Up on my soap box

Usually I try to stay away from blogging about things that I don't know that much about. I try to stick with the simple things--things about myself, my kids--nothing too controversial. But with all of the fascinating political events of the week, I just can't keep my mouth shut.

Hang on a second while I get up on my soap box...

It's no secret that I am a democrat. Last night, I proudly watched my party make a historic choice in presidential candidates and I teared up when Barack officially accepted the nomination. I was inspired by his speech and moved by everything that he had to say. To see a young, black family up there on stage was fantastic and amazing and made me very proud to be an American.

Here's the thing...I am voting for Barack Obama not just because he is a democrat, not because he is a black man, not because he is a father with young children, but because he believes in the same things that I believe in and wants to move the country forward in a way that I agree with. I've read his website, I've listened to his speeches, and tried my best to educate myself about his policies. Barack gets its.

Today, McCain announced his choice in running mates, Governor Sarah Palin. Like the rest of the country, I was totally surprised. After her speech, I sat as I listened to the news magazine commentators talk about some of the positives of McCain's choice.

Oh, he's going to win over the young woman vote. Women will really take a look at McCain now.

Oh, McCain just won over the soccer moms because of Palin.

Oh, mothers will want to vote for her because she has 5 kids, one a newborn with Downs Syndrome.

I am a young woman, I am a soccer mom, and I have young kids. I think it's great that there are more and more women in politics who are braking the barriers down of the "good ol' boys club." I respect mothers who can balance a time-consuming job and a family.


Just because someone is like me doesn't make me automatically want to vote for her.

Give us soccer moms a little more credit, will ya?

Just because I am a soccer mom doesn't mean that I don't care about the issues. I wasn't going to vote for Hillary just because she was a woman and I'm not going to suddenly be swayed toward McCain because he chose a woman who's a mom for a running mate.

Who is this woman? I have no idea. I don't have a clue. And apparently, neither does anyone else in the country. So what that says to me is this...McCain chose her just to try and make a splash, to try and say, "See? I can make a choice that's about change too." In his introduction of her, he said, "She is exactly who I need." Yeah, exactly who you need to help you get elected and nothing more.

But is she prepared? If this 72-year-old man is elected and goes down in the next four years, will she be an effective president? I suddenly have a picture of all of the good ol' boy republicans saying, "It's okay. We'll tell her what to do." That thought scares me.

I could probably go on, but I won't. I'll only say this. I can't help but thinking about her little baby. I said before, you'll never hear me say that mothers shouldn't work. I believe that mothers have the right to do and have it all. Just because you have children doesn't mean that you have to give up following your own dreams. I certainly admire Palin for getting this far while managing a family.

But this mom has a new baby with a disability. Children require a lot of time and attention, but children with disabilities require even more. I heard that the dad, Palin's husband, is a commercial fisherman. So what about that baby? Where does he fit into all of this?

I'm not saying that mothers who have children with disabilities shouldn't work. All I'm saying is that I know how hard it is to balance everything--work, marriage, family, home, and your children's needs. I just wonder if she can meet all of her family's needs and the needs of the entire country as well.

And that's all I've got to say about that...

My Column: Mama Wants More

In case you didn't know, I write a newspaper column for a newspaper back home in Oklahoma. In runs every Sunday in the Styles section of the paper.

I love my little job as a columnist. There was a time in highschool that I said that I wanted to be a syndicated columnist when I grew up and in college I was a journalism major for...like...a second. But it wasn't until that I gave birth to my kids that my writing career took off.

It didn't take off so much like a big ol' jet airliner. Instead it was more like a little prop plane that had to work really, really hard to get off the ground.

Usually I put my column up on my website (http://www.mamawantsmore.com/) the week after it runs. But this week I thought I'd mix things up and put the column here instead. (Some of you might not recognize the OU football references, but you'll get the idea.)

New School Year Brings New Youth Football Experiences
©Stephenie Freeman

School has started which means only one thing. Football season is just around the corner.

Football is a tradition in our family. Even though I never played, I was raised to love the sport. Saturdays in the fall were my family’s Sabbath—a holy day that was spent worshipping at Memorial Stadium in Norman.

My father coached the Pee Wee football team at my elementary school one season. He was a great Pee Wee coach, getting the kids to the games by promising Hershey candy bars afterwards. Obviously, it was just the motivation that his team needed to win. They were the City Champs that year.

My husband played football when he was young. He was never the biggest guy on the team, but he was definitely one of the fastest. He claims to have scored several touchdowns during his junior high career, but there is no recorded evidence to actually prove his claims.

Now it’s my son’s turn to discover how much fun football can be. That is, if the coach and all of the football parents will let him.

It was during the first parent meeting that I found out how intense the Mighty Mite football league was going to be.

The coach informed all of us that the players, our little five- and six-year-old boys, need to be at every single practice come hell or high water. Sickness is no excuse. Unless my child is projectile vomiting or running an extremely fever, he’ll need to be at practice even if it’s just sitting on the sidelines infecting the rest of his teammates.

