The Year Begins…..five years later

Posted January 2, 2012 by ryterrytes
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This blog entered the world on January 2nd, 2007. Its amazing how things have changed….or not.

There are many thoughts on my mind as the year 2012 begins. It’s January 2, 2012 and 9:13 am. My teenagers are still sleeping in their rooms and will probably not emerge until noon. What project should I start the new school semester with. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Osama Bin Laden is dead. The war lingers but our troops are heading home….from Iraq. The fact that we still have troops in other locations troubles me tremendously. Australia. Really? I should probably finish this last fanfiction soon. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Distance sucks. Is there bacon in the freezer. Should I put another new book on my Kindle. How long will it take to put the Christmas decorations away. Why did Hersey have to invent the Cherry Cordial Kiss. Are we really ready to be hit with the pendng college registration fees. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Should I tell anyone that its venison in the crockpot. Do we seriously need three laptops. Will she be ready to actually play in her soccer game. Is there any money in my checking account. How many loads of laundry will I have to do. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Is it ever going to actually snow around here. So many movies….so little desire. Back to school tomorrow. Sigh. Petty and important stuff from my world to yours. Happy New Year.

The Fine Art of Christmas Carding

Posted December 7, 2011 by ryterrytes
Categories: Uncategorized

I got my first one just last week. A web friend in Minnesota posted it on Face book. The accompanying message said that although she ordered them every year they very rarely got mailed so she was posting it there as ‘insurance.’ Our second one came in the mailbox the very next day. It was from the family of a former Kindergarten student – who is now married and in medical school…gads! – and included a cheery note and snapshot of their very grown up family inside. I loved them both. I can’t help it. I confess. I am coming out of the mistletoe closet.

My name is Lynda and I am a Christmas Card-a-holic.

I absolutely love going through the daily mail and finding them. I Iove studying the pictures and the messages and wondering just what it was that drew the sender to that particular card. I especially love getting the added bonus of those ‘family letters’ inside. You know the ones. The longer versions of a personal message that generically bring you up to date about Little Joe’s achievements in baseball and Mandy’s adventures with her competitive dance team, the problems with the newest car and the gall bladder and the family sojourns on this cruise and that vacation. I love it all so bring it on.

I am not sure where this addiction came from. Christmas carding in my family has been sporadic at best. My parents usually had a box handy in order to send one when one was received. Christmas cards were taped to our closet door in the living room and added to the festive decorations. Sometimes they were saved after the holidays but usually not. Sometimes the pictures were cut off and given to our Sunday School to use for future projects. Most of the time those bits of news and good wishes ended up in the trash.

When I got married, the need to send my own became much stronger. My family and friend base had enlarged and I had actual people to send them to. I searched and searched to find the ‘perfect’ card. I made the hubby and the stepdaughters sign them after one late November dinner, enveloped them, stamped them and sent them off on the first of December. As the years went by and our lives got busier, I have to admit that Christmas cards took a lower stance on the priority list. Choosing the ‘right’ card became just grabbing one that was the ‘right’ price. When my son came along, it was easier to choose a favorite snapshot and order photo cards to send off. IF I sent them off. My favorite photo card was sent after that arrival of our daughter from Russia in 2000. He was in Santa gear and she was an elf.  Side by side faces.

Classic.

And then I started adding our own ‘family letter.’ It’s just a newsy note about D&N’s soccer accomplishments, the steps and the grandbabies, the new truck, the job changes, the kidney stones and this vacation and that.
I skipped a few years here and there. I had a telling conversation with a friend who confessed a dislike for ‘those’ letters. She felt like they were just ‘braggetty brag brag’ with no real information about what was actually going on with families. And then she, very tactfully, chipped in…’but not yours of course.’ I stopped sending the letters. And actual cards.

The next year I sent off e-cards from an internet service called ‘Jib Jab.’ Friends and families were treated to a short video with our faces on the bodies of dancing, guitar strumming Mexican elves singing ‘Feliz Navidad.’

It wasn’t the same.

The year after that I created a computer power point with pictures of the kids through the year set to ‘Jingle Bell Rock.’ I dutifully copied it, boxed them and sent them off to a select…very select and small….group of family and friends. It was very cool. And costly.

It wasn’t the same…..especially when I started getting emails about how recipients weren’t able to open the power point to watch it. Computer glitch on my part. Ugh.

So I went back to cards. Heavy duty, specially selected, card stock cards with an added ‘letter.’ Except this time, instead of a ‘braggety brag brag’ narrative, I used an online puzzle making program and created a crossword puzzle about our yearly antics. I rimmed the sheet with pictures of the kids and printed them at home. Classic.

However, when you are an elementary teacher, cards tend to be on the low end of the priority list. You are so busy with projects and school events that time slips away. One year, I sent them as New Year greetings and they were mailed after Christmas. Last year, the cards were a big deal because we had moved into a new home and needed to send our new address to friends and family. I sent them EARLY. This year….because the season has collided with the end of the semester grading process and my commitment to try and include a comment on every report card….I am just sending a snapshot card again. Sigh.

