Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is it over?

What a weekend! It was cram-packed from Thursday night through yesterday--but it was fun. A few posts ago I talked about how my summers are always non-stop go, go, go--well this weekend was the official kick off to that race. The life of Children's and Youth Minister's are odd in that when most families think of summer as a time to go places and enjoy seeing sights and friends they haven't seen in a while we in Ministry are actually "working" all summer. Fall, particularly September, has been my time to take some what of a break and get away for a week having some fun. It is especially important to me now that Teensy and the boys are here. Fortunately most of what I do in the summer involves the boys so they can come along and play with Dad while he works. It's the week or two that I'm out of town that are hard on us all.

Park has a tradition which precedes my ministry of taking elementary kids on outings each Friday called: Friday Fun Ventures. Last year I did the fun ventures as they were done in the past just to get an idea what it was all about. This year I changed up the format, moved them to Thursday (most families leave on Friday for weekend get away and this took a lot of kids out of the mix), and called them, "FunVenture" with the tag line, "wherever we go...we'll have fun." We have a great line up of really fun places that the kids are really going to love. They look forward to all of the adventures and hanging out together and can't wait until the next week when we do it all again.
This is the summer shirt I designed. Before Mildred busts me I will fess up to giving one of the best graphic artists I have ever met the idea that she turned into the master piece you see. There are some shirts that I have actually designed that should have never been printed. I would love to gather them all up and burn them. Two come to mind in particular the first being a music camp t-shirt in which I took two notes and wrapped them around the text of my shirt. The notes looke like graceful ballerina's in "spin" mode. It was all good except for the fact that the way the notes are placed make them look like breasts. I have never seen that image just the graceful notes, but I don't readily notice stuff like that--call me naive. The other shirt was a Spring Fling shirt that I tried to vibe with a 60's feel...well, it turned out looking like some kind of bad hallucination. It was really bad. A single digit percentage of men do not think wearing a purple shirt is cool. Why do men think wearing pink or purple take away masculinity?
Losing 5th graders to the 6th grade kills me because I feel like I'm giving up my own kids. I've invested a lot of time into those cherubs and to just watch them walk of into the jungle is scary to me. I just don't think a 6th grader has what they need to cope with the environment of a youth group. Knowing that I lose them in June, I have always had one final party to say goodbye. Here I call it the Final FunVenture. I can plan some blowout stuff that makes the kids get really excited! It wears me out, but the kids have fun and that's what matters. For the blowout party this year I planned a trip to Incredible Pizza and an IMAX showing of Spider Man 3. Before I knew it I had a truck load of kids coming--they came out of the woodwork.
While I was at this event my Dad stopped by to see Teensy and the boys, my wife's parents came for the weekend, and our good friend Jill and her daughter came from Fort Worth to see us for the weekend. I was going to come into a house full of company! We get really excited when we have company because we just love to have company--for real. I get all giddy because I get to cook a lot and make stuff that we normally wouldn't make. I made Ina Garten's coffee cake muffins and they were so good. Kendra makes this Hawaiian bread in the bread machine that we use for French Toast. I also made Creme Brulee and the ravioli lasagna that I posted about which is always good. We just love to cook for a crowd, call us weird.
Teensy and the boys really love the attention. Kendra and I are convinced no one comes to see us they just come to see the kids and we happen to be there to provide their care. We don't' get to see Kendra's parents very often because they live so far away, so when we do get together we try to get as much visiting in as we can. Our kids call Kendra's Mom, "Granny" ; and her Dad, "Poppy." Granny gets on the floor and rolls around with the boys and runs and plays which makes her their favorite toy! They had to go home early Sunday morning so we had a good day Saturday playing and getting caught up. Jill and her daughter, Reagan, planned to stay until Tuesday when they had to head back home. They live in Fort Worth.
Monday I went back to Incredible Pizza (two trips in a week is too much in case you were wondering what the overload limit is) so Reagan and the boys could play. As I was dropping off the crew I saw something totally and completely unnerving to me. I have dozens of pet peeves and you get to hear about two of them now. First, he parked in handicapped parking and didn't look handicapped at all. I wish those hanging signs actually said what the handicap was. It really drives me crazy when people who aren't handicapped use a friend or family's sticker to get better parking. He wore those Jersey shorts which had ridden up between his thighs, enter the second pet peeve. I can't stand when overweight people's shorts ride up--it drives me crazy! I am a portly guy and make sure I don't have v-short syndrome. It doesn't take much to shimmy those shorts back into position! He had a double whammy because he was illegally parked in a handicapped space that should have been left for more deserving folks and had v-short syndrome. He was doomed. I watched him inside, and he didn't exhibit ANY problems as he rode the go-carts, jet ski's, and played the round of mini-golf, not to mention the hurt he put on the buffet! I was curious if he would just sit around a huff in disability, it was a little mystery I wanted to solve. I'm sure he saw me with those pursed lips of disapproval. Shame, shame on him.
After our incredible experience we went to Target to spend some gift money sent by Jill's parents for Teensy and I had to pick up some things for dinner. Kassie and her girls were coming over for a barbecue and we wanted to make sure we had plenty. Kassie is another good friend who lives one neighborhood over. I grabbed some more chocolate milk (Chubbers calls it, "chocky") and picked up a tenderloin (pork) and some Parmesan blend. We barbecued chicken, grilled the pork tenderloin, roasted some squash and zucchini then broiled some cheese on top, baked some beans, and had some watermelon. Next time you grill chicken try this: Get your chicken good and seared don't worry about cooking it to the bone. Once you have a good sear on it take it off the grill and put it in a baking dish, cover it with barbecue sauce, then cover the pan in foil and bake it at 400 for around twenty or thirty minutes. It gets this light smoky flavor and stays tender and juicy plus the barbecue sauce doesn't burn. I love the trick.
Everyone but Teensy and I went to the Splash pad in our neighborhood. A splash pad is a concrete surface with water effects. The kids get soaking wet but don't have to worry about drowning! We love the splash pad. Chubbers is out on getting sprayed so he will run in when the water goes away and run like the wind when it starts back up we get so tickled at him trying to get out of the way of that water! It wears Titus out, we love it when Titus wears out! After the splash pad it was bath and bed for the kiddos.
We had our Aero bed inflated in the game room for Reagan and Jill, but Titus insisted on sleeping on that bed. Jill agreed to sleep in his room and give her spot to the boy. He was thrilled with the idea of sleeping on the blow up. As we were all winding down, Reagan ran across the Miss Universe pageant and decided to watch. They had narrowed the field down to 15 and it was swimsuit time after the break. When the break was over the announcer said, "Welcome back to the Miss Universe pageant, it's time for swimsuits and here comes Guatemala." "Guatemala! Guatemala! who would name their kid Guatemala!" Titus was stunned and shocked to realize that some parent had named their child this horrible name. He was convinced that their country of origin was their name. I couldn't convince him otherwise and he probably still believes there are people in zebra bikini's named Guatemala, Brazil, and India. What's a Dad to do? I really got a kick out of that.
This weekend Kendra's brother and crew are coming which means more fun! We'll celebrate Titus' birthday and Devin's son, Reese, birthday. I'll let you know about that later.
This week being a short week means--crazy! I have a lot of summer stuff getting ready to blow up in my face and I have to get on the ball wrapping up the last minute details that must be taken care of. The first is a huge event I'm coordinating at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, that's Friday. Then I have two big events coming up plus some other small stuff as well as normal worship stuff. Oh yeah and this Sunday is promotion Sunday which means it will be crazy with all of the kids freaking out at their new classes and teachers. Looking forward to that one!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Memories

