Monday, July 31, 2006


Rachael, several years ago.

I admire those of you who LOVE scrapbooking. I don't love it. I love looking at my albums, but I consider scrapbooking hard work. Four times I've had to go to the doctor for muscle relaxers after having scrapbooked.

I wish my scrapbooks were wonderfully artistic, but they aren't. They are straightforward, factual, and less than easy on the eyes. Woe is me.

At any given time, I have 6 scrapbooks on the go. That may be why I always feel snowed by the whole project. I've been trying to catch up. I'm always behind.

Today while working on Rachael's album, I ran across this note she gave me several years ago. I smiled and I hope you will too.

"Dear Mom, I'm sorry but I am running away. You are too harsh on me. Sorry. I am going to Gillian's house. Love, Rachael."

Gillian lives next door. Rachael never ran away. She hand delivered the note to me and we "worked through the problem."

I'm glad I saved the note. It sure reminds me of yesteryear.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Maybe you can help

For years now I've had an embarrassing problem. I understand it's a common complaint, but I've never heard any remedy less involved than plastic surgery. I'm much too pragmatic for plastic surgery -- I want to stay "totally myself."

Here's my problem: One breast is larger than the other. Seriously, it's embarrassing. You can see here in this picture taken of me yesterday the reality of the problem. Does anyone have any advise? Remember, I want to stay "totally me" and am not open to plastic surgery.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

World Waterpark

Hot Dog Hannah.

The wave pool. My favorite spot.

Hannah did this slide over and over. She's the one on the left. I have a story about a time when I did a slide like this. It involves me losing my swimsuit in front of my entire family. A fairly bad memory.

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A few days ago Stacie and I were recollecting on school-life of so many days ago. We told stories about our old friend Odetta. Odetta was in Stacie's grade, but I claimed her as a friend too. After we talked at length about those days, I got off the phone determined to "look her up."

I typed in her first name and the state I'd heard she was in. I found an Odetta and called the number. Guess what? It was her! Can you believe the wonders of the World Wide Web?

We talked a while catching up in a short time about life in the past 20 years; husbands, kids, jobs. Then we told stories about way back when. One story will be of interest to some of my readers.

I know I've been known to whine about the abuse I suffered at my brother's hand. I know many of you may think I exaggerate, but God is my witness, I do not. (But he's nice now, just so you know.)

Odetta told a story that I don't remember. She wears a chipped tooth and my brother is responsible for it. Odetta, fortunately, is good spirited and mature about it.

Now Odetta couldn't recall how Michael coerced her into this, but I remember his methods well; is always involved force. Michael forced us to participate in his "games."

So anyway, Michael made Stacie and Odetta to hold their mouths open along the side of the kitchen table so he could play pool. He shot a ball against Odetta's mouth and chipped her front tooth.

Do that amuse anyone like it did me?

Having found Odetta, I'm curious to find another old friend. Does anyone know where I can find Shelly Potter. I saw her Christmas '92 and her last name was Gribble. I've had no luck finding her since. Can anyone help me?

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Deborah's Party

Deborah's birthday party didn't turn out quite like we'd hoped. Several friends and cousins came, but no friends from school came. I worried that her feelings would be hurt.

She dressed in her prettiest dress and waited expectantly for her guests. I sat back nervously praying she'd have a great time even with fewer kids than expected. Her 4 guests arrived and soon she was absorbed in play and fun. She ate lunch, played games, had a candy treasure hunt, had water balloon "fights," opened gifts and ate a lovely cake that I made. (Unfortunately in my anal efforts to get the cake "just right" spelled her name wrong. Debororah.)

Evening came and everyone went home. Deborah came and sat with me when she was dressed for bed. I asked if she'd had a good day, and without a moment's hesitation she said, "Mama, I had a GREAT day." I was blessed.

Last night Gordon worked so Deborah slept with me. She was asleep when I went to bed. I studied my sleeping baby who's growing up very quickly. Although she's a physically fit little girl, she still carries lots of baby fat in her cheeks. He face is darker than usual -- kissed by the sun. At 7-years-old, a very big 7, she still sucks her thumb when she sleeps. I gently pulled her thumb from her mouth. Her calloused--from the monkey bars--hand was quick to wrap around my fingers, just like a baby.

Struck like so many other times how quickly the kids are growing up, I prayed the prayer I've prayed many times: "Teach me to number my days so I can gain a heart of wisdom." (From the Psalms)

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Before and After

As you may recall, Hannah wondered if Bear would ever become "erect." Well as you can see, the answer is yes.

