Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

One of the reasons we chose Arkansas as our first full-family vacation destination was because we thought it would cheaper than the mousy alternative. And it was. Four days and three nights of the Natural State bliss for less than five hundred bucks. Yes, five hundred bucks. We also went there to introduce our little two to family they've never met and teach Jacob a little about his heritage.

The last time I was there was almost five years ago, the summer of 2004. I was just barely pregnant with Adam and we drove up to celebrate my aunt and uncle's 60th wedding anniversary. We didn't stay long, something we've long forgotten was so urgent we even missed my aunt's famous fresh corn, chicken fried steak, and homemade peach cobbler. I promised I'd come back for more at Thanksgiving. She died November 10 of that year. I miss my aunt. And I miss her corn.

Every year I'd send my uncle a card on his birthday with a note stating we'd try to come visit this year. And five years later, we finally did it. We all enjoyed visiting with my mom's side of the family, although Jacob is a tad bummed that marrying his third cousin would be frowned upon, but I'll write more (and post pictures) of that later.

Sixty miles away from them is my father's side of the family. Meet my grandparents:

Oh, how I wish my kids could've met them. You know, for real and in person.

But this was the best I could do. This and a quick swing through their old home. The home they lived in for sixty some years. The house my grandfather built with his own two hands. The house they left on March 4, 1998 when my dad took my grandpa to the hospital after he'd called with slurred speech knowing he was having a stroke never realizing they'd never see it again. The house we vacationed at two weeks every summer. The one house no one moved away from.

Hurricane Ike blew down the hundred year old oak tree blocking the path. Poison Ivy lined what used to be the sidewalk. But Mamaw's white irises and azalea bushes were blooming all around like a little bit of her spirit was still there caring for them.

I ambled my way to the porch with Jacob on my heels to get a glimpse through the window figuring that was the best I could get. Sure enough, the door was locked, but the window was wide open. So of course, I climbed right in.

I am kinda wishing I hadn't now.

My dad's sister and her kids own that house now. Apparently they've been looking for something.

I could barely move in that house for the holes in the floor. There was no longer a ceiling, just exposed rafters. The fireplace was missing. My mamaw's unde*gar*ents were in a pile on the overturned couch. A cat had peed on them. Their favorite picture of J*sus was moldy and thrown upside down near one of the floor holes. The 1938 refrigerator that was still running the day they left was still there though. With all kinds of food in it. 1998 food. Really.

I took no pictures of the inside because I didn't want anyone ever seeing it. Now, though, I'm wishing I had at least one just so you, my internetz, could see just how horrific it was. Is. Mamaw lived three months after Grandpa died. She lived with my parents because he took care of her; she couldn't live alone and my parents couldn't live in Arkansas. Every. Single. Day. All she asked was to go home. She wanted to take care of her flowers, her squirrels, her birds, her kitchen. She never did get to do it again. We had no idea how long she'd live, but if we'd known it would've only been three months, someone would've cared for her there. Shoot,I would've cared for her there. I hope, though, she has no idea up in heaven how bad her earthly home has become.

The neighbor said my cousins were "renovating" the house but one of them got a new job and couldn't make it out as much. Like, at all in the past three years. He, himself, had to hire someone to cut a portion of that Ike tree down just so he could get to his house. I don't think they ever had any intention of doing anything admirable with that house. They all thought my grandparents were made of money and would hit them up for car payments and vacation money. They didn't have much, but if they came asking, they gave what they could. I figure my cousins were looking for money, mining for their fortune. If they found anything, I don't know. I do know that the $2,000 that was left after paying for Mamaw's funeral was packed in the little black purse she carried everywhere. And that purse was buried with her. Maybe I should delete that in case my cousin's ever read this. I wouldn't put it past them to do a little grave-robbing.

When we'd go visit, Grandpa would always have a piece of quartz for my sister and me. A big pretty piece he'd dug out near the lake or in the mountain behind their house. We always looked forward to our new "diamonds".

My cousins left all the last quartz Grandpa dug those last months of his life right out on the front porch. Walked right past it. Left it for anyone to take.