“And what about homework?” a concerned parent asked; a very good question since these first graders have it every night. The coach’s simple answer was that they could bring it to practice to work on in between drills. Nothing like learning how to add and catch a pass all in one fell swoop.

But I understand where the coach is coming from. I want to teach my son that when you make a commitment to something you have to stick with it, rain or shine, homework or high fever.

The coach also informed us that it is against the law in our state for a parent to talk to or touch an official. “You will go to jail,” he told us.

My son spent the rest of the evening asking me what will happen to him when his father and I go to jail. Apparently he has been watching us closely during football games and has reason to be concerned.

Finally it was time for his first practice. I participated with the other parents in cheering for the team—cheering for every pass, the hits and the misses.

But there was one mom who wasn’t cheering. She was too busy focusing. While the rest of us lazily sat in our lawn chairs sipping our Starbucks, this mom squatted on the sideline, moving wherever she needed to get the best view of her child.

She was extremely attentive, this football mom, and I could quickly see why. Her son was good—really good—especially for a Mighty Mite player. He caught every pass that was thrown to him and was faster than any other kid on the team. She had reason to be so intense—she has a young Adrian Peterson or Sam Bradford on her hands.

My son, neither fast nor quick to catch the ball, was put on the line of scrimmage as a guard. My underweight son, who has often been referred to as “scrawny” and has never rated higher on the growth chart than the twentieth percentile, has actually shown some promise as a blocker. I think it’s because he likes getting to push kids around and not get in trouble. Lord knows he’s gotten plenty of practice at home with his little brother.

As the whistle blew, my usually timid child plowed right into the teammate he was covering, knocking him to the ground and falling right on top of him.

I tried my best not to cheer too loudly, out of respect for the other player’s parents, but it’s hard not to get excited when you realize that you’re raising the next Brian Bosworth.

Flower Bed from Hell

My "Tackle" this week has to do with a flower bed in our front yard that is on a slope. We hadn't touched it since we moved in last spring except to rip out the dead stuff, and we really didn't know what to do with the space. A friend who is a landscape architect suggested leveling it out and putting up a wall to give us more yard which I would have loved, but that was going to be really, really expensive.

What it looked like on Saturday morning...

I don't know the people who lived here before us, but I think that it is safe to say that they do NOT have a green thumb. Looks like they just randomly planted stuff, doesn't it? The only thing worth keeping was the magnolia tree in the bottom corner which I hope will grow big and beautiful.

I took these pictures and a scale drawing to a local nursery to have a guy help me design something for the space. Kenny was a really nice guy from Hawaii who seemed to know his stuff. I told him I wanted low maintenance and drought tolerant and he delivered. To save money, the Golfer and I spent all day last Saturday planted our new roses, shrubs, and ground cover.

And by Saturday afternoon...

Eventually the ground cover will take over and there won't be so much dirt. Plus the plants will grow and fill in the space. I think it looks nice. Of course, anything was going to be an improvement from what we had, so calling it nice isn't saying much.

Deep Thoughts: 5 Passions

I just finished a great parenting book, Parenting with Fire by Shmuley Boteach. Shmuley is a Jewish Rabbi, but you don't have to be Jewish to get a lot out of this book. This is one of the only parenting books that I've ever read that I thought, "Oh, this guy is on the money." He really gets it. His advice isn't extreme, it's simple and reminds you what's truly important through his PLANT method of parenting.

P--Protection. It's your primary job to protect your children from harm, both body and spirit.
L--Love. Make sure your kids know they are unconditionally loved.
A--Activity. Provide you children with wholesome and engaging activities.
N--Novelty. Make the ordinary extraordinary.
T-Tradition. Traditions give our kids a sense of who they are and where they come from.

Each chapter had a lot to offer, but the one I liked the most was the chapter about Activity. He talks a lot about sharing your passions with your kids.

It made me think...What are my passions? What are the things that I love--that make me who I am--that I should be sharing with my kids? Here's what I've come up with so far.

1. Books & Reading: I love books. I love going to Barnes and Noble and looking at all of the pretty covers, imagining the fabulous stories inside. I love reading magazines, the newspaper, and my favorite blogs. In my free time (snicker) it's what I love to do. We already had Movie Night on Friday nights at our house, but now I'm also going to introduce Book Night on some of those Friday nights. With blankets and big pillows in front of the fireplace, we'll eat popcorn, fruit and cheese for dinner and read our favorite books together, quietly and aloud.

2. Sports: I am about the most unathletic person you could ever meet. I barely have enough athletic ability to work out without making a total fool of myself. But I do love to watch sports. Obviously with my husband as a college coach, sports are naturally a big part of our lives. But along with golf, we also love, love, love watching football and going to games. So, instead of leaving the boys home and paying an arm and a leg for a sitter, we are going to start taking them to games. We're going to start playing more games in the backyard and the Golfer is going to start taking them to the golf course more often.

