Not Without My Groceries

Sunday has turned into chore and errand day. I’d like to say that is a result of my  scheduling mastery, but it really has more to do with procrastination than planning.  Why spend prime evening and weekend hours doing mundane things that are necessity more than enjoyment?

So, that is how I found myself in my neighborhood Kroger this morning, dragging around yet another grocery cart loaded with things that mean more chores later in the day (dinner to cook, lunches to pack). Of all the things I have to do on my Sunday, grocery shopping is my least favorite…aisles of decisions to make and just the first step in a longer list of things to do.

fire truck

A grocery “non-emergency” that brought out the fire department!

But every once in a while, even the mundane provides a shot of adrenaline, such as it did today when the alarms sounded just as I entered the intersection of household cleaners and dairy products.

Err! Err! Err!

I jumped at the first blare and stopped with my fellow shoppers to look around for the source of the piercing sound. Lights suspended from the ceiling flashed in rhythm with the ear splitting pulses, giving us the answer.

Err! Err! Err!

A bewildered grocery-getter to my left wondered out loud, “What do we do?”

The stock boy conveniently replenishing the Greek yogurt nearby
answered, “Oh, don’t worry. Somebody just bumped something. It’ll stop soon.”

Err! Err! Err!

The thought crossed my mind that this low-level employee might not actually have the authority to give the all-clear, but my need to restock my own shelves spurred me on through dairy, frozen food and pharmacy at a near sprint. On my way, I passed countless children with hands ear-muffed over little ears, making me glad I’d left the Young One home for this morning’s adventure.

Err! Err! Err!

After ten minutes of ear-splitting wails, management finally took to the intercom to assure shoppers all was well.  The looks of agony on the faces of the shoppers told me otherwise, and the blaring continued.

Err! Err! Err!

As I moved to the far end of the store to the check out lanes, I said I quick thank you to the neuro-medicine gods who had granted me a reprieve from a recent bout of cluster headaches. Everything the internet says about these headaches being the worst of all migraines is true–pain that feels like ice picks jabbing into temples, hot pokers boring into eye sockets, brain freeze without the benefit of tasty ice cream. I truly had no desire to set off another six week cluster, but on this Sunday morning, I had an even greater need that moved me. If I abandoned this cart now, I’d have to come back and do my least favorite of chores all over again. I could not let that happen!

Even as I had the thought, I felt the first jab of the ice pick over my left eye.

Err!  Err!  Err!

Self-checkout beckoned me like a lighthouse in the fog. There I could move at my speed, no waiting on a cashier with little sense of urgency. I maneuvered to the last open scanner.

Err! Err! Err!

All the years of weekly shopping paid off this morning. My hands moved with speed and confidence. Bar code, scan, bag. Bar code, scan, bag.

The adrenaline flowed.

The ice pick jabbed again, and I ignored the firefighters standing by the door.

Err! Err! Err!

“These are my groceries,” I repeated to myself. “I will not leave without them.”

Bar code, scan, bag.

More firefighters to the left.

Err! Err! Err!

Jab!

Bar code, scan, bag.

Err!  Err! Err!

Jab!

“Attention Kroger shoppers…”

Bar code, scan, bag.

Err! Err! Err!

Jaaab!

“Although, there is no emergency at this time…”

Bar code, scan, bag.

Err! Err! Err!

Jaaaaaab!

“The fire department would like us all to evacuate the building.”

Bar code, scan, bag.

Err! Err! Err!

Jaaaaaaaaaab and twist!

“No,” I say through clenched teeth.

I glance at my cart–only six items left.

“Not without my groceries!”

Bar code, scan, bag.

Err! Err! Err!

I am determined. I am shaking. I am crazed by this blaring in my head and this chore that I dread more than the monster of all headaches. I glare at the cashier manning self-checkout and dare him to make me stop.

Err! Err! Err!

Finally, I scan the last loaf of bread and swipe my credit card. I throw the bags in my cart and stride past the cashier, the manager and the fire fighters.

groceries

Safe at last!

At the door, I see half-loaded carts parked haphazardly and a line of moms staring longingly at my bagged purchases, their admiration plain on their faces.