I have come to the conclusion that Christmas carding is a fine art. You have to find the ‘right’ card….even in the ½ off bin. You have to find your address book. You have to find the time in a busy schedule to address envelopes. You have to purchase stamps….and that’s a huge deal in these economic times. If you take the time to hand make your cards – as my talented stamper sister in law does – it is even more involved. If you write and print a letter, it takes more than a moment of your time. And that’s what it is…..time.

I think that I am a Christmas card-a-holic because I absolutely love the fact that someone, somewhere, took the time….a mere moment of their time considering ours was probably one of a stack…..to think about my family and to want to share the season’s greetings with us.

So we may not have a Christmas tree this year and the lights have not been hung on the garage, but I am sending my cards.

From our home – and heart – to yours….wherever it is.

Passages

Posted November 23, 2011 by ryterrytes
Categories: Uncategorized

When my sister was growing up, her toys of choice were Match Box cars, Johnny West ‘action figures’ and GI Joes. My world centered around the words that swirled from books into my head and the dolls that could recreate their stories. My Barbies headed west in shoebox Conestoga wagons and escaped from the Nazis in cake pan boats. They ‘worked’ alongside Sister Kenny treating polio with cardboard and Scotch tape splints and delivered messages as couriers for the French Resistance.

While my sister busied herself and her neighborhood friends digging roads for Hot Wheel traffic, making rivers and dams in mud puddles and setting up battles for her GI Joes and little green army men, I was stitching dresses and pinafores for my dolls and doing their hair with satin ribbons and taking them on adventures of a different sort. I remember making a sled for one particular doll and taking her out to play during a blustery snow storm one winter when I was about ten. Together we struggled to ‘build’ shelter in the cold wind, battling to ‘survive’ on the ‘steppes of Siberia.’ Yes. I was a strange child.

But on the plus side, my sister now says that she learned more about history playing with me than she ever did from a book. Hee.

And when our girls were younger, we often wondered how we ended up with the daughter the other one probably should have had.
My niece was the sort of child who preferred hair bows, dresses and lace on her shorts. My daughter, on the other hand, was happiest when she was decked out in her brother’s hand me down jeans and tee shirts. The more worn the better.

My niece was a doll lover from the get go, pure and simple. She carried a ratty little Cabbage Patch – aptly named ‘Libby Kitty’ – everywhere when she was younger, graduated to American Girl dolls and then trucked a vinyl life size baby doll everywhere….for years. My daughter, on the other hand, stuffed the Barbies she was given as gifts when she arrived from Russia, under her bed and upon entering the American Girl store in Chicago when she was seven, screeched ‘Get me out of here! This place is freaking me out!” Dolls, it seemed, scare her because they are always staring.

My niece played softball one season and was overheard complaining that her ‘hair bows hurt her head’ when she wore the batting helmet and ran the bases. My daughter, on the other hand, has limbs that are covered with bruises and scratches and sweat irritated scabs from her shin guards when she is playing soccer….which is pretty much 11 months out of the year. Hair bows? Fergit that.

My niece received a costume box collection from us one Christmas. It had a cheerleader skirt, feather boas, plastic high heels, a Red Riding Hood cape, a pink tutu, sparkly little mini dress, sun glasses, tiara, a faux buckskin painted Indian dress, and more. In short, everything an imaginative little girl needed for pretending. Most of the items were handmade by me. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted nothing but the ‘haunted pirate’ costume she found – and begged for – in the drug store aisle when she was eight. She wore it for three Halloweens in a row.

A thirteen hour drive and some 800 miles have separated me from my niece and my daughter from her aunt. Always. And distance stinks. There have been times when my sister and I have exchanged conversations about just ‘not getting’ our daughters….and knowing the person on the other end of the line totally did.

Because of distance, I think we have missed out on a lot, my sister and I. The years have passed and we have missed out on sister stuff and mothers/daughters stuff and auntie/niece stuff that would have made our lives all the richer. We never really had the opportunity for ‘quanity time’ together…. girly stuff like shopping or movies or just hanging out together and visiting. And given the area in which she has been raised my niece had an adorable very Southern accent that made it impossible to understand a word she was saying over the telephone when she was growing up. Face to face communication was better, but our physical contact with one another was destined to be an occasional holiday, spring vacation or special family event. News was exchanged via telephone, letters and then email and now Face Book.

My niece – and her older brother – very literally grew up overnight. Every time we saw them, there were tremendous developmental changes. The baby I saw at Christmas was a walking, talking toddler by the time I saw her again. It seemed like the round, little third grader was in middle school when I blinked . She graduated from high school…and then college. And several weeks ago we traveled south to share in momentous moment of another kind. It appears that I blinked again.

A wedding dress

Sigh.

