Monday, October 27, 2008

Time For a Mandatory Break!

Well, due to so many other more boring (but essential and necessary) life obligations, I've decided to put myself on Mandatory Hiatus...just for as long as it takes. Aside from checking and publishing comments, I am not going to post any new posts until I get some other things done. For one thing, I have to complete 24 CEU's (Continuing Education Units) by November 30th to keep up my RN licence. Then there's a self-evalution for work since I just passed another anniversary at work and will not get a raise until I get that completed and back in the office. Then there are a few other, more mundane but just as necessary tasks I must face and conquer already so they can rest in peace in my mind!

So, if any of you see me trying to sneak back in and post anything, slap my fingers please! I'm trying to be very responsible here but if I don't have anyone keeping me in line, I may just continue to choose the path of least resistance, not to mention the path of more fun.

I will be back very soon. If I stick to my guns, I should be done in a few days or by the end of the week!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Photo Story Friday: Blogging Bliss!

They start younger and younger, don't they? Computers have become a central part of everyone's lives...even for preschoolers and babies!

These are "kids' computers," my 4 y.o. informed me, as she invited her baby sister to join her. It sure didn't take any coaching for our 14 month old to know just what to do!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What a Fine Day!

Today an old childhood friend came to visit. And by "old", I don't mean old! She's younger than me! She is due to have a baby any day now and came for one more visit before being a mom to two. And what a delightful visit we had!

First, a little story to go with it. Several days ago, my 4 y.o. asked me, "Why do you go to work, Mom? Why do you need to take care of *Michael?" I said, "Well, most dads and some moms go to work to help get money so we can buy food to eat and gas for our car and van and buy clothes for all of us...." K (4 y.o.): "And treats? And presents?" Me: "Yes." K: "Does Michael give you money?" Me: "No...someone else pays me money when I go take care of Michael." K: "Who gives you the money?" Me: "*Allie pays me for doing my job." (Allie is the owner of the home care agency I work for) So for a few conversations following this one, K has asked, when my husband and I have been discussing payday or something work-related, "Did Allie give you money?" Me: "Yup!"

Now, yesterday, when I mentioned to the girls that my friend, *Allie (same name, different person) was coming to visit, K's face just lit up and she asked, with a big grin on her face, "Allie's coming to visit?" Me: after realizing what she was thinking (Allie=money=treats and presents) "Not that Allie!" K: "Oh."

So, anyway, my sister and her daughter were over as well and we all had such of a nice time catching up. We don't get to see each other very often so when we do, it's hard to fit it all in...even several hours almost doesn't suffice!

I am still grinning tonight, thinking about being able to have such of a nice visit today! It was just a fine day!!!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent, non-suspecting targets of this post!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WordFUL (and PictureFUL) Wednesday: Happy Birthday (Belatedly)!

Hosted by:

Here is my 3rd born lovey! I missed blogging on or around her birthday because it was just so busy I couldn't think, let alone blog. We had a fabulous day!

The festivities began with an outdoor activity: Toilet Paper Fashion. Two lovely ladies were dressed in toilet paper by their team in competition to see who could make a more fashionably dressed model. It was a toss-up. They both looked mighty fine. One (on the left) was complete with a big lady chest and all! Quite creative and quite clear to me who was on her team. My #3 daughter and her very creative friend!

Then Pin the Tail on the Donkey!

All festivities were led by our two oldest daughters and our oldest daughter's friend.

This ended up being sort of a double birthday party since our #4 daughter didn't get to have a friends-only party for the last two years. Last year I had a baby the day before her birthday and this year since my niece got married the weekend of her birthday, we had a joint birthday cake with her baby sister and had family over. She has close cousin friends, so she wasn't lacking for friends at the party, but the Actual Birthday Girl thought she needed also to have a party complete with birthday games and all, so I let her invite a few of her friends as well. She mostly invited younger sisters of the original party attenders.

