Archive for 2011

Surgery successful

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The above picture is an x-ray view of the new hardware that now exists inside my son's clavicle. It kind of looks like a centipede, huh? Well, it's a little more complicated than that but I am so glad this procedure is behind us. He is resting comfortably thanks to some strong pain medication and his doting nurse.

Last Sunday when this happened, word spread like wildfire thanks to the younger brother on Facebook. As we were leaving the E.R., I got a text from a friend , "How is Quinn??" I had not talked to anyone so I knew Ian was the bearer of bad news--to the entire social networking world. As the week went on, messages of well wishes and offers of prayer poured in from local friends and neighbors. Classmates stopped by with homework assignments, teachers emailed to check on him and even his former youth group leader came over with a pizza and a movie and spent the afternoon with him. It warmed my heart to see how very loved he was. I commented to my husband, "These are the perks of living in a small community." I haven't always shared that sentiment. But isn't it funny how when it works in our favor, we are all about it?

This got me thinking about celebrities and how they have no problem making millions off the world but when a misfortune happens in their lives (typically a divorce), we all need to respect their privacy. As much as I tend to criticize this hypocrisy in them, am I really that different? I love feeling supported by our community and the perks that come with that part of the small town lifestyle. Those are the days where being a big fish in a small pond works to my advantage. But what about when something happens that I'm not so proud of or that I don't want exposed to everyone else? That's the time I wish for my publicist to issue a statement requesting that everyone mind their own business. Who's the hypocrite now?

Other than this "Ah-ha moment," Quinn's accident has been full of so many other silver linings too. From the minute his collarbone snapped in half, I have seen God's hand on this entire process. First, the friend he was with on the mountain that day happened to have parents who are in the sports medicine field. They are good friends with the local orthopedic doctor who happens to specialize in collarbones and shoulders. They put in a call to him and he fit us in the next morning. His personality and demeanor were a perfect fit with Quinn's. Second, as selfishly as I was looking forward to two weeks off before the kids were out for their Christmas break, I'm so glad this happened when it did so I could be available to take care of him. Is there really a better investment of my time? Third, he gets the entire vacation to recover instead of having to miss two weeks of school--he's already finding that making up the schoolwork is going to take forever. Finally, it was nice to watch Ian and Ben show deep concern for their big brother. They called or texted us all day while we sat in the waiting room on the day of surgery. Typically we would all be going many different directions in the week leading up to Christmas but everyone has slowed down and enjoyed being at home and being together. This has been the biggest blessing of all.


Even though we're innocent

Monday, December 12, 2011

Yesterday afternoon I was finally getting some Christmas tasks crossed off my to-do list. It was just me and Millie having a lazy Sunday while the big boys were tearing it up on the mountain. Little did I know that my oldest was about to be torn up BY the mountain. A seasoned snowboarder, he and his buddy were taking in one last run when someone much slower got in front of him and caused an abrupt stop on his part. Only the stop then turned into a flip which culminated with a collision of his left shoulder and a very icy patch of snow.

Without even an x-ray or medical training of any sort, anyone could determine his collarbone was broken. Badly broken. The bone pushing up under the skin gave it away for me. As we sat in the E.R. waiting to hear his fate, I thought about the sense of loss he was feeling knowing his first winter with a season's pass had come to a screeching halt. It makes it easier to process those losses when we've made decisions that have had a direct effect on the outcome. But he did nothing wrong. He wasn't being crazy or risky--not that this never happens. He didn't cut anyone off or break any rules and yet he has to pay a hefty price in spite of it.

I didn't go down the path of "this isn't fair" but instead I started thinking about how this has been a theme in my life this Fall season: having to pay (literally and figuratively) for something that wasn't my fault. Back in October, I got out of my car in the Walgreens parking lot during a terrible windstorm. Just as I opened my driver's door, a gust of wind flung it out of my hand and perfectly into the mirror of the car parked beside mine. My door hit the passenger side mirror so perfectly that it shattered in a million pieces and blew away. The unit was fine but the mirror was gone. I left a note and went inside. As I got to the register, there was a little old man holding my note with a bewildered look on his face. I went up to him and identified myself as the author and breaker of his mirror. He was appreciative of my honesty and felt sure it wasn't going to be a costly repair. Less than two hours later I got a call informing me that he'd already been to two body shops and the total damage was $280!!! It was hard to write that check knowing I didn't willfully cause his mirror to break.

Two days later I walked out to my car in the driveway only to notice a huge dent in my front bumper that I know wasn't there before. I retraced my steps and figured it happened in the high school stadium parking lot during the last home football game. No note was left behind. Although it was covered by insurance, I still had to pay a $300 deductible toward the repair. Again, I was innocent but still had to pay the price--and write another check.

The last incident that came to mind was when Millie (our dog) had a bladder infection in September that was treated with antibiotics. It returned in November with a vengeance. This time they wanted to do a culture to determine if the strain was resistant to what was previously prescribed. Sure enough it was and, more than likely, the original infection had never left her body. Apparently we were supposed to bring her back after the first round of medicine to make sure the infection was gone. We don't recall hearing those instructions although it's highly likely they were given. The culture showed a bacteria that should respond to the second round of meds and we brought her back in for yet another culture to determine it worked. No dice. We went back again for another urinalysis and culture and they suggested that perhaps their office may have contaminated her urine sample so the charge would be half. Sure enough, the last culture found no bacteria and most likely they were at fault but a full admission wasn't given. The cost? Again, close to $300. And again, neither we nor Millie did anything wrong.

So where am I going with this? No, I'm not just venting and I'm really not angry about it because it's made me realize something greater. Jesus also did nothing wrong. He was completely innocent and yet he still had to pay the price for our decisions. He still went to the cross knowing this. What a beautiful, humbling reminder of His sacrifice.