3. Writing: This is a hard one. Writing is such a solitary thing for me. It's my quiet time, my time to dive into myself a little. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to share this passions with my kids, but maybe when they're older I can let them be a guest blogger for me.

4. The Environment: This is a big one for me. I feel very strongly about protecting our planet's valuable resources and doing our part to make a difference. Seriously--it really, REALLY bothers me when I see someone throwing away in the trash that should be recycled. I share this passion daily with my kids. It's not hard. We talk a lot about recycling--what things go into the recycling bin verses the trash. We talk a lot about not waisting water while we brush our teeth and turning off the lights to save energy.

5. Serving Others: I believe that giving back to the community is such a huge lesson that I want my kids to learn. They are blessed with plenty, but I want them to understand that the majority of the population isn't as blessed. There are people who have needs that we can meet by doing very simple things. As my boys get older, I know that we'll be able to do more community service as a family, but for now there are simple things that we can do like buying extra groceries to take to the local food pantry or helping to make sack lunches for the local shelter is a start.

So there they are...my passions that make me who I am and maybe will be a part of who my kids will be.

What are your deep thoughts this Monday?

Clueless Husband--Installment #184

Late last Tuesday evening, after the children were asleep...

Mama: "Honey, come take a peek at my new blog design."

Golfer: "Uh-huh. Cool. Looks good. Is that a part of Twitter?"

M: "No. It's my blog. What are you talking about?"

G: "Has it always been called 'tweet'?"

M: "I thought you said that you look at my blog every day?"

G: "I do."

M: "Then why would you ask if it's always been called that? It's been called that the whole time! It's always been called 'tweet'."

G: "But I thought a 'tweet' had something to do with Twitter."

M: "Well it does, but it's also the name of my blog. I can't believe...why on earth...my blog has nothing to do with Twitter! Quit asking about Twitter!"

G: "Sorry. So, really, why do you call it 'tweet'?"

M: "You're killing me. It's always been called that! (Sigh.) Don't you remember when I was coming up with my blog that something about all these mommy blogs reminded me of a bunch of birds chattering away, singing as loudly as they can, just hoping that someone will listen? Don't you remember that conversation?"

G: "Remind me again?"

M: "I swear! You never listen to me!"

G: "I'm sorry. I wasn't listening. No what was that again?"

The Golfer quietly giggles. Mama, on the verge of losing her mind, has gone outside to scream.

How do you like me now?

Gotta give a big thank you to loudmouth designs for my new blog design. I wanted something fresh and eye catching, simple and modern. I think they delivered--don't you?

To top it off, I got this lovely award from Dawn the other day.

"I'd like to thank the academy..."

I must admit this is the first bloggy award that I've ever received. Always so nice to be recognized by your peers. (For what I'm still not exactly sure.)

But I do know that complementing others is a delightful thing to do (and apparently a great networking tool.) So I'd like to pay tribute to other blogs that I enjoy reading every day and think that you'd enjoy as well.

And the nominees are...

1. 3 Guys for Every Girl (because we both have boys, are married to golfers, and enjoy reading the same kinds of books.)

2. petit elefant (because she has great taste and I've found lots of things I like through her recommendations.)

3. The Hughes Zoo (because she is one of the first friends that I made in Cali and she has darling children that I love to see pics of.)

4. Friday Playdate (because she's funny, lives in Oklahoma, has two boys, and enjoys a nice glass of wine at the end of the day.)

5. It's Lovely! I'll Take It! (because it is freakin' hysterical and if it doesn't make you laugh you need to get a new sense of humor.)

6. We are THAT Family (because she's funny and real.)

7. Dawn's Diversions (because even though we've never met, I know that we'd be friends in real life...and because she was kind enough to actually buy a copy of my book and reads my blog every day. Dawn, you're the only true fan I've got.)

{To those I have nominated: You probably have favorites to honor too. So here's what you do: 1. Add the logo of the award to your blog. 2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you. 3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs. 4. Add links to those blogs on your blog. 5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.}

"meet the Real Simple mom"

As I might have mentioned before, I'm a magazine junkie. Like purses, magazines are something that, I believe, you can never have or buy too many of.

One of my favorties is Real Simple. It's written just for moms like me. Beauty tips, easy recipes, parental advice, and good finds. Along with my regular subscription, I received a Real Simple Family special issue the other day. Every few pages, there was a "meet a Real Simple mom" page with filled in questions from thirty-something moms of all shapes and sizes.

I liked reading the answers and I couldn't help but think of the answers that I would have come up with had they interview me. Maybe Real Simple should put me in their next issue.

name: Stephenie

age: 35

location: California

occupation: stay-at-home mom, newspaper columnist, author, blogger, and occasional over-achiever

family members: Husband, the Golfer; son the Cheese, 6; and the Monkey, 3

the last time my child made me laugh: when I tried to spank the Monkey and he said, "Ow! What was that?" It's hard to effectivly discipline your child when you're cracking up.

