if you like to talk to tomatoes....

Shaun always starts some kind of project with my pregnancies. This one was a big garden ( I think he is trying to escape the house!). Him and O dug and planted a few months ago and go and water most nights. They planted lots of things like corn, sunflowers, tomatoes, basil, mint, dill, peppers, carrots, and more. About half has survived. We have enjoyed some of the fruits of their labor. I used the basil, chewed on the mint, admired the flowers and sliced up the cucumbers. They have also produced some of the largest tomato plants I have ever seen. They have dwarfed O in height and look lusciously green and healthy. They are often covered in blossoms. However, no fruit. ( Yes, tomatoes are technically fruit).
Shaun was talking with a client over lunch about his garden and asking for tips on his vivacious tomatoes. The advice was surprising. Stop watering them. They are being over-watered. They are putting all their energy into growth and aren’t producing.
I can’t help but make the obvious connection here. I thought growth was good. We all need to be watered and fed. Can there be too much of that?
Apparently sometimes we need to stop and bear some fruit.
I am not good at that part. The fruit, the whole point.
I like to take it all in. Read and grow but not do so much about it.
I guess it is time to stop watering, and start producing.

generic Jesus

Lately in some of my attempts to save money I have been buying alot more things generic. You know the plain store brand package rather than the brand names we have come to love.
Sometimes generic just doesn't cut it. For example, maccaroni and cheese needs to be Kraft. Dr. Thunder is no replacement for Dr. Pepper. For the most part however, the stuff is the same. I hear alot of it is even produced in teh same factory and tehy just slap on different labels. We are paying extra for the pretty labels and commercials and comfort of old friends like: Betty Crocker, the Green Giant and even the Keebler Elves. Somewhere along the way, all the commercials and ads seemed to convince us that these brands were better and well worth the extra change.

Jesus came in one of those plain labels.
Some people missed out because they expected a much more sparkly package. They wanted more hype than he was willing to give. They wanted a sales pitch.
Jesus wasn't really into selling himself. He didn't pass out tracts or use phrases like "winning people to Christ". But he still managed to fulfill all his prophecies and then some. He spoke truth, sometimes quietly. Sometimes he yelled. He served. He healed. He washed feet. But mostly he just loved.
No sales pitch. No name brand. Just Jesus.

band-aid addict

Owen is addicted to Band-aids.
Diego and Spiderman are his favorites but he has been known to sport: Mickey, Big Bird, Camo and even Dora in a pinch.
He will even wear the "flesh" colored ones. ( Although I do wonder if anyone actually has flesh that color?). It isn't just the sticker or cartoon figure...but O seems to think they have magical powers. They can make almost any ow-ie better.
It can be a bug bite, a bruise or a scratch or an ow-ie that doesn't even leave a mark. Blood or no blood. I think he could break his arm and would still ask for a band-aid. Even if the wound doesn't hurt anymore or is a week old....he can still cry until the band-aid is firmly attached.
My son is also very feng shui and must have balance. If one knee has a band-aid, so must the other. He displays them proudly and will gladly show strangers his band-aids and tell them about what they are covering up ( if anything).

I wonder when we grow out of this? When did band-aids stop fixings our hurts? When did we start trying so desperately to hide them? When we were little we ran around showing off our scrapes and scars. Even the minor ones. Even the imagined ones. Sometimes even the internal ones. And usually someone was there to kiss them and bind our wounds. Now most of us try to hide our hurts and ache even more that no one seems to notice or care. We wonder why it doesn't get any better. We still want, exactly what O does. To be held and kissed and taken care of. We have a Father who doesn't think we are too big for this. He might even have a spiderman band-aid or two.

the public pool

I grew up on a country club golf course. No I didn't have friends named Muffy. I didn't get a Benz when I turned 16. And my parents didn't spring for the name brand jeans ( Guess, Cavaricci, Gibeeaud or Calvin Klein...if that dates me). I never owned a white tennis skirt.....but I did play. I would run ( fearing for my life) across the driving range to play tennis or swim. I was never all that comfortable there. Once I took my friends ( that did not live on the golf course) and they jokingly started singing the 90210 theme song as I signed us in. Suddenly it donned on me that this was not how most of the world lived. My parents worried and argued enough about money that I never realized we had any.
When I say we, I mean them.

This summer I purchased pool passes for me and O. Public pool passes. I am not trying to make any kind of political statement ...although I might if I had the choice to make. The public pool was really the only thing in our price range.