My family, the extended family, didn't get together much. Kendra is amazed that I do not know my cousins as she knows her cousins. Kendra's family is huge! Both her Mom and Dad have seven brothers and sisters, all with children, and some of those have children. Their family reunions run into the hundreds, all family, all close. There have been times that this closeness causes some discomfort, but by and large there is a great blessing to be said for having a large family. When Kendra and I were engaged and came time for me to meet the family I was petrified. We were in Oklahoma City and Kendra's family was in Sterling City, Texas. It was about a seven hour drive from OKC to SC, TX. I had never been to Texas before I went with Kendra.

The entire drive there I was busy learning the names of all her aunts and uncles. We focused mainly on her Mom's side of the family since we would be seeing more of them than on her Dad's. "Ok, all you have to do is call my grandpa Paw, Paw; my Grandma...Grandma; Then there is my Aunt Kathy and Uncle John they have John B, Margaret, and Katherine, my Aunt Jerry, Uncle Kelly, who have Candace, Chris, and Dustin, my Aunt Janice who has..." you can imagine how my head was spinning and we weren't even to the third aunt! I knew I was doomed, doomed. Entering situations that I've never been in, not knowing what is going to happen really keyes me up. Meeting my future wife's family on their turf for the first time is a butt-clench that I still feel to this day! Holy Cow it was awkward.

The drive to Sterling City was long, I felt as though I was pushing that car and not riding in it. We drove mostly in the dark because we both had to work before we left town. We were in Kendra's Nissan, little 5-speed Sentra, that was such a good car. There was a point in the drive to Sterling that I realized we had left civilization. I'm a city boy and used to wide roads and street lights to guide my way. We were in the toolies of Texas and there were no lights, no wide roads, no homes, no hills, just flat, barren, darkness. "Where are we?" "We are just about to Bronte?" "What's that?" "A town, we'll go through about six town before we get to Sterlin City." My wife has one of the best Texas accents around, I love to hear her talk.

After Robert Lee (a town) we hit the long stretch of road. Now when I say long stretch of Road I'm talking about Sacajawea saying, "Long river." This road is two lane, no lights, and about thirty minutes of driving straight, literally in a straight line. "Help me watch for buzzards." "What!" "Buzzards, oh yeah and deer, too." "I cant' see a thing." "Well you have to watch for buzzards and deer because they come up to the road at night, the buzzards want to eat the dead deer that people hit. And the deer are just stupid." As if I couldn't be more clinched the thought of encountering a buzzard feasting on the dead carcass of a deer was just too much. Where I'm from you just don't have to worry about that at all!

After completing the longest drive of my life, we turned left. "Now where are we?" "See that light up ahead?" "Yes, what is it?" "Well in about twenty minutes it's going to turn into Sterlin City." Twenty more minutes, at least this stretch of road was two lane divided highway. "Sterling county is the only county in Texas with one town-Sterlin." That bit of trivia is still amazing to me. "You have all the names down of my family, you are going to meet them tomorrow, my uncles will want you to go hunting with them." "What!" I had never hunted anything (well except the sale clothes rack) in my life. I didn't' know the first thing about stalking prey, killing it, I couldn't go hunting! I also did not bring the appropriate clothing for hunting. "Maybe I'll just stick by you (as a blood tick clings to it's host for dear life)." "What's my Mom's name?" "Ok, there's Ken and Billy, Devin and Mindy." "Good, my sister leaves tomorrow, but we'll get to see her a little bit. I'm sure they are up." It was around 1am and I was dead tired.

"Here we are." Sterling city is small. Currently, there is a huge truck stop (Town and Country) a grocery store (Hitchin Post) a Hardware store (Ross Hardware/funeral home) the bank, the post office, a Mom and Pop Pizza Mexican anything else place to eat, and Dairy Queen. You cannot be a Texas town and NOT have a DQ. At the time we were (which is now about 12 years) there Kendra's aunt and uncle had a grocery store as well. At their grocery store all you did was walk in find your groceries and sign this little slip of paper. That's it, the billed you. I had never seen anything like that my entire life.

When we got to Kendra's house her brother and sister were sure enough up and waiting for us. I had met Devin one other time. He's chatty cathy and full of trivia. Devin is one of my favorite people, you can't help but love him you just can't. He's married now and has three kiddos. He could be a whole entire post that Devin. I'll just leave it as him being one of my favorite people in the world.

I went to bed in the guest room. There was a ceiling fan in this room that I am sure was the propeller for a small engine. This fan created more wind in this room than you can imagine. I could feel the skin on my face peeling off it was unbelievable. The room was great, very comfortable, and...breezy! I never have trouble going to sleep and this was no exception. Even though I went to bed very late, I still woke up early--butt crack of dawn to be exact. I had to go to the bathroom. I couldn't walk out of the room and meet her parents for the first time before she woke up. I just couldn't. It was to awkward, just too awkward. This part of my personality undoes Mildred, who could chat up anyone! It was two hours before I heard Kendra get up--my bladder was about to explode. Had the window been big enough i would have crawled out the window peed in the yard and crawled back in. I heard the first sign of life--finally! "Hi sis.." "Hi Mom." I found out later that Kendra Dad said, "You better go get that boy, or he'll never come out of that room." He was exactly right, I would still to this day be in that room 12 years later, impacted and bloated--dead as a doornail. Her family was great. I felt at home from the very first time that I met them. Very hospitable, very Texan. Her family is a hoot, and I love to hear her tell stories about them.

The beauty of Steling City is one that you have to either love automatically or be born into, it just doesn't' come right out and hit you. I'm from the lush hill country of Missouri: Mark Twain National Forrest, Boston Mountains" Sterling City is flat ranch land. I have grown to love the southwestern landscape, but at first I struggled to see any beauty in this place.

Almost every man in the town wears a white cowboy hat and drives a truck. their face and arms are deep, dark brown while their foreheads are white as pure driven snow. The black and white photos of the ranchers crack me up because there are these tan fellas with snow white foreheads. Those cowboy hats are their saving grace I'm sure. I can't imagine what the sun would do to them if they didn't have those hats on.

