Christmas Memories...

It’s been a busy week around here. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to an even better New Year. My sister and father visited us the weekend after Christmas. Dad came in late Friday and left early Sunday, and Kim came in late Friday and left Monday morning. It was great to have a whole day with just my sister on Sunday. We get that so rarely.

Of course, the girls had a great Christmas full of entirely too many presents…the majority of which weren’t even from us! Christmas Eve we had a quick visit with our friends Debbie and Bill before heading over for a visit with our friends Ted and Carole and their kids. Santa comes through Ted and Carole’s neighborhood on a fire truck…loud and festive! Carole baked a birthday cake, and we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, a tradition in their house which I’d like to adopt for ours. We’ve been constantly reminding the girls that Christmas is not about the presents, but that’s hard for a five-year-old to grasp, huh!? I think the birthday cake was a great way to remind them the true reason for the holiday. DH's Dad spent Christmas Eve with us as well so he could be at the house when girls got up Christmas morning.

We tried to keep our gift-giving primarily limited to the kids this year, with DH and I just exchanging one gift. I got smart this year and gave him a sale circular with what I wanted circled clearly, and it worked! Under the tree for me was a tripod and a new telephoto lens for my Nikon. He’s been talking constantly about wanting to get an iPod, so I took that as a hint and got him that and his traditional car care pack (yes, I realize that makes two gifts from each of us, but who’s counting). The girls came away with tons of clothes, toys, and art supplies…and new bikes from Santa.

The best thing I received though was a surprise gift from my sister. She told me she planned to make photo books for the girls with pictures of them from her wedding. They came out beautifully. But the surprise was for me. She made me a book as well, but instead of pictures from her wedding, it was full of old pictures of our Mom, along with pictures of us as kids and pictures of our Nana and Granddaddy. As timing would have it, we exchanged gifts on Saturday, the anniversary of Mom’s death. When I opened Kim’s gift, I realized after turning one page that I couldn’t look at it right then without breaking down, so I had to set it aside. We looked at it later together and were able to laugh over some of the older pictures. Because of our ten-year age gap, Kim and I weren’t very close when we were younger, but now, in strange part much due to our mother’s death, we’ve grown much closer and I’m very thankful for that. The photo here is of Mom’s nursing pinning ceremony. It's my favorite picture from the book.

As they say, out with the old, and in with the new! As the New Year arrives, I wish you the best of everything this world has to offer you, with a dose of laughter and humility to keep you sane and grounded. On to 2009!

Merry, Merry....

Here’s a little peek at the merriness at our house on this Christmas Eve. And here’s to wishing you the merriest of Christmas holidays. I hope it brings you much joy, much love, and much hope for the New Year to come. May your days be filled with laughter, your nights be full of peace, your hearts be full of wonder, and your lives be full of blessings. Happy Birthday, Jesus, for you are the true meaning behind the reason for the celebration.

Lost in Bed, Bath, and Beyond

Well, put me in the Worst Mama Ever category today. I lost my children in Bed, Bath and Beyond. We were shopping for sheets, reveling in the feel of the new “Beech” sateen that feels like silk but washes up like easy-care cotton. We had just finished singing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer along with Muzak, even holding hands while we were singing, and then POOF! The next thing I knew, they had disappeared. I tried to remain calm, quietly calling for them as I knew they had to be just one or two aisles over playing hide-and-go-seek from me. But when I couldn’t find them anywhere in the linens section, I started calling their names a little more forcefully while quickly looking up and down the aisles.

An excruciating moment later, I heard “Kelly, please come to Customer Service. Your children are waiting for you.” over the PA system. Linens was in the back of the store; Customer Service was in the front of the store. How the heck did they get all the way up there? Along with the flood of relief came the red-faced pang of embarrassment. I was certain every woman around me was saying to herself, “What kind of mother would loose her children in Bed, Bath and Beyond?” When I saw them, I could tell that Livvie was on the verge of a tearful breakdown while Sarah had that “Oops, I think I’m about to get in trouble again” look on her face.

