Tag Archives: family

Cades Cove, TN

We live about five hours from Gatlinburg, TN. If you’ve never been there, it’s a town just outside the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Gatlinburg has gone over the years, from being a sleepy little mountain town to a tourist mecca. It has a decidedly German flavor to many of the buildings and in the summer, there are beautiful flowers everywhere. I know lots of people don’t like tourist towns, and I often don’t like them either, but I like this one. It is a great gateway to the beautiful park, and inside that beautiful park is Cades Cove.

Cades Cove was a community way back in the mountains. Today, it is basically a museum of past Appalachian living. There are a few houses, some churches, a nice visitor center and a campground. We decided to take a bike ride on the loop road, and quickly discovered that it’s a lot hillier than we ever thought it was from the car. We had to bale, but in the meantime, I got some awesome photos.

A morning view from the Loop Road.
A morning view from the Loop Road.

We got there early, it was shady and cool. Suddenly, the sun rose all the way and the humidity began to creep up.

The boy beginning to realize that a black shirt was a bad choice...
The boy beginning to realize that a black shirt was a bad choice…
The Loop Road.
The Loop Road.

We realized that we were going to all die and dry up like empty corn husks if we kept going, so the sight of this cross-over road was a welcome sight.

Posts along the cut over road to chop that trip in less than half.
Posts along the cut over road to chop that trip in less than half.

The boy was in the worst shape because he had on a black shirt. My husband is the kind of person who trades us for crappy meals in restaurants, and will give you the shirt off his back. His shirt was NOT black and large enough to allow for air circulation when it was put on my son, so they traded shirts. I’m not sure if it shows well enough for you to tell, but that black shirt was TIGHT on the hubs. It was really funny, and a little embarrassing…

The hubs goofing off because the boy's shirt was too small for him, the boy dying.
The hubs goofing off because the boy’s shirt was too small for him, the boy dying.

Lesson learned from this? Just because you can handle an eight mile loop road bike ride on a perfectly flat island in Michigan when the temp is in the low 60’s, does NOT mean you can handle a loop road bike ride on a hilly, 80 degree, humid Tennessee morning. Just say no. The Cades Cove Loop Road is for cars. Use one.

Have a great day full of level walking/riding paths, cool temps and low humidity. Be nice ūüôā

My Love Letter To Fly Over Country

On my way home from taking my daughter to school this morning, I heard a Jason Aldean song on the radio about two guys from New York flying across country to L.A.¬† They were talking about why anyone would want to live “down there” in the middle of nowhere.¬† I live down here in the middle of nowhere and I would like to answer that question.

The middle of the country is beautiful.¬† I’ve been all over it and it boasts mountains, lakes, plains, forests and rivers.¬† Farmland spreads in some parts as far as the eye can see.¬† You get fed from that middle of nowhere.¬† I live in Ohio, so I feel that I can only speak with authority about Ohio, even though I have spent considerable amounts of time in other places.

Early spring from my grotto. And oh yeah, that big black dog is called Emma.

It is green here.  Right now in the spring, it rains at least some, almost everyday and a LOT on other days.  The grass is green, the leaves are green, the flowers are blooming and most places you go, the air has a slightly flowery smell to it.  The clouds and misty mornings make me feel cozy.  Sunny mornings put a kick in my step.  We have to mow our grass around here, cause it grows really fast.  As the season rolls on, the leaves on the trees will get bigger, the shade will get deeper, the sun will get hotter and it will be humid.

Full summer in Missouri, also in fly-over country. Also, this looks a lot like Ohio.

Summer is pretty much what you picture summer being.¬† Hot, humid, languid.¬† We celebrate flag day out here usually with patriotic concerts.¬† Parks have free concerts all summer long, usually once a week.¬† Farmer’s markets open and are something to do on a Saturday morning.¬† You can get the freshest, locally grown food available.¬† The Fourth of July is fun.¬† We have picnics and play outdoor games and go to fireworks displays or those patriotic concerts again.¬† It is old-fashioned.¬† It is American.

Little Red and her Wolf, getting ready to Trick or Treat.

