Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Month of Slicing, A Month of Living

Looking back through my month of slicing, I see the patches of events and feelings that make up the multi-colored quilt of March.   All captured in my words, frozen in time forever.  My family celebrated another year in the life of one family member and said goodbye to another.  We reveled in another day of life with sunshine and rainbows and clung tightly to one another through rain and thunder.  I reflected on great loves in my life and mourned lost opportunities.  And, within the walls of my classroom, we all learned more about living the life of a writer and realized how our words and actions define us.  Ultimately they reflect who we are and who we wish to become.  

Living the life of a writer has helped me to gain insight into my students.  I now remember how hard it is to just write.  But, it pushed me to dig deep inside and find what was really important to me.  I can also see that the words I capture on paper define who I am for the fleeting amounts of time it takes me to compose. I can redefine myself with just a few keystrokes.  Most importantly, I was reminded that, like life, writing is hard.  But essential.  I found stories everywhere, and I discovered that I was experiencing the moments more deeply.  I was seeing the world around me through the lens of a writer.  And, I can say that I don't remember feeling more alive than I did this month.  Who knew that a simple blog with black and white words marching across the pages could become my lifeline to living more deeply and fully? 

Let's celebrate a month of slicing with our old friend March, and welcome in our new friend, April.  Oh, and see ya on Tuesday, slicers.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Teacher's Sick Day

Why is it so hard to be sick?  Three a. m., my ears popped with pain, my throat felt like sandpaper, and my teeth were cracking under sinus pressure.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I had sub plans sitting on my desk, as I was planning to attend a district-level assessment writing meeting.   I wanted to go badly, but my body was telling me to stay home.  Like any teacher, I fought the idea that my body was telling me to slow down and rest.  I surrendered to my illness, and climbed back in bed.

After I woke up from my drug-induced morning nap, I scrambled, realizing I needed to make contact with several people at school.  I needed to write our class newsletter, send it to a colleague to copy and distribute to my kiddoes, and still manage to formulate lesson plans for next week.  Mentally, I began making list after list of tasks I needed to tend to on Monday.  I was struggling to let go of my teacher mentality, even though I was ill.  Sometimes, though, the teacher must refuel and recharge.  We are human, we get sick, and life will still go on within the four walls of our classrooms.

Teaching is a career in which you need to be present at all times, physically and mentally.  When you can't be there physically, you are still required to show up mentally.  We have obligations to create sub plans and continue parent and school contact during an absence.  But, mostly, the heavy mental lifting comes in worrying about how the kids would be with a different teacher.  That's not to say they weren't going to be fine in my absence, but I'm a teacher.  Concern for the kiddoes is always on my mind.

I am going to attempt to shut off my computer and my brain and take a nap.  Lesson plans can wait.  The kids can wait.  But, I'm betting I will still see them in my dreams. . . .

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Square of Shame

I was a woman on a mission this morning.  I held my breath as I rolled out of bed, careful not to wake the sleeping babe beside me.  The sun was barely peeking over the horizon when I tip-toed downstairs.  Quietly, I opened the pantry doors in slooooooow motion, careful to avoid a creak.  Like a heat-seeking missile, my eyes zeroed in on my bounty--the last gluten/dairy-free brownie in the Traber household.  It was going to be a GREAT day!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I dreamt of said brownie all night.  Seriously.  I've documented my food struggles in an earlier post with becoming gluten/dairy-free.  The biggest challenge is the availability of tasty chocolate treats on my diet plan.  I can't just grab a handful of M & M's or a Snickers when a craving hits.  Plus, gluten/dairy free treats are not so easy to find.  Many of the snacks taste like someone mixed in a bucket of sand after he/she threw up in the ingredients.  But, my problems were solved once I discovered the secret gluten/dairy-free snack case tucked away in the back of our grocery store.  After buying one of everything to sample (and emptying my wallet in the process), I realized that I could still feed my chocolate addiction AND actually enjoy myself.   Life no longer seemed bleak in the sweet department.  Each grocery store trip, I purchase a few treats for the week, and I ration them out carefully.  Many days, my mood is defined by these decadent little slices of heaven.  And, let's be really honest--I hate to share them.  My kids certainly don't appreciate my treats.  My husband has a freezer full of Girl Scout cookies he can enjoy.  Why would I share MY special (and pricey) snacks with my family?  They can eat anything they want!

Last night, my thoughts focused solely on the lone brownie.  At one point during the night, I swear I woke up salivating.  I fell back asleep, telling myself it was ridiculous for a grown woman to dream of brownies.  Plus, eating one right now would mean I would need to brush my teeth again, and I was just too tired for that.  I woke up a few more times, looked at the glaring red numbers on the clock, and rolled over, knowing it was still an inappropriate time to get up and feed the monster inside of me.  Finally, I could stave off my craving no longer.  I decided it was time to get up for the day (I had plenty of schoolwork I could do).  Off I snuck downstairs to enjoy one small slice of chocolate heaven.

Quickly my slice of heaven became my square of shame.  When I heard my daughter's footsteps on the stairs, I shoved the rest of my coveted treat in my mouth as fast as I could.  I almost choked.  As I dusted crumbs off my lips, I pulled my daughter onto my lap.  "Mommy, why you smell like chocolate?"   I decided it was futile to argue with a three-year-old this early in the morning.  I denied her accusations. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously, so I offered her the remote control.  Satisfied, she dropped the subject.

"Shame, shame, I know your name," my conscience whispered.  The look in my daughter's eyes made me feel dirty, greedy, and shameful.  Here I was, a grown woman, sneaking around before dawn to avoid sharing a brownie.  No one ever told me shame had such a bitter taste.  But, if it tastes like this, I'll take it.  And, I'm not giving it a second thought.  Let's just hope they don't catch me with a cupcake tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Get Ready, Family Camp!

Little did my husband know when he walked in from work tonight that his heart would stop momentarily.   A few words from me, and his eyes opened as wide as saucers, "the vein" popped out of the side of his head, and his mouth formed into a massive oval.   I told him that we were going to Family Camp with our church in May.  Once he discovered that tigers do not live in Ohio, our son, Eli, has been begging to go camping.  But, my husband equates camping with having his eyes stabbed with hot pokers and has managed to redirect Eli's attentions to "more appropriate" (i. e., desirable for dad) activities.  There's no getting out of it this time.

To be fair, I must tell you that my husband's hatred of camping does NOT stem from a lack of physical abilities or stamina.  I've often told my husband that he should audition for "Survivor."  After all, he is supremely athletic, good at puzzles, and he keeps to himself, enough so that people would want him in an alliance.  Plus, we could really use a million bucks.  Then he reminds me of his addiction to toothpaste, soap, and a hot shower.  He'd be the first to tell you that the outdoors aren't really his "thing." I'm pretty sure the closest he's been to "roughing it" since we've been together is when I've escaped for the occasional Girls' Weekend and he's been left to fend for himself with the two Traber animals.  And, that did not involve bugs, tents, or latrines.

Here's just one more reason why I love my husband--he is a good sport.  He will go to Family Camp in May, and he won't complain.  He will participate in each and every activity that Eli wants to.  He'll pound a few hot dogs under the stars, roast a handful of marshmallows, and sing songs 'round the campfire.  He'll swat at the swarms of mosquitoes that Ohio lovingly has to offer, and he may forego his shower if the facilities are not private enough.  And, he'll do it all with a smile on his face.  Not because he is enjoying himself, but because he knows his children are.  That's how I know I'm one lucky woman.

Family Camp, here come the Trabers.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Truth about the Cleaning Lady

The last Wednesday of the month is a special day in the Traber household.  A cleaning service comes and restores order and cleanliness to our home.  The last Tuesday before the last Wednesday is also monumental.  All four Trabers scramble to tidy up to make our home presentable.  Which inevitably triggers the question, "Mommy, why do we have to clean the house before the cleaning lady comes?"  And, each month, I give him the same answer:  "We clean to make it easier for her."  But, deep down, my face burns with shame.  We tidy up the night before from a deep-rooted fear of allowing someone else to witness our day-to-day living.

By the time the end of the month rolls around, our house resembles a war zone.  I find myself sticking to syrup-drizzled chairs, dusting off shelves with the bottom of my t-shirt, and spraying Windex on the floor to kill the teeny little ants snacking on some food remnant.  The garbage cans overflow, and tumbleweeds of cat hair blow across the hardwood in the hallway.  But, the end is in sight.  Tomorrow, my house will sparkle and shine.  You can eat off of our floor and pretend you are in a hotel with the toilet paper triangles.  The beds are made, and for a moment, our house looks like something out of a magazine.  Quite a stark contrast to its usual state of disarray.  But, once a month, I'll take it.

His question also boils down to one simple fact:  The cleaning service is what I like to affectionately term, "self-care."  I always swore that as long as I was able-bodied, I would never hire someone to do a job I could do myself.  Ridiculous, lazy, and extravagant, I thought.  But, as a full-time working mom to two human wrecking balls, I find myself short on time and energy.  The truth of the matter is I choose not to spend the all too precious moments with my family scrubbing toilets and shower doors.  I'd rather cut a different line item out of our budget to reclaim some time with my kiddoes.  I find it a rather smart investment.  But, nothing changes the fact that I do not want anyone to bear witness to my poor housekeeping skills.  So, we clean in an attempt to paint a rosy picture of the all-American family, organized, clean, and in control.  We clean to hide the ugly truth--Mommy just hates to clean.

