Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Flutter by, butterfly

A beautiful yellow butterfly joined us on the beach here at White Lake today. As we have been many days this summer, Andrew and I were out there doing our thing. He likes to run into the water before I've had a chance to even get my beach bag and my chair off our trusty golf cart (the main mode of transport once we park the van here at my parents' double wide in the campground). I get things situated and wade into the shallow water to take Andrew's sandals off his thick feet, which have already outgrown every pair of summer shoes he has, including these but he's still wearing them -- his toes just hang off the end. We then spend an hour or so doing all Andrew's favorite things, which includes the following: Laying in the sand on the shore, face down; throwing handfuls of sand in the air and at Mama; running up and down the beach; walking all the way down to the pier to go underneath it where it's cool and shady; singing songs while under said pier because it sounds really neat; chasing the flock of Canada geese into the water and far away from our beach; mounting an all out attack on the sand mountain at the far end of the beach; reaching the top of sand mountain only to roll back down; eating snacks with sandy hands; digging big holes in the sand to sit in; finding every dead fish, goose turd and other gross, unsightly or unsanitary thing on the beach and trying to touch it, pick it up and possibly put into the mouth for further scientific evaluation before Mama can react.

Today, Greg's mom Barbara and our dog Brody joined us on the beach. My mother-in-law is visiting us this week. It would be unfair for me to go on here without saying that my family is grieving. My father's mother, my grandmother, died in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday. We buried her just yesterday morning. She was 93, so it's not like this was a surprise. But she was in good health until a few weeks ago when she developed pancreatitis related to gal stones. The doctors suggested surgery. My father wasn't in favor of it, but she was fully capable of making her own decisions. Less than a week after coming home from the hospital, she was taken back to the ER and this time, she didn't get to come home.
She was a smart woman, knowledgeable in local history like no one else in our neck of the woods. She was the keeper of the family tree and all the stories of the generations past. She was an avid reader until her sight failed and even then she listened to books on tape. She loved gardening. She could make a mean pan of biscuits. She helped pay for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to go to college, whether by helping with books or tuition.
She was distant to me as a child, though she lived just down the road. I saw my grandpa everyday of my life when I was growing up because he came to see me. He took me to Mildred's store where I could pick out a glass bottled soft drink, a bag of chips and put a penny in the gumball machine. Then, when I was older, he would arrive at our door bearing gifts -- a bag of Cheetos, a quarter for all As on my report card, a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. But my grandmother was different and to me, she seemed a tough nut to crack. My experience of being her granddaughter was much different than that of my sisters, who have fond memories of spending the night at my grandparents' house where they were spoiled with treats and our grandmother's tenderness. By the time I came along, it seemed my grandmother was entering a new stage in her life -- one that didn't include tending to grandbabies. Instead, she went to work for the first time since becoming a wife and mother. She had gone to college when she found herself with an empty nest and began working as a teacher's assistant the year after I was born. My mother said it was because my grandpa had retired and my grandmother needed some time away from him. That story has always made me smile.
Of course, I would dutifully visit my grandma and I have good memories of her trying to teach me to crochet (I lacked the patience) and of her taking me and my nieces and nephews to the nearby state park for a picnic. We had chicken sandwiches that she made and they were full of pepper and I had to give the little kids mean looks to get them to shut up about it.
Still, my relationship with my grandma was... different. When I lived in Italy, she wrote me a few heartfelt and tender letters and in recent years, our visits became easier and longer. She would readily tell me she loved me and pat my hand or my cheek. Andrew brought her a lot of joy. Just the other day, she told me that he was "a living doll" and that he can say anything he pleases and that means he is very smart -- "just like his mama," she said.
Earlier this year, my dad took grandma to a doctor who gave her these horrible looking Coke bottle glasses and for the first time in a long time, she could see more clearly. We went to visit her then, to see her new glasses and I will never forget how she patted Andrew's cheek and touched his hair and said "Andrew, I can finally see your beautiful red hair!"
She loved us. I know that for sure. She was a good woman. And we will miss her.
And so today, when that beautiful yellow butterfly caught Andrew's eye and he chased it up and down the length of the beach over and over again laughing and saying "butterfly" it seemed like we were being granted a special visit. Time and again, the butterfly would swoop in front of our faces, almost as if it would land on our noses and then flutter away only to return to us. This went on for a long while before Andrew tired and raised his arms to me and said "home, Mama."
I imagined for a moment that Grandma had something to do with our encounter with the butterfly on the beach. In my mind, I could picture her being asked "which wonder of the world would you like to see today, Clara? The Pyramids? The Great Wall? The Taj Mahal?" and my grandmother would have answered "I want only to see my great-grandson on the beach, with the afternoon sun shining on his beautiful red hair." And the Lord would have said, "My good and faithful servant, I can do much better than that." And so he gave her a pair of wings of yellow and black and he placed her on the sand where my curious boy delighted in her beauty and chased her up and down the beach and laughed as she flitted by, calling "butterfly, fly fly, butterfly fly fly."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hello, goodbye

