The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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A Camping We Will Go!

Growing up one of my favorite things to do was go camping with my grandparents.  They had a  little pop-up camper and would take my cousins and I camping on occasion.  It was great fun: swimming in a lake, fishing, playing on the playground and let’s not forget bonfires and s’mores!  I loved it.  As I got older my grandparents took me along to help take care of my “baby cousins” whom they would take camping every summer.  I had a friend whose family took me camping with them sometimes. My parents eventually started camping every summer as well. I’d tag along when I could.  I still loved it.  Eventually my grandparents got a travel trailer and began spending a large amount of the summer camping at their favorite lake.  When our oldest son was very small I talked my husband into going out to visit my parents and grandparents as they camped at that lake.  We just stayed one night, but my husband was hooked. He became a camper that trip.  It took us a couple of years but we purchased enough camping equipment to venture out on our own camping trips.  That’s when I figured out that maybe I didn’t love it as much as I remembered.

I have this theory that everything is more fun when you are a kid.  for me this is true for camping. at least  I’m pretty sure that the reason I loved it so much when I was growing up was because there was no work involved for me. I just got to go and play at the lake.  I didn’t have to plan a menu and prepare half the food ahead of time. I didn’t have to pack three-quarters of the kitchen into a tote. I didn’t have to make sure I had all the essentials along: bug spray, sun lotion, towels, bedding….you get the drift.  Once I got to the camp site I didn’t have to set up an outdoor kitchen under a screen tent. I didn’t have to boil water to wash the dishes. I didn’t have to pack food up and then turn around and unpack it all again in what seemed like minutes. I didn’t have to keep an eye on toddlers who think everything they find belongs in their mouth.  My grandparents and parents had a camper of some sort to use as a “home base”: not a tent.  If it rained we could go inside.  If it got windy (and this is Nebraska so OF COURSE it got windy) we could get in out of it for a while.  It was during one of our camping trips with our small children trying to sleep in a tent while the wind was blowing 35 miles per hour that I figured out why so many pioneer women went crazy. The sound of rustling canvas is not relaxing. At least it isn’t to me. I still loved the other things about camping: the fishing, not having to worry about what needed to be done around the house, no phone, the s’mores.  I just never realized how much work it was to go and relax.  Since my husband and kids enjoyed it we went and I smiled.

Over the next years because of job changes and life happening we stopped going camping. I can’t say I was sad. We went a few times and stayed in a cabin at a state park.  That worked for me. Indoor plumbing a kitchen and air conditioning. My husband still got to fish and we still got to have a campfire and s’mores. It seemed perfect to me.  Not so perfect to him. Then a few years ago my husband started to get the camping itch again.  He started talking about buying a new tent. I started talking about repainting the living room.  He started taking inventory of the camping equipment in our storage room.  I tagged it and tried to put it on a garage sale. (My son caught me.)  He started talking about getting our youngest boy out on a camping trip because he’d never been.  I felt guilty for being so selfish.  Okay, I said,  we’ll go camping, but I’d be happier if we had a camper of some sort.  Tent camping is a lot more work and I’m getting old.  He changed to a job which would allow him more weekends off and I started getting nervous.  Do I even remember how to make coffee in that camp stove percolator? Then something quite unexpected happened.

My husband’s parents purchased a travel trailer.  A really nice travel trailer.  My mother-in-law is getting close to retirement and they intend to travel once she does.  I was so excited for them. I was also jealous.  I shouldn’t have been because I know these people and they are generous.  One of the first things they told my husband upon the purchase of their new home away from home was that we were welcome to borrow it any time we liked.  (Yes – they were serious. Yes – they are amazing. No – I’m not sharing them.)  I was a bit hesitant to even think about using their brand new trailer, but my husband began plotting.  He’s a smart plotter. He approached me with the idea that we use his parents trailer and go out to visit our son who is in college six hours away.  There is a state park near the town he lives in. We could camp. This is the son I haven’t seen since March.  All hesitation went flying out the window – YES – I’m there – let’s camp!

So after a few days of making lists and planning menus and making sure I don’t forget essentials we are ready to roll out.  With this really nice air conditioned trailer that has a kitchen and indoor plumbing.  I’m so grateful that my in-laws have blessed us with this opportunity. I’m excited to see my son and reclaim my love for camping. I’m excited to introduce our youngest to the fun.  I’m excited to spend some time chilling (relatively speaking – it’s supposed to be a hot weekend) with my family without worrying about what needs to be done around the house. I’m really excited to make s’mores again!

Happy weekend all! I’ll be back to blog on Monday.

