Monday, June 28, 2010


Not a whole lot has been happening in our house lately.  Other than life.  Which these days consists of: playdates, ballet, visiting Grandad, going potty (successfully, might I proudly add), work, swimming, and a temper tantrum or two. 

Some from Aria. 

Some from Mommy.

See, I have this itty-bitty, teensy weensy, tiny little preoccupation with BEING ON TIME.

And if I'm not on time to wherever important place I'm going, be it swim lessons or work or church or yoga or dinner with friends, which happens frequently - the not being on time part, sadly not the dinner with friends part - I get really, really, really, REALLY irritable.  As in, Girl-in-The Exorcist-whose-head-spins-around-and-spews-bile kind of irritable.

With two young children and a chronically laidback husband, I am often late, which causes me to often spew bile, metaphorical bile, of course.  (There's two words you don't usually see in a sentence together, metaphorical bile).

Chris, Love O' My Life - bless his Eh? we'll get there when we get there heart - is so non-worried about the silly things in life.  The silly things like, oh, say, getting there when we said we would and not a half-hour later.  Whereas, me, I plan everything, and then re-plan for a backup plan accounting for things like traffic, and then I'll re-re-plan a back-up plan for the back-up plan, accounting for the unexpected, such as power outages, natural disasters, baby vomit on the Sunday best, and the like. 

Although if you know my sweet Caroline, baby vomit should NOT be in the unexpected category.

Funny thing about vomit.  I used to be deathly afraid of it.  I couldn't see it, hear it, smell it, or even think it without becoming nauseated myself and sometimes launching into a full-on panic attack.  It's probably one reason I went into neonatal nursing -- not to avoid the vomit, per se, but just to experience it in smaller quantities.  I remember watching some poor man wretch his guts out his car window in the street in front of our house one day when I was about nine or ten.  I ran straight inside and asked my mom to go clean it up.  To my dismay, she justifiably refused to do so, therefore,  I had no other recourse than to avoid that region of the street for the rest of my life.  Little Sarah did not set foot, bike, or rollerskate in the vomit area, for years.  In fact, I still don't know if I could walk on it with bare feet to this day.  Just saying.

Well, so you know, God cured me of that quirk straightaway.  He blessed me with two children who vomit frequently and at random.  Aria's, of course, is a bit worse and more traumatic, as she has a hearty appetite, and hers usually occurs at the end of a very big meal.  Caroline's is projectile in its intensity, but only consists of recycled formula and occasionally some delectable Green Bean Chicken Apple Stew or Hearty Summer Squash Turkey. 

Be honest, who wouldn't throw that up?

So, I've begun telling my sweet husband that things start a full half-hour before they actually begin.  If our movie starts at 8, I tell him 7:30.  If our plane leaves at 10, I tell him 9:30.  Is it a little white lie?  Maybe.  But I prefer to regard it as Preventative Maintenance, precluding almost certain quarrel.  He's on to me now, however, and I don't think this admission on a blog post is going to do me any favors.  He's starting to ask me, when does such-and-such start?  I'll give him my (30 minutes early) reply, and he'll say, "Yeah, okay.  But when does it REALLY start?"  Curses.  Time to formulate a new plan.

Take, for instance, our movie date last week.  Chris' brother and wife were in town with their kids, so we all made plans to go see Toy Story 3.  I chose a later-ish movie time because of the fact that WE ARE ALWAYS LATE, and I justified it by this being a special occasion and all, since it was Aria's first ever movie.  My husband headed off to work that morning, and I didn't hear from him again until about oh, say, six-ish.  Keep in mind we are taking a 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 7-year-old to the movies with us, the former two who are very excited about attending their first movie ever.  A movie which unfortunately is slated to begin right about the time they should be going to bed. 

So I've mentally prepared myself to take the kids to the movie by myself and just have Chris meet us there.  This would solve the WE ARE ALWAYS LATE problem, but would kind of negate the whole going-to-the-movies-as-a-family thing.  Nonetheless, Chris rolls in the door at a very awkward time on the clock:  not early enough so as to shower and change and we could have hopes of being on time, yet not late enough that I can blow him a kiss and holler, "See ya at Valley View Mall!" and be on time while honoring the Family Movie concept.  Hmm.  Conundrum.  What to do?  What to do?

I decided to do the right thing.  Which was: text my sister-in-law Lori that we were running late, smile pleasantly at my husband and encourage him in soothing tones to please hurry, and then sit on my hands to prevent myself from grabbing the kids and the car keys and making a break for it.  (Yes, I know.  I'm queen of the run-on sentences.  Big deal).  My internal dialog went a little as such:   Really?  I said over and over, What are we missing?  Some dumb previews.  Not worth an argument.  Not worth it. 

(Oh!  How I love the previews!  But not the point.) 

Chris eventually got showered and changed, and made his way to his family waiting (im)patiently in the car.  I was still smiling pleasantly, being as sweet as possible when... 

Out came the bile.  Not Aria's.  Not Caroline's.  Mine.

Yep.  This is what I said (spewed).  "Chris Thomas!  You have known me for ten years.  You know how I am about being late.  You know how much anxiety it gives me.  Whyyyy can't we just BE ON TIME?  Do you think?  Just one time?  You could try and be on time?"  Bile.  Big, green, metaphorical bile.

Do you know what Chris did?  Nothing.  The boy knows how to handle me, that's for sure.  He gave me a snort or a snicker, and then just pleasantly ignored my petulance.  Asked me about my day, what snacks I wanted at the movie, what my plans were for tomorrow. 

He's a smart man. 

And guess what?  After all that, we were thirty minutes early.  With three young children.  For a highly-anticipated kid movie.  A crowded kid movie.  That starts at my kids' bedtime.  You can imagine how that went.

At least, I got to see my beloved previews.

