The Thin Line

When you have little baby children, you think that things are very difficult.  You have to feed them, change them, and suck the boogers out of their noses with those little bulb things.  They cry and vomit and don’t sleep.  Life seems like one endless sucking maw of baby bodily fluids.  Oh, when will they grow up?

Then they become toddlers.  I’m far too tired this evening to recount the joys and horrors of raising toddlers.

Then they kind of go through a cool phase.  They get to be around, oh, seven or so, and from then up until around ten or eleven, or even twelve if you’re lucky, you get to interact with what appears to be an actual human being, in miniature form.  You do fun things together and talk about everything.  You are buddies.  You are best friends.  Furthermore, you are the coolest parent in the world.

Then they become teenagers.

Jack Sparrow Screaming

 

 

 

 

 

Suddenly, you find yourself looking back wistfully on those diaper changing days.  Needs of the body are easily met, but meeting the needs of the teenage mind is a problem that is unlikely to ever be solved.

My son is fifteen years old.  I know the child I gave birth to is in there somewhere, but some days I wonder if that little boy hasn’t been replaced by some alien from Planet Attitude.

Teenagers know everything. I mean, when did I miss the class in middle school that taught literally every thing about every topic and every possible scenario in the history of mankind?  Because teenagers certainly seem to know it.  They can argue about anything. They can argue with you if you tell them it’s raining outside.

Now I am starting to run into the real difficulties of raising teenagers.  Sure they are obnoxious and know-it-all and they never listen and the eye rolling thing, oh LORD don’t get me started on the eye rolling thing, and they are so dramatic that they could give acting lessons to soap opera stars, and they think their lives are just so tragic and no one understands them and their parents are totally lame and old and —–

Whew!

Sorry, I got carried away there.

My point, in case you forgot, was that raising a teenager has to be the most difficult parenting stage, hands down. The issue that I have been struggling with lately is privacy.

I’m an advocate for privacy.  I love my own.  I want my son to be able to have his space and set his boundaries and know that no one is messing in his personal business.  I can truly see it from that point of view.  It’s part of treating our children like adults.

But…….

Where is that line?  I want my son to be responsible and be able to have his personal space, but I cannot allow myself to forget that this is a fifteen year old boy that I am talking about! His decision-making capability at this stage is right on par with that of a hamster, or maybe a really smart potato.  I’m not singling him out!  I’ve known his friends since they started kindergarten, and they are all the same.  Remember when I said I thought maybe they had been abducted by aliens from planet attitude?  Actually, I think they have been abducted by Hormones, and the Hormones don’t care about consequences or mistakes or grades or anything like the future.  The Hormones care about one basic topic–sex–with many sub-topics, such as jokes, tv, games, videos, movies, all related to the main topic, which was, in case you forgot, sex.

So, what do you do?  Do you read all the texts?  Do you stalk the email and the Facebook pages? Do you snoop in drawers? Do you hire private detectives to track your child’s every move? (Just kidding.) ((Sort of.))

Help me, dear readers.  How far is too far?  My job is to be his parent, and I am going to push into those boundaries all the time, much to my son’s distress.  At what point do I officially become a stalker?

I’m all ears.

 


 

 

Soggy Bottom Blues (or, Love Thy Neighbor)

Here’s an interesting (not so) scientific fact for you: washing machines do not float.

Now, one would think that washing machines would be a tiny bit more tolerant of water, since, obviously, they use water to wash the clothes.  Sadly, however, they are quite intolerant of being submerged in 3 feet of water.  The dryer didn’t do so well, either.

We got flooded Friday night.

Now, it wasn’t all that bad.  The main part of my house and, more importantly, all of the life forms, all remained perfectly safe, if slightly soggy.  The garage and the basement, well, let’s just say the spiders in the window sill suddenly had an ocean view.  The teeny tiny creek behind our house became a raging inferno of water to rival the Amazon at high tide.  We are in the middle of one of the wettest summers on history, and a few localized areas received almost five inches of rain.

I would like to take a brief digression to make a little public service announcement.  Pay attention to flash flood warnings.  Don’t fool around with it.  Those little creeks aren’t trickling little streams anymore, and people can and do get killed.  Roads wash away.  The pressure of the water built up outside our basement door and blew it right off the hinges.  Blasted the hinges right out of the wooden frame.  Be alert!

Okay, enough of that.

So the water came in and we went out.  My husband was hauling everyone out and I heard some sort of commotion downstairs.  I opened the door at the top of the basement stairs, and I had the very surreal experience of seeing my (full) laundry basket go floating by.  After that we left.

Everyone keeps saying “at least everyone is safe.” And that is absolutely the truth.  But I won’t lie to you.  As we sat at my in-laws, I was doing a mental inventory of what was in my basement.  Of course my washer and dryer were history, and the pool table (also not tolerant of water, in spite of the name.) I had a fridge down there we kept “extra” groceries in.  The real heartbreaker was all of my new kitchen cabinets that were all stained and sealed and waiting to be installed.  Again, I won’t lie.  I cried for my cabinets.

