On a gorgeous Saturday morning, nine years ago today, at this very moment I was enjoying my last few hours as a single gal.
The night before, we held a traditional rehearsal followed by dinner with our family and wedding party which was held at a little BBQ restaurant, (Bert's pick) where we pigged out (pun intended) and enjoyed visiting with everyone. Towards the end of dinner, Bert leaned over and whispered that he wanted to drive me home. My parents' house was a solid 20 minutes away from his hotel, so I wasn't sure why he wanted to go out of his way. To this very day, I'm so glad he did.
Our last ride in his old black truck as an engaged couple is one etched permanently in my memory. Holding hands, I chattered away, filled with excitement and anticipation for the following day. As we made the turn onto my parents' country road, Bert pulled over and turned the truck off. He had been very quiet for much of that drive, so I was a little nervous as to why he was stopping. He stared at me for a moment, like it was the first time we'd met, then leaned in slowly and kissed me. He said, "I just wanted to slow down for a minute to make sure we remember all of this. And I want you know, I'm really glad that I'm marrying you tomorrow." With tears in my eyes, I decided then was as good a time as any to give him my wedding present... A navy blue Bible with both our names engraved on it.
"Wow, this is awesome." Bert said, nervously. I knew that meant he didn't have a gift for me. I laughed and said not to worry about it. Bert said, "Seriously, I had no idea that people gave gifts other than the wedding bands and the engagement ring and.... I mean, no one even told me.... Ummm..." I laughed and explained that I knew he probably wouldn't know, and I honestly didn't care. I never have cared much about material things. Those who have been to my house can testify to that. It's just stuff. You can't take it with you. Which is why I wanted to give Bert a Bible, to build our marriage on. We talked a few more minutes about the days to come, our future together, our honeymoon, how we hoped the weather would be as pretty as they were predicting since it was an outdoor occasion, and then I said, "I'm so excited I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight. At all." Bert laughed and said, "Try and enjoy it. Even if you can't sleep. There aren't very many times in life when you'll be this excited and happy, so soak it all in."
When we got back to my parents house, my brother, Matt, and his precious wife, Angie, were in the kitchen. We sat down at the table with them and started talking. Matt & Angie have always been some of my favorite people in the world to talk to, and since they started dating when I was not much older than Her Highness is now, Angie was like the big sister I never had. We talked, and talked, and talked. Next thing I knew, it was 1 a.m. and Bert's groomsmen were calling to say they were tired of waiting on him. We kissed goodnight and said our goodbyes. I got a knot in my stomach as I watched Bert pull down the driveway, thinking, "The next time I see him, I'll be walking down the aisle."
I stayed up nearly all night, talking with Angie some more, then watching some old movies. My mind was racing, my heart was pounding, and I was giddy. Finally, I rolled over on the couch, where I had fallen asleep, and saw the sun coming up. My Daddy was making pancakes in the kitchen, and my sisters were still asleep. I snuck up the stairs to obnoxiously wake them from their beauty slumber. Kate immediately pulled the covers over her head, to block my singing out. I asked Kelly if she had any Preparation H to help with the puffiness under my eyes. Kelly laughed and said she'd never heard of that trick and didn't know if it worked or not. I crawled in the bed with her for a few minutes, giggling as we always did on Christmas mornings when we were young.
After breakfast, Daddy and I went for our traditional Saturday morning walk, the last time with me as his single daughter. Daddy spoke many words of wisdom, told me how proud he was of me, that he loved me dearly, and that he thought I had made a great choice and found a perfect mate in Bert. Then, he said, "All of that being said...It's not too late to back out. If you want to call it off, we won't be mad at you. Now's your chance. After the wedding, it's too late. You're married to him forever. There's no backing out. Are you sure this is what you want?" He said it with a smile, but I knew he was serious. And well-meaning. I assured him that I was making the best decision of my life... and it was.