Tonight, we will do our last-Tuesday-of-the-month dance.  Toys will be shoved under beds and in closets, and piles of mail will be sorted.  For tomorrow, the cleaning lady comes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Feline Love

My friend Donna's dog went to Dog Heaven today.  Bailey was 15 years old.  Donna cried as she told me on the phone.  I cried back.  I cried for Donna and her family and their loss of a loyal companion, and I cried with the knowledge that some day, I, too, will have to say goodbye to my beloved friend, Zoe.  Zoe is my best friend, my confidant, my soul mate.  And, yes, she has four legs, whiskers, and a tail.  She purrs with perfection and makes my life complete.  I've got a serious case of feline love.    

I come by my four-legged obsession genetically. Growing up in a pet-friendly household, we always had a few animals sharing our lives--fins, feathers, or fur.  I have pictures of me as a toddler holding my new kitten, Bunky (named after Archie Bunker) in my lap.  I had a parakeet who rode on my pink Barbie corvette (who was subsequently eaten by Bunky).   Scores of others passed through our door, and all the while, I learned how to love and respect God's creatures.

My heart began yearning for a pet after we bought our first house.  Tim and I found Zoe at PetSmart when the Logan County Humane Society was offering cats for adoption.  In stark contrast to the active little kittens, a soft gray ball of fur lay relaxed in the back of her cage.  Her green eyes glowed, the color of a margarita on the rocks, and pierced the depths of my soul.  The moment I held her in my arms, I was in love.  An instant and endearing love of the feline type.  Zoe nuzzled her bubble gum pink nose into my neck, claiming me as her human.   After the required 24 hour waiting period, we picked her up the next day.  The sign on her cage read, "DAWN," but the name did not seem fitting for such a magnificent work of art.  She sparkled with life.  From her gentle meows to her long eyelashes.  We changed her name to Zoe, Greek meaning "life."  Her middle name?  Marilyn Knox after my grandma, a woman who loved cats more than life itself.  Zoe Marilyn Knox Traber.  A regal, royal name for my princess.  

Here we are, ten years later, and Zoe is truly a member of our family.  She and I share a special bond--she was my first baby, even if I did not exactly birth her.  She looks deep into my eyes, and I know she understands me.  She seems to understand my unspoken emotions.  I can be exactly who I am and feel exactly what I am feeling, and she loves me in spite of it. She holds my heart in her paws.

When I heard the news of sweet Bailey's passing, I was reminded that pet ownership is an act of faith.  We pour our hearts and souls into creatures who, in all reality, will leave this earth before us. Yet, we can't help ourselves.  We love and are loved in return, quite unconditionally.  Animals teach us compassion and companionship in ways we can only imagine. They demand our hearts and give us theirs in return.  While we gave Zoe Marilyn Knox Traber a home, she gives me boundless love and indescribable joy.  Nothing in life can compare to sweet feline love.  

Rest in peace, Bailey.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lots of Questions, No Real Answers

Two weeks ago, my family hopped in our modern day Conestoga wagon and headed on up to Cleveland.  Uncle Mike's cancer was back, and the outcome was bleak.  In November, the doctors had considered him victorious in his battle with esophageal cancer.  Four months later, his body was riddled with tumors.  Ever optimistic, he decided to give chemotherapy another try.  His pre-treatment bloodwork came back with shocking news: Uncle Mike was in kidney failure.  Hospice was called in, and Uncle Mike went home to die in peace.  Family from around the state were called, and off we went, thankful we were given the opportunity to say goodbye.  He died five days later.

I wasn't sure how to explain death to my two children.  I didn't want to scare them, but I wanted them to grasp the concept that Uncle Mike was no longer with us.  I wanted to scour the Internet and library shelves for professional resources about how to explain death to kids.  But, I knew the real answers could be found only in my heart.  We talked about God and heaven, our souls, and angels.  We had dabbled in the subject before, talking about my grandparents, but death wasn't real to them.  But, then again, is it real to any of us?

The more I talked to them, I realized the less I really knew.  I answered their questions honestly: "Won't worms get in the coffin, Mommy?"  "How come I don't die when I'm sick, Mommy?"  "Can I go see God in heaven and come back to see you, Mommy?"  But, kids understand grief.  They know tears.  They know to speak softly and cling more tightly when sadness threatens to envelope the room.  They may not grasp the permanency that surrounds us with the passing of a loved one, but they seemed content to know that Uncle Mike was with God and watching down over them.  While maybe I didn't answer their questions the way an expert would tell me, I answered with honesty and compassion.  And, I like to think the experience strengthened their faith and belief in God.  As a man of great faith and hope, Uncle Mike would have been thrilled.

"Mike the Mechanic" was buried last Wednesday with full military honors, laid to rest in a national cemetery in Rittman, Ohio.  But, we hold onto the memories of a man who loved his country and his community.  And, every night, as we say our prayers, my daughter still includes Uncle Mike.  She looks up at me with hopeful eyes, "He with God now, right, Mommy?" as if to reassure me that everlasting life is not to be feared.  How can it be that such a small little heart can help heal the broken places in mine?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rainy Morning

The gentle pitter patter of raindrops on our bedroom skylight turned into a thunderous roar of epic proportions at some point during the night.  As a light sleeper, I sought refuge in our basement.  As morning was born, the sounds of the rainstorm were replaced with little footsteps of Eli and Lauren.  

The day was underway. The three of us piled onto the couch, snuggled under a blanket and watched old-fashioned Tom and Jerry cartoons.  We giggled and laughed as Jerry outsmarted Tom time and time again.  I stroked my daughter's hair and rubbed my son's back.  For a few moments, time was frozen.  Nothing to distract us from each other.  Time moves like sand grains through our fingers.  But, our rainy morning momentarily slowed life down and focused us on one another.

I used to really mind rainstorms.  Being stuck inside all day, whether it be at home or elsewhere, was not an inviting proposition.  Now, rainy days are welcome.  They keep the four of us in close proximity to one another, as we all stay under one roof and find activities to experience together.

As I type, the sun is trying to peek through the grey blanket of clouds.  The birds are chirping.  I'm thinking the weather may improve somewhat.  Regardless, I think the Trabers will stick inside, play some games, read some books, bake some brownies, and enjoy some snuggle time.  After lunch, we will all hunker down for an afternoon nap.  One day we will look back and wish for one more rainy day of togetherness.  But, not today.  Today, we have each other. . . and the rain.

Rain away.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Taxing Confession

I have a confession to make:  I am scared of the IRS.  Not just a little bit.  We're talking petrified.  Paralyzed with terror.  I live in fear of making one small mistake on my tax return, and a few years later, the IRS appears on my doorstep with a pair of silver bracelets, dragging me to the big house for tax evasion.

This year's taxes have been overwhelmingly stressful.  So stressful, in fact, that I had to bust out the Classic Coke.  I'm a not a soda drinker, but this situation surely called for some sugary liquid relief.  The source of my stress?  We withdrew some money from a Roth IRA (before the government approved age of 59 1/2) to finance some additional grad school work.  If I would have had any clue of the complications for a novice tax preparer (such as myself) I would have found alternate ways to dig up funds (for example, sell one of my children).  I have used Turbo Tax for the past few years with great success--just plug in the numbers and voila!  Taxes e-filed, refunds direct deposited.  This year, I am about two minutes away from calling a professional tax preparation service.  However, I am scared they will need me to provide the exact same information with which I am struggling on my own.  And, I don't want to appear incompetent about my own money.  But, then again, I sure don't want to come face to face with a friendly IRS agent.

Instead, I keep bugging my financial planner for the answers I don't have.  I am confident she will provide me with some answers.  I can tell you this, the company handling my Roth IRA surely does not score points on the customer service survey.  Asking my six year old would have been just as beneficial as calling their "Tax Help Line."  I know my financial planner will pull through for me--I just sent her three different screen shots, left her a voicemail on her cell phone, and sent her a Facebook message.  If the IRS doesn't get me, maybe the police will for stalking.

Let me make myself very clear.  I am not trying to go all "Richard Hatch" on our government.  I'm just trying to do my due diligence as an American citizen--making sure I pay my fair share AND making sure the government pays me MY fair share.  I believe in promoting the common good, and I certainly do not have a problem with contributing to our nation's financial welfare.  However, the sheer terror taxes instill in my heart takes my patriotism to a new level.  I make mistakes all the time in the course of a day.  Luckily, most people in my life are forgiving of my slip ups.  But, the IRS is surely not on that list. I can promise you I will file my taxes on time with the correct numbers--whether by the help of Turbo Tax, a tax preparation service, or my financial planner.  My Type A personality wouldn't have it any other way.

I can honestly tell you that my heart rate will slow back to normal once I hit the "eFile" button on Turbo Tax.  I will breathe a big sigh of relief. . . .  until the 2012 tax documents start rolling in for next year.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rainbows from Heaven

Our kitchen is sprinkled with rainbows right now.  My mother gave me a teardrop-shaped prism that we hang in our kitchen window.  When it catches the sunlight each morning, it splatters chunks of rainbows everywhere.  Eli, Lauren, and our cat, Zoe, giggle as they try to catch the ever-elusive rainbow in their hands and paws.  If they only knew how important rainbows are to our family. . .

As a rational woman of science, I understand that rainbows are a scientific phenomenon, but in our family, rainbows are gifts sent from our angels in heaven.  Rainbows seem to pop up right when we need them.  Sometimes they appear out of nowhere--on a sunny day, after a thunderous storm, or a sprinkling rain.  But, I am convinced that someone in heaven sends us rainbows as a symbol of never-ending love.

