Monday, May 31, 2010


In Memory of My "Family"

If you have read back through my blog posts, my tweets on twitter, or met me in person, you'll know that I have an interesting relationship with my family.  I just laughed out loud while typing that because, the truth is, I have no relationship with most of my family.  Memorial Day has a lot to do with it. 

My dad died a few years back, and it was almost a relief in the sense that I could then choose to never have contact with my step-mother again.  We had the typical step relationship you hear about.  She was evil.  I could do no right.  You get the picture.  She and my dad were actually married twice.  The first time they had four kids.  Then the divorce came, and so did I.  When I was about seven, they remarried, and I became her arch nemesis, though I didn't understand why at the time.  Anyway, moving on.

When my dad died, she had him cremated.  I have to take her word that that's what Dad wanted because I wasn't allowed to have anything to do with the funeral.  They had a video made with pictures of the family, and there was one picture of my kids in it.  I cried, not because I missed him, but because I felt like such an outsider there surrounded by my "family."  I wasn't allowed to take one of the plants or floral arrangements home from the service "because you have such a long drive home.  It would never make it."  Yeah.  Five hours.  I'm sure.

Then, out of nowhere, my husband got an opportunity to move to Montana.  We decided to take it, and it landed us smack in the same town as my step-mother, two sisters, a brother, and their families.  As an adult, I decided I would do what I could to build a relationship with my siblings.  We started visiting on holidays, one sister and her kids bought from my son's Cub Scout den and my daughter's Girl Scout Troop, I asked one niece to stay at the house one night while we took the baby to the emergency room...  All things I would come to regret.

Last year on Memorial Day, I was really missing my dad (or the idea of my dad, anyway).  I felt resentful for not having someplace I could go to feel near him.  His ashes had been scattered out in the country somewhere, and I hadn't been there to know where.  Out of hurt and frustration, I wrote two sentences that would change my life.  My facebook status read, "I'm really missing you, Dad.  I guess she finally got her way because I can't even bring you flowers."  Look out! 

Now, I'm not stupid.  I knew my nieces were on facebook.  I knew there was a chance it would come back to bite me.  The crazy thing is, I just didn't care.  I was tired of having to make the effort all the time.  I didn't want to be the one to call, and wonder if they were inviting me over because they felt obligated to.  If I had been worried about anyone reading it, I wouldn't have typed it.  But nothing happened.  Well, not exactly.  Nothing happened for a full month.  That's when things got hairy.

I have one niece who is more like a daughter to me.  She was over one afternoon, which was pretty common, when her mom sent her a text informing her that she should tell me that I needed to be careful what I put on the Internet for all the world to see.  Huh?  She called her mom to find out what was going on, and learned that another of my nieces (or two) had just told my step-mother (their grandmother) about my Memorial Day status.  You know the expression about the stuff and the fan, right?  Yeah.  That happened. 

Things got out of hand quickly, and I finally got so upset that I called my step-mother to get it straightened out.  Now, you have to understand, in 24 years, I had never called my step-mother on purpose.  It was the last thing I ever wanted to do, and when she answered and started chewing my head off, I told her that.  I explained my feelings, my stance, and she tried to make nice like I was the one blowing it out of proportion.

That was the last time I had contact with any of them, other than the one niece who is more like a daughter.  They threw back in my face the time I had been allowed to spend with them, the popcorn they bought from my son, the GS cookies they bought from my daughter, all of it.   They have completely cut me out of their "family."  I was really upset at first.  Why wouldn't my own family, my brothers and sisters just love me because I'm me?  What did I have to do to get them to accept me?  Then one day I was talking to a friend on the phone when it hit me...

I have an amazing family.  God gave me the chance to pick exactly who I wanted to surround myself with.  I have the best husband ever (don't bother arguing with me.), four kids I couldn't live without, and friends like you would not believe!  I have brothers and sisters who love me.  ME!!!  Just the way I am.  We don't share blood, but we share faith.  We share memories.  We share laughs, and dreams, and I don't mind when they call me at 2am crying, and they wouldn't mind if I did the same.  I don't have to wonder how they feel, or what is OK to say around them.  That's because they are my family, and family means more than being related.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Baby Love Part 3

My third pregnancy was something else.  We lived in a state that didn't have a single in-network provider for our insurance, so we had to drive 45 miles to the next state for anything requiring a doctor unless we wanted to pay way more out of pocket than any family should ever have to for medical care.  It made things really interesting when it came to prenatal care, and I can remember being convinced that I would give birth in the car on the way to our approved hospital.

