Saturday, June 30, 2012

Holy Molely!

My 6-year-old son is one cool dude!  He loves to rock his shades and baseball cap.  The little girls at the playground love his shy smiles and silly jokes.  Maybe someday he will be a ladies’ man, and this mama will be worried out of her mind!  However, right now, I think it’s cute and chuckle at how the little girls chase him, while he acts all nonchalant and suave.

Despite his cool demeanor, though, my son can get wound up by the strangest things.  Just this past April, April Fool’s Day in fact, I had to deal with one of these little incidents.  I was downstairs washing dishes after lunch when I noticed that the water upstairs in the bathroom had been running for at least 5 minutes.  Curious, I dried my hands and went to find out what was going on.  The bathroom door was closed, so I knocked.

At first, I didn’t get a response.  I leaned closer to the door.  I heard the sink facet running and the muffled voices of both my son and my daughter.  Wondering what on earth they could be doing, I opened the door.  There my kids were with wash clothes in both hands, frantically scrubbing their arms and legs.  Soap and water was everywhere, covering the sink, walls, and floor!

Shocked and upset, I yelled, demanding an explanation.  Startled by my outburst, both of my children jumped around, their eyes wide and their mouths even wider--their wash clothes spraying soapy water through the air!  My son stuttered a couple seconds and then replied, “Um, Mommy, we’re washing off our arms and legs.”

Reaching around them, I shut off the facet, and shook my head in disbelief at the huge mess.  “But why?!?!”

My 5-year-old daughter’s bottom lip started trembling as she squeaked, “Because we don’t want our moles anymore!”

My son, still unsure of himself, nodded and explained further, “Yeah, I found more moles, and I hate them!  I don’t want to be covered with moles.  They are awful, and I keep getting more and more.”

Even more confused, I asked, “But why is there water and soap everywhere?”

My daughter rolled her eyes (as she loves to do) and sighed (as if the answer were obvious), “Because we are washing our moles off . . .”

My son frowned and resumed scouring his left arm.  “But they just won’t come off!  What are we gonna do?!”

Their little solemn faces and the bizarre mess in the bathroom were too much for me.  I started chuckling so hard that I couldn’t even stand up straight!  Here it was April Fool’s Day, and history was playing the ultimate prank on me.  About 22 years ago, I was the one flooding the bathroom with my little brother in my own attempt to be mole free.  And my mother was the one stumbling upon the mess.  What can I say?  History loves to repeat itself and in pretty outlandish ways, too!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mavericks Maniacs

My family is a family of music lovers.  My childhood was FULL of music.  I remember my parents had piles of records.  We would have evenings just for playing records and dancing and singing until we were out of breath!  My parents used to play guitar together, too.  Country, rock and roll, classic rock, folk, and a lot of things in between, they were the soundtrack to my childhood.  I grew up knowing and appreciating great music, and I’m thankful even today that my parents shared their love of music so freely!

Now that I have children of my own, I have passed that passion to my son and daughter.  When they were babies I sang them traditional lullabies, but I also sang all of my favorite songs to them, too.  I noticed right away that my kids had their own distinct musical tastes, and they still do.  My daughter was wooed by Dean Martin as a newborn baby.  My son shrieked and screamed every time I played a Ray Charles song.  My now 5-year-old princess is a soul lover, while my 6-year-old son is my blooming rock star.

Although my kids and I are all a little different, we all share a common deep love of my favorite band, the Mavericks.  I can play anything sung by Raul Malo, the Maverick’s lead singer, and my kids get a huge smile on their faces and start dancing like there’s now tomorrow!  I can play the same song every day, several times a day, and they still ask for just ONE more time.  If you don’t believe me that we are all a bunch of Mavericks maniacs just yet, let me add that my kids have decided to take our family’s Disney World fund (their allowances) and change it to the Maverick’s concert fund.  What young child picks a band over Disney World?!  My music-loving children, that’s who!

I give my kids the room to be individuals and to dream their own dreams.  But I can’t deny that I find it cute and satisfying to know they share my love for the Mavericks.  I’m a strong believer in the family that dances and sings together stays together.  No matter how difficult life may get, we have our common loves and joys to fall back on.  Great music is good for the soul, and I hope that as my children grow older, they never forget that!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Milk Is Moo-Moo Goo?!

