Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween 1.0

The kids have all celebrated their fall parties now, so I must have gotten their costumes put together in time (thank goodness!).  It wasn't easy this year - my own fault for waiting until the last minute on one of them, but I promise to learn my lesson {yeah right} and we'll just move along.

I love these two, who went to their first official friend Halloween party tonight.  They came home absolutely exhausted, so I know they had a blast!  T is a Pokemon Trainer, and Pooks went as Elphaba from the musical Wicked.

Here's my favorite of Pookie:

We all enjoyed another round of the Fall Parties - here's the gang yesterday at the elementary school.  Sash is standing in as a Cardinals fan (Go Cards!) but in real life ;) is Snow White.

We sure enjoyed watching our come-from-behind Cardinals win the World Series this week!!!

Hope you are all enjoying a fun weekend, as well!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Finding God ... when you're four

Ask Sara what she wants to be when she grows up and she answers, "God."

Ask her why she wants to be God when she grows up and she quips easily, "Because He can do anything."

This past weekend, our friend stopped by to interview Sara for a college class project.  Prior to the visit, Katelyn read her little sister a book about a tree named Steve.  Then CJ came, asked Sara to draw a picture and name her own tree.  She named it "No Name."  (She was a little squirrelly with our recent no-naps-on-weekends policy we've adopted for her!)  The two then went outside under a tree and talked.  Sara took pictures on the point and shoot cam.

Afterwards, CJ commented that the purest part of her interaction with Sara came when she'd asked, "Where does the tree come from?"

Sara answered, "God."

Tonite, Sara accompanied me to Tommy's violin lesson.  On our way home, I began to recount the activities remaining on our plate for the evening - one of which is a running group through our church called "Run for God."  Sara calls it "God's on the Run."  (I think that's a nod to Katelyn's Girls on the Run 5K experience last spring.)  Lo and behold, the clouds in the sky resembled giant footprints, so everytime Sara said, "God's on the Run!" Tommy would yell, "Boom!  Boom!  Boom!" like God's feet were landing on the skyceiling one by one.  Ooooooooh how that made Sara laugh and laugh and laugh. 

This went on the entire way home, "God's on the Run!" ... "Boom!  Boom!  Boom!"  ... *Laugh*"

Such a wonderful moment to remember from  my two little reds.  I sure do love em to bits.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hawaii | Day 2

We decided to spend the first full day in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor and the surrounding area.  It was surreal.  I have to tell you that in all my 37 years of living I hadn't truly learned about Pearl Harbor - the grit of it, the down-dirty reality, we're talking.  You know - "the rest of the story" kind of thing.

For instance, did you know oil seeps from the ship (the USS Arizona), droplets at a time, and are known as the ship's "tears" - weeping for the men buried within her, who lost their lives in a battle they didn't expect?

Do you see the black dots on the picture?  Those are the oily tears I'm talking about.

Or did you know you can still see the smoke stacks of the ship above the water?

This photo is standing on the USS Arizona Memorial.

Can I tell you I had no idea?

According to :
The natural beauty of Hawaii—volcanic mountains, lush vegetation, and crystal water—should be Pearl Harbor’s main attraction, and it would be, if not for December 7, 1941. Instead, the island of Oahu’s stunning scenery has become merely the backdrop for the USS Arizona Memorial, a hallowed historic site that reminds us that 2,390 Americans died on a balmy morning 65 years ago when Japan attacked seven military sites in and around the harbor. Twenty-one ships were sunk or damaged, including the battleship Arizona. At 8:06 a.m., a 1,760-pound bomb slammed into the Arizona’s forward decks and ignited 500 tons of explosives in the powder magazine. She sank in nine minutes and burned for two days. A total of 1,177 men died on board, the greatest death toll ever on a US warship. Only 229 bodies were recovered. The rest remain entombed in the wreckage.     
Did you even know "Pearl Harbor" - really the USS Arizona Memorial - is actually a sunken ship?

