Friday, December 19, 2008

For Cousin Courtney

I'm stuck. There are so many things to blog about lately, but I just can't seem to get anything from my head to the keyboard in a coherent sentence. But sometimes you just have to say exactly what comes to mind, and hope that those that matter will look beyond the imperfection of words and phrases.

My husband's first cousin, Courtney Harbaugh, passed away on November 28th at the age of 24. This was an unexpected tragedy. To read about her accident, you can click here.

This photo of us was taken the night before our wedding in March 2004. Courtney looks just gorgeous, radiant, while I'm hamming it up being silly. I have so many other more recent photos of her, but most are from the side or back or in motion, which is true to form given all of her energy.

Courtney, there is so much more that I want to say to you. I'm sure that Johnny would have something far more eloquent to say, but unfortunately I am the more emotional half of this duo, and I'm writing the blog. But you loved that about us, right? The fact that we were so different and still trying to make our marriage work for us.

I can honestly say that I have never met anyone that was so intent on enjoying life, or had such a positive outlook. You wrung every single drop out of the 24 years that you were given on Earth. Court, did you ever have an acquaintance that didn't become a true friend? Seriously? What is this affect that you had on people? You took a lot of chances and made sure that you explored all of your options. How many of us can say the same? Did you have any clue how worried Johnny was when you went to live in the Virgin Islands last summer? Girl... (; I tried to convince him that you were a big girl and would be okay, but I was secretly relieved when we had our convo about how damn lucky we both were to not to end up like Natalie Holloway, given the somewhat irresponsible behavior we'd each had during our college years. It showed me that you knew life was fragile, to be cherished, and I didn't worry so much for you.

Somehow you managed to keep all of us young with your contagious enthusiasm. Just popping in to your grandparent's house to tell us about your most recent adventure, always keeping them in the loop of your exciting life, reassuring them by your presence that they were still needed by the baby of the family. I absolutely fell in love with you early on when you were explaining who Jack Johnson was... you said "you know, he's for MY generation what Dave Matthew's was to YOUR generation". I about fell off my chair! Since when is 7-8 years a generation apart? We laughed about that one for a long time.

On the other hand, you were also wise beyond your years. Always walking a line between family members that were having difficulty, attempting to build a bridge between those that you loved most, and continuing your efforts even when it seemed that they were in vain after so many years. I promise you that I will always try. You know what I mean. It isn't my fight (I'm an "out-law" after all, according to Uncle Bobby!) but I will always extend my heart to both sides because that is what you would want me to do.

Your trust in God was just phenomenal. You didn't banter around His name lightly, you held tightly in your beliefs and I wondered how someone so young had come to have such conviction. I want to have faith like that. Really. But as a Girl Raised in the South would say, HON, this whole taking you to Heaven prematurely thing just isn't helping the cause, okay? So I'm praying for understanding and peace. I'm not sure what the morale of this story would be... a lot of "whys" are stuck in my head, even though I realize that they are not particularly helpful. I'll keep working on that.

Do you know what makes my heart ache the most? The fact that you never had your own family like you'd hoped for. Make no mistake, you mothered everyone and everything - your family members, your dog Paisley, your ever-expanding group of friends, each of your little students. Everyone at Little School seemed to know what a gem they had in you as a teacher AND a friend. It is obvious that teaching was your gift. Watching you interact with a child so patiently was amazing to watch, and the joy in your expression was obvious. When we were texting the week of your accident, you said that you wanted to be there when Hania saw the ocean for the first time. You were there. Maybe not holding her hand, but obviously you told her to be fearless just like you, because she ran straight into that darn water as if she had done it a million times!

Thank you for being a part of our lives here on Earth, cousin Courtney. Johnny and I talked about the best way to honor your beautiful spirit; we decided that being more positive and taking advantage of every opportunity that we're given would be things that you would have done (and things we both need to work on). Personally, I have been looking at Hania and feel even more responsibility to be a patient and kind parent, just as you would have been.
We miss you and love you sweet girl. Talk to you later.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vintage Halloween

No time set aside for profound blog posts this week, just a 30 minute window of "me time" while Johnny gives Hania a bath and gets her in the jammies before I'm on mommy-duty again so he can study.
But I HAD to post the Halloween pics!

Many of you know that Halloween is my favorite holiday, primarily because of the wonderful childhood memories that I associate with Halloween festivities. Each year my granny and my mom would meticulously craft the Halloween costume of my dreams. They teamed up to combine their sewing and craft talents to provide me with amazing and creative costumes. This was before the days of Halloween stores that pop up each September to provide you with every possible costume option that you could dream up. Nope, they sewed. Like, with a needle and thread. With their hands. What a foreign concept to me! My favorites? The Statue of Liberty, Athena, a gypsy, a very rotund pumpkin, a butterfly...the list goes on and on.
And guess what? My mom saved them. EVERY SINGLE ONE!

