuff grow. I just don't really love doing the work of getting it to grow.  When we first moved to South Carolina in 2008, that was a BIG thing on his list of things to do with our new big yard. He put in a smallish garden that year and I had no idea how much I would enjoy watching the vegetables grow. I mean... I would wake up in the morning and one of my very first thoughts was - I need to look at what has grown since yesterday. It reminded me of when he had a koi pond at our first house. I used to like to sit on my front step and just watch the fish swim when I would wake up in the morning.  It was peaceful and quiet and just brought joy to my heart. In 2009, he made the garden bigger and some things were hit or miss, but I still really enjoyed it. He even cut a tree down to the perfect stump size for me to come sit there and talk with him as he weeded the garden. I got a cute little gate entrance too! When 2010 rolled around, life was hectic. His work had demands of more of his time and well... 2010 sucked for us even BEFORE Timmy died. It was destined to be the worst year of our life well before May. I guess it was already written. Anyway, there was no garden in 2010. In 2011, we jumped into buying our second rental property at the end of January that year. It needed a good amount of renovation. All of Tim's free time went working on that during that spring. In the spring 2012, we were working on a third rental property. Again, not a free moment to garden. This morning Tim had a doctor's appointment. His doctor's office is right across from Lowe's. He meandered in there after his visit and he called me to ask, "Do you use turnips in your homemade soup?" I was like, "Huh? Parsnips, why do you ask?" He tells me he is at Lowe's and picking up some seeds to start some starter plants for our garden. Now, this is a simple phrase and a simple thing. In one little statement - I felt joy! Joy that we were going to have a garden, but more than that... joy that some part of our normal life was beginning to show again. Whatever normal is... because we all know that normal is never really attainable.  I guess I know how much he loves to garden. I know that it is something that makes him feel better in general about himself and everything that swirls around us. And then there is my excitement over getting to watch those darn vegetables grow. Even better - I told him after we finished studying the human body for 10 weeks, we would be moving on to plants with Sebastian and his friends. How perfect is the timing of that? Sebastian said in the background, "I don't like gardening." I told Tim and we both said at the same time, "He doesn't like anything!" Jokingly, I think. Anyway, I just wanted to save this snippet of how one little thing can make me giddy with excitement! I can't wait to see what our garden grows. You know it is growing a whole lot more than vegetables... is is growing a little bit of peace for our family.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Creative Memories Scrapbooking Software May Have Just Saved My Sanity

Back in the summer of 2010, I ordered the Creative Memories Scrapbooking software. Honestly, at the the time, I was not even remotely thinking clearly. I just remember seeing it had went on sale from my friend, Michelle. The next thing I knew - I had ordered it. It is funny what I do remember from that summer because it is like seeing tiny snippets of a movie in my mind. I remember the post or email or something saying the software was on sale for that month only. I remember thinking I should get that. I don't remember why now. I guess I was thinking I was going to make sure all of my memories were put into book. Maybe I thought since I couldn't remember what I was doing at any given moment - I had better start getting our pictures and memories into books. Well... truth be told - I opened that software exactly once in the last 2.5 years. And that was last December when I needed to make a matching collage photo of Timmy to match the ones I had purchased for my kids from Picture Innovations. Well, a year has gone by. I got sucked into this bleepity bleep groupon deal for a Snapfish photo album. I was thinking I could put a book together of our many families trip to Disney. That way - I could gift the book to the other families. Hmmm... this sounds easy, doesn't it. It has been anything, but easy. I have worked on uploading the bleepity bleep photos, then I worked on finding a theme I liked and then I worked on finding some Disney clip art and ugh... all that to HATE the first two pages. I hate them because I - in a distant time and place - used to create beautiful layered pages. I love the look of layers and dimension and this snapfish is just so darned flat. Did I mention that looking at scrapping stuff took me on a whole other sidetracked journey of reading about Project Life scrapping? I like the concept, but again - hate the less layered look. After a very frustrating evening saying bleepity bleep A LOT, I decided to open my Creative Memories software. Oh my goodness!!!! Oh my goodness!!!! There are beautiful templates right there. They are one dimensional, but they look layered. I can move them and mat them and change them and OH MY GOODNESS!!! It has been on my computer for 2.5 years. It is right there! Now, I don't know how this book is going to look yet. My thinking is I will create the pages and this time - upload them to snapfish since I already paid for the groupon. It is really crazy how my brain has worked in these last couple of years. I did things, bought things, forgot things, remembered things only to forget them again. I hope 2013 brings a little more clarity to my brain. I also hope that this book is amazing and years and years from now - we will all smile when we look at that once in a lifetime trip to Disney with our very best friends.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Calendars



