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Sunday, July 31, 2011

The High School Reunion

Stan and I are the same age. We both graduated from high school in 1986. Back in the day hair was big, jeans were acid washed, cut up clothing was a must and we were all proud to be "Born in the U.S.A!"

Stan is coming home from his 25th high school reunion. He went at my recommendation after hemming and hawing about wanting to go. He asked my thoughts and I told him I kind of regretted not going to mine earlier this summer. "That seals it," Stan said, "I'm going." Good!

Stan went to high school in New Jersey, near the Jersey shore. The gal who planned the event decided an evening on the Jersey shore, Seaside to be exact, was the venue. Hotels on the Jersey shore in the middle of summer are a hot and expensive commodity! Stan went to book his hotel room, two days before the big event, and found incredibly nasty hotel rooms for outrageous amounts of cash. So, he did what any normal person would do and he found himself a camp site near the Jersey shore.

Tent, cot, sleeping bag and pillow packed, Stan left yesterday morning for his reunion. 20 minutes after he left my phone rang with Stan calling to ask why he was going to this reunion again? Ooooooof, he's killing me ~ the hemming and hawing! "OK," I said "if you really don't want to go, turn around and come home!" He assured me he really did want to go, was going to go and have a good time.

I just got off the phone with Stan. He is headed home. His time with his classmates provided him with a nice trip down memory lane but he is happy to be coming home.

I think it's important to reconnect with those friends whose role in our lives is to help us get through our coming of age years. It's good to go back and revisit the glory of our youth, especially now, as our own kiddos starting down their high school paths. It's a reconnection to what trials and tribulations we faced as teens and reminder of what our kids may be facing...although, they won't have big hair, acid washed jeans, torn up clothing and Bruce Springsteen blaring on their stereos.

"http://www.youtube.com/embed/tIekamBDiAw"

Oh, for the love of my children...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Humbling Experience...

I was so excited today!  I had a tennis match and I couldn't wait to play.  I got dressed early so I would be ready to go.  I left early so I would be on time.  I couldn't wait. 

I had to stop by the store to pick up some tennis balls.  It was a home match for me so I needed to provide a can of balls.  As I walked into the store I felt a spring in my step.  I felt good and healthy and strong.  I walked briskly back to the tennis department and picked up a couple of cans of balls.  The spring in my step grew as I walked to the check out counter.  I scanned all of the lines to find the shortest line ~ I wanted to get out on the courts and be ready for my match. 

I put my cans of balls on the conveyer belt to finalize my purchase.  I was ready to check out and thought I picked the fastest line because the belt was empty and the person in front of me was finishing her purchase, or so I thought. 

It was then I noticed her, really noticed her...the woman in front of me.  I couldn't see her when I first picked my checkout line.  Actually, I thought no one was in line because she was hidden.  She was in a wheelchair.  The line was slower than most as the woman in the wheelchair struggled.  She had a pill box in her hand and she was trying hard to shake the pills in the box into her mouth.  She struggled to take a sip of water out of her bottle and put it back in the cup holder.  I watched as the woman in the wheelchair struggled to get her card out of her wallet, eventually handing her wallet to the cashier.  She asked for help getting out the card she needed.  The cashier was kind and patient as she helped the woman in the wheelchair. 

As I stood in line, taking in the struggle of the woman in the wheelchair, I noticed a patch on the back of her wheelchair which said the woman in front of me was an Air Force Vet.  I wished with all of my might for courage so that I could thank her for her service.  My courage failed me.  I couldn't do it.  I couldn't get the words out of my mouth.   I wished  I could. 

Watching the struggle of the woman in the wheelchair was truly a humbling experience for me.  Here I walk into the store feeling so strong and healthy and I am humbled by a United States Air Force Veteran in a wheelchair.  She is the strong one.  She reminded me of this poem I found months ago and was waiting ~ waiting for the right time to share it. 

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey...

I asked for health, that I might do great things.
I ws give infirmity, that I might do better things...

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise...

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God...

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things...

I got nothing I asked for - but everything I hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blesssed!

Written by an unknown Confederate Soldier


I was humbled today.

Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Almost Over

OK, I admit it.  I am more than ready for Lucas and Claire to come home.  I miss them and the energy level they bring into the house.  It is so quiet here and the stories they lend me to tell are slim to none.

Thankfully, we did get cards from them yesterday and their notes are rich for storytelling. 

Three cards came in the mail, two postcards and one envelope.  Claire wanted to make sure she could write us a note when (or if) the mood struck to so I sent a pack of cards and stamps with her.  Lucas ~ well let's just say he didn't have any pretense of an ambition to write a letter home.

This was letter writing the old fashioned way ~ snail mail.  No email for them.  Camp keeps them unconnected and off line.  I have to say I don't mind them being disconnected from internet.  Snail mail is fine by me.  I really wasn't expecting any mail so when I got their notes yesterday it put an immediate smile on my face.  The smile turned into a grin which turned into a chuckle and then to a good ol' fashioned laugh.  Snail mail and a good ol' fashioned laugh = good stuff.

Their letters were cute, sweet and written, I think, in about two seconds.  You can tell they were coerced into the letter writing business.  Lucas and Claire paid no attention to grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization or good penmanship.  The notes look like they were written hastily ~ the kids had to finish the letter writing chore to get onto the next event, the next adventure.

Lucas' note is the one that brings a giant grin to my face (my thoughts are italicized in parenthesis).  He writes;
hi mommy (Lucas hasn't called me mommy in years!  And there is NO mention of DAD ~ Hello, Lucas how bout showing your dad some lovin'?)  ,  I doing great. thank you for he letter. (uh, Lucas you forgot am.)  my counselors are awesome.  havn't really done anything productiv but ist's good.  I ate my gum in two days! (I sent the kids with sixty pieces of gum each!  That's a lot of gum!)  my cabin is cool. I will see you in a couple of days bye bye. Love, lLucas
please send me a package with gum and candy.



Claire's notes were not much better but at least she included everyone. 
Her first note says:
Hi guys,
I miss you guys bot I am having so much fun at CSB!  I love and miss you all sooooooooooooooooo much.  I hope you email me.
Love, Claire (not too bad, Claire and we miss you too!!)

Her second note says;
Dear family, (ok, she included everyone!)
I love you all so much!  I have theis in my cabin who loves chicken! Emma isso nice! I hiopee to Earn my yellow dog tag!
Love you, Claire  


Their letters brought many smiles all around.  I have them right next to me.  But I have to say, we have some letter writing, grammar and punctuation skills to work on with Lucas and Claire. 

I will wait on the letter writing lessons, though because I am so looking forward to seeing their bright, shiny faces tomorrow as they come home from their week of fun ~ not a care in the world, except having to write notes home!

It's been a good week, being able to dote on Zach a little as he recovers from his surgery but I really don't  like the quiet anymore.  I am ready for a little energy back in the house.  I am ready to have Lucas and Claire back home!  Our week without them is almost over.

