lesson learned…

April 19th, 2011

Now that we live in Florida, we are in the land of beautiful weather 90% of the time. I will not lie. It is fabulous. My girls and I have been cold every day of our lives so the climate here is perfect for us. Luckily, I am a Southerner by birth so I know how to deal with heat and humidity. One of the cardinal rules is that unless you are up to your neck in a body of water you stay indoors during the heat of the day. For those of you who are not Southern, that means that from 1 until 3:30 you should park your behind in the A/C.

We live in a close neighborhood and many of the children at our elementary school live within just a few blocks of the school grounds. Naturally there is a large percentage of the parents who walk their children to and from school each day. Our house is just under a mile from the school. It is too far for us. We walk to the playground there on weekends but during the week it is just too much. Laura still has short legs and she tends to dilly dally whenever we go anywhere. That would make getting to school on time torture for all of us. I gave away my jogging stroller about a year ago and I refuse to buy another one. Our girls are just starting to master their bikes so they are not quite ready to handle riding through a crowd of parents and daydreaming children to get to school. I have said all of this ad nauseum. I have also explained that Laura and I not only have to walk home from school but we have to walk to school and back. When it is cooler in the fall we can walk with no problem. But right now, 2 miles in the hottest part of the day is a LONG way for a 4 year old…and her mommy….

So we drive through the car line instead. In the afternoons Laura and I wait in line in the van. We roll the windows down and turn the van off so we’re not just idling. I read my book and she plays with her toys or watches a movie. It is kind of a rest time for both of us, especially since Laura has recently given up her nap.

But lately Abigail has been BEGGING me to walk home from school. Relentless and unashamed begging. Please? Please. Please! Please? PLEASE??  For the love of all that is good in this world may we PLEASE walk home from school today???????

This morning I said yes. Abigail almost fell out of her chair. I decided that if she’s not going to believe her mother then she can learn for herself.

Laura loaded up some dolls in her little stroller. I grabbed sunglasses for everyone and we hit the road. It took Laura and I just over 20 minutes to make our way to the school. We got there in plenty of time for Hattie and Abigail’s dismissal. A few goodbyes later we headed for home. Our route wanders in and out of the shade but at that time of day a good portion is pure sun. 87 degrees of Florida sun bearing down. I didn’t say a word. My shiny arms spoke for themselves. Abigail did not complain once about the heat. She knew better.

By the time we got home, I was sweating like some kind of farm animal with a gland problem. Ick. The girls stripped down to their skivvies and in their overly dramatic fashion were taking turns in front of the open refrigerator door. I kept my big trap shut. Some things are better left unsaid.

I’ll be patiently waiting in the car line tomorrow afternoon…and you can bet that Abigail won’t mind at all…

ticket to ride…

April 11th, 2011

A dear friend of mine from high school passed away this morning. He had battled an aggressive cancer for over a decade and his passing is truly a blessing. As I called each of our gang to spread the heavy news, a bevy of feelings, memories and emotions began to resurface.

When I started high school I was leaving the awfulness of junior high behind and trying to start fresh. At my new school, I was lucky enough to meet a group of friends that accepted me warts and all. Daniel was one of that group. He was the epitome of acceptance. He was one of those people that was friends with everyone. We had study hall together my sophomore year and it was great. He was a good listener and I never felt judged. He was also a huge pain in the ass. We were in high school. Everyone was a huge pain in some one’s ass at one time or another. It’s the law.

At one point, Daniel left my high school to attend another across town. We were in and out of touch after that but each time we were together it was as if we picked up exactly where we left off. He remained on the list of “Friends You Can Call at 2 in the Morning No Matter What”.

As his cancer waged its heinous and unrelenting war, his smile never faded. He graduated from law school and passed the bar during breaks from treatment. He didn’t complain and didn’t let any of us know how badly he was feeling. He always asked about my children and put everyone else first. A true fighter. A few years ago, I saw him play guitar with a couple of guys from high school and he looked like he had won the lottery. He was so full of life. How interesting that the one of us with the most to bitch about was the happiest to be there. A great night that I will never forget.

