Wednesday, September 21, 2011

make no assumptions

I've often heard from more experienced parents that children tend to acquire many of the traits and abilities that their parents have, and, in some instances, they develop a few that were previously unbeknownst to certain genetic dispositions. For instance... Ella loves to read and write, much like I do. She draws and has an artistic side that is more akin to her father. She's stubborn and opinionated...I guess, kinda sorta like her mama. Summit is as carefree and relaxed as his daddy. And, he's smart like me! Ha!
Since Ella was a little thang, we've introduced different activities to her. We're doing this with Summit, also, but because he's still a little thang, the introductions haven't been as plentiful. When she was 4, I enrolled my girl in ballet and tap at the Conservatory. Clearly she has Matt's dancing genes :), because she abhored every second. That kind of structured dance didn't suit her; she's more of the cloth that beckons loose, improvisational movements with music that uses strange beats and notes. After the massive failure that was the Conservatory, she got her feet under her with gymnastics. Last spring, she and Summit played baseball, which seemed to fit naturally with their athletic tendencies. Once they found their grooves, nothing seemed to get in the way of a ball and the bat in their hands.
For this fall season, we talked to the kids about what kind of sports they'd like to play, and I assumed that soccer would be the obvious choice. She didn't want to do dance. She wasn't thrilled about gymnastics. She's too young for running programs. What else was there? Humph. You know what they say about what happens when you assume. We got it right with Summit. He was totally on board with playing 'soccerball.' (Imagine Mary Katherine Gallagher saying it.) Howevah. Ella was lead astray. Thanks to the Irmo-Chapin Recreation Commission rep at her school kickoff, she was lead astray. Note to self: Do NOT ask what sports are available in front of your kids if you're not ready to hear all the options.

So, that's what we did. We asked in front of her, and his answer made Ella turn sparkly with clappy, giddy, little girl excitement. To me, his answer was like a loud, boomy, slow motion sound that nearly knocked the wind out of me. I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when Santa pushes him down the slide with a boot to his face, and said, "Hooo! Hooo! Hooo!" As I looked at my Ella and saw the glitter floating around her and her big blue eyes light up with rainbows shooting out of them, I felt I needed to push her out of the way of his words, like a train was fast approaching and we were standing on the middle of the tracks.
Cheerleading!?!?!?! Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. What? I instantly knew it was a bad idea. What kind of sport is cheerleading? What kind of commaraderie is there in cheerleading? The only things I have ever seen are girls in too short of skirts, with strange ribbons in their hair, trying to be louder than each other, and some not-so-very-nice interactions with regards to the whole competitive side. I mean, how many times have you heard those stories out of Texas where some mother comes after some other girl on her daughter's cheerleading squad? Like a billion and a half. Right? Am I right?You have GOT to be kidding me. I don't cheer. We don't cheer. We can't. I can't. It can't be. But, it was. It was to be. It is.
There was not dissuading the child. As soon as she heard that word, it was on. Knowing her mama's genetic history, I assumed that this would be an epic fail. Again with the assuming. She's nothing like me in this regard. Like baseball, cheerleading for Ella is a natural fit. It's the exact opposite of what I expected. She's brave and confident standing in front of all of those people. She's got the strong, steady wrists her coach demands, the loud voice, the perfect posture, the ear-to-ear grin on her face the whole time she's on the field. And, one of her BFFs from way back, Saylor, is on her squad. She loves it so much. She loves her pom poms, the ponytail, the skort, the screaming. It's her.

And, I couldn't be happier for her. My lesson is obvious: Make no assumptions. I will be wrong.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

There's a new man in my life.

I guess I saw it coming. It's been in the back of my mind for some time now, looming like a dark cloud of urgency. I mean, really, how much can one girl take? Bad attitudes. A total unwillingness to compromise. Half-assed the the the living room. Ignoring my requests. Constantly shutting me out. Pretty much giving up on me.... There really wasn't another option. Like any logical individual, I decided it was time fish or cut bait. So, I cut it, and went fishing for something new.

My parents were shocked and a little disappointed. The kids didn't know what to think; they are, after all, children, and they were used to things as they were. My friends were surprised at first, but once they realized the difference it made in my life to be out with the old, in with the new, they were on board with the replacement. They saw the smile that my face had been missing, the happiness in my voice. They understood that it was the right thing to do.