Do you see it in the picture there?  And just so I make this a public statement, my husband, my FIL, my mother, and my first boyfriend (now a US Naval Officer) are currently dying of embarrassment over my sheer and utter ignorance.  But I remain adamant that I cannot be the only American out there who did not know this.  (And that is indeed part of the problem in our country, I have no doubt...)

Aside from "Pearl Harbor" - site of the beginning of the United States' involvement in WWII - I admit I didn't know much, feel much, or think much about it.  I am horrifiably ashamed to admit that.  As stated above, this spot is so much more that just a pretty picture...although a beautiful picture reminder it is:

It is a place where silence is required and given unequivocally.   I am so grateful to have spent time there.  To have taken in the scenery and read the words, telling me moment by moment what happened and how we responded and what happened after. 

May they rest in peace.

I do so appreciate the manner in which this national monument has been memorialized.  My children listened to age appropriate audio about this site.  They stopped and listened, pondered, and walked along the path, undoubtedly understanding more than I did until I was 37 years old.


We toured more of Pearl Harbor by visiting the missile graveyard, having ice cream, and eventually deciding to also tour the USS Bowfin.  Sara was not old enough, however, so Dad accompanied the big kids on a separate adventure: states:  "Within hours of the surprise attack, young men in steel tubes took the war to the enemy, using defective torpedoes against overwhelming odds.  They triumphed and endured high losses."

We also toured the USS Missouri - which seemed mandatory, given our home state ;)

Pictured here in the background of the USS Arizona Memorial.

Here's a lil photo tip.  When photographing your subject in a scene - perhaps that scene being giant gun turrets that dwarf their little selves, bring the subject(s) close to the camera.  Because, even though they look pretty small here - and I still should have brought them closer to the camera with the frame of the photo encapsulating the scene of the guns, they are still identifiable.  Unlike in this photo:

Those are some Big Guns.

Mandatory cute photos of tired children who still smile for their mommabe photographer:

His brother smiles exactly like this.

And her sister spends more and more time just like this --- just like I did starting in fourth grade, too!

We ended our day at the Hard Rock Cafe, just off the strip and Waikiki Beach. 

Interestingly, this photo was taken by a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K participant who ran that morning in honor of her sister - a breast cancer survivor.  We had seen the race from our window in the hotel encircling the Honolulu Zoo and had been curious as to what was happening with all the orange flags and runners.  Wish we would have known - perhaps we could have participated!  Except what to do with the kids while we ran...

Eh - they really are pretty self-entertaining.

The day ended with Matt bringing home a pair of drumsticks from Hard Rock and Pooks stopping by the hotel's gift shop to snag this one-of-a-kind ukelele.


The end of Day 2 only meant the beginning of more great adventures Day 3!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reminiscing: Hawaii | Day 1

I remember the limo pulling up in front of the house in the dark.  Everyone was up - a homemade coffee drink put to work to ease the stinging fatigue behind my eyes.  The limo driver, a kind, older, grey, receding hairline of a man, loaded our bags into the trunk.  Everyone piled into the hot car - he had the heat on fuller than full blast.  I'll never forget driving through our little neighborhood, looking out onto the dark streets from inside that vehicle, the kids chattering excitedly about the possibility of friends seeing them (at 4AM).  Bliss.

(See Sara's face?)

We drove the entire way to the airport trying different buttons for the radio and the lights - we jammed out to Joy FM on the radio.  And drank ice water in champagne glasses.  Darkness covered us the whole way as I tried at times to look out the window and acclimate myself to where we were on the highway.  We pulled in and before we knew it, found our way onto the kids' first airplane ride.  Almost as soon as we sat down, we were asked to move - to First Class.  We rode in luxurious style for an hour up to Chicago.  We even got a brief look into the cockpit before disembarking (some benefits of being "The Make A Wish family."

Our lay over was a couple of hours, long enough to grab some carbs for breakfast, plug Pookie's nebulizer into an airport outlet, play video games, and watch planes come and go.

Finally, finally, finally.  We boarded the plane to Honolulu.  Nine hours.  Oh man the kids were great.  We left Chicago mid-morning and arrived in Hawaii around dinnertime.  Exhausted. 

