Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A year in review

I'm sitting here checking my usual online stuff--mommy forums, facebook, blogs, etc -- and I'm thinking man, who knew? who knew 2008 would bring me all it did? I turned 25, and you know what? Even though everyone who reads this is older than I am, 25 is a big deal. I always felt like it was the year you were really a grown up. You're not in your early 20's, you can't really be in college anymore, even if you are, then you're a good bit older than everyone else there, you are old enough to be married and possibly have a kid or two--I mean 25 seemed huge. And it is. So, I turned 25. I got fired from my job. This, oh by the way, is the first time I've ever been fired. I felt good knowing I stood up for myself. I didn't walk away feeling like I did anything wrong. I didn't get fired for showing up late, I didn't lose my job because I wasn't a hard worker. I did what I knew was right. Period. In turn, we got our head on straight about debt, paid off both our cars and saved enough money to get 2 big screen tvs. Being at home enhanced my marriage, encouraged my relationship with my son, made me a better wife, mother, and home maker and all in all we are so much happier. I made lots of new friends, some I will keep for the rest of my life and some I've already 'dumped.' :) 2008 brought lots of changes. Changes in my life and changes in me. And that's awesome. I have grown more in the last 6 months than maybe in the last 6 years. I look at my life and there is so much more I'm happy with. I'm happy exactly where I am. I'm proud to say I'm a mother I would look up to. I'm proud to say I'm a mother that others do look up to.

Happy 2008 everyone, and good luck with 2009. May it bring many surprises, and changes and may it bring much life. May we leave it better than we found it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The ghosts of Christmas Future

I had a theme going so for my New-Years-Resolutions post I thought I would call it the ghost of Christmas future though it is only the ghost of 2009 I guess.

I was under the impression we were only allowed to have one resolution each, but my friend Kerry assured me she had several in cue for next week so I decided to follow suit and have several for mine as well.

  1. Lose 10 pounds. This one actually had to be altered to 15 since I gained 5 pounds while at my parents house for Christmas. But whatever. I guess it could just say "be back to the weight I was when I got married."
  2. Learn Spanish. For real this time. I have been a mediocre spanish speaker for almost 6 years now and really, it's time I just buckled down and did it. Honestly, there is no reason I shouldn't have done this already. It will help me tremendously here in Mexi.. err Atlanta when I rejoin the work force in coming years and to be honest, I think it is just a good skill to have.
  3. Start School. Gwinnett Technical college offers a very good Medical Assistant program and I would like to start in August.
  4. Stop biting my fingernails. Really, this is an incredibly disgusting habit and it needs to stop. Period.
So, in the wake of realizing I had gained 5 pounds in Kentucky, I decided to get an early start and went for a 3 mile run today. I am so sorry I did that. I am not hydrated well and so I almost died when I got back. Because I ran competitively for 5 years, I have this mentality that I just need to push myself to reach my goals. So even if I am dieing in route, I will continue to run toward the light... er I mean my goal even if it means I may cease living. So while I am running, I'm fine, but then as soon as I am done, "what was I thinking?" (with added obscenities) is what is running through my brain for the next 3 hours.

All the same, I will be going jogging again in the morning with Kerry and my new jogging stroller (awesome!) and all three of our kids in tow. I'm so serious about losing this weight it's ridiculous! I want to be tip-top for our cruise. For 1: It's a cruise. I'd like to look half decent in my bathing suit, and 2: you gain 10 pounds on a cruise anyway. Mine as well get ahead while I can.

Writing down my new year's resolutions really got me to thinking about what else I'd like to accomplish in life in general. I was thinking, learn Tagalog (why can't I speak 3 languages?), learn Piano (I mean I have one, so why not play it?), finish school, and maybe run a half marathon some day, though that one had a little question mark at the end. All in all it just gave me an opportunity to reevaluate my priorities and goals and that was really cool. I haven't really had the opportunity to think about that kind of stuff since I started staying home and so it made me feel really good knowing there is so much more to my life for me now.

So, in 2009 what would you guys like to see here on a journey somewhat familiar? It would be a lot easier to write if I knew what you guys wanted to read! Comment and let me know!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ghosts of Christmas present

It is two days after Christmas, and to be honest, for our family it is actually a week after Christmas. Since we came to Kentucky for Christmas, I didn't think it would be smart to bring wrapped presents 400 miles just to unwrap them and take them home. So, we did our Christmas at home last Sunday. We got Anakin lots of little things and he got one big thing from both me and Dennis. I got him a Lightning McQueen shaving kit (fake of course) and Dennis got him a pirate costume. He loved everything of course.

Dennis did a lot of his own purchases this year. He got himself a bluray player, a video camera, and several video games he wanted. I got him an ipod shuffle for working out a book and a video game expansion pack he asked for.