Here are most of the treat bags. Each of the party-goers decorated their own bags that then were filled with goodies from the pinata and prizes from games.

Here's the pinata! After looking at pinatas at Walmart for $17 to $20-something, I decided to make my own. We fit a lot more candy in it and it was just as tough to break, although I did try to make it a little easier to bust through! It was in the shape of a birthday gift, wrapped in wrapping paper and ribbon.

Instead of making a big cake, I oftentimes make cupcakes for the kids to decorate. Sometimes I make a main cake and make cupcakes on the side for decorating purposes. Because we ended up with extra guests (new neighbors that had just moved in and are the same ages of about 4 of our kids that were kind of hanging around outside watching the activity going on in our yard), I made all the cake batter into cupcakes. They were made at different rates and I was busy divvying up pinata candies, so I didn't get a picture of all the decorated cupcakes at once.

Then, our last activity before opening gifts was a yarn and stick creation that in Highlight's magazine was called, "God's Eye". ????...Didn't think it really resembled anyone's eye, but it was really pretty, in fall colored multi-colored yarn, and the girls had fun making them. This was the first time I had such of an activity-filled agenda but with this many kids I figured it was the only way to keep peace and some semblence of structure and maybe some assurance to not losing any kids to the neighbor's "woods" (a patch of really nice trees about 200 yards wide and maybe 10 yards deep).

The final verdict on the party by the Actual Birthday Girl: "It was my best birthday ever!" The final verdict of the September Birthday Girl: "It was great but last year was better!" Me, to self, and also to her by way of my lifted eyebrows and look of, "Hah?" Last year we had a cake in the hospital since I had just had the baby the day before. We were so lucky we caught my oldest sister before she came to the hospital and asked her if she would bring her oldest daughter to be our daughter's birthday guest. I was sure she felt a little short-changed since she didn't get the invite-as-many-friends-as-Mom-will-allow (which is usually not that many)-and-run-around-whooping-it-up-at-home type of party. Her answer to my perplexed look, "Last year I got a baby sister for a present!" So much for worrying that she was lacking for parties the last two years!

*We, by the way, have four birthdays within about 3 1/2 weeks from first birthday to last. Only one more party to go! Yippee!!! I'm decidedly not the biggest party fan but when all is said and done, it usually goes quite well. I'm not below bribing in forfeiture of a party for a little nicer, more yearned for gift that the birthday child otherwise wouldn't have had a hope of getting otherwise. So now I'm quite satisfied with myself that I actually squelched the urge to bribe away this season's parties. Next year I may have to with a new baby coming along!*

Monday, October 20, 2008

See This Here Girl?

This one, who dotes on her little sisters and showers them with attention?

This young lady, who still knows how to have a great time with her sisters and will help them set up a nice, creative place to curl up without making fun of their choice of retreats?

Who loves to pal around with friends and have a good time?

Our firstborn daughter is a creative, helpful, kind, sensitive, intelligent, artistic, musical, fun-loving, deep individual who just got rave reviews at her conferences last week as well.

She has embraced this middle school thing like a champion...loves it, as a matter of fact...and, to her teachers, it sounds like it shows! They told us some really fun things to hear as parents, such as, she's always on top of things, very organized, ready to go when class starts, sometimes a little quiet for some classes, for other classes she is a little more vocal, although not too much. They report that she is very responsible, mature, happy, comfortable with her new school situation, where sometimes when kids start middle school with all the class changes, going from class to class, keeping track of everything can be a bit too overwhelming, for her it's been almost refreshing.

All the way from Science to Math, from Language Arts (fancy name for English) to Keyboarding, Phy-Ed to Choir, Band to Social Studies....they all said the same thing. "She is just a joy to have in class. I wish I had a class full of students like her. She is very positive. A good role model to other students..." We both left conferences feeling so happy to know that she is at school like she is at home, she is a joy to be around!

Happy Birthday my dear girl!!! I am so happy to be your mom!