Upon arriving in Hawaii, we found Julius - who Lei'd us.  We met Barbara Hannum, a random University of Hawaii associate who actually coordinates fundraising for Make A Wish with her student athletes.  We took a family photo upon her request and later sent it to her and struck up quite an email friendship for a period of time after our trip.

We landed outside our hotel on the strip in the cover of darkness, and just in time to run in to a relatively creepy street performer.  He knew what he was doing - swarmed us from the moment we stepped foot out the door.  We snapped some photos of his "best friends" - his various feathered creatures (for some ca$h), then meandered down the street to find dinner. 

By this time, it was pretty late, but the streets were lit up and packed with all kinds of people, the air temperature perfectly gorgeous, the beach and the Pacific Ocean a stone's throw away, and our family - though literally wiped out - ready for our adventure to come! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Memory Lane: Hawaii - The Pre-Trip "Send Off"

I've been thinking for a while about creating a series surrounding the photos from our trip one year ago to Hawaii - Pookie's Make A Wish trip.  I didn't really post much about our trip in the end last year because we came back to the throes of fall festivals and autumn splendor and then subsequent blizzards of winter holidays and activities!  As I peruse old files (can you believe I haven't made us a photo book of that trip yet?!  Travesty.  Must, must, must do) I see gads of shots that bring back those poignant memories and I think, "Why aren't these documented?"  And I don't have any answer. Honestly, when we returned home last year, I was so far behind in everything that I'm pretty sure I'm still making up for it.  Or something.  (I'll go ahead and blame Hawaii - because it was so darn awesome that it can take it!)

Make A Wish grants wishes to kids so that their happy memories carry them through the tough times.  That's what our wish granter told us, and I concede that point, now, one year later.  I cannot honestly even tell you how many times in the last 12 months my heart has absolutely pined for that trip.  How many times we have talked about it, dreamed about it, replayed it in our minds and conversations and promised each other to some day go back (even though it would never be the same).  Indeed, our trip one year ago this week was an absolute trip of a lifetime.

So, this evening, I'm remembering that last year we celebrated our anniversary amongst a restaurant of strangers who had pulled together to sponsor our trip and make it possible for Pookie - and the rest of us - to set sail on our greatest adventure together as a family.  And since we just celebrated our anniversary again, I thought it would be fun to back up a week and consider again our night out at Applebee's, where Pookie was a Star!

I know this photo is poor - but it serves as a reminder of all the people who came to celebrate and send us off.  As I said, the restaurant was full of people we'd never met - yet, I'm thinking that night Pookie didn't meet a single stranger!

Here's last year's "anniversary photo."

Here's our little Pookie.  She was exhausted by this time of the night, but she still mustered up smiles.  And she took home every last fake-flower-lei-grass-skirt-pineapple-totem-pole decoration in the restaurant - including that grass skirt she's wearing.  It became her bedskirt for the better part of the last year.

All the grandparents came to dinner that night as did one of our sweet wish granters.  We were overwhelmed by the restaurant's generosity - they gave Pookie a large gift card (she spent it here) and truly just made our evening so special. 

What a send-off!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Maybe I shouldn't say...

Pookie came home from the hospital Saturday, September 23rd, with her INR just hundredths of a whole number above her targeted range after 12 days.  She missed half a day of school that Monday while I took her to the lab to draw her blood again.  She had 17 needle marks in her left arm.  Tuesday, she threw up before school with a migraine headache.  I sent her to school for two hours and then went to pick her up.

When I called the nurse before the cath a few weeks before, the nurse said, "Katelyn is not a drama queen.  I've never known her to complain about anything."  That Tuesday when I pulled her out of school, we eventually saw her cardiologist.  He told me, "Next time she complains [about chest pain], let's not make her ride 8 miles on her bicycle."

Can I tell you something?

Being a mother is hard.

But being a mother to Katelyn?

Some days?  Some days it requires a PhD, an MD, an RD,  a psyche degree, an RN, a PT, a GI, Rx, neuro, ... and, and that's just Monday at 8:00.


