Sunday, December 30, 2012

Creative Memories Scrapbooking Software May Have Just Saved My Sanity

Back in the summer of 2010, I ordered the Creative Memories Scrapbooking software. Honestly, at the the time, I was not even remotely thinking clearly. I just remember seeing it had went on sale from my friend, Michelle. The next thing I knew - I had ordered it. It is funny what I do remember from that summer because it is like seeing tiny snippets of a movie in my mind. I remember the post or email or something saying the software was on sale for that month only. I remember thinking I should get that. I don't remember why now. I guess I was thinking I was going to make sure all of my memories were put into book. Maybe I thought since I couldn't remember what I was doing at any given moment - I had better start getting our pictures and memories into books. Well... truth be told - I opened that software exactly once in the last 2.5 years. And that was last December when I needed to make a matching collage photo of Timmy to match the ones I had purchased for my kids from Picture Innovations. Well, a year has gone by. I got sucked into this bleepity bleep groupon deal for a Snapfish photo album. I was thinking I could put a book together of our many families trip to Disney. That way - I could gift the book to the other families. Hmmm... this sounds easy, doesn't it. It has been anything, but easy. I have worked on uploading the bleepity bleep photos, then I worked on finding a theme I liked and then I worked on finding some Disney clip art and ugh... all that to HATE the first two pages. I hate them because I - in a distant time and place - used to create beautiful layered pages. I love the look of layers and dimension and this snapfish is just so darned flat. Did I mention that looking at scrapping stuff took me on a whole other sidetracked journey of reading about Project Life scrapping? I like the concept, but again - hate the less layered look. After a very frustrating evening saying bleepity bleep A LOT, I decided to open my Creative Memories software. Oh my goodness!!!! Oh my goodness!!!! There are beautiful templates right there. They are one dimensional, but they look layered. I can move them and mat them and change them and OH MY GOODNESS!!! It has been on my computer for 2.5 years. It is right there! Now, I don't know how this book is going to look yet. My thinking is I will create the pages and this time - upload them to snapfish since I already paid for the groupon. It is really crazy how my brain has worked in these last couple of years. I did things, bought things, forgot things, remembered things only to forget them again. I hope 2013 brings a little more clarity to my brain. I also hope that this book is amazing and years and years from now - we will all smile when we look at that once in a lifetime trip to Disney with our very best friends.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Calendars

Talking to Savannah about her chocolate advent calendar because she asked

when Christmas was while we were watching tv tonight.

Me - Why don't you know what day it is? You have an advent calendar.

Her - Dude! I ate like 13 chocolates in one day because I got so behind!

Me - Why do I buy you chocolate advent calendars?!

Her - Because I love the chocolate!

Me - That's it! I'm not buying you anymore chocolate advent calendars! I will just 
get you a bag of chocolate!

Her - That would be a whole lot cheaper.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Did you know that kids grow up?

Did you know that kids grow up to be young adults? Sounds completely obvious, right? Somehow, I never much thought about this when I was a younger parent. I guess I thought a little bit more about the here and now more than I did the future. Probably, because I was the young adult at that time. This is where I am going with this - I became an aunt when I was 12 years old. I was a kid! I didn't much give thought to the fact that someday, that tiny little baby was going to be a beautiful grown woman. I thought she was the perfect doll. Soon after my first niece was born, there were two more nieces born all by the time I was 15. Then I became a mom and more and more nieces and nephews came along. Lots of little kids and they grew up. I was there in some form watching them all grow up. Today, I am 40 years old and at this very moment there are four young adults expecting new babies next year. Add to this - several of them have already had babies. A whole new generation! Sometimes it hurts my heart a bit - not because I am not overjoyed for them - because I am missing my son having his own children. That will probably be there for a good long time, but I tuck it to the side and I try to find the absolute joy in these young adults. You know how we all oooohhhh and ahhhhhhh over the new babies and the toddlers in our lives? Sometimes I oooooohhhh and ahhhhhh over how wonderful these young adults are. I marvel at their kindness and love. Some of them aren't starting families just yet, but they are still not kids anymore. I think about each of them when they were little people and we didn't have a real clue who they would become. Then I send up a silent thank you to God for putting each of them in my life. I love this part of my life. I love that they let me be a part of it.  I love seeing them grow up and become exactly who they are supposed to be.

