A Decade of Changes

As this decade draws to a close, I can't help but look back and reflect on what these last ten years have held for me.

I would have to say that the past 10 years were the most eventful of my life. They were full of changes - huge changes.

When the new millennium began, I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me in the coming ten years. If you had told me on December 31st, 1999, what the next ten years would bring, I wouldn't have believed it.

It all started with a new baby. In the Spring of 2000, I discovered that I was expecting a surprise baby. I had a seven year old and a four year old, and no immediate plans of having any more. But God had other plans....and he gave us Elayna, in January of 2001.

I stayed at home with the kids and loved it, although my marriage was stumbling along as it almost always had. And on New Years Eve of 2002, that blew up in a major way. 2003 began with my (now ex-) husband and I separating. Needless to say, it was a hard year. My baby turned two with a lot of chaos in the background. I didn't realize it at the time, but the hardest thing was just my life turning absolutely upside-down. I had to go back to work in the midst of a divorce and leave my baby for the first time. Meanwhile my older kids were confused and hurting. We also had to move and they had to change schools. It was an incredibly difficult time.

But 2004 was so much better. The divorce become final in February. The kids and I were adjusting well and I was becoming truly happy for the first time in a long, long time. I was discovering who I really was as just ME, not somebody's wife or just somebody's mom. I was finding myself. I was also working full time and going to school. It was tough, but it was good.
And then, on my birthday in 2004, I met a man who would change my life yet again.
I was burnt out on dating but something told me to give this a chance....and I am so glad that I did.

John and Andrew came into my life and brought me so much joy and love. They were literally an answer to prayers. Andrew was four years old, and my kids were 3, 8, and 11.

In April of 2005, we officially blended our family. John and I got married in a pretty little backyard ceremony with our children as the only attendants. It was lovely and sweet and the best day of my life. John loves me for who I am, and is so good to me. He has healed me.

In 2006,we almost moved to St. Augustine, and I sometimes wish we had. But instead, I got a job in the medical field, fulfilling a goal of mine, which is what I had been in school for. This was a good thing, for the most part. Also in 2006, my oldest son moved in with his Dad. Which has been another mixed thing; good and bad and sometimes I wish it hadn't happened. He is now with me about 1/3 of the month and his dad 2/3, and it works out quite well.

In 2007, we achieved another one of my major goals, which was to move back to the town I had lived in before my divorce. I loved the schools here and the small-town atmosphere. It was very important for my kids to get back here.
Unfortunately, in 2007 Andrew briefly went to live with his biological mother. That was disastrous and something we wished never happened. I also started this blog in November of 2007.

Shortly after that, I had yet another huge life change. In February of 2008, I had gastric bypass surgery. I lost almost 120 pounds. It was the best decision I have ever made for myself. Emotionally and physically, I have never felt better. It's been almost three years, and I've had no complications. I just bought my first pair of skinny jeans! I'll be doing a big update post about that a little later.

Later in 2008, Andrew came back to live with us, thankfully. He's been in therapy since then because of that brief time with his mother, and hasn't seen her since.

In 2009, I reconnected with a good friend of mine who I've known since high school. She was going through a rough time and she and her daughter moved in with us for a little while. It was so good to renew our friendship and help her out in a tough time. I joked that I had a wife; she cooked and cleaned and watched the kids some nights when John and I were both at work.
She is now married and doing well and we are still in touch.

We also found our wonderful church and became members. Finally, a place where we felt that we fit in and people were there not just for a fashion show, or a gossip fest, or to look good. We are like family there, and we love it.

So that brings us to 2010. We moved in to this home that we love. Elayna turned 9, then Tim turned 17, then Andrew turned 11, and finally Shelbie turned 15. My son started dating his girlfriend, who we love. My husband and daughters were baptized by our preacher and friend. I left my hospital job after many changes, and plan to do something else within the medical field, with less hours and less stress. I have juggled softball, soccer and volleyball and a teenager's social life. My oldest son started his senior year of high school and my oldest daughter started her freshman year of high school (and that threw this mama for a loop!). Andrew's bio-mom just came out of hiding to demand her parental visitation rights, and we're grappling with that. Life is not perfect, but we have wonderful friends, family, and faith, and we will be okay.

It has been a truly amazing decade. That word, "amazing", is so overused, but it fits this past ten years so well. I think I've experienced every emotion possible, and then some. But it's ending on a wonderful note. I am content, happy, and at peace. My heart is so full of love.