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That Is Why I Love Him

   I’ve noticed a trend that disturbs me. One that bothers me to the core of my being. One that I’m sure has been around for as long as there have been men and women but to which I haven’t paid much attention before. It’s the “husband bashing” trend. We all know hoe this works: women find something about their husband that annoys them and then make sure to point out that trait to everyone they know.  These can be people in what appears to be perfectly happy marriages and yet the wife feels the need to trash her husband about something.  Point out his faults. To everyone. Loudly. As I said I’m sure it’s been going on for a long time.  Maybe I just ignored it before. Perhaps we weren’t so loud about our complaints before social networking. Whatever the reason, it bothers me.  I don’t think it’s productive nor conducive to building a strong marriage. I don’t think it is respectful. I won’t do it.  It doesn’t mean I think he’s perfect or without fault. (He chose me for a wife didn’t he?) I just choose not to dwell on those things and instead focus on the things that I love about him.

My husband has been at Kid’s Kamp this week. This was a usual part of our lives for many years up until a few years ago.  He’d go every summer with a group of children from our church.  Every summer. Using vacation time from his “paying job” in order to spend a week, in the heat, being a dorm leader to 10-12 boys.  Boys aged 7-10. Boys who have more energy than they have sense.  Boys who come from all sorts of backgrounds and homes, have all sorts of different behavioral styles and different needs. This wasn’t a vacation this was work.  This was long days spent giving every ounce of energy you have to kids who may or may not appreciate it. But he loved every minute of it.  He loves kids.

Because of some job changes he hasn’t gone to camp for the past three years. I think a part of him missed it and a part of him was happy to use his vacation time to do things with his family.  It just seemed strange those three summers. It occurred to us early this year that it would be the last camp that our youngest son would be attending.  Since their dad had gone to at least one camp with each of our other three children in the past, my husband decided he should volunteer to work again this year. He sent in his application to be a dorm leader and Monday morning went off again, cheerfully, to camp once again.  He’d had some time off. He was ready to go.  He loves kids.

I texted him Monday night to see how he was doing.  His response: “I’m alive.”  I wasn’t sure exactly how he meant that.  I decided that after settling 10 excited 2nd – 4th grade boys into a dorm room and keeping track of them as they got familiar with camp, a couple of them for the first time, “Alive” was pretty good.  Through intermittent texts through the week it sounds as if things have gone well.  Well…there was one text exchange where he mentioned thinking that he might do a reenactment of the story of Abraham and Isaac with a couple of boys, only he might pretend he didn’t see the ram.  *Side Note: There’s another thing I love about him.  He’s funny even when he’s tired and hot. Aside from that he seems to have enjoyed his week.  As much as you can enjoy constant activity with young boys is 100 degree (or better) heat.  I’m sure there where moments when he wondered why he decided to go this year.  Times when he questioned whether his vacation could have been spent doing more enjoyable things.  He hasn’t complained.  He loves kids.

Last night one of our friends, the father of one of the boys in Scott’s dorm room,  posted this picture on face book:

That’s my husband and his buddy Kaleb.  We met Kaleb when he was just a little guy and his parents moved to town and began attending our church about six years ago. We were leaders of the Sunday morning children’s ministries at the time. From the moment he arrived Kaleb has held a special place in our hearts. This was his first year attending camp.  If you would have told us a few years ago that he was going to attend camp  and enjoy it we may have looked at you funny.  Kaleb has Aspberger’s Syndrome.  The changes we have seen in him over the last few years are a testimony to God’s great power and his amazing parents.  He’s a neat kid and he has overcome many things. There are still things that make him unsure, however, like riding in a go-cart with someone he isn’t familiar. He wasn’t tall enough to drive himself.  So my husband  he folded his 6’4″ frame into a child size go-cart and took his buddy for a spin.  He looks comfortable doesn’t he? Everyone loves to have a stearing wheel between their knees.  Now look at his face.  That’s his “I’m enjoying this” face. Now look a Kaleb’s face.  That’s his happy look. That’s always been my husband’s heart for Kaleb. And for every kid he has ever met.  He loves kids.

And that is just one of the many reasons why I love him.  See? It isn’t so hard to focus on the good stuff….

If you look for the bad in people, expecting to find it, you surely will. 

-Abraham Lincoln

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

– Audrey Hepburn

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Appropriate?

One of my biggest concerns in life has always been that I look and act appropriate.  Now I realize that “appropriate” is in the eye of the beholder.  What I think is appropriate and what others think is appropriate can be vastly different.   I know this because I have eyes and ears. 

