“Don’t Tell Anyone.”

Frankly these three little harmless words will strike terror into any true southern woman’s heart.  “Not Even Your Best Friends.”  Okay—now we are talking full tilt emotional meltdown.

In an effort to keep up my end of the bargain, I simply just stopped talking to anyone.  Much easier—nothing could possible slip out if I just don’t talk on the phone; don’t call my brother or sister-in-law; don’t go to Jr’s for food; don’t go outside where I will see the neighbors or the mailman; don’t text or go on Facebook or write a blog.  I can do this, I will prove to be a good secret keeper.

So this is how my days went—no outside communication with anyone that wasn’t business related.  Inside, I was turning cartwheels and running in circles with my hands waving above my head but outside I was business as usual, calm, cool and collected.  I was doing great!

Then the worst thing happened.  I accidentally planned a shopping trip with my Mother-in-law, Jackie and my new daughter-in-law, Kathleen!  Yikes, there was no way I was going to make it with those two through a clothes store where so many little things could be admired! In an effort to minimize my potential for failure I narrowed the trip down into shopping for housewares.  We went to Bed Bath and Beyond to look at sheets.  I thought kitchen goods would keep me safe but I was presented with numerous opportunities to blow my mission.  I was very careful to make sure that anything I was looking at was absolutely NOT related to the secret for fear my excitement may blurt the words from my mouth even if my brain was screaming for me to cease and desist.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity but was in all actuality slightly less than a week, the gag order was lifted!  So now with great excitement I tell everyone I see—-

Jessica and Chambliss are having a baby!!!  That’s right, sometime in mid-February we are getting something with that wonderful new human smell.  People are asking me how I feel about being a grandma.  My response is:  I am absolutely beyond any measure THRILLED to be a grandma!

Now I can hardly wait for the little “Peanut” to get here.  Boy or girl I know that between me and Vicky (Chambliss’ Mom and the second half of the Super Grandma Club oooh and I forgot David and Dick, the Super Grandpa Club who will surely get into the action) this poor little kid will be decked to the nines, hugged to the hilt and spoiled just short of being rotten.  I’M SO EXCITED (insert cartwheels and hand waving here).

Happily Ever After

Calm, eerily calm.  That is the only way to explain how I felt on our drive to Charleston for Matthew and Kathleen’s wedding.  Maybe it’s the fact that I had made the list, checked it twice, torn up the list, remade the list and checked it again.  Yep, all the ducks appear to be in a row.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the by-product of having three weddings in 15 months.   All of the Allen children have gotten engaged and married in the past two years.  David and I  have worried about monsoon rain and cold in Florida the day before Jess’ wedding only to wake up and find a glorious day awaiting the wedding festivities.  We have flown across the country during a Government shutdown with no venue for Christi’s wedding only for the Governor of Utah to fund the state park system at the last minute so that the wedding went off in the Arches National Park without a hitch.  David and I have run a gauntlet of emotions and frankly we have come out the other side happier and stronger (if not slightly poorer) people because of the experience.

David was the official officiate for Matt and Kathleen.  He was honored and terrified when the kids asked him if he would perform their service.  He spent months perfecting just the right amount of reverence and humor for the ceremony.  One of the unintended perks of living with Dave’s father who has Alzheimer’s is that on their daily walk, David was able to try out his various versions of his ceremony.  Dad was the perfect audience.  He never got bored and said he had heard that part before and he if he laughed David knew he was truly humorous.

Sitting at the end of the pier that jutted out into the Charleston Harbour watching as the man I love most in the world walked our son through the vows of his marriage, I realized, not for the first time mind you, that am truly the luckiest woman in the world.  After months of planning and picking; picking the perfect engagement ring; picking the perfect dress; picking the most beautiful bridesmaids dresses; picking a perfect venue; picking the most beautiful flowers; I knew that there was one perfect pick of the whole event and that was when Matt picked Kathleen to be his wife.

Now Dave and I have the honor to sit back and watch the “Happily Ever After!”

Mr. and Mrs. Allen

Mr. and Mrs. Allen

Matt and Kathleen

The Flower Monkey Strikes Again!

Over the past few months the back bedroom of my house, which was originally Matt’s bedroom, then an office, then a guest room has morphed itself once again into an all- out flower shop.