In case you are wondering, Toy Story 3 is hysterical.  Aria loved her first movie (although, it could have been the popcorn and twizzlers that swayed her vote).  And the best part:  at a particularly hushed lull, Aria hollers out, "Mommy!  I needa go poopy, NOW!" 

Yeah, yeah, Lord, I get it.  You are humbling me.  I need to calm down.  Nothing is worth a metaphorical-bile-spewing argument on Family Movie Night.

Even missing the previews.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

As I type this post, I am listening to the most beautiful sound in the world.

The sound of my two girls in the other room playing happily together, both giggling hysterically.  So much so, in fact, that it's hard to tell where one girl's laugh ends and the other one begins. 


I have no idea what's tickling them so, and I definitely won't go find out, because everyone knows that if Mommy pokes her head in the room, the melting-down will commence, and this rare and delicate balance of peace and harmony in an otherwise tenuously-nuanced sibling relationship called Sisterhood will be disrupted.

Instead, I'll just mind my own business, and sit here and type until one or both issue the blood-curdling scream known by mothers 'round the globe that represents the, "She took my doll!  She's eating my legos!  She's sitting in my spot!", or my current fave, "Make her stop LOOKING at me!" 

Since Aria's currently the only one of the Two who can articulate these disputes, please know that Caroline's distress call is equally effective in its human form as a shrill, shrieking, ear-piercing howl, the likes of which could probably shatter glass, if we had any left.  She's no shrinking violet, that Caroline.  Girlfriend got herself a pair of lungs.

But for this one blessed moment, they are enjoying each other's company.  And Mommy is enjoying the solace.

As I sit here in amazement at their accord, I can't help but wonder how their relationship will progress as they get older.  It's obvious to everyone how much Caroline adores, and I mean truly worships, her sister.  Sometimes Aria is literally the only person who can make her laugh or even smile.  Since she was old enough to move her head, Caroline's been craning her neck around to get a glimpse of whatever sissy is doing.  And Aria seems to enjoy performing, always singing or dancing for the baby, anything to get a laugh.

I watched Aria so closely for signs of resentment in the beginning when we first brought Caroline home.  Other than the occasional, "Mommy, go put Caroline in her bed now" orders when she was ready for me to focus my attention entirely on her, she really didn't seem to register the arrival of the baby whatsoever, but instead just wanted to just be a kid and go play.  As she's gotten older and Caroline has more of a presence in our family, Aria will now sometimes say to me, "Mommy?  Caroline's the baby, but I'm your firstborn, right?"  I assure her that yes, Baby, you are my firstborn, and then secretly I giggle at the irony of that statement in our family.  All in all, I'd say the whole transition to being a big sister went pretty well. 

However.  Things are not wholly songs, smiles, giggles, and who was here first.  The sibling rivalry has definitely begun.  And trust me, I would know.  I can tell y'all ALLLLLL about sibling rivalry.  I'm so good at it, I could be a professional sibling rivalrer (not a word). 

You get the point. 

See, when Kick came along...  well, there you go.  Perfect example.  I named my poor baby brother Kick.  Who does that?  Maybe a jealous older sister?  It's not his birth-certificate name, mind you - we are from Small Town, Deep South, but not that Small or Deep - it's a nickname, but it is the only name most people know him by. 

The way I see it, his life potentially could have gone one of two ways.  The name Kick could have predestined him to a long, hard life, say, as maybe a checkout guy at the Piggly Wiggly, going home to his doublewide on cinder blocks and his common-law wife feeding their ten kids possum roadkill or expired produce procured from the neighbor's trash.  Or he could have risen above his name and proved himself to be the cool kid that he was, and before you know it, Kick could become the new "it" name, like Jake, or Austin, or Jaden.  Fortunately for him, he chose the latter path - although his name hasn't reached its "it" name status.  Yet. 

I embellish.

(Truly though, one of these days, I promise to do a blog post dedicated entirely to the the multitude of strange baby names I've seen at work, like the name Cooper - great name right?  Only they spelled it, Kupyr.  Really, parents?  Get a grip.  I don't think your poor kid has a chance.  How about Formica Dinette?  I wish I was kidding.  Or pitiful La-a.  Pronounced Lay yah, right?  Or La ah?  Except you'd be wrong.  It's LaDASHa.  Uh huh, that's right.  LADASHA.  Honey, I'm telling you right now, you are in for a lifetime of misery.  Kupyr, Formica, and La-a, y'all are gonna have to rise above it.  Rise above).

Like my brother.  I'm sure teachers from our school in Small town, Deep South are probably blogging this very moment about the unfortunately-monikered student they had once upon a time named Kick.  Sorry, bro.  (But look how great you turned out!)

Anyway, back to the sibling rivalry.  I think this is very big of me now to admit (see how I've evolved, Mom?):  I was always very jealous of my brother.  He's the kind of person that is good at anything he does, and everyone who meets him wants to be his friend.  He picks up a tennis racquet for the first time and within an hour, can ace like a pro.  He puts on a pair of skis, and is heading down double diamonds later the same day.  He scans a book or a journal article and can recall verbatim quotes from it days or weeks later.  In short, he's a genius.  And the winning?  Don't even get me started on the winning.  He won everything from staring contests to grocery-store-scratch-off-cards to science fair prizes to National Science Foundation grants.  And all of this without even trying.  Really.  In other words, he's sooo snarkily irritating, the kind of brother every sister wants to hate.

And probably does until she realizes what a gift he is to her. 

See, things didn't come as easy for me.  I had to actually study and work hard, to acquire passable grades.  I had to practice for days and days and days to make it down a blue slope without falling on my backyard.  And  the only thing I ever won was a silver cup in a junior tennis tournament, and that was only because nobody else showed up.  I won the title for my age group without ever even lacing my shoes.  We still get a lot of mileage in our family out of that one.  And for some strange reason, I'm surprisingly proud of that silver cup.

So despite the competitive nature of our childhood - we started to "mature" and get along, ironically, about the time I turned 21 and could buy him beer -  I consider myself supremely blessed to have a very close, trusting and loving relationship with Kick.  And I so hope the same for Caroline and Aria one day. 