This is Hania in my bunny costume that I wore at 20 months. Circa 1978. So she is a vintage bunny! She is just over a year here, but it fit pretty well.
Droopy little bunny tail, running down a driveway. I realize that I 'm partial, but she's pretty darn cute.

My family brought another bag of goodies with them during their last visit.
My old prom dresses and accessories, circa 1993-1995. But which one to wear? So many fashion mistakes and only one night to relive the glitz, the glamour, the pain and agony of size 7.5 sequin pumps and the feel of itchy beads against your back!
I had to make a little sash that said "Prom Queen" because kids were asking which Disney Princess I was supposed to be. I responded "Princess Gaudy, of course".
Just a few quick observations that this getup brought to my attention:

1. My boobs are shrinking. As in, not-even-the-gigantic-sewn-in-foam-bra-inserts-will-save-you-now shrinking. Wow.

2. Rhinestone earrings this large should come with their own safety disclaimer. The could potentially cause a concussion if they fell on a small child.

3. Spanx are a gift from heaven. And mine weren't even the real deal. I used the ghetto Spanx-knockoff from Target and they rock!!! Too bad you can't wear them with a bikini.

4. These dresses must be made with chastity in mind. Don't let the show of skin fool you. By the time you could get out of this contraption, you'd have time to rethink about bad decisions you were about to make! (:

All joking aside, it was a pretty cute package the first time around. You know, in 1994.
Almost all of the neighbors dressed up, so I was in good company. I can't wait until Hania is old enough to be embarrassed by her parents' Halloween antics!

This is why high school girls shouldn't have babies. Because I don't recommend trying to chase a baby in your prom dress. It may result in flashing of neighbors or a sprained ankle, and that is even BEFORE a glass of wine! I'm just sayin'...

Daddy wasn't about to wear his cool skeleton pirate mask, because it made Hania cry. Like this.

Time to put away the Halloween decor, the fabulous vintage costumes, and the candy. Time to pack up this little Halloween jumper, as it will not fit Hania next year.
Don't worry, sweet girl. There are many more fabulous Halloween memories ahead for you. You are a Byerly girl, and we know how to rock Halloween night each and every year!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hey! Look at my jugs!

Were you a little scared to continue reading after that title?
Its okay to admit it. Or to laugh.
Because if you know me in real life, it is pretty clear that you'd be lookin' reeeeeal hard for some jugs on this girl! Does anyone actually use that term anymore?
You can blame the husband. His first response after he saw the milk jugs on our front porch? "Babe, how do you think the other women in the neighborhood are going to feel about you showing off your jugs like that?" Gotta give it to him...the dude is funny.

Actually, I just had to post this Halloween craft idea that turned out really well. Something you should know about me: I am... shall we say... thrifty. Not to say that I won't break down and pay full price for things on occasion, but generally it takes me a while to come to terms with spending any amount of money.
So when I found inexpensive craft ideas on a family fun website, I was hooked. I began having visions of Hania and I doing our daily mother-daughter craft (after our scheduled 2 hour nap time, of course!), while snacking on organic apples from a local orchardand listening to music representative of a wide variety of cultures on NPR. Stop snickering. It could happen. Someday. Like after she learns how to hold a crayon.

Anyway... here are our adorable milk jug ghosts, made using everything that we already had in the house.

And a close up of the faces that I drew on. We were going for funny, not scary.

A big thanks to my neighbor, Jen, and my parents for saving their milk jugs!

Here are the instructions:
Wash out milk jugs. Remove labels and determine which side is going to be the front of the face.
On the back side, cut a 2 inch diameter hole on the lower half of the jug using an exacto knife.
Draw a face on the front using permanent marker.
Stuff Christmas lights into the back of each jug.
Plug them in and.... Viola! Halloween decor on the cheap!

I'm so happy with my jugs.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hania's 1st Birthday weekend

Just a warning: this post is a gazillion pictures, because the mommy in me simply will not allow me to edit them any further!

Hania turned ONE on October 11, 2008 and both sets of grandparents traveled to Louisville to celebrate.