But I like it. It is a big fat mixture of the world. There are more tattoos than plastic parts. There are more races than name brands. There are nachos at the concession stand instead of martinis (and I love nachos). I am more likely to get sprayed with a water gun than given a dirty look for getting someone in the pool "wet". Hardly anyone has on make up or has their hair done. No one bothers to comment on the fact that O's bathing suit is on backwards ( he dresses himself these days...what can I say). The fact that my last pedicure was last summer doesn't seem to bother anyone......nor does the hail damage.

Ok, so I am not stupid. I do make sure that I lock my car door. I try to avoid the bathrooms ( let's just say they do not have deodorant, hair spray and lotion on the counter.....or any fresh white towels). It is crowded but somehow more comfortable than the country club I remember.

The anti-napper

I am convinced my son is the anti-napper.
He must be like Oprah and not need much sleep. Most nights I am asleep before him. Currently, let's blame this on the homestretch of pregnancy. During the school year I will blame it on a 5:45 am alarm setting...but I have always needed at least 8 hours. I think toddlers are supposed to need like 12, but O is out to prove them wrong.
I do wake up before him, but only because I tend to wake up when Shaun leaves. Kicking begins, I have to pee and am famished. So I get up and squeeze in 15-20 minutes or reading, blogging or unanimated TV before O rolls out of his bed ( usually still before 8 am) requesting strawberry cow milk and a poptart ( or something equally un-healthy which I will glady give him for another 15-20 minutes of reading, blogging, or brushing my teeth in peace).
Then I spend the next 5+ hours trying to exhaust him so I can get a nap in. I think I can nap while he naps, wake up an hour before he does and get something productive done ( like my lack of a nursury that I have exactly 2 months to get done!).
For example on Wednesday we went to the zoo. Yes, it was triple digits. No, I did not take a stroller. I made my poor son walk ( mostly he ran). We sweated and walked until my back ached. We grabbed a quick bite to eat. I seriously expected him to be out cold before ever getting on I-30. I had much in my favor: heat, lots of sweaty exercize and a decent length car ride home. We get home wide awake ( well O was wide awake NOT ME!). I plopped him on my bed, turned on some cartoons and expected him to be out within 10 minutes. 30 minutes later......when I woke up he was jumping up and down on the bed. He told me it was snack time and asked to go play outside. I was so warn out at this point. NOTHING got done. I planted myself on the couch while he destroyed the house. Leftovers for dinner
Thursday was going to be better.
-Weekly shopping at WalMart ( this alone is enough to wear me out)
-storytime at the local library ( ok, not strenuous, but lots of kids can be draining right....at least for me)
-quick stop at the playground on the way home (it is sooooooo hot).
-play w/ playdo ( took about 3 minutes to mix all the colors together and be bored)
-lunch
-color ( lasted slightly longer than the playdo, and could have gone on for hours had I let him color the furniture and/or floor...i seriously considered this before taking them away)
-was going to try for a nap at 1 but realized he was no where near "rest" ready.
-so we went to the pool.
The pool always does the trick, and this time he did indeed nap...or atleast when I woke up from my quick snooze he was asleep.
Once again I was sooooo exhausted I couldn't do much even after my breif nap.
Leftovers for dinner again. I had meant to pick up the living room .....instead I took O back to the playground while Shaun cleaned.

I am wondering how to exhaust my kid w/out exhausting myself......How many days until school starts? That has to be more relaxing than this.....even 9 months pregnant.

a few quick thoughts on integirty and accountability

initially they stink.
1. integrity is expensive. I have a 3 year old that is tiny. He wears 18 month shorts and they still sag. My point is when I go to the zoo, or movies or fly on a plane ....3 is no longer free. But 2 is. I pay for him, but I am alwyas tempted to not. To make it even worse, at the zoo the other day they even tried to stop me and I had to say, no he is 3. Just small. They still charged me the 8$ for O's ticket.

2. accountability is cheaper but that is exactly what makes it unfun. We are trying to ammend our seriously wasteful spending habits. This means being accountable for all of our expenses. Like thinking twice before going out to eat, getting coffee or buying a new book. I haven't been inside a Target in over a month. I have eaten leftovers for the last 3 days in a row. This morning I wanted to go to breakfast....but ate cereal instead. I don't like accountability either.

lend me some sugar, i am your neighbor

this is a post I put up on my writer's group site a week or so ago.

