Postcards from Southern California: Family Fun in the Hot Hot Sun

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

It was like a furnace. Temperatures ranged from 90 to 105 degrees. Too hot to do anything other than lounge; which we did.

Trying to find a cool spot and stay hydrated were the top of our activities list while visiting my family in High Desert. [Side Note: Mom’s house doesn’t have central air-conditioning.]

We spent time with the family we don’t see often enough. Shopping and bowling. Eating our favorite Southern California foods like In-N-Out.

We had the opportunity to catch up with life-long friends and hit the beach.

Plenty of ‘selfie’ style photos exist. My boys will have pictures with me in them as well as their cousins, aunts, and Granny. Usually, I take tons of food shots but this year I promised myself, I’d feature the people. Interesting how different this vacation slide deck will look.

I read 3 books:

  • A Better World by Marcus Sakey, exceeded my expectations. It’s better than book one in the saga, Brilliance. Trust me a must read.
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, was amazing. Another must read.
  • The Secret’s in the Sauce by Linda Evans Shepard and Eva Marie Everson.

We saw 2 movies which were family dates with my sisters, niece and nephew:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction

We had 1 date without the kiddos. Just hubby and me. It’s hard to pull off when we’re home.

These are bonus tracks on the vacation album.

Cousins in the surf. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Cousins in the surf.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

There were lots of items on our ‘to do’ list that we never got marked off. We didn’t have our Read-A-Thon which the boys wanted to do in Colorado originally. I’m so glad we gave our books their own suitcase to travel with us. Oh well we will plan it for next month.

New meaning to book bag. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

New meaning to book bag.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Now we’re home, a little jet lagged and struggling with the return to routine, but color me grateful for the days we sat on the front porch in the setting sun with the people I love most in the world.

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Postcards from Colorado: Adventures in Thin Air

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Greetings …

Today is post Tuesday and I haven’t had a chance to slow down enough to organize my thoughts and experiences into a cohesive narrative. But instead of missing post day I decided to bullet some of the highlights and share some scenic shots.

BACKGROUND: Colorado, the first week of our vacation is thanks to Calvin Theological Seminary, my husband’s alma mater. They offer a seminar to pastors, Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching.

This opportunity is designed to allow said pastors to also have a family vacation i.e. sessions from 8-noon followed by time for family adventures.

The course hosted by Scott Hoezee and Neal Plantinga (author of Reading for Preaching), required my husband to do some serious reading:

  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Enrique’s Journey – Sonia Nazario
  • Collected Poems – Jane Kenyon
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems – Robert Frost
  • The Wednesday Wars – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Robert Caro

Of course my reading list is a little longer now.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

We had the pleasure of staying at Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies, which is a beautiful place to stay. AND it has lots of activities for everyone.

From a parenting perspective, I have to say my dudes surprised me. In particular, our oldest tried many things that if you’d told me a week prior that he would do so I wouldn’t have believed it.

  • He went on the zip line, some 30 feet off the ground, as did my husband. They each used one word to describe it. Dude said, “Fast.” Hubby said, “Fun.”
  • He climbed the rock wall. Again some 30 feet off the ground, even though heights make him nervous.
  • He also tried roller-skating for the first time; counting the number of times he fell as we went along. It’s been at least 15 years since I was on skates and I loved sharing it with my dude.
  • He navigated the cafeteria like a camp veteran, helping his brother along the way, making us think he’s ready for an overnight camp experience without us.

Both boys tried their hand at archery, which isn’t as easy as our favorite quiver-wearing-bow-wielding-heroes make it look.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My youngest wasn’t as adventurous but he enjoyed:

  • Miniature golf
  • Volleyball for the first time. And,
  • Basketball, even though he told me, “I’m not ready for the NBA.” What a sweet boy!

Okay, I’d also like to say they wrote and mailed postcards to friends about our time in Colorado; giving a glimpse into our vacation. Yes, I am smiling for the handwritten correspondence, brief, as you have to be on a postcard. Their handwriting at 9 and 7 years old is priceless.

