Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Blogaversary!

I did not even noticed that I passed my one-year blog anniversary this past week! I am quite proud that I actually stuck to this and shocked that anyone besides my parents actually reads it. I am always flabbergasted when someone in passing at work or wherever says something like, "I saw that Jeremy said 'Mama'" or "I cannot believe those boys laughed at you when you fell at the cafeteria!" My first response is, naturally, that they have been stalking me, but at my confused expression they say they read the blog. Crazy!

Anyway, thanks for reading. I enjoy writing, I always have, and it is fun to delve back into that passion. I usually simply chronicle the ups and downs of raising my monster, but when the spirit hits me, I must admit it is nice to have a place to put down my thoughts on things like the ridiculousness of the designated hitter or the abomination of any work of literature recently attacked by zombies, sea creatures, werewolves or whatever other get-rich-quick monster someone can think of. 89 posts (as of this one) later, and now managing two blogs (the RAs love the one I am doing at work), I must call this little year-long trial run a success. Here is an old photo of Jeremy blogging in my office:
It has been an interesting year, to say the least. In the past 12 months I have read about 65 books (lucky for you I do not write about all of them here), gone through three different formats at my job, attended 3 professional conferences, gone on a great family vacation, begun my struggle with rheumatoid arthritis, and my little man has been diagnosed with a speech disorder, started intensive therapy, and finally begun to see positive results. To think I was scared back in November that he would never speak and that he was possibly autistic! Look at him now: putting two word combinations together, friends with tons of little kids, one of the best-behaved children in his class (teacher's words, not mine), and obsessed with trains. Hmm, I could do without the degree of passion involved in the last one. I certainly never thought a year ago that I would one day know all of the names for the 700 different Thomas characters.

So, thanks again for keeping up with our little family through the blog, I hope I don't bore you too much and that you continue to visit!
-Jeannie :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Biography Catch Up: Agatha Christie

I realized that it is more than half way through our biography year and I have yet to make any note of the books I have read thus far. I will attempt to remedy that in the next few weeks, and we will begin right here with Dame Agatha Miller Christie Mallowan.

I just completed Agatha's biography this weekend. I feel like she is someone I can call by her first name. We are that close. I found her biography to be totally fascinating and unexpected (doesn't she look like Kate Winslet in this photo?). I knew little to nothing about her life at all prior to reading it, which made it all the more fun. Here are some interesting facts I discovered about the world's bestselling author:
  1. She was married twice, first to Archie Christie, and then to Max Mallowan, 15 years her junior. She was an original cougar.
  2. She was a very talented opera singer and her ambitions were always in that direction, not writing. Even in her 60s she lamented not doing it professionally.
  3. Her early family life was capital C crazy. Her mom was nutty (in a good way), her dad had a spending problem that almost bankrupted the family, her sister was a master of disguise (no joke - she would show up as other people quite often), and her brother was a lazy ladies man who died early after random exploits in India and spending tons of his family's money.
  4. When her first husband fell in love with a younger woman of their acquaintance, around the same time her mom died, Agatha literally lost her mind, ran away from home, and was missing for two weeks. She assumed another identity and a nationwide search was on to find the beloved missing author. Many people thought she staged this to plan the plot for a new book, but she for real lost her memory and was basically in a trance for two weeks, forgetting her name, her husband (he deserved it), her daughter, and her entire life. She was at a resort the whole time and later people said she sat around discussing the missing author with other guests. Weird!
  5. Her first husband was one of the first aviators and was highly decorated in the first world war for his daring flights. Her second husband, Max, was an archeologist who took her on tons of digs around the world. He seemed like a cool guy, spoke Arabic, and was insanely smart.
  6. Agatha was methodical with her books. She plotted them all out before writing anything, starting with the murder method, then constructing characters and story around that. She worked as a pharmacy dispenser during both world wars, and had a great fascination for chemistry and math, both of which are obvious in her books.
  7. She was also a very talented playwright and her plays were crazy successful. The Mousetrap still holds the record for the longest initial run. It opened in 1952 and is still running, without ever closing! (I almost saw this when I was studying in London but saw The Lion King instead, obviously regretting that now.)
  8. Dame Agatha and Sir Max were BOTH knighted (well, is a girl "knighted", I don't know what it is called "damed"?)by Queen Elizabeth, and they are one of the few couples who were both honored for their own separate work, her as an author and him as an archeologist.
This biography was written by Janet Morgan, and she was the first person given complete access to Agatha's papers, letters, and family members. Agatha wrote an autobiography, and that is referenced heavily in the book as well. Overall, I really enjoyed it. The writing was quick and interesting, and it made me desperately want to read some more of her books, now that I knew specific inspirations, etc. I have never read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which was an early one that caused a scandal in the mystery writing world for turning one of the "rules of the genre" on its head. I also want to read The ABC Murders and a few others that were favorites of Agatha's. Her favorite was actually the same as mine - And Then There Were None (Originally titled The Ten Little Indians, or The Ten Little Niggers - apparently not an offensive word back then?). There was also great background given for Murder on the Orient Express, in which almost every single character she took from her observations on an actual ride she took on the train. I guess real life really is more interesting than anything we could make up!