After the water went back down, we had to clean up.  This is where I learned what it really means to “love thy neighbor.” Our friends and family came and helped.  They shoveled mud and cleaned with bleach.  They loaded a dump truck and laid things in the yard to dry.  They cracked jokes and laughed and just generally cheered us up.  Then, Matt’s company donated a load of gravel to replace our washed away driveway.  Then a neighbor came with his tractor and spread out the gravel.  We got a perfectly good washer and dryer at no cost to us, also through the generosity of others.  It was a lesson for me that people are not perfect, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good people.

And once the smoke settled, a lot of things were saved.  The new riding lawn mower, my husband’s baby, was revived.  We saved all of the cabinets but one that was too big to put up on anything.  Sadly, it fell in the water and drown.  The clothes have been gathered and washed.  The dishes just need washed and re-wrapped.

All of this has also made me think about the things that you really lose when something like this happens.  You see these things on tv–fires and floods–and you know it’s a tragedy and you feel just awful for the people.  Monetary value is attached to the things that are lost.  It’s true–washers and dryers and lawn mowers are not cheap.  All of my husband’s power tools are in limbo right now–will they work, or are they dead?  The four-wheeler ran for a while then died.  All of these cost money, and that sucks.

But there is more.

All of the little drawings my kids did when they were small were down there in a plastic tote, which was not waterproof, as it turns out.  One was a big poster of a flower, and my daughter’s tiny hands dipped in paint made the petals.  My son’s grade school report cards, mother’s day cards they made, all of the good stuff.  They have no monetary value, because they are priceless.  All of my high school yearbooks are gone, along with the kid’s favorite books, mostly Dr. Suess.  My Christmas decorations are all destroyed, including the ones the kids made over the years.  My only two pieces of luggage and all of our duffel bags were so full of mud that I just tossed them.  Another sad blow was the tent and the camp bed we always use.  It seems like every day I remember something else that was down there that is gone now.  Just this morning I was thinking I might deep fry some squash–whoops! The deep frier took a deep dive.

So the emotional roller coaster continues, along with the rain.  All in all, I think the only thing to do is keep a positive attitude and just let it all go.  What else is there?  All of the great times we have had camping didn’t happen because we had a cool tent and a camp bed.  They happened because we were all together, and because we love each other.

No flood can wash that away.

 

This was the runoff from the road in front of our house. That’s what washed my driveway away

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This is my washer, may it rest in peace, with a kitchen cabinet on top. (Note: my basement was NOT that messy.  The creek sort of evenly distributed a layer of my stuff all over the basement floor.)

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The Other Brother

There are volumes written about special needs kids.  We talk about them on the news, on television shows, and on blogs.  There are speculations about what causes Autism, and stories about the lives of families who live with various challenges.

There is another population, though, that we don’t hear much about.  In my mind, I’ve always thought of them (us) as “the others.”

These are the kids who don’t have special needs.  They are “typical,” or “normal,” or whatever word is the PC norm these days.  They are the brothers and sisters of the special needs kids that we hear about on the news.

They are part of the background.

I think I have an unusual perspective.  I am both a sibling and a parent of a special needs individual.  I know the demands–emotionally, physically, and time-wise–of parenting a special needs child.  I also know what it’s like to be the “normal” part of the special needs equation.

It’s tough.

Now I have a son who is in the same position I was as a child, so I know.  I know a lot of how he feels, and how hard it can be.

Even though you know your parents love you, and you know they provide for all of your needs, it is hard sometimes to deal with the fact that your sister needs so much more.  It isn’t anyone’s fault, or choice, but the situation remains the same.  Looking back as an adult, especially since I have a special needs daughter now, it is very clear.  But I remember what it was like as a kid.  I remember how it seemed like I wasn’t as important as my sister, how everyone was fighting for her educational needs, and how I felt like everyone just assumed I was okay.

Here’s the kicker: I was okay.  I just didn’t think so at the time.

Like I said, now I can see that I was wrong to feel that way.  The simple fact is, my sister’s needs were greater.  She couldn’t fight for herself, so someone else had to.  If I hadn’t been such a selfish shit, I could have fought for her, too.

My son is so much better than me.  Already he is very defensive of his sister.  Don’t get me wrong–they have their moments, just like my sister and I still have our moments.  I’ve written before about how our relationship was a very typical sister relationship.  My kids are the same–she’s in his room, he changes her TV channel, she’s touching his stuff, she hits him on the head with a spoon–you get it.  But I digress.  My point was that he is very understanding of his sister, and he watches out for her.  He told me a while back that she was going to live with him when he got older, so I could have a break.

Yeah, I know.

