Friday, October 31, 2008

Cute Halloween Costumes, '80s Style

Today, of course, is Halloween. When I was a kid we never did anything for Halloween. I remember one time when my sister and I went trick-or-treating with friends and I think we all dressed up like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, or some other '80s teeny boppers. I have a terrible memory, but I don't think we ever dressed up in costumes at our house for Halloween when we were little. If we did, there are no pictures to prove it. I may have attended a school party or two in a costume but nothing specific comes to mind.

On the other hand, my husband has some really cute pictures with his siblings in their Halloween costumes! My mother-in-law is very creative. She always comes up with the cutest decorating ideas, so I think that when her kids were little, Halloween and birthday parties were her time to shine.

Hope you enjoy these early '80s Halloween costumes! (Yes, these were posted with permission!)

I think this one is my favorite. That's my hubby in the middle, looking so happy to be a policeman! His sis is a graduate and his brother is a daddy (how cute is that?).

In this one, my sis-in-law is a baby doll, hubby is a football player, and brother-in-law is a Rubik's Cube. :-)

Hubby and his brother are robots here and their big sis is Pippi Longstocking (yes, that's her real hair, supported by clothes hangers)!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Holiday Blues

The holidays are hard. They're wonderful, yes, but also hard.

I think one of the most difficult times of the year for me is New Year's. Too many times I've felt a new surge of hope and optimism that it will be the year that we'll finally have a baby, only to be disappointed. My birthday is also in late January, during a week that is associated with depression. Some say the most depressing day of the year is the 22nd, some say the 24th. My birthday is the 25th. The last two birthdays have been extremely hard for me, partly because of getting older but mostly because they've been spent recovering from surgery and/or miscarriage.

It seems too early to write a post about the holiday season since it's not yet Halloween. After our trip to NY, my Christmas shopping is now in full swing and Chuck and I have already been talking about travel plans for Thanksgiving. It seems it's not too early after all.

I really do love the holidays, but it feels like a ridiculously long time that we've been waiting and hoping to share them with our children. We want to start traditions with them. We want to see their faces light up for all those special occasions. We want our house to be noisy and full and happy. We're just plain tired of waiting.

Every year I hope it's the last one we have to spend feeling empty and sad, grieving over our losses and wishing things were different.

Here's hoping that next year will be different.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Home from NYC

It was an amazing trip to the Big Apple! We have been resting all weekend long and I think we are beginning to recover after a crazy 3 days in New York. Here's the rundown of all the stuff we saw and did:

Day 1:
Statue of Liberty
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Chrysler Building
Serendipity for dessert (frozen hot chocolate... Mmm)
Plaza Hotel
FAO Schwarz
Trump Tower

Day 2:
Empire State Building
Museum of Modern Art (fantastic Van Gogh exhibit and lots of other amazing stuff)
Central Park
Ed Sullivan Theater
Carnegie Hall
Broadway (we saw Hairspray! It was a blast!)
Times Square

Day 3:
Rockefeller Center (NBC Studios tour - so much fun!)
"Top of the Rock"
Radio City Music Hall
Flatiron Building
Greenwich Village/Washington Square Arch
Wall Street

Wow! We packed those 3 days with as much as possible. We traveled by subway and taxi but mostly by our aching feet. Thankfully, the weather was absolutely perfect while we were there. There were a few things we wanted to see but didn't get to, like Madam Tussaud's wax museum, the Brooklyn Bridge, the U.N. Building, and Grant's Tomb, but I guess we'll have to go back again someday.
I certainly missed keeping up with all of your blogs while I was gone. I will be very busy with that now that things are unpacked and the laundry is done! I can't wait to hear what you've all been up to.

Finally, here are a few pictures from the trip:

Lovely Lady Liberty

Times Square at night

The Empire State Building at night

View of the city from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building

View of Central Park from the top of Rockefeller Center

Ah, one of my favorite TV shows! Unfortunately, the show was on hiatus last week so we didn't get to be part of the audience. I did, however, run into Rupert from the Hello Deli and he posed for a picture with me! :)

Chuck and me in beautiful Central Park.
I'm sad to see it end but it felt great to come home to life in the suburbs! What's your favorite thing to see in New York City?