But I think times will change for my sister and I. Given the generational issues that we have experienced thus far, my niece is likely to have a little girl who will love the Match box cars and Johnny Wests of her generation. My sister will love that.  My daughter, on the other hand, will likely produce a little girl who loves bows and books and dolls and pretend and……er….um……

Naw. Fergit that.

A Letter to My Son

Posted October 22, 2011 by ryterrytes
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Dear Daniel

It’s over. It was a heartbreaking loss in that second playoff round. You had some pretty awesome saves in that game. But it still didn’t lessen the fact that you were hoping for a different outcome for your senior soccer season in high school. Watching you stand at the goal when the buzzer sounded the end of the second ten minute over time, and knowing how you were feeling was the hardest thing I have had to watch since you first started playing the game. And soccer is a game that you have come to love with a passion.

You were just five when we signed you up to play in a 3 on 3 learning league. We commiserated with other parents about having to fit your first game schedule around the Saturday morning Kindergarten Round Up program. You loved the cleats, your coach, your jersey and socks and your team mates. You weren’t too crazy about that first pair of shin guards however. You were very excited about your very first real honest to goodness grass stain. And true to your pre-Kindergarten self, the best part of the 30 minute practice/30 minute game process was the snacks.

The following year we were in the midst of dealing with the massive paperwork process to complete your sister’s international adoption. When we didn’t hear from a coach about the start of your 5 on 5 learning league, I surmised that I might have not sent in the paperwork like I thought I had. I scrambled to find a place for you to play and you ended up on a YMCA team. You were one of two boys and a gaggle of girls. Your coaches loved you and your fierce kick. The entire team loved the game as much as you did. And after your first YMCA practice I got a call from your coach with the other program. Oops. I had sent the paperwork in after all. But, since they were two different programs with two different styles of training, we decided to let you play both of them for a while and let you decide which one you wanted to stay with.

Oy.

We should have known then what your future would hold. You stuck with practices or a game every single night of the week that spring and played for both teams without a single complaint. And you were only six.

From that point on our family life revolved around soccer. Soccer shorts. Soccer cleats. Soccer socks. Soccer jerseys. Soccer shin guards. Outdoor practice. Outdoor games….in the heat, in the rain, in the sleet and in the snow. Indoor practice. Indoor games….at varying times between 5 am and 11:30 pm. Ice packs. Ibuprofen. Heat packs. Ice packs. Athletic wrap. Athletic tape. Bio Freeze. On and on and on.

For the next twelve years.

From a parent stand point, the logistics of this passion of yours has been very frustrating. This was especially true after your sister decided that soccer was her game as well. Carting two of you here and there, using vacation times and vacation money for out of town tournaments, stopping for quick ‘fast food’ meals to and from practice sessions, dealing with stinky, sweat soaked shoes/socks/jerseys locked in our car all weekend, sitting on the sidelines watching practices, sitting on more sidelines watching games, critiquing coaches and referees and keeping our mouths shut – or open – as the situation called for it. Soccer parenting is not for the faint of heart. I don’t think ANY kind of sport parenting is.

And what do your Dad and I want you to take away from all of these years?

Mostly we want you to take away the memories. Memories of team mates that provided you with camaraderie like no other. Memories of times when you succeeded when you thought you couldn’t….and failed when you thought you shouldn’t. Memories of hot summer days when sweat poured from your body and yet you pushed forward. Memories of cold freezing days that energized you even more. And of course….the snacks.

And we also want you to take away respect. Respect for the coaches you have had that have shared their gifts with you. Respect for the coaches you have had that taught you to be the best that you can be. Respect for the coaches that have believed in you and stood up for you. Respect for all of the opponents that challenged you to give it your all. Respect for the team mates that have trusted you….and that you have given your trust.

We hope that you have learned that soccer – like life – is not a ‘blame game.’ That you will not always be able to achieve what you want or expect to – but that there is a certain fulfillment in knowing that you have given it your best shot. That when that buzzer sounds at the end of a game – or a day in your life – you can always say, ‘I did my very best.’ We hope that you have learned that you will need all kinds of people on your ‘team.’ We hope that have learned to value each of them for what they bring to the ‘game.‘ We hope that you have learned that everyone plays a part in your successes and shares in the disappointment of your losses.

We want you to take away a sense of self and self-esteem for what you have accomplished as a player….and as a person. You are someone with skills. You are someone that can be counted on. You are someone that expects the best in others because you know you will be giving the best that you have. You are someone that enjoys a good laugh….and a heart to heart talk.

And we sincerely hope that you find a way to continue with this game that you have grown to love – as a player or as a trainer or as a coach or as an official…..or as a parent. And if that day ever comes, we have some good, solid sideline chairs and an umbrella you can borrow.

We love you, son. You have made us very proud.

Mom and Dad

Side Tackle at age 6

Posted October 22, 2011 by ryterrytes
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Side Tackle at age 6

A Blogger’s Dilemma

Posted October 13, 2011 by ryterrytes
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It has been a while since I have written a blog entry. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. No. Quite the contrary. I think I had too much to say and too many topics to pick from. I could never decide what to focus on. Like, here is my dilemma.