(One of the first days of Middle School)

(Baby bonding)

(Mother's Day '08, she masterminded a very special Mother's Day lunch/dinner. With very little assistance from her dad, she made a very good tatertot hotdish. Then she decorated the dining room so nicely, complete with name tags for each person, she designed a beautiful "M" card and a heartfelt and heart-warming card for me. It was truly a special day!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hmmm, Interesting!

Check this out! A couple in Cambodia decided to split and as part of the settlement, the husband insisted that they cut the house in half. He proceeded to, with the assistance of his relatives, take the house, bit by bit, away.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Toddler Tales....

...and animal tails.

One day I noticed piles and piles...and piles...of toilet paper overflowing out of the trash can in the bathroom and onto the floor. Being in a household of overly creative young ladies, I kind of paused and quickly concluded a little, "Whatever!..?..!"

The next day my sister asked me, "Oh, by the way, did you by any chance notice, uh, a little excessive amounts of toilet paper in the bathroom?" I said, "Yeah...!" She said, "Your little K (4 y.o....I guess technically I should say preschooler tales then, right?...doesn't sound the same though) was entertaining me yesterday. She had been sitting on the toilet and I was out here waiting for her to get done when suddenly she came out and asked me if I would like to see a horsey tail. I told her, 'Sure!'. She turned around and had toilet paper wedged between her little cheeks and a string of toilet paper dangling all the way down to the floor. She waltzed back into the bathroom and then reemerged, asking, 'Becky, do you want to see a cow's tail?' and proceeded to turn and show me a little shorter tail between her cheeks. Then she came out with a doggie's tail, then a kitty's tail, and on and on. The best one was when she came out with a rabbit's tail." I asked Becky, "So, did the tails look any different or were they all just toilet paper wedged in randomly?" Becky said, "No, they all were different, they actually looked very similar to the real deal! But the best one was the bunny's tail. She had this huge wad of toilet paper all bunched up, wedged in those little cheeks of hers. It looked so funny 'cause the wad was almost as big as her bottom...her rear is just so teeny-tiny! And I could see, it was clearly a bunny's tail, all a big round bunched up wad of t.p."

Another day, when Becky's daughters were babysitting in her place: K, sitting in the bathroom, the place where all intellectual, thought-provoking ideas are born, asked one of the girls, "Umm, do you think God gets sad when we pick our boogers?" My niece, "Um, what?" K, "Do you think it makes God sad when we pick our boogers?" My niece, "I don't think so!" K, "Oh."

And yesterday, "Why do you think God made me a girl?" Me: "Mmm, 'cause he thinks you make such of a good girl." K, "But I wanna be a boy!!!" Me: "Oh, I know. 'Cause guess what?" K: "What?" Me: "I used to want to be a boy too...Until I was about H's age. Then guess what happened!" K: "Hm?" Me: "Then I was so happy to be a girl and I've always been so glad I'm a girl ever since then. Being a girl can be just so much fun!" My hubby: "So, tell me, why do you want to be a boy? Is it 'cause we boys have SO much fun?" One of the other girls had walked by right about then and corrected him, "You're not a boy, Dad! You're too old!" K, about the same time said, "Mmm, I don't want to be a boy now. Now I'm happy I'm a girl!"

Last night, K: "Can we go to God's house sometime?" Me: "Well yes, tomorrow we will go. When we go to church, we are in God's house." K: "Well, where is God then? I don't see him there." Me: "Ummm, well, that's cause church is only one of God's houses. He lives in the one in heaven. Heaven is God's house where he lives...that's where we want to go when we die. Then we'll get to see him."