Monday, October 20, 2008

BIG Plans

Start spreadin' the news! I'm leavin'... well, tomorrow.

Up until four years ago I had only been on an airplane twice in my life: once that I couldn't remember (when I was young) and once for my honeymoon. I always wanted to travel but really never thought I would actually be able to do it. There are still many places I want to go! I have been amazed at how many trips we have been able to take recently, especially those that have seemed to come out of nowhere and land right in our laps.

This week my sister-in-law (and dear friend) is going to New York City for a work conference. She invited us to tag along, and for the past few days we have been scrambling to make plans for all the exciting stuff we want to see. We are really looking forward to it! It will be a first for all three of us. We only have until Friday, so we'll be home before we know it but we are so grateful for the opportunity to go. I can't wait to share some pictures with you!

Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Me: The Scaredy-Cat (Six Things)

I was tagged by Andrea for the six things meme. Thanks! This is my first time to be tagged. Btw, if you want to be entertained by Andrea’s Last-Bite Rules click here.

Here are the rules:
1) Link to the person that tagged you.
2) Post the rules on your blog.
3) Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4) Tag at least three people at the end of your post and link to their blogs.
5) Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6) Let the fun begin!

Now the task of coming up with six things you don’t know about me that are random and yet remotely entertaining. This may be harder than I thought.

1. I hate to drive. I know some people who get in the car and just drive to relieve stress. Driving is the last thing in the world I’d do to relieve stress (besides maybe a root canal). I don’t mind driving around town to run errands and things like that. But really if I had a choice I would be chauffeured around everywhere. I’m not a bad driver but I just don’t enjoy it. I think it’s mainly because I grew up in the country and didn’t even get my license until I was 18. I’ve lived near the 4th largest city in the U.S. for 7 years now and have managed to only drive there once. To tell you the truth, once was more than enough!

2. The only real recurring dream I ever have is the one where I’m enrolled in a college class and it’s time for finals and I’m completely unprepared. Either I haven’t been to any of the classes or I haven’t studied for the test. I realize this isn’t the scariest thing in the whole world but to me it’s a nightmare. I wake up in a panic until I realize it’s not real then I am so happy I’m not a student anymore!

3. Speaking of scary things, the most terrifying movie I have ever seen is The Shining. It probably has something to do with the fact that I was way too young to have been watching it but thinking about that movie still gives me the heebie jeebies. It might be the kind of thing where if I watched it again as a grown-up it would seem ridiculous, but I'm just not willing to risk it. Every time I walk down a long hallway in a hotel I picture those creepy little girls or that huge wave of blood coming around the corner. Now I must change the subject or I absolutely will not sleep tonight…

4. I like to have my ears covered when I sleep. I have this phobia about something crawling in there at night, so I sleep on one side and cover the other side with the blanket. I can’t sleep with my whole head covered, so I make a little cocoon for myself that allows my face to stick out. It’s weird, I know. I’ve been doing this ever since I went on this horrible camping trip with my Dad’s family one summer when I was about 12. The mosquitoes were so bad and they buzzed in our ears all night long. We had to sleep completely covered even though it was stifling. Pair that with my bugs-in-ears phobia and it’s the perfect recipe for me being traumatized forever.

5. I’m totally obsessed with dental hygiene. I am very serious about brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. There is no way I’d be able to sleep without having done my nightly routine (wash face, floss teeth, brush teeth). I have spent years trying to convince my family and friends to floss regularly. In fact, I even did a speech about it in college! No joke. Think about it tonight before you hit the sack. As my mom would say, you don’t want to go to bed with a “yuck-mouth.”