Friday, December 14, 2012

If I had known it was the last hug...

Taken December 13, 2009

If I had known that it was the last hug I would ever give you on this side - I wouldn't have let go. I would have clung to you like my very life depended on it. Three years ago, today, I drove you to the Charlotte airport. I had taken you to the airport many other times before that day. By that time, you had been living away for 18 months. You had traveled to Oklahoma, to Alaska, to Kuwait, to Iraq and back again. You had seen a war and still came home to me. I remember that day was cloudy and cold. It looked like it would snow even though it didn't. On that day - we had a new (to us) van and we could all take you back to the airport. Well, your dad had to work, but your Grandma, Tusie Michelle, Savannah, Sebastian and me - we all came along for the ride back to the airport. I had a pit in my stomach. Why did you have to be stationed in Alaska? Why did it have to be so far away? Why couldn't I have more money - so I could just fly up there and see you whenever I wanted? Lots of why's going through my mind that day. I don't even remember what we talked about on that 2 hour drive. I remember you sitting next to me in the passenger seat. I can still see you with my memory. You looked so amazing! So grown up, so everything I had ever hoped you would be. I hated getting to the drop off at the airport. I hate how I always feel rushed at those airport drop offs. I feel like don't they know that we are telling the people we love goodbye! I know they need to keep it moving, but I just want to spend a few more minutes with my child. He is my child and he is leaving on a long trip and he won't be home for months. Please, understand how hard this is for me. But, the airport people don't care about this. So, you hug quickly and you tell him you love him and to BE GOOD because that is what you always say to him. He laughs is big, goofy laugh and before you know it - he is walking into that airport away from you. The whole family is silent as we drive away. We are all thinking the same thing - what Sebastian said just a few days before - it STINKS that he has to live in Alaska. Even at 5 years old - he gets how hard this is. I can still smell his cologne on me and in the seat next to me. It is like a wisp of him is still riding back with us. We stop at a Chick-Fil-A on the way home from Charlotte. I think my heart chooses Chick-Fil-A because Timmy's spirit is always at Chick-Fil-A for me ever since he put on that cow costume. I remember sitting at the table looking out the window at the grey sky. I felt a strange feeling that day. Maybe it was intuition that that was the last hug on this side. I felt numb. Do you know what it feels like to have a piece of your heart fly away to Alaska? When I look back now - if I had known it was the last time I would hug you on this side - I would have looked into your sweet face and memorized every part of it. I would have buried my head into your big arms and breathed in deep that mix of you and cologne. I would have told you how much you mean to me and how my blessed my life has been because of you. I would have never let go.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas lights

It has been a rough day around here and for a reason I do not know - I was sitting here this afternoon thinking about Christmas lights. Not just any Christmas lights though. The single, simple strand of lights that my dad and/or brother would hang across the top of our front porch. They were those old larger type bulb lights in primary colors. It was just one strand. That's it! And you know what? To me - as a kid - it was the most beautiful lights I had ever seen. Compared to today's elaborate scenes - this was pretty much nothing. It didn't matter. When they hung those lights, I remember going outside and standing in the yard to look at them. Those lights would get turned off on Christmas Eve while my dad took us kids for our Christmas ride. My mom would stay home to let Santa in. We did Christmas on Christmas Eve because my mom had to work many Christmas Eve's in the
ER. My dad would drive us around to see other people's lights and they were beautiful. Especially if you went to what we called the "rich" neighborhoods. If there was snow, he would drive like a crazy man and we would laugh like crazy! We would circle back to drive past our house to see if our lights were turned on. If they were on - it meant Santa had come to visit. If not, it meant we did another tour around another neighborhood.  Eventually, we would drive by our house and those lights would be on. That single strand of lights shone more bright than any of the other houses I might have seen that night. They were magnificent in my child eyes! We would pile out of the car and run for the door. Once we were inside, we would see 4 neat stacks of gifts - 1 stack for each child. It was a magical feeling. One that I am so thankful I had the joy of having, not once, but many times throughout my childhood.  I wish I had a picture of those lights hanging from our porch, but those were not the days of Facebook and smartphone cameras.  We just took pictures with our memories and hoped we would never forget.  My life was so uncomplicated back then. My biggest worry was did Santa really know that I wanted another baby doll for Christmas? I hope and pray that I am giving my kids that kind of childhood. The kind where excitement and happiness fills their Christmas. I hope more than anything that some day they will tell their children about their favorite Christmas memories. I know that these memories helped make me who I am and they will never leave me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Have I told you about my girl?

