Oh, How Happy

This past weekend, Russ and I hosted an engagement party for my dear cousin Kate who is tying the knot in January.

Most of you know I am an only child. My dad’s second brother’s child also, like me, is a girl without siblings. Kate came along and for awhile had no siblings either, but then gained the coolest thing ever in her younger brother Walter.

My girl cousins mean the world to me. We have helped each other through break-ups, moves, new jobs, bad hangovers…you name it. They are my sisters, since I don’t really have sisters. They rock.

We used to sit around the children’s table at Thanksgiving at Mama B’s and admire how much fun the grown-ups seemed to be having. My dad and his three brothers have myriad family jokes that come out for no reason at all. [If you have any type of bread-product on your plate, it’s going to get poked. Consider yourself warned. There’s also a mad joke about “Wringle Bells” (which other folks might call Hershey Kisses). Trust me: if you could be adopted by this family, you would want to. We. Are. Funny.]

So I have 3 boys and Leigh Ann has a son and a daughter; those are the sub-cousins so far, and we are hellbent that these people are going to be tight. And while there wasn’t much interaction going on Saturday night between the pack of boys and 3 month old Chloe, I don’t think we are going to have to worry about them understanding this side of the family.

Let us at that Pinata! We want candy! (Clockwise from far left: Ty, Jack, Theo, Tucker)

This quartet ran the party, in a good way. They helped with food and drink, they performed interpretive dances on the back deck to some ‘Tween songs, and they busted the stew out of the pinata. Then they gathered their loot and retreated to my bedroom to watch Happy Feet 2, all piled up together on a pallet of pillows to rival none other.

all completely being gentlemen as they massacred our red dinosaur friend…

Obviously, because we had the pinata, the party was a Fiesta themed one. We knew it was going to be a great night when my dad got into the spirit before the first guest even showed up…

Then the guests did start showing up, and they were all wonderful. Friends with whom my cousin had gone to high school, aunts, uncles and brand new babies, and even Digger the Gerbil (yes, he made a cameo appearance, as all companion-rodents should)…

At one point, I looked over to the sofa and saw my dad with 2 of his 3 brothers sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on our couch, watching a football game. And all 3 of them were laughing. Hard.

just missing Uncle David (in London)…L-R: Hibby, Bill & Sidney 

It was the first time these 3 had all been together since Mama B’s funeral. It was a morale booster. It gave me a glimpse of what I hope my 3 sons will be like in 40 years: best friends, able to laugh, able to have fun, able to pick right up where they’d left off, able to live in the moment.

The whole house was warm and fuzzy and happy. So I took Kate and her brother Walter outside…to the tree fort.

My boys’ tree fort has long been a place of solace for me; that’s no surprise. The thing is cooler than cool. I admit it:  when I was growing up, I dreamed about a multi-leveled fort with a slide and swings on which you could swing with more than one person without living in fear of you both flipping the entire rusty contraption over.

It is the best place on the planet for a glass of wine, star watching, family observing, deep conversation. Kate, Walter and I sat on top of the rope bridge while my dad and his brother told us all the ways they had taken care of us and how they would always protect us and watch out for us even if we didn’t realize it. It was the inverse of a lecture; we were up high on a ledge; they were down low, looking up at us, lukewarm Budweisers in their hands. At 41, I knew–as I’ve always known–that my Popster has my back and always will.

Transitions are scary things. Getting married, having a baby, growing older…it’s all scares the bejesus out of me. I try my best to stay grounded…which is a joke because I know full well I’m merely tethered to sanity most days by tenuous strands of “ok, I got this” and “I can figure this out” and “if it’s not a cold, it must be strep” and every other tangible excuse I can hook a finger into.

Where do you stand in your life? Are you a wife? A mom? A daughter? A volunteer? Yourself? All five? How on earth do you juggle all that? How do you delegate that? What falls to the wayside? What needs to be given a hug and revived? What needs to have some much needed, solidly focused time and attention given to it?

I knew the part that had been missing lately. Only children typically do.

An only child gets married and becomes a wife. Yes, you are a daughter, but being a wife is your main role now. Then a baby comes along and you’re a mom in addition to a wife. Oh, and you’re still a daughter, too.