Last year, I quizzed the school nurse about the frequency with which Katelyn visited her office.  She shared that Katelyn is opposite of a typical school kid.  Most children visit the nurse frequently in Kindergarten, less in first grade, fewer times in second, on and on so that most fourth and fifth graders really don't come to see her very often.  Katelyn, however, came to the nurse rarely in Kindergarten, more often in first grade, frequently in second grade and almost daily in third.  Friday last week was the first day this year the school nurse did not call my home or my cell phone.

After Katelyn's pneumonia last year, she frequently - constantly - complained about her lung hurting.  We gave her breathing treatments almost the entire winter. 

She reports aches and pains in her fingers.  Her feet.  Her shoulder.  Her eyeball.

Sometimes it's real. 

Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Please understand.  I love my daughter from head to toe.  Her very existence is a blessing and in my estimation the absolute proof of God's grace.

She will be mortified that I am writing this about her - but she is a drama queen.  She lives to perform and to be the center of attention.  She loves going to the doctor and (until this last visit) sees a trip to the hospital as a li'l piece of heaven where pizzas and ice cream appear with just a phone call and medical students request interviews and listen to her funky heartbeat.  She is a bundle of energy and intelligence, beauty and talent, sass ... and an enigma that I am constantly trying to crack.

I am her filter.

I was floored when the nurse at the cardioligist's office told me she'd never known Katelyn to complain about anything.  I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and insist she understand how difficult it is not to call over every complaint, to try to discern what needs a phone call and what doesn't.

When I sit in the conference room of the elementary school year after year and insist she not run in PE and she be allowed extra time to eat at lunch and I feel like a neurotic mother with Munchausen by Proxy and she looks perfectly healthy yet she is constantly in the nurse's office and then the nurse calls and says she complained of chest pain in PE and I say, "Tell her to suck it up and get back to class," but the nurse says, "her lungs are clear and the pain is in her chest," and I cuss under my breath and tell her I'll call the cardiologist...

Maybe I shouldn't say that being her mother is hard.  Because not being her mother?  Brings instant tears to my eyes and a grip on my chest that I can only imagine is what she felt on that bike ride.  But I didn't know.  And she doesn't know.  How hard it is to filter her aches and pains and to know when to call and when to reassure her that everything is fine.  And insist that she act normal when normal is grey and ambiguous and hard to discern.

Maybe I just shouldn't say.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

10-4 Good Buddy! It really is a great day for an anniversary!

I am not always a fan of 'the gift thing' (although I am NOT against them entirely [yes, that's for you, MIL]...;) ).  We live in a small house with a lot of people who seem to like to collect things, so I actually like gifts that are more experiential.  For instance, last Christmas we took the kids to Chicago as part of their gift. This year for our anniversary, because my hubby "has people in town" (i.e. The Bosses) on our actual anniversary, he planned ahead and took the day before our anniversary off to hang out with me.  And man did we enjoy our day together!

We took 'The Fabric' - what Sara calls my husband's midlife crisis - the convertible [because I call it The Maverick and she doesn't say Maverick, she says Fabric - so all convertibles now are either 1) "Grammie's car" ( a VW Beetle convertible) or 2) a "fabric" (which is actually an '89 BMW convertible)] - to Hermann, Missouri, or Missouri wine country.  We had a blast there on our 10th anniversary, so we knew it would be a great day!

We walked around town for a bit and bought Sara a slushy. Hubs held my hand and whispered sweet things in my ear. OK, really he told me I excel at being lazy (he called it 'relaxing') and doing nothing (he called it 'companionship') ;).   I'll take it.  I do tend to be the more laid back of the two of us (i.e. nothing ever gets done with me around...).