It was a slow event. One ear was erect 4 days before the other, leading us to believe only one ear would stand up. But one morning we woke to find the little Bear fully erect. Isn't he cute? Sometimes I call him "Ears."

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Lacy and Bear

Pals? Not.

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Rachael is 11

Breakfast in Bed for an 11 year old.

Rachael’s 11th Birthday

Today is Rachael’s 11th birthday. We are at the World Waterpark in West Edmonton Mall enjoying a day of paradise.

Eleven years ago today in Calgary Alberta we welcomed little Rachael into our world. After hours and hours of traveling a painful few inches, she graced us. What glory it was to hold those 9.12 pounds of pink soft warm flesh of my flesh. I studied her for hours. My fingers kept returning to the cowlick on her forehead. I rubbed that smooth-as-silk spot over and over and over. (Rachael dubbed it “pocket” when she was 3). Without taking my eyes off Rachael, I asked Dr Savoia if she noticed Rachael’s cowlick and she responded graciously, “She’s so stylish.” (Remember women gelled their hair in 1995 to create that look Rachael was born with.) It was a marvelous experience welcoming Rachael in this world. My life was more colorful and full thereafter.

Gordon came to the hospital with a white lace dress with pink ribbons. When I opened it, I was taken aback by its size; 18 months. When I pointed that out he said, “but it’s so small.” She couldn’t wear it until she was 1. I have it hanging in our guest room on the wall with an outfit from all my newborns. Her’s is the biggest, but that memory of a proud first-time Daddy buying her a dress was too sweet to forget.

Rachael was a wonderfully content baby. She cooed and smiled and was too beautiful to describe. After she was born, I missed my Arkansas family so much. They know how to properly dote on babies - a skill that, generally speaking, Canadians are moronic in. I wanted someone to meet my precious baby who knew how to ooh and awh appropriately.

I remember the first time Rachael laughed like it was yesterday. I had her sitting in a carrier on the kitchen table. I was beside her paying bills and sipping iced tea. I took a drink and when the ice hit my lips, I inadvertently made a big “slurp” sound. Rachael cackled. I did it again and again and each time she burst out in a raucous laughter. She did it so long and so hard I had time to phone Gordon, Mama and Stacie. I would slurp my tea and Rachael would cackle heartily as I and the person on the other end of the phone line laughed too.

Not long after that experience we had a similar one. This time it was me eating an apple. The crunch of me biting into it sent her into another laughing spell.

When Rachael was 3 months old, I stepped over Gordon’s pants that were on the floor and bang, I was pregnant again. So at 13 months she became a big sister. She was and is a great big sister and has always had a big space in her heart for Hannah. They were inseparable and practically still are.

When Hannah was 3 she did something at the dinner table and Gordon rebuked her. Rachael quickly spun her head to her daddy and with no timidity whatsoever in her voice pronounced, “I don’t appreciate you talking to my sister like that.” To say that Gordon and I were shocked is an understatement. Gordon rebounded from the shock quickly and told Rachael he was Hannah’s daddy and it was his responsibility to train her. As adamantly as her first statement, she declared, “Fine! I’ll break your bus!” (Gordon works for the transit system). It was terribly funny, but we held our laughter in check till we were alone, then Gordon said, “Imagine that at 11.”

Today she is 11. I’m thankful to say she’s wonderfully sweet, innocent, helpful, and responsible. She is a pure delight.

Tonight I’ll lie beside her for a few minutes when I tuck her in. We’ll talk about her day at the waterpark and as she talks, I’ll be rubbing that still smooth-as-silk pocket on her forehead.

I love my sweet Rachael way more than I have words to articulate. She brings a little touch of heaven to my world.

Happy 11th Birthday Rachael. I love you.

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Little Eric

Sunday at Deborah's birthday party, our 2 year old nephew Eric had no desire to keep his clothes on. He spent a good amount of time running around the backyard naked.

At one point he made his way into the house unnoticed. When he came back, he carried next to his naked little body a book that Gordon had bought just the day before.

He lovingly brought the book to his mommy and cracked it open to reveal a green piece of art (scribble) he'd created. Having opened the book to his artwork, he proudly proclaimed, "TA-DA."

It was a sweet moment of pure innocence.

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Bear Kisses

Hannah getting yummy kisses from Bear.

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God's Promises

See the rainbow?

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Multiple Births

I just read on about 2 sets of multiple births. The first article was about a Los Angeles couple who 3 years ago were blessed with triplets. The mother, now 40, assumed she was through having babies. However she just gave birth to 4 babies; 2 boys and 2 girls. The boys are identical. The couple now have 9 kids and they live in a 1 bedroom apartment. I hope she has lots and lots of help and I hope the community helps find them a bigger place.

