Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You Never Know What You'll See With Night Vision Goggles

Wow.  What's up with the chick who wrote that last post? She sounds like a real downer.

So, uh, it turns out that when you turn 40, at least in my experience, no matter what kind of grand plans you have about 40 being the new 30 and kicking 40's ass, sometimes your body has other plans.  Can you say hormones gone haywire.  Good times.  Good times.

Let's cleanse the palate with funny story, shall we?  Tonight as we were watching America's Funniest Home Videos, I was reminded of the time we almost submitted a tape to the show. 

When Bubba was small, he was obsessed with trains, as many little boys are.  We fed that obsession with a steady diet of Thomas the Tank engine DVDs, The Polar Express, and his Polar Express train that he got for Christmas many years ago.

When we heard about the Polar Express train ride that you could take in the North Carolina mountains, we knew we had to do it.  You might be familiar with such things -- you go and get on the train, it goes about an hour in one direction while you have hot cocoa and listen to The Polar Express read over the intercom.  You stop in a quaint little town for about 30 minutes and then you head back down the track while Santa makes his way down the train visiting with all the kids and handing out jingle bells.  What's not to love about that?

Being relatively new parents, of course wehad  the obligatory video camera and because we had only one child we actually got it out and used it.  Poor Punkin, no video of her exists.

Anyhoo, we had a great time as we chugged down the tracks.  I taped Bubba looking out the window and drinking his hot chocolate.  There was a family across the aisle from us and while we didn't actually talk to them, we all smiled at each other in the friendly way that you do when you're sharing a pleasant experience with strangers.  Their kids were cute and we smiled at their happiness.  They returned the favor, obviously enjoying Bubba's joy at his first train ride.

As it turns out, our track went through a tunnel.  It was pitch black as we made we our way through and it was kind of cool to experience that total blackness.  On the way back down the track, Mr. Daddy had the bright idea to use the night vision lens on the video camera to video tape ourselves.

As we entered the tunnel, I flipped on the night vision switch.  Mr. Daddy and Bubba glowed back at me, both obviously blind in the complete darkeness.  I decided to pan around and see what else there was to see. 

I panned over to the family across the aisle and they WERE TOTALLY MAKING OUT!!  The dad had the daughter stiff armed away from them and the mom had her hand firmly on the little boy.  I don't know WHERE their other hands were, but they were GOING AT IT.

 I was so shocked that I quickly turned the camera off and a few seconds later we came back into daylight.  Mr. Daddy took one look at my face and my wide eyes and was like "What?"

"I'll have to tell you later," I managed to squeak out.  Needless to say, I couldn't make eye contact with the nice family across the aisle for the rest of the trip.   When we got to the car I rewound the tape and played it back for Mr. Daddy.  We both howled.

I would LOVE to have submitted that to AFV, but you have to have permission from the people in the video and there was NO way I was going to ask them that.

While it was very unexpected and gave me and Mr. Daddy a good laugh -- and still does lo these many years later -- you have to give that couple credit for finding some excitement in the most unlikely of places.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Toughest Job

Sometimes the tedium of motherhood feels like more than I can bear.  The constant hanging up of jackets and bookbags, tossed willy nilly as they come in the door.  The constant reminder to put dirty socks in the hamper, their simple refusal to rinse out the sink when they brush their teeth.  The dirty handprint on the light switch that nobody will claim as theirs, much less clean up.

I think these times are worse when I've had a weekend away.  I lived a sort of fantasy life this weekend, a life where I had a chance to be just Leandra.  Just me.  Not mom.  Not wife.  Not daughter, not sister.  Just me.   I hung out with some really cool people and I talked about books and movies and art and nature and politics and music.  As me.  Just Leandra. 

I did what I wanted to do.  I went where I wanted to go.

That's one of the things I've been struggling with since turning 40.   I've sort of forgotten what I like to do.  I've sort of forgotten how to be me.  There just doesn't feel like time to do all that the things that have to be done and all the things that I want to do.

