We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers. - I Thessalonians 1:2

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Winding Down

The school year is winding down-- five more school days with students and then a half day to tie up loose ends in my classroom, turn in my final grades, and say temporary goodbyes to my coworkers, most of whom I won't see until August. It has been a fun year and a trying year.

I started off fresh from an 8 month maternity leave only to have my immune system attacked by strep throat, a stomach virus, and the plain ol' flu, all within the span of two and a half weeks. All of that left me able to nurse and/or pump twice a day, and that sudden decrease threw me into a several weeks long hormonal hell. For pain relief at that time, I took a lot of NSAIDS, caused a small ulcer, healed that ulcer by just dealing with the pain and avoiding acidic food (including coffee, my love), and finally brought an end to all things digestive with the determination of an egg intolerance. While I can still enjoy eggs in baked goods and pasta recipes that use them, I can no longer eat omelets, Egg McMuffins, or my daily scrambled egg (what used to be my breakfast along with steel-cut oats each morning). Throw in a few days of jury duty on top of all the other things a teacher has to deal with, and yes, it does become a trying year.

Sidenote: I've been feeling GREAT since the ulcer healed and I cut eggs out of my diet more than two months ago.

But now? Now it is almost over. My students are wrapping up final projects, I've been spending a lot of evenings with Cate and Brennan outside walking and blowing bubbles and chalking up the sidewalk, and my summer reading list is ever expanding as I discover new titles daily (currently reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and am enjoying it). I also finally rejoined my profession's professional organization (NCTE) and am looking forward to some good reading from the journals I re-subscribed to (I let my membership lapse shortly after Cate was born).

We spent the holiday weekend at my parents' house. Actually, I headed to a small college town an hour away from my parents' town last Thursday and Friday for the Power of the Pen State Tournament. The team I co-coach placed fourth overall, we had a student place second in her grade level, and a writer from last year who is now a freshman win a $24,000 scholarship.

For the most part, we hung around Hudson, visited with family, and played outside.

The kids enjoyed cruising in my dad's convertible.

We rode the bike trail along the Erie Canal Towpath and took the train back to where we parked. The kids loved riding the train. Cate especially loved that there was a snack car.

We visited with some alpacas at my sister's friend's farm. Cate loved them, but Brennan wasn't too sure.

And of course, we took in the annual parade.

The countdown is on and this mama can't wait for summer vacation to get here. This past weekend brought a little taste of it and I'm ready for more.  Oh, and seeking book recommendations if you've got them.

~Melody :-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where my dads at?!?

Hey there. Papa E here. So, I have to admit that I've been a bit uncomfortable, since the Hillary Rosen / Ann Romney war of words and resulting media debacle, about my own family's situation. In all the parenting/mommy wars, I see a total lack of the voices of the fathers. And frankly, it's a little disturbing.

As a husband, I have found extreme gratification in supporting my wife through her career, her dreams, her desires, and doing what I can to help during struggles. In fact, I find it to be something I've been called to do.

As a father, I have found great pleasure in being part of the big moments (birth, first foods, walking, riding bikes, going to preschool), and the mundane (changing diapers - I'm actually pretty good at the cloth ones - and giving baths - something else I'm pretty good at). And I have been on both sides of the parenting spectrum, first as a working father, and now as a stay at home dad.

I think we as men have missed a couple of important opportunities here. We haven't defended our wives (or ourselves for that matter) and we haven't stood up to try and end a battle as old as parenting itself.

First off, let's agree that if you are a married man and have children, your wife is a valuable asset whether she works or stays at home. Her opinions matter, her strengths compliment your weaknesses, and her heart is a treasure trove. Cherish it. Seriously; defend her in her womanhood and her motherhood, regardless of what others think.

Second, lets realize how important our role is as well. Fathers, you play a part that no other man can. Your influence on your children is huge, and will quite possibly shape how this argument looks for the next generation. Whether you are a working father or a stay at home father, you are an indispensable part of a team. And as a team member, you defend your teammates; you fight with them, you encourage them, you love them.

Third, let's back out of proselytizing those parents we don't agree with. Some of you mean well. You may feel that you are defending your faith, or even defending what you see as a biblical truth. However, keep in mind that proselytizing in general very rarely results in true life change. You may have every right to stand your ground for your own family's sake, and to raise your children in a manner you see fit, but please avoid the direct anonymous criticism. Your concern or love of your neighbor and consequent civil discussions with him speaks volumes above your threatening rhetoric or your bashing diatribes.

Lastly, let's remember that family dynamics are up to each individual family, and please respect that. No matter how wrong you think they are, your respect of their God-given worth will be the only way to affect change, if change is even necessary.