These moments made this momma proud.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My personal fave of our time was sitting in a small group around the fireplace listening Gary D. Schmidt and his editor daughter, Kathleen Kerr, as they talked about writing and publishing in today’s world. I didn’t say a word. Never asked a question. I was the weirdo in the back sporting the perma-grin.

My husband’s personal fave comes courtesy of Facebook. A friend posted that they were “camping in the Rockies” and the picture loaded the location of Winter Park, CO. Just 10 minutes down the road.

Hubby was able to catch up with three of his closest childhood friends and their families. Some we hadn’t visited in a couple of years, others in more than a decade. It was an unexpected and special surprise in our trip. Yay Facebook for bringing people together.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

LAST NOTES:

  • Check out Snow Mountain Ranch. You may want to plan a trip there. If you go there,
  • Visit The Foundry which is a great place: movie theater & bowling alley mashup. Order the caramel corn which is to die for; comfy leather seats, where we watched How to Train Your Dragon 2.
  • Stop by Dozens Restaurant if you make it to Denver. Oh how delicious the food. See my meal?
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Thanks to the altitude, my oldest son and I suffered from headaches and bloody noses despite drinking as much fluid as we could. And the hubby had trouble sleeping. It was still one of the best vacations to date.

In two weeks I’ll be back in Colorado for work but I am grateful I was able to experience it on vacation, otherwise I would have missed out on so much of this beautiful state.

Happy summer travels … be safe.

Dandelion Fluff and Other Stuff

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Nostalgia … rolls around in my mind; flows out of my pen, and falls from my lips like bouncy balls in the middle of the grocery store; an awkward chain reaction … A weird déjà vu I can’t shake …

How easily we fall back into a former self? A scent, a place, a phrase, a word, or a picture, can evoke sensations of who we were and what was important to us once.

The Road Home …

A couple of weeks ago I travelled to California for work. I didn’t get to see my family but the trip brought images to mind that I hadn’t thought of in years.

Like, how I hate to drive in rush hour traffic, not that anyone enjoys it.

Nostalgia speed by as familiar places appeared on exit signs: Manhattan Beach, I-15, Redondo Beach, 110 freeway. Nostalgia rose with familiar neon signs announcing fast food joints I frequent when I visit the Golden State: In-N-Out Burger, Carl’s Jr., Del Taco …

My traveling companion wasn’t moved by any of these things. Inching closer to our destination in bumper to bumper she could have cared less.

But for me … it was miles of memories spanning ages.

Naiveté

My yard was covered with white puffy balls until the lawn service showed up and mowed. Crazy that these seemingly insignificant bulbs made me think of a simpler time.

Nostalgia peaked out from the grass to greet me.

I loved blowing dandelion fluff until one day, who knows when, I started seeing them as weeds, allergens.

I used to call them beautiful flowers. I would pick the bright yellow blooms by the bunch; keeping the stems in a wet paper towel to keep them from dying. Sometimes drinking the white liquid that we called “dandelion milk”.

The sight of my lawn with its snowy vegetation generated a flashback of that white halter top with the red trim I had at the age of five. Playing in the front yard with my older sister who was wearing her white halter top with the red trim. (Mom dressed us alike and people thought we were twins.) Our heads thrown back in laughter as we polluted the air with our wishes. Twirling.

Remarkable … I wonder if she remembers.

Summertime

Summer has finally made an appearance in Michigan; temperatures topping the 80s. I can sit outside listening to my dudes’ laughter while being eaten alive by mosquitos.

Nostalgia calls to me with loud, overly bright, music from squeaky speakers.

Chasing ice cream trucks and riding my lavender bike with the white basket to the library. Dinging and scraping up my toes because I wore flip-flops instead of closed shoes when I rode. Chocolate covered fingers as I tried to ride and read and eat all at the same time. Stopping at every street corner trying to lick my fingers free of the mess.

Footloose and fancy free. My favorite time of year.

Father’s Day

Summer brings with it a time and privilege of celebrating fathers. When soap-on-a-rope and nose hair trimmers and Old Spice or Brut after-shaves are plentiful.

