Saturday, May 31, 2008

Five years ago tonight ...

I was in the hospital giving birth to my baby. It had been a very long day. My parents had come to see us the night before, and I awoke the next morning with a burning desire to birth a baby before the day ended.

Although I was three days past my due date, there was no real reason to think that the blessed arrival would be anytime soon. At my OB visit a few days earlier, I was not dilated or effaced at all, and the baby was still high in my belly.

But as they say, where there's a will there's a way.

At 7 a.m. on that beautiful Saturday morning, I announced to my father that his job was to watch the girls that day. My mother's job was to walk with me around our 1-mile subdivision until we could get some contractions going.

"Put your shoes on, Momma. I have only one goal today and that's to have a baby!

I don't think anybody really believed me. At first.

We must have walked three or four miles before I had to stop for a break. Discouraged that I hadn't felt so much as a twinge, I decided to have a light lunch before resuming the walking.

At some point, I decided that since walking wasn't doing diddly squat, I would bounce very lightly on the trampoline with the girls. My parents weren't too keen on this activity, and neither was my oldest who was about 3-1/2 at the time. "I don't think this is such a good idea, ShelPotter," she said worriedly. "What if the baby decides to just fall out on the jumperline?"

"Oh, if I could only be that lucky," I laughed, and jumped a little higher.

The parents tried to stop me and threatened repeatedly to call my husband (who was working that afternoon and would never have tolerated such reckless behavior from his 40+-week pregnant wife). I just laughed and bounced a little higher and harder.

The bouncing wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as I had imagined it would be, and with my hands supporting my ginormous belly, I finally threw all caution to the wind and jumped as high and as hard as I possibly could. The doctor had refused to induce me, and I had the possibility of a C-section looming ahead if I didn't go into labor spontaneously, so what did I have to lose?

After all that activity, fatigue overtook me in the middle of the afternoon, and I napped for about an hour before I was awakened abruptly by ... a twinge? Yes! It was the first very faint hint that my sweet baby was about to exit the womb.

"Put your shoes on, Momma. We've got more walking to do!"

And so the march around Jericho began again. Amused neighbors smiled every time we passed, and some even asked, "Any luck yet?" I wasn't ready to tell anyone that I was feeling occasional twinges. Not until I was certain they signaled something big.

Finally, around 7:30 that evening, my husband was called home to drive me to the hospital. Five and one-half hours later at 1:06 a.m. on June 1, our third child (and only son) was placed in our arms. That night was sacred for several reasons and will forever remain etched on my heart and mind. Even now, five years later, I can hardly reflect on it without tears of joy.

Happy fifth birthday, my sweet boy. You were the baby we almost didn't have, yet I can't imagine our family without you. You bring a whole new dynamic to the clan with your wild enthusiasm and your extravagant love.

We're just head over heels in love with you!

Friday, May 30, 2008

My disorganized ways

They are finally catching up with me.

I recounted the story over dinner tonight to my BFF Laura that this time last Friday I was on cloud nine. For the first time ever, I ended a semester without piles of essays to grade. No final exams to mark. The only school work hanging over me was entering a few scores in Engrade and turning in grades to the office. Folks, that is MAJOR for me. The night before grades are due, I'm usually pulling an all-nighter. I know a number of teachers who don't think a thing about being late with their grades, but I'm not one of them. Mine are going to be on time, by golly, even it it requires me to hook myself up to a Jolt IV and down a steady stream of Mountain Dews.

But that wasn't the case this time. I stayed on top of the paperwork these last nine weeks and was feeling quite encouraged by the end result.

Perhaps there is hope for me, I foolishly thought.

(Anyone who knows me well is enjoying a good belly laugh right now. I have always been extremely disorganized, and short of a divine miracle of the Almighty will probably always be that way. I hate that about myself, I really do.)

Fast forward two days to Sunday.

I was grocery shopping late in the afternoon, and as I so often do, went in the store carrying only my checkbook holder, keys, grocery list, and pen. I don't know why I hate carrying a purse, I just always have. I see lots of cute purses around these days, but I really hate the chore of switching purses to match outfits, so it's just proven much easier since I gave up diaper bags a couple of years ago to just carry the bare essentials.

