Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Farewell to 2011 -- The Year in Pictures (and blog posts)

 
January
Lora Leigh turns 10 with a Harry Potter Palooza Party!


February
(She was over it by fall.)

March

April,

May


June
I am the president of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
I hand out plaques to Louisiana's sports legends, and get to meet one of my all time biggest crushes.

July
We mourn the loss of my brother. Has it really been 10 years? Already?

August
I am the mom of a FIFTH GRADER! How did that happen??

 September
October
Newspaper journalist/passenger on the Titanic. Same difference.

November

December

Here's to 2012.
Happy New Year







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Wordless Wednesday -- No words


Parker Anniston Luquet
December 22, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Parker



I'll admit it. I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of becoming a grandmother.

I don't know that any woman with any sense of vanity is, really. Me? A gray-haired old Granny? Hell no.

But then we start imagining all the fun we can have, all the cute clothes we can buy, all those sweet baby kisses and hugs, all the sugar-coated sticky-fingered outings we can go on, followed by quick dropoffs back to their parents (followed in turn by a long, long nap) and we get excited.

A grandparent. OK. I can handle that. Just don't call me "Granny." That was my Granny's name. That's my sister's name.

That's where I am.

Was.

My stepson, who became "my" kid when he was 9 years old,   and his wife whom we've known forever , announced back in the spring that we were going to be grandparents. My husband was thrilled that he was going to be a grandfather. I was going to be a step-grandmother.

No, a Lolo -- which is what I already am to my stepchildren, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews and even one of my bosses. Lolo.

But we couldn't tell anyone.

As hard as it was for this reporter and social media specialist to do, I dutifully kept their secret from everyone except my closest family members. And my best friend. And my nail technician.

As hard as it was for the other grandparents -- my husband, his ex-wife and our very good friends the in-laws --  they too kept the secret, even long after it is traditionally necessary.

It was a very quiet pregnancy, which was fine by this not-ready-to-be-a-Granny. But there was a date circled on the calendar.

Then "it" became a "she."

Then "she" became Parker.

And that's about when those ideas about cute baby outfits and fun trips to the zoo and Sunday afternoons in my swimming pool began to form. And saying, "I'm about to be a grandmother," became a little easier. Every time.

And then came November, and a Sunday afternoon shower, for which I dug out some of my own baby girl's special things -- the first blanket I fell in love with and bought for my "possibility" of a child when we were waiting to adopt, and one of her favorite books after she finally came.

And then I ordered some cute little sports-themed onesies for this granddaughter-to-be of a high school baseball coach and daughter-to-be of a high school football coach, and a die-hard LSU and Saints fan. And a football-themed baby bunting.

Oh, I wasn't the only one. One of the other grandmothers coincidentally bought the same outfit, with shoes to match!

And then came December and Christmas shopping. And a beautiful Cinderella carriage piggy bank I just HAD to have, and a personalized Christmas ornament with "Parker" etched on the front. All beautifully wrapped under my tree for the few remaining days until Christmas and then her December 28th due date.

And, honestly, I couldn't wait to see Daniel become a dad. I had seen him be such a great big brother to his baby sister. He was 17 when she was born and the big galoot came in every afternoon after school to scoop her up and toss her around. She adored him, and he her.

"He's going to be a great dad," I said.

And then came the phone call.

My stepson, in hysterics, telling his father something was wrong. They couldn't find a heartbeat. They were on the way to the hospital. Come.

Then my husband peeling out of the driveway.

I stayed home with my 10-year-old daughter, the aunt-to-be, who had spent the last weekend with her brother and sister-in-law while we went out of town for a romantic anniversary weekend.  Who had hoped all weekend, to feel the baby kick, but never got to.

I waited for her to get out of the shower, to tell her we had to go to the hospital for Bubby. But when she got all excited, I had to sit her down and tell her what was really happening. She didn't want to go. I didn't want to make her.

So we stayed home, and waited for news, while the rest of the family gathered in the waiting room, waiting for the inevitable.

Parker Anniston Luquet was born December 22, 2011 at 11:22 a.m., perfect in every way except that she never got to take a breath. The very cord that gave her life for the last eight months took it from her sometime in the final days.