I can only imagine what the next 10 years will bring, as my older kids leave the nest, start college, maybe even families (hopefully at the END of the decade!!). But I know that my best friend, my husband, will be at my side, holding my hand, walking through it all with me.

If you made it this far, thank you for going on this journey down memory lane with me. I wish you a wonderful decade to come!


My Last Fragments of 2010!

SHUSH, children! Can't you see Mama's trying to FRAG?!?!

I mentioned on Monday that it snowed here on Sunday morning.
Today, it was 75 degrees, sunny and beautiful! You gotta love Florida.

This week has been interesting. Andrew is still at his grandma's and Shelbie has been over at a friend's house since Monday night. So it's just been Tim and Elayna here. The youngest and the oldest. Tim's main goal in life is to torture Elayna.
Elayna's main defense is to scream this ear-piercing shriek.
Good times!

On a totally unrelated note, I've had a lot of headaches this week...

Update on the "I think my house is haunted" situation: We've had several more odd things happen. For example, the other night Elayna said the Christmas tree was moving. I told her the dog probably had bumped it, but she said that the dog was sleeping on the love seat.
I try to explain these things away or just kind of forget about them. But it's getting harder.
Last night, John and I were taking a shower, and we realized the bathroom door was open. I got out of the shower and closed it. A few minutes later, John looked over and saw that the door was open again. This is not the kind of door that can just come open, you have to physically pull it open.
It looks like this:

.....and it's on carpet, so it can't just slide around. It's never opened on its own before.
The kids were asleep, and I don't think the dogs could open it from the outside, but regardless, they weren't in the room (the door opens into our bedroom).
Explain that one away, please, because I can't. Although I really want to.

Do you have any New Years Eve Plans?
How about plans for 2011? Resolutions? Bloggy or otherwise?

We have no NYE plans. We rarely do anything big for New Years. We'll eat party food and stay up till midnight and say WOOHOO! And then go to bed. We're a wild bunch, I tell ya!
We're under a burn ban, so we can't do fireworks or even a bonfire.

I don't really do resolutions. The only plans I have for 2011 are to go back to work, but I will work fewer hours and with less stress. I'm not getting myself into that trap again.

And bloggy-wise, I plan to go to my first blog conference, and I am just going to continue working on building my blog. I have found some great new-to-me blogs recently, and I'm really just excited about taking this blog further.
Speaking of which, I have also started a new blog, which is private and by invitation only. If you are interested in an invitation, please let me know. It will be different there, more of a journal and more personal. Maybe less of the fun and more of the dysfunction? ;o)

I wish you a wonderful and prosperous New Year!
Happy 2011.

and don't forget to visit Mrs 4444s for more Friday Fragments.

Mommy's Idea

Here's my song of the week:


This Girl Has Style

When we took the kids shopping after Christmas,
the first thing Elayna bought with her Christmas money was this hat.

{Elayna, 9 years old}

I love her style.
I love the clothes & accessories she chooses.
But most of all, I love that she has the confidence to rock it!

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Christmas Crashing

It's a real thing.

Christmas Crashing: Used to describe the after-effect of Christmas, or the Holidays in general: 12 Days of Hanukkah/Christmas, etc. is usually a busy time, very exciting, and enjoyable. By the end of the celebrations (The night of Christmas Day/Dec. 26th) you feel exhausted and overwhelmed. People are usually groggy, lethargic, and almost depressed from exhaustion. (from Urban Dictionary)

That's me! Except for the depression. Because I am very happy.....but so darned tired!

On Christmas Eve, we visited my parents and then went to the Christmas Eve service at our church. The service was amazing; I can't even describe it. It was extremely moving. We have grown so close with our church family this past year, and one couple in particular who we are just so blessed to be friends with. They are wonderful.

John and I spent Christmas Day at home, just the two of us. We had our lasagna and brownies, and it was delicious. We exchanged a few gifts and just enjoyed the day.

On Sunday afternoon, my kids came home from their dad's house (Andrew is still at his grandma's) and we had our Christmas with them. Then Tim had to go to work, and we took the girls out for dinner.

Today the kids have been spending their Christmas money & gift cards. They were burning holes in their pockets. We found some great after Christmas sales. They absolutely wore me out!

Now Shelbie is spending the night with a friend, and Tim has a friend here spending the night with him.

The stressful stuff is still out there looming over us, but the good far outweighs it all. I know we'll be okay. And it's all brought us closer to each other, and the ones we love, and who love us.