In my family, it made sense for my wife to stay in a job that she truly enjoyed and had the capability of earning much more than I could, and for me to stay at home with our kids. We both work hard. We both have an understanding of the world from within and outside the walls of our house. Our faith is intimate but informed. Our political leanings are both religious and flexible. Our family puts a big emphasis on love and respect, especially for those we don't agree with. And we focus on who we are, not on what we might "do for a living." If you love your kids and are productive citizens, I respect you. Please do the same for me.

(Sorry, I know you've probably seen this image dozens of times, but it bears repeating.)

- Papa E

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Big Reveal

We finally decided to tell Cate we're headed to Disney World soon. We didn't tell her when we first booked the trip because we knew we'd be asked nightly when we were going. On a rare Tuesday afternoon date, Eric and I headed up to the mall, to the Disney Store, to buy water bottles and light-up toys for the kids. We figured we would give them to Cate and Brennan when we told them we were going to go. As we were checking out, the cashier asked if we were buying them for Disney World. We told her yes and that we were actually planning to tell her that night. (Sidenote: Brennan has no clue what Disney World is, though he does like watching the episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that we've downloaded from iTunes...but he's free at the park and so I'm not trying to leave him out or anything, but this was a much bigger deal for Cate).

Anyway, the cashier proceeded to tell us, that if we wanted to bring Cate up to the store, we could tell her there. Apparently they do this a lot-- they put your kids' names on the screen, get the whole store's attention, and give you a special certificate (they will do this for any special occasion, not just going to Disney World). There are digital fireworks that go off throughout the store and special music plays.  She told us Saturdays were best because they have the most staff there. And we decided that would be perfect. They can do a little parade around the store, but we opted out of that.

To say Cate was surprised was an understatement. She was definitely surprised and a little overwhelmed. You should know that we don't have cable or satellite, so other than a few commercials she's caught on the rare nights when she's been up for prime time TV, she really doesn't "get" what Disney World is. We've been trying to give her a little more of an idea these last few days leading up to her surprise by downloading a free Disney Land (not the same, but gave her an idea of what it was) app for the iPad and watching a few commercials on YouTube. When we went to the mall, she was expecting an Auntie Anne's pretzel. Instead, she learned she was going to be taking her first trip to Disney World.
 She called her and Brennan's certificates their "invitations." She was also excited by the light-up toys we got (for the parades and night shows down there) and her new Tangled water bottle (Brennan got a Mickey Mouse one) since it will be hot when we go.

A coworker of mine suggested getting Cate some starter pins for the pin trading at Disney on eBay. A little known fact about me: I am a HUGE Disney nerd and weirdly know a lot of Disney trivia. I used to want to be an Imagineer.  Anyway, I'm not sure when pin-trading began, but it was just gaining popularity when my family took a trip on spring break my sophomore year of high school and it had exploded by the time we went again two years later. So I've been collecting pins since then. Besides the ones I've purchased or traded at Disney World, I have one for Disneyland from when Eric and I went there pre-kids, and a couple from the Hilton Head Island Resort. I got my lanyard when I was there to run the Disney Marathon in 2007. It was the "year of a million dreams" and we got stopped by a surprise squad in Animal Kingdom who gave Eric and I each a lanyard with two commemorative pins.

 The pins you buy in the park start around $5 a piece-- way too much for a pre-schooler to buy and then trade. But my coworker suggested eBay. There are a lot of sellers on there who sell authentic Disney pins and have great deals on starter collections. Cate got 10 pins and a lanyard for $15! And the Disney cast members at the park have to trade when kids ask (apparently they are given pins before their shifts for this purpose). I asked the eBay seller to not include any Nightmare Before Christmas  or villains pins since Cate is four. S/he was great and gave us a few Mickey's, a Tigger, a dwarf, a muppet (Beaker...I may make her keep that one or trade with her), Donald, and a Pluto. She's all set.
Today's events have me even more excited for our trip! I can't wait. As a 30th birthday present to me, my parents paid for my Keys to the Kingdom tour, which I'll be doing one morning while Eric and the kids hang out at the resort pool. 

I think the above video should work. We'll see.

~Melody :-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Five Mother's Days!?!

Even though Eric always jokingly got me a Mother's Day card from the cat, and later from the cat and the dog, my first real Mother's Day came when my sweet girl was a little over three months old.

My second Mother's Day saw me getting discharged from the hospital after a weird virus that had kept me there for three long nights (mostly because they needed to rule out that I wasn't highly contagious and was okay to go back out in public again).

And while it wasn't blog-official yet, I was baking a Brennan by my third Mother's Day.

Brennan was here to celebrate Mother's Day number 4.

