Monday, December 14, 2009

Elementary, My Dear Lunchtime...

Today's {W}rite of Passage challenge is to spend 15 minutes writing about our elementary school lunch.

My mom was not an early riser. Some of my friend's moms would get up at 6am to cook breakfast for their kids and box them up a delicious, healthy lunch. Our breakfast consisted of cereal, or toast & peanut butter, that we prepared for ourselves in the morning. Mom was usually up in time to kiss us good-bye, but we're pretty sure that she went back to bed after we left.

My elementary school cafeteria was in the basement. The floor was that very dark gray, institutional concrete, and the walls were orange. Yes, orange. My brothers and I usually bought the school lunch. Sometimes it was good (pizza), and sometimes it was barely edible (mystery meat). The biggest problem for me was fish day. I have a fish and seafood allergy, so when the school was serving fish, I would have to ask the lunch lady to make me a pb&j. It was kind of embarrassing, and she usually laid the peanut butter on so thick that it would take me several seconds after taking a bite to be able to open my mouth.

A classmate of mine who had one of the more industrious moms usually brought a peanut butter sandwich with, not jelly, but a white substance. I didn't know what it was. One day I said to her, "Oh, you have peanut butter and cheese again?" She looked at me incredulously. I can still hear her mocking tone as she replied:

"Peanut butter and CHEESE?! It's not cheese, it's marshmallow fluff!"

I didn't know what marshmallow fluff was at that early point in my life, but I tried it soon afterward. It certainly tasted better than peanut butter and cheese, which I had tried as an after-school snack prior to learning that my classmate's sandwich was otherwise composed.

After lunch, we would have outside time on the playground. Our principal would lead a kickball game every afternoon, and I usually participated in that since the kids were less likely to pick on me under direct adult supervision. When I could get outside quickly enough, though, I would claim the large jump rope. There was only one, and the playground toys were handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, and if I wasn't the first one out, I did not get to participate in jump-rope. If I had it, though, the other girls had to let me play.

When it was raining, recess would be held inside the cafeteria. The tables would be moved to the sides of the room and the teachers and lunch ladies would come up with activities for us. Looking back, I don't know who hated inside recess more, the kids or the adults. The cafeteria was loud enough when the kids were eating. On those rainy days, though, the sound would become an almost unbearable cacophony of kids' voices at varying decibels.

When after-lunch recess was over, whether indoor or outdoor, we would all line up by class and file back in for an afternoon of learning. I was usually relieved to get back to the relative quiet of the classroom, after the social pressures of lunch and playground time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Neighbor-Lady

I stumbled across "the {W}rite-of-Passage" blog with today's challenge, thanks to a fellow KellyMom and Facebook friend. The assignment is to observe someone you don't know, then write a short essay about them. Meet "The Neighbor-Lady."

I see her taking her morning walk when I am driving in the car, bringing my daughter to daycare or heading out to the grocery store. She is elderly, perhaps in her late 60's or early 70's, and walks with a cane. She lives in the brown house at the end of the street. She gives out treats at Halloween, and she has a lovely Christmas tree in her window from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day. The elderly gentleman, her husband, mows the lawn in the summer, using a riding mower, and puts out the flag on patriotic holidays, and on 9/11. It's not a huge lawn, but I can imagine how strenuous it would be for an older man to walk behind a mower in the sweltering Mississippi summer.

When she was younger, she used to chase her children around that lawn. The oldest, Mary-Elizabeth, wasn't much of a runner, preferring instead to stick to the swings and the slide in the backyard but the two boys, John Dennis and Bubba Lee, would wear her out in half-an-hour just trying to keep up with them! She hadn't wanted David to have a nickname, but he was so roly-poly when he was born that everyone took to calling him "Bubba Lee," and it stuck. A nickname like Bubba is hard to shrug off in the South. He had lived up to it, too. At 14, he refused to go to church for the first time.

"Momma," he declared one Sunday morning in May,
"I jes' don't believe the way that you and Daddy do."

The rest of the family went to church without him, but she cried during the service.