My grandmother is eager to take my son and daughter to the farm to show them where food comes from. I’m all for teaching my kids about fruits, vegetables, and grains. However, I am extremely hesitant to show them where meat comes from. I, for one, don’t like to dwell on that subject. However, my 5-year-old daughter is super sensitive about animals. About two years ago, I learned just how sensitive she really is . . .

During one of my grandma’s visits to our home, she brought me some bread and milk to save me a trip to the store. The brand of milk we always use doesn’t have any photos of cows. The gallon of milk my grandma picked up, though, had a cute cow grazing on the front label.

Since my kids were so excited to see their great grandma, they didn’t notice the milk until the next morning at the breakfast table. As my children and I sat down at the table to enjoy our cereal, my daughter made a face and exclaimed, “Great Grandma got the wrong milk! People don’t drink cow milk!!!”

I chuckled as I poured some milk into her bowl. I explained that the milk we have been drinking all these years comes from cows and that this milk would taste the same. It just had a different container.

My explanation, though, only made the situation worse. Her face turned pale and she became visibly shaken! I asked her what was wrong and my princess began to sob. “I don’t want to drink cows! Cows are so nice and cute. I love them!!!”

She ran out of the room crying and raced back up to her bedroom. When I finally caught up with her I found my daughter hiding under her blankets and hugging her teddy bear tightly. I gave her a big hug and then I tried to make her understand that milk comes from mommy cows. It isn’t cows turned into gooey liquid.

After our talk she looked truly relieved. Then she started giggling and asked me, “Mommy, can we go have some milk now? I love moo-moo goo!”

Every now and then she still calls milk “moo-moo goo” or “moo-moo juice,” and I laugh about that crazy morning. But I remember the sheer horror on her face when she thought that milk is made out of cows. As such, I don’t think our family will be going to any meat farmers anytime soon!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Big Bang Baby

My grandma (taken by my daughter)
The perceptions of a child can be so innocent and heartfelt, bringing a renewed clarity to our lives that we may have lost years ago.  They can also be completely bizarre and hilarious, sending us into fits of laughter that can produce tears and hiccups in the gloomiest of individuals.  Both are extremely rewarding, but I hold the laughter-inducing insights closest to my heart.  They can turn the worst of days sunny and take us back to our own days of innocence.  Besides, hearty laughter is good for the soul, right?!

My 5-year-old daughter is particularly funny.  She has a quick wit, much like her mother.  A lot of the time, though, it is purely accidental.  She will look at me with her big brown eyes, flash me a big smile, and then say something that makes me fall over laughing.

Today, she seemed to be on a roll with her hilarious statements.  We were visiting my grandmother for the evening, and my son and daughter were enjoying themselves immensely.  My children absolutely love to go to great grandma’s house because she has a huge yard to play in and she always knows how to spoil them JUST right!

After a delicious spaghetti dinner, we all were relaxing in my grandma’s living room watching TV.  The show “The Big Bang Theory” came on.  My fiancé and I love this show because it is so hilarious, so my fiancé exclaimed, “Hey, ‘The Big Bang Theory’!”

Immediately, without skipping a beat, my daughter tugged on the front of her hair and chimed in, “I’ve got your big bang here . . . !”

We ALL erupted into side-splitting laughter, except for my poor princess, who was clueless to what could be so funny!  We tried to explain to her that that was the name of the TV show.  However, we were laughing so hard that we could barely breathe.  After another attempt at an explanation, she finally understood . . . at least partially.  She batted her eyelashes, grinned, and exclaimed, “Well, my bangs are STILL bigger!”

Monday, June 18, 2012

Boys & Their Toys

My son's 1st mower drawing
Spending a lot of time with my father and his friends before he passed away last year, I am no stranger to the fact that no matter how old they become, boys have to have their toys.  Cars, motorcycles, tools, boats, electronics, guns--whatever it is that fascinates them, they must have them and show them off to the other boys.

Nevertheless, what has caught me by surprise is how quickly and how young boys tend to yearn for the big boy toys!  This month my 6-year-old son has become extremely enamored with my self-propelled Craftsman lawnmower.  Every time I and my fiancé use it to cut the grass, I swear my son hardly even blinks.  The entire time he watches in wide-eyed wonder and fascination.

