Saturday, June 27, 2009

Family Reunions: Distinctly Southern?

From farmhouses to old churches, courthouses to cemeteries, libraries to literary sites, and museums to The Mouse, I've spent the better part of June on the road... and have more of the above planned for July, as well. (But not The Mouse. One Mickey visit per season will have to suffice.)

Such traveling is always a reminder of how things are different in various parts of the country. People talk differently. The stores and restaurants are different. Lifestyles vary.

Which brings me to my question... during my travels, I attended a family reunion in the sticks of Kentucky. Not my family, mind you. I crashed another family's reunion. :) (I wanted to interview the elderly members of the family, and they invited me, so leave me alone. :) )

Anyhow, it was a typical family reunion... kids running around playing, more food than anyone could ever hope to eat -- sloppy joes, ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, potato salad -- good stuff, topped by a table of desserts that would have fed the entire state of Kentucky, women chattering away, the menfolk heading for the lake with fishing rods in hand, and a few men and boys gathered near the picnic shelter strumming on their guitars and singing bluegrass and southern gospel.

The whole thing had a very Southern feel to it... maybe it was the music, but the whole thing just suddenly felt distinctly Southern. I had a hard time picturing a family in, say, New York or Massachusetts or Maine DOING this. I'm sure they must have family reunions of some kind... I imagine they gather together and eat... but there's just something about a down home reunion that just has that Southern flavor to it.

So I wondered... do those of you living up north do this kind of thing? Do you have family reunions every summer, and if so, what are they like?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lessons from Disney

Yes, I said lessons from Disney. Disney isn't just pure entertainment, you know. There's tons to learn from Disney, and especially on a trip to Walt Disney World.

(At least, that's what we told Little Girl's teacher when we pulled her out of school for a week last January because we don't do Disney in the summer.)

Well, I don't do Disney in the summer. But my brother and sister-in-law? They did.

They've been down there for a week now with Baby Boy. Nobody wanted to miss his first Disney trip, and yet nobody wanted to go to Disney in June either. So they went alone, but at the last minute, I just couldn't resist, and decided to fly on down and spend a couple days with him after all.

I called my brother one day last week to see how the trip was going so far. "Well, he loves everything, but it's so hard to get him to do things," he responded. "We can't even get him out of the hotel room without a fight because he just wants to watch tv. Then, when we get to the park, everything we ride, he doesn't want to leave. He just wants to ride it again. It's like he doesn't get it that there's other fun stuff to do."

However, by the time I got there, he was no longer having that problem. Not realizing this, I said, "Uh-oh," when he turned on the tv first thing in the morning after waking up.

"Oh, it's not a problem, he'll turn it off when it's time to go," said my brother.

"I thought you said..." I began.

"He's figured it out now," my brother answered. "He's finally realized that if he just goes where we want him to go without a fight, we always take him to something fun, so now he just does whatever we tell him."

What an analogy can be drawn from that! It seems so silly for him to scream and cry because he wants to watch Dumbo on tv when what awaits him if he'll leave the tv set is so much more wonderful than television. Yet, he clung and cried to keep what he had rather than trust his parents that the unknown ahead held better things.

How like us is that? Me anyway. I've always had issues with clinging to whatever is known... from a very early age. I remember Graduation Sunday in Sunday School as a child, how I dreaded it for weeks and would cry and cry when the day came. When I was 5, I actually didn't go when they came to take all the kids going into first grade out of our class. One of the other girls told on me and the teacher came back after me, and I just sobbed. I didn't want to go to a new class with a new teacher that I didn't know, I wanted to stay in the class with the teacher that I already knew and enjoyed. This happened year after year, in school too.

The funny thing was, each class and each teacher I loved more than the one before it. Each year was filled with new and exciting adventures that I'd have missed out on if I hadn't been dragged kicking and screaming into the new class. And yet year after year, I continued to cry to leave and go on to the next class, thinking it couldn't possibly be better than the class I was in.

That's just one example. I handle transitions much much better now, but watching Baby Boy is a reminder as I move into each new phase in life and have to give up things from the former phase in order to embrace the new things that it really is a smart thing to just listen to my Father, to go where He tells me to go and do what He tells me to do without putting up a fight, because what He has planned for me is better than what I'm clinging to right now.

Baby Boy caught on pretty quickly. Hopefully I can do the same. :)

(And hopefully his parents have caught on that Disney in June? It's HOT, y'all. HOT.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Secret Garden

My neighbor has a garden.

But not just any garden. A delightful enchanted wonderment that provides such scope for the imagination...

Don't believe me? Just follow Little Girl in and see for yourself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Notes from the Field

I really do have a fun job. I say I get paid for playing with other people's kids, and in a way, it's true.

Today's story comes from a day at the pool. Yes, I said the pool -- I told you I have a fun job.

I had a child whose daddy had custody of him -- but daddy had an amputated leg and wore a prosthesis. He was unable to take his son to the pool for the playdates that were held weekly for children enrolled in our program because he couldn't go in the water lest the prosthesis get wet (and obviously he didn't want to hop around in a pool on one leg) and of course he couldn't allow his two year old son to wade in the pool without him -- so I agreed to meet him there from time to time for therapy sessions.