Later last night, as we were just settling down for a bonfire with my hubby's brother and his daughter, one of the very observant kids noticed very distant flashes of lightening. She mentioned it to me and I let it go in one ear and out the other, since I hadn't noticed anything and thought that she must have seen some lights from something else. Not too long after that, I did notice little flashes of lightening and then we heard very distant rumbles of thunder. Miss 4 y.o., K, said, "Mom! We need to go in. Now! There is lightening and thunder! We are all gonna die if we don't go in!" Me, thinking, "Huh? How does she make the connection? And...what if she's having a premonition or something?" I closely scrutinized her face and saw she was very serious and glancing nervously at the sky. I told her, "Let's keep an eye on it and we'll go in if it lightens more...maybe we can even go just into the garage!" I was instantly onto the topic at hand with my hubby and his brother. Moments later, I noticed K scouting around on the driveway, eyes skyward. She was back in seconds with her information, "Um, Mom? I kept my eyes on it and saw more. Now can we go in? I'm scared we're going to be hit by lightening and die!" I said, "Okay, tell you what. Let me wait for my brat to get done, then I will come sit in the garage with you. Okay?" Next thing I know, I hear, "Mom? Is your brat done? Come in the garage with me." I look toward the garage and there she was, up in the furthest corner of the garage, with her little director's chair, waiting for me to join her. She looked so tiny way in there by herself. Poor dear, feeling so vulnerable. I went in and she promptly said, "Sit by me!" *Ummm, far as I can tell, there is no other choice, Babe. You're the only one in here! I'll be sitting by you!*

This is life with her...she is just constantly spouting out these profound thoughts or just cultivating her Dad's dry, hilarious sense of humor in herself. It is just so fun when their little personalities just take off like that!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

WordFULL Wednesday: Testing, Testing...1,2,3...

Cecily at My Choas, My Bliss again has far surpassed photographic finesse in her Wordful Wednesday post, hosted by Angie at Seven Clown Circus.

*I did it! I did it! It suddenly dawned on me as I was wishing I could just get this linky/hyper-linky thing. It is just as everyone said, you type in what post name or blog you want to feature or bring to attention, then hyperlink it to the ....HTML code....or something. As in, you type in the name you want to appear on your post, don't just hyperlink it and hope the consarned computer is going to figure the name out and fill it in for you!

This big lightbulb just went off and completed the synpasis between nerve endings in my brain that before this, just kept shorting on me! So to test my brilliance, I decided to try my hand at linking to this post I had just read and was moved by.*

Back to Cecily at My Choas, My Bliss. I have been so impressed with her photography, as I have been by several others'. Somehow, this picture of her darling daughter just impressed me beyond impressed. In addition to its superior photographic quality in its black & white beauty, it also captured the sentiment of the moment perfectly. You would have to also read another of her posts to understand the "back in the saddle" reference.

*now, to go back to my "Tagged and Awarded!" post and fix my prior ineptness (notice how I said, "prior ineptness"? As in, inept no more?)! Wheeee!*

Monday, October 6, 2008

TC 10 Mile Run Today...

This is the banner for this year's event. I was drawn to run this year (it is a lottery-style drawing, so there is never any guarantee that you will run if you sign up). I had actually heard that although so many had signed up of my acquaintances, only two of us were fortunate enough to get drawn.

This is me, ecstatically running in the 2006 TC 10. I had never run an organized run before and couldn't have imagined how neat of an experience I would have. There was such energy to run in a huge crowd like that.

I am in this picture somewhere, crossing the finish line.

Last year I was pregnant and due to have a baby in November so I couldn't sign up. I actually had my baby in September, about a week or so before the run. I was so excited I got picked this year since I couldn't run it last year!

I had been training for this run and had reached my seven mile mark already. I went to the doctor just about 1 1/2 weeks before the run. I confirmed that day that I am pregnant, now just over 9 weeks. My doctor expressed great concern over my running in the TC10. He said that running that long keeps your heart rate above the recommended 140 bpm or less for exercise during pregnancy.

I did not run in the race today. It was hard. I went to the health expo anyway last night. I picked up my packet. I got my race number. I got all the little goodies that come with it. I had paid for it already. I also had paid for a pasta dinner for my whole family. We decided to still go to that. It was paid for and we always can stand for a family date. However, our van had a flat tire so we took the car and our two "middle" girls. It was fun. It helped me get over the fact I couldn't run today.