I carve out time for myself by: getting my housework and errands done in the morning so while the kids are watching their favorite after-school afternoon cartoons, I can read a book or hop on the computer.

the television mom I'm most like: Claire Huxtable. I like to flirt with my husband in front of my kids and I rarely put up with anyone's crap. I have a pretty good evil mommy stare like Claire, and even though I'm not a lawyer, I do have a job that involves something other than my children.

my favorite outdoor activity to do with my child: watching them practice sports. I get to sit, uninterrupted for at least an hour, and they get to have fun and be a part of a team.

the one thing I wish I had know about parenting before I became a parent: that losing your patience with or being frustrated with a small child does nothing but make you hate yourself later.

the most important life lesson I want my child to learn: that life is meant to be enjoyed and that each day should be spent doing something that they love.

my favorite place to take my children: camping near the beach. It's all about being outside and getting back to the roots of being a boy. Without video games, television, or Legos to distract them, it's amazing the fun that they are able to create for themselves.

the invention I wish I could create to make my life easier: it's not an invention, but I wish I could wiggle my nose like Samantha on "Bewitched" to magically do all of the stuff I hate like clean the bathrooms or fold and put away the laundry.

my most embarrassing parenting moment: any time my boys act up in public and I can feel the eyes of the adults around me judging me.

the future parenting moment I fear the most: when my boys start driving. Enough said.

the thing about my younger self that I'd like to reclaim: I wish that I had appreciated my slender body more. Even when I was a size 4 and 6, I didn't think I was skinny or that I had an attractive body. You never appreciate what you've got until it's gone.

something that no one knows about me: I have fantasy--been having it for a couple of decades now--of being interviewed by Barbara Walters on one of her television specials. I don't know specifically what I've done that has warrented the interview, but she thinks I'm fascinating and keeps commenting on how beautiful I look and wants to know how I manage to do it all and stay so young and thin. Like I said, it's a fantasy.

What to take a stab at answering the Real Simple mom questions? Copy and paste this list to your own blog, changing the answers to be your own, and then link back here with a comment. Then come back here to "tweet" to see what kinds of answers other moms came up with.

The Cheese: Lofty goals

For homework, the Cheese brought home a "I'd like to get to know you" page to fill out. Most of the questions were pretty standard: "My pets are..." and "At home, I love to..."

The best one, however, turned out to be the question, "When I grow up, I want to be..."

His first answer was that he wants to be a contestant on the show "Wipeout." His father and I told him that a game show, albeit a funny one where people get knocked down into mud pits and freezing cold water, doesn't really count as a regular job. So, he came up with a new one all by himself.

"When I grow up, I want to be a McDonald's drive-thru worker."

And there you have it.

Dream big, son. Dream big.

The Raiders

The Cheese had his first two flag football practices this weekend. They look like a pretty tough bunch don't you think?

Actually, I thought it was pretty cute how all of the kids wore some of their favorite team jerseys. The little boy next to the Cheese was wearing a USC jersey. Never have a Sooner and a Trojan stood so closely together without wanting to beat the crap out of each other. Thank goodness the Cheese didn't pick his UCLA jersey to wear. Then we really would have had a problem.

As the Golfer likes to say, it doesn't matter if you're small as long as you're fast. When he first put on his football cleats, he said, "I feel faster already!"

By the way, I felt like such a girl when I went to buy his cleats. For a brief moment, I though about just having him wear his baseball cleats that we just bought last spring, but I knew the Golfer would not approve and besides, I don't want to be that mom. I know that soccer cleats, and football cleats, and baseball cleats are all different in some way, but honestly it's just all a big racket to sell more shoes.

After two practices, the Cheeses strengths are starting to show. Amazingly enough, the one drill that he is really good at has to do with blocking. Thank goodness I bought those cleats, he really uses them to dig in.

The coach put them in their first formation during a drill at the second practice, and put the Cheese on the line of scrimmage as a guard. As the three coaches set up all of the kids and were trying to show them what they were going to do, the Cheese must have thought that he heard the whistle because the next thing I know, his plowing into the kid that he was covering, knocking him to the ground and falling on top of him. This poor kid of course started to cry, more scared than anything, and headed for the sidelines. The Cheese had gotten back up, back into his "football ready" stance, but was wiping away his own tears, obviously upset that he had knocked down a team mate and worried that he had done something wrong.

There's no crying in football!

One of the coaches saved the day by basically telling him that he did exactly what they wanted him to do; that he was really strong and tough and that's just what the team needs. I've never seen my extra-sensitive child turn off his tears so quickly. For the rest of the drill, the Cheese continued to play guard, pushing and knocking into anyone in front of him, even the coaches.

Who would have guessed that my child, who has never gone higher that the 20 percentile on the growth chart would be acting like such a linebacker.