First, we had the neighborhood party on Friday night. The OUTSIDE party, thankyouverymuch. The big hit of the party was the bubble machine that my parents brought. The kids enjoyed running around and playing after they got hyped up on sugar from the mega-size Costco cupcakes. Very informal... no games, no gift opening, no drama. Just a great excuse to hang out and try to thank everyone for their support during her first year in the 'hood!
All of the kids are gathered around our front door (hidden behind the balloons) because they were "hunting" for cats and the dog. Little boys weaponizing balloons and other various party favors.Oh wait, there was minor drama. I went to pick up the balloons that afternoon and wasn't thinking about fitting 17 balloons + a large car seat and baby into the spacious Plymouth Neon. Hania vetoed the idea of riding in the trunk.
Daddy had to make a quick trip to go back and pick them up.
What is it that he says all the time? A failure to plan is planning to fail.
Yep. I agree. But I sure gave the party store employees a laugh.
Hania is getting ready for her first taste of sugar!Smiling at her favorite friend, Miss Julie.
Apparently the chocolate is a big hit!On Saturday we had her family birthday party...
It isn't a real birthday celebration unless you wear a tutu AND sneakers...
She loved the ball pit from Mommy and Daddy...
And MORE cupcakes.
These were not homemade (I used box cake mix and icing) but we spent the afternoon decorating them.
Watch out Martha. Homegirl can decorate a mean cupcake.
This design idea came from the "Hello, Cupcake!" book, which I highly recommend
She thought that vanilla was just as good as chocolate...
Playing with Poohpa Byerly the next day...
Making silly faces with Poohma Byerly...
Hania got a rocking horse from the Byerly grands...
"because every Kentucky girl needs a horse." Holla!
On Sunday we went to the park to show the grands how we swing and slide.
The Schmonsees grands played with her there.

Birthdays are exhausting!
And now we're ready to celebrate Daddy's birthday and Halloween!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We have a walker!

Hania's birthday pics are on the way, but here is a clip of our cutie in the meantime to time you over.
I don't believe we've posted any video of her walking yet, and she started taking off around her 11 month birthday. She was cautious initially, but now she can climb to the top of the stairs, chase down the dog to pat her (more like beat her!) and tries to ambush the kitties.

Please forgive the location. We are in a parking garage on the Univ of Louisville campus after a trip to the Speed Art Museum. There is an exhibit there that Johnny wanted to see for his birthday (34 TODAY! Hard to believe he was only 24 when I met him). It is a collection of American art on loan from Yale and includes paintings by John Trumbull, who specialized in documenting the Revolutionary War. Pretty cool.
I hoped that the exhibit would be empty because there was a college football game going on, so that if she wanted to talk or run a bit it would be okay. I'm thinking that art hung on walls is safe from a toddler's reach, right? Yes, it was empty, but I did NOT bargain for the historic pieces of furniture scattered throughout the exhibit. So when she took off running towards say, a large sideboard piece made in 1887, I figured out that she must be confined to stroller or arms. And the screaming began. We hightailed it to a more remote section of the display so Daddy could enjoy (read: drool over) the details of the prints.
All in all, a fun day. But she was ready to run by the time it was over!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What's Cookin'?

See, I'm trying to at least follow through on my promise to let you know what we're eating each week!

I've decided that since this is such a busy week we are going to keep it simple. No difficult recipes, nothing new, just mix and match basics. Johnny often jokes that we never eat the same thing twice during a 6 month period.
Hania's birthday celebration (ie both sides of the fam coming in) is next weekend, and obviously I'm going to do some over the top cupcakes and an awesome meal for the family celebration because I'm an overachieving idiot like that. Plus, Johnny is in his MBA classes 2 nights each week, and lets not forget his study nights. Or the fact that 2 babies rolling around on the floor daily + 5 shedding pets = Missy vacuuming and mopping nightly. So...simple meals are where it's at this week.

Meats/main dish:
Chicken, black bean and cheese quesadillas w/ wheat tortillas
Maple mustard glazed salmon (I use a local syrup that we bought at the Sugarbush Festival, mixed with dijon mustard)
Spitfire shrimp (a g0-to recipe that you can make as spicy or mild as you'd like)
Chicken & mozzarella ravioli from Costco

Salad greens w/ red pepper slices
Asparagus roasted w/ a little balsamic vinegar
Acorn squash baked w/ a little brown sugar

Pillsbury whole wheat rolls that can be individually heated (to ensure that I don't wolf down 12 rolls in a setting - not that I'd do that, but I have a friend of a friend of a friend that has done that once or twice...)
Cheddar bread from our weekend jaunt to Huber Farm & Orchard
Sweet potatoes
Corn on the cob

Apples from our trip to Huber Farm & Orchard
Plums, bananas, kiwis, raspberries

Jalapeno cheese from our trip to Huber Farm & Orchard (with pita chips)
Cottage cheese
Low-fat yogurt

Seems healthy enough, but I think some dietary changes are coming our way. Johnny's migraines are coming more and more frequently, and I would like to start eliminating possible "trigger foods" to see if that helps.
Now if we can just stay away from any sweets this week... we'll have plenty of cupcakes next weekend!
Here's wishing everyone a healthy week!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Freak Flag Friday - What's the deal with chickens?