My family's fascination with rainbows began on my wedding day, January 18, 2003 in Columbus, Ohio. The coldest day of the year, frigid and frosty.   I woke up in the Holiday Inn, and my mom pulled me over to the window.  "You HAVE to see this!"  Against the backdrop of a vivid blue sky was the most brilliant rainbow I had ever seen.  A giant arc framed the downtown skyline.  Not a cloud in sight, just crystalline frost clinging to the window.

"Its from your grandpa, I just know it.  He's here with us today."  My mom's words cut deeply to my heart--my grandpa died two weeks after I met my husband.  They never met, but I am certain they would have shared a special relationship.  Despite my complete and utter joy at my impending nuptials, my heart hung a bit heavy.  My first major life event I was experiencing without Grandpa.  But, that rainbow told me he was with me.  And, as I walked down the aisle toward my future husband, I carried his presence deep within my soul.

Rainbows seem to appear right when I need them most--my heart may be aching, my soul needs a lift,  grief threatens to overtake my spirit.  But, someone above recognizes that I need to believe, that I need some strength to move forward.  A reminder of how love and pain intersect, even if only momentarily. I love the quote, "The soul would have no rainbows had the eyes no tears."  Each time I see a rainbow splashed across the sky, I realize that to really know joy, you must experience some pain.  While my heart aches for my angels up in heaven, I am comforted by memories. . . . and that big arc of color dancing across the sky.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Reading Dad

I've got my husband's attention.  Ever since I've started slicing, he begins the day with a question: "What are you gonna write about today?" At first, I wasn't sure how to take his sudden interest in my newfound writing life.  We never have shared a love for the written word together, even as he watches me devour books on a daily basis.  As I think about it, I am not sure I have ever seen him read or write if it wasn't out of absolute necessity.  

I must share with you my husband's literary history.  My husband is easily one of the smartest people I know.  He is an architect, turning blueprints into computer models, using his spatial and design talents.    However, reading is his arch nemesis.  He swears that the only book he's ever read cover to cover was Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and he tries to convince me each and every year that I must read it to my class.  He goes on and on about the amount I read, my love for all things written, and my addiction to books.  Never in a degrading fashion, but almost with a sense of wonderment. 

Yet, this guy with arm muscles with the circumference of tree trunks, curls up in bed with our kids and reads aloud to them every night.  He's read the whole Charlie and Lola series with Lauren, all of the DC Super Friends and Magic Tree House books with Eli, and he quite enjoys Junie B. Jones and the Pigeon series by Mo Willems.  I have even caught him rockin' out to Pete the Cat when he thinks I'm not looking.  (I have also overhead him singing it to the kids when he thinks I am in the other room).  I'm not sure he'd admit all of this out loud in mixed company, but knowing him like I do, I find the irony and the beauty in his new reading life.   

I read somewhere once that kids who had dads who served as literacy role models achieved at higher levels in school.  Some expert somewhere could be serving up a bunch of hooey to parents with that statement, but I have to say that I see the difference having a "reading" dad makes.  My son sees a man who will coach a soccer team, yell at the football game on TV, and read to him at night.  This same dad balks at spending money on himself, but thinks nothing of opening his wallet to buy the next book in the Stink series for his son.  My daughter sees a sucker who walks into the school book fair with an open wallet for the "____licious" books.  Both kids would rather head out for some library time with their dad than go anywhere else.  Their dad's a "reading dad," and I don't think they could be prouder. 

Time to wrap up the post, as I hear little footsteps on the stairs.  Time for me to say the goodnight prayers with the kids.  Daddy just finished up books.  I'm sure he'll asked me what I wrote about today. "Nothing much, honey.  Nothing much."


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Teacher's Lesson from the Pediatrician

My daughter had her three-year checkup at the pediatrician's office yesterday.  We have been blessed with a healthy little girl overall, but I was eager to get the doctor's advice on some potty training issues--typical struggles, but I wanted his perspective.

Little did I know that Lauren's issues were medical in nature, not behavioral or at all related to potty training.  Apparently, over the course of the past two or three months, her digestive system has been under some stress, leading to the symptoms we were seeing.  Had we recognized her problems earlier, we could have intervened and lessened the impact on her little body.  Luckily, the issues can be cleared up with a daily laxative and intense attention to the potty over the next few weeks.  But, my heart dropped to my feet when I realized that the doctor was telling me that I should have recognized her struggles earlier, alluding to the fact that this was my fault.

My cheeks burned with embarrassment, as the doctor chastised me. My stomach churned into knots.  I couldn't hear anything else as he explained the root cause and course of treatment.  I was paralyzed by feelings of inadequacies and failure as a parent.  And, I blamed myself for not taking her struggles a little more seriously.

As I sat in the chair listening to his harsh words, I realized an important lesson about my communication with parents in my life as a teacher.  Parents have the best intentions when it comes to their children.  No parent wants to see their children in pain, and no parent willingly creates conditions that are harmful to a child's well-being.  But, as the doctor spoke to me, I'll assume for a moment that he forgot that no one loves that little girl more than me.  I didn't recognize her troubles, and I didn't seek action, but that doesn't mean I love her any less.  I did not have the skill set to recognize that she needed medical intervention.  Had I, I would have moved heaven and earth to schedule an appointment.  I am not a doctor--I am just her mother.  That child is my heart on two little legs walking around outside of my body.  She is my treasure, my world.  Every child that walks through the doors of our classroom is someone else's treasure.  My conversations, regardless of my opinions, need to reflect that understanding.  I seek to remember that as parents, we are all doing the best we can with what we have.  As I sat there being judged by one mistake, I realized how wholly inadequate I felt and how parents feel when I report academic or behavioral difficulties of their child.   We need to support one another and create partnerships, not point fingers of blame.  As fat tears welled up in my eyes, I wished that the doctor would have recognized that I am just a mom, doing her best, loving her children more than anyone in the world. And, I pledged to remember, in the course of my difficult conversations with parents, that each day they send me their best work--all their successes and failures wrapped up in one little fourth grade body.  What a monumental responsibility we teachers share with parents.  Puts a lot into perspective for me.

As I hung my head in shame, our pediatrician realized the sharpness of his words. His tone became softer, and his eyes became more gentle.  But, something had changed between us.   Do I have all the confidence that he is the best doctor for my kids?  Certainly.  Will I continue to trust his medical judgment in the care of my children?  No doubt.  But did our relationship change throughout the course of one short conversation?  Absolutely.  For just one moment, I wanted him to step back, take off the doctor hat, and say, "Lauren's belly is really having some trouble.  Let's talk about the plan to get her feeling better, and let's make sure you know when to call me next time."  I didn't need chastised.  I needed reassurance that I am not an inadequate parent--I just made a mistake.  And, I will continue to make them on a daily basis.  Please don't define me by my screw ups, but define me by my intense love for my babies and my passion for those kiddoes parents send me every day.

P. S.  I am happy to report that Lauren is already on the mend.

Monday, March 19, 2012

No Training Wheels

I had a bit of a "mommy meltdown" yesterday.  Right outside in plain sight of my neighbors out walking their dogs.  Full blown foot stomping, voice raised, huffing and puffing with anger.  The source of my tantrum?  My son refuses to ride his bike without training wheels.  It is not so much the bike itself that forced my frustration to bubble up to the surface, but his complete and utter lack of risk taking he inherited from me.

I see so much of myself in him, and it triggers a deep sense of regret at times.  I think back upon years wasted because I did not put myself out there.  Of all of my traits to inherit, he had to get my need for success and perfection.  Simply put, I know he refuses to ride the two-wheeler because he thinks he will not succeed on his first try.  I used to live my life by the same theory. Many activities came easy for me, but if an activity did not, I wanted no part of it.  I played it safe in life for so long, and I missed out on some experiences that can never be replicated.  As I became older, I realized I owed myself more, I was capable of more, and I could achieve more.  The idea of failure no longer stopped me.  I began to take risks in my learning, in my attempts at endeavors I previously viewed as impossible.  I don't want Eli to wait until he is older to put himself out there.  As frustrating as his reluctance is, I get it. Once I finally took the "training wheels" off my life, I began to live more fully, more completely.  I want him to discover this sooner, rather than later. I want him to get on that bike, take it for a spin, and realize that he CAN ride a bike.  And, even if he can't . . . yet, he has to take the risk, and he has to keep trying.

I can also admit that part of my meltdown stems from the pressure of raising kids in a community where many people compare their children. Who read first, who can swim the length of the pool without ever having taken swim lessons, who was chosen for an elite soccer team.  I looked around and saw much younger neighbors riding a bike sans training wheels.  Internally, I compared my son with others, and I projected my own fear of inadequacies as a mother onto him.  I don't play the game of my-child-is-doing-this-already-is-yours?  But, I have to say, at times, it takes everything I have to keep silent.  I recognize that my two kids are unique individuals who will grow and develop on their own timelines, stemming from my philosophy as a teacher.  They will choose their path in this life, meet with great successes, and hopefully, experience some pretty big failures.  That way, they will learn and become more resilient, more likely to take risks and go for the gusto.  They just may surprise themselves with the outcome.