Oh, my poor neglected blog.

Nary a post since April. Sometimes I wonder if the writer inside me has died, or is she just hibernating? Each day, thoughts enter my mind and float around like dozens of red balloons. If only I could catch the string of one of them and float along for awhile until a thought had time to marinate, mature and eventually land me safely back on the ground.
Instead, I try to tuck away moments, memories and pray that I don't forget because I haven't written these things down. My memory is not good. So, I chastise myself for not making note of these little things because I know I will probably forget so much of this time. Then again, I'm too wrapped up in making the memories to take the time to write them down.

The long and short of our life right now is this: Greg came home in May for two weeks of R&R. I wore a red dress and heels to the airport to pick him up. Andrew wore his American flag T-shirt. I worried about his reaction to seeing his Daddy for the first time since November. But, when Greg touched Andrew's back and spoke his name, our boy gave him a most precious gift. A fleeting puzzled look crossed his face and then a wide smile and "Dada!" and then he reached his arms to Greg. In his father's arms, Andrew lay his head on Greg's shoulder, and reached his arms around his Dad's broad chest. And he stayed that way, for what seemed like a very long time. I was crying, Greg was crying and Andrew was smiling.

I realized, as I drove toward home -- Greg sitting in the back seat beside Andrew, both of them laughing -- that I was lighter. The double burden of parenting alone while worrying over Greg's safety had been lifted and I experienced a physical change. I could breath easier. I was not sucking my teeth, as I have done since Greg left, causing my already jacked up smile to be even more jacked. There was a deep sense of relief -- a calm that I had not experienced since Greg deployed in November and have not felt since he returned to Afghanistan.

It was as if no time had passed at all. When Andrew came down with the croup the next day and I had to go to the rehearsal dinner for my niece's wedding, Greg stayed home with him. They were like peas and carrots.

We spent the next week vacationing in a very old house in a very old town. We pretended to be normal for a while. We walked out to the river bank behind the house every morning to feed the ducks or observe a slowly rambling turtle looking for a place to lay her eggs. We walked by grand houses on our way to downtown for breakfast or lunch. We visited a particular playground nearly everyday and made friends with the regulars. We cooked our favorite meals and ate together as a family. We went to the beach and the aquarium and strolled around Target. After Andrew was tucked into his bed, we sat out on the back deck and drank wine and held hands. It was wonderful and it was short and before we knew it, we were back home and then, it was time for Greg to go.

At the airport, I held on tight and when Greg told me he had to go, a breathless, desperate plea -- "wait!" rose from my heart and leaped out of my mouth.

But he could not wait and I knew that. It was time for him to put on his armor and go back into battle and time for me to do the same. When we got back home, Andrew searched our little house for his Daddy, certain Greg was in our bed taking a nap. In the days that followed, he called for his Daddy many times and cried when I told him over and over that Daddy was gone.

The day after Memorial Day, as we sat at my parents' kitchen table, Andrew caught a glimpse of a photo of a soldier in uniform, his back to the camera, his head cropped out of the shot. "Dada!" he called as he pointed a sticky finger at the man. "Dada gone."

Thankfully, he rarely calls for Greg now. Instead, he points to the computer screen and demands "Dada" on video chat.