I am 42 years old.  I don’t mind looking like I’m 42.  Okay, I mind a little, but I don’t EVER want to be one of “those” middle aged women who are still trying to look and act like a teenager. I’m the mother of teenagers. We don’t need more of them in the house.  I’ve been a teenager.  I’m not interested in doing that again.  I’m all about being young at heart but I’m not interested in navigating the shark-infested waters of teen life. I am also not ready to look  or act like someone’s grandmother.  I’m not a grandmother and am in no hurry to become one. Even if I was, I’m not ready to look and act like one. There has to be some middle ground somewhere. My fear is that I will never find it.

About two years ago I lost about fifty pounds. Since that time I have been slowly trying to build a wardrobe in my new size of clothing.  It hasn’t been as easy or as fun as I thought it was going to be. Who would have thought that replacing a wardrobe would be so much work?  So much stress?  I have no idea what I’m looking for most of the time.  I have no idea what “my style” is. My teenage daughters have become my fashion consultants. This is mostly because I know they won’t let me dress in a way that is embarrassing.  While they forbid me from shopping at some stores, “Mother, that is an OLD LADY SWEATSHIRT place!”, they also wouldn’t let me purchase items from their friends’ favorite stores.  Not that I would. I’m not delusional. But I am confused most of the time.

I don’t get what people are wearing lately.   I don’t understand how anyone with a mirror would think that some of the things they wear are a good look for them.  I didn’t realize spandex had become so popular. I have this rule that if I can see rolls or bulges the clothes are too tight.   Evidentially I am in the minority. There is a small segment of the population who look good in  skinny jeans.  Of that segment, 75 percent of them are in Junior High. 2 percent have given birth. (1 of them is a duchess in Great Britain.)   The same holds true for mid-drift shirts. And sleeveless stuff. And short shorts. I’m all about being comfortable with who you are whatever size you are, I just don’t think that the rest of the world needs to see some of the intimate details.  I’m also unsure when bras became a fashion accessory. I’m glad people are wearing them but I really don’t need to see it to believe it.  That neon pink bra under a transparent white shirt doesn’t really work for me but I guess it’s better than the alternative.   I don’t want to see that either. I don’t know why I get so stressed out about buying new clothes. I’ve come to the conclusion that you can wear whatever you want as long as it makes you happy. No one really cares any more.  Obviously.   

Yesterday I walked into my neighborhood grocery store and walking to the check out lane was a woman, I’d guess a little older than I, wearing a bikini.  A very small bikini.  No cover-up. No t-shirt. Just her bikini and some flip-flops.  I guess technically she had on a shirt and shoes (if you stretch the definition of shirt) so they served her. Just when you think you’ve seen everything….

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Drive-By Fruit Inspectors

 It doesn’t happen very often, but I finally “lost it” the other day. I’d had my fill of something and went on a rant. (not mature – I know!)  Unfortunately my rant spilled over to my face book page. This again is not something I would normally do.  I can usually process something silently and move on.  I can usually keep my mouth, or fingers as the case my be, quiet. I’m not sure why I lost all self-control the other evening other than the fact that I’d had enough and needed some way, short of physical harm to another person, to express it.  I’m not proud of it but it happened and I’ve been pondering ever since what it was exactly that pushed me over the edge.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve plain flat had enough of “Drive-by Fruit Inspectors”.

 “For every tree is known by it’s own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.”  Luke 6:44

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  Galatians 22 & 23

Many evangelical Christians know these verses well and use the term “fruit”  in reference to the visible things in your life that show you are walking with Christ.  I have no problem with that.  I too believe that if one is walking with Christ that there should be things in their lives – or “fruit” – that show it.  I should be able to have peace in the face of trials.  I should be kind to others even when they are unlovable.  I’m not implying that anyone should be perfect, but there are some things that should be evident in my life if I am a Christian.  The problem that I’ve run into lately, a lot,  is that many people tend to focus on what other people’s fruit trees are doing instead of tending to their own.  I understand this at some level. It is much easier to inspect other people’s fruit or judge other people’s lives.  In fact, it is much too easy to appoint yourself a “fruit inspector” for others.  This can be a problem  when you don’t know much about the tree that the fruit grows on.  It’s an even bigger issue when you are inspecting that tree’s fruit quickly and from a distance.  You become a Drive-by Fruit Inspector. (Or DbFI for short.)

I don’t know a lot about fruit trees. I live in Nebraska which isn’t known for its awesome fruit crops.  You want soybeans, corn and cows we’ve got you covered.  Fruit trees are a little harder in this area.  The climate here isn’t the best for trees. There are great apple orchards here but I can guarantee that you won’t drive by an orange grove.  Even the trees that can be grown here have to be nurtured a little differently than they would be in other areas.  My experience with fruit trees is limited to the trees my grandmother had on her farm and the few ornamental fruit trees we have in our yard.  I in no way consider myself an expert on raising fruit bearing trees. I know a few things about the trees with which I have had experience.  I would never go to an orchard owner and tell him what to do. I would never try to evaluate his trees. Similarly I in no way consider myself an expert on other people’s lives nor do I believe it is my job to evaluate them.

