Monday, October 31, 2011

You made Halloween fun again

Sweet Caroline,

Past the age of about 12, I'd really kind of lost interest in Halloween. Candy's nice and all, but it's not like it's a hot commodity that I have to beg door to door for once a year. It's also sitting on the shelf at Walgreens. I'm not hating on Halloween, mind you. For lots of people it's an awesome reason to get dressed up (like a slut) and drink excessively. Woohoo!
Mind you, there was a brief time in my life that I was a strong supporter of those things, but it's long since passed me by. Here I am, 25 years old, complaining about those damn crazy kids makin' a ruckus on the street. Don't they know that it's 8:30 at night? Good Lord - some of us have jobs!
You have changed me profoundly, you see.
Annnnyway. This was your second Halloween. Last year, you were all of 7 months old so we sat your butt next to a pumpkin, took a picture, and called it a successful first Halloween.
But oh, 2011 was your second. We opted not to take you trick-or-treating for several reasons. First and foremost, you are insistent on acting like you can't walk, even though we see you walk all the time. I have seen you walk backwards. But, nonetheless, when it really matters that you walk, especially out in public, your knees give out and you'd rather crawl or be dragged by your danging arm. Therefore, trick-or-treating seemed to have a lot of potential for not-funness. Some smaller reasons include colder weather and the fact that Daddy's working and Mommy doesn't have the mental fortitude to drag you around our neighborhood alone.
Instead, I grabbed some candy and a 40 cent treat bag from Kroger on my way home from work, stuck you in your costume, took a picture, and called it a successful second Halloween. I'll tell you what, though... you were into it.
You tore into your candy like a veteran candy eater with years of Reese's cup consumption under your belt. You freaked out and insisted on coming with me to the door each time kids knocked, and passionately waved and screamed "HIIIII" at anyone within ear shot. It was so stupid cute that it made me get all those obnoxious parents who try to let their toddler pass out the candy, even though the kid's not letting even one tiny piece get given away to strangers. The parents think it's cute to include the kid, while the toddler's thinking "Go away, bottom feeders. Get a job or a Mommy and Daddy of your own and get your own candy!!!"
I contemplated letting you pass out candy for a split second, but I decided you going baby-zombie on some unsuspecting 5 year old dressed like a princess might not be the ideal way for our night to go.
...Maybe next year. Until then, thank you for being a contiunal source of the smile on my face.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Elmo - you all bow before him

Sweet Caroline,

That last entry was kind of on the darker side of life. I didn't want to leave my thoughts on sadness, so let me follow up with something more cheerful.

I have come to absolutely freaking love Elmo.

This is a surprise to Mommy, who had laughed at or avoided the whole Sesame Street crew through most of my teenage and young adult years. I had some absolute no fly zones going into parenting. You would not watch Barney,and you would not watch Dora the Explorer. Sue me, but I really can't deal with those two shows. Every thing else I accepted as an inevitable happening in the life of a parent. We all gotta do our time suffering through some Blues Clues. The clue's right behind you, Steve. Turn the hell around and look. Sheesh.

Somehow, without warning, you became a Sesame kid. More specifically, you became an Elmo kid. The very mention of his name brings a smile to your face. There's been bouts of profound crankiness when Daddy and I have resorted to fast forwarding through all the other crap to get straight to Elmo's World. Thank you, God, for DVR.

I live for your Elmo's World dance. You wiggle your whole body side to side, throw up your hands, and scream "ELMO!" You could've seen this episode 30 times... in a row... this morning. But you still watch it with the same wonder and passion as though it's brand new. Now you tap your fingers on the table, trying to play your imaginary piano with him. You greet the fish. You said "yes" and "no" emphatically when Elmo asks you questions.
Elmo: "Can a birthday cake ride a bike?"
Caroline: "Nooooooo!" (very serious head shaking)

Now I get why there were riots in Walmart over those Tickle Me Elmo dolls. I'm grateful that you're not interested in the merchandise. You don't want $55 Elmo dolls (you sweet, wonderful girl). You're happy as long as the DVR is 40% Sesame Street and you have a healthy amount of Elmo-based books and PJ's.

To see that dance, that smile, that uncontrollable joy... Mommy and Daddy are more than willing to eat Ramen Noodles to get you that next set of Elmo DVDS. Because we love you. We also love how Elmo is the only thing that we can almost guarantee will shut off your stupid, pointless, there's-nothing-wrong-with-me-I'm-just-a-toddler-and-act-like-a-buttface-sometimes tantrums. 

