Not in my house but in my heart…always

I remember where I was when I found out he was coming.

His mother pulled me aside after church and whispered, “I’m pregnant. Seven weeks.”

I hugged her tight, willing my excitement to somehow transfer from my heart and brain and arms into her so she would know–really know–that this news was an answer to prayers I’d said for her and her husband for months as they waited for this to happen.

I remember where I was when I found out he was here.

A text from his aunt popped up on my phone as I stood in a friend’s living room celebrating the impending arrival of another dear friend’s baby. It was five days after I turned 30. I’ve always considered him my belated 30th birthday gift. Because this child is–without a doubt–a complete gift in my life.

***

There’s something just get-you-in-the-gut amazing about watching your friends raise their children. Seeing them parent, parenting alongside them, and watching their (and our) little people grow into who they are. It’s not always easy and is pretty much always messy, but I try to do what James tells us: “Count it all joy…” Because…man, what a privilege to witness such things.

I mean, think about it. You’ve got this friend–or friends, in the case of the little guy I was talking about earlier–who you love and enjoy so much. And then they have this little baby who has parts of each them–either through biology or bonding–BUT ALL WRAPPED UP IN ONE PERSON.

I can’t not be completely in love. I don’t stand a chance.

***

I am the parent of an only child.* But that doesn’t mean I have one child in my life. I carried one, gave birth to one, and am currently raising one, but I am blessed to have so, so many to live life with and to love fiercely. Even though they don’t live in my house, they live in my heart. They’ve burrowed into it and made their marks, and I am forever changed.

(Happy birthday, Grey.)

*I don’t like to say “I only have one child” because that somehow implies that parenting one child is easy. Maybe it is for some people; it depends on the child and the parents. My point: you don’t know how easy someone’s parenting life is until you’ve spent time in his or her brain.

It doesn’t matter where you come from…it matters where you go

My friend Deanna is a teacher at The Academy at Virginia Randolph, an alternative high school in the Richmond area.

As you can imagine, most of these kids have had (or are currently having) a tough go of it. As you can also imagine, it takes a pretty fantastic person to devote her career to teaching and caring for a group of kids that most people have given up on. But it’s just what Deanna does. She loves those kids and thinks they are amazing.

To help them think that about themselves, Deanna is working hard to bring Academy Challenge Day to her school. The idea behind it, according to her fundraising website, is to “provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of truth, diversity, and full expression.”

The goal is to raise enough money for 300 kids to participate. $50 will sponsor one kid’s full participation, but any amount you can donate is so appreciated.

To learn more about what Deanna’s up to, check out go here and here. And watch the video below because…wow.

Valerie Wolf

If you don’t follow me on Twitter (we you should be doing because I’m hilarious and contemplative AT THE SAME TIME), then you haven’t been exposed to the wonder that is Valerie Wolf.

My friend Matt made it, and all he basically does is take my most frustrated tweets and creates a ridiculous image, usually involving a picture of an angry wolf. The explanation doesn’t make it sound funny at all, but trust me, it is.

See?

So yeah, go check it out and have a laugh.

Picking my battles

My dad and stepmom took a trip out west last summer. Upon their return, they brought with them a cowboy hat and Yellowstone National Park “sheriff’s” star for JR.

“Perfect!” I thought. “He can be a cowboy for Halloween. Done and done.”

And then I didn’t think about it for four months because, hey! I already had it figured out.

As it got closer to Halloween, we tried to introduce JR to the concept of dressing up as a cowboy. We would casually suggest that he wear the hat. Gently encourage him to belt out a “Yee-haw!” Give him ever-so-delicate guidance to try on a bandanna.

No dice. He wanted NOTHING to do with them.

Our friend Sarah offered up her daughter’s frog costume from a couple years ago. It’s basically a pair of pajamas with a hood that happens to feature eyeballs. I thought surely he would go for it.

Well. When I attempted to get JR to try it on the day before Halloween, he had a total meltdown, complete with flopping himself on the floor, gasping “No!” through tears.

I put on the brakes at that point.

He’s not even two. He won’t remember this at all. He needs to look at Halloween as a fun evening to be spent with his friends and family, not a time that his parents force him to put on weird clothes for their amusement.