My husband is cuter than your husband

Here's a picture of the Golfer, circa 1974. See why my kids are so darn cute?

Actually, I found this picture to show it to the Cheese. Today, he had his first flag football practice which means it's only a matter of time before he figures out how to officially block and tackle his little brother.

Seeing him out there hustling this morning really got me fired up for football season to start--both flag and college.

Are you ready for some football?

We've got spirit, yes we do! We've got spirit, how 'bout you?

Late the other night, we woke up our children with all of the noise coming from our bedroom.

"Go! Go! Faster! Go!"

"Yes! Holy Cow! That's incredible!"

Yes, that's right. You guessed it. We were busy getting all excited watching Michael Phelps win another gold medal.

We've been staying up late every night to watch and watch the Olympics. My boys were hooked after watching the opening ceremonies. Now, every day they ask to watch the Olympics instead of their favorite cartoons.

God Bless America.

Our whole family has fully gotten into the Olympic spirit. Our American flag is waving proudly outside. I saw a lady wearing a T-shirt at Starbucks the other day that said, "Phelps Phan." I have to admit, I was a little jealous. That Michael is pretty darn cute. And his body? Well...um...let's just say I'd be more than happy to hop into the pool with him any ol' time. (Sorry, honey.)

If these guys need a fourth for their relay team, I'd be happy to give it a try.

Last weekend we had on the television turned to NBC 24/7. I caught the Monkey watching synchronized diving all by himself. He was just sitting there, mesmerized. It made for a really quiet weekend. Just one more reason to love the Olympics.

I love that my boys are so into it. They're really into China now. Every time we're watching they ask, "Is that China?" or "I want the China guy to win." I'm not sure what the Chinese were trying to do with those opening ceremonies, but they sure did win my kids over.

Supposedly, this guy will be a part of the closing ceremonies.

I'll be sad to see the Olympics come to an end, but he'll make it sooooo worth it.

1st day of 1st grade

An apple for his teacher...

So excited to be a Tiger...

Little brother sharing in the excitement...

A special sign welcoming the class...

Such a big boy...(sniff)...

Lego organization

We've had a Lego problem at our house for a while now. The Cheese absolutely loves, loves, loves Legos. They are by far his favorite things. And slowly, over time, I have learned to hate them.

I remember my friend Kim talking about how her daughter's stuffed animals had become her nemesis. She hated them. They multiplied in her daughter's closet. They seemed to breed every night creating more and more for my friend Kim to find a home for. I now understand what Kim was feeling. This is why...

See this pile of Legos? This picture doesn't even do the pile justice--you really can't get a good sense for how big the pile actually is unless you get down there in it. But this is what happens when you son asks for nothing but Legos for every birthday and Christmas for three years straight.

Something had to be done about the pile (the pile is usually in a large plastic box that the Cheese would never open.)

I told my son that if he wanted any more Legos--ever--that he had to start playing with the ones that he already had. He understood (for once) and told me that he wanted to play with them, but it was too hard to find the pieces that he needed in his gigantic Lego box.

Mama needed a plan. An organized one.

I headed to Target. I bought four boxes in the small, medium and large size that they had in the clear plastic with snap top lids. I took the Cheese with me and he approved the box selection.

My plan was to separate them by color. The Lego instructions (they now come with instructions that show you how to build things) give you a list of what pieces to use. So, the plan is...if he needs a flat red piece, he'll go to the red box to find it instead of having to dig through the giantic pile from Lego hell.

We sorted...and sorted...and sorted...and sorted.

At the time I took these pictures, we were still sorting Legos. It was a big pile--it took about a whole weekend to tackle. The boxes now fit nicely on the shelf in his closet, right where he can reach them and get them down all by himself.

I made the Cheese do a lot of the sorting to help him take ownership and pride in the organization. It seems to have worked. So far, he's kept everything very organized and just today built one of his Exo-Force Lego guys that he hasn't built in months and months.

So worth the organizing and the sorting, the sorting, the sorting. So worth it.

Nothing like a good bath time conversation to get you ready for bed.

Cheese: "What are these blue things on my legs?"

Mama: "They are called veins and they take blood to all of the different parts of your body."

C: "Are there veins in my penis?" (Remember...he's in the tub, so penis talk is very, very natural and at our house very, very frequent.)

M: "Yes. There are veins in your penis." (No made up names in our house. We call it what it is.)

C: "What are these things next to my penis?"

I really wasn't prepared to have an anatomy lesson this evening, but...

M: "Those are your testicles."

C: "What are tiscals?"

M: "They help mommies and daddies have babies." (Obviously, the most simple answer I could think of on such short notice.)

C: "I thought mommies had babies?"

M: "Well, they do...and daddies help." (Again, feeling the need to not provide too much information that could quickly lead to other conversations that I'm not ready to have yet.)

C: "So...mommies carry the babies in their tummies. So, what do the daddies do then?"

