Monday, July 26, 2010

Which One’s the Lie?

This past week, I’ve enjoyed reading the comments y’all made on this post. I think it’s especially funny how so many of you can’t believe I killed two pets. And I love that I got so many comments and that some of you lurkers came out of hiding! (Now that you’re out, can you please STAY out and comment some more? Pretty please?!)

So, here’s the answer: #4 is the lie! My brother never handcuffed me in the attic. I’m pretty sure he handcuffed me at some point in our childhood, but it wasn’t for three hours and I wasn’t abandoned in the attic.

And THAT means the other six are all true. Egads! Before y’all go getting all PETA on me, let me explain each of them.

1. I really did believe I was a witch and had special powers when I was little. I believed inanimate objects were alive too, kind of like the talking chairs and clock in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Yep, that’s me, overactive imagination and all!

2. I went through a short phase when I started rationing my words in case I was allowed only a certain amount before I died. I think this phase lasted about an hour, until I threw caution to the wind and decided I might as well die young because nothing was going to shut me up. I’m still on that talking streak, you know.

3. When I was in first grade and Jackson was in fifth grade, my dad started his own company in his business partner’s basement. Mom was the bookkeeper, and she would take my brother and I to the partner’s house. We’d get in all kinds of trouble, messing around in their house and backyard while Mom was trying to work. One day, we were being hooligans and playing in Mom’s Buick. It had a button in the glove compartment that you pushed to pop the trunk lid open. Jackson and I decided to take turns in the trunk, and one person would pop it to let the other person out. We did this for a while, then Jackson had the brilliant idea to get in the trunk together. I remember laying there beside him as he lowered the trunk lid on us. He said he wasn’t going to close it all the way; he just wanted to see what it was like in the dark. (I realize now how idiotic that was – as if the trunk looked any different with BOTH of us in it as opposed to just one of it inside.) Of course, the trunk came down too fast and latched. We were STUCK. We started yelling and kicking to get out, but we couldn’t. Now, mind you, this was in Georgia. And it was NOT winter time. I don’t recall it being the dog days of summer, but it was definitely warm out because I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. This could have turned disastrous! We kept kicking and yelling, hoping Mom could hear us inside. She didn’t. We were panicking, and Jackson told me to stop talking and breathe less, to conserve air. He also told me to take off my shirt – I think this was so I could ball it up over my mouth and breathe through it to conserve air. Then he got an umbrella that was in the trunk with us and tried to pry open the trunk with it. (Mom was NOT pleased later when she saw the bent trunk!) To this day, I can still remember being inside that trunk, crying because I thought I was going to die in there. I had the Journey song “Who’s Crying Now” playing in my head, and even at age six I knew that was ludicrous. After at least 30 minutes inside the trunk, someone finally heard us and got Mom. She came and opened the trunk, and we were so relieved to escape. Jackson and I were in big trouble, but at least we were alive.

5. (I skipped #4, since it’s the lie.) Yes, I killed my brother’s mouse. BY ACCIDENT, people. Truly! (Although you might think it was for revenge after reading #3, huh?) In middle school, Jackson had a science experiment that used a mouse. No, it wasn’t animal testing or anything like that! Anyway, he had this mouse in a glass fish aquarium, with the cedar chips inside and all that. He had a wooden birdhouse inside the tank for the mouse to climb in. The birdhouse opened with a lid that pivoted on a dowel. When the lid was open, it created a space behind it. One day I was peeking into the aquarium (I had been told NOT TO, so I didn’t mess up the experiment), and the mouse crawled into that space behind the lid. I closed the lid without knowing he was there, and must have snapped his spine. The good news is he died without pain, since I am pretty sure the death was instantaneous. The bad news is I was so horrified by what I did and so afraid I’d get caught doing it and be in trouble, that I just walked away and left the mouse corpse and didn’t tell anyone what happened. Jackson’s science experiment was ruined (I wonder what grade he got on it?), and the secret was mine for about 10 years. I finally confessed to Jackson and Mom years later, much to their shock.

