Friday, December 30, 2011

Mama's New Year's Day

I figured since I've written about Mama's Easters and Christmases I should write about her New Year's Day as well. It was also a lot of fun. It is not something we've ever done in our house but it was fun when I was a kid.

New Year's preparations started the day after Christmas. The entire house had to be cleaned from stem to stern because she didn't believe in starting the new year with the dirt from the old year still hanging around. So she pressed Daddy and me into service. I won't bore you with the details but I will let you know that she stopped short of hauling all the furniture out into the yard so we were spared that. 

After the house was cleaned we went to the grocery and she bought all the food and drink for her New Year's Day spread. We celebrated New Year's Eve at midnight by toasting it in. My father would pour a glass for all three of us, even me no matter how young I was. Even if we had continued with the New Year's traditions we would leave this out as we no longer drink. Right after that we went to bed because she rousted us out early on New Year's Day to begin preparations. 

Mama's New Year's thing was to make a GIGANTIC spread of food to feed anyone who showed up. She would put both of the leaves in the table and there wouldn't be an inch of it that was uncovered and sometimes there was food on the counter as well. The TV would be blaring in the back room so we could hear the parades while we were working in the kitchen. Daddy would sit in there with his coffee and toast and periodically he would holler out to us to look at something and we would scootch over to the end of the counter and watch it through the doorway. Mostly though we just listened to the parades because there was too much work to do. I was usually set to slicing cheese, cutting celery and stuffing it with cream cheese, preparing the green onions, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, carrots, etc. Mainly the piddly stuff that I could do without too much supervision as she was extremely fussy in her kitchen. While I was doing that (I was slow) she would get out all the dishes, make dips, make her punch, and get the crock-pot going. She made the best punch. She made it non-alcoholic for the kids (spiked for serving to the adults) and it was delicious. I'm not sure what all was in it but I do know that there was ginger ale and orange juice and there was rainbow sherbet floating on top. There was more in it than that but it's been over 30 years now so I don't remember. In the crock-pot she would either make chili or chicken tortilla casserole. I personally preferred the latter even though her chili was delicious too. She also made egg salad and potato salad. When she was ready we would start setting all the food up on the table. She would direct me in arranging the cheeses and cold cuts on the plates. I would put several types of chips into the bowls she had that had little dip bowls that attached to the sides and she would instruct me as to which dips went with which chips. Then there were crackers and bread to arrange on plates and pickles and olives to put in the lazy susan. And of course, all those veggies I had sliced up had to be arranged on their tray as well. There were also cookies from the Christmas baking that went out as well. None of the holiday-specific ones, just the Tollhouse, oatmeal raisin and my favorite raisin-filled. 

After it was all set up they started appearing. I have yet to figure out how they knew when it was ready but they did. Smoke signals, perhaps, I don't know. No invitations were sent or anything like that. It never failed though. About 5 or 10 minutes after we were done the doorbell would ring and people would start appearing. "Hi! Just wanted to stop by and wish you a Happy New Year!" "Happy New Year to you as well! Please come in and get a plate of food and something to drink." All day long this went on. Mama's friends, Daddy's friends, kids from the neighborhood, you name it. The men would gather around the door to the back room and watch football with Daddy and eat and then when they finished their plate they would leave and somebody else would be there to take their place. There were only two chairs in that room and none of them would sit in Mama's chair even though she wasn't in there. They'd either hold up the door frame, sit on a stool or squat on their haunches. It was pretty funny to watch, actually--which I did from the kitchen area since I was the beer-runner unless I was outside with the kids. Then they were on their own. Mama would host the ladies in the living room and they would sit there and chat for awhile and, like the men, it was a steady stream. As far as the kids, we would just sort of hang out around the food or make a sandwich and go ride our bikes and wreak havoc throughout the neighborhood before returning for more food. 

It was fun to start the new year with our house full of friends like that. Normally it was so quiet and still in our home but at the holidays there were always people and talking and laughter. It was wonderful. Only hitch was that it all had to be cleaned up that night. No big deal though because I would eat leftovers while we were cleaning up and Mama would let me have a glass (or two as I got older) of punch spiked with the Vodka the ladies had been spiking theirs with. We all sort of weaved down the hall to bed on New Year's night.

I hope you've enjoyed another holiday flashback from the corner of the world where I grew up and I hope you all have a wonderful New Year in your corner of the world.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Childhood Christmas

The other night Sean was asking me about Christmas when I was a kid. As I said at Easter time, Mama was Mrs. Holiday so we had fancy holidays in my childhood home. Daddy always teased her that she was partial to Christmas because her name was Mary, even though he rarely called her that.

In our house, Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving. My parents were teachers so they had Thanksgiving, the day after and the weekend off every year. Friday morning after breakfast Daddy would go out to the shed and start carting in the boxes. When they were all in he would dig out the lights that he hung across the front of the house. After testing them inside he would go out and climb up on his rickety old wooden stepladder balanced in the stones of our front yard and hang them. We always kept an ear out waiting for him to come crashing down since ladder-climbing + paralyzed foot = recipe for disaster but he never did, thankfully. He would also hang the wreath on the door. After he came inside he would switch the toilet seat in the front bathroom to the Christmas one. Then his work was pretty much over and he would come park himself on the sofa and supervise us while he tested the lights for the tree. My first job was to build the tree. We had a great tree. It was about 6 1/2 feet tall and it was really thick and bushy. After I got it built Mama would hang her pearl garland on it. Then Daddy would nestle the Good Luck Elf in the branches where he was safe from falling. After the Elf was settled Mama would start with the lights while I started sorting ornaments. We had all sorts of ornaments. I still have some of them that we used. There were felt birds that Mama had made back when they were first married, the standard store-bought ones of the era like the little drummer boys who look like their heads are ping-pong balls, beautiful bead bells that Gram made, ornaments that I had made in Sunday School, my Snoopy and Pooh Bear ornaments from Sears, ornaments that were gifts from people over the years, and later there were Hallmark ornaments. There were certain ornaments that I looked forward to every year like Mama's Holy Family ornament that still goes up on our tree. After we got them all up Daddy would bring in the afore-mentioned rickety wooden stepladder for Mama to put the angels on the top of the tree--they were short so a ladder was a necessity. He would spot her while she was on there, all the while cautioning her, "Be careful, Al. This thing isn't too sturdy." I always thought that was kind of funny since he had been on it in uneven rocks with no spotter but I knew better than to point that out. *grin* We had three angels on top of our tree. They were very small and they were tied on with pipe cleaners which were attached to their backs. The one at the very top was about the ugliest little thing you've ever seen. She had a cardboard head with some sort of weird curly blonde hair and she was holding a little cardboard violin. She was on the very first Christmas tree they had together in 1951 and she was on every tree they had after. There were two others who had made their appearance later but had existed my whole lifetime. They were also fairly ugly but not quite as bad as she was. They had plastic heads and one had a harp and one had a trumpet. All three of them had white gauzy-type robes with wire to keep their shape and they had gauzy wings as well.

This is me with our Christmas tree. I was maybe 16 or so.

After the tree was finished Mama would start putting out the rest of her Christmas decorations. She had so much stuff. One of my favorites was a Santa Claus music box. You wound up his base and, if I recall correctly, it played Jingle Bells. She also had a beautiful ceramic angel dressed in a lovely golden robe that she put on the shelf in the corner. (Daddy's beer steins were relegated to the storage boxes for the duration.) Then there was the Santa climbing into a chimney that held candy canes. One year she made a macrame Christmas tree with red wooden beads decorating it that she hung in the living room. There were little things with jingle bells on them that she hung around all the doorknobs. Drove Daddy crazy with the jingling but he was a good sport about them. She also had a plastic light-up Santa that she always stood underneath the tree. He was about 18 inches tall. Kind of like a miniature of the ones people put in their front yards now. The tablecloth on the table was changed out for one with holly all over it and she had decorations that she attached to all the plant hangers throughout the house.

While she was decorating the house I set up the nativity. It was really cool, at least to me as a kid. She had bought it for $3 at a flood sale one year at Ward's. The stable was a really thick cardboard and the front folded down to make a corral area. There was straw glued to the roof and she had a bag of straw that I would scatter on the floor of the stable. The figurines were ceramic and one year the black wise man (can't remember his name) had gotten broken. She replaced him but he wasn't quite in scale. Daddy nicknamed him Wilt since he was so much taller than the others. There was an opening in the back at the top with a light so it looked like starlight shining down on them. The only fault with it that I could ever find was that there was no way for the angel to be in the air and so I always had to stand her behind the Holy Family. Oddly enough the figurines that John got me when we were first married are the same design as hers were except they're made of resin and my Mary wears pink and hers wore blue. Pretty cool, huh?