My mother-in-law, Jackie, has spent countless hours in that room over the last few months.  Jackie was a florist in her life before retirement so it was with great glee she accepted Matt and Kathleen’s request to do the flowers for their wedding.

Slowly but surely white plastic bags full of brightly colored flowers, glittery ribbon and shiny glass vessels began to fill the room.  My demure little blue and white room exploded into a kaleidoscope of red, blue, gold, and green!  Peeking in one day, I realized that the dreaded flower monkey had left the debris of its stomach all over my back bedroom.

As the days to the wedding have ticked down, Mom has been in full force florist mode.  She has spent countless hours wiring, arranging and fluffing the debris that the flower monkey left behind into graceful, elegant flower arrangements.

Along the way she has had several helpful assistants.  Matt and his grandma came up with a way for the centerpieces to stay on the bases—who would have thought of using industrial magnets!  Kathleen spent hours scouring the internet in search of just the right pictures to act as guides for the bouquets and arrangements.  Stephie, my niece, Jackie’s granddaughter, Matt’s favorite female cousin, and Kathleen’s maid of honor came down from Chicago and spent two weeks being her Grandma’s ever faithful worker bee on the flower farm.

Grandma and Stephie

Grandma and Stephie

Flower Central

Flower Central

Amazingly, with 5 days to go before we head out to Charleston for the wedding, Jackie has managed to transform all the flowers, ribbon, bows and sparkles into beautiful centerpieces, elegant bridal party and bridal bouquets,  as well as  various decorations for the wedding and reception.   Everything has been packed into tubs and is now sitting in my back hallway awaiting their transport to the big day.

This morning, looking into my demure little blue and white bedroom at the back of the house, no one would believe that just a few days before the flower monkey was alive and well living life large in that room.

29 Years

June 1st, 1985.

David and I had bought a beautiful, run down, in desperate need of TLC Queen Anne Victorian house two months before our wedding.  The only thing that had not been re-muddled in this house was its staircase.   The natural wood was so beautiful that David and I decided to use it as the backdrop for our pre-wedding photos.

The morning of the wedding our house was abuzz with all things wedding.  All the groomsmen were on the third floor getting ready; all the bridesmaids were on the second floor getting ready.  I was in our master bedroom getting ready—but where in the world were David and Matthew? David had decided since Matthew was going to be his littlest groomsman that he would be in charge of getting him ready for the wedding.

Ten minutes before the photographer was supposed to be at the house to start taking pictures I still had not seen David or Matthew in the “getting ready” areas of the house.  Finally, getting nervous about whether they would be ready on time I slipped out of our room, down the first few stairs of the staircase and peeked over the railing.  Low and behold, what do I see?  Yes, sir, right there in the middle of the living room floor, minutes before the photographer is set to come through the front door, I see my future husband and my child sitting less than two feet in front of the TV in their underwear watching the pet parade!

For those of you not aware, once a year the people that live in the LaGrange area of Illinois pick up their pets, put them in costumes, buggies, baskets, strollers, floats, and  other various ensembles and parade them down the main drag.  It is such a popular event that it is actually televised on WGN.  So there sat David and Matthew, fully enthralled by the various animals and their glitzy costumes completely unfazed by the fact that a wedding was attempting to happen all around them.

At the last second, David scooped Matthew up and ran up the stairs yelling “Don’t wait for us!”  It was like a miracle.  When the photographer rang the bell, Matthew was all decked out in his little tiny tuxedo.  David was showered, shaved and dressed in his wedding tux.  I would never have thought it possible.

Dave and Kae Wedding Day

The pictures went off without a hitch.  The wedding was perfect.  The reception was lovely.   The honeymoon was glorious.

And so it seems this is the base scenario that has run through my life the last 29 year.  Me pacing around as the clock on whatever event ticks closer to lift off with David running out of the room at the last minute yelling behind him, “Don’t wait for me!”  only to have everything turn out to be wonderful after all.  Crazy or not, I would not trade a single day of the last 29 years.   I am looking forward to bouncing through the rest of my life holding hands with the most amazing (and sometimes exasperating) man I’ve ever met.

Say Yes to the Dress!