Ask me what I'm feeling this time next week and I may just say it's time for another trip to camp but I doubt it!  I am too excited to get my two youngest home so I can hug 'em and squeeze 'em and love 'em.  After all that's done, I will work on letter writing 101 with them! 

Oh, for the love of my children...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

One Of My Biggest Faults

I am a fixer.  I like to fix things, especially relationships.  When a relationship goes bad, I have a want ~ almost a need to try and fix it.  By fixing it, I mean fixing what caused things to go south in the first place.

Glossing over issues and pretending everything is A-OK, doesn't work for me.  I have a need to start at the beginning and go through piece by piece to mend what is wrong. I want to try and fix it. 

To some this may seem like a good thing or even a great thing.  But to others, it is not good.  To the others, it is a fault and a big one at that.  It takes a lot of time, patience and work to get to the root of a problem.  I guess, for the others it's just easier to pretend everything is fine.  The problem is, things never get "fine" by pretending they never happened.  Things can only get worse by pretending and not fixing.   

I never have been good at glossing over something and pretending it never happened.  I wish I could.  For me, I need to dig down and look at what happened from all angles, see what went wrong everywhere.  I start at the beginning and work forward.  Sometimes, I may feel a need to revisit and issue but I truly try and put things to rest once I've gotten to the root of the issue.

Have you ever heard of "Peace Table?"  It's a terrific way to get to the bottom of bad feelings.  It gives everyone at the peace table time to air what's on their mind without the fear of being attacked.  Every person at the peace table gets their time to tell what's on their minds without being interrupted .  Every person has a chance to respond ~ with no name calling, no attacks, and no physical contact.  We've used it many times in our house.  It gives everyone a voice and gets to the root of the issue ~ allowing for a true fix for hurt feelings, bad feelings or problems.  I love the peace table.

You know, even though there are detractors of wanting to work through bad feelings and fix issues in relationships, I will keep my fault.  It helps me grow and feel better about the world around me.  I hope someday my fault can be of help to my kiddos and they can get to the root of problems and grow stronger in their relationships. 

Oh, for the love of my children...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Do NOT Want To Go Out Today

Remember the Dr. Suess book "I Am Not Going To Get Up Today"? It starts out
"Please let me be.
Please go away.
I am NOT going to get up today."

That is exactly how I feel today about going out. I do NOT want to go out today.
So here's my poem for the day.

Please don't ask.
Please stay away.
I do NOT want to go out today.

I don't want to seem anti-social.
I'm not trying to boastful.
I just want to have my way.
I do NOT want to go out today.

I don't care if moms all over are headed out for work or shopping or fun.
I'm the one who isn't going out, I'm staying in. I'm done.

I haven't felt this burnt out since I can't remember know when.
You can take away my car keys. Today, I'm staying in the den.

Maybe it's the stress of Zach's surgery.
Or the maybe it's the fact I have two kids gone ~ they're purgeried.

Maybe it's the heat.
I'm not sure but I know I'm staying off the street.

Oh, Zach is here asking me to go to the store.
But I'm not going to go. I've closed the door.

Zach is knocking, begging to go.
I am sticking to my guns ~ the answer is "NO!"

"Please. Mom!" He says "I need some new fishing stuff."
Oh, what I wouldn't give right now for a large pair of earmuffs.
I don't want to hear anymore.
I am not going to the store.

Wanna make a bet on who wins?
Will I win and get to stay in?
Or will Zach win and suck me in?

I do NOT want to go out today.
So, Zach ~ do what I say.
Maybe tomorrow you can have your way.
But I'm not going out today.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Zach's Surgery

Today was Zach's surgery to repair his hernia ~ which turned out to be two hernias so I am glad we had them repaired. Whew! I have to say I am glad it is over. I also have to say how very lucky we are.

As I sat in the room waiting for Zach's surgery to be over I couldn't help but look around and be reminded of all the other times our kids have a procedure for this and surgery for that. It's all been pretty minor stuff but still seemed so scary at the time.

When Zach was a baby he had to get an MRI because the doctor couldn't see the bottom of a dimple at the base of his spine. It was a simple enough procedure but it was nerve wracking time for us, as new parents. We knew the doctors were looking for Spina Bifida. That term is big and scary on it's own but downright earth shaking when it was applied to our child. The date of Zach's MRI arrived and we drove the three hours to the hospital so Zach could be "papoosed" and sedated for the MRI. It was a disconcerting feeling to see an IV line coming out of Zach's head (his hands were so chubby they couldn't find a vein anywhere). Everything turned out fine ~ no spina bifida.

I remember the first time Lucas had to get tubes in his ears because of chronic ear infections. We were living in Louisville at the time, which is home to one fantatic children's hospital. Kosair Children's hospital's reputation combined with the wealth of talented doctors servicing that hospital brought kids from all over who had a myriad of health problems. Lucas' surgery was so minor compared to what other families were going through. We were in the waiting room with another family whose child was being wheeled away in the special surgery wagon. As the child was lead away, the entire family formed a big circle and joined hands praying freverently for the safety and well being of their child. It made my nervous condition seem almost ridiculous because of how minor tube surgery is (and was). But for us, watching Lucas being lead away for the first time was scary. Lucas went on to have countless more tubes inserted into his ears over the course of many years so I felt like I became a seasoned pro in the hospital waiting room.

The time Lucas got toxic synovitis was truly a scare for me. Stan was in Minneapolis training for his new job, so I was alone. Lucas was four years old and crawled out of his bed, crying in agony in the middle night telling me his legs hurt. He couldn't walk. He couldn't straighten his legs at the hip. He stayed curled up and cried and cried and cried. We made it to the ER at Kosair. Lucas was given morphine for the pain and I was told to withhold all food. Lucas might need surgery. The day passed without any idea of what was making Lucas' legs so agonizingly painful. He stayed on morphine. I stayed at the hospital and Stan flew home from Minneapolis. It took two days of morphine, no food, CAT scans, X-Rays and blood tests to figure out the fluid in his hips was infected ~ toxic synovitis, a very scary sounding name for a relatively innocuous virus. He was put in traction for a little while, given Motrin and we were sent on our way. It was a scary time ~ luckily turning out to be just a tiny little blip on the radar of Lucas' life.

Claire has had tubes and stitches but other than that she has been the one who has given me the least amount of medical scares. She busted her chin open one summer at the pool and I nearly fainted at the sight of the blood dripping off of her face. The world started to turn all black and the only thing I could see was a slim tunnel ahead of me. I was told I turned gray but I held it together enough to get her to the ER. Stan took over from there...thankfully! I don't do well with blood or broken bones ~ Stan takes those and I save myself for the vomit and diarrhea.

As I sat in Zach's room today I saw a baby scale and realized how many other parents sat in that same room waiting for their child's surgery to be over ~ waiting for their child to be wheeled back to them so they can give them a big hug and kiss their sleepy face. Other parents sat in our room and watched as their baby is placed on the scale right before they are wheeled away to surgery. Other parents worried the same worries we have had over the years as we watched our babies, toddlers and kiddos were wheeled away from us to medically repair what nature can't.