Now I must point out that my little buddy has been interested in mowers for the last few years.  However, I have noticed it has reached a whole new level.  He has drawn a series of pictures that feature lawnmowers and that depict him mowing the lawn when he grows older.  He has also been making a make-shift lawnmower out of his play shopping cart and a battery-operated foam disc shooter (for proper sound effects).  He uses this contraption to “mow” our upstairs hallway for hours!  On top of all this, he has asked me countless times this month when he is going to grow up so he can finally own his own lawnmower.

Now, I know I can’t stop time and deep down I know my kids will eventually grow up.  Still, what mother wants to rush things and be constantly reminded of that inevitable truth?  I sure don’t!  I’m in a sensitive state as it is since my “baby” boy just graduated from kindergarten this week.  And now my son wants to grow up even faster so he can start collecting manly toys?  The irrational side of me is freaking out here!

On the other hand, though, my rational side is chuckling.  He is so much like his mother, father, and grandfathers.  He has grease monkey in his veins, so I would be shocked if he never took an interest in mechanical things and how they work.  I suppose I have also influenced him plenty because he has sat in my lap or by my side a thousand times, watching and handing me tools as I tinkered and fixed things.  He started when he was still in diapers, so how can he not love mechanical things?

In the end, I guess I have to admit that girls like their toys, too, and some of us love to get greasy and tinker just as much as the boys . . . !

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day Memories

My father's high school senior photo

With Father’s Day right around the corner, I’ve been thinking about my father, William Dollak, a lot lately.  My daddy, the hero of my life, passed away January 2011 from pancreatic cancer, so this will be the 2nd Father’s Day without him.  Of course, I miss him every day, but when a special day approaches that is a celebration of him, I feel his absence down to my very soul.  I really could go on forever about how much I miss him and the pain his sudden death has left behind, but I want to honor and remember the silly, quirky man that will forever remain in my heart.

My dad was one of those fathers who never failed to make you laugh until your ribs cramped up and your cheeks hurt.  He wasn’t into sophisticated or intellectual humor, although he was nowhere near a dumb, crude hick.  No, he was more like Abbott and Castello with a little Jim Carrey thrown in for good measure!  He wasn’t above a good booger or fart joke, and he had slap stick humor mastered.  Yet, there was always something charming and witty about his jokes, and I never feared taking him anywhere.  He was sensible enough to be behave in public.

I like to think of myself as a unique individual, completely unlike anyone. I must admit, though, that my love of goofy puns and witty sarcasm developed much under his tutelage.  And even though he is gone, I have my crazy sense of humor to carry with me, always a reminder of all the years we spent matching wits and just blowing off steam.  Oftentimes, when a person is still alive we forget or never notice how much they influence our lives.  But once they are gone, it starts to become extremely clear.  I never realized how very alike my father and I were until this past year as I tried to cope with his passing.  It was a difficult journey, one that I never imagined or believed I could endure, but I learned so much about my dad and about myself.

My dad & my son in 2006
My father wasn’t perfect.  No parent is or ever can be.  But as their mistakes and shortcomings fade, we start to truly appreciate their strengths, talents, and gifts.  My dad had a big heart and an even bigger laugh.  He loved to help people and to see the best in others, even when everyone else saw nothing but bad.  Although some people took advantage of his generosity and kindness (seeing it as weakness), I know that he truly cared about others, and he left a lasting mark on some people’s lives because of it.

I hope to pass on his teaching of laughter and love to my own children because the world is in desperate need of more laughter and kindness.  It is my dream to see my dad’s simple legacy continue to live on through me, my children, and then my children’s children.  Even if I never accomplish a single great thing in this life, I hope that my laughter and love will change the world and other’s around me.  In my mind, things like these can cause a ripple effect that could be felt much longer and stronger than fame and fortune could ever bring.

Happy Father’s Day to you all!  Don’t forget to tell the special men in your lives just how much they mean to you.  You never know how much time you have left to express your deepest thoughts and feelings.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Joys of Bug Catching

My daughter proud of her ladybug
 Summer is full of fun and exciting things.  Days are filled with swimming, fishing, hiking, and cookouts.  And nights are just as fun with campfires, marshmallow roasts, fireworks, and camping. It seems like the summer fun never ends . . . until fall sneaks up on us anyway.