The great thing about early intervention is its emphasis on "natural environments" versus clinic settings, which means not only a child's home or daycare, but also parks, restaurant playplaces, and yes, even pools, are all fair game as they are all places that are naturally a part of a young child's life. :)

So to the pool we went. As the little boy and I were wading through the water side by side, he stumbled and started to fall forward. Instantly he reached his hand up to me, and I grasped it and steadied him before he fell. The entire incident happened in less than a second and we continued wading.

Later, when we came out, the little boy's father mentioned it, as he'd been watching from the edge. "That's my favorite part about being a father," he told me.

I was confused. What could he possibly mean by that?

He explained further. "The trust they have in you," he said. "The way he instantly reached up for your help, KNOWING you'd be there and would save him from falling -- as a dad, that's just the best feeling in the world to know your child has that much confidence in you and knows you're there for him."

I pondered that one awhile.

Isn't it a perfect example of the way we ought to be, with God? That if we even start to stumble, we instantly reach up for His hand, in full confidence that He will be there ready to save us from falling? Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He instructed us to have faith like a child. If we had the same faith in Him that that little boy had in me that day, how many falls might we avoid in life?

I hope the next time I begin to stumble, and every time after that, I'll remember that day at the pool, and the lesson I learned from that little boy... and his father.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our Smiley Girl

School is out, and no more meds for Little Girl as we begin our summer brain balance experiment! Hooray!

Two days off the meds and we already have our happy little girl back!

She followed me out to the car after church. I kept turning around to check and make sure she was still behind me. And every time I did, she just smiled. She smiled and she smiled and she smiled. Oh, how I have missed that smile.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, she was blowing a whistle. Suddenly she stopped and said, "Uh-oh. I forgot my Littlest Pet Shop at Sunday School." Holding my breath I said, "Well, maybe you can get it next week."

I was holding my breath because I've become accustomed to the medicated Little Girl of the past few months, you see, and the medicated Little Girl would have proceeded to have a total meltdown at this point.

The nonmedicated Little Girl? She kept whistling, and nary a word was said about it again.

The medicated Little Girl spent her Sunday afternoons engaged in solitary play that typically involved becoming engrossed in some repetitive strange activity, like cutting out pieces of paper and lining them up or something, and when urged to do something a little more productive, or to come visit family members, or to play with Baby Boy, she would go into hysterics because she HAS TO FINISH THIS.

The nonmedicated Little Girl? She picked flowers to decorate the cat's grave. She played with Baby Boy on the swingset. She made shadow puppets on the wall. She rode bikes. She visited family without complaint and was friendly and cheery and affectionate the entire time.

Oh, and she ate dinner. She ate and she ate and she ate. (She's lost about 8 lbs since starting the meds and she was scrawny before she started!) She ate more for dinner yesterday than she's eaten for all of our Sunday dinners combined since she started these meds, and that is not an exaggeration. At this rate, she'll hopefully gain her weight back and look healthy again!

It is so good to have our Little Girl back. She will never go on that wretched medication again if I can help it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

K-Mart Excursions

I spent the day painting. Painting a room and painting a bed. You could say I'm nesting. :)

But after running out of spray paint for the bed (who knew it would take FIVE cans of primer to paint a metal bunkbed and actually more because it's not covered yet but I -- and K-Mart -- ran out so will have to pick up that project again another day...), I headed to K-Mart for some more.

Now I'm not terribly fond of K-Mart. I rarely go there, and it's certainly not my store of choice, but it does have the advantage over other preferred stores due to its convenient location of a mere 1/2 mile away from my house. So with paint all over my hands, my mowing jeans with a hole in the knee and grass stains all over the bottoms, and an old shirt, I decided K-Mart was going to have to do.

The last time I was at K-Mart, there was a guy at the register as I approached it to get in line, who was simply standing, bent over from the waist, with his head laying on the counter. The cashier poked him and tried to give him his change, and he stood up, swaying and took the change, took a step or two, and put his head back down on the counter again. I handed the girl my stuff and she checked me out, all the while both of us looking at this strange guy laying down on the counter.

I couldn't figure out if he was having a medical emergency, or was just seriously drunk or stoned. I think it was the latter.

He finally stood up and walked off, swaying and staggering as he did so. The cashier said he'd been at her register for fifteen minutes doing that and she hadn't known what to do! I said I'd better watch as I went out to see what car he got into, as I sure didn't want to be driving anywhere in his vicinity!

But there was no need to worry about that. He didn't even make it to the parking lot. He was standing by the gumball machines at the store entrance, once more bowed over with his head on the machines.

Do you see why I don't go to K-Mart?

Okay, so today I picked up the spray paint and stood in a loooooong line, because only one register was open. K-Mart is notorious for its long lines, another reason I don't go there much.