Her parents and grandparents and aunts got to see her, to hold her, to tell her how much they loved her. They shed a million tears over her.

I, the step-grandmother,  did not. I had to tend to my own baby girl, who wanted to know if there still would be a Christmas this year, and what would we do with her presents? We baked cookies with her friends. Then I hid in the kitchen and sobbed.

Yes, this was my stepson's child. My step-daughter-in-law's child. My husband's grandchild. And also mine.

Our stepchildren are just our children. There is no such thing as step-grief. Or step-pain. It all hurts just the same.

Believe me. I know.


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gift ideas for teachers. And their wives.

As the clock ticks down on the remaining shopping days until Christmas -- 11 as of this second.
 
(Wait! Really? That's it? Holy crap! I haven't even started yet!)

My Internet feed is filling fast with articles from mainstream news makers and burgeoning bloggers alike, who are all offering shopping tips for every person on your list.

Even my mother.

Today I came across this one, offering fabulous ideas on what to buy that oh-so-hard-to-buy-for-teacher-you-love, or even the one you don't love so much. The article claims to have polled several actual, real life teachers, who were only too happy to offer their favorite Christmas gifts from students (and their parents).

As the wife of a teacher, the stepmother and step-mother-in-law of another, the aunt of another, the aunt-in-law of yet another, the wife of the ex-husband of another ... (go ahead... I'll wait)...
And the friend (on Facebook anyway) of countless more, I think I'm more than qualified to take a shot at this one.

I know what teachers like. Better yet, I know what teachers' spouses like:

1. Food. We aren't particularly picky either. Chocolate is best, of course (says Mama), but any kind of food is good. Candy, cakes, cookies, brownies, pies, delicious homemade concoctions cooked in your kitchen, or even Whitman's Samplers from CVS. It's all good. Even fresh fruit is nice. Satsumas you've grown in your backyard? We'll take 'em. We are the parents of a fast-growing tween/eating machine. She's hungry ALL THE TIME. And our schedules are pretty crazy, especially around the holidays. Neither one of us really has time to get to the grocery store. So anything to help stock the pantry is appreciated.




2. Restaurant gift cards. I'm not a bad cook. In fact, I'm pretty good. But when The Coach starts the coaching part of the year, there isn't very much time for family meals around the dining room table. And there's not much point in cooking for me and a tween who only likes macaroni and cheese.
Plus, our dining room table is usually covered with baseballs all spring and summer anyways.  And when The Coach and I do get to spend a little time together, we don't usually head for the kitchen. We do tend to eat out quite a lot. And we tend to be creatures of habit. We go to The Pub. A lot. So a nice little gift card to one of the major chains is always appreciated. By the wife, anyway.




3. Ornaments. Believe it or not, the teacher's wife who gets up on the ladder and decorates the tree every year (while the coach watches) really does appreciate the occasional hand-picked or even hand-made Christmas ornament. I'm one of those ladies who believes you can never have enough ornaments on a tree. And every year when I gently take each one out of the box (if it survives The Coach's packing of the box, that is), I will look upon it fondly as having coming from "that student."



4. Apples. Now I know that most of my teacher friends are going to cringe right now because most teachers I know already have more apple-shaped baubles than they know what to do with. And most teachers I know don't really appreciate them. But we happen to live on Apple Street. And, because of that, I have a fairly large collection of apple knick knacks and brick-a-brack. We eat on apple dishes. On apple place mats. In a dining room decorated with apples. So don't listen to him. There's always room for more, I say.



5. But the best gift you can give my husband is Thanks. You may not realize it, but the man I love burns the candle at both ends to be the best teacher, Coach, father, husband, son and son-in-law he can be.

He is up before dawn every day to get himself psyched and ready for his brutal schedule. And it is brutal.

Before my alarm clock even goes off, he's in his classroom helping special education students find their way, and troubled kids stay out of trouble, and other teachers teach them.

And just when I'm starting to watch the clock, counting the final hours till the end of my work day, he's heading off to the baseball field, where he'll spend several more hours trying to turn a bunch of hormonal teenagers into a winning team.