The big moment was what he got me. He got me a few books and some DS games I had asked for and then I got to open my "big" present, which was a totally awesome jogging stroller. Then it turned out my REAL big present was a 5-day cruise! Awesome, right? I totally said the F-word on camera. Yeah, I was surprosed. Now I can't wait. But it ports in 90 days so we have a lot to do to get ready. Not to mention I am leaving for Seattle on Thursday so I'm hoping everything that needs to happen will get done. Anyway, I am super super excited and have already started shopping for a cocktail dress to wear on the ship! I've also been shopping for party shirts, but after having little luck with that, I think I may make some. We'll see!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The ghosts of Christmas past.

I'm in Kentucky, and let me very clear: I never like coming here. Given that my father is a regular blog subscriber, this is certainly no secret. But I feel the efforts are growing increasingly more difficult with each visit. The things that used to not seem like such a big deal now tax my patience and by the third day (ummm yeah that's today) I'm really really really ready to go home and often shed a few tears (which I did) into Dennis's shoulder. We are waiting around here another day for my sister and her family to come down from Iowa and to be honest, if they weren't coming, we wouldn't have come at all. It's a long trip (much longer it seems, with a 2 year old) and is very hard to make in the dead of winter. The weather can be unpredictable but as history would repeat itself, yet again it is cold and dismal here, with no snow to relieve the dissapointment.

I often call these trips "a reminder of my humble beginnings" and although things are much the same, little changes have crept their ways into this little town. It seems in a big city like Atlanta, where the recession (how much longer till we call it a depression) is strong and the economy crippled that our woes don't reach this far out, yet on the walk between my in-laws and my parents this morning (yes they live in the same neighborhood which isn't nearly as great as it seems, I can assure you) I saw two homes foreclosed. I saw them when we drove in but the walk gave me time to look at them, take them in, spend time thinking about the story behind the loss. On the street where my parents live, Amanda Ct., the canvas of all my childhood memories, there is a home just three units up from ours with the big yellow stickers on the front window. The VandeSteegs lived there when I was growing up. Sarah was 2 years older than me, lanky with stringy black hair. She liked wolves and horses and anything out doorsy and had a pretty red bike. Now the window shades are open to the cavernous empty rooms where the tenants left a few belongings. A lonely windchime still hangs from the front light and sings a dreary song in the cold winter breeze. The upstairs screens are busted and leaning against the walls on the inside of the house, and as you pass by, you suddenly get that sour feeling in the pit of your stomach, like when you pass a car wreck so bad, you know someone died. Someone did die here, I think as I recognize the brown paint on the walls. Someone's worth perished in a bank account. Someone's life-savings rose and fell like the tides of the wind that run across the tips of the trees that grow behind this home's back yard. Let me say, too that this is not an extravagant house. Nor is it a shack. It is a 4 bedroom, 2 floor, maybe 3000 square foot home with a full, unfinished basement. At least the basement was unfinished last time I was there which may have been 15 years ago. The house is probably worth around $125 in good condition and in a good market. Houses are cheaper in Kentucky anyway. But to go back to the emotion of it all, it just reminded me that life goes on with or without our presence. That children are born and that lives are lost and the world keeps moving and things keep changing and people are dieing. Maybe they are still breathing and their heart is still beating, but life is gone. Their life is gone. In looking at this house, I am filled with a sadness so overwhelming I can hardly breathe. In my consciousness, I blame the cold thin air, but in reality, I know it is fear. We are blessed, and God has met all our needs. And I know, no matter how bad it gets, he will continue to provide, but the roads he paves for us are often broken, and hard, and painful. And I'm scared for what's to come.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The spider-man quilt has begun.

I had intended beginning my next quilt after the holidays but decided to go ahead and give it a whirl since I found the supplies at Joann on sale. And by supplies I mean one of those cool quilt starter kits, normally about $30 on sale for $10. While I realize buying one of these kits is (technically) cheating, let me just say that I will be building my own quilt out of this and my only intention was to find all the fabric I wanted in one little bag supplied in the perfect increments. I still had to do all the measuring, cutting and sewing myself, but didn't have to visit ten fabric stores reminding myself why I don't do this more often. That being said, hopefully I will only have to visit one fabric store to find what I want to finish this one as well. We'll see. Optimism is only a hobby of mine.

Here is the general idea. What I'm hoping to do is simply build off this with a layer of blue and another layer of red. It will all depend on how big I really want it (aka settle for). The kit I bought only made like a 30" quilt. I'm like what is that? A quilt for one of Santa's elves? Not sure, but obviously more is going to have to come of it.

And the best part of spiderman quilt pack? Spiderman argyle.

Monday, December 15, 2008

bridesmaid dresses and God's intention.