So can we just PRETEND this was done on Friday? (insert Sarah Palin-esque wink here) You betcha'!
I'm baaaaack! Never really went anywhere, per se, but a LOT has happened during the second half of September. Let's recap quickly, shall we?

Left job to be a stay-at-home-mom 9/19.
Continued to finish up work (although pay ended) through 9/26.
Immediately began watching another child that is close to my daughter's age.
Immediately acknowledged that this was, in fact, NOT necessarily a good idea for the sake of my sanity.
Acknowledged that my daughter might possibly be the easiest baby ever.
Made list of 10,000 projects that can now be accomplished since I'm at home.
Recognized the futility of this list while watching another child.
Was thrilled to see the progress that Hania has made since I've been able to focus on teaching her new skills.
Lost 5 lbs AND my mind from chasing around after small children for two weeks.
Recognized that we need in-home training from the Humane Society if Keira-the-no-no-bad-dog and I are going to coexist peacefully in the same home.
Continue to work on learning how to be still. And patient. Neither is a virtue that I currently possess, but I'll keep you updated on the progress!
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Has it only been two weeks? Really???

I owe you a Freak Flag Friday funny, don't I? These are 2 quick little stories, both chicken-related, that still crack me up. I can't quite muster the energy for one of my doozies tonight!

My first job in Georgia was as a school-based emergency services counselor, who responded to crisis calls from the public schools. On occasion I was asked to go to a home and follow up to ensure the family was using the mental health resources available. Weird job, grant funded, not well organized and very slow paced, which drove me nuts. On this particular visit I can't even recall why I'd gone to the home, but the exit is what truly stands out in my mind. As I'm walking out of the small rural home a chicken streaks out the door past me. I can't say exactly where this chicken came from, but apparently he'd been inside the home the entire time. He ran up onto the hood of my car, which made for a pretty funny sight. Yes, funny funny stuff, up until the point that I try to enter my vehicle and it flies straight into my face! I managed to stay upright and threw my hands up in time to avoid being mauled by a bird, but apparently this was no ordinary bird. Oh, no. He continued to strut around on the hood of car, pooping no less, and gave me a look at that said "Oh yeah, lady? You wanna piece of this? Bring it, fool!" To which I replied "Oh it's already been BROUGHTEN!" (Did anyone else see that dumb cheerleader movie "Bring It On" to find that quote funny? Or am I the only one laughing?) Swatting at him with my planner didn't do a thing, aside from provide him with some agility training. Then he did speed drills from the trunk, over the body of the car to the hood, and back again. Each time I attempt to enter the car he flies at me, flapping his wings, screeching, and I can't help but scream like a girl. Little did I know that every time he screeched, he was calling his little friends. Chickens are literally coming out of nowhere. From under the car, around the corner of the house, across the gravel road... as if they were lurking around, like the bad guys in a movie, ready to gang up and take down this citified female human that invaded their property. Apparently he was a chicken mob boss. The Godfeather, if you will.
I then realize that maybe the family who lives there could help me, and I turn around to see them gathered on the porch watching the spectacle. As in, studying the scene, chin on hands, watching like it is reality tv. I yell back and ask if they have any suggestions, and the father informs me that yes, this has indeed been a problem in the past, and no, he only does it with strangers so they don't know what to do about it. Thanks, buddy.
Finally I noticed a window of opportunity when Mob Boss Chicken was on the hood, and I made a break for it - dove for the rear door and leaped into the back seat of the car before climbing into the front and peeling off.
My conclusion: I am chicken s$#t when it comes to aggressive fowl. And apparently that chicken needs anger management, for which I can provide some excellent referrals.