Needless to say, I'm back to sucking my teeth.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

This changes things

I've been writing this post in my head since Wednesday, words and phrases coming to my mind as I drive, cook, clean, take care of Andrew. So strange how a matter of seconds can change things.
Wednesday started off normal enough. Andrew and I were here at home, my parents were at their lake house for my dad's birthday the day before so my sweet boy and I were doing our thing, he was banging his wooden blocks together and inspecting Brody's crate while I drank coffee and made shopping lists and worked on making a "Newlywed Game" for a wedding shower.
My friend Lisa called and invited us to meet her and her son Nicholas for lunch in a nearby town. She was taking Nick to the dentist and would meet us at Chick-fil-a for lunch and playtime when they were done. So I showered and dressed and got Andrew ready to go. I remember putting on the bracelet my friend Anna made for me for my birthday. The colors didn't match what I was wearing but I just wanted to wear it to be reminded of her and to combat the loneliness I sometimes feel.
Our lunch was nice, even though other moms allowed their children to play without supervision and to climb on the outside walls of the play equipment and to practically step all over my son in their rush to get to the slide. On a normal day, this would have been what I talked about if anyone asked how my day was. Those lazy moms really annoyed me.
 A group of sheriff's deputies ate lunch in the booth next to ours. Andrew was fascinated by their uniforms and their shiny badges. He kept saying "hey," to them. They shared a homemade birthday cake. The woman deputy made fast friends with my Andrew and by the time we decided to give up on the playground and instead, sit and chat in my van with the boys watching a movie, Andrew was waving and saying goodbyes to her.
On our way home, I tried to keep Andrew from falling asleep in his car seat so that he could take a good nap at home. I was grabbing his foot and saying "give me those piggies," over and over to make him laugh and keep him from nodding off. I noticed the beautiful wildflowers planted along the roadside. The orange poppies really caught my eye. I was thinking how beautiful it would be to take Andrew out there at sunset for some photos. The orange poppies and his red hair would just be so lovely. While I processed the logistics of a roadside wildflower photo shoot, the traffic light ahead (the only one for miles around on this rural stretch of highway) turned red and I came to a stop. Just ahead, on the road to my left, I saw two vehicles stopped in the road. Dust was flying and a man was standing in the road by the passenger side of a pickup truck. I thought there had been a fender bender. Then, it looked as if the driver was going to leave the man there and the thought flashed through my mind that maybe this was one of those car fights where the driver makes the passenger walk home (or at least far enough to make them want to say 'I'm sorry.') But in a flash, I knew this wasn't a wreck or a silly disagreement between lovers. The man in the road lifted his arm and I watched as he fired four shots from a handgun toward the vehicle stopped in front of him. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
And in a matter of seconds, the sense of security that living in this rural farm community has always given me was shattered. The man got back in the truck and my light turned green. I told myself to make a note of the kind of truck, the color, all the details and I sent up a prayer that the shooter would not turn his weapon toward our car.
I fumbled to call 911 and when I got the operator on the line, I started blurting out what I'd seen. My stomach was in knots. I pulled off the road into the parking lot of a gas station. After giving the operators all the information I had, I took a deep breath and drove home.
I had gone only a mile or so when I started meeting various law enforcement vehicles speeding toward the scene with their lights flashing. I was nauseas. I felt like my brain was foggy, floaty. I touched the bracelet on my wrist. It was real, tangible proof of goodness and kindness. My whole body was tense and I gripped the steering wheel with both hands, white knuckling our way home. I was trying to process what I'd witnessed and whenever I thought about how close Andrew and I were to a man who was trying to kill another person, I shuddered. When we got home, I took Andrew in my arms and held him tight. I had planned to put him in his crib for a nap while I did some chores. Instead, I brought him into my room and lay down beside him as he napped. I put my hand on his chest to feel his slow steady breathing and inhaled his sweet baby scent. I thanked God for bringing us safely home.
It's been several days now since we witnessed this crime. The shooter was captured. The two men he shot were treated for flesh wounds at a local hospital and then promptly arrested and charged with robbing the man who was doing the shooting. Basically, the shooter is a drug dealer. He arranged to sell drugs to these two brothers at a convenience store, but when he met them in the store parking lot, they robbed him of $60 at knife point and drove away. He and his driver gave chase, running their vehicle off the road at the intersection where the red light had me stopped.
I can't quite get my head around what I saw or how different it might have been if the people in the other vehicle had shot back at the man wielding the gun, sending bullets in our direction. I witnessed an act of extreme violence. I saw a man trying to kill two people. He stood no more than 50 feet from our car. I shudder to think that my baby was so close to such danger. One minute I was driving down the road looking at wildflowers. The next, I was witnessing a violent crime.
All for $60.
My husband is in Afghanistan and Andrew and I are the ones who witnessed a shooting. It doesn't make any sense.
I was terrified when it was happening. I was terrified when it was over. I am still emotionally shaken.
How tenuous is the line between life and death. How long a second is when you are watching something so scary.
Since the shooting, I’ve spoken with the sheriff, a detective and a newspaper reporter, a former co-worker of mine. They all assured me that the shooter was arrested and is in jail under a pretty hefty bond. But that is little comfort. I know there are dozens of others like him right here in our little community. Drugs have permeated our rural area, spurring violence, ripping families apart and shattering lives. Needless to say, I’ve been more vigilant about locking my doors, more alert when I’m out in public and certainly more aware of how little control we have over something like this.
My Andrew is no worse for wear. He didn’t even know anything had happened. Though, as I cried when I told my sister what had happened, he walked over to me and reached his little arms up to hug me.
And so we continue along each day, waiting for Greg to return and trying our best to put what happened behind us.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sunday's coming

