Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Do You...

Remember When

  • Summer was heralded by the frantic scribbling of pencils on paper, scented with aroma of eraser debris and the heady smells of mimeographed exams?
  • Parents didn't scramble to find something to occupy their children during the weeks of summer vacation, they just made sure that the hosepipes were functional and the locks sturdy?
  • Three bowls of sugar-laden cereal didn't seem all that excessive, and in fact were considered a well-balanced breakfast?
  • Scabby knees were badges of honor, regardless of gender? Their protrusion between the hems of shorts and the tops of tube socks were a sign that trees had been climbed, hills had been conquered and bicycles tamed.
  • Speaking of bicycles - do you remember wearing helmets? Me neither.
  • Bologna sandwiches were excellent lunches? 
  • Barbie and Ken broke up because Barbie had the hots for G.I. Joe? Or was that just at my house?
  • Bottle-rockets were fired from one end of the street to the other as a part of the on-going war that was Camellia Lane? And somehow, no one lost an eye or a thumb?
  • The street lights went on and everyone started running, calling out see-you-laters and same-time-tomorrows?
I do. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the street and the people on it. I remember the red rubber ball that we played four-square with. I remember calling out "CAR!" and moving out of the way. I remember my white bike with the banana seat and the white plastic basket on the front that was covered with plastic daisies.

I don't remember what my mother did. I assume she was around, but she had her own friends and her own things to do. I guess she was running errands and taking care of my little sister and gardening. And making bologna sandwiches. Sometimes they even had fried bologna on them, but only when we were being particularly good.

I wonder what my children will remember. Likely, it will be all the time spent in the car to get to this thing or that thing. They'll remember time spent hitting tennis balls and time at the neighborhood pool. But they won't remember the freedom that they had, because kids just don't have that any more. Even when I send them out to explore and ride their bikes and have a great time, they come back...there aren't any other kids out exploring. We go to the pool and it's just us and the toddlers until 4 or 5 in the afternoon, when the parents are off work and the kids can finally come out to play.

All the other kids are at day camps and day cares and math tutoring sessions and art classes and music intensives. Because summer is the time to get ahead and make up lost ground and pushpushpush so we don't get behind.

And I'm sorry for them. I'm sorry that they never shot a bottle-rocket at their friend and watched in horror as it hit the bill of his ball cap and flew straight up in the air. I'm sorry that they haven't perfected the art of manufacturing fake blood out of Karo syrup and food coloring and scaring their mom half to death with it. I'm sorry that they never got lost in the woods behind the neighborhood and worried they'd never find their way home but then realized that they were only three houses away. I'm sorry they never played kickball in the street with the four-square ball and had to quit when Jason's mom called him home early and he had to take the ball with him. 

I'm sorry they never picked up the hose when they were thirsty and just drank out of the end of it instead of coming in the house and getting water from the fridge. Because that burst of cool water, after all the hot water that had been sitting in the hose all day ran out...that was the stuff of legend - the nectar of the summer gods. And once you had your fill, you gently placed your thumb over the end and sprayed all your friends and the droplets of water hung in the afternoon heat and created prisms of light. 

And nothing was more perfect than that.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ego Trip


Last week, when the Smarty came home from DC, we headed south to see his folks in Alabama. We hadn't seen them since Thanksgiving, and so even though my folks are just another hour and a half farther down the road, we had decided to keep this trip about his mom and dad. I saw my mom a couple of weeks ago, and she and my niece are coming back very soon, so at first glance, that seemed to be the right thing to do.

But, with everything going on with my grandmother, once we got to Birmingham I decided to head on down and pay a quick surprise visit. I severely underestimated the reaction I would get. Let's just say I made my mom cry, I made my dad cry, I made my sister cry, and I made my niece cry.

I was only able to stay a few hours, but it was long enough to have lunch with my parents, visit with my grandmother (who smiled and smiled and smiled) and be with my mom as she met with the home healthcare providers that are going to be helping with my grandmother on weekends. It was long enough to reminisce over photo albums with my sister. It was long enough to watch my niece's dance routine that she used to try out for the high school dance squad. It was long enough to sit and drink a cup of coffee and just listen to my mom talk.

