Thursday, June 4, 2009

We're Movin' On UP!

God's Smallest Graces has moved up to the big time - it's own website!

It is now Halala Mama and you can find it at http://www.halalamama.com/ along with an explanation of how I chose such a crazy name on the "about" page.

I'm THE mom

It's official. I am the mom in the household.

Last night I stood in front of my 47 eighth graders in our new church and read each name as they came up to recieve their "diplomas" from Fr. Dan. This ceremony is largely symbolic as an eighth grade diploma makes no one marketable for a job, but it is a good transition from the things of childhood to the slightly more grown up world of high school.

When I finally made my way home, my husband greeted me with the information that Adam had a large, angry looking red patch on his back. He detailed what he had done in an effort to make the baby more comfortable and then left it in my hands to solve.

What I realized is that this is a bit of a change in my relationship with my husband. He has faith in me as a mother to do whatever is appropriate to heal our son. He doesn't know what to do, but believes in me to handle it.

I am not only a mom, now I am the mom in our house.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...into the future

Adam laid happily on his blanket last night, grabbing my toes. I didn't really pay attention until he pinched my toe - really hard!

I looked down to see that he had inserted my big toe in his mouth and his two lower pirahna teeth were shredding it. And this from the boy who will have nothing to do with holding his own bottle.

Things like that gross Ismael out to the fullest. Our conversation was riveting:

Isma: "Did you wash your toes?"

Me: "Yes, in that driving hailstorm I just went out in to move the car to the carport. You could have done that for me you know."

Isma: "Wash the boy's mouth out."

And so goes another exciting evening in our home.

But lately, I've looked at my ever-changing, almost eight month old son, and I have the growing sense that infancy as we have known it is over. He can roll over now, but he won't cuddle into sleep on my chest any more. He can sit up, but he can't wear those darling little baby clothes. He can eat some more substantial food, but he can't fit into his infant carrier seat.

He's my baby, but he's not an infant.

Of course, I want him to grow up, but I think I want a few more months of infancy first.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Help Wanted: A Personal Censor

I have been through a lot as a teacher. I have managed to do most of it without cussing. Until today.

Now by a lot, I mean I have led 40 or more 14 year olds through the nation's capital in all kinds of weather, through countless security screens, and across the lawn of Mount Vernon in the course of 100 straight hours of field trip bliss. If your child's teacher so much as takes your kid's class to an apple orchard, go buy her a gift. Right now. A trip is a lot of work.

So yes, the list would go on and on and on of what I have encountered during thirteen years of teaching.

It should be no surprise that I was in
"work" Wal-Mart this morning at 6:30 AM buying file folders and document frames for tomorrow's graduation service.

As I rounded the corner at Men's clothing to head for the check out, I heard an unfortunately familiar sound:

KKKSssssshhhh...ting, ting, ting...

It sounded like a thousand fairies laughing. at. me.

I would like to have a moment of silence for the two document frames who gave their lives due to the reckless abandon with which I steer a cart. Did I mention it was not even seven AM yet?

I cleaned up the chunky parts of my mess, careful not to add "stitches" to my story of how my morning could have been better. There was no way I was coming back later, so I went back and picked up two more frames, nestling them deeper in the cart to prevent further leaps to death.

Let me tell you.... Trish at the check out was real glad to see me this morning as I explained why I was holding two empty frames and a bunch of broken glass. I'll bet she was thinking, "all this before 7 AM? Aren't I one lucky woman?"

Later, on the way to graduation practice in the front row of an un-airconditioned school bus with 47 eighth graders, my partner teacher, and my principal, I related the early morning's events.

My partner teacher asked, "So do you need to go back and get more frames?"

I practically shouted an emphatic, "Ooooh HELL NO."

Oh now that's nice.

My partner teacher pretended I didn't say anything inappropriate while internally praising God that it wasn't WORSE than that because heaven knows, I like a good curse word.

My principal smiled faintly, likely due to the horrified look on my face.

I wondered where the filter between my brain and mouth went? Perhaps on summer vacation a few days early? I apparently need my own personal censor to follow me around with an air horn to bleep out my inappropriate remarks.

God only knows what I might say at graduation tomorrow night, in the church, on the microphone, and in front of the parents and priest....

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Chrism Filled Baptism

I have a tendency to play an event out in my mind before it happens, in preparation, I suppose.

These little "pre"- creations tend to consider the worst possible sequence of events and how I might handle them.

I am an incurable optimist.

My biggest fear about Adam's baptism was that he would vomit neon orange carrots all over his priceless baptismal outfit. Seriously, JC Penny? Fifty bucks for something he will wear once??

My second fear was that he would continue his new habit of groaning through the entire thing, which would make the priest consider an exorcism rather than a baptism.

I could not have foreseen the two, rather minor, problems that did arise: sandals and chrism.

After having tan and white food all Sunday morning (I'm learning to match his foods to his clothing), I dressed Adam in a shorts outfit and sandals. During mass, I knelt down to pray as holy a prayer as I could muster while Adam kicked me repeatedly in the butt.

He managed to flip one of his sandals into the air and hit himself in the head with it.

His startled cry was soon replaced with an honest wailing. The thunk on the head must have reminded him that he needed a V8....totally out of the question because it didn't match his clothing.

After a quick trip to the gathering space where he downed an entire 8 ounces of formula, I wrestled him into his little suit. I would like to personally thank the genius who thought placing buttons on the BACK of the long sleeved shirt was a good idea. It was like wrestling a spider monkey on speed into a straight jacket.

He sure was cute though.



The service went fine with Father Kevin motoring through the required readings so fast that most of our guests couldn't understand him. The stole was placed, the candle lit, the water poured, and the chrism applied in record time.

The chrism. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia chrism is olive oil mixed with balsam which gives it a "sweet fragrance."

It flat out stinks. It's a sharp, sinus piercing, sit up and take notice kind of stink. And Father Kevin smeared Adam's head with a huge handful of the stuff. It was practically dripping off of his teeny tiny little bangs.