So, I found a red T-shirt and painted some black stripes on it, stuck him in a pair of black pants, handed him his blue blanket, and boom! We had a very happy Linus:

Here he is with his friend (and godbrother, if that’s a thing) Jack, who happens to be sporting the lion costume that JR happily wore last year — back before he had opinions on things.

Perfect timing

As I mentioned, my birthday wasn’t the most celebratory of days in the Catrow house.

But there was one particularly bright spot. It arrived on my front porch at about 3pm.

My friends Maura and Matt (who have a very annoying habit of living in Fredericksburg which is definitely NOT Richmond) arranged to have a lovely bouquet of flowers sent to our house as a birthday surprise. Because they are wonderful like that, always popping in one way or another, whether it be a text message or a phone call of “Hey, we’re in town, let’s eat dinner and hang out!”

There might have been some happy tears.

Yeah, I think I’ll keep those guys.

This one’s for his boy

My friends Matt and Jenny are expecting a their first baby (a boy) in October. At Jenny’s shower a little over a week ago, Matt made a special appearance to sing a lullaby he wrote for the baby. Since it’s been up on my Flickr for a while and they’ve been able to share it on facebook and what not, I figured it was ok to share it with all of you. Even though you probably don’t know them, you will undoubtedly be crushed by the sweetness of it.

(I should probably add that Jenny’s shower had a rockstar theme. She doesn’t always have a bright red mohawk. However, she does have bright red hair, and it’s awesome.)

(I should also apologize for the mid-song jostle of the camera. I couldn’t help it — if my friends sob, *I* sob.)

(Also, also, “Weiner” is what they call their dachshund, even though her name is actually Scarlett. Oh, forget it, you don’t care.)

100 things – Tina edition

I’m on a roll!

Since she loves these so much, I decided to do one for her.

1. Tina’s full name is Christina. This is important for you to know for some reason.
2. We met at my old job.
3. There was much commiserating over lunch.
4. Tina’s favorite movie is Independence Day.
5. She has memorize The Speech.
6. She loves disaster movies.
7. The second I left the theater after seeing 2012, I texted her in all caps, telling her she needed to see it.
8. Tina went to my rival-ish high school.
9. She knew a lot the same people I know now.
10. Tina has a boyfriend named Nathan.
11. He is a kook.
12. But he is delightful.
13. Tina says “delightful” a lot.
14. I find it delightful.
15. Tina LOVES flats.
16. She came to work one day and said she watched Victoria Beckham’s TV special.
17. Victoria said she hated people who wear flats.
18. Tina was personally offended.
19. “Douchebag” is one of Tina’s favorite words.
20. That and “douchebaggery.”
21. Tina is one of the hardest working people I know.
22. I will punch you if you don’t recognize that.
23. Tina has recently started running.
24. In fact, she is going to run a half marathon.
25. I’m very impressed by this.
26. I don’t understand it.
27. But I’m impressed.
28. Tina has a younger brother and a younger sister.
29. She is very protective of them.
30. Actually, she’s very protective of most people.
31. Tina hates it when people refer to their feet as “dogs.”
32. She especially hates it when people say their “dogs” are “barking.”
33. She also hates it when people say “We were slammed.”
34. I was sitting in Tina’s office the first time I felt JR move in my belly.
35. So I can never forget her.
36. The first time Tina met JR she held him for about 15 seconds.
37. Then she smiled and said “Ok, I’m done.”
38. That still cracks me up.
39. When we used to work together, Tina used to come into my office for her “4:30 Freak Out.”
40. Tina is very good about keeping in touch.
41. She is also very supportive.
42. That, my friends, is a winning combination.
43. One time, Tina’s father made her Halloween costume.
44. He dressed her up as Jessica Rabbit.
45. Hmmmm.
46. Tina calls her grandfather “Dad.”
47. I still don’t know why.
48. Much of Tina’s family is from Scotland.
49. Like they actually live there.
50. This makes her much cooler than most of you.
51. Tina hates Miami.
52. She loves/loved Chris Brown.
53. She was very disappointed in him.
54. Tina recently built her very first website.
55. With code and everything.
56. I couldn’t do that, and I run an effing website.
57. See? Impressive.
58. Tina talks about the people on Real Housewives of Orange County like she knows them.
59. I do this, too, so I appreciate it.
60. When we had lunch together, we would go to El Paso a lot.
61. She would always order Chicken Nachos.
62. Tina loves her some Chicken Nachos.
63. Now whenever I see Chicken Nachos on any menu, I think of her.
64. Tina used to be a cheerleader.
65. She cheered at the Pro-Bowl once.
66. I have no idea what that means, but it sounded (again) impressive.
67. Once at our old job, we worked on a really big project together.
68. Tina was in charge.
69. When we finished, she bought me a present.
70. She also wrote me a thank you note.
71. I still have it.
72. She’s a class act, that one.
73. When Tina is angry, she says she’s full of rage.
74. When I was pregnant, she felt that I had rage as well.
75. She told me that it worried her.
76. But I think she also kind of enjoyed it.
77. Tina has a picture of herself holding a monkey in her Facebook photos.
78. It makes me jealous.
79. But I guess if one of my friends got to hold a monkey before me, I’m glad it was her.
80. Tina sends me links to things that remind her of me.
81. Or with phrases like “You’d appreciate this.”
82. I love it when people do that, so I love getting emails from her.
83. Tina doesn’t seem to mind too much when I IM her even if her status message says she’s busy.
84. (Even if she did, I would do it anyway.)
85. I always start our IM conversations with “TINA.”
86. She doesn’t seem to mind that either.
87. I feel like she humors me a lot.
88. Like when she’d listen about my dream for it to be socially acceptable to hit people I don’t like with pies.
89. She even laughed sometimes.
90. Tina’s last name is also the name of a tribe mentioned in Nehemiah.
91. (I only know this because our pastor preached from it one time).
92. When I told her, she said, “What? Amazing! I had no idea I was in the Bible. I am a tribe!”
93. She seemed so happy.
94. Tina also hates when people call appetizers “apps.”
95. So basically her hell would be a busy restaurant in Miami where the servers are bringing us apps and complaining about it being slammed and how their dogs are barking.
96. Don’t think I don’t say these things to her every chance I get.
97. Tina has a tendency to quickly reveal the things that bother her.
98. And mean people like me use it against her immediately and often.
99. But she forgives me and still talks to me.
100. Because she’s a peach.