Except not the beer part.  'Cause they won't do that.

Seriously, though, I know it's something that all siblings go through.  When Chris and I were in the "where did you get that scar" phase of our dating relationship, he revealed to me that the faint mark in the middle of his forehead (his Harry Potter scar, as I like to call it), he got from chasing his sister around their house with a fireplace poker.  I had to laugh.  He was the antagonist doing the chasing, wielding the dangerous weapon, and he is the one who got hurt.

Karma, honey, Karma.

So for now, I'll just enjoy my beautiful moment of laughter.  And pray for many more of them to come.  Maybe these moments will outweigh the fireplace poker ones.

Oh and speaking of Karma?  Kick and his wife just found out she's pregnant... with twins.... doesn't that just figure? 


Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Heroes

"The righteous who walks in his integrity -- blessed are his children after him!"
    -Proverbs 20:7

Happy Father's Day to the three best Daddies on the planet.

Aria and Caroline's Daddy (my beloved Chris), my Daddy (Papa), and Chris' Daddy (Grandad)

Thank you all for showing your families God's love, with character, consistency, and integrity.  And for helping keep everything right in my world.

(He really can't take his eyes off those girls.  It's something to behold.)

I love you, Honey.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ice, Ice, Baby

I did.

I spoke too soon on the relatively easy day I had at Vacation Bible School on Monday.  Or, as Aria calls it, 'Cation Bibah Schoo.

Didn't I mention in a previous post that 4,000 kids were there?  That wasn't totally accurate.  It was 4,300. And Thursday there were only two nurses, of which I was unfortunately, fifty percent of the workforce.  If you do the math, that equals out to one nurse per 2,150 kids.  It's not a good ratio, no matter how you spin it.  And I told you I was a baby nurse, right?  Just want to make sure you were aware, as this fact didn't seem to matter to the 4,300.

Loaves and fishes, Sarah, loaves and fishes.

Or more accurately, bandaids and icepacks.

Once again, I was the consummate icepack-giver-outer, and I guess my reputation had preceded me around the school, because kids were lining up to get one of my famous icepacks.  Bug bites, dodge balls in the eye, imaginary bruises and even a fall down the stairs were unable to mask the true intention of the injured (injurees?): classic attention-seeking behavior, and need for some TLC.  I get that, I do.  And I doled it out, lemme tell you.

Until along came Joel.

(Not his real name.  I don't want to be accused of violating HIPAA or anything.  Although its unclear whether mosquito bites or dodge ball contusions necessitate privacy protection, but whatever.  For the sake of this post, we'll call him Joel.)

I had 30 minutes left to go in my day, when out of nowhere, this security guard comes running up the hall hollering and dragging poor, bleeding Joel behind him, beseeching me for aid.  I mentioned I'm a baby nurse, right?  That means my knee-jerk reaction is to call someone else.  Namely, Joel's mother.  Which I did.  But she didn't answer her phone.  Probably busy getting a pedicure, or laughing over lunch with her girlfriends, or something fun that all of the other lucky, non-volunteering mothers were doing, and which I really wished I were doing right at that moment since, as I mentioned, I'm a baby nurse.  But as she didn't answer her phone, and the security guards, teachers, VBS-directors and Joel himself were all staring at me expectantly waiting for my expert analysis of the situation, it appeared that I actually needed to - well - render some daggum aid.  Ahem.  Deep Breath.  Here goes:  Step aside, people, coming through.  Help is now here.  I am the Nurse.  What seems to be the problem?  

I escorted poor, brave, little stoic Joel, who refused to shed a tear, to the bathroom and washed him down so I could get a look at where all this blood was coming from. Turns out, he had been playing an impromptu game of football with his buddies when his face had an unfortunate collision with another kid's mouth. Or more accurately, teeth. Joel had huge gash on his cheek which was bleeding like crazy, and to my non-expertly-trained baby-nurse eye, appeared to be necessitating some stitches.

So what did I do?  I called his mom again.  Put down the Us Weekly, pay the nice nail tech, and make haste to the church to pick up your injured child, woman!  She still didn't answer.  (I'm not begrudging her the pedicure, I'm just jealous).

So then what did I do?

One guess. 

Icepack!  And a band-aid.  More ice.  Another band-aid.  And lots of words of encouragement and scratching his back and telling him how brave he was.  Until his mommy finally arrived.   And took him to the pediatrician's office, where they employ people who actually know what to do when a child gets a facial laceration during VBS.

They told me later that his mother called to update us on his condition and he had to get four stitches.  And she wanted to be sure to thank everyone at church who acted quickly, including - ahem- the nurse.  How do you like that?  I did it!  The icepack-giver-outer baby-nurse actually helped somebody - or at least, no further harm was done.  Feels pretty good.

One more thing before I go... would you, my blog friends and family, please say a prayer for someone I love very much?  Without going into detail, a beloved member of our family is very sick and is in great need of prayer and healing.  Can you all please send up some prayers for him?  God will know who it is, just tell Him I sent you.  Thanks, Friends!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hitting a flat note

Two things I've done this past week have garnered a "Girl, what are you thinking?" response from my friends.  First, I hosted Aria's third birthday party with 21 very vigorous children at a bounce house.  And the second was to volunteer as a nurse at our church's Vacation Bible School, which welcomes 4,000 - count 'em, four thousand - kids for the week.

While it may sound intimidating, the bounce house birthday party was surprisingly fun.  The kids seemed happy to be able to exert some of their boundless energy out of the 100-degree heat (...big sigh....I will post about the oppressive Texas summer heat in due time, friends, in due time; probably in August when it is its most unbearable and I'm once again longing for the cool breezes of Liechtenstein).  Aria seemed a little disconcerted by the sheer volume of the Happy Birthday song intoned by all those lively, well-meaning, off-key children, but the large number of battery-powered (thanks) noise-producing (again, thanks) toys with small misplaceable parts (uh huh, thanks) she received seemed to make up for it. 