Nostalgia creeps up on me, playing a sad song of “I miss him.”

My mind’s eye flashes images like a slide show of dad holding a beer and grilling chicken in the back yard. Smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee over the morning paper, specifically the sports page. Running to the corner store to get lottery tickets before 8 p.m. Puttering in the garden and telling me to shoo the birds out of the fruit trees. I was happy to play human scarecrow for his sake.

I still dream of him.

Bittersweet holiday.

Pathways

There are many other examples where triggers like these sent me on a mental migration to another time; another me. All of which serve to remind me of how carefree life can be when your only responsibility is to be a kid and make memories.

We are just weeks away from our family vacation. I will not work. I may spend some time writing because I’ve been negligent here and my nine, soon-to-be-ten, year old keeps referencing my “good book” or at least what he’s heard of it. Asking: When are you going to finish?

More than anything … I want to start the collection of experiences that my boys will later look back on and label “nostalgic”. Dandelion Fluff Occasions.

Lazy days away from our normal routine. We will visit new places and some old. We will spend time with my family and reminisce about childhood:

  • Feast on the flavors of home.
  • Savor the sounds of long ago.
  • Embrace the echoes of innocence.

Nostalgia … What voices of the past sneak up on you? What childhood stages do you want to relive? What are your dandelion fluff occasions?

I Read White: The Issue of a Single Story

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

When I first started writing fiction I wanted to be intentional about representing a diverse cast of characters: race, culture, and socio-economic levels. For my first novel, which is still in process, my main character is black, her best friend is biracial and another central character is Latina.

Despite my desire to be intentional, I was also concerned about promulgating the stereotypes associated with race. This hope to handle well a people’s culture and race, a people’s story, has been one of the constant sources of writer’s block for me. What if I failed? What if I made a mockery of someone when I wanted to be honoring?

My reasons, of course, for being purposeful in character selection were well founded. I wanted to create a story that would have resonated with the eight year old me. A story that wasn’t accessible to my younger self but could fill the gap for another child.

I wanted to write a story where someone who looked like me, sounded like me, and acted like me, would take grand adventures and do amazing things in far off places. I wanted to write a book where main culture and lifestyle weren’t reserved for a single segment of the population but where anyone could take part in it. Such high hopes.

Every child deserves such a story.

My juvenile literary exploits were limited. Partly because of the topics that interested me and partly because of what was at my disposal More than anything, I had a fascination with white stories even though I wanted to see myself on the page.

Unfortunately, I read white. Regardless of how the characters are described, my mind generates Anglo images and I have to reframe what people should look like each time they appear in the story. It’s terribly annoying.

Sessions at the Festival of Faith and Writing 2014, like: It’s Just Fiction: Reading and Writing About Race, Culture, and Power with Mitali Perkins; The Power of Suspending Disbelief: Why I Read and Why I Write with Pam Munoz Ryan; and Issues Facing Writers of Color in Christian Publishing with Edward Gilbreath, Marlena Graves, Al Hsu, and Helen Lee; as well as the myriad of presenters, opened my eyes to a greater challenge …

As much as I encourage my dudes to read, I am guilty of raising another generation to read white. Looking at their bookshelves is a clear indication of how I’ve grossly neglected diversity in their literary lives.

How had I missed this?

I guess I could make excuses. I could say it’s because there isn’t enough diversity in their areas of interest. A sure sign that we as writers have work to do and we as readers need to support what is available.

How is it that I could be acutely aware of this injustice in my reading experience and miss the signs in the singular experience I am delivering to my dudes?

How had I, one who’d been victim to single story, been negligent? How could I see the importance of raising readers as a response to my personal history described in a recent post, yet overlook this distinction in theirs?

I could make excuses, but I won’t.

Honestly, I don’t know how I missed it. The good news is there’s time to change their reading trajectory and mine. I need to apply the same intention to selecting books for my family’s reading life as I’ve attempted with my writing life.