When Christi got engaged, I flew out to Phoenix for a few days and hit what felt like every dress shop in the area.  Our days were filled with yards of white fluffy fabrics, shock from the stickers attached to them, lots of laughter and yes, just a few tears from Mom.

When Jess got engaged (the same summer as Christi) I asked her if she wanted to go to Atlanta to shop for a dress when I got home from Florida in a couple of months.  We could have a girls weekend and hit as many dress shops as possible and try on as many dresses as the sales ladies would allow.   Unfortunately for me, Jess is the take charge type and was chomping at the bit.  Truth be told she probably had her dress picked out since she took her classes to become a certified wedding coordinator in college.  On the 12 hour drive home from Florida she told me she made an appointment in Lebanon for the next morning, would I be able to come.  I got home in the wee hours of the morning, slid into bed for a few hours then was back in the car and on the road to Lebanon bright and early in the morning.  I knew my Jess.  She had done her research, found the dress she liked, found out where they sold it and procured an appointment to try it on.  I knew in my heart this was a one shot dress shopping deal and wild dogs couldn’t keep me from being there to see my Peepers the first time she put on her wedding gown.

Now Matt has finally popped the question to Kathleen and we have another dress shopping opportunity.   I debated for about 30 seconds about asking Kathleen if she wanted to go to Atlanta to look at wedding dresses.  She was thrilled.  We set a date and Kathleen started getting appointments in various shops.  As soon the word got out, our party started to grow.  First, Stephie, (my neice, Matt’s tied at the hip cousin and Kathleen’s  maid of honor) said she could fly in for the weekend, Kathleen’s sisters (Summer, Lindsey and Lauren)  joined us, then her two aunts (Linda and Kathy) and her cousin (Annie), then her two nieces (Madison and Jordan), then her best friend and her daughter (Marybeth and Brooke).  As we pulled out of the driveway we were a caravan of 14 women getting ready to take Atlanta by storm.

I wasn’t sure how herding this many cats would work out, but for those of you that know me, you know that cat herding has become one of my unwanted super skills.  We herded in and out of dress stores; followed my annoying GPS as it did figure eights around an Atlanta subdivision; stalked shoppers in the Peachtree Mall for parking spaces; tried on a bazillion bridesmaid dresses finally finding the absolute perfect one; traipsed through the Coca-Cola Museum where Madison dared me to taste every flavor of Coke sold in the world.  I did, she did—it was wonderful!  At the end of the day we all piled in to our hotel room, broke out an assortment of snacks that only 14 women can come up with and watched one of the funniest movies I have seen in years.

The absolute best part of the entire weekend was that we all got to see Kathleen cover herself in all things lace and glitter.  I feel so lucky to have been there as the young girl I have known for years found the perfect dress.  I saw her face light up and knew that this was the dress that made her feel like a princess.

It was unanimous—we all said yes to Kathleen’s perfect dress.

 

Spacing is Everything

30 years ago as David and I embarked on the journey of parenthood we felt it was imperative to space our children correctly.  We wanted to make sure they were spaced far enough apart that they could each be independent but close enough together that they would be good playmates when they were little and peers as they got older.

I didn’t want two kids in diapers at the same time.  I wasn’t about to spend all day moving from one dirty diaper to the next only to have to go back to the first all over again.  We didn’t want two kids in cribs at the same time.  This was just plain cheapness on my part.  I had a nice oak crib set and saw no need to go out a buy a second crib only to have to go out and buy a single bed set in a couple of years.  Way back in the day of this decision making we lined up the years to come.  We thought about what grades they would all be in at what time and how this would affect the “Parental Chauffer Service”.  We thought about the day each of the kids would want to drive a car.  If we spaced them correctly, we could buy one car and the three of them could drive it until the wheels fell off and never have to actually “share” the car.  We thought about what age they would start dating and how each could cross this line into semi-adulthood untethered by the next youngest sib.  Being the oddball planner that I am, I even thought about how the spacing would affect us when they were all grown up and ready to get married and start families of their own.  After hours of discussion and writing of timelines it was determined that about 2.5 to 3 years was the optimum child spacing in the Allen household.

So, how’d that work out for you…….