(Have I said thank you, my friends?  Have no fear.  I will return the favor at your kid's next birthday.  Mmmwahh-ha-ha.) 

I digress.

Working as a nurse for the jillion kids attending this week's Vacation Bible School also sounds intimidating, and let me assure you, it was.  It was also a big leap of faith.  See, I'm a baby nurse.  Always have been, always will be.  Yes, there's a Master's Degree in my background, and sure, I'm board-certified as a Nurse Practitioner, but what that equals to, y'all, is this:  if you are able to tell me what is wrong with you, I am not the nurse for you.  If you're a 1-pound, 23-week preemie, bring it on, but if you have a bloody nose, call someone else, preferably somebody who knows what they are doing, as I definitely do not. 

Which is what I tried to explain to the kindly volunteer coordinator at church who all but outright begged me to assist there this week.  Despite my entreaties that I was completely incapable of the job, she handed me a two-way radio and a first aid kit, and pointed me with a pat on the back to my "zone", which appeared to include about a thousand very active school-age children.  When you are the nurse responsible for triaging these active children were they to get injured, the playground equipment becomes exponentially larger and more dangerous than usual, and just makes me want to scream, "Stop it!  Right now!  No jumping!  No running!  No playing!  Just lay on the ground and be still and safe until my shift is over, or your mother comes back to get you, whichever comes first!" 

Mercifully, God was kind to me on my first day, and I only gave out three icepacks.  Each of which was for a bug bite.  Don't ask me why an ice pack works on a bug bite, it just does.  At least it did yesterday.  Which is all I care about.  Not to mention we were casually handed two Epi Pens by two separate mothers who said, "If so-and-so has an allergic reaction, just use this".  To which, I responded, "You want me to HUH???"  But fortunately, make that, blessedly, no one went into anaphylactic shock, there were no broken bones or closed-head injuries from that treacherous playground, and I was asked to perform CPR on not one soul.  A stellar day!  Let's hope Thursday goes equally well. 

On a flat note, I've been sidelined recently by an injury I'd like to attribute to running twenty-five miles a week, but to be honest, I know deep in my heart it's due to plain old age.  If you're familiar with feet at all - and you are probably not, because few of us are, so don't feel bad - this condition is known as a Morton's Neuroma.  What I want to know is, who is this Morton person and what has he done to my foot?  In lay terms, it means I have an inflammation of a nerve in the ball of the foot ennervating the 3rd and 4th toes causing significant physical pain.

In fashion terms, it means I can't wear high heels.  (Insert weeping and gnashing of teeth).

If you are a person 5'2 or under, you can understand my grief.  I'm pretty broken up about it.  I'd planned my whole summer wardrobe around several pairs of cute platform sandals, whom I am now only able to remove from their boxes every few days to gaze at and stroke lovingly while whispering words of endearment, and then wrap carefully back up in the tissue, to wait patiently in the bowels of my closet for the joyous day I can put them back on my feet again where they belong.  Let me assure you, I've done my absolute durnedest to go down fighting, persevere through the pain, and remain steadfast in my dedication to fashion over health.  But now I must wave the white flag.  Age has won this battle, and I am retiring the supercute platforms to a shelf in my closet while I wait out the agony that put them there.

To put my devotion to cute shoes in perspective, I'll use a pop culture reference:  sometimes in my overactive imagination, I go so far as to think of myself as a Carrie.  Who?  Carrie.  Carrie Bradshaw.  A G-rated Carrie Bradshaw.  Make that a happily-married, mom-of-two, G-rated Carrie Bradshaw. 

Oh, who am I kidding?  The only thing Carrie and I have in common is a love of high heels.  That, and an ability to do almost anything in them.  Until recently, I could do dishes, laundry, grocery shop, vaccuum, run errands, and chase both dogs and kids down the street in my four-inch stilettos if need be.  Didn't happen very often, but the point is, I could if I wanted to.  Of course, now I can only observe said heels from afar whilst anchoring myself to the floor of  the closet in a pair of very un-glamourous flip flops. 

Oh well.  I guess that essentially makes me now a bounce-house-birthday-party-hosting, vacation-bible-school-volunteering, happily-married, mom-of-two, G-rated Carrie Bradshaw, which I assure you all just canceled each other out, so the high-heeled Carrie Bradshaw-ness of my imagination is no more.  Sigh.  Incidentally, the good doctor Google tells me I need to have this neuroma surgically removed.  After three shots of cortisone failed in their mission to help, my podiatrist concurs.  I still deny.  Deny, deny, deny.  Fashion over health, y'all.

We'll see who wins this battle.

I am aware I'm being a tad melodramatic.  The birthday party and VBS were fine.  But I am bitter about the heels.  I guess it's just time for me to embrace the foot pain, and be the best flip-flop-wearing-icepack-giver-outer I can be.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


My parents are going to Israel this summer.  I won't tell you when, as my mom is paranoid to the nth degree, and she's convinced that burglars stalk blogs and lie in wait for any references to a trip or being out of town.  Even though I don't think I've ever even used her real name, much less posted her address or social security number or a scheduled itinerary, but to appease her concerns, I'll just put it this way:  they are may or not be going to or will have gone to Israel at some point in the year 2010.  It's a trip they've been planning and anticipating for the past eight months, so I'm very, very excited for their journey. 

I'm also very envious.  And nostalgic for some days of yore.

Yore being June 2006.  When Mom and I went to Israel  together.  It was the trip of a lifetime, and a journey that changed my soul.  I can only sum it up this way:  if you ever have the opportunity to tour the Holy Land, YOU MUST GO.  Make haste and update your passport and GO.  You will not regret it.

When planning the trip, I'd tell people where we were going, and I'd get this response, "Oh.  Huh.  Israel.   Interesting.  Why?  Aren't you scared?"  And I would answer, "Israel!  Israel!  The Israel.  To tour the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked and no, not in the least".