6. I love to collect postcards. I have postcards from almost every U.S. state and from about 35 different countries. Sometimes people pick them up on a trip and hand them to me, which is also nice, but I personally prefer that they be written on and mailed with the postmark of the destination. I keep them filed away (alphabetically, of course) in three albums and I love to flip through them. It’s fun to see all the different places and even more fun to read what my friends and family have written on their trips over the years. A few years ago I started mailing them to myself when we travel. I write what we did that day and send it home so I can get the postmark.

Ok, I tried to end on a high note since nearly everything else was about me being afraid. I don’t want you to think I’m only a big scaredy-cat (although it's mostly true).

I’m tagging Beth, Sharon, and Sunny. I also tag Nity and Andrea (not the same Andrea as before) if you gals haven’t done one of these before. If you have I hope you’ll do it again or send me a link to your old one.

Happy weekend everybody!

Birthday Boy

Today is my husband’s birthday. I’ll call him Chuck here because it’s an inside joke but that is not really his name. I want to tell you a few things about him in honor of his day.
Friends, I married a man who is very silly. He is also smart, talented, kind, and sweet and I love all of that but what I love most is that he is a goofball. He has been making me laugh for 12 years and I’m sure he has many more tricks up his sleeve. He certainly knows when to be serious but most days he makes me feel like a kid again.

Chuck is the kind of guy who leaves crazy things around the house for me to find. And he will wait a year if it takes that long for me to find it. When we visit my sister he adds funny items to her shopping list. When I used to keep those alphabet magnets on our fridge when my nephews were smaller, I always found hilarious messages he’d left for me. Once when I left my scrapbooking supplies out overnight he meticulously picked out the letters to spell “I love you” for me to find the next day.

He’s the kind of guy who draws designs on his bread with the mustard just for fun. He likes to make ninja stars out of dollar bills and spell out his name on a restaurant table with empty peanut shells. He goes around and takes silly pictures with the digital camera so that when I look through them later I can have a laugh.

He is also the kind of guy who makes me a homemade Valentine card every year. I don’t just mean construction paper hearts, but well-thought-out and beautifully made cards that have something to do with an experience we’ve shared or an interest I have. While I’m usually cold he is always warm. On especially cold evenings he will get in on my side of the bed while I’m brushing my teeth so it will be warm when I go to bed. He doesn't mind getting dirty and loves to work with power tools, but doesn’t complain about watching chick flicks with me. I love that he is truly a man of many talents. He keeps me up to date on new technology, is a great cook, and knows how to sew on a button. He has rarely been unable to do something I've asked him to do.

The past several years have brought many trials with them, but he has stood beside me and reassured me of his love, support, and faith during the worst of times. We’ve had plenty of bad days to go along with the good ones but we trust that God knew exactly what He was doing (as He always does) when he put us together.

I love my husband and I don’t know how I would have gotten through this struggle without him. I know that so many of you would say the same about your wonderful spouses. Today I want to celebrate mine!

Happy Birthday, Honey.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 15

Today I'm remembering six little ones that never got to live outside of my body. They were a part of me then and are still a part of me now in some way. I had hopes and dreams for each individual one and my life is not the same without them in it.

My heart goes out to all of you who have suffered the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. For more information about this awareness/remembrance day, visit the website above.

Photo Companion to "Comfort In The Past"

Here are some photos that go along with my last post. Click here if you want to get caught up.
These are the multicolored teacups I wrote about. They've been in my family for 6 generations. They are pictured here with some of my Easter decorations.
Welcome to Louisiana - come along with me to visit some family cemeteries...
Lovely Louisiana scenery along the way.
An old cemetery that could use some TLC.
Old iron crosses at the cemetery.
This cemetery suffered some damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
One of my treasures is this photograph of my great grandmother. I had never seen a picture of her as a child until about a year ago. This photo is probably from around 1907.
That's my great grandpa on the right (I think the other guy was his cousin). Isn't this a cute pose? It's his grandmother who owned the tea set. I wish I had a picture of her. Maybe someday I'll find one.

