Thursday, July 10, 2014

Boyhood, personified

On this day last year the boys and I were playing with some of our favorite friends at their grandmother's pool.  The boys finally got comfortable using their floaties to help them swim in the deep end (my only way to manage both boys in the water...I don't care how much the local swim school shuns them), Cherie and I enjoyed talking, swimming, playing, and snacking.  I appreciated the weightlessness I felt in the water since  I was set to deliver Katharine in 5 days.  Cherie's mom insisted I wasn't going to make it that long.  She was right and the little lady made her appearance the very next morning.  But tomorrow we will honor Katharine and her happy, busy year.

Right now I'm going through pictures of the last year with which to fill her baby book (always a procrastinator!), and I'm reminded of how much her brothers have grown too.  There is no more baby look to their faces, but thankfully the sweet sing-song, expression-filled sound still exists in their voices; their shaggy dirty blond hair stays in its constant state of bed-head; and their imaginations have exploded.  They've made best buddies, chat amongst themselves and share jokes and made-up words, tell me to leave if I'm hovering too much, adored their year at pre-school, bravely tackle water slides, show no fear in their Jeeps, remember details that I overlook, request sleepovers with their grandparents, tell me funny stories, and are starting to demonstrate unique strengths and likes.  They're such little men.

Above all, they dote on their sister.  They cheer her on, notice her new skills and tricks, encourage her with new words, make sure she's safe, and are sure to remind me when she needs me.  They are so good with her and Katharine is one lucky gal.  In the early weeks of us adjusting as a family of 5, Gavin stated about Katharine's frequent crying, "Mommy, I don't think she likes us very much."  But my how far we've all come! 

In these pictures is boyhood, personified.  Long gone is their babyhood, and it happened so fast.
popsicle mustache, truck, skinned knees
photo credit to Aunt Dottie
run, jump, wild, free
photo credit to Aunt Dottie

Friday, June 13, 2014

On this day my dad became Dad


34 years ago today ago this guy became a dad.  It's a full moon.  It's Friday the 13th.  And it's my birthday.  I was born on a Friday the 13th.  My mom labored for almost 26 hours to get me out.  We lived in Germany.  My parents were young.  Dad says watching his own age increase doesn't make him feel old, it's saying how old his own kids and grand kids are that really hits him.  Dad will now say, "I have a daughter who's 34, a son who's almost 32, and five grand kids ages 2 months to 4 1/2.  Hmm, cool."

To celebrate my special day Joe and I enjoyed dinner out last night (delish) and today the kids, Hannah, and I will play at Jumpology.  Doesn't every 34 year old play at Jumpology on their birthday?!?!  Tonight my cousin will be in town and he's joining us for dinner along with my parents before we all head to the beach for a family reunion tomorrow.  Seriously, I have all I could ever ask for: 


But as Father's Day approaches this weekend, this post is about Dad.  He's a good one
.
This guy is a hard worker.  I remember him diligently studying at our dining room table (my brother and I were 5 and 7) working towards his Masters Degree.  My mom was gone for three months on a military assignment (Dad had just gotten out of the Army; Mom stayed in for a while longer) and our baby sitter, Julie, came each week to help with dinner and baths and homework so Dad could go to class and get his work done.  Now that I have little kids running around my house I have no idea how he pulled this off or got anything done.  He made dinners (often Ukrops pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches and soup), packed lunches (always cutting our sandwiches on the diagonal), braided hair, ran gymnastics car pool, coached baseball, chaperoned field trips (that 2nd grade class trip to the Nutcracker with ice cream at Baskin Robins still stands out), made birthday treats for my friends at school (it's ok that the Rice Krispy Treats stuck together and were a globby mess), got me to the dentist for a root canal,  and somehow kept up with the house and yard while Mom was away. 
This guy is also patient and a good teacher.  He listened to my sob story over Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream after my first break up at age 14 (and subsequently listened to all the others thereafter too).  He taught me to always pay myself first when I started making my own money.  He didn't disown me when he had to answer the front door at 2am to find a police officer standing with me on our front porch.  He taught me the value of being honest.  He taught me to drive an automatic and then a stick shift and lost quite a bit of hair over both ordeals.  He used to take me out for lobster dinner on my birthday, just the two of us.  He's a great listener and gives great hugs.  He gets to know my friends and takes interest in them.  He's a good cook and excellent baker and we take delight in trying out recipes on each other.  He's a thinker, analyzer, researcher, and good judge of character.  And while I certainly might drive him a little nutty, he tolerates me pretty well.