Talking to Savannah about her chocolate advent calendar because she asked

when Christmas was while we were watching tv tonight.

Me - Why don't you know what day it is? You have an advent calendar.

Her - Dude! I ate like 13 chocolates in one day because I got so behind!

Me - Why do I buy you chocolate advent calendars?!

Her - Because I love the chocolate!

Me - That's it! I'm not buying you anymore chocolate advent calendars! I will just 
get you a bag of chocolate!

Her - That would be a whole lot cheaper.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Did you know that kids grow up?


Did you know that kids grow up to be young adults? Sounds completely obvious, right? Somehow, I never much thought about this when I was a younger parent. I guess I thought a little bit more about the here and now more than I did the future. Probably, because I was the young adult at that time. This is where I am going with this - I became an aunt when I was 12 years old. I was a kid! I didn't much give thought to the fact that someday, that tiny little baby was going to be a beautiful grown woman. I thought she was the perfect doll. Soon after my first niece was born, there were two more nieces born all by the time I was 15. Then I became a mom and more and more nieces and nephews came along. Lots of little kids and they grew up. I was there in some form watching them all grow up. Today, I am 40 years old and at this very moment there are four young adults expecting new babies next year. Add to this - several of them have already had babies. A whole new generation! Sometimes it hurts my heart a bit - not because I am not overjoyed for them - because I am missing my son having his own children. That will probably be there for a good long time, but I tuck it to the side and I try to find the absolute joy in these young adults. You know how we all oooohhhh and ahhhhhhh over the new babies and the toddlers in our lives? Sometimes I oooooohhhh and ahhhhhh over how wonderful these young adults are. I marvel at their kindness and love. Some of them aren't starting families just yet, but they are still not kids anymore. I think about each of them when they were little people and we didn't have a real clue who they would become. Then I send up a silent thank you to God for putting each of them in my life. I love this part of my life. I love that they let me be a part of it.  I love seeing them grow up and become exactly who they are supposed to be.

Friday, December 14, 2012

If I had known it was the last hug...