Comfort In The Past

I love old things. I'm fascinated by antiques and old photos but mostly I love the stories that go with them. My house isn't full of antiques. I do, however, have a few items that I consider priceless. One is a tea set that is pretty unique. It isn't the usual white with a floral pattern or gold trim. These particular cups and saucers are each colored basic green, yellow, orange, and blue. I love to get them out for decorations in springtime. What I love most is that they belonged to my great grandfather's grandmother. That means they've been in my family for six generations. My great grandpa (Poppee) was born in 1905. He died in 1985 when I was 8 years old. I love imagining his grandmother with that quirky little tea set in her home. I have no idea whether she inherited it or bought it. There is certainly nothing fancy about it but I find it so interesting.

About 4 years ago I started researching my family history. I had always been interested in it but that year I decided to jump in with both feet. I spent countless hours on the phone with my grandmothers and any other relative who would talk to me about it. I filled up legal pads with questions and any information I could gather. I did tons of research online and used a program to organize and keep track of all my findings. It was such an interesting time and I loved that several of my relatives got excited about it along with me. My mom and sister hung on every word when I would call to reveal some connection or new story they hadn't heard. My grandmothers helped me fill in the blanks where some old census record was too hard to read or didn't make sense. Over the next few months we planned several trips to old family cemeteries in Louisiana. My family hit the road with me with notebooks, pencils, and bug spray, and we were often saddened by the overgrown and neglected state of the small country cemeteries.

Of course some of the most wonderful treasures have been old photographs. Few things have made me more excited than those times when an elderly relative has offered to share an old box of photos or an old family album. Thanks to modern technology I've been able to scan and store dozens of priceless photographs that I never knew existed until recently.

I've done some thinking about what started this whole thing for me. In 2004 we were in our third year of this long nightmare with recurrent miscarriage. We'd had 3 losses and had just begun seeing a specialist. Month after month went by with no answers for us. It came to a point where I felt terrified to spend any time thinking about what the future held. How long would this take? How many more devastating losses would we have to endure? Would we ever be able to have children? Genealogy research was like a form of therapy for me. It was a huge project that I could spend hours working on. It quickly became one of my favorite activities and it was the perfect companion for my other favorite hobby of scrapbooking.

I think what happened was this: thinking about the future was too hard. Even dwelling on the present had become too much to bear. Several weeks ago while reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, I froze when I came across the perfect description of the feelings I had. While I can't exactly compare my situation to the public shame and humiliation of Hester Prynne, I can definitely relate in some way to her feelings about the present and future:

"She could no longer borrow from the future to help her through the present grief. Tomorrow would bring its own trial with it; so would the next day, and so would the next; each its own trial, and yet the very same that was now so unutterably grievous to be borne. The days of the far-off future would toil onward, still with the same burden for her to take up, and bear along with her, but never to fling down..."

Perhaps that sounds pretty hopeless. But I've felt that way before. As a Christian I'm never completely without hope but I still get overwhelmed about my future. Hester Prynne wore the scarlet letter of her adultery and there are times when I feel that I wear a symbol of my barrenness for everyone to see. It's not a punishment for something I've chosen but I bear the burden of it every day. Even if I do someday have children, it cannot completely erase the pain of loss I have felt from recurrent miscarriage.

I can now fondly remember a time when even though the present was too hard and the future was too scary, I found some comfort in looking back.

*To see photos that go along with this post, click here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Something Fun for Friday

This weekend we will be in Louisiana visiting my family. As you can imagine, we are thrilled to have a break from all the stuff going on at our house! Every October for the past 11 years we have had a collective birthday party for our guys. My brother, husband, brother-in-law, and a family friend will all be serenaded with the Happy Birthday song. The party is nothing spectacular considering they’re all adults now. The youngest, my brother, turned 22 this week. We usually get together and eat good food, enjoy a cookie cake (my sister tries to mix up the design each year), and play some games. Occasionally if the weather’s nice we spend some time outdoors. This weekend is looking great, so we’re having some of my mom’s wonderful hamburgers on the grill.