When Jesus was asked to clear up the whole “who is your neighbor” question. He answered in true Jesus fashion. With a story. The Good Samaratian. A tale of an expected enemy caring for an injured man. I have heard lots of takes and sermon on this parable but all of them are about loving not just the person across the street, or your friends, or the people the same color as you, or the people that believe what you believe but love that is bigger and broader than any of the labels we like to put on people. Love that doesn’t always come naturally.

Lately, I have been reading a few books that are fleshing out some of the conflicts going on across the globe. Last week it was, A Long Way Gone: memoirs of a boy soldier by Ishmael Beah. It is a firsthand account of an orphaned boy struggling for survival amidst the recent conflicts in Sierre Leone. Although the civil conflict has been officially declared over, there are still unspeakable things going on in Africa and millions of residents whose lives will never return back to “normal”. Currently I am wrapping up Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Greg is working in Pakistan and Afganistan to build schools, especially for young girls. He is single handedly fighting terrorism with books instead of bombs. Reading these accounts has made me question what contributions am I making?

Ironically, I am supposed to post this week about “loving my neighbor”. Most weeks I would think Jesus was trying to tell me that these stories going on across the globe aren’t quite as far removed as I might think. These are my neighbors and now that I know their stories I can’t ignore them.

I won’t ignore that conviction, or at least that won’t be my intentions but a stronger conviction resonates within me when I try to come up with a blog posting about loving my neighbor. I don’t know them. You know, my real across-the-street neighbors. I think God wants me to tackle my own street before/or in addition to becoming an activist for a cause across the globe.

Growing up I knew everyone’s name on my street. Sadly, most or them were older and didn’t have kids my own age but that didn’t stop me from slipping into their house for a snack and knocking on their door trying to sell them my girl scout cookies. Even in college there were probably 20+ girls on my dorm hall and I knew almost every one of them. I could have told you all where they were from. The brand of shampoo they left in the showers and most of their majors, who was in what sorority and who had boyfriends back home.

In comparison, I have lived in my current house for almost 6 years. There are only 9 houses on my cul-de-sac and I have only stepped foot in 3 of them. I know less than half of their names. I know only what my immediate next door neighbors do for a living. I have occasionally asked to borrow an egg. I have babysat a time or two in a pinch. I have a picked up mail once or twice. But I am worlds away from community. Somehow the task of getting to know my neighbors seems harder than sending a check to Pakistan. It is more impressive to tell my friends or people at my church about my passion for children in Africa, than it is to pause to chat with my neighbors while my hands are full of groceries and trying to chase my three year old out of the street.

A question that should be paired with “who is my neighbor?” is “do you know them?”. Whether they are across the street or across the globe. What are their needs? What is their story? I can’t begin to love my neighbors until I know them.

pool parties

This last weekend we went to 2 pool parties which has given me time to reflect on my body image. Normally I am a girl who is confident in her skin. As long as you can't see too much of it. I am ok enough with my body to not stress over an extra 5 or 10 pounds that sneaks on. To not ever pass up dessert. To not be religous about my trips to the gym. Ok to leave the house without make up or ironing ( well maybe that makes me lazy, not confident). But swimming pool season is too much for me.
I hate buying suits. I cringe when they put them out on display ...which seems to be getting earlier every year. I swear this year it was February. Trying them on is never ever fun. Although I do appreciate the trend over the last few years to sell tops and bottoms seperately. Because my top and bottom are opposite sizes. People say that a pear is the most healthy shape, but I think it is the version of "healthy" they use when referring to a chunky kid of baby.
This body that I am usually content enough in is suddenly horrifying in that closet of a dressing room under the flourescent lights, lycra and protective strip. I have even been known to cry. My body was made for jeans and sweaters. Maybe even an occasional tank top.....but not undergarments that will be passed off as proper swimming attire for an entire summer.
Let's start from the top. No boobs. These are essential in most women's bathing suits. Although after watching the olympic trials I'm thinking this flat chest might have been an assett and maybe I picked the wrong sport.
Next -- I am pretty sure that I got cellulite before I even got my period as a teen-ager. The hail damage has only gotten worse with age (and desserts).
I used to have a few coping mechanisms for my body inadequacies during swim season
1. shorts/skirts. The shorts kind of rub my fat parts raw and float up and drip when you get in and out of the water. The skirts are so grandma ( even the cute ones...and yes I still wear a swim suit w/ one). Ditto on the extra water and floating up.
2. Make a quick entrance and exit into the water. Go as far as possible w/ towel or cover up on, then return it to it's proper place around my waste ASAP. Keeping it within reach of the actual pool ledge is best. It is also important to get out of the water at an oppertune time. LAST or when everyone else is distracted. When not in pool keep butt firmly attached to a chair. Maybe when I get up and have waffle lines on my bottom no one will notice the other stuff.
3. I even tried making friends w/ my thighs. Anne Lammott wrote an entire chapter devoted to her thighs ( she calls them her aunties) and taking them to the beach. I could not embrace them. We are not friends. As a matter of fact, if they sold an expensive cream to get rid of them ( you know one that actually worked).....I would gladly trade in my car for a tube.
4. Avoid pools and people at the same time. This tactic actually worked for quite a while. UNTIL Owen!

