Parenting

Look Kids, We’re on Uranus!

My family spent a couple of days in Kansas City for Spring Break. It was wonderful.

We rented bikes to peddle around downtown. The bike path took us one block off of Main Street, so we could still see the sights, but not be in direct competition for the road with drivers who have no time or patience for tourists.

We came to a red light, and I noticed this sign:

 

 

 

 

I yelled, “Hey, guys! We’re on Uranus!” and then laughed hysterically.
They both gave me the stare that kids give when their mothers try to make a dad joke.

 

 

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The “you’re not funny” stare.

They peddled away as I mumbled to myself reassuringly, “It was funny. Uranus – your anus. That’s funny. They’ll get it later.”

 

 

As to date, they haven’t acknowledged that it was a super funny joke, but it has given me a summer project idea. I just need to find a two-mile stretch of road that is safe in Memphis.

 

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Writing Challenge Day 18: A photograph of myself

 

Our “Happy New Year” cards.

Why “Happy New Year” instead of “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”?

 

This one was taken after the Christmas Eve service at our church.

2014 family photo taken after the Christmas Eve service at our church.

1. We get our family picture taken on Christmas Eve because it is the one time of year we are all together and dressed in color-coordinated clothes nice enough for photographing and mass distribution.

2. By the time I get them to Walgreens for printing it is after Christmas and before New Years.

3. New Year’s Day arrives and I remember to pick them up from Walgreens.

4. January 5th rolls around and I have time to put them in an envelope and address them.

5. It’s about January 17th and my sister has texted me asking if I am ever going to send out the kids’ school pictures. She’s not curious, but bumped into my mother-in-law at Casey’s and was questioned.

6. On or about January 20th or April 3rd, I remember to mail them.

 

 My Uncle Jerry and me

 

My Uncle Jerry and me. Taken at Golden Corral the beginning of December 2014.

December 2014.

Next to my husband and children, Uncle Jerry is my most favorite person on the planet. We have been best buds since I was eight years old. The summer of 1982, I wore a Meatloaf (the band) tshirt to his house, and he called me Meatloaf until I graduated from High School. Uncle Jerry makes the world a much nicer and more humorous place to live. I love him.

 

Happy New Year!

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Writing Challenge Day 16: My thoughts on education

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I am the mother. I am my children’s life-long teacher.

When I decided to have children, I made their education a top priority.

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Writing Challenge Day 12: My favorite childhood book

As I explained on Challenge Day 2, I didn’t really learn to read until I was in the sixth grade, so I didn’t really have a favorite book until I was in high school. I do remember trying to read from an old reader that one of my brothers or sisters forgot to return to one of the schools they went to, but I can’t remember the title.
I do have two favorite books that I loved reading to my kids when they were small. I bought them the entire collection of Dr. Seuss, but the two books we read every night were I Love You This Much and The Kissing Hand.

I Love You This Much is about a little brown rabbit who tries to best his mother’s love. What he doesn’t understand is that a mother’s love is about as big as it gets.

The book we had was an enormous board book that was just about the same size as she was. She loved turning the big pages. We read it every night when she was little, and when we adopted F and Z, we read it every night with them.  The binding has fallen apart and has been re-secured with clear packing tape and the pages have had water spilt on them, but it will be forever one of our favorites.

 

This is a heartwarming story of a little raccoon who is afraid to go to night school. Although his mother tries to convince him that he will have fun and meet all kinds of new friends, he doesn’t want to leave her side. To reassure him that she will always be with him, she places a kiss in his hand. We read this so much that the night before Z went to Kindergarten, he gave my palm a small kiss so I wouldn’t miss him.

I wouldn’t give up my life with books for anything.

What are your favorite books?

 

 

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Writing Challenge Day 10: Best Trip of My Life

When I first sat down to pen this post, I couldn’t recall a “best” trip of my life. We traveled every summer of my youth and there are several that stand out to me as remarkable vacations. Since it was too taxing to pinpoint the best, I thought I would tell the tale of the worst trip of my life, which was hands down in 1991 when my father, in a rage, deserted my husband and I, newlyweds, in Nashville, TN to find our own way back to Nebraska with no transportation, two tickets to Opryland, and $300 to our name.