And, there’s so much more to “diversity” beyond what I’ve previously stated, like: religion, sexuality, politics, gender; the possibilities of variety are endless.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie beautifully conveys the issue of a single story in literature in this Ted Talk, recommended during an FFW session. I encourage all of you as readers and writers to take the time to watch this video.

Ahh! Awareness!

During teacher appreciation week I usually buy books for my boys classrooms. Mrs. B. responded to my inquiry for what books she was hoping to add to her class library with, “Of course, any books with multicultural characters.”

A wonderful reminder to me for which I am grateful.

Since hearing this cry for diversity at FFW, I notice it everywhere. My Amazon trolling looks different, my search criteria for a good book is broader, but it’s only the beginning.

Another reminder I am thankful for is the #weneeddiversebooks campaign that is currently storming the social media world keeps the issue in front of me. This article is one of many that shows how important it is to tell every story.

I wish I could accurately express how I feel realizing that I’ve fallen short. I wish I could help you understand how far we’ve yet to go. But it starts with being aware. It starts with passing it on.

Help me change the way I read. What books would you recommend, for my dudes and me, to expand our horizons and build a richly diverse library? How have you battled this issue? Please share…

Best Beginnings

“There is no beginning too small.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Currently on my nightstand  ... some on loan from friends. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Currently on my nightstand … some on loan from friends.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My best beginning is steeped in words and was the best beginning twice: once as a little girl and once as a parent.

My reading journey began with trepidation … halting steps.

Picture an awkward first grader, uncomfortable in her skin early in life, already different because of the color of her skin and body type. I wanted nothing more than to fit in, to be “normal”.

The youngest child in my family who was replaced as such by a surprise baby sister, school was the environment where I could be myself and where I was most alive.

One challenge … academically I struggled. Often I was in the lowest levels of each subject: math, writing, reading. I didn’t care much about math but reading made an impression.

Life in the late 70s and early 80s wasn’t like today. Few people sent their kids to school knowing how to count to one hundred or read by sight. Back in those days reading went hand in hand with phonics.

It’s no wonder that I was “behind”.

There were lots of books in my home but they were mostly adult reads. Both my parents were insatiable readers but I don’t have memories of mom and dad reading to me, although they talk about doing so.

I was frustrated watching my friends and mortal enemies (as if that exists at 7) dive into more complex books than See Spot Run or Dick and Jane. They were growing their skills and vocabulary, sounding out words and counting syllables with fists striking tabletops. All my words were short single beats.

Devastated to find out I wasn’t equal, that I work to do, that I didn’t fit in, it was a heartbreaking time.

You’re wondering how this could possibly be the best beginning?

Well, it forced me to fight for written words. Envy drove me to become the best reader in my peer group instead of the worst. And in the process I fell in love with language, with literature.

Now I experience the world in words similar to conversation bubbles in comics and cartoons. (There’s a book, A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, that I am dying to read because the description of how Felicity views the world feels like how I see it.)

Words and stories and books are how I fit in.

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Round one of in my two part best beginning saga put me on the path of a life long love affair with great stories. Round two is less “hero’s journey” and more practical but no less tied for best.

Looking back at the initial trauma I lived through made me determined that my dudes would have a better tale to tell.

Their reading journey is my second trip to unlocking the wonder of words. It’s a personal mission. Even though it shares the title of best there is something sweeter about walking through it with my boys.

From board books to picture books and from comic books to chapter books and even eBooks to audio books, my boys have fallen in love with the power of stories. And it’s the only gift I felt qualified to give them.

What a rewarding opportunity to observe:

  • Stillness because they’re lost in another world.
  • Peels of laughter that is private joke between them and the pages.
  • Vocabulary beyond their ages and catches me off guard.
  • Expressions of sadness or anger that result in books being thrown down.
  • Conversations that start with “Mom you have to read this because…” Followed by a plot summary or character analysis (and they don’t know that’s what they’re doing).

At ages nine and seven, they own more books than I did when I was old enough to work full time and buy my own. Plus we take advantage of the local library and visit our local bookstores. Another joy is borrowing and loaning books to friends. This summer I hope to facilitate a “book club” experience for them and our small group buddies.

