Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank you, my loves.

I am so thankful for them.

  • Ella's songs. Especially when she thinks no one is listening.
  • The freckles scattered across Summit's nose.
  • Sleepy, snuggly faces.
  • How Ella hums around the house that says she's happily moving throughout her day.
  • The sound of Summit's voice when he speaks.
  • Their laughter. Belly laughs, most of all.
  • Their discoveries.
  • Sword fighting.
  • Ella's poems.
  • The millions of pictures they make for me.
  • Summit's wild imagination.
  • Ella's creativity.
  • Being needed.
  • Looking into Ella's big blue eyes.
  • The way Summit thanks me every morning for making his bed.
  • Their trust.
  • How much Ella loves bugs.
  • How freaked out Summit is of bugs.
  • The ways that they care.
  • Their smooth, soft cheeks.
  • Little hands reaching up for mine.
  • Bedtime stories and our sleepytime song.
  • Sharing the soft of their blankie and pillow.
  • The sound of their breath when they sleep.
  • Sweet hugs and kisses.
  • How they are happy to see me when I pick them up from school.
  • Getting to tell them, "I love you."
  • Hearing, "I love you, Mommy."
  • Knowing that they always will.
Happy Thanksgiving, my precious babies. I feel like the luckiest mommy ever. Thank you so much.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Veterans: A Love Story

The celebration of Veteran's Day brings up a great many memories for people all around the United States. It goes without saying that the lives of all Americans have been affected by veterans of this country. So many people have given and continue to give so completely freely of themselves for the benefit of their fellow citizens, knowing that in doing so they may also give their lives. The very thought of that kind of bravery fills my heart with love and my eyes with tears. I have no idea where people find that kind of selflessness, but it is amazing.

In my family, there are many veterans. I suppose I could say that my family, quite literally, was created by veterans. My dad's mother's father was a colonel in the Army. My dad's father was a Marine. My dad was in the Navy. My baby brother was in the Coast Guard. On my mother's side, is a special story that Veteran's Day always makes me recall and cherish a little more. I couldn't begin to write of it on November 11th, as the memory of these two people still makes me cry a little, and I'm afraid that all of the tears may have ruined the keyboard.

My Popa, born and bred in the mill village of Olympia in downtown Columbia, SC, was a remarkable athlete in high school. He never lent himself to studying much because his passion was sports. He was a stellar catcher on his high school baseball team, and before he graduated, he was offered a contract with the Detroit Tigers to play ball in the big leagues. I could say his first love was baseball, but that wouldn't be completely true. His heart belonged to his country, and so he delayed his plans to follow his dream in exchange for signing up for the Army of the Red, White, and Blue.

As way leads on to way, my Popa's road in life would change, and the outcomes that he had anticipated would fade from his view in more ways than one. His job in the Army was to lead a troop of soldiers disengaging mine fields. He travelled from Fort Jackson to Africa to Italy to the beaches of Anzio, and it was in France where life threw him a curve ball that he could never have imagined. On Thanksgiving Day in 1942, when his batallion was called out into a mine field to rescue a medic, his world literally exploded around him when someone from his group tripped the mines. The only survivors were my Popa and the medic who my Popa jumped atop to shield from the flying shrapnel.

Popa lived, but the awful result was the death of his vision. He nearly lost the limbs on the left side of his body to gangrene, but he insisted he needed his arm and leg to play his beloved sport...this, of course, was before he realized that his eyes had, horrifically, been blown out of their sockets. Reluctantly, the doctors agreed to try the new drug, penicillin, and he was a fortunate soldier of the Allied Forces to avoid amputation at a time when thousands of men were losing their body parts.

After he grew strong enough to return to his home soil, Popa was admitted to Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania. Having received her degree from the University of Pennsylvania, my Grandmother was stationed at the same hospital where my Popa was a patient. She was born in Miami, but after her father was killed in a robbery of his bait and tackle shop, my great-grandmother decided to move her young daughter and son to Pennsylvania to be with her parents, who enforced the need for education, which led my Grandma to study nursing, which led her to Valley Forge, which led her to him. It was there where my Popa flirted with (most likely) all of the nurses, but with her the most. It was there where she cared for the wounded soldier from South Carolina, the should-have-been professional baseball player. It was there where they fell in love. It was there where he asked her to be his forever, and forever she was.

The rest, as they say, is history...and it's a lot of the present, too. Popa decided to pursue a college education, and he was one of the very first blind students to attend the University of South Carolina, where he earned a degree in social work. At Florida State, he received his masters in the same course of study, and he worked as a social worker for many years. Despite being turned away at many jobs for his disability, he never gave up, never took the easy road. And, my grandmother supported him, cared for him, and gave him three beautiful daughters, who gave them both a slew of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

And we're all very thankful for all they gave to us. Our Veterans, they created our lives. Happy Veteran's Day.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fall Sports!!!

