Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sparta, NC

We are currently in Sparta NC visiting MG's parents. I'm sure I'll have some stories to share once we return home tomorrow - meanwhile enjoy some of the moments I captured today:

The view from MG's parent's front porch

Picklebug and his cousin Miss Cassie

Taking a break from all the site seeing

Sweet Picklebug!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mobile Upload Overload

I recently figured out how to transfer the pictures from my Blackberry to my computer without having to email them one at a time. Did I mention I've had this phone for over a year now?

I must be getting old.

Anyway - moving all my old pictures from my phone to my computer inspired me to share some funny, interesting and touching moments with you. Rather than hoard these memories in my pocket, here they are for your amusement:

My pregnant belly at 22 weeks. I LOVED being pregnant. I didn't have all the awful side affects you often hear pregnant people complain about. No morning sickness, no swollen ankles, no hemorrhoids. It was wonderful having a perfect, plump belly (which actually made my butt and thighs look smaller) to puff out wherever I went. No more sucking in - I had a great excuse to just let it hang out there. Not to mention the perks of elastic waist bands.

This is Mr. Goo helping me put together Picklebugs crib. IKEA is awesome in that their instructions don't have words - only pictures. Definitely an advantage for a kitteh who can't read.

The Pineapple fountain! I took this picture while on vacation in Charleston with MG, my brother and my mom back in 2008. Mom's cancer had reappeared but it wasn't so bad that she couldn't vacation. So MG and I took used all of our savings to treat my mom to an all expenses paid three day trip to Charleston. And we brought my brother along for comic relief. We had a blast exploring old plantations, taking buggy rides through the city and eating lots of fried seafood.

This is a picture my brother snapped of me, mom and Picklebug (tucked safely in my belly at 5 months). This is the last time I was with my mom while she could still talk. The night this picture was taken she basically went into a coma. She passed away 6 days later.

Okay, remember that cute American Express Commercial that showed picture after picture of random objects that look like they are frowning/smiling? It's one of my favorites since I'm always personifying things. Well, last time we went to Olive Garden, I made this happy guy.

Last Springweekend at the University where I work I spotted this couple. Being 4'11" myself I'm always fascinated by really short people that date really tall people.

This sign, boasting some deep "fired" candy bars was posted outside one of those funnel cake booths at The Great Cleveland County Fair. I'm so proud to call this place my home, y'all. Leave it to Cleveland county to deep fry and candy bar and misspell "fried".
*(If you don't like deep fired candy bars, there is always deep fried Twinkies)*

Last fall we had a terrible problem with spiders outside our condo. And I don't mean little tiny spiders. I mean BIG, HAIRY, WHOOP-ASS spiders. Ugh. So big you could hear them scream when you sucked them up in the vacuum cleaner.

Anyway, one day we came home to find this guy outside our door. I did some research and found out that Praying Mantis actually EAT spiders. So I named this guy Atlantis (the mantis) and he became my hero.

We didn't see many spiders around after this.

Here is a GIGANTIC weed growing inside the fence around my patio. I actually took this picture so I could send it in to the head of the association that owns the property to underline my complaint that the weeds are taking over my flowerbed. The next day this weed had been pulled up - but this was the ONLY weed missing. The rest were still there, laughing at me.

And finally, the key to any good marriage is finding ways to humiliate your pets together. It takes teamwork to pull off a feat like this:

We are taking a family trip to Sparta NC to go visit MG's parents - so I'm sure there will be lots of kerfuffle to report on Monday. Until I return, check out this fun website and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Kitchen Canisters

I was rearranging the stuff on my kitchen counters this evening and in the process of finding a new location for my beautiful pottery-like kitchen canisters I got to thinking about my mother.

My mom was a giver. If I commented on how much I liked her new pen I would find it in my purse when I got home. If I mentioned how I needed a new umbrella, she would have one waiting for me upon my next visit. That cute sweater we spotted at Belk's? She'd buy it and stick it in the mail to surprise me. And it wasn't just me. My mom was always buying little things for her friends at work. Or for her sister. Or for my friends at college - even if she had never met them! One time I mentioned how one of my friends collected things with bumble bees on them. The next thing I know she's got a whole shopping bag of bumble bee stuff for me to take to her! There are many, many wonderful things about my mom - but I think the fact that she was always thinking of someone other than herself was one of the best.

