Friday, August 31, 2012

A Lesson from my Son

             My boys climb into the car after a busy day at camp. They answer my questions of, “How was your day?” and “Did you do something fun?” with dull, short answers. They’re tired—all talked out from nine hours with their friends. A few seconds later a song or something a commentator says on the radio inspires Owen to speak. Something other than my boring question gets him started and he doesn’t stop. He tells me he hopes I’m voting for Obama and why. He tells me why Green Day is his favorite band. He tells me in great detail why he lost the last dodge ball game he played. He tells me why he no longer wants Fluff on his peanut butter sandwich. He talks until we arrive home and something else grabs his attention.
            When Owen was about sixteen months old, I was beginning to worry about his very limited vocabulary. Cookie and Daddy were the only recognizable words to come out of his mouth. If he was feeling particularly cheeky, he’d call me Vickie. But he never said “Mama”. I had done everything the books told me to do. I read to him, sang to him, babbled back at him when he was an infant, but he just didn’t talk much. At a party one day I mentioned my concerns to a friend who was a pediatric speech pathologist. He watched us interact and told me I had nothing to worry about. “He doesn’t talk because he doesn’t need to,” he told me. “You anticipate all of Owen’s needs. Stop doing it and he’ll start talking.”
            He was right. A few days later Owen leaned on the refrigerator door and whined. Normally I would ask him if he’d like some cheese. Instead, I said, “Tell me what you want.” He whined again. “Sorry, you need to tell Mama what you want.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said with utter exasperation, “Cheese!”
            He hasn’t stopped talking since that day.
            When the time came to learn to read, Owen struggled. He was bright. Anyone could see that. He picked up complicated concepts easily. But learning to read took effort he wasn’t willing to make. He had the tools to read, but he wasn’t ready to use them. Then he discovered the graphic novel section at our local library. I told him it was too awkward to read a graphic novel out loud and he’d have to read it himself. By the next morning he had finished “Missile Mouse”. It was the turning point for Owen. It sounds like a cliche, but overnight he became a voracious reader.
            Owen taught me that kids learn at their own pace. You can’t force them. Whether it’s reading or talking or even toilet training (especially toilet training?) a person has to be motivated to learn. All the incentives and lectures in the world won’t get a person to learn something they aren’t ready to learn. Now I wonder when he’ll be ready to learn to put his dirty clothes in the hamper.
Mama’s Losin’ It
I'm linking up with Mama Kat. This week we were asked to share a lesson we learned from one of our children.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

100 Word Song: The Stranger

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

            I’m linking up with the 100 Word Song meme courtesy of Lance at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog. Each week we are challenged to write a story in exactly one hundred words based on a song. I was thrilled that this week’s source of inspiration was Billy Joel’s “The Stranger”. I have vivid memories of playing vinyl records of The Stranger, 52nd Street and Glass Houses over and over and over again on my parent’s record player. Wow, there is a fine line between being nostalgic and dating myself, huh?

Seeing Things

            Charlotte never had trouble focusing when she wrote science papers. But literature was another matter. Her mind wandered as she tried to write about The Scarlett Letter. She stared at the clock. The hands froze in place for a ages, then jumped ahead fifteen minutes. As her mind wandered she felt the familiar of sensation of falling that came over her when her visions came.
Casey is screaming. Her hands are covered in blood.
            Charlotte emerged from the trance gasping and shaking like a drowning person breaking the surface of the water.
            “Goddammit! I don’t even believe in this shit!”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Wildlife

Yesterday I came across some freshly hatched turtles crossing the street while I took my morning walk. A couple had already met with misadventure. But I was able to give a helping hand to three little guys and get them a little closer to the pond.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

100 Word Song: Floating

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

            It’s Tuesday and I’m getting my 100 Word Song entry in just under the wire again. This week’s inspiration was “Peel Me a Grape” sung by the fabulous Diana Krall. I haven’t written much Karen lately and I thought it was time for her to make an appearance.