(and I'm sorry for being so vague, but there are unwanted people reading this blog, so I have no choice. In fact I'm seriously considering shutting down this blog and starting over and hoping not to be found this time.......but I'll figure that out later.)

But right now.....I am ready to Christmas Crash!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday.

*ETA* OMG, I forgot to tell you it SNOWED here on Sunday morning! For real! We took the dog out and this white stuff was falling on us and this Florida native was all, "What the crap is this stuff on me???" and John thought I had major dandruff but finally we realized it was SNOW! The newspaper confirmed it - Gainesville Sun


Merry Christmas

From our zoo to your home -


Festive Fragments

I am officially a die-hard Fragmenter! I'm joining in yet again, as I do almost every week, for Mrs 4444's Friday Fragments.

I'm like the Postal Service; neither rain nor snow nor dark of night nor Christmas Eve
will keep me from my Fragging!
(also, I may or may not have been known to go Postal once or twice. But that's really irrelevant.)

I seriously feel as if I've been on a roller coaster this past week. Many very good things have happened. Some other quite bad things have happened. Some of it I've mentioned here, some I haven't, but may later. Right now, I'm focusing on the good things. I'm determined not to let any of it get me down, or ruin our Christmas!

Tomorrow night is the Candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church. John is off work (YAY!!) and I am so looking forward to this service. I need it. And our church family has been just amazing lately through this trying time, and I can't wait to see them and spend time with them.

John and I are having lasagna for Christmas. We decided to forgo the traditional dinner and instead have one of our favorite meals. I can't wait!

This is totally off-subject, but hey, it's Friday Fragments and that's what it's all about!
Last week I found out that my cousin's husband, who is a 50 year old man, recently texted my cousin, a 40 year old woman, and told her he wanted a divorce.
He asked her for a divorce via text message.
I thought high school kids breaking up via text was bad.....we're talking about a 16 year marriage here with ADULTS! They have a child as well. He met another woman, at a bar, while he was away on 'business'.

I'm not at all ready for Christmas.
It's Christmas Eve.
No stress.....

Have I mentioned lately that I have the best husband I could ever have asked for? He has been so wonderful through the tough times lately. He is getting very close with some of the men from church and I am seeing a change in him that is subtle but very admirable. I'm in awe. And in love. Life is Good.

I hope you're all ready for Santa to come tonight! I hope you're on the Good list (unlike me, although most of my commenters agreed that the Naughty list is more fun ;-P ).

Other than my Christmas greeting tomorrow, I probably wont be on much from now till New Year's, so I wish you the very best!

And as always, visit Mrs 4444s for more Festive Friday Fragments!

Mommy's Idea


I'm thinking I'm on the Naughty List.....

As I mentioned in Monday's post, at our church Christmas party on Sunday, we had a mug exchange. It wasn't just a simple "here's a mug" deal; we played a game in which the mugs all got passed back and forth in a circle and you kept the mug you ended up with.

When the pastor's wife first arrived at the party, she held up the bag with her mug in it, pointed at me, and said "You're getting this one."
And I giggled.

And sure enough, at the end of the game, I was holding the pastor's wife's bag.

Guess I'm on the naughty list AGAIN!

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Weekend WrapUp

This weekend will go down as one of the best ever. It was really great!

On Friday night, we had Shelbie's 15th Birthday party. Both Tim and John had the night off. Tim had a friend over, and Tim's girlfriend and her friend came over for a little while too. And of course Shelbie's friends were here, a really great group of girls. The boys built bonfires and all the teenagers hung out by the fire. Elayna and I stayed inside, baking, making candy, and crafting - that's right, ME, crafting. I know! Everyone had a good time. I really love having a house full of the kids & their friends.

On Saturday, all of the teen girls went to a soccer breakfast, and then one of Shelbie's friends came back home with her. We went to a Christmas parade in a nearby town, meeting a good friend of mine there. Her son was in the parade. I very rarely see her and it was SO good to catch up.
Shelbie spent the night with a friend and Tim had to work, so it ended up being just me, John, and Elayna. We went out for dinner and then drove around looking at Christmas lights. We had so much fun!

Sunday was Shelbie's birthday. On Sunday morning, we went to church. There were two Christmas programs, one by the children and one by the youth. Elayna was in the children's program, Shelbie in the Youth's. My parents, sister, and niece came to see them. The programs & service were great.
Then, my family came to our house and we exchanged Christmas presents & celebrated Shelbie's birthday with them. It went well; things have been strained with my parents lately so I was stressed, but it turned out great. We had Shelbie's birthday dinner (chicken fettucini alfredo, roasted asparagus, corn, & garlic bread, as well as monkey bread instead of cake!).