As an added consolation, I went up north to my niece's and her new husband's home. They had their gift opening today. I went for a 2-3 mile run up there to feel like I got my run in today anyway. My doctor said to go ahead with these runs since I've always run that distance and my body's used to it.

I'm okay with it now. I am actually able to really look at the big picture: we will have a new baby to add to our little family. I'm due May 9th. Whew, finally our 2nd daughter will have a spring companion for a birthday. All the other kids are clustered from August to October.

There will be many, many more runs. I am planning to run until I'm at least 90 years old. I can't have babies too many more years, but I can always run for years to come.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tagged and Awarded!

*Okay, big old fat disclaimer here: I am NOT responsible for the complete computer ineptness my brain possesses. If anyone would be so kind as to tell me how to copy these cute buttons (I think that's what they are called)...and disregard #3 of my random facts about myself because I now see it is just not true, I would greatly appreciate it. Eventually #3 will be true, so I will just leave it there for good luck!*

Tiaras and Tantrums tagged me with this:

RULES, because you know these tags always have rules . . .

1. Link your tagger and list these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Okay, here are 7 facts about myself:

1. I have a hard time knowing when to stop pushing myself. Example of this: about 1 1/2 weeks ago I ran 7 miles. I hadn't been training up to it as well as I should have but by bare minimum standards, was up to the run. I ran continuously until I had only a mile left, then had to stop for a traffic light. To make sure that my heart rate didn't drop too fast, I paced back and forth, waiting for the walk light. I noticed I couldn't walk straight to save my life, I was weaving and almost tipping over. Although I've never been drunk in my life, I imagined this was the challenge a highly intoxicated person must face when trying to walk. As soon as the light changed, I continued to run since I hadn't had any problems keeping a straight line while running. Later, I excitedly told everyone that knew I was training for a 10 mile run that I did 7 miles just fine and felt great afterward. Because I didn't pass out at the time, I didn't give it another thought. Only after a doctor's appointment later that week for a totally unrelated issue did it dawn on me that that may have been some indication that my body just wasn't up to that length of a run......for reasons I will get into in another post.

2. I come from a family of 11 kids...I am number 8. Trying to figure out the birth order thing since I never really see it explaining birth order past 3rd child...would be nice to know what I'm supposed to turn out like! :) Just kidding. Not too concerned at all but a birth order post I recently read at Octamom's blog (here's the post) made me chuckle and wonder, "Where, exactly, do the rest of us fit in?"

3. I just figured out this linky/hyperlinky thing and am quite pleased!!! It's a huge accomplishment for me!

4. I have a first degree black belt in karate and am/was hoping test out for my second degree this December....more about this in another post soon. I love it!

5. In the recent years, I've begun to realize that a void that was left with the death of my mother has begun to be filled by mothering my own kids.

6. In some ways I am very self-disciplined (I can get myself into a quite rigid running and eating schedule when I put my mind to it, for one example) but very non-disciplined in others (I can drink coffee like water....or usually I can....more on that topic in another post...soon, and eat chocolate until I'm nearly sick. I'm at their mercy!)

7. I just LOVE hanging out and shooting the breeze with my little family. Nothing beats my hubby and the kids teasing back and forth, the decibal level reaching the roof with cackles and story-telling, discussing random things like math problems, weird history and other little-known facts my husband has tucked away in that big cavernous brain of his...

I tag the following:

Of course, if you've been tagged to death and can't stand the thought of doing another, that is truly okay. Anyone else wanting to participate, consider yourself tagged because it's fun to learn more about everyone!


Bestowed upon by Tiaras and Tantrums:

To translate the gift from Portuguese to English, it means: "This blog invests and believes, the proximity"[meaning, that blogging makes us 'close' -being close through proxy]Post this if/when you award this to others:

"They all are charmed with the blogs, where in the majority of its aims are to show the marvels and friendship; they are persons who are not interested when we give them a prize, and then they help to cut these bows; do we want that they are cut or that they propagate?"

