I just want to say that I am so, so happy to be fifty years old!  I know I’m supposed to be dejected, and feeling old and useless, but I don’t feel that way.  Not one little bit.  I’m not one to spend time whining about what’s happened before, but for the sake of remembering with thankfulness, I’ll say that there were many times when we all wondered if I’d see thirty years old.  Or forty years old.  Or fifty years old. 

In my mid-twenties, there was the tumor (while I was pregnant) that the doctors were so sure would be cancer that they told me to begin settling myself with ending my pregnancy.  They were so sure, but they didn’t know what my God can do.  I didn’t end the pregnancy (I wouldn’t have, regardless), Brad was born, the tumor wasn’t cancer, and I made it. 

In my early thirties, I started having strokes.  Wow, not fun.  Not what you expect when you’ve got four school-aged kids.  I had a pronounced foot-drag, my left hand didn’t work so well, and I forgot words sometimes.  I worked HARD to improve those things.  About the time I got better, I had another, larger stroke, this time while home alone with my kids.  Frustratingly, no doctor could really determine what was causing this to happen.  Migraine headaches?  The weird hole in my heart?  A clotting disorder?  Even the esteemed Mayo Clinic couldn’t figure it out, although I spent one very lonely Thanksgiving and birthday away from my family, in the Mayo rehab unit.  They did help me walk better, though, so that was good.

My late thirties brought many issues with trying to control the strokes, taking blood thinning medications, then figuring out how to manage the issues the medications brought.  A routine check up found a lump on my thyroid, and a series of tests found it to be cancer.  Two surgeries in five days revealed it to be the most serious type of thyroid cancer, and determined that it had left the bed of the thyroid.  Treating it was not fun, but pretty awesome to me, since it’s a cancer that actually has a pretty safe and effective treatment.  However, it has to be checked yearly, which requires weaning off of the thyroid replacement meds.  That makes me pretty sick and weak and tired for about six weeks each year.  Not fun, but manageable.

With my forties came a return of the cancer, treatment, some heart surgical testing, blood transfusions, a hysterectomy, and eventually a giant tumor removal.  That one “should have been” cancer as well, and wasn’t.  Another bullet dodged.

I can’t even count all the surgeries I’ve had… I get lost somewhere around fifteen.  I honestly don’t understand why God keeps saving me.  I’m very much ready to see heaven, and live forever with Jesus.  I really am!!  (I hope you are, too, and if you’re not sure that you are, I’d love to talk to you about it.)
OK, now that I’ve talked about all that, I never need to mention it again!  Hey, there was no need for you to applaud that I’m shutting up about it.

A year ago, on my 49th birthday, I posted a Facebook note here about my “year of Jubilee.”  Here’s part of what I said:

In the Bible, the year of Jubilee happened every fifty years, and was about freedom and inheritance.  If a person had fallen on hard times and sold himself as a slave, in the year of Jubilee he became free.  If he had sold his family's land, it was returned to his possession during the year of Jubilee.  This was how God provided perpetual freedom and inheritance for His people.  The year of Jubilee happened (usually) just once in a person's life, so it was not something to be used casually.

So, how does this work for me?  I haven't sold myself as a slave, or surrendered my inheritance.  But I have been in bondage to some destructive thought processes.  I've been a slave to habits.  I've surrendered some of the joy of my existence.  It's time for me to celebrate my Year of Jubilee by releasing my hold on all things negative, and reaching out toward the good things that God has for me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t accomplish everything I meant to accomplish.  I did not complete my reading of the Bible, for instance.  I’m still working on it, and hope to complete it in my 50th year.  It’s been a great year of study, and I will be finishing it, even though it’s taking me longer than I’d planned.  I did a very honest assessment and found an area in which I was holding on to some “hurt.”  I’ve let it go, and have forgiven.  Soon, I will have also forgotten. (Maybe that’s a benefit of being “old.”)  :-)   I’ve always been a person who finds joy easily, but this year I’ve been even happier, and focused on being more positive.  I’ve worked on expressing gratitude more often.

I’m ready to take on the next part of life.  I’m surrounded by God’s love, by (and I mean this quite literally) the best family ever, and by a safe, warm, and happy home. 