I nod knowingly. I am not empty carted.

I will not be back this weekend.

I did not let Kroger defeat me.

I raise my fist in victory, and shout the war cry of harried mom everywhere…

“NOT WITHOUT MY GROCERIES!”

Meeting Mrs. B.

I can’t believe it! I am the proud momma of a Kindergarten graduate!

The Young One did not have a formal graduation ceremony like she did when she said good-bye to preschool. Instead, she dressed up like a flower, said she wanted to be a basketball player and accepted a certificate of accomplishment from her very first elementary school teacher.

Mrs. B. holds the microphone as my little flower announces her life's dream of playing basketball.

Mrs. B. holds the microphone as my little flower announces her life’s dream of playing basketball.

I know that sounds like a strange way to advance to the next grade level, but that is essentially how it went down. We started the momentous evening with an entertaining production of “How Does Your Garden Grow”–a choreographed event which included all five Kindergarten classes and a select group of first graders. The boys dressed as vegetables. The girls were flowers, and a few rebels opted to portray weeds in this story of Farmer Herb and his overgrown garden.

My dear child had the misfortune of having an extremely stressed out mother with no clue how to craft a flower costume on less than two weeks notice. However, said momma was quite resourceful and turned to Etsy for emergency assistance. The Young One eagerly dressed all in green, wrapped the purchased (yet still handmade) felt arrangement around her face and called herself a flower. (I hid my head in shame as I saw the more elaborate costumes parade into the gymnasium.)

When the singing and dancing was over, all the performers, parents, grandparents and siblings crowded into the classroom for a celebration of the Kindergarten Class of 2014. We watched a slideshow, ate cookies and listened as each member of the class told us what they wanted to be when they grew up. The Young One, who blames me for not signing her up to play basketball, naturally proclaimed that to be her greatest desire in life. *sigh*

Next came the “diplomas” and a roundup of class accomplishments from the class’s teacher, Mrs. B., whom I have come to know as the soft-spoken yet fearless leader of the wild, willful and whiny children who have spent the past nine months as the Young One’s closest companions.

I first met Mrs. B. during Kindergarten orientation in August. She stood in front of the group of adults who were forced to teeter on miniature chairs and assured us that our children would survive that ominously looming first day of school.

She spoke softly about sight words and math facts and the manners that she would instill in our children. By June, she said, our over-active children would be able to sit quietly for extended periods of time, count to 100 and read a book from cover to cover.

None of us believed her.

How could this mild-mannered woman possibly manage to corral, let alone educate, 28 five- and six-year-olds? I envisioned a plethora of chaos and anxiety in this poor woman’s future.

Yet, the night before this spectacular end-of-year celebration, the Young One announced that instead of me reading her a bedtime story, she was going to read me one…, and she did. I held the book while she used a little pointer finger as a guide. She paused a few times to sound out a new word, but in the end, she did it! My little girl read me the story of how Biscuit, the little yellow dog, won a prize at the pet show.

It was the best story I’ve ever heard.

I’m glad to have made Mrs. B.’s acquaintance. She has had a profound influence on my daughter’s life, and, I believe, instilled a love of learning in my daughter and her 27 classmates.

Thank you, Mrs. B! We’re off to first grade. We will miss you, but we’ll never forget you!

Who was your most influential teacher?

1 Month

Stiletto Momma:

I am in awe of strong women. Their stories inspire me and stick in times of crisis. The post below was written by one of my favorite bloggers. She “blogged” it with paper and pencil because she is currently sitting in a jail cell waiting for a hearing on a crime she did not commit. She is an inspiration and I wish her continued strength and courage.

Originally posted on rarasaur:

It’s been a month since Rara went to jail, and as time stretches on, things seem to be getting harder and harder.

The other day during a discussion, I defined hope as: An intentionally false belief to help you get through a difficult time.

And perhaps that is what is slowly dwindling.  The hope that this might suddenly work itself out.  Some legal higher-up, would come and say, “This has been all a mistake, you really are a good person, you’re free to go.”  An intentionally false belief, to help cushion the initial shock.