Then let's try to give more attention to them! So with this prize we must deliver it to 8 bloggers that in turn must make the same thing and put this text.

*I know that I tagged a few more than I was supposed to but the more the merrier, I like to say!

Thank You Letters

I know that I am belatedly writing my thank you letters...the contest over In The Gutter is over. However, since I had already fizzled a few brain cells thinking about the narrowing down process, since I have so many I could thank, I felt it only appropriate that I complete the circle and actually write the letters I had intended to.

Dear Sisters;

First, I want to thank you all for being my best friends. We've gone through a lot together and we're all a lot closer for it. I'll never forget the day Mom died, as friends and neighbors gathered downstairs to bring their comfort and grieve (quite loudly at an eight-year-old, it actually spooked me a bit) with Dad, we gathered upstairs, circling our wagon, pulling in tight to plan our future without Mom. We were all too young to be without Mom, but we knew we had no choice. The household would be ours to run and we weren't going to be caught unprepared. Job lists were discussed and tentatively prepared, then fine-tuned as we went until we had a system that ran smoothly. We followed this for the next eight years.

K, You were only 15 and too young to be a mom...especially a mom to seven younger siblings (and take care of laundry and meals for 3 older siblings). You knew that. We knew that. Sometimes your directions were met with some resistance. I know it had to have been hard for you, but you did it. You took over laundry for twelve people, meals for the did delegate many parts of these tasks, such as hanging loads to dry on the line, taking them off, folding and putting away. You made sure though that the laundry was always done, hot meals were always a part of our menu, and so many of Mom's special ways and traditions were followed. You did a great job and still do. I still call you so many times for a certain recipe, to share big news, or just to reconnect with you, which just gives me a good feeling of are always that nurturing big sister!

Jo, You also ran a lot of the main, essential tasks. You made many meals. You were the head planner of piano sing-a-longs and game nights. The boys loved to tease you because you made it just so fun to were (and still are) full of life, laughter, and love. You were always the one to lead the rest of us into destinations unknown. You were the first to leave the country for a year, nannying in Finland after high school. Remember the $1.46/min. phone calls we made, all of us timed for about 5 minute increments in those infrequent calls we made you? And the packages and letters we sent back and forth, snail mail? Then, on to the big Twin Cities, then college. Because you made it seem less formidable, one by one, we all followed when our time came to leave home. We still are such good friends and call almost every day. Being in the same stage in life, we have a real good comraderie and can toss ideas back and forth from mothering to kid illnesses, from pregnancy woes to business ideas.

Ja, You taught me about all the girl things I needed to know. One day, you informed me that I do need to wash my hair more often than just our once a week, Saturday sauna night. When I resisted, you told me that if I don't take care of myself and my hair, I need to get it cut short (I was laboriously growing it out). You told me pick a day during the week to wash it. I picked Tuesday. You enforced it. You pulled me aside one day and asked if I knew anything about periods. I said no. You told me all about them and what I will need when that inevitable day arrives. You told me that the rest of you girls had gotten yours close to the age of 14. I'll never forget the shock when that day came that I got my period and I was only 12. But, thanks to you, I was prepared. You taught me a love of dressing nicely (...eventually. I was a hideous, stinky tomboy until I started to develop. Maybe God knew I needed a jumpstart on development so I would begin to practice a little better hygiene and fashion consciousness), the love of smelling good with good old fashion deodorant and, eventually, perfume. I strove to dress like you, do my hair like you, smell like you. You were my role model. I even admired your career choice as an adult and followed your footsteps to nursing school.