Somewhere in the middle of my Target stop, I looked down and saw my little checkbook holder perched precariously near a large opening in the front of the cart, and a little voice in my head said, "You know, it's really not a good idea to carry all these little loose items around like this."

I agreed with the voice. After all, just how many times in my lifetime have I lost something important? Hundreds? Thousands? The Lord only knows ...

And so I made a mental note to find a good all-purpose purse that would match most, if not all, my summer outfits.

Unfortunately, my good intentions came a little too late. By the time I arrived home no more than 30 minutes later, I had lain eyes on my beautiful navy leather checkbook holder for the last time. As well as my driver's license, concealed firearm permit, debit card, and heaven only knows what else (no credit cards, thankfully).

I've given everyone I know permission if they see me in public without a handbag to please slap me. Hard. I don't ever want to have to visit the Revenue Office unnecessarily again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pray for the family of Stephen Curtis Chapman

I awoke to the awful news this morning that the five-year-old daughter of contempary Christian artist Stephen Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth was struck by a vehicle in the family's driveway yesterday and died later from her injuries.

Please pray for this wonderful family.

You can read the article here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

So giddy I can hardly see straight

I woke up briefly at 1 a.m. this morning, and as I glanced over at the clock a thought went through my mind that excited me so much I almost didn't go back to sleep.

School is out THIS WEEK!

For me, at least. My oldest and youngest finished this past week which will ease up the schedule a bit. Middle child (in a different school) will finish June 4.

But right now it's this Friday ~ the day I empty out my classroom ~ that excites me the most.

As I have said before, I have loved every moment of this year. The experience of teaching in a small private Christian school has been RADICALLY different from teaching in a 7A public high school. I have enjoyed each one of my 27 students ... but I'm ready for summer.

More than anything, I'm ready to prepare for next year. I will be moving up with my sophomores and teaching American lit this coming year. Call me a nerd, but my brain is so abuzz with ideas that I can hardly see straight. We'll be reading "The Scarlet Letter," and I already have a preliminary pattern sketched out for my Hester Prynne dress with a big fancy A that I will wear to introduce the unit. Early American literature is one of my passions because of the glimpse that it gives us into the origins of our great nation.

Bye bye Silas Marner and Julius Caesar. Perhaps I will see you again in a few years, but Hester Prynne and Tom Sawyer are calling me now ...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why I love being a mother

Of all the hats I've ever worn (and, yes, there have been quite a number of them), being Mom to three is hands down my favorite. Here are just a few things I'm enjoying these days:
  • Built in buddies to accompany me on the most mundane of errands. As my older daughter told me yesterday as we headed off to a long graduation ceremony, "It doesn't matter what we're doing. Just being together makes it special."

  • The "shows" they put together for their daddy and me.

  • Watching them sleep at night. They look so angelic as they slumber, it's hard to remember all the mischief they get into during the daytime hours.

  • The constant reminders that little people are watching me. I watch what I say and what I do so carefully these days, knowing that even when I don't think I'm being scrutinized, I probably am.

  • The built-in humility they offer on a daily basis. When I slip up and act in a way that is inconsistent with the values we are trying to pass on to the kids, they are very quick to spot it and point it out. Sometimes publicly. Ouch.

  • Late-night talks while cuddling in bed as they fall asleep.
This has been a wonderful Mother's Day. My family let me sleep until the ridiculously late hour of 9 a.m. at which time I awoke to the smell of pancakes and syrup. Hubs and the cubs would have served me in bed, but the prospect of blueberry syrup on my bedding was a gift I could do without, and so we all dined at the table together. At my place were cards and a gift (a new bottle of Ralph Lauren "Miracle" which is my new favorite). Later, it was lunch at the Olive Garden and a peaceful, lazy afternoon spent at home, followed by a special dinner prepared by my little girls.

And the gift I wanted most? For the kids to get along well with each other today and play happily. They delivered, I'm proud to say.