It’s OK if you call me “old”… I’m quite proud to be fifty.  I’ve laughed so much that it’s wrinkled my face, worried enough to cause some gray hairs, and managed to wake up every day for fifty years.  When the day comes that I do NOT wake up, I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that I’ll wake up face to face with the God I’ve served my entire life, I’ll see the faithful ones who have gone ahead, and my loved ones will soon join me there.  I’m going to live forever, so the number here is just that… a number. 

Go ahead… call me old.  I’m honored.

Best Movie Ever...

Bonnie and Natalie (who will always be Dawg to me) decided that we needed to have a Mom/Daughter date today, and that we needed to watch The Greatest Movie Ever, which is, of course, Gone With the Wind.  So Bonnie, Dawg, Belinda ("Dawg Mom") and I gathered in the Jacoby's family room with a supply of pop and snacks, and watched the Blu-Ray version on their super-cool new 55-inch TV.  The Blu-Ray made it almost TOO realistic.  Wow!  At one point I said that it was so real, it was like there were slaves picking cotton in the Jacoby's garage (which is right behind the TV).  In some ways, I wish there were, because then we would have had someone to send to Sonic.  Inappropriate, Susie.  Sheesh.

The first time I saw GWTW, Lori Graham (from elementary school... wonder whatever happened to her!) invited me to see it.  I was in fifth grade.  For some reason, they were screening it in a school cafeteria, and we paid a dollar to get in.  Best dollar ever spent.  I loved everything about it.  During the Intermission (yes, there was an actual intermission!), Lori filled me in on some of the other details, and soon my Mom loaned me her copy of the book.  That was when the real fascination began.

Wow.  Not only the Best Movie Ever, but also the Best Book Ever.  Gone With the Wind is what caused me to love Civil War history, and to love that period in general.  For several years in a row, I read GWTW every summer.  Sitting on the front porch in a lawn chair with my feet up on the post and a glass of RC Cola next to me, holding that thick blue book in my lap, absorbing the persona of Scarlett O'Hara of Tara... thoughts of it can carry me back, to the point that I can feel the sun on my legs, hear my Mom rustling around in the kitchen behind me, and smell the tang of the cut grass and the slightly musty odor of the book that was already old when it was given to me.  My bookmark was a florist's business card, which my Mom had left in the book from when she read it in her own teen years.  Ahhh, memories.

My love of all things GWTW was pretty legendary.  My brother bought me the Scarlett O'Hara Madame Alexander doll... so, so pretty in her white dress from the first scene of the movie.  She was displayed in my room, along with other GWTW memorobilia (including a dollar bill with Clark Gable's face where George Washington's face should be) in a corner cabinet that now lives at my Kacy's house.  In an age where every girl had posters of rock stars and teen heart-throbs on their bedroom walls, my only two posters were a huge GWTW movie poster on the wall, and a full-sized, six foot tall poster of Rhett Butler gracing the back side of my door.

I don't like to say that my baby Bonnie was named after the Bonnie in GWTW, because, well... Bonnie Blue Butler didn't exactly live a long and full life. But that, and a grade school friend named Bonnie, are what made me start loving the name. 

Rhett.  Yes.
Ashley.  No.
We weren't too far into the movie today when (my) Bonnie said, "I can't quite decide if I'm Team Rhett or Team Ashley."  I suggested that she wait a little longer into the movie to decide.  If she had chosen Team Ashley, I might have disowned her.  Thank goodness, by Intermission, we had all completely agreed that we are making Team Rhett t-shirts, and will wear them proudly.

About ten years ago, when I was still with CNN Online, we had a conference in Atlanta.  My parents drove there, and after I had finished my conference, we embarked on what Mom and I called our "Gone With the Wind Tour" of the South.  We saw antebellum mansions, former plantations, took tours of Savannah, Charleston, and other points.  But the coolest thing (besides just an awesome, memory-making trip with my beloved parents) was what happened on our very first day.  We went to Stone Mountain, Georgia, and toured their plantation exhibit.  Meanwhile, there was a Civil War reenactment going on there.  But then, like some sort of a miracle, we went into this building, and they just happened to be hosting a traveling Gone With the Wind exhibit!  What?!?  We had no idea it would be there, and we'd been calling this our GWTW Tour the whole time we'd been planning the trip.  It was just so cool.  They had props and costumes from the movie, and tons of other cool stuff to see.  I will always treasure that day, indeed the entire trip, with my Dad (who was in charge of driving and paying) and my precious Mama, who was the one who first gave me my GWTW book.