Fall is my favorite.¬† The humidity goes away and the air is clear once again.¬† The sky is a kind of blue that humans try to duplicate but can’t.¬† Fluffy white clouds scud across that blue sky and once in a while, the air has a bite to it that reminds you that winter is on the way.¬† The warm afternoons and cool nights turn the trees to their fall colors, gold, red, yellow, orange.¬† We still rake leaves out here and even though we aren’t supposed to, we put them in piles and burn them just to smell our childhoods again.¬† We celebrate Halloween and we call it Halloween, not Harvest, that’s Thanksgiving.¬† We take our kids to pumpkin farms and buy the biggest ones we can.¬† We also buy gourds and corn shocks to decorate our porches.¬† We hang fake spider webs and prop up fake witches with silly brooms.¬† We make or buy costumes for our kids and take them Trick or Treating.¬† We take them to neighbors we know, and neighbors we don’t know.¬† We are not afraid of each other out here.

A couple of years ago, we had a little snow, then we had freezing fog. The result? Narnia, or as it’s more commonly known, my backyard.

Thanksgiving is technically in the fall, but around here, sometimes, its in the winter.  Some years we are buried in snow, some years, like last year, we never have to wear our super heavy winter coats.  We get ice and snow and blustery wind.  Christmas is especially wonderful if there is snow.  The outside lights get buried sometimes and the soft snow glow they give off is truly a thing of beauty.  Sometimes in the winter, if you go outside at night in the crisp cold air, and look up at a star filled sky bright with stars, you can almost hear them sing.

Then, you have the people who live here.¬† The folks.¬† Of course you have stupid people and mean people and people who just take pleasure in making things hard for others, but overall, the people out here are nice.¬† They are helpful to one another.¬† When we have natural disasters or tragedies, we don’t sit on our butts wailing and whining and waiting for someone else to come save our butts.¬† We dry our tears, we stand up and dust ourselves off and get to work fixing things.¬† We help our neighbors.¬† We have bake sales and benefit dances and festivals and give the proceeds to our friends in need.¬† If someone is desperately ill, we do the same thing.¬† We count on no one but ourselves.¬† We’ve learned a long time ago that ourselves are the most dependable people there are.¬† If someone is having a rough time, we do things for them without saying anything.¬† We invite them to dinner, or we buy something they need and tell them that we had this lying around and we don’t use it anymore, would they like it.¬† We don’t want to make anyone feel bad and we don’t feel the need to toot our own horns.¬† To do something nice for someone and then make a big deal about it is not the way we roll.¬† We are quiet, we are thoughtful, we are good people.

Yes, we live in the middle, but we are educated, we like the arts, the majority of us believe in God.¬† Lots of us have guns and go hunting.¬† We support the military because we understand that freedom isn’t free and those brave souls make it so we can sleep safely and in freedom.¬† What we are NOT is close minded and intolerant and selfish and racist, and with all due respect, we don’t like it much when people tell us we are because it’s just not true.

So the next time you are flying over from somewhere to somewhere and you wonder why anyone would live down there in the middle of nowhere, now maybe you have a hint of an idea why.¬† It’s beautiful here, the people are good and there is room to breathe.¬† Why do you live at the edges?

Have a wonderful day and be kind to one another. ūüôā

The Obession With Food Continues… My Yummy Yummy Chili Recipe

Alrighty then, last time, I was kinda complaining (well ok, not kinda, I just was) about the never-ending food demands of my family.¬† I briefly mentioned that I liked easy recipes like chili, so that got me thinking that I should MAKE some of my chili, which I did and while making it, I decided to take some pictures of it and share the recipe.¬† I’m no Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray, but my food is pretty good and made with easily available stuff and my kids eat it.¬† So, please try my chili and I hope you enjoy my accompanying comments and extra directions.

1 Can Dark Red Kidney Beans – The brand is unimportant

2 14/15 oz cans tomato sauce or tomatoes

1 1/2 pound ground beef

1 small onion finely chopped

1/2 green pepper finely chopped

2 cloves crushed garlic

1-3 Tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt to taste

First of all, if you like turkey chili, you can make this recipe with turkey, I’ve done it, it’s pretty good.¬† I’ve also made it with a combination of turkey and beef and that was better.¬† All beef is best.¬† Don’t buy cheap beef (anything labeled ground meat should be suspect, if you go with chuck, drain it after you¬†brown it). ¬†You can also make it with soy if you are a veg.¬† The flavor is just fine, but as has been previously established, we have texture issues in this house, so the rubbery balls of soy didn’t go over too well, but if you like it go for it, again, the flavor is fine.