BUT! As luck would have it, while refreshing my memory concerning the finer points of Mark Edmundson’s essay “Pink Floyd Night School” in order to teach my students narrative writing,  I remembered that I had, in fact, had a “best trip of my life.” Edmundson, in hopes to persuade his students to “take it slow” after graduation and enjoy life, tells a story about his being a stage hand for a Pink Floyd concert, and had he went straight into grad school, he would have missed this particular life event.

Edmundson’s essay reminded me of my very first concert and the very, very bad decision that ends up being one of my best stories.

My folks didn’t allow any of my siblings and I to go to rock concerts while we were in school, not even during the summer.  While my friends were taking off to Omaha and Lincoln to see Van Halen,  cassette playerRUSH, Foreigner, KISS, Aerosmith and the like, I was left at home pretending to be at the concerts, but listening to my brother’s cassettes on my dad’s mono-speaker cassette player that I had to sneak into my room.

The summer between my Junior and Senior years in high school, my boyfriend bought 4 tickets to the Iowa Jam in Des Moine, IA, two for him and me and two more for whomever I wanted to include.  By some stroke of luck, my parents were planning a trip to Indiana that week to see my grandparents, and I somehow talked my way out of going.

My boyfriend didn’t have a valid driver’s license (loser) and neither Amy, Lori or I had a car, so we put our heads together and decided that since it was only an overnight trip we would take (steal really because my parents had no idea what was happening) whichever vehicle the parents didn’t take to Indiana. My dad had a ’76 brown, 3-speed AMC Gremlin that was his pride and joy at that time – the Lord only knows why – and a Chevy station wagon. We ended up taking the station wagon. All I can say is it was a smooth ride to Des Moines that Monday in late May.

We started the 3 hour drive early Monday morning and were easily at the Iowa State Fair Grounds before the concert started at noon. We listened to some unknown garage bands before the big boys took the stage: Motley Crue, Areosmith, Ted Nugent, Scorpions, and Ozzy.  The Scorpions, my favorite of all favorite bands (because 1. I’m a scorpio; 2. They’re German; and 3. I love their music (it doesn’t hurt that I thought Klaus was cute.) were right in the middle of the line up. right at that the point where day is kissing night goodbye, it began to mist a little and Rudolf Schenker (lead guitarist) begins the desperately lonesome intro to Still Loving You, but the drum kit wasn’t set up and Klaus Meine, the lead singer, wasn’t on stage.  I’m thinking, “This is my favorite song. Where is he?” After Steven Tyler was booed for forgetting the words to one of his songs earlier in the day, I prepared myself for another let down.

Klaus Meine, Scorpions' lead singer

Klaus Meine, Scorpions’ lead singer

Then I heard Klaus’s unmistakable vocals, gritty and consuming, accompanied only by the forlorn guitar. He started to quietly plead, “Time… it needs time, to win back your love again… I will be there… I will be there.”  The crowd started screaming and I frantically searched the stage for Klaus. He wasn’t there.  Then I heard the drawn out “Love…” only the ‘o’ sounds like ‘au’ in “caught,” because, you know, he’s German. “Love… only love, can bring back your love again… I will be there… I will be there.” Although, he still wasn’t there. There was only Rudolph, playing his heart-aching solo that dripped with despair.

With the stretched whine of the ending cord, there was Kaus, in the air, descending from the rafters upside down from the drum cage.

The pounding of the drums boosted the lyrics from desperate pleading to resolute determination as Klaus sang, “Fight…babe, I’ll fight… to win back your love again” Oh my god! I swore he was singing to me!

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. The drum kit lowered into place, and while he was singing to save our love, Klaus climbed off of the cage, walked to center stage, and, I swear, sang the rest of that song to me while I was standing in the rain. With each word, I felt how badly he didn’t want the relationship to end.

At the of the song when he belted out “I’m still loving yooooooooou,” I swear my underwear fell off.