No, I'm not happy about the time and money spent on that which I view as frivilous. No, I'm in no way excited that my son has to endure a painful surgery, a long recovery and a season's pass down the drain. But in the grand scheme of things, they are small annoyances in comparison to what I have been given. And what better time than this Christmas season to be reminded of this.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I remember last October when I had to write my first paper for an English Lit class. Because of my parental responsibilities, I couldn't get to it until 3 days before it was due and I was utterly stressed out. A mom of one of Ben's buddies saw the look on my face when I dropped him off at their house the night I was starting the paper. As I walked to my car, she yelled: "Remember, BDP!" Huh? Translation: Big. Deep. Breath. Over a year later, I've never forgotten that phrase and found myself muttering it under my breath (pun intended) all quarter as deadline after deadline loomed overhead. On Monday I was able to not only say it out loud but put it into practice because .......Fall quarter is officially behind me!!! Ahhhhhhhh.....I can feel the stress leaving my body moment by moment.

I've posted intermittently about my quarterly musings, most of them tongue-in-cheek about my classmates and our generational differences. Probably because that's been the most fun to discuss. And also because, after the warnings we received about posting personal info about our teaching experiences on social networking sites, I was completely paranoid that I would never find a job or, worse yet, be kicked out of the program. Even if I talked in code, I was sure "the powers that be" were perusing the Internet in search of violators. I now understand a little better who they were warning and why they were warning them. I'm not out to disparage anyone or vent over my grades or assignments. You have a little more perspective the second time around. All that said, I definitely need to do a "download" of the last 12 weeks' highlights.

Thumbs Up:

  • My "middle schools" class: with only 6 of us in there, everyone of whom was over 5 years post-baccaleaurate, the lively, mature discussions made showing up at 8 a.m. worth it every Tuesday and Thursday.

Thumbs Down:

  • It was the only class that required a meeting during finals week. I did my final presentation and thought I was officially done. On the bus ride home, my classmate informed me that there were grading guidelines posted on our website--of which I had no clue. I missed doing the part that was 50% of the grade. OOPS!! It turned positive when I emailed my professor and explained my ignorance. She extended a lot of grace and let me do an "addendum" after the fact.


  • Having an actual teaching experience in a middle school setting. Planning lessons and spending time with the students was invigorating. My professor's daughter and my son were students at the school so we had an affinity with each other over our love for the building and its teachers. My supervising teacher was Quinn's 6th grade teacher which was another plus.


  • Trying to team teach with a classmate from another endorsement area whom I had no relationship with. And learning later,from someone in another class, that my teaching partner was not fond of me and referred to me not by name but by "that older person." OUCH!


  • Having a professor who was a professional storyteller with a British accent. She brought such enthusiasm and fun to the class and gave amazing feedback to our performances. My classmates were so creative and passionate about their subject areas. Every week I grew to love them more.


  • It was only a two-credit class but we regularly met for 3-4 hours per week, in the middle of the day. And knowing I won't share classes with but one or two of them next quarter makes me sad. Also, I was a nervous wreck all four times I had to get up in front of the class. Crazy.


  • atching my family adapt to their mom and wife being preoccupied by her schoolwork and completely step up and show support and encouragement. Having the boys regularly ask me how class was and Trey taking over carpool while I rushed off for my early morning classes warmed my heart. I found out yesterday that when they shared prayer requests in Ben's class last week, he asked his classmates and teacher to pray for his mom's finals. Double "thumbs up!"


  • Having to say no to "can you have lunch with me?" or "can you pick me up from practice ?" or "did you make it to the store today?" and regularly accepting a messy house, unfinished laundry and cereal for dinner.

It's been a great adventure and one that presses me into uncomfortable places and out of that comfort zone which is always a good thing. Looking forward to a month of no deadlines, clean clothes, nutritious meals and quality time with all my guys. Until I disappear again on January 3rd.


The Pre-Thanksgiving Competition

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Prior to heading out of town for our Thanksgiving celebration with our dear college friends, the McQuarries, I received a text reminding me to bring a hostess gift (love that girl's sense of humor) and informing us that our family was being challenged to a little basketball competition--the reason being that they would have a greater chance of beating us than if we competed in a different sport. Always up for a challenge, we replied: Game on!

Now this family lives, eats and breathes basketball. All three kids are on teams and have been since they could practically walk. We knew we had our work cut out for us. But, much to their surprise, we were up by 7 points within the first 3 minutes. This wasn't what they expected--nor did we. They stepped up their game but we held our lead until everyone's fingers were frozen and it was time to indulge in Janelle's gourmet cooking, stuff ourselves and enjoy our family's favorite sport: Football! All was forgiven and bruised egos healed as we shared our 10th Thanksgiving together. What a joy and a blessing it is to have those lifelong friends who are more like family. But you know we can expect a re-match next year!

Bring it!

We're going down--or so we thought.

They even had the fancy shoes to intimidate us

Trey and Janelle on our way to the courts for the big tip off.

Go Ben!

Go, Quinn!

What just happened? Even we were shocked.


We want the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Everytime I see this image it makes me feel nostalgic. I suppose that was the purpose Mr. Rockwell had in this infamous painting that has spanned the generations. For my parents and grandparents it was a reflection of their Thanksgiving feast. But is it a reality for today's American family? Most likely that would be a big, fat "NO!"

I always feel anxious when the holiday season rolls around and all the questioning begins. We'll then go down the path of trying to figure out who is going to be where, attempting to meet everyone's expectations, knowing there will be disappointment and usually feeling like I just want it to be over. Every year I say, "this year will be different" and yet it rarely is. These were never issues we had to address before I had my own family. My dad's family wasn't in the picture so they didn't have to be considered. My mom's parents lived 6 miles away and it was just expected that everyone would come to their house for every holiday. No questions asked. To do anything different would be grounds for being disowned. Or just the plain old silent treatment.