It was long enough to just love my people a little bit and let them know that even though I'm not there in the midst of their trial and turmoil on a daily basis, my heart is there. 

My heart is theirs.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Having a Ball


School is winding down for the year, and we are rather frantically working to make sure we've completed all the work required.

And by "we," I mean me, of course.

There's no frantic in my boys. There's a lot of eye rolling and Dear-God-WhyAren't-We-Finished-Already-ing. If they could just figure out a way to harness all the energy required to keep up the constant sighing, we'd be done already.

One of my children is the most amazing procrastinator I've ever seen in all my life. Please bear in mind that I'm an outstanding procrastinator. World-renowned, even.

He tops me by a mile.

One day last week, he spent five and a half hours doing his schoolwork.

And completed nothing.


Then, in one three hour session on Friday, completed five science lessons, a vocabulary test and a grammar lesson.

Crazy-making, is what that is.

The other one just gets done what needs getting done. He chips away at it every day, little by little, and has actually completed the required lessons in all but one subject, two weeks ahead of schedule.

We've always said that if we could combine them, they'd make one amazing super-human.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


After the Rain

It's been a soggy few days - but the benefits are outstanding!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013



The light was so pretty that I didn't even notice the red pickup truck through the window.

Until now.

Dang it.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Zombies Play Tennis?

A Basket Full of Happy

We spent the weekend as we often do - at a tennis tournament. Dr. SmartyPants was not here, so much of my time was spent texting game scores to him, my heart racing, my stomach churning.

It's one of those great joys in life to witness your child living up to his potential, demonstrating the mastery of skills for which you've paid the equivalent of a small island nation's GDP, and getting a win over his opponent. 

It's another thing entirely to witness your child living up to his potential, demonstrating the mastery of skills for which you've paid the equivalent of a small island nations's GDP, and getting his butt kicked in 35 minutes flat.

It is, however, the nature of the game - and of life, quite honestly. So many times, regardless of how hard we've prepared, how mentally ready we are to take on a task, we end up defeated, and how we handle that defeat is what defines us in the end.

My children handle defeat very differently...they handle pretty much everything very differently. Derek walked off the court after his first round loss and said "Well, I played as well as I could have. That guy was just better than I was." 

He was right. He did all the things that he's worked so hard on over the past couple weeks - things that had been problems - things he hadn't been doing well. And he did them well. The boy he played was just better. He was bigger, he was stronger, he was older and he had more experience. Derek could see that and move on.

Joshua won his first round match, although he lost the first set. He buckled down, won the second and the deciding tiebreak and then had to go on to the second round. His opponent was the #2 seed in the tournament, the #11 ranked boy in Tennessee. Joshua actually started out playing really well. He won a few games, lost a few really close ones. But here's where Derek and Joshua diverge - Joshua started getting angry.

He actually started angry. That's his default setting. 

After the match, which he lost, I said something to him about being angry and how it shuts his feet down - shuts his game down, really. (This isn't the first conversation about it that we've had...) I could see the tears in his eyes as he said to me, "You tell me that it is okay to get angry, but then tell me that I shouldn't be angry! I don't get it!"

He's right. I've said both things to him. And I'm right, but he wasn't getting it. I told him to go take a shower, cry it out and come back and we'd talk about it.

I really just needed a few minutes to try and figure out how to explain it. Here's what I came up with:

Anger is an emotion, just like joy or sadness. There's nothing wrong with anger - it just is. But here's the thing...every time you get angry, it's like creating a one-pound brick. There's nothing wrong with that brick - it just is. But once you've created the brick, you have to decide what to do with it.

Ideally, you learn to put it down, out of your way, where it can't trip you up. Better yet, realize that it's just a brick of sand, blow on it really hard and scatter all the grains.

But you can also decide to strap that brick to your leg and hang on to it. Now - one brick that weighs one pound probably won't hinder you all that much, but consider this: It takes losing 24 points, minimum, to lose a tennis set. That's 24 opportunities to create an anger brick. If you strap all 24 of those bricks to your legs, you'd find it hard to move. 