100 things – Stephanie edition

(Remember when I said I was going to do these and then I did two and stopped? Well, I’m trying again.)

1. Stephanie was my roommate freshman and sophomore year of college at University of Richmond.
2. We were randomly paired up.
3. Before school started in August of 1999 (GAWD!), we decided to meet up and get to know each other.
4. While talking on the phone to set up our meeting, Stephanie described herself as “small and with red hair.”
5. She wasn’t lying.
6. Stephanie grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
7. She has a younger sister named Megan.
8. Her dad is named Mike and her mom is named Beverly.
9. I see them very, very rarely but I care for them very much.
10. One of Stephanie’s grandmothers is called G-Mom.
11. I’ve never met her, but I also care for her because I know she helped make Stephanie awesome.
12. Stephanie still sleeps with her baby pillow.
13. His name (yes, it’s a he) is “Pella.”
14. Stephanie is one of those people who can write a 10-page paper in 5 seconds.
15. This drove me crazy in college.
16. Once during freshman year, I walked into our room, thinking no one was there. Then I heard slight giggling. It was Stephanie. Hiding under the bed.
17. These guys we were friends with used to change Stephanie’s screensaver to slide shows of REALLY inappropriate images.
18. They would also set a password on it so she couldn’t change it.
19. This made her very angry (and made me laugh).
20. Another time we put put Stephanie in a bag with her head sticking out and left in front of our friend Erin’s dorm room. We knocked and ran away. When Erin answered the door, Steph just looked up, smiled, and said, “Hey.”
21. Stephanie used to have this as a bedtime snack every night: a Hershey bar dipped in peanut butter.
22. At one point this dude we knew slept on our floor for two solid weeks. Neither one of us knew why.
23. Stephanie could sleep through a screeching alarm.
24. Yet she would promptly awaken if I whispered her name (even if the alarm was blaring).
25. Stephanie has the attention span of a gnat.
26. I love this about her.
27. We had a friend in school who used to call Stephanie “Pocket Friend.”
28. Stephanie was a cheerleader for about 12 seconds.
29. She was a leadership major and business minor.
30. At one point she did a leadership project with Baker’s Crust.
31. This involved her getting up batshit crazy early to go hang out there.
32. Her doing so confirmed my complete lack of interest in being a leadership major.
33. Stephanie cannot pronounce “statistics.”
34. She also says “idear” instead of “idea.”
35. She is amazing at remembering birthdays.
36. She sends the best cards, birthday-related and not.
37. She was the first person I called after leaving the doctors appointment when my pregnancy with JR was confirmed.
38. I told her to sit down and she immediately said, “You’re pregnant!”
39. I missed her very much at that moment.
40. She hasn’t lived in Richmond for a while.
41. She stayed here for a bit after graduating.
42. But then she moved to Savannah for a while.
43. Before heading up to the DC area.
44. She is a business banker.
45. For the longest time, I thought she was saying “business maker.”
46. One time a guy wrote Stephanie a poem.
47. He signed it with “Thanks! Todd.”
48. Ross and I still say that to each other.
49. Stephanie is incapable of learning a foreign language.
50. No, seriously, she took a test and everything.
51. She tried, really she did.
52. It just didn’t work out.
53. She’s also on a mission to bring back regular Coke.