Slowly, slowly, I crept nearer the register, and was nearly there... there was one lady in front of me, and an elderly lady using a walker almost done checking out. The lady didn't have enough money to buy her stuff, and she took her money back and started digging in her wallet.

The woman in front of me made a disgusted sound, and left all her stuff on the counter and marched off, muttering something about how there are other stores. Just as she did, the elderly lady pulled a 50 out of a secret zipper in her wallet and paid for her stuff.

Why would you wait in line for twenty minutes and leave ten seconds before it's your turn? The time to get mad and leave was 18 minutes ago.

So I prepare to check out, when I'm taken off-guard by the girl asking when my birthday is.

Huh? My birthday? Why on earth did she need to know that?

Why, you have to be 18 to buy spray paint, didn't you know!? (I sure didn't.) I googled to find out why, wondering just WHAT kids are doing with spray paint these days.

Graffiti, of course. Duh. And here I was trying to figure out how they were turning it into a drug of some kind. Not that being over 18 would make one less likely to turn spray paint into a drug... but anyway.

So, armed with my dangerous spray paint, I went out to the parking lot, and there was the lady who had stormed out of the store, chatting with an older couple on their way in. I overheard them telling her how to get to Target.

Okay. So rather than wait another ten seconds -- or even another minute or two if it had taken the elderly lady that long -- she leaves all her stuff, goes into the parking lot and asks for directions to another store so she probably isn't even from around here which would make me personally even less likely to want to try to find another store, then she's going to drive ten minutes to Target, spend ten or fifteen minutes at least finding all the stuff in the store that she had left on the counter at K-Mart, and then have to wait in line there?? And this all makes sense because...?

I hope she was satisfied taking an extra half hour or more to save herself having to wait in that line another ten seconds.

And now, after 16 straight hours of painting, interrupted only by a couple of brief phone calls, a few minutes each for lunch and dinner, and an hour to mow the yard, I'm going to bed!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Digging Up My Roots: Genealogical Gardening

My thumb is anything but green.

I like flowers. They're pretty to look at. I gaze admiringly upon the lawns of other people who clearly have a gift for gardening. But then I return to my own yard of nothing but grass, without a single splash of color to pretty it up. You see, I have no interest in gardening. No interest in digging around in dirt. No interest in investing effort into planting and watering and pruning and all the other things you have to do to plants. Not that I know much about that. With no interest... I've never bothered to learn.

It wasn't always this way. When I was a little girl, I loved to help my grandmother with her flowers. My grandparents had a vegetable garden too, and each of us grandkids had a stalk or a vine or something of each kind of vegetable they grew for our very own.

But somewhere between childhood and adulthood, gardening went out the window.

Now I'm thinking perhaps it was situational. First I had a little house where I could have gardened, and actually did put in some flowers one summer. But I left that little house each summer to vacation for 4-6 weeks at a time, and that made gardening impossible. So I stopped.

Then my next home, now that I think about it, really didn't have much of anywhere to put flowers. I had to weed the groundcover and that was a hot and miserable task that required so many precautions to keep from getting poison ivy, which I somehow kept managing to get even though we killed every poison ivy plant we found, that no wonder gardening was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

But now I have a nice yard with all these empty, yet prepared, flower beds here, there, and everywhere. I groaned just thinking about all the work it would be to put flowers in so many beds, and I did nothing. No flowers for me. We'll just have mulch beds surrounding the deck. Maybe someday, when I have kids, I'll plant flowers and let the kids help but right now -- I just don't want to.

That all changed Saturday. If you clicked the link in my last post, then you saw the picture of the cemetery with all the daylilies covering it. My great-great-grandmother planted those lilies, and my cousin announced that she was going to get some and plant them in her yard.

Now that appealed to me. Flowers in and of themselves are pretty to look at, but just not significant enough or important enough to me to bother with. But flowers planted by my great-great-grandmother? Those are significant. I wanted some too.

So while we were at the cemetery, we dug up some of those tiger lilies and I brought them home and planted them. I especially liked the fact that my cousin kept telling me as I asked questions, "You can't kill them! They are virtually unkillable!" I like a virtually unkillable plant. :)

So as we drove the long way home, I asked my cousin about her interest in gardening, and how and when that all came about. And as she chattered eagerly about plants she had gotten from older relatives -- plants I knew nothing about until this day -- I sensed a new addiction growing.

I want those plants too. I want Great Aunt Mandy's snapdragons from North Carolina. And if Mammaw's favorite flowers have always been zinnias, ever since she was a little girl, I want to plant some of those too, even if they aren't what I would pick out myself. I want Aunt Mary's mother's peonies. Maybe I'll even get adventurous enough to get a cutting of my mother's Christmas cactus, which was cut from Mama Walton's Christmas cactus... the real Mama Walton, you know, Mama Hamner. I've always wanted to, but I was afraid I'd kill it.

You see, in transplanting my lilies, I discovered that planting and watering really isn't so bad after all. In fact, I kind of like it. And when the flowers are more than just pretty blooms, but have family significance -- well, I'm all over that.

So something tells me I have a new hobby in the works. We'll see how it goes. :)