Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Senior Prom Saga No. 3

According to my friend at Musings of a Housewife, I should have learned something this past week. So, the senior prom saga continues....

Senior Prom Pics Appeared Immediately
I have already written about how prom pics began to appear on Facebook the morning after before non-prom goers had even arisen. All the pics were there to be viewed as I drank my morning coffee. It was mildly entertaining to see the hideous tuxes (What were they thinking?), the beautiful dresses, who had hired a limo, and who was with whom. I learned something sad about today's parents.

Stuart has Taught Me about Accepting Others' Differences
My Stuart has taught me a lot about being a mom and also about how to accept those who are different than myself. He is very unique and has his own way of thinking. He is completely comfortable in his own skin...maybe more than anyone I have ever known. He is not a 'rebel' but refuses to conform or to be pressed into a mold (Hmmmm...there might be a Bible verse on that subject). He chose 'Prom Not To Be' , and I accept this.

Clayton has Taught Me Cadets are Not Uniformly the Same
Clayton is also unique, but there's no getting around the fact that he is at West Point planning a military career, which denotes a certain amount of conformity. However, Clayton has taught me that cadets aren't robots, they have personalities, too.
This time last year Clayton was a senior who had chosen 'Prom To Be' and was stunningly handsome in his classic black tux. I got three pictures and five minutes. That beat the junior year's record when he had come in the door from a day of shooting guns with 10 minutes to shower and dress before he had to leave. I think we were figuring out studs as he was walking out he door.

One Went to Prom One Did Not
Here's the point: One went to prom and the other did not. I am uniquely able to understand both perspectives. As their mom, I accept both of them for who they are and try hard not to make them conform into the image of what I think they should be. This the part of parenting that has both challenged me the most and, at the same time, been the most exciting. Parenting in such a way as to gently guide but also allow the child to find his own path is as exciting as opening up a cool Christmas present every day. There are always new discoveries!

Some Parents...
Many parents expect their children to be a 'chip off the ole block' and a mini-me child is almost always displayed proudly on the family mantle. This an easy, natural bent of parenting. I have learned through many years of observing families that sometimes this 'chip- mentality' can be the child's natural way, but, more often, the child conforms to parental expectations in order to receive acceptance and affirmation. Dangerous.
And, then, there is the parent who 'wasn't' so now they are determined their child will be the one 'who is'. Easy to spot these types. They love to re-live life through their children; this often produces loud, bragging dads and moms who dress like high school girls. Do not do this.

Have Parents Gone Crazy?
So I'm looking at the Facebook pics seeing all the kids lined up (usually on the really nice house's massive staircase). First the girls. Now the boys. Now couple by couple. Now all together. Now with mom. Mom? Another mom? What's going on?
And then I see the pic of the parental paparazzi. Oh my gosh...have we parents gone crazy?

My Prom Was More Simple
On the night of Stairway to Heaven in '77, My dad told me that I was beautiful. When my date arrived, my mom helped pin on the boutonniere, took a few pics, my dad gave him a stern look which all boys understood (My dad wasn't a hunter, so he couldn't clean his gun and cleaning his golf clubs just wouldn't have communicated the same thing. He was reduced to 'the look'.), and we were on our way. My prom was much more simple.
I love my children. I love the pictures. I want to capture the moments, but I wonder if our putting them in the spotlight too much creates a false impression of their importance. On the one hand I want my children to know how special they are...on the other hand...maybe the return to two pics and a stern look would be better.

What do you think?
Is making our children into lil celebrities healthy for them?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Stu Did Instead ( Prom Saga No. 2)

Yesterday afternoon and evening was a memorable time for our Hillcrest Cottage which is soon to lose yet another permanent resident in 3 1/2 short months. The clock is ticking until #2 son Stuart leaves for college, so time spent together is becoming more precious.

Stuart is Leaving Soon for College
"I can't believe that you will be leaving soon," I lamented to Stuart. "I still haven't gotten over Clayton being gone." (Clayton is #1 son delivered by fam to West Point on June 30th last year.)
"Oh, Mom," was the typical reply of my awesome son who chose Senior Prom Not To Be.
It was the perfect spring night. The weather was fabulous, I was feeling lazy, and my husband sweetly volunteered to fire up the grill and get steaks at the grocery. This was all a true treat for this mom who had been working full-time all week at my very sporatic, very part-time job acting as a "fake patient" at the nearby university medical center training med students. (Whew...just writing that very long sentence made me tired.)