These past few months have been busy ones for the old Wood household. Nearly every school night was given to some sort of sporting event or practice for my Ella and Summit. I know lots of parents experience every-day-of-the-freaking-week activities, but this was something that this family wasn't really prepared for. Mondays and Wednesdays were for Ella and cheerleading (of course, some weeks the Wednesdays changed to Thursdays, which was nice for me...not so nice for Matt as that meant he had to be in two places at once on Thursdays since I work those nights...bummer for Daddy!), and Tuesdays and Thursdays were for Summit and soccer.

At the start of Ella's cheerleading, I was a little hesitant about how exactly the whole thing would play out. I suppose I projected how I might feel in front of crowds of people and trying to do the whole moves and shouting thing. I suppose I shouldn't have projected, because my daughter loved it. Never was she nervous. Never was she scared. She always paid attention (hmmm...why doesn't this work at home?) and she was always cheering her team on, doing spirit fingers and cartwheels and toe touches. She l.o.v.e.d. it. And, I enjoyed going to her games. It helped that her team was the BEST in Chapin. Oh yeah! The Lions were #1! We even made it to the big final playoff game against the best team from Irmo. How did it end? Let's just say that I think we need to check the birth certificates for some of those pee-wee leaguers in the city, if you know what I mean. Regardless, the season was a total success, and the girls and boys were amazing, and they were lead by equally amazing coaches!


As for Summit, I wasn't so certain how long the boy would last on the soccer field. Because of my class schedule, I wasn't able to attend hardly any of his games, and this broke a little piece of my heart, for real. I got to go to the very first short expo game at the start of the season, which was on a Saturday morning. Even though I hate being places on weekend mornings, I was so happy to get to see my little fella play soccahball that day. To be honest, it was that game that filled my mind with uncertainty about how much of soccer he'd allow in his life. When he fell (and this happened a lot that day), he was nearly devastated. After the grass settled, he'd look up at his hands before using them to push himself up off the ground, and after he'd stand up, he would examine his knees, covered in grass, and scrunch his little face up in such a way that the tears had to fall down a few hills before reaching his jersey. And, then he'd run off the field and over to me or his Popi, whoever he saw first, for comfort. Mind you, he wasn't physically hurt, but those falls sure hurt his feelings.
At the end of the season, I scheduled a game to attend, and, to my surprise, the boy had grown so much. He was confident, aggressive, stronger. When he fell, he didn't take it so personally. He still has a ways to go in the whole skills department, but that's okay, he's only 4, after all. Actually, most of those kids have a ways to go. I have to give a high five to the coaches. Teaching little ones to play soccer is no small feat. They run all over, kick the balls all over, forget which goal is theirs, forget to pay attention. Thank goodness they're cute. 
So, fall sports were good. My babies grew a bunch and got stronger and more sure of themselves, and I suppose that is the whole point of these activities. But, am I happy to have a break? Heck yeah!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Halloween 2011

Ella 2010
I've never been one for certain things. Baking creative desserts and sewing are two such things. Thus, I've not been one for making my kids' costumes. I'm not that artsy, first of all, and I'm not that patient. My mom, however, used to sew our Halloween costumes when we were little, and she did a darn good job, too. Thanks to her, I have that standard set for costumes today: a parent should make them. It just seems right. Since I don't do it, I see myself as kinda sucking in this department, but I do think that Matt could work it out, too. (Notice I said "a parent should make them.")
Ever since Ella was a baby, I've loved getting her dressed up for Halloween. In fact, for her first El Dia de los Muertes, Americana version, she had a wardrobe change because I couldn't settle on just one costume for my sweet girl. Maybe it had to do with the fact that her nickname was pumpkin head... who knows, but it was so much fun to see my sweet love in these cute outfits. Over the years she's been a duck, ladybug, butterfly, kitty...all these cute little things. I suppose it was about the time she turned 5, when she was a baterina (what?), that the cute wore off, and the tacky wore in. I blame it on Halloween Express, and us parents who don't sew the costumes, thereby selecting the costumes, thereby preventing the questionable ones. I dn't even know what the heck the outfit she chose for this year was; all I could tell is that it was supposed to be some kind of punk-rocker thing. I don't know if she knew what it was, either, because she turned herself into something vampire-like to make it more relatable.
Summit's always pretty easy. For his first Halloween he was a lion, second a spider, third a tiger, fourth a dragon, and this year he was a pirate. There's nothing tricky about any of those. No makeup. No freakouts. And, you can always tell what he is.

Despite the costume questions, this year's Halloween was great. The weekend before, we carved some pumpkins, which is always AWESOME because I heart baked pumpkin seeds. I remember Grandma baking them for Popa when I was younger, and I swear I can taste a little bit of my childhood everytime I eat them. And, we went to some parties. Who doesn't love Halloween parties where adults dress up in crazy disguises and kids eat more candy than dinner? I think people's alter egos show in their costumes. Because I'm not one for dressing up, I suppose my alter ego is either deeply protected or I'm just really transparent.