Thank you, Elmo, thank you.
You too, Cookie Monster. CJ thinks you're cool.


Death, and other crappy things that will happen to you

Sweet Caroline,

If I could have magical powers, one of the things I would protect you from in life is death and the overwhelming sensations of grief and loss. I wish I could even promise that when bad things happen and you lose people and things you love that it will get better.
But it won't.
All I can tell you is that with time, you will get used to it. Your body and spirit are far stronger than you realize, and will shift to hold up the weight of the sadness you feel. You don't get over it, it doesn't get better. Your body just builds a stronger layer to let you get back to normalcy.
Some deaths will seem small. When you were 9 months old, one of our cats passed away unexpectedly. I called your dad at work in a panic, begging him to come home because I didn't know what I was supposed to do with a dead cat and a small baby. I was crying, which made you so anxious and worried that you cried too. When Daddy got home, we put Otter's body in a small box, wrapped up in my bathrobe that he was laying on when he passed. As Daddy carried that box away, you said "cat cat" with the saddest, most questioning tone in your voice. We were fully convinced that you were asking,
"Wait, where are you going? Why is he in a box? Why are you crying? Where is my cat cat?!"
Seeing your sadness was so much worse than anything we felt on our own. It still terrifies me that this was only one of the first in many losses you will feel in your life. What's worse is someday you'll have the words to tell us about it, but we won't have the words to make it better for you. And for that, baby, I'm already so sorry.

Some losses in your life will be huge. Mommy had already suffered two big losses in her life before you came along. My aunt, your great aunt, passed away after a horrible battle with cancer in March of 2006. Ironically, your Daddy and I's first date would fall within a day of the anniversary of her death.
I wish you could've known your Great-Aunt Janet, but I know that her influence will touch your life in ways you'll never know. She was the shining star in our family. It seemed that whenever we all got together, there was a moment in time when everyone was just waiting on her to arrive so the real fun could begin. She was a force of unstoppable cheer, and happiness, and humor. Though she herself had lived through so many struggles in life, she was somehow everyone rock. Though she only had two biological children, I know many of us held her as a mother figure, a mentor, and a true friend.
I think, in a way, a small part of all of us was altered with her passing. We all grieved in profoundly different ways. There was a time where it seemed that the darkness of her death would never pass. But, as I said, you get used to it. It's been 5 years now, and it's not every day that I feel that same old longing sadness for things I'll never have again. It's not every day I regret what I didn't get to say or do, and it's not every day I don't wish desperately that she could be here with us to share in our joy of having you.
But it still comes around. I remember the last thing I said to your Papa before he walked me down the aisle at Daddy and my wedding was, "I wish Janet was here to see this."
I wish I could say my last words to my father as a single woman were something profound, or sentimental, or expressing my gratitude for how he raised me. Perhaps, in a way, they were. I spoke plainly from my heart and shared a moment of raw feeling with my father, who I know misses his sister more than he'll ever say. I expressed my regret that she wasn't there so he could show off in his light-hearted way of how good a job he'd done raising his daughter and then letting her go.
Your Papa with Janet, Pee-Paw, Granny, and Laura Jo

Even now I tear up writing this. Little did I know, my grandmother had passed away from a stroke the morning of my wedding. Once again, God closed a door and open a window. She left our family just as Daddy joined. The day after our wedding, once we were told the news, Daddy and I cancelled all of our plans and spent our first days as husband and wife taking a 10 hour drive to Alabama to say goodbye to my Granny. I took the bouquet from our wedding and placed it on her casket. We watched my grandfather sob, overcome by the grief of having lost his wife after 62 years of marriage, 5 children, 11 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren. Just one short year later, you would become the 7th great-grandchildren, but not in time for Granny to witness your amazing spirit.

You share a birthday with your Great-Aunt Pat, Daddy's aunt. Unfortunately, you two never got to meet. She passed away a few short months after your birth after a long, difficult struggle with cancer. It broke your Grammy's heart to lose her sister. I'm thankful, however, that your presence in her life has given her something good to hold on to when she feels that dark sadness.