I read back through my blog and I can't believe I have forgotten many of the things I wrote about back then. I wish I had kept up with my blog, but like so many things - the past is in the past. I want to scrapbook and blog and lose 10 lbs. I have many wants, but right now I want to remember how much fun I have with my girl. You know when you homeschool - you are TOGETHER a lot!!! I mean A LOT!!! I have said this before - I am selfish. I am selfish because I would be so very sad if I didn't see her beautiful face so much throughout each and every day. Now - don't get me wrong - we have our moments. Lord knows that hormones flair and we get on each other's nerves. But that is not the norm. Normally, we chat about everything and anything and all the stuff that falls in between. She tells me about Tumblr and I show her silly pictures on Facebook. She plays me some of her screamo music and I plead with her that she really would prefer a Country  Music Festival. Right now - we spend a little while every night watching Supernatural. Randomly throughout the day, one of us will make some goofy off the wall comment about Sam or Dean. The other night - we literally said the same exact thing while watching Supernatural. Somebody said something about letting the people go and we BOTH raised our hand up and said, "Let my people go!" Oh my goodness - we laughed so hard! She is so much like me in so many ways and all at the same time completely her own person. She has so many qualities that are nothing like me and so wonderful. I would have never attempted to put up Christmas lights on the outside of the house when I was 14, but she set her mind to it and pulled it off. I don't know if I realize so much more how quickly these years pass by or what, but I feel like I embrace it more than I did when Timmy was a teenager. I guess I didn't see that he would eventually grow up and move out. With her I see the future - not clearly - but the blurred picture of how time rolls along. I know before too long, she will probably have a job and a boyfriend and our Supernatural (or whatever the show will be then) will only come sporadically. I love this child of mine. I love the time we are sharing and I wish I could bottle it up and keep it. I know I can't, but that sure doesn't make me want it any less.

Monday, December 03, 2012

It's just a season... Barefoot Season...

I sat down to update my facebook status after one of our more busy than normal weekends. Right as I clicked on my fb page - I thought - this is the thing you used to blog about before you had a facebook. You know the stories I used to write down so my kids could read them some day... So - here I am writing a blog post instead of a fb post. December has rolled in busy and full of stuff this year. Friday (okay, so it was the last day of November) we had art and science followed by gymnastics followed by game night for the teens. Did I mention game night was 45 minutes away? My friends and I did the shuffle kids from here to there dance that we have grown to do with great ease. We make it look easy - never mind that when I tell my mom who took who where and when that I make her dizzy. We arrived home from game night a bit after 11pm. Then it was time to pack the gymnastics bag and my bag and lay the clothes out all to be ready to leave for a gymnastics competition by 7:15 in the STINKING MORNING!!! The next morning we all assemble with our girls - braided hair glittering, shiny pink warm-ups and a few smiles to go around. We parents and grandparents settle onto the bleacher for the next 8 hours of gymnastics competition. We share snacks and stories and laughter. In between that we wonder if we will ever get feeling back in our behinds from these dang bleacher seats. We finally shuffle home around dinner time. That brings us to today where we gather once AGAIN at gymnastics to decorate a float for the Christmas light parade. Okay, I didn't do any decorating. I got there late because my lovely daughter had mud on her only comfortable walking shoes and we had to wash and dry them. We still got there in time though. We load up our girls in adorable matching hoodies and send them off to be in the parade. After a quick stop to pick up 2 dozen Krispy Kreme, I head over to watch the parade with friends that are more like family to me. We eat donuts and we go back to that familiar talking and laughing we shared the day before. While our girls are on the float in the parade, our boys are playing "football" with a rolled up jacket. Finally, we see the first float coming our way. We gather to watch are our Barefoot Gymnastics girls go by. In a blink, they pass us! Just like that! We finish the parade, gather our girls and walk back to the cars. Say our goodbyes and finally head home. It has been a LONG and BUSY weekend for us... many of us. I am tired and my heel spurs are SCREAMING! My jammies are calling and all I can think about is getting comfy on my couch. When I finally curl up with my sweet girl sitting next to me - I look over at her and I think - this is just a season. Before I know it - it will change. The crazy gymnastics stuff and driving from here to there and everywhere - it will move on. It always does. It is just one of those seasons. I send a silent thank you up to God for the busy, crazy weekend. For stupid felt penguins crafts that don't GLUE together, for snap circuit projects that weren't quite recorded on an experiment sheet, for filling my van with not only my daughter, but my dear friends' daughters and rushing them off to gymnastics practice, for cutting silly strips of fabric for hair bows the night before competition, for driving out to BFE so our kids can get to know other homeschoolers, for Starbucks with friends while we wait on those kids to finish game night, for friendly faces that cheer all of our children on at competition, for Christmas light floats that show off our priceless children, for Krispy Kreme donuts and good friends to share them with, and for life - crazy, wonderful life. Yep - I am tired and my heel spurs are screaming, but I would not change it. I would not give up one moment of this. Life comes at us in seasons, they seem like they are forever at the time, but really before we know it - we move on to the next... right now we are in Barefoot Season!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rental Property MOJO?