We flew over to Tel Aviv via Newark on El Al airlines, the only airline in the world that works six days a week.  They are traditional Jews and do not work on the Sabbath.  So from sundown Friday night to sundown on Saturday night, no one lifts a finger, including all the employees of El Al.  It's fascinating.  It took us about three hours to get through security.  They all but asked us for a body fluid sample.  But hey, if it's in the name of air safety, I'll oblige. 

We arrived in Tel Aviv, eight hours ahead of good old Dallas time, met up with the second half of our group from Prestonwood Baptist Church, and boarded our buses for Galilee.

Galilee, y'all.  As in, Jesus of. 

The first few nights, we stayed in a hotel in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.  The Sea of Galilee!  It was from here we went to a natural amphitheatre overlooking the Sea where Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount.  We also took old wooden boats, similar to the fishing boats used by the disciples across the lake to have a delicious dinner of St Peter's fish, better known as tilapia, on a kibbutz on the Sea.  A kibbutz is a small Jewish community that functions as a commune.  We also went to Capernaum, the town where several of the disciples grew up, possibly the home of Jesus, and the synagogue where He began His ministry.   

After several magnificent days on the shores of Galilee, we reboarded our buses and went to - get this - the Jordan River.  And guess who got baptized in the Jordan?  That's right - me!  I did.  I got baptized in THE Jordan River, quite possibly one of the most famous rivers in the world, and in the very same muddy waters in which Christ was christened by that crazy old John the Baptist who ate locusts.  Sure, there might be a rumor or two about the Jordan being contaminated by raw sewage and all, but ask me if I cared.  Not in the least.  It was the Jordan River.  My heart was being ceremonially abluted in the Jordan River.  Wow, what an experience.

We then made our way through the desert by way of air-conditioned coach to the Holy City itself, Jerusalem.  Let me tell you, this place is breathtaking.  The buildings, all made of natural stone, are bright, shining white, and give the illusion of crisp, clean, splendor.  The climate is warm and dry - think California weather - so beautiful flowers abound everywhere you look.  By law, nothing is allowed to be built higher than the Temple, so there are no tall buildings or skyscrapers.  It is also a no-fly zone, so there is minimal air pollution or noise.  Everywhere, there is an aura of spirituality, of reverence, of tradition.  Spectacular. 

The first morning we were in Jerusalem, we went to the Mount of Olives, where we watched to sun rise over the Old Jerusalem.  We then walked the same path Jesus took on Palm Sunday from the Mount down to the Golden Gate to the old city.  We spent time in the Garden of Gethsamane, and gazed at olive trees said to be more than 800 years old.  We posed for a group photo in front of the Lion's Gate, the same one to which Jesus will be returning someday (soon!).  That evening we took a walking tour of the astounding tunnel system underneath the Temple Mount. 

Some notable things we did while in Jerusalem:  we visited the Upper Room where the Last Supper was held, we stood in the dungeon prison Jesus was kept and beaten the night before His crucifixion, and we prayed at the Western Wailing Wall.  (Incidentally, people write prayer request notes to the Lord and place them in between the stones of the wall.  Yours truly wrote a prayer asking for a family.  See?  He answered!)  We toured the Temple Mount - although not the Dome of the Rock (the golden-domed mosque you see in photos), as it is a Muslim holy site.  Both Israelis and Palestinians claim sovereignty over the Temple Mount and essentially "share" its holiness but for totally different reasons, so it is a really interesting though somewhat bizarre place to visit. 

Also while there, we went to the mountaintop settlement of Masada, to Qumran to see the Dead Sea scrolls, exfoliated and floated in the Dead Sea, and walked the Via Dolorosa, the road which Christ carried His cross to His crucifixion.  We had a somber visit and cried at Golgotha, then rejoiced as we stood in the empty tomb.  We picked up the same-sized stones in the Valley of Elah that David used to kill Goliath - mine still sits on my desk as a reminder of what God can help little people to do.  We went to the beautiful Cesarea by the Sea, and stared out in wonder and anticipation over the Valley of Armageddon. 

We did have to cross into some Palestinian territories on our voyage, and it was really interesting to me to witness the distinct discrepancies between the Israeli and Arab regions.  The Israeli-occupied areas were always bright, clean, cheerful and well-kept.  The Palestinian zones seemed to be dirty and oppressive, the shifty citizens with dark, wary, guarded qualities to them.  It could have been a coincidence, yes, but we no doubt saw this disparity everywhere we went.

It was such an incredible experience to watch history and the Bible come alive before your very eyes.  Yes, there were a lot of guns - anyone who has ever served in the Israeli army is permitted to carry a gun - and every man and woman (!) are automatically drafted into the army; therefore pretty much anyone of age is allowed to carry a gun.  And sure, we did have many, many security checks by the very nice and handsome men of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) with the very large submachine guns and ammunition strapped to their shoulders.  But to be honest, it actually made me feel more safe to know Israel is our national ally, and that these men and women were dedicating their lives to doing their best to keep peace in their very controversial and beloved country.  Carry on, friends.

Thank you for indulging me as I carry on about this fabulous trip.  I still maintain, if you ever have the chance to visit this magical place, please go.  It will be the trip of a lifetime.  Mom and Dad, whenever you go/are there, I wish you the most meaningful experience of your lives.  And here are just a few of the 500 photos I took of our trip.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Adoption Cynic

Chris and I have recently begun discussions about number Three.  I'm fully aware Caroline is a mere eight months old, but since we are most likely going to adopt, and it will most likely be a lengthy, arduous process lasting a minimum of two years, we've most likely come to the conclusion that we need to start thinking about it now.  Notice I said, thinking about it.  No filling in of any blanks, no updating of any homestudies, no (painful) signing of any checks.  Yet.  Thinking about it.  You see, when you are an adoptive family, it doesn't usually just magically happen with one steamy evening of Etta James and Sauvignon Blanc - and believe me, we tried all that.  No, when you are an adoptive family, it takes planning and saving, and a whole lot of doing, to grow your brood. 