The other article was about identical twin boys born 2 months apart. Baby #1 came 4 months premature and Baby #2 just joined him.

As I read and watched the videos of those sweet stories, I remembered that something similar made the news when I was a teenager. I remember watching the news in my boyfriend's living room. After the story was told, Wayne, my boyfriend's dad, without a hint of a smile solemnly declared, "I'd slit my damn throat."

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hannah's Question

Hannah came into the living room carrying Bear. "Will Bear ever get erections?," she inquired. I spat my lemonade across the room.

Wondering where she learned THAT, I said, "that's a good question. Why do you ask?"

She responded, "Well Chihuahuas have erect ears and so do Pomeranians, so do you think Bear's ears will go erect?"

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Happy Birthday Michael

My brother Michael with his granddaughter, Annabelle.

Today is my only brother's birthday. He is six years older than me. I've decided to forego the opportunity to tell of my youthful victimization at his hands. It would probably bore my readers to hear how I lived in fear of him as a child; how my friends wouldn't come over if he was home because they didn't want to be lassoed by him; how he nearly took my life every time we swam in Rock Creek; no, I don't want to ride that horse today. It being his birthday, I will recount good memories. I have many.

I don't recall exactly when Michael stopped tormenting me. Maybe it was about the time I stopped tormenting him. At any rate, there came a time when I shifted from fear of him to awe of him. He became my hero and I loved telling people he was my big brother. We didn't have a "rich" relationship at home, but nevertheless I was very proud of him and desired to please him. Unfortunately I had two left feet when it came to sports, totally ruining the Callahan legacy of athletic heroics. I remember with many shudders and grimaces the first PeeWee basketball game I played. That was the day the world learned that I wasn't a natural like my big brother and sisters. I was so ashamed that I didn't make him proud. (He probably had no feelings about that game, but in my mind I had dishonored my family.) He was a Polk County basketball legend.

I remember a few times when he smiled at me in public and I felt like a million bucks. When he was in 11th grade, he was sent to my 5th grade class to collect a podium. While getting it, he smiled at me. It made my day that Mike Callahan, basketball legend, had smiled at me among my peers. One boy leaned over and said, "Valerie is he really your brother?" I replied with pride, "Yes, he's my brother."

Once Michael became an adult, I admired new things about him. He was strong and a good worker. I heard others talk about it, so I again was proud to be his sister. I continued to love his smile. Something in me felt like the world was a better place when I saw my brother smile. His smile literally lit up my world.

As I got older still, I learned more and more about him. I loved his knowledge of history and I grew to love love love his wacky sense of humor. As I write this, so many Michael quotes are going through my head that I will have to choose between them.

--When Gordon, Baby Rachael, and I lived in Calgary, Herbie, Diane, and Michael came for a visit. It was a short visit, but I laughed the whole time and still smile broadly to think of that visit. Michael was such a breath of fresh air. Within his first hour of sitting in my living room, he asked if there was a WalMart close by. I answered yes and asked if he needed to go there. He replied, "No I just need to know one is close by."

--Later we walked to a nearby restaurant called Swiss Chalet for dinner. We were seated by an Asian hostess, our waitress was Asian as were the other waitresses. Michael studied our surroundings briefly then leaned over close to me. He whispered Barney Fife style, "These Swiss people look suspiciously Oriental."

--Michael ordered poorly, but we didn't know that until our plates came. He got a dinky portion of chicken, baked beans that weren't fit to be eaten, and coleslaw. I, on the other hand, got a hearty looking full plate. Michael contrasted my covered plate with his own which looked like it came from the kids' menu. He ate his meal in a few bites then leaned over to me and asked if I was planning to share "the bounty."

--On that trip, Michael had a minor bike wreck. He went to the hospital with what he thought was a broken hand. Michael is an Arky with an Arky accent. He was incredulous that he was considered hard to understand. The doctor couldn't understand. Michael told him he had a wreck and the doctor replied, "Reek? What's a reek?" Michael spoke as plainly as he could, which for some reason caused him to nearly shout: "It's my hand. It's dealing me some misery." Eleven years later I still say, "dealing me some misery," when things aren't going well.

--He complained bitterly about how customs had stipped him of all dignity. They searched all his belongings. He wasn't prepared for that. Referring to them going through his underwear, he said indignantly, "I felt so violated."

Last year when my cousin Cindy took a bad turn with her cancer, her siblings and cousins each filled in a questionnaire that we circulated among ourselves. The original idea was to cheer Cindy. It turned out to be a hilarious exercise that cheered us all. One question was, "if you were a crayon, what color would you be?" Michael responded, "I guess I'd be one of those oversized flesh-colored ones."