Those were the only things I wanted. And now I have them. I hope my kids will love them and appreciate how hard their great-grandpa worked for them one day.

That house probably won't stand much longer, but I hope they'll be able to take their kids to see the flowers. I have a feeling they'll last.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

And We're Off....

Well, after a lot of rescheduling, we finally got organized and will be heading out on our fancy Arkansas vacation tonight. Yee-haw! There's a diamond out there with my name on it. The weather's supposed to be beautiful so hopefully no tornadoes this time. So, Jacob will miss three days of school and it'll take eight hours to get there. We'll have fun if it kills us!

But until next week, some pictures to show what we've been doing with ourselves....

This awesome neighborhood is really throwing a wrench into my blogging.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Elizabeth!

How can it be you are TWO today?

How did I live so long without you?


I love you, Goose.

Don't grow up too fast.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mysterious Indeed

When I was growing up, there was a pretty stained glass piece hanging in our kitchen. It said, "The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways". Since my five year old mind determined mysterious to mean creepy and scary thanks to Scooby and his Mystery Machine, this could probably explain my fear of church at that age.

Now, of course, I understand the meaning behind it and that bright and sunny glass was the first thing that came to my mind when I read this.

Maybe it's a good thing those tests were last week after all, since we would've been right about there, right about then.

Of course, that also meant some other dude found our diamond, but at least we're safe, right?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

This Wouldn't Have Happened When I Was Organized

When Jacob was still a wee baby, we began having a bit of money moved from the husband's paycheck and into a vacation fund. Since our families deprived us both of quality family fun, we wanted to be sure our own kids didn't suffer the same fate and decided we'd take a cool vacation every year to far off places teaching our kids the cultural diversities of our world while hopefully basking in the sun and sand on a tropical isle at some point.

So far we've been to Pensacola. You know, where my sister lives. They have an awesome Krispy Kreme. And Chuck E. Cheese. Oh, and their white sand beaches are beautiful. At least they were that split second we got to see them before three year old Jacob ran screaming into the street.

Although my husband earns six weeks of vacation time a year, he never uses it because they never let him. There's always some meeting, some disaster, somebody quit and he has to cover for them, and he's got to be there. Fourteen hours a day, almost every day. When the year changed and he saw another three weeks of time slip from his hands, he decided THIS was the year for our big family vacation. So on New Year's Day we went googling for our vacation. Disney? Hawaii? Colorado? The Champs Elysee in Paris? NO. I mean, why would we go to those places when we are so. close. to Arkansas. Seriously. We're going to Arkansas for our vacation. And it was my idea. I figured we'd start small since we've never tried to take all three of them any farther than the zoo and that required some alcohol upon our return home. Plus, there's a diamond mine so what better place to take three dirt diggers? And maybe we'll get lucky and find our fortune. Or we can just hang out with my uncle and cousins for a few days.

It took some rearranging but we finally found a time we could go where the kid wouldn't miss too many days of school, the weather wouldn't be oppressingly hot, and someone would be around to watch our animals. And then the husband put in his dates. April 8, 9, and 10. My family even planned a mini little reunion for us. What fun!

Imagine my surprise when I checked my kids backpack Friday evening and found a note from the principal reminding everyone about the achievement tests on April 7, 8, and 9. Everyone was required to be there and would only be excused with a doctor's note. In other words, your kid better be dying if he doesn't show up to school.


I checked the kid's school calendar. Twice. There were no squares or brackets on any of those dates indicating something. Only a circle on Good Friday because it's a holiday meaning to me, great time for a vacation! I did not check the fine print at the bottom of the page that said when the achievement tests would be. In fact, I pretty much forgot there were achievement tests.

So today, the first day of our vacation, I'm watching Dora and Diego like every other day of my life. No IHOP on the drive over. No tasty BBQ for lunch. No dirty kids digging for treasure. No Easter Egg hunt with cousins I haven't seen since our own Easter egg hunts. But Dora found Boots' trusty old shoes. So Yay!

And if that didn't assure you I am a complete idiot....