Finely chop the onion and green pepper.¬† Don’t whine and tell me you don’t like green pepper.¬† If you chop them fine, you won’t even know¬†they are in there.¬† The undertone of their flavor is crucial to the success of the dish, so man up and put them in there.¬† My kids hate GP and they have no idea that this chili has any in it.

Brown the ground beef in a skillet with the green peppers and onions.¬† If you or the kids are super hungry, you can put a little of this well cooked mixture on a piece of folded bread and have a little snack while you wait for dinner.¬† It’s super good and my mom used to do it for me.¬† While the meat and veg are browning, drain your beans.¬† The toots are in the liquid.¬† It is gross and stinky and will make you stinky if you don’t drain them.

If the grease in your meat doesn’t cook away, drain the mixture and put it in a big pot.¬† Add everything else.¬† One comment on the tomatoes.¬† Again, due to dislike of slimy things, we don’t care for canned tomatoes.¬† They result in yucky lumps of stringy tomato gooze in the final product and we don’t like that, so I use tomato sauce.¬† Either one will work.¬† Also, if you don’t have actual cloves of garlic, use garlic powder or something like Tastefully Simple’s Garlic Garlic.¬† I usually put in about a tablespoon and then if I want more in it, I can add it.¬† Just remember, once it’s in there, you can’t get it out,¬† but you can always add more.¬† With regard to chili powder.¬† You need at least one tablespoon to make it taste like chili.¬† I usually use two and it isn’t too spicy at that level.¬† Three, and the kids don’t like it.

Stir it all together, bring it to a bubble, turn the temp to low, put a lid on it and let it meld together for 45 minutes or so.¬† You need to check it every so often and stir it so it doesn’t stick or anything.¬† If you think it’s too thick, add some water.¬† I usually fill up one of the tomato sauce cans and dump it in before I put the lid on because it WILL thicken again as it cooks.

If you have picky children, who would eat chili, but not vegetables, one of my favorite additions to this pot is to finely grate a large carrot and put it in with all the other ingredients.  If you grate it on the little holes on the grater, they cook down so much, they are not noticeable and they do not change the flavor.

When it’s done, serve it with shredded, sharp cheddar cheese and crackers.¬† It is delicious, easy and comforting.¬† This recipe doubles or triples well if you are feeding a crowd.Enjoy and be kind to one another ūüôā

I Know Why Women Talk More Than Men

A few years ago, I read an article¬† by some crusty old college professor type dudes, that said women talk something like three or four times as much as men.¬† That’s just bullcrap, I remember thinking to myself.¬† I am a substitute teacher and a wife and mother of a boy and let me tell you something, the boys talk and gossip more than the girls.¬† When I am teaching it is usually the boys who get in trouble for talking.¬† Just recently, I had a third grade boy come up to me when I was subbing and tell me all about his love life and how one girl keeps trying to get him to “go out” with her when she KNOWS he already has a girlfriend.¬† Needless to say, I gave him the mom/teacher combo speech about how he is too young for all that junk and he needed to just go back and sit down and stop thinking about girls so much.¬† It went on and on, but you get the gist.

So anyway, back to women talking more than men.¬† It started to hit home with me a while ago, but over the last weekend, it hit home with a ton of lead, exactly WHY women talk so much.¬† It’s because we have to repeat EVERYTHING we say, especially to the men in our lives.¬† Both the big men and the little ones.¬† I was sitting in my living room trying to avoid the 52 inches of Sponge Bob that was blaring in the family room, when my son walked through and I asked him if he had finished his homework.¬† “What?”¬† I repeated myself.¬† “WHAT?”¬† I repeated myself again.¬† “Oh, yeah, I got it done a long time ago.”¬† Then, when I was in the kitchen, which is PART OF MY FAMILY ROOM AREA, I said to the same small boy, “Go wash your hands, dinner is almost ready.”¬† “What?”¬† I repeated myself.¬† “WHAT?”¬† “GO WASH YOUR HANDS IF YOU WANT FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”¬† “gee mom, you don’t have to yell…”¬† It’s a good thing he’s cute and does funny things.