Like my two previous pregnancies, I was put on bed rest, I think it was around 33 weeks.  I was also prescribed medication just in case I started contracting.  Our other babies had both been born premature.  Since I had two small children already, and a husband who worked long, crazy hours, my mother-in-law came to stay with us and help out until the baby was born.  She was great to have around.  Wouldn't let me do anything but pee and every other day I got to shower.  I sat in our huge, green leather recliner for two weeks, hand sewing a quilt for our daughter while she was there. 

On night just before bedtime, I started having a few minor contractions.  They weren't painful, but they were steady and only about six minutes apart.  I took a pill like a good girl, sat back, relaxed, and...continued contracting.  An hour later I took another pill because they advised me it might take two to make contractions stop.  Or not.  My mother-in-law was in bed asleep.  My husband was still at work.  It was midnight.  I was having contractions that kept getting stronger and closer together.  Oh, and I was 45 miles from the hospital.

I woke Loretta, called PJ at work, and set about packing a hospital bag.  (No, I didn't have one ready because it was still five weeks to my due date.)  PJ made it home in record time (because there is zero traffic in Cheyenne, Wyoming at midnight any day of the week) and we headed out at NASCAR speed to Fort Collins, Colorado.  I was positive we wouldn't make it, and PJ kept speeding up to ensure that we did.  I'm pretty sure that trip only took us about twenty minutes. 

When we arrived at the hospital, a nurse had to come out with a wheel chair to collect me because I knew if I tried to walk in, the baby would fall out!  She assured me that it would be fine as we were riding up in the elevator with another expectant mom who was farther into labor than me.  When her nurse jokingly told a story about a woman giving birth in that very elevator the year before, the woman shot her a death glare and yelled, "That was me!"  OK.  So much for putting us at ease...

We got checked in, changed, into a room, checked, and were told it would be a while.  I wanted to take advantage of the new jacuzzi tub, so they moved me in.  I'd like to offer a little tip here.  A powerful jetted tub is not a good thing for a woman in the late stages of labor.  I felt like I was being pummeled to death, and the nurses couldn't figure out how to get it to stop completely, so every five minutes the jets would start up again, I would curse the new wonderful birthing center, and my poor husband would look helpless. 

It wasn't long before I knew I needed to get out of the tub and to the bed, so we hurried (Ha!  Yeah right.) out of the bathroom, got the bed prepped, and they checked me again.  My midwife gave me the go ahead, and I'm pretty sure I never pushed.  I maintain to this day that I just complained and whined until my son fell out.  I didn't get to see him right away because when you have a preemie, they have an entire NICU team in the room waiting, and when the baby is born, they whisk them off to make sure all is well before the mommy gets a chance to see the little screaming bundle of ugly old man baby (except my babies were all beautiful.). 

When they determined he was fine, just needing a little oxygen, they filled me in on all the stats.  With as much as it hurt when he came out, I was sure he was at least a nine-pounder.  I was in shock when they told me he weighed 3 pounds 15 ounces.  WTH???  No really.  But his head was E.Nor.Mous.  Off to the NICU he went, and my nurses did the usual fussing over me.  My midwife was great, and my husband was a champ!

When I finally got to go see Baby Boy Eldridge, I was amazed how tiny he was.  I know all babies are sweet and little and cute, but BBE was minute.  I was afraid to touch him for fear he would break.  I had bought bags of sugar bigger than this baby, and I was somehow supposed to be able to keep him alive.  I had an immediate internal panic attack at that thought. 

For two days we made visits every few hours to the NICU, and then it was time to check out.  I was all packed up and ready to go home to make plans when one of the NICU nurses came into my room and informed us that our bitsy little read-headed baby with the swirl up front was too cute and sweet to not have a name.  They were all tired of calling him Baby Boy Eldridge.  That's right.  He had no name.  We couldn't decide what to call him.  We talked.  We thought.  We talked.  Finally, Christian, our oldest son who was just shy of 4 years, said he had watched a cartoon and the boy in the cartoon was named Connor.  He said it was a good name, and it started with "C", as did both of our other kids' names.  And so the nurse went back to the NICU to make a name tag that said Connor William. 

The one really great part of delivering Connor in Ft. Collins was that they own several blocks of houses on the street adjacent to the hospital.  They use them specifically for families of long-term patients.  My MIL, my kids, myself, and my husband, on his days off, got to spend the next 17 nights in a three bedroom house with all the things a house should have, and it only cost about a quarter of what two hotel rooms would have.  Plus it was a two minute walk to the hospital. 