Near the end of her life my mom was very poor. She stopped working completely when her cancer came back and every penny she had saved went to paying her medical bills. But this didn't stop her from finding ways to continue giving her little tokens of love. I remember one Christmas opening a large box to find her set of canisters tucked neatly inside. She must have remembered me telling her how much I liked them months earlier. Having something for me to open at Christmas was so important she gave me the canisters right off her kitchen counter.

When I found out I was pregnant my mom was overjoyed. I joked early on that, knowing my mom, my neat and tidy house would surely be filled to the ceiling with baby clutter by the time the baby was a year old. Even before she new the sex of the baby she started collecting baby stuff for me. Most of it was second-hand or came from Fred's (the local dollar store) but she was so excited about showering the baby with gifts that she couldn't wait. So I have a pink AND a blue pacifier, a pink AND a blue teddy bear, a pink AND a blue bib... you get the picture.

Sadly mom passed away only a month after finding out we were having a boy. And the thing that bothers me, even now, is that my mom was denied to grandmotherly duty she had so looked forward to: showering my little boy with tokens of her love.

So now I find myself picking up where my mom left off. I try to carry on my mom's spirit of giving by treating my friends to lunch or picking up little treats here and there to bring smiles to their faces.

They probably think I'm just being nice - but really it's a way for me to stay connected to my mom, to celebrate her memory and to make sure her spirit of giving lives on.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good point...

Me: why don't you put the decorative throw pillows back on the bed after you are finished making it? Ugh! can't you do anything right?

MG: if you want something done, ask me to do it. If you want something done right, do it yourself.

Me: touché ...

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Hello Friends! I missed you!

I've been out of touch over the past few days as I took a two day trip with a colleague to Washington D.C. to attend a Strengths Quest seminar. It was an awesome experience and if you've never heard of Strengths Quest I urge you to look it up. The quick and dirty explanation is that it's an assessment that identifies your top five "strengths" from 34 different talent "themes". Mine happen to be:

Empathy - the ability to understand the feelings of others
Communication - the ability to put thoughts into words
Strategic - the ability to see many different options in any given situation
Connectedness - the ability to see how everything connects
Discipline - ability to organize and be productive

So we spent two days learning about all 34 themes, how they play out in day to day life and how to build upon them to improve oneself both personally and professionally. I'm excited to put this information to work for me and to share it with my students and my colleagues. The best part about the whole thing is that Strengths focuses on what you are already good at and encourages you to build upon your talents rather than focusing on your weaknesses. At it's core, Strengths believes that "fixing" your areas of weakness may prevent failure but building on your strengths can lead to excellence.

As a person who continually focuses on the negative (my glass is always half empty, remember?) I love the idea of turning my attention and energy toward things I'm already good at.


Well how about I tell you a little about where we had dinner? We ate at Rosa Mexicano WHERE THEY MAKE FRESH GUACAMOLE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! No kidding. And it was awesome. Here's a little snapshot of me getting excited about the guac making going on behind me...

Now you might be wondering what I did with Picklebug while I was on this adventure. Well, sweet, wonderful, caring MG agreed that he could handle watching PB while I was gone. And since Picklebug spends most of his day at daycare - I thought it wouldn't be so bad for either of them. MG would only have to worry about three feedings and bath time. Not too bad, right?

But on Monday Picklebug developed a chest cold and spent both days I was gone at home. With MG. (Who did an EXCELLENT job! He took PB to the doc, administered medication, fed him on time and kept him entertained for almost 48 hours. My husband ROCKS!) Needless to say both were excited and relieved to see me walk in the door yesterday!

Now that you are caught up, go grab some guac (since I know you are craving it now!) and have a great Thursday.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Dinner Adventure

I don't know about you, but I wait around all week for Friday to show up. Friday is the BEST - with its invitation to begin a weekend of slacking, napping, shopping and junk food. And what better way to kick-off the fun-fest than a family dinner-outing?

Today, after work, MG and I pack up Picklebug and head to a small diner on the edge of town for a quick burger. Nothing fancy. Just some good 'ol greasy food. (Bonus: MG says if I'm good and don't criticize his driving on the way over or make a big deal out of the waitress forgetting my side of ranch dressing he'll take me to DQ for a peanut butter cup blizzard!)

As we pull into the parking lot we notice that Picklebug has fallen asleep in his car seat. SCORE! Sleeping Picklebug = stress free dinner! We head in, grab a cozy booth and begin sharing a little with one another about our day. The waitress strolls over to hand us some menus and I glance over at PB - still asleep! - so I take a peek at the appetizer menu.

But then one eye opens...