My love of this movie and book is all wrapped up with my love of my mother, and her love of the movie and book, which, incidentally, was written the year she was born.  I'm just so glad that my girls also love the movie along with me.  It feels right.  Now if I can just get them to read the book!

MMS Blog

I am Chief Moderator of Metaverse Mod Squad.  I love saying that, because I'm proud of it.

If you know me even a little, you know how much I love my job.  Metaverse Mod Squad is absolutely the best company in the world.  We do just about anything that needs doing, in the online world.  There are roughly 200 of us spread around the world, and two brick-and-mortar offices (Northern California and Brooklyn, NY).  Our motto is "Yup, we do that."  We "keep the peace" in virtual worlds, we moderate content, we develop growing online communities, we generate buzz, we handle customer support, we write customized chat filters, we manage social media, we keep kids safe.  I wasn't kidding when I said we do just about anything that needs doing.  Heck, I was once a virtual bodyguard for Newt Gingrich.

Recently, it was my turn to write a blog post for the company blog.  The management team each took a turn through the summer, and when my turn came, I had some tips for parents.  I hope you find them helpful.

Parents: Stand Firm

Being a parent is not for the faint-of-heart.  It’s arguably the toughest job in the world.  Sure, you’re going to get hugs and kisses and a shout-out during their wedding toasts, but before that, you’re going to get puked on, pooped on, drooled on, peed on, whined at, whined about, and whined because of.  Most parents are able to strike a balance between evil ogre and best buddy, but we all know that there are areas in which we simply MUST stand firm, for the protection of our children.

None of us would let our kids play on the freeway, and really, we don’t let our kids navigate ANY road on their own for quite a few years.  Unfortunately, too many parents are simply releasing their kids on the ol’ Information Superhighway without much in the way of warning or protection.  In fact, many parents don’t even seem to realize that it could be dangerous.

So, what do we do?  Do we just forbid our kids to use the Internet?  Unless you’re Amish, this is not a practical plan.  (Two sub-thoughts:  One — Even Amish folks have access to the internet at times.  Two –  If you’re Amish and reading this blog, I want to say hello.)   Face it:  This whole “internet fad” is here to stay, and you need to get onboard and figure out a plan.

So, here are some tips for families:

  • Discuss in advance your expectations about your child’s use of the internet, then have your child write down his passwords.  Check them occasionally to ascertain that they have not changed.  You don’t necessarily have to use them, but having them lets the child know that you MIGHT use them.  Decide in advance what the penalty will be if the child changes the password without letting you know, or if he is caught in a place online where he has agreed not to be.

  • Educate yourself.  Do not say “My child knows more about the computer than I do,” even if it’s true.  Make sure you learn how to do everything that she is doing.  No excuses.  If your child developed diabetes, that would be her “new reality,” and you would learn everything there is to know about diabetes.  Well, the Internet is her “new reality,” and you need to get informed.  Do not be disheartened by this next bit:  this process will never end.  A few years ago, it was desktop computers in one room, then it was laptop computers all over the house, and next thing you know, every mobile phone is connected to the Internet.  By next week, there will be something new.  Get informed, and keep getting informed.

  • No computers behind closed doors.  Set up a place for the computer, so that the monitor is facing into a well-used room in your house, such as the family room.  Walk past often enough to see what your child is doing (in general), but don’t hover.  Ask a few questions, like “Is that a new site you’re on?”  “Who’s that you’re chatting with?”  Gauge their responses and demeanor when answering, according to what you know about your child.  An overly casual or overly angry response might tell you that you need to investigate further.  Every so often, stop behind them to chat about something, and see if there’s a rush to close windows or block the monitor.

  • Password-protect the computer, so that the kids need to ask permission before using it.  If you have to be the person to physically enter the password, you know when they’re on.  It also keeps them from the temptation to “sneak on” when you’re away from home, asleep, etc.

  • Decide what information the child CAN share with strangers online.  Gender and age range (such as “tween”) are probably fine, but you can discuss other things.  If you live in a large, populous state, you might allow that to be shared.  Otherwise, you might decide that a region (the South, the Midwest) is allowed.  The less common the information is, the more dangerous it is to share it.  14-year-old Marigold from Monowi, Nebraska whose hobby is sword-swallowing is much easier to “find” than teenager Emma from the East Coast, who likes fashion.  Kids like to talk about themselves, so help them decide in advance what details are safe to share.  And never let your child share any information that is in violation of a site’s terms of service, most which prohibit any personally identifying information for children under 13.

