Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shopping for Halloween? Better hurry ... it's later than you think

Last year, I was taken by surprise. I went shopping for Halloween decorations in mid-October, only to be met by  bare shelves, a couple of sad-looking skeletons and a few assorted window clings.

Primarily, I saw a lot of Christmas angels and sparkling candy canes.

I'm sure I had the same look of outrage on my face as when I went out looking for snow pants in November and found shelves of T-shirts and ads for bikinis. But that's a different story.

So this year,I planned ahead. Far ahead.

I started trolling the craft aisles at Michael's and Hobby Lobby early this month, noticing when the back-to-school items disappeared and the spooky, creepy decorations appeared in full force.  I've been checking out the dollar stores and wandering the home decor areas at department stores.

I watched for those clearance flyers to start appearing, which they have, and although my husband thinks I'm crazy, I feel much more prepared to fill the goodie bags for the class Halloween party this year.

Sure it's early, but our yard is already starting to look a little festive, too.

Now if only I'm not too late to get a few pairs of snow pants.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Video camera holds instant appeal for junior filmmaker

My son is turning into a little Steven Spielberg.

 It's a talent I never expected from my formerly shy little boy.

It all started when I bought a little flipcam on sale. Silly me. I thought I'd learn to make  videos - maybe create some book trailers, you know, learn a few new tricks.

Instead, my son was instantly mesmerized. "Cooool," he said, holding it in his hot little hands. "Is this a video camera? Can I make videos? Like on YouTube?"

I was a little nonplussed. "Um, I guess," I said. "But it's mine," I added hurriedly, as he took it into his room. He nodded absently.

I think that was the last quality time I spent with my little camera.

Oh, sure - I've seen glimpses, usually when the boy is filming. His videos are primarily short stories involving the adventures of his Mario plushies, although sometimes our dog gets a cameo role. After he films them, he splices the scenes, courtesy of Windows Moviemaker, which his teen-age sister taught him to use.

Then he sets it up in high-def and uploads it to YouTube.

 He's 9. When I was 9, I think I had a really cool Malibu Barbie set and thought I was All That.

He's not alone, of course. His friends make their own videos, too  - post them, laugh about them, trade messages. They get together over the weekends sometimes and make more.

My son's videos are short, shaky. I'm afraid he'll get criticized online; people can be rude sometimes.

I told him that; he just shrugged.

"You just keep making movies," he told me. "You keep getting better."

So I wonder ... is that what Spielberg said?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Holiday weekend brings on thoughts of daunting fall schedule that lies ahead

It's a holiday weekend. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and I have the day off.

I should be ecstatic. Instead, I'm fighting the blues. It's silly, I know. But end-of-summer time always does this to me. I absolutely love summer. I love the sun on my face, I love my little flower garden, and I love the lazy, slower schedule.

Tomorrow, the kids go back to school. And that means it's back to packing lunches, helping with homework, volunteering in the classroom and balancing work, school and life. The thought - right now, in my quiet living room - nearly overwhelms me.

Yesterday, my husband gave me some advice: First, think about how great this summer was. He's right - it was terrific. I got some much-needed surgery out of the way (that's where I've been for the last few weeks, by the way), got a new book out, and had some fun getaways with the kids.

Then, he said, look at the future in small chunks of responsibility - a day, a week, a month. Then it won't seem so daunting.

He's right, of course. And I do love fall, with its snap of color and cooler temperatures. So yes, it'll soon be time to trade ice tea for hot cider, but maybe I can sneak in one more visit to the pool.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What am I afraid of? Kid, you don't know the half of it

We were in the car the other day, my son and I.

"Mom," he said. "What are you afraid of?"

What am I afraid of?  Ugh. He has no idea. Frankly, I wish I didn't, either.

I'm having surgery in a couple of days - I'm not a good patient. I have a very low pain tolerance. I'm pretty much afraid of doctors, afraid of hospitals, afraid of needles, afraid of blood, afraid of paper gowns that don't close correctly in back, afraid of just about everything except the anesthesiologist, whom I adore.

The fact that I actually gave birth to two children still gives people pause. My epithets, complaints and strange demands are likely still legendary at the maternity ward in Springfield, Mo.

But I look back at my son's beautiful, trusting eyes, and, somehow, I don't think this is the answer he's looking for.

"Um, snakes," I say. "I'm kind of afraid of snakes."

He smiled. "I'm a little afraid of heights," he told me, and sat back.

Sigh. Maybe as long as there's no snakes in the operating room, I'll be okay.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer vacation isn't just for kids - parents love it, too

My eyes flew open at 7 a.m. today, and I could feel the panic rising even before I sat up in bed. Okay, okay, I told myself. So we missed the bus. Not the end of the world. I'd get everyone up and going, fix a quick breakfast and ...

Oh, wait. No. I wasn't late, hadn't overslept. I hadn't missed the bus because the bus wasn't coming.

It was the first day of summer vacation. Finally! I sat back with a sigh of relief. But ... what a strange feeling, to have the morning to myself. It's so peaceful, so full of possibilities.

I could catch up on housework. I could read the paper, enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee on the deck. I could even get in some writing time before heading off to work. Summer vacation - even these brief morning hours - is wonderful, and not just for the kids.

But this morning, I confess, I simply went back to sleep. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Kindergartners Day brings on wave of nostalgia ... or is it more like envy?

Timmy the Timberwolf should have tipped me off.

Timmy is the mascot for our elementary school, and he was out the other morning at the front door of the school, smiling and waving in his furry costume. I was hurrying back to my car, wondering why the parking lot was so full and why parents were rushing in when I was rushing out. I noticed then that all the children coming in looked little, and all the parents looked harried.

It hit me then: It must be New Kindergartners Day.

As I stopped and watched, the nostalgia hit me like a wave. I remembered when my kids were that little. I remembered how excited I was to see the inside of the kindergarten room, how nervous I was to meet the teacher, how hopeful I was that she'd recognize all the qualities that made my child so special.

I wanted to stop these parents, the ones who looked so rushed and annoyed. I wanted to tell them to slow down, to enjoy this, to store it in their mind's eye so they could enjoy it later. In fact, I wished they were enjoying it now.

I wanted to remind them that even though it seems like these days - when your kids are silly and messy and constantly underfoot - last forever, they'll be gone in a heartbeat.

But I used to hate it when more experienced parents used to do that to me. I would stare at them through my bleary, sleep-deprived eyes and simply nod. "Yeah, right," I'd think, when they'd gush over my adorable children and tell me to savor these precious times. "Whatever."

I took the car seat out of my van last week. My son is just too big for it; he doesn't need it. By the way, he doesn't need to hold my hand any more on the way into school, either.

So maybe it wasn't nostalgia hitting me so hard that morning. Maybe it was envy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baseball field is no place for mother's intuition

A chilly rain was trickling down, and I was standing in the grass, watching as my son grabbed a bat and walked confidently to home plate. He'd been doing so well on his baseball league - I really had no reason to worry.

But suddenly, I was worried. Call it mother's intuition, call it a psychic flash. I saw in my mind's eye a baseball crashing into my little boy's face. It was so startling, I actually strode forward to the fence.

I was only a few seconds early.

I got there just in time to see it really happen. The pitcher threw wild. The baseball hit my son's batting helmet then bounced off his shoulder. Luckily, the helmet has a protective cage that descends down over the eyes and the face - and that's where the ball struck.

"No!" I shouted before I could help myself.

The coach ran over and patted his shoulder; my boy just shook it off and jogged to first base. He looked over and gave me a thumbs-up. I gave him a weak smile in return.

The baseball field is no place for mother's intuition. I was rattled for the rest of the game.