On practice days he'll spend hours teaching them to hit and catch and throw and pick runners off of first and third. And hit the cutoff man.

On game days, he'll get on a cramped, un-air conditioned school bus with no shocks and head off to some middle-of-nowhere town. He'll spend the next three hours taking what the umpire gives him. And if they lose, he'll take the blame.

And when that's over, there's field-prep and maintenance. Often he stays there, though, hitting that struggling kid a few extra ground balls, or a few extra swings, and sometimes explaining to his mom and a dad why the other boy is playing more than their son.

Meanwhile, his own child is at home without him, trying to do her math homework and wondering when he'll come home and what kind of mood he'll be in. Sometimes he'll even get home before she goes to bed. And maybe he'll even get to eat a little something before he crashes on the sofa or in his chair, utterly exhausted. And somewhere in there he has to call his mother.

Then he'll  get up the next morning and do it all again.

"Thanks." That's the greatest gift you can give him. And one I'll let him have all to himself.




Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear Santa

I don't know if she still believes.

Just a few weeks ago, in our "cuddle" time before bed, she did ask.

"Mom," she said, very serious. "I need you to tell me the truth. There is a web site that says that our parents are really Santa."

So, I told her the truth: "If you don't believe, he doesn't come."

She took that in.

But whether she still believes or not -- or whether she's just humoring her old mom trying to keep her baby from growing up too fast --  she is a pretty amazing kid.

And a pretty damned good writer.




Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Signing

My first book signed.

The awesome cake from a friend.








That's pretty much all the photos. My photographer (she's 10) got very distracted.

Fruition

The day is here at last.

All those years ago, back  when the dream of turning a simple little journal snippet into a published work was, well, just a dream, I dreamed of this day.

I couldn't help but imagine the day I would sit at a small table, with a small stack of books by my side, and a long line of well-wishers snaking towards the door. Folks from far and wide would be there, family and friends and strangers alike, clamoring for my signature on one of my books. There would even be folks camped outside, waiting to be the first in line (they promised!)

OK. None of that probably will happen.

But today, December 10, 2011, I am having a book signing. My first. I will sit at a small table with a small stack of books at my side and I will sign my name in my books for friends, family and even strangers who make their way to Destrehan High School (because, unfortunately, there isn't a book store within 50 miles of here). 

And it will be one of the most memorable days of my life -- like my wedding day, and the day that wonderful creature was born and placed in my arms.

I am proud. I accomplished something I've always wanted to do. And I persevered through a long period of silence and doubt.

Today, there is a book in this world, with a real ISBN number, with my name on it. Heck, my picture is even on it! And, from what my readers are telling me, it's pretty good.

Holy cow! I am on Amazon.com!

And, hopefully soon, I'll be in a Barnes and Noble somewhere.

So, forgive me if I take today. For me. To pat my little self on the back. It's a big day.

One of my longtime coach friends just messaged me to "remember to smell the roses." I plan to savor every second.











Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our family

Couldn't think of a clever idea for our Christmas card this year. So I asked Lora Leigh, my 10-year-old daughter who has just this year decided that art is her thing, and who absolutely loves The Animated Woman, to draw it for me. And she did.

I think she's from Mars...


Merry Christmas! From our family to yours!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Practice makes perfect

Artwork by Lora


Confession time:

When I was a moody, broody tweenage kid locked in my room with my Shaun Cassidy and Donny Osmond posters, I used to practice my autograph.

Raise your hand if you did too. Come on. You know you did.

Back in the day I imagined myself as some sort of famous person. A concert pianist perhaps. Or a movie star. We didn't have the Disney Channel back then, so there were no dreams of becoming a famous Disney star. We had the Brady Bunch, and all those roles were already taken.

And, yes, more often than I can count, I dreamed of writing a wonderful, big, thick, epic novel.

The trouble was, I was never very good at fiction.

I pretty much always knew I would be a writer of some kind. Newspapers. Magazines. Books. But nobody really asks you to sign a newspaper or a magazine -- unless you were Shaun Cassidy or Donny Osmond and it was 16 Magazine or Tiger Beat.

Nevertheless, I did practice writing my name. (I even practiced writing "Lori Osmond" a few times, just for fun.)

