Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Camaro

Let me just first start off saying that this post is not meant to be a brag... in any way.  This is part of a story that started a long time ago and was 12 years in the making.  I'm not posting this to take credit as an awesome wife either... I'm posting this to tell you about what an awesome husband I have.

Tony worked at Jewel (a local grocery store chain) all through high school.  He saved, he was careful, and he was thrifty when it came to spending money all along. 

When I was in beauty school, just after we had started dating, he called me one day to tell me that he was about to buy his dream car.  We hadn't been dating long, but he had saved for a long time to pay cash for his '96 Silver Camaro RS with t-tops.

A year later I found out we were expecting our first baby...

Oh, and let me tell you, we tried to make the car seat thing work in the back of that hot looking Camaro.  We tried for about 4 years to make this sports car fit our growing family, but it just didn't work, especially after Nathalie was born.  We were young, and couldn't afford 3 cars (you CANNOT drive a Camaro in the snowy Chicago weather).  It was expensive to renew license plate tags on 3 cars, pay for insurance on 3 cars, and after a while... it just didn't make sense as we worked hard to make ends meet in our very early 20's.  We didn't have the extra income to make it work and it became more of a burden than it was a blessing.

We sold the Camaro and paid off some bills with the profit.  I kind of found some peace that the kid we sold it to was a young teen who had also paid cash for it, and was going to love it as much as Tony did.

... but I never got over the guilt. Tony was still that kid.

Being a dad makes you grow up in all kinds of ways, but I never got over feeling like I was the mean dream crushing boss of our finances.

I promised myself that one day ONE DAY I was going to make up for having him think that I didn't know how much that car meant to him, and not as a status symbol either, but because I know how hard he had worked all of those years as a stock boy in a local grocery store to earn it.

I encouraged him to sell the Camaro 12 years ago for the greater good of our family, and even though he loved that car, he didn't bat an eye.  He knew it's what we had to do, and because of it, we were able to achieve more.

This October 2nd is our 15th wedding anniversary, and despite a handful of doosey's along the way, we have made it to this milestone pretty easily.  For all of the things Tony has given the opportunity to do in our 15 years of marriage, such as; being a stay at home mom to our six kids, allowing me to stop working in the salon and create a space in our home to take clients, to start my own photography business, to study to become a Realtor... I have only been able to become what I am of this because of him.

He's our rock.  He's our stability.  He's the foundation of our family. 

I know our 15th wedding anniversary is a few weeks off, but I wanted him to enjoy the rest of summer with the top rolled down.  I love this man with all my heart. 

We weren't married when our oldest son was born, and just like so many have done, could have run.  He could have sent me a check every month, and I could have sent him pictures... but he chose to be a husband and an amazing dad. 

He has given me 6 beautiful children, so... I surprised him with a Camaro to replace the one, I kind of made him sell.  They didn't have a silver RS on the lot with t-tops... but they did have this sweet black convertible that I thought he'd like.

I think he likes it ;o)

I told the sales guy that I wouldn't take it home unless they had a BOW for me to put on it.  They found one!  LOL!

I still get a tear in my eye when I watch his response....  you deserve this Tony!  I LOVE YOU! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Just us.

I am just about as "social" as you can get.  I love a good party, I love a "catch up" phone call, I LOVE meeting up with friends.  I'd probably be classified as addicted to Facebook due to my social nature... but sometimes things just need to be quiet. 

Just us.

We went the zoo this afternoon.  With less than 4 days left on the "official" school calendar, the clock is ticking.

I told all 6 of them that we were going to the zoo.  I didn't ask for opinions, and I did argue with them against suggested invitations with friends that I adore...

BUT, I didn't cave.  We needed this.  Just us. 

Even Mark came with! (and it kind of made my heart kind of do a happy dance)  Since he officially has me in the height and weight category, demanding that he attends family events are now seen as more of an enticement than a demand. I'm so happy that he chose us too. 
There were no phones.  No electronics.  Just conversation....

I think today was one of my favorite days.

They were waiting for the dolphin show to start... Jason was very "mad/concerned" about sitting in the "splash" section.  He decided the dolphins were jerks for purposely getting him wet during the show...

I feel like I need to publicly apologize to the dolphins for sitting here.  They aren't jerks.  It was totally my idea.

Leo wasn't happy about our long wait to sit in the "splash section".  I'm beginning to feel like the jerk all of the sudden...

But they had a lot of fun watering all of the plants in the play zoo area...

Nathalie painted a butterfly on Eliza's face.

And a curly mustache and pair of eyeglasses on Leo...

Mark and Eric went bonkers for the $.25 foot massage (that tickled) at the end of the day....

And when your 16 year old gives your 2 year old a ride on their shoulders?  Oh, you just stop right there and say... AMEN!  Thank you God for this great day!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The top 5 reasons why older adoptee sisters are the best...

I met my oldest sister 11 years ago.  I found out she existed 23 year ago... and I vowed to never stop searching until I found her!