Listen to it here (the song, not my underwear falling off): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqCKvUSik-I

What a glorious night that was. I don’t remember who played after the Scorpions, and I don’t even care. The image of Klaus through the misty night air hanging upside down as the drum cage floated down from the heavens will be etched into my memory forever. A memory I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for one very bad decision.

I recently reconnected with Amy and asked if she remembered that venture. She sure did, and we both at how easy-going her mother was about the whole scam. That woman kept a lot of secrets for me. Amy and I both agreed that we would probably kill our kids if they tried to do something like that.

Those were the good ol’ days – bad decision galore.

Like I told my students, if you are going to make a bad decision, you better make sure you make it memorable.

 

 

 

 

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Writing Challenge Day 8: My top 5 goals

According to the 30-day Blog Challenge list, today I am supposed to divulge 5 of my current goals.

Current goals? Okay, but my current goals are rather unimpressive, so I’m going to post “5 Easily Attainable Current Goals” and “5 Not-so Easily Attainable Current Goals” just to save face.

5 Easily Attainable Current Goals:

1. Finish painting the laundry room (This project has been in the making for about a month. I ran out of paint three quarters of the way through and completely lost all momentum. If you find it, will you please send it back to me. I’d really like to get this project in the bag.)

2. Clean my house without professional help. (I don’t actually see this one happening, but the list just said “current goals.” It said nothing about goals being possible to attain.)

3. Making it to the end of this challenge without missing too many days. (I did a 7 day Grateful Challenge on Facebook and totally forgot to post on day 7.  I have a tendency to not finish what I start. See #1)

4. Lose 5 pounds before October 4th (My niece is getting married in Texas, and who in America doesn’t want to lose at least five pounds. It’s more a matter of solidarity than vanity. Really.)

5. Make it through yet another one of Effy’s play productions without eating my weight in popcorn

Photo Credit: The Historic Ruffin Theater

Photo Credit: The Historic Ruffin Theater

(She’s one of the Wicked Witch’s cats in The Wizard of OZ – based on the books not the movie. The theater makes the best popcorn and it’s only $1. It’s like they don’t want me to reach my #4 goal and are conspiring against me. I thought we were in this together?)

5 Not-so Easily Attainable Current Goals:

1. Get out of debt (Again, I see this as an All-American goal – as in all Americans are trying to get out of debt. We are doing David Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, and we should be debt free by 2016. Yay! How about you?)

2. Finish the book about my parents (Whew. This may take awhile. I’ve been working on it for a few years. I am in the research stage, but that tendency not to complete thing keeps looming over my shoulder….)

3. Finish raising two well-adjusted people who will be productive members of society (I’ve heard that adulthood now begins at 25 years of age instead of the traditional 18. That’s much longer than I anticipated. Prayers are welcomed.)

4. Finish my education by getting my Ph.D. (This has actually been a life-long goal. I keep putting it off to do other things, like get married, have kids, move across the country, homeschool, etc. One day it will happen. One day.)

5. Take a trip to Europe (One month is all I need.)

Everyone has goals, and it is important to identify them. I’ve also heard that identifying a date of completion helps one to achieve the goal. I’ve never found that to be true, probably because I can easily change the date and I am lenient with myself; whereas, I am more inclined to complete a project or achieve a goal if I have accountability imposed upon me from a stern outside source that is not my husband.

How about you? Do you and I have any of the same goals?

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Challenge Day 5: My Proudest Moment(s)

My proudest moment is actually a bunch of similar moments that happen over time.

This sounds so cliché, but my proudest moments are seeing my kids step into their gift arena. What I mean by that is I strongly believe that each and every person has been given certain gifts and that we find joy when we are in the throws of using those gifts.

G is gifted at group activity. She doesn’t want to be the star. She wants to be a team player. She’s very good at it. During out years in Nebraska, she was involved in competitive dance. Every time she stepped out onto the stage, I had to make an effort not to literally cry with pride. Likewise, when we moved to Tennessee, she became a member of a huge marching band. F and Z would search my face at the end of the performance to see if I had tears in my eyes. I usually did. We recently went to Texas to see her preach her very first sermon as an intern. Again, I was bursting with pride as she talked to a room of teenagers learning the hard lessons that God tries to teach us.