And now, here it is, some 40 years later and I am doing it again.

I have a book.  A non-fiction book, of course. "Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting," is a true story. It's the story of how my husband, Marty, and I managed to persevere through six years of infertility, turned to adoption and, by some miracle, managed to find and adopt the most perfect baby girl without selling our souls or any of our body parts. No, it wasn't easy. No, it wasn't fun. But we did it. And I wrote it all down as it was happening. Now I am sharing it with the world in a book I self-published (with a whole lot of help from some wonderful professionals).

It's available now in paperback at Amazon.com, and in digital versions for the Kindle and the Nook.

And, about a week from today, the nice (maybe even handsome?) UPS man is going to deliver a whole bunch of my books. 300 of them to be exact. And I will have to write my name in some of them. Apparently, if the requests I'm getting are any indication, a lot of them. And we're hoping to have a little book signing for family and friends and locals on Dec. 10th.

So, yes. I am practicing. Because, despite the fact that I have always prided myself on my penmanship (and I will even address your wedding invitations for you! I'm very cheap!)  I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. How, exactly, do I write my name?

Do I scribble, like I am so busy I don't have time for this?

 

Do I use my regular signature, the one I use on my checks? Um. Better not.
 

Do I write with a flourish?

 

Do I write it big? Keep it small? Slanted sideways? Curvy? Black ink? Blue ink? Purple ink to match the cover? Should I come up with some clever catch phrase to go with each signature?




Is there a Google answer for this?

Turns out, yes! There is! With advice about everything from which pen to use to what to write above your name. Thank goodness. They say to write neatly and legibly because, someday, you might be famous.

So, how about ...











Still practicing ....



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Friday, November 18, 2011

At last!



It's finally done. My dream has come true. I am a published author.

Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting is now available for 

Official launch party and book signing to come soon.
 Thank You, to all who believed this dream would come true 
and to those who made it happen.

Lo


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Author in waiting

God has three answers to our prayers: 

       1.Yes

       2. Not yet

       3. I have something better in mind.
~ ~ ~ ~


There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

A dream is about to come true.

And I can hardly believe it.

I am about to become a published author.

In the matter of just a few weeks, "Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting" will be available for purchase on Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com. Maybe even in a bookstore near you.

It is the unbelievable yet absolutely true story of how my husband, Marty, and I adopted our now-10-year-old daughter. On our own. Only our closest family and friends know all that we went through to find her and to bring her home, how many promises were broken, how many hopes proved false, how deep was our despair at times.

But we persevered. We found our miracle. And we simply can't imagine our life without her. I'm not even ashamed to admit that I still cry at my own ending.

And, much like our adoption story, this publication story has been an incredible journey in itself.

Some authors might say that seeing their book delivered in print is akin to giving birth to a child. I can say it's much like how we adopted one. It has been a journey filled with trials and tribulations, promises made and broken, and long empty silences.

Almost three years ago, as I was about to become the mother of an 8-year-old, I decided to post on this very blog a snippet of a computer journal I had kept during the many, many months Marty and I waited and hoped and tried to become parents together. I needed a place to vent.

Soon after sharing a little of my angst, my dear cousin, Dr. Bob Lochte, a college professor over in Murray, Kentucky, sent me a message. "This is good," he said. "You should expand on this."

And a seed was planted. With his help and guidance, I started to work on it. Fill in the gaps, take out the mundane. Fix some of the typos.

I asked a few people to read it. Dr. Cousin Bob read it. Dr. Cousin Bob asked a few people to read it.

And, apparently, it was good.

I even had a friend who was trying to launch a big new TV and movie production studio. He read it and asked if I minded if he pitched it to Lifetime as a movie. I did not mind, I replied.

The first team of Lifetime people liked it! The second team passed. But boy that was a fun ride.

The rest of this ride, not so much. I tried the traditional path to publication.  That didn't work. We couldn't find a buyer. No one was interested in an adoption story, they said.

So, I found another way.

And just as in our adoption story, it took one woman with a vision to see it through. And a really cool designer.

I got tears in my eyes Friday afternoon when I saw the almost-final cover design. I got tears when I posted the final one on my Facebook page and watched the flood of congratulations pour in from friends and family.

