Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
~1 Timothy 4:12

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Time Flies When You're Really Freakin Blessed...

Six years ago today we landed in London to begin our tour at the office of the Commander in Chief for the United States Navy in Europe. I remember that day--it's etched in my memory...

We landed and met a driver from the estate agency that we were letting our temporary flat from...a quiet, brooding, Middle Eastern man named...something. Mike sat in the front seat with him as he whizzed from Heathrow into the West End of London and Devyn and I sat in the back seat, her in her carseat and I clearly remember thinking how surreal this all far away we were from our family, how Mike was just as happy as he could be, Devyn was completely oblivious, and I cried for the entire 20 mile trek into the city. I leaned over to Devyn, tears just pouring down my cheeks and whispered, "We'll be ok"...looking back I told her that to vocalize it--to convince not her, but myself, that we would be ok. I didn't believe it, but saying it outloud made it more of a possibility.

The flat at 79M York Street was teeny, as are most flats in London, but our bed, holy moses...that bed rocked. I have no recollection of what we did that day...I think we walked to a little market on Baker Street and bought the, creamer, cereal, milk (that the next morning we would discover was completely different from any milk we'd ever encountered because sitting on TOP of the milk was the cream...non-homogenized milk thank you very much). We went to sleep that night--or Mike and Devyn went to sleep--and I sat in the family room flipping channels and writing in my journal. I found Ally McBeal on the telly around 12 am and happily watched, thinking, "Ok, I've found a link to home...this is a step in the right direction". I called my daddy that night, crying the whole time, thinking how badly I wanted to go home. It honestly was an ache--a physical pain that just consumed me. I finally fell asleep that was a long, long night.

More days like that would follow where all I wanted was to just go home. Just get a cab to Heathrow and buy a ticket. Things slowly got better and I found little joys in random things--this yogurt I'd buy at the market that had yogurt on one side, and the most wonderful little "add-ins" on the other--the BEST was the Raspberry Pavlova--Raspberry yogurt with white chocolate bits to mix in. I found myself looking forward to those every night. Hey, you find happiness in little things, right? I remember after we'd been there for about 5 days, Mike was at work and Devyn and I ventured out--we landed at the Marylebone Train Station and wandered into a little store called Cards Galore--the British version of Hallmark. Of all the things we had packed, clothes, toys, neccessities to last us the 5 weeks until we got our stuff, we had forgotten a lovie for Devyn. She focused on this little tabby colored kitty and I couldn't say no to her--we were crossing Marylebone Road when I asked her what the kitty's name was and she proudly announced: "NUMMY"! Nummy has been her constant companion ever since.

Those first days and weeks and months in London were difficult for me at best. However, I would not trade them for anything this world has to offer. Those days caused me to lean on my husband, something I had rarely done, for support. Not once did he ever tell me to "Get over it" or to "Suck it up" when I was having "a day". That's one of the most amazing things he's ever done for me, and he's done quite a lot of amazing things.

I sat on the porch at our home before we left for England and looked at the dark Virginia sky and pleaded with God. I asked Him specifically, "What could you possibly have to teach us THERE that you can't teach us HERE"? Here's a hint: EVERYTHING. I learned a very important lesson through this (well, a lot of lessons actually): Don't ever ask God questions. He'll answer them.

I cried the entire flight from our home to DC where we boarded another plane bound for London. I cried the entire flight from DC to London. I cried on the ride from Heathrow to our flat, and I cried for the better part of the next six months. I got over it. There were a few moments, actually huge occurrences that God used to smack me in the head as if to say "Girl. Do you KNOW how blessed you are"? Thankfully, I got it. I fully realized how blessed I was and I got over it. And then, 25 months later, I cried on the way to Heathrow, and I cried on take-off. I cried throughout the flight, thinking how far we had come...we came to England a disjointed family of three, not really knowing where any of us belonged, and we perservered and not only that, we thrived, and fell in love with our home...we left England a family of four, a strong intertwined force to be reckoned with. Briefly, here's a list of things we took with us :

a love for fresh cod and chips
a love for Regents Park and specifically the Boating Lake and Queen Mary's Rose Garden
a love for Magnum Bars
a love for John Lewis Department Store (maybe that's just me)
a love for Hamley's Toy Shoppe (the craziest seven floors of controlled chaos one has ever encountered)
a love for Footie (soccer--and OH YES...Alan Shearer)
a love for 201 Waterdale Manor House, 20 Harewood Avenue, London, NW1 6JX ( our home for two years)
a love for our adopted homeland
a renewed love for our natural homeland
a thriving and living love for each other