Readers surround them. They believe that readers are leaders.

How wonderful it is to have their reading origins shape their interests. My nine year old is planning a future as a comic book writer and illustrator. His seven-year-old little brother is a fledgling filmmaker.

I pray that this reading life is worthy of best beginning in their estimation. May storytelling stay in their blood. May they bring to words to life for others. May they continue the legacy of reading being the best beginning, twice.

What about you? What are your thoughts on beginnings? What is your BEST beginning?

 NOTE: This was a reflective journal exercise for me. Thanks to Lisa Sonora for sharing her 30-Day ROOT Journal Project with the world. And thank you to Stephanie at Visible and Real for writing the post that led me to Lisa.

Celebrating the Love of Reading …

I’ve been boasting to my dudes about how I used to stay up all night (2 or 3 in the morning and still getting up for school by 6AM) reading by flashlight under the covers.

Of course they thought that was cool and funny because I was breaking the rules.

My oldest expressed interest in doing the same thing. So I promised him a READ-A-THON. Maybe not the best name for our event. Still we pulled an all-nighter; complete with a carpet campout and picnic.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint Grasshopper Cookies, York Peppermint Patties, and Honey Mustard Pretzels

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  - Oreo Fudge Cookies and Cheetos Cheese Puffs

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – Oreo Fudge Cookies and Cheetos Cheese Puffs

I purchased both dudes favorite snacks and drinks, along with some of my favorites. I made sure we all had new books to start reading that night.

The premise of the event was to see who could stay up the latest reading. We spent a couple of weeks throwing down the gauntlet. Each of us claiming the win, which just meant we’d earn the right brag.

At one point the oldest dude said, “I’m going to win because you need your rest and I don’t. You’re old and I’m not.”

Thanks for that! I am definitely older. My days of hiding under the sheets reading till the wee hours of the morning have long since expired.

But the most important part of doing this event was celebrating the new found love of independent reading that my dudes have discovered. They’ve always loved Momma reading to them at bedtime, but now they each ask for 5 minutes or more to read quietly before lights out.

Yes, I’m grinning from ear to ear.

My husband and I wanted to make a big deal out of their summer reading accomplishments, by awarding certificates of achievement. Also, we took the time to write each of the dudes a personalized note expressing our pride and joy.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  - Lots of book options

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – Lots of book options

Our oldest dude read 10 books since school ended with the shortest being 192 pages. Many of the books he read within 48 hours of getting them. He also read lots of comics.

The sitter said he would lay on the floor while the smaller children crawled all over him. And still he read, unhindered by the fact that he was a human jungle gym.

Our youngest dude read 12 books within his reading ability. He’s great at sounding out words and remembers words that you’ve only helped him with once.

He also delved into the world of comic books, Sonic the Hedgehog being his favorite. At first I thought he was just looking at the pictures but when I asked him to tell me the story, he could.

I’m telling you these are the happy Momma moments. When something you’ve desired for your children manifests itself you can’t help but throw a party.

You may have noticed I get a little obsessive about my boys being readers. Leaders are readers, right? 

There are other things I need to be obsessive about for their sake. But this is the one that bubbles up most often, the one I feel most equipped to tackle, and it’s one they can carry with them everywhere they go.

More than once during our READ-A-THON event, I heard my 6 year old say, “You’re the best Momma ever,” primarily due to the junk food feast.

It was a special night. Great fun even though I conceded at 1:15AM to my 9 year old. He won the bragging rights but decided not to exercise them because he “didn’t feel right about it.” So sweet and naïve.

I don’t know that I would have been as generous to him. I would have bragged it up. I guess there’s always next year because guess what? They asked if we could make it an annual event. Yay!

Thankfully, there were a lot of people who knew about the event. I updated Facebook every 20 minutes or so, which means he’s received kudos from people in our circles of influence. I appreciate their acknowledgement because it reinforces his love of reading, his championship title, and his good sportsmanship.

To keep dudes going during the school year we have a new incentive which we kicked off the night of the READ-A-THON. I call it READ RACING.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – What you measure is what gets done.