Another question was, "What do you notice first about a person?" Michael answered, "the eyes of a beautiful large breasted woman."

Michael is big and strong and smart. He is like a great big teddy bear; someone I want to hug. He is sensitive. I've seen him cry twice. He cried when we hugged goodbye before I moved to Canada and he cried when we hugged after I lost custody of Stephanie and Christopher. Both of those crying hugs meant the world to me.

I know of another time that Michael cried. I didn't see it, but I heard about it. It's a "God thing" story.

Occasionally life takes me to the dark dark island of depression. On this island, truth and reality gets lost to me. In 2002 I ended up on that island and it was as dark as any darkness I'd ever known. Without having been there, a person can't possibly comprehend it. I was convinced that my husband and children would be much better off without me. This idea wasn't a selfish one -- I was convinced it was an unselfish act, one that would truly improve their lives. I wanted their best, but felt I only hindered it.

I struggled to get the nerve to take my life. One particular night, I laid in bed working out the details in my mind. As I was convinced my husband and kids only stood to profit from my death, I was nagged by the hurt I'd inflict on my other family members. I was torn between doing what was "best" for some and what would hurt others. After much rationalization, I concluded that it was best for everyone.

The following morning my mom phoned to check on me. Michael had just left her house. The night before (the same night of my struggle) he drempt I died. His dream upset him terribly and he wept as he told Mama about it. Did Michael pray for me after his dream? I have no clue. But once I learned how Michael's dream upset him, something awakened in me. Awareness that my life mattered was birthed in the midst of my darkness. It was the impetus of recovery. All because my brother cried.

So there you have it; 2 perspectives of the same night. Seemingly insignificant, yet it made all the difference.

Happy Birthday Michael. I love your smile, your sense of humor, your smarts, but especially your sensitivity. You're a great big huggable teddy bear. I love you.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Meet Bear

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Bear. Bear is a ChihuaPom (Chihuahua-Pomeranian). An unusual combination, we agree.

Since Frodo's untimely demise, Hannah has searched and searched for a dog she could afford. In Alberta, one would be hard-pressed to find a mutt or a free puppy. Hannah is a thrifty little gal, but most dogs are still out of her league. She called no fewer than 30 people before she called Bear's breeder. As it turned out, this breeder is the same breeder we got Frodo from. Because we had a little bit of history with her, she cut Hannah a deal. Bear cost Hannah $200. Hannah paid $100 up front and got a payment plan for $20 a month. Isn't that cute?

Hannah is super responsible. I know she'll take great care to get this lady her monthly payments on time.

Wish us luck. Bear already is spoiled rotten. He cries whenever Hannah puts him down. It was so sweet to see Hannah fall in love at first sight.

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Meanwhile, at the Dykstra Animal Reserve

Meet Chirp! This little bird is about 1 inch big and a perfect specimen of a wren, I think. Hannah found Chirp last night under a spruce tree. We looked for a mama bird and siblings, but didn't find any. We fed him ground up worm, apple, watermelon and seeds from an eye dropper,-- a meal any bird would be happy to get, or so we think. He ate tiny amounts very often. I decided to look up their diet on the net and what did I find except that they eat tiny amounts but they eat 15-19 times an hour (and mama birds have been known to die of exhaustion). Surprisingly, none of us were up to the challenge of feeding little Chirp that often and I can think of better ways to die.

Gordon, being the good Daddy he is, concocted a secure little home for Chirp in the spruce tree Hannah found him under.

Hannah checked on him this morning. She could hear 2 birds in the tree, but Chirp wasn't in his "nest." Hopefully he was enjoying a wren-style family reunion.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Road Treasures

Our poor children have been in the car a number of times when my dear husband has chosen to stop on the side of the road to pick up a treasure. He has found -- and brought home -- every size bungee cord imaginable, shovels, hammers, gloves, a picnic blanket, water hose, hamster cage, toys and stuffed animals for the kids,.... Yes, many a good thing can be found on the side of the road by astute eyes. The best clock in our house was found on the side of the road by Gordon 2 years before we met each other.

This habit use to be a source of humiliation for me. Now, even I keep my eyes peeled to the side of the road lest I miss a treasure. The two have become one, or something like that. Truthfully, I've only done it a few times and it's always been when others weren't around. Gordon on the other hand has done it lots and isn't ashamed to do it in rush hour traffic. Yikes.