So, after a stressful week and with my brother on my mind, I decided that today I’d leave you with a list of my top five funny movies. Now before you get excited let me explain that you might not necessarily love these movies. You may watch them and think I’m nuts. Most of these are movies that my brother loved when he was a kid. We must have watched them hundreds of times. We’ve quoted them for years and they still make us laugh. These are the movies I can pop in when I need a guaranteed belly laugh!

Without further ado, I present my list of movies that have kept us entertained for years:

1. Three Amigos
This movie was born in 1986, the same year as my little brother. I was 9 years old. I don’t remember the first time we saw it but it became a classic at our house. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short; the Singing Bush, My Little Buttercup, and El Guapo. Somehow it never gets old!

2. Home Alone/Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
I remember when the first Home Alone movie came out. I was invited to go to the movies for a friend’s birthday party and when I found out what we were seeing I was so disappointed. I couldn’t see myself enjoying a movie about a kid keeping burglars away from the family home using all kinds of cute tricks. And I was right, I didn’t love it. A couple of years later the second movie, Lost in New York came out and it became one of my brother’s favorites. I ended up giving them a second chance and now I love them! The second one is our favorite. Tim Curry's character leaves us in stitches.

3. Tommy Boy
When I first saw Tommy Boy, I was in high school and my sister and I went to see it at the theater with a friend. What I remember most is that she and I laughed so hard that we were practically rolling in the aisle! Our friend… not so much. Eventually our brother saw it and appreciated it as much as we did. The David Spade/Chris Farley combination was pretty fantastic.

4. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
This was the second Ace Ventura movie but definitely the funnier. Jim Carrey was my brother’s absolute favorite for a long time and the rest of us became fans too. When Nature Calls has no shortage of fun one-liners. “Your request is not unlike your lower intestine: stinky and loaded with danger.” We still often break out in the Slinky song or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Jim Carrey style.

5. Dumb and Dumber
I know I’ve already listed a Jim Carrey movie but like I said, he was my brother’s favorite. Dumb and Dumber is one of those movies that I occasionally catch on TV and end up sitting and watching even though I own it on DVD. In my family, any time there is a list of things going wrong for any one of us, we always add "our pets' heads are falling off," to the end of it. It usually lightens the mood.

I hope you all have movies like these – that may not seem hilarious to everyone but they are to you because of the memories they evoke of fun times spent with loved ones. My brother is all grown up now and his comedy tastes are a bit more “refined.” He’s into the Stooges, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Peter Sellers, and the Marx Brothers. He has graduated to the classics in his “old” age. He’s no longer interested in the ultra-silly, ridiculously goofy kinds of comedies we grew up watching and I must admit that makes me a little sad. It’s a little strange that such silly movies can also be sentimental to me. When I left home for college in 1995 my brother was 8 years old. Sometimes I like to pretend he’s still that little and waiting for me to come home on break so we can giggle at a crazy movie.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One Step Forward... Two Steps Back

It has been a pretty frustrating week at my house. I don't mean to complain and I certainly realize how fortunate we are to be dealing with only minor damage from Hurricane Ike compared with others in our area.

Yesterday the roofers came on a day when we had a 50% chance of rain. When the downpour came, the roof was not tarped in time to prevent some leaking inside the house. It's not major, but we have one area of the ceiling that now needs repairing. We went to bed last night so frustrated that we seem to get one thing fixed while adding a few new things to a list of repairs that grows longer and longer.

Maybe it seems like a loose comparison to make, but it reminds me a lot of the very frustrating battle we've had with recurrent miscarriage. Just when we feel certain that we have things figured out and we may actually make some progress, we find another problem that must be overcome. We add another thing to the list of "repairs."

The obvious difference is that we have some control over these house repairs. It's difficult, time consuming, and expensive, but it will get done. I'd love to have the same assurances for conceiving and carrying a child rather than this feeling of just treading water.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Great Expectations

There are so many different emotions I have gone through in the past seven years since I started down the path of trying to have children. One of the hardest things is dealing with my expectations. Disappointment, really, is simply not having your expectations met, right? You expect something, it doesn’t happen, and then you are disappointed. I have been greatly disappointed, over and over again, for seven years. Six pregnancies full of expectations and hopes and dreams that all ended in disappointment. For a girl who always wanted to grow up and be a mom, this has been pretty devastating.