I’ve often heard the comment “he went too soon” in reference to someone dying. While it was not too soon for Daniel to be released from his cancerous purgatory, it was too soon for a sweet, smart friend who at 35 never got his ticket to enter the adult amusement park. Rest in peace my dear friend…and enjoy the rides…

Mother Nature 1 : Donovans 0

March 28th, 2011

Last night we had a storm. A real frog strangler. It lasted over 2 hours and it has done… us… in.

Let me start by telling you that I can fall asleep almost anywhere at almost any time. My head doesn’t even have to be horizontal.  But I have never been able to sleep on Christmas Eve or when it is storming. One flash of lightning or rumble of thunder and my eyelids fly up like a roller shade from a slap stick sitcom. The house I grew up in had these wooden shutters on the outside and they always banged on the house during storms. Wind would whip around between the screen door and front door and I swear it whistled like a freight train. So terrified Anna Kate went running to get in bed with her parents all the way through high school. Yep. That’s right. High school. Apparently I’m not afraid to admit that…

Now I am no longer terrified but I still wake up and am unable to go back to sleep until the storm is over. Fortunately Abigail and Hattie nestle themselves so deep in their beds that they are able to sleep through most weather. We even had to wake Abigail up once during a tornado siren. Laura, on the other hand, is always looking for an excuse to get in our bed so she’s a light sleeper by habit.

Last night the rumbling started about 3am. I, of course, was awake at once trying to get my bearings and figure out what was going on. Robert was comatose on his side of the bed. The storm rumbled on for about 30 minutes before the first house shaking clap of thunder hit the neighborhood. That was immediately followed by what sounded like a herd of elephants coming up the steps into our bedroom. Let me be the first to inform you that a queen sized bed is not large enough for 2 parents, 3 children and a neurotic dog. Much less the blankies and dolls that couldn’t be left alone during such a horrible storm. Ten minutes later we had finally figured out where all the arms and legs should go and made a safe place at the end of the bed for the non-breathing necessities. It was hot and cramped. We were packed in like sardines.

Abigail, being the independent “I’m not a baby anymore” girl that she is, got over her fear within a few minutes and decided that she would rather suffer alone in her own bed. Hattie stayed until the worst of the storm had passed. Laura had cemented herself between me and Robert and was there for the duration. Of…the…night…

Sam, our 13 year old nut job of a dog, usually goes insane during storms keeping Robert and me awake hours after it has ended. Somehow he managed to sleep soundly through all of the commotion last night. He only contributed to the brouhaha for a moment when he barked out loud in his sleep. Go figure.

EVENTUALLY everyone got back to sleep for an hour or so before the alarm clocks started to buzz.

The effects of the interrupted night are evident. Sluggish movement, black rings under the eyes, twisted tongue, lackluster spirit. And that’s just me! The girls look pitiful. I was a little relieved to see the same glazed over expressions on most of the moms, teachers and children at Laura’s school this morning. It was a rough night in Sarasota!

So tonight the defeated Donovans will all be having leftovers for dinner and going to bed early. Except for Sam. He’ll have to turn out the lights…

…a sad state of affairs…

February 16th, 2011

Something happened today that I must write about. I cannot help myself.

First a little bit of history…

For those of you who are not up to speed on the SEC, Toomer’s Corner is the cherished celebration site at Auburn University. It is comprised of a large intersection anchored by Toomer’s Drug store. There are several huge oak trees opposite the drug store and the tradition is to roll the trees at Toomer’s with toilet paper. The drug store and oaks have both been there since before the earth cooled and the tradition is long standing. (Auburn historians please forgive any errors – I’m doing the best I can.) I know it is rolled after football wins. I’m not sure about other events although I’m sure they exist.

Today news broke that someone put a lethal dose of herbicide all around the base of the 130 year old oak trees with the intention of killing them. The prognosis for the trees is not good. The culprit even called in to a nationally syndicated radio show to brag. I cannot believe that any “fan” would do such a thing.