Sadly, even Pee-Paw, your great-grandfather, was robbed of time with you. He passed away a mere 6 months after your birth. Each day as you grow and learn new things, I'm heartbroken that he's not here to witness it. He loved the times he had with you, and I know he'd adore the amazing little girl you're becoming.
The first time you met him you were only 6 weeks old. You laid in his arms and stared at him in wonderment, stretching your arms towards him and giving him the sweetest newborn smile you could make. The second time you were together you were 6 months old - only a few weeks before he passed. You were eager to show off the noises and hand motions you could make and loved making him laugh. I was beside myself when he decided that what my 6 MONTH OLD daughter needed for a snack was a Little Debbie Swiss Roll. My mommy instincts wanted to stop him, but who am I to tell a man with 7 great-grandchildren what to feed a baby? 
You're not sure who this man is, but you seem to know later there will be cake.

My God, you loved that piece of cake. You looked over at me with such disgust that it took this long for someone to finally give you some freakin' cake. Forget formula, forget that jarred mush you call "food." You wanted cake! Swiss Rolls will always hold a special place in my heart.

Your Pee-Paw passed away October 3,2010. It was Mommy's 24th birthday. Once again, plans your father and I made were forgotten, and we made that long drive to Alabama. Pee-Paw was laid to rest in his favorite overalls and fancy pink button up shirt. The sight of that shirt made me cry, remembering that's what he'd worn the last time he saw you. When asked about his choice of shirt, he replied that he wanted to look extra nice for that "sweet baby girl." Him being laid to rest in his overalls was only too fitting. Pee-Paw wasn't a formal man, and I think he would've been very uncomfortable in Heaven in a suit. Besides, it would've been ruined the first time he and Granny went fishing on the other side of the Pearly Gates.

All I hope for is that everyone else in your life stays around for a good, long while. I promise you that I'll always drive extra carefully to the point that you'll think I'm obnoxious. I want to make sure I'm still here for your teenage years when you roll your eyes at me and wonder how I managed to live this long being so ridiculously stupid and uncool. Until that day comes, I promise to cherish every single day I have with you, my little girl, my Ookie Bear.


From the Beginning

Sweet Caroline,
I met your father in 2008, when I was 21 and he was 24. We had no idea what was in store for us down the road - joint bank account, arguments over the temperature in the car, or you. Mostly and most wondrously you.
Your dad took me on our first date on March 11, 2008. He took me to a Moroccan restaurant in downtown Savannah. I was immediately impressed by this man who was so bold to take me to a place where you sit on the floor, eat with your hands, and are surrounded by half naked belly dancers. It was no dinner at Olive Garden, to be sure. As yet another handful of rice missed my mouth and fell onto my carefully composed outfit, I thought, "I could get used to a relationship like this."
He continued to pull out all the stops to impress me. Fancy dinners, live music shows, and even a silent film festival. Within the first week, it was hard to remember a time when we weren't always together. I fell asleep at his house the night of our third date, and I don't think we've slept apart since.
Always impulsive, he proposed to me on June 21, a mere three months into our relationship. He got down on one knee on the steps of the Cathedral where he'd picked me up for our first date, and where we'd marry 10 months later. I wholeheartedly, without hesitation, said yes. Had a friend told me they were going to marry the man they'd been dating a whole three months, I would've called them crazy. But as you can see, sometimes crazy works out for the best.
Planning our wedding was one of the most stressful times in our young relationship. No matter what, divorce, death, or the strange notion of "renewing your vows", I will never get married again. You can hold me to that. Our ceremony was gorgeous. We got married on April 18, 2009 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia. After a nerve-wracking week of rain, we woke up to a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky. I was so nervous with the pre-wedding preparations that my maid of honor drove my car to each of our appointments. I married your father in a beautiful white gown, with a 6 foot train and intricate pearl and lacework. I never felt more beautiful as I did that day. I think I was crying before the doors to the church even opened. I wept the whole way down the aisle, never taking my eyes off the wonderful man who'd asked me to spend the rest of our lives together. I gripped his hand through the whole ceremony, and he would look to me as the priest was speaking and mouth a simple "I love you". I knew that Saturday was the beginning of a very long, happy life together. When we reached the end of the aisle, my dad, your "Papa" let go of my hand, shook Alex's, and handed me over. His only daughter. He let me go to join your father and become a family of our own. We have built this family together rooted firmly in love, honesty, and laughter.
Our priest reminded us to always remember that day, and how we felt. He said that our wedding was a beautiful representation of pure, honest love. We loved each other so much that we stood before God, family, and friends and promised to love each other forever. God, our family, and friends loved us so much that they watched and smiled, sharing in our joy. It was the best day of my life... until the day you were born.

I love you,