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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Lament of Summer Break

In all my years of parenting,
Since those babes came out of my gut,
I never have been so exhausted.
Yes, summer is kicking my butt.

From the day they stepped of the school bus,
They instantly started to run.
How can they go all day without rest?
Summer is kicking my bum.

I go outside and they follow me
I come back in and they’re standing right here.
The air conditioning bill is enormous,
Summer is kicking my rear.

It seems each day is so beautiful
With blue skies and the sun so shiny,
Surely we have to go out and play.
Summer is kicking my hiney.

Off to the library, the zoo and the park,
“No, you can’t bring a friend!”
Sure, I’ll set up the sprinkler.
Summer is kicking my end.

Sunscreen all day, passing out snacks
The dirty dishes pile is uncanny.
How do three kids go through forty-five cups?
Summer is kicking my fanny.

Bug spray at night while we run around,
“You’ve got to let those fireflies loose!”
How many jars of dead bugs have I dumped?
Summer is kicking my caboose.

But summer is fleeting like childhood
And flying by so fast are the weeks,
We’ll pack in the fun before school starts,
Even though summer is kicking my cheeks.

So I guzzle coffee all through the morning,
In the afternoon fill the wine glass.
And I’ll be in bed by a quarter past ten,
‘Cause summer is making me really tired.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The wisdom of dads

Dads and daughters are an interesting pair.  We daughters start off as “Daddy’s Little Girl” and steal their hearts, and before you know it we’re turning their hair gray.  In a blink of an eye, those dads are walking us down the aisle and giving us away, putting all of their trust in you that the lessons that they taught you will sustain you throughout life.
My dad taught me many things.  He gave me my love for nature and music.  He taught me how to eat mushrooms and make a pot of soup the size of Texas.  He showed me how to drive a four-wheeler, be a dead eye with a shot gun, and how to use tools up and down the workbench.  For all of this, I am so grateful…and rather tough.  He gave me the confidence to do things I never thought I could do, and the desire to succeed at whatever I try.  (I think I inherited these things from him, which makes for very long games of Pinochle and Boggle.)
But like most dads, he has gifted me a few token phrases that have carried me through my life so far.  A handful of simple words, used correctly, can be the philosophy of the masses.  It is my pleasure to share a few of them with you, in honor of Father’s Day.
You can make it snow on Christmas.  Every child dreams of a white Christmas, but some years it just didn’t happen.  One year when I was very young, as he tucked me into bed I was complaining about the lack of snow.  “You know, we can make it snow,” he said, and he explained how we needed to sit quietly and concentrate really, really hard.  Without knowing it, he taught me how to pray, and the power of prayer.  The next day, it snowed.
The moon is made of white dog poop.  While other kids thought for sure it was made of cheese, my dad jokingly explained that it was made of dog poop that was left in the yard too long because some little child didn’t pick it up like she was supposed to.  Left alone, the poop would turn white and float to the moon.  And if too much poop floated to the moon, why, wouldn’t that be a terrible thing to throw off the rotation of such an important part of space?  From this I learned the power of persuasion, and eventually, to not always believe what people tell you.  
I’ll give you a lickin’ and make you jump like a chicken.  I was a child of corporal punishment, and though people have a wide range of opinions of this topic, I was also a very well-behaved child.  The mere thought of disappointing my dad enough that he would have to hurt me was unbearable, let alone the fact that he was going to hit me so hard that I would indeed “jump like a chicken.”  Though I wasn’t savvy when it comes to chicken jumping, I thought it was just awful.  But as I learned, if you’re going to do something, do it full-strength.  Also, don’t do anything in life that would cause you to bounce like barnyard fowl.
Who has more fun than people?  In times of life’s chaos, like when we got stranded far from home in the pouring rain on a moped ride, or when we accidentally found ourselves at the top of a too-advanced ski hill, these words would come flying out like the angel to make us laugh and press on.  Conversely, these words also found themselves useful on planned adventures, like nearly killing ourselves backpacking through the forests of southern Ohio and holding a box of fireworks.  He taught me that if you’re not having fun, it’s your own fault.  Case closed.
Mostly, without even knowing it, he showed me that life is grand, white dog poop moon and all.  And if you can’t see the pure joy in that, it’s your own fault and you should probably jump like a chicken, even on a snowy Christmas.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the great dads out there!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Take me out to the ballgame

I didn’t grow up a sports person.  We never watched it on TV, went to any games, and while there were hundreds of baseball and kickball games played in the street, that was as far as I got.  The thought of a schedule and uniforms and all that jazz didn’t appeal to me.  My one-year stint at tee ball was productive in the literary sense, because while standing in the outfield, looking at the clouds, I wrote a poem.
Ball?  What ball?
My kids seemed to be traveling on the same path as I, turning down organized sports, not keen on practice and competition.  And I, who would rather not spend my time flattening my behind by sitting on a metal bleacher for twenty years, was OK with it.  The pressures, mental and physical, that small children endure during sports just weren’t something I believed in.  
But then along came baseball.   More specifically, little league.
This is not a game I ever really understood.  The games can potentially last forty zillion hours.  In the beginning of the season we bundle ourselves in winter jackets and you’re wondering if you could sneak a knit cap underneath your kid’s batting helmet without anyone noticing.  Mid-season baseball is often non-existent because it’s been raining for days.  Anything you’ve ever owned that is white, well, is no longer.  And by the end of the season, everyone is sweating, the infield starts to look like a desert and the kids start wandering off to a slushy mirage somewhere around third base.
Not only the weather, but there’s also the fact that parents plant themselves in chairs or on the ground and spend most of their time corralling other people’s children off the field.  Someone is always hungry.  Someone always has to use the port-o-potty, and you wonder if it was last cleaned during the previous year’s baseball season.  There are mosquito bites and poison ivy in the overgrown sections around the field, and at times the worst thing to deal with are the overzealous parents who scream and yell about things that really don’t make a lick of a difference in life.
But this year I realized there is something more to all of this baseball stuff.  For us, it’s a group of boys, all smashed together on a tiny, weathered bench, and even though it’s not quite big enough for the whole team, they make it work.  They bonk helmets, they wiggle, they laugh.  I’m pretty sure they tell fart jokes.  They give high-fives when one of their teammates gets a home run and when one of their teammates strikes out.  When it’s their turn at bat, they immediately turn on their very serious face and the rest of the boys slide down, returning to their usual banter and giggles, never losing focus of the game.  (OK, well sometimes.  But it’s little league and if you’re not having fun, it’s just not worth it.)
If you ask any one of them the score of the game, they’ll say, “I dunno.  But I’m pretty sure we’re winning.”  Likewise many of them think they have won every game, despite the actual outcome in the scorebooks after they’ve walked through the line and slapped hands with the opposing team.
The whole way home I have to hear about every replay of the game.  This play, that hit.  “Didja see that mom?  Didja?  Didja?” he asks me over and over.  And without skipping a beat, I answer, “I sure did.  You guys were just amazing tonight!”  
I don’t have the heart to tell him that while my eyes were fixed on him, my mind was wandering off, writing poems about spending the every springtime of my life perched on a metal bleacher, and the flatness that will proudly ensue.  

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