Nothing fancy … just reading goals outside their school work for the first semester.

  • 6 year old = 500 pages within his reading level
  • 9 year old = 1000 pages within his reading level
  • Me – 3000 pages

Part of the new challenge: I get to pick one of their reads and they each get to pick one for me. So we’ll be forced into trying something we wouldn’t necessarily choose on our own.

If they complete their race, I will give them each a $20 gift card for Amazon (which I believe they’ll use for buying toys because they know Momma will buy their books).

I am encouraged and hopeful and inspired. See what good stories can do for you. Good stories move us!

What has inspired you or made you grin from ear to ear this summer? What can we celebrate together?

The Boys Who Stomped a Hornets’ Nest

European hornet with the remnants of a honey bee

European hornet with the remnants of a honey bee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve never been stung by a hornet, consider yourself lucky. Because each sting is like the prick of a needle followed by the sensation of molten lava bubbling beneath your skin as it spreads out setting fire to everything in its path. And then it gets painful.

As you can tell, we weren’t fortunate this weekend. We were closing what had been a fabulous weekend.

Let me start our story with a brief history:

Every year for the past 3 years my husband has taken a daddy-and-me date with each of the boys which makes room for me to have a mommy-and-me date with them too. A whole weekend, one on one, of Daddy’s or Mommy’s undivided attention.

Hubby took our oldest to Chicago for Comic Con. They went to the Field Museum of Natural History and saw T-Rex Sue. They went to the Lego store and grew his mini-figure collection. He had the chance to ride on the top deck of a double deck bus. And they visited with friends.

The youngest stayed home with me. We went to the movies and watched SMURFS 2. We ate at the restaurants of his choice and he didn’t have to negotiate with his brother. (In case you didn’t know, Taco Bell is a restaurant). We also managed to make it to an end-of-summer / housewarming party for some friends. He was allowed to spend his money after being in what I call a “spending freeze” for several months.

So what could be a better way to end this memory-making-happy-fest? Lunch by the river with friends? Yes … we thought so too. And that’s what we did. 

Our dudes were happy hanging out with their friends. Splashing at the water’s edge. Playing in the woods. Exploring and having adventures. Laughing and shouting with joy like only children can.

Until that moment when they kicked a log and stomped through the hornets’ nest.

We warned them to be careful and watch for poison ivy but we should have warned them of something else, something far worse.

I’ve yet to experience anything more overwhelming as a parent than watching my dudes careening toward me, in real and imminent danger, wearing the face of true terror, and bathed in black and yellow fury. Swarmed.

9YO: They’re gonna get me.
Me: Let me help you. Take your shirt off.
9YO: No, then they’ll KILL me.
Me: They’re on your shirt and I can’t get them off you unless you take the shirt off.

Stinger of an european hornet (V. crabro), whi...

But I had no idea how to help or protect my boys. In my ignorance, I assumed hornets were like bees, sting and die. Nope. Their sticky little bullet shaped hornets’ bodies clung to our kids’ clothes and hair; repeatedly stinging.

And buzzing is not the dull hum of day to day life in a hive or colony as you see in documentaries. Buzzing is a collective voice of ferocity, shouting:

  • Who do you think you are?” and
  • How dare you?” and
  • I’ll show you.”

And show us they did. Punishment, plain and simple, doled out for invading their privacy; for disturbing their home.

Not knowing if they were allergic, I gave my little ones Benadryl (which I always have with me) and we took them to the ER. The entire car ride they were distraught with their suffering:

9YO: It’s all my fault brother got hurt.
Me: No, it’s not. It’s nobody’s fault.
9YO: Yes, it is because if I hadn’t gone exploring, brother wouldn’t have gone exploring.
Me: It’s still not your fault.
6YO: When’s it going to stop hurting?
Me: I don’t know, but Momma’s here.
6YO: It hurts so much. My arms. When’s it going to stop?
9YO: Oh, I hurt my brother.
Me: Please calm down.
9YO: Don’t say that to me.
Me: You’re right. I just need to make sure you aren’t having a reaction. It’s easier to do if you’re not screaming.
6YO: Are they gonna give me a shot?
Hubby: No, they won’t give you a shot. You’ve been stung enough times today.
9YO: Mommy, just promise me I won’t die.
9YO and 6YO screaming and crying in agony!