I am so thankful for the past six years and specifically for those 25 months we were ex-pats. It was incredible and often I find myself longing for that time again, but I wouldn't trade our lives now for anything. We are where we are supposed to be, and I am thankful and beyond blessed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's just something new every day...

So Monday, I'm taking Abbey Road (our new little pug) to the vet. I should mention that we live in a diverse, but fairly conservative area. This IS the South, after all...anyhow, I'm pulling into the shopping area where our vet is located and this sign catches my eye:

Open Now: Hookah Lounge and Bar.

Ok. Nice. WHAT? I'm as open-minded as the next open-minded person, but I came home and googled hookah straight away--it's a pipe. Ok, knew that. Apparentely ,it's a type of tobacco pipe and they flavor the tobacco. Good news--today's flavor is Peaches and Cream. Apparently hookah is gaining in popularity in several cities around the nation. Right. Getcha Hookah On!

I probably pretty naive. There are things that surprise me every single day--i'm not one of those people who will say, "Ok, now i've seen everything".... Currently, here are a list of my favorite surprises:

1. The Hookah Lounge.
2. The poor kid at Aiden's preschool who, at their spring program was dressed like Adam Rich from Eight Is Enough--down to the LONG bowl haircut and saddle oxfords and knee socks. Did I mention it was a little boy, and oh yeah, he was wearing a SMOCKED green a white all-in-one with BUNNIES on the front? Mercy. That kid is doomed...
3. The woman at Target yesterday BEHIND me in line to get the kiddles Slushees and she honest to goodness walked right past me and took her place at the register. In front of me. And then proceeded to argue about the price of a hot-dog. Needless to say, we came back after our shopping and completed our sale of one Crushed Melon Slushee and one Sour Cherry Slushee.
4. The whole Brangelina thing... Seriously confounds me.
5. American Apparel. Really? And they're making money off this stuff? People, you're being robbed...
6. Decaf Coffee. A big, fat WHY????
7. The thought that anything other than diet and exercise will lead to weight loss. Seriously people, fresh veggies and fruit, protein and a good episode of Shimmy off of Fit TV will do the trick. I'm not always the best at it, but I get it...
8. Jewelry TV. Have you seen this? I think it's filmed out of the basement of a VFW in Georgia somewhere. These people are nuts.

More to come later...

Monday, May 19, 2008

A peek into a day...

I know that in 5, 10 or 15 minutes, I'll forget most of what gets said in this home on a daily basis, so I'm going to make note of it here, in an effort to record it so it won't be forgotten...

Aiden, put down that spoon before you poke your toe out...

No, we're NOT going to do double back-flips over the back of the couch at the SAME time...

Aiden! PLEASE answer the phone!"
"But I'm doing something Mommy"
"Yeah, what"?
"I'm making sure Bugs Bunny gets across the road before the evil Elmer Fudd hits him in the head with the hammer. It's GOT to be done, Mama".
(And there I am, rubber gloves on, elbow high in CLR having just cleaned the bathtub--and the phone is sitting in Aiden's LAP).

Yes. The cat's poop is like the dog's candy bar. (ewwwwwwwwww)

All I need is five minutes you guys...five minutes...just me and my flat iron...that's all I ask...

Mama. MAMA! Applesauce is MANADATORY! ( misspelling there)

I promise you guys, if you don't straighten up and fly right, there WILL be a listing on Ebay with a very LOW buy-it-now price with BOTH your names on the listing...

Watch what you're doing because I am NOT going to the Emergency Room this morning. Or this afternoon. Or at all today.

Devyn. PLEASE do not hang upside down off the slide...