I'm weary.
We're nearly half way through this deployment and the weariness has settled in my heart, like a dense Cape Fear River morning fog that mutes all the colors and makes the once familiar road ahead of you seem strange and treacherous.
I'm clinging to the fact that Greg will be home for 15 days in May for his R&R. If it gets cancelled or postponed, I feel like the fog might swallow us.
God knows I'm trying to fend it off. I've put up a mighty fight. Every day, I do the things I'm supposed to do.  I put one foot in front of the other. I keep going. Our clothes are washed and folded, our house is relatively tidy, the dog gets fed, we get fed. We play, we laugh, we snuggle, we read, we sing. I keep busy. I organize and I read and I plan and I tinker and I stay up late most nights working on this project or that project, dreading going to bed alone again.

Last Friday morning, in that space between sleeping and waking I cracked open my eyes just a bit and thought I caught a glimpse of my husband lying beside me. When I say my heart skipped a beat, it is no exaggeration. Instinctively, I reached for him, only to realize it was a mirage created by my fuzzy sleepy brain and a pillow that I had placed on Greg's side of the bed to keep Andrew from falling off during a nap the day before.
Then, last night, I let my thoughts go to a place I rarely dare. I was holding Andrew in my lap, thinking about how perfectly his little body fits in that space, as if he was shaped according to me. I love how he melts into that spot each night as he drinks his milk before bed. I remembered telling Greg something very similar many years ago, when our love was new and we were still making new discoveries about each other. There is a space between Greg's shoulder blades where I can rest my head if I'm standing behind him with my arms wrapped around him. It seemed to me then that space was created for me, as if God knew that one day, my cheek would rest in that very place and it was sculpted to the exact specifications that would make it a perfect fit.
Hot tears fell then and again later as I Skyped with Greg, finally getting a connection that allowed us to see and hear each other after several weeks of maddening spotty service. He was getting ready for work and I caught a glimpse of that place on his back that was made for me to rest my head.
I miss my husband.

One night this week, after I'd already bathed Andrew and put him into mismatched pajamas, my sister who lives just across the road, called to tell me to go outside to see a beautiful rainbow that stretched across the sky over the trees behind my house.
I grabbed my camera and Andrew and went outside. Andrew was so excited, pointing at the sky and jabbering. I told him the word "rainbow" and he began saying "bow, bow, bow." I snapped a few pictures of him toddling around pointing up at the sky.
Later, I sent the pictures to Greg as we chatted through text messages. "Wow, that's a good one, Honey," he said. "It almost looks like he's pointing at the rainbow in that first one."
My poor husband. He has missed so much in Andrew's life that he didn't realize that little baby he left is a little boy now and he WAS pointing at the rainbow.