At the hospital, they took us right in. They gave them each a dose of steroids to stop the inflammation and Tylenol to alleviate the pain. Thankfully! Then both boys dozed off and slept for a few hours.

hornet

hornet (Photo credit: beckymaldonado)

Physically, dudes seem to be better. Minor itching and discomfort.

Now my outdoorsmen are done with nature. My dudes, who just a few weeks ago were chasing fireflies and giggling with delight, are shaking with fear at the mention of leaving the safety of our 4 walls. They are unwilling to be out of doors longer than what’s necessary.

Racing to the car as we head out in the morning, is no longer a playful act or friendly competition between brothers. Instead it’s a matter of survival.

9YO: Don’t make me go outside until I’m mentally ready.
Me: Okay. Fair enough.

How do you respond to that?

Hornet

We all sustained injury but the youngest got the worst of it. He’s chosen to believe that hornets don’t live in the city we live in despite my telling him it’s possible. Maybe he’s in denial.

My oldest is in avoidance mode. But I don’t want them to be afraid.

I know they’re traumatized. So I’ll watch and wait … Because forcing them outside at this point would be like stirring up a hornets’ nest. (Pun intended).

I’m open to suggestions that may help little people adjust. Feel free to throw advice my way!

Photos from Zemanta via WordPress

I’m Not Your Superwoman

Lois Lane's first appearance as Superwoman. Ar...

Lois Lane’s first appearance as Superwoman. Art by John Sikela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a song I loved growing up, titled: I’m Not Your Superwoman, performed by Karen White. If you were to go check out the lyrics (video here), you’d wonder why it appealed to my teenage self. But it did non-the-less.

A few years ago I started using the catch phrase: “Well I’m off to save the world one person at a time.” It was my standard exit line instead of “bye” or “I have to go.”

People would say things like “Oh you’re a superhero?” Of course, dripping with sarcasm.

To which I would reply in the affirmative. Assuring them, “My cape is tucked into my blazer and my tights and boots were hidden in my heels.

They’d ask, “If you’re a superhero, what powers do you have?”

Thinking they’d stumped me I would smile and say, “I can read minds.”

You know what comes next …

Prove it!”

You’re thinking, she’s out of her @#$% mind,” I’d say, getting a laugh for my flippancy.

I’m not your Superwoman …

Nor do I want to be …

Boy I am only human …” is a line from the song. And that’s me. I’m only human. And most of the time the first person I’m off to save is me, from myself.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up though … my mom was Superwoman. She worked full-time outside of the home. I honestly don’t know how she did it. Even with the help of 4 able-bodied children.

Our house was always clean. She managed to make home-cooked meals at least 4 nights a week. The other 3 nights were handled by the leftovers. Laundry was always done. And not just washed and dried but folded and put away. And, we didn’t have a dryer, they were hung on a clothesline outside (year round). Dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, scouring.

It all got done some how; without modern conveniences. We didn’t have a dishwasher (she still doesn’t). I was almost out of high-school before we got a microwave.

Yet, our home was a constant state of “guest readiness”.

Where am I going with this?

My husband and I have been talking about hiring someone to come in and help clean our house; maybe cook meals. We just can’t do it. Not with our schedules and other responsibilities. 

I have several friends who’ve referred their person or service; a maid who fills the gaps in house work and does the things that they just can’t. It seems the norm within my peer group.

And crazy as it sounds … it feels like cheating … taking an unauthorized shortcut. I actually feel guilty for needing the help (which I shouldn’t – feel guilty that is).

I mean what’s different from the generation before to my generation now? I guess each generation has its battle. For my mom, she was up against the June Cleaver model of wife and mother.

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot "It's a ...

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot “It’s a Small World”, 1957. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still … how’d she pull it off?