The second story also occurs in Georgia, when I'm working in foster care. My job required me to visit each of the foster homes each quarter to ensure that they met safety requirements and were following agency policies. You tend to grow close quickly to the families because in completing the home study required to foster there are many personal questions that they are required to disclose, including their beliefs on a number of hot topics, details of their background, and parenting philosophies. I loved visiting most of my families, but one couple in particular had been my favorites since I'd met them - a Jamaican couple in their late 50's who were raising their grandchildren, and were ready to open their home to foster children. Their home always seemed quite warm and inviting, and the mother consistently had a Jamaican dish bubbling on the stove and always asked if I'd like to stay for dinner. I usually had just a little taste, and although it was delightful I had other appointments waiting and never stayed to eat.
Well this time she called me in advance to ask me to stay and eat to celebrate her husband's birthday. She had made his absolute favorite meal, a Jamaican delicacy that they only made on special occasions and she was so proud to share it. I have to admit, I was psyched. I loooove Jamaican food... name it. What could it be? Seriously, my mouth was watering all day. I even picked up a little red velvet cake from Publix for the birthday celebration.
When I arrived the house smelled incredible, the kids were running around having fun, it was a nice scene and a much needed break after a horrid day. They were so happy I could attend and the mother called me over to the stove, pulled the lid off the pot with a flourish, and there I saw... (this is coming across like a Halloween after school special)... CURRIED CHICKEN FEET. Bwahaaahaaahaa! I'm not kidding. Actual little chicken feet (claws intact, mind you!) filling up the pot, simmering in a yellow curry broth. Oh. My. Goodness. I vaguely hear the mother exclaiming about what a delicacy it is, and how much her husband adores them, and how difficult it is to find them in that part of Atlanta, etc etc. But I'm busy thinking about how I plan to choke them down, and instead hear Charlie Brown's teacher's voice: Wah wah wah, wahwah wah wah.
At dinner the mother served up the pot, ya know, so each of us could have equal amounts of the hearty chicken foot goodness. Naturally. You know, they really didn't taste bad but the texture was just awful. It certainly conjured up images of Fear Factor while I was gnawing on the talons. Don't you know that I thought back to that dang chicken that held me hostage at my car? Not that it made them taste better, but it was mildly amusing to pass the time while I chewed vigorously. I just continued to chew-swallow-repeat, all the while eyeing the Publix red velvet cake on the counter!

Apparently chickens were the only ones flying the freak flag in this installment!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Um, that was interesting

The winds from Hurricane Ike affected us all the way up in Kentucky. On Sunday we had strong wind gusts for about 3 hours. They weren't THAT strong - I was still able to play frisbee with K-dog and take Hania outside in the wagon, but apparently strong enough to knock out power for over half of the state's population. Not even a drop of rain.

Our power was only off from 1pm Sunday to 7pm Monday, which isn't too bad considering that the official statement was that it would take "between 2 and 14 days" for full power to be restored in the metro area.

So the worst we fared was a little maneuvering with candles, and some lost dairy products. Not too bad considering what situations so many others are dealing with. It is interesting how quickly your thoughts turn to "emergency mode", when you think that you might not have power for two weeks. Thankfully we didn't have to put any of the plans to use. In case you are wondering, we took a family vote and we chose NOT to eat Keira. (:

This evening we had an impromptu neighborhood picnic after one of our dear neighbors (who is a chef at a large hotel) dropped by a ton of food to grill. It was a thoughtful little food drop, after only 24 hours without electricity! Everyone pitched in any food that was going to go bad overnight and we had a feast.

Tonight, I am thankful for good neighbors, a patient baby, prompt utility crews...and the impending use of my flat iron tomorrow morning. Amen.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What's Cookin'?

I need structure. Would any of you have guessed that? I don't loooove structure, but it is truly necessary for me to function. I would prefer to fly by the seat of my pants more often, but the responsibilities that I currently juggle simply don't allow for it.

This need for structure also includes my blogging. Sure, there are some days that I just post pics of Hania, or talk about what we've been up to, and you can count on Freak Flag Fridays (which at one sick story per week, I can keep that segment up for at LEAST 3 years...), but generally I would like to count on a few set topics that might interest a number of the folks that visit.

So Sunday will officially be the day I post about the menu that I have planned for the week. I enjoy cooking, love trying new recipes, and try to balance healthy foods with a few splurges . Hopefully this may give someone another idea for dinner one night, with the added bonus of being able to answer my mother's eternal question that she always asked every day after school: "Who did you sit with? What did you eat? What did you learn?"

If the recipe is online I will link to it, or if it is particularly good I will write it out.
A little caveat: I try to make healthier choices when possible (light butter, low-fat cheese, low sodium versions of products, some organics, and attempt to use fewer processed foods).

What's Cookin' This Week?

Lemon, Rosemary, & Balsamic Grilled Chicken Thighs
Corn on the cob
Green salad

Chili-Roasted Cod
Carrot Coins with Maple-Balsamic Butter (go light on the butter)
Garlic cheese grits

Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole
Green salad

Blackened Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo (yep, a splurge)
Oven roasted green beans w/ olive oil, salt & pepper

Grilled Tuna with Rain Forest Glaze
Sweet potato
Sugar snap peas

Friday, September 12, 2008

Freak Flag Friday - Mr. Naked Butt in Austin

First of all, I absolutely cannot believe it is Friday already.
T minus 6 days of work and counting. Reality is setting in, and I'm not sure how I will feel about it until I wake up Monday the 22nd and don't have to go in.

Who is flying the Freak Flag in this week's story?