My previously placid son, in trying to located the source of the stink, began nodding his head vigorously. Against my face. Now I had chrism all over my nose, upper lip, and chin.

It's like taking the worst smelling substance possible and cramming it in your own nostrils.

Trying to be cool about it, since Father Kevin was racing through the last few prayers, I wiped my nose and lip carefully. Apparently chrism has the magical powers of melting lipstick, because I had a nice rose colored streak on the back of my hand.

I would like to say I prayed for my son and a grace filled life.

Instead I panicked that lipstick might be either smeared across my cheek or dripping down my chin.

It's my optimist streak at work again.

According to the "after" pictures, it seems that my panicking was for naught.


Ismael was fairly silent through this whole process. These are not his traditions, not his ways, yet he knew it was important to me. He was present, attentive, and supportive, if not a little uncomfortable. Ahh..the things we do for those we love.

Except tolerate chrism.
As we left the church, he held Adam high in the air and declared, "Boy! You need a bath! You STINK!" To which the boy nodded vigorously in assent.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Alive



"If I actually watered my lone rose, it might bloom," I told a friend the other night. After doing all that work, you would think that I would remember to water the ONE plant I allowed to live in my field of mulch.

You would think so, anyway.

Good thing it rained last night.



Saturday, May 30, 2009

Future Girl Chaser

I thought today's biggest accomplishment was going to be Adam's ability to see his own eyebrows. He has begun looking straight up while groaning and grunting. I thought he sounded like a character from Star Wars. Or like he was being possessed by demons, in which case, tomorrow's baptism can't get here soon enough.

In the midst of the carrying on, he also has learned to launch a mouthful of dinner at me with the same sound as a Nerf gun. Something like, "ploooofff," as the entire wad lands on me, on him, on the tray, wherever.

My boy has skills.

But as I was making dinner for the grown up residents in the house, I returned to the living room to find him like this:



Now, he wasn't like that when I left him. He had been lying on his activity mat. He finally has rolled over from his back to his tummy on his own.

Maybe he was inspired by the 10 month old girl he met at my Godson's open house. She is almost walking. He sat in the grass, immobile, smiling and cooing at her. She moved on to bigger game. She has her sights set on bipedal boys.

I guess he figured he'd better get on the stick about this crawling thing.

Bravo, Big Chief, Bravo!


Patio Accomplished

Adam laid down for his morning nap and I laid in wait. The minute he was asleep, I shot out the door, leaving baby and daddy asleep in their beds.

FREEDOM.

Whatever would I do with the whole 35 minutes in which I would be reasonably sure that Adam would be asleep?

Buy mulch and continue working on my heinous patio project. My main goal being to transform that patio from heinous to not heinous. My goals are not lofty, but they are my own.

As I set to work outside, I found this:


What is that a door for? Seriously? I live in a major metropolitan area and I thought we claimed this land from the animals long ago. I imagined something from Where the Wild Things Are jumping up to greet me.

Whatever it is, I hope it has a back door, because I flattened this one, then laid layers of newspaper and about ten pounds of mulch on top of it.

Adam was a great deal of help after his nap. The Prince doesn't garden much:


The end result of today's efforts, forty five minutes and $21 of mulch later:

Better Homes and Gardens it ain't, but it meets my original goals:

1. Create a space which convinces the upstairs apartment neighbors that they do not live above a cesspool.

2. Get rid of the weeds that would grow to heights higher than the fence.

3. And as previously stated, move from heinous to not heinous.

Mission accomplished. I might even hang a banner.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Field Day - An Adult Survivors Guide

Ahhh.... to be in middle school again.

Okay, no, I didn't like field day even then.

Most of my students though seem to look forward to it. It's an opportunity to show off athletic prowess in a variety of events, all of which take place outside, which is definitely better than inside.

Alternatively, it is an opportunity to lie in the grass and socialize with your friends without being interrupted by a yapping adult who has the nerve to interrupt YOU by trying to teach you something.

To survive field day, this is the list that every adult must have.

1. Ibuprofen. Take in great quantities upon waking so that your body will have absorbed them before you begin standing on concrete all day. I considered breaking out the Percocet for this endeavor, but determined this is not quite as severe as a severed limb. Plus, I would probably be asleep on my desk by the time field day started and/or babbling incoherently like Paula Abdoul at an Idol try out. Again, middle schoolers are self-absorbed creatures, but this they would notice.

2. Sunglasses. To shade from the sun or hide tears of exhaustion. Take your pick.

3. Sunscreen. Apply liberally. Otherwise when you swat that bee from your neck at 2:00 PM you're going to feel a sting anyway.

4. Athletic Shoes. Although will not be participating in any events, you WILL be standing. All day long. Those cute shoes that show your recent pedicure are useless.

5. Clipboard and Pencil. You will have to record your students' amazing feats and endure them mobbing you after each and every event. A clip board allows you to throw the scores to the middle of the pack and then take a safe step backward.

6. Diet Coke. Drink during break; use sparingly. Field day has no restrooms. Water is overrated.

7. Your husband's debit card. When this is all over, you are going to need a different kind of drink, and you have misplaced your own debit card. Okay, yeah, so this is probably more a recommendation for me than for anyone else.
(Hellloooooooooo? St. Anthony?)

Field Day, 2009. Bring it. I'm ready.

Speaking Blue

A friend's Facebook status once read, "Blue is NOT hearing Pink." My response, "Really? We speak purple around here." Maybe it should have been lavender.

Anyway, men and women do not speak the same language, that is true. The roughly 842,000 different books in print devoted to that very premise can't be wrong.

For instance, last night I came home from work to Grandma playing with Adam. Fun stuff. I go to the fridge to get the hamburger I am sure I have in order to make my mother the culinary delight that is grilled hamburgers in appreciation for her afternoon of babysitting. There is no hamburger. Not fun stuff.

Ismael walked in shortly afterward and I greeted him with "Please, go to the store and buy hamburger. I already have buns. I just need hamburger."

He harumphed a few times because all he really wanted to do was check his Powerball numbers to see if we could have hamburgers ordered in for the rest of our lives. (We cannot).