Decorating was all finished on Friday. Baking was done on Saturday. After the kitchen was cleaned up from breakfast she and I started in on the cookies. Nothing out of the ordinary there. She just made standard cookies but dang, they were good. She always made Tollhouse for Daddy since they were his favorite and oatmeal raisin for me. Those weren't unique to Christmas though. She would make those periodically throughout the year as well. We had Christmas cookie cutters though and she made cookies that we cut out and decorated. There were trees, Santas, bells, angels and stars. It was my job to do the sifting when she was mixing them up. After she would roll the dough out it was my job to cut them out. I remember I always tried to use every inch of the dough from each rolling by fitting the different shapes together like a puzzle. Weird, I know, but it was fun. After they cooled we would frost them and put sprinkles on them to fancy them up. My personal favorites though were her raisin-filled cookies. They only appeared at Christmastime. She used the same dough as for the ones we decorated but they were cut into circles. Then she would put this delicious raisin-filling on them and fold them over. They were DELICIOUS. I can taste them just thinking about them.

Throughout the Christmas season we would have people in our house a lot because my mother was in a bridge club and her hosting night was always the first Thursday in December. She was also in a teacher's sorority and a university women's group and they both had progressive Christmas dinners during December and our house was always one of the stops on the route. I was allowed to answer the door to let the ladies in and then I was banished. I always sat in the dark at the end of the hall by my room where they couldn't see me and listened though. Daddy retired to the back room and never appeared until they left. He hated having those get-togethers at our house because of the smoke. He never did smoke and Mama had long since quit by then (officially) so he wasn't too wild about it. After they left he would open all the windows and complain for at least two days that the place stunk to high heaven.

As far as Christmas itself went, there were always lots of presents under our tree. Most of them were nothing major but Mama was from a large family so she liked to see lots of gifts under the tree. We would do funny things to make it seem like there were more gifts than there were. For example, one year she got Daddy a pair of dress shoes and a pair of sneakers. She wrapped each shoe separately in different wrapping paper so it was like four gifts under there. Stuff like that. It was also a tradition that I got one gift on Christmas Eve. I usually spent Christmas Eve in my parents' bed since I was generally sick as a dog that day. My gift was almost always a brand new flannel nightgown that my mother had made for me. I loved them. They were floor-length with long sleeves (think Little House on the Prairie) and I could wrap myself in them completely and be so comfy. The year I was 8 I got a really special Christmas Eve gift though. I was especially sick that year and old enough that I felt bad to be sick on a holiday so they gave me something really special and it made me feel a lot better. It was a beautiful Madame Alexander baby doll that I had fallen in love with at Steinfeld's. I was never much one for dolls but she was just so beautiful and I would stand there and stare and stare at her in the store. She was on a high shelf and I knew better than to reach up and touch her but she was just gorgeous. On Christmas Eve she appeared on the bed. I named her Charlotte Anne. She actually already had a name but I didn't know that and I would have never called her "Pussy Cat" anyway as that is a silly name. I was so surprised and so happy. I also got a new nightgown as well and Charlotte Anne and I curled up together in their bed and slept really well.

This is not actually my doll. Mine had a blue gingham dress and blue ribbons in her hair. She wore the same booties though. When I turned her over she said, "Mama." I loved her to pieces.
On Christmas morning we had stockings on Mama and Daddy's bed first thing. Then we had breakfast. That was always the same. Mama had a giant electric skillet that she would use and she would make us scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hashed browns and toast. After the kitchen was cleaned up we went to the living room for presents. I dressed up as Santa and handed out the presents. After they were all handed out we would open them one by one. Sometimes we would go round-robin and sometimes we would have one person open all theirs and then the next person. Just depended on the mood we were in. However we did it, there was no wrapping paper clean-up to be done afterward as Daddy came armed with a garbage bag and as each present was opened the wrapping was handed to him to be disposed of. Bows were attached to him so he wound up looking like a giant present by the time we were done. Unfortunately we never got a picture of that.  I'm not sure what Christmas dinner was. It might have been turkey or it might have been ham. I honestly can't remember. For some reason it just doesn't stand out in my mind. While we were cleaning up after the meal Daddy would go out to the shed and bring in the boxes. When we finished in the kitchen he'd say, "Okay, gorillas, time to get to work" and we'd reverse the process from the day after Thanksgiving. By nightfall our house was 100% back to normal. That is a tradition that we have continued in our house.

If anyone actually made it this far, I hope you enjoyed reading about Christmas in the corner of the world where I grew up. I hope you have wonderful Christmas memories from your corner as well.

Merry Christmas to everybody!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I suppose I really should write on here more often as it's been a solid month. Maybe I should make that a New Year's resolution, even though I don't make New Year's resolutions. First time for everything. *grin*

Not a whole lot has been happening here really. I've just been enjoying life. I have a friend living downstairs now and our sons have become friends as well so that is VERY nice. We also have other new neighbors as well and they are friendly too. Our little corner of the world has gone from being rather lonely to being almost like a little piece of paradise. It's very nice.

The boys are out of school until January 3 and they have been together a lot. It's nice to have them running in and out. I can't begin to explain how nice it is when your son's friend lives actually in the same house with you. It is so convenient. They can just run upstairs or downstairs if one of them forgot something or whatever. And it definitely makes delivery and retrieval easier. :)

Speaking of Sean, we got his school report in the mail yesterday and he did well. He got A in Math, C in Science and B in Humanities, Guitars and Media Arts. The Science and Guitars grades were pulled up from D's a month ago. We're extremely pleased with how well he's doing in school. He has decided he wishes to stay in Guitars. He had wanted to get out of it for the second semester but I think it's finally starting to click so he's decided to stay. I doubt he'll ever bring his guitar home and actually practice it but that's his choice.

In other news, John is still fighting this head cold/allergies/whatever-the-heck-it-is that he's been fighting since mid-November. He had a course of antibiotics that started on his birthday and it seemed like he was just getting over it. On Thanksgiving he had maybe a day and a half of them left and it suddenly hit him worse. He's just up and down with it and it's really wrecked his sleep cycle which is crazy anyway since he works the overnight. He seems to be doing a bit better right now so hopefully he won't relapse tonight with the start of his work-week.

You're probably wondering why I haven't said anything about what we're doing for Christmas. That's because we don't really do much. Sean put our tree up a few weeks back and also put out our mangers. As far as gifts, this is the year of the iPod touch so he is not getting anything else--well, he's getting a new toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste in his stocking, but nothing else, major or minor, under the tree. We don't do Christmas baking either because he doesn't eat that type of cookies so it's pretty much a waste of energy to even try to get him interested in it. We pretty much just pass the month of December as though it were any other with the exception of the fact that we go out at least once to drive around and see the lights. We also like to go to the mall at least once to watch the frenzied people bumping into one another. We opted out of the frenzy in 1992 and haven't regretted it for a minute. I know people think we're nuts but truthfully we've been much happier since then. We just make sure Sean has his gifts and that is that. I do not judge others for how they spend the month of December but it completely confuses me to hear people complaining about all the stuff they HAVE to do and all the gifts they HAVE to get. If it makes them so frustrated and stressed and unhappy, why continue to do it year after year? People don't care about the stuff. What they want is YOU. Spend time with them or give them a call if they're not nearby. Of course, there is the chance I just don't understand this and people LIKE to make themselves feel this way so they have something to complain about. Me, personally, life's too short. Live in the minute and enjoy it with the ones you love. After all, isn't that what it's all about? To quote Burton Hillis: "The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in one another."

Merry Christmas from our corner of the world to yours. Smile and enjoy your day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

60 Years

November 21, 1951. The day my parents married. It was an interesting day from all the accounts I've heard of it. They married in the Methodist Church (father's religion) in Wattsburg, PA, and had their wedding dinner next door in the fellowship hall of the Presbyterian Church (mother's religion). These two churches looked basically identical except for the sign out front.

They chose this day because it was the day before Thanksgiving. My mother was a teacher and my father was doing his student-teaching. Therefore, they would have the next two days plus the weekend off for the holiday. So they worked all day and got married at 7pm. That in itself would make it an interesting day for me. I can't imagine working all day the day of my wedding. That, however, was just the beginning of a very interesting evening.

There was a blizzard that night and the minister who was marrying them lived in another town. He was worried about being able to make it home as the storm worsened. He basically bailed as soon as the service was over. It wasn't until the next day when my mother asked to see the license that they realized he hadn't signed it before he left so they weren't legally married yet. They were married in the eyes of God on November 21, 1951 but it wasn't legal in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania until November 26, 1951.

Another funny story from that night was Uncle Seth and the potatoes. He got caught by a mobile weigh station carrying about a half-ton overload. He had two choices: dump them and get to the wedding on time but probably get fired by the farmer he was driving for OR stand out there and try to sell about a half ton of potatoes by the side of the road. He chose the latter. He didn't make it to the wedding but he made it to the dinner. Not sure if he managed to sell all the potatoes or not but I do know that later when he had his own farm he and the farmer he had been working for opened a potato chip factory together so it must have had a favorable outcome.

The funniest story I've heard from that day was told to me by my cousin, Ronald. He was considered by my father as his baby brother rather than his nephew--I didn't even know he was actually my cousin until I was about 10 or 11. So here's the wedding day story. I'm not sure how old Ronald was at this time. I'm guessing he was maybe 11 or so. After the wedding dinner when my parents were getting ready to leave on their honeymoon he threw a royal fit and insisted that he was going with them. He was afraid that my father would never come back because the last time he had left he went to fight in Korea and was gone for a year. Ronald didn't want to take any chances on his big brother disappearing again. Nobody could get him to stop. His mother couldn't, my grandmother couldn't, my father couldn't. So, Ronald and my grandmother wound up climbing in the car with them and going with them to the hotel where they spent the first night of their honeymoon. He told me that he wouldn't even stay in a separate room from them. So their first night married was spent with mother and younger brother in the same room. The next day my uncle picked them up and my parents continued on their honeymoon. I truly can't imagine Ronald pulling something like that because he is so calm and laid-back but he told me that's what happened and I have no reason to doubt him.

