Tag Archives: Kids in College

It’s a Good Thing I Drive a Big SUV

Yesterday, we went to the beach.  I’m so sorry I didn’t have my camera — because the visual image of us going to the beach speaks volumes about my family.  As there are no photos, I’ll just have to give it the thousand-word description it deserves.

For most people, going to the beach would conjure up images of a tote bag, a bottle of sunscreen and a floppy hat.  For us, it’s more like moving a 1-bedroom apartment out to the shoreline.  Mr. Wonderful is called Mr. Wonderful for many reasons, but chiefly because NOTHING is too much trouble for that man to do for his family.  So when we go to the beach, he hauls enough crap equipment for us to spend the rest of our natural lives in comfort at the water’s edge.

As we pulled out of the driveway, the back of my SUV was packed tightly with all the necessities, barely leaving room for our three kids + one more.  We have shelter from the sun for me (I’ve had malignant skin cancer), chairs, a table to keep our shirts and towels out of the sand, food, beverages, skim boards, boogie boards, goggles, towels, shovels… I think you’re getting the picture.  The hour-and-fifteen-minute ride was relatively pleasant, thanks to a couple of fully charged iPods and an air conditioner that reaches back to the third row.

We met our friends en route and arrived at the beach just before noon.  Out pops my BFF, a feisty Cuban-American schoolteacher who has skin that is genetically perfect for tanning.  (Her dark brown eyes make her the lowest possible risk for skin cancer.  I hate that about her.)  She’s holding a tote bag and a bottle of SPF 4 sunscreen, and her skin begins turning a shade of golden bronze the moment she steps out of the car.

My group starts hauling crap equipment through the sand, setting up Base Camp in a lovely spot.  20 minutes later, while my friend has already turned over twice and taken a walk, we’re ready to sit back and “relax.”  I let the kids shed their shirts (so I can apply Neutrogena SPF 100+ sunscreen to their pasty white skin) and let them play, because by this time I’m needing a drink and a chair.

The weather was perfect.  (90-ish degrees is a lovely day for us on the Gulf Coast.)  There was a gentle breeze, and the sun sparkling on the water was mesmerizing.  The kids played in the sand and swam out to the pilings where piers once roosted (before Hurricane Katrina).  At various times they were throwing baseballs and lacrosse balls, digging holes, and burying The Little Guy in the sand (because he’s the only one who still thinks it’s fun to get sand in every orifice of his body).

Then, when everyone was tired, and the spots where we missed putting sunscreen were starting to sting, it was time to pack it all up and haul it home.  This is where it gets tricky, because it never goes back in the car the same way it came out, and inevitably, something gets pitched so we can see out of the back window.  (This time it was a blanket that we didn’t use…)

Today I’ll pull it all out and clean everything, because a lifetime of going to the beach has taught me NEVER to put things away without cleaning them, lest you be surprised by the Most Horrific Smell Ever next time you want to use any of that crap equipment.

So the images of this day at the beach exist only in our memories.  Next time I’ll try to remember the camera, to record it for posterity.  For a day at the beach is definitely a metaphor for The Lucky Mom’s life:  be safe, have fun.  Then blog about it.

As our children grow older, it’s really hard to find activities that everyone can get excited about.  With kids ranging in age from 10 to 19, someone is usually being dragged against their will to family outings.  But the beach is a great equalizer.  Everyone acts 10 years old at the beach.  Some of us just bring more equipment.

The Clean Up.

The Clean Up: Those boogie boards have been to beaches from Florida to Hawaii. Really. We've actually checked them as luggage.

My preferred sunscreen. {http://www.neutrogena.com}

Hello, Summer. I’ve missed you.

When your children are little, time is measured on the Julian calendar.  Years begin in January and end in December, and you recall the year by the age your little ones were at the time. Once they start school, you recall the time by what grade they were in, and the calendar changes: years begin in August and end in May. The time in between is the wonderful period known as Summer.