The potty train left the station just as scheduled and even though it had a few extra stops along the way I can say that I was never traumatized by having two children in diapers at the same time for any great length of time.  Each of the children was moved seamlessly to a big kid bed about a month before their new sib was to arrive.  No fuss no muss.

School went off without a hitch.  The kids breezed through elementary and into middle school.  The only snag in the plan was when Matt went to high school at MTCS and the girls were still in elementary/middle school at Cason Lane.  Matt still grumbles about being dropped off at the corner and having to cross what he lovingly refers to as “the frozen tundra” to get to the school.  Good thing he wasn’t from the older generation that had to walk 5 miles in the snow with no shoes on a 90 degree day to get to the one room schoolhouse.

But this is where the wheels came off as they say.  There was no way for me to know that Matt would grow up to be a gear head and that I would have a friend that would have a garage kept 1966 Ford Mustang up for sale just when Matt was ready to learn to drive.  Needless to say, Matt still has his Mustang in his garage and each of the girls got a different used beater when it was their turn to learn to drive.  One item on my detailed timeline that was overlooked was that Christi graduated and left for college they year that Jess turned 15.  After 6 years on not having to take the kids to school, pick them up, or drive them to gymnastics or a friend’s house David and I found ourselves dusting off our chauffer’s hats once again.

We have now entered into the marriage years.  What was a neatly laid out plan of having each child have their own independent block of time in which to get engaged, plan a wedding and say “I do” has gone horribly awry.  Jess, our youngest, actually ended up getting married first, which completely Fu barred the entire timeline.  Instead of having a nice leisurely pace to the nuptials of our children it has been more like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  Christi got engaged in the summer, Jess got engaged a month later.  Jess got married in April, Matt got engaged in the fall, Christi got married in October and finally Matt is getting married in June.  In our perfect little timeline we laid out 6 years for the kids to get married.  In the real world all three of the kids will have gotten married within 15 months of each other.

All I can say is now that my neatly laid out timeline has been destroyed…..let the grandchild flurry begin!!!

How Times Have Changed!

I have official survived another tax season!  For those of you unaware, I am an accountant by trade.  I have spent the last 25years running the annual gauntlet that is TAX SEASON.  Unfortunately for us accountants, it’s not like getting ready for a marathon where you can run a few more feet each day for months in advance until finally you reach your peak performance.  Nope, we accountants go from leisurely sipping a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve to full out pencil pushing mania for the next three and a half months straight.

Back when my kids were little, I used to run like nuts all day long taking them to school and/or preschool.  I’d run home and try to pack in some work, clean the house, go to the grocery store and then pick them up from school in the afternoon. The afternoon had me headed out to baseball, basketball, dance class, and gymnastics.  When we got home in the evenings it was homework, supper, baths and bedtime.  Once the kids were all snuggled down in their beds, that’s when the real work began.  I would work until the wee hours of the morning, sometimes only getting up from the desk because I could see the sun starting to come up and I knew I had to get some measure of sleep before the day began again.

Back in the beginning of my career, there were no computer software packages for taxes.  I would go to the library and get as many forms as the old woman behind the counter guarding them would let me.  Then I would get my friends to slide into the library and get as many as they could get.  I would do all of my forms in pencil so that if I made an addition error I could easily correct it.  I would spend all day scribbling and calculating my returns.  Then I would meticulously write each answer down in the appropriate little box with my bright yellow number 2 pencil.  The completed forms would be clipped together and put in a yellow laundry basket.  After the kids were tucked safely into bed I would head out to the local Kinko’s that stayed open 24 hours.  I would get my card that kept track of the number of copies I made and slide it into the slot on what I hoped would be a good copy machine.  On a good night, I would be there for a couple of hours, but if I got a bad machine and I’d be driving home once again watching the sun peak up over the horizon.

These days I am spoiled rotten.  My kids are grown and gone so I have turned in my chauffer and tutor hat.   My mother-in-law was more than happy to take over the meals for the season.  I now have a computer program that does all the calculations (as long as you know what number goes in what box and why) and spits out as many copies of the return as I desire.  My husband, David, dotes over me like a mother hen, making sure I have everything I could possible need, including going to the store for orange sherbet just because I said I had a taste for it.  This year I started work much earlier in the morning and set an alarm on my phone so that I would not stay at the desk past midnight.  Matthew has been working for me for several years and is working with me during tax season to help get everything done.