However, for my kids, summer would not be summer without some bug catching!  During the day, they are chasing ladybugs, watching butterflies, and digging up worms and pill bugs.  Then, at night, they are giggling across the yard after lightning bugs.  Their shrieks of joy and beaming faces never fail to warm my heart.  Their enthusiasm is so catching that even after a long, tiring day, I soon find myself running around the back yard and trying to catch some bugs, too.

My first lightning bug of 2012
As I race around with my son and daughter, all my cares and troubles vanish.  I become a kid again, giggling and smiling as we hunt together to see how many bugs we can spot and capture.  My spirit becomes light as I forget for a moment all the heavy burdens that weigh adults down.  For a while, there are no bills to pay, no overdue chores to finish, no life-changing decisions to be made.

There is only me, my kids, wondrous nature around us, and a feeling that anything is possible.  All that matters during those moments is the here and now.  I have no past.  I have no future.  I just exist in that time frame.  I am alive only to rejoice in the beauty of nature and the love I have for my children.

Although a life can’t be lived solely in such isolation, it feels amazing to simply break free from the chaos and monotony of everyday life.  Once again, we remember to be thankful and to enjoy the simplest things in life.  We rediscover joy and happiness again with every little break we take.

The most challenging part of it all, though, is realizing that usually these moments don’t appear on their own.  We must make a conscious effort to seek them out.  They almost never come to us.  We must go to them.  I am lucky enough to have two beautiful, spontaneous souls for children.  They remind me all the time what it means to truly live and to celebrate life.  As I grow older and wiser I realize that I have a lot to learn from my son and daughter and that I would become a happier person if I became more like them!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Full-Name Frenzy

As a child, I wasn’t always sure why I was in trouble, but I always knew when I had done something wrong.  My parents, especially my mother, had the habit of using our full names to call us whenever they weren’t happy with something we had done.  As soon as I heard “Amanda Rose Dollak!”, I would tremble and shake.  I would reluctantly run towards my parents’ location, frantically try to figure out what it was I could have done wrong along the way.

Who knew that 3 words could put such fear into a little girl’s heart?  And who knew my own name could conjure up the worst of feelings?

Over the years, I often wondered if perhaps this was the main reason I used to hate my own name.  Either way, I knew I abhorred the way my parents had used my full name in anger and frustration and vowed that if I ever had children of my own, I would NEVER use their names in such a manner.

Yet, here I am, years later, a mother with a 6-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter . . . who is clearly guilty of the full-name shout when my kids get too difficult and won’t listen to anything else.  I don’t resort to this tactic very often, but there are those days that could try even the most seasoned and patient parent.  Typically, those days will go something like this:

Daughter: (running up to me while I’m busy)  “Mommy, he’s being mean to me!”
Son:  (not far behind) “Nah-uh!  SHE started it!!!”
Me:  “It doesn’t matter who was mean first.  You are both fighting, and it’s not nice.  Give each other a hug  and say you’re sorry!”
Both:  (very reluctantly)  “Oooookay . . . Sorry!”  (each giving the other a poor excuse     for a hug)
Me:  “That’s a little better.  Now go play nicely.”

Not even 15 minutes later, I will hear arguing in the next room, so I go to investigate:

Me:  “Okay, what is going on in here?!”
Both:  “Nothing!”
Me:  “I know it’s not ‘nothing’ because I heard it from the other room.”
Son:  “She wasn’t listening to me and playing like I want her to!”
Me:  “You shouldn’t be bossing your sister . . .”
Daughter:  (interrupting me)  “I don’t like him anymore ANYWAY!”
Me:  “Why don’t you two go to your rooms and play separately until you can be nicer to     each other?”
Both:  “FINE!!!”  (storming off to their rooms)

Almost a half an hour I hear the little pitter patter of feet above my head and giggles as they race from one room to the next.  With a sigh of relief that the war has ended, I turn my attention back to the task at hand.  Then, from out of nowhere, shrieks and screams ruin my relieved mood.  I call up the stairs for my kids to come down and tell me what is happening.  But even after I yell at the top of my lungs, I get no answer.  The squabbling only gets louder.

Racing up the stairs in record time, I reach the ruckus, finding my son and daughter in an active tug of war with a toy.  I yell some more to get their attention, but they don’t even acknowledge my presence.  Feeling my patience waning, I knock on the door with a couple loud thuds and then throw the full-name shout out there in all its glory.