My grandma had a pear tree that sat right outside her dining room window.  She would watch every spring for the tree to start budding, a sure sign that the long Nebraska winter was over.  Usually.  You see this is Nebraska. Some years we are blissfully enjoying the season of spring when winter decides to come back and visit for a few days or weeks.  When that happens if your fruit tree is budding, or worse yet flowered,  you can expect that your fruit harvest is not going to be plentiful that year.  I can remember on the few years that happened to my grandmother’s pear tree she would say, “This is good for the tree.  We won’t have pears this year but the tree will get a year of rest and be stronger.”   She always looked forward to the pears that came off of that tree so on the rare years it didn’t produce fruit she was disappointed but she knew her pear tree would bear fruit again.  In fact the fruit the year following was usually better. It was sweeter and bigger because of the year the tree had off. 

I also remember helping my grandmother plant an apple tree. For the first couple years after the tree was planted she pulled the blooms off before they could turn to fruit.  The reason, she explained, was that a young tree needed to establish its roots and grow stronger. By taking off the fruit the tree only needed to focus its energy on doing one thing: growing.  If she let it produce fruit it wouldn’t grow as fast.  Makes sense when you think about it.  She wanted a strong tree and good fruit.  She got just that.  For years she  harvested the apples off that tree and turned them into all sorts of wonderful things.  We’ve often said that grandma would fight the worm for the piece of the salvageable apple so she could make applesauce.  She wasted nothing.  She also taught me a great lesson in the process: not everything that looks funny on the outside is bad and not everything that looks good on the outside is good.  You can have what looks like a lovely apple on the outside but when you cut into it there is a worm that has eaten most of it away.  Conversely you can have the funniest shaped apple you’ve ever seen but there is nothing wrong on the inside of it and it tastes great. 

All this makes me wonder about DbFI’s.   From a distance and not knowing too much about a the tree what would they think of my grandma’s pear or apple trees?  Not knowing that jack frost had nipped the fruit in the bud one year would they decide that the pear tree was no good because it wasn’t bearing fruit?   Would they look at her young apple tree, the one she had kept from producing in order to strengthen it, and declare it worthless? Would they look at the odd shape fruit from a distance and decide that there must be something wrong? People are kind of like trees aren’t they?  We go through seasons when the frost has gotten to us.  We go through times when we need to gain strength for the next season of our lives so God has pulled some blooms off to give us a chance to focus on growing.  Sometimes the things we do look odd or misshapen to others but are perfectly usable to God.  Those are the times that the DbFI’s in our churches and communities usually drive by, evaluate our lives and declare that something is wrong with us.

Unfortunately…..that’s what made me lose a few Fruit of the Spirit the other night. 

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It’s Camp Time!

It’s that magical time of the year once again: the time I get to send my children away for a week and enjoy a little quiet time.  It’s church camp season!  Well…it used to be magical when they were all younger and went to the same camp. Now we just send one kid at a time because they all go to different age camps: Sr. High, Jr. High and Kid’s Camp.  So it really isn’t quiet time any longer. It’s more like one person is missing time.  Come to think of it, I don’t know that it’s been overly magical the last few years either.

Two summers ago we sent our oldest two children to “Youth Camp 1” on Monday.  On Wednesday night of that week I received a text from our daughter: “Arm’s in a sling, but I’m ok.”  WHAT????  I initially missed her text because I was outside “playing” in my weed flower beds.  I frantically texted her back.  No reply.  I texted the youth pastor. No reply. I looked at the time.  They were in the evening service.  Luckily for me some of our dear friends were caretakers at the camp.  I called her.  She’s a mom so she understood immediately why I sounded so frantic.  Now in the back of my head – somewhere – waaaaaay in the back – I knew that if it was something major our youth pastor or his wife would have called me.  But that was at the back of my head.  My friend assured me she would find out what was going on and get back to me right away. Our sweet youth pastor’s wife called me right away and assured me that our daughter was ok.  Seems she had fallen out of a paddle boat and tried to stop her fall into the shallow water, staight-armed. The sling was mostly to assure she would keep ice on it.  Ok – whew!  I thanked her, hung up and felt much better.  Shortly afterward our youth pastor called me. (This is when it occurred to me that I might have caused a riot.) He too assured me that the camp nurse thought it was just fine.  Whew again.  I asked him if he could give my darling daughter a fast lesson in: “These are things we should not text to our mothers without a better explanation.”   By the time my daughter called me back I was much calmer. (Lucky for her.  Maybe that was the plan? I’m not sure really.)  At any rate, after I reviewed the “Things NOT to text” lesson, she informed me that her whole arm hurt but they told her it would be fine so she wasn’t worried about it.  I got a little worried and pondered a loud if she should have an x-ray.  No…they decided. It was okay.  When she arrived home that Friday she said her shoulder hurt still but she was fine.  Ok. Great. Moving on.  Skip forward to last fall when the same daughter is now a drum major for her high school band.  One fine fall morning I received a call from the school nurse informing me that our daughter’s shoulder had popped and that the left one appeared to be lower than the right one.  All she was doing was conducting.  After a trip to the ER, several doctors, a few months, several headaches and finally an MRI later we found out she had done a little damage to her rotator cuff when she fell out of the paddle boat at camp.  Nothing physical therapy didn’t fix thankfully, but we still are unsure whether to call it a camp injury or a band injury.  Neither one sounds real glamorous does it?