I had a moment of clarity after I stomped inside for my self-imposed time out.  My son is my son, and I love him whether or not he can ride a bike. When he is ready, he will ride.  Of that I am sure. As his mom, it is my job to make sure he knows that with riding a bike, you need to scrape up your knees, and it is o. k.  There is no other way to learn to ride other than just getting on and start pedaling.  And, in life, too, you just need to put yourself out there. You will fall, you will fail, and you will get back up again. Your mom will always be there to kiss your boo boo's and encourage you to try again.

Ride away, Eli.  I've got a pack of Star Wars band aids in my back pocket.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Barbie Is Not the Enemy

What is it about Barbies that little girls just love?  I never really could understand the fascination until I watched my own daughter play.  Barbie allows little girls to dip their toes into a fantasy world, a world where your only concern is what to wear or how your hair looks.  Barbie creates a life of glamour most women only dream of.  What's so bad about that?

I remember back to my women's studies classes in college.  We read many articles on the harmful effects of Barbie--promoting unhealthy body images for young girls.  We discussed the lack of career opportunities for women showcased by the career Barbies.  At the time, I remember shaking my head in agreement.  I remember thinking that MY daughter would never play with Barbies.  I didn't want her to develop a negative self-image or limit her career choices based on a doll. Who knew Barbie could be so dangerous?!

Fast forward fifteen years later.  My living room floor is littered with Barbies and their little shoes, the bejeweled dresses, and sparkly necklaces.  Lauren loves Barbie, and I am o.k. with that now.  I agonized buying her first Barbie a year ago, hearing the whispers of my college classmates.  What message would be sending my daughter by buying her a doll with an unattainable body image?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all of the feminist spewing of hate toward a doll was baloney. Barbie is NOT the enemy.  Who doesn't want to drive a flashy pink Corvette or live in a Malibu beach house?  Who doesn't want a closet full of sequined couture gowns and piles of shoes?  What woman hasn't looked at Barbie's perfectly coiffed hair and wished her own would do the same?  And, what woman hasn't dreamed of a silent man by her side (sorry, Ken)?  And, be honest, who doesn't want those curves that Barbie has made so famous?

All dangers aside, I realized that a doll will not shape my daughter's self-concept.  That is my job as a parent.  I will tell her her body is perfect just the way it is, and I will show her that through my own self-acceptance.  I will expose her to a variety of careers so she knows that she can be anything her heart desires.  It is called parenting, plain and simple.  Any mother who leaves it to Barbie to teach her child about body image and career opportunities is not doing her job.  

My job as a mother is made easier by the village of Barbies in my life. These are the women helping me to shape the young woman my daughter will grow to be just by being themselves.  They are truly beautiful inside and out.  Each one of them shows her the true meaning of beauty and what it truly means to live out your dreams.  My friend, Donna, teaches special education and mothers two boys.  She recently decided to represent our community in the Ohio House of Representatives, winning the primary, and she will take down the incumbent in November.  She sees my friend, Julie, who founded her own organic cupcake business last year and has bravely taken life by the horns after the recent passing of her husband.  Kim is a fiery woman who speaks her mind, and loves her children fiercely.  She has shown my daughter about acceptance, standing up for what you believe in, and the richness of relationships.  Lauren knows Lisa, mother to two of Eli's best friends, who works with victims of sex crimes through her work with the FBI.  My friend, Mary, teaches first grade and is committed to making her classroom a place of joy and discovery, yet her service to our community is amazing.  My daughter watches Patty, a woman committed to fighting for teachers' rights through her tireless work at the local, state, and national level, while raising two kids of her own.  And, she sees Val, a woman of endless optimism, who teaches high school and mothers two kids too. These women are the real life Barbies, the women who will mold my daughter's sense of self.  They let her see the realm of possibilities for her life, yet all of them do it with grace and beauty that a plastic doll just can never possess.

So, play away, little Lauren.  Brush those luscious locks of Barbie, and change her outfits as many times as your heart desires.  You are beautiful, little girl, exactly the way you are, and you have the opportunity to be anything and everything you can dream.   And, maybe someday, if you decide to buy a pink Corvette, don't forget to take your dear ol' mom for a ride.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

On Brandon Pond

The sweet chirps of the birds at our feeder, the gentle breeze ruffling our curtains, the flower blooms poking up through last year's bare mulch.  Spring is in the air.  Time to hit the pond.

Our house is a short walk away from Brandon Pond, surrounded by woods that teem with wildlife.  We are frequent visitors, carrying a bag of bread ends for the ducks, keeping our eyes peeled for the beauty of the woods.  Today marked our first trip in a few months, filling my heart with anticipation for lazy summer days with Eli and Lauren.

As we walked toward the pond, Lauren grabbed my hand, her little fingers encased in mine, while Eli ran ahead, chattering about the ducks.  "Do you think they'll be back from Florida yet, Mom?  Do you think they'll remember us?"   As soon as we reached the edge of the woods, the kids skipped ahead, giggling and laughing together.  Brother and sister together in the woods.  Their joyous noise joined the chorus of wood sounds, the hush of the breeze through the newly budding leaves, the songbirds' melodies, the swish of grasses and trees.  As we marched toward the pond, the puddles became larger and muddier.  Like moths to a flame, Eli and Lauren stepped in each and every one.  A bit tentatively at first, but their hesitation quickly wore off.  I stepped back to observe the sheer joy on their faces.  Then,  I noticed Eli was wearing his good shoes.  Now, I must confess, my son has only one or two pairs of shoes at any given time.  His feet grow too fast for me to justify buying multiple pairs at once, and he refuses to wear anything but sneakers.  I gasped audibly when he jumped right in, splashing mud everywhere, sinking ankle-deep in the brownish water.  But, then I quickly looked at his face, and I knew the shoes were collateral damage.  Pure glee.

The kids sidled up to the water's edge, beckoning to the flock of mallards across the water.  Amidst flapping wings and water landings, my kids threw small pieces of bread, disturbing the tranquility of the water, ripples breaking the quiet surface.  The ducks quacked contentedly and floated away as we used up our last crumb.  We began walking around the pond, Eli excitedly pointing out bullfrogs sitting on the logs.  "Mom, look!  See those beady eyes!?  Frogs, Mom!"  Lauren clapped her hands each time she spotted one or heard one croak.  She covered her mouth with delight, her eyes bright with wonder.  Eli would suck in his breath at new discoveries:  "An ant hill!  Deer tracks!  Turtles over there!  Pricker bushes!" His wonderment was contagious.  I was seeing Brandon Pond and all its treasures through the eyes of my children, basking in the warm sunlight, living in the moment.

We trekked on, sunlight sparkling off of the surface of the pond, glinting in every direction.  We pushed through thickets of brush and traversed fallen logs.  My kids forged ahead together on the path, Eli grasping his sister's hand when the path became rough, holding onto her tightly.  "I got you, Lauren. I will keep you safe."  Together, they splashed in mud puddles and laughed excitedly.  They would glance back over their shoulders momentarily, making sure I was following.  Watching the joy in their eyes at their discoveries, the love they shared as brother and sister, took my breath away.

As the clouds lazily danced across the sky, we circled the pond completely off the beaten path.  Mud-streaked faces, wet shoes, giggles and grins, we had lost track of time, absorbed completely by nature, wrapped up in being with one another and living in the moment.  Far off in the distance, the kids spotted my husband and sprinted toward the figure on the horizon.  "Daddy, Daddy, guess what we did?  We went on an ADVENTURE!"

An adventure indeed, my loves.  And, tomorrow, we will go on another adventure--to the shoe store.  What a small price to pay for seeing the world through their eyes and reminding me yet again of all that is good in the world.

**I couldn't write about Brandon Pond without including this shot of my babes this past summer at the pond's edge.  My husband captured this moment unexpectedly on his iPhone.  I love the pushed out hip of my son, their matching wader boots, and their clasped hands.  This captures the essence of their relationship and the beauty in the simplicity of life.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Girls' Club

I am up long past my bedtime tonight.  I just walked in the door to a silent, still house with only the kitty greeting me at the door. No little footsteps, no little voices calling out my name. I was out for Girls' Club tonight, a night for Mommy to reclaim who she is. Girls' Club is a random gathering of women--if you are female and have a passion for living, come join us. We seek to meet once a month at a local establishment, sharing our triumphs, successes, and failures over a few cocktails.  Our husbands pick up the kids, and we collectively remember what life was like long ago.  We giggle and laugh like young middle schoolers at a sleepover, huddled under our sleeping bags, up past bedtime, sharing our secrets. Girls' Club is open to anyone who believes in life, love, and living and sharing the company of other women.  Over a few drinks, we share the innermost workings of our hearts, and we laugh.  My goodness, do we laugh.  We laugh so much that servers often lie what time our chosen establishment closes, just to kick us out. tired of the ruckus we are making.  We laugh, and our bellies wake up sore the next morning.  That's one of our fundamental rules: laugh loud and laugh often at Girls' Club.  We share our secrets and weave threads of our pasts, presents, and futures together.  Each time I leave Girls' Club, I know that for a few hours, I have given a piece of myself to my friends, and I feel more complete for it.

As I listen to the hum of a quiet home, sleeping babes, and the ticking of a clock, I realize I always feel a bit more alive after Girls' Club. Those few hours out soothe my soul.  I have my mojo back.  Yet, it is a funny thing.  By the end of the evening, our tummies tired from the excessive laughter, our eyes heavy from working a full week as moms and teachers, the Girls' Club members all have our phones out at our table, sharing pictures of our kiddoes, clearly wishing we were home cuddling in bed.  Couldn't be more obvious that a table full of women enjoy each others' company, but miss their little ones at home a smidge bit more.  My heart hums with the joy in the camaraderie of women, but it aches with the longing of good night kisses and bedtime stories.