Taken December 13, 2009

If I had known that it was the last hug I would ever give you on this side - I wouldn't have let go. I would have clung to you like my very life depended on it. Three years ago, today, I drove you to the Charlotte airport. I had taken you to the airport many other times before that day. By that time, you had been living away for 18 months. You had traveled to Oklahoma, to Alaska, to Kuwait, to Iraq and back again. You had seen a war and still came home to me. I remember that day was cloudy and cold. It looked like it would snow even though it didn't. On that day - we had a new (to us) van and we could all take you back to the airport. Well, your dad had to work, but your Grandma, Tusie Michelle, Savannah, Sebastian and me - we all came along for the ride back to the airport. I had a pit in my stomach. Why did you have to be stationed in Alaska? Why did it have to be so far away? Why couldn't I have more money - so I could just fly up there and see you whenever I wanted? Lots of why's going through my mind that day. I don't even remember what we talked about on that 2 hour drive. I remember you sitting next to me in the passenger seat. I can still see you with my memory. You looked so amazing! So grown up, so everything I had ever hoped you would be. I hated getting to the drop off at the airport. I hate how I always feel rushed at those airport drop offs. I feel like don't they know that we are telling the people we love goodbye! I know they need to keep it moving, but I just want to spend a few more minutes with my child. He is my child and he is leaving on a long trip and he won't be home for months. Please, understand how hard this is for me. But, the airport people don't care about this. So, you hug quickly and you tell him you love him and to BE GOOD because that is what you always say to him. He laughs is big, goofy laugh and before you know it - he is walking into that airport away from you. The whole family is silent as we drive away. We are all thinking the same thing - what Sebastian said just a few days before - it STINKS that he has to live in Alaska. Even at 5 years old - he gets how hard this is. I can still smell his cologne on me and in the seat next to me. It is like a wisp of him is still riding back with us. We stop at a Chick-Fil-A on the way home from Charlotte. I think my heart chooses Chick-Fil-A because Timmy's spirit is always at Chick-Fil-A for me ever since he put on that cow costume. I remember sitting at the table looking out the window at the grey sky. I felt a strange feeling that day. Maybe it was intuition that that was the last hug on this side. I felt numb. Do you know what it feels like to have a piece of your heart fly away to Alaska? When I look back now - if I had known it was the last time I would hug you on this side - I would have looked into your sweet face and memorized every part of it. I would have buried my head into your big arms and breathed in deep that mix of you and cologne. I would have told you how much you mean to me and how my blessed my life has been because of you. I would have never let go.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas lights

It has been a rough day around here and for a reason I do not know - I was sitting here this afternoon thinking about Christmas lights. Not just any Christmas lights though. The single, simple strand of lights that my dad and/or brother would hang across the top of our front porch. They were those old larger type bulb lights in primary colors. It was just one strand. That's it! And you know what? To me - as a kid - it was the most beautiful lights I had ever seen. Compared to today's elaborate scenes - this was pretty much nothing. It didn't matter. When they hung those lights, I remember going outside and standing in the yard to look at them. Those lights would get turned off on Christmas Eve while my dad took us kids for our Christmas ride. My mom would stay home to let Santa in. We did Christmas on Christmas Eve because my mom had to work many Christmas Eve's in the
ER. My dad would drive us around to see other people's lights and they were beautiful. Especially if you went to what we called the "rich" neighborhoods. If there was snow, he would drive like a crazy man and we would laugh like crazy! We would circle back to drive past our house to see if our lights were turned on. If they were on - it meant Santa had come to visit. If not, it meant we did another tour around another neighborhood.  Eventually, we would drive by our house and those lights would be on. That single strand of lights shone more bright than any of the other houses I might have seen that night. They were magnificent in my child eyes! We would pile out of the car and run for the door. Once we were inside, we would see 4 neat stacks of gifts - 1 stack for each child. It was a magical feeling. One that I am so thankful I had the joy of having, not once, but many times throughout my childhood.  I wish I had a picture of those lights hanging from our porch, but those were not the days of Facebook and smartphone cameras.  We just took pictures with our memories and hoped we would never forget.  My life was so uncomplicated back then. My biggest worry was did Santa really know that I wanted another baby doll for Christmas? I hope and pray that I am giving my kids that kind of childhood. The kind where excitement and happiness fills their Christmas. I hope more than anything that some day they will tell their children about their favorite Christmas memories. I know that these memories helped make me who I am and they will never leave me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Have I told you about my girl?