Two weeks ago while our younger daughter was attending “Youth Camp 2” I received a text from our youth pastor (poor patient man) that she had tripped over something while running a relay and was on crutches.  No bruises and not too much swelling but the nurse wanted her to stay off of it for the rest of the day.  It was the same ankle she’d turned in track this past spring so I wasn’t too worried.  No phone calls this time because a responsible adult/parent/sensible person texted me first and gave me all the information I needed.  I still find it interesting that my daughter never did text to tell me….but I digress.  At the end of our informative text conversation was the message: “and I am NEVER taking one of your kids to camp AGAIN!”  This is part of the reason I like this man:  he’s hilarious. I assured him that we did not hold him responsible for our daughters’ apparent clutziness and thanked him for letting me know about the current camp injury. Then I realized that he wouldn’t, in fact, be taking any of our kids to camp again.  We are moving before camp season next summer.  I’m not sure if this revelation brought the man a sense of relief or not, but it made me kind of sad.

This morning I sent off our youngest son to Kids Camp along with our oldest daughter and my husband who are going to be dorm leaders this week. (They are much braver than I!)  As they pulled out with the rest of the group attending from our church I couldn’t help but think about what will happen this week.   Our daughter is along so who knows what she will do. I’m praying the answer to that is “nothing” this year. I don’t worry about our son as much because he has his dad there and he doesn’t have the propensity to hurt himself like his sisters do. But he does sweat. A lot.  Even when it isn’t that warm.  As I looked up the forecast for that area of Nebraska I noticed that it is supposed to be 105 degrees tomorrow: before you factor in the humidity.  I hope we packed the kid enough clothes to change into because he’s gonna sweat through everything.  My poor husband.  Heat and boys in a small room.  I hope he packed enough Advil…it could be a loooong week.

Meanwhile our younger daughter and I are looking forward to a chick flick night tonight…after we eat a light dinner that won’t require cooking…..in the air conditioning. Maybe camp season IS still magical.

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Am I The Only One?

I figured out this week that I am quirky.  I know this doesn’t really come as a shock to anyone else but it was an enlightening moment for me.  My husband and I switched vehicles for the week.  He took the small SUV that I have been driving for the past year with him when he went out of town for work and I was left with our reliable and well used mini van.  I love that van. It and I have made enumerable trips to pick up kids from school and practice.  It has faithfully carried us to out of town sporting events and vacations and trips home for the holidays.  It’s a great van.  I was it’s almost sole driver for five years.  Then last year my sweet husband surprised me with my new small SUV – the one that I had been wishing for for two years – and he became the van’s sole driver.  As I was pulling out of our driveway Tuesday morning it became apparent to me how much you change in a year.  I almost backed into the neighbor’s fence.  You see, the van is not only bigger but it’s heavier and you have to push the brakes closer to the floor to get it to stop. No they aren’t bad brakes. They’re new. It’s always driven like that.  As my arm swung into the empty space between the front seats as I went to put it into drive because the van’s gear shift is on the column, not the console between the seats,  I realized I’d forgotten how to drive the vehicle that I used to drive. Every day. For five years.  That scares me a little.  It made me start wondering if I am perhaps the weirdest person on the planet.  The more I thought about it, the more of my quirks came to mind.  I’ll let you decide if I’m alone in my oddity.

1 Am I the only person who rotates the copy paper in the storage shelf when we get a new box?  It isn’t like the stuff has a shelf life, but I want to use the old stuff first.

2. Am I the only one who has this urge to call the number on the screen of those “If you’ve taken this drug and had a bad reaction you could be entitled to compensation” commercials and ask them to run down the list of all the current lawsuits?  I mean…you never know…I might have missed something.  If there’s a lawsuit about Advil out there, someone let me know, okay?