Rara has a court date set for the 11th, though from the sounds of it, neither her defender or the prosecutor will make it.  So, she’ll sit and wait by herself all day.  On the bright side she gets away from her cellmate.

Her old cellmate has gone and was replaced by a woman who is in…

View original 111 more words

Selfless Courage on Far Away Beaches

Stiletto Momma:

I am humbly moved by the sacrifices of the soldiers who invaded the beaches of Normandy France, 70 years ago. I had the honor to visit Normandy in 2006, and the experience has forever changed how I view war and the men and women who raise their hands to say, “I’ll do it.” This is a post I wrote two years ago when the pomp and circumstance of the anniversary of D-Day was noticeably absent. I love our soldiers and can only hope I thank them enough.

Originally posted on Stiletto Momma:

I’ve been seeing visions of bomb craters and grave markers today. Both rest atop high cliffs overlooking Utah Beach and Omaha Beach in Normandy, France–the site of bloody battles fought as Allied Forces invaded those beaches in an attempt to liberate Europe from the Germans 68 years ago today.

American Cemetery

The American Cemetery near Omaha Beach

For the most part, the anniversary of D-Day goes unnoticed. Unless it happens to be a milestone anniversary like the 50th or the 75th, the media barely mentions the passing of another year. This morning, for example, one of the top stories on NBC’s Today was the recent engagement of Miley Cyrus to Liam Hemsworth, not the remarkable sacrifices made by “the greatest generation.”

Today, however, even with the lack of media coverage and Facebook memes, I can’t seem to stop thinking about those beaches.

Perhaps it is because I have been there. In 2006…

View original 711 more words

Letters on D-Day

I imagine many letters written on or around June 6, 1944 would read like this:

“My Dear Brave Soldier,

I pray you are doing well. I miss you and cannot wait to see your face once more. Please stay safe and hurry home to me.

I love you with all my heart.”

Some of these letters undoubtedly returned home in the pockets of the GI’s to whom they were sent, but many more were buried with their recipients on a scenic bluff in a foreign land. Others were lost during the chaos of war—left to drift on the water or blow erratically in the winds that pushed them across the hills. Still others, tragically, never reached their intended readers, arriving too late to give comfort and encouragement.

To all those who fought and returned and to those who fought and died for freedom and human dignity on the beaches of Normandy, France, 70 years ago…Thank you for your valiant service.

To the mothers, fathers, wives, girlfriends, and loved ones who wrote the letters…Thank you for loving and supporting your soldiers—yours is a war fought as well.

**Today’s post was written for Blogging University’s Writing 101 assignment five: Be Brief. The pictures were taken on a trip the Hubs and I took to France in 2006. It was an amazing experience.

Music to My Ears

I used to enjoy watching all those “Remember When” specials on VH1–I Love the 80s or I Love the 90s. The flashbacks were fun, and when they came to the segment about favorite songs of the year or the decade, I’d immediately see a friend’s face or see the place I was when I first discovered the song.

Music Box

This little toy is a big musical memory!

If I were to produce my own version of “Remember When”, I’d go back in time to the most significant points in my own personal history. Naturally, my kids feature prominently in that history, so I’d start with my son.

The episode would be called, “I Love Infancy.” I’d take my audience on a stroll down  Memory Lane, or what I like to call, “The-Months-When-I-Didn’t-Have-a-Clue.”

I would flash up pictures of The Older One as he was back then–all tiny and pink and…needy! There would be a shot of him rolling aimlessly on a dressing table as I struggled to fasten the diaper. Another one would show him strapped to one of those front-carrier things. It would be an image of perfect multi-tasking…until the viewer noticed I’d only managed to get one of his legs in the appropriate hole. The other was stuck inside the thing somewhere under his bottom, quickly becoming the only part of him that was asleep!

I would wrap up this installment with the most memorable song of the year *drumroll* Knick Knack Paddy Wack! That song came to my rescue many times during the Older One’s first year. I first discovered it’s power on an airplane on my way to a much-needed visit with my Momma.

