Category: Family


I don’t exactly know how this post was supposed to go.  As I finished typing the title Luke, the Wild Child, climbed into my lap and threw his arms around my neck. He nestled his head against mine and started humming the dreaded Barney song, “I love you”.  I was about to absently push him from lap so I could continue this post but I had another one of those voices speak to me (I’ve had years of expensive psychotherapy and I STILL hear the voices).  It was a faint whisper, “Enjoy every second. There will be a day that he will not give you his affection so freely”.  As the message seized my heart, I wrapped my arms around him and rocked him as we both sang “I love you, You love me”.  I inhaled the boyish scents of Suave shampoo, fresh dirt, Polo body spray and chocolate waffles. I resisted the overwhelming temptation to kiss his fat cheeks or pinch his scrunched up nose and was rewarded by a huge European MUAHHH on both sides of my face!! The joy I felt in that moment was as great as the joy I felt the second I welcomed Luke into this world.  Moments like these are becoming less frequent these days.  Luke and his brothers are evolving into little men that are too busy to be cuddled and snuggled by me.  So, this afternoon while I’m frantically cooking dinner and helping with homework, refereeing disagreements and soothing budding male egos, I need to remember to enjoy those moments as well. This house will be empty of the sights and sounds of childhood before I know it.

But at least Wayne and I can look back at these images and remember the Wild Things and the Wild Times.

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In doing “a year in review” for 2011, I decided to dig up some posts from my very first blog — done in 2006.  It seems like a lifetime ago and at times it seems it was a life that belonged to someone else!

The following snippet touched me today because David has driven me to the brink of insanity over the past 3 days.  I have to laugh now at how fearful I was for this child. He has hit puberty full-force at the tender age of 10 and there are no real battle scars to be found as of yet.  Yes, he still misses Christian.  He still gets teary when he visits the cemetery. But he has also learned compassion for others, especially those facing loss or grieving. He has also learned gratitude for having Wayne as “another” Dad.  He is much more mature and self-sufficient than I ever imagined he would be at this point; however, he is more naive and gullible than I ever thought possible for a child of mine!!

From January 2006:

I will be sending David off to kindergarten in 7 months. That thought absolutely terrifies me. I know it is only natural for Moms to be scared and protective of their little ones when they are about to embark on such an adventure, but sometimes I feel it is more than that for me. Since David’s Dad died, I have felt an overwhelming need to shield him from more pain — to try to set his world right again. Believe me, I know in my head that I cannot and should not protect him from “life” — that I need to direct my energies into preparing him for it instead. But in my heart, I feel an injustice was done to him and that feeling is only reinforced when I catch him staring up at the sky with a lot of sadness in his eyes or when I see him hug his Dad’s headstone at the cemetery and hear him whisper “I miss you, Daddy”. I know that David is very happy and loved beyond belief and I know that he loves Wayne as a dad. But I wish David didn’t have to endure the sadness and emptiness that must accompany losing a parent. I wish I could give him a magic shield that would protect him from the fear, confusion and anxiety of entering kindergarten. Maybe I’m the one that needs the magic shield.

And while I claim that “I’m ALWAYS right”, I do believe I nailed it when I stated I was the one in need of a magic shield.  I remember reading this quote by Elizabeth Stone in 2000, during my first pre-natal appointment with my ob-gyn, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  Awwwww, what a cool sentiment — exactly what I thought.  I guess in this one instance, I was the one that was truly naive!!  I now have 3 pieces of my heart walking around and it is no wonder I often feel like a warped ping-pong ball stuck inside of a perpetual pin ball machine.

I’ve decided  not to air my recent grievances with David’s behavior, because my look back has taught me to be grateful for the amazing child(ren) I have. He has accomplished so much with so many obstacles to overcome. Through it all he has preserved his Dad’s gentle nature while exercising my vocal tendencies (thankfully only when a true need arises).  I also must realize and accept that neither David nor I have control over the hormonal atrocity known as puberty.  But I really do need my magic shield first … and fast.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

‘Tis the season for waiting.  Waiting in lines to buy, buy, buy.  Waiting in lines to see Santa.  Waiting day after day to get to THE day.  My picture shows my boys waiting to see Santa during our trip on the Polar Express.  It was well worth the wait as each child was rewarded with a silver reindeer sleigh bell.  What are YOU waiting for?