Cheers to many Girls' Clubs in the future, and cheers to the comings home afterwards.  I know I am loved in both places.  Win-win for all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Living the Life of a Writer

Writing Workshop was buzzing along in my classroom today.  Kids were stretched out in every corner of the room with their Writer's Notebooks, creating two-word sentences with lively verbs.  Our Skype window opened on the projector screen.  "anneursu" murmured one of my girls, as she glanced over at the screen.  "Waaaaait, isn't she the author of Breadcrumbs?"  Another student dashed over to the book basket of multiple copies of latest readaloud.  "It is!  It is!"  Immediately, I had 22 pairs of little eyes on me, wide with astonishment when they all realized we were about to Skype with Anne Ursu, author and storyteller extraordinaire.  My stomach gurgled with anticipation.  I had been keeping our Skype session under wraps for six looooong weeks. Finally, the moment had arrived, and I was drinking in their contagious excitement.

Over Winter Break, a list of authors who were willing to Skype with classes came through my Twitter feed.  I pored over titles and read voraciously to seek a perfect match to my kiddoes.  Breadcrumbs touched my heart, and I knew right away I needed to share the book with my class.  Ursu tells a tale of  Hazel and Jack with inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen.  It is a haunting story of friendship, grief, and inspiration against a backdrop of snow and ice, fantasy and reality.  Snowflakes swirled around the December sky as I curled up in my fleecy blanket, devouring the text.  As my heart wept, I knew I had found a winner.

Moments later, "Anne Ursu fever" spread like wildfire through our classroom, igniting whispers and chatter among friends.  An electric vibe filled the air.  "Do you mean we are going to TALK to her? Like TALK TALK?!  Really?! But she's a real live writer!"  The kids scrambled to the middle of the room, clutching their Writer's Notebooks to their chests, filled with questions and thoughts about the text.    The thought of talking to a "real live writer" was reducing my "spirited" kiddoes to mere shadows of themselves.  Nervous giggles and hushed tones filled the room:  "Is she rich, Mrs. Traber?"  "Do you think she has a Writer's Notebook too?"  "What did you tell her about us?"

A moment later, our screen was filled with the glowing face of Anne Ursu, real live writer.  The class began waving furiously into the camera, not yet convinced she could really see them.  She smiled warmly, and the kids fell silent, eager to drink in her knowledge.

One at a time, my kids crawled over to my computer and asked their well-thought out questions.  As I called each student up, kiddoes would look over to me and beg, "Am I next, Mrs. Traber?" their eyes pleading.  Each student came up and talked to her.  As they posed questions to her, she volleyed right back.  "What do you think?" was often her reply.  I could tell from their incredulous stares that they were in awe that she cared about their thinking, their opinions, and their feelings. And, I can tell you that my skin flushed red with embarrassment only once, when one of my kids asked her, "Why did you take so long to get to the conflict?"

After a half hour of picking her brain about the birth of a literary masterpiece, Anne left the kids with nuggets for "living the lives of writers."  Hearing her talk of her struggles as a writer confirmed for the kids that writing is hard for everyone, even published authors.  She told them that a sentence is difficult, but you have to keep on going.  She called them "writers" several times, a small detail that was not lost on them (I guess hearing that come from a "real live writer" and not their ol' fourth grade teacher lended credibility to the word).  Their eyes glimmered with anticipation of her next piece of advice.  She implored them to read anything and everything they could get their hands on. Never give up, she said.  Keep writing.   As our call ended and her face disappeared, one of the kids said, "Man, Mrs. Traber, THAT was AWESOME!" Another one called out, "Let's write a book and send it to her!  Wouldn't that be the COOLEST?!"

As we walked out of our classroom at dismissal, the kids bounced down the hall filled with pride and hope.  Pride at all they had accomplished this year as readers and writers, and hope for what their reading and writing futures hold for them.  My writers held their heads high.  Ah, the power of one little word.

Secretly, the Skype visit was for me as much as it was for my kiddoes.  The Slice of Life Challenge has pushed me to write alongside my kids, to experience their frustrations when they feel they have "nothing to write about."  To feel that sense of nervousness of revealing yourself to your readers.  To marinate in an idea, watch it grow and expand.  To feel the power of words and who we ultimately are and who we want to be through them.  Now I know what it means.  Now I get it.  For I am living the life of a writer.  Together, 22 kiddoes and their teacher will write.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Battle of Epic Proportions

Between my little girl's birthday extravaganza, Daylight Savings Time, two nights of conferences, and multiple daily meetings this week, I am fried.  Stick-a-fork-in-me fried.  I believe in relishing the days, the moments, because they move much too quickly and are gone forever.  But, I must confess, I have woken up in the morning this week and began to mentally calculate the hours until I could crawl back into bed. My calculations seem to overlook one critical element standing between me and some much needed shut eye: bedtime with Lauren.  Normally, bedtime at the Traber house is a frustrating endeavor, but coupled with the utter lack of sleep and exhaustion of the week, and bedtime becomes a battle of epic proportions.  As the mom, I am assigned the task of putting the princess to bed, as Eli goes willingly.

I am embarrassed to admit I am sitting in the hallway right outside her room, my nightly post, balancing my computer on my lap.  She refuses to stay in her bed unless I am in sentry position, standing guard over her, casting my best "teacher" looks at her to remind her to stay in her bed.  During bedtime, I morph into a prison guard, shooting evil glances, spouting clipped phrases, and refusing to allow escape.  I've also been known to raise my voice occasionally, shed a few tears, and resort to bribery.  And, those are on the good nights.    

After the elaborate bedtime ritual of books, prayers, and our "girl talk," I kiss Lauren gently on the lips.  I sneak into the guest bedroom to retrieve the "monster dust" that I blow into the room to keep her safe throughout the night.  And, then I assume my position in the hallway, counting the moments until she falls asleep.  All that stands between me and a night of restorative sleep is one three year old.  I've done this enough to know that the demands will begin in momentarily. . . . three year olds are masters of deception and stalling.

I hear a little voice not more than 30 seconds later:  "I'm thirsty/hot/cold/tired/happy/sad."  Insert your adjective and repeat.  At least 10 times, lying back down between each one, tricking your mother into thinking her time to hit the sack is on the horizon.  My controlled and calculated reply? "I hear you.  Go to sleep."

She tries another tactic, appealing to the hygiene habits I am working to instill in my children:  "Mommy, I have to go potty/forgot to brush my teeth/wash my hands."  Again, insert your cleanliness habit and repeat.  My clipped, brusque reply?  "I hear you.  Go to sleep."

By this time, I am ashamed to admit that my blood pressure begins to rise--I want sleep, and I certainly don't care to start my slumber in the hallway.  I am frustrated with my lack of advance planning.  We go through the same battles each evening.  Why have I not yet developed a foolproof plan?  There has to be a better reply than acknowledging I hear her and telling her she needs to go to sleep.

Finally, I think sleep has claimed her, as I hear the sounds of some heavy finger slurping.  I peer in.  We lock eyes.  This is a full out war.  And, the three year old is winning.  I give her my best "mean teacher" glare.  She hides her face beneath the princess covers and snuggles into her blankie.  I am thinking she knows Mommy is not happy.

"Aha!" I think.  "I finally have her."  Visions of sugarplums begin dancing in my head.  I begin to slooooowly lift my bottom (asleep by now--unfortunately the only thing about me that is) off of the floor, careful to avoid the one spot under the carpet that creaks with movement.  As I gracefully plan my exit strategy, I hear the rustle of covers and teeny tiny footsteps.  I look up from my computer screen to see Lauren standing in front of me.  "I forgot to give you a kiss, Mama."

"I love you, Lauren.  Go to sleep."  I look around to see who is growling, and I realize it is me.  She scampers back into her room, and I think that she has to be getting tired.  We are going on 45 minutes of this.  

I plop back down on the ground.  I type a few lines and look up.  She looks out the door at me, and before I can scold her, she dashes out and grasps my neck with her scrawny arms. "And a hug, Mama."  

"I love you too, honey.  Get back in bed."  I attempt to control my hostility.  After all, she's only 3.  But, now, I pull out the big guns.  "Lauren Claire, if you don't stay in your bed, I will shut the door.  Get in your bed, close your eyes, and GO TO SLEEP."  I am practically yelling at this point.  I am also imagining retrieving the roll of duct tape from the garage.  

"NOOOOOOOOO.  I stay in my bed, Mama.  I promise."

My breath whooshes out. I type some more and attempt to ignore that she is now sitting at her princess table coloring.  I do my best ignoring now.  I'm exhausted, and I begin to slump over my computer, wilting.  My pride is hurt.  

Finally, I glance up, and see that she is lying in her bed. Her curls are fanned out over her pillow, her pink cheeks flushed from the heat of her body. I hear finger sucking. . . I tiptoe into her room, and see her little chest rise and fall.  Her long, lush lashes frame her closed eyes.  After I stare at her beauty, I have only one thought:  I am free.  

Until tomorrow night, that is.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Three years ago, I was still pregnant at this moment.  Until 8:24 a.m. on Friday, March 13th (yes, you read that right) and my beautiful baby princess emerged.  I will always treasure her birth story, as I learned how strong I could be when I needed, how foolish men are when it comes to issues of childbirth, and how amazing the bond between mother and daughter is.