We stopped at Stone Hill winery and got an education from our fabulous Sommelier Charlotta (name changed to protect the innocent!).  She gave us the 4-1-1 on Hermann politics, I'll tell you that much!  When we vistited three years ago, there was an old high school building for sale that I could just picture being a fabulous spot for country shops on the first floor, coffee and baked goods for sale, my father-in-law's furniture...The second floor would be perfect as an income property with lofts for rent and the top floor, of course, our home - refurbished with all the asbestos and critters removed, first, of course.  A wee bit surprisingly (or not, as the case may be....), the high school is still for sale, so after discovering that Charlotta had refurbished an old Catholic church near town, we started chatting about the old high school's potential.

Apparently, Hermann is a very small town.  {And all that that means in terms of politics and newbies moving in and stirring things up.  ;)}

But we sure enjoyed the wine tasting, the conversation, and - actually - running in to an old college classmate of mine from our undergraduate days in Kirksville!  (such a small world...)

We ate at one of my favorite restaurants in all of the midwest (actually, I'm serious) - Wings Ablazin.'  I can't believe I don't have a photo of the place!  But we did have Sashi take our {anniversary} picture.  She did a pretty good job (can you tell who she loves "the most?"  - a blogpost for a different day):

And she got better quickly!

Oh wait - here we both are!

I love that picture - my new fave of the two of us!
And because it's us, and we're just this silly:

We also made a stop at Hermannhoff Wineries - where Tres was able to get that Sommelier talking, too.   It really does drive me crazy the way John, his dad, and my mom can talk to anyone.  I roll my eyes and wish we could just move on, but inevitably, I am drawn in and grateful for the way they can converse and bring on stories we otherwise would never have the privilege of knowing.  They are so annoying like that.


But man alive did she weave a tale of monopoly, espionage, and arsen!  

From there, we stopped at the town chocolatier (the baker: closed again!) and then, home - with the top down, of course!

A big fat thank you to my awesome husband - who makes life just a whole lot sweeter (with and without cupcakes).  I can't imagine a better man to share my life with.  I am a lucky girl!

...and now I better go clean the kitchen!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lace. Mostly.

After 13 years of marriage, it is traditional to give lace.  Apparently.  Or in modern times, teddy bears, faux-fur hand warmers, or a rug. 

Instead, I'm giving a list.  (If you touch the screen, Honey, you can feeeeeeeeel the love...)

Here are the top 13 things I continue to love about this man:

1.  He puts his family first.  Mostly.
2.  He is handy around the house. 
3.  And with a car.  Mostly.
4.  He works hard and provides well for his family.  And I know this is stressful when he is, in fact, the soul provider.  Mostly.  ...OK, really he is.
5.  He is logical and thinks things through.  (OK, that's always.)
6.  He is a great father and willingly and often engages in 'tough conversations' with the kids.  And he stretches their minds with math and science and social studies...And he takes them Boy Scout camping.(Always.)
7.  He buys me icee mochas and brings them home to me.  Mostly.  (He tends to drink more 'sips' than he'll ever admit...)
8.  He is super handsome.  Mostly.  ;)
9.  And super healthy.  Mostly.  (if you don't count all the BK dbl stackers...)
10.  And fit.  (I'll give him that one.)
11.  He appreciates my work and my arts.  Mostly.
12.  He is hilarious and makes me laugh daily.  Always.
13.  and 13 years ago, when things could have gone another way (we dated for 4 years, people), he chose me!  (Mostly?)

I love you, Babe.  Can't believe it's been 13 years!  Thank you for giving me a great life (mostly) and an awesome trip today that we totally enjoyed...and a new inside joke that we (mostly) can laugh about.  You're the best! 

(Beats hand warmers, doesn't it?)


Monday, October 3, 2011

Yup. Cupcakes.

My friend invited me back to make cupcakes for her a second time!  I sure had fun with them!  She gave me poetic license, so I tried my hand at fondant.  Although they sure looked cute, her girls called it "fondue" and told the guests they could pull it off!  (Oops!)

These cupcakes were chocolate covered cherry - two way - per request of the 5 year-old birthday girl.  Yum!

This design, engineered originally by Sweetopolita, was a 'blonde' version with white girardhelli chocolate chunks sharing a presence with cherries in the white cake, topped with girardhelli white chocolate frosting.  I used sour cherries candies for the "cherry on top."