The Older One was three-months old at the time, and as all three-month-olds know, when the cabin door closes, you start crying and turn your momma into the spitting image of incompetence. I did the best I could in the situation, but when rocking, pacing and jiggling failed to comfort my squalling child, I pulled out the last thing in my new-Momma arsenal. I leaned in closed and softly crooned:

This old man, he played one. He played knick knack on his thumb. With a knick knack paddy wack give a dog a bone, this old man came rolling home.

By the time the old man had played ten, my sweet little baby was sound asleep. It worked every time.

The next episode would be titled “Wonderful One” and would feature my daughter’s first year, complete with flashback tracks showing her adoption into our family, our dog’s bewilderment that this new puppy walked on two legs and my now 14-year-old son’s first lesson in diaper changing.

It will most likely spend quite a bit of time comparing new millennium-era baby gadgets to those of the early 90′s–how the filters in the Diaper Genie actually worked this time around and how the new plastic version of the doggy-on-a-string pull-toy was so much inferior to the wooden version of long ago.

Toward the end of the show I would announce the top song of the year…wait for it…Itsy Bitsy Spider!!!

For me, the memory sparks sentimentality and irritation all at once. On the day we took the Young One from Baby Home #95 in Novokuzetsk, Russia, we bonded peacefully in our hotel room surrounded by a plethora of American toys that made it through customs on our way into the country. One such gem included a set of plastic keys, attached to a large round key ring that would play a merry tune when little fingers pressed one of three buttons.

The Young One couldn’t get enough of this new toy. It probably wouldn’t have had quite the same effect on me if she would have paid equal attention to all three music buttons, but she found a favorite one on our first day together. Every time she pressed it, I would hear:

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain, and the itsy bitsy spider came up the spout again.

That music box became our constant companion. It went in the diaper bag right along with all the other necessities. And when we went out, it would inevitably go on all by itself.

Walking down the streets of Moscow, I’d bump into something, and we’d hear, “The itsy bitsy spider…” Waiting patiently in the quiet US embassy for her visa, the Hubs shifted the bag, and…”The itsy bitsy spider…”

Not even the security checkpoint at one of the most scary airports on the planet was immune to the sensitive touch buttons of my child’s favorite toy. I should close this segment with a close up of the Russian security guard’s face as he leans a curious ear toward my suspicious bag…”The itsy bitsy spider…”

The finale episode of my special memory series would close with a medley of my children’s favorite bedtime songs…the Older One preferred movie and television soundtracks with Space Jam and Pokemon in heavy rotation. The Young One still listens to the same CD that lulled her to sleep on her first night in the USA–a Little Einsteins rendition of classics from Mozart and Bach.

We’ll close out the show with my all-time favorite song to sing to both of my kids. It is my number one because it simply says everything there is to say about loving a child. Once my son came into this world, my life revolved around him. When his sister joined the clan, my life circled her too.

So, I dedicate this hit to my two stars:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

You make me happy when skies are gray.

You’ll never know dear how much I love you.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Oh, the memories, the good times. It’s all music to my ears.

What are your favorite musical memories?

* This post was written for Blogging University Writing 101.

My Courtroom Drama

The courtroom was smaller than I had expected. I had never been summoned to jury duty, subpoenaed as a witness or charged as a defendant, so my only frame of reference was the spacious and well-lit judicial proceeding rooms depicted on Law and Order.

The room I found myself in six years ago did not gleam with polished woodwork. Its wooden benches and railings were scarred and scuffed with years of worried tapping and shuffling.

St. Peter's Cathedral

Not all buildings and rooms in Russia were created with such elaborate design.

Instead of well-waxed tile, the floor was made of cold cement painted a dull gray that matched the industrial cinder block walls. As I looked at the black scuffs on the six feet of walkway leading from the door at the back of the room directly to the witness box, I wondered about the people who had made those clumsy marks and what their fate had been following the ruling from the judge who sat at the opposite end of the narrow room.

She was dressed in black robes, like the prestigious judges on my favorite TV dramas, but her seat of honor didn’t look much more comfortable than my own straight-backed, hard, wooden chair. Her position apparently did not afford her the high-backed, padded and leather-upholstered executive chair of Hollywood legal thrillers. It looked more like the heavy slat-backed seat reserved for those on the wrong side of the interrogation table.