M: "Good question, buddy. Good question."

A Camping We Will Go: Day 4

From creekside cabin to fairway bungalow...

The fourth day of our camping vacation adventure was pretty uneventful. Most of the day was spent driving to our next destination. We were sorry to leave our quaint cabin, but both the Golfer and I agreed that three days camping is about the right amount for us. By the third day, all of the dirt and grime starts to get to you.

We headed about an hour and a half north of our cabin to San Luis Obispo for lunch. It's such a neat little city in California's central coast. There's lots and lots of great shopping and fun places to eat.

I had coupon that I'd gotten in the mail for a free pantie at Victoria's Secret, so when I saw a store I headed in to use it. I found my simple, white cotton pair and headed to the counter.

The lady checking me out looked at me with my coupon and said, "Don't you want a bra or some of our new pajamas?" What she really meant was, "We give you those free coupons so you'll come in and feel like you have to buy something else like a $40 bra and $30 pair of pajamas." Yeah, I just wanted my free pantie--nothing more, nothing less. To top it off, I told her not to give me a sack (I always request no sack). "I'll just put them in my purse." She looked at me like I really was a nut.

Afterwards, I walked back to our car to feed the meter. I struggled with my purse full of stuff, panties included, to find some change. Suddenly I turn around to see this lady, dressed in a suit, stuffing my meter full of quarters.

"I have all of these quarters that I need to get rid of. Let me help you out."

I was flabbergasted. Not that it was something all that huge, but it was definitely a very nice random act of kindness. And I'll be honest with you, I don't see that many random acts that come my way.

I thanked her over and over again, but that seemed small in comparison to the two dollars that she had basically just given a total stranger. As I walked away to do more shopping, I wondered something....

Would I have done the same?

I wasn't some little old lady needing help. A little old lady would be easy to help. I was just a thirty-something mommy struggling with her purse full of crap. I just wondered that if I saw someone just like me struggling if I would have done the same?

All I know is that that small random act of kindness has inspired me. I'm sure that plugging that meter was no big deal to that lady, but it really was a big deal to me since I was running out of quarters (and they don't hesitate in that city to give out tickets in that city.) Even the smallest random acts of kindness can make the biggest difference, and I'm going to keep that in mind the next time I see someone with a need that I can meet.

Next we drove another two and a half hours north to our next resort. What a difference a day can make...

The Golfer waisted no time throwing on a comfy white robe and breaking open the complimentary bottle of wine.

The Monkey isn't far in following behind his father's footsteps. For now, he simply enjoys coloring on the porch of our lovely little bungalow.

The Monkey felt it necessary to decorate my bedside table with all of his airplanes. Minus the phone with all of the buttons, it looks a lot like home.

I guess you can say that the boys are technically still camping.

A Camping We Will Go: Day 3

Wednesday was spent at the beach. El Capitan State Beach is less than a mile away from our cabin. Basically, the canyon that we are in is right next to the ocean which means that you can get back to nature in every way, shape, and form. We stayed there all day, digging in the sand, running through the water (neither of the boys are brave enough to actually get in the ocean yet) and topped off the day with more Push-Up Pops.

The boys, especially the Cheese, played hard all day. I was sure that after dinner they would be ready to crash, but their new friends came by to get them for a game of freeze tag (in the dark) including glow sticks and flashlights. The Golfer and I couldn't help but sit there and smile as we watched (mostly listened) to them play and have fun. Their father might be a jerk, but all of the kids sure are nice.

Tomorrow we head for San Luis Obispo for a quick lunch before heading on to a resort in Gilroy (The Garlic Capital of the World) where the golfer has a meeting for work. We'll stay there a couple of days before having to head home to face the music that summer is officially coming to an end.

Camping might be over, but our vacation adventure will continue...

A Camping We Will Go: Day 2 Pictures

Here's our nice little cabin. And no, I did not pose the Monkey that way. That's all him.

The Golfer relaxing. Notice the Bud Light nestled so carefully in his chair. We've also had red wine out of Solo cups. Nothing as tasty as red wine, hot dogs, and S'mores.

Our cabin. There's a creek right beyond that sycamore tree. The picnic table (which I've covered with a plastic red and white table cloth) is where we've eaten all of our meals.

And here's the view from the inside of our cabin looking at our nighttime entertainment. We're trying our best to raise pyromaniacs.

This is the meadow in the middle of our little section of cabins. Notice the children (including my own) that are nicely playing together WITHOUT ANY ADULTS INVOLVED!

Here's the Cheese playing in the creek. This was right before he discovered that it was shallow enough for him just to walk through. His shoes still aren't dry. The Cheese thinks that playing in the creek is about the coolest thing he's discovered in a long time.

I took this same picture on top of the rock last year. I've decided that I'm going to make them do it every year. I have a feeling they won't be as enthusiastic about climbing up there when they are 18. Too bad--I'll make them anyway.