  • Check out every online community in which your child participates.  Find out what the moderation system is.  If you find the community to be inappropriate for your child, suggest other interesting choices.  Consider joining the site, and friending your child, but don’t overdo it.

  • Enforce the rules.  That seems obvious, but many parents are willing to be talked out of any consequences, because they just aren’t on sure footing, or don’t want to be the bad guy.  Don’t be that parent.  Even if the child has a reasonable excuse (“I wrote down the new password for you, but someone moved the paper.”  “Someone must have hacked my account.”), there still must be consequences, and you need to be more vigilant in the future.

  • Be a sleuth.  Find out what sites your child visits by using the browser history, cookies and cache.  You aren’t spying; you’re spot-checking.  Google your child’s name and see if it turns up on social networking sites.  You love him and want to trust him, but you need to check on him sometimes.

  • Delay smart phones and any other device with Internet access until your child has proven that she is mature and trustworthy.  Even then, let them know that the device belongs to YOU, and can be removed at any time for any infraction of the rules.  Remember, these devices are just small computers, and have the same dangers for your child that “the big computer” has.  Probably more.  Think this one over a long time, and do not let yourself be swayed by the “everyone else has one” plea.

  • Discuss your family guidelines with anyone that monitors your child for any length of time.  Grandma, a parent with shared custody, his friends’ parents, and babysitters need to be aware and onboard with the guidelines.

  • Be ready to adjust what is allowed.  At my house, it is about trust and freedom.  You have all the freedom that is appropriate to your age, as long as I trust you.  Any violation, and I do mean ANY, results in a step back in freedom.  As you show me you can handle that level of freedom, I trust you more, and you have more freedom.  Any major violation of trust results in a major reduction of freedom.   “I forgot” is a violation.  A lie is a violation.  A visit to an unsuitable website is a violation.  Not telling the parent about a request for personal information from a stranger is a violation.  Loss of freedom should be equal to the level of gravity of the violation.  The child quickly learns that it is in her best interest to live up to our expectation of trust.

  • Perhaps the best thing you can do to help your child prevent victimization is to increase his self-esteem.  The lower a child’s self-esteem, the more likely he is to be a target for a predator or bully.  The typical predator will seek out a child who lacks confidence, and who will respond positively to their advances.

  •  If your child uses social networking sites, stress to them that their popularity is not determined by the number of “friends” they have.  They should never accept a friend request from someone with whom they are not personally familiar.  The personal information they share, even through casual status updates, is like gold to a predator, and can be  used to gain their confidence and elicit more information.  Parents should occasionally sit with their child and help them cull their friends list.

  • Don’t freak out, unless it’s really time to freak out.  If your child tells you that a person on the game they’re playing keeps asking for his phone number, don’t go into a rant and scream, “It could be a kidnapper!  You’re never going online again!”  Just calmly help your child block that person, report it to the game administrators, and thank your child for being wise enough to tell you.  Your reasonable reaction now means your child is more likely to tell you things in the future, and could be the difference between safety and disaster.

  • Watch for warning signs that your child has been victimized, or is in danger of victimization.  Some warning signs:  Your child is online too much, often at night.  Your child receives phone calls from people you don’t know, or he makes these phone calls.  You find pornography on his computer.  He withdraws from the family.  He turns off the monitor or minimizes windows when you approach the computer.  If, heaven forbid, you find evidence that your child has been victimized, contact your state or local law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and turn the computer off to preserve evidence.

  • Be the person that you want your child to become.  While this advice applies in every area of life, it certainly also applies to Internet and computer use.  If you can’t be bothered to listen to him talk about his baseball game because you’re chatting with Aunt Jane, or feeding your pigs on Farmville, then don’t be surprised when he ignores your calls to supper while he’s playing online.

Some good news:  There WILL be a day when you can breathe a little easier.  The bad news, though… by that time, you’ll need to be concerned about your grandchildren.

Good luck, parents!

-Susan South

This post first appeared here.


Since posting a picture on Facebook, some have asked for this recipe.  I'm not a food blogger, and didn't make up this recipe, but I can share!  So, from Susan Noel's Kitchen, here you go!