Mr. Naked Butt in Austin

We have to go all the way back to 2001 for this scenario. Looking back at how wild my life was at that point, I'm not sure why this story would surprise me. I was doing a full-time unpaid internship for my masters program at a large Austin, TX hospital. The internship accounted for at least 35 hrs of my week. I was also working at the SAME hospital as the night/oncall social worker for the ER. Also, to make some extra money on the side, I did bedside registration in the ER. (totally not social work related, but good money nonetheless)
Needless to say, I was pretty tired ALL. THE. TIME. The internship hours basically ran straight into the registration job's evening hours, and I'm pretty sure at some point I was doing the ER oncall gig with a psychotic lady and went ahead and registered her just because I knew how. Helpful, aren't I? I think the staff at the hospital thought I was homeless, because they offered to let me keep some toiletries and a change of clothes there so I could use one of the physicians' sleep rooms, which came in handy.

Exactly how does this pertain to Mr. Naked Butt? I'm getting there...

Every day I saw about 10-15 ER patients that were there in the hopes of obtaining prescription drugs. Most of these folks were addicted, so you would try to encourage them to get into a voluntary treatment program, but most of the time they left when they figured out that our seasoned ER docs would not budge.

On this particular day I've been called down to the ER during my internship hours to help out with the large number of psych cases and/or drug seekers. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a man walking close to the med station. Very close. Wearing just a hospital gown. It is the same guy that I just arranged a slot at a methadone clinic for. He was a "regular" that came in weekly when his supply ran out, and consistently refused treatment, but this time he'd agreed to give it a try and I was pretty pleased with my little 22 year old self. And the last nurse just left out a bunch of vials and syringes in preparation for a patient. Ooh, this might not be good. I'm not a suspicious person, but something told me to keep an eye on this guy.

I turn my head for just a second and when I look back I'm greeted by his pink, scrawny butt. I do a double take (obviously!) and realize that upon closer inspection he has his hospital gown gathered up in the front in one hand. My mantra? "Please don't turn around, mister Naked Butt, please don't turn around!" It is all slow motion from this point on. He is raking large quantities of meds, vials, syringes off into his nightgown "basket" that he's made! And yes, he does turn around to look directly at me, with his little friend dangling in plain view. I'm desparately looking around for someone, oh, I dunno...someone OLDER, someone BIG, someone who is NOT an INTERN!

He realizes that I see him and takes off running toward the front door. So I do the only (non) logical thing that I can think of and take out running after him, hollering for someone to get security, someone has stolen some meds.
And you know what I was thinking? Not about the meds, nope, but that I had just spent the last 2 hrs trying to find him a spot at the clinic, begging and pleading with the clinic staff that "Yes, this time Mr. Naked Butt is really coming!", and I really don't want to see him again next week to repeat this scenario like Groundhog Day. Dammit, he's GOING to the clinic! The plan for what I'd do when I caught Mr. Naked Butt wasn't quite so clear.

He gave chase for about 4 blocks, and a security officer was hot on my heels. Mr. Naked Butt wasn't even looking back, still holding his makeshift basket of goodies while his...ahem...goodies were flapping in the wind.
Did I mention that that hospital is right on a major US highway that goes through Austin? I-35. He was running down the exit ramp and ONTO the highway. I'm worried because a) he has on no shoes, b) he is going to get hit in his frantic state, and c) I'm going to puke my guts out from sprinting and don't want to do it on the side of I-35 with cars whizzing past. I bet you're wondering what I'm hollering at him? "Stop dude, it's okay! It's all gonna be okaaaaaay!"
They didn't cover this chapter in my social work classes.

The security officer caught him safely (if tackling someone on the entry ramp to a major highway could be called safe) and he didn't return to the ER that day. Walking back into the ER was the worst Walk of Shame EVER. Lots of jokes about "did you really expect him to give you back the meds?", lots of jokes about how I could get a 4th job in the hospital if I had all that energy, lots of jokes about the look on my face when I saw his goodies. Ah, the experiences that made me the cynical, cold hard slap of reality that I am today! (cue Streisand's The Way We Were)

So here's to you, Mr. Naked Butt, for showing us the true meaning of persistence. And for having the balls to show up to the same ER and look me in the eye with a smile later that month, asking sweetly for a spot at the clinic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Bernheim Forest with the Kelty

You know I couldn't post something without ANY words, right?
By the way, did you notice the blog touch up? Thanks to those fabulous Blogalicious girls, Staci & Stephanie, who offered to give me a little bloggy nip/tuck. Can't have the blog looking saggy, can we? If anyone is looking for a new blog design, these are your girls!