When I lived on the east coast for 10 years, there were glimpses of the Norman Rockwell holiday but it wasn't with grandma, grandpa and all the cousins. We spent a few Thanksgiving weekends with Trey's aunt and uncle who are now deceased. They lived on a little island with 10 other families--most of whom lived a long distance from their own relatives. This group started their own traditions and became each other's family. This was my first experience, and first holiday, without my own kin. They welcomed me as if I had always been there and I couldn't wait to return. Yet, I was hesitant to relay my excitement to my own family. I felt like I was being unfaithful because I enjoyed something that wasn't traditional.

Now that we've been back on the west coast, it would make sense to fall back into the traditions and expecations of my pre-married life. Only it's not 1975. Our extended family has extended with marriages and babies; divorces and deaths have made the logistics more complicated, and some have moved to other parts of the country. Life has happened. As a result, everyone has started doing their own thing. In fact, I think this is the first year that all of my siblings will be sitting at an entirely different table on Thursday. I know this is hard for my mom and not what she envisioned the future to look like. It's hard for me too. I have cousins coming from the east coast that I won't get to see because of logistics and other reasons and that makes me sad. We've never spent a Thanksgiving with Trey's extended family since we moved out here and that is disappointing. But if I hold on to tradition, I might miss out on the very blessings right in front of me.

As my kids get older, which seems to happen at lightning speed these days, I have had to let go of my own expectations and traditions. When I discovered that winter sports at the high school level require Saturday and Christmas break practices, I cringed. When Ben was invited to be in a soccer tournament that spanned Friday through Sunday of next weekend, 2 hours away, I wanted to hide the information from him. When Trey announced that the last two days of his training meant he would be gone Saturday and Sunday next weekend, I was on the verge of tears. This wasn't the Thanksgiving weekend I hoped for and had become accustomed to. That's when I read this great article in my latest issue of Reader's Digest titled "Sharing the Sweetness" which I have paraphrased here.

"On the 25th of December, my mother expects her children to be present and accounted for, exchanging gifts and eating turkey. When she pulls on that holiday sweater everybody better get festive. Of course I would be the first Jones sibling to go rogue. As the middle, artist child, I was going to do my own thing, make some new traditions--I would spend the holiday at an artist colony!

No one took the news very well. From the way my mother carried on, you would think I was divorcing the family. Still, I held my ground and made plans for my winter adventure in New Hampshire. The MacDowell colony was everything I could have wished for. About 25 to 30 artists were in attendance, an it was, as well, artsy as I had imagined. It felt like my life had become a quirky independent film.

By Christmas Eve, I had been at the colony for more than a week. The novelty of snowy New England was wearing off, but I would never admit it. Everyone around me was having too much fun.......This was the holiday I had always dreamed of. No plastic reindeer grazing the front lawn. No football games on TV. Not a Christmas sweater anywhere in sight. Then why was I so sad?

Finally, I called home on the pay phone in the common room. My dad answered but I could barely hear him for all the good time noise in the background. He turned down the volume on the Stevie Wonder album and told me that my mother was out shopping with my brothers. Now it was my turn to sulk. They were having a fine Christmas without me.

Despite a massive blizzard, a large package showed up near my door at the artist colony on Christmas morning. 'Tayari Jones' was written in my mother's beautiful handwriting. I pounced on that parcel like I was five years old. Inside was a gorgeous red velvet cake, my favorite, swaddled in about 50 yards of bubble wrap. 'Merry Christmas' read the simple card inside. 'We love you very much.'"

What I love about this story was the way the author's mother dealt with her disappointment in such a positive way. She embraced the reality of her daughter's choices and reminded her that she was loved in such a profound way. I hope that when the day comes where one or all of my sons announce they are breaking from tradition and our holidays look different, I will also be able to give my blessing in spite of my heartbreak.

I may never have the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving ever again but I'll always have the memories and the chance to make new ones.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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I think they're warming up to me

Friday, November 11, 2011

In many of my posts about this second-time-around college experience, I realized how much I mention the age disparity between myself and my classmates. The community college population had much more diversity in that regard but I knew that the majority of university students were there post-high school not pre-menopause. I was definitely out of my comfort zone--and then some. I knew that I wouldn't have much in common with my fellow teacher candidates but I hoped I wouldn't feel like as much of a fish out of water as I did during orientation.

Being my naturally initiating, out-going, inquisitive self I tried to get to know the other young men and women in my classes. In the second week when we started doing peer reviews it became clear to me that my seatmates were reluctant to offer me any constructive criticism. No one was going to diss the "mom." ( And it probably didn't help that I wrote one girl's name on her notecard for her. Total mom move.) Every time we gave feedback after our presentations, the only person who pointed out where I needed improvement was the professor! In spite of my efforts to be treated as their peer, the reality is that number one: I am not. And number two: there is the natural respect that occurs when in the presence of someone significantly older than you. The combination of these two facts guaranteed that I wasn't going to be making friends on campus. Even though I could accept it, I still felt like the girl who didn't get invited to the party.(literally and figuratively)

By week three one sweet young thing warmed up to me enough to friend me on Facebook. The next day when I sat down at her table, she said "I think it's so cool that you don't dress like a mom. You're like 'hip mom'." At least she didn't say "stop trying to look like one of us." I started to clue in that they just didn't know what to make of me. I didn't fit into the box.