This went on ALL WEEKEND.¬† For everything.¬† It could be an order I’ve given, a request I’ve made, a compliment I’ve doled out, permission to go play outside, an announcement that I have won the Powerball and everyone is now going to go to school online and we are going to buy an RV and travel the world with it like The Wild Thornberries, and I will have to repeat myself.¬† Usually more than once.¬† By the time I went to bed on Sunday night, I was exhausted.¬† I didn’t do more physically than I usually do, I hadn’t solved any quantum physics problems that would’ve worn me out mentally, all I did was repeat myself.¬† Over and over and over.¬† I don’t have to repeat myself as much with my daughter, and as time goes by, less and less often with my husband, but the little boy is going to kill me.¬† Or drive me crazy.¬† Or cause me to take a vow of silence.¬† HA, let them function for more than a few hours if I do THAT!

SO, the next time some MAN (and lets face it, it’s usually a man) says that women talk too much, look at him and say “What?”¬† Make him repeat it a few times, then just shrug and grunt and walk away.¬† It will totally freak him out and it will be funny.¬† Try it.

Be kind to each other peeps ūüôā

2012 Bring It ON!!

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time of reflection on the past while looking toward¬†the future.¬† 2011 was an interesting year to say the least.¬† The country is not faring too well, the world gets scarier by the day and now, every minute of every day is filled with election crap.¬† I’m already sick of it and we have¬†eleven more months of it.¬† My city has had over six feet of rain this year which comes on the heels of several years of drought.¬† Fortunately, the rain came steadily over the year instead of all at once, or I’d be writing this from a boat.¬† It is warm so far this winter.¬† “They” predicted a double La Nina which supposedly meant 35 plus inches of snow for us this winter, so far we’ve had something like 2/10 of an inch.¬† We’ll see.

On the home front, things have been less controversial than the rest of the world.¬† My husband and I are working hard every day.¬† My daughter survived color guard camp, marching band camp, and marching band season.¬† Going to all the band events was fun for all of us and we miss it.¬† My son had his tonsils out and is now an A/B student and very seldom sick.¬† Removing chronically strep infected tonsils will tend to do that for a person.¬† We got a new cat.¬† We kept all of our friends and have not lost any more family.¬† We got to travel to California to visit my husband’s grandmother and we went to Disneyland while we were there.¬† I got to see my sister-in-law for the first time in about thirty years and began mending relationships gone wrong.¬† It’s been a good year.

My dreams for¬†2012 are simple.¬† I¬†wish everyone to remain healthy.¬† I wish for us to be able to continue doing jobs that we enjoy.¬† I wish for my children to continue on the paths they are on, they are doing a good job of growing up.¬† I wish to have more time to read and write and work on art projects, in fact, I think that’s my resolution this year.¬† I wish safety and security and good health for everyone that I love.¬† I wish for my country to survive and thrive.¬† I wish for all the bad guys in the world to mind their own business at least and to go away for good at ideal best.¬† I wish we’d drill for oil so we can tell some of the same bad guys alluded to above to go suck it.¬† I wish¬†for my husband or myself¬†to win the lottery.¬† One of the super big ones.¬† I wish for world peace, not a world in pieces.

Tonight while we all celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another, think about those you’ve lost, lessons you’ve learned and hopes you have for the future and remember to keep moving forward.

Happy New Year friends ūüôā

Another Christmas Past

The Crib of the Nativity at Krohn Conservatory

When I was a little girl, we had a fancy dinner cooked by my Mom on Christmas Eve and another fancy dinner cooked by my Mom on Christmas Day.¬† It never failed that our dishwasher would break down and ALLLLLL¬†those dishes would have to be hand washed.¬† By the end of the holiday, sometimes before the end of it, she was pissed off and exhausted.¬† It was always my Dad’s fault, whether it was or not, although usually it was because for example, on the years that he actually got her a gift, it was ordinarily something fab like a set of pans.¬† I decided a long time ago that when I grew up, Christmas was going to be different.

My family and I do the standard putting up of the tree the day after Thanksgiving.¬† I like to have the house decorated completely by the end of that weekend so I don’t have to worry about it and can enjoy the season.¬† I make lots of cookies over the ensuing weeks, but I like baking.¬† My shopping is usually done by the second week of December because again, I learned from my elders and I want to enjoy the season.