I know how very lucky we are. Our kids have definitely had their share of medical "issues" but it's all been minor, minor stuff. My heart goes out to all of the parents who make the hospital their homes and know as much medical jargon as the doctors because they live in the medical world, day in and day out. I know a tiny, little amount of medical jargon and for that little amount I am thankful. It means my kiddos are relatively healthy.

I will breathe a little easier tonight knowing Zach is home, healthy and healing from a relatively minor hernia repair.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Happy Campers

I have three happy campers. Lucas and Claire are actually at camp ~ enjoying themselves, I am sure. Zach is here with us ~ enjoying being the only child for a week.

As for me, it will be a strangely quiet week. I am not sure if I'll like it or not. I am pretty sure, as much as I complain about the activity level in the house, it will be far too quiet with only one kiddo at home...

When we moved to Germany Zach was one year old. My new friends kept asking me when we would have another baby. Zach needed to be a big brother, they said. I told them he wanted to be an only child. I loved (and still love) Zach with all my heart and he was the apple of my eye but I was not entirely sure I wanted any more kids. He was a tough, tough baby. He tried to come 10 weeks early. He ended up "cooking" another five weeks so he was only five weeks early. He was colicky, fussy, needy, hard to handle and ultra-sensitive to the slightest discomfort. He made me think I couldn't handle another baby. He was two years old before I even considered trying for baby number two.

Lucas came along and he was sunshine and roses from the minute he made his appearance in the world. He fussed a little but he was easily placated. He took long naps. He smiled easily and settled into a routine quickly. He made having two kids an absolute joy. I loved my two boys and it wasn't long before I was ready to try for baby number three.

Sucker punched...

Lucas was so easy and delightful ~ then along came Claire. She was Zach all over again. What had I done? I was perfectly happy with my two boys and here I go and add this screaming, shrieking infant. Once Claire started walking and could keep up with her brothers she became the most delightful one year old.

I look back on the days of being asked when Zach would be a big brother and can't imagine Zach as an only child. It would be far too quiet. I love the hustle and bustle of the house with kids. Sometimes I shoo them away but I love when they come creeping back to give me a quick hug or tell me something or just be with me. It will be a bit quiet this week, with only one kiddo but I'll be back to the hustle and bustle before I know it.

I do love being able to spend one on one time with each of my kids so I will revel in my time with Zach. But it will be a strangely quiet week without Lucas and Claire. For now, though, I have three happy campers.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Packing For Camp

Lucas and Claire head to camp tomorrow ~ one week. They are beyond excited and I can't say that I blame them. They are headed to a camp on the Chesapeake Bay. They can play in the bay, go skateboarding at the skate park, tie-dye t-shirts, do arts and crafts, make new friends, reconnect with old friends. They will be fed when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired. Their activities are taken care of ~ they don't have a care in the world.

I wish I could go to summer camp. Not with them but to my own summer camp where there are counselors to take care of planning my activities, food is put out and all I have to do is eat it. I want to go to summer camp on the bay. I want to wake up to dolphins splashing in the water not far off shore. I want to not have a care in the world.

Oh well, I guess that's the world of kids. It will kind of be like a mini-vacation here for me, with only one kid and he will be incapacitated from his surgery. So, I guess life will be like a vacation for me...except I still have to plan dinners and take care of my own activities and there won't be any dolphins splashing in our backyard. I'm not a kid anymore ~ dangit!

The kids will have their memories forever and I am very grateful we can give them the opportunity to go to summer camp. They will have a blast and I can't wait to hear all about it when they come home next weekend!

Right now, I need to get their packing finished so that when they wake up tomorrow morning, chomping at the bit to get on the road, we are packed and ready.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trapped

This is the first summer I have felt like it is not really summer. Most of our past summers were spent lounging poolside or relaxing with a good book. This summer I feel trapped ~ in my car.

Both boys are taking some form of summer school. Lucas just finished a three week math course so he can succeed in Algebra next year. And Zach is taking online P.E. so he can have another elective next year ~ P.E. for him is now a thing of the past! My days are spent in the car dropping Lucas at school by 7:30 and picking him up at 1. Zach needs gym time, so off we zoom so he can work out. Throw Claire in the mix of crazy driving with her swim practices and my days are not much different than the school year ~ the chauffeur hat has not been hung up.

I wrote a piece not too long ago about the not so lazy days of summer. It's true. The lazy days of summer are a relic of an era long gone. I do realize last week was spent at the beach but DAMN ~ re-entry is so much harder when it's summer time. Summer time evokes thoughts of long, lazy days filled with fun. This re-entry into reality has been filled with driving, driving and more driving.

Oh, well. I have next week to relax. I just need to drop Lucas and Claire at summer camp, take Zach in for his surgery and the week is ALL mine! With Zach recuperating, hopefully I can sneak away for some quality pool time --- all by myself. Maybe then I won't feel so darn trapped and I will be ready to tackle the rest of the not so lazy days of summer.

Oh, for the love of my children.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Casey Anthony

The title got your attention didn't it? Whether we like it or not, the name Casey Anthony gets attention...good, bad and down right ugly attention.

The trial, ending in Casey's acquittal on the charges of murdering her little girl, brought a huge cry of outrage from the majority of Americans. Including me.

Like most of you, I believe Casey Anthony got away with murder. I believe it was a complete and total miscarriage of justice for Caylee Anthony. But what I've come to accept in the past couple of days, culminating yesterday after reading an article about her attorney, is that we ~ as Americans ~ need to respect the decision of the jury. Whether we believe the jury was right or wrong is not the point. Our constitution says that we are innocent until proven guilty. Casey Anthony was not found guilty by a jury of her peers on the charges of murdering her daughter. We need to respect that decision. But just as Casey Anthony has a constitutional right to be innocent until proven guilty we, as a society, have our rights to free speech. We have the right to say that justice was not served ~ yet.

Casey Anthony will pay for her crimes, though not in the way our society wants. She will be tormented by demons which will possess her in her dreams. She will probably never be welcome into her family again. She will have God to answer to when she leaves this earthly world. She will pay many times over ~ probably more so than she would have paid in prison. What the jury failed to do in convicting Casey Anthony of murder karma will take care of. She will pay for her sins.

What does Casey Anthony have to do with the love of my children? Quite a bit actually...I want my kids to learn some valuable lessons from Casey Anthony. I want them to learn to stand up and take their lumps when they screw up...and screw up they do (as do we all). (Casey didn't stand up and she didn't take her lumps.) I want them to learn to ask for forgiveness, and be granted forgiveness, for their mistakes. (Casey Anthony never asked for forgiveness ~ even for failing to report her daughter missing for a month.) I want my kids to learn now how important it is to always tell the truth...as hard as it is sometimes. (Casey's lies will haunt her to her dying days.) Lies and misdeeds will always come back to bite you in the ass. Standing up, admitting mistakes and screw ups will not always get immediate results, or even the result wanted, but it will spare a whole lot of bad karma down the road.