It's Good Friday. For believers in Christ, it's a day to remember the sacrifice, to consider the price that was paid for us. Here in my neck of the woods, we are mourning the loss of another teenager tragically killed in a car wreck this morning on the way to school.
This was his facebook status, posted this morning before he left home for the last time: "On this day thousands of years ago a man was beaten and crucified for you he gave the greatest love for you so in that one day you can all live with him in paradise for that I am thankful. Just think about that, all of you who think this is just a half day (of school)."
Christians have a saying, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming." It refers to the belief that after Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, he was resurrected on Easter Sunday.
The phrase is sometimes used when we find ourselves in a dark place, a bad situation, enveloped in sadness or grief. It speaks to the belief that things are going to get better, that salvation is promised, that time will offer healing.
And so I have to remind myself that even though this separation has made me weary and there have been days when I find myself wrapped in worry and longing, I have to lean on the fact that this too shall pass. It's Friday, but Sunday's coming.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Meanwhile, in the real world...

Some of you know what happened last week out here in blogland. I guess, from what I can gather from posts and comments, that what went down was pretty intense and feelings were hurt and toes were stepped on and noses are out of joint all over the place. If you don't know what in the world I'm talking about, well, it really doesn't matter. If you do know what I'm talking about, well, I'm going to make a lot of friends here and say it really doesn't matter.
Because this is what happened in the real world last week while a whole bunch of folks were sitting here licking their virtual wounds.
On Wednesday folks in N.C. woke to the news that in the wee hours of the morning, a father and his two daughters died in a house fire. He was desperately trying to save them. Their mother, his wife, is the only survivor. He'd just returned home a few months ago from a deployment to Afghanistan. He came home a hero and he died a hero. Please pray for his wife, Louise Cantrell.
Later in the week, just a few miles down the road from our house, a three-year-old ran out the front door of her grandmother's home and into the street, where she was hit and killed. Her grandmother was behind her, but just couldn't move fast enough.
Then, on Sunday, more tragic news. A US soldier apparently murdered Afghan civilians as they slept in their homes. I waited for Greg to contact me at the usual time and when hours went by with no word from him. I began to seriously worry. Finally, I got an email from Greg. He was fine. Later, I was able to talk with him and he described how the Humvee he was riding in had broken down and he'd had to walk a half mile or more to get to the nearest base for help. His colonel provided cover as he walked while cars and trucks driven by Afghan civilians backed up behind their broken down Humvee and cars coming from the other direction whizzed by. Of all days for something like that to happen, it had to be that day -- 9 hours after the apparent murders of civilians.
Needless to say, it was an emotional week for me. But it had nothing to do with blog rolls. Sometimes, it helps to put things into perspective.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vingettes at 13 months