This year, my daughter was in a Christmas band concert which was fun and my husband was travelling a lot, so we didn’t do as many “Christmas-y” things as we usually do, but it was still nice and relaxing.¬† My son had his Christmas Cub Scout pack meeting, which included Santa and a cake raffle, which sent us home with a cake.¬† Again, low-key, but fun.¬† The week before Christmas, we went to the Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park near Cincinnati, Ohio and looked at the beautiful flowers and plants and Christmas displays and visited the Crib of the Nativity located on the premises.

I have been going to this Crib my whole life.  There are no longer live shepherds standing guard, but there are still sheep and they still wear big bells that clank in that certain way that sounds like Christmas to me.  The inside of the display is beautiful.  It is a typical Nativity scene, but there is a live donkey and a live cow.  It is peaceful, it is quiet.  It reminds you what Christmas is all about.

On Christmas Eve, we have our parents over for dinner.¬† We only have the Moms now, but that’s ok.¬† I make a ham and a few side dishes.¬† The table looks pretty, I have lots of candles and Christmas lights around the house, so it looks pretty too.¬† We eat dinner and then have cookies and peppermint hot fudge sundaes for dessert.¬† After dinner, my kids open their gifts from my husband’s side of the family and we sit around and talk for a little while until my husband takes the Grandmas home.¬† After that, we get the kids to bed once Santa gets into the US.¬† We track him on NORAD you know.¬†¬† My son sleeps on the floor in my daughter’s room.¬† They talk and bond and all is good.¬† Santa comes and the next morning everyone is happy.

I purposely don’t overdo the “Martha Stewart” stuff at Christmas and I very easily could, I’m crafty and arty and design-y, but I’d rather my family have happy Christmases.¬† I don’t want my kids to feel awkward because someone (their mom) is overworked and exhausted.¬† That is not what Christmas is for.¬† On the big day, my husband goes and picks up my mom who lives literally three minutes away, we open gifts, have a nice breakfast, most of which I prepare in advance, and then we have a jammy¬†day.¬† The kids play with their new stuff or sort new clothes or whatever they choose to do.¬† I usually read one of my new books and my husband floats between all of us looking at what is going on.¬† It is peaceful.¬† It is quiet and happy.¬† Mom goes home around one or two in the afternoon, and we continue with what we were doing.¬† This year we watched /Annie Get Your Gun/ and we snacked.¬† I don’t make a big dinner.¬† I make sure to have lots of yummy snack¬†stuff and we graze.¬† It’s fun.¬† We are all relaxed.¬† We are all happy together.¬† Nobody gets mad.

If you find that your Christmas is not making you happy, step back a bit and find a thing or two you can do without and get rid of it.¬† It’s not about everything being perfect.¬† It’s about everyone being together.¬† It’s about everyone being happy and relaxed and remembering that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus.¬† It doesn’t matter if He was born in June or October or on December 25th.¬† That’s when we celebrate it.¬† Enjoy the quiet of Christmas Eve.¬† Wonder at the stillness of the night.¬† Try to make it, so that when you are an old person and the Ghost of Christmas Past takes you on a journey, you won’t see any sad, distressing scenes, but rather you will see pictures of a happy family spending time together.

God Bless Us Everyone ūüôā

Is “Pretty” The Newest Bad Word???

I’m pretty sure I’ve established that I am politically incorrect.¬† If you’ve read earlier posts, you’ll know that I let my kids ride bikes helmet-less, they play with knives and soap bars and I let them play in the mud.¬† The newest offense that I engage in is telling them they are good-looking.

I really need to stop reading news and scientific studies.¬† The latest thing I read is how it is probably not good to tell your small¬†daughters¬†¬†that they are pretty¬† BLAH, BLAH, BLAHHHHHH…..

I tell my daughter that she is pretty.¬† She is.¬† I tell my son that he is handsome.¬† He is.¬† I also tell them that they are smart, that they have amazing reasoning skills and that they are kind.¬† I tell them when I’m proud and I tell them that they are capable of doing or being anything they WANT to do or be.¬† If I don’t tell them those things who will??¬† The kid in the next desk at school?¬† I don’t think so.¬† That kid is more likely to look at them and say, take your pick, “you’re weird, you’re stupid, you’re to0 fat/skinny/tall/short, you’re annoying, you’re boring, your butt is flat/fat/wide/narrow, you can’t play sports.¬† To that kid, I say, look in the mirror kid, what bounces off me sticks to you, or whatever that phrase is.