We went to Bernheim Forest again last weekend and tried out the Kelty kiddie backpack for the first time. It was INCREDIBLE! It felt like she might completely tip out of it while getting it on, but once you have the straps in place she was very secure.
Only one of these red heads is natural...
I know, don't be intimidated, I AM a fashion icon. If you'd like a closer look at any of these pictures, just click to enlarge. You know, if you want to see my "Gettin' Lucky in Kentucky" shirt. Tim Gunn would not be pleased.
Hania loved riding along, nibbling on organic graham crackers. Yes, I'm one of those dorky mamas that doesn't let the child have sugar until the 1st birthday. She's rollin' with her homies.
It was BugFest at Bernheim, so there were exhibits, craft tables, touch tables, etc for all of the older kids. Hania was more interested in the drummers. They were singing African songs and she really got into it, beating on the drums, attempting to climb on the huge xylophone.
This is her looking up when she heard that they incorporated her name into one of the songs. "Who? Me?"
That wasn't very "wordless", was it?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Freak Flag Friday - intro & the Womb-Smiter

I've been thinking about doing this series for a while now. Let me explain. I'm going to be leaving my social work job in exactly 15 days to be a stay-at-home-momma. This field of work has practically defined me for the better part of my adulthood. My social work positions over the past 9 years have provided me with stories galore. Stories you wouldn't believe. Stories you won't want to believe. Stories that I really don't want to forget. Oh, I assure you that there have been many touching and beautiful moments, but I'm only going to be writing about the over-the-top out-of-control (usually hilarious) moments each and every Friday. Every story has one common denominator: someone felt the need to fly their freak flag proudly!

I've already written about the burrito escapade, which you can read about here.

Who's flying the Freak Flag this week? The Womb-Smiter

While living in Atlanta I worked as a foster home recruiter and trainer for a therapeutic foster care agency. "Therapeutic" means that the children that we place in our foster homes were not your sweet little newborns. Typically they are older children who have experienced significant abuse and neglect, which means that they are likely to have learned negative behaviors as a means of survival. "Like back talking" you ask? Um, no. Like poo smearing. 24/7. Or inappropriately touching other children in the home, if ya' get my drift. Big stuff.

My job was to train the classes of prospective foster parents, and help them to decide if doing this type of foster care would be right for them. Obviously you want people who are mentally stable. Who know how to handle children. Who are patient and kind. Who at least have put their freak flag at half mast for the sake of appearances. The class is called a "mutual selection" process, meaning that they can select to leave at any time if they feel it isn't right for them, or I as the leader can select them to leave the class if I feel they are not appropriate candidates.

Enter Mrs. Peach (names changed to protect the freak-flag fliers). She seems like the perfectly groomed Southern grandmother in her late 50's, who wants to love a child out of their negative behaviors. Frosted pink lipstick - check. A different Vera Bradley bag to match each outfit - check. Big hair that I can't discern if it is a wig or real hair - check. Everything down to the comfortable chair is labeled as a blessing - check. She was adamant that she hoped to adopt and would settle for nothing less. There was always something about Mrs. Peach that made me slightly uncomfortable, as if she was always attempting to manipulate the flow of the class, or the way that she always waited until I was alone to talk with me as I cleaned up.

One afternoon she began talking about her grandchildren. Apparently they were in the foster care system and she was not allowed to get custody of them, so eventually they were adopted by an unrelated family. Strange. Then she disclosed that she wasn't allowed to see the children, but she had no idea why this was the case. Really? She also said that when she found children to adopt, she would force them to change their first names to the names of her grandchildren that she missed so much. Whoa! She wanted her foster children to be the same ages as her grandchildren and hopefully look similar. Creepy. This isn't Mickey D's lady, we don't pick them up at the 2nd window!

When she returned the next week I knew that we had some serious issues to discuss. I was leaning towards selecting her out due to her obviously unresolved issues about the grandchildren, but maybe a talk would help to clarify her situation? I waited until Mrs. Peach and I were the last ones in the building. I took the opportunity to discuss my concerns, starting out by saying that she obviously was still very hurt about the situation with the grandkids. SHE. WENT. BERSERK! Attention readers: The Freak Flag was officially flying high, no longer at half mast! She said that she always got what she wanted. Her case in point? The fact that she had stalked her grandchildren's' adoptive family, broke into their vacation home while they were staying there, and told the kids to start packing up they were going with grandma. She snuck out with the kids and faced abduction charges! Oh, and did I mention that she brought a gun to this abduction? Then she brought God into it. I was going to hell because He wanted her to "replace" her grandchildren and I was standing in the way of destiny. She was going to become a certified foster parent "no matter what it takes".

Now I've had many uncomfortable conversations in which I encouraged people to hold up on the classes. I've asked couples to continue working through their grief related to infertility before pursuing our difficult and emotionally draining level of foster care. I've had to tell people that their home is too dirty. I've even confronted a registered sex offender after I got his background check back. But nothing compared to this level of discomfort. I actually felt afraid and was mentally calculating if I could reach the exit if necessary, or use her big wig/hair against her as a weapon.