Stan and I will continue to pound these (and other) life lessons into the brains of our kiddos so they learn to seek help when needed, to always tell the truth and to ask for forgiveness when they screw up. It's too bad Casey Anthony didn't learn these lessons ~ forgiveness will elude her and karma will come back and bite her in the ass. She will pay for her sins and our society will get to say justice was served ~ eventually.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not My Kid

Have you ever had a situation where your kid was accused of doing something and you thought to yourself "Nope, not my kid"?

A few years ago Zach was accused of being a bully. It was so far out of his character ~ being a bully. He was afraid of his own shadow at that point. He wouldn't even sleep in his own room ~ he would crawl into Lucas' room every night or make a bed for himself on our floor. When the accusations about Zach being a bully came out both Stan and I were adamant that Zach was not the culprit. We stood by him but I'm not sure we did the right thing.

Do I think he was a bully? No, not necessarily. Do I believe now that he was innocent of all charges? Not at all. I believe the truth was somewhere in between. At that point, though, we chose to bury our heads just a little bit more than we should have. I am not sure we did Zach any favors by standing by him as vehemently as we did but the people leveling the accusations were just so nasty in their approach it got my hackles up and I wasn't about to back down. Not a good excuse ~ no excuse is good for behavior that is less than savory and his behavior was less than we expected (and expect) of any of our kids.

Zach was recently involved in another incident where his behavior was questionable. This time, although we wanted to say "Not my kid," the evidence was too overwhelming and absolutely no favors would be done for Zach by burying our heads in the sand. He will have to face the consequences for his behavior and we ~ well, we have to own it and say "it was my kid."

Oh, for the love of Zach...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Turn Out The Lights...

In the words of Willie Nelson...

Turn out the lights
The party's over
They say that
All good things must end
Call it tonight
The party's over
And tomorrow starts
The same old thing again

But the crazy crazy party
Never seen so many people
Laughing dancing
Look at you you're having fun
But look at me
I'm almost cryin'
That don't keep her love from dyin'
Misery cause for me the party's over
Turn out the lights...

Once I had a love undyin'
I didn't keep it but I tried
Life for me was just one party
And then another
I broke her heart so many times
I had to have my parting wife
I had to have my party
Why broke her heart so many times
But one day she said
Sweetheart the party's over
Turn out the lights...

Stan plays this song every summer. The last night of summer vacation, as we are cleaning up from our last summer dinner, Stan blasts this song through the house. Now it has come to symbolize the end of good times.

This morning was the end of a good time. We had a great vacation but now it's time for the party to be over. I sit here wishing I could upload Willie as he waxes philosophical (or at least as philosophically as a person can singing a twangy, country song can be). You can hear the lament and regret in his voice as he realizes the party, is indeed, over.

That's how I felt this morning as cars were being loaded, cleaning was being done and the beach was left in our rearview mirrors. The party's over.

We had a blast fishing, sunning, boogie boarding, surfing, sitting in lounge chairs, staying up way too late ~ talking and sipping cocktails, getting up way to early to walk the beach (after staying up way too late talking and sipping cocktails) and doing whatever we wanted. As Willie says "...the crazy, crazy party. Laughing, dancing ~ look at you, you're having fun..."

Today we turned out the lights and headed home. Willie played over and over again in my head as the miles rolled on. The party's over...for now. But it was a blast while we were there!

Oh, for the love of my children...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Friends

Did you ever have summer friends ~ the kids of your parents' friends? I did and I loved them. I remember each and every one of them. I loved all of them. There were the friends from Long Island whose parents served in the Army with my parents. They were the kids who went camping with us in the mountains of Colorado. My parents seemed to have friends everywhere...so did we.

My kids are experiencing a taste of summer friends this week. We are at the beach with friends of mine but not necessarily friends of my kids. I tell you, my kids are having a blast with their new found friends.

Summer friends are the best because there is no pressure. High school can be a time for immense pressure. Are you in the right clique? Do you have the right clothes? Are you cool enough? With summer friends there is no pressure. You don't have to worry about cliques or clothes or cool factor. Summer friends are relaxed and easy going.

I don't keep in touch with any of my summer friends, personally, but my parents keep in touch with their parents. So I guess, by default, I keep in touch with all of them. I know how when they got married (or if they got married). I know how many kids they have. I know what they all do for a living. I know more about them than I know about some of my current friends and their kids. I may not keep in touch with my summer friends, but my memory of my days with them are some of the best I have. I loved each and every summer I spent with my summer friends.

I don't know if my kids' friendships will last but I do hope they will carry the same kind of wonderful memories of summers with my friends' kids.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Really?!?

Do you remember a time when there was actually a dividing line between what adults got to have or do and what kids got to have or do? I remember very distinctly being told I couldn't have or do something because it was a privilege for grown ups and grown ups alone. Maybe that's why I couldn't wait to be a grown up...to have all of the privileges of being a grown up.

Now kids believe, and are taught by us, that all of the rights and privileges we earned are theirs by default. And to a large degree, our generation (or at least quite a few of the parents in our area), have done nothing to dispel this myth ~ that's what it should be...a myth.

So my darling, 15 year old son thinks he's going to get my iPhone when it's time for me to upgrade. REALLY? And just who's gonna pay for the data plan? Not us! Zach is welcome to have my old iPhone, provided I ever give it up, but it's going to be used as an iPod not an iPhone unless there is some way he can come up with to pay for the data plan on his own ~ but even then I'm not sure I'd let him have an iPhone...there's no reason for him to have it, other than, and in his words, "ALL of my friends have iPhone or a Droid." Big whoop!! I'm not impressed!

What do these kids have to look forward to as they grow up if we give them all of the rights and privileges we enjoy as adults. Zach has a friend, who for his 16th birthday (as a sophomore) was given a BMW...REALLY!?!?! WHY?!!? I learned how to drive in a 1971 Chevy Impala...not a sexy car by any stretch of the imagination ~ let me tell ya'! Not having the biggest, the brightest and the best from the get go is not always a bad thing. And I can tell you, my kids won't have the biggest, the brightest or the best from the beginning. What's to look forward to in leaving the nest if kids are given everything their heart desires? Nothing! What does it teach our kids to give them top notch this and top notch that, rather than make them work for it? Nothing. What's the incentive to grow up and experience grown up privileges if they aren't earned? There's no incentive.