Cake Batter Rice Crispie Treats

4 Tblsp butter (1/2 of a "stick")
1 bag of mini marshmallows (about 10 oz)
1/3 cup yellow cake mix
6 cups of rice crispies (I use the store brand... sorry Snap, Crackle and Pop)
1 container of colored sprinkles (about 1.75 oz)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven, then add the mallows.  As they start to melt, add the cake mix, a spoonful at a time, and stir it up real well.  When the mallows are melted, remove from heat, and add the cereal slowly, coating it with the mallow mixture.  Add half of the container of colored sprinkles, and mix in well.  Spread in a 9x13 dish, or even a larger, lower sheet pan.  Put the rest of the sprinkles on top, and press down just a little.  

Tip:  If you spray your hand with non-stick spray, it's easy to press the treats into the pan.

Another tip:  If you bake these when no one is around, then burn some scented candles, you can successfully hide them from the rest of the family, and keep those pigs out of your stash.
Untimely Demise

I Wish I Were an...

So, Bonnie and I went to lunch today.  She works at the school near us (same school she attended), and so I get to see her most days, either before, during, or after work.  Or all of the above.  We went to Fazoli's, ordered the same thing, texted the same person repeatedly through the meal, and laughed a lot.

In some ways, I think Bonnie got the best of my mothering years.  I had more time alone with her than I did with the others.  To me, it seems logical that she would have gotten the least time, but it didn't turn out that way.  Kyle only had sixteen months to be the "only child" before Kacy came along, and neither Kacy nor Brad was ever the "only."  But Bonnie had quite a bit of time after everyone else moved out, and I think that's why we have this weird, crazy bond.  We already know what the other person is thinking, usually, and sometimes we start laughing before it even gets said.

We often do this thing where one person starts something, and the other person is contractually and morally obligated to finish it.  In our family, that's called "answering the pepperoni."  It comes from a scene in The Epic Classic Television Drama "Gilmore Girls."  The scene went something like this... Daughter Rory's boyfriend was having a conversation with mother Lorelai's boyfriend about how to get along best with the girls.  Dean said something like, "If you're having pizza with them, and Lorelai decides that the pepperoni is mad at the mushrooms because the mushrooms have an attitude, and she holds up the pepperoni and it asks for your opinion, don't just laugh.  Answer the pepperoni."  It just means "always go along with the bit."  In our family, not answering the pepperoni is a borderline mortal sin.  Go along with the bit.  Just do it.

Right now, I'm not even sure why I brought that up.  Hmmm, where was I going with that?  I guess I was just gonna say that Bonnie can always be trusted to answer the pepperoni, and it means that we spend a LOT of time laughing, because life is a "bit."  There's always something funny.  Always.

So today, there we were.  We'd had lunch, and then on the way back to the school, my car decided to have an odor.  At first I imagined it to be an "I need oil" (which we pronounce "earl"... because life is a bit) sort of smell, and we called Dennis.  Why, you ask?  Because that's what we do.  Bonnie called her dad, who was at the gym (where we were headed), and told him of our dilemma.  We got back to the school, texted him that we were outside, and then we sat in the car and chatted while waiting for him to show up.  I really don't know what we were doing... we just weren't done being together yet, and the whole "car odor" was just a pretext for hanging out a little longer.  Bonnie opened her door, glanced under the car, and noticed that there was drippage, which we already knew to be condensation from the AC, but still... it might have been a problem.  Ya never know.  She's a good car-problem-diagnoser, obviously.

So eventually, Dennis came out, and while he was walking toward us, we discussed whether or not there was any creature on earth that walked slower than he does sometimes.  I told her that I once saw a sloth go flying past him.  By then, he was in earshot, so we changed the subject.  Neither one of us had so much as budged from our positions in the front seats, mind you.  I did pop the hood opener thingie for him, though... with my foot.  Then we discussed whether or not my toenail was cut crooked.  Bonnie thinks no; I think yes.  Dennis checked the oil (the earl) and it was fine.  Then he said I needed some antifreeze, and at that precise moment, I realized it wasn't an "I need oil" odor, it was a "I'm a hot car" odor.  Dennis said he would add some antifreeze tonight, and I said that I'd try not to let it freeze in the meantime.  He said, "Antifreeze helps with the heat, too..." and Bonnie and I looked at each other and snickered, because of course I was being a smarty-butt.  Then I told her a story that is much too personal to share here, but trust me, it was stinking funny.  Dennis went in to get some water to add to the car's water thingie (I have no idea), and still, we hadn't moved.