After he left, I spoke these prophetic words to my mother, "He will come back with the wrong things, you wait and see." I've only been married a few years, BUT I've learned a thing or two in that time.

I knew when he left that he a.) hadn't really been listening to me and b.) would have been extremely irritated if I had issued the simple statement "We need hamburger," even one more time.

So I shut up and waited. And waited. And waited. Seriously, the store is 1 mile away, how long does it take?

He threw two very full bags on the counter. Two packages of WHOLE WHEAT HAMBURGER BUNS, one package of HOT DOG BUNS, and lemonade.

For God's sake.

How many hamburgers were three people going to eat? Sixteen? That is if I had hamburger.

We don't even have any hot dogs.

And I'm sure glad he got lemonade. It will make a fabulous dinner by itself.

My mother declared that if that was what we were having for dinner, she'd just go on home, thank you very much.

I caught him getting his new bike out to go for a quick pre-lemonade dinner ride and dispatched him back to the store.

He returned with two packages of pre-formed hamburgers (ahhh....what a delight) and a package of hamburger (to prevent future problems).

As we finally ate our fantastic dinner, I reflected on how "blue doesn't always hear pink." (even though pink was PERFECTLY clear in what she was saying)

My husband's version of blue gets tangled up in the translation from thinking in French to speaking in English and in between all the details get left out. I dig details out of him like I'm mining for coal in Appalachia. It's time consuming, difficult, dirty work.

If I want him to hear me correctly, I will have to leave out details like I have bread already and just shout, "Hamburger, hamburger, hamburger," in his ear. I thought leaving out the detail that I wanted the sirloin versus the cheap 73/27 meat was sufficient. I was wrong.

While Ismael did the post dinner dishes (because he is a good, good, good, hearing impaired husband), I did some of my nightly blog surfing and found
http://www.dadcentric.com/ which is a site that compiles entries from different daddy bloggers.

What? Daddy bloggers? Yes, it's true.

I found that daddy blogs are quite a bit different from mommy blogs in that they curse a lot more, are highly sarcastic, and are content to refer to their children as Thing 1 and Thing 2 in order to protect their privacy (I can only assume no wife allowed their children to actually be named that. Twice, anyway)

The posts I enjoyed the most were:

I Sit in the Darkness and Say the Law

Po-tate-oe, Po-tat-o

Richard Dreyfuss Would Have Stood His Ground

The second and third ones, in particular, require you to read all the way to the end for the punch-line but they are well worth the wait for the laugh.

I don't think Ismael will start a daddy blog any time soon, but if he did, I sure wonder what his entry from tonight would be?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

He Speaks! Or Rather Texts....

My husband Ismael is not the most verbose person in the world... in fact, he might be the least.

I called him during lunch today to make a pitch for going out to dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, whose brochure he has been leaving in conspicuous places around the house.

I didn't think it would be a hard sell.

I didn't get him, and by the time he returned the call I had class. Being technologically savvy, I crafted a well thought out, perfectly spelled, concise text message: "Baby: I have class now. I will be at school until 4. Can we go out to dinner at that Lebanese place?"

His immediate reply: "Where are you? Can you talk? I love you!"

Several thoughts came to mind:

1. I am at WORK...where else would I be at 11:30 AM?

2. If I could talk, I would have answered the phone.

3. Of course you love me, I'm fabulous.

4. That seems like an oddly long text message from my husband.

Then I remembered that these phones have some pre-entered text as short cuts. He just picked a few of those when he didn't reach me, strung them together, and sent them off.

Thank heaven the maker of his cell phone included "I love you" or he might not think to add that!

Then I knew he HAD received my text when I received this reply from him, "Ok."

Now that's my husband talking.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day at Wal Mart

Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor those who have served our country. We do so by standing in line at Wal Mart.

Seriously, I had to have formula. I don't know what the other 8,000 people were doing there.

There are four Wal-Marts within about 20 minutes of our apartment. There is "work" WalMart, 'mom" WalMart, "on my way to somewhere else" WalMart, and "ghetto" WalMart all named for what they are closest to. Unfortunately, ghetto WalMart is the closest to our place.

About two months ago Ismael was going to leave to buy formula (our never ending quest) at our WalMart. He came in the living room and announced, "I can't go." Sensing some man plot to get out of this necessary task, I questioned him further. "There's been a shooting in the parking lot," he said. Surely now he was really lying. Turning on the television proved it. The police had arranged a drug deal in the parking lot that had gone bad, resulting in a police action shooting. At 2:30 PM. Can't they save that stuff for 2:30 AM??

I visit each of them with some regularity, but not enough to remember where things are. Yesterday at on my way to somewhere else (and more fun) Wal Mart, I had four things on my mind: formula, eggs, bread, and pictures. Really, I had five things, but still can't remember the fifth. I nixed the eggs because you see, I was on my where somewhere else. That WalMart is just not in a good location for me to purchase perishables.

I searched every aisle for bread, only to find it in the back of the store, in the corner, where the infant section used to be. Okay, great. Where is the infant section? I found it next to electronics. Now that makes perfect sense. After I purchase their store brand formula for $11 a can, I'll surely have enough left over to buy that Ipod Touch I've been wanting. Whatever.

Also, in the move they placed the aisles even closer together. You can barely pass another cart. If your child doesn't keep their arms and legs inside the ride at all times it could definitely be severed right there in the diaper section.

I scoured the aisles for formula, which I didn't find, and was momentarily distracted by the cute baby boy clothes that my 7 month old should still fit into, instead of the 12-18 month clothing he is in.

Distraction = downfall.

I couldn't find the formula. I scanned my brain trying to remember. Ghetto WalMart has it in the baby section, on lockdown. You always have to get an associate to open it. Mom WalMart has it in checkout 22, next to cigarettes. Work WalMart has it on a shelf in the infant section, no lock. Guess there are no thieves or drug dealers who want the powder to cut the strength of cocaine or heroin. I work in a place better than I live.

But, I digress.