I have tried very, VERY hard over the years to make sure my son always knew that he was just as important as his sister.  I have fought tooth and nail for his education.  We load up just like the Beverly Hillbillies and head off to soccer games.  We camp, and go to the beach, and the zoo, and anywhere else we want to go.  Sure, it would be easier to stay home.  It’s very tempting, especially as the years go by and I’m getting a little older and a little slower.  But it isn’t just my son who gets to experience all of these wonderful things–it’s all of us.  And so it’s worth it.  It’s important for ALL of us to do things besides run to the doctor or the therapist.

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This is all of us, with the exception of my husband taking the picture, walking back from a sort-of local nature center.  That’s my daughter riding on my sister’s lap, and my son riding on the back of her wheelchair.  I’m driving.  My sister’s sight line was impaired by the large child in her face.

Even though it can be challenging to be one of these “other” siblings, there are benefits, too.

We others have little or no difficulty accepting people with various levels of challenges.  It’s no big deal to us.  We can talk to people with special needs without discomfort or doubt.  We like to look at various wheelchairs people are riding and chat with them about speed and handling.  We can see beyond what is on the surface, and realize the beautiful people who lie within.  These other, (not so) normal siblings are more kind-hearted, and courageous, and understanding.  They despise bullies, and most aren’t afraid to stand up to them.

My son is all of these things and more.  He has the capacity for amazing kindness, and a tolerance that outshines most adults I now.  He has cornered the market on compassion.  I would have a much more difficult time making it through my day if it wasn’t for my son.  We would all do well to learn from these other siblings, the ones who stand in the background.

Do these others have special needs?  No.  But can we call them normal? Ordinary?

No way.

 


 

The (not so) Remorseful Buyer

I’ll bet you thought I might do a political post.

Guess again.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have strong opinions about very important issues, but I’m not blogging about them.  I’m tired of the bullshit drama and sniping back and forth about stuff that none of us can change.  Furthermore, I don’t trust any politician, and I’m sure their primary goal is to get votes.  I don’t think the answer lies within the government, but within us.  I vote my conscience, and my faith, and that’s that.  I like to make people think, but mostly I like to make people laugh, and the state of our nation is no laughing matter. That is all.

Anyway, my life has taken a drastic turn lately, as many of you already know, since we have purchased a home and moved (mostly), and I’ve had many occasions to think about buyers remorse.  I am a great believer in buyers remorse.  Hell, I own a boat, for crying out loud, and nothing triggers buyers remorse like a boat.

For those of you who maybe haven’t experienced the agony of buyer’s remorse, allow me to explain.  Buyer’s remorse is that feeling you get when you realize that you have recently spent a LOT of money on something that maybe (probably) you didn’t need.  The buying buzz wears off, and reality kicks in.  A lot of people get this from home buying, and I was afraid I might.

You see, reality has certainly set in.  Lots of the “charming” things (and trust me, those are great, BIG sarcastic air quotes) that we liked when we bought the house have lost their charm.  Those original windows that seemed so cool are huge energy suckers.  The kitchen is pretty much blah, there is a shocking lack of closets, some of the floors are slanted, and my daughter’s room is approximately the size of a large shoe box.  The ceiling leaked a little when we had all the snow last week. My washing machine tears my clothes, so I have to wash them in mesh bags, and I still don’t have a functioning shower for Mindy.  The yard is an overgrown nightmare–I’m pretty sure there are lions and baboons living out there.  One part of it is a rock bar, the other is swampy and soft.  The driveway needs lots of work, as does the sidewalk.

But I love it.

You have no idea the joy I have when I wake up in the morning and know that I am home–really, truly, home.  My home.  If I want to hop out of bed and parade to the bathroom in my skivvies, I can.  (I don’t, incidentally, and I apologize for the image.) I can turn up the television too loud or listen to obnoxious music.  I can make a huge mess in the kitchen and then not clean it up for a couple of hours.  I can decorate my own house with my own things, hang my own pictures and paint the walls any color I want.  If I want to go squat in the yard and…….okay, okay, sorry.  I was getting a little carried away there.

Now, before someone says, “Wow, The Grandparents must be really awful!” let me assure you, I could have done all of those things at their house, too.  But you have to understand–I never would have, because it wasn’t my house. Nobody ever made me feel that way but me.  If The Grandparents were to move to Florida tomorrow and give me that house, I still could not just walk in there and take it over.  It isn’t my house. 

Can you understand?

So anyway, the stress of home ownership is certainly, well, stressful (sorry, I couldn’t come up with a better adjective) but it can never detract from my happiness.  That leaky ceiling is my leaky ceiling.  Those lions and baboons are my lions and baboons.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my coffee is kicking in.  I need to visit the yard.


 

Equal, but Different, Part 2 (Finally!)

I’ll just jump straight into it, shall I?

When you start talking about what a woman should and shouldn’t do, and Feminism, and Equality, you’d better be ready to make some people mad.

I’m ready.

This post is not about what I’ve read or what science or statistics tell us.  It’s about what I’ve observed during the course of my life, and what I believe.  I already told you what some statistics suggest and what the various arguments are.  I’ve had some wonderful comments, all of which were honest and adult, and all made excellent points.