So that was when Bonnie laid it on me:  I hadn't blogged in a few days, and this is unacceptable.  Oh dear.  So we discussed some things to blog about.  It was decided that I should tell The Wiener Story.  And no, it has nothing to do with Anthony.

(Troubling side-note:  I always want to spell "wiener" like "weiner."  It's a very commonly misspelled word, and I do not like to misspell.  So, just now, to be sure, I Googled weiner.  Big mistake.  Whoa.  But, I did find that it's for sure spelled "wiener."  It comes from the word "Vienna," so I hope this helps you with your wiener-spelling in the future.)

Anyway... The Wiener Story.

So there we were, driving over to Bucky's to get a pop.  That was when we heard harp music, the clouds parted, and a beam of sunlight shone over on the HyVee parking lot.  And what did we see, you might ask??  We saw The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.  It was like a dream come true, a vision from heaven.  Admit it, you would love to just happen to see the Wienermobile on your daily travels.  I mean, who wouldn't?!?

Bonnie yelled for me to pull over, and so I veered across several (or one) lane of traffic to make our pilgrimage to the holiest of all vehicles.  She kept saying, "I need to hug The Wiener!  I need to hug the Wiener!"  We whipped into a parking space, and leapt out.  Well, she leapt, I sort of rumbled.  There were two Wiener Attendants squatting in front of The Wiener self-taking pictures of themselves.  Bonnie ran over and said, "Can I hug your Wiener??"  They were a bit confused, I guess, and said, "We don't have any hot dogs... we only have whistles."  (Huh??)  And Bonnie said, "No, can I HUG.  YOUR.  WIENER?" and pointed at it.  They said, "Oh... sure."  And she hugged that Wiener.  And I took her picture.  I hugged it too, and we admired it for a bit.  Then they gave us Wiener Whistles.  (It just occurred to me that perhaps The Wiener Attendants thought we were strange.  Well, THEY were the ones self-taking pictures of themselves with it.  Pffft.)

To this day, that Wiener Whistle on a stretchy string, dangling from my rear-view mirror.  Somehow, it became a "bit" that whenever we go through a yellow light, someone yells, "Blow the whistle!" (or something like that) and the other person has to blow the whistle.  Life is a bit, ya know.

So, that is The Wiener Story, subtitled "One of the Best Days of My Life."

Happy Accidents

Today is my girl's birthday.  (Well, by the time I get this posted, it will be yesterday.)  Kacy Rae was born on Wednesday, July 24, 1985, in Escondido, California.  She was 7 pounds, 12 ounces of perfection.  For some reason, I thought I was destined to have all boys, so her lack of "equipment" was a big surprise to me.

Of course, there are no "bad babies," but Kacy was just SUCH a good baby.  She was sweet and happy and precious... people just couldn't help but smile at her and tell us how cute she was.  She stayed tiny for a long time.  In fact, she only weighed 14 pounds, 9 ounces on her first birthday, so it was odd to see her walking.  Her huge, dark eyes just drew you in.  She so easily could have manipulated everyone, but she was so sweet.  When other kids would take a toy from her, she would just move to something else... I had to actually encourage her to stand up for herself.  That spirit stayed with her, and she grew into a sweet, giving woman.

But before I fast forward to that, I have to admit something.  Kacy was not "planned."  When I became pregnant with her, Kyle was seven months old, Dennis was out of work, and we were uninsured.  We had purchased our first home before the "unemployed thing" happened, and we were struggling.  In fact, when I first realized I was "late," I didn't even tell Dennis.  I figured I had my dates mixed up or something, and my first thoughts were not giddy-happy-baby thoughts, I'm ashamed to say.  I don't think I prayed one way or the other, but in my arrogance, I probably suggested to God that this wasn't the right time for a second child.  Right now, that very thought sickens me.

But over the next few days, I guess God softened my heart.  Without being too graphic... every woman who has ever wondered if she could be pregnant knows what I'm talking about... but every time I'd go to the bathroom, it was about "checking."  And within about 24 hours, each "check" resulted in a sigh of relief, rather than a groan of dread.  By the time I told Dennis, and took a pregnancy test, I was so happy about this child.