Owen could live at the pool or beach all summer and has no regard for my above mentioned coping strategies. We are in and out of the pool 50X or more. I am chasing him all over showing my "aunties" as Anne would call them to everyone.

Being pregnant. Big pregnant for all of swimming season has only added to my woes. Some people think it makes it easier. You know, now I have an excuse. Yes I have an excuse for my bulging belly......but can I blame all my junk on the trunk on this new baby?
In addition to the usually dilemas I now have veracose veins. These are not what I used to think they were. I thought they were just spiderwebby viens...you know from like crossing your legs too much or something. No, mine are big and green and chunky. Your hips widen a bit when pregnant. I am also starting to waddle which only adds to my comical appearance. I haven't gained much weight this time around, but everything seems more cushiony. My belly is getting big enough that I can't see properly to shave. I miss entire sections of my leg....and don't even attempt anything above my knees.
Maternity swimsuits leave much too be desired in terms of style and hiding problem places ( besides a belly).

On the upside. My boobs have grown almost a full size. I am so damn hot I don't really care how I look in the suit. That and O is so cute splashing around and chasing me with a water gun that I almost forget about the hail damage.

beach pics

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grocery shopping

So with our recent expendatures, IRS screw up and soon to be new addition ( read an extra 800$ in month in childcare alone)......Shaun and I have "adjusted" our spending habits.

First things to go, non essentials like voice mail, caller id, the gym and (hold your breath) my every other week cleaning service. Our dish network is magically immune to these cuts due to an impossible to get out of service contract.

Next to go is food. Not all food. Just the good kind. Like grocery shopping at Target which inevitably means buying a coffee or a popcorn ( for O) on the way in, purusing the dollar spot ( which is now mainly the 2.50$ spot), checking out the clothes, for me, O, and now the pink section. Maybe a quick stop in accessories, or books or home decor before finally hitting my shopping list. Target is soothing. Wondering up and down the nice wide aisles always puts a smile on my face. They have spent goood money on aesthitics and I am more than willing to pay slightly more for an enjoyable shopping experience. Even their store brand (archer farms) comes in pretty packages with unique flavors ( try to find a Sams brand pesto or sushi!).

I am starting to forget what the inside of my pretty Target looks like. For the last month or so my weekly grocery shopping has been done at Wal-Mart. It is a new Wal-Mart but it only takes a few days for that novelty to wear off. I am greeted by the smell of Subway ( not Starbucks) and some friendly elderly employee who is usually too busy putting stickers on people returning things to help me find a cart with 4 actual working wheels.

The aisles are too close together. The lighting is poor. You are guarenteed to see something crazy. And can expect to wait in line for at least 15 minutes and right before you are next the person in front of you will need a price check or the cashier will decide to take a break. More often than not, I am solicited in the parking lot for money. They also only put those cart returns like every 50 parking spaces or so.......meaning I either have to haul O a good ways back to my car or leave him sitting in the sweltering car while I make the half mile trek to return my cart.