Band

G’s Senior Year – 2011-12 Nationals in Baltimore

F has been gifted with an abundance of personality and grit. Every time she steps onto the softball field,

Effy warming up before a game.

Effy warming up before a game.

she changes into another person right before my eyes. That grit and determination to win is evident in her eye, and I know she was born to compete.  She’s almost a shape shifter. When she steps onto the stage, she is turns into whatever character she is playing: a hobbit that makes the audience laugh, a bossy school girl who scares all the boys, or a nasty witch’s black cat.  She is also the only kid I’ve met who can actually cry real tears on cue. I’m also a weepy wreck when she’s performing on the field or on stage.

Wee Beastie racing after the ball.

Wee Beastie racing after the ball.

Z is my Wee Beastie, and yes, I get tears in my eyes when I see him doing his thing. He is gifted with incredible athletic talent, and he chooses soccer to develop that talent; although, he can do almost anything after two or three tries. When he was five, he showed a woman selling hula hoop on Navy Pier how to actually hula hoop when he noticed she couldn’t keep it going after two or three spins. The next summer, he won a hula hooping contest at Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, AL. He is an easy going kid who like a physical challenge.

Accomplishments are not the only moments I am proud to call myself their parent. They are just the easiest to identify.  All three of my kids are compassionate human beings – which they didn’t get from me. They don’t like to see people hurting, emotionally or physically. Effy would deny this in a heart beat. She likes people to think she has this hard heart when, in fact, she is moved very deeply by another’s pain.

When they show compassion toward others is another one of my proudest moments.

I am certain that the list maker didn’t intend for the prompt to be answered in such a cliché manner, and I could have easily said that getting my M.A. in English was the proudest moment. That wouldn’t be an un-truth.

These little moments – seeing the joy on my children’s faces as they use their gifts and talents – make me proud because it proves that I did something right. Proverbs 22:6 reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” To many, teaching one’s children about Christ is “the way he should go.” To others, it may also include discipline, teaching one’s children right from wrong.

I agree with both of those interpretations; however, I also find them short sighted. I believe to train one’s child also includes identifying their personalities, their gifts, and their talents and then training them how to use them in a productive manner. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are so very different. Because they are so different, I can’t lump them into the same category and call it quits. Inevitably, one them will not be finding the joy through the use that God intended them to experience when He put them together they way He did.

Therefore, when I witness the joy my children experience when they are in their gift arena, it is my proudest moment. I did something right.

thumbs up

 

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Negative breeds negative

I have a saying. “Negative breeds negative: positive breeds positive.” I say it to my kids all the time, when they’re misbehaving, making bad decisions, or experiencing one of those Contrary Mary days. (side note: I am fully aware of the shortcomings of such a philosophy; however, I’m dealing with children who are not aware that cracks in philosophical underpinnings exist, so please cut me a break.)

I’ve spouted this little nugget of wisdom enough that they’ve taken to saying it to each other and to their friends.  That’s when I really laugh – when they say it to their friends.

Late yesterday morning, we were piled in the car on our way to Memphis when I asked Z if he knew how to do an evil laugh. He of course looked confused and answered, “No,” in a way that intimated that he thought it was a stupid question to begin with, so I asked F.  She answered the same way but added that maybe if a person did their laugh a tad higher in pitch than they usually laugh, that might do the trick.

While I was getting her to demonstrate an evil laugh for me, Z asked me if my interest in evil laughing had anything to do with the auditions for the Wicked Witch in the community theater’s production of the Wizard of Oz (he didn’t say it quite that intellectually. He is only 8).  I confirmed his thought and was starting to explain that I thought it would be fun, but I didn’t know how to do an evil laugh when I saw flashing blue lights in my rear-view mirror.

I looked at the speedometer and sure enough I was doing 47 in a 35.

Poop. I started looking for a place to pull over. The road I was on was curvy with no shoulder, so I started to look for a side road or parking lot to pull off.

I came around the corner, and there was the Munford Funeral Home’s parking lot. I pulled in far enough to allow the police officer to pull in behind. I thought by being courteous he may go easy on me.

