Sunday, January 27, 2013

From the Mouths of Babes*

A sleeping child is a beautiful thing.
Kids are hard work.  They wear on your nerves, test your patience and put a constant strain on your pocketbook.   With kids around, the laundry piles to the ceiling and the cupboard is always bare.  That box of crackers you bought for the cheesy chicken casserole for dinner is gone thanks to the neighborhood kids and your daughter's giving nature.   She cut up all the cheese, too, so you'll have to go back to the store.  Oh, and there is no milk for your coffee... again.

Kids have never ending needs that must be met.  One kid perpetually asks, "What's for dinner?" even though you just fed them yesterday.  One kid has outgrown their shoes even though you bought the last pair two sizes too big. Another kid has the unmitigated gall to ask you to help them with social studies homework even though you spent an hour with them the night before going over slope-intercept form in math.  Must you help with social studies, too?   Good grief!

So why do we put up with them?  

Because they are pretty darn funny.  Greg and I would have kicked ours out years ago if they were not so entertaining.  While writing about our family sabbatical year, I stumbled upon several gems that endeared us to our children long after their cherub faces thinned and they became too big to cuddle.  Here are some of my favorites:

Overheard from the Mouths of Babes-

While playing with their dolls:
Anabel: Do babies really say goo-goo, gaga?
Emma: Yes, but only the stupid ones.

While playing Wii Party: 
Wyatt: I can't help it that I'm good at it.
Anabel: You're just good at being lucky.  How much skill does it take to press a button and have the spinner land on your number?
Wyatt: More than you'd think actually...

While trying to steal my book light:
Mommy: Put that back.
Emma: Can I just use it tonight?
Mommy: No, you'll lose it.  You can buy your own light with the $50 you have.
Emma: I wouldn't spend my $50 on a book light.
Mommy: Why not? They're only $3.
Emma: That's exactly why I wouldn't spend $50 on one.

While getting ready for bed:
Emma: Can I get some of the tools dentist use?
Mommy: Why? Do you want to be a dentist when you grow up?
Emma: It would be fun, but I don't think they'd let someone who's had so many cavities be a dentist. Or would they? I'd know more about it than a kid who never had any.

While trying to talk my husband into taking me to a movie for date night: 
Greg: I don't know.  What movie do you want to see?
Me: The one with Bradley Cooper.
Wyatt: Ooper Duper! (Said just like Peter Boyle's monster in Young Frankenstein.)

As long as they keep the laughs coming, I guess we'll let them hang around...  Laughter may not fold the clothes, but it sure helps it go a little faster.

*For those readers with no sense of humor, this post was written with my tongue firmly in my cheek.  I love my kids dearly and would never kick them by the wayside.  Greg, on the other hand...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Road Scholars: A Sampler of Learning in Colonial Williamsburg

      Founded in 1699 as Virginia’s new colonial capital, Williamsburg thrived under colonial economics.  The proximity of the bustling port of Yorktown and America’s first successful colony, Jamestown caused early leaders to choose the site of Middle Plantation, Williamsburg’s original name, for the home of Virginia’s first university- The College of William and Mary founded in 1693.  After the burning of the state house in Jamestown in 1698, William and Mary students lobbied to have the colonial capital relocated near the college and thus, Williamsburg, named for King William III of England, was born.  It soon became the southern center for politics, culture and education. Mixing those three powerful ingredients into one location produced a haven for thought leaders of the American Revolution. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry all cut their teeth in the pubs of Williamsburg before heading to Virginia’s House of Burgesses and on to the Continental Congress.  As we entered the preservation area just off North England Street, I wanted to instill the fact that our nation’s founding fathers walked the very streets we traversed. The idea of humans having the fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness began in this town. I had goose bumps.  Greg had a headache.  Yesterday’s long drive through a deluge of rain did not improve his interest in history.  I determined to convert him along with the kids.

      “The guide says start in the Gateway Building.  Ooo! It’s got a kid’s corner with hands on activities!  Let’s go check it out!” Grabbing Emma’s hand, I marched my clan into our first stop. To their credit, they smiled, feigning interest, which I took as a show of appreciation of all the hard work I had done in planning this trip.  Mothers always wanted to believe the best of their family.