On Sunday evening, we took Tim to work and then dropped the girls off at their Dad's for the week. From there, John and I went to our church's Christmas Party. We had a blast! We did a mug exchange, played games, and had yummy food. We laughed, cried, prayed, laughed some more....it was awesome. I am feeling much better about the situation with Andrew and his bio-mom because we have this incredible group of people backing us, praying for us, and offering to do anything they can to help us out.

I hope you all had a great weekend, too! It will be a quiet week around here, for sure, so maybe I can catch up on some blogs!
If you posted about your weekend, link up here!



Shelbie, Shelbie, Shelbie.
15 years ago I was so very pregnant. One day past my due date. At the doctor's office, they did an ultrasound and estimated your weight at OMG HUGE. After one c-section for a slightly less ginormous child, we decided another c-section was in order (there went my plans for a VBAC...sigh).
And they were not too far off; you weighed in at 9 lbs. 3 oz. You kept me in the hospital until the day before Christmas Eve. I was SO happy to take you home!
Your brother was so strong-willed, and you seemed content to follow his lead and were a pretty quiet child. You were an easy kid, easy-going and happy.
And then you became a teenager.
You weren't quite as easy any more. (<~~ understatement of the year)
But I worried, because you were such a people-pleaser. You wanted to do what everyone else was doing. You seemed so open to suggestion and vulnerable to peer pressure. I worried that you wouldn't stand up for yourself.
Now? Heh. Not so much.
Sometime within the last couple of years, you have developed a backbone of steel. You don't go with the flow so much. And you don't take crap. Oh heck no. You do your own thing, and if anyone doesn't like it, you will tear them to shreds. Whether with a look, or your words.
I have no idea where you get this from. *ahem*
Seriously, I used to think you were so different from me. But now....I see so much of myself in you. You are everything I admire in a woman; beautiful and kind, but strong and tough. You are not going to be walked on by anyone. You still want everyone to be happy, but not at your own expense.
You have always been incredibly thoughtful and caring. You are always thinking of others, especially if they are sick or hurt. You are so empathetic. You complain about our annoying pets, but absolutely panic if one of them gets lost or may be sick. You complain about your annoying little sister, but absolutely melt when she buys you a "Sister" necklace and gives it to you early because she cannot wait any longer.
You wear your heart on your sleeve, and that is both a wonderful and potentially hurtful thing, because you love very deeply and that can cause great pain. But you are strong and you will overcome.
Even though you drive me crazy, I am amazed to discover that I really love teenagers. I still can't believe you are fifteen....and in high school!
Even though it drives me crazy, I still have to laugh when I look at you and see you dressed head-to-toe in MY stuff....literally head to toe!
And even though it drives me crazy, I love your confidence, your smart mouth, & your quick comebacks. Just please...use them for good, not evil. And use them against others, not your poor exhausted Mom. Kay?

Happy Birthday, Shelbie! I love you!


Friday Fragments: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

I'm working hard at keeping in the Christmas spirit, even though Scrooge herself crawled out of her hell-hole and made an appearance this week.
Really, I shouldn't insult Scrooge like that. Anyway, Andrew's "biological mother" (I think I just threw up in my mouth) came out of the woodwork again, this time through the court system, lying & manipulating as usual. We have plenty of defensive measures, including his psychiatrist who has said many times that she would testify on our behalf if this ever happened, that it is not in A's best interest to see Satan's Spawn. Not to mention emails between the two of us, because I save EVERYTHING. I am just sick that she is so selfish that she wants to shake up his stable, secure life. But, your good thoughts & prayers are deeply needed and appreciated, and I will update you all as things progress.
(For those of you who aren't regulars and have no idea what I'm talking about, you can read here or here for some background, or search "Andrew" and/or "Spiderman" ([when I first started blogging, I used pseudonyms]).

OK, that takes care of the bad and the ugly! Moving on to the good.....

My oldest daughter Shelbie will be 15 on Sunday. We're having her party tonight. My house will be full of teenage girls! *SQUEEEE* *OhEmGEE!!* and all that stuff! We're having a bonfire and pizza (that's what she wanted, whatever!). Hopefully I will still have a little bit of sanity left when it's all over!