The saddest thing about this day that I've heard was from my mother. She got scared in the bride's room and told her father she couldn't go through with it. She was 24 and she was used to being alone and she didn't think she could handle it. He told her she wasn't going to shame the family by standing her groom up at the altar and led her out there and marched her down the aisle. Of course, it turned out well but it could have been a disaster.

They were married just a few weeks shy of 54 years when my mother passed away six years ago. They had their ups and downs like most couples do but I think for the most part it was good. I know that I, for one, am extremely glad that my grandfather marched her down the aisle when she was having her doubts because if he hadn't done that I wouldn't be here.

Happy Anniversary, Mama and Daddy! I hope you're having a nice celebration today. I'll be thinking of you. I do that every day but today I will be remembering it as your special day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

There Truly Are Angels Among Us

Sean's birthday is coming up on the 23rd. We decided to celebrate it early tonight since tomorrow is payday and the money usually goes in early and can be accessed by 7PM. We waited until 7 and headed over to Toys 'R' Us to get the things that were on hold for him. They went in and I waited in the car since my face was hurting really badly and I wanted to relax a bit. They were gone for awhile and then my phone rang. It was John and he said the card had been declined so he couldn't get Sean's stuff. I heard him asking the lady to put the stuff back on hold until tomorrow but, amazingly enough, I didn't hear Sean in the background. They came back outside a few minutes later and Sean got in the car. He was disappointed but not acting how he acts. John said he was going to call the bank and was standing behind the car talking to the man on the phone. I was sitting in the car but had the door open so I could hear what he was saying. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a woman walked up to me. She was well-dressed but I was fully expecting her to ask for something. Instead she said to me, "Excuse me but I was behind your husband and son in the store. I felt so bad when he couldn't get his stuff. Would you let me purchase it for you?" I just sat there with my mouth gaping open like some sort of goof. John told the man on the phone that he would call back and came over to talk to her. She explained that she had been behind them and felt so bad, especially because the boy took it so well. She said she had stopped into the store on a whim to pick up a gift for her granddaughter. After John left the counter and went to get Sean she had gone to look for them and her heart sank when she couldn't find them. Then she saw John standing by the car and came over to us.  By this time Sean was looking at me with a "what's going on here" look on his face. John told her it was $80 and asked her if she would give us her name and address so we could return the money to her and she refused. Sean got out of the car and John told him it was okay to give the lady a hug since she was buying his gifts for him out of the kindness of her heart. John asked her if the Lord was directing her to do this and she said she thought so. She finally told us her name, but just her first name, Dolores, and that she goes to Pantano Christian Church. We all walked into the store. I couldn't even talk yet because I was about to burst into tears. While we were standing at the courtesy counter waiting for the girl to wait on us I said to Sean, "Take a good look at this lady, Sean. You are looking at an angel." She smiled and said, "Thank you." After the purchase was made she handed Sean the bag and told him, "Happy Birthday" and we all walked out of the store.

Here is the strangest part and the reason why we truly believe this woman was an angel. John took her hand and he said that it felt like there was very little bone structure in it and Sean said that when he hugged her she just felt soft, not bony like I do--and, trust me, she was not as heavy as I am by any stretch. Also she did not come out from the store because I was looking in that direction and nobody came out. She just suddenly appeared about 10-15 feet away from our car. It wasn't like POOF!! or anything, just suddenly there was a woman walking toward the car. We watched to see where she went when we separated and she walked in the direction of a silver SUV but then when it pulled out there was only a man in it and she was nowhere to be seen in the lot and there were no other cars with people in them. Also, she was NOT carrying a bag with the gift she had supposedly stopped there to buy. And the number one reason: There was NO ONE behind them in the store. They were the only people in the line. The whole thing was very strange to us. 

Sean has always had a strong connection to the angels. I asked him if he thought she was one and he said yes. For some reason the veil didn't drop over him until he was almost four (probably because he didn't talk) so until a couple of years ago he still had vague memories of actually seeing angels. We're thinking that maybe his Uncle Peter sent her to give Sean one last birthday because every year he sent Sean at least that amount of money to go to Toys 'R' Us and get whatever he wanted. Whatever the case may be I choose to believe that she was an angel sent to us.

So that is what is going on in our corner of the world. I hope things are going well in your corner of the world and that you are all as blessed by the angels as we have been over the years.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I'm Really Still Here

I really haven't dropped off the face of the earth. Truly! I'm still here. Not much has been going on and I just haven't felt like writing much. I probably better put something on here though or people will start to think I'm gone.

Just a quick update as to what we've been up to:
  • Sean got his report card in October. He did fine. He got an A in Math, C in Science, B in Guitars and Media Arts and P in Humanities. They didn't have a teacher in Humanities so they just did pass/fail since they only had substitutes for a couple of weeks and then had no Humanities class at all for the majority of the quarter.
  • Sean's friend Lawrence had his annual Halloween get-together on October 29. The kids are all in different schools now so they had great fun getting together. There were two new kids there from L's new school. None of us were too impressed with them and I was WAY less than impressed with their mother. 
  • John has a mild case of the crud. He's been coughing for a couple of weeks but he seems to be getting over it. Nothing that's kept him down. He's been able to work through it so that's good.
  • It has finally turned cold here. We have had a little bit of rain and are supposed to get more tonight and tomorrow. They finally turned on the heat in the apartments the other day. We were all very excited for that.
  • We're all looking forward to Thanksgiving. We've been invited downstairs to Thanksgiving dinner with the family who lives downstairs. It will be us, the three of them and his mother will be coming over as well. We've been trying to get the boys together but they're both a bit shy about it. We got them together the other night on the balcony and they had a good time though. I think Sean was nervous to talk to Ray because he's in 8th grade and Sean's just in 6th. He found out that Ray is only 11 months older than him though and that they like many of the same things. We had been telling him but you know how it is, you can lead the horse to water but you can't make him drink.
  • As far as me, nothing new or special going on. Just the usual.
That's about all that's going on in our corner of the world. I hope all is going well in everybody else's corner of the world as well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Curious Who's Visiting Me

A couple of weeks ago I got one of those Feedjit widget things that tracks when and from where there are visitors to the blog. It's interesting to watch. I don't have a lot of traffic, which I knew, but I am curious as to who some of the visitors are. I know who is visiting from RI--Hello, Karen; from Seoul--Hello, Carolyne; from the Phillipines--Hello, Rovie; from Kentucky, Hello, Uncle Al; from Washington, Hello, Mel and Josh and from FL, Hello, Katie. There are a couple that have me wondering though. Albuquerque, NM, is one. There are several people I know in NM but I am curious as to who it might be. Please check in and let me know. You're a regular visitor and it would be nice to know which of the NM people I know is stopping in. Another place that has shown up once or twice is Latrobe, PA. I have relatives in PA but as far as I know, nobody in the Latrobe area. If you see this, please check in and let me know who you are. I'd love to know if I have cousins stopping in. It would make me very happy--and VERY surprised.

Nothing of note going on in our corner of the world, other than curiosity as to who is visiting here. I hope everyone is having a nice week in their corner of the world.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Little Update From Our Corner Of The World

I thought this week might be one of those long weeks but it turned out not to be. Sean was out of school at 12:30 instead of 3:45 Wednesday-Friday as it was parent-teacher conference week in our district. We didn't have to go to a conference this year. That is a change from elementary school when they pretty much insist that you go to the fall conference and then the spring one is only if your child is having problems. So we've gone from parent-teacher conferences coupled with IEP meetings to plain parent-teacher conference with no IEP last year to nothing this year. Quite a change. He did bring home a progress report from his science class which indicated that he is getting 102.75%. He was so beyond proud to show it to us. I had to sign it so he could take it back to Teacher. I could tell he didn't want to part with it though.

We had quite a bit of rain this week which was nice for a change. Unfortunately, our roof leaks which isn't a good thing obviously. It wasn't too bad though, other than the fact that I had to pull Sean's bed further out from the wall than it already sits because the roof has sprung a new leak over the foot of his bed. John called and got our name added to the list of houses in here that need new roofs. It is beyond patching. That only sort of worked when it was on the edges but it only worked through one or maybe two good rainstorms. Sean was very pleased with all the rain because they are studying weather in science and they use Accu-Weather from the computer and he was very pleased that it was right most of the time. It annoys him no end when the weather report is wrong. He is of the opinion that all they need to do is step outside and they could predict it much better than they do. I suppose he has a point.