The icing on the cake is that he's a great Pops too.
I thoroughly apologize, Dad, for breaking the "I won't share this" rule.  I had to.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, DAD.  Certainly a few wordy paragraphs don't do you justice, but know you're cherished and well loved.





Monday, May 19, 2014

My Writing Process: A Blog Tour

My first 'blog tour' and I'm about to miss the train...some things never change.

***

I used to stay up all hours of the night typing my high school English essays until my mother would beg and plead with me at 2am to PLEASE go to bed.  I argued that I needed to finish hunting and pecking out each word.  She argued that I needed my sleep and she'd type it for me like my own personal secretary and assured me that wasn't considered cheating since I'd already written and rewritten and edited and rewritten the first, second, third draft..  I argued back that it totally was, but would eventually cave in, skip out on school during lunch the next day, and pick it up from her office.  Pretty sweet move, Mom.  And it happened more than once.  More than twice, actually...


Sixteen years out of high school and I guess it's safe to admit that I also rarely read a full novel in any of my classes, but somehow managed to write damn good essays, citing examples from a book, and incorporating quotes into my work.  Cliff Notes were my friend and somehow weaving characters together that I only half knew allowed me to get by.  Succeed with a few A's even.  It was thanks to my 11th grade English teacher that I learned how to pick apart a piece of work, make connections to others, analyze characters, identify meanings, recognize and understand symbolism, and dive so deep into a book that I found myself thinking about its content all the time.  Imagine what would've happened if I'd read entire books!

My English teacher from 10th and 12th grades was a stickler for good writing.  She had us write entire five paragraph essays without one 'be' verb (helping verb).  Ever done that?  It's hard.  HARD.  But she also conferenced with every single one of us over each of our college essays and she made us write and rewrite until our point was concise, poignant, moving, and clear.  She drilled new vocabulary into our heads, made sure we varied our sentence length and structures, incorporated vivid word choices, and captured and maintained our reader's attention from the beginning to the very end.

On the flip side of all these scenarios, I also wrote a paper in college once half drunk.  That was real fun to edit the next morning.  It should've been completed before heading off to a sorority social.  Priorities, priorities.

Then there was the time in grad school when the last of my 36 page case study was completed and just as I hit the 'save' button at 3am, my computer screen went blank and blue.  I called my dad by 3:01, somehow thinking he could teleport himself to my apartment bedroom and save me.  No such luck.  But then again I shouldn't have been burning the midnight oil to the final hour anyway.  If I'd planned better this would have happened two days prior and I would have had time to right the situation!  Damn it.

Oh, and then there was the incident in Heathrow Airport when I was paged over the loud speaker to 'PLEASE BOARD PROMPTLY' because the gates were CLOSING and this was my one and only ride back across the big pond. I mean come on...the British accent that was hard to understand, combined with the irresistible deals in the duty free shop, might have made me a bit out of touch with the time on the clock.

Clearly, old habits never die and in my case, once a procrastinator always one.  Case in point, as it's almost May 20 and this post I agreed to do for a 'blog tour' is due May 19. NOW.

***

Just before the start of my third year as a classroom teacher, I was moved from a third grade position to a kindergarten position.  I had about 48 hours to dismantle my current classroom (see, what was the point of actually getting set up ahead of time?!?!), move to a different section of the building, and set up a kindergarten classroom.  Let's just clarify right now that there is a VERY special place in heaven for kindergarten teachers.  I give 100% credit to the fabulous group of ladies that welcomed me on their team with the start of school less than two days away.  They helped me survive countless phonics lessons, early writing activities, science experiments, fine motor centers, messy painting projects, bathroom accidents, daily rest time, silly songs, and endless activities to develop number sense.  They kept me sane in the midst of handling 25 four and five year olds for 9 1/2 months.  I quickly learned kindergarten is NOT my place in an elementary school.  But for some teachers it's exactly where they're meant to me.  Sarah, author at live, laugh, and learn, is one of those people.  An amazingly talented early childhood educator, turned stay-at-home-phenom, invited me to join up on this blog tour all about how various blog writers tackle their writing process.  I don't feel quite adequate answering these questions in the company of other, more serious, more experienced blog writers.  I mainly compose my thoughts while nursing a baby in the dark and quiet of night or while driving down the road listening to my boys' current favorite tune for the 2,314th time.  If I actually find the energy and take the time to transcribe those thoughts, I'm happy to see a post hit the web once or twice a month.  Good thing there's always room for improvement.  But really my writing exists to log the long days but short years of early motherhood; to serve as a memory keeper for my children and myself; and to keep in touch with friends and family near and far.