The thing is, Matt even chose him for me. He told me he wanted to make my life easier. He wanted to offer him as a token of his appreciation for all the hard work I've done for our family. He invited Kirby into our house, had a mediator explain what would happen when/if I decided it was a good idea to adopt this new lifestyle for our family. Immediately, I knew it was a perfect fit.

And, the new one. Ohhhhh. The new one. Ohhhhh. The change in my life has been nothing short of blissful. He's kind to me. He doesn't put up so much of a fight. He's open to my suggestions. He dances with me, moves in synchronicity with me. He acts like he likes having me around. Like he loves me. And, he's willing to go to town in every room in the house, sucking and blowing at just the right moments. He's got all the tools to make all of my wishes come true. All the tools. He knows what I want, when I want it, how I want it. I. LOVE. HIM. Even better, I know he loves me right back.

So, friends, without further ado, meet Kirby. Isn't he a hottie?


Thanks, Matt. The best part... This one's not a Christmas gift!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wings to fly.

If I could change one thing about the world...anything at would be to make time slow down...or to have the ability to rewind and experience certain parts about the past over again. I'd like to have more time with  Grandmother and Popa. I'd like to revisit different times in my childhood and formative years. I'd appreciate a chance to remember exactly how it felt to be canoeing down the Rio Grande or across the Boundary Waters for several weeks at a time, or all the senses that accompanied living in Utah and Colorado. I'd especially like to place myself in the exact moments when my children were born and to be able to hold their baby bodies and smell their baby smells and kiss their baby feet and hear their baby sounds. That new baby love. Not to change anything, mind you, but just because.
Since Ella's birth, I've been keenly aware of the quickness of time. (I'm sure this is true for just about anyone who experiences life-altering events.) And, I've wanted nothing more than to Don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing my kids grow and change. Not much in this world is, to me, more fascinating or fulfilling than watching them develop and thrive. However, I have found myself counting down days, almost reluctantly, to their birthdays. I suppose that I know that with each passing year they move a little farther away from me...from needing me or wanting me around. They're becoming independent, and that's a good thing, but the lack of dependence upon me is a tough pill to swallow, albeit, like a vitamin, a necessary one.
One of the books that Ella and I read is called A Mother's Wish. I know I've written about it before, but as a recap, the story is about a little girl and her mother, and the relationship that they have. When the child is young, they make separate wishes upon butterflies: the girl's is for her mother to always be with her; the mother's is for her child to be independent and strong and "to have wings to fly..." In the end, the mother notes that both of their wishes are realized, as the mother will always be with her child...she helped weave the very fabric of the girl...and the girl has turned into a strong and capable young woman.
For her 7th birthday... a special date, but as I said before, bittersweet for me... Ella received a butterfly garden from her Leenie and Grandpa. Perhaps significant is the fact that A Mother's Wish was a gift from Leenie, too. The garden was super cool... we sent away for the larvae, and they arrived via postal mail a few weeks later. We watched them eat their food (We also got to see them poop, and they poop a lot. Who'd a thunk that caterpillars poop so much? Not this girl.), and when they were ready, they climbed to the top of the container and formed chrysalises. Once encased, I attached the paper lid to the inside of the garden, and we waited for them to emerge. Four painted lady butterflies metamorphosed before our very eyes. It was a remarkable cycle of life.
Some people keep them in the garden in hopes of catching their eggs to continue the process in their homes, but Ella thought it best to let them go... I let her make that decision, and I knew she'd make the right one. And, I guess that this is another beautiful part of watching my kids grow up, seeing them make healthy choices on their own. I was so proud of her... my baby girl... she's growing wings to fly.
(Thank goodness, because I did not want to keep having to take care of the things. Butterfly gardens, like frogs, dogs, and cats, quickly become Mommy's job. :)).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Outdoor Living

One of our favorite family past times is camping. Before kids, camping was minimal...with kids, it's the exact opposite. Now, we bring just about everything but the kitchen sink, and that's because we've got a makeshift outside dishwashing station. But, that's okay. In fact, it's great. We've gotta make the girl and the boy comfortable with sleeping outside and help them feel at home in the woods. I remember when we got the new tent; it was so big compared to our previous, much smaller outdoor sleeping spaces. Of course, then, Summit was a baby, and the new tent seemed huge. As the children grow, I'm realizing the need for more tent space will also increase. But, I'll do whatever it takes. I love living with my family in the outdoor wilderness. It's so much easier than the indoor wilderness.