I've been trying to write this post for weeks. It was supposed to be a compilation of small moments with Andrew at 13 months old. Now, he's only a couple of days away from being 14 months old! So, I'm behind, but I still want to honor these moments and remember them. So I'll add a few of the more recent special moments and hopefully, I can get a few more posts in before he is 15 months.
This picture was taken on my 35th birthday. Andrew is very interested in trains right now, "choo choo!"
I woke up a few days ago to the sound of Andrew playing in his crib. I stretched and looked at the clock, we made it past 7, which is pretty much the norm now. I went to the bathroom and listened to Andrew say "hey!" over and over. Instead of bouncing into his room like I normally do, I slowly pushed his door open and peeped inside. There he sat, his back toward me clapping his hands and happily jabbering to his plush lamb. The lamb, who we affectionately call Jingles, because, well it jingles, was a gift from Greg's mother. For months it sat unnoticed on a shelf and then one day, Andrew discovered this new friend and now he sleeps with Jingles every night along with a lion named Leo and a dog we call Pup. Poor Bear Bear is still in there, but he is sorely neglected. I watched as Andrew interacted with Jingles, perfectly content to play in his crib. My heart melted when I saw Andrew blowing kisses to his little lamb. Then, he grabbed the lamb in his arms and hugged him and laid down and said "Tista," in a very whiny little voice.
That is what Andrew calls me now. Not mama or mommy or any other form of the word meaning mother. It's "Tista" or "Tata" if he's being lazy. It's loud and clear. A few days ago when I was trying to get him to call me "mommy" I put my hand on my chest and said "Say mommy. My name is Mommy. I'm Mommy. I'm Mom-my." And he reached his pudgy hand up and put it on my chest and said "Dat Tista."
So I sort of give up. I still remind him to call me "mama." I still refer to myself as mama. But last night, after sitting in my lap to drink his milk before bed, he slid down to the floor and sat between my legs. He laid his little head on my leg and said "Tista, I lalalala you." That's "I love you" in Andrew speak.
So how can I complain? 
Every morning now, Andrew expects us to sit in the big blue recliner snuggling together while he drinks his milk and we watch PBS. When he's ready, he gets down and starts to play and I get dressed and we start our day. Those moments cuddled up together are so precious to me.
Many times, when I go into Andrew's room to get him out of his crib, he greets me with a big "hey!" and then holds up each of his little plushies for me to hug. He even makes the "mmmm, mmmm," sound that I make when I hug him.
The words just tumble out now. "This" is still his favorite word. He uses it for everything. He points to a cup and says "this" when he wants drink, food, toys, to go outside, to come inside, to ride in the wagon, to swing in the swing. He loves the word "this!"
But he has other words -- plenty of them. He can name all the dogs in his life but he still hasn't called most of the people he knows by name. His newest four legged friend is Otis, a tiny long-haired dachschund, who is the newest member of our extended family. He either loves or hates Otis depending on the day, but he never fails to yell "O-issss" a hundred times when Otis is within earshot.
His newest obsession is going on rides with my dad in his little Ford pickup truck. Daddy will take Andrew out, sit him in his lap and circle the house or drive over to my sister's or my grandma's (not on real roads --- we're out in the country, y'all!). Andrew will stand at the door at my parents' house and point his little finger toward the truck and say "Papa, this!"
Since I started writing this post, Andrew and I made a trip up to North Dakota to see my dearest friend, Anna, and her boys (I hope to write a post about our visit soon). Since then, Andrew has decided that my name is "Mama" afterall. I'm not sure what changed his mind. He also has been stuck to me like glue. He must finally be in the "separation anxiety" phase. I don't mind it much, except when I am trying to do something and he is standing in front of me crying and clinging to my pants leg.
He still enjoys seeing his Daddy on the computer. They play peek-a-boo and blow rasberries and click their tongues. His vocabulary and ability to understand and respond to questions continues to grow everyday. For example, today my mom asked him what he had been doing before we went over to her house for lunch and he said "talk Daddy." Indeed, we had been talking to Greg on Skype.
Also today, we were coloring and I said "let's write your name. What letter does Andrew start with?" And he said "A." You could have knocked me over with a feather.
So, there you have it. Andrew at 13 -- almost 14 -- months! And, he still isn't walking. He takes lots of steps from one piece of furniture to another, but inevitably, he drops down and crawls to his final destination. I am optistic that he will become more confident in the coming weeks and officially become a walker.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