That was only the beginning of the trouble with Bubba Lee. A month after his stand against the Gospel, Bubba Lee managed to sneak himself into his sister's graduation party. It was only supposed to be for seniors, but if there was a party going on, Bubba was sure to be there. He stole the Vodka from his father's liquor cabinet, and smuggled it into the party in green glass Sprite bottles. When Mary-Elizabeth heard someone yell "Bubba, NO!" and saw the crowd gather, her heart sank. She had warned her brother to stay away, that this was her night and she didn't want him ruining it for her, but he hadn't listened. Resigned, she walked over to where the crowd was gathered and told the chaperones,

"I'm sorry, I'll take him home now."

She was relieved to see that the other boy appeared uninjured. She grilled Bubba on the way home about what had happened, but he didn't speak a word, preferring instead to give her his famous silent treatment.

She managed to get him into the house without waking her father, but her mother heard the commotion. She didn't say a word, but Bubba saw the sad, disappointed look in her eyes as he passed her in the hallway. He knew that she would spend the rest of the night crying, and praying for his soul. He didn't protest when she woke him at eight the next morning and asked him to mow the lawn and re-paint the trim on the shed. The incident of the previous night was not mentioned, but they both knew that she was the one person who kept him from real trouble. The thought of disappointing his mother, more than anything else, deterred him from more heinous crimes.

He was constantly in trouble. He would drink whenever he could get his hands on alcohol. HIs mother finally persuaded his father not to keep any liquor in the house any more - no lock or hiding place could deter Bubba from getting at it. When he drank, he became belligerent, and wasn't satisfied until he had gotten into a fight. Since he was naturally clumsy, he almost always looked worse than the objects of his attacks. No one ever pressed charges, but he neglected his schoolwork to the point that he was barely scraping by. He finally did graduate high school, though he had to repeat his Junior year.

The day after graduation, his parents sat him down to find out what his plans for the future might be.

"The way I see it Son," his father began, "you have two options. You can either get yerself a job, or you can join the Army."

His mother, tears in her eyes, nodded in agreement. "David," she pleaded, "I jes' can't watch you destroyin' yerself any more. It's breakin' my heart!"

Bubba's eyes were shining too, but he would not let himself cry. "All right Momma, I'll go down to the recruitin' office in the mornin'. No one in this town will hire me, after all the trouble I been in."

Two weeks later, Bubba got on the bus to Boot Camp. She didn't see him for two years, but he returned a changed man. Gone was the hard-drinking, hard-fighting boy that she had hugged good-bye. In his place was a stranger. He was clean-shaven and very handsome in his Army uniform. The Army had disciplined the rebellion out of him.

"Momma," he said as he hugged her, "I'm goin' to church again. Th'only book they allowed us in Boot Camp was the Bible, and readin' beat the heck outta not readin'. After readin' it for a while, it jes' started to make sense."

That was one of the happiest days of her life, one of the many that she thinks about on her daily walks.


Baker's Acres Louisville, MS - Lights OUT this year!

Last year my husband, 2-yr-old, and I made a wonderful, accidental discovery. Baker's Acres in Louisville, MS is a beautiful display of Christmas lights that the Baker family has been putting up for years. It is just outside of town on Rt. 15. Last night, after building up the excitement all day, my hubby & I bundled ourselves and our now 3-year-old daughter into the car and drove the 40 miles to see it again, only to be disappointed. They have not turned on the lights this year. Please do not make the trek...

Maybe it will be back next year? Here's hoping...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Motherhood, Infertility, and Indecision– My Personal Journey

I’ve been writing this post in my head for about a week now… Basically it’s about my journey into motherhood, and through a year of infertility, and moving forward with a decision about whether to keep trying or not.

I married late, at 34. Though we always wanted children, Rob and I decided to use birth control for the first few months of our marriage, so that we could get to know each other as husband and wife before adding a baby to the mix. When we had been married for about 5 months, we stopped using birth control. 5 months after that, on Oct 1, 2005, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I was SO happy and excited! I remember the date because it is my brother’s birthday. 2 months later, my husband and I learned that the 2 embryos I was carrying – yes, twins – were not viable, and I was miscarrying. That was probably the most difficult thing I’ve lived through. I mourned for the babies that would never be born.