The rest of the morning is a blur... I remember getting ready in my old bedroom, with my Momma patiently trying to fix the problem I was having with my vale. I remember Kate and Kelly coming down the stairs, dressed in their bridesmaid's dresses, and thinking about how beautiful they both looked. They were 18 at the time, but I had always seen them as my baby sisters, and now, suddenly, they looked grown. I remember cutting up with my brothers, hugging my dear sweet Granny, and taking a bajillion pictures. I remember sneaking a peak of Bert, through a window in the Bridal suite, and watching for a moment as he and the groomsmen took their turn with the "paparazzi." Then I got busted for peaking when some of my favorite cousins showed up to pass out hugs and kisses.
The weather couldn't have been more perfect. November in the south is unpredictable, but on November 17, 2001 it was warm, breezy and filled with sunshine. The ceremony took place outside in a tiny courtyard. It was a small gathering of our dear family and friends. Looking out the window, just moments before I walked down the aisle, I thanked God for such a perfect day.
Our grandmothers were seated, followed by our mothers. Trumpet Voluntary started to play, and as Bert's sister, Hilaree, followed by my two sisters, headed out the door and down the aisle, my nerves suddenly subsided. A calm came over me, and I was suddenly filled with total joy and peace. Until my Daddy forgot his escort... ME... then I was nervous again. But only for that second. As soon as he turned around to get me, a calmness filled my soul once more.
As we headed down the aisle towards my future husband, my eyes locked with his. We never looked away from each other. We laughed for a moment, as Bert quickly wiped his eyes, since typically it's me crying, not him. My Daddy proudly gave me away, and shook Bert's hand, followed by a hug, because Maynard's are huggers.
The ceremony was beautiful. My pastor from the time I was a new born, married us. He read a few scriptures and led us in our vows to one another. And in the blink of an eye, he told Bert, "You may now kiss your bride." Bert delicately took my face in his hands, and kissed me.
We turned to the crowd and headed back up the aisle, where we hugged and kissed once more.
Many more pictures were taken, the cake was cut, we visited with our wonderful guests, and most of the attendees watched the Auburn/Alabama game that kicked off at 2:30. Yes, there was a HUGE wall, with a projector displaying the game, life size. And no, I didn't care one bit. I honestly can't tell you who won that year. After the game was over, my Daddy toasted us and our new marriage, and then it was time to say goodbye.
There was a HUGE lump in my throat as I changed out of my wedding dress. I was excited to be heading to the mountains, for our honeymoon retreat, but a part of me didn't want to say goodbye just yet to my family. Fighting back tears, I hugged my Momma so tightly she couldn't breathe for a moment, then my Daddy and sisters. We ran through the door where our guests were blowing bubbles (only because our florist forgot the rose petals that were supposed to be thrown) and climbed into the creatively decorated black truck. The back read, "Hudson Drilling Company." Lovely.
As we drove away, I watched as long as I could as everyone waved goodbye. My Momma followed the truck just a moment, waving the hardest and holding her hand in the sign for "I love you." like we always do. I think that's when it finally hit me... I was married. MARRIED. What had I done??
Nine years later, there are still moments where it hits me... I'm MARRIED?? These are MY kids?? What have I done?? And usually, I answer myself, "The best thing you could have possibly ever done."
Bert and I have referred to our boys as The Storm, long before I ever even knew what blogging was. I used to laugh as I would say, "They're like a STORM, complete with Thunder, Lightning and Hail, either spelling of the word will do."
The truth is, Hell Hail is our most strong-willed child, and definitely the most dangerous in our house, because he's always refused to realize his limitations, whether they be physical limitations or discipline limitations.
From the time he was six months old, he thought he could keep up with the big boys. He was drinking out of a juice pouch with a straw, and clearly asking for "mo chicken" at the dinner table by 9 months. His wheels have always turned at a different speed than our other children. I'm not necessarily saying his IQ is any higher, it's just that he looks at life in a different way than most children. He looks at himself a different way than my other kids did themselves at age three. He's very confident and sure of himself, even when arguing with his five and four year old counter parts. He's extremely witty, and tuned in when it comes to sarcasm. And he's a sneaky little booger. Those qualities combined with an uncanny ability to charm even the crown off Queen Elizabeth's head, create a dangerous effect. I just hope and pray we can teach him how to use all of that for the greater good..... And that he doesn't end up in a state penitentiary.