My final review: great fun, good insights into the books I love, great background on the author from very reliable sources, and very well written. I heartily recommend!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Look Who's Talking

I finally managed to get a video of Jeremy talking! It took ages and he still did not speak nearly as much as he usually does and ignores most of what I say, but I got something, which is impressive. Here is the problem I have:He loves the flip video camera thing. Seriously loves it.Nothing enthralls Jeremy Campbell Hopper so much as the sight and sound of Jeremy Campbell Hopper. He does not enjoy being videoed because he would rather watch the video.But, take a look and see how far he has come!!

We had an evaluation at the UT Hearing and Speech Clinic to get a diagnosis that would assist in our transition to Knox County Schools (when he turns 3, we lose all his current services through TEIS, which includes our great speech therapist, so we turn to the school system to hopefully receive similar services). He did well, and was obviously diagnosed easily with an expressive language disorder. The SLP also said he needs to work on his attention span and eye contact. I think she needs to not hand a 2 year old a box full of cars and then ask him to look at a boring book and pay attention to her. But, who am I to say? Point is, I think we are in good shape to qualify for special education services. Even though I am old hat at this by now, it is still jarring when we sit in these meetings and he is referred to as a "student with a disability". I just don't think of Jeremy as disabled. Oh well, our goal with all of these services is that we can get him caught up so that he can begin kindergarten or at least 1st grade on par with his classmates. Cross your fingers!

Oh, and a quick work-related story. I now supervise both Gibbs and Volunteer Halls, so I have almost all of the athletes living in my area of campus. That means I get to deal more with athletics and all the "fun" that comes with that. Well, last Friday (the 13th- during move-in craziness), I stood before all 105 members of the UT football team in their team meeting room (huge and gorgeous) in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex and spoke to them about football's partnership with housing. Coach Dooley stood next to me while I spoke (I guess to give credibility to what I was saying to these football players who could really care less) and put his arm around me at the end (which was just odd). I then got an official media guide (what am I supposed to do with that?) and chatted with the weight coach, Bennie Wylie (he looks exactly like Billy Blanks), who said to give him a call if any of the guys give us trouble in the halls. Surreal, right? Anyway, this is my job. Just thought I would share. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

RAs, Dr. Seuss, Cheri, Nona, and POP!