The devil's food cake showed off dark chocolate girardhelli chunks with chopped cherries inside.  The frosting was this fellow-St. Louisan's maraschino cherry buttercream recipe!  {And I don't even like soda anymore (since falling in love with icee mochas), but I'm pretty sure I'll be buying that Kool Kola extract she recommends here!}

Thanks, KF, for letting me try my hand at baking again!  ;)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Writing, anyway. About balance.

I have a picture of Pookie when she was I look at it, I see a beautiful little girl with all her baby teeth in a gorgeous, full, lights-up-the-room smile, her hair dolled up diva-style, with nothing but fun on her face.  Love pours out of my heart for this little girl.  I think of how much she has grown up since that day and I think of all that she has been through and accomplished and I think about what five more years will do to grow her up.  I also think about who I must have been back then verses today and what five more years will bring for me. 

She's a whole lot of adorable, persistent, talented, smart, spirited, and truly just an amazing kid.  But we are seriously in the throws of sass.  And I am not a fan.

We are working on that magical word over here at Chez Jackson -  Balance.  I think it's hard in life as a general rule to find "the balance" - it's almost maybe even trendy to seek the elusive ... thing...{as if balance were a thing versus an act }... but we seek it. 

So where does balance play in to sass?  I think that as her mother, I must remain consistent with Pookie that we do not and will not tolerate poor treatment of others.  It doesn't present itself so much in what is said as it does with how it is said.  But it is often.  And it enflames me.

Add to that, a general lackadaisical attitude towards the basic concept of work.  I know we are not the first family in the world to deal with kids getting something out, using/eating/generally being responsible for it being out in one way or another, dropping it, then moving on without regard.  Yet, I can't stand it.  I feel like I am constantly going through the house picking up everyone else's junk.  Plus my own.  I busy myself cleaning one room only to turn around and see that the entire house is a disaster.  It makes my blood pressure rise.  There is no balance in fun vs. cleaning up the house when I am constantly cleaning the house.  And please don't tell me these days of little ones are fleeting and the housework can wait - because that requires balance too, doesn't it?  Or we would all be eating dry rice from a box while wearing ... well, nothing, neck deep in plastic McDonald's toys.

So lately, I have been seeking balance.  A sense of everyone working together towards the relative success and happiness of our home and family.  I have settled on nothing.  We have tried rewards and punishments revolving around electronics, cash, goods, services, kissing your sister smack on the lips (forced affection - eegads!).  I am almost constantly reinventing the wheel but the wheel is square.  Or maybe a quadrangle (using those fourth grade math skills, baby! ... I digress).  I insist that each kid has a 'zone' to clean and a chore to own, and the responsibility of picking up their things plus putting away their clothes.  Then tonite, stuff comes falling out of the closet.  That we spent the entire afternoon cleaning yesterday.  And I am undone.

I lose my balance.  Or is that my cool?  {Is cool a direct correlation to balance?}  The work of caring, managing, and maintaining this household - and imagine if there were more people about, or if the house were bigger!!! - is daunting on the best days.  Sometimes the little things - boots, a sleeping bag, and a sweatshirt shoved into the closet are the proverbial straw that broke it, you know?

So I spend the entire night folding, sorting, and placing laundry in respective rooms instead of typing up pages and pages of directions and requirements and expectations of what should, is, and will be done before and after school.  And then I blog about it. 

And I wonder ~ about balance.  About writing.  About getting it right, what 'right' is, and just how do you get there, exactly? 

And I think it probably starts with sleep.

edited to add:  Seriously, I just clicked over to check my emails before heading to bed and what do I see but an article from Martha Stewart's daughter lashing out at her mother for expecting her to be 'perfect' throughout her childhood.  And I get that I am a total perfectionist.  So I struggle regularly, as well, with finding the balance between asking too much and asking too little of my kids.  I really do.  And some day, I want them to read all this and just realize that I was always trying to do my best - and I only expect them to do their best, as well.  But sometimes your best means actually putting your sleeping bag, sweater, and boots away.

And then again.  Sleep.
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