Okay, I think, I'll skip the appetizer (just in case) and order a burger - quick and safe!

At this point both eyes are open and Picklebug is grunting for attention. MG gets him out of the carrier to keep him entertained and for the most part he seems happy. He's looking around, smiling, drooling and trying to eat a napkin. Nearby old ladies are definitely impressed with his cuteness. But after about 7 minutes of happy cooing, something clicks in his little baby brain. He senses that it is Friday. He knows we are in public. He can tell that our food is on its way.

Suddenly his face reddens, his lip curls, he takes a deep breath in and... game over.

Just as the waitress slides the plates onto the table, he lets out a pitiful wail. The sound fills the restaurant and draws the attention of our fellow patrons. There is no consoling him. We are defeated. Between sobs MG politely asks for two boxes and the check and I begin packing Picklebug into his car seat. I can feel the empathetic stares as I hang my head and walk toward the exit.

For the car ride back I crank up the music so I don't have to hear the tantrum taking place in the back seat. MG reaches over and pats my knee as he mutters something about how it won't be like this forever and that eventually Picklebug will be old enough for us to drug him with benedryl before we go out.

Yeah yeah.

Five minutes later we are home. And as we pull into our parking space in front of our house I notice that the little monster is once again asleep in his car seat.

So we do what any smart parents would do. We let the baby sleep and we eat our burgers out of styrofoam takeout boxes. Right there. In our car. In our own darn parking lot.

Ah, parenthood. Who knew it would be so much fun?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My glass

I'm definitely a "glass half empty" kind of person. And sometimes I'm a "watch out or the glass will shatter into a million pieces and poke out your eye" kind of person.

The bright side? I don't look there - might get a sunburn.

And for the most part this personality trait didn't really affect me. Until I became a mother.

I went to see a counselor shortly after Picklebug was born for postpartum depression. I told him that having a baby was terrifying. Everything about being a mom scared me to the point that I was immobile. There was so much pressure! Feed the baby or he will starve. Swaddle the baby or he'll freeze. Change the baby or he'll get diaper rash and infections. Talk to the baby or his brain won't develop and he will be an antisocial freak! Crazy? Yes! That's why I was talking to a counselor - a very smart counselor who told me I was "awfulizing" the situation.
Awfulizing: Worrying obsessively about the worst possible outcome to the point your are paralyzed.

The inability to see the glass as half full or seeing the glass as a potential threat to one's eyes.

Apparently they make medication for this kind of thing. And while it helps take the edge off - numb the worry, so to speak - I've found an even better treatment in a most unlikely place.

Over the past sixteen weeks I've experienced a physical, mental and emotional ass whoopin'. I experienced sleep deprivation to the point that I couldn't talk in sentences. My depression was so bad that I lost 25 pounds over seven days. I developed cracks in my nipples the size of the grand canyon (so bad in fact I called the 24 hour nurse hotline to ask if it was possible for nipples to become detached). For several days (or was it weeks?) I felt no emotion towards my child other than regret (And I admit this not because I want your sympathy, but because I want you to understand just how awful it was).

More than once I considered getting in my car and driving away.

But by the grace of God (and the discipline of my stepmother) I held on. I held on even though I didn't believe that things would get better. I held on even though I was scared. I was sick with worry. And slowly, very slowly things started to change.

At first it was little victories. Three hours of sleep in a row! Great Holy Day! You'd think I'd won a years supply of chocolate! A trip to Chik-fil-A where baby slept the whole time was equivalent to five course meal at the Biltmore Inn. (Love how all my examples contain food?).

I endured. And my reward? A love so perfect and pure that my very faith in God was reaffirmed all over again.

I've done lots of things in my life that took a lot of faith, commitment and endurance. I've hiked to the top of mountains with my dad. I've earned honors and awards for my academic achievements. I've completed both a bachelors and masters degree. I've searched for, found and married the kindest and most genuine man on this planet. I completed a triathlon. I've even had a colonoscopy for crying out loud!

But nothing, absolutely NOTHING can compare to the faith, commitment and endurance it has taken me to survive these first few months of motherhood.

Being a mommy has helped me (like no medication EVER could) to appreciate small victories. To let go of situations I can't control in the first place (what? doesn't everyone enjoy Lobsterfest with a side of screaming baby?). It has helped me look past the empty glass and come up with creative solutions to keep everyone happy.

Besides, Picklebug doesn't need a glass, he has my boobs.