B, We were close enough in age that we began our friendship in some pretty good spats and squabbles. That didn't last. When we became good friends, it's never gone back. We've probably never had a cross word since I was in Junior High and you were in High School. It could have been even earlier than that, but I know since we began hanging out together, we've always gotten along and been very, very close. You started your family before me and let me haul your kids all over must have been very trusting! :) Then, eight months after you had your last baby, I had my first. Every time I have an absolutely life-shaking, earth-shattering, traumatizing (at least in my opinion) event with one of my kids, I call you and you are SO calm. Your response is usually, "Well, she sounds like a normal kid. I remember when so-and-so was little, she used to do that. It didn't last long. I would just....." and then you would give me ideas on how to deal with it. I would try it and lo-and-behold, it worked! You've pulled me out of the rafters (of panic) more than once! Now when you've been taking care of the two little girls (and the others before they get on the bus in the morning), we've all been basking in our extra time with you!

G, You were always my little buddy when we were growing up. I always remember when I finally got my own room at home, I still didn't like sleeping in there by myself so very often I would let you and Ka take turns (or together) come crash out in my room. You so bravely came to visit me in Finland when I was there for a year. You were only sixteen and for how so very shy you were, I was so impressed that you travelled there all by yourself. I had the best time toting you around there, showing you all my friends, running around Helsinki and the train stations, even at night. That was such of a safe time there that, as long as you could weave through the streets of partying drunk people on Friday and Saturday nights, you were fine. Now you're in the midst of motherhood yourself, with your teeny brood. Our similarities in life are coming together more and I've been really enjoying the time we've been able to visit and swap mom stories now. You're still the sweet person you've always been and I truly enjoy that.

Ka, As the baby of the family, you were just this innocent little gem. Although you were quite spoiled by all of us, it never spoiled your demeanor or personality. You were always such of a generous child. Every Christmas and birthday, everyone could always count on a gift from you. Never mind the fact that usually it was a recycled gift...I remember once getting someone else's book wrapped up and so lovingly given to me. My 4 y.o., your namesake, actually had a very similar personality to yours. Now, even as an adult, you are just a joy to be with. I love when you call me during your "down time" and we can just each grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and yak until it's time for one of us to go tend to kids again. Our friendship has been very valuable to me and as your life too is becoming increasingly more like mine (with your three in the same age range as my youngest two) we have more and more in common again.

Without my sisters, I wouldn't be who I am today. For that I thank you all.

Love, Darla

To my loving husband,

I thank you so much for being who you are and allowing me to be who I am. With your acceptance of who I am and encouragement to strive to who I need to be, I have bloomed twenty-times the person I was when I married you. Anytime I decide to pursue anything, you are so encouraging. You believe in me and have such confidence in what I chose to pursue that I derive confidence from it as well. My success had so much to do with your faith in me. Because of all the situations I went through as a child (death of my mom for one and many others that I don't share with many), I was who I thought I should be. With your nurturing and encouragement, I've found a me I never knew existed.

I think we've had an exceptional relationship from the start. We've had our rougher patches...they seem to come though only every several years. They're not even that bad but definitely we're not as patient with each other and tend to bicker a little more. Then when we get through them, we become even closer than I ever imagined we could be.

Your patience for me to work through some of the post-childhood issues has been so second nature that I don't even think you realize what you have done to effortlessly help me move through that phase. It has been so smooth, outwardly no one else would even realize I was working through anything. On one hand, I use my running and karate to physically reground myself. However, it's not always as simple as that. A run or workout might not totally cut it. You know me well enough that you can sense that I need a little extra distance or "me" time without me even having to say it. In fact, it's such of an innate sense that you just kick in when you sense it, and make sure that if I'm going out to the store, for example, and get the usual onslaught of requests from the girls to come with (and you know I almost always take one or some or all of them), you just firmly tell them, "No, I think Mom needs to go by herself this time." And you're always right on!

I love you to death and love our time together. I hope we grow really, really old together. Thank you (and I thank God for you)!

Love, Darla

*I could write so many more thank you letters but I think that the others I would love to thank, I will or have posted about in a different form that basically says the same...that I love them, think the world of them, and am eternally grateful to have or have had them in my life.*