So, for the love of my children they will have to earn their adult privileges either by working for them or waiting until they are adults.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stone Soup

Did you ever read the child's book "Stone Soup" to your kids? I used to read it to mine all the time. The story I read goes like this ~ two little pigs were walking along. They were getting tired and hungry when they came to a village. The pigs decided to stop to find a place to sleep and something to eat. They assumed the villagers would be kind and generous, helping the travelers find what they needed. What the two pigs found, though, was a village full of mean and stingy characters. They hid all their food, closed all their shops and kept all of their provisions to themselves, telling the little pigs to "GO AWAY!" The pigs eventually won the villagers over with their willingness to share their "Stone Soup" with them. The pigs went to make a pot of "soup" with only stones, telling the villagers it was a special recipe they would be happy to share with them. As a result, the villagers started bringing their own ingredients to add to the little pigs' soup. The end of the book shows the pigs being hailed as heroes and the villagers all coming together to throw a party for the pigs ~ serving the soup and being amazed at the deliciousness of a soup made "only" of stones.

I was reminded of this story this morning as I walked along the beach with a friend. We were talking about inspirational books when my friend started talking about a series of books by Jon Gordon. One of the book titles she mentioned was "Soup." The book is about using the right ingredients needed to build a successful management team and it reminded me of reading "Stone Soup" to my kiddos.

The story of "Stone Soup" mixed with the message of Jon Gordon's book "Soup" reminded me this morning of the importance of making sure Stan and I use the right "ingredients" to help our kiddos become the best they can be as they grow up and learn to navigate the waters of life. It's up to us to determine what the right ingredients are ~ Kindness, compassion, caring, generousity, joy, patience, goodness, self-control, love, peace ~ Many of these "ingredients" are also the fruits of the spirit ~ nourishing the soul as well. Hopefully, through the lessons learned in the "Stone Soup" and passing on the fruits of the spirit I can make sure my kiddos learn the importance of sharing and teach them to use the right "ingredients" themselves as they grow.

The the poem from the book is cute and worth sharing...

Heat some water in a pot.

Add some stones you've scrubbed a lot.

Sprinkle pepper, salt and herbs.

Let it boil undisturbed.

Drop in carrots, onions, too.

Let the soup heat through and through.

Stir in milk to make it sweet.

Add potatoes for a treat.

Toss in meat cubes. Let it stew.

Let it bubble, let it brew.

Taste the soup and when it's done,

Share Stone Soup with EVERYONE!

ENJOY!

Oh, for the love of my children...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dumb and Dumber

I read once that "a baby is an angel whose wings decrease as his legs increase." I have to say I believe this to be entirely true...especially after last night.


We are having a grand ol' time here at the beach. The house is perfect, the water is refreshing, the sand is soft and warm but the kids, especially the boys, are wicked! Last night as we were all settling in to sleep the boys wound up tighter and tighter. After last night, I have to say, I think the people who are hardest to convince it's time to retire are teenage boys at bedtime. The loud thumping of the boys as they pounded up and down the stairs trying to escape the "demons" that were possessing their small little brains drummed louder and louder into our bedroom wall. Is it bad, and will we cause permanent scarring of the boys as we sit here calling them "dumb and dumber?" These boys offer a sharp contrast to the all the beach has to offer.


I think goofy 15 year old boys are the antithesis of the baby angels they once were. They are loud and demanding and self-centered ~ all they do is eat, sleep and poop...WAIT just one cotton, picking minute ~ they are exactly the same as they were as babies only without the angel wings and the sweet smelling, soft skin of their babyhood ~ they also eat about 200 times what they ate as babies.

As much fun as I make of these goofy 15 year old boys, I sit here in amazement at these young men who have lost their angel wings and are loud, demanding, eat us out of house and home but are becoming a tiny, little bit less self-centered as the days turn quickly into weeks. I watch as Zach hugs his little sister and then comes to me wrapping me in his version of a giant bear hug. I see a glimmer of hope as they grow that they outgrow this "dumb and dumber" stage.

Oh, for the love of my teenage boys...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Beach

I love the beach. I adore every single little thing about the beach. When I die I want to be stuffed and mounted in a beach chair with a fruity cocktail in my hand sitting on a beach somewhere. I think that may be sacrilegious but I don't care. I could live the rest of my days at the beach and not care about ever going back to civilization.

Or so I think...but could I really? Would I miss the hustle and bustle of the daily grind? Would I miss the traffic and congestion that greets me on Broad Street everyday? Would I miss the spontaneous trips to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or Kroger to pick up something tasty for dinner? Or would I plan my life better so there wouldn't be so many trips to the grocery store to pick up something tasty? Would I miss being able to meet friends for lunch at one of our favorite little spots in Richmond? Or would I find new and better places here at the beach?

The answers to those questions will probably never be answered because at the end of this week I will have to go back to the hustle and bustle of real life. I will have to rejoin my reality and fight the traffic on Broad Street at five o'clock so I can pick up something for dinner or meet friends or just get out and go.

If I were truly honest with myself, though, I am not sure my brain is wired to be able to adjust to the slower pace of life. As we were coming close to the beach house last night I kept willing the traffic in front of me to move faster and faster. I muttered many bad words under my breath as the traffic slowed more and more and then came to a stop. I wanted to hyper-space to our destination. Hyper-spacing and beach living really don't go hand in hand.

So for now, I will revel in my time at the beach with the waves crashing just on the other side of the dune, a stone's throw from the back of the house. I will enjoy every grain of sand that makes its way into the house on the feet of the kids (and me). I will sit in my beach chair with a fruity cocktail in my hand so that when I have to go back to Broad Street and all it has to offer I will be fortified with the serenity of the slow pace of a trip to the beach.

Thank you Queen Tscheslie and Mike for opening your wonderful home to the Pokey family, yet again. We all couldn't be more grateful for our time at the beach.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Sleepover

Last night I had a sleepover. It's been a long time since I packed an overnight bag for a sleepover at a girlfriend's house. And girls' weekend doesn't count because it's not at someone's house where they live day in and day out.

Yesterday, Zach and his hockey team had a big team -building outting planned at our friends' lake houses on Lake Gaston. Stan and a number of the hockey dads were going to "chaperone" the boys as they partook in all the activties a lake has to offer...fishing, swimming, kayaking, wave running, camping, camp fires, smores...you name it, they did it. It was an outting designed for 15 and 16 year old boys and the men who still love to behave like they are 15 and 16!

Yesterday Lucas, Claire and I packed our bags to have a sleepover with one of my favorite hockey mamas ~ Lisa Horton. Lisa's husband, Tim, and their oldest, Trey, were going to Lake Gaston for the hockey-team-building-festivities with Stan and Zach. Lisa and I were going to be all alone and bored with only our younger two kids so she invited us to have a sleepover. Lisa's other two boys match Lucas and Claire age for age so the fit is good, except for the lack of a girl for Claire...enter the Farley's, my partner in our blog "Perfect Mamas Confess." Julie Farley and her four kids were part of the fun planned for yesterday. And fun we had! Claire hung out with Julie's twins and their older sister. Lucas hung out with his own twin, from whom he was separated at birth ~ Lisa's middle child, Joseph. And I hung out with not only Lisa and Julie but a whole host of "widowed" hockey mamas whose sons and husbands went to Lake Gaston. Julie's husband, Justin, was our chef extrordinaire. (Julie and Justin are too smart to get involved in this crazy world of hockey ~ so Justin hung out with the hockey mamas while the other dads were away.) We ate, drank and were downright merry hockey widows at our hockey mama sleepover.