But, just as I did in the days leading up to my daughter's birth, I am waiting, waiting to see the dream become a reality. Waiting for that book -- with my name on it -- on the outside.

Yes, I hope that you will buy it. I also hope that you will share it with anyone you know who is struggling with infertility, who is hoping to adopt and fearing that it will never happen for them. I know what that feels like. I know how much it hurts. I know what it's like when no one else in the entire world get it.

I get it.

And I'm here to say it can happen. Miracles do happen.

Just look at mine.




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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The final horn

20 years.

More than 300 Friday nights. A few Thursdays and Saturdays. One or two Sundays.

I've frozen. I've sweated. I've been eaten alive by mosquitoes.

I spent one whole night in the company of a giant banana spider, but didn't know it until I was ready to leave.  Another right beneath a very active bee hive.  And there have been more wasps than I care to remember.

Oh, and the pigeons in the million dollar City Park Stadium.

I've eaten more than my share of chili dogs and nachos and jambalaya and sunflower seeds. And just ask my dentist about the Jolly Ranchers.

I've seen more tiny towns in Louisiana than I ever cared to. Benton. Farmerville. Iota. Cecilia. Avoyelles. Vidalia. Acadiana. Scott --  just to name a few.  Most were wonderful adventures filled with warm, friendly people. And food.

Some were not.

There was the time I arrived in one tiny little town where the temperatures reached the 20s and snow threatened to fall.  I naively told the press box staff that I was in this far off land to cover the visiting team. The home team in the warm and cozy press box promptly pointed at the tiny visiting press box on the other side. I got there and found no room at the inn, thanks to a not-even-local radio station.  Me? I had to watch the game, keep my stats and write my story on top of the visiting press box. In the snow.

There were the 7 o'clock games I had to get to for 3, otherwise there would be no room at all. Games I barely made. Games I thought would never end. Games I didn't want to.

And never a deadline missed. Not a one.

I've pretty much seen it all in 20 years as a sports writer.  Great games. Great plays. Great players -- before they were famous. The Manning boys, Peyton and Eli, back when they were boys. (Sat next to dad, Archie, in the stands when Eli played basketball.) Dawan and Laron Landry. Corey Webster.  Mike Scifres. Ed Reed.

Then the men in ties told me I wasn't any more. A sports writer. I was a crime writer now. And a receptionist. I was benched. And it broke my heart.

So I found a way to stay in the press box, offering to do what I did for free. I did stats for the local high school where my husband coaches, where my stepson coaches, where all our friends are on Friday nights. It kept me in the game. Kept me in the press box.

But last Friday night, was different.

It was the big rivaly game. Hahnville vs. Destrehan. A series that dates back to 1946. A game I've covered more than a dozen times. One of the ones I had to be there for 3.

But this time, I wasn't in the press box. I was in the visitor's stands.


And it hurt.

It didn't just hurt my heart, which so wished I would be writing it up for the next day's editions. It also hurt my back. And my hips. And my legs.  It was cold. The bleachers were hard. And I am getting old.
 
It's hard to admit that, but it's true.  And 20 years of hunching over stat sheets in cheap plastic school chairs or beat up old office furniture that has been exiled to the press box -- or no  chairs at all -- have taken their toll.  The hips and the back are shot. I have a semi-permanent hump in the middle of my back. And bleachers are not my friend.

There have many times over the years when I have wondered how long I would be able to chase teenaged boys. The fact is,  I can't any more. The truth is, I don't want to.

So, last Friday night was my last high school football game. This time, I decided.

The team's season is over. And so is mine.

Next year I'll take the Friday nights off.  Hopefully, The Coach and I will be able to stay home with the new grandbaby my stepson and his wife are expecting. Or maybe we'll go out to dinner. Or, maybe we'll just stay home and play a game with our daughter.

That won't hurt at all.



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Thursday, October 27, 2011

When the heart says yes



It's 10 years later.

We have a nice life, the Coach and me. We have a nice house with a nice pool.

We have established careers.  Good paying jobs. We have our routines (well, sort of).

We have two grown children (Marty's kids), who have graduated from college and begun their own careers.  One of them has a baby on the way.