Two weeks ago one of my classes had a site visit--which happened to be at Ian's middle school. One of the guys in my class wants to be a math teacher and we were there during first period. Ian has math at this time and his teacher happens to be one of the coolest guys out there. I asked my classmate if he wanted to meet the best math teacher on the planet and he agreed. Within minutes, he and Mr. C hit it off and Mr. C. offered to write a work study grant to get this guy a part time job in his class. As we walked out into the hall, he spied my son's "All About Me" poster with several mountain biking pictures. He inquired about his interests and then looked at our family photo and asked "is this your family?" Suddenly I became a real person to him--kind of like the first time you see your teacher at the grocery store and realize she doesn't sleep at the school. He then wanted to know how old my boys were, etc. We started talking about snow boarding and the boys getting their seasons' passes last week. He mentioned having an extra board and wanted to know how tall my oldest was. A couple days later I walked into class and there was a snowboard leaning up on the wall behind his seat. He GAVE it to me for Quinn.

This week was the clincher. As I sat down next to my Facebook friend the other day she asked "Dana, do you drive a mini-van?" I hesitated to answer the question not knowing where she was going with it. I figured my "hip mom" status was about to be removed. When I told her I did, she laughed and said she and another classmate had made a bet about it and she said I was too much of a cool mom to drive one. She then turned around to the other girl and announced that she was right about me and FB friend was wrong. They both laughed and then FB friend admitted that they were talking about me again yesterday and future FB friend asked current FB friend "Does Dana have a husband?" I guess she missed the wedding ring on my left hand. FB friend informed me that she told her "Yes she does. We are friends on Facebook and she pretty much has dream family. In fact I'm pretty sure she has the white picket fence too." This was when I laughed!!

I think what had intimidated me the most about starting this program was the knowledge that I would be collaborating with men and women half my age who already knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I felt embarrassed that I am just figuring it out in mid-life. I think I felt like I had to make excuses for this. But I also realize that there is no guarantee that they won't feel like I do when they're twenty years down the road. I'm not going to be "one of them" by virtue of where I'm at in life but I can be their mentor, co-collaborator and, possibly, their co-worker. And it's okay. This is so much better the second time around.


Fall Recap

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I am always glad to turn the calendar to November 1st. September and October oftentimes feel like we are operating in survival mode. With sports, school and a plethora of family birthday celebrations, we spend less time together than we would like and the pace gets a little out of hand. All that said, when looking at these pictures, I wouldn't have it any other way. Even though it's 60 days of non-stop activity, it also reminds me that we have so much to be thankful for heading into the Thanksgiving season. Thank you, Lord for friendships, family, birthdays and sporting events. None of which we could experience and enjoy if you hadn't first given us LIFE itself.

Ben is ten and it's a "friend party" year.

Sorry for the horrible picture of the birthday twins.

Big brothers and two of our favorite young men who are like family-Russ and Zach

Brotherly love.

Ben ordered an ice cream cake and Russ delivered. Such a "Martha" he is.

Middle school changed track to a Fall sport this year. There's Ian tearing it up in his bright orange.

The final lap of the 1600.

Mom's birthday dinner at her favorite restaurant with her favorite guys.

Our first experience with Friday Night Lights. Awesome.

My BFF Laurie. Believe it or not she is older than me. Isn't she gorgeous?

Happy hour with my besties. I don't have single friend who is shorter than me. Love these ladies!


Ben is Ten

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28th is a very special day in our family. Since the early 1900's there has been a relative on my side with that birthday. Yes, there's a story here. My beloved and most favored great uncle Charlie was born on that day. And forty some years later so was my mom. (She's lucky they didn't name her Charlotte or Chuckie) When my parents met in 1964 she discovered her future father-in-law shared her special day. What are the chances? And don't you love stories like this?

Fast forward to February 2001. Every time I was expecting my mother was always adamant that my child had to have his or her "own" birthday. Since I have an extended family of over 50 people, the chances that I'd have a due date close to a relative's was pretty much guaranteed. And it happened every time. So when I learned that our baby Ben was to arrive around October 25th, his grandmother was most worried that he would have to share the rest of his birthdays with me. (October 23rd)

October 23rd came and went. Phew. October 25th came and went. Grrr. Labor was gently induced on October 27th and, after 10 hours, I barely progressed. Just as I was taken off the monitor, it all broke loose and they admitted me to labor and delivery--at 10 p.m. By the time the epidural took effect and contractions slowed down it was obvious we would be passing the midnight mark before a baby appeared. So guess who Ben gets to share his birthday with?? "Ma" couldn't have been prouder to relinquish the rights as the last living family member born on the 28th of October.

Since Ma came to the hospital that stormy October afternoon, she hasn't missed a single one of the birthday twin celebrations. I love that every year I get to honor and celebrate two of my most favorite people in the whole world!

Happy Birthday Ma and Ben!!! And rest in peace Uncle Charlie and Grandpa Marty. Your legacy continues.





First birthday!!



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Well high school has taken us by storm. We blinked and our oldest was a freshman. Before the year even started there was already talk about "where Homecoming pictures would be taken??" Huh? Homecoming? I was just getting used to the idea of having a high schooler and they're making plans for their first formal dance. Wow have times changed.

I don't think my son even knows that I have a blog--or cares-- but I want to be sensitive to him as I write about this. The whole process of planning the asking of his date, picking out his clothes, and ordering the corsage was fraught with misunderstanding, miscommunication and frustration. I have definitely lost my "cool mom" status. In an effort to keep our relationship on a civil level I refrained from asking questions or giving advice. You know this was killing me. I became more concerned about him being a gentleman and how he looked to his date's parents than whether he still trusted me and felt safe talking with me. Lesson learned. The poor firstborn endures all of our parenting mistakes to the fullest, huh?

He let me take him to get his hair cut and pick up the corsage yesterday afternoon. I just cracked up at his reaction when paying for it. When we got to the register and he took out his wallet he looked at me and said "That much for this?? Geez you women are expensive!" That's right son.

