Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Head in a Box

I used to sleep with my head in a box.

It was a large cardboard box that once housed some household item that had no relevance to the hours of fun it provided me. My box was no ordinary box. I had artfully decorated not only the outside, but the inside with all types of colorful designs. I measured and cut out a hole large enough to slip my head through (think of the opening to a dog house) and two holes on either side to slip my arms through. I placed this box on my top bunk and secretly snuck in a flashlight, some books and some more art supplies. When it was time to go to bed, I found a way out - a loop hole to my parent's dreaded rule to "go to sleep" at a decent hour! I could slip my head and two arms through the box holes, turn on my flashlight, and read or draw or do whatever it is kids do with a large, used box. The possibilities were endless. My imagination took over and it was just me and my box.

"Ah-ha!" I thought, "I don't have to go to sleep. No one will ever know that I am awake because I have this box."

It turns out I really wasn't that clever. Mom knew of my plan and thought it too funny to ruin my little hideout slash anti-nighttime plan. She even knew about the flashlight. My box looked like a flying saucer on my top bunk with a beam of light seeping out of the bottom. And there I was, being abducted by my own crafty cleverness with my head stuck securely inside a brown box.

This sounds weird to most of you - okay all of you - but here is the cool thing: It wasn't weird to my mom. She could have easily flipped out and yanked the box off of my head and thrown it in the dumpster. Who wants a daughter who sleeps with her head in a box? It's not something you share with pals at work or church. Outsiders may even view it as child abuse.

"Geesh, Judy," the would say, "It's kinda mean to let your kid sleep in a box. I mean, what if she suffocates."

My younger sister Molly didn't find it odd either. She slept in the bunk beneath me. She was used to my artsy antics. Nothing phased her.

I think of this story every now and then when I watch my own daughter play. I was reminded of my childhood when she excitedly hurried over to the long, rectangular cardboard box her daddy threw on the ground after unpacking it. At only 15-months-old, I watched her "ooooh" and "aaah" at the size of this box. She opened and closed the lids, tried to slip inside, and eventually realized it was much more fun to place Mommy's Tupperware inside of it. She would have played with that box for hours, except it was soon time to go to bed.

NO! I did not place the box inside her crib. But I did think about whether I would allow it if she were a little older. Am I going to be a cool mom and allow my daughter to sleep with her head in a box? Will I recognize her for who she is and know the difference between "weird" and "artistic"? Will I know my daughter as well as my mom knew and knows me? And if I do, will I go against the grain to give my daughter that outlet that she needs, such as painting the inside of a box and placing it on top of her head? My mother knew this was odd. Even my grandfather asked one night, "Judy, you do realize that Ann-Marie has a box on her head?"

"Yup," she replied.

"Are you going to let her do that?" he asked.

"Yup, she's not hurting anyone."

You see, my mom knew that I was different, and never once made me feel silly or weired for being so. On the contrary, my mother encouraged my behavior. I think she knew that if she did not allow me to explore my creative side in healthy ways, I would have rebelled in an unhealthy way. I was a kid, for example, who liked to play by herself. I would play in my closet - with the door closed - so no one would bother me or interrupt my imaginative play. Mom simply cleaned out my closet so that I could play in there. When I was a teenager, I liked to wear combat boots and dye my hair a different color every week. Mom allowed me to do this. Her reasoning? I made honor roll, had decent friends, did not do drugs and overall was a pretty good kid. What type of child would I have been if she repressed any of this?

I am a lot more controllive as an adult than my mother. I am type A and Mom is type...Z. Will I be able to recognize Mary Ellen for who she is, and more importantly, will I allow her to be her? Will I let go and go against the grain if I truly feel it is in the best interest of my child? I sure hope so. I hope that when it comes down to it, I will allow my daughter to sleep with a box on her head.

Maybe I'll even provide her with the flashlight.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Frugal Shopper

I'm not sure if I like to shop. I like looking at clothes and household decor sometimes, but I don't get particularly excited to try on clothes or 50 pairs of shoes. In fact, that's just downright dreadful. My mom tells me when I was younger, she couldn't stand to take me along when she shopped. I would whine the entire time and tell her "my legs hurt." In fairness, my legs were the size of chopsticks and standing on them for more than 30 minutes was pushing it. These babies weren't made for all-day shopping excursions. I still don't like to shop all day, unless I have a pocket full of cash that is free from any strings. When does that ever happen?

I'm the person who will walk around the department store with items hand for an eternity. Then one by one the items return to their homes on the racks. I end up feeling way too guilty about buying that I just can't do it. The guilt outweighs the want. I'm a salesperson's nightmare.