And we have the child we prayed for, hoped for, wished for. The one we believe we were destined to have all along. A beautiful, funny, witty, charming, oh-so-talented 10-year-old who is everything we ever could have wished for. (OK. She could be a little neater, but ...)

Sure we could use a winning lottery ticket, but, for the most part, life is good.

So why then, when I got the Facebook message yesterday afternoon, did the back of my neck get all hot and prickly and my stomach do a little flip? Just like it did every damn time all those years ago?

"Did you ever think about adopting again?"

Wow. What a question.

Only every second of every minute of every day.  I'm an infertile woman. An unexplained infertile woman. No one could ever tell me why my female plumbing didn't work the way it was designed to. And it really didn't matter. All I knew is, I can't have children. Not the "normal" way.

I had to find mine. Literally. Or, she had to find me. We put the word out to our friends and family, sent letters, marketed ourselves -- before blogs and Facebook and MySpace.

One day, we got a phone call out of the blue from a woman named Gail, who asked, "Are you the couple looking to adopt a baby?" And less than 30 minutes later, she said, "I've made up my mind. Y'all are it."

After holding my breath for the next three months -- including the three days after she was born -- we brought her home with us. And all our dreams came true.

But, even though I was deliriously happy to have a baby in my arms at last, I was still an infertile woman. And I would have loved to have had more children. If I had not been an infertile woman, I would have. No questions about it.

But I am. And I couldn't.

So I went on with my life, being the most devoted mother I could. I have savored every second of every day, knowing this was the only chance I was ever going to get. I held too much. I cuddled too much. I hovered too much. I spoiled. So what?

Am I the best mother? Hell no. My kid doesn't eat enough fruits or vegetables, doesn't always have table manners, could really use better telephone manners and can't wash a dish or fold an article of clothing. She also stays up way too late on school nights and probably spends way too much time on the computer.

But she is a wonderful child with a sparkling personality, a beautiful singing voice, an amazing imagination, an incredible ability to write fiction and a budding little talent at drawing. An honor roll student.

And I love her with every breath in my body.

When Lora was born, I stole Rosie O'Donnell's line, likening motherhood to the movie, The Wizard of Oz, which goes from black and white to color: "Life is now in color."

It's true. And then they become a tween and lose interest in you and life kind of goes back to gray again.

Just like any other woman in the universe, I would love another one. A baby. Another round of burps and lullabies and rocking to Linda Ronstadt. Diapers and cute little outfits. Giggles and smiles and discovering the world. Oh how my heart says yes.

But my head says no. Diaper changes? Midnight feedings? Day care? Car seats? Putting up a crib? (I just got my room back!) I don't think my back or my hips can take another baby on them.

Besides, people will think we are absolutely nuts. I can hear the tsk tsk'ing now, the tongues and fingers wagging, the eyes rolling, the hands wringing.

I'm 49. He's 54. We have a 10 year old. When she graduates from high school I'll be 57. He'll be 62. By the time a newborn baby graduates I'll be 67. He'll be 72.

At least we'll be retired.

We have a little house. A little bank account.

We have a grandchild on the way!

But is it fair to deny me, a woman who has so much love in my heart, a woman who initially wanted a huge family to make up for my tiny one, a child? One that I could not give myself on my own? Am I really expected to say, "No. But thanks for asking!"?

And is it fair to deny Lora, who loves children and who is so wonderful with all of her little cousins, a little brother or sister? She would love that.

Want to know the most amazing part of this story? The person who messaged me? It was Lora's birthmother. She has a friend, who has a son, who has a girlfriend, who is having a baby. It was she, the grandmother-to-be, who asked Gail to ask us. She has heard the stories about Lora, about how cool she is, about how we stay in touch with her birth family and have frequent visits. She has seen, almost first-hand, the kind of parents we are.

And wants us anyway.

And that just amazes me.

So, as I write this, there is this possibility. No certainty. The family has a decision to make. And once they make it, we may have one too.

And my heart is already saying yes.


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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Talk

Ms. Darla has known my baby girl since the week she was born.

