Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cross my heart

I took up cross stitching about five years ago. I was looking for something crafty to do, and I had struck out with knitting. Just couldn't get the hang of it. So I wandered around Hobby Lobby until I happened upon the cross stitch kits. Then I spotted this:

A week or two later, baby Valerie had a new bib. And I had a new obsession.

I stitched all kinds of stuff after that: frameable pictures, sweatshirts for my mom and Valerie, Christmas decorations for my sisters, pillows, towels, bookmarks for friends, etc. Cross stitching appealed to me because of the tiny details and the mixing of colors. When I was a kid, I used to fill in graph paper with different colored markers in various geometric patterns. When I was done, I had a very colorful sheet of paper. Cross stitching allows me to take the same tedious, pointless exercise and come out with something slightly more useful.

In my ultra-nerdy cross stitch Web surfing, I've come across several charity stitching projects, most involving sick children. You volunteer to stitch a square for a sick child's quilt, that kind of thing. I've always liked the idea and thought that I would do something like that sometime. Then I started browsing the Love Quilts site. The site included letters from the families of some of the children who had received quilts. Like this:

We received the quilt and it is very beautiful. There was a lot of hard work and time devoted to do something extra special for the kids. Alicia is doing fairly well considering the chemo. She has started having some reactions to the chemo that is currently being treated with other medications. Thank you so much for caring and taking the time to give something extremely special to the kids. God truly has blessed all of you and made you angels in the eyes of the little ones.

WOW! The minute I layed eyes on it I cried. You guys have done an out of this world job on this quilt! It is BEAUTIFUL!!! Joanna will treasure this quilt for eternity. I would like to send thanks to Love Quilts and every single stitcher that worked on this quilt. What love, devotion and time you guys put into this. It is truely amazing to me what people like you have done for my daughter! I never imagined in a million years, complete strangers like you guys would give so much love & support to my daughter Joanna. Though she is too little now to understand what you did for her she is never too little to understand what love feels like. Joanna has been through so much and has given so much for being so little. It feels so good to see her smile. People like you guys have given so much back to Joanna! Her smile is worth all the money in the world. Thanks Again!

I wanted everyone to know that Matt knew nothing about this quilt. When he woke up, I gave him the box, he wanted to know who it was from, and I told him, a group of loving and compassionate people who have been praying for him and have a surprise for him. HE WAS COMPLETELY AMAZED!!! He couldn't believe that people who don't know him would care enough to take the time to create what he himself called a MASTERPIECE!! He slowly looked at each individual block, and constantly commented on the quality, the designs, and especially where each stitcher came from. I can't tell you how proud he is of this quilt!!!! He said, "Mama, we need to hang this on the wall and not let anything happen to it" but I told him that it was made to use, to wrap up in, to know that each of those tiny stitches were obviously made with a great deal of love and talent, just for him, I can say he has never received such a beautiful and meaningful gift ever!

Now from me, the Mom. This was more than I could have imagined. I too was overwhelmed and shed tears as I snapped pictures for you all to see. It was such a joy to spend the next 2 hours just looking at each block and praying for each individual, thanking God for the joy they have shared. I just want everyone to know that every single stitch they did brought the greatest smile to his face and he lays up on the couch every day in it! How do I say thank you, to so many beautiful and talented people and how do I express how my son felt and will always feel with this quilt around him. He keeps it on top of his bed, layed out and displayed for the world to see when he is not resting!!! So from this mothers heart, to each of your hearts, thank you.... thank you so very much.... this is unbelievable.... and it will be a part of my sons life forever. God Bless you for your time, your prayers, and the beautiful work you each did for my baby.... thank you all. Please share the pictures with everyone and know how grateful we truly are!
And suddenly, I thought, I must do this now. So I'm stitching this:

For her:

Her name is Alexis. She'll be 3 next month, and she has a brain tumor. She wanted baby birds on her quilt.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Valerie Ann

I know, I know. No one wants to hear stories about other people's kids and the cute and adorable and terrible things they do. But I can't help myself; this stuff is gold. And this probably won't be the last time.

Valerie is my 6-year-old niece, my sister Terri's only daughter. She's in kindergarten and stays with my mom after school. Her dad is Daryl; her dogs are Sammy and Studley. Val is what you'd call a live wire.

She has been spoiled beyond what is generally advisable for children, especially as a toddler, which has given her the general impression that she is, in fact, a princess. I was expressing just this notion to my mom one day a couple of years ago, when Valerie interrupted to say, matter-of-factly, "Yes, I am a princess." And she nodded emphatically.

When her cousin Maddie was born, things got more difficult for Val. She loved the baby, but there were two problems: 1) She was too small to really help much with Maddie, but big enough that she desperately wanted to and didn't understand why she couldn't carry the baby around and change her diaper and feed her, etc. And 2) She was not accustomed to sharing the limelight at my mom's house. So she behaved horribly. One day she spit a wad of gum in her snowboot, then wore it and got gum all over her sock and the inside of her boot. Another day, she didn't want my mom to wipe her hands off after eating a chocolate cookie, so after my mom did it anyway, she licked her palms with her mouth still full of cookie.

Having Maddie around also exacerbated Val's obsession with being first. First to eat, first to get in the car, first to get out of the car, first to get dressed, etc. My mom and I tried to explain to her that it's not really a competition if only one person thinks it is, but she was undeterred. One day she was the first to eat lunch because Maddie was taking a nap. "Let's go wake her up," Val said, "and tell her that I'm eating first." My mom didn't go for it.

For years Valerie said she wanted to be a dish washer when she grew up. But when she had to dress up for school last week as "what she'd like to be," she went as a doctor. She spent the day complaining about how uncomfortable her stethoscope was. (Which is surprising, really. One day in July she showed up at my mom's house dressed as Clifford the Big Red Dog. Head to toe in red fur, despite the 100-degree weather.)

But the doctor thing wasn't completely new. She used to love to play doctor with my mom and me -- I was the mom taking my baby, Val, to see the doctor, grandma, to get her shots. She was obsessed with shots. More recently, though, she has imagined herself as the doctor. "I just don't know what to do about these nurses," she says. "They're just not doing what they're supposed to do. I'm fed up with them! I'm just going to have to fire them and do everything myself. I can do that because I'm a doctor AND a nurse."

But despite her claims of infinite medical knowledge, Val could use some work on human anatomy. She has only ever been around male dogs. So when I got Maggie, she was curious about her nipples. She said, "Why does she have so many boobs?" So I explained to her that dogs sometimes have several puppies, and they have a lot of nipples so all the puppies can eat at once.

Fast-forward several weeks later: My mom was giving Valerie a lesson on how everyone is related in our family. She was explaining that Tammie and Tracie are her mom's sisters. She said, "Tammie and Tracie were my babies before your mommy was my baby." So Valerie thought about it for a minute and then said, "Did you have more boobs? Maggie has more boobs." My mom said, "No, I had the same amount."