In an effort to not further embarrass him, I aquiesced to his request that I not accompany him and his dad to pick up his date and snap a bunch of pictures. Talk about restraint. My husband took them to the house where 15 couples were convening for dinner and pictures. As I waited (impatiently) at home, Trey returned and announced: "She is BEAUTIFUL! You should have come. There were a ton of parents there. It was a big party." Great. He said the group thing made everyone relaxed and I had permission to come back with him to transport the kids to the school for the dance. This was when they reluctantly agreed to take the pictures below. Baby steps, right?

I'm happy to report that they had a great time and he spent the better part of this morning sitting on the edge of my bed giving me a play-by-play of the evening. I wish I could share more but I'll refrain. I'm just glad I'm back in the know--until the next big event.

Before the dinner.

Leaving for the dance. Much more relaxed.

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Happy Birthday Mimi!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Since I've been blogging, one of my most faithful readers has been my mother-in-law. I know she loves to get updates on the family and see recent pictures since she lives 3,000 miles away. But she always takes the time to comment on the posts where I really share my heart. Her love language is definitely "words of affirmation" and she speaks them so effortlessly. I don't think she really understands how encouraging her words are because it comes so naturally to her.

This morning when I looked at the calendar and was reminded of her birthday today, I thought "now this calls for a post."

It seems that most complaints about mother's-in-law center around too much meddling. This has never been an issue here. She has a healthy respect for our marriage and our family and only gets involved if we ask her to. Even if she has had issues with me (and I'm sure there have been plenty over the years) she has never said a coarse word about me to my husband. How many of us can say that about our husband's mom? It's a trait I want to emulate when I am in her shoes.

I still remember when Trey and I were planning our move to Washington D.C. My intended living situation changed a few weeks before we were leaving. Through Trey, his mom communicated that I was welcome to live with them. We hadn't even met!!! One night I mustered up the courage to call and thank his parents for their offer. A few days later I received a letter in the mail thanking me for making the first contact. The letter ended with "we have always been fond of anyone who brings our son happiness, which is why I'm sure we will adore you." Awwww. Once again, her words slayed me.

We spent the first 10 years of our marriage within driving distance of their house. The day we packed up to head west, I know it was killing her to watch us load our belongings and her grandbabies and move as far away from them as possible while still living in the U.S. She never let on that she was thinking of anything except what was best for our family. She always makes the most of our time together. In fact this summer when one of my boys stained her carpet with food for what seemed like the 100th time, my son said "sorry, Mimi" and as she jumped up to get the rug cleaner, I heard her say, "I'm just glad y'all are here!" Well said.

My all-time favorite memory was my 40th birthday. She decided she wanted to hand-deliver my present and join in on the 50's party. I foiled her surprise when I got up in the middle of the night and heard some noise in the basement. I went down there to discover her in the guest room eating a bowl of cereal. I was blown away. She had never come out her by herself, and I know she caught flack for it, but the fact that she was willing to do that for me was birthday present enough. But she didn't stop there. Since 2000, I have been making her a yearly scrapbook for Christmas of our family's past 12 months. It's my favorite thing to do every December and it's the only gift she wants year after year. (or so I think) She decided it was my turn to have someone make a book for me. We cozied up on the sofa the next morning and she handed me the most precious gift I've ever received: a book with 40 pages--each one dedicated to one of the 40 reasons why she loves me. Now that alone is a tall order for anyone. Without a doubt, it is one of my most prized possessions.

If they say a man marries a woman a lot like his mother, then based on my experience, I take that as a huge compliment.

Happy Birthday, Mimi!!! May the time and effort you invest in others be returned to you today! Thanks for emulating who I want to be when I finally get some girls in this family.

Celebrating the October birthdays.

Just before I became the other woman in her son's life.


I was born to do this

Friday, September 30, 2011

"I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up." How many times have we all heard this--and said it--during our adult lives?? I don't think I will be saying that again.

For the first few years post-college I dabbled in several different industries but never lasted at a job more than a year or so. I had family members who believed in staying with the same company for 20+ years who were constantly perplexed (and annoyed) by my inability to find something and stick to it. One family member (who shall remain nameless) once said to me "Volunteer. Don't volunteer. Sales. Marketing. PR. When are you going to make up your mind??" I was always envious of those who went the way of a solid degree. Accounting, Law, and Medicine were disciplines where the path was obvious--and limited. Communications? Too broad for this broad to make a permanent residence in a cubicle somewhere.

When I became a mother fourteen years ago and traded in my commute, fancy clothes and lunches out for the privilege of being able to spend my days with my newborn, I never doubted my decision for one moment. I knew since I was a little girl and toted my hairless, fingerless doll around that I was meant to bring life into this world. I remember that utter feeling of contentment that I had finally found my calling--it just happened to be at home and not in the corporate world--until now.

I have loved being a mom and still do but that season is taking on a different path. At 14, 13 and 10 I am needed in different ways which brought me to this place. This past week in my Intro to Middle Schools class, we played a getting to know you game where we had to go around the room and share why we wanted to be middle school teachers. I told my classmates how ever since I was a middle schooler 30 years ago that the desire has never left me. When my oldest entered sixth grade, and I walked through the halls of his school, I knew this was where I needed to be. I told them how I "get" these kids and connect with them and they connect with me. My professor seemed a little blown away by my response and said "everyone doesn't have to be as enthusiastic as Dana." I took that as a compliment.

In my Dynamics of Teaching class on Wednesday we had to do our baseline presentation in front of our class. We had three minutes to introduce ourselves and our subject matter to our "students." Our professor gave immediate feedback and asked three to four of our classmates to do the same. It was all a blur because of my frayed nerves but I do remember hearing "you really understand your students' sense of humor and play to that very well."

Yesterday we went to the middle school where we'll be volunteering in the classroom once a week for our orientation. It happens to be where my son is in 7th grade. Lucky for him I will be with the 6th grade team of teachers. Lucky for me I am with the lovely women who taught my older son during his first year of middle school. I can't wait! As I was speaking with them after everyone left, we heard a knock on the window only to see my son with his silly face plastered against the pane. Oh how I love middle schoolers--especially my own.