6. Yes, I also killed my sister’s cat. Again, BY ACCIDENT. I swear! I will attempt to explain, but check back later to see if my sister leaves a comment on this post to clarify the awful details. No doubt she will blame me and call me ruthless, but I swear I wasn’t. I was only about five years old and just didn’t know better! Noel was my sister’s kitten. She was brand new to our house (the kitten, not Mary), and I think all of this happened on the very first day Noel arrived. We already had a BIG dog named Digger. He was a bull mastiff, the last of the ones my parents used to breed. Digger was sequestered to Jackson’s room when Noel arrived because my parents knew Digger would NOT get along with a little kitten. I think I played with Noel all day, then decided to take her to Jackson’s room to meet Digger. I remember cradling Noel in my arms and cracking the bedroom door open. Digger’s head whipped around and saw me through the crack, and saw Noel in my arms. Noel saw him, too! She flipped out and pounced, but the dumb cat pounced INTO the room, not OUT. The rest of the story still resides in slow motion in my memory: Digger mauled Noel. Dead. And I will forever shoulder the blame because I just wanted them to be friends. Ugh!

7. Lastly, it’s true: my neighbor’s dog, Duncan, bit my right wrist when I was in 7th grade. He was laying on the floor with his belly exposed, so I went over to pet him. Mind you, this is a dog that I was around pretty regularly. I reached to pet his belly, and he turned and attacked my wrist. Oh, man! It hurt like all get out! (I can’t write the words I really want to use there.) I still have the scars where his four teeth punctured my arm. I had to get stitches and a tetanus shot and wear bandages to school. Duncan still lived with my neighbors for a while, although I avoided him ever after. I believe he still lived there until he bit the family’s own son, then Duncan was retired to farm living.

This was a fun little game for me to play. I enjoyed quizzing my husband and seeing if he would get the answer right. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, since some of these stories were buried deep in my memory. But he guessed correctly and helped me edit my lie so it was a little more believable. Originally, I also wrote that I threw up on myself when I was handcuffed. Dan said too many details made it an obvious lie.

I’m also floored that only one of you picked the lie! (Way to go, Robin!) My sister called this week and asked, “Did our brother have a mouse?” Ha! I even fooled my sister!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Six Truths and One Lie

creative writer Summer got the best of me and I’m a bit behind on my To Do List. One of the things that’s been on my list for a month is to thank my bloggy (and IRL) friend Gina for a nice little award she gave me back in June. It’s the “Creative Writer” Blogger Award. In addition to thanking the person who gave it to you (thanks, Gina!) and posting the award on my blog, I have to either a) tell you six outrageous lies and one outrageous truth or b) I can tell you six outrageous truths and one outrageous lie, then I have to pass it on to seven other creative bloggers (and let them know they've won).

I chose six truths and one lie. And, dude, this is hard, ‘cause there isn’t much y’all don’t know about me. Here goes!

1. When I was little, I used to think I was a witch because I could see things I thought were invisible to others, like the heat rising off the pavement and floaters in my vision.
2. When I was little, I was convinced you only got a certain number of words in your lifetime. When you use up those words, you die.
3. When I was in first grade, my brother and I got locked in the trunk of our mom’s Buick.
4. In fifth grade, my brother used toy handcuffs and locked me in the attic for three hours until Mom found me.
5. I killed my brother’s pet mouse.
6. I killed my sister’s pet cat.
7. My neighbor’s labrador retriever bit my arm, which explains my hesitance (not a true fear, just a strong caution) around large dogs.

Now, let’s see how well y’all know me! Which of those seven is the big lie? Leave a comment with your guess.

I am passing this award on to:
1. Jill at FiskFamilyMama
2. Emily at The Boys
3. Kitten Muffin at Filth Wizardry
4. Jen at Diagnosis Urine
5. Carrie at Scenes from the Blue Chair
6. Michelle at Michelle Sidles
7. Holly at stitch/craft

The Puzzle Gene

It was bound to happen – genetics made it 99.99% a sure thing. My little boy is a puzzle lover. Dan’s mom has the gene. Dan inherited the gene from her. My mom had the gene, too. (I, however, do not.)

Jackson recently discovered seven cardboard puzzles in the basement, handed down years ago by neighbors who moved away to Nebraska. These are the kind of puzzles that have a cardboard frame for a kid to work within. Jackson adores them. When he is protesting bedtime at night, he has started asking to do just one puzzle before bedtime. In the morning, he wakes and asks me first thing: “Can you do a puzzle wif me, Mommy?”

Dan has taught Jackson some puzzling techniques: find the corner pieces first and put them in place. Then find the edge pieces and work with them. Then look at the patterns and the shapes of the pieces. In this photo from this morning, he is working a puzzle while singing to himself. IMGP9963-

Jackson is surprisingly good at these puzzles. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, what with his genetic inheritance?IMGP9977

Trying to Stop the Forces of Nature: A Parenting Metaphor

DSCN1521 You probably can’t pick us out in this photo, but Jackson and I are in it. This photo needs to be blown up and hung in a prominent space in my house. It is a rare moment in time when, for just a flickering second, I had my child all figured out.