I just can't imagine my life without her.  In fact, I can't imagine any member of our family without Kacy's influence.  She was Kyle and Brad's strongest supporter, and honestly, most of the good in Bonnie comes from Kacy.  Anyone she loves, she loves thoroughly... her Daddy, her cousins, her aunts and uncles, her grandparents and great grandparents.  I can't even start to mention her relationship with my Mom without fighting tears.  She is tenderhearted and funny and kind... she is a far better person than I am, and sometimes I'm baffled as to how that happened.  I admire her in so many ways.

So, fast forward a few years.  She met her Arick just before her senior year of high school.  She had already decided she was going to attend Nebraska Christian College, and that's where he was attending.  It was fairly soon that we realized that this was probably "the one."  If she could have skipped her senior year of high school, she would have, in a heartbeat.  That year was rough, but she survived, and then off to college she went, 2 hours from home. At Christmastime, Kacy and Arick were engaged... she was 18 years old.  Wow.  Yes, she was young, but we felt like the most important thing was that she made the right choice, and it was obvious that Arick was the right choice.  So, she turned 19 on July 24, and was married a week later.  

Around her birthday that year, I wrote a little poem about her.  I suppose I was just feeling all the emotion of wedding-planning, and everything it entails, but I had really been reflecting on how much joy she brought me, and how we hadn't exactly been planning for that joy when she was conceived.  Somehow, I cannot find the completed poem (Kacy has it somewhere, but couldn't put her hands on it today when I asked), but I do have my hand-written "rough draft" right here.  So, I'll close with the poem (and hope to edit this post to include the real final draft later), and I hope you all remember that sometimes the best things that happen to you are happy accidents.

Happy Accident
by Susan South

The stick was blue
A baby was due
This is certainly not what we'd planned.

One babe in the fold
Just seven months old
How could we face the demand?

Attitude change
So much to arrange,
And that belly just grew and grew.

Though work was scarce
And the mortgage was fierce
In July, she made her debut.

Our tiny surprise,
With huge hazel eyes
Is Mommy and Daddy's pride.

Diapers and toys 
Turn to dating and boys
In a heartbeat, my baby's a bride.

She found him so soon,
Her affable groom,
Their happiness told the tale.

Focused above,
Sharing laughter and love,
Now her face is beneath a white veil.

Hazel eyes glowing,
While Mommy is knowing
Childhood's moments are spent.

My girl, you can bet,
Not a single regret,
For the happiest accident.

If we'd got what we'd wanted,
Our lives, perhaps haunted,
Might have been so cheerless and bland.

But the stick turned blue,
And the baby was due,
She's exactly what God had planned.

I love you, my Schwummy-girl!

California, There I Went...

I just got back from a trip to California to see my Dad.  The extended family is trying to make it an annual thing, to be there over the Fourth of July holiday, or in that general time frame.  My brother, Scott, and wife, Wynette, were there almost the whole time we were there, and brother Steve and wife Jill were there for about three days overlapping with us.  My husby, Dennis, couldn’t go, unfortunately, due to work commitments. 

Of my kids, only Kacy (and husband Arick) and Brad (and girlfriend Jen) could go.  And of course, along with Kacy and Arick came my Little Bit, Mister Mason, one and only (so far) grandchild.  Woo hoo!!  I was just so excited to experience Mason’s “beach firsts” along with him.  I sort of like him.