Times may have changed, technology may have advanced but the craziness that is tax season still remains the same.  I am just thrilled to be able to say, “ I have officially survived another tax season.”

Where’d You Leave Your Teeth?

My mother has been in a nursing home for the last month while she recovers from injuries due to a fall. My mornings consist of dropping the kids off at school and then heading over to the nursing home to care for Mom until mid-day.

It’s a small nursing home with a very warm family feel. Since I’m there every day, I’ve gotten to know the staff and they’re very familiar with me. What I didn’t expect was how well I’d get to know several of the other residents and how comfortable they would become with me. In the last couple of weeks I’ve gone from merely greeting the residents to becoming a surrogate daughter/errand girl/sympathetic shoulder and milk carton opener. I’ve even been the called upon on several occasions to go back to a resident’s room to retrieve false teeth.holding a senior citizen's hands

During our mornings in the dining hall at the nursing home, I’ve also received an unexpected education. Although I’ll probably never use these skills, I’ve learned more about the way to milk cows, how to turn an old dress into an apron and how to spot the bad guy on Gunsmoke.

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to cherish these new friendships for they will certainly be way too brief.

My Foot Is Down

My sweet, wonderful, adorable husband, David, has always been notorious for adamantly slamming his foot into the ground on a subject only to become a malleable ball of mush when push comes to shove.

Who was it that made the big announcement that his children were NOT going to ingest sugar?  Who was it that was caught slipping Matt a cookie when I had put him in time out one day?  Yep, that would be mister foot slammer, David.

Who made the declaration that his kids were not going to watch TV?  Who was and is still famous for his popcorn cups with a candy surprise in the bottom introduced to our family on Sunday nights while we all watched the Simpsons?  Yep, once again that would be the “my foot is down” David.

When dogs where introduced into the Allen household, David was adamant that no dogs would ever be allowed on the furniture for any reason.  We are puppy sitting Jess’ dog, Gauge for a few weeks while Jess has some remodelling done at her house.  I came around the corner into the family room and this is what I saw.

David and Gauge

David and Gauge

 

 

Enough said.  Mr. “My foot is down” has struck again.

My son, the nun

My son is portraying Joshua in a living time-line of the Bible at his school. The requirements included creating a self-standing background and reciting a two-minute speech. The other requirement is that the kids must all be dressed in costumes that reflect their characters.

This is not my first living time-line rodeo. I’ve been through this with my daughter. I’ve also seen how much money and time other parents put into their kids’ costumes. I’m cheap.  I also knew that my kid would only be wearing this costume for a few hours on the day he must do his presentation and, heck, it’s your basic Bible attire so what are we talking about here? Big long drape-type material belted in the middle? Surely I could make that, right?

Ok, the problem is that I don’t sew. I mean, I REALLY don’t sew… not even a loose button. I was determined though that a minor little set-back like that wouldn’t get me down. So off to the discount store I went in order to purchase some material. My son is very short so I figured it wouldn’t take much. While at the store, I also discovered something that no one had ever told me about… fabric glue! How long have other mothers known about that little secret and yet no one let me in on it? I may not be be able to sew but I can surely glue, right?

Once home, I stretched out the material on the floor, folded it in half and had Jack lay on it. I then traced his outline with room to spare. After cutting the fabric, I took out my new best friend, the fabric glue, and glued up the sides. I took the leftover fabric and made the headpiece. Working my glue like a champ, I created a fitted headpiece that Jack would easily be able to slip on his head.

With the glue dry, it was time for the big reveal. I slipped the costume on him, and although he complained about the glued seams being stiff, the fit was great. Then it was time for the headpiece. I slipped it in on his head.

I stood back to admire my work and saw that instead of making my son look like Joshua, the man who had led the battle into Jericho, he looked more like a nun.

The downside of using fabric glue is that you can’t tear out seams and start again. Since I was sure Jack didn’t want to look like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, I tossed out the headpiece and put a plain piece of fabric on his head and secured it with a piece of twine.

Lesson learned: don’t get too cocky with the fabric glue.