Made a new friend this week. My downstairs neighbor. She is very nice. We've been chatting a lot the last couple of days. She has a son who is just a year older than Sean but he's two years ahead in school. He goes to a different school though. The boys haven't met yet but they would probably get along really well because they like a lot of the same things. They're both shy when it comes to going out and meeting new people though. They have just immigrated here from Canada. It is so nice having somebody living around here to talk to. It is also nice to have people living downstairs who are not constantly fighting and who know how to close a door without slamming it.

Sean is having a hang-out with his best friend, Lawrence tomorrow. They go to different schools now so they don't get to see each other that often anymore since L lives pretty far from us. They usually talk on the phone either on Friday or Saturday nights, sometimes for over two hours. Those two are such chatterboxes. Tonight Sean called him and they only talked for about an hour since they decided to get together tomorrow. I'm glad they have kept up the friendship. Sean has some friends at school and there is one boy in particular that he usually meets in the morning and they talk at lunch as well but he says it's just not the same. I fully understand what he means since my best friend moved away when I was in 4th grade and she was in 5th. I've never had another friend like her again and that's been almost 40 years.

That's about it for what's going on in our corner of the world. I hope all is well in everybody else's corners. Have a great weekend and a good week to come. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years...Wow!

Wow! Hard to believe it's already been ten years since the tragedy of 9/11/2001. I probably shouldn't share what we did on that day because I'll be opening myself up for attack for being an insensitive person, however........I'm gonna do it anyway.

I would normally have been at work in the mailroom at Mileage Plus which is United Airlines frequent flyer program. However, I had quit on 8/29 so I was at home. It was early in the morning, around 6:30 or so. Sean was just a little guy then, about 21 months old. He was watching Bear In The Big Blue House. John was inside with him and I was outside on the porch indulging in my nasty habit. At about 6:45 our neighbor's 12-year old son came running over to our house hollaring, "My mom says to put your TV on CNN!! A plane crashed into the Pentagon!" At that time we thought it was an accident. While he was there with us we saw the planes hit the WTC. He stayed there for quite awhile and we all sat there watching in awe and shock. He stayed until he had to leave for school. We sat there watching and we saw the towers fall. All of this was undertaken while listening to Sean throw a fit because we had changed the TV from Bear. He was not a happy camper. He wasn't talking yet but he was definitely making his displeasure known with lots of foot-stomping, flapping and yelling. Eventually we gave in and switched it back for him. Of course, he was mad because Bear was long since over but he got over it. We sort of felt bad about changing the channel back but on the other hand they were just showing the same footage over and over by that point.

This is the part where I'm probably going to come under fire but I can't help it. We were sitting out on the porch talking while Sean was watching his show. We had been discussing trading our car in on something larger because the Escort we were driving was quite crowded when we carried my folks or John's mom with us and was even worse when our dog Betty accompanied us with them in the car. So we wanted something larger. Yes, folks, we went car-shopping on 9/11. There was nobody at the dealership and they treated us like royalty. It was one of the best car-buying experiences we have ever had. We bought a 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis. She was a wonderful car. We named her Betsy and she was a part of our family until 2009 at which point we had to let her go because she could no longer pass emissions. Not to mention that she needed new oxygen-sensors and the back passenger-side window wouldn't stay up anymore and I had to put packaging tape on it to keep it from falling and if I forgot to replace it quickly enough when it started drying out in the sun it would fall down again. (Notice I said packaging tape not duct tape--less obvious. LOL)

Just because we went car-shopping doesn't mean we didn't care. We did/do care. It's just that us sitting there watching the same footage over and over wasn't going to accomplish anything beyond getting Sean into a full-blown berserk and that wasn't productive for anybody. So we figured we might as well go ahead and do something we had been wanting to do anyway. And, yes, I admit we figured it would be a good day to go car-shopping since most people would probably feel compelled to be sitting at home glued to the TV and we were right. Life did go on that day regardless of what the terrorists wanted to happen. My cousin's granddaughter was born that day so not only did life go on, for some people it began.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

One of the reasons I enjoy blogging is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and enjoy a window into the lives of other people. It is amazing how we can make a connection even though we have never actually met or even spoken to one another. One of those people is Rovie, the lady who writes Anything About Bella. 

Rovie just awarded me a Liebster Blog Award. I have never received anything like this before. Thank you so much, Rovie!

Liebster is a German word which means favorite or beloved. The recipient of this award should link back to the one who gave it to her and pass it along to 5 bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

My Liebster Blog Awardees are:

Carolyne of Asia Vu

Tina of Allyn's Alley 

Rovie, I had to give you one for the blog that led me to your blogs. Thank you so much for the award.

Thank you to all my blogging friends for sharing your lives and your friendship with me and with others. Keep on blogging!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Open House

Hard to believe it's already Open House time. When John and I were in school they didn't have Open House until October. I remember that clearly because I remember making black cats and Jack-O-Lanterns to decorate the classroom for it. That being said, Sean's school is actually one of the last to have theirs.

I think I've mentioned before that he goes to a fine arts magnet school. His school is in Las Vistas (or The Vistas as us gringos call the neighborhood *grin*) and it is the pride of the neighborhood. The people who live there are very happy that their children are now allowed to go there without waiting to get a lottery spot since the de-seg order on our district has finally been lifted. They make a big deal of the Open House there and when we got there it was unbelievable the number of cars. They set it up by academy to help with congestion but it didn't help much. Sean is in the Blue Academy and they were last at 7:20. We finally got to see the auditorium. It is very nice. It seats 400 and is very professional. Sean says his friend Nathan is in drama and he said they get to go up on the catwalk to learn to work the spotlights and everything. (In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm quite impressed by this school. It is fancier than any school I've been in, much less attended.) It's very strange going to this school after him being at Corbett for so many years. It was like a second home to us since John had worked as a monitor there for several years as well. We knew all the teachers and most of the students in the higher grades. Here we know absolutely NOBODY. Until last night the only two people we would have even recognized were his guitar teacher, his science teacher and the attendance clerk and out of the context of the school his science teacher is probably the only one I would have recognized. Now I am at least familiar with who some of the faces are.

When we first arrived there was a big crowd in front of the gallery that's next to the auditorium. When we got closer we realized that it was because the students from one of the dance classes were performing. After they were finished a group of kids from drama stood on the stage by the gallery to make an announcement about shutting off phones and proper etiquette in the auditorium. It was really funny the way they did it. At the beginning of the presentation in the auditorium some of the students from the advanced band performed. I don't think it was the full band because it was a fairly small group. I wish I knew what they were playing. We recognized it but we couldn't put a name to it. They are good though. That giant bass drum really sounds good in there with the acoustics too and I was incredibly impressed with the girl playing snare. She was holding them together really well without any direction from Teacher at all. I am still trying to figure out why the baritone player was carrying his backpack though. LOL I had to laugh at Sean when the principal stood up to talk. She spoke and then she handed the microphone to Miss Lisa because she doesn't speak Spanish. Sean turned to me and said, "She's translating, Mom." Yeah, I kinda figured that one out, son. Sometimes he's a great master of the obvious.

After they finished we went down to the classrooms. Sean wanted to show us all of his work that's in the hallways. He has been very secretive about a science project he worked on with his friend and seatmate David. I knew it was something made of clay because he let slip the other day that he was upset that Jose had kept taking their clay even after Teacher told him to stop. (Jose isn't normally in their class but the class was double that day because there was no humanities teacher that day so they had to double up the students and extend the science and math to make up the extra time.) Anyway, the project was a model of neurons made out of clay. I am not a scientific person so I don't know how accurate it was. To me it looked like fireworks on the end of a chain so if that's what neurons look like then they did a good job. He also showed us a beautiful picture he took of a flower in the garden in media arts class. He did a wonderful job on it. It looked like something you would find on the internet. It was perfectly centered and everything and he wrote the description next to it. Then there were several displays for the math class. One was a math autobiography that they had to write and it was mounted on construction paper with a picture of themselves and another sheet which had information about themselves--how far they live from school, how long is their foot, how wide is their arm-span, how tall are they, all measurement stuff. There was also a graph of number of pets each student has but the 3rd period graphs didn't get posted in the hallway. We saw it when we went in to talk to Teacher though. And then there was the personal shield they had to make in science class. He had to bring that one home to re-do it as I mentioned in my previous post. He wound up making two because after he finished the first one he got worried that he hadn't done it right. When he took them to school Teacher had the class vote to decide which one to put in the display. He didn't tell us this but she liked the other one so much that she kept it for herself and hung it up on the wall by her desk. We introduced ourselves and talked to her a little bit. She's very nice but she is very demanding which is a good thing. She told us that she doesn't expect perfection but that she expects everyone to do their best. I explained to her that with Sean there is an issue with time which she has probably already noticed. She nodded and I explained to her that it is possible to get fast OR it is possible to get neat but not necessarily at the same time although that is dramatically improving as he gets older. She understood and explained that the way they do most of the work in all of the core classes it will probably not be too much of an issue. He showed us the humanities room and the pyramids that he drew when he was studying Egypt. No teacher there since they don't have one, just a sign explaining that they are in the process of recruiting a teacher. Then we spoke to the math teacher. She is very nice and says Sean is doing quite well in math. That is a relief as he sometimes has issues with that. I put my email down on the sign-in sheet and told her that if he starts to have problems to please email me since he will never tell me. He's rapidly reaching the point where I can't help him much but we have the internet and since their school had low math scores on AIMS last year and is under a re-structure because of it they also offer free tutoring. Hopefully that won't be necessary though. By the time we finished talking to her it was a little after 8pm and everything was closing up. We didn't get to meet his media arts teacher. We had seen her in the hallway earlier and he said hello but, in typical Sean fashion, didn't bother to stop her and say he wanted to introduce his parents to her. He was disappointed that he wasn't able to show us the room though because it is all set up with the Macs now and when we saw it before school started there was nothing in it at all.