I was watching that twenty-five year-long afternoon pass-time, Oprah, a couple of years ago and saw Maria Shriver talking about her parents.¬† She said that when she was growing up, her parents lavished her with praise.¬† They told her she was beautiful and smart and they told her when they were proud and basically, they instilled self-confidence in her.¬† They didn’t rely on school, or other kids, or other people to make their daughter feel good about herself.¬† THEY gave her the confidence that she needed to succeed in the world, and from what I can tell, they did a good job.¬† She is successful, she seems to be a good mother and she has the strength to dump her cheating, baby daddy asshole of a husband.

I’m not saying that I don’t discipline my kids or that everything they do or say is cute or good.¬† They can be real stinkers at times and I let them know about it, but I also tell them how wonderful they are, because 99% of the time, they ARE wonderful.¬† If their father and I don’t tell them how awesome they are who will?¬† If they don’t think that their parents think they can be great, how will they know to try?

So, when my daughter makes videos to post on You Tube, or my son makes his 4,359th soap dragon with that sharp, sharp knife, you can bet your boots I’ll tell them how talented they are and that they should keep going.¬† And oh yeah, they look pretty doing it too ūüôā

Letting Kids Be Kids

I just read an article on some parenting blog about letting kids be kids.¬† For some reason I find it sad that modern parents need to be instructed in that.¬† It gave helpful tips like, let your kid play in the summer.¬† Send them outside.¬† Let them catch lightning bugs.¬† Limit extracurricular activities to no more than one or two per season.¬† Really?¬† People don’t already know that?

When I was a kid, my job was school.¬† I took dancing lessons, but my job was school.¬† My mom gave me plenty of time to just be.¬† I read a lot, and did¬†art projects a lot.¬† My older brother dragged countless large refrigerator boxes home for me behind his bike, that he would promptly carve windows and doors into for me and presto-chango, I had my own house.¬† My grandma played cards with me and it’s a good thing that the money she provided for betting was pennies, otherwise she would’ve gone broke, because I was pretty good.

Summers were even better.¬† I ate breakfast, got on my bike and left.¬† Granted it was the 1970’s and the chances of someone stealing me from my small town were less than the chances of your kid being stolen by a pervert today, but when I say I left, I mean I left.¬† My mom told me to be back when the church bells rang 5:00 and that is when I went home.¬† I would eat dinner and go back out til about 11.¬† At night.¬† In the dark.¬† With friends.¬† It was AWESOME!!¬† I was skinny and tan and healthy.¬† My hair would be so blonde at the end of summer that I was accused of dyeing it from about the age of nine or ten.¬† We rode bikes, went to the pool, hung out in the cemetery (hey, it was pretty and shady and quiet, don’t judge me).¬† We played in the woods, looked for glass bottles to turn in at Green Valley to finance our snack jones and generally had a blast.

By the time school started I was excited to go back because I was bored.¬† I had participated in zero extracurricular activities, and had not seen a great number of my friends.¬† The friends that I did see lived in town, not in the country.¬† Going back to school was being¬†reintroduced¬†to everyone and everything.¬† I remember how excited I always was to bring my stack of books home to cover and show my mom.¬† We also didn’t start school til after Labor Day, so hot school days in the fall were limited, because well, it was almost fall, not the middle of summer.

The world today is full of wonderful opportunities.¬† We are all much more connected to each other and to the rest of humanity than we ever have been before.¬† There are more ways to make a living, more tv channels, more electronic gadgets and more ways to learn to dance or play soccer¬†or¬†volleyball or football.¬† On the flip side, kids are fatter, bullying is now impossible to escape because it is on the internet, we have no privacy because everyone carries a camera with them in their phones everywhere they go, we can’t get away from the world because we are always connected via those phones and we are constantly bombarded by news.¬† The twenty-four hour news cycle has driven everyone crazy.