            Karen gazed across the gleaming white marble surface. The bathtub was deep and wide, a perfect place to nestle in a cloud of bubbles while sipping champagne and nibbling bonbons. She imagined fragrant water soothing away the aches in her lower back and shoulders as a radio played in the background. The alto crooner sang her a lullaby while her cares floated away.
            “Karen? Snap out of it.”
            Maria’s voice yanked Karen from her daydream.
            “We have ten more rooms to clean Karen. You don’t want to lose this job. We’ll be stuck cleaning rooms in some flea bag motel.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just Between Me and Me

Mama’s Losin’ It
            I’m linking up this week with Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop. The assignment was to write a letter to my teenaged self. This was fun to write, but I doubt very much that girl would listen to a thing I have to say!

            Hey Vic, got a second? I know you’re in a hurry to get to rehearsal or a Key Club meeting. I want to talk to you about your life now and what’s coming in the next couple of years. There are loads of surprises to come—some good and some bad. But there are a couple of tips I’m going to give you that might make things a little easier along the way.
            First of all, in the second semester of your freshman year they’re going to put a baked potato bar in the school cafeteria. Don’t get hooked on it. You’ll think you’re immune to the “freshman fifteen” because you didn’t gain any weight first semester. You didn’t gain any weight because you were in a musical and dancing a couple of hours a day—and because there was no baked potato bar in the cafeteria. Between baked potatoes and beer, you’re going to “cow out” as Jamie says. Stick with the salad bar. It’s much easier to stay thin than to lose weight.
            While we’re on the subject of weight, you look fantastic. I know you think you’re chubby and flat chested. You’re looking in the warped mirror of a self-conscious seventeen-year-old girl. Trust me when I say, there will be times in your life you’d give anything for the body you have now. Also, stop hating your nose. Just stop it. The love of your life is going to think it’s adorable.
            Make time to learn a duet to sing with Papa in Italian. He loves to sing as much as you do. Your voice is a gift from his branch of the family. It’s would be a shame if you never sing together.
            I’m not going to tell you to work harder in school. You should, but I know you won’t listen to me. If nothing else, PLEASE work harder in French. You can take advanced foreign languages in college to get out of a couple of math classes. Trust me, it’s worth taking the time to study. Believe me, you’ll have a need for French (or Spanish, or Portuguese) more than you’ll have a need Algebra in your life.
            Your oldest child will start talking. He or she (no, I won’t say which) will also learn to read. I promise. That child is as stubborn as you and his dad combined. He or she does everything in his or her own time. Pressure will only slow the kid down. When he or she starts talking and reading, it’s going to blow you away.
            There will come a time of deep sadness in you life. You’ll know what I mean when it happens. You’ll try to get back on your feet and make everyone think you’re okay before you really are. Don’t do it. Let yourself wallow for a little while—just a little while. You can’t go back and wallow later if everyone thinks you’re already fine.
            Don’t worry though. The blessing in your life will far out number the tough times. Listen more than you talk, take long walks, eat your vegetables, don’t sweat the small stuff, and wear sunscreen. 

Teenaged me would never believe I listen to country music. She'd be horrified. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

100 Word Song: Mountain Music

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

             I’ve been feeling very sentimental lately. Over the weekend, my family (all 20 of us) gathered at a lake house in New Hampshire to celebrate my parents’ fiftieth anniversary. A couple of days later, my eldest niece (who is also my Godchild and who was the flower girl at my wedding) became engaged to a great guy. When I heard this week’s song choice, "Swing Away Life" by Rise Against I was reminded of the Simon & Garfunkle songs we used to listen to on family trips when we traveled around the country with a limited number of eight-track tapes. The music selection this weekend was a lot wider and the memories just as warm. A big thank you to my nieces who introduced me to some great new music and still tolerated what the old farts wanted to listen to. 

             “America” by Simon and Garfunkle mingled with our laughter and conversation. One or two of us hummed along. Memories of other summer nights in other mountains joined us on the porch.
“That’s our theme song.”
Years of shared experiences and love put us at ease. There is comfort in the company of those who have seen you cry and laugh and bleed. Still each other’s siblings, we’re now mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts.
            “Anyone want a glass of wine?”
            “Just bring the bottle.”
            “You mean the box?”
            “Yes, just bring the box.”
            “That should be our family motto.”