In planning for our sleepover, Lisa and I encountered some of the strangest reactions from our boys. "Why the heck are you all having a sleepover ~ isn't that just a little weird?" asked Zach. Lisa's oldest said "I don't want you sleeping in my bed!" So why the heck did a sleepover sound like such a strange idea to the kids when it sounded like a grand idea to Lisa and me? Maybe because our kids don't ever think of us being kids, back in our day, having sleepovers and planning weekend fun for ourselves. The fun the kids are used to seeing us plan is whole family fun. They never see the girls' weekend fun so for them this was just a bit too far outside of their ordinary.

Lisa and I knew cocktails would be consumed. We knew our houses are not close enough together to even consider walking home. Driving home after a couple of cocktails would have been irresponsible and dangerous. We knew that wasn't the kind of time we wanted to have, much less the example we wanted to set for our oldest kids as they come into the age of their driver's licenses. We were trying to be the mature, responsible adults and take out any hint of irresponsibility but our kids just saw ~ EWWWWWW ~ something weird! Oh well...I don't mind being thought of as weird when I am trying to maintain an aura of responsibility!

Oh, for the love of my children....

The Sleepover

Last night I had a sleepover. It's been a long time since I packed an overnight bag for a sleepover at a girlfriend's house. And girls' weekend doesn't count because it's not at someone's house where they live day in and day out.

Yesterday, Zach and his hockey team had a big team -building outting planned at our friends' lake houses on Lake Gaston. Stan and a number of the hockey dads were going to "chaperone" the boys as they partook in all the activties a lake has to offer...fishing, swimming, kayaking, wave running, camping, camp fires, smores...you name it, they did it. It was an outting designed for 15 and 16 year old boys and the men who still love to behave like they are 15 and 16!

Yesterday Lucas, Claire and I packed our bags to have a sleepover with one of my favorite hockey mamas ~ Lisa Horton. Lisa's husband, Tim, and their oldest, Trey, were going to Lake Gaston for the hockey-team-building-festivities with Stan and Zach. Lisa and I were going to be all alone and bored with only our younger two kids so she invited us to have a sleepover. Lisa's other two boys match Lucas and Claire age for age so the fit is good, except for the lack of a girl for Claire...enter the Farley's, my partner in our blog Perfect Mamas Confess, she and her four kids were part of the fun planned for yesterday. And fun we had! Claire hung out with the Farley twins and their older sister. Lucas hung out with his twin, from whom he was separated at birth ~ Lisa's middle child, Joseph. And I hung out with not only Lisa and Julie but a whole host of "widowed" hockey mamas whose son's and husbands went to Lake Gaston. Julie's husband (who is not a hockey day, yet ~ we're working on them to join us on the dark side...the hockey world) was our chef extrordinaire ~ we ate, drank and were downright merry hockey widows at our hockey mama sleepover.

In planning for our sleepover, Lisa and I encountered some of the strangest reactions from our boys. "Why the heck are you all having a sleepover ~ isn't that just a little weird?" asked Zach. Lisa's oldest said "I don't want you sleeping in my bed!" So why the heck did a sleepover sound like such a strange idea to the kids when it sounded like a grand idea to Lisa and me? Maybe because our kids don't ever think of us being kids, back in our day, having sleepovers and planning weekend fun for ourselves. The fun the kids are used to seeing us plan is whole family fun. They never see the girls' weekend fun so for them this was just a bit too far out of their ordinary.

Lisa and I knew cocktails would be consumed. We knew our houses are not close enough together to even consider walking home. Driving home after a couple of cocktails would have been irresponsible and dangerous. We knew that wasn't the kind of time we wanted to have, much less the example we wanted to set for our oldest kids as they come into the age of their driver's licenses. We were trying to be the mature, responsible adults and take out any hint of irresponsibility but our kids just saw ~ EWWWWWW ~ something weird! Oh well...I don't mind being thought of as weird when I am trying to maintain an aura of responsibility!

Oh, for the love of my children....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Belly Ring

It was April of 2002 when I had a mini-midlife crisis. I was 33 years old. I had three kids and I drove a white Chevy Venture mini-van. It was not the glamorous life I thought I was going to be leading...it was a normal life with normal routines and the normalcy of it all got to me.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and I told Stan I was going out for groceries. I was feeling restless and needed to do something to make me feel like "Jenni" again...not just mommie or Stan's wife. I needed to do something just a little daring. So I steered that ugly mini-van away from the grocery store and I wheeled into Tattoo Charlie's ~ "Tattoos while you wait" read the slogan on the front of the store. Groceries be damned! I was getting a belly ring.

You should have seen the looks on the faces of the employees as I stepped out of the white mini-van and walked into the tattoo parlor. I'm not sure who looked more uncomfortable...the pierced tattooed people behind the counter or the mama from the suburbs. But I put on a brave face and said "I'm here to get my belly pierced." Looks passed between the two employees and one said to the other "Well, I lost that bet ~ she's here for you."

The pierced chick with rings in her lips, a tongue piercing, eyebrow piercings, nose piercings, earring all the way up her ears and a spike coming out of the area between her lips and chin took me to a room and proceeded to tell me everything I never wanted to know about piercings. I lifted up my shirt (in a semi-daze and a bit disconnnected from reality) and the short procedure to pierce my belly button began. I didn't watch. I didn't flinch. I didn't feel much of anything as the needle went through leading the way for my new belly ring. After the ring was in I finally started registering words coming out of the mouth of the pierced woman who just made me a part of her world. I was now a pierced person! The pierced chick told me my belly button would be very sensitive and tender for the next several weeks and it feel a lot like I was pregnant...not being able to bend over very well---Whoa, WHOA, WHOOOAAAA ~ Did she just say "pregnant?" was my thought. That means the pierced person had reproduced. But at this point, I had NO room to be jugdmental...I was now a pierced person too! Oh DAMN, what had I done?? Regrets began the moment I realized I was now a pierced person.

I went on to get my grocery shopping done, re-immersing myself in my suburban world. I went home ashen faced, with tears glistening in my eyes. I was ready to face the music of my crazy, hairbrained midlife crisis. As soon as I walked in the door, Stan said "What the hell took you so long? You said you were just going grocery shopping! You've been gone THREE hours!" I told him I just made the biggest mistake of my life and I was so ashamed of what I had done! It was his turn to be ashen faced ~ what could I have done that was sooo bad?? I lifted my shirt to show him my new belly ring and said "Don't worry! It's OK, I'm taking it out immediately!" Stan's eyes got as big as saucers and he said "NO! Don't take it out! I LIKE it!" My belly ring remains to this very day.

My "midlife crisis" was averted by stepping into a world of pierced and tattooed people. I came out regretting my decision ~ luckily I have Stan who, I guess, likes just the hint of a bad girl; one who's not afraid to wheel a mini-van into a tattoo parlor parking lot, step into a world of tattooed people and bravely ask to become part of their world. Regrets gone!