That’s the thing with twins. Now, I’m sure those of you who have children fairly close in age may experience this as well, but let me tell ya, there’s something different about that twin bond that will allow one to lead the other over a cliff in a heartbeat. My instigator, as you may have already guessed, is most definitely Sarah. Sometimes she’s so darned sneaky that, even though I may be incredibly ticked off at her in the moment, I’m secretly impressed at her thought process. She thought she could sneak away, drag her willing sister with her, have a little adventure in the store, and then casually wait up front like a little angel waiting for the first snow of Christmas. Case in point, dinner last night. I was trying to get her to eat just two little bites of peas and corn, just two little bites! She put the first one in her mouth, sloshed it around in there for a millennium, and then put the second bite in there before swallowing the first. We have these little battles often. Put food in mouth. Chew food incessantly. Put that “I’m gonna gag” face on. And then either finally swallow it or spit it out. Since I only asked her to eat two bites, I figured that was not too much to swallow, so I told her she didn’t have to eat anymore but she could not get up from the table until she swallowed what was in her mouth. I know, Worst Mama Ever again for trying to get my children to eat just a little bite of something other than PB&J or grilled cheese. A moment later she said, “Done, Mommy!” and opened her empty mouth to show me. I gave her a hearty congratulations on her success and asked her to bring her plate and cup to the sink. She dropped the plate in the sink, dumped the milk cup in the sink, and with a big smile of her face, quickly headed to the pantry to get a cookie for dessert. It was then that I looked in the sink and immediately realized she had not swallowed squat. She had simply spit it into her milk cup! So yep, there I was outwardly angry that she had lied to me, but secretly darn impressed that she thought of that! I told her that I did not appreciate her lying to me and sent her off to an early bed. Livvie, of course, reveled in the whole situation because she quickly realized she now had Mama and Daddy to herself for the rest of the night.

So back to our little adventure this morning….we had planned to go to Chick-Fil-A for lunch, their reward for being good little angels while we were out running errands this morning, but the disappearing act nixed that, and it was straight home for, what else, a cold PB&J before an early nap. I managed to keep my calm through a very quiet lunch and then put them down for a nap, in separate rooms, telling them both how much they scared me when I couldn’t find them in the store. I hope I put the fear of God in them, for I’m not sure my heart can take that again anytime soon.

We have two weeks at home together over these Christmas holidays. I’ve often wondered how stay-at-moms do it. Yeah, I definitely have quite the juggling act working full-time at the college, managing my jewelry business part-time and raising twin five-year-olds, but here I am on our first day home together and I’ve already lost them in a major department store! I think we’ll stay home the rest of the Christmas break and just make lots of art. Maybe I’ll put chains on all the exterior doors while I’m at it…you know, just to be sure.

Angel on the Metro

Dear Mr. Fung Chow,

My family and I came upon you in a Washington, D.C. Metro stop on Sunday afternoon, October 12. We were a bedraggled family of four—a dad grumpy from having to lug a double stroller up and down the Metro’s escalator stairs, two little redheads cranky from no naps and lots of activities in the big city, and a mom tired and run down from trying to keep everyone together, sane, fed and happy near the end of a long day of sight-seeing .

We were changing train lines and had to maneuver through three different sets of escalators when we met you. My husband had just tossed the stroller up against the wall near where you were standing, and I looked at you with apologetic eyes as I picked the stroller up and leaned it against the wall. You smiled sweetly at me. You asked me what brought us to the city, and when I told you about my sister’s wedding the previous day, you said, “Oh, I bet she looked so beautiful. And how did you two meet?” As I started telling you how my husband and I met, my daughters came over to my side. It was then that you pulled two little envelopes out of your jacket pocket and gave one to each of my girls. I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant at first, a complete stranger in the Metro giving something to my children, but after a moment’s hesitation, I saw the little light shining in your eyes. My girls looked at the beautiful little red envelopes with Asian characters on them, and not knowing what they were, looked at me in confusion. When you suggested they open them, they looked at me for guidance, and I told them it was okay. Of course, all they paid attention to was the dollar bill you had slipped inside each one, but I saw the other card in there as well and briefly read the side that included your name, address, email and position: “Retired Federal Civil Servant”.
Our train was approaching the station, so we didn’t really have time to say much more than “Thank You” as we gathered up our stroller and children and boarded the train. I watched you for a moment as you entered the train at the rear of our car. As soon as you boarded, you started cheerfully talking to the people around you. I tried to catch snippets of your conversation but couldn’t hear over the noise of the train. But I could see you, a big smile on your face as you brought smiles to the faces of everyone around you. Best I could tell, you got off at the next stop, disappearing like an angel, and it was then that I took the time to read what you had given us. It was a chart of all the Chinese New Years complete with the year, date of the New Year, the animal representing it, and the characteristics of those born in that year. Through it, I learned that I was born in the year of the Snake and am “wise, passionate, determined and attractive”; that my husband was born in the year of the Dog and is “dependable, protective, tender, private and eccentric”; and lastly, that my daughters were born in the year of the Sheep and will grow up to be “sensitive, have success in the arts, aesthetic, and charitable”. I marveled at the similarities to our personalities.