I know it's just for a short time and the kids will be gone before I know it.  I know I need to cherish these moments.  And I do.  I know being a mom means making sacrifices.  I just didn't realize that what I would be sacrificing is me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

She's An American Girl

The other day I made a total rookie mistake.  You'd almost think I'd never done this mom thing before, that I hadn't learned anything in the last 10 years.

As we pulled into the driveway, I checked the mail.  There, amongst the grocery store circulars, was an American Girl catalog.  And without thinking, I handed it into the backseat to Punkin.  Did you hear that loud scratching sound last Wednesday?  That was the needle of realization scratching across the record of my consciousness. 

What had I done?

Sure enough, before I had even put the car in drive, "Look, Mommy!  There's a doll in here named Punkin! And she has blonde hair just like me! And a pony! And a nightgown! And a sleeping bag!"

And the coup de grace, "I want an American Girl doll, Mommy."  Cha-ching!

Oh Lord.  This, from a girl who has never once played with a doll for more than five minutes.  I don't really care that she doesn't play with dolls.  She comes by it naturally.  The running joke in my family was that within five minutes all my dolls were naked in a box under my bed.  The only time I seriously played with Barbies was when I chopped all the hair off one of them and "punked" her up by using magic markers to streak her hair and apply more makeup.

I actually kind of like the idea of American Girl dolls because of the stories that accompany them.  What I don't like is their price tag or the fact that I know that she wouldn't play with it for five minutes.  I'd rather just get her some books.

Now, where DID that American Girl catalog get to, anyway? 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

May I Have This Dance

So, hey guys -- and I mean this literally when I say guys.  This is a heads up to all the fellas out there.  So, I know most of you don't really like to dance.  If pressed, you might admit to taking to the dance floor when you've had one too many, but most of you can probably count on one hand the number of times you've danced willingly, right?

But here's the thing.  Do any of you have any idea how much a woman loves a man who can dance?  I'm not talking about any of this So You Think You Can Dance business, or Dancing With the Stars (though that's closer to what I'm talking about).  There is something supremely attractive about a man who is confident enough in his masculinity to dance, who can place his hand on the small of your back and lead you around the dance floor.  Or hell, even one who just places his hand on the small of your back and shuffles in a circle but acts like he knows what he's doing.

Haven't you guys seen the movies?   Dirty Dancing?  Urban Cowboy?  Magic Mike? Okay, that last one wasn't strictly the dancing, but you get my point.  Women like the guys who have some moves and the guys who have the moves always get the girl.

So, fellas, don't leave your lady on the sidelines.  She'll just feel like a wallflower and you can bet your bottom dollar that she's wishing you'd take her for a spin, no matter how great (or not) your moves are.

Monday, October 15, 2012


So, I went for it, that opportunity in my last post.  I didn't think it was likely to work out.  I wasn't really sure I wanted it to, but I went for it.  I did it mostly to break free of the fear, but also just for the experience.

As it turns out, I didn't have enough of it -- experience, that is.  But it's funny how taking an opportunity to examine your life and what you want to do with it can help you clarify just what it is that you do want to do, or what you want to try.   I'm not making any major changes, but I'm stepping up my game just a little.  I'm tired of coasting. 

I don't know.  Maybe it's my birthday that is quickly -- so quickly -- approaching.  It's a milestone year, 40 is.  I don't have any real anxiety about turning 40.  In fact, I feel energized in some ways.  Maybe part of it is that life feels like it's going by so quickly.  Wasn't it just Monday night?  And here it is Monday night again?  I want to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can.  Be the best I can be.  Does that sound hokey?  Maybe it's true that we get more sentimental, cheesier as we get older.  Or maybe it's just an appreciation.

My husband threw a surprise party for me Saturday night.  I was completely taken by surprise and it was so much fun hanging out with people from so many different parts of my life.  I looked at my life and realized that you know what?  I've got it pretty good.  It's a good life.  It's going to be a good year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Am I Scared Of?

I'm not sure when the fear started.  My mother used to marvel at my ability to walk into social situations alone.  I'm still not afraid of large crowds of people I don't know.  I can make conversation with the best of them.  I'm confident that I can find common ground somewhere.