Today Deborah was admiring my high-priced Precious Moments collection. She was asking the same questions I've answered many times: "Where did this one come from?" "Who gave you this one?" "Which one do I get when you die?" Then she added a question that revealed way too much about our family. "Mom did you get any of these on the side of the road?"

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Monday, July 03, 2006

My Man

A Manly Man :-)

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3 Lovely Lasses

My Girls in a Canola field.

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Happy 7th Birthday Deborah

Since we were camping, Deborah didn't get breakfast in bed. But we went to DQ with our friends for cake. She'll get a proper party soon.

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No Training Wheels

While we were camping Deborah turned 7. We went into town for a Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake and she got to buy a couple things at the mall. She got $20 from Auntie Christine and dutifully spent it on kid's lip gloss and such. Where oh where does this child get this propensity?

We are negligently behind on teaching Deborah to ride her bike without training wheels. It's recently become an issue as she's watched kids much younger than her riding without them. Being "away from it all," was all the motivation Gordon needed to teach her. It was a delightful experience watching them.

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We're Home

We just returned from our first camping trip for the summer. We went about and 1 1/2 hours out of the city. Good friends from Calgary met us on the second day of our stay and we had a great time camping side by side. Our kids played gloriously well together; the weather was beautiful; the campsite was wonderful; the beach was lovely and clean. Other than one drenching wet night, it was perfect -- and even rain seems kind of cool when it breaks the routine and the heat.

Between the 2 of us, we had great meals and we adults had stimulating conversations while the kids played. Admittedly, Gordon and Tom are MUCH bigger talkers than me or Christine, so she and I had to endure lots of conversation that was slightly on the boring side. But, I knocked off 2 novels as they talked, and that was fun for me.

Several things were said that made me laugh:

--On the beach, I watched as obese woman after obese woman walked by me in swimming suits that didn't hide anything. I wanted to be polite, I really did. But after a while, I lost the battle. I whispered, "You know, I may not have a great body, but I thank God I have enough sense to keep it covered."

Tom, who I've never heard talk like this, added: "It's nasty. It should be illegal."

--This trip stressed Lucy out. She badly misbehaved on several occasions. Tom and Christine had their Pomeranian with them and she got to run loose. People are much more tolerant of a wee dog being off-leash than they are with a Lucy sized dog being off-leash. I kept her on her leash. Lucy felt the injustice and so did I. She did a number of things that were totally out of character for her.

Among other things, she didn't listen well when we told her to be quiet. Once when Lucy was not obeying, Gordon decided to speak for her, -- that is something the rest of us do on a regular basis. As I said, "Lucy sit, LUCY SIT," 4 or 5 times, Gordon said, as if speaking for Lucy, "I could be a police dog, I just don't have a natural inclination."

--On the night of the big rain, I was sitting around the firepit cooking a wonderful meal of chicken breast, corn-on-the-cob, a roasted potatoes. Drenched, but carrying on, Gordon said, "You look like your spirits have been slightly dampened."

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New Sandals

Gordon and I have new sandals. They are 100% plastic and anything but pretty. I got a pair last week for $3 and beamed with joy at the thought of showering in them at the campground. When I got home after purchasing them, I was thoroughly impressed with their comfort. Several times I bragged, "You just wouldn't believe how comfortable these sandals are."

On our first day at camp, Gordon's $50 sandals broke. He went into the nearest town and came back with a $3 pair of black plastic sandals. As our girls frolicked in the lake, Gordon and I sat in our padded chairs in the shade reading and talking. Several times I noticed Gordon holding his legs out to look at his plastic clad feet. I asked if his sandals were comfortable and he said they were amazingly so.

I resumed my reading, but noticed his legs were still outstretched so he could see his sandalled feet. Noticing me looking at him, he said in a tone of enlightenment, "Do you realize I could take my $50 broken sandals back for a refund and buy 5 pairs of these and still put $35 bucks back in my pocket?"

I howled.

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Camping 2006

When we left the city, our van was burgeoning with camping supplies for the week. We were a sight, I am sure. The top of the van carried supplies; the bikes rode precariously on the bike rack; one seat of the van was removed and replaced to full capacity with our week's livelihood. Lucy, green with motion sickness, was on my lap hanging out the window, her ears blowing 5 inches behind her head. We were only a few steps behind the Beverly Hillbillies.

As Lucy's Dramamine took over, her need for fresh air was replaced with a need for a snooze. She clamored off my lap, and with much effort found a spot under the girls' feet to call her sleeping spot. Once she was settled, Gordon looked over at my side of the van which wore a furry film. He took it in for a few moments and then groaned, "Seeing all that fur gives me a soft spot for plants."

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