First, I’ll start by saying that I think equality is very important.  If I decided to go become, say, a college professor, then if my experience and qualifications are equal to my male counterparts, I should get paid equally.  We should be treated equally.  This seems like common sense to me.  Equal pay for equal work and all of that.

Here’s the thing–equality is great, but just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do something.  I could go to work tomorrow if I wanted to.  But I don’t.  I want to stay home and take care of my family.  Why?  Because–gasp!–I think that is my job.

I said it.

I am a woman.  I don’t think my husband is better than me, but we are different, and I don’t just mean in all of the obvious ways.  Some of the comments suggested that they didn’t want to go back to the little wifey being tethered to the house, but it’s not about that. It’s about responsibility.  When I elected to become pregnant and have babies, it became my responsibility to take care of those babies.  I’m sure someone will say they have ten kids and all ten are by different daddies and they were all raised in daycare and now they are all attending Ivy League schools.  Great.  But the truth is that no one can take care of my kids the way I do.

No one.

Every time I go to the store, I see some little old lady with a little kid.  When Evelyn had her last 24 hour EEG, there was a three-year-old little boy having one in the next room, and it was his grandmother who stayed with him.  Now, I don’t know what the situation might have been, and I guess I’m passing judgement, but the fact remains that if I hadn’t been able to stay with my daughter during that test, well, the test would have been rescheduled until I could have.

I know some people need that second income,  but let’s be honest–sometimes it’s to maintain a lifestyle, not to provide necessities.  And sometimes, it’s just because a woman couldn’t imagine being “tethered” to the home.

That’s what pisses me off the most–the fact that somehow working women are more impressive than me.  They are juggling a career and a family.  But sometimes, I think they are dropping the ball.

Even as a wife, I find myself in support of a more traditional role.  I do most of the cooking and cleaning and laundry.  My husband is a wonderful partner, and all of my teasing is just that–teasing.  He is a wonderful father who has never turned up his nose at a poopy diaper or a vomiting child.  He is an excellent cook, and he enjoys cooking from time to time. We are a team, and I couldn’t function without him.  But ultimately, he’s the provider and I’m the stay at home mom.  And I like it like that.  Know what?  I’m better at being the wife and mom, because for whatever reason you want to believe–divine design, evolution, whatever–women are made for that role.  It fits.  I feel very comfortable and safe with my husband.  It’s silly, but I feel like nothing bad can happen when he’s with us.

For some reason, the family seems to be under attack in our society.  It’s no big deal to get a divorce if things get tough.  It’s perfectly acceptable, even desirable, to have sex with as many people as possible, with no attachments or responsibilities.  If you wait to have sex until you get married, people make fun of you.  Women are constantly lamenting that there are “no good men” to find, but I wonder if they ever stop and realize why.  I would love to know their definition of a good man–it seems like it might be a man with no opinion of his own that cleans, cooks, and expects absolutely nothing in return.  Conversely, I think men are so disillusioned that they want a hot little woman who also has no opinion and waits on them hand and foot and has sex whenever he wants with no physical expectations of her own.  It’s not so hard to figure out why half of all marriages end in divorce, is it?

(There is a whole other topic here, about how in our modern society we are raised to be always right, and how we cannot bend even a little, and so all of our relationships tank.  I’ll just skate on past that for now.)

I see husbands and wives who not only don’t get along, they seem to actually hate each other.  The way they talk to and about each other is mind-boggling.

Then there is this whole other topic of teen pregnancy.  I live in an area where this is a huge problem, and it was even when I was in high school a hundred years ago.  Scroll back up and read about granny taking care of the babies–that’s generally what happens.

I’m not even going to touch on the pressure that is on women to look a certain way.  I wonder what modern Feminists think about that?

This has been quite rambling, and I’m sorry.  Here’s the heart of it all–modern women are supposedly enlightened, empowered, and ready to take over the world.  The crux?  Just about every modern woman I know is unhappy.

Out of all the women I know, I would say 95% of them take some sort of mood stabilizing drug.  That’s a conservative estimate.  Many are unhappy with their relationships, they can’t control their kids, they’ve been divorced, they hate their jobs, they are totally unsatisfied with the way they look–the list goes on forever.  So if we are so empowered, why are we so unhappy?  You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.

I’m not going to kid you–sometimes I get unhappy, too.  I have a naturally dark, moody type of personality.  I always have.  But the things I worry about are different.  I worry about my kids, and if they are going to be okay.  I worry that I won’t be able to protect them forever.  Some people might think I’m overprotective, and that I hover over my kids.  An acquaintance of mine made the comment during a soccer game a couple of months ago that I was a little overprotective.  I bit my tongue and just smiled, but what I wanted to tell her was that I thought she was little too permissive, and that I wasn’t comfortable dumping my kids off somewhere and then heading in the opposite direction as fast as I could go.  But I digress.