After Eve ate the apple, I think it went "Now you suffer through menstral cycles and painful childbirth and thou shalt wear ugly bridesmaid dresses for all eternity." Something like that. Originally, my sister in law said I could wear whichever dress I wanted from David's Bridal as long as I chose it in the color she wanted. The color was pool which is a fancy word for teal which is a fancy word for gross. However, when both her cousins chose the same dress, I obviously had to wear what they had chosen so I didn't look like the idiot wearing the wrong dress. And so this is what they chose. Let me just say here that for two 21 year old girls who weigh 100 lbs each, soaking wet, this dress is perfect. But for my big butt, not so much. So I will probably be wearing a body suit under it and holding my breath the entire time. If I faint, I'm sure Dennis will catch me. And if she had chosen the dress in maybe black, I could possibly wear it again. But since it's teal, I mean "pool", I might try to sell it on ebay when we're done.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

to whom it may concern:

I am hereby submitting my resignation letter. I have enjoyed my time working with this company and feel I have learned many skills that will allow me to move up substantially in future positions. However, I no longer have the energy to clean poopy underwear, mop urine from my carpet, cook 2 square meals 6 days a week, do the dishes, clean the said urine-soaked clothing, bathe, train, and raise a society-acceptable 2-year-old and still maintain my sanity. I am leaving to pursue other opportunities in the form of a weekend away with my girlfriends. I'll be back on Monday.


All joking aside, some days are harder than others. Today = extra hard. I was not expecting to have Dean all day today, and I, of course, don't mind at all that his mom asked me to keep him all day so she could do some things at school. But that doesn't make it any less exhausting. And to only increase the insanity, both the boys were in a foul mood today and I'm trying desperately to get the house cleaned up before we have company over this weekend. "Why are you cleaning when you have two moody toddlers, Rach?" I hear you ask with that note of sarcasm in your voice. I assure you, it would be worse if I was dealing with them nonstop. When they are moody, if I just let them play and fight and work it out, that's exaclty what they do: work it out. If I am hovering over them, it makes them come to me every time a pin is dropped and say "Mommy, Dean did this" "Mommy, Anakin hurt me!" It is better just to tell them I am busy and stay in the other room, in ear shot of something seriously going wrong. And also, the satisfaction of actually cleaning something is incredibly cathartic. It reminds me that I have purpose in this house. That Dennis is not working to help me stay home merely to play video games and make sure the boys don't kill each other.

On that note, I have made a lot of progress with Anakin's lessons. He has officially learned all his colors, all his shapes and about 10 letters. Go me! Go Anakin! Nonetheless, he will definitely be starting preschool in January (which will be when we officially have both cars paid off) at a local Church Preschool program that came highly reccomended. The mesely 3 hours a day I will regain twice a week won't be enough time to do much, but perhaps it will at least give me a little room to breathe again. I will officially no longer be Dean's care-giver as of tomorrow afternoon so that will certainly give me some more energy as well and I am actually kind of looking forward to this new chapter in my mommy-life. I've already decided to start taking a Pilates class once a week with a friend while our boys are at school and I'm really excited I may be able to get back my pre-mommy belly!

With all that out, it leaves me to look back and see all that I appreciate about this new part of my life. Karen asked me when I saw her recently in the midst of her great trek to El Paso, what was my favorite part of being a stay at home mom. I took a moment to deliberate; should I tell my generic answer, or should I tell my heart. After realizing Karen would recognize the lie, I told her, "I struggled a lot with post-pardum depression. Now, looking back, I realize how bad it really was but when I was going through it, my friends and family told me what I was feeling was normal and so I just went on like nothing was wrong. In turn, Anakin and I didn't really have a relationship. We didn't bond the way most moms do with their babies. I really struggled to love him because all I could think was You ruined my marriage/family/body/career. But now that I'm out of that, and I get to spend every day with this wonderful gift God gave me, I am reminded of how sovereign and awesome the Lord is, and how incredibly knowing He is. And now Anakin is one of my best friends. We play games, and tell stories and have conversations and just be together. That's the best part. The best part is watching this little baby become a boy and that boy become my second-best friend. And also, in turn, my marriage is so much better. That's the best part. My family finally being the family I knew I always wanted."

Okay, with maybe a few less/more words. But that was the idea. So. Somedays are harder than others. And today I am about ready to quit. But Anakin has been asleep for about an hour and I find myself already listening to hear his little feet get out of bed. Because that's the best part of my entire day. When he opens the door, with that expectant face, and then he sees me and his eyes light up. "There she is!" his heart screams "There's my best friend! There's my mommy!"

Friday, December 5, 2008

My friend posted this on her blog- auther is unknown

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously, not.

No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?'

I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going; she's going; she is gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.

I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe .

I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:

'To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.
These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.' I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.

It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're going to love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.