The Story Teller

20170919_230223573_iOSSometimes as I read back over my words, I am amazed that they came from the depths of my mind.  Did I really write that?  I muse.  I try to think back to my former self that had those particular thoughts on that particular day and remember. What was I feeling? What else happened? What circumstances led me to write those exact words? If I’d written them at another time on a another day would they have been different?  As I look at an old blog post, or journal entry or some odd story I wrote, I am reminded of how human I am and how far I’ve come.  My journey has taken many twists and turns, yet my words still remain true to me.  The same themes thread their way through my life connecting them together and giving me the voice that the shy, little girl within me would have a hard time speaking aloud. I have changed and grown, but I am still the same. I am me, uncompromised.

I watch my daughters as they are becoming young women. I am filled with pride and hope and love. They are finding their own voices each in their unique ways. A smile comes to my lips when I find the little stories and essays they have written. The letters and notes I find. They too have a love of expressing themselves in words and creating a story from their imaginations. Of all the quirks and neuroses I have passes on to these two, this is the one that I am grateful to have inspired in them.

20170919_225524589_iOSA few months ago my fifth-grade daughter and I were down in the dredges of our basement, trying to organize our “craft” room. She came upon a tote in the back corner labeled “writing and stuff” and pried off the lid. (Yes, we were supposed to be putting stuff away.)  Here eyes got wide and she became so excited as she found a pile of old and I mean OLD stories that I had penned back in the day. She took them upstairs and made me read them all to her.  I laughed as she did she as we landed upon her favorite, “Pedro the Great.”  Ahhh good old Pedro the Great was inspired by my childhood dog – a chihuahua named, of course, Pedro. In my little tale, Pedro is a disco-dancing super hero. I illustrated it myself (as you can see in the picture above.)  I explained to her that I was the exact same age that she is now when I wrote that story – fifth grade. I told her we didn’t have computers (way back then in the old days) and had to use a typewriter (what’s that?”) and I used markers to draw the pics. She was even more impressed when I told her that my teacher read it to our class. I have no recollection of how that came to happen – I think I must have asked her to read it and she humored me. I was proud of my story though and she encouraged me to write.

20170919_222745525_iOSI hadn’t given much thought to Pedro since that evening, until I came home from work a couple of days ago — tired and ready to veg. Usually when I come home the girls are watching TV or doing homework or playing outside, but on this particular day, she ran into the garage to meet me. In her hands was her very own story, “Maggie the Magnificent.”  MTM is also a super-hero dog named after our Jack Russell mix, who I’m not sure I would describe as magnficent (based on the growing pile of chewed up bras, undies, pens, shoes and Barbies in her wake or the number of times a week she wakes me up a 3 AM to pee), none-the-less, my daugher’s version of MTM is larger than life. My daugher was so proud of her story and I could see my ten-year old self in her. I loved her story.  She wants to get it published now and I encourage her to follow her dream. Her fifth grade ambitions are much higher than mine.  She’s working on the sequel now as she doesn’t want our other dog, Ollie, to feel left out. I agreed, he should get his story too. And, I can’t wait to read it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yeah Right, Keep Dreaming Baby…

The girls officially started summer vacation almost two weeks ago already. They love the warmer weather, playing outside, no homework and later bed times. I love burying my nose in their sun-kissed hair and watching their arms and legs brown up, despite the sunscreen I insist they lather on. The other night as we were walking along, I talked about what we were going to do the upcoming weekend. My oldest looked at me and smiled. She said, “you know what I love about summer, Mom? I forget what day it is! I bet you don’t though, because you still have to go to work!”Sigh. Alas, she is quite right, though. For the most part, I know what day we’re on and how many days left until the weekend! I’m quite envious of my daughters. It’s days like that, I wish I’d gone into teaching (unfortunately, my authoritative aura is lacking and I’d be like the substitute that goes home crying because the class ran over her – not good for me or the kids.)

As the days continue to grow longer, though at least I get to enjoy spending more time outdoors with the girls after work and on weekends. As I’ve recently started a fitness obsession, we’re walking, riding bikes and shooting hoops in the driveway. What we haven’t been doing (at least not yet), is swimming. While the girls love splashing about, the pool is not one of my favorite summer activities. If I could float undisturbed on a raft (without getting wet) in my own private pool with a tall, tall fence I might enjoy it more. However, the idea of putting on a scrap of material (or in my case a really big scrap) and parading around in a public place with much of my body exposed mortifies me (hence, the above-mentioned fitness obsession!). On the bright side, at least I don’t live in a country where bathing suits are optional!