I got the call just 6 weeks after my dad died in June of 2002.  He was not her biological father, but he was such an amazing dad... he would have been if he had the chance, but fate (or God's plan) was strong, and things worked out another way.  It made me sad that he never got the chance to meet her, but her presence surely made the days the followed our loss, a gift.

I was raised in the Chicago suburbs.  She is 13 years older than me, and was born in Columbus Ohio. She now lives in Virginia Beach.  When we met, my second oldest was just a year old. Nathalie was a just a baby and I thought it was just a little bit crazy when we talked on the phone for the first time and she told me she had FIVE boys!  I never imagined it for myself, but it could have subconsciously become the narrative for my own life that I later fulfilled with 6 of my own?

Her youngest was just 4 months older than Nathalie.  AND she has naturally occurring fraternal twins, and I honestly always imagined having them myself. Josh and Chris are great young men. I almost said "kids", but they are way bigger than me, so I'm going with gentlemen!

So here is the top 5 reasons why ADOPTEE sisters are the best:

1.  You NEVER fought with each other as kids.  Not over toys, not over clothes, not over anything!  She's a clean slate, and you can love her for it, right off the bat.

2.  There's baggage.  It's a given.  You know it.  She knows it.  Yet, still you "get" the family dynamic without ever uttering a single word.

3.  You admire her.  You've thought about her all your life... and POOF!  One day, there she is!  I've read some awful horror stories about adoption reunion stories, but for me they couldn't be further from the truth.  She's an accomplished mother, and she's calm and collected.  Her motto "It's fine" runs through your head on all of your worst days...

4.  You'll never love a stranger more than you love her on the day that you first met. 
Aside from kissing your newborn baby's face a millions times on their birthday... the over 5,500 days that passed without knowing my oldest sister melted in that airport terminal, like a stick of butter on a hot summer day. 

5.  You're friends.  Time can pass and days will fade, but you always pick up exactly where you left off.  No matter what, they're always there.  Sometimes it's hard to manage the line between friends and sisters without infringing on the lives we've lived without each other... but it's worth every mile we've walked together over the last 10 years. 

I'm not going to add this to the list... but she's my secret WILD card.  She changed my birth order from "middle" sister to SECOND "middle sister", lol!  When you mess with birth order, look out!  Maybe I'm not the crazy MIDDLE SISTER after all :o)

I love you Andrea!

Monday, July 21, 2014

100 MPH through life...

My 13 year old daughter is booking babysitting gigs.  My 16 old is filling out job applications and considering college options.  I'm organizing play-dates for the 3 middle-ish kids, and potty training a 2 year old. 

Can someone man the wheel for a while I "enjoy" these moments... cause they're passing by in a blur.

I used to have some hard core rules for family time that I've recently had to break on account of height restrictions.  Neighborhood fests used to be a family "given" and we'd go together as a family, but it's kind of hard to make your oldest son, (who takes me now in both height and weight) ride the dragon roller coaster with his little brothers and sisters.  Actually, it's not just hard... it's more than frowned upon.  As a matter of fact, it's simply not allowed. 

My oldest is man-sized.  Sniff... :o(

But I won't waste a second complaining because so many parents in the world go to bed tonight wondering who their kids would have become, and wishing for one more day. 

I'm lucky and blessed for this 100 MPH life, and all that happens in a day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Meeting Lauren! It's official... we are finally "real" friends!!!

I "met" Lauren nearly 9 years ago on a website called Cafe Mom when Eric was a baby.  I'm certain I was pregnant with Jason at the time that we kind of became a force of mom's to be reckoned with and our pack was formed. 

Lauren's daughter Myka was born somewhere in that mix... in addition to her two older daughters Lexi and Ashlynn.  And just about 6 years later... her son Isiah was born!

We quickly became part of a secret underground group of moms called Cafe Mom's on Facebook.

Cafe Mom is a real site all on it's own.  And there... I have made a lot of REAL life friends.

This group of ladies just happened to translate into a group of comrades that double as awesome human being in real life... and I've met all but one in real life.  (Oh Melinda... why does Alaska have to be SOOOO far away!?)

Well, most of them did anyway. We lost a few along the way... but that was part of their journey, not ours.

Lauren was one of the last 2 ladies I had yet to meet fact to face.  Ironically even though she lives in Arizona, she has ties to the Chicago suburbs.  Today I drove an hour and 20 minutes away to meet her for lunch with 5/6ths of my kids in tow.  She was in town for a quick visit and I'm so glad we finally got to meet!

Lauren and I spar over politics like no ones business... and yet she's still one of my best friends.  We don't agree on nearly 85% of the topics we discuss, yet strangely I feel like somehow we are always  on the same page.  I appreciate her arguments and value her opinions.  We don't sweep our opinions under the rug, we grow from them.  (oh if only we were FB friends you'd see our discourse in real time, lol!)  I love that she pushes me to argue for what I believe... instead of trying to make me change my mind. 

I was not at all surprised at how easily this day came... after 9 long years of solidifying our friendship with a good old fashioned meet and greet, we are officially no longer "Internet" friends! We are just as tried and true as old friends who spent every day together as kids who keep in touch by phone and social media... for what it's worth these days.

