Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Thanksgiving Blog Comes Early This Year

Every year at Thanksgiving, I write a blog about things for which I am thankful. (Okay, so this is probably only the second or third year I've been a blogger, so it's not like the list is a time honored tradition or anything, but hey, it's becoming one.) This year, I'll be on the road for Thanksgiving--10+ long hours in the car with the kids on the way to TN for a week--so I decided to write the blog early, just in case I either get busy or forget to do it later. If any of you are "Haley's Annual Thanksgiving List Virgins," keep in mind that I like to use my list to recognize the little things in life that I'm grateful for, but that often get overlooked or taken for granted.

THE OFFICIAL LIST OF THINGS FOR WHICH I, HALEY STARR MCCOY MCPHAIL, AM GRATEFUL--THANKSGIVING 2008 EDITION (yep, still a fan of the wordy titles)

1. Cream of mushroom soup. It's great for using on meat in the slow cooker. It's essential to green bean casserole. It reminds me of my Dad, because he used to eat it when I was little. Sure, it's gray and lumpy, but so is my favorite sweater.

2. Jessica Simpson. I have no idea how involved Jess is with her shoe designs, but my new black shoes (see "Try Walking in My Shoes" blog) from her line are awesome. I can wear them for hours in total comfort and sans blisters. Jessica Simpson may be vastly annoying and under the completely misguided impression that she can sing well, but girlfriend knows her shoes.

3. Trader Joe's. Wine. Gourmet cheese. Pastry. Affordable. Enough said.

4. British words. We say "colored lights" or "clear lights," they say "fairy lights." We say "cupcakes," they say "fairy cakes." (Are you detecting a pattern here? Well, don't. I'm not obsessed with fairies. Those just happen to be the first two examples.) We say, "That's a bad idea," they say, "That's a rubbish idea." We say "bathroom," they say "loo." Also, the use of "bloody" all the time for adjective emphasis is just bloody fantastic. Now, don't get your knickers in a twist, I'm not going to pull a Madonna and start speaking with an accent and using all their words. I just love to hear them spoken by true Brits (or my friend Morgan, who is half British and currently living outside of London).

5. Go Fug Yourself. It's a website that spends most of its time critiquing the fashion sense of the Hollywood set. Depending on my mood, it can be enormously funny. Particularly if it's late at night and I'm drinking.

6. My pink Cheshire Cat Pajamas and Johnny Depp. To many of you, this sounds like an odd combination. HOWEVER, for those who know me well, you should be able to put all this together in your head and have it make perfect sense. I'll explain in Haley Shorthand. My pajamas are PINK and COMFY and covered in Cheshire Cats (he's my favorite). Cheshire Cat is from "Alice in Wonderland." Tim Burton is remaking "Alice in Wonderland" starring Johnny Depp (he's also my favorite) as the Mad Hatter. I love the Mad Hatter. I love Tim Burton. And I love Johnny Depp. And now, my favorite pajamas remind me of him, because I am eagerly awaiting the movie. See, it's like "Six Degrees of the Cheshire Cat Pajamas."

7. Digital Cameras. I recently had a disposable camera left over from a rafting trip (it was waterproof, while my Canon is not) that needed to be developed. I had to take it to Walgreens, fill out the information, pick it up a couple of days later, and it cost like $10 AND the photo quality was terrible. Since we have children, I am eternally grateful for the digital camera that I can snap away with, then delete the photos where the child has already run out of the frame, as well as email everything I want to share with others. And all for free.

8. Kindergarten. At first I was really sad that Bellamy started school. Then, after like two hours, I realized two things: 1) Doing ANYTHING with only one kid in tow is WAY easier than doing things with two; and 2) When Sutton takes a nap, I have the first free time I've had in five years. Praise you, Lord, for kindergarten.

9. "My Big Redneck Wedding." It's a reality show that comes on CMT. A camera crew follows a couple as they plan and execute the wedding of their dreams, trailer-park style. One day, I was feeling a bit depressed and ran across this show as I folded laundry. Two episodes later, my blues were gone. I saw a couple get married in their yard (no problem here, I did the same) with seats taken out of their and their friends' minivans as guest seating (they ran out of folding metal chairs), a cake with the tiers supported by cans of Natural Light, and a bride and groom who drove away in a real, live General Lee, chased by the bride's Daddy driving a Boss Hogg police cruiser, right after the groom gave a toast at the reception saying to his new bride, "I'm gonna drive you up to that there hill in the General Lee, park for a while, and get you pregnant." Priceless.

10. Body pillows. I can't sleep without Blaker tucked on one side of me, and my body pillow tucked on the other. It doesn't matter how tired I am or how comfortable the bed may be, without B and the pillow, I just can't sleep.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Holiday Mindfreak

Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been two of my favorite holidays. Thanksgiving because: a) the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade comes on; b) we always used to decorate for Christmas that weekend; and c) I get to have my great-grandmother's sweet potato casserole. Christmas because: a) I love "How the Grinch Stole Christmas;" b) I'm a huge fan of colored lights; and c) it's my second chance that year to have the sweet potato casserole. I've always been a very festive person, filled with Christmas spirit, and a firm believer that Christmas IS the happiest season of all.