I still see the glass as half empty from time to time - but now I know that with a little faith, commitment and endurance, eventually my cup will overflow and I will receive the richest rewards.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day X3

Today is special for three reasons:

First, it's the one year anniversary of when I found out I was pregnant with Picklebug. Early in the morning (around 5:30am) on Mother's day of last year I snuck into the bathroom to take "the test". Mike and I had been trying to start a family for several months with no luck - so I didn't get my hopes up too high. But as irony would have it - this one turned up positive! I walked back to the bed with a huge grin on my face and poked Mike in the shoulder. He saw the look on my face and knew instantly - we were going to be parents! Now keep in mind that it's only 5:40am at this point but we were so excited we just couldn't go back to sleep. Instead we showered, got dressed and drove five hours to NC so we could tell our parents the news in person (and celebrate Mother's day at the same time.)

Our first stop was at Golden Corral where we shared the news with my mom. I wanted her to be the very first person to know. She was so excited all she could do was hug me and smile! Then we went to my dad's house where my stepmom squealed with joy! (Actually, we shared the news by giving my stepmom a gift bag with a little bib in it. She knew immediately what it meant but my poor dad was a little confused. Why did Ronda need a bib?). Then we drove up into the mountains to share the news with Mike's parents. It was a crazy day with lots of driving but it was probably one of the happiest days of my life.

Second, this is my first official Mother's Day as a mom. I woke up to pancakes and sausage and lots of thoughtful gifts. My kitty's got me the DVD "Milo and Otis" - one of my favorites! Owen got me a lovely yellow Gerber Daisy and Mike got me a little charm for my bracelet. Then we celebrated by driving to Lynchburg to eat at my favorite Chinese restaurant. Mike and I reflected on just how cool it is to be parents during the car ride and marveled at how far we have come as a couple and how well we've adjusted to our new roles as parents.

Finally, this is also my first Mother's Day without my own mother. A few weeks back I went to the store to buy Mother's day cards for my stepmom Ronda and for Mike's mother. I got 2 cards for each of them, one from Owen and one from Mike and I. But I felt a little funny about not getting my own mom a card - so as silly as it is I bought one just for her too. I wrote her a special message and gave it to my brother to sign and place on her grave.

But this day wasn't as empty as I worried it might be. I'm so blessed to be surrounded by surrogate mothers. I have my sweet mommy friends Danielle and Kat who celebrate mommyhood with me on a daily basis. I have friends at work who help fill in the gaps with advice and support. And I have the worlds most awesome stepmom whom I love and cherish. If I got to chose another woman to be my mother other than my own mom, it would be Ronda.

So today was a day to celebrate, appreciate and remember just how special it is to be a mom, have a mom and be surrounded by great moms, something I will try to do every day of the year.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


[Let me preface this post by informing you that I work at a small public institution of higher education in the south. It's a great job as the people that I work with make it fun and exciting 4 out of 5 days a week. And now that you are informed, hopefully the rest of this post will make more sense. Now let's continue...]

Things around here are pretty quiet now that summer is just around the corner. Classes are passed (for the most part), apartments are cleaned out and old roommates are dumped for new suite mates. There is a sense of freedom in the air. Skirt length has become directly proportional to the rising temperatures and everyone seems to have relaxed just a smudge.

Graduation is only two days away. I'm especially excited because MG will be graduating with his Masters Degree in College and Community Counseling. Oh, did I mention that he will graduate Suma Cum Laude with a 4.0? (I had to brag a little).

Okay, back to graduation. The ceremonial goodbye. Having worked here for four lovely years I've seen a lot of students cross the stage. But this year feels different. Perhaps it’s because this year's graduating class began their education the same year I began this job. In a way it's a milestone - I've been here long enough to watch a group of students go through from beginning to end. From freshman to senior. From uninvolved to organization chair. From a job in D-hall to an internship at CVS. From formal emails to late-night texts. From "Dear Ms. Rentschler" to "Hey Jen! What's up?!" From scheduled meetings in my office to dinner-and-a-movie on Friday night (yeah, we're that close).

I've had students dropping by all week saying goodbye and bringing me gifts. Let me pause to point out just how much I love getting presents - and this week's loot has been pretty awesome... jewelry, Vera Bradley items, scented soap, poetic wall art, personalized picture frames and even a handmade fleece cat print scarf complete with multicolored plastic pony beads.

But as much as I love these thoughtful presents, the real gift these students have given me is their time and trust. I am honored to have been invited into their lives (and in some cases, into their drama) and allowed me to be a part of their college experience.