I'm glad I had the courage to walk into Tattoo Charlies's ~ it's one heck of a good story. Me and the hideous white mini-van taking on the tattooed/pierced people.

It was for the love of my children that I got my belly ring...the need to feel just a little "bad" and daring helped me realize that normalacy of my life and being a mama from the suburbs is not really all that bad...

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Pink Box

My mom grew up in Franklin Square, New York, a "small" town on Long Island not too far from the city. She and her sister are the daughters of immigrants. My grandmother came over from Belgium when she was a teenager and my grandfather was off the boat from Italy. My grandmother died when I was very young so I don't have too many memories of her. Memories of my grandfather are sharp and crisp.

My mom's sister, her husband and my two cousins stayed in new York and made a home for themselves further out on Long Island. My trips to their house have a very special place in my heart. My aunt still lives in a small bungalow house from which some of my fondest memories were made. My cousin and I would put on these elaborate shows in the basement, mostly for our own entertainment, but we would force all of the adults to come watch us perform our renditions of "The Sound of Music," which I am sure was more along the lines of "The Sound of Catterwauling." But the adults were more than tolerant of our shows in the basement of one of my favorite houses.

Times at my aunt and uncle's house include so many memories of my grandfather. When my grandfather sold his house in Franklin Square, he moved in with my aunt and uncle. Most of our visits included my grandfather. Although he was a "snowbird," (making the annual winter pilgramage to sunny Florida) every Thanksgiving and Christmases we spent with my aunt and uncle my grandfather would come home from Florida to join in the festivities. My mom's side of the family created many wonderful holiday memories at my aunt and uncle's house.

Every visit began with a bag of the best bagels on the planet ~ all soft, warm and chewy. There are no substitutes for New York bagels, piled high with lox and cream cheese. The bagels were always followed by the appearance of the pink box. My grandfather would show up in the kitchen holding the pink box to squeals of delight.

Everytime I saw the pink box I knew something delicious was waiting! My grandfather would go to the same Italian bakery every time and pick up dozens and dozens of cookies and pastries. My mouth still waters at thought of the delicate Italian, cookies contained in those pink boxes. Cannolis, black and whites, pignolis, aniseed cookies...all flaky and buttery and delicious ~ all flowing out of the pink box.

Every time I see Italian cookies and pastries I can't help but think of my grandfather and the pink box. There is a place here in Richmond, not too far from my house, that ships the same Italian cookies I know and love in from the Bronx. I have brought them home to my kids and heard the same squeals of delight escaping my children's lips. It is a wonderful sound to hear and brings my grandfather's love of his Italian cookies to my own children.

As my children get older and older my desire for them to have a strong connection to their grandparents grows stronger and stronger. I want our family to be able to pass down stories and memories of special times ~ a legacy.

It brings a smile to my face to think of the pink box ~ I guess it's my grandfather's legacy to me. I couldn't think of a better way to remember my grandfather ~ The Pink Box.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Tiger Mom in Glen Allen

OK, so today I almost lost it with my sweet, talented, bright daughter. She informed me that she no longer wants to swim competitively. WHAT?!?1?! WHY??!!?? HOW did this happen?

I had an inkling Claire might be headed this way but today it came to a full blown head with her telling me flat out she no longer wants to swim. The tiger mom in me came roaring out ~ with a vengance. I told her many things would change in her life if she stopped swimming (Because swimming is such fantastic exercise and it helps keep her body healthy she would have to give up many of her unhealthy habits ~ TV, computer time, candy etc...). I told her she shouldn't give up something she is really good at just because she hit a little bump in the road. I told her my biggest regrets in life were because I wasn't pushed hard enough (or at all) to go after something I was really good at doing. I told her I was really mad at her for wanting to give up something she is naturally good at doing. Tiger mom surfaces.

Stan says we shouldn't force her to do something she really doesn't want to do. I told him we forced Lucas to give up something he really wanted to do because we didn't want him to be a goalie in hockey...same thing. Lucas still talks about being forced to give up being a goalie. Regrets. I think Claire would have many, many regrets in the future if she were to give up swimming now. Stan thinks Claire should be able to choose what she wants to do.

Tiger mom doesn't surface in me too often but when she does ~ WATCH OUT! Ahhhhh, for the love of my children....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Thrill of a Rainy Summer Day

Do you ever pray for a rain day in the middle of summer? I know it sounds crazy and totally counter-intuitive to pray for a rain day when the kids are home for the summer but MAN, do I ever need a day where I can just hunker down and be so much less than productive. The kids would be underfoot, yes, but I wouldn't be taxi-ing them everywhere, packing to go to the pool, unpacking from the pool, washing loads of towels...

It's my fantasy rain day. A kind of day that really doesn't exist anywhere but in my head. In my head, I see myself sitting in one of our red overstuffed chairs in the living room with my feet tucked under me and a book in my hand. In my head, I see a day filled with a movie marathon ~ all of us sprawled out on the sectional in the tv room with bowls of popcorn, big cups of soda and maybe even some movie theatre candy boxes. In my head, I see myself curled up in the middle of our bed with my eyes closed taking a nap without a hint of guilt at my laziness. My fantasy rain day ends with me emerging refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the "lazy days of summer."

In reality, I will be taxi-ing the kids somewhere to keep them from being underfoot and bored. In reality, I will be doing laundry. In reality, I will be cleaning up after the kids as they come tearing into the kitchen completely and totally starving that they are like a pack of wild animals, flinging food as the tear ravinously into their sandwiches. In reality, I will emerge from this rain day as exhausted as I started but ready to tackle the next day of the not so lazy days of summer...for the love of my children.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Moving Van

My parents' moving van rolled into Richmond today with a partial load of their belongings. It's almost completely official...they are almost Virginians! They are still in Kansas, waiting for my mom's car to be repaired after my mom hit a motorcyclist who cut her off (the people are all OK...the car ~ not so OK) so Claire and I were in charge of checking off boxes and directing furniture into new spots in their house.

The kids are beyond excited to have Nana and Granddad here! When Zach walked up to their house for the first time he looked at their flower beds and said "Good, I can help them with their mulch." Zach will be driving soon so he will be a much needed set of eyes for them (and all of us) if, and when, they need more help getting around in the future.

I think out of the three kids Zach is the most excited. It does my heart good to know how much things have changed for Zach and his Granddad. Zach used to be so scared of my dad and my dad used to be pretty nasty to Zach (and Lucas). Things changed when the liquor stopped flowing in my father's direction. I have to say, I'm proud of both Zach and my dad ~ Zach for being able to forgive and my dad for being brave enough to admit he has a problem.

My dad actually seems pretty excited to be starting a new chapter in his life at the age of 80. Good for him! I talked to him on the phone the other day for well over a 1/2 an hour. Amazing! The man of few words, usually, became gregarious ~ I love it!

My parents' neighborhood should provide them with many new friends and tons of new activities ~ it will be PERFECT for them!