Back in August I had planned to write about how I was living the life of my mother. Our tiny patch of three tomato plants and four cucumber plants had given us an abundance of fruit that we were unable to eat. I decided to can them. And pickle them. I had rediscovered a large blue canning pot that we had used for our camping club’s annual August boiled dinner. I invested in the jars and the pickling salt and the spices and the general paraphernalia needed to complete the job. I spent three very hot days/afternoons slicing and dicing and boiling and capping. And enjoying the unexpected little popping sound the lids made as the jars cooled and sealed.

At the end of August I planned to write about the preparations for my 51st first day of school. Yep. You heard right. I have been celebrating the first day of school as a student, a teacher and a parent for fifty one consecutive years. This year my first school day was spent at a morning rally for my school district’s teaching employees. We enjoyed reconnecting after the summer break with a continental breakfast before our district staff meeting. We listened to the usual rah-rah of the district’s welcome back message, accomplishments and plans for the upcoming school year. It’s a kind of familiar exhilaration to see familiar faces again….everyone was sun drenched and excited about getting back into the classroom. They were looking forward to getting to know this year’s crop of ‘their kids.’ But nothing made me prouder to be a HVS employee than the video presented to the district’s personnel by our new union president, Josh Gignac. I have worked on staff with Josh. I know his humor. And I know his dedication to his craft and the people he serves. He managed to put a lot of heart – and a few giggles – into his little video….and got a standing ovation for it too. PERFECT way to kick off the year. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNyGN5boO6M)

And this thus my 51st school year began.

On September 11th I was planning to write about feeling all moved and melancholy about the 10th year observance of the fall of the Twin Towers in New York. Everyone was all ‘do you remember where you were.’ Yes. I do. I was in a Kindergarten classroom. I had accidently flipped the wrong switch on my CD player and the parents helping in my classroom heard a snippet of the news reports before I switched back to Dr. Jean’s ‘Alpha-size’ song. I spent the day – along with the rest of my colleagues – teaching school to kiddos who didn’t know and didn’t care about anything other than that the weather was beautiful and we were going outside for recess. At every possible free minute we were glued to television sets. I picked my children up at their daycare and went home to the television there to see the repeated news reports about the devastation in New York over and over again. My own children were seven and a half and six years old. They seemed oblivious to what was happening. Until the next morning. Suddenly my son seemed panicked and driven to write a ‘report.’ (His genius of a second grade Teacher had made report writing a privilege in her classroom. When students were finished with their work they were ‘allowed’ to search her collection of fact books for material to write about.) That particular morning he saw pictures in the morning newspaper and we were suddenly on a search for scissors, glue sticks, tape, paper and a stapler. He put together a simplistic recap. His report read simply, ‘Planes crashed. Buildings fell. People ran.’ And it was illustrated with pictures cut from the morning news. I helped him add the last page. I meant it be a calming force in his mind. It read, “The helpers are here.” The pictures he found for that page showed firemen and police officers covered in dust, people serving food and dispensing drinks…..and praying.

It was a master piece.

He took it to school to share and later in the day his teacher approached me in the hall to thank me. She said she had struggled all night and morning about how to talk to her second graders about what had happened. She’d gone through the papers on her desk and found my son’s report. It was perfect. A horrible event perceived through the mind of a child. A perfect catalyst to allow her students to express their thoughts and fears about what they were seeing and hearing all around them in the aftermath of 9/11.

And so now it’s October. Those second graders of ten years ago are now high school seniors. My son’s final high school soccer season is winding to a close. His last homecoming dance has come and gone. We are starting to focus on college applications. My niece is getting married soon in Gatlinburg, TN. For once we contemplate embarking on an out of town trip that does NOT involve soccer. My daughter tripped over another player in a recent game, injured her back and we are now dealing with physical therapy, CAT scans and a possible MRI instead of practice, tournaments and games.

So you can see my dilemma. We are still here. I am still writing. It’s the focus that’s the problem. Welcome to my life.

Sigh.

Adventures with Laundry Soap

Posted July 24, 2011 by ryterrytes
Categories: Uncategorized

My parents have been visiting with us this summer. Long story short, the past few years for them have involved Daytona Beach, illness, hospitals, surgery, rehab, more surgeries, anticipated illness, moving, my sister and South Carolina. There are lots of past blogs in all of this but let me say that this has been a wonderful visit…for all of us. In fact, my children – unbeknownst to me until recently – have been cleaning up with their Non and Pop….financially. Given that my parents are in their 80’s and my children are not, there have been things to be carried, steps to be climbed, chores and errands that have involved a slipped monetary bill here and there. Heh. They have been – literally – cleaning….up.