Finally I made a break for it, slid past her and started walking out the front door, hoping she would follow me on her rant. Worked like a charm. But not before she threw a few more insults at me. From the middle of the parking lot she yells at the top of her lungs: "I SMITE YOUR WOMB!" Wha? Huh? Whatever, just get the car and drive. Fast. Then on the way home I'm thinking about the "smiting". We Presby-Catholics just don't discuss the smiting all that often, really, so it is a new term to me. I was prepared for her to tell me I was a dumb b*@%# or something, but the smiting just clinched it for me that she was a certified lunatic.
We got a good laugh out of it at work and felt like we dodged a bullet. Can you imagine an already traumatized foster child living in that home?

Oh, don't think that I ever forgot about that comment. Every time I was ready to break out the good ol' First Response test little Miss Smitey Pants snuck back into my mind. But then I reassured myself that no, she didn't really have the power to do that. Three years later, little Hania was born. *Big sigh of relief*

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be social workers!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Beautiful day in the neighborhood

If you've read my blog anytime in the past year you have most likely heard me raving about our neighborhood. Well, actually, our neighbors. We're very happy to live on a street with lots of other families that also have young children, and we have become very close and depend on each other frequently, as many of us don't have family nearby. And not just the women...the guys are all pretty close too. (Well, you know, as "close" as guys will admit they are. They no likey the feelings so much.)

You can imagine our shock when we discovered that TWO of these families would be moving out of state within the same week. Both were for positive reasons, for better jobs and to be closer to family. But still... talk about a double whammy!

So what to do when the going gets tough? BLOCK PARTY, baby!
Here are the girls posing for one last shot together. Erin (furthest on the left, striking her America's Next Top Model pose) and Jenny ( in the black print top - you can't even tell homegirl is pregnant with twins, huh?) are the two hens flying the coop.
I can't even express how much I will miss both of these amazing women. Our relationship with their families has made our time in Kentucky a great experience. I love a quote that I read somewhere (maybe on a card? I can't remember): "Each person who enters our life, each spirit that accompanies us upon our journey, leaves us forever changed and enriched".

And then someone had the grand idea to get all the neighborhood kids together for a photo op. Yep, that's my tiny redhead screaming her lungs out. I typically don't post pics of other peoples' children for privacy purposes, but I couldn't help this one!
Being the culinary overachiever (or perhaps delusional lunatic) that I am, I decided to try some ideas from my new book: Hello, Cupcake! Full of the cutest ideas that are all designed to use easy decorating items like candy, and no special tools, only ziploc bags to decorate.

I was hoping to modify their design for the doggy cupcakes to make Arkansas razorbacks on the cupcakes, for our neighbors who were moving back to Arkansas. Why didn't someone warn me that making red icing simply is not humanly possible? No matter how much red gel dye you use. No matter how much you stir. Please note the color of the icing (salmon) as compared to the icing lid (true red). Ahem. So I went on to plan B: sunflowers, which are pretty and summery, and had a very detailed guide in the book.
Ta-da! Not too shabby!
They were a huge hit with the kids and I was fairly proud of the final product, especially considering how quickly they were thrown together. Guess what the lady bugs were made out of? M&M's. And they were crazy easy.

And lest you think that I am a classy, culinary wizard soon to rival Martha, I present to you my 2nd dessert. This is a cake made for Tvrtko (Erin's husband) in reference to a joke he told about himself. And it has to do with poop. I'm so sorry to admit that, but truly that just speaks to how close we are in this neighborhood.

Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I've got nothing, folks!

I know what you're thinking.
We haven't heard from her in almost a month.
Her last story was about the dude with the mullet in Kroger.
It all adds up... she must have gotten caught up in all his mullety-goodness and run off with him, never to blog again.

Fun story, but the real deal isn't nearly as interesting!

I'm just in a rut. Several factors, none of which are truly awful, just some things I need to work through without influence from outside sources. I want my blog to be authentic, but I didn't want it to turn into a rant or a pity party, and certainly didn't want to worry people with my absence. Actually, life is a lot more manageable without me staying up until 2am to blog, but I do miss it terribly and plan to return very soon. Life has been traveling so quickly for the past several years that recently I just looked up, took a breath, and was unable to recognize very much about myself anymore. I think it just freaked me out, plain and simple. That and the fact that for the first time in forever, I don't have a clear picture...AT ALL...of what my life is going to be like in the future. Deep breaths, just keep taking deep breaths. I'm a planner. I just need a little more time to wrap my brain around things.

Don't delete me from your blog roll just yet, folks! I just have to figure out how to get my groove back, and quick. Actually I have a plan. I'll call it the GMGB plan, as in "Gettin' My Groove Back". To be shared soon... in the meantime, I leave you with a cute Pooh pic. Because a little Pooh can really make your day sometimes.


For the moment, my blog has turned into a gratitude journal!

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