When we got back to my sister’s apartment, my girls drew pictures for you to thank you for your kindness. I'm mailing those to you today along with this letter. I’ve kept the cards you gave us, along with these pictures, in a little zippered pouch in my purse ever since you gave them to us. I even convinced my girls to let me keep the dollar bills in there so we could save everything as a reminder of the blessing we received from you that day. I’m not sure why you chose us. Maybe it was the frustration and tiredness you saw on our faces; maybe you were just waiting for a family with two small children to come by; or maybe you truly were an angel, sent to remind us that no matter the troubles that may come our way, someone is always watching over us, and that a simple gift of friendly kindness can make a huge impression on someone else’s life, as you have on mine.

I think of you often, dear sir, and whenever I’m having a bad day, I pull those beautiful little red envelopes out of their pouch in my purse and read them again. I’ll save them to give to my children when they are old enough to truly appreciate the gesture. And I’ll tell them this story about the angel we met on the Metro in Washington, D.C. when they were five years old. Thank you, Mr. Franklin Fung Chow, for you truly are a blessing, and I’m quite certain there were gossamer wings underneath your jacket. I wish you the merriest of Christmas holidays and many blessings for the New Year to come.

Update February 8, 2010: A Small World Involving Franklin, here.

Update November 30, 2011: The Loss of Franklin, here.

Update February 3, 2012: A Little Miracle About Franklin, here.

Behind the Camera: At Long Last...

I know I promised you all pictures from my sister’s wedding, in which my girlies were flower girls, nearly two months ago, so I’m finally getting around to it. Truth be told, I didn’t get a chance to take very many pictures at the wedding since I was constantly chasing after and dancing with two little redheads, so I had to wait for the photographer to release his pictures to the family. Here are a few of my favorite shots (click on them to enlarge)…

You may have read the post about Bunny’s wild adventure, but the worry over Bunny is constant. As we were all in the dressing room, getting fairly close to walk down the aisle time, I noticed that Sarah did not have Bunny with her. When I asked her where Bunny was, a momentary panic crossed her face before she said, “Oh! I remember where she is! I sat her on the front row so she could see me walk down the aisle with my flowers!”

The room the wedding was in….this is the Reid Ballroom in Washington DC.

I love this one of Kim. The room she got married in was up those stairs and she’s looking down on everyone in the lobby downstairs.

About an hour into the reception, Kim and Rob snagged me and DH, and we snuck outside for some pictures of just the four of us. Doesn’t DH look incredibly uncomfortable in a suit and tie? :-)

Bunny posing with Rob….

We have hundreds of pictures of the girls dancing with anyone who would dance with them (all three of them…Sarah, Livvie and Rob’s niece Olivia), but I think these few sum up the fun they had.

And lastly, Kim and I at the reception…

Later this week, I’m going to finally find the time to tell you about the angel we met on the Metro.

Free Bling Friday Number 57!

It’s Free Bling Friday time! Congrats to Free Bling Number 56 winner, Cat M. from Jacksonville, FL. Cat is a fellow First Coast Art Spot and North Florida Craft Revolution member! Visit her Etsy store here and her blog here. This week’s entry is another pair from my “Shacked Up” series, made from lampwork beads that “go together” rather than “match exactly”, like the perfect couple shackin’ up! This delicate little pair features coral, blue and a little touch of purple, on sterling silver French wires. To cover the holidays, I’m going to run this one for three weeks to get us past the new year. To be eligible to win this pair, my last for the year and maybe my last overall, simply email me or leave a comment in the comment box by midnight Thursday, January 1, with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from. The next winner will be drawn Friday, January 2. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders. Click here for the Happy Shack Designs website.

Make Time To...