Growing up, we had a lot of Christmas traditions. We went to my Memaw's house on Christmas Eve, ate finger foods (L'il Smokies, anyone?), and drank terrible punch made with ice cream and Ginger Ale. My Mom's whole side of the family was there, making no attempt to hide the crazy, warming themselves by Memaw's decorative fireplace (it used lightbulbs, plugged into the wall, and had tissue paper flames--no joke) and barking "Jingle Bells." Present time was a mad dash amongst the passle of grandkids. Most people wore their pajamas. Believe it or not, there was no alcohol consumed. Around 8pm, we'd go home, watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and go to bed so Santa could come.

Christmas morning was presents, and a trip to my Grandmama and Papaw's house, which was the MUCH tamer side of the family, for breakfast casserole and country ham. My Grandparents lived in this big, beautiful house with tons of extra bedrooms to play in, and an in-ground swimming pool in the basement. Papaw always bought jewelry for the ladies in the family, and that was our "surprise" gift every year. Sometimes it was a bracelet, sometimes it was earrings, but we usually all had either the same thing or very similar gifts that he had shopped for and bought all by himself. Papaw spoiled the girls, especially me. We were very close.

Papaw died unexpectedly on January 24th, 2002. I was living in Chapel Hill going to grad school when I got the call one night from my Dad who was at the hospital, telling me that they "had lost Papaw." It took a minute to sink in. I couldn't figure out where they had lost him. I had seen him for the last time on December 27th, when I stopped at their house to spend an hour or so on my way back to Chapel Hill. He was good then, they were happy, and I will never stop being thankful that I decided to go over there that day before I left.

I've only been home for one Christmas since then. I have my own kids now, and it seems unfair to take them from their own home at Christmas. Plus, little kids don't travel well (at least mine don't). The one time we were home, everything had changed--both Grandmothers had sold their houses, for one thing, so family gatherings had to be shifted around. After 25 years of the same happy traditions, suddenly we were traditionless.

Being a parent, I see that Christmas is still magical for the kids, but try as I might, I just can't feel it. I want, this year, to try to start new traditions, to see if perhaps we can create that sense of wonder to some extent for ourselves or at least see it through the kids' eyes. I'm tired of bittersweet. I just want sweet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reflections on a Pregnancy


Sutton will be 3 on Saturday, which seems so grown-up to me. I've been thinking a lot about how much he's grown and what our lives were like before he got here, and realized that it's difficult to think that we ever felt complete without him. I know we did. In fact, I even remember worrying on several occasions that I couldn't love him as much as I loved Bellamy or that it would feel like a little intruder was trying to butt in on our family once he arrived. But, of course, the second I saw him, I fell madly, dazzlingly in love with him and couldn't imagine life without him another second.

My pregnancy with Sutton was easier than my pregnancy with Bellamy. I was more prepared and knew what to expect. I think I was even a little less tired, although it was exhausting taking care of a toddler and being ENORMOUSLY pregnant. I remember feeling more protective of him while he was in my womb, and more like he was mine, and mine alone, rather than a little person I shared with Blaker. I don't know why. Maybe because Blaker focused more on Bellamy in utero, but didn't have as much of an opportunity to do so with Sutt because Bellamy demanded so much of his attention. I also remember that I constantly craved steamed broccoli doused in Tabasco sauce, and that I cried for two days when I found out I was having a boy because I thought I wanted another girl so badly. (I was ridiculously stupid to feel that way. Boys are wonderful, I've learned.)

Sutton was due on December 11th, 2005. We all knew he would never make it that long because of my diabetes, so the doctors scheduled a c-section early in the pregnancy for November 29th. I was always at one doctor or another, between seeing the OB, the high-risk OB, the endocrinologist, and an assortment of others. On November 15th, I went to a regularly scheduled appointment with the neonatologist, and found out from the non-stress test that I was actually having a lot of contractions. (I didn't feel any of them. I have a high-tolerance for pain. Even when they gave me Pitocin with Bellamy and put me into hard labor I wasn't in a whole lot of pain, and I recovered from the eventual c-section in absolutely no time and with no pain medication. I'm lucky that way.) I mentioned that the little guy hadn't really been moving around much and so the neonatologist sent me over to my regular OB for an impromptu appointment. I walked in, sat down, and Dr. Weatheford walked in and said, "Do you want to have a baby today or tomorrow? Let's do today. See you in an hour," and left.

Um. Okay.

I didn't know what the date was. I had Bellamy with me, chilling out in her stroller, and no babysitters available. Blaker was at work. My family was nine hours away. I had a pot roast in the slow cooker at home. Geez.

I called Blaker at work and caught him on his way out to lunch. He headed to the hospital (stopping at McDonald's on the way for lunch for him and Bellamy) with Scott, his best friend and, coincidentally, also his boss to babysit Bellamy for us during the surgery. I walked over to the hospital, went to the desk at the Women's Pavillion, and told them I was there for my c-section. Their response was, "What are you going to do with the baby?" I stood there dumbfounded for a minute before answering, "Have it?"