After we left the school it was like the Rapture had happened and we missed it. When we got there there were so many cars in the street it was unbelievable and we were just lucky to get the one space in the lot that opened up as somebody was leaving. When we got out there were absolutely NO cars on the street and ours was the only one in the lot. It was eerie.

We didn't feel like heading home so we decided to go to 7-Elephants (as 7-11 is called in our house) and get Slurpees. At that time of night it is doubtful to be able to find a working Slurpee machine as that is their defrost time but we managed to find one at the third store on the route. Then we took a quick run to Bookman's as Sean wanted to look around. I didn't go in with them as I generally avoid that place like the plague, especially at night, as it has a tendency to make me sick. They had a good time though. They felt compelled to take the sign from one of the displays up to the counter and give it to the clerk though. Apparently the sign was in there last time and drove them nuts and they had expected it to be gone when they went in there but it wasn't. The sign said, "Super Heores." Nothing like paying attention to what you write when you're making display signs.

All in all it was a fun evening. Now we are getting ready to start the long Labor Day weekend. It got off to a very rocky start this morning but it seems to be improving. That's about it in our corner of the world. I hope you are all having a great weekend in yours.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Starting The 3rd Week

I didn't realize it had been quite so long since I've written on here. It's hard to believe but the third week of school starts tomorrow. So far it is going pretty well. There has been only one bad day with regard to schoolwork and one bad lunch day since it got straightened out after the first one.

He really likes his teachers and his classes. He's broken-hearted because Friday was the last day for the teacher who was filling in for humanities. He really liked her a lot. He is hoping that the new teacher misses some time during the school year because she said that she would be the substitute if the new teacher ever missed. I hope he likes the new teacher too. His guitar teacher is still his favorite though. I think it has a lot to do with the superhero ties that he wears. He wasn't too sure how well he was going to like media arts but he likes it quite a bit. He's paired with an 8th-grader and they do their activities together. He was impressed when the boy let him use the camera--the BIG camera--by himself. He has figured out that there is no reason to be afraid of the 7th and 8th graders. He is so funny. He said to me, "Mom, some of those 8th-graders look like real people." I told him he was a real person too and he said, "No, you don't understand. One of the 8th graders in my media arts class has a MUSTACHE." He's too funny.

He hasn't had too much homework yet. Mostly he's just had a little bit of math. He also had one classroom assignment from science that he had to re-do--that was the bad day with regard to schoolwork. This weekend he had to take notes on Hurricane Irene for science class tomorrow. I've been reminding him to do it and he kept putting it off and telling me he would do it tonight. After the third time I told him he needed to do it before it got too late I told him that I wasn't reminding him again and left it at that. When John came outside after his shower he asked me if I had told Sean to do his homework. I told him I wasn't telling him again and he said I wouldn't have to because he was sprawled on the floor doing it. I'm not sure what inspired him but I'm glad it did. Now I just need to get him to write his name on it. Would somebody please tell me why it is so difficult to get him to sign his name to his schoolwork? My guess is that the first time Teacher throws his work away for not having a name and he gets a zero he'll get the clue that it's not that hard to do.

Funny story: The other day I asked Sean something about media arts and I started out, "What did Teacher say about......" He interrupted me and said, "She doesn't like to be called Teacher. She told us not to call her that." I laughed and he asked me why. I told him that she better get used to being called Miss then if she doesn't like being called Teacher. He burst into laughter and asked me how I knew because that was what most of the kids were calling her now. He forgot that I worked at the elementary school across the street for a year and a bit so I was quite used to being called Miss by some of those very same kids.

On a happy note, he is starting to make a few friends. He has one friend from guitar class that he eats lunch with and goes out to the playground with every day and there are a couple of the boys in his core classes that he talks with sometimes. They are all in the same academy even though they don't all have the same electives. I don't know if they will remain in blue academy all the way through 8th grade or how that works though.

Oh, and Open House is this Thursday. Blue academy is the latest one but that's okay. John is off on Thursdays now so we don't have to take the bus or miss it. I'm looking forward to it because we will get to see some of their schoolwork and we will also get to see the auditorium.

I'm glad to know that all of my friends in the path of Hurricane Irene seem to have come through safely. I would also like to add that they can feel free to send any extra rain our way as we are officially in a drought since we only got a little over 2 inches of rain during monsoon this year instead of the 4+ that we're supposed to get.

Not much else going on in our corner of the world. I hope all is well in everyone else's corner.

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Day Survived!

The first day of middle school has come and gone. He survived it. We actually got out the door on time without any trauma this morning and trust me, that is a blessing in and of itself around here. He even let me take a picture of him using his 3DS before we left. It's not the best quality but at least we have one. We made it to the school with no problems. No train. No crazy traffic. Kind of scary, actually.

When we got there we parked across the street and walked him in. We wanted to make sure he got into his first class with no difficulties. We met his first hour teacher briefly. She's very nice. Sean said she's his second-favorite teacher after his guitar teacher. She is from Germany and has a cool accent. Sean said she's very understanding about it and will slow down if the children are having trouble with it. It's not that strong of an accent but many of the children are not native English speakers and Sean has trouble with accents because of his speech issues. Evidently the two go hand-in-glove. He has a little bit of trouble saying her name but I told him if she says anything about that he needs to let her know why and that he is trying to say it correctly. Science is his first class. He sits at a table with 3 girls. He said he will probably get along well with at least two of them since they also like Wipeout.

After science he has humanities. Not much to say about that one as he didn't have much to say about it. The teacher he was originally assigned is not there as she had a baby and is taking this year off. He has a substitute and there is another lady in there as well. He has no clue what either lady's name is. He says they didn't say. I think he must have missed it because I can't imagine teachers not announcing their names but maybe they didn't.

Then it was time for lunch. He starved, but he's still alive to tell the tale. I had advice from some seasoned mothers of middle-schoolers to send him with lunch, however, he resisted so....he went without one. He stood in the line until it was his turn to enter his number into the machine (don't ask, I have no clue). He entered it and it didn't work. He entered it again and it still didn't work. They wrote his number on a post-it and told him to stand in the line. He stood there for almost the whole half hour. Finally got his lunch and took one bite and they got cleared out. On the upside, he put the time in line to good use and now knows his matric number by heart. That's pretty much the only bad part of the day at school.

After lunch he had math. He said it wasn't too bad. They did 5 problems--an addition, a subtraction, a multiplication and two division. He only had to fix one of the division problems when they went over them. We figure that's pretty good--80%. He said his teacher in there seems pretty nice also.

That was it for his core subjects and then he had his two electives--guitar and media arts. He said he was a little nervous about them going in because there are 7th and 8th graders in them as well but that it seems to be okay. He had already met the guitar teacher the other day as I related in my previous post. He said he was wearing a Wolverine tie today. He's a pretty cool teacher. He has all sorts of cool superhero posters up in his room and he also has two Cubs posters in there which went a long way with Dad. They will probably be getting their guitars on Wednesday.

His last subject of the day was media arts. He wasn't too sure about that one but the more he thinks about it the cooler he thinks it is. They do all the advertising for the school concerts, plays, dances, etc. They are also in charge of the yearbook. He was a little concerned because they use Macs in there and we are PC people in our house. We explained to him the reason for that with all the graphics and stuff they will be using. I asked him how close we were to getting the pronunciation of his teacher's name correct the other night and he said it for me. We were fairly close. He said she had a pronunciation key for it written on the board and she had them practice it a couple of times. I asked him if she was Italian and he said, "She grew up in Yuma. She spent 5 weeks in Italy this summer though." He is impressed with her. She showed them a few pictures from Rome and The Vatican. He is also impressed with the fact that this is her first year at Utterback and she is coming over from Pueblo High. His figuring is that if she is good enough to teach in high school for four years that she is more than qualified to teach in middle school. I'm not arguing with his logic. I hope he's right.

Today after school we met him by the Dasani machine in the main hall but after this we'll park across the street in the dirt lot. He no sooner got in the car but he told us that he had a list from his science teacher of supplies he needs. He was very pleased that many of them were things we had already packed for him and some of them we already had at home. We only had to buy a few things. We stopped at Walgreen's and picked them up. We didn't get him colored markers because he has some. However, when we went to get them tonight we found that they have joined the Green Lantern shirt on the missing list. So John will get him some after school tomorrow. No big deal. Tonight when he gave me the papers from guitar class to read and sign though, we found out that we have to buy clothes. Sean was extremely concerned about that, especially the fact that he needs another pair of shoes. He just about lost it over the shoes. I told him that we will get him his clothes before his first concert, no problem. He relaxed a little bit about it after that but I think it's still bothering him a little bit.