Maybe I have finally grown up.


Back To School, Round 2: Mom's Turn

Thursday, September 22, 2011

After a glorious three and a half month break, it is time for me to hit the books once again. Although this time around I am a "big girl" and stepping onto a university campus. Yesterday was a full day orientation replete with all the do's and don'ts of being a public school teacher. Unfortunately it was full of more "don'ts" than "do's". I learned that showing cleavage, buttcrack or midriff is unprofessional but bring on the tattoos and piercings. No limitations exist on either of these artistic expressions. I also learned that 34% of the teachers in my state (or roughly 20, 000 educators) will reach retirement age in the next 3 years. So all you naysayers will have to stop warning me that "there will be no jobs." However, all along I have felt this journey has been about so much more than simply landing a contract. I can't wait to watch it unfold.

I sat in a room full of future educators and walked the campus where 90% of the population was easily half my age--or more. Actually it was definitely closer to "more". I wrote on my Facebook that I was hoping to not be mistaken for a parent. At the lunch break, as I was standing in line to pick up my student ID card, the young lady in charge asked me if I would be living the dorms! Yes, the dorms. I guess it would be cheaper--especially if I could bring my family along, but seriously? I found it a little (actually a lot) flattering. Kind of like when you're 19 and a construction crew whistled at you and you got mad and now if it happens, you scream "Really?? Thank you so much!!" I'm sure this sweet co-ed wanted to retract her question as soon as it crossed her lips but I happily let it sink in to my wrinkled skin and tired body and let myself be puffed up while I waited my turn.

Since I was denied the opportunity to feast on Chick-fil-A, as they no longer exist on our campus, I grabbed a cold, tasteless sandwich and returned to my advising session. As we sat at our respective tables one of the professors asked if anyone in the room had any desire to work with 11-to-14-olds as this would mean a change in your advisor assignment. I quickly shot my hand up only to discover that I was completely alone in my enthusiastic response. Not a single one of my fellow classmates joined in. They have no idea what they're missing. Or maybe they do and I'm about to find out why. This lovely lady, who also loves middle schoolers, came over to chat with me and suggest I add another course to my schedule this quarter as it's only taught two of the three terms--at 8:00 A.M.!! I think this night owl will sleep on this decision. Literally.

Today I arrived at the Park and Ride with my new bookbag (thanks, Mom!) and caught the bus to campus. I think the bus driver was the only rider older than Moi. I really need to get over this, huh? I only had one class today and I quickly decided that this was a course I wanted to be in every single day. Our professor is one of the loveliest, charming women I've ever encountered. She hails from England and if listening to her accent wasn't wonderful enough, her enthusiasm and personality only put her over the top in likeability. Just when I start to doubt or worry about this path or what each quarter will hold I get a treat like this to confirm yet again that I am exactly where I need to be.

Now, about that sunrise class.......


Ian's belated birthday

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I wrote a post on my middle son's 13th birthday and it disappeared. I even did it in advance and scheduled the posting. That's what I get for not following up. Story of my life. If I was a bit more of a micro manager maybe events would happen a little more seamlessly.

At the end of the week my husband said, "Can we move Ian's birthday to a different month?" Back when we were starting a family no one warned us to not have a baby near the beginning of the school year--not that we would have listened. Every year I look back with regret and worry that he was overlooked and I didn't put as much effort into his day as I do for his brothers. This year both the middle school and elementary school had their parent night on his birthday along with a freshman football game 30 miles away. As a result we had to celebrate the night before which made the actual day kind of anti-climactic.

True to middle child, go-with-the-flow Ian fashion, he didn't complain one bit. It probably helped that he raked in enough cash to cover our weekly grocery bill and got his very first cell phone--which happens to be a huge upgrade to the one his brother received on his 13th. It's the little things that count, right?

Maybe it is a blessing that my earlier post evaporated into cyberspace as this kiddo does not like to be gushed over. Just about everything I do or say these days gets an eye roll or a "that's embarrassing, Mom!" So I'll just say, "Happy Birthday, Ian!!" You are kind, bright, funny and a true joy to be with. I've loved being your mom for the last 13 years and I look forward to watching you continue to thrive in this life. You rock!

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And another school year begins

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's my favorite day of the year: the first day of school! It was touch and go there for a couple days as our teachers decided to strike last Thursday. Fortunately they settled on a contract by Friday night and classes were only delayed one day. Since Ben is at a private school he started (much to his dismay) yesterday while his brothers got to prolong summer another 24 hours. I did make them go get haircuts so they couldn't have fun the ENTIRE day.

To show you what a stellar mother I am, I woke Ben up, got busy doing my thing and then realized it was 20 minutes until we had to leave. We rolled into the parking lot with a minute to spare only to find the entire overflow lot filled with cars. Oh yeah, the back to school assembly. Grrrr. With my "bedhead" and "morning breath" I opted to skip the gathering and let Dad walk him to the classroom. Nice. Fortunately, despite his mother's lack of planning, Ben had a great day. When he got home and I asked about his first day his response was: "AWESOME!! Ms. M is awesome!!"

My fun fourth grader

Ian was beside himself with excitement as he got to return to his middle school that burned down two years ago. No alarm was necessary this morning. The district finished the re-build a year ahead of schedule and it is so absolutely amazing. Makes me want to go back to middle school myself. I promised to be back from handing out schedules at the high school in time to take him and get his planner and ASB card. Well, we had a little mishap with cars and keys that I will share below. Anyway, we got there before the buses and he actually let me walk beside him to the building. I jokingly asked if he wanted to hold hands and he said: "it's bad enough that we're walking in together." Spoken like a true 13-year-old (in 8 days.)

My sweet seventh grader.