Two other stories about Sterling then I'll shut up. First, the freezer. I wanted to cook dinner with Kendra and we had decided to make spaghetti. "The ground beef is in the freezer." I went to their upright freezer and looked for the meat. "It's in the bottom bin." Ok. I was picking up wal-mart sacks with kielbasa in them to get to the meat. "Will, do you know what you are holding?" "Sacks full of sausage." Kendra did not attempt to contain her laughter and began to roar! "N...n...n...o...i...t...i...s...s..n..a..k..e" "What did you say?" "They are rattlesnakes, you better put them back before they thaw." At that precise moment I had the energy to run, like Forrest Gump back to Oklahoma City non-stop! "Why in the sam hill would you have rattlesnakes in your freezer?" Turns out Kendra's dad hunted snakes for a living at one time and still caught them from time to time. He would put them in these sacks alive and place them in the freezer where they would coil up and die. They still love to talk about that around the dinner table and I still open the freezer with extreme caution!

Second. We were all in the back yard, which is beautiful. They have the most peaceful yard with cool Bermuda that is like walking on carpet. So nice. As we were all siting around chatting on the gazebo I looked down and saw a tarantula crawling between my legs. It was all I could do to not scream like a girl and do a clog dance on that sucker! "Uh...there is a tarantula between my legs..." Kendra's dad casually walked over, picked it up. "These things will not bite you, go ahead and hold it." I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to touch a tarantula. "That's ok, I believe you." Please God, don't put it in the freezer! The tarantula is a welcome sight in Texas because they are great at pest control. No fun for a City Slicker, but none the less occupying a good spot in the circle of life.

Our boys love going to Granny's house, Teensy has yet to make the trip. We are still very afraid to get too far away from Doctor's that know us and our teensy. One day we'll make the trek to Sterling City and I'm sure she'll love it as much as we do.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Commence with the Commencement

This weekend was one that I've been dreading for several years now--Kirstiegirl's graduation. She is the first graduate in our family since I graduated (I have actually graduated twice, high school and college) so this was a big deal. She has been the only grandgirl in our family her whole life, but happily shares the space with Teensy now. Her talent lies in singing, she has a very beautiful voice and has done very well in competitions and the special groups that the High School has which also goes alongside with chorus. She loves to sing and has loved to sing since she was a tiny girl, she would sing out so loud in church that I would often times find myself just listening to her and not singing.

Kirstiegirl and I are close, she calls me Unkie, and have always had a strong connection. Knowing that this was her senior year has been bothering me since I knew that last year was her junior year. I really have a hard time with irreversible change: Walter Cronkite signing off, Laverne and Shirley going off the air, Ronald Reagan not being president, M&M's not having Red (thank God, every once in a while we get a reprieve), Katie Couric not being on my favorite morning show, Melinda Doolittle not singing on American Idol, and Kirstiegirl not being in school-Oh the horror. It's just more than I can handle. I know there is nothing I can do, which makes it even worse, and it just tears me up.

We wanted to get a head start on the weekend and leave following Chubbers and Bub's pre-school performance (they were too cute, just too cute) which meant we technically left town when we left the house. It was my first time to load the Quest with all of our stuff, it's amazing there was anything left in the house we packed so much. We were on our way and hadn't been a mile when Titus' eyes blew out of his head and he yelled, "Mom, Emma is spitting up!" Teensy was not just spitting up she was competing for the new Linda Blair roll, "I polter-puked in Mom and Dad's new van." For a 13 pound five-month old she was able to expel more vomit than I can even begin to describe. I don't think Titus will ever be the same having witnessed this catastrophic explosion of vomit. It hit the back of the seat (she is still rear facing in case that wasn't already obvious) as it arched from her mouth. We pulled over and jumped out of the van to tend to Teensy. She was very upset, as were we. We haven't pinned down the actual cause although there are several theories floating around. This wouldn't be the last of the excretions from Teensy...more on that later.

When we arrived at Nonnie's house, the boys just explode with excitement--they love going to Nonnie's. There are not rules at Nonnie's other than to have fun. She does occasionally redirect if they are headed toward something that is breakable, but nothing is more important to her than her babies having a great time. We always struggle with getting them to stay on their nap schedules and bed time schedules, but do the best we can. When we arrive at Nonnies we also begin the chaos. It is very chaotic and hurried, always on the go and always trying to figure out what we are going to do right before we do it. We get keyed up let me tell you.

The typical schedule at Nonnie's goes like this:
Get up around 8-9, lounge and snack on whatever breakfast junk food we've bought..10ish start calling Lucy to see what the brood is going to do--decide then rush around to get to the lunch spot before the crowd...head to the mall around 2 and spin our wheels in there until around somewhere...get home around 7 and lounge around until we all go to bed. That's the routine. It may not sound exhausting, but getting everyone in the right place and at the same time is miraculous. Talk about herding turtles in a pile of peanut butter?...well think of it as a turtle convention on peanut butter hill.

Sunday came which meant going to Lucy's church, for Kirstiegirl. I'm not so crazy about this place, for several reasons all of which I'll save for a much more depressing post than this one. Coming from my current church to this one was like going from a blast furnace to a blast chiller--totally different: one is on fire and one isn't (get it?) After church we had to decide on lunch and then scramble to beat the lines that form at all of the good restaurants. We chose Chedder's, one of my favorite places, and sent Kirstiegirl on her way to get us a table ( for 10 which equates into hour long waits on Sunday).

At Cheddars we all ordered, I got the new Spasagna upon Mom's recommendation breaking from my tradition of always getting the same thing no matter what. As we were waiting for lunch to come, "Uh...Will...I think Emma just...oh my gosh she just crapped all over me!" Kendra was holding Emma and Emma had a major blowout! It was on Kendra's arm, her dress, her shirt, everywhere. I think Emma had poo loaded in a compressed air sprayer and painted her Mommy with it. Lucy and Kendra headed to the bath room to begin the clean up duty and I headed for the house to get Kendra a change of clothes, bless her heart. Chedder's has an amazing hand dryer that I think uses a 10 horse power engine, I'm convinced it could launch a shuttle into orbit. It did a good job of cleaning up Kendra to the point that I could turn around and head back to eat lunch.
My spasagna was not so great. The basic idea is to take spaghetti, add cheese and Alfredo sauce to it and smoosh it into a huge pan, bake it, slice it into large squares and cover it with meat sauce:whifenpoof you have the marriage of two Italian staples: lasagna and spaghetti. I think my biggest hang up with this was all textural, it just felt weird to me. I also hit a stone cold spot and that turned me off too. Mom loves it, and I can see how many people would, but I am just going to pass and stick to the chicken fingers or hamburger from now on. I thought that if you took the mass and sliced it to make layers and put a slice of mass, sauce an cheese, it might be better but I just dont' know. I do love the chicken fingers, and the burgers are great, what I love are the cookie monsters, and always hope I have the time and tummy space to indulge myself with one of those babies. Those things are sin...pure sin.