We usually take the fam camping around Brevard at the end of every summer, but since my friend, Darlene, and her husband, Tom aka Gunny, own a campground near Bryson City, NC, we decided to try a different place on for size. And, it didn't disappoint. Outfitted with a pool, horseshoe pit, badminton, and a community bonfire pit, their place is adorable. The kids had a blast playing in the creek beside our site, fishing in the trout pond (though, Summit refused to touch the fish he caught...I think the idea of having ended something's life freaked him out...thank goodness; Matt's cleaning of the fish didn't help either), stuffing their faces at the ice cream social, feeding Darlene's horse, and cooking smores by the fire.

When I told my friends, Tracey and Sharon and Carolyn, about our plans for Labor Day weekend, they hopped on board the camping train... well, everyone except Carolyn, who said she had "something to do" that weekend, which I think means she had to sleep inside, on her bed, with air conditioning. (Just messing around, C.) Tracey and Sharon, bless their hearts, decided to join us for some outdoor fun. And, man, was it FUN! They brought all of their girls (Tracey's 3, Sharon's 2...poor Summit), and all of the food in the state of South Carolina. Seriously, I'm pretty sure they did bring their kitchen sinks. Needless to say, we didn't want for anything. Well, maybe Tracey wanted for extra clothes for her youngest, who she dubbed 'Muddy Claire' instead of Mary Claire. Love it! For real, though, that child constantly found ways to get covered in dirt. Of course, mine did, too, but I just didn't pay it any attention. I mean, I told them to not slide down dirt hills on their bottoms. It's not my fault they ran out of clean shorts. One day, I'm sure I'll get called out on it from Ella for not 'caring' if she was dirty while her friend's mom made sure Mary Claire was clean at all costs. Whatever. At least she didn't have to endure the chafing that the little man did for the last day and a half of the trip. See, there's a sunny side.


Before our camping friends retired for home, we wanted to do something touristy and neat so we rented tubes and took a bumpy ride down Deep Creek in the Nantahala National Forest. The water was frigid, but the chill was quickly forgotten when you had to consider how to get down the river, which was not deep. I think it was Sharon's husband who said that whoever named the river must also have named Greenland. Regardless, it was hilarious. There were bodies flipping (I was the first, but Tracey's dump may have been one of the worst), kids singing (Abby's rendition of Adele's 'Rolling in the Deep' helped create a great parody for our river adventure), tubes bumping, eddies spinning, and memories being made. Even the torrential rain storm at the end of the ride didn't dampen (ha ha) our spirits. Well, not mine anyways. Maybe Summit lost his cool, but he's 4, what can you do?
We ended our trip a day after our pals departed, and enjoyed a nice campfire/stove meal with Tom and Darlene. They really made us feel right at home at their campground, and they certainly gave us the special treatment. The kids had a blast and we lived to see another camping trip success!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stupid Chicken Curse

When I spoke about my Gamecockian background, it was more like a brief overview of the divide between USC and Clemson. But, it's not so simple...there's more to know about the Garnet and Black. A few weeks or so ago, I wrote a couple posts about some dark secrets of South Carolina. Well, there's another, and it's one I'm reluctant to discuss, but seeing as this is a blog to let my kids know about their lives, friends, and family, it would be remiss of me not to be totally forthcoming about the Cocks.

Here's the deal. The Gamecocks don't have the best history. Some might say the USC football team has the worst luck ever. Seriously... if a storm was passing through and there were lightening rods all around, and our team was standing in a rubber house, somehow everyone inside the rubber abode would be struck by lightening. To be sure, our bad fortune has been dubbed the Chicken Curse. Truth be told, we don't have the best overall record. Not by a long shot. We are prone to choking (remember that Kentucky game last year). And, for some reason, we just cannot seem to land ourselves a consistently solid quarterback (like right now, we don't know which version of Garcia will show up to games: Stephen or Jerry).