Steaks Were on the Grill
I sat lazily on the front porch as the smell of steaks grilling drifted up front. Stuart, who was friendless for the evening was very content to be at home with no distractions.
We ate our steaks by candlelight underneath a canopy of carolina jasmine. We sat together outside until almost 11:00.
Jeff said several times,"We need to savor this moment and take mental pictures of this. This time next year, Stuart won't be here."
Jeff called Clayton at West Point putting his I-Phone on speaker. For a few short minutes we were all together talking and laughing and making Clayton wish that he was home eating steaks with the fam.

Senior Prom Pics Arrive
This morning before I could even drink my coffee, the prom pics had already begun to appear on Facebook. Tonight Stuart is back in the groove, out with his friends listening to a local band and drinking coffee. Last night was a special family memory. I'm glad we decided to seize the moment.

What's a time recently when you 'seized the moment' and were so glad you did?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What I Learned This Week #3

I learned that when I am working my part-time job all day for four days straight and it is soccer season and the laundry continues to pile up along with the dishes and there is nothing in the refrigerator to eat, so I have to make a grocery run...I don't have time to blog or even to think of a clever way to link this page to Musings of a Housewife.
I also long to hear The Quiet calling my name.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sr. Prom : To Be or Not To Be? (Prom Saga No. 1)

Senior Prom. A rite- of- passage in our society. For some the experience matches the expectations. For others, not so much.

Senior Prom 2008
Last year my oldest went to prom with a group of his best friends, stayed out all night complete with jumping into a pool fully clothed as the sun was rising over the picturesque Arkansas River ( how all proms should end). It wasn't over-hyped at our Hillcrest Cottage, so I think he was surprised at the fun he experienced. I got one picture out of him as he rushed out the door. Such is the life of a boy's mom.

Stairway to Heaven in '77
My senior prom was over-planned. I was on every committee in charge of it and, as chair of decorations, I worked non-stop for at least a month. High School Me was in the middle of all perceived fun, and my senior prom would never have been missed. On the down side, I was also in a relationship that had long lost its youthful fizz. My prom was over-hyped. No boy could have met my unrealistic prom expectations. I had an okay time.

Senior Prom To Be?
So, this week I'm having another conversation with Stuart the senior trying one last time to persuade him to attend his prom. Everyone has had their time to nag him. His friends have tried every angle, and so have I. The boy is simply not interested in going.
"Mom," Stuart said using his famous black and white observation skills. [These are the skills which make him "Stuart". These observation skills make him both the funniest person I have ever known and an awesome judge of character. I can always trust the Stu-o-meter. He immediately cuts through all the 'fat' of life and goes straight to the core.] He continued,"Why do I want to dress in clothes that I don't want to wear to go somewhere where everyone eats the same meal. Afterward, I would go to the same room as everyone else and listen to the same lame music with a group where half of the people I can't stand. Another fourth of the group I normally like but not when they are with the original half I don't like. The rest are my friends, and I shouldn't have to suffer through a prom just to be with my friends."

But,It's Your Senior Prom!
See what I mean? He has a special no b.s. detector. He can always see situations so clearly. It's why he is so good at helping me with computer problems. What can I say? The kid pretty much hit the nail on the head. But I can't tell him that so I said, "Stuart...it's your senior prom!"
"Mom, why should I have to do something I don't want to do... just because society dictates that I should?"
"Stuart, you are everything I have ever trained you to be (He is an independent thinker, not swayed by the crowd, confident in his choices,and makes his own decisions)...and... I don't like it.
Senior Prom Not To Be
Half of me still wanted him to not miss his senior prom.
The other half was glad for him to be "Stuart".

Was Your Senior Prom Good...or Bad?
Did You Jump in a Pool, Lake, or Fountain?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My New Hat

I have always loved hats...especially funky ones. They can bring so much humor into life without using words. In my younger and wilder days I had a reputation for wearing unique hats. [Disclaimer: Funky hats must be worn responsibly, only when the wearer possesses innate abilities to know when and how.] My college favorite was a moose antler hat found while skiing in Vail. The moose antler hat doesn't sound unique in today's world, but, trust me, in those days it would draw some attention. I loved that hat and wore it like it was the most normal thing I could do. Therein lies the wordless humor.

Stuart has Inherited the Gene
My Stuart is definitely the funniest person in our family. His humor is quiet and does not draw attention to itself. He has inherited the you-can-wear-a-funky-hat gene. During his 18th birthday trip to Las Vegas (with Dad to see Cirque Du Soleil's Beatle performance), he won a crazy hat which he wore with much humor. And, when I see the pics, the laughs just keep on coming.