      An 18th century costumed citizen offering to show Emma and Anabel the sewing nook met us inside the door of the dimly lit, barn-like structure. I followed the girls while Greg and Wyatt gravitated to the large Frenchman's map of the town from the seventeen hundreds.  Since Montessori school, Wyatt had a fascination with maps.  He and his dad oriented themselves with the lay of the surrounding land.  Williamsburg was built on high ground in the middle of the Virginia peninsula almost equidistant to Yorktown and Jamestown forming one corner of the Historic Triangle.  Studying the map, one could easily see why the current location was much more desirable to Jamestown’s early settlers.  Jamestown was built on the banks of a mosquito-ridden marshy area off the James River.  How colonists survived the bloodletting, much less the malaria was a miracle.  I was thankful the reproduction map did not include the modern addition of Bush Gardens Park; I had omitted mentioning an amusement park was nearby.  Wyatt lived for roller coasters, but I wanted new family learning experiences this year- not the same old melting from the heat while standing in a long line reading t-shirts and tattoos.

      “Mommy, look what I made!”

      I turned from the map to see Emma holding a perfectly stitched letter E.  Most might have thought it was a C or an F; I could have agreed with them if they'd said a G even, but I knew it was the most beautiful E I’d ever seen. 

      “It’s E for Emma and E for Elizabeth, too.”  Emma had also brought her colonial American Girl doll, Elizabeth -Felicity’s best friend, with her to enhance the Williamsburg experience.  We had a three-week supply of school assignments, clothes, DVDs, granola, juice boxes and wine crammed in the car already.  What difference did two dolls in fragile, historical costumes make?

      “I can see that.  Good job!  You’re quite a little seamstress.  Are you ready to make a whole sampler?”

      “What’s a sampler?”

      “See that picture on the wall with the alphabet and numbers?  That’s called a sampler because it was a sample of all different kinds of stitches and patterns used for making their own clothes and decorations.  Girls used spent their free time practicing their sewing.  They couldn't go to the mall to buy their dresses.  They had to sew them.”  We stepped closer to the framed sampler to see the individual stitches.   

      “That must have taken a long time – like all day,” Emma said.

      “Emma, you don’t have a clue.  That must have taken a week to do all that.” Anabel didn’t want to grow up, but she relished being the big sister who thought she knew everything or at least more than her eight-year-old sister.

A Sample of a Sampler
      “Girls.  Look at the intricate designs.  Sure, there’s the simple alphabet and numbers that may not have taken weeks to finish, but look at the vines scrolling around the outer frame.  Look at the animals across the bottom.  The girl who made this took her time.  She didn’t rush to finish so she could watch TV or talk on the phone.  She focused on one activity and put herself in her work.  I bet these were the animals she saw outside her window.”  Deer, dogs, and birds of a variety species peppered the lower half in blues, greens and browns.  Flowers popped up along the vines in reds, yellows and pinks.  This was a work of art by Betsy- age 12.  Suddenly, I longed for the stillness of mind and body to create such beauty.  Could a 21st century, multi-tasking woman slow down enough to handle such tedious work?  I couldn’t go forty-five minutes without checking my phone (My sister bet me. I only made it twenty-nine minutes and I lost ten bucks. Sucker bet.) It was highly doubtful I could sit still long enough to accomplish Emma’s letter E.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lost Without Biscuits