As joyful as my heart is on this, my ninth Mother's Day, it is mixed with a measure of sadness for a number of friends and acquaintances:
  • For the ladies in their 30's and 40's who would love to be moms but are still waiting and praying for God to bless them with a mate.

  • For the couples who long for the blessing of a child in their home but struggle with infertility or repeated miscarriages.

  • For our friends in Texas who recently lost their first pregnancy after only a few short weeks.

  • For the moms who are grieving the loss of a child.

  • For several friends who are spending their first Mother's Day grieving the recent loss of their moms.
Mother's Day is such a special day but one that has the potential to bring a great deal of pain. So while I celebrate my blessings today, I also pray for those who felt like they had little cause to rejoice. My heart goes out to you all.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


During the summer of 2006, I received an email about the Friendship Family Program at the University of Arkansas. Within the email were statistics about the percentage of international students who come to the U.S. for their programs of study, live here for an average of 2-3 years, and return to their homelands without ever having set foot in an American home.

Birds of a feather definitely flock together, and in a university setting, it is only natural that students would seek out companions who share their language and customs.

The Friendship Family Program seeks to broaden these students' experience in America by allowing them to experience life as Americans experience it ~ in the setting of a family that they get together with on a casual basis once or twice a month.

Intrigued, I signed up, requesting a female student from India. One of my best friends from my undergraduate days in Louisiana was a guy from Madras, and I fell in love with the people, the culture, and the food of India. This would be a great experience for the kids, I thought.

Within days, I received an email with the name of our student, Shruti, and given her contact information.

Unfortunately, within a few days my mother became ill, entered a hospital in Little Rock, and passed away. Contacting Shruti was the farthest thing from my mind.

When I returned to Fayetteville after the funeral and life settled down a little, I sent her an email and explained my situation. At that point in my life, I wasn't feeling particularly hospitable or friendly and seriously considered contacting the international students office to let them know I wouldn't be participating in the program at that time. Perhaps they could find a more suitable family for Shruti. A family that wasn't reeling from the sudden loss of a mother and grandmother.

Something told me I shouldn't do that, and am I ever glad I made the choice to email her a few days later.

We were all smitten with this delightful girl (I can call her that since I'm old enough to be her mother!) from the start. She has captured our hearts, and we've enjoyed some special times over the past year and a half. Shruti has awakened in my kids an awareness of other peoples and cultures and a desire to see and experience the world outside of Northwest Arkansas.

She was awarded her MBA today from the Sam M. Walton College of Business and will be leaving us in just 11 short days for a new life in Boston.

Shruti, we're so very proud of you and your hard work. We hate to see you go, but we know God has a great job waiting for you up in Boston. Stay in touch!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Who knew it would be this hard?

I'm about to make a shocking confession.

It's been three years since my eight year old took swim lessons. My six year old and four year old have never taken them.

Now it's not that I don't value swimming skills. Far from it. It just seems like every year something happens to foil my ability to get my kids on a list ~ anybody's list ~ for lessons.

I've tried. I really have.

One year it was a new baby. Another year it was a move. Last year, I simply let the time get away from me. Never thought about anything related to water activities until the pools opened Memorial Day weekend and by then it was too late. I was laughed at when I called several area pools the day following Memorial Day to inquire about swim lessons.

"Our list filled up in March," one snooty lady told me.

Excuse me, I wanted to say. I was not thinking about swimming when it was still snowing every other week.

Note to Self: START thinking about swimming EVERY single time you see a snowflake fall from the sky.

My original plan was to enroll the little people at The Swim Ranch here in town. It's run by a former Olympian and University of Arkansas swim coach, and everybody I've talked to swears they could teach a boulder the backstroke.

At their prices, I would certainly hope so. It's $90 a kid for one week of lessons. Let's see ... for three children, that's $270 buckaroos for, did I mention, ONE WEEK of lessons.

For that amount of money, I'd expect all three to have a guaranteed spot on the swim team.