1) What am I working on? 

I'm working on how to keep my head afloat from day to day.  I'm working on how to figure out why it's so hard to leave my house and why chaos must ensue five minutes AFTER we should be pulling out of the driveway.  Why must Garrett fall over the bike and drop and break the iPad cover right now?  Why must the baby start crying right now?  Why must Gavin insist on buckling himself in right now?  WE'VE GOT TO GO!  Patience is what I'm working on.  But if I had an hour of uninterrupted quiet time and a cup of coffee that never got cold each morning, I'd be working on more blog posts.  More records of the funny things my kids do and say. I'd also love to review restaurants.  I'd love to write a children's book.  And I'd love to be a better pen pal by actually dropping a handwritten card in the mail (not Facebooking, tweeting, emailing, or texting) to friends when I think of them.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
I don't think my work is that different from other mommy blogs out there.  I actually think many of us write about the same types of topics, but in ways unique to our respective situations.  Blogging and social media sites have allowed us to create international communities where people with common interests can come together and simply share their experiences from various perspectives, allowing those of us in similar shoes to feel more normal, more connected.  Birds of a feather flock together.

3) Why do I write what I do? 
Writing allows me to succinctly compose my thoughts.  I can say what I want to say, when I want to say it, exactly how I want to say it.  Like running and baking, it's another form of free therapy.  It logs my memories and allows me to reflect on everyday, mundane moments that one day I'll look back on fondly.  It also allows me to find humor in the smallest anecdotes of everyday life, process emotions, problem solve, draw conclusions, and consider alternative perspectives.

4) How does my writing process work? 
If a pen would automatically record my stream of consciousness this blog would have a hundred times more posts than it does.  These days my writing process involves just typing what comes to mind, spell checking as I go, maybe making a few deletes if things don't flow quite right.  I start countless blogs posts in my head, but about 1 in 5 make it to a published state.  As a teacher, I used to walk my students step by step through the writing process...brainstorming, the first draft, revising, editing, peer conferencing, teacher conferencing, the final draft.  As a student I was always required to turn in each step of my writing.  But I'll let you in on a little secret: since the beginning it's always been easier for me to just sit down and start writing.  Any pre-writing I used to turn in was actually made up after my final paper was complete.  I just didn't get it and those mind maps didn't help me organize my thoughts at all.  I have to get the pen to the paper and delete/reorganize what's unnecessary later on.  I pretty much do the same today and keep the register of my blog casual, often riddled with typos (which actually drives me nuts), run on sentences, and even fragments.  It's intended to sound as if I were talking out loud.  It's meant to come across as real, casual, intermittent, discombobulated, funny, sad, hectic, nostalgic, sometimes short, sometimes long winded....all descriptive of how a conversation might go if we were sitting in my kitchen trying to catch up over coffee with kids playing at our feet.  I'm a list maker and easily unfocused, both of which appear in my writing; but I'm also a mom and life is hectic and kids are funny.  So when it's all perfectly combined there's always a good story to be told.

***


The next stop on this tour will take you to one of my dearest friends, Kelly at Kel-A-Rella.  To describe her as hilarious is an understatement.  She's an absolute riot.  A tell-it-like-it-is, no nonsense, 100% endearing, generous, kind, hysterical girlfriend.  We've been friends since second grade.  I could go on all night (clock is ticking and remember this is 'due' May 19!) sharing laugh-so-hard-you'll-cry memories, but I can quickly sum things up by telling you I'm the lucky one to call her my friend.


So as much of a rule follower as I am, I'm breaking them a bit this time.  I'm supposed to invite two more bloggers on this tour, but after asking four other friends/relatives and getting turned down, this is all I've got.

Regular blogging and glimpses into my life will resume shortly.  Or whenever I can find a few minutes to compose my thoughts.  Give me a few days...weeks... shoot, at least till next month...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

That moment...

That moment when my eyes are still crusted from sleep (because it's early and because pink eye has hit all three kids and me in the last week), Clifford is on TV, the cardboard castle just fell over on my sweet girl, and I notice magnetic clips have been clamped onto the light switches in the next room and there's a roll of scotch tape hanging from the fridge door.  Ok.  This is life right now:)

That moment when I walk into Victoria's Secret to buy a gift for my bachelorette friend and feel like a fish out of water even though years ago I was a regular customer at this store.  All I could think about as I looked at the pieces the mannequins modeled was how there was too much string and padding and not enough coverage and comfort.