3. Does anyone else hear “Swim Away” from “Finding Nemo” every time they hear a commercial for krill oil?

4. Am I the only one who thinks skinny jeans shouldn’t be made in sizes larger than…oh…say…a 6?

5. Is there anyone else who drives by a large beautiful home on a lake, sees the camper parked in the driveway and wonders where it is that they go to “get away’?  Do they go park in the center of busy city?

6. Am I the only one who wakes up mad at someone because I was mad at them in a dream that night?  Well….at least until I become cognizant enough to realize that they didn’t really do anything.

7.  Does anyone else rotate their towels when they put them away so that they get even use and wear?

8. Do the words “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” make anyone else giggle? What does that even mean?

9. Am I the only one who hears the theme song of “Green Acres” when I pass an older farmer in an old truck on the highway?

10. Does anyone else find one hundred ninety-nine things to do on the way to bed and then wake up annoyed with themselves because they didn’t get enough sleep?

11. Am I the only one who has to resist the urge to poke every button of the cell phones on display, not because I care what they do, but just because there are buttons there?

12. Does anyone else lower their head when walking by the store security camera? I don’t plan on robbing the place. I just don’t want to see what I look like on television.

13. Can other people go to bed with dirty dishes in their sink? I can’t.

14. Does anyone else wake up from a dead sleep panicked because they can’t remember if they set the security alarm before they left work….eight hours ago?

15. Is there another person on the planet who is driven crazy by the misuse of there, their and they’re? Apparently not…..

See: I told you I was quirky.  I think probably everyone is in some way. The world would be pretty boring if we all thought and acted the same way. I’ve decided to embrace my quirkiness.  Thankfully my family has become used to it and finds it amusing.  It’s a good thing because I’m pretty sure that Monday when I’m back behind the wheel of my SUV I will probably throw someone into the windshield the first time I try to stop.

 

 

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What’s In A Nickname?

  My family has been calling me by the same nickname for as long as I can remember.  I could tell you what it is, but then I’d have to kill you.  You see my parents and siblings are the only ones who get to call me by that name.  My husband doesn’t even try it because he knows that it is a special name reserved for those who put up with me  were with me through my formative years. He can call me something else….and he does.  It isn’t that I don’t like the nickname my family bestowed upon me as a very young child it is that I’d be embarrassed to have someone else use it because it would probably have a different connotation.  I like it when my parents use it because it makes me feel loved.  It sounds right coming out of their mouths or my sister’s mouth but there are just things that only some people can get away with.  My family’s nick name for me is one of them. That makes me wonder…..will the nick names we have for our kids embarrass them some day also?

Our oldest child is  the only kid who doesn’t have a permanent nickname.  His given name, Erik, really can’t be shortened down. We’ve called him “Bud”, “Bub”, “Buddy” and when he got older “Brutus”: affectionately of course. He’s received nick names from other people over the years (I’ll get to that later) but we never really came up with one for him that stuck.  I wonder if he realizes how fortunate he is??

When our oldest daughter arrived I gave her a perfectly lovely name: Brittnie. I like that name – always have.  I have no idea why within weeks I started calling her “Pretty Britti” other than the fact that parents coo ridiculous things to their newborns when trying to get them to sleep in the middle of the night. So her name was shortened down to “Britti.”  Unfortunately for her it doesn’t end there.  I love all things teddy bear and have from my youth.  Bears are cute and cuddly and sweet and I love them.  So was my daughter so she became “Britti-Bear”.  In the years that have passed it got shortened down to “Bear”.  (Since she’s become a teenager I’ve noticed her nick name fits her disposition when she comes out of hibernation every morning.)  She doesn’t seem to mind us calling her that.  She’s a good sport. She  has an awesome collection of teddy bears because, well, what else would we buy our Bear?

Our next daughter’s nickname actually makes sense to people.  At the age of five months we found out she has a severe esotropic form of strabismus and the treatment path we chose for that was to put her in glasses.  Really thick glasses that made her eyes look HUGE. They still do actually. So as a baby with her big huge eyes under her little glasses she looked like a bug.  She became our “Lyndsie-Bug” or “Buggy” or “Bugsy”…you get the drift.  It’s a little ironic that “A Bug’s Life” was released the year she was born. She honestly thought the movie should be about her when she got old enough to watch it.   We have a few friends and family who call her “Lyndsie Lou Whoo” but for the most part, she’s just “The Bug”.  She too is a good sport. She has recently informed us that since that is her nickname we really ought to buy her a Volkswagen Bug when she turns 16.  She’s a smart bug!