It turns out that they meant Bellamy, as she was still with me.

Soon after, Blaker and Scott showed up and Scott took Bellamy over to the park across the street. Blaker hung out and ate lunch and watched them give me a spinal block AND an epidural (during which time they had trouble finding the right spot in my back and were just probing around with the giant needle-- I thought Blaker might keel over right then and there). I was rolled back and presto! I have a baby.

Despite being a month early, Sutt was declared ready and able by the NICU people who were on standby to examine him. He was beautiful and perfect, albeit a bit bruised from my ribs and tailbone because he was packed in there so tightly. Blaker got to hold him while they tied my tubes and stitched me up. And for the first time, I got to have my baby stay in the room with me while I recovered. (Note: I was so excited about this that the nurses pretty much had to wrestle him away from at night to put him in the nursery so that I could sleep. I wanted him to sleep with me. I was not afraid to throw down with medical personnel 6 hours after major surgery.)

Now, nearly three years later, I can still remember Sutt's newborn smell and how soft his hair felt. I remember changing his first diaper, and how unbelievably tiny he seemed despite being a pound and a half bigger than Bellamy had been when she was born.

Sutt will always be my baby.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Try Walking In My Shoes


Being a Mommy is not always the sunshine and rainbows that it's made out to be. As a matter of fact, most of the time, it's difficult and exhausting and endlessly frustrating, with those sweet Mommy moments scattered few and far between, but so overwhelmingly amazing that when they DO come, it makes up for all the hard parts. Sort of.

And then you have days like I had yesterday.

Wednesday mornings are always total chaos in my house. I'm trying to get Bellamy and Sutton dressed and fed and ready to leave the house, myself ready to go to the Bible Study group, make sure that the dogs have been taken out and put back up, and that nothing is left in any sort of situation that would contribute to the house being burned down while we're gone. All in a time frame of about thirty minutes, because I'm too damn lazy to get up any earlier.

This Wednesday, I had everything ready to go, and we were walking out the door when I noticed that Bellamy looked a little flushed. I pulled the ancient Mommy move--putting my hand on her forehead--before just giving up and digging out the thermometer. (I can never tell by touch if the kids have a fever. I don't know why I even try.) After much difficulty ("Keep your mouth closed! You have to put it under your tongue! Blah Blah Blah") we determined that Belly Bug had a temperature of at least 100. No school today. So we repeated the entire morning in reverse--take off the clothes, put back on the pajamas.... you get the idea. Just about the time we were finished, Sutt informed me that he had pottied in his "big boy pants." Of course he did. And it was not pee. And he had somehow squished it down his legs inside his pants and gotten some on the rug.

Once he had been stripped, sponge bathed from the waist down, and diapered (because he argued that he WOULD NOT use the potty, he was too "widdle" and because I was too frazzled to care if he's still in diapers when he's 14) I got out the carpet cleaner and started scrubbing the rug. As I was de-pooping the rug, Bellamy walked over and asked for juice. I looked up at her just as she coughed and, as she does about 30% of the time, forgot to cover her mouth. Mucus to the cheek, cough germs in the hair. I already had poop on my hands, so I just went and took another shower.

It was not yet 9am.

Later, after the day had continued to progress much as I had expected based on the morning's shenanigans, I was feeling pretty bad for myself. Now, I say "bad," not to be confused with "sorry." I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, it was more of a feeling of wanting to give the finger to the universe, kick fate in the proverbial nuts, shake my fist at the heavens. Sick kids (yeah, Sutt had a fever now too) on a Wednesday with a little Murphy's Law thrown in? What would make me feel better? Hmmmm....obviously, shoes. Shoes always make everything feel better.

So I went out and bought a new pair. They are awesome.

And then I wore them the rest of the day to clean the house and make dinner. My day improved exponentially after that.

Take that, Universe.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote for me!

I dread tomorrow. Election Day is always kind of a pain. Schools are out, streets are busy, and I get to wait in line at the middle school with the two midgets until it's my turn to cast my ballot for The Lesser of the Evils. I know I should just be happy that I live in a democratic nation where I am allowed to vote, but damnit, it's just hard to look forward to the process this time.

I am not going to assail you with my political views that go on and on and on. Basic idea here: I hate Palin with a passion matched by nothing else, but Obama skeeves me out a bit. I don't know what's true and what's not, due to all the negative campaigning, and when I visit the websites that sort it all out, my eyes start to glaze over after a minute and my brain goes numb because it's so freaking boring. I can actually FEEL my IQ drop, and frankly, after having two kids, it isn't like there's much room to plummet. Since I have to vote (not voting is worse than voting for the wrong person, to me) I usually base my decision on the fact that, generally, I am a Democrat. Being diabetic, the sister of a diabetic, and someone who has had both parents diagnosed with cancer, I am a huge advocate of stem cell research and often base my vote on that if I can't make up my mind otherwise. But dude, these candidates just suck.

Which is why the midgets and I will need a large cup of coffee (perhaps with a shot of whiskey in it) before we begin the voting process tomorrow. And maybe some donuts, with Xanax sprinkles.