The weekend will be a busy one; church play practice, parades, Christmas lights tours, our church's Christmas program, making crafts, baking, etc. Possibly even seeing my parents, who I haven't spent time in with in months, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.
Oh, and? Almost all of my Christmas shopping still has to be done.
I am SO glad John loves shopping and will help me with all of it!
Then on Sunday evening, the kids will go to their Dad's and be gone for a whole week. *sniffle*

Anyway! Back to the Good! This is the first year in probably 8 or 9 years that my family has been unable to choose a name from the Angel Tree and buy gifts for a child or family in need. I still planned to but as Christmas came closer, I realized there's just no way to do it. I did give Shelbie money to fill a shoebox for a program with the youth group, and we still put change in the Salvation Army buckets, and I resigned myself to that being as much as we could do this year.
How is this good, you ask? Because of OHmommy, that's why. OHmommy and her worms, manure, and crabs. Seriously. Check it out. Through OxFam, OHmommy gave away "a card that announces you purchased a school desk and chair, in your recipient's honor".
And guess who won? ME! My family. I am so happy! We couldn't do much this year, but through OHmommy & OxFam, we're doing something wonderful, that will make a big difference to someone in need.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend, and don't lose your mind in the holiday rush! Relax and enjoy yourselves. And give yourself a break! You're running around like a crazy person and kicking yourself for not having everything done. RELAX. There's only one of you, and you know what? You're doing a GREAT JOB.

Oh um, one more tiny little thing. I honestly don't usually pay a lot of attention to my follower numbers, but lately it's been hovering just under 400 and it's driving me batty! If you're not a follower, if you would take 5 seconds and follow me and get me over that 400 mark, I will follow you back AND love you forever!

Please visit Mrs 4444's for more Fragments!

ETA: Crap! 3rd week in and I forgot to post my Song of the Week. The first thing that came to mind is this gem, another one from Miranda Lambert. (although Gunpowder & Lead is another good one of hers, as well. Just saying.)

Mommy's Idea



*Warning: This is a downer post. Proceed at your own risk.*

November 24th, 2010, was an anniversary, but not the kind that you celebrate.

It was the two year anniversary of the suicide death of a friend.

He wasn't a "Junior", but for some odd reason, that was his nickname for many years.
He was a friend of my ex-husband's, and that's how I met him, twenty-something years ago.
He was the kind of person who would do anything for a friend. He hung out at our house, played with our kids, and ate dinner with us countless times. When my husband was out of town for work, I could always call him when I needed help.

Junior had a few girlfriends throughout the years, but none who stuck around for long. I think that's one reason that the Eagles song, Desperado, always reminded me of him:

"You better let somebody love you.....before it's too late."

Even after my ex-husband and I split up, Junior helped me out. He helped me move, and later moved my kids' outdoor play equipment to our new home. He was just that kind of guy who you knew would help you out when you needed him.

In time, I lost touch with him. He had moved to St Augustine.

In some ways I was surprised to hear of his death, but in some ways, I wasn't. Junior always seemed haunted. He always had a smile and an easy laugh, but behind all that, it wasn't hard to tell that he wasn't a happy person. And his life hadn't been an easy one.

I have no idea what actually pushed him to take his own life. The story I heard (third- or fourth-hand) was that he was sitting with his girlfriend watching TV, then got up and walked into another room, and shot himself. He was 42 years old.
I can only hope, and pray, that he has found peace now.

Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger.
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home.
And freedom, ohhhh freedom, well, that's just some people talkin'...
Your prison is walking through this world all alone.


Precious Memories

My most favorite ornaments are the ones that the kids have made throughout the years.
I'm notoriously disorganized and we've moved a lot,
so it's amazing that I've managed to hold on to these ornaments for so long.

Tim is my oldest son, he is 17 and a senior in high school.
He made this ornament in preschool.

My brother's wife had this ornament made for me.
She used to babysit Tim while I worked.
He was about 18 months old in this picture.

Shelbie is almost 15 now. She made this in preschool.
It's made with colored corn kernels.

As you can see, she made this one in Kindergarten.

Andrew made this ornament in Kindergarten, too.
He is 11 now and in 4th grade.

He made this ornament in the 2nd grade.

Elayna made this one for me, but it isn't dated.
It's definitely a few years old, and Elayna is now 9 years old,
and in 4th grade.

Elayna made this one last year in church.

*Random Bonus picture of me and Elayna, goofing around.*

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