I am a die hard Alabama fan. I will be for the rest of my life. Auburn is my team’s #1 rival. I understand getting wrapped up in the crowd at the game. I can imagine screaming the fight song after a hard fought win. Been there. Done that. I get so engrossed that I yell at the TV. In my own living room. Hundreds of miles from any player, coach or referee that might possibly hear my plea. But I cannot fathom planning the malicious destruction of anything belonging to the “other team”. What would possibly drive a person that far? And just what would they accomplish? I am at a loss. Comprehension of this is beyond my reach. At the end of the day, even though I am a committed fan, my allegiance to my team is pretty low on the totem pole. There are so many things in my life and in this world that are more important.

To all Auburn fans, I am so sorry that some idiot attacked your sacred stomping grounds. There is no acceptable explanation or excuse. Please do not lump all other fans in the same category as this jackwagon of a criminal. The vast majority of us wouldn’t even dream up such a horrible deed.

…and be sure to roll ’em while you got ’em…

water logged….

January 30th, 2011

A few weeks ago we had a downpour during afternoon carpool. No real biggie but it did create a few issues. First, there were 4 times as many cars in the line. The weather is nice most of the school year here and our zone covers a small geographical area so most parents walk their children to school. But on deluge day we all drive. Second, the extra drivers seem to have no idea how the line works. They just pull their Tahoeburbans in the lot and stop short blocking the entire school driveway. Or they create parking spaces where there are none and, once again, block the entire driveway. Or (my personal favorite) they pull in the driveway designated for the school buses…and, you guessed it, block the whole driveway. They pass right past the  g i a n t  red sign declaring that the driveway is only for buses. I should say the series of signs. There are at least 3. I guess they think that since they could fit the entire 4th grade in the back of their vehicle that the sign doesn’t apply to them. If they saw the look on the bus driver’s faces, their misconception of world domination would be short lived. But I digress.

Another issue is that the rain and extra cars slow down the line considerably. Not a problem for me…we just go home after school. Apparently everyone else in line has somewhere very important to be 2 minutes after the bell rings. They are in a hurry. And they are impatient. You would think that parents picking up their children at the elementary school would be exceptionally aware of their surroundings. Nope. They will drive their car over a curb or jump in front of someone else in a heartbeat if it means they can move up one space in the line. Its like a roller derby out there. Ridiculous. I think most of these parents would be appalled if they watched a video of themselves. I know I would.

Despite these minor aggravations, I picked up the girls with no problem that day and headed for home. Then I saw the most ludicrous thing. There was a mom in an enormous SUV driving down the street in front of the school. This SUV made my van look like it was built for ants. The lady was sitting 15 feet off the ground. Her car had what I call the beefy package. The wheels had been super-sized and the whole thing had been jacked up about 6 feet. She probably needed an extension ladder to get in. Yet she was doing everything she could to avoid a puddle that was maybe ankle deep. I kid you not. Moments earlier, another mom and her two sons had successfully walked through the puddle with no difficulties. They weren’t even wearing rain boots. The woman in the SUV was on the wrong side of the road craning her neck to make sure she was clear of the water. She was so terrified to drive her monstrous car through the tiny pool of water that she held up a line of cars spanning  the length of the entire elementary school. (She didn’t seem too concerned with this fact. Not one…little…bit.) Really? What could the explanation have been? She didn’t want the tires to get wet? She was afraid of flooding the engine? Surely not – the engine was in a different zip code from the puddle. Do you know what SUVs were originally made for? They were mostly made for hunting. For slogging through the muddy woods with dead animals strapped to the front. I promise that they can handle a puddle. They can also manage to cross speed bumps faster than 2 mph without coming apart. It cracked me up. I literally laughed all the way home. People amaze me.