By the time we were finally allowed to take him home, Connor weighed 4 pounds 10 ounces.  I could only wonder if they were out of their freaking minds.  Why the hell would they let me take a baby so tiny and fragile home?!  Didn't they know I had a rambunctious pre-schooler and a toddler waiting to get their hands on him?  They insisted that he was ours, and therefore we had to take him.  And so, with six little rolled up receiving blankets to prop him in his giant of an infant car seat, a small oxygen tank, and the biggest pacifier on the planet, we went home.

One week later he was off the oxygen.  A week after that he was circumcised.  Another tip:  Don't be in the room while your son is being circumcised.  Holy crap.  And wow.  But mostly yikes.  He was still so tiny that people would look into his car seat, see only blankets, and think we forgot to bring the baby.  For the first little while I had to resort to buying him doll clothes because preemie clothes were entirely too big. 

And now he's six.  Today is his birthday, and I'm in awe of the funny, caring, lovable little character he's become.  While I miss the so tiny super little red head with the pinwheel cowlick, I am so proud of my generous little white-blond monster with the pinwheel cowlick.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I'd like to lodge a complaint...

I realized today, after an extremely emotionally exhausting Monday, that I complain some.  Okay, okay.  I complain a lot.  About big things.  About small things.  About most things.  I complain about people who complain.  And about people who don't.  And about their dogs.  I spend my day listing all the bad things in my life (or your life, or his life) and a lot of times I completely miss the good things.  The blessings.  The love.  Instead of smiling when one of my kids wants to sit on my lap, I get annoyed because the other three don't.  Instead of being thankful for my husband's job that provides enough that I can stay home, I let myself feel overwhelmed by my "duties" as a homemaker.  I'm getting a little tired of feeling like crap all. the. time.  And I hate that it's me making me feel that way.

In the hopes of salvaging the rest of this week, I'm going to give you a list of just a few things that I really am thankful for.  The things and people who make me smile on a daily basis.  The things I want to focus on from here on out.

  • My family.  The real family I have chosen for myself, from my husband on down to the friends I haven't met, but still love like family.  The people who love me, accept me, and support me, even when I complain.  You know who you are, so I won't name names.
  • My home.  It may be a mess, but it's safe and warm and big enough for my family.
  • My kids.  These guys deserve their own category.  I can't imagine my life without the little munchkins all up in my face all day.  It just wouldn't be right.
  • My new house.  It's a new adventure, just waiting for us to climb aboard!
  • My God.  Today is proof that I need the grace He offers, and don't deserve a thing.  How can I only see bad when His plan is so good?
Most of all, tonight I am thankful that I will have tomorrow to try this all again.  I can make better decisions.  I will use softer words.  My smile will appear more often than my frown.  And if I don't, feel free to complain.  :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

1 .
Today holds some very good memories for me.  It also brings a lot of heartbreak.  Each year, I try to see the blessings in both.  I'm sure that the more years pass, the more my memories are going to fade until the two events cancel each other out.  For right now, one is still amazingly lovely, and the other a tangible test of my faith.

As a woman with 20 years behind me (barely), I was lost, confused, and living on my mother's couch (literally).  I had dropped out of college, moved in with my mom, dated a few guys, learned some painful life lessons, and was sure my life was over.  I lived in a very dark place internally, and honestly didn't think I would ever recover.  So when this random guy I had talked to a few times asked me on a date, I thought little of it.  After all, they were all the same, and not right for me.  I agreed to go with him though.  Why?  Because his smile nearly melted me to my core. 

When he picked me up that afternoon, I had no idea what I was in store for.  I was more than a little surprised when he pulled in at the little local drive in restaurant, Ford's, so he could order me a cinnamon Coke, one of his favorite treats.  While we were there, he took the T-tops off his car so we could soak in the wonderful May sunshine.  (I didn't tell him that it bothered me to have my hair blowing around in my face until our second date.  That's when I left a ponytail holder in his car so it wouldn't matter the next time.) 