I could NOT remember where this WalMart kept it.

Adam and I headed to the front of the store, walked the checkout line several times, no result.

Back to the infant section where we found it, next to those beautiful baby clothes that so blinded me on our first visit back to the department.

As I was heading BACK to the front of the store, I pulled the pacie from Adam's mouth, hoping for some sound of encouragement from the young son.

"Hey, kitty kitty, da da da da" he replied. Now, I know that his "words" are words in the same way that we see clouds in the summer sky and see clowns, birds, or Jesus in their forms. It's all in the eye of the beholder. Surely he knows already that the words kitty and da da do NOT go in the same sentence.

We are now stocked up with enough English Muffins and baby formula to get through the week. I don't know which WalMart I'll be at next week, but I know I'll be there...looking for baby formula.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

We Interrupt this Race, for a Moment of Grace...

I literally was placing the cooler in the trunk when my phone beeped with a text, "The race starts at one. Come at 2:30."

The Indianapolis 500 causes traffic around the Speedway to seize in every direction for hours. There is a very small window while the race is actually going on that movement is possible. If you stay out too long, like I did last year, you find your highway exits blocked. We could see our apartment and could have abandoned the car and walked there. But drive there? No way. We spent two hours trying to get home.

So with more time before we left than I expected, I came in and flipped Adam on his tummy. Seems an odd thing to do with extra time, but this boy needs the practice. I settled in with a magazine. As my butt hit the chair, he promptly threw up on his activity mat and then laid his freshly washed head in it and cried.

Plan B. A quick wash, cuddle time, and a nap.

I have a rule that there are to be no babies in our bed with us. EVER. Ismael conveniently ignores my proclamation from time to time despite my dire warnings to do him great harm if he continues. I know too many people who thought a baby sleeping in their bed with them was harmless. Fast forward five years and they are trying to pry the pre-kindergartner out of their king size bed and into his or her own. No thank you.

I have to admit, there is something alluring about cuddling up with your son, if you can get past the initial thrashing, poking, pulling, and kicking. He laid there looking lovingly at me as he pulled on my lips, stuck his finger up my nose, cut my lip with his death grasp, and pulled my hair. He then turned himself and kicked the you know what out of my arm while screeching with sheer delight.

If this is what he does to Bear at night, I think Bear is a fool for not going on strike long ago.

I laid there reading my magazine and getting angry about one of the newer mommy books. To be fair, I have not read the book or much about it, but there is something in the title that is meant to be funny I am sure: "Occasional moments of grace."

I looked over at my son who had closed his eyes, settled down and fallen asleep while keeping his outstretched hand on my arm.

A moment of grace.

I would have missed it if I had come in and gone about my chores that surely could use some extra attention.

I was reminded of my original argument when I started this blog. Motherhood (and life for that matter) is a continuous collection of God's Smallest Graces, IF we only recognize them.

A nap always makes everything better.

Like Father, Like Son

"Good thing you carried him, because there sure isn't much of you in him."

Really? That's all my OB had to say the morning after an 18 hour labor and finally a c-section?

Looking at my newborn son's sweet face and thick, black hair, I knew she had a point. I wondered what he would grow to look like. Maybe more like me? His temperament isn't even like me. He has proven to be just like his daddy in that too: quiet, mild, and happy.

I've often wondered what my husband looked like as a baby. I had never seen a picture of him younger than 26, until this arrived in my inbox one day:


To me, this represents one of God's small graces in my life. My mother in law sent this to me as a "treat," not knowing that her email was answering a wish that I harbored in my heart. Ismael is on the right, at the age of 6 months old, with his sister Safia who is a little bit older.



When I compare it to a picture of Adam at 6 months, I can conclude ..... that the doctor was right!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mother in Law Motel - No Vacancy

Staying with your relatives is not always easy.

Lorie is here with her family from Michigan. They always stay with her mother in law which means sleeping on an air mattress in a spare room with no air conditioning. Despite the fact that it was 85 degrees today, she has not and will not turn the a/c on tonight.

I would just die in those conditions.

Lorie is soldiering through it despite my pointing out various hotels near her in-law's house. Holiday Inn, Days Inn, Hampton Inn, Wingate Inn - all more comfortable accommodations than the Inn-Laws.

I suggested she "talk" in her sleep tonight. Things like:

"zzzzzzzzzzHolidayInnzzzzzzzzzzz"

"zzzzzFreeHBOinEveryRoomzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

"zzzzzzzzzzzzFreeBreakfastzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

"zzzzzzzzzzKingSizeBedzzzzzzzzzzz"

Of course it is race weekend in Indianapolis, so even those not so subtle hints probably wouldn't work. If they left to go look for a hotel, they'd all be full, and her MIL could have their room rented to travelers by the time they returned. It's a put up and shut up kind of weekend.

As for me, I enjoyed my short visit with her this evening and so did Adam.



I also accomplished my most important task today:








This is apparently the ONLY 18 month old sized baptismal outfit in central Indiana. I spent my morning driving to two different stores, sure that I could exchange his 12 month outfit for a larger one there. The first store had NONE at all, the store they sent me to had none his size. This is the only one Penny's had at the third store. I am not at all crazy about the pants; I wanted shorts. But at least he won't have to go to his baptism in just a diaper or the "belly shirt" that his 12 month out fit turned out to be.


I'm going to go to bed now, content with the day's work and lulled to sleep by the whirr of my air conditioner. Good luck Lorie!

Loaded Potato Salad


  • 5 lbs Russet Potatoes
  • 1 small container of plain yogurt
  • 1 cup of mayonaise
  • 3 tbs salad dressing
  • 2 tbs sour cream
  • 1/2 lb bacon, fried and cooled
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Boil in salted water. Cool.
  2. Mix about 3/4 of the yogurt, mayonnaise, and salad dressing. You could omit the salad dressing and use mustard if you wanted.
  3. Dice bacon, celery, green onions and hard boiled eggs. Add to the cooled potatoes. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Add enough of the mayonnaise yogurt mixture as necessary to reach the desired consistancy. If storing overnight before serving, add a little more of the wet ingredients than you think necessary so it will still be moist when serving.