…nap no more…

January 19th, 2011

We are at a crossroads with Laura. No big surprise there. With three children the odds are pretty good that at least one of them is in a transitional phase of some sort. Laura happens to be at the intersection of Nap and None. It is time. She is 4 and is quickly approaching the point of no longer needing a nap. A sad fact for Mom indeed…

Abigail gave up her nap on her own at age 3. I was not happy with that but we made do with mandatory “rest time”. Some days that led to a nap but more often it was just a little quiet time for everyone. Hattie stopped taking a nap out of necessity when she started kindergarten. If she could get away with a nap at school she would totally do it. She is the first one asleep at night and the one most likely to fall asleep on the sofa in the afternoon. She gets that from me. Unfortunately she is also the first one awake. At the crack… of… dawn. She does NOT get that from me. But I digress…

Now we find ourselves at the nap crossroads with Laura. She still needs the rest but is starting to resist. If I am able to get her to take that precious siesta she is fun to be with the remainder of the afternoon but fights going to bed for a  l o n g  time. If she does not take a nap, she is a beast. She is tired, whiny, clingy, cranky, whiny, grumpy, short tempered, whiny, annoying and even more impatient than usual. It is agonizing. But bed time is a breeze. No talking. No requests for water. No procrastinating. No questions. No nothing. Just sweet sleep as soon as her little head hits the pillow. It is a lose – lose situation for the whole family. You can pay now or pay later but whatever your choice, you will pay.

We know that Laura will eventually pick a path and move forward yet again. She will adjust to staying awake all day and learn to avoid the trail of the ogre that appears every afternoon at 4:00. Let’s just hope there is a long stretch of road before the next intersection…Mom and Dad need a nap!

tales from the derm…

December 20th, 2010

We started the first real day of Christmas break with a trip to the dermatologist this morning. YEA! Abigail has been having a couple of issues and we were due for a follow-up visit. She had some bumps on her knee removed a few weeks ago and today we were facing the removal of one on her chin.

Let me begin by telling you that Abigail does not handle shots well. It started three years ago with a flu shot…the least painful injection in the universe. Out of nowhere, Abigail wedged herself behind the exam table at the pediatrician’s office and tried to throw a chair at the nurse. My skinny little girl has a LOT of strength when someone is coming at her with a needle. I was stymied and mortified all at once. Between me and the nurse we were finally able to get the shot. Abigail’s blood pressure tanked and the nausea began. The nausea was followed by many hours of complaining, wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth…it was a day-long ordeal.

Since then, we have had several chances to discuss ways to remain calm during doctor visits. Abigail is old enough to understand the importance of vaccinations and the like but that doesn’t mean that she is over her phobia. She has been very lucky with the invention of the flu mist. She has also reached the age where she doesn’t have to get a shot every time she goes for a check up. Nonetheless, we have worked on taking deep breaths and trying to calm her mind so she doesn’t get so worked up.

Today our practice was put to the test because bump removal requires more invasive action than a simple flu mist. To our advantage, our dermatologist also has a 4th grade daughter so she is very in tune with how Abigail thinks. She looked at the bump on Abigail’s chin and explained that it had to go. She also promised a less painful experience than the last time. Abigail was not happy about all of this but she took the news well and was using some of her new coping skills to stay in the chair and remain calm. She asked the doctor if she could see the tool she was going to use. It was a small extractor with a scalpel on one end. I was praying that Abigail wouldn’t see it. But the doctor made a deal that Abigail could see it beforehand but she couldn’t back out of having the bump removed. Abigail reluctantly agreed and it seemed like we were going to breeze through this visit. The doctor held up the tool and Abigail stared at it for a few seconds. Deep breath – all was okay. Or so I thought…

At that exact moment, Hattie, who had been quietly reading her book the whole time, looks up and announces “Boy, that sure does look SHARP!” Are you kidding me? Really? REALLY?? The doctor and I glared at Hattie like it was our job…she quickly shut her mouth and went back to her reading. Meanwhile, Abigail’s blood pressure hit rock bottom. What little color she had in her face had been replaced with a light tinge of green. The clock was ticking toward full stomach upheaval. With swift precision the doctor removed the minuscule bumps from Abigail’s chin and we began the recovery process. It took longer to get over it than the time it took to wait for and see the doctor. All of that hard work reversed in less than 2 seconds. We were so close to a perfect visit only to be sabotaged by the 7 year old.

