Friday, September 28, 2012

Time Traveling

Fall Notions

I believe in time travel.  After an exhausting day of substitute teaching (yes, I have been reduced to this while writing my second book), I lay in Emma's bed to read with her before bedtime.  I admit I drifted off as she reread Oh! The Thinks You Can Think! for the millionth time.  When I roused, it wasn't Fall of 2012, but Fall of 2002.  I lay beside three-year-old Anabel in her twin bed in our old house on Laurel Lake Drive.  In my mind, I could see her room just as it was before Emma was born and Wyatt was forced to move from the nursery to his big sister's room.  I saw the stenciling I had painted, Anabel's name on the wall, her duvet and still fully stuffed teddy bear.  Some part of me knew this wasn't real, but I closed my eyes tighter relishing the experience.  Suddenly, I felt a baby kick inside me - okay, maybe it was the chili we had for dinner or probably the nine-year-old Emma doing her usual nighttime dancing, but for that moment, it felt like I was pregnant again.  As I reluctantly woke up fully, I lay there amazed at the power of the mind.  Oh, the thinks I can think! A good imagination can take you anywhere- even back in time... and aren't reading and writing perfect ways of transporting yourself to another place or another time?

Boston Capital Building
Friday Blogs are my new time traveling days.

For my time travels today, I am sitting in a Starbucks just below Beacon Hill and Boston Common.  I snuck out of our hotel room, leaving Greg and the kids sound asleep, so I can write.  With a pumpkin spice latte cooling beside my Apple, I type about our whirlwind two day tour of Philadelphia.  I expound on the sights and smells of Reading Street Market as I glance out the window and watch the business men and women rush about their morning routines on their way to work in Massachusetts' capital city.  I pause for a sip. Still too hot, but the scent of nutmeg arouses my mind and I get lost in my writing.  Sitting in Boston, I am walking the streets of Philadelphia. (See my post I wrote one year ago on our Taste of America Tour - We're Full of Brotherly Love for Philadelphia.)
Reading Street Market in Philadelphia

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lieutenant Dan Weekend- Beaufort, SC

Before embarking on our east coast journey last year, we had the privilege of honoring our nation's wounded warriors during Beaufort's Lt. Dan Weekend with Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.  This annual event raises money for the Independence Fund, which helps severely wounded veterans purchase equipment to make their lives a little easier. Gary Sinise participates in special events all weekend ranging from the Lt. Dan 5K run to a Veteran's Parade with all events culminating with the Lt. Dan Band Concert on Saturday night.

The concert at Beaufort's Waterfront Park was the perfect first live music experience for the kids.  All three rocked it out.  The concert opened with local scenes from the 1994 movie Forrest Gump.  Beaufort's streets and waterways are shown throughout the film with the Vietnam scenes with Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan shot on our own Fripp Island. The character of Lt. Dan was severely wounded in Vietnam and after playing the role, Gary Sinise has felt a strong commitment to raising money and awareness for veterans like Lt. Dan. “The role [of Lt. Dan] means something to people. It means something to disabled veterans,” said Sinise. “It’s a good feeling to know you can play a part in a movie and have it make a difference. I have great respect for our veterans. We don’t want our warriors to fall through the cracks.”  Read more:  Then, Sinise and his band took the stage and jammed for two hours.  During the show, he brought injured veterans and their families on the stage to recognize for their bravery and award them with special vacations to relax and get to know each other again after their recovery.  It was a beautiful night.

Worn out from her first concert
iBot Chair in action on the golf course.
Last Spring, Greg took the kids to see some of the good work the Lt. Dan Weekend and other fundraisers provided.  The Independence Fund held the Wounded Warriors Golf Week in the Beaufort area demonstrating the wonderful capabilities of the iBot chair, which enables people who no longer have use of their legs to stand and perform many actions including playing golf.  Greg and the kids applauded as the wounded veteran hit a gorgeous tee shot down the middle of the fairway.  How often do you get to attend a fun fundraiser and see a demonstration of funds at work in the same year?

Back in Beaufort County this week, we saw all the preparations for the Independence Fund's local shindig.  I am so pleased that our adopted hometown folks rally around such a great cause! If you're planning a getaway for next year, plan on a great time with great folks and music in Beaufort for Lt. Dan Weekend 4.  If you are interested in the work of the Independence Fund, please visit their website: Independence Fund.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Chore Jar

As kids get older, parents have many mounting problems to deal with.  The two rearing their ugly heads in my home are:

1. How to keep the house clean around these filthy urchins who have the nerve to snap at you as you block the latest Phineas and Ferb episode while carrying fifty pounds of their laundry.