We've been eating S'mores non-stop since we got here. I'm going to have to go on a 15 mile hike every day, all day just to work it all off! But it will be sooooo worth it because they are sooooo good.

A Camping We Will Go: Day 2

I knew that it was going to be a good day when the boys were asking to go outside and play before 9 AM.

After a quick breakfast, they were out the door. Before long, a bunch of kids who are staying in cabins across the way came out as well, bring along with them a football. All of the kids--from two families, probably close to ten of them in all and ranging in varying ages--were playing so nicely together. The Golfer read the paper while I read yet another book on parenting (Parenting with Fire) and sipped on my morning coffee from the Canyon Market. I call it bliss.

Over an hour went by without incident. Even though the kids were playing football, everyone seemed to be playing nicely. The Cheese was staying close to one of the older girls, a pretty girl probably seven years or so his senior. We did notice that he was always trying to tackle her, even though they were playing touch. But it wasn't anything rough, and he certainly wasn't doing anything any normal, smitten boys wouldn't be doing.

Then one of the fathers got involved. Here were a bunch of kids playing together just fine and this dad suddenly had to jump in upsetting the entire balance, telling all of the kids what to do and how to play, an apparent authority on football. I hate parents like that.

I heard this father tell the Cheese not to hit, but I didn't ever see him do it. And then all of the sudden this father tells my child to go to Time-out.

Now, I have no problem with another adult correcting my child if he is doing something wrong, but I don't believe that it was this father's place to actually discipline my child. The Cheese wasn't doing anything to be mean. No one was hurt, no one was crying, there was no blood on the field. They were playing football and my child, who was having a ball and in his excitement getting a little too rough, simply needed to be told that hitting is never okay even when playing football with friends, unless of course everyone's covered in pads and helmets. Then anything goes.

If this father wanted to play football, I'd be happy to show him how we play back home in Oklahoma where we take guys like him who act like jerks and knock them on their ass.

My child, who just moments before was laughing with absolute abandon, was now crying. Not because he was sorry for what he had done, but because he had no clue what he had done. This father, who doesn't know my child at all, had told him to go to Time-out without explanation. All my son knew was that he was having fun one minute and was in trouble the next. And might I add, all of the kids, including his, were playing hard and being rough. THEY WERE PLAYING FOOTBALL FOR GOODNESS SAKE! Hitting is going to happen.

Even so, we managed to have a wonderful day. The whole episode was more of a lesson for the Golfer and I than anyone else. It helped us to realize that the older our children get, the more they are going to come into contact with adults that have a different viewpoint on life than we do. The Cheese learned from the situation and so did we.

I still want to kick the guy's ass.

We did have a really good time playing the the creek. They both ended up being sopping wet from the waist down, which was followed by getting covered in dirt from our short hike up to see the organic garden, to only get sticky from the Push-Up Pops that we got afterwards at the Canyon Market.

A Camping We Will Go: Day 1

Monday was the first day of our annual end-of-summer-better-get-one-more-vacation-in camping trip to El Capitan Canyon. We loaded up the car with all of our necessities and headed out. Prior to arriving at our cabin, we stopped off in Santa Barbara for some lunch and a little shopping. Nothing like indulging in Mama's favorite past time before starting another.

We arrived safely at our creekside cabin mid-afternoon and were here for no more than two minutes before the boys took their shoes off and were running wild like boys who are camping are supposed to do.

My children are seriously nature deficient. Just listen to a snippet of a conversation that happened tonight between the Cheese and the Golfer while roasting hot dogs over an open fire.

Cheese: "Daddy? What's this stuff all over my feet?"

Golfer: "It's called dirt, buddy."

Cross my heart...true story. I'm making my kids leave their shoes off for the rest of the trip.

The boys actually were both covered in dirt and grass by the end of the day. They made quick friends with some kids across the meadow (sounds like we're in an episode of Little House on the Prairie doesn't it?) and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening playing touch football and having an overall blast. I told the Golfer, "See--this is what happens when kids can't be inside playing video games and watching T.V. They make their own fun."

The Golfer and I made our own fun watching them play while drinking cold beer by the warm fire. (We're in a canyon right up from the coast, so it gets a little chilly when the sun goes down.)

Check in all week for regular camping updates and pictures...

This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.

I gave both of my boys spankings last night and the guilt is killing me!

I've given them both swats before--a quick smack on the butt to grab their attention if necessary--but in the 6 years that I've been a parent I've never given a real, full, on the bottom spanking.

I really didn't think that I would ever do it--you know, spank. I always thought that I would find other ways to discipline my children; always reason with them logically with clear communication. Thought that they'd always be reasonable children who would listen and behave, and when they didn't would straighten up with one tough look from Mama.

Yeah, well, it's just not quite working out that way.

But the truth is, Time-out really doesn't work on my kids anymore. It doesn't stop the bad behavior--it only delays it a little.