As for me, I’ve finally realized what summer really is to us: A cleansing. A renewal. A release. (To my IT-guy husband, a reboot.) And we’ve developed a few rituals to welcome it, and habits to make it fun.

The 2011 Burning of the Notebooks.

One of the rituals we began many years ago is the event we call The Burning of the Notebooks.  After cleaning out backpacks (and checking for things others might be able to use) we light a fire in the backyard fire pit and ceremonially toss in the notebooks of the subjects that caused us the most grief that year.  The Trailblazer gave up on this ritual a few years ago, opting to just toss them in the trash.  But Slick gets a perverse particular pleasure out of it, so it continues.  This year the only subject to make it into the pit was Latin.  The curriculum this go-round included the mastery of advanced grammar, as well as the translation of Cicero’s orations and literary works.  (Makes my head hurt just thinking about it, so I’ll indulge him whatever release he needs.)  He had hundreds of pages of translations reduced to ash in just a few moments.  But the smile stayed on his face all afternoon.

We also dispense with haircuts.  Attending Catholic school, my kids are told what to wear and how their hair must be cut 9 months out of the year.  Mr. Wonderful and I figure the least we can do is lay off during the summer.  (Slick has figured out how to gradually eek by on haircut standards for the last month of school, so he usually starts the summer already looking a little shaggy.)  One summer there was a family wedding, and I figured a good chance for some lovely photos, so I insisted on a trim.  But we usually let them look like homeless dudes if they want to, because it’s only for a short time.

Our laid-back look from last summer.

Shoes also become optional.  There was a time when leaving the house (or returning home from someone else’s) meant a shoe-check.  More than once I got phone calls from friends giving me the count of how many shoes were left behind.  I was always a little puzzled when it was an odd number.

My favorite summer accessory is the attitude I get to assume:  Being Agreeable About Things.  From August til May, my role is that of Drill Sergeant.  Get up on time.  Get dressed in the right uniform.  Brush your teeth.  Eat your breakfast.  Load the car.  Go to school.  Do your homework.  Feed the dog.  Clean your room.  Eat your dinner.  Take a shower.  Brush your teeth.  Go to bed.  Whew.  It’s exhausting.  And most of the time we can’t vary from the routine, or all hell breaks loose.  So when they ask to do something off the regular path during summer, I like to say yes.  I like to surprise them with my agreeability, hoping to send them the message that sometimes you have be disciplined, and sometimes you get to go freestyle.

Summer has already commenced for the two oldest boys.  The Caboose has a few days of school left.  Once those days are over, you’ll find us hanging out, often doing nothing in particular.  I checked the calendar this morning to see just how long I get to be laid back.  As school starts earlier each year, the summer gets a little shorter.  This year we have until August 15th.  That’s long enough.

What are some your favorite summer activities??  I’d love to hear about them!

With apologies to those who had to put up with me…

Many years ago, my friend and I were pregnant with our first child at the same time.  We compared notes throughout our pregnancies, and eagerly anticipated the arrival of our little bundles of joy.  (I was due first.)

So along comes The Firstborn, and everyone agreed he was perfect.  Perfect little round head, perfect little eyes, perfect fingers and toes… you get the picture.  My husband and I stared googly-eyed at him for hours, because he was so darn cute.  Ahhh.

Then my friend’s baby arrived, and I went to the hospital to visit her.  She escorts me over to the bedside cradle beaming, and said, “Isn’t he perfect?”  I looked down at the little guy and smiled.  He was, indeed, cute… but perfect, no.  He had these little white bumps on his face, and broken capillaries on his cheeks, and his fingers were peeling.  Cute, yes.  Perfect, no.

At that moment I heard angelic harp music in my head, accompanied by visions of my baby.  “No, but my baby IS perfect,” I thought.