Immediately, the chaos ends, and my children both stare at me with their mouths open and eyes wide.  They don’t move a muscle or make a sound.  They know now that Mommy means business and that they had better listen up!

With my frustration vented and the situation diffused, I have them both sit down with me and talk the problem through.  A compromise is reached and a real apology is exchanged, and then my kids are back to playing as though nothing had ever happened.

As I sit for a while longer watching them play, I can’t help but feel a little guilty.  Am I a hypocrite for resorting to a tactic that I once hated?  Or is it worth the outcome?  Really, is the way I use the full-name ploy the same as my parents’?  In the end, I have to conclude that although I picked up that little habit from my parents, I have learned from their mistakes, and my kids are happier and more carefree than I ever was . . . even with the occasional frustrated use of their full names!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When Nature Comes Knocking . . .

The robin's nest on our front porch
As some of you may know from my previous writing, I’m a huge nature person.  I love the sun, beautiful landscapes, plants, and animals . . . the whole works.  In a perfect world, I would stay outside all day, every day, and then sleep out under the stars.  The fresh air is so exhilarating and the beauty of the nature leaves happy and content!

However, when the indoors and outdoors clash it often means disaster!  Yesterday, my family and I were reminded of that very truth.  Most of yesterday was a normal day and passed with little event.

In the morning, my 5-year-old daughter and I found a bird’s nest on our front porch.  Thinking it was abandoned I considered knocking it down.  However, ever curious, I decided to use my cell phone to take a photo of the inside of the nest, just in case it broke it apart while removing it.  To my surprise and excitement, there were 3 beautiful blue eggs inside the nest.  I was overjoyed to share with my kids their first robin’s nest, but I warned them that we needed to keep our distance to avoid provoking the mother bird.

Later, in the evening, my 6-year-old son and I were in our dining room, getting ready to leave for some errands.  When suddenly we head a LOUD commotion behind us.  I jumped around and there was our cat Tigger running at full speed towards the living room.  Rather than wait for someone to open the screen door and let him in, he had jumped through the screen and kept running without skipping a beat.

Immediately, I noticed Tigger had something in his mouth.  Since he is a wonderful mouser, I thought perhaps it was a mouse or a mole.  As I got closer, though, I noticed it was pretty big and dark brown.  It certainly wasn’t a rodent.  As I continued chasing him into the living room, I decided no, it had to be a bird.  He had caught and killed a bird a couple weeks ago and had attempted to bring it into the house.

Yet, when I finally caught up with my pudgy kitty I realized in horror that it was a chipmunk--a VERY alive one at that!  My kids and I started yelling and screaming, trying to get Tigger to let the poor thing go.  But that only provoked Tigger to run back towards the back door, hoping to escape with his prize.  As he neared the back door, I all but pounced on top of Tigger, frantically telling my son to open the door.  I hoped to get our kitty to release the chipmunk and try to shoo the frighten creature out the back door.

I managed to get Tigger to let go by the grabbing the skin on the back of his neck.  However, instead of running out the door, the disoriented chipmunk ran back into the living room!  Almost immediately, Tigger broke free and recaptured the chipmunk . . . and once again, my children and I were chasing the cat all through the downstairs again!

Finally, in total desperation, I tackled Tigger in the living room and the chipmunk pop out of his mouth, flew through the air, and then scurried under our computer desk.  Not wanting to risk having the whole scenario repeat itself, I snatched up the very unhappy kitty and closed him in the basement.  Then I turned my attention to how in the world I was going to get a frightened chipmunk out of my house.

I told my kids to stay back because chipmunks bite and I didn’t want them to scare him enough to send him scurrying through the house again.  I crept up to the desk with a small paper waste basket and a shallow cardboard box (to use as a makeshift lid).  I was in position and ready to trap the chipmunk when out of nowhere my daughter came running over yelling, “Did you catch it, Mommy?!?!”

That was all it took to spook the chipmunk once more.  It shot out from under the desk like a thousand cats were on its heels.  Of course, that’s when my dog finally noticed, hey, there’s chipmunk in the house!!!  She took off after the poor critter, and they zigzagged all over the downstairs until the chipmunk disappeared, hopefully out the open back door.

We searched the house a little longer but could not find a trace of the chubby chipmunk.  Since we were running late, we decided to leave for our errands and then resume our search later.  Although all was quiet on the home front when we returned, at least with the chipmunk, my crazy evening was topped off with another surprise!