I really didn’t have many other dreams as a kid. I never wanted to be a teacher, a doctor, or the first female president. Besides my brief stint as a sports writer in college (which was cool), I’ve never had a clear focus on any career path that was just exactly what I wanted to spend my life doing. Marriage and motherhood were what I really wanted.

Part of that desire is a direct result of my childhood. As a little girl I almost always felt unsettled, afraid, and insecure. My mom was fantastic and did the very best she could, but she couldn’t change who my father was. I don’t regret the fact that they got divorced. Things didn’t get a whole lot easier as a result of that, but at least we were out of any immediate danger. As a teenager I became very skeptical about finding a good man to marry. I honestly doubted that any actually existed. I didn’t know any, really. My dad was never satisfied with one woman. He was emotionally and physically abusive toward my mom, especially when he was drunk (which was most of the time). I prepared myself to go to college and get an education in order to have something to fall back on if I ended up with the wrong man. That sounds horrible, I know, but I’m being completely honest. There were, of course, other reasons to go to college but those were real feelings I had at the time.

Dad hasn’t changed a whole lot today even though he’s almost 70 years old. We have a relationship that is decent but not what I’d call great. We get along mainly because we don’t spend much time together. Despite his bad qualities, I do love my dad. I don’t always like him but I can appreciate his good qualities. I think he loves me too, I just think he doesn’t have a clue how to show it.

When I did find my wonderful husband I realized that there was hope for me to have that “perfect” family I’d always dreamed about. So I didn’t get to have that when I was a kid, but by golly I could make it happen for my own kids. I couldn’t wait to start fresh with our own traditions, holiday celebrations, family vacations, and annual family portraits – all the things I never had but always wanted. Maybe I could even fill that void for myself in the process. I was so excited about seeing my husband interact with our kids and watching what a father was supposed to look like.

Then, my expectations weren’t met. I faced disappointment. Pregnancy after pregnancy ended in failure.

My dreams haven’t gone away. I tell myself they’ve just been put on hold. I have no idea why I have to wait but I’m trusting in the process. Those childhood memories are painful but I know it was all part of a bigger picture. All that stuff gave me clear direction. I certainly knew what I wanted and didn’t want in a marriage. I have uniquely strong relationships with my mom and my sister that I would never ever change. I’ve grown up enough to see that some good came out of the bad experiences, and I can count on that happening again. But it’s not easy right now. It hurts. It is so hard to wait, especially when it seems everyone around you is moving ahead and going forward with their lives while you’re stuck.

There is an upside to all of this. I’ve had a total (so far) of 12 amazing years with a wonderful man who loves me and loves the Lord. We dated for 2 years and have been married for 10. We have had a whole lot of time to spend together and make incredible memories. I know that finding a husband was a pretty great expectation I had, and I have not been disappointed.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Meaningful October

You probably know that October is breast cancer awareness month. It just so happens that today, October 2nd is my mother-in-law's sixth and final round of chemo since her diagnosis earlier this spring. She will begin radiation soon but we are thrilled that her chemo treatments are now over! We have been amazed by her strength and resilience throughout this process, although it is undoubtedly a very difficult thing to endure.

My husband's grandmother survived breast cancer, and one of my dearest friends is also a survivor. I just got the news today that another close friend was recently diagnosed and will be having surgery soon. Breast cancer has never seemed so real to me as it does right now, having it so close to home.

I'm writing this as a reminder to myself and to all of the ladies who might read this to be aware and responsible. My mother-in-law found her lump through her routine mammogram, and my friend who was just diagnosed found hers during a self exam. I know there are countless stories like these and you probably all know someone affected by cancer, but what a powerful reminder for all of us to take action! What better time to start than now?