ONEderful you

Oh, Andrew. There you are driving your little tow truck on the window, your first birthday balloons still floating above your head. I am there behind you, desperately trying to capture the sweet little moments of your life in photographs. You are so darned curious. Every time you see the camera, you want to touch it, inspect it, push the buttons and smudge your little fingerprints on the lens. Every once in a while, I manage to sneak up on you and get a picture that forever freezes a moment in time -- like here, when the light from the window fell on your pudgy dimpled hand as you motored that little blue truck along the back of your chair and up and down the window screen.
Your wheels are always turning. You are so incredibly smart. I am sure I'm quite biased. All mothers probably feel this way. Still, you always surprise me with your ability to reason, to imitate, to communicate. You are changing so fast and I am constantly trying to come to terms with the new you. Technically, you aren't a baby anymore, though it is hard for me to think of you as anything else.
At one, you are inquisitive to a point of hilarity. When Aunt Carol isn't wearing earrings, you peek into her ears to see where they are hiding. You  have stuck your fingers up my nose, in my mouth and in my ears as you explore.
You are talkative, you jabber of course, but you also talk -- you say sentences like "I love you, Da," when video chatting with your Dad and "I get that hello" when you reach for my cell phone. You answer questions with a resounding "Yes" or "No." Like this morning when your grandma asked you if you talked with your dad last night and you shook your head and said "No." You call me by name when you are angry or inpatient. Not "mommy" or "mama" as I have always taught you, but "Krista." I honestly don't know whether to laugh or cry when you do this. You say words like "tractor" and "cookie" one day and go back to your old standards "Papa, Mama, hello and ball" the next.
You are friendly. When we go shopping, you say "hey" to everyone we pass. Sometimes, the strangers smile and speak. Sometimes they ignore you. You do not like it when they do that.
You giggle when things bring you pleasure. Like when Papa gives you a taste of oatmeal creme pie, or I come home from a long shopping trip, or when Brody licks your fingers or when you see your dad's face on the computer screen.
You are a clown. You delight in making us laugh. If you discover that sticking out your tongue makes everyone giggle you do it repeatedly.
You are a monkey. You climb on EVERYTHING! You love to sit on the coffee table or climb into the toy box. You love to climb onto the window seat at Granny's and fling open the shutters to look outside and call for Dixie.
You are fearless. You will put your face in your bath water, reach out and grab tree branches while riding in your wagon or attempt to fling yourself out of my arms if you don't like being held or I'm impeding you from doing what you want to do.
You are bossy. You want so badly to be independent especially when it comes to feeding yourself. You love to eat. Just this week, you tried my homemade guacamole and you loved it! I adore you for that.
You can't walk yet. Well, I think you could walk but you just haven't got it all figured out yet. Of course, the fact that you don't walk doesn't stop you. You are everywhere at once and you crawl so fast you can disappear in seconds. This morning after snuggling with you in my bed as you drank your morning bottle (the only bottle left), I put you on the floor and I stretched before getting out of bed. A few seconds later, when I sat up and put my feet on the floor you were gone. I called your name and looked down the hall. Nothing. All of a sudden, your little head popped up over the other side of the bed. I called you baby Houdini.
I took you to see the pediatrician for your one-year check up. She confirmed what I have always known. You are "perfect." You weigh 27.7 pounds and are 32 inches long! You are a big healthy boy and are bigger than 99 percent of babies your age. In fact, after you got your shots, we went back to the waiting room to find your Grandma chatting with a mother who had a small baby on her lap. "How old is he?" I asked, expecting her to say he was nine months. But he was the same age as you, just a few days between your birthdays. It looked like you ate that kid for breakfast.
You are one and you are different than you were a few weeks ago. You've started showing signs that the "terrible twos" are just around the next corner. You make a horrible high pitched squealing sound when you don't get your way. You will arch your back and throw your arms back and that makes it almost impossible for me to hold on to you.
You are everything I hoped you would be but you are so much more than I could have ever imagined. Your laugh is the sweetest sound I've ever heard. Your cheek is the softest thing I've ever kissed. Your scent is the sweetest I've ever smelled. You are the sun and moon and stars. You are puffy clouds and sunshine and cool water and warm socks and all the good things in the world all wrapped up in one little human.
Sometimes, I look at you and the very fact that you exist in this real world nearly knocks me down. Here you are -- a dream that became a reality. You grew in me. I gave birth to you. And, I have fed and bathed and clothed you each day. I have held you and rocked you and caressed you and kissed you. And it has been the greatest honor of my life.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Big ONE!

We celebrated Andrew's first birthday on Friday. When we made our way over to my parents' house that morning, we were greeted by my parents and my sister Carol wearing party hats, blowing party blowers and singing happy birthday. Grandma had put a iced sugar cookie on Andrew's high chair tray and Carol had hung happy birthday banners all over the kitchen. This is one spoiled rotten one-year old!