Two months after that, in January of 2006, I learned that I was pregnant again. I was not as excited this time, in fact Rob and I were very apprehensive, after what we had been through with the first pregnancy. I had some spotting early on, and I was terrified of losing this baby, too. We saw her heartbeat when I was only 7 weeks into my pregnancy, and we relaxed just a little. Once I got through the “danger zone” of the 1st trimester, we relaxed even more, but we did invest in a heartbeat monitor rental from a mail-order company, so that we could listen for her heartbeat at home. On September 16, 2006, Grace Marie was born. This amazing little person changed our lives forever – our hearts are still so full of love for her, and we are continually blessed and astounded at her growth and development, and at the person she is becoming.

For a while, we were content with our baby girl. Right after she turned 2 years old, we decided that we would be willing to have another child, if God should so bless us. So in October of 2008, we again ceased using birth control. After that, I expected every month that this would be the month. About a week before the start of my cycle, I would feel bloated, a bit nauseated, and hungry – very, very hungry. I thought – every month – surely, I am pregnant. Then – every month – my period would come. It starts with a little spotting – but not much. “Well,” I would think, “It could be implantation spotting…” but it never was. Over a year later, I am still not pregnant. Rob and I had said initially that we would give it until the end of this year. I turned 39 in November, and I do not relish the thought of being pregnant at 40 or beyond. As we approach the end of the year with just one child, we are still trying to process what to do. We recognize that it’s now or never. With 40 fast approaching (for me) and 45 hitting on New Year’s Eve (for Rob), we know that if we start using birth control again, that’s it. No more kids for us. There are pro’s and con’s to having another one, there always were. But the older I get, the higher the stakes are. Neither of us is interested in fertility treatments – it’s either meant to be or it’s not, and God does not need fertility treatments to “help” him. For those of you who are using them, I certainly respect your choice and I don’t have any problems with them in general, it is just not the right path for us.

Also for those of you who don’t have children, I can just hear your thoughts…”be glad you have the one…it could be worse.” You are right, I recognize your pain and I do not diminish it in any way.

I have a few close friends who have struggled with infertility.

One who has always loved children and has spent nearly her whole life ministering to them. A few years into her marriage, she had ovarian cysts and at least one ovary removed, and was medically unable to have children. She adopted a troubled 9 year old, poured her life, energy, love, and prayer into him, and he is now a marine.

One who, like me, married late – at 38, I think. She also always wanted children. After a year of trying to get pregnant, she and her husband decided to pursue adoption. After the home study was done and they were well into the process, she learned that she was pregnant, and she now has a little girl about a year younger than Grace is. They are again pursuing adoption, for a second child.

One who married much earlier than I did, but decided to wait to have children until quite recently. I am not sure where she is in her journey but I pray that God will bless her with a child.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a young girl that I know who became pregnant as a result of being drugged and assaulted. She is choosing to carry the child to term and is trying to decide whether to give the baby up for adoption, or to keep her. She did not choose to be pregnant, but she is.

It is not for me to say why God gives and takes away, but it is difficult to understand Him sometimes.

I am very thankful for the child that I have. I am just disappointed and surprised that, after being pregnant twice before, I have been unable to conceive this past year. I am confused about what to do. All of my reasons for not having another child seem selfish – no more diapers, since Grace is finally (mostly) potty trained. No more sleepless nights, since she almost always sleeps through now. Nearly everything is easier with a 3 year old than it is with an infant. She can communicate her wants and needs clearly. She can do many things independently. There is also the financial aspect – I have been blessed to be home with her until this point. Being a graduate student has given me the freedom to raise her, rather than having to send her to daycare. We would likely not have that luxury with a second child – our finances are crying out for me to find a teaching job next fall. Then there is the fear. Fear of another miscarriage. Fear of having twins. Fear of being “old parents.”

Rob has said it’s ultimately my decision to make, since I would have to be the one getting up in the middle of the night and doing most of the child care. He is a full-time tenure track professor now, he does not and will not have the same amount of time and energy that he devoted to Grace should we have another child.

If you’ve made it this far… thanks. Your thoughts and comments are welcome. I leave you still undecided…