abcabcabc The Characters — Mommy Manders

The Characters

Dr. Daddy Dustin: Dustin, is my parenting partner, a wonderful dad to our kids, and still my best friend after 8 years of marriage (though we’ve certainly gone through un-friendly stages). MJ and Ellie were both born when D was in OB/ Gyn residency, so we had to get used to lots of time without Daddy, but this made our time together all the more precious. And Dustin has always been so good at putting us first when he is around. When residency ended in May 2010, Dustin started on a much better schedule as an attending at Parkland. It has been wonderful to have Daddy around so much more. He has made us oatmeal for a family breakfast almost every morning, he has spent time cooking delicious food with MJ, is home to bathe the kids most nights, and he and Ellie have really gotten to know and love each other so that she now usually prefers him over Mommy. Mommy and Daddy have enjoyed getting to know each other again, too, after 8 long years of medical training. BUT, Dustin is just beginning 4 MORE years of fellowship training in Gyn/ Oncology at UT Southwestern here in Dallas. Our lives are happening now, though. We’re not waiting 4 more years to start enjoying them.

Michael James: He is a vibrant, affectionate, curious 5-year-old who loves to craft, invent, cook, read about dinosaurs and space, collect sticks, and play in dirt! He is full of love and joy, has a big dimply-grin, beautiful blue eyes, and I call him “my little sunshine boy”. He often wears his clothes and underwear backwards, speaks in his own made-up language called “Nunu”, and wakes up inspired to invent or cook or generally create some kind of mess in the house! He was an easy, happy, friendly baby, and has grown a bit more challenging with age, testing our limits and his boundaries. But we remain totally IN LOVE with him!

Ellie Kate: Elizabeth Kathryn  (now 3) has been a wonderful addition to our family, though we weren’t always so sure about her. I was pretty overwhelmed, depressed, and exhausted that first year of having 2 young kids, and Ellie was NOT an easy baby. Nor is she an easy toddler, though she is a happy one. She is a smart, sweet, hilarious, incredibly verbal little girl who knows exactly what she wants, and lets you know when she’s unhappy. “I want my blanky, I want my pacifier, I want my Mommy!” She has an opinion about everything (including the mismatched clothes she wears every day), always sticks up for herself (to a friend’s dog, “Those are my toes. Don’t eat them!”), and she will be such a strong, successful woman someday! Her favorite pal is “brother” of course, and they are such a close pair. She has idolized, adored, and mimicked him her whole life, and I keep wondering how long it will last. I call her my “spunky little sweetheart”, and I can’t imagine life without her now!

GareBear and Beffa: We have been so blessed to live just minutes away from my parents since having children, and they have been key to our survival, for sure! Though they both work full-time, they have often helped me at those times when I was virtually a “single” mom, and they have kept the kids overnight many weekend nights since MJ was a just few months old. (Both of my kids managed well with breast milk from the bottle, which I know is a liberating luxury that not all moms get to enjoy.) We have traveled on car and plane together, stayed in tent and beach house, they have taken the kids on trips without me, and have shared many special memories with us along this parenting journey. Thank God for the grandparents!

Mimi: My grandmother came to live in Dallas with my parents when my grandfather passed away last year, so she is a big part of our lives here, now. We try to drag her over to our house at least one day a week, and she just watches the chaos, often eating at the table with the kids while I do dishes, snuggling with the kids on the couch to watch “Land Before Time”, playing checkers with MJ, hving “music time” with us, having “tea” with Ellie, giving them treats behind my back. It is a blessing to witness that special connection. (Sadly, Mimi passed away in July 2011. We miss her very much, and are thankful for the time we had together.)

Uncle Jake and Aunt Sarah: Though they live in Chicago, my brother Jake and his lovely wife Sarah are a big part of our lives, and I constantly miss them! MJ enjoyed many visits to Chi-town before he turned 2 (that’s when you have to buy a plane ticket), but they often visit us, and the kids love to see them on Skype. Jake is an actor and playwright with the House Theater of Chicago, and also a pre-school teacher. Sarah is a teacher, too, so they are lost of fun for to play with, and will become parents to the cutest niece in the universe in June!

Cha Cha and Butchie: Charm and Butch, Dustin’s mom and step-dad, live on the Santa Maria Ranch in Miami, Oklahoma where they raise cattle. They also have full-time jobs, so they are very hard workers. The kids love to visit them, and have made several trips to stay without us. They get to ride tractors, help “check the cows”, see the llamas and horses, play with the dogs, eat whatever they want, take sink baths, and stay up late. The kids usually get to hang out with Dustin’s sister, Aunt Abbey a little bit on their trips, too.

Grandpa Mike and Grandma Gina: Dustin’s Dad and step-mom also live in Miami, and are not able to travel, so we only get to see them on our OK road-trips. They are such proud grandparents, always showing off pictures, and welcoming the kids with gifts from the local Wal-mart. The kids love to visit, play on Daddy’s old trike, play with Gina’s geological finds, and share a meal. Between trips, the kids enjoy phone chats with their long-distance grandparents.