So–long, long story a little shorter, I do think women are selling themselves short by trying to do everything.  I think it’s okay for a woman to stay at home and take care of her home and her family, and she should be able to do that without feeling bad about it, or feeling unimportant.  I think it’s okay to embrace being a woman.  I don’t want to do everything that a man does.  I think my job is just as valuable, maybe more so.  I’m better at it.  Sure, it’s hard sometimes, but that’s okay–I was made for it.

What about you?

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Camping in Hell

This was supposed to be a post about Feminism, but at this point I would give up the right to vote to have an air conditioner and some hot water, so I’m thinking I’d better wait a while to continue with that subject. Once the power is back and the laundry is caught up, I’ll get back on track.

Okay.

In the movie “Alive,” after the plane has crashed, they are just sitting on the  mountain in the snow one morning, and one of the guys says in this surreal voice–“It has been six days.  This is the sixth day.”

Not long after that, they started eating people.

Well, this is the tenth day.  We have now been without power for ten days. Luckily, it’s too hot to eat.

I’m not really a self-pitying person most of the time.  I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who whine and complain about the various situations they find themselves in.

But this sucks.  Bad.

I managed to keep a fairly positive attitude for a while, but it’s getting tough.  I’m getting into that frame of mind where I’m starting to think everyone has power but us, why isn’t it back on yet, I can’t live like this any more!!!!!!!!!!

So you see how the thought process goes.

I need to stay away from Facebook, because I keep seeing how everyone is getting their power back, and it is starting to mess with my head.  Also, I’m having some unusually violent thoughts towards the Facebook preachers.  You know the ones I mean–the ones who say things like, “Yeah, we don’t have power and a tree fell on Grandma’s head and now she talks funny and the car blew away but we are so thankful that God has taken care of us and everyone shouldn’t complain because it could have been SO much worse.”

You know the ones I mean.

I would make me so happy to be able to catch one of these people and wring my sopping wet underwear (sorry for that image) out right over their heads.  Then possibly strangling them with them, if I had the energy.

Another thing that is getting on my nerves is how everyone keeps saying, “It’s like camping!” Well, I am an experienced camper, and this is NOT like camping.  Camping in Hell, maybe, but not regular camping.  For one, I camp on an electric site, even with a tent, so I can run a fan at night.  Also, I camp in the spring and fall, when it is cool.  I would never, EVER camp during the hottest time of the year, and especially not during the hottest temperatures our area has seen in decades.

So I’ve got to do it–I’ve got to get a list of complaints off of my chest just once.  Here it goes:

  • I hate the heat.  I hate the humidity.  We have both.  It sucks.
  • No air conditioning.  See the previous item.
  • No hot water.  This is the second worst thing to me–I wash my hands in hot water, I brush my teeth with hot water, I mop with hot water, I wash clothes in hot water–you see where I’m going with this.  Yes, we heat water on the stove, but not in large enough quantities for any major projects.
  • It is too hot for any major projects, anyway.
  • I have been doing laundry in the bath tub.  I HATE hanging laundry outside.  Some people talk about how great stuff smells when it hangs outside, but I think it smells like crap, and it also feels like crap.
  • When you DO heat water on the stove, the flame from the burner heats the kitchen to some ungodly temperature that I don’t even want to know.
  • Cold showers do not make me feel clean.  Also, while all of us able-bodied people can suffer with a cold shower, I will not subject my sister or my daughter to them.  So I have been bucket bathing them for ten days.  More suckage.
  • The generator is a little too small for such a big house, so we have to be very careful what we use. Some of the circuits weren’t wired in, so one end of the house is dark.  I’ll either be blind or have cat’s eyes when this is over.
  • On the generator note, we have spent a small fortune on gasoline.  I just keep telling everyone all our money is tied up in petroleum products.
  • It’s hot.
  • Also, it’s really hot.
  • Did I mention it’s hot?

Okay, I feel a little better.

Just to keep from bringing everyone down, I’m going to end this post with a list of the positive things going on here.  Maybe it will make me feel better.

  • We do have a generator.  So we have fans and television and we have been able to keep the fridge and freezer going.  We can run a small air conditioner at night in our room after everything else has been turned off so we can sleep in relative comfort.
  • We have a gas range, so we can cook and heat water.
  • I haven’t had to run the vacuum in over a week.
  • We’ve lived without a microwave, and I’ve always heard those things aren’t very good for you.
  • Evelyn and Mindy can watch television.  You have no idea how important this is.
  • We have cell phones and have been able to keep them charged.
  • We’ve passed the time playing Scrabble and Uno together.  I guess that counts as quality time, even though occasionally I would lose my focus and imagine hitting one of my family members over the head with some blunt object.
  • I basically haven’t worn a bra for any measurable length of time for ten days.
  • We do have water–thanks to our city water supplier for that.  In the past this wasn’t the case.
  • We learned about a new kind of storm, which was sort of educational and pretty cool.  It’s called a derecho.  Check it out.