54. When you weigh 100 pounds no matter what you do, I guess you can be on a mission like that.
55. She loves America’s Next Top Model.
56. Her red hair gets really dark in the winter.
57. Despite being a redhead, she is not deathly pale.
58. She’s not even THAT freckly.
59. What a jerk.
60. Jk, she’s one of the least jerky people I know.
61. Stephanie will only call JR “Jackson.”
62. For some reason, this doesn’t annoy me at all.
63. It probably would if other people did it.
64. I think this shows that I kind of let Stephanie be the boss of me when she’s around.
65. She was the maid of honor in my wedding.
67. Her toast was very sweet.
68. Even though she kind of hated Ross for taking away her roommate.
69. She was kidding.
70. Sort of.
71. I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t married Ross so soon after graduating, Stephanie and I would have lived together.
72. And spend our days eating candy and drinking regular coke.
73. Sophomore year of college, Stephanie and I met Anna.
74. At some point Anna starting calling Stephanie “Phanie.” As in “fanny.”
75. Stephanie is not a huge fan of this.
76. But we call her this anyway.
77. Because what is she going to do, beat us up?
78. She weighs four pounds.
79. Stephanie loves, loves, loves Ally McBeal.
80. Ross and I stayed with Stephanie one night when we had to be at Dulles early the next morning.
81. We watched Legally Blond II: Red, White and Blond.
82. It was awful.
83. We still blame Stephanie to this day.
84. She once hosted a “rock star” party.
85. I went, drank too much, and asked all of my friends how much money they make.
86. But this list isn’t about me.
87. Stephanie’s middle name is Anne.
88. So I call her Steffie Anne sometimes.
89. She doesn’t mind this as much as “Phanie.”
90. She LOVES the movie Dirty Dancing.
91. Her aunt was an extra in the final scene.
92. There were days that we watched that movie three or four times in a row.
93. That and Clueless.
94. We were stereotypical.
95. One time we were watching Sliding Doors with a bunch of friends.
96. Due to #25, I told Stephanie before the film started that she had to pay attention.
97. She didn’t.
98. Three-quarters of the way into the movie she turned to me and said, “Wait. They’re the same girl?”
99. If anyone else had done this, I would have punch him/her in the face.
100. But not her, because she’s my Stephanie. And to know her is to love her.

Meet your new best bud

As I mentioned last week, Jennifer and James (our dear friends and JR’s godparents) finally welcomed their little boy into the world on November 30th.

Despite camping out at the hospital while Jennifer was in labor (for, oh, 70 thousand hours – she’s a champ, that one) we ended up not actually meeting Jack until the following Thursday. That’s right. We got the name, we got the weight, and headed home so the grandparents could love on the newly birthed Jack Charles. That, and it was 3:30am and our own child would be arriving back at our house, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, in just four hours.

Anyway, Thursday ended up being a very special day because not only did we get to meet Jack, JR did, too. Here are some pictures of the new buds getting acquainted.

Yes, that is my GIANT! child wielding a baseball bat (Go Phillies!) in the vicinity of a newborn. There was much gasping and flailing on my part.

Here we have me (and my big chin) looking lovingly at the small child while JR does his best impression of a perpetual motion machine.

Soon after the last picture was taken, James put JR on a rocking horse which was a big hit.

Then JR threw up all over their floor.

Welcome to the world, Jack!