Ahhh....high school. It feels odd to be sending your child somewhere that you still remember like it was yesterday. Nonetheless, Quinn is embarking on his freshman year. I volunteered to help hand out schedules in the commons from 7-8. School began at 7:45 but Quinn opted to join me instead of having to walk an entire eighth of a mile. Since I had a coffee in each hand (one for me and one for my BFF) my son grabbed my keys and put them in his backpack. I knew this wasn't a wise choice but I immediately got distracted as my BFF walked up behind me to grab her coffee. We settled in to our table with another mom to pass out the "E-H" students. My BFF was going on about how much fun this is and she does it every year because she's nosey. The other mom didn't miss a beat and promptly replied, "I do it to pray over them." Ummmm, us too. I think we were put in our place. At 7:40 my panicked freshman came over and told me that someone stole his schedule out of his hand and he had no idea where his first class was. What a terrible feeling. The vice principal stepped in and sent him to the counseling office to pick up another copy. As I stood up to leave I realized where my car keys were--and where I probably shouldn't go if I still wanted a relationship with my son. Could you imagine me walking in to his first period class and announcing: "I'm Quinn's mom and he has my car keys!"?? I refrained and got a ride home from my BFF only to find my seventh grader at the door reminding me that we were supposed to be leaving....NOW!

And to think I have to get myself to school in two short weeks from today. I should have a little more practice by then.

Here's to a great school year for all our kiddos. May they all come home today with the enthusiasm of Ben!

My fabulous freshman


When traditions cease

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's something I look forward to every year:  the "boy free" Labor Day weekend.  Trey and the boys ship off on a three day adventure and I get the house to myself.  I clean from top to bottom, don't cook a thing, spruce up the yard and usually burn out by Sunday morning.  It is glorious.  This year it was not meant to be.

By Wednesday I knew it wasn't looking good for me when no plans had been made.  A few were thrown around but I could tell no one was really into it--namely my husband.  Salmon fishing on the Fraser River was the first consideration but after purchasing one fishing license, we realized that we were lacking in gear, bait, etc.  Plan B: Trey would go up on Friday afternoon and fish since the license would expire in 5 days then come back on Saturday and get the kids to go camping an hour away.  He promised to farm everyone out for Friday night sleepovers so I could have the evening to myself.  Ian was gone by noon and Ben left at 3.  In the meantime, Quinn got invited to Whistler on Saturday morning but wasn't able to sleep over for various reasons.  Just as I was about to doze off, Quinn announced that he now could go over to his friend's--at 10:20 p.m.!

Saturday morning I jumped out of bed, got some coffee and made my plan of attack.  Target, Costco gas, Costco, Kohls, Walgreens, Haggen--in that order.  As I backed in the driveway to unload my goods, I get a text "the boys want to come back over to your house, is that okay?"  By noon my house was full of boys again as we waited for Trey to appear.  Five hours later he showed up, not in the mood to pack up for camping, but with 26 pounds of beautiful salmon in his possession so all was forgiven.  We feasted on his catch with the promise that "I'll pack up the tent trailer and leave tomorrow morning." 

We spent Sunday morning packing up and I stood in the driveway and waved goodbye with a huge smile on my face.  Off they went to do boy things and I grabbed Millie and went out to the lake for some reading on the beach.  Three hours later as I arrived at the 3-way stop near our neighborhood there in front of me was my brood of boys with the tent trailer still attached to the vehicle.  Uh-oh.  Trey yells out the window, "Zach fell and hit his head on a rock and needs stitches."  How could I be so selfish when a sweet little 9 year old is in pain?  I quickly got over my disappointment when I saw this blonde boy crying in the backseat.  Quinn came home a couple hours later from his mountain biking excursion--in one piece-- and our family was reunited.  I just had to laugh.

Monday morning Trey and I got up early and went on a beautiful hike.  (Our summer arrived along with September and we've been in the mid-80s all week)  When we returned he loaded up just his truck with pellet guns, mountain bikes, a cooler and all three boys and off they went.  I didn't even ask when they were coming back.  I didn't need to.  10 minutes later I hear banging in the garage and open the door to find Trey hammering away at Quinn's bike seat.  ??? Apparently his seat fell off while driving down the road and when they realized and turned the car around to retrieve it some obnoxious teenagers decided it would be funny to run over it.  Hilarious.  Not.  I walked over to the car to see three glum faces and some tears.  Everyone was ready to call it quits.  Dad perservered, fixed the seat, jammed it back on the bike and they drove away.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't holding my breath for at least the next two hours.  To channel my nervous energy I got busy scrubbing floors, organizing closets and washing windows.  Millie and I returned to the lake to cool off and when we walked back into the neighborhood there was my contented family. 

So the 3 day weekend morphed into 7 hours but at this point I was happy to take what I could get.  Isn't it hard when traditions change?  I think this was just God's way of showing me that I need to be open to what the future holds and eventually some things I've counted on for years are going to look different as my children grow and change and ultimately leave home.  Case in point: I can't even count on school starting the day after Labor Day as it has for the last 9 years since the teachers went on strike last week. (A contract was reached and they are starting tomorrow. Phew!)

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away......"
~Ecclesiastes 3: 1-6 NIV


The many uses of toilet paper

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I don't know about you but when I was a middle schooler/high schooler, waking up to a front yard decorated in Charmin was a tally on the popularity chart. The best memory by far was when three guy friends of mine and my sister's moved the entire contents of our backyard patio to the front yard, toilet papered every tree and as a final touch turned on the sprinkler for good measure. When our parents woke us up to share their findings we immediately got on the horn to spread the good news and invite our friends to observe the handiwork: "Come see what Morgan, Alan and Matt did???!!" I still remember my mom asking "What are you girls doing at school? Why don't people like you?" We just couldn't seem to convince her that this was a sign of being liked. She wasn't buying it. And it didn't matter if it was true, she wanted her yard cleaned up. Pronto!