By mid afternoon, Abigail had forgotten all about the doctors visit. She will forget until the next time she has to see a doctor. I can safely say that before the next visit we will have to practice her deep breathing just to get out of the car and into the building. I think I’ll get Hattie a babysitter….

warranty expired…

December 9th, 2010

Yesterday while doing a little Christmas shopping, I had to make a big purchase for myself. A new mixer. My old one lasted 13 years with no complaint. I have made countless cakes, batches of bread dough, bowls of mashed potatoes, dozens of cookies, icing, whipped cream and beaten about a thousand egg whites all with nary a cross word from the mixer. Much to my dismay, the bellyaching began about 6 months ago. It started with a faint whine that got louder and louder until it sounded like I was mixing ball bearings in the bowl. I was relieved that the mixer limped through Thanksgiving pies and potatoes but when it came time to make cupcakes for Hattie’s birthday, my beloved Kitchen Aid had taken all the abuse it could stand. The only two remaining speeds were “one foot in the grave” and “beat the heck out of it”. Thanks to a birthday gift from my in-laws, I set out to replace my mixer. I loved the original so much that I picked the same model in a different color. If you’re shopping for a mixer, the Kitchen Aid is worth every penny. But I digress…

While standing in the L O N G line of impatient Christmas shoppers waiting to pay I had the thought, “We sure have bought a lot of appliances in the last few years.” Which brings me to my point. When you are a newlywed staring lovingly at all of your new kitchen appliances, no one tells you to enjoy them while they last. A little pearl of wisdom left on the strand…much like many of the truths about birthing and raising children. Anyway, the day after our 10 year wedding anniversary our warranty ran out. On everything. First it was the toaster. Then the hand mixer. Then the blender. To be completely honest, the coffee maker went first but I don’t think slinging the coffee pot into the wall to its demise while trying to catch yourself after tripping over a gigantic dog counts as “appliance failure”. Just trying to be fair…

The rest of the little appliances failed on their own along with a few of their larger relatives. I, of course, enjoyed picking out replacements and upgrading as our budget would allow. But I still did not think it was fair that they all chose to quit working all within the span of a few years.

So just a little advice to all of you newly married folk: enjoy your new things while you can…and save up…inflation is a bitch…

passing the torch…

December 7th, 2010

A couple of years ago, my in-laws started the American Girl tradition at our house. Abigail got her doll for a birthday present. Addie quickly became a member of the family. At that time, we made it clear to Hattie and Laura that an American Girl is something you don’t get until you’re a little older.

Hattie has waited patiently for 2 years. Last week, her grandmother promised her an American Girl for her birthday. Amanda arrived today. Hattie had just endured her 7 year old check up complete with a finger prick and a shot this afternoon. She had no idea that the box she had been waiting for was in the play room. Imagine her surprise! (The shot miraculously stopped hurting the moment she saw the box!)

The furious unwrapping of little boxes was over in a flash. Typical of any 4 year old in this situation, Laura was not happy. The truth is that while the doll and all of her clothes are fabulous, none of them are hers. She knows that this is Hattie’s birthday present and that she too will someday receive an American Girl doll of her own. But that doesn’t make it better right now.

In a move that shocked me into a stupor, Hattie noticed how Laura was feeling. She went into her room and got the smaller doll that she has played with since Abigail got Addie. She gave it to Laura without blinking an eye. Laura was hesitant at first but when Hattie handed her the dresses for this little doll, Laura was sold. They have decided that Laura’s doll is the little sister of Addie and Amanda. Laura is giddy with glee. I am speechless.

This moment lasted a split second before the girls ran off to play, dolls in tow. But the selflessness lingered. In all the craziness of our life, these are the moments I live for. Those tiny unspoken acts that prove that we might be doing something right!

all tuckered out…

November 29th, 2010

It is 8:10 and I am ready to drag my tired self to bed. Why? Well…

This morning………after making sure everyone was clean, dressed and fed I greeted the A/C repairmen. We have been without A/C or heat for 3 weeks (it’s a long boring story…trust me). Luckily it’s November in Florida and the weather has been more than agreeable. We have had windows and doors open and have managed just fine. Nonetheless, the big trucks pulled in for the day-long task of replacing all the duct work under the house.