When we began pursuing adoption the first time, my sweet darling husband - and he fully admits to this, so I don't think he'd mind me telling you - dug his proverbial heels in and resisted the entire process.  From studying blogs of families at various stages of adoption, it is my deduction that this behavior is not altogether unusual for a man.  Whether it is the financial commitment (ugh, don't get me started), the fear of the unknown (what genetic surprises could be in store?), the trepidation that you are making a lifelong commitment to a dependent being with essentially no guarantees that you will like or even love this child - they are all very legitimate concerns.  Concerns that diminish the moment you get that phone call (or in our case, an email) and disappear completely the second that child looks into your eyes for the first time.  I think for us, it was a combination of all of these plus so many more unspoken fears, anxieties, and unanswered questions that caused Chris' ambivalence toward adoption.

And, let me tell you, I handled it all like the consummate Proverbs 31 woman.

In an alternate universe.

In real life, here on earth, I was a total basketcase.  His reluctance called into question the ultimate foundation of our marriage.  We went into this here union with the intention of raising us a family, did we not?  His refusal to support me in our adoption quest, to me, was akin to betrayal.  He betrayed our vows.  Really?  he would respond, we vowed to start a family?  Well, kinda... Right?  I mean, let me see.  I'll just consult my wallet sized copy of our vows.  Hmm... love and honor - no, that's not it.  Sickness and health... yada yada.  Scan, scan.  Oh come on!  It's in here, I know it.  I know we vowed to adopt....  Didn't we?  (That was a euphemism, people, I don't have a wallet-sized copy of our vows.  It's a 5x7.  Kidding.  8 x 10).

No, Sarah.  You did not, my sweet mother would remind me after I'd tearfully recount in hushed whispered detail for her our latest altercation on the subject.  You vowed to love and honor your husband.  You are doing your best to be a First Peter wife by respecting his decisions, and you need to do just that.  No matter how strongly you disagree with him.

Women friends, let me offer you a word of advice:  do not, I repeat, do NOT, take your problems with your husband to your mother.  There can be no good outcome in this situation.  If she agrees with you, it causes strife in your relationship with your man.  If she agrees with him, it only ticks you off that your mother is siding with him.  In our case, my very wise mother remained as steadfastly neutral as the good King Solomon.  Prudent woman, that Vivi. 

We at long last arrived at the point in our dispute that Chris finally told me he would "not prevent me from going forward with an adoption".  (Read:  I won!  Yippee!  I won, I won, I won!!)   Now, don't misunderstand me.  I know the truth.  I know this was not a contest.  And I know he just out-and-out gave up.  I can be really persistent about something I want, and eventually that poor man just got worn the heck down and waved his white flag and I got my way.  (But, I still won, people!)  

And, hallelujah.  That was all the encouragement I needed.  Before he even finished his "not prevent you" sentence, I was inking up his fingers for our prints.  (The fingerprinting for the FBI was actually kinda cool, and was arguably Chris' favorite part of the whole process, aside from becoming a parent to the two most stunning children ever born.  But we're talking, the F-B-I, y'all).

The progression of our particular adoption journey went basically as such:  for months, I would fill out page after page after bloomin' page of stacks of paper to find out that I had achieved only one measly step of the million-step process to acquire a child in this day and age.  (All while going to work and birthing babies to 13-year-old children but that is a blog post for another day.  I digress...)  I would push these pages in front of Chris for his review and signature when he was in a particularly good mood - this usually involved plying him with a big meal and an ice-cold Corona - and he would still, despite the full belly and cold beer, shake his head in silent disgust at all the time and money spent proving ourselves worthy to the ill-defined administrative authorities in charge of the future of our family.  Fun times.

Among our friends, his aversion to any and all things adoption became the stuff of legend.  He had perfected the obligatory frustrated sigh and dramatic eye roll in answer to the frequent question from loved ones, "So how's the adoption coming along?"  And woe to anyone who persisted further - you were likely to get an earful.

All this, of course, was pre-Aria and pre-Caroline, BC as we like to refer to it in our house (Before Children).  Just as in the history books, everything in our life is now defined by BC and AC, the definitive life-altering line unknowingly drawn by a little brown-haired, doe-eyed baby girl with blueberry cream cheese smeared all over her face.

And that little chubby-cheeked, cream-cheese face opened, enlarged, and changed my husband's heart forever. 

He, an adoption cynic of epic, eye-rolling, big sighing, heel-digging proportions, will now unceasingly champion the cause to any and everyone who will listen.  Chris was Paul, and our adoption journey to Aria Grace became the road to his own Damascus.  Changed.  Saved.  Blessed.

The money?  An enormous cost, without question, but it's so impressively impossible to put a price on this kind of love. The time spent filling out the unending questions and paperwork?  Negligible in comparison to one minute spent in the company of your forever child.  Those worries about whether you could like or love the child?  Absent.  Gone.  Disappeared.  In fact, I really believe those concerns were never there to begin with, rather they were themselves a manisfestation of fear of the unknown. 

So, a Third?  Maybe.  We're thinking about it.  One day.  Maybe.

But one thing I know now is that this time around, my husband will need no convincing.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beware the Sophie

Recently in our house, we have been having a discussion.  I don't know if I'd go so far as to call it a debate, but it's more the divergence of two very strong opinions from two very stubborn people trying to make a decision about something when each very stubborn person is equally right.  To look at it from a historical perspective, for Abraham and Sarah, it was donkey or camel.  For Henry VIII and Catherine, it was France or Scotland.  For Elizabeth and Richard, it was diamonds or sapphires.  For Romeo and Juliet, it was dagger or poison.

For Sarah and Chris, it's to iphone or not to iphone.