Thank you Lauren for your open conversations, and respectfully debating me when the opportunities present themselves.  Thank you for sticking with me over the years.  Thank you for letting me be ME and loving me even when we went to bed on different pages.  Love you lots girl!  I owe every ounce of being a photographer to you.  Thank you my talented friend!!!  I can't wait to see what the future holds!  Hopefully it means we'll be seeing a lot more of each other in the months to come!!!

Sister Love

Nathalie and Eliza are over a decade apart in age, but it hasn't stopped them from having a super close bond as sisters. 

Eliza is quickly becoming Nathalie's protege whether I like it or not, lol.  I'm still not so sure a 13 year old personality belongs in a 2 year old body, but she's cute... and she knows how to make it work.  She's adorable without being obnoxious, so as long as it stays that way... she's melting my heart with her adoration of her big sis.

Nathalie's the perfect blend of teenager.  A mix of 50% drives me crazy... and 50% steals my heart.

The "teenager" dance is delicate balance of understanding, give, take, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, nurture, and tough love.  And a lot of things I don't have words for, but that spin my heart in all directions.

Nathalie's such a great kid.  It's easy to go either way at this age, but I'm always proud of how well she does when she's on her own.  When her mettle is tested, she always passes with flying colors.

So far I'm 2 for 2...  as far as teenagers go.  Don't ask me for stats on the 10 and under crowd because they vary day by day, lol.  Especially with the 5 and under crowd.  I call the little ones "wild cards"!

I never knew if Nathalie would ever have a sister.  We never "tried" to have girls, even though we have a big family, we just got lucky to have these two little ladies in our life. 

And they are so lucky to have each other!

Sand Toy Diplomacy

I took the kids to the water park we have passes to this afternoon.  It was only the second time we've made it there this summer because we've been so busy, but the weather was perfect and we were long overdue.  I packed the towels, our "Puddle Jumpers", the snacks for the ride home, and our sand toys...

It was just me and the 5 youngest today.  I felt a little out numbered without Mark and my nephew Josh there to keep tabs on the "middle" kids.  Nathalie and Eric were big helps, but it was still overwhelming.

After I convinced them to take a break in the sand lot, I'm so glad that I remembered from our last visit that it's absolutely necessary to write your name in PERMANENT BLACK SHARPIE on all of you beach belongings.  Not that it mattered, because from the second we arrived with our "sand toys" in arms... it's like someone dumped blood in the water.  Kids came out of NOWHERE and "eyed" our gear from near and far.

I'm all for sharing, that is, IF you know that sharing means my kids are lending their toys to YOU and you realize it's YOUR job to be courteous with them...  and if you do happen to be too young to understand that... where in the heck are your parents?!

I get it.  We've all been new to the scene.  We didn't pack an awesome beach bag that included toys and shovels, and buckets, and sand sifters... but I ALWAYS remember being the adult that asked if it was okay to play with others toys.  And how it was my job as the mom to gauge the situation to realize when the generous "host" wanted one of their toys back to use because let's be honest... kids learn their manners from us.

It was obvious today that NO ONE was watching, or teaching their kids at the pool today.  I did have one very polite little boy ask to use out bucket who returned it and said "thank you" about 10 minutes later... when he returned a bucket that I let him borrow, but he was the exception to the 20 other kids that just tried to take things out of their hands or run up and grab what they wanted when one of my kids put it down.

It's not my job to babysit your kids, or provide their entertainment while you catch up on social media or devour a book from the library.  It's sad, but you're probably going to be the first person to sue the pool lifeguards when your 5 year old drowns because you weren't watching them, like... AT ALL!

The words "sand toys" are really just a synonym for keeping a close eye on your kids here...  I literally watched a mom tell a little boy and his sister that she was going swimming in the big pool and she'd be back later.   He was younger than 5 for sure.  No life jacket, no swimming arms... just left in an unsupervised sand lot indefinitely.  And guess who they decided to "stay" with the whole time until we left?

And what has "family time" come to these days?    Is interaction with our children a chore? Don't you care where your babies are at a crowded public pool?  It didn't seem like it today...

Why are so many parents MIA at a crowded pool?! I wanted to spend time with my kids but I felt like I was running defense the entire time they were trying to play with their OWN toys.  I even bit my tongue and tried to see the other side.  Maybe the kids were hungry for attention.  Maybe they craved the interaction from a family... but no, they just wanted our sand toys.  The second I said they could use any of them they tried to take off running until I told them they had to play with there and couldn't leave with them. 

I'm all for sharing, but I sure wish more people taught their kids how to behave when someone shares with them.  It makes me feel like it's better to be stingy when this distorted version of sharing means you can take, walk away with, or use until you feel like giving back what ever has been loaned. 

Actually come to think of it, sharing is when the person who has something offers it someone else as a gesture of kindness.  When your unsupervised, and bossy kid comes over to where we're playing, and demands to have access to they toys we brought from home to play with... well?  I'm not quite sure what you'd call that at all.