That's not the fear that I feel right now.

I am pretty sure that most of the adults in my life during my formative years had high expectations of me.  I was an achiever.  I got good grades.  I won awards.  But somehow, sometimes, I feel like I didn't live up to that potential.  Somewhere along the way, I quit striving.   I began to settle for what's easy, what's comfortable.  I began to let fear of failure hold me back.

An opportunity has presented itself to me.  An opportunity to stretch very far outside of my comfort zone.  Immediately the little voice in my head started up.  I'm not qualified.  It's too hard.  It's too far away.  They wouldn't want me. 

Is any of this really true, or is this just my way of staving off failure?  If, somehow, this opportunity came to fruition, it would be the hardest thing I've ever done.   But deep down I think I could do it.  So, what then am I afraid of?

I'm afraid of putting myself out there.

I'm afraid of letting someone that I respect see my resumé, which feels paltry.

I'm afraid of being found wanting.

I'm afraid of change.

I'm afraid of wanting it.

I'm afraid of not wanting it.

What if they don't want me?

What if they do?

But I'm also afraid of living my life never trying again.  Never striving to be better.  To be more.  To live up to my potential.

So, I'm taking that step.  What's that old saying?  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?  Nobody told me that single step would feel like stepping off a cliff.

Friday, May 18, 2012

We Are Nothing If Not Practical.

I think I've told this story here before, but when I was about 5 or 6 years old, I was IN LOVE with one of my brother's friends.  I mean, ALL CAPS-hearts and flowers-wanted to marry in love.  My mother tried to convince me that I was too young, but I wasn't having it.

Finally, she took me into the kitchen and stood me next to the stove.  I barely cleared the top of the range.  "Look," she said.  "When you're married, you have to cook for your husband.  You can't even reach the stove."

Huh.  Well.  Apparently, that satisfied me and I no longer wanted to rush down the aisle.

Recently, out of the blue, Punkin announced that she wasn't going to college.

"Really?" I asked.  "You don't HAVE to you know.  But it makes it a lot easier to get a job."

"Oh, I'm not going to get a job either," she blithely replied.

That's what you think, sister, I thought to myself. 

"What about that convertible you said you wanted," I reminded her.  "The black one with pink and purple flames?" (I can't WAIT to have that parked in my yard!) 

"How are you going to pay for gas to drive it?  You have to have money to buy gas to make your car run."

"Okay, I'll get a job."

Practicality, like stubbornness apparently, runs in the family I guess.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tales of a Third Grade Bubba

There is a lot I could write about Punkin here today.  A lot more about friendships and how to be a friend and girls and mean girls and what a wonderful thing it is to have a truly good friend, but it feels like too much and there's too much to say and right now it's all too jumbled in my head, so instead, I'm going to give y'all an update on Bubba.

Oh, Bubba.  My sweet, uncomplicated boy.

Many of y'all know we moved last year and Bubba started a new school.  He was a little nervous but I wasn't really because Bubba has never met a stranger and has always made friends easily.  He was placed in a class with all of the other Challenge students (i.e., the Gifted and Talented program.  Hey, I"m his mom.  I can brag) and boy has he thrived.  He's found his crew -- boys who like the same kinds of things he likes, read the same kinds of books he reads, boys who like to form the same types of clubs he does.  And these are good boys, too.  The girls are nice girls too, though Bubba will never admit to liking any of them.  I think we teased him a little too unmercifully the one time he admitted liking a girl and now I despair that he'll ever tell us the truth again (though I suspect that there might be one girl that he likes.  Just a little.)

Bubba started playing the drums this year.  He takes from a local guy who plays in a band (or a couple of bands, really) and he tells me that Bubba is actually pretty talented.  Bubba played a short piece for our church's talent show and he wasn't nervous a bit and loved all the attention.  He's even written his own music -- his teacher was blown away and said that he'd never had a student do that, especially not one Bubba's age.  Those of you who follow me on Facebook have already seen this video, but here's Bubba rockin' out.  Oh, I must tell you that he begged me to upload this to You Tube and vehemently objected to my titling this video "My Little Drummer Boy."  Only 9 years old and already managing his image.