I spent the first couple of days of this challenge berating myself for not taking advantage of two amazing photo opportunities.  I really need to break out of my comfort zone and when I see a beautiful/unusual/captivating moment — get out my camera, make introductions and take the shot!!!  Both of these opportunities would have forced me to pull off on the side of the road and ask permission to take the photograph.  I am normally very outspoken and don’t hesitate to talk to strangers.  Somehow, with my photography, I don’t feel I deserve to intrude upon others with my camera since I’m not a “professional”!  How do you handle these situations???

Since I was so down on myself about my failure to capture some spectacular scenes, I almost let another amazing opportunity pass me by!  My favorite local farm, Ray Family Farms, hosted a very informative and fun event for the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation JAKES organization.  My boys tried out turkey calls, practiced their archery skills, dug for fossils, ate hot dogs, attempted to shoot skeet and fished.  I thank our hosts for the perfect opportunity to spend true quality time with my family doing the things they all love!  That afternoon also gave me the opportunity to see my boys’ through their Daddy’s eyes!

Love-A-Fair!

The NC State Fair …

-the smells of sweet candy apples and cotton candy, savory sausages with onions and peppers, deep-fried funnel cakes and elephant ears, freshly squeezed lemonade, the not-so-pleasant smells of cows, horses, goats, chickens, diesel fumes from the tractor pull

-the sights of children toting stuffed animals and inflatables bigger than they are, teenagers holding hands, parents being dragged from ride to ride to game to food vendors, all of the art/hobby/craft exhibits, the flashing lights on the ferris wheels and miniature roller coasters, animals on display

-the tastes of roasted corn, turkey legs, mini donuts, ice cream, pepperoni pizza, hot dogs, soft pretzels, fried Oreos — this list could go on forever!

-the sounds of laughter, screams of terror, shrieks of joy, calls of the midway vendors, roaring engines, oinking of pigs, music from dozens of rides, irritable cries of tired tots

-the feel of warm sunshine, crisp autumn breezes, plush toys cradled in arms, pushing of the crowds, the body of our loved one pressed against us

The fair creates such a sensory overload for me — and brings back so many memories.  I still cherish as a teenager being given free rein to go and do as I pleased with my friends. The hormones and adrenaline were a dangerous combination!! Now, I get to watch my children absorb the fair atmosphere. I can even use our visits to the fair as a “growing stick” — a way to measure their growth from year to year.  I was proud to see David and Hunter accept the challenge of the BIG rides this year and yet I felt a sadness knowing that in just a few short years they would no longer want to share this experience with me and their Dad, but rather be surrounded by their friends or dare I say, girlfriends!!!  Their mastery of Pharoah’s Fury and the Enterprise meant much more than just growing taller or braver!  And although Luke is the youngest, he is the most fearless and will never let his bigger brothers outdo him — with rides or life, so my time enjoying these moments with him is short as well!

As much as I treasured our fair visit with the boys, I was also secretly wishing that Wayne and I could sneak away one night to wander the midway hand in hand and hold each other tight on the fast and furious rides.  sigh …. I guess that will be the silver lining in the future!!   Cotton candy, anyone??

As a mother of three energetic boys, an autumn weekend offers endless possibilities.

Here in eastern N.C., Saturday was the first day of gun season for deer hunters and for my middle son, that means a dream finally coming true.  Hunter has been talking about this day since he was two years old and claimed to love Santa Claus but wanted to “shoot-shoot his bucks”! Saturday — was it possible that he was finally going to get a big buck of his own? (Sadly, NO! This isn’t the movies, y’all! He did see four does but wants to hold off a little longer to see if he can get a buck first.)

For my oldest and youngest sons, Saturday meant a day full of exploring possibilities at a local farm.

 Is it possible to get milk from WOOD?

And is it possible that being a hamster in a wheel is MUCH harder than it seems?

Is it possible for brothers to fly?

Or maybe to touch the sky?

Is it possible to love riding a pony but still be terrified of chickens?

Is it possible the view is even better from the back of a cow?

And that one can see the world from a cattle train?

Is it possible to lose yourself in corn only to be rescued by the strength of a baby brother’s toe?

I’m not exactly sure. But I do know it is possible to live life by the seat of your pants and experience pure joy and pride at accomplishing so much!

Wishing you a day full of sunshine and possibilities … and someone to share it with!