Me, Age 26
Me, Age 26

The other day I came across an old photo of myself (see right) in (gasp) a bathing suit (with a t-shirt over it). I remember cringing at this photo back in the day when it was first taken. I didn’t think I looked good – at all. I didn’t think I was pretty enough or curvy enough. Looking at the girl in the photo almost 20 years later, I would give anything to look that good in a bathing suit again! So I’m thinking, either I didn’t look as bad as I thought back then or my standards are lower these days! Unfortunately, I don’t think even if I ran 10 miles a day or limited myself to 900 calories a day, I could ever look like that again.  It’s a shame I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it.

So I’m thinking as I stand in front of a mirror once again mentally criticising my body and they way I look, I wonder if when I look back at my 43-year-old self 20 years from now, I’ll wish I looked as good now as I did then. What would my 63-year-old-self tell me now? Would I tell myself I don’t look half as bad as I thought! Hmmm. Probably. So, why not think it now?  Why not be happy with myself they way I am right now? Well, because I know I could look better and feel better. Out of all the uncertainties in this world, I can control my body. I control what I eat, how much I sleep and whether I jog two miles or sit on the couch and watch TV.  And so, I’m running/walking in my second 5k on Saturday. Yes, the obsession continues….For now…

What about you? How do you see yourself in old photos? Do you think you look better or worse than you thought you did back when it was taken?

 

My Little Card Sharks

photo credit: Velvet Android via photopin cc
photo credit: Velvet Android via photopin cc

The smile that flashes across my six-year-old’s face when she beats me at a game of cards warms my heart. She beams from ear-to-ear. She tries to be a gracious winner, but is unsuccessful (I suspect she gets that from her grandpa – who used to make us kiss his feet when we lost at euchre. I’m still haunted by his “kissy, kissy” taunts as he waved his stinky foot around).

Both my girls love to play cards – Go Fish!, Uno, War, Slap Jack and Trash top the list today. The youngest though by far loves to play the most (unless she’s losing). Her favorite is a game called “Trash.” This is a new one for me that she learned in preschool. We all spent this afternoon playing her beloved game with my parents. Low and behold the little shark won (again) and I came in last (again). She’s either really good or really lucky. Even when I try to win (which is all the time now!), she manages to beat me the majority of the time. I do have to keep an eye on her though, as she likes to skip my turn if I’m not paying attention and my oldest claims she cheats as her sixes become nines and vice versa or she peeks at the next card in the deck.

We have a wonderful time playing though no matter who wins and I hope we are building happy memories. Some of my fondest memories are playing cards with my parents, grandparents and sister. We’d play cards (Rummy 500,Gin Rummy, War, SkipBo, I Doubt It, Euchre, Uno and Hearts) for hours on end, laughing and talking and making memories. I’m happy to pass the card tradition on to my girls.

What about you? Do you/did you play cards? What’s your favorite game?

Dancing Girls

2013-04-18 17.19.36Sorry to disappoint anyone, but my dancing-girls are ages ten and six. We just finished up a long recital weekend. I’m drained and I’m not even a dancer. The girls performed Friday night, Saturday night and again this afternoon. The show lasted three hours and forty-five minutes minimum. Yes, you read that correctly – three hours and forty-five minutes times three shows equals almost twelve hours of my weekend I’ll never get back.

When other mom’s told me the recital would be long, I had no idea how long. Both my girls started dancing when they were three years old. However, this was the first year they took dance at a full-blown, competitive dance studio. Prior to that my girls were at the lazy-mom’s dance studio. We loved Ms. Karen’s. The girls got to perform in two recitals a year instead of just one. In addition to that, there were no costumes or hair/makeup requirements. It didn’t matter if you had a side pony or a high pony. She didn’t care if you wore pink tights or tan tights. You could wear black shoes or whites shoes or tan shoes. Ms. Karen’s  focused on dancing, having fun, building self-esteem and getting the kids on the stage. Besides the monthly lesson fee and tap/jazz shoes, I only had to buy a $10 t-shirt and some black leggings for recital day. The recital was only one day and only lasted an hour. Ms. Karen broke up her classes into three separate one-hour recitals instead of one mega-long recital. In the six years my girls danced with Ms. Karen there was only one time when the girls were in two different recitals.