They live far enough away that it won't be like Marie and Frank from "Everybody Loves Raymond." They will have to get in a car and make the drive to our house. WHEW!

The next moving van should arrive early next week along with my parents and their newly repaired car. This is a new adventure for all of us and Claire put it well today when she said "This means big changes for all of us." She's so right but they are changes for the good. My parents need to have family close by. Families are necessary for the love of our children....

Monday, July 4, 2011

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

It's true, everything I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten.

Jan's mom sent me this book to me as a gift. Thank you, Renata!

Although, I've read the lessons of many times through the years I've never had the pleasure of reading the whole book ~ now I can read it all and re-read the lessons that are fantastic and bear repeating....

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything we need to know is really in there somewhere. My favorite "rule" is..."When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together."

This one rule reminds me of our past weekend in New York City. While Claire, Stan and I stayed at Claire's dance competition the boys ~ Jan, Zach and Lucas were off on their own adventure in the great big city. My only rule for them was to stick together! I didn't have them hold hands but I did tell them to watch out for traffic. Their adventures together forged a stronger bond between them as they stuck together. Think how much better our lives would be if we followed Robert Fulghum's words of wisdom?

I am looking forward to the pleasure of reading the whole book over and over again. I will keep it on my bedside table to remind me of one fabulous family from the Czech Republic.

I will be sure to pass on the words of wisdom gleaned from my trip back to kindergarten ~ for the love of my children...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

An Open Letter To Renata, Richard and Pavla

Dear Renata, Richard and Pavla,

One of the hardest things I have done is to say goodbye to your son and brother. Lucas said it best when he said very succinctly "this sucks!" We are driving away from the hotel with a car full of heavy hearts but with minds full of happy memories of a fantastic year with Jan. It was a tremendous honor to welcome such a terrific young man into our family. Jan has a heart of gold and we thank you for sharing him with us! We were blessed to have him in our daily lives for the past year and we know he will continue to be a big part of our lives in the future. He knows he is always welcome in our house ~ he has a key to the door and a key to all of our hearts. He is a true gentleman and has won the hearts of all who had the pleasure of meeting him.

I am sure it took a tremendous amount of courage to allow Jan the opportunity to come to the States ~ leaving your nest for a little while. Jan came to us as a self-confident teenager who was always engaging but a tad shy. He returns to you a young man who is bursting with self-confindence, the shyness is gone but his engaging personality remains exactly the same. We thank you for selflessness in sharing your son and brother with us.

Jan will be deeply missed but his presence will always be felt with us. He brought our family closer together and for that we will be forever grateful. His engaging personality brought new life to our family dynamic. He shook the kids out of their desire to "plug in and tune out" from the everything else. I look forward the day when we can all meet, knowing we have grown our family to include you all.

We sat at breakfast this morning and made a list of everything we did while Jan was with us ~ what a year we had! So, even though our hearts hurt now, I wouldn't change a thing. Garth Brooks said it best in his song "The Dance"

"Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I'd have had to miss the dance"

I wouldn't have missed this "dance" for anything. Tears are flowing in our car on our way back home but our tears are tempered with the memories we have. Our sadness is also tempered with the knowledge that Jan is going home ~ to you! Thank you again, for sharing your son and brother with us.

Yours~
Always,
Jenni

Saturday, July 2, 2011

R Day

This past Monday was "R" Day at West Point. Also known as reception day, the new cadets are "welcomed" into West Point for their four year journey into adulthood. This year's R Day hit Stan hard. Three of his friends' kids are new cadets at West Point. Stan has told me he can't get the thoughts of R Day out of his head.

I think this year it's hitting him hard because his friends' kids are there. It's kind of a wake up call. We are now old enough to have kids who are old enough to be going off to college. It's disconcerting feeling to think we only have three years left before Zach could be counted among the new cadets at West Point. Three years is not that long and the reality of three short years is smacking Stan around.

This morning, Stan started reminiscing about his own time at West Point...I'm not sure if reminiscing is the right word but maybe it is. He was looking back and telling stories of times long gone by. Stan is wondering what the new cadets are doing right now. He's wondering, too, about the effects of a "kinder, gentler" West Point. Stan's thoughts wander to what it would be like to be there now, as opposed to when he was there. The kids who are there now are enjoying an education in a top notch facility filled with some of the best of the best ~ some of the best facilities we have to offer, some of the best minds our country has produced, all going to educate these young men and women who will lead, not only one of the best equipped and trained militaries in the world but who will also go on to be leaders in other ways as well. These kids can focus on their studies now, with the kinder/gentler model of education at West Point. When Stan went was there he also "enjoyed" the many benefits the academy has to offer but there was no kinder and gentler.

Stan thinks the effects of kinder and gentler might produce better leaders when these new cadets leave the academy and go on to fulfill their roles in the military and in life. The new cadets can focus on their studies rather than ways to escape the wrath of the upperclass cadets. It makes sense to me. I never understood how belittlement works to anyone's advantage. I understand how mentoring, teaching and coaching can produce top notch leaders and I think West Point may have embraced the concept of mentoring over belittling, at least that is my/our hope as Zach is serious about pursuing an appointment to the academy. The thoughts of Stan's torturous beginning at West Point is something I, as Zach's mama, don't want him to have to go through ~ although it made Stan one helluva guy.

Stan was brought back in time, yet again, this morning as we watched the new cadets on Youtube today as they took their first P.T. test. This has been a fun week, walking down Stan's memory lane as he ponders thoughts of Zach following in his footsteps.

My own feelings are conflicted ~ pride versus fear; excitement for Zach's future versus my sadness about time slipping away so quickly. My list of feelings could go on forever but I will stop with those two. I will deal with my feelings in the future, if and when the time comes for Zach to experience his own R Day.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Outside of my Comfort Zone

When I first started this blog back in January, it was so far outside of my comfort zone to share what I wrote. The first time I posted a blog my palms were sweaty, my heart was racing and then I thought "What if nobody even reads it anyway?" It may sound counter-intuitive but that thought worked...I wanted people to read my blog but if they didn't, oh well...I could save face if I really sucked at writing.

The past six months of writing this blog, and then adding Perfect Mamas Confess, has been an exercise taking me out of where I'm comfortable. I'm glad I'm here...outside of my comfort zone. I've grown and learned and become more comfortable in pushing myself more and more to do something just a little scary. I may not be perfect at what it is I am trying but at least I'm pushing myself out there a little more and a little more.

One day, because I pushed outside of my comfort zone, I'll be exactly where I want to be ~ a published author! How much fun would that be? My name on the front of a book. Zach says he can totally see my name gracing the front of a book. He says there are so many authors out there with hyphenated names...mine would fit right in! Dang ~ if all takes is a hyphenated last name I should have been published 18 years ago!

I'm glad the kids see me taking steps, albeit baby steps, to pursue my love of writing. Hopefully, they will be better at taking good risks as they grow up.

Oh, for the love of my children....