That's it for the school but we almost had major disaster shortly after we got home. I mentioned earlier that I had used his 3DS to take a picture of him. Well, I also took the SD card out of it to post the picture up on Facebook when John and I got home this morning. I put the SD card back afterward. I did it all just as Sean has taught me and thought nothing of it after doing it. I will not do such a thing again. John and I were sitting outside before he left for work and Sean came to the door with 3DS in hand. "Dad, Netflix isn't loading on my 3DS." Mom got worried. "NOTHING'S LOADING!!!! WHAT DID I DO?!" Bursts into tears. I ran in and threw my arms around him to calm him down. I told him that it was my fault because I took the SD card out to share his picture with everybody. He was frantic because: 1. That is how he gets, 2. He has a LOT of downloaded games on that card and 3. He was worn out from the day. I managed to get him to quiet down somewhat and had him take the SD card out and put it back in. Thank God it worked and everything loaded after that. I must not have had it seated correctly in there. I'm glad it worked because if it hadn't we would have had a miserable, horrible night around here.

That's it for the events in our corner of the world. I hope you are all having a good week so far. To those of you whose children have already started I hope it's going well and to those of you whose children have yet to start, I hope all goes well on their first day.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ready For School? Maybe

**Note: This was started Thursday when it actually occurred but I didn't finish writing it until now. It is now after midnight on Saturday, so it is technically Sunday and school starts tomorrow.**

School starts Monday. First year in middle school. SCARY!! For everybody. Nervous kid. Nervous parents. Until today.

We're a little less nervous now. We missed the Open House where we could have taken him over to the school to visit. It was the Friday before we left for California. Needless to say, our minds were not on school at that point. Not only that but we didn't think it was in July. We all seemed to remember that Miss Lisa said it was in August. Today was the second registration day so we decided to go over there even though he's already registered. We figured maybe we would be able to wander around a bit and, if we were lucky, find his rooms for him. SUCCESS!! They didn't seem to mind people wandering in the halls at all. All of his classrooms were closed except for the guitar classroom. We wandered in there and he met his teacher and we chatted a little bit. He seems very nice. He thought Sean looked familiar and it turns out he was on the first OMA team at Corbett 9 years ago which was before Sean was there. Very strange. There was another family in the guitar room when we first got there. We ran into them when we were in the other hallway and it turns out that the boy will be in Sean's guitar class. He seemed very nice. The boys compared schedules and that's the only class they have together. We also spoke to the lady in the cafeteria because the lunch menu is totally confusing to try to figure out. She was very nice and explained how it will work. Now if I can just correctly decipher what the main entree is for each day of the month so I know when to send him with lunch from home. She also told us that they get a half hour for lunch. She didn't know when he would have lunch because it varies by which academy they're in. So he'll have to wait until Monday to find that out.

As far as the school itself, Sean is very impressed. It's large. In truth, it's larger than any school I've ever been in and seems more like a high school to me than a middle school. It is a fine arts magnet so there is a 400-seat auditorium. Sean was incredibly impressed with the fact that the auditorium isn't the cafeteria. Sadly it was closed so we couldn't see it. He was also impressed with the fact that you don't have to walk outside to access the library. One of the things he was sad to be leaving was the mural on the wall outside Corbett and the eagles on the walls in the inside hall. (Don't ask me why they had eagles on the wall when they were the Cougars. LOL) Turns out he doesn't need to miss the murals at all. His new school is FULL of murals in the hallways which have been painted over time by the students. The most wonderful thing of all is that he is no longer concerned about being a Unicorn. The first thing he said when we pulled into the lot was, "Look! They changed the Unicorn on the wall." No, they didn't change the unicorn. He just had a false memory of it. I was teasing him a little bit that he could still call it a horned stallion as Lawrence suggested if he wanted to. All in all the school visit was a success. Here's hoping the school year itself will go as well.

After leaving the school things sort of went downhill a bit. We had to get him a new pair of shoes. This is much easier said than done as he has not been wearing closed-in shoes since school got out except for a couple of times. He is also extremely fussy about shoes. I think this is mostly because he is extremely ticklish. It also might be because he sees how difficult it is for John to find shoes and thinks that it is a lot harder than it actually is. Whatever the cause, it is difficult. Finally we were able to find him shoes that were acceptable to him--and they are velcro, which makes Mom very happy. However, he has yet to get the tension correct on them. They are probably a little wide for his feet but if he's happy with them, so be it. We also bought him a new shirt to wear the first day. It's just a plain blue t-shirt but it's what he wanted. Unbelievable that it's not green. It probably would have been if they had green in his size but it's nice to switch it up a little. We had to get him a new backpack as well since he doesn't have one that isn't in tatters. This one is actually a skater's backpack so it has some funky straps on it but he's happy with it. It's black and grey with bright green trim so it looks like something that could belong to Ben 10. He decided not to get a new lunchbox this year but just to recycle what he already has so that was good. Our purchases finished with 5 of Wal-Mart's 20¢ spirals and 5 folders. He already had a pencil case and pencils at home.

So today (Saturday) we got his backpack all ready for Monday. We put his name, class and room number in each notebook and folder. I was going to let him do it but he wanted me to because he likes how my writing looks. Now he has everything packed and ready to go. We just have to put his schedule in there as it had to dry. It somehow got wet on the table outside. Not quite sure how that happened. We also managed to decipher the menu, sort of, and figured out that Monday is the chicken patty sandwich that he likes and Tuesday is the hamburger that he likes. Wednesday and Friday are pizza and Thursday is some unforgettable nasty meal. So two days he can eat and the verdict is out on the pizza until he sees it. The menu repeats every week for about six weeks or so and then they change it up to replace the Thursday ickiness with hot dog for awhile. Very strange the way it's set up. The only things left to do to get him ready are to buy him a new Pink Pearl eraser (he likes them better than the pencil-top erasers) and to locate his Green Lantern shirt. Here we go again--don't ask me how a shirt can go missing in a 580 sq. ft. apartment but it has. Hopefully it gets located because if it doesn't it won't be in the rotation for the first week and I know he wants to wear it.

That's all that's going on in our corner of the world. I hope all is well in yours. Good luck with back to school for those of you dealing with it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Piece Of The Puzzle That Was My Daddy

Daddy (aged 4) and Old Shep
Night Terror

The fiery house lit up the night;
      The sky was ugly red.
The little children screamed with fright
      As from their home they fled.

Their father scurried here and there
     Some water to obtain;
Their mother wept in dire despair
     And called for help in vain.

The cattle stood beside the gate
     And gazed in placid wonder.
Across the sky the lightning leered its hate
     And was ranted at by thunder.

The flames spiraled up in mighty flight
     And smoke billowed high o'erhead.
Old Shep barked loud and then took flight;
     Out to the barn he fled.

The neighbors now arrived to stare,
     And then there came the rain.
The lightning exited in shame;
     Its antics seemed insane.

The house now lies in ashes white.
     An old landmark is dead.
Next week they'll build on this same site
     Another house instead.

by Millard B. Sargent

The house Daddy was born in. The barn is to the
right in the bottom photo.
I ran across this poem along with some others in the box of photos we recently had returned to us. This poem is a true story. I'm not sure how old Daddy was when it happened. I think it was around the time he had his picture taken with Old Shep. He only told me about it once in passing as though house fires caused by lightning were a normal, natural part of childhood. I knew better than to ask for details. He didn't talk much about his childhood. I do know that this was the first lightning tragedy his family suffered when he was young. He told me the second time they lost the cows. When that happened he was older and they moved to town for a year and a half but my grandfather couldn't stand living in town so they moved back to the country. By then he had trouble working even a half day and things were very hard for them. Daddy always felt that if he hadn't been born things would have been better because when he was about five he heard his father telling his mother that there were too many mouths to feed and since he was the youngest he thought his father was talking about him.

I've been in a blogging mood lately so I thought I'd share this with you all. Not much going on in our corner of the world. I hope all is well in yours.   

Friday, August 5, 2011

Times Have Really Changed

When we were kids things were really different than they are now. I'm referring to the boy-girl thing. At my elementary school we had two sets of everything--two swingsets, two merry-go-rounds, two sets of teeter-totters, two tunnels, even two trees. We were segregated, boys from girls. I don't know if this was a rule or if it was just a tradition. There were certain things on the playground that weren't. The bars were not and neither was the half-moon because there was only one of each of those. If we were playing a game as a group, which did happen sometimes, it was done in the open area of the playground. I think this changed later due to comments I've seen recently regarding activities in the tunnels over on the FB group from home. However, that doesn't have to do with this post.