We rushed home to change so we could get to graduation on time. Kirstiegirl had a little over 350 graduate with her, and they make it a huge production. Every student receives only a certain number of tickets ( I think it was like five or six) which meant those who needed more had to beg borrow or steal to get them. With three sets of grandparents, Teensy and the boys, Kendra and I, Kirstiegirl's boyfriend she should dump (ooops), Lucy, Doug, and Drewber; every person had to have a seat even babies. Lucy was able to get enough tickets and we were all set. I dropped everyone off at the door and then drove a mile away to park and walk a mile back to the gymnasium (I watched the trip meter on my van because I knew I would blog about this I didn't take picture because I forgot the camera). On the walk to the gym (I never thought I would be typing those words in reference to me) I noticed something shockingly appalling--people were not dressed up for this. I saw people in cut off shorts, flip flops, untucked shirts, dirty jeans, halter tops, sweat pants. I was just shocked. I remember all of the graduations I have ever attended wearing Sunday best, I even had to take an extra bath just to make sure I was presentable. These folks jumped off the couch slid into their mowing shoes and headed to graduation, with plans to fall back on the couch when they came home from graduation. I saw men dressed in full, "mid-life crisis Harley-Davidson chic" and a very few people dressed for the event. I consider graduation a formal event and like to think that you would wear good clothes to them. For heaven's sake just dust off the funeral suit and wear it for three hours, it won't kill you and if it does you are already dressed for burial.

The graduates also had not adhered to the dress code as I saw many wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes with t-shirts. At my graduation, had anyone worn blue jeans and a t-shirt under the gown Ms. Stover would have had a complete come un done all over you. It was a very, very strictly enforced dress code you didn't cross. The girls had to wear dark shoes, boys dark dress pants and dark shoes--major emphasis on the tow the line rule. You just didn't do that--period!

When I finally made my way into the gym and found my family I saw Bub crying. We hadn't been there ten minutes (well I hadn't) and he was already in trouble. What would the next three hours mean for me...torture for sure. I tried my best to snap him back into a good mood and succeeded. We finally started all of the commencement exercises and it was typical graduation typicalness. Roads, journeys, expectations, dreams, following, blah, blah, blah, it's the same stuff that every graduation in every corner of this country talks about. "The road upon which we are embarking..." The good thing is that every speaker was only about two minutes long which went by really quick. Kirstiegirl performed with the choir and then the Senior ensemble performed (it was really good.) Oh yes, right before the choir sang, "Will...oh no...she crapped on me again." Teensy had covered her Mommy for a second time. Of they went to the bath room to get cleaned up.

I left halfway through to get the van and be ready to head back over to Lucy's for kirstiegirl's family cake party. Bub and I walked together and that was a hoot. He helped me notice all of the pineapples that had fallen from the trees (they are actually pine cones, but he calls them pineapples) busted balloons, tire weights, a dead bird, gravel, this huge road paver, all things that I passed by in my haste to get to the gym. I love that boy and his ability to help me see life's details and take the time to enjoy them. We picked up the crew and jetted over to Dillon's (local grocery store that's pretty cool) to pick up a cake and ice cream. Had Kendra and I been in charge the cake would have been made, snacks, cute decorations, and even a delicious punch with fancy cups and plates. We didn't decide to get together until Saturday night at about 9PM. Peanut Butter Hill, I'm telling ya.

Back at the ranch we all took pictures and smiled and hugged, ate cake and ice cream and talked and laughed. There were thirteen of us: Lucy, her husband (Doug), Drewber, Kirstiegirl, Mom, Dad, Dad's wife (Graham), Teensy and the boys, Kendra, Wayne and Vera (Doug's parents) and me quite a crew. Fortunately we all get a long well and enjoy each others company. We used to have a bigger family but deaths and folks just moving away make it really hard to get together we are happily together and make the most of it.

All of Chubber's favorite people were in one place and he was not able to contain his excitement and was just running around from person to person like a crazy man. Talk about being full of life--that boy is full of life. As he was running I saw him suddenly stop spread his legs apart and shake one leg as his diaper dropped out of this pant leg. He had run out of his diaper--we all laughed so hard. Chubbers was embarrassed but recovered quite quickly. I've seen a lot of things, but never that before. Bub was doing all he could to get attention, it makes me sad that he's not the center of attention anymore, and sees that Chubbers and Teensy just have to be to get attention. He still gets his attention and plenty of it.

We wrapped up our evening with a scramble to decide whether we cook or get take out. Take out won and we were yet again off on the race up peanut butter hill to get Sonic Diet Coke and Pizza Hut Pizza. It's a scramble I've loved my whole life, the go, go, go lifestyle of the Spoon's

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Crash, bang, boom!

My first car was a 1980 Pontiac Grand Le Mans which I purchased from my parents for around $500. This car had been my Mom's baby for seven years and taken her to and from work every day for those seven years without a moments trouble. Mom always gave names to her cars based on the license plate so she could remember the number. This particular car was Emma (EMH O31). Mom worked in Joplin and we lived in Neosho, thirty miles away. So, 60 miles a day were put on the car not to mention the Friday night and Saturday trips to town, which mean going back to Joplin. We easily put 500 miles on Emma a week, easy.

By the time the car came my way, Emma was in bad shape. She just wasn't the car she used to be, although she really wanted to be, it just wasn't in her. Mom had this really snazzy, two door coupe, an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. This car was a beauty, white with a maroon vinyl roof, really sharp. It was the first car we had with fancy climate controls and other gadgets that were really cool! Emma obviously knew she had been replace and had no reason for living, which meant she would give me fits every day of our relationship. I was often very frustrated with that car and kicked it's tires many, many times.