That’s really all I can come up with right now.  There might be more, but frankly they escape me.

I will sign off again for now.  Hopefully the next time you hear from me, I will be sitting in an air-conditioned room typing on my fully charged laptop.

Either that, or you’ll read about me in the paper.


 

 

 

Campground Culture

We went camping recently, as is tradition around here.

I won’t hold you spellbound with any riveting nature stories (although I could,) or spend a bunch of time complaining about the cold weather up in those mountains, even in June (although I could.)  The only personal thing I am going to share about our trip is this:

It’s hard to see in this picture, but this is a rendition, in miniature, of the Battle of Watoga*.  Union forces were able to withstand the vicious Rebel attack, but, sadly, they were unprepared for the ants.

My son is a huge Civil War freak, and he loves building these battles.  It makes me sad, because every year he loses a little more interest, and I know before long he will be too “grown up” to build battles.

But I digress.

Instead of sharing nature, I wanted to tell you about a thought that occurred to me one night while I was attempting to sleep.

This grand revelation happened as I lay on our inflatable bed, listening to our neighbor at the next camp site as he snored loudly enough to nearly suck the rain fly right off of our tent.

Yes, I could hear the neighbor snoring.  Let me tell you, it is quiet up there. No passing cars or thumping doors, no windows and doors or background household noises to damp down the sound.  And that’s when it hit me that campground life is very intimate.

Think about it: essentially, you can hear and see people in very personal positions.  Our inflatable bed makes this sort of squeaking sound, so every time one of us turned over, you could hear it halfway around the campground, I’m sure.  Snoring is a big happening.  So are other…..um……various bodily noises.  You get up in the morning with your pj’s on and your hair all standing up and stretch and groan, right along with the strangers all around you.  You might not be together, but you are together, if you get my meaning.  You eat together.  You shower and use the toilet and brush your teeth in the communal bathhouse.  What is more intimate than brushing your teeth next to someone?

Another thing that I noticed this time was the various kinds of people who frequent the campground.  Since we have been camping there nearly every year for fifteen years, and sometimes twice a year, I can speak with a certain amount of authority.  Here are the types of people I observed:

  • The purist: these are the people who take their camping seriously.  No wimpy inflatable bed for them–they sleep on the ground.  They don’t buy tents and sleeping bags at Wal-Mart, they buy them at the high-end outdoors stores, and they are outfitted to camp on the moon, should the occasion arise.  Even their clothes are different from mine–and I’ll tell you, it’s not a look I can pull off.  They look cool–I look like an idiot.
  • The Athletes: where we camp is called “West Virginia’s Mountain Playground,” and with good reason.  The Athletes have canoes, bikes, kayaks–you name it.  We hike, but these people are on a whole other level.  They wear bicycle pants, for Pete’s sake.  Bicycle pants!
  • The Long Timers: I like these people.  These are usually older folks who have retired.  They have fancy motor homes or big travel trailers.  But that isn’t the best part–they usually stay for a week at a time, so they put out flags and lights and sometimes even little white fences (I swear.)  They have a sign up with their name on it.  They go from campground to campground from April to October.  They are awesome!
  • The Hot Shots: These guys are serious about their camping, too, but in a different way.  They have extremely expensive campers pulled by extremely big, extremely expensive trucks.  These campers have all the slide-outs, stainless appliances in the kitchens, and jacuzzi tubs in the bathrooms.  The campers are so big, they sometimes have trouble negotiating the relatively small, rustic campground at Watoga.  But they don’t care.  They have more money than you.
  • The Party-ers: We don’t always see this group.  We go too early or late in the year, and as a rule, the party crowd travels in the summer.  However, we went a little later than usual this year and ran into them.  They also have nice campers (usually toy haulers), but they lack the overall refinement of the Hot Shots.  In spite of the fact that quiet hours start at 10pm, and in spite of the fact that the whole rest of the campground is dead quiet (except the snoring and farting), they still talk and laugh as though they are trying to communicate with people in the next county.  They are literally breathless at their own wit.  The rest of us are contemplating whether or not their bodies could be successfully hidden up there in the mountains.
  • The Kitchen Sinkers: This, of course, is my favorite group, because we are in it. These are the people who generally have a love/hate relationship with the outdoors.  It is very beautiful, it’s fun, and we love it.  However, it’s buggy, and hot (or cold, or sometimes both), and raccoons eat the dog’s food if you forget to put it away.  Kitchen Sinkers are usually families with various numbers and ages of children.  Hence the name–we pack enough stuff (everything but the….) to deal with every conceivable situation.  Injuries, starvation, frost bite, heat stroke, headaches, allergies–it’s all covered.  We can cook, clean, sleep, bathe, dress, play, and eat, all with the same convenience of home, plus bugs and dirt.  We have jackets, tons of shoes, books, toys, flashlights, water bottles, snacks, and enough diapers and wipes to equip a hospital nursery.  The younger the children, the more stuff we have.  And I haven’t even started on the things that are required for the actual camping, like a tent. We literally take two vehicles, because all of our stuff won’t fit in one or the other.  What can I say?  We believe in being prepared.  The only thing we don’t have are bicycle pants.