This is a recipe I developed a couple years ago. The yogurt thins out the mayonnaise and keeps the salad moist. Ingredients can be added/deleted as your individual taste requires. I considered adding a little cheddar cheese, maybe as a garnish, to make it truly a "loaded" potato.

I also wanted to report that this week's cooking of potatoes did not result in any kind of fire or necessitate using the extinguisher. Success.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Babysitter Blues

When I first returned to work after having Adam, a number of people asked me if it was hard to leave him. Truthfully, it wasn't at first. He stayed home with daddy for the first couple weeks I worked, then Ismael found a sitter in the African community. I love our babysitter and she loves Adam. Perfect combination.

But for the first time since January, I had to drop him at the sitter before I went to work. Until now, Adam has been asleep in his bed when I go to work and Ismael dropped him at the sitter a couple hours later. Ismael had earlier class commitments this week, so it was on me to drop him off.

Even though I like his sitter a lot, it was really difficult to walk out the door on Monday morning seeing him leaning forward in his car seat, watching me walk out the door! I'm glad that we only have two more weeks of school and then I'll be home with him all summer.

I'll have two months of listening to him recite how much he loves mommy. It sounds like, "de de de da da da dyoy yaaaaah, duck!" I swear he said duck just now. Maybe this is his first version of Goose, Goose, Duck.
.

I was taking his picture to mark the final day I had to drop him at the sitter. My on was watching the birds, oblivious to this big moment for me. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Weeds Galore





This is my garden. Isn't it lovely? I'm very proud of it.












Okay. I'm a liar. This is actually my garden. Isn't it lovely?







Ok, not so much a garden as WEEDS that still look lovely up close. I don't even want to know what that tall thing is. It's six feet high.









The other side is even worse, though the late afternoon sun shining on the IU Basketball is a nice touch.



This patio is one of my summer time goals. I've tried each summer to tackle it. Last year, I had some boys come dig up every weed in sight. I bought $50 worth of flowers and dumped another $50 of mulch on it. The flowers died. Choked out by these weeds that grow in all conditions. Full sun, part sun, full shade, warm, cold, rainy, dry, and monsoon.

I did a little research and someone suggested that layers of newspapers under the mulch would block the light and keep the weeds from coming back after they are pulled. I'm not sure how any plants are supposed to live surrounded by newspaper, but I suppose that it would let enough moisture through.

This is my first home project when the long awaited summer break arrives. Just a few more days and counting. I have lovely images in my mind of Adam and I enjoying breakfast amidst a patio full of flowers. Or a patio of mulch. Anything but these darn weeds!

Reflection on Suffering

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring afflictionor grief to the children of men.
Lamentations 3:32-33
Lately, I have found myself reflecting on suffering and how God allows people to suffer. Even if He indeed suffers with us, as Father Bill believes, why do we suffer at all?

I find myself thinking about this more and more as I bond with Adam. My worst nightmare is that something horrible would happen to him. I see people on television who have lost children and I just don’t know how I could ever survive it. I’m simply not that strong.

I found this passage in Lamentations and over and over again I find myself asking, if God does not willingly bring grief and affliction, then why does it exist?

Deaths, breakups, harsh words, financial difficulties and trials all bring grief to our lives. Some of these can be attributed to the consequences of our own actions through free will. Some if it also can be attributed to the exercise of the free will of others. Each of our sins causes grief for ourselves or others.

But death is different whether through an accident where no sin is involved or a natural illness that ends one’s life. I think if we better understood God and what it meant to go home to heaven, we would never be grieved by death. It would be a celebration! We are all going to pass on someday; we can’t prevent it.

I have found myself turning to God lately, not with my usual prayer asking Him to prevent grief, but asking him instead to show compassion to me. With His compassion, I can find my own way.

It’s an empowering prayer.

Rather than waiting for Him to rescue me, this prayer makes it my responsibility to find my way out of my own messes. With his compassionate help.

Circumstances that cause me grief are not necessarily “God’s will,” but often a consequence of free will, either mine or someone else’s. This understanding helps me better see God as a partner in my life journey rather than an all powerful God who doles out victory or defeat as He wishes.

Uh Oh...

I found this in my inbox this morning from the public library.

"Library records show that your account balance has reached $25.00 or more in fines, fees, and/or overdue materials."

Uh oh.

I explained when Ismael got this card that I am a.) wanted dead or alive in several public and university libraries, because b.) I am genetically incapable of returning materials on time.

Green Makeover

A list of my GREEN efforts:
 
1.  At night, I make sure all the lights and television are off.  Until recently, I always left the TV and at least one light on over night.  We had a few seemingly justifiable reasons for this wanton waste of electricity.  Ismael works in the evening and often comes in before it is light out. I'd like him to not trip and kill himself on whatever miscellaneous thing I forgot to put away.  Our previous television would take up to fifteen minutes to "heat up" once you turned it off.  It was easier to let it run. And then there is my aforementioned aversion to burglars and rapists.  I would prefer anyone eyeing our apartment at night think I was still up.  Watching television. With a butcher knife.
 
2.  For the first time, I turned the thermostat UP as I left home thus shutting off the A/C.  There is no point keeping that apartment cool during the day.  The west sun is going to hit the living room windows in the evening and it doesn't get really warm there until then.  Plus, we're gone all day.  If the cats would like to continue to live in subarctic temperatures they can catch a Greyhound to Alaska OR they can get jobs and help pay the bill.  In fact, I've been asking them for years to get jobs, but they have always respectfully declined my requests. 
 
3.  I started buying plastic containers of baby food as opposed to the jars.  I realized this would only matter if I would rinse them out, save them, and then recycle them.  Yucko.  And for that matter, I could do the same with glass.  So this is a worthless effort.  But for some reason, it made sense as I stood in front of the endless selections of baby food.
 
4.  I've continued to hang our clothes on the line.  Except for last night.  I just wasn't in the mood. I put them in the dryer and let it screech.  I just turned American Idol up loud enough to drown it out. 
 