My school was having Parent-Teacher conferences on the evening of March 12th.  As I waddled down the hall, my principal caught up with me.  "Kelli, you don't look like you are feeling so well.  Cancel your conferences and go home."  I happily took his suggestion, as the next morning, my maternity sub and I were hosting a meet and greet breakfast for my class parents to meet her.

When I arrived at home, I began experiencing some discomfort in my abdomen, but I shrugged it off.  Baby Girl wasn't due for two more weeks, and I had already been to the hospital once for a false alarm (indigestion from too many root beers at lunch).    As the night progressed, I realized that Baby Girl was telling me it was time. We called my friend to come over to sit with Eli, and off we went to the hospital.

Five hours later, the nurses sent me home.  They determined, according to their medical calculations, that Baby Girl was staying put, at least for a few more days.  I was certain she had other plans.  So certain, in fact, that I remember the exact point on the freeway where I told my husband that she was on her way and I was going to miss the epidural.  He shrugged it off, laughing.

All night, I screamed silently into my pillow, contorting my body into all kinds of weird positions, hoping to alleviate the pain that was ripping through my body.  Seriously?!  Those nurses sent me home?!  But, I didn't trust my own instincts as a woman, and now, here I was, certain I was in labor with a sleeping husband by my side.  I crawled into the guest bathroom, eager to feel the coolness of the floor tiles on my face.  I imagined I looked like a woman straight off the show "A Baby Story" with my sweaty, stringy hair framing my face, wrestling with the agony of childbearing all alone.

Finally, the clock struck 7:00 a. m., and I could no longer take the pain.  I called out to my husband, "Tim, call the doctor.  We need to go back."  I heard his murmuring on the phone, talking to the doctor, then to my mother.  I could have sworn I heard him tell her, "I'm going to hop in the shower and then we'll be off the hospital."  Come again?!  Maybe he did not understand the intensity of the pain. I swear if I could have, I would have walked into our bedroom and smacked him upside his head.  Rule #1:  Never mess with a woman in labor.

Less than five minutes later, I was overtaken by a tidal wave of pain as my water broke.  "Call 9-1-1!" I screamed.  "Are you sure?" was the reply I received. And, once again, my husband was lucky I was rendered immobile.  I began to sob, worried that the only chapter of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" that I hadn't read was "How to Deliver a Baby At Home."  And, judging from his responses, my hubby wasn't going to be much help.  I stopped short of asking him to boil some water and get some towels, praying the paramedics would get here on time.

Luckily, I heard five pairs of heavy footsteps a few minutes later.  The squad had arrived.  Momentarily, I forgot that I was only dressed in an Ohio State t-shirt (that's all, folks), and my modesty and dignity  melted away.  All that concerned me was that I was not going to have to deliver my daughter alone on my bathroom floor.  The paramedics were discussing how to get me down the stairs, as the stretcher would not fit around the angle of our staircase.  "Can she walk?' one of the rookies asked.  I could almost see the disbelief on the faces of the others.  At that point, even in my anguish, I decided right then and there that men knew nothing of this experience.  Nothing could even compare to the physical and mental terror I was experiencing at the moment.  They rolled me onto a sheet, just like marine biologists do to transport injured whales and walruses.  There I was, pantless, crying out in agony, lying on a bedsheet.  A vision of beauty.  Just call me Grace.

As they carried me down the stairs (the whole way down, I was worried that the sheet was going to rip and my daughter would just pop on out), I begged them to make sure my son didn't see me in in such pain.  One paramedic walked ahead and ushered him into the kitchen.  At the bottom of the stairs, Eli scampered over to see me.  His eyes grew big and round, and my heart fell, worried at the mental trauma he was going to be scarred with for the rest of his life.  He opened his mouth to talk, and my heart broke in anticipation of what he would say.  "I WANT A BLUEBERRY WAFFLE!"  Obviously, he was not as traumatized as I thought.  I heard my husband answer with clarity, " Get your shoes on right now.  Your mother's having a baby!"  The phone rang, and it was my school secretary, wondering if I was coming in that day, as I was 15 minutes late.  I waved to my school as the ambulance sped through the school zone moments later.

The paramedics rolled me onto the gurney, pushing me down our driveway.  The bitter cold March wind kept whipping the sheet up off my body, giving passing traffic a glimpse of my womanhood.  This was going much better than I could have planned.  I was about to give birth in an ambulance, and I was frightening little children on their way to school.  I heard the paramedic tell my husband they were taking me to Dublin Methodist Hospital, and he tried to explain that the doctor was meeting me elsewhere and did not have privileges to deliver at Dublin.  "Well, sir, she will have this baby on the freeway.  We might not even make it to Dublin Meth before the baby is born."  Holy cannoli.  The hospital was only a few miles away.

The doors to the ambulance slammed shut, and I heard them turn the lights on.  Two paramedics sat with me, holding my hand, asking me about Baby Girl.  "What's her name going to be?"  I realized we never had chosen between our final two, deciding we would set eyes on her first.  I remember grabbing their knees and squeezing each time a contraction came, screaming in pain, asking them if she was ok.  The men kept reassuring me that they'd delivered multiple babies "in the field."  I remember the elation when the paramedic was stabbing me with the IV needle, as I thought this meant that maybe I wouldn't be too late for pain meds.  This wasn't so bad after all.

Four minutes later, we arrived at the hospital and we raced through the hallways, sheets flying everywhere, my self-consciousness completely gone.  I howled like a wolf at a full moon.  We looked like something out of a medical show.  Reaching the Labor and Delivery wing, they hoisted me onto a delivery bed, still in my Ohio State t-shirt, and a nurse tried to get an oral medical history.  Each answer was punctuated with a howl of pain.  The midwife came in with a smile on her face, and asked, "Are you ready?"  Ready for what?  Where's my epidural?  When I inquired, her brow furrowed, "Oh, honey, you are much too late for that.  You can do this!"  Now, I must tell you that I get a little queasy with a paper cut and I must close my eyes at bloody scenes on Grey's Anatomy.  And, this woman expected me to deliver a baby with no pain meds?  Clearly, she did not know who she was dealing with.  But, it finally occurred to me that once Baby Girl was out, the pain would stop.  I dug in, and pushed with all my might.

Three pushes later, and beautiful Baby Girl emerged.  I lay triumphant in the bed, all alone in my Ohio State t-shirt, as my husband was taking Eli to preschool, certain he had all the time in the world.  When he walked in moments later, I saw tears in his eyes when he realized he missed her birth.  Until he saw his princess and knew she was safe.  And, one moment later, my life changed forever, as the nurse placed the most amazing little girl in my arms. "Lauren," I said.  "Lauren Claire Traber."

She was so worth it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Daylight Savings Time Proposal

Ah, Daylight Savings Time, Spring Forward!  Sounds so cheery and exciting!  Another hour of daylight!  Spring is on the way!   You're not fooling me with those euphemisms.  

I get the whole 365 1/4 days length of a year and the scientific explanation of this phenomenon.  I get the necessity of "springing the clocks forward."  And, at some point, I love having the extra light to play outside when we get home from school. (Ain't doing me any favors today with rain pouring down, battering our windows).  What I don't get is why the work day following Daylight Savings Time is not a national holiday or at least recognized as a day that everyone may come in late to work and school.

I'll just say it, I'm exhausted.  "Drive-through-McDonald's-and-get-an-extra-large-fountain-Coke-for-caffeine" exhausted.  My kids will be drop dead exhausted when they wake up this morning.  Anyone who knows the Traber kids knows that being tired, even one little bit, equals a whole lot of trouble.  This is the one day of the year in which I cringe when my alarm goes off.  My brain thinks, "Alarm clock, ya ain't foolin' me.  I know you say 5:30, but I know its really 4:30," and my body rolls back over and grumps.  Never mind that my kids went to bed at the same time, but it was really an hour later.  Seriously?!  Someone REAAAAALLLY didn't think this one through when they thought up this calendar.

I think after I finish this post (and pull the Scotch tape off my eyelids to keep them open), I'm going to write President Obama, my representatives, and senators to see if anyone would consider my proposal.  Perhaps a National Half Day of Work.  Better yet, a whole day off of work for everyone!  What's more American than allowing our work force one day for bodies to adjust to the shifting time!? Who's with me on this?

Time for a cold shower to stimulate my brain cells and get this body moving. . . . 

Sunday, March 11, 2012


My mom is selling her home.  Our family moved to the house on Collins Road in 1989.  I know this move, while she has found a home she loves, is not easy on my mother.  Her pain is almost palpable, and I sense that she is having difficulty leaving the memories behind.  We did a lot of growing up in that house, all of us together, under one roof.  And, now as we are spread across the state of Ohio, the house has served as our central gathering place.  But, I know her real pain comes from parting with many of her "collections" that she has accumulated over the years.  Her collections wouldn't be recognized on eBay or at a flea market as having monetary value, but to her are worth more than any amount could buy.

Sifting through 20+ years of possessions is not an easy task.  My brother rented a dumpster and prepared himself to hold my mother's hand as she sorted through years of accumulation. He knew the basement was filled with remnants of childhoods past that would need to go directly to the trash.  The basement had flooded multiple times over the years, leaving behind a musty, basement-y smell.  While unpleasant to others, it was a smell I grew up with, a smell that brought back years of hanging in our basement with friends, shooting pool, playing music.  The basement held so many memories for me, as my mom always welcomed friends to our house.