So I bought a couple new parenting books last week, one that has to do with disciplining through biblical instruction. I'm a Christian. I want to follow God's will for my life, why wouldn't I want to to parent the way God wants me to too?

This book was very clear cut: don't spare the rod. The author's discipline suggestions are simple: instruct your child through biblical scripture (not quote it or anything, just keep it in mind when you're giving reasons why they shouldn't hit their brother--Cain and Able anyone?) You should also stay consistent, spank carefully and emotionally controlled when they are disobedient, and always work to reach the heart of your child.

Like any parenting book, I don't agree with everything that it says. But I do agree that scripture makes it very clear on what we as parents are supposed to do so why would I want to take a chance with sparing the rod.


We were at the store buying camping equipment. Granted, the Golfer and I were being a little slow in choosing what kind of propane we needed for the grill, but that's no excuse for how the boys were behaving.

The Monkey had walked away from us more than twice (he refuses to sit in the cart anymore) even after repetitive commands for him to stay put. Both boys were horsing around--big time. Pushing each other, running between the aisles, basically being disruptive in public. But that's not what got them in trouble. They got into trouble because they were not listening and following what we had asked them to do. They were disobeying. If I was going to try out the whole spanking thing, the time was now.

I told them both in the store, with a very calm voice, that when we got home they were both going to get a spanking. They both nodded theirs heads that they understood and the bad behavior stopped. So far...so good.

When we got home, I told them both to go up into their room to wait for me. I grabbed the fly swatter--enough to sting but not really hurt.

I went into the Cheese's room first and did exactly as the book instructed. I explained why he was getting a spanking and why what he did was wrong. I told him that he was getting three quick swats and that he needed to pull down his shorts. About that time he started to cry. The swats were quick and none of them packed much of a punch, but the Cheese cried hard all the same. I hugged him, trying my best not to cry, and told him to sit on his bed for a couple of minutes and calm down.

Emotionally shaken by the time I walked into the Monkey's room, I went through the routine all over again. Just like the Cheese I had pulled down his shorts and swatted him, except this time there was no crying, not even a pout.

After the first swat, the Monkey looked at me with a puzzled look and said, "What's that?" and after the second swat "Ouch! That hurts!" with as much inflection as someone saying "Darn! We're out of cereal!" Still no crying. Now instead of being on the verge of tears, I was trying my best not to crack up.

It wasn't until the Golfer walked into the room and gave him the mean Daddy voice that the Monkey's punishment really took effect.

Here's the bummer. I know that what I was doing was the correct thing to do as a parent, biblically correct, but I feel terrible! Some people like to say that spanking is child abuse, and I suppose that in some horrible circumstances that might be the case. But what I did was very clear and calm. I wasn't spanking in anger--I wasn't doing it to make myself feel better. I was doing it because I don't want bad things to take root in my children's hearts.

When they had both calmed down, I flooded them both with love and hugs, and then the weirdest thing happened. For the first time, both of my children really seemed to understand that there are consequences for bad behavior. And I have a very good feeling that the next time that we're in the store, I won't have to worry about them acting horribly.

I am raising boys that will grow into men; men that I hope will strong and secure in every way, shape and form. I don't want to raise whining, self-absorbed, self-entitled cry babies which is how they've both been acting lately. Will spanking make the difference? Possibly.

Will I be able to stay strong and continue this new discipline?

One things for sure, it's gonna hurt me a hell of a lot more than it's going to hurt them.

Camping in the backyard

A couple of weeks ago, the Golfer called home with a suggestion.

"How about I camp out with the boys in the backyard this weekend?"

There were two things that I liked about his idea. #1--It was all his own idea, not one that I had forced on him, and #2--That this idea did not include me. I love my boys--all three of them--but sleeping in a small tent in the backyard is not my idea of fun.

The boys were so excited. The Monkey asked all day long if it was time to put up the tent. Around dinner time, we gave in.

Since I wanted to make the experience as camp-like as possible, I tried to make them a feast fit for rugged outdoor men: orange slices, wheat crackers and string cheese, grapes, sliced hot dogs, and two cold glasses of milk. The Golfer lucked out with some re-heated pasta left over from the night before and some red wine in a plastic cup that we brought home from the Masters last spring.

After reading a couple of books (I scoured the shelves for books about camping, being with daddy, etc.), playing with the flashlight, and talking about the stars they conked out. The woke the next morning, the boys looking their usual rested selves, the Golfer looking a little tired. Backyard camping is far from peaceful when the air conditioner keeps kicking on throughout the night.

But the coolest thing about their camp out? The boys can't wait to do it again. And lucky for them, we're going camping for real next week and I'm going too. Of course there will be no tents, just a log cabin with running water and a bed. But there will be lots of S'mores consumed and lots of getting back to nature.

My kids are definitely nature deficient. It's time for them to spend time running in a meadow, playing in a creek, and getting really, really dirty without Mom worrying about them tracking it all over the house.

I can't wait...