Anxiously awaiting this to arrive at my door. It’s a very good reminder for me. I got it from Aimee Dolich, so go see what other fun stuff she's got! I think it can also be an excellent reminder for you to make time for just about anything that’s important to you, don’t you think? Make time to dream. Make time to pick flowers. Make time to bake cookies. Make time to cuddle on the couch with your children…or your significant other. Make time to throw a stick for your dog….or drag a string for your cat…or talk to your bird. Make time to talk to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Make time to make a new friend. Make time to enjoy your dinner…with dessert. Or make time to eat dessert first. Basically, make time to live. I mean really live, not just trudge through another day in this crazy time of the year. Now, go play! And make it count.

Busy Bee, but Very Important News to Share!

It's been very crazy in my world the past few days, so I haven't had time to post, but a friend of mine shared some very important news on her blog. If you believe in the importance of quality handmade goods, particularly for children, please go over and take a look at Jen's article. National blog Cool Mom Pics has a good article on it as well here. Please heed their call to action!

Market Days Bound

For those of you in the Tallahassee area, come by and see me at Market Days! I’ll be in booth 430. This is my first year doing this show, so wish me luck! Here’s just one of the new pieces I’ll have with me this weekend. I have a lot of friends still in Tallahassee so I’m looking forward to catching up with a few while I’m there…well okay, even though I was just there last weekend for that miserably wet three-hour excuse for a football game. But, oh well, I still got my Barnaby’s fix. :-)

Things Mama Can’t Do Anymore

Have I told you I bring the moniker “Dizzy Blonde” to a new level? Yep, I’m officially a medically diagnosed Dizzy Blonde. Now this has nothing to do with my brain, as far as ditzyness goes anyway (though I have been accused of being a space cadet at times…). Nope, this is plain old anatomy and physiology, though I guess in some ways it is brain-related. Right after the girls were born I started having major, fall down on the floor and can’t hold my head up vertigo spells. Really nasty stuff. The first one happened when the girls were about eight weeks old and I was home alone with them. Very scary day. After stumbling my way to the bathroom to pray to the porcelain god, I managed to get to the phone to call DH and tell him to hurry home while the room spun around me. I then spent the next 24 hours in the hospital. Vertigo’s one of those “sometimes we have no idea what causes it” things. So after about three years, several doctors and two brain scan MRIs later, I finally ended up at the Mayo Clinic Hearing and Balance Center here in Jacksonville last fall. After about 10 questions and one very entertaining demonstration where I was asked to close my eyes and march in place for 60 counts (I ended up facing the opposite direction and on the far side of the room, thinking I was still standing in the same spot), I realized I finally found the right doctor. When she said, “So, do you get nauseous when you scroll up or down on the computer?” “OMG!!!!! YES!!!” (I realized this may come as a big surprise to those of you who know how much time I spend on the computer.) Then she said, “Aren’t you glad you finally found the right place! You aren’t crazy after all!” Yeah!

Now that I had found the right doctor, the next week the real fun began. I had two full days of tests to try to determine what was causing my spins. Let me just say two words: rotator chair. I’ll spare you the details of all the tests and just tell you that they split them up into two days for a reason. Because they have to bring on the vertigo to determine what’s happening to me while I’m in the spins, there was a heck of a lot of spinning going on in those two days…which translated to a heck of a lot of, you know, that porcelain god worship stuff. All in all, even though I couldn’t hold food down for about three days, it was a totally fascinating experience. Once the computer spit out the tallied results of all my testing, we learned that I had lost nearly 70% of my balance function in my left ear and about 35% in my right ear (which I guess explains why I always spin to the left and tend to misjudge corners on the left, constantly banging my left shoulder and left thigh on walls and corners of counters…and DH always said it was just my natural clumsiness…humph!) The probable cause? Years of inner ear infections; I remember having them from childhood all the way through college and beyond. Fixable? No. Treatable, somewhat.