But there are times when an only child needs her parents and her parents alone. And no one else. No one else gets the chicken jokes and the Heath bar jokes and the blown-up blender jokes. No one else remembers the last out at the state championship or the carsickness on the way to see a new baby cousin or the importance of Mattel baseball games. No one else knows pop-tarts, blue cheese, Dairy Queen and Combos could bring a speed-eating fool to his knees, or that, even if you are sitting on a beach in the Bahamas, there are only so many times you can hear “Yellow Bird” on repeat before you start dive-bombing the swim-up bar. There are only 2 folks who really saw what it was like to go through a miserable break-up, and those 2 folks sacrificed a rainy January weekend–wherein I celebrated my mother’s wrong birthday (sweet thing was turning 50, not 51…ouch)–to help me get resettled in a house filled with nothing except the incorrect number of birthday candles and way too much Grant Lee Buffalo. [Without a doubt, that was the most pitiful pity-party, but my mom and dad were right there with me, making me laugh through it.]

All those thoughts are so Bedingfield, so Us, so My Mom and Dad that by the end of the night, I was so happy to spend 3 more hours around these 2 best friends, the people who brought me into this world, the people who chose to have me. Just as I savor the moments of still reading to Jack or still cradling Tuck’s head on my arm or still being nestled in like a cloud around Theo as they each breath those deep, husky breaths that let you know they are sound asleep, I realized that this moment was the same for my parents. It had been at least a decade since we’d had true Us time. And it had been probably 38 years or so since I was a little girl, curled up in their arms. Their only child, who was once scared of the dark, was now again among the 4 arms of those who could most protect her because they are the ones who most understood her–and vice-versa.

It was a perfect moment. It was an evening of unspoken love.

But why is that? Why don’t we want to tell people about how we love them? Or why we love them? Or the easy-out “I love you because…”?

Our days are ticking by. We will not get to live today again. We need to find ways to show love, to show fondness, to show appreciation for someone…anyone…and then do it. Too often we are all too stingy with compassion.

My crew is a family full of love, and we wallow in it:

with sweet Tucker about 4 hours before the Rotovirus struck, sending us to the hospital.
Tucker was 12 months old and this was his 1st visit to the beloved train museum.
yes, Tuck’s chewing on a stick…

We love to have fun. We love to include family in the fun. We love being a family.

Mother’s Day, 2007

It’s never, ever bad to show your love for one another. Never.

Jack kisses his somewhat unwilling younger brother…July, 2007
Hib kisses his somewhat unwilling younger brother…September, 2012

Tuck going in for a covert snuggle…August 2011

I find there are some days where happiness doesn’t end. This weekend was a never-ending-happiness sandwich, 72 hours of wonderfulness. 

So go love on everyone. That’s right: everyone. Do something good. Make someone smile. Live your life vibrantly and live your life well. You only get one chance.

Jack and me squashing Mama B at Jack’s baby shower; April, 2004.


You know, you probably jinx yourself when you write something along the lines of “life couldn’t possibly get any better than this.” (Not that I’m supremely superstitious or anything. I’d consider myself merely somewhat superstitious.)

Poor Jack broke his collarbone. He has been way more daredevil-ish lately, flying down the hill of our cul-de-sac on his scooter, zooming onto our driveway and then jumping off, letting the poor scooter clatter off to the side. For our typically very cautious son, this new endeavor was extremely out of character. He spent one Friday night doing this over and over, going faster and faster, until I finally had to tell him to stop because I was about to have a nervous breakdown.

Seems that’s what’s actually called “Mother’s Intuition”.

A few days later he came into the house screaming. We did the once-over and didn’t see any blood or missing teeth (a huge, huge fear of mine). We did, however, see his left arm hanging down a few inches lower than the right, and once we had his shirt off, we could see the big divot in his collarbone. Eww.

So off to Childrens’ Heathcare we went. CHOA is amazing. They fast-tracked us and within an hour, we had a picture showing us this:

Within 2 hours, we were back at home. Diagnosis? Broken collarbone, 6-8 weeks in a sling with another 4-6 weeks recovery after that.

Fall baseball season? Gone.

Riding a bike or scooter? Gone, until Halloween or later.

Tying shoes? Impossible.

Sitting up in bed by oneself? We’re getting there.