Music to my Heart

I did an impromptu photo session today trying to come up with an entry for the I Heart Faces photography contest this week.  I lost myself in the talent of my children and their unique personalities!! Now, I must give credit where it is due in terms of my children’s musical talent — it certainly did not come from me.  The only thing I know how to play is the radio (or the iPod on my iPad more accurately)! My parents have passed along their artistic and musical genes to my boys as well as some wonderful instruments!!  Hunter (my middle son) has already informed me that in two years he and his brothers will be forming a band and will need to rehearse regularly! He meant it as a warning to me but I CANNOT WAIT!!!

I’ve thought for a long time now that I want to be a travel writer, specifically a FAMILY travel writer. After our recent vacation, I know that is not in my future as I am at a complete loss when summarizing our experience. Sure, I can give you a very dry, generic review of cruising on Carnival Fantasy to the Bahamas — but to capture the excitement, joy, awe, compassion, and exhaustion we experienced has proved impossible!! 

I must say that the most unexpected but most meaningful part of the journey was the friendships we developed with two of the Carnival staff members. These new friendships are due to our three boys! David, Hunter and Luke opened up to these complete strangers from far-away countries and essentially invited them to become part of our family! The boys laughed with them, carried on meaningful conversations and even shed a couple of tears with them. Watching my children interact with these extraordinary people made me proud and touched me in a way that I will always cherish those moments. I am very excited that we were able to exchange email and Facebook information with Iki and Edith and hopefully they will remain a part of our lives. Of course, any future cruises will have to be planned around their schedules!!! 

I was unable to get pictures of several of the highlights of the cruise simply because I wasn’t present! Parents aren’t allowed in Camp Carnival, but I received animated recaps of the boys’ activities daily! David and Hunter took Break Dancing lessons, created sculptures, went on ship-wide scavenger hunts, learned about the solar system and pirates and played many games. Hunter was the proud winner of a dancing competition and was rewarded with a medal. David won an intense game of black-out bingo and is still sporting his prize of an airbrushed wolf tattoo. Luke ventured off into a new world and found that he loved his time away from Mom and Dad. He was a King, a Pirate and a Funnel. He made more crafts than we could actually pack in our bags and proudly wears his new Freddy FunShip t-shirt (for the third day straight!). So what did Wayne and I do with all of this free time?? Enjoyed the sunsets with a few cocktails, attended an art auction (where I resisted the temptation to part with hundreds of dollars), watched the clouds roll overhead while soaking up some sun and possibly even napped for a while!

On the islands we enjoyed swimming in 85 degree waters, eating fresh conch salad and conch fritters and cracked conch, gazing at multi-million dollar celebrity estates, admiring the colorful and plentiful marine life, riding in Amazing Grace’s van and listening to the music and people of the Bahamas. I was thrilled to see my children show their sense of adventure and immerse themselves in the colorful island culture. Fortunately, I thrive on using the word “NO” or the entire family would now be clothed in a beach vendor wardrobe of Bob Marley t-shirts and the most amusing “If you see the po-po, let me know-know!” shirt.

While I’ve never had a bad vacation, this one fulfilled me in so many ways. I was able to satisfy my soul’s need for salt air, tropical waters and brilliant sunsets. My body was placated with many meals of delicious, fresh seafood and just a few glasses of liquid laughter.  And my mind was filled with the intriguing life stories, hilarious anecdotes and heart-felt inspirations of those we met. To Iki, Beth, Grace, and the many others we encountered … thank you for the memories, the laughs, the tears and the bonds we shared. You all left a life-long impression with me, Wayne and the boys. We will never be able to adequately thank you.

Vacation Jitters

Oh, how I love the modified year-round school schedule!! For a wander-lust traveller such as myself, it gives me considerable pleasure to be able to dream, research and plan numerous exotic family vacations. Our family has been to Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Paris, Bali, New Zealand, Athens and Tokyo … all in my head,of course. We do not have the good fortune to afford such trips.  We don’t even own passports (YET).  And in this down-trodden economic environment a trip to Athens, Georgia is not really manageable.  So, when the boys returned to school in July, I ignored my domestic responsibilities vowed that I would find an affordable but memorable option for a fall break vacation.  And I did! Thanks to the hurricane season, a sluggish tourist season and the discount incentives on the Fun Ships, my family will spend five days on a floating resort with a brief visit to the Bahamas to chow on some conch! Please don’t tell me how awful Carnival is or how I should have gone with Celebrity, RCCL, etc. This isn’t my first cruise or even my first cruise on Carnival. Remember, I needed the most bang for the buck with 3 young boys that demand entertainment and excitement!