Last year we could barely get Bubba to participate in his school's Accelerated Reader program.  This year  his reading has taken off.  I let him read the Harry Potter series (though I really wanted him to wait until he was just a bit older) and that sort of lit the fire.  His AR goal for the year was 32 points.  Guess how many AR points he has?  Go on, guess.  648.  Six.Hundred.Forty.Eight.  The Librarian told him it was a school record.  She estimates that he's read 4 million words this school year. 

Lest you think that all he does is read, he's also become an avid video gamer.  He got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and his favorite hobby is watching stupid silly Annoying Orange YouTube videos and downloading apps.  He's sold his PS2 and all his games and is saving up for a PS3 because it has "better graphics."  Uh, ok. 

Now it hasn't been all smooth sailing.  Bubba is 9 now and is starting to test the boundaries just a little.  He's had a few friendship issues that he's had to navigate, but all in all, Bubba's doing just fine.

And thank God, too.  Mama needs one uncomplicated child. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Take a Moment

The other day as I was leaving work, some crows in a tree above my head were going crazy.  There must have been at least 4 of them and they were hopping up and down on the branches and cawing like crazy.  I looked a little closer and there, nestled among the branches, was a hawk.  A BIG hawk.

The crows must have finally gotten to him (her?) because all of a sudden, the hawk took off.  It wasn't very high up in a tree to start with and when it took flight, it felt like it swooped right over my head.  I might have even ducked.  I was near the bus stop on campus, which was crowded with students.  Do you know that not one single person looked up to watch the drama that was being played out above our heads?

Since then I've seen the hawk three times.  I don't think he's necessarily my spirit guide, like Sarah's (though I *love* the idea of this).  I mean, nothing super awesome has happened after I've seen him.  I just love the fact that this hawk, this beautiful animal, has made his home on North Campus.  I love this little bit of nature in the middle of town.  Hawks are probably tied with owls as my favorite bird and I'm thrilled every time I see him.

This morning it was the crows that again tipped me off to his presence.  Again, I was the only one who saw him.  I wanted to stop and yell out "Look everybody!  Look at that beautiful bird.  Look at this beautiful world we live in."

In the words of Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Friendship: It's harder than it looks

Recently I was talking to a friend about Punkin and her seeming lack of social skills and her self-reported lack of friends at school.  "I just don't think she knows how to be friends" I said.  I've watched her interact with kids in our neighborhood and she just seems...lost.

And I realized over the weekend that the apple truly doesn't fall far from the tree.  I don't know how to be friends either.   I mean, I DO, but I don't feel like I'm good at it.

There have been some times when my feelings have been hurt when I wasn't included in something.  I was talking to Mr. Daddy about it and he said "Well, you haven't really been making any effort.  YOU don't reach out to THEM."  And I realized he was right.

I think some of it goes back to some events in elementary and middle school when a group of girls was mean to me.  That was one of the most painful periods of my life and I think has led to a continued distrust of most females.  It's very difficult for me to let my guard down and be friendly.  I always wonder in the back of my mind, "Do they really like me?"  You'd think after 20+ years I'd be able to let that stuff go.  Not so much, as it turns out.

But I was also never one to talk on the phone as a teenager.  I never asked for a phone in my room.  If my friends called, I'd chat for a moment and then say "I gotta go."  I was always comfortable spending time alone (except for that brief period in college to which we will not refer at this time.  ahem.)

I don't know what it is.  I just get home from work and sort of cocoon into my family.  I think this has been made worse recently by the fact that I'm tired and overwhelmed with work and all of my responsibilities.  I've been working on learning to say no  and some of the pressure feels like it's lessening.

This is not to say that I don't have friends.  I do.  But as I texted back to a friend the other day, I just feel like I haven't been a very good one.   And to all those people who are my friends, this time that old cliché is true.  It's not you.  It's me.