One of the most embarrassing times came one day when I was trying to leave school, high school. I always turned left and drove up the hill to get home. Leroy the rent-a-cop always directed traffic and allowed us to go at his pleasure. This particular day, he was motioning me to move on, as I accelerated quickly Emma had a stroke. There I the middle of the dad gummed road...students walking around my car laughing and poking fun. "Get a real car." "Nice rod, spooooon." Humiliating, Emma came to life after that moment and took me home where I contemplated never leaving the house again. We never could figure out what was wrong with that car.
The last summer I spent with Emma was, shall we say...tumultuous. I had secured a job at the mall, working for a Toy Store. This replaced my job at Wendy's (that is SO another blog post!) which I totally hated from the first greasy day to the last. The mall would turn out to be a good gig, ill-fated thanks to Emma. I have this thing about being late--i hate it. I would always leave the house at least an hour before I had to be there just to make sure I was not late. Driving from Neosho to Joplin meant going Highway 71 a two lane mostly curvy highway but not dangerous. Once I hit the big city things got stupid (please don't' tell Titus I spelled that word I'll never hear the end of it) four lanes of madness. The best shot for me to get to the mall was to go straight down Rangeline Road. This stretch of road was crazy.
I don't know what it is about people driving, they really make me crazy. People clearly didn't have an awareness that there were any other vehicles on the road and would make right hand turns in the left lane, vice versa, stop in the middle of the road when ever they felt it was best, run yellow lights, stop midstream when they realized they had passed the place they needed to be and try to get back there without turning around. Treacherous to say the least. I was very cautious and didn't want to cause any trouble, so I followed the rules, never gassing my way through the yellow lights or anything. I never knew when Emma woudl go all cranky pants on me and shut down either so the rule was-No sudden moves!
I was about two miles away from the mall and had cleared the most dangerous part of Rangeline, approaching Bonanza when all of a sudden--WHAM! This car had jetted out from Bonanza in an attempt to outrun me and I hit the back left side of their car. The speed limit on Rangeline was 45 so cars moved at a good clip. What had just happened? I...I...I have been struck! I've had my first wreck! Where is the other car? No where to be found. The car had driven off, sped away. I hoped the toothpick that old geezer was using to farm the crud from this teeth got lodged in there for good! Not only had my first wreck been in Joplin on Rangeline, but it was a hit and run! I was hit and they had run! My mind was racing with the first step, what to do, what to do? I was in a total quandary. I put the car in park-good first step!, got out and saw that the front left of my car had been smashed in, no head light, all crunched up. I looked around as cars sped past me, some honking at their inconvenience. Heaven forbid my wreck make them change lanes! I just didn't know what to do and couldn't believe this was happening to me.
I walked up to wal-mart, which was far away, and called my Dad. "Hello" "Dad...this is Will--"
"What happened!" "I've been in a wreck on Rangeline." "Is the car ok?" You can leave it to my Dad to always, always ask the right questions. "Yessss, I'm ok too, thanks for asking. The headlight is bashed in on the left side." "Is anyone hurt?" "No, they are gone, they drove off." "What! Did you call the police--Dorothy just a minute--your mother wants to talk to you." "Sugarbear, this is Mom [she loves to state the obvious] are you ok, do you need me to come up there? Have you called an ambulance?" "Mom, I'm ok, I'm fine. I don't' need an ambulance, I just need to know what to do." "Call the police, then call your boss and go to work." "Will?" "Yes, Dad?" "Where is the car?" "Still where it was when it was hit, I walked up to Wal-Mart to call home." "Is it running [Dad knows me really well]?" "" It was still running, should have turned the car off but I was traumatized! Poor Emma was all abandoned and wanting desperately to go to a shady place and lick her wounds. Poor Emma was a one eye!
The police filed a report and said they would call if anything came up and thanked me for doing the right thing. I finally got to work and called Lucy. She couldn't believe it and wanted to come to the Mall and make sure I was ok, I assured her I was fine. Around 8:30 PM or so the phone at work rang. "Thank you for calling Toy Connection, this is Will how may I help?" "...Mr. Spoon please?" "This is he, may I help you?" "This is officer Iforgothisname the couple involved in the incident have been found. The person whom you were involved in the altercation with has come to the station to file a report. Wrong thing to do because they were charged with five citations." Apparently the old fart had gone to the station thinking I would have bolted away all a twitter in my youth, he clearly didn't know me very well. The guy had tried to tell them I hit him and ran away...ha...ha...ha! Busted, I hope the overindulged buffet grazing geezer had indigestion. I settled with their insurance for around $500 or so and still had ol' Emma one eye and $500 to boot. Not bad for a months trauma.
Now I not only had a nearly ten year old car that barely ran, but I had a nearly ten year old car that barely ran and had a crushed in front left light. Uncle Buck had a better car! Thank God it was summer and I didn't have to face the school!
Two months later, another wreck...this time not so fortunate. That will come tomorrow...stay tuned!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sugarbear loves his Momma

I have this feeling in my gut that I won't be able to post anything again until next week so I wanted to get my Mother's Day thoughts out of my head on onto "paper."

I have so many thoughts about theming a Mother's Day post, but really want to stay focused and stick to talking about my Mom and dedicate this blog post to just her and her alone.

I can't remember a time in my life when my Mom didn't work. She began working at St. John's Medical Center when I was 1 year old washing pots and pans in the Brady building. The Brady building was one of many small buildings on the campus of St. John's specifically treating rehab patients. Most of the patients who stayed at Brady were there for months doing rehab and they became part of the Brady bunch family. Thirty-six years later my Mom is the Director of Food and Nutritional services for St. John's. What is so amazing about this is the fact that she has worked in one place for thirty-six years and that she has climbed to the top of her profession and field without a college degree. Her success is from nothing more than pure hard work and excellence in what she does which she proves day after day. No paper can say you are qualified to do what my Mom has proven she can do.

As the son of an executive working woman you give up some things, and you also gain some things as well. Over the years I have struggled with the balance of those two trains of thought, "have I lost more than I have gained?" I have missed coming home to my Mom each day after school, I have missed her being my home room Mom, and her staying home to care for me when i was sick, true enough. I have gained seeing my Mom struggle to make hard ethical struggles and do the right thing, I have gained seeing my Mom administrates her employees and runs a tight ship---she commands each of their respect and is never, never ever going to ask an employee to do something that she herself would or has not already done. I have gained learning about mass production of food and gained a love for cooking and collecting cookbooks, I have gained thirty minute drives with just me and Mom. I have gained a compassion for serving people to your exhaustion and smiling while you do it, resting for a bit, and hitting it hard the next day. We lived in another town than St. John's was in and it took us exactly thirty minutes to get from the hospital parking lot to our driveway. As I wrestle the thoughts in my mind I can only come up with the fact that what you get is what you get. It is up to you to see the profit of your life and up to you to find benefit with the cards you are dealt. Sure, I could have resented the things that I have lost more than I cherish what I had and have, but had I chosen that path I would have lost everything. Instead I have embraced and looked for the profit of my life and see that I have gained much more by choosing to embrace what I could gain no matter what the cards say.

Most of the employees that work closely with my Mom have done so for twenty or more years, I know more about these folks than I do my own relatives or cousins. I wanted to be with my Mom when she went to work and have the fondest memories of going to the hospital with her and spinning around in her cool office chairs. She had tweed and chrome chairs, so cool. She also had a rather impressive collection of office supplies. Her desk and middle drawer could entertain me in my world of imagination for hours and hours upon end. Some of my time there was spent just hanging out with Mom. More than that though I spent my time working in the kitchen and diet office, helping people get their jobs done. I scrubbed pots with Leroy, worked the tray line, cleaning the tray sas they came in from the cafeteria or from upstairs, loved every minute of it. I worked parties and ran food from the kitchen to the serving lines, at the anual hospital picnic I was one of the first ones there and last ones to leave, working like a dog the whole time. I loved it. What I loved was being with my Mom, all of the other things were just fringe benefits to the real core of my memories, time with Mom.