I am so proud of their accomplishments that I will be packin' some Kleenex at graduation. And while I love the little tokens they wrap up in tissue and place in ornate bags - nothing compares to the journey they've allowed me to share with them.

Well, except for my handmade fleece cat scarf. It's pretty sweet.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


My mother passed away on October 1st of last year. She was 48 years old and had been battling breast cancer since 2004. I was about 5 months pregnant with Picklebug when she suddenly got really sick. Within days she was gone. Just like that.

Needless to say dealing with this was really hard on me. I had so many questions. I was angry. I was depressed. But above all I was afraid. Afraid that I might not be able to remember her.

I've always been a journal-your-thoughts kind of person, but most of my journal entries were about boys. I never wrote much about my mom or my relationship with her. So when she died I suddenly panicked and started to dig around in shoeboxes and closets looking for anything I could find to help me hold on to her. Pictures, birthday cards, presents. I even went through my voicemail and made sure to save any messages she had left.

But all this searching made me realize that I don't have that many physical reminders of my mother. Only a few cards and notes and one book in which she wrote down some stuff in the back. This made me really sad and frustrated. How was I ever going to remember all the wonderful moments? All of our adventures? Even all of our arguments and awkward coming-of-age talks?

Then, a few weeks ago, I climbed in the shower and noticed that Mike had taken some of my hair and made a little heart on the shower wall. (Now that my body has purged all those wonderful pregnancy hormones I am losing more hair than a cat in summertime). Gross? Maybe a little. But seeing that hair on the wall made me suddenly remember being a teenager living at home and how I used to take the hair that got trapped between my fingers when I was shampooing and stick it to the shower wall. This drove my mother CRAZY. She used to call out from the shower "Jennifer Lynn - you better stop leaving all this damn hair in the shower!"

Okay - so not a super happy memory. But it made me smile to think of it. And with that memory came a whole flood of emotion. How my mom could get so mad about little things like hair in the shower, or empty ice cube trays in the freezer, or dirty laundry on the floor next to the hamper. These memories make it feel like she isn't so far away. They take me back to a time when my whole family lived under one roof. When a trip to Wal-Mart was equivalent to saying "I love you".

In This I Believe II, Christine Cleary describes this same idea in her essay entitled "The Deeper Well of Memory". She writes:
"I believe there is a difference between memory and remembering. Remembering has to do with turning the oven off before leaving the house, but memory is nurtured by emotion. It springs from a deeper well... safe from the passage of time."
Seeing the hair in my shower makes me think Cleary's got it right. Memories aren't something you can always keep in an album or a shoebox under your bed. Memories " ...have a will of their own. You can't control them any more than you can control the weather. When it springs up, a person loved and lost is found, if only for a few seconds."

And I know that there are many other precious memories of my mother out there just waiting for me in the most ordinary places.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Picklebug's trip to the Hospital

Last night I brought Picklebug to the ER. He had vomited a few times throughout the day on Saturday and I was starting to worry about dehydration. Now remember that Picklebug is only 16 weeks old - he can't even sit up yet. So it's been especially hard over the past 24 hours to watch my cooing, smiling baby become lethargic and listless.

Turns out poor PB was so dehydrated that after numerous sticks (about 7 over a 2 hour period) the pediatric nurses still couldn't find a vein to draw blood. At this point I was SCREAMING on the inside for it all to be over. My poor baby was writhing on the examination table, crying out and staring at me like "why are you letting them do this, mom?" He was so sick he didn't even have any tears.

If all of this wasn't bad enough - it was nearly midnight when it all went down. And of course things always seem so much worse at midnight. I found myself losing hope and wondering if we would ever come out of this alive. If you are like me you just assume that nurses and doctors know what they are doing. You put your faith in the fact that they've studied how to do this stuff, taken and passed some sort of exam and have lots of experience handling situations like this. But watching these nurses fumble with my tiny baby's arms, hands and feet trying to get an IV in his little body makes me wonder. They are just human beings like me. And if they are like me they probably procrastinated in their schoolwork, went to class tired and may not have taken the best notes. And while they work up here night after night, how often do they really see a dehydrated 4 month old?

Now don't get me wrong, this situation hasn't crushed all of my faith in the medical community. But what it has done has reminded me that the only ONE who can truly heal my baby is the Lord. And in the wee hours of the night it was to Him that I turned. And God has answered my prayers in the form of smiles from my baby this morning, wet diapers throughout the day and in the visitation and phone calls of my friends.