The last few weeks have been a bit hectic. I went with the RAs to Camp Rocky Top on Saturday and Sunday (the 7th and 8th), an overnight retreat in Greenville, TN. It was a great time. Here is my area (the group of student staff members that I fearlessly lead - or whatever):Other scenes from two weeks of RA Training, which was Dr. Seuss themed:
Jeremy at the Lip Sync Competition with me and Febi:Jeremy, Anna, and Febi at the fancy RA dinner provided by Dining Services. They did breakfast for dinner and made a Dr. Seuss cake:As you know, Jeremy's school was closed this entire last week. Other moms I talked to about this said, "Oh, I just took the week off work." Well, isn' t that cute? I can't take off during Opening. I work 20 days straight, no weekends, no sleep, no life. It's like an accountant taking off in April or an obstetrician taking off during a full moon. You just don't do it. Enter Nona, Pop, and Cheri - my heroes. While I was at Camp, then training RAs all week, then helping to move in 7200 students in a single weekend, my lovely family drove from Memphis to watch my baby.Nona and Pop arrived on Friday the 6th and stayed until Wednesday the 11th. I barely saw them, but Jeremy sure loved the visit. Aren't they cute? They spoiled him rotten, as is their job, and bought him a new bike. He is a big boy now!They also got him some new extensions for his Thomas track, including a suspension bridge, a water tower, and a figure 8 loop. I am including the original picture of the train (also bought by my parents), then a current picture. Think of the first one as a cute, cuddly Gizmo. Then water is spilled on it and low and behold, it has multiplied into a monster Gremlin taking up half of his room. He loves it.
Here are a few sequence photos of the fun Bud has with his grandparents. He loves his Nona:And he loves his Pop:Everyone should have a Pop jungle gym.

When mom and dad left, Cheri came to help us out. Cheri was our first-ever babysitter and the one who stayed with us before, during, and after Jeremy was born. I feel like the two of them have a special bond since they were so close when he was tiny. She took him to the bookstore to read and play with, you guessed it, the Thomas train set.In her last night in town, we all went to see Shakespeare in the Square. I attempt these little moments of getting Jeremy some culture, but while we watched the play (which was awful),Jeremy just played in the patch of dirt next to the tree. THE ENTIRE TIME. He was so gross.So was I. Why do I look like I am twelve times bigger than Cheri? Yuck.Aunt Cheri also got him a booster seat. Look how grown up he looks in her car! So, our family survived our week of torture, mostly thanks to the wonderful love and help given to us by our family. Nona, Pop, and Aunt Cheri, we LOVE you! Thanks for coming, for playing, for sharing, and for caring. We couldn't have survived without you, and we do not take for granted how lucky we are to have people in our lives who would drop everything, travel 800 miles round trip to babysit a monster, and ask for nothing in return.

From Buddy and exhausted mommy: Thank You!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Friend Bryan

My friend Bryan was admitted to the hospital three weeks ago. We all knew he was ill, but no doctors could determine what was wrong with him, so we pushed our uncomfortable fears aside. At the hospital, they immediately determined his kidneys had failed and after two rough weeks Bryan died last Monday of complications from lupus and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. I took the boys to see him the Sunday before he died and he was smiling, talking, and despite being in the NICU and looking tired, really seemed like he was going to come out of this.

I have not been able to write this post due to my uncontrollable bursts of tears, but now that it has been a week, I figure it is time to say thank you to one of my best friends for the last six years. Bryan (who has featured largely on this blog in the past) and I were Assistant Hall Directors at the same time and attended grad school at UT. I immediately became friends with him thanks to his dry humor, sarcasm, and sincerity. He was the guy who would take the area coverage phone for you when you had a test, go to Ash Wednesday mass with you (he was my only Catholic friend in those days), and he was one of the first people I knew who appreciated the awesomeness that was The Office when it first hit the air. We had hard-core debates together over whether or not Snape really fooled Dumbledore (he said yes, I said no), and I honestly don't know if I'll be able to see the next two Harry Potter films without him being there at midnight with me. He loved baseball and understood my unhealthy obsession. He loved working with students and didn't even flinch when the Lip Sync competition "demanded" that he shave his head and dye what little was left a shocking yellow so that he could play Eminem with a vengeance. He moved into my apartment in Morrill after I left and inherited some of my furniture, which he hated but said he loved so as to not hurt my feelings. He was my friend and it is difficult to think of an event or time in the last 6 years where he was not a major factor.
His is the only card I kept from my wedding. We received over 200 cards, but Bryan's was a keeper. I used to have a book club that Bryan attended (of course) and he wrote several different congratulatory messages in the card, covering every inch of white space. He wrote them all as if the authors of the books we had read were writing, so I had a message from Jane Austen, Truman Capote, Robert Penn Warren, etc. It was intelligent, spot on, and very Bryan. It is in my keepsake box along with my most precious wedding memorabilia.