So, this very strange phenomenon occurs each time Tim and I go out of town... something at one of our rental houses breaks or something else goes wrong with a tenant. Seriously, it seems like every. single. time. I am trying to enjoy my gluttony meal at Golden Corral - my cell phone rings. I say, "Hello?" Then there is a tenant on other end saying something like, "Blah, blah, blah, broken fridge, blah, blah, blah, my wife left me and we are moving out early, blah, blah, blah." Then my gluttony meal somehow loses its appeal and I begin putting out whatever fire needs tending to. Tonight, I am ready to leave on a family vacation in the morning to Washington DC. Somewhere in the back of my mind - I am thinking - what can go wrong this week - while we are away. Maybe we can sneak this one trip in without our appliances or tenants being none the wiser. Then it happened. I was scanning the channels and I saw the weather channel with the "hurricane cone" and you guessed it... it could go right to Tampa Bay. I guess I have been under a rock because I didn't even know this storm was out there. Now it is *only* a tropical storm at the moment. But I have to wonder... if I am going out of town will some cosmic energy churn that tropical storm into a hurricane and send it right towards my Florida rental property? Let's hope not... I don't have any immediate plans to go to Golden Corral at any time during this trip. Maybe if I expand my dining horizons - it will break the curse - and this storm will fall apart long before it gets near Florida. I can hope right? Or, maybe, I should just leave my cell phone in my van when we head into a restaurant.