All of this segregating of boys and girls didn't stop us from being together. I had my first "kiss" when I was 4 years old (prior to starting school) from the neighbor boy. His older brother, aged 9 or 10, found us and pulled us out of the bush and read us the riot act. He really put the fear of God into us. By the time we were in high school the object of my early affections was definitely on my radar and we were friends but he never asked me out. As adults I asked him about that and he said he was afraid his brother would come after him if he did. He was by no means my only early "boyfriend." By the time I was in 4th grade I had a boyfriend that I held hands with. Nobody thought anything of it. His mother still counts me as her son's first girlfriend. There were others after him who were just hand-holding, ride bikes together and sit in the cafeteria together boyfriends. The summer after 8th grade I briefly had a boyfriend from another town and we held hands, hugged and kissed. Nothing more than that. When I was a junior in high school I had my first "true" boyfriend, I suppose you would say. By this, I mean that we actually went on dates (as best you can in a town that literally has no place to go) and we spent time in each other's homes. He was pretty much a regular at our dinner table throughout my last two years of high school. Figured out later that he was a jerk and dumped him. Went out with some other guys while I was in college but none seriously. After moving to Tucson in 1987 I met John and we've been together ever since. I think that was pretty much a standard progression for most during the time we were growing up.

Fast forward to the present day and our son and girls. There is no segregation whatsoever on the playground. When he was younger he always had an entourage following him around. In 1st grade he met one little girl who he really liked and she liked him. They have continued to like each other all the way through 5th grade although not quite as much now as when they were younger. This last year there were a couple of girls in his class who really liked him and he found pretty but that was all there was to it. Things have changed so much that we have always cautioned him with regard to girls. We have instructed him that he is only to touch a girl if he is tapping her on the arm to get her attention or if he is instructed to for some activity in school. Other than that, it's completely hands off. Sean, being wired the way he is, has taken that to heart. He has never even tried to hold hands with a girl. Now we are reaching a point where hormones and past parental instruction are starting to clash and it is kind of funny--at the moment. Here's a story of what happened just recently to illustrate how funny this is. (Remember, folks, I'm the mother of a son. I have no daughters.)

Last Saturday Sean went over to his best friend's house for the day. A female friend of theirs was there as well. She has, shall we say, sprouted over the summer. Pretty hard to miss. All these years she has just been one of the group. It's possible that Lawrence has sort of fancied her as his girl but you would never know. As far as Sean was concerned, she was just a friend. However, after the hang-out on Saturday it is obvious that while emotionally he is NOWHERE near ready for this, his brain is telling him otherwise. I casually commented how pretty she looked and asked if he thought so too. He said, "Yes" and covered his head and refused to look at me. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he was embarrassed. I told him it was fine to think that she's pretty because, after all, she IS. He started talking about Bakugan.

Fast forward to Tuesday when he was out with John and the following conversation ensued (related to me later by John, unbeknownst to Sean):

Sean: R is really pretty, Dad.

Dad: That's what Mom was telling me.

Sean: Mom thought she was pretty too?

Dad: Of course, why wouldn't she?

Sean: Dad, she's got BOOBS. She didn't have those at school.

Dad: That happens to girls, son. She's becoming a woman. It's completely normal.

Sean: But she was my friend.

Dad: She still can be. Nothing has changed.

Sean: But Dad! She has BOOBS. I can't help but see them when I look at her.

Dad: Well, that's pretty much the way it works but it doesn't mean she's not still the same R you've always known.

Sean: But it's hard not to look at her differently. You and mom always taught me to treat girls with respect. Is it unrespectful if I can't help but look there?

Dad: Well, you can't be obvious about it. You can glance there and then look back up to her face. You talk to her eyes, not her chest.

Sean: Oh. Okay. What if I like her?

Dad: Does Lawrence like her?

Sean: I think so. He doesn't say.

Dad: Well, that's where you have to be careful. If Lawrence likes her and you like her there could be a problem. Especially if you invited her to a movie or something and he thinks that she's his girlfriend even though he's never asked her to be.

Sean: What kind of problem?

Dad: You could lose your friend because he thinks you stole his girl.

Sean: Oh. So we would have to do something all together and then she could choose which one of us she likes?

Dad: Maybe. Or she might meet somebody at her new school. (Side note: I spoke to R's mother and she's not interested in that yet. She's made several comments indicating that it's coming but mainly she just says she's still too young for that. LOL)

Sean: Well, whatever happens, she sure is pretty. Can I have cola with my lunch or is that too much caffeine?

And so ended the conversation. Everybody seems to be so worried about the current generation. I'm telling you that if this group is in any way indicative of the state of boy-girl relationships at age 11 there is nothing to worry about at all.

Oh, and if any of you think that I was a bad girl due to my early activities, let me take a second here to let you know that I was a "good girl" until I met John. This was probably due to the "sex talk" I was given by my mother. I will share it with you here. I think you'll enjoy it.

"You know how it works. If you choose to do it and think you're bringing a baby home for me to raise, think again. You have a baby before you're married, you're on your own." That was it, true story. I was 34 when my son was born. LOL

If anyone has any advice on navigating this crazy time with a boy, I'm all ears.

See, I promised the next post wouldn't have anything to do with bodily fluids. *grin*

Hope all is going well in everybody's corner of the world.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Good-Bye Nosebleeds (Hopefully)

Warning: Those who do not wish to read about my son's bodily fluids might wish to abstain from reading this post. 

Never had to put a warning on a post before but I thought it might be appropriate here since some people can get squeamish at the mere mention of blood or other bodily fluid. I'll try to keep it tasteful. However, there are only so many ways to describe this. That being said, here we go.

Since Sean was about 2 or 3 he has suffered from nosebleeds. We used to call them bloody noses but we were informed last year that "Miss Michelle says a nosebleed is one you just get and a bloody nose is one that is given to you." He had plenty of time to discuss it with her since it took over a half hour to stop that day, so nosebleeds they are. For those of you who think a nosebleed is no big deal, let me give you the scenario of what a bloody nose (before they were called nosebleeds) entailed in our house. When he was young it wasn't so bad because he didn't talk yet and therefore didn't place blame. He could, and did, screech and howl and shove our hands away when we tried to touch his face to help him. As he got older and started talking he began laying blame. I was not aware that I alone am the sole cause for nosebleeds on the face of the planet earth and it is completely and 100% my fault when they happen and that they don't stop instantly. I have been informed of this numerous times at high volume which probably did nothing to help said nosebleed as it most likely just upped his blood pressure (and didn't do mine much good, either). Luckily, most of this seemed to have been frustration and he got past that stage. Lately he has been taking care of them pretty much on his own but not without telling me first and wanting me there in the bathroom with him for moral support and as a clock-watcher to see how long it lasts. Well, except for the one time earlier this summer when he didn't alert me and I went in there after the fact and found what looked like a crime scene. There was blood EVERYWHERE.  We had a nice, friendly discussion about announcing nosebleeds so as not to cause Mom to have a heart attack. Any nosebleed longer than 5 minutes or so results in a crime scene in the bathroom but since the warning system is now in place my heart no longer stops when I see it. This is not something that happens only occasionally. They are at least 3 or more a week and sometimes 3 in one day. They can come anytime, anywhere, day or night. I have found him covered in blood in the bed. I have been awakened from a sound sleep at all hours of the night to the dreaded words, "Nosebleed, Mom. Hurry!" Extremely frustrating for all concerned because we knew it didn't have to be this way.

When he started having them we took him to his doctor who didn't seem to think there was anything to worry about. Just put vaseline in his nose and run a humidifier. He'll outgrow them. Okay. Sure. Nine years later we're wishing we owned stock in the Vaseline company. Have I mentioned that he didn't outgrow them and they got worse? Not a doctor's visit went by that we didn't mention these and ask if something could be done about them. We were told that nothing could be done unless/until he got one that wouldn't stop and then they would cauterize it. Visit after visit, year after year. Sean was getting so unhappy. This was really starting to affect his life. He would get them in school out of the blue and be embarrassed. Granted, he may have rubbed his nose but, c'mon, people rub their noses all the time and they don't start gushing blood all over the place. There is also another fun (not) aspect to this whole ordeal. Nosebleeds have a little-known side-effect. (Little-known unless you live with someone who has chronic gushers, that is.) Nosebleeds cause diarrhea. The stomach cannot digest blood and no matter what one does the blood gets into the stomach, particularly with the longer-than-15-minute ones. There are a few things that my son will not do and put his hand anywhere near diarrhea is one of them. So that means Mom not only is nosebleed assistant she is also diarrhea assistant on a regular basis.

Is everyone enjoying this post yet? Don't worry, it gets better. I promise.

Over the years he has done much requesting of us to GET THIS FIXED. He's even enlisted Hoof to help him. (Mr. Hoof, for the uninitiated, is a large stuffed pink pig who has been his companion since he was four. Mr. Hoof also is the owner of Hoof Studios and sometimes thinks he owns the world. *grin*) So Hoof has, on many occasions, told Nosebleeds to GO AWAY! He figured it worked (eventually) when he told Pneumonia to leave and never return so he tried it with the nosebleeds as well. Sadly, he was unsuccessful.

About a month ago Sean asked us if he could go to our doctor instead of to the doctor he's been seeing since birth. We couldn't switch him earlier for a number of reasons. However, at this time we were able to AND our doctor was accepting new patients. So we got an appointment for him two weeks ago. Sean was very happy because he was "going to a new doctor who isn't a new doctor because I already know him." First thing Sean asked about was the nosebleeds. Dr. Chris looked into his nose and said, "Yep, that vein is close to the surface. No wonder it's causing you problems. I'll get you a referral to the ENT across the hall." WHAT?!?! He doesn't have to wait until his nose won't stop bleeding?! We don't have to listen to the "he'll outgrow it" spiel? Wow! So after his appointment while I was taking care of stuff at the front desk he and John went across the hall and made the appointment for August 2.