Later that day, we picked my mother-in-law Barbara up from the airport. It was wonderful to see her and to see her with Andrew. He was a little unsure of her at first, but by the time we drove to the nearest chic-fil-a, he had warmed up to Grammy and was as happy as could be.
This was the first time Barbara has visited us in North Carolina and met all my family. It was a great visit for all of us, especially Andrew. He loves his Grammy!

I was sure I had ruined Andrew's birthday cake on Friday night by using a new frosting recipe that left his "1" shaped cake looking like it was covered in melted marshmallow.
Saturday was the big day for the party and thank God my mother-in-law was here to take care of Andrew. I really don't know what we would have done without her here. My mom and I spent the morning trying to salvage the world's ugliest birthday cake and it actually came out pretty good.

The party was great. Lots of family and friends came to help us celebrate. The theme of the party was "The Big One" and the main motif for the party was that silly "foam finger" that you see at sporting events. The colors were blue, orange and white. I made most of the decorations and they turned out great.

I also made a slide show with music, but it is indulgent and super long. Only those closest to us would be willing to invest 25 minutes to watch photos of my sweet boy go by so I won't post it here. Needless to say, it left a lot of folks with tears in their eyes.
Greg was able to sort of attend the party by waking up at 2:30 a.m. and Skype in. The connection was bad and the lighting in the room made it hard for Greg to see but it was something at least.

Our Andrew is so quick and though I can anticipate many of his moves, I failed to foresee his immediate and intense attraction to the flame on his lone candle. He grabbed it with his little fingers faster than I could react. Poor guy. I don't really thing he was burned because I couldn't even see a red spot on his hand or fingers, but everyone gasped and some people screamed when those tiny fingers touched that flame and it scared the bejeezus out of him.

After a few minutes outside, he calmed down and returned to delve into his cake, which he enjoyed very much.

I served cake, ice cream, finger sandwiches of PB&J and homemade pimento cheese, blue and orange pretzel M&Ms, an assortment of fruit, Sun Chips and lemonade. Andrew loved hitting the pinata. He laughed every time his little bat made contact. And he loved playing with his friends and cousins.
He was showered with a ton of gifts. We gave him a little chair from PB kids that has his name embroidered on it and he absolutely loves it. My dad made him a toy box, which is so special.

 Everyone was so generous and we felt very loved. All in all, his first birthday was almost perfect. The only thing missing was Daddy.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


We just said goodbye to 2011, the year that I will forever remember as the year that my sweet Andrew was born, I became a mother, Greg became a father and we became a family. There were a lot of changes, a lot of challenges. Even now, we continue to struggle with the separation of this deployment.
Christmas Eve was hard for me. Even though Greg oversaw the assembly of Andrew's Radio Flyer wagon via Skype, it just made me so sad to think of all he was missing. I am hopeful that next year, we will all be together and Greg will be wielding the screwdriver, not me. I can't wait to share that quiet, magical anticipation of being Santa with my husband.
Christmas Day was joyful despite the distance. Andrew saw all the toys Santa left for him and seemed pretty excited about the gifts until he realized his Daddy was on the computer via Skype. He went straight to the desk and started talking to Greg. We have it all captured on video and in photographs. It was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen. We were surrounded by our big, boisterous, loving family that day.
Greg had a pretty uneventful holiday. We tried to send him little pieces of home -- photos, baked goods, candy, gifts. In the end it was Andrew's excitement over seeing him on the computer screen that made his Christmas special.
So here we are in 2012. Only time will tell what challenges, changes and blessings this year will hold. I know that as long as Andrew is healthy and happy, I will be joyful each day. I'm already looking forward to May when Greg will probably come home for R&R.
Andrew turns one this Friday. It feels strange to type that. I've planned his party and I hope it will express the pride and joy that I feel for my sweet son. Greg's mom is actually flying in for the big day and for that I'm so grateful. It will be wonderful for Andrew to have both sides of his family represented at the party. And, I can't wait for my mother-in-law, Barbara, to see Andrew, to experience his personality and all those little things that make him uniquely Andrew.