"I shall wear my hat today, since I recently gave my crown to that charming little fellow. Hail, I believe they call him."
This little stinker pot, who can fill my heart with joy, make my brain hurt trying to win his mind games, and wear me down physically, all in a five minute span, just turned three. Well, I say, "just" like it was yesterday. It was actually about six weeks ago. I got trapped in one of those Motherhood Time Warps, where the days crawl by, yet the weeks have moved faster than the speed of light. Anyway, we had a small gathering of friends to eat pizza and play in the "back ward," which was exactly what Hail asked for. Being the fourth child, he tickled me opening his presents that our friends so generously gave of. Each time we would hand him another, he would look back at me and squeal, "And dis one is for me too? WOW! I lub it!" before he would even open it. So sweet. Once he got the wrapping paper off, with the help of all the kids at the party, he would stare at the gift then squeal again, "DAT'S AWE-SUUUUMMM! DANK-YOU!"
I don't have any pictures... at least not that I can locate. As I've mentioned 84,000 times, I'm using my dump old iphone as my camera. Things get deleted on accident all the time. I'm sure it doesn't help that the operator of said iphone has 2,041 pictures in the camera roll. I've written a letter to Santa, so maybe, just maybe a real-big gurl-mommy-kinda camera will show up in my stocking. I've been really good all year, so we'll see.
Pictures or no pictures, Hail is officially three years old. THREE YEARS OLD. Where does the time go?? It seems like yesterday we brought him home from the hospital. Now, in the blink of an eye, he's THREE. Be still my beating heart.... I absolutely love age three. They're still so young and precious, yet they're starting to gain some insight into the world of big people.
Three year olds do things like dress themselves, then insist on keeping that outfit on, even if stripes and plaid don't match. At all.
Three year olds ask questions that make you think... hard... before giving them an answer. And sometimes, continue thinking even after you've answered. "Who is God's Momma? But, everybody has a Momma!"
And three year olds ask questions that make you think... hard... about heading for the nearest bush and hiding there all day. To the precious 70 something grey haired lady, my apologies.
Hail: Why are you so OLD?? Precious 70 something Lady: Well, because I was born a long time ago. Longer than when your Mom and Dad were born. And probably their Mom and Dad. Hail: Ohhhhh. So dat's why your hair's so old too?? P70SL (laughing, thankfully): Yes, honey. That's why my hair's so old too.
Speaking of hair...
We finally got Willy Wonka's hair cut.
Here's the before:
Even though he was in desperate need of a good cut, I wasn't quite prepared for him to look like a little man. I got a lump in my throat when he marched out of the "Har Cut Store" sucker in hand. Hail, Hail, Hail. Much like your Father, you are a pure joy to my heart.... And a pure pain in my butt. I love you.
As we part ways each morning before school, Her Highness and I always say the same thing, as fast as we possibly can... "IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouGOODBYE!" It started back in kindergarten when she was having a hard time saying bye to me in the mornings. Bert would be waiting patiently in the car, as Her Highness would run back to the door for one last hug and say for the 84th time, "I love you, Momma! I love you! Bye! I love you!"
I always hated saying bye to my Momma too. Still do.
Remembering how that was the worst part of my school day each morning, was what helped me in knowing how to deal with that when it came to Her Highness' separation anxiety. I'm the type of person, where if I'm upset, the less of a deal some one makes over me, the faster I can get over what ever I'm upset about. But, if the people around me start to hug on me and try to make me feel better, I usually end up crying longer... So, when I could tell Her Highness was a little tearful on school mornings, I would try and make her laugh and get out the door by saying as quickly as I could, while hugging her tightly, "IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouGOODBYE!" And when I said the Goodbye part, I always popped her on the butt. Don't ask why. It just made her laugh. So I did it. And I still do it. Every single day.
Most days Bert takes Her Highness and Thunder to school. Every now and then, I get the honor of driving the royal limousine. Our mornings typically all go the same: "Y'all are LAAAATTTTEEE! Get a MOVE ON IT! COOOMMMEEE ONNNNNN! BEEERRRTTT! They're late again!!! Ugggh! Thunder, buddy, you can't go barefoot. Where are your shoes??"