Aiden. We don't swim in the sandbox.

and my current favorite:
Hi, remember me, your mother? The one who laid on a table and gave birth to you in a manner MOST unlike any way I had planned and one that was MOST against my will? Remember that? No? Wanna see the video? Then...yep, THEN you'll be thankful...

And today's conversation over dinner went like this:
"Ok guys...if you were a super hero,what would your name be"?
Aiden : I'd be Super Indiana Jones Captain Aiden.
Devyn: I'd be Amazing Crazy Devyn.
Me: I'd be Super Wicked Cool Mom.
Devyn: Maybe you should be Squishy Mom.
Me: Why Squishy Mom?
Devyn: Cause you're just the teeniest bit squishy.

Week two of the Healthy Eating Plan begins tomorrow. And one Shimmy class. And NO chocolate...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The diet man cometh

I've finally committed, or I'm about to BE committed...either way, today was Day One of The Healthy Eating Plan. It's not exactly a diet per's more of, well, a Healthy Eating Plan. So far, it hasn't sucked, and I'm not dead, and I've survived and I'm not foaming at the mouth, or curled up in fetal position sucking my thumb. Day One down. Here's what I ate today:

One bowl of cream of wheat with slivered almonds, cinnamon and a packet of splenda.
One cup of coffee with creamer.

Lunch was tuna with lowfat ranch dressing and pickles on wheat toast.

Dinner was a Boca Burger on a whole wheat bun with ketchup and mustard and tomato.
One Banana
Seven french fries. (I know, I know, but come ON...sweet sweet carbs...)

One lowfat whipped key lime yogurt.

Three glasses of water.

Not too bad, and I'm NOT starving by the way. I'm doin ok! I might actually make it through this...and just for the record, I who MUST have some morsel of chocolate every single day, did NOT have even a chocolate chip. How bout that!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

She spins and she sways...

I took this picture from my phone yesterday at Devyn's ballet rehearsal...isn't she stunning? I know it's grainy, but you can still see her. The recital piece is to Steven Curtis Chapman's Cinderella and I got teary just watching her. It breaks my heart that Mike won't see her performance in person, but I know that it will mean just as much to him watching it on tape. This is "their" song...I love that they have such an amazing relationship. She adores him as he does her and I'm so thankful for that. I have a great relationship with my daddy, and I always wanted that for my daughter. Devyn is very clearly Daddy's Little Girl and he's wrapped around her little finger (unless she needs some parenting). I love that...and I love them more than anything...

Monday, May 12, 2008

By the Grace of God...

I pitched a FIT tonight. All over some stupid gold flower hairbow that went with Miss Devyn's ballet costume that was lost in the fathomless abyss that is her closet. It was bad, y'all. And Sweet Hubby called in the middle of said fit. Looking back on it now, I must have sounded like some crazed, mosquito infested buffoon as I was ranting and raving and spitting into the phone. At one point, I think Sweet Hubby said "I know. I understand" to which I answered, "Oh. DO YOU"? Ouch. I'm sorry honey. I know you understand. I was just being a class a jerk. We never did find that gaudy flower bow thing. We went to ballet, hung our heads low as we went in sans bow, only to find that Devyn's teacher had extras. God bless that girl. We still have to find the flower bow thing for her recital, but I'm honestly just thinking of fashioning something out of the floral department at Michael's. How hard can it be to jimmy up a gold flower bow thing with a big sparkly rhinestone in the middle?

I got to thinking tonight how I was raised in the presence of two very devout Southern women--my mother and my grandmother--and how they never really got angry a lot, but when they did--Oh Lord...the fits that were pitched. I was in a whole messa hurt watching my gram throw a hissy. It was not a pretty sight. I think I saw three. That was enough for my 21 years before she passed away. She was not a woman to be trifled with. Which got me thinking...I remember three fits from her, but countless ways she showed me her love for me and our family. When I was around 7, we went to the farm for Sunday dinner and everyone was having whitefish. I detest whitefish (except Cod--as long as it's fresh). I think I must have looked totally dejected at the announcement of fish for dinner...until she took me over to the oven and showed me what was in individual serving of lasagna that she had made just for me. I felt so special, and so loved in that moment. I hope that's what Devyn and Aiden will remember of me when I'm no longer on this earth--that I pitched a few fits, but I had the most overwhelming love for them, and that hopefully, I took a lot of opportunities to make them feel special.