So, there are some of my meager efforts to save the planet.  What are you doing today? :)
 
 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Curse

Okay, so I was so sure that Gilles would win Dancing with the Stars and Adam would win Idol.
 
Psh.
 
 

African Road Trip

African relatives will take you places you've never been. Like New Jersey flea markets.

It started with a visit with Ismael's sister Safia and his mother who had arrived from Africa in D.C. It was the first time I had met my new mother in law and I was enjoying the visit. From there we went to Delaware to visit his friend Souleymane.

I had met Souleymane briefly when Ismael and I had only been dating about two months. I remember he asked if we were planning to get married. Ismael had been asking me to marry him for a month already at that point. He had explained that most Muslims don't really date - that was foreign to his culture. Well, getting married after eight weeks was foreign to mine!

I liked Souleymane though and was really happy for this unexpected visit. I met his wife Zelica and their boys. One of them, I believe he was also named Adam, took a liking to me. While everyone else spoke in rapid fire French, Adam showed me his Sponge Bob Square Pants coloring book and made the same facial expressions and body positions as the pictures in the book as I pointed to different ones. My own little show.

I do not understand the first word of French. Silly me. When I made my course schedule in high school, I distinctly thought, "take Spanish. When would I EVER use French??" Yes. When? Now, I tell Ismael that I'm going to go take classes behind his back so that I'll finally know what he says when talking on the phone.

Tired of a conversation I didn't understand, I sought Souleymane. He was in the kitchen beginning to cook a large meal for all of us. Great! It was lunch time anyway. After some small talk, he asked, "The women are all going shopping. You're supposed to go with them. Did you know that?"

Shopping? No, I didn't know. Far be it from my husband to clue me in. No lunch. Shopping. I hissed at Ismael for not keeping me up to date, got some money, and loaded into the van with four African women and one African teen age boy along for the ride. Only then did I learn we were headed for New Jersey.

Zelica sped along. She's a small woman, but something told me she was a power house. Three kids and going to school full time working on her RN? You'd have to be. She looked at me and asked in fast, accented English, "Janet do you like to drive fast?'

Oh yes, I do. Something in common.

"Souleymane says I do. I don't have time to waste." And with that we rocketed into southern New Jersey.

I don't even remember what I bought that day, but I remember Zelica's fierce negotiating skillls...mostly with white, American merchants who were not in the mood to haggle. She talked one guy down a few dollars on a comforter set and she looked downright displeased as she paid for it.

"You got a good deal on this," he remarked as took her money.

Her eyes flashed at him with the look I reserve for bad classroom behavior, "I don't think so." and as she pulled me along with my mouth hanging open she informed me that if I ever go to Africa I should not even pay half of what they ask for goods. One third is what I should pay.

If I go to Africa, I'm just going to invoke her name in the markets. Prices will fall on their own.

When we returned, three of the young boys had shed their pants and were running around naked. They whooped loudly and crashed around the apartment. Things sure go to hell fast when daddies are in control. My husband, in the midst of this chaos and his seldom seen friends, laid on the couch snoring loudly.

Order returned. Children were dressed. And the food was ready. Thank God. They placed large trays of food in the middle of the living room floor and we gathered around to eat. No tables, no silverware. And really none were needed. We lounged, ate, and visited. And once in a while, someone translated into English for me.


The remainder of our visit was filled with more shopping trips but in stores that don't really haggle, like Wal Mart and Best Buy. We nearly had an international incident at Best Buy though as the teen boy tried to buy parental advisory CD's. The cashier insisted that either he or his mother supply a driver's license so that store policies could be satisfied. Trying to explain to her why these people who barely spoke English didn't have such a thing as a license or state ID. Africa doesn't really work that way.



I love my in-laws and the extended African community. They have been good to me and accepted me without hesitation. It's good to belong, even if I never know where we are going.










Napping with Bear

We've all had one of those days where we just want to throw in the towel at 4:30, go to bed, and forget about the world.

Adam tried. Or maybe he was hoping to catch a late nap and be allowed to stay up and watch American Idol results with mommy. Not a chance.

Now we sometimes call it a night during daylight hours around here, bedtime is not allowed until Oprah is over at least.

I let him sleep for about 90 minutes then went in to get him. He looked so comfy, sleeping with Bear. (We do not have creative names for things around here - Bear, Seahorse, etc. The cats are lucky they got real names).



Ahh...if we all had time to sleep like that, I'm convinced the world would be a much happier place.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bravo, Big Chief!

Adam hates "tummy time" to the point where he cries and throws up. He rarely cries. Wish I could say the same for the latter.

I've grown increasingly worried about this as I know that if he never is on his tummy, he won't crawl. If he doesn't crawl, he wont' walk. If he doesn't walk, I will have to carry him FOREVER. I imagine my darling baby boy as a 21 year old, still shoved into his car carrier. Except the car carrier looks more like a wheelbarrow.

Okay, so I know that isn't true.

Rolling over and crawling are major milestones. I would prefer that he do both. Soon.

I have resisted the urge to Google for advice because I don't want to see words like "developmentally delayed."

My pediatrician told me I have nothing to worry about.

I'm going with that.

But tonight, success! No crying. No vomit. From either of us.





As his African Grandma would say, "Bravo, Big Chief! Bravo!"

Today's Good News

It's not often I get good news from the utility company.

Since we moved to a larger apartment, I usually open my electric bill with some measure of trepidation. This winter brought particularly bad news to the tune of $200 for one month. Raging post pregnancy hormones drove me to wear two layers of clothes and a blanket in the house at all times. In an effort to thaw, I bumped the heat up on our decidedly un-energy star furnace a bit at a time until one night I realized I had it set on 78.

Farenheit.

I would have preferred Celsius.

Adam was sweating.

Ismael was in heaven.

Our electric meter was spinning out of control.