The appointment went well once we got there. Sean had been up since 5:15 that morning because of--that's right, you guessed it--A NOSEBLEED. When the doctor came into the room the first thing he said to Sean was, "When was the last time you had a nosebleed?" "5:15 this morning, Sir." (Yes, my son says Sir.) Sean asked him about why he gets the nosebleeds and inquired if it was because of the heat. The doctor told him that Tucson is "the nosebleed capital of the world" because of the dust and dryness. He also asked us if we had spoken to a doctor about this before. We told him we had been for years and that he kept telling us that he would grow out of it. I loved the doctor's response. He's very dry and he just quietly said, "He would have been right eventually" with a tone that indicated any time between now and 100 years from now. Then he looked into Sean's nose with a special light affixed to his head sort of reminiscent of Jacques Cousteau. He turned to us and said, "Yes. He's got a spider-web in there and one vein is quite large. It needs to be fixed." He proceeded to stuff two cotton balls with anesthetic on them up Sean's left nostril and said he would be back in about 10 minutes. He returned and took a stick that looked like a matchstick with silver nitrate on the end of it and dabbed it over the area of the spiderweb and then stuffed two more cotton balls into his nose and said he would be back. Sean did really well through all of this. He only reached to grab the doc's arm once and John corrected him and he kept his hands down. I was glad because I was expecting to have to hold them. All the while with the cotton balls in his nose Sean is trying not to sneeze because it's burning a bit. He did fine until the doctor came back and then he sneezed. The doctor took the cotton balls out and showed us how it looked white over that area and said that a scab would form and it would be healed within a week but that there would be a bit of a scar there. All finished. Nosebleeds (hopefully) are history. Sean was extremely excited to share the news with Hoof and there was a celebration in the studio. It's been two days and he hasn't had one. He just has some itching in his nose because of the healing and he thinks he inhaled the scab. Other than that his nose is great. And guess what--no diarrhea this week either.

It's been a good week in our corner of the world. I hope it has been in yours as well and I promise my next blog post will not deal with bodily fluids.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Remembering The Good Times

Peter Gerald Mack, 1/26/1947-7/31/2011, RIP Beloved Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Uncle

As most of you know, my brother-in-law, Peter, passed away yesterday (7/31/2011). He was a young man, only 64 years old. I know some of you are saying, "64 is young? Hardly." Well, when you're looking at it from the vantage point of 46 years it's young because it's going to be here next month. That's the way life goes. When I first met him he was younger than I am now and that was just last month (1989) so by that reckoning I'll be 64 next month (2029) right?

With Peter's passing a cherished part of my life passes too. He was the last person who used my family nickname. Actually, his wife used it when I met her last week because that's all she's ever heard him refer to me as so I guess it isn't truly gone, now that I think about it. His use of my nickname was special to me because he was the only person besides my mother and my Noxon relatives who called me that. The first time he met me he asked me what name I went by and I told him it depended on who was talking to me. I explained it to him and he thought it was cool and told me that it fit me perfectly and he never called me anything else.

I've been thinking about him a lot lately, you wouldn't think, and the thing that keeps coming up in my thoughts is how he loved his family. I remember the Thanksgiving he put on in our single-wide many years ago--and I admit I wasn't that gracious about it at the time but he didn't seem to mind. He thought we needed a family Thanksgiving all together and so we had one. Then there was the Mother's Day when he showed up on Mom's doorstep totally unexpectedly. Not such a big deal, you say? He drove 600 miles overnight to be there to surprise her in the morning. Another memory that keeps coming to the fore is when he came out here after their mother passed away. He and John had planned to clean out their mother's apartment together while I stayed home with Sean, then aged 3. By the time John got over there at the appointed time he had the majority of it done so John didn't have to deal with it. Pretty much all that was left was a pile of "what should we do with this?" and furniture. He didn't do it to be the big man or to make John feel indebted to him. He did it because he wanted to spare his baby brother the grief of having to do it. Just recently he was so excited and proud that Sean got the lead in his class's portion of the 5th grade opera. He wanted so badly to see it the same way he had seen all of John's choir performances when he was in school. We feel so bad that we were unable to upload the performance from the disk and send it to him because it wouldn't work for some reason.

The other thing I remember about Pete was his laugh. When he and John were together they were always laughing. They have pretty much the exact same laugh. If only one of them was laughing I would have to look to see which one it was.

He wasn't a saint. None of us are. Over the years he and John had their disagreements as brothers will. They always got past it though and through it all they remained friends. That friendship and love totally overshadows anything else and it is with love and laughter that I remember Pete.

Give an extra hug or two today to those you love in your corner of the world. Time passes so quickly and you never know which hug will be the last.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home Is Where The Heart Is

As many of you know, we just returned from a whirlwind trip to southern California. It was very nice and also very strange at the same time. I guess maybe it's always that way when you go away from home.

First off, I would like to say that we love the San Diego area very much. It is the part of CA I have spent the most amount of time in. John has spent more time in the Ventura/Santa Barbara area as he lived in Ojai when he first got out of the Air Force. He is a bigger fan of the SD area though. :) We also liked San Francisco very much the one time we were there. The weather is wonderful at this time of year. So nice and cool. We actually brought our jackets with for the evening but we decided not to wear them because we were enjoying being a little chilly for a change. Sean was actually complaining that he was cold the whole time but then the first words out of his mouth at the rest area by El Centro were, "I wish we could go back to the cool in San Diego." LOL

I personally find the Sulphur Springs Valley to be the most beautiful place on the face of the earth. It is where I grew up. It is where my parents' ashes are scattered. In short, it is home and is beautiful to me. After that I believe I would have to say the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego is pretty hard to beat. The ocean in general is beautiful to me. My father loved the ocean and I was raised to hold its beauty in my heart and also to respect its strength. Sorry, Sean, for scolding you about not having proper reverence for it but it does NOT look like a giant bath in any way, shape or form and it is NOT only interesting when you can see ships. There is something about staring out into the ocean that makes one realize just how minute we are in the grand scheme of things. It boggles my mind to think that the same Creator who came up with the beauty of the Pacific Ocean also came up with the beauty of the Arizona deserts. So completely different and yet both so spectacularly beautiful, particularly at sunset.

I do have a couple of questions about California driving though, the first being: Who is the yutz who settled on 70 MPH for the speed limit? It is virtually impossible to hold a car at that speed. Cars, at least every car I have ever owned, prefer speeds that end in a 5. Of course, once you get further into California this becomes a moot point as it's not often that you get to bring the car up to full speed and the traffic between San Diego and Los Angeles comes to periodic standstills, which brings me to my next question.

What is the reason for the traffic coming to a standstill? Here in Arizona traffic comes to a standstill for three things: 1. An accident involving serious injury or death, 2. A severe dust storm which brings visibility to zero, or 3. A truck whose load has shifted and dumped into the road rendering passage impossible. Outside of these three occurrences we keep it moving. EVERY time the traffic slowed to a stop when we were out there we watched when it started moving again and it was either somebody with a flat tire, a small--and I mean SMALL--fender-bender, CHP had somebody pulled over on the side of the road or NOTHING. With all due respect, folks, glance sideways, say, "Well, they're having a bad day today. Thank you, God it isn't us," say a small prayer for those involved and KEEP MOVING.

We also noticed that if one gets hungry on the freeway in CA it is quite possible to die of starvation when there are plenty of places to eat. Here in AZ if you are hungry you can watch the blue signs on the side of the road as you get close to the exits and they will announce not only that there is food, fuel and lodging at the exit but what restaurants, gas stations and hotels/motels are there. In CA it's best guess. There is no indicator and then as you're passing the exit you say, "Oh, gee, look! There was McD's, BK, and Jack." They're losing a lot of revenue. Your state is losing revenue as well. The companies pay the state to have their name/logo on the blue signs, folks. Great source of revenue for the state.

We also noticed that CA doesn't seem to have the infamous photo enforcement cameras. That is very nice. However, they would be a GREAT source of revenue for your financially-strapped state considering the lack of regard for traffic laws we witnessed during our short stay. Where we're from the lines in the road indicate the divisions where the cars are supposed to remain. When making a left turn at an intersection it is generally accepted world-wide that one goes in FRONT of the cars stopped at the light in the other direction. I have never in my life in AZ seen anyone go BEHIND a car waiting at the light and then go into their lane. I saw this on more than one occasion and on one occasion we were the car they were going behind. A little nerve-wracking to say the least. Also, as a general rule our motorcyclists don't lane-split. At one point on the interstate there were about 15 motorcycles in a line driving between our lane and the next lane. That's pretty dangerous, folks. I realize it's handy to be able to do it, however living is nice too.

It was nice to have our little sojourn in California, even though the reason for going was not a happy one. On the other hand, it is wonderful to be home even though it means back to dryness and triple-digit heat. No matter how wonderful the place you go on vacation is, you just can't beat HOME. After all, home is where the heart is.

I hope all is going well in everybody else's corner of the world.