On a different note, I had someone ask me the other day, "What IS Southern, anyway"? Mercy. I nearly choked back tears when I heard that--what a sorrowful state of affairs, when someone has to ask that question. So incase anyone out there HAS wondered that, here's the quick and dirty:

Southern is not a location on a map. It is not a collection of states that formed and were once known as The Confederacy. Southern is, by all accounts, a state of mind and a way of life. It's chivalry on the part of a gentleman, and acting like a lady on the part of a woman--at ALL times--and YES, you CAN be a lady and still dance on a bar. It's learning your manners from the womb--Yes Ma'am and No Ma'am, Please, Thank You, Y'all Take Care, Come Back To See Us, Bless Your Heart, and Well, I Swanee. It's Sweet Iced Tea (and Hardee's Sweet Tea does NOT count), and Hoppin John and Mint Juleps and it's sitting out on the porch in the morning and the evening and just talking while the world goes by. It's not getting caught up in the world, but enjoying your little corner of it. It's having mints in your grandmama's purse, and Hu.Mi.Di.Ty. It actually being able to smell spring when it arrives in late April and listening to the Cicadas and June Bugs on august evenings. It's about family, and family, and family. It's back door friends and wood stoves and boys who grow up hunting and going to barn parties in high school. It's wanting to be just a little like Scarlett if you're a girl, and really wanting Rhett to show up at your door. It's about faith, and good old hymns and pot-luck suppers and warm, inviting homes. It's everything I grew up with...including a Daddy who pretty regularly will say, "Now looka yonder at that fella in that Corvette. Doen't he think he's in high cotton"? And a mama, when ever I would date someone would ask three questions:
1. Who are his people?
2. What's his daddy do?
3. Where do they go to service (church)?

If you're not thoroughly confused, here's a list that I found on the blog of someone who visited mine...she claims to be a yankee living in Tennessee, but I think it's only right that those of us lucky enough to be born and raised in the South adopt her as one of our own. Thanks, Nash, for the following. Love it!

Southern Livin'

Southern women know their manners:
"Yes, ma'am."
"Yes, sir."
"Why, no, Billy!"
Southern women have a distinct way with fond expressions:
"Y'all come back!"
"Well, bless your heart."
"Drop by when you can."
"How's your Momma?"
Southern women know their summer weather report:
Southern women know their vacation spots:
The beach
The rivuh
The crick
Southern women know everybody's first name
Southern women know the movies that speak to their hearts:
Fried Green Tomatoes
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Steel Magnolias
Gone With The Wind
Southern women know their religions:
Southern women know their country breakfasts:
Red-eye gravy
Country ham
Mouth-watering homemade biscuits with momma's homemade jelly
Southern women know their elegant gentlemen:
Men in uniform.
Men in tuxedos
Rhett Butler
Southern girls know their prime real estate:
The Mall
The Country Club
The Beauty Salon
Southern girls know the 3 deadly sins:
Having bad hair and nails
Having bad manners
Cooking bad food

More Suthen-ism's: Only a Southerner knows the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit , and that you don't "HAVE" them, you "PITCH" them.

Even Southern babies know that "Gimme some sugar" is not a request for the white, granular sweet substance that sits in a pretty little bowl in the middle of the table.

All Southerners know exactly when "by and by" is. They might not use the term, but they know the concept well.

Only a Southerner knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who's got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of cold potato salad. If the neighbor's trouble is a real crisis, they also know to add a large banana puddin!

Only a Southerner, both knows and understands, the difference between a redneck, a good ol' boy, and po' white trash.

No true Southerner would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn.

A Southerner knows that "fixin" can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adverb.Only Southerners make friends while standing in lines, ... and when we're "in line," . we talk to everybody!

In the South, y'all is singular, all y'all is plural.