2. How to effectively punish the smart mouth who dared to say, "Move!" 

As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention."  Years ago, I came up with a great punishment system to help with cleaning and quieting the back talk: The Chore Jar.  One quiet afternoon, while the kids were away, I calmly wrote a list of common household chores: dust baseboards, clean mirrors, scrub bathrooms, vacuum, etc.  I cut the list into chore strips, folded them up, and placed them all in a Mason jar labeled with white duct tape- THE CHORE JAR.  Placing the jar in the center of the kitchen counter, I explained to the kids the new rules.  If they got in trouble at home, at school or anywhere in-between, they would pull one or more chores from the chore jar.  

When Wyatt bonked his sister testing his new bat in the car on the way to baseball, the living room furniture got dusted.  Anabel rolled her eyes at me one too many times, and suddenly, I no longer resembled Krusty the Clown after applying my makeup, thanks to my new, clean mirror.  Emma ripped up my new flowerbed when she decided to go off-road with her Barbie Jeep, and I got a fully mopped kitchen floor.  I began watching them like a hawk hoping that one slip-up would get me clean toilets.   
Me before a clean mirror (and coffee.)

My favorite thing about our chore jar is it takes the anger out of  punishment.  I hate the confrontational feeling of yelling and lecturing the kids about every infraction.  Though we have never spanked our children, my anger would lash out and bring down the punishment hammer with an unrealistic sentence that meant nothing because the kids knew we had no follow-through.  Who can see “no television for a year” through? What parent can seriously carry out “a five-year grounding”?  What Mom would “never cook for ungrateful kids again”?  With the chore jar, the consequences of their crimes had been dispassionately thought out and written down.  It became the luck of the draw to the severity of the penalty unless someone stacked the deck.  

One day, I noticed I had the cleanest living room windows, but disgusting bathrooms and impenetrable closets.  The kids' behavior had been just as wretched as before, so why weren't these areas getting cleaned?  I realized the kids had been placing the easy chores on top. Well, two could play that game.  

When Wyatt went down the street to his friend’s house without telling anyone, I grabbed the chore jar before I got him and stacked the deck.  Floating on top was the closet cleaning assignment. When he drew out “Clean out your closet,” he went completely boneless- collapsing to the ground in a nine-year-old puddle consisting of hair, t-shirt and shorts.  I smiled.  He had been “cleaning” his room for months by shoving everything into his closet.   I had to stay in his room for three hours supervising the chore, but it was worth it. Cleaning his own mistake taught him three important life lessons: hiding a mess doesn’t make it go away, never leave the house without telling someone, and never try to pull one over on Mommy. 

The downside to the chore jar method for household cleaning is its lack of reliability.  Wouldn't you know my little devils caught on fast. They started cleaning up after themselves, stopped fighting and finished their homework on time.  It would seem a mother’s trials and tribulations never ended. 

If anyone out there would like help setting up their own family chore jar, please let me know... it's the least I can do to help keep America beautiful (homes and attitudes, that is.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Funny You Should Ask...

A Beautiful Memory on Loch Ness
Recently, I ran into an old friend while waiting on a prescription at Walgreen's.  I hadn't seen her in years.  She moved to Florida after college and we lost touch.  Casually catching up with each other, I discovered she went on to receive her MBA and worked in sales for many years before choosing to stay at home with her two children.  I asked her if she missed the business world and she replied, "I miss the traveling.  I miss the excitement of waking up some place new and planning my day around places I wanted to see.  You just can't do that with kids.  Do you like to travel?"

"Funny, you should ask..."  and then I told her of our travel year that seems like a dream as we again run from school to dance to baseball.  And like a dream, I find myself searching my mind to retrieve specific images as I try to remember each place we visited.  I realize as I play this memory game there are many people and places that I never got around to sharing on this blog.  Many of the things that happened to us I am only just beginning to process.  (Confession time- I am working on writing a book about our adventures.  Turns out it helps the writing process greatly if you can vividly remember what happened. Who knew?)

So to aid the writing and memory process, I will be sharing some yet undisclosed anecdotes from our family field trip year and my thoughts on the transformative power one year can hold.  Writing process aside- like my friend said, "I miss the traveling."  For now, I'll have to settle for a trip down memory lane.

Stay tuned...