Here’s my idea.¬† In the summer, no extracurriculars.¬† No special lessons for elementary kids, and limited stuff for older kids.¬† Face it mom and dad, your kid, in all likelihood is not Micheal Jordan, or insert famous person name here.¬† Let them enjoy being kids.¬† Let them get bored.¬† Give them time to read for pleasure (and it’s ok if it’s a¬†comic book).¬† Let them play cowboys and indians, or war, or house, or pioneers or Harry Potter.¬† Read them old stories and take them places that will stimulate their imaginations.¬† Give them a big plastic box full of paint, markers, paper, glue and stuff to create with and let them go to town.¬† Give them cap guns and Barbies.¬† Cap guns won’t make them murderers and Barbie won’t give them bulemia.¬† Give them their dad’s old army backpack, a jar of water and a sleeve of saltines (with salt on them) and let them go crawl through the mud on their bellies to win WW II or kill terrorists.¬† Let them play.¬† Let them imagine the world and the future.¬† Play is how kids learn to be.¬† It’s how they gain independence.¬† Structured, adult led lessons, do not give kids the chance to expand their minds and learn how to think.¬† It makes them think and be what the adults want them to be and think.¬† Adult life is hard, let them be carefree for as long as they can.¬† School is hard.¬† Let them decompress over the summer.¬† They are not going to end up in the projects if you don’t make them do homework all summer.¬†¬† If you burn them out when they’re little, when it really counts, they won’t be able to function.

I have to stop writing now, because I have to put together a bug out kit for my son.¬† There are rumors that there are coyotes roaming the ten feet of woods in my back yard and he needs to go vanquish the varmints.¬† One last thing.¬† Get your kid a big dog or two and let them bond.¬† Dogs seem to enjoy playing interesting games too.¬† It’s summer, relax and catch the lightning bugs and remember the first bit of water out of the hose is not fit for drinking because it is hot.¬† Let it run for a minute or so, the environment will survive and so will you AND your kids.

See Ya Later Harry Potter

Magic at the Harry Potter Festival in Wilmington 2007

I saw the final Harry Potter film today with my fifteen year old daughter.  I started reading the books to her when she was three or four, so they and their characters have been part of her life, for practically ALL of her life.  While I was watching today, I had some thoughts about the stories and characters that I decided I wanted to share.

When the books first came out, I bought¬†/Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/ for myself.¬† I thought it looked good, but I couldn’t tell if it was for adults or kids.¬† That should have been my first clue as to the universality of the stories.¬† I read it, then I read it again and then I thought about it for a long time before I decided to share it with my daughter and husband.¬† I decided that there were some valuable lessons for my daughter in it, so we sat night after night on the “biggie bed” and read Harry.¬† My husband loved it, my daughter loved it, I loved it, and none of us could wait for the next one to come out.

After we fell completely in love with Harry and his friends, I started hearing about adults who would not let their kids read the books because they thought that they would influence their children to go toward Satan.¬† I even had one mom that I knew well and who I respected, tell me that her church had told it’s congregation to boycott the books because of the themes of witchcraft and wizardry.¬† I asked the mom if she had read any of the books and she said no, that her entire decision was based on what her pastor told her to do.¬† I begged her to read the first one.¬† I explained to her that good always triumphs over evil and that there were a lot of valuable social lessons for kids.¬† She read the first book, then went out and bought all the books and gave them to her daughter.¬† Harry Potter gave one mom the strength to think for herself and not rely on the opinions of others.

As the series evolved, Harry behaved like a brat in one book, a hero in another and just a boy, just Harry, in all of them.¬† His friends loved him and were loyal.¬† His enemies were evil of course, but they were also like every mean girl in school.¬† He handled it all with the help of his friends.¬† He didn’t have much of a family, but he made his OWN family from his circle of friends and they were just as important to him as any blood family could’ve been.¬† Harry’s friend family made another mom I know very well, feel that her lack of a big family is ok because she has made another, just as real family for herself , of people who love her.

The stories teach forgiveness, and nowhere is that more obvious than when Harry chooses to save Draco Malfoy’s¬†(his own-age arch-enemy) life.¬† They teach that you never really know what is going on in someone else’s life or heart to make them the way they are, Severus Snape anyone?¬† Love lasts beyond death, evil will come for you where you least expect it, people die and it’s hard to get over the bad things that happen to you in life.¬† You WILL have your feelings hurt, you WILL be the hero at some point and and you may hang your head in defeat or shame the next day.

All of these things are found in Harry’s story.¬† You also see that when that evil comes for you, you have to fight it and that although the struggle may be long and hard and you may lose some things along the way, in the end, good will win, light will overcome the darkness.¬† You can and will find your place in the world and sometimes the most timid, awkward person you know (Neville Longbottom) becomes a hero.¬† The Harry Potter stories are universal because they offer us hope.¬† No matter how outnumbered we are, no matter how bad things seem to be, if we screw up our courage and walk in the light, we will win.