So I encourage you to take your family camping.  It’s a fun thing that will create memories that last a lifetime.  You can get close to God, your family, and nature.

And to the folks in the next tent.

*not an actual Civil War battle

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Because I Said So

I have always thought discussing politics was the surest way to start an argument, but I think I’ve found an even more volatile subject–parenting.

On the blogging community Blogher, there is an article titled “I Don’t Like Spanking My Kids, but I Do It Anyway.” The mom who wrote the article discusses how she believes in spanking her children only when necessary, and that she was spanked as a child.

The resulting conversation is fantastically entertaining.

The vast majority of commentators are against spanking, and a lot of them refer to it as abuse.  Furthermore, I  kept seeing the phrases “explain to your child” and “discuss their feelings” and teaching their kids to “control their emotions.”

This got me thinking.

Paradoxically, I happen to have a very close relationship to my son, and we do discuss most things, because he is mature enough to do it.  It works very well for us.  Also, he was never one to have tantrums as a toddler, and I didn’t have a lot of trouble with him getting into things or touching things he shouldn’t.

That doesn’t mean we never had our issues.

The overwhelming tone of the comments is that you should parent with love (which is true) and that you should explain to your kids why certain things are the way they are.  I made a comment that I wasn’t really for spanking (I have never found it to really accomplish anything) but that I had smacked a hand that was reaching for a hot stove.  Someone responded that I should have just removed the child to a crib or high chair away from the stove.  And of course “explain” to a two-year-old that they shouldn’t do that.  Then we could discuss their feelings.

One mother believes that you really can reason with a tantrum-having toddler by discussing their “big feelings.”  She has had success with this method.

I’m happy for her.

From my perspective, there’s only so much reason you can share with a toddler.  They are NOT tiny adults–they are children! Their brains are developing, and so are their emotions.  If a two-year-old wants a piece of candy that he can’t have, he only knows that it is good and that he wants it.  He doesn’t know anything about cavities or diabetes, and he doesn’t care.  You just have to say no, and if they freak, you have to put them somewhere safe until they quit.

When my son was six, he was friends with a little boy who came from a very troubled home.  The father verbally and physically abused the mother, they used foul language, and they were into drugs.  Needless to say, he was never going to go to the little boy’s home.  But the little boy just kept asking.  My son wanted to go.  I told him no, that I didn’t know the parents.  He told me to go meet them so he could go to their house.  My son became very angry with me because was my answer was “no.”

Now, I’m sorry, but I didn’t owe my son any explanations.  My answer was no, and that was it.  He was not old enough for me to explain the reasons he wasn’t allowed to go visit his little friend.

I think that’s the heart of the matter–parents are more interested in being popular than being parents.  Even the very  best children will go through rebellious and challenging periods.  All teenagers think they know everything, and no amount of explaining and reasoning will convince them that you are right and they are wrong.  You just have to stand tough, even if they get mad.

The other thing that I found interesting was that everyone is convinced of their own superiority.  Not only that, but rather than accept other people parent differently than them, they go on the attack.  Their way is the only way.

I am certainly skeptical about a lot of these parenting strategies, but having never tried them, I couldn’t say.  Maybe they work great.  Or maybe they don’t.  I only know that parenting is very hard, and I know your children have to respect you and, yes, they must have a certain amount of fear.  It’s not a fear that you will beat them up or something if they mess up, but just that they will have to suffer the consequences.  That voice has to speak in their mind when they are faced with a difficult decision–“If I do this, my mom is going to kill me.”

I think if you raise your kids with love and respect and expect them to do their best, things will be okay.  If they know they have consequences when they mess up, maybe they won’t mess up as much.  Mostly, they model their behavior after their parents, so if you want your kids to be decent people, the best thing to do is be a decent person yourself.

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

 


 

 

 

Very Superstitious

You can’t escape your past.

The following is a transcript of an actual conversation between my son and myself:

Me: “Don’t walk with one shoe on and one shoe off!”

Ian: “Why?”

Me: “It’s bad luck.”

Ian: “Are you serious?”

Me: “Shut up.”

As usual, this got me thinking.  I didn’t put a lot of thought into it before I told my son not to walk around with one shoe on and one shoe off (by the way, my son hasn’t lost his mind–he was putting on his shoes and thought of something he wanted to tell me, so he came through the house to tell me while he was putting on the other shoe.) Anyway, I just sort of blurted that little bit of age-old wisdom before I even knew it.

Why?

Well, because my Granny told me.