Imagine playing your best game with the equivalent of 24 pounds strapped to your legs. It just can't happen. You have to practice laying your bricks down, pulverizing them and blowing them away.

He thought about it for a few minutes. I asked him if he understood.

"Yes. I get it. It's kind of like in Minecraft? When there are zombies? And if you don't kill the zombie, they spawn more zombies and then you're completely overrun with zombies and you can't do anything."

"Exactly. I think. I have no idea what you're talking about."

"That's okay, Mom. I do."

Friday, May 03, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?


I've never been a fan of gardening. My mom was a gardener - all my people are gardeners. My earliest memories of gardening are picking the weeds out between the rows of okra and eggplant that my mom decided to plant one year, the whole time thinking, "I HATE okra. I HATE eggplant. Why do I have to pick out these stupid weeds. I don't even LIKE gardening."

Thanks Mom. Happy times, there.

I have another memory about gardening, but it involves chicken manure and a game of king of the hill. You'll thank me for not repeating it.

Anyway - as I've grown older, I've found that I miss the taste of fresh-out-of-the-garden tomatoes and peppers. I miss the smell of fresh vegetables sitting on the counter ready for preparation. So I planted some tomatoes in pots on my deck at the last house - it's not gardening! There aren't any weeds! All I have to do is walk out onto my deck and pick my glorious tomatoes!

Except it never worked all that well. The containers dried out too quickly and the tomatoes suffered and all it did for me is make me want more. MORE, I tell you.

So, last year, as we were examining our acre of land and marveling at the fact that the previous owners of this house cut down all the trees except the five scraggly, ugly cedars and left the patches of bare, scorched earth that used to be shaded by said trees, I thought maybe I'd plant a garden. I wasn't brave enough to till up the soil, yet, so I bought a raised bed kit at the local hardware store and filled it with gorgeous garden soil.

I planted four tomato plants, one cucumber, a yellow squash and one zucchini. ONE zucchini.

The zucchini plant that ate my garden.My zucchini is as big as...

People - this garden produced like crazy. I had so much zucchini, I couldn't keep track of it all - as a matter of fact, I would lose zucchini in the giant leaves of the plant so that they ended up growing bigger than my dog. The picture above shows the zucchini plant at about half its eventual size. It completely crowded out my squash and my cucumber. The tomatoes held their ground, but it was pretty clear that a) zucchini plants are insane and b) zucchini plants need more space.

When the garden was done, I removed the raised bed, mixed the garden soil into the bare scorched earth area, planted crepe myrtles, daylilies and oriental lilies and turned it into a beautiful little flowery oasis. I'll take a picture of it as soon as everything blooms.

Yesterday, I took my raised bed to a different bare, scorched earth section of the yard. I found another raised bed at the hardware store and added it so that the zucchini will have its own space, although I did give it a spaghetti squash and a watermelon friend to hang out with. Hopefully, they'll play nicely together.

I gave the tomatoes their own bed, with a border of marigolds and a lone bell pepper friend to grow with. My mom always planted marigolds with her tomatoes to keep the bugs away. Guess she taught me something after all.

Thanks Mom. Happy times, indeed.

Thursday, May 02, 2013



Have you ever watched something unfolding in front of you and just ached for it to finish already? 

Have you ever wondered at the patience of nature?

Have you ever mourned the time spent straining and becoming and simply longed for the finish?

Have you ever gasped at the first sign?


Have you ever seen miracles take over and do what you could never hope for?

Have you ever grown weary of the battle?

Have you ever been humbled by your own lack of power?


Have you ever watched as those precious hearts for whom you've been given responsibility exceed every expectation?

Have you ever wept as those same hearts are crushed by failure?


Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Every Day


In order to reconnect with my habit of blogging, I'm planning a post every day in May. It may be a drawing, like the crow above.

It may be a photo.

It may be a rant against society.

Who knows? The point of it is that I miss being here. I miss writing. I miss the connections I've made through the past few years of hanging out in this space.

Feel free to join me - I could use the company.