As a very young boy summers meant I would go to work with her everyday and get picked up by Robba. We always got to work by 7:30 and Clara had my standard breakfast ready: Cream of Wheat (sugar, butter, and milk please); buttered toast (two slices of the butter drenched gooey delicious toast); two sausage links; and chocolate milk. I ate that every day (as I type that my brain is registering the tastes as if I had a bite in my mouth right now) and usually was done by the time Robba came to get me. Mom would pick me up around 6 and we would head home, arriving around 6:30 or so. I loved that life. On the way home Mom and I would talk about family, or what was going on at work (there is no soap opera on TV that compares to the lives lived at St. John's) sometimes we would talk about dreams. I can remember being about 12 or so and one conversation that Mom and I had which was very forward for her and actually panned out to be my life today. "Will, do you ever see yourself as a Minister." "What...good Lord no! What on earth would I do as a minister? I can't stand the thought of praying in public let alone preaching." "Well, you should think about it, sugar bear, you have the heart for it." Little did I know that I would soon live out that conversation.

Two chapters of Mom's and my life that I would rather have lived another way, but harbor no regret for how the Lord worked it out are: the divorce and 1998. When my parents divorced, I was 21, my Mom suffered a nervous breakdown. Mom changed, a lot, she was different in many different ways. Mom and I have always been closer that Dad and I and when I knew that they were divorcing I never thought I would do anything else other than live with Mom. "Son, this has been a really, really hard thing for me to work out. I am still working on figuring things out. I love you and want you to be ok in all of this, but I just can't have you live with me while I am sorting all of this out." Each word was a nail driven into my heart. What I know now that I didn't know then was that Mom was fighting depression, and suicidal thoughts on a daily basis. She didn't know herself or trust herself enough to take care of me because she didn't want me to find her should she decide it was too much to live the life she was living. We didn't talk for a good two months after I moved in with Dad, I wasn't sure we would ever talk. We finally came together with the help of Lucy and spent every Tuesday night together until I moved to Oklahoma to go to school. Those days seem so far away now, but I cannot ignore them as they are a significant part of my foundation and who I am today.

"Will...this is Sis...stay calm...Mom's been in an accident." "What? What kind of accident?" "She was on her way to Kansas city and turned onto a road not seeing a semi-truck that was coming and the semi-truck hit her at a high speed. The Highway Patrol and Life Flight are on the way, no one is sure that she is alive." I was working at Deer Creek when that phone call came from Sis. I don't think I have ever felt more emptiness in my life. To entertain the thought that my Mom was ripped out of my life without warning or notice and would never be in it again was more than I could take. "St. John's.." "This is Will, Dorothy's son, I want to speak to Kevin." "This is Kevin..." "Kevin, this is Will I want to know what is going on with Mom." "Will.. she's been in a horrible accident, the van is totalled and we aren't sure if there are any survivors we can't get hold of anyone." "I want you to get a helicopter ready and go get my Mom, right now." "Will...we can't do that the authorities are taking care of her and we are all on alert and waiting for them to arrive." "I'm on my way there, call me when you get the first word." I didn't have a cell phone and Kendra and I were going to be out of touch for three hours. Lucy was there and scrambling to find out what was goign on. She was goign to go to the sight of the crash and find out for herself if need be. When Lucy is on a mission, you just get out of her way--it is best for everyone. The van Mom was driving was hit by a Milk truck which was speeding at around 80 miles an hour. It hit her van in the front left side and didn't stop until it had driven over her van. The Highway Patrolman said that if the truck had been one inch closer the entire van would have been sucked up into the truck and there would have been a total loss. One inch. Guess how grateful I am for one inch to this day? She survived that crash with ten staples and a cracked rib.

Mom loves the first slice of hot chocolate cake, fresh out of the oven no frosting. She loves any cake hot out of the oven, first slice. She loves snicker doodles, I can't make them and not think of her--she loves those cookies. She also loves my Chicken and Noodles, they are the way my Grandma makes them but thanks to Mildred and Pat Triplett I've kicked up the broth to a whole new level. Mom has a laugh that when she gets going will make everyone in the room laugh. We usually had no idea what she was laughing about but knew when she would calm down and tell us we would always be like, "that wasn't fun." Mom usually pictures people she knows in situations that she sees on TV and finds great humor in those situations. I love to hear and see my Mom laugh, there is nothing better.

My Mom is a wonderful person whom I love with all my heart. I can't really picture what my life would be like if she were not here to be in it. She is 60 and will retire in three years from St. John's. I cant' really wrap my brain around Mom minus St. John's because that equation ever existed before in my life.

To see Teensy and the boys love her so hard and much makes my heart happy. She is a great Nonny. She's a great Mom who has rescued me from many a horrible situation, each time never asking questions, always being my biggest fan and most staunch protector. No one talks about Mom's kids in a derogatory way around her, she will mow you down with razor sharp precision and leave no doubt in your mind about how she feels.

I hope those who read this and have only memories of their Mothers to lean upon, will find in themselves that which makes them great and thank their Mother's for it. Mom's have such wonderful impacts in and about our lives it is hard to articulate just how important they are to our worlds. It is only in their absence that we can say, "If mother were here..."

I love you Mom, Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Salt plain and simple

Tonight salt was poured into the open wound of the American Idol wind down. I am NOT liking this final four, down to three, down to two thing AT ALL. I hate that poor Lakisha is going home, she seems so nice. All four of them are just the best, and I can't stand it to see them going home, picked off week by week. I don't think I can handle next week. As much as I don't want to think it, reality is demanding that I say it: I fear that Melinda is in the cross hairs of going home. I can feel it in my gut, and I hate it. I think it's going to be Blake and Jordyn in the final two and Jordyn will be the next American Idol. I hope that I'm wrong.

Some of the genre choices were a little bizarre to me this year, namely Rock Singing male night and Bee Gee's night. I'll give you that both are excellent in their genre, but for a competition which has men and women, just don't think it was fair to subject these great singers to music that was impossible to interpret, I also didn't like Latin night--no one can pull off Latin music that is not Latin, you just can't.

I know Lakisha will have a career and will be great, but it's just too much for me to see one picked off after the other, it hurts so bad. It all boils down to next week. I would love to see a Melinda/Jordyn show down, but fear that next weeks genre will not be ripe for Melinda.

I am also a little miffed that Randy told Blake he was beat boxing too much. I can remember a few weeks ago that he was telling him to beat box. This from a man who only has five words in his vocabulary, "check it out...dawg...check it's like this." I want to scream when he starts that dawg business AHHHHHHHHH. Just so frustrating.

I can't wait for next season to roll around, I hope I am able to throw myself into it like I have this year. Pass the salt please.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Vroom Vroom Vroom

There are something that I just don't get along with...ok a lot of things. Two of the things which are at the top of my list are cars and cell phones. It's a love hate relationship, I love having them, but hate everything else about them. I did manage to find a cell phone that I loved, truly loved it. I could look at that phone and see nothing but contentment and love. Chubbers got a hold of it a week ago and sucked on it like a Popsicle, you know he licks everything in sight--such an oral baby. His slobber infiltrated the entire phone and corrupted the whole set up--my phone died a cruel death by drowning. I mourned that phone. Fortunately I had a back up and used that for a few days until the new phone arrived, it sat on my porch for two days incidentally--don't ask. I'm back in business and getting to know my new friend--sam. I hope to love this phone as much as sam blue. Sam? I have a fondness for Samsung phones it seems. White wine, yeast bread, custardy gooey cakey desserts, White Mocha's, New Balance shoes, Born dress, Levi jeans, and Samsung phones.