On the Monday of the big day, Summit's class at school had a class party in the morning. I signed up for the sweet treat, truly believing that I have what it takes to make something clever and scary out of sugar cookie dough, Reeses Pieces, and gummy worms. Guess what? I don't have what it takes. The worms, in my vision, would be crawling out of the tops of the cookies, which would be the heads, and the eyes and mouths would be the Reeses Pieces. Well, clearly, I failed, because after 4 batches of cookies and gummy worms melted EVERYWHERE, I ended up with 12 cookies with Reeses Pieces eyes and mouths and nothing else. Oh well. In the evening, the Harpers came over...because our neighborhood has no hills...and the kids got into their completely worn out costumes... hey, after 4 parties over multiple days there's no way those things are gonna stay complete. We ate chili and did the trick-or-treating thing and our neighbors took the kids on a hayride! The kids ate way too much candy and stayed up way too late.
All in all, it was a success. Thankfully, Ella had a standardized test the morning after Halloween. I mean, really, how smart was THAT?! I've been force-feeding myself candy non-stop since Monday, and I see no end in sight. Usually, I send the stuff to school with Matt, but this year is different, so it's just sitting there, on top of the refrigerator, calling my name. I think it's using hypnosis over us. That's some powerful stuff.


Lesson for this year: Throw the candy away immediately. Do not take Ella to Halloween Express. Write a letter to whatever genius decided that the day after Halloween is a good time for cognitive ability testing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's not Fair!

Every year it a train out of control...surely leaves you wonderin'...exactly where your ticket goes...scream to the conductor... okay, sorry, I got a little carried away with some Widespread Panic lyrics. You must forgive me, but the song Climb to Safety seems rather appropriate for this particular topic. I mean, the whole thing is out of control. You do wonder where your tickets go. And more often than not you truly find yourself screaming for it all to stop.
I've got lots of friends who live and breathe for this event. They plan months in advance for tickets and particular days and times to attend. There's a lot of foresight that some folks put into the Fair. Me, not so much. I've mentioned before that I don't get along well with lines, much less the unwitting neighbors beside me in them. I can't don't handle crowds well, especially this time of year when people are prone to nagging coughs and icky viruses. However, I know that the Fair is fun. I know this. I know that my kids love the rides and aren't jaded (yet) by crowds and lines. So, we meet in the middle, and go when the end of the whole craziness is near. (I also know that their friends will be all bragging about how great it was and blah blah blah, and that E and S would let me know how we suck for not going.)
This year, we took my Ella and Summit on the very last day. Is it the best for the animals? Not really. The once cute and clumsy baby ducks of the first days are more like teenagers in duck years, so they've figured out the whole reach-for-the-food-and-slide-down-the-slide gag. And, since lots of the farm stock have taken home their prizes, us last-dayers are left with the very sad exotic animal display and the pig races. Fortunately, we get to visit other barnyard animals around the year (see previous post), so this isn't such a disappointment. Really all E and S want to do is ride the rides and eat fair food.
Ohhh, and the rides. They love them so much, and since they're getting bigger, we can just let them hop on together. Occasionally, of course, they want us to accompany them, which I love because it makes me realize they're not so big. It's also a bonus that I can make sure they don't touch anything gross, well touch fewer gross things. I've often wondered why they don't provide fair-goers with surgical gloves or something, but when I see the lovelies working the rides, I realize that bathing isn't really a priority, so the chances of sanitizing the rails and seats are pretty low. Regardless my obsessive compulsive issues with the germs are nearly completely forgotten when I hear the squeals and laughter and see the humongous smiles on my babies' faces. Nothing beats that. Nothing.
Not even the elephant ears, which brings me to the food. Ohhh, the food. L.O.V.E it. How much money spent on food at the Fair could easily afford us dinner at Ruth's Chris. Corn dogs, candy apples, fried mushrooms, sausage and onions, dipped ice cream cones, cotton candy, french fries, fried donuts, deep-fried kool aid (if you're thinking WTF, so was I... I wasn't surprised, however, when my baby brother bought it), lemonade, etc. Holy Biggest Loser, South Carolina edition. The irony of me fearing germs on rides more than the crap ingested into my body is not lost on me. But, you know what, it was goooooooood. Soooooooooo goooooooood.
When we decided that hand-washing showers pressure washing our bodies and consuming large quantities of Pepto Bismal was necessary, we bid our adieu at the good old South Carolina State Fair. My little loves had such a fun time, and we were lucky enough to share the experience with my parents and John Wesley and Ashley. It's nice to know that no matter the place, no matter how dirty the place, we can all laugh (and sometimes wail irrationally, depending on how much sugar is coursing through certain little people's systems) a lot.