Mom Hats
I thought I knew what it meant to wear hats but didn't really know until I became a 'mom'. Three guys call me 'Mom', so I have a multitude of hats. Naturally, the hats are added, subtracted and morphed as the seasons change.
Diaper Changer, Bottle Feeder, Nose Wiper, Story Reader were a lifetime ago.
Homework Czar, Carpool Queen, Social Director, Baseball Coach seem distant also.
At one point, it was normal for me to drive two to three hours per day. Taxi Driver Hat will be retired in August on Davis' 16th b-day.
Of course, maid, laundry mistress, and cook are hats I wear wearily. (Btw, did you know that good help is hard to find these days? Even when I am my own help.)

'Unavailable' Calls
'Unavailable' ( Whenever my West Point cadet calls, my caller ID says 'unavailable' for security reasons.) rings me up mid-evening last night. "Mom, can you help me with my taxes?"
"Clayton, the deadline is tonight at midnight." I replied trying to not sound as I-told-you-to-not-wait-until-the-last-minute-to-do-your-taxes as I felt. West Point even had tax professionals that could have assisted Unavailable . Aaarrrgghh.
"Can't you ask an upperclassman to help you? Our taxes are totally different, and are done by a professional."
"Mom, just help me out. I'm using Turbo Tax"
(Oh, great. Isn't that how our dear Treasury Secretary got himself into tax trouble? Maybe, then, if Clayton did anything wrong the IRS will be sure to extend sympathy.Ha.)
Anyway, I helped the best that I could, even added a enlightening and sagely tax-withholding commentary. When I was through with Unavailable, I reflected upon the new hat I had just worn. A new season. A new mom- of- adult- child kind of hat.

More Hats
No time for lots of reflection. More hats to wear. I wearily put a wet load of clothes into the dryer, finished cleaning a kitchen still dirty from the dinner I had cooked and served to 20 teenagers, and walked upstairs to see if youngest son was on his way to bed.

What Hats Do You Wear?
What's Your Fave/Least Fave?

Pirates and Tea Parties: I'm Clairvoyant

This past week the top news stories have been about 'pirates' and 'tea parties'. I am going to be bold enough to say I am the only one anywhere who had put those two news stories together... before either stories even happened! Coincidence...or clairvoyance?
Read my post "All My Pirates Have Sailed Away" and also "Tea Party for Pirates" to catch a glimpse of my awesome crystal ball gazing skills.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Random Reasons Why I Love Hillcrest

The Neighborhood 'Crazy'
I live in an incredible mid-town neighborhood that is very pedestrian-friendly. I could walk to everything I ever need in life. If my boys didn't attend a private school, which is a 20 minute drive away, I would park my car and never get in it again. I tell my boys that one day I will be the neighborhood 'crazy' who wears funny hats and drives her three-wheeled 'bike' to the grocery store.
Shortly after my youngest had celebrated his tenth birthday, with his pockets full of birthday cash, we spotted a shiny adult trike parked near a store. This trike had been tempting me for a while. It was wrapped with wicker and was oh-so European looking (also oh-so expensive....$800).
"How much is that bike?" my very 'rich', generous son asked. I promise he was determined to buy that trike for me (awwww moment).
Back to my neighborhood...
Here are 25 Random Reasons Why I Love My Hillcrest Neighborhood:
  1. We have a tiny hamburger 'joint' that's been around since the 40's, and they make the best chocolate malts.
  2. Our neighborhood is casual and flip flops are welcome everywhere.
  3. The people are very eclectic and diverse...lots of artists and creative types.
  4. We have two world-class pizza places within walking distance.
  5. Shady oak trees.
  6. Front porches with guitar players on them.
  7. Saturday home renovation sounds of hammers and saws.
  8. Fresh ground coffee from our local coffee, tea & candy company.
  9. The Arkansas Razorbacks play at a stadium also within walking distance. On fall game days, lots of festive tail-gating in front yards.
  10. Sidewalks that get used a lot.
  11. Sunday afternoons we have a very fun 'junk' shop that displays its new inventory on its front lawn. It's fun to get there first for the best bargains.
  12. Summer walks to the shave ice stand.
  13. The public library is very close.
  14. I have a favorite park which makes me think I am miles away from the city.
  15. We have doggie fountain.
  16. Art Galleries featuring neighborhood artists.
  17. Our bank gives out free food on Fridays.
  18. The first Thursday of the month, Hillcrest opens all its shops, has street bands in mild weather and everyone rolls out.
  19. The nearby middle school has a track for all those New Year's resolutions I make.
  20. Church bells chime after weddings.
  21. Greek, Mexican, American, Brazilian, French, and Italian food within blocks of each other.
  22. Used to have a cool coffee house, but now it's 'for sale'. Somebody please buy it!
  23. Seeing fresh life breathed into an old house.
  24. We have bumper stickers that make me laugh.
  25. We are not the McMansion neighborhood.
What Makes Your Neighborhood Special?