That moment when I find myself in Target (always) on another Friday night wandering the aisles and mindlessly eating dark chocolate covered salted almonds while picking out some new Tupperware pieces.  Sooooo exciting, yet I love this down time.

That moment when I realize I've overdone it on the dark chocolate covered salted almonds.


That moment on a morning run when I can think of nothing else but "Here comes Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail!  Hippity hoppity Easter's on its way!" thanks to the dancing, singing, hopping bunny my kids got for Easter.

That moment when I acknowledge a friend's compliment on my new bangs and then admit they're an act of desperation to cover the post baby new hair growth that's coming in gray.  GRAY.


That moment when I convince the boys to make cookies with me so we can deliver them to a friend who just moved to town, but really I just want to eat the dough.  A lot of it.

That moment at swimming lessons when it's MY kid kicking, screaming, and crying as he gets in the water with an unfamiliar group of kids and a new teacher to make up a missed class (dumb pink eye) and a mom says, "Whose kid is THAT?"  But even more maddening is when the said mom hears me snap in the parking lot because the boys never let up in bugging the $&%# out of each other and I'm spent.  She probably thinks I'm nuts because it's clear she's too perfect to have a screaming kid or to lose her patience.  That's what her glare to me says, anyway.  

That moment when I don't even argue when the boys request a hot dog and a granola bar for breakfast.  Or that they polished off an entire box of mac and cheese for SNACK.  1) We're going to need a farm in the near future to keep them full.  2) I need to get back on the bandwagon of serving green smoothies so they get something healthy in them each day.

That moment when one of my dearest childhood friends joins us for dinner one night and our kids run wild in the backyard and I think, "Who would've thought this 27 years ago when we met in 2nd grade."  Love that.


That moment when I empty my purse of diapers, spare pairs of little boys' underwear, a nursing cover, and teething toys and replace it all with a bottle of wine, corkscrew, make up, sunglasses, and flip flops for a day of touring a few breweries with girlfriends.  Did I just feel a little pre-kid sparkle return?  Oh my!

That moment when I hear myself saying, "Do not SWING your penis in your sister's face.  Or anyone's face.  Ever."




Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tee Time

My mom's mom golfs.  My mom's dad golfs.  My mom's brother golfs.  My mother-in-law golfs.  My father-in-law golfs.  My dad's dad golfed.  My dad's sister golfs.  My brother golfs.  And my dad golfs. 

I don't golf.  My brother actually told me once on the driving range that "I was so pathetic at golf that I wasn't worth helping."  Ok, so there's that.

But when this happened recently you can probably figure out that it was kind of a big deal.  For the whole family.  And even I got a little giddy.


The bags were great second-hand, like-new finds.  Before I could even finish what I was describing on the phone to my dad, he said, "Buy it!"  When I found the second set months later and it was an identical match to the first I didn't even have to call to seek Dad's approval.  I knew to just buy those too.

I've been on a golf course many times...to run, to sled, to spin donuts in the golf cart, to take the short cut to a friend's house.  I've been on a golf course to actually play golf twice.  One of those times I shot just under 100.  On a 9 hole, par 3 course.  My other time on the course I was "caddying" for my dad.  As in he let me ride along in the cart.  The cart that I almost tipped over as I swerved to miss a tree.  And I was such a good caddy that I wheeled his golf bag right onto the putting green on the 9th hole.  The hole in plain view of the clubhouse, where everyone was eating lunch outside on the deck and witnessed my faux pas.

Ok, so I don't understand or have the patience to understand the intricacies of golf, but I look forward to watching my dad and sons bond over this game that most players love to hate.  Their first lessons learned on this day...1) Golf is hard, but fun.  2) Practice takes patience.  3) Don't ever through a golf club.  4) Always clean your clubs when you're finished for the day.


My bet is that Grandpa is pouring himself a drink and taking the front row seat in heaven as this golf saga continues.  He's going to chuckle to watch his son teach his great grandsons the very game he taught my dad.  He's going to wish he was on the course with this crew as bad words are learned and said.  And hopefully he can impart some higher power wisdom from above and guide most balls to the green.

Play on, boys, and have fun.
 

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