The big chore in our house has always been laundry. Our laundry room in the new house is in the basement. A hassle to reach with baskets and piles of clothing. The washer and dryer have never been my favorite of unending household chores anyway. I would rather deal with the dishwasher than the washing machine. That is a given in our house. And with their constant stream of sports socks and shorts and practice shirts and what not, my children learned early on that the chances of having everything clean every time they want them to be would be better if they washed things themselves. Especially since they tend to forget to put them in their laundry baskets. MY job has been to keep them stocked in soaps and softeners and various whitening and stain removing products. And we have always tended to go through a lot of that stuff.

A LOT.

With the costs and endless runs to the store for detergent and softeners in mind, my Nebraska friend Mary’s blog posts about making her own laundry detergent lit a tiny flame of interest. She is on a mission to reduce costs and her family’s ecological ‘foot print’. She is using a home made detergent that she said was costing her pennies a load from a recipe she found on the internet. Looking for something to do during spring break last April, I decided to give her project a whirl. I sent the husband to the store for the ingredients – actually thinking he would never find them – but he did. Right on the laundry product shelves at our favorite grocery store.

Easily.

Mary’s recipe for laundry soap involves using a food processor to grate a bar of a pure soap (I used Ivory because I had it on hand) or a laundry bar like Fels-Naptha. She then uses the food processor to further mix in equal amounts of Oxi-Clean, washing soda and borax. After the grating and mixing, you put the powder in a dry, air tight container such as a recycled juice bottle. You use it by the tablespoon full…..and it lasts forever.

Seriously.

My family has been using this to do laundry since that first week in April. I have mixed it up twice from the ingredients we bought back then and I still have a half a box each of soda and borax left. I didn’t use the soap bar the second time because the moisture from that first batch was causing the powder to clump up and leave bits of soap spots in some loads. Our remaining box of softener sheets is long gone and since they can’t bear the thought of using the bottle of stinky, smelly vinegar as a rinse agent, my kids aren’t using anything to soften their clothes. And we love it. It’s the best 12 bucks I have spent on our laundry needs…..ever.

So when my dad wanted to know what kind of laundry detergent we used so he could replace it, I told him that I made my own.

“What?” he said. “No kidding?” The look on his face was priceless. And we proceeded to have a conversation about laundry. My mother said she hadn’t thought about it but the home made stuff could be the reason her clothes were not itching her lately. I was going on about the white dish cloths that were still….white. And we laughed because we all STILL envision Rosemary DeCamp and black and white versions of the television shows ‘Rawhide’ and ‘Death Valley Days’ when we hear the words ‘20 Mule Team Borax.’

In the middle of the conversation, my daughter brought her Mia Hamm soccer jersey to me. She wanted to wear it while watching the World Cup finals with friends the next day. And it looked like something from a television commercial for laundry soap.

Absolutely….dreadful.

She had actually only worn the jersey once – for Halloween – since we purchased it four years ago. I am guessing that is where the chocolate smear came from. It has usually been hanging on the wall in her bedroom collecting dust since then. It had occasionally fallen behind her toy chest and been forgottten, had a dried yellow spot from a new puppy and a black streak from a skateboard wheel in one corner. I have no idea what happened to it during our move to the new house last fall. It was dingy and – I thought – pretty hopeless. But, I unwrapped a bar of Fels-Naptha that I had purchased to try to remove a stain from a favorite pair of khaki shorts and went to work on the jersey. I lightly scrubbed the soap bar on the various stains while continuing the conversation with my parents, flipped over the jersey and saw that while rubbing from one side, I was rubbing off the red dye from the plastic picnic table cloth. Onto the white jersey. Uh oh.

Trying not to appear dismayed for her sake, I scrubbed the soap bar onto the red and told my daughter to toss it in the wash with our laundry soap. And then forgot about it.

The next afternoon I asked what happened to the jersey. Her eyes got really wide and she told me that it was white again. ALL white. And she brought it to me.

Every single stain was gone.

Now, I know that the manufacturers of sports jerseys are aware of the things their products are put through. I am sure the jersey material was something expected to repel stains and what not….but it still a tad amazing.

And proof to me that our detergent is the ‘right stuff’ for our household.

Soooo…..we mixed up a container for my parents to take home with them. And I am beginning to feel like that box of washing soda and borax are like the oil in the temple and the wine at the wedding. We still have a half of a box to use up from that original $12 purchase in April.

Awesome.

Because of Her

Posted June 30, 2011 by ryterrytes
Categories: Uncategorized

Driver’s Ed.

Is there anything that strikes more fear in the heart of the parent of a teenager? We are long past the days of kids cruising through our small towns looking for social action and the kind of jalopy racing depicted in the iconic ‘American Graffiti’ and other movies. Still the clamoring for independence and ‘wheels’ and a driver’s license begins earlier than it used to. Fourteen years and nine months, in fact. I know because I have been through it.

Twice.

He has a full on Level II license. He can, pretty much, drive himself anywhere at any time. She has a permit, has finished her second session of classes and is waiting for me to schedule a road test so she can apply for her Level I license.