Forgetting all about the robin’s nest on the front porch because of the chipmunk chaos, I opened the front door to get the mail.  As I reached my hand into the mailbox, I heard fluttering of feathers and angry chirping.  Then, the next thing I know, I had an angry mother robin diving straight for my head!  She chased me around the front porch.  Miraculously, I made it to the front door, flung it open, and slammed it shut behind me--thankfully, with the bird outside, not inside!

Even I, the nature lover, was in total shock over such an insane evening.  It makes you think twice about wanting to live free in the open air, doesn’t?!  I know it did for me!

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Son, My Little Brother

My son making silly faces, like my brother used to do
Contrary to this post’s title, it is not going to involve a topic worthy of a day-time talk show. Nor will you find this story in any of the tabloids that litter the checkout aisles at the supermarket. Rather, it is a tribute to all the mothers who have ever realized that God has a sense of humor!

When my son was a newborn baby I couldn’t help but dream of all the joy and fun we would share together as he grew from a baby into little boy.  I envisioned the sweet, smiling baby in my arms growing into an adorable, loving toddler . . . full of energy, giggles, and kisses.  He would be my little helper, always eager to help out around the house.  Of course, I was prepared for the occasional spirited temper tantrum and messes that could rival natural disasters.  However, neither my babysitting/daycare experience nor the best parenting materials available could ever prepare me for the truth I would discover a year later.

I am not even sure when exactly it happened.  But one morning I awoke and realized in horror my sweet bundle of joy was turning into my little brother!   It started with an annoying poke here and a little childish taunt there.  Then, it progressed to a fascination with everything revolting and disgusting.   Now my six year old is steadily becoming a master at getting under my skin as only my younger brother was once able to do.

My son’s little antics are constantly resurrecting memories of my childhood.  My brother was and still is a relentless instigator and prankster.  Even though I love my little brother dearly, sometimes I swear that his primary purpose in life is to drive me insane!   I have endured years of punches, boogers, farting, pranks, and teasing at the hands of my brother . . . and now that I’ve finally gotten away from it on a daily basis, my little boy is taking over?  Where is the justice in that?!?!

The craziest part of all this, though, is the fact that my son developed into my little brother’s clone, almost entirely away from my brother’s influence.  Since my brother was an MP in the Army for several years, he was away from the area except for occasional leaves.  As such, I have to wonder if somewhere in my family’s genetic makeup, these traits are hidden somewhere, waiting to be released.  Could there be an annoying little brother gene lurking inside of me somewhere?

Whether it is nurture, nature, or a combination of the two, I have to laugh at how no matter how hard we try to distance ourselves from our past, it can pop back up again in strange, unexpected ways!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Faithful Furry Family Members

Honey Bear, our 8-year-old poochie
For those of us who are animal lovers, our family is incomplete without our fur babies. With their sweet faces, loving behavior, and funny antics, they bring added joy and laughter into our lives. We love them to pieces and they fill a whole within us we never knew even existed until they came into our lives.

I was reminded this past weekend of the connection between animal lovers and their pets. Our beloved bunny, Boo, who we had for 3 years, became ill suddenly, without warning. There wasn’t anything to be done, so Saturday, we had
to say goodbye. My kids and I had a long cry together, and we spent Sunday mourning our lost friend and family member.

Some people might laugh or not understand our tears, for Boo was “only” a rabbit. Yet, to us, he was a part of our family and we loved him dearly. We have many fond memories of watching our bunny hop around with glee or racing around with the cats in their own version of tag. My kids enjoyed making Boo special salads from the yard and picking handfuls of dandelions every day during our walks. Believe me it was hard for us to say goodbye to our sweet bunny, and it still hurts immensely to not have him here with us anymore! 

Tigger, our 7-year-old kitty
During this difficult time, I noticed that our other furry family members sensed our mourning and the loss of Boo. Our little dog, Honey Bear, spent most of the weekend moping and whimpering. Our oldest cat, Tigger, (who was Boo’s best friend) spent a great deal of time during the day sleeping where Boo’s cage used to be. At night, Tigger watched over my kids, taking turns to stand guard over my son, then my daughter . . . back and forth.