So, here's another deal. This year we have the makings of a good team. No, a great team...well, as long as Stephen makes his appearance at each game. We've got Alshon Jeffrey, Marcus Lattimore, Ace Sanders, Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney. We've got game, people. Game. The question is, do we have the chickens that go with the curse, or do we have the cocks that bring the game? Looking at the statistics and logical probabilities behind our stacked team, one would think that the odds are in our favor, but the fact remains that we have an innate ability to make big mistakes and put ourselves in a downward spiral of out of control disappointment.

For me, this uncertainty brings great stress and panic. Saturdays mark an end to any finger nail length that I may have been going for. I can't just sit still and watch the game on television, no matter how many alcoholic beverages I may consume. For real... I can't watch the game in a normal way. To get through these events, I have several strategies. My favorite is where I stand half in the kitchen, half in the living room, peeking around the corner of the door frame with my fingers over my eyes so that I can barely see the screen until a play is over. Another is to clean everything in the house so that I constantly move past the television to another part of the house, stopping briefly to see what's going on. If I hear shouts of joy, I rush to check out what's happening. If I hear sounds of sadness, I assume the worst and keep cleaning. If the Gamecocks score or do something good, I then have to make a decision if something I did or didn't do could have affected the event (I've got a mean case of superstition), so I busy myself trying to determine how what I do can make sure that good stuff continues to happen on the field. Sometimes, I can get around this nonsense by pausing the game for a good 15 minutes. I am well aware of how crazy this sounds, but I'm also well aware that most of what I do is a little bit off.

And, so, another season has begun. That old Chicken Curse reared its ugly head for the first quarter of our game against East Carolina University on Saturday...a game that should have been an easy win, but quickly turned quite ugly. Was I surprised? Were any of us Gamecock fans surprised? Absolutely not. Were we relieved when we pulled out a win? Ummmm. Yeah. But, the game was a reminder that we can be taken out by a high school football team just as easily as we can beat the number one team in the country. I just hope and pray that we actually get a chance to prove that stupid Chicken Curse wrong once and for all. Come on, fellas, show us what you got, because you sure have enough of it to win the whole thing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I am Gamecockian.

Well, it's that time of year again. The leaves are starting to turn, and the sun is sitting lower in the sky. The kids are back in school. In the distance, I hear roosters crow earlier each evening. Somewhere in South Carolina '2001' is playing. Yes, folks, football season is once again upon us. In my house, this means that Matt will be good for nothing on just about every Sunday from now until February. In my state, this means that you don't have to ask your friends what they're gonna be doing on any particular weekend, because nearly everyone will be watching "The Game." (Not the rapper, by the way.) They'll be hanging in the parking lots or at home with  beer-filled coolers, propane and charcoal, fried chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers, back porches and tailgates, sunny days turning to crisp evenings. Ahhhh.
However, in South Carolina, when one says "The Game," you can't assume that they're necessarily all watching the same one. Not in this state, where Fall brings out a great big line in the sand that no one dares to cross, or would want to cross for that matter. No way. No how. There are certain principals by which we must abide, after all. This is a line that can turn drunk best friends into mortal enemies. A line drawn with blood. A line drawn for love and adherence to all we know to be true (with regard to college football). What is this line of which I speak? It's one half garnet, one half orange...two colors that clash together just as much as the teams that they represent.
When college football arrives, this becomes a state divided. Part Carolina, part Clemson. Gamecocks against Tigers. And the loyalty that fans have for their teams runs deep and long. It's a heritage passed down through families. It's a tie that binds one's soul to that team. It's unbreakable. Once your blood runs either garnet or orange, it cannot be changed. Even the marriage of two people of opposing teams does not constitute a switching of sides. To attempt to defect would be a betrayal of the worst kind, a crime of treason. This is the way it has always been and will always be. This is life.
I am Gamecockian. My Popa was born and raised right down the street from where Williams Brice Stadium rests. He and both of my parents attended the University of South Carolina. I grew up listening to games with my Popa, and he recorded every single one. I remember going into that big stadium as a little girl and sitting with my parents in the end zone. At home, us kids were NOT allowed to need stuff when the Gamecocks were on the field. And as I have grown older, that passion for the Garnet and Black has been passed on. It runs through my heart, and I carry the tradition that my Popa began many years before.
Go Cocks!