When we named our youngest young Jakob  many people thought I’d put the “k” in there so people would know it was ok shorten it down to “Jake”.  Nope! If I wanted people to call him Jake I would have named him that.  I like his full name.  I also like “k” in boys’ names obviously. Anyway, I fought the nickname thing with him the longest. No “Jake”.  When he was about two he became fascinated with the movie “Finding Nemo”.  His favorite characters were Crush and Squirt the sea turtles who say “Dude” a lot.  Because they were his favorites, he started saying “Dude” a lot too, which is hilarious coming out of the mouth of a two year old.  He said it so much we started calling him “J-Dude” and a nickname was born.  At least it isn’t “Jake” I guess….

My all time favorite nickname story has nothing to do with me.  When our son went to college he began attending a campus ministry there.  It didn’t take long for the campus pastor to come up with a nickname for him. Our last name is Wedel,  pronounced to rhyme with “Cradle” (now you know what our birth announcements said!)  Before I go further let me just tell you what I tell every telemarketer/new person I meet: “Yes, that is seriously the way it is pronounced.”    “I know it doesn’t look like it should be pronounced that way.”  “I have no idea why there isn’t an “a” in it, there just isn’t.”  and “Because that is just the way you pronounce it.”  Ok…back from side track.   Our son hadn’t been on campus long when he was given his new nickname: “Weeds”.  Our son, ever proud of his heritage, said, “That isn’t how you pronounce it.” The response, “That’s ok.  It’ll grow on you.”  And it did.  He now proudly wears a backwards baseball cap with the Chi Alpha on the front and “Weeds” on the back.  

I guess nicknames don’t necessarily have to make sense.

 

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It’s All About Balance

There has always been a delicate balance in our family: we have two boys and two girls. All things are even.  At least they are in theory. For our poor youngest child things are not nearly as even as he’d like them to be.  Two years ago his big brother moved out to go to college. It was difficult enough for him that one of his heroes was no longer in full time residence but I don’t think any of us has realized how badly it messed up the balance of our home as much as he has.  He is now surrounded by women.  While his sisters and I are not evil we also aren’t guys. We just don’t get it sometimes.

 Enter my husband: super dad.  He understands that boys need to be boys.  He reminds the women of our house of this on a regular basis.  He rights the balance when it gets skewed to the female side.  The problem for our son: he works out of town four days a week.  For those four days the boy has to fend off the female folk in an effort to be a guy.  Don’t get me wrong: the females of the house don’t have a problem with guys.  We love them and respect that they are different from us.  We even understand on some level that they think differently than we do.  That doesn’t stop some of us, however, from trying to girly up the youngest child in the house from time to time.

 There are three bedrooms in the upstairs of our home: one for each of the oldest three children.  Our youngest spent his formative years in a converted office on the main level.  It’s small, but it worked. Well…it worked until he got older and bigger and accumulated stuff.  Things got pretty cramped then.  In the beginning of this summer when our oldest leased an apartment in the town where he attends college it became apparent to us that he no longer needed a permanent room in our home.  We decided it was time to move our youngest upstairs.  It isn’t that we don’t miss the oldest and don’t like it when he comes home to visit. I love having him around, no matter how short the visit and would love to have kept his room just as it was for him. I refuse, however, to have a shrine in my home and – hey – we needed the room!  After deep clean-up, wall repair, a new coat of paint and new window treatments it was time for the big move.  I was at work while my husband oversaw “Operation Regain The Office”.  He recruited our daughters to help.  They did a great job and by the time I arrived home they had our littlest chick all settled into his new nest. My husband commented at how helpful the girls had been the entire day.  In fact, he told me, they did most of it.  Helping him throw out stuff he didn’t want any more, sorting through clothes and getting them organized in his new dresser, figuring out where things worked best in the room.  I was surprised.  I kind of thought they would resist having another male move into what had become “female territory” the last two years.  (They had expressed on numerous occasions how much better the upstairs smelled.)  My husband told me that he too was puzzled so he inquired as to their willingness and zeal to assist with the move.  Our oldest daughter explained it to him: “Well Dad. We figured we might as well start him out right.  It’s easier to train him this way.”  Ah!  He may have a new room, but it came with female house rules attached.

To balance out the overdose of estrogen the boy puts up with on a daily basis, my husband makes sure that he spends some “guy time” with him when he is home from work.  Last weekend guy time (or “Dude Day” as they like to call it) was a day spent at a local air show.  They had a blast but they forgot the sunscreen (see – they really do need women once in a while!) so they came home quite sunburned.  In fact, our son’s face even had some blisters on it which is unusual.  That was Saturday. Yesterday his sunburn had mostly turned into a tan, except on his face.  He’s peeling.  He kind of looks like a salamander at the moment. He doesn’t mind because it just reminds him of the great time he had with his dad last weekend.  We females mind because it looks nasty and he keeps itching it which makes it worse. Being females we have decided to help.  As his older sisters were attacking him with facial moisturizer last night he looked at me with his big brown eyes and in a quiet voice asked, “What day does Dad come home?”  Poor kid.  He needs some balance again.