The disparity of our respective feelings results from the vast discrepancy between our personalities.  Chris is a thinker.  Before he makes a decision, big or small, he needs to perseverate about it.  He is the offspring of an engineer, and I know this is where he gets it from.  Me?  Not a thinker.  No, noooo.  I'm the anti-thinker.  Before making a decision, I just impetuously act, then reflect on it later.  As you can imagine, this attractive feature of my personality has not necessarily served me well over time. 

For example, if I were more of a thinker, I would have a lot more money in the bank and a lot fewer blisters on my feet from those really cute Tory Burch sandals that, turns out, are really a bizarre shade of neon orange and not the "festive coral" as described in the Nordstrom catalog, and therefore go with nothing in my closet.  Nothing.  Not on my color wheel.  (FYI, blondes, I'm here to tell you, nary one of us can pull off neon orange.  I've tried.  It's not pretty.  Just saying.)  And what about that darling little clutch purse I all but gave my eyeteeth for?  Adorable, yes, but not so practical when you are hauling two kids around, and you need to have with you at all times:  baby wipes, goldfish, a sippy cup, jelly beans (for bribery purposes only), a teething ring, and can of keychain pepper spray so as to deter any no-good person from attacking you and those two kids, lest they waste a felony to rob you of the sticky change in the bottom of that darling clutch.  Indeed.  I would have a lot less of those types of impulse items now for sale on ebay if I had spent more time being the thinker and less time being the anti-thinker.

So this smartphone purchase, well, Chris wants to do research.  Puh-leeze.  I did enough research in grad school to last me a lifetime.  Just give me a cool phone, bedazzled pink would be lovely, with all the swanky apps, including but not limited to:  facebook,, ebay, tmz, and youtube.  Yep.  Gimme that fancy new iphone, y'all.  And throw some games on there too.  Scrabble would be perfect.  I rock at Scrabble, ask my brother.

But nooooooooo.  Are you sure about the apple phone, he asks?  What about the Droid?  The Curve?  The Evo?  Have you even thought about this?  Have you?  My husband, Inspector Extraordinaire, wants to go look at them in stores.  He wants to hold them in his hand, poll people on how they like their phone, compare operating systems to giga-thingamabobs.  He wants to look at screen sizes while I want to look at shoe sizes.  What can I say?  My two X chromosomes stand in direct opposition to his Y and create this inherent difference in our personalities.  Thinker vs anti-thinker.  He is Yin to my Yang.  Thus, the orange shoes.

Take the whole Sophie Giraffe debacle, for instance.  A friend tells me Sophie is THE new hot baby item and do I have one.  Well no, friend, I do not, and please tell me more about this new hot baby item.  She then describes in detail the baby teether that all the mommies in line at the take-an-overpriced-picture-of-your-kid-with-the-sedated-bunny exhibit at the Arboretum (yes, I have four of these pictures, so what?) are full-on raving about in the sort of frenzied way that mommies size up each other's mothering skills.  I have a Sophie.  Do you have a Sophie?  Oh, Isabella just COULD NOT LIVE without Sophie.  I know, dahling, Emma is the same way.  She just ADORES Sophie.  What would we do without Sophie?  I'm thinking of writing Sophie into the will.  And so on.  These are the conversations my friend was privy to.  So in my zeal to not be outdone by the ardent mothers in the overpriced bunny-picture line, I rush out and plop down the $16 needed to buy my poor underpriviliged baby a Sophie.  I mean, really, how could I let Caroline go one more minute without a Sophie? 

You are now probably wondering, exactly what is a Sophie, and I'll tell you.  It's nothing more than an overhyped but clearly well-marketed giraffe-shaped teether for babies (think exorbitantly priced dog squeaky chew toy, cleverly packaged with a cute baby on the box joyfully chewing on his Sophie), which also happens to have a long neck and four legs, all of which are shaped, regrettably, the same size as a teething baby's airway. 

Yes.  In all my impetuous naivete and inclination to believe propaganda over reality, I managed to once again overlook the obvious:  Sophie - or more specifically, Sophie and her four appendages - is a choking hazard.

As you can guess, my observant husband pointed this out to me as soon as Sophie was presented to him with a flourish as Caroline's hot new baby item and aren't I a good mom for getting her one.  Noooo,  never would they market Sophie as a teething toy if she were a choking hazard!  Please, good man, go back to researching your smartphones and let me be supermommy.  Well, have you looked into it? he persisted, have there been any reports of Sophie-chokings?  As is unfortunately typical for my impulsive nature, I justified my purchase to him by assuring him no, this would never happen and don't worry, it'll be fine and, (distraction) what would you like for dinner? 

So, a week later, I'm at work and you'll never guess what happened.  Y'all, it gives me heart palpitations even now just writing about it.  [Mom, close your eyes and don't read this part].  That wily giraffe somehow managed to force one of her airway-shaped legs down my precious (and very orally-fixated) baby's throat.  By the grace of God, Chris was standing ten feet away, and was able to extricate that ghastly creature's limb from her mouth and save our daughter from what was almost certain peril.

After we recovered from the trauma, we then went online to file a formal complaint with the Sophie-makers and were horrified to discover that diabolical Sophie has been responsible for many chokings (one is too many!), and is being taken off the market in Canada for that very reason.  Assassin.  Homicidal maniac.

Mea culpa, my love.

My advice?  Don't buy a Sophie.  Tell your friends not to buy a Sophie.  Tell the mommies in the overpriced bunny-picture line to stay away from Sophie.  She's a gimmick.  A scary, dangerous, ill-conceived gimmick.

Was Chris right about Sophie?  Regrettably, yes.  Did I learn a lesson?  Argh.  Did I ever.  Do I research everything now?  Absolutely, yes.  Well, almost.  Do I still want an iphone?  Of course!  But on this subject, I will now defer to the results of my husband's extensive research and let him make this decision.  Have I sold those neon orange shoes yet?  Sadly, no. Why - anyone interested? Size 7, new in box, never been worn...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Irony of the 1-2-3

Last night, I kissed two-year-old Aria goodnight for the last time. 