We drove along the river with our cinnamon Cokes, laughing, talking, realizing I really enjoyed his company.  He took me to the fish hatchery.  (Nothing says "romantic first date" like a zillion little fishy kiss lips.)  We spent a lot of time at the park wandering and talking.  My heart wasn't dark that day, and it felt good.  I really hated to see it end.  Nothing can go on forever, so eventually he drove me back to my mom's house, to my little couch, and I thought I'd be overtaken again.  As it turned out, he didn't want the day to end either, so after we ate dinner with our own families, he picked me up again and we made the date epic.  That's right.  We went to see Titanic in the theater.  I had seen it before, and Leonardo DiCaprio still died, but even that couldn't bring me down.  I was happy.  Happy was something I hadn't felt in months, and I liked it.

That first date was May 5th, 1998.  PJ and I got married that December, and just celebrated our 11th anniversary.  God knew exactly what He was doing when He got us together.  I may have doubts about a lot of things, but my feelings for my husband aren't in that category.

Now, that's a nice story, and I'm sure you have a silly smile on your face, but our story turned around on May 5th, 2007.  I knew it was coming because my midwife had confirmed it a week before.  I still just wish it hadn't turned May 5th so bittersweet in my heart.  Knowing that I had two babies inside me who hadn't grown, who didn't thrive, who wouldn't live nearly tore me apart.  My body chose one of my happiest memory days to reject my precious babies.  I miscarried, forever dulling the good memories just enough that I'm never sure if I should smile or cry when this day rolls around.  Usually before the day is over, I do a little of both, and my heart is cleansed for tomorrow.

Monday, May 3, 2010

1 .

Does This Mortgage Make Me Look Fat?

Today was the big day!  My husband and I made an early morning trip to the title company, met with our realtor and banker, signed our name 864 times (approximately), and are now the proud new owners of a house!  We delivered our first load of random belongings, rolled giddily in the plush carpet, and started making plans of where everything will go when we move it all over.  I packed several more boxes, and I repacked the back of our Suburban after my husband went to work.  Now we are all set to take another load and do some unpacking tomorrow.  I am truly excited about this move, and can barely stand to wait for school to be out to finish. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010


15 Reasons I Won't Miss Apartment Living #1!!!

Well, we've made it to the last day!  The last two weeks have been fun, but as they say, you ain't seen nothin' yet!  Settle back, and away we go!

We have already established that I live in Montana.  If you've never been here, it is very rustic, mountainous, rural, and the wild animals outnumber the people.  Our apartment complex is called Hunter's Pointe.  (The extra "e" makes it classy.)  They are obviously playing to the adult male, strong, vital, woodsy, with the title.  Out in front of the office stands a great beast, a life-sized, majestic bugling bull elk! He truly is a sight to behold.  Here, I will provide photographic proof.

I can see why they chose him.  He's strong, virile, he's the jock all of the cow elk want to mate with.  Somehow that translates to a reason for people to want to live here.  Since I'm not a man, I don't really get it, but it is a very nice piece of art.

Some of you look confused.  You are wondering what the problem is because this is obviously not something I hate, so how did it manage to make it into the #1 spot on my list?  Let me explain.  The picture you are looking at is what you see as you drive into the parking lot.  There are only three buildings to the left of this, but six buildings and a majority of the parking lot to the right.  That means that most people who live in this apartment complex, and a majority of the visitors will approach the office from the right side of the entrance.  When we go in and out of the office, we are greeted by this:

That's right.  He is absolutely anatomically correct.  He's not shy either.  Rain, snow, sleet, hail.  He always puts himself out there for all the world to see.  While I'm sure the testosterone level in this place rises as men enter the parking lot, it truly isn't worth it for me to have to encounter dangling elk genitalia each time I pay my rent.  Luckily, the bank that gave us the home loan settled for a huge pendulum clock, and my days of looking at this are few.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


15 Reasons I Won't Miss Apartment Living #2

Tonight's topic is one near and dear to my heart.  Well, not so much my heart as my last nerve.  Parking in my one assigned parking space is about the fastest way to flip on my "B!+ch Switch".  The only crime ahead of it is messing with my babies, so you can see what a serious offense it is.  I look at it like this: If I'm going to pay over a thousand dollars a month to live in this hole, I am at least going to have the luxury of parking in my own spot.  If you decide you can park there too, I WILL pull up behind you and block your exit.  I WILL slap a Tow Away notice on your window.  (What can I say?  Management gave me extras.  And good luck getting that bad boy off.)  I WILL report your illegally parked car to the management WHILE I am parked behind you.  And God forbid you run into me in person while any of these steps are going down.  I don't care if it's your first day moving in, your last day moving out, your mom's birthday, or your annual celebration of abundance and joy...DO NOT PARK IN MY SPOT!

I warn because I care.