I have to admit that having them able to drive themselves back and forth from school events and soccer practices and shopping all on their own has given the household parents an unexpected freedom. Just a few weeks ago we were trying to coordinate drivers for a social activity when it suddenly occurred to me that they could drive themselves. And they did.

The household parents went to a movie….alone…..and actually held hands.

Heh.

Luckily we have very good drivers in our teens. They know, first hand, what can happen. Five years ago, on a Friday night – we were cruising along the expressway in Novi on our way home from one of her soccer games when we happened upon a caravan of Hummers carrying National Guardsmen toward a weekend of maneuvers. We waved from the windows of our swanky red Aztek and they waved back. Hubby was driving and pulled behind them and suddenly another car – a smaller car – swerved in between us. My husband made a split second decision – the only possible decision – and saved lives. He took our car up the side embankment where it literally flew through the air, landed on two wheels, flipped to the side and then completely over.

My daughter immediately hit the button and opened a back passenger window before the car’s electronics shut down. I went into immediate ‘teacher mode’ and asked if everyone was okay. After a quick visual check, I told them to scuttle out the window and up the embankment. I assured them that Dad and I would be right behind. I remember seeing the two of them standing safely at the top of the embankment and then the other windows crashed in as we were immediately surrounded by National Guardsmen in all their camouflaged glory. The Hummer caravan had stopped.

We have a lot of memories from that night. Princess screeching as the paramedic attempted to cut her soccer shoe (“the very best ones I have EVER haaaAAAaadd, Mom!”) from a possibly injured foot. We talked him into just cutting the laces. And then there were visions of the Prince stretched out on the side of the road covered in camouflage jackets to ward off shock as he had several cuts around his eye and a possible head injury. He spent three hours calmly strapped to a backboard in the emergency room waiting for assessment. This was my kid with zero patience. And there was the mildly confused National Guardsman who went in search of the all important cloth bag in the back of the upside down Aztek that held this old Teacher’s report cards – which were still not computerized at that time. And the angel of a nurse (on her way home from work) behind us who stopped to help out until the paramedics got there.

It was a humdinger of a night!

And it was months until my kiddos were comfortable in the car again. A slight swerve over the speed notches at the side of the road could trigger intense anxiety. We had tons of conversations about how Dad’s decision was the only decision possible. How the little car would have been crushed against the Hummers had we hit it….and the people inside killed. How that red Aztek – which was totaled – did the job it was designed to do in protecting its passengers – the four of us. But time passed. Memories faded. And my kids are good drivers. A little anxious at times…..but good.

Less than a year after our humdinger of a night, another family experienced something much, much worse. The MacDonald Family of Lake Odessa, Michigan, lost their daughter, Keisha, in an automobile accident in February of 2007. As a memorial to their gorgeous aspiring model/actress daughter, they created ’The Keisha MacDonald Dare 2 Dream Foundation.’ It was this foundation that gifted the Michigan State Police with seven scholarships for their Teen Driving program. This Mom heard about the scholarships one morning on the news and clicked on the website to sign up her son. His was one of the seven names selected to join the already full program

So this morning I drove a somewhat grumpy teenager in the required slacks and collared shirt to the Michigan State Police Training Center which is an hour away from our home. (Grumpy because he had to be there at 7:45 am and it IS summer vacation after all!) But I know that his frown is going to be a pretty intense gaze and eventually a smile as he and his 14 other classmates learn defensive driving, skid control, serpentine control, controlled braking, evasive maneuvering, confined area maneuvering and off-road recovery….among other things. They will be buckled in, helmeted and under the care of the most highly trained drivers in the state. And get to drive Michigan State Police vehicles to do it.

Oh yeah…..he will be grinning.

And this Mom can rest a bit easier about the driving abilities of one of her teen drivers.

Thanks to The Keisha MacDonald Dare 2 Dream Foundation.

http://www.rememberkeisha.com

Guilty….as charged

Posted June 14, 2011 by ryterrytes
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , ,

Its coming back for a summer run. I just saw the ad. All new episodes of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras.’ Its not exactly a guilty pleasure but if the television is on, I can’t help but watch it. All those adorable little babies, glitzed and glimmered up with sequins and sparkles and lace and ruffles and make up. And hairspray. LOTS of hair spray.

Can’t help but be sucked into the tales of triumphs and woes as chubby little faces (and knees) prance and dance their way across mini stages in converted hotel meeting rooms. Curled hair pieces swirl around their faces as they shake shoulders and hips (can they really be called ‘hips’ at ages three or four or five?) and bat heavily made up eyelashes – sometimes false ones at that – while very serious judges make notations about ‘personality‘ and ‘stage presence.’