If an item or two does make it home with me, buyer's remorse usually sets in the next day, after the shopper's high wears off. I am getting a bit better at this. I have learned not to beat myself up as much, especially if I find a heck of a deal. The bottom line is, I don't like to spend. I'm frugal, probably borderline cheap. I was always like this. I remember saving my coins and allowances as a child, only to have my older sister beg me for some cash because the girl never could hold on to a penny.

"You got holes in your pockets, Michelle," my parents would say.

I know I should loosen up a bit, but I don't like the feeling of being strapped for cash. Been there done that for way too many years. Living and surviving on your own is tough folks. I really did eat hot dogs and Ramen noodles for weeks at a time. I couldn't afford anything else. I remember wearing clothes that were too big or too little. I couldn't furnish my first apartment until months after moving in. I had to say "no" often to friends asking me to go see a movie or go out to eat. Those were luxuries I had to save up for.

When I lived in Florida, my mom found a great web site called The Dollar Stretcher that offered some great tips. The site is still up and running and has grown. Google it. It offers sound money-saving advice from people who like and need to save. Check it out.

Now that I've made myself sound really, really cheap, please note that Brannon and I are working really hard to get out of debt - completely. It is our dream to one day be mortgage free and student-loan free, and not 30 years from now. This means making that dollar stretch.

(I'm not eating Ramen noodles this time, however. Sacrificing health and sanity is not an option).

As Dave Ramsey says, "Live like no other today so that one day you can live like no other."

I love it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Da Da Da Da....

"Momma. Say Momma. M-o-m-m-a!"


"Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy!"


"No. I'm Momma. Momma. Say it...puulleeez!"


This is a typical daily conversation between Mary Ellen and I. Oh, alright. It's not a conversation, but me begging our 15-month-old to say my name. I cannot wait for the day that she utters a word that does not begin with the letter "D," preferably "Momma" or "Ma." The sound of the letter "D" is her sound of choice. Every word that she attempts to say usually ends up with a hard D on the front. Her favorite word is "Doy," pronounced like "boy." I don't know where this came from or what it means, but she LOVES it. Everything is "doy, doy, doy." It is adorable, but I'm ready for my little girl to expand her repertoire.

I have to admit that I have been a little concerned over the past couple of weeks about Mary Ellen's speech, or lack there of it. I read - probably too much - information that says she should know at least a dozen words by now, and at least two dozen by 18 months.


Mary Ellen knows "Doy."

She has started saying "Do" (pronounced like "go") whenever we let the dog outside to run, and I think she is beginning to say "Duice" for juice. She can say Dada, as well, but I'm tired of that. I'm ready for her to look at me and yell "MOMMA!"

Friends and parents tell me not to worry, that Mary Ellen is just taking a little longer to develop in this area. I hope they are right. I started talking to her as much as I can, but I feel that I am saying so much as it is. I started reading to her more, even if she is playing and not sitting on my lap. A good friend suggested this method. It can't hurt, plus I love to read to my girl.

We have a 15-month check-up soon and I cannot wait to bombard the doc with many developmental questions. I know deep down inside this is just Mary Ellen's way. She has always been a little slow to develop, and this has truly never bothered me. I just want to make sure that if there is something I can be doing to help her along, then I want to know what that "something" is.

Until then, I will continue with my pleading and Mary Ellen will continue assigning "D" sounds/words to different objects. She (and I) will get it one day.


Sunday, February 1, 2009


We are still here! We have just been soooooooo busy. I started back classes at Troy and I took on a full load this semester, including a course that requires me to go to Phenix City some weekends. I'm trying to pack in what I can before Brannon begins his spring outage at the nuclear plant. Yuck. I am so not looking forward to that. I know he isn't either. Thirteen-hour days grow tiresome after a few weeks.

Mary Ellen continues to grow and grow! It's amazing how fast she has grown and how tall she is. We have to purchase 18 month-old clothing because anything smaller is too short. We call most of her pants capris or knickers!. She talks non-stop, or babbles. She really doesn't say too many words at this point and everyone keeps telling me not to worry. She knows plenty of words, she just can't figure out how to form them into proper sounds so that Dad and I understand them. I know I shouldn't worry too much about it because MEC took forever to develop everywhere else. For example, she did not get one tooth until close to 11 months of age and when she did, they ALL came in at one time. The doc assures me that's just how MEC develops. So I am just waiting for a billion words to come flowing out at any minute!

She is becoming such a big girl. She brushes her teeth at night with her own Sesame Street toothbrush and feeds herself entirely. The food ends up everywhere but her mouth half the time, but she tries and wants to try. My big girl!

I posted some random photos from over the past several weeks. I hope you enjoy. I promise to write something witty or funny next time. I just wanted to provide the family and close friends with some updates!
Take care and we love you!


I wonder what they are deep in thought about!

Sweet Baby

Sweet Baby
Mary Ellen wore this dress for Baby Dedication. She also wore this the day she came home from the hospital.