It took them about three months to get me on the right dosage of the medicine (Klonopin, a drug which I recently learned is highly sought after on college campuses for reasons very different than the treatment of vertigo, and to think, I get it for $4 a bottle!), so since March I’ve been doing fairly well. I still have occasional vertigo spells but they are not nearly as severe as they used to be. So, here’s the next chapter in the saga! Brooks Rehab just opened a Balance Center conveniently in the same building and on the same floor as the Mayo Clinic balance center. When I went in for my six-month check up last month, my doc decided I should give Brooks’ vestibular rehab therapy program a shot (Google vestibular rehab therapy; that’s what I had to do). Last week was my first appointment, primarily an evaluative get-to-know-you session with my lovely therapist Ann. Yesterday was my second appointment. No easy evaluative stuff this time, more like the beginnings of the torture I now see in my future. After some basic stuff where I’m sure I just looked rather clownish because I have very little balance when I close my eyes and Ann made me close my eyes and do all sorts of stuff, she put me in this voting booth-like contraption. Picture a large 3-sided, walled booth with a landscape scene painted on it. Now, take into consideration that not only does this landscape scene move toward you and away from you as well as side to side, but the floor you are standing on also rocks in all different directions. Now come on! This would make the average person hurl, wouldn’t it? So what the heck do you think it’s going to do to someone who already has issues!? Geez! Anywho, my job was to focus on the little blue man in the little red box on the computer panel directly in front of me and do my best to keep him in the little red box while the walls and floor moved in various directions. (You dizzy yet? Here, pop a Klonopin; it’ll settle you down…and put you to sleep…) Mama was not happy with the little blue man. So then to make it even more interesting, Ann told me to close my eyes and try to keep my balance as best I could as she moved the walls and the floors. Close my eyes? I’m still nauseous. And this is supposed to help me how?

Ann tells me each week will get more “challenging”. How do you define “challenging” here? So back to the title of this post: Things Mama Can’t Do Anymore. Nope, can’t ride all those fun rides at the fair anymore. We went recently and I thought that maybe I could at least ride the Ferris Wheel with the girls, but no dice. DH would not let me get on it. And as soon as it started moving and I tried to follow the carriage DH and the girls were in with my eyes, I realized he was right (I really hate it when that happens.) So while DH and the girls got to play on the rides, I played with my camera. Got some cools shots, don’t you think? Click on them to enlarge. I used to love that ride where you stand up in that circle thingy and then the circle thingy starts spinning, and then it starts turning on its side and continues spinning, pinning you up against the wall from the sheer velocity. You know, the one in the top picture? Dang I miss that thing… Short of the pinning you up against the wall from the sheer velocity part, it now reminds me somewhat of that darn rotator chair! What are your favorite memories of the fair?

CC Weekly Creativity Challenge: Thanksgiving

My entry for this week's Creative Construction Creativity Challenge....

Thanksgiving night while my family finishes dinner
I look out the door and see one solitary shrimper.
I wonder if he has a family to share a feast with
or if he's just taking shelter for the holiday,
looking longingly at the homes along the river,
wondering what it's like to feel the warmth of kin.

Today Is My Birthday...

"Today is my birthday, and all that I want…is to dig through this big box of pictures in my kitchen ‘til the daylight’s gone.

This one here’s my Mama, with the long brown hair. I’m 40 years older today than she was in that picture there.

But if life stayed the way it was, And lovers never fell out of love, If memories didn’t last so long, If nobody did nobody wrong, If we knew what we had before it was gone, If every road led back home, This would be…the very last country song.

These are all my babies, Lord knows how we survived. The first one was hard and the last one wasn’t planned, what a big surprise. That’s him with his Daddy’s eyes.

I loved the man in this one; it’s faded but I don’t care. There are nights when I wake up and know he’s beside me I swear. Sometimes I still feel him there.

But if life stayed the way it was, And lovers never fell out of love, If memories didn’t last so long, If nobody did nobody wrong, If we knew what we had before it was gone, If every road led back home, This would be…the very last country song.

If we knew what we had before it was gone, If every road led back home, This would be…the very last country song."

From me: If you've heard this song, you know how beautiful it is. It's written and recorded by Sugarland, and I thought it was fitting for me today. The top picture is my Mom at 1 year old. Bottom picture is me at 1 year old. Miss you, Mom...more today than any other day.

More Treasury Love!

I was featured in two more Etsy treasuries last week! Thanks again (and again!) to Karen Faulkner for including me in this first treasury, showcasing my Pink Posies earrings second row left. And then thanks to BululuStudio, a fellow Florida Etsy Street Team member, for including me in the Florida Green's treasury, showcasing my Butterfly Fairy earrings in top row, left. Both earrings are available in both my Etsy store and on my website. Thanks for the Etsy love, ladies!

Kelly 11-24

Kelly 11-29