video

I read back through my blog and I can't believe I have forgotten many of the things I wrote about back then. I wish I had kept up with my blog, but like so many things - the past is in the past. I want to scrapbook and blog and lose 10 lbs. I have many wants, but right now I want to remember how much fun I have with my girl. You know when you homeschool - you are TOGETHER a lot!!! I mean A LOT!!! I have said this before - I am selfish. I am selfish because I would be so very sad if I didn't see her beautiful face so much throughout each and every day. Now - don't get me wrong - we have our moments. Lord knows that hormones flair and we get on each other's nerves. But that is not the norm. Normally, we chat about everything and anything and all the stuff that falls in between. She tells me about Tumblr and I show her silly pictures on Facebook. She plays me some of her screamo music and I plead with her that she really would prefer a Country  Music Festival. Right now - we spend a little while every night watching Supernatural. Randomly throughout the day, one of us will make some goofy off the wall comment about Sam or Dean. The other night - we literally said the same exact thing while watching Supernatural. Somebody said something about letting the people go and we BOTH raised our hand up and said, "Let my people go!" Oh my goodness - we laughed so hard! She is so much like me in so many ways and all at the same time completely her own person. She has so many qualities that are nothing like me and so wonderful. I would have never attempted to put up Christmas lights on the outside of the house when I was 14, but she set her mind to it and pulled it off. I don't know if I realize so much more how quickly these years pass by or what, but I feel like I embrace it more than I did when Timmy was a teenager. I guess I didn't see that he would eventually grow up and move out. With her I see the future - not clearly - but the blurred picture of how time rolls along. I know before too long, she will probably have a job and a boyfriend and our Supernatural (or whatever the show will be then) will only come sporadically. I love this child of mine. I love the time we are sharing and I wish I could bottle it up and keep it. I know I can't, but that sure doesn't make me want it any less.

Monday, December 03, 2012

It's just a season... Barefoot Season...



I sat down to update my facebook status after one of our more busy than normal weekends. Right as I clicked on my fb page - I thought - this is the thing you used to blog about before you had a facebook. You know the stories I used to write down so my kids could read them some day... So - here I am writing a blog post instead of a fb post. December has rolled in busy and full of stuff this year. Friday (okay, so it was the last day of November) we had art and science followed by gymnastics followed by game night for the teens. Did I mention game night was 45 minutes away? My friends and I did the shuffle kids from here to there dance that we have grown to do with great ease. We make it look easy - never mind that when I tell my mom who took who where and when that I make her dizzy. We arrived home from game night a bit after 11pm. Then it was time to pack the gymnastics bag and my bag and lay the clothes out all to be ready to leave for a gymnastics competition by 7:15 in the STINKING MORNING!!! The next morning we all assemble with our girls - braided hair glittering, shiny pink warm-ups and a few smiles to go around. We parents and grandparents settle onto the bleacher for the next 8 hours of gymnastics competition. We share snacks and stories and laughter. In between that we wonder if we will ever get feeling back in our behinds from these dang bleacher seats. We finally shuffle home around dinner time. That brings us to today where we gather once AGAIN at gymnastics to decorate a float for the Christmas light parade. Okay, I didn't do any decorating. I got there late because my lovely daughter had mud on her only comfortable walking shoes and we had to wash and dry them. We still got there in time though. We load up our girls in adorable matching hoodies and send them off to be in the parade. After a quick stop to pick up 2 dozen Krispy Kreme, I head over to watch the parade with friends that are more like family to me. We eat donuts and we go back to that familiar talking and laughing we shared the day before. While our girls are on the float in the parade, our boys are playing "football" with a rolled up jacket. Finally, we see the first float coming our way. We gather to watch are our Barefoot Gymnastics girls go by. In a blink, they pass us! Just like that! We finish the parade, gather our girls and walk back to the cars. Say our goodbyes and finally head home. It has been a LONG and BUSY weekend for us... many of us. I am tired and my heel spurs are SCREAMING! My jammies are calling and all I can think about is getting comfy on my couch. When I finally curl up with my sweet girl sitting next to me - I look over at her and I think - this is just a season. Before I know it - it will change. The crazy gymnastics stuff and driving from here to there and everywhere - it will move on. It always does. It is just one of those seasons. I send a silent thank you up to God for the busy, crazy weekend. For stupid felt penguins crafts that don't GLUE together, for snap circuit projects that weren't quite recorded on an experiment sheet, for filling my van with not only my daughter, but my dear friends' daughters and rushing them off to gymnastics practice, for cutting silly strips of fabric for hair bows the night before competition, for driving out to BFE so our kids can get to know other homeschoolers, for Starbucks with friends while we wait on those kids to finish game night, for friendly faces that cheer all of our children on at competition, for Christmas light floats that show off our priceless children, for Krispy Kreme donuts and good friends to share them with, and for life - crazy, wonderful life. Yep - I am tired and my heel spurs are screaming, but I would not change it. I would not give up one moment of this. Life comes at us in seasons, they seem like they are forever at the time, but really before we know it - we move on to the next... right now we are in Barefoot Season!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rental Property MOJO?