Sadly, Ms. Karen closed her dance studio two summers ago to focus on her daycare center. My girls were devastated. I was devastated and so was my pocketbook. Last year, in an attempt to circumvent the inevitability of enrolling them in the high-end dance studio, we tried the only other dance studio nearby. This place focused mainly on gymnastics, but offered several dance classes. Neither of the girls made it past the December recital. My oldest took jazz and there was only one other girl in her class. She didn’t show up for the recital and my daughter ended up doing a solo dance. She was a trooper though and did a great job. The youngest didn’t like doing “ballet” and thought her $60-costume was too itchy. Lucky for me, we weren’t committed to a year-long program and didn’t return for the spring session.

Which brings us back to the high-end dance studio. Don’t get me wrong the production was spectacular, the costumes were adorable and the girls had a great time. It’s just the mommy-stress of it all, the expensive costumes, getting their hair just so, making sure their headband went the right direction and that the tights had no holes that got to me. That and the waiting around for hours. The girls were each in one number, but we couldn’t leave as everyone danced in the grand finale at the end of the show. By 9:30 PM we were all tired and grouchy.

I’m not sure what we’ll do next year. I wish I could find a happy, medium dance studio… I’m guessing I’ll be sitting in the dressing room doing hair and makeup, and waiting for the grand finale. My youngest is more excited than ever about dance now and wants to do baton too. My oldest was ready to quit, but a friend doing hip-hop convinced her to dance another year. On the bright-side, I have three months away from running the kids to and from various activities as after this afternoon all their activities are done until September. Yeah me!

Why? Why? Why?

2013-01-29 09.06.45Wonder what I’ll write about tonight? Me too. We’re winding up the A to Z blogging challenge and this first day of the weekend landed on “W.”  Lot’s of great “W” words come to mind: women, worry, weariness, winsome, wobegone, wanton, whacky and wasted. All great W topics, but alas none inspired me tonight. In fact I’m feeling rather uninspired and really don’t know what my fingers will write tonight.

Pondering on the letter “W” again I’m reminded that “W” in and of itself is kind of a weird letter. Think about it a second. As my “why” daughters pointed out to me the day, the letter “W” sounds like double “U”, but looks like double “V.”  Why is that? they ask. Why indeed? Good question, but I have no idea why. My girls ask my oddball “why” questions like that all the time. Yesterday we were in the Subway drive thru waiting for our food. My oldest starts wondering about the building.

Her: “Do you think the floor of the building is up higher than our van?”

Me: “What?”

Her: “Do you think they built the floor up higher than the road?”

Me: “Huh? I don’t know. Why would I know the answer to that?”

Her: ” I don’t know.”

I am glad my girls are curious and encourage them to ask questions. I  want them to know more about the “wonderful world” around them, but some days they really exasperate me with their never-ending interrogations. Lucky for them, when I don’t know, they don’t have to thumb through an encyclopedia to find the answers. They don’t even have to go to the library, flip through a card catalog and then use the dewey decimal system to find a book that might have the answer. They have the miracles called “Google” and “Bing.”  Two seconds, a couple of clicks and presto they have hundreds of answers to choose from. That’s pretty incredible if you think about it. The Internet makes my life as a writer a lot easier too. I can research without even leaving my bed. That’s powerful. That’s knowledge waiting to be grasped. Wow!

Seriously, Shut Up Already…

2013-01-29 09.05.47No, not you. I hope my headline didn’t offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities. Shhh. Come closer. I have a secret…Ready? “Shut up” is a bad word. So is “duh.” Shocked? According to my daughters both these words/phrase belong on the “do not say” list. Unfortunately, for my brain and mouth especially on the that first one, I forget its status as a bad word regularly.

I understand these words can be disrespectful and down-right rude, but sometimes a good, loud, “shut up” is called for and no other words will do the trick. This is almost surely the case when a migraine has plagued me for two days and the shrill, screeching, screaming of two young girls pierces through my temples and makes me want to hide under the bed. My repeated, “please be quiet,” goes unheard.