During the big purge, my brother had to tell my mom repeatedly, "Just pitch it.  Its old/stinky/unrecognizable/replaceable."  All weekend, my brother and mother texted pictures of the past, of discarded sticker books, my old Cabbage Patch dolls, formal dresses I had worn, and boxes of miscellaneous memories.  Images of years past came flooding back each time my phone chimed to indicate a new text.  I talked to my mom a few times during the ordeal, and you could tell she was hurting.  No matter how many times I tried to tell her that the objects are just the physical embodiment of the memories, she was struggling.  Being the sentimentalist she is, my mom sniffled, and I knew this task cut her deeply.

When she came to my house yesterday, she had a bag for me.  Somehow she managed to sort through my "junk" and determine what she thought held the most meaning for me.  Each one, she pulled lovingly out of the bag and told me its story.  Her eyes glimmered with recognition and pride.  My old porcelain tea set that Karrie and I would fill with water (Karrie has the other half).  The rose decorated ceramic Bible painted with the Lord's Prayer I used to read in her room when I was sent there in trouble.  A trivet I made in 6th grade shop, crooked and wonky that she has used religiously since then.  An original Garbage Pail Kid of Jelly Kelly.  A porcelain clown I bought her once from a Santa Shop in elementary school.  A Cabbage Patch resin statue of a girl with glasses atop a stack of books.  The sleeper and blanket my grandma lovingly knitted for me, her first grandchild, in yellow and green (they didn't have ultrasound back then).  The champagne flutes my husband and I toasted with on our wedding day (also used by my brother and his wife as their "something borrowed").  Goosebumps ran up and down my arms, recalling the times we shared as a family.  I looked up at her as I sifted through my treasures, and her eyes were shining.  Maybe with tears or joy or remembrance, who knows, but we shared a moment over a bag of objects that held many memories of my childhood.

I used to call my mom a hoarder.  Now, I see her as a collector.  A collector of memories, a collector of love, and a collector of family.  She did not save the piles of possessions in her basement for her own joy and pleasure, but she saved those objects to help connect my family back to where we came from and help us figure out where we are going.  A bag of old junk was our bag of treasures.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


One of the blessings of the Slice Challenge is that I see stories everywhere:  in the shower, on my drive to work, throughout the ordinary moments of my day.  It has offered me the opportunity to reflect on the people and facets of my life that I love the most.   As I sit here writing, sounds of my children and my nephew "Supermanning" down our stairs fill the air.  Last night, my sister, her husband and son stayed with us, down from Cleveland for Lauren's birthday.

My sister, Karrie, and I are two years, one month, and twelve days apart.  Even though we grew up in the same house, we are two incredibly different people.  We did not enjoy a close relationship growing up.  I wouldn't even say we HAD a relationship.  Our differences were a deep chasm, and despite our best efforts, we couldn't bridge it. We fought constantly and reminded one another of our shortcomings each and every chance we got.  We both lavished love and attention on our much-younger brother, but we could never quite connect with each other.  Call it jealousy, call it misery, who knows? We watched each other grow up, succeed, and fail, but we never supported one another.  Looking back, I can say that the time lost with my sister is one of my biggest regrets.

As we have become older, we have stopped the clock on the regrets, and began to build a relationship.  My sister began calling me when her son was born, figuring I could give her parenting advice, as my children were born first.  Little did she know that I, too, had no idea what I was doing, but I was certainly willing to lend an ear.  Life can kick you around sometimes, and having someone who knows where you came from can give you a bit of perspective.  We shared the model of parenting in our common upbringing.  Now, we have come to rely on one another for a listening ear, for encouragement, and for someone just to open your eyes to the brutal truth when you need it.

Each morning, with the predictability of the rising sun, my phone will ring, Karrie on the other line.  We talk about nothing in particular--perhaps the challenges and triumphs of motherhood, of marriage.  We also usually talk around dinner, sharing the pieces of our day, offering encouragement and support to one another.  While it may seem like small talk, the conversation seals our unspoken bond as sisters. The differences between us still remain, but they seem much less important.

Over the past few years, I have come to the realization that no one really knows about your roots--not your parents, not your best childhood friends--unless you are siblings.  Karrie and I have watched each other grow up and evolve into the people we are today.  While our differences still are ever present, we realize that time slips by much too quickly, and we share a common thread of our childhoods.  No one else truly understands how our beginnings shaped our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.

When her family pulls out to start their drive back to Cleveland, we will all stand in the driveway and wave goodbye.  My kids will begin counting the moments until they see their cousin again, and I will look forward until I can see my sister again.  My phone will ring tomorrow morning, and we will fall back into our daily routines of talking with each other.  And, I will cherish the relationship we are building with every word, every pause.

Time to go connect over our morning coffee and tea.  There is nothing quite like the bond between two sisters.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Different Perspective

I woke up this morning, incredibly stressed about the long list of to-do's.  I took an exceptionally hot shower, hoping it would melt my stress away.  Wasn't happening.  Then, I realized I needed to look at my life from a different perspective.  On the drive to school, I reframed the issues that were causing my anxiety.  By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I can honestly say I felt betterWhen I list my gratitude, I can promise you that I am not being facetious, but I realize that many people would be lucky to have a list of complaints like I have.

  • I am grateful to have a messy, disorganized house because it means I have a roof over my head to keep my family safe and dry.
  • I am grateful to be awakened in the middle of the night by my husband's snores because it means I am lying in bed close to someone who loves me and is my life partner.
  • I am grateful to have tiny feet in my back at midnight because it means I have two children who still want to be close to me.
  • I am grateful to anguish over what to cook for dinner because it shows that my family has an abundance of food.
  • I am grateful to be planning my daughter's family birthday party because it marks another year of her in our family and the love that we share as a family.
  • I am grateful to hear from my son's teacher at school because I know she cares enough about him to keep me in the loop.
  • I am grateful for a mountain of laundry to tend to because it means my family has clothes on their backs. 
  • I am grateful to have a few extra pounds to lose because it shows that I have enough to eat each day.
  • I am grateful to hear the alarm each morning because it means I woke up.

I promise to challenge myself each day to flip around my perspective.  Until you realize what you could be missing, what you do have may have little significance.  I am one lucky lady, and I think it is about time that I begin to embrace it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Kiss from Grandma

Today, like every Thursday, teachers and students in our district will wear purple to honor a colleague, friend and mentor who is currently battling pancreatic cancer.  I wear my purple proudly, standing in solidarity with a man who is giving this disease a run for its money.  Yet, in my purple garb, my heart is twinged with a bit of sadness.  My family is intimately acquainted with pancreatic cancer.  We lost my grandma after a very short, yet excruciating battle five years ago.  
My memories of my grandma are intertwined with feelings of love, warmth, and laughter.  She was a teeny tiny woman of diminutive stature, standing 4’ 9”, a whole foot shorter than me.  She wore bright, colorful socks and smelled of a tropical drink.  She stashed away boxes of chocolates that she pulled out of her china cabinet every night after dinner.  She marked birthdays by making signs and blowing up balloons.  She stayed up with us every single New Year, wore a silly hat, and drank sparkling grape juice.  She had a soft spot in her heart for cats, even featuring a picture of her overweight cat, Cuddles, on her Christmas cards.  But, of all of the memories I have of her, the way she kissed is engraved on my heart.
My grandma had thin little lips that she puckered into a bright, lipsticked heart when she would go in for a smooch.  She would grab your face and put her hands behind your ears, pull you down close, and lightly skim your lips and cheeks.  Every single time I saw her and every single time we said goodbye, she would pull me close.  I would be enveloped in the smell of her perfume, her soft hands on my face, and the world stopped momentarily.  
My grandma died eight weeks to the day after her diagnosis.  I remember the last kiss from her.  My husband and I took our 18 month old son to see her in Oregon one last time (she moved out there after my grandfather’s death).  I almost broke down sobbing in the parking lot of the assisted living home (college for seniors, as I like to say) because I knew it would be the last time she would kiss my face. 
When the news finally came, I knew Grandma was at peace, no longer suffering, reunited with my grandpa in heaven.  My mom handed me an envelope with my name on it, adorned by heart stickers and swirlies in Bic pen.  I froze, immediately recognizing the handwriting as Grandma’s.  In the last week before her death, she wrote to all of us, thanking us for being a part of her life.  I cherish that letter, keeping it in our fire safe box, because I have to tell you, I wouldn’t think twice before running back into my house for it if my house were on fire.  I take it out every now and then, and wrap myself in her words, recalling the special love between a grandmother and her granddaughter.
So, every Thursday, I wear my purple to remind my friend that he can beat this disease, to keep fighting, and to know he has an army of purple warriors behind him.  But, know that every Thursday, I kiss my kiddoes a little differently, pulling their faces close and drinking in their smell, remembering a woman whose love changed me forever.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Can't Knit. . .Yet.

My youth was punctuated by the clink-clink-clinking of my grandma's knitting needles.  When we would sit down to watch our evening television, Grandma would curl up in her rocking chair and take out her latest project.  I never really had any interest in learning how to knit--I shunned activities in which I thought I would be no good.  I score very low on bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, trust me.

Fast forward twenty five years later.  I decided it was time to revive Grandma's tradition of knitting.  I've been knitting since January of this year.  I signed up for knitting class at our community recreation center, eager to get started.  Learning to knit--how fun!  I had visions of all of the amazing pieces I would create--stuffed animals and afghans for my pregnant friends, socks for my mom, Barbie clothes!  I couldn't wait to dig in.