Today, she is three.  Three.  As in, the I can do it all by myself, it's my turn now, I've learned the word no and I'm not afraid to use it, Mommy, kind of three.  I can't believe my precious girl is growing up!  Each night this week as I've put her to bed, sentimental me has thought mournfully, this is one less time I'll be kissing a two-year-old goodnight.  (Melodramatic?  Who, moi?) 

Hello, Three, welcome to the Thomas household.  I'm almost sad to see you. 

I know everyone talks about the terrible twos, but they've been dreamy in my house.  No kidding, I really love this age.  Unrestricted emotions aside, I've found the twos to be so delightful.  It's been a true pleasure to watch Aria begin to comprehend the world and her place in it.  She's such a joy.  I love parenting this child.  I just love it, love it, love it. 

That said, I've found myself doing two things in our household lately that surprise me about myself.  The first is ironing my scrubs.  Yes, I know most normal people iron their clothes for work, I've just never seen the point.  I mean, they're going to get icky and wrinkly anyway, right?  Growing up, our housekeeper, Daisy - ah, sweet Daisy, bless her big, beautiful heart - always did the ironing, so I think I might have misinterpreted those perfectly ironed and folded clothes magically materializing in my closet to mean, "Don't worry, Sarah.  Clean, laundered, crease-free garments will be provided for you".  I mean, didn't God promise me He'd dress me as beautifully as a lily?  (See Matthew 6:28-30.  Didn't He??  Admittedly, I could be taking a liberty or two with this particular passage, and probably ironing my clothes for me is not exactly what He meant).  

Oh, and a sidebar about Daisy.  She didn't read, write, or drive, so my mom would chauffer her across town to and from our house every Wednesday.  Daisy, being an African-American woman growing up in the mid-century deep south, would insist on riding in the backseat of Mom's car, which totally mortified my mother.  Daisy was so dear to us she was like a member of our family, but to onlookers, it might have appeared as if Mom was making Daisy ride in the backseat of her car.  My so-sweet, proper, never, EVAH one-to-offend-anyone mama making her help ride in the back of the car.  If you know Mom, you see the irony.

Lookie there!  Irony, get it?  Iron-y!  I didn't even intend to make that one.  Ha!  I just love English, and I have AP Mrs. Kelly to thank for it.

So, the ironing.  In maturing and getting older, I have yet to see ONE of those perfectly ironed clothes appear in my closet without my own doing.  I can still see the look on Chris' face when, early in our marriage, he handed me a pile of his shirts that needed to be ironed, and I brightly told him I'd take them to the cleaners the following day.  "No, they're clean", he tells me, "they just need to be ironed."  So, um, yeah rightio.  You want me to what?  Maybe I wasn't entirely clear during the interview process that was our dating, but I don't iron.  And no windows either.   

Well, now that our social life has taken a little hit (remember... the Two), guess what I've learned to do?  That's right.  I'm ironin'.  I don't have as many reasons to get gussied up anymore but for playdates and work, and since our last playdate was at a bounce house and our next one is an inflatable backyard pool, Work, you are now the logical choice for me to try and look the trendy and stylish fashionista I (mistakenly, I admit) consider myself to be.  I know I'm ironing my scrubs as a way of channeling my inner Talbot's-Ann Taylor-(who are we kidding?  It's Nordstrom and Neiman's, but don't tell Chris) southern girl diva, and it often goes unnoticed and unappreciated in the drama that is an operating room delivering a 24-weeker at 4 in the morning, but oh well, I try.

The second surprising thing I've found myself doing lately is the issuing to my precocious and independent now three-year-old (!!!)  the very ultimate Mommy threat of all Mommy threats:  the 1-2-3.  Oh, come on, before you judge the speck in mine, remove the log from your own eye. You know you're guilty of the 1-2-3 yourself.  Every parent is.  I can vividly hear Vivi saying the precise thing to me that I now say to my daughter on what could possibly be a daily occurrence.  Here is an example of our exchange: 

Me:  "Aria Grace, I need you to Blank" (insert command here, usually has to do with potty-training). 
AG:  "No, Mommy.  I don't wanna Blank!"
Me:  "AR-I-A.  Mommy told you to Blank."
AG:  "NO!"

Here it comes.... 

Wait for it....

Me:  "Aria Grace Thomas.  I am going to count to three.  If you do not Blank by the time I get to three, you are going to be in serious trouble!"  (Serious trouble in our house usually means the withholding of dessert.  In extreme cases, it can result in banishment to the Naughty Stair.  Thank you, SuperNanny Jo, for the brilliant Naughty Stair concept.  For that, Chris and I are indebted to you.)

AG (Ignore, ignore, ignore).
Me:  "ONE..."
AG:  "No!"  (Ignore some more).
Me:  "TWO..."
AG (Thinks about it. Should I test Mommy on this one?  How far could I take it?).
Me:  "TWO AND A HALF..."
AG (Decides begrudgingly yet accurately not to test Mommy on this one, and slowly begins to Blank, whilst giving Mommy the Aria Evil Eye, the one Vivi says could quite possibly light a person on fire).

So there you have it.  Ironing.  And the 1-2-3.  Never thought I'd see a day when I did either, much less both. 

Wrinkled garments and the counting aside, I am so stinkin' proud of my baby girl for being the beautiful, bright, loving, happy, hysterical, sweet, caring, precious little rock star that she is.  To that honor, here are a few pictures of her birthday weekend, during which she swam with her cousins, rode her first horse, played dress-up, and experienced that age-old childhood rite of passage, the Slip-n-Slide. 

Next week, birthday party at the bounce house.  I should have lots of good blog posts from the bounce house.

Cheers to the Three's.  Welcome to the Thomas home.  And Happy Birthday, Baby.