So, this very strange phenomenon occurs each time Tim and I go out of town... something at one of our rental houses breaks or something else goes wrong with a tenant. Seriously, it seems like every. single. time. I am trying to enjoy my gluttony meal at Golden Corral - my cell phone rings. I say, "Hello?" Then there is a tenant on other end saying something like, "Blah, blah, blah, broken fridge, blah, blah, blah, my wife left me and we are moving out early, blah, blah, blah." Then my gluttony meal somehow loses its appeal and I begin putting out whatever fire needs tending to. Tonight, I am ready to leave on a family vacation in the morning to Washington DC. Somewhere in the back of my mind - I am thinking - what can go wrong this week - while we are away. Maybe we can sneak this one trip in without our appliances or tenants being none the wiser. Then it happened. I was scanning the channels and I saw the weather channel with the "hurricane cone" and you guessed it... it could go right to Tampa Bay. I guess I have been under a rock because I didn't even know this storm was out there. Now it is *only* a tropical storm at the moment. But I have to wonder... if I am going out of town will some cosmic energy churn that tropical storm into a hurricane and send it right towards my Florida rental property? Let's hope not... I don't have any immediate plans to go to Golden Corral at any time during this trip. Maybe if I expand my dining horizons - it will break the curse - and this storm will fall apart long before it gets near Florida. I can hope right? Or, maybe, I should just leave my cell phone in my van when we head into a restaurant.

Birthday parties



Since 1990, I have had a birthday party in some form or fashion for one of my kids. Some were elaborate and others a little more low key. It started with Timmy's 1st which just so happened to by my mom's 50th. It was family and my mom and dad's friends. I made a teddy bear cake - the same cake I made for each of my kids on their first birthdays. I was proud of my first birthday party considering I was only 17 at the time. I pulled it off and we all had fun. The funny thing is I can close my eyes and I can feel that party in my soul.  I remember so many of the details of it. I also remember Timmy's pirate party and treasure hunt. We had just moved to our starter house and it was by the lake and park. My mom made this awesome treasure chest and they followed the clues. There was a party for Savannah - a Cinderella party. I loved that one. I had so much fun making the favors and planning the games. A friend found me a Cinderella dress the DAY of her birthday party at a garage sale. I ran to her house to get it and I was literally on beaming because of a silly Cinderella dress. With Sebastian - I remember his Jack's Big Music Show party. I blogged about it here Sebastian's 2nd birthday. I was going to give him that party come hell or high water. People STILL come to my blog when they search Jack's Big Music Show party supplies. They never did market them - in the words of Julia Robert's from Pretty Woman... "BIG, BIG MISTAKE!" Where was I going with this? Savannah and Sebastian's birthdays are coming up soon. Savannah has grown out of the themed party much to my dismay. She still wants a party, just not one with games, themes, etc. And then I was thinking I would just have Sebastian's friends over to the pool and call it a day. I wasn't thinking about a big and fun party for him. I was like - swim, cake, ice cream, presents - done. I asked him about this and he gave me this look like, "What do you mean??? No pinata, no theme cake, no games that go with the theme?" I stuck the thought away and then today I asked him what kind of party he wanted. Blank stare. I was rolling through my head his likes at the moment. I settled on Mine Craft and sat down to google (where all good birthday parties begin). I found SO MUCH STUFF and he came over and he just lit up! Like - YES - MOM - THIS IS WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT!!! I felt myself get excited - a party to plan! WOOHOO!!! How did I almost let a birthday party go by? Yes, I am tired. Yes, I have a lot going on. Yes, a pool party would be easy. You know what though? Timmy's last birthday was his 21st. He was in Alaska, had plenty of money to buy whatever he wanted and kept telling me it was no big deal. Well, I listened to him. I didn't really make it a big deal. My budget was super tight. I had no idea what to get him and well... I was busy, tired, you name it... I was it. So, I mailed him a very practical gift of kitchen items I knew he would not buy for himself. I did mail him a package of cupcakes and candles. It got there late - several days late (yes, I am always late on packages.) My mom, on the other hand, ordered him a very special cherry cheese cake from a local bakery and even had an amazing personal card included. She surprised him when it was delivered. He was really, really happy about this. When I think back about regrets (I have a few), I think about how I didn't do as much as I could have for that birthday. Now, I know he knew I loved him and I know he remembered all the other birthday parties. I just wish if I had a do over - I would have done something a bit more special. Sometimes it takes losing someone or something to realize what you should have or could have done. Whew!!! I am glad that I realized this BEFORE I wrote off Sebastian's birthday plans this year. And with that - the Mine Craft party planning begins!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Skipping = Happiness for Sebastian