In fact, in those months the only time I remember being warm was when I woke up from gallbladder surgery. I was shaking uncontrollably in the recovery room. Rather than watch me vibrate off of the table, the nurses brought a machine called a "bear hugger" over and covered me with a paper sheet and a heavy blanket. She flipped a few switches and warm air blew through the paper sheet all over my body. I didn't care if she took me back to where Ismael was waiting. Ever. I had everything I could ever need right there.

Today, I logged on and saw that our bill is down to $100. A vast improvement.

I wish I understood what magical formula the company uses to calcuate my usage. I asked a school parent/utility employee once. Her explanation of how electricity was made and could be exported made my eyes glaze over and roll up in my head. I may have lost consciousness.

I chalk it up to magic like other things I don't really understand, namely how the Internet works. Someone tried to explain that to me once. Only once. I'm a reasonablly smart human being, but some things are simply beyond my understanding.

I'd like to think the savings comes from hanging my laundry outside to dry for the past five days. If so, by the end of the month the electric company is going to owe me money.

Wouldn't that be even better news?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Six Year Old Trash Talk

 
If you are wondering what six year olds talk about during soccer practice and games, I have your answer.
 
Apparently, it's underwear.
 
I chatted with Lorie tonight while she watched her six year old at soccer practice.  She asked, "Do you know they trash talk the whole time they are out there?"
 
Really, in kindergarten?  What trash talk could they have in their meager arsenals?
 
 Well, I'll tell you.  Insults like...
 
    "Your underwear is pink and has a pony on the front."
 
To which you can only answer...
 
    "Yeah?  Well, you're wearing your mama's underwear!"
 
Case closed.  What can you say when a six year old whips out a mama joke on you?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Trusting God

Fr. Bill is a striking character. He's probably about 6'5" and something about him, other than his height and priestly clothes, makes him stand out in a crowd. The first time I ever saw him, he was leaving Kroger in regular clothes. There was nothing priestly about him, yet he caught my attention in the crowd. I found myself asking, "I wonder if that is our new priest?" I don't know how I knew he was a priest, I just did. He was my pastor for a few years before he was transferred to a parish in the southern part of the state.

Fr. Bill helped me through a really rough time in my life. I learned a great deal about God, life, spirituality, and relationships through my hours of conversation with him. He patiently tried to teach me that God is compassionate, loving, and not the awful father figure that often still colors my spiritual perceptions. We kept in contact and visited periodically after he transferred, but in time the distance became too difficult to overcome.

I think also that I was at a place where I was unwilling to advance any more spiritually in that moment. I just couldn't take that plunge and trust God to any greater degree than where I was at. I wish I could say I've grown on my own in that regard, but I think that would be an untruth. I can honestly say I try, but it's more of a blind resignation than a cheerful surrender.

Over the years, I have thought of him often and always wished him well. In particular, I have missed his sermons. Most weeks, some part of his sermon would touch me and offer some piece of instruction that I would contemplate in the days to come. At times, I would be moved to tears by his words.

I thought of him most in the happy times of my life - my marriage and the birth of our son being the highest points. I wanted to send a birth announcement and short note to share my joy. Much to my surprise, I found that he was back in the city. It's not a parish close to my house, but is a reasonable distance and in some of my girlfriends' neighborhood.

I stopped there for mass on a Saturday night when Ismael was working. I was very happy to see my friend and laughed internally at how some things never seem to change. He still forgets his wireless mic is on and the congregation hears his hallway conversations until some kind hearted parishioner runs out to tell him. The visit was sometime before Christmas but I still remember part of his sermon from that night. It came back to me today as I was holding Adam and reflecting on how I worry about him.

Father went to visit some patients at the local heart hospital. As he walked down the hall, he heard a man's voice call out, "Hey, holy man." Father remarked that he had often been called a tall man, never a holy man.

"Who me?" he asked.

"Yes, I have a question to ask you." The man was maybe twenty years old, wheel chair bound, and connected to all sorts of tubes. "Why?" he asked, "why is this happening to me?"

And in a very simple, honest voice, Father answered, "I don't know. I don't know why this is happening to you."

"That's the right answer, sit down," was the young man's reply.

I looked at Adam that night in church and felt a very deep pain in my heart.

I do everything I know to do to protect him. Use the carseat correctly and faithfully. No rice cereal in his bottle at night. No pillows or blankets in his bed. Put him to sleep on his back. Don't leave him unsupervised on anything he could fall from. Get his vaccines on time. Go to all the well baby visits.

Yet, today as I held him and felt his little heart beating under my hand, I know that my protection of this precious gift can only go so far.

Ultimately, only God can keep his heart beating in a normal rhythm or prevent his body's cells from becoming cancerous.

Father talked about how when we suffer, he believes that God suffers along with us. Something to think about, but not much comfort to me. Suffering or not, God is still all powerful.

I have to trust God. And, honestly, that terrifies me.

Reality Show Junkie

I am more hooked on reality shows than I care to be. I was there when MTV started it all with Real World. I was utterly fascinated by the idea that cameras would follow those people, about my age, around 24 hours a day and record their every day lives. I watched every episode faithfully.

Now in the reality show boom, I have to be more selective in my viewing habits or I'd be glued to the DVR 24 hours a day. I resisted American Idol for the first few seasons, but eventually gave in to its siren call. The different versions of Big Brother, the Bachelor, and the Bachelorette, leave me cold. But give me a celebrity doing something ridiculous or outrageously foul language and I'm there.

In addition to Amazing Race and American Idol, my favorite's include Hell's Kitchen, Celebrity Apprentice, and Dancing with the Stars. Of these, Dancing with the Stars seems the most mindless, but after some deep thought about a fairly shallow show, I realized what I like about it. These people often have no natural talent whatsoever. They are completely out of their element. Yet, they work really hard and some do amazingly well. In the current season, I've just been in love with bull rider Ty Murray as he learned to shake his rump on national television. He really worked hard, and began to show a real sense of humor when he said things like, "I'm approaching dancing like bull-riding, you're never completely ready, it just becomes your turn." How many things in life are like that? If we always waited until we were completely ready, we'd always be waiting, never dancing.