Cars, well we go way back. I've been a car collector since I was a boy. I always got a car when we went to town, which was every single Saturday of my life. I loved cars. I still have all of my cars from my childhood in their original tire cases (four cases). I would get my Mom's cutting board she used for sewing (I NEVER saw my Mom sew a blooming thing) and had this city built. The girds were great and the swooping lines made for super highways--a boys dream city come true in a folding cardboard cutting board for seamstresses.

When I turned sixteen Mom and Dad decided I could by my own car (the fact that Lucy threw one of the biggest hissy fits known to man didn't help, she was married and out of the house for Pete's sake--what concern was it of hers?) and offered to let me buy their old car. It was a maroon 1980 Pontiac Grand LeMans. My Mom had used this as her commuting car for seven years and Emma (EMH 031 was the license plate thus Emma) was a tired old gal. I gave them the money to put down on a new car and was the reluctant owner of Emma. It would work out fine, if it ran--turns out she was a temperamental old hag. I can remember sitting in the middle of the street that separated my High School from student parking, stalled out. The rent-a-cop was trying to get me to move on, the students were laughing and poking fun, "get a real car." So humiliating, Emma was an old hag with a cruel temperament, timed for only the most embarrassing of moments.

Emma met an untimely death-two wrecks back to back in the same month. Not such a good month for me and cars or State Farm. They were not like a good neighbor, in fact they were down right ugly and cranky with me which is why I to this day do not like to be called Bill. I can feel myself getting all keyed up just thinking about it. I'll post the story another time.

After Emma died I bought a really great four door 1980 Honda Accord. This is before they were cool and the must have car of the world. I loved my Honda, grey with grey interior--a monochromatic dream. It ran great ( I still love to hear Honda's start) and was such a good car for me. I was driving to and from work and to and from college with this car and loving it. I drove it for about two months, maybe three when it, too met an untimely death. That's a story for another day, too--I feel a trilogy coming on--Mildred has her bird collages and I have car grief stories.

I grieved that cars death. I bought another Honda, an Accord two-door hatchback. This one was blue, light blue, with a sunroof and it was a standard. I loved this car, too. I never had a moments trouble with it, well did on my 22nd birthday. What are we up to, here a quadrology? Is that even a word?

By this time I had decided to go to school in Oklahoma and had given up hope on old blue to get me there. I tend to make really stupid choices when it comes to practicality and long range future stuff. It's a gift. I decided to trade the paid off old blue for a new car. I found my way to a used car lot, found a car I liked and planned to buy it. I went home to get Lucy so she could help me out and when I got back to the lot, the car was gone. I decided on a Chevy Corsica--the WORST car I have ever owned in my entire life. This car was a lemon--a grove of lemons. Everything about this car was crazy. When it rains everyone driving their cars are encouraged to use the windshield wipers something about seeing that makes people calm or something. My windshield wipers would work up to a point, like say two or three passes, before they would decide they hated each other and attack themselves. I had fighting blade-for real. they would get all gummed up in themselves and stall out. Nothing like angry blades on a car. Other things were screwy about this car, lights not coming on--it was a whole electrical grief thing. Hated that car!

I traded that car in on a Nissan Stanza...then a Plymouth Acclaim--hated that one too. The engine fell off the car after only about 100 miles. My first new car ever and the engine is hanging on for dear life. After the Acclaim...let's see now...Oh yes, my first Altima. I was married by this time. Loved the Altima...traded it in on a new Ford Taurus. I bought the Taurus right before the body style changed dramatically and plunged my cars value even faster into the toilet. I think my Taurus and $5 is enough to get a Venti, non-fat, no whip, white mocha, please stir. The Taurus was a good car until we hit a dog--pentalogy? Work with me here, I'm trying.

After the Taurus we bought a Ford Expedition, Eddie Bauer--loved that car! By this time i was buying two cars at a time (during the Expedition stage I went through a Plymouth Breeze and a Ford Thunderbird which I still have). The Expedition was a great car for a long time, but it's time came and we traded for another Altima. We loved this Altima: leather interior, sun roof, bose sound, 5 disc changer, the works. it didn't have navigation, or a driver who knows directions, but other than that it was a loaded.

The Altima was traded in last night at 11 Pm for our newest car, Nissan Quest. I hope to love this van, we are going to own it for a long time. Saying that is like saying, "Indians...what Indians General Custer?" I hope to own it until it's paid for and beyond.

Car buying wouldn't be so bad if car dealers didn't screw me over--royally. They see me coming and begin to salivate. I get screwed on every car deal I have ever made. Car sales man...oh those folks...tisk tisk tisk. They are all a certain breed--ok, ok, let's see a hexaology is it? I have so much to rant about regarding cars, purchasing cars, showrooms that all smell like rubber and bathroom fragrance and those annoying echoing intercom calls. This latest experience my change my mind about car salesman, or at least open up a new subcategory. My experience with the latest car dealership was totally pleasant--Nelson Nissan. It was the best place I have ever bought a car. I don't think I got screwed, we'll have to see.

Titus is very excited about the van, the color inside matches his hair and there are two tv's, one for each captain's seat in the middle row. There are wireless headphones for each screen, two movies can play at the same time and Kendra and I can talk ugly about people and not worry about Titus repeating it to them--YIPEE! Everyon seems so far away, I hate to say I miss the closeness, it's a beautiful adjustment to make, being far away.

I'm far from purchasing my last car ever, in fact I'm going to start looking right now for the car to replace the T-bird. That's a few years away, but what's the harm in looking :))

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Now what am I going to do?

This season of American Idol is the first time I have ever invested myself into the entire process and today is the day I regret that investment. I usually love watching the auditions and laughing at the pathetic's who parade in front of the camera. I think it jumped the shark when the producers allowed some of the auditions to go on air for their slaughtering from Simon, but all in all I do love the auditions.

The first real night of the season was underwhelming, but I voted and got into the whole, "who's going home tonight" thing with building excitement. I was all about Hair Man going home two or three weeks before he actually did go home. Phil has always bugged me. He seems like a great guy, good father and husband, and can sing--country especially well, but he just looks funny. I've dubbed him the love child of Boy George and Sinead O'Connor. As long as I don't' look, it's ok, but he just kind of bugs me.