Birthday parties

Since 1990, I have had a birthday party in some form or fashion for one of my kids. Some were elaborate and others a little more low key. It started with Timmy's 1st which just so happened to by my mom's 50th. It was family and my mom and dad's friends. I made a teddy bear cake - the same cake I made for each of my kids on their first birthdays. I was proud of my first birthday party considering I was only 17 at the time. I pulled it off and we all had fun. The funny thing is I can close my eyes and I can feel that party in my soul.  I remember so many of the details of it. I also remember Timmy's pirate party and treasure hunt. We had just moved to our starter house and it was by the lake and park. My mom made this awesome treasure chest and they followed the clues. There was a party for Savannah - a Cinderella party. I loved that one. I had so much fun making the favors and planning the games. A friend found me a Cinderella dress the DAY of her birthday party at a garage sale. I ran to her house to get it and I was literally on beaming because of a silly Cinderella dress. With Sebastian - I remember his Jack's Big Music Show party. I blogged about it here Sebastian's 2nd birthday. I was going to give him that party come hell or high water. People STILL come to my blog when they search Jack's Big Music Show party supplies. They never did market them - in the words of Julia Robert's from Pretty Woman... "BIG, BIG MISTAKE!" Where was I going with this? Savannah and Sebastian's birthdays are coming up soon. Savannah has grown out of the themed party much to my dismay. She still wants a party, just not one with games, themes, etc. And then I was thinking I would just have Sebastian's friends over to the pool and call it a day. I wasn't thinking about a big and fun party for him. I was like - swim, cake, ice cream, presents - done. I asked him about this and he gave me this look like, "What do you mean??? No pinata, no theme cake, no games that go with the theme?" I stuck the thought away and then today I asked him what kind of party he wanted. Blank stare. I was rolling through my head his likes at the moment. I settled on Mine Craft and sat down to google (where all good birthday parties begin). I found SO MUCH STUFF and he came over and he just lit up! Like - YES - MOM - THIS IS WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT!!! I felt myself get excited - a party to plan! WOOHOO!!! How did I almost let a birthday party go by? Yes, I am tired. Yes, I have a lot going on. Yes, a pool party would be easy. You know what though? Timmy's last birthday was his 21st. He was in Alaska, had plenty of money to buy whatever he wanted and kept telling me it was no big deal. Well, I listened to him. I didn't really make it a big deal. My budget was super tight. I had no idea what to get him and well... I was busy, tired, you name it... I was it. So, I mailed him a very practical gift of kitchen items I knew he would not buy for himself. I did mail him a package of cupcakes and candles. It got there late - several days late (yes, I am always late on packages.) My mom, on the other hand, ordered him a very special cherry cheese cake from a local bakery and even had an amazing personal card included. She surprised him when it was delivered. He was really, really happy about this. When I think back about regrets (I have a few), I think about how I didn't do as much as I could have for that birthday. Now, I know he knew I loved him and I know he remembered all the other birthday parties. I just wish if I had a do over - I would have done something a bit more special. Sometimes it takes losing someone or something to realize what you should have or could have done. Whew!!! I am glad that I realized this BEFORE I wrote off Sebastian's birthday plans this year. And with that - the Mine Craft party planning begins!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Skipping = Happiness for Sebastian

I was just reading this blog post -An Inch of Gray - and it reminded me of something I have been wanting to write about because I just don't want to forget it. Sebastian does this thing when he is happy. He skips! I have stood back at Walt Disney World and seen him skip off to the line with Savannah. I have caught him skipping as he goes from one activity to the next at Kid Kamp. I smiled as he skipped his way down to the beach when we were there in May. I have never been able to catch him with my camera because it is sporadic and never really planned. He reminds me of Tigger! You know how Tigger hops everywhere because he is full of joy! It does this amazing thing with my heart when I see him skipping around. It takes a bit of the pain I am feeling and it pushes it far, far away and gives me this amazing feeling of love and happiness. All from something as simple as watching him skip from place to place!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

For I know the plans I have for you...

Sometimes I think God sends you to exactly where you are supposed to be. A sweet friend, Toni, asked me to come over and look through some homeschool books today. I probably haven't seen Toni in two years and was a bit surprised to see she had invited me to her house. Honestly, I didn't know what or if I needed any books, but I wanted to go simply because she asked me. She was talking about a family that lost their 21 year old daughter a few weeks back and this other family that lost their little girl earlier this year. Then sh was talking about her struggle with cancer among other struggles. Then she says it - IT - Jeramiah 29:11 to me, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Now, I am not very good at bible verses. I have an awful time remembering them and it really just is not my thing. This was one of the first verses I ever learned and if I had a life verse (which I don't) there was a time - I would have said this was it. I used to say this verse a lot when I was finding faith in my life. Just at a time when I was questioning why we were leaving FL and why Timmy was going to the Army and why my nice neat life was changing so much.  When Timmy died - I sorta hated that verse. It made me want to SCREAM - "NOT HARM ME - WHAT THE HECK DO YOU THINK TAKING MY SON HAS DONE TO ME?" and then the part about "hope and a future - ummm... where the heck is my son's future?" I know some people will not ever say they question the wisdom. It is like taboo to say - but I am so beyond caring what anyone thinks - so I question lots of things. Toni was so amazing today when she said sometimes it is just SO HARD! Sometimes you are just mad at God! She said it without any judgement at all, just pure truth of somebody that understands sometimes life stinks! She was like sometimes this is so very hard to believe. It was so nice to hear somebody else say these things and then say I am going to have faith - even if I am angry and even if it is hard. I felt like I was just supposed to be there with her today and I am so thankful that God put me in the exact place I needed to be today. And... some days I get it, but I know it is okay if I don't. God understands.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Timothy Neil Clayton II
March 5, 1989 - May 14, 2010