Then, like the needle being scratched across a record on an old Victrola, my vision stopped.  “What if my baby isn’t really perfect??  Maybe they’re all like this, and we just don’t notice it on our babies…  Oh, no.”  I kissed her goodbye, reassured her once more that her little angel was perfect, and made the mad dash home.

I raced into the house, tore back his covers and stared at him.  Sure enough, he had the same little bumps on his face and weird fingernails.  I just hadn’t noticed.  I saw him with my Mama Eyes, which made him perfect.  To me.

So thank you all for putting up with me this week, as I stare once again at my children with my Mama Eyes, overlooking their flaws, seeing only the good parts.  You’ve all been really good sports.

Indulge me while I beam.

Right now I’m sporting a grin that I don’t think will fade any time soon.  Yesterday, Mr. Wonderful and I went to LSU to retrieve The Trailblazer and all his smelly, college boy stuff, and accompany him home for the summer.  As I write, he’s sprawled out on the couch, exhausted from the marathon of finals week, with the remote in one hand and the dog tucked under the other arm.  It’s hard to believe that the year is over.

The feelings I’m having right now are very new, and I’m not sure I know what to do with them.  What I want to do is stand in the street and brag to every passer-by about my incredible son.  But that would probably run off a few friends, embarrass my son, and be in violation of my neighborhood association’s rules.  (But it’s what I really want to do.)  So since I’ve gathered up all these readers here, I’ll bore you for just a few minutes while I indulge this maternal need to talk about my boy.

The Lucky Mom and The Firstborn. (Isn't he handsome??)

I’ve lived this last year in a strange, new place.  Anxiety and pride huddled side by side, competing for my emotional space.  Worries about how he’d handle his new independence, whether or not he’d practice basic hygiene, and hoping most of all that he’d maintain the GPA necessary to keep his free-ride scholarships intact.  My maternal pride wanted to boast to anyone who’d listen about his great accomplishments, but my anxiety kept me keenly aware that he was just one good fraternity party away from having it all go down the tubes.

It seems bad timing for college freshmen to be delivered to their new lifestyle at the beginning of football season.  Any Tiger Fan will attest that Death Valley in the fall is an intense experience.  So the vibes I was getting at the beginning of the year didn’t make me feel any better about the Big Three Worries I was having.  But he made it through the first semester with good grades, no police record, and no injuries requiring stitches or hospitalization.  His second semester schedule was pretty ambitious, but he carried the load beautifully (got even better grades than the first semester!) and ended the year more grown up than I could have imagined.  My worries about him taking his future seriously were put to rest when he asked me and his dad recently if “we would mind” if he added a minor in Aerospace Engineering to his Mechanical Engineering major.

The only point I feel I need to continue fretting over is his standard of living.  Perhaps I just don’t remember how skanky college life is (or maybe he’s just gross) but that boy’s dorm room was plain old nasty when we got there to move him out.  As he’ll be in an apartment with 3 other guys next year, I’m hoping someone in the group will be able to exert a bit of influence over him, and reform the really bad habits he developed this year.  But as I write these words, a great sense of relief rushes over me.  Because if I had to be let down on one of my Big Three Worries, that’s the best one.

So for the next few days I’ll be strutting around like a Really Proud Mama.  I’ll cook his favorite foods and fluff his pillows and be glad he’s under the same roof as us a while.  When the newness wears off and he starts aggravating his brothers, I’m sure look at the calendar and figure out how many more weeks til he heads back.  But for now, if you should bump into me, and I’m beaming, you’ll know why.

By the Numbers

Today’s numbers are much better!

4:  The number of days until College Boy returns home for the summer.

7:  The number of school days left for The Middle Kid.

12:  The number of school days left for The Little Guy.

2:  The number lunch dates with friends I have planned for the rest of the week.

1:  The number of shopping sprees I have planned for this week.

6:  The number of squirrels that were frolicking in my back yard this morning.

86,400:  The number of seconds in this day.  I’m going to make the most of them!!