Not realizing that nowadays people are so oversensitive, and take themselves way too seriously, I thought it would be a great idea to initiate my kids into this lost art. For my oldest's 13th birthday, I took him and a few friends out for a midnight adventure armed with a couple cases of TP. The boys were focused on hitting houses that were in high traffic areas. If they were going to take the risk, they wanted many to witness their work. At the first house they were caught by the older brother who was up getting some water and whose first reaction was to throw the water on the first boy he encountered. Oops. We pulled it off at the other two houses and went home. Unbeknownst to me, two of the bright teenagers decided it would be a good idea to relieve themselves on the decorated yard. We came back to the house and they bragged to the little brothers about their devious behavior and one of the little brothers went to school and shared their secret. (Apparently there was no pinky promise) Fast forward to Monday night and I receive a phone call from the owner of said house. Not pretty. I understood her frustration but I also think warning me that I am raising juvenile delinquents (when the boys who committed the infraction were not being raised by me) was a little much. Whatever. I'll refrain from commenting further.

After it all blew over we realized that we had perhaps started something. In fact one of the other moms whose house was "decorated" just smiled at me and simply said, "Paybacks." Well, the paybacks have been coming every few months now and it's driving the boys crazy that they haven't figured out who the guilty party is. Last Thursday night around 11:30, our dog (who never barks) started going nuts in the living room. I walked in there and looked outside to find a sea of white. This was definitely the best artwork yet. And it definitely wasn't boys performing a "payback" as there were just too many "feminine touches". And they used the good stuff too. I was considering recycling it but my kids shamed me into throwing it in the yard waste can. See the evidence below. Nice job, ladies.

My friend Toni said: "it almost looks pretty."


This was outside the front door to greet me. Very cute.


Reunion Vacation: The Final Week

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

As I sit here looking at the photos below, I have decided it's time to upgrade to a new camera. Sorry the images are so poor. And since we're poor, I doubt I'll get that camera.......anyway, back to the vacation.....

On Monday morning of our final week, we bid goodbye to Aunt Nancy and Uncle Jim and heading north to Hotlanta. And boy was it hot alright. Atlanta is a different kind of hot than Florida. There is no ocean breeze. In fact, nothing even resembling a breeze exists in this region. But since it's home to Chick-Fil-A we won't hold a silly thing like a sweltering outdoors against them. Plus, it's also where my cousin and her family call home. As much as I loved seeing all of my hubby's family, I have to admit that I was looking forward to being with "my people." And meeting the newest member of their family, Mr. Ty.

We spent all day stopping at Trey's customers and got an hour south of Atlanta just before rush hour. Fortunately this was where our friends, Mike & Karen currently live. We wanted to try and see them if time allowed but were a little unsure since 12 years had lapsed since our last meeting. You just never know. I'm happy to report it was a wonderful reunion. The four of us became friends back in Charlotte in 1995 B.K. (before kids) Shortly after our firstborns arrived in 1997, they left for Iowa City and never looked back. We kept in touch through Christmas cards and now thanks to Facebook we communicate more frequently. Their three boys are pretty much in sync with ours in terms of age, personality and athletic interests. You'd think the six of them were separated at birth. We reminisced about our younger days and concurred that we were all clueless back then and at our current maturity level, we still don't know much more--we're just more willing to admit it. It was a gargantuan feat to tear our kids away but by 8:30 we were on the road again to Todd and Natalie's.

Tuesday we enjoyed getting to know sweet little Ty and his charming personality. We all loved being around a baby and everyone took their turn at feeding him his rice cereal and making him smile--which wasn't hard to do. Wednesday we got out of their hair and spent the day at Six Flags over Georgia. Their neighbor, Savannah, whom Ian met last summer during his stay, joined us and showed us the ropes like a true frequent visitor. (pictures are on Trey's phone and he hasn't downloaded them yet). After a full day of "high thrill rides" as they call them, we headed north to have dinner with a childhood friend of Trey's. The kids weren't thrilled about another 90 minutes in the car until we arrived to find a fellow middle school guy and a beautiful "Georgia Peach" the same age as Quinn. Let me just say that the 3,000 miles between them is probably a very good thing.

On Thursday morning, Natalie's younger sister Andrea came over to spend the day with us. She recently relocated to the Atlanta area after a recent mission trip to Cambodia. (Again, pictures are on Trey's phone since my lame camera's batteries died for the 10th time) We left in the late afternoon and made a pit stop back at the Koenig's. We enjoyed dinner and more reminiscing and got talked into staying overnight.

Friday we hit the road back to Amelia with some detours visiting Trey's customers and two Chick-fil-A stops. We arrived safe and sound after braving two hours of horrendous thunderstorms and turned in for the night.

On Saturday the boys hit the beach and Mimi and I hit the movie theater to see "The Help." We had both read the book and were crazy about it so it only seemed fitting to share a day watching it on the big screen. If you haven't seen it yet, plan to. One of the best screenplays adapted from a book I have ever seen. Uncle Mike and Jenn joined us for one last dinner together which was perfect.

Our last day found us parked at the beach and playing to our heart's content. By 3:00 a thunderstorm made its way overhead and we were forced to leave. We ended the day grilling burgers and playing a family game of Farkle.

We flew out the next day with very large pieces of our hearts left behind. They say you know it's a good vacation when you don't want to leave. Judging by the fact that no one said "I can't wait to go home" I'd say it was pretty fabulous.

We love our Iannuzzi family.

Ian showing Trey the ropes of badminton.

Sweet baby Ty.

Mike & Karen who look the same as when we last saw them.

Ian tries his hand at the morning feeding and Ty is amused.

The lovely Koenig family--including Miss Shelby


Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world.

Waiting for a wave.

One big, happy beach-loving family.