The best part for me though, is watching the moms and the dads. They are occasionally joined by aunties and the grandmas and do most of the actual ‘work.’ They spend hours at second jobs to pay for tiny dresses that cost in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. They spend hours sewing on sequins to add more sparkle, hours making props and set pieces, more hours developing and practicing ‘routines’ or driving their children to professional pageant choreographers, and even more hours curling and spraying and applying makeup and dressing and undressing their babies. They spend weekends in out of town hotels and motels for competitions. And they seem to spend an enormous amount of time cajoling their little princesses through spray tan sessions and make up sessions and dress fittings and boring waits for their turn on stage. They can be seen dancing through the rehearsed routines in the audience, roiling with misery – and anger – if their kid doesn’t perform well, cheering heartily if they do and sometimes just sighing in resignation.

For what?

Enough trophies to fill rooms and tiaras for every day of the week. And chest ribbons that proclaim their child ‘Teeny Tiny Littlest Miss Chockhaven Cheese Cake of Somewhere in the Sticks.’

SO very weird.

MY family would never be involved in something like that. No siree. My princess is almost sixteen and I would LOVE it if she would glitz it up a bit. A little makeup now and then. Curling iron and hairspray? No such luck. She is a sports girl and, like my son, plays soccer. Their lives are all about soccer cleats and the comfort of athletic shorts and sunscreen and water bottles filled with athletic enhancing liquids for replenishment. We have spent hundreds – no… thousands – of dollars on cleats, indoor turf shoes, shin guards, goalie gloves, jerseys, shorts, socks and soccer balls of every size and color over the years. We have driven miles and miles for games and tournaments in every kind of weather you can imagine. We have sliced an insurmountable number of oranges at 5 am because they would be needed at a far away game site at 11:30. We have scolded refs from the side lines and been scolded by refs on the sidelines. We have pondered the intricate processes of removing black mud and green grass stains from white shorts and socks and drying them….sometimes at 2 am in a hotel sink because they ‘forgot’ to pack the spare pair. We have visited countless emergency rooms. We have sought last minute sources for peanuts and protein snacks to hold our athletes until the next meal. We have sought out the best affordable coaches and clubs available in our area. And paid for them.

We have spent weekends in hotels and motels for out of town tournaments. We have shivered and sweat and watched from the sidelines, roiling in misery – and anger – if the team doesn’t perform well, cheering heartily if they do and sometimes just sighing in resignation.

For what?

Enough trophies to cover a dresser top and bookshelf. And tee shirts that proclaim our child the champion of ‘The Catfish Cantaloupe Soccer Tournament of Somewhere in the Sticks.’

So very……not weird?

Thinking back to my daughter’s minute long obsession with horses and the horse competition world (where she won two blue ribbons!)….and her ice skating period…..and her gymnastic period…. I know that there are families that spend similar amounts of money and time with those sports. One step-daughter is just beginning in the dance realm with her twins while the other has been chasing her newly minted teenaged son in the football and baseball circles for years. And he is also dabbling with an electric guitar. A close friend has a daughter who just started a cheerleading ‘career.’ She is going to be in first grade next fall. Another friend just saw her youngest of five sign with a college for a swimming scholarship…..something all of her children did before high school graduation. Another friend has a daughter that has been playing guitar and writing music with an up and coming – really hot – local pop/rock band for 4 or 5 years now. She is fifteen.

Parents want their children to excel in what they love to do. There is nothing wrong with that. We want them to be busy. We want them to have a head start on things. At least that’s what I have observed. We want them to have the very best training they can possibly get for sports…music….dance…..and pageants. But I think its gotten a little crazy. Parents are starting their babies in these things. (Little Kickers had a soccer program for 18 month olds at one time.) And those skills are being developed WAY earlier than they were in my day. And focused on. And driven. Gotta keep all those little kiddos busy doing….something. And why?

These days, you are very lucky if you can get on an area middle school sports team without some sort of prior training or experience. Middle school! And if they want to stay with a varsity sport in high school, it is highly recommended that they continue playing that sport – or training for that sport – in the off season. Most sports, as well as dance and music, require year round training these days. Sometimes I wish we could go back and rethink things a bit. Rethink….childhood.

When I was in elementary school, my first experience with competition was through softball. Each area school had a baseball team with parent coaches. If you were lucky, you could field a team for 4th, 5th AND 6th grade. Each school played the others for two games – one away and one at your home field. Then we started playing at a community field….which was close to a dairy with an ice cream counter. Most teams were allowed ice cream only if they won. When my mom coached our school team, she collected enough money so we would get an ice cream cone regardless. To her, and ultimately us – her team – it was all about having a good time playing the game.

She was very forward thinking….my Mom.

My son started playing soccer when he was four and my daughter, when she was seven. We kind of….evolved…..into the club soccer scene. Going to bigger and better and more expensive is something that my husband and I have been at odds with quite a lot. Many times. We want the same thing for our kids that every parent wants, I think. We want them to have fun. We want them to excel. We want them to have a healthy self esteem. We want them to have friends with common interests. We want them to be healthy. We want them to achieve what they can with the gifts that they have. We want them to know how to deal with success….as well as loss. And it can be so very intense.