Lost.  I checked my iPhone again still hoping for a signal.  We had counted on technology for guidance on our east coast excursion, but in the backwoods of Carolina- only 45 minutes from home and barely over the county line- we were stranded up the Congo River with no civilization in sight. 
     “No, there’s a building up ahead. Don’t freak out, Jenny,” Greg said after admitting our plan to use the iPhone GPS as our map sucked.  He was ready to stop for directions under the pretense of buying ice.
     I read the sign. “Harold’s Country Club.  Never heard of it, have you?”
     “Looks open.”
     “What kind of country club is open at seven in the morning?”
     “Don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Greg pulled into the gravel lot, bypassing the gas pumps near the front door that advertised unleaded for $1.21 a gallon and opened his door.  The kids sleeping in the backseat ruffled their throw blankets, but didn’t rouse. 
Eyeing the bag of bananas and granola bars beside me, I whispered to Greg before he closed the door, “Get me a country ham biscuit.”  Smoked and salty, country ham on a buttermilk biscuit cured depression and the common cold. It made friends out of bloodlust enemies. (If served at talks between Hamas and Israeli leaders, peace would ensue, but alas, their common disdain for pork products keeps them at war.)
The night before, I lectured the kids for an hour about our strict budget for this trip.  I packed travel-friendly breakfasts and snacks to save money, eat healthier, and save time- a mother’s trifecta. Morning changed my fit and frugal intentions.  Getting a family of five on the road by six a.m. coupled with a sleepless night of travel-anxiety driven images of head-on collisions, mangled bodies, child abductions, or appendix ruptures at two AM, hundreds of miles from our pediatrician, made me ravenous.  After all the packing, planning and panicking, didn’t I deserve a special treat? Maybe I should get two biscuits.  As I scrambled out of the car to catch Greg, he exited the country club door with a smile on his face. 
“Did you get directions?”
“Yes,” he replied still grinning while pulling a bag of ice out of the cooler. 
Seeing he held no food, I assumed he forgot my breakfast and walked toward their front door. “Did they have any biscuits?”
“No, but they have draft beer if you want one.”
Briefly considering his odd offer before commonsense resumed, I asked, “At seven o’clock in the morning?”
As we returned to the car without beer or biscuits, Greg explained that Harold’s Country Club was not a store. It was a bar, pool hall, dance club and restaurant that serves steak on Saturday nights and, apparently, has regulars who come in early on Friday mornings. When Greg walked in the door, the bar maid didn’t bat an eye.  She grabbed a fresh glass, readied it under a tap and asked, “What can I get you?”
As we pulled out, heading in the correct direction toward I-95 North with our long-awaited east coast Taste of America Tour in front of us, all my husband could say was, “I can’t wait till we get back.  We’ve gotta go there!”  Greg was intrigued.  Pool, music, beer AND steaks in a “country” club on a back road in South Carolina? He had found a kindred place he knew he liked before he’d really even been there.

I nodded and unwrapped a granola bar. I might have supported his enthusiasm to return if Harold’s sold country ham biscuits.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pelican Plunge Redux

The 5th Annual New Year's Day Pelican Plunge marked two members of the Brooks Family going off the deep end... literally.  Wyatt, age 11, joined his insane dad, age old enough to know better, in plunging into the fifty degree Atlantic waters as a symbolic way to ring in the new year.  Last January first saw Greg celebrating our sabbatical year with a groovy group of like-minded folks dunking themselves for fun and fundraising for the South Carolina parks system. This year, my guys and about 300 other nuts brave individuals did their part for silliness and charity.  And I thought I was proud last year! (See my New Year's Pride post from last year.)

Pre- Plunge
The Brooks girls were not as stupid courageous as our men.  When asked if they wanted to do it, the answer, in stereo, was a resounding no.   Honestly, we didn't think Emma was even coming along to watch.  As Greg and Wyatt dug out their bathing suits, Emma sauntered through saying, "Can I stay home?  I'm just not in the mood to watch people run into cold water."  My question: When is anyone EVER in the MOOD to watch people run into cold water?  Regardless, we all piled in the minivan and headed to Hunting Island for the one o'clock event.

As the onlookers lined the beach, the swimmers counted down. Wyatt and Greg were front and center and prepared to go all the way under the water.  Greg warned Wyatt that some participants wimp out by only going in knee deep, but the Brooks' men would go in whole hog-meaning a complete, full body dunk.  Wyatt agreed... it was all or nothing.  I videoed as they ran, but soon lost my men in the mob.

I scanned the shore searching for them amid the splashing and shrieking, and suddenly, Wyatt emerged victorious:

Super (Cold) Wyatt
Greg, being a repeat offender, stayed in the water and swam around a bit longer, but joined in Wyatt's victory lap (searching for Anabel and Emma with the towels) a couple of minutes later.

My Fellows: Post-Plunge

As we drove away, I commented since one Brooks took the leap last year, and two plunged this year, there must be three Pelican Plungers for next year.  Looking at the girls, I asked, "So who is going next year?"

Without missing a beat, Wyatt said, "Daddy, Anabel and Emma.  I'm never doing that again!"  As with everything, time will tell...  He seemed to recover quite well in the hot tub:

We hope all have a Happy New Year 2013!