When you hear someone say, "Well, I caught myself lookin'," you know you are in the presence of a genuine Southerner!

Only true Southerners say "sweet tea," "sweet milk," and "light bread". Sweet tea indicates the need for sugar and lots of it -- we do not like our tea unsweetened. "Sweet milk" means you don't want buttermilk. And "Light bread" is white bread.

And a true Southerner knows you don't scream obscenities at little old ladies who drive 30 MPH on the freeway. You just say,"Bless her heart" ... and go your own way.

And for those that are not from the South but have lived here for a long time, all y'all need a sign to hang on y'alls front porch that reads "I ain't from the South, but I got here as fast as I could."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Counting My Blessings...

I spent the majority of last week feeling absolutely miserable. I was feeling sorry for myself and I was probably miserable to everyone around me. I must have had a lot of people praying for me, because I woke up Saturday morning with a totally different outlook, and that outlook remains: I am insanely blessed. A lot of people say that, and a lot of people believe it. I am one who embraces it. This being Mother's Day, I am going to count two of my most treasured blessings:

Devyn Ainsley
Devyn was born at 12:47 pm on a Thursday. She was this gorgeous, tiny (5 lbs,11oz) little thing that brought out the most incredible feeling in me. I remember the night she was born and our family had all left to go to dinner and it was just she and I in the hospital room. I remember clearly thinking "I haven't seen your feet yet" I unwrapped her and I couldn't get over how she was still all curled up and she looked just like a little lady bug. I think I started calling her that right little lady bug. I looked at her and felt in that moment that my heart honestly was looking back at me.

Before I knew it, she was 2 years old and I was dropping her off for her first day of preschool. She cried, and cried...and cried some more. I knew it would be good for her, and honestly I needed a break, but on my way out of the building, I peeked in the window of her room and made sure she was doing ok. She was pretty happy at that point, but her curly little head was still happily clinging to her teacher, Shabana. She came to love her school, and her teachers, as she loved the Boating Lake at Regent Park in London. Looking back on it now, I would love the opportunity to spend one more day with 2 year old Devyn...

And now she's seven years old. SEVEN! How did that happen? Honestly, it was like I blinked...on her birthday last year, I was perhaps the saddest I have ever been. I picked her up out of her bed and laid her in bed with Mike and I and I just held her all night, hoping to hold on to her for just a little while longer...

She's amazing. She is what made me a mother. She is my entertainer...the singer of our family, the one who's always dancing, and jumping around and doing cannonballs in her bathtub (when there's not water in it) and she puts a smile on my heart everyday. She loves her kitty cat, Nummy, the color purple, and dresses. She would honestly wear a dress everyday if I let her! I look at her and realize how much she has taught me; to love the moment, whatever the moment tell the people you love them how much you do, every sing no matter the circumstance and to embrace life completely. I thank God every day for her...

Aiden Bryanston

Aiden, unlike his sister, was planned. If she was the most wonderful, shocking surprise, he was the miracle. After he was born, on a Monday morning at 10:13 am Greenwich Mean Time in London, I read in my medical report that he never should have survived the pregnancy. Apparently, his heartbeat was very low and our doctor wrote"...pregnancy not expected to survive. Baby has low, weak heartbeat and heartbeat is expected to weaken..." Well. It did not weaken. He survived and was born this gorgeous, tiny (5 lbs, 10 oz) little boy who slept beautifully and ate like a champ. He had a very bad issue with Reflux for the first year of his life and I recall one day where I changed shirts SEVEN times. He gave his first smile to his big sister as she was watching Cinderella and they've been best friends ever since. He had one tooth in his head for six months before he got another. He wouldn't eat baby food for anyone but me (and I secretly loved that...)and started giving kisses and hugs at 9 months.

He has opened up a whole 'nother world for me. I knew how to "do" girls--I know what little girls like to do, what they like to play with, how they operate, because I am one! I was terrified to learn we were having a boy. Terrified. I knew nothing about boys. Now, four years later, I can "aarrrghh" with the best of the pirates that are out there, I can get Jack Sparrow up a zipline on his pirate ship in a nanosecond, and I can hold my own with MarioKart.