After I had given him the requisite documentation, I leaned over to the passenger seat to put my billfold back in my purse when I notice about twenty people staring back at me from the other side of the parking lot.

Oh, crap. This isn’t the parking lot.

I had pulled into the mortuary’s back lot where cars were being queued behind the hearse for the funeral procession that was getting ready to leave.

Oh, dear God, please let the officer be quick about giving me the ticket I so deserve.  

I fully expected that by admitting my guilt and how I deserved the worst punishment, God would turn the heart of the police officer to 1) notice time was of the essence since there was a funeral procession lining up and we were in the way, and 2) have grace upon the cotton-headed ninny-muggins who turned into the lot.

Neither happened.

By the time he finished writing my ticket and telling me to slow down, more cars were queued and I had to maneuver around them (going the opposite direction of the queue, of course, which added that much more humiliation to that which I was already experiencing).

Each time I passed a car, I raised my hand in apology and said “Sorry” as if it was a magical word that adequately explained the entire circumstance and that I wasn’t just some inconsiderate, unfeeling nincompoop.

It didn’t work.

Grieving people can give very nasty looks.

A minute or two down the road, Z pipes up from the back seat and says, ” You know how you always tell us that negative produces negative? Well, maybe if you hadn’t been talking about evil laughs, none of that would have happened.”

Well, thank you for that tidbit, my little putter together of all thoughts.

It is such a joy to have one’s children uses one’s words against oneself.  Wouldn’t you agree?

 

 

 

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Two thoughts about Coulter’s disdain for soccer

I don’t read Ann Coulter on a regular basis. I find her too far into right field to be able to have any meaningful conversation with her. Most people who can’t, or won’t, entertain differing points of view, even to the smallest degree, are not good with discussion. What they are good at is shutting down a conversation. I find Coulter to be one of these people.  (Oh, and bee tee dubs, I feel the same way about left-wingers, too.)

For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts after reading Coulter’s June 25th blog post, “America’s Favorite National Pastime: Hating Soccer.” 

1. I don’t think she was seriously trying to say that our countries moral decay can be proven by it’s present fascination with soccer. I do believe it was her attempt at using hyperbole and sarcasm to create satire, but it backfired miserably. Why? It backfired because people are not used to her trying to be funny in order to say she’s bored with soccer, much like Johnathan Swift and “A Modest Proposal.”  (Ya can’t shift like that, Ann, without giving fair warning. Now if you were known as a political humorist, that would be one thing. But you’re not.)

2. If I am wrong and Coulter wasn’t trying to be humorous, then I’m going to be forced to join those who are offended by her sexist, racist, and highly fallacious statements (this is an example of why I think she was not speaking truth. No one – NO ONE – can be that stupid. And as I write this I can’t help but think of a few of my students who would fit that bill).

There are a few statements I must address if her tirade is indeed factual:

 a. “One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not ‘catching on’ at all, is African-Americans.”

          My African-American son loves soccer, and it’s not because of the juice boxes.  He loves soccer precisely because it is an extreme challenge to make a goal. It takes intelligence (reading the players, calculating angles, and having precise timing) as well as superior athletic ability (the miles of running in one soccer game alone would kill most American football players).   When we lived in an apartment, it was our downstairs neighbor, also an African-American, who ignited the flame of passion my son now has for soccer.

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Wee Beastie playing the game he loves!

b. “One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.”

           Most of my international and immigrant friends and students speak better English than those born within the hallowed boundaries of this great land. Ann, if you are going to hold immigrants to the standard of learning English, you should probably hold those born here to the same standard. Have you ever watched Swamp People?

c. “No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.”

           I know some high school female football players, as well as some wrestlers and rugby players, who would heartily disagree with that statement – and their Republican moms and dads, too.

Hannah and me after her last game her senior year. She was awesome!

Hannah and I after her last football game of her senior year. She was awesome!

I have said my fair share.

That is all.

Good day, Ms. Coulter, and better days to you.

 

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Life’s Divisions

Yep. Pretty accurate.

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