I was just reading this blog post -An Inch of Gray - and it reminded me of something I have been wanting to write about because I just don't want to forget it. Sebastian does this thing when he is happy. He skips! I have stood back at Walt Disney World and seen him skip off to the line with Savannah. I have caught him skipping as he goes from one activity to the next at Kid Kamp. I smiled as he skipped his way down to the beach when we were there in May. I have never been able to catch him with my camera because it is sporadic and never really planned. He reminds me of Tigger! You know how Tigger hops everywhere because he is full of joy! It does this amazing thing with my heart when I see him skipping around. It takes a bit of the pain I am feeling and it pushes it far, far away and gives me this amazing feeling of love and happiness. All from something as simple as watching him skip from place to place!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

For I know the plans I have for you...


Sometimes I think God sends you to exactly where you are supposed to be. A sweet friend, Toni, asked me to come over and look through some homeschool books today. I probably haven't seen Toni in two years and was a bit surprised to see she had invited me to her house. Honestly, I didn't know what or if I needed any books, but I wanted to go simply because she asked me. She was talking about a family that lost their 21 year old daughter a few weeks back and this other family that lost their little girl earlier this year. Then sh was talking about her struggle with cancer among other struggles. Then she says it - IT - Jeramiah 29:11 to me, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Now, I am not very good at bible verses. I have an awful time remembering them and it really just is not my thing. This was one of the first verses I ever learned and if I had a life verse (which I don't) there was a time - I would have said this was it. I used to say this verse a lot when I was finding faith in my life. Just at a time when I was questioning why we were leaving FL and why Timmy was going to the Army and why my nice neat life was changing so much.  When Timmy died - I sorta hated that verse. It made me want to SCREAM - "NOT HARM ME - WHAT THE HECK DO YOU THINK TAKING MY SON HAS DONE TO ME?" and then the part about "hope and a future - ummm... where the heck is my son's future?" I know some people will not ever say they question the wisdom. It is like taboo to say - but I am so beyond caring what anyone thinks - so I question lots of things. Toni was so amazing today when she said sometimes it is just SO HARD! Sometimes you are just mad at God! She said it without any judgement at all, just pure truth of somebody that understands sometimes life stinks! She was like sometimes this is so very hard to believe. It was so nice to hear somebody else say these things and then say I am going to have faith - even if I am angry and even if it is hard. I felt like I was just supposed to be there with her today and I am so thankful that God put me in the exact place I needed to be today. And... some days I get it, but I know it is okay if I don't. God understands.