I am not sure how much cheaper my groceries actually are, but I will tell you there are few extra purchases. I do not linger. I rarely check out other departments like housewares, although lately I have had my eye on the school supplies. With those facts alone, I have probably made up for the extra money we have been spending on gas. On the other hand, after you subtract the bag that is inevitably left on their genius round spinning bagging contraption....we might just be breaking even.

online scrapbook take 2: O's birthday

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online scrapbooking take 1

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unstimulated

We have yet to recieve our stimulus check from the IRS.
According to the posted schedule it was supposed to be mailed on June 13. Trust me I have been keeping an eye on my mailbox for that little brown envelope. I hear that they are behind and don't worry about it. I even ask my dad the cpa who says the same thing.
It has kind of been ok, that it hasn't shown up yet because...........that means I haven't been tempted to spend it. Well, as much at least.
I have been a little stressed about finances once Tess gets here. My maternity leave absolutely sucks and my paycheck will be very short for several months + infant childcare is crazy expensive. We seem to be spending what we have now, but we are going to have to come up with an extra 700-800$ a month for her ( and that doesn't count diapers and formula and onsies). My stimulus check was supposed to help purchase a few baby things and add to a little cushion for those months where we run out of money.

And then we sprung a leak. Which turned into a gusher.
Right smack in the middle of the driveway ( underneath 0f course). This means jackhammers would be involved. This means thousands.
Turns out we need water. After getting ready for 3 mornings in a row without it, I have really started to appreciate what happens when you turn the faucet and water actually comes out.
A few quotes later and there is no way around the thousands.
I feel like God is leading us to get a grip on our finances and trust in him rather than my own cushion.

The plumbers come and tear up our driveway and front yard and fix the leak.
Well, at least we have that stimulus check coming that will help pay for at least a portion of the plumbing bill. (so much for cushion) Good news my dad is an accountant ........so I get him to check on things.

Apparently my check was mailed over a month ago. I get a phone # to call, an extension and a reference #. So I dial the IRS and am not suprised when I am put on hold. I am a little surprised to be on hold 10, 20, 30 and even 40 minutes later. After 44 minutes of elevator music I hear a beep and a real person is on the other end! I explain my situation. She asks me all kinds of questions to verify it was me and finally tells me what I already told her that my check was mailed over a month ago. Then I hear an odd beep and the line goes dead. Apparently I had been on hold for so long that my phone died! I frantically run to the next phone but it is too late. I get dial tone.

Lots of explatives later I try to call back. I am hoping last time was a fluke and that I will get through much faster now. I know Shaun thinks I must have been exagerating ( I might tend to do that from time to time)........and looks suprised to come home and STILL find me on hold. He makes the genius suggestion of using the speaker option. Whew, my hands are finally free and my ears aren't getting all sweaty. Another 45 minutes later alomst exactly and another real person gets on the phone. I fill her in and answer her crazy questions to verify that I am me. She places me on hold again and comes back to cofirm that my check was indeed mailed over a month ago. At this point I have waited on hold for 45 minutes for some info that I found online ( or had my dad find) hours ago. I try to hold back my frustration because this poor girl on the phone is not responsible. I assure her that we never got it. That my husband didn't get it and secretly cash it. She then says that she will but a search on it and get back to me in 45 days. I ask if I can expect a new check to be issued in 45 days and I swear I hear her supressing a laugh. She tells me that it will take 45 days for them to determine if the check was cashed or not. Then the begin the process of canceling it and issuing a new one ( probably another 45 days). If the was actually stolen our timetable is even longer.
I know that the irs is dealing with millions of checks, but it only takes me 45 seconds to see if one of my checks has cleared. I ask her can't they just type in the check # and see the status of the check. She says sortof and that I should hear back from someone in 45 days.

I call my dad, thinking I am just getting the run around and they will deal with him much faster. Nope he tells me to expect a letter in 45 days that says they haven't gotten to me yet and to wait another 45 days. He tells me that I will be lucky to get a check by Christmas.

I am almost willing to wait that long if it means I do not have to ever call them back.

Starbucks Stalker

I was meeting a friend at a Starbucks near her house. O was in crazy mode and she hadn't quite made it......so I instead of jumping in line I told the man who walked in behind me to go ahead.
That I was waiting on someone.
Just so you can imagine the scenerio better he is mid-40s. 200ish pounds. dressed business casual...like wearing real shoes. The kind Shaun only wears to weddings.
My friend Julie pops in seconds later and I get behind him to order.
I order my obnoxious coffee ( a tall nonfat half-caf misto w/ 1 pump of hazlenut) and a milk for O.
The man who had been ahead of me, turns and asks if this ( and gestures to my friend Julie) is who I am meeting. I just assume they know each other b/c Julie seems to know everyone and this is HER starbucks.
I nod and expect them to start chatting, but he kind of stuns me and says,
"Oh, I assumed it would be a guy".
Slightly awkard. I chuckle avoid eye contact and joke to my friend Julie that this is where I have all my hookups and I always bring my toddler son along too.
Now, you need to know what I am wearing. I have woken up, skipped the shower, skipped the brush and opted for the shove all your hair in a ponytail holder style. no make up. no jewelry. If wife beaters came in hot pink.......that is what I have on. No bra, but the maternity tank top w/ the built in little shelf they claim doubles as a bra ( well it does if you are an A cup like me) that I slept in and the drawstring pants I have worn for the last 3 days in a row. Black crocs and a severely chipped home pedicure. Did I mention this is the begining of my LAST TRIMESTER and there is no denying the baby belly sticking out from my trashy tank.