But, I would like to think that I’m like my Mom. And I think I have been relatively successful in that. Earlier this year my daughter wrote an essay for her freshman English class. She listed each of her soccer coaches and the things that she learned from them. She said that she had learned to love the game and to play well. She ended her essay with the line…..’my Dad wants me to be the best that I can be and my Mom just wants me to have fun.’ And she is so right.

And that is so very…….not weird.

However, I am pondering the possibility of a reality show – ‘The Soccer Moms of Catfish Cantalope Somewhere in the Sticks.’ It has a certain….ring….to it. And I know we could produce the necessary drama…..and comedy.

That’s just how we Soccer Moms are.

The Salad Bar Life

Posted May 31, 2011 by ryterrytes
Categories: Uncategorized

Several weeks ago, my children informed me that they were quite tired of eating. Not of actually eating….but eating. Dinners. Cooked food. And I think I do a pretty good job of providing a healthy variety of foods as a rule. I enjoy hunting down and trying new recipes and foods. But actually, their announcement couldn’t have come at a better time because, quite frankly, the ‘what’s for dinner?’ query has begun to sound like a thousand fingernails raking across a chalk board to me. REALLY grates on my nerves because I am tired of cooking.

We decided that – for the summer – we are going to live the ‘salad bar life.’

My daughter will have no problem with that. HER favorite snack, after all, is a stalk of celery with a ribbon of Ranch dressing down the center. She has been a fruit and veggie fanatic since we got her at the age of five. We are not really sure what kinds of foods she was exposed to at her Russian orphanage. We saw a lot of potatoes and potato soup and a kind of wheat gruel when we were there during meal times. The first day she spent with us in our hotel she very quickly ate her way through three bananas and an orange….which made her break out around her mouth. Later, in our Moscow hotel, she darn near ate the entire watermelon display at the American style breakfast buffet….every morning. And then there was the day, not long after our arrival at home, when her brother (who was six and a half at the time) came running into the house shrieking, ‘Stop her! Stop her before she eats the stem!’ I hurried outside to find our Russian Princess happily chomping away on the rest of an apple – core, seeds and all…but not the stem.

My son makes me wonder however. He has been suspicious of anything green or crunchy in his food since accidentally finding out around the age of nine that I had been adding shredded zucchini and carrots to my spaghetti sauce – his favorite meal. And since I am not one to cater too much to picky eaters, his plate will generally have a little pile of leftover peas when he is finished with tuna or chicken casseroles or a pile of peppers and mushrooms after pizza. He is big on any kind of potato and abhors onions and tomatoes. He likes his green beans best when they are swimming in cream of mushroom soup and smothered in dried onion rings. He does like corn however. Just like his Dad.

Hubby has been known to get up in the middle of the night and ‘snack’ on a bowl of salad. He is not much of a vegetable connoisseur however….unless its part of a pot roast. Potatoes, corn, the afore mentioned green bean casserole and an occasional carrot dish are about it for him.

I grew up with a grandfather who farmed the back half of my parents’ property in Waterford. Things like corn, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, raspberries, rhubarb and grapes were pretty plentiful in our house. I remember a summer when a strike at my dad’s plant had us eating out of the garden for nearly every meal. I know my parents were glad to have it during that time. And we have managed to garden a little bit now and then. Mostly I tend to frequent local farm stands though. After all, I LOVE a meal of just vegetables….even if I AM eating them alone.

We spent the weekend at an out of town soccer tournament – which generally means restaurant meals where everyone’s tastes are satisfied. And no cooking for me. I was not looking forward to getting back into the kitchen routine. Now was as good of a time as any to begin our ‘new’ life. I asked each of them what they liked best at a salad bar. She just rolled her eyes and said ‘all of it.’ He thought for a moment and then added cheese, ham and bacon to the list. Hubby tossed in crunchy Chinese noodles and green peppers…oh…and beets. Hmm.

I invested in some small glass bowls with tight fitting lids. I intend to fill them with grated carrots, beet slices, garbanzo beans, new peas, bean sprouts, pineapple tidbits, chopped boiled eggs and green onions for tonight. Cheese keeps in its own bag, as do the bacon bits and grape tomatoes. Already have a container of sweet pepper slices. I’ll peel and slice a cucumber as needed. I’ve got raisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds and seasoned croutons. Oh, and his crunchy Chinese noodles. And I have a big bowl of crisp romaine lettuce ready to go.

I am actually kind of looking forward to mixing it up with other vegetables as they become more locally available. I am also planning to figure in other kinds of lettuce and greens. This is going to be fun.

But I am also a realist. My family are too carnivorous to go without meat for long. We would never make it as vegans OR vegetarians. Grilled steak and chicken are the hubby’s specialty. And they do love their Chinese/Thai takeout. Which is fine….as long as I am not cooking it.

So thus begins our summer ‘salad bar life’ experiment. I will let you know how long it lasts.

Heh.