My first project was a square washcloth.  Simple enough, right?  Well, remember how I mentioned my lack of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence?  My fingers apparently were not connected to my brain for much of the project.  My washcloth had morphed into a trapezoid marred with holes and crooked stitches.  As we came back for the next class, I figured, "Eh, this is probably hard for the others too?"  When I walked in, I looked around at the other perfectly constructed washcloths in the room (I have a feeling that many of those women were NOT beginning knitters.   Having never touched a pair of needles qualifies you as a beginner in my book.  Just sayin'.) The woman to my right commented on how "easy" the washcloth turned out to be.  Easy?!  Seriously?! What must I be doing wrong that some people actually thought this was easy? I cracked a few jokes at trainwreck trapezoid before I sunk lower in my chair.  Right then and there, I almost quit knitting before I really ever started.  I felt defeated.  All over a dumb washcloth.

Class was pretty much over for me.  I couldn't attend to the new project our instructor was sharing.  I shut down.  As I sat slumped down in my chair, I had a moment of realization:  kids feel like this in school all the time.  They feel defeated.  They want to give up before they start because they are scared of creating the one trapezoidal washcloth in class.  They hear their classmates proudly proclaim, "This is easy!"  and they don't want to be the kids who say, "This is hard!"  Those words would indicate a lack of skill, talent, or intelligence.  And, who wants to be seen as less intelligent?

My mind wandered to some of the kids in my math class.  We have worked hard to change the language of taking risks, of making mistakes, of not reaching your goal the first time.  We seek to embrace our mistakes, and we actually celebrate the opportunity they provide for growth.  Now, I hear kids say, "Oh, Mrs. Traber, I'm not good at this," and a classmate chimes in, "Yet.  You might not be good at this yet."  When a student experiences success, he/she doesn't say, "This is easy."  He/she says, "This is easy . . . for me."  Using this language has allowed all of the kids to feel free to express their challenges and their successes, honoring the idea that we don't need to "get it right" the first time.  They understand that intelligence is not a fixed attribute--the first time you complete a task is not indicative of your talent or skill level.  I can tell you that there is a lot more learning going on among the kids who truly believe this.

After that class, I found myself telling people, "I can't knit."  Then, I realized that statement goes against my fundamental beliefs of the human capacity to learn.  All my life, I played it safe.  If it looked too hard, I didn't attempt it.  I didn't want to fail.  I also didn't want to hear the "This is easy" statement from the people around me when it wasn't easy. . . for me.  More importantly, I was worried that someone in my life expected me to get it right the first time.

It is now March 7th, and I just arrived home from a sock knitting class.  I am going to knit a pair of socks.  I held my head a little higher during this class because I realize that I DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT.  Since the disaster known as the washcloth, I've knitted a cell phone case, worked on a winter hat for my son, and started a lacework scarf for my daughter.  I needed to let go of the images on the patterns, realizing my work doesn't have to be perfect.  It just has to be.  The work reflects my learning as I go, mistakes and successes captured by yarn and bamboo needles.  I choose to keep going because no one expects me to be perfect.  Not even myself.

I hung my first washcloth up in my classroom and shared the story with my fourth graders.  Their eyes popped out of their heads when I told them I had made it.  I looked into their shiny eyes and told them, "Yes, I made that, and yes, I am still learning.  Knitting is hard for me, and that's okay.  But, I am going to keep practicing because the only way to learn to knit is to go on and knit, just like the only way to learn is just to go on and learn.  It may not be easy, and you will make a lot of mistakes.  The end product may not turn out how you anticipated, but you will be stronger for having tried." One of my kids piped up, "Just like you tell us, 'It is o.k. not to know, but its not o. k. not to try.  You tried, Mrs. Traber!" If I teach my students nothing else, I hope they walk away knowing mistakes help us grow.

I'm never gonna take that washcloth down.  Its very presence humbles me and connects me to the process of learning, of being old enough and wise enough to know that I don't have to get it right the first time.  Life's not easy. . . for me, and I may not be good at it. . . yet.  But, someday, if I keep on keeping on, I just might get the hang of it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Best Ten Minutes of My Day

I woke up frazzled this morning, overwhelmed by the mountain of to-do's.  Our report card deadline was looming, my kids and their one cousin are getting portraits taken on Saturday (and I am in charge of outfits), our whole family is coming into town this weekend to celebrate Baby Girl turning 3 (we are feeding everyone and I haven't even thought about the food!).  Add to that the fact that I didn't have my lunch packed or my clothes ironed AND I needed to vote and attend a team meeting. I went to bed late the night before, and I was looking square in the face of some serious stress.

At 6:15 a. m., I was hunched over my laptop in the corner of the living room, furiously adding report card comments, when my son bounced in the room.  "Hiya, Mommy.  Wanna play Scrabble Turbo Slam with me?"  His eyes looked so hopeful.  I had an extra ten minutes like I had an extra million bucks sitting in the bank.  But, I stopped momentarily to consider his proposal.  The to-do's would still be there if I ignored them for ten minutes.  I promised him that I would as soon as I took my shower and was ready.  As the hot water steamed up the shower doors, I realized that all the rest of my tasks could wait--the most important task on my list was to play Scrabble Turbo Slam with my son.

As soon as I dried my hair and dressed (in my semi-wrinkled clothes), I walked downstairs and said, "Eli, you ready to play?"  His eyes bugged out of his head, as he recognized that this was the time I usually melted into full-blown panic mode, limbs flailing everywhere as I tried to collect my bags and balance my breakfast while trying to open the door.  He paused for a moment, then ran to retrieve the game.  He sprinted downstairs in record time, probably scared I would rush out the door in a whirlwind before he could come back.

And we played.  We played Scrabble Turbo Slam fast and furiously.  We giggled at his growing vocabulary of four-letter potty words, and I marveled at his reading abilities.  After ten minutes and two rounds, we stopped playing and agreed to continue later--maybe afterschool or tomorrow morning.

Sure. I didn't get my report cards finished or my lunch packed, but what I did accomplish was far more important.  I learned about being present in the moment--of putting the "being" with my children ahead of everything else.  My son hugged me with a bit more fervor this morning when we said our goodbyes.  Was I merely imagining it, or did the ten minutes we spent "slammin'" bring us a little bit closer?  Maybe, maybe not.  But, what those ten minutes did was refocus me on the pieces of my life that matter.  When I walked out the door for school, I felt a bit more centered, more grounded on the day ahead of me, approaching it with a sense of peace.  I knew that no matter what challenges faced me in the next few hours, I was ready.  Looking into those eyes of my son over a deck of cards and a Turbo Slam voice box, I found my center.

I think we'll play again tomorrow.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Brave Prophet

For the last 24 hours, my mother guilt has kicked into overdrive.  Would my son one day discover that I wrote a post about his sister before I wrote one about him?  When I look at him, I can't help but think that I met him first--he made me a mother and changed my life forever.  

Elijah Knox is a miracle baby. In my tenth week of pregnancy, I contracted Fifth's Disease from a student at school.  I was now considered a high risk pregnancy, and I needed special care.  I felt as if all of my dreams were slipping through my fingers, as my doctor spelled out the horrifying possibilities.  Fear, anger, and shock filled my body--if the infection crossed the placenta, my baby's organs would swell with blood, burst, and he would bleed out in utero.  He would be dead upon delivery.  Her words squeezed my heart with an icy hand, a pain so acute that my heart still splutters just recalling the moment.  I couldn't understand how someone I didn't even know yet could affect me so deeply.  But, I also knew that even though I hadn't yet laid eyes on him, I loved him with every inch of my being and couldn't imagine losing him.  

After careful monitoring over the next five months, Elijah Knox Traber (Elijah meaning "prophet" and Knox meaning "brave") entered this world with a head full of dark, thick hair, grey eyes, and wrinkly pink hands.  I remember calling his name towards the end of labor, frustrated that he was not budging, "Elijah, Elijah, come out!  We are all waiting to meet you!" Truer words were never spoken.  After months of anguish and worry, I wanted to meet this creature who refused to succumb to disease. Moments later, I heard his screeching howl, announcing his arrival into our lives, changing our lives forever.  When the doctor put him into my arms, she said, "Welcome to the world, little man.  Your mommy and daddy are happy to see you."  

Eli turned six years old last October.  His favorite superhero is Spiderman, and he sleeps with a light on because he is scared of the dark.  He loves to crawl in bed with us at night, and he kisses me on the lips in front of his friends still without embarrassment. His hair bleaches out blond in the summer, and he loves to dance to the song, "Cotton Eyed Joe." His two front teeth are turning black from a fall when he was two, and he loves to go off the high dive at the pool.  He asks about God frequently, and he wonders why he hasn't seen him at church. He says he wants to be an "ar-ti-tet" like his daddy and draw buildings on computers.  When I look into his eyes, I see my past, my present, and my future.  He reminds me of where I came from, where I am at this moment, and where I want to go in this life.

So, Eli, if you ever stumble across this blog, I want you to know a few things.  Yes, I wrote about your sister first, but you stole my heart long before, son. You have allowed me to grow into a mother, to make wrong choices and given me the opportunity to right them.  You have forgiven my mistakes as I walk down the path of parenthood, and you teach me each day to hold onto the moments.  It seems like only yesterday that I heard the sounds of your heartbeat through my first ultrasound.  The time will come much too quickly when I will be forced to share you with some lucky young woman.  But, for the time, you are my Eli, and I am your mommy.  Nothing, no sister, no blog post, no woman, will come between us.