I love you Harry Potter and all your friends too.¬† You’ve helped countless people see themselves and their trials in you, and you’ve helped those same people realize that life can be good again.¬† It is with a great deal of wistfulness¬†that I say goodbye to Harry.¬† I hope that JK Rowling writes some more books about him, but if she doesn’t, these fictional characters who have become so real to so many, will continue to keep us company every time we crack open the books or watch one of the films.¬† Thank you Harry¬†for reminding us that hope, love and courage are the three most important things in the world.

The Ghost Cat Has a Friend

I’m not obsessed with ghosts or anything, they just seem to be occupying a lot of my time lately.¬† So, light a fire, throw an afghan over your legs and cozy up for another horrifying ghost story.

Once upon a time, two families of friends went on a vacation together to South Dakota.¬† This intrepid crew stopped at a ghost town that had been used in movies to sight-see and have lunch in an old train car.¬† There were cats in the area and while my memory is a little iffy for the details, I’ll recount the tale as best I can.¬† There was a noise, or a meow or something and not a single one of those varmints was visible.¬† The Dad of one of the families said somthing like, “You have to jump up and down and spin around three times so the ghost cat can’t follow you home.”¬† The Mom of the other family laughed and said, “I’ll take my chances.”¬† THAT brave reader was a mistake.

Fast forward a few years to June 27, 2011.¬† That foolish Mom was making dinner for her family.¬† It was a lovely dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans and crescent rolls.¬† This Mom uses real butter in her cooking, so she opened the last new box of butter that she had, took one stick out to use in the potatoes and on the rolls and made a mental note that the three sticks that were left were more than enough to make the frosting for her son’s birthday cake the next day and for any general uses the family would have until she could get to the grocery store.

The next day, the family went fishing.¬† It was a last minute decision, and an important cake needed to be made, but the Mom decided to go ahead and go with her family and make the cake when she got home.¬† The family had a wonderful time and the little boy caught 13 tiny blue gills.¬† When they got home, the Mom got in the refrigerator to get out a stick of butter to soften for the frosting while she made the cake.¬† She looked high and low, in the fridge drawers and in the dairy thingy on the door.¬† She couldn’t find the butter!¬† She called her husband and said, “While I put the cake together, could you please look for the butter?¬† There are three sticks in the box.¬† I’ve looked and I can’t find it and I really need to get this cake made.”¬† So he looked.¬† He looked high and low, in the drawers and in the dairy thingy on the door.¬† He couldn’t find it either!!¬† He asked the Mom if she was sure about the butter.¬† She said absolutely, and went through the entire story again.¬† “Well, if you remember it that well, you can’t be mistaken.”

This always thinking Dad started looking in the garbage can.¬† The empty butter box was in the garbage!¬† It was laying on TOP of some papers that the Mom had thrown away that morning before the fishing trip!¬† He looked for the papers that would’ve been wrapped around the butter sticks.¬† They were not there.¬† He questioned the children.¬† They knew nothing.¬† The Mom and Dad snuck around the house looking for abandoned butter stick papers in the kid’s rooms, behind couches, in office trash cans.¬† NOTHING!!¬† The Mom in her very smart way pointed out that whoever had taken the butter and thrown away the box had done so AFTER the family went fishing.¬† The mystery gets even deeper here.¬† No one else has keys to the family’s house, so the only logical explanation is that a GHOST had taken the butter and eaten it or used it to get back through the portal to the other realm because the butter was completely and totally absent and gone from the house.

SO, the Ghost Cat who obviously followed this poor family home, brought a friend and waited stealthily like cats are know to do, until the family sort of forgot about him and when they least expected it, he whipped out his friend, THE BUTTER GHOST to terrorize these innocent people.

Moral of the story?¬† Next time someone tells you that you have to do a fancy and public dance to ward off a ghost, you’d better do it, because they bring friends.¬†¬†¬† MWUHAHAHAHHhaaaaa……

I realize how terrorizing this tale is, and I would like to tell you that it is not true, unfortunately, it is 100% true.¬† Ghost Cat dance and disappearing butter and all.¬† I’m sorry if you now have to sleep with your lights on…