She and her husband, who used to be my husband's boss, were among the first in our community to welcome home the baby girl everyone had waited for and prayed for. Lora was just days old when they dropped by for a visit (bearing gifts!) and to see our new arrival.

It was with such joy and pride that I placed my baby girl in Ms. Darla's arms that day. She was genuinely happy for us.

Since then, Darla has watched my girl grow up.  Her daughters took care of her at the annual high school dance team camp and even babysat the night my stepson, Daniel, graduated. We also bumped into each other frequently, at the grocery store, various school functions, and, of course, at the baseball field where my husband coached her son.

A nurse by trade, Darla also just happened to be on shift in the Emergency Room the day I accidentally and horrifyingly closed the tailgate of my SUV on Lora's 3-year old hand. (I'm happy to report that Lora's still mushy bones suffered absolutely no injury. She wasn't even bruised.)

She also was on hand as the school nurse the day my baby girl started at the local elementary school. Most comforting to a very nervous mom.

In fact, it was Darla who came to our house to recheck Lora's hair after I spent hours picking the head lice and nits from her gloriously long and curly hair, and gave me great tips for treating them so they wouldn't come back (and they didn't!)

So it's only appropriate that I should bring Lora to Ms. Darla now.

My baby girl isn't a baby anymore.  She is a growing-fast-as-a-weed tween, standing on that oh-so-dangerous precipice known as puberty. It's hard to keep up.

She's Godzilla in the morning and Strawberry Shortcake at night. She eats everything that isn't nailed down. And she can outgrow a pair of pants before they get out of the laundry cycle.

She's already a half a head taller than all of her classmates. She's already outgrown all the children's sizes and has moved on to juniors. She already tries to wear my shoes. She has her own razor.

And, yes. She sorta smells.

She also doesn't listen to a word I say. 

But for the last few years, Ms. Darla, now the nursing supervisor for the entire district,  has taught a very special class for young girls, where she teaches them all about the changes their bodies are about to go through and why.  So, I signed Lora up.

And last night she, and about 15 other girls aged 10 and 11 -- and their very nervous mothers -- filled a classroom at the local high school to listen to Ms. Darla dispense her wisdom.

And it worked like magic.  With her sweet sing-song voice and her ever-so-patient ways, Ms. Darla managed to explain the wonders of puberty to a giggling gaggle of girls, explaining -- with video -- exactly what is going to happen to them, how and why, what they are supposed to do about it and how they should prepare.  And what it all means.

"Just breathe," she repeated over and over as we got to the "yuck" part of the video.  "It will be OK."

And they believed her.

Without eye rolls, sighs or stomping out of the room, my girl listened as Ms. Darla explained that she needs  to wash her face, she needs to take a shower every day (or almost every day), she needs to wear deodorant.

"These things are important," Ms. Darla said. And my girl didn't argue once.

She even gave them a lovely little lesson on love: The crush (a little blow-up balloon that fizzles out when you let go), young love (a heart-shaped helium balloon that can be popped), and real love (a beat up old basketball, still filled with air). 

At the end of the program, all of the girls left with a little bag of goodies -- a toothbrush, toothpaste, a very discrete little pad to tuck away in their schoolbag for "that day," and a little pink booklet explaining things in a little more detail.

And a cupcake (Ms. Darla also happens to be a fabulous baker as well!)

Us moms, meanwhile, left with a little peace of mind and a survey. Was the class helpful? Absolutely! Then: "What other classes would you like to see offered at Community Education?" it asked.

While one mom asked if there was a similar class for boys (not yet), I had only one suggestion:

How about a class on "How to listen to your mother?"



Mom

Lora
        
*Original art by Lora.

I've linked up with other fabulous bloggers at LoveLinks.com. You can link up too!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Friends like these

I know there are a lot of people who don't understand it. Some who wonder how we do it. And others who think we are flat out nuts.

Mostly, those are the ones who don't know us very well. Those who do have just come to accept it. They still probably shake their heads, though.

That woman over there, sitting on my sofa, eating at my table, picking up my child on Tuesday afternoons just because, helping my husband and me coach our daughter's volleyball team, and giving me high fives when we won one without him? Yes, she is my friend. Yes, she is family. Yes, she is my daughter's Godmother.