“Do you know what quiet means?” I’ll ask forlorn. No response comes from the loud ones that don’t stop talking ever. “It means no talking, humming, singing, chatting, tapping, laughing, giggling or making noises of any kind.” Both nod their heads in understanding. Still seconds later bickering, squabbling and squealing start back up. This is where the good “shut up” comes into play and can procure the desired silence I crave. Stunned looks creep across their faces as one will whisper, “Well, you don’t have to yell,” and the other will point out that “shut up” is a bad word.

How these random words became stigmatized as “bad” I do not know. My youngest is curious about various bad words and gestures.

“Why is my middle finger bad?” she asks.

“It just is,” I tell her.

“But why? What does it mean?”

“The same thing as the f-word.”

“What’s the f-word?”

“Something not nice,” I evade.

“Who made it bad?” she continues to question.

“I don’t know.” My headache starts to get worse.

“What happens if I stick my middle finger up?”

“Just don’t, OK?”

“But why…”

It’s at this point in the conversation, I truly want to scream, “shut up already,” but self-control restrains me. So I change tactics…

“Who wants ice cream?”

The excited squeals from the backseat surely cause hearing damage, but at least the 20 questions have stopped as I put my blinker on and turn into the DQ.

Poof! Problems Be Gone!

a-to-z-letters-pWhen the crazies take over my children and I’m about to lose it myself, I need a time out. While my kids burst into tears in anticipation of a dreaded time-out, I beg for one. Please, please, please send me to my room for the rest of the night! No television or video games for the rest of the week? All right! Grounded for a month? Bring it on! Go ahead and punish me:)

Actually instead of the typical scenario where I end up screaming at the kids and feeling horrible about losing my temper later, I’ve taken to giving myself a time-out to just take a deep breath and step away until I can get my emotions under control again. A couple weeks ago my youngest flipped out at dance class because her tap shoes hurt her feet. We tried on various pairs of used taps for sale at the dance studio, but none would suffice. She started throwing a huge tantrum and all the other mom’s were staring at us. I gave my daughter a choice of either wearing the taps she had and participating in her class or putting her tennis shoes back on so we could home. She flipped out even more and lay in the middle of the floor screaming about how she needed new shoes.

After trying to unsuccessfully reason with her (there was no where nearby that sold new tap shoes and class started ten mintues ago) I felt ready to explode. I told her I needed a time-out and went outside to sit on the steps. A few minutes later both daughters joined me outside. The tantrum-thrower still going at it in full force. I sent my oldest back inside to get her shoes and we walked to the car. She still wouldn’t put her shoes on so she walked in her stocking feet, sobbing about need new taps all the way.

The next week with tap shoes that fit perfectly she happily danced with her class. One of the women that worked at the dance studio told me that she admired how I’d handled the tap-shoe situation last week. She said instead of walking out she probably would have hauled her into the bathroom for a spanking. The thought did cross my mind briefly. I felt proud of myself though for not losing my cool.

Everyone needs time to chill out when problems seem overwhelming. Emotions get the best of us at one time or another. My girls especially get caught up in all-consuming dramas when things don’t go their way. About a month ago we created a “peace corner” AKA “Australia” in our living room. We named it “Australia” as that’s what my youngest’s kindergarten teacher named a similar corner in her classroom. I’m not sure why they call it “Australia,” but I’m guessing it has to do with Judith Viorst’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. If you’ve never read the book, the main character has a really bad day and after each bad thing that happens to him, he wants to run away to Australia.

Australia
Australia

Our “Australia” peace corner has bean bag chairs, pillows, stuffed animals, an iPod player with ear buds, a little water fountain, books, markers, papers and other quiet items in it. Now when one of the girls gets upset, they go chill to Australia until they calm themselves down. The new rule is if you’re crying and sobbing and carrying on about how unfair the world is or because you touched something that might make you sick, then you have to be in the peace corner. For the most part, the peace corner’s doing its job. We’ve had one or two incidents where both girls wanted to be in Australia at the same time and one morning where my youngest got mad and threw the bean bag chair across the room.  All in all though, the girls enjoy chilling out and regrouping in their safe, chill-out corner. Peace out!