I get my drink and try to direct Owen to a table to wait on Julie. While she orders, awkward man tries to make conversation.
He says, "now I'm not trying to offend you or hit on you but..........you look really sexy"
I throw up in my mouth a little and laugh awkwardly saying "thanks, I guess......maybe you missed the obviously pregnant belly"
he insists that he didn't miss it and that I am "glowing" which I take it to mean he can see my nipples showing through my 2 layers of tank tops ( mental note start sleeping in a bra or atleast put one on before leaving the house........yes......even for coffee.)
I try to have a conversation with my 3 year old, and stare down Julie who decides to wait at the counter for her drink rather than rescue her friend.
This man keeps talking about how sexy I am.
I stare deeply into my coffee and start pinching Owen so he will cry and create a diversion.
He is not getting the hint.
Finally Julie shows up and I can ignore him a little better.
We finish our coffee. I give O most of my iced lemon pound cake becuase suddenly I have lost most of my appetite.
I have no words for this experience except to quote Hillary Duff "oogie oogie oogie".

Later that night I recount the story to Shaun. Explaining that he should be nicer to me because strange men are hitting on me. I begin with the, "you are really sexy line" and my husband says numerous things like "Was he kidding?" " Did he not notice that you were pregnant" and "are you sure he was talking to you?"
It took about 20 minutes of the silent treatment for him to realize he had said anything wrong.

fish update

I eventually decided to tackle the strange smell in O's room. First, I tentatively pulled back to covers more than half expecting to see a shriveled orange fish tucked in next to his stuffed animals. No Rhonda. Next step, let in the dog. Surely Maz would sniff out the fish and swallow it in one disgusting gulp. O might be scarred for life, but his room would still be habitable. No luck.So then I take apart the top of the aquarium and take out the filter. I'm not really expecting to find anything because the fish is way too big and the hole for the filter way too small. I unhook it, pry the darn suction cup off the back and dump out the charcoal bag. I empty the container out and still see nothing.............until a small silvery fish floating right on top of the water next to me. Orange fish is completely scale-free and floating belly up in the aquarium. Apparently allowing itself to be sucked up by the filter seemed a much more promising demise than sleeping with a toddler. I scoop Rhonda out with a little green net and transport her to her final resting place -- the toilet. I try to flush before O is further tramatized and our potty training takes about 20 steps backwards.

We go pick up another orange fish from Wendy ( the actual person, not the surviving brown fish) and add it to the aquarium. O happily watches the pair gobble up a few fish flakes and never tries to catch it. Lesson learned.............I hope.

Later that night O decides to give orange and brown fish real names ( rather than my friends' names). He dubs them CheezeIt and Poop-in-there, respectively. Good to know he has his color associations down.

A fish story: the one that didn't get away.

Two of my friends got Owen an aquarium for his birthday. We have been out of town for most of the month......so my friend Wendy just brought the fish over yesterday. O was enraptured with his new pets and sat staring at them and talking to them like he had never seen anything so cool.

Fish are a great little kid pet....and we have a very small aquarium...meaning minimal maintenance. Fish do not need housetraining. They do not get fleas. They don't eat much. They are quiet and easily replaced (and disposed of).

We headed into the living room to chat, mainly becuase I couldn't handle hearing "mommy look at my fish" one more time. We griped and caught up and laughed until we noticed the eerie silence. I was hoping that O was still just enraptured by his fish (but did find it odd that I no longer heard him talking to them). Wendy, the much more pessimistic and experienced mom reminded me that silence means trouble. We go into Owen's room to find the lid off the aquarium. O has both hands in the tank and the net nearby. He proudly grins and explains that he is "catching his fish". I notice a small piece of orange tail stuck to his palm and that same fish gulping near the surface. The brown fish is hovering under the filter trying to disappear. We mop up the mess, explain to O that these fish stay in the aquarium and he can only look at them ( his excitement for them diminishes slightly) and I wonder if the orange one is going to make it. We might be flushing fishies and making swap outs sooner than I anticipated.