Highlights of the trip:
--Singing Mason to sleep on the second flight.  His favorite in my repertoire is “Hush Little Baby,” but I also did “For Baby” (yes, the old John Denver song… it was his Mommy’s favorite, too), “In the Garden,” “As the Deer,” and “Day is Done.”  I love the way he watches me so intently, totally relaxed, but won’t fall asleep until I stop looking at him while I sing.
--Days on the beach.  The first day, most of us ended up at the beach at the end of Grand Avenue.  (I never know if that’s Pismo or Grover, so we just say “End of Grand.”)  Steve, Jill, Wynette, Dad, Kacy, Arick, Brad, Jen, Mason and I had a blast.  I thought Mason might be a little afraid of the water, but the waves were breaking pretty far out, and the water wasn't rough at all.  He ran straight in, even though it was colllllddddd.  The movement of the water seemed to confuse his walking skills a little (he’s only been walking for about 6 months, after all), but there was always someone there to help him stand.  Another day, we went to Pismo (by the pier), and another day we went to the Dino Caves.  There were other shorter times at the beach, of course, but those were my favorite.
--Watching Mason and Noah together.   My youngest nephew, Zach, and wife Heidi traveled all the way from Missouri, by car.  Their baby, Noah, is 10 months old, and a little butterball of cuteness.  He outweighs Mason, who is almost 18 months old, but regardless, is still in that littler-baby, crawling stage.  So, so, so, so cute.  He and Mason just hit it off, of course.  I loved watching my brother (Scott) be a grandpa, and sitting with Wynette with our grandbabies.  It brought back wonderful memories times in the past when we’d sit together with our own babies on our knees.
--A fun afternoon in San Luis.  Downtown San Luis Obispo is a great place to walk, shop, browse… and we did it all. 
--Dogs, dogs, dogs!  Molly (Dad’s Pomeranian) is queen of the castle, of course, but she (mostly) welcomed Scott and Wynette’s three Chihuahuas, Sweet Pea, Merle and Jasmine.  None of them was quite sure about Ozzie, Adam and Melody’s Australian Cattle Dog.  It was junior high all over again, with all the little dogs ganging up on poor Ozzie.  Lots and lots of barking and yapping was heard.
--Tour of Hollywood:  The day we arrived in LA, it was early enough that we had some tourist time.  We rented the car for the week, and headed to Hollywood Blvd.  We ate lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, with the legendary Hollywood sign in sight.  We sat on the patio and watched all the “freaks and geeks” walk by.  Best people-watching place ever.  We wandered around, saw the stars in the sidewalk on the “Walk of Fame,” saw the set-up for a movie premiere, saw the creepiest Michael Jackson impersonator ever (let’s just say he really did look like MJ), and took a lot of pictures.  We got back in the car, and drove up Sunset Blvd, seeing all the sights along the way.  Then we hopped on the freeway and headed up to Dad’s.  Great day.
--Other highlights:  Fireworks.  Fro-yo.  Quirkle.  Sunsets.  Hot-tubbing.  Getting felt up by TSA.  Watching the Casey Anthony verdict (don’t get me started).  Church at Oak Park.  Sharing a room with four others.  Jen’s sleep-talking.  Old Juan’s.  Watching my brothers and sisters-in-love meet Mason.

Ten days of fun with family… hard to beat that.  There were only two negatives, for me.  One, we had some delays on our flights home, but we were thankful that we didn’t end up spending the night on the airport floor.  Two, I had a bit of a meltdown when I first walked into Dad’s house.  Mom’s been gone for two years, but somewhere deep inside, I still expect her to be standing there at the door waiting for me.  I’ll just have to wait for Heaven, where I know she’s standing at the door (probably shoving poor Peter out of the way) waiting for me.  
Great-Grandpa with Noah and Mason
I know I said I’m a “story-teller” in my initial blog post, and that this blog is sadly lacking in actual stories.  This is why I have to blog quickly after events.  Otherwise, I get very boring.  Sigh.

Arick said something that, for me, summed up the whole trip, and I shall close with it.  There we were, gathered around the table, being loud and hilarious, all 14 of us.  Arick:  “How do we not have our own reality show?!?”

(All pictures in this post were taken by Kacy)

The Time Has Come.... to Blog.

It seems that when someone starts to blog, the first post is always all about why they decided to blog.  I really ought to be more original that that, but...

I'm going to blog, because my youngest daughter, Bonnie, said I must.  If this whole thing is a bust, blame her.  But if it's awesome, credit me.  Actually, today we had lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, and she presented the whole idea as if it was something she'd been thinking about.  It wasn't just a random, throwaway comment.  She started out with, "Mom.  You know how you have to write a book?"  (This is something my family, especially my husby, has been saying for years, yet I haven't agreed to do it.)  

So, here I am, blogging.

I do tend to be a "story teller."  Some might say I just plain talk too much.  (Actually, more than "some" would say that.)  But I can usually make a story out of even the most every day things.  I like to start my stories with the phrase, "So there we were..."  We'll see how that works out, in blog form.

OK, that is enough about "why I'm blogging," and all that blah blah blah.  The next one will be a real post.