Needless to say, it didn't break my heart when my buddy Laura called a couple of months back around 7:30 a.m. on a dreary March morning to say that she was in line for Swim Ranch signups and ... take note of this ... she was number 168 in line. The Swim Ranch people apparently pride themselves on taking as much time with each family as they possibly can (to discuss what, I can only imagine ... politics? religion? the high price of swim lessons??) and so it was about 6:30 p.m. (yes, that's 11 hours later) before her registration was complete and she had shelled over hundreds of dollars to the Swim Ranch for her kiddos.

It would have been hard enough to part with that much money, but parting with that many hours was out of the question. Not for swim lessons, for the love of Pete.

So I began investigating other options and found a pool in a neighboring town that offers 8 days of Red Cross lessons for $40. Significantly better. The only problem was that sign ups began at 7:30 a.m. this morning. I had kids to get to school in our town, so I begged my mother-in-law (who lives just a few miles from the pool) to go hold a spot in line for me until I could make it to the registration place.

My phone rang at 7:15 this morning. She was at the registration building and was told that all our forms needed to be completed before we could even get a number and stand in line. Okay. I began rattling off dates of birth (these are her grandchildren ... shouldn't she know this stuff already??) and emergency contact information while simultaneously driving my 8-year-old daughter to school. She was safely deposited into the care of the sweet cafeteria ladies at 7:20, and off to the pool we headed.

All the while spitting out dates and phone numbers to my MIL who was frantically writing it all down on the other end. I was also registering a friend of my older daughter's, and when it came time to sign the forms, MIL asked, "What name should I sign?"

"Her mother's name I replied," and began to spell it for her.

Long pause on the other end.

"But that's (pause here for dramatic effect) FORGERY (gasp!)"

"So?" I replied. "This is not a tax return." (At this point, my own mother would have told me to stop being a sassy pants, but this is my mother in law, and she would never say such a thing to me. Ever.)

Another long pause.

"Well," she began in her authoratative way, "if you sign another child's consent forms, then if something happens to her, you are liable."

I was tempted to ask her what law school she graduated from, but I decided I'd probably already crossed one too many lines considering how good she'd been to haul herself out of the house that early in the morning on account of my children's swim lessons.

"Umm, but we're not signing MY name ... we're signing her MOTHER'S name ... and if they have a problem with my forging her mother's signature, they are free to call her mother when I get there to verify that I am not breaking any laws."

"Well, okay, if you're sure."

"What I'm really sure of is that I'd better not show up at school later today with my own children registered for lessons and X (the friend) not. That would be bad."

Within another 10 minutes I'd arrived at the youth center, and MIL met me out front with completed paperwork in hand. She handed me our assigned number (#14), directed me to the proper room and took my younger two off for a morning of fun. Left alone in this room full of moms and a few dads, I began glancing over the papers. I was mystified over a "field trip consent form" that had been stapled to the back of each registration form.

And then I noticed the heading on the top of the front page: "2008 Day Camp Registation".

Oh no, surely not.

I caught the eye of a nearby mom, and tried very casually to ask why the registation forms said Day Camp on them.

She couldn't hear me, so I had to ask again, louder this time, catching the attention of half of the people in the room.

"Why does the registration form say 'Day Camp' on it?"

She and every other person within earshot looked at me like I had broccoli growing out my ears.

"Because THIS IS day camp registration," someone finally answered.

"Oh," I said. I should have stopped there, but I had to confirm before I gave up my place in line. "So where are swim lesson signups?"

"Down the hall in the room marked 'Swim Lesson Sign-Ups."

I was growing redder by the moment.

Ninety minutes (and better directions) later, all four kids were registered. I was $120 poorer, and not too happy about all the wasted time, but it was over. And it didn't take 11 hours.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Just in case I haven't mentioned it ...

After today, I have ONLY THREE MORE WEEKS OF SCHOOL!!!!!!!

I have loved every moment of this year. Teaching in a private school has been an experience that I could not have imagined 12 years ago when I taught in a public high school. I am simply wild about my students. I will miss them like crazy this summer.

But still.

I NEED summer to come quickly. The lack of organization around my house is killin' me.