My internal predictions were correct for the winners of Amazing Race, Hell's Kitchen, and Celebrity Apprentice. Finally a cycle of shows where the judges all saw things MY way! What a relief.

This week, the last two of my favorites wrap up. I am predicting that Adam Lambert will win Idol. Really, he's been miles ahead of the competition from the beginning. I also think Gilles Marini is going to pull out a win on Dancing with the Stars. He is among the few who does seem to have some natural talent brought to light by the show and hours of practice.

So these shows are over for this season and soon school will be out. I will have so much more time on my hands with no mindless enjoyment after Adam goes to bed. Wait, when does "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," begin? :)

Perfect Spring Day

Chrissy's words were very tempting: "Come meet Jason and I at Einstein's this morning. We can pray before we eat and talk about God. It will be just like church." Except with bagels, sweet rolls, and Diet Coke.
I had two choices: hurry and get Adam ready to juggle him at mass by myself, or go enjoy some adult conversation with friends and time with Adam out. Most times I would go to mass, but this morning I needed a break from all obligation. No matter what it was.

We all enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, good fellowship, and one of us even got a little nap in.
Then it was on to part two of our Sunday.

Pork Fest 2009 at Misty's House:
Western pork ribs on sale for a mere 98 cents per pound
+ a hot, hot, hot gas grill
= happy, happy people.




Adam could have cared less and settled in for nap #2 for the day.


There is something about a lazy Sunday, good company, good grilled food, a sunny sky, green, green grass and swaying trees that combine for a perfect spring day after the long confines of winter. Today was probably the most relaxing, energizing day I've had in months. Everything about the blue sky, cool breeze, and bright sun fed my soul.

When we arrived home, I thought Adam would already be asleep, but as I walked around the back of the car, I saw this through the window:

I think he needed a lazy Sunday too.
Or maybe the semi-thumbs up was for the music on the long car ride. It occured to me that I am going to have to clean up my musical selections as I am not planning to raise a future rap star. At this rate, his first words are going to be about how T.I. is off to jail on weapons charges and will be back in a year or what an angry young woman Pink appears to be.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Hot Date on Cool Saturday: Wal Mart and Me

On Saturdays, Ismael is either working, on his way to work, or sleeping so he can get up and go to work. Saturday night dates were a thing of our early, early marriage and have for now fallen casualty to the preference we have for paying our rent on time. I learned some time ago that sitting around feeling lonely was useless. I would have to make my own fun on the weekend nights. On Friday nights, I just relax and get some rest, but on Saturdays I'm anxious to do something. Now that Adam is here, I feel tethered to the apartment by 6 PM so that he can sleep in his own bed.

Around 8:30 tonight, I realized that with both boys soundly asleep, I could escape for a while.

Ismael and I like to go to the bookstore, have coffee, and read for free. So I thought I could go there and then on to Wal Mart to get the things I forgot earlier, but can't live without, namely diapers. For Adam, not me.

Barnes and Noble was uneventful. I picked up a book that promised you could keep your man if you feed him properly and do his laundry. I had to find out if the author included "emptying the silverware from dishwasher" and actually "folding the laundry" on his list. Fortunately, he was not so specific and I can rest easy that marriage is safe another day.

On to Wal-Mart. Now this is the THIRD grocery store I've been in today. Adam and I visited Wal Mart this morning to buy groceries. He got fussy and I remembered a school parent's advice to me from long ago, "when you have a baby, you have to be ready to leave every place you've ever been. At least twice." I headed for the check out mid-shop. He was asleep in his car seat before I hit the first stop light on the way home. I exteneded his car ride by doing some drive through errands and by the time I arrived at Marsh to finish the shopping he was awake. While Marsh can be reasonable on some grocery items, diapers are astronomical.

Thankfully, Wal Mart at 9:30 PM is substantially less crowded than earlier today. As I walked through the door, I turned to head to the restroom. A very necessary stop at this point in the night. Of course, it was closed.

The cleaning cart and some caution signs blocked the entrance to the women's side. I seriously contemplated banging my empty cart repeatedly into the maintenance cart in desperation or abandoning all pride and using the men's.

I heard "Mrs." plus my last name.

My last name is 9 letters long and African. People do not say it by accident.

This had to be a student of mine. Sure enough, I see him jumping up and down on the other side of the checkout. He and another student ran up carrying a video game system he had just purchased. I figure that the box in his hands was roughly equivalent to my monthly car payment. Things sure look different when you are 38 as opposed to 14.

I decided that either of my previously considered bathroom options would only feed the school rumor mill. I would shop and hope for the best instead.

To say that my memory is bad is an understatement. After I set the oven on fire, I went to the store for the sole purpose of buying oven cleaner. I bought forty dollars worth of stuff, none of which was oven cleaner. So next time you see a woman walking through the store muttering "diapers, diapers, diapers, clothes pins, diapers," say hello, because it's just me.

While waiting for check out, I engaged in some serious people watching. The toddler in the line next to me took off, pushing his parents' new broom, and had to be chased down by his father.

The Hispanic couple behind me chatted in rapid fire Spanish. I realized that some of this was directed at their young girl and mixed in the machine gun sound of a foreign language came "do you want this or not?" I think every parent, when thoroughly frustrated, wishes they could speak more than one language to further convey their feelings. The item in question was a small doll covered in red spots with various medical instruments. I mentally named the product "Molly Measles" and wondered how you say that in Spanish.

The cost for my latest store excursion was $45. Added to my earlier outings, I have spent $165 today on groceries and necessities. Aside from produce and perishables, I bought enough baby gear, canned goods, and cleaning supplies to last the next two weeks. I'll spend less next week, probably around $100, which averages to $6.30 per person, per day for the two weeks. If I look at it that way, I'm fairly impressed!

I stress about how expensive life can be, but I know I do my part. I do not buy non necessities, shop around for deals, and use coupons when I can. My biggest splurge is a case of Diet Coke and paper towels.

I have to trust God to provide for us and I had to leave this cost of living to Him a long time ago.