My mother was always the first one up and usually the last one down. Which is true for me too but I accomplish far less around the house than she did.

I don’t remember seeing her enjoy much of the homey home she provided. She rarely sat to read a book or watch TV. Maybe on Mothers’ Day or her birthday meals were prepared and served to her. There weren’t days of staying in her PJs to cuddle up with us.

That’s not what I want from my life.

So this is me giving myself permission: I’m NOT Your Superwoman.

I’m just a woman … a mom … a wife … an employee … a daughter … a friend … a sister … Dreaming of living a SUPER life.

Now I’m off to save my world.

To all you Superwomen out there, my cape’s off to you for all that you do!

Superwoman (Kristin Wells)

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DAD DAYS – When I Miss Him Most

I lost my Dad more than 8 years ago. It doesn’t get any easier with each passing year as I thought it would.

With the soulful tones of Luther Vandross’s Dance with My Father filling the car, I pulled away from my childhood home knowing that homecoming would never be the same without Dad there to greet me along side my Mom.

  • In childhood, Dad was my superhero. He could do no wrong in my eyes.
  • In adolescence, Dad taught me to dream big and believe in my ability to make those dreams come true.
  • In early adulthood, Dad was my life-coach; counselor; financial advisor; professional mentor; and friend. I consulted him on every major decision.
  • In marriage, Dad was supposed to be my teacher and support for parenting and relationships. But he died shortly after I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son.

I mourn the fact that my boys will never know their Papa Dave. When I see them display mannerisms that are undeniably Dad’s I am sad that they don’t understand how they came by them. That they inherited them from Dad. But I am thankful for this circle of life that gives me such moments to remember Dad.

I’ve come to romanticize Dad’s existence; often only speaking of the kind things he did, like giving his last dollar to someone panhandling outside the grocery store. Or how he always had a fresh pot of coffee brewing and willing ear to hear the worries of others who stopped by for his wise counsel.

Now that he’s gone, I don’t want to take him down from the pedestal we’ve placed him on.

I miss the denim jacket and ball cap. The white running shoes without laces that he tried to dye brown. I miss the quick wit and easy laughter.

I miss him saying things like, “Someone call the police and make this one play,” if you took too long making your move in a game of cards or Yatzee.

I miss how he would laugh at his own jokes, saying, “Now that’s a knee-slapper.” Usually, they weren’t funny but that didn’t stop him from enjoying it.

I miss the songs that he would sing while playing the spoons or harmonica or mouth-pick:

Hambone, hambone, where ya been? Going around the corner and going again. Beans and cornbread had a fight. Beans knocked cornbread out of sight.

Or,

I can tell by your knees you’ve been climbing those coconut trees. You goin’ look like a monkey when you get. When you get old and grey people goin’ look at you and say, I can tell by your knees you’ve been climbing those coconut trees.

I missed him singing along to his favorite LPs …

  • Bad Bad LeRoy Brown (Jim Croce)
  • Charlie Brown(The Coasters)

I do my best to share stories about the man who shaped my life but sometimes feel like it’s not enough. He was larger than life and touched many lives. Words alone don’t capture that well.

More than 8 years have gone by and I still have days where missing him paralyzes me. Still have days where I dream of him because I am faced with a major decision and I need his advice.

On these days I declare DAD DAYS. When people ask me, “What’s wrong?” I simply say, “I’m having a Dad Day.”

When DAD DAYS come I sit and listen to Luther Vandross singing:

“…If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him, I’d play a song that would never ever end. How I’d love, love, love, to dance with my father again … Never dreamed that he would be gone from me. If I could steal one final glance, one final step, one final dance with him, I’d play a song that would never ever. ‘Cause I’d love, love, love, to dance with my father again …”

My heart yearns for him. Yet I know God’s will for our lives involved saying goodbye when we did. But even as I sit here typing, my kids playing innocently in the next room, I can’t contain the tears.

Cherish the moments you have with loved ones.

Happy Father’s Day DRH … Today’s a DAD DAY because I miss you most at times like these.