Which leaves today-- Mother's Day number 5. Rainy and gloomy and a few leftover moments of pain from a migraine yesterday, but overall, a good day. Flowers and donuts and chocolate at breakfast. Listening to Eric guest-play guitar at a local church (not our regular church). A cookout at my sister and brother-in-law's new house. A quiet bath and time to read the book that has been entertaining me for the last two weeks (it's hilarious, y'all). And a book that should arrive tomorrow.

Actually, this whole weekend has been well-spent with the people who made me a mama to begin with. :-) Friday I came home to a gift from Cate, made at preschool.

It was the first Oakley After Hours party (they run from May-September around here). Cate got a blue-jay painted on her face and Brennan enjoyed testing out toys at the toy-store (and chasing around the owner's new dog, Rosie, who is now the toy-store mascot and delights my animal-lovin' kiddos and who moved to fast to let me snap a picture).

On Saturday (pre-migraine), Cate and I attended a birthday party for one of her classmates at Run, Jump, and Play. We enjoyed racing through the inflatable obstacle courses.

And today was spent indoors, but with lots of loving family around. My heart is full. My kids are tired. I'm going to go snuggle them to sleep and then watch Thursday's 30 Rock and last night's SNL (with Will Ferrell guest hosting) before I crash too. I am one blessed Mommy.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you Mommy's who read my blog!
~Melody :-)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tutu Fun!

My girl had her dance recital over the weekend. Last year, you may remember me posting about how she pretty much did her own thing. Which really didn't matter because she was having fun. This year though? My girl tried hard. 
The cool thing about Cate's teacher is that she is Montessori trained. So the classes are by ability level, not necessarily age. And the older dancers help out in the beginning dancer classes. Cate followed right along with the girls that helped out in her class. 
 She smiled and tapped and pointed and jazz-handed her way around that stage like she owned it. 
And when it was all over, she said she definitely wanted to do take dance again next year. I can't believe that will make year 3 for her! She said she wanted to win trophies for dancing (aka, be on the dance studio's dance team). We'll see. For now, my tiny dancer was tu-tu cute at her recital! And I am one proud Mommy. 

~Melody :-)

P.S. I need to show you my favorite costumes of the recital. They're pictured below and were for a tap dance to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." I think they are ADORABLE! Don't you? And to my friends with sons, it is totally okay to enroll your boy(s) in dance classes. :-) The boys in this class rocked it!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mother's Day is Just Around the Corner

With this holiday quickly approaching, I thought I'd share a little story I received via email from Hagar International:

Two years ago, Veata had dreamed of a different future. She signed on with a Malaysian employment agency. But her dreams were smashed when she was trafficked to an abusive employer. Finally, she escaped. Found wandering the streets in a strange country, Veata was thrown in prison because she didn't have a passport.

Things got worse. Veata was raped by a prison guard. Nine months later, still in prison, her daughter was born. Finally, Veata, her baby, and 11 other trafficked women returned home to Cambodia. But Veata still wasn't free. She was imprisoned by thoughts of hatred and hopelessness.

Veata is now at Hagar's Shelter. She feels loved by her caregivers. She's learning to love her child. Soon she'll begin Hagar's Career Pathways program, and she'll have the freedom to make choices about her life.

If you want to celebrate your mom, and moms around the world, consider making a donation to Hagar in honor of your mother. If you donate $50 or more, you'll get the cute tote bag pictured above, which just happens to be courtesy if my in-real-life friend's online boutique, Stop Traffick Fashion.

And if you want to know more about Hagar, here is some information from their website:

Hagar is an international organization committed to the recovery, empowerment, and reintegration of women and children who have suffered human rights abuses.  In particular, Hagar serves women and children who are victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation.

Established in Cambodia in 1994, Hagar launched programming in both Afghanistan and Vietnam in 2009.

Over time and in response to pressing societal needs, Hagar has been serving an increasing proportion of human trafficking victims.  In 2004, the U.S. State Department named Hagar founder Pierre Tami as one of its six international heroes in the struggle against the modern-day slave trade.

To help women overcome their traumatic pasts and achieve true healing, Hagar provides long-term, individualized services.  For women, this includes counseling, literacy education, job readiness skills, and vocational training.  Most women experience their first formal work experience in a Hagar business.  In Cambodia, 80% of women served are living independently in community, two years after receiving Hagar services.

Children come to Hagar from a variety of backgrounds.  Some have been abandoned, some born with disabilities, and others abused by people they loved.  The common denominator is that each child has been cast out, and each child needs time to heal.  Services include residential care, trauma counseling, and education.

Although each individual's journey is different, each woman and child walks through three critical steps:  recovery, building resilience, and reintegration.

Happy Almost Mother's Day!