Monday, April 13, 2009

What I learned This Week #2

Oh my goodness, Jo-Lynne ( Musings of a Housewife), it could not possibly be Tuesday again so soon!
Learning is like a chain with many links for me. I learn simple things which lead to larger life principles. This kind of learning usually occurs when I make a mistake. I encourage myself by saying,"It is not a mistake made in vain, if I learn how to not repeat the same thing again." The simple mistakes I made doing computer stuff yesterday led to great time loss-age which led to extreme frustration but also led me to the learning curve and a resolution to not repeat the same error in the future. This makes it all good.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Egg Hunting Days

My 18 year old Stuart has expressed concern regarding this blog. "Mom," Stuart advised,"you need to look forward. Quit writing about the past."
This was an upsetting advisement because I am all about the future. I just re-thought my house full of antiques in order that I would not be perceived as outdated. I just threw out tons of stuff from the attic so that I would not cling to the past. I regularly change my house's paint colors and fabrics. I am always re-doing something!
I concluded the real issue is not my blog but rather an 18 year old trying to shed his past of oxford bucks and matching brother outfits, among other childish things. Last year his brother Clayton observed that I had warped their childhood with "those geeky red-toed shoes" (See pic) . Ha.
I thoughtfully considered Stuart's warning, and confidently concluded I am not living in the past. Contrarily, I am happily pressing toward the future. Still, I do have great memories, the past brings more smiles than regrets. My writing opens my mental scrapbook. I'm not living there...I'm just remembering....

Easter Egg Drills
"Boys," I warned ominously, "the world of Easter egg hunting is a cruel one. Other kids will rip eggs right out of your hand. Hold on tight. Guard your baskets from spills and thieves. Don't stop to admire your eggs or eat candy. Keep moving at all costs."
My competitive nature always came out in times like these. So,next, we did practice drills working on speed and focus. Thus, my pre-school boys were fully prepared for their first public egg hunt.

Let The Competition Begin
A Kinleystead Easter always meant brunch followed by 3 boys on the front porch politely posing, baskets full of candy and silly putty. Our Easter egg hunts were well-anticipated and, with three boys, could be quite competitive. Someone usually gloated; someone usually cried. Such is life.
Lots of plastic eggs were filled with money and candy. The biggest prize, however, was the coveted 'Golden Egg', followed by the silver and bronze. These eggs were harder to find and were filled with Kinleystead coupons entitling the bearer to all kinds of fun activities. Lots of stuff to which Mom usually said "no".
Ballpark concession stand treats, grocery gum machine, and trips to dollar store. Other favorites were Saturday breakfast out with Dad, I get to choose the dinner menu,and I don't have to clean my room. As the boys matured, the coupons grew with them. Gumball machine morphed into I-Tune cards, quarters into dollars. Fun times.

End of an Era
Last year I made an executive decision without consulting the guys. No more Easter egg hunts. To my surprise they were visibly disappointed. It had to be. Somehow, the image of my very-soon-to-be WP new cadet looking for plastic eggs somehow just didn't seem right.

What Cool Things Have You Added to Your Easter Egg Hunts?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What I Learned This Week #1

My new blog friend, Jo-Lynne at Musings of a Housewife encouraged me to do this post. Every Tuesday I have been challenged to share something which I have learned this past week... whether it be silly, serious, life-changing, or simply an observation. I love this challenge! Taking note of life in my Hillcrest Cottage is this blog's purpose. Therefore...every week I'll be involved in this new mental exercise.

Most Improved
I learn stuff all the time...every day. That is a catch-22 statement sorta like receiving the 'Most Improved Player' award at the sports banquet. The 'Most Improved' Award has always made me ask several questions: Was I really that bad? Am I still that bad? Am I getting this because I'm awesome now...or because you had to give me something and this is all was that's left?

Do I learned something new every week because I am so 'unlearn-ed'? Do I learn new things because I enjoy both learning and keeping life fresh? Yes...and yes.

Stinky Soccer Player
In the seventh grade my Davis announced that he had joined the school's soccer team. We laughed at him...out loud. "Davis, you stink at soccer!" was my reply. (Doesn't sound like an affirming "mom" comment. Be assured that Davis and I are "cool" . He won't be entering therapy at age 30 over this comment. Trust me, there's plenty more for which my kids might need to receive counsel after having suffered the fate of being my children...ha.)
It was true...Davis, who is a gifted athlete, did stink big-time at soccer. The last time he had been on a team, he stood statue-like in the field every game refusing to move or touch the ball. I had thought that season was a soccer career ender; another activity added to the 'Well We Tried That' list.
Out of nowhere, Davis developed an extremely strong passion for soccer. He worked his tail off that seventh grade season. At the end, he did receive the 'Most Improved Player' award. He was very proud...and so was I.