With the kick off being on Wednesday night I always have trouble getting home in time to watch the show, as with last night. I searched the Internet hoping to find some clue as to who went home, texted Mildred incessantly, "where were you?" and went to bed not knowing--very frustrating. I was keyed up because I've been looking at the busy signal websites and scared to death that Jordin had bumped Melinda from the top, which meant Melinda could meet with an untimely death. I really like her (collective, "Duh.") and deep down want her to be the new Idol, but don't' think she'll make it.

With Phil and Chris going home all of my favorites are left so now what am I going to do? I'm going to suffer the pain of elimination for the next three weeks that's what I'm going to do. it's almost more than I can handle. Blake is the first one I can handle going home. He's great and brilliant at arranging songs, but his style of music is not my style. He's fun to watch, but I'm not a fan of his style of music. Lakisha is next followed by Jordin and then hopefully Melinda will be the new Idol. I sure hope she wins and plan to vote, vote, vote for her.

There was one season of Survivor where I got totally sucked into watching every episode and playing the guessing game. I don't' know if I'll be an Idol watcher like I was this season, but you never know.

I have my Pepto and tissue in hand to help with my gut wrenching tearful angst that I feel knowing that this season is coming to an end and that all my favorites will be blasted away.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Teensy's turn around

This morning at 3 am Teensy decided it was time to eat. We haven't had a 3 am wake up call from her in several weeks, it seems like those days never happened until I think about them and it all comes rushing back. Teensy was fussing and then let our a wail that woke both of us up, "Hey! I can't move and I'm hungry--DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!" I stumbled into the bathroom, realized I was headed in the wrong direction and turned around to make my way to the kitchen to whip up her bottle. We have been adding a little cereal to her bottles for a few weeks because it seems to help her with not spitting up as much. We don't know if that is what is working or if she is just growing out of that stage, but she is not spitting up and we are still putting cereal in her bottles.

When Teensy was first born, she was 3 pounds 2 ounces and we celebrated that she was getting the equivalent of 1/2 a teaspoon (they were using metric stuff which I could never figure our if I had too). When she was in the NICU she had an NG tube in her nose which led straight to her stomach. The nurses could put a syringe on the tube and pull the contents of her stomach out see if she is digesting or not and then put it back. It was all magic to me, just magic how they worked with those tiny little babies and knew so much about how to give them what they needed. For most of her stay she would get her feeding injected into her stomach with out any work at all on her part. All that she had to do was digest. From that point they moved to doing gravity feeds, where they placed the syringe on her incubator and allowed gravity to feed her. It was left up to her and gravity to decided how much and how fast she would eat. Again, magic. She was taking about a tablespoon, maybe two by this time. NICU's structure is set up to move babies into areas based on the level of care. All babies are critical in there it is just that some are less critical than others. Teensy was a model patient and really minded the doctor's and nurses while she was there, doing everything they wanted her to do. I was a proud Poppa!

When she moved the "go home soon" side we met Adele. Adele had been a nurse since Cain was in diapers and knew all there was to know about modern medicine, but she had this savvy that set her apart. She wore a fanny pack that was a walking medical cabinet. Everything that she needed was on that pack. She was the only nurse who ever wore it and she really didn't care. All of the other nurses would come to her and get stuff. Adele was a hoot, she would talk to babies and give them instructions all the while she was taking care of them. She knew what was best, no matter what the doctor said, for the babies she took care of. She told Kendra, "Kendra...listen to me now, I've been doing this for a long, long time, we are going to get your baby home and soon if we do what I say." Her plan was to get Teensy to suck a bottle and take a feeding totally from the bottle and not gavage any. She was taking close to one ounce by this time. "As long as that tube is in her nose, these other lazy nurses will just gavage her so they can get on with their life." She was bound and determined to not gavage while Teensy was on her watch. And she didn't. The staff at the NICU where Teensy lived for forty days was without a doubt the best group of people I have ever seen care for babies in my life. They were all just incredible people who did unimaginable things, but did it to save babies lives. When babies were lost, it wasn't because they were not in the place they need to be and you could tell that it hit every single one of them like a brick. I don't' think any of those nurses ever got used to losing a baby.

When we came home, Teensy was drinking one ounce bottles in tiny little bottles. They were the size of M&M's minis and so small, but compared to her they were just right. She took those bottles and would burp like an adult, that always amazed me. We came home with the small Similac glass premix bottles and could use the same two ounce bottle for two feedings. Teensy ate at exactly 2, 5, 8, and 11 round the clock. We were so anal about making sure she stayed on that precise schedule. We always started about fifteen minutes early with getting the bottle ready, then we changed her diaper whether it needed it or not, got the burp cloth and then began to feed. Adele told us, "feeding is a job, when you feed you work, don't cuddle. Cuddling comes after the work is done--it's your reward." Those words rang in our brains and we took it very seriously that we were working, she had to eat, she had to live, she had to do this and it was up to us to get it done. We didn't cuddle her for the first two months we were home, instead she was held away form our bodies, head supported in our hands, with us holding the other bottle. Cuddling her just put her to sleep and we didn't' want her to sleep, we wanted her to eat. We felt guilty at times, but then Adele's words came back to us and we rallied.

When she began to use our AVENT bottles it was a miracle. She was taking a full two ounces at every feeding and it was amazing. She loves to eat and does not like taking burp breaks. We would feed an ounce, burp, feed the next ounce and burp. She screamed the whole time we burped between ounces. Sometimes I would get tickled because she was throwing such a tantrum and other times I was like, "holy crap, we do this every time just deal with it and burp" those laps in patience usually came in the wee hours of the morning. I could usually get three burps out, one wasn't enough, two close, three perfection. I had to get three distinct burps or didn't feel accomplished.
This morning as I was feeding her at 3 am and loving the moaning gulps that she makes as she drinks, it hit me how far we have come. The bottles we are using now are the ten ounce honkers, she takes six ounces! I feel like I'm feeding a 2-liter bottle of formula to an ant. She's doing so well and really amazes me everyday how much she has conquered. Sometimes I just stare at her all the while mentally pinching myself, "is this real...could this be real." There are moments of clarity when every parent feels totally and completely unworthy of the children entrusted to their care. Since I'm all mooshy and sentimental I won't talk about the times in which you wish you had a receipt and could just take them back! As much as Teensy came into our world so shockingly, it pales in comparison to the way in which I am amazed everyday that she is my daughter, given to me by a God who clearly loves me to point of lavishing such a great gift to me.

I expect each of our kids to do exceptional things, because I feel like God placed them on their path with very specific dedication and expectation. I feel like all of us are given to the world and given to their path with specific expectation. There is something that we all are expected to accomplish and be, no one is created frivolously. I have no idea what our three amigo's will do, but I know we will be proud of them and support them. Titus wants to be a doctor; Chubber's...well his goal right now is to make it to two--we have had some close calls!; and Emma is very head strong and opinionated (she is right now cooing me to her side like a mermaid's siren song luring the weary sailor) and certainly knows what she wants and when she wants it.
Deep, measureless love this Daddy has of his Teensy and her brothers. I love them so much.