It was the week of Camp Grandma and we were at Water Country, which is a water park in Virginia. It had been a long day in the sun, and Katie had just melted down because her ice cream cone was dripping down her arm. I took Jackson to the big wave pool when the water was still calm and the wave session hadn’t started yet.

The time came for the wave machine to turn on and the waves started rolling in the pool. Jackson was taken aback by the movement of the first and second waves. And then, his shock wore off and he went from defense to offense; he started fighting back. As the waves kept coming, he raised his little hands in the air and literally hit them in an attempt to make them stop. But no matter how hard he hit them (and then, subsequently, punched AND kicked them), he couldn’t make them stop.

I got the biggest kick out of watching this little squirt trying to stop the forces of nature. In his little mind, he truly thinks he is big enough to change the world. He used all his might and effort, but the waves just kept rolling into him.

After about three minutes of this, the waves stopped while the lifeguards chastised some kid for some infraction. Then the waves started up again. This time, Jackson kicked at them once or twice and was lifted off his feet a little bit. All of a sudden, it clicked for him: this could be FUN! He went from attacking the waves to riding them with joy on his face. He started jumping into them as they neared him, and let the waves carry him for a few inches. A smile broke out on his face, and although he started sputtering as the waves crested over his head, he was thrilled and happy when moments before he was hostile and unmovable.

I realized, in that moment, my job as a parent is to be the wave. My little warrior son is going to put up many a ferocious fight, but I will keep rolling on with determination of my own: Determination to teach him manners and how to become a gentleman. Determination to educate him and harness the power within him. Determination to help him become a great leader and also a loving follower of the God whose love is bigger than any ocean.

One day, he will stop fighting it and start enjoying it. The three-year-old tantrums will subside and he will jump into life feet first, with absolute abandonment. Please, Lord, help me keep being the wave!

Flags Across America

If you look on the right side of my blog, there is a live traffic feed that tells me where my blog is being accessed around the world. Just now, I saw there are readers in Brazil, London, North Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Kansas, and Alaska.

How cool is that?

I digress… anyway, I was wondering if y’all could help me with a little project. There’s a woman named Pam who lives in North Carolina. Her husband knew my brother Jackson, and they even named their son after my brother. Pam’s husband is a soldier, and she supports him and his coworkers with lots of morale boosters. She has a blog where she shows photos of the American flag in different places – even in Iraq! On our recent epic adventure, I took some flag photos for her to use on her blog.

Can you take some too?

I’d love for you to send some photos to Pam (or me, if you don’t feel comfortable sending them to her) and she could post them on her Flags Across America blog. Yes, I know some of my blog visitors are from foreign countries, so this might not pertain to you.
If you see an American flag, could you take a photo of it so Pam can honor it on her blog? Thanks!

The Flag Goes By (Henry Holcomb Bennett)
Hats off! Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flag color beneath the sky: Hats off!
The flag is passing by!
Blue and crimson and white shines,
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off! The colors before us fly;
But more than a flag is passing by.
Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;
Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land’s swift increase;
Equal justice, right, and law,
Stately honor and reverend awe;
Sign of a nation, great and strong
Toward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honor, – all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.
Hats off! Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off! The flag is passing by!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back to School

The school year starts early for us, since our school district is year-round. Katie is now a second grader! The sendoff to school was nice and routine, and the return home was great too. We had the usual after-school treat with the neighbors, then a bunch of them went off to the pool together. Welcome back, school year! For the last six weeks, I have MISSED the routine and peace you provide!IMGP9900a




Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We Have Returned from Our Epic Trip

Oh, it’s been a long eleven days. How I love being home!IMGP9119

Dan and I took the kids on a long road trip to visit my relatives back East. We left home on July 2 and drove 12.5 hours to West Virginia to visit my Uncle Bob and Aunt Florence (Bob is my mom’s brother).

Let me stop the story right there. Do you have ANY idea how fantastical that statement was? I am a mother who has NEVER driven longer than three hours with Jackson. It just didn’t happen. But I surprised myself and quite a few relatives by agreeing to drive to West Virginia. And it turned out to be halfway pleasant! Dan drove, I hooked the kids into their own portable DVD players (thank you, God, for technology!), and I read THREE books in the car. Woo!IMGP9125

I forgot to mention: Katie lost her first front tooth before we even left our driveway. Her second one fell out about 24 hours later.IMGP9214a

So we arrived in West Virginia, in this little town called Great CaCapon – which is on the CaCapon River. We stayed in a hotel the first night, then went to Uncle Bob and Aunt Florence’s cabin (they call it the CaCabin on the CaCapon). We floated down the CaCapon River, then hung out on the front lawn of the CaCabin with relatives I haven’t seen in more than 15 years. I think there was a total of 41 people staying at the CaCabin.IMGP9335a

Of course, there wasn’t room inside so we all camped on the front lawn.IMGP9418

Stop the story again… did you hear that? I camped with my kid? Katie has done it, but it was another first for Jackson. (And a LAST one too. He cried a bit that first night and kept a few people awake, so I took him back to the hotel for the second night.)