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He’s Still My Kid

I woke up this morning to a new reality: I have been a mother for half of my life.  Today is our oldest child’s 21st birthday.  Ok…so technically I was almost 22 when he was born, but you get the drift.  The drift is I’m getting old. (Those of you with great math skills have already figured that out.)   More than that, I have officially raised a child to adulthood.  Twenty-one years ago I wouldn’t have thought that was possible.  Twenty one years ago I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Twenty one years ago I didn’t know how cool it was going to be to watch my son grow into a man I respect.  Twenty-one years ago I didn’t realize a lot of things that I know today.

I’ve often said that the reason there are so many references and blessings upon the “firstborn” in the Bible is because they are the ones who have to put up with the most.  At least that’s true in our house.  Our firstborn is the kid who had the rookie parents.  The parents who had no clue what they were doing and were too young and dumb to realize it.  He’s the kid on whom we practiced “experimental parenting.”  No – we didn’t hook him up to wires or do lab tests on him.  We simply tried out a dozen or so different “parenting theories” all in the name of being perfect parents.  Then we figured out that there is no such thing as perfect parents. I’m pretty sure he knew that all along, yet he was patient with us while we figured that out.  He now looks at his little brother, almost 11 years his junior, and says, “You would have NEVER let me do that.”  He’s right.  We wouldn’t have.  We’ve either gotten too old and tired to care or we’ve just figured out which stuff is important and which isn’t.  (I’d like to believe it’s the latter of the two.)   He doesn’t hold that against us, he just finds it funny.  Yes….this is why the firstborn gets a double portion.  It makes up for all the stuff we didn’t get right while he was growing up.  It’s a reward for teaching his parents how to be parents.

This is the kid who taught me so many lessons: ones he didn’t even know he was teaching.  He’s the one who taught me how to love someone more than I love myself. The one whose birth made me step back and start enjoying the little things: a smile, a giggle, quiet time, a hug.   He’s the kid whose hurts I discovered I couldn’t always fix. The one who showed me that sometimes you have to step back and let a kid figure things out for themselves.  This is the child who taught me that as badly as I wanted to control every aspect of his life, he was much better off if I didn’t.  He’s the one who made me admit I don’t have all the answers. The one who challenged me to change my thinking sometimes.  This is the kid who taught me that I can’t live vicariously through my children because it isn’t fair to them. I’ve rejoiced with him, wept with him, comforted him and been his biggest cheerleader.  That’s what a mom does.   He’s the one whose departure for college made me cry but helped me learn that there comes a time when you have to let them go. They have to grow up.  That’s the plan.

So today, on our oldest child’s 21st birthday, I found myself contemplating my new role in his life.  He’s an adult.  He really doesn’t need me much anymore.  That kind of makes me sad.  Then I recalled this past Sunday.  It was Father’s Day so he called his dad and talked to him for 15 minutes.  Then he talked to me for an hour and a half.  My husband grinned at me and said “Someone misses his mommy.”  Yes, he may be an adult and he may not “need” me but he still likes me.    It won’t matter how old he gets: I’m still his mom and he is still my kid.

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Momisms

Yesterday our seventeen-year-old daughter posted this on her facebook wall:

 

She thinks she’s funny.  Ok she is funny.  I would like to go on record however that I have seldom used most of these momisms. Well maybe I’ve used the last one, A LOT, but I have NEVER called one of our kids Fido.  Our dog’s name is Buddy.  At any rate the little stinker got me to thinking: what DO I say to my kids all the time that they are vowing to never say to their own children?  Without further ado, I present our family’s top Momisms (in no particular order):

1. “This house did not come with a maid.”

2. “I’ll bet I can find something for you to do.”

3. “When I need a back-up singer I’ll let you know.”  (This is code in our house for “If you don’t quit interjecting your thoughts into my conversation with your sibling you will be the next one I’ll be ‘talking’ to.”)

4. “When you become perfect you can pick on everybody else.”

5. “Do I LOOK like I’m serious??”

6. “Why don’t you worry about *insert child to whom you are speaking’s name*.  That is a full-time job.”

7. “Did you just call me ‘dude’? I am most definately not a dude.”

8. “Yes it is my job to be grumpy. I’m a mother.”

9. “Well last time I used your *insert lost object* I put it….”

10. “I’m sorry. I don’t speak whine.  Could you use your grown-up person voice?”

11. “I’m at the end of my patience rope and you are fraying my knot.”

12. “Do you HAVE a death wish??”

At least I’ve never told them that if they don’t quit crying I’d give them something to cry about….at least I think I haven’t said that…..

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