O rushes to show daddy his new pets as soon as he walks in the door and to everyone's surprise the orange fish is still swimming ( although a little bit crooked). O is still enamored and seems to understand that he can't catch them..........but I did catch him trying to pull the aquarium off the side table he set them on. He explained the obvious that he was just trying to take them to bed. ( mental note....move fish up higher).

I was hoping the bubbling noise and light would help O fall and stay asleep. But no such luck. O screams at the top of his lungs at 2 am and weasles his way into bed between me and Shaun ( as he does at least every other night). But the first thing out of his mouth ( yes even before "can I have a poptart please" or "watch cartoons") is " I want to see my fish". He slips down the side of his bed and runs into his room. Then I hear, "Where orange fish go?" repeatedly ( he is very creative with the names I tell you......I named the orange one Rhonda ( she is a redhead) and the brown one Wendy ( a brunnette) after the benefactors). I send Shaun in to fish out the dead fish that I imagine floating at the top of his aquarium thinking of what other things I need to pick up ( besides a red-headed fish) while I am at Wal-Mart. Shaun reenters and explains that there is no orange fish. Not floating on the top. Not hiding in the cheap plastic plants. Not swimming around happily. I giggle at myself as I picture making lost fishie fliers and posting them on telephone poles in our neighborhood. I figure I am just tired and that it will reappear later.

We run our errands, go eat lunch, go to a friend's house to play and come home several hours later hoping ( at least I am hoping for a nap). O checks on his fish ( the remaining brunette) and I scan the water, surface, plants, and even behind the filter for Rhonda. No Rhonda, but I do notice a funny odor in the room.

Something tells me O caught his fish after all.

What I did on my summer vacation

I am 2 days back from the annual Wallis family vacation. There are 15 of us which can be overwhelming not only to us but to any poor wait staff trying to serve us food. We are not exactly a big warm lovey family. We are loud, drink too much, and there is usually screaming.

That being said me and O had a great time (and I couldn't even drink). I won't speak for Shaun........because I think they are all a little too much for him. O adores his older cousins and asked for them each day as soon as he woke up. Although, he never seemed exhausted from running in the waves, digging in the sand or floating in the pool ........me and baby #2 did.

Back to family. Going home used to make me physically ill. My stomach started to hurt and the thinner skin I donned in college had to thicken up pretty quick to deal. Within hours of getting home I usually had done one of three things 1) drink 2) escape to a friend's house or 3) cry (and sometimes all three). My family did not look like I thought my friend's families did. We did not hug and bake cookies and have long heart to hearts. we rarely ate at the table. They were more likely to cuss at me than congratulate me. They were not meeting my expectations of what home was supposed to be like. Each time I go home I got the same show. Each time I went I had the same false expectations and was always disappointed. I can't blame it all on my family.......sometimes I shut down well before I even got there but the frustration level remained the same.

And then one day I had a an ok time. And the next time seemed even better. And then I even started looking forward to seeing my family. Nothing really changed. We still yell and avoid issues and imbibe too much. But there is also a lot of laughing. We are taken care of. We are each other. I don't know when exactly.........but at some point I lost the false expectations I had for my visits home and just tried to enjoy who these crazy people were. I seemed to fit right in.

Family is one of the best pictures of love we have on this planet, but is still miserably imperfect. It just is. It frustrates. It disappoints. It has less conditions than most of our other relationships. It has the ability to hurt more than those as well. It hopes for better but let's be honest usually just gets the same. It trusts blindly as a toddler, questions as an adolescent and usually accpets as an adult. It wipes bottoms and scraped knees and is the first person listed on emergency contact lists. We share bathrooms and bedrooms and sometimes even our hearts. For a little while I was appreciative that God loves us like that. Exactly where we are at rather than who we want them to be. We are part of his family and you love your family big and crazy and loud even when that is the only connection we have to them.

God, however, can of course do better. He doesn't divorce. He doesn't disapoint. He doesn't lose His temper. He is always proud of us. He doesn't just accept us and love us as we are but he sees better. He loves that imperfect girl, but also sees and loves who he made me to be.