She also is my husband's ex wife.

Go ahead.  I'll wait...

Cheryl is the woman my husband fell in love with in college. The woman he married in a big, splashy wedding at St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. The woman who bore his two children. Who celebrated his first victories as a coach. Who waited for him at home. And waited.

One day she decided she had had enough of waiting for him to come home. He didn't see it coming.

Then one night I found him. In a bar. Trying to get his feet wet again. We fell in love.

Cheryl and I? Not so much.

Although we always were civil to and with each other, there were some awkward moments, especially at first. We are women, after all. No woman wants to see her man -- even the ones we don't want anymore -- with someone else. We want them miserable and missing us forever. Right?

So we had our tussles and our dustups. Nothing major. No shouting matches. No fisticuffs. Most involved the care and feeding of the children.

But it was the children that brought us together.

Besides coming from the same home town, Cheryl and I both are products of divorced parents wh didn't get along. We remembered the pain and angst of the anger in the room, and we both decided we didn't want that for our kids.

Yes, our kids.

Her children, Daniel and Courtney, are my kids too. I never asked them to choose between me and their mother. There was no choice. She came first, as it should be. They had their parents. And they had me. A bonus mom. Actually, in the early days they called me their "Semi-Mom."

Although, I have to say, I don't understand the whole stigma that goes along with the word "stepmom."  I'm proud to be one. A wicked one at that. And I don't mind the word at all.

Eventually, Cheryl and I figured out our pecking order. We found a comfort zone. Then we found that we genuinely liked each other. We formed a friendship.

When Courtney and her friends had to go see The Backstreet Boys and N'Sync at the Superdome, I was invited to go too. There, Cheryl and I made a pact. If Donny Osmond ever went on tour, we were going. Together.

When I heard the news that he indeed would be playing nearby in Mississippi, we did go. Together. Our husbands went to dinner.

One day when Daniel was playing baseball, Cheryl and I were sitting in the stands together. He was in the dugout and needed a Gatorade. He called to his mom. He called to me. Neither of us heard him, until he shouted, "Would ONE of my moms please get me a drink?"

And on the day of his wedding, I was on the front row, right next to his mother. And halfway through the mother-and-groom dance, she stopped, called me over, and oh-so-graciously passed her son -- our son -- on to me for my turn.

Lora's Christening
And when, after six years, Marty and I finally received our miracle child from God (and a woman named Gail), he and I barely had to discuss who her Godparents would be. Cheryl was an easy choice. First of all, her faith is inspirational. But more than that, we wanted -- no, needed -- to include her in the family circle. I didn't want her to call Lora, "their" child. I wanted her to have a "my."

And it was the best decision we could have made.

Not only does Lora adore her "Nanny," but Nanny loves her right back. And she and the children were the first to welcome us all home from the hospital.  And since then, this oh-so-creative kindergarten teacher has filled my house with handmade treasures for every occasion, all made with footprints and handprints of all three of my children.

She comes to our parties.  We go to hers.  We have sat together at weddings. And funerals.  Lora stayed with her when Marty and I went away for an anniversary weekend.

Like many of our acquaintances, Lora doesn't quite understand the complete dynamics of this relationship. (Daddy used to be married to Nanny?)

And, late to the party, Cheryl's husband, Henry, needed a little time to figure it all out himself. He has since come around. Lora calls him "Uncle." I call Henry's kids my step-step kids.

But people do question our little arrangement.  During our evacuation to Houston for Hurricane Ivan, my friend Janine introduced me to some of her book club members. Their jaws definitely dropped when I told them that my husband's ex wife was my daughter's Godmother. But not as wide as when I told them that I didn't have a dishwasher.


We even were included in a USAToday article a few years ago on blended families inspired by Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis.  We are in good company, apparently.

Cheryl, Lora and me. Mardi Gras 2011

We certainly didn't do this to be role models for anybody.  We know that not everybody gets it. And we know that not everyone can do it.  Some hurts and anger can't be put away.  And we didn't do it to be on Oprah.

We just decided we would rather all be friends. Life is so much easier.  And much more fun. For us and our children.

Plus, she makes a mean pineapple dip for my luaus.