With them all squared away, I took the big girls to school. Back home to get Laura ready for school and get myself together for an errand marathon. I forgot to set the coffee pot so I had to stop and get some on the way to preschool. I got Laura settled into her classroom and headed to the DMV. That’s right. The dreaded DMV. I had already gotten my FL drivers license so all I had to do today was get the car tag done before it expires tomorrow. No biggie. My first trip through the line I found out that even though the van is in both mine and Robert’s name, the SC DMV only put his name on the tag form therefore I have to have a copy of his drivers license and his signature (not a copy, the real thing) or a power of attorney (once again not a copy). Not usually that big of a deal. But Robert happens to be in China for the week. Grrr. So the lady behind the counter said to just give her my proof of insurance and she would issue a temporary tag until he gets back. No problem! I had the proof of insurance….on the counter in my kitchen. Seriously. Fortunately I only live about 1.5 miles from the DMV. Back to the house. Squeeze between the A/C trucks and the house. Try not to step on the workmen or their tools. Get the proof of insurance. Back to the DMV. Of course when I got back the line was five times as long as it was the first time I went through. (Apologies to my Birmingham friends who have it way worse in DMV world!)

Now while in line I had the opportunity to people watch. Admittedly a favorite activity but not one I had time for at the moment. Anyway. One man had been “given” a boat by a friend. (Apparently I need new friends.) He did not have any paperwork and could not find the boat’s identification number. He argued with the teller for about 10 minutes until she finally said “COME BACK WHEN YOU FIND THAT NUMBER……..AND BRING THE FRIEND THAT “GAVE” YOU THE BOAT!”

The next young man in line was really confused. He announced to everyone that he was homeless. Then he proceeded to ask the teller if he brought in his roommate would that count as proof of residence?  He even said that he was living in someone’s apartment. Then he repeated the word homeless about 10 times. Apartment = homeless? I don’t think so. He must have been going for sympathy. The woman behind the desk had none. He was there to get a tag for his new BMW.

I finally got my temporary tag and headed to the next destination. Toy Hell. It dawned on me yesterday that while I was trying to enjoy the end of the Thanksgiving holiday that Christmas is a mere 3.5 weeks away. I am NOT prepared. I started on my list last night trying to find the one thing that my husband and I have agreed to get my oldest daughter. (I am not divulging any secrets because she is smarter than I am and if I write it anywhere she will find it.) I do not like Toys R Us. I am not ashamed to say that. I had to go there because it was the only place in town that still had this particular item in stock. I always feel like that store is taking advantage of me because I am a sucker who loves to see her children get something from their list on Christmas. But I got the LAST ONE in Sarasota so I guess the trip was worth it. Score 1, again, for Toys R Us.

Time to get Laura. Fix lunch. Put Laura in her bed. Agree to let her get up without taking a nap since the A/C men were crashing around under the house and she had been yelling at them through the window for at least 30 minutes. She was also announcing the arrival and departure of every repairman that dared darken our driveway. Fix snack. Pick up the big girls from school. Head to the doctor’s office for a follow up visit. Stop by Old Navy on the way to replace Abigail’s school sweater that she lost. Try not to hurt Laura for loudly singing her new song about sticky, sticky bubble gum while I’m talking with the doctor. Try to keep Abigail from throwing up after her appointment (she’s doctor squeamish). Head home. Carry sleeping Laura from the car into the house. Fix dinner. The whole time I’m fielding emails about PTA, calls from my part time job, chats from my unable-to-sleep husband overseas. Finally it is time for the girls to put on their pajamas, brush their teeth and go to BED. Whew.

I am not complaining. Parenthood is hard but rewarding. And most days are not as crazy as today. Tomorrow is grocery and laundry day. Not so bad. The truth is I love my life. I have huge respect for families who juggle full time jobs and parenting. I don’t know if I could do it. Our situation works for us and that is what counts. A sense of humor and a supportive spouse make it all possible. If I couldn’t laugh I would probably go postal.

Just proofreading about today is exhausting. And it starts all over in the morning. I’ll say it again…whew!