I hired Bryan as the ASA II in Volunteer Hall two summers ago, knowing we needed someone intelligent and strict to help us open that crazy mess of a building. Elizabeth and I chose right, and he did a hell of a job getting it up and running. On a personal note, it was a great decision for me as well. Having Bryan as a personal friend who was also in the trenches was great. When I was having a particularly rough day, I would send Bryan emails entitled "dear diary" and I would unload whatever work frustrations I was having. I did not go into details or break confidences, but I vented. I always signed them XOXO, and Bryan always wrote back pages and pages of advice, further venting, and hilarious rampages. He was hands-down the best person to complain to, as his own sarcasm and wit were boundless and never to be topped. But, he always ended with encouragement and guidance, for which I was always thankful and always heeded.

When I had Jeremy, Bryan was one of the first babysitters I called on to help. He has several nephews that mean the world to him, and I never hesitated calling him even at the last minute, because I knew he loved Jeremy and would help out no matter what. He was the sitter who would make Jeremy eat his vegetables, wash behind his ears, and get to bed on time - impressive. Jeremy doesn't understand what he has lost, but I do and it is heartbreaking.

One final note before I am overcome with tears again. While Bryan was in the hospital for two weeks, Joel, Kristin, Elizabeth and I visited quite a bit. I could not make it as much as I wanted because I felt it was not a place I could take the monster, but I tried and got there about every other day. At one of my first visits, I brought Bryan two rosaries (again, us Catholics have to watch out for one another). I knew it was something he would appreciate. I hung one over his bed and gave him mine to hold. I was told by his family that he had it wrapped around his wrist the day he died. They thought about returning it to me, but decided to bury it with him. I cannot think of a better testament to our friendship and what he meant to me, and what I hope I meant to him.

Bryan, I will miss you and love you forever. I may still send some "dear diaries" your way, so send me your guidance and wit when you get the chance.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Still Here!

Greetings all! Sorry I have been too busy to post for the last few weeks. But, here is a quick post full of fun pictures of my little man.
Jeremy is now very into Bob the Builder. We call him "Bud the Builder". He helped me put his monkey hooks back up, after promising not to tear them down anymore. He is scary with a hammer.He got really sick last weekend, with temperatures reaching 104. It was alarming, but we took him to the doc and he was alright after a few days rest.My living room when Jeremy is sick. He oscillates between the couch and the floor mat, and then back again. Odd but it works. In case you are wondering, yes, we watched all three Star Wars movies back to back nonstop while he was sick. He loved every second of it. Jeremy showing off the necklace he made by stringing the beads Aunt Lauren sent him from Washington state. Check out those fine motor skills!A KPD officer recently moved into our townhouse unit. Every morning, we have to walk up to the cruiser and say hello, then goodbye. We have to do this before getting in our own car to go to school. The cutest part: Jeremy thinks it is a "please" car. He does the sign language sign for "please" and says car when he sees it. Love it! Melissa, I will have to bring him over to see Brandon - hero worship will commence.Jeremy has also recently taken to climbing in and out of his toy box. I suppose I knew this would eventually be fun for him, but it still amazes me how long he will do this over and over again. Weirdo.We moved his train set upstairs because it was driving us crazy. Now he lies down to play, taking laziness to a whole new level. That's my boy.Fingers. He does this ALL THE TIME. Any advice on how to get him to stop the constant finger sucking?? Finally, I am knee deep in training our new staff right now, and the RAs came back this weekend. This evening, I met all the RAs from my area, which has doubled with recent restructuring in our department (I have 75 RAs, 6 professional hall directors, and 11 graduate assistants in my area). All my staff members gathered at the Torchbearer to take a pledge and be initiated as Fainting Goats - long story, I am a nerd and created a housing mascot. It was fun and we "goated" the campus. My new blog for the RAs went live tonight, so if you get bored one night, check it out and see what we are up to:
Happy August!!