I could barely see her–the woman who would make such an important decision for me.  The witness box was made for someone much taller, and the top of its ledge reached above my shoulders as I sat behind it, nervously fingering the evidence I’d brought along.

The Hubs had a better view from the box in his seat to my right. He’s a good ten inches taller than me, so he had no problem seeing the rest of the courtroom–the empty jury box to the left and the long desk belonging to the person who would record every word of the conversation to follow.

The problem came when we had to squeeze a third person into the small box with us. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do this without our interpreter, though, so we slid our chairs closer together and made room.

Finally the time had come.  The judge read from a document in front of her, and I faintly heard her say something that sounded like a question. The interpreter leaned close and whispered the question in a more familiar language. The Hubs answered with the response we had rehearsed the night before.

After 20 minutes of question/interpret/answer/interpret, I was finally asked for my evidence–a thin book of photographs. I walked toward the judge, handed her the pictures and watched silently as she flipped from one to the other.

After another indecipherable statement, we were led from the courtroom to the equally dreary hallway and another hard wooden bench. There we waited and tried not to think about what we would hear when we saw the judge again.

Soon the door opened and we were led inside once more. I watched the judge in front of me read more papers.  When she finally started speaking, the Hubs grabbed my hand.

“It is my decision,” I heard the interpreter parrot, “that these people will be able to provide a better life for this child in the United States than she will have as an orphan in Russia. I grant the request for adoption.”

With that, the judge closed the file and walked from the room. I stared at the Hubs, and together we asked the interpreter, “That’s it?”

She smiled and nodded. “That’s it,” she said. “She’s yours now. You have a daughter. Congratulations.”

With those words, that lackluster courtroom in Kemerovo, Russia, never looked brighter. I finally had a daughter, and today, we are celebrating six years of Forever Family.

Happy Family Day, Young One! Thanks for waiting for me.

**Today’s post was written as response for Blogging University Writing 101 day two assignment: A Room With A View (or Just a View).

Advice to a Teenaged Me

The radio is normally my companion in the car. On the way home from work, I usually catch up on the day’s news with 45 minutes of CNN and Wolfe Blitzer in the Situation Room.

If I’m just driving from errand to errand on the weekends, I’ll switch to the iPod and jam to Katy Perry, Pink or Adele. I need a regular dose of girl power anthems.

This morning, like most mornings, I tuned into my favorite local radio station to catch the end of the morning show. It’s usual mindless babble quite frequently evokes a chuckle on the way to work and helps clear the fog that my first cup of coffee didn’t quite get.

Today, the DJ asked listeners to call in and tell the world…okay, maybe just the city and surrounding areas…what advice they would give if they could go back in time to their high school years and have a heart-to-heart with their teenaged selves.

I had just pulled into my parking spot when the first callers starting commenting, so unfortunately I missed most of the sage words of the now-wizened. I couldn’t get the question out of my head, though, and as I walked toward the building, I pondered what I would actually tell the quiet, freckle-faced, curly haired red-headed me.

Buy the Shoes!

I buy shoes of all kinds, even cute little shoe-themed note pads!

Within two steps, I knew without a doubt what I would tell her.

“BUY THE SHOES!”

Does that sound superficial? Yes, I suppose it does, but the fact remains that’s the best thing I could say to my young self–the girl trying to find herself, the one trying to discover who she is and where she fits in.

When I look back over the decades since I graduated from high school, I know exactly when I found my confidence. Odd as it may seem, it was in a hospital room shortly following my IBD diagnosis. This was well before the internet, satellite TV and an endless selection of iPad apps. I had nothing to do to occupy my time until my mom showed up with a stack of magazines.

On the top, in all its glossy glory, was the latest issue of Glamour. I flipped through the pages, turned back to the beginning and read it cover-to-cover again. I’m pretty sure I mailed in the subscription coupon on my way home after being discharged.

The pictures and articles inside made me happy at a time when I desperately needed something to evoke a smile. A life-changing diagnosis tends to make little things like that seem huge.