Davis' Passion
This soccer season he is on the high school team; people marvel that he is such a 'young' player! He's awesome. Mom Lesson and, maybe this brings me to what I learned this week: The passion for soccer came from within Davis. This passion was not the result of parental pressure to be a 'mini-me'. Husband and I are totally free of MMSS (Mini-Me Sports Syndrome) in the soccer department...didn't have that sport when we were his age...whew. Davis doesn't have to endure the long-winded tales of our youthful greatness...double whew.
I am free to be Davis' number one soccer fan and encourager. I don't care if he ever goes 'pro'; I just want him to have fun. Oh yeah...sports are supposed to be fun.

What Passions Do You Encourage in Your Kids?
What's the Best Award You Have Ever Received?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ode to My Pets

"Help! Something is wrong with my chick!"
My mother, still asleep in bed, opened her eyes to my seven year old self dangling a purple Easter chickie inches above her face.
"It's dead," was her reply.
"Eeeeewwww!" screamed little me, immediately releasing it upon her unsuspecting face.
There's a reason why they don't allow purple, pink, and blue chickies during the Easter season any more because of high mortality rates. Why I was allowed to have a purple chickie while living in a high-rise apartment building, I'll never know. Had she survived her purple-ness, there couldn't have been a bright future ahead of her.

No Cats Allowed
My childhood was full of pets. Multiple bunnies, turtles and goldfish. Others included a sea horse and a canary, and always a dog, but never a cat. My mother's childhood Persian had a "crazy fit" one day and Grandmother called Grandad the sheriff who took the cat away, and no one ever spoke of the results. Cruel boys on the playground , however, did suggest the nearby Mississippi River.

My Childhood Dogs
Tried to ride Pudd the Dachshund like a horse and still have the facial scars to document his response. Pepe Levine the Jewish poodle was adopted from my grandmother's friend because I had wanted a poodle so badly. On my seventh birthday I received Coquette "Cokie" the French toy poodle (in the 60's the dog was always introduced as a French poodle...with a pedigree) who survived until I was married.

Kinleystead Dog Roster
The Kinleystead has seen Tifhy the Lhasa Apso (RIP... who loved to bite my boys' rear ends. After baths they would run naked through the house screaming with Tifhy following behind), Pepper the Cocker Spaniel (now blind, who the Kinley boys wish RIP upon because she is 12 and still not housetrained), and Mac the Labradoodle ( adored, spoiled by all, promoted to human status).

The Kinleystead Zoo
I think all families should have pets. Their chirps, their licks, their dependence, their humor all breathe life into a household.
At the pinnacle , of the Kinleystead's pet keeping there were two dogs, two birds, 3 bunnies, and a revolving door of lizards, frogs, and abandoned baby birds. No cats. No ferrets. No snakes or tarantulas. No rodents with tails.

How Pets Met Their Ends
I am a very faithful pet caregiver, so I was surprised to recount how many Kinleystead pets had met"untimely" or even violent departures.
  • P.J. Funnybunny: "The flies have killed my bunny!" screamed five year old Clayton from the Kinleystead back yard...too much sun.
  • Spot the Bunny: gone after only two days...too much birthday party.
  • Puddles, Toot, and Flops (all bunnies): ripped violently out of cages by unknown animals.
  • Cotton and Brownie (also bunnies): sent to the rabbit adoption center when one hissed...didn't know they did that... at me; the other leapt through the air and bit Flops who I was holding...scary.
  • Noah the Lovebird: nicknamed "Vampire" because his beak drew so much blood from any hand that came near his cage. He deserves his own blog post...stay tuned.
  • Ringo the Quaker Parrot: oh...what a story...he will definitely have his own post!
  • Little Caesar the Tail-less Hamster: bought for a book report visual and lasted 2 years...think that's all that can be expected out of a hamster.
  • Grumm the also Tail-less Hamster: replaced Little Caesar, escaped a lot, and got on his squeaky wheel at precisely 9:00 nightly...lasted 1 1/2 years.
More Pets to Come
Have I mentioned I have always wanted to raise chickens who lay eggs? And I still have a soft spot in my heart for bunnies hopping about the garden. When my nest is empty, I wonder if I will fill it again with pets...hmmm.

What was Your Fave Pet or Pet's Name?