Aiden has taught me to lighten up. To just laugh for no reason, and to love reading. I always enjoyed reading, but he has reawakened that in me because of his love for it. He's incredibly talented and humorous, and makes me laugh every time I turn around. Beyond that, he's taught me to play. To take time out, every day and just play. We have played more rounds of Scooby Doo and the Haunted Mansion and the Magic Kingdom game than I can count, and I wouldn't have it any other way. He is generous and concerned for everyone and I thank God for him every day.

I am so grateful that the Lord trusted me and Mike enough to loan these two sweet babies to us. I am reminded regularly that they are not mine...that it's our job, Mike's and mine, to raise them as God would have us. I'm just like every other mom who loses her temper at times, and questions what in the world I'm doing. But I keep praying and every once in a while I get a glimpse that I'm doing something right. And the rights are Devyn and Aiden. They are what I'm (currently) doing right.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Child of the 80's...

I make no apologies for what I am. I am a 100%, bona fide, dyed in the wool Southern girl. I am also, by the grace of God, a child of the 80s. I heard the most awesome song on the radio the other day...the lyrics got me immediately and there I was in the car going "YES! That's my life"! And Devyn followed it up with, "What're parachute pants, mom"? Oh...the humanity. Anyway, here are part of the lyrics to "19 Something" by Mark Wills...

It was the dawning of a new decade
When we got our first microwave
And Dad broke down and finally shaved them old sideburns off
I took the stickers off of my Rubix cube
Watched MTV all afternoon
My first love was Daisy Duke In them cut off jeans
A Space Shuttle fell out of the skyAnd the whole world cried
It was 1980-something In the world that I grew up in
Skating rinks and Black Trans Ams
Big hair and parachute pants
Lookin' back now I can see me
And oh, man did I look cheesy
But I wouldn't trade those days for nothin'
It was 1980-something

See! Isn't that genius?! When I was in elementary school, every Friday afternoon I would carry my 75 cents in the little orange envelope I had and board the school bus to go to Star City Skating Rink. It. Was. AWESOME. In honor of my childhood, I've decided to make a list of my favorite things from the 80s. It's totally gnarly and you won't be begging to be gagged with a spoon.

1. Strawberry Shortcake
2. Puffalumps
3. She-Ra
4. THE SMURFS!!! (I choose to remain naive and believe that they were not gay. They're just little blue elves that are three apples high that live in Mushrooms and are tormented by an evil wizard named Gargamel. As if that's not strange enough)!
5. Card Sharks
6. Let's Make A Deal (Did you know that was filmed at the Hilton in Las Vegas)?
7. The Cosby Show
8. The Golden Girls
9. The Dukes of Hazzard.
10. Dallas. Best. Darn. Show. EVER.
11. Banana Clips
13. Circus Of The Stars
14. USA Dance Party
15. USA Cartoon Express (USA had it goin on!)
16. The bath soap that came in a shell shape--although I can't remember the name of it.
17. Actual, ringing, dial telephones.
18. Annie.
19. ET
20. Press Your Luck (whatever happened to really good game shows?!)
21. Blue Eyeshadow.
22. Barbie.
23. Fluppy Dogs
24. Add A Bead Necklaces
25. Double Knit Polyester suits that my mom would wear for Christmas parties.
26. One word: Izod.
27. Feathered Hair
28. Jelly shoes!
29.Showbiz Pizza--where a kid can be a kid!
30. Spaghetti and Meatballs (an 80s cartoon)
31. Shirt Tales
32. Pandemonium (yet another cartoon)
33. My parents white and burgundy 1980 Mercury Monarch. That car was the POO.

I could honestly go on and on. In a lot of ways, I wish Devyn and Aiden could enjoy the simplicity of life the way it was for me, but I suppose they consider their lives to be pretty simple. They'll probably look back one day and say, "I wish my children could enjoy life when it was simple--when all we had was the internet, digital cable, webkinz, Wii, and dvd players in the car".

And so it goes...but I'm still singing "It was 1980 somethin..."