I was raised by The Grandparents. The Grandmother’s mother (stay with me here) was my “Granny,” and I loved her with all of my heart.  She was the coolest old lady I ever knew.  She always wore a dress, but she would still work outside, and once she even tied a scarf on her head and went with me on a four-wheeler ride, much to the disgust of The Grandmother.  I have a multitude of memories of her.  She was a major part of my life, and, obviously, a major influence.

It’s funny how our upbringing slips out when we least expect it.  I’m not really talking about the major moral and educational stuff, but those little things that are more like habits and tendencies.  They are drilled into us as we are growing and can’t be undone.

For all of her kindness and humor, my Granny was also very superstitious.  Here is a completely true list of things she warned me about:

  • Never walk with one shoe on and one shoe off, because it’s bad luck.
  • Never rock a rocking chair with no one in it, because it means someone is going to die.
  • If your ears ring, it means someone is going to die.
  • It’s bad luck and bad manners for a woman to whistle.
  • She hated black cats, regardless of whether they crossed her path.
  • She would freak out over a broken mirror–seven years bad luck, anyone?
  • She believed if you said a deceased person’s name too much, it would disturb their eternal rest.
  • She totally believed in ghosts.  She used to terrify me with ghost stories about a house she lived in when she was young.
  • She thought a man could get a kidney infection from peeing into a North wind (not to mention wet shoes.)
  • You didn’t dare walk under a ladder in front of her.
  • Spilling salt would literally ruin her day.

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones that come back to me on almost a daily basis.  Silly things to everyone–myself included–but you have no idea how they are imbedded in my mind, and, what’s more, how much I catch myself repeating them to my own kids.

Superstition wasn’t the only thing she planted in my mind.  She was also a top-notch story-teller.  For example, she told me a story once about a friend of the family who……wait for it…… got picked up and carried off by a large black bird.  I swear I am not making that up.  Now, before you short-circuit your keyboard with drool from laughing so hard, try to remember I was just a little kid.  You can laugh even harder, if you’d like, at the image of me keeping an eye on the sky whenever I was playing outside.

You might also be amused to know that I link my morbid loathing of vultures to that story.

I bet all of us have some of that stuff buried in the files of our brains–maybe some things we don’t even realize.  Little beliefs and habits that we don’t even think about.  It makes me wonder what I might be passing along to my own offspring.

Oh well.  I can’t worry about that now.  I have to go tell the kids a bedtime story……..

 

What superstitions did you hear growing up?  I’d love to know, mostly so I can convince myself that I’m totally normal. Check out other great writers hanging out all in one cool spot at yeahwrite.me!

read to be read at yeahwrite.me


 

Bucket List? What Bucket List?

Even though I’m a big fan of both Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, I don’t have a bucket list.

This phrase pops up frequently in our modern society, and when I heard it the other day, it made me think.  For those of you who don’t know, a bucket list is a list of all of the things you hope to do before you die, and usually it’s a pretty grandiose list.  You know, stuff like skydiving and climbing Everest and getting an actual live person on your first try when you call customer service.

Anyway, like I said, this got me thinking.  I don’t have a bucket list.  Now, I have goals and dreams like anyone.  I want to build a house, and I have more dreams for my kids than I care to put down here in writing.  But those aren’t really “bucket list” things.  In fact, about the only thing that qualifies is my long-time desire to have Anthony Hopkins read a Robert Frost poem to me. (Don’t ask.)

We can spend so much of our time wishing for things that may or may not ever happen to us.  What if, instead of thinking of the things we haven’t done, we check off a list of the wonderful things we have done?  Here’s what I have so far:

  • I stood in the spot where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge.
  • I watched twilight settle over New York City from the top of the Empire State Building.
  • I have seen and been inside the Statue of Liberty.
  • I have watched the sun rise over the rim of a dormant volcano……
  • …….and also watched it fall back into the Pacific.
  • I have stood on the deck of a boat in awe as whale song echoed over the audio system from underwater microphones.
  • I watched a humpback whale rise out of the water just a few yards from where I stood.
  • I watched as a country was torn apart by a terrible act of terrorism, and then watched as it pulled itself back together and united, stronger even than before.
  • I stood with the man of my dreams at the front of the church and started a wonderful journey that I hope never ends.
  • I lay on a ratty old second-hand couch in my living room and felt a baby–a baby!–move inside my body, where only a few short months ago there had been nothing.
  • Then,  I was there when two whole new people breathed the very first breaths of their lives.  (This was, of course, followed by the first spit up of their lives and the first poops of their lives.  But that’s okay.)
  • I have watched as these two new lives grew and learned and changed, and I will see them grow–too quickly–into adults.

It occurs to me that I could make this list go on forever.  There have been hard times in my life, but I can honestly say I can look back over an abundance of joyful experiences, and most of them have happened since I got married and had kids.  I don’t need a bucket list.  My life is busy, and hectic, and sometimes quite stressful, but it’s also a full life, and I am so glad to have it.  All of the items I can dream of for a bucket list are already crossed off.

Well, except for that Anthony Hopkins thing.

What about you?  Have you already lived your bucket list?



 

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