Meanwhile, Her Highness is standing at the door, backpack on, glaring at the rest of us for ruining her life by making her miss saying the pledge with her class at 7:25.
Recently, we took ruining Her Highness' life to a whole new level, all because at the last minute, Bert tossed me the keys since he was busy preparing for a business meeting later that morning. Unaware that I would be the one to drive the kids to school that day, I had to run around looking for my own shoes and change Flash Flood's diaper since he would be riding with us. Her Highness was furious by the time we all got loaded up...
Her Highness: Momma! I'm so tired of being late EVERY DAY.
Me: You're being overly dramatic, as usual. You're not late EVERY DAY. Just half the time.
Her Highness (eyes rolling): Uggggh. It's already 7:29. I'm going to miss the morning announcements!
Thunder: So? Who cares??
Her Highness: You're just a baby kindergartner. You wouldn't even understand! And your dumb baby school doesn't even start until 7:45! So you don't ever have to be as late as ME! Ahh, Momma! Now it's 7:35!! I'm going to have to sign-in and get a late pass!!!
(She burries her head in her hands, as if her life were truly over.)
Me: Okay, well, we're here! I hope you have a GREAT day! IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouGOODBYE!
Her Highness (eyes rolling again, as she gets out of the van): I'm going to march right into that office and tell them that my parents are IRRESPONSIBLE!
Then she slams the door.
I opened the window and hollered: They already know!
She never looked back.
I pray every single day that she grows up and has a daughter EXACTLY LIKE HER.
First, we carved punkins... Well, some of us did. Lightning, Thunder and I were the only ones who were brave enough to gut them. Her Highness and Hail served as supervisors for much of the process. All four kids drew faces on paper, then Bert and I tried our best to carve them to scale...
Flash Flood watched and waited patiently from the sand box. Apparently, he thought snacking on the sand was just as fun as playing in it. His diaper proved my theory the next morning. Then came the time to light 'em up... Lightning's "Hoot Owl" is on the left. Thunder's "Crazy Vampire" on the right... Pretty obvious which one belongs to Her Highness. Hail chose the traditional jack-o-lantern face....
Saturday night, the kids got to have a dress rehearsal in preparation for the main event...
"Darf Bader" and "Obie-ONE-Tanobie" battled over their fair maiden.
Hail, was supposed to be a "Powice Mans" but decided to go as an undercover cop most of the time... Reason #840 that I LOVE Publix: They set up Trick-or-Treat stations so my kids could practice begging for candy, while I did some grocery shopping. "Haunted Aisle" in Publix. Side Note: Did you know that the butcher at Publix will cube your raw meet so you don't have to?? (That's reason #489 I LOVE Publix.) Seriously, they will. You take your raw package of chicken/beef/pork to the counter, tell the butcher if you want it cubed, chopped, etc, and they'll open the package and do it right then. FOR FREE. That's the part I hate the most about cooking, so the day I found out they would do it, I nearly kissed the butcher. On the mouth. But, I held it together and thanked him over and over, then skipped all the way to the register. Oh, Publix how I love thee.
Finally, the time had come... The MAIN EVENT. Oh yeah, baby. (Her Highness' favorite saying right now.) Her Highness decided to be a cheerleader instead of a ballerina. Which was fine by me, since we already owned that costume too. Again, Hail decided being an undercover cop was much more fun. These pics were taken by my BFF, Lindy, who brought her precious family trick-or-treating with our crazy bunch. Her captions in her e-mail were too funny not to share...
Picture 1: I thought this pic with Lightning and his light-saber and the rest of the kids in the background is really funny. It's like, okay you guys go steal the whole bowl and I'll be on the lookout. Go! Go! And may the force be with you!
Picture 2: Trick or treat, wait who is this random kid at the door with us? ha!...
Picture 3: Big Daddy "Bo" with his kiddos! Dang, y'all have a lot of kids! Oh, wait.. There is still one missing!
Hope your "Hall-o-leen" was as fun as ours! Bring on Thanksgiving!