When I felt up to it, I went in search of some new shoes…a new sweater…a new skirt…and I was happy. Pretty soon I was walking taller in my new shoes, and happy was turning into confident. I spoke up more. I took more chances, and I started to define myself as a strong woman with a vision.

So, yes, if I could travel back in time to my high school years, I would stop that girl in the hall, take her by the shoulders, and tell her, “Buy the shoes.” It’s a version of what I’ve told my son as I’ve tried to counsel him through hard decisions, and I’ll tell my daughter the same thing when life inevitably gets in her way too.

“If it makes you happy,” I’d say, “buy the shoes…change your path…take a risk. Life is too short and will have too many rough patches to be stuck doing the things that meet someone else’s goals. Do the things that make you happy. Do the things that make you glow and smile and sparkle like the brilliant jewel you are. Do the things that make you YOU!”

Buy the shoes!

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2**Today’s post is the first in a series of assignments for WordPress Daily Post’s Blogging University June course, Writing 101:Building a Blogging Habit.

A Choice Between Thing or Cat

Cat in the Hat

Hey, look at that! It’s the Cat in the Hat!

The day was quite windy, and the trees were all swaying

When Young One brought home a note clearly saying:

A birthday for someone we’ll soon celebrate.

This person is special. He simply is great!

To parade around school, all the kids should be dressed.

This called for a costume, but not one like the rest.

So many choices.

Oh! What what would she do?

A Lorax or Horton?

Or maybe a Who?

All her girlfriends, they begged her, “Just do what we do.

You have to come dressed as Thing One or Thing Two!”

To lead or to follow? The choice tore her apart.

Her momma’s advice was, “Just go with your heart.”

All night sat her momma awaiting the news.

Oh, what will she do today? Which will she choose?

“They want me to be someone who’s simply not me.

The leader is someone I’d much rather be.

So I have decided,” she said as she sat,

“I’m going to school as the Cat in the Hat!”

Five Minute Friday*Today’s post was brought to you today by Five Minute Friday, the word “Choose” and the birthday celebration of the great Dr. Seuss. My personal favorite from the creator of The Cat in the Hat is Dr Seuss’s ABCs. I read it so often to The Older One that even 20 years later, I can still recite it without opening the book!

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book or character?

Picture It Tuesday: Brother

One of my favorite stories about my daughter’s adoption is not so much about how she found her way into our family, as it is about how my son learned to be a brother.

He came home from school not long after I ended a phone call with our adoption coordinator confirming the court date to finalize the adoption. He sprawled himself on the middle of the living room floor and told me about his day. The school year was winding down, and he was excited to no longer be a high school freshman. His world was full of summer plans and football camp.

I let him tell me his news, and then I hit him with mine. “You’re finally going to be a big brother. What do you think?”

He was quiet for a moment, then sighed, “I wish I could tell you I’m excited, but I’m not.”

When I asked him why, I thought his answer would be pretty obvious. He had been an only child for 14 years. He would be completely justified in his hesitancy to share his parents this late in the game. He shocked me, however, when he finally put words to his worries. “I’m just afraid I’ll do something wrong.”

I smiled and reassured him I would help him learn the way of all things baby, thinking about diaper changes and basic baby sitter skills. Almost six years later, I can look back and realize he didn’t need much help stepping into his new role of big brother.

He was a pro at coloring inside the lines as well as encouraging self-expression with a little color outside too…

coloringHe knew and eagerly shared the art of the perfect snowball…

snowballHe helped her see she could have just as much fun building a castle out of sand…

sand castle…as she could building a tree house out of Legos….

Lego…and after the hard work was done, he showed her how to kick up her feet and take a break….

relaxationMost recently, he has mentored her as she learns to turn up the pressure to take down her virtual opponents….

video gamesand how to be stealthy when real ones are lurking behind the corner….

Nerf battleMost of all, through all the coloring, the video games and the Nerf blaster battles, he’s taught her how to be a sister and what it means to be part of a family….

sisterHe has given her something no one else can–a brother, and in doing so, he has done everything right.