…that would be Tucker in the middle, not just a random set of arms

The neighbors came over the next day and decided to sign Jack’s “cast”. Since you can’t actually put a cast on a broken collarbone, poor Jack has this vulnerable looking get-up of a sling and an Ace bandage that holds his arm against his chest and prevents movement (in theory, at least). He came in and asked me if the neighbors could decorate his arm, after the fact. This was the first time I’d seen him do anything close to smile in over 24 hours.

Of course, school pictures were taken the very next day.

Tucker and Theo have been terrific at staying calm around Jack–at least for the first week. And all 3 boys have really gotten good at cooperation. Tucker has to help Jack unbuckle his seatbelt in the car, for instance. And, of course, all the really good iPad games need at least 2 good hands.

Jack is on the mend. He is one tough cookie. We are grateful for the wonderful folks at CHOA.

Completely gratuitous video:  we recently swapped out our pathetic, lousy, worthless phones for new ones that hopefully will hold a charge longer than 4 minutes. We’ve been putting off this switch for at least a year now, mostly because we didn’t want to lose our old answering machine message.

Here’s Jack, at about 18 months old (no lie), on our old machine (before unplugging the old dinosaur of an answering machine, I played the message 3 times while recording it with my iPhone to make sure we’d have it forever. Told you I was sentimental.):

And finally, it’s almost the middle of September! Almost time to start dragging out the gruesome! Here’s Theo’s addition to our Halloween decor, picked out yesterday afternoon while we killed an hour between carpools:

Oh, yes. That is indeed a box of fingers.

From Paper Affair on Northside in Atlanta.

(You’re welcome.)

The 5th Best Day Ever

Saturday, September 1st, was an absolutely perfect day for us.

We woke up in Amelia Island to a new month and a drastic drop in the humidity. You could feel fall coming, and it made us happy. Very happy. Of course, coupling this ever-so-slight crispness in the air with College Football Gameday made Russ even happier.

We headed out to the beach for the morning. We all had a happy hop in our steps.

The water was refreshing, the scent of Coppertone hovered around us, and some of our favorite tunes wafted from our bag because I’d finally remembered to bring a portable iPod speaker.

Theo and I gathered shells and dug holes while Russ and the boys played in the water.

Tucker worked on his new skill: the headstand. This is all we’ve been seeing around our house for the past few weeks. Tuck can now also do one on his boogie-board. The boy’s core strength is phenomenal.

By now it was nearly noon–a respectable time, no doubt. So we broke out our next-to-the-last bottle of Caldwell Rose’.

And a great day got even better. (Thank you, John Caldwell. That’s some mighty fine juice you’ve got there.)

After lunch at the pool and a bit of swimming, we headed in for a rest and to watch Russ–the Bulldog, not the husband–in his official debut as UGa IX. Later that afternoon, Jack, Tuck and I headed back out to the beach for some more wave catching.

We made our way out to a sand-bar, holding hands and riding up and down the waves the entire way. The water was warm, the air salty and my boys giggly. Solid stuff, indeed.

When we stopped to rinse off on the way back to the house, I realized Tucker was wearing Theo’s swimsuit. Tucker the 6 year old can somehow still fit into size 2T swimtrunks.

Doing a happy dance on the boardwalk…

How did we know we were experiencing the perfect day? Someone’s even cut a real path for us! No more jumping and hopping and squealing through a ditch filled with briars and long-legged insects to forge a short-cut to the boardwalk. When you’re 6 and 8, this is pretty much the icing on the cake…

…until it’s outdoor shower time.

After dinner, we headed back out to the beach yet again.

Buckley-Dog joined us even though you can’t see him here; he was too busy sniffing for turtles.

Sunset on the beach. Happy, happy boys. Even happier parents.

The only way to bring a perfect day to a close?


(That thing looks sorta scary, doesn’t it? There wasn’t that much fire actually blazing out of the end, I assure you…)

Buck wasn’t so thrilled with the way we closed out the day, but the rest of us couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces as we shuffled back to the house, shook the sand off us and curled up in beds to read and fall asleep.

It’s pretty hard to rank one’s days, especially when so many are so good. We are a fortunate crew to say the least. But for us, for our cozy little family of 5, a fifth date has come out of nowhere to join the Top 5:

(1) February 1, 2003.

(2) May 19, 2004.

(2) January 4, 2006.

(2) July 30, 2008.

and now (5) September 1, 2012.

Welcome to the club, September 1st. You were the perfect way to close out our summer and for that, we thank you.