Since I’m a seasoned traveller, I rarely get anxious about upcoming trips. My husband will even tell you that I’m too nonchalant about it all and embrace procrastination when it comes to packing.  So why do my facial muscles twitch whenever the boys discuss our upcoming cruise??  3 reasons: David (10), Hunter (7) and Luke (3).  Don’t get me wrong — their excitement is infectious (along with the respiratory virus) but their constant rapid-fire questions are quite unnerving. David, my most cautious and analytical, is very concerned about the possibility of the ship sinking — like the Titanic. Ummm yes, he is aware that there are no icebergs in the vicinity of our ship’s itinerary. But as he so solemnly states, “Anything can come up from the ocean floor and puncture a hole in the hull.” Noticing my very blank, open-mouthed stare, he continues with, “We just had an earthquake a month ago, remember?”  Which makes me turn to Hunter, knowing I can find a sympathetic smile and a casual shrug of his shoulders, dismissing his brother’s craziness. But no such luck!! It seems that Hunter has very grave concerns of his own about this voyage.  “Mom, can you PLEASE dye my hair blonde before the cruise?” Hollywood Hunter is the only member of our family with “slightly” blonde hair. He did just have a haircut that removed the remains of his beach-blonde (no, I did not misspell BLEACH) highlights. But why on earth would he insist on DYEING his hair?? “You just never know how many cute girls I might meet on the ship!”, he suavely informs me.  While trying to convince Casanova that the girls will like him no matter his hair color, Luke is jumping in circles around us singing, “big boat, big boat, Wuke go on big boat”! When I dart into the bathroom, seeking refuge from the natives, Luke stalks after me wanting assurance he will see the beach while on the big boat. 

I know the intensity of their questions, concerns, and overall giddiness will only increase until the first night spent on the ship.  And after that I hope they are more than content to share it all with the happy Camp Carnival counselors!!!  I will try to control the urge to throw my CC pager into the Atlantic Ocean or drink myself into an alcohol coma.  Because the ultimate goal of this trip is to give my very hard-working, devoted husband at least 10 minutes a day of peace and quiet — he can get the other 7 1/2 hours each Saturday he sits in a tree claiming to hunt for deer!

*Picture courtesy of www.bahamas-travel.com*

Can you hear the crickets?

I’m a city girl, plain and simple. Don’t ask me how or why, though. I have lived in the country my entire life. As I type this post, I’m sitting by an open window listening to the chirping crickets and looking out at complete darkness.  And while I know how blessed I am to have nature as my neighbor, I do love the lights, noise and action of big cities. (Of course not having to drive 30 minutes to a Starbucks or bookstore and always being able to have food delivered to my doorstep is a HUGE bonus of urban living!) I thrive on the energy of big cities, but know my destiny is to stay in the boondocks. And after today, I *think* I’m okay with that.

My guys and I spent 2 hours at Ray Family Farms today. It wasn’t our first visit there, but it was our longest and most fun. The horse-drawn cart ride was the family favorite and made my 10-year-old yearn for the “olden days” when there were no cars. I admit, I rolled my eyes and silently thought, “yeah, right!”. But he continued talking about (lecturing) how much better the environment would be without the pollution and how no one would have to gripe about gas prices. He also informed us that horse shit is good for the soil and that’s when I tuned out. (Somehow boys can make any conversation turn to bodily functions at some point.) While watching the boys grinding corn for chicken feed and observing them petting and loving on the horses, I knew that the country is where I need to raise my boys. They enjoy doing the city scene with me, but sprinting down sidewalks and figuring out Metro schedules never gives them the glow they get when visiting the farm or playing in our woods. And while they own PSP’s and Nintendos, they are at their boyish bests when building forts in the yard or battling my parents’ rooster.

And since my boys are where they need to be and my husband is where he wants to be, then I’m exactly where I’m suppose to be. Maybe my 10-year-old will someday open a Starbucks nearby and every autumn morning have an employee deliver on a horse-drawn cart my favorite venti Pumpkin Spice latte. I’d be happy to add a hitchin’ post out front.