I decided to go see Dave Matthews with a couple of friends on May 1. We've already reserved our fancy hotel room and purchased our tickets. Everyone's really excited about it. And I was too, until a note came home reminding us about the second grade musical. On May 1. Really? But there was NO. SQUARE! Because, yes, it was in the fine print at the bottom of the calendar. Just like the testing. Then I got to thinking about the last two musicals and how my kid just kinda stood there. Oh, sometimes he'd sing, but way in the back with some tall kid standing in front of him. And then I remembered how my husband missed one and the kid survived, so surely he would again. Game on!

And then a couple of weeks ago I got another note that let me know my kid has a solo in the musical. And then a couple days after that, another note stating he now has TWO solos. Of course, he does. My kid who hates music class just suddenly auditions for a part. A huge part. What happened to hiding in the back? Man.

So far, I'm still going to the concert. I paid a lot of money for the tickets and my friends don't know each other so that would be awkward to just let them go by themselves. My kid swears he doesn't care if I'm not there, but I do. Will I even be able to have a good time at my own concert knowing my kid is at his without me? What mother misses her kid's musical???

The one time I try to get away by myself. Maybe it's a sign.

Sure could use a vacation about now.

Friday, April 03, 2009

My Living Doll

When I was a little girl, I had tons of baby dolls and I loved them all. My favorite ones, though, were the ones with hair. Long, soft, luxurious hair. I even had, not one, but three whose hair could be pulled out of a hole in her head for even more hair.

I made sure my babies were changed and dressed beautifully every day in the tiny, bitty doll clothes my mother sewed for me. Each doll had it's own wardrobe. There were many days I'd come home from school to find my mom had made a new one. Or two. Did I ever really appreciate it then? I sure do now because, bwahahaha, I can't even sew for my own daughter, much less her dolls. My mom. She rocked.

Anywho, I really liked dressing my dolls. But what I loved was fixing their hair.

My dolls were excellently coiffed. Some had braids, some had ponytails, some just had long, brushed, shiny locks, and some had crazy, wild, done-up-in-some-weird way hair because they were dolls. They didn't care.

They were also very, very still.

My daughter. Not so much.

And her hair. I wouldn't really use long and luxurious to describe it. Soft works though.

When I took my first born son at twelve months for his first haircut I was bummed. Oh sure, he turned into a toddler with that haircut and that was sad, but I was bummed because I had no hair to play with. There was no chance of allowing his hair to grow and style if I wanted others to be sure he was a boy. Ditto second born son. I keep their hair combed, but that's just it. That's all there is to do with them. A quick swipe with the comb, maybe some spray to make the cowlicks lie down and that's that. No. Fun. At all.

But then I had the girl. She wasn't a full five minutes old before my nurse was giving me the short version of Girly-girl Hair-dos for Dummies and I was dreaming of bows and barrettes and I even think I may have told my husband in my morphine-induced euphoria to go RIGHT. THEN to buy some pretty pink bows, but not the big huge bows you strap around the baby's head like some sort of elastic vise because no daughter of mine would wear one of those horrible things.

We all know how that turned out.


I looked forward to girly hair fun since my daughter exited the womb. Pretty much.

But I wasn't expecting this.

My daughter's hair is not thick and lustrous. There's no way in the world a fish tail braid is ever going to stay her thin, barely-there hair. Shoot, I can barely keep a barrette in it.

But when I noticed it was getting long enough to pull through my hands, I found some tiny elastics and figured I'd be all up in the ponytail do. Easy-peasy.

Some say my daughter is quite a doll. I would have to disagree. She moves. And turns her head. And screams. And protests. And what should've been a twenty second job turned into two minute torture. My dolls never behaved this way.

But I did it. And even through the sweat and gritted teeth, I loved it.

The girl. Not quite.

Turns out she can remove tightly wound bands as well as she can bows.

But each day after I dress her in something beautiful from her well-stocked closet, I brush her hair and try it again. And it is fun. Much more challenging than I remembered, but tons of fun. More fun than I ever imagined because not once did any of those lovely-haired dollies turn around and give me a big kiss when I was done.