Tigger is especially loving and faithful. Every night when I’m tucking in my son and daughter, he comes to tuck them in as well. He has done this since the day my children were born. Whichever child makes it to bed first, that is the one he tucks in first. He kneads their blankets, purrs up a storm, and gives them goodnight kisses. And then it’s on to the other child after they are comfy and relaxed.

If someone is sick in bed, Tigger senses it and stays with them most of the day. He lies on their feet or snuggles up against them. He sleeps whenever they are resting but watches intently when they get restless. Out of our 4 cats, Tigger is the most in tune with us and he continues to surprise me.

Although it’s difficult to lose a pet, I wouldn’t give up the rest of my fur babies for the world. All the wonderful things they bring into our lives are worth a thousand times more than the hurt when losing them. Certainly, with pets, the old adage “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” could never be more accurate!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Handprints on the Heart

My son's handprint
As I was scrubbing more dirty handprints off of the living room wall today, my mind started wandering . . . parenting involves a lot of handprints!   As soon as our children learn how to walk, our homes become invaded by little messy handprints.  Baby’s sitting in his highchair practicing with his spoon?  Soon his little fingers are right in his food, making art on his tray and anything else he can reach.  On a trip to the ice cream stand?  Those sticky little fingers are bound to leave a mark somewhere.  The junior artists are fast at work on a finger-paint masterpiece?  You can bet there will be rainbow handprints everywhere.  The kids decide to come in from playing in the backyard?  They never fail to leave a dirt trail to the sink.

Now, I’m not complaining.  All those dirty, sticky, and gooey handprints tell me that my kids are happy, healthy, and active.  Still, they make me stop and consider what other handprints my kids could be leaving in my life and within my heart.  These other impressions aren’t very noticeable.  In fact, some of them are invisible and impossible to detect with the human eye.  But they are felt nonetheless . . . and oh, so important to me!

They can be small, such as our nickname for my daughter (which her big brother started) or the way we now cut our sandwiches into fourths (or ‘baby sandwiches’ as my daughter calls them).  And they can be a lot larger, including how I’m now consciously trying to live a healthier lifestyle for my children or how we take time out just to be silly (something I’ve forgotten how to do years ago).

Either way, I can’t imagine my life without these life/heart handprints.  They have become such a huge part of my existence that I know they’ve changed me forever.  I am a better and happier person because of my son and daughter, and I’m positive that they are affecting me in even more wonderful ways that I may never realize.

Parenting can be difficult, but it is a very rewarding experience.  You create life, shape that life, and hope and pray that in the end, you raised your children correctly.  Yet, we often forget that parenting also reshapes us and makes us grow.  Children are a blessing beyond words, and with their love, laughter, joy, and innocence they leave a permanent mark in our very souls.  So the next time you are scrubbing walls or shaking your head in wonder at the handprints almost to the ceiling (as we parents often do), bear in mind your heart is a thousand times more covered!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Teacher Tall Tales

My son showing off his first backpack
Now that my daughter has turned 5, both of my children will be in school come fall.  It is going to be the start of a great adventure for my daughter.  Lately, the realization that my princess is growing up fast has me thinking back to my own grade school days.

I remember that at first I HATED it, but then later I enjoyed it immensely.  My little brother, though, never seemed to really like school and went through quite a few periods when he insisted his teachers hated him.  He used to come up with all kinds of outlandish tales about his teachers, trying to justify to our parents why he should be allowed to stay home.  In fact, his tall tales inspired me to write this poem about 10 years ago:

Just ask my little brother
‘Bout his new teacher at school;
He’ll say she’s like no other
‘Cause she makes lava seem cool!

He claims she is a teacher
From deep outer space somewhere;
A mean and ugly creature
With large horns beneath her hair.

He imagines that she ate
All her students from before
For not staying at school late
And doing homework galore!

He says that she breathes fire
And vents smoke when she is mad.
He cries, “We’ll all expire
If we fail to keep her glad!”

Now can you understand why
My brother can’t go to school?
For to go would mean to die,
And that would make him a fool!

Although it is years later, I still find myself chuckling at my little brother’s crazy stories.  And I look at my own children now and often wonder if they might eventually do the same.  School is an exciting journey, but it is also so full of changes and new things that it can be a little scary, too.  I hope both of my children will have an easier time than I did during the first few years of school.  I will be reminding them every step of the way that they aren’t alone . . . that I’m there supporting them and rooting for them 100%!