We went to the Great CaCapon July 4th parade that evening, after a fried chicken dinner by the volunteer firefighters’ auxiliary. Small town America is such fun!IMGP9229

The night ended with fireworks.IMGP9399

On Monday (July 5), we loaded up the car and added an additional kid (my niece, Peyton) and drove to Washington, DC. We stopped at the White House for just a few minutes so we could show Katie.IMGP9519-

Jackson was NOT pleased to be there.IMGP9521

Dan caught a flight home to Missouri, and I picked up one more passenger – my cousin’s daughter, Hope. We drove one of the most harrowing roads I have ever been on (Interstate 95) and made it to Camp Grandma with my nerves frazzled after four hours in awful traffic.

Camp Grandma is at my Uncle John and Aunt Lucy’s house, near Williamsburg Virginia. (Uncle John is my dad’s brother.) Mama Lucy invites her grandkids to her house for a week of no rules, junk food, and fun day trips. It’s like a week-long slumber party on crack. Last year, Lucy invited my kids (and my sister’s kids), since there are no grandparents on our side of the family.

This year, there were six girls (three almost-12-year-olds, one 10-year-old, one 7-year-old, and one almost-6-year-old) plus my one 3-year-old boy. Oh, it was a mess. Jackson surprised me with how well he fit in with the girls. They liked him and thought he was so cute. And when he got annoying, they just sent him to play with another set of girls.

We spent the week staying up late, skipping naps, and eating junk. Our first day was a trip to the water park.DSCN1492

Our second day was a trip to Target for a grandma-funded mini shopping spree. That night, the kids decorated their own Camp Grandma shirts.IMGP9591

I also broke out the henna and decorated the kids. They wanted their bellies decorated, so I obliged.IMGP9610

Our third day was a trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. We were there for ELEVEN hours. Straight.DSC_0500a

Friday was a quieter day at home, when other relatives came to visit and join the fun for dinner.IMGP9732

The kids made their own birthday cakes so they could celebrate with Mama Lucy, since she can’t be with everyone on their birthdays. The cakes ended up smashed on the girls’ faces. Yuck.IMGP9734

Saturday was a trip to the local public beach, which was cut short by rain.IMGP9757

We went to see Toy Story 3 that night instead, and that wrapped up our week at Camp Grandma.

On Sunday, I loaded the kids in the car and drove 11 hours to Kentucky. Yes… by myself. And, yes, we survived. (Just barely.) Along the way, we stopped and saw my stepmother, Maureen.IMGP9802

We also stopped to visit the graves of my dad, my brother, my grandmother and my grandfathers. It was the closest my son has ever been to his namesake, Uncle Jackson. (And that brought on quite a few tears for me.)IMGP9810a

We ended the night in Kentucky at my sister-in-law’s house. Bonnie is my brother’s widow. Her son Jude is about to turn two, and he was so darn adorable. The kids played together in Jude’s inflatable pool, then we went inside for bath and bedtime.IMGP9859

We got up yesterday and drove the last five hours home.

It was an epic trip. In all, my kids met 58 living relatives from my side of the family – plus five dead ones, if you count the stop in the cemetery. Now we are home. My body is weary, my patience is almost non-existent, and I am beyond thrilled to have naptime to myself so I can blog (Katie is plugged into the desktop computer – can you blame me?). I NEED time to myself as badly as I need air to breathe.

So what’s the bottom line from our trip? Besides the educational aspect of visiting nine states with my kids (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky), I learned: I am capable of traveling with my kids, even by myself. I really miss mountains and tall trees. Jackson can survive without a nap (although he isn’t at peak performance level, of course). I am blessed to have extended family who include me and my kids in their traditions. I thrive on routine. So do my kids. I miss my parents with a deep ache. My tires need a good rotation and balance. Junk food makes me feel gross. I take uninterrupted sleep for granted. Life is lonely without Dan by my side.

And there truly IS no place like home.


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