Death... it changes you. The first time I remember dealing with death was when my mom's best friend died. I remember my mom answering the phone and hearing the pain in her voice. I am not sure how old I was, but I remember seeing her standing there and I knew something was terribly wrong. When I was 8, my grandma died. I loved my grandma in some way, but not in the way my kids love my mom. I was sad she died, but more sad for my mom that her mom had died. I was terrified of going to the funeral and tried to give myself a fever by staying buried under my covers. I saw ghost faces on my door at night and was in general just freaked out. When I was 15, my sister, Michelle's baby Daniel died when he was 4 months old. He was born with heart defects and he never was able to come home from the hospital. Again, I wasn't very attached to this precious little baby, but my heart ached for my sister. I remember going to his funeral and seeing his tiny body in a tiny casket and thinking I can't believe my sister hasn't lost all her marbles. It was so very wrong. I remember watching my dad sob over the loss of his grandson. I hurt for my dad. I hurt for my sister. I hurt for our family, but I was still somewhat detached. When I was 23, I had a miscarriage. I was devastated. I wanted my baby back. Every part of me hurt and ached to hold my baby in my arms. I didn't understand and I grieved and I hoped to one day have another baby. Years went by - all of which my dad was very ill. The Mayo Clinic said he could die today, tomorrow or years from now. Nobody really knew. When I was 26, my dad was set to have more foot surgery (he had ulcers on his feet). It should have been routine. It wasn't. He died. Just like that - after 9 years of plugging along - a fairly easy surgery and he dies. I remember telling each one of my siblings that he had died. I remember telling my dad's siblings he had died. Nobody tells you that it sucks to tell people you love that your dad has died. My mom, as always, held it together. I get my hysterics from my dad's side of the family. I felt numb when my dad died. I was pregnant with Savannah and all I could think was he was never going to meet my baby girl. I really wanted him to know who she was. I wanted him to be proud of me and see my beautiful family. When I was 31, my best friend and my sister-in-law, Debi, was murdered. This death was the hardest for me at the time. I could not and would not accept that this was okay. I fought it with my mind and my soul. It hurt so much. I loved this person and we were friends and we shared so much and she was so good. She was like up there with Mother Teresa as far as being one of the most kindest and loving people ever. She didn't deserve to die. I struggled. I hurt and I hid it. I didn't talk about her death and how much I was hurting to many people. I just couldn't even say the words. It was just too difficult. I started this blog - to focus on the many blessings I had. It helped and slowly - so very slowly - I began to not hurt so much. When I was 38, my son died. Dear God... I have tried. I have tried to focus on my children and my blessings and I see them. I know they are there. I will never be the same. I will never not hurt. I will never not feel this ache that rocks me to the core. Nothing will ever compare to this. I have spent the last week going over and over things in my mind. Am I supposed to be past this? Am I supposed to be done grieving? Do I enable my children to have a crutch in their brother's death? Do I focus too much on Timmy being gone? The truth is I don't know. I don't know the answer to those questions anymore than I know the answer to WHY!!!!??? WHY!!!!!???? WHY!!!!???? little baby boys are born and never get to come home from the hospital or why miscarriages happen or why parents die young or why loving mothers are taken from their children or why, GOD, why did you take my sweet, sweet boy? I don't know. I can't answer that. I can say with all certainty that death changes you. It changes your family. It changes every thing in your life. It can fill you with fear and guilt and uncertainty. It makes you doubt all the things you thought you knew. It makes your children vulnerable. It makes them fearful and insecure. And that makes you feel like a lousy parent because more than anything in this world you want your children to feel happy. So, my best guess is that we are right where we are supposed to be. There is no timetable for this. There is no magic potion. Some people will understand and others will get tired of the same old song. I will make no apologies for my family. I will not expect my children to get over, get past, get around the loss of their brother. He was a damn good brother and they loved him. When my husband asks me to take a photo of Timmy off my facebook because it is killing him to see him staring back at him - I will do it even though it is killing me to take that photo down. I do this because I understand that we are all fighting our own battle. I understand that it is painful and ongoing and long. Death changes you... there is no sugar coating it. The only blessing in that is that some how, some way, I still believe that some day I will understand and there will be no more tears.